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'. :)