Friday, May 5, 2017

What now??? Let's eat fruit.

As I've stepped away from my focus on quilting and my business, I've been left with an empty hole, feeling an overwhelming lack of purpose and need in my family. The need I was filling previously for my family (adding supplemental income that was greatly needed as my husband moved up through the ranks. I am so incredibly proud of him, and grateful to him for the hard work and sacrifices he's made while going through school and those necessary but not ideal work environments to get us to where we are now. I think it's easy to see the exceptions of success in the work place as the norm, and get discouraged by our own personal paths that we must take to get to where we want to be. Life is hard, sometimes - most of the time, we have to put in a lot of sweat and tears to be where we want to be. AND I will add, that even when someone's life looks easy, there is so much behind the scenes that we don't see, so we really shouldn't compare. at. all.)

Anyway... back to what I was saying, I am at a point in my life that is a complete role-change. As I've talked to other people, I recognize that I am not the only one. With parents whose youngest child is about to start school, so they are going from constant mom, to having a huge chunk of their day freed up; or others whose children are going off to college; or some who have health issues that have forced them to adjust their life style, hobbies, and everything else! And I can't forget to mention those who have recently moved - I think I fit this one particularly well. ;) It's been reassuring to know that I'm not the only one that is dealing with this.

But even though I know I'm not the only one feeling this way, I still want to figure out what to do with my life, and my time.

The other day someone mentioned the Fruits of the Spirit.

Galatians 5:22-23
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
23 Meekness, temperance...
Something about the way they said it, and mixed with how I've been feeling and what I've been thinking about, made me look at these attributes in a new way.

As I started doing different activities throughout my day, I started noticing the fruits of my actions. I started to notice answers to questions I wasn't asking, but ones such as, "how does this make me feel?" and "how does this activity affect me and those around me?"

As I compared my answers to the fruits of the Spirit as stated in Galatians, I began to realize that as I did things that invited the Spirit into my life, or that were in and of themselves good activities, I reaped the fruits of the Spirit as well. I was happy, I felt joy, I was more patient with my children, we had more fun together, I had peace, I felt better.

As I did things that took away value from my life (not bad or sinful things, but for me it was the things that were a distraction - like too much time on my phone looking at Instagram or Facebook, or things like that, that really had no meaning or value), those same fruits and feelings weren't there. I was more impatient with my family and those around me, I wasn't happy, I didn't feel lifted and strengthened, I didn't feel renewed - I was grumpy, had anxiety, felt tired and unmotivated.

I realized that while my fruits might not always be the same as the fruits of the Spirit, everything I do does produce fruits of their own! And those fruits are either desirable, or not so desirable - and sometimes not wanted at all. It's been interesting to pay attention to that.

This is really been a huge blessing to me as I evaluate the things I do and then feel empowered to make a difference in my own life - by changing my actions AND the activities that I choose to participate in, to create the life that I want to have.

I love this quote by Thomas S. Monson,

You can purchase this print here (I did. I'm hanging this in my kitchen! I Love it!): (not an affiliate link)

 Is it always easy? No. Do I always choose the best activities? No. Is every day now a fairytale? Nope. But I'm learning. And learning takes time, and I am learning to be patient with myself, and that is an awesome feeling and fruit of the Spirit.

As I think about the above section, I also think about the following scripture in Moroni 7:12-17

12 Wherefore, all things which are good cometh of God; and that which is evil cometh of the devil; for the devil is an enemy unto God, and fighteth against him continually, and inviteth and enticeth to sin, and to do that which is evil continually.
13 But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God.
14 Wherefore, take heed, my beloved brethren, that ye do not judge that which is evil to be of God, or that which is good and of God to be of the devil.
15 For behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night.
16 For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.
17 But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him.

I keep thinking of this scripture (italics and bold added) as a warning as I'm trying to decipher my actions and whether they are bringing forth good fruits or bad fruits. Because I think it's too easy to justify what we want to do with what is actually the best thing to do.

And I will add, that I am finding that it's not even my actions that are the good and bad, but rather the timing of my actions. I think more than figuring out what to do right now in my life,  I'm really learning when to do it. I have no doubt that I'll get back to quilting and designing, but the question is more of a when and how, than a what. Which is a reminder of just how tricky and clever the devil is, to take a truth, or a good thing, and spin it just enough - add that little white lie - to make it bad. (We must really keep our eyes wide open so we aren't deceived!)

