Monday, December 26, 2016

Merry Christmas from the Wightman gang! 

Hope you all had a wonderful holiday season like we did! I've enjoyed an overdose of games, laughing, Christmas movies, food, my kids, staying up late, and loving on our adorable grandbaby. 
It was the best Christmas present 
I could ever receive. :)

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger

It’s a phrase we hear all the time, even across the pulpit at church. And since our family is definitely going through something with the potential to kill us both emotionally and spiritually, I guess I should be tattooing those words across the middle of my forehead right about now. But I’ll let you in on a little secret: I don’t like that phrase at all. I’ve never really said that outright to anyone, but I don't think that's always how it works when it comes to adversity.

I know that sounds like an odd thing to say. I mean, what’s not to like? This simple phrase just seems to be trying to give us a reason to endure. It seems to be telling us that, if we’ll just hang on, we’ll come out of our hard times feeling like Superwoman--like we've scaled our Mount Everest or ran our own personal marathon and hit the finish line with flying colors. But the truth is, adversity is an incredibly complicated thing. Sometimes, rather than making us feel stronger or better or more amazing, it can leave us consumed with a deep sense of bitterness. Or filled thoughts of fear and anxiety. Or perhaps battling feelings of resentment towards God for a trial that we think He should have helped us avoid. In the end, there are all kinds of negative ways trials and challenges can affect us. That’s why I don’t believe that adversity in and of itself necessarily makes us stronger. And when we say that it does, it may cause us to miss what’s going on under the surface when we face some of life’s hardest challenges and afflictions.

I saw a meme the other day on FB that perfectly sums up what I've been going through:

I know the person who wrote that was probably just trying to be funny, but those words hit pretty close to home for us right now. In fact, it’s kind of become a little joke between us as we’ve watched ourselves fight the temptation to become very cynical about our circumstances (i.e. “Things will never change. Nothing ever gets better. Miracles don’t seem to happen to us.”) That’s why we’ve started joking about it . . . so we can fight to remain faithful and not be overtaken by the cynicism. But it would be really easy at this point to get swallowed up by it after 7 months without a job offer for my husband. Sometimes, on really rough days, it’s tempting to use that “dark sense of humor” to help us cope with the anxious thoughts and feelings we’re experiencing on a regular basis.

And as for those “unhealthy coping mechanisms,” well, let’s just say I’ve been all over that one too. The longer this goes on, the more I’ve watched my soul start leaning toward all kinds of different ways to numb or distract myself. The pressure and endurance required during this particular trial has been intense, and on especially hard days, my inner man has desperately wanted some way to escape it—to take a break from all the strain and struggle for a little while. Although chocolate has always been my #1 personal coping mechanism, years ago I had to deal with my sugar addiction, so that one is off the table. But there are still so many different ways that I’m tempted to cope. There’s the desire to escape through movies or TV or time spent on social media. There’s the cynicism I talked about earlier, or the temptation to live in denial, or even the desire for my husband and I to leave the Lord out of it and just take the bull by the horns and figure things out on our own.

I’ll admit that last one has really been a bugger. Talk about an unhealthy coping mechanism. When you’re praying and praying for the Lord to do something and it seems like He’s taking entirely too long, it can be so incredibly tempting to cut the process short and take matters into your own hands.  But years ago, I came across this perspective from one of my favorite Christian authors as he talked about that type of behavior:

We so long for life to be better than it is. . . . We hope that God will be our hero. Of all the people in universe, he could stop the [trials] and arrange for just a little more blessing in our lives. He can spin the earth, change the weather, topple governments, obliterate armies, and resurrect the dead. Is it too much to ask that he intervene in our story? But he often seems aloof, almost indifferent to our plight, so entirely out of our control. Would it be any worse if there were no God? If he didn’t exist, at least we wouldn’t get our hopes up. We could settle once and for all that we really are alone in the universe and get on with surviving as best we may.

