More Than Our Trials

Today was definitely interesting. Last night when I thought all was well, I got hit with a bill I never expected and that’s way out of my ability to pay. I ended a great day crying and I kind of wanted to give up. I couldn’t attend my classes this morning because of fainting issues, and I ended up being late to a very important rehearsal. I’m struggling a lot in my classes with being able to sing with confidence on my own and it’s stressing me out. High notes make me crazy shy and I tend to hold them in and make everything sound awful. It’s so frustrating because it’s a really bad habit and impulse that I don’t really know how to control. It’s self-sabotage that I just can’t seem to turn off. It really sucks, especially because I’m in a trio and they’re counting on me to deliver.

I was seriously going to just go cry about my failure in a dark corner somewhere on campus when I felt like I really needed to get lunch in the MC, which has started to become a regular feeling. Randomly, I ran into three people that used to be in the same ward as me. I had no idea that any of them were here, and it was super exciting. I guess it was a reminder to me that Heavenly Father knows what he’s doing, that I have the people in my life that I do for a reason, and wallowing in misery never changes anything for the better.

Positive thinking can be a really irritating concept, honestly. How in the heck am I supposed to deal with life and be positive?? And yet, somehow we’re figuring it out. I feel so lacking when it comes to a lot of things, and Heavenly Father constantly proves me wrong, whether I admit it or not. I’m grateful that he has enough confidence in me to push me so much, but I sure wish he’d calm down a little more with the whole trusting thing.

My struggle with singing hasn’t yet ended, but on a good note, Monday I performed the best I ever having my life. Now I suppose everyone will be expecting that level of performance always (ugh, why me? ๐Ÿ˜ฃ), but I don’t think my success was really for anyone else but me. Heavenly Father loves and encourages us, and I have never felt so encouraged before. For the first time in about a decade, I could actually picture an opera career for real. More often than not, it feels like a vain yet impossible hope, and that my talents are all in my head. So many people have so much faith in me, though, and I pray I won’t let them down.

What in the world is this jumble of trials and joys supposed to mean to you? God has a plan, and it’s happening whether we choose to be aware of it or not. We can work with or against the Lord, but we cannot stop, slow, or change his plan. I hope one day to be like Nephi when he said,

“I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.” (1 Nephi 3:7)

I’m grateful for the many beautiful blessings, but even today in the midst of everything, I am grateful for my trials. I’m grateful for the knowledge that I have of my Father in Heaven and my Savior Jesus Christ’s love for me, and I’m grateful for the opportunity I have in this life to learn and grow, and to know that I am more than my mistakes.

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Where Am I Going?

Look look loooookkkk! I finally made my own quote pictures after years of stealing others’ work!! I’m so proud of it, and it only took procrastinating an exam I should be taking now to make it haha.

This is my thought for the week, and something I ponder more than a few times each day. As a society, we are a little obsessed with this concept. We ask “will this endeavor be successful? Will I gain fame and praise from it? Will it be worth my efforts, and what can I get out of it?” Rarely I think do we stop looking at what we’ll receive and take any time to think about what or who we’re giving to. Giving kind of isn’t in the equation at all. But I believe it is in by examining our giving habits that we will find out where we are going. Who are we giving the majority of our time to? Who are we thinking about when we do things? Is it mostly just ourselves, the world, or those we love? And what do we expect in return from that giving? Are we giving in a sense as a business contract, or are we doing it out of kindness and love?

So often I have to stop what I’m doing and check myself. With the business of college life, I often have to consider the balance I’m giving to my classes. Did I practice today? Did I even bother to look at a piano in the past 48 hours? Am I spending any time at all with my roommates? Do I remind them often enough that I love them for them to know that? I have to quickly go through my long checklist, carefully avoiding missing my scripture reading or prayers while still walking out of my apartment with all of my materials.

That’s a lot of crazy details, but what I’m saying is, life is hard. It’s not as simple as fixing a spelling error or erasing a minor mistake to alter the way we think and act. We’ve been doing many things for years and years. Certainly no one flip flops from being unconscious to completely conscious of their actions in one day. I know I never could.

But, I would like to throw out the words of President Hinckley, “Try a little harder to do a little better” for as the scriptures say, “But behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise.” Alma 37:6 I don’t know about you, but bite sized pieces are a walk in the park compared to giant goals that I frequently make and never actually complete.

