Tag Archives: Being better

I Will Not Leave You Comfortless

Tonight in my scripture study class someone asked why God sometimes seems to leave us when we need him most. He quoted the scripture, “I will not leave you comfortless” and then asked why that didn’t seem to be true at times.

I thought about this for a minute and my mind rested on the word “leave”. Sometimes we do feel comfortless. Sometimes it feels as though God has abandoned us, that we are hopeless, helpless, and alone. Sometimes in our times of greatest need we will wonder where God is and why he would leave us when we’re doing everything right, when we are doing our best to follow Him and do His will. But that word “leave” is very important. He does not say, “I will not allow you to be comfortless,” or “I will not let you feel alone.” He says that He will not leave us that way.

I struggle with depression, suicidal thoughts, loneliness, anxiety, and more. I do not ask why bad things happen to good people; I simply know that they do. But I have never had something bad happen to me that I wasn’t grateful for eventually. The darkness is sometimes a very lonely place, but I know that if I can just hold on long enough, I will not be left comfortless.

This week and the week before have been incredibly difficult. I have felt like I am trudging through waist-deep mud simply getting up in the morning and doing the day to day necessities of life. Tonight though, I felt okay enough to go to my class. I don’t think that was a coincidence. I don’t think that comment or my comment in response were coincidences.

It may have been a small thing, but reasons like that give me hope in the darkness. Tomorrow, life may feel hard again. I may feel depressed and alone, but if that means I can help someone else see the light, I would go through the darkness over and over.

Hold on.

He will not leave you comfortless.

The Sabbath is a Delight

I have always enjoyed Sundays. Other than having to wear a skirt, it was a day that I looked forward to for learning and relaxation. I did good things on Sunday like spending time with family, listening to music or talks, and watching church produced movies and bible videos.

The problem was that there was always an element missing from my Sundays, me. Sundays were about tuning out more than tuning in. They were about getting out of the world, taking a break from cares of the week, allowing myself to breathe. They also included service and learning and spiritual growth, but those were side effects rather than results.

I have not been well for a long time. I have fluctuated between health issues and depression for as long as I can remember. If I wasn’t suffering from one, I was struggling with the other. Sundays were a break from the week, but also a reminder that I was not okay. The quietness of a Sunday afternoon accentuated the loudness of my mind and body. I had time to realize just how bad I really felt and to get it out before having to face my week again.

Feeling the mental clarity I am now experiencing was an anomaly if not an impossibility. I needed Sunday to recharge. I needed Sunday to process what I was going through and handle life. I needed Sunday to be my escape. Sunday was a day of rest, but it was not yet “a delight”.

However, now that I am feeling better, I have discovered a whole new level to Sundays that I was unaware of before. I have discovered why Sunday can be called “a delight”. I have learned how to be present in my Sunday rather than a casual observer or catatonic absorber.

Sundays are not simply days of relaxation. They are days of action. There is much to be done. I have a million goals for my life, books I want to read, people I want to get to know, things I want to experience. Sunday has become a day to work towards those good things, to become better, and to form more meaningful relationships with God and others.

Sunday is not simply meant to give us a break from the world. Instead, Sunday should give us a new way to experience the world. Sunday should help us see the beauty in the little things, the brightness of someone’s countenance, the need behind someone’s distance.

Sunday isn’t just a day to rest; it is a day to experience THE rest. It is a day to feel what we don’t feel during the week because we don’t have time to notice or we just don’t think about it. Sunday is a day to experience the rest of the world apart from school or work or other demands. It is a day to be. It is a day to live.

I have read lists of ideas on what to do on Sunday, but I think the key is really what to be on Sunday. Are we being present? Are we experiencing our families in a different light? Are we engaging in a spiritual dialogue with our Savior and using that dialogue to make connections and gain personal insights? Are we being seekers of truth, doers of the word, lights unto the world?

I believe that making Sunday a delight consists of being rather than doing. It is a frame of mind, an attitude and perspective, rather than an adherence to a set of rules and regulations. Sunday is a delight, not because of what the day is, but because of what I am in that day. Insert yourself in your Sunday, engage in everything you do, and be fully present. Then I think you will find that Sunday is indeed a delight.

