Adventures

When I was 18, I saved money to go on a trip to Europe.  This started my thirst for seeing new lands and people.  I loved what this short trip instilled in me-there are so many people and places out there!  Soon after, I lived in China for a few months.  Talk about a life-changing experience.  It’s hard to put into words all that I learned-but I went home with a much greater love for home and family.  As well as a desire to see everything, everywhere.  I thought for sure I would live all over the place for the rest of my life.  A few years later I met my awesome husband.  I knew he was the one I would be with forever.  I would share with him my dreams of travel and seeing the world.  He would say, “the true voyage of discovery is not in seeing new lands but in seeing through new eyes.”  And I would think, “Ya, ya, ya-ok so really, let’s go see the world.”  His “seeing through new eyes” sounded nice and all, but what about how much I learn and grow being in a totally new culture?  It’s just not the same living in the same place for years surrounded by familiarity.

With this hunger for adventure, sometimes an exciting opportunity arises-and initially I say yes and try to move forward to make it happen.  But at times I get a funny feeling-that stupor of thought mentioned in the scriptures.  I have often tried to push through the funny feeling and do it anyway-this ALWAYS ends in regret.  I recall getting this feeling before taking a family trip to San Diego years ago with our little ones.  We flew there.  The trip was so awful and hard that we left early and drove home.  It was a disaster.

I had this stupor of thought occur before I met my husband and was dating a guy I thought I would marry.  He seemed great and I couldn’t see any reason not to stay with him-I could only see why it seemed like a great idea.  Then I thought I should pray about it.  As I knelt down-I wasn’t even on my knees yet-and the funny feeling came.  I couldn’t deny it-but I sure tried to.  For months I tried to ignore it until I couldn’t any longer.  I was heart broken-but I finally understood we weren’t supposed to be together and moved on.  The next year I met my husband-and woohoo!!  Everything made sense.  Me and the other guy I dated were supposed to marry other people-there was someone else that would be better for both of us.  Meeting and marrying my husband was a very unique and almost sacred experience that I will treasure forever.  And I thanked Heavenly Father over and over (and still do!) for the “stupor of thought” that saved me for my husband.

I am learning to listen to the Spirit-which is to follow God and His beautiful plan for me.  If I knew how it all would turn out-where would the faith be?  When I fail to listen-I am filled with regret.  As I’m learning to listen and follow-I am filled with blessings!  My cup totally runneth over.  I am learning that God isn’t punishing me for failing to listen to the promptings.  There are consequences for failing to listen to God-He can’t help me if I don’t listen and follow.  Oh how he wants to bless me, but I need to stop and listen to the funny feelings and stupors that arise-as well as the comfort and peace that comes when I’m doing something that I should.  He can fill my life with peace and love, but I have to let go of my plans.  I sometimes learn the hard way and say, “oh this is why I felt funny about it…”  I want more of, “I don’t understand it all now, but I know this is the way to go…”

Sometimes the reason why isn’t clear.  I mistakenly look at my situation and worry how this would look if I say yes or no to something and what would others think.   Often the Spirit is telling me to do just the opposite of what would “make sense” to others or what would the “charitable” thing be.  When I follow my heart and what the Spirit is telling me, sometimes I say “no, I can’t do that right now.” When I’m involved with something I should be doing, life just seems to flow in that direction.  I offer something or step in here and there and don’t think twice about it-it just feels right so I don’t think much of it.  This is the Spirit with me, leading me along.  When I live by the Spirit like this, I learn to have compassion for others and what is right for them in their life.  I learn that we all have different paths and gifts and the greatest blessings and fulfilling the measure of each of our creation is best done by following the Spirit in our lives.

I still LOVE adventures-but my idea of what’s an adventure has been evolving.  The other day, I was talking to a family that lived thousands of miles away and they were describing what they love about living far away.  They told me how their street is filled with seven different families they love hanging out with-all members of different religions.  They went on about how great life is out there and all they’re learning-being in an environment where living their religion is truly a part of their everyday life.  I started to envy.  That feeling started coming on that makes me wonder why I have to live in the same state I’ve grown up in my whole life and why can’t I live all over the world?  Then the Spirit spoke to my heart.  I know we are where we need to be.  Their family across the country, and mine where we’ve been for years.  I was impressed with the thought of all the growth and learning God has been giving me-how I am seeing things so differently despite all my physical surroundings being the same.  I’m finally seeing with new eyes and I don’t have to go to new lands!  Like the hymn says, “I’ll go where you want me to go, dear Lord.”  Even if it’s right here where I’ve been all along!  I’m learning that it’s a myth to think my surroundings have to be different for me to be happy.  I am finding the greatest adventure is right here where the Lord leads me along-no longer having my own idea and plans, but trusting in His adventure for me.

