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.

Believe Him

I read something this past week that I have been thinking about A LOT.

“We come to know the Lord as we not only believe IN Him, but also BELIEVE HIM and His assurances.” David Bednar

This thought has been rolling around in my head almost non-stop.  I kept asking myself that same questions, “Do I really believe in Christ” and “Do I really seriously believe Him”?  The first question was easy for me.  I do believe in Christ!  I know from study, pondering, and prayer that He is real, present, and our Savior.  The second question though was a different matter.  There are many things that I believe that Christ will do and can do for “us” but I never took things personally.  Do I believe that He will help ME, an ordinary red-headed girl living in a great big world?  There are many times I have prayed for someone to receive a certain blessing because I know that Christ would do that for them.  There have been times when my prayers were not as sincere and although I would pray for something, it was more of a trite phrase and I truthfully never though it would happen to me, because again I am just me.

I remember when I was single and trying to be in the dating scene, but just feeling awkward about the whole thing.  I remember thinking that all my roommates deserved to be married and how amazing they were (and they all still are!) and that the boys should just snatch them up.  I also remember praying one night that some day that I would get married and literally saying in my head, “yeah right” and moving on.  Another day I remember talking to God and telling Him that life was good, I had things figured out and it was totally fine if I never got married…and then before I could go on, I stopped myself.  Actually, I just couldn’t go on.  I remember the feeling of truly feeling God’s love at that moment and that I needed to just trust Him. I didn’t believe Him and that assurance, but then not even six months later I was married.

Why do we sell ourselves short?  Why is it so easy for us to see God’s hand in other peoples lives but discount them in our own?  David Bednar reflected on the account of the father that asked the Savior to heal his son in Mark 9:22-23 and then he said this, “[P]erhaps he needed help to believe the Master’s healing power indeed could be so individual and so personalized as to bless his own beloved son.  He may have believed in Christ generally but not believed Christ specifically and personally.”  Yep, that is what I have felt.

But then again, I have had times in my life when I felt God’s love for me SPECIFICALLY and on a very personal level.  I have been healed through the atonement of Jesus Christ, I have been carried on His shoulders and have been buoyed up in times of trouble.  I have many blessings in my life that have come from a loving Heavenly Father, my family has been blessed in many ways, and I have felt His peace.  I need to LIVE that more. I need to be able to not pause when I think about truly believing Him.  I need to trust more and throw out fear.  And I need to believe MY Savior and remember how personally and individually He loves me.

The seizure

It was September 17, 2009.

It is a hard day to remember.

It was 7:05 am and I dropped by my boss’s office to say good morning and then take my lunch to the lunch room, but I never made it there.  I glanced at the clock and remember thinking, “It is only 7:10 am and I am getting a really bad migraine.”  That was the last thing I remember until 7:55 am.

I had a seizure.  Apparently my lunch box flew.  I went face down onto the cement floor and seized.  My chin ripped open in the fall, I broke four teeth, and I stopped breathing.  Thankfully my boss was there.  She got help, I got CPR, and the ambulance came.  Someone frantically called my husband, who had stayed home that day, and woke him up.  He said it was a horrible thing to wake up to a phone call from your wife’s work.  The first thing I remember is the paramedic asking me who the President of the United States was.  I answered his question and said, “Can we move on?”  I had been answering the questions but I have no recollection of it at all.  How can our brains do that?  I don’t know.

But as we drove to the ER, I realized that something bad had happened.  And I was 14 weeks pregnant with my first child.  I wasn’t worried about me, I was worried that I had ruined my child.  I was worried about my husband driving to see me, I was worried that I was going to have to be making some crazy phone calls and yet, I didn’t even remember what happened.

It was a really hard day and a really humbling day to realize that life is so precious.  One minute I am saying good morning and then I am sitting in the ER the next.  Everything turned out just fine.  My baby girl was just fine (good thing I had some nice padding for her!), my chin got stitched up, I spent a lot of time at the dentist, and I was not allowed to drive or be by myself for a period of time.  It was another part of the humbling experience.  My independence was suddenly taken away from me.  I felt like I needed to process what was going on, but I was always with someone.  I am so grateful for so many people who helped me during that time.  I am grateful for Val, Doug, Scott, Terrie, Denise, Eric, and our parents who would call and check up on me from time to time.  Part of me realized that I was learning a big lesson, but the other part of me still didn’t grasp what had happened.

Through all the neurological testing that came after, there were NO answers.  It was a “fluke” and because they couldn’t figure it out they wanted to put me on high doses of medication that I felt that I didn’t need.  I didn’t take anything, I didn’t have any more seizures, but the memory of that day lives on.

