Saturday, October 25, 2014

What You Are

It's late October and the weather is comfortable. The leaves fall slowly from the trees, most of which are still full. In Utah it's unusual for these days to still be above 70 degrees like they are, and it's only a matter of weeks until the cold settles in. Then we will be knee-deep in sweater weather until April. The cold, dark days are not ones I look forward to. At the end of fall each year, I shudder as I look to the future months of being cooped up inside. 

Most of the people I talk to feel the same way. "I love the fall except that it means one thing: winter is coming."

We Americans love to think of things in this fashion: something ends, the next thing begins. The end of fall means the beginning of winter. For me, the end of midterm preparation means the beginning of preparation for finals. 

If it's a good thing in the future, we happily anticipate the change. If it's a dreary winter, it sheds its pall over any joy we may feel at the moment. Winter, winter. Ever looming, ever dampening our spirits.

What if, instead of concentrating on the future, we looked back? What if instead of focusing on the hurdles we must jump over, we instead focused on our past experiences?

What if at the end of fall, you took the chance to say, Can you believe all we've done in these brilliant months of light? April, May, June, July, August, September, October! We've just experienced seven months of beautiful, soul-filling light! We've had marvelous experiences of playing outside, walking to the park, watching things grow, and harvesting our fruits. Can you believe how much I've already accomplished? The assignments I've already done? How grateful I am for the time that has passed.   

And what if we then afforded that same gratitude to ourselves. Gratitude for where we've been, and who we are now. Not what we wish we were, but what we are.

I think most of us, when we imagine seeing ourselves from someone else's point of view, we focus on the negative. They'd see that I'm not thin enough. They'd see that I fail in this area. They'd see that I'm not as good at such-and-such as I'd like to be.

True progress cannot happen until we can see what we really are. 

In the past, I always understood this truth as recognizing what we lack. But in reality, children of God are not made up of simply a list of faults. We each have a strength of character, unique to each person, that we were born with. And if you've spent any time trying to improve yourself, there is some small success you can celebrate. You've spent one hour differently than you would have in the past. You've replaced one small thought with another. No success is too small to be overlooked.

This is more than a "feel good" exercise. This is Truth. Children of God are endowed with God's light. This is not exclusive to certain people or "watered down" because everyone has a piece of it. This is what you really are. Believe it. And find it within yourself to look back on what you are, and not on your insufficiency. What have you completed? Towards what have you already directed your efforts?  

Armed with the truth of what you are, the months of light behind you and the months of darkness ahead, you will shed your skins of weakness with a complete understanding of where you stand, and bloom once again in the full light of our Savior's love.

I'm willing to see who I really am, which only comes by celebrating what's past. Are you?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

What is Your Passion?

This photo of us via Circles

Each of us is needed in this world. The problems and challenges faced by God's children are vast and varied. But God's children aren't simply delivered from such challenges, they are delivered through someone else. That someone else is you, doing the work you were meant to do.

But what are you supposed to do? How exactly are you supposed to help? After I became a mother, I pushed this questions off. "Those questions are for they young and unattached," I thought. But in reality, God does not give a free ride to people who are "busy."

"Therefore if you have desires to serve God, ye are called to the work." Doctrine & Covenants 4:3

So if you have desires to serve God, what exactly is that work, the work that is specific to you? The advice I have gotten from others on this question was usually centered around answering these two questions.

What is your passion?

What are your talents?

What is passion? How is a passion for something created? Is it inborn? I believe passion is born out of experience. You can't know what you are passionate about unless you go out and experience it.

In the past, I would ask God what he would have me do and then I'd do nothing. And by nothing I mean I'd take personality tests, or read through university catalogs, or pontificate about what I might already be passionate about (but interestingly, was not currently doing, usually things I had participated in in the past). I wasn't actually experiencing anything.

You are called to the work. Not "the work you are passionate about," the worka work, any work. If you are looking for direction in your life as to what people you can best help, what subgroup could best use your skills, go out and serve. Serving and helping a specific group of people is not reserved for a job or a calling, a role you are asked to play or a title you are given. Volunteering, giving of your time freely, breeds passion.

If passion is born of service, where do your talents come from?

I love the book, Mindset, which has changed my perspective on talents. We people are a lot less perfectly-boxed than we think we are. In our society talents are perceived as in-born, part of the package that you arrived in this world in.

More importantly than thinking in terms of set-in-stone strengths or talents, we can think in terms of experience. What in your life has led you to this point? What have you been prepared to do? In this way, we can let the talents and strengths we are naturally cultivating be more fully expressed, and build on them in the future.

I am in the MPA program. Why did I choose an MPA? My experiences have prepared me for it. Volunteering with the Circles Initiative for the past year as a family has given me a different perspective than if we had just stayed home on Tuesday nights. In class, I can contribute meaningfully when we talk about nonprofit work and public service. In my organizational behavior class, I understand differently because I've been the front of an organization (our family) for five years. In my communications class, I have a deep love for helping people understand through communication because I spend so much time writing as a hobby.

What is your experience preparing you for? You can take the opportunity to look at how your strengths and talents came to be, in order to see where you can best serve.

We are in this life to ACT. And each of us has a great work to do. We can solve the world's problems, assist God in his work, by creating a passion and building upon our experiences.

God wants to use you for his purposes. Will you let him?

Monday, October 13, 2014

It Still Hurts

It still hurts. Even though I know I'm supposed to be going to school right now, it still hurts to leave my kids for the 15 or so total hours I'm gone. I still want to scoop up that baby bum after he's finished his nap. I still want to see the day as an empty canvas, ready to be filled. I want to add that spontaneity back into our lives that used to color every moment. I want to read all the library books, and push the swing for hours at the park. It doesn't get any easier to give that up.

Pain is a part of our human existence. Some pain God can swallow up for us. But other pains he cannot. You are never going to forget a child. You feel pain because you first knew joy. 

I don't ask anymore "is this good for my kids?" "Is this good for me?" I ask, "Is it right?" "Is this my path?"

Christ's path had pain in it, too. I guess I'm in good company. And truth be told, it comes in fleeting moments. We still have spontaneity, just less of it. I'm still home for the majority of the time most of the days. My kids are in the care of loving, wonderful babysitters. I'm not the sole provider for our family. My life could look a lot different. 

I can choose gratitude, and let that (small) pain stay in its specially-marked spot in my heart. God has a work for each of us to do. I'm doing mine, pain included. Are you doing yours?