Where Can I Turn For Peace?

Peace of mind.  What a gift.  You don’t realize how wonderful it is until you don’t have it.  For years I lacked peace of mind.  I could function just fine most of the time.  But there was always this dark cloud following me around-if I started to feel great and happy, it was there to steal the peace.  Most of the time I tried to ignore it, but it would flair up here and there and I would try and face it, defeat it, please it.  “What can I do to make you leave me alone?!”  I tried to do all I could to feel good, and sometimes I just tried to function and go through the motions.  I thought this was just how life was.  I knew heaven had to be better than this, and I hoped that maybe, just maybe, I could get in.  I really thought I would stand before God when I died and hang my head in shame as He would let me know how disappointed He was in me.  I am so glad I was wrong!

Like a light in a dark cave, the Lord taught me that this nagging guilt that followed me around for years was not Him.  It was never, ever Him.  Nor was it reality.  But when I would feel bad about myself, I would withdraw-most of all I withdrew from God.  I just thought these guilty, nagging feelings were true and I thought they came from God to try and get me to be a better person.  If I could just try harder.  If I just had more (fill in the blank gospel principle).  I thought many “good” opportunities that came up needed to be done, or that I was a loser and didn’t have what it takes to be a saint.  It all felt so hard!  I had been viewing life through a guilt filter-and I discovered this was not only not God-but of the devil and to heed it not!  Don’t even let it in.  The scales began to fall from my eyes and this led me to having a personal relationship with my Heavenly Father.

And through the grace of a loving Savior, I began to taste of the love of God.  It felt so good!  And it wasn’t because I earned it…it was a gift.  And I know it is a gift available to all who come unto Christ.  Not be a good person and then come to Christ, but come now and any time.  It is never too late.  There is never anything too big or too small for the Lord.  He heals us.  I feel like I’ve found the secret to life:) This is the indescribable joy that I thought only came in glimpses and here a little and there a little.  I didn’t know that life could feel this good.

I can be still.  And have peace of mind.  Now when thoughts that lack peace come-I can know that it’s an absence of God’s spirit.  This isn’t God.  Whether it’s a condemning thought about myself or someone else…whether it’s a lack of peace when I’m trying to do my will and not God’s…whether it’s something I just need to say no to.  If the feeling lacks peace-let it go.  And come unto Christ.  He shines light on confusion and darkness and He can help us see things as they really are.  It is absolutely essential to stay close to Him-so we don’t forget where our true worth comes from and how loved we are.  And if we’ve never felt that love, to come unto Him so He can give us the gift.

Therefore, ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you; for he that asketh, receiveth; and unto him that knocketh, it shall be opened.  3rd Nephi 27:29

I love this article my sister sent me…reminds me of how light and loving a pathway with God feels:

http://ldsmag.com/article-1-4724/

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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!

Shame

Sorry.  For all two of you who might read this:) What a sad title and topic.  Makes me feel bad just to type the word shame.  These thoughts have been on my mind as I’ve been learning more about this sad emotion and how I often internalize it.  I looked up shame in the dictionary and I’ll paraphrase here-it’s a negative emotion, feelings of embarrassment and unworthiness.  

I’m even ashamed that I feel shame!  I’ve been on a worthiness journey the past couple of months and have realized how often feelings of unworthiness make me hide.  When I feel this way, I feel like something is wrong with me.  I fail to recognize that something may be wrong with my behavior and instead think something is wrong with me.  Sometimes I even feel this way when I’m trying to be a good person-when I have righteous desires. When I’m feeling this way-the light can’t get in. I feel small to put it lightly and I internalize what’s going on around me to mean I’m worthless.  I feel like God is the last one to want to hear from me so I try to find ways to feel better.  I try and prove I’m worth something in worldly ways.  This has yet to work and I wish it didn’t take so many failed attempts and hitting rock bottom before I stopped this destructive cycle.  

Then my Heavenly Father began teaching me through His spirit.  Shame is not of God.  This embarrassed, guilty, unworthy feeling does not come from Him.  This negative emotion is a tool of Satan to deceive me and hide my real worth.  This has kept me from God and ANYTHING that keeps me from Him and my Savior will NEVER, EVER come from Him.  As I focus on unconditional love AND unconditional worth, I can see shame for what it is.  I can’t fight it on my own but with the strength of the Lord I can withstand the devil and his tactics.  

