All of us come into this life exceptionally near-sighted. According to WebMD,
Babies are born with a full visual capacity to see objects and colors. However, newborns cannot see very far — only objects that are 8-15 inches away.
Compared to our Heavenly Father and our Savior, Jesus Christ, we are all spiritual infants. Like infants, our eyes can often only see what is right in front of us, blind to eternal perspective. Fortunately, just as an infant’s eyes mature we too can develop our spiritual eyes.
D&C 58:4 -3 expounds on how, in the midst of our struggles big and small, we can be so blind to God’s greater plans to bless us.
“3 Ye cannot behold with your natural eyes, for the present time, the design of your God concerning those things which shall come hereafter, and the glory which shall follow after much tribulation.
4 For after much tribulation come the blessings. Wherefore the day cometh that ye shall be crowned with much glory; the hour is not yet, but is nigh at hand.”
From this scripture we learn that our natural eyes, or in our natural state we cannot see God’s plans. We also learn that glory and blessings come following tribulation. But how does one get from experiencing tribulation to receiving blessings? Elder Neal A. Maxwell expounded on the connecting factor.
“One of the functions of the tribulation of the righteous is that “tribulation worketh patience” ( Rom. 5:3 ). What a vital attribute patience is, if tribulation is worth enduring to bring about its development!
Patience, in turn, allows us to have the needed experience, as noted in the stunning insight the Lord gave to the Prophet Joseph Smith: “All these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good” ( D&C 122:7 ).” Patience
To put it another way, being patient in difficult circumstances, even and especially in the our greatest trials, allows us to grow from experience. Patience is the key factor.
But what is patience? Maybe it’s easier to begin by illustrating impatience.
When I was about 8-years-old, my best friend and I were at a Golf ‘n Stuff arcade. We were playing ski ball which was fun, but we weren’t very good at it, so winning highly coveted prize tickets was slow going. That’s when my friend had a brilliant idea, or at least it seemed so at the time. She said if she climbed up to the top of the ski ball cage, she could put all the balls directly into the 500 slots and win prize tickets much more quickly. I wish I could say I realized that this was cheating and protested, but it never occurred to me that gaming the system was dishonest. So, a few minutes later, as I passed the balls up to my friend and tickets poured out of the machine, ll I could think about was how many prizes I’d be able to get that day, That was until I felt someone tap my shoulder. I turned around, and to my horror one of the arcade employees stood there frowning down at me. We both received a word or two about cheating. What’s worse was that all of our tickets were taken away, not just the ones we had won through little scheme. But what was worst of all was that I could hardly sleep for a week I felt so horrible about what I had done. In my impatience, I not only lost my chance to win junk from an arcade, but I had lost peace of mind and self-respect.
How often do we impatiently sacrifice promised blessings, or even blessings we’ve already received, by taking perceived shortcuts? How often do we trust in only our own timing instead of Heavenly Father’s?
Apostle Joseph B Wirthlin stated:
“A word about patience with our Heavenly Father and his plan of eternal progression. How incredibly foolish to be impatient with him, the Father of our spirits, who knows everything and whose work and glory, through his Son, Jesus Christ, is “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” ( Moses 1:39 ). Patience, a Key to Happiness, April 1987 General Conference
“Patience is not indifference. Actually, it is caring very much, but being willing, nevertheless, to submit both to the Lord and to what the scriptures call the “process of time. […] Patience is tied very closely to faith in our Heavenly Father. Actually, when we are unduly impatient, we are suggesting that we know what is best—better than does God. Or, at least, we are asserting that our timetable is better than his. Either way we are questioning the reality of God’s omniscience,”
If impatience is a lack of faith in Heavenly Father’s divinity, then patience is an act of faith in Heavenly Father and His timing. Maxwell goes on to say:
“Patience is a willingness, in a sense, to watch the unfolding purposes of God with a sense of wonder and awe, rather than pacing up and down within the cell of our circumstance ” Patience
When we trust in our own timing we are captive to our circumstances. We often let ourselves feel that life is unfair, like we are trapped, find ourselves frequently asking, ”why me?”, and wonder when it will be our turn to get life’s metaphorical prize tickets. We forget that our Father in Heaven has a great perspective and a greater plan for us than we could ever dream up for ourselves.
“8 ¶For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9 -8
We forget that the real prize comes in the form of personal development.
