Over Thanksgiving weekend I was talking with my husband’s uncle and aunt about legacy. He was feeling kind of distraught that within three generations, our existence would be as vapor, as Paul describes it.
He was lamenting that his children and grandchildren don’t know about the great people that his parents, grandparents, and even older predecessors were and this got him thinking about providing them with a way to get to know more about their legacy.
I found it interesting that, more than his own accomplishments, he wanted his children to understand and appreciate the accomplishments of his predecessors. All of them great people, many of them were founding fathers of our nation. Many of them sacrificing every comfort to live in a place where they were able to live according to the dictates of their own conscience. All of them understandood that the hope of religious freedom was more important than the comforts they enjoyed in their homeland and with their people.
He lamented the loss of this priceless heritage through the years and is looking for ways to teach his adult children and grandchildren so they can find strength and identity in this world of confusion.
He wants them to have strong values amidst the clouds of false ideas and entitlements settling on the people. It’s so easy to lose our identity and foundation when everything we see and hear contradicts the very truths these people came to this country for.
While we were talking, I admitted that I’d been thinking about the same thing as I pondered something I’d recently readin in 1 Peter 1:24. He says, “for all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower therof falleth away.” I hadn’t connected the thought to my own legacy as I’d been pondering it. I’d mostly been thinking about how temporary life was and how easy it can be to get caught up in the moment and forget how short it really is. How easy it is to set our hearts upon our glories and waste precious time holding them up, even as they fade and lose their beauty, like flowers. While talking to them I realized that it really is about more than the time though.
The time we’re alive is given to us to produce, just like blades of grass and flowers, we’re meant to fill the measure of our creation while we live. We’re meant to create, reproduce, and live the best we can. We may be gone tomorrow, but to the seeds we left behind, it was important that we lived. It was important that we produced and gave and created so that they now exist.
Over the years my husband and I have thought about leaving our children a Legacy that will bless them and enrich their lives and the lives of those they care for. We’ve thought about it in the form of inheritance. What do we want our kids to inherit from us?
You might be like most people and think of inheritance in terms of money or land left behind, but my husband and I have learned to think of inheritance and legacy as so much more.
We’ve learned that the legacy or inheritance we want to leave our children will serve them regardless of their financial circumstances. Money is great and a lot of good can be done with it, but it will not travel to the next life with them like strong character, hard work ethic, love of learning and growth, love of God and mankind, and the desire to serve and to impact the world for good.
Erroneously we’ve thought that the inheritance we leave our children will come to them when we die but in truth, the most important inheritance they receive is always with them. Regardless of the quality of inheritance, our example, is their ultimate inheritance. Yeah, our assets will transfer when we leave them for a better life, but we’re hoping that by then, they’ll have inherited the character and moral courage to be able to do good with the temporal goods we leave.
We hope even more that the inheritance we are giving them daily in the form of example, one diligent act at a time, will allow them to leave an inheritance with their friends, neighbors, children, spouses, and that they’ll shower this legacy upon those they meet.
This comes down then to the quality of our example. I’m learning that our individual choices literally build this daily legacy in our children. Our examples and experiences being the model they look to when creating their own lives. Our teachings being the foundation from which they jump when they have the desire to help a friend or want to communicate with God. This is very humbling to me.
Humbling for a few reasons, some of the reasons for me, are that sometimes I’m not leaving a great inheritance for my children because I’m being a poor example. Sometimes I lose sight of my priorities which can cause them to lose theirs, and probably most humbling to me is that the Lord is perfect and he sent us these perfect spotless souls and entrusts us with the sacred responsibility of teaching them all we can and yet, we are so… so… so… flawed and ignorant. I could fill an entire library with how much I don’t know.
As I’ve thought about it more, I’ve learned a few things.
One thing I’ve learned is that it really doesn’t matter what I don’t know. What matters is one important truth that I do know.
I do know that God knows everything and that he wants me to know everything I need to know. I have access to the knowing of all things that I really need to know. The plan is for me to not know everything and to figure out what I need to know as I need to know it by going to the source of all knowledge. Phew! This brings me immense comfort and gratitude for my testimony of God.
I’ve also realized that the legacy we want to leave, a really good one, really isn’t about us. Well, it is in one way, in that we’re the examples for our specific people in our sphere of influence, but it isn’t in any other way. It’s really a legacy of righteousness founded upon God. Jesus Christ even said that he did all things so that we would be able to know God. His legacy wasn’t about him, it was about us coming to know God through him so that we could become like him.
I believe that that’s what my uncle was trying to convey. He wants his posterity to know their ancestors so that they would know God better. Sure they’d know the people they came from more, which is fun, like Aunt Molly made her own soaps and lotions, and Uncle Jim was the fastest log cutter in the homestead, or his great, great Grandpa buried three children and his wife while crossing the plains. Fundamentally though, he wants them to have a strong foundation, a rock to build their lives on. These people all looked to God, their identity was in Christ, just as his is and I think he wants his kids to understand the source of their strength. These people who lived their lives fully, gave all for the cause of Christ. These people honored God and became honorable people, worthy of remembering, worthy of knowing.
To them though, they probably just felt like they were doing what they had to do, just like you and me. Their beliefs and values were so strong that they saw no other choice than to fight for freedom or relocate for liberty, safety, peace, and worship in their own way. This meant sacrifice, this meant trial, but to them, that was just part of living a good life. We too have suffered, sacrificed, and toiled on behalf of our beliefs, whatever they are. Hopefully, we’ve learned that everything goes better when God is our North Star, and our sufferings, sacrifices, toils, and sorrows won’t be for naught. Hopefully they’ll teach us and our posterity that it’s worth it to live for God and that on that foundation, we can build a life worth remembering.
That’s all I want for my posterity. My life may be as vapor but if that vapor fuels another generation or two of honorable people, who look to God, that’s ok with me.
I don’t need to be remembered throughout all time on this Earth. I know God knows me and I’ll gladly give up my worldly influence to point my well-meaning Christian life to Christ who will then point all his glory to God.
Do you ever look around and wish you were someone else?
Or maybe you have it in your mind that someone you know is the poster-child for something you aspire to be?
