Posts tagged mom
The ever present hiss of oxygen and the occasional beeping of a monitor are sometimes the only sound I hear for hours, as I lay alone in my hosptial room. I stare at the white sterile walls that surround me. The walls are totally blank with few unnoteworthy exceptions. Sometimes I wish my life were as clean and as sterile as those walls, devoid of any adversitity. It’s an easy thing to wish for when I’ve spend more than half of the last year in the hosptial. If I could whitewash all the years spent facing the pain, lonliness, isolation, boredom, fear, anger, grief, and saddness that comes with a chronic illness that requires very frequent and prolonged hosptializations, wouldn’t I want to?
But then I remember what I am here on earth to do. I remember that my adversity and trials aren’t punishments; they’re gifts that allow me to improve myself, transform my weaknesses, and grow into the person I was always meant to become. I remember that adveristy is a blessed opportunity – even an invitation – from my loving Father in Heaven, to become more like my Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ. I remember that if I were able to whitewash my life and forget all my trials, I’d also forget all the knowledge and blessings that come from them.
It’s been easy for me to get bogged down in the weight of a trial, and completely miss what I am learning and how I am growing from it. Perhaps if I were more methodical, more intetional about learning from adversity, I’d be able to develop more from it. There are five things we all can do to gain more knowledge, growth, and blessings from the hardest things in life.
- Seek Guidance
- Conduct Research
- Count Your Blessings
- Serve Others
- Do It Together
It’s a lot easier to learn something when you figure out what you are learning. Recieve guidance as to what’s there to learn from life’s hardest moments. Sources of guidance can be close friends, family, religious leaders, professional counselors, scriptures and other books, and divine inspiration. I personally realize the lesson in every trial most easily when I read my scriptures frequently and pray unceasingly to my Father in Heaven to reveal to me what He wants me to learn. It reminds me that I am not in control, but that’s completely okay, because the one that is in control, my Heavenly Father, knows exactly what I need to learn, andhow I need to be blessed.
It can be hard to know what you’re learning if you aren’t tracking your course throught the trial. Record your journey in a journal. Look for patterns. Ask yourself and Heavenly Father questions. Pose hypothesis, and then experiment on the results. I recently suggested this to a friend struggling with social situations and feelings of not being included. Instead of thinking negatively about social situations, she tried thinking that people would perceive her in a positive way right before starting an converstation. So far the results have been an off the charts improvement.
When you remember to have an a attitude of graditude you get access to appreciating the good times and the bad. Being grateful even for your trials opens up your ability to grow and change for the better and help you learn so much more from adversity. When I take time to enummerate the ways being chronically ill has bettered my life, I am always astounded by all the good things that have come from it.
Getting out of your own head and focusing on helping others in need, gives you clarity and perspective that can shing light on what there is to learn from your trials. When I take the time to be a good listener for a friend going through something really tough, the weight of my own trials diminishes. As I lift their weight, Heavently Father lifts mine.
When you are in the depths of your trials, it’s easy to forget that you aren’t alone. Whether it other people going through similar things or knowledge of the divine on your side, walking foward hand in hand allows you to both receive and share knowledge and blessings. My default mentality is that I have to do everything hard alone (also that I’m alone in my trials). The good news is neither are at all true. And not only do i not have to do everything alone, but it’s completely impossible to do so. In fact, this life was *designed* to teach me (and all of us) not to do it alone. Instead I should rely on Christ, his teachings, and his disciples to get me through everything, from the smallest of small to the most miraculous triumphs that aren’t even imaginable to my feeble mortal minds. And we are the opposite of alone in our trials, we have a brother in Heaven that has a *perfect understanding* of what we are going through. I don’t even have a perfect understanding of what I’m going through, but through Christ I can start to come to an understanding.
In what ways do you gain knowledge and blessings from your trials? Please share in the comments!
