The future is as bright as your hope

Someone during general conference said this. I think he was quoting President Monson, and I think the actual quote is “The future is as bright as your faith.”

The actual quote–in my limited experience–is 100% wrong. It adds to the confusion of hope and faith (which are separate and individual) without really helping the hearer understand what is meant.

Faith is necessary, of course. But if the future is to be bright, faith does not provide the light. It provides the why, not the means.

Hope provides the light. When languishing in darkness, faith can exist (for me it always did), but I was completely without hope. I had no light because I had no hope. Faith provided cognitive understanding of what God could do, but it provided no expectation that He would.

Whose praise do I seek?

I’ve started writing this post about five times.

Often I will come up with titles, schedule the post, and let thoughts sit a while before writing.

So when I say I’ve started this post several times, I mean it’s been on the docket for a while and I haven’t found the words to say to make it right.

Whose praise do I seek? What is the ultimate motivation for my actions? Do I focus on my need for social approval? Am I motivated by the expectations a friend has of me? Do I rely (still) on parental approval? Do all of my actions go through the filter of “what does the girl I like want me to do?”

Or are my motivations something else? Are my motivations intrinsic? Are they extrinsic? Do I look to another source for praise and approval?

Where should I look? Most people believe the ideal is to look within and only seek your own approval. I take issue with that. 

I recognize my vision is extremely limited. By assuming my intrinsic approval is all I need, I assume the that myopic vision I have of my capabilities is perfect sight. 

It is not. I strongly agree my actions and choices must align with my core values. However, i must look for approval and praise from a source who has greater vision and wider perspective than I have. 

I must look to God for praise. I must continually seek His approval. Through many years of effort and learning, I have aligned my core values with Father’s will. 

So as I tread the path I am on, forks in my road will come. Occasionally my desires and wants (for career stability, a caring woman, few struggles, etc.) are not met. My initial reaction is to mentally rebel and complain. However, although I need a modicum of my own praise and approval–it’s required for mental stability–the praise I seek is that of Father. 

Father knows my skills, He knows my capabilities, He knows my intentions. Because He knows what I am able to do, He is the best guide for my life. I may not immediately need or be prepared for the things I don’t yet have. 

He knows the ideal path for me. He will let me choose where I go, but He also judges me along that ideal path. He is Good. And in being Good, all things He gives are good and are best for my growth. Many are hard. (Most?) But they force me to grow beyond what I believed I could. 

In my heart, all I want is to please Him. Because in pleasing Him, I will gain everything i desire that truly matters: To be like Him in every way. 

Let go and let God

Once upon a time, Nephi Guymon (yes that’s his real name, check out @nephiguymon on twitter, he’s freaking hilarious) and I were missionaries. On a daily basis, we offered hope to people who would accept additional truth in their lives.

We often met with a lady named Brenda. (There are tons of jokes that go with that, Nephi knows, but today is a serious memory of her.)

For the record, Brenda was more than a little off her rocker–in our naivete, we chose not to see that immediately–and had her brain more than a bit addled by prior drug use.

However, she’d often tell us “Let go and let God.” She’d just repeat it over and over. As a grammarian, I never really got it. Honestly, I still don’t. It is a phrase that needs completing: “let God ___[what?]___”

I’ve been thinking about the phrase recently. I’m not sure I understand it much better, but perhaps if I complete the phrase with “let God be in charge” it makes more sense.

The last ten months have been an exercise in this for me. I’ve had about zero control over the course of my life, and that has completely startled me and left me pretty without hope. Many times I’ve had to let go of the control I wanted to exercise and just let God ______. Honestly I have no idea what He’s done with the control I’ve given Him. I may not know for a while. But I know He does stuff. That’s the benefit of leaving the blank space; something is happening; I just have to trust it.

Some things have surfaced, so I could see what He’s done and some of the purposes of my endurance (I hate that word: “overcoming” is my goal), but much of the time I’m left with a blank in the “let God _____” category. I don’t know what He’s done.

So I say this different than did Brenda. Her phrase was final: “Let go and let God.” Mine is open-ended. Let go and let God ______.

