Flip it around
LDS singles are rife with boxes. We have your YSA and your SA, your midsingles, your senior singles, and your in-between singles. Whatever happened to coming together and being one?
It went the way of the dinosaur because singles groups are perceived to be about finding an eternal companion. The larger LDS culture centered on being married with kids drives that perception of singles groups. No wonder so many LDS singles who want to fit into the larger culture view singles life as something to escape.
And no wonder so many LDS singles find LDS singles life so challenging. People respond not to reality but to their perception of reality. If we see singles life as something undesirable, then we won’t want it. We’ll run away from it. Additionally, our focus determines our reality. So if we’re focused on how undesirable our situation is, then our reality will be undesirable.
But we can flip that around. If we can perceive the good and indeed the pure joy to be found in singles life, then we respond differently. We see something desirable, something we run towards and not away from. And when we make that our focus, then our reality becomes something desirable in itself.
Start inside you
Of course, all of this becomes much easier to do when the people around us are acting in ways that encourage us to focus on the right perceptions. That’s why we all need to say enough with the boxes. It’s much easier to be united when everyone around us has the mentality of truly coming together and being united.
And it all starts inside each one of us. We need to exemplify to others how they should be. Otherwise, they’ll just keep on keeping on with their habits of thinking that make life harder for everyone.
I’ve discussed previously the three main perspectives that LDS singles take with singles groups:
How does that happen? First, you must get leadership on board. They must perceive your singles group as a support community and not a dating forum or activity club. Once they have that vision, singles leadership must communicate that vision to the other singles. They do that by overtly talking about it and practicing it. And it’s truly beautiful to behold when you can get this going.
Throw your boxes away
Again, the biggest obstacle will be the propensity to put people and even programs into boxes. “Singles groups are just about giving singles a place to congregate,” say some. “They’re on their own for anything more.” Such persons relegate singles groups into a box in which a true support community doesn’t fit.
If we truly believe in singles groups as support communities, we’ll throw our boxes away. So what if the midsingles and senior singles have different interests? Do we really have to have the same interests to support each other?
Adopting the support community perspective means changing ourselves fundamentally within. It means laying aside our own agendas so we can serve and truly give of ourselves to others. It means forgoing the pursuit of our own needs as we surrender ourselves to love and the pursuit of meeting the needs of others. The miracle is that doing this actually ends up meeting our needs in the end.
Enough with the boxes! When we all have that same perspective, we can transform our singles groups into true communities of support because we will have discarded the perspectives that blind us to the needs of others. We can come together and truly love one another. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
Of the 15 times he used the words repent or repentance, President Nelson also used the word daily with five of those references. Go back and look if you don’t believe me. One out of every three occurrences is not insignificant. This use of the word daily caught my attention. And in my subsequent pondering, I’ve gained a new understanding and appreciation of repentance. I’ve come to see we really do need to do it daily.
Set the stage
I confess a part of my pondering includes a book from my Sunday afternoon reading — The Infinite Atonement by Tad Callister. As I started reading the book, it became very clear to me Elder Callister didn’t write this book quickly. His final product obviously evidences extensive research, consultation with others, and much revision.
Combining this text with President Nelson’s remarks has proved powerful for me. Elder Callister presents repentance as God’s plan for our self-improvement. The Atonement is not just about making us clean from impurity but also about improving us into something more than we were before, and repentance is how we access that power.
If repentance is how we walk God’s road to self-improvement, how we become more than what we are now, then why would we not want that every day? In that regard, President Nelson’s use of the word daily in connection with repentance seems very natural. Said he,
Let’s all follow the Prophet by doing and being a little better every day.
President Nelson spoke of specific areas in which priesthood holders can seek to improve. These included how we dress and groom our bodies and “how we honor the women in our lives.”
But President Nelson said in that regard, “Take an inventory of how you spend your time and where you devote your energy. That will tell you where your heart is.” Although the Prophet applied this idea to a specific application, I think we could apply it equally to any area of improvement we need in our lives.
Do you remember what we discussed a month ago directly following Conference? We focused on Sister Craven’s remarks about being careful as opposed to being casual. Sister Craven spoke principally of our covenants and the spiritual aspect of our lives. I expanded that focus to include every part of our lives. We get from anything what we give to it. We can’t expect quality results when we give casual attention. To get quality, we must give careful attention.
