The tree that never had to fight For sun and sky and air and light, But stood out in the open plain And always got its share of rain, Never became a forest king But lived and died a scrubby thing.
The man who never had to toil To gain and farm his patch of soil, Who never had to win his share Of sun and sky and light and air, Never became a manly man But lived and died as he began.
Good timber does not grow with ease, The stronger wind, the stronger trees, The further sky, the greater length, The more the storm the more the strength. By sun and cold, by rain and snow, In trees and men good timbers grow.
Where thickest lies the forest growth We find the patriarchs of both. And they hold counsel with the starts Whose broken branches show the scars Of many winds and much of strife. This is the common law of life.
It is easy to get caught up in the turmoil of life, especially right now while the whole world seems to be caught up in it. If there is one lesson that life has taught me, it is that true reward never comes from ease. Why is that so often so difficult to remember? Mostly because when we are experiencing the crap, it is very difficult to see outside of it. You’re covered in the junk that is happening in your life right now and it is difficult to see past that.
If you look back on your life, you will always see that it is the difficulties of life that have shaped you. It is the difficult times, which may still hurt, that have made you who you are. You chose to grow from them! They molded you, and if it weren’t for those experiences, your grass would be nowhere nearly as green as it is with the added fertilizer which you used to till the ground and to enrich the soil!
So, in this time of turmoil, remember that you will become stronger from this experience if you let yourself grow from it. Use it to learn. Use it to grow. Do this, and you will be stronger than you ever knew you could be!
“Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.”
It’s early 1916 and World War I has been raging for nearly two years…
This is a cataclysm unlike any other in history. The advance of industrial and military technologies and horrors of trench warfare are producing unprecedented levels of carnage and destruction—millions are dead and thousands are dying every day from chemicals, fire, shells, bullets, bombs, famine, and disease.
Troops, medics, and nurses on the front lines are surrounded by piles of decaying corpses and chunks of rotting flesh. At night, they sleep to a symphony of machine guns, mortars, and artillery on a bed of their dead comrades strewn about the floor.
And then there are the rats swarming everywhere. Well-fed rats that grow as large as cats, that spread disease-ridden fleas and lice, that can eat a wounded man if he can’t defend himself.
How can you maintain your marbles under such conditions, let alone your morale? What can sustain your sanity, let alone your spirit?
For many, humor is the only answer, the armament as essential as their rifles or bayonets, the last psychological defense. By laughing at what they fear most and raising two middle fingers to the Grim Reaper, ordinary people endure extraordinary hardship.
Pilots joke about joining the “sizzle brigade,” soldiers bleat like sheep as they march toward German machine guns, and fighters on both sides give shells cutesy nicknames like “cook pots,” “blue cucumbers,” and “Jack Johnsons.”
“We’re here because we’re here because we’re here because we’re here” goes the song sung every day. Trench newspapers mock both the enemy and one’s own officers, politicians, and home front propaganda.
How could mere wit and insouciance save so many people from a dark descent into derangement? And how can we tap into their power to raise our spirits when the going gets tough?
To answer the first question, let’s analyze humor and laughter through the lenses of history and science, and to answer the second, let’s probe the lenses through which we view the world.
Virtually all cultures stretching back to the beginning of recorded time have known of the relationship between humor and health. The benefits of joy appear in the Bible, which states that “a cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Ancient Greek physicians prescribed visits to comedy shows to help patients heal faster. Early Native Americans used laughter as an adjunct to various types of treatment and therapy.
In later times, doctors found that humor could distract from the pain of surgery and promote recovery and treat depression and other psychiatric disorders.
Humor wasn’t considered a legitimate field of scientific study, however, until 1964, when Dr. William F. Fry, a professor of Psychology at Stanford University, suggested that mirth had tremendous potential for impacting physical and mental health.
His peers mostly ignored his assertions and denied his requests for funding, but Dr. Fry moved forward on his own steam and dime. In time, he produced landmark studies demonstrating several positive physiological mechanisms associated with laughter including the activation of muscles, elevation of heart rate, and increase in oxygen exchange (similar to the effects of exercise), as well as the release of endorphins and vasodilation.
Word spread of Dr. Fry’s discoveries, which attracted other pioneering scientists to what he was now calling gelotology (from the Greek word for laughter, gelos), and together they produced many breakthroughs.
For instance, studies conducted by Dr. Lee Berk and colleagues from Loma Linda University found that laughter lessens the negative effects of stress by reducing cortisol and catecholamine levels and boosts the immune system by increasing the production of antibodies, which protect against disease and dysfunction.
