Sunday, December 21, 2014

Sacrifice vs. Consecration

Recently we asked all of our missionaries to read, “The Consecrated Missionary”, by Tad Callister.  It is a wonderful talk that is very inspiring.  We have had many discussions about it with our missionaries. One of the points they have talked about is sacrifice vs. consecration.  There is a difference.  We can give up things in our life; sacrifice, and still not be consecrated.  For example a missionary can come on a mission giving up home, family and money and still not be consecrated.  A missionary can work hard, get up at 6:30am, study 2 hours every day, talk to everyone, listen to trainings and still not be consecrated.  There are a lot of reasons to do what is asked of you on a mission: fear, pride, promised blessings, pleasing your companion, or habit.  Sacrifice can be giving up, or doing something that is right, but you will not get the greatest benefit from it until you consecrate that sacrifice.  Consecration is when you dedicate that sacrifice to the Lord.  You recognize your love for your Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and want to do their will.  When you’re consecrated to doing the Lords will, you have actually asked in prayer what the Lord wants and then you determine to do that thing because you love the Lord.  When we consciously go throughout our day trying to feel, act and speak in ways we feel the Lord is directing us, our hearts are changed and turned to Him.  We live with Christ.
Consecration can also be fine tuned.  I have often thought, “I’m willing to do the Lord’s will”, which is great, and sounds wonderful, but what I have come to realize is I need to WANT what the Lord wants, not just be willing to do the Lord’s will.  There is a difference between being willing vs wanting.  We withhold a part of our heart when we are willing, still wanting our own way.  When we want the Lords will, we give our whole heart in trust and want what we are given. 
I had a friend who taught me about this a few years ago.  She is the most wonderful, spiritual woman.  She has faced many trials in financial matters over the years.  These have not been small, inconvenient trials, but real and painful hardships lasting years.  Things had gotten a little better at one point in her life and some comfort was achieved, but then more trials came, money ran out, and no job was in sight for her husband.  She felt her heart mourn and ache for something different for her life.  In fervent prayer she sought for understanding and felt in her heart this was a trial for her and her husband’s understanding.  She tried to be willing and turn her heart to God.  In humility one night she prayed and told the Lord she was willing to go through this challenge again if this was what He wanted.  She felt her heart being pricked.  She knew she needed to trust the Lord enough to not just be willing to do the Lords will, but actually want what the Lord wanted for her life.  I admired her so much as I watched her turn to the Lord even more, and work on wanting this huge trial.  What a beautiful example she set for me as I started making my own heart checks seeking to trust the Lord so much that I WANTED everything the Lord was giving me and WANTED to make the sacrifices He asked.
This kind of consecration doesn’t withhold from the Lord.  It is complete trust.  It is complete love.  Imagine wanting all that the Lord wants and asks of us everyday.  I’m still working on it.  Imagine turning your heart to the Lord in all that you do, say or think.  That is a truly consecrated and meaningful life.  It requires being aware of the condition of your heart all the time to know what you are withholding, and then turning to the Lord to let Him do His work there in all things.   
One missionary made the point that we think we are sacrificing when we do the Lords will.  But in reality He blesses us so much that what we gain is so great, that it wasn’t a sacrifice at all.  I know that to be true.

When we came on this mission I felt so consecrated.  I wanted everything the Lord wanted for us.  I felt His hand so much in our lives.  I had wondered why we were given what we had been given while raising our children and as we stepped into this calling I KNEW exactly why. I felt we had been raised up specifically for this assignment.  I felt the power of the Lord every day in amazing ways helping us and guiding us.  It was awesome.  We are going through different things now.  The work, schedule, trainings, driving, medical, speaking, talking, etc. all seem more normal.  But the refiner’s fire is still there, it’s just different.  I’ve learned to talk about the gospel to strangers, and speak and train missionaries, now I’m learning to give of myself in different ways that actually seem harder. I’m learning He is never going to be done with me!  But I am so grateful for all of it.  I want to want, what the Lord wants.

Friday, December 12, 2014

#4 I will not shrink, nor tarry, but press forward in Christ..

I thought I was done writing about the atonement but as I was praying this morning I had many thoughts come into my mind that I should write one more thing about the atonement.  These atonement posts have been hard for me, well, they’re all hard, but the atonement ones especially.  But, here is one more.
The atonement is an enabling and strengthening power.  Asking to have the atonement applied to strengthen you or enable you, to go beyond what you feel you can, is what we missionaries call, “Getting outside your comfort zone”.  Feeling the spirit prompt us is God’s messages of what He wants us to do; the spirit always invites us to act.  I wonder if that invitation to act is always slightly outside of our comfort zone.  For me I think it is. 
To really be able to obey the spirit and do what He invites can be difficult, causing us to shrink. Think: talking to a friend or stranger about the gospel, going back to school, quitting a job to stay home with the kids, exercising early, eating healthy, kneeling in the morning to pray instead of laying in bed to do it, paying tithing, reading scriptures when there is a million things to do, etc. etc.  This is when we tell the Lord, “I can’t do that, I am not able, I am too tired and What are you thinking Lord, there is no way that is happening.”  We shrink!  That’s because we think we have to do it by ourselves, we are right though; we aren’t able, not capable, not skilled enough, to tired, etc.  That’s why we shrink!
The key is to recognize, I can do easy by myself and when I shrink I am trying to do it by myself.  Doing the will of the Lord can be difficult.  To do all that He is asking of us we need to rely on His power; on Him.  How do we do that?   We call down the power of heaven to help us do what He would have us do! We ask!  Accessing the power of the atonement is literally there for the asking.  It sounds like this, “Please give me strength to get out of this bed and kneel to pray.  “Please enable me beyond my ability to talk right now to this friend about the gospel. “Please bless me with the desire to pay my tithing.
 “Please take this temptation away from me to…..”  “If you want me to do this Lord please make me less…..”   We ask for help in doing what the Lord is asking us to do.  Genius.  Love it.
Missionary work is the perfect example to talk about this principle.  Everything about missionary work is new and outside of the comfort zone for these young people.  They are asked to, study the gospel for 2 hours every day, talk to everyone, preach the gospel to strangers, weekly plan 10 days ahead and then nightly plan for the next day, be with a companion 24/7, act appropriately at all times, get up at 6:30am and exercise, forget yourself, work hard, eat healthy, love, serve, and be happy while you’re doing all of it!  Believe it or not I could go on!  You can see these young people are in a demanding position.  But the beauty of it is they are not alone.  They can call down the power of heaven to help them in all of it.  Some do and they flourish, some don’t and they, “tarry in the wilderness”. (I love that phrase, it’s the perfect way to describe not progressing.)
We have a natural man inside of us.  This natural man wants us to live by, “I can’t, I’m not able, I’m too tired.”  The natural man wants to live by fear and negativity.  But we also have a son/daughter of God inside of us.  To turn away from the pull of that natural man and embrace the child of God and feed him/her takes work, strength and confidence.  For me the biggest natural man pull is fear.  To turn to the daughter of God inside of me and live by that, takes the atonement.  I have to have the Lords help and power to make more of me than what I am.  I have to ask and turn and rely on Him, then I am able to do His work, have the strength for it and feel confident in doing it.
Feeding the natural man is easy.  See, I can do easy all by myself.  (I love that phrase also)  But if I want to do hard, then I need the power Jesus offers me.  The adversary wants us to believe we are alone, we aren’t capable.  Missionaries fall into this trap just like everyone else.  They struggle with working hard, talking to everyone, being organized in their plans, loving, etc.  Some can go through the motions of, “doing” it all, but they are doing it on their own so they don’t feel successful.  Accessing the power of God means you rely on Him to do it His way, not just go through the motions, doing it your way.
For those who ask for power to accomplish the work God invites them to do; relying on Him to strengthen them to work, carry them through the lesson, enable them to keep the schedule, speak for them when talking to strangers, and speak to them to know how to be appropriate at all times, will have God’s power given to them and develop a bond with Him from seeing his power working through them.  It’s awesome to see this kind of growth.  I love it!
Accessing the power of the atonement to do His will is done by having that prayer in your heart to be strengthened, lifted, enabled, and carried while you go forward getting outside of your comfort zone.
This blog is the perfect example for me of this.  I talked about this in my first post, “I am having a victory today.”  For two years I told the Lord I couldn’t do this, and kept receiving promptings I should.  After a strong spiritual experience where I woke up in the middle of the night and felt the words in my heart, “You are trading a mess of pottage for your birthright.”  What this meant to me was, I was giving in to comfort, (pottage) instead of being a fully consecrated missionary,(birthright). I know that sounds strong, but that isn’t even as strong as it shot into my heart. I decided I wanted the pain of writing a blog more than I wanted the pain of guilt of denying these strong impressions I had had.  I finally quit relying on myself to do it.  Duh.  If the Lord wants me to do something ask Him to make it happen.  So I started praying like crazy for Him to give me time, the words and the confidence to do it.  And He has. 
I am a not a writer but I write.  I am not a speaker but I speak.  I am not a runner but I run.  I am not so many things, but I can do what the Lord asks me to do, because He makes me capable.  And if there is anything good that comes because I write or speak I know it’s just Him making it good for me.  I’m not just saying that.  It really is true.  I rarely have much time to prepare my talks in stake conference or doctrine training, but I prepare myself through prayer and scriptures daily and then I listen to what my heart is telling me to say, and I just say it.  I can feel that it is good, because it’s Him not me.  I just have to get out of the way; my fear, my agenda, my thoughts, my concern, my worry and let Him do His work.
It is so easy to give in to the natural man and believe we can’t do what the spirit is inviting us to do.  I only know this because of my own experience.  I have been receiving a prompting that I need to widen my circle and ask people to share my link if they like something they read.  And I haven’t done it.  What prevents me is my usual fear, it is a very subtle voice that people will think I am prideful; that I think my blog is good so re-post my stuff.  It’s uncomfortable!  I need to trust the Lord and not fear. 
Rats…. Here goes:

