Tuesday, November 27, 2012

I Can Be a Tool in God's Hands

As I was preparing for Sunday, I was getting ready to teach my 11-year-old class and the lesson was on the destruction of the Jaredites in end of the book of Ether.  It's a crazy horrific scene of a bloody war with millions of people getting killed, bodies everywhere, and it all comes down to two guys (Coriantumr and Shiz) fighting each other and fainting because of blood-loss until finally one of them kills the other one.  Ether watches it all from a cave, and isn't sure if the last guy even survived, really.  Pretty crazy rated-R stuff to be talking to 11-year-old girls about.  But Coriantumr lives and happens to be the one that in an earlier chapter remembered the words of Ether, the prophet, and repented but had no power to help the rest of the people stop fighting.  He is mentioned earlier in the Omni, actually, which I thought was interesting.  Omni 1:20-21 says he lived with the people of Zarahemla for the space of "nine moons."

But anyway, the point in the lesson was that Ether had been preaching to these people multiple times, trying to get them to stop it!  He had gone down and told them to repent, to love each other, to follow the commandments of God and be kind again.  But they were too angry.  The spirit of the Lord no longer dwelt with them, as the scriptures said, and so Satan had full power over them.  So the lesson's focus was more on obedience to God's laws.  As I pondered this, I thought about how people often think of God's laws as rules that hold them back.  People want to have freedom, and this is often the case with teenagers - the world these girls are about to enter.  But the truth is, freedom is found in following God's laws.  His laws help us to be happy because as we do what is right, are choices have good consequences that make us happy.  Choices that are bad lead to bad consequences, unhappiness, and bondage.  So, even though a rule may seem like shackles, it is actually what helps us to be free.

As I pondered this lesson, I thought of a kite and found myself writing a poem!  It felt inspired and so I wanted to share it.  I gave the poem to the girls as a hand-out.

The Disobedient Kite
by Danielle Palmer

I once went flying with my master
He took me out on a windy day
He let me grow higher and higher
As the wind pulled me up and away

I pulled on the string he had tethered
Wishing to climb greater heights
I beckoned him softly as to whether
He’d give me my freedom in flight.

He shook his head at my imploring
Stating the string held me up
‘But the string just anchors my exploring!’
So I asked again, I wouldn’t let up.

Finally he said he would show me
The value in rules he had set
And he cut at the string from below me
Exulted, I leaned, the wind swept

But the soaring expected then faulted
And broken, I began the fall
For the connection I’d found as a burden
Was what held me up high after all.

I didn't make many edits to the thing.  It was like it just poured out of me.  It's simple, for one of my poems, but it served the purpose I wanted it to.  Then, while I was giving my lesson, we read this scripture together:

Ether 12:4
"Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with asurety bhope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which chope cometh of dfaith, maketh an eanchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in fgood works, being led to gglorify God."

The word "anchor" caught my attention here.  Because it is the very word I use negatively in the poem to describe the lack of freedom the kite feels.  But here in the scripture, it is using the word to describe a safety and peace.  If we keep that anchor there, and hold to our faith in it, we will be sure and steadfast, always doing what is right and finding happiness!

This really testified to me that God loves the girls in my class.  Even though I rarely have more then two students at a time!  I have a very small class!  But these girls are so special, and when I really pay attention and try to follow the spirit as I prepare my lessons, the Lord will work through me.  It made me so excited to feel like I was being used as a tool in His hands to bring this message to these beautiful girls.  I learned from it too!

It made me also rededicate myself as a teacher.  I'm going to try to invest myself more in the future in the lessons I teach so I can keep the spirit with me during my lessons and so we can learn and be uplifted by His words.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Loving Me

I had a conversation yesterday that really opened my eyes to the way I look at myself and my life.  I've heard commonly the cliche that (and I'm using quotations very loosely) "If you don't love yourself first, others can't love you and you can't love others." and I knew this was true.  But until yesterday I never really took it in completely.

Here's an example for you (that may sound familiar, because it's not uncommon).  For the sake of ease, let's call this woman Rachel.  Rachel doesn't feel love toward herself.  So she's constantly trying to find love from others outside herself.  She gives to others, trying to be a selfless person, but it never seems like what she does is really appreciated.  She wants to love other people.  She tries to do services for others, but it never makes her happy because it never seems like other people return her services.  It doesn't even seem like what she does is appreciated.  She then tells herself she must just be unlovable.  Rachel goes through life feeling like she can't be loved.  She looks in the mirror and thinks she could be pretty but she can't think that about herself because it would be selfish.  She won't take compliments because there is no way any of the compliments could be true.  People are just saying those things to make her feel better.

Sound familiar?  Maybe Rachel is like someone you know.  Or maybe Rachel is like you.

I really feel bad for Rachel.  I pity her because she is trying so hard!   But she never can REALLY love others and she never can REALLY be loved by others.  She can't.  Because she doesn't love herself.

Yesterday, I was getting ready for the day after this conversation I had, and I looked at myself and thought, It's OK to like myself!  It's OK to LOVE myself!  I CAN think I am beautiful, and I can be proud of the way I look and who I am!  In fact, doing this is BETTER!  Feeling this way about me won't make other people think I'm cocky or mean.  Feeling love for myself doesn't bring others down, but it will lift others up!  It will actually help others to love me!  It will help me to love others!

