Hustle and bustle

In the hustle and bustle of the busy world this time of year, we tend to forget the reason for the season.  It’s easy to get caught up in the gift giving and Santa Claus and party atmosphere.

But the Christmas season is a time to celebrate the priceless gift of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. His birth is more than the symbol of a holiday. He is the Son of God and the Redeemer of all mankind.

I hope today you will enjoy this video that reminds us the true reason for the season.  I love my Savior with all that I am.  And I am so grateful that He was born into this world and laid down His life so that we could all live eternally.  What a gift that is!

#sharethegift

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16

Seeing the hand of God in your life.

Recognizing and seeing the hand of God in your life can be a daunting endeavor.  Especially on regular routine days that seem nothing out of the ordinary.  Recently I read a talk given to CES students in Texas by Sister Bednar.  In it she speaks of the ability to look for and feel the hand of the Lord working in your daily life.  I loved her counsel so much!

She used a song to express 4 steps that we can use to grow closer to our Father and Heaven and our Savior.  Thus being able to recognize and understand when he is at work in our lives. 1. We must have ears to hear the word of the Lord, 2.  And eyes to see His plan, 3. Feet to follow in His path,  4. And hearts to understand. She goes on to explain each one very briefly and I feel like it is well worth the time to read it so that we can learn to recognize and feel Him close.

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There have been many times in my life that I have felt the Lord close and recognized his hand almost immediately and other times when I felt so far away and like he wasn’t there at all for me.

In the talk, Sister Bednar offers a quote by Henry B. Eyring that is very helpful to all of us when we can’t feel him there.  He said, ““I bless you that every day, if you will ask in prayer to be shown where the hand of God intervened in your life that day, I bless you that you will see that. It will be made manifest to you. That you will see that He is leading and guiding and lifting you, and that He knows you”.

Isn’t that such a beautiful promise and blessing from an apostle of the Lord? I am definitely going to start this practice in my own evening prayers.  And maybe morning prayers as well so that I will come to know exactly what it feels like when it is happening.  The Lord wants to talk to us and he wants us to hear and feel him!

I remember one sacred time when I knelt to say my evening prayer. I was exhausted, but I had asked specific questions and then quickly ended my prayer and jumped into bed.  I had the distinct impression saying “why did you get up so quickly? I had things to say to you”.  I kind of brushed it off as my own internal dialogue and snuggled deeper into my blankets.  Then it came again more forcefully, “Get back on your knees and listen to what I have to say”.  And so I did.  And what happened next was one of the sweetest experiences that I have ever had with feeling my Savior so close to me, answering my questions and giving me the counsel that I needed at that particular time.  But it definitely took an open heart and mind to allow for this experience to happen for me.  And I promise that if you follow the counsel from Sister Bednar’s talk you can have similar and equally touching experiences in your life. And even on the daily.

One last quote to consider, Elder Bednar said “It is one thing to know that Jesus Christ came to earth to die for us—that is fundamental and foundational to the doctrine of Christ. But we also need to appreciate that the Lord desires, through His Atonement and by the power of the Holy Ghost, to live in us—not only to direct us but also to empower us”

Today, I encourage you to have ears to hear the word of the Lord, and eyes to see His plan, feet to follow in His path, and hearts to understand.

XO Wendy

 

 

Learning to Love yourself

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I recently went to lunch with friends and we got talking about how hard we are on ourselves.  How we constantly beat ourselves up for every little thing that we do wrong.  And yet if our children or friends were to fall, or fail at something, we are the first to come to the rescue to pick them up, console them and to build them back up.

Why is it that we are so hard ourselves? Especially us women (men too but not to the extremes we see in women)?

It’s funny because sometimes I run across the same message in several different ways when I am trying to decide what to share.  And that’s when I know that it is one that the Lord wants me to share.  Today this message seemed to be everywhere.  I listened to a podcast this morning that talked about how to give grace to ourselves for all of the short falls that we might have or mistakes we may have made in the past.  To learn to live in our feelings of not being perfect, that it’s ok, expected and normal NOT to be perfect.

When I returned from lunch and checked on social media I found this message from our Prophet, Russel M. Nelson.

