Day 28: Imperfections

I touched on this earlier. Our strengths are our greatest weaknesses and our weaknesses can be our greatest strengths. Do you believe that?

dareI love how Paul describes it in 2 Corinthians 12. Over and over he states that God gives us weaknesses in order for us to triumph over them. He allows us to feel the joy and exhilaration of accomplishing something, perfecting ourselves and coming to him. He allows us to create ourselves. If we were already perfected, we would have no need to grow and we would not feel the immense triumph from overcoming an obstacle.

And what if everyone were perfect? Well, certainly we would not need one another. We would all stick to ourselves and never communicate. That defeats a main purpose of mortality: Family. Also, I love that part of economics class when they talk about trade and specialization.  It fascinates me that by working together with someone, everyone can have a higher and more rewarding production possibility. And that’s not to mention the benefits of social interaction and human touch.

But that’s not all. Weaknesses remind us of our Savior and all he does for us. Weaknesses help us look to the Creator of our souls. Weaknesses create a father-child bond that could otherwise be unattainable. What would happen if babies came with all the skills they ever needed? What if from the day they were born, they could move out and go to college? Think of that roughly 18-year gap you’d lose out on! Sometimes that sounds just fine to me, but mostly, I’d miss that happy smile. I’d miss the love and bonds we share over an intense game of Sorry!.  I’d miss  the opportunity to learn and grow from being a parent. And my daughter would miss that and more. She’d miss the feeling of someone watching out for her, and the feeling of safety. Learning would be much harder. She’d never have a connection with me. The same is true of us and our Heavenly Father. Our weaknesses give us a chance to come to him.

And that’s all speaking in a general term. Our specific weaknesses have the potential to become our greatest strengths. Because we see that they need work, and we focus on them. I think of Heber J. Grant and his determination to overcome his weaknesses. He was often ridiculed for having chicken scratch for handwriting; so he worked and worked at it. Eventually, people hired him for his beautiful calligraphy. But he didn’t stop there. He applied the same determination to singing and sports. His weaknesses provided all kinds of blessings in his life. I can only imagine the tests he passed that no one saw.

Day 27: Negatives

Let me tell you about my night. My husband hit a deer. At midnight. I think my challenge is teaching me hard-core today. The interesting thing is, instead of getting frustrated, my thoughts sound like this:

Thank heavens that the “commuter” car needed repaired, or he would have taken it and this would have been much worse.

We just checked on our insurance. That’s interesting.

Ranger wanted new lights anyway.

I’m so glad he was in enough control to not swerve to avoid the deer. Swerving creates so many more problems. I’m grateful he had his wits about him.

We’re so lucky the airbags didn’t go off.

At least I didn’t buy the new headlights for Christmas, yet.

Any more to the front and it would have been serious damage. Any more to the side and it would have caused way more problems.

It’s nice to have good insurance.

Thank heavens deer collisions count as incidents and not accidents, so our rates wont increase.

Naturally, I’m grateful he’s up and walking around. Probably a little stiff today, and his nerves are probably on edge, and I understand that. But I’m so glad he’s not unconscious on a road somewhere.  And let’s not even get into anything worse.

OuchAt first, Ranger was pretty frustrated and “why did this have to happen,” and I can see his point of view extremely well. I’m selfishly glad it was him and not me. It’s his “baby” as far as cars go. But so much has come up the past 48 hrs that could have come up any other time, so if he was really supposed to avoid the deer, he would have.  Maybe it was to teach me about being grateful for the negatives. Who really knows. But I can say that if we were supposed to hit a deer, this was probably the best possible way to do it.

That is all finding the silver lining. That was a previous challenge. But being downright grateful for the negatives like today’s challenge is ironically in place for (Yes, I mean situationally ironic; or cosmically ironic, you choose…  Grammar Nazi still resides in my head)? It is a bit tougher but still quite doable.

dareInterestingly enough, after working on gratitude and charity all month, it’s pretty easy to be grateful for the negatives. Here’s why: When you’re more focused on gratitude, you’re willing to look past yourself. You’re willing to trust that the higher power knows what he’s doing, that there is a force stronger than yourself that has watched over every step you’ve taken and won’t set you up for a fall that you can’t rise higher from. When you’ve spent all month working on gratitude, it’s even possible to see potential outcomes. This may take care of some problem in the vehicle that we were currently unaware of, or might have saved us from some bigger woe. Who knows. I’m not far enough away from the life event to see anything in focus, but I can see that this was not just some fluke in life. There are blessings I can’t see yet.

