Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Acceptance Brings Peace

Acceptance Brings Peace

This morning I was in tears again.  Little things seem to be striking chords that I thought were long buried.  I went running to clear my head and while I ran I listened to one of my favorite speakers, Richard G. Scott.  Having lost two children and then his wife 18 years ago, I feel that he understands and has great perspective on the things that I am facing.  I listened to the talk he gave right after his wife's death, Trust in the Lord, a total of five times...I needed it that much!  Then I listened to his most recent talk, Make the Exercise of you Faith your First Priority.

I determined that I needed to be more earnest in my prayers and that I need to work on accepting God's will.  These thought brought me back to the prayer I prayed right after we found out about the accident...
After my mother-in-law called to tell me that the plane had not landed, we began calling and looking at flight records on the internet to try to determine where my husband and father were. In the process, my oldest son, Alex found an article on the internet. He said, 
"Mom, there has been a plane crash in California.  It was a twin Sessna bound for Omaha, Nebraska.  It says one is presumed dead." 
The story confirmed what I already knew in my heart and so instinctively so as to protect my children and to concentrate any strength we had, I gathered my kids around, and we knelt and I prayed, 
"Heavenly Father, we know that Dad and Grandpa are no longer here. Please help us to get through this and help us to have peace and understanding."
I cannot tell you why I prayed that prayer, but in that moment I felt peace...  

Peace from submitting my will to the Lord.  

I found this story that reminded me of that prayer that I said and it also highlights the importance of recognizing and then accepting the will of God in our lives...

Several years ago there was a young father who had been active in church as a boy but had chosen a different path during his teenage years. After serving in the military, he married a lovely girl, and soon children blessed their home.

One day without warning their little four-year-old daughter became critically ill and was hospitalized. In desperation and for the first time in many years, the father was found on his knees in prayer, asking that the life of his daughter be spared. Yet her condition worsened. Gradually, this father sensed that his little girl would not live, and slowly his prayers changed; he no longer prayed for healing but rather for understanding. “Let Thy will be done” was now the manner of his pleadings.

Soon his daughter was in a coma, and the father knew her hours on earth were few. Fortified with understanding, trust, and power beyond their own, the young parents prayed again, asking for the opportunity to hold her close once more while she was awake. The daughter’s eyes opened,and her frail arms reached out to her parents for one final embrace. And then she was gone. This father knew their prayers had been answered—a kind, compassionate Father in Heaven had comforted their hearts. God’s will had been done, and they had gained understanding. (Adapted from H.Burke Peterson, “Adversity and Prayer,” Ensign, Jan. 1974, 18.)

Simply saying the words “Thy will be done”
 is not enough. 

This act of submission is also one that we cannot tackle on our own. We need God’s help in surrendering our will to Him. Prayer is the best way to help us do that.

“Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other”

Savior provided the perfect example as He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, “saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup fromme: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. … And being in anagony he prayed more earnestly” (Luke 22:42, 44). - Bednar

My prayers have taken on a new level or earnestness since the death of my husband.  

At almost the two year mark I find myself struggling again.  Things in my life have brought those events back into the forefront, and I feel the absence of my husband more acutely.  Sadness and fear seem to want to envelope me and so I am praying all the more earnestly... 
Praying to be able to have understanding and to have the strength to do what He wants me to do.   
Praying to know what that path is and trying to act on those feelings and ideas that come into my mind that encourage me to do good in this world.
There hasn't been a huge healing break through as yet, but I get those moments of peace when I come back into alignment with God's will. I seem to find enough for the day... My Daily Bread. 
"The object of our prayers should not be to present a wish list or a series of requests but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is eager to bestow, according to His will and timing. Every sincere prayer is heard and answered by our Heavenly Father, but the answers we receive may not be what we expect or come to us when we want or in the way we anticipate." -Bednar

I believe this quote to be true.  When I look beyond what I think I want, and open myself up to the idea that my circumstancing are teaching me important things, then I am able to understand why I must suffer at time.  Not only that, but I am able to see the compensating blessings that are in my life.