My purpose in writing this post is to bring people closer to Christ.  This is a spiritual blog about my experience with spiritual things.  “Pray, Repent, Love, Repeat”, is really a metaphor for the gospel.  The gospel of Jesus Christ is: Faith, Repentance, Baptism, Receive the Holy Ghost and Endure to the end. Faith is Prayer, Repent is Repent, Baptism and Receiving the Holy Ghost is Love of God and of man, and Repeat is Enduring to the End.  I love the gospel of Jesus Christ with all my heart.  It has made me into a better person than I could have ever been on my own.  Spiritual Work in our lives is living the gospel of Christ.  It makes bad men good and good men better.  I can’t thank the Lord enough for changing me.  Every change in my life is absolutely sacred to me because I realize the price that was paid by my Savior for me to be able to change. I love Him with all my heart. I am a missionary.  I want to do missionary work in the Lords way.  I feel prompted to ask you to be a missionary with me.  If you ever read anything I post and you think it’s good, please re-post it.  I know the Lord allows us to work with Him to touch His children.  I am trying in my imperfect way; I am not a writer but I write, to do the Lords work in the way He wants me to do it.  I am limited in who I reach.  I feel I need to widen my circle and would invite you to re-post or like anything you think is good, not just my blog, but anything on the internet.  Also thank you for reading!   I am grateful that you read because it shows me, once again, that God knows everything.  Also I love you.  I may not have ever met you but I still have a feeling of love for you.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

#3 The atonement covers the effects of life on our heart.

Here I go again.  I am coming to the realization to talk about the atonement in a meaningful way you kind of have to share your imperfect stuff that needs the atonement.  So here goes.
The atonement of Jesus Christ works for sorrow, grief and pain.  How can that be?  How can I use the atonement to cover the grief, sorrow and pain I feel?  How can I access healing through the atonement?
 In this post I would like to talk about 2 ways we repent of sin so we are worthy of the spirit that comforts us in times of sorrow and heals us from our pain.  The first form of repentance is from our own sin against right and wrong, the second form of repentance is from what I call the effects of life on our heart.
 I think it is easy to understand how the atonement covers obvious sin:  Christ suffered and sacrificed for our sin so if we will repent our sins can be forgiven and we can be free and clean of them. 
The atonement is an actual power. It is Christ’s spiritual power that cleans, frees, holds, and carries us.   It is all around us.  We access it by asking our Heavenly Father to please apply Christ’s atoning blood to our life to clean and free us of sin or to carry, worry or hold whatever is pulling the spirit away from us.  When we have used the gift of Christ’s atonement to make us clean, we are then worthy and capable of feeling the spirit.  When we live with the spirit we are comforted in grief, we are calmed in stress, we are healed from disappointment and pain.  That is how the God head work hand in hand; Christ cleans us, the Holy Ghost living in our heart allows us to receive and feel eternal perspective, love when under pressure, calm amidst chaos, peace in tragedy, strength amid loss,  and hear Christ’s voice and words in our heart so that we learn and change.  They are one in work and purpose; to make us holy.  I believe all good comes from Christ and He is the love, peace, calm, comfort, strength, etc.  But the spirit allows us to receive and feel Him.
To keep our hearts right with God and able to feel the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost we need to use the atonement not to just clean us from our sin, but to clean us from others sin and our loss from living in an imperfect world where mistakes happen, death occurs and tragedy strikes.  The effect of this imperfect life on our heart can be damaging to our ability to feel the spirit. We can be filled with disappointment, frustration, anger, grief, sorrow, bitterness, pride and general pain, from loss, disappointment, offenses, unmet needs, unrealized expectations, etc.
Remember in the first atonement post I said, “Our Saviors atonement is for anything in our lives that cause us to feel a loss of the spirit.”  Many times pain causes us to withdraw from God, loss and disappointment cause us to question God, unmet needs and offenses can cause us to become bitter against God or our fellow man.  The effects of our imperfect life and the imperfect people around us can cause us to become hardened, closed, angry, or bitter.  We aren’t really repenting of the loss, disappointment, unmet needs, etc.  We are repenting of what they may be doing to our heart.  We don’t think of bitterness, anger, hurt feelings or pride as sins but they are.  Those feelings keep us from God and feeling His spirit.  We have to be humble, soft and open to feel and learn from the Holy Spirit.  No matter what hard, unfair thing happens to us we must stay worthy of the spirit.  If we don’t, we live with pain and, “tarry in the wilderness”.  (That means we don’t progress in our journey.)
Repentance means to change.  This kind of repentance gives all of that pain, hardness, and anger to God and seek a change; turning to Him instead.  We express in humility our trust in His plan for us; tell Him of our love and commitment to follow Him and His way, no matter what happens in our life.  We want to be soft and open and receive His spirit more than we want to hold on to the pain of our loss, disappointment, others offenses against us, our unmet needs, and unrealized expectations, that is causing the pain.
Once we repent, turn to God, restore our faith and humility in His plan and His way then we become soft and open to feel the spirit.  (This is the part about how the atonement covers grief, sorrow and pain.)  When you are free to feel the spirit, He will comfort you, give you spiritual knowledge that changes your perspective from earthly to eternal, heals you from anger and bitterness and restores you to love.  It is a wonderful spiritual experience to feel this change in your heart. 
Repentance means to change.  I can talk about this all day long since I am the poster child for change.  But I will just give one example.  I have to talk about some personal things to share this but I will try to be respectful of my children since this example talks about them.
In the summer it felt like our whole world was falling apart.  Every one of our children was struggling with something.  Some things were little things like the loss of a job for a son who is a father and husband-to more serious things like struggles for a boy on a mission who couldn’t get a break in any way for a year, who finally came home early,- to a very serious situation with a child killing himself spiritually and physically with choices we had no control over- and all the other things in between that would make this post way to long if I talked about.
We were so confused.  It was so difficult.  Our lives felt like a soap opera for a while.  Every day we would serve and then come home and find out some other problem or concern we needed to face.  We were in the midst of a very hectic schedule in a spiritually demanding position, giving our all for others and yet we felt like ours were not being taken care of.
I had a lot of questions for God at this time.  Most of the questions centered on why.  Our most serious concern came  because of serving this mission and living here in Spokane because of the effects it had upon a child.  It all came to a head 1 ½ years later last summer and we were being stretched further than I could ever have imagined happening. 
I felt we were living in a nightmare we couldn’t wake up from but had to be spiritually and emotionally in tune every day, all day long.  I came to really feel the Lords love for the missionaries more powerfully than I ever had before.  He blessed us beyond belief to meet needs, give trainings, speak with the spirit, and perform our duties all amidst the turmoil of facing hard things everyday with our children.  I felt I was seeing a miracle everyday as we could focus on others and feel the spirit work through us.  I absolutely know the Lord loves these missionaries as we were made instruments over and over in spite of us, not because of us. His love is real!
But, the why questions persisted.  I could feel the edge of my heart hardening.  I hated it, but it was there.  I could feel I was becoming stressed, emotional, distracted, doubtful and becoming a little negative.  We were trying to solve family problems but sometimes that creates more problems in the moment.  This was when I woke up at 2:30am one night and started to read some scriptures seeking for relief.  I kept feeling prompted to read back in my journal.  I finally put my scriptures down and opened up to a passage I had written after the mission president’s seminar last year.  It read, “ I am overwhelmed with all of the expectation being placed on us.  I don’t know how we are going to accomplish all that is expected with all of these young, new missionaries.  I almost feel depressed by all we were facing.  Tonight I knelt down in prayer and poured my heart out to the Lord.  I could see my faults and weakness clearly and I felt sorry and sad about my attitude.  I plead in my misery for the atoning blood of Christ to be applied in my life.  I knew Christ’s atonement was the only way to free myself.  I felt I could just give this all to him; my concern, my worry, my hardness, my fear, my tired mind and body.  I knew He would take it, so I was pleading for that to happen, along with strength and inspiration to keep going.  I was interrupted by Don and had to leave for a minute.  I came back in to finish my prayer and I noticed I felt so much better.  I started to think on how I had felt; apologizing that I am continually asking for more when I have been given so much already.  Again I felt all of it was gone.  I couldn’t even talk to God about it anymore.  There was no point it was gone.  I felt so good.  I wasn’t tired or burdened; I wasn’t depressed, I just felt great, that fast.  It was amazing!”
After I read this passage I felt God was speaking to me, telling me what to do.  I was so burdened down with grief and sorrow, my heart was so confused and troubled.  I went and got on my knees.  I knew I needed to repent.  I didn’t really even know what for; I just knew I needed to change.  I needed to re-set and start again.  I had to be free of the pain, sorrow, and stress so I could feel the spirit. I prayed and cried and asked what I needed to repent of.  As I prayed I felt the Lord reveal to me my pride, the barrier I had created between me and God.  I wanted my perfect plan for my family to be realized.  I had this mission, and how my family would be during these three years, all planned out in my mind.  And trust me it was a great plan.  It was going to be so good; just perfect.  Why was everything falling apart?  Why were we called at this time, to this place that had affected my son so negatively?  How are we going to pick up the pieces?  These are all the questions that put a barrier between me and God.  I wasn’t trusting in Him.  I wasn’t accepting His timing. I couldn’t see any blessings.  I even had a deep, hidden thought that He wouldn’t bless us.  I had lost some of my faith and hope.   I knew the why questions were pride in thinking my way was best and not wanting or accepting what I was given.  I was not accepting God’s plan for me to be on this mission.  I could see I needed to repent of pride, and turn to God.
I didn’t receive answers at this time, I just felt I gave my every concern, worry, and question to Him.  I just plead to be forgiven and my heart to be soft and open and receive what He had for me and then said, “I’ll hold on, I trust you, please show me the way.”
The same thing happened that I had read about in my journal.  I immediately felt so amazing.  I went from so low, to so high almost instantly.  I felt free like I was flying.  I needed the spirit so badly; as I repented the spirit came so strongly.
One of the things I realized while I prayed was this wasn’t God’s perfect plan for our family.  He didn’t orchestrate these bad things to happen.  We live in a fallen world, surrounded by fallen people.  God allows us to experience life.  That is His plan.  But He promises us that if we will use the gift of His son He will clean us and free us so the spirit can touch our hearts and change us. 
This experience happened a few months ago.  The answer to hold on and trust Him that He would get me there has been realized over and over.  I have tried to stay soft and open, and gradually answers have come, I have been able to see blessings, I have been strengthened over and over, and I have recognized His hand in important ways.  I know these are gifts of the spirit that bear testimony that whatever we face in life we can be get through it and come out of it with spiritual knowledge of our Heavenly Father’s love and awareness of us, of the power of Christ’s perfect gift to us, and the essential realization that living with the spirit is the greatest necessity to the success of our life.  It gives strength, confidence, comfort, eternal perspective, and peace.