Benefits of depression: Recognition of depth of faith

I don’t miss my depression. A friend of mine writes he misses his. That certainly would not be something I would ever say outright. Being at the depth of a canyon filled with heavy water is not a place to which I want to return. 

But I learned things about myself during that time. Things I likely would not have learned in an easier way. 

I’m not sure I had a darkest moment. I had a lot of really dark moments, though. During each of them–without fail, without exception–I turned to God. I might have been crying on the floor of my shower, but I turned to God and prayed. 

It’s a common wonder among people who grew up LDS whether they would be or become members of The Church had they not been born to believing parents. I’ve often concluded I would not. 

After this experience, I believe I would have searched. I would have spent so much time questioning, learning, searching for something additional beyond the miracles science gives us. There are things our current science cannot explain. (That’s ok, the purpose of science is to eventually be able to explain all things.)

In my darkest moment I needed something more. I needed understanding. I needed something sure in my life. If I had not been born to the parents I have, if I had not been taught the sure Truths of Eternity, this would have been the time I searched until I found them. 

No single friend, no counselor, no mentor, no parent could have brought the surety in my wave-ridden, windy, dark, and wet moments of depression that the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ brought me. 

Nothing else can bring that level of peace and acceptance. No amount of social interaction, medication (self- or otherwise), or anything else could have brought me to the stable place from which i had to start rebuilding my life. 

I don’t miss my depression. But it revealed things to me. It revealed the depth of my faith. My beliefs, my knowledge, my trust in God are rooted deeply in the core of who I am, and I am willing to endure smelting and fulling to become someone better (Mal 3:2-3). God sees my blueprint, even if I do not, and He is willing to guide me through Hell to achieve His vision of my future. 

All I want is to be understood (and/or loved)

For years I’ve toyed with the idea that some of my social discomfort is based on some diagnosable trait. Maybe I’m slightly autistic or something. I have no real clue. I was looking for an explanation. 

I don’t understand everything about myself. I know as a certainty that I have some things, that I am some things. But going through this period of depression and having ups downs and relapses made me question how much I really know about myself. 

I want only to be understood. I want to understand myself. I want to have someone else who wants to understand me and works at it. I’m grateful (it doesn’t always help) to have a God who understands me. 

Barring understanding, I want to be loved. It would be nice to have both. But if I’m loved (by myself and by others) then I think not being understood would be bearable. 

Loneliness kills you

(This is an especially poignant post and I experienced this the day the previous post was published, despite having writing this several weeks prior.)

BYU published a report of a study several professors did regarding the effect of loneliness on longevity. 

The results of the study were quite startling, but telling in my opinion. The story is linked here. 

Loneliness has similar risk factors for reduced longevity as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and alcoholism and has more of an impact on reduced longevity than obesity. 

That’s serious stuff. This discovery makes me shudder at what I’ve endured from July 2014-March 2015. I was mostly alone during that time, and if I wasn’t alone I was socially isolated (similar risk factors as loneliness).

Much of the depression I went through was due to these things. I was on my own. Me and Jesus against all the world. Although I didn’t always look up to see him there. 

For years I had someone there for me. For years I had a core of friends I could confide in–friends who helped me maintain equilibrium and avoid the pitfalls of loneliness. 

But for nearly a year, I’ve felt alone. No one to turn to except in prayer. I’m supposed to believe that is sufficient. God is enough. And for the most part that’s true. It wasn’t until I realized He worked through people around me that I needed to make changes that wouldn’t perpetuate my loneliness. 

I still feel lonely often, but that is changing, and I can combat that. I need help, and I need angels around me to assist me, but I don’t have to choose to be alone. 

Sometimes crying is all you can do

I complained a lot about moving. I had some reason to. I thought I was going to live where I was for a while. I thought I was going to enjoy the job I had, the location, and my life. When none of those things were true, I didn’t really turn my mind around and decide that moving would be an ok thing to do.

So moving didn’t sound like any fun. It wasn’t. Unlike all my previous moves, I had some friends help out. That made the insanity of getting everything I own (and everything I ever owned–my parents cleared my out of their home last July) much more bearable. I hadn’t have help moving previously, so it was nice to have some friends step forward and help.

My room still isn’t perfect. I don’t know where it all fits yet. But I’m in and every moment here has been better.

