My life necessitates that we aren’t really that busy. We have to spend a lot of time together as a family. Sometimes we moan and groan and complain about it a little bit, but we also laugh a lot and really enjoy quite a bit of the time we have.
I know that a lot of people get really busy and they have a lot going on. I have used that excuse, but it’s usually not very accurate. Yes, I am busy sometimes. I may have a lot on my to-do list. Or I might have lots of places to go and do things. But it never lasts that way for a long time.
I hope that as my kids get older and our life changes, that we don’t get too busy to do the really important things. Sometimes family time doesn’t seem that urgent, but it is. The best moments are not always on the schedule or show up on any list. They exist when you are paying attention and you see the people in front of you.
I know that there are enough activities and busyness in the world to fill up several lifetimes. But I still want time so that I can wash the dishes with a kid next to me, play the piano while they fall asleep, read my kids a story, teach them something new, and listen and be there without having to rush somewhere else. I need those moments.
And when I am busy, when there is so much to do, I have found that I can include my kids. I once stuck my computer screen onto the TV so the kids could see what I was doing. I’ve talked to my kids about my plans and what I’m trying to accomplish. I’m happiest when I include them in doing things, even if it takes some effort from me. We can love and support each other when we are busy, so that we aren’t busy alone.
I don’t want to be caught up in filling up our lives so that we don’t have time with each other anymore. Relationships are always more important than accomplishments.
Sometimes it’s hard to see the Lord’s hand in our lives, but sometimes that’s because we don’t have the right perspective.
I was thinking of pointillism paintings where you have to look closely to see the paint strokes and you have to look far away to see the picture. You need both perspectives to understand the painting.
We may have to look really closely to see the Lord’s help in our life, because he helps with very small things that are easily dismissed. We have so many blessings that we don’t always even notice: How many times have we prayed to be safe and we have remained safe? How many times have our finances worked out exactly right, like having the right amount of savings or finding good deals right when we need them? I have been given strength and happiness in difficult circumstances. We’ve had really good days when I’ve been able to know what to do and say with my children. I’ve been able to complete school work quickly. I’ve had opportunities at the right time. I’ve had such good friendships. And so many blessings have come from a loving Heavenly Father, if I choose to look at them.
For a long time, I wanted to be able to live in a town and send my kids to school and live a more normal life. It’s not what I have right now: we homeschool and we live far away from a small town and life is different. But it’s not bad either. I’ve prayed and hoped that things would change, and they didn’t change. But I’m okay with that right now, because I’ve been blessed in so many small ways: I found good books and ideas that helps us with homeschool. I’ve been able to think of myself in a new and better way. I never thought I could really teach, but now there are days that I absolutely love it. I’ve had inspiration, like I put the TV away for most of the week and we were so much happier. I’ve been able to complete projects on my computer more quickly so I can spend time with my kids.
I have felt this :
And now, my brethren, I desire that ye shall plant this word in your hearts, and as it beginneth to swell even so nourish it by your faith. And behold, it will become a tree, springing up in you unto everlasting life. And then may God grant unto you that your burdens may be light, through the joy of his Son. And even all this can ye do if ye will. Amen. (Alma 33:23)
While I do ask for specific blessings that don’t happen, there are also so many times I am blessed in better ways that I could have not expected.
I have to look at the details, and sometimes I need to zoom out and see the overall perspective as well. I get too caught up in negative moments, thinking that hard times will last forever (they don’t). I believe in a life after this one, that everything will be made right. I don’t need to have everything right now. I want to progress and grow and change, and that requires patience with myself and trust in the the Lord’s timing.
1. Go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time.
If sleeping is a problem, research good sleep hygiene and do the little things, like not watching television or eating or exercising before bed, having a good routine to wind down, and learning relaxation techniques and thought defusion techniques in order to calm worries and anxieties. I can not compromise sleep or I pay for it. Sometimes if I stay up late, I find that I’m acting like a different person the next day.
