Saturday, December 29, 2012

Ode to My Exercise Ball

In light of the New Year's resolutions that will be made across the world, I share my own Ode to My Exercise Ball.

Ode to My Exercise Ball

Shiny and round,
its spherical luster invites me.
I hesitate.

Soft and curved.
In this way
we are similar.

Memories of times past
fill the space
between us.

Good intentions
smothered by countless excuses.
Still it sat,

untouched for days,
while I grew
and changed.

But no more.

It is cold.
My hand recoils.
No, I must be strong.

Today is the day.
A resolution has been made.
A goal has been set.

Today I begin anew.
I steady the ball
and sit.

Deeply I breathe
and begin to count,
one, two, three.

Forgotten feelings reborn
of pain and perseverance.
Weak core wakes and shakes.

I heave and I breathe.
I crunch and I grunt
and wipe the sweat off my brow.

To fifty I count.
It is finished
and I rejoice.

Shiny and round,
once again nestled in the corner.
I celebrate.

Until tomorrow,
My shiny and round,
cursed exercise ball.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Believing is Feeling

This year, inspired by our favorite Christmas movie, Elf, I decided to decorate our house with paper snowflakes and chains. We made nearly a hundred snowflakes and dozens of feet of chains, then hung them from the ceiling with clear tape.

That blur is my daughter unsuccessfully 

 It was a lot of fun - until it came time to take them down.  It took me and all three of my kids to get them all down - not fun.

At the very end, my youngest pointed out some tape in the ceiling.

I glanced at the ceiling  and didn't see it.

So, I told her it wasn't there.

"Yes it is," she said.

I looked from another angle and still didn't see it. I told her again, it wasn't there.

"Yes it is," she insisted.

So, I climbed on a chair for closer inspection. I still didn't see it.  I told her I was right, that there was no tape there.

She pointed to the spot and said, "You're not looking at it right."

I cocked my head, and squinted my eyes. Nothing. So, I reached out and ran my finger over the spot she was pointing at, eager to prove the persistent child wrong, and sure enough, I felt the smooth back of a small piece of tape.

I felt it, but I couldn't see it. And I only believed it after I felt it.

I pulled it off and handed it to my daughter. "Told you," she grinned.

Yes she did.

You've heard the saying, "Seeing isn't believing, believing is seeing." I submit that it is just as equally powerful to say, "Seeing isn't believing, believing is feeling."

Our faith- our testimony- is made up by things we cannot see, but things we can feel.

Why is that?

I've thought a lot about this question, and I've reached my own conclusion.

You and I can look at the same thing, and argue over what we both see. I say the color is Cinnamon, but you say it is Burnt Red. I say a zebra is black with white stripes, and you say its white with black stripes. Mankind can argue and justify most any point of doctrine, and analyze and define most anything we see.

God gave us the Bible, and yet, how many religions interpret it differently.

If you're anything like me, I can think about something so long that I can end up thinking myself in a circle, going from one side or the other.

The answer isn't always in what we see.  But what we feel.

There is something deep and personal in the feeling of something.

I know that I feel good when I pray. No one can argue with that.

What I feel belongs to me. No one can change that, or tell me I am wrong.

When I am sitting in church, and I sing a hymn about Jesus Christ, I feel the Spirit testify that He is real. No one can tell me I felt something different, or I am wrong. I know what I feel.

This makes my testimony mine, my faith untouchable.

I've also heard it said that Spiritual things are learned by spiritual means.  God speaks to us through the Holy Ghost. He speaks to our hearts.

Minds can understand and justify, but hearts can internalize and believe.

God has given us so many things that teach us and point us towards Him: the scriptures, prophets, commandments, etc.  These things are important, and even necessary for our salvation. But, it is in the quiet chambers of our hearts - what we feel - that harbors our faith and our testimony. It is here that the Holy Ghost can testify of the truthfulness of the scriptures, prophets, commandments, etc.

It is in your heart that we come to know the truth of things - because we feel them.

For me, that is where my faith and testimony lie- in my heart, born from things that I have felt.

When I pray, I feel His presence.

When I serve, I feel His gratitude.

When I obey, I feel His satisfaction.

When I come to Him, I feel His welcoming arms.

When I am sad, I feel His comfort.

When I am weak, I feel His strength.

When I am lost, I feel His guidance.

When I make a mistake, I feel His forgiveness.

When I read the scriptures, I feel the truthfulness of His words.

When I worship Him, I feel humbled.

When I follow Him, I feel safe.

When I progress, I feel His joy.

And when I tell Him I love Him, I feel His love in return.

No one can argue with what I feel. I feel it. I believe it. I know it- even if I can't see it.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Sandy Hook

Sandy Hook. Two words that, apart, hold a plethora of meanings.

But together, they mean only one thing: Sorrow.

I am watching an interview right now of the father of a 6 year old boy who was killed last week while sitting in his kindergarten class.  The emotion on his face is raw and moving. And his message was even more moving.  He was not angry, nor was he calling for gun control, revenge, or anything else.  He simply said he hoped this tragedy would remind the people of the true meaning of Christmas: Love.

