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perfectionismI’ve really been struggling lately with feelings of anxiety and stress, which I believe are stemming from perfectionism.

I used to think that the term perfectionism was related to someone who works hard and is constantly improving in a quest to reach perfection.

Then a friend called me a perfectionist in front of some strangers, and it forced me to really think about it.

I know that I’m not perfect, and not even close. I thought “I’m so far from perfect, what is she talking about?”

Well I suppose I need to put that statement into context.  We were working on scrap booking, and I couldn’t commit to where I wanted to glue my little cutout, and once I put it down I was upset and wanted to move it.

Perfectionism is NOT a healthy striving for improvement… It is a damaging fear of making any mistake at all in the off-chance that someone will find out and realize that we are not perfect.

Perfectionism makes learning new things difficult, because failure can be a big part of learning something new. If I’m afraid of failure, how will I ever be able to do something new?

Today perfectionism looks like this.

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Pictures and other decor all over the place, because I don’t know where they will look best.  You see I just moved to a new house, and it’s not quite the same as the other homes I have lived in, so I don’t know what to do. So… I did almost nothing.  Just made a big mess until I magically discover the “perfect” place to put everything.  Or I just get over it and hang things up so I can enjoy the memories in the artwork.

I know that because I just moved in, I should cut myself some slack and let it take the time that it takes, but I struggle with the mess… because of the perfectionism. I’m still working full time, still raising kids, and trying to be on top of all their activities, and in the back of my mind, I still want to be working on this blog!!!

When it all gets to be too much, I get overwhelmed… I feel paralyzed…and I feel guilty….

Guilt that I “should” be able to do better than this.  Guilt that I am not further along by now.  Guilt that I am so busy I don’t have time to get out and meet my new neighbors, or be there for my friends, or that I don’t have a vacation planned for my kids this summer yet.

The greater the guilt the greater the paralysis.  As my brain becomes overwhelmed with the thought of all the things that still need to be done, my body responds by feeling tired…

There is too much to do, if I expect it to all be done by tomorrow, and the perfectionist in me can only see what hasn’t been done, not the small victories that I accomplish every day.

I recognize that it is unrealistic expectations that I PUT ON MYSELF that cause me to break down.

The good news is that after several weeks of “breaking down” off and on, I came to a realization that I no longer want to live this way.  I needed to do something about it, and with a little divine intervention, I think I am on the road to finding some real peace amidst the chaos of my life.

Here are some of the things that I learned as I have attempted to climb back out of the hole that I have dug myself into.

  1. “We get credit for trying, even if we don’t always succeed.” – Elder Jeffrey Holland.   I’ve heard this quote several times this month. Every time it was mentioned in a talk at church or online or anywhere, my brain was picking it up and putting it right in front where I couldn’t miss it.  This is so significant to me, because often, I can’t figure out the “right” thing to do next, but sometimes it is more important to do something… anything in fact, to work towards what ever it is that is holding me up. Trying will lead to something good, even if it’s not a perfect outcome, it will be some type of progress. Even a little step in the right direction is progress.
  2. “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” – Maya Angelou.  Mistakes from my past can make me feel like a complete failure, but the truth is that at the time I was most likely doing the best that I could with what I had at the time. It is okay to put those short comings in the past and decide that now that I know better, it is time to step up and do better.
  3.  “Put first things first.”   A young man in church this weekend reminded us of the story of Enos.  Enos had a wonderful spiritual experience that was probably the highlight of his life, in which the Lord told him he was forgiven and that he would be blessed.  The young man who was sharing this story with us pointed out that Enos was hunting at the time of this experience, and that hunting was very important.  In his time, successful hunting meant whether or not the family would be able to eat. What he was doing was very important to his families physical welfare, but at that moment he felt the need to pray for his eternal welfare. He took the time away from his very important earthly tasks to pray, and as a result had an amazing spiritual experience.  What I took away from this story is that in order to feel peace in life amongst all the millions of things that seem to be needing to be done, I need to stop the busyness once in a while and concentrate on the things that are of the most eternal significance. For me that means making time to build my relationship with my God through prayer and scripture study, making time for my family to further develop those crucial relationships, and to take time for myself and do the things that I find bring meaning to my soul, such as reading and writing.