My Short Service Mission

If you haven’t seen Elder Holland’s pre-Face-to-face video, I highly recommend watching it by clicking here.

I’m grateful that Elder Holland talked about those that can’t go on proselyting missions at all.

I served a seven month service mission. It was not in the plans. I was supposed to go on a fulltime, 18 month proselyting mission. I was supposed to return from that mission and get my doctorate in clinical psychology. None of that happened.

For a long time, I felt inadequate. I felt like I was not enough because I couldn’t go on a regular mission. I wondered if it was because I was unworthy. I wondered if I had made different decisions, if I would have been able to go. I wondered if I was letting someone down somewhere because I wasn’t going on the mission everyone thought I should be on. I wondered if I chose the right service mission. I wondered if I should have pushed myself more or tried harder to step out of my comfort zone. I wondered if my service was adequate and if my efforts made a difference. I wondered why I was given all the challenges that prevented me from serving a fulltime mission.

I don’t wonder anymore.

It has been a year and a half since I ended my service mission early to start fulltime employment with the church. In the past 18 months of employment and the previous 7 months of my service mission, I have grown exponentially. I still feel like I am on a mission. I still have that same spirit with me and the same motivation to serve and to give my best to the Lord, possibly even more so now than while I was a set apart missionary. I am a better person because of my mission and I am continually becoming better because of the effects of it.

My service mission was a miracle, and so many things after it have been miracles. The fact that I chose the Humanitarian Center, and that I even found the Humanitarian Center. That once I found the center that I chose to serve as an office assistant. That after 6 months of service, the admin assistant job opened up and that those 6 months gave me just enough experience to qualify for that job with my previous job experiences. That the week after I got my first paycheck, I found out my best friend was homeless and could afford to help buy her food. That I was able to meet wonderful friends here that have changed my life. That I am now able to help other service missionaries and early returned missionaries at my job. That I have been able to serve in the various positions I have held in the church, including being a temple worker. That I was able to serve as initiatory coordinator for a year during my temple service. That I was able to be present for all of my nieces’ births. That I was able to forgive and love people I never thought I could. That I was able to discover a new career path that I am excited about and that I never would have considered otherwise. That I was able to prove residency for college tuition because I had been employed nearly exactly one year from when I applied for school. The list goes on.

The miracles that have come because of my service mission are innumerable. But I still believe that the greatest miracle of all has been the change in me. I don’t know if I would have changed so much for the better on a proselyting mission. I don’t know if I would have been humbled as much on a proselyting mission. I don’t know if I would have discovered who I am or become what I am meant to be.

We all serve differently. My service mission is no less noble than any other mission. It may have been short. It may have been relatively small and insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but it was significant to me and to my family and to those I served and am serving.

There is no small mission. There is no insignificant mission. There is no insufficient mission. There are simply different missions. I served with faith and love and diligence, and I hope to continue to do so. My mission is not over, and neither is yours. We are simply continuing our more significant mission. We do not serve for a couple years or a couple months. We serve our whole lives, we simply wear a name tag for that long.

Spending Time with Christ

We had a lesson in church about Christ-like attributes. The teacher said that we become like the people we spend the most time with, so to imagine what we would be like if the person we spend the most time with is Christ. I have been thinking about that a lot since then.

Naturally, I am not very Christ-like. I believe in justice more than mercy. I do not love very easily or forgive very quickly. I am often selfish and afraid. But, especially recently, I spend a lot of time with Christ. I pray all the time. I listen to music and talks and books about Christ. I read and write about Christ. I try to do what he asks and act as he would. I try to consistently give him all that I am. And slowly, but surely, I have noticed myself becoming more Christ-like.

I want you to know that becoming more like Christ really is as simple as spending time with him. Praying is my favorite thing in the world. Talking to someone I know loves me and wants me to be better and understands everything, is the best feeling I know. God is listening. He is there for you. He loves you. Spend time with him, and I promise you will find yourself becoming more like him.

Becoming Amazing

I went to a retirement party last week for one of my friends from work. It was interesting to me how no one really talked about what she did at work or about her work ethic. Instead, they talked about her Christ-like service and love and the way she kept the spirit with her. I couldn’t help thinking, “I want to be like that someday.”

