Throughout my life, the gospel of Jesus Christ has always been what I was most sure about. It drove all of my decisions. I knew exactly what I wanted my life to look like, and it was heading in that direction. In fact, everything was lined up perfectly and I thanked my God every day that He was allowing me to pursue my dreams; I was turning my love of the gospel into a career and worked for EFY (Especially for Youth) and was on my way to becoming a seminary teacher.

Shortly after returning home from serving an 18-month mission for my church, however, life got challenging. I don’t have time to tell you the whole story, but what’s important to know is that everything was going right and then before I knew it, it was not going so right anymore. And to make it worse, I felt like I had no one to blame but myself.

This was a hard time for me. It was a huge adjustment for me to accept the reality that I would no longer be able to work for EFY or to be considered to become a seminary teacher. Now I do not tell you this for sympathy or anything of the sort. Many of you know that I am beyond happy doing what I do now. The purpose of me telling you this is to help you understand that it was a painful process. It was so painful that I hid from the world, trying to handle it on my own. I moved to my grandparent’s house in the middle of nowhere and did a semester of school online because I simply wasn’t ready to be around people. I was broken and I took the time I, at the time, felt necessary to heal.

You Are in Control

One day I realized that I couldn’t stay hidden forever. Although I did want to. I needed to find something to do with my time that was greater than myself. I needed to “Awake! and arise from the dust..”

I have learned that because of our Savior we have been redeemed from the fall of Adam and Eve and because of that we have become free forever, “knowing good from evil; to act for [ourselves] and not be acted upon…

It was hard to put into action at the time, and honestly still is, but I was taught in that moment that I had control in my life because I have been made an agent to act rather than an object to be acted upon. For some time I had allowed myself to be an object. I allowed things to happen to me and I felt like I had to simply submit to the fact that that was my new life.

As soon as I realized that I had not ruined my life, and that I actually still (likely) had a long life ahead of me, my world began to shift. I began to see the beauty that was around me once again. 

I know God is merciful because He never left me alone. He didn’t say, ‘Good luck, you got yourself into this mess, now get yourself out. You’re on your own.’ He didn’t let me ruin my life. In fact, I approached Him with a hand full of ashes and He exchanged it for something beautiful. He was ready and willing to bless me, but first I had to act and before that I had to believe and I had to hope.

Your Brain Believes What it Thinks

My studies at BYU-Idaho have led me to appreciate the power of the brain. The brain believes what it thinks. In a BYU devotional this past January, Craig Manning, a performance psychology consultant, shared many experiences where positive thought not only helped but also transformed performance. (For more information on his findings, check out the link.)

I believe that we have a lot more control over the outcome of our lives than we sometimes think that we do.

You Are a Creator

We are spirit children of a Creator. We too can be creators. Just as our God first created this earth spiritually before He created it physically, we too can create our lives spiritually. We can look forward with an eye of faith and create. Often times that begins with our thoughts; the way we view ourselves and the way we view the world around us. We can pray to our God to see with eyes of faith. Through God’s mercy and strength, we can obtain the life that we desire.

Wondering Where Your Heart is? Where is your Treasure?

I found direction in yet another scripture. “For where you treasure is, there will your heart be also.

I knew that the gospel was my treasure. I knew that I could no longer continue pursuing the career that I once was. I knew that was out of my control. These were a few of the things that I knew, so I submitted to that reality and decided to only worry about what was in my control.

Many of you know that I love the family. I advocate for the family and seek to protect it against many different threats. This pain that I’ve been speaking of is what lead me to that passion. I once viewed my goal to center my life around the gospel very narrowly and literally, hence wanting to teach the gospel for the Church Education System. I realized, however, that when you strengthen the family you strengthen God’s kingdom because the family is central to His plan. 

I saw with new eyes and this became my new, revised passion.

It drives everything that I do. It gives me a reason to get up in the morning. It gives me a reason to study and learn. It gives me a reason to connect with people and seek volunteer opportunities. It brings me happiness. 

And quite honestly, without the opposition in all things (especially this) I don't know that I would be capable of being as grateful for my current situation as I am now because of it. The contrast of what I felt then to what I feel now is so different that it's hard to miss. This can happen to us often, with both big and small things. 

God Blessed the Broken Road

(Why yes, yes I did just quote Rascal Flatts.) 

Through God’s Prophet’s we are taught that He will make weak things strong.

I believe that He will not only turn our weakness into strength but can also turn our pain into passion in order to help us become the disciple that we individually are to become.

Some people may discover their passions through their pain. Some people will have their direction made clear to them through other means. And some people will choose something and allow their passion to follow them rather than having a passion to follow. Feelings are fickle and fleeting, so sometimes choice can even be the most secure option to rely on.

Your passions will likely be different than mine. We cannot all do the exact same things. God gave us all our individual strengths, talents, and gifts so that we could work together to strengthen His Kingdom and serve His children. (Whatever you do, be the Leslie Knope of that thing.)

Each of us has something unique to offer. God needs each of you. 

Spiritual Gifts

In Tuesday’s devotional address, Elder Lawrence spoke of spiritual gifts and how it is completely appropriate to ask God for them. It is also appropriate to ask Him what gifts you have been given and how He would like you to use them. God is our Heavenly Father and He sees us more clearly than anyone. He is in every detail of our lives. He can guide us and help us discover what mark we are to leave on this world.

We can take those things that come naturally to us, or maybe those things that don’t come so naturally but we desire them, and bring them to God so that He can strengthen them and refine them to help us be the agents that God intends for us to be.

The Ultimate Purpose, The Ultimate Example

If you are having a difficult time finding a direction in this life, remember that Jesus Christ gives us direction and purpose. He is the ultimate example of service and love. Service brings love and love brings joy. If you are looking for something to drive you, follow Christ. I assure you that when God says that the sure way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the work of God, He is telling the truth. 

I challenge you to ask God what strengths and gifts you’ve been given, seek to use them to strengthen others, let the passion follow you, and allow God’s blessings to change you.

Christ is the reason I was able to get back up on my feet. Christ is the reason I was able to find joy in the service of others. Christ is the reason I didn’t give up or give in. Christ performed the Atonement not only for sinners but for all those who feel any type of pain that comes to us in mortality.

Beautiful People

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross put it beautifully when she said,

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths.

These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern.

Beautiful people do not just happen.”

My friends, God wants to refine us and transform our pain into something beautiful. Let’s make a commitment right now to allow him.

Remember, without ashes to rise from, the Phoenix would just be a bird getting up. (And yes, I did just quote Schmidt in a post that is heavily religious.)

P.S. If it feels like all I did was revise a sacrament meeting talk then that’s because that’s exactly what I did. It was originally given on June 18, 2017 and has been adapted just for you! It is a message that is very close to my heart. I am grateful that I was able to take the time to articulate this for my speaking assignment which prompted me to write it down and share it with all of you. Have you seen these things in your own life? Let me know!