Tuesday, October 8, 2013


“What is the best feeling you have ever experienced?”  Asking my kids this question is how I helped them know what Joy is.  When I first talked to them about Joy they thought I was referring to the feeling of Peace.  Peace is apart of Joy.  And there is more. 

"Peacegiver" by Jenny Jordan Frogley

When I receive energy from someone else that comforts, lifts, consoles, supports, or recompenses me, I feel Peace.  It is a good feeling to receive!  Peace can be conveyed through words or actions.  Often, I am comforted by music and stories. 

For example, a number of years ago I wrote a story and sent it off to a publisher.  It was a lot of work—I had put lots of energy into it.  I awaited the response.  It came.  The manuscript had been rejected.  Such an awful feeling.  So bad.  As I tried to work through it, I felt the temptation to believe that my work was terrible.  Before I sent it off I had deemed it of great value.  When I got the rejection letter I began thinking it was of little value. 

During that same period of time I was helping Matthew, who was then in 5th grade, with a reading assignment.  We came upon a part in the story that hit me with great force--the energy in my heart increased remarkably to the point that it brought tears to my eyes and healing to my aching heart.  There was a boy from a poor family who didn’t have a winter coat.  He was so cold everyday walking to and from school. One day his uncle gave him a coat.  He was so happy!  He greatly valued it.  Then he wore it to school.  Some boys made fun of him, said it was too big for him and he looked like a preacher.  He became ashamed of the coat and didn’t want to wear it anymore.  He took it off.  One of the boys who made fun of him said he would take it because it fit him better.  And he gave it to him! (I can't remember the name of that book.)

I saw how this story totally applied to what I was doing with my own gift.  I had spent much of my own energy to create this story and develop the ability to write.  I had requested much help from my New Parent and had received it.  When other people said my writing skills were of no value in so many words, I was ashamed. 
This story helped me see more clearly what was going on inside me.  It filled my heart with utter Peace.  I understood.  It wasn’t that my story, my ability, my work was worthless.  It was that these publishers didn’t understand the value.  And it gave me strength to endure the criticism and the brush-offs during that experience as well as in others I have since had.

And there IS more...
When I am able to GIVE energy to someone else that comforts, lifts, consoles, supports, or recompenses them, I feel Energy.  It causes the Peace to actively flow through me and out to someone who is in need.  This is a feeling of excitement, motivation, and exhilaration. 

For example, once I was asked to teach a class on nutrition to a group of women from my church.  I spent much time and communication with my New Parent to figure out what this particular group of women needed to hear on that subject.  When I arrived my good friend who had asked me to speak told me that not a lot of people had signed up for my class (there were multiple classes offered that evening) so she assigned me to a very small room.  It’s hard to prepare for so long and then find there is little interest in what you have prepared. But I knew not to base the value of my efforts on numbers or popularity.  I came to serve.  In my mind I just looked upward and said, “If there is one person who benefits from my work, that will be good enough.”   

After the opening remarks everyone filed off to the different classes.  To my surprise my little classroom filled and by the end of the evening was overflowing into the hall.  As I talked to them about nutrition and asked them to share what they already knew, I felt Energy flowing between us.  They were receiving what I had to offer and I was receiving what they had to offer!  I could tell needs were being met through my comments and through theirs.  There is such a thing as the need for gratitude.  One of the women stayed after and talked to me for quite a bit longer, thanking me for my presentation and asking more questions.  She and I have since become really good friends.  She’s one of the sweetest people I know.

