Take a lesson from a farmer
Many don’t believe that. They assume life is the collection of circumstances outside their control. But that’s why many people aren’t all that happy.
Your focus determines your reality. Because you can choose what you focus on, you can choose your reality. True, most don’t choose their circumstances, but that never stopped anyone who lived joyfully from living joyfully. These people lived their best life because they made different choices with the same circumstances.
Some of us should take a lesson from a farmer. Farmers don’t choose their circumstances. They have the soil and the water that’s available. Their seeds for planting are whatever they are. The weather will be whatever it will be. So much of what’s needful for the harvest is outside their control. Yet with hard work in what they can control, they produce bountiful harvests year after year.
In like manner, we haven’t chosen many of the circumstances of our lives. What we have is what we have, and it’s often all we have. But if we work hard in what we can control, we can produce harvests of truly joyful living year after year. This is what I call your best life.
Embrace what you control
I can hear many of you now. What exactly can we control? Here’s my answer: Standards, attitude, approach.
It starts with standards. You’ll never design your best life without knowing what’s acceptable and what’s not. The best delineations between what you’ll tolerate and what you won’t are made after partnering with the Lord to get good with you. Once you know and accept who you really are and what your personal ministry should be, you can best draw that line between what you’ll accept in your life and what you won’t. The more clear you make that definition, the more able you’ll be to live the life you intend.
Once you know exactly what you want, you need resolve to do whatever it takes to get it (within the realm of covenant living, of course). You need the attitude of the victor and not the victim. That attitude will fire your imagination to design a life you’ll truly enjoy and pull you through to that fulfilling end when the road there gets tough.
Of course, attitude without action will never bring you achievement. To live a life you design, you must take action. Working smart as well as working hard requires attention to one’s approach. Too often we think what we seek must come in one specific way. But much of life is not path-dependent; there’s often more than one road leading to the top of the mountain. And sometimes the road that’s best for us to travel is not the one we expect.
Get clear and get going
With these three elements in place — standards, attitude, and approach — you can decide what you want your life to be and feel the joy that comes from working to make it happen. Usually that means taking small steps every single day to inch yourself closer to the life you dream.
That’s where many of us fall short. We don’t do the little things everyday that can near us to our best life. Then, after a larger block of time has passed, we can’t help but notice we’re left standing on the pier because our ship has long since sailed.
That’s where being clear about your standards, attitude, and approach holds its best value. Once you’re crystal clear on those elements, what you need to do everyday will be obvious. Performing those seemingly small and insignificant actions everyday will collect to create the very significant life you design for yourself.
So what are you waiting for? Get clear, and then get going. None of this happens overnight. But as you move closer to the life you design for yourself, you’ll feel the joy that comes from making progress. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
It’s natural to think life would be better if only we had something we don’t now have. We think, I'll be happy when ______ . You can fill in the blank.
And many do. Some think they’ll be happy when they get a new job or a new house. Some marrieds fill that blank with a new baby. Many singles fill that blank with getting married.
These thoughts are natural, and that’s why they ultimately don’t lead to happiness. Happiness never comes from following the inclinations of the natural man or woman. Those inclinations turn your focus inward on yourself.
But true happiness requires you to turn your focus outward on others and contributing to make their lives better. The more of yourself you give in that endeavor, the happier you become. And because you can always contribute to others in some way, you don’t have to wait for happiness.
Avoid the “happiness” trap
Often we place too many conditions on our happiness. By thinking we can’t be happy unless we possess something — be it some material object, social status, or notable achievement — we equate happiness with possessing that something.
And that’s the first part of the trap. As long as you don’t possess whatever that something is, you’ll be unhappy. And because true happiness comes from what you give rather than possess, fulfillment will always elude you.
The second part of the trap comes by thinking you must possess your something because your life plan says it’s “right.” After all, how can you be happy when your life isn’t what you want it to be?
Many singles get caught in this second part of the trap. Thinking you need to have that special someone to be happy is self-defeating. If you’re not happy now, you’re not likely to attract that special someone. People generally don’t want to spend ten minutes let alone their entire life with negative emotions like unhappiness.
Not getting what you think you need to be happy then just feeds the cycle to continue. And releasing your wanting will be hard so long as your life plan tells you it’s “right” to keep wanting it, further reinforcing the cycle.
Find your freedom
But you don’t have to be trapped. You can free yourself by changing your thinking. Quit waiting for some condition to be met. Start understanding the true source of happiness, and start making more effective choices.
