Saturday, September 22, 2012

My Life Is Never Boring

Sometimes I feel like my life can be pretty boring and that I don't have a lot to do outside of school.  I realized tonight that is never the case.  Tomorrow along with going with my ward to a ward temple trip in the morning, I will have to go to Walmart and get my glasses adjusted because tonight I got into a small scuffle.  Let's just say that sometimes the Lord puts you in the right place at the right time so that you can be used to help the right person.  Long story short, my history in wrestling and cross country helped in assisting my roommate in keeping his brother safe by pinning him to the ground in the woods with me on top roping him in with a half nelson and my roommate standing on his hand until he calmed down.  There were some little tender mercies along the way in this story but it ended well and I came out with only a few little bruises and scrapes but I will need to get my glasses checked out tomorrow along with doing some stuff with my car.  But ya, what else would you think I would end up doing in Provo, Utah on a Friday night besides that?  I am going to need some sleep but I admit now that my life is really not that boring.  Who knew that this was what I was going to end up doing as roommate bonding time!  God works in the most interesting ways.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The City Lights

One of the things I do when I can't focus and I am a mess, I go on walks to talk things over and get centered again.  My favorite time or maybe it is the only time I can do this is at nights.  You can feel like you are the only one there and the rest of the world has gone to sleep.  Still it is amazing that as you walk around even late at night that the city lights give off this aura that dims the night sky.  The world is able to keep us from seeing the light of heaven so to speak.  Either way, it was one of those things that when I get to walk around I get to thinking and begin to really listen.  Sometimes we just need that time to listen right.  And learning to listen - That takes a lot of discipline.  It isn't the person that we were or even are but the person we are striving to become that really matters.    But it does take listening to that Spirit inside each of us that makes the difference.

Prayer and Fasting

So I have been doing better lately than I have in the recent past but some days just seem to be harder than others.  I try not to entertain thoughts of discouragement and doubt but occasionally they linger a bit longer than I want them to.  They are feelings of why should we keep going, how much longer can you continue like this, or what is the point in your plans when so much rides on the decisions of others.  It is just a feeling that comes out of nowhere that as you stand on the street corner you wonder what it would be like if you just walked out into the middle of the intersection and laid down... Not carrying about the outcome but just wanting to close your eyes and be able to not feel any more.  I have felt that way at times but I know that would only be the easy way out.  I don't know if these feelings come from doing things that bring back memories of times when we were together and doing those same things now that we are apart but it tears me up inside to a point that I can not really describe but the pain and the loneliness is so immense.

I know that God has a plan for me and I know that the trials we are asked to face don't last forever.  If I endure them and endure them well than hopefully the lesson that I need to learn or the attributes I needed to gain will come quickly and if not then I only hope and pray that God will give me the strength and the patience that is required of me.  I always hope for the happy ending and maybe it will come in time but right now I am in a lot of pain and I am doing everything I can to hold it all together.  As I was walking home from campus today, I just ran my hands through my hair until they were behind my head and as I tilted my head back and closed my eyes, I felt the sun on my face and the tears as they began to slide down my cheeks.  I prayed.  I prayed that God would let me come to Him.  That He would be there to embrace me and hold me as I felt my heat and my spirit break just a little more inside of me.

The only thing I can really do is try to focus on the things I can control.  Right now I am working on my schooling, making time to study my scriptures and attending the temple, but whenever an opportunity arises where I can help someone else or I can see the needs of others I do not hesitate to come to their aid.  I am not trying to downplay my situation or pretend that right now I don't feel broken and at times compelled to be humble or even feel less than I am, but I know by looking outward that the Atonement will have greater effect in my life and as I obey the commandments I will find that peace that surpasses all understanding.  God's love is so amazing and so many times I feel like I am not worthy of it or even deserve to be heard or noticed by a perfect and holy Creator but I guess that is why it is so wonderful.  I am grateful for the sacrifices that have been made in my behalf and I hope that I can live up to the faith that my Father in Heaven has in me.  I only hope that I will see myself as He does and that clarity will once again return to me in helping me understand and see what my future holds.  At those times when I am breaking or silently crying out in excruciating pain, I know that "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."  I have come too far to give up now but I am also not so prideful to realize that I can do it or have done it on my own.  So if you are reading this, please... Please... Keep me in your hearts and in your prayers.  And also, please pray and fast for Tatiana.

