For Hate is Strong…

I sing with the choir in our church – not because they need my untrained voice, but because I love to lift my much-less-than-perfect voice in praise to God. I love to join with these people who live around me and gather together to worship each Sunday.

We are singing today an arrangement written for Longfellow’s poem, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” Yesterday as we rehearsed the third verse, I was touched as we sang, “There is no peace on earth….for hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men.”

My mind flooded with images and thoughts confirming that sentiment. Hate IS strong among men, and there is so much that is tragic and unfair. Innocents suffer at the hands of conspiring men, and so much pain goes unrelieved.  I see greed and corruption causing poverty and want. The thought entered my heart, “How can God allow it? How can we feel hope when so many prayers seem to go unanswered, and when the world is filled with such sadness? When will there ever be peace on earth, and good will among men?”

Then, we began to sing the fourth verse:

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:”God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,With peace on earth, good will to men.”

I clung to that thought. I remembered the many times I have seen God’s hand in my life. I know He lives and is working among us constantly. I remembered that we have the promise that, in the end, right will triumph.

I was reminded that we have been given the greatest gift possible: We have hope, because we have a Savior who has shown us how to live, who can comfort us in our trials, and who has promised to help us overcome our weaknesses, sorrows, and pains. And we have His promise that in the end, all things will be made right, and right WILL prevail. Until that happens, our purpose is to spread that hope, and to live the best we can so that we lift as many of our fellow beings as possible. And as we do, our personal world will ‘revolve from night to day”, and we will feel joy, and peace – the deep, abiding peace that comes in this world only to those who know the Prince of Peace. May His peace reign in your heart this Christmas!  

Last Dawn 2014

The sun touched the tips of the mountains across the valley this morning as I was tidying up the kitchen. The thought occurred to me that this was the last time I would see that this year.

I felt such gratitude for endings and beginnings. Endings allow me to find closure – triumphant, grateful closure when things have gone well, and submissive, peaceful closure when the outcome was less than what I’d hoped for. The phrase from Anne of Green Gables always gives me renewed hope:  “Tomorrow is always fresh with no mistakes in it…”

If I’ve done less than my best, I can close the day, be glad it’s over, and determine to do better the next.

This year I’ve experienced so many blessings – the love of a truly good man, the affection of nine wonderful children, new grandbabies born into the family, blessings of increased health and improved employment for loved ones, reunions with old friends, the support of a wonderful extended family, and, most of all, the comfort and guidance offered by a loving Heavenly Father and the forgiveness and lifting hand of our Savior. 

On this last day of the year, my heart is turning to the future. I’ve been told that setting goals for the New Year is just setting myself up for failure. Yes, it’s true that I have rarely reached every goal I set in January. But as I learn more about life and about myself, and about the true purpose of life, I get better at setting goals that are meaningful and helpful to me and to my unique circumstances in life. I look forward to the progress I know will come as I pursue them – whether I actually reach them or not.

I prefer to think of it as reaching for the stars. The stretching that is required opens me to new experiences and to a greater understanding of others, which I greatly need.

I love new beginnings! I‘m looking forward to the first dawn of 2015, and to every dawn after that. Another Anne of Green Gables quote sums up what I’m feeling today:

“Dear old world’, she murmured, ‘you are very lovely, and I am glad to be alive in you.”

May you be reminded of all the blessings that came your way in 2014, and may you look forward with hope for the good to come in 2015.

Seeking Light – With My Sisters

During the last hour of my Sunday church meetings, the women meet together in a sweet gathering of what is called The Relief Society. We call each other “Sister,” and as a group, we are trying to follow Christ’s example of service by bringing relief to the sisters around us. We open with a hymn and a prayer, and then our President or one of her counselors stands to make announcements, acknowledging those in our midst that need our help, and we plan ways to provide that help.

Then comes the lesson. Women in our neighborhood are given opportunities to serve as instructors, and taking their material from the scriptures and words of the prophets, they lead us in a discussion of the life of Jesus Christ and the principles He taught. We talk of His example, and how it helps us as we make our decisions, day by day, moment by moment.