Happiness comes from giving your all to the right things. Long-time audience members know the right things are more than just keeping the standards. Of course those standards are right for everyone. But the right things also include your unique contribution to improve the lives of others.
And you can’t just do your right things and expect to be happy. It's what you bring to what you do while doing the right things that produces happiness. It’s how much of yourself you give willingly to doing your right things.
If just doing the right thing would make you happy, everyone at church would be just peachy. After all, church attendance is a right thing. But you can’t just go through the motions to become happy. You must give your all to the right things. That’s why those who contribute while attending church are always happy. They’re giving their all to their right things.
Likewise, simply acting out your part during the marriage ceremony won’t make you happy, however "right" that marriage may be. What will make you happy is bringing your all to that union. Happiness comes from giving your all to the things that are right for you.
Be happy now
Here’s the best part about this definition of happiness. You don’t need to wait to be happy. In His tender mercies, the Lord has placed within your reach the things that are right for you now. You can choose to change your thinking so that you can see your right things all around you. And you can choose to give your all in embracing those right things.
When it comes to being happy, you don’t need to wait. You don’t need a change in your situation. You need a change in your thinking and then you just need to choose to be happy.
Don’t sacrifice the joy of today by focusing on a future that always seems elusive. Focus instead on the contribution you can make today. You can be happy now if you align your thinking and your actions with the true source of happiness. When you give your all to contribute to others in the way that’s right for you, you’ll feel that happiness come into your own life. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
We all know the LDS single who’s so eager to be married that he or she instantly gravitates towards anyone who appears to promise a blessed end to single status. Maybe you’ve even been that single yourself.
I was once all about finding that eternal companion but never actually finding her. I felt like that hamster down at the pet store, always just spinning my wheels and never getting anywhere. And I felt miserable.
I thought I was doing the right thing. After all, our leaders have talked endlessly about the importance of marriage and family. Our LDS culture is centered around family. It made sense to go after it directly.
But that’s exactly the problem. It doesn’t come when you pursue it directly. It comes when you let it come to you.
Understand how it works
We’re all hard wired to operate out of habit. And what we do determines what we get. So if we entertain less effective habits, we’ll keep getting less effective results. And it won’t end until we replace the less effective habit with a more effective one.
Many LDS singles have the less effective habit of making a beeline for anyone appearing to promise hope for marriage. But when you understand how everything works, you’ll realize you need to ditch the beeline.
Here’s how it works. Marriage means the agency of another person is involved. You can’t choose for others. Someone else has to choose you. That means the most you can do is influence that choice.
That’s why you keep hearing platitudes like “Just be yourself” or “Keep working on yourself.” They’re all true up to a point. Doing these things will influence the right person to choose you.
But beyond that point lies the reality where we all live. This most important choice has many influences in addition to the one you exert. And these other considerations outside your control can drown any hope of acquiring desired blessings. Your challenge, then, is to exert your best influence, trusting the Lord to cross your path with someone who will choose you. Are you up to it?
Rise to the challenge
You can best rise to the challenge by letting go of pursuing marriage directly and adopting a personal ministry. This really is your best approach for exerting your best influence.
Here’s why. When you pursue marriage directly, you broadcast to everyone around you you’re all about marriage. No one really wants to marry someone who’s more interested in some personal agenda. So you come off appearing desperate.
When you drop the beeline and adopt a personal ministry, you’re about something bigger than yourself. You let your best self shine while serving others. Devoting yourself to your own personal ministry shakes off the scales of desperation so that others see you as someone interesting, someone worth getting to know better, maybe even share a life with.
Guess what? Now you’re influencing others to decide in your favor.
Other powerful influences exist, yes, but that’s where walking by faith comes in. When you partner with the Lord, He’ll lead you to those with whom your best influence will be more than good enough. That’s because they’ll hearken to the voice of the Spirit when He says, “Give this one a chance.”
Embrace your best self
Many LDS singles live in fear that their desired blessings won’t come. But that’s no way to live. It’s much more joyful to let go of directly pursuing marriage and instead pursue what will influence others to choose in your favor.
Devoting yourself to your own personal ministry can make the waiting more joyful, however long that waiting lasts. Do you want just to endure to the end? Or do you want to thrive?
