Sunday, May 30, 2021

Return to Me

Return to me is in my top ten favorite movies of all time.

It's sweet, it's tender, and it's so SO good.

The premise is simple: a man, Bob, who fiercely loves his wife loses her in a fatal car accident.

In the long wake of her death, he has no interest in finding love again, despite the enthusiastic efforts of his misguided friend.

That is, until one night, while on yet another date his friend had set up him with, Bob meets Grace, the sweet yet feisty waitress.

Immediately there's a connection there on both sides that seems unexplainable.

They begin to date and fall for each other in the most darling way possible. All is going well, so well. Until . . .

Grace finds a note in Bob's apartment, a letter he'd received from the anonymous woman who had been the recipient of Bob's deceased wife's heart. It was from Grace.

The two must come to terms with the heart that's in Grace and what it means to both of them, how it pulled them together.

As Bob tries to wrap his brain around the situation, Grace's grandpa (played brilliantly by Caroll O'Connor) says:

"I know that what's happened has been overwhelming. And I know it's going to take a while to sort it all out. But while you're sorting, I want you to remember that all the times I prayed that Gracie would have a second chance at life, I always knew that if God blessed us, the heart she got would have to be from a very special person, if it were going to be at home in Grace. When she met you, her heart beat truly for the first time. Perhaps it was meant to be with you always."

Grab. The. Kleenex.

I love the idea that one heart longs to be with another. 

That one heart calls to another.

That one heart truly beats when it's reunited with another.

In my scripture study this morning, I came across a plea from the Savior:

"Will ye not now return unto me. . . that I may heal you?" (3 Nephi 9:13)

Then, just a few moments later He tells us what He desires: our hearts.  (v 20)

I love the visual that formed in my mind as I read this, one of Jesus calling to me, wanting my heart to be with His.

When I have heed His call and returned to Him, I feel my heart beating harder, with more purpose, stronger, and more joyful.

The words of Grace's grandpa, with some minor adjustments, play in my mind:

"Michelle, I know that what's happened in your life has been overwhelming. And I know it's going to take a while to sort it all out. But, while you're sorting, I want you to remembet that all the times I prayed you'd have a second chance at life, I always know that if God blessed you, your peace would have to be from a very special person, if it were going to be at home in you. When you met the Savior, your heart beat truly for the first time. Perhaps it was meant to be with Him always."

Becasue of Jesus, we have a new chance at life. 

Our hearts truly beat when we allow Him love us, to teach us, to forgive us, to embrace us.

This is how I feel about my Savior.  That is continually beckoning me - us - to return to Him.

It is where our hearts can truly beat for the first time, again and again and again.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Getting "UNdiscouraged": 6 things you can do when discouragement hits

Check out my Hi Five Live video this was based on HERE!!


Discouragement comes to all of us.

I know I've had my share over the past year. 

Most of the discouragement has come from not-so-good things. 

Like getting a cracked tooth pulled and having my face swell up.

And then a week later getting bitten by a cat I was trying to save, getting an infection, and spending a few days in the hospital fighting it.

Some discouragement comes from good things too. In December I was called as an early morning seminary teacher. It was wonderful but challenging.

Then my mom got sick this spring and passed away this summer.

Oh yes, and we can't forget the Covid-19 world-wide pandemic and riots and the election year.

It's safe to say this has been a trying 11 months for me.

Discouragement has become an unwanted friend of mine.

But, I've learned a few things that have helped me when it comes, a few things that I've learned that help me become "undiscouraged." And, assuming you're human and you experience discouragement too, I thought I'd share.

#1 Take care of yourself

Often times when I'm discouraged it's because my bucket is dry--I am totally worn out. Sometimes it's due to my choices. I often put the needs of others first and forget my own. I will also eat things that aren't the best, stay up too late, or waste time during the day then berate myself for it. 

Other times I don't have a choice because circumstances demand my attention, energy, and efforts at a pace I can't keep up with.

Regardless of the why, when I neglect myself, discouragement easily follows.

Yet, it's hard to stop and give myself what I need.