For example… Shiela is so giving and kind and caring, she’s always thinking about others and can manage everything. She is the perfect example of a Christian that I know, she remembers everyone’s names and birthdates and writes everyone a handwritten note for their birthday. She’s so good at reading scriptures, praying, and serving all day. She’s so selfless and thoughtful… sigh… I wish I could be like Shiela.
It is dangerous ground to tread if we follow this line of thinking to the end. We find what we really boils down into something like this…
Thought: I think Shiela is the perfect Christian and I’m nothing like Shiela.
Erroneous Conclusion: I’m a bad Christian because I’m nothing like Shiela. God must not love me because I’m a bad Christian and am nothing like Shiela. He must love her more than me. Shiela is better than me because God loves her more.
This kind of thinking is erroneous and creates a wedge between us, Shiela, and God and allows Satan to twist our thoughts into pretzels. With Satan’s help, in no time, the adoration we once had for Shiela can turn into disgust for her, making her into our idol. Standing on this pedestal, we can begin to both worship her and hate her at the same time as well as hating ourselves for these thoughts. We end up in a trap of self-loathing and self-abuse as we compare her to ourselves as well as put her in an unfair position, elevating her to perfection, a position she cannot hold for long.
Can I tell you the truth?
The truth is that you are who you are, for a good reason and the more time you spend drooling and pining over other people’s talents, the less time you’ll have to strengthen your own.
You are fearfully and wonderfully made by God. Unique as a snowflake, and almost as fragile, there will never be another person like you.
Life is just too short to waste fretting about who you’re not and what you don’t have.
God has woven you with specific traits and characteristics that will serve you well if you take the time to identify them, maximize them, and creatively bless others with them.
There’s also only one Shiela. Our strengths are given to us to serve our unique life missions. Shiela’s mission here on Earth will be different than yours, promise.
When I think about this I realize that this, wishing I were as good at something else as someone else I know, I am creating a level of separation between me and them and that’s not what God wants.
God has told us to be one, he’s said that if we are not one, then we are not his. One with him and one with our neighbors. To be unified in building His kingdom on the Earth. To be unified enough to show the devil that Love has more power than jealousy, covetousness, strife, comparisons, and hatred. To show the devil that light shines in the darkness and the darkness can’t even understand (comprehendeth not) the light. When, instead of jealously coveting our neighbor, we can love ourselves and them for who we each uniquely are, we have lit the world and pushed away the darkness.
How can I be one with my brother or sister if I believe they are better than me? How can I be one with God if I believe that he made a mistake when he made me? That I am an afterthought, an oddball, a factory reject. God doesn’t make mistakes or factory rejects, which means you, my friend are not a mistake and the special package that makes up you was intentional, even if you are a bit of an oddball, that was purposeful.
Well, friends, what are we to do then? How are we to accept who we are, appreciate others for who they are, and still strive to grow?
I have a few suggestions and they all revolve around pondering, prayer, and seeking the truth. Personally, I think finding the truth with the help of the Spirit, is the best thing to do.
I’ll share some truths with you that I’ve found on this journey.
If I’m being completely honest, the truth is, I don’t really know Shiela. Not really at all. Even if Shiela is my mom and I’ve known her all my life, how much have I really known her and how much do I know her now? From day to day we are such different people and rarely does Shiela share her heart and deepest intentions with me.
The truth is that God gave me my own specific strengths and it is my job to discover them.
The truth is that God wants me to love and appreciate Shiela in a healthy way, congratulating her for her strengths, drawing on her strengths, and thanking her for blessing myself and others with her developed strengths.
The truth is that Shiela has probably put a lot of time and attention into growing herself and I can do the same thing with my strengths if I want to focus on them (instead of hers and instead of my weaknesses).
The truth is that Shiela is still here on the Earth which means that she’s still got work to do, which includes, learning how to overcome her natural man, her trials, temptations, and burdens. She needs my help not my adoration.
The truth is that what I focus on will grow. If I focus on my own flaws and weaknesses and Shiela’s strengths, they will swell and grow. If instead, I focus on my strengths and leave Shiela to concern herself with her own, we will probably both swell and grow.
The truth is it’s easier to strengthen your strengths and grow your strengths than it is to try to turn your flaws into strengths. For example, if Shiela is great at creating close connections with people by remembering their names and birthdates, and that’s not a strength for you, that’s ok. There is most definitely something you’ve got a strength in that will help you relate to people from a different direction. Maybe you’re great at lifting the mood, helping people organize their time or their thoughts, remembering to say thank you, creating games or analogies that bring people closer together, you could be a patient listener, good at conversation, or you love to show your love for others with gifts, service, warm hugs, quality time, or a friendly smile. Discovering what makes you unique can be a very fun journey.
The truth is most people who take the time to build a life they love, learn to improve flaws only when they’re in the way of them developing their strengths, so focusing solely on our flaws only causes us to waste precious time. For example, the “weakness” of being shy often gets in the way of several of my strengths, so I choose to do “scary” things (like work on my weakness by bravely going out of my way to talk to people) while also improving my strengths. Some of my weaknesses may never need to be addressed, but if they do, I will address them in order to continually grow my strengths.
Keep pondering the truth about you, your strengths, and your Shiela and her strengths.
After finding the truth and taking the time to reflect, I find it’s time to unite myself with God and my fellow man again, it’s time for repentance. I think in this scenario, it’s safe to say that if I was coveting Shiela’s talents and discounting my own, I was turned more toward being true to Shiela and following after Shiela, than being true to God and following after him. This repentance humbles me and makes me ready for the next thing I am to be taught from Shiela, from nature, from God, from anyone.
So, ask yourself, what are my strengths and how I can use them to benefit others? What are my talents and how do they harmonize with the Shiela’s in my life? In what ways can I be an instrument in the hands of my Heavenly Father, if I focus on what I am naturally good at? Could Shiela and I use our strengths together to serve the Lord?
This feels way better than coveting Shiela’s ability to be an instrument in God’s hands.
Paul describes this idea in the New Testament as he describes us as the members of the body of Christ. Some of us are hands, and hands are very useful, some of us are feet, yes, those are useful too. Some of us are elbows, now that’s a body part I don’t want to live without.
In truth, I think that just as God made the human body with each of it’s parts having a specific job, so too, he made us to perform specific things. We may feel like the left fourth toenail, but hey, even that toenail strengthens and protects the toe from the elements of life.
