Monday, December 21, 2009

Angels Among Us

Thank you for your enthusiasm and congratulations for my good news! But some of you forgot to share your own good news, so please do it this week! It's always fun to share and I loved reading the different bits of good news from those who left it.

As I was thinking about what I would post this morning, I was reminded of a post I did on my personal blog a few years ago and felt that I should share it here today.

It comes from a quote by Elder Merrill J. Bateman in the December Ensign from 2007. Elder Bateman was the president of BYU when I was there and is a leader in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have been inspired by him so many times and just love him. The Ensign is a magazine printed by our church.

Anyway, here is an excerpt from that post:

"What is the lesson for us today as we enter a new Christmas season? Who will minister to those in need? Who are the angels that will prepare the way for His return? I have noticed that during the early stages of a dispensation, angelic ministers come from the other side of the veil, but as time elapses and the number of faithful members increases, more is expected of those in mortality. For example, when a new country is opened to the gospel, missionaries learn that many have been prepared in miraculous ways to receive the gospel, and miracles occur with some frequency to advance the work. Once a core of members is established, however, the Lord’s assistance changes as He provides opportunities for the members to become the miracle workers.

"Consequently, miracles during this Christmas season require our faith and works. As we sing the hymns of Christmas and speak of angels sent to earth to witness the Savior’s birth in the meridian of time, may we rise to the occasion and minister to those in need in our day. May we be reminded of our promises to “bear one another’s burdens, … to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places … and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that [we] may have eternal life” (Mosiah 18:8–9).

"I bear witness that Christmas is a season for angels. As they ministered to the Savior and others in the “meridian of time,” may we, as angels of mercy, minister to other families and to those in need in the “fulness of times” so that the Lord’s work may move forward."

I read this while working out at the gym this morning and it just really appealed to me. I don't know that it's necessarily a totally new concept, I just like the way he put it all together. And it got me thinking about all of the people who have acted as angels in my life. There are too many to count, from the countless times that friends and family have called or dropped by or sent a note when I needed some extra love, to strangers who have smiled at me on the street or held a door when I've got my arms full, to my beautiful children who are so amazing at making me feel special. I have been blessed with the most amazing family and the most amazing friends. And of course, I get to keep my most amazing angel for eternity. My incredible husband who has saved me from everything from unbearably dark days to a really really bad haircut that I got last weekend. Not very many husbands could look at a really miserable haircut and determine how to style it so it actually looks cute. And that's only one of his many amazing skills. He is such an amazing blessing that I don't always deserve. But I'm trying to.

Anyway, after realizing just how blessed I've been by all of these angels (i.e. all of you) in my life, I decided to add another resolution to my list for 2008. I resolve to live so that I can be attentive enough and flexible enough to be someone else's angel whenever the Lord needs my help.

Back to 2009. I still remember writing this post. The reason it hit me so poignantly that day is because of my little nephew who just turned 2. He was born several weeks early and my brother and his family had to deal with all the trials and difficulties and fears that sort of thing brings. It was so hard living across the country from them and feeling helpless.

Then I heard them share the stories of all the wonderful people who did live close enough to help and were doing a great job of it. And I was so thankful to all these people that I didn't even know. They were like angels to me as well as my brother's family, because they provided me with peace of mind.

And the thought occurred to me that maybe that's a part of God's plan. We can't always be close enough to bring soup to a sick friend or relative, but there is someone nearby that we can help. We can be angels for someone else.

Kind of like Karma, or something? I don't know. It's one of those concepts that made more sense in my head than it is here. But when I help someone here that I don't know very well, I feel like that's my way of making a deposit in the Bank of Good Works. And then hopefully, when someone I love needs help, someone else near them can make that withdrawal for me. Does that make any sense?

Anyway, just something to think about during the last few days of Christmas season and as we head into the new year. I'm so thankful to my Savior Jesus Christ for being the supreme Example of serving others. I know that by following Him in that way, we will become closer to Him. And that is the pathway to eternal happiness.

Have a Very Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Good News

That's what I want to share this week.

Because I'm overwhelmed by all that I should be doing, but really don't feel like doing.
Because last week's post was very long.
Because I was sick and snowed-in most of last week and that makes me feel entitled.
And because I have really good news that I've been waiting for weeks and weeks to share.

21 weeks to be exact.

I was hoping to be able to share whether it's a boy or a girl, but I still don't find out for another week. My doctor must know that I really need a lot of practice in patience. And I have something else planned for next week's post.

But I am very excited to announce that HH and I are going to be welcoming another little baby to our family next spring. (Remember when I was so sick a few months ago--now you know why!)

Doesn't sharing good news always make you feel good? What is your good news? It doesn't have to be anything monumental--but it can be. Either way, let us know! What is good in your life today?

Monday, December 7, 2009

Perfection Pending

Well, Christmas season is definitely in full swing. And I have a backyard full of snow with the promise of more to go with it. I just wish I could have the snow with out the freezing cold. Is that really too much to ask?

Does anyone else find themselves feeling a tad overwhelmed at this time of year? I know I frequently do. But this year, my gift-giving game plan was drastically different, so I haven't been as caught up in the stress that can cause. Thank goodness.

However, there is a subject that has the potential of weighing me down all year long. And that is Perfection.

Does anyone else get a little queasy when this topic is brought up? That's what we're all striving to be, right? In so many different, overwhelming ways--right?

I think the only thing I'm perfect at so far is forgetting birthdays. Actually, I remember my immediate family members', so I guess I'm only really good at that.

Anyway, I came across an article by Elder Russell M. Nelson, a leader in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, several months ago regarding this very subject. I've been holding onto it and felt very strongly that today I should share it with you.

Elder Nelson helps provide a much needed and very comforting perspective on attaining perfection.

Perfection Pending

If I were to ask which of the Lord’s commandments is most difficult to keep, many of us might cite Matt. 5:48: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” 1
Keeping this commandment can be a concern because each of us is far from perfect, both spiritually and temporally. Reminders come repeatedly. We may lock keys inside the car, or even forget where the car is parked. And not infrequently we walk intently from one part of the house to another, only to forget the reason for the errand.

When comparing one’s personal performance with the supreme standard of the Lord’s expectation, the reality of imperfection can at times be depressing. My heart goes out to conscientious Saints who, because of their shortcomings, allow feelings of depression to rob them of happiness in life.

We all need to remember: men are that they might have joy—not guilt trips! 2 We also need to remember that the Lord gives no commandments that are impossible to obey. But sometimes we fail to comprehend them fully.

Our understanding of perfection might be aided if we classify it into two categories. The first could pertain uniquely to this life—mortal perfection. The second category could pertain uniquely to the next life—immortal or eternal perfection.

Mortal Perfection

In this life, certain actions can be perfected. A baseball pitcher can throw a no-hit, no-run ball game. A surgeon can perform an operation without an error. A musician can render a selection without a mistake. One can likewise achieve perfection in being punctual, paying tithing, keeping the Word of Wisdom, and so on. The enormous effort required to attain such self-mastery is rewarded with a deep sense of satisfaction. More importantly, spiritual attainments in mortality accompany us into eternity. 3

James gave a practical standard by which mortal perfection could be measured. He said, “If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man.” 4
Scriptures have described Noah, Seth, and Job as perfect men. 5 No doubt the same term might apply to a large number of faithful disciples in various dispensations. Alma said that “there were many, exceedingly great many,” 6 who were pure before the Lord.

