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I wonder if I’m a naturally selfish person. All I know is my heart and my desires, and I feel too often I forget to look outside myself. I guess that is the natural man I fight with and strive to overcome.
Last week I was feeling sorry for myself. My reasoning is weak and yet the fact that we don’t own our own home caused me to feel pretty down. I somehow had looked past the beautiful home we do live in. The amazing children I’m blessed to raise. The husband who adores me and would give me the world if he could. And most importantly the grace of God that makes it possible for me to be imperfect and still be made whole through the atonement of my Savior Jesus Christ.

I had tunnel vision and could only see what I didn’t have. And in that moment I really felt like I had a huge burden on my shoulders. I can see clearly now how selfish I was being.

I’d love to say I came out of it on my own, but the Lord stepped in to show me a better way.

I decided to clean out my pantry and get rid of all the food we no longer eat (we have given up most sugar and gluten). I made piles of food and wondered what to do with them. I text a friend asking if she had any ideas of what I could do with it and she responded instantly.

Within the hour she came by and began to tell me of a mutual friend who was going through a rather difficult financial time. With several kids at home and an empty cupboard. My leftover food would be more appreciated than I could have known. I helped bring the boxes to her car and expressed my gratitude for her willingness to take it to her.

After she left I was filled with humility and my selfish heart was softened and I began to turn outward. I could see more clearly how truly blessed we are. I remembered a time when food was scarce and I prayed for money so we wouldn’t have to eat beans and rice again. Then a gift card appeared at my doorstep for a local grocery store. I’m still touched by the love God showed me through someone else.

How quickly our answered prayers become a thing of the past as we ask for more and more, forgetting how blessed we already are.

I’m working on letting go of my selfish nature and looking for ways to give more freely that I may be God’s hands in answering another’s prayers. I’m working to,

Lay aside the things of this world, and seek for the things of a better.”

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sunset at the sea

“Just because you think a thought, doesn’t make it true.”

I’ve heard this sentence several times from Ashley Turner, a Yoga instructor with a Master’s Degree in Psychology. Every time I hear her say this, it affects me and really makes me think.

There are lots of thoughts that come and go from our minds, and for those of us with A.D.D. those thoughts can come and go quickly.  But the thoughts that Ashley is talking about are the ones that stay in our mind and become a part of us.  Not all of the thoughts need to be entertained and examined.

Some thoughts can be put into our heads by inspiration from the spirit of God, and others can sneak in as messages of trouble from the adversary.  I think it is really important to recognize the reality of both messages coming to us.

Not all thoughts come from ourselves.

Not all thoughts are true.

Not all thoughts can simply be discarded…. but some of them can.

This can put us in a tricky spot, trying to determine what thoughts need to be worked through, and which ones we can simply choose to let go.

So this leaves us with some questions.  How can you determine what thoughts to keep? What thoughts need to be acted upon?  What thoughts might have a higher meaning?

First of all, there aren’t any absolutes when it comes to this topic.  Each person has to choose for themselves how to proceed.  But I can tell you what I have learned over the years.

