Kind to Yourself

Jesus Christ suffered for me so that I don’t have to suffer. He helps me to become better, patient with my mistakes as he offers healing, hope, and repentance. He treats me with overwhelming lovingkindness.

But how do I treat myself?

Sometimes I am downright mean to myself. It’s like I find myself wallowing in the mud, so I simultaneously yell at myself for being there while pushing my face back into the filth as punishment.

I sabotage my own change, not through weakness, but through cruelty as I tell myself that I don’t deserve better and that I’ll never be good enough.

I criticize constantly, picking at flaws and putting a magnifying glass up to things that don’t matter. There are physical characteristics that no one ever notices or cares about, and I point them out to myself, as if I could never be beautiful. I ruin my own time management in the simultaneous pursuit of too much that doesn’t matter and not enough that does, and then I become overwhelmed with shame that I can never get it right.

I treat myself in a way that I would never treat anyone else. I want to become better, but I am so nasty to myself that I get in the way of my own progress.

I want to be kinder to myself than anyone else in the world. I wan to become patient and loving, allowing myself to change without ruining it with my self-punishment.

I can forgive myself. I can allow myself to do better. I can release the shame. I can patiently go forward, step by step.

And as I love myself more, I become more beautiful as I come a little closer to my Savior.

 

Transform

Pain shifts me away from pride and I face the unknown. Uncertain, I embrace the darkness, except for it’s not dark, because there is a fire and it transforms and refines. Pain is the best part of being human. I change as humility allows the disposal of false beliefs. I become beautiful in the unknowing. Doubt births my faith: I no longer know, but I believe.

Try Less to Be More

I want to fix everything about myself all at the same time. Spiritually, I want to read my scriptures, say my prayers, and grow in my faith and testimony to God. Physically, I want to exercise for longer, go to bed earlier, wake up earlier, eat less sugar, and drink more water. Socially, I want to serve my neighbors, reach out to friends, and spend more time with family. Mentally, I want to spend less time on my computer, be less distracted, and improve my focus.

And I would also like to take better care of my children, cook more meals, save more money, go outside more–all of it.

But guess what? I can’t do it all at once. I can’t fix every weakness. I can’t change all my habits. I’ve tried and it didn’t work.

Lately, I’ve had one basic goal: wake up at 6:00 in the morning and get ready for the day. It’s really simple and mostly attainable.

That small goal has made a big impact on my life. I feel like I’m improving. I feel more capable and less discouraged. My to-do list gets done better. I’ve been able to focus a little more. Other habits are improving too, even when I’m not focused on the.

I wish improvement came all at once, but it doesn’t. It comes in small and simple steps, one thing at a time. And I improve much more quickly when I focus my efforts on one small thing instead of trying to change everything about my life all at once.

Living, culture, faith

Intellect: burning, fueled by questions and answers and questions and doubt. The facts and the arguments and the proofs can burn so hot that they melt and change and reform. Refining when kept in control, but destroying when it attempts to answer everything.

Culture is the lens which we view everything and we are yelled at that we must get the culture right–culture that claims to be an argument between rights and wrongs that conflict and have nothing to do with actual right and wrong. Culture is framing and anchoring that makes the facts and the opinions shift around, dancing into something unrecognizably.

People didn’t use to smile like we do–but they cried, so sadness is more universal than laughter. We forget that we did not know. 

I don’t have answers.

Faith: is everything. A home that protects me if I refuse to burn it down. A fire that warms if I do not put it out. A plant that grows unless I cut it down. Safety and love and hope, but always a choice.

Deep rabbit holes of questions. I must understand more perspectives; I must know more answers. Simplicity is impossible and according to others, there are complications, addendums, footnotes to the beliefs I claim to have. 

Truth is truth and truth exists. But truth does not destroy that which is good. And that which is good is uncomplicated and simply good.

