It Ain’t What You Don’t Know…

I was asked to substitute yesterday for a class in an online Intermediate School. It was refreshing to interact with young people who were truly interested in the subject matter, and who expressed a sincere desire to learn and grow.

As part of the class, we read a quote by Mark Twain:

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble – it’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

It made me smile, and then it reminded me that so very often I’m CERTAIN I’m right….until I find out I was wrong.

I can function for quite awhile on false premises, and it’s pretty humbling when I realize, finally, that what I thought was true – wasn’t.

I’ve found two antidotes for that tendency. The first is to keep the conduit between God and me as open as possible. When I’m regularly reading His word, praying, and taking time to ponder, I feel that closeness, and it helps me recognize falsehood and truth more easily.

 The second antidote is to keep learning. I admit that the more I read, study, and attend classes, it’s a little daunting because then I realize more clearly how little I know and how much more I need to learn. However, continual learning lifts my spirits, and the more truth I learn the less time I spend living a life based on things that “just ain’t so.”

Proverbs 1:5 states it this way:

“A wise man will hear, and will increase learning…”

As I see it, it really IS what we don’t know that gets us into trouble – and I think that’s really what Mark Twain was helping us understand. 

Consistent Calmness

Do you have children?

Are you consistently calm as you deal with them?

I am studying a fascinating book entitled “Parenting A House United”, and the brilliant author Nicholeen Peck suggests that for parents to be able to establish a “house united,” one of the first steps is to learn to be calm.

She quotes William George Jordan, who wrote:

“Calmness is the rarest quality in human life. It is the poise of a great nature, in harmony with itself and its ideals. It is the moral atmosphere of a life … self-reliant, and self-controlled. Calmness is singleness of purpose, absolute confidence, and conscious power,–ready to be focused in an instant to meet any crisis.”*

Wouldn’t it be great to have “absolute confidence”, and to be “ready to be focused in an instant to meet any crisis”?

Mrs. Peck suggests that even though the natural response to challenges is to react from our emotions, we can train ourselves instead to act from our conscience, with wisdom and patience – in other words, calmly.

Life with children can get to the point where it feels like constant conflict. It’s refreshing to think that, with conscious effort, you can instead become confident, focused, and calm – in any situation.

I love that thought. I do believe our minds are capable of much more than we usually achieve. If I can train myself to act peaceably in all situations, imagine what home life would look like, and how much happier everyone around me will be – and how much happier I will be!

Proverbs 25:28 reads, “He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down and without walls.” In those days, the walls of a city were its protection. When I don’t rule my spirit, my spiritual protection evaporates, too, and I am a slave to my emotions.

One more quote from Mr. Jordan: “Everything that is great in life is the product of slow growth; the newer, and greater, and higher, and nobler the work, the slower is its growth, the surer is its lasting success.”

It looks like I’m off on a long journey. I take courage knowing that “the slower its growth, the surer is its lasting success.”

So, slowly, here I go. One day, I will be consistently calm!

Honestly?

I was out running errands when I saw a sign on the side of the road reading, “No legacy is so rich as honesty.”

My dad left me that legacy. He was an honest man. He led the kind of life Paul suggested in 1 Timothy 2:2: “…lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.”

 It must have been a challenge for my father as I was growing up and he would see me choosing the ‘easier’ way by shading the truth, or hiding part of the truth when I could see that telling the whole truth was going to get me into trouble. I’m sure he sorrowed to see how it led to my own guilt, and shame, and difficulty. But no matter how much he taught me, I had to finally choose for myself to become a person of integrity. No one else could give that to me.

I’ve recently seen the painful damage that can occur in relationships when dishonesty creeps in. Trust disappears, rationalization becomes a way of life, and sorrow ensues.

Have you ever heard someone say something that just doesn’t feel quite right, and you feel like saying, “Honestly?”

I was recently reading Richard Paul Evans’ book The Four Doors, where he stated that everybody in life suffers, at some point in his or her life. And everybody has the choice of what to do with that suffering. People can choose to look at it honestly, and ask “What can I learn from this” and “What is my next step”…

…or they can tell themselves that this now has to define the rest of our lives.

