Life’s Classroom

Growing up, I didn’t love school.  I thought it was only good for the social aspect.  I thought it was usually so boring and I remember my last days of high school, thinking, “I am done with school-FOREVER!!”  Years later, after more life experience, travel, and learning just how much there is out in this big world, I decided to go back to school.  I was married and had two little ones at the time and I felt this great hunger to go to college.  I regretted not using my time better as a teenager and wanted the chance to learn again-about history, psychology, science, even a little math if I had to.  I was excited to be accepted to a local college and began my journey of truly learning-this time my heart was in it.  I felt so grateful for the opportunity!  Years before school felt like a dreaded waste of time, and now here I was giddy about the chance to learn-to hand in assignments and take tests.

Each class was a faith promoting experience.  I remember reading about the founding fathers and feeling immense gratitude for their sacrifices-and a feeling that they were inspired men.  I learned in Near Eastern Studies about conflicts that have been going on for thousands of years.  I learned more of other religions and my understanding grew of other people and cultures.  I remember studying physical science and biology-more of how the earth works and our body’s DNA.  Math isn’t easy for me but I would study and concentrate-sometimes looking at things over and over until my brain could grasp it.  I don’t recall ever taking a class that felt like a waste of time.  I preferred psychology over math any day-but I learned and valued each class-even if it was just learning that I could figure it out.

There are so many opportunities for learning.  I know it doesn’t have to be in a classroom-anywhere we are and everyday we live, we can be learning.  Life is one big learning opportunity.  Learning with the Spirit is different than just reading stuff and wasting time.  I’ve done both and I can feel the difference.  And the Spirit can lead us to what is best for our individual learning and growth.  With the Light of Christ-we can search through information, knowledge and literally everything we are presented with and learn what is truth-and what is not.  With opposition in all things, we will constantly be confronted with truth and lies-and the Spirit can guide us to truth.  Through the Spirit…through faith and obedience to God, we can find the truth of all things (Moroni 10:5).

A few years ago I read a book about science.  This book could have been written by an atheist for all I knew, but as I read about the details of the earth and the discoveries made over centuries of learning-my faith in God grew.  The more I read about the science of the earth, the more I believed in God-the creator of the heavens and the earth.  The scientific process was all so beautiful.  It’s AMAZING.  From the tiny little bugs that creep and crawl-to elephants and lions.  Volcanos, canyons, the ocean, space-it’s all so beautiful.  When I learn more about the earth and history-anything really, I am reminded that all things denote there is a God (Alma 30).

“Seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.” (D&C 88:118)

Sacrifice

I’ve been thinking about sacrifice lately-I used to think it was to give everything away. That the ultimate was to live a “sackcloth and ashes” life and anything extra was worldly.

Sometimes I’m asked for things and it feels like the best answer is “no”. But I don’t want to appear selfish and honestly-I wrongly think it’s easier to say “yes” in the moment. When I say “yes” when I know it should be “no”, I regret and find out the hard way why I should have listened. The Lord knows what’s best as he sees everything from an eternal view. When I don’t follow His guidance-how can He help me? He wants to protect me, to strengthen my faith, to teach me.
He builds mansions, not little cottages. He sees our potential and if we give Him our heart-oh what he can do with us.

What is sacrifice? Anything I’ve given the Lord has been returned with great blessings and growth. Trials and opposition cause needless suffering in my life when I try to do things my way instead of His. When I submit and say “Thy will be done.” It’s quite a different experience than when I say, “Anything but this…you can have anything but this.” Sometimes it’s a hobby that’s become too important. Sometimes it’s pride and worrying what people think. Sometimes it’s admitting I’m wrong. He wants to be first on the list. He offers the Living Water that will make us whole.

What does the Lord want me to sacrifice? What can I give Him that isn’t already His? What could He possibly need from little old me? My heart. To give him my desires. For my wants and needs to be whatever He wants for me.

To align our will with the divine brings divinity to life. Life becomes deeply meaningful. He wants to grace our lives with His love. Like daily manna from Heaven-He wants us to rely on His word daily. Being led beforehand…not knowing the things that we should do (1 Nephi 4:6).