Ladies (and guys), The Lord loves us and we should love us too. After all we are created in his image.

Think about how awful it makes you feel when your child is down on themselves. When they are saying how stupid they are and what a mess of things they’ve made, or how ugly they are.  It breaks your heart and all you want to do is take all that pain that they are feeling away.  So think how our Heavenly Father (and mother) feel when we are constantly filling our own minds with negative self talk and self loathing.  It must break their hearts and fill their eyes with tears.

Gratefully, this is not something we have to figure out on our own.  As in the statement above we can ask our Heavenly Father, in the name of Jesus Christ and He will let us know exactly how he feels about us.  And that should make a difference in how we feel about ourselves.  If given the opportunity, I’m sure they would wrap their spirit around us in a big hug of comfort, peace and love. Can you even imagine the great love they have for us?

Oh my dear sisters, (for thats what I believe we all are), if only you could see yourself the way God sees you!  What would change in your life if you knew, really knew, how special you are?

One of my friends shared this idea for a practice that we could start that may help and I thought it was such a good idea.  I think I will get a new pretty journal just for this! 😉

So the idea is to learn to love yourself and recognize all that you do and are that is good.  So every night, you will write down 3 things that you liked about yourself that day.  Then in the morning when you wake up, you read over those three things again.  Then that night you repeat the process with 3 more things (different things) that you liked about yourself that day.  And then the next morning you read over again the things from the night before.  You continue this process daily.  As the days progress you will learn to love yourself and all that you are.  You will begin to see in yourself all of the good that everyone else and especially the Lord sees. You will remember who you are and your life will be changed!

I see you my dear sisters.  I see you.  And you are more beautiful and loved than you can imagine!

XO Wendy

Some days we thrive, somedays we survive.

thrive and survive

Yesterday was one such day for me.  Surviving.  I don’t know if it was the weather (regarding seasonal depression), or I didn’t sleep well, or if it was something that affected me in a negative way.  But it was a really rough day.

My daughter always used to say, “a good day always follows a bad one”. So I sort of clung to that idea believing that I’d wake up and I would feel better.  Maybe not significantly better, but better none the less. I also tried to really focus on my self care and tried to figure out what, if anything I’d been missing.

And that’s what got me thinking about these two very different states of the mind.  Having dealt with seasonal depression pretty much every year for my whole life, I know it never gets easier.  But we can become stronger by the habits that we intentionally develop over the course of the year leading up to this time of year.  You’d think that I’d be ready for it when it hits but not so.  It always just kind of smacks me from behind leaving me wondering what hit me.  But that doesn’t mean I have to get knocked down, or if I do, that I can’t get back up again.

I’m sure that may be the same for many of you who suffer with mental illnesses (or any hard thing for that matter).  So I thought it would be great to try to focus on thriving this year instead of just surviving.  Let’s do it together.  I have a friends who I follow on IG that are such an inspiration to me because even in the really tough times, they are very open and constantly trying to practice good self care.  One of them posted this today and I think it is a really good reminder of things that we can do when we are struggling. If we can practice these things regularly through the hard months ahead, we can thrive instead of just survive.

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And if you are barely surviving, don’t be afraid to reach out.  Please just stay.  Don’t quit! I am always here to listen and I know others are there for you too.  Don’t give up.  It will get better.

 

What being “away” from the church taught me.

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I never considered myself in-active or “less active”, because to me, that meant that you had left the church.  That meant that you had denounced your faith in some way, which I never felt like I did.  However, I did step “away” from the church for a few years.  I had just gotten divorced and I’ll admit that I was really struggling with a lot of what it meant to be a member of the LDS church.  How could this happen to me?  I was married in the temple.  Things seemed to be going so well.  Was it a lack of faith?  Was it a lack of desire?  Was it complacency? Was it loneliness?  What was it exactly, that made me want to distance myself from all that I had known?  I was born and raised in the church.  I did what all my friends did, and most members that I knew.   Grew up, married a returned missionary, got married in the temple, had a family, and then lived happily ever after, right?!  So what had happened to my happily ever after?

