Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Stop and Feel the Breeze

Take a Moment

If you're ever feeling broken, directionless, alone, fearful, or just plain sad, I encourage you to take a moment to step outside and feel the breeze. 

A Symbol in the Breeze

Most of the time, at least where I live, you can feel the air moving about you when you're outside. The breeze is so similar to God's spirit. We can't see it, but it can be felt. We can't see where it comes from, or what it's up to, but it's there. It has a purpose, even if we don't realize it. 

The breeze does many things right under our noses. It dances around the earth in relation to the heat and chill of land and water. It distributes seeds, gives birds a playground, and sometimes when we've slowed down enough to pay attention, it makes us close our eyes in delight when it blows gently on our faces on a warm summer morning. Sometimes I swear God himself is in the wind and whispering the loving personal message, "I am here." In those moments, I honestly believe He is. 

Practice Standing Still

God's love is ever-present and always moving around us, but sometimes in order to experience it, we have to stop what we're doing, slow our hamster-wheel minds, and allow ourselves to stand still and feel. 

I hope that each time you step outside and feel the breeze, whether it be gentle or gusty, it will remind you of the ever-presence of the God who loves you. I hope you'll remember to take a deep breath and let the breeze swirl around you, calm you, and remind you that you're never alone. He lives to heal your brokenness, point the way, bring comfort, and cheer your heart. 

"The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit." –John 3:8 (NASB)

"Be still and know that I am God." –Psalms 46:10 (KJV)

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Why Do I Have to Ask?

"Mom, I've Been Sad for a Long Time"

Not long ago one of my daughters mustered up the courage to tell me that she had been struggling with being sad for a long time, and that she couldn't seem to help it. This was a red flag for me and I was so grateful that she decided to talk to me about it. I'd like to think that I'm a pretty observant parent, but somehow I hadn't noticed.

My Question

This gave me an opportunity to ask her questions about her feelings and counsel with her about what we could do about it. The first thing I did was praise her and thank her for telling me. I told her that her choice to talk about it was one of the best thing things she could do for herself and for me. Then, being the lover of God that I am, I asked her if she had spoken to Him yet and asked Him for help. She hadn't.

Go and Find Out for Yourself

This isn't a new experience for my kids, they know that my first reaction to any hardship is to go to God. It's where I always find what I need to get through hard things, so it's natural for me to point out what has worked for me. I've also told them that I don't expect them to believe in everything I do, but I will always ask them to try things that have worked for me. And my experience so far as a parent has been that as they go to God, He speaks to them too. I know this because they return to me and share the experiences they have with Him, and how they went about receiving His blessings. It is sweet and comforting to me because I know that someday when I'm gone, that they'll know where to turn for help, and that they'll have personal experience with the way the Lord communicates.  

Why Ask?

After talking about depression for a while with her and explaining how serious it can be, she said, "Mom, why do I have to ask?"

I said, "What do you mean?"

"If God knows exactly what I need, then why do I have to ask Him for it?"

Free to Choose

It took me a minute to gather my thoughts, but I felt inspired when the answer came. It was all about agency—our ability to choose. I was able to explain to her that God abides by certain laws, and that a big one is allowing His children to choose to ask for His help, or to walk on their own. So yes, He knows exactly what we need, but He won't get in our business if we don't want or ask Him to. I was grateful that she understood and that I was able to articulate the thoughts that came to me.

We learn a lot when we are put in a position to teach. I love my kids and all the wonderful things they help me to learn.

I'm so glad that God will never force me to choose Him—that would take every ounce of sweetness out of the blessings I receive when I do choose Him. I love to choose Him—because I want to. I know that it makes the experience sweeter for Him too. It's what continually builds and strengthens my relationship with Him and my understanding of how He really feels about me. It's what it means to abide in His love, and it's my wish for everyone I know.

