Flaw or Strength

“And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” –Ether 12:27

So I’ve heard that any flaw or weakness you have is actually one of your strengths taken to the extreme.  I can see this is somewhat true for me.

I am detail-oriented, which makes me great at being an accountant. It also makes me bad at telling stories because I have a hard time leaving out unimportant details.

I am good at saving money and cutting out unnecessary spending in order to meet our financial goals. This also means I am bad at being generous and spending money on unnecessary but important things.

I am good at thinking about how others feel. This helps me to reach out to others. But this also means I can be oversensitive or allow myself to feel bad when I notice someone doesn’t like me.

I am always “seeking for better,” which is great for helping me improve myself. But sometimes I am too hard on myself and also not good at admitting failure.

I am good at tempering my anger and refraining from conflict. But then I also see myself as a victim too often.

Seeing that my flaws have a positive side helps me to be kinder to myself and consider how I can come closer to a happy medium instead of operating at my two extremes.

Preachy

““Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” –Mark 16:15

The last time I went to Relief Society, we talked about sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with others. We especially focused on social media. We discussed the problem of fearing what others might think of us or coming across in the wrong way-like being too preachy!

If there’s one thing I know I might be guilty of, it is being preachy!

I like to post about God and spiritual things on social media. I suppose some of this is out of pride or a desire to be seen as a good person. I imagine sometimes people think I’m a little heavy-handed.

I am working on improving myself in these areas. But I’m also coming to love myself anyway and forgive myself for the times when my motives may be a little less than pure. And I know that overall, I share because I am doing my best to give to others some of what I’ve been given.

One thing I’ve learned about being a follower of Jesus Christ is the responsibility to share my testimony of Him with others. This allows the Spirit to do the work of testifying of truth to those listening with an open heart.

Phew! Knowing that it is the Spirit’s job to convert and not mine takes a lot of the pressure off. And it allows for me to be human and err in sharing too much or sharing things that are not actually inspirational.

In that Relief Society class, we also talked about whether or not social media is the right place to talk about our testimony. I can understand that for some people they may not feel inspired to share their testimony on social media. But for me, I don’t get out of the house much! And when I do… well, I’m not brave enough yet to talk to the grocery store clerk about Jesus (nor do I always have my sanity at that point when I have my kids with me). Maybe one day I will be that gutsy and sane.

So for now, I feel called to share on the internet. And I hope anyone reading this will overlook my faults as I do my best to share the most important part of my life: my testimony.

I know we have a Father and Mother in Heaven who love each of us. I know Jesus Christ lives, and I know He made me who I am and deserves all the glory for any good I might do. I know the Spirit is real and has power to testify of truth, to help us remember, and inspire us to do good. I know The Book of Mormon is scripture. I know Joseph Smith was called to be a prophet of God. I know that The Church of Jesus Christ is the Savior’s true church on the earth.

The more I learn, the more I know that I don’t know. There are many more things for me to seek after and  learn of and then testify about… and I honestly can’t wait to learn those things.

I am She, and She is Me

“Be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine” –D&C 38:27

For the longest time, I have felt that I fall extremely short in having humility. I have spent much of my life prideful and also fearful. I have felt that if I can’t be the best at certain things, then where is my value? If somebody excels at something, somehow I start to feel worse about myself. I know these thoughts are backwards, but I can’t help myself.

I have prayed for charity for those around me. I have prayed to be able to let go of my jealousies. I have prayed to have love for my “enemies.”

And oh, how I have admired those who are able to cheer on everyone around them, with no discrimination and no need for recognition themselves. I want to be one of those people; but when I try, it always feels very forced. And it requires a lot of mental exertion to go against my natural inclination of jealousy and feeling “less than.”

When I heard this talk by Sister Marriott a few months ago, her words described how I felt:

“Independently forcing ourselves to have humility and trying to make ourselves love others is insincere and hollow, and it simply doesn’t work. Our sins and pride create a breach—or a gap—between us and the font of all love, our Heavenly Father. “

But lately I feel like I’m feeling a sort of breakthrough, a merciful change of heart from God.

It started at Time Out for Women. Zandra Vranes gave a life-changing “spoken word poem.” The kind where you get the chills because of her inspiring vulnerability, pin-pricking truth, and excellent delivery. The kind where the whole audience jumps up with a standing ovation. It was titled, “I am She, and She is Me.” Racism and sisterhood were the primary topics; but for me, the message opened my mind to a universe of connection.

