Prayer

I have had difficult few months.  Not difficult in the sense of anything truly bad happening to me, but just months in which there are a lot of little things I’m dealing with and a lot of time spent wasted with being worried, instead of being productive.

I’m mentally tired and cranky, feeling as if I’m at a point in my life in which I’m just wading in the water, not really going anywhere. In truth, I’m really not at all that happy. I can’t really explain other than I feel as if I have hit a huge boulder and can’t find a way around it. There are a lot of things I’m dealing with in which there are no immediate solutions.

My prayer life hasn’t been great lately. When I sit down to meditate and have my time with God, I find myself uncharacteristically speechless. My prayers are something out of a Valley Girl dialogue. “Like, yeah, God, you’re like so awesome, like you know, all awesome like. And like, you know, I am like grateful for you and stuff.”  Granted, I do know there is the option of keeping still and communing with our Heavenly Father without words, but I find myself having a double dialogue inside my head which adds to the insecurity of me losing my mind- for reals this time.

Faith is a funny thing. When we are dealing with struggles within our faith, an important question to ask, “Is it really our faith we are struggling with? Or is it what we’re doing-or not doing?”

A lot of my unhappiness has been the way I have dealt with life’s struggles. I have not been praying or even taking the time to look over my scriptures. I am an all or nothing person and if I can’t devote all the time I need for anything,  I tend to throw my hands up in discouragement.

In a moment of what I can only describe as Heavenly Father slapping me to reality (with love, of course) I remembered God is the literal Father to all of us humans. He loves us and is genuinely interested in our welfare and wants very much to communicate with us-if we are open to listen and to turn to Him. Despite all that may be going on in our lives, God tells us that no matter what-no matter how… we should always pray.

Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not. (D&C 6:36)

We are all prone to sin. Yet, with that said, God knew all of our shortcomings beforehand, yet He sent His Son to assume responsibility in our place.

A huge part of my drawing a blank in prayer was due to the feelings of shame I felt when I prayed. Understanding and accepting the sacrifice of God’s Son and knowing God is a loving Father, I immediately felt at peace.

And I felt the glowing warmth of His love.

Luke 21:36

2 Thess 1:11

2 Ne. 32:9

3 Ne. 18:15,18

D&C 10:5; 19:38; 20:33; 31:12; 61:39; 88:126; 9:24; 93:49

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Done

Ever just felt done? Done with people and relationships? This entire year of 2011 had been a troubled year of broken promises, relationships and the dealing with unexplained illnesses. Today, I took in a deep breath and muttered, “I’m done.”

Just done.

I have found I am more content inside my home, in my favorite sweats, hair in a bun, working on articles, school work or the never-ending manuscript. I love my daycare kids and working on our art projects and taking long walks. What I have come to loathe is the dynamics between groups of people and how and where I fit in. I never really thought about fitting in because my huge ego automatically thinks I do, so I don’t question it. It’s either that-or the hard truth that I don’t really care.

What happens when you are in a ward and the friendships aren’t real? Gossip is everywhere, hypocrisy is spreading, and the friends you thought you had only viewed you as a ‘project’?

A few months ago, a friend and I shared a day together which included lunch and shopping. Nothing specatacular happened, certainly not newsworthy, but of course, one incident has seemed to make the rounds. (Totally G-rated, legal and actually, boring.) I found myself getting my ghetto on last night when accused of something I didn’t do by a very well known pot-stirrer (I’ll never learn with this one!) and today I get a text by the friend that said  she looks back on our day with regret.

That hurt.

It isn’t only the gossip in which has gotten me down. It is also the hypocrisy.  Don’t do something you can’t own up to. You do it, own it. But don’t play it off as if the other people who have done it are less ‘Christian’ than you because they’re not lying about it.

I want to permanently remove myself from my ward. No longer do I feel a part of the ward family and I was quite comfortable with my decision. I began to bemoan the fact that unlike other denominations, I couldn’t just switch to another congregation. Across town. In another state, perhaps.

Of course, my phone rings.

Voice of reason on the other end.

