Sunday, June 3, 2018

My Journey Through The 12 Step Program

I heard recently that the 12 step program (typically used by alcoholics to recover from their addiction) is the most practical application of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I couldn't stop thinking about whether that was true or not and so I decided to learn more about the 12 step program. I read up on it and watched a series of YouTube videos done by a man who explains (in depth) each step and why it is important. I really like what I have been learning, and although I do not have a problem with addiction, I have decided to do the 12 step program to see how it can enhance my relationship with God.

I have mentioned this before, but I gain a lot of insight and understanding through blogging, and so I am going to write about my experience as I work through each step.

The past few years I have felt a bit distant from God. I know it is because of walls that I have put up after feeling betrayed. I am aware enough to recognize that, but I haven't been able to find a way to take the walls down. I've tried and yet I still feel a distance from God, a separation of sorts. I firmly believe He is there and He is trying to guide me, but I also feel a barrier between us. It's weird... it almost feels like I can see Him through the barrier and yet it's made of sound proof glass. I can see God's hand in my life and yet I don't feel like I can hear him giving me the advice I know I need. Perhaps it wouldn't be a big deal had I not experienced life without the barrier. However, I have had a much closer relationship to Him in the past, one where He literally was guiding me every day, so I miss that connection. I crave it and yet, I also recognize that I am the one preventing myself from having it. So when I heard this program is the most practical application of the Atonement, what I really heard was "This is the best way for you to gain a deeper relationship with your Saviour. This could be the answer you are looking for." So... here I am. Putting myself through the 12 step program in hopes of growing closer to my Saviour and re-establishing my relationship with Him. I suppose it's my way of using the Atonement to forgive God, to forgive myself, and most importantly to let go and move forward with a deeper level of trust in Him.

The first step says: 

"We admitted we were powerless over alcohol- that our lives had become unmanageable."

Like I mentioned above, I don't have an alcohol problem. In fact I've never drank. I've seen too many family members become alcoholics and how much sorrow was caused because of it. So in this first step I have chosen not to see it as feeling powerless over alcohol, but rather powerless in changing my life, particularly my character flaws, by myself. I've realized that on my own, I can't do it. I can't feel comfort about the future when I am pushing away the only person who can help me to feel peace that everything is going to work out. I can't know what will happen and therefore I am left to feel anxious and alone. It is in this step that I have had to humble myself enough to recognize that I cannot do it by myself. I have had to come to terms with the fact that without God, my life really has become unmanageable. I've been more stressed, more uptight, and more confused than I've been in a really long time. I am aware of that and have tried to change it by going to the doctor, changing my diet, and researching solutions online... none of which have solved the problem. I still feel the emptiness that used to be filled by God. The emptiness that I created when I pushed Him out of my life and for the past couple of years literally told Him to stop giving me answers because I didn't want them. I told Him I didn't want to hear what He had to say because I wouldn't believe Him even if He told me. I would still pray every day, I just wouldn't ask Him for guidance. I have never lost my faith that He is there, I just stopped trusting Him, and therefore became distant with my emotional investment in our relationship. The conversations went from being ones of a father and daughter to that of a boss and employee. I would tell Him what I thought He needed to know and I wouldn't open up further than that. He didn't get to know exactly how I was feeling because we weren't that close. It's silly, I know, because deep down I knew He already knew how I was feeling, yet he didn't get to hear it from me. I wanted Him to know that He hurt me... He let me down, and I was really confused. 

I have been working on making our relationship better over the past year, but there is still a wall. It's thinner than it was before and sometimes if God shouts, I can hear Him. It's quiet... barely audible, but on occasion, I can hear it. So I think it's getting better, but I've come to a spot where I don't know what to do anymore. I don't know how to fix it on my own. I think this is the importance of step one to me... that I have to realize that I am powerless to fix it by myself. I've tried and I just can't do it alone. So if I really want to fix it, I need to be humble and recognize that I need God. I need God to help me get our relationship back. I need God to help me understand my confusion. I need God to help me forgive Him and myself. I need God to help me let it go and more forward. I need God to help me learn to trust in Him again. Simply said... I need God. 