Although I still have guilt over this being the only blog post I have gotten to this month, I am so grateful for the lessons I was forced to re-learn as I trudge through this transition in my life.

 

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Spring time is my very favorite. It’s starting to get warm without being hot. The rain is light when it comes and is always appreciated. Excitement about summer plans are beginning to grow. Soft colors are coming out in my wardrobe. And then there is always spring cleaning.

This year however I started to think about the spring cleaning of my emotional life instead.  What beliefs or habits is it time I parted ways with? What should I take to the dump and just leave there?  Are their beliefs that are cluttering up my mind causing chaos?  Are there things I am constantly tripping over that I haven’t been ready to get rid of but now I see it’s simply necessary in order for me to feel a greater sense of calm and peace?

For years and years I have struggled, deeply agonized even, over feelings of being inadequate and not enough. As a recovering perfectionist, I think that’s normal. But the more I talk openly with other women, I see it might just be a common theme among many of us.

My spring cleaning needed to begin right here. It was time for me to let go of the clutter, the trash, the lie, that I was not enough, so that I could fill my spiritual home with peace and purpose.

These feelings had prevented me from feeling peace. They had kept me from doing things I had wanted to do but was too afraid to fail. I would often see my failings above my successes.  I never felt like I was getting closer to who I wanted to be because I was only seeing how far I still had to go.

I could see the damage this was causing. I was “tripping over” it daily, and I knew it was time to move forward and throw this lie out. But how?

Just like cleaning house, the first step is to access what needs attention and then coming up with a plan. For me I knew this was my biggest stumbling block. But I had held onto it for so long, I didn’t even know where to begin.

For months I have been chipping away at this and my story is long (I need to write it in a book).

For me the first step was to go to the Lord and seek His guidance. Asking Him to guide me on my journey and then continue to move forward expecting His help.

One Sunday I sat in church reflecting on my Savior’s Atonement. I thought about His love and sacrifice for me. He was perfect. He is perfect. And like a ray of warm bright sun filling my heart, I understood a little more fully, because my Savior is perfect, with Him I am enough.

Even when I fall short, because of His sacrifice, I am enough.

Even when I mess up and make mistakes, I am enough.

Even when I’m in the middle of learning and growing and haven’t made it as far as I want to go, with Him I truly am enough.

And for the first time I began to actually believe the statement that I am enough right now, in this very moment.

There have been many other experiences where I have seen God’s hand as He has been trying to teach me this principle. Just this morning I came across this scripture “if the desires of their hearts were good, that they should also, at the last day, be restored unto that which is good.”  Notice its doesn’t say if they perfectly accomplish all they desired or if they accomplished everything they wanted to in their hearts then they were restored to good.

It’s based upon our desires for good.

I want to be a better mom, but I fall short more than I desire. I desire to serve more and give more in ways that are just not possible at this time in my life. I want to always be patient and kind and loving towards everyone. I truly desire that. But I mess up,  I make mistakes. And yet my desires are still good.

I am enough when my desires are good. I am enough when I mess up. And all of that is the Plan of God. That we remember what the Savior has done for us that we may eventually be made perfect in Him. And for now, in our sins and weaknesses, we are still enough.

What could use a little spring cleaning in your emotional life?

Susan

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We have talked all month about different aspects of goal setting and starting the change process in our lives.  Now I’m really ready to start writing down my goals.  Sometimes I get a little over excited, and I’ll write down a big bunch of things I’d like to do differently.  It can be really exciting and energizing, which is why I do it. But I have to be really careful that I’m being authentic to myself and making goals that really pertain to my own life and development.

I do believe that it’s good to have accountability in our goals by sharing them with someone you trust, thus helping to keep each other on track. However, it can also be a bit overwhelming.

Can you guess what happens next? I listen to my friend as she shares what she is going to do, and I think “Wow, that’s really great, I should probably be doing that also” or “Why haven’t I been able to do that, it sounds really important” or “I wish I could do better like that.”  The problem with thinking like this is that now I feel like less of a person because I think I should actually be like someone else, instead of being me.

Why is it so hard to accept that each of us is in a different place in life.  My personality is different, I have a different home, different husband, different children than…. well, everyone else in the world.  While we may have some similarities with our friends and loved ones, we are each traveling a very unique and different road in life.

