Thursday, January 23, 2014

Learning Life's Lessons and Letting Go

I’ve been feeling very weighed down by something in my past. For weeks, and I guess in all honesty months, I’ve been allowing this thing to hang over me and make me feel guilty, and awkward, and all around bad about myself.

I’ve been studying and pondering the Atonement in my life. Do I fully understand and utilize this precious and wonderful gift? My thoughts would then make me ask, if I do understand this, why am I still allowing various things to control me? Am I not in charge of myself, my thoughts, actions, and attitudes? Am I not, with the help of the Savior and His Atonement, able to overcome any sin I’ve committed and any pain for any reason that I feel?  The answer I’ve found and feel and KNOW is a resounding YES!

With all of this in mind there was one piece of my life that I felt no closure for and that fact alone has been looming over me. I had a thought in the shower (because let’s face it, 95% of life’s solutions are thought of in the shower) that if only I could write a letter to the people this situation involved, perhaps I could just let it go once and for all.

So this morning as I drove to work I dictated the letters that will never be sent. I said EVERYTHING I’ve wanted to say for so long, all the things that have bothered me, caused me anxiety, the things I regret and apologize for. And then mentally I sent that letter and I imagined the recipients receiving this letter and the conversation that it would initiate (it’s a good thing I have an active imagination). I imagined getting together for dinner with this group and rekindling what we once had. And in the course of this “conversation” I realized that as much as I loved things the way they were I can’t go back, I don’t want to go back. I’m not the person that I was during that time period. The things that separated me from this group, those things being my beliefs, standards, and goals, have only become more important in my life and have separated me even further.

It was in this moment that I felt all of my worries dissipate. No longer am I concerned about things as they were. I’m focused on things as they are now and as they will be! I was able to release these feelings of trouble into oblivion and at this moment I feel peace and joy! I feel the power of the Atonement in my life and now, more than ever before, understand that Christ’s promise to heal us from ANYTHING is just that, a promise! Because of the Atonement we can turn to Him and as the scriptures say, cast our burdens upon the Lord. He suffered for us. He knows what we’re dealing with. He’s waiting with outstretched arms to comfort us. It is up to us to turn to Him and accept and internalize the power of His infinite Atonement and to use that to become who He would have us be! Of this I have no doubt!

Friday, January 10, 2014

How I Know Heavenly Father Loves Me

Do you ever have moments where you sit back, take a look at your life, and feel overwhelmed at how truly blessed you are by a loving Heavenly Father? I am having just such an experience this week, but it really started over a month ago, I’m just seeing the benefits of it all right now. 

I have a car payment (blasted little thing) and I had been thinking of getting it refinanced but hadn’t decided whether or not it was worth it. I was looking at my finances a couple of months ago and on a certain day, felt overwhelmingly that I needed to do it and to do it right then. So, I stopped what I was doing, called the credit union, and took care of business. That was all well and good, and I saved myself some money monthly, but even that isn’t the greatest part of it. And the other thing you have to know to get the full picture is that I pay a little extra every month if I can to reach pay off as quickly as possible.

Fast forward to this week. Every once in a while your finances come down to a point where EVERYTHING you could possibly imagine is due at the same time. For me, it was looking like my rent, power, car payment, tuition, insurance (you get the idea…EVERY SINGLE BILL) was going to be due in the same week. And even with my best savings plan it looked like it would be possible, just EXTREMELY tight! Well, once it’s all said and done (and without putting all of my business out there), thanks to paying more ahead on the car and doing the refi, my next payment isn’t due until February (that gave some extra money). I have a great opportunity with work to help balance some of this issue and pay day is coming. What under regular circumstances would have seemed impossible is totally working out. 

This is a testimony to me that Heavenly Father loves me and wants me to succeed in my life. Additionally, these are some of the blessings I’ve received from paying tithing. I testify that the Lord keeps His promises when we do what he asks of us.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Chrislike Examples

I’m blessed to work in the Primary organization at church which is for children 3 – 12 years of age. I’m on a sort of perma-subbing assignment until a teacher is called for the 7 year old class. This past Sunday I planned ahead (I know, shocker) and had printouts ready. The only problem I had is that I printed 6 hondouts and had 7 children. I asked one little girl, W, to take a copy to the library to get another made and asked B to wait just a moment. Another little boy, we’ll call him B2, took his paper to B and told him he could have it and that he would wait for the other copy to be made. So sweet.

Then in singing time, I had a few children I had called to be helpers and hold some pictures to help us learn a new song. Handsome little D came up to me after he had been there a minute or two and tried to get my attention. The adult in me came out and I tried to get him back into his spot. He was insistent that he speak to me, and I’m so glad he did. When I FINALLY paid attention, he told me that a little girl, L, had not had a turn and that he wanted her to hold his picture in his place.

