7 Year Baptism Anniversary

7 Year Baptism Anniversary

March 7th 2010
“Today I am walking at my baptism. I got a blessing a month ago and three weeks ago I started walking agan and I know that I couldn’t have done it without God’s help. Heavenly Father has bles shised me so much with so much healing.  I feel so happy. I know for the first time in my life htat all this gospel is true. I know the Book of Mormon is true.  I know we have a living Prophet.  I know that Jesus and our Heavenly Father lives.

[My friend] Jacob just said, “Through small and simple things, greath things come to pass.” I know that this is also true.  Because today I am walking at my Bapitsm and that is a huge miracle in my life!

I know that Heavenly Father loves me and he has so blessed me.  Even the bad things have been blessings.  Being sick has […] brought me to this church.


I walked down into into the fonte with a little help from Melissa.  She had to leave the fonte for the actual baptism thogh. I sat sideways on a chair in the water and Elder George said the the prayer and then dunked me back. I FLOATED! Elder George had to push me down to get me all the way under. And then ath twas it. I came up Baptized! With the name of Christ taken upon me! I felt different than I thought I would. It wasn’t the same intensity as the blessing I got the first day. But I felt peaceful and so so happy! Everyone said I was just glowing afterwards. […] It was just the best day!”

It’s amazing to me that it’s been seven years to the day since I wrote that.  Seven years since I became baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It’s been the best the best thing I’ve ever done for myself.

The most amazing thing though isn’t that I got baptized seven years ago, though that was truly a miraculous day I never would have predicted growing up a Jewish girl in an all Jewish family. My baptism was the spark of faith that would grow, over the next seven years, into an unquenchable flame in spite of and even because of the most challenging of circumstances. Despite all the harrowing health and other challenges my faith has grown, even flourished.  That is the miracle of the gospel in my life.  That challenges and even the most crushing of life’s hardships haven’t blown out that flame; they’ve been the life-giving oxygen by which my faith and testimony have turned from a flickering candle to a glowing lantern.

Over the last seven years, I’ve received the Gift of the Holy Ghost, received my Patriarchal Blessing, served in many callings, received my Endowment in the Lord’s Holy Temple, became a Volunteer Temple Worker, and most recently I put on the physical name badge of the Lord as I was set apart as a Service Missionary as a Family Search Specialist. I am so blessed to have this opportunity to serve my Heavenly Father, my Savior Jesus Christ, and all my brothers and sisters. It is my hope and prayer that I will be able to serve well for at least the next 12 months from keys of my computer as I help build websites for the familysearch.org.

I am so grateful for my membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In a lot of ways, the past seven years have been the hardest of my life, but they’ve also been the most beautiful, fulfilling, and enriching years of my life. If these seven years have taught me anything it is this:

“And if thou shouldst be cast into the apit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the bdeep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to chedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of dhell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee eexperience, and shall be for thy good.”  Doctine & Covenents 122:7

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

With the elders before my baptism

With the elders before my baptism

6 Year Baptisversary

6 Year Baptisversary

Six years ago today I did the single best thing I’ll ever do for myself.  Going in I was really nervous, but at the same time very sure of what I needed to do and what Heavenly Father needed me to do.

My caregiver and I change into all white for my baptism.

My caregiver and I change into all white for my baptism.

Only six weeks prior I was bound to a wheelchair due to debilitating joint pain, but that day I walked on my own to feet toy all sogrens kydrome.   all white.  My friend was in white as well so she could help me downt he steps into deeper water only to wait shivering back at the waters edge while she watched and waited help me out again.

With a smile and a nod bewteen me and the young missionary performing the ordinance, I sat down in a chair.  With a tip of the chair I  was completely submerged backwards.  Under the water for that split second was so serene, and as I came up out of the water I felt a inner calm, and sweet delicate peace that would never leave me.

The day was March 7th 2010.  It was the day I was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  The following Sunday I was confirmed a member of the church and received the Gift of the Holy Ghost.

With the elders before my baptism

With the elders before my baptism

The decision to get baptized has infintely blesssed my life.  From the sweet calm in my soul that the Spirit brings to the love I feel for and from my Heavenly Father and my savior Jesus Christ to the life long friends I’ve made and to the knowledge have about Heavenly Father’s plan and purpsoe for me, I am so grateful to have these tender mercies in my life.  And to commemorate my baptism, I painted this page in my illustrated scripture study journal.

6 Year Baptiversary Painting

Alma 7:14-16

14 Now I say unto you that ye must repent, and be born again; for the Spirit saith if ye are not born again ye cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore come and be baptized unto repentance, that ye may be washed from your sins, that ye may have faith on the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world, who is mighty to save and to cleanse from all unrighteousness.

15 Yea, I say unto you come and fear not, and lay aside every sin, which easily doth beset you, which doth bind you down to destruction, yea, come and go forth, and show unto your God that ye are willing to repent of your sins and enter into a covenant with him to keep his commandments, and witness it unto him this day by going into the waters of baptism.

16 And whosoever doeth this, and keepeth the commandments of God from thenceforth, the same will remember that I say unto him, yea, he will remember that I have said unto him, he shall have eternal life, according to the testimony of the Holy Spirit, which testifieth in me.

Read About My 4 Year Baptism Anniversary

Read About My 3 Year Baptism Anniversary

Read About My First Baptism Anniversary

From the Depths of Pain I Found the Greatest Peace

From the Depths of Pain I Found the Greatest Peace

SobbingSitting in my bed Sunday night, I could no longer hold back my sobs.  Tears flowed from my eyes, more like a raging river than a stream.  My whole body shook.  The emotional pain was a ocean so deep, I thought I might drown.

Sometimes it can seem easier to numb ourselves than allow ourselves to feel the depth of our own sorrows.  We live in a world that offers us an endless array of ways to detach from our own human experience much of which is negative.  Easy fixes.

For example, why would you ever want to feel the anguish of a bitter divorce when they can distract from those difficult emotions with the instant gratification of endless hours of Farmville instead.  Why feel lonely when you can zone out in front of the television all evening.  When you can mpathize with the sorrows of fictional characters instead of paying attention to your own.  What else do the advertisements for alcohol and other substances teach us than to forget our problems?  Hard day?  Forget it with a glass of wine, a cup of coffee, or a cigarette.  If we can’t feel happy all the time well then at least we can feel a little more numb, right?

NumbFor much of the last two years and in a way for most of my life, I’ve been operating under this assumption that emotional pain is to be avoided at all cost. For years I’ve been avoiding it subconsciously, not realizing what I was doing .  So I’d stay up half the night talking online to perfectly nice people from across the globe I barely knew rather than facing a dark bedroom where the pain of a traumatic event might slip in through the shadows.  Better to sit in the false light of energy saving bulbs than think about things that were just too painful to consider.  And yet at the same time I’ve been on a journey to find a better way.  Sunday night I found it.

As I completed a call with my best friend who has recently moved to Texas, I found myself getting more and more lonely and distraught. That normally would have cued me to immediately get on my computer to do something to distract me.  That night was different.  I decided to do an experiment.  I would let myself just feel what I was feeling and see what would happen.  Instead of shutting my emotions down or off, I welcomed those troubling feelings, letting them flow thorugh me on every level. I started to journal my emotions to help me both delve in and get it out of my head.  But even still I felt so alone in my suffereing, it was nearly unbearable.

HopeThen, after 10 or so minutes, the most amazing thing happened: I started to feel better not worse, and I started to feel God’s love wrapping its arms around me.  I began to feel grateful for those painful feelings, because I finally started to see what was on the other side of experiencing them completely.  On the otherside was peace and relief, even hope.  In my journal I wrote:

Sometimes I guess I just need to let myself feel how deep my sadness goes. I wish I had someone to hold me right now. I’ve gone through so much. Over and over again. And the trauma doesn’t seem to go away. I change. My mood changes, but something in me stays with the trauma and mostly I deny myself the ability to feel what I’m gong through. But through it all there’s the sweetness of the Spirit of God. It it warm and comforting and I feel wrapped in it, it gives me permission it feel these things. To put my toe in the deep abyss of my heartache.

Healing HelpEven more than that, allowing myself to feel these heavy and very human emotions, gave me the chance to give it over and give if up to something larger than myself.  I wrote:

I know He [Christ] can heal me in ways I cannot heal myself. It takes time. It takes patience and faith and more faith. I sometimes don’t know the answer of who to be. But Christ has the answer, even if I’m not ready to receive it. […]  Life is so hard sometimes. Emotions are so overwhelming sometimes. I am reaching for the light that only Christ can offer. He, and only He, is the Prince of Peace, the one who can bring me calm waters to my soul. It amazes me how deep His love for me is. How He is willing to hold all my suffering even now and again and again. Even though he bore it all already. He is always there to bear by burdens.

At the end of the day, on some level it is still easier to just numb myself, but I’m learning how that isn’t the way to feel true relief.  There is so much better on the other side of our sorrows if we just let ourselves feel and endure them for a little while.  Sometimes you have to go through a dark and treacherous swamp to reach the castle, and sometimes you have to sob to feel peace.

Hope on the Horizon

Crafting My Testimony

Crafting My Testimony

 

Illustrated Scripture Journal - Moroni 10:2-5

Illustrating your scripture notes can help you gain deeper insight into even the most familiar scripture.

Sometimes despite all we do, it can feel like our testmonies are hanging on by a unraveling thread.  It’s so easy for us as mere mortals, to get sucked into the humdrum of life.  We feel out of control.  We percieve ourselves as victims of either circumstances outside our control or at the mercy of other peole’s harmful decisions.  How easly we forget or even give up our agency, our ability to act for ourselves, to make our own decisions, and to reep either the rewards or consequesces of our actions because we forget who we are.  We forget we are children of a dvine being.  We forget that Heavenly Father’s greatest power is also His greatest gift to us.  We forget that just like our Father in Heaven, we too are creators.

As creators we aren’t just bystanders in the game of life.  We are the players.  But when it feels like we are just watching everything happen around us, we do better to remember that we have the same creative spark in us as Heavenly Father does.  Whether it is exercising our ability to create human llife or singing a hymn, creativity brings us closer to the the unvierse’s preeminent creator, God.