This does not mean that these people never made mistakes or never had need of correction. The process of perfection includes challenges to overcome and steps to repentance that may be very painful. 7 There is a proper place for chastisement in the molding of character, for we know that “whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth.” 8

Mortal perfection can be achieved as we try to perform every duty, keep every law, and strive to be as perfect in our sphere as our Heavenly Father is in his. If we do the best we can, the Lord will bless us according to our deeds and the desires of our hearts. 9
Eternal Perfection

But Jesus asked for more than mortal perfection. The moment he uttered the words “even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect,” he raised our sights beyond the bounds of mortality. Our Heavenly Father has eternal perfection. This very fact merits a much broader perspective.

Recently I studied the English and Greek editions of the New Testament, concentrating on each use of the term perfect and its derivatives. Studying both languages together provided some interesting insights, since Greek was the original language of the New Testament.

In Matt. 5:48, the term perfect was translated from the Greek teleios, which means “complete.” Teleios is an adjective derived from the noun telos, which means “end.” 10 The infinitive form of the verb is teleiono, which means “to reach a distant end, to be fully developed, to consummate, or to finish.” 11 Please note that the word does not imply “freedom from error”; it implies “achieving a distant objective.” In fact, when writers of the Greek New Testament wished to describe perfection of behavior—precision or excellence of human effort—they did not employ a form of teleios; instead, they chose different words. 12

Teleios is not a total stranger to us. From it comes the prefix tele- that we use every day. Telephone literally means “distant talk.” Television means “to see distantly.” Telephoto means “distant light,” and so on.

With that background in mind, let us consider another highly significant statement made by the Lord. Just prior to his crucifixion, he said that on “the third day I shall be perfected.” 13 Think of that! The sinless, errorless Lord—already perfect by our mortal standards—proclaimed his own state of perfection yet to be in the future. 14 His eternal perfection would follow his resurrection and receipt of “all power … in heaven and in earth.” 15

The perfection that the Savior envisions for us is much more than errorless performance. It is the eternal expectation as expressed by the Lord in his great intercessory prayer to his Father—that we might be made perfect and be able to dwell with them in the eternities ahead. 16

The Lord’s entire work and glory pertains to the immortality and eternal life of each human being. 17 He came into the world to do the will of his Father, who sent him. 18 His sacred responsibility was foreseen before the creation 19 and was foretold by all his holy prophets since the world began. 20

The atonement of Christ fulfilled the long-awaited purpose for which he had come to the earth. His concluding words upon Calvary’s cross referred to the culmination of his assignment—to atone for all humankind. Then he said, “It is finished.” 21 Not surprisingly, the Greek word from which finished was derived is teleios.

That Jesus attained eternal perfection following his resurrection is confirmed in the Book of Mormon. It records the visit of the resurrected Lord to the people of ancient America. There he repeated the important injunction previously cited but with one very significant addition. He said, “I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect.” 22 This time he listed himself along with his Father as a perfected personage. Previously he had not. 23

Resurrection is requisite for eternal perfection. Thanks to the atonement of Jesus Christ, our bodies, corruptible in mortality, will become incorruptible. Our physical frames, now subject to disease, death, and decay, will acquire immortal glory. 24 Presently sustained by the blood of life 25 and ever aging, our bodies will be sustained by spirit and become changeless and beyond the bounds of death. 26

Eternal perfection is reserved for those who overcome all things and inherit the fulness of the Father in his heavenly mansions. Perfection consists in gaining eternal life—the kind of life that God lives. 27

Ordinances and Covenants of the Temple

Scriptures identify other important prerequisites to eternal perfection. They relate to the ordinances and covenants of the temple. 28 No accountable individual can receive exaltation in the celestial kingdom without the ordinances of the temple. Endowments and sealings are for our personal perfection and are secured through our faithfulness. 29

This requirement also pertains to our ancestors. Paul taught “that they without us should not be made perfect.” 30 Again, in that verse, the Greek term from which perfect was translated was a form of teleios. 31

In latter-day revelation, the Lord was even more explicit. His prophet wrote: “My dearly beloved brethren and sisters, let me assure you that these are principles in relation to the dead and the living that cannot be lightly passed over, as pertaining to our salvation. For their salvation is necessary and essential to our salvation. … They without us cannot be made perfect—neither can we without our dead be made perfect.” 32

Encouragement from the Savior’s Example

Our climb up the path to perfection is aided by encouragement from the scriptures. They hold the promise that we shall, if faithful in all things, become like Deity. John the beloved Apostle wrote:

“We should be called the sons [and daughters] of God. …

“… When he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.

“And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.” 33

Continuing encouragement comes as we follow the example of Jesus, who taught, “Be ye holy; for I am holy.” 34 His hope for us is crystal clear! He declared: “What manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am.” 35 Thus, our adoration of Jesus is best expressed by our emulation of Jesus. 36

People have never failed to follow Jesus because his standards were imprecise or insufficiently high. Quite to the contrary. Some have disregarded his teachings because they were viewed as being too precise or impractically high! Yet such lofty standards, when earnestly pursued, produce great inner peace and incomparable joy.

There is no other individual to compare with Jesus Christ, nor is there any other exhortation equal to his sublime expression of hope: “I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect.” 37

This divine entreaty is consistent with the fact that, as begotten children of heavenly parents, we are endowed with the potential to become like them, just as mortal children may become like their mortal parents.
The Lord restored his church to help us prepare for perfection. Paul said that the Savior placed in the Church Apostles, prophets, and teachers, “for the perfecting of the saints, … for the edifying of the body of Christ:

“Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” 38

The perfect man described in Paul’s quotation is the completed person—teleios—the glorified soul!

Moroni taught how to gain this glorious objective. His instruction stands in any age as an antidote for depression and a prescription for joy. I echo his plea: “Come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; … love God with all your might, mind and strength … [Then] ye may be perfect in Christ, … holy, [and] without spot.” 39

Meanwhile, brothers and sisters, let us do the best we can and try to improve each day. When our imperfections appear, we can keep trying to correct them. We can be more forgiving of flaws in ourselves and among those we love. We can be comforted and forbearing. The Lord taught, “Ye are not able to abide the presence of God now … ; wherefore, continue in patience until ye are perfected.” 40

We need not be dismayed if our earnest efforts toward perfection now seem so arduous and endless. Perfection is pending. It can come in full only after the Resurrection and only through the Lord. It awaits all who love him and keep his commandments. It includes thrones, kingdoms, principalities, powers, and dominions. 41 It is the end for which we are to endure. 42 It is the eternal perfection that God has in store for each of us. I so testify in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


His footnotes follow at the end, but I just wanted to add some brief thoughts (as if this wasn't already long enough!). I just want to say that I'm grateful for this Christmas season and for the frequent reminders of our Savior's birth. I am so grateful He came to earth to show and teach us the way we must go, so we too, can be perfect, even as He and our Father in Heaven are perfect.

And I know that, as Elder Nelson said, by following the teachings of Jesus we can have "incomparable joy". I know it because I have faith in my Savior, because I have faith in the teaching of one of His servants Elder Nelson, and I know it because I have experienced glimpses of it as I strive to be a little more perfect each day.

What do you do to maintain this perspective? How do you keep from getting overwhelmed by your own shortcomings? How do you stay focused on this all-important goal when so many other things are going on all around?

Notes

1. Those words were given additional intensity in the Joseph Smith Translation: “Ye are therefore commanded to be perfect, even as your Father who is in heaven is perfect” (JST, Matt. 5:50).

2. See 2 Ne. 2:25.

3. See D&C 130:18–19.

4. James 3:2; emphasis added.

5. See Gen. 6:9; D&C 107:43; Job 1:1.

6. Alma 13:12.

7. See Heb. 5:8.

8. Heb. 12:6.

9. See D&C 137:9.

10. Incidentally, the feminine form of this noun is teleia, the Greek term for a period at the end of a sentence.

11. Footnote b for Matt. 5:48 states: “gr complete, finished, fully developed” (LDS edition of the King James Version of the Bible, Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1979, p. 1195).