As Presiden Dieter F Uchtdorf put it:
“Patience is a process of perfection. The Savior Himself said that in your patience you possess your souls. Or, to use another translation of the Greek text, in your patience you win mastery of your souls. Patience means to abide in faith, knowing that sometimes it is in the waiting rather than in the receiving that we grow the most. This was true in the time of the Savior. It is true in our time as well, for we are commanded in these latter days to “continue in patience until ye are perfected.” Continue in Patience F. Uchtdorf, April 2010 General Conference
Fortunately we have a perfect example of patience as our model, in our Savior Jesus Christ. Hillary Olsen wrote:
“The Savior is our ultimate example of patience. To me, His words spoken in the Garden of Gethsemane embody His patience. In the midst of unimaginable suffering and sacrifice, He asked that, if possible, the cup of His suffering be taken from Him. “Nevertheless,” He said, “not as I will, but as thou wilt” ( Matthew 26:39 ). The word nevertheless carries a powerful message. In spite of what the Savior really wanted in that moment, He expressed His willingness to accept His Father’s will and to endure.
We’ll all be required to wait for things in our lives—even at times the most righteous desires of our hearts. But Jesus Christ, our “best, [our] heav’nly Friend,” 4 can comfort and reassure us of good things to come. And He is lovingly patient with us as we learn to be like Him, as we learn to face the expected and unexpected plot twists of mortality and say to our Father, “Nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.”” Patience: More Than Waiting
Nothing has taught me patience and its powerful ability to bless my life like having multiple chronic illnesses. I’ve learned to patiently endure as I’ve laid in the hospital for months at a time unable to move a muscle or even breathe on my own. I’ve learned to be patient as I’ve been taught that healing doesn’t always come in a miraculous instant. I’ve learned to be patient with friends and family who haven’t always understood what I go through. I’ve learned to be patient with myself and to treat myself more kindly. Most importantly, I’ve learned to be more patient with my Heavenly Father’s timing in all things. In developing that patience, though my illness hasn’t gone away, I’ve been greatly blessed. I’ve been able to do missionary work from my hospital bed even once giving a Book of Mormon to my respiratory therapist. I discovered my love of crafting, painting, and writing novels. Most of all, I’ve come to a knowledge of the Gospel and of my Savior Jesus Christ. I’ve been able to go His Temple, the House of the Lord, and walk its halls.
President Uchtdorf explained:
Brigham Young taught that when something came up which he could not comprehend fully, he would pray to the Lord, “Give me patience to wait until I can understand it for myself.” 5 And then Brigham would continue to pray until he could comprehend it.
We must learn that in the Lord’s plan, our understanding comes “line upon line, precept upon precept.” 6 In short, knowledge and understanding come at the price of patience.
Often the deep valleys of our present will be understood only by looking back on them from the mountains of our future experience. Often we can’t see the Lord’s hand in our lives until long after trials have passed. Often the most difficult times of our lives are essential building blocks that form the foundation of our character and pave the way to future opportunity, understanding, and happiness.”Continue in Patience F. Uchtdorf, April 2010 General Conference
In closing, I’d like to leave you with my testimony on patience. Through patiently enduring all things even and especially what seem like the worst things, we have the opportunity to be refined and perfected, even blessed beyond what ever thought possible. As we trust in the Lord’s perfect timing, we begin to see our lives more as He sees them, and it becomes more evident to us just how rich and numerous those blessings are in our lives. I think I can best sum it up in the form of a poem I wrote:
By Lauren Soffer
Patience is a game
For only one to play
With two it’s not the same
To watch the clocks wind down the day
Just waiting isn’t patience
With the tapping of the feet
While the words have the same fragrance
Patience without calm is incomplete
To wait with patience is to trust
And to not anticipate
That comprehension is now modest
That God is never late
So have a patient heart
With a serenity of mind
To wait is just a part
To wait with patience is divine!
This was a talk I gave in church a few weeks ago during Sacrament Meeting of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
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
Sitting 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?
For 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.
Then, 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.
Even 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.
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
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:
Affix the scripture onto the journal page
Search The Scriptures
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.
- Trim It
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.)
- Affix Your Verses
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.
Take notes on the scripture in vivid colors of words and images.
Mark It Up
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.
- Illsutrate with Inspiration
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.
When using watercolor colored-pencils, started painting water over parts of the illustration.
Make it Vivid
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.
- In The Details
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.
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.
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:
Answering 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.
