Sunday, March 10, 2013

webs

 Our family spends a lot of time outdoors. Today I had the opportunity to steal a few moments for myself. I love photography and recently got a new camera so I figured it was a good time to put my creativity to use. 

On my walk I passed this grouping of bushes that looked very much dead. I decided to head over to them because I saw some butterflies circling around and I was hoping to get lucky. Once I got a little closer to the bushes I noticed that they were in fact totally dead, but at the same time they were covered with life. 



There were hundreds if not more of these tiny little spider webs and of course...spiders. I started to watch them and really study their webs. These little webs seemed to be attached to the dead branches by only a few web pieces. Very few, actually I noticed on most of them there were only two points of attachment. 



While I was watching them a breeze came through. These little webs almost took flight, but those few attachment points kept them stable.



At times the wind got pretty strong. I was certain that one would fly off. 


But they never did. No matter how strong the wind that came.


There were webs with parts missing. 



There were some that didn't seem to have much organization at all.



Little ones.



And webs that were very different from the others. 




But no matter how strong the winds blew, these little guys held on.





I started thinking about how we are sort of like those little spider webs. How fragile our connection is. How there are just a few simple things that we need to do to make sure we don't blow away. How we are all so different and some of us are broken and most of us are incomplete. 

I was reminded of many things while I was watching those little spiders. I was reminded that no matter how strong the wind, if I'm doing what I need to do, I will be safe. It amazing how Heavenly Father whispers to us. How he looks for even the smallest and most simple ways to bring home the most important things in this world. I'm thankful for my quiet time this afternoon and especially for those little butterflies that led me over. I'm thankful for those little spiders that reminded me of something very large and important. 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

hair

When I was a little girl, I had the most beautiful hair. It was my trademark. I remember once my parents getting upset with my Aunt and Uncle because while they were watching me they trimmed my hair. It was tragic, and hilarious. I was five.

When I was in high school, I was constantly told that I looked like Brooke Shields in Blue Lagoon. It was the hair...and the eyebrows. My hair was stick straight, thick and shiny. My eyebrows were just thick.

After I had my first baby, my hair got a little wavy. After my second it got a little wavier. By the time we had our fifth baby my hair has turned curly. For the last decade, I would blow dry and straighten my hair in order to reproduce that hair I had when I was a kid. All the while damaging it.

Recently I've noticed that I've really started going gray. My hair is truly going through a mid life crisis. I know that I have to start the dying cycle, but I really don't want to start that yet. I like my natural color. I really like it, but the grey and now the frizzy waviness...ugh it was time to do something.

A friend of mine is a huge curl advocate and posted about how to tame curly hair so I thought it was good for a try. I cannot believe how much I like the results. It's totally different and I feel like a new person. It's funny how something as simple as hair can do that to you. But it did.



We have two daughters. Everyday for as long as I can remember they would ask me to straighten their hair. They both have stick straight hair... but they saw me doing it and wanted it themselves. This morning I was deep in the throws of gel and scrunching my hair all while Mia was watching me. She asked me if I could curl her hair. This request taught me a very valuable lesson not having anything to do with hair.

My daughters notice everything I do. They are constantly watching me. It's very valuable real estate if you ask me. We talk so much of what we can do to fortify our children from the influences of the world all the while we have so much time and influence on them in our own home. Are we using it?

If I'm doing anything good, watching anything good, reading anything good, I always involve our children. I point out the things we are doing that will benefit our lives. I want them to notice it and implement it into their own lives. Now there is a reverse side to this as well and I'm not so quick to point out those things, but I assure you they notice.

We have but a short time with these little people in our care and under our influence. I hope I'm using my time wisely enough. I hope that I can teach my daughters by example to love what God gave them, not try to change it. I hope that they will remember the importance of being modest young ladies. But most importantly I hope they will remember how to make the most of their hair once their babies rob them of their silky smooth tresses. Because it will happen, and I will laugh.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

compliments




In the last two weeks I've received two of the kindest compliments I've ever gotten. I get compliments here and there, but what was kind about these two was that these two were compliments of noticing. They weren't that my thighs are skinnier, or my outfit is super cute. They were real, raw, what life is all about compliments from two people who actually took the time to notice me in all of my Melissa-ness.

We moved to Kingwood five years ago. It's been a very crazy five years. I feel like over the course of those last five years, I've caused quite a ruckus in a lot of areas. I've made friends, I've lost friends. I've also really solidified friendships. I've been involved in drama, and asked forgiveness for the drama I've caused. Ruckus!

