Sunday, September 11, 2016

Stumbling Blocks or Stepping Stones?

I know of several people who are experiencing severe trials in their lives right now. Their circumstances have made me reflect on the things our family has faced. I have been reminded of the pain, the struggles, the questions... the really hopeless times. Then I have thought of all of the experiences that have come because of those hard things. I've looked at how my faith and trust in God has grown these past 4 years. I've noticed how fear controls a much smaller portion of my life and how my desire to control my circumstances and other people has diminished. I can see that I am better at feeling peace, better at loving others, better at dealing with my trials.

One truth I have learned is that Severe Trials have the propensity to propel you forward.
The stones in our path can be stumbling blocks or stepping stones. How we choose to view them and use them makes all of the difference.
I'm grateful for the truth I know that has allowed me to eventually see those stones as positive ways to move forward. As I approach year four on this journey, my goal is to not get tripped up by the stones in the path, but to use them to propel me forward. My goal is to feel more joy in life and to allow Christ to resorb some of the sorrow.

This summer I had all of my kids home for the first time in three years. All of the loss and waiting has taught me that I have much to be grateful for. As I have focused on the good in my life, I have found the power to get over those stones is much greater. Lately, I have noticed that they seem smaller. I have wondered if my eyes are playing tricks on me. Perhaps with all of the climbing, my legs have finally gotten stronger. Either way, I've also noticed that the weight in my pack doesn't seem as heavy when I let go of the negative thoughts that pull me down and focus on the lighter thoughts of gratitude.
Trials can strengthen you and gratitude can lift you. What we do with the things we are given makes all of the difference.
I hope today that my thoughts give you something to reflect on.
  • How can you look at the stones in your life differently? 
  • What role can gratitude play in helping you overcome those hurdles before you?

I would love to hear your thoughts.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

The Long, Lonely Road

As I have fought and struggled with feelings of loneliness, I have questioned, "What is the purpose of the pain and suffering that so many of us feel from lost or non-existanting relationships?" I have wondered, "Am I having this experience because I need to learn to like being alone?

I have concluded that loneliness is not completely bad.  It can give us opportunities for personal growth and to reach out and serve others in ways that I don't think we do when we are busy with lots of personal relationships.  Loneliness can push us out of our comfort zone and can help us to look beyond ourselves with new found empathy.

But ultimately, what if the purpose of loneliness is to teach us something completely else?

What if loneliness is to teach us NOT to prefer to be alone?  What if loneliness is to teach us to finally be able to set aside personal differences and intolerances so that we can be in better relationships in the future?

The more I think about it, the more I believe that being alone is very contrary to our nature. Babies naturally opposed it.  They want to be swaddled, snuggled and embraced.  In fact babies who are void of loving contact can even cease to thrive and die.  We need our connection with others.  We crave it and desire to be deeply understood.  Yet this life experience is fraught with periods of loneliness .

Despite this deep internal desire, often it is the very things within our character that push us away from others. As we grow, our image of self emerges, and we struggle to find a balance between our desires and the desires of others.  Through experience we find that we cannot find happiness by fulling our own personal desires alone.  As much as we desire independence, the truth is, if we want to have loving relationships that fulfill our needs, we need to learn to be interdependent.

That means making personal sacrifices for the good of others that we care about.

As we struggle and feel loneliness, those feelings can increase our desire to not only have companionship again, but to be better companions ourselves.   Our losses can compel us to make changes that allow our cherished relationships to become even stronger.  Many have heard the phrase, "Absence makes the heart grow fonder." Suffering, if honed for that purpose, can help our hearts expand in their capacity to feel and express love.  In turn we become more patient, forgiving and long-suffering toward others.

Loneliness can not only improve our ability to have better relationship with people, but it can help us desire to be closer to God.  When we separate ourselves from Him through disobedience and selfishness, tI believe the loss we feel is loneliness for His presence in our lives.  That loneliness also can compel us to change, to repent and be more obedient.

Ultimately I believe our souls are lonely for God and our relationship with Him.  Like prodigal sons we all eventually come to ourselves and miss home.  We miss and long to be back with Him and that is the incentive we need to reclaim that relationship.

