Monday, February 29, 2016

Beaten Down, Gazing Upward

Gentle reader, consider with me the emotions that sweep through the soul that finally and justly pushes away a toxic situation.  This poem speaks of friendship but it can pertain to anything that holds us back from progression and joy.  May God grant us the ability and opportunity to free ourselves from all negativity. (Incidentally, the word untarnished as written below ought to read untarnishEd, with the archaic stress on the last syllable. I am typing this on an iPhone, which does not allow me to put the accent above the e.) 

A window of reflection gilt
By sunrise' golden hue
Remind of heaven's promises-
My future to pursue. 

In casting off the present cares
I clear the tangled vine
That oft constricts progression's way-
Almighty God's design. 

Hands trembling, both soft and sure
Toward upward visions reached
My mind declares its forward path,
My strength of heart unleashed.

Lips, pure and praying grace restore
All hope and faith that fled
By trust outraged, word tarnished, 
Stabbed friendships left for dead. 

But trifles these deep stain my view 
Of higher plains of gold
Where gentle peace sweeps all before, 
Of happiness untold. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Courteously Unfriending

Many years and several experiences ago I held staunchly to the idea that I would never distance myself from anyone, regardless of how they treated me.  The Savior loved everyone and would be there for everyone, regardless of the situation or their behavior.  He called all, without reservation, to come unto Him, and as His disciple, I felt it correct to do likewise. 
 
It worked beautifully.  Bridges were mended, rifts became smoothed and miracles scattered themselves throughout my life with reckless abandonment.  Peace reigned in my heart.  I had learned to love all people regardless of the situation or their behavior toward me. 
 
I maintain that idea still, but have found it tempered with another principle, which proves equally important.  If we love others, we also must do what is best for them, and though I may stand here with open arms, those people who recklessly and repeatedly, knowingly and deliberately injure me need a different line of attack to aid them.  It proves ignorant and arrogant to assume that what every single person needs in their life is me.  Pray for such people, and in the same breath help them find distance from a situation that would lead them to do wrongly.  Help them avoid injuring their own soul by ill behavior.  I would do all things in my power to reach out to others but I find that sometimes what people need in their lives is an absence of my presence - indeed, my own person in their lives may be what is injuring them and stifling their progression.  Some years ago in this spirit I found myself of necessity distancing myself from a person I would have given literally anything to embrace in the harmony of friendship. 
 
Recently I enjoyed an online conversation with a friend regarding the merits of courtesy.  We agreed that it proved a powerful and necessary tool in eliminating anger and hatred.  We also agreed that in extreme cases providing distance proves the most courteous thing a person can do.  This individual with whom I spoke has continually treated me rudely, harshly, and unfeelingly when I have done no wrong to them.  Thus, shortly after this exchange of ideas I courteously unfriended them on Facebook.  To said person, you are welcome. 

 

Resilient

"Aaaww!  That's so sad!"

A dear lady responded to one of my Facebook comments with that endearing show of emotion.  She has not been the first to respond that way when I have discussed emotional survival and the manner in which people can protect themselves from the rough tempests that beat around our hearts in this fallen world. 

One may well consider that teaching one's heart resilience proves depressing, but at the end of the day it is what will rescue us best when no other hand extends toward us in comfort.  God in His infinite mercy has taught me the epitome of being resilient - of being able to smile even as hell itself gnashes its teeth at us and leaves us unfairly injured or in pain.  I am grateful that through far more trials than I could ever have consciously wanted or foreseen, I have learned to be happy even in the midst of extreme, suffocating anguish.  I have always believed that it is not about what happens to us, but how we choose to handle those changes and insecurities of life that matters most. 

So how can we learn emotional resilience and how to maintain a positive attitude in spite of overwhelming opposition?  Like any kind of strength training exercise, we all harbor our own threshold of pain and much of what I would suggest may already prove a natural part of my gentle reader's emotional regimen.  But let's begin at the beginning. 

Firstly, happiness is a choice.  It may be a difficult one, but as a person who battled extreme depression tending toward suicidal thoughts as a youth I will tell you right now that happiness is a conscious choice. We have to want it and we have to give up wallowing in self pity and expectations of others.  Let it go.  Secondly, we will never be able to weather the storms of this nautical experience without prayer.  We may choose to pursue joy but we cannot get there without allowing the Master to take the helm. Thirdly, we need a surefire foundation and certain knowledge that God loves us and that every trial we undergo has been lovingly constructed by an Almighty Hand for our learning and benefit.  We need to always remember that He is watching over us and gives us trials in part to learn how to overcome them.

I have spent some time talking like a Christian; now we switch slightly and lean on the principles of yoga.  Breathe.  Fourth, we need to appreciate the little things.  When trials blare in our faces, we need to look for the good in other spots in our lives.  We need to appreciate the feeling of air in our lungs, or seek some part of our body or life that does not hurt and revel in that.  Turn your back to the pain and seek out the good.  Fifth, refuse to own injury.  Let us suppose that a friend betrays you.  Emotions rack you and bring you to your knees.  Instead of thinking, "I hurt" change that conscious thought to "So this is pain.  Pain is visiting me."  It puts a natural force field and protection around you and keeps anguish close but somewhat more at bay.  Sixth, be aware of yourself.  Recognize that it may not be as bad as it feels.  Remember that much pain can be made worse if you have not eaten, if you have not slept, or if you have allowed yourself to experience self pity.  Take care of yourself well, for you will need all the strength possible to maintain agony when it comes your way. 

The final thought I would share is to turn that negative energy into positive action.  Often at my lowest I will get on Facebook and randomly begin encouraging other people.  I will use that pain to look for the good in others and tell them those things I appreciate about them.  It will bring much needed smiles and friendship right back to you.  Indeed, I write this at present directly because a friend who I trusted randomly turned around and lashed out in a way they knew would hurt me tremendously.  Never mind that person.  God allowed it, and He probably did so that I might create a little needed distance between myself and said associate, remember to value myself more, and create a blog post that I hope may bring comfort and strength to others.