  1. Thoughts that bring peace are almost always messages from the Spirit of God.  Satan, the adversary, doesn’t want us to feel peace, and he doesn’t know how to give messages of peace.  Love and comfort and peace, will only come to us through God.
  2. Thoughts of hopelessness, doubt, and depression are often temptation from the adversary.  When good people can’t be tempted to do bad things, he tries to beat us up with thoughts of doubting ourselves, and our talents. He encourages us to give up, especially on things that are important, and he may try to make us feel like our efforts would be pointless anyway, so why even try. He wants to make us feel bad about ourselves. Boy, these are hard thoughts to get rid of because they can feel like a bullet wound.  But the first step is to recognize that these thoughts are generally not true.  If you feel like quitting something because you have judged it to not be as worthwhile as you once thought, then that is okay, it is simply making a choice. But giving up on something you once loved because you don’t feel good enough, or you doubt your abilities, may not be the best choice.  Never make a rash decision when you are feeling down and depressed.  Get help if you need it.  Get a blessing. Talk to a friend. Reexamine the decisions that caused you to start down a difficult path to begin with.  You really are worth so much more than the lies that Satan tells you.
  3. Some thoughts of regret or doubt are indications from inside ourselves that something needs to change. The difference between these thoughts of doubt and the ones that are thrown at us by the adversary is that these thoughts will come with a feeling of hope and a desire to change  There are definitely course corrections in life that have to be made on a regular basis in order to keep us on the right track with our lives and with God’s plan for us.  Sometimes the spirit will prick our hearts and we can feel remorse for something that needs to change. Feeling bad about something you have done is a learning experience. Having that “broken heart and contrite spirit” is hard and necessary for growth and overcoming.  It should lead you to action and a desire to use the atonement to get back to the glorious feeling of having God’s light in our lives.
  4. Thoughts of creativity and progress are ours to use as we feel guided. We can choose what thoughts are helpful and desirable to our lives and our families.

The most important thing when it comes to guiding our thought processes is to allow God to be a part of our lives.  Pray often. Watch for His hand in all things. Believe that He will guide us when it is necessary. He trusts us to make good choices, but He will always be there to help when we remember to ask for it.

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Over the long weekend my family and I went camping in the mountains. Four days free from technology and it was just what I needed.

Sunday afternoon we decided to take a family hike up to a cross on the mountain. From where we stood it really didn’t look too far, and I was sure even my 6-year-old could handle it.

Most of us were excited and anticipated a nice walk together as we chatted and enjoyed the outdoors.


All too quickly the mountain side became steep and it continued to be steep. I began to wonder if it was going to be to difficult for the younger ones. I thought “Maybe we should go back.” “This is really hard.” But I believed the cross wasn’t too far and we could handle it. I noticed if I just focused on the few steps in front of me instead of the huge hill we still had to climb it felt easier.

We had stopped along the way a couple of times as kids lost their footing and scraps needed attending. Again I wondered if we should continue on.

At one point the trail was moving away from the cross and instead of turning left it was heading right. My kids wondered at that, Why would the path lead in the wrong direction?

The sun seemed hotter the farther up we went, and I kept waiting for the way to become easier. But it didn’t.

As we turned the corner, I knew we were almost there and the spirit pricked my soul. This hike had become a tool to teach me what God wanted me to know.

The hike was representative of struggles I have been facing. The way has been hard at times, and I have had to sit down and cry from the injuries or pain it has caused.

There have been moments when I have wanted the trial gone. And I have cried out “this is too hard, can’t there be another way?”  But with God’s help I picked myself back up again, kept my head focused on the next step, and moved on.

The hardest moments seem to be when I feel I am being lead on a path that is not going in the direction I thought it should. Why am I veering right when I have been praying for the road to go left?  Those moments when prayers I have pleaded for over and over again seem to be unheard.

The moment the spirit touched me, I was still maybe 20 yards away from the cross. I felt Him say to me. “This is where you are now. You have come so far. What would happen if you gave up now?  What would you lose?”

It’s those moments when I am closest to reaching my goal or closest to seeing my prayers answered that Satan will attack the hardest. He wants me to give up and to lose faith. It doesn’t matter to him if I do that at the bottom of the hill and never start or if he gets me to turn back in the last minute. He wins when I quit trying.

And then my eyes looked forward.  On this hike I knew I was almost there and I wondered if I could take greater courage and faith the next time I feel Satan telling me to give up.

  When we reached the cross the view was stunning.

 My little family and I had done it. And all I could think was “We can do hard things.”

We talked on the top for a while and the kids shared what they were feeling and I felt so close to God and so close to my family. One of my daughters felt walking to the cross was symbolic of our journey to understanding what our Savior did for us on the cross.

