See this machine. It's a chin pull-up assist machine.
I just discovered it this morning. It's looks wicked, right?
But it is the total opposite.
Let me slide a little backstory in here.
We have a pull-up bar in our walk-in closet. For years I've seen my husband do chin pull-ups with ease. I've tried it before, but my bingo arms have never had the strength to hoist up my girth. So, I gave up trying long ago.
But then, today at the gym, I noticed this machine. At first I was intimidated. It looked strange and hard.
But I kinda wanted to try it.
But then, I worried I would look stupid in front of the more experienced gym rats.
But I still kinda wanted to try it.
So, I awkwardly climbed on board and tried it. And I did twelve pull-ups. Assisted, yes, but, I did them!
I became excited at the idea that with help I could do what I didn't have strength to do on my own. (Can you see where I'm going with this here?)
After I climbed off the machine I stood back and had to take a picture of it, of this thing that helped me do something really hard. And, my mind turned to the spiritual.
It turned to my Savior.
You see, I'm pretty independent. I feel like I have a lot of capabilities, and I know I have a lot of weaknesses. And I have this stubborn drive to do things on my own. (Maybe there is some pride mixed in there too. . . )
When I do things on my own, I often come across things that are too hard for me, things that are intimidating, maybe even things I shy away from because I don't want to look stupid if I fail (or maybe even succeed.)
So, sometimes I give up on certain things. I stop trying. I feel guilt, regret, shame, insecurity. I feel like I'm weak--not enough. All because there are things that are too heavy for me to lift or do on my own, things I think I should be be able to.
But, we aren't supposed to be able to do all things, lift all things, handle all things on our own. Life is about improving. If there aren't opportunities to improve, grow, and strengthen, then why are we here?
Luckily, we have help in the form of our Savior. As we push and pull ourselves through the joys and sorrows of life, He can be there, lifting us higher, lending us His arm and breath, if we let Him.
He can make our burdens lighter. He can ease our pain. He can lesson our sorrows.
He can also magnify the joy. He can sharpen our vision. He can lead us along the way He knows will make us happy.
He can help us do those good things we want to do but aren't able to on our own. But, we need set our doubts aside and get on board. We need to want it more than we don't want to look stupid to others.
We need to do our part. This machine can't help lift me if I don't pull myself up. It's the same with the Savior. As we pull ourselves up, then His power-the enabling power of grace- can work in our lives. And together, we can do really hard and wonderful things. Things that will make us stronger, happier, and better.
I need to do that more in my life- get on board. I spend too much time worrying and not enough time joyfully pushing and pulling.
So, I leave the gym today with two lessons learned and one large smile on my face, excited for the possibilities, physically and spiritually, that lie ahead, with the right help.
I've made the joke before that I've got spiritual ADD. I find myself so often jumping from one topic to another, one scripture to another, one lesson to another, that I often feel more like a stone skipping across the surface of the water than a deep-sea diver.
Sometimes I don't even skim. I sit at my desk with my scriptures in front of me and I seem unable to choose from all the options before me. I could read my scriptures chronologically, or by topic; I could study the principles Jesus taught, or focus on His stories; I could look for lessons learned, or blessings promised; I could research prophecies and their fulfillment.
You see the problem here? I want to know it all. I want to read it all. How can I choose? So, sometimes, I don't.
It's a tragedy, really. Too much bounty equals starving me.
This is why I love to write. It focuses my study. It gives me purpose and direction. I need that. Without a purpose, direction, a tangible end in mind, I have the natural tendency to spin my wheels and get no where. I feast, not pick. I dive, not skim. I think of 1 Corinthians 2:10:" . . . for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God."
I want to dive deep and find those things.
I believe that we can find God in every aspect of life. Just take a walk outside or look into the starts at night and you can see Him. But, there is more to God than the beauties of the earth; there is more to know that the things we can see with our eyes. But how can we find them? I mean, do you ever feel like a skipping stone, bouncing on the surface, never stopping long enough to get too deep?
Maybe you're mind is whirling with family, work, or community responsibilities. Heaven knows (literally) that every day we are pulled in a million different directions. How do we find time to dive deep?
The answer is the same for all of us . . . and different for each one of us.
The answer that applies to all of us is this: we choose to. We decide we want to get more than our feet wet.
When we do this, we take responsibility for the things we learn and feel. We don't wait for the ocean to engulf us; we jump into the ocean.