That 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
A balloon slowly twirls in the corner of my room in the ICU. “Get Well Soon!” it proclaims, in its bubbly font pastered on a backdrop of a smiling kite floating above smiling flowers.
I am grateful to have it cheering up the overwise sterile and dull place I’ve called my home-away-from-home five times in the last year alone. I am grateful to my thoughtful friend who brought it when she visited several days ago. But the truth is life doesn’t fit neatly into phrases we so often use to comfort our loved ones when a major life trial afflicts them. For me, “Get Well Soon” is a lie. I won’t be well soon. Yes, I’ll recover from this hospitalization, but I live with several serious chronic illnesses that will most likely sent me back to the hospital again. When “getting well soon” isn’t possible, the challenge is to find insight, peace, and even gratitude in my situation.
I firmly believe that we are faced with trials on this earth, so that we can learn lessons we couldn’t learn any other way. Through my illness I’ve learned patience, compassion for other’s trials, and trust that my suffering is all for a purpose and even brings blessings. Nothing would have taught me patience, for example, quite like waiting through seemingly endless and prolonged hospitalizations. I couldn’t have learned to have as much compassion, had I not suffered myself and felt the pain and loneliess of chronic illness.
I have even found blessings in my trials with chronic illness. As I was forced to adapt and find new interests, I discovered my passion for writing novels, my love of web and graphic design, and, most importantly, my faith in Christ when I was baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. All these things came to be in my life directly as a result of my chronic illnesses. They have blessed me in more ways than I can number, and especially blessed me with a sense of a life calling, purpose, and knowledge that I am not alone. Realizing these blessings give me insight into the person my trials are helping me to become, a person I couldn’t have learned to be without these trials.
Knowing that trials have brought me great blessings fills my life with peace, purpose, and meaning. And I am grateful for the role of trials in my life to make me a better person. I am grateful for the ability to bless the lives of others that I learned from these trials. I am grateful for my testimony of a loving Heavenly Father and Savior, Jesus Christ, that I’ve learned from experiences I’ve had being sick.
As I look to the bigger picture, I see the role these trials play in becoming the best person I ultimately can be. I may not “Get Well Soon”, but as I look beneath the harsh surface of life with multiple serious chronic illnesses, I’ve come to recognize that, on many levels, things are already “well” with my life. And as I strive to find insight, peace, and gratitude in the face of my trials, all will be well.
Self-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.
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.
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.
A 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
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,
A DIVISION OF HAY HOUSE
[Contact Information Redacted]
This email is an advertisement.
So 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.
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:
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;
I 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.
As I was sitting in during Sacrament, I prayed for the best way to deliver this talk. I received the strangest prompting – to give my talk in a completely different order than I have written it. I had spent at least 15 hours researching and preparing for the talk, so I was rather surprised and extremely nervous about going out of order. But I’m not in the habit of ignoring promptings from the Lord, so I did what I felt urged to do. The following is my memory of the order in which I gave this talk.
I’d like to begin with a story in President James E. Faust’s talk, The Atonement: Our Greatest Hope, that retells a story by President Gordon B. Hinckley.
Some years ago, President Gordon B. Hinckley told “something of a parable” about “a one room school house in the mountains of Virginia where the boys were so rough no teacher had been able to handle them.
“Then one day an inexperienced young teacher applied. He was told that every teacher had received an awful beating, but the teacher accepted the risk. The first day of school the teacher asked the boys to establish their own rules and the penalty for breaking the rules. The class came up with rules, which were written on the blackboard. Then the teacher asked, ‘What shall we do with one who breaks the rules?’
“‘Beat him across the back ten times without his coat on,’ came the response.
“A day or so later, … the lunch of a big student, named Tom, was stolen. ‘The thief was located—a little hungry fellow, about ten years old.’
“As Little Jim came up to take his licking, he pleaded to keep his coat on. ‘Take your coat off,’ the teacher said. ‘You helped make the rules!’
“The boy took off the coat. He had no shirt and revealed a bony little crippled body. As the teacher hesitated with the rod, Big Tom jumped to his feet and volunteered to take the boy’s licking.
“‘Very well, there is a certain law that one can become a substitute for another. Are you all agreed?’ the teacher asked.
“After five strokes across Tom’s back, the rod broke. The class was sobbing. ‘Little Jim had reached up and caught Tom with both arms around his neck. “Tom, I’m sorry that I stole your lunch, but I was awful hungry. Tom, I will love you till I die for taking my licking for me! Yes, I will love you forever!”’”
