Sunday, March 1, 2015

Learning the Atonement--Be Perfectable, Not Perfect

I'm going to return to the topic of the Atonement, and about the experiences which I had as I continued on in overcoming my addictions.  For those who haven't seen the beginning of this discussion, or if you'd like to be reminded of it, it begins with this post: http://onelowerlight.blogspot.com/2014/02/learning-atonement.html, and continues for the next several.

As I mentioned in my posts, there came a point in my strugglings to overcome my addictions that I found it much easier to stay away from temptation.  There was a point three years ago that I had been over a year and a half without intentionally seeking out pornography, and I found that my desires to do so were continually dwindling.  This came at the end of my first year of singing in Latter-Day Voices.  The year had taught me so much, and I came to know my Savior so much that it just plain wasn't a desire for me any longer.

Summer eventually came, and many of the blessings which I had available to help me continue to grow spiritually left my life.  However, I found that I had a new-found strength to overcome what came my way.  The first few weeks were a bit of a struggle for me.  Not because I was struggling with pornography, rather it somehow came to find me.  One of the worst things about this nasty drug is that it's very difficult to completely shut oneself away from it.  It's just everywhere.  I would find myself doing a google image search for completely safe things, sometimes even church related images, with the filter set to the highest safety available.  I'd look through the images and then Bang! there was an image that I didn't want to see.  By the way, I hardly ever use google image searches anymore because they lost my confidence in the system.

This same thing happened to me a couple times a week for a couple of weeks.  I hated it so much.  Here I was doing really well and not giving way to temptation, yet here it was anyway.  Each time it happened, it completely killed my day.  I felt nearly as bad as I did when I intentionally sought it out on my own.  I was filled with a sense of guilt and shame for seeing it.  It weighed very heavily on my mind for several weeks as I tried to get back on track.

During this time, I happened to be taking an Institute class.  One day in class, I suddenly had an impression enter my mind.  Each time that this happened, I immediately blocked the image from my view and hit the close button on the browser.  My reaction was about what I imagine it would have been had I never been involved with it from the beginning.  My intention was not to partake of it, but it was instead to keep myself clean.

At this time I was taught a lesson that has come back to me many times.  In my own life, the Lord doesn't expect me to be perfect.  There are many times in my life when I fall short of God's and my own expectations.  I sometimes sin or err without meaning to, sometimes it may even come because of actions taken outside of my control.

The beauty of the Atonement, is that Christ has taken upon Himself those smaller sins, so we could repent and move on.  See God doesn't expect us to be perfect in this life, rather He wants us to live our lives such that we are perfectable through the Atonement of Christ.  The Atonement really makes it possible to overcome those daily things that we fail to do as God desires.  It happens to everyone.  We fail to do our home teaching, we look at Facebook in Sunday School (yes, I know that you do it too), we get upset with those around us, etc.  Life happens, and sometimes our natural beings gives in; however, if we give our sincerest effort to be perfect and are humble enough to accept the Atonement, the Lord will bless us.  I've been struggling with this a bit in my life lately.  My life is quite busy, and sometimes I forget or neglect to do some things up to the standards I know I should.  Heck, this morning I decided to get just a little bit more sleep after my alarm went off.  I ended up sleeping an extra two hours, and I missed my 7:30 meeting this morning.

I've learned to truly appreciate the Atonement in my life at times like this.  We can repent of those things which we've fallen short in and move on without guilt to try harder.  That is where the Sacrament is such a blessing in my life.  It allows me to renew the power of the Atonement in my life each week to overcome those small shortcomings in my life.

After this epiphany, I found that I had these run-ins with pornography less and less frequently. I felt that the Lord blessed me with the enabling power of the Atonement to take me to a higher plane in my healing.  In fact, I honestly can't remember the last time that I had any kind of run-in with it.  I have no urges anymore.  I look at the world much differently now.  I wasn't perfect that summer, but I had found myself humble and teachable before the Lord.  In return He has blessed me with the means to put this business behind me.  I feel no guilt about any of what I did, in fact to me, just as in the scriptures, it's like I never even committed any sin.