That’s where President Nelson’s remarks take center stage. We don’t need to be perfect all at once. We just need to do a little better today than we did yesterday. And it’s imperative that we do so, because President Nelson declared,
The good news is that we can all start today to turn our lives around. We each can identify one thing we will do today to be a little better than we were yesterday. It’s in doing the small but appropriate things consistently every day that we achieve tremendous results in anything.
Then at the end of the day, we can ask ourselves, “Did I do a little better today than I did yesterday? Am I a little better today than I was yesterday?” If we can answer “Yes” to those questions, we are on the road of repentance. And that road leads to the covenant path that will take us to our heavenly home.
Let us all follow the Prophet. Let each one of us repent and do it daily. As we do better the little things we need to improve, we will be better in whatever role we have in our lives. We’ll be happier people, and our influence for good in the lives of others will be more effective. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
We need a new culture
Like it or not, many Latter-day Saints consider being married with kids as the definition of acceptance within their culture. And since we all want to belong, many LDS singles strive to obtain that mark of belonging. So if you define motherhood to require the bearing of children, then you’re limiting your window within which you will feel accepted.
Clearly, the results observed respecting this issue go back to how people think. If only we could all adopt a new culture that grants acceptance from doing one’s best to make and keep every sacred covenant that one can, we wouldn’t be hearing from the single ladies who are really complaining about how they don’t fit in under the guise of complaining about whatever presentation they saw in church.
That’s easier said than done, but no single woman need wait for the culture to change in order to change the way she thinks about what it means to be a mother. In fact, we should all change how we think about that because we are biologically hardwired to get our sense of normal from the people around us. Single women can more easily adopt a more effective definition of mother when everyone around them does the same.
We need a new definition
And what is this new definition of motherhood everyone should adopt? Being a mother simply means consistently recognizing and then meeting needs in others. That’s something every woman can do, whether single or married.
Think about it in terms of your own mother. If you’re like me and were blessed to have a mother who loved you and always worked every day to show she cared, isn’t that what we best remember about our mothers? Isn’t that what we most treasure about the memories of our mothers, that this woman consistently recognized our needs and worked to satisfy them?
Now if you didn’t have a mother like I had, I’m sorry, but you should still be able to see the point. You don’t need to give birth to children to recognize a need within them and then work to satisfy it. And women are uniquely endowed with a natural ability to do just that, whether or not they’ve given birth to children or not.
We need a new approach
It’s high time we all embraced a broader approach to motherhood. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Your focus determines your reality. When you focus on what you lack, your reality becomes filled with lack. That breeds discouragement and despair. But when you focus on what you have and on what you can do, your reality becomes filled with possibility and opportunity. That breeds optimism and hope.
Let’s help single women everywhere by defining motherhood in terms of what all women can do and not just those who have given birth to children or even those who are legally responsible for raising children. Let’s define motherhood as consistently recognizing and meeting needs in others. This is a definition that fits all women based on what they can control (their actions) and not what they can’t (their life circumstances).
When we adopt a broader view of motherhood, we make every woman a mother who strives to serve others in ways that meet their needs. We show greater sensitivity towards those whose life circumstances aren’t what they desire. And we better support them in feeling loved and supported themselves. And that will bring us all more joy in our journey.
Put your pieces together
As I reflect back on my life, I can’t accurately pinpoint any one trigger that brought me a phenomenal attitude. The change seems more a process than an event. That said, I can identify some key elements in my transformation.
Without question, developing a more solid relationship with God has been pivotal. You can’t have true joy in your life if you’re not good with you, which means you must know who you are. And that requires knowing who your Heavenly Father is.
When you come to understand who you really are as His child, you’ll realize your power to choose your reality. We do that when we select our thoughts, our self-talk, and our focus, because these produce our reality. When I realized how these elements worked in me, I felt empowered to take control. I could stop settling for mediocrity and start insisting on phenomenal.
Get some attitude
That’s when a new attitude emerged within me. I’ll no longer settle for anything less than a phenomenal life. I won’t settle for giving anything less than my absolute best. No longer will I accept failure or unhappiness or anything less than my best as my normal, and I’ll never give up on myself ever again.
