Lessons learned

“If coach would have put me in, we’d a taken state.”  (Uncle Ricco in Napolean Dynamite:)  One of the many great one liners of that movie.  Living in the past…

Lately I look in the mirror and see wrinkles-lots of them!  I sometimes look at my aging self and wonder why I ever used to complain.  Why did I used to think my skin was bad?  Why did I used to think my fit, younger body was too fat?  Why did I think I had anything to worry about?  One of my kids will have a meltdown over socks or what’s for dinner and I think, “You think this is hard?  Just wait.”

Sometimes I look back with regret.  Wishing I didn’t waste so much time and energy on what doesn’t matter.  Wishing I knew then what I know now.  The Spirit reminds me time and again how much I have learned through all my experiences.  In the middle of a hard time, the last thing I feel is grateful for what I’m learning.  I have wondered how I could have possibly agreed to this in the pre-earth life.  But I know I chose to come here.  I chose the Savior’s plan and know that because I’m here with my body and Spirit being tried and tested and using faith to find God all around me.  I knew life would be hard, painful, and oh so beautiful and amazing.  But I couldn’t have known how it all would feel until I lived through it.   I can’t imagine learning what God has been teaching me any other way.  I had to taste the bitter to know the sweet.  This must be why I can feel so amazing sometimes.  Because I know what it’s like to not feel that.  I feel the contrast and I don’t want the negative and the dark.  I want the light.

For a while I used to smile carefully.  Not wanting to show the crowns and uneven color in my smile from all the dental work I’ve had over the years.  One day I was laughing with friends and having a good old time.  A friend pointed out my smile and said how good it was to see me smile big and happy like that.  I realized I’d been hiding my smile, not wanting to show my flaws.  It feels so good to laugh and smile-holding nothing back.  When I don’t think about my flawed teeth, or my wrinkles, or anything else I wish to hide or change, I can live in the moment.  My laugh (and worry!) lines are all part of me.  When I want to hide what I don’t like about myself-physically or mentally, I live carefully and hold back.  When I look at me and see I’m a package deal-sure, I cry at the drop of a hat. But this high sensitivity has a beautiful side and can be such a gift in my life when I’m feeling the love.  Sure I can overanalyze and worry till I’m sick, but I can also think deeply and ponder meaningful things in life and feel a deep sense of purpose in everything.  Sure I’m awesome at losing and forgetting things…can’t yet think of a positive on this one.  Other than I learn mercy and compassion as I have to apologize for messing up and am at the mercy of those around me-whose time and valuables are precious too.

I want to love all of it.  When I see what’s “wrong” with me or someone else, I can’t see the beauty.  I miss out on an incredible person.  As I put down my walls and embrace me and others, I want to know people!  All of them.   Not just the surface simple stuff that gives an appearance, but I want to KNOW them.  And I want them to know me.  I want to live from the heart with all its vulnerabilities.  Living in the moment and loving me and the people in my life for the fantastic people we are makes life so sweet.

Life is beautiful and filled with lessons from the past.  I’ll take the wrinkles and extra weight.  I’ll take the hard times and disappointments.  Everything is  part of who I am and has taught me things I can’t imagine learning any other way.  I know how hard life feels without the Savior.  And I know how incredible it feels with Him.  Life is good and I wouldn’t trade where it’s taken me for anything.

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Happiness Now

I used to think happiness was something that came in spurts.  Life seemed full of rolling hills and sometimes even mountains-with highs and lows with some tough climbs.  I was happy sometimes.  It seemed to help if I didn’t think too deeply or allow myself to think of certain memories or worries.  True joy seemed to come in glimpses when I was on fire with my faith or when everything seemed right in my world.  Highlights for me would be when I accomplished a big goal I had been working towards.  The problem was, when I would accomplish something I worked on for years, I would need something else big to look forward to and work on.  I felt stressed, overwhelmed, tired, guilty and often burdened with a heavy load.  I was living thinking I would be happy when this or that happens.  I was chasing it and tasting it here and there, but just not keeping it.

