This week’s episode is so good. My good friend, Mckenna, will share with you her experiences with her mental health and paralyzing anxiety. You can listen below or on your favorite podcast platform.
And I have been waiting 2 years to interview this special guest today. It was 2 years ago almost to the day that I started this podcast and when I started it, I was particularly focused on the mental health part of it, because that is just such a huge part of my life and my mission, I believe, to help people who may be struggling or know or love someone who is. And so I had wanted to have the perspective of my biggest supporter to give his side of the story and had planned to do so back then but he just wasn’t ready at that point because having someone you love go through something like we did is really quite traumatic and it just wasn’t the right time.
Fast forward a couple of years, as you may have guessed the person that I am talking about is my husband, Joe. And instead of talking about being the supporter, I asked him if he would share his side of that, but also his conversion story of how he came to know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is indeed the restored gospel of Jesus Christ on the Earth today. And he agreed. So this podcast is a tad bit longer than most but I think it will be worth your time. And we had so much fun putting it together and reminiscing that we decided together that we would love to share other couple’s stories of conversion if there is anyone who would like to share. The good news of the gospel needs to be felt and shared more in today’s world and we would love to be a part of making that happen. If anyone is interested, please contact us. We would love to have you share your story with the world.
Go here to listen to the interview and Joe’s conversion story.
Hello friends and welcome. I hope you all enjoyed your labor day weekend. I got to spend mine in Houston with my son, my daughter in law and 2 grandsons. Which is why there wasn’t a podcast last week. Family is everything and I’m so glad that I have opportunities to spend quality time with mine. It was such a good time and I’m so grateful for it.
Since I returned, I have had a lot on my mind when thinking about what to share. And here I go again, getting all vulnerable, in a little bit, lol. But, what are our trials for if we can’t share them and help someone else grow from what we have learned and experienced? I believe the quote so much that says, “someday this trial that you are overcoming will be the thing that helps someone else make it through theirs.”
It’s so true, we look to others and their resilience and draw strength from that. I hope you felt that strength in the last few episodes with Catherine, Sarah and Nicole. I hope to have many more examples of people who are overcoming or enduring the struggle in weeks to come. I have a few in the queue that I’m super excited about.
Now let’s get on with this episode. I have been overcome lately with feelings of sadness over friends that are leaving the fold. And while everyone is on their own journey and has to come to their own understanding of where they belong and to whom they belong, I know from experience that the road can be long and weary at times. How do I know? Because I’ve been there. And I’ve come back. And the feeling of joy and love and just pure overwhelm at the Savior’s care for me, the one that left the fold, is something difficult to explain. I just feel so beyond grateful, that I have been given second and third and fourth chances. As we are all given.
But that is only a portion of the sadness that I feel. The other portion comes from the hurt and betrayal, and just plain hardness of the path that some have been asked to walk. My heart breaks in a thousand pieces as I hear story after story of people who are hurting and struggling and feeling lost and alone. I just want to reach through the screen and grab and hold them and tell them they are so loved and so cared for. And though I can’t do that, the Lord can. And He will, if you will reach out and ask Him. It just takes that first step. And He will welcome you with open arms. He may not be able to take your pain away. But He will walk this road with you. In fact, He’s been known to carry a few at times. I know He’s carried me many times.
In Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s talk “Tomorrow the Lord will do Wonders Among You” He says, “If we give our heart to God, if we love the Lord Jesus Christ, if we do the best we can to live the gospel, then tomorrow and every other day is ultimately going to be magnificent, even if we don’t always recognize it as such, Why? Because our Heavenly Father wants it to be. He wants to bless us! A rewarding, abundant, and eternal life is the very object of his merciful plan for His children” it is a plan predicated on truth “that all things work together for good to them that love God”. So keep loving. Keep trying. Keep trusting. Keep believing. Keep growing. Heaven is cheering you on today, tomorrow and forever. “
And from the scripture in Isaiah 40:20-28, 31 They that wait upon Him shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles…. For the Lord God will hold their right hand saying unto them Fear not; I will help thee.
I know that was a lot from his talk and I encourage you to go read the rest. I will link it! It’s so good.
I know that I can’t possibly know or feel what any of you are experiencing at this time in your lives. But what I can do is share my experiences with you. Sometimes I feel that my trials pale in comparison to some. But that doesn’t diminish them or invalidate them. And it’s the same for you. And that’s why I continue to share.
