Of course, the answer is of course. Life has meaning when we fill it with what’s meaningful. These are the best things in life — the people we love, the places we’ve been, and the memories we’ve made along the way. And it’s because of Christ we can have these joys now and always. Recognizing the true reason for the season helps us enjoy the best things in life all year round.
The people we love
When we celebrate Christ’s birth, we really celebrate our Heavenly Father’s plan. The birth of Christ into this world demonstrates God’s love as He fulfilled His purposes. He provided the Savior Who made it possible for all of us to return to our eternal home.
Christ also made possible eternal families, both the family we have known and the family we have yet to know. Not only can we spend eternity with God in His home, but all our loved ones can too, never more to be parted.
These promises become all the more precious to me when I think of my sweet mother. After a lifetime of numerous medical challenges, dementia now drives her decline towards her mortal end. With my father approaching the point at which he can no longer care for her, my mother could move next week into a special care facility. I remain thankful to God that she was my mother, that I have many sweet memories of her, and that He sent His Son to make it all possible.
The places we’ve been
The Lord’s hand has also attended me in my travels. He protected me both before and during my mission. He guided me after I returned home. And His hand has sustained me traveling across the country.
I remember the first cross-country trek I made alone by car. When my car broke down in the middle of the Wyoming desert, to whom could I turn? I had only God to rely upon. And He helped me.
Two years ago, I made a similar trek going back the other way. Long time audience members will remember the story I shared. When my car again experienced trouble, it felt as though angels were lifting the car on all sides and propelling it forward. The Lord’s hand was upon me.
The Lord also blessed me in less desperate moments. I recall one Christmas in which I lived near my folks. I left for home a little after sunrise with a back seat full of Christmas presents. I drove a little slower because of the snow and potential ice. No one else was about at that hour, and I recall thinking as I drove amidst the peaceful wintery scene how blessed I was to have that moment and make the memories I was about to make.
The memories we’ve made
I’ve made plenty of other memories through the years. Most of them have been good ones. And I thank the Lord He’s blessed me with them.
I remember several years ago planning a special Christmas breakfast for my mother. She loves blueberries, and so I made a blueberry french toast casserole. She’d never made anything like that before, and frankly neither had I. But it hit the spot with her so much that a second helping wasn’t enough. She went to the kitchen and began eating what was left in the pan. It didn’t bother me; I was just happy helping her to be happy. Today I thank the Lord for that and many other precious memories.
We should all thank the Lord for the people we love, the places we’ve been, and the memories we’ve made. These are the best things in life, and the Lord Jesus Christ makes all of it possible. This year, as you celebrate the birth of the Master, may you thank Him for the people you love, the places you’ve been, and the memories you’ve made. You’ll feel more of His love and peace that characterizes the Christmas season. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
And that's quite an accomplishment. Most of my posts contain just under 800 of my own words each, so by that estimation I've written about 278,400 words. That's more than a quarter million words! It just goes to show you don't know how far you've come until you stop and consider.
Look back and ahead
I had no idea what I'd accomplished with my word count until I stopped to consider it. I don't think I imagined that result when I published the first few hundred words with that first post in 2014. The only thing I imagined was never backing down. And look what that attitude brought.
We all have potential for greatness. But if you're like most people, that potential is largely untapped. I haven't completely untapped my greatness, but as just described, I've started. And I did it by consistent, persistent effort. I did the work to lay the "bricks" in my "building" one at a time. Now, years later, I can look back at the wonderful edifice I've built.
I can also look ahead to the "building" I'll yet have, because what I see today is hardly finished. That's no different from any of us, really. We're all walking construction zones, filled with more imperfections than Swiss cheese has holes. The encouraging part is that God isn't finished with us yet.
Lay your "brick" for today
If I trust that Master Architect to accomplish His grand design, all I need to do is what's right before me today. I have the "building" I have because over time I laid the next "brick" when I needed to lay the next "brick."
And in laying that "brick," I thought hardly anything about future "bricks." I focused simply on the work to be done now, the work that was right in front of me. That work was laying a single "brick" in place.
I'm reminded of something Will Smith said about success in an interview with Charlie Rose.
