Tuesday, November 19, 2013

When bad news comes out of nowhere...

At this time of thanksgiving there have been a lot of people posting something they are grateful for each day as a countdown to thanksgiving. I have not participated in that simply because I don't post on Facebook that often, but I do want to acknowledge publicly my gratitude for some certain things.

First off I want to say that I am grateful that God is in the details. I know that He is aware of everything that happens and that He knows what is in my future. I am especially grateful for that tonight. I received a phone call from home with some bad news about my dear sweet Grandma. She will unfortunately not be with us for more than a few more weeks. This came as a complete surprise to me and Ben because we didn't even know she was in the hospital. We find ourselves suddenly needing to make arrangements to go home this weekend so that we can be with her one last time, which will be difficult because Ben has work, we both have school, and we both volunteer at the Temple on the weekends.

But this was not a surprise to God. As I started making lists of everything I need to prepare or arrange in order to make this trip home, I realized that almost everything had already been taken care of previously.  I had traded some work days in the temple with someone else because they needed thanksgiving weekend off, so I had asked them to work for me this weekend as a trade. That was 2 weeks ago, before my Grandma was even in the hospital.  Another unexpected blessing came when I called my shift supervisor to tell her that Ben couldn't work either and she told me that Ben didn't need to even bother getting a substitute (which would have been very difficult on such short notice) because they already had too many men coming in to work this weekend.  Also, I have several large projects due this week and next week, but for some reason I felt very motivated to get the bulk of the work done yesterday and today.  I found that all I really have to do is type up the reports. So now I know why all these things happened. The moment I received that bad news it all came into focus - God was behind all of these details, and now the idea of suddenly taking 4 days off isn't as nearly as stressful as it would have been had I tried to plan this in advance.

I have also had several of my teachers tell me in the last 2 days that while class is being held Monday and Tuesday, that those days aren't going to be critical to our grade, which allows me to feel less anxious about going home for those days to be with my Grandma. The truth is, Heavenly Father knew that I would go through this, and He has done a lot of preparation to help me be able to go home this weekend. I am so grateful for a loving Father in Heaven who takes care of the details.

I also am so grateful for the knowledge that families can be together forever. I am grateful for the wonderful woman my Grandma is and the example she has been for me. She is truly a saint, and a wonderful example of a Christ-like and selfless person. I feel so blessed to have had her in my life. I am grateful that I will have a few more days with her. I am also very happy for her. She hasn't seen my Grandpa in 20 years, but she has lived faithfully this entire time so that she can be with him in heaven. As a widow she served several years as an ordinance worker in the Boise Idaho Temple, she served a full time mission in Leads, England when she was 82 years old, she gave countless hours of service as a volunteer at the Kuna library reading to children because she believed that books were more valuable than watching the TV is. I don't think a single living soul can walk through her door without her insisting that they stay and let her feed them a meal (this includes complete strangers like door to door salesman). I am grateful for her example. I am grateful that she is my Grandma, and that she will always be my Grandma.

I know that if we live the Gospel of Jesus Christ that we will all be together again. I am so grateful that our family relationships were intended by God to last not just "till death", but for all eternity. I am grateful for the knowledge of God's plan for families, for the knowledge that life does not end with death. I am grateful to know that there is a purpose to life, and I am so glad that I know who I am and why I am here and where I am going.

I testify that Christ is real. He came to this earth and He suffered for our sins and He died on the cross - but most importantly, He rose on the 3rd day, and He lives even now. I know He lives, and because He lives, we will all live again. I know this is true, and this is what I am most grateful for.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

To gain the whole world

I'm sure many of you have heard the song that goes something like this: "One is the loneliest number that you'll ever do."  I looked at the lyrics to the song, and honestly, I don't really understand much of it past that opening line.  But I just want to focus on this first line, anyway.  

