Wednesday, November 8, 2017

You Gotta Let Go to Gain Control

Let go to gain control. Sounds a bit contradictory. How is giving up control of things in my life going to give me more control? It seems the more energy we put forth holding onto something, the more we should be able to control it. However, I can tell you, this is generally not the case.

Imagine the forecast for Saturday is nothing but clear skies and sunshine! You live for these kind of days. You make plans to spend a the day out at the lake. Unfortunately, you wake up Saturday morning to find that it is extremely windy and rainy. Dang! Let's consider two different scenarios of how your day can go from this point forward.

Scenario A: You sit and stare out the window begging the sun to come out. You spend every thought wishing the day were different. You dream about the fun time you'd be having at the lake if it weren't for the darn rain. You even put on your bathing suit to show the sun that you did your part and have faith that it will come out. You don't want to give up hope so you sit waiting and watching until the day is through.

Scenario B: When you see that you won't be going to the lake anytime soon, you decide to give a stab at that new recipe that you been dying to try. You invite some friends over to visit while you enjoy your delicious new masterpiece dessert. You invite them to stay and play some games. When your family is all home for the day, you get out your favorite family movie to watch together. The day has raced by, but you now have just enough time to pull out book that you have been too busy to read.

The sun never came out in either scenario, but the day turned out completely different for each. At the end of the rainy day in scenario one, all that you found was disappointment, sadness, despair, and possibly anger for a ruined day. In contrast, in Scenario 2, you felt joy, warmth, and happiness. The difference was not the sun coming out. The difference was the realization of what could not be controlled (the sun coming out) and then choosing instead to change YOU. This isn't just about covering up your disappointments by thinking positive (although that's a huge start!). It is changing your prospective and making the choice not to allow the unexpected detours of life cause such great distress--choosing to let go of what you can't control and becoming in charge of your own happiness. You can't control everything that happens, but you can control your reaction to those things. I know the sun is what you want, but at the end of a rainy day, you will feel nothing but sadness and disappointment if all you do is wait for things to be different. On the other hand, if you take the opportunity to actively seek the opportunities for joy all around you, you will be surprised to find happiness even though some days the sun never finds it's way through the clouds.

Just like we cannot force the sun to come out, there are many things in life you cannot control NO MATTER WHAT YOU DO! We all have things that we have invested a huge part of ourselves and our lives to--marriage, children, goals, dreams. Those are good things and we should hold onto those things, but we need to separate the parts we can and cannot control. We cannot control the choices of others (dang it!). We can be an influence (the part we can control), but ultimately a person has to make their own choices (the part we cannot control). We cannot always control illness, death of loved ones, or the past, etc. Fighting against things we can't control will actually send our world spinning. Unhappiness, anxiety, depression, and despair, are all products of spending our energy on things we can't change.

So what things are you ALLOWING to drag you down that you have no power over? What are you spending so much energy on worrying about that it is wearing you out? Decide what things you actually can change and what you just think you can change. Stop spending your days wishing for things to be different, but instead choose to change YOU. As you let go of things you cannot control, you will gain control of yourself and your own happiness.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

A Perfectly Imperfect Life

Have you ever been scrolling through your social media feed and just thought, "does everyone have a perfect life except me?" Sometimes (especially with social media) we fool ourselves into believing other people have it all going for them. In reality, everyone has their struggles.

On the outside, everything in my life seemed just peachy for a long time. On my anniversary four years ago, I made the following tribute to my spouse on my Facebook page:

"Although my anniversary was yesterday, I couldn't let the chance pass me by to say I LOVE YOU to the man who was my first kiss, covered my yard with snow my first Christmas in the desert, was the pilot my first time on an airplane, is the father of our three beautiful children, works harder than any other person I know, moved to St. George mostly because he knew that is where I wanted to live, and has given me some of the best moments of my life. Forever and always Babe!"

It sounds just like a fairy-tale doesn't it? This was evidence to the world of a picture-perfect relationship. However, truth was that those words were from a woman who was trying to reach across galaxies to revive any life left in her relationship. My marriage was falling apart. I fought hard against the reality that I couldn't keep everything all together how I wanted. I finally had to let go of my perfect plan (my pride) and trust God with my life.

My marriage still ended in divorce. Looking back though, I can see how God had a plan much greater than I had for myself. He took all the ugly parts of life and of me and somehow brought them together in a way that made me better. He made me stronger. He taught me about forgiveness, compassion, empathy, and showed me who I am. I faced situations I would have never understood had I not lived through them. And, without ever imaging it was possible, He brought my family back together and my relationship is much stronger because of the nightmare we lived through.

This is not the story I would have written for myself, but it is somehow okay. The journey has been filled and is still filled with so many unexpected bumps, but because of a loving Creator, all those imperfections have worked together so perfectly for the good of my family.