Susan and I like to joke that we were raised by different parents.  Even though they are the same “people” they were in such different places in their lives with each of us. When I was born, Mom was just 24, and I was her first, while Dad was still finishing college. But, by the time Susan was born, she was Mom’s last child of 4, born 10 years after me, and Dad was busy building a successful career.  (Plus there were two busy brothers in between.)

I suppose the point is that we can only live the life that we have, where it is, right now. Sometimes I’d like to go back and relive 10 years ago, but that just isn’t an option. (There’s no tardis in my life’s experience.)

My goals need to be pertinent to me, in my life now.  I know people who can run marathons or do triathlons, and I can totally admire them and cheer them on… from the sidelines.  That is just never going to be me.

It isn’t going to do me any good if I try to make my goals look like someone else’s because I want them to think I’m as good as they are. My goals shouldn’t be for the sole benefit of looking good.  They should be to help me to feel happier and more satisfied with my life.

By starting with my list of my own personal values and my “recognitions” I can begin to make a list of goals that are meaningful to me.

For example:

Value: Family

Recognition: I want to enjoy the time I have with my children while they are young.

Goals for this month:

  1. Make sure I’m holding them accountable for their chores and schoolwork.
  2. Do one home improvement project together.
  3. Spend some time each week doing something fun, just with each other.

I like to do home improvement projects with my kids, because it gets them thinking creatively, and they really enjoy feeling like they are contributing.  But that is my family and where we are this year.  I certainly wouldn’t recommend it to everyone, it’s just something we enjoy. This is an area that my goal will be very different from my friend’s.

By keeping it simple and do-able I hope to see some progress that will lead to even bigger things down the road.

Some of my other values and recognitions have much bigger goals, and for them I am using Susan’s post it board method to keep me on track.

Whatever you decide to do with your goal setting this year, make it personal, make it meaningful, and if it gets overwhelming go back to a method I talked about earlier.

When thinking about a certain goal, or action step in your goal, analyze how it makes you feel.  If you feel excited, happy or at peace, go forward with this step. It’s a good one.

If you feel anxious, stressed or nervous while thinking about this step, it may not be the right timing.  It doesn’t mean that you can’t have this goal or make this action step, it may be that you just aren’t ready.  Re-examine your recognition or value that lead you to this step, and think if there is something smaller, or simpler that can lead you in the right direction that feels a little more peaceful to you as you think about what it takes to accomplish this goal.

Any step in the right direction, no matter how small, is progress.

The goals that I set with my children in mind this month are simple enough that I feel like I can certainly work on them and not get overwhelmed. Thinking about them makes me happy.

As you work on your goals this month, I hope that you will also find happiness and satisfaction in knowing that you have the power to move forward to becoming the best you that you can be.

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There is this funny thing that can happen when we start to make changes in life.  As we think about New Year’s resolutions and making goals and what should be different this year as opposed to last, doubt and discouragement will try to sneak in.

When do they sneak in? The first time you fall back into an old habit and forget your resolve for the thing you wanted to do differently.

Good people who want to improve can also be really hard on themselves when they make mistakes. But the thing is, they are just mistakes. They are just a recognition of why you wanted to change in the first place. Mistakes are also just a stepping stone to getting to where you really want to be.  The truth is that we are all just human and we are going to make mistakes, or slip up, or just plain forget to do the thing that we wanted to do.

success is getting back up

Success consists of getting up once oftener than you fall down”

Whenever we mess up, the best thing we can do is say “oh well” and get up and try again. (It also doesn’t hurt to own up to the mistake, and apologize to anyone else that may be involved.)

Change can be difficult and it certainly can take time. It also often requires trying over and over again.

Accepting that this is a reality can help us in realizing the real truth.

Even though change is difficult… sometimes really difficult… it is absolutely possible, and the results can be amazing.“

I want to remind you of a technique that I have talked about before, to help you in a pre-emptive strike against discouragement.

As you look at your values and the things that you want to do this year, whether it is your recognition of what you want (from this post) or letting go of things that aren’t really you (from this post) start first by examining or evaluating your past for good things.

Make a list of things that you succeeded at in the past. Try to think of some things from last year, but maybe you will go back to years past.  Maybe there is something really big that you remember and feel really good about. These can be bad habits that you have overcome, or big projects that you completed. Maybe it is a relationship that is dear to you that took some work to save or build.

