Sunday, December 28, 2008

Our First Guest Blogger!

Get excited, Everyone! We have our first guest blogger! I moved to a new state when I was 12 years old. I was a bit of a nerd (I wore a grand total of 3 different shirts), but there was a small group of girls who accepted me for who I was and became my friends. One of these remained my friend through high school and we reconnected shortly before I started this blog. She has always impressed me as a very kind and genuine person. Genuine people are very rare, in my opinion, and I feel very blessed to know her. I am and always will be very grateful for her support back then and now. Thanks, Nikki! This is her post.

Cheryl has graciously allowed me to be a guest blogger on this lovely joy-focused blog. Thanks Cheryl, I hope I can post something half as wonderful as you manage to do every week.

As I’ve gotten older I have noticed that there is a certain phrase that seems to come up in during conversation; usually when I am talking to the people who know me the best like my husband or my family. The phrase is typically some variation of, “Nikki, stop worrying so much,” or “Nik, you worry too much,” and “You’ve got to stop worrying.” You get the picture. I never really thought I was an anxious person (even though it is pretty obvious that I am) until I began to listen to what people were telling me. The more I got to think about it, the more it dawned on me, that it’s true. I am a worrier. This is not a fun realization, but, in my opinion, acknowledgment is an important first step towards calmness and peace.

Most of my anxious feelings are based in fear. Fear of what, I am not sure, but my guess is that it involves the fear of loss of control. I have an extremely active imagination, so I allow myself to imagine all of the worst-case scenarios of the things I fear. Recently, I have really tried to rework the way I think, so that I catch these thoughts before they become a full-fledged, worse-case scenario, catastrophe. Occasionally it is helpful. The problem is there is way too much in the world that I can’t control. So an important second step is for me to understand that I can’t control things I can’t control.

I am by no means an expert on this, but I thought I would share some of the things that have helped me reduce my urges to dwell in a state of anxiety. Hopefully this will also give you the opportunity to share what works for you (Cheryl did have a nice blog about holiday anxiety and there were some very helpful tips there as well).

o Practice makes perfect: Although I can’t control some of my life circumstances, I can control whether I let my imagination run wild with all of my anxiety provoking worse-case scenarios. As soon as I find myself imagining the worse-case situation, I have to tell myself to stop it. Literally, I tell myself to stop thinking that way. Maybe not out loud, but I do say it in my head to myself. Worrying will not help the situation, nor add any days to my life, so it is important to stop the thoughts before they run rampant in my head. Easier said than done, right? Well, I have found that the more I practice doing this the better it works and the less anxiety I have in the future. The problem is, though, I am not so good at practicing.

o A listening ear: Sharing my thoughts with others (meaning people I know and trust, or a professional counselor) helps me see how ridiculous my thinking can become. When I talk out my anxieties it also helps me to understand the root of my fear. In most cases the object of my anxiety isn’t the problem at all; it is usually something much more deep-seeded. Talking it out sometimes uncovers those deep-seeded fears. It allows me to acknowledge their existence, and therefore try and stop them when they surface.

o Prayer: In psychological research prayer (or meditation of any kind) has proven to contain a calming effect. I do find that I am calmed by the act of prayer. Prayer can mean different things to different people, and in my case I like to meditate on a Biblical verse or talk out my anxieties to God. Philippians 4:6-7 is my favorite Biblical inspiration to meditate on: “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

These are some important things I keep in mind when anxiety comes up; however, they are not sure fire. But I do see a difference when I try to incorporate these things into my life.

What are some things that work for you when you are faced with anxiety? Have any of the things I’ve mentioned worked for you as well? We can all learn from each other, so please pass on any nuggets of wisdom that you have to share.

If you would like to contact me about this blog entry, my name is Nikki and you can reach me at purlsbeforetwine (at) yahoo (dot) com.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Good Tidings of Great Joy

With Christmas only a few days away, I want to post about the Ultimate source of joy in my life--Jesus Christ. I don't know if all our readers share this faith in Him, but He is the source of all joy for me, so I want to share my thoughts and feelings with you here.

As I've been pondering this post the past couple weeks in my head, it occurred to me that Jesus Christ set the example in nearly all the things we've discussed on the blog. He showed us how to serve others, to develop faith, and to express gratitude. I know that if we follow the path He set while here on earth, as mapped out in the scriptures, it will lead us to joy--both in this life and in the life to come.

He also provides me joy by offering hope. Through His life, Atonement, death, and resurrection He provided a way for me to not only overcome death, but also to be with my family forever. I believe that if we live worthily we will remain united as a family unit throughout all eternity. I cannot fathom finding joy in the afterlife without my husband there by my side. My family is an amazing source of joy in this life; it makes perfect sense that our loving Heavenly Father would provide us a way to continue to abide in that same joy for all time.

This principle is especially important to me right now. My grandfather is very near to death. The thought of him not being there the next time I visit my grandma is a heartbreaking one, to say the least. However, I know that Jesus Christ provided a way for my grandpa to live forever. And I know that I will see him again one day and his body will be whole and healthy. So, even at this time of horrible pain I find immense joy in that knowledge. I am indescribably grateful to my Savior for the sacrifice He endured to make that possible. "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? (1 Corinthians 15:55)"

This is connected to yet another way that Jesus Christ provides me with joy. It is amazing to me that He endured all that He did on my behalf. I feel greatly aware of my many shortcomings and I know that He is also aware. And yet, He still provided a way for me to achieve these amazing blessings. Though I often forget, Jesus sends a powerful message with the gift He offers each of us--He believes in us. He has faith in me and in my ability to follow Him and endure well the challenges I face in life. He knows that I possess the ability to do all that He has asked me to do in order to be worthy of His gifts and to accomplish all that He desires me to.

In Ether 12: 27 (in the Book of Mormon), Jesus tells us, "If men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them."

I especially love the part where He says, "my grace is sufficient for all men (and women!)". I know this to be true, but I don't always remember it. I still doubt myself. I am often overwhelmed by this blog, for example. I believe that this blog is a part of what the Lord wants me to do in this life. But when I forget and think that I have to do it all by myself, I just want to curl up and cry. I want to write helpful, applicable things here. But I don't profess to be more capable of that than the next person. So, when I remember to be humble and turn to Him in prayer, He reminds me that this is indeed His work, and He is blessing me with the opportunity to assist. And He lives up to His promise to make up the difference for all that I lack.

I'm using the blog as my example, but that is a true principle in every aspect of my life. He completes my efforts as a wife and a mom and a friend and everything else. If I were to try to accomplish everything on my own, I cannot imagine succeeding very often. More importantly, I can't imagine finding the peace and hope necessary to experience joy in much or any of it.

So, as I ponder the meaning and reason behind Christmas, I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude and love for my Savior Jesus Christ. Suddenly, all the words in my vocabulary seem very small. Nothing can convey what I feel when I ponder His love and His mercy on my behalf. And I will strive this upcoming year to draw ever nearer to Him because I know that He is the Source of true and abiding joy.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Good Night, Moon

Wow! Thanks for all the advice (and sympathies) for dealing with stress. I'm cured! Well, maybe not quite. But I did throw together a get together with some friends last night without a single ounce of stress tainting the preparations. Let me add that HH was out of town from Thursday morning until 30 minutes before the party started. KN and BW were, of course, as helpful as a toddler and preschooler can be (translation: more of a hindrance then a help). So, I'm really proud of myself. But I did have a total meltdown the day before over a phone call. There is still a lot of room for progress.

Are you ready to help solve my next major problem?

I can't sleep.

Can anyone relate? Probably everyone? And being sleep-deprived is a MAJOR joy killer. So, how do you find a way to get some Z's?

For me, I'm pretty sure it's related to the stress thing. But I also have poor sleeping habits. I blame my genes and HH. When I met him I was going to bed early and then waking up between 6:30 and 7--without an alarm. I just felt rested. But he's sort of a night person. Definitely NOT a morning person. And instead of letting my good habits rub off on him, we went the other direction. The only problem is, I wake up early in the morning, every morning, and then can't go back to sleep--no matter how exhausted I am.

Because my brain is busy trying to sort and solve all the major issues going on in my life. Like what to do with the guilt I feel over all the phone calls I've needed to make since April (I hate making phone calls), what outfit to wear to the gym that day, debating whether or not to throw my daughter a "friend" birthday party, pondering how I'll ever muster the energy to take down the Christmas decorations, debating whether it's better to wrap the Christmas presents now, or to just keep trying to hide them in various places, trying to remember where I put the present I bought for HH last week... and I think you get the point.