Yesterday as I sat in our Relief Society meeting, I looked around the room as the instructor was putting a thought on the chalkboard. I saw so many examples of charity, the pure love of Christ. I saw a young mother with a squirming, fussing toddler, and watched as another mother reached into her diaper bag and offered a toy to the little child. One woman shared her thoughts with the group, becoming teary-eyed as she did so, and the woman sitting next to her put her arm around her shoulders and comforted her.

I watched as women listened intently to the instructor, and contributed their thoughts, questions and ideas. I felt the Spirit of God settle on the room as we discussed His Son, and as we honestly and openly, without judgment, listened to each other and shared our experiences of striving to live as He has asked us to.

I feel so blessed to have a place to go where I can be surrounded by sisters who are also striving to live in His way. I draw strength from mingling with them, and I am comforted as I hear them tell that they, too, struggle in the attempt to live these beautiful principles in a confusing, fallen world.

I am so very grateful for the knowledge that I have a Savior. I feel so in need of His power and His strength, His patience and His love as I try to overcome my weaknesses. Because of Him, it is getting easier, day by day and moment by moment, to clear out the darkness in my life and to let in His light. I pray for the day that His light* can shine completely, and purely through me.

(*John 1:9 “…the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.”

The Holy Temple

I feel constantly drawn to the temple, particularly during difficult times, and whenever I attend, I feel enveloped in peace. There, I can pour out all my sorrows and concerns and plead for help with my weakness. In the temple, I place in the Lord’s hands all those I am worrying about, and He assures me He is watching over them.  

The promises I make in the temple help me live a better life, one less fettered by envy, pride, selfishness and sin.

There I feel enfolded in God’s love, and I am filled with confidence that no matter what comes my way in life, He will bear me up and carry me through it, as I strive to honor Him and accept His invitation to live true principles.

I feel so grateful to live when there are temples on the earth!

Can you See It?

Tiffany Peterson’s third tip for effective goal-setting is my favorite. In fact, she says if she could only pick one thing to incorporate, it would be this one: Visualization.

She suggests imagining, thinking about and talking about your goals as if they’ve already happened. Picture what you want to achieve, and then describe it as if it is already in place. Continue to picture it in your mind frequently throughout the day.

Let’s use my example from the previous two posts, “I awaken each day and take three deep breaths, and picture in my mind one reason I am grateful to be alive. I feel peaceful as I greet the day.”

That meets all the criteria so far – it’s clear, it’s specific, and it’s measurable. Now let’s add visualization. The person with this goal could picture, with every possible detail, awakening in the morning. She’d imagine opening her eyes, with a smile on her lips, and stretching, and taking three slow, deep breaths. She could imagine what the sheets feel like on her skin, how her head feels in the pillow, and the relaxation she would feel each time she’d exhale. She could think of the gratitude she’d feel as she thought of a reason she was happy to be alive, and she would imagine herself lying there filled with peace as she took a last moment before getting out of bed.

This visualization can happen many times throughout the day. Repeating the words of the goal, and then imagining it in as many details as possible makes it easier for the subconscious to focus on it, and to help your mind create a plan to bring it to pass.

What do you want? Can you see it? Try visualizing it today – and see what happens!

Want to Reach Your Goal? Act “As If”

Today we’ll discuss the fourth of the goal-setting tips from Tiffany Peterson.

This tip to act “as if.” Behave in the way you would act if you were already in the position you hope to be in. Tiffany asks, “How would you talk, act, speak, think, dress, etc if you had already achieved your goal?

We’ve been using for an example the woman who was grieving and who hated getting up in the morning.

Her goal was stated:

“I awaken each day and take three deep breaths, and picture in my mind one reason I am grateful to be alive. I feel peaceful as I greet the day.” 

If she is to act “as if,” she will be consistent in taking her three deep morning breaths, in picturing something she’s grateful for, and she will determinedly act peaceful. When an anxious thought comes to mind, she will push it out and fill her mind with thoughts that help her feel peaceful. She will dress and groom herself, reminding her reflection in the mirror, “I am feeling peaceful!”

In speaking with others, she will speak about the positive things happening in her life, and not focus at all on her anxiety.

She will greet those around her in a pleasant and peaceful manner, whether she actually feels peaceful or not! If the anxiety persists, she will do something that she knows will bring peace – take a walk; soak in a bath; visit with a friend, etc. The more she persists in acting peaceful, the more peaceful she will feel.