As I said, sometimes my testimony feels like it is just hanging on.  I”ve come to realize that this is a result of me ceasing to be a creator in my own life.  I get caught up in fear and worry and anger, and forget to use creativity in all asepcts of my life.

I’ve decided to counteract this tendency by using creativity to enhance my testimony.

I hadn’t been able to go to the Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in a very long time due to one prologued hospitalization after another.  To bring my focus back to the Temple, a friend and I made custom Temple Recommend Holders  We used scrap paper and the We R Memory Keepesrs Photo Sleeve Fuse tool.  I added sequins and a mini key inside to shake areound.  I got to go to the Temple two weeks ago and it was fun to use my new holder.

Handmade Temple Reccomend Holder

Handmade Temple Reccomend Holder

I’ve had a hard time with Scripture Study lately.  With all the time in the hosptial, it’s hard to stay with a good habbit.  I decided I need to study and ponder the scriptures more than just read them to really have a desire to read every single day.

I decided to start an illustrated scripture journal.  I’ll make an entry for my favorite scriptures I encounter each day and week. Here’s what you need to know to make your own:

  1. Illustrating the Book of Mormon

    Affix the scripture onto the journal page

    Search The Scriptures

  2. Find a scripture you want to journal while doing your daily scripture study.  Look for somethign that jumps out to you and speaks to your heart.  Listen to the Holy Ghost. He will guide you to the right scripture.  I chose Moroni 10:2-5.

  3. Trim It
  4. Cut out the sripture you’d like to use  out of an inexpenive extra missionary copy of the Book of Mromon.  (Actually to do this properly you’ll need two Books of scripture – one for the front sides of the pages and one for the back side of the pages.)

  5. Affix Your Verses
  6. Glue the scripture to a page in an art journal.  I used a journal with watercolor paper so I could use water-colors and other mediums in it.

  7. Take Colorful Notes

    Take notes on the scripture in vivid colors of words and images.

    Mark It Up

  8. Mark the scriptures with the words and phrases you want to highlight or that are especially meaningful to you.  For this I use Staedtler Triplus Finelliner Pens because they have an exceptionally small felt tip point and don’t bleed easily.

  9. Illsutrate with Inspiration
  10. Using watercolor colored pencils, draw your thoughts on the scripture in words and images.  This really made me think about the deeper meanings contained within the versus I chose.

  11. Continue to Illustrate

    When using watercolor colored-pencils, started painting water over parts of the illustration.

    Make it Vivid

  12. If you are using water colored color-pencils, next go over all your drawings with a paintbursh and clear water.  This will make all the colors blend and appear more vivbrant.

  13. In The Details
  14. Finally, go back over the words and other key drawings with felt tip, metallic, and other kinds of pens.  Make sure you title the journal page with the scripture reference and date.  Add a page number in the lower left corner, so that Iyou can make a table of contents of all the scriptures in the front of the journal.

Not only am I pleased with what I created, but I learned a lot more from this intense and creative study session than I had during many attempts to sit down and read scriptures.

Illustrated Scripture Journal - Moroni 10:2-5

Add details with metallic or other pens.

Maintaining a testimony can be difficult when life doesn’t go the way we want, but I have a testimony that as we engage in our divine creative abilities we will realize our potential, purpose, and a relationship that’s closer to Heavenly Father and Christ than we ever realized.

How a Question About the Relationship Between Boy Scouts of America the LDS Church Prompted Me to Ponder My Beliefs

How a Question About the Relationship Between Boy Scouts of America the LDS Church Prompted Me to Ponder My Beliefs

What are your thoughts regarding the Mormon Church’s response to the Boy Scouts of America’s policy change?

That was the question I received from a friend on Facebook a few weeks ago accompanied by a link to an article in the NY Times.  It took me completely by surpise that this particular friend who had hadn’t so much as interacted with since college, which was about ten years ago, asked me such a bold question.  Even more than suprised I was apprecaitive that he took the time to even ask instead of assuming how I would respond.  At first I didn’t know how to even respond, but then a few paragraphs turned into a few more, and by two in the morning, I had written a fourteen paragraph essay in response:

Boy Scout Waves Gay Rights FlagAnswering this feels rather like I’m walking into a minefield, but I really appreciate you asking rather than assuming what my thoughts might be, so I’ll attempt to answer this as best I can from my own perspective. Just note I speak only for myself. And since I don’t want to start an argument, I just ask that if you want to respond to this, that you do so out of place of respect and even love for the people involved on all sides.

That being said when I read the LDS Church’s official statement on this today I was a little confused. What I don’t understand as of this writing is why gay men and women in my church who keep their covenants, upholding the standards and expectations of the church can hold a recommend to enter our holy Temples just like anyone else who does the same, why is it that these same men (in this case) cannot lead a boy scout troop. I am confused why gay LDS men can do one and not the other.

Now when the Church’s response is applied to gay men of other faiths or no faith who are would be leaders of boy scout troops, I’m kind of at loss as to how to address this situation because on one hand I feel we should not impose our views about marriage and family on people and an organization that doesn’t hold the same views as us. That seems in conflict with some of our other beliefs and especially 11th and 12th LDS Articles of Faith which read:

11 We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.

12 We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.

As an LDS woman and a convert to the church, my feelings around marriage and how to define it are extremely deep, personal and nearly always conflicted. As a convert this is the one single issue i have, do and will, struggle with the most, and it’s a struggle that both breaks my heart and gives me hope.

Forever and AlwaysThat being said one of my core beliefs is that a family unit that is ordained of God is one that consists of one man and one woman joined by God, and their children, and that their primary function is to be an environment in which spirits can come down to earth and have bodies to enter allowing to experience mortal life for the first and only time.

Why do I believe it? There are a lot of complex reasons that are psychological, intellectual, and spiritual, but for me it boils down to just one thing.

1) When I ask God, in faith, if it is true, I keep getting the answer through pray and desire to understand God’s will, that it is true. And though I really don’t understand it and may never in this life, and though I really don’t like it, and though my heart breaks over it, believing it is a sheer act of faith on my part. (Some may see this as blind faith, but to me it is anything but. For me it is completely intentioned faith in which I choose to follow what I believe God wants even when I struggle with all my being to understand it).

And given all of this I have nothing but complete love and respect for my gay friends, family, and etc. Nothing can ever change that. And if anything, following Christ’s example has made me more loving towards everyone. It has really made me understand the power in not judging others.

So bringing me back to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and The Boy Scouts of America policy change. I’m inclined to think that maybe the greatest act of respect, love, and civility isn’t to try to force one party of adopt the view of the other when those views are so diametrically opposed, is to simply bow out and go our separate ways.

To many people this may seem like the LDS Church is being a jerk, taking their ball and going home. But I see it as acknowledging inherent differences and respectfully deciding not to fight it out. As sad as it is for these two great organizations to have to part, it’s much better than judging each other, disrespecting each other, and hating each other in an attempt to get their way.

My prayer is that I answered you question. Thanks again for asking. Sorry I gave you such a long answer!

I also pray that all my friends on all sides of this issue how much I love and respect them and how much I would hate for anything, especially this way too long post to come between us. I also hope that we can seek first to understand each other and above all have charity for one another. <3

5 Ways To Gain More Knowledge & Blessings From The Hardest Trials

5 Ways To Gain More Knowledge & Blessings From The Hardest Trials

TrialsThe ever present hiss of oxygen and the occasional beeping of a monitor are sometimes the only sound I hear for hours, as I lay alone in my hosptial room.  I stare at the white sterile walls that surround me.  The walls are totally blank with few unnoteworthy exceptions.  Sometimes I wish my life were as clean and as sterile as those walls, devoid of any adversitity.  It’s an easy thing to wish for when I’ve spend more than half of the last year in the hosptial.  If I could whitewash all the years spent facing the pain, lonliness, isolation, boredom, fear, anger,  grief, and saddness that comes with a chronic illness that requires very frequent and prolonged hosptializations, wouldn’t I want to?

Growing From TrialsBut then I remember what I am here on earth to do.  I remember that my adversity and trials aren’t punishments; they’re gifts that allow me to improve myself, transform my weaknesses, and grow into the person I was always meant to become.  I remember that adveristy is a blessed opportunity – even an invitation – from my loving Father in Heaven, to become more like my Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ.  I remember that if I were able to whitewash my life and forget all my trials, I’d also forget all the knowledge and blessings that come from them.

It’s been easy for me to get bogged down in the weight of a trial, and completely miss what I am learning and how I am growing from it. Perhaps if I were more methodical, more intetional about learning from adversity, I’d be able to develop more from it.  There are five things we all can do to gain more knowledge, growth, and blessings from the hardest things in life.

  1. Seek Guidance
  2. Ask Heavely Father QuestionsIt’s a lot easier to learn something when you figure out what you are learning.  Recieve guidance as to what’s there to learn from life’s hardest moments.  Sources of guidance can be close friends, family, religious leaders, professional counselors, scriptures and other books, and divine inspiration.  I personally realize the lesson in every trial most easily when I read my scriptures frequently and pray unceasingly to my Father in Heaven to reveal to me what He wants me to learn.  It reminds me that I am not in control, but that’s completely okay, because the one that is in control, my Heavenly Father, knows exactly what I need to learn, andhow I need to be blessed.

  3. Conduct Research
  4. It can be hard to know what you’re learning if you aren’t tracking your course throught the trial.  Record your journey in a journal. Look for patterns.  Ask yourself and Heavenly Father questions.  Pose hypothesis, and then experiment on the results.  I recently suggested this to a friend struggling with social situations and feelings of not being included.  Instead of thinking negatively about social situations, she tried thinking that people would perceive her in a positive way right before starting an converstation.  So far the results have been an off the charts improvement.

  5. Count Your Blessings
  6. When you remember to have an a attitude of graditude you get access to appreciating the good times and the bad.  Being grateful even for your trials opens up your ability to grow and change for the better and help you learn so much more from adversity.  When I take time to enummerate the ways being chronically ill has bettered my life, I am always astounded by all the good things that have come from it.

  7. Serve Others
  8. Getting out of your own head and focusing on helping others in need, gives you clarity and perspective that can shing light on what there is to learn from your trials.  When I take the time to be a good listener for a friend going through something really tough, the weight of my own trials diminishes.  As I lift their weight, Heavently Father lifts mine.

