Who You Are, Why You Matter

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   Its common discussion in missionary efforts to cover the questions most human beings have in common- Where did we come from?  Why are we here?  What will happen when we die?  It seems in general members of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints feel confident they know the answers to these questions.  If you ask us why we are here the standard answer is, “To gain a body, to be tried, tested, and to return to our Father in heaven.”  That is not incorrect, its a great answer.  But in our day to day lives, do we really get WHY we are here?
   Most of  us tend to be people who get so caught up in the little things we forget about God.  Most of us don’t forget Him completely, but He is not our focal point most of the day.  Even those of us who are obedient, who make it habit to read scriptures and pray and such, often don’t really grasp and realistic perception of who we are and what this life is all about.   We may know it in our heads, but do we feel it in our hearts?  Are we compelled as though by a fire to seek after and fulfill the missions we covenanted to before we came to this earth?
   God has a plan for your life, a marvelous plan! A plan that YOU, with our divinely gifted agency, sat across from Him and thoughtfully mapped out.  Most of us can’t remember that at the moment, but imagine the excitement!  I happen to love to plan and achieve the results I set out to, and I can visualize this moment in time quite vividly.  I can clearly see evidence in my life that, right in alignment with my nature, I made the choice to take on one heavy load.  I am always overflowing with confidence that I can do just about everything there is to do… then I get in the trenches and doubt myself. Overwhelm nearly devours me.  I bet most of us do that.  The great news is, our Father knows us.  And He never leaves us alone.  I testify to you that I KNOW that we are constantly surrounded by loved ones eager to assist and comfort us, if only we will ask, because of course they will not cross the boundary of our agency.
   We are here to fulfill personal missions, and those missions have our spiritual (Heavenly) family at their core.  We are here to get ourselves and our brothers and sisters back to our parents.  In the process we progress by learning.  Period.  That is the point of all of this.  If we are not daily seeking to know and follow our own specific mission, we are asleep.  If we are not daily seeking our own salvation through utilizing the atonement, we are asleep.  If we are not daily seeking to comfort and uplift, protect and provide for our brothers and sisters, we are asleep.  And in this world of wolves if we are asleep, we are dead, both physically and spiritually.  It has been said, “Get your fire back. Its not over until God says its over.  Start believing again. Start dreaming again. Start pursuing what God put in your heart.”
   But how can we know our missions?  By following our interests.  By “pursuing what God put in your heart.”  If there is anything pure and good that you are passionate about, it likely has to do with your mission.  Now is the time to make diligent and daily effort to identify and refine your gifts.  You came here with many gifts and you will need them for your mission.  I honestly think the saddest thing I can imagine is passing through the veil at the end of my life and being told by the Savior that I failed to complete my part of the grand plan, and to know that I didn’t complete it because I was too busy sleeping my way through life.  Wasting time like I can get it back.  It happens to too many people.  Time is most precious.  Its spends itself speedily and can never be earned back.  We do not get infinite chances to do things right.  My husband came home feeling very pained today.  He had attended a funeral for a man in our church ward.  He had never met this man, who only occasionally attended, but he saw him in the hallway of church last Sunday.  My husband got the impression that he should go say hello and introduce himself, but he was busy chasing our very energetic toddler around and he hesitated, then the man was out of sight.  This man later killed himself.  He left behind a wife and a little one.  My husband returned home briefly after the funeral to sit with our children and explain to them why it is so important to quickly obey the promptings of the Holy Spirit.  He shared with them that he never again wants to hesitate in obeying.  My heart broke for him.  Who knows what would have happened had he spoke with that man that day.  It may not have changed the outcome, but knowing my husband as I do it no doubt would have left a positive impression.  At the very least, he would have no regret.  My guess is, these two men knew each other before this life and that that connection being made would have been very meaningful.  But we cannot know.  I am so grateful for my husband and the example he is to so many people.  I am grateful that he took the time to come home and share this heartfelt message with our children.  I am grateful that he humbly accepted this lesson and I don’t doubt that he will never hesitate again.  Some things you can’t get back.  This may have been part of his mission.
   Please do all that you can each day for the great plan that was laid out before the foundation of the world.  We are all depending on you.  You are important.  Every moment matters, we are only given so many.  If each of us comes here with a job to do and you decide you don’t feel like doing yours, then what?  I don’t want to have to answer to that when I return, and we know that we all will return.
Here are some other things you can do daily to come to the ever increasing knowledge of what God expects of you:
-Pray always.  Pray to know your mission.  Pray to know what you can do TODAY.  Pray for protection.  Pray for discernment.  Pray with gratitude and meekness.  Never stop praying.
-Study the scriptures, prayerfully and deeply.  Write down impressions as they come.
-Seek Priesthood Blessings frequently.  Write down those impressions as well.
-Read your Patriarchal Blessing frequently, study it just as you do the scriptures.  These are YOUR personal scriptures.  If you have not received your blessing, DO SO.  Do not procrastinate.
-Live worthy and always hold a current temple recommend.  Make consistent effort to attend the temple as often as possible.  Your ancestors on the other side will bless you are you have blessed them.  You will also have the added benefit of the unfiltered personal revelation that it inherent in the temple. AC
-Make an effort to get to know Christ more and more all the time.  He is not an abstract idea, he is a real, warm, compassionate, humorous, intelligent, humble man.  He is literally your elder brother.  There is never any reason to not come to Him for anything you might be in need of.  He is always there waiting.  He rejoices when you come to Him.  Christ is REAL.  He is as real as you are.
-Make an effort to get to know yourself.  You may know your worldly self (your habits, favorite things, etc.), but how well do you know your spiritual self?  How closely do you see yourself to the way your Heavenly Father does?  Do you see your divine potential?  Are you aware of your gifts and their purposes?  Do you understand your primary expression of energy?  Do you know your aura color and what it means?  Here is the true test, do you love yourself?  If you do not love yourself completely and without condition and treat yourself as you would treat someone you love dearly, then you are not seeing yourself as God sees you.  When we see ourselves for who we in truth are, we naturally love ourselves.
-Journal.  It may seem tedious and insignificant but put in a little faith and try it for a while.  You will find that the law of attraction is at work here.  The more you write down of what matters, the more will be given to you.  Also, you have a responsibility to record your life for your posterity and for the records in heaven.
“Inspiration exists, but it must find you working.”  -Pablo Picasso
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A Note on Sharing