For some people this will be really difficult. Some of us are not used to boasting or looking for the good in ourselves. Some are afraid that this type of searching is “prideful.”

Don’t worry about being prideful in this exercise.  Pride is thinking that you are better than someone else, or smarter than the guiding you may get from the spirit. That is not what we are talking about here. Here we are looking for ways that you improved yourself, and probably helped others through these improvements. If you have trouble thinking of something, ask family members or close friends to help you. I promise there is something you have improved in, and maybe somethings you have conquered that you can feel really good about.

The reason why this step is so important is that it gives encouragement and hope to know that if we have conquered a bad habit from the past, we can do it again.

If we have learned a new skill in the past we can learn more.

If we have made a desired improvement once, we can surely do it again.

Once you have completed a list of a few things that you have been successful at, you can turn back to it and refer to it, as you make the list of changes you are now ready to tackle in your life.  As things get hard, you will find strength in the hope of change, knowing that you have already done some hard things in the past.

Our Heavenly Father wants us to grow and improve and to BE HAPPY!!  He will help us along the way, if we let Him.

The caution is that Satan knows the power of improvement that can come from us also, and he will try to prevent it any way he can. It surely scares him when strong people become even stronger. When you start to feel discouraged, know that it is coming from him. When you feel that a minor setback is a major failure, that is coming from him. His great lie of “you’re not good enough, you shouldn’t even try” will probably be thrown at you just when you are on the verge of growth and improvement.

When you start to feel this coming on, turn your focus back to the Savior.  His death and atonement is what makes it possible for us to fall and get back up again.  To continue to try, to grow, to reach for becoming the person He wants us to be and knows that we can be.  Through the miracle of repentance we can change. WE CAN CHANGE!! Even if it’s hard.  Even if it’s slow. It is possible because of Him.

I invite you to continue to work on your goals, and continue to strive for constant improvement.  Feel free to share in the comments some of the goals you are working on, and some of your past successes.

As we improve this year, we will combine to make this world a better place.

 

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In the last few weeks we have talked about making changes and moving forward in our lives in positive ways.  Susan discussed letting go of fear, and making that leap into becoming who you are really meant to be.  I (Laura) talked about letting go of the expectations of New Year’s Resolutions in favor of starting with declaring or recognizing what it is that I really want in my life.

From these two places we can start to make the changes in our lives that will be the most beneficial.

 

Today, I am deciding what my personal values are.  What do I want to be working on this year?  What is really important to me?

Values could be anything from: spiritual development, parenting, relationship with spouse, education, financial security, physical fitness, improved emotional state… and many other things.  It is personal to you and to the stage of life you are in. Your important values from last year may be different this year. It is easier for me to analyze and think about in a diagram.

This is an example of my values

Here is a blank bubble diagram of values so you can add your personal values.

These values can be even more effective if they are made more specific.  Service could be: giving more service to my neighbors.  Family could be: building a better relationship with ____. Fitness could be: feeling better about my body.

As I make my list I will analyze each area.  I consider the value and I pay close attention to how I feel inside, at my core.

Does concentrating on this value make me feel good or excited or at peace?  If so, this means I am headed in the right direction.

If looking at this value causes me to feel stress or tension or fear, it is probably not the right time for me to work on this area of my life.  It may be something to re-visit after some other areas are tackled first.

I believe that we are all meant for greatness.  There is a message inside each of us that we have for the world. Big or small, it is there waiting to come out. And when or if we can get it out, it will be amazing, not only for ourselves but also for the people we have influence over.

Getting in touch with our core values is a starting place to build around.  In his talk “What lack I yet?” Elder Larry R Lawrence said

the Holy Ghost will prompt us to improve

 

Our Heavenly Father is always on our side, and He wants us to improve and will guide us in our efforts. Allow Him to show you where He can help you grow in your life. Only He knows what we are really capable of and how much more we can grow. He knows more than any other the greatness that is in us just waiting to come out.

As you contemplate your values and the direction for your life this year, always making Heavenly Father a part of your process, you will be able to see a real shift in goals that are realistic, do-able, and can bring us into line with our true selves.

Let go of your fears, let God help you, and as you brainstorm your values and directions in your life, you will be on the way to discovering the greatness inside of you.

