Friday, March 21, 2014

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Growing through adversity

This is a copy of a talk I gave in sacrament 4/2012. Some people have asked to have it. I guess I have you all fooled that I know what I'm talking about or something, but it is.

Only three short weeks ago I took my son to his soccer game.  Clean, bright uniforms glistened in the warm sun. The other kids on his team were happy, cheerful and full of energy. The game started and the day was looking promising. As we all know, here in Utah, the weather can change instantly. Coming into the half we were losing 1-2, but for our team, 1 is a pretty good number.  The whistle blew and the teams ran to their coaches. The referee placed the ball in the middle of the field. Then the winds began to blow. With no one touching the ball it began to roll faster then it ever had. A few kids began to chase it down but failed. After a passerby stopped it, the boys had to cling onto it so that it didn’t start rolling again.  The game resumed. The wind would have been a welcomed teammate if it hadn’t been blowing the opposite direction of our goal. Try as they might the kids could not kick the ball hard enough to cut through the powerful wind. However, the opposing team only had to get it lined up to their goal and just watch as the wind took over and scored for them. The seconds began to tick away slower and slower. Those eight year old boys were feeling the effects of running into the wind, their shirts filling up with air behind them and holding them back like a parachute. They were weary, they were giving up. The dust blew hard in their faces, making it almost impossible to look up towards our goal. The other teams goalie even stopped guarding our net and began leaning into the wind just letting it hold him up. From the sidelines the parents shouted encouraging things, only to be drowned out by the wind. We knew the odds were not in our favor. This was obviously not a fair game. We all kept asking the same thing. “When will they call this game? When will this be over?” I then took out my phone and sent the following revelation to my husband…”Score1-7, This game would make the best object lesson for a talk on adversity.”
Today, I was asked to talk about adversity.  In particular, how can we grow from adversity and trials? From my own life, I have benefitted from my trials by first strengthening my understanding of why we have trials. This perspective has given me greater strength during adversity as well as being able to more fully learn the lessons that my Father in Heaven would have me learn. I would like to share with you a few of these thoughts.
We never know WHEN adversity will come. It may come quietly, piece by piece and rest on our shoulders until we finally realize that we are carrying a load to heavy. It may strike out of nowhere, suddenly throwing our life into a dizzy tailspin. 
We never know HOW adversity will come. It may be brought on by things out of our control, bad choices made by someone close to us, a natural disaster or shattered dream that did not come true despite our every effort. It may come of our own doing. A small and easily justifiable sin that went unnoticed until it grew too large to ignore any longer.
One thing is very clear; no one is free from adversity. It is a fundamental part of our earthy existence.
While Joseph Smith was imprisoned in Liberty jail he received revelation on adversity. I often refer to this short chapter, Doctrine in Covenants 122 verse 7, the Lord describes to Joseph Smith what could likely be his worst-case scenario…
And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee,
But then he adds these words of comfort…
know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.
I have heard many words used in place of the word trial (i.e. adversity, tribulation). I think the word the Lord chooses to use here “experience” is interesting and makes me recall a time earlier in our marriage. After many sacrifices and pain staking years in school, Ryan finally graduated. Not only did he have his law degree he also had his MBA. With so much education under his belt we were very optimistic about his career opportunites ahead. He had a handful of interviews with great companies and firms. One by one the calls we had expected came in, but they did not bare the news we wanted to hear. Everyone returned with the same underlying statement. “You have a great amount of education but you lack experience.”
These Employers understood that even with vast amounts of knowledge, there are key elements and skills to their occupation that can only be acquired through experience. Isn’t is understandable then that while we are here on earth as Gods and Goddesses in training, that there are crucial  attributes we will only be able to obtain  through experience? We can read our scriptures, attend seminary and institute, participate in study groups and become wonderful scriptorians. However, without experience or trials we cannot fully develop the Godlike attributes becoming a deity will require. Wouldn’t it be ashamed if we got that far in the interview process and then were told that we had enough knowledge but lacked experience.
Brothers and Sisters, we are so blessed. We have a Father in Heaven who knows and is actively aware of us. He knows exactly what individual experiences we each need to reach our full potential. I like renaming my trials, experiences. It helps me to keep an eternal and more optimistic perspective. It is looking at your situation with your focus on learning something new about yourself.

