Joy Journey Day 2: Let Go

Philippians 4:

6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.

7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

“Be careful” in this context means afflicted. We are being told that we should not waste our time and energy worrying about things we cannot control. We are to pray about our concerns and give them to God. When we do this we will have peace and He will keep our hearts and minds safe, through Christ!

I love the story in Mark 4 where Christ calms the storm. It has been one of my favorites since childhood! Jesus had spent the day in a boat with his disciples teaching the multitude who stood on the shore. He was constantly bombarded by people needing Him, wanting Him to heal them and teach them and just be around them. I can only imagine how exhausted He must have been. So after He was done teaching He asked the disciples to row Him out into the lake. He was sleeping in the boat when a sudden and mighty storm came. The wind was blowing ferociously! The waves were crashing. And the boat was rocking like crazy! His friends were terrified… and Jesus slept. I can picture them trying desperately to row back to shore and maybe some of them were using a pail to try to keep the water out of the boat. Finally, in a panic, they woke Jesus and asked Him how He could be sleeping. Didn’t He care that they were going to die? Jesus calmly rebuked the wind and the waves telling them to be still. Then He asked them a question that so often can be applied to my life, “Why are ye so fearful? How is it ye have no faith?” This was the man, the God, who had separated the water from the water, then the water from the land when the earth was created. The same One who had parted the waters of the Red Sea so that the Israelites could walk through on dry land. Of course He could handle a few elements of water on a lake. And of course He can handle a few elements of turmoil in our lives! We must have faith and allow Him to do so. Like Themistocles once wisely declared without understanding the full truth of his words, “He who commands the sea has command of everything.” Our Lord truly is the commander of the sea!

So why is it so hard for us to have faith and trust Him with the circumstances of our lives? I so often find myself desperate for control. I want to stay in my little comfort zone and orchestrate everything perfectly. I want things to be smooth and I don’t want any storms! But what I sometimes forget is that maybe God sees I need a storm in my life, to strengthen me, to refine me. If it were up to me, there would be no storm, or at very most a light storm. But God sees the bigger picture. He sees what the storm is doing for me. And even though He can stop it, and sometimes does, He often allows it to rage and do all the cleansing and rearranging it is meant to do. I have learned over the years that when I trust Him enough to give Him control of my storms, if they are meant to rage for a while longer, He will at least allow me to move to the eye of the storm for comfort.

We want to control the things in our life so we hang onto them. But if we will trust Him enough to let them go, we will find that He is much more capable of handling the messes we are in, even if we have created them ourselves. I sometimes don’t let go of things because I can’t see how they will ever be fixed, to me it looks impossible. And so I tie God’s hands. I don’t give Him room to work because I can’t solve them, so how could He? But He is the God of miracles! And truly I have seen Him work miracles in my life time and time again, especially in the impossible, but only once I step back and let go.

When we let go of the things that are worrying us we are showing God that we trust Him. We are choosing faith over fear. When we have patience with His timing we are showing Him that we know He sees a bigger picture than we do. When we calm our mind we allow our spirit to remind us that we are not in control and that we really don’t want to be.

Here are a few things that have worked for me when I am ready to let go and let God.

*Journaling: It is so therapeutic to write out the things I am concerned about and why. When I do this it makes it easier for me to take them out of my heart and leave them on the paper, it reminds me of times past when God has sorted things out for me and it allows me to trust Him once again.

*Mindfulness: When things feel uncomfortable we tend to push them away from us rather than spending enough time with them to really diagnose whey they are a concern. When we take the time to think through a feeling to understand where it comes from and why, we can often understand the underlying issue and work through it, but we have to lean into the discomfort to start with. When we can get to the root of the problem it makes it easier to solve it, or let it go.

*Affirmations: Sometimes speaking things out loud is the only way for me to disrupt the turmoil within. We can speak positive things about ourselves or truth filled phrases. One of mine is “Faith not Fear.” It is a way I tell myself to turn off the fear and let God work.

*Letting Go Ceremony: This is something I have heard about from several different people. It can be visual. You imagine the problem and make it tiny and squash it. You picture it as an object and throw it into a fire. You put it in a helium balloon and watch it float away. Or it can be literal. Write it on a piece of paper and bury it or throw it off a cliff. One of my favorite suggestions is a prayer box. If you notice you are thinking a lot about a problem you cannot see a way to fix, you write it on a small piece of paper and put it in a box. It is a signal to you mind and you spirit that you are giving it to God to work on.