And then there’s the other vehicle. Finding out that it needed to stay home for repairs was a pretty big bummer. But look what a blessing it is now with a little more perspective. It had a lower profile and a curvier front end. It wasn’t as highly insured. It has less-responsive breaks. The list is pretty intense.

Needless to say, instead of teaching gratitude, today, life taught me.

Day 26: Problem Solving

**Sorry this took so long. I got distracted with my map…**

dareIn my family of origin, I was the problem solver. When philosophers discuss how our strengths are also our biggest weaknesses, their discussion holds true in this personal strength. I was so good at problem solving I solved problems that weren’t mine. In recent  years, within my search for “seven,” I’ve learned to let that go; but  I still have to walk a fine line in problem solving. Sometimes I forget that I’ve still got to solve my problems myself instead of expecting them to be solved for me. I also forget that some problems aren’t mine. Interestingly enough, we just had this discussion with our daughter yesterday. We talked about how sometimes God has an answer that he wants you to find and that we need to come to him for help and guidance, because he can see more than we can. Sometimes, however, like with Mohonri Moriancumer (The Brother of Jared), Heavenly Father wants us to come to him with a solution. Today is devoted to recognizing the difference between our problems and someone else’s. It is also devoted to coming up with our own solutions.

First of all, we must weed out the problems that aren’t ours. While I was processing this concept, it got so complicated in my head, I drew a “map.” Then I showed it to my friend and she was so distracted by the boxes and the arrows, that for her I made it more complicated. Sorry if you fall into the latter category. If you do, create a nice  boring outline and work with that. ;c)

problem

How you solve the problem depends on what the problem was. If there was one cut and dry solution to every problem, it’d sure make life easier, but since we’re here to gain experience, I can be grateful that there isn’t. Let me know how it goes. 🙂

Day 25: Mindfulness

I can’t believe we’re almost done. It’s the 25th.

In Eldest, the second book of Christopher Paolini‘s  Inheritance series, Eragon, the protagonist, must learn to look past his own consciousness and the things visible by his own eyes to see everything around him. I believe this skill is achievable to everyone, not just those who befriend dragons. Maybe not to the same extent, but still achievable.

To me mindfulness is being aware; aware of where you step, aware of who is present, aware of needs, desires, and potential actions. We also need to be aware of ourselves, our needs, desires, and actions and how they might be skewed.  There is a force connecting everything to everything else. There is potential to feel what to expect. I read a study once conducted by a man named Cleve Backster. He came up with a profound discovery. Even plants practice mindfulness [check out these links! 1, 2, 3]. Plants can feel intentions and feelings.  If even plants can, why not beings created in the image of the Creator? 

dareI’m not expecting anyone to tap the “other 95%” of their brain, but I am challenging people to be aware today. Sometimes I get so caught up in myself that I forget to think of others. That is what I want to push past. I don’t think meditation is necessary. And I don’t think some major physiological change needs to take place. Just think outside the box. Be present. I am expecting that the result will be a huge sense of light. There is less worry about the future. Less stewing over the past. Those are the blocks of mindfulness.

Mindfulness focuses on heartbeats, breathing, and energy. It focuses on finding the connections inside yourself. It promotes good blood flow and good connections to the world around you. Those connections will create a more grateful heart.

Day 24: Pray

It sounds so easy, and it’s discussed so often that I don’t know what more to explain. Pray.  Take time to thank a higher power. More than 30 seconds, and more in words. Thank Him for specific blessings in your life. They should be easy enough to spot by now. It’s okay to still ask for the things that you need, but do it with a grateful heart. We’ll look at thanking God for the things that you are still in need of this week.

dare

Day 23: Doctrine

Now that you’ve found more time in your day, it’s perfect to add a habit of scripture reading. You may already have a good habit. Mine tends to be all or nothing. Sometimes I do extremely well but I set the goal too high and spend the whole day trying to reach it. Sometimes I don’t even pick up a book of scripture. I’ve had a goal for myself to read the old testament for four years now. I’m about 2/3 of the way through it. I’d like to finish.

dareThere is more than one way to study the scriptures. It’s nice to trade off and try another method and reap the benefits of seeing things you didn’t before. There is an intense study program, like I’ve been working on for four years, where you look up symbolism, study the background, and analyze each verse at a time. There is the quick read so you can see the whole picture. There is the companion study where you read two books at once (my friend reads the Book of Mormon one direction and the OT backwards. She says it’s amazing the parallel. I’ll trust her opinion). There is the topic study, where you pick a topic and research, ponder, etc, by topic (God’s love is a good topic).