It's not very hard to realize the truth behind the words.  One really is the loneliest number.  To be one, to be alone, you are quite lonely.  There is no interaction with anyone else, there is no fun, no work, no play, no anything.  It's just you.  

But ironically, Satan has got the world convinced that the best way to be is alone.  He's got everyone thinking that they should always be by themselves.  "But Ben", you say, "what are you talking about?  Everyone around the world isn't alone.  Pretty much everyone has a family, or friends, or someone."  And you're right.  But I'm not talking about being one physically, being by yourself.  I'm talking about being alone emotionally.  I'm talking about your mind being focused on only one person: you.  

Does it make sense now?  How do you feel when all you think about is yourself?  When you're so wrapped up in what you "need" that you fail to see the needs of those around you; when you focus so much on your wants that you're oblivious to all that occurs around you.  This is true loneliness.  This way of thinking will only lead to sadness and misery.  

And yet Satan has us all convinced that the only way to happiness is to build yourself up!  It's always about us: get the best education so you can sell yourself, get the best job to make more money to buy things for yourself, etc.  

And yet what does the Savior say? In Matthew Christ says the following: 

Then said Jesus unto his disciples, if any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.
For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?  or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

Christ teaches us that the only way to gain eternal life, to get eternal happiness, is to forget ourselves, to follow his example of loving and serving others.  I love the logic he uses in the last verse.  What profit do you get if you gain the whole world, and yet lose your soul?

I promise you that there is nothing you are striving for right now that is more important than your salvation.  There is nothing more important than following the Savior and exemplifying him.

That homework project that you've been working on for the past few hours?  It means nothing when compared to living the Gospel.  It is not worth giving up your spiritual time for the day just to finish a project.  
That project you've been meaning to get done around the house?  It is of no consequence when compared to the importance of your family's salvation.  It is not worth giving up the opportunity to teach a child or to love your spouse for a project you need to finish.  

That raise you've been putting in extra hours at work to get?  You will get an even greater reward by focusing first on building up God's kingdom.

I hope you all know that I am just as guilty of all this as you are.  We let the world take over our lives.  We just go with the flow, letting everything that we need to do take precedence over that which really matters.  And when we get to the end of the week, we realize "wow, all those things that I told myself last Sunday that I wanted to do during the week to stay spiritually where I want to be, I didn't do them!"  And so you recommit yourself, and then Monday hits (and we all know it hits hard) and we get lost in the myriad of things we have to do during the week, until we surface on Sunday to realize that we did the same thing all over again.  

And so, what is better?  To focus on ourselves, on the one, and build up our own treasures on earth?  Or to forget ourselves, to realize how lonely and sad it is with just one, and focus on building up everyone we come in contact with?  

My invitation to all of us is that we take just a moment, right now, to stop thinking about everything you have to do tomorrow.  Detach yourself from the world and all your responsibilities, and think about what is most important.  The only way to really gain your life is to lose it in service for the Lord. 

So take the time this week to love your family.  Give your brother that you haven't talked to in a while a call.  Tell your mom how much you appreciate how she raised you.  Sit by that one person in your class that everyone makes fun of, and help them out.  Make friends with that new coworker that just started work, help them to feel welcome.  Make cookies for that new family on the block.

Because, in reality, what does it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Are you a peacegiver?

Gauchay is taking a Family Relations class this semester.  As you can imagine, they talk about the different relationships with the family.  It looks really exciting and thought-provoking.  This week they have been talking about conflict within marriage and whether or not it is normal or even okay to argue or fight in your relationship.  It seems that the majority of couples fight or quarrel to some degree, though there are a few that claim they do not fight or argue at all.  Gauchay and I seem to be one of those odd ones out that do not fight, and her class was rather incredulous and doubtful when they found this out.

For whatever reason, the world seems to think that it is not possible to not disagree to the point of harsh words and raised voices.  I do not agree with this at all.  I believe that there exists within every person the possibility to avoid conflict, to love, and to be open and honest with others.  I call such people peacegivers.  While the more common term is peacemaker, I kind of like the term peacegiver more, so I'm going to stick with it.