I love this quote-it reminds me of the need to follow the spirit from moment to moment…”I believe one of the greatest challenges for members of the Church is to ensure that our lives are not led by routine. When we are governed by routine, we tend to become insensitive to the need to walk with the companionship of the Holy Ghost. When we are blessed with the companionship of the Holy Ghost, we are protected in dangerous situations, and we are capable of making right decisions and overcoming all fear.”
(Enzio Busche, Yearning for the Living God)

What should I give? What should I say “yes” and “no” to? I’m learning it’s far more intimate and personal than some blanket statement that I can turn to when I don’t know what to do. He wants me to have His constant guidance. To turn to Him and say, “Speak Lord, for thy servant heareth.”
(Samuel 3:10)

The Only Way

I recall one day years ago, feeling like I had exhausted all my options.  I had a problem that weighed so heavy on my mind.  I felt like a failure, and why can’t I just have this problem fixed?!  I don’t want to deal with this anymore!  And I would try to just get over it, just try harder, have a good attitude, and all those things.  Tomorrow I’ll do better, tomorrow, tomorrow.  I thought I knew what the Lord wanted me to do here.  It seemed so obvious yet it also felt so impossible.  I had ASSUMED that I knew what to do, and I continually felt defeated.  It’s funny how some things seem too silly to pray about.  Here was a problem that was like a big brick wall, and I thought it wasn’t something to go to the Lord with.  I’ll just climb over the wall…and every day I would try to climb it, and every day I was tired.  FINALLY, when I talked to someone about my struggles-she asked if I had prayed about it.  Hah!  Prayer?  I already know what I need to do, just buck up and do better.  I kept thinking the Lord was so disappointed in me and wished I could just get over it already.  Oh how wrong I was…He wanted to help me.  But I hadn’t asked for the help yet.  Plus deep down I knew part of the problem was letting go of my wants.  I wanted His help as long as it would lead me to what I wanted:)

I finally prayed for help, and I can look back and see how he led me along-guiding me to lasting help.  I can also look back and see when I would go in circles-as I would hang onto what I wanted-not wanting to really let go.  But His answer was the same, I often heard in my heart, “Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter?” (D&C 6:23)  So over time I would try my way less and less, and follow Him more.  And I felt like He was loosening my chains.  As quickly as I would obey, he would help me.  I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise. (D&C 82:10)  He didn’t just lift me over the brick wall, He led me around it-showing me a totally different way, something I hadn’t even thought of.  And I thought I wouldn’t be happy unless I got what I wanted-yet He showed me amazing joy in giving up my wants and casting my burdens on the Lord.  Give Him all of it-the sins, worries, heartaches, obsessions, anything heavy.  HE ALREADY SUFFERED THESE THINGS-SO THAT WE WOULDN’T HAVE TO SUFFER.  But we have to go to Him.  His hand is stretched out still and always will be.  I see myself searching all around, trying to fix things, do things my way-or what I think I’m “supposed” to do.  Yet when I go to the Lord, He shows me a better way.  But I have to ASK.  He wants to help-we just need to ask…He is the perfect one to ask, since He knows everything about us-He has felt all our pains.  He knows us better than we know ourselves-so He is the ultimate source for deliverance.  Prayer is a powerful thing.  We can call on heaven and He will send His angels.  Not in our way, but in the Lord’s way.  When we give Him our hearts, our will-He will bless us in profound ways.

The devil tries to keep us off our knees and out of the scriptures.  Eternal joy is found in our Heavenly Father and His son, Jesus Christ.  He is Living Water.  I was noticing how often joy is mentioned in the Book of Mormon-particularly as His children taste of and share the love of God with others.  I love how sharing in His love and joy increases my own.  It tastes so good-we want to share it.  As I’ve found relief from sorrow in our Savior, I see others troubled and I want to lead them to Him.

2 Nephi 31:21 And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God. And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end. Amen.

Christ is the only way for true healing, peace amidst the storms of life, and forever joy.

Poem by Francis Thompson…

I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;

I fled Him, down the arches of the years…

From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.