  9. Do It Together
  10. TogetherWhen you are in the depths of your trials, it’s easy to forget that you aren’t alone.  Whether it other people going through similar things or knowledge of the divine on your side, walking foward hand in hand allows you to both receive and share knowledge and blessings.  My default mentality is that I have to do everything hard alone (also that I’m alone in my trials).  The good news is neither are at all true. And not only do i not have to do everything alone, but it’s completely impossible to do so. In fact, this life was *designed* to teach me (and all of us) not to do it alone.  Instead I should rely on Christ, his teachings, and his disciples to get me through everything, from the smallest of small to the most miraculous triumphs that aren’t even imaginable to my feeble mortal minds. And we are the opposite of alone in our trials, we have a brother in Heaven that has a *perfect understanding* of what we are going through. I don’t even have a perfect understanding of what I’m going through, but through Christ I can start to come to an understanding.

In what ways do you gain knowledge and blessings from your trials? Please share in the comments!

He Knows Us All By Name

He Knows Us All By Name

It’s easy to feel alone in this temporal life I live in.  It’s easy to forget that my God, my Heavenly Father knows me by name.  And  not just me but all of us.  How can we really know God knows each of our names?  How can we be sure that God knows and loves us all personally?

I had the joyous opportuntiy to visit Utah for the first time this past October of 2014. I went because I’d never been, to visit friends, to sightsee, and most importantly to gain a stronger testimony of my Savior Jesus Christ by attending General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

General Conference was an amazing Spirit filled even in which the Prophet of the Lord, President Thomas S. Monson and his counselors, Apostles, and Auxillery Leaders spoke to us over four two-hour session.  I was able to attend two of those sessions and be in the same room with these holy men and women.

One of the talks given that hit me the most was by Elder David A. Bednar entitled “Come and See”.  If you’ve never watched General Conference before, if you aren’t sure why you are reading this Mormon-centric post, then this is the perfect video for you because Elder Bendar speaks directly to the questions of people who do not belong the the LDS Church.

Come and See by Elder David A. Bendar

Read the transcript!

But the true highlight of my trip occurred the very first evening I arrived in Salt Lake.  By happenstance, the couple I was visiting with that evening had been invited to a Mission Reunion.  And this was no ordinary reunion for return missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  This was something extraordinary.  It was the mission reunion for the missionaries who had served under our Current Prophet over 50 years ago when he was a young man and the Mission President of a large Mission in Canada.

I was so excited to go.  Hardly daring to hope that I’d get to see the Prophet up close, I was still buzzing with the mere idea.  And I wasn’t disapinted.  President Monson came to greet his missionaries!

We were in a small chapel way far out of Salt Lake.  Where I sat a mere 4 rows back from the modern day Prophet of God, I was overcome with the Spirit of the Lord.  Though the thing that impressed me the most, that strengthened my testimony the most was something that harkened back to my questions:How can we be sure that God knows and loves us all personally?How can we really know God knows each of our names?

  1. How can we really know God knows each of our names?
  2. How can we be sure that God knows and loves us all personally?

As President Monson stood on the stand, something incredible happened.  He began pointing to various missionaries aged by 50 years since he last saw them and calling on them by name.  He said that he still could recognize and name all his missionaries from his Mission President days.  And I could see the love he had for each of them.

What a gift!  A divinely bestowed gift.  It truly testified to me that if a mortal Prophet could know all his missionaries by name, than our Father in Heaven must have an infinite capacity to do the same.  And God’s love for each of us, His children much be infinitely greater than even the Prophets.

Throughout the trip, and even now, that testimony really stuck with me and left me feeling so loved and understood that I felt surrounded by the divine embrace of Heavenly Father’s love for me.

Preying on Writers’ Dreams: “This Letter is an Advertisement”

Preying on Writers’ Dreams: “This Letter is an Advertisement”

Caution - Self Publishing Scam AheadSelf-publishing is a big industry right now.   Which means big money.  Not necessarily for authors but for companies who sell self-publishing services to authors wanting to self-publish.  One contender, Balboa Press has been calling my cell phone every month or so. Writers Beware!

A class action complaint has been filed against Balboa Press’s parent company, Author Solutions, for its sketchy dealings that are bringing in the big bucks.  The class action complaint breaks it down:

4. Author Solutions’ revenues are estimated at $100 million per year. Of the $100 million Author Solutions earns as revenue, approximately one third of that amount, or $33 million annually, comes from book sales. The rest of its revenue is derived from the services it offers, such as editorial services, formatting and design services, production services, and marketing services (“Services”).

5. Despite its impressive profits from book sales, Author Solutions fails at the most basic task of a publisher: paying its authors their earned royalties and providing its authors with accurate sales statements.

6. Author Solutions also fails to take diligent care of its authors’ works, making numerous and egregious publisher errors — errors made by the publisher, not the author. These errors include errors on book covers, in addition to various typographical and formatting errors. In fact, Author Solutions profits from its own mistakes. Aggressive sales techniques ensure that these errors are corrected only for a fee of several hundred dollars. Even though, as a matter of policy, Author Solutions promises to correct publisher errors for free, it rarely does.

7. Most of Author Solutions’ earnings are derived from its publishing and marketing Services. These Services, which can cost authors tens of thousands of dollars, likewise fail to deliver what they promise: more book sales and more opportunities for authors.

8. Therefore, even while Defendant Author Solutions prominently markets itself on its website as “[t]he leading indie publishing company in the world,” authors often discover, once it is too late, that Author Solutions is not an “indie publisher” at all. It is a printing service that fails to maintain even the most rudimentary standards of book publishing, profiting not for its authors but from them.

Self-Publishing

The apple doesn’t land far from the tree.  I’ve had a pretty shady experience with Balboa Press so far.  I’ve checked them out and everything I’ve read indicates they are ripping off their own customers.  If you want a prime and horrific example look no further than this author’s experience:

The illustrative sketches and colorization were a disaster. It was apparent that there was a problem with adherence to the RAD/character description form. Pictures that were provided, or the coinciding text (page number and line number) from the manuscript provided to aid the illustrator were obviously ignored or subjectively reviewed. It was so evident, to the point where I was wondering if anyone bothered to read, or if they even couldread the RAD form. There was clearly no oversight of the illustrator’s work before remittance to me. I had continued to write, please call if you have any questions…

After months of inexcusable errors, it was apparent the Art Director, or whomever, did not adhere to “set up an artist that best suits your project.” The project was/is light, airy, and whimsical. I received “dark.” In most cases, the illustrations were sparse (not intricate detail) with no color consistency, no innovation, wrong genders, wrong race, missing or incorrect features, etc. An ancient woman was drawn as a bald-headed, old man numerous times, despite repeated pleas and request for adherence to the RAD and characterization forms. The little girl’s bed looked like a cot out of an army barracks or prison. Angel wings on a helicopter were inverted, objected to, and objections to the CIAC remained ignored – a lame excuse was offered.

How much does it cost to self-publish a book?My own experience with them so far has been subpar at best.  They called me up and tried to rope me in by getting me excited about my novel’s potential.  They told me how great my ideas were and how much I deserved to get my book out there.  They wanted to help me achieve my publishing goals.  All they needed was to relieve me of $999 to $7,999 of my money, and we could get started.  Even if I had that kind of money lying around I wasn’t totally sold that first call.  No deal.

typing once upon a timeA few months later someone else called again.  But this person had no clue about me or my novel.  What was my book about? No idea? Back to square one.  Apparently no one at Balboa ever cares enough about what potential clients say to make any file notes.  No points gained there. * Click.*

And on it went.  For a few years now.  (Yes really.)

Which brings me to another call today.  Same thing.  Starting from scratch with another clueless representative from Balboa.  I wasn’t buying.  *Click.*

Then I get the following email.  Then it hits me.  Not only did they pack this letter so full of stupid writing cliches that it reads hilariously, but they are preying on the dreams of writers’ with this letter and others like it.

Subject:  Believe in Yourself

Hi Lauren,

Be proud of who you are as a writer. An author’s voice is unique and no one will tell your story like you do. Don’t lose your voice. Stand out by having your own style. And your book doesn’t have to have an outrageous plot to be important. Simple can be good. Stick to who you are as a writer and your message will always hold significance.

Financial stability is a challenge nowadays. Money is something achievable but it will depend on you. It will depend on how committed you are in publishing and sharing your message to the world. Money comes and goes in life. If it is meant to be, it will happen. We can’t just wait for it to happen though. We need to do something about it. Dreaming for success is for everyone but putting it to reality is for those who are brave enough to take the next step even if there is fear of the unknown. Let us take this one step at a time.

Why make excuses when you can start your dreams? Why do nothing when you can begin something? Look, you have a lot more power within you that you’re revealing to the world. We all do. But because of distractions and interruptions and responsibility and excuses we sell to ourselves, we coast along at the same level for the best of our lives.

Only few have the guts to make A LEAP – a leap to new habits, new routines and a whole new story about their new place in the world and their service to it.

The Gandhi’s and the Mandela’s and the Zuckerberg’s and the Mozart’s were just ordinary people who had an idea, protected it from the voice of dissent, advanced it via tiny wins and got up every time they got knocked down.

You have this power too, but power unused deteriorates and potential not expressed turns to PAIN.

Now is your time to fly and to shine and to rise up. This is the day to show the world who you truly are.

I would like to assist you with your dreams. Yes, publishing will ask you to shell out money from your own pocket, but what I can assure you is that Balboa Press can expose you and your book to the rest of the world. This way you truly get to say to yourself, “I’ve done my part, let the book speak for itself now!” It is not easy to invest in something that you’re not sure of its future, but nothing is ever certain. What you can do as a writer is to invest in your dreams and believe that you can be someone that you never expected to be. Your sacrifices can result to a life changing journey if you give your book a chance.

All the best,
[Name Redacted]
PUBLISHING CONSULTANT
Balboa Press
A DIVISION OF HAY HOUSE

[Contact Information Redacted]

This email is an advertisement.