Then he makes this profound observation:

This is, in fact, how many professing Christians end up living: as practical agnostics. Perhaps God will come through, perhaps he won’t, so I’ll be hanged if I’ll live as though he had to come through. I’ll hedge my bets, and if he does show up, so much the better. The simple word for this is godlessness.  (John Eldredge and Brent Curtis, The Sacred Romance, p. 69.)

Whoa. That totally blew my mind when I read it. I would never, ever have described myself as godless in any way, shape, or form. But I had to realize that whenever I give in to the desire to bypass the Lord’s will and take control of the situation on my own, that’s exactly what I'm doing. It’s been a pretty sobering thought to contemplate but an important one to remember as I face this particular trial.

On a positive note, I’ve decided that seeing all of this baggage in myself has been a very good thing. I think it’s one of the main reasons the Lord has allowed this adversity in the first place. This trial has made it much easier to notice all the other things I turn to rather than trusting in the Lord. I know some may say a little TV or a social media isn’t that big of a deal. But the truth is, whenever I’m turning to something else to help me cope, I’m not turning to Christ. Period. Yes, it may be something relatively harmless or something that doesn’t affect my church membership, but it’s still not Him. I’m foolishly trying to draw from food or media or other kinds of coping mechanisms what I should really be drawing from Him.

So that’s where my personal focus is right now. I don’t just want to hang on through this experience by numbing myself or distracting myself or choosing to take matters into my own hands. I want more than that. I want to see miracles. I want to be filled by the Lord’s strength and love and ability to patiently endure. I believe that’s the only way I’ll come out of this experience any stronger or better. But if I try to deal with it without Him, I know I'll just end up a hot mess . . . with a ton of unhealthy coping mechanisms and a really dark sense of humor.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

A Long Overdue Update

I know, I haven’t written for a really long time. And I’ll admit that I wanted my first post back to be very different than the one I’m about to write. You see, since early spring we’ve been dealing with my husband’s unemployment. As a result, we decided to sell our home in June and we’ve been house-sitting for the last several months as we’ve been trying to figure out where we belong. All that time, I imagined writing a post where I could finally proclaim that we’d been delivered from our trial . . . that the Lord had come through and saved the day and all was well. You know—like a General Conference talk with a wonderfully happy and feel-good ending.

But the truth is, we’re not there yet.

Here we are 6 months later and we’re still trying to find a job. By the looks of things—meaning simply by the looks of our outward circumstances—our happy ending could still be a long way off. And it would be easy at this point to conclude that the Lord has forsaken us or that He doesn’t answer our prayers or meet the needs of His people when they cry out to Him. But I’ve seen too many tender mercies over the last several months to believe that for even a minute. In fact, I can honestly say He’s been more involved in our family’s lives over the last few months than He ever has been before.

So today, I feel the need to do something that may sound a little odd. I want to praise Him before the big answer comes and before everything is put right and before we reach our happy ending. Why would I do that? Because I’ve learned for myself that I don’t need the Lord to change my circumstances in order to be happy—I just need Him. He alone is enough, no matter what kinds of struggles I’m going through in my everyday life.

President Russell M. Nelson said it beautifully in Conference last week:

“The joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives. When the focus of our lives is on God’s plan of salvation and Jesus Christ and His gospel, we can feel joy regardless of what is happening—or not happening—in our lives. . . . As our Savior becomes more and more real to us, and as we plead for His joy to be given to us, our joy will increase.”

Those are incredibly powerful words, but I’ll admit I never lived that way in earlier years. In contrast to what President Nelson said, my joy has always been tied to my circumstances. If things were good, I was good. But if they weren’t, I struggled with feelings of depression, anxiety, or even just frustration and restlessness. Yes, I definitely tried to come to Christ on those bad days, but it was always with the request that He hurry up and change my circumstances so I could get back to being happy: “Just fix this or that, Lord, and everything will be OK.” When He didn’t answer my prayer like I wanted Him to, I was often left feeling abandoned and alone.