So, can you be OK with who you are today? Can you set down your envy to be eyes or eyelashes, and appreciate that God designed you to add strength to the body, regardless of your station? As you learn to focus on what your strengths are, you’ll find that even if you’re an elbow or a toenail, he’ll polish you up and manicure you and make you the best little appendage you can be. So trust him. He loves you and he doesn’t want you to be Shiela, he wants you to be you and to be united with Shiela in bringing light and life and love into this darkening world.
written by Andrea Bowers
This is my favorite time of year… (looking wistfully out the front window staring at the naked trees and the yellow grass).
It used to be my favorite time of year because my birthday falls in early November, just two days after Halloween. As a kid, it was the best thing to me to be able to keep the party going at least through the weekend. Costumes. Sugar. Friends. Need I say more? I think not…
When I grew a little older, those things were still fun but of course, not the same. Birthdays were celebrated differently, Halloween was celebrated differently, and I was a different person. My priorities had developed and I grew to love this time of year for the changes it brought more than the amount of sugar I was allowed to consume.
I know, I know, change isn’t really something that everyone loves but I have been fascinated with it for a while now.
Change isn’t always easy, but to me, Fall is an easy change to handle.
In California, where I grew up, the environmental changes were less visible but still felt. Darker nights, cooler weather, greener grass, warm winds, school, and anticipation for what was to come…family gatherings and Christmas! All wonderful things to look forward to.
We moved to the Utah desert when I was 15, going on 16, and there were changes there too if you looked for them, but if you didn’t look, they were easily missed. With exception to the darker nights, colder weather, and the giant mud puddles after a day (or night) of rain.
After graduating from High School and spending the summer in California with my friends, I moved to Provo, UT to begin college.
I moved to this thriving little college town in August and was just one of many little buzzing bees that made up this industrious little city. So many changes were taking place for me at this time and so much growing up was being done, that I hardly ever looked around. My job was to get from point A to point B and being so new in the area, that took all of my energy.
One day I realized, to my great astonishment that my apartment was literally at the base of a mountain. This occurred to me after I’d moved in and gotten situated and If I’m being truthful, I don’t think I noticed the mountains were even there until one morning in late September/Early October, almost two months into the adventure! I was so focused on trying to learn to navigate my new life, I really hadn’t looked at the whole place.
This particular morning though, as I walked out of my apartment, after a rainy night, I would’ve been blind not to notice these mountains, standing in all their glory right at my porch. I felt them there, the same way you feel the presence of someone standing in front of you before you look up.
So, not wanting to ignore them, I looked up, and stopped and caught my breath. They were absolutely picturesque this cool wet morning. All of the dust had long since settled, the world was saturated with water and color. The rocks were dark grey with white marbling, there were tufts of forest green on the mountains. I saw clouds sitting halfway up the mountain as pure and white as cotton balls pulled horizontally, just suspended there in the air.
I couldn’t believe my eyes, never had I witnessed something testify of God’s power as beautifully as this mountain standing before me. Never had I been so close to something so spiritual and yet so tangible. After that morning, I decided I’d begin to look around a little more as I traveled, not at the city streets but at God’s creations hiding in plain sight.
Paying attention to small things increased my wonder and my awe and my appreciation for God and of the seasons. I found that I’d have to restrain myself from droning on and on about this little tree that lived near the river that was dropping its orange leaves all over the park and how beautiful they looked right before they fell. Or boring my audience by telling them about a bird that captivated me for twenty minutes while I ate lunch outside. I suppose I began to feel so small in this world with so many of God’s creations and as time has passed, that feeling of wonder has only increased, especially during season changes, and for me, especially during fall.
These days, I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude that God would let me live here among these interesting creatures, in this beautiful place, that he would even trust me to be a steward over them. The fact that he considers me as precious as a lily and a sparrow delights me and weighs on me. Can I be as gentle and brave and beautiful as a lily who, in its own small way contributes to everything within its sphere, giving it’s all until it’s last paper leaf falls? Can I be as courageous and cautious as a sparrow as it seeks out it’s daily bread? Can I be as true to God as a tree, always reaching toward heaven, trusting that it’s food, it’s leaves, it’s sunlight will come, and if not, God must be ok with that and time and lack will only take it home?
I think I can learn and try and work and pray and that God helps me through all of it, just as he does with all of his other good creations and to Him, I am so very thankful for this understanding.
I am thankful for this time to experience this Earth. I realize that every day is a gift and a blessing to me and I try very hard to remember that as I work through my day’s worth of curriculum, whether it be to learn how to love better, forgive easier, think of myself less, or look to him in trial, he gave me the day and trusts me to manage it.
I think I thank him every day for the heart that still keeps its rhythm and the lungs that still bring in life-saving air and let out dangerous carbon monoxide, for a clear and ever-expanding mind, a willing spirit, and for the Savior that brings me peace and rest in the face of this weary world.
I try to remember to thank him for my body, it’s pretty good at getting up and getting things done and I know that’s a privilege I may not deserve but I’ll take with gratitude each day and try to show him thanks for it in many ways.
I try to count my blessings but I get distracted as I ponder and get carried off in my thoughts about how blessed I am and get to thinking why?
Why does God bless me so?
I’ve decided it’s love and this love is my most treasured blessing. Without the love of God, I know that I would never exist and neither would you. I feel even more privileged that I can feel it, I know so many who can’t or don’t or won’t, and my heart aches for what they can’t, don’t, or won’t get to feel.
Even though they don’t recognize it, it’s still there, like the sunshine or the mountain I enjoyed the shade of but didn’t see for months and that’s the most beautiful thing of all to me, that God doesn’t withhold his love when we may seem unworthy of it or unwilling to admit it’s there. The sun shines on all, the rain falls on all, the love of God encompasses all.
So, this Thanksgiving season, I think about the changes that are taking place in our world, in my life, in the lives of those I love, and I am grateful, oh so grateful for seasons. Seasons of the weather and seasons of life and the changes that come with them but I’m also so very grateful for the things that stay static, the things that are unchanging, like the love of God, and the redemption and resurrection of our Savior. As constant in the sky as the North Star, we can always come back to these things and navigate our lives from them at our center.
I feel so blessed this holiday season and I hope you do too. Warm wishes to you.