That's all I've done with the Joy in the Journey Radio blog. I didn't set out to write over a quarter of a million words. I just set out to write a few hundred each week. That was the work that was right in front of me each week. And now, years later, I can look back at the "wall" I've constructed from the accumulation of "bricks" laid for every week after 2013.
Stay slow and steady
In reality, anyone can do this. My accomplishment isn't the only one that can be broken down into individual "bricks." Any greatness you dream of having can come the same way. In fact, there's no other way it can come.
So what are the small, seemingly inconsequential tasks you need to perform to achieve your dreams? What "brick" do you need to lay today (and every day) to build the future you want? If you don't know how to answer that question, perhaps you should stop and consider that.
While you're at it, consider how far you've come already, and schedule appointments with yourself to consider it again at regular intervals into the future. Our modern age has us expecting everything instantly, but that's not how real progress works. You need occasionally to consider how far you've come to remind yourself of what you have done and motivate you towards what you can yet do.
It may not be quick, but slow and steady will win your race. Consider how far you've come. Then look to the work you need to do today and throw everything you have into doing that work the best you can. Do that every single day, and before long you'll begin tapping into your potential and living your dreams. And that will bring you more joy in your 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.
In Western culture we adore people supposedly born with unique talent. Of course, we should congratulate those who have talent. The problem comes when we think those at the top have been born with “it.” That type of thinking leads to so much failure.
We think like this more often than we might realize. Ever heard someone say “I’m just not good at math”? People learn math all the time, and yet some persist in thinking they're “just not math people,” whatever that means. This thinking reflects the fixed mindset, the idea that you either have “it” — the something wonderful you need to succeed — or you don’t.
The fixed mindset has everyone climbing all over each other trying to prove how great they are. They seek to validate their own sense of self-worth in a game of comparisons. Unless you can prove you're better than someone else — that you have “it” — the world teaches you aren’t validated.
The fixed mindset also encourages you to do everything on your own. If you need help, you obviously don’t have “it”. If you’ve ever wondered why some find it hard to accept service from others, it may be because they don’t want to appear like they don’t have “it”.
This one cultural influence frustrates many LDS singles as they try to create families. For example, suppose you have some bad experiences with dating. (OK, so maybe you don’t have to suppose.) Is your normal response to give up because you think you don’t have “it”?
It’s very easy to think, if we weren’t born with whatever wonderful something it is we believe we need to have to succeed, then why even try? After all, it’s obvious you don’t have “it” if you aren’t as wonderful as someone else. So why torture yourself by proving what you fear, that you're unable to have your righteous desires? After all, you just don’t have “it”.
But you don’t need to think that way. Replace the idea of “it” with the idea that talent can be learned. You can then see service from others as an opportunity to learn something new and to improve upon yourself. That makes it easier to embrace.
Learn and grow
No talent of any kind is innate. Learning line upon line is part of the experience we came to mortality to have. Even people who think they aren't “math people” can learn math. I see it every semester with the math classes I teach. Talent can be learned.
And because it is learned, you need to see failure as a chance to improve yourself. Remember that your focus determines your reality. For example, it’s easy to think you're somehow defective because you can’t get a date. And as long as you focus on how “defective” you are, your reality will feel to confirm just that.
But when you focus instead on your efforts, your failure to get a date doesn’t mean something is wrong with you but rather with your effort. Ask yourself, “Why was it exactly that my effort to get a date failed?” and then keep following that trail until you find real answers.
Look to the Lord
Ultimately the Savior has already accepted you. He would not have suffered all He did if you were not worth redeeming. That means you don’t have to prove or validate yourself or even compare yourself with anyone else. You’re already accepted.
And His acceptance is the only one that matters. When you accept that truth, you free yourself from feeling you must have a significant other in order to be accepted. You can more easily be real in your interactions with other people. You don’t have to pretend you're something you really aren’t. That freedom makes life so much more enjoyable.
If you don’t feel that freedom now, then pray for it. The Lord will guide you to embrace your true worth. After all, He knows you're worth it. He’ll help you to feel His love for you if you but ask. When that happens, you’ll realize more fully your own worth. You’ll know more fully that you’re already accepted. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
If you’re struggling with LDS singles life, and particularly with dating, then you need to examine your attitude and your approach. Your results in life always come from what you do. And what you do inside yourself (your attitude) and outside yourself (your approach) comes from your choices. We’re all choosing the life we want.
