5 Bonus Habits to Adopt for Mental Wellness | Mental Illness Awareness

As I was writing the 5 Habits for good mental health, I started to remember other habits that I have adopted over the years.  So rather than make one very LONG post, I decided to make these the bonus five!

I call them a bonus because really that’s what you get if you adopt them… a big supply of bonus mental energy, if you will.  Over the years I have adopted each as they have become needed for my recovery and good health and also when I found that I gained so much from them.  I have just continued to try and do them.  Mind you, I am FAR from perfect at any of the habits including the first five that I shared.  But boy, do things look and feel brighter when I’m managing my health in this way.  Also, remember that all of the things that I am suggesting are not easy when you are really struggling, so just take baby steps.  They are not meant to replace medication, that’s something you and your Dr. should discuss.  Just take it one day at time.  So here we go!

  1. Start Journaling– (this one I recommend doing daily if possible) I have been a journal writer for a long time.  Even in my teen years.  I have books and books of ramblings that probably will never make it off my dusty shelves, haha.  But it has never been more apparent to me than it was almost 4 years ago when I had my second Manic Episode* that landed me in the psyche ward, how much a journal can help you through out your life.  I have been able to look back and see patterns and signs that have been especially helpful now.

Your journal doesn’t have to be anything special, most of mine are just spiral bound notebooks that I like because they were pretty or had a nice positive quote on the front.  If you know me, you know I’m easily distracted by shiny pretty things, haha.  I love me some pretty little bling.  But I digress.  The importance that a journal can have in your life in a situation such as Bipolar, for example, is immense.  I wish that I’d done a lot more than ramble in mine. But at least I have dates and times documented that I can look back on.  What I have started doing now that has been especially helpful is first, write a small sentence about how I am feeling maybe even rate how I’m feeling on a 1-10 scale.  One being completely down like the worst of the worst, and 10 is thinking that your on fire (I aim for between 6-8. 9 and 10 are danger zones for me).  Some people have even said that putting a small arrow in the corner.  Pointing up=good day,  pointing down=bad day is helpful.  But for me the scale tends to give me a better idea of where I’m standing.

Second, make a list of 10 things  that you are grateful for that day (If you can only do 3 then do 3 and work up). I write in the morning so I always put down things that happened the day before. But if evening works best for you that’s awesome!  Gratitude is an Attitude and before you know it, the gratefulness and love that pours out of you from this small act will amaze you.  One word of advice, these should not be the exact same things everyday.  Look for small seemingly insignificant things that you can appreciate each day.  Maybe some days the best you can do is, “I didn’t trip over the laundry again today!”  Seriously, if we can learn to recognize that there is good in the darkest of days, we can make it through.  As I said before, I am not perfect at these things and there are PLENTY of days that get missed (usually the days that I’m feeling the worst, but hey that’s a pattern you can use later ;)).  Speaking of days that you feel the worst, if you can make yourself do just a few of the things I’m sharing, you are moving in the right direction.  There’s always a way!

2. Find a Friend – It’s not as hard as we make it out to be, however it is difficult.  Yes hard and difficult are two different things ;).  What I mean is, Friends are everywhere, literally (not hard to find),  we just haven’t done the difficult part of reaching out to those around us that could be potentially the best friend you’ve ever had!  Support when you’re hurting can be the best healing balm you can find.  Even if this friend turns out to be someone you’ve never met that you found through a blog online, haha, that went through the same things you are going through.  I promise you, if they are posting online, they are open and willing to talk with you. However it is much more lucrative for you to find someone near you, and spouses and family members can sometimes be the best.   What ever the case, these people can be there IN PERSON to lift you on days that seem impossible to make it through.  To pop by unannounced with a little treat.  Or be there at a moment’s notice when you’re really desperate. Or just to call or text you to let you know you’re on their mind.

I know I’m making it sound easy, and trust me, I know from experience that NONE OF THIS is easy.  But having someone to talk to is so essential for recovery.  Getting better is never a straight line up.  It is filled with ups and downs and curves and hills and it is so much easier to navigate all of that with someone in your corner to support and lift you.   So make a list of people that you feel close enough that you could reach out to them.  I promise you, there are people waiting for you to ask.  Put away your pride and be vulnerable for a minute.  I believe that there are no coincidences in this life.  Everything happens for a reason.  And that person for you, needs you as much as you need them!

3. Find quiet time– Oh how I wish that I’d known this one years ago.  It’s  hard with 4 littles under the age of six, to find an ounce of peace and quiet.  But it is so essential to good mental health.  If you have to ask your significant other or a friend or family member to watch the kids for a few hours a week, do it.  Ultimately 15-30 minutes a day that you can take time out to refresh would be best.  Whether it’s to read or meditate or just tune out for a few minutes.  It is so good for your mind and body to just get a few minutes to think and contemplate how the day is going.  But like I said, if you are unable to do this daily, at least find time during the week that you can take a time out for yourself.  In general most of us tend to do so much for everyone around us, neglecting ourselves.  However, if you are having a hard time functioning, how can you possibly be 100 Percent for everything and everyone else you have to take care of.  Take care of you, then it is much easier to take care of those around you.

4. Find an outlet or hobby– None of the things that I am listing are easy when you have 900 million things to do in a day.  But if you want to have good physical and mental health, these things are so helpful.  I guess if you wanted to, you could consider your workout as hobby, or your daily walk as you time out.  Getting a two for one sort of effect.  But if you want to be really effective, find ways to work these into your schedule.  Again, some things like hobbies don’t have to be worked into every single day.  Once a week can be very beneficial for your psyche.