The thing is, leaving the church, or stepping “away” from the church, your faith, your testimony, all that you have ever known to be true, doesn’t happen overnight!  It is a slow process that happens seemingly, without you even noticing until one day you’ve done it.  You are “away” from the church.  You don’t attend, or study or maybe even pray anymore (although I think prayer tends to be something you continue even when you are away.  Or at least you try).  You don’t practice your religion anymore.  And members of the church who know you and hear about it, think “it’s really sad”.   You are essentially known as a “less active” or an  inactive member.  I remember referring to myself as, ” no longer practicing”.  But really what you’re saying is a veiled way to say “I no longer have a testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel, therefore I have stepped “away” for a while to figure things out.” I had somehow lost my way… “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Matt. 7:13–14)

The ironic part is that at first it feels very freeing!  I remember saying on many occasions, “I’m happier than I’ve ever been, and I just can’t reconcile that it coincides with my being away from the church”.  Honestly, I never thought it would happen to me.  I did everything I was supposed to do, everything that I had been taught all those years growing up.  Sure I made my share of mistakes, as does everyone.  But I had tried to be diligent in all that I had learned through the years after my temple marriage.  Holding many different callings, while raising my little family in the gospel, going to the temple, studying my scriptures and going to church.  I was keeping my covenants, and praying.  I was doing everything, wasn’t I?  Or was I?

Truthfully, I have to admit that my temple attendance wasn’t where it should have been.  I wasn’t really reading my scriptures as much as I should have.  And I probably had become redundant in my prayers…. And I am sure there were many other “little” things.  I don’t really know exactly how it happened because it all happened SO slowly.  And the scary part is, that it can happen to ANYONE! I’m hoping that by sharing my experience it can be a voice of warning.

In Matthew we read: Enter ye in at the strait gate; for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction and many there be which go in thereat. (Matt. 7:12) It seemed so much easier to be on the path that I was now on.

But then, that is how the opposition works right? One little flaxen cord at a time.  Like a big giant fluffy, feather, gently coaxing you.  “You don’t need to read your scriptures tonight, you’ve worked so hard all day and you’re tired.  You can get to it tomorrow.”

Go ahead buy that dress that isn’t really long enough for your temple garment… it’s so cute and you’ve worked so hard to look good.”  One more little feather.

It’s ok to miss church today.  Since you got divorced, no one really cares anyway.”  One more little feather gently waving and caressing you away.  It feels so good to be free, you say!  But little do you know how hard Satan is working on you!  All of those “little tiny feathers” are turning into a very tightly woven cord, and you are being led along without even realizing it.

Joseph B. Wirthlin of the quorum of the twelve apostles stated, “We get sidetracked by submitting to temptations that divert us past the bounds of safety. Satan knows our weaknesses. He puts attractive snares on our paths at just those moments when we are most vulnerable. His intent is to lead us from the way that returns us to our Heavenly Father.”

After a while I was so comfortable with the way that I was living my life that I began to think I no longer needed religion in my life.  I no longer needed the church or a testimony or to be “bound” down by callings and church attendance. I had entered in at the wide gate and it felt good to be just like everyone else!

And then something began to happen…. I NEEDED God.  I NEEDED the church.  I NEEDED the priesthood.  I NEEDED my testimony! I NEEDED all of it! And how had that happened? Yep, you guessed it, SO SLOWLY!  Little seeds were being planted along the way until all of sudden it was unmistakeable!  You can see my post “living with bi-polar” for some of the story but I will definitely write more about all of the little experiences that happened in between in upcoming posts.  But lucky for us, one thing that God never does, is give up on his children!  No not one.

“How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?

“And if it so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray.” (Matt. 18:12–13.)

Luckily, God’s angels both here and on the other side are working just as hard if not harder to get you back!  And now that I am back, I am so thankful for that.  I know that there were many prayers and fasts that went out in my behalf.  Many times my name was probably written in the roles of the temple.  Many tears that were cried for my salvation, and many angels that were working from the other side to influence me.