2. Eat regular and healthy meals and snacks and drink lots of water.
We all have our bad eating tendences. I tend to not eat enough sometimes, and so I have to remind myself to have snacks, eat more fruits and veggies, and not forget to eat. Some people snack throughout the whole day. Other people eat too much sugar or too much salt. But while bad eating habits are all bad in their own way, good eating habits look alike: more fruits and veggies and whole grains; less sugar; breakfast, lunch, and dinner; concrete snack instead of grazing; mindfulness about what you are eating. And drink water. I’ve lived half my life minorly dehydrated and it’s not healthy.
3. Exercise and regular physical activity.
Exercising for ten or twenty minutes in the morning and then sitting for the rest of the day is really not the best. I’m trying to live a more active lifestyle, and that can be hard. I try to play with my kids and go on walks and resist laziness. And I do like to formally exercise as well. I have a lot of different apps on my phone I switch between, like 7-minute workouts and yoga. I still want to improve on this–I want to feel stronger, and I know vigorous walking is a really good way to clear my mind.
4. Spend time outside.
I find myself incredibly happier when I spend more time outside. But in our modern lives, sometimes there is barely reason to go outside. We make excuses if it is hot or raining or snowing or whatever, but with proper preparation, you can be outside in almost every kind of weather, at least for a minute. Whenever I go camping, I feel this release when I have to be outside to cook and go to the bathroom and live. I wonder why we’ve made our lives so closed out to the outside world sometimes. Kick your kids outside to play and you’ll find that they are way less cranky–and if you go join them, you’re going to be less cranky too.
5. Practice Mindfulness and Meditation
You’ve probably heard about this because it’s everywhere right now, and there are so many guides and apps out there. I am not a very mindful person and meditation is incredibly difficult for me, which is why I keep trying anyway. I need it to calm my mind and to remember what I value. And you don’t have to be good at it to be good at doing it. A week of distracted meditation is better than a week of no meditation. Just keep trying.
6. Limit screen time
How many times do you check your phone? How much time do you spend staring at a screen? Even if you do it for work or school, is there a way you can reduce it? I get constantly distracted on my phone and my computer, but I put blocks into place to help me. I usually have my web browser blocked on my phone so I can’t access the entire internet, and I never install games. And on my computer, I have an app called FocusMe (which I paid for, and it was worth it), which helps me block things without easy ways of getting to them again.
There are lots of ways to simplify your life. You can get rid of stuff: when you look in a closet and the only things in there are the things you use and you love, you feel a whole lot calmer. We try to only have toys we really play with. It’s so nice to be have space around you and room to breathe. The joy of having a simpler life is much greater than the joy of having lots of stuff. And you can simplify your time too. What projects can you drop? How can you simplify errands and routines? How can you simplify parenting? How can you simplify your finances? If there is a way to simplify, that way may be a better way.
8. Set regular routines and follow them
You don’t have to have routines for the whole day, just small routines that help you know where you are. I wake up and read my scriptures, say my prayers, meditate, exercise, eat breakfast, read scriptures as a family, get in the shower, and get my kids dressed. If I do that every morning, my days go so much better. In the evening, we put the kids in the tub, brush teeth, and then read stories and say prayers. Kids like routine. Adults like routine. Life should have some stability to it.
9. Serve others and increase social interaction
Isolating yourself is really easy, but it will make you miserable. We need face-to-face interaction with other people. And we need to serve other people too. I’m always much happier when I serve, and sometimes it means that I drop what I’m doing in order to send a message, make a phone call, go visit, say hello, or edit something for someone. Making someone else happy in meaningful ways increases your own happiness.
10. Prayer and Scripture Study
My daily prayer and scripture study is essential to my life and my mental health. I need the Lord’s help in all of this. We all do.
