Sunday was my ward’s annual Primary program. This year the theme was family. It was really hard for me to watch.
Don’t get me wrong. The children presented very well. It’s just salt in the wound to have a constant reminder of what I don’t have.
They did nod to sensitivity. The program started with “Families come in all shapes and sizes. Some are a family of one, and some are a family of many. . . .”
I just wanted to vomit.
That ridiculous notion never agreed with me. I know people want to be sensitive, but I’m not a family. I’m an individual. And I’m okay with that.
But it didn’t end there. Sunday School and priesthood meeting were little better, with comments about singleness equals sin and how singles don’t need people ministering to them but rather a different mind set.
And that’s when it hit me.
I had this epiphany. I saw new connections between ideas I’ve had now for quite some time. And enlightenment followed.
I’ve blogged before about how your focus becomes your reality. Whatever you think about manifests itself in the real world. But what do you do when elements outside your control constantly present you with what you don’t want to think about? How do you stop that from becoming your reality?
That’s why I had a hard time with church. And quite frankly, it’s why many singles have serious issues feeling like they belong in church. When what you want but don’t have is continually thrown in your face every week, it’s hard not to focus on it. And when you focus on that lack, you can’t avoid having a reality filled with lack. It’s natural law.
So what do we do?
What the answer is not
Let’s start with what the answer is not.
The answer isn’t leaving the Church. The gospel of Jesus Christ restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith is true. Leave the Church, and you leave the safety of priesthood authority and sacred covenants.
Neither is the answer avoiding church meetings, especially sacrament meeting. The renewal of our covenants that attends partaking of the sacrament provides vital nourishment for spiritual well-being. Nothing really replaces that.
Likewise, the answer isn’t ceasing or watering down our support of the family. It’s more than just the building block of society (as important as that is). The family is the basic unit of eternity. So we need to support the family — and strongly.
Moving towards an answer
While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, I do believe we need to be more involved in each other’s lives. That goes both ways. Singles need to be more involved in the lives of marrieds, and marrieds need to be more involved in the lives of singles.
I’ve blogged before about our need as singles to take the first step. The Church doesn’t need to change, but the subculture does — not away from the family but towards more inclusiveness of those who don’t have families of their own. Our culture should encourage everyone to help everyone along the journey into eternity. That change won’t happen until we singles personify it.
Some will find that hard to do. After all, how do you fill up someone’s gas tank when you yourself are running on empty? Many of us singles are running on empty.
This is precisely where our married friends can help. While everyone is different, many singles clearly struggle to progress further on their own. A kind, compassionate friend who has passed that point in his or her own progression can be a great help.
We’re all on an eternal journey together. Though at different points in the journey, we can each reach out to help those not as far along the path as we are. The particulars of that help will of course vary for each person. But walking with others along the journey is a key part of the journey itself.
Instead of having people not involved in our lives constantly presenting us singles with what we lack, our focus as singles can more easily turn more positive when our married friends display more sensitivity as a result of being more involved in our lives. Then marriage and family become more than just a rite of passage marking acceptance within the subculture. Eternal marriage and family become the ideal state we help everyone to achieve.
The Savior’s invitation to Enoch instructs us all. “Behold my Spirit is upon you . . . and thou shalt abide in me, and I in you; therefore walk with me” (Moses 6:34). Walking with the Lord means walking with others, helping them along the true way (Matthew 25:31-46; Mosiah 2:17). Let us all, then, walk with the Lord. Let us walk together towards our eternal home.
Today I stand at the threshold of a tipping point. As mentioned in previous posts, I’ve been preparing for an 8-hour licensing exam that is now only 2 days away. I’m feeling mostly prepared and confident I will do well. Whether or not I will do well enough to pass is a separate question.
I know that the people who care most about me will be praying for me, and their prayers are appreciated. They remind me of when someone prayed for me at the threshold of an earlier tipping point in my life.
If you want to help someone along a journey towards positive changes, all you need to do to start is pray for that individual by name every time you pray. Whether it is in private or in public, whether early in the morning or late at night, pray for individuals by name. Let your hearts turn towards those for whom you pray. And if said individual actually hears your prayer, all the better.
A personal story
Towards the end of my graduate school days, time to complete my thesis before the deadline for the current year was diminishing. Before leaving home to return for that final push across the goal line, I knelt with my folks in prayer. I’ll never forget my mother pleading for me to the Lord by name and asking Him to help me to finish my program.
It was the memory of that prayer that pulled me through. I wasn't getting along with my major professor, and the demands placed upon me had become so difficult and frustrating that I just wanted to just pack my things and leave. But the memory of my mother praying for me filled me with a feeling of love and support that re-energized me just enough to keep trying. I don't think I would have finished if not for that prayer in which my mother pleaded for me by name.
