Sunday, April 19, 2015

5 Life Changing Steps I Took to Make my Savior the Priority

My entire life I believed that my Savior's Atonement had redeemed me and was the way back to my Heavenly Father. But really applying that in the midst of a serious trial felt murky. I believe everyone has a very personal path to trod. And because the Savior has suffered for all of our pain and weaknesses only He can guide us through them. The only way to know how to give Him our burdens and let Him guide us through the roadblocks is to turn to the scriptures, the words of the prophets, and prayer.

I often feel most inspired and guided when I am doing what I know I should: reading Conference talks, reading my patriarchal blessing, attending the temple, and praying with true purpose of heart. But in the midst of a very difficult trial it can be hard to believe that such simple acts of faith can really heal the holes in our hearts. Healing often does not happen all at once, but "line upon line and precept upon precept, here a little, and there a little." But I know He can heal us.

At a time in my life when I was questioning the power of the Savior and the Atonement to really heal the brokenness around and in me, I received such a powerful spiritual witness of the Savior's infinite love and power that I will never forget. I was at a crossroads in my life. I wanted desperately to believe that the Savior could heal me and my family but I also did NOT want to act foolish or naive. I wanted more than ever to do the right thing for me and my family. I was lead to Elder Jeffrey R. Holland's talk, "Lord, I Believe" and it gave the exact strength that I needed and prayed for in that moment.

I was struck by the scripture story Elder Holland referenced:

 "35 While he yet spake, there came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house certain which said, Thy daughter is dead: why troublest thou the Master any further?
 36 As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, he saith unto the ruler of the synagogue, Be not afraid, only believe.
 37 And he suffered no man to follow him, save Peter, and James, and John the brother of James.
 38 And he cometh to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and seeth the tumult, and them that wept and wailed greatly.
 39 And when he was come in, he saith unto them, Why make ye this ado, and weep? the damsel is not dead, but sleepeth.
 40 And they laughed him to scorn. But when he had put them all out, he taketh the father and the mother of the damsel, and them that were with him, and entereth in where the damsel was lying.
 41 And he took the damsel by the hand, and said unto her, Talitha cumi; which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say unto thee, arise.
 42 And straightway the damsel arose, and walked; for she was of the age of twelve years. And they were astonished with a great astonishment." (Mark 5:35-42). 

In that moment when I read those highlighted words, for they felt highlighted in my mind, I felt the Spirit testify to me that though many will doubt and scorn and disbelieve, my Savior does in fact have the power to heal. He has the power to overcome even death, and ANY affliction we face here on Earth if we turn to Him. I felt as if He was speaking to me in my heart and commanding me to "Be not afraid, only believe." 

This was especially significant for me because for most of my life I have struggled with self doubt and anxiety. I have often feared that I am destined to fail or that I am naive and hopeless. But our Savior repeatedly assures us to "Be not afraid." Only when I trust in Him and His plan am I able to relinquish my fears. He assures us: "These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." (John 16:33).

Sometimes though, in the every day grind and painful living it is difficult to know just how to turn to Him. I believe every individual will learn to turn to Him in their own unique way. But these strategies are some that help me in the midst of my pain.

1. Let the Savior In to Clean Up the Broken Pieces For You. I draw a physical picture of what my pain looks like and imagine the Savior in it cleaning up the mess or breaking it down piece by piece every time the pain hits. So many times I have felt too ashamed of my brokenness to let Him in to clean it for me. But only He can. I can not do it on my own. Once, my pain felt like a boiling tar pit that I was drowning in with fire all around. I had managed to get myself out of the pit but the tar was still stuck to and burning me. I did not believe that even the Savior could clean such a mess. How could I possibly ask Him to clean it? The answer: He already has. He already knows how. When I allowed myself to imagine Him there He did not look around with disdain and exasperation and ask "Well how come you let it get like this?" No, He came and sat down beside me and hugged me. He just let me cry for a long time. He didn't care that I was covered with tar. He didn't care about the mess. He cared about me. He sat with me for as long as I needed Him. Every time the pain hit I could imagine Him still there with me with His arms around me. Only when I was ready did He get up and begin to put out the fire. Once the fire was out the tar pit solidified and it and the scorched ground became the foundation for new, unanticipated growth. The tar on my skin was the last step. Some of it is still there. But wherever He touches, it disappears.

2. Replace Lies with Truth. Write a list of the self defeating lies I have come to believe about myself or others and replace them with the truth. I put the lies in a box labeled with what they are lying about. For example: "I am afraid so I feel the need to control everyone and everything" is one of my box labels. In that box are lies such as "If I get hurt by someone it is my fault." 
The corresponding truth box is labeled "I can trust my Savior so I do NOT need to be afraid or control. I can learn to love like He does." The corresponding truth to the lie is "Hurt happens because we are all broken. I can not control it. It is not my fault. There is no way to completely avoid it. All I can do is follow the Spirit, set appropriate boundaries, and give my hurt to the Savior (see number 1)."

3. Meditate. Consciously Center Yourself. Breathe and focus on just one word, one feeling when panic starts to set in. For me it is "love" and sometimes "light." I do this all the time every day, whenever I feel fearful or overwhelmed. I simply focus on breathing and on the exhale I focus on and mentally say "love." If other distracting thoughts and fears try to intrude I acknowledge them calmly and continue my focus. It always calms me if I do it consistently. I have found that essential oil blends like Joy and Stress Away also help me center and calm myself in tandem with these strategies.

4. Be Accountable: Apologize for Negative Thoughts or Words. When I start thinking negatively about someone, I walk up to them in my mind, explain and apologize for what I thought. They don't say anything because it's just for me to correct my thinking patterns. I don't need their forgiveness or understanding. Sometimes the person I need to apologize to is myself. Then I walk away from the negative thought. If the negative words were said out loud to the person then the apology should also be said out loud to the person with no qualifications or justifications.

5. Read Inspired Words and Pray about them. Whatever I'm struggling with I pray about and then I read: scriptures, talks, patriarchal blessing, inspired books that pertain to it. If it does not draw me closer to the Savior then it is not of God. If it does, then it is. Inspired words illuminate instead of obscuring. Inspired words usher in the Spirit.

These are crucial steps that continually draw me closer to the Savior. When I neglect even one of them I feel farther from the Spirit, more fearful, overwhelmed, and depressed. They have changed my life for the better and so I felt the need to share them. It is a process and I have a long way to go. But I was lead to the tools I needed to live a healthy life and for that I am forever grateful. I believe as new challenges arise I will be lead to more healing tools. If these steps do not work for you I know the Spirit and the Savior will guide you to the specific healing tools you need in your specific situation if you seek them. He is the way - the only way.

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