Of course, you should keep looking for and pursuing opportunities that arise. But your universe won’t be rotating around them. So let go of directly pursuing marriage. Let it come to you. When you devote yourself to your personal ministry, you can embrace your best self. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
While deciding the topic schedule for this year, I consulted the Internet for a list of holidays. I thought the appearance of a show on or very close to a holiday might spark an idea.
That’s when I saw something I had never before seen. Today, 24 January 2018, is a holiday. Can you guess what that holiday is? OK, I won’t keep you in suspense. It’s Global Belly Laugh Day.
Yes, that’s right. And if you just broke out into gut-busting laughter, then you’ve already got it. But if you were more like me, then you just snickered, smiled, and thought, “Uh, yeah. OK.”
Having just learned about the existence of Global Belly Laugh Day, I of course know nothing about it. So I started looking. And what I found made me think about LDS singles everywhere.
A little background
All these benefits sound like great antidotes to many of the challenges LDS singles face. Yet how many of us actually get enough laughter in our lives? We need to laugh a little more than we do.
Of course, I’m all for seriousness in the proper contexts. But I’m also for balance, and that means including some more laughter in our lives when that context is proper.
A little moderation
And yes, I know what some of you are thinking. You’ve whipped out your sticks or your phone as a prelude to quoting D&C 88:69, which says in part, “Cast away your idle thoughts and your excess of laughter far from you.” Or maybe you were heading to D&C 59:15, which in part says, “... not with much laughter, for this is sin ....”
Well, I have just one word for you. Actually, I have two. Whatever, dude.
Seriously, I’m not talking about anything exceeding moderation here. Anything in excess is probably not that great for you. And, yes, that includes laughter.
I can remember times in college when friends and I became so engulfed in riotous laughter that it felt intoxicating. Excess laughter can lead you to forget your propriety. You can say and do some pretty stupid things under the influence of excess laughter.
That’s clearly not what we’re advocating here. We’re promoting an approach like the one taken by the Prophet Joseph Smith. He was always one for merriment, but he also knew how to work hard and when it was time for each. His life was far from easy, but laughter provided a good inoculate to the pessimism and negativity that could have clouded his perspective.
The late Elder Joseph Wirthlin understood that approach. His last Conference address “Come What May, and Love It” describes that very attitude. If you’ve never read it, give it a go. This classic might open your eyes to a new way of living.
A little indulgence
And if none of those did it for you, find something that will. Laughter has so many positive benefits that life without enough of it isn’t much of a life. Don’t let that be your life! Make the conscious choice to find the humor around you and laugh a little more. When you do, you’ll have more joy in your journey.
It’s no secret that I love Christmas. What’s not to love? There’s a general feeling of good will that pervades everything. There’s time with friends and family. There’s all the holiday goodies that aren’t so great for the waistline but wonderful for taste buds. There’s the lights that turn ordinary neighborhoods into works of electric art at night.
And of course, there’s the real reason for the season. There’s the opportunity to renew our discipleship by following Him more fully. There’s His peace that we can feel in our hearts. There’s His light that we can share with others.
Yet for some, Christmas is simply about tradition. They enjoy friends, family, good food, and all the external trappings of the season. They may even include something spiritual in their holiday habit. But they don’t really feel the season because they’re on autopilot. They just go through the motions. Once the season is over, they return to whatever lives they had before.
Seeing these people got me thinking. Do I just go through the motions of the holiday season, or do I allow the miracle that is Christ to change my heart?
You gotta choose it
Sometimes I catch myself going through the motions. It’s not that hard to do. After all, we’re designed to have habits and play them out without thinking about what we’re doing.
But the truly fulfilled life comes only with discipline in constantly making conscious choices. We must choose consciously what we say and do. And we can’t just choose anything if we want to maximize our joy in life. We must choose Christ.
This is admittedly not the easiest task to accomplish. We are after all designed to operate out of habit. That’s why it’s more productive to leverage our natural design than to fight against it. We need to adopt the habit of not living by habit.
One way to do this is by participating in the Church’s Light the World campaign. We could also make our own calendar with actions that we choose for ourselves. Or we could go through each day of the Christmas season just looking for opportunities to share goodness. We don’t necessarily need a set plan; just an openness to whatever opportunities cross our path and a willingness to take advantage of them.
You gotta feel it
Christmas is especially appropriate for random acts of goodness. That’s what I love about this time of year. It shakes me out of my usual year-long doldrums and gets me introspective. Am I really feeling the reality of Christ within me? Or am I just on autopilot?