These kids amaze me!! They so often want to help and I hear a LOT of me-me-me’s! It was so wonderful to see such excellent examples of Christlike love and concern for others. I’m using the examples of these two valiant young men as my example this week of how I need to improve.

And in case I haven’t said it in a while, I LOVE these children in Primary and love these callings I have!!

Monday, January 6, 2014

What I Was Going to Say

Yesterday was testimony meeting at church. I had been giving a lot of thought about bearing my testimony, but I was having trouble formulating what I wanted to say. So I sat in my seat and pondered and contemplated and did so for so long that the meeting ended. But by the time it was over, I knew what I wanted to say.

Over a year ago I made a decision to discover who I was and to become the woman I wanted to be and that I knew God wanted me to be. I knew that if I stayed where I was, doing what I was doing, I would NEVER be her. So I set some BIG goals and started working one day at a time. Each day I worked on my goals was one day closer to who I was becoming, and one further away from who I had been.

As I finished each of my goals and reflected on the lessons I had learned, I could see clearly the hand of the Lord in my life. President Clark gave the following remarks at a BYU-Idaho devotional. He said:

“Today, I want to talk about you: about who you are and who you are becoming…You are the spirit sons and daughters of God. You are having a mortal experience to become worthy heirs of exaltation and eternal life with an eternal companion in an eternal family with eternal increase.

“Now you may be wondering what this has to do with the things you worry about in your daily life – going on a date, passing math, learning to write well, finding a major, or getting a good job.

“Here is my answer: who you really are and who you are becoming eternally have everything to do with the details of your mortal life. In fact, if you come unto Christ, He will shape and develop your eternal identity and character through your choices and actions in every part of your daily life. Through the power of His atoning sacrifice, He will change your heart and help you become more and more like Him.” (Click here to read the full address)

I can see clearly that He has in fact used my daily choices to develop me and help me in my mission to become. I’m so grateful that I made the choice to work hard and set some goals and work toward the woman I wanted to be!

My testimony is that God works in the details of our lives. He is interested in the things we are doing and will take our best efforts and through Christ’s atoning sacrifice will transform us into the best possible version of ourselves.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2014 - Another Journey Begins!

Have I said lately how wild it is that 2013 is gone? I experienced a strange sense of loss as we bid farewell to one year and welcomed in the next. I've been so completely tied to so many goals for so long. They were always on my mind, every thing I did was tied directly to one of those goals. Sometimes it was me leaving an activity early to work out, or to pass up reading a book "for fun" to read the scriptures (a way better pay off anyway!). They were the first thing I thought of and saw each morning and the last at night thanks to what I affectionately call the "goal wall". It looked something like this. I thought it appropriate that one of the pages was about to fall off the wall - it's like they knew!!

At the beginning of 2013 I needed a breakdown like that. I NEEDED structure and organization. I needed to see everything laid out. I didn't make resolutions for 2013, I made a plan!

I've been giving a lot of thought to what I wanted to accomplish in 2014. I tried an identical outline with similar goals, but with some variety to spice things up a bit. But every time I tried to pull it together, I had this weight, for lack of a better word, come over me and I was DREADING this year! That is just NOT okay! After weeks of revamping I finally came up with what I need this year!

Fitness: I'm sticking with Weight Watchers likely through most, if not all of the upcoming year. It's been recommended that I not exceed 42 activity points per week (think 6 points per 30 minutes of step aerobics). I can do anything I want for exercise! I'm not tied to walking! I can ride a bike, go kayaking (YAY!!!), perhaps even try a little bit of running (maybe the year I tackle a 5K?) - just get moving and track those points!!

Budget: I want to be better at saving money this year. I've put myself on a pretty strict spending budget, but I want to be REALLY awesome at saving. So I'm going to be following a 52 week saving plan. If you want to see what it looks like, see the outline here.

Food storage: I want to be better prepared for anything and everything, but it's going to take some time. So, I'm going to follow this handy guide to try to get my food storage started. Already I see things that I won't buy, and I won't necessarily follow the order, but at least it will get me on the right track.

Can you believe the difference? Three pages of goals instead of 18.

My walls feel completely naked, but I feel happy and really excited to start this year! I expect that I'll add more goals, tackle more items from the bucket, experiences challenges and changes I can't even begin to imagine now, but I'm ready. The last 365 days were an AMAZING journey! I'm almost a completely different person than I was last year at this time. I don't have the words to fully describe how that feels. But I'm determined to make this an even better year, and to continue my journey to BECOME who I want to be! With heaven's help and a lot of hard work, hopefully I'll find myself here in another 365 days, recounting the lessons of another year gone by.

What are you going to do in 2014 in your journey to become??