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A better method of improving than making resolutions

I got up this morning with the cheerful plan of putting away the Christmas decorations, organizing them all in the garage and cleaning my house.  It felt so good when it was all done, and although I miss the Nativity pieces around my home, reminding us of Christ, I enjoy the feeling of organization and cleanliness that followed.  I’m sure this clean slate feeling and the fact that it is a brand new year is the reason “resolutions” are the next logical thought.

I got so excited I searched the internet for help.  “How to clean your whole house in one hour.” “How to organize your office to work more efficiently.” “Finally get your finances under control.” “Top tips for your new best body.” “How can I go from couch to 10k?” “Start the new year with intentional mothering.”   The help is endless and the overwhelm starts to set in right…. NOW!

Resolutions are logical and seem like such a good idea. Until they suddenly become my worst enemy. Here are the reasons why they don’t work for me, and why I need a change of plan.

  1. A resolution is a resolve to change, and change rarely happens overnight.  But when I make a new year’s resolution, that is exactly what I expect to happen.  Over night from December 31st to January 1st, I expect my life to change magically to “be better at” all the things that I struggle with.
  2. It becomes overwhelming. My life is busy enough. To suddenly have a long list of more things to add to my plate all at once is just too much to even think about.
  3. Real life comes back and my “resolve” gives way to other demands. I really do want to do these new “good” things in my resolutions, but real-life demands often mean that there may legitimately not be enough time in each day for everything.
  4. When I can’t make the desired changes quickly enough, I quit and feel like a failure. No one should feel like a failure, especially if they are trying to make improvements in their lives, but that “failure” bug just keeps biting me.

So this year I have decided that I am done with New Year’s resolutions…

This year I am making New Year’s Recognitions…. What is a “Recognition” you may ask? This is where I narrow down what I really want for my life.  There are a lot of thoughts that float around in my head about how I might live a little differently, if only…. I had more time, more knowledge, more desire.  Well, they are all just thoughts until I take the time to write them down and come to really recognize what is most important to me. Once I know what I really want for my life, I can start making goals. (See this post for goal planning.)

Here are some examples of my “Recognitions”

  1. I want to be a better friend
  2. I want to be physically stronger
  3. I want a home where friends and family feel comfortable to come spend time with me
  4. I want to enjoy the time I have with my children while they are young

Can you see how these are not really goals, and they are not resolutions?  They are a recognition (or a declaration) of what is important to me and what I want personally for my life. From these recognitions I can begin to make goals that are more meaningful and have a better chance for success.

We all have something we want to change about ourselves, and sometimes it can be daunting, and sometimes it is a change that will take a lot of time, maybe more than we would like.  By keeping in mind what we really want for ourselves, the changing process becomes more manageable. It becomes a matter of doing what I “want to do” and less what I “have to do.”

I’m looking forward to writing down what I want to do, as I start my goal setting process for the year.  I don’t want to set goals based on what I “should” be doing, or what other people are doing, or even what other people think I should do.  I am learning to be true to myself and more intentional with my goal setting by taking the time to first come to the “recognition” of what I really want for my life,

I truly believe that I am setting myself up for more success on the road to making the progress I want.

Doesn’t that sound better than simply “resolving” to make change?

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Emma Smith is one of two ladies I look up to, desire to emulate and wish I could go to lunch with to just talk for hours. The other is Marjorie Pay Hinckley. Both are wives of modern-day prophets for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  And both are women I hope to meet in heaven.

Lucy Mack Smith, the mother of the prophet Joseph Smith, said this of her daughter-in-law

“I have never seen a woman in my life, who would endure every species of fatigue and hardship, from month to month, and from year to year, with that unflinching courage, zeal, and patience, which she has ever done;

Could you imagine meeting a woman like that?  Over the last few weeks I have been studying all about her life and for a small moment, I felt like we met. The deeper I got into researching her the more I wished we could have been friends. She was compassionate and witty and strong and real.

Although she is not alive today for me to call on for advice, I learned more about myself in reading about her. I saw more of what I want to be while also seeing glimpses into accepting who I am right now. Emma didn’t know how wonderful she was. She was humble. She strived to find joy in everyday. She held fast to her strong faith.  She gave compassionately of her time and energies when people should have been serving her.  She didn’t act that way to be an example or to be a leader or even so people after her could look to her as a standard, it’s just simply who she was.