That is the ultimate test for me. If I’m not really feeling it inside, then it’s not really working for me. And that begs the obvious question: Why do it?
I want real. And for me, real isn’t life on autopilot. Real is life with flavor created by consciously chosen experience. I can surround myself with the real reason for the season and maybe get something out of that. Or I can consciously choose to surrender myself to Him and certainly get everything out of that.
That’s life you can feel, not just a bare existence. So whenever I realize I’m not feeling it, that’s a red flag alerting me to choose differently. I need to break my habit of living on autopilot and embrace the habit of not living by habit.
You gotta live it
Living life by conscious choice creates awareness of the joy already around us. Living life on autopilot removes that awareness. All you need for life on autopilot is to follow a habit without thinking about it.
It’s the awareness that makes all the difference. Again, that’s what I love about Christmas. It provides enough newness to shake me free of the same old same-old that bogs me down. It reminds me of my need for awareness.
Once I become aware of myself, it’s easier to live by conscious choice. And living by conscious choice results in the realization that the joy of the season is around us all year long. We simply need eyes to see.
Seeing that joy makes it easier to feel. Feeling that joy makes life delicious and truly sweet. That’s the miracle Christ makes possible for us all. He saves us not just in the next life but in this one as well. It’s a reality you can have when you consciously choose Him.
Christ truly is the real reason for the season. Are we engaging our yearly traditions on autopilot? Or are we consciously choosing Christ and allowing His miracle to save us? Consciously choosing to keep Christ in the heart is the best way to savor the season. And that will bring more joy in our journey.
The Christmas season is now in full swing upon us once again. It’s time once more for yuletide cheer and merriment. This is my favorite time of year.
Of course, along with the traditions we each practice with the season, we should always remember the reason for the season. Good thoughts and deeds are always appropriate and even more so as we remember He who gave us the best example of good thoughts and deeds.
It was He who taught “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). To that end, last year the Church promoted a campaign aimed at sharing the light we have with everyone around us during the Christmas season. Appropriately, it was called Light the World.
This year the Church has renewed that campaign. And I can’t think of a more appropriate way to celebrate the real reason for the season.
As it did last year, Light the World focuses on individual action. The Church provides leadership in the form of short videos explaining ways to light the world during each of the 25 days of Christmas. These videos and the corresponding calendar show how we can individually light the world.
I just love this bare-bones campaign. It fosters an effort that depends upon us for success. And that encourages us to live the gospel — really live it by putting it into action.
The Master taught, “Ye shall know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16). Our actions tell everyone who we really are. For what will we be known? Will those around us know us for the goodness we have? How can that happen if we don’t share the goodness we have?
Lighting the world will also light our world. Only by putting the gospel into action by living it will we ever know how real it really is. Only by setting that example can we light the way for others to know that for themselves as well.
I love the gospel more when I live to set that good example. I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know God is good and will bless us abundantly. That goodness is easier both to see and to feel when we actively participate in spreading that love to others.
People don’t light candles to hide them but rather to provide light so all may see (Matthew 5:15). In like manner, we should freely bring goodness into the world so that others can see and feel the love of God in their lives. When we do, we can’t help but love our lives more.
Just like last year, the Church has provided help with their Light the World calendar. Each day has suggestions of ways to spread goodness and thereby light the world. In addition, we can adopt our own ideas for action.
I’ve discussed previously my tradition of closing out the year by studying the Sermon on the Mount. I’ve felt love in my heart grow as I’ve taken daily action in response to my Sermon on the Mount study. Most of my actions have been small in nature, but the added light I feel inside of me has been substantial. How can any honest soul not love that?
That seems to be at least some of the intention behind Light the World, and I love it. We make the gospel more real by actually living it. And anyone who has read my posts since 2014 knows I’m all about real.
Of course, that reality doesn’t have to stop with the coming of Christmas Day, nor should it. We can feel God’s love every day by continuing to share that love with others every day. The Church’s Light the World calendar is a great aid during the 25 days leading to Christmas, but what’s to stop any of us from making our own calendar for every day of December and any other month of the year? Only ourselves.
It’s only by living true principles that we come to feel their reality in our lives. It’s only by giving love to others that we can feel the full extent of love in our own lives. We can choose for ourselves what light we will give to others. When we live true to that conviction to bring goodness into the world every day, we’ll have more joy in our journey.