Anyway, like I said, being tired makes finding joy a real challenge. A lot of times when I begin to sink into a depression, being tired is the main or only culprit. Even when I'm not depressed, fatigue still makes me cranky. I'm more prone to snapping at HH and my kids. And I don't like it. It just feels yucky. Inside and out.

I know I should be better about going to bed early, but I'm still working on being more disciplined. Does anyone else struggle with this? Any ideas for generating motivation to take care of myself? Does anyone else have the overactive brain problem? Have you found anything that helps you to shut it down? The other problem, is that I can pretty much always think of something that seems more urgent than the sleep. At night that is either cleaning my house or spending time with HH. In the morning that includes studying the scriptures, cleaning my house, organizing my shopping list, returning emails, etc. Sleep is always one of the last priorities, even though I know it's important. Has anyone else needed to make a similar priority shift?

And what about the times when you can't avoid being a little sleep-deprived, like when your child gets sick in the middle of the night and keeps you up until dawn? Why do kids always get sick in the middle of the night? Okay, you don't really have to help with that one, but does anyone have advice for keeping the nasties away when you are tired? Any tips for regaining that ever-elusive patience?

The other thing about fatigue is that I'm less capable of eliminating and/or dealing with stress in my life. When I'm tired, it's kind of like I gather in all the possible stresses around me and clutch them tightly to my bosom. Why? I don't know. But when I'm tired, that's what I do. And it's SO STRESSFUL! But I feel incapable of letting go of any of it. Yet I'm way too tired to actually deal with it and work through it. But I'm too stressed to sleep. And so the vicious cycle continues. Does this sound familiar to anyone else? Or am I just the freak of nature that HH thinks I am? He is a grrreat sleeper. Anytime, anywhere. I'm not jealous.

I hope you don't feel that I've turned this into my own personal self-help board. It's just that stress and sleep-deprivation go hand in hand in my life and they've both been playing lead roles lately. And I'm plumb tuckered out. And I figure I'm probably not the only one dealing with these things. And when you're exhausted, it's harder to find and appreciate the joy in your life. At least it is for me.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

'Tis the Season

Well, thank you for indulging me in our month of gratitude. I just hope I can hold onto the change it made in my daily life to focus a little more on being grateful, expressing it, and keeping the balance with Random Acts of Kindness.

But it's time to move on. Where to go after discussing gratitude--a great joy provider? Naturally, stress was the first thing that came to my mind, it being a great joy remover after all. Actually, I just figured it was probably a prominent figure in a few other peoples' lives right now and not just mine.

All year long I look forward to this time of year. But since becoming an "adult", sometimes I let the stress and pressures overwhelm the excitement and general feeling of goodness. I want to find everyone on my list the perfect gift while staying within a *reasonable* budget, get my Christmas cards out before Presidents Day, make the most delectable dessert at the party, explain to HH why we need to get a hostess gift and then go out and find a suitable one, etc. And then there's the small day-to-day stresses like getting both kids dressed in their snow gear before the "potty trained" one needs to go again, not spinning out of control while driving on slick roads, keeping one eye constantly glued on the Christmas tree to ensure that it doesn't get pulled over, the ornaments stay put, and the presents below remain unopened, and--you get the picture. And I know you all deal with stresses of your own. So, it's easy to understand why we sometimes lose that "Holiday Cheer".

I understand it, but I don't like it. I feel cheated when that happens because I'm missing out on potential fun and JOY. Not fair. HH refers to me as a "stress case" year-round, so you can imagine what I'm like these days. But, I repeat, I DON'T LIKE IT. Well, I don't. So, I'm trying to get beyond it this year. I try the breathing and/or visualization exercises, but then a little stress peaks through and before I know it, I'm totally distracted away from the relaxing and focused on the stress.

So, what do you do? I think achieving and maintaining the proper perspective (i.e. she'll probably like the doll with the pink hat just as much as the one with the purple hat, so don't ponder it for 25 min. while BW screams for lunch) is very effective at eliminating some stress. Does anyone have good advice on how to actually do that? What about staying cheery even amidst the necessary stresses?

I used to be a pretty mellow and relaxed person but then it was like a switch flipped and now I get panicked over just about everything. I'd really like to go back to the relaxed me so I'd appreciate any advice you have on this one.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Gracious Gratitude

I hope you all had a fabulous Thanksgiving Weekend. We definitely did. And I really enjoyed last week's personal challenge. It had an unexpected result in my own life.

I have a tendency to talk a lot. Then I leave and I wish I wouldn't have said so much. So, for the last few years, I've been trying to talk less and be a better listener. Last week I was so intent on keeping the balance between RAK's received and RAK's given that I kept my mouth shut more in order to listen to learn how I could help each individual I interacted with. It was so great! I'm not saying that I've made a perfect change over night, but it's definite progress. I also enjoyed several really cool experiences of being in the right place at the right time. It felt so good to not be thinking about myself all the time and to have a part in putting a smile on someone else's face. This is definitely one challenge that I'm going to keep making into a habit.

I had no idea how I was going to post yet another post about Gratitude. Then my sister shared this wonderful story with me and gave me the necessary inspiration:

(For anyone who doesn't know, a "bishop" in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the leader over a congregational unit. Just like all other assignments in the church, this is temporary and is referred to as a "calling". When the time of service is over, it's called being "released".)

"Random acts of kindness really have the ability to restore my faith in mankind, like you talked about. Lately, I've been so bogged down in my own world of troubles that I haven't even been paying attention to others and what needs they might have. Last night, though, I was the recipient of a RAK (a huge one) and it made me think about how many times I may have passed up an opportunity to help someone else. Then I looked at your blog today, and wow, what a coincidence.

"Here's the story: Our bishop who was released a couple of weeks ago, told me last week that his brother had an organ for sale if I was interested. I was recently called as our ward organist, and since I'm just learning how to play, I was really interested. That is, until we looked at our finances, and realized we couldn't afford it. So we never called his brother or did anything about it, and I was a little sad, but really I was ok with it since we didn't need it or anything anyway.

"Well, last night, this same kind man calls us up and says he has an organ to deliver to us. He had paid his brother for it for us. He also said that if we want to pay him back, to just pay it back to the Church's missionary fund. I was stunned.

"At first I felt so guilty because I thought, we're not destitute, and with a little bit of stretching, we probably could have afforded it. And it's not like I really needed that organ, I already own a nice piano and I've just been practicing the organ at the church during the week. I mean, why me? Why did he give it to me? Then I called my mom, because I didn't see how I could possibly accept this gift. Yet how could I say no? That would have definitely hurt the giver, which wouldn't accomplish anything anyway. And my mom shared some wisdom with me (that she'd shared before and I'd forgotten), she said, "Amy, you can choose guilt or gratitude. You can shoose to feel really guilty for receiving this gift, or you can be really really grateful to the giver." By the time Br. Jensen showed up with the organ, I'd decided on gratitude. I can never repay him, but I can be really grateful. And I can choose to be more like that."

Thanks, Amy. And Mom. I'm so grateful to have an older sister that I can still look up to and learn from even though we're both adults. I'm also grateful to have a mom that gives such great advice. I think this is a really important lesson for us to learn in this life--how to accept gifts and service from others. Especially when the gift is overwhelmingly big or great.

So, how do you get over feelings of guilt or being undeserving? Sometimes it's my pride that gets in the way, does that happen to anyone else? Have you ever been on the giving side of a situation like this? Any suggestions on how to make it easier for someone to accept your gift? Sometimes it helps to look at a situation from the other side, so maybe putting yourself in the giver's shoes would help you as the receiver.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Paying It Forward

I keep forgetting to check the email account So, if you do send me an email, please leave a little comment here telling me to check it. I'm still waiting for all you guest bloggers! Thanks!

So, I might have spoken too soon about having a "Gratitude" theme for all of November. I mean, it's a key principle on our path to abiding joy--but how many different points can be made on it? I've been racking my brain all week and coming up totally empty. So, I prayed about it this morning and felt like I should just keep my ears open at church. Well, guess what the theme was in Sacrament Meeting today--Gratitude. That makes complete sense since Thanksgiving is on Thursday, but as soon as I heard that, I felt a wave of relief and knew I would be inspired by something someone said. And I was. Although, I don't remember which speaker, or what they said exactly. Mommy brain, what else can I say?