Another time, and this is pretty recent, I was helping my sister Melody with her son Trevor’s wedding.  The reception was at a local church and my sister was in charge of the cake.  It was her desire to also serve cake during the reception so the guests wouldn’t have to wait until the bride and groom ceremoniously cut their little pieces and smashed them in each other’s faces.  We had spent time beforehand preparing smaller satellite cakes including cupcakes.  These had to be assembled and frosted at the church.  The bride’s family was also providing fruit and other finger foods.  My sister didn’t think about communicating that we would be needing the kitchen.   And the person in charge of the refreshments for the bride’s family didn’t think about communicating that she would be needing the kitchen.  So that evening we were busily getting the cakes ready until it was almost time for the group pictures to be taken, which was shortly before the reception started.  The woman from the bride’s family had come in repeatedly during our prep time but no one understood that her frustrated comments and demeanor were communications that she needed to use the kitchen too and ASAP.  She also had things to prepare—put on platters, etc.  When we realized what was going on, we expedited our departure, quickly finishing and cleaning up.  When she started bringing her supplies into the kitchen, she was visibly stressed out. 
 I said, “I will help you.” 
 “They are taking pictures.  You need to be out there,” she responded.
 “I’m just an aunt.  I don’t need to be in the pictures.”
She protested again and I reassured her saying, “ I am going to stay and help you.” 
At that moment I felt an unexpected and overwhelming surge of Energy rush through me.  I didn’t think my choice to help was that big of a deal (I seriously didn’t care if I was in the pictures or not.).  But I knew it had comforted her.  It had hit the spot.  Her irritation and stress visibly evaporated.  And moreover I could feel my New Parent’s opinion of me, the Peace part of my Joy.  Everything turned out wonderful.  Others came in to help too and we got everything out on time.  For the rest of the evening, she was sure to give us a hand where we needed it and vice versa.

Peace and Energy combine to create Joy inside my heart when these two feelings are balanced.

When these two feelings are imbalanced with each other I experience a degree of Sorrow.  Together Joy and Sorrow form a ratio.  I continuously feel a degree of each depending on my balance between them.   I sense this continuum.  I'm usually not completely balanced all the time.  I believe the swinging motion is the natural and general state of all people.  I also believe its okay to not be perfectly balanced.  My goal is to continually aim for it while at the same time accepting mine and others' humanity.

Another way to diagram the relationship between Joy and Sorrow is:

When I receive too little energy for how much I’m giving, I feel stressed out.  I’m running faster than I have strength and looking to people to help me who are not helping me (Mosiah 4:27).  They’re not able to comfort or support me for whatever reason (John 14:27).  Often times I get imbalanced to this side because I’m trying to sacrifice in ways I don’t really need to sacrifice.  I’m crossing boundaries.  I think I have to do all these things to be valuable to my family or my community when I don’t.  I can tell when I’m getting this way when I begin to resent the fact that I have to do it (Moroni 7:6-8).  And sometimes it's just that I need to gain a better perspective of the situation in order to get my heart to join in.

When I receive too much energy for how little I’m giving, I feel bored.  I’m running slower than I have strength and receiving too much “junk food” from superfluous sources that just don’t have the power to really hit the spot.  Often times I get imbalanced to this side because my children, who I would like to sacrifice for, are not receiving it or it appears like they’re not.  I feel like a slug.  Totally worthless and useless.  I have no idea what to do to be of value to anyone.  I can tell when I’m getting this way when I have an unusually elevated appetite for treats.  “Nobody likes me, everybody hates me.  Mi’se well go eat w-o-r-ms  tr-e-a-ts.”  I make fun of this now but in the moment, it’s pretty serious.  And nobody better sing that song to me then! (my mom used to)

For me, being stressed out or bored from time to time is not a big deal. I know trials, adversity, etc. are apart of life.  The conflict is when these emotions deepen and increase for extended periods of time and I can’t get out no matter what I do (Anxiety and Depression).  I’ve gone through long periods of time when it feels like my whole life is overwhelming.  I’ve also had years of feeling completely under-whelmed.

Elder Richard G. Scott
The challenges you face, the growth experiences you encounter, are intended to be temporary scenes played out on the stage of a life of continuing peace and happiness. Sadness, heartache, and disappointment are events in life. It is not intended that they be the substance of life. I do not minimize how hard some of these events can be. When the lesson you are to learn is very important, trials can extend over a long period of time, but they should not be allowed to become the confining focus of everything you do. Your life can and should be wondrously rewarding. It is your understanding and application of the laws of God that will give your life glorious purpose as you ascend and conquer the difficulties of life. That perspective keeps challenges confined to their proper place—stepping-stones to further growth and attainment.

My kids have a tendency to veer off to receiving too much energy for how little they’re giving.  One time we went on vacation to the beach in Aptos, California.  I love this quaint little town near Santa Cruz because my grandparents bought a beach cabin there in the 1940s and I have been a beneficiary of this gift throughout my life.  We have brought our children there many times over the past 21 years.  Now the cabin is rented out to vacationers to avoid long periods of stagnancy.  Also, it has become a pretty good source of income to my grandparents’ surviving three daughters.   