It’s like they say. When life gives you lemons, keep them. Because, hey, free lemons.
Oh, did I get that wrong? Let’s try again. When life gives you lemons, make lemon chicken. After all, lemonade is so cliché, and with all that sugar probably not that good for you either.
Of course, if you want to make lemonade with your free lemons, go ahead. You’ll still be getting the point — seeing the opportunity amidst the obstacle.
Too often we LDS singles are like many others who focus so much on the obstacle that our reality becomes one of frustration. But when we focus on the opportunity that always comes with the obstacle, our reality can be one of freedom. Either way, our focus becomes our reality.
We’ve discussed before how seeing the opportunity amidst the obstacle can lighten our burdens of adversity and even help us to overcome them. Opportunities vary with the obstacle, but one is fairly constant across the spectrum. That’s the opportunity to laugh.
Make the time
With the holidays almost upon us, many seem so busy with all that needs doing because the holidays are almost upon us. They’re so busy, in fact, they’ve become rather serious — maybe too serious.
Sure, I’m all for respecting why we have the trinity of holidays that connect the years together. There’s some serious purpose in that as well as serious work needed to prepare for our associated traditions. Yet taking ourselves too seriously, we’ll miss much of the joy our Heavenly Father has provided in our journey. We must make time to laugh.
Recently I’ve discovered I’ve been too serious. Mostly it comes from my day job. I want to be known as a professional who delivers good work. Yet all science and no philosophy is no way to live life — at least not a pleasant one. I see the need to laugh more often.
I once agreed with Neil Young who sang, “It’s better to burn out than to fade away.” But now I’m starting to wonder if the reverse is true. How else will generations who outlive me see my light and benefit therefrom? Plus I’ll have more time to laugh.
Seize the opportunities
I actually have plenty of opportunities to laugh all around me. I didn’t realize how many I had until I started to look.
I have some funny movies that I haven’t watched in years. I’ve started to watch these again and have noted something. In addition to providing me with opportunities to laugh, these films have brought back memories of friends from prior years, especially ones I had in college. Remembering these people who blessed my life has lifted my spirit.
I’ve also discovered the humor section in my personal library was larger than I thought it was. Just looking through some of these tomes brought back memories of college friends I haven’t seen in years. Joy and laughter attended those memories.
For example, thumbing through my copy of The Dilbert Principle reminded me of my engineer roommate Ben and the Dilbert TV show sound clip we adopted for our answering machine message. I’ll never forget walking with him inside the Institute building when around the corner came one of our friends who upon seeing us immediately went into a tirade, screaming that she would never call our apartment again until we got that extremely long message off our machine. Just remembering that episode sets me to giggling just like my roommate and I did in that moment.
Wherever you find your humor, the point is still the same. We all have opportunities to laugh all around us. We just need to look to find them.
Make new memories
In addition to finding opportunities to laugh from memories of the past, we can make our own opportunities to laugh. In so doing, we provide joy in our journey now in the present and later in the future as we reminisce about the past.
Finding those opportunities requires a focus on finding on them. That doesn’t imply anything more than the right balance of a laid back attitude with an alert mind that can recognize opportunities when they appear.
I wish I could say I were the best at doing that. And not everyone appreciates my sense of humor. But we all have room to improve somewhere. I’ve improved over the years, but this still happens to be one of my “somewheres.”
As I apply myself and practice I’ll eventually get better. I’ll also get better as I make more time in life to laugh, something all of us should do more and more often. Take some time to find your jollies. Doing that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Over the years, I’ve thought about Mormon’s description of the Nephite people in Alma 50:23: “But behold there never was a happier time among the people of Nephi, since the days of Nephi, than in the days of Moroni, yea, even at this time, in the twenty and first year of the reign of the judges.” More recently, I’ve pondered upon these questions:
It’s no surprise to learn Mormon picks this time out of the roughly 1000-year history of his people. His descriptions of Captain Moroni reveal Mormon as a huge fan of the young commander. Giving his son the same name, Mormon likely admired him as a sort of mentor, since they both held the same military position.
But is Mormon really picking this time as the happiest among the entire Nephite history because this is when their equivalent to Captain America had his adventures in mortality? Again, what was it about this time that made it the happiest? Let’s examine that.
Preparing for war
The year 69 AD saw the Nephite nation living under the threat of war. Just two years previous, Amalickiah was defeated after gaining the Lamanite throne by deceit and waging an unsuccessful military campaign to subjugate the Nephites.