President Hinckley then quoted Isaiah:
“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows. …
“… He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”
No man knows the full weight of what our Savior bore, but by the power of the Holy Ghost we can know something of the supernal gift He gave us.10 In the words of our sacrament hymn:
We may not know, we cannot tell,
What pains he had to bear,
But we believe it was for us
He hung and suffered there.
So as you may have guessed the subject of my talk today is the crucifixion of our Savior Jesus Christ, in which He died for our sins so that we might live again with our Father in Heaven.
The events leading up to the Crucifixion give us vivid examples of both absolute faith and the absence of it. The absence of faith can often be characterized as fear. As I describe the following events, I invite you to think about which events are representative of faith and which represent fear.
Christ perfectly endured the Atonement in all its agony, according to the will of the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane. Christ was betrayed by Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve Apostles. Jesus was arrested, and the rest of his Apostles fled. Jesus was then subjected to multiple counsels and trials having false witnesses brought against Him.
Even the faithful disciple Peter ultimately denied Jesus and Jesus Himself prophesied he would earlier in Christ’s ministry. In John 13:38, it reads:
Jesus answered him, Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me thrice. (John 13: 38)
Then at one of Jesus’s trials, the prophesy came to pass. In Matthew 26:69-75 it reads:
Now Peter sat without in the palace: and a damsel came unto him, saying, Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee.
But he denied before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest.
And when he was gone out into the porch, another maid saw him, and said unto them that were there, This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth.
And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man.
And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech bewrayeth thee.
Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew.
And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly.n (Matthew 26:69–75)
Christ was mocked and ridiculed. In Matthew 27:28-30, it reads:
And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe.
And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews!
And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head. (Matthew 28–30)
Christ was made to carry His own cross most likely weighting 75 to 125 pounds until a passerby named Simon was compelled to do it for him by the Roman guards.
When they reached the site of the crucifixion, Christ was nailed to the cross. At the head of the cross was affixed a title, “Jesus of Nazareth The King of the Jews.” Elder Bruce R. McConkie describes the brutality of what the Savior must have physically experienced:
A death by crucifixion seems to include all that pain and death can have of the horrible and ghastly—dizziness, cramp, thirst, starvation, sleeplessness, traumatic fever, tetanus, publicity of shame, long continuance of torment, horror of anticipation, mortification of untended wounds, all intensified just up to the point at which they can be endured at all, but all stopping just short of the point which would give to the sufferer the relief of unconsciousness. The unnatural position made every movement painful; the lacerated veins and crushed tendons throbbed with incessant anguish; the wounds, inflamed by exposure, gradually gangrened; the arteries, especially of the head and stomach, became swollen and oppressed with surcharged blood; and, while each variety of misery went on gradually increasing, there was added to them the intolerable pang of a burning and raging thirst. Such was the death to which Christ was doomed. ( Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:816)
Even is this moment of extreme physical torment, the Savior was merciful, asking Heavenly Father to forgive those who crucified him. In Luke 23: 34, it reads:
Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots. (Luke 23:33-34)
Despite his tortured state, He thought of others before himself. In John 19:26-27, it says:
When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son!
Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home. (John 19:26–27)
Then darkness came over the land as Heavenly Father withdrew his presence from the Savior. In Matthew 27:46 it reads:
And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? (Matthew 27:46)
It’s hard to imagine the utter terror at being cut off from Heavenly Father for the first time in such a moment of tremendous suffering. But Christ needed to feel what it is like to be utterly alone, to descend all things. To completely fulfill upon what He came here to do.
Andrew C. Skinner said in his book, Golgotha,
The scriptures teach us that God has not forsaken us nor will he ever forsake us. He is waiting and able to help us in our extremity. No less powerful to help is his divine Son, who has perfect empathy for us and can carry us through those times when we cannot go on, precisely because of his own experience. In fact, one reason Jesus was abandoned by his Father in Gethsemane and on the cross of Golgotha [or Calvary] was so he could descend below all things to know every human circumstance and thus emerge victor over all things, with the knowledge and power to help us. By his confirming witness, I know that Jesus suffered on the cross the fierceness of the wrath of Almighty God, and because Jesus suffered that wrath on the cross, I do not have to. Even more important, I know that because Jesus was lifted up on the cross, I can be lifted up also—to eternal life. Furthermore, I know that because God forsook his Son on the cross, he will never have to forsake me.