So let’s just take a look at some of the things that you could do as a hobby and please don’t say social media!!  I’m talking about things like finding time to read that book you’ve been wanting to read since last summer.  Or working on that creative project that you just never seem to have time to get to.  Or writing that book that you always wanted to start, but something else always comes up.  Maybe you’d like to try something new like watercoloring or hand lettering.  Something that really takes you away into another world for a period of time and gets your mind off of the things that you’re struggling with.  There are literally millions of hobbies that you can take on and try.  You’re bound to find something you really enjoy that gives you something to look forward to.

5. Do something for someone else quietly and Intentionally– This is one that has really helped me when I’ve been at my lowest.  When I’m in that spot (you know the one where you just can’t seem to make your self do anything), I don’t exactly feel like getting out and helping someone move, or making dinner for someone (I care barely get that done for my own family!).  However,  doing small things quietly and intentionally, like sending a card, or sending a text, just to let someone know your thinking of them can take the pressure off of thinking about yourself and how bad you feel.  Believe me, I know it can be difficult.  That’s why I say “intentionally”.  Even when you don’t feel like it, make yourself do it.  Don’t just be random about this, honestly try to think of someone else and how you can brighten their day.  I promise you that in doing it, you will get an instant bump in gratification.  You actually got up and did something really nice for someone else.  And the more that you do things like that, the more it will come back to you and the better you feel.  At least for the moment. The reason that I say quietly, is because for most of us who suffer from mental illness, the last thing we want to do is draw attention to ourselves.  So doing small and simple things that you can do by yourself on your own time, without anyone really noticing can be very uplifting and gratifying.  I heard a story of someone that would intentionally place penny on the ground in a specific place that they could follow up on.  knowing that for someone (maybe even a child), it would bring a smile to their face.

So there you go.  5 more habits that you can add to your life to make it better, and to help you be more mentally and even physically healthy.

* One of the first questions that people ask me when they find out that I have Bipolar, is: What is a manic episode like? So I’ve actually been thinking about that a lot and have decided to write a post about it.  It will be  from 2 different perspectives.  Mine and my husband’s (since he has been with me for 2 now).  It will be informative and useful for those who have or are suffering with what they think might be Bipolar.  And also for those of you that have friends or family that you think might have Bipolar and you want to be a support system for them.  So if you’d like to be notified when my posts update.  Just follow me!

 

Soul Survivor

It has been several months since I have written.  Not because I haven’t wanted to, but because the words just haven’t been there.   For weeks and weeks, the words just would not come. I rely heavily upon the Lord to open my mind so that I can write what HE wants to sink deep into the souls of those who read it.  So imagine my excitement when the words started to come again.  Hopefully I can do them justice.

The most precious part of ourselves is our very soul.  It’s what we were before we came here and what we will be after we leave.  It is what we believe (as Mormons) gives life to the body.  The  very essence of who we are.  So it makes complete sense that we are in a war between good and evil for our very souls.  God wants our souls to become enlightened, stronger, healthier, full of love, more serviceable, ultimately more like Him.  While Satan wants to destroy our souls, demoralize, demonize, and demolish it.  He wants us to be fearful and full of hate!  What a contrast that is.

But the great characteristic of we humans is that we are “survivors”!  And in this war of worlds, we are “soul survivors”! Today I want to talk about how we can steer clear of Satan’s traps that he sets for us.  I want you to re-examine your life and make sure that your SOULS are surviving the onslaught of his evil.

Here are 5 ways (in no particular order)  that Satan works to capture our souls.  Hopefully if you have fallen into some of these traps, this will help you realize it and get back on God’s path, safe and sound so you can be a “soul survior”.  🙂

1. Confusion and Contention- All you have to do is open your facebook page or watch the daily news to be bombarded by these two friends.  The political, religious, and other negative debates that happen online are among the most damaging weapons to our soul.  Sometimes we become so consumed with being right that we begin see things less clearly.  Even if it’s wrong, it becomes “right” in our mind.  If Satan can get us to argue amongst one another, in our homes, workplaces, on social media, or even in our churches, then the Spirit can not reside there.   If we participate in this  practice we our opening up ourselves to this trap (or flaxen cord, if you will).

Elder Kim B. Clark of the seventy said, “Our time is a dangerous time—a time of great evil and temptation, a time of confusion and commotion. In these perilous times, the Lord’s prophet on the earth, President Thomas S. Monson, has called us to rescue the wounded in spirit, to stand for truth with courage, and to build the kingdom of God. Whatever level of spirituality or faith or obedience we now have, it will not be sufficient for the work that lies ahead. We need greater spiritual light and power. We need eyes to see more clearly the Savior working in our lives and ears to hear His voice more deeply in our hearts.”

I encourage you to take a look at the words and discussions that you are having.  Check to make sure they are positive and uplifting in every way.  There is no better way to remain on the Lord’s side than to use your words wisely and with great care.  They are something that we can’t take back once they are said. So be wise.