More recent research conducted by scientists at the University of Maryland Medical Center have found laughter improves blood vessel health and blood flow, which can reduce the risk of heart disease.
These findings and others help explain why laughter is strongly correlated with significant health benefits, including improved cardiovascular performance, increased pain tolerance, reduced joint inflammation, elevated mood, fear desensitization, and improved quality of life and wellbeing.
Research even shows that incorporating humor into teaching and learning environments can be transformational, reducing anxiety, stress, and tension, improving self-esteem and motivation, and increasing alertness, creativity, and class performance.
Teachers who make their students laugh also create stronger bonds with them and receive higher evaluations, which significantly raises chances of academic success.
These are just a few examples from the growing body of evidence that joy is a powerful but often overlooked force immediately available to any of us who wish to uncork it. It’s a primal, instinctive, and universal basic emotion that creates positive feelings and softens the impact of stress.
What’s more, we don’t have to wait for something to tickle us—we can “fake it ‘til we make it.” Find something—anything—to laugh at, and the constructive process begins.
And before you scoff at the idea that it’s so straightforward, consider this: If soldiers on the battlefront of an unthinkably gruesome war could find comedy in the absurdity of their existence, we can too.
One reason humor is such an effective way to defuse stress is it allows us to distance ourselves from threatening circumstances and reappraise them in more positive, growth-oriented ways. Research also shows that people with a good sense of humor find more meaning in stressful events and perceive them as challenging rather than menacing.
In other words, you can use humor and laughter to become more resilient. The more you chuckle at the vicissitudes of life, no matter how unfair, underserved, or unreasonable they may seem, the less sway they have over you.
As the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius wrote in his Meditations:
“Choose not to be harmed—and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed—and you haven’t been.”
When I first read that line, the message resonated with me but I struggled to feel it when confronted with highly destructive people, actions, and forces.
For example, some time ago, I invested a significant amount of money in a promising residential real estate venture being organized by a longtime “friend” of my family’s.
On paper, it looked like a home run: it had a prime location, buyers were already trying to put down deposits, and banks were already lining up to underwrite the project.
As time went on, however, the plans kept changing. The development got bigger and bigger, requiring more and more capital purportedly for more land, staff, contractors, and services.
As the financial demands continued to grow with no clear end in sight, so did suspicion among the investors.
Eventually, several filed lawsuits, and we all learned the operation was a sham. The developer had embezzled much of the money raised and never intended on building anything. What’s more, because I was a relatively small player in the game, there was little chance I’d receive any restitution.
Then, to rub salt in the wound, the founder shrugged my loss off as collateral damage. “Let this be a lesson in chasing after easy money,” he said.
The whole fiasco stung. This crook didn’t need my cash and knew there were many other productive and meaningful things I could’ve done with it. He only took the money because he could.
And so I was upset. A part of me didn’t want to turn the other cheek. A part of me didn’t want to look past the dishonesty, disdain, and depravity, not to mention the economic and emotional costs.
Fortunately for me, I have a funny bone and it won out. After cooling off, I had a good laugh. At the predicament. At him. At myself. What a ridiculous experience with a clownish parasite. A pure comedy of errors.
Even though I had “every reason” to seethe, I split my sides instead. And I no longer felt harmed.
“So other people hurt me?” Aurelius said. “That’s their problem. Their character and actions are not mine.”
Such is the power of what scientists refer to as self-enhancing humor—using humor to relieve stress and foster a cheerful outlook in the face of adversity.
So, try not to take yourself or your circumstances too seriously, even when the chips are down. You never know how your good spirits and tenacity might pay off as time goes on.
In my case, losing that money not only did teach me important lessons about due diligence but also allowed me to meet several other successful entrepreneurs and investors who have since helped me grow my businesses in various ways.
There’s a Chinese fable titled “We’ll See” that expresses this message beautifully:
A farmer had a horse, and one day, it ran away.
His neighbors consoled him. “I’m so sorry. This is such bad news. You must be so upset.”
The man just said, “We’ll see.”
A few days later, his horse returned with twenty wild horses in tow, and the man and his son corralled them all.
His neighbors celebrated. “Congratulations! This is such good news. You must be so happy!”
The man just said, “We’ll see.”
A few weeks later, a stallion kicked the man’s son, breaking one of his legs.
His neighbors reeled. “I’m so sorry. This is such bad news. You must be so upset.”