Then God spoke to my heart.  He showed me my true and divine worth that came from Him alone-because I am His.  The change I experienced in finally feeling I was enough is impossible to put into words.  This change affected everything in my life.  Close relationships, neighbors, strangers, food, exercise, spirituality, reading, analyzing…everything seemed different.  People and love mattered immensely and comparing and competing lost its power in my life.  Rationalizing and logic began to fade.  The spiritual-with feeling and sensing things became a guiding force in my life.

Last week I started to get caught in “the thick of thin things”.  I worried like crazy over finding my lost wallet.  I spent hours and hours cleaning out drawers and rooms so sure I would find it eventually.  I became so focused on finding it, that I really couldn’t allow myself to function or relax till I found it.  Day after day this loomed over me.  I started to fall into old habits.  “When you find your wallet you can be happy.”  “When you get this half-marathon over with that you never should have signed up for, you’ll be happy.”  “When you go on a trip you’ll be happy.”  ” When you get home from your trip you’ll be happy.”  “When your kids become self-sufficient and quit whining, you’ll be happy.”  “Oh and your clothes are ugly and old and you STILL need to lose the baby weight-how can you be happy?”  And I started to feel miserable.  I stopped and I prayed.  I wanted the joy to come back.  I BEGGED for the joy to come back.  I saw what was happening.  I realized I had been so focused on things that were wrong and I put my happiness on outside circumstances.

When my thoughts are focused on the divine-I feel like I’m in a spiritual school with God as my teacher and he is constantly blessing me with light and truth.  When I fill my thoughts with love-I can’t help but feel love for everything around me.  For myself, my kids, husband, the driver in front of me-everyone.  When my mind is filled with these thoughts and feelings, worries and insecurities fade.  And I feel joy.  Not just a fleeting glimpse of joy, but a continual flow of it.  Like heaven is right here.

When I started to feel this deep and powerful love and peace in my life, I worried it was only temporary and to “just wait to something really tragic happens to you-then see how good you feel.”  So I hesitantly felt happy with these worries in the back of my mind.  The Spirit has been teaching me that this joy doesn’t mean life is perfect and that I won’t be without pain and trials.  This kind of joy can be kept even in the midst of the storms.  This scripture from Helaman 5:12 comes to mind:  “And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.”

Sometimes the storm is obvious and big-just hold on tight and plead for heaven’s help.  And sometimes the storm is subtle, a little rain and wind here and there and before I know it, it’s a downpour and I’ve drifted from my Savior-my rock.  I need Him always.  He has been teaching me the source of lasting joy.   When I keep my thoughts and focus on the Lord, life is sweet and beautiful.  My surroundings are the same, yet they look completely different-I feel overwhelmingly blessed not burdened.   I feel love and hope and live in the moment.  And I feel so happy.

It’s ok to be different

A few weeks ago my two little boys were having a pretty intense argument. I walked over to see tears streaming down their faces as they yelled over each other. They were each trying so hard to show they were right and that the other person was wrong. I can’t remember what it was about, but at the time, I could see how they both felt the way they did. I could see how they could both feel right.  I couldn’t get them to stop or hear me because they were so set on their way being the only way. So I yelled, “It’s ok to be different!”  I was struck in that moment with how true this is in our families, work, communities, and the world.

In a recent church conference I heard someone mention how our families are mini labs for the world.  This is so true.  What we learn in our families helps us with the larger earthly family that we’re part of and how we can live together.  Not just live, but thrive and contribute-sharing our talents and gifts and seeking for the beauty and uplifting of all who are here.

My two little boys are so great and so uniquely their own person.  My youngest boy Tommy is very tender hearted and sweet.  He cares a lot about feelings.  He loves structure and rules.  He’s very particular about details and remembers everything!  His older brother Josh is determined.  He loves to build and create.  He’s a great leader.  He really enjoys friendships and doesn’t care what anyone thinks of him.  He just does what he wants and you’ll always know what he’s thinking.  At the pool one day, I saw Josh trying to stay out of the lifeguard’s site so he could sneakily break a rule that he obviously didn’t agree with.   A few minutes later, Tommy sits by me and spends the next half hour showing me all the people breaking the rules and tells me how he doesn’t do that.  I see these two boys with their different strengths and see how great they are.  And I see that they need each other.  I see them and know there isn’t one “right” way to be.  Just because they see or do things differently doesn’t mean another way is wrong.  They each have great strengths and when they play well-they have a ball.