This will probably be the last I will discuss my addictions, but it will definitely not be the end of my thoughts on the Atonement.  I have so much more to share.  I love the Atonement, and what it has done and continues to do for me.  It covers so much more than our sins.  It gives me a hope for a much better life each and every day, and I continue to learn just how much bigger it is daily.  I'd love to hear the thoughts of others on the power of the Atonement in my life.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Air Bumps

As I mentioned in my last post (http://onelowerlight.blogspot.com/2014/10/through-clouds.html), I mentioned a that my greatest fear is falling from heights.  Note, I'm not afraid of heights rather falling from them.  I have been in many very high places without any problems: the Space Needle in Seattle, the Astoria Column in Astoria (which is probably more frightening by the way), etc.  My greatest fear is that I'll be visiting somewhere like the Grand Canyon, take one bad step and be pummeled to a pulp by the rocks below.  One of my greatest loves in life is flight.  I've always been absolutely fascinated with flight.  I've been to numerous air shows, seen both the Thunderbirds and Blue Angels several times, and visited several air museums.  I love airplanes.  I loved watching planes takeoff and land while waiting to embark on my journey.  In fact one hobby that I play with from time to time is Flight Simulator.  I've spent many hundreds of hours flying virtual aircraft: gliders, small cessnas, 747s, and fighter jets.  I've flown all across the US and internationally.  In order to learn how to fly these aircraft (properly:)), I had to read a lot of material and practice the laws of physics with the virtual aircraft.  I wouldn't say that I have a deep understanding as to the physics which keep airplanes in the air, but I understand the basics and what must happen to stop the aircraft from falling out of the sky.

Having said all of that, I wanted to share a story from one of my flights during my trip this last summer.  I was originally going to share this only because it was kind of a funny story, but I was thinking about my experience one night last week.  At this time I thought of something I thought was kind of profound and applicable to our day.  On my way to Baltimore, I had a connecting flight in Philadelphia.  I had a couple hours to kill in Philadelphia, and for some reason I was filled with a bit of sense of dread over another flight.  It probably had something to do with the fact that I heard of a storm moving into the area.  As I boarded the plane, I could see the storm moving in.  As we took off, we made a turn, and ascended right into a huge black cloud.  As we started moving through the cloud, the plane started shaking and banking left and right.  It was a bit uncomfortable.  Suddenly, I was hit with the sudden feeling that the plane was no longer ascending, rather it felt as though it fell ~10 feet.  It was a bit unsettling, but nothing too bad.  Then it happened again.  Once we started ascending for the third time, we hit another dip.  This one lasted about 10 minutes, and we plummeted over 1000 feet, at least that's how it felt.  This one jarred me a bit, and I nearly took the armrests with me as souvenirs.  During this particular drop there was an audible gasp from the other passengers, particularly the one seated next to me.  I looked at her, and I thought she was about to have a heart attack.  After this drop, the rest of the flight wasn't too bad, but it was quite bumpy the rest of the way.

It was quite an intriguing thing for me the first time I thought about the thrill for me of flying 30000+ feet in the air coupled with my fear of falling from heights.  I was kind of scared witless at this flight when the fear overtook me.  As I looked back at this experience last week, I thought about this dichotomy.  Here I was with my love of flight, my experience in flying aircraft virtual as they may be, and all of the reading into flight dynamics which I've done, freaked out because of one fear.  In my mind,  I should know that the plane wouldn't just fall out of the sky.  Yes it is uncomfortable, but in reality it's really nothing more than a speed bump in flight.  I think that sometimes we take things in the Gospel the same way.  We have all this knowledge, experience, and testimonies about Gospel doctrines, yet we allow fears of the unknown completely unsettle us and rock us from what we already know.  The adversary know each of us and what can unsettle us.  He focuses on these weak points to attack us.  I know in my life I let that happen way more than it should, but as I've tried to remain faithful to what I do know and have faith in the Lord, He never lets me down.  He always brings me through those speed bumps.