My trials may feel like climbing mountains at times, or even many mountains, but I have felt the Lord carry me and lift me when the way becomes too much. Looking back down the mountain, once at the top, it is always easier to see how He has guided me and watched over me and even stretched me so that I could experience the beauty He has in store for me and my family. I pray I can see more clearly His hand even in the hardest of moments.

We need strength beyond ourselves to keep the commandments in whatever circumstance life brings to us. … The combination of trials and their duration are as varied as are the children of our Heavenly Father. No two are alike. But what is being tested is the same, at all times in our lives and for every person: will we do whatsoever the Lord our God will command us?” —Henry B. Eyring

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Our dear Father wrote the following message of a spiritual experience he had recently. Today we are happy to share his words with you of how the Lord hears and answers our prayers.

Guest post by Arnold Miller

I have always loved our hymns and the messages they convey. Some are prayers to our Heavenly Father. Some are His messages to us. Some are more appropriately sung in Sacrament Meetings. Some are meant for special occasions, while others are especially good to sing in our Family Home Evenings.

I have learned to pay particularly close attention to the words in scriptures as well as those of our hymns.  Especially if a word no longer has common usage in our language, I try to understand its meaning in the context of the hymn or passage.  For example, I recently ran across the word “succor” and learned that it means: to help, to nurture.

I began losing my hearing a few years ago. As a result, I came to the realization that it is very important to be able to hear sufficiently to be able to intonate well and properly balance and blend with those singing in my section of the choir.  It was about then that, as much as I love Music, I realized that it was time to ask to be released from the our fine Stake Choir.  Elder Quentin L. Cook gave a particular message in the October 2011 General Conference that seemed to be aimed directly at me in which he said: A line from a beloved hymn provides comfort, solace, and the clear lens: ‘And Jesus listening can hear the songs I cannot sing.’

Last Saturday night as I was saying my prayers before going to sleep, I found myself praying for the Lord to give me the strength and health I will need for the upcoming mission my wife and I have been called to serve in just two short months.

As I have aged it has become apparent that my legs aren’t as strong as they used to be. I even went through some physical therapy to strengthen my ability to walk and stand for extended periods of time. I was concerned that I might not have the ability to walk and stand as might be required for our mission.  We had also paid for a tour of early church history sites including Independence Missouri, Far West, Liberty, Adam-Ondi-Ahman, Nauvoo, Carthage, Mt. Pisgah, and Winter Quarters as well as other important locations. It goes without saying that this tour would involve a good deal of walking. To prepare ourselves for the expected rigors of this tour, we began walking in our neighborhood in the early mornings. Starting with a half block, we extended our walks to a full block and finally to two full blocks. Then the hot weather hit so we changed our walks to inside various shopping centers. We also enrolled in the YMCA so I could get involved in an exercise regimen to strengthen my legs.

The date for our trip rolled around and we found ourselves on a plane bound for Kansas City, Missouri where we met up with our tour bus, some fellow traveling companions and tour guides. Without going into too much detail of the actual tour, we were totally thrilled with the experience and the wonderful spirit we felt.  It strengthened our testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith and built an appreciation of the sacrifices those early saints made to establish Zion.

The greatest disappointment for me personally was how out of shape I physically felt.  It became readily apparent that I could not stand for extended periods when, at the Independence Temple Lot while listening to the lecture on the significance of that Sacred and Holy place, I was unable to stand long enough to hear the entire presentation.  After that I learned to pace myself, seeking places and opportunities to sit and rest.