We all need each other.  We need sensitivity, kindness, emotion, logic and leadership.  I imagine our Heavenly Father seeing us warring with each other, whether in the home or as countries and wanting us to see how much we all need each other.  Diversity is a blessing in life and to be celebrated.  We all have gifts.  What if we saw each other with excitement, wondering what we can all give this world?  What if we saw how much everyone is needed so that we can all reach our potential?  And that bringing out everyone’s strengths and gifts brought us all great joy?

Staying Open

Sometimes I get so set on being right about something, that I can’t hear those around me.  When I stay open and want to understand, I learn from others and don’t get so stressed out!  Recently, I learned something in a Dave Ramsey seminar that I couldn’t wait to tell my husband.  I just thought I needed to tell him how he missed out that day and here’s what he needed to know.  I proceeded to tell him that I changed some things around with our finances and that’s it’s ok, cause “Dave Ramsey said”.  I just laugh now, cause sometimes I have the best of intentions and think others are going to just hop on board…until things come to a screeching halt.  My husband and I were seeing this issue from completely different perspectives, and there was no budging on either part.  I just wanted him to see, to understand!  He was getting pretty frustrated with me and sometimes when I feel this way I quit talking and think he’s being so mean and why can’t he hear me??  The Spirit was impressing on my mind to stay open-I wanted to resolve this and knew I had to stay open.  Then my husband said something that got my attention.  “Will you do this because it means a lot to me?”  I stopped dead in my tracks and said ok.  I couldn’t get smug and bothered, I understood.  This wasn’t about right or wrong or his way or my way-it was about love and hearing someone.

I’ve noticed if I can stay open (and keep the Spirit with me), that what I thought was the answer is sometimes not.   And sometimes what the other person thinks may not be the solution either.  Sometimes the answer is something better than we were coming up with on our own.  We just need to talk openly and honestly about it.  I learn so much when I listen to understand, not listen to respond.

It’s great to be different.  Thank goodness we all are.  Differences can divide, or they be a gift that brings beauty and diversity to life.

Sharing the Love

funny-quote-woman-devil

“I don’t know how she couldn’t feel love…”  I heard these words recently when I was talking with someone. I had been wondering out loud how someone I barely knew seemed sad and detached from the world. I wondered if she knew God’s love in her life.  I can only speak for myself but when I feel worthless and don’t feel the love, I detach-I pretend I’m doing fine but I really don’t feel too good. It doesn’t mean people don’t love me, I just don’t feel worthwhile. I don’t feel my divine and unconditional worth with God.  I know there were times that I didn’t feel God’s love.  Not because it wasn’t there, but because I was deceived…

During these times I felt embarrassed that I was struggling. The answers people gave to help me were well meaning but I’d often feel even worse. “Count your blessings. Do something for someone else.” I have a great family and by the worlds standards had nothing to complain about. So I wouldn’t. I needed help. I needed to reach out, but I felt ridiculous that I was struggling when people are starving in the world. Or that someone down the road is having “real” problems. Who am I to have a hard time?

I look back and see these low points for what they are. I didn’t know God loved me no matter what I did. I felt great pressure in trying to prove I was worthwhile.  I wanted to leave my mark on the world and live a good life. I put my worth on external things. Including being a kind and good person. I thought my talents would make me somebody-which was rough cause I never felt like I was that great at anything.

During a a very low point for me, a flicker of light got through. God told me these worthless guilty feelings don’t come from Him. This was the devil and outside world I was believing. They had me believing I had to prove myself and that I would only feel God’s love once in a while-when I was doing a lot of good things. These times I previously felt God’s love, I felt it was conditional. I wanted to hold on and not let go. I would feel amazingly good yet uneasy. It was as if I was walking a tight rope and at any moment I might fall. And I did. I would fall hard and feel consumed with guilt and worthlessness.  I would feel hopeless and discouraged. So I would back away from God-not realizing he wasn’t the source of my pain. He was the source of healing. The source of eternal worth and love.