Gambling Piggy BankSo I’ll be staying away from Vanity Presses.  There are ways to legitimately Self-Publish but using Balboa Press isn’t one of them.  If they contact you, remember it is called a vanity press for a reason.  They play to your vanity and emotions.  I know they tried to get me that way.  It’s enticing to think that the only thing standing between you and your dream is your savings.  But it’s a gamble.  And Balboa Press is the house that  always wins.  The only way to beat them at their own game is to not play.

Paradox of Man

Paradox of Man

Sometimes being human can be painfully lonely.  It’s amazing to me how alone I can feel sometimes even knowing I have a loving family and a caring circle of friends who mean the world to me.  At times I think this very essential sense of loneliness originates from the feeling of being dwarfed by the universe.  Thoughts might come like, “If I’m just a speck in this great vastness, what do I mean to the bigger picture?  How do I fit in?  How do I even matter?  What difference can I even really make when there’s so many others out here.”

I came across this quote on my best friend’s mission blog.  Sister Eskander is currently on a mission for the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  This quote was by Dieter F. Uchtdorf, an Apostle in the LDS Church.  It read:

This is a paradox of man: compared to God, man is nothing; yet we are everything to God. While against the backdrop of infinite creation we may appear to be nothing, we have a spark of eternal fire burning within our breast. We have the incomprehensible promise of exaltation—worlds without end—within our grasp. And it is God’s great desire to help us reach it.
– DIETER F. UCHTDORF, You Matter To Him

This does more than answer my questions.  It brings peace and comfort to my soul.  Through the knowledge in this Gospel, I know who I really am. – a Spirit child of God.  I know the the bigger picture and my role in it.  I know how much I matter to my Heavenly Father.  And I know the difference I can make.

I loved this quote so much I decided to design an illustration to go with it.  I sent one to Sister Eskander, and now I’ll share it with you.  To help us all remember who we really our.  Our eternal heritage and exalted potential.

Paradox of Man Illustration1

This is a paradox of man: compared to God, man is nothing; yet we are everything to God. While against the backdrop of infinite creation we may appear to be nothing, we have a spark of eternal fire burning within our breast. We have the incomprehensible promise of exaltation—worlds without end—within our grasp. And it is God’s great desire to help us reach it. - DIETER F. UCHTDORF, <a href="https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2011/10/you-matter-to-him?lang=eng">You Matter To Him</a>

This is a paradox of man: compared to God, man is nothing; yet we are everything to God. While against the backdrop of infinite creation we may appear to be nothing, we have a spark of eternal fire burning within our breast. We have the incomprehensible promise of exaltation—worlds without end—within our grasp. And it is God’s great desire to help us reach it.
– DIETER F. UCHTDORF, You Matter To Him

You Matter To Him – Dieter F. Uchtdorf

The Lord uses a scale very different from the world’s to weigh the worth of a soul.

 

1If you repost this illustration please give me credit and link back to this post! Thanks!

Burning Bright: A Poem of Faith

Burning Bright: A Poem of Faith

Since I was five years old, barely sophisticated enough to write a few words into sentences, I have been captivated by poetry.  Poems just seemed to come to me as if I had plucked them right out of thin air and was merely the recorder of the words that would pour through me.  It hasn’t been that way lately though.  As my focus has moved on to my two novels, I haven’t tried to write a poem with any semblance of a rhyme scheme in quite some time.  I’ve been feeling rather out of practice.

However, today was my church’s Ward Conference, a day of spiritual nourishment. It was just wonderful listening to my local leaders speak to us young adults on the topics that were of the greatest importance to us.  Feeling more spiritually fed, and pondering some of the themes discussed today, I decided to try my hand at a poem.  The following is the result:

Extinguished

Burning Bright

The void left by burning desire;
At times nearly extinguished inside;
All but lost the inertia required;
To move and be moved to His side;

But then I close my eyes tight,
And pray with all my might;

I remember each moment of pain;
He healed all my wounds in His name;
Heart of FireI treasure trials that shook my core;
The refiners fire has polished me more;

All I am, was, and will be,
I am through Him, now I see;

And my covenant burns bright;
The unquenchable light inside;
My hope, my comfort, my insight;
To move and be moved to His side.

 

"Let the fire of the covenant which you made in the House of the Lord, burn in your hearts, like flame unquenchable” - Brigham Young

Be Mine: Valentine’s Day

Be Mine: Valentine’s Day

Today was Valentine’s Day.  That means a lot of different things to a lot of different people.  So whether you thought today was  a day to eat lots of chocolate or a day to send lots of love notes or even a day made up by a card company, I think today was a good reminder to appreciate the love we have in our lives.  Sometimes it’s overwhelming to think about how much I’m blessed with love in my life.  It’s  funny, even though I occasionally have feelings of loneliness or not being cared for, when I start really thinking about the blessing of love in my life, I realize my cup is overflowing.

 

Valentine's Day Love Card Front

Valentine’s Day Love Card Front

One main source of love in my life is my friends and family.  Their love and support through even the darkest of times strengthen me.  And I have some much love for them in return.  One of the main ways I show my love is through crafting.  So I made some Valentine’s to give to some of my closest loved one.

Valentine's Jar Flowers Card Front

Valentine’s Jar Flowers Card Front

Best Friends Love Heart Valentine's Day Card Front

Best Friends Love Heart Valentine’s Day Card Front

Valentine's Jar Flowers Card Inside

Valentine’s Jar Flowers Card Inside

Best Friends Love Heart Valentine's Day Card Inside

Best Friends Love Heart Valentine’s Day Card Inside

Unfortunately Valentine’s Day only lasts one day, and now it’s already come to a close… until next year. But all the grand Valentine’s gestures don’t have to be a once a year thing. Wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t wait to shower each other with tons of extra signs of affection until there was a designated day? I for one want to strive to spread a little bit more Valentine’s Day love during the other 364 days of the year.

So what can you do to keep the Valentine’s Day spirit year round?

  1. Love Connection

    Text, Email, or Call your loved ones to let them know you care and are thinking of them.

  2. As You Wish

    Tell the people in your life, “I love you” often and sincerely.

  3. Sweet Gifts

    Little token gifts now and then make loved ones feel remembered.  Remember it’s not about how much you spend, but about how much thought you put into it.  It can even be something handmade like a card.

  4. Heart to Heart

    The most profound way to show your love is simply by being there for your loved one as they experience the ups and downs of life.  Be a listening and compassionate ear!

What other ideas do you have to create an atmosphere of Valentine’s Day love all year round? Please leave your suggestions in the comments!

Fancy Valentine - John 3:16

VALENTINE
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
John 3:16

Getting Things Done (GTD) – A Weekly Schedule System & Excel Template Download

Getting Things Done (GTD) – A Weekly Schedule System & Excel Template Download

Getting Things Out of My Brain And Getting Things Done

Getting Things Out of My Brain And Getting Things Done

This post includes a Weekly GTD Schedule – Microsoft Excel Template Download.  If you want to skip the post and go straight to the download, click HERE.

I consider myself a very productive person.  I get a lot of things done.  I’ve accomplished quite a bit.  I’ve written two novels, designed many websites, worked on Alternate Reality Games for organizations like the Cerebral Palsy Foundation and The World Bank, maintain an active social, family, and most importantly spiritual life.  I take care of my health with doctor’s and therapy appointments, meet weekly with my writing group, craft excessively, serve in multiple church callings, and blog now and then.  My plate is overflowing, so let’s just say I’m up to some big things!  However, to date, I’ve managed to do all this without any significant structured planning of my time on a day to day basis.  Maybe you’ll find it impressive that I’ve gone so long without any sort of a schedule or plan, just doing what seem right in the moment, as it occurs to me.  That’s code for “whatever task is stressing me out the most that second”.

Enough is enough.

I decided it’s time to try Getting Things Done in a more organized way.  Conveniently for me, Getting Things Done or GTD, as it’s often referred to by its adherents, is a system for just what its name implies – getting things done.  It was created by David Allen, and there’re plenty of resources in other locations where you can learn more about GTD.  But for a quick overview, check out this infographic:

Getting Things Done David Allen Infographic

Getting Things Done David Allen Infographic

Once I learned about this system, and with some help and advice from others, I decided to focus on creating a schedule for myself based on GTD.  The idea being I would now have set “Bucket Times” to manage all the areas on my life according to the principals of GTD.  But I’ll get back to Bucket Times later.

The main problem I was facing with finding a system that would work with me was finding something I could stick with.  In the past systems either were so cumbersome, scheduling and planning me so rigidly that I couldn’t realistically do it long term.  Or on the other hand, the systems were so vague and abstract, focusing only on broad goals that they didn’t help me commit to anything.  The third category of problem systems were ones that were incomplete, only addressing certain aspects of what I needed from an organization system and leaving me feeling semi-organized but ultimately even more overwhelmed.  Why?  Because now I knew exactly what I needed to do but had no structures in place to help me accomplish any of it.

To address of this, I there are 4 major components to my personalized GTD system I am putting into place initially.  (This is just to get started.  After these are going well I will add more.)

  1. Identify 6-9 Major Areas of Life
      Roles and areas are the major categories of your life such as Family, School, Faith, Friends, Work, Writing etc.
  2. List 10 Most Pressing Tasks Under Each Major Role/Area
      Most pressing tasks are tasks that currently need to be taken for that area.  For example, for Family, it might be something like “Spend time with Mom” or “Game Night.”  For Work, it might be “Sign the Parsons contract” or “Return Sonya’s phone call.”  Any task that has more than two steps is called a Project.
  3. Create A Weekly Schedule of Bucket Times To Stick To Each Week
    Weekly GTD Schedule - Microsoft Excel Template - Sample Data

    A my weekly GTD schedule with “Bucket Times” as sample data.
    Download the Excel Template for the file to create your own Weekly Schedule!

      Bucket Times are blocks of time designated at the same time every week for completing tasks in each of your Major Areas.  For example, I created Spiritual Time every evening from 10pm – 11pm.  During those times I will refer to my List of Tasks for that Area of Life for to do items to complete.  See the Downloads Section at the bottom of this post for an Excel template tool to help with this!
  4. Generate Mind-Dump Of EVERY Open Loop In Life
      Open loops are thought processes that are incomplete.  They keep the mind’s inbox full when it’s most productive empty.  Empty that inbox by downloading everything in it!  Generate a complete list of everything, every to do, action item, task, someday task, maybe task, goal, dream ,wish, hope, plan, etc.  Include everything from “Remember to pick up the milk” to “Improve relationship with Dad” to “Travel the world”.  Get that mind completely empty and onto something tangible and permanent that is workable for future reference.