 

Choose the Light

When I first met and fell in love with my husband, I saw a man who was brave, confident, not afraid to speak his mind and seemed able to fix anything.  I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to have him.  When I get annoyed with my dear husband, I see someone who is overconfident, speaks without thinking, and wonder why he has to try and fix everything.  He’s the same man.  It’s what I’m choosing to see.  He is still an amazing person whether I want to see him that way or not.  And I’d rather be married to the courageous, outspoken, awesome, fix anything guy.

A few weeks ago I was with a woman and her kids and I told her how much I admired their confidence and willingness to speak up.  She laughed and said how she feels like she’s always saying too much and wished she and her kids could be more quiet and reserved.  Which is funny because I’m on the quiet side and people often say they admire my peace and calmness-and I often wish I could be more outspoken.  Funny how that is.  We all have these unique gifts to offer the world.  What makes us great can also be what drives us or others crazy.  When I see mine and others gifts with the Spirit, I see remarkable people.  I look at others and see a husband who is determined to succeed and will ask anyone anything-he doesn’t see any good that comes from holding back.  And I learn to be genuine and honest.  I see his sister as someone who is courageous and strong-an amazing teacher filled with insight and inspiration.  And I learn-oh how I learn.  I see my sister that loves the Lord as a true follower of Christ-when you get to know her, you get to feel the Savior’s love and concern for all of God’s children.  I see my mother who taught me by example-the choices she made (big and small) continually taught me that she loved the gospel and she chose God.

Lately I see people and I want to tell them how I love this or that about them.  Sometimes when I share something I love about them, they don’t seem to believe me-whether they say it or have that look in their eyes, I sometimes hear, “you don’t really know me.”  I understand because at times, I say and feel that too.  And in some ways we’re right-the only one that really, truly knows us is our Savior.  But we can see what’s great about each other.  We can try to see from the heart.  And I don’t think I’m naive when I see something extraordinary about someone and I tell them.  They say, as I have too, “if you really knew me, you wouldn’t think that…”  Yet, the more I get to know someone’s heart, the more their gifts stand out to me.  And the more I want to hold them up for all the world to see.  “You guys see this person!?  You know how lucky we are to have you in our lives?”  And I find myself wanting everyone to know these awesome people the way I’ve gotten to know them.  I want to get rid of any fear that keeps us from lighting up this world with who we really are.

There’s a saying that “you find what you’re looking for”.  So true.  If I want to be disappointed and annoyed with people-I can.  And life and people can be a big fat pain.   And if I want to see the divinity in myself and in all of God’s children who are in my life every day-I can find that too.  And that’s what matters.  That’s what inspires.  I need God’s help with seeing from the heart.  His Spirit sheds light on everything around me.  My husband, my kids, everyone, nature-the gorgeous mountains out my window.  I can look out my window and see the dirty window and water spots, or I can see the gorgeous view of the mountains.  I can look at people and see what (I think) is “wrong” with them-or I can see the awesome.

With six kids I get plenty of learning opportunities.  With my oldest son I was struggling to try and change what I saw was a problem.  I thought that if he would just stop doing this and start doing that, then we’d all get along great.  But until he would change, I couldn’t get past the problem.  I went to a Seven Habits seminar for a few days with my husband.  My heart towards my son changed.  I saw him in a different light.  I came home and was excited to see what a great kid he was!  For a brief moment I thought, “How did he change so much while I was gone?  Then I realized I changed.  He was always an amazing kid and all my nagging and trying to change him was the problem.   I was trying to make him be what I thought he should be, not seeing him for who he really is.  When I see what’s great about someone, the negative stuff isn’t a problem anymore, or it becomes so small that it just doesn’t matter.

This keeps happening to me.  When I see others (and myself) in a negative light and if they could just be different, then there wouldn’t be a problem.  Time and again the answer is the same-I need to change my heart.  I need to choose the light and see what’s so great about people, myself included.  When I get so focused on what I want to change about me-my problems become bigger, I lose self-confidence and I don’t want to reach out to people.  This is the same with my children.  When I see what’s so great about them, they shine.  And the little dirt I saw on windows often turns out to be a little dirt in my eyes that I just needed to get rid of.

