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?

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Livin' On Love

Well, it's taken me a half hour since turning on my computer to get to this page. I'm not really sure what is wrong with my computer, but it's inspired me to write a very brief post since I have sauce simmering on the stove and dough ready rise out over its bowl.

I want to discuss Christy's idea today of how to have fun on a budget.

I know most people's budgets are tighter right now, but this is something that can be a great resource all of the time.

So, what do you do for fun that is cheap or free?

I am all about coupons. If you don't get the newspaper, you should still get coupons in the mail for local restaurants and entertainment. Those are a simple and quick way to cut costs.

Call local entertainment places to find out when their specials are. Many places like museums, bowling alleys or miniature golf centers offer discounts for going at off-peak times and days.

Have a picnic in the park.

Rent movies from you library. Most libraries do this for free. Even Redbox can't beat that.

Also, check your library for discount passes to local attractions.

Google recipes for your favorite restaurant dishes and try to make them yourselves.

Go people watching at a mall, park, or airport. If you really want to get crazy, have a scavenger hunt of sorts and try to find someone wearing a black vest, carrying a red purse, toting the most luggage, etc.

One thing we love to do is take walks. HH and I have been doing that ever since we first started dating. It's a great time to discuss subjects that may not come up when we're surrounded by all of our projects and to-do lists in our home. It's also a great opportunity to explore new places, or even where we live. Most of the time our kids enjoy our walks too, but if they get a little long then we play games like trying to look for things of certain colors or having little races.

Have a game night with your friends. Everyone can bring their favorite game and snack.

Have a pizza night with your friends. If you're hosting you can provide the dough and sauce and have your friends bring their favorite toppings.

I got this off of another blog, but I love the idea. It's for kids. Freeze some toys in plastic containers and water. Then pop the ice out of the container and give your kids safe tools and see who can "free" their toy the fastest. Do this outside.

These are not necessarily my best ideas, but hopefully, it gets you started. I'm hoping to see lots of comments this week because I know you can all add to this list!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Guilty Pleasures

Before I begin using all your wonderful ideas, I just wanted to ask one more time if any of you would like to do a guest blog using your wonderful idea? I don't mind doing it and it's so nice to have some fresh thoughts. But I do feel bad that you have to read my ramblings most of the time and I know you'd appreciate someone else's thinking once in a while. So, if you are interested, just let me know.

And, as always, I will be posting about whatever I feel I'm supposed to each week. So, if I don't post about your idea right away, it just means its time has yet to come.

Anyway, onto this week's topic for discussion.

I want to talk about guilt again. Just because I love it so much.

Okay, not really.

Actually, I was reflecting back on some of the experiences I had on my trip and I remembered a discussion with my family. Some of us were sharing things we've learned from various trials over the past year. Then my brother began sharing what he learned, but first sort of apologized because his trial came from choosing between two amazing opportunities. Opportunities that he's worked insanely hard to reach, I might add.

And I wanted to tell him not to apologize for having something good in his life because, honestly, I'm just SOOOOOO happy for him.

But I have a problem with interrupting that I'm working on, so I refrained.

Then I was thinking about it again today, and about how often we all do the same thing and *voila!*, I knew this is what I was supposed to post about.

Seriously, how often does something great happen to you and then instead of just living it up and truly enjoying the moment, you feel guilty. Guilty because someone else is having a bad day. Guilty because the good thing didn't happen to everyone else around you. Guilty because it seems like everyone else has a much harder life than you do.

I know I've done that plenty of times. In fact, it was something I struggled with quite a bit back in high school. I did have a pretty great life. People were always telling me I had a perfect life, actually. And they weren't too far off. But it seemed like everyone else around me was having a hard time and going through really difficult times.

So, I felt guilty. As if my happiness was somehow taking away from their potential for happiness.

Say what?

But really, guilt is supposed to be something we feel when we're doing something wrong. How is being happy wrong? It isn't. If it's true that "wickedness never was happiness", then surely the inverse is true that happiness never was wickedness.

So, why do we feel guilty?

I say that instead of the guilt, we should just enjoy the joy to its fullest extent for as long as we can. I'm sure all of you know as well as I do that even though the sun shines today there will eventually be storm clouds in each of our lives. So, if you've got the sun today then bask in it and love it. Wouldn't it be silly if I kept inside just because it's raining in Portland? Would my avoiding the sun help those wet people in Portland?

I don't think so.

Actually, they might benefit from a lovely picture of the beach.

So, in addition to just basking in the joy for your own benefit, allow yourself to be happy for the benefit of others. The great thing about joy is that it is easy to spread.

My little sister just got a wonderful job. It's at a preschool hundreds of miles from here, so I will never benefit from her job. However, it makes me happy because getting that job makes her SUPER happy. And if I was having a bad day, hearing her good news would have been even better for me.

So, don't hide your joy out of guilt, spread it around for everyone!

Have you ever been lifted by someone else's joy while enduring trials of your own? Does anyone know why we feel guilty at times of joy? Does anyone have good news they'd like to share with the rest of us?