The man just said, “We’ll see.”
The following month, the farmer’s country went to war and drafted legions of able-bodied young men to fight their enemies. Casualties were high but didn’t include the man’s son, since the army had no use for a lame boy.
The neighbors couldn’t believe the family’s luck. “Congratulations! This is such good news. You must be so happy!”
I’m going to be very open here for a minute in the hopes that this post might help a handful of people (or even just one person) out there if you are willing the bear with me for a minute.
Every day of my life, I deal with Adult A.D.D.. I was diagnosed as a boy and as I grew up denied that it was even a real disorder. For years I resented my parents for sending me to a doctor to “fix” me. I felt like it was a cop-out for them not being able to handle a bouncy, rambunctious, and bubbly boy. I spent a fair amount of time in the “slow kids” classes throughout school as a result, despite the fact that my test scores far outdid those of my classmates. I was a fast reader and a fast learner. If it wasn’t interesting or engaging however, I quickly lost interest. In subjects where I was fascinated (Spanish, Language Arts, and Geography), I excelled! I remember the test results at one point stating that I could spell with the best of high-schoolers in just the 2nd grade. None of this mattered however for the boy who never participated in classwork nor ever turned in homework.
I grew into an adult and had been married for about five years and had two children. I had been suffering for years from the side effects of this disorder without realizing it. I let people down constantly when they expected me to follow through with commitments. I constantly forgot items I was supposed to do. I spent money very impulsively and struggled through some minor (non-substance related) addictions. Around this time while working through some of these difficulties, I met a man for whom I had a great deal of respect who shared with me that he dealt with adult A.D.D. each day. He then shared with me a list of common symptoms for adults with A.D.D. and it almost described me to exactness! I couldn’t believe it. I started doing research and learned more and more about this condition and subsequently myself than I had ever realized I could. The symptoms between adults and children are different. As one grows, the symptoms change and affect your life differently. With this new knowledge, I now knew with a certainty that this was very real and was not just an excuse for procrastination or “laziness”. I’m one of the hardest working people I know, but I struggle greatly to complete so many things! Thus, the perceived “laziness”.
When I was a boy, the people around me had a favorite term for me (unbeknownst to them) which was “annoying”. I immediately from as far back as I can remember “knew” without a doubt that there was something wrong with me. I was not good enough. I was different. Next to the other kids, I was the one who was annoying, obnoxious, irritating, too hyper, couldn’t sit still, you name it. I “knew” had a character flaw and was not as good as the other kids. Then I had to go to other classes away from my peers because my teachers couldn’t handle me. I knew I was a good person, but from a societal perspective, I was bad. Defective. I “knew” I was not good enough for anyone’s standard. This was a feeling that I was going to have to live with for the remainder of my life. At times it still affects me at 36 years of age. These things I “knew” are of course, untrue. It affected my life immensely nonetheless. I was a secretary on my LDS mission in Chile in charge of letters home and passport control. During that time, I forgot some very important things and never was able to get organized enough to get everything done that was needed to fulfill that calling and those failures absolutely tore me apart. With A.D.D., there is nothing wrong with you! You have unique gifts! You just have to handle the world and your circumstances a little bit differently than others would.
Earlier this week, I was listening to a book on how to better organize my life while dealing with this disorder and it struck me suddenly that my sister seemed to be struggling with the same things. I looked back through high school and realized that she seemed to be in the same boat! I texted her immediately and shared the book with her. I expressed with her that I think she may be faced with the same condition. She began to study it and read about it and during this week she feels as though her eyes have finally been opened. She may or may not have this disorder, but the simple possibilities being opened to her has been a life-changing experience for her and she has already begun to implement many of the suggestions that are already helping her to stay on task and to improve small areas of her life. Seeing what this has done for my sister has inspired me to share this publicly in the hopes that it might help someone else, too.
If you or a loved one answer “yes’ to 15 or more of the following questions (from ADDitude.com), I would highly encourage you to pursue the possibilities further. You can still have ADHD even if you answered yes to fewer than 15 of these questions. This informal test is intended as a general guide only:
I have difficulty getting organized.
When given a task, I usually procrastinate rather than doing it right away.
I work on a lot of projects, but can’t seem to complete most of them.
I tend to make decisions and act on them impulsively — like spending money, getting sexually involved with someone, diving into new activities, and changing plans.
I get bored easily.
No matter how much I do or how hard I try, I just can’t seem to reach my goals.
I often get distracted when people are talking; I just tune out or drift off.