This is what I have gotten out of step one, which I feel like flows perfectly into step two which talks about believing in God. This week I have been catching myself trying to solve problems in my head, trying to find solutions and realizing I am trying to do it on my own. I've been aware enough to recognize when I am doing it. In those moments I have had to stop myself and be reminded that I am powerless without God. It's been good for me because as soon as I see it happening I automatically start to pray and ask for help. This has been helping me re-learn how to rely on God. It is teaching me to trust in Him. I know it will take time, but I think this is helping me to develop new habits. Habits of turning to God and choosing to trust in Him. It's choosing to believe He loves me, He knows the future, and that He is guiding me to something far greater than I can comprehend. I have moments of doubting this, but in those moments I choose to believe it anyway. By seeing that I am powerless, it causes me to realize just how much I need God in my life. I think there is a reason this is the first step because it is a catalyst for all the other steps that follow. 

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Maybe Life Isn't About Knowing, But More About Learning...

Do you ever have those moments when you are all alone and you wonder to yourself "Am I where I want to be? Is this the life I want to be living or is there something different I should be doing?" I've been feeling that way recently and trying to reflect on what it is I really want. Today I am writing with no answers, just questions. Questions about what I want my life to look like, who I want to become, the type of person I want to share that with, the kind of kids I want to raise, the experiences I want to have, the things I want to learn, the places I want to go, the hobbies I want to develop, etc. etc. etc.... and I don't know. I don't know the answers to any of those questions. I feel stuck in a conundrum of sorts.

I'm a big believer in visualization and "seeing" the future you want to have as if you already have it. But... what if I don't have an image in mind? What if the image changes day to day? What if I can't decide... I mean, how are you supposed to know what you want when you don't know all the options. The vision of the future is just an idea... a thought. Something that sounds good in the moment, but once you have it, do you still want it?

Do you know the movie "You've Got Mail" with Meg Ryan... there is a scene where she stares at her computer... she attempts to type her thoughts, unsure of what to say, she closes the laptop. I feel like her. I feel full of thoughts and yet my mind is struggling to organize them. I think my thoughts are currently a collection of chaos. I find that writing on my blog helps me to organize my chaos and make sense of my questions. So that is what I hope will happen by the time I finish blogging today. I hope to know that maybe, just maybe... God has some answers for me. Some answers about my future that can help me better visualize where I want my life to go. I hope that maybe God can help me see the things I am blind to... the unknown. I know many people who believe in a God that does not know what the future holds. A God who gave us agency and therefore cannot fully know what choices we will make. I don't think I believe in that God. I think the God I believe in knows what will happen in the future. I say that because I feel like I have had many experiences where God has given me answers letting me know what is around the corner... whether through dreams or thoughts or things... He gives me insight. I can't explain it, but I always know when He is doing it.

So today, I pray that my God will continue to shine light on what is ahead. To give me that increase of motivation to go forward and not feel stuck. It's funny how time and experiences can change our thoughts and beliefs about the world. They have the power to change what we want in our future. I feel like that has happened to me and I feel like it has taken almost ten years to get to where I am today. Ten years of small tweaks in my belief system that slowly broke down what I thought I knew and grew into things that I choose to believe. With time, experiences, and some maturity, I have come to believe that none of us really know... we just choose to believe. I actually find that to be more powerful than claiming to know the truth, because it's something within our control. It's something we literally choose every day.  Some days those beliefs waver a bit, and other days we feel so strong about them that we almost... almost... can say with absolute surety, that we know. Those moments are fleeting, but I think they help carry us through the moments of doubt and questioning.

I can honestly say that I don't know what I used to claim to know... but I do know that every day I choose to believe. Every day I wake up and choose to believe in a God who knows the future; a God who loves me and knows what will make me happy. I choose to believe in a God who champions love. A God who embodies love. A God who is love. That is the God I choose to believe is my father. A father that I love and believe has my best interests at heart. A God who understands that currently I don't know what I really want in my future and also a God who knows what that future is going to look like. A God who is guiding me every day. I like to think He gives me hints to get me to where He knows I would want to go. I'm grateful for that.