Why do we fight with others?  Why do we argue with others?  It is obviously inevitable that at some point you will disagree with someone.  Gauchay and I disagree on a lot of things.  But the act of letting that disagreement escalate to a heated argument and even a yelling match is not a natural thing to do.  That is caused by pride and arrogance.  When we allow our pride to take over, we say things we don't mean, we do things we'll later regret, and we break bonds that will take a long time to reforge.

"But everyone argues", you say.  But does that make it right?  Just because it's the "common" thing that everyone does, does that mean that it is okay to do?  Christ teaches this in the Book of Mormon:

"For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another."

Contention does not come from God.  It comes from the devil himself, because he is the father of contention.  Satan has gained a great victory in making the world think that it is natural and okay to argue as husband and wife, as brother and sister, as friends.

Something else you may be thinking is, "But Ben, if we don't argue or fight, then won't we just be bottling up all those emotions inside of us, until one day we just both explode?"  Now, while the exploding part may be kind of cool, this is not a correct idea.  Just because you don't yell at each other doesn't mean you don't have conflict.  Like I said before, Gauchay and I disagree on a lot of things.  But when we discuss them, we don't argue or yell.  We explain how we feel and listen to one another.  We discuss things until we figure out a solution that we can both live with.  This is definitely more optimal than any kind of argument that ends with us both feeling miserable, unloved, and empty.

I promise you that there is another way.  You can be a peacegiver.  You can exude calmness and clarity, peace and pleasure, happiness and hope.  This is the way of Christ, this is the way of those that take upon them His name.

When you find that you and your friend disagree on something, stop for a second.  Realize that you are both probably right in your own minds, and remember that you can discuss things mildly without coming to blows.  Choose to be calm, to show love and understanding.  I promise you that as you seek to be a peacegiver, as you strive to avoid contention, and as you search for ways to love one another, you will notice a change in your life.  You will notice you feel the Spirit of God more.  You will see how pointless contention is.  You will see how good you feel after you calmly discuss a disagreement with someone else.

You will become more like God, because God himself is the ultimate peacegiver.  It is He that gave us the opportunity to change our very being.  He is rooting for us.  He understands we're not perfect, and I promise you that He is right now inviting you to be an instrument in His hands in giving peace to all those that surround you, so that they in turn will feel God's presence in greater abundance in their life.

How much more enjoyable is life when it is filled with peace.

Faith = Freedom Achieved In Trusting Heaven

In the last couple of days, I've done a lot of thinking about my very near future. I graduate in December, but Ben won't graduate until 2015, so I get to stick around Rexburg for a while. We were hoping that I would be able to transition quickly from student to Mommy, but as always, life happens, and I'm (clearly) not expecting, as much I would love for that to be the case.

So I get to think about what I'm going to do in the next year and a half. That's a lot of time to fill. It's also scary to think about. We talked about a lot of options for me, and the whole time, I just keep thinking "why do I have to do this instead of being a mom, which is what I want to be doing?!"

Sometimes it's hard to let God take the drivers seat (or rather to accept that He's always been the one driving) when we want things to go a specific way, and we just don't see what it is He has planned for us. We like to calculate everything and decide what is best for us, and to a certain degree, God lets us move forward with these plans. But sometimes He has something else in mind for us. This is really hard to accept when you really want what you want.

So back to my current situation: I get to go figure out where I can get a job. Oh joy. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with working; for most of my college career I've worked 1-2 jobs while studying full time in order to keep from having to take out loans. I love feeling that I can contribute monetarily to our family. It's just not my first choice of what I want to be doing right now. So I can't help but ask myself "What could God possibly want me to learn from this?"

What does He want any of us to learn from doing things we don't want to? Well, I'm sure that it's different for everyone, but I also think the basic principle is going to be the same. After praying and studying the scriptures for  days, I'm still not entirely sure what I'm supposed to learn out of this, but I know that it has something to do with faith.