This is why I love the story of Elijah in 1 Kings 19. It's where I get the "juniper" name in my blog from.

See, Elijah was a powerful prophet. He showed up on the scene, sealed the heavens, performed miracles, had the sealing power (the last one to hold the sealing keys before Jesus Christ came), and made royalty really mad. In fact, they wanted to kill him.

So he ran an entire day for his life. He wore himself out. That night he laid under a juniper tree and "requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life.

That's some deep, deep discouragement.

He falls asleep, presumably hoping to not wake up. An angel woke him up. He didn't lecture him, give him advice, power, or even a pep talk. He simply said, "Arise and eat."  Then he showed Elijah a cake that was baking on the fire. Read that again: THE ANGEL MADE ELIJAH A CAKE!!!  Cake is LITERALLY Heaven's answer to feeling bad.

Elijah ate the cake (like a good man) and drank some water, then went back to sleep. The angel came to him a second time and said, "Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee." 

Elijah had a long way to go and the angel knew (which means God knew) that what he needed to feel better and accomplish his tasks was to take care of himself. 

This is not a singular event. When Alma met Amulek, he tarried at his house and rested before going back out to preach. The Lord let Lehi and his family rest in Bountiful for years before they continued their journey. 

Taking care of ourselves is not only important and even necessary, but it is divinely suggested and condoned.

I find that when I'm feeling discouraged, I can often become undiscouraged by doing something that fills my bucket. It's usually something like taking a nap, resting better at night, eating healthier, getting outside, reading my scriptures, serving someone else, writing for fun, and yes, totally eating cake. Especially free cake. And especially angel cake. (Come on, I couldn't pass that up.)

#2  Release emotions

My mom had a few strokes and heart "episodes" in May, so when things took a turn for the worse in July, we knew we weren't going to have her much longer.

I flew down to California to be with her. She passed away five days later. Those five days were hard. Covid restrictions kept us from her until she moved into the ICU. Then, after an initial wave of small groups saying goodbye, we weren't allowed to be with her until they moved her downstairs to comfort/hospice care. And even then it was only one visitor at a time.

Mom rallied those first few days. I said a final heartwrenching goodbye, then she'd improve. Then she'd decline and I'd go and say goodbye again. After the third "final goodbye" the disappointment and grief had nearly consumed me.

I had kept everything in as I was one of the supports for my dad and my brothers. I wanted to be strong. So, I pushed it all down. Until my discouragement grew too large.

In this instant, cake wouldn't help. Heaven knew I'd been eating a steady diet of cookies for days.

What I needed was to release the emotions.

After a family meeting where my dad discussed the next steps, I ducked out of the house, got in my rental car, and drove to an empty parking lot. And I cried. I screamed. I hit the steering wheel. I let it all out for over an hour.

Then the tears dried up and I felt a sense of strength and peace return.

I went home to my dad. Not more than five minutes later we got the call that it was time again to say goodbye. I was able to be there in the background as my nieces and nephews said goodbye to their grandma. And because I'd released that emotion--not the sorrow or grief, but the weight and force of the emotion I'd kept inside--I was able to lovingly smile and support them in those very tender and hard moments.

Then, the next night, I said my final final goodbye. And she was gone, off to a family reunion of epic proportion.

Sometimes our emotions can build up and we become human pressure cookers and we need to release the pressure before we explode.

That might come in tears and screams, hitting inanimate objects, running hard, writing it out, or spilling your guts to a friend. Whatever works, do it. Because it does work, and you'll feel better.


#3 Remind yourself what you know

Discouragement is a suffocater. It takes hold of what we know, squeezes it, and pushes it aside to make room for all the things that make us sad, tired, and afraid.

It also loves to feed lies. Maybe we aren't worthy of happiness or love. Things will never work out. I won't ever get head. If God loved me, He wouldn't let me hurt this way or allow this to happen to me. Life is fair for everyone else, but mt.

When discouragement comes, it will do us good to remind us what we know.

I love the example of this in the Book of Mormon. The prophet Nephi had seen and done amazing things, and yet, he experienced discouragement too. In fact, he recorded on such time in 2 Nephi chapter 4.