Have a blessed week, and don't forget to ask.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Eternal Life Means Much More Than Living Forever

Death Isn't So Scary

Not too long ago I had a conversation with my youngest about death. I'm not sure why it came up, but I was able to share with her the reason it doesn't scare me anymore. It has a lot to do with perspective.

I believe that the place we came from is loving, joyful, and peaceful. I believe it was that way because we were with God. His love was everywhere. It surrounded us.

Like most of you, the tender moments in life when I've felt His love have been fleeting. It's been like being given a single bite of food when I'm starving. It has always left me needing and wanting more.

Consider this; if we basked in God's incredible love in heaven, what must it have been like to be born? Being born and being separated from His perfect love had to have been far more traumatic and unpleasant than physically dying will be. To me, that means we've already gone through the scariest part of this experience we call life. We've already experienced spiritual death, which by definition is a separation from our Heavenly Father. I'd venture to say that all of us have tried to understand and fill the emptiness that heartbreaking separation has left us with—if not consciously, then subconsciously.

But the good news is that Jesus Christ provided a bridge between us and our Heavenly Father, a way for us to close the gap between us, if we choose to. This is where the real meaning of eternal life comes into play.

Demystifying Eternal Life

For a long time, I've been wondering about what the scriptures mean when they talk about "eternal life," or "everlasting life." What does that really mean? Does it just mean living forever?

It's actually much more. The actual definition of eternal life is knowing God and Jesus Christ and benefiting from an ongoing personal relationship with Them—and this isn't something exclusive to the afterlife. We can experience it now.

Eternal life (knowing God) wouldn't be possible without Jesus Christ—now or in the future. In fact, retaining a relationship with our Heavenly Father can only happen through Him. It's no wonder that in the scriptures God directs our attention to His Son. Christ truly is the gatekeeper to the Father. "I am the way the truth and the life: no man cometh unto the father, but by me" (John 14:6).
  • "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent" (John 17:3).
  • "God hath given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son" (1 John 5:11).

Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Invitation

This week I've come to realize that God is continually sending us invitations to shed who we currently are for a new, improved version of ourselves; but I'm afraid that most of the time we try to ignore His invitation, or miss it altogether. We each do it for various reasons and to varying degrees. Some of us acknowledge God and graciously accept the invitation. Others of us pretend the invitation isn't even there, and even run from it if we feel it being extended.

I like to go on walks, and I will often take my daughters with me. For the past two weeks, I've taken my oldest daughter with me over the weekend. It has given us a chance to catch up when we're not swimming in the fast pace of the weekdays. She's been struggling with her honors math class and I haven't been able to help her for a number of years now. She has been going to a math lab when she can, but has still been struggling. She has a good friend that's in a more advanced class than she is, but refuses to ask for his help, even though she knows he would be thrilled to help her.

I tried to explain to her that asking him would help her, and it would help him. It would increase her understanding, and it would help him feel valued. She was really struggling with this, because she's gotten used to being perceived as smart by others at school and felt that if she asked him that he would somehow see her as less than she has always seemed to be. We had a longer discussion about pride and how it seemed to be getting in her way. We talked about all of the pros and cons of asking vs. not asking for help. It was really eye-opening for me. In a way, she was struggling to accept God's invitation to shed her pride, while acknowledging that doing so would only bring blessings for her, for her friend, and for me!

I think that we all do this every day, but God will never stop sending us these personal invitations to improve. He'll send them to us our whole life and never get tired of it.

If you're wondering what your personal invitation might be, have a look at resistance. What in your life causes you to resist positive change each day? For me, it's staying up after I walk bleary-eyed to the bathroom each morning around 4:00 or 5:00 a.m. I know that if I resisted the impulse to crawl back into bed each morning, I would be far more productive, yet, day after day I resist. On the rare days I push past the resistance, without fail, my day goes brilliantly. Those are the days I know I have accepted God's personal invitation to become more. I know that God isn't asking everyone to wake up that early in the morning, but He has been asking me to do it consistently for years. It's personal. I think all of His invitations are very personal because we're all different, and we're all at different places on our journey through life.