What I know is I need to use the atonement sacredly every day to be clean, and free of sin in all its forms.  When I live worthy of the spirit I can be healed of my sorrow, grief, pain, disappointment, and heartache.  I can’t express how vital I feel this is to a meaningful and inspired life full of love and happiness.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

#2 "Help ME change myself Lord", not.

I want to describe something that happens to some missionaries in the mission field.  They start to worry about everything.  They feel guilty about everything. And they find it hard to be happy.  Here we are preaching how the gospel makes us happy and we feel miserable!  What’s up with that?  When I first came into the field I found this so ironic.  I found I had to talk to a lot of missionaries about letting go of what they couldn’t be or do, and be happy with what they were, and did.  It seemed I was teaching about letting go of imperfection constantly.  
I wrote this to all the missionaries after feeling like I was seeing perfectionism growing along with the misery that comes with it:
“Don’t be surprised when you need a savior.  What do I mean by that?  We preach Christ to others but then Satan cleverly promotes thoughts that you and your mission should be perfect.  If you have a bad day, a negative or prideful thought, you have to work at loving something or someone, just know you have a Savior for that.  I find that when I am late, didn’t say something quite right, something didn’t go quite as I had planned, etc. and I realize once again that life or I am not perfect, I just whisper to myself, “I have a savior for that.”  You have a savior for all the imperfect things of life, even when there is grief, mistakes, and sorrow involved, not just sin.  Use the savior; let him carry you, comfort you, clean you.  Let him worry for you; give it to Him, and then life and your mission will be perfect through Him.  Remember, “You have a Savior for that.” 
I found this was actually great advice for me too after I had been on my mission for awhile.  I started to be very burdened down by all of the things I wasn’t able to get done, do or overcome.  Mission life is so demanding, and the expectations are so great that perfect seems to be in order.  But really perfectionism is a tool of the adversary to take us away from Christ, for everyone.
The spirit invites us to act and we feel great as we obey those promptings.  The difference is the adversary prompts us to beat ourselves up over what we’re not, and not doing. We never feel the spirit or come closer to Christ when we are beating ourselves up over not being perfect.  That is a great check to know if something is from God.  If it brings you closer to Christ and you feel the spirit it is of God, if you feel bad, depressed or anxious, it’s not of God. 
I finally received this inspiration from the Lord that helped me really teach this principle better:  We read in the scriptures, “Be ye therefore perfect.”  We kind of think that means look perfect; be busy, do a lot of stuff, have a clean house, sign up for things, (for a missionary it’s all in the numbers; have a lot of lessons, new investigators and baptisms.), and we naturally start thinking our value is based on those things. These are all things we can see so it’s easy to start thinking that this is what perfect means; all of the stuff on the outside of us and how we look.  When we focus on the way things look on the outside we actually become worried, prideful, judging and anxious.
I think when Christ said be ye therefore perfect He was actually talking about the inside of us.  Be loving, kind, merciful, forgiving, selfless, grateful, etc.  The Lord looks on our heart, so we should look on our heart as we think of our value. 
When I can get the missionaries to look at their heart what they see is beautiful.  They are out here serving the Lord, willing to sacrifice 18 to 24 months of their life.  They want to be good.  They are trying so hard. They have righteous desires.  They love, help, serve, sacrifice, and cry for each other and their investigators.  They are so beautiful. 
The Lord looks on our hearts.  That is the work He is doing; on our heart.  When we look at our hearts to judge ourselves by I think we have hit the Mark; Christ, in a much more accurate way.  When we are looking at our heart to judge where we stand and what we need to change or work on, we feel more in partnership with God.  We are not just running as fast as we can to do more, achieve more, and make more things look perfect.  We are aware of our heart and what is going on there and we know that is where the work of God really happens. 
What does this have to do with the atonement?  I have learned as I see my heart and I want to make changes there, it is very difficult.  I have learned that I can work on my behavior, I can try to change the way I act, but to truly change me; my heart, that is the work of God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.  It is sacred work. 
You may be asking, really?  I don’t change myself, God changes me?  I just work on my behavior and God changes my heart?  Yes really.  I don’t know how it works; I just know it’s true.  Take me for instance.  When I had 5 little children within 6 years of each other and 2 of them felt like 10 kids combined I was out of my element, and a little tired. I loved them so much I wanted to always act perfect with them, but I just couldn’t.  I wanted to always speak nice, be super patient, and just have love at all times.  Well, it just wasn’t happening.  I found myself feeling frustrated, speaking harsh, or acting short probably by the end of every single day.  I worked on this for YEARS!  Every day I would pray that I would just be so loving and patient every second of the day and never feel impatient or stressed.  I worked on it, I repented, I worked on it, I repented, I prayed all the time.  And probably every day I felt frustrated and impatient by the end of the day. 
I remember one night just giving up.  I kind of got really honest with the Lord (that’s code for frustrated), and said, “You are not helping me!  I’ve been praying for you to help me change and you’re not helping ME do it.  I just can’t change me.  I give up.  If you want me to change you’ll just have to do it yourself.  Will you just please change me, I can’t.”  I remember feeling absolute desperation, being at the bottom, and just feeling like no matter how much I acted nice or worked on my behavior my heart wasn’t changing.  Even repenting and feeling sorry didn’t change me.  I knew I wasn’t going to change my heart and I just gave up and asked Him to do it. 
Within a week I noticed I felt different.  It was profound.  I felt patient all day.  I felt calm.  I felt love when everything was hectic and I was dead tired.  The Lord changed my heart.  He made me different.  I had worked and repented and finally learned humility, and He consecrated my afflictions for my gain.
I felt I had discovered the big secret of how the atonement works to change me.  The atonement is a power, but I have to ask, to access the power.  I have to repent and ask to be changed by Him.  Not ask for Him to help ME change myself, but ask for Him to do the changing.  
Now in my life I don’t mess around.  When I see something I don’t like in myself I just go right to it.  I just talk openly with God about what I’m seeing that I can feel isn’t right and ask Him to change me.  I confess His hand and His power and I repent and keep trying, and then He does His work.  And it is so much faster than YEARS.  And to be honest these changes in my heart are so sacred to me because they were so much work for Them and for me.
I am so grateful to know the Lord looks on our heart, our good desires, our loving attitude, our generosity.  No matter what is happening around us or how things look to others, if we can understand our heart is what is important to the Lord and He has provided the way for us to have a change of heart, then we will truly understand the gospel of Jesus Christ and find happiness in living it.