Hold your people in your heart and hug them tight if you can and thank the Lord that he’s blessed you with every single one of them. We just couldn’t make it alone.
written by Andrea Bowers
The other day I was at Costco in their book section, looking for a couple of Christmas gifts when I stumbled upon this book. You may know all about it, I didn’t, because I don’t really keep up with current events very well. I saw that it was a “Wonder” book. I read “Wonder” with my book group one month and we loved it. I really loved the way it was written from the point of view of the different family members in the story and I loved learning about each person’s perspective in their own words.
“Auggie and Me,” the sequel, came out soon after and again, as a book group, we read it. It was amazing! In my opinion, better than the original story. The first book was great and primarily focused on Auggie but boiled down, it was a story we hear all the time. Outcast is mistreated, outcast makes a couple of friends out of other kids who don’t fit the “normal” mold, outcast withstands bullying, eventually saves the day, and becomes everyone’s favorite. They grow through the experience, things turn around, and life is good again.
“Auggie and Me” was different than “Wonder” because it focused primarily on each of the kids in the main character’s life (Auggie-from Wonder) and gave some history and back story about each of them. The kids in Auggie and me weren’t odd kids or physically out of the ordinary from others but their lives and their stories were interesting and the new perspective helped you understand why they acted the way they did around others, especially Auggie. One of the characters is named Julian and he’s one of Auggie’s tormenters through the first book, “Wonder”. As I read “Wonder”, I remember thinking to myself, what makes a kid so entitled? Why is he having such a hard time with Auggie and why does he need to be so mean about it.
Thankfully, “Auggie and Me” answered those questions and this new book, “White Bird” explores that boy’s story, Julian’s, a little earlier than him. It is the story of his Grandmother, a Jewish girl in France during World War 2, her parents, and her rescuers.
I didn’t expect the book to be a graphic novel, but I loved the format. Pictures say a thousand words, after all, and it’s so easy to get lost in the story. I started it in Costco, to see if it was any good, and stood there for about 45 minutes reading it. I couldn’t put it down, and I didn’t feel like it was too fair to read the whole book without buying it. So, I bought it and took it home and thought about it the whole rest of the day, slightly irritated that I couldn’t sit down and finish it.
I don’t know about you, but I have all the time in the world to do stuff outside of my house (or at least I pretend I do) but when I get home, there’s no time to read anymore. So, I put off reading to put my groceries away and do all of the other grown-up stuff I am responsible for and I really did think about it all night. I felt like I’d left my friends, these characters, in a very precarious position and I needed to get back to them to make sure it ended ok.
The following day, I took the time to finish it. I’d say it took me about 2 hours total to read it and I loved that. I also loved this book. The characters are fictional but the author did a lot of research and based them on real people and real stories. She melded a few people she’d learned about into single characters and also did a great job teaching a difficult concept to young readers. War is violent and not the most uplifting subject, but I felt the author was dedicated to highlighting the good people in this world and their efforts to make a difference. She had a very clear objective, don’t let history repeat itself. Teach young people the dangers of discrimination, hatred, and intolerance so that we can live together in peace. There is a very clear message to young readers, you’re responsible for our future, be aware of that and act accordingly.
The main characters, Sara and Julian are relatable, the antagonist is relatable, the situation, not likely one that we’ve been in, in the exact same way, it is still somehow relatable. I love history and I feel as if this is a great retelling of a very important time in history. Things worked out well in the end for Sara but one of the most fascinating things is the generational aspect of the story. I love that we can see that if we don’t teach across generations, we really do repeat the mistakes of the past.
Some of my favorite quotes from the book:
“Those were dark times, yes… but what has stayed with me the most… is not the darkness…but the light. That is what I have held on to all these years.”
“The truth is, it doesn’t matter how you used to be. It only matters how you are now.”
“It always takes courage to be kind. But in those days, when such kindness could cost you everything — your freedom, your life — kindness becomes a miracle. It becomes that light in the darkness that papa talked about, the very essence of our humanity. It is hope.”
I’d recommend this book and all of the “Wonder” books, if you’ve read this, let me know what you thought.
written by Andrea Bowers
As I evolve as a person, I am learning more about life and love and how love touches every aspect of life, if you let it. I like to think that I’m an amateur at this whole understanding life and love stuff and that every day is another chance to practice at becoming a little more proficient in all the areas of my life, especially learning how to love more completely. This causes me to be an adventurer, a discoverer, an explorer seeking truth and light. This is fun for me and this perspective helps me be open to learning new ways and new things and helps me feel excited about what other people have learned on different subjects. I like to think of myself as an ever-ready student. I can learn from their example and from their ideas.
Some of my teachers surprise me, for example, two of my teachers about love are my two sons. One of them teaches me by example. My older son has a gentle spirit. Sometimes I feel like a whirling tornado in late August standing next to his calm sunny June day. When I want to show love by physical acts, he teaches me to be more thoughtful, a better listener, a better receiver and to slow down and ask the Lord how to love. He’s taught me that love can mean the simple act of being with people as they’re frustrated or sad instead of trying to make them feel better or trying to get to the bottom of it so we can resolve it. If you know him, you know that his spirit animal is a lamb (don’t tell him I said that, he’d probably rather be something a little more masculine). He is a great teacher of love because his warmth and harmony and gentleness ooze out of him and he doesn’t even know it. Well, when he tears up at great music or books or testimony, I suppose he knows it’s oozing out of him. He’s just tender, always has been and always will be. It’s beautiful to me and to me, conveys his love for life.
I’ve learned from my second son that even when I try to show love in all of the ways I know how, from all of the years of practice I have so far, that there’s still more for me to learn about love. To him, love is fairness, love is attention and time, love is patience and acceptance, and most of all, love is noticing the work and effort and love he’s put into something. These lessons have been hard fought for me as I explore love in it’s many forms, but the quest I’m on is for eternity, and the work is worth it to me. As I’ve discovered how to love him better, I’ve found more people who feel loved as he does which allows me to relate to them as well. He’s taught me not to take people’s efforts for granted and that just because I feel like I’m being loving, doesn’t mean that the other person is receiving that love. I know I can’t make people feel the love I’m giving, I have learned though, that using my loving energy wisely generates better results. For example, if I spend time and energy showing love by packing his lunch for him (something that totally rocks my husband’s world), in my relationship with him, I’ve wasted some energy for myself, because to him, that’s not that big of a deal and he’d rather do it himself. If however, he comes to me with a piece of art he’s created and I’m in the middle of something, I’ve learned that if I put everything down and move away from what I’m doing, and thoroughly look at what he’s done and take the time to dote on him and recognize his effort and praise him for his ability to cultivate his talents, he feels loved and adored all day. Conversely, if I barely look up and give him a vague complement, he feels like his time has been wasted and more often than not calls his artwork trash and a waste of time. Of course, there’s a balance, right, I can’t always be 100% for him and he is in charge of managing his own feelings, but I’ve learned that to him, this little thing makes a world of difference.