We are studying faith in my religion class right now, and we are learning that faith is a real power. We learned that the pattern in the scriptures shows that accessing the power of faith requires that we #1 have confidence, #2 know we are doing the will of God, and #3 act (do something). For a lot of people, #3 is hard, because it requires that we step into the dark. My problem is #1. If I know that I'm supposed to do something, I will act on it with complete confidence in God, but with almost no confidence in myself. I always let Satan convince me that even though I'm acting and doing God's will, that things just wont work out for me. I always let him convince me that there is something (although I'm still not sure what that something exactly is...) about me that makes me the exception to Gods rules. When I say exception, I mean that He won't bless me like He blesses everyone else, simply because I'm me.

Now writing this, I have to admit, that sounds pretty dumb, huh? But I've struggled with it my entire life, from school to mission to jobs, and currently with my unfulfilled desire to be a mom. It has caused me to sink into depression at one time or another, and to constantly stress and feel apprehensive about my life, even though I'm doing my very best to do all God has asked of me (and all He requires is our very best, He doesn't expect us to be perfect!).  And in all honesty, He always takes care of me and blesses me with what I need, but I still find myself doubting that my efforts will warrant His blessings and approval. This has made my relationship with God very unhealthy, and it's something I know I need to fix.

So even though I have no idea what exactly I'm supposed to do for the next year and a half, I know that I will need to have confidence in God and in myself no matter what it is. I need to be courageous enough to put myself out there and take risks; apply for that job that I think I would never get hired for (even though I've been through all the training and qualifications), plan that service project that I assume no one would want to participate in, try out for that choir that I always tell myself I would never get into, write more on my blog that I'm afraid no one will benefit from reading...the list goes on. I need to do these things because I strongly believe that God wants me to be a confident mom one day. He wants me to be able to face all the opposition to His plan in such a way that my children aren't afraid of it. He wants me to be the best example of faith.

The truth is, we need to stop being afraid of ourselves and the great things we can do and become. We need to stop being afraid by having confidence in ourselves, and confidence that God won't leave us hanging out to dry.  Fear is the opposite of faith. Fear is what Satan uses to scare us into passiveness so that we don't do something amazing.  Fear is actually just a False Expectation About Risk. Faith however is the power that God uses to create and govern the universe. Faith is what we should exercise in order overcome any trial in our path. Faith is actually Freedom Achieved In Trusting Heaven. It is a gift from God, and we need to use it or lose it.

PS. In case anyone is wondering, the acronym for fear came from a rappelling program I did while I was traveling in Europe in 2007. The acronym for faith came from Ben =)

Sunday, November 10, 2013

It's not about me

Today was great! We went to church this morning, and then went to Ben's parents house to see his family the rest of the day. It was filled with good food and fun games and conversations with family we hadn't seen in a while. Church was also wonderful. I especially loved a talk about the way we think of church attendance. It completely changed the way I thought of it.

I've been going to church ever since I was little; my family went together, sat together, and came home together. Sunday School was okay because I could sit with my friends and there was usually a really good teacher with a treat as incentive to participate. I was usually never bored with our classes. Sacrament Meeting however (the portion where the entire congregation sits together in one large room and listens to a speaker) was probably the most boring thing of my life growing up. No one really explained the purpose of it to me, and I always just thought it was another way for them to talk to us about the scriptures and what we should be doing, but in lecture form instead of classroom form. I remember one winter day it was especially cold and snowy and the power was out in the church building. All we did that day for church was the Sacrament (taking the bread and water) and then we went home. They cancelled the singing, the classes, the sermons...everything but the blessing and passing of the bread and water. I remember that it really stood out to me.

