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. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Hitting the Mark

I planned on having a sisters conference last week but had to cancel it when the missionary department made it clear they don’t want missions to be having sisters conferences.  I had gotten some mixed messages last year and thought it was going to be ok to go ahead and have one. 
One of the reasons I wanted to have a sisters conference is because I see a huge difference between the sisters and elders, (imagine that J).  We kind of laugh at the things we see and often joke that when we give trainings many of the sisters are always thinking they have to do more, and many of the elders think they’re doing enough. And of course, you guessed it, those elders are exactly who we are training too. Of course I have to say we have wonderful sisters and elders, this is just a generalization we see sometimes.
But we do find the sisters will usually be the ones who over shoot “the Mark”.  Let me tell you what that means to us and what I want most of the sisters to know:
Sisters need to stop feeling guilty about everything.  We’ve talked about the “Mark” being Jesus Christ and it will always lead us to feeling the spirit.  If we have hit the “Mark”; (that’s Christ), we will feel joy, happiness, peace, positive, motivated, etc. If we aren’t feeling the spirit we are not on the Mark.  Many of our missionaries beat themselves up thinking they need to do more and be more and think it’s coming from the Lord.  That couldn’t be further from the truth. Feeling the spirit is usually an invitation to act but you feel motivated and filled when acting upon the invitation.  How we feel when we are thinking or doing something is a great filter to know if the thing is from God.  Here is how this principle relates to missionary work.
Many of our missionaries hit the Mark.  They find joy in their work and feel the Saviors love.  They know they are working hard, not committing any sins, and doing their best.  They know they are not perfect but are trying, and they feel whatever they are giving is appreciated by the Lord.  They feel loved appreciated and valued by their Heavenly Father for their work and sacrifice.  That is hitting the Mark!
Some missionaries over shoot the Mark, they strive for perfection and feel they never reach it, and then feel depressed, critical, and overwhelmed.  (These are symptoms of overshooting the Mark.) They don’t feel the joy of their service and sacrifice because they focus on the negative aspect of what didn’t happen, what didn’t get accomplished, and what they weren’t; instead of what they were.  Overshooting the Mark is a heavy task master.  Nothing is ever good enough and you are never enough.    Over shooting will never be satisfied or fulfilled because it sees things in a negative and critical way.  It functions by beating up and tearing down.  Its very nature is against the spirit and sucks love and joy out of every good thing.
Some missionaries undershoot the Mark.  They have an, “It’s all good attitude.”  Most things can be excused, justified, or blamed away so behavior is acceptable and nothing needs to ever change.  Undershooting the Mark negates our need for a Savior.  It’s the, “I don’t need to change, God loves me for who I am” and, “I just need to be me” attitude. 
Examples of Hitting the Mark: “I try to be obedient but I don’t beat myself up if I’m a few minutes late.  I don’t feel guilty if I haven’t committed any sins.  I feel patient and loving toward myself and others even when things didn’t go perfect.  I am willing to learn and don’t tear myself down when I didn’t teach well or know a scripture.  I’m not afraid to make a mistake.  I happy and satisfied at whatever I can offer or give, even when it wasn’t perfect.”
Examples of overshooting the Mark: “ I feel I am not everything I want to be.  I feel guilty about things I have no control over.  I feel guilty for not being enough, or doing enough.  For example: I wasn’t nice enough, loving enough, bold enough, understanding enough, helpful enough, etc. etc.  Nothing is good enough unless it looks perfect and I base my value on how things look.  I am constantly imagining myself through another’s critical viewpoint.”
Undershooting the Mark: “It doesn’t matter if I stay in a member’s home for an hour or more.  It doesn’t matter if I go to the gym at night after I finish planning, it’s my free time.  I’m obeying the rule to get up at 6:30am if I wake up, even if I don’t get out of bed for another 30 minutes.  It’s ok if I listen to this kind of music because it relaxes me.  I don’t feel well so I’ll stay in all day, even though I really could go out and work. I don’t think this is the right thing to do, but my companion is doing it so I’ll just go along.”
To be honest in training we have to train for those who are undershooting the mark.  We have to teach, exactness, strictness, work harder, and be more diligent. Can you imagine what would happen if we taught relax, don’t be so hard on yourself, and give yourself a break?  Can you imagine how all those who are undershooting the mark would take it?  We would be in trouble. :)
What I want to say to all those who are overshooting is, “You’re doing so good, let your victories in, don’t be so hard on yourself, you’re doing a great job, relax so you can feel God’s love for you, don’t work yourself to death and suck all the life and love out of your work, love your work and be happy to do it, and when you are done be happy and give thanks for what your were able to do and let the rest go!!

We want to tell our entire mission, “Please hit the Mark.  You’ll know it when you feel the Saviors love.  It happens when you fill yourself up with thinking of all the good things you’re doing and all the right reasons you are doing them.  Relax and let His love in.  You’re having victories every day!  Focus on your victories” 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Sister Christopherson, "You have to trust to get rid of fear."

