Beauty in imperfection

As I age, I appreciate beauty everywhere, even in the imperfect. When I do something artistic, I like it to be a little asymmetrical. There is beauty in the realness of life experience. It’s still hard for us to see. We are used to constant images of near perfection. We’re like broken glass. Pretty, sure, but kind of junk.

image from amazon.com
image from amazon.com

God created us. He knows we’re broken and rough. But He loves us. “Think of the purest, most all-consuming love you can imagine. Now multiply that love by an infinite amount—that is the measure of God’s love for you.

“God does not look on the outward appearance. I believe that He doesn’t care one bit if we live in a castle or a cottage, if we are handsome or homely, if we are famous or forgotten. Though we are incomplete, God loves us completely. Though we are imperfect, He loves us perfectly. Though we may feel lost and without compass, God’s love encompasses us completely.” (Elder Uchdorf)

God loves us because He made us. He knows we have worth beyond what we see. He has plans to help us achieve our potential, the potential He created us for. He invites us to come closer to Him so we can feel His love and see His vision for us.

“He loves us because He is filled with an infinite measure of holy, pure, and indescribable love. We are important to God not because of our résumé but because we are His children. He loves every one of us, even those who are flawed, rejected, awkward, sorrowful, or broken. God’s love is so great that He loves even the proud, the selfish, the arrogant, and the wicked. What this means is that, regardless of our current state, there is hope for us. No matter our distress, no matter our sorrow, no matter our mistakes, our infinitely compassionate Heavenly Father desires that we draw near to Him so that He can draw near to us.” (Elder Uchdorf again)

God expends continual effort to give us this life to experience, and he knows even more perfectly than we do all about us, including our imperfections. He is willing to keep working with us in detail despite all our failures. And His plan is for us to succeed gloriously. He knows what He is doing.

scott-succeed-gloriously

Sister Marriot quoted President Hinckley in conference, saying “If you do your best, it will all work out. Put your trust in God. … The Lord will not forsake us.” It’s so hard to do, isn’t it? Trusting God when you don’t understand what He sees?

One thing we can do to understand God’s perspective of us is to pray. I have been working on my life handbook (slowly). One exercise I did was to write my most important goals and then prioritize them so I could see which ones I want to keep focused on daily and which are more long-term or lower priority. When I finished prioritizing everything I do, my top goal was to pray on my knees aloud morning and night. This was my top goal because my personal relationship with God is my highest priority. That being said, I have taken prayer for granted. I say prayers, not expecting a response, and sometimes not thinking much about God as I talk to Him. But if I want a better relationship with God, I need to be more sincere.

I believe our imperfections are beautiful to God because He knows we can overcome them. We see broken glass, He sees in us something else.

glass_mosaic-landscape
image from http://kasiamosaicsstore.blogspot.com/

Create a Life Handbook

I’ve been inspired to create a Life Handbook. A life handbook is a personal manual that encompasses your goals and dreams, personal mission, and ideas that you have on your journey of becoming. Often, we get caught up in the daily grind and lose sight of the practical means necessary to realize our dreams. By working on a physical expression of my life purpose, I want to increase my ability to accomplish my own potential.

from lds.org
from lds.org

Life is always harder than we envision. As a youth, I thought my life would be a straightforward execution of my goals, with occasional episodes planned by God. That was naive. In reality, I have discarded some of my lesser goals in pursuit of the ones that I found more worthy. Even some of the skills I spent years acquiring have been simply nice nick-knacks on my accomplishment shelf. My life has been a series of days upon days with the detours from God being the better ones. I see how learning one admirable attribute may take a lifetime. I see how there is never enough time to work on the mediocre aspirations, because there is so much out there and so little time. I would like to organize my spiritual life better, to make spiritual growth a priority that won’t get pushed aside by the daily chores. I’m going to create a life handbook about and for myself.

Here’s how to create a Life Handbook. (from Celestine Chua at Personal Excellence.)

Spend a few minutes a day pondering the following list. Begin writing down your thoughts about each. Estimate taking between two weeks to a few months getting a “rough draft”

  1. Your life purpose/vision/mission
  2. Your values
  3. Your strengths
  4. Your improvement areas
  5. Your life adages (I.e. your personal mottos on living a great life. These can be inspirational quotes or personal mottoes.)
  6. Your vision board (Vision boards are visual representation of your goals and dreams. Check out Celestine’s vision board tutorial.)
  7. Your long-term life goals, comprising of five-, three-, and one-year goals
  8. Your short-term life goals, usually a breakdown of your long-term goals
  9. Your action plans to achieve your goals
from lds.org
from lds.org

Continue adding to your book on a regular basis (daily). Add images, reflection, to-do lists, track goals, motivational quotes, etc. Make sure to include any spiritual experiences, promptings, and tender mercies. Back up your document regularly. (I don’t really envision this document being a hard copy at first). Use your document to see a snapshot of your inner self over time. Since I’ve never done this, I’ll have to write more about how it goes. Wish me luck! (I could have started tonight, but wrote this post instead.)

ask-yourself-what-important-quote
Found on bestliving.biz

Update: I told a few of my most-admired friends about my goal. I’ve spent a couple of days thinking about what format I plan to use (excel file) and today I’m starting to create my life handbook. I always have goals I am working on, but I have never thought about writing a comprehensive list down, prioritizing them, and tracking my progress. I’m excited!