Yep, every day I am learning a little bit about how people give and receive love and I think that’s cool, that my mind can expand on anything I focus on, even learning to love better, don’t you?
I’ve also studied love in good books, the scriptures, from teachers, and from stories. One thing that’s been really interesting for me to learn is that we only have the capacity to love others as much as we love ourselves. I’ve learned that I can’t love you in your bad habits if I can’t love me in mine. I can’t love you for your successes and triumphs in this life if I don’t love myself and where I am in my journey. If I’m unloving with myself, I won’t be able to love you completely. If I haven’t forgiven myself, I won’t be able to forgive you. If I want more for myself than I give to myself than I’ll have a lot of trouble watching you get what you want and loving you for it. I believe this is why Jesus stated the commandment this way…
27 Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.Luke 10:27
I’ve also learned that we cannot come to love someone we don’t know and that as we come to know people and understand them, our love grows for them. This includes ourselves. If we don’t know ourselves, we can’t love ourselves. The more we can learn to appreciate and accept our strengths and weaknesses, the more we can forgive ourselves and love ourselves. This might seem kind of obvious, but it’s so true.
I was reading in the Book of Mormon today about a man named Zeniff. He was a man who was living in about 280 AD. At the time there were two predominant groups of people where he lived, the Nephites and the Lamanites. At this time, the Nephites were being persecuted by the Lamanites because the Lamanites wanted the Nephite’s well-cultivated, highly productive, land. The Lord warned the Nephites to leave the land and move to another place and let the Lamanites occupy the land, so they did. A few years later, a large group of the Nephites decided that that wasn’t very fair and they wanted to go get their land back. One of the members of the group was named Zeniff. Zeniff was a Nephite, a well-educated man who had the job of being a spy for the Nephites, one of his main responsibilities was to watch the Lamanites and warn the Nephites of Lamanite invasion. Zeniff was not the leader of this group that wanted to go get the land back, but he was part of it. The leader of the group is described as austere and bloodthirsty and we find out later in the story that this leader and Zeniff have different ideas of how to get the land back.
Well, this large group left their newish home and made it just outside of “their land” and camped for a little while. During this time, Zeniff realized that the leader of his group wanted to go in and slaughter all of the Lamanite people and take the land back by force. Zeniff had a major problem with that after watching these people for so long. The time he’d spent watching them and getting to know them fostered a sense of love for their humanity and he tried to get the leader to rethink the way they were going to get the land back. The leader had not spent any time getting to know these people and didn’t have any love for them. To him, they were not really people but intruders getting in the way of what he wanted. He didn’t want to try to find another way, he wanted to kill them and get them out of the way. Well, this created a dispute among the people of this group and they ended up fighting a battle against each other, they didn’t end up entering the land they were trying to occupy on this trip. Many of them died and the rest went back to tell the family’s of the deceased about the skirmish and recruit more people to join them. (That would’ve been an interesting recruiting strategy. Half of us are dead, want to come on the next trip?) Hopefully, making clear that the plan wasn’t a killing spree but a peace treaty. So, they gather another adventurous group and go back, Zeniff being the leader this time. Zeniff manages to negotiate with the Lamanite king and he gives them some of their lands back, and as long as they watch their backs and pay tribute to the king, they’re able to live on that land for a while. Zeniff leads the people there, then his son, and then his grandson. After that, they end up leaving the lands again. Anyway…
I feel like this story really teaches that the more we come to know a people, even if we’re just watching them, the more we come to love them. I’ve seen this time and time again. I am in a book group and we have read a lot of World War 2 stories. One of the biggest tactics of the dark side was to separate the Jews or those they didn’t like from the rest of the people. They stripped away their identities one piece at a time, putting into the minds of the soldiers that these people were just large numbers of unnecessary creatures, like knats or flies. They separated them from their families to make them look small and insignificant, they wouldn’t let them gather in common places in order take away their influence, they removed them from their property so they wouldn’t be connected to anything, they became a symbol, then a number, then a skinny, bald, grey carcass in a grey suit.
It is horrendous to think that we, as reasoning, thinking people, can be led to such a state but it has happened so many times in the history of man. When we do not take the time to learn and act and use our reason, we lose our love for ourselves, God, humanity, and truth.
Scott Peck has an awesome definition of love. He says love is, “The will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.” I love this definition because it’s so true. It takes extending yourself, putting forth effort to love. I must be an agent. I must put forth action in order to love someone, including myself. The purpose of this extending of ourselves is to nurture inside someone else, their spiritual growth. If you’ve studied scripture, you’ll understand that to God, all things are both temporal and spiritual. Scott Peck goes on to say that, “The opposite of love is not hatred but laziness. Love is work, so the refusal to love comes not from our passions (emotions/feelings) but from our lack of effort (work) – our unwillingness to put in the effort that love requires.”
That’s the crux of it right? Am I willing to put in the effort to love God, love myself, and then the people around me well? When we think about Jesus as love, with that definition, it makes so much sense. He was willing to extend himself completely for our spiritual growth.
So, if I truly love myself, I will take care of myself holistically, meaning spiritually, physically, emotionally, and intellectually. I’m not talking about the worldly idea of self-indulgent false love, almost a lusting of self or a puffing up of self, or an unhealthy idolization of self, but true self-love. Love where you care for yourself properly and put in the work to better your self in safe, intentional, sustainable, truthful, holy ways.
None of these areas of self will be loved passively or unconsciously. I must be purposeful and diligent if I’m to love myself. I must work. If I am not loving myself well, it is 99% of the time due to laziness.