 

A Checklist Life

I don’t know what’s happened to me lately.  I can’t commit.  I don’t know what I’m doing tomorrow-or today.  Sure there’s doctor’s appointments, cleaning, kid’s activities and all that.  But really, I don’t have big plans and I’ve never been happier.  I’ve been learning to say no to things I was doing for the wrong reasons-which has freed up quite a bit of time and energy for things that are really meaningful.  It feels so good to be free.  Our meals are becoming simpler.  My house doesn’t stay clean for long.  And I’m learning it’s ok-in fact it’s great!  I’m living a day at a time.  I used to have a lot of bad days and “starting tomorrow I’m going to do so much better”.  I would make big plans, set big goals, print up exercise programs, and make checklists of all I wanted to accomplish.  Over time, I started to get a funny feeling about my lists.  Rather than being excited about goals and checking things off, I became turned off by them.  I had been focused on doing rather than on being.

I want to follow Christ.  But with my lists, I was relying on my own strength and my own agenda.  I keep thinking about C.S. Lewis’ cottage and how the Lord wasn’t just remodeling his little cottage, he was making him into a palace.  My plans for life are nothing compared to the extraordinary plans God has for me-for all of us.  But I couln’t even begin to learn until I had faith.  My fear kept me from turning to God for happiness and for help with my problems.  I feared I would miss out on what I thought was important.  I feared it would be too hard to let go of my wants and trust the Lord.  What a deception!  True and eternal joy is found in Christ.  Even just my tiny particle of faith has brought me enormous blessings.  What I thought would make me happy is nothing compared to the joy he has been giving me.  But sometimes I get hung up on building my cottage rather than trusting Him with creating a palace.  He keeps holding my hand through this process.  I feel His comfort, “Its ok Melanie.  Trust me.  Believe me.  I am with you.”  He helps me put down my earthly treasures and lists.  And over and over again he  blesses me beyond anything I could ever deserve.  But I must have faith.  I have to put down my agenda and say not my will but thine be done.  I’m a slow learner-but I am learning!  His ways are not my ways-and they’re always better.

So I’m putting away my lists.  I’m learning not to have a plan and to just roll with it.  I know in whom I trust.  And God’s plans are far beyond anything I could dream up.  If I feel the Lord’s Spirit with me day in and day out-then life is beautiful and filled with purpose.  The unexpected happens-and it often turns out to be an answer to prayer, rather than something getting in the way of my checklist.

“And I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do” (Nephi 4:6)

“And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up” (D&C 84:88)

Honeymoon’s Not Over

The title may sound like this is about marital bliss-but it’s really about life bliss.  I was reading “Yearning for the Living God” by Enzio Busche-one of my favorite books.  He grew up in Germany during World War 2 and shares his upbringing and conversion to the gospel.  As a young boy, he studied Goethe and other philosophers of the Enlightenment.  He says in his book, “something that Goethe wrote had a profound effect on me later, when I was seventeen or eighteen years old.  I learned that two years before Goethe’s death, when he was about eighty years old, he made a statement that the times in his life when he was so happy that he wanted that moment to stay had only lasted a few seconds.  I remember being shocked by that statement because I had always harbored the hope that one day I would receive lasting joy that would penetrate my whole being to the point that every minute of life would be enjoyable…When I learned of the feelings expressed by Goethe, who literally had achieved everything in this life that a person can achieve-in academics, in reputation, in opportunities to travel, in wealth, in love and admiration from myriad people-it brought a feeling of discouragement into my life.  I repeatedly asked myself, “What chance do I have to be filled with joy when even Goethe did not have that opportunity?  Not until I became embraced by the light of Christ as a member of His Church did I learn the truth-that as children of a loving Heavenly Father, all human beings might have joy.  As explained in the Book of Mormon, ‘Adam fell that men might be; and men are that they might have joy’ (2 Nephi 2:25).  Early in my Church membership, this truth penetrated my soul, and I came to realize that true joy comes only through developing the reality of closeness with the living God.”  