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I plan to write a more indepth post on this soon but I’m feel prompted to take the bit of time I have at the moment and give you this little morsel of food for thought.

We need to practice sharing.

That isn’t meant to be patronizing.  What I mean is, in the near future our survival will depend on sharing, not on being the receivers, but on being the GIVERS.  When we give what we have, it becomes consecrated, and it multiplies.  Any of us who have experimented with the Law of Abundance/Attraction see this first hand frequently.  The ONLY way to ensure we have what we need is to GIVE what we have.  There is no way around that.  If you hoard what you have you will never have enough.  If you lovingly and with an open heart and a little faith share what you have, no matter how little you have, you will always have enough.  Simple as that.  Think about some stories you know from the scriptures and you will see this principal laid out for you.  I urge you to read those stories, ponder them, and pray for personal enlightenment.

Emulating God’s Pattern of Forgiveness

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Growing up, I saw a lot of counselors who talked a lot about forgiveness.  I read about forgiveness, I thought about forgiveness, I prayed about it… I still could not understand how to apply it practically.  I felt like no one could tell me HOW to do it.  What does it look like in daily life?  What does it feel like?  I just kept being told the same thing over and over, “Forgiveness isn’t about the other person, its something you do for you.  You’re releasing yourself from the burden of the poor choices of others.”  I understood that aspect of it, but it still felt very empty and impractical to me.  I practiced forgiving in every way I could think of- telling the person who wronged me that I forgive them, writing them a letter and the destroying it, praying about it and giving it to God, saying it aloud to myself- but never once did I feel any different or any better.
I have been blessed with the opportunity to serve as a Service Missionary for my church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) and I work with the Women’s Addiction Recovery Program.  All of these women are working on healing wounds inflicted by loved one’s addictions, and several are recovering from their own addictions.  The Spirit in these meetings is unlike anything I’ve felt before, and these women are some of the very best I’ve ever met.  They are SO loved by our Father in Heaven.  Somewhere between their courageous sharing, the teaching of the Spirit, and my own experience with addicts and abuse, I’ve come to view forgiveness a little differently.  I think I’m only just beginning to understand it, but the little treasures of understanding I’ve been given are beautiful, scared, and powerful to me.
Forgiveness Not Acceptance of Wrongdoing
True forgiveness does not send the message that the sin is okay.  It does not give permission for it to continue.  It does not put the person forgiving in danger of being hurt again.  In fact, true forgiveness ONLY occurs from within the safety of personal boundaries.  It is only within the safety zone we set up for ourselves that we can be vulnerable enough to forgive.
Forgiveness Flips Perspective Upside Down
When we are unforgiving we are clinging to anger, resentment, sorrow, frustration, feelings of abandonment, etc.  Our perspective is that we trusted someone and they hurt us.  They took advantage of us.  They damaged our heart, and now we are forced to put up walls of protection.  We want them to understand what they have done to us, we want them to taste our pain.  These are completely normal human emotions, and they are the only emotions we are likely to feel if we’re viewing the situation from a human perspective.  We can broaden our perspective by recalling the reason we are each here- to receive a body, to be tried, tested, and to return to our Heavenly Father.  Can we do it alone?  No, you might say, we need Christ.  I would add that we also need EACH OTHER.  Are we working to return only to our Heavenly Father?  No.  We are returning to our Heavenly FAMILY.  If I am the only one who shows up, that will be a very sad day.  I want all of my family together.  If that is the case, then I need to look around me stop viewing flawed people with contempt.  After all, I am one of them.  I make mistakes.  I hurt people. I am no different or better than anyone.  I need to look around me and see people who are struggling.  People who have been hurt.  Life is a rough journey.  I am so busy trying to understand myself, I don’t have time to worry about judging why other people make the choices they do.  All I need to know is that people fall off course.  They make decisions that often hurt other people.  People who I am very close to have made decisions that have hurt me deeply.  I feel a responsibility to mentally remove myself from my human place in their life (wife, mother, daughter) and view my fellow beings as exactly what they are- my brothers and sisters.  In this light, it is my responsibility and my joy to feel for them, to understand that I can’t understand, to not judge or shame, to stop accusing them of hurting me and ask what I can do to help them in the struggle that has led them to harmful choices.  We do not get back to our Heavenly Family without each other’s loving support.