2. Distraction- A Distraction is something that takes away from what matters most in our lives, our relationships with God and our families and friends.  Recently, in my church, our prophet President Russell M. Nelson, spoke to teenagers ages 12-18 about the dangers of distractions.  Mainly social media distractions.  He recommended that we “take a break from fake”.  For 7 days he asked us to get off of social media and see what we find in our lives that might be different.  But it’s not just social media that distracts us and sets us up for Satan to work on our souls.  It can be work, our phones, the internet, well meaning events that take time away from our families and what matters most.  This idea of distractions has become such an easy trap for Satan to ensnare us with.  If he can get us to look the other way and become distracted by “shiny objects” then he is keeping us from looking at and hearing what is most important.  This also can muffle the Spirit from teaching and guiding us in the right direction.  When we are distracted, we are not paying attention.  And when we are not paying attention, Satan can sneak into our lives and set his trap.

King Benjamin tells us that we should hearken unto the word of the Lord. He tells us, “open your ears that ye may hear, and your hearts that ye may understand, and your minds that the mysteries of God may be unfolded to your view.” (Mosiah 2:9.) Sometimes I  become so distracted by the world that I do not hear.  Do you ever find yourself in that spot?  Let’s try harder to slow down, look around, and  pay attention to the things that really matter. The Spirit can work more effectively in our lives when we are not distracted by less important matters.  It can mentor and teach and help us along our way in this journey to win our souls.

3. Busyness- Sometimes we become so busy and stressed out that it feels as if we are in a vortex being dragged down and down to the gulf of misery and woe.  Haha, I know that seems so depressing.

But it’s true, when stress and busyness become a burden on us, it can literally start to affect our health and well being.  We can make ourselves physically sick trying to “do it all”.  And really where does this come from? It is another little trap that Satan uses, and quite effectively I might add.   We can look at any image on magazines or in movies, or on our phones.  We are constantly bombarded with “superwomen and men” who seem to be “doing it all”.  But the sad thing is, that it really is mostly fake.  You get to see the one thing in their life that is going really good at the moment.  We don’t see the stress, the anguish, the despair that is happening behind the scenes.  We just want to be like them!  We have all heard this compared to holding spinning plates in the air.  We keep adding one more thing (plate) to our “to do” list until our spinning plates become so burdensome that we soon end up dropping them all.  We need to slow down… SLOW DOWN… Learn to say no when it’s too much.  Turn off the switches that are making us think that we need to do one more thing. It’s ok to be yourself and not try to do it all.  In fact, that is what God wants for our precious souls.  Calmness, peacefulness and love to envelope us, our souls are so tender and important to Him.  We should treat them with great care.

4. Deception- In our shifting and changing world things are not always what they appear to be.  Appearances can be deceptive and destructive. And unfortunately Satan has been at this game for over 1000 years.  He seems to have a bit of an advantage on us.  I mean, most of us have only been around for less than 100 ;).  But again, we have the Lord on our side.  We have the Holy Spirit to guide us if we are open and listening for it.  But that doesn’t take away the fact that deception is real.  And it can be scary.

Have you ever been in boat on a completely calm lake and then suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, the wind kicks up and the waves become dangerously large?  I have and it’s very, very scary.  We were at Lake Powell one year with my little family, enjoying a sunny day out on the boat.  The storm started to kick up and then our boat stalled.  It wouldn’t start, no matter how hard we tried.  We were floating in the lake that was quickly becoming rougher and scarier.  What were we we to do?   Of course we said some pretty strong prayers and tears were shed.  But thankfully, in that situation, we had life jackets and others nearby who came to the rescue when all seemed lost.  They threw out a rope and towed us to safety.

Likewise, in our lives we are attracted to what seems to be calm and serene at the time.  But then once we jump in, we find that the waves are too much for our tender souls to take on.   When we find that we have been deceived in some way, we can reach out for our “life jackets”, we can look to our leaders as our guides.  We can follow what the Prophet said.  We can stay on the covenant path.  Most importantly, we can seek the Lord in honest prayer to help guide us in the right direction.  If we have lost our way, or find ourselves somewhere different than we had planned to be, we need only look up!  God will throw us a rope, He will tow us back to safety.  Obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel are our life jackets.  We must use them to be a “soul Survivor”!

5. Comparison- Ralph Waldo Emerson once said “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else, is the greatest accomplishment!” I love that quote because it really defines how important it is to guard our souls.  Remember our soul is the very essence of who we are!

Comparison is such an easy trap to fall into.  We all want to be loved, admired, and looked up to.  But doing it at the cost of losing our identity or who we really are, can bring great damage to our souls.  I have seen it happen to myself and others when we get caught up in trying to be like someone we admire.  We may start to dress, talk, and act differently than what we normally do.  Our very core values may begin to shift.

Now, I’m not saying that we can’t improve ourselves. We should always strive to be moving in an upward direction, stretching ourselves to reach toward our full potential.  But the real trap comes when we change ourselves to match what some one else is doing.  I have seen many people change their whole value system as they try to emulate someone.   And it happens very slowly and almost unnoticeably.  Then they start to become examples to others who are not seeing them for who they truly are.

Here is another way that I would encourage us to take a good strong look at what we are putting out there for the world to see.  Is it truly who we are?  Does it promote our own value system or someone else’s?  Are we trapped in an identity that we no longer identify with?  These are some really tough questions, but also very important in evaluating where you are at and where you want to be.  And also what type of role model you want to be for others. When you are content to be simply yourself and don’t compare and compete, everyone will respect you!  And your soul will survive and thrive!  God loves our sweet souls so much!  He is fighting this war for our souls, right along side us.  But we must be aware of the traps that are meant to ensnare and capture our very souls.