That simply wouldn’t be honest.

Innumerable people have gone on after great tragedy and have grown, and learned, and served those around them – and found joy and fulfillment.

So whenever I find myself feeling sorry for myself, I try to catch it immediately and ask,

“Honestly??”

And when I do, I am a better person because of it.

What Do You Have?

I read a message this morning from Bob Proctor where he shared a quote from Mary Morrissey: 

“Don’t wait for something big to occur. Start where you are, with what you have, and that will always lead you into something greater.”

I’ve realized that I often wait for something big. I wait for a bigger reason to begin; for a bigger slot of time; for more energy, more enthusiasm, more commitment… but that waiting burns up valuable time, and then, often, I don’t have time to do what I was hoping to do in the first place.

I liked her quote because she says to start “…with what you have…” It reminded me of a class I attended where we were encouraged to write down what we had, and what resources were available for us to accomplish what we wanted to.

For me, it started out as a list of all my blessings – physical and spiritual. And then, I chose from that list the things that could help me accomplish the chosen goal, and I realized I really did have what I needed – maybe not all I WANTED, but what I really needed.

In Philippians 4:19 we read: But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

ALL our need – that is the promise.

What do you want to accomplish? Choose just one thing. And then, looking at everything available to you, answer the question:
What do I have that can help me accomplish this?

I believe we do have all we need, at least to get started, and that as we begin, we WILL be led into greater and greater things.

What can you begin today?

Healing Happens

The other day I was looking back through some unfinished blog posts, and came across the following. I must have written in about two years after my first husband drowned. It shocked me to read how ‘raw’ the feelings had been at that point, and it made me realize that often it’s hard to see the progress we are making. If you are still at a ‘raw’ place, take heart. Healing truly does happen!

Singing in the Shower

It hit me the other morning as I coaxed the last tiny bit of conditioner out of the bottle in the shower:  I was singing!

I used to sing in the shower all the time, decades ago. I think it was always an unconscious, spontaneous reaction to joy deep in my heart.  I would often find myself singing without even thinking about it.

But then when the hard times came more often and lasted longer, and my heart was heavy, I couldn’t do it as often. The songs just died on my lips – if they ever got that far.

Then since my husband drowned, I don’t know that I’ve done it at all.

I never thought about it, though. It’s not like even once the thought crossed my mind, “I don’t sing in the shower anymore.” It just wasn’t part of my life.

But there I was this morning, singing, and I recognized it as a happy song from my youth, bubbling up from somewhere deep inside where it’s been hidden for a long time.

I was taken aback. I’d thought I was healing well, months ago. Yet here was evidence that there had still been healing that needed to happen before my heart was free to invite those cheerful lyrics and winsome melodies back, and to let them spill forth without any conscious effort.

Is there more healing yet to come? Doubtless. Not only from the death of my spouse, and not only from the years of difficulty that preceded that event. I have yet to heal from wounds that I’ve covered over, hoping they’ll be forgotten. I need to heal from wrongs I’ve done that I have not yet been able to forgive myself for.

Thankfully, there is One who offers to take those burdens, and who has already paid the price so that, as I accept His offer, and do His will, I can be free of the guilt, and the weight, and the pain.

Life can either be a process of hiding more and more, of carrying bigger and heavier burdens, or a journey of releasing the pain and the burdens, of discovering self, and a journey of gradual cleansing and healing. The longer I live, the more I think we each get to choose which it is.

And that thought makes me happy.

So happy that….

I now sing in the shower!

My Own Declaration of Independence

Tomorrow, July 4, the United States of America celebrates the signing of the Declaration of Independence.  The Declaration was drafted “to explain to foreign nations why the colonies had chosen to separate themselves from Great Britain.

In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson explained that a body of people have a right to change governments if that government becomes oppressive (unfair and controlling). He further explained that governments fail when they no longer have the consent of the governed.”* 

The longer I live, the more I have come to believe that we each need our own declaration of independence. I teach my clients to draft one as part of their mentoring toward healing after tragic loss.