I talked a few podcasts back about a personal struggle that I am going through, another facet of mental illness, that I wasn’t ready to share yet. But since this is the anniversary of my recovery from Bipolar, 7 years today since I spent those awful nights in the psychiatric unit! I thought it would be fitting to talk about another recovery that I am in the midst of.
As I’ve talked about before, I am pretty good at masking my illnesses. I have had a lot of practice. I’ve been doing it for nearly 40 years. So a lot of people who hear what I’m about to tell you, may be surprised and even unbelieving. And that’s ok. It’s my journey to walk. I only hope that what I share can be of some benefit to those who need to hear it.
So here goes, I have recently been in recovery for an eating disorder. BED or Binge Eating Disorder to be exact. I won’t go into the details unless someone comes to me directly because I think that can be triggering to those that suffer with similar disorders. But what I can tell you is that something like this is usually bigger than you. And while you may try to overcome it on your own like I have for many years. There comes a time when you have to step outside of your selfishness and ask for help. I have been going through a 12 step recovery program similar to AA called Eating Disorders Anonymous. And I think what I want people to know the most is that working through these steps has been one of the most enlightening and fulfilling things that I have done in my life.
I have had to take serious inventory of myself and my life and begin to put things back in order. The serenity prayer: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”, has become a new mantra for me. I struggle everyday as I am finally working through this. And while it is not easy, it has been very liberating. And it has given me the opportunity to grow in so many other ways.
I have learned what it really means to forgive. Not only to forgive myself, but to forgive others. I have learned what it means to fully and completely surrender myself to God. I have thought for a long time that I was doing that. But the truth is, that surrendering is an ongoing process. One that we all should be working at every single day. I have learned that there is more to life than food, which if you suffer with an eating disorder you will understand what I mean by that. It tends to consume your thoughts constantly. And now that I am overcoming it, I am seeing so many parts of my life improve. My friendships, my relationships, my time to explore new talents. To serve more willingly. And to love more quickly.
I don’t want this to be the “poor me” podcast. What I want to do is to shine a light on the fact that we never ever know what someone may be experiencing behind closed doors. I’ve come to understand that everyone has something hard that they are dealing with. And even though they may be good at carrying it, doesn’t mean it’s not heavy.
So as I end today’s episode I just want to say:
We need to be quicker to love. Faster to reach out with love. More willing to spend some time listening and being a shoulder for others. We are all in this life together and sometimes we treat it as if we are on our own little island. There are angels all around us cheering us on. Both here and on the other side of the veil. I’ve come to know that even more these past several months. If you are struggling with anything in your life, please reach out to those around you. Realize that those little coincidences that happen, are not coincidences at all! They are tender mercies from the Lord. We would do well to take what he has so lovingly given us and do what we can to improve our situation. It’s never easy. Never! But it is possible. He sees you, He loves you and He will be there for you. And so will I!
I love you guys so much and appreciate you taking the time to listen to all my ramblings. That’s it for today! I hope you all have an absolutely fantastic week!
Well hey everyone! It’s good to be back. I planned on taking a little break but it just ended up being a little longer than planned. But that’s ok, because that’s kind of how life is right? We think we have it all figured out or we have a plan and then the Lord comes in and says, “nope, I’ve got something else prepared for you…it’s going to be hard but it’s something better.”
And that’s kind of how I feel about this whole past year. I was looking back recently at some of the goals that I set for myself at the beginning of the year and I am nowhere near where I thought I would be because of the circumstances that I went through in the beginning months of this year. And you know what? I am not even unhappy about it!
I feel like I am in such a better place than what I would have been. I don’t know for sure, I mean my situation today would certainly look different than it does. But I can most assuredly tell you that I see the hand of the Lord working in and over my life in so many ways as I look back and as I see things unfolding before me looking forward.
It’s a marvelous thing to have the spirit of the Lord guiding and directing you as you go. But in that, there is a lot of ongoing work that has to take place to get to that point.
As you may have guessed from the title I’m going to talk just a little bit about the refining process that we go through when faced with trials, challenges, adversity, etc. And how we can gain the inner strength to let them be a refining process rather than a defining process.
It is the 50th episode!!! YAY!!!! I felt like I should definitely lean in to what we are all about here at “pointing toward hope”. And I feel like the pieces for this episode have kind of been collecting over the last several days as I have had mini moments of inspiration when things that I heard or read or dreamt just sunk in. So I am going to try to collect all of those things and hopefully organize them into something that will be meaningful and impactful for you as you listen today.