James E. Talmage, in his book, Jesus the Christ, wrote about Christ last moments:
Fully realizing that He was no longer forsaken, but that His atoning sacrifice had been accepted by the Father, and that His mission in the flesh had been carried to glorious consummation, He exclaimed in a loud voice of holy triumph: “It is finished.” In reverence, resignation, and relief, He addressed the Father saying: “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” He bowed His head, and voluntarily gave up His life.
[…]Jesus the Christ was dead. His life had not been taken from Him except as He had willed to permit. Sweet and welcome as would have been the relief of death in any of the earlier stages of His suffering from Gethsemane to the cross, He lived until all things were accomplished as had been appointed. In the latter days the voice of the Lord Jesus has been heard affirming the actuality of His suffering and death, and the eternal purpose thereby accomplished. Hear and heed His words: “For, behold, the Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him.”
The Crucifixion can teach us much about living our lives after the example of our Savior, Jesus Christ. These are the five main things we can learn from the crucifixion:
- Be forgiving.
- Be filled with mercy.
- Be in service of others.
- Following Christ.
- Endure all things.
The first thing we can learn is to forgive others. Even when Christ was on the Cross he said, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. This very Spirit of forgiveness teaches us that we need to forgive all. Even and especially those who hate and persecute us. In Doctrine & Covenants 64:10 it reads:
I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men. (D&C 64:10)
Second we learn to be filled with mercy. To have mercy we must have compassion for people in our lives including ourselves. Having compassion for and extending mercy towards others as well as ourselves is one of the greatest gifts we can give.
Matthew 5:7 reads:
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. (Matthew 5:7)
Third, we learn to serve others. Christ’s ministry was one of continually service. Healing the sick, feeding the poor and hungry, raising the dead, teaching the masses. Mosiah 2:17 reads:
And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God. (Mosiah 2:17)
Fourth, we learn to carry our cross and follow Christ. This mean forsaking anything in our lives that are not in the manner of Christ. Giving up unrighteous thoughts, music, clothing, and activities, and exchanging them for righteous ones. Then follow the Saviors example in all things.
Fifth, we learn to patiently endure all things. Christ never complained, never object, never asked “why me?” He bore his burdens with tolerance, long-suffering, and dignity, always submitting to the will of the Father.
This perfect example of how to endure all things can especially help us in times of trial. Over the last ten years I’ve spent a significant amount of time in the hospital, often the ICU, often for several months at a time due to an autoimmune disease called Myasthenia Gravis. Myasthenia Gravis, which means grave weakness in Latin, causes its patients to become so weak during an acute flare or it that they cannot move any of their limbs and sometimes cannot breathe on their own, requiring the assistance of a ventilator. I have experienced this many times. It’s hard when lying there in the ICU unable to move or breathe on my own to feel like things are going to be okay, but the thing that gives me the most strength is the sweet knowledge that our Savior descended below all things so that I don’t have to suffer that alone. He knows exactly what extreme physical pain is like, beyond what I can even imagine, so He certainly can feel what I feel in those times. And it gives me the ability to endure to know that He endured all things. If he endured all things, then certainly I can endure this one trial I have been given as difficult as it seems. And this gives me eternal hope.
We also accept that Heavenly Father is giving us trials for our own benefit. Doctrine and Covenants 122:7-8 said:
And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.
The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he? (D&C 7-8)
Since we are not greater than our Savior Jesus Christ we can take so much comfort in all He has done for us. All the pain He has suffered so that he could descend below all things was for our benefit because He has so much love for each and every one of us.
I want to share my testimony that Christ not only atoned and died for our sins but that He rose again three days later. He lives today. He knows and loves me personally. The Holy Ghost testifies of this to me on a daily basis. I am so grateful for my Savior and for his atoning sacrifice that through it I can return to live with my Heavenly Father for all eternity. I know that my Heavenly Father lives and loves me as well. I am grateful for all of you and the Spirit that is felt here today. And I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
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
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
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,
(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
Without Any Pain
by Lauren Soffer
Jesus Praying in Gethsemane
Who would I be without any pain?
Trapped potential hidden, unclean
Who would I be without any pain?
Crippling imperfections so easily seen
As yet untouched by Refiner’s flame
Trapped potential hidden, unclean
Molten transformation won’t leave me the same
Crack under pressure or become something more?