That is the word he hopes people will think of when they hear the words Sandy Hook.

He loved his son, and his son love him.

His voice cracked and his chin quivered as he spoke of the affect of the outpouring of love from all around the world.  That love has helped support and sustain him during this time of unfathomable loss and sorrow.

It was love that he wanted the world to remember, to give, and to receive this holiday season.

I loved him for his courage, and his nobility in his response.

This season I will do just what he has asked. I will remember love. I will give love. And I will receive love as well.

God be with all those that have been so deeply affected by this tragedy. May He bless them to feel His love, and ours, at this time. And may we live our lives with an added measure of love every day.

Monday, November 5, 2012

My Worst Nightmare at a Writer's Retreat

This past weekend I attend my very first Writer's Retreat. I have never felt closer to feeling bi-polar in my life that while there.  I went from HIGH to LOW so many times during this retreat that I had to take some Dramamine for motion sickness!

When I arrived I was giddy with excitement  I was at a conference with REAL writers!Little me, who blogs and is trying to write a book in the wee hours of the morning and night, and breaking break (literally, we had really good wheat rolls at dinner) with real-live authors. (HIGH)

I went from giddy to the other side of the spectrum where terror lies- I signed up for my first critique group. That's where you stand in front of a group of strangers, naked, under a bright spotlight, and they use long sticks to point every flaw.  (Can you imagine?!)

Okay- I might be a little dramatic. I really wasn't naked. I wore a pair of blue jeans and a sweatshirt. But, that's what I FELT like. What actually happens is that you take five pages of your writing and read it to the group out loud while they mark up all your mistakes on their own copies of your work.

At that moment, however, I might have opted the naked route.  (No, no, I wouldn't.)

For me, writing is who I am. It's me. It's my best efforts. These are my words, my thoughts. My writing is shows the very person I am.  And to be that fully exposed,  magnified and dissected by other writers, well, it was truly terrifying.

I hadn't spoken to the other four women in my group before, other than an introduction before. They sat around the table smiling sweetly at me. I assumed that was part of the ritual - to lull the victim into a sense of peace before you rip them to shreds.

I smiled back, grateful I was the one seated closest to the door.

One writer bravely went first. Her story flowed with imagination and character. And yet, there were a few flaws, just a few places where she could improve.

The smiles stayed while they (including me) offered our thoughts about the positives and negatives.

It was the first time I had ever critiqued someone else's work. It felt....strange.

Then it was my turn.

I read the first five pages of my manuscript. If only the sweet ladies knew how terrified I was. But, I put on my brave face and read.

I didn't get past the first line when the PUBLISHED writer, Christine,  across from me whipped her pen out and started marking up my page.

I knew it. I knew I was a terrible writer. (LOW)

As I read, the group laughed out loud at the right place (HIGH) and gasped in the right place (HIGHER), but the pens kept flying (back to LOW)

I bravely finished reading and set my papers down, ready for the dream-killers to tell me what I have feared all these years: that I am a terrible writer. (REALLY LOW)

To my surprise, they offered words of praise and encouragement!   They thought I had some talent, and really enjoyed by writing. WHA? You mean, they think I am a good writer? (HIGH) They gave some suggestions to my writing, but frankly, by this point, I was so happy inside I didn't care. I exposed all (another google hit for that one) and was found to have talent.   (HIGH HIGH HIGH!)

The rest of the day was amazing. The classes, the women, the food. I was loving it! I even entered into a flash-fiction contest, where they give you a prompt and you have to write a short story of 300 words incorporating that prompt. Being such a talented writer, I was bound to win, right?

The next morning the winners were posted. I giddily skipped up the wall to read my name. The winner was the aforementioned Christine. Another women got second, then three other women tied for third.

I didn't even make the top five.  (LOW)

Yes, this was proof that the dream was over. I was actually a bad writer: untalented, unskilled and worst of all, embarrassingly over-confident. (LOW LOW)

By the time I got home I was exhausted! Doing emotional calisthenics for three days drained me, and I took a two-hour nap.

I woke up with a fresher, more realistic perspective of  my experience and an imperative realization:  The reason my emotional roller-coaster was so bumpy was because I let others set the track- others who had no idea I had allowed them to.

I was so insecure about my ability (or feared inability), that I looked to them to tell me if I had talent or not.  I looked to them to define my level of talent, and, in part, my worth as a writer.  I analyzed and interpreted their reactions and situations as either personal endorsements or indictments. One moment I was a good writer, and the next I wasn't, depending on what was happening around me.

I need to lay my own tracks- to allow myself to feel that I have some talent and ability, while recognizing - and even embracing - the need for growth.

That was probably the greatest lesson I learned from the retreat. Peace comes from knowing who you are, and what you can become. No other person can truly tell you that. They may have opinions, and some of them might even be right. But only God knows your true potential and worth.

And the beauty of that is that He doesn't keep it a secret. He is more than happy to share what He knows with me.

The sweetest moment I had at the retreat, as I look back, was during a group lecture. The speaker, Heather, quoted a man that spoke about women writer's in the latter day (these days) and that they would, in essence, be a power for good. When she read that, I felt a wave of warmth fill ripple from my head to my feet. I tingled all over.