I found a great talk By Ellen W. Smoot from April 2002 General Conference talk Called Developing Inner Strength. I will be referring to that throughout this podcast and will link it in the notes. I loved this question she posed. “How do you and I become so converted to the truth, so full of faith, so dependent on God that we are able to meet trials and even be strengthened by them?”
That just got me thinking about how we sometimes tend to lean into our trials more, then lean into the Lord. If that makes sense.
For example, we might tend to say this is just who I am, this is how it’s always gonna be and there isn’t a thing that I can do about it. So in my situation instead of saying I HAVE bipolar, it becomes I AM bipolar. Which is a totally false statement.
Do you see the difference? To say I AM something… is basically removing the possibility that I can change it from something that defines me. Just changing that one word or that one negative feeling, can allow me to turn it into something that refines me and grows me as a person if I let it.
From my standpoint, having Bipolar is definitely not something I enjoy. But it’s definitely not who I AM either. Changing my view of it has allowed me to turn something that has such a negative connotation into something of a miracle.
When YOU do this, then you can see the opportunity in the trial to make it into something miraclous. Something that will strengthen you from the inside to the outside.
Personally, I have worked really hard to take that feeling of being defined by my trial to being strengthened by and through it. I’ve tried to turn it into something positive that I can learn and grow from rather than feeling defeated by it. Which is not easy at all! To be honest, somedays it just downright stinks and I do feel totally defeated by it. There are just so many negative feelings that surround it.
I don’t think that I’m alone in that, when it comes to trials or adversity. There are a lot of situations where negative feelings and thinking take place. Thinking that you are defined by your trial, can happen with a lot of different types of experiences that we go through.
There are so many big traumatic parts of your life for sure! I am not diminishing those experiences in any way!
However, I feel like our tendency as human beings having an Earthly experience, we do tend to want to let those things define us or maybe we tend to look at them with negative thoughts and feelings. Like this is how other people define me or describe me.
I mean I could fall into that category very easily by letting those labels that are thrown around so lightly, be overwhelming and defeating. But I have gotten to the point where when someone says something like, “So and so is so dramatic and does this and this and this, they are definitely Bipolar”. I can blow that off. It always stings a little and sometimes I want to get defensive about it. But I’ve learned that I can’t take things like that personally. And you have to understand that when someone says something hurtful in a situation like that, they probably don’t have any idea that you were hurt. So why make yourself a victim over it?
Anyway, I kind of got sidetracked there for a little bit but I want you to just take a second and think about some of the things in your life that you see as negative experiences or trials. Maybe it’s not a sickness or illnes. Maybe it’s something that happened when you were a child, a mistake you made, or something that happened unexpectedly that has changed your life immensely. We’ve all experienced that in the last two years haven’t we?
The point I’m trying to get at is, can we try to see ourselves and our trials as a growing, learning, refining process? Think of it as being purified and polished just as a piece of metal when it’s being molded? And I’ll talk a bit more about that in a minute.
Recently, there was a brilliant woman that gave a talk in my church. And I think her talk was what kind of started the ball rolling for me. She gave so many good nuggets of wisdom. Her topic was having gratitude through adversity. That kind of sounds like an oxymoron, right? I mean how do you have gratitude when you’re going through really difficult situations?
While I was listening to her speak (it was a phenomenal talk btw) I kept having a thought run through my mind that I’d heard someone say on a podcast that I listen to. “Sometimes the miracle is IN the tragedy”. I don’t know why I was thinking that specific thought, but maybe it was because when we are going through something, anything really, if we try to look at it from a different perspective (which is what I think having gratitude in adversity means), then the whole experience can become a beautiful miracle.
At the end of this woman’s talk she said one thing that I have talked about before here on the podcast. And if you weren’t paying attention to her talk then you would have missed it. She said, when it comes to hard things and being grateful for them, think of them as refining you, NOT defining you! And even though I’ve said it myself many times, the way she paired it with gratitude just made me look at it from a little different perspective.
There is a video that I have watched and I’ll try to link it if I can find it again. About the process that a Blacksmith goes through when refining metal. I’m not sure if you are familiar with the process but let me just explain somewhat. It is a long and grueling process that requires intense heat and repeated hammering. A refiner is really good at knowing when the fire is hot enough but not too hot! And you also have to use fire and water, and you need to know how to use both of them together. And the reason is because the Blacksmith (or the refiner) needs to be able to bend and mold that piece of metal into something completely different. Free from impurities and something polished and beautiful.