12. A few examples include:• “Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise” (Matt. 21:16; emphasis added).• “The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master” (Luke 6:40). In both of these verses, perfect came from the Greek term katartizo, which means “to fit out, equip, put in order, arrange, adjust; to fit or frame for one’s self”—an act of preparation.• Another speaks of “perfect understanding” (Luke 1:3; emphasis added). In this instance, perfect came from the Greek adverb akribos, which means “exactly, accurately.”• Another verse refers to those who touched the hem of the Master’s garment and “were made perfectly whole” (Matt. 14:36; emphasis added). Perfect in this instance came from the Greek diasozo, which means “to preserve through danger, to bring safely through, to save, keep from perishing, to rescue.”

13. Luke 13:32; emphasis added.

14. In the Greek text of that proclamation, the verb teleiono was again used, in its future tense—teleiouma.

15. Matt. 28:18; see also D&C 93:2–22.

16. See John 17:23–24.

17. See Moses 1:39.

18. See 3 Ne. 27:13.

19. See Moses 4:1–2; Moses 7:62; Abr. 3:22–28.

20. See Acts 3:19–21.

21. John 19:30. In modern revelation, Jesus used similar language. He said, “I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men” (D&C 19:19; emphasis added).

22. 3 Ne. 12:48; emphasis added.

23. See Matt. 5:48.

24. See Alma 11:45; D&C 76:64–70.

25. See Lev. 17:11.

26. LDS Bible Dictionary, s.v. “resurrection”: “A resurrection means to become immortal, without blood, yet with a body of flesh and bone.”

27. See Joseph Fielding Smith, The Way to Perfection (Independence, Missouri: The Genealogical Society of Utah, 1946), p. 331; Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2d ed. (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966), p. 237.

28. Joseph Smith taught, “Being born again, comes by the Spirit of God through ordinances” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 162).

29. See Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 3 vols., comp. Bruce R. McConkie (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954–56), 2:45.

30. Heb. 11:40; emphasis added.

31. Teleioo

32. D&C 128:15; see also Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 159.

33. 1 Jn. 3:1–3. For additional commentary, see Joseph Fielding Smith, The Way to Perfection, pp. 7–9.

34. 1 Pet. 1:16; see also Lev. 11:44–45; Lev. 19:2; Lev. 20:26.

35. 3 Ne. 27:27.

36. See Neal A. Maxwell, We Talk of Christ, We Rejoice in Christ (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1984), p. 145; Hugh B. Brown, The Abundant Life (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965), p. 199.

37. 3 Ne. 12:48.

38. Eph. 4:12–13; emphasis added.

39. Moro. 10:32–33.

40. D&C 67:13.

41. See D&C 132:19.

42. This concept is supported by the fact that in verses of the New Testament that refer to the end for which we are to endure, the Greek word from which end was translated was also derived from telos (see Matt. 10:22; Matt. 24:13; Mark 13:13).

Monday, November 30, 2009

A Frequent Answer to My Prayers

First, a warning-- tragically, some spammers have gotten a hold of this blog. Fortunately, they have only sent comments to past posts, so I have been able to reject them and prevent them from ever showing up here.


I would like to keep the comments open for the current post, so hopefully it will stay that way. But I just wanted to post a warning that if you see any comment that looks weird, please don't click on it. So far, all of their comments have had numerous links for anything from pharmaceuticals to Russian sites. I haven't clicked on them, so I can't vouch for what you'd find. My advice is, stay away, and let me know if you see it so I can remove it promptly.


Thanks!


Okay, now for today's post.


I hope you all have people in your life who just seem to always be helping and making your life easier. I have a lot. Without them, I could not function. One of them is my sister-in-law Mel. She is the title of this blog. I can't tell you how many times Heavenly Father has answered my prayers through her. You should check out her Crazy Chorister Blog. It's designed for the chorister for the children at church, but it's full of fun ideas that can be applied to Family Home Evenings, or just good times with children.


Anyway, she does more than just come up with fun ideas to teach children music. Way more. One thing she does a lot is inspire me. She shared this experience with my family this summer and then posted it recently on her blog. And then she kindly allowed me to post it here with an added blurb about how it's increased the joy in her life.


And she saved me from having to think of an entire post today. The day after I returned home from a busy trip to HH's family. With very little sleep. And super sick kiddos. And a smelly smelly dog. And an empty fridge. And very low brain capacity.


So, for a million reasons--Thank you, Mel. I love you.


Before I let you read her super inspirational post, allow me to say a few words.


First of all, the book she mentions, "Preach My Gospel" is published by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But I know that anyone from any faith would gain so much by reading it. It teaches great truths about who we are, our relationship to God and Jesus Christ, and how we can return to live with them again.


You can access the complete manual by clicking here or you can order a printed copy for $6 here.


When Mel shared her experience with me this summer, she unknowingly addressed an issue I've been praying about for over a year now. So, I began following in her footsteps, as I've found myself doing often since she joined my family, and I too have been greatly blessed for it. But she is fabulous with words and I love how she tells her story, so I'm going to leave it at that and let you get to know this wonderful person in my life.




Six months ago I came home from a long and frustrating day at church. I sat down in my favorite chair next to my bookshelf and pouted. I was very frustrated at my lack of the spirit. My eyes happen to wander to the bottom shelf, and there, smashed in between many other books was Preach My Gospel. I had received it from a Bishop a few years back, but never took the time to read it. I reached for it and thumbed through it. I even began reading the first chapter a bit. I came to a part where the missionaries daily schedule was laid out. I at once felt jealous. I knew there was no way I could get up early enough to beat my children out of bed to study and read the Scriptures without being so tired the rest of the day. My daily Scripture study was infrequent and could only take place after the kids were in bed. I wasn't getting what I wanted out of it because I was so tired myself. I tossed the book and went to bed that night discouraged....Then, a miracle happened.

I was awakened at 5:30am the next morning. Wide awake. I wondered why I was awake. I decided I need to go back to sleep. Then these words came into my head, "This is your time, get out of bed." I did. I grabbed my Scriptures and this book.....and my life hasn't been the same since.

Over the past 6 months, Heavenly Father has helped me arise early (this is a miracle, believe me). I have studied a spirit directed course of Preach My Gospel. I have replaced every word missionary with motherhood and every word investigator with children. It has been so helpful and wonderful in teaching me how I can better fulfill the mission I am serving right now. With each chapter I have been surprised how much I've been able to learn. I have coupled this with a daily chapter of the Book of Mormon and a Conference talk. I have filled three spiritual journals with insights and words of encouragement and love from my Heavenly Father. It has been a heart changing experience. And, my prayers to be able to share the Gospel with others have been answered many times. I have found that my inhibitions and lack of confidence in my abilities to share the Gospel have been replaced with faith and confidence.

I finished Preach My Gospel about a month ago. It was kind of emotional closing the book, it has been so exciting each morning to see what I can learn and improve on next. I've since began a study of the life of Jesus Christ using "Jesus The Christ" as my study guide. I feel closer to who I want to be. The amazing this is the more I read and study, the more I realize what I can change in my life, what I can give to the Lord, what I can repent of....and that is making me better.

I would like to challenge any one of you who read this blog to get a copy of Preach My Gospel. This is not simply for our Full-Time missionaries. This book was inspired in a way that can touch you, your spouse, and your family. I know for myself that your heart will be softened, your spiritual ears made sensitive, your ability to love and serve others increased, and your burdens made lighter. As you study this book and ponder the Scriptures, answers to prayers will come, and you'll find a joy that is sweet.

