I also like how each year the Light the World campaign just gets better and better. Just when I think there’s no way next year can be better, next year comes along and proves me wrong. The Church always finds a way to take it to the next level, and this year is no exception. This year, the tradition gets a whole lot simpler. And the simple truth is the world needs your light.
I just love that emphasis for the tradition this year. Typically there is a calendar with a suggested activity for each day. This year, it’s all about sharing the light of Christ that all of us have within us. You share the light within you because the world needs your light.
Now don’t get me wrong. I thought the calendars from previous years were great. I loved them. But I find myself loving this shift to emphasize individual initiative even more. Part of that is from the highlight of “25 Days of Kindness.” There is a beauty in the simplicity of not having everyone be part of some program but rather recognizing and sharing the seemingly small acts of kindness all around each one of us.
I say seemingly small intentionally. What may seem small to us can make all the world of difference to others. Too often we discount our own power to influence for good because in our own eyes we don’t measure up to whatever (often impossible) standard we adopt for ourselves. But you don’t have your light just because it can dispel the darkness for someone. You have your light because it will dispel the darkness for someone. The world needs your light.
I also love how this year the Church combines a simpler emphasis with a notched-up professional production. The video they made to introduce the campaign this year is really top class. That’s not to say videos from previous years weren’t great. There just seems to be a professional grade quality that’s next level up from last year.
And the upgrade in quality isn’t just in the professional look and feel of the video. It’s also in the emphasis on seemingly small yet simple ways of letting your light shine. We don’t see anyone in the video doing anything grandiose. They’re doing what anyone can do. And the difference that light makes to those who receive it is evident. Again, the world needs your light.
We spend far too much time focused on reasons not to give and not to influence for good. We convince ourselves we can’t make a difference. We doubt ourselves and the ability we all really do have to dispel the darkness in the lives of others.
Yet if we reflect on the real reason for the season, we can realize that He never concerned Himself with how His actions would or wouldn’t be received. His approach was simple. He just gave. When it came to kindness, He just was. When we follow that example and simply give, we can lift our light higher and let it shine in a world growing ever more dark.
Yes, the world needs your light. You were given gifts and talents so that you could offer others the light they need. You don’t need a lot to make a lot of difference. You just need to give and let your light shine. In so doing, you’ll help others remember the real reason for the season. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
You’d think that situation would turn me away from gratitude, but I had an experience the other day that turned me around. I realized that anyone can adapt to undesired change. You just need to find your new joy.
Coming to terms
We’re all creatures of habit, and I certainly have habits when it comes to the holidays. As I just mentioned, many of those habits involve food.
My condition won’t last forever. One day my recovery will end. I don’t expect I’ll go back to how I was before my first ER visit, and I’m not sure I’ll want to go back. But I am sure I’ll want to partake of my favorite foods occasionally — and indulge a bit when the annual holidays come around.
That’s all cold comfort for me right now. Or at least it was. Sure, the thought of being around people gorging themselves on delicacies I can’t now enjoy doesn’t exactly fill me with delight. I already cancelled my birthday food plan. Now I’ll need to cancel my food plans for Thanksgiving and probably also Christmas and New Years. You’d think I wouldn’t have gratitude from this — and you’d be right before I had this wonderful experience the other day.
Seeing new perspectives
I was shopping for some new diet items and of course conscious of the items in others’ carts — items I wanted in mine but dared not on penalty of pain. So I tried distracting myself by focusing on accomplishing the task before me. I would get what I needed and go.
That’s when the thought came to me. I’m not that bad off. First, I’ve been moving towards my present diet for some time in increments. I just didn’t want to surrender my favorite foods completely. My current condition won’t tolerate the increments; I have to be there now. That sudden shift gives new perspective on how much moving in small increments was really worth, and that’s something to be grateful for.
Second, removing those foods from my diet left a lot of space, so I’ve been searching out recipes online that meet my restrictions. One by one, I’m finding them. Not only that, I’m finding new worlds of flavor as I avoid usual fillers like sugar and embrace spices and seasonings. I’m not sure I’d have all these wonderful new taste experiences without my health challenges driving me, and that’s something to be grateful for.
Third, many of these recipes are so easy to make and way cheaper than the pre-packaged versions that I’m finding a new perspective on convenience. The short term convenience of time I get a can or a box doesn’t outweigh other conveniences like more flavor in my mouth, more health in my body, and more money in my bank account. All that’s something to be grateful for.
Finding new joys
When I put it all together, I have an experience I wouldn’t otherwise have. And that gives me a new perspective on not just my health but also living my life and finding more joy in it.