An Eternal Perspective

Typically I do better in writing what I have learned or feel but in continuation of my last post, I think it would be best just to provide you with my notes on our lectures about how to keep an eternal perspective and what an eternal perspective means.  It may feel a bit lazy for me but I don't have time to do much else with so much on my plate and so much more on my mind:

God has been there in the past and He will be there in the future… Learn and grow and have faith in the future that someday you will return to live with God and be eternally happy with your family.  If we lose this perspective, life becomes a roller coaster.

Elder Scott said that when we have an eternal perspective that we make choices based on right or wrong and when we have lost that perspective we make choice on circumstance and what we desire now.  If chose to make decisions under circumstance we will eventually make serious sin.  They have no direction or foundation that comes from living the Gospel.  Do not look at others and their successes because many times when troubles come, their character shows and many will crumble if they are not centered on Christ.

Many times we are asked to set aside what we desire now for a greater blessing in the future.

"He doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world; for he loveth the world, even that he layeth down his own life that he may draw all men unto him.  Wherefore, he commandeth none that they shall not partake of his salvation" (2 Nephi 26:24)... Salvation is a process as is happiness… This isn't tied to an event or a person because we are likely to lose those in time… Lord will not perform anything that is not for our benefit.  Happiness can still be found in opposition.  It is not one or the other.  Our depth of love is also associated with the amount of the sense of loss that we can feel if that person is lost physically or spiritually.  As we fall short of our potential we do not have a fullness of the Spirit of the Lord or of happiness.

"Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man.  And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself" (2 Nephi 2:27)… Opposing forces, choice, happiness versus sorrow and misery… God has given us everything we need to be happy… God knows what is expedient for your happiness and it has been given to you… Look for those things and realize that every little thing doesn't need to go right… In relationships, we need to see that there are many good things and our lives don't need to be perfect nor our spouse needs to perfectly meet our needs… Expand your happiness… The Savior is expedient for us to overcome the struggles or afflictions we face… We are not islands but God has given us many resources or many people in our lives to help us… Faith in God's plan and understanding that God knows who we really are… Trials help build us through opposition by choosing God's plan

"And Christ hath said: If ye will have faith in me ye shall have power to whatsoever thing is expedient in me" (Moroni 7:33).
The Lord provides patterns for us so we can learn to maintain an eternal perspective.  Patterns are there so we will not be deceived.  The greatest pattern for us to find success is The Plan of Salvation.  You can't follow telestial patterns and get celestial results.  Patterns provide us to receive things with exactness.  Patterns produce consistency.  Greatness is measured day in and day out.  Patterns keep us safe… Keep your covenants and you will be safe.  Patterns produce confidence.  It doesn't matter what level of activity we are in the church or our family… We follow the patterns set by the Lord and we can be confident that we are doing our best.

When you don't have to be thinking about anything else, where does your mind go?  You need to find something that you love so much that when you don't have to think about anything your mind goes to that thought.  An eternal perspective starts in our minds.  Are your thoughts mostly about yourself or others?  Are your thoughts mostly positive or negative?  Whichever kind it is, your thoughts will continue to be that kind.  Become positive and look for the good.  Are your thoughts mostly on things temporal or things of eternity?  Look outward, look for the good, look for God.

What grudges do you bear?  What excuses do you cling to?  How do we face the unknown if we don't have an eternal perspective?  It is paralyzing and challenging if we don't have that perspective.  We always want to see the end from the beginning… Ether 6:12  We must learn to watch to the edge of the light and take a few steps into the darkness and then the light will move just ahead of us again.  Faith will help us move forward.

GPS… Longitude, latitude, altitude… As long as you have the destination and you follow the directions given to you, you will arrive there.  We need to stay connected to the doctrines past, present, and future.  We have moments where we can see ourselves in past, present, future all at the same time.  An eternal perspective connects all of those three.  Goals... Priorities... Standards…

Goals bring purpose and direction because without them time will just float by and they are stuck in mire of time.  We need to progress to perfection and that requires goals and constant self-evaluation to move ourselves forward.  Practicing helps us know where we are in our short term goals and determine our progress.  But as we set those goals we need to keep the end in mind.  The means are just as important as the end goal.  Patience...