There are amazing people in my life, and there have been amazing people in my life. I always wondered what it took to be like them. I wondered if I could ever be like them and how I could work towards that goal. What I have realized is that it is the choices people make that make them amazing.

It is my belief that there is nothing inherit about a person that makes them amazing, at least no more so than the rest of us. The fact that we are alive and breathing is in itself an amazing thing, but what is it that makes us look up to and admire others? It is their choices.

The people I admire most have chosen to follow God. They consistently make or have made choices to serve God and those around them. When I see that service and I see their love for those around them, I just think, “I want to be like that.”

The truly amazing thing is that I can be. By consistently choosing to follow Christ, by being observant and responding to people’s needs, by relying on the strengthening and enabling power of the atonement, I can be like the people I most admire. And more importantly, I can become like the person I admire most, Jesus Christ. And you can too.

Mission Updates

I originally started this blog to have a place to update people about my service mission. When that mission ended early, I decided to convert this to a place for spiritual insights and experiences.

But right now, I just want to pretend that I went on a mission like other people’s missions. I want to talk about companions and mission stories and spiritual experiences. I want to feel like I have a story to tell, and no matter how dull or everyday it may seem, it’s important because it’s my story.

So even though I don’t wear the name tag and I’ve done my job as an employee for about as long as my mission would have been and if I was a missionary, I would have been released 6 months ago… I’m going to post like I don’t know any of those facts, like I’m serving a regular mission and writing updates for everyone back home to read.

Here goes:

I got a new companion last week. She’s with me three days a week, which is nice because I have my other companions the other two days. It’s been interesting talking to her and getting to know her. We have a lot in common.

I’m really starting to like Utah. I know I’ve been here for two years already, but the first year kind of didn’t count because I was just getting used to the idea of being a missionary and didn’t do much else but learn my job and try to cope with not going on a regular mission. The second year was a lot better, but it mostly just focused on me becoming better and learning to be the person God needs me to be. This year, I feel like I can actually focus on other people and have fun without worrying about my own insecurities.

I still feel like a missionary even though I have been released for 17 months and only served for 7 months. I kind of feel more like a missionary now, like a trainer, like I have companions. Being an extended missionary is hard, but it’s worth it. I love my work. I love knowing I’m contributing to the kingdom.

Maybe service missions aren’t like other missions, but I feel like I am doing a great work. I am strengthening my testimony. I am becoming closer to Christ. I love my Savior and I am so grateful to be able to serve him in this capacity.

Courage

Lately, I have been reading several stories from President Monson. Something that has really impacted me is what he says about promptings. Many of his stories related times when responding immediately to promptings saved someone’s life. And he said that he learned to never postpone a prompting and that he wants God to know that if he needs something done, he can count on him to do it.

I have thought about that a lot over the last few months. It’s really hard to commit to following all the promptings God gives you right away. It’s hard partly because it’s super scary and partly because I don’t know for sure when thoughts are promptings or just me. It says in the scriptures though that anything that persuades people to do good is from God. So to be safe, I just assume all of my good thoughts are promptings. That leaves the second part, that promptings are super scary.

I have never felt scared more often than I do now. Every time I get a prompting, I just think, “oh, man… What do I do now?” It’s scary doing good things for people. It’s scary talking to people or making comments. Every time I do, it causes extreme anxiety and discomfort. I worry about what I’m doing from the time I get the prompting until long after I’ve done whatever I was prompted to do. But courage isn’t the absence of fear; it’s the decision to act despite being afraid.

Yes, I feel more scared than ever before. But I am listening to those fears less than I ever have before. It’s still scary. I still worry about having a panic attack or things going horribly wrong. But I would rather be anxious and afraid by doing good than comfortable in my complacency by failing to act to improve someone’s life. Following promptings doesn’t usually mean saving people’s lives, but I just think that maybe it will make someone less sad just a little faster, and that is worth all the anxiety I go through to do it.

But if Not

Live freely. Live joyfully. Live like you know the plan God has for you.
But… Don’t be afraid to hurt. Don’t be afraid to break. Don’t be afraid to be lonely.

One of my favorite passages of scripture is where Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednigo say that the Lord is able to deliver them, but if not, they will still only worship God.

I think about that over and over with my trials. Sometimes, the answer is a pure and simple no. Sometimes God says something like, “No, you need this more than you need me to take it away.”