Ps  One more note about perfectionism.  I have heard this quest for being perfect as described like, “I have to do so much and then the Lord will make up the rest”.  I think this feeling of having to work alone to do a pre-set amount and then the Lord will make up the rest can be very discouraging.  I have heard Brad Wilcox describe this work of perfection in a different way as- Christ paid the whole price for justice, there is no work we do to satisfy that demand, and our part is to repent and appreciate and become someone who can live with God again.  That was the WAY short version.  Read His Grace is Sufficient for the better version.  My version is what I can understand and it goes like this.  “I am trying everyday with Christ’s help to have a heart that is right with Him.  He invites me to act.  Feeling the spirit is usually an invitation to act and is probably outside of my comfort zone, since growth happens outside of our comfort zone.  With His help I can be strengthened to accept the invitation to act.  That strength can be physical, emotional or spiritual help depending on how I am feeling and what the act is.  I look back on my life and know any good thing I am or have become has only happened through His grace.  It has only happened because His grace reached out and changed my heart and made me different.  I give credit to every single good change in my life to my great Lord and Redeemer.”

Sunday, November 23, 2014

#1 "I'm just going to apply the atonement to that"

I feel I am always learning.  The Lord reveals things to me in layers and sadly sometimes it takes a long time for me to, “get” what He is trying to teach me.  One of the greatest things I’ve learned on my mission is how the atonement works.  Since this learning has come to me in layers I am going to write a few posts about how I have come to understand what the atonement is for, figuring how to use it, and how to actually feel close to my savior. 
I have felt close to Heavenly Father for a long time.  I talk to Him in prayer.  Communication is important to me and so it’s been easy for me to feel close to God since He listens to me, answers my prayers and talks back to me in my heart. 
I haven’t always felt close to Christ.  I think it’s been a lack of understanding of how to feel close to Him.  I often felt like Christ was the way to communicate with my Heavenly Father, like Christ provided the house and the table and chairs to sit at and talk, but the conversation was with Heavenly Father so although I felt thankful and grateful for Christ providing the way, I felt close and bonded to God, who I actually communicated with. 
I also think what prevented me from feeling close to Christ was I just used the atonement for sin.  I know I am suppose to repent every day so at the end of the day I would think about what I needed to repent of and lots of times couldn’t really think of anything and so I would conclude, “Guess I don’t need the atonement today, can’t really think of any sins I committed.”  And then I would obliviously go on my way.  Of course many days I could think of, “sins” and then I would repent, use the atonement and feel happy for Christ to clean me, but I still wasn’t quite getting how to feel bonded to Him.  I loved my Heavenly Father with all my heart and felt so much learning and growth spiritually but I just related that to God, not Christ.
Another point I want to make is I felt the spirit at times in my life.  I am a spiritual person by nature and I would love to feel the spirit when I would go to church, to the temple, when I read my scriptures or prayed, when I talked with my friend about spiritual things, etc.  I loved recognizing when I felt the spirit.
When I received this calling God put me on a path to understand much more about how the atonement works and how to increase Christ in my life.
When we received our calling I literally felt God put me in a bubble; a little spiritual bubble that in a very powerful way showed me His power and hand in my life to influence me for good.  I will quickly describe this:
I was a busy woman.  I was teaching dance almost full time at Lakerigde Jr. High and American Heritage private school.  I was the Young Woman’s President in our ward.  I had 5 unmarried children whose lives I was still quite involved with.  I had a big house and a gargantuan yard that I received no hired, outside help to maintain.  And I was doing other little things like attending the temple once a week, visiting my parents at least once a week, and exercising and eating healthy.
Through all of this my goal every day was to never bring stress into our home. I worked hard on this, it was very important to me.  I wanted to help out with the cost of Meghan and Ryan’s missions but I couldn’t justify working if I created or brought stress into our home because of my schedule.  I felt life was good and things were excellent.  I was very happy.  (I also felt strongly that God was preparing me for something, but I had no idea what it was. :)
Then we received a call from Pres Boyd K. Packers office to come and have a visit with him in Oct of 2011.  (I’ll have to share that story some time.)  It was an exploratory interview to be a mission president.  And then one month later we got a call from Pres Uchtdorf’s office to be called to serve as mission presidents.  Instantly all I could think of was all we had to do to get ready.  I started making a list immediately. It went something like this:  Get Nathan and Jordan’s eagle projects finished and the board of reviews done, get teaching and grades done for my three classes at Lakeridge and find a replacement for them to hire, get choreography finished and rehearsed for the dance festival at American Heritage and find a teacher to take over for me in Feb., get all pictures printed and scrapbooks caught up, organize my office and pack it up, get the house ready for Meghan to come home from Romania,  do a wedding luncheon and reception for Ryan (yes this was on the list in Nov, but he didn’t even ask Marissa until Dec when Meghan got home), turn the basement into an apartment for the kids to stay in while were gone, rent the house, get young women in excellence and new beginnings done, pack and store all of our stuff, clean and paint the house for the renters, read Preach My Gospel and do the tutoring sessions at the MTC, and many other normal day to day family things.
We were able to get all of these things done and I felt pretty good through it all.  I felt like I was in a little spiritual bubble.  Maybe it was a numb shock because I didn’t feel a lot of anything, but whatever it was, I felt like it was a gift from the Lord that allowed me to feel calm through it all and need very little sleep.
So we eventually arrived in WA and had a whirlwind life for a while.  I can’t describe how much I felt the Lord carried us, but it was amazing to be speaking, teaching, traveling, cooking, authorizing medical things, helping missionaries with personal issues, and dealing with so many things at once and just feel inspired, strong, and calm the whole time. 
Now here is what happened that taught me a beautiful thing.  Eventually life started feeling normal and I started feeling more normal. (I should say natural, like a natural man.)  In the normal life I described before, I felt the spirit at times and I would say things like, “I felt the spirit….”.  But in this new life I had been living I had been feeling the spirit all of the time.  Now starting to feel more normal again I started realizing when I felt a loss of the spirit.  This was life changing in the learning I received.  When I felt this loss of the spirit, I would ask why, what just happened to me. I could actually trace back what I had just been thinking about that caused a loss of the spirit.  It was usually something negative I had let in, something that was a little judging or labeling, some distracting thing that was unimportant, some worry I had no control over, or something that wasn’t perfect that I felt should have been.  As I started to think and feel these more “normal” ways, I really felt great desire to not.  I knew I couldn’t be effective in this calling if I didn’t have guidance and direction from the Lord through his holy spirit all the time.  The calling was just too spiritually demanding. It just wasn’t going to happen if it was just me. 
I knew I needed to not be myself.  I needed to keep what the Lord had given me.  It was a surreal experience.  Having this huge desire to feel the spirit all of the time, turned me to my Savior.  I could quickly pinpoint what I needed to repent of; right in the moment I knew what I needed to use the atonement for.  I repented of negativity, criticism, worry, irritation, distraction and many other things as soon as I started to feel them.  It was very effective.  I discovered right in the moment I could just repent and feel a restoration of the spirit almost immediately.  I discovered how powerful just saying the words, “I’m applying the atonement to that”, could be.  I even burned the rolls for a New Leadership Training and felt quite bothered.  I wasn’t feeling happy or the spirit.  I just thought, “I am applying the atonement to that” and instantly felt so happy and had no concern for the burnt rolls.  That was a realization for me that Christ is concerned with our lives!!  Our real life.  His power can cover and go as deep as we need it to, but it can also cover little things too.  Saying the words, “I want to apply the atonement to….” became a realization of how to access power.
I learned that the Saviors atonement isn’t just for big sins we may commit.  Our Saviors atonement is for anything in our lives that cause us to feel a loss of the spirit.  I can ask for the atoning blood of Christ to be applied to anything that causes me to feel a loss of the spirit, so that I can literally have the Holy Ghost to be my constant companion.   I have been able to share this with the missionaries many times when I felt it was what a missionary needed to know.  
I also learned that I can ask for the atonement to be applied for things I can feel coming at me that aren’t quite inside of me yet.  If it’s on the fringe of my being, I can apply the atonement as a barrier so that it never really gets inside of me. I visualize Christ’s atonement as a barrier between me and the things of the world.  In this way it is a protection for me also.