With another tipping point looming before me, I’ll of course be praying for myself by name. But perhaps there are others unbeknownst to me who are facing tipping points in their own lives. Perhaps praying for them by name will help to tip them to the more positive side. I can think of some names that I know should be in my prayers. For the rest, I’ll have to seek to be more sensitive to the Spirit to reveal those names to me.
And that’s actually good counsel for all of us. Have you prayed lately for anyone by name? When you next kneel to pray, seek to be sensitive to Spirit and pray for those whose names fill your mind or your heart. And keep praying for them by name. Perhaps your prayer may be just the gentle push they need to receive great and glorious blessings in their lives.
For a while now I’ve been journeying through the scriptures in chronological order. I’ve learned lots by studying the scriptures in context of time. And now I’m in the home stretch.
This morning I looked at D&C 89. We’ve all heard that we tend to focus too much on what we should avoid and not enough on the what we should embrace. But when you tally the score on each side of that fence, you find something really interesting.
The Lords says “Yes” twice as much as He says “No.”
Let's take score
Count it out with me. Concerning what we should ingest, here’s what the Lord says.
1. No to alcohol. (v. 5 & 7)
2. No to tobacco. (v. 8)
3. No to coffee or tea. (v. 9)
So the Nays have 3. Now for the Yeas.
1. Yes to herbs. (v. 10-11)
2. Yes to fruit in season. (v. 11)
3. Yes to meat sparingly. (v. 12-13)
4. Yes to grains as “the staff of life.” (v. 14-15)
5. Yes to fruit as supplement to grains. (v. 15)
6. Yes to wheat as the central grain in diet. (v. 17)
A closer look
These days it seems like there’s always some new research study about the benefits of eating this food and staying away from that one. And many selections take turns. One day salt is good for you, the next it’s not. One day eggs are bad for you, the next they’re not. I could go on, but I think you know what I’m getting at.
That’s what makes the Word of Wisdom so wonderful. Look at the program which the Creator recommends. A diet based in herbs (which could be interpreted to include vegetables), fruits, and whole grains will promote health in the body. If the bulk of your daily caloric load comes from these plant-base sources, then you’ve got a good hold on taking care of yourself.
Of course, the body needs protein, especially to rebuild muscle torn down by exercise (which we all know we should get). While all meat is protein, not all protein is meat. So eating meat sparingly and then filling the rest of your protein needs with plant-based sources like lentils, beans, and nuts is a healthy approach to diet.
Now I’m not championing vegetarianism. I have friends with that lifestyle, and I respect their choice. The Lord advised that meat should be eaten sparingly, which means that it can be eaten. Just make sure not to make it an overly large part of your daily caloric load. For me, that means enjoying that bacon cheeseburger I love on a “blue-moon” basis.
I confess my diet hasn’t always been the best. In earlier years I was quite depressed about my single status, and like many in that boat I turned to food to compensate. But that was then. Now I’ve made great strides toward improving my diet. And I feel much better than I did when my diet was poorer.
That doesn’t mean I don’t eat what people say you shouldn’t eat. I disagree with those who say some foods are “clean” or “good” while others aren’t. In my perspective, there are no bad foods, only bad amounts.
So as I said before, I’ll eat that bacon cheeseburger. I just won’t eat it every day. The same goes for pizza and ice cream and chocolate and donuts and such.
A holistic approach
I can’t say that I’m perfect with the program. But I can say that I’m trying. And I am improving. I even have the numbers to prove it. My weight is dropping, my strength is increasing, and I’m running farther than I was at the start of the year. With each improvement I feel a little bit better, and not just in my body.
The Lord acknowledged not only a healthy body as a result of obeying the Word of Wisdom but also a healthy mind and spirit. Look at the promises He makes at the end of Section 89. The Lord reflect the interconnections between our different parts. He truly is interested in our whole salvation.
If you’re reading this and feeling guilty, please stop. Stop with the guilt and start getting on this train.
The changes I’ve made in myself were never large or sudden. They were all small steps taken one at a time. And collectively they’ve added into more than their sum. I can feel that difference.
So if you’re falling short of the Lord’s standard, don’t feel guilty. Just start doing something to move in the right direction. With each positive step you make, you’ll realize more of the Lord’s promises in your life. And you’ll feel so much better for it.
Last week I posted rather cryptically about some of my struggles with balance. This week I’ll be more straightforward.
In 16 days I take a nationwide test that will greatly affect my career and earning potential. I speak of the Professional Engineering Exam, a grueling, 8-hour, discipline-specific test. Passing means I can practice engineering without supervision. NCEES describes more information about the PE Exam on its website.
I’m taking the metallurgical PE exam since this matches my background. Unlike the major disciplines that have lots of study guides, manuals, videos, and classes to prepare test takers for the exam, the metallurgical discipline has next to nothing. Instead, I’m told to go back to my old college textbooks.
Those textbooks weren’t written for the PE Exam. Occasionally some convey something useful. But most were written to aggrandize the author within the ivory tower of academia where you publish or perish.
Furthermore, none of my college textbooks have solutions to problems let alone answers. I’ve no idea if I’m working correctly any of the problems appearing at the end of chapters. This is supposed to be test prep?
Add to this the historical passing rate for first-time test takers in my discipline: 40%. The majority taking this test for the first time fail. Failure means waiting another year and paying yet more hefty fees to sit again for the test. Could that high failure rate be related to the lack of adequate test prep material?
And so goes my balance
I’ve been assembling my own prep material since April, based on a list of exam topic areas produced by NCEES. The list is fairly broad in scope. And since I don’t know exactly what I’m preparing for, I’ve been freaking out more and more as the test date approaches.
Those concerns drove me to devote more and more time to test prep. That meant less and less time for other areas of life. Enter my lack of balance stage right.
Eventually I turned “anti-social.” Except to announce a new blog post on occasion, my participation in social media became non-existent. And so did the effect of the goodness I have to share with others.
During this time, family and friends produced many posts, none of which received my likes or comments since I wasn’t present to like or comment. Likewise, messages and invitations were not received and so inadvertently communicated disinterest in the sender or the sender’s message or invitation.
I of course am not disinterested. Distracted maybe, but not disinterested.
Finding the way back
Everyone can become so submerged in current local demands that we lose sight of our larger, more eternal calling. It’s good to do good things, but it’s better to do better things and best to do best things.
Yes, passing my license exam so I can advance my career plan is good and important. At the same time, it’s not so important that I sacrifice my sense of balance. I should devote time towards preparation, yes. But I should not devote so much time that I crowd out joyful living. My earthly career is good, but my eternal career is better and best.
To help with that, I returned to my values and created a time map. We affirm our values with our actions. And every action we take needs time to complete. By scheduling that time first in our week, we create a map that helps us stay true to our best selves while maintaining balance.
The key is to schedule best and better activities first. Otherwise, good but lesser activities will crowd out the space. Then we won’t be able to fit in what is best and better.
These thoughts came to me before Conference. During Conference, several speakers addressed how we spend our time. And they all spoke in ways that indicated how God is aware of me and my particular situation. How I love and appreciate the blessings of Conference!
Start all over again
Of course, some days simply won’t go as planned. That’s OK. In the words of a great jazz ditty, I’ll just pick myself up, dust myself off, and start all over again. Sometimes that means creating a new time map. More often it means returning to the map at the point where I happen to be.
I’m now re-finding my balance. I’m feeling more calm and confident that I’ll do well on my exam. And I feel more of the love and support of my Heavenly Father for all my challenges, not just this current one.
Do you need help with balance? Then revisit your values. List the activities most important to you. Schedule them in your week first. You can then respond more effectively to the ever changing currents ever calling for your attention.
My post this week might turn out to be a bit less refined. And that might be a good thing.
I've been struggling lately with questions of balance. I suppose that's just a part of navigating these mortal waters. Yet right now it feels like more than just your typical mortal probation testing ground.
Imagine what it would be like to be implanted in a giant block of cream cheese. (And if you don't like dairy, just imagine for the moment that you just can't get enough of it!) You're surrounded by all this gooey goodness. And you think to yourself, "Hey, this isn't so bad."
Until you try to move around and learn rather quickly that the viscosity of cream cheese isn't all that low. (For those of you who don't speak enginerd, that means you can't move around easily.) That said substance which you once held in your hand now surrounds you almost completely. (Hey, it can't surround you completely because then you wouldn't breathe, and that sort of spoils the analogy here.) And then you realize that it's even worse than that.
You don't have any crackers.
I mean, how can you eat cream cheese without crackers? I know, I know, you just dip your finger and go. But it's just not the same. And if you love dairy as much as I do, you know what I mean.
Where am I going with this? Well, I thought you'd never ask.
We singles tend to get caught up in our own selves and the nuances of our lives. We do it not because we're single or because there's something really poignant about being single that demands attention (although that may be true). It's just human nature. People will do that regardless of their circumstances.
And when people get caught up in their own worlds and those worlds don't seem to be going right, it can feel like it's really hard to move toward the life they really want. Kinda like being implanted in a huge block of cream cheese.
And sometimes in those moments, you can think to yourself that it wouldn't be so bad if you only had such and such. Only you don't have it. Kinda like being implanted in a huge block of cream cheese and not having any crackers.
Of course, if I were implanted in a huge block of cream cheese, the way out is obvious. I just have to eat my way out one bite at a time.
And I guess that's the answer to my balance problem. It won't resolve itself. I must do that, and I do it by taking care of things one piece at a time.
I think I need to get off the train I'm riding for a while and find my balance again. That and find some crackers to go with my cream cheese.
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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