Life has some interesting twists in it. Some days are really good. And other days are ... well, not so much. And other days are somewhere in between. You’re not ecstatic, but you’re not in the mire either.
Sometimes when I’m not down, I encounter that middle ground while thinking about a time when I was down. Especially when that time pertains to someone I loved with all my heart.
Lately I’ve been missing my cat. Not as bad as I once did, especially in the aftermath of her death. But I do think about and miss her. At the same time I recognize the great blessing she was in my life.
I remember the day I adopted her. It was in the aftermath of losing a very treasured relationship. A woman I loved with all my heart chose someone else, and she left salt in my wound as she shared her decision. Furthermore, I had looked to her as my Obi-Wan — my one and “only hope” of salvation from an eternity of singleness. Losing her really broke me.
A friend at work saw my despair and insisted I adopt an animal. She thought a pet might help me. So she scheduled an appointment in my calendar to go to the shelter and secure a cat.
We were both surprised to see only five cats available that day. But when I took that little angel out of her cage and held her for the first time, a surge of electricity went through me. I knew instinctively I had to adopt this animal. So I did.
And thus began a great chapter of healing in my life. The Lord was mindful of me in inspiring a good friend to bring a tender mercy into my life. It wasn’t instantly better that first day this cat lived with me. Like anything worthwhile in life, my healing took time. But each daily task of caring for this cat, who I named Tashi, brought me one step closer to the healing I sought.
I suspect Tashi was abused before she arrived at the shelter. At first, she would cower away every time I tried to pet her. And she’d devour immediately everything placed in her dish, as if she didn’t know when she might eat again.
As a result, Tashi would vomit at least 2 or 3 times every single day. Cleaning up after her became a real chore, and it was easy to see why she was in the shelter to begin with. But I committed myself to honor the obligation I entered when I adopted her. I persistently helped her to relearn her natural eating pattern, and over time (almost a year) she was eating more normally and vomiting about once a week.
The sacrifices I made for my cat endeared her to me. And so it is with anyone in life. Our hearts grow more tender for those for whom we sacrifice to serve, especially when we do so without any thought for ourselves. These people (and animals) who come into our lives represent tender mercies from the Lord. And the longer we sacrifice for them, the greater the love we feel for them.
I’ve posted previously about the tender mercy the Lord provided me in Tashi. But it’s good to remember those tender mercies. It’s good to be reminded that the Lord has never forsaken us.
And it’s good to remember that He never will. The Lord continues to provide evidences of His love for us every single day. We just need eyes to see what is right there to be seen.
Singles life can be quite challenging. But remembering the tender mercies the Lord has provided and continues to provide to us on an individual and daily basis can bolster us to meet the challenges we face — and overcome them.
Tashi died almost two years ago. That day was one of the worst of my life. The days immediately after weren’t that great either. But with time the grief has subsided. Memories of her still come but less painfully.
In another couple of months I’ll be remembering that day she died. But I will also offer a prayer of gratitude to God that His tender mercies allowed me to have her in my life for the time I did have her. And I’ll look forward to the future, forward to more tender mercies offering me an even brighter tomorrow.
When we follow the Lord, we are marching on to glory. His tender mercies provide strength and consolation to keep marching. So if you feel tired or beaten down, remember the tender mercies the Lord has provided and continues to provide to you. Then take my hand. Let’s march on to glory together.
Today my sister went in for surgery, which means she needed help with her kids. I helped with one. We went shopping, and there were moments he clearly liked more than others.
Watching him, I remembered what it was like to be a child. I remembered how it felt to be fascinated with some toy and how easy it was to believe that acquiring said object was the only thing that really mattered.
And my nephew was not afraid to announce what he wanted and go after it. In the stores, he naturally gravitated towards the toy dump trucks, backhoes, and excavators. In fact, he tried to take one out of its box to play more with it. I gently restrained him and made a mental note of what to get him for Christmas.
When did we lose it?
I also took notice of the adults around us. The way many of them held themselves suggested they had worries and perhaps even insecurities. I wondered what those might be.
And that got me thinking about my own insecurities from past relationships. In the moment those relationships seemed to matter a lot, especially when I really liked who I was chasing.