“Take a break,” she says. “I get that. But do not let this rob you of your right to receive your spiritual time on the Sabbath. Don’t let it rob you of your desire to go to church. With or without hypocrites and gossipers.”

In every church, there is going to be your ‘drama’. It’s the Adversary’s way of creating havoc amongst God’s people. I know this, I get it. However, sometimes, even knowing the logic behind it, a person can only take so much before they finally say, “I’m done.”

Elder Harold B. Lee made a comment at a Branch Conference in a small town in Texas in November of 1942 which I stumbled across whilst writing this entry: He  said, “Be kind, forgiving and overlook the faults of others.”

The reality is everyone at one point or another says unkind things about others. (Raising hand! Guilty.) It does feel as if I’m being singled out (big ego) yet, logically, I know this is not true. I know by shifting my focus from this useless crappola of drama and focusing on the Lord and care only what He thinks about me, I’ll be a much happier and content person.

I’m done with the offensive ghetto-smack down attitude wanting to take down whoever pisses me off. It’s not worth it and it is simply not the legacy I want to leave behind.

Does this mean I’m going to be a doormat for people to stomp on? Um,  No.

It does mean I will treat people with kindness, rather than showing offense by things they say (or don’t say) and treat them in such a way that it  will merit their respect, not their fear.

Simply put: I’m done.

Priesthood Blessings and Joy

I caught a glimpse of my face in the mirror this morning, and my haggard appearance made me want to gag. It also reminded me of how fatigued and achy I am. Most disturbingly, my usual optimistic mood had been already been replaced by something darker and pessimistic.

The last few weeks I’ve been dealing with medical issues. This past weekend it seemed to grow prominently worse. Being one who does not like  to ‘slow down,’ this new change in my life only brings out the worst in me. I don’t like for anything to change my schedule, do not like sympathy, and do not like to be viewed as anything other than capable. So you can imagine that dealing with any type of illness is somewhat of a buzz kill in my life.

Yeah, I know. Pride, much?

After a few freak-outs in my head (only because I was too tired and sick to freak out on anyone in person) it finally dawned on me to ask for a blessing.

It has been over a year since I’ve received any type of blessing. I hate to impose on anyone and whilst my logical mind knows better, this not wanting to ask for help is not in any way helping my situation. (Again! With the pride!)

After a moment of prayer, I received some clearing of the negative debris covering my mind. A sense of peace and clarity filled my soul. It became clear that not only did I want a blessing, but I needed a blessing!

A priesthood blessing is sacred. It can be a holy and inspired statement of our wants and needs. If we are in tune spiritually, we can receive a confirming witness of the truth of the promised blessings. Priesthood blessings can help us in the small and great decisions of our lives. If, through our priesthood blessings, we could perceive only a small part of the person God intends us to be, we would lose our fear and never doubt again. ~President James E. Faust

Priesthood Blessings

Wanting healing through prayer is not in conflict with  the miracles of medical science from one’s life. (It shouldn’t be.)  Brigham Young would ask those who asked for healing through a blessing, “Have you used any remedies?” When the individual would reply no because “we wish the Elders to lay hands upon us,” President Young replied: “That is very inconsistent according to my faith. If we are sick, and ask the Lord to heal us, and to do all for us that is necessary to be done, according to my understanding of the Gospel of salvation, I might as well ask the Lord to cause my wheat and corn to grow, without my plowing the ground and casting in the seed. It appears consistent to me to apply every remedy that comes within the range of my knowledge, and [then] to ask my Father in Heaven … to sanctify that application to the healing of my body.”  (Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe (1954), 163.)

D&C 90:24 tells us to pray always and so whilst we are using wisdom and faith simultaneously, we should not deny ourselves the blessings God has bestowed to us, especially when it is because of pride.

The Apostle James taught that we should “pray one for another, that ye may be healed,” adding, “the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16). When the woman who touched Jesus was healed, He told her, “Thy faith hath made thee whole” (Matthew 9:22). 3 Similarly, the Book of Mormon teaches that the Lord “worketh by power, according to the faith of the children of men” (Moroni 10:7). ~Dallin H. Oaks

Last night, after 8pm, two members of the Priesthood from my Ward, came to my house and gave me a blessing. It wasn’t earth shattering, the walls didn’t shake, the Heavens did not open, nor did I instantly feel better. What did happen was that I immediately felt at peace, my fear of what is wrong disappeared and the worry I felt about my doctor’s appointment today vanished.

This morning, I feel better. Not 100%, but better, mostly due in part of feeling at peace and some of that negativity I allowed to erode my mind is gone.

My husband also got to witness the experience for the first time. This is a miracle in and of itself.

One of things I’ve learned since my conversion is this: Joy is something vastly different from happiness. It’s different from the surface of physical comfort. In my opinion, joy is divinely inspired and goes with the flow of our emotions. It’s a constant contentment during the most troubling of times. It doesn’t go away when we are facing challenges, yet because we mistake joy for happiness, we may feel we are joyless. My discontent in being sick made me think all the joy in my life had been sucked out of my life, but the truth is, my life is joyful. Before my conversion when things seemed to be the worst that they could be, there was not anything to bring me back to the feeling of love my God has for me. Now, I feel His love, and also the joy of knowing how intense and true that love is. Where there was once a sense of bleakness…there is now joy.

The more we know of our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, the more joy we will have, no matter the circumstance. A friend once told me that life does not have to be easy to be joyful and I took her words for granted, not understanding the depth of truth she spoke.

I understand now.

His Glory and not Our Own

A few days ago I was studying my Scriptures and I started to feel antsy. My mind began to wander about how little I do in the Church and how unfulfilled I feel when it comes to doing things within our ward. I found myself dwelling on the fact that if only I could do this and this and oh yeah this then I’d be spiritually uplifted.

Sometimes I feel as if I’m walking an uphill battle in regards to spiritual things within my family and what I feel is important to help me grow spiritually in my ward. I find myself irritated with the thought that the entire universe is working against me.

As my mind was having this conflicted pity party, I suddenly had this thought that the adversary is working to lure people away from our Heavenly Father by placing these obvious great ideas in our heads. These great ideas that seem harmless and spiritual aren’t always working for the greater good…but to our own spiritual detriment.I believed this was what was happening to me.

Wait…what? How could something holy with positive actions NOT be good for our spiritual growth?

It happens easily and sometimes without us even noticing. I’ve witness it time and time again. Callings given to people sometimes take over their identity and they feel as if their calling defines them as a person. There are parents and spouses hardly seeing their children and sweethearts because of their over-involvement in church activities which they feel is bringing glory to God.

But is it really?

As a convert, I know this isn’t strictly within our faith, I’ve seen it in other religions. I know the over involvement in church activities isn’t always a good thing if you’re doing it without your family members. I know the adversary works on me continuously as I use my writing and speaking engagements to share the gospel with others. This isn’t a bad thing, yet if I allow it, I can be lured down a path of faux holiness. In my busy moments to do ‘God’s work’ I can become edgy and temperamental when interrupted by family members because I’ve convinced myself it was going to bring so much glory to God. I want to simply be left alone to do what I want- which if I’m honest with myself- isn’t really what God wants for me or my family.

With my natural disposition to be busy, it is easy for the adversary to have me focus on some big project and neglect the people I love in the pretense of doing God’s work.

So what are we as Christians supposed to do?

Heavenly Father is a loving and gracious father and He has set for us clear and easy instruction for our daily lives. We know Heavenly Father would never have us do anything that would mean being neglectful to our spouses and children. He would never have us involved in spiritual activities in which we are beginning to feel resentful towards our brothers and sisters in Christ. When we feel as if these things are taking over our spiritual work, it is time to evaluate what we’re doing and make sure we’re doing it for the right reasons.

Leaning on Heavenly Father and giving Him complete control over my life has allowed me to be sensible in deciding which duties I’m involved in. The moments in which I have felt frustrated with ward members-and even God- were the times in which I was trying to glorify myself. I’ve also noticed when I’m thinking of only myself when involved in projects, it is those projects that usually never work out. Yet, when I’m obedient to God’s instruction and work my projects in accordance to His word, I’m astounded to see His hand opening more doors for me.

Remaining obedient to God when deciding on what projects to accept has been completely liberating. I’m not plagued with the thoughts that I’m not doing enough in service. I’m doing what I’m capable of doing and keeping harmony in my family life. I also know the difference between ‘holy’ inspirations and ‘selfish’ ones. Having the inspiration to read my Scriptures instead of playing on Facebook or even doing the dishes has never been a disappointment. If anything it makes cleaning the house or doing the most mundane tasks later a bit less daunting.

I’ve found a sense of peace in understanding God’s commands in my life and by doing His work for His glory (and not my own) my family and I will continually be blessed.

 

Dealing With Anger

I’ve been pondering over the subject of anger. I’m not sure if most of my issues with anger comes from the fact that deep down I’m really a spoiled child with Puerto-Rican genes or I’m just a naturally selfish person. My tendency towards becoming frustrated seems to be geared from not getting my way which often leads to anger.

We are down to one car right now as our truck has decided to go into a coma. It’s been a rough week, because I’m completely home bound. I’ve taken to long walks with toddlers-which let me tell you- is fun for about two minutes. Yesterday, it took an hour for us to even make it out the front door and by the time we made it to the Stop sign at the end of the road, I was cursing my husband in my head for not having our vehicle repaired in what I felt a timely manner. In no time, I was miserable… overcome by a state of disquiet and agitation.

Having four kids of my own, dealing with babies and toddlers all day,  running my writing business, attending school, and still maintaining the role of a good wife, often puts me in situations in which I feel out of control and unable to orchestrate things MY way. Having a serene disposition during the times of aggravation would be wonderful…but seems (to me) an unrealistic fantasy.

But it isn’t…

I was compelled to study and meditate this subject, not only for the good of myself, but for my family. (When Mom ain’t happy-ain’t NO ONE happy!)

The wonderful and inspirational President Gordon B. Hinckley wrote in the November 2007 issue of Ensign:

“Anger is the mother of a whole brood of evil actions.”

Think about that for a second: Anger is the mother of a whole brood of evil actions. How many times have we argued with a person out of anger, saying things we would only regret later? Anger stems from our own imperfections and frailty and by engaging with the devil of anger it becomes easier for it to embrace and overpower us. Rational becomes invisible and we can’t see past our own emotions/anger.

We may be justified in being angry. However, it is our behavior from being angry in which we need to take precaution. My anger over not having a working vehicle wasn’t justifiable anger. Frustrating, yes. Anger towards my husband for not having the vehicle fixed in the time frame I wanted…totally unjustifiable. (I know! I was distraught about this truth too!)

Discerning the truth during the heat of an angry moment by asking Heavenly Father to open our hearts and eyes to the truth of why we are angry can be the first step in dealing with frustrating moments. Being aroused by anger, not calling on God for aid, will be as if we were throwing ourselves into stormy waters. We won’t know if we’ll drown or end up somewhere foreign. The end result is questionable, but always unpleasant.

Making sure I schedule time in my day for prayer and meditation insures having a peaceful mind. Clearing the debris of chaos and strife from my heart and soul insures I’ll be slow to anger and frustration. This isn’t an easy fix, it is a daily struggle to remain calm during the most difficult of times. However, placing all of my trust in God softens the blow. I know I’m not doing it all alone.

I can’t think of a better way to end this article by using a quote from President Gordon B. Hinckley who wrote: “So many of us make a great fuss of matters of small consequence. We are so easily offended. Happy is the man who can brush aside the offending remarks of another and go on his way” [November 2007 Ensign, Slow to Anger]

Resources:

Slow to Anger

Proverbs 16:32; Matthew 5:43–44; 11:15–17; Ephesians 4:31–32; Colossians 3:8; James 1:19–20; 2 Nephi 1:26; 3 Nephi 11:29–30; Doctrine and Covenants 60:2; 63:32; 84:24.

“Anger is [used] to control others. Some people have learned this art very well. They get what they want by becoming loud and angry. … Anger thus has the unrighteous goal of attempting to diminish the freedom of others” (Burton C. Kelly, “The Case Against Anger,” Ensign, Feb. 1980, 10).

“Jesus set the example in personal conduct regarding anger when, although he had been falsely accused and made the subject of railings and mockery, he stood majestically and completely composed before the perplexed Pontius Pilate. He did not retaliate in anger. Rather, he stood erect, poised, unmoved. His conduct was divine. What an example for all of us!“Listen to these marvelous words of the Savior, the master teacher:“ ‘Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.“ ‘But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.’ (Matt. 5:43–44.)” ( Elder ElRay L. Christiansen, who was an Assistant to the Twelve, Conference Report, Apr. 1971, 28; or Ensign, June 1971, 38).

You Talkin’ To Me?

I have a terrible weakness when it comes to trash talking… especially regarding things I dislike. I can’t help but criticize things that are so obviously being done in the worst way possible. (Translation: Not my way.) I’m usually not judgmental towards people I know personally, but anyone in magazines, television and/or movies, you can bet I’m telling someone SOMETHING about how wrong they are.

Before becoming a Christian, this behavior didn’t seem to be something I needed to correct. I prided myself in being a positive person so I thought this mentality was okay, because after all it wasn’t like I was criticizing people I actually knew. That’s totally harmless behavior, right?

Since converting to Mormonism and even the few years before my conversion in which I studied spirituality with earnest, I found this mentality could actually crack open a door to full-blown TRASH TALKING/ALL AROUND GHETTO/POTTY MOUTH Plaza. You know that place we all visit from time to time…especially when we’re ticked off? (I had my own suite.)

I found when I dabbled (okay, not dabbled, but full-fledged body immersion) in trash talking of any kind, it became harder and harder to eliminate it from loved ones and friends. The more I found myself in this negative light, the easier it was to justify it to all other areas in my life.

It’s like once you decide to break your diet of not eating sugar of any kind and think: “Hmm…perhaps, sprinkling some brown sugar on my oatmeal isn’t bad enough to believe I’m actually breaking my non-sugar diet…” that keeping this mentality for so long (because you’re lying to yourself) the line becomes so hazy that taking a huge bite of chocolate cake seems perfectly reasonable. And before you know it…you’re eating brownies for breakfast, cake for lunch and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups for dinner.

Yes, I know, the above example of the non-sugar diet and RPBC’s for dinner seems far-fetched, but think about it for a second: Is it really?

How often do we allow a ‘little bit’ of things into our lives that we know are negative and can cloud our judgment because it is only a little? Because we think we’re not hurting anyone?

When things become so annoying it is difficult for me to keep my mouth shut, I pray for the strength to ignore it. After all…I have been known to ignore Heavenly Father and His many blessings…shouldn’t ignoring the things that cause me the most annoyance and lead to bad behavior be just as easy to ignore?

Not always, sadly enough, but I’m working on it. Becoming more Christ-like has never meant more to me than it does at this point in my life. Perhaps it is because my children are paying more attention to the things I do and say…or perhaps it is because things are starting to make more sense in my ‘mature’ age.

The great thing about having free will is we also have it in us to will OUT the negative and will IN the positive. We just have to actually want to do it.

Learning Discernment

Article Posted on March 9, 2011 on All Things Diva.

Although, I live my life with a certain amount of censor and regulation-by choice– I am often filled with a tad bit of guilt and feelings of failure. The world of Christianity is perplexed and at times very contradictory. You have your devout Catholics with your devout Mormons with a mix of devout Evangelicals and someone in that group-no matter how devout- is doing it all wrong.

I have a wide range of close friends who are a mixture of religions and cultures. Very rarely do I talk about confusing doctrine to a non-member of my church nor would they voice their questions upon me about theirs. Yet, what we do have in common: our love for Jesus (and if not Jesus, our love for God or with my atheist, Buddhist and other religious friends our love for Grey’s Anatomy) we find a common thread in that we all experience some sort of guilt in our daily lives. Religious or not.

With my devout friends who are very religious, I am cautious to the point it feels as if I’m being fake. A few years ago, long before I joined the Mormon Church, I went to the movies with a few friends who were of another Protestant faith. I had chosen the movie and was excited to see this comedy that at the time was a huge hit.

About forty or so minutes into the movie in which I’m choking on popcorn because I’m laughing so hard, I feel a nudge on my elbow. “We’re leaving,” one of the ladies whisper. Thinking something was wrong, I followed them out. I learned that the reason for them leaving wasn’t because the elastic went out in their pantyhose BUT the movie  was bad enough to make Baby Jesus cry. (I’m not being funny here, that’s what she said to me: “Bad enough to make even Baby Jesus cry.”)

I had been so diligent in my research of movies! It was PG-13 with no sex scenes, no violence and no blasphemous dialogue.

Where did I go wrong?

And so I ask, “What was wrong with the movie? I don’t get it.”

To which she replied, “Are you kidding!!! It was the use of the F word! We hear it one time, we’re out.”

Was I so worldly that I didn’t even notice that the actors even used the F word?

Apparently so.

I get it from the other side too. I have my laid-back Jesus is great for funeral friends…and when I joined the Mormon Church I got an ear full of lectures and screams. ‘WHAT? NO COFFEE? NO BEER?!”

It’s always with the no coffee and no beer with these people.

If I casually mention seeing a movie with a particular group of friends, they become indignant as if they’re the Spiritual Police and scold me. “Aren’t you Mormon? No R rated movies for you.”

There are times in this life in which I do not feel as if I fit in anywhere. My Mormon friends are mostly lifers and I have yet to befriend a convert like myself. My husband isn’t a member of the church either and with the exception of my oldest daughter, I’m the only member of the church in my entire family.

Yeah, there’s pressure. On both sides.

For instance, my husband is constantly scolding me about my need for a filter. Once I was telling him a story in which the word “freaking” was used. Okay, so no…it wasn’t exactly G-rated verbiage, but certainly not R rated either. My husband looks at me and says, “What would your Bishop say if he heard you saying ‘freaking this’ and ‘freaking that’. You think he’d approve?”

Earlier today, I had a conversation with a friend who said she couldn’t comment on one of my articles because of a particular word I used. Whilst she admitted that it wasn’t that big of a deal, it was big enough for her not to comment if by chance one of the teenagers she taught saw her name by it. “I can’t let them think that  that’s okay.”  The article in question wasn’t (and still isn’t) anything for me to be embarrassed by or ashamed. However, being that I am who I am, I did begin to feel guilty. But not for the article itself (it was an awesome piece) but more for not feeling guilty to begin with.

What is wrong with me?

So there I am feeling judged by someone who is more Christ-like than me…AGAIN.

This whole Christian thing? Yeah, I suck at it.

As I do with feelings of doubt and pity, I took it to my Heavenly Father. As I was praying there was a word that kept popping in my head over and over again. The word: ‘Discernment.’

Spiritual discernment is calling on the Holy Spirit to lead or give direction on a matter.

I open up my scriptures and stumble on this verse in the Bible:

But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.  ~ 1 Cor. 2:14

I pray. I cry. I pray a little more and feelings of blessings sweep over me. I am not a failure as a Christian. I am just me. A human being with all the complexities and contradictions all other humans have that make them who they are.

I am ME.

God’s Child. Imperfect, but loved just the same.

I realize in my life as long as I use discernment and rely on my own conscience, I can only keep doing the best I can. The lessons I have gained from my faith are a thousandfold and I must keep them to the forefront of my mind and heart. I must  accept that the ones judging me or more importantly my feelings of being judged are irreverent when it comes to my walk with Christ. With that being said, this doesn’t give me free reign not to use a filter once in a while. I do not want to be the cause of anyone stumbling in their faith.

Learning to depend on God and to trust in Him is a daily lesson. In my most solitude moments in which I feel desolation, I feel His amazing power as He fills my heart to the fullest…and I know He’s real. I know He loves me. He reveals Himself to me at those times in which I’m filled with doubt and insecurity.

I’m not perfect. (SHOCKER.) I will fall a lot more in this life, but everyday I will reaffirm my faith.

My walk with Christ? It’s pretty freaking awesome.