Today in church what the speaker (Betsy Armstrong, for anyone who knows her) pointed out was that we often come to church with the idea that we need to receive something, and that's not the worst way to look at it, but it's not the best either. The purpose of church - and especially the part where we take the sacrament - is to worship God; to give praise to Him and remember all that He has done for us. We are told we should think about Christ as they pass the sacrament around the room, but how often do we do that? Are we instead thinking about how much we have to do when we go home? Are we thinking about what a hypocrite that sister 3 rows in front of us is, because maybe we saw her on her not-so-best-behavior a few days earlier? Or maybe we're texting on our phones, or playing games on our other devices.  Or how many times are we thinking about the lesson we have to give in Sunday School in an hour and we are skimming over our notes one last time?

When we do that, are we thinking about all that Christ has sacrificed for us? I struggle to think about it. Mostly because its painful to think of all the imperfect things I've done and think that He had to suffer because of my stupidity or insensitivity. Maybe its hard for me to think about because I try to avoid crying as much as I can. Any way you put it, I'm usually thinking about anything but what I should be thinking about when they pass the bread and water tray. Its sad, I know. The purpose of Betsy's talk was basically to help us imagine if the Savior Himself walked into our meeting, and to think about how the way we treat it would make Him feel. You see, we aren't supposed to go in order to be entertained, we are supposed to attend to worship Him. Would my actions make Him feel worshiped, loved, and appreciated?

When I think of all He has done for me, I get overwhelmed with emotion (maybe that's why I've previously avoided it). Every time I've said something rude, or thought something unkind, or done something selfish, He was there to take my punishment. In fact, He loves me (and you!) so much that He even took the punishment in advance, on the off-chance that I would accept His invitation to change and repent. He loves me so much that even though I fall down every day, He accepts and forgives me as soon as I get back up to try again. That is all that He asks of me, that I try my very best. So is it so hard to ask that I focus on Him for a small portion of one day during the week? And when you think about, focusing on the Savior is meant to help us identify ways we can avoid falling down, so it's actually for our benefit.

Maybe this doesn't touch you as much as it did me, but I really feel a need to re-focus on all the He has done for me, especially when I'm in church. I shouldn't go to church thinking "What can I get out of this" - although that isn't a bad thought to have when one goes to church. At least for me personally, I need to go with the thought in mind of "how can I use this time to best show the Savior my gratitude and love?" Maybe it's through serving someone else, or resolving to change a bad habit, or writing thoughts of Him in my study journal throughout the meeting. Either way, my view of the purpose of attending church on Sunday has changed.

I hope for anyone reading this that regardless of your religion, you will spend more time focusing on the Savior during your worship service. He loves you more than anyone else ever could, and He completely understands anything and everything that you have been through. He chose to walk every mile in your shoes, because He wants to be your best friend. Please spend the time that should be devoted to Him actually devoting yourself to Him.

Am I my brother's keeper?

I love my family.  I really do love them, more than anything in the world, except Gauchay.  :)  I am who I am today because of the experiences I had with my brothers and sisters and with my parents.  I'm going to assume that the majority of those that read this blog have probably already moved out of the house and started a family of their own.  So my question to you is, "Did your responsibility to love and cherish your family end when you moved out of the house?  Or are there still things that you should be doing?"

I find it so very, very sad that so many people today in the world don't have a relationship with their siblings anymore.  It may have been years since you last saw one of your brothers or sisters.  It may have been years since you've even talked to each other.  

Why?  Does it matter how you treat your brothers and sisters after you move out?  Do you need to treat them differently than you treat any other person?  

I would say yes.  I have no doubt in my mind that you were born into your family for a reason.  God does not work with "coincidences".  That's not how He does His work.  God knows everything, from the beginning to the end, and He knows exactly what situations you need to be placed in so that you can grow and become what you need to be.  That is why He put you in your family, because there are things you can learn from them that you can't learn anywhere else.

And not only that.  He knows exactly which traits you have that will be a blessing to your siblings so that they can become what they need to be.  It is not coincidence.  