In a letter to her son in her later years she wrote

“I have seen many, yes very many, trying scenes in my life which I could not see … where any good could come of them.” She added this testimony: “But yet I feel a divine trust in God, that all things shall work for good.”

Oh that I can mold my faith to be as hers.

Shortly before her husband died she wrote,

I desire the spirit of God to know and understand myself, I desire a fruitful, active mind, that I may be able to comprehend the designs of God, when revealed through his servants without doubting.”

That is a prayer I understand well.  I would like to print it and put it in my prayer room for those are all things I desire.

The youth leaders at our church, I work with the 14-15 year old girls called Mia Maids, put together a hike all about the life of Joseph Smith (the founder of our church).  The kids would hike and come across different influential people in his life. His parents, his brother, and his wife. As soon as I heard about this I felt a strong desire to portray Emma. But as the time got closer I knew I could not do this wonderful woman justice. How could I help the youth see of her testimony of God’s love for her as well as her testimony of her husband and of the church?

As the night drew near I still didn’t know what I was going to say. There was just too much to fit into the small 7-minute window I was given. I knelt in prayer pleading with the Lord that I may somehow embody all that Emma was. I poured out my soul desiring more than anything to show the youth the strength of her faith even though she was asked to endure so many trials. I wanted to make her proud and I wanted to say exactly what the Lord would have me say.

The impression I received was that I should not prepare a written speech or even decide which stories to share. I had saved some quotes on my phone thinking I might read those because they were so powerful in her words but I felt strongly I needed to trust that God would tell me what to say when the time came. This quote was one of them, which was given right before she passed away

“My belief is that the Book of Mormon is of divine authenticity. I have not the slightest doubt of it. … Though I was an active participant in the scenes that transpired, and was present during the translation of the plates … and had cognizance of things as they transpired, it is marvelous to me, ‘a marvel and a wonder,’ as much as to anyone else.

I know Mormonism to be the truth; and believe the church to have been established by divine direction.

Joseph smith was a prophet of God. I believe he [Joseph] was everything he professed to be.”

The night came. As I got ready I pondered on her again. I tried to imagine what it would have been like to be her.  And felt I needed to try to do her famous hair do (we were not asked to dress like our person) 

We began our hike and my husband and I got into place (he was portraying Joseph). Each person had a designated spot for the kids to come to you. And we were last. We waited and I wondered again what I was going to say. And then in an instant it all came together in my mind. I knew what was to be said with great assurance. And I instantly felt gratitude to God.

The group came up and I welcomed them as I imagined Emma would do. Her house was always full of visitors and those who needed special care. I shared with them an experience she had with prayer when she was a young child. And I shared this quote

Strength does not come from seeing. Strength comes from faith.

I told how the faith that began as a small child kneeling in prayer sustained her and grew throughout her many trials. I talked about how she had lost several babies and one specific experience where Joseph was taken from their home by a mob of angry men and tarred and feathered. And how her already sick baby died from the exposure to the cold let in by the mob.

At this point I thought I might share another story and my mind went blank. I could not remember what I was going to say and I knew it was because that story didn’t need to be shared.

I tried with all of my heart to testify as if I were Emma the things she knew to be true.  It came very easily because I knew them to be true as well. I testified of Joseph’s Holy calling. Of the divine nature of the Book of Mormon. Of the religion she had given so much for. And for the beautiful nature of eternal families.

As I said those words my spirit was on fire.  I felt God burning into my heart the truthfulness of what I was saying. I felt like Emma was next to me helping me get her words into those kids’ hearts.  The beautiful experience of “meeting” Emma will forever be a tender memory I hope to only be replaced by one day, on the other side of the veil, sitting down with Her and being taught by her side.

***Update***

Here are some of the sources I used to study the life of Emma Smith.

Article in the Ensign written by their great great granddaughter

Emma and Joseph: Their Divine Mission

The History of Joseph Smith by His Mother

Emma’s patriarchal blessing can be found here

Article on the letters written between Joseph and Emma

Love letters of Joseph and Emma this one is visually so stunning. It is short like a story book but so much love and beauty is found inside.

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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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In a world that constantly tells me I am not enough it can sometimes become difficult to remember who I am and what I am capable of doing. The messages from the media can be confusing and contradictory in regards to what kind of wife and mother I should be. So how does one find herself when everywhere you turn someone has a different answer for her?