This might be a little bit of a stretch, but I feel that today's topic should be expressing gratitude through paying it forward. The basic gist of this being that if someone provides you with a gift or service, you thank them by doing something for someone else. And then, ideally, they do something for another person, so on and so on. What a great way to spread joy!

Sometimes it feels like the world is a really hate-filled place. It seems like so many terrible things take place because of some one's anger or frustration. When I get caught up in thoughts like these, I feel pain at the thought of my children going through life with all that surrounding them. So, the idea of paying it forward is an excellent one to me. I know our readership (is that a word?) is small, but think of what great things could happen if a lot of people started practicing this? More of us would be serving each other and spreading love and joy. And the great thing about love and joy is that they have the capacity to grow exponentially. The more you give, the more you have, and the more there is to give.

I don't know if I've overwhelmed you with my challenges this month, but I won't be issuing one this week. I am going to try to keep track of the number of things other people do for or give me each day this week and then pass along the favor to someone else. I think I'll just keep a simple tally on a piece of paper. Who knows, maybe I'll try to do more service than I receive. I'm excited to see how it goes and I invite anyone else who wants to, to join me!

And this is a little random, but I just have to say that one of the Random Acts of Kindness that I most appreciate is when someone gets the door for me when I'm pushing a stroller--especially the double stroller. I can get through a door by myself, but it is so nice to have some one's help. And when someone does that for me, it really makes me want to help someone else in return.

What are your favorite RAK's? Have you ever tried to "pay it forward"? Are you going to join with me in keeping track of what you receive and what you give this week?


Sunday, November 16, 2008

A Thankful Heart is a Happy Heart

I hope no one minds, but I decided since it's that time of year, I'll just stick to the "Gratitude" theme for all of November. I really feel strongly that finding things to be thankful for in our lives is one of the keys to finding abiding joy. I'm reminded of a story in The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. She and her sister Betsy were in a concentration camp during World War II. Betsy told Corrie that she was grateful for the fleas that afflicted them constantly there. That is incomprehensible to me, but Betsy was grateful for them because they kept the Nazi guards away from them and the sisters were able to enjoy a little more freedom. If you have not read the book, I highly recommend it. It is beyond inspiring. Corrie was able to rise above everything that came her way without anger and self-pity. And being able to find gratitude for something as miserable as fleas probably had something to do with that.

So, to keep our focus on gratitude, I have another challenge. I know you're all excited. This week's goal is to begin a "Gratitude Journal". Thanks to my mom, I started one the day after Christmas last year. It has been an eye opening experience and a blessing in and of itself. Some days I have many things to write about and other days, when I'm in a bad mood, I have to sit and think for a while--but I have never had a day without something to be thankful for. The greatest blessing of it has been to see how much God is a part of my life. Often I will notice that a decision I make one day will allow something wonderful to happen several days later--a connection I never would have made on my own and I know God is enlightening my mind.

For example, last week KN and I were given the opportunity to see the Rockettes in NYC. I didn't really feel like going because we had a lot of stuff going on already that day and it is a hassle to travel there, but I found myself agreeing to go anyway. Even as I was driving there I was questioning why we were doing this and regretting the decision. We enjoyed the show but my breathing became very painful about halfway through it. We stayed with my parents that night. Had I been at my own home, I probably wouldn't have gone to a doctor because that is such a hassle with two small children. But because we were at my parents' home and my mom made all the arrangements and watched my kids for me, I went to the doctor and was diagnosed with pre-pneumonia. The doctor said I was very lucky to have come in so early and that they've been having some more serious cases of pneumonia in this area. I feel so blessed to have had such a mild case that I easily and rapidly got over. I am grateful to my mom for all her help and to my Heavenly Father because I believe He influenced my decision to go.

And things like that have happened time and time again. I'm sure I would have realized some of them, but certainly not as much as I do when I sit and reflect at the end of every day at the blessings it brought. And it's hard to not have my mood brightened when I recognize and appreciate the good things that happened to me.

So, feel free to share anything good that happens to you. And how searching for something to be grateful for, even when it seems like there is nothing, helps you find joy.

My mom sent me this and I thought it was applicable here. Thanks Mom!

Gratitude First by Joseph Walker

Now, keep in mind that I’m talking about a candy necklace here — nothing special at all. It was just a stringy loop of elastic with multi-colored candies strung around it. I had handed some of them to the ten-year-olds to whom I had been teaching Old Testament stories for the past year (what, you don’t see the connection between candy necklaces and the Old Testament?), and I had an extra one.

Kayla is quite special indeed. She has long dark hair. Gorgeous eyes. A beautiful smile. The sweetest voice you’ve ever heard. And she’s six. In all the world there is nothing so wonderfully adorable as a six-year-old girl.

Which is probably why I gave the necklace to her. I’m a sucker for that stuff.

When I slipped the necklace into her hand she smiled that beautiful smile of hers, and I considered myself adequately thanked. Then I settled back to enjoy the church meeting. As enthralling as church was that day, I did notice a couple of things about Kayla. For one thing, although she wore the candy necklace around her neck, I didn’t see her actually eating the candy. By way of comparison, my son Jon had his necklace consumed and was asking for more before we sang the final “Alleluia” in the opening hymn. The other thing I noticed was that she seemed quite intent on something she was drawing. I couldn’t see it, but whatever it was it certainly had her attention—so much so that she paid almost no attention to the candy strung around her neck.

When the service ended I stood to leave. Then I noticed something small and cute in the aisle beside me. It was Kayla. She didn’t say a word. She just handed a piece of paper to me. It was the picture that she had been working on throughout the meeting. It showed a tall stick figure man with glasses and most of his hair, holding a candy necklace in his hand. Next to him was a shorter stick figure girl with long dark hair, gorgeous eyes, and a beautiful smile. Over her head was a cartoon balloon with these words: “Thank you.”

It was a lovely gift and a marvelous work of art—far more valuable than the candy bauble I had presented to her. As I thanked her for her gift, I noticed that she was finally starting to eat the candy that I had given to her.

“It looks like your Daddy wouldn’t let you eat your candy until after church,” I observed.
She shook her head seriously. “I could eat it,” she said, shyly. “I just wanted to say ‘thank you’ first.”

I was touched by the gesture and inspired by her message. It was so important to her to say “thank you” that she couldn’t really enjoy the treat until she had expressed her gratitude.
That’s why there’s a new piece of art in the gallery that is beginning to fill the nooks and crannies of my office. Kayla’s picture is the first to be so enshrined that wasn’t created by one of my offspring. I’m including it as a way of reminding me to be grateful.


Sunday, November 9, 2008

Time to Give Thanks!

I know we already had a post about Gratitude, but it is November and only a few weeks before Thanksgiving, so I thought it was a good opportunity to re-visit the subject. But this post is going to be a little different. I do believe that focusing on gratitude is one of the best ways to create abiding joy in our lives. So, this week's post comes in the form of a challenge, or assignment, if you will.

Let us all send a note of gratitude and appreciation to at least one person this week. Then, if you don't mind, please share about it here. You can tell what you appreciate about the person(s) you thanked, or their response, or if writing and delivering the note had any positive effect on you. I expect it will because expressing gratitude always makes me feel happier. It's kind of like a higher form of a compliment.

So, go out and be grateful!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Creating Joy

I hope you all had a fun week sharing compliments with those around you! Thank you for your insight and examples of both sharing and receiving compliments.

You may remember that about a month ago, I referenced a talk given by President Dieter Uchtdorf (of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). In it he spoke about "two principles that may help you find a path to peace, hope, and joy—even during times of trial and distress." They are creating and compassion. We talked about compassion and service already. This week I would like to discuss "creating".

If you would like to read his talk in its entirety, click here. I highly recommend it. I love the way he speaks! This is what President Uchtdorf said specifically about creating:

"The Work of Creation
The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul. No matter our talents, education, backgrounds, or abilities, we each have an inherent wish to create something that did not exist before.

Everyone can create. You don’t need money, position, or influence in order to create something of substance or beauty.

Creation brings deep satisfaction and fulfillment. We develop ourselves and others when we take unorganized matter into our hands and mold it into something of beauty—and I am not talking about the process of cleaning the rooms of your teenage children.

You might say, “I’m not the creative type. When I sing, I’m always half a tone above or below the note. I cannot draw a line without a ruler. And the only practical use for my homemade bread is as a paperweight or as a doorstop.”