Wishing one and all a most beautiful and blessed day!
 

Sunday, February 21, 2016

What Does God Look Like?

In vain I have struggled; it will not do. Many days and nights have urged me to pen but a few lines regarding a subject that I fear our world fails to comprehend, or if not, to adequately appreciate. I have heard many contend that God is both great and small together, is a far off Deity or a great Spirit which hath no form. This kind of thinking, gentle reader, stands at the base of many moral ills that pervade and infect our beloved present era. We cannot know who we are until we first know our Creator.

It is simple.  God looks like a man.

But, one might cry, you only say so because you are a vile Mormon.  This has nothing to do with Mormonism, for does not Genesis teach us that God formed man in His own image?  But, one might angrily conclude, to believe such a thing we seek to drag almighty God down to the level of a sin ridden mortal! Nay, for inasmuch as He created us in His image, we are not pulling Him down; rather, He has condescended to elevate us.

What difference does it make?

A great difference indeed. When we recognize that we exist in the same physical form as the Master of the heavens, we break free from the rusted manacles that hold us in blind and unnecessary shame.  We often hear that a person has to look in such and such a way to be lovable or beautiful. No. We are divine just as God made us.  We often hear that the human body is sinful; I declare that it is glorious beyond comprehension. When we recognize our own potential, we lose the desire to pollute ourselves with unhealthy food, undue dieting, lack of exercise, or altogether too much. We recognize that every inch is a masterpiece, and that we are meant to enjoy our existence and employ our physical senses in things that enliven our hearts. We recognize sexuality as the highest and greatest, most pure and noble of human traits and we learn to bask in our own gender rather than seek to change it.  We recognize our bodies were not meant to be shared casually and out of self love refrain from immorality. We recognize how blessed and loved we are, that Hod would share with us His own appearance and form.

My friends, let us truly and more completely appreciate the exquisite gift of our Master and learn to raise our grateful eyes more fully to our eternal and most honored Father.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Winning a Million Dollars

When the phone rang this morning I thought not much about it and answered with a casual, nonchalant air.  Apparently, I had filled an online survey which put me in an automatic sweepstakes for one million dollars. The caller informed me that I was a finalist.

Okay.

Unsure as to the legitimacy of the whole situation, I continued calmly and eventually the call ended.  The prospect of a million dollars falling into my lap doesn't much impress me, considering I work in a lucrative business and grew up in a mansion but were God to bless me with such a sum, there are a few key notes that one ought rightly understand.

Firstly, all money belongs to God.  He directs its use.  My first priority would be, as always, to pay a full tithe - ten percent of the gross amount - to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  If the Lord directed and allowed me I would add several thousand more towards the Church's humanitarian fund.

Secondly, a million isn't really all that much. It would be easy to suddenly decide I needed a new car, especially as my transmission keeps jerking about, but once we open that idea we suddenly decide we have a great many other "needs" and soon enough, the money's gone.  I dislike debt of any kind and would thus consider it wise to pay off my modest but lovely home early, as I have already planned for years, and with the exception of a girls night with my cousin and a mink coat from a Phoenix thrift store for my sister, the spending would stop there. Back to work, back to life, and back to saving for my own and my little ones' futures.

The thing is that money can't buy the important things.  No money can get me better health of I choose not to hit the gym and eat healthy food.  It can't buy a closer connection to God, and it can't buy better quality time with my babies than we could have cuddling up on the couch with a Garfield comic book. 

Monday, February 1, 2016

Where Did You Get Those Shoes?!?!

Several months ago I found myself under a tree, awaiting my children's release from school and basking in the pleasant sunlight when a young lady of the third grade persuasion ran up to me in excited wonder.  She pointed at my pink and white mommy style outfit with outlandish enthusiasm.

"Wow! You look awesome!!! That skirt is awesome!"

She happily drew her mom, sister and others to view the masterpiece that was my cutesy homemaker style for the day. A crowd began to gather with my own unsuspecting self as focal point.  Feeling a little flattered but also bewildered, wanting to alleviate the tension of so intense a situation, and wanting to teach this adorable kid a moral lesson I faced the admiring crowd, flashed a confident smile and modestly responded, "I got it at Goodwills."

Now here we come to a moral point. The world will teach our daughters the importance of dressing to kill.  We as parents and role models, though, have a duty to teach that thrift does not mean frumpy. We can teach by example that a woman loses nothing and gains much by adding to her wardrobe at a thrift store.  We can teach our children to respect the value of money, and to teach them habits that will never lead to friction and frustration in life and in marriage.  Clearly I had this child's attention, and it was up to me to direct it wisely.

She and I have since become good friends and nearly every day she will approach me with a smile and ask where I purchased my attire. I purposefully dress remarkably well for this and other considerations, and I always have a ready answer for her as to which items came from Goodwills or various consignment stores. I am grateful that she will understand as she matures that she can make her own fashion, follow her own drummer and take pride in striking a balance between physical  beauty and human responsibility.  I think of her future spouse and would like to offer him a heartfelt "you're welcome" in advance.

Today I volunteered at my son's class and entered donned in designer skirt, matching shirt, gold heels, faux fur coat and Marc Jacobs purse.  I approached my little fashionista and related to her and all those little girls eagerly trying to catch a view how all the items I had on we're either gifts or, as in the case of the purse, came from thrift stores, admonishing them to be wise with how they shop, and to save where they can.  The teacher overheard and smiled her approval.  I have acquired a reputation at the school for always dressing well and I hold it as no secret that such artistry can come with a very modest price tag.