Joy Journey Day 7: Seek God

Psalms 16

11 Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.

Know God, Know Peace. No God, No Peace.

The verse from Psalms posted above teaches us that the same thing applies to joy as to peace. If we want to have a fulness of joy we can experience that as we spend time in the presence of God. The more we seek Him, the more we will know Him. The more we know Him, the more we will love Him and trust Him. The more we love Him and trust Him, the more we will have peace and joy in our lives. The more peace and joy we have, the more we will be able to share that peace and love with those around us. So, you can see why it is so important that we take the time to seek Him. How can you get to know someone you have not spent time with?

And just because we have found Him before does not mean that we are always as close to Him. Sometimes we find that distance has grown between us either because of a trial we are going through, because we are too busy, or even because life is going so well that we don’t feel a yearning to turn to Him.

I once heard a joke that I love to relate to this exact concept. There was an elderly couple riding in their truck one day when they came to a stoplight. They looked over and noticed a younger couple in the cab of the truck next to them. The couple was snuggled up on the seat looking very in love. The elderly woman looked at her husband and commented how sweet they looked and then asked, “Why don’t we ever do that anymore? Her husband looked at the couple and then back at his wife and said, “Well, I haven’t moved.” This is exactly the case with our relationship with God. If there is distance between us it is because we have moved, not because He has.

What would happen to us physically if we only ate a meal once a week? We would starve, of course. Our spirits have the same need for nourishment that our bodies do and going to church to be fed once a week is certainly not enough to keep us healthy, nurtured and growing. I am afraid many of us are actually spiritually starving to death.

What are some of the signs that we are spiritually starving?

*Weakness: When we become spiritually weak we start to lack self-control and commitment. We have an inability to separate needs from wants and to prioritize properly.

*Confusion: Over time our thinking becomes murky or distorted. We start to rationalize or justify the things that we are doing wrong, or time not being used wisely.

*Irritability: We begin to find ourselves being easily offended and more annoyed by the people around us, especially our family members.

*Immune Deficiency: We become less able to fight off temptations that lead to sin, sin being the disease. We are more tolerant of things that at one time we would have shunned and we are less resistant to things that we normally wouldn’t even give a second glance.

*Internal Shutdown: We find ourselves behaving out of character, saying things we wouldn’t normally say or responding in ways we normally wouldn’t respond. We find that we are lacking in compassion or patience with those we should be most loving and compassionate towards.

*Comatose: We have complete apathy. We have detached from anything spiritual and don’t feel drawn to do good or to connect with God.

If you are feeling any of these symptoms, your spirit may be dying. It may be crying out for nourishment and connection. It may be time to assess your daily habits and commit to centering your day around seeking God.

God loves us so much, whether or not we are worthy of it. Because of His love for us He has a plan to make sure we always have a way back and a way to connect with Him. His trust is earned by our actions and there are blessings contingent on our level of obedience and commitment to Him, but His love is never earned. He has offered His Son as a sacrifice for us so that we can always repent when we have strayed and return to Him. And He has made Himself constantly accessible to us through prayer. Please use these gifts! Your spiritual health depends on it!

When we regularly seek God and connect with Him, He is there to help with every aspect of our lives. He can strengthen us, comfort us, direct us and inspire us. He can teach us and answer our questions and concerns. He can help us manage our stress and give us refuge in the eye of the storm. He can increase our clarity, energy, ability to both forgive and to let go of things. He can fill our cup and give us an added measure of peace, gratitude, love and joy. He can do all these things when we open up the conduit between ourselves and Him. He stands at the door and knocks, but we must open it and let Him in.

I’m not going to tell you that it is easy to connect with Him regularly. It is simple, but it is not easy. It requires sacrifice and commitment. We must be willing to sacrifice the time and some of the activities we are filling that time with. We must be willing to commit to scheduling that time and following through. We may need to set an alarm to remind us of the most important meeting of our day. But if we will do this, we will find that what we receive from our sacrifice is paid back in full and then some. Overall, our days will go smoother, our problems will be more manageable, our minds more clear, and our abilities magnified. It is not a cure-all, we will still have bad days, but it will be better.

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When we show God that we want to connect with Him, He will even help us come up with solutions and find pockets of time to do so. No matter how busy we are, there are always pockets! You can get up a little earlier and meet with Him in the calm before the storm. You can spend time with Him as you drive in your car or as you wait in a line. You can listen to His word or music as you do your chores. You can create a schedule in your home with a required quiet time. When my kids were little we called this half hour window in our day “rest and reading.” They were required to be in their room resting (often they fell asleep) or reading. But it was my “me” time and it was desperately needed. You can also include your family in your connecting time if that works for you. You can even find a reprieve in the bathroom or shower. I am pretty sure this is considered praying in our closets! 🙂

What are some things you do to feel connected? The more we connect, the more we are aware of what things we are doing that make that connection feel the strongest. I will share some of my favorites to start you thinking, but keep in mind that we are all different and what works best for you may be something completely different.

*Read His Word: Immersing myself in the word of God is one of the best ways I have found to listen to and connect with Him. I treasure my scriptures as love letters from God. I have found so many answers to my questions, comfort for my concerns, verses that lift me up and give me strength, direction for my life, and validation that I am His beloved daughter within those pages. Not only have I found verses tailored just for me, but I have found that when I open my scriptures I am also opening a conduit to heaven. It is a direct link to God and that action of opening them tells Him that I am receptive. Sometimes the answers I seek come from the pages and sometimes by other mean during the day or the week (music, an uplifting sermon, or in conversation with a friend). I fully believe that they come because I have invited them through my act of opening the door of my heart through the scriptures. And I recognize those answers because I am intentionally listening.

*Prayer: What a gift we have been given with this tool. There are no stipulations imposed with it. We don’t have a slot of time each day God is willing to listen to us. We don’t have to abide by a certain dress code. We are never put on hold or ignored until we are behaving better. We don’t have to be in a certain place or certain position. We don’t even have to be worthy, and let’s be honest, we rarely are. But every time we pray with sincerity, He is there and He is listening. I love to connect with God through prayer!

*Music: Over the last 5 years this has become one of my favorite tools to connect with God. I love listening to Christian music and recognizing that the message of the song is meant especially for me. I love how close to the Lord it makes me feel and how very loved. I love sharing these songs with others and how it can effect them in the very same way. This music is such a personal gift.

*Listen to His Word: I love listening to talks, speeches and sermons I can find on YouTube that help me feel uplifted and inspired. So often as I listen to these talks I am touched by exactly the way God wants me to apply the message in my life. Or sometimes I am inspired by ideas that have almost nothing to do with the message, but are nevertheless a prompting meant especially for me.

*Sacred Spaces: I have certain places where I can feel the Spirit more powerfully than others. These places can be a church or other religious buildings, they can be in nature, one of mine is even a chair. I have spent hundreds of hours studying God’s word and communing with Him in my recliner. That has become a sacred space for me.

*Questions: If I want to feel God’s Spirit more profoundly I go to Him with questions. I love how tethered to Him I feel when I receive an answer to one of my questions and know it is given specifically to me from Him.

*Witnessing: I revel in the opportunity to share my love for and witness of Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on our behalf. I feel the bond between God and me particularly strong when I get to do this. Not only am I giving the Spirit an opportunity to witness truth to the soul I am talking to, but it witnesses the truth of my words to me as well. That feeling is so amazing! Pure joy!

*Journaling: Writing is another way I am able to process my feelings about and experiences with God. A prayer journal is one way to organize our thoughts and focus our desires. Another journal that changed my life is my revelation journal. In 2015 I had a strong desire to better understand how God talked to me. I wanted to know how often He talked to me and if I was missing any of those communications. My discovery was profound! As I went through my day and jotted down notes in my phone when I felt promptings, inspirations, or guidance. I made an effort to create a space and time of silence in each day, to turn all the background noise off and listen. Then at night I would sit down and move those notes into my journal. I would pray and ask if there was more information to go with any of the things I had felt. I could not believe how specific the messages were. I could not believe how often God was trying to communicate with me. I had been missing so much because I was filling my life with noise and because I had not taken the time to learn how to listen. The more time we spend practicing a skill the better we get at it. It is no different for learning to hear/feel the whisperings of the still small voice.

*Worry: Now that might sound a little bit weird. But I have spent a lot of time over the last 5 years trying to be consciously aware of my worrying. When I notice that I am worrying over something I cannot control I use it as an alarm and I intentionally turn that worry into a prayer and choose to let it go. I may do that a hundred times a day when a problem is particularly heavy, but the process does help me feel an almost tangible connection between me and my God.

This last week has been an incredible journey for me! I have been amazed and humbled as I have seen how much God is threaded through the different methods of finding joy that we have talked about. When we want to be more joyful and we choose to look to Him for help, He is there. When we choose to let go of things we cannot control and we give them to Him, He happily accepts those burdens. When we want to find a deeper purpose to our lives and we ask for His help in doing so, He loves to partner with us. When we set goals and create priorities in our lives and one of those priorities is time with Him, He rejoices. When we choose to slow down and be more intentional in our day, He enlarges our capabilities to all that is required by us for good. When we serve others and have a desire to be a window to God in their lives, He is the love that we share. And God desires nothing more than to be a part of our lives, to be in the details. The first step for us to receive a fulness of joy is for us to seek Him and spend time in His presence.


Song: The More I Seek You by Kari Jobe

Face to face with the author:

Joy Journey Day 3: Find Your Purpose

4 Now there are diversities of gifts but the same Spirit.

5 And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord.

6 And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.

7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.

8 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;

9 To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;

10 To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:

11 But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.

12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.

13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.

14 For the body is not one member, but many.

Romans 8

28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Philippians 2

13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

Ephesians 2

10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

We are each given special gifts and talents from a loving Father in Heaven to enable us to bless the lives of His other children, those in our sphere of influence. All gifts are important in His kingdom. All help Him fulfill His purposes through us. Our gifts, talents, abilities and unique experiences enable us to serve Him well. When we are able to identify the special needs we are able to meet through these things we have been given, that is called our purpose. Each of us has one. Each of us is accountable for what we do with it. And so… we need to discover and pursue it.

Besides understanding that God has a purpose in mind for us and that we are accountable to Him for, why else is it important for us to discover our purpose? Having a purpose allows us to fully discover joy. The better we live that purpose the more joyful our lives will be. Living our purpose is our unique way to connect with and give back to the world around us. It has been proven that those who find a sense of meaning in life are more productive and less likely to be depressed.

Mark Twain said, “The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.”

So, how do we figure out what our purpose is? Finding your purpose is a journey. You will not be able to sit down in a day and iron it all out. But there are some exercises you can do to start seeking it out.

The very first thing I would do is go to the Lord and tell Him you earnestly want to know what your purpose is. That you want to know in what way He wants you to make a difference in the lives of His other children.

The next thing I would suggest is some introspection. Start asking yourself questions. I would encourage you to actually write the questions down and give them some thoughtful consideration and then start writing out your answers. You will most likely find that as you write, more thoughts will come to you. Here are a few questions to get you started.

What comes naturally to me?

What am I doing when I feel the greatest joy in my life?

What do others tell me I do well?

What am I often asked to help with?

What makes me feel fulfilled, excited, and inspired?

What makes me feel alive?

What am I passionate about?

What difference do I want to make in the world or the community around me?

Another exercise you can do was developed by Chris and Janet Attwood. It is called a Passion test. Write down this statement and then feel in the blank with a verb. When my life is ideal, I am _________. Do this 15 times. Then look for similarities in the actions you are doing when you feel joy. Then compare the statements against each other and come up with your top 5 list.

After you have some ideas and maybe a list of things you feel would qualify as your purpose, take those things to the Lord. He will be able to help you sort through them and give you more thoughts and feelings to fine tune your journey. This may be quick or it may take a long time. He may need some more time to prepare you for what He has in store for you. I have found that most of the time my answers from the Spirit come one little piece at a time. But I can tell whether or not I am on track by the amount of joy I am feeling.

Another thing to remember is that there is a time and a season for everything under heaven. I know that my purpose 10 years ago when I was in the thick of raising my children is a little different than what I feel compelled to do now. Yet, when I look back over that time I can see how I was being prepared for the broader purpose that I feel now.

In the spring of 2017 I was listening to a religious talk by one of my favorite speakers. The topic was becoming who you are born to be. I listened to it 3 times because I my thoughts kept running away from me as I listened. Every time I listened new information came to my mind and heart. I felt inspired with ideas of needing to pursue different goals than I had been working on. I started feeling called to something bigger and more far reaching than I had currently been involved in. At that point I started a journey of finding my purpose and understanding what God wanted me to do. The more I pondered and prayed about it the more ideas would come to me. Then I received some very concrete answers… and they terrified me! How was it possible to do all that was being asked of me? I remember one morning feeling completely overwhelmed and crying as I prayed asking how God could expect me to do all this when I didn’t even know where to start. I received the sweetest comfort and a very clear answer that I didn’t need to know how. He was preparing me and He would show me the path one step at a time and that He would also show me the when. I am here to tell you that my journey is not over, but I have been shown very clearly each step along the way. The more emphasis I put on my “why” the more doors He has opened to the “how”.