This has been on my mind since I read it the other night.  As I look back on my life, the times of sheer joy have come when I feel very close to God.  When I was eighteen, I went to China for a few months.  I brought my scriptures with me and decided to read the Book of Mormon for the first time.  I couldn’t put it down.  My life lit up with the light of Christ.  The Spirit filled me with hope and joy.  I grew closer to Christ than I ever had been.  I believed in Jesus and Heavenly Father before this-I knew they were real.  But I felt the Spirit in my life stronger than ever before.  That was a turning point in my life and was the first of (hopefully many) reborn experiences.  This helped me at a time when I was making many decisions that would affect me forever.  I look back and remember feeling on top of the world-for quite some time.  Then I started to get busy.  I believed in the Savior and the scriptures, but I just got busy over the years.  Scripture study became a checklist item to get it over with so I could go about my day.  I would often save “spiritual time” for the end of the day or just not get to it at all, blaming it on exhaustion.  Tomorrow I’ll take the time.  Tomorrow I’ll pray long and sincerely.  Tomorrow, tomorrow.  I kept going through the motions.  I didn’t doubt God’s existence in my life, but without taking the time to really know Him and feel close to Him, I started to believe the deceptions of the devil.  When my whole day was spent just getting through and desperately wanting to be somebody, I couldn’t see that I was already someone great.  That I had a wonderful life and it was right here.  That God loved me deeply and being close to Him could help me shine and bring beauty, love and joy to my life.  But I wouldn’t let the Spirit in, “Not now,”  I would say, “I’m too busy.  Wait until life calms down and I have a minute to breath.  Wait until I take care of this or that.  Then I’ll take the time for spiritual.”

Then God got my attention.  I am so grateful he got my attention!  I wish I could say I came to Him and put down all my worldly treasures that were really just dead weight.  But I was compelled.  And I will forever be grateful for Him compelling me to listen.  He told me I was enough and that all the fear, guilt, shame, and inadequacies came from the devil.  His message to my heart started out with a glimmer of hope-a ray of light.  I wanted to believe it and deep down I knew it was true.  But I was deceived for so long into thinking my worth came from anything and everything else.  I compared myself to everyone.  I wanted to please everyone.  God showed me that He loves me and everyone no matter what we are choosing.  I just needed to come to Him to see things as they really were.  His message has been growing within me ever since.  I see how much I love Him and need Him.  I praise Him and thank Him and just can’t get enough of Him!  I can’t save Him for the end of the day!  That was crazy-I need Him all day.  The Spirit isn’t an afterthought-it can be in every thought.  I want this joy all the time.  For years my life felt hard and discouraging-with moments here and there of sheer joy.  Now I feel joy so often-that the moments here and there of discouragement aren’t consuming me anymore.  But I know I have to come to Him.  The deceptions start so small.  I want to be wrapped in His love so He will keep me focused on why I am here, and what really matters.

There’s a saying that “we’re spiritual beings having a human experience.”  As I immerse my life and thoughts in the spiritual-this really resonates with me.  Life is so much more than the mundane and the distractions.  I’ve found it can be deeply meaningful and filled with love.  When most of my thoughts and time is spent on the spiritual, the negative things in life are so small.  Yearning for God has helped me free up a lot of time and energy I spent on things that just don’t matter.  I was so afraid to let go of what I thought made me someone.  Afraid to let go of what would (eventually) make me happy.  Yet God has been giving me happiness now.  We can have joy right now and every day-I love it.  He is teaching me to let go and have faith.  We are here to have joy.

 

In Control

Last November I had the opportunity to sign up for the Zion’s half marathon that just happened in March.  I hesitated to sign up-I had a funny feeling and felt deep down like I shouldn’t do it.  But I love running and races and didn’t want to miss out on the fun.  There was a big group doing it and I also thought training for the half would get me back into shape after having a baby.  So I ignored the funny feeling and signed up anyway.