I get so wrapped up in some things I do that I can hardly stop to take a break or switch to doing something else.
I tend to overdo things even when they’re not good for me — like compulsive shopping, drinking too much, overworking, and overeating.
I get frustrated easily and I get impatient when things are going too slowly.
My self-esteem is not as high as that of others I know.
I need a lot of stimulation from things like action movies and video games, new purchases, being among lively friends, driving fast or engaging in extreme sports.
I tend to say or do things without thinking, and sometimes that gets me into trouble.
I’d rather do things my own way than follow the rules and procedures of others.
I often find myself tapping a pencil, swinging my leg, or doing something else to work off nervous energy.
I can feel suddenly down when I’m separated from people, projects or things that I like to be involved with.
I see myself differently than others see me, and when someone gets angry with me for doing something that upset them I’m often very surprised.
Even though I worry a lot about dangerous things that are unlikely to happen to me, I tend to be careless and accident prone.
Even though I have a lot of fears, people would describe me as a risk taker.
I make a lot of careless mistakes.
I have blood relatives who suffer from ADHD, another neurological disorder, or substance abuse.
After sharing these thoughts with my sister and during her self-discovery this week, she shared a poem via a Facebook post that I absolutely LOVED and would like to share here:
Take my hand and come with me,
I want to teach you about A.D.D.
I need you to know, I want to explain,
I have a very different brain.
Sights, sounds, and thoughts collide.
What to do first? I can’t decide.
Please understand I’m not to blame,
I just can’t process things the same.
Take my hand and walk with me,
Let me show you about A.D.D.
I try to behave, I want to be good,
But I sometimes forget to do as I should.
Walk with me and wear my shoes,
You’ll see it’s not the way I’d choose.
I do know what I’m supposed to do,
But my brain is slow getting the message through.
Take my hand and talk with me,
I want to tell you about A.D.D.
I rarely think before I talk,
I often run when I should walk.
It’s hard to get my school work done,
My thoughts are outside having fun.
I never know just where to start,
I think with my feelings and see with my heart.
Take my hand and stand by me,
I need you to know about A.D.D.
It’s hard to explain but I want you to know,
I can’t help letting my feelings show.
Sometimes I’m angry, jealous, or sad,
I feel overwhelmed, frustrated, and mad.
I can’t concentrate and I lose all my stuff.
I try really hard but it’s never enough.
Take my hand and learn with me,
We need to know more about A.D.D.
I worry a lot about getting things wrong,
Everything I do takes twice as long.
Everyday is exhausting for me…
Looking through the fog of A.D.D.
I’m often so misunderstood,
I would change in a heartbeat if I could.
Take my hand and listen to me,
I want to share a secret about A.D.D.
I want you to know there is more to me.
I’m not defined by it, you see.
I’m sensitive, kind and lots of fun.
I’m blamed for things I haven’t done.
I’m the loyalest friend you’ll ever know,
I just need a chance to let it show.
Take my hand and look at me,
Just forget about the A.D.D.
I have real feelings just like you.
The love in my heart is just as true.
I may have a brain that can never rest,
But please understand I’m trying my best.
I want you to know, I need you to see,
I’m more than the label, I am still me!!!!
I again hope that this has helped someone to consider the possibility that it may be more than just you having a “character flaw”. It may go deeper than you not being able to control procrastination or forgetfulness. More than anything, I’d hope to convey the knowledge that you are not alone in the struggle. It is very real and many people are affected by it. It IS something on which you can get a handle in order to live the life you truly desire. You are a gift to this world! You were given gifts that makes you who you are.
I hope that this helps you to become the best version of yourself that you can be. We are all in this together!
One of the thoughts that passes through my mind most frequently is the thought that my forefathers are looking down on me, watching how I am living my life. I often think about the way they lived their lives and find myself comparing my life to theirs. They were great men. None of them were famous. None of them invented anything that changed the way we all live our lives today. They were just good, honorable men who shaped the course of their own lives and indirectly, my life as well.
The thought that has occurred most to me has been the thought that I want to live up to the great lives they led. I think of my grandfather, John Clark. He grew up on a ranch in Utah and was one of the hardest working men I have ever met. I wonder if he would be pleased with the kind of worker that I am. I wonder how I can become a man like him. How can I become a man who is unafraid to stand up for what is right. A man’s man. How can I live up to the legacy that he left behind?