I would like to share my Testimony that I know that God lives and that Jesus is the Christ. I know that the Book of Mormon was written by prophets of God and Translated by the gift and power of God through Joseph Smith. I know that Jesus Christ is the only one who can provide the way for us to return to our Father in Heaven. I know his arms of mercy are extended to all of us if we repent and come unto him. I am so grateful for the power of prayer and the knowledge that we are never alone. He knows us. He loves us. He's waiting for us. He knew my desires, and he helped awaken me each morning. Is it a struggle to get up sometimes, of course. But I've come to know the joy and peace that comes with starting my day with my Heavenly Father's instructions.



Thanks again, Mel.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Would You Say I Have a Plethora of Pinatas?

I don't have any, actually. Tragic, I know.

But I do have a plethora of many many things.

HH and I are not even close to wealthy by U.S. standards. But we have more than enough for our needs and I know that is not the case for many people and families throughout the world. I really do feel very blessed.

There's a hymn that I've loved ever since I was very young. In fact, I think it's one of the first hymns I memorized as a child because it stirred very poignant feelings within every time I sung it. Last month I learned it was a favorite of my grandma's too, so now it has that much more meaning to me.

Many of you are familiar with it, but I'd like to share the text of it here.

Because I Have Been Given Much

Because I have been given much, I too must give;
Because of thy great bounty, Lord, each day I live;
I shall divide my gifts from thee
With every brother that I see
Who has the need of help from me.

Because I have been sheltered, fed by thy good care,
I cannot see another’s lack and I not share
My glowing fire, my loaf of bread,
My roof’s safe shelter overhead,
That he too may be comforted.

Because I have been blessed by thy great love, dear Lord,
I’ll share thy love again, according to thy word.
I shall give love to those in need;
I’ll show that love by word and deed:
Thus shall my thanks be thanks indeed.

I can't really think of much to add to that, so I'll just leave you with one final challenge. In the spirit of gratitude, I'm going to make an extra effort to give to someone every day this week. And not just along the usual lines of the things I do for my family, but something that really requires extra thought and effort on my part.

No one is so poor that they have nothing to give. One of the best gifts can often be a smile to a stranger. Or sharing your faith with someone in doubt. A hug. All sorts of gifts of kindness.

So, go out and show your gratitude by giving.

And have a fabulous Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Put It In Writing

Your "thank you", that is.

I am horrible at sending "thank you" cards. Do you want to know a horrible secret I've carried around the last 6 1/2 years?

Of course you do. Everyone always wants to know secrets.

But I'm warning you, this one is awful.

We never sent out "thank you's" after our wedding.

It's true. And terrible. And I've felt awful about it all along.

But I'm really bad about writing cards and mailing them. Shoot, I can't even keep up with my email.

So, I probably need this week's challenge more than anyone else. The challenge is to send out at least one "Thank you" card. For some reason, when you write it down, it's so much more meaningful.

I have a special folder where I keep special things. And I'm pretty sure just about every thank you card I've ever received is in there. I was in charge of the youth girls at our church back in New England for a little while. I stopped when I had Little M and a few of the girls sent me "thank you" notes in the mail. I was so touched, I cried. It just made all of the stress and frustrations totally worth it.

And there's someone from where we used to live that I really owe a "thank you" to. I've been meaning to send it since we moved here. And that's why I'm making that this week's challenge. Because if I tell all of you to do it, I have to do it.

And I'm so excited. Because saying, "thanks" always makes you feel great too!

Anyway, the phone just rang and woke up Sweet P which means I have to go. But go forth and send out "thank you's". Maybe if you all do that it will somehow make things better for me not sending those "thank you's" when it really mattered. Maybe... right?

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Back Door to Gratitude

Before I forget, a new comment has been posted on "Can You Get That? I'm Too Busy Holding This Grudge."

Now, does anyone else feel like life just keeps spinning faster and faster and there will never be enough time to do everything you need to, let alone everything you want to? If anyone would like to write a post on that, please send me an email at abidingjoyblog@gmail.com. I, for one, could really benefit.

Anyway, that kind of gives you a little peek into what I'll be typing about today.

Here we are in our month of Gratitude. I've been doing the Gratitude Countdown with my family (and we're loving it! Thanks, Mel!). But...

I've been kind of nasty lately.

I think the root of the problem is that I've been complaining too much. Way too much.

So, it probably wasn't just chance that I read an article in the gym last week about a woman with a similar problem who decided to make a change by wearing a bracelet on one wrist and switching it to the other every time she complained. I have a short attention span right now, so I never actually finished the article, but she was making great progress at the point I read to. And I'm pretty sure they wouldn't have written, or printed the article if the experiment fizzled out at the end.

So, I'm going to do that. Starting tonight when I find one of my kids' bracelets that will work for this. I promise. And anyone else struggling in this department is welcome to join me.

Because it's hard to really feel gratitude, or reap the benefits of it, when it's sandwiched in between complaints. That's why I called it "The Back Door to Gratitude." Because it's not exactly a direct route to Gratitude, but it's still totally related.

So, what other tips do you have for nipping complaints in the bud? What about when something really is wrong, how do you express it without it being a complaint? Should I extend this experiment to the rest of my family? Because sometimes (maybe a lot of the time) when they complain (usually it's directed at me, because I'm supposed to be the one who does it all and takes care of it all--oops, that was probably sort of a hidden complaint there, sorry!), I turn their complaint right back onto them. For example, "Why did you forget to wash my favorite shirt?" My response? "Why did you forget to wash your favorite shirt?" That's a really mature thing to say to a four-year old, I know.

So, what is a better way to teach her to express what she's saying without complaining?

I obviously need help here. I'm not always a complainer, just lately. And I really like to stop, so I can focus on my gratitude.

And before my family throws me out the window.

So, your advice is greatly appreciated.

Thanks!

Monday, November 2, 2009

It's November Again!

I can't believe it's already this time of year!

And can you believe that I'm actually posting when I said I would?!

That being said, this will be a short post. I still have a billion projects in my head from when my mom was here. I need to get them finished before I go crazy! But I'm loving every minute of it. Almost every minute. I'm not enjoying the repeat trips to JoAnn's or Lowe's, or anywhere else for that matter.

So, back to November. Those of you that have been reading this blog all along may remember that we focused on Gratitude for all of last November, in honor of Thanksgiving.

I hope it doesn't fee repetitive, but we're going to do that again. I just think Gratitude is essential in living a life of Abiding Joy and we can't emphasize it too much.

To start with, I want to share something my sister-in-law passed along to me this morning. It's focused on families with children at home, but I think you can easily adapt it to work for anyone in any situation.

The idea is to get you thinking about gratitude every day in a sort of countdown to Thanksgiving. My s-i-l had it done on cute little labels. Unfortunately, I don't know how to copy that over to this site and my computer really struggles with Adobe Acrobat (the format it was in). Because my computer is dying.

HH seems pretty gung ho about replacing my humble laptop with a pretty cool upgrade. That is something I'd be very grateful (and excited) for!

But I digress. Back to daily gratitude.

Print off the daily ideas. Feel free to design your own cute little labels for them. Then cut them out individually. Place them in a cute jar. Pull one strip from the jar each day and you MUST do what it says that day.

We're totally going to do this. I'm so excited about it! Thanks, Mel!

