Find your light again

Today we are talking about light. And boy, don’t we all need a little light in our life these days?

The past couple of months have been super challenging.  I know that I am not the only one that feels this way.  It’s ironic because back in February before all the craziness started, I felt better physically, mentally and emotionally than I had in a very long time.  Stronger.  More equipped to fight off the adversary.  More confident, after struggling for so long to regain what I felt being diagnosed Bipolar, had taken away from me.  Courage to face the challenges that would come my way.  Little did I know what myself and others would be facing over the next several months.

Life has a way of throwing curve balls at you, doesn’t it?  I don’t know if there is anything that could have prepared us for what we have all been through over the past several months.   And on top of the many circumstances that each of us have faced together, many have had to face the normal day to day challenges and inevitable trials that unexpectedly would come our way in our so-called “normal” pre-Covid life.

As I have been struggling, I have been searching for ways to pull myself out of the funk that I have been in. To find the light.  Sometimes, in this ever darkening world it gets harder and harder to find the light.  We start to ask questions such as who am I?  Where am I going?  What is my mission?  Do I even have a mission?  Do I matter?  What is my purpose in this life?  These are  questions that we ask ourselves in times of darkness.  Or when we are really struggling to find the light.  The light of Christ.  The light within ourselves.  The light of others.  So how do we answer the tough questions?  How do we find the light? 

Well wouldn’t you know it as I have been pondering these questions, especially the last couple of weeks, God came through with something that I needed.  And maybe you need it too so I thought I’d share.  It’s important for me to say that it didn’t just happen.  I have been praying for days to feel better and re-gain that strength and faith and courage that I had just a few short months ago.  As I have mentioned many, many times, we can’t just wait for it, we have to look for it and ask for it.  

In Matthew 7:7-8

7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:

8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

 And so I thought I would just put that to the test, as I have on many occasions.  It is such a great promise from the Lord.  And the Lord will never let us down.

And so I asked Him.  Where do I find the light?  And when I asked I realized that the first step was exactly what I was doing.  To look to the light for answers.  

In John 8:12 we read 

Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

Jesus Christ our Savior is the ultimate example of light and hope.  He is the giver of light, the light of the world.  So merely by looking to Him and asking Him for help will bring a measure of light that can’t be found elsewhere in this world. How reassuring is that?  He is our exemplar and our strength.  He is the “light in the darkness”.  

From the words of the Psalm 27:1 The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? 

When we choose to follow him and make Him the center of our lives we are choosing to become like Him. Our fears will be replaced by courage and we will have a desire to reflect that light in our own lives.

In a talk given in October of 2015 by President Thomas S. Monson, says, “To each of you, I say that you are a son or daughter of our Heavenly Father. You have come from His presence to live on this earth for a season, to reflect the Savior’s teachings, and bravely let your light shine for all to see.”

Upon reading that, immediately a quote came to mind that I used to repeat over and over when I was practicing daily affirmations (which is probably a practice I should return to.  It can be so helpful.), it goes like this  “There are two ways of spreading light, to be the candle, or the mirror that reflects it!” 

How do we find the light again?  The way is simple, we can find our light again by looking to the Savior for guidance and peace and by following the path he marked for us. 

President Monson goes on to say “Life is perfect for none of us, and at times the challenges and difficulties we face may become overwhelming, causing our light to dim.  However, with help from our Heavenly Father, coupled with the support from others, we can regain that light which will illuminate our own path once again and provide the light others may need.”

So then I thought about the mirror or reflection, and I was reminded of the scripture from the sermon on the mount.  

Matthew 5:16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in Heaven.

And then in 1 Timothy 4:12 … but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.

So in essence we draw our strength, our light, from the Savior and then reflect that light to those around us.  And you know the crazy thing about that is that when we do that, the light comes back to us.  It’s like a boomerang effect.  The more you throw out light, love, peace, kindness, the more you are filled with it yourself.

I have thought about this phenomenon and also of the opposite which would come from the adversary.  Satan would have us remain in isolation, loneliness, and darkness.  Questioning ourselves and what our purpose is.  He would love nothing more than to have us succumb to depression, to anger, to bitterness.  But that’s not who we were meant to be.  That’s not who we were created to be.