As it is Easter Sunday tomorrow, I have been thinking of the loneliness that Christ felt in his last days.  In His most difficult hour, one by one all of his support system left Him.  Falling on his face in prayer, he was "sorrowful unto death," and surprised by the intensity of feelings enhanced by the withdrawal of his friends and then finally His Father. Crying with feelings of loneliness and pain, He asked, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" Never before had Christ felt the absence of His Father's presence. Having been perfectly obedient, He had always enjoyed that comfort. Yet to be able to succor us, He had to experience what we feel when we personally disconnect ourselves from God.

Despite the pain Christ persevered.  He held on and overcame.  His faith propelled Him through this intense experience, and in so doing He gained the power to be able to help each of us through our own struggles with loneliness, personal sin, and tragedy.   His example gives me courage and it gives me strength to try to do the same. With His help I know that is possible.

Even when we feel alone, we can remember that Christ promised to not leave us alone.  Although the Father withdrew His presence from His Son for a moment, I do not believe He was very far away.  He did it just for long enough that Christ could push through the finish line and grab the prize. Exerting all of the faith within Him, in final triumph He proclaimed, "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit." (Luke 23:46)

We must do likewise in out moments of struggle.  We must push forward in faith and put ourselves in the hands of God.  In so doing we will find our own prize of expanded hearts.

"One of the great consolation of the Easter season is that because Jesus walked such a long, lonely path utterly alone, we do not have to do so.  His solitary journey brought great company for our little version of that path- the merciful care of our Father in Heaven, the unfailing companionship of this Beloved son, the consulate gift of the Holy Ghost, angels in heaven, family members on both sides of the veil, prophets, and apostles, teachers, leaders, friends. All of these and more have been given as companions for our mortal journey because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and His gospel.  Trumpeted from the summit of Calvary is the trust that we will never be left alone nor unaided, even if sometimes we may feel that we are.  Truly the Redeemer of us all said:"I will not leave you comfortless: [My Father and] I will come to you [and abide with you]." (John 14:18,23) - Jeffery R Holland
I will choose to let my loneliness school my desires.  I will choose to let it draw me closer to Him.  What will you let life's difficult experiences do for you?

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

To Save My Life

This morning I was making cookies and listening to a new book on tape. A story from that book spoke to me in such a deep and profound way. The author tells of a young pioneer girl being rescued from a stranded handcart company trying to go west far too late in the season. They had suffered immensely, starvation, exposure, and even death. The rescuers brought food and clothing, but they did not have the wagons to carry all of the surviving handcart members. Anyone who was able was required to walk next to the wagons carrying the sick. Several of the children decided to run in an attempt to get invited to ride in a wagon. One by one the children dropped out, and one girl remained determined in her course. The wagon driver asked her if she wanted a ride. When she replied yes, he took her hand, but instead swinging her up into the wagon, he signaled for the horses to speed up. A little confused, she ran for what she described as several miles, and in the running she thought for sure that this driver was the meanest person that she had ever met. Then just as her strength was about to give out, he scooped her up in a blanket, all warm from her exertion, and settled her into the base of the wagon. Later she realized that this driver had saved her from freezing; he had saved her life.

The story brought tears to my eyes as I saw myself as that little girl, running with all the strength I could muster, feeling for certain that any moment my legs were going to give out, wondering why He doesn't just pick me up and put me in the wagon. Then just as clearly as I saw that picture in my mind I heard words to accompany it, "I'm making you run to save your life."

Rarely has such a simple phrase so deeply impressed my heart, and I began to sob right there in my kitchen with my hands covered in cookie dough. Finally an answer, when I have been struggling, feeling so very inadequate and tired. A purpose to my running.

Why is it when we have already been knocked down that sometimes additional adversity comes? Why is it even when we are determined to do good and right, that we feel that we are being made to run to the point of exhaustion while others may ride in the wagon?

We hear the phrase, "Life isn't fair," and that supposed to make us feel better about injustices and inequality. But maybe "fair" isn't the point. Maybe God sees in us something He can cultivate, something that's worth extra expenditure of energy to achieve, and so He pushes us. He pushes us even though we want to give up, even though we may think He is mean. He pushes us right to our breaking point, so that we can see what we are made of, so that He can bring out something that may very well save our life in a spiritual sense.