If that is how you feel, think again, and remember that you are spirit daughters of the most creative Being in the universe. Isn’t it remarkable to think that your very spirits are fashioned by an endlessly creative and eternally compassionate God? Think about it—your spirit body is a masterpiece, created with a beauty, function, and capacity beyond imagination.

But to what end were we created? We were created with the express purpose and potential of experiencing a fulness of joy.4 Our birthright—and the purpose of our great voyage on this earth—is to seek and experience eternal happiness. One of the ways we find this is by creating things.

If you are a mother, you participate with God in His work of creation—not only by providing physical bodies for your children but also by teaching and nurturing them. If you are not a mother now, the creative talents you develop will prepare you for that day, in this life or the next.

You may think you don’t have talents, but that is a false assumption, for we all have talents and gifts, every one of us.5 The bounds of creativity extend far beyond the limits of a canvas or a sheet of paper and do not require a brush, a pen, or the keys of a piano. Creation means bringing into existence something that did not exist before—colorful gardens, harmonious homes, family memories, flowing laughter.

What you create doesn’t have to be perfect. So what if the eggs are greasy or the toast is burned? Don’t let fear of failure discourage you. Don’t let the voice of critics paralyze you—whether that voice comes from the outside or the inside.

If you still feel incapable of creating, start small. Try to see how many smiles you can create, write a letter of appreciation, learn a new skill, identify a space and beautify it.

Nearly a century and a half ago, President Brigham Young spoke to the Saints of his day. “There is a great work for the Saints to do,” he said. “Progress, and improve upon and make beautiful everything around you. Cultivate the earth, and cultivate your minds. Build cities, adorn your habitations, make gardens, orchards, and vineyards, and render the earth so pleasant that when you look upon your labors you may do so with pleasure, and that angels may delight to come and visit your beautiful locations. In the mean time continually seek to adorn your minds with all the graces of the Spirit of Christ.”6

The more you trust and rely upon the Spirit, the greater your capacity to create. That is your opportunity in this life and your destiny in the life to come. Sisters, trust and rely on the Spirit. As you take the normal opportunities of your daily life and create something of beauty and helpfulness, you improve not only the world around you but also the world within you."

I love this concept in relation to joy. He is right, everyone has the ability to create something. And something of worth. I know of at least three photographers who read this blog and I think all of their work is amazing! I've always admired and envied my older sister's piano ability. When she plays it seems so effortless and amazing. My brother's wives made my little sister's wedding cake and I SO wished they had done mine. It was incredibly beautiful. My little sister just created a huge change in the way scholarships are handled at her university. I would have never had the gumption to put forth the effort she had to to accomplish that. Right now I have a cute Frankenstein hanging out in my window that was painted by my mom years ago. She used to tole paint a lot and I absolutely love all the things she created to decorate our home. Okay, so obviously, I could go on and on. The point is, I can think of so many different things that those of you that I know have and can create. Even when it's hard. This blog isn't something I ever imagined creating, but here it is. Of course, I am lucky because I have all of your help in doing this!

The two points that really stuck out to me about finding joy through creation are:

1. Don't worry so much about the outcome. Even if it ends up like "burnt toast" on the first, second, or tenth try, you still grow from it. And you can still enjoy it! Especially if you have a sense of humor about it like President Uchtdorf. I made my kids Halloween costumes this year. They ended up being A LOT more work than I anticipated and they didn't turn out as well as I had hoped, but I still enjoyed the process. And I was really proud of myself in the end because anything involving sewing is quite a stretch for me. And the kids absolutely loved the costumes and didn't care one bit about the imperfections.

2. I'm just going to quote this again-- "Nearly a century and a half ago, President Brigham Young spoke to the Saints of his day. “There is a great work for the Saints to do,” he said. “Progress, and improve upon and make beautiful everything around you. Cultivate the earth, and cultivate your minds. Build cities, adorn your habitations, make gardens, orchards, and vineyards, and render the earth so pleasant that when you look upon your labors you may do so with pleasure, and that angels may delight to come and visit your beautiful locations. In the mean time continually seek to adorn your minds with all the graces of the Spirit of Christ.”" I love that. I think it speaks for itself.

So, what types of things do you create? What creations bring you joy? Have the creations of others brought you joy?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

I Think You Are Great!

First I want to mention that I created an email account specifically for this blog (thanks for the idea, Belky!). You can send me messages at If you are interested in being a guest blogger, please use this address!

Next I wanted to mention something I came across while reading the Ensign this week that related to last Sunday's topic. It was last July's issue. There was an article that reminded me of the experience of Paul. He asked the Lord to remove an unspecified "thorn in the flesh", but the Lord did not. Instead He told Paul, "My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). What a great reminder/example of having unwavering faith and the blessings for doing so!

Now for this week's topic--paying compliments. This is something that has been on my mind lately because KN has recently started offering unsolicited compliments. It has been interesting to witness first hand the compliments and how they are received, and yet be uninvolved. For example, one day we were walking out of our gym as a woman was walking in and KN stated emphatically, "I like your belt!" We have never seen this woman before so both she and I were a little surprised, but I could see in her face how much she appreciated this genuine compliment from such an unexpected source. And I experienced it myself yesterday when she said, "These are wonderful pancakes, Mommy!" while eating pumpkin pancakes I made for breakfast. The other thing I've noticed while watching these exchanges is the smile on KN's face when she sees the smile on the other persons face. There isn't necessarily a smile when she delivers the compliment, but there is always a smile after she realizes that she made the other person happier.

Compliments do, of course, feel great to receive. But we can't control how or when we are complimented, so that is not a good plan for increasing joy. What we can control is how often and how sincerely we compliment others. I don't know if any of you are like me, but I have been guilty many times of thinking a compliment in my head so many times without ever sharing it. Why?! I'll see a friend and think, "Wow! I LOVE her haircut!" and then keep it to myself. Silly. It always feels good to tell someone something nice about themselves. So, several months ago, I made a commitment to myself to express every compliment I think. That's really easy when it's someone I know, but for some reason it's still a struggle when it's a stranger. But every time I've followed through, I've felt better after. It's fun to make people smile. And compliments always make people smile.

I think women in general used to be more connected to each other. But now we put up invisible walls and second guess ourselves around each other. We always wonder what the other woman will think if we reach out. So, how often do we just dismiss the thought and pass up on the opportunity to brighten some one's day? What are we afraid of? That some woman is going to think less of you for telling her she has a really cute outfit, or that you love her hairstyle? Probably not. It hasn't happened to me yet. So far, I've only seen smiles and gratitude in response and I feel better about myself afterward, too. And, at least for a moment, I feel a little more connected to someone.

Pretty much all of the women I know are amazing. And yet, we are so hard on ourselves. So, let's help each other out a bit by expressing to one another all the good we see. I have a friend who always makes me smile and feel happier, just from being with her. So, I wrote her a note to tell her how much I admire and appreciate that. I have other friends who are incredible moms and so many women that are great examples to me in all areas and walks of life. I need to tell them! So, my challenge to you this week is to let go of inhibitions and start building each other up. Don't hold back. Look for things to appreciate in each other because they're there.

And get excited because here is one thing that will bring you joy and it's so easy, even a 3 1/2 year old can do it!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Have a Little Faith

As you can probably guess from the title, this post is about faith. I will be sharing some of my beliefs because that is what I know. I look forward to learning how your faith helps you to find comfort and joy.

I think every study ever done on the subject has shown that having faith in something helps people be happier. Even those with depression and anxiety. You can click on the link titled "Faith" on the side and it will take you to one such study, detailing the effect of faith on people dealing with stress.

When I'm going through a trial, faith is always what sees me through. Sometimes I forget and try to do it alone, but I always end up feeling discouraged and overwhelmed. Becky made reference to a talk by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland called "Abide in Me". It made a deep impression on me when I first read it and that was actually the inspiration for the title of our blog. In it he quotes John 15:1, 4, 5 where Christ said, “I am the true vine, and … ye are the branches.” “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.”

He continues, "“Abide in me” is an understandable and beautiful enough concept in the elegant English of the King James Bible, but “abide” is not a word we use much anymore. So I gained even more appreciation for this admonition from the Lord when I was introduced to the translation of this passage in another language. In Spanish that familiar phrase is rendered “permaneced en mi.” Like the English verb “abide,” permanecer means “to remain, to stay,” but even gringos like me can hear the root cognate there of “permanence.” The sense of this then is “stay—but stay forever.” "

I love that concept. I can't imagine anything greater. When my life is going well, it's fairly easy to stay faithful in Christ. And having that faith definitely brings me joy. I know that God loves me and is blessing my life and that makes me happy. I appreciate all that I have that much more because I know that they come from God. It also gives me hope for eternal life with God, my Savior, and my family. What could bring more joy than that?