As yet untouched by Refiner’s flame
Flame creates bounty, blessings restore
Shimmering radiance, brilliant as the Son
Flame creates bounty, blessings restore
Not my will but Thy will be done
On bended knee my heart rises in song
Shimmering radiance, brilliant as the Son
Faithful contrite glorified strong
On bended knee my heart rises in song
Who would I be without any pain?
Who would I be without any pain?
The Particulars Cover
Writing a novel from start to finish is an extremely challenging feat, but I discovered that creating the novel itself is a synch compared to crafting an engaging and well-written pitch. How could I distill over 100k words into just under 250 words while still maintaining the essence of the plot, characters, and style of the book?
It is no easy task. I struggled and wrestled my way through over fifteen drafts each seemingly worse than the last. False starts and failed endings. It took me a long time to get to what I finally settled upon, but I’m not convinced it’s ready.
I need your help! Please read my pitch, and lend me your constuctive critique. What’s working? What isn’t working? Does it pull you in? Do you relate to the characters? Does it make you want to read the book? What can I do to make it stronger?
The Particulars Pitch
by Lauren Soffer
Please excuse Professor Veril Maloit as he passes out cold. He’s just standing up to accept the biggest honor of his writing career only to fall flat on his face. To Veril’s astonishment, his girlfriend, Samantha Elderhopper, is selected to become an apprentice to the elite group of writers known as The Particulars, and his lifelong dream of joining the enigmatic organization is in shambles.
While recovering, Veril overhears a conversation between the group’s Grand Master, Cameron Johanson, and another Particular about making unsuspecting people disappear.
Is something sinister afoot? Tracy, the opinionated incorporeal voice that’s following Veril around certainly thinks so. Chances are he’s finally going out of his mind, but as Veril investigates, he stumbles upon a Particular conspiracy, witnessing the society’s crimes for himself. The famous authors are secretly vampires sucking juicy details out of people to infuse their writing with vivid realism, erasing their victims from memory to all but Veril.
Terrified, he dreads forever losing Sam to the humanity devouring Particulars, but what can Veril do? He knows nothing about hunting vampires. Or so he thinks, until the delivery of a cryptic letter illuminates the murky details of his mysterious lineage. Armed with a magic pen and inkwell, his creative writing skills, and a grab bag team of would-be heroes, Veril discovers that he’s the inspired author of his own destiny.
Thanks so much for your time and help! It’s much appreciated. You can leave your feed back right here in the comments, or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cross-posted from The Particulars Blog.
Sometimes, despite my best intentions, strongest convictions, all my strength and will, all my hope and faith, commitment and passion… sometimes despite everything I am, was, and will ever be… sometimes things fall apart.
Sometimes it seems like there’s no putting things back together again.
The past few weeks I’ve had my fill of Humpty Dumpty moments. My emotions splatted out on the ground for the whole world to see. At first it was for seemingly no reason. Then, little by little the source of my tears began to bubble to the surface. Flashes of suppressed memories of my last three month hospitalization haunt me. I was in the ICU almost a month and I remember everything.
Yesterday was odd sort of relief at receiving a diagnosis.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
When I got home from my doctor’s office, I decided it’s time to stop suppressing the pain. Putting a name to it is a good first step, but it was really time to let a little of it out. So I wrote this poem about the experience:
by Lauren Soffer
How can I speak when
The pain leaves me breathless
Tear drops unspoken
Defined by wounds unforgotten
A prisoner of my own head
Where darkness ends
My Savior carries me
Breathing each breath
As I relinquish my anguish
For His infinite love
Safe in His Eternal arms
I am found
Through writing the poem, in a tiny way I began the process of transformation. Turning something ugly into something beautiful. Turning my pain into strength. And with that I found a iota of peace in that moment. I am struck by the following scripture:
And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good. (D&C 122:7)
I’m grateful to have the faith that hard things in life will all be for my growth and benefit. Maybe things fall apart because life is like a jigsaw puzzle: there’s no point if it comes already put together.
Driving home from the neurologist’s this afternoon, I was overwhelmed by how much I’ve endured this past year and how much I’ve overcome. No words that I could speak nor tears that I could shed could express the depth of my sorrow at that moment or the breadth of my gratitude for the life that I have.
It’s been a rough week. A lot of painful memories from my time in the ICU are coming up for me. Dreams that are actually remembered moments of frightened emotions are surfacing. It’s time to face them, as painful as that may be.