The other day, my four year old Tommy burned his hand.  His behavior was really strange over the whole thing.  I knew he burned his hand so I tried to help him.  He refused my help and hid his hand from me.  He seemed embarrassed and angry over getting burned.  I kept telling him I could help by putting his hand under some cold water.  He kept refusing and finally I forced him because I could see he was really hurting.  He fought me the whole time and finally escaped me and the cold water and ran off.  The Spirit spoke to my heart and showed me-this is like you and your Heavenly Father.  For so long he wanted to heal you and love you, but you would hide.  You were hurting and God knew what you needed, but fear kept you from God’s healing love.

Come unto Christ and deny yourselves of all ungodliness (shame, guilt, unworthiness) Moroni 10:32. His yoke is easy, His burden is light (Matthew 11:30).  Shame and guilt are heavy, the Savior’s path is light.  I have to stay close and do all I can to center my life on Christ or I falter.  I start forgetting who I am and how loved we all are.  As I’m learning how kind and gentle the Spirit is, I’m learning to follow.  The love I feel brings me to my knees in gratitude and joy.  I used to be afraid to pray, afraid I wasn’t worthy to come before God.  Remember the Spirit is inviting and loving.  But it won’t force us to follow.  This is where faith comes in.   The Spirit can show us all things that we should do (2 Nephi 32:5).  I am in awe that my tiny particle of faith has led me down a path of such joy and peace.   

Let It Go

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My daughter showed me this beautiful song from the movie Frozen.  Let it Go.  I can’t stop singing those lines in my mind.  I was held down for so long with guilt, despair and sorrow.  The Lord showed me he wasn’t the source of this heartache.  He has been showing me who I really am.  He is helping me to shake off this guilt, fear and worry and helping me to really shine.

We are all so loved and so very precious to our Heavenly Father.  He loves me as much as he loves anyone who has ever lived.  He loves me as much as someone sitting on death row.  If only we all knew how amazing we are!  Not because we have a college degree or because we are beautiful or thin or have a bunch of knowledge or that we can exercise or have a blog or have children or have a career.  Whatever!  That is not what makes us have value.  We are amazing because we are created in God’s image.  We are His precious children and have enormous value simply because we are here-simply because we are His children.

I was deceived.  For so long I believed Satan’s lies about me.  I lived so small-like the period at the end of this sentence. Yes-that tiny little thing is how I often felt.  The Lord helped to me see how Satan will do anything he can to keep us from our Savior.  He will try anything!  I love Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis because it exposes the many different ways we can be deceived by the devil.  Satan knew he couldn’t convince me to not believe in Jesus.  I knew Jesus lived and came to save this world.  So the adversary attacked my worth.  He had me convinced I was pathetic and small and who do I think I am?  Then I began to see that I am amazing no matter what I say or do.   I am loved unconditionally by my Heavenly Father.   My value is not dependent upon anything other than I am valued because I am a child of God.

Let it go.  Whatever is holding you back from shining-let it go.  Recognize that Satan is the source of anything that keeps you from our Savior.  What a sneaky little devil!  Whether it’s being too busy, too sad, too caught up in trying to prove our worth.  Let go of whatever is keeping you from our beloved Savior.  He wants to heal you.  He wants to shower you with His love and joy.

Amazing Grace

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“I feel that guilt is based on fear, and godly sorrow is based on love; guilt makes a person want to hide from God, while Godly sorrow makes a person want to approach God; guilt puts the focus on the problem (ourselves), and godly sorrow puts the focus on the cure (Jesus Christ)…”(Cheyenne Brashear) 

A couple of months ago my husband and I were asked to speak in church.  The topic was the Savior’s Atonement, Grace, and Mercy.  Despite not loving to speak in front of large groups of people, I felt good about it and knew the Lord would be with me.  Then my journey began.  It wasn’t ten minutes after accepting the call to speak that an old familiar feeling of guilt came over me.  I know guilt.  Guilt looms over me.  It follows me around constantly like my own personal raincloud. I often feel insignificant, small and worthless.  I can feel guilty for anything and everything.  Guilt feels so awful that I would do whatever it takes to not feel guilty.  Sad to admit, but guilt was behind many of my motives for doing good.  I thought this was normal.

The feeling intensified.  I started to feel despair.  Small things, big things-it doesn’t matter.  I can’t put into words how dark and horrible I started to feel.  The feeling grew over the next several days.  I felt so hopeless.  So depressed.  I couldn’t understand why this was happening now.  I desperately needed the Lord so I could prepare and give a talk in church.  When I start to feel bad like this, I eventually pull away from God or at least try to stay a safe distance.  I thought he was the source of my guilt.  He wanted me to change, to be better, to try harder.  Guilt had distorted my view on the world and had me feeling bad about good things.