The question for me was never, “Why Me?” but the question has always been “Why am I still here?”  I don’t think that I have all the answers to that question still.  Seven years later and I am still finding daily little puzzle pieces, but I am so grateful for the time I have been given.  I try hard to send something to my two heroes that saved me that day, but I don’t feel like it is ever enough.  How can you truly give something back to people that gave you your life back?

I am thankful for that day, seven years ago when I was able to remember that my life is in the hands of God.  I am thankful for that day, and for the many blessings and miracles that I have been able to be a part of.  I am thankful for that day, and for the many days that have happened after.  But most of all, I am thankful for life, for God, and for His love for me.  I have felt His love for me, in many tender times.  I am grateful that He is there for me, even when I turn away from Him and need to humble myself to feel His hand in my life.  What a blessing to have many hands lifting me up so many times. I use this day to remember the many people in my life, who have lifted me up and who continue to lift me up.  Thank you.

Weeds and Sunburns

You probably know this, but isn’t amazing how weeds can grow ANYWHERE.  Seriously, it is amazing to go into my backyard and in the grass, the rocks, the dirt, and in-between pavers weeds survive.  Why when my tomato plants are struggling and my hanging baskets are looking sad that the weeds look, well for lack of a better word, lovely.  But weeds are not super lovely are they?  Where I live we have a different water system for outside watering than for the culinary water we drink.  It is not as treated and it is always a surprise to see what different kinds of weeds we will get each year.  This year, there is a big weed that looks pretty and spreads fast but is REALLY hard to kill.  And the never ending fight in my backyard is morning glories.  Oh morning glories…they trick me every time and then just keep coming back.  They are not getting my message that they are not welcome here, so the fight continues.

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Then there are sunburns.  I am a redhead with lots of freckles and fair skin.  I guess it goes without saying that getting sunburned kinda comes with the territory.  Well, this year in particular I could go outside for less then 20 minutes and get burned.  At first I just thought that I just must be getting old…but I thought about it. I have been more outside this summer than previous summers because of my kids ages, they want to play outside all the time, even in the summer heat.  And it was the hottest July in our city ever recorded.  I have tried different things in my quest for being just a little pink instead of fried crisp like a lobster.  I tried different kinds of sunblock, long sleeves, and just staying in the shade but the winner so far has been a crazy sun hat.  Truly I HATE wearing it, but after sitting on the side of the road for a parade on the 4th of July with my lame hat and NOT getting sunburned, my hat has become my defense from the sun.

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Now you are probably thinking now about how these two things have something in common?  Weeds and sunburns are things that we do something about.  We try our hardest to have proper protection to prevent the onslot of what is coming.  But sometimes, even when we have done our best we get weeds in the grass or a sunburned neck.  It is just like in life, we try our hardest to protect our families from financial storms or health problems or whatever comes our way, but there are going to be hard times.  It is not about IF but WHEN things happen.  The world can give us weeds sometimes, and a sunburn but if we try our hardest we can still be happy.  As the old saying goes, “it is better to prevent and prepare then to repent and repair.”

We can pull the weeds out, even if we didn’t kill them at the roots before the start of the season.  Our skin can still heal from a sunburn.  I have seen that happen in miraculous ways.  When I was a young girl, my sister, who is 4 years older then I, went to a swim party and was in the sun all day.  She got a 2nd and 3rd degree sunburn.  As little kids we actually thought it was cool to see how big of a piece of skin we could rip off her back when the blisters had popped and her skin underneath was healthy.  But, I remember her crying in bed at night because even having a sheet on her skin hurt so badly.  I think we both learned a good lesson that day about how important sunblock is to our lives.  These experiences can teach us and help us to prevent and prepare.

I find that sometimes we let the situation get us down or Satan does a really good job at helping us notice our failures.  I quote the words of Elder Clayton (a General Authority of my church). He says that Satan tries to trick us in three ways “1- He will try to get us to focus on our failures to diminish our confidence, because he knows that this can blind us to our true worth and capacity. 2-He will try to get us to forget that God loves us. 3-He knows that carelessness or inattention to the little things will slowly lead us to forget our eternal potential.” He and his wife have written a great article on being rooted in Christ.  You really should read it! So my little pep talk to you today is, remember that God loves you, even if you get a sunburn trying to get rid of the morning glories.  As we do our best to prepare and prevent, HE will help us to realize our worth and the ability we have to move forward in our lives, no matter what comes our way.