Once I had a plan of action, it was just a matter of putting it into place…

Starting is always easier said than done.

I needed some help getting started. So I decided to enroll someone else to do this thing with me. No, not all of you readers! My dear writing buddy who I create my day with every morning. I told her all about his idea and explained GTD to her (the Cliff Notes version). She was on board.

Over Skype, we came up with our Major Areas of Life.  This is mine:

Weekly GTD Schedule - Major Areas of Life

Weekly GTD Schedule – Major Areas of Life

Next I began to list my lost pressing tasks under each area.  I’m constantly working on my list.

Then I created a schedule by which I would process the list of tasks. But instead of a rigid list of strictly scheduled times like ones that hadn’t worked for me in the past, I am working with a schedule of Bucket Times.  The beauty of Bucket Times is it structured enough in that it gives you a set time you are committed to making forward progress in an area of your life, but it is flexible enough that you still get to choose what is most expedient to do within that Area.  Furthermore, the whole schedule isn’t so rigid that the whole thing risks being thrown off if you go over a few minutes.  As I see it, if you get behind you are often still within your bucket time for that type of item.  And even if you aren’t you can rest assured that you have more time scheduled for that item soon.  So file add it to your Bucket Time list for later.  Lastly, the overarching rule is that this isn’t a rigid system, meaning the operative work is: expediency.

When all else fails, do whatever is most expedient in the moment.

I am committed to using this new system for a trial of the next 3 months.  In the meantime,  I’m looking forward to seeing an upswing in my productivity.  And more importantly a decrease in my feelings of overwhelm at not knowing how to handle the overflowing plate that is my life.  In this analogy, I’ve been eating off an overflowing plate for a long long time.  Sure I’ve been digesting my food and getting nutrient, but lots of things haven’t been sitting well.  GTD is a set of silverware – tools to help me eat my food, so that I can take small manageable bites and digest it easily and effectively.  The schedule works like a restaurant menu (thanks Paul for that one!) with various selections for each category of food or area of my life.  Some items or Tasks on the menu are more bland and others are the spice of life!

Give me a helping of work every weekday.  Indulge in a double portion of friendship on weekends.  A spicy side dish of romance if I’m so lucky!  Pile it on my plate and enjoy a delicious, nutritious, and satisfying life!

Stay tuned for Part Two of this post series on Generating a Mind-Dump of All Your Open Loops coming soon!  Get an email reminder when it comes out!  Subscribe to the newsletter!

I hope you enjoy the Downloads below.  The Weekly Schedule Templates for Microsoft Excel should be helpful tools for planning a schedule in the fashion described in this post.  Please post comments with ideas for improvements, and I will do my best to make them. 

 

Downloads

Sand Through My Fingers

Sand Through My Fingers

"And ye cannot bear all things now; nevertheless, be of good cheer, for I will lead you along. The kingdom is yours and the blessings thereof are yours, and the riches of eternity are yours.  And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more." D&C 78:18-19

Riches of Eternity
created by Lauren Soffer

Life is hardly ever what we expect it to be.  The harder we try to plan out our lives, the more God shows us that He has bigger things in store for us.  Like when you try to hold sand in the palm of your hand.  Relax your grip completely on your life and the pieces of your life all fall through the cracks.  Plan your life too tightly and it all starts to slip through your fingers despite your best efforts.  But God’s hands are infinite.  He can hold all the sand of our lives and more.  He won’t let any sand slip away if we allow Him to help us hold it.  We simply have to turn to Him and ask for His help, love and guidance in ALL things.

Sand in it’s size is much like the minutia of our lives.  Tiny in the grand scheme of things.  When struggling to hang on to the little granules, we often forget to pull back and see the larger picture.  We are worried about loosing a few grains of sand when we are standing on the beaches of infinite blessings if we would only look around and realize it.  Not that each grain isn’t important, but we shouldn’t let it distract us from remembering who we are and where we are going as divine children of Heavenly Father on our journey back to Him.

But in the topsy turviness of life, all this is all to easy to forget.  And suddenly you aren’t just loosing sand, you’re up to you’re being consumed, even suffocated by it.

A few months and a lifetime ago… or back in November, I celebrated my 30th Birthday with a Mocktail Soiree.  I was surrounded by numerous friends and family and had a wonderful time.  I was in good health, and I was able to walk around the party.  That night was a high point for me, and I had no idea I was headed for a very low point just a week or so later.  I had plans for how I would spend the next several months.  Plans I intended to keep.

Lauren's 30th Birthday Mocktail Soiree

Lauren’s 30th Birthday Mocktail Soiree

Then a series of events led to a serious health decline that landed me in the hospital with my life at stake.  A series of serious infections caused the autoimmune disease I have, Myasthenia Gravis, to flare making me unable to breathe on my own so that I required a ventilator just a week after my party.

Life is strange.  Unpredictable and sometimes difficult to comprehend.

As I fought for my life in the hospital, some might wonder if I was left asking why God would allow me to withstand this hardship.  Why would God allow me to suffer so much?  And if that’s the case, what does it say about God?

In the World, Not of the World by Greg Olsen

In the World, Not of the World by Greg Olsen

To which I would answer, I asked nothing of the sort.  Though it might be tempting to blame God when things go “wrong” in our lives, that is an entirely counterproductive approach.  Heavenly Father provides us trials in our lives as a backdrop against which to bloom and grow.  Without it we would never progress and become more like our divine parents.  My health trials have given me a chance to learn things about myself that I may not have otherwise (or may have taken much longer to learn otherwise).  I have become more sensitive to the needs of others and to my own needs.  I have become more introspective and intuitive.  I have gained faith and perspective that even the seemingly worst things come with spiritual gifts.

He also gives us trials as a chance to practice choosing and agency – or being utilizers of His gift of freewill.  When we exercise our divine right of freewill and choose good, we can grow closer to Heaven Father.

It is hard to see this larger picture when in the moment.  Just like it is hard to see the beach for what it is when grappling with the granules of sand.  But when we put the sand of our lives in God’s capable and infinitely wise hands the landscapes of eternity will become more apparent to us.  And for that we will be blessed even more than we can fathom now.

“And ye cannot bear all things now; nevertheless, be of good cheer, for I will lead you along. The kingdom is yours and the blessings thereof are yours, and the riches of eternity are yours.

 

And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more.”

 

D&C 78:18-19

Sandy Hands

Sand slips through fingers.

Letter From My 15 Year Old Self

Letter From My 15 Year Old Self

It was well past the stroke of midnight.  My room had been turned upside down, and I was ready to cry in frustration. How could I have lost a letter I’ve been waiting for 15 years to open?  A letter from one person who would never forgive me if I never read it – a letter from 15 year old self.  It was 2:30am on October 23, 2013, and my 30th Birthday was already turning into a disaster.

Letter From My 15 Year Old Self

Letter From My 15 Year Old Self

Fifteen years prior, I had watched an episode of Northern Exposure in which one of the main characters, Maggie, receives a letter from her 15 year old self on her 30th birthday.  She is then haunted by her 15 year old self while she comes to terms with who she is, who she was, and who she is becoming.  I watched that episode on the last day of my 15th year.  I was inspired!  And I had little time to lose.  That night after my family had gone to sleep I got back up out of bed and spent a few hours composing this letter to myself.  I poured out my soul, instilling every ounce of my being in that letter, intuitively knowing that it would be so needed in 15 years. Flash back to the wee early hours of my 30th Birthday.  The letter was nowhere to be found.  But sitting around feeling devastated would get me no where.  There was only one course left to take.  Fervent prayers were answered.  Inspiration struck.  I remembered a 15 year old external hard drive that might contain a digital copy of the letter – the next best thing to the physical signed copy.  And there it was.  Right where I left it untouched by time for 15 years.  I printed it out and started to read as the tears flowed down…

To: Lauren Drew Soffer

(This letter is not to be opened until October 23, 2013.)

Lauren 15 Years Old

Lauren 15 Years Old

Dear Lauren,

It has probably been quite some time since you have heard from me, at least fifteen years to be exact.  I just thought that you might want to hear from your fifteen-year-old self now that you are twice as old.

I try to imagine what you will be doing in your life right now.  If we are anything alike then you are most likely taking a break from your incredibly busy life and something really important that you are suppose to be doing in order to read this letter.  So where are you?  Did you become a famous actress?  Did you write a brilliant screenplay?   Are you directing great movies?  Or did you do something completely different?

Have you changed a lot in fifteen years?  Are you closer to that idea person I am now working so hard to become?  Do you still dream all of the time?  I hope so.  I love to dream.  You remember that, don’t you?  I love to occupy my hours with imaginary alternate realities of my life, present in future.  Did you ever go on the Rosie O’Donnell Show like you so often dreamed?  Did you ever meet Gillian Anderson?  Well, it doesn’t really matter.  My dreamtime is only a few steps above childish fantasies.

Well, enough with the questions I can’t get answers to.  I will remind you a little bit of a little bit about me.  Aside from school where, in my junior year, I am taking one honors and two AP classes, I am involved with a few (ha ha) extracurricular activities.  I am the first alternate for Varsity Tennis, I really wanted to be one of the nine players on Varsity, but my serve isn’t ready yet.  Next year.  I hope that by the time you read this letter, you can really serve the pants off people, or at least have a good serve.  Right now I am working on a Comedy Scene for the Drama Festival with Johanna Fair, Jeff Newman, Jeremy Nation, and George something or other.  Jackie Luttrel is directing.  We are doing the last scene from Play It Again, Sam by Woody Allen.  Now that will be an old movie when you read this.  Which reminds me, do they still have videotapes, audiotapes, and CD’s?  Probably not.  Anyway, I just tried out for our Senior Produced Winter Drama that is Love, Sex, and the IRS.  I don’t think that I did that well.  Only you know if I will get a part.  I am also going to do Psychodrama for Advanced Peer Counseling, which is another thing I am doing.  I love it.  We went on out retreat together up to JCA Shalom, and it was one of the best experiences I had in a long time.  I am on the grant writing committee for PC as well.  Let’s see, there is also Comedy Sportz.  It is one of the best things in my schedule.  It is just so much fun, and I always look forward to it.  I also am training Beginning Peer Councilors, going to Film Club (when it doesn’t interfere with writing the PC grant), and going to drama club.  I believe that brings me to the last but not least thing on my plate, my job at temple as an assistant teacher.  I have a second grade class this year, and I enjoy everything about it but getting up early on Sunday mornings.  I’m pretty busy for a fifteen year old, huh?  I am a little stressed over it all right now, but I enjoy doing everything so much I can’t give anything up.