Forgiveness Does Not Neglect the Self
Ultimately we are only responsible for ourselves.  I don’t mean to imply that we set ourselves aside and concern ourselves only with our brothers and sisters- NO!  We set up boundaries and we do what we can for them within the safety of those boundaries.  We work on our own healing and progression.  Gandhi had it right, we must be the change we wish to see in the world.  We can only effect change in those around us by changing ourselves.  That is no small thing, it is VERY powerful.  We all learn by example, that is why Christ came to show us what to aim for.  He was the ideal example of being the change.  That leads me to my next point…
Forgiveness Utilizes the Atonement in Our Own Lives
We need to be forgiven ourselves, and we need to forgive ourselves, before we can forgive others.  When we feel deeply the gift and power of the atonement in our own lives we witness God’s love in a very real way.  When we begin to see how strong God’s love for us is, we will also see it in other people.  We become humbled.  We experience gratitude for Christ’s sacrifice and for having our own sins removed, and so we want those we love to feel the same relief.  It comes naturally, then, for us to be forgiving, because we are passing on the gift that has been given to us.  If God is willing to forgive me of all the wrong I do every day, surely I can be forgiving of others.
Forgiveness Creates Safety
Often we hold on to anger as a protection.  Sadly, holding on to anger is extremely damaging to us spiritually, mentally, and even physically.  Anger can cause all kinds of disease.  Anger is a defense, but it does not create safety.  Love cannot grow in the presence of anger, and relationships break down and we are left alone.  This is not protection!  All holding on to anger does is hurt us more, by holding on we allow the wrong doing to go on hurting us day in and day out for as long as we hold on to it.  That doesn’t mean anger is entirely bad, its the hanging on that is harmful.  Anger does an important job, it shows us what we value.  If my husband commits adultery, I will be angry because I value my marriage and my family above anything on earth.  I can go through a grieving process and express that anger (without shaming or judging, I need to own my anger), but I then have a choice of holding on to it, or healing.  My boundaries involve making space for bad to pass out and good to pass in.  When bad invades my boundaries, I remove myself and let it out.  That is the choice I make.  I can then safely forgive.
Forgiveness is a Process
It would be great if we could just say “I forgive you” and be done with it, but forgiveness doesn’t work that way.  It is a process, especially with people who are in our lives for the long haul.  There will be triggers, and there will likely even be new hurts and repeated ones.  No one is perfect, we certainly aren’t and we can’t expect others to be either.  We will need to forgive in little measures over and over and over, maybe for as long as we live.  That doesn’t mean that we never reap the reward of the relief of forgiveness.  Our reward comes through not holding on to all that pain and anger and carrying the weight of it with us through life.  It comes from setting up safe and healthy boundaries and the ease that comes into our lives as a result of that.  It comes from giving love space to grow.  It comes from enabling the formation of deep and meaningful connections with other people.  It comes from learning all the time to become more Christ-like.  If comes from deepening understanding of what the atonement is and does.  It comes from widening our spiritual perception (which is reality). It comes from strengthening our testimonies.  It comes from enabling healing in our lives.  And it comes from obtaining forgiveness from and for ourselves.
As with all things, we can gain a deeper understanding of forgiveness by pondering how our Father forgives us.  When we don’t know how to act or be, we can always look to Him. He gave us Christ and Christ gave us the ultimate example of forgiveness at the moment of his agonizing death, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (See Luke 23:34)  His life was all about love and forgiveness and He left a legacy of examples of how and why forgiveness is essential.
I hope this post got you thinking and I’m sure there is much more to forgiveness than I have shared here. As always, please feel free to add your thoughts!