Taking care of my spirit, scripture study, prayer, etc… if I don’t take the time for those, it’s not that I didn’t have the time, it’s that I didn’t make the time, I was being lazy about it.
What about physically? If I don’t eat well, why is that usually? Because it’s easier to not… laziness. If I don’t move my body with some form of exercise…laziness.
If I find myself emotionally bogged down? I have some proven strategies that help me overcome negative emotions, why don’t I do them? I don’t want to expend the energy, I don’t want to put forth the work required. I am not showing myself love in that way…laziness.
What about secular learning? If I don’t take the time to educate myself, I can make excuses like I don’t have time, but if I’m really honest with myself and evaluate how I spend my time, I could truthfully make the time to do so, with all of the resources available today. I choose not to, why? Laziness.
It’s a hard pill to swallow and there is grace in all of this for us so don’t get to beat up about it. Jesus said, “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” So trust in God and learn to love him, yourself, your fellow man, and truth.
The more time you spend with people, the more you come to love them, so let that love grow. God made each one of us and he doesn’t make mistakes.
I’d like to open this up to discussion. Share what you’ve learned about love in the comments below or in an email to me. We’re all students in this big experiment of life.
Who have your teachers been? What kind of impact have they made on you? What are some of the findings you’ve made about love? Have you seen any of these principles in your life? Have you found any other cool definitions for love? Do you agree or disagree with what I’ve said? How can this definition be applied to loving God, he doesn’t need us to extend ourselves for his spiritual growth? How have you learned to love and accept yourself?
- Luke 10:27
- Omni 1:27-29, Mosiah 9
- The Road Less Traveled by Scott Peck
- John 3:17
by Andrea Bowers
Hey everyone, I’m thinking about doing a fun seven day challenge and I’d love your input. Respond to this email to let me know which one you’d want to do more.
Each of these challenges would be a small time commitment each day…like 5-10 minutes of introspective time and then looking for ways to implement your ideas throughout the day for seven days.
For example, in a Seven Day service challenge, on one specific day, you’d spend about 5 minutes in the morning with a notebook and a prayer, asking who needs you in their life that day and how you can help them, recording what inspiration you receive. Then you will look at the list, circle the one you think you can accomplish and get to work accomplishing it. You’ll spend 5 minutes in the evening reviewing the list and see how many you actually did (usually more than one). Offer a heartfelt prayer of gratitude that evening for your ability to serve in your own unique way, and get a new assignment the next day that will allow you to serve in a new way.
- 7 Day Service Challenge
- 7 Day Self-Worth Challenge
- 7 Day Personal Revelation Challenge
- 7 Day Faith and Testimony Building Challenge
- 7 Day Repentance Challenge
- 7 Day Love Challenge
- 7 Day Worldly Detox Challenge
- 7 Day 30 minute scripture study challenge
- 7 Day Ministering Challenge
- 7 Day Gratitude Challenge
- Your best idea….
Ok, Email me back and let me know. Once I have enough responses, I’ll get to work putting it together.
Oh, also, I appreciate you sharing this with your friends and getting their feedback. Just forward them this email and have them vote too! The more the merrier!
Written by guest contributor Stephanie Alo. Read by Andrea Bowers.
I wasn’t always sure where the gospel fit into my life. As a rebellious teenager, I had all but written it off.
But, a mighty change of heart left me realizing that there was no better or happier way for me. Even though I served a mission and was committed to my testimony, it wasn’t until 8 years ago that I found my faith tried and conversion tested.
My husband and I had been married for just a few short months when my anxiety attacks began. While I had always been somewhat anxious in nature, nothing prepared me for the next few months. On Labor Day of 2011, I went in for a routine procedure—wisdom teeth removal.
For some reason, my body had an adverse reaction to the medication and anesthesia. It triggered an anxiety that I had never felt before.
Sounds crazy, right?
That’s how I felt, too.
I mean, something so normal couldn’t be the trigger for so much anguish.
But, it’s the truth. After my wisdom tooth removal, I spent numerous nights on my bathroom floor crying, shaking, and in full-blown panic mode.
The next six months were full of various doctor’s visits, medications, therapists, and finally—healing.
It took so much trial and error that there were many days where I didn’t know how to go on. I didn’t understand how to take one more step or deal with the obstacles that were in my path.
I truly believe that the Lord works in mysterious ways. When I look back on the situation, I can clearly see how and why I needed to experience the things that I did. I can see my entire life being intricately designed to allow me to be an instrument in the Lord’s hands.
See, if I hadn’t been a rebellious teenager, my mighty change of heart may not have been so mighty.
But, it was; and therefore led me to serve a mission.
My mission solidified my testimony in such a way that when the anxiety hit, I knew exactly where to turn.
No matter how severe my anxiety was or how powerful the panic, I somehow found my way to my knees.
I found solace in the scriptures and peace in the temple.
No matter how fleeting those feelings of peace were, they were enough to let me know that I wasn’t alone and that the Lord was with me. Some of the most beautifully sacred moments happened during those times when I was at my darkest.
Now, years later, after finding my way through the emotions and healing, I’m grateful. I’m grateful that the lord gave me such a hardship.
Not only did it result in some amazing spiritual experiences, but it also deepened my conversion.
Even now I can see that he is carefully weaving me into his grand design.
The trials that he’s given me allow me to be compassionate, understanding, and to lend a helping hand to those who are in similar situations.
While difficult at the time, I’m forever grateful for those anxious months.
They helped mold me into a better version of myself, one that the Lord can more fully utilize for his works.
Written and read by Andrea Bowers
A couple of weeks ago I over-extended myself.
I said yes to too many people, said no to myself a little too much, and committed a lot time every day, for about a week, to more than a human could possibly do in a day, a week, a month, or a year!
I agreed to do things out of obligation to people and circumstances, instead of living by love and listening to the Spirit. I knew I wouldn’t be able to get everything done, and honestly, I thought I was ok with that, but by the end of the week, I had a different feeling about it indeed. I felt like Alice (pictured above), my world was closing in all around me.
I was busy and I hate to be busy. I like my life to be full and enriching but this was busi-ness. I personally try to avoid being “busy”. My goal is to live intentionally, not on other people’s plans for me, but on the plans I choose for myself, to include other people, places, and things.
Sure, I have a lot going on, who doesn’t?
But I really, really, try not to be “busy”.
