Tuesday, March 24, 2015

We are doing a great work and cannot come down!

We just finished specialized training and it was so awesome.  We played the talk from Elder Uchtdorf entitled, “We Are Doing a Great Work and Cannot Come Down.” for our doctrine.  We had some wonderful role plays on teaching and finding and played some team building games. 

I wanted to talk a little about Elder Uchtdorf’s talk.  We stopped it several times to discuss different points he was making.  We first talked about change.  It’s important for each missionary to always know when we come to trainings that they may feel the spirit when they are in the meetings but if they walk out the door and never change then their time spent there has been a waste.  We want to change always.  It’s beautiful.

E. Uchtdorf talks about What Matters Most and that we could all give great talks about it, but, “our weakness is in failing to align our actions with our conscience.”  Sometimes we sacrifice doing the best things in place of doing good things. 

This sure can be true in missionary work.  At this point we stopped the video and talked about the difference of doing good; “missionary like activity”, vs. best; doing “missionary work”.  Sometimes as a missionary it’s easy to be comfortable being busy, but not really be focused on finding people to teach or teaching when we have the opportunity.  Missionaries, who are finding and teaching Christ no matter what they are doing during the day, are doing the best way, to spend their time and we define that as missionary work.

Then E. Uchtdorf goes on to give the great story of Nehemiah.  Listen to the talk https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2009/04/we-are-doing-a-great-work-and-cannot-come-down?lang=eng  It’s very inspiring.  I listened to it 5x’s over the 5 days and never got tired of it.

Next we related Nehemiah’s story to the Missionaries.  As Missionaries we face opposition, we must be consecrated and move forward no matter what distractions we face, we must, “have a mind to work”, and we must be firmly planted in the fact that, “We are doing a great work and must not come down.”  I think the missionaries could relate on many levels of how we sometimes come down off the wall and loose our focus.  We had a wonderful, inspiring, open discussion about being firmly resolved to be strictly obedient, and helping each other to be more firmly resolved to have a mind to work, so that we cannot come down.  We have resolved as a mission to change.  The spirit always invites change and we must, “align our actions with our conscience.”  I felt a lot of power in all 5 days of our training as we saw missionaries excited to give more and do more for the Lord.  We asked them to go out and give it their all for 4 days and come back and report.  We had those follow up accountings over the weekend and they were awesome.  Many missionaries shared their personal witness of miracles and blessings that happened when they consecrated more to the Lord.  We are now doing the same thing until interviews.  Then we will do it until Elder Nelson comes. 

We are doing a great work and cannot come down.  We are preparing our hearts and minds to receive an apostle of the Lord, Elder Russell M. Nelson who is coming to our mission April 18 & 19.  We are committed to being 200% accountable for ourselves and each other.  I felt the Lords hand in guiding us and directly giving us this training.  (I feel that a lot in our trainings I just don’t have time to write them all down.)  And it is inspiring to see our good missionaries, with their good hearts be willing to give more to the Lord.  They are so fantastic.  What amazing youth this gospel creates.  It reminds me of Joseph Smith’s powerful statement:

“Let us here observe, that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things, never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation.”

The Lord will do His work when I get out of the way.

I have had the distinct impression lately to go back into my journal and read and remember some of the experiences we had when we were first called and came out on the mission.  This has been a wonderful experience for me.  It is amazing to me how many special experiences I have forgotten.  How grateful I am that I have recorded them and can renew my memory and re-live some of those feelings and remember things I learned. 

One ironic thing that happened as I read was that I came across an entry that I hadn’t remembered at all, as I read about it I recalled the inspiration and it was powerful to me for what I am going through right now too.  I felt I was directed to this entry to re-learn and remember something that the Lord was trying to teach me again.  Here is the journal entry and my feelings about it today: (It’s going to be confusing.  This is about an experience that happened 2 years ago that prompted memories from something that happened 8 years ago that finally helped me to understand and learn from something that happened about 15 years ago.)  Good Luck.

I had a wonderful learning experience today.  It all started when I was talking to Sister D__ after new missionary training today.  She is training Sister L__ in a threesome companionship with Sister W__. Sister D was seeking some council because she and Sister W are both opinionated about how training should go and it’s often conflicting ideas.  They are both responsible and thoughtful and want to train Sister L the best way possible.  Sister D is trying to figure out the answer, she wants to: teach what she feels is best, know if she is too prideful and stubborn, have things be done the right way, and wants to work hard.  She wants to use time wisely but wonders if she is pushing and not relaxed enough to let the spirit in.  Her questions are good: “What is the balance?  How and what do I need to change inside?  What should I do differently?”