So, as I ponder this question “Where are your footsteps taking you?” this week, I hope to remind myself what I am here on this earth to achieve. I hope your answer, as well as mine, is to come closer to my Savior and learn to be as he is. What greater or grander goal could I ever make? And perhaps through little changes here and there in the many wonderful things we already do, we will one day see that goal fulfilled.

The Answer to Every Difficulty

The months have just flown by. Nothing in my life at this point is as I had ever imagined it. I wake up every morning wondering where in the world things are going, and how I’ll get there. It seems as though I’m not at the helm in my life, but rather a passenger, watching silently as events unfold. I used to think I could captain my ship anyway I pleased and there would be no stopping me, but the longer I live my life, the more I find the concept of control to be completely illogical. I’ve learned that I don’t really want to be the captain, anyway. It’s an overrated job, in my opinion. Enjoying the ride, seeing the beauty of the world around me, and letting myself be free from obsessive worries is a far cry better than anything I had anticipated. And, in any case, Christ knows exactly where we’re headed. Whether or not I’m aware of that destination makes no difference. He knows me, and he knows exactly how to get me there without causing me to radically change myself.

And, on that note, I’ve also come to a brilliant conclusion. Perfection is actually a lot closer to us than we think. No, it’s not in eradicating every ounce of us that we find distasteful. It’s by fully embracing who we are, acknowledging our divine nature, and allowing God to help us forsake our sins. Not by changing our desires or needs, but by redirecting them. Every sin we commit is a counterfeit for something good we instinctively know we are missing. Because we don’t know how to obtain that good thing, we accept whatever way will remove the pain and discomfort as quickly as possible. Sin is rooted in ignorance. It stems from a good and righteous desire, and comes when we don’t know what source to look to. In the Book of Mormon it says,

“And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.” 2nd Nephi 25:26

This morning while pondering, it hit me square in the nose. That’s the whole point of the gospel! It’s not to change who we are, but how we are. When we start with the how and change our actions, the who inevitably will follow. It’s my own personal discovery that I’ve been looking in the wrong places for the right things. No one wakes up in the morning and thinks “I want to do ___ and ___ wrong, I think that will make me happy.” No, because if we know it’s wrong, we know it won’t truly make us happy. We’re all looking for what’s right to help lead and guide us, but not all of us know where to look. That’s where the gospel comes in. It’s the sweet, simple answer to all of life’s problems. We need to look to Christ. He is and will always be the one and only right answer to all of our needs. As in the popular Christmas song “O Holy Night”, “He knows our needs, to our weakness is no stranger”.

I’m a little reluctant to say after a whole lifetime of church and hearing that song and reading that scripture, it’s taken me this long for that light bulb to go off in my head and in my heart. I’ve felt so lost, and yet the answer was right in front of me. What joy this brings my heart and soul to know that I’ve known the truth all along! What a beautiful message to understand at this time in my life when so much is so difficult. My soul is filled with peace, knowing that even though I don’t know everything, I know enough. I know enough to lean on my Savior, to live life happily, and to share that happiness with all around me. Life is complicated, messy, and sometimes way too over my head, but I know in my heart that there is beauty all around. Oh, what joy this sentence gives: I know that my Redeemer lives!

Deciding to be Me

It’s cold and rainy outside, and that always puts me in a thoughtful mood. I’ve been thinking for the past few months about how I can be more aware of myself and my needs. Certain situations can make you feel the need to protect yourself from that happening again, and I can feel how I’ve been impacted by my hesitancy to be vulnerable with people again. I’m afraid that I’m going to be hurt and ridiculed for my opinions, and yes, I feel like I’m kind of in a bit of a battle right now. What’s most confusing of all, is I don’t really know what I’m battling. The long hard fight is over, and I know it’s time for healing.

I totally was way too overwhelmed to be an amazing travel documenter, getting over things that had happened and trying to deal with current and future concerns. But I did learn things. I learned that I was right all along, that my obsession with charity was the right way to go. Yeah, I can tell myself all I want to after many of the things that I have faced that it isn’t worth it to be vulnerable with people, because the wrong kind of people always seem to take absolute advantage of you. It’s happened to me every. single. time. And this last time was so hard and damaging to me that 90% of me wants to throw in the towel and give up. It’s not worth it.

But, as I traveled Europe this summer, I couldn’t help it. I fell in love. I fell in love with the people, with the places, with people in history that maybe I had heard their story a little bit differently in the past. Being calloused is hard, especially when it’s so easy to see the beauty in people.