7 Things to Do on a Bad Day to Feel Better

After my last post, I had a better day.

I cleaned the house. Especially this kitchen. Cleaning isn’t my favorite thing, but I can never relax in a messy environment. So when I’m stressed out, a clean house calms me down. If I can’t clean my immediate surroundings immediately, a break outdoors gives me a moment to regroup before tackling the house again.

messy-kitchen
Disorderly kitchen

Phone calls. Talking to someone helps me feel better. So I’ll call, text, email the people I like to talk to the most until I find someone who has time to chat. Luckily, I’m not the only one who feels better after a visit. Thank goodness for woman friends with the gift of gab! I also like to talk to the Boss. My DH knows when I am having a bad day and listens to my frustrations. I like to talk things out in the evening and tell him all of my accumulated thoughts from the day.

Check something off the to-do list. I always have a looong list of projects. Some are easy, some hard. Most I never even start because (a) the house isn’t clean, and (b) taking care of numero uno priority (aka kids) takes all my time and energy. But if I feel stagnant, getting a project done really helps me feel happy. Especially if I get to use some creativity. So, after last week, I painted color on the bottom half of my bathroom wall to match the shower curtain.

Service. Doing something for someone else can help me feel better. I see how everyone has bad days and needs a pick up once in awhile.

One-on-one time. Taking care of all of my kids together can be overwhelming. But spending time with just one of them very enjoyable. Each has a constantly changing personality to explore. Quality time is my love language, so when I spend quality time with someone else, I feel loved.

Count blessings. Sometimes hard when you’re trying to be cranky, but I eventually have to acknowledge that I have lots more positives than negatives in my life.

Connect with God. Reading scriptures, meditating, and praying all help me center myself and remember my perspective. I love to attend the temple because I do all three. Spirituality nourishes the part of us that can overcome the trials of life.

singing-hymns

Feeling down

Today I notice this verse of scripture

And now, my son, I have somewhat more to say unto thee than what I said unto thy brother; for behold, have ye not observed the steadiness of thy brother, his faithfulness, and his diligence in keeping the commandments of God? Behold, has he not set a good example for thee?  – Alma 39:1

After writing fifteen verses to his obedient son Shiblon, Alma proceeds to give much lengthier advice to his disobedient son.

Parents tend to give more attention to the children in need of correction. Which means sometimes the obedient children wonder if they’re worth commending. They make right choices and then fail to get as much attention as their wayward peers, which can make rebelling look more attractive.

To give some credit to Alma, his fifteen verses to Shiblon include some great counsel.

And now my son, Shiblon, I would that ye should remember, that as much as ye shall put your trust in God even so much ye shall be delivered out of your trials, and your troubles, and your afflictions, and ye shall be lifted up at the last day.

Alma believes Shiblon is making decisions that will end in his ultimate happiness. That is doing pretty well, if you ask me. Alma doesn’t give his wayward son the same approval.

alma-younger
Alma had experience to share with his son. He had rebelled as a young man until he had an amazing conversion experience.

I noticed this verse because sometimes I feel like the obedient child who doesn’t get noticed. And although I try to show positive attention when my children are trying to make good choices, I know they also sometimes feel this way. It would be easy to pass over, but sometimes I also wonder if God is happy with my attempts to do right, or if I’m failing miserably. It’s possible to slip into feelings of depression and discouragement without anything major going wrong. There are probably lots of factors that play into feeling down. But if you’re sacrificing everything inside to try to accomplish something, it becomes important to know you’re on the right track.

Here’s what Elder Bednar said about these feelings:

My beloved brothers and sisters, godly fear dispels mortal fears. It even subdues the haunting concern that we never can be good enough spiritually and never will measure up to the Lord’s requirements and expectations.

I can tell you that haunting fear is real. I feel it.

mother-baby-sadness
Motherhood: the most rewarding and also hardest job in the world. See my last post.

I’m working on building my relationship with God so that I can feel His acceptance and love for me, instead of fearing I will never measure up. I testify that as a parent, I’m learning how parents love. They love their children unconditionally and watch their childishness with patience, hoping to build them and help them accomplish their potential. I know God feels that way toward me. He isn’t discouraged by the things that get me down. He knows they are small things that I will overcome in time. He also sent His son, Jesus Christ, to rescue all of us from our mistakes. Christ’s atonement is so all-encompassing it empowers God’s entire plan for His children’s growth.