  • I am Thankful for My Family! Play a game together, inside or outside! (board game, hike, chalk art, etc.)
  • I am Thankful for Pies! Make some Pumpkin Pies to deliver to anyone! (unless you're delivering it to me--please, make it pecan.)
  • I am Thankful for Grandparents! Call and tell them "I love you" "I am grateful for you"!
  • I am Thankful for Prayer! Say a prayer only using the words "I thank Thee for..." and don't ask for anything.
  • I am Thankful for Computers! Send an email to someone you love, and a photo!
  • I am Thankful for my Toys! Give some of your toys to Goodwill to give to other kids. (Grown-ups--you know you have toys you can give up too).
  • I am Thankful for my Teachers! Make a plate of cookies and/or a card for your piano, Primary (church), or school teacher.
  • I am Thankful for our Car! Clean out the car, and go get ice cream cones in it!
  • I am Thankful for Turkeys! Art project: Make paper turkeys
  • I am Thankful for Neighbors! Do a secret service for your neighbor! (rake leaves, pull weeds, leave a treat, etc.)
  • I am Thankful for my Heavenly Father! Write in you journal and say a prayer expressing your love and gratitude!
  • I am Thankful for my Cousins! Call or write a letter to one of your cousins!
  • I am Thankful for the Scriptures! Have a Family Home Evening on a favorite scripture story--memorize a scripture!
  • I am Thankful for Sisters! Do something nice for her! (make her bed, do her job, play a game with her, etc.)
  • I am Thankful for Food! Go to the store and pick out a food that you haven't tried yet!
  • I am Thankful for our Kitchen! Bake something fun together in the kitchen!
  • I am Thankful for my Ears! Close your eyes and listen to music! Play some music. Enjoy it all day!
  • I am Thankful for my Dad! Do something nice for Dad! (run give him a hug when he gets home from work, write him a note, shine his shoes, clean his closet, organize the garage, etc.)
  • I am Thankful for my Hands! Art Project: Finger painting, or drawing.
  • I am Thankful for my Eyes! Watch a special movie with your family!
  • I am Thankful for my Brother! Do something nice for your brother! (make his bed, do his job, play a game with him, etc.)
  • I am Thankful for my Legs! Go outside--run and jump or ride your bike!
  • I am Thankful for my Mom! Do something nice for mom! (write her a note, good chocolate, cook and clean up dinner, do the laundry, clean any room, etc.)
  • I am Thankful for Books! Go to the library and pick out some Thanksgiving books!
  • I am Thankful for the Seasons! Go on a walk, enjoy nature, the colors, etc.
  • I am Thankful for my Teeth! Give Mom & Dad some Halloween candy and brush & floss
  • I am Thankful for a Prophet! Read a Conference talk or article in the church magazine by him! (If you are of a faith other than the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, feel free to pick a different leader of a church or state).
  • I am Thankful for my Home! Clean out a hall, bedroom, or upstairs closet together--play music and have fun!

I am so grateful for this fun idea, too! I encourage all of you to take the challenge and do it. You better get started--it's already November 2nd!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Unexpected Guest

My mom called the day of my last post to let me know she was making a spontaneous trip here a few days later. We have been so busy with projects I've been saving to do with her help, I lost track of time and forgot to post. If it makes you feel any better, I haven't been on the computer at all this week.

So, here's a quick post to get you through the weekend. There WILL be a post on Monday!

This is a poem my mom shared with us by Lowell Bennion:

Learn to like what doesn't cost much.
Learn to like reading, conversation, music.
Learn to like plain food, plain service, plain cooking.
Learn to like fields, trees, brooks, hiking, rowing, climbing hills.
Learn to like people, even though some of them may be … different from you.
Learn to like to work and enjoy the satisfaction of doing your job as well as it can be done.
Learn to like the songs of birds, the companionship of dogs.
Learn to like gardening, puttering around the house and fixing things.
Learn to like the sunrise and sunset, the beating of rain on the roof and windows, and the gentle fall of snow on a winter's day.
Learn to keep your wants simple and refuse to be controlled by the likes and dislikes of others.

Just before Bennion died, his biographer, Mary L. Bradford, visited him. He was feeling pretty good, he said. Not because he was in fine health, but because he had managed to pretty much "give everything away."

At his funeral, President Gordon B. Hinckley mused that Bennion never owned a car as nice as any of the cars in the chapel parking lot that day.
This is my Little M. Last night was a Halloween party at our church. He received a Tootsie Pop and then went around telling everyone in the entire place that he had a "wollipop... a really BIIIIG wollipop!"

He couldn't have been happier.

Let us all take after Lowell and Little M and truly be happy and more than satisfied with the simple things.

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Day Late, A Post Short

Sorry, I think I might need to just switch to Mondays for my posts. Our Sunday schedule has changed drastically and I no longer have a couple hours by myself. I don't mind it at all because it's a result a spending more time with my family.

But it's not good for Sunday posts here.

Is everyone okay with a switch to Monday? If not, then feel free to write a post for me to publish on Sunday because I think that's the only way you'll get it. Thanks!

Okay, so for this week's topic. I've been thinking about Nattie's suggestion from a while ago a lot and just trying to think what I could say that might be insightful. But I'm not sure I've have much to add to it, so I'm thinking just the reminder and opportunity for personal reflection will be what we need.

Here's what she said:

"Doing the simple things (read, pray, etc) allow the Lord to bless us as much as He can. Sometimes I think we sell ourselves short of His blessings by being lazy."

I'll give my little two cents and then let you ponder and share your insights. This reminded me of a moment of inspiration I had in Sunday School several years ago. We were discussing the parable of the Prodigal Son from Luke in the New Testament.

I had always focused on the generosity of the father and the sweetness of the reunion. But on this day, some questions were asked that got me thinking about the older son. The one who stayed home and worked with his father. At first, things seem unfair that he did all the work, while his brother went off and spent his inheritance, and then their dad throws a huge party for the younger son when he gets home.

But that's when it hit me. The younger son had suffered quite a bit during his absence while the older was blessed to be with his father and in his care that entire time. So, even though it initially seemed unfair, it wasn't. The father wanted to bless them both as much as he possibly could, but the one who left removed himself from those blessings for a time.

Now the application, when I don't do the things I should (pray, study scriptures, listen to church leaders), Heavenly Father cannot give me the blessings He would like to. All I have to do is choose to do what He asks, to keep myself near Him, and He will bless me as much as I can.

And when I stray, like the Prodigal Son, He receives me with open arms when I return to Him and again offers those blessings.

Joy, of course, being a blessing He can always offer, no matter what trials I am facing in my life.

What about you? What do you notice when you are doing the "little" things? What are your thoughts on Heavenly Father's blessings?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Joy Model

So, since posting my last post, I booked a flight and flew out to the funeral and returned home late last night. Last week felt like the longest week ever. Not necessarily because it was bad; it's just that way too much happened for it to have only been one week.

But here I am again, so it must have been just a week all the same.

And my inspiration again comes from my grandma. Or her funeral, really.

All nine of her children and almost all of their spouses shared a memory and some thoughts on their mother at the funeral. It made for a long funeral, but I felt privileged to hear so many different view points on the same wonderful person. They all love her and admire her, but each in his or her own way.

And almost, if not all, of them closed their remarks with something along these lines, "And I hope to one day be just like her."

One of her best friends spoke and she said the same thing.

What a wonderful tribute!

And it got me thinking--what a great idea. Find a Joy Model.

Someone (or preferably multiple someones) you know who seems to have high levels of joy. And emulate them.

My grandma is definitely one of my joy models, as I'm sure you could guess. Another one is actually my former self. From about 16-19, I was one of the happiest people I knew. It's not like I had it all figured out back then, but I did pretty well in the joy category. I spent a lot of my time listening to and trying to help others--something that has always brought me joy, but sometimes I think I'm too busy now. And I was pretty laid back and mellow. Not so much these days. So, I'm trying to be more like my teenage self, in that sense.