2013 RECAP!!

I am STILL in shock that this year is gone! I knew it would go quickly; it always does when you're trying to get things done! I reported on my goals this year and it still seems crazy that I was able to accomplish them. In that post I promised to relate the things I learned, gained, lost, and loved about 2013. In no particular order, priority or meaning, here it is:

1. I LEARNED that I can set and accomplish HUGE goals!!
2. I LOVED walking with a purpose!!
3. I GAINED a TON of self-esteem!
4. I GAINED myself!! I thought I knew who I was and what I wanted. I thought I was independent. Boy, was I wrong!!
5. I LOST almost 50 pounds!!! I didn't set out to do that necessarily, but it was an AWESOME byproduct of all my walking (and taking a chance in January to join Weight Watchers). I will forever recommend both Weight Watchers and Leslie Sansone Walking Workouts!!
6. I LEARNED endurance!! In June I accidentally jumped on a nail. I managed to walk the rest of the year with a hole in my foot. I refused to see a doctor on the chance that I couldn't finish my goals. Hindsight tells me that I'm an idiot and I should have gone right after it happened. But the good thing is that I made an appointment to have it looked at as soon as I finished that last mile!!
7. I GAINED (maybe) my own apartment!!
8. I LOST some of my big fears: being alone, pain, the unknown, change (that might be a bit of an exaggeration). I still fear snakes, but that's life! The rest still cause some natural anxiety, but none of them hold me back. I'm no longer a hostage of my circumstances.
9. I GAINED a deeper and stronger testimony of Jesus Christ and of His Atonement. How incredibly grateful I am for that!!
10. I GAINED a grateful heart for the things I have.
11. I LEARNED to do with less.
12. I LEARNED that all experiences are for our benefit and learning.
13. I LEARNED a lot about family. They are SO IMPORTANT to me and I'm so blessed!
14. I LEARNED (as in memorized) "The Family: A Proclamation to the World". It is such an inspired and wonderful document. I recite it frequently and understand a bit more about our Heavenly Father's plan for us and our families. It also reminds me that having a family of my own is truly my ultimate goal!
15. I LOST my sanity a little bit. Multiple times I'm sure I was on the edge of a nervous breakdown.
16. I LEARNED that it is okay to say "no". I learned this primarily because of #15.
17. I LEARNED the importance of prioritizing and organizing.
18. I GAINED incredible insights and experience through my personal study, school, the YSA conference I attended, institute, name it!
19. I LOVED the kids I've gotten to spend time with. I often feel lost in crowds, but somehow kids I know find me and make me feel so important. I LOVE that!!
20. I LEARNED how important it is to set patterns of righteous living now!!
21. I LEARNED that the words "I can't" are self defeating! So many times this year I turned around and did the very things I said I couldn't. Don't allow yourself to fall for this trap!

There are definitely more lessons, but this covers the high points! 2013 was an AMAZING experience. I'm not sure if it exhaustion setting in or gratitude in my heart for these experiences that are causing these tears creeping out my eyes. I thought "I" was setting these big goals for myself and taking steps in the right direction, and I guess that isn't untrue, but I've seen the hand of the Lord in my life as I've gone through this year. Had I not started in January with these goals, there is NO way I would have been prepared to start school, and that's only one example, there are SO many! I'm so excited to see the things that I  can accomplish in 2014. Stay tuned for the updated goal list!

2013 - December Recap

Can you believe it? 2013 has come and I have CONQUERED!! I'm going to write a second post of all the things I learned, gained, lost, experienced, or just LOVED about 2013, but for right now, here is how my bucket list goals played out.

Walk 500 miles: I DID IT!!! Actually I walked 528 miles!!! I reached my goal on December 13 which, interestingly enough was Friday the 13th. Turns out it is my lucky day...perhaps even my luckiest month!!

Read the standard works cover to cover: Success!!! I CAN"T BELIEVE IT!!! It was a goal that truly pushed me and tried my endurance! I finished it on Monday the 23rd, right before Christmas. What a wonderful way to celebrate Christmas than to study the gospel of Jesus Christ and to realize that without the gift the Father gave of His Only Begotten Son, we wouldn't be where we are now. I'm just now beginning to truly grasp the major impact of all of that.

Grow my hair out to donate: I haven't cut it yet, so it's partial success, right?? Hopefully midyear I'll get to cross this one off the bucket list!! Though it may take a little longer than that. I'm already having mild anxiety at the thought of cutting it...and at the same time SOOOO ready to chop it all off!

These were some INCREDIBLY huge goals for me and to be sitting where I am now is unreal!! It is never too early or too late to set another goal, to try something new, to feel just a bit overwhelmed! Be motivated! Be active! Take charge of life and be an active participant in it rather than just an observer!!