So why is it that when I'm facing something difficult I try to do it on my own or even get frustrated with God and my Savior? I have a few theories, but that's not really the point. The point is, when I turn toward Them and pray for help, guidance, and comfort, it always comes. I believe that our Savior experienced all our trials and therefore knows not only how we feel, but how to comfort and heal us. I believe it because I've experienced it.

My problem is that I sometimes just want Him to take my trial away. I often look at my life and I think I could do so much more if I never experienced depression. I try to remember that we have to have trials in order to grow. My children would never learn to walk if I didn't let them try, even though the trying results in a lot of hard work and even a lot of falls and maybe some bruises. But I let them fall and get up and try again because I love them and I want them to grow and develop. So it is with us. Fortunately, even though He may not remove our trials He can make them easier to endure. And having faith in Him gives me hope. I have hope that I am gaining valuable experience from my trials; I have hope that I can endure my trials well; I have hope that I will be able to receive all that the Father has promised. Without faith, there is not hope. And without hope, I'm not sure that there can be true joy either.

Why can't I always remember that and have unwavering faith? I don't know. I guess there's still a lot of room for growth for me. How do you stay focused on your faith all the time? How do you change your perspective when you feel like life isn't fair? What helps you to abide in your faith at all times? How does your faith enhance your joy? How does your faith help you to find joy even in the midst of trial?

In closing, I want to share a verse from the Book of Alma in the Book of Mormon. It's in chapter 33, verse 23. The prophet Alma is finishing a wonderful discourse on faith and closes with these words "And then may God grant unto you that your burdens may be light, through the joy of his Son. And even all this can ye do if ye will."

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Joy in the Journey

Thank you all so much! I really appreciate the feedback and encouragement. I'm trying to incorporate your advice and suggestions.

I am so excited about the response for guest bloggers! I have contemplated posting my email, but I hesitate because this is an open blog. We have readers from all over the place! I think that is fantastic, but since I don't know everyone, I'm nervous. So, I'll keep thinking about that one. For now, just let me know in a comment if you are ready to be a guest blogger and then, if we don't already have each other's email address, we'll figure something out.

I've decided to post every Sunday (probably at night) instead of Mondays and Thursdays, as was suggested. It's been difficult to find the time to do it during the week and we'll have more time to discuss.

As far as comments on past topics, I set it up so that I will be notified if anyone comments on a post from 8 or more days ago. If that happens, I will let you know.

Someone requested a discussion about enjoying the journey and not just focusing on the destination. Since that goes right along with the overall theme of the blog, I thought that was a great idea! What are the things that you do daily to capitalize on the joy in your life?

Here is some excellent advice from prophet President Thomas S. Monson--"Finding Joy in the Journey". If you only have time to read one thing, read that.

If you have more time, here are some of my suggestions:

Laughter. This one is a no-brainer. Laughing makes you feel better all over. Laughing when things don't go as planned is especially helpful for me. I am a planner and so when things don't go as planned, that can really blind me from the joy in life. My husband is making calzones as I type. We've always used grated cheese in the past, but I noticed that his mom's recipe says to use sliced cheese. That seems a lot easier and less messy, so I bought a ball of mozzarella instead of shredded. I just walked in to find the whole thing freshly grated by my sweet HH. I just laughed and walked away. Obviously, that's a really small example, but it just happened so that's what came to mind. Looking for reasons to laugh is a great way to enjoy the journey.

Playing with children. This one is easy for me since I'm with my two kids all day. But even if you don't have kids of your own, borrow one or two and get playing. (Mine are up for grabs if you can't find any). Follow their lead. Children always make you feel special and appreciated. They take joy in small and simple things. They love to be silly. They're so stinkin' cute! They know that dressing up like a cowboy/princess/chef is WAY more important than vacuuming the living room. And really, it is. For maximum joy finding, combine this with the aforementioned laughter. There is nothing better than sharing a great big belly laugh with a little child. Nothing.

Gratitude. I know I already mentioned this, but it's true. A thankful heart is a happy heart. Be grateful for the small things around you. I really appreciated what Amy said about being thankful to Heavenly Father. When I remember to express gratitude to Him for my blessings, I can feel His love for me even stronger. Knowing that God loves and cares about me enough to bless me with so many great things brings me the greatest joy and peace.

Stop and smell the roses. And look at them. And touch them. And fully appreciate them. Yesterday we drove to the Boston Temple. As you probably know, New England is kind of famous for beautiful fall foliage. This year seems to be the most beautiful since we moved here. So, yesterday's drive was spectacular, to say the least. But every so often, I would realize I was too caught up in what was going on inside the car that I hadn't really looked outside in a while. And I felt so disappointed for the beauty I had most certainly missed! Fortunately, the trees are abundant here, so there were still beautiful sights to see. I just wanted to make sure I saw and appreciated them all since this only lasts a few weeks a year.

Occasionally as we drove (it's kind of a long drive), I thought about how ugly the highway and cell phone towers were in the midst of all the beauty.Fortunately, I was a lot more focused on the trees than the other ugly sights.

So, I learned two life lessons in reflecting on that. 1. Don't get so caught up inside myself. Remember to look outside and focus on the great people and things surrounding me. And 2. No matter where we are or what we are doing, we can find both beauty and ugliness. We get to choose what to focus on. I know I often get so caught up in the yuckiness of the trials or even daily chores that I forget to lift my eyes to the beauty and joy around me. And then when I do, I'm amazed at how I could have not noticed all the amazingly joyful things I'm surrounded by every day. Just a simple shift in focus opens us up to so much joy!

Take a Break for Fun. I think women tend to think that they have to do everything on their to-do list before they can take care of themselves. Not true. I am very goal-oriented. When I start something, I feel I should just keep trudging along until it's done. Whatever the task, that's the way I'm inclined to tackle it. Even when we go hiking, I don't like to stop for breaks. I just want to get to the top. That's a great example in enjoying the journey, right?! My HH is not like this. He likes to take frequent breaks from whatever he's doing. That drove me crazy when we first got married. I would be in the middle of sweeping the floor and he would want to dance with me. Sounds cute, right? It took me a while to see it that way. And to realize that it was better his way. There are probably enough items on all of our "to-do" lists to keep us busy long past when we're dead. If you don't take breaks for fun, or even schedule it in, you'll never get to it.

Spread Loving kindness. I got this one from the book Happy for No Reason. I really recommend that book. The basic gist of this is to mentally send love and kindness to all those around you. I don't always remember to do it and I have to be in the right mood, too. But whenever I do it, it always puts a smile on my face and I feel so much more peace and joy within. The first time I read it, I thought it sounded ridiculous, so I don't blame you if that's what you're thinking. But give it a shot before you discount it. I like to do it when I'm driving. Everyone around me always seems so stressed out and in such a hurry. So, I like to mentally wish them all well. I feel so much more connected to other people when I do this. And like I said, I can't help but smile and feel better about everyone around me. Then instead of being annoyed with the guy who illegally passes me for going 30 mph in a residential neighborhood, I feel bad that he feels so rushed and I hope he makes it to his destination safely.

Anyway, these are just a few basic ways that I try to find joy in the everyday things and to remember that this life is all about the journey and how we choose to travel it. Thanks for the suggestion, it's been a great reminder for me! I can't wait to hear your ideas!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A Work in Progress

So, usually I know at least a day or two before my next post what the topic will be. An idea strikes and then it just keeps flowing. But this time, no matter how hard I tried, nothing fit. I have this ever-growing list of post ideas so that I never come up short, but even after reading through that a few times, I still couldn't get anything to feel "right". I was even considering not posting today so that it didn't feel forced. But I didn't feel good about that either.

Then I felt like I should check the blog to see if there were new comments. And there were! As I was reading the comment by "Anonymous", I finally figured out what this post is supposed to be about. It's about making this blog better.

I've been trying to figure out a good way to say this for a while--basically, I would like you to comment more. I've already talked about how important it is for everyone to comment so that we all have more ideas and perspectives to learn from.

Another reason I wish you commented more is to help me with the blog. I don't want to make anyone feel pressured to comment, I just want you to feel more free to do so. I know you have thoughts and ideas, please share them! Sometimes I have a comment for a blog, but I hesitate to post it because I don't want anyone to think it's dumb or that I comment too often, or whatever. But then I remember how much I love to get comments and so I try to go ahead and post mine.