So even if life seems so perfect on the outside for everyone else, let's be aware that battles are often fought privately and silently. Let's reach out and love everyone no matter how ok they seem. And let's stop believing we are the only one that is less than perfect. Stop comparing the worst parts of your life to the best in those around you. And most importantly, let's turn to our loving Father in Heaven who can take all the ugliness in our lives to create a perfectly imperfect life.

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Truth Behind "I just don't love you anymore."

You cannot simply just fall out of love with a person. If you have, perhaps you don't understand what love truly is. Love is an action--it is a choice. Everyday you make a choice. You either choose to think of your spouse and choose to show them, or you don't. It's that simple really.

Sure, love can die. Just like any living, growing thing, love can die without proper nourishment. Laziness will keep a person from continually caring for the seed of love they have planted with another person. Neglect, as a product of laziness, is possibly the saddest method of killing love. What a tragedy when two people love each other, but sit by and do nothing to nourish their love until it is too late!

Selfishness and pride are also the weeds that will overtake the blossoms of the love you once enjoyed. Is it really that hard to be kind and thoughtful toward your spouse? Is it really that difficult to admit the ways that you are poisoning and depriving the soil of any nutrients that keep your love from growing? You may think that it is better to keep your pride at the cost of love. You may think you can just start over, but I guarantee you will never find something better. It will take work, humility, and unselfishness to grow new love. You obviously have yet to acquire those traits if you just allowed yourself to "fall out of love" in your last relationship so you are already set up for failure. And if you ever do figure out how to truly be in a relationship, you will regret that you didn't put the work into that first love because new love will never be as beautiful and it will require much more work to maintain.

So, let's stop with the lie that love just dies. That justification might make you feel better for a moment, but let's get real. You have some work to do. Choose to love your spouse every day. Choose to find ways to let them know you love them. Choose to be the person you should be for your love.


Sunday, March 5, 2017

Why I Don't Have to Prove I Can Do Everything Equal to a Man

I struggle to understand why women feel they have to prove they can do everything that men can do. I don't get the argument when on the flip side it's clear that MEN WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO DO WHAT A WOMAN CAN DO! Yes, that's right. We, as women, were given this incredible power to create within our bodies other human beings! We have the ability to bear children. Is that not amazing? How in the world does that not empower every woman and make her cherish her God-given abilities? And as much as a man may want to have this miraculous ability, he never will. When did women stop seeing how incredible we truly are? When did women start feeling they had to prove they were everything a man is especially when a man will never be everything a woman is? Personally, I feel truly honored for the gender that I was created to be. I don't have to prove anything to anyone.

And as far as "just" being a stay-at-home mom...there is no "just" about it! I am a stay-at-home mom because I choose to be not because I am not capable of doing anything else. It is not less of a title or position then any other title I could hold. In fact, the title of "mother" is one of the most powerful and influential positions that a person could ever have should they strive to fulfill that role well. We, as women, have the power to shape the future. We can take the opportunity to raise up a generation that is better than the world has known.

As a side-note, just because I truly value my womanhood and the abilities I have been given as such, does not mean that I value men any less. I am grateful for the men who live what a true man should be. I feel blessed for those men who respect womanhood and take seriously the role that they have as fathers, priesthood holders, and husbands. What great responsibilities they hold! (Kind of glad I'm not them!). I cannot imagine the pressure to have a whole family counting on you to provide for every want and need. Every decision effects so much more than them. A man's failures can impact every member of his family, company, and what probably feels like the whole world. So can we all just quit trying to prove we are "as good as" or "as capable as" anybody else? It's the differences that make us unique and special and come together as a part of something bigger that blends so beautifully together.  


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

My Hope

Soon after I was divorced, I got myself into school so I could provide a better life for my kids and I. For one of my courses (public health), I was required to do some service hours in the community. I chose to spend some time at the local homeless shelter. From the moment I arrived, I was feeling so much compassion for the people using these services. I also felt a great deal of gratitude for all that I have. As I was working in the pantry, I saw a paper on the wall that listed the income limits for those eligible to live at the shelter. My heart dropped when I realized that I qualified to stay there. Whoa, what? I had no idea I was that poor. The word "humble" doesn't really begin to describe what I was feeling.

On my way home, and for days following, I reflected on this. Why was I in such a better situation when we had the same financial resources? I concluded that it came down to choice. After all, when I was there working, quite a few people were sitting around picnic tables smoking cigarettes, gossiping, and just hanging out. In contrast, I was actively seeking a better life and willing to work for it. I was taking advantage of available opportunities such as finishing my education to obtain a better way of life. These people have the same choice, right? I thought this was lesson I learned that day - that it's about hard work and self-reliance. Although I strongly believe in those principles, there is a completely different and more meaningful lesson I have come to understand.

Fast forward a few years to a night when I was reading my scriptures and came across the words, "perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery...his punishments are just." This is essentially the conclusion I had come to through my experience at the homeless shelter. As I continued to read, it said that whoever says/thinks this about others, "the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God." (Mosiah 4:17-18). Uhm, punch to the stomach right there! I felt awful for weeks realizing where my heart was. The thing is, and as it points out in the next verse, "are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God for all the substance which we have...?"

In that moment, I realized every blessing that God has given me that has allowed me to get where I am. Yes, I have done my best to work, but without His help, I would still be nowhere. You see, I have a great support system. I have wonderful family and friends who have been there for me this whole time. I am physically and mentally healthy. And greatest of all, I have a knowledge of who I am and where I am going. I understand, believe in, and use the Atonement. I have hope!

I didn't know any of those people. Maybe they have no one or feel they have no reason to try. Maybe they have illnesses that prevent them from attaining education or employment. Maybe they have never hoped for anything better. I don't know and that's the point.

It is my prayer and hope that we can withhold judgments, serve freely, and realize where the true source of all that we have comes from. I hope that we can "succor those that stand in need of succor [and] administer...substance unto him that standeth in need." (Mosiah 4:16)

Sunday, October 16, 2016

He lives! And He has given me a weekly reminder...

Every Sunday when I attend church I partake of the Sacrament. I partake of the bread that symbolizes Jesus Christ's body and drink the water that symbolizes His blood. I had always thought we are to remember His body that He sacrificed for us. I pictured His Atonement and what His body suffered and endured to make that possible. I believe that is part of it, but perhaps there is more.

Jesus Christ appeared to the people of Nephi after His resurrection. There He administered the sacrament. In 3 Nephi 18:7, Jesus teaches, "and this shall ye do in remembrance of my body, which I have shown unto you." In this account, it seems to me that the bread is to remind them of His resurrected body.

In a book written by Stephen Covey titled, "Spiritual Roots of Human Relations," he discusses how it is the Lord's work and glory to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man (Moses 1:39). "When the Lord revealed [this]...he essentially outlined the two great parts...of all that he has attempted to do among men since the beginning." The first part is immortality, and the second part is eternal life. Immortality is for everyone because of the miracle of the resurrection. Eternal life, "which has to do with the quality of the resurrection...is personal achievement by each individual made possible through the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ."

Could it be that the sacrament symbolizes exactly that? We remember His body and the gift we have of immortality. We rejoice in the miracle that Jesus Christ indeed lives! Not only that, we will have that same opportunity! Then after we partake and remember that marvelous gift, we partake of the water to remember the second part. We realize our need for the Atonement in order to achieve eternal life which is really only possible because of the first part.

I've gained personal insight on the meaning of the sacrament cup and the role of being able to follow the will of God no matter how bitter the "cup." Now, I add that it's really even a miracle in the first place that that matters. It matters that I choose His will because Jesus Christ actually lives! Otherwise there would be no point!

The sacrament, in addition to other important symbolisms, represents very well God's plan - to bring to pass the immortality AND eternal life of man.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

I AM NOT A "SINGLE MOM"

Yes, I am a mom. Yes, I am single, but I don’t define myself by it. The term “single mom” seems to imply so many things that I am not. I am not broken. I am not lonely. I am not stressed and struggling every single day to make it. I am not bitter. I am not angry or resentful. I am not an emotional wreck. I don’t cry myself to sleep. I am not overwhelmed.

I am, however, grateful. I am grateful that I have become the person that I am today. I am so grateful that I have learned to trust God. I am so grateful that I have become so aware of His hand in my life even during the times when I didn’t know if He really cared. I am thankful that my faith has been tested in a way that only solidified it. I am so grateful for the increase in love for my Savior who provided the Atonement that could bring peace and healing to a broken heart. I am thankful to have experienced the power of forgiveness made possible through that Atonement. I am thankful that I’ve learned to have an understanding heart and be less judgmental as I have come to realize that I don’t know what someone might be dealing with behind closed doors.
I am grateful that I am me again. For so long I lived to make someone else happy who really could never be pleased. I felt responsible for the actions and happiness of someone else. I was so busy living for someone else that I forgot who “Angela” was. Since being a “single mom,” I have remembered who I am and it feels so good to be able to be myself again. I am smart, capable, and worthy of being loved – all things I forgot somewhere during my marriage.
I am grateful that I can be a better mom. I can focus on my kids without carrying around the heavy burden of a broken marriage. That was a load that nearly crushed everything that I am. I have energy and light because I no longer have turmoil draining me from the inside out. I have more patience and can give so much more attention to my children because I’m no longer distracted by problems that use to occupy my heart and mind.
Obviously my life has changed a lot since I was divorced. There are random days that I still mourn the loss of so many dreams. All I ever hoped for in life was to be a good wife and mother; to have a good marriage and raise good kids. I was going to have five or six kids by the time I was 30. Well, that never happened. It sometimes hurts knowing I don’t have the ideal situation for my kids and that I don’t have the “cute little family” in the way that I spent my whole life dreaming about. It stinks to be part of the statistics of divorce even though I still wanted to fight for my marriage. So, sometimes it can be rough, but…
I will not be the victim and I will not label myself or define myself by my current marital status. “Single mom” describes my situation – as in, I am a mom and I am no longer married - but it does not describe me.