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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Forgiveness

The past week or two, I’ve been feeling on edge. I couldn’t put my finger on it until last night. I had been feeling as fragile as glass and was quick to feel hurt and offended. I knew how I was feeling wasn’t right but I couldn’t seem to snap out of it.  I had been praying for help and was reminded last night how Heavenly Father hears our prayers. The answer may come after a lot of prayer and pondering, but the answer will come. He wants us to work through it, to help us learn and grow. Living through it has taught me priceless lessons. The key is to work through things WITH Him, not to try and figure it out alone. He wants to help us-and in eternal ways.

I’m on the sensitive side.  I can be hurt easily and I’ve tried to overcome this in life.  Someone once told me she chose one day not to be offended and since then she never is.  “Wow” I thought.  I couldn’t even imagine that. I’ve tried really hard to not let things get to me.  I’ve sadly even tried just living defensively-putting up walls so I don’t get hurt. Sometimes I’m full of love and nothing seems to get me down.  Yet sometimes I’m as fragile as glass and every little thing wears at me.

So I’ve been feeling easily hurt lately and last night my husband said something.  I quickly said, “What’s that supposed to mean?”  Feeling hurt before he even answered.  Poor guy.  And I looked at myself and thought, “What is wrong with me?! Why are all these things bothering me that before didn’t bother me at all?” And I wondered yet again why the past several days have felt heavy and achy.  Then my answer came.  It came and has been coming ever since.  There has been many “aha” and “oh yeah” moments.  Here I was trying not to feel hurt at what I thought was rather hurtful-then a thought came to my mind…”you’re trying to forgive all these wrongs-but what if there is nothing to forgive? What if you rewind to before you even feel hurt and remember there is nothing there to forgive?”

And I was reminded of a conversation I had with someone earlier in the week.  She asked how I didn’t have issues with someone over something that happened many years earlier.  For the most part, this wasn’t a problem for me.  I knew distance was best.  That I could feel love and no hard feelings at a distance.  But the moment I felt hard feelings-that was a problem.  It was clear to me that I would only be fooling myself if I harbored any resentment.  When I thought of “forgiving” this person, I even felt uncomfortable with it.  Because then I would be saying they “wronged” me and I couldn’t say that.  I felt compassion and concern for this person-and when I didn’t, I knew I was wrong.

I realized I had been feeling “wronged” the last couple of weeks.  The littlest things were bothering me, even old memories about a comment some guy made at a baseball game over a decade ago was bothering me! Left and right I felt hurt, it was like a snowball affect and when I would feel offended about one thing-there would be a dozen more things to feel hurt about.  Life was feeling so hard and painful. What I really needed to do was seek forgiveness for the resentment I was feeling.  I kept feeling hurt and wanted people to know how mean they were.  People need to know the suffering they cause!  I was trying to be the one to judge and exact justice-but only the Savior can do that.  He asks us to forgive all men always. He is the only one that knows everything about everyone.  He is the kindest judge there is, and reminds us how much we need to have mercy for others because oh how we need it ourselves.

Over the summer I had been thinking about forgiveness a lot.  And I believed there was nothing people could do that would justify me feeling bitter and withholding love and forgiveness-and I know feeling this kind of love toward people is a big reason why I experienced so much peace for a long time.  Yet I started to forget…I started to feel bad about this or that.  When I focus on how I was “wronged” I tie myself to it. And then I have to “forgive” to be released. That’s the hard way-the times I never feel wronged at all is sweet peace. When I think I’m taking the high road and mercifully forgiving someone-what I really need to do is ask for forgiveness for the resentment and unkindness on my part. The best way is to not even go to the hurt, resentful and feeling wronged place I go to. This helps me focus on the humanity of people-and keeps me feeling the love.  When I focus on how someone hurt me, the peace disappears.  That peace departing is the Spirit leaving, because I’m giving into the temptation of being offended and judging others.

Here are some quotes that have helped me on my journey, they come from “Bonds That Make Us Free”.  The chapter on forgiveness in this book is really, really good.

“As long as we see others as needing our forgiveness, we will continue regarding ourselves as their victim and will remain accusing still.  We live free of bondage of accusing, afflicted feelings only by ceasing to find and take offense.”

“Of all the initiatives people can take who feel a devastating wrong has been made them miserable, one stands above all others in effectiveness.  It is actually seeking forgiveness for having refused to forgive.  I have observed that when individuals have struggled for years to escape the effects of abuse and have tried everything they can think of to forgive their abuser, they rarely succeed.  The reason is that the forgiveness they aim to produce is a counterfeit to real forgiveness.  It could not be otherwise, because they continue to believe they have been offended.  But when they recognize that the wrongdoing has been theirs, good things start to happen-but not until then.”

“Forgiveness cannot be done from self-concern. It must be done for the truth’s sake, or to right a wrong, or out of compassion for those we previously condemned by our refusal to forgive.”

“We need to note one more element of genuine forgiveness.  Just prior to forgiving someone, we will have been finding him or her offensive.  But with forgiveness comes a realization of the offensiveness of this.  How accusing we must have appeared to that person!  Whatever he or she may have done that we previously found offensive has changed our memory of it…the past is not what we had thought.  Recently we had wondered whether we could forgive that person.  Now we wonder whether he or she can forgive us.”

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!