Nobody wants to go through a refining process, right? I mean it is super intense. But in this process from what I understand the refiner is right there the whole time. He is completely in the entire process. The metal can not be left alone. There are certain things that need to happen at certain times. And you love this because in Isaiah, he teaches us about what our refiner, meaning Jesus Christ is like, when he says this in
Chapter 43:1-3 1 But now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob (insert your name), and he that formed thee, O Israel (insert your name), Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.
2 When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.
3 For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour…
So He’s basically saying, Don’t you worry, I am going to be here every step of the way. I love you and I’m not going to leave you!
Is’nt that just so cool? He knows when the water comes and you feel like you’re drowning, He’s gonna be there! He knows when you feel like you are walking through fire and the heat is too intense and you want to give up, He’s gonna be there!
He is our refiner.
So I want you to remember that process as we talk about a couple of other mini moments of inspiration that I had this past week. So I was reading the Book of Heleman, and if you are familiar with this part of the Book Mormon, it is part of the war chapters and it can be difficult chapters to get through. But I determined when I started the war chapters back in Alma that I was going to get something to apply to my life out of these chapters. And you guys, I feel like the Lord answered my prayers on that so completely. I have really had so many mini moments. So I encourage you to really dig into those chapters and see if you can’t grab some gold nuggets out of there.
Anyway, back to Helaman it is Chapter 3 So just a refresher this is a time when many people are dissenting from the church and persecuting members of the church. At that time Nephi the son of Helaman is filling the judgement seat and he decides that because of the persecution they are going to leave Zarahemla and move to the land Northward. And it says it was a great distance. And you know they didn’t have cars and carts and all that back then. So I’m sure they were traveling with everything on their backs or their donkeys. It was probably extremely hot and they were thirsty and it was super hard.
And it says they crossed over many waters and rivers (remember the water and the heat of the refiner’s fire?). And when they arrived it was a land called Desolate. Why? Because there was nothing on the land it was barron, everyone! And so what did they do. In verse 7 it says this: nevertheless the people who went forth became exceedingly aexpert….. And then it goes on to say how they built houses and when trees grew they took care of them until they could use them. They built cities! So they took this trial that was upon them and they turned it into something amazing. And the Lord was with them through every step.
But then in verse 16 I believe, it was Mormon talking here. He goes back to before they left Zarahemla to explain what was happening there and what caused them to leave. And the following verse is what stopped me that morning.
35 It reads Nevertheless they did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God.
And that’s the word that caught me, everyone! Yielding. What happens when we yield? We give others the right of way, right? So in this case they are yielding their hearts to the Lord! They are turning it over to the Lord knowing that he will sanctify them and purify them. Just like a Blacksmith does with the metal. When it is under that intense heat it is purifying it. Jesus is our refiner! He sees things from a much grander perspective. He can turn us into something beautiful. Something so much more than we can achieve on our own.
It just gives me chills when I think about how many times the Savior has walked with me through my trials, and turned them into a miracle.
It reminds me of when I was younger and I went through a pretty hard experience with some friends. I won’t get into the details, but I will tell you that it was something that happened to me way back when I was barely 13. And it concerned being bullied.
So you can imagine at 13, you are at such an impressionable age and you’re molding your identity and just changing so much and trying to figure out who you are.
And just at the peak of that time in my life is when this experience happened. It was an event that happened because of something careless that I said to someone, not thinking anything of it. Someone walking behind us heard it, and within minutes….. I’m not even kidding. I was surrounded by a group of girls pointing and laughing and bullying me. My friends that were with me when they surrounded me, quickly slipped out of the circle. And I felt so alone at that moment.
And to make matters worse, the bullying continued for several weeks. To the point that the principal and parents got involved. It was really quite hard as a 13 year old. I remember days when I thought I just couldn’t go to school. I would get stomach aches thinking about it. It still makes me anxious to this day.
But it was during that time that I decided to yield my heart to the Lord. What did he want me to do? I decided that I needed to have my patriarchal blessing.
So we scheduled it. And I was determined that I was going to prepare myself and be so ready for this because I really, really needed to hear from the Lord himself that everything was going to be ok.
So I did those things from verse 35… I fasted and I prayed and I humbled myself and I had faith that the Lord would come to me. Or at least be with me during this fire that I was experiencing. I yielded my heart to Him with all that I had.
Well the night came that we were to go to the blessing and I remember so distinctly like it was yesterday. I was so nervous and my palms were sweating and my stomach was growling and the Patriarch seemed to talk forever before he started the blessing.