Microbiomes have been in my thoughts because I have been reading a lot about how our diet affects the microbes in our gut. As it turns out, the microbes in our gut have been with us for millions of years. Reading about how big of a role these living organisms play in our lives has been almost eery to me. We rely on these living things to help us stay alive and maintain good health. And actually, “The human we see in the mirror is made up of more microbes than human cells, … [and these] microbes provide more genes for human survival than human cells.”

We universally crave human connection. Could it be that the reason is because we are all more physically connected than we realize? What about the fact that we are all spirit children of God…? Are we all bound together in spirit somehow, unseen to the human eye, as brothers and sisters? Do we all carry some sort of homogenous spiritual substance from our Heavenly Parents with us? What about the way God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ are one? Just how connected are they? Can we all be connected as fully as they are?

I don’t think I am eloquent enough to describe this change in my perspective, but this is what God has granted me: I am starting to be able to look at everyone around me as if they ARE me. We are ONE.

She is better than me at something? That is wonderful; seriously, way to go! I am She, and She is Me.

She is hurting and alone? Wanting to help bear her burden becomes very easy because I am She, and She is Me.

She has messed up big time and made serious mistakes? Let me be the first in line to extend mercy because I am She, and She is Me.

She rubs me the wrong way and seems to judge me at every turn? I can extend my patience for her journey and realize she is not a badly finished product because I am She, and She is Me.

I can truly love her!

And this new perspective doesn’t feel forced or contrived, like I sometimes feel when trying to force charity. It feels very real and true to me. I feel like this insight has been a gift from God, an answer to prayer. It feels different than the idea of just imagining how someone else feels; it is one step further – I AM she; she IS me.

Of course, I am not perfect in applying this perspective; it may depend on the day and how “at one” I am with God. But I have found it applies well in any relationship. In marriage (I am he, and he is me): Can I envision us as truly “one flesh?” Can I parent with this perspective in the middle of a tantrum? I am my daughter, and my daughter is me.

My parting thought is about having the right kind of confidence so that jealousy has no place in my heart:

No matter what, we always have worth in the eyes of our Heavenly Father.

I don’t have to be or do anything to have great worth. My value as a daughter of God is the same and is unchanged no matter what I do.

And that is the beautiful, gospel truth.

“[W]e put His will first and with a broken heart plead that Christ will pour streams of cleansing water into our pitcher. At first it may come drop by drop, but as we seek, ask, and obey, it will come abundantly. This living water will begin to fill us, and brimming with His love, we can tip the pitcher of our soul and share its contents with others who thirst for healing, hope, and belonging. As our inner pitcher becomes clean, our earthly relationships begin to heal.” –Neill F. Marriott

As I read that final quote, I get the overwhelming feeling that I haven’t arrived, and this is just a baby step on my journey to feeling more of Christ’s love for others. But for now, for me, it is working.

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The Cheerful Nun

“In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” –John 16:33

Lately I’ve been working on being more cheerful. To be honest, I’m not sure I’m getting much better so far, but it has been good to be aware of it. I’ve had this story on my mind that I heard once. This is the essence of it:

Two nuns live together in a convent. One is young and always cheerful and pleasant, with a sweet voice and a smile on her face. When things go wrong or get difficult, she seems unphased by them and maybe even a bit oblivious. Let’s call this nun Cara.

The other nun, Ann, is a bit older and has a harder time acting happy, especially when there is so much surrounding her to be distressed and sad about. She remarks to another nun how it is almost unfair that Cara is so naive to the world around her, how unfair it is that she was born with such a happy inward disposition.

Then the story moves along to reading in Cara’s journal. Cara makes note of Ann’s beliefs about herself, and Cara writes that it is in fact not easy at all for her to be cheerful all the time. She consciously chooses happiness and puts on a smile because it is her way of serving those around her. It is her way she chooses to serve God also, by choosing to have a thankful, cheerful heart. Cara states that she is in fact not oblivious to the discouraging events around her, but she chooses to have joy despite them.

– – – – – –

This story impacted me a lot. I thought about the people I see as naturally cheery and considered that it is a choice they make to be that way.  I also reflected on my native disposition. I tend to hold back outward emotion as a way of guarding myself. I also have a fear of being seen as naive, and I need to let go of that fear. But how much more could I be of service to others around me if I were willing to be cheerful, speak positive words, laugh heartily, and smile easily?

