Sunday, January 25, 2009


Well, I'm happy to share that I was able to maintain my focus on compassion and have another joyful week. It feels really good. And that is so impressive for me at this time of the year.

This week's topic feels a little bit like cheating because it is the same topic as the lesson I will be teaching to the women's organization (Relief Society) at my church a week from today. But I feel like it's what I'm supposed to post about today. And I've been thinking about it all week, so I have had ample time to reflect on it.

So, this week we're discussing "Unity". In case you hadn't guessed that from the title. So, how does unity contribute to finding joy in our lives? For me personally, I find unity in my life at a few different levels and each of them contribute to my level of joy.

First, I would say is unity with God and myself. I put the two together because I know that as I strive be more like God by following the example set by Jesus Christ, I will be doing exactly what is right and best for me. Anything that distracts me from this goal creates a division between God and me and within myself. I'm not saying I have a split personality, just that when I participate in something like negative self-talk I'm not unified within me. I'm tearing myself apart. And there is really no joy to be found when that is going on. So, it's important that I stay close to God and see myself through His kind and compassionate and knowing eyes.

Second, is unity at home. Or with my family. HH often tells me that whatever my mood is, the rest of the family will follow. And he's right. When I am in a caring and happy mood, the tone in our home is very harmonious. But when I'm upset or down, you'll most likely find discord. That's because when I am in a bad mood everyone is affected by it. And the family feels kind of "split". It seems like everyone is mad at someone (or everyone). Sometimes this chain-reaction drives me crazy! But the truth is, it's a blessing. I'm like the glue and all I have to do is make the choice to "stick" to a cheerful attitude (forgive the pun) and my family usually stays happy.

Another important aspect of unity in my family is the strength it provides me. When my husband, or even my children, feel close to me, it is much easier for me to feel their support. When I first started getting depressed I would push HH away and then dive even deeper because I felt so alone. Thankfully, we've both figured that out and I try to stay connected to him no matter how I feel. He's also gotten a lot better at not allowing me to push him away.

Unity in the family is important for the good times too. When we feel unified fun things are more fun and great things are even greater. For example, I play with Sweet P and Little M (I decided that was more fun than "KN" and "BW") a lot. When I'm feeling distant or distracted, not only can they tell, but it's pretty boring for all of us. However, when I'm focused on how much I love them and what an awesome gift they are in my life, we all have a lot of fun and find that the afternoon passes much too quickly.

This principle works with the family I grew up in too. Location-wise I'm pretty far away from almost all of my family. But if anything comes up, I know I can send out a quick email asking for their prayers and I instantly feel connected to each of them. And when something good happens to any of us, all we have to do is share that with each other and the joy of the good thing is magnified through our love for one another. Families are an amazing thing.

Unity with friends is pretty much along the same lines, so I won't delve into that.

The final group to feel unified with is everyone. Try a little experiment--go about your business one day thinking everyone is suspect and maybe even out to get you. Then the next day, try believing that there is a connection between you and everyone who crosses your path. Remember that we are all children of God; that we all share this earth together; that we're all experiencing the stress of current circumstances. And believe that we are here to help each other through it all. Believe that anyone who offends you did it merely out of ignorance, without any real intent. Believe that anyone who helps you is offering you a gesture of love. Try saying "Hi" with a genuine smile to at least one stranger. If you do that, I can give you a 110% guarantee that you'll feel a lot more joy on the second day. So, don't go back to the first day, okay?

Remember, we're working on remembering things here. The things that bring greater joy in our lives. Because the joy is there. It's just a matter of remembering to find it and choosing to experience it.

Anyway, what are your thoughts on this? (Remember, I'm teaching a lesson on Unity, so I can use all the insight I can get!)