So on Saturday, as I was thinking about this and considering the mission to which we are called to serve in The Family and Church History Headquarters Mission, I prayed earnestly that the Lord would bless me with the strength and stamina to serve Him as the date for our mission rapidly approaches. As I was waking up Sunday morning there were the words to a hymn running through my head.  I kept hearing over and over again: “I’ll strengthen thee, help thee and cause thee to stand.”  In those early hours I kept thinking about that phrase, I couldn’t get the rest of the hymn straight. I couldn’t even recall what hymn it was. So I put the music with the words. All I came up with was “Fear not I am with thee, Oh be not dismayed.  For I am thy God and will still give thee aid.”  I wracked my brain trying to remember the rest of the hymn.  When I should have been paying more attention to the message it was conveying to me. Then as I was sitting reading the scriptures before going to church, it hit me. There is a message here especially for me. The Holy Ghost was speaking to my heart in a way that only I could understand. I am going to be all right serving this mission.  The Lord will uphold me with “his omnipotent hand.” Then the rest of that verse came to me, “I’ll strengthen thee, help thee and cause thee to stand, Upheld by my righteous omnipotent hand.”  I was beginning to get that this is the Lord’s message to me. Yet I still couldn’t think of the name of that hymn, not even what verse of the hymn I was humming in my head.

Then at Sacrament meeting, we began to sing the opening hymn “How Firm a Foundation.”  While we were singing the first verse, I said to myself. Could this be it?  Then when we got to the third verse, it hit me, that’s it!   I then knew the Lord was revealing the answer to the question that had been plaguing me all morning.

When we got home from church, I opened the hymn book and looked up the rest of the words to that glorious hymn.  I realized that the 3rd verse as well as most other verses are addressed in the second person singular i.e. thy, thee instead of the second person plural ye, you, and your.  Until recently, I wouldn’t have picked up on that subtle difference but it is apparent from languages such as French, that by using the singular noun the Lord is speaking to us individually.

Imagine my feelings, if you will, when they announced the opening hymn the following Tuesday evening at our Stake High Priest Quorum Meeting: “How Firm a Foundation.”

As I have read and pondered the other verses, particularly verses 2, 3, 4, and 6, it becomes clear, to me at least, that this hymn is addressed to Senior Missionaries, especially verse 6:

E’en down to old age, all my people shall prove

My sov’reign, eternal, unchangeable love;

And then, when gray hair shall their temples adorn,

Like lambs shall they still in my bosom be borne.

 

Note: For sake of message clarity, I stripped out sections where there are repeats of the same phrase.

How Firm a Foundation #85

How firm a foundation, ye Saints of the Lord,

Is laid for your faith in his excellent word!

What more can he say than to you he hath said,

Who unto the Savior for refuge have fled?

 

In ev’ry condition—in sickness, in health,

In poverty’s vale or abounding in wealth,

At home or abroad, on the land or the sea—

As thy days may demand so thy succor shall be.

 

Fear not, I am with thee; oh, be not dismayed,

For I am thy God and will still give thee aid.

I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,

Upheld by my righteous omnipotent hand.

 

When through the deep waters I call thee to go,

The rivers of sorrow shall not thee o’erflow,

For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,

And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

 

When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,

My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply.

The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design

Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.

 

E’en down to old age, all my people shall prove

My sov’reign, eternal, unchangeable love;

And then, when gray hair shall their temples adorn,

Like lambs shall they still in my bosom be borne.

 

The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose

I will not, I cannot, desert to his foes;

That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,

I’ll never, no never, no never forsake!

 

– Arnold A. Miller

 

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The moment I realize I want to be better seems to be the exact moment opposition begins.

My mothering has not been as I have wanted it to be lately and so I have decided to make some changes. I want to be more present when they are here. I have the day to myself to get all the chores done, so I have decided to make sure when school gets out I’m available for them. Yesterday was the start to a new week and I was pumped.

I worked during today to update our chore system and behavior chart (I’ll share that tomorrow) and then when I went to print I was out of ink. Ugh. In my excitement to get it all done and finished I now “had” to take the kids to the store to get ink. Once we got home and got on homework, I ran to the computer to print real quick the charts, only to discover my printer is actually broken.

Naturally I feel I can fix it, it will only take a second. The kids are coming in and the more problems the printer is having the more frustrated I’m feeling and my fuse became very short. It’s almost dinner time and I had not spent the time I had wanted with them.