I knew it was God's way of telling me that that quote would be true for me. Somehow, in some way, He is using me as a power for good.  I was where He wanted me to be, doing what He wanted to me do.

God, Himself, told me over the weekend that He loves me and loves what I am doing.

How can I want more than that?

So, now I move forward, and maintain a steady level of joy, confidence and peace in my writing. I won't compare myself to others- because no on is like me. I will continue seek to learn, and to improve, without the self-condemnation of failure- -because the key to happiness is growth.

And most importantly, I will continually remind myself (because I will probably forget again) that my worth cannot be measured by comments or comparison, but by the One who made me. He sees under all my layers of pride and insecurity. He sees every flaw, every weakness and every fault. But, He is also the only one who can see clearly all my strengths, my talents and my potential.

And He thinks I am a good writer.

So, I'm gonna take that and run with it.....

Monday, September 17, 2012

You Did What at the Eye Doctor?

No allegory here today. Just a moving story about my day.

I got up at 5:30am, read my scriptures for an hour, exercised, showered, got the kids off to school, did my own homework and took my youngest to pick her new glasses- all before 10:30am. I was on a roll!

I got home, cleaned the kitchen/downstairs, did two loads of laundry and helped a friend. My two oldest got home from school around 2:30.  

I then took my older daughter to her optical appointment. I sat in the waiting room feeling good about my day. I had been so productive.  In fact, I hadn't felt that productive in a long time.

I had a nice long chat with the woman at the front desk, then the assistant took us to the back room. We had a lovely chat, too. There are so many nice people in the world, I thought to myself.

Warm fuzzies is what I was feeling. 

Then, Paige looks at me and says: Mom, your shirt is on inside out.

Me: What?

Paige: You're shirts on inside out.

Me (checking the front of my t-shirt): No it's not.

Paige (laughing): It's totally inside out, Mom. Have you been wearing it like that all day?
Me (lying): No.

Paige continued to laugh at me while I check the seams of my sleeves and sure enough- my shirt was inside out. 

I'm pretty sure I blushed. Partly because I was a little embarrassed to have been visiting with people dressed like a kindergardener.  Then there was that other part of me that surprised me. The part that really didn't care.  

But, embarrassment won over the not caring side, and I knew I had to take action - and it had to be quick.

I jumped out of my chair and wedged my foot and rear against the door (remember, I am in an optometrist office- not a physicians office where they knock first). I throw my shirt off.  It catches on my hair, then wraps around my wrist.  I mutter a very clean expletive (oh crap!) as I attempt to quickly untangle it.

Paige whispers in between laughs: Hurry up, Mom. Get your shirt on!

I manage to untwist the shirt from my wrist and turn it right-side out, when I hear footsteps at the door. My arms shot through the air , the one arm hole and then other. I slid the now correctly-oriented shirt over my head and jumped into my seat just as the door opens and the completely oblivious optometrist enters the room. 

I was slightly out of breathe, if that tells you anything.

The doctor asks us how we were doing. We share knowing smiles.

I was fine, I laughed to myself. 

Until I saw what I thought was a security camera in the corner of the room.....

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Charity Project - 2

I really need to be careful what I pray for.

Last week I made a goal to find two opportunities to serve outside of my home.  The first one came when a sweet friend was hit, head on, by a drunk driver Tuesday night.  I was able to visit with her in the hospital, and offer some help to the family.

Then, another friend fell and broke five ribs.  I was able to visit her in a different hospital.

I thought I'd pray for more opportunities to serve outside my home this week- but I think I'll hold off on that goal and go for something different!

As I've been studying, pondering and learning about charity this week, I came to two realizations.

1. Charity is a gift. It can only be obtained if it is given to us by Heavenly Father.

2. Charity is the only value that cannot be directly obtained. Meaning- if you want to become patient, you practice being patient. If you want to be kind, you practice being kind. If you want to be giving, you practice giving, etc, etc.  But, you cannot say, "I want to have charity" and practice having charity. You either have it or you don't.  BUT- the way to get it is by practicing all the other valued that are associated with it.  As you practice patience, kindness, understanding, love, etc you will be rewarded with those values, plus Heavenly Father will endow you with charity. That's why the only scripture I could find that talks about charity says that it comes from a pure heart.

Last week I looked up scriptures about charity. Today I looked up some quotes, and these are some that I found.