But with unhurrying chase,

And unperturbed pace, 

Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,

They beat-and a Voice beat

More instant than the Feet-

‘All things betray thee, who betrays Me.

This song shares this message so beautifully:

Mother Earth

Not too long ago, I watched a movie with my husband.  The movie wasn’t that great, BUT, there was a scene that I will never forget.  Technology today is incredible and it showed a view of the earth from space.  It took my breath away-it was extraordinary.  There were no borders on the land-no dividing lines to show specific states and countries.  I couldn’t stop staring at the beautiful earth-this incredible creation of God that looked so heavenly from above.

I was recently in Lake Powell on a boat ride and the view around us was just awesome.  It almost looked fake-like we were looking at a photoshopped postcard or something.  A friend wondered aloud, what God may have been thinking and feeling as He created the variety of beauty on the earth-particularly the view that surrounded us.

I’ve been worried about this earth lately.  About all of us as a human family and children of God-brothers and sisters.  I don’t even know how to address the strife going on all over the globe right now.  I’m just one person.  A woman that feels so blessed and lives in a free country she loves and that probably takes a lot for granted.  I want to help.  I’ve been praying for the earth lately-picturing this beautiful creation of God with that heavenly atmospheric glow. I’ve never felt this desire to pray for our earth-people yes, but the earth specifically, well that’s new to me.

I was reading in Moses today…

Enoch is shown the whole earth in darkness-with Satan and his angels laughing and rejoicing.  It says in verse 28, “that the God of heaven looked upon the residue of the people, and he wept.   It’s so beautiful as Enoch asks the Lord, “How is it that thou canst weep, seeing that thou art holy, and from all eternity to all eternity?  And were it possible that man could number the particles of the earth, yea, millions of earths like this, it would not be a beginning to the number of thy creations…thou art kind and merciful forever…how is it thou canst weep?”  And the Lord says to Enoch, “Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands, and I gave unto them their knowledge, in the day I created them; and in the Garden of Eden gave I unto man his agency.  And unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should love one another, that they should choose me, their Father; but behold, they are without affection, and they hate their own blood.”

Moses 7:48 “And it came to pass that Enoch looked upon the earth; and he heard a voice from the bowels thereof, saying: Wo, wo is me, the mother of men; I am pained, I am weary, because of the wickedness of my children.  When shall I rest, and be cleansed from the filthiness which is gone forth out of me?  When will my Creator sanctify me, that I may rest, and righteousness for a season abide upon my face?”

How can I help?  Lately I’ve felt discouraged.  Sometimes I feel so far from where I want to be.  I was talking with a friend the other day and her light lifted me.  Just her presence was like medicine to my soul.  I had been thinking I needed to be in a better place to share my light, I needed to feel better about life before I reached out to the world.  The Spirit told my heart, “Waiting till you’re feeling better to follow the light is like avoiding the hospital until you’re healed.”  I knew what I needed to do, but my imperfections kept staring me in the face.  Focusing on mine or anyone’s imperfections is poison.  It drags us down.  How does this affect the whole earth?  What I share can be a healing balm or a toxic poison-like ripple affects throughout the world.  When I get hung up on something negative and withhold love-from myself or others, I keep hearing the same message from the Spirit, “That’s irrelevant.  Nothing justifies withholding love.”  And I am reminded of our Father’s unconditional love.  He loves us with all our imperfections.  And His love is what He wants us to share.  His love is what changes us and changes the world.

Recently, my two little boys were fighting and I was so sad to see them that angry with each other.  I thought, “I wish you cared about each other the way I care about each of you.”  The Spirit whispered, “That’s how God feels.”

Every day is filled with thousands of moments to share His love-in our thoughts, our words and actions.  Like ripple affects throughout the earth-we all make a difference.

Not sharing because we’re perfect, but sharing because we’re all children of God-we’re all brothers and sisters.

You’re Not Here to Change Them

“Where did she come from?”  My teenage daughter asked about her younger sister.  She couldn’t see any traits in her sister that resembled anything she saw in me or my husband.  She pointed out her other siblings and how she sees similarities that seem genetically passed on.  But what about this sister?  I thought of her personality that is all her own.  And I was reminded and said aloud, “she came from Heavenly Father.”

