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:

21 Day Walk with Christ Final Steps

Thank you so much for joining me on this walk with Christ as we prepared for this beautiful Easter day. I am so grateful for the many stories of Christ that we have in the Holy scriptures thanks to those who were faithful to record these experiences. I am so grateful for the power these stories add to my life as I take time to read and ponder on them. I am so grateful for the tools that we have been given to draw closer to our Savior, to build a personal relationship with Him. I am so blessed by an increased understanding of who Jesus is and of His nature, which grows each time I read the stories in the Gospels. I am most humbled by the knowledge that Jesus Christ loves me personally and yearns for a relationship with me. He has that same desire for each of us. He will gather us in His arms if we will allow it!

Song:

Come Unto Christ

Talk:

According To the Desire of our Hearts

http://www.lds.org/general-conference/1996/10/according-to-the-desire-of-our-hearts?lang=eng

Soul Searching Question:

What will you do to continue your personal walk with Christ?

Note: A Special thank you to the many talented and inspired artists whose incredible works of art, music, or words added so much depth and beauty to this walk. No infringement of copyright was intended and I hope they will know how much the sharing of their gifts and talents contributed to our last 21 days.

Day 11: Go and Do Likewise

Luke 10:

25 ¶ And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?
26 He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou?
27 And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.
28 And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.
29 But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?
30 And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.
31 And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.
32 And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.
33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him,
34 And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.
35 And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.
36 Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?
37 And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.

This parable illustrates so perfectly yesterday’s topic of not judging. We are to love all people, and not just in thought but also in action, as shown in this beautiful story!

As a child, my parents’ best friends were not of our faith and I loved them dearly! I think at a young age I recognized a tradition of exclusion in our culture and fought against it.

Please note, I know this is not a point of doctrine in my church, as noted in the talk I am sharing in this post, but rather fear in or traditions practiced by individual members.

My husband is not an active member of my faith and I was grateful to raise my children in a neighborhood where I didn’t feel like my kids were ostracized because of the other parents’ perception of my husband’s decisions. But I think this experience also made me, and by extension my children, more aware of others who felt left out and we tried harder to be good friends and neighbors to all.

Song:

Do Something

Talk:

Doctrine of Inclusion

http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2001/10/doctrine-of-inclusion?lang=eng