"Real charity is not something you give away; it is something that you acquire and make a part of yourself...." Marvin J. Ashton

"Perhaps the greatest charity comes when we are kind to each other, when we don't judge or categorize someone else, when we simply give each other the benefit of the doubt or remain quiet. Charity is accepting someone's differences, weaknesses, and shortcomings; having patience with someone who has let us down; or resisting the impulse to become offended when someone doesn't handle something the way we might have hoped. Charity is refusing to take advantage of another's weakness and being willing to forgive someone who has hurt us. Charity is expecting the best of each other"  Marvin J. Ashton

“Our words, like our deeds, should be filled with faith and hope and charity, the three great Christian imperatives so desperately needed in the world today. With such words, spoken under the influence of the Spirit, tears can be dried, hearts can be healed, lives can be elevated, hope can return, confidence can prevail. … May we all rejoice in the thought that when we say edifying, encouraging things unto the least of these, our brethren and sisters and little ones, we say it unto God.” Jeffrey R. Holland

“Love is one of the chief characteristics of Deity, and ought to be manifested by those who aspire to be the sons of God. A man filled with the love of God, is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race.”  Joseph Smith

“Too often, charity is extended to another when his actions or conduct are acceptable to us. The exhibition of charity to another must not be dependent on his performance. It should be given because of who we are—not because of how we behave.” H. Burke Peterson

“Never assume that you can make it alone. You need the help of the Lord. Never hesitate to get on your knees in some private place and speak with Him.”  Gordon B. Hinckley

"Hope is one leg of a three-legged stool, together with faith and charity. These three stabilize our lives regardless of the rough or uneven surfaces we might encounter at the time... Hope in our Heavenly Father's merciful plan of happiness leads to peace, mercy, rejoicing, and gladness. The hope of salvation is like a protective helmet; it is the foundation of our faith and an anchor to our souls."
--Dieter F. Uchtdorf

I love the one below:

"The things we hope for lead us to faith, while the things we hope in lead us to charity. The three qualities faith, hope, and charity working together, grounded on the truth and light of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, lead us to abound in good works."
--Dieter F. Uchtdorf

The things we hope FOR lead us to faith, while the things we hope IN lead us to charity.

What exactly does that mean?

The way I see it- the things I hope FOR is that Jesus Christ really is my Savior, that God really is my Father in Heaven, that the Holy Ghost really does testify of truth. I hope that my trials will be dedicated to my benefit and that my prayers will be heard.

The things I hope IN are the principles of faith, love, honesty, patience, service, kindness, laughter, goodness, commitment, sacrifice and so on.

The things that I hope FOR cause me to have faith.

The things that I hope IN allow to me be given charity.

Very cool!

So- my goals for this week:

1. Continue to pray specifically for charity.
2. Do something nice for someone I may not be too fond of.
3. Give up one hour for service (to be determined through prayer during the week.)

I will report next week on how it goes (not that anyone reads this blog other than me! But, it helps me to be accountable, even if it is only to myself!)

Hopefully my pursuit of charity won't include any more hospital visits!!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Charity Project- The Beginning

Confession Time:

I taught a lesson the other day in Gospel Principles class at Church on Charity.  The more I studied the lesson, the more I realized how much I need to learn, and how very much I need to improve.

The promises associated with having charity are beautiful, and I want to lay claim to them.  I also want to do all I can to become a better person- the best I can be.  But, Charity is a nebulous topic, a virtue so vast and wide that it is impossible to master, let alone understand, in one day.  Or maybe even a lifetime.

Anything worth having takes work. and I want to work on obtaining charity- becoming a charitable person.

One of my favorite mantras is "Learn, Do, Be." If you want to become something, Learn about it.  Then Do what you've learned. Only then can you become it.  So, I am setting out or Learn and Do, with the hope that someday I will Become.

It's a project I hope that will help soften and heal my heart, that will help me become more patient, kind, loving.  It's a project that I hope will make me happier.

It's The Charity Project.


First, I decided to  Look up Charity on  It's a great resource when looking up topics in the scriptures.

There are 53 scriptures with the word charity in it. This is what I got:

What Charity is: kind, love, patient, the inability to let others around us suffer, a bond of perfectness and peace,  everlasting love, perfect love, pure love of Christ, rejoices in truth, beareth all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

What Charity isn't: envious, arrogant, selfish, easily provoked, evil-thinking, mean, does not esteem himself above others.

What Charity does: Covers a multitude of sins. Allows us to inherit mansions above. With faith and hope, it causes us to abound in good works. Charity edifies us. Brings us closer to the Savior. Qualifies us for the work of the Lord.

How we get Charity: Out of a pure heart, good conscious and faith unfeinged.

Other interesting facts: We are COMMANDED to have charity. IF you don't have Charity you are nothing. It never fails. Charity should be the motivator of our actions. Good actions are empty without Charity. If I could move mountains, prophecy and have all knowledge, if I have not charity I am still nothing. If we have not charity, we might lose our talents and gifts.

Values associated with Charity: Faith, hope, sober, temperate, patience, lowliness in heart, meekness, kindness, knowledge, patience, goodliness, virtue

This verse, in particular, struck me:

Doctrine and Covenants 121:45
45 Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to thehousehold of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.

It provides a very visual picture for me.  Charity is what drives my heart. Virtue drives my thoughts. When my thoughts and my heart are pure, then shall my confidence, testimony and knowledge grow and wax strong. It's a beautiful scriptures.

There is so much to learn, and I will continue my study of charity through the scriptures, teachings of church leaders, good books, etc. But, I cannot wait until I learn everything to start doing.

That's where the "Project" part comes in.

I am an inherently kind and loving person, but I am not filled with charity. I want to be, and it starts with desire.