And every time those relationships didn’t work out, the fears of being single forever, of never fitting in, of being hurt in each new relationship, of never being truly loved by a good companion — the very same fears that drove my approach to dating from the start — would arise anew, reminding me of yet another self-fulfilled prophecy that came true.
Over time I lost that childhood perspective of fearlessly going after what I wanted. Repeated surrenders to fear created habits which gave me a life based on fear.
We can get it back
In every store we went, my nephew insisted on visiting the toy section. He didn’t waste any time finding what he wanted. And once he found it, he focused his energies on maximizing the joy he could obtain.
Most of us adults have lost that perspective on life. But we can get it back. We start by using a gift God has given to everyone — agency. We just decide to pursue our best life.
What follows, of course, is not so easy. The Law of the Harvest says we have to work for what we want. And simply deciding to live without fear doesn’t turn it off like a switch. Most of the fears that plague us are encoded into habits, and old habits die hard for a reason. We’re designed to operate out of habit. It’s how our brains are naturally hardwired.
To live life without fear requires us to replace old habits — and especially old ways of thinking — with new, more effective ones.
And one new habit we should adopt is working for what we most want, despite the fears of being hurt or rejected or things not working out or whatever. However real and insurmountable our fears may appear to be, it’s really all just illusion.
I could understand that truth more easily as I looked back on my life. I realized that the only thing truly preventing me from having what I wanted was me — how I chose to view my world and how I chose to respond to others’ choices. I realized that none of those insecurities I had really mattered. The only thing that mattered were my choices, because my choices were and are the primary contributor to the life I have now.
In the end, your fear means nothing. It’s just a mental construct that has whatever power you give to it. When you allow your fears to obstruct you, you empower them to imprison you, and you prevent you from living your best life.
And yeah, I understand much fear has basis. You fear getting hurt because you were hurt before. You fear getting rejected because you’ve been rejected before. And you may get hurt and rejected again. In fact, chances are you will.
But because you have agency, you still get to choose your response. So what will it be? Cower in a corner? Or saddle up and face your fears head on? FEAR can mean Flee Everything And Retrograde. Or it could mean Face Everything And Rise. And you get to decide what it means for you.
Me? I’m going after what I want. I know that I’ll probably get hurt along the way. I don’t care anymore. We must pay a price for anything we want in life. Paying that price becomes easier when we stop caring about the cost. No more excuses. I’m going after what I want. I’m going to live my best life. And so can you. So what will you choose?
Many singles pine for that special someone to come into their lives and bring them happiness. But life is what happens to you while you were making other plans. And your life can be much more extraordinary than you ever planned when you adopt a personal ministry.
Your personal ministry is simply a life purpose you adopt. To it you devote your time, energy, and direction.
Despite the language, your personal ministry doesn’t need to be church-related but should improve the lives of others. I know someone who’s devoted her life to promoting adoption. This is no Church calling, but it does bring much good into the world and improve others’ lives. You can clearly hear her passion when she speaks of her work. Knowing that her efforts bring meaning to others’ lives provides a foundational meaning for her own life.
Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not attempting to equate this life purpose with the gospel ideal of rearing families in the home. We should all aspire to have our own family. And having a personal ministry can complement your marriage and your family by providing a righteous example of doing good of your own accord. God actually wants men and women who don’t wait for an assignment before doing good (see D&C 58:26-28).
Nor is your personal ministry an alternative lifestyle, something you engage to substitute for having a spouse until hopefully said person comes along. We want the real thing here. And your personal ministry helps you find it and keep it.
That’s because your personal ministry manifests your passion. And that passion appropriately expressed strengthens good in the world, brings hope into hearts, and gives meaning to your life, regardless of whether or not you get married.
If you really want to get married, especially to the right type of person, engaging your personal ministry also maximizes your chances of doing just that.
I once went out with a lady we’ll call Cindy. She soon dissuaded me from pursuing her any further. You see, Cindy was divorced and raising her children alone in a small town while working a dead-end job and waiting for her new happy life to arrive.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’ve got nothing against divorced women or small towns. My girlfriend is divorced! And she’s from a town that, while not small today, was small when she was growing up.