My great-great-grandfather lost his right arm fighting for the confederacy in the Civil War. He stood up for what he believed and made a great sacrifice as a result. How do I live up to a legacy like that? My great grandfather was persecuted by mobs and ultimately died as a result of that persecution. He believed in what God was telling him to do and never denied it. How do I live up to a legacy like that? So many great men and women in my family’s history and I don’t feel capable of living up to a single one of their legacies.
Then a few days later while driving home from work, it hit me. It is NOT my role to live up to any one of their legacies. It is my role to create my own legacy. It is up to me to live the kind of life that my children and grandchildren for generations to come will honor and respect. It will not however be their role to live up to any legacy that I might leave. I realized that I have a choice. I have the choice to create my own life, the way I want to live it. It is my privilege to leave a legacy that will be an example to my children and their posterity. I have so many amazing examples of great men to help me know what I am capable of. They left a legacy that I can honor and use as a guide to my own life.
“The greatest legacy one can pass on to one’s children and grandchildren is not money or other material things accumulated in one’s life, but rather a legacy of character and faith.”
It is not my role to try to be them. It is not my role to try to be anyone else! It is my role to be the best version of myself that I can be. There is only one me and I want to be the best me that I can be. I want to be a man of character. I want to be a man of honor. I want to be a man of integrity. I want to be a man of God. What better legacy could I leave my children and their children than that? I will always honor and love my ancestors for their examples. I hope and pray that I might leave a legacy such as the ones they have left me with my own posterity. It is up to each of us to make that decision. We can learn from the legacy of others and use their examples to add to our own.
Live your life to the best of your ability and leave behind something that money could never buy once you leave this earth. Be honorable. Be of a sober mind and of good character. No better gift could you possibly give to those who follow.
“Life is not measured by the breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.”
I make vinyl signs as a hobby and have made this sign for many a living room wall. Anyone who has ever spent any amount of time on Pinterest or Etsy has heard this phrase many times over. I know it’s completely cliché, but tonight I find myself asking exactly what that phrase means to me. What are the moments that take my breath away? Regardless of the insurmountable amount of blessings in my life, I still often find myself in that search. In moments of despair or hopelessness, it can be very difficult to see even the smallest amount of light, much less find a moment that will “take your breath away”. The wonderful thing is however, that all we have to do is open our eyes just a little bit more and we will realize that we are surrounded by those moments every single day!
Last night we sat as a family and watched a Christmas movie. My daughter giggled through the whole movie and I took in every sound she made, which filled my heart with complete joy. This was a moment that took my breath away. Today while sitting in church, my daughter came to sit on my lap while my son sat next to me and leaned his head on my shoulder. They sat like this for nearly an hour. Both told me multiple times while we sat there how much they love me. This was a moment that took my breath away. Who am I to deserve such great blessings? As we drove this afternoon as a family, I looked up and saw the sun setting against the mountains near my house and it was absolutely beautiful. This was a moment that took my breath away. Tonight before bed, my wife and I talked together. We laughed a little and cried a little. This was a moment that took my breath away.
Every day of our lives, we are given opportunities to have our breath taken away. All we have to do is look around us. When the outlook seems bleak and all we can see is the dark and the difficult, we simply need to open our eyes. There is always a beautiful sunrise, a smiling face, a breath of clean air, a child whose innocence heals the broken heart, or the phone call of a friend. These are the simple things in life that will take our breath away. These are the simple things in life that make our lives complete. May you each enjoy a moment today that will take your breath away.
“As tiny drops of water shape a landscape, so our minute-by-minute choices shape our character.”
-James E. Faust
What is greatness? That is a subject that I’m sure we could debate over and over and never come to a conclusion. Greatness is, I believe, a question of one’s own perspective and opinion. We all aspire to greatness in this life, yet we know of millions who have died never achieving what they believed to be greatness. On the flip side however, many more have died having achieved that greatness.
What is the difference then between the two? Was one person greater than the other? Of course not! The difference between them was the choices that they made from one moment to the next. To achieve whatever greatness there is to be achieved in this life, we have to decide first on what we want, and then we have to make small decisions every day that will get us one small step closer to our goal. Little by little, step by step.
At times, the prospect of achieving greatness can be very daunting and can frighten us so much that we never take any action toward that greatness. One of the greatest examples that I can think of is the ongoing battle that we have in our modern society of “getting into shape.” Everyone wants to look like the people they see on the TV or in the magazine, but they are afraid that it will be too hard to achieve!