As it turns out, the lady I was sitting next to was from Los Angeles and it was her first time flying as well.  I personally try not to wear my emotions on my sleeve, and I felt that all things considered, I kept my cool throughout these bumps.  As we talked about it being our first flights.  I could see how nervous she had been, and it certainly helped me feel much better about the rest of the flight when I knew she was in the same position.  I don't know for sure, but she did seem to calm down too.  I also think that is quite applicable to life.  Sometimes all it really takes is a good friend who has been through the same or similar situation to help calm us down as we go through these speed bumps of life.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Through the Clouds

I hadn't really planned on writing this post today, but I felt that I should, partially because I really need it today.  As I mentioned in my last post (which I still haven't updated) there were a number of lessons which I took from my summer of twists and turns.  Some of the lessons I learned involved my flights.  One of these was very timely in my life, and is one which I am reminded of often.  One quick fact about me that many may not know is that my greatest fear is falling from heights.  I'm not afraid of heights.  There's a difference.  It is quite interesting when looking at flying, which will be another post in the near future.

With that last piece of information, it should be said that turbulence during my flights were somewhat uncomfortable.  On my flight from Baltimore to Phoenix, our plane took off, and we had to break through a blanket of white clouds to reach our cruising altitude.  One of the strangest sensations I found when flying was cutting through the clouds.  It was kind of cool, but there was a bit of an unsettling feeling for me as we flew through the clouds.  At least on this flight the clouds were white instead of very black, again another blog post upcoming.  As we went up through the clouds, the plane shifted slightly and bumped around a bit, with a couple of stomach-churning drops.  After several minutes of passing through the clouds, our plane finally broke through.  What I was able to witness at that moment was quite simply one of the most stunning scenes I've ever seen.  Basically, I could see the layer of clouds that we had just passed through a few hundred feet below.  Above us several hundred above us was another layer of nice white clouds.  We were effectively flying right between two layers of clouds which stretched as far as I could see all around us.  Out the window the sun made its way through the clouds as it was setting.

It looked kind of like this, but the sky was brighter and more colorful.  It was just incredible.


I was taught from this situation, that in our lives we are called to travel upward through the clouds.  Times get really turbulent, and often we feel as though we are not going to get out.  Yet if we trust in the Lord, and hold on He will eventually pull us up above the cloud and treat us to an incredible view.  I was just taught taught something else as I was writing this post.  Although we never crossed through that second layer of clouds above us, I believe that in life we will continue to have those layers of clouds above us which we will be called to pass through.  If we want to find better views, we will continue having to break through the clouds which hang above us.  We will continue to experience turbulence as long as we seek progress in life.  It may not be comfortable and convenient, but comfort and convenience bring complacency.

As I mentioned earlier, I got the opportunity to apply this lesson shortly after this experience.  I won't go into much detail, but shortly after my trip, I started preparing to go through the Temple to receive my endowment.  I made my appointment with the Temple 2-3 weeks beforehand.  From the morning I made the appointment, I felt an incredible increase in the amount of adversity in my life.  For the next couple of weeks, it seemed like everything in my life was unsettled and I struggled a bit.  I never thought the two events weren't connected.  I firmly believe that there was someone who didn't want me to make it through the Temple.  As I was going through it I knew that had I gone through this a few years ago, I may not have made it, but I held on, sometimes holding fast to the armrests of my seat.  I can say that the ride was completely worth it for the view which I received.

So if you are ever caught in the turbulence of life, hold on.  Hold fast to the armrests if necessary.  The Lord will bless you, and He will pull you through it if you are faithful to Him and look to Him and His angels for help!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Summer Fun

Hello again everyone!  I am back from the dead.  I'm just providing some updates about my summer.  In a word, my summer was crazy.  It was a real rollercoaster period of time for me.  Life took so many twists and turns, and I had some peaks and valleys.  Overall my summer was very very good.  Some very big, important and exciting things happened in my life.

First, start with this video.

(Video will be inserted as soon as my dang computer starts cooperating)

This was a video which I recorded and created a blog post towards the beginning of the summer.  However, I had some problems uploading it.  For now, I will just say that the video provided an update on my life for the previous 9 months.  The "title" of the video was Everything is Awesome (you know, from the Lego Movie), and it described how at that point everything in my life was awesome.  Well, not quite everything, but I felt very good about where I was in life.  Within a week of me recording that video, I lost my job kind of rending the video pointless.

