Monday, September 30, 2013

Avoiding Whales

So there I was, minding my own business, when an irritating inner nudge began to pester. I did my best to ignore it, coming up with all kinds of reasons to reject the prompting. No one needs to hear from me today. Others will share the message that needs to be contributed. It won't come out right anyway--and then I'll be mocked.

As these thoughts and others plagued during Fast Sunday, I continued to sit on my nice, comfortable seat, squirming in place until my husband inquired if I needed to make use of the facilities down the hall. =)

I found myself thinking of others who had felt a similar way. Take Moses, for instance. He was told that he needed to journey back to Egypt and have a chat with Pharaoh. I'm sure his inner struggle went something like this:

He won't listen to me anyway. Other people could do a much better job of sharing this message. It won't come out right--and then I'll be mocked. 

Then there was Jonah: They won't listen to me anyway. Someone else could do a better job of sharing this message. It won't come out right--and then I'll be mocked. Plus, I'm a tiny bit scared of these people. 

So on and so forth. In the case of Moses, he was given the reassurance that all would be well, and he was provided with a spokes-person in the form of his brother, Aaron.

Having a gifted spokesperson would be real boon. If I had such a thing, I could merely gesture to him/her and let them take over the conversation, testimony, talk, fireside, etc. whenever things get difficult. "And now, a word or two from someone who actually makes sense . . ." The pressure to strive for perfection would fade, since my personal spokesperson would see to it that the message I desire to convey is done so in the best way possible. I would LOVE that. ;)

However . . . I'm sure there could be a downside. For instance . . . what if my spokesperson had different ideas about how to present my message . . . and what if the message changed, based on their perspective? Then it would cease to be what I felt prompted to share. Hmmmm.

Let's reflect on Jonah. Maybe he had the right idea. When in doubt, run away. =) At times, I can see when this is preferred to standing up in front of people who judge you when something is stuck between your teeth, your shirt is buttoned wrong, or you're wearing two different shoes. These occasions tend to inspire creative mockery from the audience.

Upon further reflection, it didn't do Jonah any good to run away. He nearly caused the drowning demise of an entire shipload of people, not to mention the fact that he was swallowed by a whale. I can think of more enjoyable pastimes. I suspect Jonah was so relieved to be spit up on the shore, that suddenly, talking to the scary group of people seemed to be a better option. And we all know how Jonah's story turned out--an entire city was saved because he finally found the courage to share God's message.

I guess what I am attempting to say is this . . . when we receive promptings to do something . . . and it's a good thing . . . (one has to consider where the prompting is coming from) do it. As Nephi discovered, a way is provided for us to accomplish those often overwhelming "assignments." And as Joseph Smith learned, great things can come from small and simple acts of obedience. (See D. & C. 64:33-34; Joseph Smith History 1:7-19, not to mention, D. & C. 123:16).

Did I heed the prompting I was given yesterday? Grudgingly at first . . . but, yes, I finally did. I'll admit that I dragged my feet every step of the way up to the pulpit . . . but after gathering my courage, I did my best to share what was in my heart. Did it come out perfectly? No. After I returned to my seat, I was hit with "Dang it! I meant to say, this and this and this." Sigh . . .but then a quiet sense of inner peace indicated that I had done the best that I could do and all was well.

That's all our Father expects from any of us. We are given opportunities to do good things in this troubled world. We simply need to listen to the Still Small Voice, gather our courage, and faithfully strive to do our best. We may never know why we felt prompted to do some items--but I can testify that if it's a good thing, it's important to simply do it. Do it without questioning: "Why," "How," or "Me? Really?" If we will give heed to positive promptings, we will receive the guidance and help we need, one step at a time.


Monday, September 16, 2013

Learning From & Letting Go of the Past

Well, here we are, smack dab in the middle of September. The leaves are starting to turn vivid colors in the canyons, and though the sun is shining here and there (between impressive rain storms) a drop in the temperature indicates we are shifting from summer into fall.

Life is like that--it moves incredibly fast and it is full of change. You just think you've adjusted to one season, and another clamors for attention. Sometimes, it is good to look back and remember important highlights from previous eras--it helps form balanced perspectives for future adventures.

Earlier this month I returned to the place I consider my hometown--Ashton, Idaho. (My family moved eight times while I was growing up, but we spent the four years I was in high school in Ashton.) It was an interesting visit to this beautiful small town. As I walked around, savoring the crisp fall air, I felt a familiar urge to snap a few photos. [Those who know me well are rolling their eyes, very much not surprised by this tendency. ;) ]

I took a picture that won't mean anything to most people . . . but the empty spot on the side of Main Street holds a special place in my heart--the high school I once attended used to sit in this location. All that remains are a few trees, a patch of dried grass, and an empty parking lot. The deserted area tugged at my heart-- then I reminded myself that a brand new high school, both bigger and better, now exists on the other side of town. Some changes are good . . . it's just a little heart-rending to shift gears and move on.

While I was tripping down memory lane, I asked my husband to drive by the house my family purchased while we were in Ashton. It's located about two blocks away from where the old high school used to exist. The house appeared to be in great shape, with nice siding and a new roof. A sign indicates that it's for sale yet again. As I stood there, tears made an appearance. I quietly snapped a couple of pictures, took a deep breath, and walked down the street.

Turning, I gazed at the park that stands between my old house, and where the high school used to be. Tears gave way to a sense of peace as I realized that a horrendous ordeal that occurred during my sophomore year has helped shape me into a stronger, more determined individual. It was also a reminder of the importance forgiveness plays in all of our lives.

Years ago, as I walked home through that same park during the winter of my sophomore year in high school, I was attacked by an unknown assailant. By heeding the promptings that came through the gift of the Holy Ghost, I was able to get away with my virtue intact--a handful of bruises were the only visible marks that remained of that nightmarish evening. The inner bruising, however, would take years to heal. To this day, if someone walks up behind me and I'm not aware of their presence, a brief sense of panic descends. It is so much better than it was, however--and I have the Savior to thank for that great gift. 

Several years after I was married, I experienced a healing moment in the temple that helped me understand I had to let go of the hatred I had developed for the person who attacked me. Tears flowed that day, too, as I gave my pain to the Savior, and though I still jump when someone approaches me from behind, the anger, the sorrow, and the fear have faded into peace. I no longer harbor ill will toward whoever was responsible for the assault.

I have learned that if we so choose, we can release pent-up anger, inner pain, and the sorrow others have caused us when we give those negative emotions to the Savior. He knows best how to heal our hearts--and He has already atoned for what others may say or do to hurt us. When we continue to hang onto grudges, we're basically turning our backs to our Elder Brother. We can't fully enjoy life and experience the peace of heart our Father and Savior wish for us to find until we forgive.

Though I will never know in this life who the culprit was who caused me so much pain (the police were never able to prove who it was who attacked me that night) I had to release the angry hatred I was carrying around inside--it was tearing me apart. I have discovered that the same is true for other moments in my life when I have been offended or hurt. We have to let go of the negativity to heal. We must forgive others, and we must forgive ourselves when mistakes are made.

As I walked through the park in Ashton a few days ago, I did so with total peace of heart. And later that day, I met up with beloved friends from my youth as we celebrated our friendship by eating pizza and enjoying huckleberry shakes in the pizzeria that now exists where my dad's drugstore used to be.

Life is change. That's part of why we're here. If everything remained the same and we weren't tested and tried, we would never learn the lessons our Father desires us to experience while on this earth. I know I will be forever grateful for the education I've received thus far in my mortal journey. Some courses have been more difficult than others, but each one has helped to shape me into who I am today.