Dimes become quarters

Life is changing rapidly. I think it’s changing for the better.

But I can probably no longer claim it’s turing on a dime. It’s turning quickly, but I am more like a super-tanker than a volleyball player pivoting on a court.

Super tanker changing course.

Change takes time. Although some decisions need to be made quickly, lasting change cannot come overnight.

Elder Neal A. Maxwell provides a simple explanation why: “Twigs are bent, not snapped, into place.”1

Thus God takes time in effecting change in his children’s lives.

I’ve railed against God many times during this process. Mine, however, is only the sound of straining engines in a large ship (those who have cruised understand this sound; you likely woke to it on 1/3 or more of all your mornings onboard). It is the sound of protest, but the sound of acceptance of the Captain’s will.

A few things became clear during last week’s General Conference:

  • The path I was on prior to teaching high school was good, but not good enough
  • The choices I was making would not as immediately lead me back to God’s presence: I would have had a longer period of difficulty and struggle than I have currently been through
  • God loves me, even though He might have instigated the things that I considered painful in the last 18 months

This fits well with the instruction from Elder Maxwell:

Without patient and meek endurance we will learn less, see less, feel less, and hear less. We who are egocentric and impatient shut down so much of our receiving capacity.2

I may have been accused of egocentricity on more than one occasion and probably rightfully so.

I can certainly self-identify much time over the last 18 months where I was so pained that all I could focus on was myself. These were the darkest times. I still don’t know whether egocentricity was a cause or a result of these experiences.

Regardless of the chicken or egg coming first, egocentricity kept me from receiving answers to the question that was ever-present on my mind: why?

I could not begin to understand or learn from my lessons until I became more patient. And only after I began to accept the possibility of no release from the difficulty did the chances to learn and understand really begin.

Deliverance will come. Many, many nights may be spent drowning in tears of despair, but deliverance will come. It will not be how you expect it, and it will not be in the time you expect. But at some point as you scratch, claw, fight, and attempt to pull yourself out, the hand of the Master will reach down and provide exactly the strength you need to keep climbing.

That is Divine Deliverance. It comes to all, and only those who have given up their egos in the process recognize His hand.

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1. Maxwell, Neal A. “Endure it well.” General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. April 1990. Retrieved from https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1990/04/endure-it-well?lang=eng. Visited 11 October 2015.

2. Ibid.

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.
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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. 

Back seeking help

I moved under emotional duress. That’s the best way to state it. I needed an immediate change and that seemed one of the best ways to get it.

I’ve done pretty well since the move and that makes me feel pretty good. 

When I met with my bishop on my first Sunday back and explained my reasons for moving back, he suggested I meet with a counselor again to gain a little more help and a step up. 

It was something I’d considered for a bit, but knew I wasn’t in a position to afford something like that. He indicated the ward would cover costs from fast offerings, and I promised I’d make the best use of the sessions I could. 

I didn’t expect to be sitting back in a counselor’s office again. When I stopped in November, I didn’t expect to need more structured help. But here I sit. 

Feelings rush through my mind, beating the walls of my thought-paths. Am I a failure because I’m asking for help again? Is this a sign of weakness? Should I be overcome with anxiety because I can’t handle my life without more structured guidance?

I talked with a very dear and trusted friend late into Monday morning a few days ago. She said something that has helped me understand my struggles a bit better. 

Therapy isn’t for people who need it the most. Therapy is for people who want it, who want to change and improve but don’t know how.

That gave me hope. I don’t know how to help myself right now, but I want help. 

Asking for it is a sign of strength, a sign I want to improve. 

Praying honestly

I read a BYU devotional recently that mentioned something I’ve come to learn is very important. Praying openly and honestly is critical to bring change in my life.

I seek healing. I seek peace. I seek understanding of the situations I experience every day.

For me, prayer is a critical part of that. I have to be actively engaged in my healing, and I have to be completely honest with Father in my prayers.

Prayers often reflect my mental state. They are happy when I’m happy, they are dejected when I am dejected, but I always try to maintain a strong portion of gratitude. This is likely helpful, but not the subject of this post.

When I’m most depressed, when the world has piled itself on top of me (or when I’ve dug a hole, jumped in, and decided to fill it from the inside), my prayers often lack honesty. Only when my problems become so insurmountable that I cannot escape them alone (when I recognize how little control I have) do I elaborate the exact difficulties I have to God.

The is also true when things are going well. When I’m doing well, when life is full of blessings, I maintain gratitude, but my prayers are usually less specific than when I’m very troubled.

These things should not be.

Prayer is a method of engaging in honest, specific self-reflection. It has divine implications if you allow it to, but I believe the words of Jonathan Sandberg are accurate for me:

In your prayers, be sure to speak openly, sincerely, and directly to Him who is your loving Father. Sometimes I fear our prayers are too vague and too passive to bring about the spiritual support we need.

God requires us to know ourselves. He knows us perfectly. We must grow to that same knowledge. Even if we don’t like the things we discover and learn, acknowledging them specifically in prayer can be the first step to healing and overcoming them.

Specificity in prayer is important. It’s far more important to say, “Father, help me have the strength to fight through my apathy today” than to say “Uh, please help me to get some feelings.”

“I’m really unmotivated right now. All I do muster the desire to do and execute was say this prayer. Please grant me a little more strength to move forward with __[collecting tax documents, opening the mail, packing my clothes, writing more code]__.”

Praying honestly brings out honesty that is critical to my progress. By acknowledging my shortcomings to myself and to God in prayer, I fulfill the scriptural injunction in Ether:

If men come unto me, I will show unto them their weakness

and I learn more about me. I learn to identify the source of my challenges. From there I can make progress and grow. From there I learn God

[gives] unto men weakness that they may be humble [don’t I know it?]; and [he says] and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

My weakness isn’t yet strength. My weakness might change from prayer to prayer.

But praying honestly, admitting areas of weakness, asking for help, asking specifically, and asking for strength to move forward is necessary to my personal growth.

Temples

The primary song goes “I love to see the temple, I’m going there someday.”

It’s true. I love to see the temple. I am going there someday.

The way I’ve felt the past several weeks though is, “I love to see the temple, I’d really like to have the peace that comes from it. But I can’t motivate myself to go.”

It’s been really hard to feel that way. It’s not that I don’t want to go, that I’m unworthy to go, or anything else. I just can’t get myself to go.

When I realized that I lacked the motivation, I was forced to question whether I’d fallen into another depressive funk.

That was scary.

Being forced to consider that you struggle with something you thought was a one-time, mostly environmentally-influenced thing is scary. I never want to be in that dark, dank, dismally depressed place again. I don’t want to consider it as an option, but as my desire to go to the temple strengthens, my motivation to go decreases.

And that’s as scary as considering what Hell is. Because that was as close to Hell as I’d like to ever come.

So struggles happen. I still experience really dark times. I’m considering some things that should really help me get out of this funk. One of them is going to the temple.

I’ll get the motivation. Even if it’s convincing a friend to drag me there. The peace of the temple is worth it. I want–I need–to be there and benefit from the strengthening power it provides.

The sun will shine again, and temple worship helps me see a glimmer of light along this path I tread.

The light along the path