I could tell she was burdened down with worry over everything.  I was praying to know how to help and had the impression to say, “It sounds like a war is going on inside of you; impressions from the spirit, conflicting feelings of your own of what you feel is right, what you feel is fair because you are the official trainer and it’s your calling and authority, fear of hurting others and causing offense, and questions about if you’re loving your companions and being Christ like.”

Sister D then expressed, “Yes, I just don’t know what I should change and do differently.”
Right then the weirdest thing came into my mind from some learning I had done about 8 years ago.   I remembered when, [a young son] was going through some anger issues and I felt he was in the wrong everyday at how he was treating me and the family.  I wanted to convince him of the wrong of his ways and show him what was right.  I felt the spirit whisper constantly, “you can’t teach him, touch him, or show him anything, right now.  Walk away!”  I wanted to stay right where I was and convince him of the wrong of his ways.  Instead I chose to obey the spirit, and walk away, even though it didn’t make sense to me and wasn’t what I thought should happen.  (At least most of the time, sometimes my natural man would take over and I would stay in my pride, try to make him see his error, I would become more indignant with his behavior and it would end up in a big argument.)  I learned I could make it be about, “I’m right” and you’re going to see the wrong of your ways and have a big fight, or I could listen to the spirit, state a clear boundary and walk away as quickly as possible, knowing he never really saw his error, but there was also no arguing.  (We ended up having a relationship with him the best we could while he went through some difficult years and he grew out of it and he is great now.)

I remembered having learned that I don’t have to worry about what is fair, what I want to teach, how I think it should be, what I need to change or show, or what is going to happen.  I just needed to follow the spirit.

All of this remembering happened in a split second as I was praying to know how to help Sister D.  I talked to her about trusting what the spirit says.  I counseled her to, “Quit worrying about what you need to change, what is right and fair, what you think should happen, your position and how everyone thinks and feels.  Instead focus on what the spirit is telling you to do, trust that and let everything else go.”

She started to cry.  The spirit had touched her heart.  She said, “I don’t need to be burdened with worry, I just need to follow promptings.”  She seemed completely different.  I could tell the spirit had given her what she needed.  I thought to myself, “The Lord has done it again- HE just keeps teaching and touching these missionaries in His way.”

Tonight I have been praying and expressing my gratitude as I thought about the experience today and the learning I felt 8 years ago that helped me know how to help her.  I am so grateful for learning in my life and to serve a mission.  It is everything I love: talking about the gospel, teaching the gospel, conversations that help and strengthen others, feeling the spirit work through me, working alongside of amazing men and women who love the gospel also, learning so much, and seeing the Lord change people’s lives.  I love it so much, and I never want to go home.  I am also so glad to have a break from keeping that big house and big yard maintained.  It’s wonderful!

In my prayer tonight I was also expressing those same feelings I have written about before of, I don’t know why we were called to do this.  I don’t know why we got to be so blessed.  The Lord could have made anyone capable, I don’t know why He chose us, but I am extremely grateful He did, and I am so grateful for all the learning and changing over the years that I can draw from.

All of a sudden the Lord gave me knowledge I have been trying to understand for years.  I have been so grateful for so long for the ways I have changed and grown.  I always think about how I don’t know how change happens, I just know the Lord does it to us, we don’t do it for ourselves.  I first started thinking this around 15 years ago when I had been working on changing something about myself and it wasn’t going so well.  I was frustrated because I felt God wasn’t helping me.  I remember finally giving up and just saying, “I can’t do it Lord, I can’t change myself, you will just have to do it.”  I felt change happen in my life very quickly after that.  I never understood how it happened but I just knew the Lord changed me, not me. [Note: to read more completely of that experience I wrote about it in the #2 atonement blog.] See:http://prayrepentloverepeat.blogspot.com/2014/12/2-help-me-change-myself-lord-not.html

Tonight in a split second I finally understood how change really happens.  It all kind of came together for me as I was praying.   When I gave up what I wanted; my desires, what I felt was right, what I felt was fair, my expectations; my pride, and put it all on the alter and said, “I give up Lord, I don’t care about anything, I just don’t want to feel this way anymore.  I am willing to give up everything, that’s how desperate I am.  I don’t want my expectations to be met, things to be fair or proper, or what I feel is right to happen.  I don’t care how things look, or what makes sense.  I just want to change and stop feeling these feelings.”  I finally cared more about listening, obeying and awakening to His will more than my own.  All I cared about, finally, 100%, was doing God’s will; listening and obeying the spirit more than anything else.