I lost my job in the beginning of June, which was very conveniently timed to occur right as my rent for the next school year came due.  In a way it was kind of nice because I was able to take a couple days and do things that I wanted to, but couldn't because I was spending 40 hours a week working.  The rest of my time was spent taking care of the other basics of life (laundry, grocery shopping, etc.).  However, I don't enjoy too much time with nothing to do anymore, and it kind of got old.

Then one day out of the blue, my brother called me and presented an idea to me that I absolutely loved.  Since I didn't really have anything keeping me in Logan at the current time, I could fly out to visit them on the East Coast.  It took a couple days of planning and adjusting schedules, but it worked out to get me out there in the next couple of weeks.  A couple days after we made plans, I got a phone call from my former manager asking me if I would like to come back as situations had changed.  I wasn't expecting it as it was a mere 10 days ago that I was let go.



I was filled with so much joy for this trip for several reasons.  I got to see my brother and his family whom I haven't really seen for a couple years.  I got to go see Washington DC which was always a place I wanted to visit before I die.  I also got to fly for the first time in my life, which is really big to me because I've always been a fan of aviation, and I've spent a great deal of time flying virtual aircraft.  It was a real thrill to go airbourne.

After spending a week back east, I returned to Logan and began working again at my former employment.  The next Sunday brought the biggest, and most important, twist of all.  I was asked to visit with my Bishop.  He told me that my name had been recommended for a calling.  As we went through the interview we got on the subject of the Temple, and, long story short, I received my recommend to receive my endowment!  I was really pumped about it because I had been preparing to receive my endowment for some time, earnestly for the past year.

After a lot of planning, I finally received my endowment on August 9 in the Idaho Falls Temple.  The really cool thing is that things worked out that most of my family was able to be there with me in the session.  It was awesome because it was the first time in a long time that so much of the family could be together.

I have since learned to really love and treasure the Temple.  I go there frequently, at least once a week.  I sometimes end up going two or three times a week.  It's really awesome that I live three blocks from the Temple.  I can literally decide to go to the Temple, get ready, walk to the Temple, and be in a session within half an hour.  I love it so much.

To finish off this rollercoaster ride of a summer, I decided that it was time for me to move on from my job for a number of reasons, which I may discuss at a later time.  It was a very difficult decision for me, and one that was filled with much prayer and Temple attendance.  However, it has proven to be a great decision as I have had some really awesome opportunities already.  I get to sing with LDV again, and I have made many new and wonderful friends.  Some friends that I've had before have become even closer.  I've also possibly decided on a completely new direction for my life.  I have a new calling which will test me and help me grow.  I am having a blast!

That is pretty much my summer in a nutshell.  I will be posting more specifically about some of these experiences and the lessons I've taken from them a bit later.  Now that I've resurrected my blog, you can experience more of my deep inner thoughts!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

E'en in the Darkest Night

Here is a quick video I threw together sharing some thoughts I had today.  I wanted to get this out as quickly as possible, so I may have forgotten something I wanted to say.  Pardon my voice, I started losing it the last couple hours today.






Sunday, March 16, 2014

Perspective

This is one of those topics that kind of meshes together fitness and life.  I had an experience a few months ago.  I had come to Logan for a career fair up at USU.  I had arranged to stay at my aunt and uncle's house while I was here.  I was in my final weeks of my first round of P90X.  During this time, I was feeling kind of discouraged by my lack of results, and I was having one of the moments which I still always have where I feel as though I'm going backwards in my fitness goals.  As I was in this mood, I happened to be changing my clothes in front of a full length mirror.  I had been in front of a mirror many times in the last few months, and I just wasn't seeing the changes.  This time, however, I was standing on the other side of the room from the mirror.  Usually I stood right near the mirror.  What I could see as I looked at myself suddenly caught my attention.  For the first time ever, I actually saw the very faint, very soft outlines of some abs.

