Being Defined

I have been thinking a lot about some conversations I had with an old friend, a long time ago now, about being defined.  The conclusion was we can either be defined by the world, or by God.  I want to explore both of those.  By being defined by the world, it would be by the things we have, by what clothes we wear, by having the most, the best and the beautiful is the desired outlook.  I like to think of this as being defined by the “natural man”.  By being defined by God, it would be our soul, our relationship with Him, the true desires of our hearts, and our willingness to trust Him.

I began thinking about how I could bring these two more in line with each other.  And then I was reminded of a scripture I know in the Book of Mormon. It comes from Mosiah where a King/Prophet is telling his people his last words to them.

19 For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.

God

World

-daughter/son of royalty -car                                            -clothes
-spiritual gifts -house                                       -money
-knowledge of truth -body type/size
-desires of heart -charisma

Feels like

-peaceful and safe -comparison to others
-better than I think I am -never good enough
-unique, no comparison needed -criticism is at the core
-infinite potential -no perfection ever reached
-takes me where I am, builds me up and allows me to learn -scared

Do I want to be in the middle? No, not really.  The natural man, or the carnal man, is an enemy to God.  Trying to be defined in the middle of the world and God isn’t comfortable, and it never will be.  How can I see myself through God’s eyes (and see others the same way) and put off that natural man?  Go back to the scripture above…I need to become as a child…submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, and willing to submit.  This hits me hard.  How many times as a parent to I inflict MY will on my kids and really they have NO CHOICE?  Most of the time they are willing to submit to me (going to the store, sitting in the school pick up line, eating their dinner) am I as willing?

I need to YIELD my heart to God.  To yield means “to give up and cease resistance or contention” according to my friend Merriam-Webster.  There is an action required on our part to yield.  A couple more scriptures, if you want to look them up, go for it!  2 Chr 30:8- yield to the Lord and ENTER His sanctuary, Helaman 3:35- yield your heart=become SANCTIFIED (becoming submissive and teachable), and Romans 6:13 (12-14)- less likely to sin because yield to RIGHTEOUSNESS, not the opposite.  So I can’t have both, I can’t just straddle the fence.  So where does my sense of self come from?

This is a hard question to answer.  Truthfully I struggle with my self esteem…my natural man is always telling me that I am not enough.  Not pretty enough, not skinny enough, not fashionable enough, not able to be an amazing decorator…blah blah.  So if my sense of self comes from the world/natural man= temporary, finite, and corruptible.  But if my sense of self comes from God=Infinite and eternal.  It is hard when one seems so tangible and the other not touchable but is more FELT on the inside.  As I am working to quiet my natural man and to truly YIELD to the spiritual, it truly is a fight! Like everyday.

My biggest battle, I want to please everyone.  I want to be able to do everything great all the time, and look great, but you know what…I can’t.  I can try my best and TRUST that God will make up the rest.  That said I am not saying everything worldly is bad.  Our bodies are a gift.  I am amazed at how much I can do with this body of mine, even though I am not slim.  I am trying as hard as I can to do my best with it but it is not perfect.  Control what you can control, do your best and give up the rest!

And one more scripture: 1 John 3:20 God is greater than our heart.

There are times when I don’t know if I can do it, but you know what? God knows and I choose to trust Him.

Learning Happiness

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We all face trials, whether big or small, they are trials.  Sometimes it is hard to get through them from one moment to the next and others you feel like you are able to walk tall still.  No matter what, there are times when we need help.  Acknowledging our dependence is not a sign of weakness.  It is in fact, at those times when we realize that we need someone else to help, that we truly become stronger.  I believe in God.  I know He loves me, individually.  There have been times in my life when I was trying to do it all, okay, lots of times, but when I finally reach my hand to God things change.  It is when my Savior walks with me in my daily life that I can face those trials.