He finally got through to me! I look back and see He was here all along but the times I needed Him most, I kept myself at a distance. God has been showing me all the lies of the devil that I was believing. I feel so happy that I’m seeing those lies for what they are!  A total deception that kept me from the light and love in my life. Now my heart aches for someone that’s struggling. I wonder if they feel the love? I want to wrap my arms around them and give them God’s love. I see all the low times in my life have been a blessing. I can’t imagine learning these things any other way. I had to know the bitter to taste the sweet. The guilt, insecurities and worthless times have all been worth it.

I feel on fire. I feel God with me helping me to share this love. I know my love isn’t perfect but His is. He gives me strength. He fills my every need. I feel like I was born with a desire to share God’s love. I would search for it-wanting to feel it and keep it. I finally see why. Through all the ups and downs I have learned priceless lessons on what God’s love is.   We are hear to save souls.  I can’t rest knowing there are others that might feel as I did.  I want to share the love.

Overwhelmed

I have noticed an increasing calm settling over me the past few months.  I used to get so overwhelmed.  I did a lot of things out of guilt.  I thought there were certain things that I just needed to do, and if I didn’t, then I was a wimp, a bad mom, a bad neighbor, or just a bad person!  I often said yes to things I didn’t want to do, but felt like I had to.  I thought I had to say yes or someone would think I’m selfish, including me.  So I did many things I thought I had to just because someone asked, which usually led to me being annoyed with people asking so much of me all the time.  Isn’t that funny?  I would want someone to tell me no if I knew saying yes would make them miserable and overwhelmed.

Guilt, fear, and pride were often behind my motives for doing things.  God has been teaching me how I should feel if I need to do something.  And how I feel if I shouldn’t.

A couple of small everyday examples:  Someone invited me to do an exercise challenge and join their team.  I almost said yes, but felt hesitation.  I’m learning to not act so hastily these days.  When I feel uneasy, I need to stop and think.  Yes was my default answer for everything.  People like to hear yes-so they will like me if I say yes!  Deep down, I knew I needed a break from exercise-especially the competitive kind.  So I said no-worried about disappointing people but the peace I felt after told me I did the right thing for my life.  Recently someone asked if I wanted a sourdough bread starter.  I almost said yes, but pictured the last time I did one.  I dreaded seeing the dough in the bag…I had to shake it everyday…I felt so tied to it and ended up dreading it.  So I told her no thanks, that I can’t handle the commitment.  (Don’t get me started on chain letters!  I broke the chain every time-with guilt!)  I worried a tiny bit that she’d think I was ungrateful-but I felt peace and realized being honest about the little things help me be honest about big things.  I have to remind myself not to worry about disappointing people.  Just to be myself.  Be honest.  And I can be at peace.

There are plenty of yes times and it seems to happen without me even thinking about it. It feels natural when it’s something I should be doing and I’ve noticed I want to do it!  I want to help someone that needs me and that I have a talent in that area.  I’m learning that service isn’t sacrifice if it’s something I should be doing.  The Spirit is with me and is helping me share what I can. When someone expresses gratitude for something, I’ve noticed I want to thank THEM for letting me help.  We all have different strengths and when we come together, we can help out and give of what comes easy and natural to us.  Everything is not for everyone.  We need each other.  I need someone’s laughter and fun.  I need someone to teach me or give me advice.  I need someone’s love-especially when I’m not feeling it for myself.  If I’m lacking, others can share and if they’re lacking I can give.

So when I question if I should do something, if there is any unsettled feeling and if I feel overwhelmed by the thought of it, I have to stop and ask why I would do this.  If something is right, it will feel right!  It doesn’t mean I’m not afraid or nervous at times, but I still sense that it’s right.

Sometimes I think because someone else is doing something, that I need to do it too.  I sometimes feel like I’m lacking because I don’t do it the way they did (natural childbirth-I LOVE an epidural and have been so grateful for them!) Join the PTA (This seems so overwhelming for so many reasons to me.)  This doesn’t mean I need to just keep trying to want to have a natural childbirth or join the PTA.  This doesn’t mean I need to see women doing these things and feel less than or greater than because we do things differently.   I used to feel guilty that I didn’t want to do these things.  We’re different.  We have different lives, desires, talents, etc. We can learn from each other and appreciate the strengths we all have.  We aren’t supposed to be doing everything.   If I feel very strongly and passionate about something I’m involved with, then I know it’s right for me.  And that doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone.

