Monday, April 29, 2013

For the Strength of Youth (and everyone else too!)

Life is hard for everyone, but being a teenager is especially hard.  High school was not an easy time for me, especially because I often felt like the odd-one out  with regards to religion.  While it is true that I was the only Mormon at my high school, I was certainly not the only individual with high moral standards. There were lots of students from all sorts of religious backgrounds that adhered to a set a values- some the same as and some different from my own.  I was always encouraged by friends who followed their beliefs.
 Often people that I wasn't super good friends with would say to me, with regards to my obedience to my standards, "It is neat that you do that. I could never do that!"   I loved their supportive words, but I disagreed with them. If they wanted to, they could do what I did. Perhaps they couldn't do it alone, but I truly believe that 'with God all things are possible.'
Some things in life just require faith, but many things have a clear reasons and purposes. When I was in high school I loved having my For the Strength of Youth pamphlet.  It helped me realize where the Lord's guidelines are. It's now available online and whether you want to read it to help give you strength and realize what aspects of your life you might want to improve on, or if you want to read just out of curiosity of what Mormons typically do and do not here is a link. -
It is in this little book that many people come off with comments such as "You can't drink coffee. You can't watch R rated movies. You can't swear." Let me assure you that I am perfectly capable of doing all of those things, however, I chose not to because I don't think they benefit me and my life.
Now that I am graduated from college, married, and blessed with a lovely daughter, I can see with such clarity how my life is richly blessed because I followed these guidelines. There were certainly days when I was frustrated because my friends went out to party on weekend and I didn't go (nor was I invited which I considered to be awesome- They already knew that I didn't engage in such activities.)  My only regrets from high school are that I should have dressed less like a tom-boy, I should have tried out for track, and I should have swam the 500 at the swim meet.  I love being free from regrets. Not only that, I was able to have the spirit of the Lord with me to help me make decisions and keep me safe.
I was thinking about the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet and decided to look over it again. I found that there were still parts it that I could improve on.

The standards (which are addressed in just a few paragraphs each) are as follows.
Agency and Accountability
Dating (Yes, I'm married so this doesn't apply directly to me so much anymore)
Dress and Appearance
Entertainment and the Media
Honesty and Integrity
Music and Dancing
Physical and Emotional Health
Sabbath Day Observance
Sexual Purity
Tithes and Offerings
Work and Self-Reliance

Now, if you are not Mormon, you might be looking at that list thinking "Wow, they dictate every aspect of your life!" That is not how I see it. No one every said to me, "you have to do all these things or you are a bad person and you'll never get to heaven."  That is not what these are all about.  Yes, they cover a wide range of topics, but that's because God has a plan for us. He wants us to be happy and healthy. He wants us to be smart and honest.  He wants us to succeed and find happiness in this life and in the next. That's what these are all about. They have made me so happy.

Personal Note
After having re-read this pamphlet (is it still called that when it's online?), I have decided to re-commit myself to these values.

With regards to entertainment, I feel that I am good at watching clean, wholesome shows. However, I realize that because I am an adult and married, I sometimes let less wholesome shows into my life under the false justification that "I'm married and grown up now.Therefore I can watch slightly inappropriate things because they are funny."  But I think that if I would not watch it with my parents or with my teenage sister, I should not be watching it.

Language.  I don't swear. It's never been a bad habit of mine.  Formerly, I have defined inappropriate language as swearing or taking dirty. Now I do not define it so narrowly. I think inappropriate language is speaking badly about people, gossiping, putting people down, criticizing others, and such.  There is a beautiful scripture that invites us to speak with the 'tongue of angels'.  I want to do this. I would love to have everything I say be kind and uplifting.  I have a ways to go yet, but I think today is an excellent time for me to start. :)

Sabbath Day Observance- 'Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy." Exodus 20:8.  God made Sunday to be a holy day. It is not a day for play or shopping or self. It is also not a day for nothing. Yes, it is a day for rest. Sleeping on Sunday is great, but doing nothing is a waste of the sabbath day and doesn't keep it holy.  I am committing now to do more on the sabbath to make it holy. I want to use it as a day to read scriptures, do service, strengthen family relationships, write letters to missionaries and family members, write in my journal, etc.

Those are the three standards that I have decided to improve on.  I think that as I work on these, I will be even happier.  I challenge you (wait, is someone reading this? ha, ha) to find things in your life that you feel you should improve on. They certainly don't have to be the above values, but there is strength in setting goals and reaching them.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

I Know Adilyn- Learning From Adi

Individual Worth
I have one daughter.  This is a picture of her. I love her so deeply that there is no possible way to convey it in words. I would do anything to help her learn and grow and be happy.  She is currently my only child.  I know her very well. In fact, because she is only 1 year old, I know her better than she knows herself. I know her full name, her birthday, and that she has a pelvic kidney that needs medicine in the mornings because of urinary reflex   Most of the time I even know her needs before she does. I know when she needs a nap, and though she'll likely fight me about it, once she sleeps, she feels better.  I know when she'll be hungry next even though she doesn't know it.  That is because she is my child. She is still growing and learning.  Shes learning about the world around her, about herself, about me, and our relationship.