In the Book of Mormon, we learn about the people of Alma. These were people that had given up everything to follow a prophet of God, to live what they believed, and be willing to walk with the Savior.  They came under subjection to a mean king and were given heavy burdens to carry, LITERALLY (Mosiah 24:15).  They were told that they couldn’t pray any more, or else they would be punished.  But you know what, they were still happy.  Am I that way when I am given heavy burdens to carry?  Or do I feel bad for myself, complain to my Heavenly Father, and pray to have them taken away RIGHT NOW!? Well, I know that I am usually not the happiest.

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One thing that I have been learning lately though is to change my prayers.  I think it is human nature to not want to be in uncomfortable situations, or ones that hurt, are unpleasant or that make us feel like we are failing.  When the people of Alma were told that they couldn’t pray out loud, they probably actually prayed more.  They were pouring out their hearts to God…not out loud but in their hearts.  If you feel like you are not able to make the most of your prayers at night or in the morning, trying praying in your heart.  What a marvelous experience you can have.  The other point that I would like to bring up is that the heavy burdens on the people of Alma were not taken away right away…they were made light.  Again, back to changing my prayers.  Instead of learning from my trials I just want out of them.  So now, it is more of a plea to help me carry this burden with His help and see the tender mercies along the way.

And what an amazing thing to happen.  There is one burden that has almost consumed me, it is hard, and I don’t like that I think about it constantly and try and figure out ways to take it away.  I used to pray to just have it taken away, now I am looking for those little things that make it better.  I don’t think that it is magically going to go away, but those little victories are making a huge difference to me, because I am actively working hard WITH my Heavenly Father and actively looking for His hand in my life.

Another scripture that comes to mind when I have been thinking about this, is to live after the manner of happiness (2 Nephi 5:27).  Is it possible to be happy when carrying heavy burdens?  Yes, it is.  It is not always easy to find, but if you look it is there. Sometimes the happiness is discovered through  a change of perspective or simply letting go.  I learned wise counsel from my mission president, his motto, “Control what you can control.” When we do our best to truly be a disciple of Christ then we will be supported, no matter what.  We have to be willing to accept His help.

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Solitude verses Loneliness

The past 8 days I have been on a trip.  It was a great adventure in many ways.  I tagged along on with my husband on his business trip.  Naturally I took a book to read, at least I thought that was a natural thing to do, until I saw so many electronic devices.  The funny thing was, I was reading a book called, “Reclaiming Conversation:The Power of Talk in a Digital Age” about how we need time with real people, not just our devices.

One chapter in particular struck me.  It was simply called “Solitude”.  I was drawn to it because of my introverted nature and was curious as to what I could learn from this.  I wasn’t surprised that the author quoted from Susan Cain’s book “Quiet” in this chapter. I guess what intrigued me most was the way solitude and loneliness were defined.  It gave me a lot to think about and I think it will make you think too.

Sherry Turkle quotes Paul Tillick saying, “Language…has created the word ‘loneliness’ to express the pain of being alone.  And it has created the word ‘solitude’ to express the glory of being along.” (Reclaiming Conversation, p.65).

Think about that for a minute.  Solitude=glory, loneliness=pain and yet you are alone with yourself in both circumstances.  Turkle continues, “Loneliness is painful, emotionally and even physically, both from a ‘want of intimacy’ when we need it most, in early childhood.  Solitude- the capacity to be contentedly and constructively alone- is built from successful human connection at just that time.  But if we don’t have experience with solitude- and this is often the case today- we start to equate loneliness and solitude.  This reflects the impoverishment of our experience.  If we don’t know the satisfactions of solitude, we only know the panic of loneliness” (Reclaiming Conversation, p.65-66).

Her whole premise is that because people are so busy trying to be busy on their devices we are all denying ourselves of solitude.  In effect people are scared of having any time to think and instead of being “bored” go through the mind numbing of checking everything on their social media so that we don’t have to be alone.  It was interesting to be in a big city and see this happening.  People are glued to their screens and never look up.  I am not sure how they knew when to get off of the metro or go down the right streets, but heads were mostly down and eyes hardly ever looked up.  So, as I am writing this I realize that is what people are doing, they are busy on devices.

My question for you is, is it solitude or loneliness for you?

I choose solitude.