Then comes the answer that is different for each of us--the answer to how we will dive. As I mentioned above, the how that works for me is having some sort of direction or purpose.
For example, my latest Work in Progress is about how mother's can lean on Jesus for support and strength. I spent months studying about Jesus and His relationship to women and mothers, and evaluating His influence in my mothering. I dove deep.
When my son left to serve a two-year mission for my church, I wanted him take my testimony with him. So, I bought a set of brand new scriptures, and I spent a few months marking them for him. I underlined passages with meaning to me, highlighted passages and added to them messages for him. I read and marked scriptures in a way I never had before; every word I read, I read for him. I dove deep, and I grew to love the power of the scriptures, and my son, more. (More than two years later, my son has returned home and is away at college. He texted me the other morning out of the blue just to tell me he read from my scriptures that morning, and that he loves them. Meant the world to me.)
When I am asked to speak to a group of women, I never give the same exact presentation twice. I can't. The women in each group are different, and I want to give them a message for them, not just one I've memorized. When I prepare for speaking engagements, I dive deep.
This doesn't mean that I spend an hour every day in thorough study. But, it does mean that I adjust my schedule to allow more that a passing minute to read a verse. I'll admit, some days get away from my, and I find that skipping a stone is better than nothing at all. But, on the whole, when I am diving deep on a regular basis, I feel fully submerged in His word. I feel different--I am different.
Ask yourself: Am I skipping stones? Or am I diving deep?
If you find that you're skipping stones, then remember the first step: choose to dive. Want to dive. I know you're busy with a thousand things you need to do every day, but doing a good thing isn't always a good thing when it keeps you from what's best.
That will bring you to step 2: Find a way that works for you. Most of you won't sit and write a book (although I highly recommend it!). Pick a topic, a person, a book to study, and then dive! Write a talk or short essay on something, just for the sake of study and learning. Study a parable or story as if you were going to teach it to someone else. Buy an inexpensive set of scriptures and mark all the verses pertaining to faith, or charity, hope.
There are so many ways you can dive deep into the things of God.
Ask God for direction. He's completely invested in you and your spiritual growth. He knows exactly what you can study to help you reach those deep things of God.
Peter was a fisherman when he met Jesus. After a long night of working and fishing, Peter had caught none, and was out washing his fishing net. Jesus asked him if he could use his boat as a floating classroom, if you will. They launched out into the lake and Jesus taught the people for a while. When He was finished, he turned His attention back to Simon (Peter) and said, "Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught (or catch)" (Luke 5:4). Peter doubted, telling Jesus that he just had a nonprofitable night of fishing. But here's what made Peter great. He then said, " . . . nevertheless, at they word I will let down the net" (Luke 5:5). And he did. And he caught do many fish that his net broke, as he fished in the deep.
Don't skip stones. Cast your net out and try different things. Include Him in your study. Launch out into the deep. Then be prepared to receive inspiration, answers, knowledge, and blessing so great that they just might break your proverbial net.
We have two horses. It's my daughter's fault. And my husband's. They love them. I like them, but they don't "fill" me like sitting by the ocean does.
But it fills them. So we have two.
Prior to owning horses I'd ridden a horse three times in my life.
Once in seventh grade. I had a friend named Cassie who had horses and talked me into going for a nice ride by the river in Sacramento. It was all well and good until the horse I was on spooked. He broke into a full-speed run. We weaved through trees with low branches. I ducked, but still received a nasty scratch on my head. Suddenly, the saddle started sliding. The horse kept running as I held on for life on its back, bumping around like a drunk rodeo star. From behind me Cassie screams over and over, "Jump off the horse or you're going to die!" Or something to that horrific effect. I looked ahead and saw more trees and sure death, so, Then she yells, "Oh, and don't jump backwards becasue you could get kicked in the head and die!"
She really wasn't helping.
But, I decided to choose life. So I jumped off the left side of the horse. I slid about ten feet in the dirt and grass until I slammed into a concrete parking curb. A ripped deltoid is a painful thing.
She made me get back on and ride the horse home because that's what cowgirls do.
But I'm not a cowgirl.
The second time was on my fortieth birthday. I have a sweet friend named Amy who decided it was time to help me get over my aversion to riding horses. She hopped on her horse and I hesitantly mounted the other horse- a giant draft horse. My legs were spread so wide I was wishing I'd stuck with gymnastics with I was younger. I'm just not that flexible. But, becasue I'm into facing fears and all that crap I persevered.
