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/
Advertisements

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!

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.

#LDSconf thoughts

exterior-lds-conference-center

Conference Weekend

It was a whirlwind weekend. Saturday morning DH went out riding motorcycles with a friend. Five minutes before conference started, I tried to move the computer out to the living room so we could all watch. But I didn’t know how to set up the wireless internet connection, and daddy wasn’t home yet, so we listened to primary songs and worked on cleaning the house instead. Once our chores were done, we went over to Grandma’s house to watch the Saturday afternoon session with extended family.

Watching conference as a family is my favorite way to spend conference. Some Sundays get harried and hectic by the time we get ready for church and do all of our assignments. On Conference Sunday, we can just be together. I love it. And whenever there is a family gathering, there is good food. Since it was Saturday, I asked my kids to watch one talk plus watch if President Monson spoke. The rest of the time they spent playing with their cousins.

On Sunday we stayed home and watched conference as a family. By this time our computer was all set up and ready to go. We turned on the Tabernacle Choir broadcast and enjoyed the Easter Sunday concert. Sometimes it can be hard to watch conference with little kids, but mine were pretty good this time. My daughter had the Friend magazine out and played bingo on the board in the magazine. My son sat and read a book, pausing to pay closer attention once in awhile. The little ones played in the room with us.

I love the messages presented at conference. There is always a smorgasboard: messages of personal improvement, testimonies of Jesus Christ, gospel application, missionary work, and the plan of salvation. Usually there is a balance between calls to repentance and consoling our efforts. For example, Elder Oaks helped us evaluate our soil in the process of conversion. He has spoken many times on the theme making eternal goals our highest priority. Elder Bednar spoke about fear: how the fear of God can actually help us feel peace in a troubled world. For those of us who get over-anxious about the challenges we face, his message was soothing.

Video quote: Source of Enduring Peace — David A Bednar

My favorite messages were the back to back talks on Grace. First, Elder Holland’s talk about how Jesus Christ’s mission was the greatest expression of love ever known. Christ gave us “the gift of victory over every fall we have ever experienced, every sorrow we have ever known, every discouragement we have ever had, every fear we have ever faced—to say nothing of our resurrection from death and forgiveness for our sins.” Then Elder Uchtdorf gave a beautiful and concise explanation of grace. It is the power that erases sin, raises us to a level beyond our capacity to reach, and pours into our lives the power to accomplish all we strive for. Without understanding grace, Latter-day Saints get depressed when we try to achieve perfection and fail (every time)!

Video quote: The Path of Discipleship — Dieter F Uchtdorf

I also appreciated the talks about Returning to Faith and Waiting for the Prodigal. Because there ARE casualties in the trials of life. Living the gospel is hard. Some of us fall away, become inactive, etc. Yet even for those of us bogged down with difficult doctrines or difficulty living the doctrines can find peace in the gospel. And those of us who are strong can extend love and help to those who need it. Because none of us are strong enough on our own. We need each other and we need Jesus Christ.

I’m grateful for conference. It gives me a chance to take my spiritual temperature and evaluate where I need to improve. I know our leaders are righteous men who are in tune with God’s direction for the church. I also feel the camaraderie of the worldwide Saints. There are people like me who are also trying to live this glorious gospel and feeling its blessings in their lives.Pres-Monson-exiting-conference

Easter: Everything good happens because of Him

I look around at the world. The plants are blossoming, the world has been reborn as it is every spring. I think how God created this beauty, from the oceans and mountains to the molecular structures and biochemical processes of life. TulipsI notice my new baby. He has come alive. From complacent newborn he’s grown into a curious infant. He can scoot across the room and explore things that capture his attention. He brims with happiness over his new-found abilities. He freely shares his gushing happiness with anyone around.

I am surrounded by love. My children and husband gush over me. Tell me how much they love me. They notice my moods. Sometimes when I am quiet, they come up and give me a hug.

The message of Easter is all of this and more comes because of Jesus Christ.

Jesus-Christ-at-the-wellHe created the beautiful Earth and all life upon it. The purpose of this splendor simply to witness of His love for us. He implemented God’s plan for His children by creating Adam and Eve, our first parents, and beginning family units.