Last Sunday I was asked to speak in church about making and fulfilling on goals. I also introduced an exciting new project that my ward (or congregation) will be participating in. I attend a ward for young single adults members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
The President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Thomas S. Monson, told this thought provoking story in an October 1976 General Conference talk:
Several days ago, while driving to my home, I approached the entrance to Interstate 15. At the on-ramp I noticed three hitchhikers, each one of whom carried a homemade sign which announced his desired destination. One sign read “Los Angeles,” while a second carried the designation “Boise.” However, it was the third sign which not only caught my attention but caused me to reflect and ponder its message. The hitchhiker had lettered not Los Angeles, California, nor Boise, Idaho, on the cardboard sign which he held aloft. Rather, his sign consisted of but one word and read simply “ANYWHERE.” Here was one who was content to travel in any direction, according to the whim of the driver who stopped to give him a free ride. What an enormous price to pay for such a ride. No plan. No objective. No goal. The road to anywhere is the road to nowhere, and the road to nowhere leads to dreams sacrificed, opportunities squandered, and a life unfulfilled.
Thomas S. Monson, Which Road Will You Travel?
Imagine each of you are holding a sign up right now that says where you are going in life. What does your sign say? What would you like it to say? And what would you like it to say if Christ were sitting next to you right now?
Your sign is another way of representing your life goals. There are a lot of types of goals in life that lead down many different roads in this world. We all want to go somewhere in life that will bring us happiness. Though many things of the world try to convince us they offer happiness, how can we choose worthy goals that will bring us lasting happiness? Even eternal happiness.
Eternal happiness is a life long goal. Like many goals in life, we cannot get there in one stride. There are steps we can take to help us set worthy goals for our lives as we ultimately seek eternal life. Here are six steps we can take to make and fulfill on worthy goals:
Step One is to decide.
When set a goal you first need to decide where you want to be in the future. As President Monson’s earlier story illustrated, you can’t get where you want to go, if you don’t know where you are going.
Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said:
“[…] set explicit goals. You should look ahead now and decide what you want to do with your lives. Fix clearly in your mind what you want to be one year from now, five years, ten years, and beyond.” (“Running Your Marathon,” October 1989 General Conference)
Once you know where you want to get to in the future, you need to decide on a goal. Goals can be big and small, long and short term, and fall under any category of your life.
President Ezra Taft Benson, thirteenth President of the Church said:
“Every accountable child of God needs to set goals, short- and long-range goals. […] Some will be continuing goals.[…]” (“Do Not Despair,” Ensign, Oct. 1986).
President Benson also mentions that there are four main areas of goals in our lives: mental, physical, and social, spiritual, as well as the lifetime goal of becoming perfect unto Christ.
A. Mental Goals may include completing higher education, learning new trades or occupations, improving skills in a craft or creative area.
D&C 88:118 reads:
And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.
D&C 130:19 promises:
And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come.
B. Physical Goals may include increasing your body’s strength, endurance, dexterity, excelling at sport, or improving overall health. These would also include goals to improve your obedience to gospel principals like dressing modestly and obeying the Word of Wisdom.
“Cease to be idle; cease to be unclean; cease to find fault one with another; cease to sleep longer than is needful; retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary; arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated” (D&C 88:124).
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 reads:
19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?
20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.
C. Social Goals may include improving skills in listening, parenting, public speaking, and leadership.
Proverbs 18:24 tells us:
24 A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.
D. Spiritual Goals may include building your testimony, increasing your faith in a gospel principal, magnifying your calling, doing a service project, and increasing temple attendance.
D&C 42:61 states:
61 If thou shalt ask, thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things—that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal.
E. Lifetime Goals are goals of an eternal nature that help you to become perfect unto Christ.
President Ezra Taft Benson said:
Each week when we partake of the sacrament we commit ourselves to the goals of taking upon ourselves the name of Christ, of always remembering him and keeping his commandments. Of Jesus’ preparations for his mission, the scripture states that he ‘increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.’ (Luke 2:52.) This encompasses four main areas for goals: spiritual, mental, physical, and social. ‘Therefore, what manner of men ought ye to be?’ asked the Master, and he answered, ‘Verily I say unto you, even as I am.’ (3 Ne. 27:27.) Now, there is a lifetime goal–to walk in his steps, to perfect ourselves in every virtue as he has done, to seek his face, and to work to make our calling and election sure (“Do Not Despair,” Ensign, Oct. 1986).