**I want you to know that in all honesty, the only way that I can speak on these things is because I have, at times, fallen victim to them.  I have found myself in all 5 of these situations.  It is only through honest and thorough examination of ones self that we can reverse our direction and get back on the path towards God.  Sometimes it’s just a mere meander off the path and we pause for a moment and then turn back and we are right back on the path in no time.  But sometimes it can be a fork that we took in the complete wrong direction.  However, all is not lost.  God is on our side in this war of souls.  He is doing everything that He can to help guide us and lead us safely back to the right path.  He is sending angels our way, I know that with all my heart. Our very souls depend on it! One of my very favorite scriptures comes from the Doctrine and Covenants section 84:88  And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.

We CAN do this life!   And we CAN do it GREAT and BIG and WONDERFUL!  We CAN be “soul survivors”!  I know it and God knows it!  You are His and He loves you.  Let’s take great care of our tender souls!

#holdtotherod #soulsurvivors  #lovewhoyouare

 

 

 

Though We are Broken…

Though we are brokenAs Easter approaches, we get to take a tiny moment in our busy lives, to embrace and remember the life, death, and resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ.  He suffered unbearable pain in the Garden of Gethsemane so that we can be healed from all of our afflictions.  He died on the cross to complete the act of His infinite atonement so that we could once again return to our Heavenly Father’s presence.

He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the Lord hath spoken it. Isaiah 25:8

Several years ago when I was diagnosed Bipolar disorder, I didn’t want to accept it.  That wasn’t who I was I told myself.  I’m not “broken” I’m completely normal.   I don’t need to be on medication when this is something that I can manage on my own.  In fact, I thought I could do it ALL on my own.  Not just manage my mental state, but everything that was going on in my life.  I was a busy stay-at-home mother of 4 with a home business, trying to run a household, and several other plates that I was balancing, including the state of my mental health.  I told myself, “I’m not so different than everyone else, that I can’t do it just like everyone else”, (at least that’s what I was thinking.  Now I know better, that no one is really doing it all).  What I was forgetting is THE MOST IMPORTANT ELEMENT.  It is, in fact, the only way.  And it took me a long time to really figure that out.  It is through His Atonement that we can seek to heal our broken souls.  It is through Him, that our burdens become light.

Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.  John 14:6

He is the one that we can run to when we are broken, the one who heals us and makes us feel whole again.  He does what none of us can do for ourselves.

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.  Mosiah 14:6  

He mends our broken souls and minds and his only plea is Come…. Follow ME.

This past couple of years I have had the unique opportunity to attend mid-week worship services outside of our normal Sunday worship.  In my church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, better know as Mormons), we have a building that is called the temple and there are many throughout the world.  Going every week is quite a commitment as it takes up several hours of the day (especially since it is about an hour drive each way), but it has been such a huge blessing in my life and has taught me so much about myself and about my Savior and the Gospel.  As I have witnessed the people who come each week, I am deeply impressed by the commitment that it takes for some individuals to be there.  At this time in my life it is relatively easy to rearrange my schedule to make time for it.  And my health and situation allow for it.   I don’t take for granted that it may not always be like this.   When my children were little, I was not able to have this opportunity so often.  But for now, I rejoice in the opportunity to serve, that the Lord has allowed me at this time in my life.

On one particular day, I was deeply touched by one woman that had obviously gone to great lengths to be there.  I was late getting there.  I had felt an unusual pull that I needed to be there at that particular time.  The weather was terrible and thus, traffic was a nightmare.  I became extremely anxious thinking I wasn’t going to make it.  Normally, I would not have been too stressed about it.  If I didn’t make it in time it wouldn’t have been a big deal.  But for some reason on this particular day I felt extremely drawn to be there.  I made it, though almost too late.   I ended up being one of the last ones there but still in time for a few other latecomers to make it in.   And then a certain woman came into the room.   There was a hush as she struggled to her seat.   She was wearing the kind of crutches that attach to your arms and she hobbled precariously to her seat.  Her hands were deformed and her breathing labored.  It was not easy for her to be there.  Several times throughout the service she struggled and it was obvious that this was very difficult for her.  I could tell that she felt “broken” as it shown on her face.  Though there was something else that shown even more and that was sheer determination and love for the Lord and this Gospel!

I learned something that day that I will carry with me always.  Never, ever, take for granted how easy it is for me to serve so often at this time in my life.  And second, it is not about me!  Yes we serve God to get closer to Him and to learn and grow.  But this life is not about us.  We are here to minister to one another, to look outside ourselves for opportunities to help others in their quest for truth and light.  It doesn’t take much for us to fix a meal, or write a card, or telephone someone we’ve been thinking about.  It doesn’t take much for us to give a little bit of ourselves to help someone’s burden become lighter, to help someone feel a little less “broken”.

I read a recent article by Carole M. Stephens entitled The Master Healer in it she says, “As we increase our understanding of the doctrine of Christ, we soon discover that we are developing a deeper understanding of “the great plan of happiness.” We also recognize that our Savior, Jesus Christ, is at the very heart of the plan.”

She continues, “When we learn how to apply the doctrine of Christ to our individual circumstances, our love for our Savior grows. And we recognize “that regardless of perceived differences, all of us are in need of the same infinite Atonement.” We realize that He is our foundation—“the rock of our Redeemer, … a sure foundation … whereon if [we] build [we] cannot fall.”