So, today, act “as if” – and you’ll be that much closer to reaching that goal!

Prepare to Succeed

Tip #5 for setting goals is to prepare for what you want to have happen.

If a person wishes or asks for success, and yet prepares for failure, that person gets what they prepare for.

Tiffany Peterson suggests preparing by looking at everything we bring into our lives, and asking ourselves, “Does this inspire me (toward reaching my goal)? Or does it ‘expire’ me (drain me of energy, courage, or hope)?

She even suggests looking at the products we use, our clothes, the books on our shelves, and our relationships, and analyzing them by the same standard – and to keep only that which inspires. 

A motto she suggests we use is “Let go of the old, and make room for the new.”

Are you preparing to reach the goals you’ve set?

Take Action Toward Your Goal!

I’ll finish up January with our last two tips on goal setting from Tiffany Peterson’s training. Today’s tip – take action!

Actually, was that news to you? Most likely not! Most of us know what we need to do to be healthier, happier, and more successful. Most of us don’t need a lot more knowledge. We just need to be willing to take action!

One problem we often face is feeling we need to be perfect. That one thing can stop our progress cold. If we’ll just accept that perfection isn’t necessary for progress, and allow ourselves to be vulnerable and make mistakes, we can start taking strides toward our dreams.

Tiffany issued the challenge to take 5 simple actions toward a goal you have. What is something you really want to accomplish, but haven’t been able to begin working on?

Write down 5 simple steps – one step can be as simple as listing what needs to be done –  and then take at least one step TODAY!

Goal Setting – Find a partner!

The end of January is approaching, and the last tip for goal-setting (and the one that could really help you actually achieve your goals) is to be accountable.

What does that mean?

If you set a goal, and you’ve done all the other steps we’ve talked about, but nobody else knows you’re working toward that goal, it’s pretty easy when the going gets tough to just give up. Who’ll know, anyway?

But if, once you’ve set your goal, you find someone to share that goal with, and ask them to be your ‘accountability partner’, the whole game changes. No longer do you have an ‘out’ when you feel weary or overwhelmed. Instead, you have a cheerleader to encourage you, and to remind you why that goal was important to you in the first place. If you have someone that you report to who can celebrate with you for every bit of progress you make, it’s much easier to keep going on the days you’d like to give up.

So, enroll a friend to help you. Ask an associate. Call your mom. Just be sure it’s someone who believes in you and wants to encourage you as you pursue your dreams.

Because dreams are worth pursuing,

and a partner can make all the difference. 

The Healing Power of Work

I read a great post by Ellen Gerst yesterday where she mentioned something Abraham Hicks had written, saying  “hard work is not the path to well being”, and that “feeling good” IS. 

I have another perspective on that concept!

I remember in the depths of my grief, when nothing seemed to help, having the thought to tackle a huge task – something really daunting. I remember getting on my old jeans and a sweatshirt, grabbing the shovel and trudging up the hill to our garden. I started digging at the biggest weeds with the deepest roots – weeds that had completely invaded our long-neglected garden. With each push of the shovel, I felt my anger dissipating, and by the time I’d been at it for about an hour, a portion of the garden looked reclaimed – and I felt my soul had been, too. I was no longer so deep in my sorrow.

I also felt more inclined to tackle the little daily tasks that I’d been putting off. Looking out the window and seeing that cleared space in the garden lifted my spirits, and made me think, “I CAN do this!”

Proverbs 10:16 tells us “The labour of the righteous tendeth to life…” and I felt that. I felt more alive – and more willing to live – after that hard work.

Ecclesiastes 5:12 teaches us that “the sleep of a labouring man is sweet…” and I experienced that, too. Physical exhaustion brought on a deep sleep that night that had become foreign to me in my grief.

In the same post, I read this sentence:

“When you feel good about yourself and your circumstances, you naturally become more productive.”

I found that day in the garden that the converse is also true: when you are productive, you naturally feel better about yourself and your circumstances.

The two contrasting perspectives can create an upward spiral. So whatever you need to do today – whether it be on the ‘tackle-a-hard-thing’ side of the spiral, or a ‘recognize-the-greatness-within-you’ side, do it!

Then you’ll surely be on the path to well-being.