Friday, November 18, 2016

Finding Joy

I was recently asked how I’ve been able to keep smiling, even when times are hard. It’s a question I’ve been asked repeatedly in my life. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. The truth is, I don’t always smile. There have been plenty of tears—mostly in silence when no one else but God can see. Despite what some may think, I’m a very private person. I keep things that are tender close to my heart. I’ve realized lately that this isn’t always good. Sometimes it’s better to share, depending on the situation.

I learned years ago that when I’m hurting the most, the best thing I can do is to serve someone else. For instance, after the loss of my father, I stumbled onto the fact that whenever I did something for others, the pain in my heart lessened. It was a discovery that helped me survive that arduous time. The more I did for others, the better I felt inside until the overwhelming heartache was an inner sting that was easier to manage.
Writing out what I was feeling helped a ton, too. It’s something I still do. I will pour out whatever is bothering me onto the written page, and then I delete or shred those things. It’s like purging away the pain. 

Focusing on the good things that are taking place is another way to survive a challenging moment. Being grateful for the blessings and tender mercies taking place helps us realize that life isn’t as bad as we sometimes think. 

Going for a walk has always helped me clear out the mental cobwebs that sometimes take up residency. The fresh air is invigorating (unless it’s as cold as it is this morning) and being in nature inspires peace for me. Seeing the beauty that our Father created for us to enjoy is a source of comfort.

I’ve always found consolation in the scriptures. Actually, I should say that this observation didn’t really occur until I was in college. During a particularly intense trial, I felt prompted to pick up the book of scripture that was resting on my desk. I was so upset, I picked it up and threw it across the room. Thankfully a loving Father in heaven was patient with me during that time. The book of scripture opened up to a page I needed to read. When I finally felt guilty enough to walk across the room and pick my scriptures up from the floor, a passage of scripture practically leaped off the page at me. (D. & C. 121:7-8) It was exactly what I needed to see, and the immediate peace I felt was crucial. I’ve felt drawn to the scriptures ever since and I have found comfort, inspiration, and peace when I’ve needed it most.

Prayer is another lifeline. I will sometimes spend what seems like hours on my knees pleading for guidance, comfort, and peace. I have a bit of arthritis, and being on my knees is not always a fun thing. But it’s worth it when the familiar warmth penetrates my heart and I know that somehow, things will work out.

Finally, looking for the silver linings is how I survive. I’ve been blessed with an “interesting” sense of humor. It’s a gift that runs in our family. When we gather together, we often laugh over things that other people probably think are strange. For us, it’s a great way to release stress. We mostly laugh at ourselves and each other, as we remember hilarious moments that have occurred, like the time I stepped into the hem of my long, formal dress as I was walking up the stairs to the stage during a Jr. Miss competition. Let’s just say I didn’t win the award for poise and grace that night. 

Focus on the positive. Look for the good. And as one very wise man/prophet once said, “Don’t be a pickle-sucker.” (The entire quote, by President Gordon B. Hinckley is: “ . . . My dear young friends, don’t partake of the spirit of our times. Look for the good and build on it. Don’t be a ‘pickle sucker.’ There is so much of the sweet and the decent and the good to build on.” ‘Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled,’ BYU Speeches, October 29, 1974)

We all have moments in life that are less than fun. Challenges and tests are part of why we’re here. Those items bring growth, maturity, and strength—if we allow them to work in the manner intended. The trick is to not get caught up in self-pity and bitterness. Find what helps you survive heart-rending trials—whether it’s helping others, developing talents, focusing on a hobby, etc. and so forth, and do it. Keep pushing forward and eventually, you will smile and mean it. Until then, never lose hope—knowing someday when this life is over, and the video of your life is being featured, you can be proud that you never gave up, despite the battle that raged.


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