I’m reminded of one of my favorite poems I’ve ever written. I wrote it over 5 years ago, but it is just as relavant to how I am feeling to me right now as it was the moment I wrote it.
by Lauren Soffer
Today was a really good day
So why are are my eyes burning
With tears that could never be enough
If I could only cry them
Is it the difference between where I am
And where I could be – should be
Not lying here drowning in the dividing ocean
If I could remember to swim now
How did my life get so crowded
With people who look right through me
Hiding the few who wave right at me
If I could only see them
Maybe I forgot how to see myself
Treading water so long
That the current took me
But couldn’t – don’t want to go back
Because today was a really good day
And my eyes bear witness
Like the growing pain that knocks you down
Will I ever stand up?
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Ninety thousand one hundred and ninety words after starting, I completed the first draft my second novel The Particulars. The final two words were “the” and “end”. Yes I know I’m a tease (there’s a real excerpt at the end of this post). I’m super excited. And yes I left room for a sequel.
I really don’t know what else to say. I’m sitting here in shock. I’m done. Well with the first draft anyway.
I’m not sure what my next move will be, but I’m excited to take the next step having completed phase one.
Here’s a little excerpt from the middle of the novel:
The scent of musty damp earth permeated Veril’s nose. Despite the bright blueish glow emanating from his cell phone, Veril could barely make out his surroundings at first. He stood at the bottom of the stairs blind and and helpless. All he could see was the glow of Logan’s cell ahead of him. He couldn’t hear anything either but the sound of his rapid shallow breaths and the rush of blood past his eardrum. He wiped his sweaty palms on his slacks and waited for his pupils to adjust to the low light.
When he could somewhat see again, he crept forward towards Logan’s light looking around. Straight ahead was a door where Logan waited for him to catch up. On either side of his path were rows of large rectangular boxes made of some sort of rough ancient stone. They looked large enough to hold a fully grown man.
He shone his phone on them to get a better look and nearly dropped it as he jumped back. He clamped his hand over his own mouth stifling a scream. What were all these coffins doing down here?
He wasn’t about to hang around to find out. Shaking, he rushed over to where Logan stood waiting.
“Come on. Let’s go upstairs.” Veril reached for the door knob but Logan caught his wrist.
“Wait!” Logan said.
“Wait for what?” Veril tried to pull his arm away, but Logan’s grip was iron tight.
“I just don’t know if we should be doing this. What if you get caught? This is such a bad idea. I just know it.”
Logan was right. This was a terrible idea. Knowing his luck he’d probably get caught and end up in jail for breaking and entering. His head started to spin at the thought of himself in some prison somewhere. He wouldn’t last a single day in a place like that, and Sam would probably leave him there to rot. He shivered. His legs felt like lead weights. He just wasn’t cut out for this type of thing.
Maybe if Sam were here by his side helping him, he’d feel differently. The thought of Sam made his chest ache. He had to stop being such a loser if he had any hope of a future with her. Besides, Tracy needed his help.
“Look,” Veril’s tried to sound as stern as he could, “one of my students is trapped up there.”
“Can’t you just call the police or something and let them deal with it?”
“And what should I tell the police? That I have a semi-invisible student being held captive in Doctor Cameron Johanson’s library? I’ll be lucky if all they do is laugh at me.”
So there you have it. The Particulars.
Cross posted from http://particulars.laurensoffer.com/2012/04/completing-the-particulars/
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
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
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 2Â 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
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.
From a talk I delivered today in Church for Easter Sunday.
PDF – The Enabling Power of the Atonement by Lauren Soffer
Sometimes I’m just really so grateful for my life. And though everything is ultimately all in God’s hands, I also know that God doesn’t want us to sit around and wait for Him. Going forward with faith, it’s really clear to me that there’s so much I can do to create what I want my life to look like. And so much of that has to do with attitude and structure.
I can chose to be apathetic, bored, isolated, or depressed about my life or I can choose to be excited, engaged, connected, and grateful about my life. And then I need to put that into a structure that reminds me and helps me fulfill on how I’m choosing to be about my life.
To give a concrete example, here’s what I’ve been doing recently. I’d been wanting to change how I’m being about my writing in my life. So now, most every day (six days a week), I get up and start my day at 8am by checking in via Skype with my writing buddy Yudit. In our conversation, we talk about where we are with our writing and what we are going to write next. We also talk about what’s going on in our lives and how we want our attitudes to be for that day. We put how we are going to be into words. For instance, today I’m my attitude has to do with being in touch with divine light in humanity, joy, and connection. Then we write until ten-thirty when we check in again to see how each of our writing projects went.