There is scripture and doctrine in just about every faith, and no one should feel like they get a freebie because they’re not a particular religion. If you don’t have doctrine, read and study classics. You can follow the same study patterns listed above. The idea is to learn and find understanding in your soul and in the universe. Find your place. Get to know Deity. Reach a new potential.

Day 22: Early

My Mother used to tell us (while we were in a grumpy, half-conscious, not happy to be awake, state) “Early to bed, and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” As an adult,  I’m still not a morning person, but I have seen the blessings of getting up early. And I can see why the idiom was created.

  • When you get up early, you’re not rushing. For me, this is the main reason. When you rush in the morning, your whole day is playing catch-up. I used to know just how long it’d take to get up and get out the door, and wake up to the minute in order to get as much sleep as possible But now I am training myself to arise early, and i have extra time to spend wherever I need and don’t have to limit myself. Before, I couldn’t spend extra time on my hair, outfit selection, scripture tangents, breakfast, etc. It was all about rush until it’s done. Now I can savor any part of my morning that I desire. Scripture study often follows tangents (in which I find the most growth, because the tangents are what is relevant to my needs and thoughts at the time), my hair is still usually in a ponytail, but I have potential to do with it, and I do try to dress up more, just for myself.
  • When you get up early, you get more done. No one else is awake to need your attention. You’re clearer in thought, because the worries and distractions of the day haven’t crept into your head yet, and you’re full of the energy that sleep provides. Furthermore, you think more clearly, therefore you plan your day in the proper order, so you can move more efficiently throughout your day. And you can get the foundation laid before the distractions wake up.
  • When you get up early, there is time to take care of the “some day” projects. Then you feel accomplished, you take care of the mental to-do list, and it’s much easier to clean a house that is uncluttered of the things just waiting for you to get around to. That’s the perk for me, I don’t have to move the unfinished projects around in order to clean and feel some semblance of sanity.
  • When you get up early, you get time for yourself. Number one reason, ding ding ding ding ding. Form your own opinions before someone tells you how you should feel. Take care of yourself before the world needs you to take care of them. Shower uninterrupted in a house full of young children. Feed yourself and only yourself. Pray at a time when you can hear your own thoughts. Set goals for yourself in a balanced and energized state. Remember that you are a human  being and that you are special and need to care for yourself. Remember that you are important and precious. That memory will stay with you throughout the day and you will find yourself keeping up more of your boundaries. Boundaries are stronger, already, because you’ve had time to reinforce them before anyone got up.
  • When you get up early, you have time to spend in thanksgiving, and you have more reason to tell yourself it’s going to be a great day.  When you awake with time to spare, you’re not giving yourself a crash-course on all the things you’ve got to get done in a day.
  • When you get up early, you eat better, because you have more time to devote to what you will eat. There is time to make pancakes, muffins, or eggs. There is time to eat it slowly, which is better for your digestive system, stomach, and future appetite. And you have time to think about the food you eat and make healthy food choices. You also have more time to dedicate to your lunch.

My mornings have become sacred. I haven’t let anyone know that I’ve become an early riser, because it gives me the time to create structure and order for myself. It gives me time to read scriptures that I never get done if I try to read after everyone is awake.

dareEarly is up to interpretation. It can be whenever you need. It doesn’t even have to be earlier than you’re currently getting up, if you feel that you are spending your mornings unrushed and refreshed. For me, early is 6 o’clock. I’m still trying to get the habit to stick. Some mornings, I do great. Others I roll back into bed. I’d like to make it a habit instead of a novelty. Tomorrow, wake up early.

My Long-Forgotten Thank You: Grandpa

I needed to share, today.

