Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Three Questions for Charting Your Course

I think that, somewhere inside, everyone wants to have a clear, specific course for his or her life.  It's just a natural desire.

But from what I have observed, it's not common for people to find it. 

So I'm writing this post for those who are in the process of charting a life course (or revising a life course that hasn't quite worked out) who would like some new ideas to consider.

I was telling Eric the other day that if I could choose to do anything in the whole world, I would do exactly what I'm doing.  I know that's a privilege.

The interesting thing, however, is that I didn't always feel that way in the past--even when I was doing pretty much the same things I'm doing now.

What has changed is that I went through a process of answering three powerful questions that totally clarified my course.

Now I wake up excited and go to bed content.  I have confidence in the work I do,  I feel happy, and I don't get as impatient with myself because I can see the big picture (except on the days I don't get enough sleep and have hormone issues . . . then I have meltdowns).

I haven't known exactly how to write about this process because it's really special and sacred to me, but this morning some ideas came into my mind, and I feel like this is the right time to share.

I'm simply going to explain the process I went through, and though part of it is specific to my religion, I'm confident that--whatever your belief is in a higher power or whatever resources nourish you spiritually--this can be replicated.  (But you'll have to let me know!)

Step #1: I wrote three questions at the front of my book of scripture.
  • Who am I?
  • What are my responsibilities (to God)?
  • How can I best fulfill these responsibilities?
(The idea for these questions came from Julie B. Beck, one of the women I admire most, who spoke at a conference I attended in April 2010.)


Step #2: I assigned each question a color (to make it easy to distinguish my markings).
  • Who am I? (BLUE)
  • What are my responsibilities (to God)? (GREEN)
  • How can I best fulfill these responsibilities? (RED)
Step #3: I started reading through my scriptures with those three questions in mind, and whenever I found an answer, I would mark it with the appropriate color.



Step #4: I put sticky notes at the back of my book--in three different sections--so I could record the answers and have all of them in one place.

The sticky notes started piling up quickly.  I finally got smart and bought those full page-sized ones.


Step #5: I read this book just about every day--really thinking about these questions, praying that the Lord would help me to learn what He wanted me to do, and recording the thoughts that came to my mind.

Because I went through this process slowly and read other scriptures during my study time, as well, it took me about two years to finish.  But that's okay.  It's not a race.

Since then, I've been looking through these notes periodically, but because it's hard to read sticky notes that are piled on top of each other at the back of a book, I decided it was time to compile them.

Last Sunday, I took out all my post-it notes and lined them up on the counter so I could see everything I learned in one place.

This is from the question, "Who am I?"  (Alia helped me blur this photo because these notes are really personal.)



And this is what I got from question number three (for some reason, the Question #2 photo has disappeared):


My children were watching me line up all these notes, and they were asking questions.  I told them that these notes contained some of the most precious ideas I had ever received from God.

Yesterday morning, I had the idea to take my "Who am I?" stack and read it into a digital voice recorder.  I sat on Grace's bed for about 30 minutes, reading the notes line by line and making a personal podcast.

As I was recording myself reading these, however, I realized that perhaps my children or grandchildren might listen to it someday, so I included some special messages to them and challenged them to go through this same process to discover who they are.  It was a really sweet and powerful experience.  Can't describe it in words.

I'm planning to record two more podcasts with my other stacks of notes and then type all the notes into one document, so I can read through them whenever I need to be reminded of who I am, what I'm supposed to be doing, and how the Lord is going to help me to do it.

I can't even tell you how helpful this has been so far.

I was at a Retreat for Power of Moms a few months after I started this process, and I was really nervous.  The morning of the event, I woke up with this question replaying itself in my head.  "Who do you think you are?"

It was starting to get me down.  I started doubting myself and wondering why on earth I was even trying to help mothers.

After awhile, I couldn't stand it anymore, so I said to that voice, "I'll tell you who I am."

And I opened my scriptures and started reading all the things I'd written under "Who am I?  These were insights and thoughts that had come from God--specifically tailored to me.

After reading through my notes, that voice and that question (Who do you think you are?) simply went away.  And I felt an increased ability to do what I needed to do.

If I could make one recommendation to everyone in the world, it would be to chart your course by asking God these questions.  Then listen.  Write it down.  And do it.  Not to be dramatic, but our very lives are literally at stake.

The power and peace that has come from this process is indescribable.  I feel happy and light.  I know I can accomplish the heavy tasks that are set before me.  I know I'm supported by a power that is so much greater than my own.

Each of us has an immeasurable value, and when we go to the Source to discover that value, it will literally transform us.

I want all of us to feel that.  I want all of us to know that.  And I want all of us to become what we are really meant to be.  

Much love,
April

17 comments:

  1. There are no words that I have right now to adequately describe what your words have stirred in my soul! Answer to prayer is all I can say. Who are you? A vessel. One who continues to share light and truth. Amazing and so timely April.

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  2. So glad this was helpful for you Danee. You are wonderful.

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  3. Thank you April. Sometimes words feel familiar. I feel like I knew that process long ago...I just needed to be reminded! I know I am going to be redirecting my own scripture study in search for my personal answers and that inner confidence and peace. Thank you for being so brave and sharing so much of your heart!