Because of this experience I have received spiritual knowledge of what my savior has done for me and how His atonement is literally a power around me and I can call upon it at anytime throughout the day.  I use his atonement by saying, “I’m just going to let my savior carry that, worry about that, clean that, make that fair in the end, heal that, etc.”  Whatever I need to have the spirit with me, that is what I give to His sacred and beautiful sacrifice for me.  I have developed a relationship with my savior that is so bonded to Him all day long.  I rely on Him, I turn to Him, I come to Him by using His gift.  I need Him every day, all day long, and He never fails me.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

When a door is closed, a window opens

When I first came out on a mission I struggled changing myself into a missionary.  I wasn’t use to thinking of myself in terms of missionary work and missionary standards in relation to how I spoke, dressed, served, and used my time.  I could follow the guidelines physically, but I felt I needed to change inside too, but I didn’t know how to do it, except to just keep trying to look and act like a missionary.
I had an assistant that unknowingly helped me with this.  He shared an experience he had when he received a call as a zone leader.  He had a spiritual experience where he actually saw the mantel of a missionary leader come upon him in the reflection of his mirror.  This really helped me.  I felt in my heart that I really needed to SEE myself differently if I were truly going to become the consecrated missionary the Lord wanted me to be. 
I started working on this.  In all things I started to have the missionary standard in my mind; “I am a missionary!  Should I think about this, wear this, read this, say this, do this?” etc. It was a hard process to let some things go, it is definitely a higher standard for me.  But the more I said, “I am a missionary.” The more I saw myself as a missionary.  Soon I became a missionary in my heart and I embraced the standard and loved it.  Instead of just loving the gospel, I now loved missionary work too.
As I work with young missionaries I have come to the realization that they too have to go through this same change.  Those who really see themselves as missionaries adjust faster to the standard and become a more consecrated missionary earlier in the field. 
This was really driven home to us when the age change happened and we saw so many younger missionaries coming into the field.  We realized we needed all of these young men and women to see themselves as missionaries quickly.  We talked to all of them about seeing themselves, not as young women and young men, but as missionaries.  A young woman will see how she is dressed in a different way, than a sister missionary would.  A young woman will talk to elders differently, than a sister missionary would.  A young man associating with his peers will act differently, than a missionary does. 
I love seeing the process of our good wonderful missionaries coming to see themselves as missionaries; consecrated servants of the Lord.  It is so wonderful to watch them learn and grow, and realize new ways of looking at themselves and life.  Their changes are very close to our hearts.  These are very special young people.  For example:
At interviews 6 months ago I had a sister missionary who talked about her spiritual experience with this.  She said, “I have left Sarah behind, (name is changed).  I have realized Heavenly Father doesn’t need Sister Smith to be Sarah anymore.  I feel stronger now.  I feel more loving and capable.  It feels so powerful to leave behind what the Lord doesn’t need.  I don’t need attention or to be the center, I want to draw people to Christ, not to me.  Letting go of that girl I was at home has allowed the Lord to be able to do so much more with me as His missionary.”
I loved that and I’ve never forgotten it.  I know if all of us, not just missionaries, are willing to let go of whatever is holding us back and see ourselves for what we truly are and can become, then the Lord will make us into what He wants and needs us to be.  And there is a lot of power in that.
I believe reading our patriartical blessing is important in this quest; so that we can get the vision of who we are, who God wants us to be and what his plan is for us.  I believe trusting our Heavenly Father and believing what He says is vital.  The things we give up will be a sacrifice.  We have to trust that when we close a door, He will open a window. I imagine reaching our divine potential and achieving His divine plan for us must be the most fulfilling, meaningful thing we could possibly do with our lives.  It takes deep faith and hope that the compensating blessing for our every sacrifice will be realized.  
Sadly there are some missionaries who never quite get to the point of being a fully consecrated missionary while on their mission.  They find it hard to let go of the wants, needs and fears of that young man or young woman.  They are still good missionaries but just don’t quite reach all of their potential while in the mission field. This is not the end of the world.  It’s just the end of the mission.  Life does go on for another 60 years or so and there will be a lot more chances to learn.  Thank goodness!  I always remind the missionaries they are not developed, they are developing; we are all an unfinished project the Lord is working on. 
I wonder if I am fully consecrated myself at times.  When I start to wonder, I have to ask the Lord what more I need to give.  Sometimes I am sure I am fully consecrated, other times I’m sure I’m not.  Take 4 weeks ago when I finally started this blog.  I knew I hadn’t fully consecrated myself and finally gave in, letting go of fear and started writing, but it took over 2 years for me to do that.  I think I just finally wanted peace more than I wanted to be safe.  And then God gave me a vision that I could do it. Again, thank goodness life is long, and we have lots of chances!

I am convinced the way we SEE ourselves is the most important factor of what and who we become.  If that vision of ourselves is the standard of what we will do, say or think, then we can become who the Lord needs us to be. Closing the door means we will give or give up what holds us back.  And the window is: there is a lot of power and blessings in that.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

When it seems God isn't blessing you with a miracle.