It’s Cindy’s lack of purpose that dissuades me. I understand that raising children alone while working to support them is no picnic. But Cindy was so absorbed in trying to keep her world together that no one, including Cindy, knows who Cindy really is. She has defined her whole identity as the mother of her children.
I’m not saying that’s not noble. I’m saying that alone doesn’t entice me and other good men like me to join her life because that alone is not enough to define who Cindy really is. A personal ministry — a life mission that she adopts for herself — does. And that’s something that can help Cindy both keep her world together and attract that new partner into her life.
Attract your best companion
By devoting yourself to a worthy cause larger than and outside of yourself, you develop and display many of the traits that quality people find attractive. I’m talking about initiative and dedication and commitment here. It showcases you as an interesting individual, a person worth getting to know better. And it says that you aren’t just waiting for your happiness to be thrust upon you. You’re going out into the world and taking it.
This blog is a part of my own personal ministry to improve the lives of LDS singles everywhere. I’ve been dedicated to this blog for 31 months — that’s almost three years — slowly working away at producing posts that I hope bring value by improving individual lives.
My life was changed forever 10 weeks ago when I met my girlfriend. She’s marvelous in more ways than I have room to list here. But this blog — just one manifestation of my personal ministry — helped to endear me to her.
Love like you’ve never known is possible. Very possible. But any direct campaign to capture it will likely fail. That’s where your personal ministry comes into play. It provides the indirect route required for love to find you. It displays your best you. It invites others to join a life worth living.
Adopting a personal ministry takes time and dedication, but it can give your life meaning regardless of whatever marital status you now have or will have. So embrace your passion. Adopt your personal ministry today.
Recently a young man unfamiliar to my girlfriend asked her daughter on a date. My girlfriend expressed an obvious concern about him. I shared that concern plus one of my own. Apparently this guy wants my girlfriend’s daughter to plan the date.
That’s when my girlfriend confessed typically seeing that behavior in men. She said about 90% of men in her experience have expected her to decide on the date activity and make all arrangements. She then expressed gratitude that I’m not like that at all. It just makes it easier for her to fall more deeply in love with me, she said.
And that left me flabbergasted.
Real men lead
Don’t get me wrong. I’m very happy to hear that me being the way I am makes my girlfriend fall in love with me even more. What gets me is this apparently popular attitude among single guys that the ladies should provide so much.
Hey, gents, I get it. You want the good that comes with the date, but like so much else in our catered society you also want someone else to take care of the details for you.
Maybe I was just raised differently. For me, part of being a man is taking a leadership role in charting the course to travel. A real man will at least signal a course to travel. In the context of dating, that means the guy plans the details and makes the arrangements.
I don’t have any problem with women who provide anything or everything, including partial or full payment of any expenses. But neither do I insist upon it. That’s just not their role.
Yes, sometimes I’ll involve the lady in the planning, but never for a casual date and often only in unexpected situations for a serious date. In all cases my role is to provide at least some idea for the lady’s consideration, some idea that can get things rolling. That’s part of the leadership role that we single men need to be playing. Real men lead.
Real invitations entice
Some guys have legitimate concerns about wanting to ensure the lady enjoys the date. After all, if she enjoys the date, then she’ll be more likely to accept another date, and perhaps even more. I get that.
Now get this, gentlemen. We’re all busy people. So when you relegate the details of the date activity to the lady, you’re creating one more thing she needs to do to live her life. Essentially you’re telling her that, to have a relationship with you, she needs to be even more busy than she already is.
That’s not exactly an enticing proposition.
Here’s something more enticing. You exercise leadership by planning the activity and making all necessary arrangements. Then you invite the lady to come with you for the activity you planned. This very simple approach provides a much more attractive prospect for the lady, increasing the likelihood that she will accept your invitation.
It also portrays you as someone who will exercise proper priesthood leadership in the home once you are married.
Real ladies support
I know many ladies are screaming, “Yeah, that’s right. You guys need to get with the program!” But that’s not really all that helpful.
Here’s what is. Just refuse to date any guy who won’t plan the date himself. And say that in your refusal. Tell the guy you want someone who exemplifies real leadership.
If he reforms himself and presents a plan, he may be worth examining more closely. But if he doesn’t, then right there you’ve saved yourself a huge hassle by avoiding a less-than-quality candidate at the start.