I am a combination of heuristics, pretending to be a being of reason and rationality when I am always working from habit, doing that which is comfortable, doing that which is safe. 

Faith is purpose behind heuristic, a choice without habit. Faith is me.

Coupling and Willpower: Make Life Easy for Yourself

It’s a new year. People often set new resolutions at the beginning of January in an effort to do better. I have not done that this year. I am instead currently working on seasonal planning, which means that instead of planning a whole year in advance, I plan the year in 3-4 different sections. I just don’t know what life will be like and what I need to work on beyond the next few months.

In addition to seasonal planning, I’ve been trying to focus my goals on processes instead of to-do lists. Changing my processes gets a lot more done than just adding everything to my to-do list.

When I’m focused on improving my processes, that means I’m trying to make good habits for myself. But new habits aren’t formed by willpower alone.

Willpower works more as a muscle, not a choice. If I try to change all of my habits all at once, I’m going to burn out quickly because I don’t have the strength to do that.

So instead of changing my behavior by pure willpower, I need to change my environment.

If I want to wake up early, I have to set an alarm that automatically goes if. If I want to go to bed earlier, I have my computer shut off the internet before bed. If I have the couch facing the TV, I watch more TV. I change the couch to face the windows, and I have less desire to stare at a screen.

I can put fruit on the counter to eat more fruit. I can fill up my extremely large water bottle in the morning so that I drink more water. And if I buy less cereal, we eat less cereal.

Often, our bad habits and negative behaviors are coupled along with a certain environment. When my house gets really messy, I often get depressed. Those things come together. So if I want to keep myself from depression, then I clean my house.

If you have goals to change your behavior, look around at your environment first. What parts of your environment are coupled with negative behaviors? What parts are couple with positive behaviors?

Instead of focusing on the goal-setting of what you want to accomplish, you also have to build your life to make it really easy to accomplish your goals. Good behaviors don’t come from strong discipline–they come from good environments.

The Sun Comes Out

In January, there was fog like I’ve never seen before. It stayed around for days, and the frost kept building and building on everything until it looked like snow.

It was beautiful. But I was so ready for the sun to come out.

It did come. The sun melted all the frost and that frost and fog were forgotten. Its beauty was mostly forgotten too, as the relief of the sunshine erased the heaviness of what had been.

And that’s my metaphor for the year. There was a pandemic, and in some ways, it was beautiful. But it was heavy too, and we are all waiting for the sun to come out again.

It will. Life will shift back to normal.

And we’ll look back at the photographs and we’ll remember that we’ve forgotten how beautiful it was–painful and heavy and beautiful all at once.

It’s the sort of thing you want to have experienced, but you never wish for it again in your life.

Let us not forget to look around at what is now, for even when the sun is darkened, the fog sits heavy in our hearts, and the frost begins to grow–even that is a moment that you can never have again. 

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“Who Against Hope Believed in Hope”

There are many times in our life when we have circumstances that we don’t understand and are less than ideal. There are so many struggles we might have: mental health, temptation, addiction, or less than ideal family circumstances.

Why do we have to deal with those things? Where are the Lord’s blessings? Why is his timing so different from our own?

My husband works four hours away from where we live right now. He comes home for three days and then goes back to work for the other four. I am grateful that he has a job and that we get to spend as much time together as a family as we do. But every time he has to go back to work, it hurts. I just want him around.

This is the third time we’ve done this. The first time, he was in police academy for a few months. The second time was two years ago in the exact same situation, and it was so difficult that I gave up this house for a time and went back to living in the middle of nowhere and homeschooling my kids.

And we’re doing it again. And I don’t know when Dillon will get to live with us again, as there is a recession right now and the job market is difficult and I don’t see anything working out anytime soon. We’ve been job searching for over two years now (really, I don’t know if we ever stopped), and I don’t always have that much hope.

Hope

Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all,

(As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were.

Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be.