I have great news for you! It’s not hard! Nothing that we set our minds to is hard if we simply decide to go for our goal and then choose from one moment to the next to follow that goal. We choose not to eat the doughnut. We choose to find reasons to exercise rather than reasons not to. All of a sudden, three months have passed by and we find ourselves in better shape than we have ever been in! Each of these is a choice that we make every day! The task isn’t difficult. It only requires dedication to a decision. It requires commitment.
This is true for physical, financial, or spiritual fitness. The little decisions we make every day will ultimately shape our destiny! We have to make decisions on purpose though. We can’t just “go with the flow” if we want to achieve greatness. We have to live with intent! Decide now what you want out of this life, and let every choice you make, great or small, revolve around that decision. You will be surprised at how easy it truly is to get what you want and to become the greatest version of you possible! You just have to decide…
“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.”
― Henry David Thoreau
This morning after I dropped my children off at school, I came home to begin my workday. As soon as I walked into the house I thought to myself, “I know what I want out of this life. I know where I want to be, and I know what I want to do. When on Earth am I going to get there?” I pondered at the many wonderful blessing that I have around me, yet I still found myself asking the question of when I would “arrive” at where I want to be. I reflected on the people I know who are a lot closer to where I want to be and I wondered what goes through their minds every day. I finally came to the conclusion that they probably think in a very similar way to the way I do. Each day they are also striving for something greater.
You see, you will never, ever “arrive” at your destination. You might know what you want in this life, but there will never be a day where you have “arrived”, for if you “arrive”, then you will cease to grow. You will cease to improve. When we set goals for ourselves, we set measurements by which we can gauge our “success”. Once we have achieved these goals however, it opens the gate for us to accomplish so much more! We will have grown immensely through our accomplishments, and will thereby create the opportunity for even greater growth! Goals are amazing! It’s how wonderful things are accomplished! Everyone should have high goals and aspirations that they work toward and put solid effort into. We just can’t allow the dream of the future and of our unseen achievements cloud our vision of what is right in front of us… right this minute.
So when will I get there? I realized that I will never “get there” because I already am there! There isn’t a point in life where time stands still and we have “arrived”. What we have… ALL that we have, is what sits right in front of our eyes! Of course we have dreams and aspirations, but if we don’t recognize the fact that we might not be alive five minutes from now, much less five years from now, then we will miss out on what is right before us! In my favorite musical, The Music Man, Professor Harold Hill states the following:
”You pile up enough tomorrows, and you’ll find you are left with nothing but a lot of empty yesterdays.”
He makes the point that if we are so focused on our goals and dreams of a future reality that we don’t see what we have for what it is right now, then we will just end up with a life filled with emptiness and regret. Look around you right now!!! You have so much to be thankful for! You have so many blessings right at the end of your nose! Cherish every minute that you have, for you never know when the next minute will be your last! Look around you and be grateful for what you have. I truly believe that until you learn true gratitude for what you have already, you will not be given more. Gratitude is the first step. Love what have, love who you are, and love the world around you! Learn to do this, and watch the world around you change right before your eyes…
“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”
― Haruki Murakami
There are few things in this life that I find more invigorating than a huge, black storm heading my way! I absolutely love it!!! It’s strange, but the prospect of that storm coming to beat down on the earth in order to help it flourish and grow is almost spiritual in its power over me.
Last night I had the unique opportunity to go to one of my favorite places on Earth. I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. In my church, we have special buildings that I’m sure you have heard of or seen. These buildings are called temples. The temple is a place that you are allowed to enter when you meet certain criteria that will allow you to feel of the spirit that is within the walls of that sacred place. These criteria aren’t a question of ecclesiastical knowledge or anything of that sort, but rather of how one is living his or her life. If a church member is living his or her life in accordance to the commandments of God (barring natural imperfections), then they may enter the temple.
So there I was last night, sitting in one of my favorite places on Earth. It has been quite a while since I have been. My entire life has been completely twisted and flipped upside down since the last time I went. I have been beaten, crushed, turned into a pulp, and then picked up again, just enough to be beaten down again, and again, and you know what? I couldn’t be more thankful for the beatings that I have received because of who I have become as a result. Last night I was able to feel God’s love for me and I was able to recognize His hand in everything that has happened in my life. I came to the realization that He is moulding me into what I need to become through these experiences.