This daughter is full of life.  She lives in the moment and can really light up a room with her laughter and bright personality.  When I tell her to go clean her room, she often comes to me when she’s done to surprise me with how wonderful it looks.  To me, clean is simple, nothing on floors and counters-everything put away.  But I walk in her room and there is stuff everywhere!  Yet it’s all organized-with the room decorated with stuffed animals all over her bed- placed strategically.  Several ribbons taped to the ceiling, dangling overhead.  In the corner is a cardboard box I was going to throw away-she made into a doghouse with some spray paint, tape and scissors. I recognize a large piece of wood I had put in the garage to throw away-she’s brought it up to her room and painted all over it.  What I see as organized clutter, she sees as beautiful and artistic.  And if I look around her room and put aside any expectations of seeing what I want to see, I see a beautiful expression of a child.  I see what makes her great.  I see art, a love for animals, little trinkets and treasures, color and beauty.   I just love this girl.

Our relationship has been a real blessing in my life lately.  It hasn’t always been this way.  For a while, I worried about her and felt like I needed to help her be different than she was.  I would see things she says and does and think, “You shouldn’t do that.”  When I think this way, the Spirit often brings to my mind this scene of when she was a baby.  These are adorable traits that are part of who she is.  And I had been seeing them in a negative way.  If I try to change this about her, I am trying to take away her very nature.  Her gifts.

When I try to change things I don’t like about myself-these things are magnified.  And I stumble and withdraw from the world.  These things are the flip side of my strengths.  Same with my kids.  And focusing on what gifts me and my kids have to offer the world magnifies these things.  When I adore my daughter, I see her as a treasure and gift to our family.  I am so grateful to get to be her mom.

I have learned through too much trial and error to count, that I have to stop trying to change my kids.  When I’m struggling with one of my kids I am continually reminded by the Spirit of how Heavenly Father parents me.  He loves me unconditionally.  He allows me experiences that can all be for my growth.  Out of love he doesn’t save me from consequences that are inevitable, or from heartbreaks that are all for my growth.  Through the Spirit He offers gentle and loving guidance.

Sometimes I think I’m in control here and I feel this weighty responsibility for my children.  I think they have to do things a certain way.  I often think I have to protect them from all these things so nothing bad will ever happen to them.  To borrow a line from Finding Nemo, “If nothing ever happens to them, then nothing will ever happen to them.”  “Oh but I can save them from having to learn the hard way!  Think of all the heartaches I could save them from!”  So I lecture and nag.  I hate the term nag, so I say things nicely-over and over again:)  And I feel uncomfortable about it.  And it’s really stressful too, “Why won’t they listen to me?”  That discomfort comes from doing something I shouldn’t. I feel the Spirit telling me I shouldn’t do this and to stop.  And I may try to justify what I’m doing, “I only want to help them!  But what if I don’t do or say the right thing and they make mistakes!”  The Spirit reminds me I’m not their Savior.  There is only one Savior.  And what I might see as a “mistake” might not be a mistake at all.  That I need to love them, help them blossom and discover the light and gifts they were born with and given from God.  And let go.  Let go of control.  Heavenly Father loves us all enough to give us the gift of agency.  We get to choose!  And I can’t take that away from anyone.  Even if I think I have the best of intentions, I am continually reminded by the Spirit that I’m not here to change anybody.

There’s a saying that goes, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”  And I’ve mistakenly used this line to try and change someone by changing me.  And I try pretty hard to change me-so that they will change.  “But why aren’t they changing?  And why is this still so hard?”  I’ve tried to “love” people into changing them.  Looks so obviously wrong as I type it out.  When I try to change people at all, I am reminded by the Spirit (again and again) that I need to stop.  I can’t change anybody.  I can love people.  I can see what’s great about them.  I can share what I’ve learned in my own life.  And I don’t know what they need to hear but the Lord does.  I can follow loving promptings and reach out in love-not fear.  It’s easier for me to see this with people that aren’t so close to me.  But with close relationships, it’s hard to let go of this control and fearful thinking.  But every time I do, I don’t feel stressed and bothered by the person.  I feel more love for them.