Now days when I start to feel overwhelmed, I can trace the feeling to me doing something I shouldn’t be doing or that I should have said no to.  As I’ve learned to recognize and follow the Spirit, I’ve found there are many things in my life I was doing for the wrong reasons.  I’ve been learning to let these things go.  I feel at peace.  I don’t feel overwhelmed!

Body Image

Talk about vulnerability!  This feels like the easiest post to type up, yet the hardest to publish.  In fact, I typed up a post on this as soon as I started this blog.  It was one that came to me in the middle of the night so I got up and typed it all up…then saved it.  Then thought about it once and a while, wanting to post it but chickened out every time.  It’s time.

My husband and I LOVE going to Lake Powell.  Many years ago, we went with a group of folks I didn’t know too well, but we all love Lake Powell so that’s enough for a great trip, right?  I looked at these beautiful young moms in their bikinis that were with us and noticed a common theme.  They all had plastic surgery.  They were actually quite open about what they had done and talked about it.  By the end of the trip, I felt ugly and uncomfortable.  I looked at my body and what having children has left me with and felt sad.  I wanted to “fix” my body so I could look good too.

Any time the thought has come up, I knew I couldn’t do it.  I felt unsettled about it and knew it wasn’t right for me.  I tried to justify in my mind all the reasons that it would be ok for me…you’re just trying to feel better about yourself…no one needs to know…you’re just fixing what age and children have left you with…  But I would always feel that unsettled feeling that I’ve come to know I have to follow or I end up with regret.  I was disappointed but I let it go.  Then I started to look at women who had work done and feel bothered.  I’d wonder…why do they have to do that?  Can’t they see this is making it harder on the rest of us?  Why can’t we all just live with what we’ve got?  I said these thoughts out loud to my awesome sister in law one day and she taught me a valuable lesson.  She told me she doesn’t see that when she looks at these women.  She doesn’t see body size or beauty when she sees someone-she just looks at them as a person, a child of God.  Whether people surgically enhance their bodies or not doesn’t make them more or less of a person.  She taught me a valuable lesson that day.

I used to love watching Biggest Loser.  I love watching people change their lives and look so thin and happy by the finale.  But I felt so bothered when I’d watch Jillian yell at people.  It was hard to watch people get yelled at like that.  Eventually I lost interest in the show.  It just didn’t inspire me anymore.  I was also sad that so many people from the show still struggle with their weight and a high percentage of folks put much of the lost weight back on.  I felt troubled by this.  Lately I’ve begun to see just why I lost interest for the show, or for before and after pictures, or even for any diet talk.  For many years I put my worth on how I looked physically (among many other external things).

As I’ve discovered my divine worth with God, I look back and can see what was happening in my life so clearly.  I was so unsatisfied with my appearance and thought if I was disgusted enough with myself that I would change.  If I felt enough shame about my habits and my body that I would be “inspired” to change.  So I stared at my flaws every time I passed a mirror.  The self-talk was brutal.  When I sat down, I just looked at my extra fluff and felt so annoyed that I couldn’t get it together enough to lose the fluff.  I would see skinny, toned women and just felt like a troll around them.  So I would avoid them.  Or try really hard to hang onto my confidence-trying with all the will power I could muster to just see them and not their intimidating beauty.  Pools were rough places to be-I just saw skinny moms in bikinis and by the time I went home, I was ready to quit the junk food.  I love how my husband says, “Women check out women way more than men check out women.”