I want phenomenal success. I want phenomenal fulfillment, phenomenal results, and phenomenal relationships. I want phenomenal for myself!
I can’t settle for anything less, because that’s giving up, and giving up is just plain flat out wrong. God gave me my gifts and talents not only to better myself but to better the world. When I refuse to let my light shine, others won’t have the improvement they might have had in their lives.
That’s why I insist on phenomenal in my life. It’s not about me. Giving up on myself and failing to achieve my potential means giving up on those who stand to benefit from that achievement. But when I strive to move closer towards my greatness, I automatically provide positive influence to everyone around me.
And so I can’t accept mediocrity. I’ll never be perfect, I’ll always fall flat on my face, but to quit trying to live my purpose, to fulfill my personal ministry, and to achieve greatness in my life is unacceptable. There are just too many people who would suffer, most of whom I’ve never met and likely never will. But it’s because of them I can’t accept anything less than my absolute best as my normal. I will never settle for anything other than phenomenal.
Make it happen
I have only one life to live. This is it for me. I’ll never get another opportunity to live this life. God gave my unique combination of gifts, opportunities, and personality to me and me only. So this is it. It’s do or die, greatness or bust, phenomenal or nothing. I must make it happen.
And that’s another key element in my transformation. The day I realized my life wouldn’t improve until I owned it was life changing. All the energy I’d wasted wishing my circumstances were better I should have spent wishing I were better. Instead of wishing for less problems, I should have wished for more skills. Instead of wishing the result I wanted would just come to me, I should have been working to make it happen.
Of course, I struggle where everyone else struggles — with the natural man. We’re all our own worst enemy. But working hard is the cost of entry to anything worthwhile. And so I put my shoulder to this wheel because I know people’s lives will suffer if I stop.
The best part is I’m not the only one. What’s possible for me is possible for you. If you want this transformation for you, you can have it. Embrace true foundational principles, do the work you need to do, and you’ll improve your life. And when you truly surrender yourself to that process, you too will have phenomenal. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Here we find foundational principles local leaders can leverage to help LDS singles find their way.
Walk beside singles
We all understand others better when we step outside ourselves and view the world through their eyes. That increased understanding can open your eyes to what many LDS singles need — true friendship.
My last ward was absolutely awful. Usually no one talked to me or even greeted me. They didn’t seem at all interested in having me there. So when the storms of life beat against my door, no one was there to support me. I felt not just alone and unloved but spiritually stinted, like I was trapped in a sort of prison. What a nightmare!
If nothing else, that experience makes me very thankful for my current ward. Ward members greet me, shake my hand, and sincerely ask after my well-being. They’ve responded when I needed help and support. I feel the warmth of their simple love and sincere friendship. What a blessing!
It doesn’t take much to help LDS singles feel loved and supported. When local leaders — whether married or single — walk beside singles in true friendship, those simple acts can readily meet many needs.
Shore up faith
True friends always increase faith in others. Our Heavenly Father wants LDS singles to marry in the temple and raise righteous families who will promote His work on the earth. That won’t happen if singles don’t believe it will. Local leaders can portray faith and confidence in singles’ ability to achieve a righteous marriage.
How are LDS singles supposed to believe those blessings can be theirs when leaders respond quickly with trite expressions like “Well, it’s OK because there’s always the next life.” That’s true, but have you stopped to consider what living that really means? You’re saying it’s OK the experience singles have already had being single continue for another 40 or 50 years, and then they die, and then sometime after that they get their blessing. That’s not a very enticing prospect, even if it is true.
It’s far more enticing to fix one’s sights on examples like Abraham. His promised covenant child came when Abraham and Sarah were both around a century old. Or how about Jacob’s wife Rachel, who for the longest time was barren? I love Genesis 30:22 — “And God remembered Rachel ....” Local leaders who shore up singles’ faith in themselves and their ability to achieve eternal blessings now and not just in the next life provide greatly needed support.
Promote the next essential ordinance
Of course, securing that next essential ordinance of temple marriage takes more than belief or a motivational pep talk. The lives of many LDS singles stagnant in a lack of accountability. Local leaders are well positioned to provide that accountability.