We rode down the street towards a forested area (which are everywhere in the Northwest. It's true.) Suddenly, Amy's dog appeared. She told me to wait there, on the side of the rode on my ginormous hours and stretched-out legs while she put the dog back. Reasonable request, I thought, until she took off running on her horse after the dog. My mammoth decides that running looks fun and tries to follow. I scream, because I'm solid under pressure, and yank bank the reigns yelling very cowgirly things like, "No horsey, please stop. I don't want to die!" (I have realized, in hindsight, that a simple Whoa would have been far more effective.)
I distracted Goliath with the neighbor's lawn, which seemed to calm her down. It gave me enough time to get right with God in case I was to meet Him soon, and make sure I didn't have an accident on the saddle.
Amy came back and we ventured across the street into said forested area. The ride was lovely, for three minutes exactly. Then we came to a clearing with a twenty-foot dirt path leading to a pasture area below. Amy rode down the hill like she was riding clouds. I was smarter than that though. That hill was steep and I wasn't going down it. My horse was smarter, too, because she wanted nothing to do with it.
But Amy insisted. "You'll love it," she said. Lies. All lies.
I asked the horse to go down the hill. I was kind and used manners, but she refused. So, we turned around to go home. For once we agreed. But, apparently in horse-speak, if I tell gargantuan to do something, I have to make her do it. Something about showing them who's boss. So, ten times I led her to the top of that blasted trail and ten times she refused to go down it. Finally, on the eleventh time, I gave her sides a good kick and she went for it.
Fast forward two years and I'm in Hawaii. My daughter, the one with horseblood in her veins, wants to ride horses on the beach. Really? How can I say not to riding a horse on a tropical shore?
Of course, I get the jittery horse that had over-dosed on caffeine that morning. And they stuck me in the back of the line of fifteen horses that walk nose to rear along a trail. Every stick a horse stepped on caused my horse to flinch. Every. Stick. He jumped and I jumped. We weren't good for each other. Really. By the end of the ride we were both so wound up and emotionally scarred that we were ok never seeing each other again.
Fast forward three years, and we own two horses. I have to say, I love them both. But, still, riding them has not been a priority, or even an option.
But, then I got to thinking. . . which normally gets me in trouble. And I realized that I don't want to be limited by my fears. I watch my daughter ride and she comes alive. Perhaps, if I gave it a shot, I just might enjoy it too.
So, I tried. I rode for a little bit. And I didn't die. Then a few months later I rode for a little bit. And I didn't die.
Then, the other day, something changed.
I was feeding my horse, Hope, which I love to do. I brush her, feed her, clean the stall and the pasture. She follows me around and we have a lovely time together. I'd seen my daughter ride Hope bareback, and I'd even tried it once the week before, for five seconds, before I got scared and hopped off.
But, I was petting her and she looked at me in a way I can't explain. Then I realized that I wanted to ride her. I, me, wanted to get on a horse. Not just any horse- her.
So, I put a halter and rope on her, pulled up my trusty Home Depot orange bucket next to her, and hopped on. Bareback. No saddle. Nada. Just butt to back.
And I rode her. For ten, long, wonderful minutes, I rode her around the pasture.
And I loved it.
That was last week.
Tonight I did the same thing. And loved it again.
When I got home I got to thinking about why I loved it. I mean, really, 99.95348% of my past riding experiences with horses have been pretty terrible. So, what was the difference? What would cancel out my knowledge of past experiences?
I realized in my grooming and caring for Hope, I had learned to know and trust her. And she the same for me.
I trusted her. And when that trust came, the fear left.
That's when I hopped on. And loved it.
I can't help but see a resemblance to life.
I've had a lot of terrible experiences in life. And sometimes I don't want to do it any more. I get hurt, I get fed up. I get scared.
But, what keeps me going? Besides the love I have for my family, of course, it's God.
I trust Him.
I have come to know Him and trust Him. I trust His choices and His ways. I can put myself completely at His mercy and not be afraid.
Well, sometimes maybe a little afraid. But, still, I trust Him. And He helps me with that part. "Lord, help thou my unbelief" sound familiar? I can relate.)
Chances are, you've gone through some terrible things. And you struggle with the idea of trying anymore, putting yourself out there again. Who wants to get hurt, rejected, feel pain?
Some of the pain in life is unavoidable. Else how can we learn to empathize with each other, and even with God? But, when we trust God, we can ride this thing called life knowing that He will guide us, help us, sustain us, and strengthen us. When we trust Him, He can show us things we couldn't see when we stand on our own two feet and take us places we couldn't go on our own.
We can trust Him, even when we feel our past if full of evidence otherwise. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not unto your own understanding: in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight" Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)
I love that verse.
And I love that I am learning to choose faith over fear, Him over me. I love that we can choose hope of a future- even unknown- over pieces of the past.
I love the ride He's taking me on, bumps and all. And yes, there are some big bumps, but that's OK. I know who holds me up. I know who's carrying me. It's a scary, wonderful, crazy, ride, this thing called life. But I trust Him. I feel like the Woman from Snowy River. And I love it.
A repost of one of my favorite blog posts ever. Because awesome is awesome.
Ever had those days where you feel completely un-awesome? I do. I look around at my messy house, my riotous children (my youngest was running laps at the frozen yogurt place today), my hair in a bun for the fourth straight day, and I feel un-awesome.
It's easy to feel awesome when things are great, but it's during those other times that we need to remind ourselves what awesomeness really isn't and is.
Awesomeness isn't a perfectly clean house, perfectly obedient children, homemade meals every night made while we wear pearls and an apron in the kitchen. It isn't the size of our pants, the color of our skin or hair, or the length of our nails. Awesomeness can't be measured by money or things.
So, what is awesome, then?
These things are Awesome: love, gratitude, forgiveness, kindness, mercy, empathy, humility, patience, sacrifice, service, and love (yes, I said it twice, because love is doubly awesome).
I'm not perfect at anything on this list, but I've got pieces of them in me. And these pieces join together to create something beautiful, something awesome.
And He made you Awesome, too. It doesn't matter what anyone else thinks. They don't know you like He does. He knows who you are and what you can accomplish.
On the days that you might be feeling un-awesome, don't think about it too much. Just remember that. He knows you're awesome, because He made you that way.
You don't have to be everything to be awesome. The word isn't allsome for a reason. It's awesome . . . like you.
Now, go forward, with a smile on your face (mustache optional) and Just. Be. Awesome.
I once overheard a woman say, “I have no regrets. Every mistake I’ve made has made me who I am today. I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
I applaud her for owning the good and the bad in her life. I think it’s healthier than denying our infallibility or the opportunity to learn and grow and change.
But . . . I wonder if we should take that line of thinking a few steps further.
I’ve made pleeeeenty of mistakes during my life—most of which I regret. Many I would take back in a minute. That doesn’t mean I don’t like or love who I am now, or wish I were different. That just means I don’t like some of the choices I have made. I’ve hurt people. I’ve hurt myself. I’ve done some really dumb things that only the grace of God saved me from. You bet I wish I could take some of them back.
For me, it’s not my mistakes that made me who I am today, but what I did after I made them. Positive growth only comes with positive motion. My mistakes don’t define me, but my response to them does. The sorrow for my sins, the humility in asking forgiveness from God and others, the understanding and desire for improvement, the courage to stand up and try again—all of these things define me.
Saying my mistakes have made me who I am means that growth comes from messing up. Now, I know a lot of people who mess up and are still messing up without learning a thing. They are the same now as they were five years ago. What they are doing with their mistakes (which is nothing) is making them who they are today (miserable, just like they were five years ago.)
Life is all about changing and growing. We are here to learn to empathize, to love, and to learn. Our mistakes are a by-product of our human state and stupid choices, not the sole purpose we are here. They provide opportunities for us to turn to God and allow Him to make us better. For some of us, it takes real heartache for our hearts to be ready for Him. But, though the mistake prepares the heart, it is our willingness to give it to Him that changes it, and us.
I own my mistakes and wrong choices. I am keenly aware of bad choices I’ve make throughout my life. Oh, how I have some regrets! It pains me that I’ve hurt people and myself. And no, I wouldn’t choose their pain in exchange for my growth.
I also own what I do after I make my mistakes. I’m learning humility and patience and kindness, among other things. I am also learning who I am and what I can do with His help. That is what makes me who I am today. That’s what gives me purpose.
It also gives me hope because my mistakes don’t define me. I am not my mistakes. I am my apologies and my fortitude and my faith and my love. I am imperfect by nature, but made whole by His nature if I choose Him. And I do—and I wouldn’t change that for the world.