So why am I writing about this?  It’s not exactly an easy subject to approach.  People leave the church for all different reasons.  There is nothing special or singular about my situation or why I left.  At least that is what I thought.  But the truth is, I believe it IS similar for most people, in that it happens SO slowly.  One small act at a time.  One small thought at a time.  One small step at a time.  And before you know it, you hear yourself saying…”I’m not sure I’ve ever had a testimony”,  “I’m really not sure if the church IS true after all”.  and “I’m happier than I’ve ever been without it!”

I think what I am trying to say and what I have been prompted to write is that you have to keep The whole Armor of God on! See Ephesians 6:10-18  Not just sometimes…. ALL THE TIME.  ALL DAY, EVERY DAY!  You must do all the little things EVERY DAY!  Sometimes more than just once a day.  You MUST keep yourself unspotted from the world.  You must live IN the world but not be OF the world.  If you are like me you’ve heard that statement a million times growing up in the church! But it has never been more true or more important than it is today.  In The Book Of Mormon (another testament of Jesus Christ) Mormon Chapter 8  gives us insight into today’s world, Moroni says he has seen our day, and it includes wars and rumors of wars, great pollutions, murders, robbing, and people who tell us that there is no right or wrong in God’s eyes. He describes people who are filled with pride, caught up in the wearing of expensive clothing, and who make fun of religion. He is shown people who are so obsessed with worldly things that they allow “the needy, and the naked, and the sick and the afflicted to pass by”3 without being noticed.  

But we should not despair,  it is the Lord’s way that will lead us to life eternal!

The prophet David O. Mckay taught: Christ is the light to humanity. In that light man sees his way clearly; when it is rejected, the soul of man stumbles in darkness. No person, no group, no nation can achieve true success without following him who said:

“I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” (John 8:12.)

Has my life gotten easier since I came back to the church?  In some ways yes, and in some ways no.  In reality it has actually been a really hard road.  Quite like a roller coaster, lol.  My family and I have had to go through a lot of things physically, spiritually and mentally that I never thought we would have to go through. But that is how we grow, that is how we become stronger and better people.  We do not grow by being in a comfortable spot where there is nothing changing, no growth. However, through it all I have no doubt that my Savior is with me, that he is my advocate to the Father! I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.  Philippians 4:13 

I am also comforted to know that I need not fear for He is with me, I know where and how to to find the peace that only He can give.

Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. Doctrine and Covenants 88:63

I am confident that as I purposefully follow the commandments that I will not be led astray again.  Elder David A. Bednar of the quorum of the twelve Apostles has been known to say, “If you read the Book of Mormon every day, you will never fall away”.  If you’ve gotten this far, thank you for reading.  And if you have learned or felt anything, I hope you will realize that my story can happen to anyone!  That you can NEVER take your membership in this gospel for granted!  It truly is a gift!  A gift that is meant to be shared with others!

XO  Wendy

 

 

Hard can be good

Some of the best lessons we learn in our lives, come from something that was extremely difficult to get through.  And some of those lessons seem to be ongoing.  In hisOctober 2017 talk Stanley G. Ellis said, “Hard makes us stronger, humbles us, and gives us a chance to prove ourselves.  Hard can be good!”

Hard can be good

As I studied the words from his talk this weekend, I was taken back to many experiences that were extremely difficult at the time, but that now I can look back on and see the personal growth that came through or because of those experiences.  I’m sure that you can too.  But what can we do when we are in the midst of those hard times?

One of my favorite people ever, Zandra Vranes (I got to meet her personally in October this year), gave this wise counsel. “Rely on the lord, for only He can turn a mess into a message, a test into a testimony, a trial into a triumph, and whats broken into something beautiful.”  I love that so much! And it reminded me once again of the scripture found in the Bible, Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, lean not unto thy own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge him and he shall direct thy paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Very many times in our lives we experience pain, suffering, hard trials, challenges, etc.  that threaten to break us.  But it is through our trust in the Lord that we can become strong.  I know that there are people that will argue the statement “Things happen for a reason”,  but I strongly believe that.  We don’t always see and may never see it in this lifetime.  But God does have a plan for us.  It’s important to note that He does not make or intend for bad things to happen in our lives, but He is definitely there to pick us up and carry us along the way.