Life really is funny, isn't it. We study and learn things so that we can know. Then when we think we know, we learn new things that make us question what we thought we knew, and we find ourselves studying again in order to learn so that we can know. It's a continuing cycle. Maybe we aren't supposed to know. Maybe we are just supposed to learn and let knowledge change us over time. Maybe life was never about knowing, but more about learning. I feel like that's something God wants me to know. I almost feel like knowing implies there is an absolute surety that it is truth. I feel like when we claim to know something we have zero doubt and we believe that nothing we learn will change that truth. When what we know may really be only part of the truth. There is always more to learn.

Maybe right now, it's not important that I see exactly how my future plays out. Maybe right now, God just wants me to trust in Him that it will work out. It might be a time in my life for me to choose to believe that He knows what is ahead and trust that He will guide me there. Perhaps God wants me to spend my time learning instead of knowing. Learning tends to imply an action is involved... reading, studying, reflecting, questioning, searching, etc. Knowing requires no action. Knowing is stagnant. To say you know, is to claim to have reached the end of the road. It implies you cannot go any further because you're already there... there is no where else for you to go. The learning stops. I think faith requires action. Which I would then infer that learning is important if not critical to having faith. If you know something, there is no action required. In fact, there is no possible action to take. You're stopped. You're not progressing. Knowledge needs no faith. Faith requires having confidence in God and trusting He knows what is best for us. The very act of learning requires us to have faith because we have to place our confidence in someone that knows more. We rely on them to reveal to us more truth. That new truth expands our understanding and enhances/alters our beliefs. There is so much growth that comes from learning. If we really did know, what changes would we ever make? What would possibly cause us to change? I think it is learning that triggers change. I think the enlightenment we receive from learning is one of God's greatest tools to inspire us and motivate us to do something different with our lives.

I think that to learn is to change.

Maybe right now God just wants me to learn. Maybe it's important that those answers to my questions come with time through various experiences. They may not be something he wants me to know right now, but rather something for me to learn as time goes on.

I must admit this may be one of the most interesting blog posts I've ever written, in the sense that none of these things crossed my mind until I started typing. Yet, I feel more clarity now than I did an hour ago. I feel a strong desire to continue learning and trying to deepen my understanding of life. I feel better knowing that I don't need to know all the answers right now. It makes me excited to think of the experiences I will have that will give me the insights I am seeking. 

Sunday, January 14, 2018

God is Every Good Trait Magnified to its Fullest Potential

"The deepest beauty of love is how it changes lives."

I've had a lot on my mind lately as I try to really get to the root of the meaning of life. Wondering what God really expects from me, rather than what I have been expecting from myself but attributing it to God. What does it take for someone to be considered a "good" person in His eyes and how can I make the most of what I have been given... I'd love to say I have it all sorted and I can clearly answer that question. Yet, I can't say that. I think sometimes as human beings, we try to oversimplify things. We try to lay out the rules and claim that everything is black and white. If you do this... you're a good person. If you do that... you're a bad person. I firmly believe that God's way of thinking is so much more comprehensive than our own. I am convinced that God doesn't see things in black and white, but rather a full spectrum of colors that we don't even know exist.

I think He looks at each one of our lives on its own, without comparison to others. I think God looks at our individual growth. I believe He sees our hearts and our intentions. I wonder if too often we attribute judgmental-ness with God's character. Then I have to question if God is so harsh and judgmental, why would we have chosen to follow Him... Why would He have provided a Savior for us if He wasn't the most loving, kind, forgiving Father there ever was. I believe God is every good trait magnified to its fullest potential. It is incomprehensible for us to understand the intensity of which God loves and forgives. So then how do we get it so wrong? How are we able to assume this God full of love would be so quick to condemn us or judge us. Is it because this love He possesses is so foreign to us, that it's hard to believe anyone could ever love us that much. Perhaps... which then leads me to question if the people who love the most are the ones who actually understand God the best. The ones who spend less time judging and more time loving and serving others. Not because they're afraid of what God will think if they don't do it, but rather because they know God well and understand a little better that love which God has for them. Which would then confirm the truth in the saying "those hardest to love are the ones who need it the most". Through loving others we give them the gift of a glimpse of God. We get to help them see their value; the value and worth they have purely from being a child of God. No one needs to earn value or prove their worth. They already have it, they just don't know it yet.