Personal identity is something I have thought a lot about in my life. It’s so easy to see the good in others. To see what makes them unique and divine. But often it can be rather difficult to see in ourself.

This weekend I sat with a friend as we discussed our personal identities. It was enlightening to say the least. I walked away with a greater desire to love and accept me for who I am and not what others tell me I am or am not. And the wheels in my mind began to spin. What have I learned over the years that has helped me to understand who I am and how do I help other women to love who they are as well?

My biggest cheerleader is the one I never see. Only one person knows me, the real true me. That’s my God. He knows my potential in spite of my failings. He knows the deepest desires of my heart that I never speak out loud. A necessary first step to understanding your individual worth is to go to Him and ask Him for that knowledge.

When I have prayed for an understanding of who I am in the past, I was surprisingly overwhelmed with the love and the confidence I felt from God to me. He wants you to succeed at whatever it is He is asking of you. I truly believe that. Over time He can show you who you are and what you can become just as He has done for me when I have asked.

Trust Him. Believe He can make you into more than you could ever imagine. He needs you on His side to uplift, to teach, to guide and to love others. He will walk with you if you let Him.

I have also seen and felt satan want just as badly for us to fail. Those are the low moments in my life, when I believed the lies satan threw at me. Anytime you feel not good enough, like you don’t measure up, that life is too hard, that’s satan lying to your face. He is doing all in his power to stop you from knowing your worth.  If he can get you to doubt and fear he knows he can also stop you from becoming the powerful person you are meant to become. He can stop you from influencing those around you, and he is doing all he can to stop you from finding true joy.

I found one exercise to be extremely helpful.

Grab a piece of paper and pen. (Or use your phone to notes.  I love Evernote)  Find a quiet moment and kneel in prayer. Ask Heavenly Father to guide you to be able to see the good that is in you.  Ask Him to show you what makes you special and unique. Ask Him to open your eyes that you may see who you really are. And then thank Him in advance for the answers you will receive.

Once you finish let your pen begin to write I am….

These are meant to be traits not roles. For example some traits you could write are:  I am strong. I am a good listener. I am always there when my children need me. Where as roles you fulfill are things like I am a wife. I am a mother.

You want to really discover what makes you who you are. So although you might be an amazing mother what traits back that up?

One caution, write everything you can think of. Even if you do not feel perfect at it. I am not a Pinterest worthy crafty person. And yet I love to create and make things for my home or for my kids parties. I enjoy those things. Yes, there are woman who are better than me. But I can still be good at it. My point is don’t judge if you are good at something based on the fact that someone is better.

Don’t worry about proper sentences or grammar. Free flow writing can allow your mind to let go of worry and stress and let the truth flow from God to you. No one ever has to see this list. It’s just for you.

Once you are done take a deep breath and read through what you have written. Keep this list near you over the next couple of days and add to it as often as a good trait comes to your mind.

As strange as it may feel to do, ask those around you what they see good in you. It can be very heart warming and funny to hear what your kids have to say about you. Things you might not have thought of as a good trait can come from the mouths of babes. Your parents and spouse will usually have more to say that can add to your list.

What if for the next 30 days every time you woke up someone told you what you were good at? Can you imagine how that might make you feel?  What if that person was you?  I hate hearing my own voice but I have felt a quiet prompting to record my “I am statements” and listen to them every single day.  I believe the power from hearing yourself give positive feedback can be more powerful than hearing it from anyone else.

Are you ready to start on your journey of finding out who you really are?

PS. If you do this challenge I would love to hear how it went. Even if you just did part of it, share with us your thoughts.

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Why compare yourself with othersA young man came to our home last week to sell us some knives.

I let him make the appointment with us because he was the son of a good friend, and he said that he would get credit towards scholarships, even if we didn’t buy anything from him.  I had no intention of buying anything from him, but I just couldn’t say no. I know, I’m a sucker.

He gave a great presentation.  I let him know that he was doing a good job, but at the end, when he was trying to “close the deal,” I had to let him know that we just don’t really have the need.  I didn’t see any point to spending a lot of money on an admittedly great product, when I am doing just fine with the stuff I already own.

I told him “we’re good, we just don’t need anything right now.”

In contrast to all being well in my kitchen, I didn’t feel the same with myself.