I thought I would be happy once I had the body I wanted.  But it was never enough-there was always something to change, strengthen and fix.  Then God spoke to my heart.  Little whisperings over the years that I heard and in fact, will never forget.  I stopped listening to the world and listened to my Heavenly Father.  And He told me I was enough.  He has been telling me I was always enough and that nothing on this earth or anything I do will affect the love He has for me.  “Man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart”  (Samuel 16:7).  He loves me no matter what!  He taught me that I had to love myself.  I wanted to eat and look a certain way for years, but over time, I felt increasingly unsettled with anything that told me I would be happy if I ate and looked a certain way.  I heard the Spirit telling me that I must love myself right now, with the body I have exactly how it is.  Gasp!  How could I possibly do that?  I tried to ignore the message-not wanting to be “stuck” with how I looked.  But the message kept coming back and I didn’t want to be ashamed of myself anymore.  Shame doesn’t uplift and inspire.  Love does.  I knew I had to love me right now and not put any conditions on this whatsoever.  No more “I’ll be happy when…”

Nothing the world has to offer will make me more or less of a person.  I am a daughter of God and I’m finally letting God’s love fill me and give me everyday joy.  As I’ve found this love for myself, I quit letting the voices in that were telling me I couldn’t be happy until…

Now I am seeing people.  I went to the pool a few weeks ago and saw people!  Not as women with large or small bodies that would affect how I felt about myself.  But I saw moms with their children-playing and laughing.  I wanted to know them.  I wanted to join their laughter and know what is unique about them.  In order to see people with love, I had to see myself this way.  I am loved no matter what I look like-we all are.

Thriving or Barely Surviving?

A friend asked me a question the other day that I’ve been thinking about.  He asked who I could think of that’s really happy.  He specified that the answer couldn’t be children (because they can often be totally happy and live in the moment!)  We talked about how a lot of people are having a hard time.  It’s not like they’re downright miserable, but maybe they just aren’t really happy either. I have noticed the same thing.  There are a lot of people I care deeply about and I have wondered if they are thriving.  When I look someone in the eyes, I sometimes see laughter and joy.  But sometimes I see pain and worry.  When I see sadness, I want to lift them.  I want to know how I can help.  I want to lift the heavy load that is weighing them down.  I may not be able to lift the burden, but our Savior can.

I used to think the Savior and His Atonement were for the big things.  The tragedy in our lives.  For big sins, trials, and adversity.  I thought the every day stuff was for me to deal with and manage.  And honestly, I was often afraid of taking a problem to the Savior, worried about what the answer might be.  I was trying to do it myself-not realizing how much lighter life is with the Savior.  I would be afraid of what He would ask of me.  Afraid I might need to give of my hopes of having a better body, or that I might be spending too much time exercising.  I feared I would have to live a sack cloth and ashes life and lose everything I thought made me happy.  I knew Heavenly Father and Jesus were real but I feared what was God’s will for me.  I was hung up on my will being the source of happiness.  

Then God got my attention.  His truth had been whispering to my heart to come to Him.  To set aside my worldly worries and kneel before Him, ready to listen.  Ready to find peace and healing.  He is gentle and will not force me to follow.  But I was having a rough time like I do sometimes and I thought coming to my Father would make it even harder.  It was my will, not His.  Then the spirit spoke to my heart.  I felt peace.  He brought to my mind how often I’ve struggled and never felt like enough-He helped me see this was never Him.  He was never the source of my worthless feelings.  He brought to my mind times of great strength and deep joy-He showed me this was Him with me.  I could look back on my life and see everything happening for a reason.  Everything.  I could see the purpose and growth from all my experiences.  I only regret I didn’t put down my guard, and come to Him sooner, ready to listen and follow.  I thought I was keeping Him at a safe distance-just enough to do what I wanted to without making life too uncomfortable.  Oh how I was deceived!  The joy I’ve found each time I practice even my little amount of faith leaves me in awe.  It brings me to my knees with deep gratitude and love.  The more I listen and follow, the more I am blessed!  The answer is often not what I thought it would be or should be, but it’s always better than what I ever thought!  Saying, not my will but thine, is becoming so much easier because I’m seeing the love and joy I receive from Him.  

When I see someone that’s barely surviving, I want them to thrive!  I want them to see the beauty in themselves and find love and mercy in our Savior.  I want all who are “heavy laden” to find rest.  The Savior died so that we might live.  He is for everyday life, the big heartaches and the little details.  Everything matters.  One of the greatest and life changing truths I’ve discovered the last few months is that the Lord cares about everything and everyone.  I’ve tasted of this incredible love and have found healing and peace…His hand is stretched out still.