I never realized that I was looking at it all wrong. The Lord was trying to get me to see was that He could fill me with more happiness than I could ever imagine . . . right in the middle of even the hardest trials and afflictions. Changing my circumstances wasn’t what I needed . . . I just needed Him. His joy. His light. His love, filling me until there weren’t anymore empty places to fill. It’s one of the greatest miracles possible through the gospel of Jesus Christ and I was missing it. But I'm not missing it anymore.

I love how Elder Nelson tried so passionately in his talk to help us see this. I think one of the most important things he said was that we can only experience this joy if the Savior “become[s] more and more real to us.” Elder Bednar talked about the very same thing ...  about truly knowing Christ and not just knowing about Him. Personally, I believe that’s the key that will literally transform our entire lives. We really are promised that our “afflictions” can be “swallowed up in the joy of Christ” (Alma 31:38), and that our “burdens may be light, through the joy of [the] Son” (Alma 33:23). It’s the very thing our family has tasted over the last 6 months, and the whole experience has set my heart ablaze with overflowing love and adoration for my Savior. I want to shout from the rooftops that, like He did for Lamoni, He has infused more joy and light and love into my soul than I can ever express (Alma 19:6). I love Him with all my heart and I’ll spend the rest of my life telling everyone who will listen. Perhaps the Psalmist put it best when he said that Christ was “anointed ... with the oil of gladness above [His] fellows” (Psalms 45:7). I’m so grateful He’s willing to share it with us. I, for one, will never be the same.

(I had to add some happy pictures from the last 6 months. These were just a few of the many tender mercies that I want to remember: blessing Declan, Breck & Katelyn's graduation, Sunday dinner in Utah (only missing Chase & Kimball), and of course, our little Pudge. Katelyn called that last collage "The Many Faces of Declan." That little guy brings his own brand of joy that makes everything else we're going through seem easy!)

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Sorry, I know I haven't posted forever! There are some major life changes happening for us right now and there hasn't been much to time to write. I'll make sure to post about everything as soon as things settle down. Hopefully life will be back on track before long! And my thanks to anyone who follows this blog. I've really loved it and hope to increase my posts quite a bit in the weeks and months to come. <3

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

A Book Review and a Young Women rant :)

I’ve never written a book review before (which is funny because I’ve asked a lot of people to review mine).  But lately I’ve been re-reading one particular book that’s had me absolutely itching to review it. Or at least just rave about it. I honestly think it’s one of the most insightful and powerful LDS books out there right now. I know that’s a pretty big claim, but the author writes about a principle that literally changed my entire life. It’s THAT huge. It’s one of those books where, as I’m reading, I keep wanting to stop and shout “YES!” and outline sentence after sentence in bright red pen. The book is Falling To Heaven by James L. Ferrell, author of the bestselling, The Peacegiver.

The crazy thing is, the principle he writes about is kind of hard to wrap our brain around at first. In fact, Brother Ferrell says we tend to “reflexively resist it,” as it seems “strange to us, or mistaken, or difficult to understand or implement” (12). It’s the answer to the question, “Where and how can I find happiness?” We all know how the world would answer that question. We’re told again and again that happiness comes by living our dreams, by building our self-esteem, and by believing we can do anything we set our mind to. Yet it seems like no matter how hard we try, true happiness often remains illusive and fleeting, like what our heart is hungering for lies just beyond our reach.

Well, Brother Ferrell believes (and I wholeheartedly agree) that there’s a reason for that disconnect. He says “the heart of the gospel reveals a most surprising path to happiness. The path is always right before us, but it begins in the one place our burdened or complacent hearts are keeping us from looking. Happiness, like heaven, may seem above us, but it turns out we don’t obtain either of them by climbing" (xii). Then, after building a solid foundation from scripture, he makes this profound and paradigm-shifting point that lies at the heart of his entire message: “If we are feeling down and lacking hope, it turns out that we can’t find the happiness or hope we are seeking by trying to increase either our happiness or hope. . . . We don’t ascend upward by trying to lift ourselves upward. . . .The lifting of our souls is achieved indirectly . . . as a result of a different quest—the quest not to find ourselves, but to find Him (30). Put simply, happiness is only available through the Lord Jesus Christ.