Many LDS singles without the life they want need to adjust both attitude and approach. We touched on some aspects of a more effective approach two weeks ago when we discussed the proper role of revelation in dating. Then last week we addressed aspects of a more effective attitude. Neither of these discussions was comprehensive, but they do contain good starting points for positive change.
Here’s another aspect of both attitude and approach: Many LDS singles make assumptions about their world which their habits then use as the basis for action. But it’s like the old saying goes — garbage in, garbage out. A more effective attitude and approach begins with more effective assumptions.
Everything goes back to the way you think. That’s why a periodic reformat and reboot is good; you need to step back, examine your assumptions, and clear your head of anything faulty or less effective.
Question your assumptions
Sometimes what we think is significant really isn’t. Many LDS singles reject opportunities for success because their assumptions about what was important or even essential guided them along a different path. Their assumptions blinded them into thinking what really was an opportunity wasn’t an opportunity.
For example, most singles think the age of their special someone is within 5-6 years of their own. Why? Because they assume that’s what they should want. But often it’s not experience guiding them to adopt that assumption; they’re just being good “sheeple” in following the herd.
Thankfully, President Hinckley’s parents didn’t follow that assumption. They were separated by 13 years of age. And their union produced a prophet!
Life will never fully unfold for you until you start questioning your assumptions. When you let go of what you think you need but really don’t, you open yourself to more possibility. And that increases your probability of achieving success.
Don’t discount the good
Many LDS singles interact with other singles only insofar as it serves their agenda. Once someone no longer serves their agenda, they cease all interactions with that someone.
This faulty approach is itself based on faulty assumptions: Spending time and money on people who won’t progress with you towards marriage is a waste. That assumes people matter only insomuch as they help you achieve what you want. In the end, all that really matters is getting the goal.
When you spell it out, it’s not hard to see how ridiculous those assumptions are. People have inherent worth as children of God. Everyone matters. Yet many of us don’t have the self-awareness necessary to realize how ridiculous our own assumptions are.
Yes, lovers should be friends first. But friendship alone has intrinsic value. Who couldn’t use more support in facing the challenges of LDS singles life?
Every relationship you have, romantic and otherwise, offers knowledge and experience that can help you have a better relationship with that special someone when that person comes into your life. By discounting the good many potential friends have to offer, you make life harder than it needs to be. And you might be staying single longer than needed as well.
Look for the flecks
Elder M Russell Ballard once told the story of a young man who went to California during the Gold Rush to seek his fortune. He eagerly panned for gold nuggets like the ones he had heard about before coming west. But after weeks of effort, he had found nothing.
Then one day he met an older gentleman who had spent many days prospecting and found enough gold to fill a small bag. The young man was discouraged to learn that gold was not the nuggets for which he searched but rather many tiny flecks. After hearing his discouragement, the older gentleman responded that those flecks had made him a wealthy man.
If we assume the eternal companion we seek is a gold nugget, then we may be joining that young man in disappointment. Most people aren’t gold nuggets; they have imperfections aplenty. Yet they also have flecks of gold mingled among those imperfections. Choosing to give those gold flecks more weight than the imperfections can make us wealthy indeed.
When you clear your head of faulty assumptions, you can more easily meet with your success. Embracing all experience opens the door of possibility, increases your probability of success, and helps you to find much more than you ever imagined you could. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
It’s been a long time. I never imagined where my efforts back on 12/12/12 would take me. I started a blog to vent frustration with a woman who summarily rejected me without really knowing me. It was a song I knew all too well.
My blog continued, and I learned some great lessons that first year. For example, the effort I’d adopted as my own personal ministry couldn’t be about me. It had to be about people.
So with the start of a new year in 2014, I moved my blog to a website dedicated for housing the succession of posts I would publish every Wednesday. That was four years ago. And I have a weekly post for every Wednesday since.
In my first post at the new home, I shared the philosophy behind my efforts. It all came down to wanting real. My effort has evolved in those four years. But my desire for real is as strong as ever.