The gospel has been such a source of joy in my life.  Yet it has also been the source of pain-or so I thought.  Often times when I felt on fire with my faith and the Spirit, the guilt would work inside me and eventually defeat me.  I thought this came from what an awful person I was, from my lack of obedience.  I sensed the Lord was teaching me something through this experience. Wow-did he teach me.  What I learned completely changed my world.  Rather than turning it upside down, he turned it right side up.

Looking back on this experience I can’t imagine learning this any other way.  The intensity of guilt was hitting me with enormous force-like a big boulder I could hardly keep from crushing me. It’s hard to put into words the despair and darkness I felt.  In the middle of it all, I instinctively knew that I was going to learn something big that would change my life and that I needed to share with others.  I had to try to work this out with the Lord-I desperately needed His spirit to be with me giving my talk.  I just needed to function.  I needed peace!

Deliverance

In my desperation for peace, I asked my husband for a blessing.  I couldn’t find a way to feel better and thought it was all from my lack of obedience.  I hoped for the black cloud to lift, to just feel good again.  What happened next was better than immediate deliverance.  The Lord showed me how to overcome this stumbling block for good.  My husband left for work and I sat alone, feeling defeated.  I googled lds & guilt-hoping for an answer.

In my internet search I discovered guilt has been the source of such pain and suffering for so many-some even leaving the church over it. I have known this church is true for a long time.  I know Jesus is my Savior and I know the Book of Mormon is God’s word.  Turning away from the gospel was not the answer.  My heart ached as I read these women’s stories.  I could feel the bitterness in their words.  I knew they were missing out on so much but they didn’t want to feel guilty anymore so they left something so precious in their search for relief.  Then I found what saved me and changed me.  I searched guilt on a blog I have enjoyed reading and found a discussion on guilt from readers:  http://unblogmysoul.wordpress.com/2011/08/04/feeling-guilty/ “Satan commanded Cain to make an offering unto the Lord because he knew what would come of it. I feel he does the same thing today. I feel that Satan tries to get us to do “good” things all the time, but he tries to make us do it out of fear, guilt, obligation, or pride. When a prompting comes from the Lord, it not only sounds right to the mind, but it feels right in your heart also. When God speaks, it appeals to our spiritual nature within us. I feel Satan is completely content when we give gifts to God as long as it’s not our hearts.

“I think a lot of times people confuse guilt with godly sorrow. It seems to me that guilt comes from the adversary, while godly sorrow comes from God. In the scriptures, Satan is called ‘the accuser of our brethren'(Rev.12:10). Jesus Christ is the judge of the world, and yet he says, ‘for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.'(John 12:47).

“I feel that guilt is based on fear, and godly sorrow is based on love; guilt makes a person want to hide from God, while Godly sorrow makes a person want to approach God; guilt puts the focus on the problem (ourselves), and godly sorrow puts the focus on the cure (Jesus Christ)…

“Godly sorrow is a gift from the Spirit and comes through exposure to the Spirit. Godly sorrow manifests the goodness of God and His great love for us. It seems to me that the sorrow comes in because we feel great sadness when we sin and seperate ourselves from the goodness of God. After awhile we grow tired of anything that seperates us from everything that is good (our Father in Heaven, and His Son, Jesus Christ). In short, godly sorrow leads to repentance (Romans 2:4).” (Cheyenne Brashear)

This spoke to my heart! A light came on.  I felt hope rising within me.  I knew this was my answer.  I didn’t fully understand it but my I knew the Lord was telling me something. This was real and while I didn’t quite know how-I knew this would change my view of the world and my Heavenly Father.  At first I almost felt like it was too good to be true.  No way can this be real-I wanted to embrace it whole-heartedly but Satan had deceived me for so long that this change wasn’t immediate.  I sent this quote to my husband and said this is it!  This is my answer.  He agreed.  Poor guy has been trying to help me understand this for so long but I just wasn’t getting it.

Through reading, studying and prayer-I learned this horrible guilt has never come from my Heavenly Father.  These feelings have never been from God.  He has allowed me to feel them and to be tried and tested. But he has not been the source of these feelings.  There is opposition in all things (2 Nephi 2:27) and the adversary will work on us and do anything to keep us from God. We are here to be tested and use faith and come unto Christ-to deny ungodliness (guilt) and be perfected in Him (Moroni 10:32).  The guilt, despair and hopelessness came from Satan.  When guilt would hit me hard, my go to move was often backing away from God.  The Lord showed me how much he wanted to bless and help me but I turned away time and again not realizing God wasn’t the source of my pain and that He really wanted me to heal me.