I have come to believe that our desires are important to God. They are important to Him because they are important to us. I think about people I love in my life and how their dreams are important to me because I want them to have the things that they believe will bring them joy. If that is important to me (and I am very far from loving people the way God does), then how much more important is it to God?? He cares about our desires. Not only does he care about them, but he supports us in our pursuit of them. He understands our hearts and souls. He is our greatest cheerleader. He has an active role in our lives. His love for us will never fade. He is always there for us and He will continue to always be there for us.

So then I have to ask myself, what is it that I want out of life? What are my desires? What are my expectations? What would it take for me to get to the end of my life and look back proudly on everything I had done? I find that for me, I experience the most joy when I am loving others. I read an article recently about how love isn't just a feeling, it's an action. When we love people we show it. Love changes us as it literally changes our actions toward ourselves and others.

Love multiplies when shared. Love creates a space for people to feel safe and comfortable which allows them to be more vulnerable and authentic. Love is perhaps the most powerful gift we can give to others. It is through love that walls are torn down, hearts are healed, and faith is rekindled. It is through loving others that we are able to recognize more of our potential and enhance the God-like characteristics that we all have been given.

The more I reflect, the more I believe that we are here to love others, to allow love to refine and define who we are and who we are becoming. Love allows us to build connections with others. It allows us to see people in a new light... a brighter light. Love brings joy and happiness like nothing else can. When we love others we put ourselves in a place where we can connect on a deeper level with God. That connection we have with God is powerful and enlightening and it will bring a peace to our souls that we cannot find anywhere else. So I suppose that love is our purpose... If we are here to learn to become more like God and God is love... then I think striving to love others and ourselves is the key to living a life we can look back on and be proud of.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Living in a Society that Lacks Self-Love: Thoughts on Racial Tension in America

It's been a crazy whirlwind of adventures since I last wrote on my blog. I had a fortune cookie earlier this year that read something to the effect of "your life will change so much, you may not recognize yourself by the end of the year". I think about that silly cookie every now and again. I look back and see the experiences I've had this year... volunteering with orphans in Romania, seeing Heather accept the Gospel and how happy she is, watching her get ready to leave on a mission to Russia, being drugged in Prague and learning how it feels to be completely vulnerable to a cruel world, learning how to trust in the human race again, overcoming a very painful heartbreak, pleading with God to allow me to forgive and let go, moving to Scotland, being homesick and learning to trust in the Lord's will for my life, increasing my knowledge through intense study, fighting feelings of inadequacies, and finding ways to fit in while still being different. I feel like this year has been one of dramatic highs and lows. I've had to do a lot of soul searching and redefining who I want to be. I've learned lessons that I never thought I would learn and my empathy towards others has increased SO much! I've thought about how much I rely on prayer and my communication with God. I don't know how I would have made it through this year without Him.

I'm currently in a Masters program in Scotland. I have friends from ALL over the world and I LOVE it! I love diversity. The more I talk to my friends the more I realize how much we have in common. There are differences in our culture, our beliefs, and our experiences, however, the similarities are just as great. I'm learning as much from them as I am from my modules. We all have moments of feeling overwhelmed by our studies, we all have moments of missing home, we all have moments where we don't understand boys, we all have weaknesses and strengths that are unique to us... to some extent we all feel uncertain about what the future holds.

I think about all the racial tension in the United States and I just wish we could see souls instead of color. I wish we could have understanding and compassion instead of bitterness. Here we are in 2016, living in the most technological advanced time where we have the power to impact the world at our fingertips. We live at a time where anything and everything is possible. There are no limits to our creations and our dreams. So why is it so hard for us to see each other as human beings who live and breath and love. We are all human beings with concerns and difficult circumstances. We all have reasons for being the way we are. We all come from different backgrounds that molded our beliefs and formed our views on life. Why do we have to spend so much time and energy on fault finding, playing the victim, or planning revenge? I truly believe the only way to fix these problems is with an increase of love. Anything else, no matter what the motive, is damaging.

My favorite module this semester is Business Ethics. I LOVE this course. We look at different theories and then analyze business cases in regards to those theories. There is no clear right or wrong, but rather different perspectives of the same situation. It's so interesting to see it from the side of the organization and to think "ah... that's totally ethical". Then we will look at it from the side of society and I find myself thinking "This is SO wrong! How could they do this and feel good about themselves?". I am learning the significance of seeing things from different perspectives. I am realizing that situations can look completely different when you see them from a new angle. I think it is a sign of ignorance to always assume you are right and others are wrong. It is a sign of close mindedness that will only serve to hurt you in the end.