I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive. (Acts 20:35)
Sometimes I think I want blessings like these:
Owning my own house that is well-decorated with a beautiful garden
Figuring out a perfect schedule that enables me to always be on task and accomplish everything
More money and better stuff that works and doesn’t break
Being able to see people that are fun to be around
Living where I would like to live, in a convenient place with lots of good people
But instead, throughout my life I have received blessings more like these:
Living in an area that was fairly low-income with people that needed a lot of help and support
Visiting with people that were overwhelmed with their own problems
Living in highly inconvenient places and making friends with people who are not like me at all
Learning hard lessons and then being able to share and help other people because I’ve been there
Becoming really good friends through people I have helped and who have helped me
And looking back on my life, I have had much greater satisfaction when I have been able to give. It’s not very meaningful to get everything you want for your birthday. It’s not very interesting when life is easy and you have everything you ever wanted.
We like to struggle. And we like to help each other in that struggle. The best relationships I have are built through serving and loving–people I have served and people who have helped me. Those relationships are much stronger than sharing common interests. They mean a whole lot more.
And those relationships are the basis of a good and happy life. My greatest blessings in my life have been the opportunities I have been given to help other people. I would always give up an easy and rich and fortunate life if that meant that I could develop meaningful relationships and be in a position to help others.
I didn’t realize that when I was younger–my dreams and goals were more about myself than about helping other people. And I’m so glad life has gone in a very different direction, and the Lord has blessed me so much in unexpected ways.
We all have many brain pathways that make life a lot easier, good habits that help us: brushing our teeth, eating meals, getting dressed, turning the lights off, cleaning up, holding our tongues, smiling and waving, and all of those sorts of things.
But we also have pathways that are not so positive, like checking our phones constantly, yelling, feeling down and depressed, or staying up late.
I have dealt with mood swings and feeling of depression for quite a lot of my life, and it’s really easy to fall back into that again. I’ll do really good for a while, only to have a bad day. Misery can become a habit.
And when bad habits and behaviors keep coming back again and again, it can be really frustrating. We rationally know that we want to stop doing that, but then we keep doing it anyway because it’s so easy.
Change can take a while. And sometimes we need to understand that in order for change to happen, we have to consciously steer our brains away from habitual behavior for quite a long time, longer than we really want to. Deciding that we want to change is not enough; we have to put in the effort to actually make that change happen.
For example, I really like to watch YouTube videos when I am bored or distressed. And it’s really easy just to click on the site and watch video after video. It can be really habitual, and it’s not something I like about myself. I have an app that blocks certain websites, and for a while I flat out blocked YouTube from my life.
I stopped thinking about it. I stopped doing it. It would seem like I conquered my bad habit. But when I re-enabled YouTube again, guess what happened? I started habitually watching videos again. So I blocked it again.
And I’m realized that the longer something has been around, sometimes the longer you have to work on getting rid of it. I don’t know if certain pathways ever really go away all the way–because if you did it once, it’s so much easier to do it again.
But the atonement of Jesus Christ can help strengthen us and become new people. Change can happen. For some people, it happens in an instant, but for most of us, it takes longer. The point is that we don’t give up, that we keep coming back to what we value, and we keep seeking hope and repentance and healing.
And then, maybe years and years later, we can look back and see that we are better and new, and it’s so much easier to do the right thing.
I was at a friend’s house a few weeks ago and our kids were playing with each other. It was hot and her kids had gotten out the hose. She had a sliding glass door in the back, and it ended up that they sprayed the hose into the house.
It was a moment of chaos, but I have so many of those moments myself, so it felt so nice that I wasn’t alone. Sometimes we imagine that everyone has it together better than we do. But they don’t. We all have those moments of chaos, and it’s not something we need to hide. It’s something we can share, because we have all been there.
We have moments like these:
A kid punches his brother in the face
A toddler spills shampoo in the carpet
A kid drops and breaks a phone or a tablet
Every single toy in the entire house is not where it belongs
Dirty clothes get mixed up with clean clothes and they are all on the floor
We end up late and behind to important events
A kid throws up on vacation
Our kids cry for absolutely ridiculous reasons
We forget to respond to texts and messages
Everyone wants to talk to us at the same time
We lose a small child
Our kids are screaming or we are screaming
Disasters happen like huge messes and neglecting important things
Life gets messy and chaotic and we are all in this together. Sometimes it’s better to show someone your chaos because then they know that they aren’t alone.