I thought that to protect myself I needed to start being distant (or at least that’s my body’s natural response), but I know it isn’t. I love being overly kind, I love giving everything I can to others. I love that even though I don’t have much to give, I try to give it all. Yes, maybe it makes me seem annoying and like a kiss up, but it’s who I am. When I act like I don’t care, when I’m not constantly thinking about being charitable and how to improve someone else’s day, I am not happy. No, that’s not how I think everyone needs to be, but I’m learning that that is who I am and that’s what I need to do personally to be happy.

I’ve tried being smart, practical, careful and very much catering to other people. I’ve tried to be good with money, frugal with my time, and very organized and clinical in my approach to a lot of things. But it’s not working. It only makes me cry more. I’m trying to fit my very big, very creative and crazy personality into a mold I CANNOT fit into. I somehow think that by being as “normal” as possible, it will hide the pain of my past from people so I won’t get pity. That’s not really working either.

I might not have shared a lot of things about my trip or how it’s changed me, but I don’t think I’ve fully processed or finished what I’m working on inside me. What I do know, is that I’ve been trying to live my life for other people, and it’s drowned me in a world of unhappiness and anxiety. I know I can never please everyone, so I might as well please myself and my Heavenly Father.

โค Annie

My Take on Missionary Stranded at Bryce Canyon

While browsing Facebook this week, I couldn’t help but notice the story about a missionary who was left stranded in Bryce Canyon. Originally shared and posted by LDS Living, it has sparked extreme controversy. That article was taken down within a few days of being public. Today they posted a sort of apology in light of the arguments that stemmed from it (You can read that article here).

Doing a quick google search of “Bryce Canyon missionary”, I found three articles on the topic, one of which has since been removed. One is an LDS website (though not run or sponsored directly by the church), and one is not. I’m actually delighted with this diversity, because we can address many issues and viewpoints.

I read the first article the day it came out. I actually really appreciated the format in which it was shared, considering the source. I loved that there was a positive focus on how the son overcame the trial and how the grandparents took the higher road and were loving and understanding. I felt that they weren’t necessarily brushing aside the fact that he was abandoned by his mother, but that they were more focusing on how it was overcome.

I also think that we must be careful about condemning others in a public setting. If you’ve read any other posts on my blog (particularly Why I Left) you’d understand that I came from a situation of parental abuse and knee-jerk reactions, where one was expected to keep up appearances at the expense of personal well-being and true happiness. So, I want you to know that in nowise do I agree with the mother’s behavior. I am and always will be quick to condemn detrimental behavior. However, in times like these, where our words can do nothing to solve the situation because we are not of immediate access, we should apply a very wise words of the Savior “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” John 8:7

Looking back at the apology from LDS Living, you can easily see that this principle of refraining from judgement and condemnation was not practiced at all. It is one thing to bring to light the darkness in other people’s actions, and lovingly desire to help them return to the light through healing and love, and it is another to publicly crucify, humiliate, and utterly condemn someone for their actions, especially when you 1) aren’t the victim 2) you are not in a situation to lay down the law 3) You are not treating this woman as a daughter of God, and that is one of the most important commandments that we are given.

I completely and totally advocate against this mother’s behavior. Not because I think she is an absolute monster for what she did, but because I personally believe that this was not the most loving thing to do. Crises of faith should not be treated as a disease or something to be completely shocked or horrified by. There is such a stigma surrounding doubts. They are natural; they happen all the time, to all of us. Rather than having a knee-jerk reaction and abandoning the “problem”, I believe you should face it head on. You shouldn’t treat your child, spouse, family member, or friend like a leper simply because they aren’t on the same level of assurance as you are on now. In fact, most members who have had doubts leave simply because of the negativity everyone gave them for having natural human fallacies. They feel condemned, and their is some kind of ultimatum placed on them. Essentially, if they don’t come around to seeing things as we do now, they will forever be beneath us. No one likes feeling that we, and we need to stop making this church such a difficult environment for those who are struggling. Certainly, we should encourage them to not abandon their faith and to hold on to what they have known and not let “something you don’t fully understand unravel everything you do know.” (Quote taken from a talk given by Kevin W. Pearson Of the First Quorum of the Seventy, April 2015 General Conference.