But here’s the rub: as we come to Christ, He isn't going to make us happy by patting our heads and pumping us up and making us feel better about ourselves. No, our goal instead is to come to Him in a state of total humility and brokenness so He can heal us, cleanse us, and purify us from the inside out. Only then can He introduce us to a “joy which none receiveth save it be the truly penitent and humble seeker of happiness” (Alma 27:18).

Here's how Brother Ferrell puts it: “[H]appiness apparently lies not in our trying to feel better about ourselves but rather through our allowing the Lord to help us see truths that at first might make us feel worse. In these lowest moments—the moments when we give up resisting what we haven’t wanted to see—we are finally immersed in the joy we have always sought but have never found, a joy that comes not because we have lifted our hearts but because we have finally allowed them to break” (xi).

I feel so passionate about this message because I’ve experienced this very reality for myself. It’s mind-blowing to me that for years, I had it completely backwards. All the things I chased to find happiness were the very things that kept me from finding it. But once I turned my life over to the Lord and let Him walk me through the path of repentance, a happiness began to shine in my heart that continues to surpass anything I’ve ever experienced. I truly believe it’s just like Brother Ferrell says—that “this happiness has never been ‘just’ beyond our grasp at all, but a million light years beyond it. It exists only in His grasp” (170). It’s one of the most beautiful secrets waiting to be discovered as we humbly and openly submit ourselves to Jesus Christ.

On a side note, this concept ties in perfectly with something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. I’m currently serving in Young Women for the fourth time, which means I’ve spent the last several years pondering what the teenage girls of this Church need most in order to thrive and flourish. And I’m afraid we often think that what they need most is to be validated. Told they’re awesome. Lavished with all kinds of flowery words about their worth and value and unending potential.

While I understand the intent behind such rhetoric, one key question won't quit tugging at my heart: If all we ever do is pump up the Young Women and tell them how awesome and capable and amazing they are, how will they ever understand their need for Christ? If we continually compliment and praise and flatter the girls, how will that help them turn in brokenness to their Savior? It may give them a warm fuzzy feeling for a little while, but in the dark of the night when they’re battling the ravages of sin or fear or loneliness or abuse, they’ll need much more than flowery rhetoric. They’ll need a Savior. And a very personal one at that. So I believe as leaders, we need to spend our every breath teaching the Young Women not just that they need Jesus Christ, but how they can connect with Him by coming to Him in total humility, submission, and brokenness.

I know that idea will make some of us squirm a little bit. I know we want to be fun leaders who make the girls laugh and fill them with smiles and sunshine and positive pep talks. But the truth is, they need the grace of Christ more than anything else in the entire world. And they need us to teach them why they need Him, and how He can fill them with more happiness than they’ve ever imagined. I believe it’s a message that will change their (and our) lives forever, if only we’ll have the courage to embrace it, internalize it, and share it with all who will listen. With that said, I think I'll just conclude with the incredibly powerful words of Brother Ferrell:

Friday, April 22, 2016

I'm a Grandma!!!
Introducing Declan Breck Wightman, 
born 4/14/16 and weighing in at a whopping 8lbs 12oz!!
I'm so proud of Katelyn, our daughter in law. It wasn't an easy birth,
but she was AMAZING. 
I know she and Breck will be such great parents.
We're absolutely thrilled to welcome this darling little guy into our ever-growing family. 

 L to R: Kalli, Lexi, Chase, Katelyn w/ Declan, Breck, then me and the hubster

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

A few reflections and renovations

I haven’t posted for a while, and I’ve been feeling all week like I should get a post up on the blog. But the pressure I’ve felt to post something has actually got me thinking about why I even blog or post on social media in the first place. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that the internet has been an incredible blessing in my life in more ways than I can count, but this week I’ve been feeling the need to evaluate why I’m involved in social media in particular. I really want to make sure my posts are truly fueled by the right internal motivation and intention.