I wish we could apply this way of thinking in America. I wish we could all try to see things from another perspective and to set aside our ego and pride. Have there been racial discriminations? Absolutely. Have there been times where things were blamed on racism when, in reality, it was not? Absolutely. Yet, if we get stuck here... what progress will come? If we can see what has been, and consciously make an effort to change our way of thinking (from both sides), then perhaps we can start to see each other with a new perspective. Perhaps we can start to see our differences and embrace them. I wonder if whether our desire to be around others who are similar to us, says more about our insecurities in who we are and our uncertainty of whether others will accept us, that ultimately leads us to look for others with whom we have similarities and consequently making us feel more self assured in who we are. We need more confidence in ourselves! We need to understand that it is OK to be different from our neighbors. It is OK to not fully understand each other and our perceptions of the world. IT IS OK TO STAND OUT.  If only we could give ourselves the self assurance we crave rather then searching for it amongst others.

I've pondered the concept of "love thy neighbor as thyself". This idea is so simple and yet extremely profound. It's easy to overlook the idea of self-love.... however, if you don't love yourself, how much love can you really show to your neighbor?? The more confident we are in who we are, the more tolerant and accepting we are of those around us. We are less critical and more kind. We find more ways to lift others up, because we aren't so hollowed down by our own insecurities. I wonder if we are living in a society of many people who don't love themselves. People who find it easier to project anger and hate, rather than looking inwards and making peace with themselves.

If I could wish for anything within our society, it would be an increase of love and acceptance of others AND ourselves. I hope that one day we can choose to see souls and not color. Just some thoughts I've had.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

To See The World As He Does, We Must Stand Where He Stands

I've tried to sit down and write several times this month. Each time I'm about to start writing my mind goes blank, I give up... frustrated, and walk away. The problem hasn't been having something to write about, but where to begin... how to compose it into a well-flowing post that makes sense and accurately reflects how I feel. Tonight I will do my best to relay to you the thoughts that seem to be swirling around in my mind.

I grew up believing that life was black and white. That to every situation there was a clear right and wrong. I grew up believing that if you made the right choices life would be easy. It would turn out the way you always dreamt it would. Somewhere over the last seven to eight years, I discovered otherwise. Life isn't always black and white, right and wrong, good and bad. Sometimes we suffer through extremely difficult circumstances created by no fault of our own. Those can be very painful times, and often hidden under the facade we display to others.

Those closest to me know how hard this year has been. It has definitely been a year of learning and growth (and it's not even over yet). A year to see that sometimes another's agency gets in the way of our plans. Sometimes we get placed onto a path we didn't originally want to tread. It's harder. It's uphill. It requires more focus, more energy, more work.  I've learned recently, however, that "more" of those things, isn't always a bad thing. The uphill path builds muscles. It burns away the excess- the unwanted, stubborn, and hard to lose areas that develop with a sedentary lifestyle. In its place is something more firm. The uphill path makes us stronger... more sure of who we are and the direction we are going. The higher we climb, the more we can see.

I was pondering this concept a few days ago and I realized that my path this year has done just that, it has made me stronger and more sure of who I am. I immediately felt an abundance of gratitude to my Heavenly Father for allowing things to work out just so.  I was reminded, yet again, that not only do I have a Heavenly Father, but I have a Heavenly Father who loves me. Imperfect, stubborn, impatient, and impractical... me. He loves me despite my obvious flaws. He loves me despite my weaknesses. He loves me because I am His child. He loves me perfectly and without conditions. I find this concept hard to wrap my mind around. Yet, again and again and again, I see His love for me reflected throughout my life. I see blessings and miracles given to me by Him... a reminder that He is always with me. I am not on this uphill path alone. I have the most amazing tour guide who is leading me to the top. He knows the best paths to take, the safest paths, and the most beautiful. He wants me to see the world as He does, and I cannot do that unless I stand where He stands. Hence, it is an uphill journey to find clarity, to feel peace, and to see the bigger picture.