 At this stage of my life I am having a very unique experience, one I never dreamt I would have. I am raising not only a large family but two very special boys who have come to us from extremely complicated and dire circumstances. My children may be shocked to hear this but I must profess, I do not know what I’m doing! Not only have I never been a wife or a mother before, I’ve never dealt with the unique and complicated issues I have to deal with now. There are no clear-cut answers to most of our issues. We often do not fit in any box and I’m forced to start from scratch. I have few people who understand my families unique issues. At times this seems like too much. The load seems too heavy to bare.  Sometimes I get swallowed up whole in the enormity of this task I have been asked to undertake. I have cried deep into the night, sure that my motherly resume was mixed up with someone much more capable then me.  I was always taught that the Lord would never give you any trial too large to handle. In the past year I have learned that is not true. He gives us many trials too heavy and too large to even try to manage…Alone. We must learn to let Him help us or look like idiots trying to do it ourselves. I laughed when I brought a dresser from IKEA and took out the instruction. No words were written to describe the steps of assembling it, only pictures. The first picture was a stick man trying to do it alone. He had a frustrated face drawn on him and the dresser had broken. A big “DO NOT” symbol was drawn over him. Then another picture was underneath. Two stick figures, both with happy faces and a well put together dresser. In the corner of the picture was a check mark indicating this was correct way to get the job done. What a great reminder to me of the ease that will come when we seek help. This is how He keeps me close. I cannot afford to stray away. I need His love and guidance too dearly.  Although this experience is challenging, I know this is where I am supposed to be. I am having the exact experience that my Father knew I needed to have.  I can only look to Him, the perfect parent. I know that there is no person or textbook that can give me the right parenting advice. I repeat, I do not know what I am doing. But I know He knows what I should be doing and what I am capable of doing and I constantly seek out his council.
I have realized that in my darkest moments I have been listening to the wrong voice. That complete and lonely darkness is where Satan is most comfortable and wants to convince us to remain there with him. We can make our own experiences harder by giving into him. Remember that the Spirit teaches by humility and that the adversary teaches by self-pity. He may place strong thoughts into your head such as “If I was a better mother this would not have happened!” or “I will never be able to accomplish this, I’m just not smart enough!” I have learned to examine my thoughts and ask myself…”Is this something my Father in Heaven would say to me?” The answer is usually very clear. On hard days when my husband asks me what’s wrong I have been known to say “Satan has a lot to say to me today and I’m listening” When I realize his presence interfering with my opportunity to grow, I can push him away and return my thoughts to the Spirit. My mind begins to think clearly again when not pre-occupied with self-doubt. The pity party is over and I feel teachable again.
Though we may not get to choose which experiences we will have our free agency lets us choose how we handle our experiences.
Elder Uchtdorf said “It is our reaction to adversity, not adversity itself that determines how are life story will develop.”
We can look at the Lehi’s family for two examples of reacting to adversity. Laman, Lemual and Nephi were raised in the same home with the same parents. When Lehi was commanded to leave Jerusalem and take his family into the wilderness, new experiences where presented, new chances for all his sons to grow.  Nephi , full of faith and willing to completely succumb to the Lords plan for him, sought answers from God through pray. He exercised patience, humility and a love of God that in turn strengthened his spirituality and understanding of Gospel Principles.  Laman and Lemuel, presented with the same experience, whined and complained about the wrongs they felt had been done to them and how unfair life was.  By continually crying “victum” and refusing to learn the lessons their loving Father in Heaven needed them to learn, the seed of bitterness was planting in their hearts and nourished by anger, resentment and lack of faith.
We all know what became of these people. Nephi left his brothers and took those who would follow Gods commandments with him. They became known as the Nephites and prospered because of their faithfulness. Those who would choose to live a life at Laman and Lemuals standards became known as the Lamanites. A wicked, violent people, cursed of the Lord.   An important part of this story should not be overlooked. Here we can see that the consequence to our reaction to adversity does not only affect our own self but those close to us, and for generations to come.
 We must remember that we are always setting an example and those who love us will follow are lead. If we can not exercise our faith and we break under the pressure of adversity our children will do the same.  Let us look to our Savior for this example. He suffered all adversity and by His faith and love for us succumbed to the will of our Father. A greater understanding of this love and the atonement can help us to overcome our own adversity. The atonement was not just put in place to find forgiveness for our sins but to lift our burdens, relieve our pain and bring peace to our souls. The Savior himself said…
Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
The peace that the spirit can provide for us during our most challenging experience on earth, is nothing the world can give or even comprehend. I know this. I know this because I have felt it. At times the winds have pushed me back so hard that I felt I could never reach my goal. The dust continues to kick up and blind me from seeing what I need to see. I have felt udderly alone, unable to hear words of encouragement around me. I have asked “ When will this end? This is not fair!” But when I turn to the Lord, all the pain and weariness is lifted and I am filled with peace.
 Abide In Me
When you abide in me
Then I’ll abide in you
My words in your heart
Oh, child believe
That when you seek my face
and make me your first love
Then all of the rest
Will be taken care of
Don’t worry what the future may hold
For I have overcome the world
and all these things I speak
are so your joy may be complete
When you abide in me