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(Image can be found here)

We as a community, as an LDS family need to be there for one another through thick and thin, rain or shine. We need to “mourn with those that mourn” and stop telling them that we can’t be around them because they bring doubt into our own hearts. We need to have testimonies strong enough withstand that so that we can lift others in their time of need. We also need to learn to have the humility required to be the one in need. At some point in our lives, we will all have doubts and be tested. We can’t sit far away in the distance and condemn others as if we are some kind of immune God- we are just as human as everyone else, and we need to foster compassion continually. “For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” Matthew 7:2 (basically this whole chapter is golden on the subject).

I hope she understands the error in her actions, but more than that, I really hope that she learns from this. I also hope that all of these people leaving nasty, unforgettable, cutting comments don’t diminish her self-worth to the point of being unable to see her innate divine nature. She is more than one mistake, but if we keep telling her that that is all she is and all she will ever be, we will rob of her of the desire to be more. We will limit and ultimately condemn her. Yes, she absolutely could’ve reacted in a much better way, and yes, someone should be telling her that. But not with pitchforks and torches- with love and concern, with the voice of a friend, with understanding and love. Just because we seek justice for the son does not mean we have a right to treat a fellow child of God as the dust beneath our feet. I don’t know about you, but when I make any kind of mistake, I like to be loved anyway, and even encouraged. If I can’t extended that same compassion and forgiveness to a woman who hasn’t really wronged me personally in any way, how can I expect the same from those I personally may wrong or affect by my actions?

Patheos.com cited a quote from Jason F. Wright (whose post has since been taken down) saying, “I asked Alabbas what was going through his mind that night. โ€œIโ€™ve just been left at Bryce Canyon,โ€ he laughed. โ€œBy my own family!โ€” Hemant Mehta, who wrote the post titled “This โ€œInspirationalโ€ Story About a Doubting Mormon is Horrific”, expressed dismay at the flippant attitudes. I’m a little bit embarrassed reading the comments, which are primarily from atheists. These really aren’t the kinds of attitudes I’d like people to have about a church I fully believe in. I know it hurts God to hear them say these things. I also know we aren’t perfect, but I wish there was some way I could clean the slate. That being said, I do also think these people are being extremely hard on her and the church as a whole. I guess this is another example of why we need to “be examples of the believers at all times” Timothy 4:12

In his article on This Week in Mormons, Joseph Peterson stated, “…my feelings are that this young man was abandoned, at least emotionally abandoned, a long time ago…”. This is absolutely how I feel. I’ve noticed that a lot of parents might be caring for their children physically and maybe even spiritually, but as a culture we have become increasingly unable to provide for the emotional needs each other. Citing a perfect example from my own life, I had expressed my feelings about my situation during my childhood to many adults, all of whom gave little heed to my concerns and even went so far as to tell me I was overreacting. This is NOT what Christ would have done or said. Now, I’m not condemning anyone for not hearing me out and this isn’t pity party for myself, but I would like to use this as warning sign. Can you see the decay in our ability to listen to others?

Peterson’s last point is titled “All Is Well And Zion Weeps”. I 100% feel this in my heart. We are so desperate to be perfectly righteous, to shun all that opposes our ideal, and we continue to tell ourselves that “all is well in Zion”. Things will never be well in Zion until we can face head on ours and the trials of others with the love, compassion, and understanding that the Savior had. Our need for sinless perfection is polluting our ability to practice true discipleship, and I know that this grieves our Father in Heaven. Progression cannot be obtained where fear and secrecy reside. Until we can be open and honest about our shortcomings and allow those around us to do the same, we will continue to suffer alone, and that is NOT Zion.

Annie

He Abides

So, I know this is my happy blog and I like to share uplifting things on here, but things have gotten quite a bit overwhelming for me personally lately. So many trials have hit me, one after the other. I’ve reached a point where I don’t know what’s happening inside of me anymore. I look okay, and I sound okay, but I’m starting to realize that it’s all just one big act. I’m really not very okay at all. Because of my background, I learn to very much rely on myself. Anything that involves dependency, I try to cut off. I’d rather be miserable on my own than reliant on anyone else.

However, lately so many things have caused me to crumble and break. Because I look and sound okay, it is very easily assumed that I have no troubles, that I can perfectly handled any problems put on me. I used to be able to scrape by. I could fool anyone into believing I was happy and healthy and everything was coming up roses.