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Foundation of Friendship

I have an absolutely amazing LDS Marriage and Family Relations professor this semester who has been a friend out of a class and a source of inspiration for me throughout the semester.  If anyone wants to take a class from him, I would highly suggest it and his name is Dr. Kent R. Brooks.  Anyways, this last week we were drawing comparisons in class between our relationships and portions of the Plan of Salvation: Pre-Mortal Life and the Creation.

The Plan of Salvation, or similarly called in the church The Great Plan of Happiness (click on it because it is a link to an explanation) is in the most basic form God's plan for all of us.  It helps us realize the answers to questions of where did we come from, where do we go after this life, and what is the purpose of life?  It helps gives us direction of how we can become truly happy.  Two major portions of this plan is the pre-mortal life and the creation.

Before we are born, we believe that we lived with God as His spirit children.  In his presence we prepared ourselves for our time here on earth.  We made choices and gained experience and knowledge but we eventually reached a point where we could no longer progress.  We progressed as far as we could go without receiving a physical body and we needed that body to allow for additional happiness.  Our happiness is linked to our progression.  And some of us made more correct choices than others and were more prepared for what was to come here in mortality.  So when it comes to relationships, we have a lot of preparation that we can do. Pre-mortality can be seen as our preparation that we need to do before we arrive at the next stage of life... meeting and recognizing a future spouse.  In our religion, we also believe that the greatest degree of happiness in this life and in the eternities comes from the family and a marriage that is centered on the gospel.  This kind of marriage is permanent and eternal and is based on obedience, trust, and a fullness of joy.  Each blessing is tied to the other: Obedience, Trust, and Joy.  The greatest compliment someone can give you is not to say that "I love you" but that "I trust you."

When we consider the creation, God's purpose was to give us the opportunity to find lasting happiness and our eternal progression.  If we know that the purpose was again for us to progress in families and that we can find the greatest happiness through a marriage centered on the gospel, then we can look at courtship as the creation of a happy marriage.  Courtship helps us find compatibility, is a source of fun and an expression of social skills, but the end goal ought to be marriage.  With this perspective in mind, we make certain choices on how we date, who we date, and what we do when we date.  Creation took a long time so our preparation could take time.  There was a certain order to the creation and there was a spiritual side that took place before the physical.  Talking, communication, forgiving, friendship before kissing, making out, holding hands... certain things have to be created before others in a relationship.  The order that he suggested came from a talk by Bruce C. Hafen called "The Gospel and Romantic Love."  This order was: Friendship... Time... Understanding... Respect... Restraint... and Romance.

Marriage is long so it is best to have a strong foundation of friendship.  A good friend can help us grow because they can tell us to grow since they have our backs.  We are more likely to forgive a good friend than a stranger.  We are loyal to our friends.  Timing is important for establishing a relationship.  There is such a thing as too long and too short.  The Spirit may prompt us to take the next step and if we continue to ignore that prompting the Spirit will leave us.  Time is relative but the important part is the quality of the time. Listening and understanding are inseparable. Understanding both what your partner's needs and perspectives are along with our own.  Much of the understanding we will receive about someone will come by the Spirit.  This is why we need to apply both our hearts and our minds to understanding not only what is happening but the background of someone and their past because that also affects their decisions.  The important part is that we have to care enough to understand.  We first have to understand our similarities and then work out our differences in an attitude of, "Help me understand."  We can connect with others and build that understanding is through the Atonement by our own suffering and repentance process. Respect has a delicate balance between seeing what people struggle with and what they overcome.  There are still so many more things that I learned and so much that I will continue to learn about looking at life with this kind of eternal perspective.

When we have an eternal perspective that we make choices based on right or wrong and when we have lost that perspective we make choice on circumstance and what we desire now.  If we choose to make decisions under circumstance we will eventually make serious sin.  People who do this have no direction or foundation that comes from living the Gospel.  Do not look at others and their successes because many times when troubles come, their character shows and many will crumble if they are not centered on Christ.  Many times we are asked to set aside what we desire now for a greater blessing in the future.  My next post is going to continue this idea of an eternal perspective and how it can help us personally and in our relationships...

Love and Persecution

One of the things I have been doing a lot more is spending time at the temple.  The temple is a place for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to make, keep, and remember special covenants or promises that they make with God.  It is a place where we can be renewed spiritually with other members who have also chosen to live the commandments and remain worthy.  We all make mistakes and lose our way sometimes but after sincere repentance we can once again go to the temple which helps us recenter and find the direction that we need to go.