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    1. Thanks so much JaNae. It's been great getting to know you. xo

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  4. This is the very reason why I love you April!!! Your gentle reminders are always beautifully written and offer the inspiration needed! From someone who already thought she knew the answers to these questions, thank you! xo

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    1. I miss you, Felicity! You are such a beautiful, inherently good, devoted mother. I hope we can see you soon. Alia talks about Australia ALL the time! xoxoxo

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  5. Amazing, April. I have heard about processes like these, but I have never known anyone to actually devote the time to doing it thoroughly and thoughtfully. Thank you for sharing your experience! I would love to know more about how you make "time with Him" a regular part of your life. I can only imagine how insanely busy you are--how do you keep scripture study, prayer, etc. at the top of your priority list? Do you always do it at a certain time of day? Do you have a set amount of time that you study? I struggle to make Gospel study a consistent habit in my life--it somehow gets pushed to the back burner when I get busy. I admire you!!

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  6. April, I am still thinking about this!! :) I have often wondered how you accomplish all that you do. It dawned on me today, as I thought about trying this scripture study process for myself, that maybe your devotion to the scriptures and to God is how you accomplish all that you do. Instead of it being "one more thing" that you get done every day--maybe it is the REASON you are able to get everything done every day. You are being enabled by Him because you have put Him first. Thanks again for this post!

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  7. Rachel, I've been trying to figure out the best way to answer this question in a brief blog comment. There are lots of layers here.

    I grew up with a mother who saw scriptures as "dessert," and every chance she had, she would open her scriptures and FEAST on them.

    I always loved my scriptures, but didn't understand my mother's depth until I became a mother. All of a sudden, my life had turned upside-down, and I desperately needed to hear God.

    As I was reaching out for help, a dear friend of mine challenged me to study my scriptures for an hour each day. That felt like a lot, at first, but as I made time for it--sometimes at once, but mostly through several bursts throughout the day, something deep inside me started to change.

    And over the past 12 years, I've kept up the habit as well as I could, always putting scriptures first, and asking God to please help me to consecrate my time to Him and magnify the work I'm doing in other areas.

    On a daily basis, I clearly see all the ways I'm falling short. Seriously, you'd understand if you came to visit for a few days! But as I look back over time, I can see how The Lord absolutely took my "widow's mite" of time and talent and energy and made it something better than I could have EVER done.

    I have more specifics I can email you, if you'd like the "nuts and bolts" of scripture study with children by your side, but the main message is encompassed in this one phrase of the hymn "Praise to The Lord." I heard it back in 2002, and it resonated so deep within me: "Hast thou not seen how all thou needest hath been granted in what He ordaineth?"

    That is EXACTLY it. I was looking for happiness and success outside of family and motherhood--like maybe my family was "holding me back," but as I gave my whole soul to God and said, "Take me! Make of me what Thou wilt! My heart is Thine. My life is Thine," then opportunities started opening up, and my life started to make sense and become so, so beautiful.

    I don't usually put so many of these thoughts online because they are so precious to me, and I don't know if they'll be received the right way, but I hope these ideas are helpful to others who are feeling as I had been.

    Love you!

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  8. April, thank you for sharing these thoughts about scripture study. Your post, this comment and also the info you sent to Rachel (which she shared with me) has been such an answer to years of prayer for me. You've helped me to see what it looks like to have diligent scripture study as a mom. I have a wonderful mother, but scripture study was not her strength so I've struggled to figure out how to be committed to it when I don't know what that looks like and haven't had any personal examples to follow. You have been such an inspiration to me and I feel this is the beginning of my new journey of a closer relationship with my Savior. Thank you.

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    1. Rachel, I'm so glad this was helpful to you. Simply the fact that you are looking for a way to make scripture study work speaks highly of your character and devotion to God.

      (And if anyone else is reading this comment and would like me to send you the additional materials I have about the "nuts and bolts" of scripture study as a mother with young children in the home, please email me at april(at)powerofmoms.com.)

      Thanks again for your nice comment, and I wish you the VERY best!

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  9. April - I think this everytime I make my way to your blog to read a new post, but you really are incredible! I have been struggling lately with who I am, my purpose in life and have been bogged down by the stress and pressure of life... a lot of things that don't seem that important in the grand scheme of things (when I have the right perspective), but have been sapping my energy and enthusiasm. I love the perspective and peace that come from the scriptures... and I think that this exercise is just what I need right now. Thank you for being willing to share. You are truly a force for good in this crazy world! I don't know you, but if I did I would give you a big hug! :)

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  10. Thank you! This is exactly what I needed today.

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  11. Thank you for sharing. I think this is a question/concern to women all over the world. I know that I have struggled with my self-worth at different times. We are in the process of planning a Stake Women's Conference and the theme is: Who you are to be you are now becoming - and we have five workshops that all focus on a different aspect of 'becoming'. If you don't mind, as I give my closing remarks at the conference, I would like to mention this process that you went through in the hopes that it will help the sisters have the confidence to seek for that personal revelation that God so wants to give to each of us.
    Thank you again!

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  12. Thank you April! This is exactly what I need to do. I have been praying for awhile to have guidance on how to make my scripture study more powerful and meaningful in my life. You don't know me but, you are truly inspiring! I look forward to my journey in "charting my course"!

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  13. This post is another answer to my prayers today. Thank you so much! I feel like your posts speak right to my heart!

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