And so I would ask, "What have you done for your brother or sister today?"  "How have you helped him or her?"  

Sometimes we may feel insignificant.  We may feel like we have nothing to contribute, that we're just a nobody in our family.  I promise you that that is not true.  You, as a member of your family, can have a more profound impact on the members of your family than anyone else in this world.  

So what should you do?  Maybe I'll answer this by asking some more questions:

When was the last time you told your sibling that you loved him or her?
What is your sibling's favorite hobby right now?
What is your sibling's biggest worry right now in his or her life?
When was the last time you spoke with your sibling?
What is your favorite memory of your sibling?
When asked to list the top 10 people that your sibling loves the most, would you be in that list?
What makes your sibling laugh?
If you could describe your sibling in one word, what would it be?

I testify that you are your brother's keeper.  Some day we will stand before God and answer for how we have treated our brothers and sisters.  We can have a great impact on them.

 I love my brothers and sister more than anything else.  The relationship I have with them is unlike any other relationship I have with anyone else in the world.  I know that they can teach me things that no one else can teach me, and I know that I can influence them in ways that no one else could.

Some of your richest blessings will come as you continue to develop your relationships with your siblings.  But those blessings are lost if you do not make the effort to keep that relationship alive.  I promise that God will bless you as you strive to reach out and bless those whose souls are intimately connected with yours, whether you may like it or not: your brothers and sisters.

I love you Dillon, Linzy, and Jake.  :)

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Husbands, love your wives.

The other day I was watching this YouTube video, and it really moved me.  Before you continue reading, I would invite you to watch it, it will only take a few minutes.

As I watched it, I couldn't help but imagine 40 years down the road, when that situation could possibly be me and Gauchay.  At that instant, I was filled with such a love and such an appreciation for my wife that I actually came kind of close to crying.  Gauchay is my soul mate, my other half, the love of my life.  I cannot imagine life without her, and I cannot comprehend how she can love me so much.

To all of you husbands out there, you need to know something: you have no idea how much your wife loves you.  You may think that you get it, that you understand.  "Yeah, she washes my dirty clothes for me and does the dishes.  She loves me."  Uh-uh.  That doesn't even begin to explain the love your wife has for you.

She puts aside so many of her own personal wants and wishes, to make you happy.  Do you remember that time that you came home from school or work and were just super frustrated?  Do you remember how she helped you and loved you?  How she massaged your neck and helped you calm down and relax?

Did you know that that specific day was also one of her hardest days ever, too?  But did she tell you?  No.  Did she act like it?  No.  She loved you.  That's how you know that she loves you.

Do you remember the time that you were lying in bed getting ready to sleep and she cuddled up next to you?  Do you remember how she whispered in your ear that she loved you and put her head on your shoulder?  Did you realize just how much she needed your comfort right then?  Did you comfort her?  Or just enjoy the moment for yourself?

Husbands, do you remember the date you got engaged?  The date of your first kiss?  Do you remember what you were wearing the day you met your wife?  Do you remember the date when your wife first conceived?  I know I don't.

But somehow this wonderful being named "wife" does.

Brethren, do you know why this is?  It's because you didn't marry a woman.  You married a daughter of God, with a bit more godly qualities than yourself.  You married someone that has more capacity to love than you may ever get in your life.  You married someone that is willing to sacrifice at any given moment her own personal priorities to make you happy.  You married someone that loves you for who you are and wants to show it to you all the time.

This is a wife, husbands.  This is a daughter of God.  And He has entrusted her to you.  So husbands, love your wives.

When she comes up to you when you get home from work and wants a hug, don't just half-heartedly hug her and keep walking.  Embrace her, pick her up and twirl her around.  Kiss her soundly.
When she cuddles up next to you at night, put your arm around her, kiss her on her forehead and express your love to her while massaging her back.
When she cleans the house and you finally notice it, don't just say "Thanks, hon."  Sincerely thank her, grab her in your arms, bend her over and kiss her till she can't breathe.  Then make her something delicious for dinner.
Marriage isn't just about getting, husbands, though wives seem to be quite content to give, and that's what makes them amazing.