Captain Moroni spent the following year preparing his nation for war. He knew Amalickiah would return, and he wanted his people to be ready. They built new, fortified cities as well as fortified those cities already in existence.
Those preparations continued on into the next year, the time when “there never was a happier time.” We don’t know much else about that year. The people were busy preparing for war. How does preparing for war create the happiest time ever?
Mormon’s commentary may provide a clue. He gets sidetracked talking about how Nephite history has verified the Lord’s promises. Troubles always came to the people when they forgot God and abandoned their covenants.
On the other hand, those who remembered their covenants were always delivered. Immediately after this observation, Mormon comments that this time was the happiest ever since the days of Nephi. Could this observation have something to do with creating that happy situation?
Remembering the founder
Nephi himself described his people in his day living “after the manner of happiness” (2 Nephi 5:27). What exactly does that mean?
Nephi had separated himself from his older brothers because they sought to kill him. Nephi didn’t leave alone; he took with him “those who believed in the warnings and the revelations of God” (2 Nephi 5:6). In other words, Nephi left with those who wanted to make and keep sacred covenants with God.
And what did they do once they established their separate community? Nephi’s words explain it all:
Here Nephi describes two main activities:
We see the same activities among the Nephites in 69 AD. They were certainly industrious as they built new cities and fortified existing ones. And Mormon’s commentary suggests they were probably turning to the Lord. Why else would he have thought to insert that commentary?
Taking a lesson
What lesson here can LDS singles apply to their lives? Even though they lived under the threat of war, the Nephites were happiest when they were mindful about keeping their covenants with the Lord and industrious in meeting their temporal needs. LDS singles can follow that example.
We singles may lack the covenant of marriage in our lives, but we’ve made other covenants at baptism and in the temple. Holding fast to those covenants we have made can provide strength to endure well the challenges of our lives.
Temple service in particular can provide perspective to see the opportunity amidst the obstacles. Nephi mentioned having a temple, and I’m sure it wasn’t just for decoration. We singles should do what we can to include the temple more in our own lives.
We singles can also be industrious in meeting our temporal needs. This industrious attitude can and should extend to our own personal ministries. God gives each of us gifts so we can contribute to His work. By focusing on utilizing those gifts in our own personal ministry, we bless our own lives by blessing the lives of others.
The Nephites lived their happiest time when they filled their days with devotion to the Lord and hard work. We LDS singles can have our happiest time when we follow that example. And that will bring more joy in our journey.
Recently I’ve reflected on everything I’ve done since all this started on 12/12/12. I’ve come a long way. The road behind me is filled with accomplishment, much of which I simply didn’t envision back in 2012.
I can’t say all of my blog posts have been classics, but I do have a post for every week since the start of 2014. That’s almost 3 ½ years of weekly posts, most of which have no comments. I said back then I wasn’t doing any of this for acclaim, and that’s still true today. All I’ve ever wanted was real. You don’t need the attention of others to get real.
That post at the start of 2014 is definitely a classic. I’ve produced a few more along the way. One that keeps coming back to me reminisced about a older friend who lives in Seattle.
We conversed 90 minutes about love, concluding no one can really define what love is. We know when it’s there and when it’s not because we can feel it. But it’s impossible to define exactly what love is.
Love means sacrifice
That conversation transformed me. It’s since led me to ponder this question: What does it mean to love someone? Before that conversation, I thought I knew. Since then, I’m not completely sure I do know.
Part of the answer surely lies in sacrifice, forgoing your own desires to help others fulfill theirs. It’s been almost four years since Tashi died, but I still think about her and how my heart broke. Even a blind man can see I loved that cat. But why?
When I first adopted her, Tashi had tremendous trouble eating properly. Every time I fed her, she would eat as though it were her last meal, which isn’t normal for cats. This and other behaviors led me to wonder if a previous owner had abused her. Of course, eating so quickly caused her to vomit later. Every day I had a new mess to clean.
I spent 11 months training Tashi to eat normally. And even then she never completely stopped vomiting, though it was much less frequent than before. Without my sacrifice, my love for her wouldn’t be as deep as it was and still is today.
Love means selflessness
That conversation with my Seattle friend reminds me of the final midsingles activity I attended there — FHE in my friend’s home. The lesson portion evolved into a conversation in which people were sharing their thoughts about how to grow the midsingles group.