And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara’s womb:

He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God;

And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. (Romans 4:16-21)

Abraham was told he was going to be a father of many nations, and he was 100 years old and didn’t have any kids. It was simply an impossible promise. But Abraham believed in it anyway.

I can keep hoping. Because Heavenly Father has given me assurances, and He will bless me. I may not understand the timing, but I don’t have to ever give up.

Abraham never gave up hoping. So even if something seems absolutely impossible, we can always keep the faith that Heavenly Father will always give us the righteous desires of our hearts.

Hope can get you through the hours, the days, the months, the years, the decades. It never has to be extinguished. It never has to go away. There is no expiration date for the blessings the Lord has for us: they will always be there, and He will always love us.

Honesty: How to Fix Your Life

Honesty can solve a whole lot of problems.

tree peeling off sign honesty

I always thought I was a very honest person: I never told lies or cheated or tried to steal anything, so I was good.

But here’s the thing: I still very much care what other people think about me, and sometimes dishonesty creeps in as I fail to admit my shortcomings and mistakes, both to myself and to others. Admitting what I do wrong has been my biggest struggle with honesty. I want to be an awesome person that doesn’t make many mistakes. But I am not: I yell at my kids, I pick my nose, I get discouraged, I waste time, and I support political candidates without knowing much about them.

My lies are plentiful: I want to hide things from the building inspector. I pretend that I heard someone speaking when I wasn’t paying attention at all. I tell a friend I’m doing fine and everything is great when it really isn’t.  When I don’t know something, I fabricate information. And at the store, when my kid breaks the top off a bottle of soap, I stick it on a random shelf and walk away.

Some of these may be trivial. But when dishonesty starts to creep up in small ways, it becomes a lazy way to deal with hard things. Dishonesty just pretends that those hard things don’t exist.

But honesty is when I have to face life as it actually is, giving up my idealized version of reality.

So how can honesty solve life’s problems if it seemingly makes life harder? Because denying the truth doesn’t make the truth go away, and when I face the truth, then I free myself.

Honesty can help solve depression.

Almost all depressing thoughts are lies.

LIES: I am not worth anything. No one likes me. Life is too hard. I can’t do this anymore.

TRUTH: I am worthwhile. Lots of people like me. Life isn’t too hard (what does that even mean, anyway?). I can do it, and I will do it.

Honesty can solve anxiety.

Anxious thoughts are lies.

LIES: This will never go away. People are looking at me and judging me. Bad things are always happening everywhere. I’m stuck here forever.

TRUTH: Everything does go away. People are often too caught up in themselves to notice others very much. Good things happen just as much as bad things.

Honesty can solve parenting difficulties.

I lie so often to my children, and they respond a lot better if I just tell them the truth.

LIES: Clean your room or else. I will take that away in five seconds. If you do not do better, I will punish you. You are so difficult. Because I said so and that’s all that matters.

TRUTH: I love you. I’m proud of you. This is really hard for me right now. I don’t want to yell. I make a lot of mistakes. The house is messy. I don’t want to clean it alone.

Honesty can solve problems at school or at work. 

LIES: I don’t have any questions. I understand everything. Sure, I can do that. I haven’t done anything wrong.

TRUTH: I have so many questions. I don’t understand what is happening. I’m not sure I can do that, but I can try. I messed up and I will try to make it better.

And honesty can help solve everything else. 

Do you have a job interview? Just be completely honest and then there is no reason to be nervous.

Did you make a big mistake that’s keeping you up at night? Just admit what you did wrong and ask for help.

Do you have unpopular opinions? Don’t make excuses. Stand up for what you believe is right.

Are you angry with someone for some reason? Talk with them and see if you can calmly work it out.

Want to improve your relationships? Stop gossipping, tell the truth about others, and tell the truth about yourself. Be vulnerable.

Truths

There are a few truths that can get you through extremely difficult times:

  • First, that you are always worth something.
  • Second, that everyone, including you, makes mistakes.
  • Third, that so much of life, including mistakes, is temporary.