Jesus makes it possible for little children to be born into the world innocent. They are alive in Him. They exemplify the beauty of heaven that we cannot remember yet yearn to return to.

Jesus was born into the world to experience all of the pain of mortality. He felt all of the emotions, physical pain, spiritual stretching, and uncertainty that comes with life. He felt the weight of the sin of all mankind in the garden of Gethsemane and again on the cross. He died.

Then he took his body again and became a resurrected being. He overcame death. He overcame sin and all mortal imperfections. He uses his power to reclaim all of mankind and offer us the blessings He received. He loved us and did not forget any of us in His miraculous mission. He and our Father focus completely on us, their children.resurrected-christ-wilson-ongAfter this life is over, God wants to share with us “all that He hath.” (Luke 12:44). He wants to take the little fragments of happiness that we have experienced here and make them into an eternal reality. Jesus Christ made this possible. Everything from creating the Earth through redeeming God’s children is encompassed in Jesus’ divine mission that He fulfilled when He rose the third day.

He is risen!

If you like this post, consider reading Because He Lives: Meditations on Christ

A Phoenix Temple testimony

bountiful-utah-temple-winter-Jason-Carlton
Bountiful Utah temple in winter by Jason Carlton

I am impressed by Jason’s blog over at Temples and Testimonies. I enjoyed reading the inspiring messages there. His photos inspire too!

Here is my testimony of the temple. Thanks Jason for providing the impetus to write it.

When I first moved to Phoenix I immediately felt dismay over the distance to the temple. While not impossible, the 90 minute drive meant a visit lasted 6 hours, too long for me to attend if I had a nursing baby at home. The difficulty taught me to appreciate the temple more.

I felt ecstatic at the Church’s plan to build a temple in Phoenix. Then I had to find extraordinary patience as the planning and building phases took six years to complete.

This past fall, I had the privilege of attending the Phoenix Temple open house with my entire family. Many of my friends volunteered in the open house and shared their inspiring experiences with me. I’ve felt longing for this House of God, and now joy at being able to go inside and worship there.

I know The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints offers saving ordinances restored from ancient times. Through these ordinances, available in temples, my family has a chance to be together eternally. I have never found a more beautiful piece of truth; one that inspires me to keep trying even when life is hard. My husband and children bring so much happiness to my life. And the gospel teaches us the principles needed to achieve that happiness. It’s amazing!

-Holly

Two Testimonies

Today I want to share a testimony with you.

Behold, I testify unto you that I do know that these things whereof I have spoken are true. And how do ye suppose that I know of their surety? Behold, I say unto you they are made known unto me by the Holy Spirit of God. Behold, I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself. And now I do know of myself that they are true; for the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit; and this is the spirit of revelation which is in me. (Alma 5)

sunrise-darkness
source lds.org

This beautiful testimony points out that all testimony results from revelation through the Holy Spirit. “Through revelation, the Lord provides individual guidance for every person who seeks it and who has faith, repents, and is obedient to the gospel of Jesus Christ.” (lds.org) A testimony is a beautiful combination of insight received through revelation and faith in things we don’t completely understand.

That is one reason it is difficult for detractors to understand how we can believe. To those outside of the realm of faith, belief in Jesus Christ seems foolish. (Alma 30:13) I feel very fortunate I’m taught God’s plan in a way that is simple and easy to comprehend. Millions have lived and died wondering whether God could save His children.

I like to consider what atheists have to offer. There is only one version of the ultimate destiny of mankind for those who don’t believe in God: annihilation. Whether through self-destruction or using up all available resources, the earth and its amazing creations end in death.

Belief in God offers a counter ending. God, who created and knows all things, made us for a purpose. He has enough foresight to make sure there is enough (and extra) for our grand experiment. Like a loving Father sending his young children out into the world to prove themselves, He created a laboratory where we could experiment and explore our potential. We prove ourselves in our daily actions, a lifelong test that is so much harder than any written or verbal examination.