I never successfully fixed it but I did end up grumpy with kids who were now also grumpy because I wasn’t available when they needed me. I quickly realized that I had given in to distractions which I believe satan put in my path. And I fell for it.

At first I was really beating myself up, wondering why I gave in so quickly. Could I ever figure things out and be the mother I want to be?

And then I read these lines to the song “The Time Is Far Spent”

Be fixed in your purpose, for Satan will try you; The weight of your calling he perfectly knows. Your path may be thorny, but Jesus is nigh you; His arm is sufficient, tho demons oppose.

Yes Satan is aware of my purpose but Jesus’s arm is sufficient. He will guide me when I stay fixed on my mothering purpose. I may stumble from time to time but when I allow my Savior to, He will be what I cannot. He will make up the difference. I simply have to continue diligently trying.

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working on weaknessesI had an epiphany at the beginning of this summer.  But before I tell you about it, we have to step back a little.

There have been a lot of changes in my life over the past 5 years.  Some good, some challenging, and some that are just a part of real life.  I became a single mom, went back to work, made new friends, eventually re-married and I’ve helped my kids transition into adulthood with college, missions and jobs.  Now there are only two of my five still in the house, and that jumping off platform is in sight for the next one to leave the nest.  Now that things are settling down, and slowing down, I have been looking at my life and all of the things that I wish I had done differently. Please tell me I’m not the only one who does this.

So back to the epiphany.  There are things I have wanted in my life and for my children that somehow got put on hold while I was in the middle of all the other transitions I was going through in my wild adventure of a life.  Then one day (or maybe over a short period of time) I realized that it is not too late to have the home life that I want and do the things that I feel are important for me and my children.

The changes I wanted to make required hard work… they required changing habits… they required buckling down in ways that the kids were not used to, and certainly didn’t want to change.

Well, I tried to make all of the changes at once, often failing at this or that, and resulting in me feeling terrible, instead of recognizing the successes that were being made.

Yesterday I ran across this quote

Let’s help teens become aware of their strengths and build from there.  This doesn’t mean that we should ignore their weaknesses, but just that we are not majoring in them at the expense of their strengths.  They can and should be working on them as well. The rule of thumb here is, I will never require myself or one of my children to work on more than one weakness at a time. “ 1

I have a tendency to go make long lists of things that need to be done before we can relax and enjoy life.  However, the lists of things that we can be working on to be better people can really be endless.  There will never be enough time in a day to do all the good things in the world that can be done.

So when I’m listing all the things I expect from the kids all at the same time, it can be daunting and totally overwhelming.

It reminds me of the time when my son was very young and I stood him in his bedroom and told him “put your toys in the box, put your clothes in the hamper, pick up the garbage and throw it away, make your bed, pull everything out from under the bed and put it away…” and he cried “I can’t do all of that all at the same time.”

Now that he is almost an adult, I find myself in the same desperate mode, trying to get him to do everything, all at the same time, to get ready to be out on his own.

It’s kind of like when you find out that someone is coming to visit in 5 minutes, and you quickly throw everything into a closet, push the dishes into the sink (or in a pile into the oven), and yell at everyone to quick put away your shoes and backpacks and whatever else you don’t want people to see.  It might make a visit go more comfortably, but that isn’t how you clean house when you have time to do it right.

The same concept applies to learning life lessons or developing good habits. If I try to do it all quickly and at once, it doesn’t really get done right.

I think it might be more important to do a few things the right way in parenting, instead of the throwing band-aids on all of the problems, and not really getting to the heart of the issues.

By working on one problem at a time, I think we will be able to really conquer the root of a lot of the problems.  Or at least develop the skills for how to make a positive change when it is needed.  I suppose the best lesson I could really teach my kids at the teen level is the process of change, rather than forcing the change that I want to see.

I am going to try to be more gentle with myself and my children, by working on one important thing at a time. I’d like to put more emphasis on the changing process rather than the results, so that they will have a chance to develop the skills to help them when they leave me and are out on their own.