When everything is good, we often don’t feel the need to do anything differently, but sometimes when life is “not so good” it can be hard to know what to do differently.

I had been struggling with feelings of inadequacy. (Okay, so it really is an ongoing struggle.)  I know there are things that need to be improved in my life, but so often I have allowed that to be a source of beating myself up.  “Why did it take me so long to figure this out” , “What was I thinking when I continued to ….”

Then it got worse… I started to compare myself to other women and moms. It always seems like other moms have it all together, while I constantly struggle.

I read two books over this summer.  The first one was, I Am More Than Enough:Helping Women Silence Their Inner Critic and Celebrate Their Inner Voice by Robert Jones and Bryce Dunford. The second was Cleaning House: A Mom’s Twelve-Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement by Kay Wills Wyma.

I enjoyed reading both of them, but “Cleaning House” became my free-time read.  (The book I keep in the car and read while I’m waiting for kids at tennis lessons, violin lessons, or doctor appointments, etc.)  It was very entertaining and I was learning from it, but I soon found myself feeling like a failure as a mom, because I was comparing my parenting with the things that she chose to do with her kids.  I found myself thinking “why didn’t I teach my kids these things while they were younger?”  “She’s right, these things are important, I should have done (fill in the blank) with my kids”  Then pretty soon I felt pretty worthless.

And you know what happens when you have that kind of pity party?

NOTHING!!

No one wants to join you for that. No goals get set or accomplished. I wasn’t improving anymore, I just felt like a failure.

Then I picked up my first book, “I am more than enough” and I realized that there was a balance that was missing in my life.  This books subtitle is “Helping women silence their inner critic and celebrate their inner voice.”  It’s all about comparing ourselves to other women, recognizing the damaging effects it can play on our psyche, and how to combat that habit and learn to recognize that we are all okay just as we are.

So as I was learning to make some progress in teaching kids new skills in parenting through reading one book, I was forgetting the teachings of the other book, in letting “me be okay with me.”

I recognized right there that something needed to change.  I needed to re-discover the things about me that are good.  I have done a lot of things “right” in my parenting, even if I have made some mistakes also.  For me, I needed to accept both truths.  The only way I am going to make progress is to realize what I have done that is good, and has had positive results, and use that knowledge to address the problems that I own in my parenting.

For example, when they were young, I read lots of books on parenting and tried to implement the things that I learned. I had rules in regards to how they could treat each other. We read together. We went to church together. We took time to play and do projects together.  As a result, all 5 boys get along with each other pretty well.  They value the friendship they have with each other and will most likely be friends the rest of their lives.

I’m now at the stage where I’m trying to help them become men.  Independent. Self reliant. Responsible. A few of my boys are already there, but I still have two at home, and I know first hand, how quick those last few years will fly by.  There are still more lessons I need to teach them, before it is too late.

Then the other night, as we were reading our scriptures as a family, I read these words in 2 Nephi, in the Book or Mormon.

24 Therefore, wo be unto him that is at ease in Zion!

25 Wo be unto him that crieth: All is well!

26 Yea, wo be unto him that hearkeneth unto the precepts of men, and denieth the power of God, and the gift of the Holy Ghost!

27 Yea, wo be unto him that saith: We have received, and we need no more!

These scriptures really hit me.  Suddenly I realized that while it is important for me to recognize the good things that I have done, and that I am okay to be who I am, there is always room for improvement.  I should always be searching for ways to grow and become more and do more.Improvement and Gratitude

I made the decision that I would record my progress in a very simple way each night in my journal. (It has to be quick and simple or I won’t find time to do it)

This is what I have been writing.

Three things that I did right today:

Three things that I am grateful for:

Three things that I want to improve in:

If there are more than three, I save it for the next day.  By using this method it helps me to stay focused on what works, how God is at play in my life, and it keeps me reaching to become a little better each day.

So far, I have felt much better about my life as I record these simple things.  I think it keeps my ADD mind a little more focused, and it reminds me of my ability to progress with God’s help.  I look forward to the new school year, and the opportunities that I may have to learn along with my kids.

I am so grateful for the words of Christ that we learn through reading in our scriptures, and I also recognize God’s hand in helping me with the most important job that I have. That of being a mother. With his help I may have those wonderful moments when I can say “we’re good,” and know that means we are making good progress.