What about you? Who are your joy models? Why? What do you admire most about them? What is it about the way they live their life that makes them a model for you?

If you don't have someone--go out and find them this week! And please share!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Abiding Love

So, I'm guessing you noticed last week's post never came. I'm sorry. I sat down to write it every day, but it just wouldn't come. If it's any consolation (because I know a week without a post from me is just so difficult for you to endure), I think it was good for me to have a week off. Thanks for the permission, Jen!

This is a post I've been writing in my head for a while, not sure when to post it. But it's what I need to express today, so it's what you're getting today.

It's inspired by my grandma. One of the greatest people to ever live on this earth. Honestly. I know many of you know her and can attest to that. And I'm sorry to those of you who don't, because she was truly one of life's gems.

For a while now, I've been meaning to write her a letter telling her what an inspiration and example she's been for me in so many ways.

She passed away yesterday morning. I never got around to writing that letter. I know she knows how I feel about her, but I still wish I'd sent it. So, here are a couple things that letter would have contained. Except that I'm going to write it to you, and not to her because that would be weird.

My grandma lived a life of abundant joy. I've been contemplating the 'why' behind that for a while now. It was definitely a combination of many things. But a couple of them stuck out as major sources, to me at least.

One of the first things I realized when I thought about it, is that her house is always full of people. Always. I don't think I've ever gone to visit her and been the only one there. Usually, someone(s) is already there when I arrive, more people show up while I'm coming, and even more are expected after I leave.

The reason for that is simple, everyone who knows Grandma wants to be around her. She exudes love for all. I'm pretty sure she has over 50 grandchildren and I have no idea how many great-grandchildren. A lot. But she somehow kept up with everyone. And genuinely cared about everyone. Even though my children are young, they talk about her frequently because she makes such an impression. And they adore her.

And that's why she was constantly surrounded by people. She made everyone feel loved, needed, and important. She always listened to everything I had to say, regardless of its true merit. It mattered to her because I mattered to her.

That is a quality I will strive my whole life to obtain. I think it came naturally to her. It's just the kind of person she was. But I learned from watching her that her selflessness in putting other's interests first actually brought her joy. So, even though I sometimes feel that I have to take care of myself first in order to ensure happiness, that isn't necessarily true. She found great joy in caring for others.

The other thing I want to share is what the title is about today. I guess it's kind of related to what I just talked about because it's about love as well. Maybe I could have just summed this whole post up by telling you that the best route to abiding joy is simply to fill your life with love.

But the love between my grandma and grandpa is so profound, I'm going to share it with you. Because it will bless your life the way it's blessed mine.

I have never witnessed a deeper, purer love than the love between them. They were always saying the sweetest things to and about each other. But I want to illustrate their love with one story that my mom recently shared with me.

This happened after my parents were married, but before I was born. I hope I get all the details correct. My grandma had been telling my mom how much she was looking forward to attending her 50th high school reunion. When she came to visit my mom shortly after the date, my mom eagerly asked her how it was.

She hadn't made it.

My grandpa had gone somewhere, I think to the store, and had lost track of time and didn't return home in time to go to the reunion. Shocked, my mom asked my grandma how mad she was at grandpa.

Not at all. She said she knew he hadn't done it on purpose, or to hurt her. If my memory is correct, she didn't even talk to him about it.

I couldn't believe it when my mom related this to me. What an example of true love! On both of their parts. She trusted in my grandpa's love enough to overlook her cause for hurt. And she loved him enough to instantly forgive him for his oversight.

I think about all the times I've felt the need to "punish" HH for some oversight on his part by staying mad at him for a long time. Now, I try to remember my grandma and just trust in that fact that I know HH never desires to hurt me. So, there's no need to be mad and hold a grudge.

I'm not at my grandma's level of love and forgiveness yet. But I'm closer because of her example. It hadn't really occurred to me that choosing to not be mad at all was an option. But there's no joy in choosing the mad option.

Really, I'm not surprised that is the choice my grandma made. To develop a love as strong as theirs, I'm sure they didn't waste much time, if any, being upset with each other. Instead they built each other up with loving compliments and support. They are as unified as any couple could possibly be. And what greater joy can anyone have than to have that kind of love?

When my grandpa passed away last December, I hurt for my grandma the most. Because I knew that I couldn't even imagine the pain she felt at living each day without him right by her side. He had been unwell for a while and she had tirelessly cared for him. She was his greatest cheerleader and stayed by him even when she was unwell herself.

And so, I wondered how she found the strength to wake up each morning and go on without him there. But she is the strongest person I've ever known and she knew she'd be with him again someday. Those are details for another post, though.

The point is, she did get up every day and she did keep going because of her love for her children. She fought hard. Harder than was really possible. She even made a couple miraculous recoveries. But her time to rest has finally come. And I am overjoyed to know that she is reunited with my grandpa, the love of her eternal life.

I miss her. So terribly much. But I will be forever grateful for the legacy she left, for the example she set, and for the amazing difference for good she made in my life.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Patience, Please

So, I have this crazy cold that can't decide if it's coming or going for a couple of months now. Only, now maybe it's decided it's coming. Which is my way of whining and telling you I'm siiiiick. With 5 i's.

Did anyone else see that episode of Full House?

Does anyone else remember it?

Okay, now that we've established my coolness. And my sickness. I'm not going to post tonight. Because I'm not feeling capable of anything coherent, let alone inspiring. My plan is to post tomorrow. But on top of being unwell, we just adopted a cute little un-house-trained puppy.

So, she keeps me hopping.

But she's cute.

But she refuses to come downstairs where my computer is. So, I will do my best to post tomorrow.

In the meantime, if anyone would like to write a post for me and email it to me at abidingjoyblog@gmail.com, I can't tell you how much I'd appreciate it. Even if you don't get it done by tomorrow, I would love some more guest bloggers. Or returns from our previous guest bloggers. If you have any friends who are not readers of our blog, but seem to have some of the secrets of abiding joy figured out in their lives, please invite them to write a post. That idea came to me today as I listened to a woman I don't know speak in church today. Unfortunately, she disappeared before I could track her down and ask her to contribute. If I ever find her and get her to agree to it, I know it will be good.

And, while I love this blog, I don't mind a week off every now and then. (c:

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Power of Memory

Do you ever feel kind of like the wold is crumbling around you? Over the past month or two, so many of our friends and family have hit incredibly difficult trials. We remain untouched (knock on wood), aside from sharing their grief and wondering how we can help. A couple major things hit this week, so it's all been on my mind lately.

And then I came across an email my mom sent me a while back with a suggestion for a post. As I read the email, I felt that it wasn't a coincidence and that I am supposed to post about it tonight.

It's based on a quote from Sterling W. Sill, a former general authority (or leader in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints):

"A memory can be trained to forever see virtue, beauty, and faith as it was experienced at its highest point. One of the most devastating hazards threatening the quality of our lives is forgetfulness... Hang on the walls of your mind the memory of your successes. Take counsel of your strength, not your weakness. Think of the times when you rose above your average level of performance, and carried out an idea or a dream or a desire for which you had deeply longed. Think of the great moments in your life. Hang these pictures on the walls of your memory and look at them as you travel the roadway of life... Memory can also be our shield in temptation, our courage in weakness, and our anchor in Godliness."

My mom always sends such good things my way. Don't you like that quote? I do.

It's so easy to get caught up in remembering our failures and our struggles. But he's right, we can train our memories. If you've got positive and negative to choose from, why choose the negative? There's no purpose in that. But in remembering your successes and triumphs, you can relive that joy and motivate yourself to continue in that way.