I have often thought about how God made each of us as individuals, unique in our own special and eloquent ways.  We each have our own set of behaviors, character traits, problems, talents, trials, successes and failures. Not one of us alike, and yet not so different in so many ways.   Although, sometimes we feel like we are totally alone and that there is no one that feels the way we do about what is happening in our lives.  I am sure that is the way this woman felt that day.  But, God also gave us each other, to help us along in our journey through this mortal probation.  We are not alone!  He also gave us a gift that is beyond our comprehension.  He gave us his only begotten Son, the Savior of the world.  A Savior who loves, cares, and suffered for us, so that we can overcome all that this life throws at us.  I am eternally grateful for that!  Let us turn to Him in times of heartache and sorrow.  Let us glorify him in times of health and prosperity.  He has given us so much, even our very lives.  Though we are broken… He is the Healer!

Look Inward, Then Look Upward

man-person-people-trainOn one of my many trips to Utah, I sat on a delayed airplane outside the Denver International Airport.  A storm was pushing through and there was no way that plane was going to get in the air any time soon.  Sitting there on the tarmac for what seemed like hours, I had an experience that I know now, was not a coincidence.  I chose the window seat (I always fly SouthWest so I get to choose), and a young man about the age of my oldest son sat down next to me.  We didn’t converse much at first, he seemed to be exhausted and wanting to sleep.  But after the captain came on for about the third time to let us know that we would not be getting off the plane or in the air for at least another 45 minutes, he struck up a conversation with me.  He started by asking questions.  And in a round about way we began to talk about marriage.  I think I must have told him that I’d just visited my boyfriend in Nashville and was going home to UT.

When I told him I had 4 children, he asked what happened with my previous marriage.  I explained the situation as best I could, and then he started to tell me about his family and how his parents had divorced.  He was not so long married himself, I think about 10 years, and he wanted to find a way to stay married to his wife and not let that happen to him.  So we discussed various reasons why divorce happens.  And so the conversation went….then the captain came on and said we’d be in the air soon.  We’d already sat on the tarmac for over an hour and half.  I watched out my window as the storm clouds rolled in, menacing and gray.  And thought about this chance encounter with a young man half my age, who seemed to know more about life than I did.  And I realized that is was not by chance.  You see, I believe that God places people in our paths for a reason.  And depending on where we are at spiritually or otherwise we can see those encounters for what they truly are.

Before I knew it, he was telling me about his life long use of drugs and his road back to the LDS church.  THE church, that I was in the process of leaving.  He told me of an experiences that he’d had with God.  Mind you, during this time in my life, I didn’t really want much to do with any church.  I was perfectly happy where I was.  He asked me about my boyfriend and we talked about him not being a member of the LDS church and that I was currently not active.  It wasn’t until much later that I realized this young man was a messenger  sent by God and he was there to give me a message.  I began to listen intently to what he was telling me.  It was incredible, the life he’d been through at such a young age.  But what he’d learned and was able to share was truly extraordinary.  After telling me pretty much his whole life story, he said that one conclusion that he’d come to after being at rock bottom and then working his way back up, is how important CPR is.  Not the traditional CPR but CHURCH, PRAY, READ.   EVERY DAY!  He said that he felt like he’d found the solution to most of life’s ups and downs and that was CPR.  I thought, ok I can see how that has worked for you in your life and I’m happy for you.  But, I tried that and it didn’t work for me.  And that was that.  We had arrived in Salt Lake City and we said our goodbyes.

When I got home, I pondered on that conversation several times.  I began to think, maybe I didn’t use CPR like I should have. Was I attending CHURCH ever single week (well yes, but was I REALLY doing the best I could to get everything out of it…probably not)?  Was I really PRAYING?  Or had my prayers become routine and repetitive?  Probably somewhat.  Was I really READING my scriptures every single day? No.   Did I have a lot of work to do?  YES!  And slowly….. VERY SLOWLY…. my heart began to turn back toward God.

Now, it was a super slow process turning my heart back.  It really took me getting to MY rock bottom, before I realized what a big part that chance encounter had played in my life.  And this past 2 years since I came back to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, has been 2 years of extreme spiritual growth.  We have gone through temporal trials that have caused us to look inward and upward.  We have struggled with questions like, why did this happen?   And how long will it take to get through?  And what did we do to get here?  And where do we go from here?  Questions that I think many of us struggle with.  And I certainly don’t claim to have any of the answers to those questions.  All of our trials are different, with different time frames, and different variables.  But I do believe that they all have one thing in common.  God knows us!  God LOVES us and He knows, HE KNOWS what is best for us.  Whatever we think is good for us in our life, God’s plan is better!  It’s so important for us to look at where are hearts are and then to look upward.  To look to God, He knows the way!  His hand is in every facet of our lives and all He asks of us is to “remember HIM”.  “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” John 14:6

Remembering him when our hearts are hard is not easy.   When our hearts are hard we are far from him.  We look to the world for our answers and not to our Loving Father in Heaven.  It is only when our hearts become softened that we are able to hear and heed the voice of the Lord and remember Him always.

There are many other practices that we need to be doing to stay close to the Lord and keep our hearts soft.  But CPR, CHURCH, PRAY, READ, is a pretty good recipe for success in the process of softening our hearts and learning to look inward and upward.