And to those ladies who retort that there aren’t any guys asking them or any other ladies out, I would invite you to consider two items:
Gentlemen! Please stop expecting the woman to plan the date. It’s time for you to man up. Be a real man and exercise some real leadership. And ladies, please help us men to be the real men we should be. By working together and walking together, we better journey together towards the perfection we all want. And we enjoy ourselves much more fully along the way there.
When I moved my blog here at the start of last year, I promised I would always be real and authentic. Today I further honor that promise.
Today was supposed to be the start of the next evolution for my blog — the first day of my new radio show. Obviously, by saying supposed to be, you know that isn’t happening today.
There’s a lot more to a radio show than just pushing a button and blabbing. I haven’t been able to assemble all of the necessary pieces. There’s just too much else going on right now.
And it’s about that too much else that I want to talk today.
Getting the girl
Recently I acquired my first ever girlfriend. As amazing as she is, it wasn’t easy for me to make that commitment. You see, she wasn’t the only interested party.
After many years of being marginalized, suddenly two very elect ladies both wanted me. Let’s call them Kimberly and Rachel. As I learned more about each of them, I saw how amazing they each were in their own right. And feelings for each of them began developing inside me. That situation, however, could not continue. Things came to a head, and I had to choose between them.
I was never a fan of polygamy until that moment.
Of course I had been looking for an answer. But prayer and scripture study and temple attendance brought me only partial insight. Then the moment of decision arrived. I had to choose.
That’s when my answer came to me. Life without Kimberly may be good, but life with Kimberly is better than life without Kimberly. So I committed myself to Kimberly.
Rocky road (and I don't mean ice cream)
That’s not to say everything’s been peachy. We all have issues to work through. Having to tell Rachel I chose someone else broke my heart as well as hers. Seeing me sad affected Kimberly, who revisited numerous ghosts from her less-than-stellar past in which Kimberly’s then-husband depreciated her greatly.
We’ve spent considerable time talking through these issues. We’ve made some good progress. Last night we shared some very tender feelings and pledged ourselves further to our relationship.
Then I learn today that Kimberly’s mother was admitted to the hospital. Everything turned out fine, but it’s clear this woman is nearing the end of her sojourn in mortality. Sooner or later a difficult moment will come.
As I think about the support I’ll be giving my girlfriend in her hour of need, my mind recalls an episode from my past. A few years ago I met someone online. We had emailed and phoned. But we hadn’t yet met because of the geographical distance between us.
Then President Hinckley passed away. Very distraught at the news, she called me. Apparently she didn’t feel the death of previous prophets as she did this one. We talked for a few hours. I consoled her, and she expressed gratitude I was in her life. I wondered if perhaps my ship had finally come in.
It hadn’t. We never actually met because soon thereafter she met the man who became her husband. Was the time I spent with her then wasted? After all, I wanted more than friendship with her, yet I found myself once again in the Club of Denied Gentlemen.
In time I came to learn our paths crossed so she could have the support she needed in a pivotal moment in her life while the Lord was preparing her blessings. And now with the thought of Kimberly experiencing a pivotal moment in her life, I’m wondering if yet again I’ve crossed paths with someone wonderful only to find it was simply to provide support in an hour of need.
Don’t go thinking I still have Rachel. Despite my best intentions and efforts, my agency has hurt her considerably, so much that I don’t expect her ever to accept me in her life again.
Face your fears
Despite her protestations to the contrary, I do fear my relationship with Kimberly won’t last. But I refuse to surrender to my fears. I’m going to face them and march forward with faith — faith that facing my truth will indeed set me free. Having been real and genuine in relating my current experience, I can see more clearly the path I need to take.
My liberation has already begun.
What fears do you have in your life? Whatever they are, don’t surrender to them. Face them head on. Free yourself by facing your truth. When you get real and genuine in relating your experience, you will see your path more clearly. And when you embrace that, you find yourself free indeed.
Howdy! I'm Lance, host of Joy in the Journey Radio. I've been blogging about LDS singles life since 2012, and now I produce a weekly radio show to help LDS singles have more joy in their journey and bring all Latter-day Saints together. Let's engage a conversation that will increase the faith of LDS singles and bring singles and marrieds together in a true unity of the faith.
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