For instance, one reason I haven’t posted in a while is because I’ve been busy with some home renovations. I’m a huge fan of all things DIY, and over the past couple of weeks, I've been re-doing my master bathroom. I ripped out the old coved linoleum baseboards, laid and grouted a new vinyl tile floor, repainted the walls, and (my favorite part) antiqued the vanity with some Amy Howard chalk paint. When my husband commented on how hard I’ve been working, I smiled at him and said this was really just playtime for me. I absolutely love transforming something old into something new and beautiful, so it hasn’t even felt like work at all.

So this week I thought that maybe I could post a before and after picture of my new bathroom just for fun. But then I couldn’t help asking myself if that’s really the best use of my blog. What would be my motivation behind a post like that? Would it be so others would applaud me and tell me how talented and amazing and awesome I am? I definitely don’t want self-promotion to be my purpose. But I also know a huge reason I’ve even been able to redo the bathroom is because of all the bloggers who’ve written tutorials on how to lay a tile floor or the best way to use chalk paint or how to apply the different waxes to the wood. The problem is, I wasn’t planning on posting a tutorial—so again I had to ask myself, why even post about it at all?? Can you see the conflict I’ve been struggling with?? I’ve had the same feelings every time I’ve thought about putting something on Facebook or Instagram. Am I just doing it to get attention? Am I hoping for a whole bunch of complimentary comments as some sort of digital pat on the back? And perhaps even more important, do I subconsciously feed on that praise as a way to feel more worthy or valuable or successful as a person? If so, I think my motivation is really in the wrong place. I want my identity to be founded in Christ, not how many likes I have on a Facebook post.

At this point, I’m still not sure what to do. The truth is, I love Facebook and Instagram and blogging as a way for all of us to celebrate what’s going on in each other’s lives. I love hearing about weddings, babies being born, and exciting life events. I love reading articles others share that make me think. I love the inspirational memes and quotes that remind me of Christ and bring a ray of sunshine into my heart. And that’s the main reason I continue to participate in social media. I want to contribute something meaningful to the world when I post. I don’t just want to put something out there to get attention or build myself up in others’ eyes. I want someone’s life to be better because of what they read from me. And yes, I also want to use it as a way to celebrate some wonderful life moments with others (the birth of my first grandbaby in a month definitely being one of those things!).

So I think I’ll go ahead and post my before and after pictures as a way to saying to anyone who reads this, “You can do it too!” Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me,” and I really believe that includes a master bath remodel. I'll admit that the Lord has been all over this particular project—providing promptings and guidance on where to look for help and inspiration and giving me strength when I was feeling burnt out. You could say He and I have done this project together, so I guess this entry really does fit into my theme of “My Life in His Hands.” Who knew that’s where I’d end up when I started writing this post. :)

Details: The wall color is Glidden's Mid Day Mocha. On the vanity, I used Amy Howard Bauhaus Buff chalk paint with a coat of both the light and dark wax. The floor is cheap Armstrong vinyl tile (Terraza) from Lowe's. We want to do a major makeover on this bathroom in a few years so I didn't want to spend too much on it now. (That's also the reason I didn't change the countertops). The backsplash is Fasade Faux Tin that was SO easy to install (you can get it at both Lowe's and Home Depot). And the baseboards aren't done yet, but I'm waiting on the hubby for help with that. 
All in all, it's been a really fun project!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

A Different Take on Gospel Service

Today I want to throw out a question that’s been stirring around in my mind for a long time: Is every kind of service good service? I know that may sound weird, especially since service has become such a huge buzzword in the church today. We hear countless Conference talks and Sunday lessons encouraging us to serve, serve, serve. The President Monson quote above seems to sum it up perfectly.  So you may wonder how I could even ask such a question. But if you’ll just humor me for a minute, I think there’s something more that can be said on the subject—and I’ll admit it’s something that drastically changed the way I view gospel service.