Brethren, you have been entrusted with an angel.  Show her that that is what she is.

Husbands, love your wives.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Resolutions don't only have to happen in January

So even though New Years isn't for a couple months, I'm starting my resolution now.

Today in church we talked about ways we can show our love for God. Among many good things that we discussed, someone mentioned that "love" is actually spelled T-I-M-E. This is true of all our relationships. If we want to show our family that we love them we spend time with them. We eat dinner together, or go visit each other. We go to each other's games or performances, or we just sit and talk to each other. This concept is a little harder when it comes to God - our most important relationship of all. We can't see Him or pick up a telephone and call Him. We can't go visit His house when we miss Him, or write a note on His facebook wall. That makes it really hard to show our love to Him, but the principles of how to show love are the same.

So I thought a lot about how I spend my time. I go to school, I work out, I do homework, I clean the house, I cook the food, I do the shopping and the laundry, the list seems like it is never-ending. It's easy to rationalize that I just don't have time to spend on doing things for God. I'm just way too busy.

But... I always seem to have time to browse Facebook, or watch funny youtube videos, or laugh at hilarious photobombs, or play Candy Crush Saga...so do I really not have the time for God, or do I just not want to spend my time with him?

If my friends invite Ben and I over for dinner and games, I make time for them, because I want to be with them. They are worth my time. If my mom calls me when I'm doing homework, I'll answer and chat for a good hour, because I want to talk to her. If my husband says "let's take a break from cleaning the house and have some hot chocolate", I'll do it in a heartbeat, because I want to take that time to connect with him. Is it the same with my relationship with God?

When He urges me to take a break from homework and go visit the neighbor next door because she's sick, I'm sad to say that I don't...because I don't want to do it. When He wants to talk to me by helping me find something inspirational in my scriptures, I usually just breeze through them because I want to hurry up and get done so that I can move on to something else, like that funny video my friend showed me, or Facebook. The truth is, I rationalize that the time I spend on doing things for God isn't as important, because I don't want to do them. I'm ashamed of feeling that way, so I'm resolving to change that.

I have realized that when I spend my time goofing around (facebooking, watching youtube videos, playing games on my phone, etc...) I feel completely empty and unaccomplished afterwards. All I've done is waste a few minutes (which turn into hours) that I'll never get back again, and on what? Pressing buttons on a keyboard or a touchscreen? What value does that hold in comparison to my relationships or my goals for who I want to become? Instead of spending my time doing things of zero importance, I want to do something better with my time.

I went through and deleted all my games off my computer, phone, and facebook today. Why? Because I spend so much time on them that it distracts me from becoming what I want to be.  I'm also making rules for myself as to how much time I spend on the internet everyday, because the majority of the things I do on it really aren't important. They are fun, but they aren't helping me be the person I actually want to be.

I'm in the process of making a list of things I want to accomplish. There is no expiration date on it. It includes things like learning new talents, becoming more familiar with the word of God, developing relationships with friends and family, and serving others. My resolution is to use the time that I normally spend on the computer/phone to work on the things on my list. I won't post my list here, because it's deeply personal and will change as I learn new things. It includes what kind of mother I want to be, what kind of example I want to be for others, what I want people to associate with me when they think of me and so forth. I think this list will be never ending, which is awesome, because that means I will always be getting better at things that really matter.

Obviously it's going to be hard, but I'm resolved. God put me on this earth to make something of myself.  By resolving to spend my time becoming the greatest I can be, I am showing my love to Him. My greatest gift to Him is what I make of myself. There are plenty of things that can distract me from that, but if I put those distractions as far from me as possible, I will be able to focus on my goals. I want to spend my time showing God that I love Him by being the best wife and (one day) mother that I can to my family. I want to show Him that I love Him by serving others and spending time with them. I want to develop the talents He gave me so that I can use them to bless the lives of others. This is my resolution.