Begin the begin
Four years ago I wanted to help LDS singles conquer the challenges of LDS singles life. That desire has driven my evolution of the past four years.
Today we take the next step in that evolution. Today we jumpstart Joy in the Journey Radio with a regular weekly broadcast.
Four years ago I spoke of turning conventional wisdom on its head by not sending annoying marketing emails to my audience. Now I’m turning conventional wisdom on its head again.
The weekly broadcast will comprise a talk show format. However, unlike most talk shows which feature special guests selected because they’re somehow notable, we’ll feature the average Joes from across the spectrum of the LDS singles community.
I believe that so-called ordinary people have extraordinary stories and perspectives that can uplift and strengthen all of us. Their contribution will make the program more real than any lineup of notorieties you can assemble.
Change the culture
Most of my weekly blog posts over the last four years have generated no comments, but I didn’t care about that four years ago, and I still don’t today. My effort is not about me; it’s about making a contribution that will improve the lives of LDS singles everywhere.
I’ll still work to engage everyone in the conversation we need to have about LDS singles life and changing our culture. That’s why I’ll invite married men and women on the program as well as in the audience.
Four years ago, I cited our need for a conversation about what it means to be single in a family-centered culture. And we need to move the center of our culture towards Christ.
That need is as great today as it was then. What impact will our conversation make if we have it only among ourselves? We must include our married brothers and sisters if we want to see real change.
Called to serve
You may have noticed how I’ve been using plural forms — “we take the next step” and “our journey.” That’s because none of this is about me. It’s about something larger than any one of us individually.
We have the opportunity to make a real difference in each others’ lives. Far too many of us are steeped in negativity and focused far too much on our obstacles. Our focus will always determine our reality. Focusing on our obstacles will yield a reality of obstruction and frustration. Focusing instead on our opportunities will create a reality of opportunity and freedom.
That is real, and that is what I want for all LDS singles everywhere.
That’s why Joy in the Journey Radio exists, to uplift and strengthen LDS singles everywhere. We do that by offering content intended to impart positive energy and improve the lives of singles of all ages and backgrounds.
Because this is about something much larger than me, I can’t do it alone. I’m calling on LDS singles everywhere to contribute to this effort by volunteering. There is so much that needs doing. If you’re sincere about wanting to improve the lives of LDS singles, that willingness alone qualifies you to help. Go now to the contact page of the website to make yourself counted.
I’m still wanting real, and if you want real in your life, come join me. It’s a brand new year and a brand new Joy in the Journey Radio. We will lift and support one another as we journey towards our heavenly home. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
Welcome to the new home for my blog.
It all started back in 2012 — 12/12/12 to be exact. I couldn’t let the opportunity to start something on a date like that pass me by. Little did I know that my first year would be training for what you see today. And I’ve changed along the way. Now that my blog has a new home and we’re starting a new year, I thought it only fitting that I establish a few expectations. This first post may turn out to be the longest post I make, so if you aren’t comfy, now is a good time to get there.
First, it's not about me.
When I started my blog, I had some ideas that needed expression. Many of those ideas were in a book about LDS singles that I've been working on since January 2011. In researching how best to publicize the book, I found the ubiquitous advice to start a blog and use it to promote the book.
But that doesn’t work for me.
See, I started with that idea. And I found along the way that it led me to make everything about me. I felt the tendency to make outrageous comments to drive more traffic or to write for search engine robots to increase page ranking. But things like that don’t matter. It’s people that matter, and it's relationships with people that matter most.
That’s why I started writing my book in the first place.
It’s a longer story that I can share later if you’re interested. Bottom line = I wanted to create something that would help the growing LDS singles population confront and conquer the challenges of LDS singles life.
So I’m turning conventional wisdom on its head.
Writers use blogs as marketing tools to promote books. To me, that’s all backwards. I intend my book to support the blog. And I see the blog as a platform for changing the culture within the Church. We need to get more serious about building Zion. A big part of that means changing how we think about what it means to be single in the Church. Too many LDS singles feel like second class citizens in the Church of Mormon Families Who Sometimes Talk about Christ when they should feel like equal members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
But the culture will never change if we don’t do anything.