At first, I was going to look up an old junior high teacher [Mr. Cleaverly, if you ever find this you’re awesome. Some day I’ll thank you properly] to thank for today’s personal challenge, but yesterday something my soul has been processing for a while finally came into focus.

I was delving into my soul in order to figure out just what was nagging at the back of my mind. I learned so much about myself, but this isn’t the place. In my research, I discovered a “connections” category. Basically, the circuits in the world around us keep us connected to family, ourselves, our body, higher powers… and our angels. The source of the information discussed how “angels” is a term that is vague. It’s left for interpretation, or for whatever level of understanding you’re at. Some feel it’s guardian angels, some feel it’s loved ones that watch out for us, and often, it means something different to each individual. I take that to mean, it’s something that no one person has complete information on. It’s divine. So, I considered it for a second. And my soul just seemed to scream that I was missing something there. I can’t explain it; something happened. And as I looked into it further (it was a mere second, I swear. The information was just there), my grandpa came to my mind.

When I was a child, my grandpa was sick. I don’t remember a healthy grandpa. His life consisted of his hospital-style bed, his lift chair, a walker with tennis balls on the legs, and the occasional drive to the middle of no where. People would tell stories about how hard-working he was, how much he did, and that working was part of his core value; but to the child I was, that was all foreign. The soldier, the farmer, the provider, the man – these were grandpa in a past life. I had no concept of how much that had to eat at him, stuck to his house with everyone helping him instead of him out helping the world. To me, he was the man who always spoke in a whisper, could never pronounce my name right, and who gave me quarters until the quarters ran out; then he gave me candy. Grandma always made sure he had candy to give. When I look back with 28-year-old eyes, I see so much more. I would love to go back and re-live that time with him! As a 28-year old, I am able to see that with a mother who was ill, a grandmother that was busy, a dad that worked far from home, and siblings that I raised, Grandpa was my guardian. He watched me. He gave me everything that he had: love, quarters, candy. I think he alone saw my pain.

When I did counseling at the beginning of the year, the counselor asked me to relax and go back to a time in my past; a meditation, if you will. We walked all over my house, all over my side of the mountain, and all over my grandmother’s house [we lived near each other, in a wood… over a creek, that I counted as a [tooltip text=””over the river and through the woods…”]river[/tooltip]]. In that entire universe I’d created for myself, there were only two people. Me… and grandpa. In all of the bustle of the world, I was forgotten by everyone but him. I raised myself. I don’t blame my parents, or anyone. My mom had a lot on her plate. My dad did everything he could for us. But that is the truth. I’ve never shared it with anyone (that I didn’t pay to listen to me), because I didn’t want to hurt my family by its confession. I bawled then, too. Suddenly, though I’d felt alone my entire life, I realized that my grandpa had always been there for me. Watching me. Offering advice. I’d never accepted it. As a kid raising herself, the person that reaches out with his soul is scary. But as an adult… I bawled and bawled to learn that I was not alone. That I was never alone.

On the day we traveled for Grandpa’s funeral, when I was seventeen, the roads were icy. We had moved about 5 hours from my grandparents by then. It had been a hard year, and my dad was overseas. Mom, who hated driving but didn’t trust my driving skills yet, was taking us over a mountain pass. Suddenly, an ice patch threw us into the bank of snow that was the only barrier between us and a huge drop over the side of the mountain. I remember thinking “Really? Like this trip isn’t hard enough! Why would something like this happen!” But there was no damage to the vehicle, my mom had enough experience to mutter under her breath, take a deep sigh to calm her down, check the car, and continue on our way. Just around the corner from where we were (we’ll say 500 feet because it sounds good, though I really had no way to judge distance), There was a moose standing in the middle of the road. Moose are big and solid. They don’t give. Especially not for a little 90’s model Mazda. Had we been going the speed posted, we would have had no time to stop, would have skidded right into it, and I wouldn’t be telling this tale. People don’t just survive a moose-collision. And need I remind you that on one side is solid mountain, and on the other is sheer cliff? Later, after we’d arrived and before the viewing, mom talked to me. She told me that the ice was nothing compared to the stuff we’d driven over safely. She’d also told me that it had felt like the whole vehicle had been pushed. She also felt grandpa nearby. I’d always loved that story, and it has always stayed with me as an anecdote of miracles and angels, and survival stories. But it came to light more to me over the past 12 hours. Secretly, I’ve always felt like that story was for me. I don’t think mom told anyone else, and even though it felt shameful to think that although Grandpa would want to save the rest of his posterity, he did it all for me; I was that special.