Without really realizing it, this is one of the best tools I've been using to overcome my depression. I think I've told you before that I used to always tell myself "I can't do this." And that was that. I would call HH in tears and beg him to come home early from work because I couldn't handle mothering my children and making dinner and cleaning the house, etc.

But HH knew I could. And that if he left work early ever day, he'd probably get fired. So, he didn't come home early. It made me mad even though I knew he couldn't really do anything differently. But I've always told him that I never claim to be a rational being. I'm not.

Anyway, getting back on track, things started to improve and so I found myself not even thinking about placing those calls any more. Then one day, a month or two ago, it happened. And I picked up the phone and started to dial. But then I thought about all those other times that I called and he didn't (couldn't) come home. I survived each and everyone of those days. They weren't great days, but I survived them on my own until he was able to get home.

So, I hung up the phone before he answered and put it back in its place.

And then I think we played Candy Land and we actually ended up having a fine remainder of the day.

But the point is, since then there have been a couple other times that I've been tempted to place that call and then I remember that day. I can even remember exactly where I was standing when I hung up, is that weird? But I picture it. And I remember my sudden awareness of my own strength and I draw on that. And we survive.

And HH is so relieved to not receive those calls anymore because, as I'm sure you can imagine, they were super hard on him, too.

It's a small thing, maybe. But for me, that memory of that moment when I said "no" to letting my depression win, just for one night, is huge. It's all that I need to say "no" time and time again.

But I believe we can use Elder Sill's advice in a whole variety of circumstances. When I get frustrated about not being in the kind of shape I'd like to be, I remember my triathlon last year, and I know I can get there again. And when I feel discouraged about my abilities, I remember all the hard work and training I put into that, and I know I can accomplish anything if I have a goal and a plan and put in the day-to-day effort.

A couple weeks ago, Little M asked if we could go to the zoo after naps. I told him we'd see. He woke up and asked again and I said "yes". He's talked about that a few times, to me and other friends.

One time, I asked Mommy if we could go to the zoo--and she said 'yes'!!!

The look on his face as he retells it, let's me know that memory is bringing him huge amounts of joy (and maybe that I need to say 'yes' to his suggestions more often!).

I know you've all had moments of triumph. Whether it's putting down the phone when you're really tempted to make a useless phone call, or climbing Mount Everest. You've done great things. If you're shaking your head 'no', then you really need to dust off that memory and start retraining it. Focus on those moments of success, big and small. They will bring you joy.

And they will buoy you up when the hard times come. And they will come. But you can persevere. Because you're strong and you can do hard things. Just remember the hard things you've already done.

To those of you going through the hard times right now, I just want to say, I'm sorry. I wish I lived close to each of you so I could bring you dinner and give you a hug. But you are in my prayers. I love you.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Don't Quit

My in-laws are here right now, so I'm going to be quick.

I came across this quote in a great book I've been reading. It's called I Am a Mother, by Jane Clayson Johnson. I've recommended it to a couple of you already and I extend that recommendation to all of you. It's a great book, reinforcing the influence and importance of women. And also combating the myths of "the Super Mom".

So, here it is:

Don't Quit

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you're trudging seems all up hill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest if you must, but don't you quit...
Success is failure turned inside out.
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems so far,
So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit.
It's when things seem worst that you must not quit.

--Author Unknown

My take on this is that sometimes life is just plain hard. There is no way to "positively think" your way out of it. It's just yucky. But you keep going. And working and trying. Even though it's hard. And then things get better--because you don't quit.What do you think?Enjoy your week!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Happy Birthday!

Sorry, it's late. It's been a busy (the good kind) day.

And right now, my pillow is calling me with a sweet and gentle voice. So, I'll keep this brief.

Today is exactly one year from my very first post for this blog. Although, I never actually published that post. I rambled quite a bit in it. I remember kicking the idea for this blog around in my head for quite some time, and then one day feeling very strongly that I needed to just get on with it. But it still took a few more tries and a lot of effort and soul searching to finally come up with a post I felt okay publishing.

It was really scary. I didn't know how to really explain what I was trying to do, or where this would take me. And as I've confessed, commitment to anything isn't really my strong point. But I knew it was something I was supposed to do, so I took a tiny step of faith forward and began. I think I had kind of a rough start as I tried to figure out what exactly we were trying to accomplish and the best way to get there. But, with your help and encouragement, I think we've done and grown a lot together.

As I've been thinking about the inception of this blog lately, I've been comparing my life then to my life now. I am happy to report that I'm on a whole different level now. One that I hadn't been on in years. One I wasn't sure I was capable of ever getting to again.

I'm not going to give this blog 100% of the credit, but I do owe some of my progress to the work we've begun here. Maintaining this blog isn't something that's always been easy for me. I'm getting better at it, but initially it would take me 2 or 3 hours to publish a post. Sometimes it still takes a long time. And sometimes HH worries that the stress of it isn't worth it. He's very protective of me like that.

But I still know it's something I'm meant to do, so I've kept plugging along.

And I've been so blessed.

I've been blessed by your ideas, thoughts, and insights. I'm blessed by your support and generosity. I'm blessed by your trust and confidence. And faith. And I'm blessed by the camaraderie I feel when I think of you as I write a post and then when I'm reading your response.

And so, as He always does, the Lord has blessed me one hundred fold for my small effort in this blog. Because of the nature of life and progress, I could never pinpoint exactly how much of my current happiness and security I owe to this blog. But I do wonder where I would be without it. I believe that the Lord has given me greater insights to finding joy because I am willing to devote my time and effort here. And because what we focus on in life is what we find. This blog has, of course, turned my focus much more to finding joy. And so, joy is what I've found.

I know Abiding Joy has been of the most benefit to me, but I hope you've gained from it as well. Thank you all again for your help in keeping this blog (and me) going.

Here's to another joyful year!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Families Can Be Together Forever

Thanks, for the help, but I really thought I had written a post exactly like the one I wrote last week--not the one about not feeling guilty for your happiness. And thanks for the tips on squashing those guilt feelings when they come. You all are so insightful!

This last week was one that has made me do a lot of reflection. Our friends' son died from a car accident early in the week. It's been heartbreaking to watch his parents and family grieve his loss.

But at the same time, it has made me so grateful for my faith. As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I have known from an early age that families can be together forever. In "The Family: A Proclamation to the World", the leaders of our church state that "the family is central to the Creator's plan for the eternal destiny of His children." And that "the divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave. Sacred ordinances and covenants available in holy temples make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and for families to be united eternally."

We believe that by being married in a temple of God by an individual possessing authority, families will be united together forever, as long as they live in obedience to God's commandments. Through God's mercy and grace, we can be bound together by a power stronger than death.

Our friends were married in the temple and so have access to this blessing. I cannot imagine the grief they are experiencing. I can relate a little as I watched HH's family go through the same thing when his younger brother died shortly after we were married. I don't know if there is anything worse for a mother than to have to bury one of her children. But my in-laws were strengthened by their faith in the principle of eternal families. And I know our friends have been relying on their faith at this time.

So, even in what is a dark and tragic time, our loving Heavenly Father provides us with the priceless gift of hope. Our friends can find the comfort they need in His love and His divine plan. When we remember that what He most wants is for us to find joy, it makes sense that our families should be eternal.

An eternity without HH, Sweet P, and Little M could hold very little joy for me, no matter how wonderful a place I was in. I love them and they are an essential part of me and my life. I am so grateful for Heavenly Father's plan and for our Savior's sacrifice and mercy to make this all possible. And I am grateful for this knowledge and the peace and joy it brings to me, especially at a time like this.

Please, share your thoughts on the joy of eternal families.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Did I Lose A Post?