So, that’s what I’m doing.  Now, onto what I am like.  I believe in believing.  I like to think that there is still a lot in this world worth believing in.  And, if the whole world keeps on believing, there will always be hope for the future.  That’s another thing.  I know that the young people are our future.  That is why I love my job where I get to be a part of making the future.  I believe that there is no greater gift you can bestow than your love.  I try to give my love everyday.  I’m not perfect yet, but I’m working on it.  My goal is to be a person who never runs out of love to give and who is a strength and a model for those trying to be better people.  And, I don’t think that my progress is going so badly.  My best friend, Leslie, tells me that I am her strength.  Basically all of my beliefs can be summed up in my goal for life:  Before I die, I want to leave a lasting and positive impact, I want to make a difference to at least one person,  I want to leave the world a little bit better than when I entered it, and I want to be a living example of love and kindness.  That brings me to what I want to do with the rest of my life.  I think that I am best suited to fully that goal by doing something in the entertainment industry.  I think that I can really make a difference to a large number of people though work in that field.  I want to act, I want to write screenplays, I want to direct, and I might want to produce (funny how my I-Search that I am working on for English is on this very topic).

Here are my other interests.  In the area of television, these I the shows I watch:  I watch X-Files religiously and consider myself a devoted X-Phile, I am addicted to the Simpsons (a highly intelligent and brilliant satire of society which also happens to be a hysterical cartoon), I am almost completely hooked on Ally McBeal,  and I enjoy watching Inside Actor’s Studio.  I must also make a note to a show I always love to see and without I wouldn’t be righting this letter right now:  Northern Exposure.  There was this one episode where in a flashback to 15 years earlier Maggie writes a letter to herself in thirty years.  In the present, Maggie gets a hold of the letter and a whole thing plays out, but that isn’t the important part.  The important thing is that I got the idea for writing this letter from the show.  There are also an endless number of movies I love.  One of my very favorites is The Princess Bride.  But there are so many others I adore that I couldn’t name them all or I’d be here forever, however, for a dramatic piece, I liked the Piano, for a comical piece I like Forget Paris, and for one that just sticks out in my mind as being really good, I enjoyed Fried Green Tomatoes.  Some of my favorite books include The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver, The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx, Exodus by Leon Uris, and The Dune Chronicles by Frank Herbert.

My social life is as follows:  My two best friends are Leslie Klein and Jackie Luttrel.  I am closer with Leslie, but we also go through more rough spots, like the one right now, for example.  I should also mention that we went to Spain together this past summer, I’m sure you didn’t forget that.  I love them both to death though.  I don’t know how I would possibly get through my high school life without them constantly being there for me, mostly to just let me vent.  We understand each other in a very special way.  They are what real friends are, or at least are the closest things to it that I have ever experienced.  I also hand out with a lot of more casual, mostly drama friends.  There is Johanna Fair, Blair Anderson, Jessica Yuda, Lauren Hubert, Tarren Polack, Shelby Schulman, Miriam Krikorian, and Brittany Stabile.  I have especially been getting closer to Johanna lately because of Peer Counseling and the Drama Festival Scene.

Well, I guess that just about wraps it up for now.  But I do want you to remember a few things.  Lauren, you are an amazingly strong person.  You have the power to change things in your life.  Never feel like you have to settle.  Remember the wisdom of the car commercial:  “If everything were just good enough, would anything ever really be good enough?”  Never loose hope, never stop dreaming, and never loose sight of those dreams.  Don’t be afraid to make your dreams a reality.  You are an incredibly talented person.  You can do anything.  “If you think it, want it, dream it, then it’s real.  You are what you feel.”  Never forget that Matt Kaplan always believed you could make it as an actress.  Remember to remember what is really important in life, what makes life worth living, and place that thing above all else.  Remember to spread light and to give and receive love openly.  If you have forgotten any of this in the past fifteen years, then remember that it is never to late to change.  Don’t forget the road less traveled by, it can make all the difference.  Remember that, as Abraham Lincoln said, “People are just about as happy as they make up their mind to be.”  And finally remember the great Dr. Seuss’s words from Oh, The Places You’ll Go,

“So be sure when you step
Step with care and great tact
And remember that life’s
A Great Balancing Act
And will you succeed?
Yes! You will indeed!
(98 and ¾ percent guaranteed)
Kid, you’ll move mountains.”

 

Lots of love,

Lauren Soffer

 (Fifteen Years Old)
October 22, 1999

When I finished reading the letter, I went right back to the beginning and read it again.  Crying all the way though.  It was so full of hope.  So full of love.  So full of excitement.  So full of confidence.  So full of wisdom, especially for a 15 year old.

Lots of things stood out to me.  For instance, I did meet Gillian Anderson and I did get the part in Love, Sex, and the IRS.  But what stood out to me the most was the last paragraph containing advice.  It was wise beyond years and exactly what I’ve been needing to hear.  In fact the one line that  most stood out to me was, “If you have forgotten any of this in the past fifteen years, then remember that it is never to late to change.”  That hit me really hard.  And I have forgotten some of the qualities I had at 15.  Namely that level of confidence I once had.  I want that back.  And as I said, It’ s never too late to change.

The only thing I have left to do is write another letter to my 45 year old self, but this time I need to find a way to hide somewhere more obvious.  No need to go through all that stress on my 45th birthday again.  Until then, I have mountains to move!

Lauren At Her 30th Birthday

Lauren At Her 30th Birthday

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Followthrough: SMART Goals & Miracles

Followthrough: SMART Goals & Miracles

Set and Reach Goal

Set and Reach Goal

It is for us to pray not for tasks equal to our powers, but for powers equal to our tasks, to go forward with a great desire forever beating at the door of our hearts as we travel toward our distant goal.
Helen Keller

Happiness is not a goal; it is a by-product.
Eleanor Roosevelt

You are never too old to set another goal

You are never too old to set another goal

I set goals for myself every morning with my friend over Skype.  We talk about the space we are in, clear the air, and set goals for what we want to accomplish for the day and the kind of people we want to be while we accomplish it.  For example, I might set a goal to write for two hours on my novel, and I create a context of doing that in a playful and creative mood.  But setting the goals is only one side of the coin.  The followthrough is just as crucial as the goal setting. Why do I set goals?  I set goals because it gives me direction.  More than that it creates the idea of the future I can then live into.  It’s a powerful thing.  The President of my church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, told this anecdote:

Several days ago, while driving to my home, I approached the entrance to Interstate 15. At the on-ramp I noticed three hitchhikers, each one of whom carried a homemade sign which announced his desired destination. One sign read “Los Angeles,” while a second carried the designation “Boise.” However, it was the third sign which not only caught my attention but caused me to reflect and ponder its message. The hitchhiker had lettered not Los Angeles, California, nor Boise, Idaho, on the cardboard sign which he held aloft. Rather, his sign consisted of but one word and read simply “ANYWHERE.” Here was one who was content to travel in any direction, according to the whim of the driver who stopped to give him a free ride. What an enormous price to pay for such a ride. No plan. No objective. No goal. The road to anywhere is the road to nowhere, and the road to nowhere leads to dreams sacrificed, opportunities squandered, and a life unfulfilled.
Thomas S. Monson, Which Road Will You Travel?

SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound) Goal Setting

SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound) Goal Setting

But how do I turn goals from dreams into reality?  I find that it’s all about accountability.  And accountability starts with a good plan.  I was recently introduced to the SMART Goal Method of goal setting.  SMART stands for:

  • Specific: What will I accomplish?
  • Measurable: How will I and others know I’ve reached my goal?
  • Attainable: Do I have the commitment and resources to realistically achieve this goal?
  • Relevant:  Why is this goal important to me?
  • Time-Bound: When do I expect to complete this goal?

I’ve also found it really helps to think of the most powerfully positive outcome I can have around this goal.  So I ask myself the following questions:

  • If I were to have a breakthrough miracle in this area, what would my life look like?
  • What are the benefits of achieving this goal?

It is great to make goals, but it’s vitally important to put a plan for that goal into action.  So I make a list of tasks or to-dos that will help me achieve the goal with target completion dates.

A Goal Without A Plan I Just A Wish

A Goal Without A Plan I Just A Wish

It’s important to have a contingency plan for possible challenges I might encounter while achieving my goal, so I make a list of possible obstacles and ways to overcome them.

Finally, I find it infinitely helpful to have someone who helps me stay accountable in my goal making.  That is why my morning goal making has been so life changing.  Out of that I’ve completed multiple drafts of both my novels, increased my productivity at work, and found more time left over to do the other things I love to do.  I also haven’t forgotten to be grateful for how precious this life is and enjoy the journey.

In order to facilitate my goal making, I’ve made a custom worksheet in PDF format.  If you download the worksheet you’ll be able to fill it out on the computer (you’ll even be able to check the to-do items off your list), save and print it.  It’s free to download.  I only ask that you don’t sell it.  Also please don’t republish it without attribution (a link back to this article).  Finally, please let me know if you have any feedback or suggestions on how to improve upon it!  Enjoy!

Download SMART-Goal-Miracle-Worksheet-Final.pdf (PDF, 128KB)

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Crafting Handmade Greeting Cards

Crafting Handmade Greeting Cards

All Wrapped Up With A Bow Birthday Card

All Wrapped Up With A Bow Birthday Card

Most people feel that snail mail is dead.  When they want to communicate favor email, cell phones, text messages, Facebook, and Twitter over sending a letter through the United States Postal Service.  But most people I know still love receiving heartfelt cards and other physical mail.  I know that I always feel warm and fuzzy when I get a card from someone I love in the mail.  In fact, a well timed letter in my mailbox most likely saved my life as a teen.  That’s why I make it a point to devote a large portion of my crafting time to card making.  I enjoy making them and I know that people get a kick out of receiving them.  At the very least, it’s certainly better to get one of my cards in the mail than a bill. Over the years of card making I’ve picked up a few useful tips for making beautiful handmade greeting cards more effectively.