I never want to be too “busy” for someone who needs me.
Well, this particularly “busy” week left no time for no one, and by Saturday, I was exhausted and burnt out and mad at everyone in my family to boot!
In my mind, I told a story about how they weren’t helpful and intuitive enough to see that I needed help! How could they not see that I needed them to pick up the slack? How could they not understand that I was suffering in silence? I was the victim and I was mad at everyone for not realizing it.
Of course, I was too busy-and proud-to tell them I needed help outright. Sadly, unless I was dropping sarcastic hints, criticizing their efforts, or pushing them out of the way so I could get more done, I was practically giving them the silent treatment. I had no time to talk about it, action was what was needed in order to get everything done!
Their side of the story was much different of course, they did not know what was going on inside of me. They knew I hadn’t been around much, the house was a bit messier than it usually is, they hadn’t had any real food in awhile, and that I was grumpy, and that was the extent of their understanding.
As I stormed around the house, trying to get things done, telling myself this sad little story, that no one understands. I finally lost my cool.
I was cleaning up the house and my husband stopped me and- rather than asking if he could help me out- he asked me if I would hang out with him by playing a board game.
What???!!! I said (well, almost shrieked). Can’t you see I have a million things to do? Want to hang out with me while I do this, that, and the other thing? No? You want me to stop doing this so I can play???!!! What, who has time to play right now??? If I stop to play, I won’t to start all of this back up again and I need to finish. Cue the imaginary list in my head of all of the things I wanted to get done that day.
Oh, my poor family, I was on destructive path. I’m embarrassed to type this out. I’m embarrassed about how I felt and how I acted, but hey, I’m human and I’m weak, so I’m being honest.
Frustrated, I walked into my bedroom, mumbling about how no one ever helps me out-when the spirit struck me (metaphorically, of course) with images of how everyone had helped me in the last half hour.
Oh, for shame!
I saw in my mind’s eye, flashes of what each person had done –for me– in the last half hour. It was exactly what I needed to stop me in my tracks.
I sat down on the bed and was overcome with shame for a minute and tears came to my eyes.
I was throwing a tantrum and I just realized it!
As I sat there, I brought the images back into my mind and asked for forgiveness as I spent more time looking at them. The first image I saw was my husband. He was sweeping the kitchen floor.
I saw him sweeping, and when he heard me coming, he turned toward me. He had a smile on his face as he was holding the broom, I watched as his smile grew larger and he stopped what he was doing to look at me.
Next, I saw my daughter. She was walking toward me. I could see in this memory that she was trying to cheer me up, by showing me her adorable little hamster, a huge smile on her face. She knows I usually can’t resist smiling at her hamster, Wicket.
Finally, I saw my son, he was headed down the stairs to clean the bathroom. He turned to me at the last second before going down and flashed me a huge, “I’m happy to see you, I love you mom” smile.
I noticed their smiles and the love they had for me when they looked at me and I felt so bad for my behavior.
I sat on my bed for a few minutes and thought about how I had gotten to be so resentful and angry. I realized I was blaming everyone else for my choice to over-schedule myself all week and over-plan my day. I pondered why I was blaming it on everyone else. As I sat there, I had a few thoughts come to mind.
First, I thought about my week and how I’d been going and going all week. I hadn’t taken very good care of myself and I felt gross because of it. I hadn’t exercised much, hadn’t showered much, hadn’t spoiled myself with healthy food, hadn’t meditated, hadn’t practiced piano, and hadn’t taken time at the end of the day to catch up with my husband. I had just run myself ragged in every way and I couldn’t handle life in survival mode anymore.
Play really was what I needed, and a shower, and a really big hug.
Next, I thought about what I’d done all week instead and realized I was trying to live up to worldly expectations and strict schedules, instead of what I typically do, which is live according to the Spirit. I learned from this that I don’t really work that way.
Sometimes, I start to look around at the way other people live their lives and I compare myself to them. I see that I have so much freedom and I feel kind of guilty because of it- so I try to be really good with my time. I know it’s a privilege to create my own schedule. In this desire to be “good with my time” I end up breaking the system that works well for me. I think I’m being more productive becoming more task oriented and I end up losing sight of the mark.
It just feels so different from the way that others work. Sometimes I forget that for me, living less structured helps me get the most important things done each day. The most important things for me are loving people where they’re at and serving them in their need and I believe I can accomplish that in a lot of different ways.
The next thing I realized sitting on my bed was that I was punishing everyone else for my choices. That was what felt so bad. My husband and children managed their time well all week so they had time to play on Saturday and I was jealous and frustrated that I couldn’t play too.
My schedule wouldn’t allow it.
Rather than admitting to myself that it was my own fault for doing this, or letting go of my insane to-do list, I stuck to my guns and punished everyone around me. It was so easy to blame them all until I realized what I’d done. When I did, I immediately wanted to go apologize and hug and kiss them and dump my stupid to-do list out of my head.
Well, after this thoughtful time, I sunk to my knees, thanking Heavenly Father for eyes to see. I thanked him for the Holy Ghost and for stopping me before I ruined the whole day and the opportunity to have fun and play with my family. I asked for help to let go of my list, be better at admitting my faults and weaknesses, and for help to be more vulnerable around those I love. I also asked him to forgive me for being so prideful and thoughtless and for trying to be something I’m not. I felt his reassuring love and know my prayer was answered.
It’s been about two weeks since that experience, I’ve been trying to be me and no one else and I’ve been feeling a lot better. I’ve been listening to the Spirit more, worrying less, loving and connecting to my family more and I’m sure I’ll be taught this lesson again, but for now, it seems pretty fresh in my mind.
Have you ever found yourself in this kind of a situation? Leave a comment below to let me know some of the lessons you’ve learned.
Recently, I was privileged to go to a fireside where the founder of this organization, “Dolls of Hope” spoke about her desire to help children in crisis.
Sarah Parson, a descendent of a Jewish Holocaust survivor, has had a heart for those who innocently suffer by the hands of others. As she heard about refugees in far away lands, she wondered what she could do to help. A young mother of five children, she yearned to help these families find hope and feel safe in their new environments.