 

1 – The quote comes from this book.  A good friend recommended it to me, and I am getting so much out of it, I wish I had read it sooner.  



 

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Miracles are all around usI heard a quote this week as being from Einstein.

There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is.

The problem is that Einstein never actually said this. We would like to believe that someone who is known for their extreme intelligence said something so thought provoking. Have you ever thought about what you think a miracle is? Is a miracle something that seems impossible?  Is it something nice that happens that we would like to believe is divine?  Are miracles things of the past? Is a miracle even possible?

In church last Sunday, the question was asked to a group of children.  “What is a miracle?”  The answers they gave were examples of miracles in their sweet precious eyes.

“When my mom lost her keys and we prayed about it and she found them.”

“When my sister broke her arm and they thought she would need surgery, but when they checked it further they said she didn’t need it”

“When Jesus died and was resurrected.”

It was good to be reminded that these small children recognized divine guidance in their lives and the child who recognized the most important miracle of all.  The resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

After the children had all given their thoughts about miracles, the teacher said

“A miracle is something that happens that is both extraordinary and was brought about by the power of God.”

If you believe in God as the supreme creator, then you could live your life as is everything is a miracle, like the quote says.  But if everything is a miracle, then I’m not sure that you could say that there is anything really extraordinary about them.

In teaching the children about miracles we give examples like Moses parting the Red Sea, or Jesus calming the storm.  These are extraordinary events that can help to define miracles.  But what about in our everyday lives? Are there things that can happen to ordinary people like you and me that can be considered a miracle?

In John 16:24, Christ said

Ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.”

I believe that God is a God of miracles. He wants to bless us. He wants to give us good things, and He wants us to recognize His hand in our lives as He works for our benefit.

Jesus taught us that

If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.  (John 14:23)

Through living a life of faith and obedience to Christ’s teachings, we will feel their spirit with us.  We should feel welcome to ask for the things that we need and recognize when the Lord has intervened in our lives.

I think that when I slow down and begin to see the Lord’s hand in my life, I recognize how blessed I am, and that leaves me more open to ask for the bigger things that I need, allowing miracles to take place in my life. Those extraordinary blessings that the Lord gives to me when I can do no more than what I’ve already done.

Sometimes the miracle is in the trial that is removed from my life.  Like when a loved one is declared cancer free, when the doctors said that there was almost no chance for that to happen. But sometimes the miracle was just having that person in my life, even if for a limited time, and being with her until the day before she returned to our Father in Heaven.

Not all stories have a happy ending.   People get sick, some children live their whole lives with disabilities, sometimes families fall apart despite the best efforts and endless prayers of some of the members of the family. Sometimes we don’t get the miracle that we expected or desired. Sometimes the miracle is the calming in a broken heart that tries to remain faithful even as the trial remains.

I decided to start writing in my “gratitude journal” again this week, and I decided to add some things to it.  I think it could be helpful to begin documenting anything that I can see as a miracle in my life.  My hope is that through recognizing the miracles I will be better able to find hope in the future, and faith to take my problems to the Lord. By seeing and recognizing miracles, I will be reminded that He does truly care, and will be there to listen to me and to help me when I come to Him in prayer. I look forward to documenting the manifestation of God’s grace in my life.

 

 

 

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Our Destiny

I sat in Sunday School pondering over the last few days. I have not been myself. A little on edge. A little grouchy. Ok even a lot grumpy at moments. I felt overwhelmed and frustrated. “Why can’t I just be the person I am meant to be?”  The lesson moves on and I hear these words

“What is the great gift of the atonement?”   Quickly my mind is coming up with answers.

Forgiveness

Eternal life

Love

The great gift of the atonement is that we get to be wrong”

Wait, what?  It was as if my mind quickly moved into hyper drive trying to figure out what that meant for me?