So I finally came to the realization that in order to be happy in this life, we absolutely have to go through the storms of it! We can’t know happiness without first knowing sorrow. We can’t be happy if we don’t know sadness. If you are experiencing the sadness of a loss right now, or sadness from any circumstance, remember that it is through this sadness that you will one day know an even greater joy! Without feeling the way you feel when you are in the moments of sorrow, the absolute joys of life would just seem mundane. They would just be another day! In order to know what it’s like to be happy, you have to know what it’s like to be sad! There has to be opposition in all things in order for us to live the plan that our Heavenly Father has for us. His plan truly is a plan of happiness, and that’s why we experience sorrow!!! Weird, huh?
“For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so… righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.” (2 Nephi 2:11)
I know that when you are in the thick of it, hope seems bleak. Life in general can seem bleak. I am here to tell you however, that there is a purpose behind all of it. You will see one day that what you are going through right now is one of the best things that could ever have happened to you! Right now, that’s hard to see. I want to help give you hope that there truly is a light at the end of the tunnel. Remember, in order for a chunk of coal to become a diamond, it has to go through more heat and pressure… and TIME, than we can even imagine. I believe that God gives us these things as reminders that He works the same way. So the more pressure you are under, the more fire you are passing through, and the more time that seems to be passing, remember who is in control, and let Him guide you through it. You will come out much better in the end. You’ll see!
“For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. To someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would look like complete destruction.”
I absolutely love the time we live in! I think that ours is one of the most unbelievably spectacular times in which to live! The fact that I can wake up in the morning, sit down with a small piece of metal and plastic, and without approval from any form of publishing company, publish my own works to the world at the push of a button! We have the entire world’s worth of knowledge and wisdom literally at our fingertips every second of every day! If I wake up at 3:00 in the morning because Einstein’s theory of relativity is bothering me, I can sit up, not even having to get out of bed, and begin researching not only his theory, but also learn about other theories from other people. I can fill by head with knowledge from the ages within minutes! It really is spectacular.
Even when I was little, I had no idea what the “future” was going to be like. In my mind, the year 2015 would be exactly as Marty McFly experienced it. Flying cars, automated cafés, the works! As it turns out, thirty years comes and goes pretty quickly and the world changes on its own terms. Sure, we’ve got flying cars and somewhat-automated cafés, they’re obviously not mainstream yet, but they exist. What we do have however, is this amazing technology that is allowing you to be sitting right where you are at, reading this awesome blog! We also have this awesome Star Trek technology sitting in our front pockets each and every day!
So what do we do with this amazing world we live in? I don’t think that even when I was in high school I could have imagined the world being what it is today. It changes so quickly! What we have to learn to do is change with it. Does that mean that we should change our moral standards as the world changes? The world’s moral standard is changing about as frequently as the technology we have the privilege of using each day. It seems to be falling at an unprecedented speed.
This is nothing new. The moral standard has been falling for a long time. That hasn’t changed. What has changed is our ability to participate in the world’s lowered standard. In 1984, if a person had an addiction to pornography, that person would have to get up off their couch, run down to the adult bookstore, and from there satisfy their addiction. Or if they were sneaky, they could find some secret way to subscribe to a magazine. Nowadays all it requires is that same little amazing piece of equipment sitting in each of our front pockets. The standard has lowered as it always has, but will we lower ourselves to the same standard, just because it’s easy?
I have high hopes for humanity. I believe that each of us has the ability to contribute to this world in a positive and substantial way. Through the use of this technology, we can spread our light to everyone we have ever met, and onward to many more whom we never have met nor likely ever will. We never know the impact we may have by simply taking a stand for what we believe to be right and morally just. Most people that I have met will agree with the fact that the moral standard has fallen. Some of those people see no problem with it, despite recognizing the change.
I was listening to the radio a couple of years ago and a song came on that really helped me to better understand where the world is at right now. This song spoke of the “naiveté” of believing and living by the words of a 2,000 year-old book, which doesn’t speak of anything in our time. How can we live by what was taught 2,000 years ago, when our world is an entirely different place now from what it was then? I was shocked by the lyrics of this song, and shocked that people would be supporting it, while at the same time grateful to live in a country where such words are freely expressed without judgment. The artist had some points that could easily be considered to be valid points.
He questioned believing in a being that can’t be seen or heard and implied that it was a foolish notion to do so. I’m here to tell you my friends, that he was wrong. Our Heavenly Father is there now every bit as much as He has been through the ages. If we want to hear Him, we have to seek Him. If we want to know that He is real, that He hears us, and that He will speak to us, we have to seek Him out through prayer, study, and through service to others. I know that He is there not because someone else told me so, but because I have seen His influence in my own life. He has done more for me than I have ever deserved!