Search diligently, pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good…  Doctrine and Covenants 90:24

When we are struggling, when we are having success, when we have doubts, when we have joy, our God ALWAYS, ALWAYS remembers us!  Is it too much for Him to ask that we ALWAYS remember Him? Look inward and then ALWAYS remember to look up to that God that LOVES you!

I will be forever grateful for young man on a plane, that took the time to tell me about his life and his struggle to find life’s meaning.  For having a soft heart and the courage to listen and act on the Spirit’s prompting, to teach a total stranger about CPR!

 

Sharing our witness of Jesus Christ

There is an old saying that goes something like this.  “There are 2 ways of spreading light,  to be the candle, or the mirror that reflects it!”  Elder D.Todd Christofferson of the twelve apostles, wrote a talk entitled Becoming a witness of Christ.   He said “people should be able to see in us something of Jesus Christ.  the way we act, speak, look , and even think will reflect Him and His ways.”  In other words we should be a reflection of the Candle (meaning Jesus Christ the light of the world).  In 3 Nephi 18:24  from the Book of Mormon, we read “Hold up your light that it may shine unto the world.  Behold I am the light which ye should hold up- that which ye have seen me do.”  As you read this today, I pray that the spirit will be with you and that you will feel impressions on your heart and mind, as to how you can answer these questions. Ask yourself :  1. In what ways do I show that I am a reflection of Jesus Christ to others? and 2. What do I need to do to become a witness of Jesus Christ?

Those are some pretty big questions that hold a lot of weight with them right?!  And truly when you think of a special witness of Jesus Christ we usually think the 12 apostles, who are specifically called to be “special witnesses of Jesus Christ”.  But I believe, and D.Todd Christofferson does too, that it is within the capacity of each of us to become His witness!  Now this certainly does not come easy and hopefully we are making it a lifetime pursuit.  Very often it involves growth and change that is slow, almost imperceptible….  I have seen this happen with my husband as he learned about the gospel and that this is indeed Christ’s restored church on the face of the Earth today.  His testimony began to grow little by little.  He began to make small changes (well he might say the were big, haha) that began to turn his life in a different direction.  We both did really, because I had gotten myself off of the path and had to make those changes to lead me to seek again for Jesus Christ in my life. 

  There are many ways that come to my mind when I think of being a witness of Christ or a reflection of His light.   But here are a few.  I think pure love (he atoned for us, it doesn’t come much purer than that) I think of compassion, a server, a healer of hearts and souls, a giver of light and so much more.  As I was evaluating my life and trying to answer those question I started to think of ways that people I know have shown those types of qualities to me.   

I have had many experiences throughout my life of people who have shared there witness of Christ with me.  Through the ways that they treated me or things that they helped me with.  The first ones that came to mind are my sweet parents!  They have always worked so hard to care for me, love me, and give me the precious fruit of the gospel. 

When I was going through my divorce and then when I became less active, never once did they waiver in their support and love for me.  They never made me feel rejected or left alone.  I always knew that I could turn to them, counsel with them, vent to them if needed and that they would never judge me.  I can truly say that I have goodly parents and that has been such a blessing in my life!  And through the way that they reflected the Saviors love they constantly bore silent testimonies to me of the truthfulness of the gospel and of their witness of Jesus Christ.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson stated that “All of us who are baptized and confirmed have taken upon us the name of Jesus Christ with a commitment to “stand as a witness of God at all times and in all things and in all places (Mosiah 18:9).   

He doesn’t ever say, well if your busy you don’t need to be my witness, or if your kids are sick and your house is a mess and laundry needs to be done, you can take a break for awhile, or if you are just tired of always doing what’s right and you feel like it’s all just too much, well then,  just go ahead and take some time off. 

He doesn’t say things like that because He knows what our potential is and He knows the fight that we are in against evil.  He knows the importance of taking a stand!  Standing means being strong, unwavering, leaning not unto our own understanding.  We can’t afford to take breaks from being a witness of our Savior.  There are too many souls that need saving, that need healing, that need something that only we can give them.  They need the peace of the Gospel plan they need the peace of Christ in their lives. 

In our church we have a youth program.  Each year they pick a theme to follow.  I love our youth theme for 2018.  If you haven’t watched the video  I encourage you to go and watch it. I’ve also posted it above.  The theme comes from D&C 19:23  “Learn of me, listen to my words; walk in the meekness of my spirit and you shall have peace in me”.  There is a great song that goes along with it.   The chorus goes like this: He gives us hope when hope is gone, He gives us strength when we can’t go on, He gives us shelter in the storms of life.   When there is no peace on Earth there is peace in Christ.

I came a cross this statement in Elder Christofferson’s talk and it really made an impression on me.  He says “a prophet has told us that the witness of the Holy Ghost makes an impression on our soul that is more significant than a “visitation from an angel”!  That thought just really struck me … the Holy Ghost makes an impression on our soul that is more significant than a “visitation from an angel”!   We have the opportunity to help make those impressions on others souls.  By having the witness borne to us through the Holy Ghost that Jesus Christ lives and that He truly is our Savior puts us in unique standing because we then in turn can bear our witness to others and then they will have that impression or that mark borne to their souls through the power of the Holy Ghost.  It is through us, most likely, that others will have that witness make a mark upon their souls.   

Now ultimately, we as individuals are responsible for our own personal spiritual growth!  But it can come through the witnesses of others that we turn our life just a little bit more toward the Savior.