  1. Save Your Scraps:

    I keep a large file organizer or all of my scrap papers, organized by color.  This is so useful for making cards which don’t require large pieces of paper for purposes of decorating.

  2. Plan Before You Plant:

    I always cut and lay everything out (including stickers which I explain next) before I glue down anything.  Following a measure twice, cut once philosophy results in much more efficient card making and more professional looking cards.

  3. Pre-Sample Stickers:

    Sometimes it’s hard to plan out where to put stickers without actually placing them, so I cut out the stickers still on their backing so I can place them on my layout without sticking them down.

Here are some examples of cards I’ve made:

Floral Gem Birthday Handmade Greeting Card

Floral Gem Birthday Handmade Greeting Card

Floral Moving To A New Home Handmade Greeting Card

Floral Moving To A New Home Handmade Greeting Card

Floral Bird Collage Handmade Greeting Card

Floral Bird Collage Handmade Greeting Card

Mother's Day Flower Handmade Greeting Card

Mother’s Day Flower Handmade Greeting Card

Dear Friend Handmade Greeting Card

Dear Friend Handmade Greeting Card

Beautiful Daisy Handmade Greeting Card

Beautiful Daisy Handmade Greeting Card

Vintage Butterfly Handmade Greeting Card

Vintage Butterfly Handmade Greeting Card

Wisdom of Prophets & Apostles: Personal Answers From LDS General Conference – April 2013

Wisdom of Prophets & Apostles: Personal Answers From LDS General Conference – April 2013

LDS General Conference Handmade Journal

LDS General Conference Handmade Journal

Have you ever wondered what you should be doing with your life?  Have you ever wondered what areas of your life you need to improve, and, furthermore  how to improve them?  Have you ever wanted to hear this kind of instruction from someone who could never steer you wrong?  Have you ever wanted to get advice from someone who had only your best interested at heart, who loved you unconditionally, and would treat you with care of the most loving parent?

Throughout my life I have often longed for this personal direction from a divine source.  I have come to know that my Father in Heaven can give me all of these things whenever I speak to him through prayer.  But there are other times, places, and methods of receiving this direction in life.  This afternoon was the final session of the Spring convening of General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  At it, the living Prophet of our Living Heavenly Father and Savior Jesus Christ, along with his counselors, Apostles, and other disciples, delivered the divine messages we all needed to hear as His children.

General Conference occurs twice a year in the Spring and Fall.  The messages spoken at it are broadcast live across the world via television, radio, and the internet for all of God’s children to hear.  Afterwards, the talks are made available online, on dvd, and in print.  Past year’s General Conferences are also available on lds.org.

In preparing to hear the word of God at General Conference, I wrote a list of questions that I wanted to have answered by the various talks given.  I prayed to Heavenly Father that my questions would be addressed   I was not disappointed.  Through my faith, I received very direct answers to all but one question and an indirect answer to my last question.  I would like to share some of my questions and the answers I received to them through the messages I watched broadcast through my computer screen.  I recorded all of this in my handmade Conference Journal.

  • How do I deal with my desire for a Temple marriage in this life without knowing if I will have one?
    • I must emotionally, spiritually, and physically prepare myself for a temple marriage.  This includes improving my physical health.
  • How can I teach myself to more completely trust Christ and the Atonement when I have so much trouble trusting and relying on anyone other than myself?
    • There are no shortcuts.  The little things matter a lot as I build my foundation in Christ.  I must share and talk to my Father in Heaven.  I must start with what I’m sure of in my faith go from there to have an intimate discussion.  As I ask for help learning to more fully rely on Christ, Heavenly Father with both bless and help me.
  • When my faith waivers, how do I restore my faith?  Furthermore, how to I maintain my surety in the first place?
    • Fear not!  Do not belittle my belief.  Ask for help in my unbelief that it might be transformed into strong faith.  What we do know will always be greater than what we don’t regarding our faith.   Remember to always walk by faith.
  • What can I do to contribute to an inviting atmosphere at church where everyone can feel the Spirit of Christ?
    • Darkness exists in this world but don’t chose to dwell in the darkness.  Choose to dwell in the light, and choose to radiate light!
  • What should I learn about myself, others and Christ when I make mistakes and things don’t go according to plan?  How can I improve myself in the face of conflict?
    • It is imporant to always remember that I am a divine daughter of God and that I am a divine work in progress.  Issues with arrise but that doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with a divine work.  Also remember “it takes two people to contend and I will no be one of them.” (Brother Palabella)
  • How do I give up my life for something better?
    • This one is easy:  Come follow Him.
  • How can I learn to recognize miracles in my life everyday?
    • Allow faith to overcome doubt.  As I am obedient in all things, magnifying everything that I have been asked to do I will be blessed in ways I cannot imagine and will his is tender mercies and even His miracles in all things.

I invite you to come and see what answers the messages of General Conference have for you.  You can watch the entire thing or just specific talks online.  As Brother Jeffery R. Holland declared today, “Hope on!  Journey on!  Fan the flame of your faith because all things are possible to him that believeith!”

Come and see and follow Him!

 

Watch the sessions of LDS General Conference online!

Planning For Happiness

Planning For Happiness

Lauren's First Birthday

Lauren’s First Birthday

This year my greatest birthday wish came months before my birthday.  It was to be out of the hospital to celebrate my special day.  This week, on Tuesday, is my birthday.  I will be turning 29 and entering the last year of my twenties.  After 11 long, hard, and often frightening weeks in the hospital, I am very relieved and grateful to say that I am home from the hospital to celebrate.

It feels strange to know that my twenties are winding down, and I will soon be in my thirties.  Thirties sounds rather grown-up, and, in a lot of ways, I hardly feel like a grown up yet.  More than that I’ve spent a large part of my twenties feeling like I was failing to live up to my own expectations of myself.  I wrote about this last year in my post Living Up to Teenage Expectations (Ten Years Later).

What I began to see last summer when I wrote that post and that I now see so clearly is that I was so busy feeling like a failure for all the ways I didn’t measure up to where I thought I’d be or should be by now, that I couldn’t see how successful my life really is.  And more importantly I was robbing myself of the satisfaction and happiness that could come with that success.

Lauren's First Birthday Cake

Lauren’s First Birthday Cake

Life often doesn’t turn out how we plan as young adults.  As we grow older, we find out what God has planned for us.  And the wonderful thing is, though we cannot see it now, that plan is grander than anything we could have imagined for ourselves as teenagers and will ultimately lead us to happiness.  So my new plan is to abandon my own old expectations and put my trust in my Heavenly Father.  Trust that he knows what is best for me.  Trust that he can see the whole picture.  Trust that by following his plan I will be lead back to Him.  And trust that in doing so there will be more blessings along the way than I could have possibly imagined.

What a blessing it is that God is no respecter of persons.  While I, for the last decade, was so worried that I wasn’t in the right career, living in the right place, having the right romance, and achieving the right things, God and my Savior Jesus Christ were loving me for exactly who I was.  And they love me now for exactly who I am.  This frees me to give up all those old expectations and just move boldly forward with the knowledge that if I put my trust in the Lord, I will find eternal happiness.

Lauren's Fourth Birthday

Lauren’s Fourth Birthday

But what does this look like on a practical, day-to-day level?  The first thing that come to mind is I must make every effort to live my life according to His example.  The basics of prayer, church attendance, scripture study, and service are His standards to live by.  Beyond that I can create my life within the context of what’s happening now rather than what I thought I wanted or should be doing at this point.  So instead of trying to force the old dream of a career in film that just doesn’t fit anymore, I can relish in my new found love for novel writing and work towards getting published with passion and gusto.

Finally it’s absolutely critical to live in a space of constant gratitude.  I am so so so blessed to be alive after the last hospitalization I just had, how can I waste time worrying what a teenage version of myself would have thought of me?  Life is too lovely, too perfect, and too short for anything less.  This year on my birthday I will remember that.

Resiliency in the Face of Criticism

Resiliency in the Face of Criticism

It is a common misconception that constructive criticism is easier to take than unfoundedly mean spirited criticism.  More often than not, this isn’t the case.  While it can be fairly easy to ignore and move on when criticism doesn’t resonate,  when it rings true, pain really sets in.  It’s hard to see your reflection and dislike what you find.  And when someone else holds the mirror, it’s even worse.  But I found that I can be resilient in the face of such genuinely painful critiques.

Last week, in my writing group, I discovered just how much the truth can hurt.  I’ve been working so hard on my second draft of my novel The Particulars, and I really thought I was making good progress.  So when it came my turn to submit to my weekly writing critique group, I was excited to hear some feedback.  My group usually loves my writing, so I was caught completely off guard.  Though their critique of my opening chapters was very constructive, it certainly wasn’t favorable.

It was rough, listening to nearly two hours of how my writing wasn’t working, so when I finally got off the Skype call, I broke down.  I cried more than I had in a long time.  I was just so frustrated and disappointed in my writing and in myself.  I felt stupid for thinking it was good when it wasn’t.  And the worse part was I really didn’t think I knew how to fix it.

Once the tears stopped flowing, though, I had a choice.   I could choose to be resilient in the face of a difficult situation.  Here’s some tips that helped me:

  1. Don’t read into it.
    The biggest mistake you can make when dealing with a harsh critique is to read into what it means about who you are as a person.  I could have told myself that because the opening of my book wasn’t working, that I was a terrible writer or that I’d never be published, but there’s nothing productive that will come from thinking those things.  Besides those things aren’t even true.
  2. Get right back on the horse.
    The very next morning after the critique, I forced myself to start again because I knew the longer I waited the harder it would be to start again.  So don’t wait.  No time like the present.
  3. Look for the opportunity.
    I realized I could choose to be burned by this critique, or I could rise for the ashes a stronger writer.  This was my chance to grow and improve, if I choose to use it that way.
  4. Start fresh.
    Since my writing wasn’t very effective in my first draft,  I gave myself permission to come at it from a different perspective and tried something totally new.  I scrapped the first three chapters of my novel completely and started over from scratch.
  5. Don’t give up.
    The only way you can really lose in these situations is to give up.  There would be an upside, if I stuck with it.