So sometimes we have rented out another cabin down the street which more comfortably accommodated our larger family.  Anyway, on these vacations the kids have it all.  Beach during the day, movies at night, their favorite foods prepared for them, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, long rope red licorice.  I would assume they would be in heaven—pure joy.  But what happens is they start fighting with each other and getting angry over the smallest things.  
Veruca Salt:  "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"
And what they seem to want is more and more Peace in the form of doing nothing to help, junk-food, movies, and laziness.  Total imbalance.  So on one vacation I called them all into the upstairs living room with the orange polka-dot curtains and the sound of the surf crashing in the distance.  I said, “It’s not all about receiving.  Your mouths are open so wide but I can’t put enough 'food' in them to ever make you happy.  You have got to help out here if you want to really be happy.  (I was doing all the cleaning and cooking and serving, etc.).  When we are unhappy it seems like we need to stuff more into our mouths.  It seems like we need to rest more.  And sometimes that is the case.  But think about all the R & R you’re receiving on this vacation.  And you’re not doing much to help out.  I’m doing all the Cinderella work and you guys are acting like her step sisters.  Now if this was expedient—if this was the key to your happiness and mine—family happiness—then I would surely continue it.  But my taking on all the responsibility and you taking very little is depriving you of Joy (not to mention me).”  And this talk really did turn them around.  It sunk in.  They started to help out more.  Within a couple of hours everyone was balanced again.  I had to remind them a few more times during the remainder of our time there but they were quicker to hearken.  Good kids. : )

Equally important is the realization that Joy isn’t all giving, giving, giving without receiving either.  If no one receives with gladness and thankfulness, then how can anyone truly give?  Sometimes it seems among a particularly talented community of people that everyone wants to serve.   Very few are actually receiving the service in gratitude.  It’s almost like it’s hitting a wall.  Everyone wants to be the one who saves the day.  It’s a good feeling to save the day.  It’s a good feeling to feel our personal value.  But recognizing where I need to receive is apart of humility, humanity, gratitude and thus apart of Joy (D&C 59:21).  If I am in need, does that mean I am of less value?  If others are of value to me, does that reflect badly on me?  We were designed with weaknesses and strengths so we could both receive and give.  And this is so we can have Joy.

Note:  I actually love the metaphor of Superman.  I just think the Real Superman is both super himself and makes superheroes out of us.

So I’ve had to battle against this societal mentality that the more I serve the more valuable I am. I don’t want to be running around willy-nilly trying to serve in responsibilities that actually belong to someone else.  I want to be sensitive to my boundaries.   I want to allow people to serve me when they desire to and when it is appropriate.   And be grateful for them.  I want to recognize their value to me. 

 The hard part is when I need to allow my kids to maintain their responsibilities even when they do not “make their beds” as well as I could or as well as I think I could. ; )

I have found that the following mentality about Value is better:

The Widow's Mite
A = Giving
B = Strength

A is what I give.  It is my sacrifice—what I’m actually doing to help others.  B is my capacity to give.  It is like my muscular strength and endurance.  I only have so much before I can’t lift the weight anymore.  And if I want to be able to endure in my ability and especially in my motivation to lift the weight, I don’t want to start out lifting at my One Rep Max (see President Henry B. Eyring:  "The Caregiver").

There are times when I physically need to work beyond the level that I feel comfortable for a period of time.  This is true when I engage in a process for the first few times and it seems pretty hard--breaking bad habits, creating good habits.   But whenever I have ignored the warning signs that attend me when I continuously work beyond my strength, I have sustained chronic injuries (D&C 10:4).

The closer to 1 I can get this ratio, the more Joy I experience and the more Joy my children experience.  When I overdo it, my service turns into grudge-work or martyr-work.  I can hide it as much as I like but the vibes are felt.  And Joy is not felt.  On the other hand boredom, depression, loneliness is the worst!  Striving for the balance between Peace and Energy is striving for endurance and sustainability.  I want to create habits, relationships, and abilities that I can continue in forever.  Joy indicates where that sweet spot is.
"Once Touched Forever Changed" Delores DeVelde