There are lots of things out there that can distract us - I've named only a few here (the ones that I struggle with), but others include pinterest, netflix, watching T.V., x-box, wii, keeping tabs on celebrities, etc... I encourage anyone reading this to stop and think about how you use your time. What are you becoming through the use of your time? Is it what you want to be? If not, make adjustments. Your time is so valuable, don't waste it on things that don't matter in the end! God will help you. He wants you to be the very best you can be.

Why am I here?

I hope the title of this post got you thinking.  I think that this is an important question that we all ask ourselves at some point.  And even if you feel like you have an answer to this question, I want you to answer it again in your head right now.  The knowledge of why is a very powerful thing.  If you were to ask anybody that knows me well, they would tell you that I ask a lot of questions.  For whatever reason, my mind is not satisfied with knowing that something "just is".  I want to know why that something exists, why it works, etc.  Many of my teachers I'm sure have gotten fed up with answering my multitude of questions.

But I am grateful for my constant desire to learn.  Because, as I said, the knowledge of why is a powerful thing.  If you didn't know why you went to work, would you go?  If you didn't know why you were going to school, would you go?  It's something to ponder.  "But Ben," you're thinking, "most people don't even care why, they just do it. They don't give a hoot one way or the other.  They just let life happen to them."

And that brings me to my point.  I believe there are three kinds of people in the world: those that know why, those that don't know why but want to know, and those that don't care one bit.

Most of you that read this, including myself, pretty much live in the third category.  We are what is affectionately called the blissfully ignorant, the reactive instead of proactive people.  We let the flow of life carry us on.  We go to school as a kid because that's the way it is.  We go to college because we have to get a job.  We get married because we want to.  We have kids and have a family because we feel it's important.  How many of us live life, just letting it pass us by, not wondering why on earth we are doing what we are doing?

But then there are the few that stop.  They stop in the middle of the rat race, look up, and say "why am I here?"  "What is the purpose of all of this?"  "If I knew why I am doing what I'm doing, I might be able to get a lot more done, to actually be something."

So, if you haven't already asked yourself, or haven't seriously thought about this until now, I ask you: "What is life all about?"  Why do you go to school, to work, why do you care so much about your family?  What purpose does it all have?

Let me tell you.

You existed before you were born.  You can't remember it, but at some past point, you jumped for joy at the thought of being able to be born into your family with your siblings and parents.  You chose, that's right: chose, to come to earth.  You're not here by accident.  You're not here because of some one in a trillion chance that life "materialized" on this planet.  You are here by divine design.

And when you're done here, you're going to back to where you came from.  You'll report on how you changed, what you learned, what you became.  There are many purposes in this life, but I think one of the main ones is that we need to learn who we are.  What makes you you.  You are here to learn how to love, how to make choices, how to serve, how to put others before yourself.  You are here to bless others' lives.  You are here to make the right choices when you can't see back before your birth to know they're the right choices.  You are here to gain faith and to exercise it.

And all of these purposes center on one figure: Jesus Christ.  He is the One that makes it possible for us to change who we are, to progress.  He showed us the perfect example of how to live life, of how to be a blessing to others, and He then paid the price for all of our mistakes in this life, thereby allowing us to return back from whence we came.

So again, what is life all about?  It's to learn, to progress, to not let life change you, but to change your life.  Christ stands with His arms outstretched, inviting us all to look up from our day-to-day drudgeries and realize why you do what you do, because once you know why, there's nothing that can stop you from reaching your goal.

-Ben Merrill

p.s.- I have not even shared the tip of the iceberg of what I know to be true about our purpose here on Earth.  If you have more questions, please feel free to comment below or send me a private email or Facebook message.  Ben Merrill - mer09006@byui.edu