 Even if I had two daughters, or three, or nine, I would know all of them. I would know their names and which food they liked. I would know their birthdays, their favorite colors, their hobbies. I would know their needs.  

I don't know how many daughters (or sons) God has, but I do know that he knows all of their names, their wants, and their needs. Not only does he know them, but he cares.  When I know my daughter is hungry, I don't ignore her. I don't tell her to get it herself. She is a child- I help her. I get the milk to her. I give her graham crackers and goldfish. God has given us earthly parents to provide for our temporal needs. Although many of these parents are not doing their job, God still has given them a stewardship over this. However, he has remained the primary source of our spiritual needs. When we are spiritually hungry, he gives us spiritual nourishment. He know when we will become spiritual hungry and so he has given us scriptures to guide us through life.

It is silly to think that I would forget about my daughter just because I have other children.  It's true that we are not an only child to God; he has many many children. But just because there are so many, doesn't mean he cares less about them.  It is overwhelming to think that everyone is a child of God, but we are.  That means he knows us and love us. That means that we are individuals to him.  I have individual worth to God.  This concept is something that I know to be true because time after time I recognize God blessing me and helping me with trials both large and small.

In the scriptures there are several times when the prophets have been taught of the intimate basis on which God knew them. Often he would call them by name.  I've shared some examples below.

Joseph Smith History

Psalm 8:4  What is man, that thou art mindful of him?

Jeremiah 1:  Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sactified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the  nations. 

John 13:  34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye  love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also  love one another.

D&C 18:10  Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God;

Abraham1:  22 Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones;
 23 And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born.

I am so grateful to have a loving Heavenly Father who knows and cares about me on an individual level. He cares about my small trials of losing my keys and my big trials of losing my grandmother.  I don't know how he does it, but I know that God loves and hears each of his children in their formal prayers and in their silent moments of mild frustration to sincere desperation.  

This quote by C.S. Lewis  is one that I have always loved.  It's not scripture, but it is profound.

“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations - these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit - immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously - no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.”

I think we need to adopt this same attitude with how we view and treat ourselves as well as others. We are children of God. He knows us. He loves us.

We are God's children, still growing and learning about ourselves, the world around us, Him, and Our relationship.

Chasing after Pins - Learning From Adi

Learning From Adi-
I'm  going to do a few posts on things that I learn about God by being a parent and watching Adilyn grow.

The other day I was sewing a quilt with my neighbor and despite the fact that a plethora of toys had been provided for Adilyn's (1 year old) enjoyment, she was intent on expending her energy and time trying to get at the pins.
They are shiny. The tops of the pins resemble candies. They are a good size for her tiny fingers. In her mind, nothing was more important than getting those pins and tasting them. She was convinced as I could see her in face, that they would be delicious. But I know for a fact that if she were to place the pins in her mouth, it would result in devastation, disappointment, and pain.
I told her many times that the pins were dangerous. I explained that although they looked colorful and shiny, they were not good for her. A few times I just said 'no'. I tried to lead her to her toys and her fruit loops but rather than actually eat the food and play, she was fixated on the pins. She began to have a tantrum in which she flailed on the floor, pointing to the pins and shouting.
So, what did I do? Did I say 'Adi, I can see that you really want to eat these pins. Here, eat them. I know its what will make you happy." Um, NO! Because I love her, her immediate happiness is not my primary concern. Her safety is my primary concern and her long term happiness. I could have poked her with the pin and she would get hurt and no longer want the pin, but instead I just ignored her, kept the pins away, and kept her other toys and food nearby when she decided to be reasonable again.

I have learned that this is how God deals with us when we have unrighteous desires- or rather when our desires are dangerous to our spiritual well-being.   There have been times in my life when I think that my ideas are so good and that my will is such a better idea than God's will.  I know I've wasted time, energy, and money pursuing my own pins, thinking that they will taste like candy once I get a hold of them. There have been times in prayer that I have asked God for something and he's simply said no. Maybe it's because I wouldn't understand why or maybe just because I need to exercise my faith in His will.  Sometimes God lets us get close to our goals, or get poked by the pins, and I just hope that when that happens we can step back and say "wow, that was a bad idea. You  were right God. I should have listened.'" Rather than getting mad, thinking that it's God's fault that we stuck a pin in our mouth.