Step Two is to Ponder and Pray.
Once we’ve decided on what we want for ourselves and your futures, we can prayerfully ponder steps we should take and make a plan of action. We can seek revelation in our Patriarchal blessings as to what goals to make and how to execute those goals in our lives.
Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin said:
Receive your patriarchal blessing and strive to live worthy of its promises. A patriarchal blessing is one of the most important guides in life that members of the Church enjoy. Write your goals and review them regularly. Keep them before you constantly, record your progress, and revise them as circumstances dictate. (“Running Your Marathon,” October 1989 General Conference)
Step Three is to Place Milestones.
Milestones are defined as “an action or event marking a significant change or stage in development.” Milestones help us to see we are growing and changing. They help us to strive towards something and achieve more than we otherwise would have. Goals are not meant to be achieved in one large chunk, but just as learning is done “line upon line, precept upon precept“ (D&C 98:12) so should goals be broken down into smaller goals. Place milestones on the path to your goal ahead of time and work towards them.
Step Four is to Set Reminders.
When you have a constant physical reminder of your goal it becomes more real. One of my goals is to always become more Christ-like, so I have a painting and a stature of Christ in my bedroom that I can see from where I sit while I work. Whenever I need a extra sense of peace or need to be reminded of my goal I glance up at Christ and my purpose is restored. Wearing a CTR ring or setting a daily reminder in your phone to exercise or read your scriptures are other examples.
Step Five is to Take Action.
It’s great to decide where you wan to go, ponder and pray, place milestones, and set reminders, but all of that will be ineffective if we don’t take action.
D&C 60:13 reads:
“Thou shalt not idle away thy time, neither shalt thou bury thy talent that it may not be known” (D&C 60:13).
Step Six is to Be Accountable.
When you have a system of accountability your results in your goals will increase.
Elder M. Russel Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said:
Write down the tasks you would like to accomplish each day. Keep foremost in mind the sacred covenants you have made with the Lord as you write down your daily schedules. (“Keeping Life’s Demands in Balance,” April 1987 General Conference)
Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin suggests:
Write your goals and review them regularly. Keep them before you constantly, record your progress, and revise them as circumstances dictate. (“Running Your Marathon,” October 1989 General Conference)
There is no where on Earth more important to achieving Eternal Life than The House of the Lord, the Temple.
We should all make the Temple our biggest goal whether it’s to get there for the first time, to get there more often, or to increase or testimony of the Temple.
The first time I wanted to enter the Temple I was four years old. I remember the moment so vividly. I was riding in the car with my parents and we drove by the Los Angeles Temple. I was immediately drawn to it. It felt very special and I knew I had to go in. I had never been so curious about what occurred inside a building before, but I ached to be a part of it. I asked my mom what it was, and she answered, that it was “someone else’s Temple and I couldn’t ever go in.” As a young Jewish girl, I was curious who else built Temples, and was disappointed that I couldn’t be involved, but I accepted her answer. However I hung onto that early memory though it was buried.
I wasn’t until years later that I was investigating the church more than twenty years later that the memory surfaced. The desire to go into the Temple was stronger than ever. So I decided consciously this time that my goal was the Temple. And I placed milestones to get there. I set Baptismal date. Took the missionary discussions. Got Baptized four and half years ago. Once that was completed, I went to the Temple to do baptisms for the first time. It was amazing and powerful. It Spirit was so strong. But my Temple journey didn’t end there. I wanted to get endowed. So set new milestones. I accepted callings. Took the Temple Prep class. And then I received my endowment. It was the best decision I could have made. My decision to set the Temple as my goal has blessed my life more than I can even comprehend. More than I had ever imagined as a little four year old that had a secret goal of going to the Temple.