Yes, I’ve had some undesired changes in my life, but I still have access to joy. It’s not the same joy I had previously; my circumstances won’t permit that. But new doors open for every old one that closes, and behind those new doors are new experiences, perspectives, and joys that all give reason for gratitude. So even though I won’t be partaking of the usual Thanksgiving Day feast tomorrow, I will be reflecting on how grateful I am for the new joys I’ve found and continue to find in my new life.
So when your situation changes in a way you really don’t want, please take a moment to consider what you do have and find your new joy. You’ll gain new perspectives and new experiences you’ll wish you would have found earlier, and you’ll find yourself grateful you did find them. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
I soon saw why. President Ballard’s references to the pioneers really resonated with me in the midst of my own difficult journey. In a way, I’m something of a pioneer. I’ve had my first visit to the emergency room, my first hospital stay, and my first surgery. The road I’m walking now is unexpectedly new to me. But that new road just heightens my need to take footsteps of faith.
My pioneer mission
Despite the newness of my current road, I’m not entirely in unfamiliar territory. I covered ground much like this on my mission. Being sick all the time with symptoms that came and went so much I couldn’t tell you what the next day would be like, let alone when exactly it would end. That sounds a lot like the road I’m on right now.
President Ballard mentioned his own missionary service in his address, and it caused me to reflect on my own service, particularly how it prepared me for my life. It’s provided me a foundation for each new segment of my life journey.
That’s why I really appreciated President Ballard’s initial words. Right out of the gate, he starts with bold testimony:
I need that hope now as I face my current challenges. It’s one thing to say it’ll all be over because I go home at the end of two years. It’s another when you don’t have such a marker in sight.
Pioneers and prophets
It’s not altogether surprising President Ballard centered his remarks around pioneers. He’s spoken in past Conferences about his pioneer ancestors and the lessons they offered him — and through him to all of us.
Such references often get me thinking about my own pioneer ancestors. I don’t know much about them because the principle one never kept a journal. Perhaps my knowledge of my ancestors’ lives will change one day.
In the meantime, I can lean on others like President Ballard to fill that gap. I was particularly impressed when he shared,
How many of us have really thought about that? It’s easy to get wrapped up in the difficulties of our own lives, so much so we can easily forget that the story of how we confronted our challenges could help those who come after us confront theirs. Knowing my response can help others gives me strength to make a better choice.
President Ballard spoke of other pioneers. In particular, he mentioned President Nelson:
I so very much appreciated that quote from President Nelson, for if I ever needed a miracle, I need one now. What a tender mercy!
Our pioneer Savior
Of course, President Ballard saved the best example for last — our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. That’s altogether fitting since Christ is the ultimate anything good. Plus President Ballard’s remarks are entitled “Follow Jesus Christ with Footsteps of Faith.” It’s not just walking in faith. It’s walking the path of Christ in faith.
Moreover, it’s not walking behind Him so much as it is beside Him. That concept I find especially comforting in my current difficulties. Don’t get me wrong. This road has been very rough, and I’m just getting started with it. But even in my most painful moments, the Lord has never abandoned me. He has stood beside me through it all. His walk beside me in my moments of difficulty invites me to walk beside Him in my moments of ease (which will come one day, for eventually this all will pass).
President Ballard’s testimony of the Savior especially moved me.
Whatever road in life, may we each seek to follow Jesus Christ with footsteps of faith. He’ll strengthen us to become shining examples for those who follow us. He’ll encourage us through the voice of His Spirit and His living Prophet. And He will stand ready to lift us to higher ground as our trials bring our glean to a brilliant glorious sheen. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
Assessing the moment
Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas, which the pancreas can heal on its own. But to do so, it must be allowed to focus on that task. Calling it away for its usual duty of producing digestive enzymes or insulin will distract it and thereby prolong healing.
That restriction has wrecked some havoc on my diet. Initially I was on a liquid diet and then slowly graduated to more solid food. So long as I stay within my restrictions and keep my meals small (this also helps the pancreas to focus on healing), I should be fine. That said, I still feel swings in my abdomen. Some moments feel better than others.
I have even worse swings from my pulmonary embolism. The blood thinners I’m on have some funky side effects, one of which is lightheadedness. It comes and goes, some moments being better than others. Today was particularly bad. The lightheadedness was extreme as I’d never before felt in my life, and it stayed with me the whole morning. I spent much of the day today in the emergency room, where the doctor finally concluded I was experiencing a side effect of my meds.