I realize that everyone is on a different part of the path. Depending on the time of day we hike, the scenery will appear different. No ones path will ever be the same as our own. The only person who knows EXACTLY the path we are on, is the One who is walking it with us; our own personal tour guide. He is the only one who knows the good and the bad we experience on our journey upward. He has been there with us from the beginning. He knows about the anticipation we felt at the base of the mountain as we gazed up and saw how far we needed to go. He knows the moments we become tired and have to stop... because He stops and waits with us. He knows of the self doubts we experience when we wonder if we are strong enough to keep going. He knows about the times we have to mentally push ourselves to take another step and keep moving forward. He knows about the tears, the sweat, the thirst, and the frustration. He knows this, because He is there... He is encouraging us. His words inspire us to keep going, telling us that it will be worth it. He can only know this if He has been there before. He can only know this if He has experienced those same feelings. Lucky for us, our tour guide... our Savior... has been there before. He knew what we would need and He is prepared to give it to us.

I'm somewhere on that mountain.  Hiking with the most amazing tour guide. Experiencing ups and downs, but knowing that I'm not alone. I know that I can turn to Him with any questions. I know that I can turn to Him when I experience doubts. I know that I can turn to Him when I feel unable to take another step. I know that He will always be there. I know that I can place my trust in Him and that one day when I reach the top of this mountain, I will see the world with the same perspective He does. On that day, I know that everything will all make sense. Until then, I will keep moving upward and forward and onward... anticipating the day when we can stand side by side overlooking the valley below.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Defining Moments of Our Eternal Character

Sometimes we find ourselves in unexpected places. En route to a destination that is unknown to the traveler and guided by one far wiser than we can know. Sometimes we find ourselves wondering what happened and how we ended up right where we are. We look back and wonder if everything we did was something God intended for us, or if by chance we messed up…we took the wrong turn…we led ourselves to a path that was not originally meant for us to walk. Yet, here we stand.
We doubt our choices and we doubt the God who created us. We doubt because we feel uncertain. We feel lost and in the dark. We try to make sense of something that we cannot comprehend, not because it is impossible, but because we don’t have all the information available to us at this time. We cannot make sense of something we don’t understand. We don’t see our lives the way our Heavenly Father does. We see them through a lens that is weak and faulty. We simply don’t see everything. We don’t understand why we lost in love, or why we failed in business, or why we weren’t able to have children. We wonder if we are being punished and if we somehow deserve the misfortunes placed before us… “Was I not righteous enough? Was I lacking in faith? Was I not paying close enough attention to inspiration from the Lord and therefore I did not head his advice? Was it something I did or did not do?”
If I have learned anything from these past few months it would be that we have a Heavenly Father who loves us more than we will ever fully know. He is merciful and kind and forgiving. He leads us forward and He takes what we give Him and enhances it. He never removes His outstretched hand. Our Heavenly Father and our Saviour will do all within their power to help us return to them. There is nothing they want more. They are fully invested in our lives. They are invested in our day-to-day activities. They are invested in our thoughts and our actions, our emotions and our feelings. They know the life-changing lessons we will learn as we overcome our current trials. They know that growth doesn’t occur without the struggle. So the trial isn’t always immediately removed when asked of them, however, they remain a constant. They send us the people, the scriptures, the experiences we need that will strengthen us and encourage us to keep moving forward. They help to lighten the burden as we turn to them in our time of need. They know it isn’t easy. They understand and they are reaching out to us.
Those moments when we doubt our path, when we doubt the way our life has turned out, we can trust that they know what they are doing. We can place our trust in them and know that one day it will all make sense. One day we will see how each experience was an opportunity to learn and grow and helped us to better reach our potential. We will one day see that those hard times were the defining moments of our eternal character. They were the times we were surrounded by angels from the other side. They were times that we were loved and carried.
When we are striving to do what is right, we will always be on the right path. We will always be lead by the Lord. We never need to doubt our path as we put the Lord first. We can know when things are dark and uncertain that there is a light ahead. The Lord is that light and He is beckoning us to Him. As we turn to Him we will always find that light. At first it may appear small compared to our burden, but as we continue to turn to Him, that light will continue to become brighter. Until one day we will realize the burden has been swallowed up in Christ. It no longer remains, in its place is a deeper testimony, a stronger conviction, and an ever-increasing love for the Lord and His Gospel.