As you start this new week, I invite you to look a little closer at what wonderful changes you might be resisting. They just might be the very things that will lead you to your purpose in life—the path that leads to a better you. Who knows what might be possible when you realize that the very change you're resisting each day is actually just what you need to inch closer to your true potential.

I wish you a wonderful week, along with a keen awareness of what you might be resisting. I'm pretty sure it's the key to positive change in your life.

Happy Sabbath!

My quote for the week: "People die in bed, so does ambition." –Joseph Fielding Smith 😄

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Fabric of America

From the time I was very small, I have loved my country. I remember being as young as first grade and getting emotional when I first heard Lee Greenwood's, "God Bless the USA." It stirred something in my heart. It meant something. It helped me understand that I belonged to something much bigger than myself, and that there was a profound power in being united with that larger body who were also proud to be Americans. I still love that song, and I'm still proud to be an American. I am just one of the millions of strands that make up the fabric of this great country. I love my people.

The Fabric of America

You might think we're too different,
To ever see eye-to-eye.
But we have too much in common,
to really believe that lie.

We have two eyes, two ears, a heart.
We wake to the very same sun;
and in this land of progress,
our opportunities are second to none.

No, we are not separate,
and united we must stand.
 Let us not squander our freedom;
are you willing to take my hand?

Look out over our beautiful land;
It's a tapestry of beautiful souls.
and we must stand together,
 or our fabric will soon have holes.

You are my sister, my brother
When you're weakened I feel the strain.
We're made from the same fabric you see.
Your pain is my pain.

It's hard to see our country divide
our people torn at the seams,
We have to embrace and dissolve the hate.
your dreams are my dreams.

You and I are connected
By fibers we cannot see.
I will stand with you,
If you will stand with me.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

How to Have Faith in 6 Steps

For those of you with children, you’ve probably heard the question, “Hey mom, or hey dad, remember when we . . .” fill in the blank. My nine-year-old throws that question at me all the time, and I’m not too proud to say that at least 50% of the time I can’t recall what she’s trying to remind me of. I’ve been relieved that the reason I can’t remember isn’t an early onset of Alzheimer’s, but it is clear evidence of my struggle to be present. It’s pretty tough to recall experiences if you were never really there. This morning, I’m going to talk about two things: mindfulness, and faith.

For those of you who are not familiar with mindfulness, it’s the practice of being present, and as I’ve pondered on the topic I’ve realized how long the Lord has been trying to teach me about it, and just now, I’m finally getting it. A few years back I was in the temple. I was struggling. I was worried and anxious. I was also frustrated because I never felt anything special in the temple. Yet, I was there, and I was trying, and again failing to feel anything. Just when I'd had enough, and stood up in the celestial room to leave out of frustration, I received two words: “Be present.” In that moment I realized I had a problem. I rarely, if ever, enjoyed my moments, because I didn’t live in the moment. My mind was always a screaming buzz of to-do’s and if-only’s. With those two words, the Lord taught me many things: that he loved me, that I could feel things in the temple, and that I was missing my life.

Many of us, from the time we were small, have been taught about faith. Prophets from the scriptures, and modern day prophets have defined faith for us, and we’re familiar with the description of faith found in the scriptures: that faith isn’t to have a perfect knowledge of things, but it’s a hope for things we can’t see, that are true. Latter-day Saints have been exposed to many examples of faith, from prophets, to pioneers, to heartwarming modern day stories of faith that we try so hard to capture and share.

Well, recently I was asked to write an article on mindfulness for the FaithCounts website. I still wasn’t getting what the Lord was trying to teach me, so He graciously offered me the opportunity to learn more. Through pondering and study I learned a few things: #1 mindfulness and faith go hand-in-hand, #2 there are a LOT of subtle references to mindfulness in the scriptures, #3 Life gets really good when you start practicing the following:

I call this: "How to practice faith in 6 steps."