I sat in church my first Sunday in my new ward and just cried.

With so much building up for so long, sitting in church among friends was just Right. It simply was. I knew so many people and so many of them knew me. I knew they cared (some of them) and I knew God loved me. Moving back was a brilliant showing of God’s love for me. He knew I needed people nearby whom I would trust enough to share my burdens with. He knew I needed love in my life from people I hardly knew.

And so I simply sat in church and wept. Wept out of happiness. Wept with gratitude. Wept with the love of a kind Father filling my heart and forcing out some of my deepest fears.

I was surrounded by friends, but the poor girl to my right didn’t know me. I hope she didn’t feel too strange, because sometimes all you can do is cry, and you shouldn’t apologize for that.

Connections between trials and gratitude

As I’ve experienced incredible difficulty, I’ve noticed something change in my life. 

I say thank you a lot more. 

Some of those who have been most helpful to me might be tired of hearing me say those two words. Often I don’t elaborate of why I am thankful. Those reasons are often too close to my emotional breakin points. 

Sometimes “thank you” is all I can manage. But I manage it. It’s important for me to acknowledge to them that they’ve been helpful. I’ve needed so much help–I’ve needed help in ways I never thought I would and I’ve needed assistance with things I’m not able to do myself. 

As I’ve struggled, I’ve become more humble. I’ve had to ask for help. I believe acknowledging that help is critical, and I’ve had a lot of practice at it. 

Saying “thank you” has helped me keep close to my friends and to Heavenly Father. Please don’t wait until you struggle to say “thank you” more often. It’s not worth enduring the trials I have to learn something so simple. 

Why you should take up an endurance sport

I’m a sprinter. I’ve probably referenced this before. When I play volleyball, the only thing that matters is how fast I can get to a place on the floor within the gym. 

When I do things in life, I want similar results. I want immediate feedback. As a scientist, I like to perform controlled experiments that usually have predictable outcomes. 

But that’s not life. That’s not reality. Reality is so full of confounding variables that it’s very often difficult to tease out the things that most impact our success. 

Thus endurance sports are important to experience and understand. Nevermind the evolutionary argument that our bodies were primed over thousands of years to do endurance things. (It was a method of hunting for millennia; look it up.) Start running, swimming, cycling, or something that takes hours to accomplish so you can better understand the things you experience in life. (I suggest cycling. You go fast and see lots of things.)

Life is a multi-stage cycling race. Some people like to say marathons, but marathons are too short. Life is far more comparable to the Giro d’Italia, Vuelta a EspaƱa, or the Tour de France. 

Everyday we get on our bikes and ride to reach and accomplish goals. Every trial is a stage or series of stages. We have battles we fight every day and they drag on and on and on. A marathon is over in five hours. One cycling stage might be, but then the cyclists have to recover and prepare to to the same thing again the next day. 

So take up and endurance sport. Do something you enjoy, but do something that requires a significant time commitment. And take time as you run, hike, swim (boring), cycle, whatever to ponder how the things you do and are learning affect your life and your future. 

Ode to cycling

Our world is really beautiful. Yeah, inversion during the winter isn’t great (and it’s actually called pollution, btw), but the world is beautiful. 

In 2011, I spent most of the summer cycling 20+ hours per week. I’d start where I lived in Provo and go. One day I ended up in the podunk town of Kamas, about 40 miles away. Another day I ended up at the summit of the Nebo Loop. 

I saw more of Utah on my bike than I ever saw in a car. 

You contradict that and say, “Lee J, you’ve driven 30,000+ miles in utah in your car, and rode only 1,000 miles on your bike!”

That’s true, but on my bike I could see. I saw the places I was going. I saw the things around me as I passed them. I saw more of the state on my bike than I’ve seen in my car. 

I miss that a lot. It was tough training that often. Twenty hours each week is equivalent to a job, and eating enough food to maintain my mass was really hard. But I gained a ton of perspective from viewing God’s creations and landscapes on my bike. 

I grew because I took time for myself. Time in quantities I haven’t taken since. Perhaps time that I might need to return to doing. 

Cycling is great. Wave at me when I pass you on the road.