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The annual Re-Inventing of ME

It's a new year. Everyone is thinking about change. Everyone is thinking about goals. If your not one of those new year resolutions types your still thinking about how you want 2012 to go for you. Me...well, I have this thing that I have always written a list of "50 things I want to do in my life" on the very last page of my journal. Some things are pretty easy to do and don't take much effort to accomplish like " See Bernadette Peters perform live." CHECK! Some are a little harder to accomplish and take a lot more effort on my part like "Run a Marathon." Most of my goals I remember and I try to get a few crossed off every year.
When I get a new journal (which is not as often since technology is so awesome!) Anyway...when I get a new journal I take off the checked goals and add new ones. The last time I created a list was in Sept. of 2006. I was too emotional last year to even remember to look at this list. But I just did...
#22. Visit an African Orphanage and do something about it.

Hmmm, should I check that one off yet?

Anyway, my point being that I really am not a January goal setter. However, I do use January to reflect on my life and decide if I am still on course to becoming the person I want to be. I call it my "re-invention".

I ask myself these questions...

"What did I like/love about myself last year?"
I loved the time I spent with my kids. Talking to my teenager and reading with my babies. I loved how I felt when I studied my scriptures. I loved being with the love of my life and father of my children. I loved the times I served others. I loved how I felt inside when I ate right and excercised not to mention my clothes felt better.
"What did I learn about myself last year?"
I learned I have a lot of will power. I learned I have stamina. I learned that God is always with me. I learned that if I look for answers I will find them. I learned that I am in charge of my life. I should NEVER do anything out of guilt. I learned who I wanted to be like and who I did not want to be like. The only people that ever did anything worth talking about got talked about.
"Who did I allow to influence me last year?"
My Savior is my greatest friend. When everyone else's advice lead me no where, He told me exactly what to do. Only God knows what I am capable of. I should not let other people tell me what I can or can't do. I can not let people dictate what I should be doing, no matter how much they love me or I them. Nobody loves me more then my Heavenly Father!

When I have all those answers in my head I can answer this question...
"How can I use this year to the best of my ability?"
This answer is between me and the Lord. I'm not sharing.

I sluff off all the other stuff that did not matter. And I take all the stuff that did matter forward. I say goodbye to my mistakes, my lost temper, my impatience, my imperfections and I move forward. I give it to the Lord and press on.

I know I will make mistakes in 2012. I know I will not do everything the way I wish I could. But I will do my best. And I have best is not too shabby.