I wish getting charity was as easy as going to the local store and picking some up; but it isn't.  It's going to be work.  And when I do a job, I like to have order. I like lists and goals, charts and programs (although I lack in consistency and follow-through. Go figure!)  To I'm going to make specific and tangible goals in my life that I hope will help me become more charitable. Some will be small, and some will be bigger- but that's because I have small and big things to work on.

Throughout this process I will be praying specifically for Charity. I will also begin a personal study of the life of my Savior. He was the ultimate example of charity.

One of the fascinating things about charity is that there is not direct path to it. It must be obtained through other values.  As I practice patience, I can gain charity. As I practice service, forgiveness, kindness, love- through all of these things I can obtain charity.

As I obtain charity, these values grow stronger as well.

It is a beautiful circle, a circle that has a beginning.  And that's with me and my choices, my goals. Some of my goals will be big, some smaller, some will make sense, some won't.  Some will be easy, some will be challenging. But I hope they each take me one step closer to becoming more like my Savior, filled with His perfect love.

Along with specific prayer and study, each week I make two specific goals, a value goal, and a service goal:

1. Not being reactive: When I get frustrated with people- kids, spouse, the guy with 25 things in the 12-items-or-less line at the grocery story, or the person that has said hurtful things to me- I am going to take deep breath and count to five before I speak or respond.

2. Service: I prayerfully look for two opportunities to serve in places outside of my home.

I chose to use this blog because writing gives me a sense of accountability. And, for me, when I write something down, my feelings or goals, they become more real to me.  And, it's my blog and I can do what I want. :)

If you'd like to join me, I'd love to have you!  If you already have charity, I'd love to know how you got it!  And, if you think I'm crazy...well, join the club!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

He told me again...

Sometimes the simplest of words bring the greatest joy.

I have no profound insights, no allegories or metaphors.

I just wanted to say that I love God.

And, I know that He loves me.

I know that because I've asked Him.  He's told me many times before, but this morning, while I was alone, I asked Him again.

And He told me again.

He hears me.

He loves me.

He knows me.

He watches me.

He blesses me.

He hopes for me.

He loves me.

And He loves you, too.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

My Husband - My Hero

I made the worst dinner tonight. It was supposed to be a delicious all-in-one hamburger bake. You take the beef patty, frozen veggies and potato wedges; season and bake in tin-foil tents.

I followed the directions to the T. Then called everyone down for dinner.

Imagine, 4 hungry kids (my three plus one) and husband, bow our heads for dinner prayer, the eagerly open the tin-foil pouched to reveal.....a grody mess of still cold veggies, soggy potatoes and meat.

So sad.

I sent them all away as I tried to resurrect dinner.

A half hour later, we sat around the table and ate 'mini meatloafs' (the patties with ketchup on them) mashed potatoes and a salad.

I've got to pat myself on the back for that.  It was a pretty ingenious save and a hit with the kids.

But- that's not what this post was about.  I just have some weird genetic disposition to expose embarrassing things about myself online.  Wait- that didn't sound right.

Anyway- this post is about how my husband is my hero- literally.

After my near-grody dinner I decided to go for a bike ride on the trail near our home. My husband came with me.  We left a little before 8pm. I told the kids we'd be back by 9.

We drove to the trail and started our right. Half way into it the sun began to set. Even with light in the sky, much of the trail is under trees, so the trail quickly grew dark. I was fine at first, but as it grew darker it became more difficult to see.

I had ridden this trail many times by myself- but always in the light. Once the light disappeared, I got nervous. I had been riding in front much of the ride home, setting a pace I was comfortable with. But as it grew darker, I became more nervous.  There was a lot of debris on the trail, and small animals tend to pop out at night.

I put on my brave face and kept riding, wanting to, at this point, ride fast and just get back to the truck.

Then my husband rode past me and pulled in front of me.  His white t-shirt became the beacon to follow.

You'll have to excuse the quality of my picture. I was riding fast up a hill and took this with my phone as I was praying I wouldn't drop it!

He maneuvered past poles, hollering out warnings. He even scared of a large cat, which I'm pretty sure was a bobcat.

I watched him ride in front of me, knowing he probably didn't think anything of it- he was just riding. But for me, I loved the fact that he pulled in front of me. He gave me a light to follow, a voice of warning to heed, a protector from poles and potential bobcats.

As I rode behind my husband I thought of how much my Heavenly Father loves me. In my life there have been many times where I feel I'm riding along, doing great, seeing things in a clear light, feeling strong.

Then, trials come, and things get dark.

At those times, He has always sent someone there to lead and guide me.

My Savior is the first and foremost on that list. He is the beacon in the dark, the giver of all good, my Redeemer and friend.

He has also given me a living prophet to show me the way.

Beyond these, he has given me the promptings of the Holy Ghost to help me see potential dangers as I strive to stay on the path towards God.

He gave me good parents who, during times of teenage angst and trial, lit my way to self-confidence, testimony and success.

He gave me good friends and church leaders along the way as well.

He has given me good children that lead by example of faith and forgiveness.

And He has given me my husband, who leads me by his love for and commitment to the Savior.

How grateful I am for the times if light where I can see the road clearly. But, how more grateful I am for those that He put in my path to help me find my way when I can't see.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Touch of the Master's Hand

What is your worth?