He laments: "Why should my heart weep and my soul linger in the valley of sorrow, and my flesh waste away, and my strength slacken because of my afflictions? And why should I yield to sin because of my flesh? Yea, why should I give way to temptations?  Why am I angry because of my enemy?"

That is some major discouragement there.

But I love what he does next. He doesn't allow himself to stay there. He doesn't feed those thoughts.  "Awake my soul!" he says. Basically, snap out of it!

Then he reminds himself of what he knows is true: Lord, I have trusted you, and I will forever. I know that you give to your children, and you will give good things to me.

When discouragement starts discoloring the good things in your life or feeding you lies, stop and remind yourself what you know. 

God is real. 

He loves you. 

He is with you. 

This will pass, and if it doesn't He will help you. 

The Atonement is real and can work in your life. 

Things WILL get better.

You will smile again.

#4 Keep discouragement with its owner

I have a friend with a bunch of kids. They throw the clean laundry in a pile and the kids pull out their own clothes. Often they will grab a brother's pair of pants or a sister's shorts because it either looks like theirs or happens to be next to what they are grabbing. What ends up happening then is clothes belonging to one person living in the dresser of another--where it doesn't belong.

Discouragement loves to spread its wings. When one thing discourages you, it's easy for it to spill into other areas--to go where it doesn't belong.

You get a demotion at work and come home to a house that's messy. The disappointment from your work now widens and you're disappointed in your home. Next it might be your family, your appearance, God, or yourself.

When you feel discouraged and you see it spreading across your life, take some time to pinpoint where the discouragement started. Then try to compartmentalize it there. Remind yourself that it's okay to be disappointed in one are and happy in others at the same time. :)

#5 Give it to the Lord so He can give you what you need

Sometimes feelings of disappointment can drive us away from God. That is the worst thing we can allow it to do.

The Lord loves. He wants to help us, and if we let Him, He will give us the individual care and assistance we need to deal with our disappointment.

When Jesus received the news of the death of His dear friend Lazarus, He traveled to his home and was met with one of Lazarus' sisters, Martha. (as found in John 11)

She ran to meet Him saying, "Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died."

Jesus responded with the assurance that her brother will rise again. Then He spent a few moments teaching Martha of eternal things.

Then the other sister, Mary, came to Jesus and greeted Him the same way: "Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died."

Except, the Savior didn't respond to Mary the same way. As Mary wept, Jesus wept with her.

To one sister He gave hope and learning, to other He gave love and empathy.

Both sisters were experiencing the same thing--the death of their brother. And yet, both had different needs. And the Savior gave each one what they needed. 

This is what God and Jesus do--they give us what They know we need. They know us intimately and want to give us hope and learning and love and empathy and companionship and strength and ALLLLL the things we need to deal with or overcome our discouragement. 

But, as the sister did, we need to bring our sorrow, worry, fears, and frustrations to Them.

So, when you're feeling discouragement in all its forms, give it to the Lord, and let Him give you what you need.

#6 Wait it out in faith

Sometimes we can do all of the above things and the discouragement is still there. Sometimes immediate relief simply isn't possible. 

So, what do we do then??

We wait in faith.

I love the movie "Cast Away" with Tom Hanks. Hank's character is on a Fed X plan that crashes on a deserted island in the ocean. He's alone for four years, with only a small photo of his fiance and one still-unopened package to deliver to give him hope. Finally, the wind brings him something he can use as a sail, and he's able to get his man-made boat over the currents surrounding the island and floats out to sea where he's picked up and rescued.

He returns home to find his fiance married to another man because she thought he had died. The world is different. He is different. 

As he tries to grapple with the adjustment and diminishing hope, a friend asks Hanks what he will do now.