These are just a few methods of letting go. If we can do something verbal, visual, or tactile it often helps us to connect the letting go action to our minds.

Jesus said, “In the world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”

He wants us to have joy. When we let go of the worry over things we can do nothing about it allows Him to take them. It allows us to return to joy.

Soul searching question: What is one worry you are holding onto that you can let go of today?

Song: I’m Gonna Let It Go by Jason Gray

Face to face with author:

Gratitude Challenge Day 7: Partner with Christ

One day there was an older married couple driving down the road in their pickup truck.  When they came to a stoplight, the woman looked over at a truck stopped next to them.  In that truck she saw a younger couple.  The young lady was snuggled up very close to the young man with her head on his shoulder.  The older woman offhandedly asked her husband, “Why don’t we sit like that anymore?”  He in turn looked out her window to observe what she was seeing and then responded, “Well, I haven’t moved.”
The first time I heard this joke I laughed because I could relate.  As we become more comfortable in our relationships we do tend to take them for granted until we remember the way we felt when they were new and appreciated.  I believe this joke is such a compelling reminder of our relationship with Christ.  Whenever we notice that their is a gap between Him and us, a space on the seat of our journey, it is because we have moved, not because He has.  Our Savior always wants a relationship with us! He wants to share our joys, our sorrows, our hopes and our dreams. His hand is outstretched still… ALWAYS.  Yet, when our lives get busy, or hard, or even too easy at times we tend to move away from Him.
My life has been blessed with so much.  I have always had the necessities of life. I have a safe and comfortable place to live.  I have clothes to wear.  I have never had to see my children go hungry. I find that much of the time I am blessed with not only my needs but so many of my wants as well.  I have family and friends that love and support me.  I have gifts and talents that have allowed me to recognize the joy of creation and connection.  And with all of these blessings swimming around in my head, the thing that I am most grateful for is my Savior Jesus Christ.  I am grateful that I know of Him and of His love for me.  I am grateful that I know Him and feel His presence in my life. And I am so very grateful that there is a way to move back across that seat when I have sinned and moved away from Him, either in not making room for Him in my excessive busyness, not taking time to read His word and communicated with Him in prayer, or even in much much bigger ways.  I am so grateful for His grace and for our access to that grace.  I am grateful that when I recognize that I have distanced myself from my Redeemer there is a way back and He welcomes it.
If you are feeling a distance between you and our Savior, I encourage you to examine your life and determine those things that are keeping you at an arms distance from Him. If they are big things, take care of them.  Confess and forsake the things that are holding you back from a relationship with Him.  If they are little things, slow down in the busyness of your life and look for ways to daily connect with Him.  As you do this, I know you will have more peace and contentment in your life.  You will find more to be grateful for.  You will find more hope.  You will recognize the joys of being anchored in Him.
Colossians 3:
16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
17 And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.

Song: My Heart is Filled with Thankfulness by Kieth and Kristyn Getty

Today’s Challenge:

Video Challenge by Oléa:

Gratitude Challenge Day 5: Compliment Genuinely and Generously

A number of years ago I was listening to an audio tape on which the speaker was explaining how the brain cannot tell the difference between negative thoughts directed at someone else and those directed at selves. If this is true about negativity then it is also true about positivity. The more that we think thoughts of appreciation and love the better we will feel. And if thinking them is good, then speaking them out loud is even better. In applying this concept the wonderful thing about a compliment is that it lifts us just as much as it lifts the person receiving it.
Now, I know that this might be hard for some people, especially if they did not grow up with this kind of environment in their home. But just because it is hard does not mean it is not worth doing. We can all learn to do things we have not done before or even how to get over the awkwardness of doing things that make us feel uncomfortable. The more we do it, the more comfortable it will become. This progress can be identified as what I have learned is called the stages of competency.
The first stage in the stages of competency is unconscious incompetency, or not knowing that you cannot do something. Stage two is conscious incompetency, or knowing that you cannot do something. The third stage is conscious competency, or being able to do something if you concentrate very hard. The final stage, or stage of mastery, is called unconscious competency, meaning that you have done something long enough that you are competent without thinking about it. We went through these stages when we learned how to walk and now we walk around as unconscious of the way to do it as we are of how to breathe. Every single time we learn a new thing we go through these same stages. I like the idea of being aware of where I am in the progression with new things I am learning. It helps me remember that I cannot compare my stage 2 to someone else’s stage 4. I am a work in progress with that particular thing, just like they were once a stage 2 as well.
So my challenge for you today is to be consciously competent whether you are comfortable giving compliments or not. Take the time to notice people around you, how they look, what they say, what they do and genuinely compliment them on something positive you notice. They will feel a lift in their day and so will you.
Our Savior has told us that when we do kind things for those around us, it is like we are doing it for Him. So take a moment and be conscious of what you are doing for those around you and treat them the way you would treat Jesus if He were standing in their shoes.
1 Peter 4:
8 And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.
9 Use hospitality one to another without grudging.
Song: Let it Start with Me by No Other Name

Today’s Challenge:

Day 5 Challenge Video by Oléa:

Gratitude Challenge Day 4: Be Present

One of the things that impedes joy the most in our current society is our choice to not be present. There are many things that we allow to distract us from our life, from learning, growing and progressing. The first thing that comes to mind when I think of distractions in my own life is my cell phone. It has many good uses. It allows me to research interesting facts or facilitate my scripture study. It helps me stay connected with friends and family. It give me tools through social media to maintain relationships that would otherwise be lost with distance. It gives me a platform to share my witness of Christ and to spread light. But when I am not intentional in how I use it, it can easily become an escape from life. I can spend hours scrolling on Facebook, pinning on Pinterest, or get completely sucked into a game. I can get caught up in feeling sorry for myself as I compare my life to the pictures of what my friends are experiencing in their lives. I can even become frustrated and discouraged with myself as I begin to believe I am not doing as well as some of them are in my role as a wife or mother. In essence comparing my “behind the scenes to their highlight reels”, as Pastor Steve Furtick wisely put it. All of these things distract me from living the kind of life I know God wants me to live. He wants me to love my life and find joy and gratitude in it. He wants me to be focused on growing closer to Him and learning how to live more like His son. He wants my time to be spent serving others and spreading His light and love to the world. And to do that best, I need to be present. I need to be aware of my time and how I am spending it. How often have I allowed opportunities of truly connecting with another person through conversation or participation in an activity because I was distracted by my phone? These lost experiences haunt me at times. It is something I need to do much better!

Another way that we get distracted from being present that is worth mentioning is when we choose to live either in the future or in the past. Some people spend so much time working and building the future they wish to have that they do so at the sacrifice of the present. They lose the moments that are happening now because they are so focused on what they hope is coming. Far more of us, I’m afraid, miss out on the present because we are too focused on what we have left behind. In a class I was taking a few years ago a woman who had lost her husband suddenly and had grieved deeply mentioned that she had to learn to stop coveting her old life. I found that profound! How often, especially in hard times, do we spend our days thinking about and wishing we had back the happiness and contentment we remember from a past time in our lives. I know I have spent good chunks of time in my life living in a fantasy that no longer exists, so caught up in this memory that I am not engaged in my present life, focused on improvement and gratitude of my current blessings. This can cause us to sacrifice current opportunities, desires, and even relationships. I know this in not what our Father wants for us. Of course He wants us to plan for the future and He wants us to learn from our past, but He wants us to live in our present. He wants us to enjoy the life we have, appreciate the blessings that are currently ours, focus on serving and loving the people around us, and He wants us to work on discovering and pursuing our own special purpose on earth. This is where our time is best spent, living, truly living in the present!

Romans 12:

1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
Song: Love Like Jesus by Rhett Walker Band

Today’s Challenge:

Challenge Video by Oléa:

Gratitude Challenge Day 3: Positive Affirmations

A few months ago I was listening to an audio talk on happiness by one of my favorite speakers, Hank Smith.  He mentioned that the largest percent of our happiness can be traced to our DNA.  It’s actually genetic!  However, he also taught that it is still possible to increase the level of our happiness through intentional effort.  We can train ourselves to be happier than we would naturally be. Through practice we can get better at it.  I love that idea!  Practice makes progress!