#1 Set an Intention
What do you need today? What do you hope for? Ask yourself: Does God want this too? If the answer is yes, it’s a good intention, and a “righteous desire.”

#2 Give It to God
Take that intention and give it to God. It is no longer yours to worry about. This is where the faith part comes in. This is where you “Let go, and let God.” Remember that in the Book of Mormon Jesus Christ himself taught that: “Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given you.” (3 Nephi 18:20)

#3 Be Present
Now, all you have to do is be present. While God is taking care of the details, all that is required of you is giving your best to the moment in front of you. It’s the place where happiness, peace, and appreciation are found. It’s also where your power is. If you need an example of how to be present, spend some time watching a child. They’re experts, and it is no wonder that Christ encouraged us to be like them. They fully experience their moments and are generally worry-free because they don’t feel the sometimes-crushing constraints of time that we do as adults. Their way of living is better.

Talking about being present is a good place to insert a thought on worry. Worry is a close relative of doubt, and the opposite of faith. When you are worrying, your thoughts are not usually about what is happening in the present moment; worry-filled thoughts are nearly always past or future based. The Savior taught us about this too when He spoke of the lilies and the fowls of the air, saying: “behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your Heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?”

He goes on to say the following: “Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself.” In additional words, “Be still, and know that I am God.” It is like He is saying to us: trust me to look after you. All of the things that are out of your control are not out of mine.

#4 Look for Evidence
After you have moved through your day, look back for evidence of God’s hand. When you see His influence working in your life, faith increases.

#5 Express Gratitude
Gratitude is the natural response when we see the clear evidence of God working out the details in our lives.

#6 Repeat
Do it again, every day.

As a closing thought I would like to draw your attention to the way the Savior referred to Himself to Moses at the burning bush. He called himself “I Am.” To me, this is indicative of an ever-present and eternal nature. It is my personal belief that being present is being like God. It is being connected to God. It is partnering with God. When we tell ourselves I was, or I will be, we may actually be distancing ourselves from Him. However, when we find ourselves in the present saying I am, we are nearer to Him, and nearer to the truth that we are eternal beings too—that just happen to be fighting a major battle with distraction.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Your Worth Never Changes

I've been pondering lately on the fact that unlike our fluctuating self-esteem, our worth never changes. From the time we are born, until the time we die, and beyond, we are valued and loved by God—no matter what we do. I find so much comfort in that thought, and the more I think about it, the more comfort I feel. Its good to know that the Lord's feelings about my worth don't change, even when I make poor decisions. This has improved my perspective and increased my love and gratitude for Him.

If only we could see ourselves the way He sees us. If only our self-esteem stayed as constant as our worth does. What would the world look like if everyone was able to keep a firm grasp on the reality of their individual worth? Love, appreciation, and forgiveness would abound—especially for the self. 

My wish for all of us is that we can always strive to keep our self-esteem in line with the truth: that we have infinite worth and potential; that God values us no matter what. So, remember to separate your self-esteem from your mistakes, or the bad things that happen to you. When you fall, dust yourself off, get back up, and try again—just like you did instinctively when you were learning to walk.
As small children, we had the courage to get up and try again after we fell. Over and over we would try until we succeeded. It's unlikely that we felt bad about ourselves, frustrated maybe, but children don't seem to fear failure like adults do. Fear of failure as a child would have kept us from walking and talking. There are many reasons Christ praised the nature of little children and encouraged us to be like them.

Is fear of failure keeping you from trying new things as an adult? It can be easier to try when we remember that no matter how many times we fail, it has no affect on our worth. Each time we fail, we learn. So, get out there, get smarter, and fail harder. You'll achieve great things.

Though we cannot see Him, we have a Heavenly Father who is always walking by our side, supporting us in the wonderful, challenging experiences that help us grow. He always wants us to keep trying, and He always wants us to remember our worth.