My Savior suffered for me so that I could be perfect. That answer I’m familiar with. He suffered so that I don’t have to feel pain. I get that. He atoned so that when I make mistakes I can be forgiven. Yes.

So that must mean then that He felt all that agony and pain so that I can be wrong and still be loved. I can fall short and still find glory and grace. My wrong doings are part of His perfect plan. It has to be so. Huge sigh of relief and comfort is felt in my heart as I strive to further understand this principle.  This might be so obvious to some of you but I had never thought about it in this way.

He suffered so I can be wrong.

If being wrong is part of the plan then am I meant to be wrong at times?  For I could not learn and grow and become compassionate and understanding of others unless I know what it’s like to struggle.

The failing part of me is in fact also the glorious part of me. The two are intertwined and need each other. As I fall flat on my face, I feel how much it hurts, and I do what I am able to stand up again. And when I am stronger, I potentially won’t fall so hard in that same area. Thus, because I am weak I am able to become strong.

Dieter F Uchtdrof put it this way

Our destiny is not determined by the number of times we stumble but by the number of times we rise up, dust ourselves off, and move forward.”
We mortals do not become champions without effort and discipline or without making mistakes.”

I can either pick at the painful wound I received, sitting in self pity wishing I was different, feeling sorry for myself that I was to messed up to prevent myself from falling.

Or

I can turn my heart to the Lord pleading for guidance. For strength beyond my own.  I can cry out asking to know His will and for the power to proceed in His direction.

One will cause me greater pain; the other will lead to greater strength.

Walking this long road of mortal life alone is more than I can bear. But walking with the Savior by my side gives me the courage and comfort and joy even in my wrong doings. Even in my many mistakes.

I now see why the greatest gift truly is the ability to be wrong. For when I am wrong, I see how much I need the Savior with me, taking the hard steps, showing me the way. For in my wrongness I see more clearly His beauty and grace.

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His hand is stretched out still

During our family scripture study, we have been reading the words of Isaiah recently and this phrase seemed to come up several times.

For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.

It stuck out at me this time in a way that it never had before.  It seems as if the Lord is expressing his anger at the evil that exists in men and the poor way that we sometimes treat each other.  He is angry at the witnessing of dishonest and wicked things that we humans can do.

BUT HIS HAND IS STRETCHED OUT STILL.

No matter how bad we mess up, He still has his hand outstretched to take us back, as soon as we are willing to go up and take that hand.

I would certainly hope that the things that I and my family have to repent of, or change, in our lives are not on the level of the “abominations” that are talked about in these Isaiah chapters, but even small habits that we want to change, or that we can feel the Lord guiding us to change, can feel big when we are in the middle of working on them.

Changing a habit can be really hard, and sometimes it can take a long time.

In the book “Changing for Good” by James O. Prochaska, It is pointed out the just a short time ago, 50% of people were smokers, and now only 25% of people smoke.  What was amazing about this study is that a large majority of these people (about 20:1) quit smoking using their own methods or helps, as opposed to using some type of program.  (Doing it on their own, does not mean that they didn’t have friends or family members helping. We all do better with the support of those who care about us.)

I personally know several people who have quit smoking.  The interesting thing about each of them is that they all tried to quit smoking several times, (sometimes quitting for a period of time and then going back to it) before they were able to quit for good.  I don’t think these few people are isolated in this pattern of quitting.

The most important part of their stories is that they were eventually successful at attaining their goal of being a non-smoker.

Why do I bring up smoking statistics in a post about making change?  I think that quitting smoking is probably the hardest habit to break (maybe outside of other drug addictions.)

Each person that I know finally quit because of a different reason in each of their lives.  There was no quick fix or automatic tool that works for everyone.  They each simply kept at it until they found a way to be rid of an undesirable habit.

Getting rid of a bad habit, or trying to develop a good habit, takes time.  That’s because habits are associated with time.  We developed them over time, and we continue them in specific times.  We often do the thing that is a habit at the same time each day, or week, as the individual case may be.  Perhaps, understanding this will help in the changing of habits.