We were created to be lovers of light.  Lovers of “The Light” our Savior who completed the ultimate sacrifice for us.  Who suffered for all the hurt, pain, and loneliness that we feel.  We were created to be givers of light!  Our purpose is unquestionable in my opinion. Our purpose as believers of our Savior is to bring that light of Christ to others.  That’s it, that’s our purpose

Now our mission or our calling is different and that’s a whole other show. So we can talk about that another time.

But, our purpose is to remember that there are two ways of spreading that light, the light of Christ.  To be the candle, OR the mirror that reflects it.  That’s the boomerang effect.  We can BE the light to others.  But, we can also REFLECT that light that is given to us through others’ light.  It’s so cool how that works!  Whatever you send out into the world be it love, kindness, peace, it is going to bounce back to you!

Unfortunately, the boomerang effect can work in the opposite way as well concerning darkness.  If we dish it out negativity, ill will, anger, and contention, we get it back. That is not God’s way.   There is only one place that all of that comes from.  And that is Satan.  He would have us believe that evil is good, and good is evil.  Isaiah warns of this when he says in Isaiah 5:20

20 ¶ Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!

But let’s not dwell on this because it truly is not God’s way.

President Monson went on to say. “each of us came to earth having been given the light of Christ. As we follow the example of the Savior and live as He lived and as He taught, that light will burn within us and will light the way for others.” 

Now I am going to get a little vulnerable and tell you an experience about how letting your light shine affected me in such a big, big way.

When I went through my divorce 10 yrs ago, I really struggled.  It was a terrible time trying to figure out what to do and where to go next. And I was bitter.  I’m not going to lie about that.  I had friends that I felt abandoned me when I needed them most.  But I tried really hard not to let that influence my decisions, but it truly did shake my faith.  It was one of the reasons that I walked away from my church.  I felt that if that was the way members of my faith acted when someone needed them most, then that wasn’t something I wanted to be a part of.  I felt that the people in the church should be that reflection of what we preached about each week.  Of our Savior.  And I knew that my Savior would never treat me that way.  I moved out of the area and subsequently went to a different building of the same faith.  I was welcomed there but I still felt that touch of judgement when people learned of my divorce.  But I kept going because I knew my Savior didn’t feel that way about me.  I tried so hard to stay close to my Savior.  But it got harder and harder as I felt more and more ostresized.  Looking back, it wasn’t so much their fault as it was mine.  I could have been more forgiving of the way that I was treated.  But I was hurting and sometimes when people are hurting they don’t look at things in a logical way.  

Any way, When I moved to Nashville in 2012 there was a  certain woman who truly stood out as a light for me from the Savior. She lived in my neighborhood and  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 knew I could reach 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. When I suffered through my two back to back times in the hospital she was there to help pick up the pieces.  She probably didn’t even know how much her small acts of kindness changed my heart.  Many, many times I remember her being so friendly and kind and doing her best to make me feel welcome and loved.  She was such a light in my life when I really, really needed it.

Looking back, I can’t blame those friends for not reaching out.  Sometimes we encounter awkward situations where we just don’t know how to respond or what to do.  But what I have learned through this experience is that it really doesn’t matter how small your gesture.  A phone call, a text, a smile, a hug can all go a very long way when someone is going through something difficult and just needs to see a tiny sliver of light.

I can speak from experience when I say it’s not an easy process to find your way back to the light. To trust in and look to the Savior. It takes time, it takes faith, it takes healing.  But I promise you that if you can do that, if you can put your trust in Him, He will bring the light back into your life again.  Don’t give up.  Don’t give in.  There’s always a way!

As your faith in Jesus Christ grows and you glean from his example the light can’t help but shine through you.  You will be able to help not only yourself, but others who “labour and are heavy laden” to find rest in Him and to find peace. And especially to find that light in themselves again!  Because oftentimes that is where the real struggle is. 

So…turn to the Savior!  Find your light again.  And then ask yourself, what kind of mark will I make in the lives of those around me?  What kind of light will I hold up?  What kind of reflection will I be? 