To be specific I realized tonight that I had thought from my own upbringing that kids should do certain things, act in certain ways, talk in certain ways, etc.  These ways were appropriate and meant you were respectful and appreciative of others.  Well the expectations were probably unrealistic for the children I have been blessed with and this war of what I thought was right was going on with what the spirit was telling me to do.

I finally understand 15 years later how those changes happened. When I gave up my way and became open to a new way; a new view-that was repentance.  In doing this I created a place for Him.  He then could change me.

It also occurs to me that this is how we lay down our “weapons of war”.  There is a war going on inside of us.  We have a natural man and Child of God, both pulling at us every day. I think that natural man exists in our mind and the child of God is in our heart.  Our natural man is an enemy to God and to the child of God inside.  When we lay down our weapons of war it’s not just for sin, its wrong traditions, habits and expectations that keep us from following the spirit that will make us true followers of Christ and His disciples.  I am so grateful for the Lord to put this learning into my mind 15 years later.

That was the journal entry.  If you’re still with me I’m amazed. 

Anyway as I was reading this journal entry I couldn’t believe I had forgotten that.  It has really helped me again to think of giving up my will, expectations, desires, wants and dreams and just empty myself out and accept God’s will instead.  I have been working on that for a while now.  I am finally feeling better.  I feel stronger.  I am learning over and over again that I can trust the Lord.  He is The Way. 

I keep having the word empty come into my mind.  I feel emptying myself, of myself, has created a place inside of me for the Lord to fill with His peace and hope.  He has filled me with an assurance that things will work out in the end, that He knows everyone of His children, that He loves my children and is mindful of them, and that what has been given to them has been done in His wisdom, not randomly and thoughtlessly.  I trust that He knows what He is doing, and I have peace in that.  His timing is perfect and I can also trust in that. 

Getting me to this point over the last 7 months has been a lot of work for all three members of the Godhead.  I feel the spiritual work they do in our lives to bring us peace, comfort, hope, happiness, freedom, and confidence- all in the face of sin, heartache, trials, pain and grief, is sacred.  This is sacred work.  What they can do with me amazes me. My heart is so full of gratitude. These are sacred changes they perform when I will get out of the way and let them.  Oh, I am so grateful for the goodness of the Godhead and all that they offer.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

It's all about the heart.

