Sunday, October 18, 2015

"And if men come unto me..."

This life was meant to refine us; to build upon our strengths, and to strengthen our weaknesses.  However, despite knowing that the recognition of weaknesses is a necessary aspect of this life, it is still hard to not become slightly discouraged and sad when our personal weaknesses are made apparent to us.  No one wants to feel so vulnerable and inadequate.  As I struggled with the painful realization of a weakness that I crucially needed to change, a verse from the Book of Mormon came to mind, "And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness.  I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them" (Ether 12:27).  As this verse went through my head, a new thought dissipated the sadness and frustration I was feeling.  "This weakness I was struggling with was an opportunity to become better!  I didn't have to feel the way I was feeling.  My Savior could change my heart!  Through fervent prayer, fasting, studying the word of God, and selfless service, this weakness that was currently making me feel so vulnerable and inadequate, could truly become a strength!"  Obviously, this process won't be easy, but it gives me hope!  Hope that the inevitable human flaws we possess were never meant to discourage us or to bring us down; they were meant to lift us up, and to show us what more we could become!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Latter-day Saints

I'm a fairly ordinary person with challenges, frustrations, weaknesses, and doubts just like everyone else.  The only difference perhaps is that when my soul is conflicted, I don't push the issue aside to subconsciously eat away at me; but neither do I radically embrace it, disregarding all the principles around which I have shaped my life.  Instead, I take the issue head on, analyze it from all aspects, study it out using trusted resources, and then as I come to certain conclusions, I try them out and evaluate my results.  It's actually a pretty complicated process...and takes a lot of work depending on my dilemma...but it's a process that hasn't failed me yet!  

For some time now, I've been going through this process in regards to an aspect of LDS culture that has recently troubled me.  The issue encompasses much more than I can share with you in a short blog entry, but I will do my best to explain.

  
Have you ever heard someone say, "If you truly loved the Lord, you would...(insert righteous action)."  Every time I heard that phrase or similar expressions, I couldn't help but think, "What on earth does that mean?!  Why is it necessary to consistently remind us of everything we aren't doing?  And what of everything that we are doing?  Were those efforts never to be recognized or appreciated?  Did any of that qualify us as one who loves the Lord, even as meager as it may be?!"  I felt as though we, as a body of very diverse people in various stages of life and progression, were constantly being measured against a very singular, unpractical, and unattainable scale.  Now, I know that we should be constantly improving.  Even the prophet Nephi recognized his flaws and need for improvement (2 Nephi 4); but if we never feel good about what we are doing, or if our righteous efforts are never fully recognized or appreciated, then we're never going to be motivated to improve.  Instead, we will become overwhelmed and frustrated with how futile and insignificant our efforts seem to be, and simply give it up all together!  How can we expect anyone in the Church to feel good about their progress if when after every attempt they make for improvement they come to church only to hear that they need to do more?!

Not only could I see how this constant push for improvement negatively affected individuals and their desire to remain faithful, but I could also see it having a damaging influence on the way we perceived one another.  If someone wasn't doing exactly what had been taught at church, they were looked down upon, or considered as one who needed 'help' or 'support'.  Aren't we all struggling, though??  Don't we all need help?  Can't we all improve just a little bit more?  Just because someone hasn't reached that singular, unpractical, and unattainable scale, doesn't mean they aren't progressing spiritually!  And in the eyes of God, aren't we all at the same level, no matter where we are??      



As I struggled with these thoughts, I decided to read Elder Dale G. Renlund's talk titled, Latter-day Saints Keep On Trying.  He states, "As God encourages us to keep on trying, He expects us to also allow others the space to do the same, at their own pace."  The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a Gospel of improvement.  We cannot be stagnant!  Yet, who are we to judge the progress or lack thereof, of others?  A seasoned runner may be able to increase his/her distance and better his/her time each week.  Yet someone who has never run before in his/her life may take months to make one simple and almost infinitesimal improvement.  But they progressed!  Likewise, we cannot look at the actions of those around us and assume that they are not trying, or that they are not improving.  Rather, let us do as Elder Dale G. Renlund's counsels, and "evaluate our lives, repent, and keep on trying.  If we don't try, we're just latter-day sinners; if we don't persevere, we're latter-day quitters; and if we don't allow others to try, we're just latter-day hypocrites.  As we try, persevere, and help others to do the same, we are true Latter-day Saints.  As we change, we will find that God indeed cares a lot more about who we are and about who we are becoming than about who we once were." 

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Compliments??...

As long as I can remember I've been stronger, broader, and more muscly than the average girl.  It definitely has it's benefits...I've never been called girly or wimpy!  But, it also has its downsides...like shopping for dainty, short-sleeve shirts!  The most interesting challenge, though, has been the comments I receive which I'm not quite sure if I should feel complimented or offended.  

Example 1:  "Courtney!  We saw you sitting on the couch and I said to Sam, that's gotta be Courtney, I recognize her arm!"

My 'recognizable' physical quality is my arm?!...hmmm, that's attractive.

Example 2:  "Courtney, we need to move a huge rock down the trail tomorrow, could you help us?  It took four of us guys to get it into the truck, but now we're down one guy, so we could really use you."

My strength is equated to that of a grown man?!...yeeeeeaaaaah, I have no other comments in regards to that!

Example 3: "I saw you running today and thought to myself, 'I wouldn't want to meet her in a dark ally.'"

Really!? Do my arms make me look that intimidating??...Cuz I'm sure nothing else about me does!

I could give you countless more examples, but I don't want to completely embarrass myself! haha!  So you see my dilemma?  It's probably something I'll always be slightly sensitive about, but over the years I've come to this conclusion; there's no way I'll ever have tiny arms, so I might as well embrace the strong, broad, muscly ones I have!  Besides, let's be honest, I would rather be a strong, independent woman that can single handedly carry four bags of luggage through an airport, push a four-wheeler off from on top of me, scale 10ft tall fences, and beat boys at pull up competitions, than look cute and girly in a dainty, short-sleeve t-shirt.  



Friday, September 4, 2015

Right Where You Are

Moving to a new place always has it's challenges.  In the many times throughout my life that I've moved to new locations, I've found myself struggling with the common challenge of looking back on what I loved in the prior location vs finding new things to love in my current location.  Everything's better in hindsight, eh!

Over the years, though, I've discovered three necessary actions that have helped me to develop a love for my current location.

1) Run its streets

2) Visit its nearest temple

3) Hike its trails

There is an abundance of goodness and beauty in this world!  And we can't love the 'world' we live in unless we are experiencing this beauty and goodness first hand!  Maybe the three things I've listed above that help me to recognize all that is right and good in the world won't help you.  But that's where you can personalize it!  You know what makes you smile, awakens your soul, and heals your heart.  Don't sit around wishing for a place or situation that is no longer at your disposal.  It's not the only place that can bring you peace and joy! Go! Explore what is before you, and discover new founts of peace and joy right where you are!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Adjectives

According to a recent study, there are currently 1,022,000 words in the English language.  Of that total, about 1/5 of those words are adjectives, so approximately 204,400 adjectives.  Finally, each of those adjectives have an average of 10 synonyms.  That's a lot of adjectives!

Knowing that information, could someone please explain to me why the majority of human beings in this country choose to limit their use of adjectives to a meager selection of 4-6 swear words!  Not only are there plenty of more suitable adjectives to choose from, but I'm pretty sure that none of those 4-6 swear words are even adjectives!  We have a fairly decent educational system in this country, so it really shouldn't be that hard to describe something better than, "that's a huge f------ rock", or "there are a s--- ton of weeds down in there."  Please, have some respect for the English language, and have some respect for yourself!  Learn a new adjective, and the proper one at that, and use it!

Now, I understand that there are certain situations where a swear word might be appropriate, or just difficult to suppress: you just about fell over a steep drop off, someone dropped a brick on your foot or slammed your finger in the door, or your kid walks into the house with blood all over his/her arm.  While I admire those who have the self-control to not swear in situations like these, I totally understand those who do express their shock, pain, or fear in these moments by using a swear word.  However, if you are going to describe a normal life situation to me, please be an educated human being and use one of the 204,400 adjectives that are conveniently provided in the English language!

*The numbers I shared were gathered from a quick search online, and were used to elucidate the point I wanted to make, and therefore should not to be quoted as facts.  

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Moments to Experience

It's funny how life can be so easy and pleasant one moment, but change one tiny element of a situation and all of a sudden time slows down to a tortuous crawl...

For example, have you ever been in one of these pleasant life moments?

1) Watching a performance, concert, or attending an important meeting?
2) Excited to go on a first date to one of your favorite places?
3) Being interviewed for a position that you are confident you deserve?
4) Running through a beautiful neighborhood with a recent acquaintance?

Not bad moments, right?!  Now lets change one tiny element and see what you think!

1) Watching a performance, concert, or attending an important meeting from the middle seat in a very long row, and then realizing that you have to pee extremely bad, but there won't be an appropriate break for another hour!

2) Going on a first date and all of a sudden feeling nausea.  You've only been out for about an hour, and you don't have the heart to tell the guy to take you home, even though you have to repress the feeling of throwing up every 2-5 min!

3) Being interviewed for a position that you are confident you deserve, but suddenly having a random itch in your throat that forces you to cough every 30 seconds to a minute since there is no water on hand to suppress the itch.

4) Running through a beautiful neighborhood with a recent acquaintance, when the worst type of emergency hits you!  Not only are there no bathrooms close at hand, but how do you tell your new friend that you need to stop running for a bit or it is very likely that you will have an unpleasant accident?!

Moments like these sure don't make life very pleasant, but they certainly make it more entertaining!!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Best Time Of Life

Her small hand picked up the slice of bread topped with a thin layer of cream cheese.  The sparkle in her eye and the cute way she giggled as she stuffed it into her mouth left no doubt in anyone's mind how much she loved this simple delicacy.  My niece was soon to be 14 months, and after watching her daily routine for just a weekend, it was clear to me that this was certainly the best time of life!

Now I know that this is a matter of opinion that can be argued many ways, but I think once I explain my reasoning you'll be persuaded!

Reason #1: How many of you have had a meal this week where you've shamelessly smeared at least half of your food all over your head and body?!  That's what I thought!  Probably none of you!  But wouldn't life be amazing if you could...and did!?  Now I know babies that don't care much for eating...I don't understand that.  My niece, however, has been blessed with an appreciation for food, especially the good stuff; cheese, and chocolate!  Now there are definitely foods that I could eat everyday of my life and still shake my hands in the air with ecstatic excitement every time it was given to me; but just for a moment, try to imagine never having eaten your favorite foods, and then for weeks on end being introduced to one of your favorite foods every...single...day!  That right there has got to be the definition of pure happiness and joy!  And that is exactly what my niece gets to experience everyday!

Reason #2: You wouldn't believe how one little 14-month-year-old can captivate a room of six adults! We turned on the video camera for a little while, and got 12 minutes of her pushing around a tub...that's it, just pushing around the tub, stopping, clapping, and repeat...for 12 minutes!  And that was just a tiny fraction of the time that we spent sitting in a circle being entertained by my niece!  Of course she made it easy for us to be entertained with her constant excitement at the simply things in life; new discoveries, rolling a ball, dancing (or bouncing) to music, grunting while lifting weights, and falling down but getting right back up!  I've never met someone who could live more fully in the moment than my little niece!

Reason #3: Wouldn't it just make you feel special to wake up in the morning, or from a nap and instantly have someone by your side to pick you up, and to give you a hug and a kiss?!  I don't know many people who have that, but my niece sure does!  She'll give the signal cry to alert everyone in the house that she is awake, and instantly someone is at her side!  To make it even better, as she is carried out of the room, she is greeted by even more people who clap and cheer at her presence.  Not a bad life, huh?!

Reason #4: I'm sure babies get snacks for lots of important reasons, but you cannot argue that snacks work wonders in changing someone's mood, especially a baby's.  So if it works so well on a baby, why don't we incorporate the habit as adults?  I mean, I sure wish people would always carry around a snack to hand me when I started to get a little fussy or grouchy.  I don't know about you, but all my frustration, tiredness, or grouchiness would certainly deflate in a matter of seconds if someone handed me my favorite snack!  No wonder why my niece can sit so contentedly on my lap shoving fistfuls of her Vanilla Cereal Puffs into her mouth!

Reason #5:  The best reason of all, though, is the love!  Oh the love that cute, little human being receives everyday is incredible!  She is showered with words and signs of affection daily by her parents, and then weekly by grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends of the family.  She gets so much love I almost wonder if its overwhelming!  But it's not!  She soaks all that love in like little plant and thrives!  How this world would be such a different place if all children received such love!

Are you convinced? If not, well, I could give you even more reasons! Because I truly believe that there could be no better time of life than this!