Put some real thought into those questions.  Journal about them.  Write down your journey towards finding your light.  And then, remember all of this as we approach this season of giving and of love when we remember the birth of our Savior.  When we come upon a new year and take time to re-evaluate our lives and our priorities.  What kinds of changes can you make that will help you to rekindle that light in yourself? And then how can you use that as a boomerang effect so you continue receiving more light? Because if you can do that, I promise you that you will have an endless supply of light in your lamp when the time comes that you really need it.  And you will have ample to share with others along the way!

XO Wendy

Things aren’t always as they seem.

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Have you ever looked at someone that you admire and thought, geez, I wish I could be more like her/him.  They have it all, a great job, great family, great spouse,  their kids are perfect, they always seem happy.  And look at that home…. it’s ALWAYS clean.  And so and so on.

You think to yourself, I can’t even keep the laundry folded (or maybe even washed) and dinner on the table. Wait, I can’t even fix dinner because I haven’t had any time to go the store in the last couple of weeks.  And pretty soon you’ve talked yourself into such a personal pity party that you’re fighting with your imperfect kids.  And you’re short with your husband and friends.  You may be fuming about work projects or situations where you just felt that things were dumped on you, or just not fair.

Does any of that sound familiar to you?  Me too!  We’re so good at finding all of our flaws and imperfections and comparing them to the strengths of others whom you admire.  But the truth is, things aren’t always as they seem!  In fact rarely are they as they look on the outside.  EVERYBODY (at least in my past 51 years of experience) is going through something hard.  And to a certain degree, we all try to put on the face that nothing is wrong everything is just rosy!  It’s time for us to get real, and quit the fake.  That is quite the buzz word at the moment isn’t it?  Just quit the fake, right? But it’s not really that easy to do.

Let me ask you a couple of questions that I really want you to ponder.  Really ponder.

1.What is it about my life that is sooo horrible that I can’t help but look at others and want what they have?  And

2. What good is there in my life right now that others might see as optimal (the blessings you have in your life)?

Sometimes we are so focused on what we don’t have that we forget to be grateful and celebrate the things that we do have!

I personally think that is why it is so important to keep some sort of daily gratitude journal!  It reminds you to be aware and mindful of all the little things that are good in your life.  It helps you to focus on the positives.

One of the the things in my own life that I could really make into a horrible thing, I can make it a negative or a positive, is the fact that I have Bipolar disorder.  It would be very easy for me to look at all the negative that comes along with this diagnosis.  And it does get the best of me at times.  But one of the ways that I try to make it into a positive is to try and help others who may be struggling with similar issues.  I am always amazed that just by sharing what I go through, it always touches someone in some way.  Sometimes it is in a big way and other times it is as small as them recognizing that they are not alone.  They don’t always reach out and let me know, but when they do, it always makes me feel like what I am struggling with is a blessing that I can use to help others in their own lives.

And lastly, looking at and focusing on the good in your life is a practice that is so easy to pick up and really doesn’t take much.  Try recording just 3 things daily that are good in your life that day, that moment.  It doesn’t have to be anything big.  Sometimes for me it is just the fact that I am here on this Earth living another day!

So with that said, go out and look for the good today!  Remember that things aren’t always as they seem when viewing what others are putting out there.  And know that you are never alone!  I see you!

 

Look for the light!

Sometimes, in this ever darkening world it gets harder and harder to find the light.  Who am I?  Where am I going?  What is my mission?  Do I even have a mission? Do I matter?  What is my purpose in this life?  These are  questions that we ask ourselves in times of darkness.  Or when we are really struggling to find the light.  The light of Christ.  The light within ourselves.  The light of others.  So how do we answer the tough questions?  How do we find the light?

I would like to say there is an easy answer! And here is exactly where you go to find it!  Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending how you look at it) we have to do the work to find the answers to those questions.  And it’s HARD work!  Many of us may not be willing to put in that kind of work to find the answers to these, and many other questions that plague us.  Many more will find the easy way out by placing the responsibility on others to change or conform to what their belief is.  I guess some could argue that that is what I am doing.   But what I am doing, is trying to get you to look at your life and what questions you have and then do the HARD work to find the answers to those questions.  Find out for yourself!