The link for last week's story can be found here. Thanks so much for the help and the insights!

Recently, a friend of mine asked me a question about guilt. So, I came here to copy from my post on guilt. Only to discover, there is no such post. I was so positive that I devoted an entire post to guilt, but I cannot find it anywhere. I'm still sort of in disbelief about it, so if these is repetitive to anyone, I apologize.

But guilt is one of the top joy-zappers. So, if it hasn't been posted about yet, it needs to be.

HH would tell you that I am sort of a Guilt Professional. Or at least I used to be. I could find a way to feel guilty over anything and everything. And I did. And then it, literally, sucked all my energy away and I had to choose to lose the guilt or spend the rest of my life laying in my bed.

So, I called a wise sister-in-law for help. She gave me a lot of great advice that day, but I think the thing that helped the most was when I asked her about guilt. This was her response:

"Cheryl, guilt is something you're meant to feel when you're doing something wrong. So, if you're choosing to do drugs instead of spend time with your kids, you should feel guilty. But if you're spending a little time taking care of yourself, there is nothing to feel guilty about."

She's smart and funny. I'm so blessed in my family.

Anyway, I realized that what she was saying was true. And that I needed to truly make myself believe it.

That was the hard part.

But I prayed for help. And then whenever I started feeling guilty, I would stop and assess the situation. Was I doing something truly wrong, or was I just failing to be Super Woman?

Because that is why so many of us are Guilt Professionals, just like I was. We see other women with their perfect hair and figure and their perfect children dressed in perfectly clean clothes who never fight. We read their blogs and find out about the gourmet meals they prepare, the cute quiet books they make for their children, the service projects they organize, the fun outings they take their children on daily, and that their two-year old just finished reading the unabridged version of Les Miserables. And we know that they never raise their voice.

And then we look at our imperfect lives and try to figure out what we're doing wrong. Because, surely, we must be doing something--or everything--wrong.

Has anyone else ever been there, or is it just me?

Since I won't get your comments right away, I'm going to assume that you know what I'm talking about here.

The point is, forget about the Super Women surrounding you. We all know that in reality, no one is that perfect. But that doesn't really matter.

What matters is that you cut yourself some slack and give yourself a break.

Sit down, take a look at your life, prioritize, simplify, and trust in the evidence.

Sit down--Seriously, there is nothing wrong with resting from time to time. You don't have to be going non-stop all day in order to feel like you're doing all you should. Sit for five minutes and do absolutely nothing. And feel good about it. Because you deserve it. Or take a bath. Or eat a chocolate. Or read a book. Or do whatever. Just repeat after me: IT IS OKAY. And believe yourself when you say it.

Take a look at your life--Figure out the things that really need to happen. I actually made two lists. The first was the absolute bare essentials because I really was completely wiped out and I needed to completely change my perspective. It looked like this:
  • Keep the children alive
  • Pray

Then I made another one that included things like put food on the table, spend time with the kids, read my scriptures, exercise, and sleep.

Still pretty basic. And I didn't put any requirements or stipulations on it. I try to cook healthy meals from scratch, but serving hot dogs and chicken nuggets is not a sin. And I didn't set time requirements on any of the other things. I would do what I had the time and energy for.

But I do want to put in a little plug for taking care of yourself. That has to make the list. I know you've all heard it before, but you can't take care of others, if you're not taking care of you. That includes physical exercise as well as something rejuvenating--like a hobby or a passion or an indulgence. Just do it.

Simplify--I cut everything else out of my life. And since Guilt hadn't made either of the lists, it had to go, too. Then, as I felt better, I added other things in. Only if I wanted to. Except Guilt. It is never welcome back.

Trust in the evidence--Or, find a better way to judge your success. People are always telling me what well-behaved and happy children I have. It used to be that when someone would say this, I'd think (or sometimes even tell) about the times when they screamed for four hours a day, or something. But then I thought about it, and I realized that they are pretty happy and well-behaved. And though I can't take full credit for that, I can take some. If I was the horrible mom I was telling myself I was, they couldn't possibly be as content as they are.

When your child gives you a hug, know that they're telling you that you're the best mommy they could ever have. Because it's true. They don't need a perfect mommy. They need a real mommy. One who tries hard. One who has good days and bad days, but isn't afraid to come back after a bad day and try again.

When your spouse tells you that you made a great meal, or cleaned the house well, or whatever, don't crowd out that compliment with thoughts of the times you've fallen short in that area. Just say "thank you" and believe him.

And most importantly, rely on the Spirit of the Lord. When you start to feel guilty, say a prayer and ask Heavenly Father about it. You can ask Him what you should be doing, or where that feeling is coming from, or sometimes just for a witness of His approval. And He will let you know that He is pleased with the work you're doing. He knows you. He loves you. He knows what you are capable of. And if you can be doing something more, He will gently guide you in how to do it. And He won't make you feel like a horrible person in the process. Unless you are committing sin, those feelings of guilt are not coming from Him.

There you have it: Combating Guilt 101.

What about you? How do you get over unnecessary guilt? What makes you feel good about yourself and the effort you're making? How do you stop from comparing yourself to others?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Judge Not

So, did everyone save some money and do cheap or free things this weekend?

We didn't. But we usually do.

HH took me out for my birthday. It was so fun to go on an actual date (translation: No kids!). But that meant that it wasn't anything close to a free evening.

So, there is my confession. But I promise to live more frugally this weekend.

Anyway, it occurred to me the other day that we haven't done a post on a service-related topic for a while. And since I think service is a huge key to abiding joy, it is time.

And I want to use Markell's idea this time. So, we're not discussing physical service today. More of a verbal and social service.

Markell suggested that we discuss helping others feel joy. And not detracting from it by being critical or judgemental.

It's amazing how much power our thoughts can have!

There's a story I want to share. I tried really hard to find it, but was unable. So, if you know the source, please copy it into a comment. Basically, there's a mother with at least one toddler standing in line at an airport. The toddler is sitting on the floor screaming and she pushes him along with her foot every time they need to move forward in the line.

You can imagine what everyone standing around her is thinking of her, but one man goes to her and asks if he can help. It turns out she also has a high risk pregnancy and cannot lift the little boy. It seems like she might have been dealing with other problems, but I can't remember.

The point is, no one else knew what that woman was dealing with. But I'm sure many of them were thinking critically of her. And I'm sure she was aware of what people were thinking by the looks on their faces and the lack of understanding. And it's not like she had much possibility of joy in that moment, but the negative thoughts and opinions certainly weren't helping.

But one individual thought the best of her and seems to have made the assumption that the mother wouldn't willingly scoot her child across the floor if she had another option. And even though her situation was still difficult, he afforded her the possibility of still finding joy by offering help and understanding and by not being critical.

I think we have this same opportunity pretty much every single day. Possibly multiple times throughout the day.

I know this isn't a new concept. It's just a reminder. But let's try to give people the benefit of the doubt. Let's try to assume that those around us are genuinely good people. When you don't know what someone is going through, it's impossible to accurately assess what motivates their actions.

And just like all other forms of service, this one turns right back around and blesses you with more joy. For example, let's say someone cuts in front of you as you're heading to the check out line. You can assume they did it because they're an inconsiderate jerk; or you can assume they didn't see you coming and would have let you go first if they had.

Either way, you're still stuck behind them. But in the first case you're mad and in the second, you can move on and forget about it. Meanwhile, they won't be getting any negative vibes off of you and trying to figure out what your problem is.

Anyway, what are your thoughts here? How do you keep your thoughts in check when it's so easy to be critical and judgemental? How do you help someone when it seems like they must be making wrong choices? How does it help you when someone else gives you the benefit of the doubt?