As I pondered on this occurrence, I thought that this is just like life.  Sometimes we need to stop focusing on all the details of life, and instead we need to take a step back and look at the bigger picture in life.  I know that I often get frustrated by life and the happenings within, or more often the not so happenings.  I tend to think of myself as a pretty laid back person who can just go with the flow of whatever happens, but sometimes I have my own little plan that I want to have happen.  When things don't go like I plan, I can easily get frustrated and discouraged.

I think back to another experience I had a few years ago while I was attending USU.  In what was my most difficult semester, yet the best semester of my life, I often found myself on my knees pleading with God to help with all the things which I had going on.  I was in one class in particular that was just frustrating to me.  It was one of those classes where I felt as though nothing I did was right.  It annoyed the heck out of me.  I had one of those weeks where every teacher gave me 100 papers and 20 midterms.  I was really starting to freak out a bit.  One night I was saying my prayers, and I prayed for the strength to help me get through the week.  Suddenly, I could almost feel someone grab a hold of my head and turn it a bit.  It suddenly dawned on me that I was halfway through the semester, and the Lord had really blessed me greatly during the semester.  He had already helped me get to the point I was at.  In that instant, I knew everything was going to be alright, and it was.  I survived my crazy semester and that crazy dumb class.

Sometimes life just seems overwhelming with all the challenges which can be thrown our way.  In those difficult times is when we really need the Savior the most, and we look to Him to help us.  As we take a step back and change our perspective, we often find that He has been there helping us all along.  He will keep us going even in the hardest times if we will let Him carry us.  It's a hard thing to do, but sometimes it's better not to get caught up in the little details of life, only to miss the bigger picture.  Life is too short to worry about those little details.  Instead we should just be enjoying life and enjoying the journey.

I Walk

Okay, I will be the first one to tell you that I'm weird, strange, peculiar, crazy, etc.  I've been told many times as such because I walk everywhere.  In fact, I was recently reprimanded by one of my good friends because I was about to walk home at 11:30 at night.  I don't really know what to say except that I love to walk everywhere.  In fact that was one of the things I missed most about going back to Burley for the few months I was there because I now had access to a car.  When I lived in Logan before, I would often walk to the grocery store if the weather was nice, but I always rode the bus home.  Now I walk to and from the grocery store.  I just love walking, and there are a few reasons why.


  1. It is a great form of exercise.  I love exercising and working out.  Walking around town helps me to get just a bit more, which is nice since otherwise I'm pretty much sitting all day.  In fact when I went through my big weight loss a few years ago, most of the exercise that I did was just walking to and from campus everyday up that monster hill.  Now I love the extra exercise I get, and I love the extra burn which I get from carrying some groceries with me.  If you are in need of a good leg workout, try walking 2.5 miles carrying 40 pounds of produce on your back and in your hands.  That will work everything, and your calves may literally explode.  It hurts in such a good way.
  2. It saves me money.  No car payments, insurance, etc.
  3. I get to observe the world.  I am a self-diagnosed people watcher.  I just love observing people and the world around me.  When I walk, I get more time to make observations that just can't be made whilst riding/driving a car.
  4. I get to be alone with my own thoughts.  I especially enjoy walking alone in the dark, and I know that my mother just freaked out.  As I mentioned in one of my last posts, I am introverted, and I enjoy being alone sometimes.  Walking allows me that time.  At the same time, all exercise is a great brain stimulant which increases productivity and thought process.  I often have many of my best thoughts while I am walking.  I think about life, the Gospel, whatever is on my mind.  I have some extremely spiritual experiences while walking.
There are obviously some drawbacks to not having access to a car.  It's often a pain for family when there is an event going which I must get to, and get back from.  There are times when I need to be in another city that is far away that makes it tricky to get to.  It can be pretty annoying to walk to the grocery store in the middle of a blizzard.  But overall, I just love walking everywhere.  I honestly believe that if we would walk more as a society, many of the problems which we face would go away.  The air would be cleaner, gas would be cheaper, etc.  I will often accept rides if they are offered to me, or I will ask for a ride if an event is just too far for me to get to on time.  But if you ever offer me a ride, and I decline just know that I'm crazy and probably just want to be left to my own thoughts for awhile.