This happened for me as a certain individual truly stood as a witness to me of the Savior.  Every time that I did come to church (and it wasn’t that often) she made sure that I knew that she knew that I was there.   She reached out and tried to find things in common.  She was a lifeline making a mark on my life that literally saved it, when the time came.  When I went through my health problems, she was the one that I reached out to.  She was the one that I knew, no matter what she was doing, would drop everything to come to my rescue.  And she did!

What kind of mark will you make in the lives of those around you?  What kind of reflection will you be?  I invite you to put some real thought into those questions over this Special Christmas season when we remember the birth of our Savior.  When we come to a new year and re-evaluate our lives and our priorities.  What kinds of changes can we make that will help us to be that special witness of Jesus Christ for some one else? We know that because of Him, our eternal happiness is assured.  As our faith in Jesus Christ shines through, we show others who “labour and are heavy laden” how to find rest in Him how to find peace. 

I have shared scriptures today from what we believe as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, to be another testament of Jesus Christ.  This is one of my favorites:  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. (2 nephi 25:26)

We must write according to our prophecies, that our children may know…. or that the world may know, to what source they need to look for peace. 

 I testify to you that Jesus is the Christ,  the atoner, the sacrificer, the giver of light, the healer of souls.  My redeemer and your redeemer He is where we go to find peace.  Can we work just a little bit harder to share that peace through our witness of Him?  I know we can.   

The Messenger

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9).

Helping-Others

Over the past several months I have been trying to become better at discerning when the Spirit speaks to me.  I have prayed for the ability to know how I can be used as an ‘instrument’ in the hands of the Lord.  Subsequently, I have been having regular experiences that I can not deny, come from listening to, and following through with the promptings of the Spirit.

One such situation that I will share, happened with one of my daughters.  One of the practices that I’ve started is to end my evening prayer with a plea to the Lord, “Is there anything that you would have me do or know?”  And then I will try to listen intently to the promptings as thoughts begin to fill my mind.  I say try, because that seems to be a difficult thing for me (and probably most of us) to do… just calm my mind and listen.  But I am finding that as I practice, I am getting better at discerning what thoughts are actually coming from Him.

Anyway, on this particular night I said my evening prayer and then proceeded with my usual question.  Very quickly and with great force, my daughter’s name tumbled through my mind repeatedly.  I was perplexed, as I had just spoken with her that evening and things seemed to be fine.  I made a note to call her in the morning and make sure things were ok.  I had a busy morning but I texted her first thing and asked if she had some time later that day that we could talk.  The morning went by as usual and I wasn’t terribly concerned and I didn’t feel that she was in danger or anything, but she continued to weigh on my mind.  When we were finally able to talk, I briefly explained what had happened and then she began to cry…. and then I began to cry, lol.  I knew that the Lord had spoken to me and that I was to be the messenger.  She told me that she had been having some hard days.   And we both agreed that the promptings that I felt to call her and tell her of my experience were meant to help her realize that He is there and that He does hear her cries and that He is very aware of what she is going through. And above all that He loves her enough to use someone else to bring that message to her.

And that is how it works a lot of the time.  We are are the Lord’s messengers.  We just need to be open and ready to receive the message and then, the most important part, is to deliver that message, or ACT on that prompting.

It’s funny because in life we always seem to want the latest and greatest!  We can’t wait for the new thing to come out and we stand in lines to be one of the first to see it, or have it, or hold it and try it out! The world promises us money, fame, and fortune but the Lord promises us peace, understanding and eternal life.  In the world today, we have a hard time seeing past ourselves and our selfish desires.  But what the Lord wants is for us to look to Him and His ways to find ourselves.  King Benjamin preached in the  Book of Mormon: “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God” (Mosiah 2:17).  And in the New Testament the Savior taught His disciples, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it” (Luke 9:24).

I believe another important aspect of learning to listen to and follow promptings of the spirit is to get “unplugged” and tune in.  Kind of sounds like an oxymoron.  How do you “unplug” and “tune in”?  Technology is a great and positive tool for sure!  I mean you are probably reading this blog on your smartphone, lol, so I can’t tout them.  But I do know that cell phones, tablets, computers, etc. take up an extreme amount of our time and can cause the lines to our spiritual communication to be full of static and distractions.  And it is so important for us to be “tuned in” to the still small voice of the Spirit to feel and hear the promptings when they come.

I found it so funny when I saw a photo of someone on FB that said “Here we are, all watching a movie.  And then in the photo several of them were looking at their phones, and a few others were really watching the movie, haha.  How can you focus on listening to a still small voice when your mind is full of distractions?  Again in the Bible we read in (First Kings 11-12) “And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lordbut the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake:   And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.”

In April 2017 Elder Ronald Rasband of the Quorum of the twelve apostles taught:  “The Holy Ghost binds us to the Lord. By divine assignment, He inspires, testifies, teaches, and prompts us to walk in the light of the Lord. We have the sacred responsibility to learn to recognize His influence in our lives and respond.”