So what will you choose? Will you choose to follow the path of moral deficiency and continue down the path that the rest of the world is following? I assure you, the when you hear of Heaven and Hell, these aren’t necessarily referring to places, but more of a state of being. The simple fact is that to follow God’s plan brings happiness and complete joy. To follow the path that the world set brings temporary pleasure but in the end, it brings misery and a broken life. It’s not worth it my friends, but the choice is up to each of us individually which path we choose to follow. Each man chooses his own destiny. Will you choose a happy life, or will you choose misery?
“Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.” (2 Nephi Chapter 2, verse 27, The Book of Mormon)
Whether you are religious or not, I encourage you to consider the consequences of the choices you make each day. It’s your life! You get to choose how you will live it! You get to choose your own consequences. You get to choose happiness or misery. Make the choice that will bring you happiness and joy. It is worth it! Follow your own path rather than allowing the world to dictate the path you will follow. You were given the agency to choose for yourself. Choose wisely!
Do you remember the old adage, “Don’t step on the crack, or you’ll break your mother’s back?” I first heard that when I was probably in the first grade or thereabouts. For some reason it had a great impact on me and from there forward I always avoided stepping on the cracks! Fast forward 26 years to today, and I still find myself avoiding the cracks wherever I walk! Yesterday morning I was out for a morning walk through my neighborhood and I was noticing this subconscious habit. Then I started to wonder what other parts of me are still there from when I was just a child. I’m sure that at least 85% of who I am was decided when I was little. I’m sure there is some study in the American Psychological Journal or whatever it’s called regarding the exact number. I don’t feel like Googling it so we are going to stick with 85%. Seems legit.
I remember being 9 years old. I remember what a strong impact my parents had on me. My dad was my hero. I looked up to him immensely. Now I look at my son, who is 9 years old and I think, “Holy Crap, this kid’s gonna’ remember all of this!” Then yesterday afternoon I went to his parent teacher conference, where I had a discussion with the school counselor as well. Ahhh… the memories! She showed me her notes that she took while visiting with my son. She said that the one thing he talks about most is me. I saw her notes and there were things on there that I didn’t even think he knew about! I was completely shocked as to how in tune he was to my life and everything that goes on in it. He knows everything about my job, my relationships, my hobbies, the whole nine yards!
I’m not gonna’ lie, it put a lot of pressure on me. It helped me to realize the heavy responsibility that I have on me as a father. It scared me a bit to know how much impact I have on this little boy along with my other two kids. What kind of impact am I having on my children with every little choice that I make? It made me thankful that I have made most of the decisions I have made. When I saw those notes, there was thankfully nothing negative on there about me, which made me feel better that I am at least somewhat on the right track. I know that just as my dad was my hero, I am my son’s hero. He doesn’t see the flaws that I see. After this experience, I began to see my flaws much more clearly. I began to see how my changing for the better would have a massive impact on him and my other two children.
Right now, I am blessed with the unique opportunity to focus entirely on my kids and on establishing a household where they can feel safe and protected. I try to make my home a place of learning and growing for them. I am so thankful for the opportunity I have to see things the way I saw them yesterday, which allows me to mould them into great people. After all, if 85% of who they will be at age 32 comes from what their lives are now, what am I going to do to help that 85% be the best experience possible? What will their 85% be like? Will it be filled with trauma from divorce and a broken home? Or will it be filled with sweet memories of time together at the park, or time together reading and studying, will they have memories of a father who was always there to listen and to be a support when they feel broken? I know that what I want for them is pure happiness. I don’t want them to be filled with trauma and regret. It’s our opportunity to be the best that we can be for our kids!
I have been so impressed at the other single parents that I have met! I’ve had the amazing and unique opportunity to get to know one of them incredibly well and she absolutely floors me in her ability to manage her home, her job, and to keep her children well grounded. It has been amazing to me to see her and several other people who I have met provide a stronger foundation for these children than they ever had even when their parents were together. I would encourage anyone reading this to take a look at some of their single parent friends and see what they are doing. I think you will find yourself to be pleasantly surprised. The burden falls completely on them without the spouse there to support them in their home. It’s really neat to see! Again, I feel that I have a long way to go, but I’m thankful to have these wonderful people as examples to me and how I can be better at what I do. I try to look at the world around me and take in whatever good I can find. A little from over here, a little from over there, and I use that to create my own good here.
Remember the impact that you have on your kids. They are watching every move you make… unbeknownst to even you! Be the best that you can be for them. They deserve it!