That was my answer today, and it gave me some hope. It gave me a reason to refocus my running, to not think about giving up. Someday, He may scoop me up and let me ride for time in the wagon, but there will be additional hardships ahead. The journey is far from over. He knows that I'm not done running. So each of these experiences He gives me strengthens me, keeping me warm and ready for the next run.

Today I see a little bit more purpose in my suffering. If I can just keep this picture and feeling in my heart, the running will be so much easier. So I share this with you today, in hopes that it will create in you, you're own little vision, your own hope, your own feeling of purpose to the adversity you are facing. Don't drop out! Don't stop running, the running is what will save your life.

Questions To Ponder:

How is persevering through your trials making you a better person?

Story from Hafen, Bruce C. "A Contrite Spirit."

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Prayer and Meditation: Tools for Healing

So instead of writing as of late, I have been working with 2 amazing ladies on a new video series for our website,  This site is a free service composed of blogs from more than a dozen amazing and inspiring widows and widowers.  We talk about grief, loss, healing and moving forward, and we identify the important tools that are getting us through tragedy.  If you haven't checked it out yet, please do and share it with anyone you know who may benefit from this resource.

How have Prayer & Meditation aided your healing?

This is the second video in our series "Talking about Grief and Loss." In it we will discuss how the tools of prayer and mediation can help you recenter and regain focus when you feel troubled and anxious. We share insights on how to have more powerful prayers and how our concept of prayer has changed throughout this journey. 
I invite you to subscribe to our youtube channeland learn more about this topic by visiting the Prayer & Meditation and Praying & Meditating Badge pages of our website.

We would love your feedback and please share our site and videos with anyone you know who is grieving.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Still in the Storm

For some reason I have recently had several challenges that have caused me to struggle with feelings of anxiety. In my previous post I shared how I overcame those feelings by Trusting God.

Trusting God was the subject of our most recent video conversation for the website. In the video, Ashlee shared a beautiful visualization that she uses to cope with triggers. She told how she removes herself from the situation and goes into her closet to pray when feelings of anxiety and panic start to surface. As she prays, she consciously remembers moments from her past when she has felt turmoil and then felt comforted. She visualizes the Savior coming to her in those moments and embracing her, protecting her, and aiding her. Then she brings her mind forward to her present concerns and sees those same loving arms surrounding her.

Visualization can be a powerful tool to help you recenter your emotions and re-connect back with the spirit. When we feel anxiety, stress, and turmoil we are disconnected from the help that God can give us. Only as we remember Him and put our trust and faith in Him can He bring us back to a place of peace.

I was praying the other night for help to feel peace about a situation that was completely out of my control but that was causing me to feel a lot of turmoil. As I prayed I saw myself standing in the middle of a blizzard. The snow and the wind was howling all around me. The snow was pelting my face and I was desperate to find shelter and warmth. I searched to no avail. The storm was so blinding that nothing could be seen through the snow. Then I dropped to my knees and began to pray. I watched as the snow began to pull away from me and circle around me, leaving a calm place in the center where I was kneeling. The storm was swirling violently around me, yet as I knelt in the eye of that storm, I felt no wind, no cold, no pelting snow. It was peaceful and calm.

In that moment I had a picture in my mind that I could return to. 
I could see how in the midst of the storm I could be calm;
 I could still feel peace.

When those feelings have begun to return, I remember that picture. I remember the stillness. After listening to Ashlee, I have added a new element to that picture. Now I think of someone wrapping His arms around me. Now I see who is calming the storm.

It would be nice if life from here on out would be void of storms. It would be nice to enjoy sunny tropical days, but somehow I do not feel that is the purpose of this existence. The test and the challenge is to learn how to feel peace even when the world is falling apart around us.

So I challenge you to find that picture, the one that can help you recenter, and when you feel the storm encroaching, go to that place of peace. Trust in the Prince of Peace. Then when you find it and you feel it, move forward in faith to do good things despite the chaos that is around you.

Questions to ponder:

  1. How can visualization help you recenter?
  2. When circumstances are beyond your control what can you focus on to help you avoid becoming paralyzed by the storm?

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Finally Taking that Step Forward

After months of anxiety and worry, I finally took a step forward and did something that I was petrified to do. Yesterday we made the first video in a series called "Talking about Grief and Loss" for our website! For a long time now, I have known that we needed to do these, but I was absolutely petrified. I didn't know the first thing about making videos, how we would fund them, what we would say, and how I could organize the whole thing from Missouri.