So for those of you who may be having doubt or feel as if you are sinking… look to the Lord. Find that light. Cling to the hope that He offers. Believe that He knows all and that one day you will find yourself grateful for your current experience. Keep turning to Him. Grab His hand and let Him lead you through your hard times. Let Him fill your soul with eternal peace. He is there and He will lift your burdens. He knows you, He loves you, and He is guiding your path back to Him!

Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Essence of Being Still... Clarity Comes From Knowing Truth

There is something to be said about being still… taking time away from the mundane, and allowing yourself to really contemplate whom you are and where you are at in life. There is something to be said for reflection and its power to inspire change within us.

I used to think that ignorance could be bliss. I realize now just how ignorant that thought was. Ignorance keeps things stirring under the surface. A foggy, unknown, and unseen mystery… if revealed, it could be addressed and left to dissipate into the vapors of the atmosphere. It could be diminished by the light… revealing what it truly is… the known… the truth; truth of what is or will be. Ignorance doesn’t change what is, it just keeps us from further progression. It holds us in a place where we become temporarily stuck while time has continued to press forward. We think that by not addressing the truth we can somehow change it. It simply doesn’t work that way. I personally love the truth. I crave knowledge… understanding. I believe that knowledge gives us the clarity and the reassurance we all need in this life. Knowledge really is such a powerful tool to help us progress and get to where we want to go.

Being still allows us to bring to light the things that may be holding us back. It allows us to come face to face with the truth. We welcome it. We have a deeper understanding and that clarity reveals to us what is and what can be. We are given a new perspective. Being still invites truth into our minds… our souls. I have no doubt of the truth in the scripture “be still and know that I am God”.  In other words, when we are still we will know the truth. We will know that God lives and that every good thing we have comes from Him. We will receive more inspiration from Him as we take time away from our busy routines and allow ourselves to be still. It is the essence of being still that gives us the answers we are seeking. It is the catalyst for clarity, truth, and understanding. Those two words alone have the ability to change the course of our lives if actually taken and applied.  How wise is our Heavenly Father!

I've been working on embracing my inner child and healing myself from any hurt I may have caused myself over the years. It has been several weeks now and I can't fully describe the change I have seen within myself. I feel lighter. I feel like life is brighter and hope is my prominent emotion when contemplating my future. My heart feels so open to everyone and everything in life. I feel very vulnerable, and yet so much happiness at the same time. This happiness is unlike any happiness I have experienced. I find myself having a strong desire to share my love with the entire world. The happiness I feel more than exceeds any hurt that my vulnerability could cause me. I have so much clarity now. The direction of my life is so clear. I have no doubt that I am where I was meant to be. My life is going exactly the way the Lord intended it to. That isn't to say I haven't had my heart broken or felt my share of physical and emotional pain. However, I have put my life in God's hands and I can trust that anything that happens will be perfect for me. I find that I am able to forgive easier, I am healing much quicker, and I am finding peace within my soul. The entire process is beautiful and definitely inspired from above. Everything I once dreamed of becoming is at my fingertips and it beckons me to move forward... toward something greater. All it takes for my dreams to become a reality is the action of taking a step toward them. It is greeting the unknown with the faith of what will be. That faith allows us to go forward despite the lingering doubts, despite the obstacles we may face. That faith empowers us to rise above our current circumstances and with it comes the confidence to achieve something we once dreamed impossible. Nothing... absolutely nothing... is impossible with the Lord. So trust in Him and move forward... take the first step and watch as you start living your dreams!

"Don't limit yourself and don't let others convince you that you are limited in what you can do. Believe in yourself and then live so as to reach your possibilities. You can achieve what you believe you can." -President Thomas S. Monson 