Here's to another week of remembering!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

MY 2009 Theme

I must admit, I've been a little busy this week and didn't really have time to figure out what to put on the blog today. So, I'm going to share with you what I chose to work on for this year: Compassion. That was the one word that kept coming back to me as I thought and pondered and prayed on it. But I kept pushing it back because, really, what do I do with that? Focusing on "Commitment" last year was a no-brainer for me because I really do struggle with making and keeping commitments. But I feel like I'm a kind and caring person already, maybe not perfectly, but certainly that's not THE most important thing to work on this year. Well, after fighting it for a week, I accepted that apparently it is. And I tried not to be offended by that. (c:

So, then I sat on it for another week, still unsure of how to really put that into action. I mean, okay, sometimes I'm a little impatient with my family members when I think they are being excessively whiny over something. But how can that be my big theme for the year? That's why I didn't share it with you last week. That, and the fact that I really was barely able to cut and paste the post I did manage to make.

Now, let me sidetrack for a moment. January is a hard time for me. I look forward to all of the holidays at the end of the year--A LOT. I look forward to them for pretty much the whole year. And then November hits and life is incredibly busy. It's so fun, but then it's all over way too fast. And then I'm sad. Because I have 11 more long months to wait and the next four of those will be in a cold and dreary wasteland. (HH says I'm a little overly dramatic about this, but I just don't do "cold" very well). This year there is a ray of sunlight in the form of a visit from my cousin whom I love and adore like a sister. Yay! So, I tried to focus on that, but I still felt myself heading downward into what felt like an inevitable bout of depression that I was worried would last until her visit and then come back shortly after.

I've been doing very well lately, so I desperately wanted to avoid that. But I couldn't figure out how. Sometimes I don't feel very bright. Thank goodness for a loving Heavenly Father who never tires of really spelling things out for me. Finally, I made the connection (and remembered this post) and considered the many facets of "Compassion".

Was that a long enough intro? That's what happens when I don't have this all thought out before typing it down. Anyway, as soon as I crawled outside of my little burrow of misery for a moment, I saw all kinds of opportunities for compassion. And that's why I had such a busy week. And it was fantastic! It's amazing how blessed we become when we serve others. For example, one day I was still feeling a bit weak with the slow recovery from the medication, but the needs of several people landed on my plate. There are many things that I can't do well, but one thing I can do is cook. So, when someone is going through a hard time, I show my love and support through food. I remember standing in the kitchen, literally on shaking legs, realizing the hours of cooking and baking ahead of me for what I had planned, wondering what in the world I was trying to do. I'm not trying to brag here at all. The truth is, I kept contemplating different reasons not to do what I was doing, but then the Spirit would remind me that it was important. And I felt the promise that if I did this, I would feel better by the end of the day.

And I did! I felt so much happier than I had in a while. I felt tired, but not the same kind of overwhelming yucky tired from before. This was just like a contented tired. I felt so good about what I'd been able to do. And I felt very blessed because there is no way I could've done it without help from the Lord. My children had even cooperated as I toted them along with me everywhere. It was a day full of miracles, big and small. And I was most definitely the one who received the most that day.

I'm not going to do that every day, or every week, but I am certainly going to keep trying to stay open to opportunities to strengthen my compassion for those around me. I frequently feel as though I am "too busy" to take a break from my daily routine to do something for someone else. But I learned this week, that it's okay to break that routine. And I re-learned that the Lord will make it possible for me to find time to get all of the important things done when I do what He wants me to do. The sad thing is, I can almost guarantee that I haven't learned that lesson for good. Or the lesson about how serving others is the best way to make joy in my life. This week things felt so perfect. I feel so much joy and contentment and I love it! I've been a better mom, wife, and friend. I feel really good about myself. But I've been here before, and then I forget and revert back to my silly, stubborn old ways.

Does this happen to anyone else? What do you do to combat it? Any "tricks" for remembering to do the things that make you truly happy? Any ideas on why on earth it's so difficult to do what makes my life easiest?

Thanks for enduring this rambling and long post. Have a great week!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Acknowledging the Joy in Our Journey

Well, I would be feeling much better but the medication they gave me for my cough has me nearly incapacitated. Thank you for all your input on last week's post. I will comment on that more later when I am capable of forming a complete thought.