Elaine S. Dalton said the following in April 2012 General Conference:
[…] I [was] thrilled as I listened to Elder David A. Bednar invite each of you to become anxiously engaged in doing your own family history and temple work for those who have passed on without the blessings of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. As he issued this invitation to you, my heart leapt inside. In the Doctrine and Covenants we read of “other choice spirits who were reserved to come forth in the fulness of times to take part in laying the foundations of the great latter-day work, including the building of … temples and the performance of ordinances therein for the redemption of the dead.” This is your day, and your work has begun! Now is the time to be worthy of and obtain a temple recommend. As you do this work, you will become saviors on Mount Zion. (“Now Is The Time To Arise And Shine!,” April 2012 General Conference)
What an amazing promise: to be a savior on Mount Zion. And we can all achieve that. Especially in light of a new program relating to ward Temple and Family History work that’s being presented today. You may have seen the posters in either foyer and you should have a copy of your own to take home in each of your programs (pictured left). As a ward we will be collectively be researching our own family histories to find Family File names. Familly file names are from your own family lineage. You research them and then take them to the temple to do ordinances for those ancestors.
As a ward, our goal will be to do a thousand family file names. Each family file name will count once (regardless of how many ordinances you do for each name). Since goals don’t happen in one stride, we will have milestones along the way of 100 family file names completed, then 200 names, then 300, and so on up to 1000.
Elaine S. Dalton said the following in April 2012 General Conference:
The promised blessings of the temple extend not only to you but to all generations. As you make the temple your goal, your influence for good will transcend time and place, and the work you perform for those who have gone before will be the fulfillment of prophecy! (“Now Is The Time To Arise And Shine!,” April 2012 General Conference)
I know that as we do this work for our ancestors we will bless them and we also will be blessed.
Elder Marvin J. Ashton said:
“May we launch straightway toward setting goals that are gospel oriented, knowing that if we use the talents that are ours–that if we help others, strive for peace, avoid being overly sensitive or overly critical–strength upon strength will be added unto our own abilities and we will move straightway toward greater growth, happiness, and eternal joys”. (“Straightway,” April 1983 General Conference)
I like to leave you with my testimony that I know that setting and fulfilling on goals is a way we can achieve eternal happiness. I know that as we set our goals on the Temple and other eternal things we will be blessed with peace, happiness, knowledge and revelation, and other things we need in our lives. I know that through Temples families can be together forever. I love the Temple. I love Heavenly Father and I love the Savior, Jesus Christ. And I say this in His name, Amen.
And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!
And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!
When that scripture is usually quoted it’s typically in reference to helping bring others to Christ. But today, I thought of it in a different context. Because today was truly a joyous occasion for me. Today, Friday, March 7th, 2014, marks the 4 year anniversary of the day I entered the waters of baptism and joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. To this day I know with every fiber of my being that decision to get baptized was the best decision I’ve ever made for myself. That day, March 7th, 2010, I brought my own soul unto Christ, and I have never been more joyful!
It began with a quest like many good stories do. My quest was to find a close connection with Heavenly Father. My problem was I wasn’t really sure He existed. But I wanted to believe so badly. My quest, which originated in the Reform Jewish Synagogue of my youth, took me to lots of different places and to many congregations. Never feeling complete or satisfied. Always searching for something more. I was interested in college in how my Christian friend cultivated a close and personal relationship with Christ and would occasionally attend her college group prayer meetings at her church to see if I could glean how they went about it and apply it to my own quest. I told them straight up that Christ wasn’t for me. I remember that kind Youth Pastor prayed with me that I would find my own truth in my own time. Whatever it was. I appreciated that a lot.
Years later I was going to a Universalist Unitarian Church, but I still hadn’t found what I was seeking. At the same time, I needed to hire a caregiver. I had been in a wheelchair for over a year due to multiple autoimmune diseases causing extreme pain that made it impossible to walk. The new caregiver I hired was Mormon. We would talk about religion all the time. Sharing about our different background. Her being raised in the Church. Me being raised Jewish, Bat Mitzvah’d, Confirmed and having taught Temple Religious School, but still searching. I admired how close she was to God. How personal it was for her. How it was such a source of strength, peace and hope in times of stress and darkness. I wanted that for myself on some level but I didn’t believe. And I couldn’t just suddenly believe in something I didn’t believe in just because I wanted to.