Normally I like to listen to others and learn how they see the world. This evening, however, I couldn’t resist sharing my perspective. And knowing this to be my last activity there for the foreseeable future, I held nothing back.
I declared love is meaningful only when it involves people who are different. Talking to others we like and sitting with others we want around us isn’t all that difficult. We get to stay in our comfort zone.
Conversely, talking with others who are very different and sitting with others we don’t want around us does require us to leave our comfort zone. Yet here love truly has meaning because here we act against self-interest.
The Savior taught,
Love means discomfort
I spoke many other words along the same vein that evening. All together they made some visibly uncomfortable. I rejoiced to see that, not because I have some sadistic pleasure in seeing people squirm but because it meant I was speaking truth. I was getting real.
In the end, I invited everyone to surrender to love. I testified that only by surrendering to love would we ever become the truly supportive group everyone talked about becoming.
Since then I’ve seen singles group after singles group struggle with creating a true sense of community. Leaders who consider singles committees as nothing more than activity planning groups don’t help. No one can come together when everyone has their own agenda.
That will never change until we all surrender to love. Only by forgetting ourselves and focusing upon others will we ever create the community of the support network many LDS singles need in their lives.
Yes, surrendering to love is hard. It goes against the natural man and woman. But the rewards of love far outweigh the price we must pay to obtain it. And having those rewards will bring us more joy in our journey.
I love Christmas time! Why wouldn’t anyone? It’s a time of merriment, a time for drawing near to family and dear friends, and a time for rejoicing in the goodness of God.
That said, many LDS singles radiate negativity during the holidays. Last week I advocated the perspective that even the worst days can be great days if we recognize every day as a gift from God. Some may find that perspective hard to grasp, especially if they’ve been so focused on the negative aspects of their lives that their reality is overwhelmingly negative.
That’s why we all need to spread the cheer of the holiday season. Reaching out to others in that spirit of the season can help them to find a better focus that can lead to a better reality. And helping others to experience joy can bring joy into our own lives.
That’s what those who feel overwhelmed with negativity during the holidays really need. They need to feel loved so that they in turn can help others to feel loved. We can kickstart that cycle of joy in their lives as well as ours when we reach out and spread the cheer.
Obey the law
Yeah, life is hard, and woe to you because you’re single. I get it. Believe me, having been single for more than 20 years, I really do get it.
Here’s what I also get — happiness comes from giving your all to the right things. Negativity and a constant vision of what you lack is never one of those right things. It never has been, and it never will be.
That’s because the universe obeys natural law, one of which is the Law of the Harvest. You can’t get carrots from planting apple seeds. If you want to reap carrots, plant carrot seed. Likewise, if you want to reap happiness, then plant happiness seed.
And what’s happiness seed? It’s giving your all to the right things. Certainly keeping those covenants we have made is among those right things. But it’s more than just checking items off a to-do list. It’s a way of being that defines who we are.
That means giving to others can’t be just a project or something nice to do. It has to express a sincere interest in sharing joy we really feel inside.
Lend a hand
It’s certainly hard to share something you don’t have. Serving others can bring positivity to those overwhelmed with negativity. But negativity doesn’t prompt positive action, which provides an obstacle for those who most need to take such action. That’s why we need to reach out and lend a hand.
Natural law still holds true regardless of what anyone chooses. Those who focus on negativity will have a negative reality. If we choose to help them, they might change their focus, which will give them a different reality. If we choose not to help them, they likely won’t change their focus and will reap the same reality they’ve been having.
That’s why we need to spread the cheer. A positive reality comes only from a positive focus. Being creatures of habit, we all need some external force to break the bonds of inertia that keeps us keeping on in negative habits. We can provide that external force for others when we spread cheer into their lives.
Solomon once said, “A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance: but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken” (Proverbs 15:13). We need to fill the tank of others so they then and fill the tanks of still others. If you’ve ever had to run on empty, you know how difficult it can be to continue serving others when you really need someone to serve you.
What a glorious promise! The Lord will lead us to every blessing we lack. How can we believe Him and not rejoice? We have every reason for cheer.
And we have every reason to spread the cheer to others. So what cheer are you spreading? Whose heart will be lifted because of your cheer? When we spread the cheer of the holiday season in any season, we share the love of our Lord such that we cannot help but also be partakers. And that brings more joy into all of our journeys.
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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