Life has a way of beating us all into routines. We are, after all, hardwired to have habits. That can be helpful but also dangerous, especially if we’re lulled away from progressing towards eternal goals. The longer singles remain single, the more comfortable they can become being single. And with that comes less likelihood they’ll progress towards their next essential ordinance.
Local leaders can stem that tide of indolence with some gentle accountability. If they’ve paid the price to be a true friend, local leaders — and in particular ministering brothers and sisters — can guide singles towards their next essential ordinance with effective questions. “What’s in your way?” is a good example. As they repeatedly ask questions, simply listen, and then stand ready to help as requested, local leaders extend accountability for progression as singles decide for themselves how they will progress.
When they support singles by being a true friend, local leaders can minister more effectively to LDS singles. That will increase the love we all have for one another. That will build bridges of understanding between marrieds and singles. That will develop a stronger unity of the faith. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
Some things never change as we get older. There will always be death and taxes. The coolest toys always come out after you grow up. And the grass is always greener on the other side.
At least that how it appears. So many of us look at others and think their lives are much better than our own because they don’t appear to have our problems. If only we could be like them, we think, our own lives would be so much better.
But that’s a lie we should never heed. The truth is everyone has challenges. When you solve one problem, you’ll find a completely new problem just around the corner. Or you’ll merely swap your old problem for a new one. Life wasn’t meant to be problem-free for anyone.
And that’s good. We’ll never grow as we need to grow and learn what we need to learn without opposition. To become what we’re meant to become, we must overcome our challenges. So you shouldn’t want what the other half of the world has. Just keep your half because it’s what you need.
Don’t run away
The longing after what appears to be greener grass on the other side of the fence is often just a desire to escape from our current challenges rather than overcome them. If we simply ran away from those challenges, we’d certainly not progress towards becoming what we’re meant to become.
I know I wouldn’t be the man I am today if I’d decided to run away. For example, on my mission in Guatemala, I constantly battled illness. Had I agreed to come home early, I wouldn’t have had the blessing of teaching the gospel in my own language and to people from different parts of the world in the neighboring country of Belize. I wouldn’t have had the companions I had, each one of whom taught me something. My mission experiences continue to bless me and benefit my life decades after my service.
Facing our trials and working to overcome them have changed us all for the better. We’re better people because we decided not to run away from those experiences but rather to embrace them and allow them to change us into something more than what we were before.
Embrace the opportunity
In addition, those challenges themselves can be blessings in their own right. But we’re not likely to see that as long as we keep wanting to cross to where the grass appears greener. We’ve got to learn to want what we’ve already got. And that means changing the way we think in order to see the blessings our challenges are.
Sometimes that blessing comes as opportunity to bless the lives of others. For instance, my experience being single for more than two decades has, to say the least, increased my compassion for those who struggle with the challenges of LDS singles life. And that compassion is a large portion of the fuel that drives me in producing Joy in the Journey Radio. How many lives have been and will be blessed because of my personal ministry?
If you feel the siren call of grass that appears to be greener, ask yourself who could be blessed because you stayed on your side of the fence. Someone there may need your contribution, a contribution only you can make because only you have your unique personality paired with your challenges.
Confront your challenge
In the end, we are our choices. The grass may indeed seem greener on the other side, but there’s much value in the greenness of the grass we already have. We can all choose to lift where we stand, thereby blessing others while growing from the confrontation with our challenges.
Besides, nothing good comes from wishing we could exchange places with that other half of the world that seems to have a better life. The results we want will never come from wishing because they can come from one and only one thing — action. Better to spend our time confronting our challenges and learning how to overcome them than to waste away wishing for what will never come with the wish alone.
When you choose to keep your half instead of longing after the half someone else appears to have, when you choose to embrace challenges rather than seek ways to escape them, when you choose to see them for the blessings they are in and of themselves, then you’ll see that the grass on the other side of the fence isn’t that much greener after all. That will increase your gratitude to God for His bounteous blessings you already have. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Given that Singles Awareness Day — oh, excuse me — Valentine’s Day is tomorrow, it seems appropriate today to talk about something from the program last week that got me thinking. Many of us know how we want life to be. But it’s been said life is what happens while you were making other plans. Life has a way of turning out differently than we planned.