However, she convinced me to start praying on a regular basis. I’d never said a personal prayer before. I didn’t even know how to go about it until she explained it to me. It felt super awkward at first but slowly more comfortable.
It wasn’t until I decided to try an experiment that things started to shift for me. I decided to try adding “In the name of Jesus Christ” to the end of all my prayers, just as an experiment to see if it felt any different. I was amazing to realize there was in fact a subtle but significant difference. It brought a sense of calm and peace, love and comfort into my heart.
I remember telling my caregiver, “I wonder what kind of miracle it would take to get me from not believing in Christ as the Redeemer of the World to accepting Him as the Savior of all Mankind. What would it take to change my whole belief system?”
So when my caregiver asked me yet again to attend Church with her and to get a blessing for healing I finally agreed.
I loved Church. I remember feeling such a sense of peace and warmth come over me the entire time. Then it was time for the blessing of healing. From the moment the two missionaries giving the blessing put their hands on head, I felt Heavenly Father’s love for me so intensely I thought I might pass out. The way I experienced His love for me was so all encompassing and so complete, it was just sooo awe inspiring to know that I am that loved and that known by God. And that He is real. And that He lives.
In that instant I knew that I wouldn’t have had this experience if I wee not the in the right place to have it. I knew it was a signal from God to join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I started taking the missionary discussions and was baptized 6 weeks later. And I walked into the baptismal font (with the help of my caregiver) having started walking the same week of the blessing. My baptism was held during the 3rd hour of Church, so my whole Young Single Adult Ward attended it. My Dad and his girl friend were also able to attend. My baptism was so special. I’ll never forget those tender and elated feelings I had coming out of the waters of baptism, feeling more pure than I’d ever felt before. I will treasure those memories always.
The last four years, haven’t been the easiest, but they’ve been richer and more joyful with the gospel in my life. Through the hard times and all the hospitalizations especially, it’s given me so much strength to endure. In the happy times, it gives me so much more context in which to enjoy each moment. The gospel truly is the greatest gift in my life. I’ve learned so much, gained so much, my life has been so blessed in every way!
I’ve received my my Patriarchal Blessing, a piece a personal scripture and revelation that is individual to each person who receives it, given by men ordained of God to give such blessings. I’ve held multiple callings (or volunteer positions) in my Ward at Church. And I’ve gone to the Temple, the House of the Lord.
To celebrate, today I went to the Los Angeles Temple with a dear friend and spent some quality time there. There was no place I felt that would be more appropriate to send commemorating my baptism, than in the House of the Lord where I can reflect, seek peace, calm, protection, and revelation from on high.
I am so grateful for this gospel and this Church. I’m grateful for my baptism. I am so thankful for the chance we all have to repent of our sins, enter the waters of baptism, be cleansed, and start fresh. I am grateful for my Savior, Jesus Christ. And I’m grateful for my Heavenly Father and the chance I have to return to Him through this work.
I consider myself a very productive person. I get a lot of things done. I’ve accomplished quite a bit. I’ve written two novels, designed many websites, worked on Alternate Reality Games for organizations like the Cerebral Palsy Foundation and The World Bank, maintain an active social, family, and most importantly spiritual life. I take care of my health with doctor’s and therapy appointments, meet weekly with my writing group, craft excessively, serve in multiple church callings, and blog now and then. My plate is overflowing, so let’s just say I’m up to some big things! However, to date, I’ve managed to do all this without any significant structured planning of my time on a day to day basis. Maybe you’ll find it impressive that I’ve gone so long without any sort of a schedule or plan, just doing what seem right in the moment, as it occurs to me. That’s code for “whatever task is stressing me out the most that second”.
Enough is enough.