 When I am praying to align my will with God's will...

  • I am more grateful.  
  • I see things more clearly.  
  • I can function in peace. 
  • I seem to be able to do more and be more that I could on my own.

These are real blessings.  They are real changes, and despite the periods of sorrow, the setbacks and the pain, I do see growth within me.

Additional Resources:

Bednar, David A. "Not My Will, but Thine, Be Done," April 2008

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Overcoming Fear & Moving Forward in Faith - part 1 Understanding purpose

Learning How to Overcome Fear & 
Move Forward in Faith

Fear works directly against faith. 
Fear pulls me away from the Lord
When my faith is strong...

  • I am happy, confident, and even energetic.
  • I remain calm as difficulties arise, I see things in perspective, and I feel the comfort and guidance of the Spirit. 
  • When confronted with a new difficulty, I ask, “What am I to learn?” instead of asking “Why me?”
 When fear overcomes me...
  • I am anxious and worried about the future. 
  • Those are hard times, lonely times. I don’t feel like I can handle things. 
  • I am likely to be easily upset and over react to problems. 
  • I become paralyzed or find myself caught in emotional loops of despair. 
Fear is something I am well aquanted with.

I often have feared the unknown...
As a result, I have always tried to be proactive in order to control my life as much as possible and prevent any unknown surprises.

Shortly after we finished medical school and the birth of my last child,  I had a bout with depression that was mostly caused by fear.  I felt certain that my picture perfect life was not going to last and that a large trial was coming to shatter my world.  

I was very fearful and I thought… 
“Maybe if I am better and do more spiritual things,  I will be able to avoid this trial.”  
Instead of feeling peace, I began to be overwhelmed with the never ending ‘to do list’ that I created.  I knew no matter what I did that I would always fall short.  I became paralyzed by my fear.   
When I look back at that time period, I realize that I did not understand the purpose of life and the purpose of difficulties in this life.  I wished to avoid them at all cost.  

Most of us wish to avoid hardships… 
No one wants to loose their job, or have a child with a disability, loose a loved one, suffer an illness, or struggle with emotional problems.  

The truth is… 
We would all like this life to be like a Disney Cruise! (I use that analogy because we all would like to have everything taken care of for us and our families.  We want to have this magical, wonderful adventure complete with a happy theme song… you’ve seen the commercials… isn’t that what you would like you life to be?)
Well, we didn’t sign up for a Disney Cruise… 
We signed up for something more like a navy tour complete with our own boot camp. Now you may find that to be a discouraging, disappointing thought…
"Why would I chose that?”  You may say. 
As part of God’s plan for us we chose to come to earth, we were not so much focused on the ride, but on the end result. 
 “Anyone who imagines that bliss is normal is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting that he’s been robbed. The fact is that most putts don’t drop. Most beef is tough. Most children grow up to be just ordinary people. Most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration. Most jobs are more often dull than otherwise. . . .Life is like an old-time rail journey—delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders, and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed. The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride.”- Gordon B Hinckley
We knew life was going to be challenging,
 but the ride was intended to get us somewhere important…
 it was to help us BECOME someone better than we were.  

It was to help us become like Jesus and prepare us to live with Him.  


A life of ease would never have done that… it would never develop the strength of character and faith and determined righteousness that we needed to learn in order to be...
"Heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ."  
Paul continues saying… 
"For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.Romans 8:17-18
Thomas Monson said in a speech after the death of his wife,
 “Our Heavenly Father, who gives us so much to delight in, also knows that we learn and grow and become stronger as we face and survive the trials through which we must pass. We know that there are times when we will experience heartbreaking sorrow, when we will grieve, and when we may be tested to our limits. However, such difficulties allow us to change for the better, to rebuild our lives in the way our Heavenly Father teaches us, and to become something different from what we were—better than what we were, more understanding than what we were, more empathetic than what we were, with stronger testimonies than we had before..." 
"This should be our purpose—to persevere and endure, yes, but also to become more spiritually refined as we make our way through sunshine and sorrow.
Understanding the purpose of our trials and difficulties can help us combat fear and press forward in faith.