On Sunday I'm teaching a lesson about continuos conversion. Naturally I've been reflecting a lot about my own conversion and continued growth in different areas. But what stood out most for me was the last year in particular. Exactly a year ago I got a new calling to teach Relief Society once a month. I have taken this calling more seriously than any other calling I've had. I always feel like I want to make a difference in the lives of others. Even in small ways. Especially in small ways. I took this calling as an opportunity to share my light and develop it further. I asked my Father in Heaven to help me do just that, and I can see a huge progression within myself over the last year. I am so thankful. When this calling was extended, I knew it was no joke. I knew that I would have to really pour my heart into it because I was basically on display for 30 straight minutes in front of 30+ of my peers. If I slacked off it would be embarrassing.

I've noticed the preparation and growth spilling out into other areas of my life. I've noticed that I've had more time for all of the things that are most important. I've felt an increase of courage in doing what is right. As I have magnified this calling, the Lord has magnified me.

Last Sunday at church I was sitting next to a friend who is a watcher like myself and she told me she noticed an increase of good things in me. She's know me for five years now. We've had our ups and downs. What she doesn't know is how incredibly hard I've been working on refining myself. She doesn't' know the commitments I've made to myself and God. She doesn't see the hours of study I've been participating in. She doesn't know how hard I've been biting my tongue these days, or how many times I'm turning the cheek. What she see is the fruit of my labors. Very little of what I do is for attention. I try really hard not to care what others think of me because what I do is not for them directly. I believe in always being a good example of what I KNOW, not to get praise, but to inspire.

Of course I've felt tremendous blessings from a more diligent lifestyle, but I have to say, her noticing made me feel like solid gold. It wasn't solicited. It wasn't expected. But it did fill a little place in my heart.

Last night I was at a party. I saw a friend that I only see once in a while these days. The last time I saw her was the last day my kids were in public school. So it's been about five months. She told me that I have this air of peacefulness. That I looked very calm and full of peace. I honestly believe that one is the cause of the other.  Both are tremendous. The choices I've been making and the hard work I've been doing is causing the peacefulness I am feeling.

These days I feel like a totally different person than I was five years ago. I am a totally different person. I've learned a lot, and I have shame for my shortcomings. I see a continued increase in myself. I am excited to know that with increased effort and diligence I can become even better. During my reflective time of the last five years, I've become so aware of the power of the atonement. I'm incredibly thankful for the concept of forgiveness. Of God forgiving us and of us forgiving each other. It's hard stuff!

We all have areas of weakness. Pick one small and simple thing and work on it. When that one is mastered, pick another. Hard word is always rewarded when it's focused on God's standards. Others may not notice your hard work but the most important One will, and you will be blessed in ways greater than you can receive. This I know is true.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Sermons

For the last month I've been studying the sermon on the mount. Yes I said a month. In the past I would read through these few chapters in a few minutes and carry on through my study of the New Testament. But this time I decided to stop and really study that thing. In the process I've read it a ton of times and actually understand it in a way I never have before. It's found in Matthew 5, 6, and 7, plus the other gospels discuss it a bit and another sermon from Christ that is similar is found in the Book of Mormon. There is also the Sermon on the Plains in Luke that basically is the same thing as well.

I figure it is some very pertinent advice if it's found in the scriptures nearly verbatim that many times.

I've read it with less understanding in the past, but now as I look at it in it's entirety, I realize it is a formula to perfection. Christ is telling us what we need to do to be his disciple. Let me tell you it's some tough stuff in there and honestly after all of this time, I still struggle with pretty much everything he says. I've noticed that most of the new law that Christ brought to the earth relates to our associations with people. The entire sermon on the mount is related to how we treat others, and how we allow ourselves to feel by the treatment of others. So basically, this tells me that our salvation depends greatly on our ability to love others.

I think most people probably understand this, and I did as well, but after studying this so much I can really see how important it is, and how deeply we need to apply it.

I read a quote the other day that said "The quieter you become, the more you can hear", and I added to that "what we focus on tends to be what we see". They have two separate meanings and ideas, but both are two things I'm working on in my relationships and with acquaintances.

I have a tendency to talk, a lot. I am very strongly opinionated on issues and ideas and I alway hope that my experiences can help relieve someone else's burdens. I like to share. So specifically in social settings, I've been trying to really hush up when in the presence of others. I've actually had to start counting in my head to give someone else time to talk. I have also really been trying to keep my negative comments to myself. That's a hard one too. By negative I mean if I disagree with someone, I zip it up. I keep it, crumble it up and toss it, or I write about it here. But it gives me the same result. I get it out and let it go instead of poo pooing on someone's parade. Yes, I'm like an excitable puppy when in social situations.

The second quote has been a much harder idea for me to grasp. I have a very hard time with some people. There are just those that ick.... It's hard for me to see others in the way that God sees them. I see what's in front of me and usually...ick. We are told to love everyone, I haven't figured that out yet because frankly there are a lot of well, icks... So what I've been trying very hard to do is instead of mulling over their ick qualities and ick behaviors to no end, I've been trying to figure out why they seem to be such an ick and have compassion for them. Whoa that is hard especially when they have sprayed their ick all over you. But I think I'm getting better. I'm trying very hard to focus on the good in them and hoping not to see the obvious negatives. We all have negatives and I'm sure I've icked on plenty. I don't want to allow people the constant opportunity to hurt me or make me want to hurt them, so I'm trying to just let it all go. There is a lot of number counting, and hymn singing and abc reciting that goes through my head when I'm in the presence of others.

I remember my life when I didn't have the scriptures to guide me. When that inner voice was much quieter or absent. That was a very grey time of my life. I appreciate the black and white nature of my beliefs. I appreciate that ever elusive high standard. I appreciate having my sights set so high when the world is so low. I appreciate all of the safety, joy and blessings that high bar has given me.

Always aim a little higher. And while it may feel impossible to obtain, your reward will be great.



Monday, February 25, 2013

spiritual education

Every year our Relief Society comes up with a theme to help keep the sisters on track for the year. This year their theme is Building a firm foundation in Christ, or something like that. Normally in the past they would set goals for us to meet each month that ties into the theme. This year they are leaving it more open and letting the sisters set their own goals every month based on a thought to sort of guide you in a direction.

This month the goal read like this: Building a firm foundation in Christ: "By prayer learning to love life and love learning. The obscurity of these goals have confused me a little, but for this month I think I understood it and made a goal. I made a few actually because I'm an over achiever. My goals were to attend institute every week this month (with permission because I'm technically too old to go) and to really study and prepare for all of my Sunday lessons.

This being the 25th of the month I think I can talk about this months successes. First of all, let me tell you a few things about institute. When I was 20 and technically allowed to attend it, I always had an excuse not to go. I really didn't want to. Being 33, I really started to look forward to it every week. I set aside time every day to work on my reading for the class and everything. I have really loved having this extra dose of gospel in my week. I also have noticed that over the course of maybe the last year. I have really truly began to hunger for the word of God. Really hunger for it. I'm so thankful for that. My late twenties produced a lot of guilt because I really didn't hunger.

The next great thing I've learned from institute and this is valuable to me, is that I really do know the gospel. I have acquired experiences and wisdom in my short time on this earth. I enjoy hearing the answers of others that are more simplistic (because they are much younger and inexperienced). I love feeling the deeper understandings of what we are learning. To me that means progression. I'm progressing and all of this work and effort is for something. It's paying off. I appreciated that lesson/blessing. I look forward to my late years when my understanding will be even more enlarged.

The second goal, preparing for all of our lessons, has been a great one too. I find that when I don't, I often find myself wondering what the teacher is getting at when they ask questions. I feel like if I read the lesson prayerfully, I can not only help the teacher with her lesson by commenting, I spend the week really contemplating the subjects and look for ways to really apply them in my life. I've learned a lot from doing that this month. I find that I look forward to my lessons on Sunday and the opportunity to share what I've learned throughout the week.

I know that neither of these ideas are terribly earth shattering, but I was happy that I set these little mini goals. I learned a lot from them. And honestly they took next to no time out of my day but what they added to my days was priceless.

You know what, I know that I'm not perfect. I know that I can be pretty intense and annoying at times. But I'm trying to be better everyday, every year. I honestly believe that is all that is required of us. I think these little goals we make throughout our life lead up to one big picture. I have a perfect picture of what I expect of myself by the time this life is over. I have a perfect knowledge of what I need to do to get there, and I have a perfect hope that with the help of my Savior that I will accomplish all that I need to be worthy to be called His disciple. And I pray that while I'm here I can help others find the path that I have. I know that it is truly the best way to navigate through this life.