This is his response: 

(on the island) "I had power over nothing* And that's when this feeling came over me like a warm blanket. I knew, somehow, that I had to stay alive. Somehow. I had to keep breathing. Even though there was no reason to hope. And all my logic said that I would never see this place again. So that's what I did. I stayed alive. I kept breathing. And one day my logic was proven all wrong because the tide came in, and gave me a sail. And now, here I am. I'm back. In Memphis, talking to you. I have ice in my glass... And I've lost her all over again. I'm so sad that I don't have Kelly. But I'm so grateful that she was with me on that island. And I know what I have to do now. I gotta keep breathing. Because tomorrow the sun will rise. Who knows what the tide could bring?”

Sometimes, when we have to wait for things to get better, to feel better, all we can do is keep breathing. And hold onto the hope that the tide will bring something in.

This, to me, is what Sariah, Lehi's wife, did in the Book of Mormon.

She left her extended family, the home she'd created, her friends, and followed her husband, a prophet, into the wilderness. After three weeks of traveling, they stopped to camp, and the Lord sent her sons back to Jerusalem on a dangerous mission.

When they hadn't returned, Sariah began to feel very discouraged. She feared her sons were dead, and (because discouragement doesn't like to be alone) she began to doubt.

Lehi did his best to console her. Sariah chose to wait in hope. And her sons did return!

And when they did, her discouragement was replaced with stronger faith and gratitude.

Still, it must have been hard for her to wait.

I know waiting in hope is hard for me.

It might be for you.

We want to feel better now, for things to get better and. Sometimes they can and do, and sometimes, we simply have to be patient and wait in hope until they do. Keep breathing in and out. Because we never know what the tide will bring in tomorrow.

So, those are six of the things I do to get undiscouraged.

What do you do the help you fight discouragement when it comes knocking at your door?

Sunday, July 26, 2020

We are that we might--hopefully will--have joy

Mom loved red. She loved polka dots. She also loved having options. So, I bought two dresses for her funeral. 

I wore the blue dress with white polka dots at her service. 

This is the other dress. I am wearing it today, exactly two weeks after the day she passed, and I am smiling. 

My eyes are tired. My heart hurts, but I’m smiling because I know she would have liked it. I’m smiling because I love her. 

I’m smiling because I’m choosing to not let grief make me feel guilty for being happy even if she’s not with me anymore. 

So, today, the red dress is for her. But it’s also for me. 

And it’s for you.

I want you to have joy.

Guilt is a thief that would rob you do all peace and joy. It would tell you that you should not feel happy when you’re grieving. It would tell you that you should not feel joy when others aren’t. 

Its logic is faulty and false. If we wait for conditions in our lives and the lives of others are perfect (whatever that means) to embrace joy, we never would because there will never be a time when everything is right in the world. 

It’s not possible. It’s not meant to be that way.

Joy isn’t meant to only come when all the boxes are checked, when there’s nothing to grieve, when all resistance to our expectations is gone. 

Joy isn’t a result of our circumstances. 
Joy is what helps us through our circumstances. 

Joy is a gift from a loving God for us to feel today. Now. Regardless of what our circumstances are. 

Men and women are that they might HAVE joy.  This is what Lehi taught his son in 2 Nephi2:25.

I find it interesting that he says "have joy" not "feel joy."

To have somethings connotes that joy is something that we can possess, that can be a part of us.

This elevates joy from something external that we feel the effects of, like when we feel the sun on our faces, to something that is internal, a part of us. Something that can always be with us, on sunny or cloudy days.

A few years ago President Nelson spoke of joy. He said, 

"My dear brothers and sisters, 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. Joy comes from and because of Him. He is the source of all joy."

My friends, this is so true.

This is how I can have joy--not just feel joy, but have joy without my mother here. I don't have joy because of her absence, but through my Savior, I can and do have joy in spite of her absence.

Whatever you're experiencing in your life right now, whether it's a loss of a loved one, illness, financial struggles, fear in an uncertain world, you can have joy in your life right now.

It's okay to smile with tears in your eyes and an ache in your heart.

And it's also okay if you can't smile right now. Smiling and joy are not mutually exclusive. 

Today, I'm able to smile. And I am because of Him. I am because of Mom.

And I am because of me.

We are that we might have joy. And I am claiming mine.

Now go and claim yours.

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