And so he began… it was still and quiet except for when his clock chimed at the beginning. And at that moment I got my miracle. In the midst of my trial I recieved a miracle. It wasn’t from the words that were said, because honestly he was very well spoken and I didn’t understand a lot of the big words he used. Or the way he worded it. It was like scripture. But…. I do remember how I felt. When his hands and my father’s hands were on my head and the patriarch called upon the priesthood power, I felt a tangible presence like I’d nver known before. And it stayed with me until the clock chimed again and the patriarch closed the prayer.
It was so powerful that as we were driving home I remember asking my dad if someone else had joined them in the prayer. He was surprised at that of course and I explained what I had felt. And my parent’s and I were all in awe at the sacredness of that moment. He was there to let me know that He was with me every step of the way.
When I got my blessing and read it. There was one little part that talked about the friends I would have in my life. And some counsel on the importance of choosing good friends.
One thing that I determined at that time, is that I would do everything in my power to never make anyone feel the way I had through that experience
It left such an impression on me that I have never doubted the power of the priesthood. And I never hesitated to call upon it in times of great need.
Would I have been able to have that experience if I hadn’t gone through the bullying and felt abandoned by my friends? Maybe, but I don’t think so. I had to go through that trial to experience the miracle.
So let’s go back to talking about finding that inner strength to keep moving forward. As we have been studying the Doctrine in Covenants, in come follow me, about all the horrible things that the early members of the church went through, it has made me think more about where that inner strength comes from.
“In sister Smoot’s talk she shares an experience from a Pioneer woman who traveled across the plains from Navoo, ILL to Utah.
She shared the following: “To demonstrate the kind of inner strength I am talking about, I would like to share the story of Susanna Stone Lloyd, who at the age of 26 left England in 1856 and traveled to Utah alone. The only member of her family to join the Church, Susanna was a member of the Willie Handcart Company. Like so many other pioneers, she endured life-threatening hunger, illness, and fatigue.
Upon arriving in the Salt Lake Valley, Susanna borrowed a mirror to make herself more presentable. Despite her best efforts, she recounts: “I shall never forget how I looked. Some of my old friends did not know me.” Having sold her own mirror to an Indian for a piece of buffalo meat, she had not spent much time looking at herself. Now she did not recognize her own image. She was a different person, both inside and out. Over the course of rocky ridges and extreme hardship came a deep conviction. Her faith had been tried, and her conversion was concrete. She had been refined in ways that the very best mirror could not reflect. Susanna had prayed for strength and found it—deep within her soul.
If someone like Susannah can take a horrible situation like that and turn it into something so beautiful, can we? I am sure that she had to dig pretty deep within her soul to find the strength that comes in and through our Savior. Because let’s face it. We don’t get through these experiences without divine intervention. We can try. But speaking from experience, it sure is a lot harder when we try to do it alone. Without the help of our refiner.
We can walk through the fire on our own. We can feel like we’re drowning in our adversity. We can be hammered over and over again by the happenings of this mortal life. But it is so much more doable when we allow our Refiner, Jesus Christ, to be a part of the process. This proving process. This refining and growing and polishing process. Yes it stinks. Yes it hurts. But at some point we will be able to look back and see the tiny mercies. The little miracles. And in the end. If we endure it well, we can come out having been molded into something beautiful that anyone who looked upon us would just say, “wow”!
Have you ever done that when you have seen something that someone made that was so intricate and detailed and beautiful that all you can say is, “wow”? That’s the kind of miracle I’m talking about.
I promise you, everyone. You CAN receive a miracle in the midst of your trial. I have no doubt that the Savior is walking with you through it! He is in the process every step of the way. He won’t leave you. He can’t leave you! In order for you to be molded through the fires of life He has to remain by your side, so that the right things happen at the right time.
Lean on Him. Trust Him. Pray and fast often. Be humble and YIELD your heart to him. Let him take the lead. And then follow Him! I beg you to follow Him with all of your refined and purified and polished heart!
That’s it for today my friends! If you or a friend have had an experience that you’d like to share. Please contact me, I’d love to have you on the show. Talk to you again soon!
Recently I have been reading a book called Atomic Habits by James Clear. It has been so good to learn more about the importance of creating good and solid habits. And I highly recommend picking it up if you are struggling with implementing good habits.
The funny thing is that whenever you are focused on something like that, you tend to notice it or be attracted to it everywhere. So I have had videos pop up on you tube or seen other information that seems to support what I am studying. It even came up in a talk from last weekend’s conference (see One percent better by Elder Michael A. Dunn) So I am concluding that this is something that I need to re-evaluate in my own life.