Many singles plan to find the perfect companion — someone they’re meant to be with, someone easy for them to fall passionately in love with and who falls passionately in love with them — and to get married and have a family and live the rest of their lives in a blissful happily ever after.
Then life happens. They notice life doesn’t match their idyllic dream. And that mismatch presents questions of compromise: Should they wait for the one who’s right for them forever, or should they just take the one who’s here right now because the one who’s right for them forever doesn’t seem to be coming and that person who’s right here seems good enough for right now?
Are our dreams portents of a possible future or a cruel joke of mortality? Why do we dream if the dreams never become real? Do they never materialize because they weren’t meant to be or because we aren’t good enough?
You’re not good enough
There’s two ways to answer that question. Here’s the first: Of course, we aren’t good enough. That’s why Christ plays such an essential role in our Heavenly Father’s plan.
If we were good enough, we could secure eternal blessings on our own. We wouldn’t need a Savior. We could simply persevere with hard work to secure our blessings.
But that’s not how it works. Yes, we need to work hard to achieve our goals and dreams. But we’re not likely to achieve them on our own because too often we get in our own way.
And that’s the beautiful part of the Atonement. Elder Bednar put it beautifully when he declared
Christ saves us not just from sin but from ourselves — our mistakes, our imperfections, our propensities to fail, and the natural man or woman residing inside each of us.
You are good enough
There’s another side to that coin, though. It says we are good enough to secure eternal blessings. Last week, I introduced the analogy of the electoral college. In the US, we elect the chief executive with a winner-take-all voting system that appropriates different numbers of votes to each state based on population. All a candidate needs to win is 270 electoral votes. And you can get that without the state with the most electoral votes. The current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is a case in point.
In like manner, many singles think they need to be perfect to secure their dream companion. Yet we’re all so mired in imperfection that many singles wonder how they could ever be agreeable to an acceptable marriage partner. That happens in the same way the President doesn’t need to win California to become the President. Those who are serious about what marriage really entails generally evaluate other people as a whole package. That means strengths in some areas can compensate for weaknesses in others.
Of course, that doesn’t justify ignoring our weaknesses. We should always do our best to improve in every area of ourselves and then trust the Lord to make up the difference. And Christ can make up the difference because He is the difference — the difference between eternal glory and eternal misery.
Partner with the Lord
In the end, we can best secure the blessings we desire when we partner with the Lord and walk with Him on the proper path towards our blessings. The Spirit will reveal to us the next steps along that path. And the Lord will grant us the courage we need to take those next steps.
Here as in every other way, your focus becomes your reality. When you focus on what you don’t have and can’t do, your reality becomes filled with lack and inability. That leads to frustration, anger, disillusionment, and despair. But when you focus on what you do have and can do, your reality fills with abundance and possibility. That leads to encouragement, appreciation, illumination, and hope.
Are you good enough to achieve your dreams and desires? Of course you are — when you partner with the Lord. So instead of the pity party many singles have on days like tomorrow, choose instead to partner with the Lord. Counsel with Him to develop an action plan that will get you moving forward. When you move in that direction, you’ll make real progress towards your eternal blessings. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
If you’re like most people, whatever New Years resolution you made hasn’t stuck with you. Or more accurately, you haven’t stuck with it. By now, most will have given up on the changes they resolved to make just two weeks prior. They’re just too comfortable with the same old same old.
When our sincere efforts to change fail, what can we say to ourselves that will encourage us to keep trying and at the same time allow us to maintain a level of integrity with ourselves? We can tell ourselves we haven’t succeeded yet. This statement recognizes we still have more to do — more we can do — while at the same time being truthful.
Of course, the most important word in that statement is yet. There’s magic in that word yet. It speaks of possibility and opportunity. It invites us to keep doing what we need to do for success to come to us. When we allow that word yet to motivate us to keep on keeping on, we unleash the power of yet in our lives.
Believe in possibility
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Your focus becomes your reality. When you focus on what you haven’t done, you embrace a reality of inability, one in which you become frustrated at your lack of progress. But when you focus on what you can do, then you embrace a reality of possibility, one in which action enables you to feel a sense of movement towards success.
That’s the magic behind the word yet. Yet invites us to focus on what we can do by reminding us of possibility and the opportunity we have each moment to try again. Only when we believe in possibility will we take the action needed to produce results that lead to success.