When I wrote What Being Away from the Church Taught Me, I was in the mind frame that if there was someone else going through what I went through and they could be helped by it, then it was worth sharing.  I still feel that way and I have had many experiences that have led me to believe that we all have something to share that will help each other on this path in life.  The struggle is real, and its HARD!  But we don’t have to do this life alone.  In fact we are not meant to.  Although there are some things that we do have to do alone, like finding the answers to the questions that we struggle with.  What I am asking you to do is: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He will direct thy paths.”  Proverbs 3:5

Sometimes, when we do this, we are directed into the path of others that can help us find those answers.  In fact, many times people will be placed in our path to help us open doors and find new and better ways of looking at our questions.  A new perspective can open our minds and fill us with knowledge that we hadn’t previously considered.   We will find that there are new ways of finding the answers to those questions.  We are never completely alone in our quest!

I hear and read all the time that my church is full of judgement, and self righteous people that don’t understand that what they are saying or the way that they treat people is keeping them from coming back to church or joining the church to begin with.  Believe me when I say that there was a time when I felt that way myself.  I remember at one point (maybe on several occasions) saying “Shouldn’t the people be a reflection of the Church?  And if that is what the Church is then I don’t want to be a part of it.”,  But you know what that was?  It was an excuse.  It was an excuse for me to take the easy road.  Why?  Because the other road is much HARDER!  It takes effort and grit to really ask the tough questions and then find a way to get answers.

I’m not saying that there is not judgement in the church, there is plenty of it… way too much, in my opinion.  I have often said, I believe that will be the first question we get asked when we face Christ, “Did you love others, as I have loved you?”  For this is the second great commandment:

 “And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. (Matt. 22:39; see also Gal. 5:14).

BUT….. That does not mean that we can let the judgement of others keep us from finding the light. Or, keep us from doing the work to find the answers for ourselves to the questions that we have.   We have to dig deep!  We have to take responsibility for our own life.  It’s the only way to truly find peace and happiness on this Earth.

In the Bible,  James 1:5-6 It reads:  If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.

So there is our answer!  That is how we can find the answers to the seemingly impossible questions.  God will not let us down!  But we need to do the work!  Praying once may not do it.  Praying for an answer a 100 times may not do it.   But if you continue to pray, study, ponder, search, it will happen!  I can promise you this because it’s happened to me. And many people that I know and love.

Certainly, God is not just going to pour down answers upon your head of everything you’ve ever questioned.  You have to do the HARD work!  But with each question, that you use this above process to find answers with, I promise you, it will work!

The other part that often gets overlooked is that we have to have intent to do something with the answer that we’ve been given.  We have to have “faith unwavering”! Knowledge always comes with responsibility.  We have to acknowledge that when we find the answer, we will do something with it.  Faith precedes action! We can’t just sit back, tap our heads, and say hmmm.  Sometimes it requires a major lifestyle change.  Or an extreme reversal in thought process. So the HARD work comes in again here!

It is not easy!  I’ll say that a hundred times because it’s true, it’s not easy!  Especially when sometimes it feels as though we are just trying to keep our heads above the water to keep from drowning in all the information that is thrown at us from every angle.  But if we are diligent in working towards finding the answers, doors will be opened, hearts will be changed and miracles can happen in our lives!

The Savior teaches that He is the light that “enlighteneth your eyes,” “quickeneth your understandings,” and “giveth life to all things.” The Light of Christ will help us see ourselves and others through the Savior’s eyes.

President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Russell M. Nelson, said “… the spirit that dwells within each of us can be enriched with enthusiasm and enlightened by the Almighty. The process of spiritual growth is revealed in the scriptures: “Intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence; wisdom receiveth wisdom; truth embraceth truth; … [and] light cleaveth unto light. ”  That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.” (See Doctrine and Covenants 50:24 ,also Doctrine and Covenants 88:40)

I can’t imagine what truths await us if we put in the HARD work to find our answers.  And I hope that with those answers comes a greater determination to move forward, onward and upward.  We owe it to ourselves to take action!  He loves us and wants us to succeed!  Of that I am confident!

XO Wendy