You see, in earlier years, I thought that any service was worth my time and effort. That I needed to drop everything if an opportunity to help arose. That there could never really be a wrong reason to serve one of Father in heaven’s children. But I don’t believe that anymore. What changed my mind is something Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount. I believe His words should give us pause when it comes to how, when, and why we choose to serve. Here’s the part I specifically want to focus on:

21   Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
22   Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in they name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
23   And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity (Matt. 7:21-23).

The first thing that struck me was verse 22. Here we have people who are not just doing “many wonderful works” . . . they’re doing them in the Lord’s name. According to the verse, they’ve been busy casting out devils and prophesying and trying to do all they could to serve the cause of Christ. But incredibly, Jesus tells them to depart. Then, almost as if to rub salt in their wound, he goes so far as to call their work iniquity. That’s pretty mind-blowing if you ask me. These certainly don’t seem like wicked people. They aren’t lying or cheating or fighting or murdering or committing whoredoms. So why is Jesus so harsh in His assessment of them? He doesn’t even say, “At least you tried” or “I appreciate your efforts.” No, He straight up casts them out. Gives them no credit at all for all their good works and ambitious efforts. Dismisses them without a second thought. Have you ever wondered what's going on in this particular scripture?

Thankfully, the answer is right back in the very same verse. Jesus’ reason for telling them to depart is simple: “I never knew you.” In other words, there was never any relationship between these people and their supposed Master. Even though they had a long To-Do list of “wonderful works,” they had no connection at all to the One they said they were serving.

To me, it’s almost like Jesus was saying, “I know you’ve been crazy busy doing all kinds of seemingly righteous things in My name. But the truth is that you never came to Me to ask what I wanted you to do. To see how I wanted you to serve. You were serving based on your own agenda, which means you’re not My servants at all. And for that reason, you have no place in My kingdom.” It’s a pretty startling point that left me wondering if such a thing could ever apply to my own efforts to serve.

Years ago, I came across this quote from Christian author Oswald Chambers (who I believe is right up there with C.S. Lewis in terms of profound gospel insights). Listen to his perceptive take on the way we often approach our gospel service:

So much Christian work today . . . simply come[s] into being by impulse! In our Lord’s life every project was disciplined to the will of His Father. There was never the slightest tendency to follow the impulse of His own will. . . . Then compare this with what we do—we take every thought and project that comes to us by impulse and jump into action immediately, instead of . . . disciplining ourselves to obey Christ. . . . It is inconceivable, but true nonetheless, that saints . . . are simply doing work for God that has been instigated by their own human nature (My Utmost for His Highest, 9/9).

Chambers' thoughts have caused me some pretty serious self-reflection. I've asked myself: is any of my service fueled, not by inspiration, but by impulse? For instance, am I planning that activity, not because the Lord has prompted me to, but because I saw a really cute idea on Pinterest? Am I serving so others will notice me? So I’ll gain recognition and be seen as a “righteous” person? Am I doing it out of guilt? Or because I think that’s what good Mormons are supposed to do? I'll confess that at times I found less-than-impressive motives lurking beneath the surface of my gospel service.

It reminds me of the Pharisees that Jesus spoke of in the Sermon on the Mount. Yes, they were constantly serving, but they were doing it for all the wrong reasons. It just goes to show that we really can’t assume all service is good service. What the Lord seems to value is that we take our cues from Him when we serve, rather than jumping into service that, as Chambers says, has simply been “instigated by [our] own human nature.”

I know some may think—wait a minute, what about the Lord’s injunction that we “should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of [our] own free will” (D&C 58:27)? While I certainly see the point, I don’t believe for a minute that the Lord is implying here that we should go off on our own and work independently of Him. Two verses previous, He’d already pointed out the importance of counseling with Him in the many different details of our lives. I believe like Alma that the right course is for us to, “Counsel with the Lord in all [our] doings, and He will direct [us] for good” (Alma 37:37).