Well, I guess this is why Heavenly Father gives us trials, isn’t it? As each day passes, my facade is slipping away. Soon, I’ll be very much exposed to everyone. And even though I’m quite scared and ashamed of my weaknesses, I know this is the only way that I can really heal. I was sharing with one of my friends this week how frustrated and stressed I’ve been. It was then she asked me what I liked to do for fun, and the thing I think that hurt most of all was that I couldn’t think of anything. I couldn’t think of a time I did anything fun explicitly for me.

I know that God wants us to be happy. I know that He wants to look to Him, and that is why He has given us so many weaknesses- so we can look to Him and learn to do it as He does. Perhaps we have them and everything leads us to Him whether we like it or not and the laws of the universe are a very certain way and God is the only one who knows exactly how to obey those laws to his benefit- like knowing the rules of chess. It would be very silly of us to try and figure out the rules of chess on our own by watching the consequences of each move me made. We would have to lose so many games. An even better idea would be to ask tips and tricks to winning before trying to work out our own strategies.

It’s so easy to look at everything hypothetically like that, but applying and actually following those steps? That can be impossibly hard. Since General Conference in April, I’ve been listening to President Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s talk a lot. Titled Perfect Love Casteth Out Fear in it he talks about fear and love. He says that they cannot live within the same space, and one is arguably more agreeable.

We also had a Devotional here at BYU-Idaho about spiritual gifts. I thought back to when I was a child, filled with fear and hungering for any form of love available. After attending church one day, I was reading my scriptures when I came across the principle of charity. I wanted so desperately to have that gift. If my charity could even ease the plight of another person in a situation like mine, I would feel peace. The only way I could think of easing my pain was to ease the pain of others. So, I prayed earnestly that night, as I prayed almost every night after that. I didn’t merely ask Him in a repetitive prayer; I fell asleep each night in tears from pleading so much with my Heavenly Father. I prayed as hard and as long as I had imagined Enos had prayed- a prophet I very much admired in my youth. I know that prayer was answered because my life changed ever since I began to that prayer and kept it in my heart.

However, as fear has consumed my life the past few years from unforeseen changes, anxieties, difficulties with reconciling my past, and financial uncertainty as well a lack of support system and feelings of loneliness, I’ve felt myself drift farther and farther away from feelings of peace. I fall asleep every night worrying about what tomorrow will bring and how I will make it through everything. I worry all the time because I know there is no one else to worry for me. I know that if I make some kind of vast mistake, there will be no one to help me. Worst of all, I’m ashamed to ask for help, which you would think a person in my position would want to ask for help all the time.

I’ve forgotten each night of worry that there is someone to help me. There is someone to love me and be by my side through everything. I’ve forgotten that I’m not all alone, because I have a Heavenly Father. He knows exactly what I’m going through. I know He won’t let me fail. I know that I may need to be strong, that I may need to work hard and worry some nights to provide for myself to the best of my ability, but I also know that fear doesn’t need to take over my heart. Fear should never be allowed to replace love.

Because of my obsession with being afraid I have pushed away my Heavenly Father’s love, and I have not been able to share my love with others as I had before. I’d like to share my favorite hymn, the one I have sung every night before bed for as long as I can remember.

1. Abide with me; ’tis eventide.
The day is past and gone;
The shadows of the evening fall;
The night is coming on.
Within my heart a welcome guest,
Within my home abide.
(Chorus)
O Savior, stay this night with me;
Behold, ’tis eventide.
O Savior, stay this night with me;
Behold, ’tis eventide.
2. Abide with me; ’tis eventide.
Thy walk today with me
Has made my heart within me burn,
As I communed with thee.
Thy earnest words have filled my soul
And kept me near thy side.
3. Abide with me; ’tis eventide,
And lone will be the night
If I cannot commune with thee
Nor find in thee my light.
The darkness of the world, I fear,
Would in my home abide.

Christ is always there with us, in our hearts. He walks beside us in the day, and watches over us during the night. Because we have Him, we can let go of our fear and embrace His love and mercy. Because of Him, all of our fears no longer hold power over us. When we face trials, we need to rely on Him and accept His ever-reaching Atonement. Christ hasn’t failed me yet in this life, and I have faith that He never will. I will find happiness again as I take His hand and walk with Him, and anyone on this earth who is struggling will find that their way to happiness can be found the same way. How joyous it will be to no longer live in the dark.

I am thankful today. I am thankful for an unwavering Heavenly Father who has not once doubted me. I am thankful for His blessings and watchful care, and for His endless patience. I have no idea how I could’ve gotten this far with Him and the blessing of His gospel. I testify of its truthfulness. There truly is sunshine.

Annie