Monday, August 31, 2015

God's plan for me

I don't pretend to understand God
and His plan for me
I know He wants me to be happy
but sometimes I cannot see

I make my own plans
based off where I expect to go
but as I have leaned in time
I am taken down paths I do not know

When life appears to go one way
and I fully expect to see it through
I have an unexpected feeling
and I am not sure what to do

The feeling makes little sense
and I doubt it constantly
for it's easy to question
when I don't quite feel worthy

But I follow it anyways
giving up a fruitful way
hoping it will lead me
to a place I long to stay

For a while I venture
and still I struggle to see the destination
My heart shifts to and from
a feeling of confirmation

What does God have planned for me?
Did I read His signs correctly?
Would I have been better off
with my original itinerary?

For now the path is lonely
the future is uncertain
I could have been in a different place
with another person

But I have to trust in God
that He does have a plan for me
and if I just continue
I will one day truly see

I will see the end from the beginning
and all the ways I could have gone
and hopefully I will be grateful
that this decision wasn't wrong

For when life is dark and dreary
it's easy to look back and say
I would have been better off
If I went the other way

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Disneyland! The happiest place on earth!

Disneyland! The happiest place on earth!!!!


I recently visited Disneyland. I was able to enjoy the warm California weather, the beautiful scenery, the thrilling rides, the enchantment of the most famous theme park on earth, and the company of good friends. It was a great! Happiest place on earth, right? So why did I often not feel happy? Certainly I had a good time and was entertained but I wouldn't call that happiness. All external factors seemed to be pushing the dial to happy though. What was missing?

Was it the fact that Disneyland was hot, littered with people, charged extortionary food prices, and was encumbered with atrociously long lines for attractions? Yeah I guess that certainly didn't help. Standing in line for hours on end and paying a 500% markup on water certainly didn't add to my enjoyment. Would have I been happier in better weather, cheaper prices, shorter lines, and a hover-bed equipped with all you can eat food and a massouse? I don't know but I highly doubt it.

So is Disneyland really the happiest place on earth? The obvious answer is no. That would be preposterous. But is there a place that is happier? Could it be a sacred places of worship, or individual homes, places in nature, work? I guess it really depends on the individual. The happiest place on earth is...well unique to everyone.

For me that place is not Disneyland. For some it may be. The happiest place on earth for me is the place where I know I am actively progressing in life and serving those I love. These places have been at home, the temple, on my bicycle, on the top of a mountain, at the beach, and other places. But yet these places have also been where I have felt some of the deepest pain and sorrow. So it begs the question if a physical location can be the happiest place on earth for an individual. Again...I don't think so. I believe happiness comes from within, not from a coordinate.

But yet I saw so many happy people at Disneyland. Surely there is something to a place to affects happiness. Do external factors have some control on our happiness? I don't believe that happiness could be as simple as choosing to be happy. It can't be as easy as flipping on a light switch. If that was the case then my life lately looks like a light switch rave party. Why in the world would I be choosing that? And I am sure if you randomly put 100 people in Disneyland for a day and another 100 random people in the middle of a desert sand storm for a day and asked both groups how happy they were you would get different results. Since our external surroundings do affect our happiness, does that truly undermine the idea that happiness is a choice?

To a certain extent, our external surroundings (places we are, people we are with, and things we are doing) are determined by the choices we make in life. So if we are making choices that put us in "happier" places, then yes we are choosing to be happy. And our situations and the places where we are can make the choice to be happy an easier choice to make. It's easy to choose to be happy when you are at the beach with people you love but not so easy if you are stuck in a sewer tunnel with a guy a little too excited about eating you. Some situations make happiness almost a given. As if it is not even a choice. Happiness only seems to need to be a choice when you're not happy. No one ever tells you that happiness is a choice when you're already happy. That is what happy people tell to unhappy people.

I do think happiness is a choice. Happiness is the result of the choices we make in how we live our life and the simple choice to be happy. Those choices, for whatever reason, are easier for some to make than for others. I feel for those who struggle with depression because I know for them it definitely doesn't feel like a choice. It feels as if happiness will never come. I don't pretend to know what depression is truly like but I have definitely had my fair share of moments when it felt like the sun wouldn't shine again. When the simple phrase, "choose to be happy" just felt like a slap in the face.

It's obvious no physical location is the happiest place on earth. I guess I will just work on being in places where I can make that place be the happiest place on earth for me at that moment. Or something like that...

Sunday, July 19, 2015

All will be well!

Dating is hard! That shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. But why is it so hard? It's hard because you have to totally give of yourself emotionally and always be at risk to have it not work out. You are at your most vulnerable point when you're dating. You risk everything. Or at least you should be willing to risk everything. You have in your grasp the opportunity to gain the world, a loving relationship. Yet you are always one conversation away from losing all of that. More often than not, you end up not gaining the world. You break up.