That is important. Above all else, that speaks to me. That in a full car, Grandpa protected us to save me. And I know there would be many benefits, but somehow I feel special enough. If I were in the car by myself, and if it had been something besides a funeral, I was still important enough to save. As a girl that struggles to understand love, even love of God, that message comes screaming through. My grandfather has taught me love. Even when I didn’t know it. Even when it took 28 years for me to get the message. He is my example of my Heavenly Father. He is my example of love.

All of this flashed back to me in milliseconds, and suddenly, when I mentally fixed the broken connection in my soul, It was like plugging in a floodlight. I was so full of joy, my eyes could not contain it. Tears streamed down my face. I don’t think it was all my joy, and all my tears. I think that Grandpa was just as glad to have that connection fixed. Suddenly, he was a part of me. Like he’s wanted to be my entire life. He’s stood at my door and knocked. And knocked. And knocked. And I finally know it’s safe to open the door.

He is my guardian angel.

And I thank him.

Day 21: Long-Forgotten Thank yous

Have you ever looked back at your life and thought of someone that made all the difference? A teacher that pushed you, a friend that helped heal your soul, an “adopted” mom? Today, thank them. It could take some work to hunt them down, but think about where to start. If they’re a teacher, contact the school you used to attend. They might not be permitted to give whereabouts, but they can probably forward something on if they know the location. If it’s a friend, find mutual acquaintances and go from there. Think about how you know the person, and use that as the starting line.

And if the person’s no longer facing the tests of mortality, take a trip and visit his/her headstone. Leave a note, if possible. It’ll feel good to write it.

Good luck.

dare

Day 20: Spouses

[disclaim]First off, a disclaimer: this doesn’t have to be a spouse. It can be any type of significant other, a roommate, or a sister. Pick someone you are close to, that you see often, and that is nearest to your heart.[/disclaim]

dareConfession: I am not the model wife when it comes to showing gratitude for my husband! We go on dates, I know how to speak an affirmations love language, but I’ve got to be on my guard to do it. Most of the time I’m so caught up in my own head I forget to show affection at all. I know, lame, right? So I am actualy looking forward to today’s challenge.

Since I am in no way an expert, I trusted my handy friend Google… and came up empty. There are ways to tell your husband you love him, ways to tell him you’re pregnant (handy, I suppose), and things women wish they could tell their husband (I didn’t dare click that link… that could be scary. But there’s no site specifically thanking husbands! So, I dug through a couple of other search results, and compiled a list of ways to thank a husband (/spouse/significant other). Here are the top 15:

  • Thank you for choosing to spend your life with me (I like this one based on healthy principles!).
  • Thank you for inspiring me.
  • Thank you for helping me become a better version of myself.
  • Thank you for telling me I’m beautiful, even when I don’t feel beautiful.
  • Thank you for accepting me for who I am.
  • Thank you for being my friend.
  • Thank you for all of the encouragement you give me.
  • Thank you for sticking with me, even when I don’t want to stick with myself.
  • Thank you for being the [i.e. patriarch, breadwinner, chef, comedian] in the family.
  • Thank you for having boundaries.
  • Thank you for keeping me in your thoughts (I’d add an instance here, so it doesn’t sound coercive).
  • Thank you for growing.I know that ____ wasn’t easy for you, and I’m grateful you kept at it.
  • Thank you for [that thing you said]. It meant a lot to me to hear you say it.
  • Thank you for [whatever he/she did that made you fall in love with them]. My life has never been the same since.
  • Thank you for taking care of your [dishes/socks/laundry, etc]. It means a lot to me that you respect my time and my need for a clean environment, and don’t create more work for me.

Clearly, for a roommate or a sister, you’re going to have to get a little more creative, They didn’t choose to spend their life with you, but they did choose to still be a part of your life. Thank them for being an example, for being there when no one else was, and, yes, for taking care of their own dishes, if applicable.

Now I’ve got to get off my blog and go tell my husband all the ways I’m thankful for him!