I also believe the fact that there are no coincidences. It seems that whenever I feel that all is lost, the Lord finds a way to remind me that He is always there and always will be even when it feels like he is not.

I believe that God is always working behind the scenes to build us and shape us.  Are there things that happen that are horrible in this world and in our personal lives? Absolutely! And sometimes we see people go through challenges that may be completely unbearable.  But if we are always putting a negative spin on things that happen in our lives, we will never truly be able to see the lessons we have or need to learn from our experiences.  And sometimes (a lot of the time) we have those experiences so that we can empathize and have love for and help one another.

Again quoting from Stanely G. Ellis’ talk, “Do we trust His commandments to be for our good? His leaders, though imperfect, to lead us well? His promises to be sure? Do we trust that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ do know us and want to help us? Even in the midst of trials, challenges, and hard times, do we still trust Him?”

Hard is part of the plan.  Think of a baby chick who has to break through the shell unassisted.  A seed that has to break through the hard soil to grow into a beautiful tall tree.  A butterfly who breaks free of the chrysalis that binds it.  All of the examples from nature are a beautiful reminder that hard can be good!

I know it’s not easy especially in the midst of something hard, to think about it in a positive light.  But if we can rely on the Lord, trust that He knows what the bigger picture is and then look to Him to help us get through the hard things, we may be able to see that there is a purpose after all.

Please know that you are never alone in your struggles.  And if you ever feel like you are, please reach out. There are angels among us that are meant to help us through hard things.  Please don’t suffer in silence.  God is always there, even when we do not understand the whys.

XO Wendy

 

Go Forward and Remember…

As we look forward to a new year, many of us will be setting new goals and looking ahead as we plan out what 2020 will hold for us. Goal setting has always been a big part of my life from a very young age, I would make lists of what I wanted to achieve in the near future.  For example, in the ninth grade I decided that I was going to try out for the gymnastics team.  The only experience that I really had was a couple of lessons during the summer before, and what my older cousin had taught me (who was very good and already on a team).  But I was determined and I had a goal and was used to hard work having grown up in a home where I was required to help out and contribute (of which I am very grateful).

I remember a famous saying that my dad used to quote, “If ever you are going to do something, do it right the first time and do your best, then you will not have to worry about doing it over.”  And while this is great advice, especially when you only have one chance like trying out for team, I have come to learn that setting a goal and doing your best or doing it in a way that you feel is the “right” way, does not always result in success.  Most times we have to fail forward.  But the key here is not to give up or turn back, but to move forward with a motivation, remember what you’ve learned from the past and that will propel you to try even harder the next time you set the same goal or a new one.

I made the gymnastics team that year in ninth grade, however, I do not attribute it to my skills because they were few, and in my mind I felt that I was not good enough to have made it for sure.  But I had such a good attitude when I tried out and I worked hard and did my best. I think that hard working attitude is what earned me a spot on the team.

I feel like one of the most important keys to achieve goals is to look back and remember.  I know that sounds kind of counter productive.  But just stay with me for a minute.  It’s important to look back and remember what we learned and how we can grow and do better the next time around.  That’s what failing forward means.  We have to have failures in order to reap benefits of successes.

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Many times in the scriptures we are asked to “remember”.  In a talk given by Henry B. Eyring he said, “Remembering may be one of the most precious gifts the Spirit can give you. He will “bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever [the Lord has] said unto you” (John 14:26).  I love this because it promises us that as we remember, the things we did right will come back to us in the time that we most need them.

Doctrine and Covenants section 84:85 treasure up in your minds continually the words of life, and it shall be given you in the very hour that portion that shall be meted unto every man. 

I would encourage you during this time of year that you look back and remember all of the successes that you’ve had the things that you’ve done RIGHT.  And then add to those the do- overs that you might have in your set of goals this next year.  You can always improve upon what you’ve done in the past.  Whether you feel like it was a big failure or not.  Use that as motivation to propel you even faster into the goal that you’ve set for yourself.  And above all, remember that the joy is in the journey.  While destinations are always great.  It is what we have learned along the way that will create a life worth remembering.

XO Wendy