We are blessed when we look at the things in our lives that have become oppressive, and that are occurring without our consent, and make needed changes.

My declaration of independence continually changes. I drafted my first copy as I was grieving my first husband’s death. I came to a point where I realized there was much that was oppressive in my life. Guilt, regrets, fears, and worries consumed my thoughts. I felt completely out of control of my own destiny as, without my consent, events occurred that changed my life drastically.

I thank Kirk Duncan, a transformational trainer and mentor, who taught me a phrase that will forever affect me for good.

“For life to change, I have to change.”

I wanted change. So I started looking closely at my life.

I realized that I was a ‘pleaser’, and had lived much of my life being who I thought others wanted me to be. I made my decisions based on what would make others happy, often disregarding what I truly wanted. I worried, would they think less of me now if I let the depth of my grief show? Would they think I was terrible if eventually I started being happy again?

I first had to declare independence from that flawed thinking.

I began to consciously worry less about what other people thought of me.  Yes, I wanted people to like me, and yes, it hurt when someone disagreed with me and criticized me. But I couldn’t let that determine what I did any longer. Letting go of my dependence on other’s approval also helped lessen my feeling of inadequacy. When I wasn’t measuring myself by others’ accomplishments, it became easier to recognize my small but important successes.

I also stopped listening to those who liked me as a victim, and who doubted my ability to grow. I had welcomed their pity for awhile, but when I wanted to make changes and they cautioned me not to, I knew I needed to honor that inward voice urging me on.

I declared independence from my regrets and guilt about things done and not done in the past. I learned that the past is what it is, and my best policy was to learn the lessons it had to teach – and then to leave it in the past – and live fully in the present.

I let go of my fears of leaving the safe cocoon of grief. I would never say grief is oppressive – I believe that every step in the grieving process is natural and healthy – but when I stopped progressing through that process, my reaction to the pain became oppressive. It took courage to admit that I was ready to take the next step, and to re-engage in life again. I did it a little at a time, yes, but I needed to keep moving toward that goal.

I admit that in all of this declaring independence, I also realized my utter dependence in two ways.

I realized that I couldn’t ‘do life’ alone. I needed other people in my life, and others needed me, and I couldn’t stay sequestered away if I wanted to progress.

I also acknowledged my complete and total dependence on God. He was the source of my strength, my courage, and my inspiration. I asked Him what He would have me learn from the experiences I’d had, and what would be my next best step. He was the only one I could ask who I was, really, and what my potential was. I asked how would He have me live, and how could I best serve Him and His children?

It has been as I’ve asked these questions (and received and followed the answers given) that my independence has grown the most. I’ve come to know that I find my greatest growth and happiness when I’m in His service serving others. I have come to love learning and even, once in awhile, I enjoy taking risks and feeling the thrill of success when one works out.

Events will still occur without our consent. But we can independently choose how to react to those events, and continually move toward wholeness and healing. 

Conscious independence can bring freedom. Draft your own Declaration of Independence, and enjoy the freedom that can be yours.

*Wikipedia, The Declaration of Independence

Children and Grieving – Help Them Remain Children

Childhood. That word often brings up images of innocence, of carefree years, of discovery, joy, and wonder. Adults often go to great lengths to help their young child feel safe, protected, and secure. When a child loses a parent and they are forced to face tragedy, in their eyes that security and protection can be shattered.

My daughter was ten when her father drowned. As the months passed, I noticed she was becoming more sober, more serious, and less childlike.

It’s normal after experiencing tragedy to realize that life is uncertain, and that the possibility of tragedy is ever-present. Often children lose their spontaneity and their delight in life, and live in constant apprehension of yet another tragedy. Their childhood seems to be cut short.

What can we do to help them?

In studying things that bring happiness in life, one thing that I have found to be true is the idea that as long as we live, we need wholesome recreation. We need to remember to play, no matter how old we are. As a person grieves the loss of a loved one, it will take time to feel a desire to ‘have fun’, but it is important to respond to that desire as soon as you can.