The logistics involved and personally feeling self-conscious was causing me real panic. Even after following promptings to blog and create this website I was struggling following this new and scary idea. I had hit a wall. My confidence was wavering and so I just kept dragging my feet.

Ignoring this prompting, I kept praying, "What am I supposed to do next?" I felt stuck and directionless with no new ideas were coming in, and I was quickly loosing my purpose. I rationalize that it was just the stress and emotions surrounding the holidays and my son's wedding, but that all ended and I found myself still staring at the wall.

I finally realized I wasn't going to get anything new until I followed through on the direction I had already received. Somehow I had hoped that I could bypass that prompting and get something else to do instead.

No luck.

Fortunately for me, God is patient and kind and He gave me little experiences to confirm my original feelings and to get me going. Miraculously, I met a widow who showed me how to use Google hangouts on Air to do exactly what we wanted to do without any cost.

One problem was solved...

Now I just needed to move past my fear. Fortunately my two friends, were feeling the same prompting and they nudged me a long.

Again and again I learn...

The first step in the dark is always the hardest one.

It's the one that demonstrates trust in God and faith in the direction He has given us. I was waiting for something to just fall in my lap or for an easier way, but that's not how faith works. It's not how it grows.

And so we decided to try...

On our first attempt we couldn't get Ashlee's audio to work. I was frustrated and I felt that we were being thwarted. After several hours we gave up on recording and decided to just do a dry run on the phone. As we talked about our topic, I felt reassured. I could see that this was going to work. We ended the session with each of us having assignments to pray for help to figure out our technical difficulties.

On our second attempt the previous problems were solved, but we faced some new issues. We didn't give up, and we even said a prayer for help during our conference. Ideas came, and we got it to work. Yes!

As I re-watched the videos, I noted areas where we could improve, but I felt and saw a power to really help people with what we were doing. All of my impressions were confirmed… This is really what we needed to do, and in the end God really helped it to come together.

Ironically our topic for the first video was Trusting God. This whole effort had been a reminder to me of my need to constantly trust Him.

Why did I doubt? Why did I worry about my own inadequacies? Why did I not trust that He would make up the difference? Why did I not had faith that he would magnify and multiply my efforts and make my offering enough?

I could see how this experience and many others over the last three years have repeatedly taught me the lesson to simply Trust Him and move forward.

If we really want to learn to trust God, we have to choose to take that leap.

Action creates an experience and from past experiences we gain the confidence to take future leaps. In time, we become more comfortable taking larger steps in the dark.

So, if you are facing tasks that seem overwhelming, I hope you can use my experience or experiences from your past to give you the courage to take that first scary step. Trust that He is there to make up the difference. As you move forward, I promise, He will have your back.

Questions to Ponder:

  1. What experiences in your past have taught you to trust God?
  2. How can you use past experiences to help you have courage to do difficult things?

Check out the first video in our series: 

"How Does Trusting God Help You Better Deal with Grief?"

Visit our website through the links above and subscribe to our youtube channel if you would like to see more.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

On Resolutions and Finding the Strength to Keep Them

Reading tonight and thinking about New Years resolutions. ( I posted a few of mine above.) We have good intentions, but then we grow weary and drop off.  How do we keep up the momentum? How do we make permanent changes and prevent relapses? This quote answered my question.

 "We can change our behavior. Our very desires can change. How? There's only one way. True change-permanent change-can come only through the healing, cleansing and enabling power of the atonement of Jesus Christ. He loves you! He allows you to access his power as you keep his commandments eagerly, earnestly, and exactly. It is that simple and certain."

It's all about accessing the power of Christ in our lives... living as He lived, choosing to follow Him so that we can be close to Him, share His light, be called one of His friends. Christ can enable you through any difficult obstacle.  Yes, you still may have momentary relapses. After all, even Peter got distracted by the waves and took His eyes off of Christ for a moment and then began to sink. But the master was still there, and when Peter realized his mistake and turned back to the Lord and called out.  Christ was there to raise Him up.

So as you work on new goals for the year, remember where to turn and who to keep your eyes on. Pray for help and strength everyday and thank him for that help as well. You may not feel like you can do it on your own, but it will surprise you what the two of you can do!