A word about miracles from my last post.  I really hesitate right now in life to share that week of miracles that happened a few months ago.  I’ve become much more sensitive to peoples personal trials and challenges when they may not feel God is showing himself in such dramatic ways to them.  My intent in writing this blog is to bring people closer to Christ.  Yet you may be suffering and not seeing miracles in your life right now so that last post may not fulfill my purpose.  I would never want to cause pain by talking about my miracles when you may not be seeing any in your own life.  I share that week because I want to testify of the reality of our Heavenly Father.  He hears and answers prayers!  But I’ll also say I know He doesn’t always show Himself so dramatically. Sometimes He gives a dramatic miracle because it will sustain you in the bigger trials ahead.  Sometimes He is showing himself to you but you can’t see Him or feel Him because of the pain or hardness blocking your spiritual sight.  Sometimes He is asking that we just hold on and trust Him until we can see more clearly.  Sometimes He is asking you to remember all that He has already given you.
Because I am coming to know about grief and pain more acutely right now I feel a lot more empathy for others pain.  I’m not even sure what to share and what not to share.  But I guess my message is if you’re thinking God doesn’t bless you with miracles, or even just isn’t blessing your life; wait, stay soft and open, pray every day to see His hand, and He’ll get you there. 

My heart says when I falter, “Your sight is so limited!  You can’t see the big picture!  You are like a baby when it comes to understanding God.” 
I know I can trust Him.  I don’t know if everything is going to be OK, but I know I will be ok. I am learning things about the atonement that I never knew before and I know if I come to Christ in all things, I will be ok.  So will you.

God: "I'm here, hold on, you're going to be ok."

We had a rough summer. It wasn’t just the hectic mission presidents schedule, there were also things happening at home that caused us to feel like we were in a soap opera. I kind of felt like our lives were falling apart.  No, definitely felt like life was falling apart!  In the middle of it all I felt like God reached out and said, “I’m here, hold on, you’re going to be ok.”  I want to back track and share an amazing week among the trials that happened a few months ago.
Here is what happened:  We had just finished up zone conference, which is always exhausting, but good, but in addition we had some family things develop that were unexpected that kind of knocked me over a little.  Then we went right into a weekend with a general authority visit to our mission.  So that meant a hectic weekend with two missionary meetings with him and then stake conference sat night and sun morning.  Then the next day right into interviews and spent every day interviewing and solving problems with the missionaries on a personal and individual basis.
This could be the usual hectic schedule of being a mission president but in the midst of all of this our basement flooded in UT, Jordan who was on his mission had been having some difficult physical challenges we had been trying to solve with doctors there, my parents were having very difficult health challenges that made me long to be home to help, and a few other things I won't mention the specifics on. So in this depleted, exhausted state I felt myself telling the Lord, "I can't do this, you have to help me",  almost every day and night.  A midst other dialogue such as, "How can all this happen at once? Why? Help me hold on.  Please make this happen.  Please carry me.  Help me just look outward for the next 6 hours.  Please don't let me cry right now! And, please fill me up so I have something to give today."  I just have to kind of laugh and cry when I think about the prayers that week. 
But I wanted to share some miracles I saw that made me feel like I was looking into heaven and undeniable seeing Gods hand in a very real way that week.  Tuesday morning I was kind of just balling to God asking for a miracle and a blessing for a son.  This son ended up feeling a miracle happen in his life that afternoon that he shared with us that evening.  What a miracle!  Thursday I was in the middle of interviews and was sick with a migraine to the point of feeling light headed, dizzy and nauseated.  I felt I would have to stop and not meet with the last 15 missionaries. I knew they would be disappointed.  I went to the car to pray and just cried again to God, "I can't do this!  I am so sorry, but if you want this to happen you’re just going to have to do it yourself.  I am so sick, so tired and so depleted.  Just carry me please and make this happen."  I lay in the car for a few minutes and then thought I would go in and try.  The very next interview I was listening and noticed myself laughing and realized my migraine was gone. I was able to interview for 5 more hours and focus and listen and give ideas and love and support and I knew it was a loving Heavenly Father who hears and answers prayers in our extremities. 
Then on Sat morning we were in a hurry and the kids in UT wanted to lay the carpet back down in our basement there; they had had fans blowing on the carpet all week. Meghan had said it smelt moldy earlier in the week, and thought there had probably been water spreading in every time it rained throughout the summer that they hadn’t noticed. But this huge storm was like a water fall into the basement that took a day to clean up and left a moldy smell uncovered.

I felt bad we hadn't dealt with any details of replacing carpet pad, testing for sheet rock damage, insulation wetness, or testing for mold, so I started calling around trying to get educated about flooding restoration.  I only had an hour to get ready and make the phone calls before we had to leave for the Coeur D'alene zone interviews.  As I was calling and arranging for someone to go over to our house in UT I had the thought, "I don't have time for this, what I need is the Lord to make the moisture in the basement disappear, the carpet pad to be fine, the sheet rock to be undamaged and the insulation to be dry.  The Lord could definitely make that happen."  I didn’t have time to pray it, I just thought it as I ran to get out the door to be on our way.  The service man called a few hours later to tell us that he had gone to the house and our kids did an amazing job cleaning up the water because there was no moisture in the air, no sheet rock damage, the pad was fine and all we needed to do was disinfect the pad, re stretch the carpet and have it cleaned.  I knew I had just witnessed another miracle the Lord performed in my life that week.  I have often thought, “Faith is a decision."  During interviews that week one of the sister missionaries told me, "Faith is a decision to see miracles." I love that.  I feel strong testimony that God's hand is in our lives. I know He doesn’t always show us in dramatic ways, sometimes we just feel His peace.  But if we will have eyes to see Him, we will.  He is very real. I know, "Faith is a decision to see God's hand."  

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

#3 Positive and negative communication

Relationships #3 – This is a training I've done several times for the missionaries.  The missionaries seem to really enjoy learning about communication and have requested this paper a few times.  I think many of them have their eyes opened that they are communicating in negative ways "that they never had supposed".  Missions are great for opening hearts up for learning.:)
The level of misery in a relationship is equivalent to the amount of distance between Expectation and Reality.  If you want to feel different, bring your expectation in line with reality.
Expecting Perfect  =  You’ll always be dissatisfied
Expecting Magic  =  You’ll always be disappointed

Understand your companion – What are their strengths, what are their weaknesses, what kind of personality do they have?  Accept them for who they are.  Then bring your expectations in line with who they realistically are and what they can give.
Tools to have a good relationship – Communication
Quality of communication determines Quality of Relationship
Building, Kind, Sweet Comm.  =   Safe, Trusting, Edifying Relationship
Hurtful, Deeming, Manipulative Comm.  =  Hurtful, Mistrustful, Unhealthy Relationship
What are you communicating?  Do you do these things?
Elements of Negative Communication – Don’t Label, Attack, or Criticize
·        One Truth (I’m right, your wrong)
·        Blame (It’s all your fault)
·        Martyrdom (Poor me)
·        Put downs (Your such a….)
·        Hopelessness (Why even try)
·        Demanding (Has to be my way)
·        Denial (I’m not hurt, angry… “Nothings wrong”)
·        Passive/Aggressive (Silent Treatment)
·        Self Blame, Inflict Guilt (It’s all my fault)
·        Fixer (Let me help fix you)
·        Sarcasm
·        Defensive/Counter Attack
Elements of Positive Communication
·        Listen to Understand (Understand first then seek to be understood)
·        Reflect Back (Restate what the person is expressing)
·        Express your feelings openly and directly in a kind, thoughtful way
·        Encourage other person to express his/her feelings by asking questions that increase your understanding
·        I feel, about, because statements
·        Be open to your not perfect, or right, your just expressing your feelings
Be Proactive – Solve problems quickly, upfront, and open, before you are mad.  Avoid Manipulation or Power/Control Attitude.
Be Brave and Pray the entire time you are dealing with a problem.  The Lord can soften your heart and reveal what will be helpful.
Steps to solving the problem:
1.     1. See your part first and try to let go of hard feelings.  Always seek to understand clearly what your part of the problem was.  Start with you first!  That is what you can control.  Look at your pride; how you’re seeing things as: my way is right, I know more or what is best, or you have to be wrong so I can be right attitude.  Ask, what am I doing that is causing the problem?  Then fix you.  Moroni 7:45-48.  Let Go. Forgive.
2.    2.  If you can’t let go then communication is next. Use positive communication!  Communication is important when something isn’t right, you need understanding so you can love, and correct behavior (yours or theirs).
·        Most important thing in solving your problem – Go to me and thee alone while demonstrating elements of positive communication above.  If you go to everyone else and talk about how you feel you give your darkness to all.  Instead solve your problem with the person it concerns.
Behavior- Be about solving your problem, not being justified and keeping your problem close to your heart.  Matt 18:15, D&C 42:88.  Pray to have a change of heart.
Doctrine – Be merciful, judge righteously, what you give out you will get in return.  Alma 41:13-15 (See if you can find other doctrine.)
3.    3.  Compromise.  It is important for each person to feel heard and valued.  Both parties are important and are valuable in the partnership.  If you think it should be your way or that you are right, you can know you are being prideful and the spirit will not be with you.  Be open, listen, and know the way others want to do things is ok.