I decided it’s time to try Getting Things Done in a more organized way. Conveniently for me, Getting Things Done or GTD, as it’s often referred to by its adherents, is a system for just what its name implies – getting things done. It was created by David Allen, and there’re plenty of resources in other locations where you can learn more about GTD. But for a quick overview, check out this infographic:
Once I learned about this system, and with some help and advice from others, I decided to focus on creating a schedule for myself based on GTD. The idea being I would now have set “Bucket Times” to manage all the areas on my life according to the principals of GTD. But I’ll get back to Bucket Times later.
The main problem I was facing with finding a system that would work with me was finding something I could stick with. In the past systems either were so cumbersome, scheduling and planning me so rigidly that I couldn’t realistically do it long term. Or on the other hand, the systems were so vague and abstract, focusing only on broad goals that they didn’t help me commit to anything. The third category of problem systems were ones that were incomplete, only addressing certain aspects of what I needed from an organization system and leaving me feeling semi-organized but ultimately even more overwhelmed. Why? Because now I knew exactly what I needed to do but had no structures in place to help me accomplish any of it.
To address of this, I there are 4 major components to my personalized GTD system I am putting into place initially. (This is just to get started. After these are going well I will add more.)
- Identify 6-9 Major Areas of Life
- Roles and areas are the major categories of your life such as Family, School, Faith, Friends, Work, Writing etc.
- List 10 Most Pressing Tasks Under Each Major Role/Area
- Most pressing tasks are tasks that currently need to be taken for that area. For example, for Family, it might be something like “Spend time with Mom” or “Game Night.” For Work, it might be “Sign the Parsons contract” or “Return Sonya’s phone call.” Any task that has more than two steps is called a Project.
- Create A Weekly Schedule of Bucket Times To Stick To Each Week
- Bucket Times are blocks of time designated at the same time every week for completing tasks in each of your Major Areas. For example, I created Spiritual Time every evening from 10pm – 11pm. During those times I will refer to my List of Tasks for that Area of Life for to do items to complete. See the Downloads Section at the bottom of this post for an Excel template tool to help with this!
- Generate Mind-Dump Of EVERY Open Loop In Life
- Open loops are thought processes that are incomplete. They keep the mind’s inbox full when it’s most productive empty. Empty that inbox by downloading everything in it! Generate a complete list of everything, every to do, action item, task, someday task, maybe task, goal, dream ,wish, hope, plan, etc. Include everything from “Remember to pick up the milk” to “Improve relationship with Dad” to “Travel the world”. Get that mind completely empty and onto something tangible and permanent that is workable for future reference.
Once I had a plan of action, it was just a matter of putting it into place…
Starting is always easier said than done.
I needed some help getting started. So I decided to enroll someone else to do this thing with me. No, not all of you readers! My dear writing buddy who I create my day with every morning. I told her all about his idea and explained GTD to her (the Cliff Notes version). She was on board.
Over Skype, we came up with our Major Areas of Life. This is mine:
Next I began to list my lost pressing tasks under each area. I’m constantly working on my list.
Then I created a schedule by which I would process the list of tasks. But instead of a rigid list of strictly scheduled times like ones that hadn’t worked for me in the past, I am working with a schedule of Bucket Times. The beauty of Bucket Times is it structured enough in that it gives you a set time you are committed to making forward progress in an area of your life, but it is flexible enough that you still get to choose what is most expedient to do within that Area. Furthermore, the whole schedule isn’t so rigid that the whole thing risks being thrown off if you go over a few minutes. As I see it, if you get behind you are often still within your bucket time for that type of item. And even if you aren’t you can rest assured that you have more time scheduled for that item soon. So file add it to your Bucket Time list for later. Lastly, the overarching rule is that this isn’t a rigid system, meaning the operative work is: expediency.
When all else fails, do whatever is most expedient in the moment.
I am committed to using this new system for a trial of the next 3 months. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to seeing an upswing in my productivity. And more importantly a decrease in my feelings of overwhelm at not knowing how to handle the overflowing plate that is my life. In this analogy, I’ve been eating off an overflowing plate for a long long time. Sure I’ve been digesting my food and getting nutrient, but lots of things haven’t been sitting well. GTD is a set of silverware – tools to help me eat my food, so that I can take small manageable bites and digest it easily and effectively. The schedule works like a restaurant menu (thanks Paul for that one!) with various selections for each category of food or area of my life. Some items or Tasks on the menu are more bland and others are the spice of life!