Confronting the moment
How do I deal with a condition that not only constantly changes but changes so often I don’t really know how I’ll be the next day? The only real option I have is to do the best I can to attend to the demands of the moment. My condition forces it on me.
But that’s not very different from what I’ve been sharing here on Joy in the Journey Radio. We find our best joy in life from living in the moment. Letting go of what things will mean tomorrow opens a door that otherwise remains closed.
For example, LDS singles leave much joy on the table when dating by worrying about what different social interactions will mean for them tomorrow. “I don’t want to sit next to those people because then they’ll think I’m interested, and I’m not.” We think we know so much, yet in truth, we don’t know that much, and we see even less. There’s countless tales of couples who didn’t think they were right for each other but who are very happy today because they let go of what they thought they needed and embraced the opportunity in the moment.
Embracing the moment
Of course, letting go of what things will mean tomorrow isn’t license for leaving the covenant path. I’m in no way suggesting we ignore the consequences of sin. What I’m saying is that within the confines of our covenants we too often focus outside of the present moment, and that focus leaves a lot of joy on the table we could have every day by living in the present moment.
By embracing the moments that come within the confines of our covenants, we position ourselves for maximum joy. Redefining what we consider opportunity to be reveals more pathways to experience that joy. The road can still be rough, as I can attest. Some of the moments that confront me are less than pleasant. But I know by doing my best with each moment, I know I’m making my journey as good as it can be.
Embrace your life one day at a time. When you stop living in some future that never seems to come or the past that you cannot change, you find more possibilities in your life. You’ll gain more perspective that breeds more hope for the future. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Regardless of what’s going on there, I know the Lord will be with me to see me through. I know that because He’s always been with me throughout this entire ordeal. He’s never left my side. In fact, he gave me a wonderful experience. The Lord has bolstered my faith through an unexpected promise.
A promise made
Going into the hospital, I had no insurance. I’ve been looking at options in recent years, but I always made too much money to qualify for Medicaid, and what remained was simply not affordable. Something had to change, because there’s no way I can pay all the bills I’m racking up. But with all the stress of it on me, I thought to put it off until after I get out of the hospital.
Sunday I was reading in the D&C and came upon an interesting verse. The Prophet Joseph had traveled to Salem, Massachusetts, to pursue a claim of funds that could help alleviate the debts of the Church. Then I read this verse: “Concern not yourselves about your debts, for I will give you power to pay them” (D&C 111:5).
I’d read that verse many times before, but this time it struck me with great force. I felt as though a way would be prepared for me, that I didn’t need to worry about it and could focus on getting through this experience in the hospital. I set my concerns about payment aside, but I had no idea what lay in store for me.
A promise fulfilled
The next day, I find text messages which my brother had sent me while I slept. His wife rarely speaks out with any sort of intervention in my life, but she had one that night and urged my brother to share it with me.
She spoke from her previous experience working as an office manager for an assisted living home. And the advice was simple. "Let the hospital help you apply for Medicaid, and let them decide whether or not you qualify." I had looked at that earlier in the month and thought I didn’t qualify. But having nothing to lose by following that counsel, I pursued it.
I started with the number for the case manager who had visited me earlier. Eventually, I connected with someone who submitted an application for me. And the application came back approved. The real miracle of this event is that coverage begins from the first day of the month from the application date. I applied on the last day of the month, so everything from the moment I first walked into the emergency room would be covered.
A faith bolstered
I didn’t expect the Lord’s promise to be fulfilled so quickly. I thought everything would get resolved after I got out of the hospital. But in His love and mercy, He opened a way for His promise to be fulfilled.
That may seem like a trite, little story, but the thought that came to me after I understood my expenses would be covered was neither trite nor little. Through the Spirit, the Lord reminded me of the promise He made me regarding my eternal companion and testified that promise was still real. Just as He fulfilled this unexpected promise regarding my medical expenses, He would open the way for His promise of an eternal companion to be fulfilled.
D&C 111 isn’t one of those sections that one would expect to provide special, faith-promoting experiences. Yet an unexpected promise I received while reading that section has given me a much needed bolster to my faith, and I remain grateful to God for His love and mercy.
So open yourself to unexpected promises. These tender mercies from the Lord can lead to the bolster of faith you may need in your life. As you share that experience with others, you can help them increase their faith. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Howdy! I'm Lance, host of Joy in the Journey Radio. I've been blogging about LDS singles life since 2012, and since 2018 I've been producing a weekly Internet radio show and podcast 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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