There. I feel better just saying all of that.

Everything that gets us down can be overcome because of Jesus Christ.
Everything that gets us down can be overcome because of Jesus Christ.

Images from lds.org

Motherhood: the hardest thing

Motherhood begins with nine months of physical discomfort. The birth of every baby is an adventure: unpredictable, painful, joyful, life-changing. Newborns require hours of holding, feeding, rocking. Through the first bleary days of waking and sleeping until mother and baby emerge bonded into two beings whose hearts beat as one. Out of the exponential burst of physical growth blossoms a unique personality. Bright innocence shines from a child’s face, giving a Mother a glimpse of heaven.

newborn baby

Motherhood requires a certain level of proficiency at housework. Cooking, cleaning, laundry, shopping, planning, and budgeting grow out of the need to care for the children we love. Mothers pick up bits of information in subjects they never knew existed, becoming an encyclopedia of practical knowledge.

motherhood-3kids
Photographing 3 youngsters: an example of no matter how hard we try, it never turns out perfect.

Motherhood piles up responsibility so high a woman bends with exhaustion. There is always more to do, more that can be done. She wants the best for her children. So she tries to balance the work with episodes of play: going to the park, reading a story, giving undivided attention. The work piles higher. Things break, children get sick, time runs out. She feels tense, anxious, hormonal. The children argue, throw tantrums, ignore her quiet responses, yell, tease, pout. Her patience runs out. Every day her patience is stretched further and further. Sometimes it breaks. At the end of the day, falling into bed, a Mother feels the quiet assurance that her work is the most important work she could have done.

A mother sees the infinite potential in her child and nurtures it. She teaches, tutors, trains. She sees a talent and works to give the child the chance to develop it. Karate, building kits, music. Mother wishes she could be the perfect mentor. As the child grows, there are missed opportunities, negative peer pressure, laziness. A child becomes a youth exerting independence. Mothers have to navigate child psychology, honest disagreement, autonomy and responsibility. They teach the lessons, learn the lessons, and live the lessons they try to instill.

Motherhood is a road to becoming. A mother develops maturity, capacity for work, patience. So do her children. I have done hard things. Motherhood is the hardest thing, but also the best thing I have ever done.

motherhood-mothersday
a busy mother

Life’s challenges never let up. A woman willingly takes on more when she becomes a mother. But somehow amid the tears, there are smiles. Somehow between the trials there is growth. Looking back through the struggle there are golden memories. The human connection between mother and child is one of the strongest bonds on earth. The generations of life would not continue without mothers.

God is our Father. In this whole messy experiment of humanness, He planned for our growth. He saw our potential and He designed our lives to intersect as Mothers and children, wives and parents, daughters and aunts. God, the perfect Parent, wanted us to become more like Him and so he created Mothers.

Happy Mother’s day to the special women in my life. My life wouldn’t exist without you.

The Eternal Reality

 

The future plans God has for us are more grand and glorious that anything we can imagine.  They include mansions and thrones and power beyond belief.  So when a child dies and our heart breaks for all the things unsaid and memories never made, we are crying because we can’t see.  When everything seems lost, we must remember that Christ calmly gave up everything.  His mission is to prepare us for the role we will play in his Heavenly Kingdom.  Our job is to follow his direction and prepare even if life throws curve balls and we find ourselves being taught through suffering.  There is a purpose to it all.  We can’t see it, but He can.  Every promise He has ever made will be fulfilled.  We can count on that.

-from Andrea M, post “The Eternal Reality”

angel weeping statue

I wonder what God thinks of His children, us, sometimes. We know He thinks of us as children. He loves us and wants us to grow. In heaven, we were “nurtured near His side” (Eliza R Snow).

I look at my young children and laugh at the things they do as they’re learning and trying. I look at them with love and understanding and mercy. I love their innocence; their honesty. I know they will succeed eventually if they keep trying.

As my children grow, they will reach the period in their lives where they pull against me, testing out the limits of their freedom. They will have to take what I’ve taught them, evaluate it, and compare it to what they see in the world around them. Then in their hearts, they will choose what they believe. I fear for that time, because I know they could choose to walk a path that leads to heartache.

I think mortality is our spiritual adolescence. God taught us everything He possibly could, but there reached a point where we needed a place of freedom to test ourselves and find out what our hearts would choose. We couldn’t be tested in God’s presence, because who wouldn’t choose Him if they could see His glory and love all around? Life was devised as a Divine experiment, not for God, but for us.

We will succeed eventually if we keep trying, through the grace of God, our Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ.

Someday, (not now–after our mortal life), we will see ourselves the way God sees us (1 Samuel 16:7, D&C 76:94). Our bias will fall away, we’ll know our own hearts, and we’ll confess that His plan was perfect.