I have to remember, “I’m not here to change anybody.”  And the stress melts away, and the love grows.

 

Be Yourself

This post will be short and sweet.

The other day I ended up somewhere and felt totally out of place. I looked around at all these people that seemed so different from me and thought, “I don’t belong here.” I was uncomfortable and wanted to get back home to the beautiful little farm town I live in.  I thought of several times in my life I’ve felt this way where I just thought I was out of place and the people around me were just too different and not the good kind of different.

Then the words “BE YOURSELF” came to my mind. Whew! I immediately felt comfortable. I looked around at people that moments before I felt like I needed to run away from-only now they were all PEOPLE. I  went from totally uncomfortable to strong, confident and loving.  Wanting to flee vs wanting to reach out. Thank you heaven!

Don’t Take the Poison

I recall a story someone shared that I think of often. This man related a story of early on in his marriage when his wife was angry with him and told him so. She said something like, “You make me so mad!” He replied, “since when did you give me control over your emotions?” My first thought was, “Oh I bet that really fueled her fire.” But this story has stayed with me.

I know no one can make me do or feel anything negative. And nothing I do in my life isn’t my own choice. No more, “but I have to do this.”  Because when I’m honest with myself-I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to do. Everything is a choice-including being angry and every other negative emotion. I’ve known this for years but it wasn’t until recently that I’ve found out how it can be done. I tried to will through before and have tons of self-control and all that. But it was so HARD! People made me so mad sometimes! “But see what I have to put up with? My situation is different…until they change this or that-how can I possibly be happy?” And I would allow outside circumstances to determine my happiness.

These are all “natural man/woman” responses and it’s all a lie. The devil is in the details and he had me fooled. When I blame my misery on someone or something else-it’s the devil luring me in to wrap his cords around me. And I allow myself to be tied to this “impossible” problem and feel like it’s hopeless. When I do this, I’m following satan’s lies. And he is successful at bringing misery. It’s all a choice. And the more I follow the Holy Ghost, the more I see the devil’s lies and how they destroy happiness. He wants anger, fear, and all those miserable emotions and he wants me to think solutions to my worries are based on what others say and do. That I can’t be happy and have peace until they change. And when I believe it I feel tied to others and ready to pounce on what drives me crazy (not the good crazy) about them. I’m quick to be offended and I can feel the yucky emotions start to stir.

But the spirit has been stopping me-and warning me that this isn’t them or reality. That if I go further and give in to temptation then I’ll be following Satan. Situations that have usually left me all wound up-stop. I feel the spirit saying, ” stay with me. Don’t take the poison.”  If I go down the road of offended and hurt or angry feelings, I indulge in Satan’s lies. Nothing anyone does determines my peace and happiness.

FREEDOM!!

At first I realized that I had been wanting to wallow in it sometimes. I didn’t fully want to let go-because then I would also be responsible for how I felt. I had to own up to the lies and the sin on my part. That it was truly a temptation for me that I had to let go. It was sinful for me to take the poison and allow satan in. And it was miserable! But how can I not feel hurt? How is this done? Yet the Spirit says, “stay with me.” And when we make it through and I look back-I feel like I witnessed a miracle. Wow. But that always left me a mess before.  And I don’t feel the residue and pain left behind that I normally do when I let the poison in, then try to just forgive or get past it and move on. There is nothing there to forgive. When I don’t take the poison, I don’t have to get it out of my system!  Only a freeing journey that keeps me from giving into satan and temptation. I don’t even have to go there to begin with!

How is this possible? Through Jesus Christ. I understood the concept of no one “makes” me do anything-but before I had to concentrate so hard and try to will through. Now I’m realizing how strong I am in Christ. Seriously. He helps us move mountains. “Stay with me.” He carries me through and life is AMAZING!  I am in awe that I can feel the joy under so many circumstances. But what about this…what about that? Isn’t there ever any justification for bitterness? No. Any time I believe that I’m taking the poison. Christ suffered for us.  I don’t have to suffer! He loves us so very much and can save us from misery. I wish I had the words of an angel to express it the way I feel it-Jesus is our SAVIOR!

“I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)