The reason I’ve gone to such great lengths in this post is because I believe this idea offers great relief to those of us who are overwhelmed with all of the needs pressing on us from every side. The truth is, we don’t have to run ourselves ragged trying to meet every need and save every hurting soul. Even Christ himself didn’t heal every blind person and feed every hungry child and raise everyone who died during His personal ministry. Instead, He simply served as His Father prompted Him to. And we can do the very same thing. As we offer ourselves to the Lord to serve as He sees fit, He’ll let us know what our stewardship is for any given day. If there’s a need He doesn’t prompt us to meet, we can know with a surety that He’ll send someone else to take care of it. We can cease worrying and leave it in His capable hands. What’s more, as His personal servants, we’re promised that, “if ye will have faith in me ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me” (Moroni 7:33). If you ask me, that’s an incredibly beautiful way to serve.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

When A Yes Feels For A While Like a No

I’m dealing with something right now that brings to mind a lesson I’ve learned many times over the years: sometimes a “Yes” from the Lord seems for a while a lot more like a “No.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve prayed and prayed for something—even something I’ve been prompted to pray for—and the Spirit whispers yes, but the circumstances of my life continue to flash a bright, neon-green no. It’s taken me a long time to understand that, when it comes to my walk with Christ, things are not always as they may appear. It may be that He’s up to something I can’t see, or that the timing isn’t quite right, so I simply need to be patient. Or it may be that things need to unfold in a way that I don’t yet comprehend. So in those moments when I feel forsaken, instead of giving in to discouragement, I’ve learned that I need to lean even harder on the Lord and pray for the ability to trust Him, even though it may for a time seem like He isn’t doing anything at all.

The perfect example of this is the story of Nephi's journey to get the brass plates in the Book of Mormon. In the beginning, Lehi tells him: “Therefore go, my son, and thou shalt be favored of the Lord, because thou hast not murmured” (1 Nephi 3:6). The Lord’s will is clear: Nephi is promised favor, which is a word that means assistance, support, blessing, and even grace. But then he gets to Jerusalem and his whole world seems to crash and burn around him. First Laman tries to get the plates and ends up running for his life. Then the brothers take their riches to trade, but they too end up fleeing from Laban’s servants. If we didn’t know the end of the story, it would be easy to think, “Where in the world was the Lord in all of this? Why did He forsake Nephi? Why hasn’t the young prophet found the success that he was promised?”

I’ll admit that several years ago, I struggled for a time with those very same questions. I was going through something that looked a lot like Nephi’s story, and like him, I hadn’t yet reached my happy ending. As I read through the account, it seemed to me like the Lord really did forsake Nephi during those first two attempts, which made me wonder if He’d forsaken me as well. But after a great deal of prayer and pondering, it finally dawned on me that Nephi had to go through those first two failed attempts so when he was asked to kill Laban, he’d realize that there was no other choice. The Lord allowed him to experience the first two failures so he’d understand that slaying Laban was the only way. Christ didn’t forsake Nephi at any point in the story—He was with Him the entire time. And it gave me great peace to know that I too could move forward with trust my Savior and know that, somehow, someway, my story would also lead to a powerful end.

It reminds me of the lyrics to the song “Before the Morning” by Christian artist Josh Wilson. In the song, he makes the same point—that even if we can’t see what the Lord is up to, if we trust Him, something good will always come of it in the end. I offer them in the hopes that they’ll touch someone else’s heart the way that they’ve touched mine:

Do you wonder why you have to feel the things that hurt you?
If there's a God who loves you where is He now?
Or maybe there are things you can't see
And all those things are happening to bring a better ending
Someday, somehow you'll see, you'll see

Would you dare, would you dare to believe
That you still have a reason to sing?
'Cause the pain that you've been feeling
It can't compare to the joy that's coming