Conversely, when we disbelieve in possibility, when we believe the changes we want to make are impossible, then we give up on our dreams. We quit trying to go after them. We effectively give up on ourselves.
Be reasonable with yourself
We should never give up on ourselves. Nor should we demand too much too soon. Some things take time to realize. That’s why we asked in life just to make measurable progress in reasonable time.
That’s the key word: reasonable. We all have different talents and different backgrounds, so we all progress at different rates. What’s reasonable for one may not be reasonable for another. And yet (pun intended) too many of us spend too much time looking at others assuming that, because we haven’t made the progress in our lives others have made in theirs, we’re somehow deficient or defective.
Again, the word yet can work magic here. By reminding ourselves that we haven’t progressed as far as someone else yet, we give ourselves permission to believe in what can be. And that can provide hope that tomorrow can be different than today or yesterday.
We’re all different enough that no one-size-fits-all life plan will truly work for everyone. Why then do we cling to any one-size-fits-all life plan? Why can’t we embrace our own personalized life plan, one we create after partnering with the Lord? As long as we keep trying, the Lord will recognize our efforts, even though we haven’t progressed as far as we would like yet.
I’m still working on all the goals I established for myself two weeks ago. I’m making terrible progress. In fact, my effort is so pathetic I’m not even sure I cam claim to have made anything that could reasonably be labeled as progress.
But I’m not discouraged — not in the least. I know the power of yet. When I tell myself I haven’t achieved my goals yet, I remember that as long as I get back up every time I get knocked down or fall flat on my face or my butt, eventually I will succeed. As long as I keep trying, I know it’s OK I’m not yet where I want to be because I’m on my way there.
And that’s the power that yet can have in each of our lives. When we seize the opportunity we have every moment to begin again and continue towards our goals and dreams, we accept the invitation in the word yet to believe in possibility and do what we can. That movement will inspire us with hope and encouragement to keep on keeping on. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
Last week I talked about my mother's suicide attempt. I also talked about some of the reflections that event inspired. I've searched for the big-picture view not only of what's happening but also of my life up to this point.
And what I see fills me with awe. Obviously I see the trial of my mother's suicide attempt and her subsequent hospitalization. But I also see that trial as the latest episode in a series of trials. And I remember the experience we gain from trials is one of the reasons why we’re here in mortality.
I could start listing what I've endured, but it wouldn't mean much because we all have trials in life. As much as we might feel our particular trial makes us special, it doesn’t. Everyone has trials. And everyone can learn from those experiences. When I realize what I've learned from my trials, I can't help but be grateful for trials.
Essential to happiness
How could I be the man I am today without the trials I've experienced? It's impossible. I’d never have the depth of compassion I have for LDS singles were I not single myself for so long. I’d never have positive energy ruling my life if I hadn’t experienced the self-inflicted negative energy so many LDS singles experience. And I’d never feel the confidence I feel in my future without overcoming the despair of hopelessness.
I could go on, but the point remains. Everything positive about us, anything indicating growth in us, and anything proving we’re better today than we were yesterday is possible because of trials. Without trials, there’s no opposition. Without opposition, there’s no growth. Without growth, we can’t be our best. If we can’t be our best, we can't be happy. And if we can't be happy, then what else is there?
Of course, I'm not actively looking for trials. I've lived long enough to know trouble never has trouble finding each of us eventually. And yes, sometimes trials have negative impacts that overwhelm in the moment. But every obstacle also comes with opportunity — the opportunity to yield something positive from the experience. It's that possibility for the positive for which I'm grateful.
Dependent on the right perspective
As I look back on the trials I've experienced in life, I recognize that the possibility for the positive creates a space necessary for growth and personal enrichment. Life has a way of beating everyone down. And the only way getting beat down could ever be positive is if that action shapes us into something better.
But that only happens if we choose a perspective that allows that to happen. The existence of the opportunity to yield something positive will mean nothing unless we take advantage of that opportunity. We do that by choosing to be positive.
That brings us to gratitude, because gratitude is always the first choice in creating a positive life from whatever trials we each experience. Gratitude breeds appreciation, and appreciation opens the door to faith, hope, and charity. Appreciating what we have leads us to believe we can be further blessed. That gives us hope we will be further blessed and inspires us to bless the lives of others.