The world around us definitely does not help in this regard as well. This is such a great reminder of that, John 14:27

27 Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

This has constantly been on my mind lately. The things of God, good things, are not given as the world tries to give them to us.  But peace, love, strength, they all come in a different way. It's been pretty amazing to see this in my life and notice the remarkable difference between God and the world around us - and what that world is turning into. (I have a story to go along with this, but I'm realizing just how long this post is getting, so I'll save it for another day, I hope.)

 Here is one example of this though, not necessarily in regards to evil and the devil, but in regards to the fruits of the Spirit.

The other day I was stressed and had some anxiety, so I turned to quilting, like I have done so many times before. (It's my therapy.) :) Anyway, I had a moment of relief and it felt good to be doing something for me. But I also feel like I was trying to force a "me moment" into my day where it probably didn't belong (let's face it, it's hard being a mom 24/7! Nuff said.) So I was thinking, yep, this is a GOOD thing!

Then my son needed my help with something, or kept interrupting me asking me for something that he couldn't have, I can't remember. It wasn't a big deal, but I realized that I was being very impatient with him. And then it was like a flashing neon light that what I was doing at the time was not bringing the fruits that I want to have in my life and in my family.

Now, before you think I'm all crazy calling quilting evil, that's not the case at all. What was wrong though was my distraction from what really mattered. I had lost my focus on my duty as a mom and as a caring person. I was being selfish and that was not the right time of day for me to have a moment to myself.

It's hard to be a mom, and give all day long. It IS important that we care for ourselves and take time to take care of ourselves, physically, spiritually, mentally and emotionally. Something that I am really working on and learning right now as I am trying to eat better and start exercising again, and learning to take better care of myself. BUT it is also important that we don't sacrifice the wrong things for those right things. This is a hard one, and I know there is no one-size-fits-all answer, except to do your own self-evaluating and follow those fruits of the Spirit to see how it works best in your own life and in your own family.

One more example to add to my novel ;) : Instagram and Facebook

I love the connections with people and those are definitely good. For me, I am finding that everything else about it is bad. A lot of the pictures leave me discouraged and feeling like I need to catch up. I feel frantic like I need to achieve some level of success or activity or accomplishment to be happy. I don't feel empowered, strengthened or renewed. On days I limit Facebook and Instagram, I feel MUCH better about myself and the world around me.

Sometimes we have to embrace the bad - not evil, but trials and hardships - to recognize and receive the good. Just like working out is hard in more ways than one, the benefits are so numerous!! It makes us healthy and strong - and not just physically, but also mentally and emotionally. So we also can't judge hard things, aka trials, to be bad (reference the scripture above from Moroni). They are good, and if we look closely, we will recognize that the fruits of our trials are actually pretty amazing! That is, IF we handle them correctly. If we choose to overcome, they are awesome. If we fall prey to them and give in to bad choices, they can be quite detrimental. But eve then they can be turned around for our good through Christ.

I have SO many experiences that are examples of this. I will share one that happened this week.

I shared this on Facebook on Tuesday,

 Today on the way home from school my 4 year old was almost hit by a truck. I honestly do not know how he wasn't. I asked if he saw it coming, and he said when he did that he just ran faster. The only explanation I can come up with is that he must have been carried by angels. The truck didn't even slow down. There is just no way he could have ran fast enough, the timing was too perfect for a disaster. I am eternally grateful that he is OK!! 😭😭😭😭😭 It's the second time one of my kids was almost hit at this same cross walk. (The first time someone talking on their phone drove AROUND the car that stopped to let my son cross. The lady who stopped followed the person around for a while trying to let them know what they did but they didn't even care. I have no words. We only live half a mile away from the school, and the busiest road we cross really isn't that busy, but man is it turning out to be scary.) To say the least I've been nothing short of an emotional wreck all day! First I yelled and then I bawled, I don't even know how to deal with this. my kids think I'm crazy. Once they were in bed I found some relief and solace (It's either therapy or escapism) in creativity. I started working on my #fbpRiseAbove patterns again and came up with this star design. I'm excited to finish these up so i can play with these patterns! Now I better get to bed before I puke, I still feel so sick about what happened. And grateful. I am SO grateful that God is watching over my little ones. 😇😢 I've hugged all my kids a hundred times today.