When you face truth, you can find peace by releasing the expectation of perfection and finding true meaning in life as it actually is.

Further reading:

Answer to Prayers

In the last month, we finished building our block wall, took our roof off, and put the roof back on. We are still not done with the project yet, but we have done a lot.

We prayed a lot throughout this whole renovation, and I was able to see so many answers to those prayers.

  • It rained during our roofing, but nothing really got ruined and delays were only minor. One time, it was raining around us, but not on us. Another time, it just rained on us. But it was all okay, and I was able to find peace.
  • There have been so many times when I felt so tired and I prayed for added strength and I was able to do so much more than I was capable of on my own. There was one time when I was working so slowly and I knew I wouldn’t get done when I needed to, and I prayed and I immediately started working quickly and efficiently.
  • There have been times when I felt so grateful to have my kids working alongside of me.
  • We were going to do most of this on our own, even though it really was more work than we could do. But our church somehow discovered that we were doing this, and they sent people to help us. We couldn’t have done it without the help, and we felt so much love as we were able to work alongside neighbors and friends (and they even brought food too).
  • We had family help so many times as well. Liz spent two weekends with us and Clarissa came on her day off–which just happened to be the day when we needed to finish the roof.
  • The materials took a while to come, but the insulation came in the day before we needed it–and we realized a mistake and were able to cancel items we didn’t need.
  • Somehow our finances have worked out so that we had about $30,000 in our housing account, we’ve spent $40,000, and we still have $20,000.
  • The Lord comforted me and gave me inspiration when I was upset about my own mistakes. The roof line ended up uneven, and I realized how I could fix it after it was too late to do anything about it. But I prayed, and I felt peace and comfort–because mountains and hills aren’t even either, and the house is never going to be perfect: the house is a place of learning and doing the best we can. Grandpa built it with mistakes, and we are making mistakes, and that’s just part of the house.
  • So many times I have wanted a specific blessing (like I would like my husband to live with us–which will happen eventually), but instead I am given happiness in my circumstances and the ability to love what I have.
  • I have received confirmation and guidance on decisions like what to do about schooling and living and even little tiny things.
  • I was once cranky and upset, driving to get bolts from the store, and praying on my way there. And then I saw a moose. I love moose, and it let me know that God was watching over me.

I have felt so much comfort, and seen so many small miracles as I’ve been able to do so much more than I could have done on my own. I hope that this has been the answer to other people’s prayers as well. Sometimes I wonder if my Grandma prayed about this house, and we are finally answering those prayers, years later.

God answers prayers. I know that. Over the last month, I have seen that over and over again. When we were putting on the roofing on the last day, we did not have enough adhesive. We had not even done half of our roof yet, and the bucket was running low. So I prayed. \I thought about the widow’s oil.

And it didn’t run out. We were scraping the bottom of the bucket, but it did not run out.

We were able to finish.

The Only Life Hack That Works

I just finished reading a book about habits. I guess part of me wanted to read the book and then immediately have better habits. But it doesn’t work like that.

I really love self-help books. But self-help books don’t change my life. If I read a book about habits, I still have to have the determination to change my own habits. If I read a book about marriage, then I have to do the work to improve my relationship. If I want to improve my parenting, I have to try better to treat my children with more love.

I can’t read something and have it immediately change my behavior. While thinking about behavior in a better way and educating myself can help me improve, there is no one idea or one method that will help me become the person I want to be.

Except for there is one thing: following Jesus Christ is the one solution to fix bad behavior, heal relationships, and become the person that I want to be.

When I am trying to better follow Jesus Christ, that is when I start to make the biggest progress in my life. I feel different. I am happier and my capacities increase. The pain from past mistakes goes away and I am left with peace. I find increased patience and love. Through the atonement of Jesus Christ, I find the strength and ability to overcome any of life’s challenges.