It felt so freeing to look at myself and think this way.  It feels so good to say "I love me!" and mean it.  Really loving myself, feeling that glow inside for myself, helps me feel that glow inside for others.  It helps me to want to just give to others and love them, no matter what they do in return.  No matter how others feel, I can be happy!  Because I love me!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Learning from Bees

One synchronicity I failed to write about was about bees.

I recently read the novel, The Secret Life of Bees, which is fantastic!  Yes, it's the book that they based the Dakota Fanning movie on.  And then general conference happened at the beginning of October and Ballard spoke about how bees work together and what it means to us, if we tried to apply them to the way we live.  He even talked about the health benefits of honey, which is something mentioned many times in the novel I had just read. :)

I was just taken in completely by his talk as he related it to our lives.  Bees are such intriguing creatures in the way they work so hard and keep helping each other.  The novel mentioned often about the gender roles of bees because it's a book that focuses quite a lot on the feminine, as well as race issues, of course.  But Ballard also talked about the amount of work it takes to make one pound of honey.  How much?  Going to check?

I'll wait....

Got it?

Yeah, that's right!  A hive of 20,000 to 60,000 bees must travel about the equivalent of two times around the world, visiting millions of flowers!  And this is done all the time!  I mean, how many pounds of honey did you see on the shelves at the store today?  It's fascinating!

But even more is the amount of honey that would equal one bee's contribution.  Did you see it?  That's right... one twelfth of a teaspoon.  One twelfth!  One might think, that's so miniscule it would be easy to give up and say it wouldn't make that much difference.  But bees never do that.  Each bee always makes their contribution to the best of their ability.  Maybe it's instinct or something, but we have a lesson to learn from them.  Maybe I should remember that even if the difference I make is a small one, if we can all work together in a common goal, we can do huge things.

I admired the bees represented in the novel I was reading and how they symbolically played a part in the entire novel.  The writing was genius!  It's a novel I'm glad I own now because I would want to read it again and again because of the way it uses language and makes you think about life.

I think there has to be more for me to learn from this synchronicity, and I'll keep watching out for it.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Getting Clarity of Thought

It's crazy how some inspirations come at the oddest moments where it seem like everything may just be random.  But in truth, it's all part of God's meticulous plan.  I am sitting in a very spiritual meeting when it dawns on me that my book could begin in a different way then I previously had written.  Ding!  Funny.

Next to that, I was thinking about how much praying vocally helps clarify things.  And even more, how much writing things down clarify things even more.  Keeping a journal is not just good advice, it's inspired advice.  It may be hard to begin writing down all the thoughts you have - even things you are ashamed of - but it is freeing and really clarifies things.  I mean, sometimes my thoughts can get all muddled and start going in circles until I sit down and just write it out.  Somehow, writing things down slows down your brain process enough to really give more meaning in the concepts.  And talking helps too.  Something about forming the words into some kind of language, instead of just letting the concepts whirl in your head, can really clarify everything.  Sometimes I am having really deep thoughts and I simply HAVE to call someone and talk about them before I explode.

Maybe I'm just strange that way.  But this makes good, trustworthy, nonjudgmental friends a necessity.  Usually I call my best friend and other times I call my mother.  Lately, I also have the ability to call someone I know strictly on a first name basis to keep anonymity and that really creates a new venue!  But I don't use it as often.  I'm blessed to have a good genuine connection with my best friend and mother, where there is no fear involved in admitting the worst part of myself without any kind of reprehension or repression.  I'm guessing I'm pretty blessed to have that, because the more that I see of the world the more I realize how lonely so many people are because of the people that push them away, or that they have pushed away....

Anyway, this post has too many tangents.  Can you tell I journal?  Haha!  Journalling is all about tangents because it's mainly stream-of-thought type writing.  Really gets those juices flowing so I can really write.

The point I was going to get to about writing things down and praying aloud, though, is this.  Where do you think that extra clarity comes from?  A philosophy teacher of mine would argue that language is everything.  Our words create meaning and we don't have any comprehension of specific concepts until we have the words to describe them.  I think this is in many cases true - as in the studies of the man without a language that was done, it shows this to be accurate (which is completely fascinating!), but I want to think more about the spiritual side of this idea.

Truth with a capital T comes from God.  People way say that truth is epistemic, or created by the knowledge of something.  But I believe in a truth beyond the knowledge of man.  God's knowledge.  Clarity of thought comes from within.  (Wow, this is getting deep!  Let me get to the point already!)  Where do we get God's knowledge to testify within our hearts of the truth of things?  From the Holy Ghost, from the power of the spirit of God.  The Holy Ghost can hear our thoughts and He knows the intents of our hearts, though.  So, why is it that when we write things down or speak them aloud we gain more clarity?

This is where things get a little more grey in the "doctrinal" side of things, and goes more toward my opinion and what I feel spiritually is true, for myself.  I believe that our ancestors, and other angels watching over us, are present when we are writing things down or praying aloud.  They cannot know the thoughts of our hearts.  But they can read our writing and they can hear us speak.

Have you ever felt like there's someone reading over your shoulder as you're writing?  I have.   :)

But they wouldn't be judging you for what you are writing.  They would be helping you feel of their presence and helping you feel that they understand.

Ok, this may seem too weird for some of you to understand or believe, but it's something that I take very seriously.  I know that writing and praying aloud help me find more clarity of thought.  The next time you have muddled thoughts, try writing them down.  Whether the angels are reading it or not, it's been recommended by all kinds of therapists too. :)