I am trying to recognize the good things and other opportunities God places in my life, the fruit loops if you will, that are just across the room if I would only take a minute, listen to God, and let him guide my life.  I am so grateful that God cares about me and guides me to make wise decisions that will bring my ultimate happiness.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Divine Nature- Temperance and Easy to be Entreated

I recently decided that although I received my Young Woman's Medallion about 5 years ago, I would like to re-earn it. Its called the Personal Progress program and I have been trying to think of some ways to progress personally and switch up my scripture study plan.
(Follow this link too learn about Personal Progress program of the LDS church

One of the values is Divine Nature. It says in 1 Peter that divine nature is to escape the corruption that is in this world.  Like many people, I get extremely overwhelmed listening to or reading the news. There is so much wickedness and terror and sorrow all over the world. It would be too easy to get sucked into the idea that the evil is everywhere and good is too hard to find.  I suppose that is because, simply stated, evil is everywhere, and good is harder to find.  It is important for every young woman, old woman,young man, old man, mother, father, daughter, son, etc, to recognize a truth that I have been taught my whole life.  We are children of God. God is the literal father of our spirits and because of that, we possess some of His divine qualities. This is our divine nature.

Because we all have something divine in us, we are able to 'escape the corruption that is in this world."  Not only do we not take part in the corruption, but we can rise above it. We can work to develop and strengthen our qualities that we get from our Father in Heaven. These are ones I found in scripture:
Faith, Virtue, Knowledge,  Patience, Godliness, Kindness, Hope, Good Works, Full of Charity to All, Long Suffering, Temperate in all things, Diligent in keeping commandments of God, Give thanks to God, and easy to be entreated.

I am not going to elaborate in depth on all of these, mostly because I think it will vary for individuals depending on where they are spiritually and on their personal road of discipleship. However, I will share a few of my thoughts about two of them.

Reading just the first paragraph on Wikipedia taught me some more about temperance. Honestly, if you were to ask me yesterday what temperance was, I would not really be able to give you a definition. If I don't know what something is, how can I develop it as a key quality? I can't.  Understanding what it is, is the first step to making it part of myself. Now that I've read what the actual, technical definition is, I have made my own definition.  It seems to me that temperance is overcoming my natural man, letting my spirit take control over my bodily desires.  This can be illustrated in various ways from fasting to paying tithing to being chaste.
I have tried to think in my own life where I need more temperance.

It may sound silly, but I love desserts. I love brownies and cookies. I love candies and sugar.  I am not technically addicted to it, but I do love it. I am not very good at limiting how much and how often I eat sugar.  Sugar is not a sin, but I think it can make a good comparison.  When I go a full week without eating any treats or sugary foods, I no longer desire them.  Its a hard point to get to for me because picking up a Butterfinger is all to easy. It's easier than not getting one.  I often justify my eating candy by saying, 'its just one candy bar' or '"I'll just eat a few starbursts'.  Before I know it, I've eaten a whole pan of brownies. I'm not kidding, I have literally done that.

Temperance is telling your body no. It's saying, "Dear Body, I know you think you are in charge, but in fact, I am. Be sure you know who's the boss around here.  Love, Your Mind/Spirit"

To entreat is to beg or plead. Easy to be entreated seems to be approachable. It makes me think of service to others. If I am easy to be entreated, people won't be intimated to ask me for help. It's putting other's needs before our own.  I frequently hear people say 'Let me know if you need anything." but most of the time, if I needed something, I wouldn't tell this person.  A few peopel come to mind when I think about this divine aspect of our character.  They are the people that I always know are there for me if I need them. Because I know they are there, I try not to bother them for trivial matters, but even when/if I do, they help me.
I have been extremely blessed to have parents like this.  Anything I need; mere conversation, advice, food, money, emotional support, recipes, shoes to borrow, etc, my parents are easy to be entreated.
I suppose if my dad was not easy to be entreated, I would not have called him to ask him if he would fly out to KY on the weekend in order to drive back a moving truck full of my household goods. When in fact, I was not even nervous to ask him because I knew that if it were possible for him to do it, he would.  He happily obliged giving up his whole weekend (and a few sick days) to help me pack up my home and drive the truck out to Utah.  Can you even believe that?!  I didn't bribe him or beg him. I just told him that I would really appreciate it and how much it would mean to me.  And, throughout the planning of his trip he hasn't once complained or mentioned how its a sacrifice for him. He told me he is happy to do it and he looks forward to helping me.  THIS is easy to be entreated. It is willing service asking nothing in return. It is loving doing service and doing loving service.   I have met many people in my life and none of whom so readily give of their time, talents, means, and abilities to serve and help others.  I'm not trying to brag here, but I feel so blessed.  My dad really is an example of this quality and I'm just praying that I can develop this attribute in my own life more like he has.

I truly do believe that we all are children of God and have at least seeds of divine qualities within us even if at the moment they seem like our weaknesses. I know that as we work at it and strive to develop humility, kindness, virtue, patience etc, we can become more like our Heavenly Father. As we pray, God will help us to become more as he intended we would be.