So I rewrote my first three chapters, and what I came up with was so much better than what I had.  At least I was pretty sure it was.  But to make certain I had to submit myself to one more critique.  I asked one of the group members to read it again for me, and to my relief, she absolutely loved my new direction.  And the fact that I was able to do so despite my pain and sweat and tears, made the victory all the sweeter.

Here’s the new opening paragraphs of The Particulars as it stands now:

Veril Maloit picked up his manuscript and dumped it into the trash.  It was no use.  It was no good.  He was no good.  He kicked the overflowing waste bin.  There was no evil worse than writers block.  He glared at his desk.  It looked so empty without his novel cluttering it up.  Two hundred thousand words in, and he didn’t even know what it was about yet.  What a waste of trees.

He took a deep breath and gagged.  What was that strange odor?  By the smell of it someone had just run over a skunk with a truck of herbal medicinal supplies.  He coughed and pinched his nose closed with two fingers.

 

The Enabling Power of the Atonement

The Enabling Power of the Atonement

Jesus Praying in Gethsemane

Jesus Praying in Gethsemane

When people speak of the Atonement, they often speak of sin and the redemptive powers of the Atonement.  This aspect of the atonement is crucial to our eternal Salvation and to our ability to return to live with our Father in Heaven again.  Through the Atonement, we can be clean of our sins once more and able to live in God’s presence.

When people speak of the Atonement, they sometimes also speak of immortality.  Through the Atonement, Jesus Christ broke the bonds of death, so that we too may be resurrected in perfect bodies.

But I want to speak about a third aspect of the Atonement which is sometimes referred to as the enabling power of the Atonement.

For years, I had been searching for a diagnosis for a slew of strange and debilitating symptoms.  My doctors thought I had some sort of autoimmune disease, but they weren’t sure which one.  Then, about a year and a half ago, I was hospitalized with a serious skin infection on my neck.  The infection caused the unknown disease plaguing my body to suddenly get much worse.  I woke one morning to discover that I was too weak to lift my left leg off the hospital bed.  My right leg shortly followed.

As the severe weakness spread up my body, I knew I was in trouble when I started to lose my voice.  Before long the muscles in my chest were so weak and tired that I couldn’t keep breathing on my own.  My doctors rushed me to intensive care where they placed me on a machine that breathed for me for the next 7 days.  I was subsequently diagnosed with a disease called Myasthenia Gravis in which the immune system attacks the connections between the nerves and muscles causing severe weakness.

So why am I telling you this story?  This experience makes me think of the Atonement in several ways.  It reminds me of this scripture from 2 Nephi 25:23:

  “We know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23).

After I had done all that I could to and taken every last breath I could on my own, something outside myself breathed for me.  And by doing so, saved me.  Using the Atonement is much like this.  When we are too worn out by life to take even more breath, Christ’s Atonement enables us to breath some more.  This is the enabling power of the Atonement.

Elder Bendar writes:

“[ Grace is] a word that occurs frequently in the New Testament, especially in the writings of Paul. The main idea of the word is divine means of help or strength, given through the bounteous mercy and love of Jesus Christ.

“It is through the grace of the Lord Jesus, made possible by his atoning sacrifice, that mankind will be raised in immortality, every person receiving his body from the grave in a condition of everlasting life. It is likewise through the grace of the Lord that individuals, through faith in the atonement of Jesus Christ and repentance of their sins, receive strength and assistance to do good works that they otherwise would not be able to maintain if left to their own means. This grace is an enabling power that allows men and women to lay hold on eternal life and exaltation after they have expended their own best efforts.”  (The Atonement and the Journey of Mortality)

Mary and the Resurrected Lord

Mary and the Resurrected Lord

How does Christ’s Atonement have this enabling power?  It is because through the Atonement that Christ received divine understanding of each of us.  Through the Atonement, Christ suffered for far more than our sins alone.  Bendar writes:

“The Savior has suffered not just for our iniquities but also for the inequality, the unfairness, the pain, the anguish, and the emotional distresses that so frequently beset us. There is no physical pain, no anguish of soul, no suffering of spirit, no infirmity or weakness that you or I ever experience during our mortal journey that the Savior did not experience first. You and I in a moment of weakness may cry out, “No one understands. No one knows.” No human being, perhaps, knows. But the Son of God perfectly knows and understands, for He felt and bore our burdens before we ever did. And because He paid the ultimate price and bore that burden, He has perfect empathy and can extend to us His arm of mercy in so many phases of our life. He can reach out, touch, succor—literally run to us—and strengthen us to be more than we could ever be and help us to do that which we could never do through relying upon only our own power.

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

“For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” ( Matthew 11:28–30 ).”  (The Atonement and the Journey of Mortality)

Words cannot express how much comfort this knowledge brings me.  Often times with the illness I suffer, I’m tempted to feel so alone.  Like no one could possibly understand what I endure.  But in truth, my Savior knows exactly what I am going through.  He has already suffered all of it.  He knows what the sheer terror of being too weak to breathe feels like.  Of how helpless that felt.  And, because he understands so precisely, he was able to give me exactly the kind of comfort and strength I needed to get through that experience.

He knew to fortify me with warm feelings of comfort and courage that I would be okay.  He knew to prompt friends and family to visit me.  He knew just how to love me through the ordeal.  As it says in Alma 7:11-14:

“11  And he shall go forth, suffering pains and  afflictions and  temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will  take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.

12  And he will take upon him  death, that he may  loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to  succor his people according to their infirmities.

13  Now the Spirit  knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the  flesh that he might  take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me.”   Book of Mormon, Alma 7:11-14

The Crucifixion

The Crucifixion

Because Christ suffered and even died for me, he could succor me according to my infirmities.   What a great blessing that is.  That we don’t have to feel alone in our infirmities, but instead have a Savior that can nurture us through our darkest hours because he has already endured them and so much more.

So how do we utilize the enabling power of the Atonement in our lives?  There are five steps that I’ve come up with: repent, submit, pray for help, have faith, and act.

First we have to repent.  D&C 19:16-19 reads:

“For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;

“But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;

“Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink—

“Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men” ( Doctrine & Covenants 19:16–19 ).

To use the Atonement, it is required that we repent for our sins and take the upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ.  The sacrifice required of us is nothing more or less than a broken heart and a contrite spirit.

Next, we have to submit to the will of the Lord.  As it says in Mosiah 3:19:

“19  For the  natural  man is an  enemy to God, and has been from the =fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he  yields to the enticings of the Holy  Spirit, and  putteth off the  natural man and becometh a  saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a  child,  submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.”  (Book of Mormon, Mosiah 3:19)

It isn’t always easy to submit.  It is often frightening to let go of the perceived control we have in our lives and turn our will over to our Heavenly Father.  It helps me to remember that Heavenly Father can see the whole picture and has a plan for me.  From my limited point of view, my life might look like abstract paint daubs where, from His eternal perspective, my life is a painting of a beautiful garden.  With that knowledge, it’s far easier to submit to his will and trust that he will ultimately know what Is best for me.

Once you submit, the next step is to pray for help.  Now there are lots of ways to pray for help.  Sometimes, I am tempted to pray for God to just fix everything.  “God,” I might say, “just make this all better.  I don’t care how or what has to happen.  Just fix it.”  But I find I get much better results when I pray for the ability to solve the problem myself.  Elder Bednar touched on this when he said:

“I come to understand and employ the enabling power of the Atonement in our personal lives, we will pray and seek for strength to change our circumstances rather than praying for our circumstances to be changed. We will become agents who act rather than objects that are acted upon (see 2 Nephi 2:14 ).”  (The Atonement and the Journey of Mortality)

Next, we have to have faith that this enabling power will come.  Moses 1:39 reads:

“behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (The Pearl of Great Price, Moses 1:39).”

If we have faith that this is true, we can have faith that the Atonement is here to bless us and help us overcome obstacles we couldn’t surmount otherwise.

Finally, we must show our faith by acting.  This is so vitally important.  We can’t just sit back and passively wait for the Atonement to bless our lives.  We need to actively seek it out.  Seek to understand it and apply it.  Act in our lives with the faith that the Atonement will get us that extra mile if we allow it to work in our lives.

If we allow the Atonement to work in our lives, it will make the seemingly impossible, possible. Elder Cecil O. Samuelson Jr of the Seventy says:

“His perfect mortal life devoid of sin, the shedding of His blood, His suffering in the garden and upon the cross, His voluntary death, and the Resurrection of His body from the tomb made possible a full Atonement for people of every generation and time.

The Atonement makes the Resurrection a reality for everyone. However, with respect to our individual transgressions and sins, conditional aspects of the Atonement require our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, our repentance, and our compliance with the laws and ordinances of the gospel.”  (What Does The Atonement Mean To You?)

The Resurrected Jesus Christ

The Resurrected Jesus Christ

Brothers and sisters, on this Easter Sunday, I sit before you with a testimony that Jesus is the Christ.  That he died for our sins and was resurrected that we might return to live with our Father in Heaven again.

I have a testimony that it is that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.  That through the enabling power of the Atonement we are able to still receive life giving oxygen when we can no longer breathe on our own.

I have a testimony that if we repent, submit, pray for help, have faith, and act, the enabling power of the Atonement will work go to work in our lives.

Yesterday I went through the Temple for the first time and received my Endowment.  I am so grateful especially for Temples on Earth again today and for the special Spirit I was able to feel there.

I know that the Book of Mormon is true.  That it is another testament of Jesus Christ.  That the Gospel has been restored.  That Thomas S. Monson is a prophet of God on earth today.

I want to leave you with one of my favorite scriptures from 2 Nephi 22:2:

“Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid; for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; he also has become my salvation.”  (The Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 22:2)

And I say this in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.


I'm a Mormon.

 

From a talk I delivered today in Church for Easter Sunday.

 

 

 


PDF – The Enabling Power of the Atonement by Lauren Soffer