Help the grieving children in your life to heal by helping them be children as much as possible. Create times to have fun together, if even for just a few minutes. Keep a list of the things you enjoyed doing, so when you feel a need to play together again, you can quickly choose an activity to share.

I’ve always loved the scripture, “Men are that they might have joy.” I believe that as we help the grieving children in our lives to find that joy, our hearts will experience it, too, and we will all find deeper and more long-lasting healing.  

Missing Mom

I don’t know why – no real reason, but tonight, I’m missing my Mom. I sat down at the piano just to relax and play through a few Primary songs, and the sheet music to a song my brother wrote for her was in with the music I picked up. As I read through the words, I was reminded how much I want to be more like her. One phrase from his song especially struck me tonight: “…and if I’m like you, Mom, I’ll give my life away, I’ll freely give the gifts that God has given me. I’ll bless my family, I’ll serve my fellow man, I’ll make the world a better place to be.”

She did that for me. When we were children, many nights Mom would sit at the piano and play after we were in bed. The pieces were beautiful – she had studied at Juilliard, and could have been a concert pianist, but cut short that career to become a wife and mother. Listening to her as I lay there in bed, my heart would be calmed, my fears would dissolve, and I would feel safe and secure.

Yes, I’m missing her – but this feeling also gives me hope. I have hope that, little by little, as I try to give more like she did, I, too can bless those around me, and in some small way make the world a better place to be.

Sometimes It Just Takes a Little…

I walked past my plants this morning, and knew I’d waited much too long.

They were drooping, and some of the leaves had started fading from their luscious green to a sickly yellow.

I’d been thinking about them for days now. Each time I looked at them, I knew I needed to water them. But there was always that one thing that was more urgent that kept me going right past them. And now, I was almost too late.

Yes, I had other things calling at me today – but I knew if I didn’t get to the plants now, their recovery would take much longer – and I’d lose more leaves. These plants have been with me for years, and they’re almost like friends! Neglected friends, yes, but still friends. So, I walked into the kitchen, filled the watering can, and made the rounds of all the plants. (I only have seven, and I keep them in pretty close proximity to each other. I know my limits…)

It had only taken me two or three minutes to complete the task I’d been putting off for days. And in only a matter of minutes, they were perking up.

It was a little reminder that sometimes I tend to put off doing the little things that can make a big difference in my life. I also was reminded that the more regularly I do the vital small things (connecting with God, making time for service, caring for my physical and emotional needs, etc) the better life gets.

Today, find a little thing that you know you’ve been needing to do – and do it! And see what a difference it can make!

A Step Up

I was driving toward home after running errands this morning when a thought entered my mind. It was like a flash – just there for an instant, and a bright light filled my mind and my heart. 

It left as quickly as it had come, but it left a sweetness in my heart, and I felt my soul stirring. I felt there were good things awaiting me if I would only respond.

As I’ve pondered on that experience today, I feel like it was an invitation from God. That flash of brilliance felt like it was rousing me to awaken, to see that there is greater joy awaiting me, if I’ll just step up to receive it.

My life is full of good things. Interacting with children and grandchildren, being a wife to my new husband, keeping our home in order, my work helping people avoid addictions, my church calling with the youth – all bring me fulfillment and meaning. Yet, today, I felt that if I will draw nearer to the God who has brought all these good things into my life, He has even more goodness He wants to give me. 

Surprisingly, I didn’t come away from this feeling overwhelmed. Usually, I would have thought, “How can I fit one more thing into my already full days?” Yet, today, I felt only a sweet invitation, a yearning to be closer to my Maker, and a desire to be more devoted to those things that will make my life more closely reflect His.

 I was reminded of President Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s words: “We must approach our Eternal Father with broken hearts and teachable minds. We must be willing to learn and to change. And, oh, how much we gain by committing to live the life our Heavenly Father intends for us.”*

So tonight I’m turning to prayer and to my scriptures. It’s where I always find closeness to Him. I know I will find answers, and direction. And, as I follow that direction, and take even a small step up, that light I saw for an instant today will become more constant within me, and greater goodness will fill my heart and my life.

#sharegoodness 

* Oct 2014 General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints