How to “Light the World” This Christmas Season

“I hate Christmas.” Over the years I am not proud to say I have found myself mumbling this statement more than once during the crazy month of December. I have let the busyness of this wonderful season get the best of me. I have let worldly cares take me away from what we truly celebrate at Christmas, the miraculous birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

A new Christmas season is upon us and my hope is to never utter the statement above again. I am grateful that I will have help this year in remembering and keeping Jesus Christ as the focus of my celebrations.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is encouraging all of us to “Light the World” by focusing each day on following the example of Jesus Christ.

The Savior is “the light of the world” (John 8:12) and He has told us that “Ye are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). The world is crazy sometimes but we have the opportunity to be a light to others and to show that doing what Jesus did brings peace and joy into our lives.

Each day during December we are invited to focus on something Jesus did and to share our light with others.

It’s simple.

The easiest way to get started is to go here to print the 25-day advent calendar with the theme and ideas for each day.  You can also find more details as well as a daily video at mormon.org.

 

25-days-2I have printed this advent calendar out and put it on the fridge so my family will be reminded of our focus for each day.

Thomas S. Monson, President of the LDS church, has said:

As we follow the example of the Savior and live as He lived and as He taught, that light will burn within us and will light the way for others.

I hope you and your family will join in sharing His light during this Christmas season.

We’ll be posting about our experiences on the Feeling God’s Love Facebook page, so come join us there and share what you are doing, too.

 

The Two Choices You Can Make During a Trial

I’m always amazed by people who have experienced really difficult things in life. I am inspired when they tell their life-altering story and end with phrases like, “I wouldn’t change anything.” “I’m grateful for my challenges.” “I wouldn’t go back.”

I’ve heard these phrases from people who were in an accident and are now paralyzed, from someone who was burned in a plane crash, from parents who have faced horrific tragedies and lost loved ones and many others.

How long does it take them to be able to say these things, to accept what has happened and to move on? In the past I have wondered if I would be able to feel the same way about the hard things in my life.

Two Choices

Recently, I was reading the Book of Mormon during my daily scripture study. I had been reading for days about wars going on between the Nephites and the Lamanites. Then I read this verse:

But behold, because of the exceedingly great length of the war between the Nephites and the Lamanites many had become hardened, because of the exceedingly great length of the war; and many were softened because of their afflictions, insomuch that they did humble themselves before God, even in the depth of humility. (emphasis added)

I was struck that the people had all endured the same trials dealing with war, but one group chose to “become hardened” by the adversity and the other group “were softened” to be humble, turn towards God and let the trials make them better.

Was I Hardened or Softened?

This verse impacted me because a new year had just started and I was reflecting on the previous year, which had been filled with a lot of hard things in my own life.

My husband and I had just ended our first year running a new business. Although the business was moving in the right direction, things had not taken off as quickly as we had hoped initially. I could count on one hand the number of days my husband had taken off from work during the year. I was worn out from my own work in the business, running our household, parenting almost on my own and feeling financial pressure to make everything work.

I was so ready to put the year behind me and move on, but as I read I realized that just like the people I was reading about in the scriptures, I had a choice to make about how my trials were going to affect me. I could be softened or I could be hardened. This scripture was saying to me that I needed to embrace the challenges I had faced and instead of forgetting them, I needed to let them do the work of God in me. I needed to let the challenges soften me.

Seeing the Good Things

My perspective shifted. I started to focus on all of the good things that had come from the difficulties I had faced in the previous year.

Our marriage was stronger because we were communicating better than we ever had. We were living out a decade’s long dream of running a business together.  We had maintained our health despite the long hours and stress. Our children were learning about hard work and perseverance. Many good things had definitely happened in our life because of the hard things we were enduring.

I Wouldn’t Go Back

I can now look back on the trial of starting a business and other challenges I have faced in my life and honestly say I wouldn’t change anything, including the mistakes.

Helen Keller summed this thought up beautifully when she said:

Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.

My experiences have shaped me and made me who I am. The hard things I have been through have made the good things in my life all the better.

How have the hard things in your life softened you? How do you keep from being hardened? I would love to know your thoughts on this.

6 Simple Ways to Make Your Ordinary Life Extraordinary

I have never done anything that the world would consider remarkable. If you looked in on my daily life you would probably use words like “normal,” “average” and maybe even “mundane” to describe it. I’m not saving thousands of lives or obtaining world peace, but I know I can do great things with my ordinary life.

This quote by David A. Bednar has been my mantra for a long time:

“…we should find great comfort in the fact that ordinary people who faithfully, diligently, and consistently do simple things that are right before God will bring forth extraordinary results.”

The story of young David from the Bible illustrates this quote perfectly. David was an ordinary shepherd boy. He wasn’t big and strong. He wasn’t rich. He didn’t have years of experience, but David did some simple things in his life.

Before he fought Goliath he trusted God, had courage and saved a flock of sheep from a lion and a bear. He showed faith and put on the armor of God, and God used David to do the extraordinary. He slayed Goliath with just a slingshot and some stones.

You and I aren’t different from David. God can take us in our ordinary state and do great things.

Sometimes the process of doing great things happens quickly. David woke up one morning as a normal boy delivering food to his brothers and went to bed that night as a hero who killed a giant without a sword. But more often, for you and me, the process of doing extraordinary things is slow and hardly perceptible in our daily lives.