So hold on, you gotta wait for the light
Press on and just fight the good fight
'Cause the pain that you've been feeling
It's just the dark before the morning

My friend, you know how this all ends
And you know where you're going
You just don't know how you'll get there so say a prayer

And hold on 'cause there's good for those who love God
But life is not a snapshot, it might take a little time
But you'll see the bigger picture

Would you dare, would you dare to believe
That you still have a reason to sing?
'Cause the pain that you've been feeling
It can't compare to the joy that's coming

So hold on, you gotta wait for the light
Press on and just fight the good fight
'Cause the pain that you've been feeling
It’s just the dark before the morning

Friday, January 8, 2016

My Take on New Year's Resolutions

It’s that time of year again. The time when every other commercial on TV is either weightwatchers or NutriSystem. Now they’ve even got Oprah on board, so who wouldn’t want to jump on that bandwagon?? I certainly did—year after year after frustrating year. I dove into whatever the latest craze was that would hopefully help me get my diet under control. I journaled what I ate. I counted my calories or portions or carbs or whatever else there was to count. And of course, I always had an intense workout plan to match. It felt so good to get all fired up for the new me that was surely about to burst forth on the world. It was a high, really – a buzz that started with a New Year’s Resolution and a promise to myself to quit binging on all the sugar. To do better. Be better. To fit a smaller size. To finally conquer my body image issues once and for all.

And I’ll admit that there were a few times that I actually did it. As a natural size 12, the smallest I ever got was a 7. And I did stay that size for a little while. I got a lot of compliments too. But soon the magic wore off, as it always did. Soon I was back in the kitchen downing a batch of cookie dough and wondering why I always sabotaged myself. I assumed it was just a lack of willpower. If only I’d known at the time that it went so much deeper than that. Actually I take that back—I knew deep down that part of it was I was an emotional eater. I just didn’t know what to do about that. I didn’t know how to stop. And besides, a ton of women I knew did the very same thing. After all, we joked about our chocolate stash all the time in Relief Society. And in the end, was sugar really that bad of an escape to have? It’s not like it’s cocaine or heroin or cigarettes. But all that rationalizing did was keep me stuck in the same rut like a mouse on a wheel. I knew this area of my life was out of control, but I’d tried to change so many times that I finally ran out of steam. I accepted the fact that I’d take my food and body image issues with me to the grave.

Well, thankfully, more than 10 years later, I can now say that I’m no longer stuck in that awful, hopeless rut. In fact, I’m now healed both body and soul. I’ve written a lot about it in the past (both in my book and on my website) so I won’t go into all the details here, but I will say that every time January rolls around, I want to make my own TV commercial. I want to shout to the world, “There really is a way to stop the madness and get things under control! You don’t have to try and fail a million times only to try and fail again!” But to find it, we’ve got to know where to look to find answers and healing. And it can only come through the strength of the Lord.

The truth is, only Christ has the power to help us overcome the tugs and pulls of the flesh and land ourselves in a place of peace when it comes to our physical body. One of my favorite scriptures is Galatians 5:22 where it says that temperance (the original Greek word means self-control) can only come as a fruit of the Spirit. It’s a solution that’s WAY better than trying to muster up more white-knuckle willpower. In fact, I think it’s even more addicting than sugar. Offering my diet and body image issues to the Lord to fix and heal changed absolutely everything in my life. And once I tasted His power flowing through me and giving me strength to eat the way I should, I never wanted to live any other way ever again.

So that’s my $.02 on the whole weight loss craze. In the words of Moroni, “in the gift of his Son hath God prepared a more excellent way” (Ether 12:11). I couldn’t have said it any better myself. 

**It just occurred to me that I have to clarify that I'm not knocking weightwatchers or NutriSystem or any other diet plan. I just strongly believe that we should go to the Lord first for help. Then if He prompts us to use a particular program or book or system (whether it's weightwatchers or any other kind of plan), then we know we'll have the grace needed to stick with it and make the needed changes. That's all I'm sayin'. :)