But just as gratitude feeds a mentality of abundance, the lack of gratitude feeds a mentality of scarcity. We don't want to share what we have with others out of fear there won't be enough for ourselves. We begin to believe there are no further blessings, and therefore there’s no hope tomorrow can be better than today. In the end, we become very insular and absorbed in self.
Foundational for a new tradition
That's why I'm grateful for trials. It's the School of Hard Knocks that beats me down enough to learn what I need to learn in order to grow. Without the challenges that trials provide, I wouldn't be nearly as motivated to seek after the solutions that transform me into a better man.
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and if your day will include any traditional performance, you're likely to mention or at least think about what you're grateful for. That list, no matter how long, usually includes obvious blessings like friends, family, good food, and a warm place to sleep at night, just to name a few.
But this year, can we also be thankful for the trials that have shaped us into something more than we were before? Can we be grateful for lessons learned the hard way and for growth that would come to us in no other way? We’re more open to further blessings when we’re grateful for the trials that provide opportunities for positive growth and enrichment. Being grateful for trials can help us accept that truth. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
Birthdays are a particular time of year for everyone. But for many LDS singles, birthdays remind them they’re another year older and no less single. That particular aspect gives me pause as I see another birthday approaching me.
I get reflective around birthdays. I think about my experiences over the past year. I think about the relationships I have as well as the ones for which I am still searching. Most of all, I think about how I've changed. Am I a better person than I was a year ago?
I'd like to think I am. But in truth I’m never quite sure. There is one thing, however, about which I am sure. Whatever comes my way, I know the Lord has prepared me for it. I know that the hardship, whatever it may be, will only leave me stronger so long as I choose not to be defeated by it. I know I’ve been prepared for such a time as this.
My mother’s condition drives part of my reflections. I've spoken before about my mother in this forum. But now things have taken a severe turn for the worse. A few days ago, my mother tried to kill herself.
Although it failed to end her life, her attempt has rocked the world of all who know and love her. It's not the dying part that's disturbing. Everyone dies eventually. It's her choosing to leave all of us that's disturbing.
I don't think anyone can really know exactly what's going on in anyone else's head. But I do feel the pain my mother has experienced over the past few years – pain the doctors can't diagnose and have never treated effectively – drove my mother to her disturbing choice. Whether or not that drove her, I don’t blame her.
That said, I can't begin to describe all the emotions that have run through me. But I can begin to have faith that the Lord is still in control and ultimately won't allow anything to veer too far outside His plan.
Feeling after faith
Of course, along with the emotional roller coaster come reflective moments. The reflection I would engage normally with a birthday around the corner is now deepened. And that's not altogether a bad deal.
My first impression is to follow Nephi's example and say I don't know the meaning of all things but I do know the Lord loves me (see 1 Nephi 11:17). And I feel fine with that. My experiences as an LDS single that lead me not to need to know the end from the beginning with regards to my eternal companion translate very well here. Trust in the Lord in any context is still trust in the Lord.
I also know my experiences in learning how to respond positively to the challenges of LDS singles life have made me a better man. And those improvements have prepared me for this moment in which I need to be strong not only for myself but also for others I love.
For instance, I’ve supported my father as he struggles with these events. More than anything, I’ve provided a listening ear. But I’ve also translated what I've learned from being single so long — the knowledge gained from experience that has made me a better man — into the lives of others as well as my own. The result is a new perspective that provides strength, hope, and courage for everyone.
Shining a light
To say things could be better is the understatement of the year. Yet overall I don't feel discouraged or depressed. I have the quiet confidence within me everything will somehow result in good for everyone.
Many of us tend to get so caught up in our own lives we don’t see the great tapestry God is weaving with us. He is preparing each of us not only for the challenges we’ll face ahead. He is preparing each of us to be a light that can shine brightly for those whose hope is dimming. He’s preparing us for times such as these.
People do not light candles to hide light but rather to let light shine so that all may see (Matthew 5:15). We all have goodness to share, gifts the Lord has endowed within each of us not only to help ourselves grow but also to help others along in their journey. When we share those gifts with others, we give the light of hope to others and the light of courage to ourselves. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
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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