That's a huge question.

I'm not sure that any of us can answer it completely.

I know, for me, sometimes I have an idea of who I want to be, or maybe feel that I should be.  It is easy to compare how I see myself now to the idea of who I could/should be.  My ideal is, at times, overshadowed by my perceived weaknesses and faults, deficiencies and imperfections. I look at myself and see nothing special, nothing beautiful.

Then God gives me glimpses of how He sees me, and I am amazed. He uses me to do His work, to help His children, to fulfill His purposes, and I am humbled.

He picks my imperfect self up, and makes the most beautiful music with me.

This is one of the reasons why I love this video so much. It is the message that God wants all of us to hear. We all have a purpose to fulfill, a glory to reach. As we turn our lives over to Him, He can give us depth and breadth. He can take our imperfections and make us imperfectly perfect.

Through His eyes we are beautiful. With His hands, we can become something more than we are alone.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Riding the Trail

Where have I been!  I cannot believe it's been three months since I have written!  I attribute my absence to a number of things: 1- I got a part time job. 2- I vacationed in Hawaii. 3- I'm now writing a daily scripture blog 4- I'm also writing my first fiction novel 5- I've got three kids 6- My house is a mess!

It's been pretty crazy around here.  But, I miss this blog. I miss the thinking, the writing, the learning. So, here I am. I'm back (not that I expect a celebration in my honor, but I'd take a celebratory Hazzah! from anyone reading, lol)

Anyhoo-  on to my post for the day.

My new love is cycling.  My favorite place to ride is a trail a few miles from my house.  It's fairly flat, and oh, so beautiful!

Recently I coerced a friend of mine to ride with.  We parked our cars and started the 7.5 miles to the turn-around.  She hadn't ridden in a long while- and certainly nothing like this. We started our ride, happy and optimistic. We chatted and laughed as we rode by the rolling river and green trees.

Then it started to hit her: She peddled and panted, her chant switching from "I can do this, I can do this," to "Michelle, I can't do this." She expressed embarrassment and frustration. I encouraged her along. She huffed and puffed (and yes, whined some, too) but after an hour and nine minutes, she made it to the top of the trail.

Now, I call it the top of the trail because for that 7.5 miles we rode up 500 feet.  Spread over nearly 8 miles, the incline was barely perceptible.

We sat at the top and rested. I reassured her that the way down would be much easier. She wasn't sure how. To her, the trail had appeared nearly flat. To her, she struggled not with the elements, but with herself. She expressed discouragement- but was determined to finish.

We hopped back on our backs and headed down the 7.5 miles to our car. The change in her was immediate.  "You were right, this is easier!" she exclaimed. As we rode, she repeatedly commented on how much easier it was, how much faster she was riding, and how much more she was enjoying the ride.  "I can do this!" was all I heard from her on the way down. We made it back to the car in 45 minutes. I was so proud of her!

On the way home we talked about our ride. Because the incline was so gradual it was difficult to see as we rode alone.  She felt it, but she couldn't see it. All she knew is that she was riding- and she was struggling. She felt down, out of shape and discouraged.

It was only until we rode down the trail that she realized the toll the nearly imperceptible incline had required.

We talked about how life is that way.

Sometimes in life we find ourselves struggling. We feel weak, tired, discouraged.  We look around and see no major catastrophes, no life-or-death situations. We see no major external cause for our struggle, so we blame ourselves. 

What we fail to realize is this: Aside from a hill here and there, our lives are a steady incline of choices and circumstances and growth.  The incline  can be barely perceptible- but it is there, it requires more effort than we realize to keep going. We peddle everyday to keep up with the demands of life, then wonder why  we are so tired. We feel flawed, weak and (spiritually, emotionally, physically) out of shape.

So, here's the bottom line: If you are struggling with life- just plain old life- don't get discouraged. It's normal to have moments of disappointment and discomfort; even fatigue and pain.  

We should expect it. We are peddling uphill- exerting a sustained effort to care for ourselves and others; taking care of our responsibilities and tending to our our own needs.

So, when you get a little tired or discouraged, give yourself a break. The road can be tough to ride, even when it appears flat.You are not as weak we you feel, you are not as flawed as you believe. Like my riding friend, you are stronger than you realize. You are better than you give yourself credit for. 

Take heart. Huff and puff, complain a bit to a friend (eat some ice cream), then keep peddling.

God knows that life is hard, so He, in His infinite wisdom, gives us moments of reprieve on our trails. There are times in our life where we feel like we are coasting downhill, doing just great.  Embrace those. Use them to catch your breath, get your legs back.

He gives us times when we can stop and take a break from the ride.  Take advantage of this precious times (vacations, new babies, good news, whatever they may look like).

No matter where you are on your trail, always remember to see the beauty around you.

And most importantly, remember where your destination. If you move towards God and your potential with a purpose, not peddling will be in vain. The effort will be worth it, because you will arrive at something more beautiful and vast than you could imagine.

And don't forget- even amidst the pants and puffs, the sore legs and seat- you can still enjoy the ride. :)

Friday, May 11, 2012

A new reader- please introduce yourself here!