I have had some experiences in the last few months that is changing my way of thinking.  The underlying theme has been, “See the way God sees, He looks upon the heart.”  This perspective has really made an impact for me.
The first experience was a few months ago. We were in interviews and I was talking to a beautiful elder who I love dearly.  When he was a district leader, early on in his mission, he was involved in some disobedience along with some other elders.  He is a very good young man, but was probably caught up in a situation where he gave into peer pressure or felt afraid and went along with the group.  His consequence was he was transferred and was no longer a district leader.  The other young men involved later became leaders but up to that point in his mission he had never been given a leadership role again.  He wondered why he wasn’t “progressing” and was beating himself up over his past mistake.  In the interview he was expressing feelings of, “I made a mistake, I can’t forgive myself, I am not a good person, I hate that I did that, I just can’t get over it, etc.”
As I was listening to him I kept thinking about how great this young man was.  He is a very humble person, very loving, very kind, wants to do good, and wants to be helpful.  Everyone just loves him.  He was trying hard to be strictly obedient, and was trying to not be a follower anymore.  Yet he was being very hard on himself about what he had done and not being able to “progress” now because of it.  (Missionaries do tend to base their value on the external show of numbers or leadership positions.)
I was wondering what I could possibly say to this young man that I hadn’t already said.  He knew we loved him and thought the world of him.  He knew he needed to forgive himself.  He knew others think he is great.  But he needed something that would touch his heart that would make him see differently so he could forgive himself and accept God and others love for him.
I felt these words come into my mind and expressed them to him, “God looks upon the heart.  The natural man sees with worldly eyes, but God sees the thoughts and intents of our heart.  Look at your heart Elder!  If God is looking at that, don’t you think you should be looking at it too?  Can you see your good heart?  Your desires are so good, you’re so humble.  You’ve worked hard even when you were discouraged and tired.  You’ve been trying so hard to be obedient.  You have such a kind and loving heart.  You want to be good so badly.  Don’t you think God can see that and knows that?  Look at your heart and you’ll see yourself more clearly and understand how God feels about you more accurately.”
He looked so thoughtful, blew out this huge breathe, put his hands over his face and just kind of laughed.  He did that a couple of times and then said, “I don’t need to talk anymore Sister Mullen, it’s gone, and I’ve never felt this good before.  That’s amazing. I’m ok now.”
I knew God had given him and me a gift.  (That is why I love this calling.  God gives a lot and makes it good.)  He needed to judge himself by his heart.  When he looked at his heart it changed everything for him.  When he understood that God was looking at his heart, not judging him by the world’s standard, he immediately changed.  He saw himself differently.  I found it interesting that the next transfer he was put in as a zone leader.  Many times when we learn what the Lord wants us to, our situation changes.
The next experience was a few weeks later.  This is going to be honest again.  I had gone to a yoga class with my son to try to help his back become more flexible and heal.  The class was ending and we were lying on our mats breathing.  I had gone to the class to be supportive of Jordan; I looked over at him lying on his mat, hoping like a mother would, that he was feeling good.  I saw him laying there and wished he wasn’t so short; he’s 5’3’’.  What a hard life for a man to be that short.  I wished he didn’t have flat feet; it limits him from doing what he wants to do and it’s hard on knees and feet to have no arch.  I wished he didn’t have back problems; again it limits him and he is going to be in pain his whole life.  I wish he didn’t have asthma and such bad allergies, I wish he didn’t have anxiety; it is all limiting him so much right now.  I wish, I wish, I wish.  These thoughts all occurred in a split second.  And in that same moment the spirit opened up my mind to this thought, “You look at your children threw the worlds eyes; what will be easiest and most successful for them according to the world.  You wish for them to have things that would make them popular, liked, successful, comfortable all according to the world’s standard.  But God looks on the heart.  God sees Jordan’s heart.  Don’t measure your children by how the world would see them.  If you want to see Jordan the way God sees him, look at his heart.”  That enlightenment also happened in a split second.  It was a little shocking to me.  I realized it was true and I had been measuring my children by the world’s standard for a long time.
In that moment I determined to look and see.  I thought of Jordan; who he really is inside.  I could see his vulnerability, his desire to do good, be good, and his insecurity and fear.  I could see his desire to be loved and accepted. I could also see his excitement for life and love for the outdoors.
I felt my heart change so much.  Instead of wishing something different, I felt a deeper more eternal sight come over me.  I felt happy and positive for him.  I felt calm.  I knew this was the right way and all the other external stuff didn’t matter.  It was quite a spiritual experience for me. 
I hadn’t realized for 25 years that I was looking at my children through the eyes of the world.  I think I was sub-consciously asking all the time if they were smart enough, athletic enough, spiritual, cute, accomplished and productive enough.  This was a little devastating for me.  I didn’t know I was seeing them through the world’s view of what a successful child “looked like”.  I wanted them to get good grades, get into BYU, be piano players, make the team, be the leader, etc., always thinking that was what would help them feel successful; being successful in the eyes of the world.  In that instant I learned so much.  God looks on the heart.  I need to look on the heart.  They need to look on their heart.  I saw something and felt something so different when I did that.
Ok, the third experience.  We are ending our mission.  I have counseled so many missionaries at the end of their missions about questions they have about doing good enough on their missions.  I know all the questions and have given all the answers I could think of:  The Lord is pleased, you’ve worked hard, you’ve sacrificed a lot, done a good job, try focusing on the 1,000 things you did do, not the 20 things you didn’t do and-ask the Lord if you’ve done enough and listen to your heart for the answer.  So I find it ironic that I’m asking the same questions to myself.  I’ve been asking did I do enough, try hard enough, work hard enough, sacrifice enough, love enough, extend myself enough, etc.  The other day as I was praying the thought came into my mind, “God looks upon the heart, why don’t you try that.”  As I did I felt relief.  God understands me and loves me, I am enough for Him and He is pleased. 
Interestingly I don’t feel God’s love so profoundly when I look on the outside of me, but I do feel it when I look on the inside.  I think it’s because when I look on the outside I am measuring me by the worlds standard, but when I look on my heart I am measuring me by the Lords standard. 
God is our loving Heavenly Father.  He is grateful and kind about whatever we offer or sacrifice for good.  I don’t know that our offering is ever perfect.  But he is a grateful God.  He looks at our hearts, our righteous desires, our trying, our working, our hopes, our concerns, and our pain.  He knows our fears and vulnerability.  He sees us clearly because he looks at our heart.  I feel I see myself more clearly and with love when I look on my heart.  The world would confuse us as to what’s important, needed, and valuable.  Satan would distract us and keep us thinking our value comes from our place in the world, measuring ourselves and others by what the world thinks. I thought I had already learned about this, but I am grateful for another layer. 

I want to see differently, not as the world sees.  I want to be more grateful, positive in my circumstance, firm in my mind, faith filled in the Lords ability to make things right.  I have a new vision of seeing myself and others differently. It’s all in the heart.  Love you.  Thanks for reading.