I have received a lot of direction recently as I have come with lots of questions.  Some of the things in my life that I thought were certain and understood, I realized have become shaken because of my choices and the choices of others so I am continually going back to the temple to find ways that I can improve and hopefully once again be given those same blessings if the time for them has not yet passed.  It has been a truly enlightening experience and the things I have been learning are truly profound.

 I determined that God has a lot left for me to do and improve.  The areas in which I am weak need strengthening and I can not forget them.  Some of those areas are needing to be more strong include holding on true to my standards and covenants, remembering them and remembering the Lord, and that I need to unconditionally love and support others instead of always judging their actions.  I need to trust people and have faith in them and in God's ways.  If people I love are suffering, I have to accept that God isn't going to give them more than they can handle and I have to believe that they will get through it.  I have to respect the choices and agency of others.  I have to forgive and forget the mistakes while learning from the lessons and loving all those involved.

I was talking to a friend recently about fears and the things that we deal with in life.  One of the fears they had seemed so random and inconsequential but when they took the time to realize what else was happening at the same point in their life when that fear or problem started, they realized it wasn't so random after all.  We often react to what other people say and do.  I remember as a child I was very small and people told me that I couldn't do things because of my size.  Not that their intentions were to be hurtful or restraining but probably were out of love and wanting to protect me.  However, a large portion of my life I thought that because of my size I couldn't do certain things.  I wasn't very big so I didn't feel like I was very attractive to girls or later, women.  I basically had this sense of inadequacy and feeling of being doomed to failure.  And once I realized that this was the source of a lot of my pain and why I allowed myself to fall short, I was able to change.  "An idea. Resilient, highly contagious. Once an idea has taken hold of the brain it's almost impossible to eradicate. An idea that is fully formed, fully understood. That sticks, right in there somewhere."

We all do this unintentionally.  Think about people nowadays... We tell our children how skilled and talented they are, that they earned things, how beautiful they are... And then we are surprised when they get older and feel like they deserve things and that the world is going to judge them and their worth by their outward appearance.  We have to instill the ideas or principles of work, faith, and patience.  We need to teach our children that they can achieve the impossible through setting and accomplishing little goals along the way.  We need to teach them self-worth and self-reliance by loving them and allowing them to make their own decisions and being accountable and understanding the consequences.

Sometimes we believe in a life of extremes... we must always be happy or life is always going to be bad.  However life and the trials we face are like the rain.  The rain will not fall forever.  And even though the fall is long and sometimes destructive or painful, it allows for a new beginning and provides life and growth.  With time, there is a lot of good that comes from something that in the moment feels like it is the end of the world.  Just like light always chases away the darkness, a rainbow will follow the rain.  There is hope and there is joy around the corner and it is from this contrast of happiness and sadness that we are able to appreciate the blessings and lessons that God gives us.

I guess what I am trying to say is that many times the hardest thing we have to do is sift through all the ideas in our heads of who we are and what we can or cannot do and determine for ourselves what our future can be.  No one else will define our choices except ourselves and I know that if we are willing to turn that over to God and accept His will, we can become truly happy.  "Never, never, never give up."

Art & Engineering

This weekend I was out inviting a lot of people to go hike Mount Timpanogos with me and my sister and it just so happened that no one actually came except the two of us but one person I invited asked me why I wanted to go do this when I had already done it before.  Why go out into nature and hike in the middle of the night to go see a sunrise from the top of a mountain?  Obviously this person didn't know me very well so I decided to try and explain in ways that both of us could understand: art and engineering.

"Nature is God's creation... Art and engineering in perfect balance... Everything has a purpose and to see things the way that they were when they were originally created can have a huge spiritual uplifting influence.  And the whole aspect of physically removing yourself from the world and just jumping in with both feet... the physical exertion is just the sacrifice you pay to feel and see things that most people will see in a picture or from their couch but won't ever experience.

"It is more than just a hike... It is almost escapism but you aren't escaping as much as you are returning to your roots. The perfect design is the engineering and the science that I can see in the world around me. The art is shown with the balance of that with the rest of my senses, the taste of the crisp morning air, the smell of the trees and the mountains, the world all around you that make a perfect symphony of sounds... the color of the sun on the mountains that changes as it continues to rise in the sky."

And honestly, the hike was everything that I described.  The weather was perfect, the company was fantastic, and in the end it was everything that I needed.