The Lord wants to be able bless our lives by “using” us to bless the lives of others.  I know that might sound a little backwards, but that’s really how it works!  If we can find ways to serve him, even if they are small and may seem insignificant, that is how we will begin to grow to our full potential, feel his Spirit, and to become more like our Savior, who was the ultimate example of compassion and love.  We become the “messengers” by regularly submitting to His will by acting on the promptings that we receive to help and serve others.  Even the smallest act of a simple phone call can make such a difference in the life of someone who is struggling.

broken-violin-1501727-gallery

I put a lot of thought into the blogs that I post hoping they will reach and touch the lives of others in a positive helpful way.  But what I have found is that as I think about and try to figure out what to write about, it always ends up helping me more than I think it will ever help anyone else.  I have come to understand that that is the way the Lord refines us and builds us into the people he wants us to be.  Sometimes I feel like the ‘Old violin’  worn and used and sometimes beaten down with the daily struggles of life,  but when touched by the “Master’s hand” able to do amazing things, not only for myself, BUT especially in being His messenger for others.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9).

 

 

 

Adversity and the Adversary

Note:  This post is referenced in this previous post where I said I would share the story about finding my Doctor.

praying hands

It has been almost two years to the day that I lay on my living room sofa in a complete pile of tears.  I had all but given up on finding the right medication and a good Dr. to take me on my journey to wellness.  I had been put on waiting list after waiting list to get in to see a psychiatrist.  I had a scheduled appointment, and the day before I was to see the Doctor I ended up back in the hospital following another manic episode.  The Dr. I was supposed to have seen said that since I was unable to make that appointment,  that I would be scheduled for another 6 weeks out.  I felt so beaten down and forgotten.  Why was God not helping me in this? Where was He when I needed Him the most?  And why am I so broken?  These were the questions that I asked myself over and over again.

My husband Joe, had come home to check on me during his lunch break.  He gave me the news that he was finally able to land me an appointment with a strongly referred psychiatrist…. for 6 weeks from that day!  I was torn, I knew this was a good thing but I was completely devastated that I had to wait so long.  I am not going to make it another 6 weeks I cried, I’ll end up in the hospital again, I just knew it.  Joe could see that I was near my breaking point.  We were both at a loss of what to do.  The adversary was working so hard on us, trying to break us down.  I think he knew that we were nearing the fork in the road where we would be required to make the choice of whether to try and do this all on our own or put our trust in the Savior  and let him carry us.

The Savior said: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28–30)

I know I’ve used that scripture previously but it describes so perfectly what I was experiencing, and what I needed to know.  And although at the time I was probably further from God than I had ever been, I also knew that he would hear my cries.  I think the important point to remember is that we all have our loads to bear.  Each one of us goes through hard things, each of us experience opposition and trials that can lead us away from God.  Or they can build and strengthen us if we will trust in His plan for us.

Elder David A. Bednar of the quorum of the twelve Apostles once stated, “Sometimes we mistakenly may believe that happiness is the absence of a load. But bearing a load is a necessary and essential part of the plan of happiness.”  Adversity, then, is essential to our success!

Joe calmly took my hand, and said I think we need to ask God for some help on this.  Can we pray? (This is my non-religious husband whom I had never seen pray before).  Of course, I said a resounding “yes, please pray for us!”  He then poured out his heart right there in front of our sofa.  I don’t really remember the exact words he used but I know that he truly pleaded with a true and honest heart that God would exercise his hand in our situation and somehow bring us peace and comfort and help us get through this hard trial that we were experiencing.  He closed the prayer and I felt a peaceful calm settle over me.  Joe went back to work and I fell into a deep sleep, which was unusual during that time because of my condition.  I awoke to my phone ringing about an hour or so later.  The woman on the line explained who she was, the receptionist of the highly referred Doctor that Joe had spoken with earlier, she explained that they had had a cancelation and knew that I was in desperate need to get in to see him.  “Could you be here at 8:30am tomorrow morning?”  “YES!”  I exclaimed, “I’ll be there.”  I hung up the phone and dropped to my knees,  I knew this was truly God’s hand working a miracle in our lives!

That phone call changed everything for me and for us.  We were now at least “on the journey” towards me becoming healthy again.  The Doctor turned out to be exactly who I needed and has helped me throughout the past couple of years to get and stay well.  However it has been, and continues to be, fraught with many obstacles along the way.  Once we chose to lean on God and get on the right path in that fork in the road the adversary started throwing fiery darts, it seemed, at every turn.  We are told in the Book of Mormon that there is opposition in all things  “It must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, … righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad” (2 Nephi 2:11; see also verse 15).

Although trials come, we must remember that opposition permits us to grow, it strengthens us it helps us to learn to trust God even more and to …lean not unto our own understanding Proverbs 3:5.  And let Him direct our path!  Because even though we may think we have a great plan.  He sees more and His plan is better for us!

President Henry B. Eyring stated in the October 2017 General Conference address “… as much as we have already built faith and courage in our hearts, the Lord expects more from us—and from the generations after us. They will need to be stronger and braver because they will do even greater and harder things than we have done. And they will face increasing opposition from the enemy of our souls.”

So we see that the obstacles that the adversary throws at us our necessary so far as we are leaning toward and trusting in the Lord to guide us through these obstacles.  Life is not easy, it was not meant to be easy.  As Elder Bednar stated. “Happiness is not the absence of a load…”.  It’s what and how we deal with that load that really matters.

Joe and I were recently commenting about the length of this trial and how we just didn’t think it would take “so long” haha.  But I can honestly say that without experiencing the ups and downs of these past few years, we would not have grown so close to our Savior.  We would not know God the way we do now.  We would be floundering wondering which way to turn and how to move forward.  But through the strength of our Savior and  Redeemer we have learned that we CAN have happiness even amongst the loads!