I have heard that breakups can be emotionally as difficult as a death in one's family. For when a family member, or even a spouse, dies you still have the promise that you will be with that person again. You can still have the same relationship with them in the next life. With a breakup you have NO promise of having the same relationship with that person ever again, assuming it's a permanent break up. That relationship is lost to you forever. All the goodness and love is...gone. What consolation do you have? That the experience served to make you a better person? That you can maybe find another relationship with someone else somewhere down the road? That isn't super comforting in the immediate wake of the loss. It's hard to accept that you will find someone else mainly because you don't want to find someone else. You still want the relationship you just had.

So you move on. Or at least you try. But you still don't know how to fill that void in your life. Where there was love, service, and purpose you now have emptiness. The pain of that seemingly bottomless void hurts so bad. What is worse yet is that you still don't want to fill it. Somehow you feel that by filling the void you have truly ended the relationship. Your life was about someone else and now it is about about you again, which is far less satisfying. Single life is inherently not as fulfilling as a life devoted to someone else's happiness. Sure being single can be fun and adventurous and one can find happiness there just feels lacking.

How do you go back to your old single life? How do you go back to first dates and nights watching netflix alone? What do you do with your time that used be spent serving another? Where do you redirect your thoughts, your energy, and love? How do you go on? I don't know. I wish there was an easy answer. It's hard to go on when deep down you still don't want to accept that you must go on. You vainly hold on emotionally to that relationship. You simply don't know what else to hold on to.

"How do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on... when in your heart you begin to understand... there is no going back? -Frodo Baggins

Is Frodo right? Is there is no going back? No! You can't. You are forever changed by that relationship. You are never the same. For better or for worse you have been changed. You can't go back to who you were.

Hopefully you have been changed for good. Hopefully the relationship taught how to give of yourself and how to love another person. Hopefully you experienced joy, honesty, kindness, and mutual respect. Hopefully you learned how to practice patience and faith. Hopefully you were able to live beyond yourself.

Even if the relationship was good and the break up was right, the first few days, weeks, months, and sometimes even years are not easy. There is still pain. The pain of the loss is palpable. Sometimes it seems too much to carry at times. It sucks! Plain and simple.

"How can we love days that are filled with sorrow? We can’t—at least not in the moment. I don’t think my mother was suggesting that we suppress discouragement or deny the reality of pain. I don’t think she was suggesting that we smother unpleasant truths beneath a cloak of pretended happiness. But I do believe that the way we react to adversity can be a major factor in how happy and successful we can be in life. If we approach adversities wisely, our hardest times can be times of greatest growth, which in turn can lead toward times of greatest happiness." - Joseph B Wirthlin

In the time of deepest pain, sorrow, and loneliness, you have the opportunity for the greatest growth. How you react is so important. Will you remember the phrase, "Come what may, and love it!"? Will you take comfort in the Lord's promise that all will be well. I promise you that all will be well!

Why will all be well? How could it ever all be well when all seems broken and lost? Because you will CHOOSE to make it well. You will choose to love yourself and sometimes even more importantly, you will continue to love the one who broke your heart. You will choose to be kind, positive, hopeful, and supportive. You will choose to go to the Lord and seek his guidance and you will recognize the hand of the Lord guiding, supporting, and comforting you. He will give you peace and comfort. You will choose to be grateful that you have experienced such a wonderful relationship. You will choose to proactively find new and uplifting ways to use your new found time and energy. You will choose to see the small glimmers of light protruding through the dark tearful clouds of your soul. You will choose to see that this experience will serve to make you better. You will choose to remember Christ's love for you and his immense capacity to comfort and forgive you. God will always love you. Even if someone else no longer does, God still loves you. It's your choice to recognize that love and accept it. It's your choice to make the best of so much pain. It's your choice to be well. That is why all will be well. Because you will choose to be well.

"Each of us will have our own Fridays—those days when the universe itself seems shattered and the shards of our world lie littered about us in pieces. We all will experience those broken times when it seems we can never be put together again. We will all have our Fridays. No matter our desperation, no matter our grief, Sunday will come." - Joseph B. Wirthlin

Yes Sunday will come. Maybe not as soon as you would like but it will come. All will be well!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Lead thou me on!

My last published blog post was very hard to write for me. In it I delved into some of the questions I have feared asking. My friend pointed out that I made it seem like I was convinced I didn't need Christ or that I could simply do things by myself. He had a point. While I still believe that we are more capable than we often give ourselves credit for, I no longer believe nor would I want to overcome life's challenges by myself.

Christ, our ultimate example, when going through his darkest hours in the garden of Gethsamane and on the cross didn't go through those experiences alone. Even He, the son of God, requested and needed help. So why would I want to do it alone? Recently I have been reminded how hard and difficult life can be. There are many things in life that cut us deep. Experiences that go to our core. They leave us wondering how much pain can be suffered. As the Princess Bride wonderfully said, "Life is pain". I am so grateful that even though at times my pain seems too much to bear, I have people around me to be there with me through the pain. I would not want to go through the pains of life without them. It's reassuring to talk with someone who understands my pain. It doesn't take away the pain but it does make it more bearable. Having someone you can talk to, who will listen to you, and who can comfort you is a reassuring idea. I would never want to go through life with out that. As much as I want to be independent, I don't want to go through life's experiences alone. Which is why the doctrine of the atonement of Christ is so reassuring. Having someone who will always be there for you in your times of sorrow is a comforting doctrine. Man was not meant to pass through the sorrows of this world alone.

In my time of pain, I have found comfort in friends and family but I have also found comfort in God. It was He who I first went to for peace and solace. Peace and solace was given but it didn't last, nor do I think it was meant to. God gave me what I needed in the time I needed it. Certain thoughts, feelings, and words were needed in my life at certain times. Those were given to me recently. They gave me enough strength and courage to go past the crest of the next hill. Nevertheless, I still had to walk up that hill. This experience has humbled me to realize just how much I need God and others. While I am still sure I could have gone through this experience alone, I would never ever want to. I don't know if I would come out whole on the other side. With God and other support, we can cope and learn. We can be reassured and be given some brief solace. We can not only come out whole on the other side but can come out better for it.

So when it comes to the question of my last blog post: Lead thou me on? Please do! I don't want to wander through the desert of life anymore without you. Forgive me for the times when I was cocky and thought I no longer needed you. As I go through some of the agonies of life, it gives me more respect and awe for the sacrifice you willingly did for all of us. I may not understand it, I may not have the greatest testimony of it, but I do recognize now that is is foolish for me to not want thy support.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Lead thou me on?

This past Christmas season the LDS church had a big campaign about how Christ is the gift of Christmas. He is God's gift to mankind. But lately I have been questioning if I want that gift. What would I do with it? A strange question considering I taught about Christ for two years. I know who He is on a fundamental level. I could tell you all sorts of facts about Him, what He did, and "why" He is needed. But yet I still wonder why there is all this hubbub about him. I have always known Christ is important but I don't know if I have ever quite felt it.

The doctrine is that it is only through Christ that we can return to live with God. Well why? That kind of seems like a dumb plan if you ask me. Why do I have to go through some arbitrary process to live with God again? Why does He make me completely dependent upon His only begotten son? Why can't I be dependent upon His son Jacob Allred? I know I am not perfect but should that matter? Haven't I been taught that I am powerful beyond all measure? Doesn't the power to change ultimately reside in me? So why do I need a third party involved? It is said that no unclean thing can enter into heaven. Okay well let me go clean myself! I can change! I have soap and water. So why do I need a special brand of soap? Is my soap not good enough? Does it not work or something?

So maybe the question really is why do I need Christ? Or better yet, why does God require me to need Christ? Why can't I be powerful enough to change myself? I often hear people finding power in the atonement. This has always baffled me. Is the atonement giving them an extra boost of willpower to do their home-teaching or to refrain from getting into a fight? You know that you can become a better person without Christ. Many people quit smoking, support the homeless, and forgive their neighbors all without needing this extra support. They just do it on their own sheer willpower and desire. They do it without help. That sounds a little more impressive than those who call for help at the first sign of struggle.

The last few years I have become more and more independent. Not only have I become independent financially but in many ways spiritually. I have learned the resiliency of the human body and mind. I ran a marathon, an idea two years ago I would have thought impossible. I have proved to myself that I can do incredible things without asking for God's intervention. I'm amazed at what the body and mind can do. I want to keep challenging myself to see what I can do. I want to be the master of my ship. I want to control my destiny.

During a time in which my very belief in God has been in question and my own independence has increased, I guess it's no surprise that I ask these questions. I question how much I need or don't need God and His son Jesus Christ.

I don't know why God requires me to need Christ for my salvation. Maybe it's to teach me humility and not let pride rule my will. Maybe humbling myself to a subsidiary role is a requisite process to eventually becoming like God. As Christ says in Ether 12:27 " grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me" Maybe it's all about humility. Maybe...

I was not ever thus, nor prayed that thou shouldst lead me on.
I loved to choose and see my path...

Will my life finish the verse?

...but now, Lead thou me on!