One of the Elders in the ward called me this week and asked me to share my testimony on Sunday about the blessings of keeping the Sabbath day holy. I spent several days pondering on blessings I have received over the years from being obedient to this commandment. I realized it is because I have kept the Sabbath day holy that my family was able to grow so close together. We spent every Sunday going to church, taking the Sacrament, spending time with each other at home, and having Sunday dinner together. It was a day set aside to reflect on the Gospel and the Savior. It was a day where we could enjoy each others company in an environment that was filled with the Spirit and filled with love. I believe that is why my family members are my best friends! I am SO grateful my parents encouraged us to keep the Sabbath Day holy! I also believe that the Sabbath day is a gift to us from the Lord. It is a day where we can rest from our worries and stresses from every day life and refocus on what matters most... the Savior and His Gospel. It is His Gospel that will lead us to live with Him again, which will be the greatest blessing of all. When we keep the Sabbath Day holy we are able to center our thoughts back onto Him without the distractions of the world. I learned on my mission that the Lord gives us commandments for our benefit. They are to give us happiness. When we stop looking at commandments as tasks and view them as gifts from the Lord, our lives change. We become so much happier and we see how much He blesses us as we obey. I'm so glad I had the opportunity to reflect on that and see just how much the commandment of keeping the Sabbath Day holy really has blessed me in my life.

At the end of church I wanted to thank our Relief Society President for her lesson. All I knew how to say was "thank you".  It seemed like so little. I wanted her to understand how grateful I am for her and for the time she puts into her lessons each week. When she walked by me I said thank you! She hugged me tightly and kissed my cheek. It made me so happy that perhaps she understood my gratitude for her despite my lack of Romanian. One of the elders told me how to say "thank you from the bottom of my soul" and I spent the next ten minutes trying to memorize it. Before leaving the church I saw the sweet lady again. I repeated the phrase to her and she looked touched. She hugged me again and said something back to me in Romanian. The lady next to her translated and said "She wants to thank you. You have helped her." It was simple but it was all I needed to know. I needed her to know how much I love her and appreciate her service to the branch and to me personally. I feel so connected with these beautiful people. I am going to miss this branch!

Our branch received a new branch president last week. He is 23 or 24 years old! He served his mission in Scotland. Today at church I asked him about Scotland. He never got to go to Fife, Scotland, where St. Andrews is located. However, his mission president is from the area around Dundee. He said he has many connections to the members there and he can connect me with them. How amazing! I asked him about the church in Dundee, as that will become my home ward very soon. He said it is pretty big there. There are two big wards in Dundee alone. Ah... that makes me SOO happy!! I cannot wait for that adventure.

The orphanage was great this week! Unfortunately, my kids were sick for part of the week. Chicken Pox is going around. One boy had it really bad. He was so uncomfortable in his bed. He kept crying. I didn't know how to help him. His whole body was white with lotion. I didn't want to touch him and make his pain worse. So I said a prayer with him and I sang to him. It seemed to help. It made me emotional to think about the life some of these children live and will continue to live on this earth. I wish there was more I could do to help... I hope that in some small way, my love is enough to make their burdens a little bit easier. I think my prayers will be the most beneficial thing I can give to them. Baby S was sick at the beginning of the week too. I was sitting by him and he began to throw up. I felt so bad for him. So the workers took him and laid him in his bed. The next day he seemed to be feeling a little bit better. I took my phone out and turned on some music for him. He will shake his  head yes or no to let me know if he likes the song. It is SO cute! So I put my music on shuffle and kept pressing next until I finally came to a song that he wanted to listen to and dance to. It was "One Tribe" by Black Eyed Peas. As soon as he started shaking his head yes and moving his feet I busted up laughing. I couldn't believe this was Baby S's jam! haha So I started dancing to it and being goofy. Then I grabbed his arms and moved them around. I had him dancing with me and he loved it! He was laughing so hard. It is one of my favorite memories so far! I love these children so much. My heart is overflowing with love and gratitude for each one of them!

I am very blessed and I am very grateful for my experiences here. I feel so much strength from the Lord and each day I feel inspired to do or say something to help lift another. I love, love, love when the Lord can work through me to help someone else. I love getting to be His hands. It is one of the best feelings I have ever felt! I cannot believe I am about to start my 3rd month here. It doesn't feel like I have been here that long... I guess time flies when you are having fun. haha or so they say! This weekend we are going to Ireland and I will celebrate my birthday there. I cannot wait! My life is a dream and I don't want to wake up! Every direction I look I see blessings from the Lord. I cannot even begin to count them. Each day is another blessing and another miracle. I am SOOO grateful for the Gospel of Jesus Christ, for His Atonement, and for the ability I have to change each day and become a better version of myself. I am strengthened through the Lord as I continually turn to Him and find ways to become more like Him!