As a result, not only has my relationship to my writing transformed, but my whole life has transformed. I’ve gone from inconsistently writing about a thousand words a week to writing nearly a thousand words a day consistently. I’m now rapidly approaching the end of the first draft of my second novel, The Particulars. Things have shifted in my life as well. I start out the day now feeling so accomplished that my productivity has increased in every area of my life. I’m getting more website development done. I’m making more progress on the Alternate Reality Game I’m designing. I’m fulfilling on my spiritual goals by reading my scriptures and doing my callings.
And life is just plain good as a result. No, good doesn’t even begin to cover it. Life is wonderful. Life is miraculous and awesome. And I can’t help but feel so very grateful for the wonderful blessing of being alive to enjoy it.
I’m not one to make New Year’s resolutions. They seem too arbitrary. Too easy to make. Too easy to forget.
In my life, I’ve found that everyday is the perfect day to make a resolution. Everyday is a perfect opportunity to commit to something that will transform my life into whatever I am determined to make it.
The key word for me is commitment. Doing what I say I will do when I say I will do it in the way it was meant to be done. This is no small feat. Days are busy and intense, and what I’m committed to often gets buried under layers of things that seem more urgent but are in reality less important.
Fear, too, can be commitment’s nemesis. Like so many people, I am afraid of change. I am sometimes afraid to commit to the very things I ultimately want. But it would be tragic to let fear of abandoning what’s not working but is comfortable determine what I am willing to commit to. So commitment takes courage. The best definition of courage goes like this: courage isn’t the absence of fear but a willingness to act in the face of fear.
So what am I committed to?
Three things immediately come to mind. Writing, health, and faith.
I call myself a writer. And writers write. It’s not hard to realize that I need to write. I have two novels I’m working on. One is a first draft and one is a second draft. I am committed to finishing them and getting them published. It’s great that I say I’m committed, but that is not enough. I need to take actions towards my commitment and be accountable for them. So over a week ago I set up a structure in my life to help me meet my commitment. I got in touch with one of the members of my weekly writing critique group and told her my commitment. I told her that I wanted to be working on my writing for 2 hours every weekday. And I asked her to be my accountability buddy in this commitment. She agreed and requested that I be the same for her. So last week, everyday at 8am we’ve checked in via Skype to talk about what we’ll be writing over the next two hours. The we’ve written until 10am at which point we’ve briefly checked in again to discuss how it went.
It has been a great experience so far. And it’s given me insight into a pattern of steps I need to take to meet my commitments. They are:
- Say it.
- Do it.
- Account for it.
“Say it” is just like it sounds. It’s declaring what I’m committed to and what actions I’m going to take to meet that commitment in a formal fashion so that it is clear what I’m committing to and what I’m going to do about it.
“Do it” means following through on those actions I committed to.
And “Account For It” means to in some way set up a structure of accountability for what I am committed to. That could be another person I ask to hold me to account or it could be something entirely different such as a reward structure for when I meet certain commitments.
So far I have a great structure in place for my writing. I’ve started to setup something similar for my health, but I’ve come up short in the “do it” and “account for it” departments. That doesn’t mean I have to beat myself up for not following through. It’s merely an opportunity to re-commit to my structure. And finally I plan to figure out some sort of structure to support my commitment to my faith.
So this year isn’t a year for New Year’s resolutions so quickly out of sight, out of mind. It’s a year of commitments. Commitments I recommit to everyday, every hour, every minute.
Happy New Year!
The Particulars Cover
This November, I’m going to be participating in National Novel Writing Month where I will try to write 50,000 words in one month. I’m going to be picking up where I left off on The Particulars, my NaNo Novel from last November. Here’s a short synopsis:
The Particulars is Lauren Soffer’s 2011 National Novel Writing Month Novel about Veril Maloit who knows he’s a pretty good writer, but not as amazing as The Particulars – an elite society of published authors who’s work outshines everyone else’s. He sets out to discover what makes them so fabulous by getting into their secret society writing group with the help of his prized graduate student and lover Samantha Elderhopper. Veril is shocked to discover that the group of authors have a dark secret – they are vampires who suck the details out of actual people and things to make their stories so vivid. Now he is faced with a dilemma… beat them or join them.
To learn more about it, check out my latest update on my Particulars Blog. You can also signup to read along as I write!