As I accept those things that come to me and pray for extra help to go through them, then I find peace and I find strength to continue on, and gradually I get more and more understanding.  Despite all of the bad and the difficulties in the past two years I can look back and see growth and I can see good.  That gives me faith and hope that the things right now that I don't understand will also work for my good and will help me to grow.  

So everyday I choose faith over fear.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Tears from the Heavens

Tears from the Heavens

It's raining this morning, and as I watch the tears fall from the heavens, it seems to match my mood.  The last two weeks have been a struggle for me.  I have learned that this roller coaster ride through grief has periods like this. No matter what I do, I cannot escape these periods of sorrow and suffering.    This has caused me to ponder on the purpose of suffering this morning...

I know the purpose of the Savior and His suffering for us was to alleviate our personal suffering not only from sin, 
but from every sorrow. 

I know that to access that healing power that I have to turn to Him by...
  • studying His word, 
  • praying
  • repenting and then 
  • acting on the things that I know to be true.  

I have many times felt the relief that comes through doing those four things.  In fact, it is why I share what I am learning with others.  When I reach out, as He did, to those who are suffering, then I get His peace in return.  He blesses me with that as I go about doing His work..."mourning with those that mourn" and "lifting up the hands which hang down, and strengthening the feeble knees."(Mosiah 18:9D&C 81:5)

Yet today and the past two weeks that peace has been harder to find.  There have been moments of relief, but the enablement and peace that I search for has been pulled just out of my reach it seems.

I feel like I am on a bike ride through the hills of the Ozarks.  It's either uphill or downhill with very little flat.  Right now, I am in an uphill stretch, and I think I have forgotten how hard those are.  Having just finished a two months of downhill period, where everything seemed easy...
I was lifted.
The answers flowed.
I felt direction.
I felt healing and peace.
But I suppose I can't ride downhill for ever, and for every time of ease there must be a time of greater testing...
to stretch me...
to keep me grounded...
and to help me retain empathy and understanding for others who struggle more than I do.  
Having this understanding maybe makes it all a little easier to bear.  When I see a purpose, when I know that I am learning and in the long run it will help my character and help me to be of better use to Him, then I know that I can push through the dark, finish climbing that hill because another downhill awaits.

Fortunately God knows what we can handle and He doesn't give us more than we can handle with His help.  I add that last part, because I think He does give us more than we can handle by ourselves.  It is that over burdening that makes us turn to Him.  When we realize it is too much to do on our own, then we are willing to yoke up with Him so that He can help us pull our load. (Matt 11:29)

So another purpose of suffering is the incentive that it is for us to turn our hearts and wills back to God.  In fact, the quicker and more easily we do that, the quicker the relief comes.
"When you pass through trials for His purposes, as you trust Him, exercise faith in Him, He will help you. That support will generally come step by step, a portion at a time. While you are passing through each phase, the pain and difficulty that comes from being enlarged will continue. If all matters were immediately resolved at your first petition, you could not grow. Your Father in Heaven and His Beloved Son love you perfectly. They would not require you to experience a moment more of difficulty than is absolutely needed for your personal benefit or for that of those you love." -Richard G. Scott
As I am schooled though this process, I see and feel the periods of support that help me move forward and learn how to better act on the things I know to be true.  I also see and feel the pain of the phases of enlargement as that help is pulled back...almost as a carrot before a horse.  Having tasted the sweetness of the help, I am coached to continue to take those steps in the dark or to peddle the last part of the hill on my own.