We need to start having a conversation about LDS singles life, one that encourages all of us to change the way we think about what it means to be single in the Church. There are changes that marrieds need to make and many more changes that singles need to make. We need to support one another in these changes.
That means we have to cut the crap and speak the truth.
I’ve been single now for almost 20 years. That’s two decades. So I’m tired of all the high school games and other associated crap that I’ve dealt with in that time period. I want real. I want to connect with other people on a real level and not have everything revolve around my marital status and my desires for eternal companionship.
So when I see crap from anyone, I’m calling them out on it.
That means some of you will discount me or try to ignore me because what I have to say will contradict whatever agenda you have. Others I will simply annoy. Still others will outright hate me. I’m okay with all of that. You see, I want real.
I understand that not everyone is prepared for the truth. That is part of what my book is all about. We all develop habits in which we continue to believe lies about the way the world and our lives are constructed, because those lies make us feel more comfortable. But I’m done with all of that. I want real. That means embracing the truth, no matter what it may seem to do to me in the here and now. And I got three words for those of you who aren’t prepared to hear the truth.
I don't care.
That’s right. Again, it’s not about me. It’s about changing the culture so that we LDS singles can more easily confront our challenges and we can all — married and single — get about the business of building Zion for real. That is, after all, what all of us covenanted to do at baptism and in the temple.
Oh, and I don’t care applies to just about everything.
That doesn’t mean I’m going to trample intentionally on the feelings of others. It doesn’t mean I won’t attempt to regard the views of others with respect and courtesy. I probably won't always succeed, as imperfect as I am, but I will strive to be a gentleman.
What I don't care does mean is when you read one of my posts, you’re getting real — the real me, what I really think and feel, and all presented in a real way. I don’t care about search engine robots because I write for people. I don’t care about page rank or other Internet statistics which in eternity will be meaningless. I don’t care if I continue writing posts week after week which generate no comments. I don’t care what anyone thinks about me or my opinions. I want real, and I can’t get real if I put on rose-colored glasses and pretend that everything is just peachy when in reality it’s putrid. If a cow crapped it out, I’m going to call it what it really is — cow crap!
That means that a lot of conventional wisdom and me just won’t mix.
I’m done trying to be someone I'm not just to impress someone into having a relationship with me — and that’s any type of relationship, not just the romantic kind. I’m done living the lie of a life on autopilot. I’m done going through the motions of being an “active” Latter-day Saint. I want to do what I do because I truly feel it deep inside. I want what I do to mean something. I want real.
Real also means I don’t look on people reading my blog as customers to be marketed to constantly. I don’t like receiving constant emails telling me how I can’t live without purchasing XYZ, so I’ll never send anyone anything like that. It’s not about me or my book. It’s about building a community through which we can change the culture by changing the way we think about LDS singles life.
I refuse to believe it cannot be done. I refuse to follow the herd just because everyone else is doing it. I refuse to believe what I say and do makes no difference. I refuse to believe I'm second-rate or that God must want me to be single because I haven’t yet experienced the subcultural rite of passage that is temple marriage. And I refuse to back down.
Sure, I’m imperfect, very much so. I've got more imperfections than Swiss cheese has holes. I understand that my endeavors may result in total and complete failure. But that just brings me back to the three words I shared earlier.
I don't care.
You see, I’ve failed so many times in my life at just about everything in life that I am not certain whether failure has any real meaning anymore. But I am certain that just going through the motions is meaningless. I want real. And real is what you will get from me.
I envision a glorious future in which LDS marrieds and singles come together and build Zion – a place where everyone cares for everyone and everyone looks out for everyone. That is the place where I want to be, whether or not I ever find my eternal companion. Of course, such a place is more made than found, which brings me back to my first point.
It’s not about me. It’s about lifting a light so that others can see amidst the darkness. It’s about bringing hope to those in despair. It’s about changing the way that we all think so that we can unite and build Zion. And it’s about becoming more like our Savior so that we can live there and feel like we belong.
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 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.
Joy in the Journey Radio offers many free resources to help LDS singles everywhere, but it certainly isn't free! Help Joy in the Journey Radio in its mission to improve the lives of LDS singles by donating today.
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