The thing is, it's hard for me to know if this is helping without your comments. When no one comments for a couple days, I start to wonder how effective this is. I worry that people will read this more because they feel like they should to support me than because it is helping them. I don't want this to be another item on your "to-do" list. I want feedback on the topics themselves, not me. Also, don't worry about trying to come up with something profound or insightful, just share your thoughts. If I always tried to be profound and insightful, my posts would be a whole lot shorter!

I also would like your suggestions on how to make this better for you. Are there any topics you would like to see discussed here? Does anyone want to be a guest blogger? Would you like me to comment specifically on each of your comments? Is twice a week a good frequency for the posts? Do you want a new background? I do. I just haven't found time for it yet. Basically, what can I do to make it easier for you to comment?

To those of you who have commented--thank you! Please keep them coming. I have been brought to tears many times from the messages you've shared. I'm amazed at what you've been through and how you deal with it. You've strengthened me just as I hoped.

Monday, October 6, 2008

A Gratitude Attitude

First I just want to send out a great big "Thank You!" to those of you who have linked this blog to your blog and especially all those who have posted about this blog on your blog. I am touched and grateful for it. The more people reading and commenting, the more we all benefit. So, thanks.

On that note, today's topic is Gratitude. I think I already mentioned that I feel very guided in how I do this blog. The idea for this post came to me on Thursday. As I mentioned last Monday, this is the time of year that the leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake speak to all of us all over the world. Last weekend was just for the women and this weekend was for everyone. I couldn't believe how many of the speakers talked about both joy and gratitude. It was amazing. I took notes as best as I could, but it's hard with two little ones running around begging to be played with and read stories to. But repeatedly, I felt very strongly that "gratitude" was the best topic for today.

Like service, gratitude forces us to rise above ourselves and notice the rest of the world. And anything that does that, helps us to close our eyes on our own worries and concerns and opens them to whatever joy surrounds us. Sometimes I have a hard time shutting off negative thoughts in the middle of the night. One method I've used to find peace (and hopefully sleep) is to list off as many things as I can think of to be grateful for. I've never run out of things to list. The best part of being grateful is the revelation of love that comes with it. Love from the people in our lives and all they are doing for us and most especially, love from our Heavenly Father as evidenced by the abundant blessings in each life. And feeling loved is one of the greatest sources of joy.

Some of the things I am grateful for include (not necessarily in order of importance):

  • A loving Father in Heaven
  • The life and Atonement of Jesus Christ
  • My faith
  • My amazing HH who has never ending patience with me in all my struggling
  • My adorable and healthy children
  • Wonderful parents and siblings
  • Fantastic in-laws
  • A healthy body
  • Gooey brownies
  • Sunsets
  • Laughter
  • Girl friends
  • Autumn
  • An amazing and beautiful country where I am free to do and say as I believe
  • Music of all kinds

One final thought on gratitude--Express it! Who hasn't had a bad day completely turned around by someone else's expression of gratitude? Doesn't it make you feel so much better when someone is thankful for you or what you did? And there is a lot of joy to be found in making someone else feel appreciated. Those of you have expressed gratitude to me for doing this blog have given me so much. You've made me feel better about my efforts and you've encouraged me to keep it going, even though I feel very inadequate to the task at times. And you've brought a smile to my face. So, thank you!

What are you grateful for? How does being grateful help you? How do you find gratitude in the midst of hard times?

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

I Like to Move It!

I earned my bachelor's degree in Fitness and Wellness Management, so this post is an obvious one for me. One way to chase away the blues and clear more room for joy in your life is...

I know that is a word that many people dread. I am a freak of nature and actually enjoy exercising, especially running. Weird, I know. But I respect the fact that not everyone is blessed to share my opinion. I know many people exercise whether they love it or not. If that's you, good for you! If not, just read the post and see if you can squeeze in some "sweatin' time". I'm not trying to add one more thing to your to-do list, exercise is just extremely worthwhile. Most of this post will be taken from an article written by Mayo Clinic staff. If you want to read the whole thing (highly recommended) click here. To get you interested, here is a summary:
How It Helps:
Research suggests that it may take at least 30 minutes of exercise a day for at least three to five days a week to significantly improve depression symptoms. But smaller amounts of activity — as little as 10 to 15 minutes at a time — can improve mood in the short term. "Small bouts of exercise may be a great way to get started if it's initially too hard to do more," Dr. Vickers-Douglas says.
Just how exercise reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety isn't fully understood. Some evidence suggests that exercise raises the levels of certain mood-enhancing neurotransmitters in the brain. Exercise may also boost feel-good endorphins, release muscle tension, help you sleep better, and reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol. It also increases body temperature, which may have calming effects. All of these changes in your mind and body can improve such symptoms as sadness, anxiety, irritability, stress, fatigue, anger, self-doubt and hopelessness. (In other words, anti-joy feelings.)

Confidence. Being physically active gives you a sense of accomplishment. Meeting goals or challenges, no matter how small, can boost self-confidence at times when you need it most. Exercise can also make you feel better about your appearance and your self-worth.

Distraction. When you have depression or anxiety, it's easy to dwell on how badly you feel. But dwelling interferes with your ability to problem solve and cope in a healthy way. Dwelling can also make depression more severe and longer lasting. Exercise can shift the focus away from unpleasant thoughts to something more pleasant, such as your surroundings or the music you enjoy listening to while you exercise.

Interactions. Depression and anxiety can lead to isolation. That, in turn, can worsen your condition. Exercise may give you the chance to meet or socialize with others, even if it's just exchanging a friendly smile or greeting as you walk around your neighborhood.

Healthy coping. Doing something positive to manage depression or anxiety is a healthy coping strategy. Trying to feel better by drinking alcohol excessively, dwelling on how badly you feel, or hoping depression and anxiety will go away on their own aren't helpful coping strategies.
Tips to start exercising when you have depression or anxiety
Of course, knowing that something's good for you doesn't make it easier to actually do it. With depression or anxiety, you may have a hard enough time just doing the dishes, showering or going to work. How can you possibly consider getting in some exercise?

Here are some steps that can help you exercise when you have depression or anxiety. As always, check with your health care provider before starting a new exercise program to make sure it's safe for you.

Get your mental health provider's support. Some, but not all, mental health providers encourage exercise as a part of their treatment plan. Talk to your doctor or therapist for guidance and support. Discuss concerns about an exercise program and how it fits into your overall treatment plan.

Identify what you enjoy doing. Figure out what type of exercise or activities you're most likely to do. And think about when and how you'd be most likely to follow through. For instance, would you be more likely to do some gardening in the evening or go for a jog in the pre-dawn hours? Go for a walk in the woods or play basketball with your children after school? Do what you enjoy to help you stick with it.

Set reasonable goals. Your mission doesn't have to be walking for an hour five days a week. Think about what you may be able to do in reality. Twenty minutes? Ten minutes? Start there and build up. Tailor your plan to your own needs and abilities rather than trying to meet idealistic guidelines that could just add to your pressure.

Don't think of exercise as a burden. If exercise is just another "should" in your life that you don't think you're living up to, you'll associate it with failure. Rather, look at your exercise schedule the same way you look at your therapy sessions or antidepressant medication — as one of the tools to help you get better.

Address your barriers. Figure out what's stopping you from exercising. If you feel intimidated by others or are self-conscious, for instance, you may want to exercise in the privacy of your own home. If you stick to goals better with a partner, find a friend to work out with. If you don't have extra money to spend on exercise gear, do something that's virtually cost-free — walk. If you think about what's stopping you from exercising, you can probably find an alternative solution.

Prepare for setbacks and obstacles. Exercise isn't always easy or fun. And it's tempting to blame yourself for that. People with depression are especially likely to feel shame over perceived failures. Don't fall into that trap. Give yourself credit for every step in the right direction, no matter how small. If you skip exercise one day, that doesn't mean you're a failure and may as well quit entirely. Just try again the next day.
Sticking with exercise when you have depression or anxiety
Launching an exercise program is hard. Sticking with it can be even harder. One key is problem solving your way through when it seems like you can't or don't want to exercise.

"What would happen if you went out to your car and it wouldn't start?" Dr. Vickers-Douglas asks. "You'd probably be able to very quickly list several strategies for dealing with that barrier, such as calling an auto service, taking the bus, or calling your partner or friend for help. You instantly start problem solving."