I know that the "pull back" helps me to grow, but it is still hard to like these periods of enlargement.  No one likes the last few sets of lifting weights that the coach urges you to complete when you are sure there is no more in you...
but it is those sets that make the difference in the training... 
it is not the easy ones in the begging, but the ones that push you to the brink.
The rain is still falling and I know that I need to get on my knees, spend sometime studying and get moving again.  I do not know when the relief will come, but I am going to act in faith that it will come.
it always has before, 
and when it does, it is always worth that final push up the hill.

For More study:

I highly recommend these previous posts... I went back and restudied them today.

(part 1 of 5 with links to the additional sections) 
from a speech given by Jonathan G. Sandberg a therapist and professor in the BYU School of Family Life

Richard G Scott, "Trust in the Lord"

Monday, October 6, 2014

I'm not Opinionated, I'm just Always Right

I have often had a inner struggles with the need 'to be right.' I think it is one of my biggest weaknesses.  When I was 16 my family bought me a sweatshirt that said, 

"I'm Not Opinionated, I'm just Always Right!"
I honestly didn't understand why they thought it was so funny.  That was how very un-selfaware I was.  I still really struggle with this, but now it is something I am working to correct within myself. I equate it with pride or the lack of humility or meekness. 

The need 'to be right' is one of the biggest cancers in relationships.

I find that if I ever feel the need to justify my negative behavior that I am flat out in the wrong.  It doesn't matter what someone else has done or said, I have the ability to control my response and I do not need to respond negatively in turn.  I can choose to do better than that.  Inflamed communications don't need fanning of the fire, they need quenching.  I can choose to be the water that smooths things over if I am thinking and empathizing with the other person instead of thinking of myself.

The other day I was driving with my 15 year-old son who was not listening to my patient corrections about his driving.  I raised my voice and then I began to berate him.  I watched as he became more anxious and I felt him close off from me.  I knew that I had damaged our relationship by my unkind corrections.

Now I could have easily justified myself because of the potential danger of having an accident.  I did need to correct him, but it was not the correction that was the problem, it was the way I did it and the way I made him feel.  

I was wrong because I made him feel bad.

I am always in the wrong, even if I am right, if I make someone feel bad.

One of the biggest problems with this kind of communication is that we cripple other people's ability to positively act.  We hurt their confidence and we put them in a place where they cannot feel the spirit.

Do I care more about my car than I do about my son's ability to feel the spirit and to feel good about himself?

It took me about 5 minutes to suck it up and apologize for my response. (Something that has been very hard for me to do, but because I know how important it is, it is something that I have been forcing myself to do.)  I told him that there was no excuse for how I had treated him.  I asked for his forgiveness and then I told him how well he was doing with his driving.  Then we were in a place that I could positively discuss the things he needed to focus on doing in our next driving session.  I reassured him that I knew he would be able to make those changes.

We had a totally different night and totally different experience driving the next day than we would have had if I had not swallowed my pride and apologized.

As hard as to eat crow in that moment, it felt so AMAZING afterward!  I felt the spirit again, and so did he.

None of us like to be put down or simply 'take it,'  but we need to consider our motivations and the consequences of our responses.  Are we fighting because we want to be right or justified?  Is our stand worth the withdrawl of the spirit? Can I say what needs to be said with the spirit, and will my words influence the person I am speaking to so  they will want to  change?  If the spirit cannot be present and if it is not the motivation for us to speak, then we need to swallow our pride and walk away.  

Shortly after we got married, my husband shared this scripture with me and told me that this was the pattern he wanted to use to raise our children. 
D&C  121:43 Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy;
I have thought often on this scripture and the need to only act in sharpness if I feel the spirit prompt me to do so.  If I am angry or hurt, then I cannot feel the spirit and so I should not respond this way.

I invite you to look inward at your motivations, ask God for help in changing them, and then work on those things so that you can improve your relationships.  I encourage you to study the following article and share back about how putting these things into practice has improved your ability to feel the spirit and to positively influence others.