Fortunately for all of us, my mom unknowingly saved the day. She does this often. She sent me this in an email earlier in the week and I really loved it. It is a fascinating story that really made me think (I read it before I got put on the medication). If you would like to read the story in its entirety (it is very long), check here.

A Violinist in the Metro

A man sat at a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that thousands of people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

Three minutes went by and a middle aged man noticed there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried up to meet his schedule.
A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the till and without stopping continued to walk.

A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again.Clearly he was late for work.

The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy. His mother tagged him along, hurried but the kid stopped to look at the violinist. Finally the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.

In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the best musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written with a violin worth 3.5 million dollars.
Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston and the seats averaged $100.

This is a real story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of an social experiment about perception, taste and priorities of people. The outlines were: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour: Do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?

One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be: If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written on an almost priceless instrument, how many other things are we missing?

This really hit home with me because it seemed right along the lines of this blog. I began this in an effort to more fully recognize the joy that I know is in my life, but I am somehow missing. I think this story reveals an important key to that puzzle. Sometimes all it takes to find joy is to look. Make time in your life to appreciate what is around you. Especially beauty. We all need more beauty in our lives.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

What Will YOUR 2009 Be?

Happy New Year!

Wow. Is anyone else confused about how 2009 came so fast? Wasn't it just a couple of years ago that everyone was waiting for all the computers to explode, or something at midnight with Y2K? Really, 2009? Really?!

Okay, well, I guess it really is a new year and that brings us all to the inevitable topic of "New Year's Resolutions". I've never been too big on these. I struggle staying focused with goals in the first place, so putting one off (once I make one) until January 1st seems utterly ridiculous. But last year I came up with a new idea--focus on one trait for the entire year. Like a theme that would spill over into every aspect of my life. I just confessed one of my major pitfalls--lack of ability to stay with something--so, I declared last year to be my "Year of Commitment".

A friend of mine did something similar, so I'm not claiming to have this novel idea. Perhaps some of you do the same thing already. If so, please share. I'm still kicking around a few ideas for this year and would love some new suggestions. I definitely made great strides towards being more committed last year, but I still have room for improvement. However, I believe I will continue to progress in that area and ought to choose something different.

I believe that growth and progression are great ways to capture more joy in our lives. Think about it, if we never changed, life would become very stale. But it's so easy to get frustrated with goals or resolutions. I often expect myself to be able to change over night. I don't know why because that has never happened. Not once. But I still hold myself to the 24-hour improvement standard. Fortunately, I am getting better at reminding myself that I'm just me and to be patient with myself. I try to find ways to mark my progress at small increments. And I try to reward myself for little achievements. When all else fails, I look at myself in the mirror and pretend I'm someone else looking at me. Then I try to honestly assess myself as though I were another person. And I usually decide that I would be impressed by me, if I were someone else. Then I try to hold onto that attitude.

What do you do to keep focused on the positive progress of your efforts and not get bogged down by the process?

Another problem with goals is that I tend to get really overzealous about it for a while and neglect most other aspects of my life. Then the rest of my life catches up with me and/or I get bored with the goal and it kind of falls by the wayside.

Any ideas on ways to combat this one?

Anyway, I'm a little under the weather, so I'm afraid I'll have to wrap this up. As if it's not long enough. The main thing is, I really like having a one-word theme for the year because it doesn't seem so daunting. I can set other smaller goals in every aspect of my life (i.e. spiritual, social, emotional, physical, family, educational, etc.) that make progress toward that same thing. Because these goals are smaller, they are easier to stay focused on and achieve. Because they are all over the place in my life, I get lots of opportunities to work on that same thing.

I'm not sure if this is coherent. I apologize. I really need to go to bed. I'll try to get better and make more sense next week. In the meantime, let me know your take on "resolutions" and "themes". I really could use your help in determining what I'd like to focus on this year. And on how you keep making progress on your goals.