Give me a helping of work every weekday. Indulge in a double portion of friendship on weekends. A spicy side dish of romance if I’m so lucky! Pile it on my plate and enjoy a delicious, nutritious, and satisfying life!
Stay tuned for Part Two of this post series on Generating a Mind-Dump of All Your Open Loops coming soon! Get an email reminder when it comes out! Subscribe to the newsletter!
I hope you enjoy the Downloads below. The Weekly Schedule Templates for Microsoft Excel should be helpful tools for planning a schedule in the fashion described in this post. Please post comments with ideas for improvements, and I will do my best to make them.
Wouldn’t it be amazing if, during our darkest hour, we could reach under our bed and open up a box of hope? A “box of hope” could be a figurative thing that we reach inside ourselves or out to God to find. But sometimes you need something more. Sometimes you need a literal box of hope. And that is just what I created for myself during my darkest hour.
When I was 16 years old, during my senior year of high school, I was immersed in a deep and serious clinic depression. My Obsessive Compulsive Disorder had just been diagnosed but was not yet under control. I had constant intrusive thoughts of hurting myself – of ending my life.
Looking back I really had amazing self control on the whole. But I could only handle so much. The second time I caved in to the constant bombardment of intrusive images of self-harm, and I ended up cutting myself using razor blades my parents had forgotten to hide out in the garage.
Afterward I was on the phone with my therapist at the time. She was telling me I was at a crossroads… that if I chose to continue down this path of cutting I would probably end up in a hospital. I wasn’t really listening to what she was saying. Instead, I was transfixed by what was sitting on the desk in front of me – the candle-lighting piece my mom had made for my younger sister’s Bat Mitzvah. She had glued this tiny shells all over the outside of it go with my sister’s tropical theme. And it struck me then with incredible intensity how very beautiful those tiny shells were – how simply amazing it was that something SO tiny could be SO beautiful. And if something that tiny in life could be that beautiful… well all of life was beautiful and precious as well.
I rushed to get off the phone with my therapist. I knew that I had to find a way to hang onto this feeling. I had stumbled upon my internal box of hope! But I knew that it wouldn’t be easy to tap into again. I had to find a way to make it physical while it was fresh in my mind. I had to find a way to remind myself of this epiphany every day because I knew there would be many dark days ahead where I would desperately need to draw on my box of hope.
So I had my mom (who is good at crafty things) help me cover an old shoe box with some bright pretty wrapping paper. I wanted my box of hope to be private and inconspicuous on the outside. I didn’t tell her what it was for, but perhaps sensing my urgency she kindly helped me anyway. Then I took the box upstairs to my room and set to work.
Going through pictures and old magazines I decorated the inside of the box with things I wanted to do with my life, places I wanted to travel, people who cared about me, things that filled me with hope. I hadn’t yet found out if I had gotten into USC Film School (a few months later I did), so I put a picture of a director’s chair with “USC Alumni” written on it. I glued in some of the very shells that had led me to make the box to remind me of how beautiful life could be.
I put a picture of myself as a child to remind myself of happy memories of my childhood innocence. I was obsessed with The X-Files and desperately wanted to know how it would all end, so I put a picture of that as well.
Most importantly I wrote in large purple letters:
I CHOOSE TO CONTINUE LIVING
I WILL GET THROUGH THIS
Then it was time to fill the box. Inside I placed a smiling drama mask to remind me of my love of theater and the creative arts since creativity had always sustained me during dark times and given me something to look forward to.
Next went the rug I wove myself while learning about Native Americans in elementary school. I had always hated looking at it when I was younger because I hadn’t done it perfectly like my best friend Jennifer. But over time I came to love it for it’s imperfections. In the box, it reminded me that imperfection could be beautiful too!
I put in a bracelet I made when I was 11. All the beads were pretty by themselves but together well… it reminds me that you can have too much of a good thing. But also to have fun and to have a sense of humor in all things.
Second to last I put in a rope I tediously made myself during Outdoor Education in 5th grade. I spent over an hour with my hands going numb in an icy cold river laboriously pounding all the moisture out of a reed before braiding it into a rope. It reminds me of the power of hard work. And the rope itself, which could hold my whole body weight, reminds me to always be strong.
Finally I included a letter that saved my life one day. I was home alone after school and feeling very suicidal. I was searching for a knife to cut myself with. Suddenly, I had a prompting to go check the mail before I got any further. I almost never received any mail, but on that very day the following letter was there for me.
I cried when I read the letter. It quite possibly saved my life that day. I stopped looking for a knife and starting trying to figure out who could have sent it. I didn’t think about hurting myself at all for the rest of that day. The letter reminds me that I am loved even when I don’t realize it or it doesn’t feel that way, and that God is there working miracles in my life.
I looked at my box of hope every day for about a year. It got me through a lot of very dark hours and days and months. Then there came a time when I could carry my box of hope around with me in my heart, and I didn’t need to look at it so often.
Now it mostly sits in my closet, but I always know it is there if I need it. But today I was talking with a friend who is going through a very dark time in her life, and I told her about it. I offered to send her photos of it, but, I thought, why not go a step farther and share it here? Perhaps there is someone else who needed a little box of hope today.
I first published this post on my Box of Hope in 2010 on my now mostly retired blog, NovelPatient which chronicled my life with multiple chronic illnesses. At the time, I was surprised by how positively the post was received. I have since realized that everyone needs a box of hope to draw on in times of trouble. For most people that box is figurative. But for me… my hope is now something I can pull out of the closest whenever I need it. I can wrap myself in my blanky and see, feel, smell and touch the contents of box, encircled in eternal hope.
Has anyone else made a box of hope or something similar? Please share and post about it in the comments!
Today I made it home from the hospital. I was there three weeks with one week in the ICU. It’s amazing what a chain reaction an allergic reaction to latex can set off. Due to a series of mixups it took an extra 5 and a half hours to get out of the hospital today. Hurry up and wait was the name of the game.
It’s so so good to be home!
It’s amazing the things you don’t appreciate enough when you are always around to have them.
Greeting my doggy at the door he freaked out and cried at seeing me. Ran in circles. Happy as can be. I didn’t even want to climb into my bed until I hit the shower. So I took a nice long one for the first time in three weeks. It felt amazing to get clean. Then bed. There’s nothing like being in my own bed. It even smells right. Finally, food. Eating some of my mom’s dinner was a perfect way to celebrate coming home.
All these things are small, but they are the things that make my home…. my home.
Home is a sacred space. Just like a church or temple, the home is holy. I’m so grateful to my Heavenly Father for getting me home safe and sound.
And it’s good to be home.
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.
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?
Why gratitude? I’ve been in the hospital. I’ve been sick. Really sick. Several weeks on life support when I was too weak to breathe on my own. So though there’s been moments of fear, of anger, of bitterness, of longing, of frustration, when I think about what has really filled my heart throughout this ordeal it is gratitude. This experience has left me so so so grateful for my life!
My family has been amazing. They’ve been here nearly every single day to make sure things went right and to be my support and my company. To hold my hand and to just let me know they love me.
My friends… I can’t even think about how hugely the’ve been here for me without getting teary eyed. They’ve sent cards and gifts. And most importantly they’ve showed up and entertained during these long dark weeks. My friends make me feel so loved. I don’t know how I’m so deserving, but I try to be better everyday to deserve how well my friends treat me.
My Heavenly Father and Savior Jesus Christ. Without them I would be so lost. They give me the strength to endure these tough times. And I am grateful for these hard times as the polish me into the person my Father in Heaven would have me be.
My self expression. I’ve spent most of the past six weeks a complete mute. Communicating by writing notes either on paper or one my laptop since it’s rather hard to talk with a breathing tube down your throat. But last night I got a special valve to put on my tracheotomy that allows me to start to speak again.
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)
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?)
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:
And I say this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
From a talk I delivered today in Church for Easter Sunday.