I saw this on another person's blog and I loved the idea, so I am borrowing it for mine :)

I'd love to get to know all my readers, so please take a moment to comment and answer the following questions...

1. Tell me a little about yourself and how your found my blog.
2. Do you have a blog? If so, tell me the address so I can check it out!
3. What do you think about Allegorically Speaking?
4. Do you have any suggestions or topics you'd like to read about?

Thanks again for visiting my blog and sharing!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Flower Power

(Put on your fuzzy slippers and wrap up in a blanket.  This is a long one.)

My dear Grandma Jane passed away last week.  Saturday I attended her funeral.  A flock of family showed, which laughed and embraced as if we had not been apart. It was a sweet day, celebrating a wonderful, unique woman.

Going to the funeral this weekend brought about a change in perspective, as one usually does.   I often come away from big events reinvigorated to "do" better. I want to read my scriptures more, spend more time with my family, exercise more, appreciate life more.  And I've done those in the past.  I've come out of my epiphanies with new exercise programs, reward charts for my kids, laundry schedules, goals written and so on.

I do well for a while.  Then the reward charts are left untouched and the laundry piles on the treadmill (kill two birds with one stone.)

But, for me, this time was different. The change seemed deeper, more eternal.  I saw my life, myself in layers- like a flower.
The things that I do and say are the petals, visible to all.

My attitude is the fragrance, not as easy to see, but it permeates the air around me.

The center of the flower (the stigma) is what I believe.  The things that I do and my attitude emanate from it,

In the past I have made changes to those three parts of me. Most times I try to change my habits, my actions: what I do.  Sometimes I change my attitude: I try to be more optimistic.  Yet other times I have reevalutated my beliefs and made changes and growth accordingly.

They have all been positive effort, and most often positive results.

But, still, this time I recognizd something different.  I realized that there is an element in which all of these stem from, a part that has influence over all.

It is the stem that holds up the flower, that provides the nourishment and even the direction it faces.

It is my perspective, the way I see myself, others, and even the very purpose of this life.

How I see myself and others affects my attitude (negative or positive), what I say and how I treat myself and others.  My perspective affects everything down to subconscious thoughts, reactions and body language.

For example: Say there is a person I am struggling with.  I'll call him Jack.  I don't particularly like Jack.  He has some bad habits and bad attitudes.  In fact, in my opinion, he isn't a very good guy at all.  He's kind of selfish and rude. So, Jack and I don't really get a long. I try, but it takes work.  A lot of work.

One day I decide I want to be a better person, that I want our relationship to be better, so I try to change some of the things I do to him (the petals). I hold my tongue rather than insult or lash out. I even try to remind myself that Jesus tells us to love everyone, so I try to love him. I tell myself (stigma) that he is probably a nice guy that had some hard times.

If I think deeper, I might even try to change my attitude (aroma)and that I will be rewarded for being the better person.

The result- I am kinder to him, I seem to understand him a bit more, and all in all, he actually doesn't seem that bad. And I totally feel like a better person for it.

But, Jack doesn't change.  After all my efforts, he is still the same.  His personality, his choices, tear down my resolve, and, over time, the feelings of dislike and discord return.

The petals, center and aroma are effected ultimately by what is holding them up and nourishing them.  If that doesn't change, they won't. They survive and thrive thanks to the stem.

So, what if, rather than focusing on the affects or products of the stem, I were to focus on the stem itself- the way I look at Jack. Since our perspective in this life is tainted by it (oh, the irony) the only clear perspective is that of Heavenly Father's.   So, I prayerfully ask that He help me to see Jack, not through my eyes, but through His.

It doesn't come at first, but slowly, as I pray (and humble myself to the fact that I am not always right) I start to see Jack differently. I begin to see him as God does. My heart is softened and I begin to understand.  By default and without planning, this affects how I treat him, what I believe about him, what I say about him and my attitude towards him.  It is all different- all because I see him differently, more clearly.  I see him as God does.

This perspective- seeing through God's eyes- changes everything.  The crucial thing to note is that this kind of eternal perspective is a gift from God.  It is deeper and wider than earthly empathy and understanding.  It is stronger and clearer than anything we can make up ourselves.  His perspective, the truth, will make us free (John 8:32.)  Free to let go of anger, frustration and hate.  Free to let go of judgment and criticism.  Free to forgive. Free to see.  Free to love.

This amazing this is this applies to everything.  As I pray to see myself through His eyes, my attitude about myself (looks, talents, etc) will change, the things I say about myself (disparaging remarks, self-criticism) will change, and the things I do for myself (exercise, read scriptures, forgive) will change.  As I see myself like He does I will be free to love myself unconditionally, to forgive myself of my faults and weaknesses, to celebrate my strengths and talents, and so on.

You can ask those that have heard my speak, and those that know me well, that my favorite word is "Perspective."  I have mentally understood the principle.  But, this weekend something changed. I prayed and asked, and I believe I received His perspective on myself and those around me.

Is it a perfect and clear perspective? No. The water is still a little muddied with my imperfect mind and soul.  But I can tell you that I see things differently.  And because of that, I feel differently, and I want to do differently. And I can tell you that this perspective is a gift from God. It wasn't anything that I obtained on my own.  I know that, because I tried and tried, and could not see past my own earthly experiences and eyes.

