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.”