Our Father in Heaven loves us so much! He wants us to have joy in this life. The greatest joy comes from understanding what our purpose here is and working to fulfill that. He will help you get your why if you open the first door by asking Him to help you discover your purpose. Then He will open the path to your how one door at a time. Start by asking some questions. But begin by partnering with God.

Soul Searching Question: What is your purpose?

Song: Gracefully Broken by Matt Redman

Face to face with the author:

He Knows You and He Loves You

Have you ever had one of those days (or maybe even weeks) when you just don’t feel like you’re enough?  Like you aren’t measuring up to the expectations those around you have for you? Like no matter how much you do there just isn’t enough time to do all that is required?  Maybe you just feel lonely and unappreciated?

I think we all have those times!  Even those of us who normally feel cheerful, optimistic and blessed beyond measure… This post is for one of those days.

There is always one who loves you.  He knows you completely –  the best of you and the worst of you – and He still adores you! He knows your strengths and your weaknesses.  He knows you intentions and your desires. He knows how hard you try.  And He admires  you for all of those things.  In His eyes, there is no disappointment, only love. If you are feeling weak and weary…  If you are feeling broken and discarded… If you are feeling overwhelmed and underappreciated… He is there.  Go to Him.  Ask Him if He loves you.  You can find peace and comfort in His heavenly embrace. To Him, you are always enough!

Zephaniah 3:

17 Thy Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.

Song: I Am Loved

Favorite Find: God’s Love letter for you…

Talk: Living the Gospel Joyfully

https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2014/10/living-the-gospel-joyful?lang=eng

Talk: Trust in the Lord

http://www.lds.org/general-conference/1995/10/trust-in-the-lord?lang=eng

 

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 12: He Restores Vision

John 9:

1 And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.

2 And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?
3 Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.
4 I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.
6 When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay,
7 And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.

39 ¶ And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind.

When I went blind in my right eye 8 years ago, stories about Jesus healing the blind really began to resonate with me.  I understood the fear and the yearning that comes with this particular impairment.  One of the wonderful things I learned from this trial  is how much more I appreciate Spiritual vision and alertness.  Having a loss like this and feeling a great need to turn to the Lord for help brought so much depth and fulfillment to my life that I didn’t even realize I had been missing.  As much as I would love to have my full vision restored to me, I would not trade it for the Spiritual sight I gained!

Though many may never struggle with the trial of losing physical vision, I think we all from time to time lose our spiritual vision.  It is so important for us to be doing the primary things to seek a personal relationship with the Lord so that He can keep our vision healthy and clear.  It is so important that we spend regular time seeking increased learning and growth.  Through these efforts He can teach us and guide us even when we sometimes walk in the dark.

Song:

Open the Eyes of My Heart

Talk:

For I Was Blind but Now I See

http://www.lds.org/general-conference/1999/04/for-i-was-blind-but-now-i-see?lang=eng

Thought by Mathias Held:

“In addition to our rational minds, another dimension to gaining knowledge can give us guidance and understanding. It is the still and soft voice of His Holy Spirit speaking to our hearts and also to our minds.
I like to compare this principle with our visual capacity. Our Father in Heaven has given us not only one but two physical eyes. We can see adequately with only one eye, but the second eye provides us with another perspective. When both perspectives are put together in our brains, they produce a three-dimensional image of our surroundings.
Likewise, we have been given two sources of information, through our physical and spiritual capacities. Our mind produces one perception through our physical senses and through our reasoning. But through the gift of the Holy Ghost, the Father has also provided us with a second perspective, which is really the most important and true one because it comes directly from Him. But since the whisperings of the Spirit are often so subtle, many people are not consciously aware of that additional source.
When these two perspectives are then combined in our souls, one complete picture shows the reality of things as they truly are. In fact, through the additional perspective of the Holy Ghost, certain “realities,” as pictured exclusively through our mental understanding, can be exposed as deceiving or plainly wrong. Remember the words of Moroni: “By the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.”
In my 31 years as a member of the Church, I have experienced many times that if we rely only on our rational mind and deny or neglect the spiritual understanding we can receive through the whisperings and impressions of the Holy Ghost, it is as if we were going through life with only one eye. But figurately speaking, we have actually been given two eyes. Only the combination of both views can give us the true and complete picture of all truths and of everything we experience in our lives, as well as of the whole and profound understanding of our identity and purpose as children of a living Heavenly Father.