The other day, I was saying my morning prayers and I decided to say I was grateful for everything I didn’t really like in my life.
I am grateful for bad days.
I am grateful for sticky floors.
I am grateful for toys all over the floor.
I am grateful for when my kids scream.
I am grateful for days when I have nothing to do.
I am grateful for having too much to do sometimes.
I am grateful that I live in the middle of nowhere.
I am grateful for mosquito bites.
I am grateful for for getting hurt.
I am grateful for being tired.
I am grateful for all of it.
And saying that helped me feel grateful. Because a lot of bad things aren’t really that bad, or they are a consequence of good things, or they are at least opportunities for learning and growth. And I am grateful for all of that.
Often I have pleaded for help from God, but I have often been too proud, too ashamed of my struggles, to reach out to help for others.
The other day, I was dealing with a difficulty in my own life and I wanted better solutions. Though I had prayed, fasted, and talked with my husband, I still didn’t have the answers I wanted.
So I took all my feelings and I wrote an email to my mom, asking for advice.
She wrote me back with exactly the words I needed. Revelation came through her, and then was confirmed and enhanced through the Holy Spirit. I was not able to solve my problem on my own (though I had tried through lots of internet searches). God answered my prayers through others and only after I asked for help.
Sometimes God does not give us the answers in the way we want. We have to do our part in seeking help from others. I’m not saying that we put all our problems out there for everyone to see. Sharing private and personal problems publically can cause hurt and distress. Instead, turn to the Lord first and then share with trusted family members, friends, and others who are put into our lives to help us and guide us.
You don’t have to do it alone. But often we persist in figuratively locking ourselves in a room to deal with our problems, hoping someone will break down the door to help us. We might even shout for help in a vague way. But to receive the help we are entitled to, we have to actually unlock that door and open it through questions and requests for help from the people who already love us and want to help.
That can be so difficult. But it is necessary to receive the full help and blessings that God wants us to have. He will help us know who to reach out to. He can help us know what to say. And He will help us know who we can help when others struggle.
We are not meant to do it by ourselves, even if we want to. We are much better off helping each other through life, but that can only happen if we strip ourselves of pride and unlock the door.
I realized recently that my instinct when I was having a hard time was to isolate myself. Whenever I have hurt and cried, I wanted to be far away from others. It’s still a struggle. But I just started imagining crying while being held by someone else and what that would feel like. That act of visualizing helped start to heal something inside me. I did not have to be ashamed of my tears.
Success in life is not always about knowing the answers; its learning to ask the right questions.
Life is full of struggles for everyone. We need real connection with each other. We need vulnerability, honesty, and trust. When we ask for specific help, we will find it. But often we have to ask first.
A seven-year-old girl is beginning to read scriptures for the first time. She believes they are true. She knows some stories and she doesn’t understand all the words, but she keeps trying.
A man has read the scriptures before, but struggles to do it on a daily basis. He believes they are true and is trying to read the more in his life.
A woman reads them daily, but often doesn’t take the time to study them. She is trying to do better and on occasion has really good insights, even though she doesn’t have the time to read long.
Another woman reads scriptures for about an hour a day. After working for over thirty years on improving her scripture study, she finds herself excited to read them every day and feels a great amount of joy from doing it.
So which one is better? No one is better. They are all trying, and that’s what matters.
Conversion is a lifelong process as we continue getting better and better. It’s not a singular destination in our lifetimes, but a continual journey in the right direction.
Wherever we are, what matters most is that we are trying to be a little better than we were before. We don’t need to feel guilty if we haven’t achieved a certain level that someone else has; what’s important is we keep trying.