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 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:

Let Go and Let God

The other day I was listening to the speech I recommended below and the speaker mentioned someone sharing this phrase with her, “To worry is to lack faith.” That thought snapped around my heart like a trap! This last week my 19 year old daughter decided it was time to spread her wings and move out. And though I also feel like this is the next step for her in moving forward in her life it happened quite suddenly and caught me off guard. Even though I know it is right, it is so hard as a parent not to worry about your children as they strike out on their own. I had been fretting about how she will manage, what choices she will make, what challenges will come her way, etc.

As I pondered on the phrase I realized that I truly was showing my fear and not leaning into my faith. I know our Heavenly Father loves my daughter every bit as much as I do. I know that He has a plan for her. I know that He will be watching out for her and even though there will be trials, because we all have them, she will get through them. I can continue to pray for her and be here for her if she needs someone to talk to, but I have to trust God to take care of her.
No matter what our own personal struggles are, there are times when worry sets in. And if we are not careful it can set up camp and really take over our thoughts, our motivation, and our lives. We must recognize this worry for what it is, a useless drain on our energy, especially because worry never seems to accomplish much. Faith on the other hand is the predecessor of miracles and a much better investment of energy. So I will try to use a worried thought as a trigger to remind me to pray, let it go and give it back to the Worker of miracles.

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.

Proverbs 3:

5 ¶ Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

Is there something you are worrying about that would be much better handled in the hands of God?

Song: Let Go by Matt Hammitt

Talk: Be Still and Know God

https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/erin-d-maughan_still-know-god/

Day 20: He Suffered and Died for You

Luke 22:

39 ¶ And he came out, and went, as he was wont, to the mount of Olives; and his disciples also followed him.
40 And when he was at the place, he said unto them, Pray that ye enter not into temptation.
41 And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed,
42 Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.
43 And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.
44 And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
45 And when he rose up from prayer, and was come to his disciples, he found them sleeping for sorrow,
46 And said unto them, Why sleep ye? rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation.
47 ¶ And while he yet spake, behold a multitude, and he that was called Judas, one of the twelve, went before them, and drew near unto Jesus to kiss him.
48 But Jesus said unto him, Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?

54 ¶ Then took they him, and led him, and brought him into the high priest’s house. And Peter followed afar off.

Matthew 27:

27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers.
28 And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe.
29 ¶ And when they had plaited a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews!
30 And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head.
31 And after that they had mocked him, they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify him.

Mark 15:

22 And they bring him unto the place Golgotha, which is, being interpreted, The place of a skull.
23 And they gave him to drink wine mingled with myrrh: but he received it not.
24 And when they had crucified him, they parted his garments, casting lots upon them, what every man should take.
25 And it was the third hour, and they crucified him.

Luke 23:

45 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour.
46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
47 Some of them that stood there, when they heard that, said, This man calleth for Elias.
48 And straightway one of them ran, and took a sponge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink.
49 The rest said, Let be, let us see whether Elias will come to save him.
50 ¶ Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.

John 19:

38 ¶ And after this Joseph of Arimathæa, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus.
39 And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight.
40 Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.
41 Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid.
42 There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews’ preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand.

Matthew 27:

60 … and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed.

Today I have posted just a few verses for a glimpse of the agony our Savior went through on that first Good Friday. His anguish began with the distress of the atonement in Gethsemane, followed by a painful betrayal at a friend’s hands, an unfair secret trial, the demand for His death by His own people, mockery and torment by soldiers who knew nothing of His mission or who He was, and finally a horrific death upon a cross. I would highly encourage you to read these chapters in each of the Gospels for your own personal understanding and insight of these events. (Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, and John 19)

It is hard for me to put into words my feelings about these torturous last hours of my Redeemer’s earthly life.  As I read talks, listened to music and watched videos to prepare myself for this post I found myself weeping with compassion for my Savior, remorse for my own part in His suffering, and gratitude for what He was willing to go through for each of us.  His love-driven willpower is incomprehensible to me.  As much as I know His Grace is an offering free of my earning it, it does make me want to prove my gratitude through my actions.  I want to show my love to Him by using my time wisely and serving Him and those around me well. I think one of the other important ways for us to show our appreciation to Him for all He did for us is to accept the gift He has offered.  We must allow His atonement to be applied to us and not just believe in its effectiveness for other people, but to really believe we personally can be cleansed, sanctified and empowered by it.

When I was younger and tried to picture the atonement made in our behalf, I would imagine Christ suffering for culminations of individual sins, for instance, first He would suffer for all the lies that were ever told, then for all the murders that were ever committed, then for all the impure thoughts that were ever considered, and so forth.  A combination of study and spiritual growth over the years has given me a better understanding of the reason for what our Savior went through. He was willing to suffer for us because He loves us wholly and completely.  He loves us individually and wanted to understand us each perfectly so that He could succor us in the exact way we need to be attended to.  I believe the atonement was much more personal than suffering for clumps of similar sins.  I believe He suffered individually for each of us.  I believe He knows every moment of my life, my joys, my sorrows, my strengths, my weaknesses, my sins, my sicknesses, and every burden I will ever carry.  I do not know by what miracle this is possible, but I believe He is the God of the individual and this is the only way He could truly know me well enough to care for me in every way I need Him to.  And I believe He did the same thing for each of you.  It is a personal atonement.  An atonement made one by one.  And I believe He would have been willing to do it even if you were the only one.

Song:

Lay Down My Life

Song:

Peace in Christ

Talk:

Gift of Grace

http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2015/04/the-gift-of-grace?lang=eng

Talk:

Pattern For All

http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2005/10/a-pattern-for-all?lang=eng

Soul Searching Question:

How can you allow the atonement to work in your life? Is their something specific you need to repent of? Is there something you’ve repented of you need to forgive yourself for?