As I pondered upon some of my “habit stacking”, and the need to apply “the aggregation of marginal gains”. Which simply involves changing something by just 1%, thus changing the previous course that you were on. Which then ends up making a huge difference when put into action in a regular “habit based” routine. As discussed in Clear’s book as well as Elder Dunn’s talk.
It got me thinking about the habits or techniques required to know and feel the Holy Spirit and how it works for you specifically in your own life. Equally important is to know how Satan attempts to thwart your progression (usually by invoking the “aggregation of marginal gains” believe it or not. I talked about that in a previous post).
You see as we have been repeatedly taught there must be opposition in all things. So as soon as we begin improving our ability to listen to and heed the promptings of the spirit. Satan will begin to insert his way into that process to keep us from progressing.
So those two things are what I want to discuss today and next week. And I hope that you will be inspired to re-evaluate your life and your habits to see if you can improve your ability to listen to the guidance of the Savior, Jesus Christ through the conduit of the Holy Spirit. While at the same time improving your ability to ward off the fiery darts of the adversary.
So let’s just go back for a minute to “habit stacking” and the aggregation of marginal gains, as talked about in Atomic Habits. So here is a brief rundown of what habit stacking is. A simplistic way to explain it is, that you often decide what to do next, based on what you have just finished doing.
Think about your morning routine. For example, this is a sample of the first things that I do and probably many of you do too upon waking. First, the alarm goes off, and then after a few snoozes, lol, (no one is perfect right?) I roll out of bed, pull on my socks (I hate cold feet!), which reminds me that I need to quickly make my bed, which then leads me to the restroom, which reminds me to wash my hands, which signals me to brush my teeth and run a comb through my hair. See how that works? One thing leads to another because of the signal that is sent from the prior action.
Most of us practice these small habits on instinct because you have been doing them for so long that they become second nature. So how can we apply this to the gospel and how we listen to and understand how the Lord speaks to us?
Well for starters, we can take a look at our current habits and evaluate how they might be helping or hindering us from hearing and heeding the promptings of the Lord.
One thing that I want to quickly mention is that we are in the last 90 days of this year. So like me, many of you may have begun new habits or set new goals at the beginning of 2021. By now those habits or goals may be falling a bit. Trust me when I say it happens to pretty much everyone.
But what I am getting at is that instead of giving up and just cruising or coasting to the end of 2021, and starting over again next year. I would like to suggest that you put on your running shoes and sprint to the end of the year. Although we have lots of holidays and distractions, that is no reason to give up on the goals or habits that you have been working on since the beginning of the year. We still have almost 3 full months.
In fact, if you are to continue, or start back up where you left off. You will be applying the “aggregation of marginal gains”. Remember? improving by just 1% on a regular basis, which can significantly improve your endgame. In this case, where you would like to be by the end of 2021. So just a little plug there for you to look at what you may have already been working to improve.
Now back to where we were. Looking at our current habits and evaluating how they might be helping or hindering us from hearing and heeding the promptings of the Lord.
So let’s start with habits that are helping us hear and heed. It’s important to note that this will be different for each of us because we all “hear” the Lord in different ways. For some it may come through thoughts or impressions. For others it may come through music. Some people have very vivid dreams. What matters is that you figure out your way and then work to get it to come to the surface more often. And we can do that through implementing specific small habits.
So just to share an example of how I have learned that the Lord speaks to me, I am going to tell you about a journey that I have been on for most of this year. Well at least since the end of March. And I’ve talked about it briefly in previous posts.
Most of you know, if you’ve followed me for any length of time, that I have Bipolar disorder. Which is a mental illness and mood disorder. So I can have extreme highs and extreme lows in my mental health. However, this can be controlled through various means. I happen to apply a variety of means or habits, to each and every day to try and stay on top of it, because it can spiral down (or up) very quickly if I’m not vigilant in this. And I’ve talked alot about the things that I do to prevent that.
But in this example I just want to share what’s been happening this year and how I’ve learned to lean on and heed the promptings of the Lord when it comes to surviving basically a mental health crisis.
One of the ways that I choose to control Bipolar is to use medication, which usually works quite well (once you find a good recipe). So why on Earth, you may ask, would I switch medications when what I had been using seemed to be working pretty well? That’s a good question and one that I reflect on almost daily. However, I did it at the advice of my psychiatrist whom I have grown to trust with my mental health. The reason we did this, and we’d been discussing it over several visits, is because I hadn’t been sleeping well for many months. And that as I’ve talked about before is a strong catalyst for catapulting me into a manic episode. And that thought just scares me to death. I have a lot of truama from my past manic episodes. So the thought of being able to eliminate that worry was very appealing. So in the Spring we decided it was a good time to try.
As you may have guessed, within a few weeks we learned that it was not working as expected, in fact, funnily enough, it had the opposite effect of what we were going for. I actually slept like a baby, which was so great! However over time, in the waking hours, I became like the energizer bunny. Which is a good and bad thing. I mean I was feeling great! But in my case, GREAT is not always a positive thing.
Long story short, it has been a rough year to say the least! I was able to get back on what I was previously doing well on. But sleeping became a problem again. Although it is slowly getting better. It’s a process, that’s what I keep telling myself.
But what I want to share is what I’ve learned through this process when it comes to hearing and heeding promptings. And it has alot to do with habits and the process of changing by just 1% each day.
Several times over the past months I have been able to learn more fully how the Lord speaks to me. But it has not come without work and tears, prayers and reflection.
And now is where habit stacking comes into play. At the beginning of the year, I decided to add scripture study to my daily morning routine. I have been reading the scriptures regularly for the past few years. But this year I was impressed to make it more of a “study”. So my habit stacking looks like this.
After I do what I already mentioned in the morning, I go straight to my supplements and take my medication (taking in my first water bottle of the day), to me that is one of the most important decisions of my day and that’s why it comes first! That then signals me to feed the cat because that is the most important thing for his day! Plus he whines and whines if I forget, haha.
My journaling pens are right by the cat food so I am reminded that it is time to journal. But once I set my books at the table, that is a signal to pray so I take a few minutes for that.
Another thing that I started doing this year that’s a bit of a harder habit for me to remember, is after my prayer I put on my earpods and listen to some gospel music while I journal. (Earpods are charging by the pens for journaling so that should be my signal, but sometimes I miss it). This will be important to note later on.
I then begin the journaling process which usually takes about 15 minutes. I journal in the morning because I can report how I slept, record happenings from the day before and also impressions seem to come better to me in the quiet stillness of the morning.
When I finish with that, I open up my scriptures and start where I left off. But instead of just reading, my goal was to study. So I am very conscientious about noticing words, phrases, or footnotes that stand out to me. It takes about an hour from start to finish after getting out of bed to complete my habit stacked routine.
But then I am on to my day and the habit stacking starts again. Workout, shower, work, lunch!
You get the idea. One thing leads to another and once you do them long enough they begin to become habits and can have a significant change on the trajectory of your life.
I shared all of that because it is through these habits that I have developed the ability to hear and understand the promptings and impressions from the Lord. It hasn’t come all at once and it continues to develop. But every day I am progressing toward a greater understanding of how the Lord speaks to me. Which has been very very important this year in helping to guide me through the rough waters that I have been experiencing with my mental health.
It truly has been such a journey. And I am one to say that there are no coincidences. Do I regret swiching medications? Some days the answer is absolutely! But most days I am grateful for what I have learned about myself spiritually, mentally and physically over this past year. I believe that one of the reasons that we were so intent on changing my medication was because I had prepared myself for the learning and growing process, through the habits that I had already become good at. There was a growing, stretching, learning that needed to take place in my life.
It all dawned on me, a few days ago, that the Lord has a very specific process or pattern that he uses when communicating directly to me. And ironically, it involves my habits in my morning routine.
Why are morning routines so important? We are taught through Elder Dunn’s talk, in a quote from Neal a Maxwell. “Each assertion of a righteous desire, each act of service, and each act of worship, however small and incremental, adds to our spiritual momentum.” Truly, it is by small, simple, and, yes, even just 1% that great things can be brought to pass.
We learn from Alma 37:6 …but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass;…
And 2 Nephi 28:30 For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom;
That sounds like a lesson in habit stacking and 1% gains to me!
So I’m getting a bit side tracked but let me just get to the point about the experience that I shared above of how it dawned on me how all of this came together.
Last week I had been having an especially difficult couple of days (down days). Those are the hard ones for me. I tend to rather enjoy the up days… but they are harder on the people who care about me, which is a good thing. On those few hard days, there was a point when I was crying out to the Lord to just make all the bad feelings stop… to help me to feel better, happy, content with who I am.
During those times, I tend to beg for my illness to be taken away. I tell Him how tired I am of carrying it. I am sure I am not the only one that feels this way at times. We all have heavy burdens that we carry.
But it was during my pleading that it happened. I was taught the pattern, or rather reminded, of the way the Lord speaks to me in a way that I can “hear”.
As I was pleading, I got the distinct feeling that I needed to find a certain song. )Most often music tends to calm me down and allow impressions to come.) But when I opened my phone to begin searching in my music app I noticed that the song that was next to play (of something I’d been listening to earlier) was flashing. Well that’s weird, I was thinking, it’s never done that before. But I continued looking for the song that I had in my mind, but for some reason that flashing made me think, hmmm, maybe I’m supposed to listen to that song. So I clicked on it.
It is a song called “Fragile” from Hilary Weeks Live All In . I hadn’t listened to the whole album yet and that’s the song I had left off on. I basically just sat there in awe of how incredibly omnipotent our Father in Heaven is. The words to that song just matched perfectly how I was feeling and somehow I just knew that the Lord knew exactly what I needed to hear. I needed Him to speak to me and let me know that He knew me, and He was very aware of what I was going through at that very moment.
If you are suffering, trying to put on a brave face every day for any reason, I suggest you go and listen to that song. It really was a calming balm to my soul.
But the really crazy thing is that I was so stunned and so sure that he was speaking to me that I kept listening, hoping the next song would have a message for me. Sure enough it did. The last 3 songs on her album are called Fragile, Someday down the road, and More Mistakes to make. I’ll link them in the show notes.
The reason those are significant is that in my pleading I felt like I had just made so many mistakes over the past several weeks and I felt worthless and like a failure. Which is pretty typical of someone who suffers with depression. When those 3 songs played in that order and it was just exactly what I needed to hear, I was thinking how? How does He know exactly what I need to hear? Of course the communication continued. And as I heard the words of each song I began to feel a little better, and the fog began to lift.
Next, I had the distinct impression that I needed to go study my scriptures. I felt an urgency that there was more for me to know at that moment.
In my mind I asked which book? Where should I search? And I heard the whisper, “the big book”! I knew immediately that it was my triple combination which holds all the books of scripture. Just a side note, I like to study from smaller versions so that I can mark up the wide margins. So I don’t typically go to “the big book”.
When this happens I almost always just randomly open my scriptures trusting that He knows where to lead me. Well, on the first try I got nothing, so I flipped a few pages and opened up to John chapter 10:1-15. The discourse on the good shepherd. Coincidence? I think not.
This is the one where Jesus is talking about how he knows His sheep and they know him.
But one passage caught me. And that is verse 7 And then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say until you I am the door of the sheep.
The door? What on Earth does that mean?
It had a footnote so I looked it up. John 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way the truth and the life…
It really felt like He was telling me, “look, I’ve got you! I know that you feel lost and broken in this moment, but I know how you feel and I’ve layed down my life for you! Don’t worry, you’re going to make more mistakes and more mistakes and it’s ok, because you are mine. Look to me… I am the way, the door.
So cool right?!
So what does this have to do with habit stacking and the 1%? Well, here’s my little interpretation or lesson that I learned. Take it for what you will but I do believe that the Lord was telling me, “here is how YOU receive my word.”
- Write down your impressions
I think that my habit stacking or my morning routine of Praying, listening to music, reading my scriptures and journaling my thoughts and impressions is the exact pattern that He uses to speak to me personally.
Now I don’t know why Hilary Weeks wrote those exact words in those songs and then put them in that specific order on her album. I’m sure there are millions of people that her songs have touched. But I do know that for me, it was just what I needed in the exact order that I needed it, from the exact source that I needed to hear it from. Jesus!
As I have looked back after having this particular experience, there have been so many times when I have received answers to specific deep questions or trials have been eased.
Do they always come that way? No, sometimes it is just an impression or just through the words of a song. But I did find that through my 1% change of developing a habit stacking routine has significantly improved my ability to #HearHim.
He is the way, the truth and the life my friends! And I encourage you to take a look at your own morning routine. Or an evening routine if that works better for you. It’s going to look a lot different than mine. Look at what you can do to change by 1%. And then work to be consistent with it. Pray to the Lord and ask Him how He speaks to you. He will find a way to show you.
As I said earlier, this routine has been in the making for several years. It didn’t just happen overnight. It happened in the right place, and at the right time for me to learn what I needed to learn. Line upon line, precept upon precept. 1% will indeed change your life!
Be sure and tune in next week my friends. I will be talking about how Satan, unfortunately, uses the 1% as well.
Choose hope, choose joy and choose to stay! Have a great week my friends! Talk to you all again soon!