While in the car with her children one day, Sara thought about how attached her children were to their stuffed animals. That’s when the thought of a stuffed animal for these refugee children popped in her head. She knew that it was inspiration from the Lord and decided to do something about it. She said she went home and started making bears and hasn’t stopped. She told friends and family and before she knew it, she had a dedicated bedroom holding bears and dolls for victims of war and tragedy. She said that she would hear about different groups traveling to refugee camps and she’d send shipments of bears with them and ask them to hand them out.
Over the years, she’s been able to expand her efforts to help those transitioning all over the world, including in the United States. She has seen how a simple stuffed bear can bring comfort and safety to a child who has lost everything they knew. She said that even a mother in Texas, being held for questioning after crossing the border asked if she could have one for herself along with one for each of her children. Can you imagine the uncertainty and fear that mother was going through?
Organizations that help refugees are contacting Sarah now, asking for more bears and dolls. She has people requesting them by the thousands. So I thought I’d send out the request to help her. Whether you make one or one hundred, is up to you. Each child matters and each child that receives a bear is grateful for the one person who made it for them. If you’d like to make a bear, I’m including the pattern and her contact information. I’d be happy to deliver your bear(s) to her (I live in her area) if you wanted me to, or you can give them to her yourself. Love is at the heart of this organization and the desire to relieve the suffering of transition, loss, and trauma is being fulfilled one stuffed bear and doll at a time.
The bears are hand delivered, one by one, by volunteers who are traveling to these areas for all kinds of reasons. Unlike many other donations that go unused and become unhelpful, these bears are delivered one by one with love. So, if you make one, give it a hug before you pack it away for them, knowing a child that most likely a child in desperate need will receive it.
The bears are the easiest to make but the dolls are not too hard. It’s encouraged to use soft, comfortable fabrics, and if possible, add personal touches to your stuffed friend. In our house, we recycled some fabrics from perfectly good conditioned clothes that my children had outgrown to make several bears. Also, they go all over the world to boys and girls. All human skin tones and features are welcomed and encouraged if you’re making a doll and all kid friendly patterns are great for bears.
“And Alma commanded that the people of the church should impart of their substance, every one according to that which he had; if he have more abundantly he should impart more abundantly; and of him that had but little, but little should be required; and to him that had not should be given.
And thus they should impart of their substance of their own free will and good desires towards God, and to those priests that stood in need, yea, and to every needy, naked soul.
And this he said unto them, having been commanded of God; and they did walk uprightly before God, imparting to one another both temporally and spiritually according to their needs and their wants.
Sarah Parson contact info: email@example.com (801) 369-0195
With the invention of the home computer, the internet, scanners, relatively inexpensive cameras, digital media files, DNA research and more, the world of family history has completely taken off!
Finding out where you’re from is so very cool and has never been easier! Spending just one hour stumbling around using free online tools can produce at least one new fact about someone in your family who’s been in the world before you and given you something to stand on today. This fact gives you a connection, a closeness, and…dare I say it, a spark… of a relationship.
Feeling connected to someone or something larger than us can create a sense of gratitude and desire to live purposefully so that we can leave a solid foundation for those coming after us. Not only that, that connection gives us the feeling of having an identity, a belonging to someone, an inherent value that we are loved and we are known.
Through my research, I have found that children who have been adopted, crave this belonging to someone because it’s a central need. The adopted child wonders a lot about their parents, what they’re like, who they are, what they inherited from them, and the child ends up growing into an adult that always wonders where they came from and who they really are. This is often what sends them out looking for their biological parents. They know in their head that they’ve been protected and cared for by their adoptive parent(s) but they have a need to belong, to know who their people are. It’s a burning question and they feel a deep desire to come to understand who their parents were so that they can create an understanding of who they are. Understanding our parentage creates a border or a frame for us to live in. We can become, when we understand who we are.
The more time I spend learning about my ancestors and where they have come from and what they have overcome, the more I come to appreciate what I have and what I can overcome. If my Irish ancestors lived as colonist slaves to the English, living on nothing but rotting potatoes, only to be shipped off to America to die when nothing more could be squeezed out of them, I can do hard things too. When I read about how they didn’t die, they thrived and built lives, homes, families, and love in America, I feel so grateful to them and for their part in founding our nation. Many of them letting their voices be heard wherever possible in the communities they lived in. They learned from their trials and they grew stronger from them, just like I can. I have a Jewish line, a German line, a Swedish line, all of these people emigrated and adapted and became Americans through trial and error and faith in the Lord.
While this is cool, and honestly, very helpful motivation for me, even cooler still is my understanding that there’s only one generation to divinity in my spiritual heritage. I don’t have to trace through lines and lines of people to find my heavenly parents and neither do you. One generation, that’s it! Us to our Heavenly Father. This information opens worlds to me as I consider what kind of frame I can build my life inside with what I know about my Heavenly Father. Our Heavenly Father is the maker of all, the giver of every good gift, the creator, and we’re his spirit children. Think of what we can overcome with that understanding in our back pocket! There is not a problem the Father cannot solve. There is not a soul that he cannot love. There is not desire that he cannot fulfill. There is always purpose, love, and trust in his every act. He is fun and funny, I mean, look at things like flamingos, hammerhead sharks, and stick bugs, oh and those birds that can mimic any sound they hear. How cool is that? He is all and has it all and we’re related to HIM!
Every quality we have is inherited from him, we are made after his image. So, if you want to get to know your Heavenly Father better, so that you can understand yourself better, so that you can build a life in a perfect frame, study who he is. How? We are supposed to study Jesus Christ and his life, after all, he said that he came to this Earth to live so that we could know the Father while we were on the Earth. Also, talk to him (Heavenly Father) and listen to what he says back. He may not be able to speak directly to you but he does provide his Spirit so you can come to know him because his Spirit is always in line with him.
Belonging to someone is valuable. Understanding that we belong to God -always have and always will- is critical in understanding our worth, purpose, and direction for eternity!
If you find yourself feeling low or down, circle back to who you are, either mortally (after all, there must be at least one person you belong to or have belonged to), or, even better, spiritually, because as we all know, there is frailty and inequality, and injustice, and imperfection in this fallen world that can lead to an imperfect frame to live in. If we decide to focus spiritually and figure out who we are Spiritually, we’ll never need to put our entire value in human hands. You can be at peace knowing that you’re going to be ok in the hands of the Father.
Related Talk – The Savior of You found on ChurchofJesusChrist.org