I could see and feel the difference.  With the destructive guilt cycle I had been going through over and over I felt sad, desperate and angry.  I was ashamed and wanted to hide from God.  Godly sorrow was different-it involved love.  When I felt godly sorrow I wanted to change and rise above.  Godly sorrow brought me to my Heavenly Father and instilled a desire to be more like Him and leave my sins behind.

When my husband and I were asked to speak, we were encouraged to use the September 2013 Ensign which had some excellent articles on the Atonement, Grace and Mercy.  One talk in particular by Brad Wilcox titled “His Grace is Sufficient” was excellent. https://www.lds.org/ensign/2013/09/his-grace-is-sufficient?lang=eng  I read it over and over feeling like this was the talk I needed to learn and speak about.  Yet I still felt so bad and knew I was missing something.  I would get hung up on “doing my best” knowing that I was never really doing my best and that I could always do better.

The Lord continually taught me some very important and life-changing lessons during this time.  I learned of my inherent worth.  How anything I say or do does not change my divine worth.  I was previously worried that if I really believed this then I would be accepting mediocrity and just excusing my weaknesses and sins.  I was wrong-thank goodness I was wrong! As I’ve been learning of my (and everyone’s) unconditional worth, I am bursting with joy and happiness.  I am aware of my weaknesses and I’m sad when I mess up, but I don’t get hung up on these things.  I know in whom I trust (2nd Nephi 4:19).  I learned more of grace:  “Grace is not a booster engine that kicks in once our fuel supply is exhausted. Rather, it is our constant energy source. It is not the light at the end of the tunnel but the light that moves us through the tunnel. Grace is not achieved somewhere down the road. It is received right here and right now.” (Brad Wilcox)  With God’s grace I could rise above my mistakes and weaknesses.  I mess up daily and but I am continually trying to follow the Savior.  This has been a winding road with often two steps forward then a step or two back.  The weaknesses and sins are just part of the refining process and have shown me how very much I need my Savior.  His grace has allowed me to feel immense joy and love despite my troubles.  What glorious news-that I will never save myself but that my Savior will.  A huge burden started to lift.

I saw the light.  This light grew within me and yet I still felt held back by something.  I knew instinctively that the feeling I was having came from Satan.  It was as if there was a dark hand on my heart and it felt heavy like I wasn’t yet free.  I knew that because this was such a huge stumbling block in my life and was crucial to my progress (as well as something I needed to share) that the adversary was doing all he could to keep me down.  I was confused and wondered why I felt this darkness and what could I do to lift it.

I talked to my sister (who is amazing!) and she sent me this talk that seemed to be the last piece of the puzzle in preparation for my talk: http://speeches.byu.edu/?act=viewitem&id=251.  The talk comes from Elder Bednar and is about the enabling power of the atonement.  Wow-the Lord knew exactly what I needed to read and when.  I learned of the daily strength the atonement gives me.  I knelt in prayer asking for the Lord’s power to lift this darkness and to please save me.  The darkness left.  The Spirit brought to my mind times that the Lord’s strength was with me (having our 6th child, being called as young women’s president, sharing the gospel with someone dear to me).  These were things that I thought would be so hard but they weren’t-they were a great blessing to me.  Then I saw times in my life when the Lord wasn’t with me and I was left on my own (when I was engaged to the wrong man, going on a trip when I felt uneasy but ignored the feeling, sharing something with others out of guilt, and other times when things felt so hard-like I was walking through tar).  It was clear these were the times I didn’t have the Lord with me.  These were times I was doing something contrary to His will.  Sometimes they were “good” things, yet I realized they weren’t what I was supposed to be doing at the time and I forced my way through it-these experiences ended in disappointment and regret.

What a transforming experience the Lord gave me.  I look back and see He was guiding me all along-despite my fear and unbelief.  He has been showing me the truth and light in my life and how this all comes from Him.  He has also been showing me what does not come from Him.  What sweet relief!  I could earnestly pray again and open up to the Lord.  I wasn’t afraid.  I have been receiving His love and truth line upon line (Isaiah 28:10).  I receive according to the faith I have.  Perfect love casteth out all fear (John 4:18).  My love and faith is nowhere near perfect-but He is.  And I know in whom I trust (2 Nephi 4:19).  His grace is truly amazing.