Soul Searching Question:

How can you choose to see the Savior’s hand more clearly in your life?  Where can you increase your investment of time or energy to help your vision become more clear?

Ask God How He Feels About You

I never imagined that just the prospect of the transition into empty nesting would hit me so hard! From the time I was a young girl playing house with my sisters, the only thing I ever wanted to do was to be a mother. I loved school and I have enjoyed eacg job I have had, but the dream of my heart was motherhood. And though it has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done, caused me the most anxiety, and had me in tears many times, I’ve never been disappointed in the thrill of it. I love being a mom! I love nurturing, teaching and connecting with my children. I love creating memories and traditions with them. I love learning from them and realizing that they truly push me to be a better me. So it was crushing when a few years ago I suddenly realized that I only had a handful of years left of this being my full time, all encompassing, day consuming job. I felt like I abruptly hit a brick wall. What was I going to do with my life? Did I have another purpose? Something that would give me as much joy and fulfillment? Or at least a portion of that?

This realization came amidst some other really hard hitting trials and in the blink of an eye I felt like I was drowning. I know that most of my feelings of worthlessness and self doubt came from the other things happening in my life, but this sudden realization did not help. In fact, it just compounded all the other feelings I was having. I have always been a cheerful person, an optimist by nature. But this time in my life was devastating. I felt hopeless and helpless. I spent most of my days crying and trying to figure out how I was ever going to be happy again. As I said, their were many contributing factors to these feelings at that time and this was just a part of it, but it was the first time in my life I sincerely wanted to know who I really was and what my life’s purpose was. It was the first time that I realized that my children would not be my purpose forever and that there must be something more.

And then something beautiful happened. I started to feel prompted about what to pray about. And one of those things was, “Ask God how He feels about you.” Oh man! When you are feeling lower than dirt and can’t see anything good in yourself the last thing you want to do is ask God who sees all and knows all and is purity itself how He feels about you. But to my credit, I was obedient. I cannot put into words the sacred answers that came in that powerful communion with my Maker. I can only tell you that I cried harder than ever when the feelings of pure love came into my heart. I can tell you that He does know us perfectly and likewise He loves us perfectly. He knows the worst about us and loves us anyway. He cheers for us in our successes and He aches with us in our failures. He is for us and NEVER against us.

From that point on I was led to people, articles, and activities that strengthened my understanding of my diving identity. I was prompted to write a list of my good qualities. That was so hard! But again I obeyed and I know I did not make that list myself. Now one of my greatest treasures is a tangible list made by me and my loving Heavenly Father of my redeeming qualities. I was also led to create a list of my weaknesses. And in that list I found help in acknowledging them and the source to which I could go for help in creating healthy boundaries for myself to overcome those weaknesses. Aside from the personal divine assignments I was given, I had conversations with people who did not know my struggles that validated the positive things I was starting to feel. I got random texts that affirmed the heavenly love I had felt. I was led to groups that had scriptures and conference talks that taught me more and led me into deeper understanding of who I really was and how God really feels about me. And then along this journey I started to get very concise promptings and answers to my bigger purpose and how I would fulfill that.

This journey is very personal and maybe people would question how I came to be so sure of the things I am absolutely positive about now, but that is fine with me. Every one of us is entitled to the same journey of finding their true identity and purpose. In fact, I believe we are each accountable to seek out these answers. I can’t tell you what yours will look like. I can tell you it will not be an easy journey. To be honest, the vulnerability required will feel like a high price to pay. At times you may wonder if it is worth it. I promise it is! As you seek your divine identity and purpose with sincerity and diligence, if you will keep your mind and heart open and create a space for God to communicate with you, He will lead you to find your answers little by little. It will change your heart and it will change your life! As I said, I can’t tell you what your journey will look like or the specific answers you will find, but I can tell you how to start… Ask God how He feels about you.