(Here is the pattern I worked on...) :)

Anyway, that was a really scary experience. It gave me major anxiety all week. Wednesday I completely shut down and could barely function. It was so bad. And even still, when it's time to pick up the kids from school, my anxiety levels rise.

But as I think about this experience and the miracle that occurred, I keep feeling like instead of having anxiety, I should be rejoicing to know that Heavenly Father is watching over my children. This should be an experience of great comfort and peace. But I haven't had the faith to feel that peace. Though it's getting better, and the more I express my gratitude for the miracle, the better I do feel.

I was talking to Neil and how we like to think that we have faith that our children are being watched over, and that's such a warm and happy feeling. But until something like this happens, we don't actually ever know if they really are.

So like I said above, the trials we face aren't bad. I think that instead of trials, they should more appropriately be named "opportunities to see the Lords hand in our lives". They are like little windows to heaven that He opens so He can bless us and reveal the fruits of our faith. (If you have gone through hard things, I hope this doesn't make you mad or offend you. I have had a hard life and have gone through a lot of hard things, so as someone who doesn't like to give an opinion on things that I don't know anything about, I do feel overly qualified to speak on this subject of trials and perspective. I love you! And I hope instead of being painful, that my thoughts can be a source of peace and hope for you in your trials.)


When Hunter was a baby there was only ONE song I could sing to get him to calm down and stop crying, especially at night, We Thank Thee of God for a Prophet. Up until the last year or so, I sang this song to him every single night before bed - that's about 8 years of singing that song. I've sung that song so many times (and I still don't know if I know all the words. lol.)

Anyway, one of my favorite lines in the song that applies to this is,

"We doubt not the Lord nor His goodness. We have proved Him in days that are past."

I'm sure there have been times in the past where we have proved the Lord and His goodness in our lives, or that He has proved it to us. Do not doubt those miracles and blessings. Do not forget them. The Lord is good to us, and as He has been in the past, He will be in the future. He is an unchanging God. What changes is us - our hearts soften or harden. Our surroundings - the world today is not the world of yesterday. And the world tomorrow will not be the world of today. But we can be sure that the Lord will help us through, no matter the circumstances. Just as He has before.

It's really been amazing to me to realize just how much power I have to control the happiness in my own life. There will always be outside forces that will influence us or act upon us, but no matter what is going on around us, we are the ones who control what comes out of us. If we choose goodness and the things of God, then it will be those good fruits that come from us. If we choose evil, or simply not the good fruits if you don't want to be so extreme, then the fruits we produce will not be good. And just think, if everyone produced good fruit, the world would be a beautiful orchard!

That might seem silly and unrealistic. But if you think about it, how many people actually want to eat bad, spoiled, rotten, bitter fruit? I don't know anyone that would do that willingly. Most of the people I know prefer to be around the good fruits. It tastes better, it smells better, it looks better. (I'm not saying this to turn it into a popularity contest.) But if we produce good fruits, then others will be attracted to those good fruits, and that example spreads.

I've seen it in my own life. As I've focused on my own actions and working harder to be better myself, those around me have ALWAYS followed behind me. Not always - sometimes they actually end up no longer being around me at all, which also isn't necessarily a bad thing (like people unfollowing me on Instagram. lol. I'd much rather have no one follow me than have angry followers who are mean and spoil my day. haha.)

So if you want others around you to produce good fruit and do good things, the only thing you have to do is produce good fruit yourself. It seems too simple to be true, but it is. PLUS, that is absolutely the only thing we have control over anyway - our own actions. I can't even make my husband produce good fruits if I wanted to, luckily he does on his own, so I don't really have to worry about that.

Pointing fingers at others, blaming, anger, resentment, being unwilling to forgive or show compassion - those things will never bring forth good fruit, and like the saying goes, "one bad apple spoils the bunch." Don't be the bad apple to spoil those around you and thus self-sabotaging your own life.

“Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?”
“Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruits; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
“A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit; neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
“Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” (Matt. 7:15–20.)

I want to quickly say thank you to those who have comment on my previous posts as I share my thoughts and experiences through my "new journey" in life. Your encouragement and support has been more appreciated than you'll ever know! I'm not really sure why I'm sharing all of this, besides that I just want to. I have no idea if anyone is interested in even reading it and following along, but I want to keep sharing anyway... so thank you for your kind words, because it encourages me to do so. Thanks for your love!

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