So, I have been trying to “be of good cheer,” as Christ says, despite tribulation. It is can be really hard! Especially when I want to go into victim mode and think everyone else is making it harder. It is hard to be cheerful when I think my kids are being difficult, my husband isn’t meeting my expectations, or I am expecting too much of myself.

My husband is a basketball coach and has been out of town a lot and gone at practice every day after normal work hours. He does this every year, but life seems particularly busy this year with four little kids and just having moved to a new house. This last weekend I had a particularly hard time when I felt everything converging-messy house, need to feed kids, unpacking to do, and ornery kids.

There was a moment I was feeling really hurt by my son’s words and the way he was choosing to act. And then I remembered my goal and decided to choose cheerfulness and not play the victim. I decided I knew I was doing my best to be a good mom, and I didn’t need to take responsibility for the way my son was choosing to act. I chose to smile and thank my kids for any good thing they were doing and to empathize with my son that life was hard for him in that moment.

It was so hard for me, but it also felt really good to be in control of myself instead of wallowing in the victim position. It felt good to have empathy and say, “Sorry that things are hard,” instead of dishing out punishments, threats, or guilt. It felt good to decide that I was fine instead of letting my son’s words affect my feelings of worth.

I have been telling myself some affirmations I have been hearing about on the Bold New Mom podcast:

-I have the perfect amount of time to do what is really important to me.

-Everything that happens is exactly what is supposed to happen.

-I get to choose my thinking and the way I respond to what happens around me.

-It’s not about me.

All of these thoughts help me to be more cheerful in difficult moments.

The Outward Appearance

The other day, I was putting on makeup, and my 7-yr old boy came in and asked what I was doing. I told him it was makeup, and he asked why I was putting it on. I said, “It’s just for fun.”

I have had this conversation with my kids a few times, and it is at this point in the conversation that I always feel some sort of a twinge of guilt? Questioning myself? Because as my kids ask about my makeup, I start to think about the example I’m providing.

My son was actually really curious about the blemish cream I was using, so I even showed him on a red spot on his face how the cream makes it fade so it goes away or just looks like a freckle.

Then, I immediately worried that doing so was not a good choice. I realized, now I have not only showed my son that I cover up my blemishes, but I have shown him a blemish on his face and maybe made him hyper-aware of it.. Oh, and there’s also the fact that I put makeup on my SON. Oops..

Why do I wear make-up? I’ve thought of some answers: It is nice to feel feminine (according to our culture), it is nice to look “my best,” I’d rather not have people see my blemishes, it can be fun to “paint” my face, it is nice to fit in, it would be nice to look better than somebody else…

Wait, did I really say that last one? Isn’t that honestly what happens when in the courting years, though?

There are interwoven reasons why I wear makeup, but ultimately it comes down to what others think of me because I wouldn’t wear makeup in a bubble where I am the only person around. It isn’t THAT fun to put on.

Well at this realization, I start to ponder how much time I spend on improving my outward appearance that is only for other people.

“man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” – 1 Samuel 16:7

I do believe it is important to try to keep my body clean and well-groomed, to respect my body. But how much of what I do to “get ready” is beyond that?

I can’t help but think about other countries where women don’t even have the luxury of time to consider changing their appearance. I feel like our culture has turned women against their own bodies and also created an extreme time suck because none of us will ever truly be happy when we head down the road of comparing ourselves to the idea of “beautiful.”

I wanted to make a list of thoughts I’ve had that help me think through this:

  1. What if my body was made this specific way for a reason? What lessons can I learn from the body I was given and the flaws I see?
  2. When I speak negatively about my body, I am inviting others to see my body that way.
  3. Negative self-talk about my body gives the idea more power. How would my life be different without that belief?
  4. When I think about the people I love most, their physical appearance doesn’t cross my mind in the least…because bodies don’t matter when real love is at stake.
  5. How would my life change if I converted some of my “appearance-improving” time to something else that brings me or others joy?
  6. Smiles are beautiful, and ironically I’ve noticed I have a really hard time smiling freely when I’m too worried about myself and my appearance.
  7. I love this quote: 
  8. How does this scripture change my thoughts about and treatment of my body: “know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” –1 Corinthians 6:19

I’d be curious other people’s perspectives on this. Regarding makeup specifically, I’m not sure I will ever stop wearing a little makeup a few days a week; but I am working on being more okay with my natural appearance. Human bodies are wonderfully imperfect, and I’m hoping to embrace that and see how much I can do with my body instead of wasting time wishing it were different and changing it.