I know it’s hard to believe. I get it. How can something this hard or this painful possibly mean that God loves you? But I believe it. Yes, God could take away all my problems, but the fact that He doesn’t is not an indication that He doesn’t care or that He isn’t there.

I have asked for God to take away my autism, depression, gender identity issues, and health problems. So far, the answer has been no. I can’t explain how grateful I am for that though. I don’t know who I would be without all of these problems, or the good that I could do if I didn’t struggle with these things. However, I do have a glimpse of the good I have done because of my problems.

I know I have saved lives, changed people, given hope, been an example, and made a difference- all because I suffered. So, when I get a no answer, or when I ask for a yes, I’ll continue to say, “but if not, I’ll still believe,” because I know that God has a much bigger plan for me.

Life isn’t always easy. It gets hard and you forget how to breathe sometimes. But there is a God who loves you, and He can carry you through and lift your burdens so you can hardly feel them, but if not, know this… it will be for the good. Maybe not necessarily your good, at least not at first… but someone’s good.

Perfect Love Casteth Out Fear

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.
1 John 4:18

This is one of my favorite scriptures. I have a lot of fear in my head. I fear people. I fear what they can do. I fear being rejected or hurt or yelled at or ignored by others. When I want to do good, my mind tells me that I should not because I fear being hurt.

I love this scripture so much though because it is the reason I keep doing good anyway. Even though my mind tells me all of the reasons I am not good enough and all of the reasons I have to fear, my heart tells me to love anyway. I keep doing good because I know “perfect love casteth out fear.”

I do not love perfectly. I do not love even close to perfectly. And I pray constantly and consistently to love more and to love better. Today in church we talked about this chapter and one of my favorite people commented about how she can understand God because she understands love. I thought about how I don’t understand love. I understand a glimpse of love. I understand the surface of love, but I struggle to understand what it means to love and be loved.

However, I have also been learning about compassion. “In the scriptures, compassion means literally to suffer with. I understand suffering. I understand what it feels like to suffer with someone. I am not sure if that is the same thing as love, but I know that I feel love when I show compassion. And because I feel love when I show compassion, I tell my fears to be quiet for the moment while I do something good.

I am still afraid of doing good. I still fear the consequences of being kind. But I remember to love anyway and that love casts out fear, even if just for a minute while I do something good. I cannot love perfectly right now, but I can love right now. I can do good right now despite the fear, and I can let that love cast out fear for a moment until the day where the fear will be dispelled with perfect love.

Lost in Service

Give of yourself. Give so much and so often that you’re not sure you can give anymore and then find another way to give. You find yourself when you give of yourself.

There is a point, a line, between giving so much of yourself that you are tired physically and emotionally but in a good way and giving yourself away to the point where you become a slave of giving and lose the will or desire to give. I know this because I have felt both sides of this line.

A few years ago, I became addicted to helping people. Literally addicted. I hardly ate or slept because I needed to make sure I was there in case someone needed something. My grades dropped as I could not study adequately for classes and often arrived late to class or missed it altogether because of what I was doing to myself. My health suffered because I cared so little about myself that I only found worth in helping others. I convinced myself that helping people was a good thing so it didn’t matter that I wasn’t taking care of myself.

The truth is that I wasn’t just giving of myself, I was giving myself away. What is the difference? When you give of yourself, you give your time, your love, your presence. You give because you are so happy that you can’t keep it to yourself. When you give yourself away, you give the same things but out of duty or need. Giving wears you down over time because you do it less out of love and more for love. You give to find purpose instead of out of purpose.

I’m not sure how I got out of that cycle. I am sure it took time and probably feeling somewhat selfish. I’m also not sure how I got to the point where I could give of myself fully and completely without giving myself away.

I believe in giving. I believe in getting lost in service. But I also believe in finding yourself by losing yourself in service. The key is not simply to give, but to give to yourself. When you give to others, you must also give to yourself. You must give yourself compliments for doing good. You must appreciate yourself for the good you do. There may still be days of feeling inadequate or tired of doing so much, but the days of feeling happy to serve and grateful for the good you do outweigh the negative thoughts you may have in your head.

Do good. Give of yourself. Give to yourself. And lose yourself in service to the point where you find yourself.