Friday, March 20, 2015

Seize the day!

I have always been someone who tries (believe it or not) to not make waves. I’ve never been one who strives to be in the spotlight or wanted to get recognition. I would much rather be a grunt in the background helping to make a success than in front absorbing the accolades.

Yes, I speak in front of tough crowds every day as I teach college students for my job and lead a youth group of 12-18 year olds at church. I never said I have any problems speaking in front of a crowd, because I don’t, it just isn’t my preferred place.

Lately, this preference has really started to stick in my brain and made me seriously consider other areas of my life that I prefer to keep, not hidden, but rather not draw attention to. One such area is in my religious beliefs. I am a temple recommend carrying member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) – or Mormon. I’ve always just quietly lived my religion (or not, when I’ve fallen into inactivity), but it’s never been something I’ve really brought to the forefront.

I’ve always admired my friends on Facebook who, regardless of their religion, proudly post what they are doing in their church, or what great events are coming, or what a great sermon they had at church that day. Me, I choose to post other, non-secular things. I think I’m afraid of offending people with my religion. Silly, I know, especially since I’m never offended by any of my non-LDS friends talking about their great churches…so I decided this has to stop.

Now, I’m not saying there’s going to be a huge up-tick in LDS postings on my Facebook page, but I am giving myself permission (and you are all witnesses) to post church-related things on my wall/blog without fear of offending others. My church is a huge part of what has shaped me and who I am, so I’m going to stop apologizing/hiding it.

If that attitude offends you, I’m sorry…but I still love you!


On another note, this phrase has been going through my head a lot lately.
“…as we strive to live the Young Women’s Values, which are: faith, divine nature, individual worth, knowledge, choice and accountability, good works, integrity, and virtue."

If you’re female member of the LDS church, odds are you have likely heard and said this sentence/phrase many times. Especially if you attended church from the ages of 12-18 years.

As I work with the youth every week, see their struggles, pains, attempts to do and be good, my heart breaks and my eyes leak tears. I break and I leak because, although I empathize with the youth’s doubts, being bullied, questioning themselves and their religion, and their own self-worth, ultimately I can honestly say I still don’t understand what they are going through. I don’t.

I can’t truly understand because being a teenager today is completely different then when I was a teenager 20+ years ago. I wish I could shake them, hug them, snap them out of their funk, or just make them truly listen to me when I say it will get better and they are better than those who have or are purposefully hurting them. But I can’t. I can’t because I’m an adult and they recognize that I really don’t understand. To many of them, I’m too out of touch.

All I can be is honest with them and live honestly. And as I live my life honestly, I hope they understand and learn that there is one other value I wish these girls understood and took to heart, the value of joy or happiness. It’s not just a value, it’s literally a commandment. Jesus himself commanded that we should “be of good cheer” (John 16:33). We are commanded to actively search for joy, happiness, cheer, optimism, whatever you want to call it, even when circumstances and people are conspiring against us.

“Be of good cheer” has been a defining value and principle since I was a child, and it has served me well through the missteps and mistakes of life into adulthood.

Any time any member of my family left the house, my mother always yelled and told us to “be of good cheer.” Sure, we were kids and would add “and don’t drink no beer” to the end of her saying, but even at a young age I understood the value of her plea. She wanted each of her children to find the good in everything and allow that goodness, not the negative, to fill our lives.

Maybe I’m more naturally inclined to be happy and upbeat. My mom loved to tell the story that when I was a little kid and was pulling myself along the ground before crawling, I would army drag myself to wherever she was in the house, look up at her, and just grin. Spastic curls, dirty face, but a grin from ear to ear. Even today I am quick to smile. I laugh at my foibles and mistakes daily and I truly love to bring joy to others.

To put it more clearly, the invective to “be of good cheer” does not align itself with the “eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die” (2 Nephi 28:7) misnomer the world and Satan would have us buy into. The first requires active participation on our part, to “be of” = exist/happen and “cheer” is to give – be it a shout/encouragement. Being of good cheer means to look outward and find the happiness and joy that doing for others can bring.

Being merry, on the other hand, isn’t the same thing as being of good cheer. Being merry brings to mind a couple of different scenarios. The first is a person having fun at a party – that’s momentary/transitory. It requires no real effort and is solely focused inwardly on the individual. The other reading of “be merry” is a negative one. Back in the day, “making merry” was the same thing as ridiculing or picking on someone. Again, a momentary “pleasure” and at the prices of someone else.

I think that’s the thing that most people forget or don’t really understand about happiness or joy—that it never comes at the expense of others. Any choice I make, I always consider how it will affect those around me and those I love. I consider the ramifications and weigh those against the momentary joy I will receive. This approach to life has resulted in sometimes poor decisions, but has ultimately never led me astray. It has also helped me to not allow the heartache, pain, and sadness that naturally come with life to make me a “negative Nellie”. Instead, I actively exist and happen to give happiness and cheer to others. I do not dwell on myself, but focus on others.

The value of being of good cheer shapes me. It affects my words, my actions, my habits, my personality, and my outlook. It enables me look at the bigger picture while finding happiness in the minute and small details. It allows me to lose myself in the joy that surrounds me and is waiting for me to tap into. It is this commandment that I value, that I hold dear, and wish every single person, old, young (women), male, female, etc., could better understand and value: that it isn’t until we look outside ourselves and choose to uplift those around us, that we ourselves are lightened.

That is my long-winded spiel for I ask you, what is one more "value" you would add to the italicized list above? Why is that one important for you?