So what are the “simple things” we should do if we want our lives to produce “extraordinary” results?

Here are 6 simple ways to make your ordinary life extraordinary.

1. Trust God and Stay Close to Him

Simple things like reading scripture, praying and attending church on a regular basis will help us stay close to God. When we have a relationship with Him, he can guide us and help us know the paths we should take in our lives. Like David, trusting and following God’s path will lead us to do things we never thought possible on our own.

2. Be Happy

We don’t always have control over the trials, adversities and hard things we face in life, but we can choose to be happy anyway. Happiness is contagious and your positive outlook through difficulties could make a big difference in your own life and could greatly influence someone else.

3. Put Others Needs Before Your Own

Service is a great way to turn the ordinary into something extraordinary. This short video, called Lift, shares the story of a neighborhood who came together to help a disabled woman everyday for seven years. Some of the neighbors struggled at first to give up their time, but over a period of many years small, daily acts of service added up to something truly extraordinary for the woman as well as those who served her.

4. Use The Talents You Have Been Given

We are all sons and daughters of God, and He has given each of us special gifts and talents. Take the time to cultivate and improve upon the talents God has given you. Sometimes developing our gifts requires sacrifice or overcoming fear, but we can trust that God has a unique purpose for us. Developing our talents allows God to use us for his purposes.

5. Manage Your Time

There are a myriad of ways to use our time. It’s not wrong to spend time in recreation or to unwind, but Dallin H. Oaks taught that “just because something is good is not a sufficient reason for doing it. The number of good things we can do far exceeds the time available to accomplish them. Some things are better than good, and these are the things that should command priority attention in our lives.”

One secret to doing extraordinary things with your life is to avoid wasting time and focus on the things that will be of the most benefit now and in the future.

6. Get Back Up When You Fail

Failure is a huge part of life. I love this quote from the play Shenandoah:

“If we don’t try, then we don’t do; and if we don’t do, then why are we here?”

People who do great things have failed plenty of times. Don’t be afraid to get back up and try again. Learn from your failures and you will be blessed with results that previously seemed impossible.

What have you done in your life to produce extraordinary results?

What I Learned about Parenting at a Wrestling Match

Recently, I was at a wrestling tournament to watch my 14-year-old son. Wrestling tournaments usually start early in the morning and take up most of the day. On this day, I had left my other three children at home, and I was sitting in the gymnasium thinking of my to do list that was a mile long. I love wrestling, and I love being with my son, but this day, the commitment to a long day in the gym seemed a little too much.

Motherhood Low

After a lot of waiting, my son finally wrestled his first match and got pinned in only 15 seconds. I thought he hadn’t given his all and was a little annoyed he lost because if he lost the next match he was out of the tournament, we would be heading home and all of the time and effort I had put into getting him there would be a waste.

After his match, he came and found me in the stands as he always does. I told him he didn’t do his best and to get out there and try harder. It wasn’t my finest mom moment. He went to rejoin his team, and I felt ashamed I hadn’t been more positive. I had let my frustration get the best of me and I felt bad.

Scripture Changed My Perspective

The gym was full of people. There were five wrestling matches going on at once, parents were cheering, wrestlers were warming up and music was blaring. Since I knew I had a long wait until my son’s next match, I reached into my bag and pulled out my Kindle. I had planned to read a novel I was in the middle of, but instead I clicked on the button to read in the Book of Mormon. I started reading in the place I had left off at the day before. Despite the chaos around me, I got completely engrossed in the verses.

I read about a great leader named Captain Moroni. He was a leader everyone wanted to follow. He had integrity and even though he was fighting a war, his motives were pure. This is how the the verses I read described Captain Moroni:

And Moroni was a strong and a mighty man; he was a man of a perfect understanding; yea, a man that did not delight in bloodshed; a man whose soul did joy in the liberty and the freedom of his country, and his brethren from bondage and slavery;

Yea, a man whose heart did swell with thanksgiving to his God, for the many privileges and blessings which he bestowed upon his people; a man who did labor exceedingly for the welfare and safety of his people.

Yea, and he was a man who was firm in the faith of Christ, and he had sworn with an oath to defend his people, his rights, and his country, and his religion, even to the loss of his blood.

Yea, verily, verily I say unto you, if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men.

(Alma 48:11-13,17)

A Softened Heart

I finished the chapter, looked up from my Kindle and instantly saw my son in the far corner of the gym warming up for his next match. What I read about Captain Moroni changed my perspective on what I was doing that day. My heart was softened. I was being taught what was truly important for me to show my son.

I knew it didn’t matter if he won or lost his next wrestling match. I didn’t need to pray for that. I needed to pray he would be like Captain Moroni–someone the Lord could depend on no matter what. Suddenly, I wanted my son to be “strong and mighty” not so he could beat his wrestling opponent, but so he could be who God wanted him to be.

Parenting Lesson

My son lost his second match, which meant he was eliminated from the tournament. When he came to me in the stands this time, my heart was full of love for him. I told him I knew he had done his best and I was proud of him.

We headed home, and the day was not a waste because I learned an important lesson about parenting in God’s way and not the world’s way. I had learned what God wanted me to teach my son. His value is not based on his worldly accomplishments. He isn’t defined by winning a wrestling match. He has value simply because he is a child of God.

How have you learned to parent in God’s ways? Share your thoughts in the comments.