#2 Let's be honest.

Relationships #2 - Believe it or not sometimes mission presidents don’t get along with their companion either.  Oops, can I say that? Yup, it’s true and shouldn’t come as a shock.  Not to think we’re fighting, or anything like that, but we can be at odds with each other and have contention we have to work out.  This post is about what I have learned about relationships by serving a mission with my husband and having Elder Anderson of the quorum of the twelve apostles visit our mission.  I’ll need to set this up with a little honest background first.
President Mullen and I are very different in probably every way but one; we both love the gospel and the Lord.  But I can’t think of anything else we are the same in.  Needless to say, being married to your opposite can be a challenging thing.  The good thing is we love and respect each other so we’ve been open to change in our marriage.  The bad thing is change is hard.  This means we’ve both had a lot of work to do. 
When we started out in marriage Don was a people, relationship oriented person, I was a task oriented person.  He was indirect, I was direct.  He was activity oriented, I was task oriented.  He was funny; me, not so much.  He was all about a good story and dreaming; I can’t tell a story for the life of me and am very realistic.  He was disorganized, I was organized.  He recharges his batteries by being around people; I am totally about being alone.  He was very outgoing, talking and social; I was introverted, thinking, and fearful.  I loved to read, write in my journal and communicate; he, not so much.  He was all about playing hard; I was all about working hard.  You get the idea.  I do have to say we both spend money frugally though, so that was not one of the things we had to work out.
The result of marrying your opposite means nothing seems easy in the beginning.  Oh my goodness, that feels like a huge understatement. But I really feel the Lord gave me a huge love for Don so that I would marry him and begin an amazing journey of learning, growth and change in my life.  I have become such a different person being married to Don.  He pulls me to the middle and I think he feels I pull him to the middle also.  Most people would not think of me as a fearful, introverted, task oriented person, and I’m not anymore, but that is just a reflection of what loving your opposite can do for you.
So marriage, right from the start, has been all about layers of change for both of us.  But we do have a great marriage and get a long really well.  Don is a really amazing man and even though I still don’t understand him as well as I would like; (our brains do not work the same at all), we really love each other and have been working at it hard for 27 years.  The missionaries see this great relationship and may think it just magically happens.  We try to be very open and up front about how hard we have to work at our marriage, so they don’t think a good relationship is just easy. 
The thing is, every one of these changes I have made has really been hard won for me. I give credit to the Lord.  I feel I can work on my behavior but in the end He changes my heart.  These changes are sacred to me.  I pretty much have a story for every good change I’ve made, here is one of them:
On this mission we are together pretty much constantly.  It is really great to work together planning, training, and traveling 24/7.  We discovered at the beginning of the mission that Don teaches a lot different than I do.  And of course, as usual, I found myself thinking my way was better and wishing he would change.  Hmm imagine that.  Luckily I can recognize the signs of pride and know when I need to change and could tell this was one of those times. 
I started working on my behavior; telling myself to: focus on the positive, gain a testimony of being called of God, God knows what He is doing and telling myself my way was not the right way. (Secretly it was only kind of working.)
That was when Elder Anderson came to visit and spoke with our missionaries.  What he taught was a lightning bolt to my heart, it was absolute truth and I didn’t have to work on my behavior any more, the Lord gave me heartfelt understanding through the power of the Holy Ghost.  He said:
“Isn’t it great that the Lord allows so many different kinds of people to have testimonies?  Look at Pres Palmer and Pres Mullen, they couldn’t be more different, yet they were both called of God to serve as mission presidents in the WA SPOKANE Mission and have done a great job.  We experience this as apostles too.  Pres Monsen loves to shake hands and be out among the people; Pres Packer prefers to be in the back room with the door closed studying a book.  Yet both are called of God and fulfill their assignments amazingly.  Everyone has a part to play and one person will touch and influence for good someone that another person can’t.”
“We don’t have to be alike.  We can be different and still be just as effective as another.”
“Spiritual progression happens differently for everyone too.  We don’t grow in the same way. We don’t learn in the same way. We don’t receive answers to our prayers in the same way.  We don’t feel the spirit in the same way.  Accept your way.  You don’t have to be anyone else.”
“But we do repent in the same way.  We become worthy in the same way.  We express faith and go forward in the same way.  Be patient with your own individual spiritual growth.  For some of you it’s in your bones.  Some of you are a little more tenuous.”
“Be patient.  The church is true.  The Book of Mormon is true.  Joseph Smith is a prophet.  It will come.  I have seen a lot of growth in myself.  I was never an AP or……  Keep the faith, don’t give up on yourself.  Years of work will make you into an exceptional person.  No one stays the same.  You get to decide and choose.”
“This is the right place for your mission. You are not meant to know everything in the beginning.  You were meant to grow and learn along the way.  Don’t worry…..”(He talked about missionary work here.)
Then He quoted Alma 5:13 and said, “Using the atonement is spiritual learning.  We can’t read about the atonement and know it, or understand it.  It takes time, life, experiences for yourself.  Keep the faith, you understand in layers.  Stay humble.  Ask to understand more.  Change is progression.  You’ve never “got it”.”
“The spirit will lead you to think less about: self, what you want, cares of the world, the temporal, and your individual suffering, and more about: others, what god wants, spiritual things, eternal perspective and the blessings that come from suffering.” 
He talked then about more missionary things.
What the spirit drove into my heart was first-God loves my husband.  I instantly felt such appreciation for Don’s great testimony and the way Don does things, because I knew God was ok with him and loves him. Isn’t that ironic?  When I knew deep in my heart how much God loved Don, I felt at peace and could just accept him and relax.  Second I had a deep understanding that every single one of us is different and there really is not a right way to do something.  I knew without a doubt that, “My way is just “A way”, someone else’s way is just “A way”.  The only, “The way”, is God’s way.
Then something amazing happened.  I knew Elder Andersons message in the beginning was that everyone’s process is Ok.  How they, Feel it, Do it, Say it, is OK with the Lord.  I felt the Lord was helping me to understand that we all need to be ok with each other’s path and way of doing things.  This is how I will be able to love more.  But as he continued to talk I had a very calm feeling settle over me.  The spirit bore witness to me that if the Lord directs all of us to love and accept each other’s journey, then He must love and accept our individual journey’s too.  Imagine that, the Lord is ok with my struggles, where I am at, how I do things.  What amazing knowledge.  The Lord is actually ok with me.  I didn’t even know I needed to know that but I instantly felt so free and so full of love.  As I understood the Lord wants me to accept everyone’s way, I knew He accepts my way. 
So I love how the Lord teaches in layers.  It’s like He opens a door and then continues to show you what you’re meant to know.  That weekend we spoke in a stake conference.  A man came up to Pres. Mullen and was just crying.  He passed by me with tears streaming down his face and said, “I love everything your husband says.  He speaks the way I learn.”  The Lord was just adding an explanation point to what he wanted me to know.  How great the Lord is to teach us what we need to know so that change can happen. This is why I feel the Lord changes me, I don’t change myself.

This experience has been incredibly valuable to me.  As I learn to respect others individual journey and “way” of doing things, I have come to know the Lord respects my own individual journey too, and I can feel His love and acceptance of me.  It kind of changes everything.

Monday, November 10, 2014

#1 "Why not a perfect life Lord?"

Relationships #1 - Believe it or not, sometimes missionaries don’t get along with their companions. J  I want to write a few posts about relationships and what I am learning from watching and working with 250 young adults at any given moment.
Recently we had a companionship of sisters who really weren’t getting along.  I was working with them, their sister training leaders were working with them and even the member they were living with was trying to help.  It was a long and painful transfer for them.
These two sisters are very different.  One sister is quiet, shy, relaxed and a little depressed.  The other sister is very driven, hard working, very concerned about obeying all the rules and a little OCD.  Both are very good sister missionaries, they are just different from each other.  There were a lot of judgments going on in the relationship and a lot of hurt feelings on both sides.  As I worked with both of them I felt pride had started the problem and lack of forgiveness kept it going. 
One particular day had been a little rough for them.  Everyone was being involved, trying to help, even President Mullen.  We happened to be going to the temple that evening and I found myself praying for these two sisters during my session.  I was thinking about how this one particular sister needed to understand that she had been given a companion to love and care for- that this companion was more important than the schedule, the rules, or the tasks on the list.  She has a perfect idea of what her mission should be and what the companionship should be doing and focusing on, so it is hard for her to let that go, see the struggling person in front of her and make her companions needs more important than the idea of her perfect mission.  She is struggling with her own issues also and needs help too.  My thought was they both need to feel loved.
As I was praying and thinking in the temple about this relationship a realization hit me about mothering; and one particular child of mine who is struggling.  I realized as a parent, even though I felt I had been open and flexible as a mother, I had a set idea of what I thought my child should be and do.  It goes something like: get good grades, play the piano, love the gospel, get into BYU, go on a mission, get married in the temple and have a great family.  Just the usual stuff. J
The problem is: this beautiful child, who growing up could do it all and was such a bright light, is now facing challenges that are very complicated to understand; having one thing being led to another, until the problems he is facing are so big it’s hard to know where to turn or what to do.
My perspective has changed so much.  I see parents who are hurt and worried over children who didn’t go on a mission, or came home early from a mission and all I can think is, “It can get so much worse than that, don’t worry if that’s all it is.”  You want your child to go on a mission so badly, but the reality is a mission just helps them live the gospel.  If they are living the gospel and being faithful just be so happy for that.  That is all that matters.  You can live the gospel your whole life without going on a mission.  When my son Jordan came home from his mission early, I felt bad for him, but I’ve hardly worried about him because my perspective has changed. I know he is going to be fine if he just continues to go to church and live the gospel.
I also see parents who are so concerned with children who fall away from the church.  Sadly my new perspective is, “It can get so much worse than that, there is so much to be grateful for if your child is able to get a job, go to college, function, get married and have children.”  It is amazing how life experiences can rock your world. Be so grateful for all good in a child’s life.  Any good is good.
Life just hasn’t turned out to be that perfect.  My plan seemed so great to me.  It was beautiful and…..not that demanding really; it seemed very normal and attainable to me. (I’m kind of laughing at myself. Did I really shout for joy, did I really know what I was signing up for?)
But this is what I’m learning: If I am going to have, “all these things be turned to good”, I have to have the spirit with me, so I’m not just surviving, but actually learning and progressing from what I am going through. I have learned in order for me to have the spirit with me I have to stop asking, “Why”.  Why is pride! The question why is a barrier between me and the Lord.  I can feel it.  It’s just a message of, “My way and my plan is better Lord.”  For me I can feel that why doesn’t accept the Lords will, His plan, His way.  It is not humble.  I have realized I need to repent of every little hardness in my heart to be able to be soft and open, to have the spirit with me, to live well, not just survive.
Anyway back to the temple.  As I was thinking about these two sisters I felt the Lord put this into context for me.  I have been given children to love and care for.  Parenting is not something on my list to be checked off.  I shouldn’t ever feel resentful or bothered that my children’s lives aren’t what I thought they should be; that perfect ideal.  They are people, with their own lives, their own plan, designed by God for them.  It’s not about me, my children, and my way.  This is God’s way and His plan for each of these children.  They are people.  They need to feel love and support.  I need to  have faith.  Their needs need to be the most important thing; more than my perfect idea of their life and how it should go.

So this first post about relationships is what I'm learning about letting go, and let God.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

"That is an attack on my divine nature"

We had new leadership training today with our new district leaders and sister training leaders.  We always have this every six weeks, a few days after transfers, after our new leaders have been called.
I remember my first new district leader training when we first came into the mission.  We had been on a whirlwind for a few weeks and our assistants, Kyle Smith and Kyston Manuirriangi had been dragging us all over the mission telling us where to go and what to do and we just followed them and tried to keep up. 
(Something that was really hard for me up to that point was to always come into a meeting and have to sit in the front.  All the places were always full of missionaries and our places were always there at a table -right in the front.  It was bugging me that I always had to sit there.) 
The first new district leader meeting we went too, we were early and not a lot of the leaders were there yet. I remember walking into the room and to my delight all of the seats were empty around the room. I thought to myself, “YES, look at all these nice empty places; I am going to sit in the back.”  I put my bag on the table in the back to sit down and there was eagle eye, Elder Smith saying, “NO Sister Mullen, you don’t sit there, you sit up here.”  I’ll never forget the look in his eye or the sound of his voice, like a patient parent.
I’ll also never forget the feeling I had, like a disappointed child who doesn’t get what they want. I felt like stomping my foot and saying, “I just want to sit in the back.”  “I’m tired of speaking and everyone looking at me, and being in the front, and being the only girl in the room.  I just want to be an observer, sit in the back, and not say anything, pleeeeeease.”  I have to laugh at myself and that feeling whenever I think of it. 
Anyway, during this meeting I am in charge of training the elders on how to interact with the sisters.  We try to help them understand the boundaries of elder, sister relations, but I also try to teach them about their role as men and women.  It is one of my favorite training's.
We talk about their role as a man defined by the “The family: A proclamation to the world” as a provider, protector and leader of their home.  We talk about how the world is attacking their role.  I try to help them see that if they pay attention to movies, men are portrayed a lot as the violent, aggressive, kill everyone type, or the indecisive, incapable, weak type.  Satan is always pulling us to the edges.  When we are balanced in the middle that is where Christ and the spirit exist.  Men functioning in the middle are strong and capable as leaders, providers and protectors with Christ like attributes. 
One comment Sister Tisdale made today was eye opening.  She brought out the point that even in the church there is also an attack on men’s roles going on.  It’s the often heard comment of, “Give the job to a woman and then it will get done.”  It’s that attitude that men are irresponsible or incapable, and don’t follow through.  Absolutely I think that is a valid comment and an attitude we feel at times in the church.
The world is weakening men’s roles by portraying them as weak and incapable, or violent and irresponsible.  As men fulfill their divine role and see their divinity as a provider, protector and leader and embrace that they are able to fulfill their divine potential they will become the man God wants them to be.  I have the feeling we need to be teaching them while they are young to embrace their divine role and not be afraid of it.
I also talk to the sisters about their divine role.  They are the nurturers of the family; helping, teaching and loving children in a healthy environment.  The world’s message is that there is no meaning or fulfillment in that role.  The worlds women are tough, aggressive, dominate and smarter than men, or just physical objects whose value comes from being thin and beautiful. 
The world pulls us to the edges, where the pendulum swings.  In movies we see woman fighting women and women fighting men. It really bugs me when I see a movie where a woman is beating the crap out of a man or another woman.  When I see it, I say to myself, (sometimes out loud even), “That is an attack on my divine nature.” I know it sounds funny but it is!
My role is extremely valuable.  I gained a testimony of that when I was raising my young children.  I know there is nothing more valuable or no better way to spend my time than raising and influencing my children to be healthy happy children who will then raise and influence their children.  That is my posterity.  It is extremely valuable to me.

Christ exists in the balance.  I know God’s plan is perfect and good enough for each one of us.  As we fulfill our divine roles we will be able to give a life of service and leadership to the Lord and are able to achieve our divine potential.