Now, I am not saying I've reached some magical or spiritual level above everyone else.  On the contrary: my point is that I didn't do anything  but ask to borrow His eternal vision- his glasses if you will.  He has let me look at those around me through them- even if just a glimpse, and it is enough change me, my center, my petals, my aroma- everything.

This life is so much different, so much more, that what we see or think it is. There are deeper and grander workings afoot.  And we are a part of it- each one of us.

Life is hard.  People are imperfect.  We get disappointed, frustrated and even hurt by the imperfections and wrong choices of men. But, to see all of these as they really are- to see the truth in this life- that is where freedom is.

Perspective is power.  The power to change, forgive, laugh and love. The power to stand by His side and look through His eyes.   Perspective will change my thoughts, actions, beliefs and attitudes.

Perspective is power.  Flower power.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Trees in a Winter Storm

A storm rocked our area last week.  Snow, ice, wind.  It was bad.  Especially when the freezing rain hit.

At first it was beautiful. We were surrounded by beautiful ice trees.

But- as the freezing ice continued, weak branches and treetops broke and split under the weight of the ice.

Branches littered the ground- and even houses.  But, left standing was the tree- a little worn for the weather- but strong and ready to recover.

Years back my dear sweet Grandma Jane wrote a beautiful poem called Trees in an Autumn Storm. I took the liberty to change a few words to apply the storm.  I think there is a great lesson to be learned.

Trees in a Winter Storm

May I bow before God, as do the trees
before the culling winter storm--
gracefully, never fighting winds not seen.
Upper branches filled with new growth,
Responding to the sometimes thrashing torrents of rain.

For them, no hiding place from God's time-to-time testing.
They are out in the open; vulnerable, accepting.
Lifting from the roots skyward, stretching toward heaven.

And when the storms come, as they always do,
They appear to accept, and even enjoy their time of challenge.
Roots, reaching deep hold base trunk secure, firm, sure.
The bending to the winds and ice will come from the reaching latter growth.

That which has not before experienced the storm
will stand or fall from the nurturing trunk
as heavenly forces call for an accounting of new growth.

Thrashing, swaying, twisting, accepting, ever accepting
'Till the storm is through.

Then all becomes calm, as gentle rain descends.
Bathing each leaf and branch with healing touch.

The trial is over.  The sky lightens.
The trees stretch once again heavenward.

Upon the ground lie twigs and leave, and sometimes branches,
that stood well when there was no storm.
Weaknesses hiding amid the strengths, 'till now.

The trees do not mourn the loss.

They have been pruned by the God that created them.
That which was strong has become stronger.

They are filling the measure of their creation.

There are lessons to be learned from winter's storms--
about life, and God, and growth, and obedience,
And so many other things--

If we could just open our eyes and hearts,
To the simple, visual parable of trees in a winter storm.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Weather I Like it or Not

No, that wasn't a misspell.  I meant to type weather. You'll see why.

Monday I felt the impression to do all of the laundry in the house.  Yes, ALL the laundry.  My kids brought their dirty clothes from their rooms (I mean all of them- from under the beds, behind the dressers, everywhere) and sorted them. We gathered towels, blankets and rags. The downstairs looked like a war zone of clothing.  For two days straight the washer and dryer were running.

Then, Tuesday night all I had left were a pile of blankets to wash.  I felt the impression to wash them, but pushed that aside.  I was tired and figured I would just do it in the morning. Besides why would God care if I washed my blankets then, or the next day.  So, I threw them into the garage (out of sight, out of mind) to be washed in the morning. 

Wednesday morning I woke up to a cold house and no power.  

The first day wasn't too bad.  We have a gas fireplace, and we hooked up our generator to a few lamps, the refrigerator and the TV (a sanity saver!)  But, that night, we were cold.  We all had clean jammies to layer- but no extra blankets.

The blankets were sitting in the freezing garage- dirty.

We made do.  It's Sunday- going on four days with now power- and we are still making due.

The point is- God tried to help me out. He gave me the idea to do all the laundry.  I listened- mostly.  But, I didn't listen completely.

I did it again the other night.  I felt the impression to call a friend of mine.  It was dinner time.  I was tired and busy.  So I told myself I would call her the next day.

The next day I found out she was in the hospital - having her baby weeks early.   She had found out the afternoon before that she would need to have the baby right away.  She had just enough time to go home and grab a few things before going back to the hospital.  

That was about dinner time.

I had the impression to call her.  And I didn't follow the impression.

Sometimes God puts ideas into our heads to help us out- impressions about our lives and the things around us. Sometimes the impressions make sense, sometimes they don't.  But, they are always for our benefit.
He wants to help us.  He does help us.  But, it's us to listen AND follow those impressions when they come.

We have had crazy weather.  Ice storms, snow, rain storms and wind storms.  I just heard that another wind storm is on the way.  Who knows when the power will come in (well,  He does.) 

 I'll tell you one thing I do know, though.  Next time I feel an impression, I'll follow it: weather I like it or not.