But most people don't approach exercise that way. What happens if you want to go for a walk but it's raining? Most people decide against the walk and don't even try to explore alternatives. "With exercise, we often hit a barrier and say, 'That's it. I can't do it, forget it,' " Dr. Vickers-Douglas says.

Instead, problem solve your way through the exercise barrier, just as you would other obstacles in your life. Figure out your options — walking in the rain, going to a gym, exercising indoors, for instance.

"Some people think they need to wait until they somehow generate enough willpower to exercise," Dr. Vickers-Douglas says. "But waiting for willpower or motivation to exercise is a passive approach, and when someone has depression and is unmotivated, waiting passively for change is unlikely to help at all. Focusing on a lack of motivation and willpower can make you feel like a failure. Instead, identify your strengths and skills and apply those to taking some first steps toward exercise."
Okay, so I pretty much posted the whole article. But didn't you think it was really great? (And I'm a little short on time tonight). I really feel that exercise should be something that everyone makes room for in their lives. I know you are all very busy. But you can find a way to make it work. We bought a treadmill a few years ago so I could exercise while KN slept. One summer a friend and I went walking every morning. Now I have a gym membership that includes childcare so I get to exercise and get a break every day. It's so great. I always feel happier after a good workout.
What are your positive experiences with exercise? What are some of your barriers to exercising? How can/have you overcome them? What are some of your favorite ways to exercise?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Service With a Smile

First off, I want to mention that the removed comment was simply a duplicate comment. I won't ever delete any one's valuable insight! Thank you all so much for your comments. I must confess that I was feeling a little discouraged earlier in the week and you each said something that was very useful and/or encouraging to me. Thank you so much. I feel so blessed to be in my shoes.
I want to share the circumstances behind today's topic.

As I previously mentioned, I felt like was directed to begin this blog. I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While I have no intention of pushing my beliefs onto anyone of you, I will refer to its teachings and principles frequently. It is ingrained in every fiber of who I am and the life I live, so I cannot impart my experiences and musings without including pieces of my faith. But I pray that no one will be offended and that you will take away whatever good you find in it. Okay. So, a huge part of what I believe is "personal revelation", or that God will direct our lives in as much as we let Him. He does it through promptings and by placing thoughts in our minds to inspire us. That is how this blog came to be. I am a fairly open person, but all of this puts even me outside of my comfort zone.

Well, I was feeling frustrated last week because the blog wasn't going exactly as I expected and I was feeling a little lost and discouraged. As I prayed for direction, I kept feeling like I just needed to wait until Saturday night. Twice a year we are blessed to hear from the leaders of our church. They speak in Salt Lake City, Utah and it is broadcast all over the world. There is one meeting that is specifically for the women. That was last night. We listened to the three women who are leaders of the Relief Society--a huge organization of women, designed to bring relief to the poor and bring people to Christ. They each gave wonderful talks, but I'm not going to share them here. I want to discuss the *talk given by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf. When he began, I felt as though he were speaking just for me. I knew this was what God had been telling me to wait for. He spoke exactly about the purpose of this blog! He recognized that women too frequently doubt their abilities and achievements, leading to frustration and disappointment. He said that we were "created to experience the fullness of joy". "The fullness of joy"--that's what we're all here in search of! He taught that there are two principles to find the path to peace, happiness, and joy: 1. Create something beautiful, and 2. Be compassionate.

While I think both principles are equally worthwhile, today I want to focus on being compassionate, or serving. One of the main things I've learned about depression is that it feeds off of self-centeredness. I know that because I've been there. It's easy to get really down when you focus only on yourself. And the best antidote for that is to serve. Service forces you to focus on others. President Uchtdorf said, "when we reach out to bless the lives of others, our own lives are blessed as well. As we lift others, we rise a little ourselves." That is so true.

When my depression first began (and I was still in denial), I was working as a waitress. I was almost always in a horrible mood when I arrived, but I knew that grumpiness didn't earn good tips, so I forced a smile. I chatted with my customers about how they were doing and did all I could to ensure that their meal was as enjoyable as possible. This may not seem like true "service", because I was getting paid to do it, but I really did put all my effort into it. As a result, I did get higher tips, but I also was happy again before more than a couple hours passed. Then I would go home at the end of my shift and quickly sink back into my dark hole. Unfortunately, I didn't realize what the difference was until long after that job was over. My poor HH.

Another thing I've learned about depression is that when I'm really down, serving someone else seems nearly impossible. This is because of the lethargy that we've mentioned, and the negative self-talk (i.e. I have so little to offer, who would want it anyway?). But I know that it is more than worthwhile. I can't think of a single time that I've offered service and not been lifted from it.

What have you learned about the effects of service on your level of happiness? How do you get yourself past the feelings of tiredness and doubt and serve anyway? What are some of your favorite simple acts of service?

*I know this talk will be posted in its entirety within the next few weeks on I highly recommend reading it.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Creating a Joyful Life

Thank you for your responses on the last post. Since the majority of those were direct to me via email, phone, or in person, my HH (Hot Hubby) suggested allowing anonymous comments. So, if you have something to share, but are feeling shy, you can now leave a comment anonymously. I would really like you to leave comments since we'll all benefit a lot more that way. I can offer limited insight since it's different for all of us.

Also, I was discussing with a friend the different levels of depression. I am hoping that this site can benefit people at all levels, from just having a down day to extended periods of sadness. That being said, this is, of course, not meant to treat depression or anxiety. If you are dealing with extended and/or extreme sadness, please seek medical attention right away. I have had successful experiences with both counseling and medication and would recommend trying whatever seems best for you.

Okay, onto today's topic. After I was forced to admit I had depression, I wanted to rebuild my life. That was an overwhelming concept! Thankfully, I was inspired to create a weekly schedule. Unfortunately, I can't figure out how to add it here. So, I'll give you the basics.

I did it as a spreadsheet, so you can picture that in your mind. And I named it "Good Life", in the hopes it would help me create one. I listed every day of the week at the top and then going down the side I listed the important categories in my life (not in order of importance): Home, Spiritual, Physical, Educational, HH, KN (my daughter--my son wasn't around yet), Emotional/Personal, Social. Then I put things to do for each one under each day. Somethings are for every day and some are just for one day.

Home: Straighten (every day), Bake something, Vacuum, Dust, Kitchen, Vacuum, Bathrooms, Bathtub, Blinds

Spiritual: Scripture study (every day), Read lesson manual (I taught a Sunday School class), Write in journal

HH: Family Home Evening (a weekly activity/lesson we do as a family), Neck massage, Talk, Date
KN: Read a book (every day), write in her journal, learn ABC's, Play with Play-doh, play at the park, Do a puzzle, Color together, Go for a walk
Physical: 30-60 min. walk (every day), sit ups, weights, stretch (every day), Be in bed by 10 PM, Drink 4 water bottles/day
Emotional/Personal: Do hair and make up (every day), Say 5 positive affirmations (every day)
Educational: Read a book (every day)
Social: Call 1 sibling, Go somewhere public, Call a far away friend, Call a local friend, Hang out with a friend(s), Go on a date with HH

So, you can see it was nothing major and now some of those things seem really basic (like doing my make up). But at the time it was all a stretch for me. And a big part of why I was depressed was because I felt like I never accomplished anything. I never accomplished anything because I got overwhelmed when I tried to determine what to do with my time. Laying it all out on paper really simplified things for me. And it forced me to do things (I made a commitment to myself to do everything on the spreadsheet each day--without any pressure if something came up and I had to miss a day). Most days I just didn't feel like doing anything. Well, what could be more depressing than days full of nothing! I shouldn't say "nothing" because I had KN with me all day, but I really wasn't doing much of anything each day. I was blessed with a very low maintenance daughter who could cope with that.

I just want to comment specifically on a few of the items from my "Good Life". First, I believe a clean house is essential to feeling well. That doesn't mean spotless. Just straightening once a day will go a long way in restoring inner peace. Second, I believe having faith in something is also essential but that will be left for another day as it is a much bigger topic. Next, I tried to focus on serving the people in my family and keeping it all small and do-able. Next, how many of you put off taking care of yourself b/c there's not enough time? Make time. This is another subject that deserves it's own post, so I'll leave that for today. Along those same lines is doing hair and make up each day. It's about taking care of yourself. No matter what you tell yourself, you deserve that. You do. I had days where I never even got out of my pajamas because no one but KN saw me during the day (my HH sometimes has to work really long hours). But it only made things worse because I looked outwardly the same way I felt inwardly. Next, being a mom is challenging, but not necessarily stimulating. I think lifelong learning is also essential to happiness. That's why we have such amazing minds! And lastly, I know socializing is one of the last things you feel like doing when you're down. That's why it's so important! When you're with someone else (on the phone or in person), you have to move outside yourself at least a little. And so you can forget, at least a little bit, how yucky you feel inside. Or, you can confide in them and find the reassuring comfort we talked about on Monday. Either way, it's a win.

So, start with wherever you're at and add on. Look at what you want to accomplish. Break it down into daily or weekly tasks and schedule it in. We started this blog talking about how our lives are too full and busy to find peace and joy, so why am I tell you to add more in? I'm not. When you determine what really matters to you, then look at what doesn't matter and cut it out. At least some of it. But keep your desired result in mind. Don't cut out things that bring you joy even if they seem less worthy. Just make sure it's real joy. For example, I can spend a whole lot of time reading people's blogs every day. But a phone call to one of my sisters really renews me. So, I might schedule a phone call with my sister and leave the blogging for a day when I have some extra time.

That being said, I still struggle with doing what is truly important in life. It seems like it's so much easier to blog than make dinner, or watch TV than go to bed on time. How do you do it? How do you determine what is important in life? How do you follow through? Is it easier to find joy when your life is organized, or is it just me?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Let's Talk

So, yesterday I made the connection that I promised a new post Monday and I don't get a chance to turn on my computer until about 2 in the afternoon. I didn't want to let you all down on the first "real" day of my blog, so I'm typing this Sunday night. I'm still figuring out how to make this work so I may end up posting on Sunday and Wednesday nights instead. But you can for sure look for it Monday and Thursday mornings.

Anyway, many of you have already touched on what I think is one of the most important things in rising above the grey clouds. That is, tell someone how you are feeling. I'm not an expert on any of this, but I have thought a lot about it the last several years as I've gone through it. So, most of what I have to say is going to be from personal experience. But since the topic is talking about it, I guess it's just walking the talk, right?

I can pinpoint almost to the day when my depression began. That's because I'm 99.9% positive that it was brought on when I started taking the pill. For the first couple years, my husband was the only one who knew that I was dealing with depression. I did a pretty good job of putting on a happy face for everyone else and I was in denial as well. He tried to get me to find help, but I refused.

There were a lot of reasons, but mainly I was horrified at the thought of anyone finding out that my life wasn't perfect. I "knew" that people relied on me to always be cheerful and happy. I "knew" that I would disappoint everyone if they found out that was far from true. But then we sort of reached a breaking point and my husband called my parents. I was furious at the time but inexpressibly grateful now. My mom kind of knew about it so she was mostly surprised by the depth of it. My dad was pretty much in shock. He was one of the people I had most feared to tell because I hated to let him down ever since I was a little girl. Guess what? He wasn't disappointed at all. I could tell he hurt for me a lot, but of course he wasn't disappointed in me. What parent would be? He loves me. And all he wants is for me to be happy. To be happy for me, not for him.

I got a therapist around that same time and finally admitted to myself that I really did have depression. It was all so liberating. It was like taking a deep breath after holding my breath for so long. I saw that no one around me thought any less of me when they found out and everyone managed to go on with life too. No one's life was ruined by my revelation, or even close. I gradually began telling other family members and a few friends. And not only was no one disappointed, often times they seemed to almost think more of me. Not because I have depression, but because I carry on in spite of it.

And as I've become more and more open about, that is the same response I've gotten just about everywhere. I've only encountered one person who responded negatively. And I know him well enough to know that he meant well, he just had never dealt with depression on any level. Everyone else has been incredibly supportive and very understanding. I'm sure you've read the other comments on this blog. We are all in this together.

I'm not sure if I'll do a challenge with every post, but this time I'm challenging you to tell at least one person this week. If you haven't told anyone how you're feeling, tell your significant other, or whoever you are closest too. You need their support and they need to know. You'll be amazed at what a relief it is. And of this, I know. You're all reading my confession! However, my challenge is for each of you to tell someone in person--not here. It's not the same. If you're worried about what the response will be, reflect on how you felt when you found out I (or someone else you know) deal with depression.

We all walk around feeling guilty and ashamed for not being happy all the time. Thinking that if anyone else knew, they would judge us harshly. And the truth is, most women that I discuss this with are relieved! There is so much comfort in knowing that you aren't alone in your situation. That's why we're doing this blog. So we can support and lift one another.

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Plan

I want to thank everyone for your support and excitement over the new blog. I appreciate all the comments and emails. I've been moved to tears more than once and feel very blessed to be in the position I'm in.
I've come up with a plan, at least to begin with. I will post a discussion topic, including my personal thoughts, on Mondays and Thursdays. So, please check in on those days and don't forget to post your own comments because we can all benefit from each other. I will also post an applicable quote. Sharon, I hope you don't mind me using yours for now!
Any feedback on the blog itself is welcome. Do you like the music, or hate it? Are there any songs you want added or removed? Any suggestions for other resources or other things to add?
I would like to make it so the comments are always visible as part of the post, does anyone know if that is possible? Or how to do it?
Thanks again! And look for a new discussion topic on Monday!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

My Story

I've been working on this blog for weeks now. I've written the intro in my head dozens of times and they've all been great. But then I put my fingers to the keyboard and nothing comes out right. So, I'm just going to try to briefly explain why I'm doing this and what my goals are for this blog.
In a way, I've been working on this for over a year. After giving birth to my second child, I felt great for about 6 weeks and then everything tanked. Postpartum depression hit with a bang and my body just fell apart. It was all I could do to get out of bed every morning and then sit on the couch until my husband came home at night. He took over almost everything--the cooking, the cleaning, the parenting. I just tried to survive each day. I've dealt with depression for several years, so I knew how to get help for that. But the extreme exhaustion stuck around. I began researching different things and then went to the doctor to be tested for Adrenal Fatigue, even though I was already certain I had it.
As I sat in the doctor's office I saw a magazine headline, "How to Fake a Good Night's Sleep". And it hit me--that is the problem of so many of us women today. We're trying to be everything to everyone and of course, coming up short. So, we try to fake it. That's so stressful! And that's why I was sitting where I was sitting. Because I had tried to be the perfect wife and the perfect mother for so long that my body had given way under all the stress. And when I couldn't I felt like I had to make the world believe that I was anyway. I felt like the whole world was watching and judging my every move. If I bought a frozen pizza, I knew the cashier was thinking what a horrible mom I was for not giving my family a home cooked meal. If I walked during a morning run, I knew that everyone driving by was thinking how weak I was for not being able to finish my workout. If my kids didn't look perfect, I knew everyone would wonder what was wrong with me. If my husband didn't have a great lunch to take to work, I knew his co-workers would think I was a terrible wife. And the list goes on and on and on.
Sound familiar? I know it does to some of you because I've talked to you and learned that you feel the same way. And yet, when the tables are turned, I would never judge any of you to be those things. We're all willing to cut each other slack but there's none left for ourselves.
And that leads to the title of my blog--"Abiding Joy". I made that the title because that is my goal. I'm trying to stop wasting my energy appearing to have a perfect life and start spending my energy on appreciating what I really have. I really have a great life, one that should be full of joy. But I'm so busy putting myself down that although I can see the joy in my life, I can't really reach it. It's like standing outside a bakery window seeing and smelling all the wonderful pastries, but not being able to taste any of them. Why can I recognize that I have a wonderful husband, two healthy and adorable children, a great family, and fabulous friends, but I can't always feel the joy that all of those things should bring?
I'm learning things that help and I want to share those things with anyone else who can benefit from them. I also want input from anyone else who has gone, or is going through something similar. This includes depression and anxiety because I think that it is all very similar and connected. I think my lifestyle breeds stress which then breeds depression and anxiety. But I also deal with clinical depression. I have finally accepted that. I also finally accept that it isn't a sign of any weakness or defect on my part. Like someone with diabetes, it's a condition I have. That doesn't mean that I'm depressed all the time, thankfully! But I know that I will have bad days and good days, just like everyone else. But what I want is to not feel so distant from the joy in my life when I am having one of those bad days. And I definitely could feel it more even on my good days.
So, this is just a forum for us to share and discuss and learn to let the joy in and to make it stay so that we all can experience abiding joy.