I love that our church pushes each member to continually improve. There is no simple salvation for a trite pledge. We have to live what we believe. It only makes sense: God can’t be fooled by “cheating” on the test of life. He is wise enough to make succeeding questions adapted to our responses, showing us the holes in our logic. And he doesn’t close the examination until we’ve had time to revise our answers.

the-second-coming
source lds.org

As time rolls on, God’s kingdom grows stronger in opposition to the expanding forces of Evil. “We will witness increasing evidence of Satan’s power as the kingdom of God grows stronger.” (Elder James E Faust) “The solution of the great world problems is here in the Church of Jesus Christ. Ample provision is made not only for the needs of individuals, but also for the nation and groups of nations. I realize that it is a great claim. … It is simply the application of God’s plan to the world problems.” (Elder L Tom Perry)

I want to share my own testimony. I know The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is God’s kingdom on the earth. It contains all of the pieces of the gospel of Jesus Christ, gathered in completeness with authority to provide ordinances of salvation to all of God’s children. The good are being gathered together, as we participate in the final battle against darkness. I know Jesus Christ will come again at the culmination of this battle. Good will be rewarded and evil will be defeated. It is so simple, yet in thousands of years of earth’s history, men haven’t been able to come up with anything to compare with it. I know it’s true. Like Alma,

“God hath made it manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit.”

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Faith and Doubt

Have you every thought about Faith? Here’s an interesting thought I realized: Faith includes doubt.

Faith is an imperfect knowledge. It is believing something is true enough to act on it. But you don’t know for sure. For example, I have faith in Jesus Christ. I believe He is a real person. But I’ve never seen Him. I probably won’t until after I die.

So because you don’t know something you have faith in, there is also doubt there. I mean doubt as “a feeling of uncertainty about the truth, reality, or nature of something.” Our lives are intended to be a test, to see what we really believe in. We demonstrate how deeply we believe something by our actions.

choose-to-believe
Children have simple yet beautiful faith.

In religion, there are always questions about how we believe in things we don’t know for sure. I think part of the answer lies in the different nature of testing spiritual evidence.

Secular doctrines have the advantage of convincing, tangible evidence. We seem to do better in gathering data on things that can be counted and measured. Doctrines which originate in the light, on the other hand, are more often supported by intangible impressions upon the spirit. We are left for the most part to rely on faith. But, in time, the consequences of following either will become visible enough.

-Boyd K Packer, The Shield of Faith

Our experiment in faith won’t end until after our mortal lives are over.

Until then, faith and doubt will exist in each of us in varying proportions. Acknowledge what you doubt–you can’t work on improving until you’ve identified a weakness. But don’t let doubt discredit the reality of faith.

comeuntomeJerryAndersonsculpture
Sculpture by Jerry Anderson

Here are some thoughts on the subject by Elder Holland:

“Belief is always the first step toward conviction.”

faithpic
from http://simplybeffie.blogspot.com/

“Hold fast to what you already know and stand strong until additional knowledge comes.”

“The issue…is the integrity you demonstrate toward the faith you do have and the truth you already know.”

“In this world, everyone is to walk by faith.”

“Honestly acknowledge your questions and your concerns, but first and forever fan the flame of your faith, because all things are possible to them that believe.”

So, in the question of faith versus doubt, choose to believe.

 This post in response to a post I read over at Normons.

Thanksgiving gratitude

Here’s my list of thankful things…

  • Peace
  • Family and the relationships I share with them
  • Prosperity
  • Plenty of food
  • Health
  • Time
  • Sunshine
  • Knowledge
  • Babies
  • Love from others
  • Friends
  • Truth
  • Words of God… scriptures
  • The Holy Spirit that connects me to God
  • Jesus Christ and His infinite atonement

“Ye are eternally indebted to your heavenly Father, to render to him all that you have and are” 

– Mosiah 2:34

Thanksgiving pies

God blesses us daily, and in return asks that we choose to follow Him. Everything we have is part of a plan by our Heavenly Father for us to grow and prove ourselves. He allows us to experience good and bad and asks us to freely choose Him so that we can return to heaven and live forever in happiness.

“If you should render all the thanks and praise which your whole soul has power to possess, to that God who has created you, and has kept and preserved you, and has caused that ye should rejoice, and has granted that ye should live in peace one with another—I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants. And behold, all that he requires of you is to keep his commandments.” Mosiah 2:20-22