Well, a couple of weekends ago I ran the half.  I actually suffered, hated, agonized and barely survived it.  I went into the race thinking I would just enjoy the company of others and run with friends.  My husband was running it too and he’s a miserable runner.  Meaning, he’s totally miserable when he runs-he keeps running despite how hard and painful it is for him.  His heart rate stays in the 180-190 zone whenever he runs and he just suffers through. After races, he looks like he needs emergency help and has been offered it before.  When I hear sirens during a race, I worry it might be for him. Years ago I tried to convince him to run-telling him how fun and healthy it is.  Now I try to convince him not to-seeing what a struggle he usually has running.  He is an amazing biker and swimmer and just suffers through running.  Well he was going to be my project for the race.  I was going to help him and encourage him and not leave his side.  (I usually just take off and say “see ya at the finish!”)  Not this time.  I would do all I could to help him finish.  Ha!  I was so humbled on the run.  I was miserable and couldn’t figure out why on earth I did this to myself.  I looked at every passing car wanting to hop on the back to drive me to the finish line.  I couldn’t find my ‘why’.  I couldn’t find any great reason why I was running this race.  I’ve ran plenty of marathons and done some long triathlons and I can always get through.  But this one was different.  I have learned so much in the past few months and the competition that was such a part of my life has faded away.  I used to be fueled by competition and hoping to be “better than”.  But I’d lost that competitive side.  So for this race, I was going to help someone finish-but no one needed my help!  I desperately needed their help. My husband and our friend, Blu just kept on running a steady pace the entire time.  I was often a few yards back, wishing I could just hitch a ride.  My husband just kept on encouraging me along.  He kept waving at me to catch up and never got too far ahead of me.  He wouldn’t let me give up.  Watching them run in front of me helped me put one foot in front of the other for miles.

I prayed.  I kept reminding myself of the funny feeling I had and that I should have listened.  I should always listen to the Spirit that is trying to guide me.  But sometimes I just ignore it, afraid that I’ll miss out.  Or I just think I know better.  I told my Heavenly Father how sorry I was that I didn’t listen and to please help me anyway.  I kept thinking how this horrible run was my “punishment”.  Then the Spirit whispered to my heart something beautiful.  “This isn’t punishment Melanie. Father knew where you would be in your life in March.  He knew you would be in a different place and that this race wouldn’t be fun for you.”  I felt so much better!  I was still struggling through the run but I remembered that God knows me better than I know myself.  He knows where I’ll be in four months.  He knows the beginning, end and all of it.  He knows what I need and I keep learning how much he loves me and that I need to trust Him.  Life is amazing when I let go and have faith.

The other day I was tied up in knots over all the dumb things I do.  So often I forget an appointment, lose my keys, my wallet, my phone.  I left my baby in her carseat in the garage recently and had to come back and get her!  I was just stewing over all the spacy things I do and try as I might, I can’t “fix” this part of me.  Believe me, I try.  I can drive with both hands squeezing the steering wheel, paranoid and not wanting to make any mistakes.  I can go over and over my day in my mind and obsess about everywhere I need to be and what I need to have with me.  When I do that, I mess up even more!  Or maybe I am just dwelling on all the mistakes I make and that’s all I see.  A dear friend gave me some wonderful advice the other day when I had messed up yet again.  She reminded me that I am not in control, God is.  She reminded me everything happens for a reason.  She helped me find the love again.

When something goes wrong or I’m having a hard time in my life, I blame myself.  “Look what you did.  It’s all your fault.  You’re always messing up and one of these days someone will get hurt over it.  Then you can never forgive yourself.”  I hear the devil’s discouragement and sometimes believe it.  I become paranoid of something awful happening in my life and that I could somehow prevent it.  If I live in fear and don’t do anything remotely dangerous, then nothing bad will happen.  That’s not living!  I mistakenly believe that it’s all up to me and that I have to carry life’s burdens and mistakes on my back.  But my Savior has offered to carry my heavy load.  I can’t take everything on-taking credit for the great stuff and blame for the bad.  It’s too heavy!  And life is a roller coaster depending on how things are going.  When I take it all on me, then the moments of calm and joy are so rare and only come along when everything’s right in the universe.

When I remember God is in charge here and everything in life happens for a reason, I let go.  The heavy weight lifts off my shoulders and I see the beauty and blessings around me instead of burdens.  When I want to listen to what the Spirit is telling me and follow, I feel peace and full of faith and love.  I go from living a checklist life and wanting all the answers, to being free and willing to go wherever the Lord leads me.  The unexpected happens and I don’t feel rocked, I don’t kick myself in the dirt.  I know in whom I trust and I just have to keep trusting.  I can live, laugh, and love through it all.

I am so glad I’m not in control!  I would much rather trust in my perfect Savior that truly knows everything I need in my life.  He knows what will bring me joy and what leads me down a dead end road.  He knows.  I can choose to follow the Savior and trust that He will lead me with joy and peace on my journey.  I don’t have to know where I’ll be in four months or four years, as long as He is with me.