The most important thing that we can each keep in mind, as we are working to make any change in our lives, is to know that it is okay if we fail the first several times. If we are doing something really important, a few falls (or relapses) can be expected. If it were easy, you would have already made the change.  After all, the only real failure is giving up and not trying again.

Satan wants all of us to fail for good, he wants us to give up.

When you are trying to change and do something that is truly important, that is when Satan is going to come down hard on you.  He really wants you to give up, feel bad about yourself, and be as miserable as he is.

That is when we need to remember what Isaiah taught us,

But His hand is stretched out still.

It’s okay if what you want to change takes time. It’s okay if you fall and have to get back up.  It’s okay if the thing that you need to change takes all of the strength that you have, and you need to rely on added strength that comes from turning to God, because His hand is stretched out still.  He will be there for you… always!!

Change can be good, especially change for the right reasons. But change that takes all of your effort to be successful can be the most rewarding change of all.

We only have a small amount of time of this earth, and we should be working to improve a little each day.  As long as we care enough to keep trying and remember to turn to the Lord for help and forgiveness when we need it, we can each become the joy-filled, wonderful person that God wants each of us to be.

 

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What should have been 12 hours slowly turned into 13 then 14. Eventually 16 hours on the road with my crew driving to places I have never been. For the most part the drive was relatively quiet. The kids played on their devices while I listened to talks and sang loudly to songs of my choosing.

As I looked at my GPS for the 20th time just to make sure I was on the right road and hadn’t missed my turn, I wondered how people made these crazy trips through small towns without these little GPS systems reassuring them at every turn. And if I did miss a turn I was quickly told how to get right back on course. Even when I intentionally made a detour, I was given directions on how to get to my final destination.

This little system gave me peace of mind and I had no reason to stress or worry about which way to go. As long as I did exactly what I was told to do, I drove on in confidence.

I began to see the parallels of this drive and my journey here on earth. My earthly destination is to one day return to my Father above, having learned all that I could while here. I want to grow and become stronger. I desire to become better than my natural self would settle for. It’s a long road. And sometimes a hard one. But the destination is clear.

How do I “check in”, so to speak?  Where do I look to find that constant peace of mind and confidence?

The answer hit me like a ton of bricks. Daily read our scriptures and say our prayers. As we “check in” with God multiple times a day we can rest assured that He will guide us to our final destination. Peace will be found knowing that He won’t let us get too far off track, if we remember to look to Him. Confidence is found in the reassurance that we are doing what God wants us to do.

Over the last year I have finally gained a real understanding of the importance of these things. I used to read my scriptures, most of the time. I said my prayers (often while falling asleep). Slowly (I can be so slow to learn at times), I have come to understand how to study the scriptures and not just read. How to talk to God and not just say the same words

Your needs are great and varied. Each of you is a unique child of God. God knows you individually. He sends messages of encouragement, correction, and direction fitted to you and to your needs.” Henry B Eyring

I did not foresee by constantly striving to really check in that I would have gained greater trust in the Holy Ghost.

That sounds like such an odd thing to say.

Of course I could trust him, right?  But when I would not listen to the promptings and quiet whispering, I showed that I knew better. When I didn’t even try to understand what he was impressing me to understand I was in essence saying I didn’t believe in his ability to help me.

Being too busy to study and too busy to pray, I showed I didn’t really care what he had to say. I was trusting myself. Trusting what I could see.

Just like following my GPS showed my trust in the system, following my God and the impressions He would give me through the Holy Ghost shows my trust for them.  Never have they lead me astray. Sometimes I don’t understand why I’m being guided in a certain direction. But if I remember to consistently come to them, I am given reassurance and peace that they are walking with me on my journey.

And ultimately I pray that they can now trust me just a little bit more. Trust that I will do what I’m impressed to do. Trust that when I get off track I will follow their voice and come back to them.