One last post about the mission president’s seminar last week.  Sister Christopherson is quite a good speaker and she spoke to us twice.  Here are a few things she said that touched me:
There are challenges and pain behind every door.  The Lord knows this.  He knows us and is aware of our individual trial and pain.  The atonement of our savior sanctifies us when we are dirty, torn and beat up.  We can be made holy and the effects of our pain and trials can be removed from our heart.
To turn to God we must turn our day over to him.  She told of a woman who was a great example to her.  She would pray over her day and make a list of what she felt the Lord wanted her to do.  She would pray so much that she even started putting numbers by what she felt the Lord wanted her to do 1st, 2nd, 3rd and so forth.  Sister Christopherson saw the desire in her to REALLY want to do the Lords will.  We must REALLY let the Lord make and prioritize our list for the day.  This is becoming sanctified.  You will also come to know profoundly what the Lord doesn’t want you to do!
A note about return missionaries becoming sanctified; the experience of a mission is a launch point.  They have become better organizers, planners, spiritually committed, socially skilled people.  Encourage them to keep using these tools.  Don’t lose this place, launch from here.  Ask, “What do you want me to do today?”  Don’t be scared if it’s uncomfortable or scary.  You’re being tweaked.  Get peace from doing the Lord’s will. 
YOU HAVE TO TRUST TO GET RID OF FEAR.  If you do nothing you’ll never move out of fear.  No one ever gained anything by doing nothing.  Told a great story about the breaking of wild horses at a ranch they visited.  The horse is taken on a journey to build trust.  They aren’t just saddled the first day; they aren’t use to anything on their backs or needing something from people.  They are sheltered, fed, made warm, watered, given shots, then blanket on their back, a bit in their mouth, etc.  The horse has experiences that show him he can trust his master. 
We have to put our hand in the Lords and let him take us on the journey if we are to have experiences with him that will teach us we can trust him.  We learn we can trust the Lord when we receive Him, follow Him and obey Him.

I want to add my voice.  I have learned that I can trust the Lord in exactly this way.  As I have prayed for the Lords will to be done in my life and trusted His way would be best, He has shown me He can get me threw and He will make much more of me doing His will, than I would have ever been doing my own thing.  I love Him.  I know He lives and I can trust Him.  I have learned not to just believe in Him, but to believe Him.  

Sister Mullen quoting Sister Nelson quoting Sister Beck

I had a conversation with Sister Nelson at the mission president’s seminar that really touched me.  I wanted to share some of the things she said and what I learned.  She is a general authority’s wife and she talked about trying to find her way in that role.  My memory was that Julie Beck came to her mission or area, or something,....anyway she was talking with her said, (This is Sister Mullen, quoting Sister Nelson, quoting Julie Beck, you gotta love it.)  “Stop.  Stop doing what you’re doing.  There are people everywhere; right in front of you, who need cheering up.  Stop thinking of yourself, how your being used, needed, valued or appreciated.  You are a personal minister.  Bring your life into a smaller scale; downsize!  Who is right in front of you who needs cheer, love or understanding?  Sit down and talk with them.  Listen to them for 5 minutes.  When you listen you are giving love to the one.  Look for the one.  There will be a ripple effect that goes out from them and affects others through you.  Your small act for the one brings meaning and value to your life.  The important thing is not the business of life, schedules, organization of events, group activities or worldly importance.  We can get lost in the thick of thin things when we don’t understand, the one, is what is important.  That is when we truly make a difference.”

Robert D Hales wife gave a talk 25 years ago, (Sister Mullen is now quoting Sister Nelson quoting Sister HalesJ)  that talks about the same thing, “WE DON’T GO TO CHURCH TO GET, WE GO TO CHURCH TO GIVE!  Who needs a friend?  Who can you bless, help or love?  Don’t criticize the speakers, teachers or leaders.  Mentally encourage and pray for them as they struggle through their talk or lesson.  Hope for the success of others.  Support and Encourage.”

All of this was paraphrased at what I remember.  But what touched me was that this is exactly what I’ve been feeling on my mission.  The Lord wants me to see the one.  The one right in front of me who wants to share a miracle, struggling with feelings of inadequacy, heartbroken at a parents’ divorce, on fire for the change they are seeing in an investigators life, excited because they learned a life changing thing, or depleted with the emotional struggle they are facing.  There are important children of God right in front of all of us, all the time.  Can I SEE them, can I SEE the one?

I really feel this has been a weakness of mine.  I have often longed to be able to see the needs of people better. It is not one of my natural abilities. I have a friend, Molly Dayton who seems to say or do the perfect thing in the perfect moment.  She has touched my life profoundly on 3 different occasions.  How amazing to be able to see like that.  I'm still working on it.

I feel the spirit has been teaching me that to really fulfill my calling I need to see the face in front of me and listen to them with all my heart, try to understand, listen to the spirit with all my heart and see if I can’t help, cheer, or bless.  I feel strongly that the Lord is trying to lead me to love, all the time.  Trying to be a personal minister has changed me.  I certainly know that I am not perfect at it.  But I know he can help me make a difference to just one person in my path.  Because of this I know each one of us can make a difference to that person in front of us.  We can respond with kindness, we can ask questions, we can listen!  We can look at our spouse, child, friend, coworker, or stranger and meet their need in the moment.  I know it changes our life when we see ourselves as a personal minister that can make a difference to one person.