It is also a scientific fact that our brain believes whatever we tell it.  If we tell ourselves we cannot do something, our brain believes us.  If we tell ourselves life is miserable, our brain believes us.  If we tell ourselves we are worthless, our brain believes us.  And the opposite is also true. If we tell ourselves we are capable of difficult things, our brain believes us.  If we tell ourselves life is beautiful, our brain believes us.  If we tell ourselves we have value, our brain believes us.  By the thoughts we feed our brain we can make our lives happier or more miserable.  Since our brain controls so much of our potential, the most important thing we can feed our brain is positive thoughts about ourselves.

Our Heavenly Father and Savior Jesus Christ love us so very much!  To them we have infinite value and divine potential. I’m sure that it makes them very sad when we don’t value their opinion of us. Recognize yourself for the child of God that you are and be kind to yourself!

Ephesians 5:
19 Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;
20 Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Song: Love Yourself by Justin Bieber (rewritten lyrics and beautiful video)

Gratitude affirmations:

Today’s Challenge:

Day 3 Challenge Video by Oléa:

Gratitude Challenge Day 2: Vocalized Appreciation

I believe most of us notice and appreciate the things other people do for us, but sometimes we are not very good at voicing our thankfulness. Some of us did not grow up in families where this was a common practice and either it just doesn’t come to mind or it makes us very uncomfortable to do so. Today’s challenge is about being mindful of these times and pushing past this discomfort. Think of a time you did something for someone else and they did thank you. How did it make you feel? We are divinely wired to have an increase in happiness not only when we are recognized for helping, but also when we recognize sacrifices made on our behalf. It may be uncomfortable at first to do something we are not used to doing, but I promise if you focus on the feeling you have after the voiced appreciation, it will get easier each time you do it. Give it a try today!

As we work on changing the neuropathways of I mind I want to share “The Coin Theory” with you. I was taught this theory a few years ago when I was going through a particularly hard time and the negative in my life was almost crushing. The counselor I was working with at the time shared it with me and I think of it often… If I were to give you a coin and ask you to look at the heads and tails of it at the same time, could you? No. Of course not. You have to choose which side you will focus on. Just because you focus on the heads side of the coin does not make the tails side disappear. It is still there. You are just choosing to dismiss it. The same would go for the other side of a coin. We have the same choice throughout each day of our life. There is both positive and negative that will happen each day. We can choose to focus on the positive or the negative. Just because we choose to focus on the positive does not mean the negative is not there. It simply means we are dismissing it and not giving it power over us.

Colossians 3:

15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.

Song: Thank You for Everything by Jason Gray

Today’s Challenge:

Day 2 Challenge Video by Oléa:

Gratitude Challenge Day 1: Intentional Appreciation

Thank you so much for joining me for our Gratitude Challenge. I’m so excited about this week! I am looking forward to sharing some things I have learned with you as well as feeling the lift that I know comes from focusing on gratitude. (Please forgive any typos I may have in these memes I created. My brain is pretty tired this morning.)

(See challenge at end of post.)

Today I want to focus on Intentional Appreciation. Our brains are such amazing things! They really do find what we are looking for, whether that is positive or negative. And if we don’t like the way we have been feeling or habits we have created our brains are capable of being retrained. We can literally change the neuropathways of our brains. These little pathways are like ruts that have been created through a field as we walk the same path over an over again. When we intentionally focus on new things, better things, we create a new pathway and eventually the old pathway will grow over and the new more positive thoughts will be as natural as the old negative ones were. So I challenge you today to be mindful of when you are thinking negatively and stop yourself in your tracks and think about something you are grateful for. Notice even the small blessings in your life, the things you typically take for granted. See if you can go the whole day without allowing a negative thought to last longer than a couple seconds before you recognize it and squash it.

Our Savior loves us so much and truly desires for us to be happy and to appreciate the many things He has blessed with. Many times in the scriptures Christ tells us to be of good cheer. I know that He desires our happiness. Not only is it something He wants for us, but we also best show our love for Him as we show gratitude for all that we have been blessed with. Neuropathways

Colossians 4:

2 Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving

Song: Gratitude by Elevation Worship

Today’s challenge:

Day 1 Challenge Video by Oléa: