I’m a Mormon. Wait, what’s a Mormon?

Today marks the one-year anniversary of my baptism. On that day I had chosen to become a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Members of this Church are typically referred to as Mormons by non-members. It’s kind of funny that I am a churchgoer; just a few years ago I was agnostic. I would be fine watching shows on The History Channel about various religions, but I did not want to hear anything about anyone’s church. There were some personal reasons that lead me to question the existence of any type of god, and I just did not want to even entertain the possibility.

Almost four years ago I met with the missionaries for the first time. The Church encourages young men and ladies to spend 24 months (men) or 18 months (ladies) serving those in distant lands. Elder Likes and Elder Adams had begun to come to my home to share their lessons. After a long journey, learning a totally different way of being, I was ready to make sacred covenants with my Father in Heaven. Through the final lessons from Sister Madsen and Sister Sanders, I was ready to be baptized.

Jimmy's Baptism

So many things in my life have changed over the past years. Going forward I would no longer drink alcohol, coffee, or tea. Doing business or work on Sundays is strongly discouraged; the mind should be focused on rest and service to others. Any sexual activity outside the bounds of marriage is forbidden. One of every ten dollars earned is to be donated to the Church to cover the cost of operations, creating / maintaining Church buildings, and furthering the Church’s worldwide welfare / relief efforts. One of the first things learned by investigators is that this is not a church you go to just on Christmas and Easter. Participation does not end after one hour of mass / service each Sunday; it begins with a three-hour block of the service and classes. Eventually positions of responsibility are added to the time spent as a member. Then there are other activities that happen each month. This is truly a new way of living!

I would like to pause to mention that I had envisioned this post to be some brief explanations to non-members what my Church is all about. It sounds like there is no easy way of doing this; there is just way too much to cover! Either I will miss a whole bunch of important stuff, or this will turn into a novel. This will just be the first post that will later be followed up upon.

One thing that would have been hard for me would have been giving up alcohol. Although the last time I got drunk was in January, 2007, I still loved beer. I did not want to have to give this up. Then in February, 2012 I came across Brene Brown’s TED Talk on Vulnerability. When I got to the 15-minute mark, she described numbing. That reminded me how even the slightest buzz I got from drinking beer changed the way my mind works. I cannot be as quick and witty as I am when I am sober. When challenging events occur, I don’t want to cheat and take the “easy” way out. In the end, numbing simply prolongs the pain. I have not had any alcohol in over two years, and I could not imagine my life with it again.

Being a Mormon has taught me a lot about life and what’s really important. Not even counting the blessings during the earlier three years that I attended the Latter-day Saint Church, there have been unimaginable amazing things that have happened this past year as a member; there are just way too many to count. Don’t get me wrong; so many things have also gotten harder! I joined the Church at a very pivotal time in my life; I happened to experience two very major changes in my life at once. Plus, things just get more challenging as more and more expectations were placed on me.

All these rules are not meant to make my life a pain. Instead, strict guidelines are set to help me on the path to true happiness. It’s just like going through training at work. You can start a job knowing little or nothing, only to have to fail a lot because of lack of knowledge / experience. Training is there to help us learn PROVEN methods for finding success. Why go through the same failures as others? If someone took the time to let you know what already works, then you don’t have to go through those otherwise necessary periods of trial and error. The whole idea is for us to become better people.

It’s easy to fall back onto bad habits; that’s where it really gets hard. We fear what we don’t understand. Plus, it’s just so much easier to go with the things that we’re familiar with. It’s hard to change and do things differently. Even though it can be so hard to do the right thing, I know very well how being disciplined and doing what I need to do brings so much happiness and success to my life. There’s just no reason to do things that are proven to bring with them failure and unhappiness.

One of the biggest lessons I have learned is to be patient. Throughout most of my life, most of my decisions were made with instant gratification in mind. Most of the time we can only see what’s right in front of our nose; looking towards our future sometimes seems like too much work. It’s easy to do what is going to make us happy the quickest. In the end, we sacrifice tomorrow’s greater happiness so that we may experience a lesser happiness today. Through discipline, I have learned to experience more and more intense moments of happiness.

That is what we are here for is to be happy, right? It’s fascinating that we still do stupid things that eventually lead to our lives becoming harder.

Another huge lesson I have leaned is to love others unconditionally. See them as people, just like you and me. Each one of us has needs, desires, and fears. Just like how you had a rough time the other day, the guy down the street that has been getting on your nerves may have had a bad day recently. No, that does not give him the right to mistreat you. However, maybe he’s just so stressed that he’s not able to think clearly and be conscious of others.

Just be a good person. Be nice to others. So many people have gotten you to where you are today; now is your chance to pay it forward. Nothing else in life brings greater happiness than serving your fellow men and women. Through service you learn something amazing – you’re so awesome that you have plenty of talents and love to share with others!

Although it has been four months since I last wrote here, I am certain that follow-ups to this post will come soon.

Be well. Do good. Make others smile.

Love,

My Testimony – January 26, 2014

I know that I feel amazing when I do certain things. Prayer has blessed my life in so many ways. I come to my Heavenly Father with my concerns, needs, and feelings of gratitude. Although I do not hear His voice speaking directly to me, He answers with soft yet profound promptings. Many of life’s questions are answered when I read the Scriptures. Serving others is such an amazing experience. When I serve, it feels like all my problems are erased, as I realize that what I consider “problems” are nothing in relation to the trials others are currently facing. Going to Church and otherwise being in the company of like-minded individuals helps me feel loved and supported, regardless how alone in this life I may feel at times.

Although the Church’s organization, created by Jesus Christ, is perfect, its members are imperfect beings, prone to making mistakes. However, one of main goals is to perfect the Saints. The whole idea is that our loving Heavenly Father wants us to be just like Him. He wants us to continue to improve to be better and better, just like we want to constantly improve our lives. He is there for us in every possible way.

Each day I am guided by the Spirit. Knowledge I would otherwise not have comes to me through these promptings. The Holy Ghost allows me to know many details about the people in my life and people that I meet. Although sometimes I am given warnings about certain people / situations, most of the time the Spirit allows me to see untapped strengths and wonderful qualities that most people otherwise would not see in themselves.

I testify to you that I am loved by my Father in Heaven. He knows everything about me. He has a plan for my happiness, and things always work out when I let go of my own desires and put my life in His hands. His Son, Jesus Christ, has experienced all of our pains during his Atonement. The Holy Ghost guides me towards true happiness, as long as I am following the example set by my Savior, Jesus Christ. Just like in the days of the Bible, we have Special Witnesses of Christ in the form of modern-day prophets. They, led by Thomas S. Monson, allow us to receive revelation directly from our Heavenly Father. I testify that all this is true, and I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Stop giving a crap about what other people think!

Wow. I guess I got your attention. Thank you for stopping in to see what all the commotion was about!

Please take a moment to read this post thoroughly so you can understand its message as it develops. Although the title may sound rather negative in nature, I have a wonderful message to share with you. I promise these words will touch you in one way or another. Please begin by watching this video, specifically from 2:45 until the end.

I will never forget the first time I saw this video. It’s like he took the words right out of my mouth. Ashton Kutcher said the very message that all parents should be sharing with their children. Sometimes we are just so wrapped up in getting after children to do their homework, eat healthier, clean up their rooms, and all the other parental stuff and just forget to take the time to say those things that really matter.

There is a reason we often feel like we are not good enough. These ideas in our head have to come from somewhere, after all. Sometimes they come from stuff we see on TV. Sometimes they come from that mean person at work or school. Unfortunately, most of the time they come from those that we trust the most, like our family members or closest friends. It’s time for me to get deep with you.

First let me tell you a recent little story from my life. One of the lowest points of my time on this Earth came when shame crept into my heart. Please don’t think that I am trying to play the role of the innocent angel; I have done stupid and hurtful things to others, including those I dearly love. After making some of those mistakes, as a way to try to make it up, I had given a lot of my power to that person. I tried to humble myself and beg for forgiveness. Rarely was that dearly needed forgiveness ever given, and eventually my kindness was taken advantage of. Eventually I became a victim of mental / verbal abuse.

Because I had given so much of my power to this other person, I simply began to think less of myself. I still loved myself, but I began to think to some degree that I deserved this treatment. I did little to try to stop it. This included me being criticized for so many things that I would do. This included little nuances, like quirky habits that just make me who I am, the way I said things, and even things that truly made me happy. When I tried to work things out with the other person, there was no improving. Here is the reason why.

We all have a love tank, just like how each our cars has a gas tank. If you don’t fill up that gas tank, your car eventually stops driving forward. Your heart and my heart is just like that gas tank. Every day we need to do something to fill up our love tank. This might include someone complimenting your new haircut, saying thank you for your kind deed, or best yet, telling you how you made him / her feel because of you being in that person’s life. Just stop for a moment. Think about how it feels when someone does something that truly touches you. Close your eyes. Do you feel it? Sadly, when you don’t fill up your love tank, you stop walking forward.

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Those who hurt us, directly or indirectly, do not have their love tanks filled. After pondering this thought time and time again, I just could not come up with a rational reason that someone who is full of love and gratitude would ever make it a point to hurt another. Basically, this is an ongoing cycle of emptiness inside. Unfortunately, those who are missing they love they need end up passing on their emptiness to others. Because they don’t know how to deal with this emptiness or know how to get the proper love that their hearts need, they end up trying to impose their pains onto others.

Sadly, this is an almost guaranteed endless cycle. You really can find your own happiness. You can share your happiness with others in your life. You may be able to impact a great amount of people and lead them towards their own happiness, but it of course is impossible to touch every life that you come across in your journey.

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Call it what you want. Chaos, drama, verbal / emotional abuse, and all other unhealthy behaviors come from feeling empty inside. You will become just like those you associate yourself with. If you want to find happiness, hang around others who have found happiness. If you want to be successful at your job, take some time to get to know the top performing coworkers. On the flipside, if you want to walk away from your own unhealthy habits in your life, you need to walk forward and away from those who are dragging you down.

Finding your own peace

Ashton Kutcher Teen Choice Awards

You are your own person. Even though many of you still have parents around to help you along and many of you have spouses to uplift you, at the end of the day, the only person who is going to take care of you is you! This is not just some overused clichéd phrase; there is so much truth to those words!

Stop everything you are doing right now. Think about who you are at this time. Where have you been? Who are you right now? Where are you going? Really think about who you are and where you are going. Think about the positive changes you want in your life. Make those decisions to get there and promise yourself to carry out each one of them. Figure out what you want, and don’t let anyone ever stop you from getting there. You will do this because you love yourself!

Forget about the people who have said mean things about you. Forget about the people / companies trying to make you jealous of what they have. Forget about all the people / companies trying to tell you that you are just not good enough to be accepted by others. You will know in your heart where the intentions of others lie. If you feel that their hearts are pure, then follow along. If there are selfish motives to be found, run away!

People will try to make you do the things they want you to do. They will try to sell you their products / services because they want your money. People will try to be your “friend” because they want you to do things for them or want you to give them what you have. People get what they want from you, because they do a good job of selling you the idea that your life is empty without what they “have to offer.” You have to figure out who truly has your best interests in mind.

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Now that brings me to this quote:

being grateful

Gratitude truly is the path to happiness!!! I can stress that until I am blue in the face. Then I will find a way to keep on stressing it! Once I had found gratitude, my life has never been the same. I become more and more happy the more I make gratitude a part of my life. If you are grateful for what you have, you begin to desire less and less. People can try all they want to tell you how lame you are or how empty your life is without them or what they are selling. It is just a bunch of crap!

I have been putting off writing this post for a few days. I knew without a doubt that the time to get this going was right now when I came across this quote by Les Brown:

It doesn’t matter that some people are laughing behind your back…glad to see you fail, smiling in your face, while pretending to be your friend. You are not your mistakes, your failures, or your disappointments. Be aware things will happen that you are not prepared for.

Regroup, go back to the drawing board and come back with a different strategy. Every day you have the opportunity to relaunch, revive and to reinvigorate your dream. You are more powerful than you realize! Dig in, challenge yourself and hold the vision. You have GREATNESS within you!

So when it comes down to it, you have to take care of yourself first. I don’t care who else is in your life. Your first relationship is with your Creator. The next important relationship is the one you have with yourself. After that would be your spouse or significant other (or your parents if you are single). Then come your immediate family members. After your friends, you also have to maintain your relationship with your work.

If you do not stop at nothing to love and uplift yourself, you are not able to really help others in a meaningful manner. How can you give what you don’t have? That is why it is such a blessing to volunteer. When you have something to give to others, when you are expecting nothing in return, you realize how blessed you are; you realize you have something to give to others, and you are still left with an abundance of blessings.

Take care of yourself. Be happy with what you have. Be happy with those in your life. If there are those in your life who weigh you down or try to make you feel empty because of their own emptiness, you have to stop everything and fill up your love tank. Once you are strong, filled with an abundance of love, you can then finally try to complete that circle, become vulnerable, and pay it forward to those who once brought you down due to their emptiness. Until then, your heart craves love. Give it what it needs. Even if it means distancing yourself from those you love because they wear you down, you must do everything possible to fill your love tank.

Over time, love tank will become full. Your heart will be filled with love. You will have such an abundance, that you go out of your way to find opportunities to serve others. This includes those you don’t even know, those you haven’t talked to in years, and even those who have previously hurt you! Amazing things are just ahead in your life! I promise you that!

Always be sexy. I love you guys.

Therese Mary Paderta – Twenty-One Years

The following is a continuation of the collection of my thoughts about Mom, beginning with these past posts:

A new chapter of this journey occurred recently. On Sunday, October 6, 2013, I sat on my couch, watching the General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. President Monson began to speak about the recent passing of his wife of 64 years, Frances Monson. Almost instantly I began to cry. One of the gifts I have recently been given is a deep sense of empathy. Just like my heart went out to Dad when Mom passed, I had given my heart to President Monson.

I had not watched that video since that October morning until the very early morning hours of today, after I had arrived home from the GoDaddy.com Holiday Party. I was in in great shape. I had just had an incredible evening with wonderful co-workers, great entertainment, and a very young lady. Understanding the significance of today’s date and what this talk meant to me the first time I watched it, I knew I had to view it again. Twice again this afternoon I pondered the words of President Monson.

Earlier today while at Church I brought my burdens to the Lord. This will be the first time in years that I have spent December 15th alone. This recent change in my life has brought with it much pain and despair. I have fought the recent chain of events. I would not stand for the idea that I was again single. I would not accept that all my hard work of saving my relationship was in vain. Two weeks ago I finally felt a warm fire in my heart telling me it is okay; it is alright to be single at this time. This is a time to work on preparing myself for my future wife instead of looking for her.

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This is exactly what I was given today in Church. I felt a wonderful inspiration to move on with my life. This brought back one of the greatest memories of the passing of Mom.

In 1992 I was a sophomore in high school. I was more the quiet type. I was not a go-getter. I was picked on by others. After losing Mom, I knew this was not the life I wanted to live. I had chosen to become more of an outgoing person. I was no longer afraid to go out and meet new people. If anything, it has become a huge blessing that this change in my life had occurred; just think about how many people I have been able to touch in the years since!

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I am now at another one of those crossroads. I am always so good at saying the right words to others. It is time to accept my own wisdom and follow it for once. Living in the past takes up our time obsessing about the things we cannot change and filling our lives with shame. Worrying about the future is just trying to control something that is not yet within our grasp. The only thing we can do is control our controllables. The only thing we can control is the present, the now.

The present can heal the past. The present can bring about a brighter tomorrow. The present is our gift that with which we are blessed each morning as we wake up here in this lifetime.

From December, 1992 until May, 2012 I spent my life in regret. I wished I had spent more time with Mom. I wished I was nicer to her. I wished I had used kinder words with her. I wished I had spent more time with her. I wished I could have influenced her to live a healthier lifestyle. I wished she would have never passed away. I wished I could bring her back!

This morning, as I was preparing myself for Church, I felt the warm feeling of the Spirit come over me. It had told me that Mom would do anything to spend another day with me. What a sweet message of hope, happiness, and peace! This is proof of something I have been saying for some time now.

Although most people might not be able to understand this, I have been blessed with a wonderful gift in recent times. I had spent 15 years, 10 months, and 19 days on this Earth with Mom. Although for over 19 years I had felt so empty, a major change has come over me. I truly feel closer to Mom than I ever did when she was here in this life! I also know that this is not the end; in due time I will be able to be with her forever, even after this life of mine on earth is through.

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I used to spend so much time finding the faults in the ways I didn’t love her well enough. I used to search out her imperfections. It was so easy to just blame her for my problems. She left this life. It was easier for her instead of dealing with the life she created for herself. It was my heart that was cold. I had learned to have a heart of war.

Now I love her for everything she did for me. Mom blessed me with so many incredible qualities. My loving, caring, compassionate personality has always been there; it’s just so much stronger now! She never got rid of things; she never threw anything out. That taught me to cherish every memory that life has to offer. Although she was imperfect, she had a beautiful heart. I have since dedicated the rest of my life to honoring this wonderful woman.

Letting go of these pains has freed me. It was not easy. I do not have a play-by-play instructional manual on how I did it or what you might have to do to find this same peace that I so treasure. What I can tell you is that loving her for who she was, despite and even because of her imperfections, is what has brought me true peace in my heart.

I smile as I complete these writings. I love you, Mom! I love you more than ever! I am grateful for the closeness that I feel to you this very day. Twenty-one years is a long time without you, but I will continue to walk in love, thanks to the love you continue to show me!

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Love always and forever,

 

This is how a very happy person can be depressed.

I have been wanting to write about this subject for quite some time. This may sound like a contradiction. Are you depressed or are you happy? Which one is it? That’s like talking about a speed skater with no legs. Well, maybe not.

My writings are simply me documenting the thoughts in my head. Usually I face problems in my life, I figure out how to solve them, and then I try to share my findings with those I love. The hope is others will see what I write and be able to take something from it. The best moments are when someone comes up to me and says, “Thank you for sharing that with me. I really needed to hear that!” Hopefully I will be able to touch you in such a way.

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Throughout my life I have dealt with lot of loss. Even in my younger years I had gone to wakes and funerals of older family members and friends of my Parents. Probably the most profound losses were when I lost my Mother and Father in 1992 and 2006, respectively. At the time I did not believe in much of an afterlife; I simply thought that was it.

Finally in 2012 I was able to move on. I was able to let go of the pain I had been harboring, and then I was able to turn those feelings into love and happiness. I thought I had conquered the pain of loss. Early this summer I was to learn about a whole new chapter of loss in my life.

There was someone who was part of just about every major moment and decision in my life for many years. Almost overnight our contact was severed. In this situation, life on this Earth still goes on, but reconnection seems impossible. Unlike lying Mom and Dad to rest, where there was no coming back in this lifetime, this person and I could possibly reconnect. Unfortunately, the desire has not been mutual. In some aspects, this loss has been more profound; there was never a final goodbye as I was able to experience during the funerals of Mom and Dad.

My life was turned upside-down. I stopped being me. Those close to me saw a dramatic change in my demeanor. Gone was that constant bouncing-off-the-walls happy personality. It was still there, but some of that personality was replaced by something dark.

As I was recently baptized and confirmed a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I was given the Gift of the Holy Ghost. That is best described as a constant companion, offering soft-spoken guidance. This inspiration is best received when doing what is right and listening for its messages. Additionally, I have been told by other members that I have the Gift of Discernment.

Within the past months, I have been able to help others in ways I never thought possible. I am able to feel the spirit or vibes people give off. When people talk to me about things that matter a lot to them, I am able to pick up on more than just the words they say. Usually I follow up by offering what most people consider advice. Instead, I simply believe I am just telling people what they already know. I simply just help them understand themselves better. Sometimes I am also inspired to share with them insight that I would not normally have.

Many people find “happiness” by scoring a bigger TV or a new car. In the big picture, people think they are finding happiness by being socially accepted. These are just imitations of true happiness. Ultimately, I have learned to find true happiness through serving others. Not only do I have a huge, loving heart, I love to use my gifts to touch the lives of others. Although I cannot control when and how these gifts will be used, I very much recognize when they are available. Because of this, I will forever be a happy person deep down inside.

Sometimes I feel these promptings and this inspiration in a very soft manner. Other times it is like someone is telling me over and over again: “Jimmy! Go and talk to this person. Say (this) or say (that) to him or her!” It is such a frustrating feeling to know the answers to someone’s challenge but to not be able to do anything about it. It is hard to just let go of things when you know there is something you can do to help.

In the end, I was no longer able to help this person who is so important to me. I had felt so helpless. I had gone through my own trials in life. I may not have the answers to everything. With a heaping dose of empathy, the willingness to listen, and a great talent of using analogies to help others with a sense of understanding, I can at least do enough to help someone feel empowered enough to begin being self-sufficient.

I had to find a way to just take care of myself. Without a consistent usage of my talents, I felt like I was keeping all of this to myself. This made me feel selfish. With that came guilt and eventually a little shame. To learn more, please check out Brené Brown’s talks on vulnerability and shame. I had became stuck.

To see how a relatively happy person can experience depression, please check out this recent TED Talk:

What is really bad, as Kevin Breel points out, is that we all are depressed to some degree. We all have issues. We all could use some counseling. I am proud to say that I have become an incredibly strong person, despite my recent struggles, through going to counseling through LDS Family Services. I could not imagine my life without this assistance. Years ago I could not believe it when the person I am referring to had suggested I seek counseling. I had felt insulted. That is just the way our culture works.

Just say you admit you have some issues that could be resolved through counseling. If you start talking about it to a friend, it is possible that friend may stop talking to you. Your friend may think you are weird. Your friend may think you’re too much to handle, may judge you, and possibly stop being there for you. All I can think of is this person also needs help. This person is afraid of the shame that may come upon him / her for needing help, too. We need to stop being afraid. If we all are in need of help to some degree, then there is no shame in seeking counseling. If anything, be proud that you were strong enough to seek out help!

For me, I stopped doing many things. I was stuck. It was so easy to no longer cook, clean, do dishes, etc. I did not know how to move on. Since I did not have the closure I was hoping for, it seems as if I was unable to create closure in other areas of my life. Doing dishes meant the previous meal had come to a close. Picking up after myself meant I was done with the recent project at hand.

I even stopped doing many things I enjoyed doing! In addition to cooking, I have almost never been reading my books, writing in my journal / blog, or reading my Scriptures. For a while I even stopped going hiking or reaching out to friends to hang out or talk.

The more depressed I felt, the less likely I was to reach out to friends for companionship. Just like Brené Brown’s explanation of shame, I had that devilish voice inside saying, “Don’t bother calling her. She’s sick of hearing your sob stories!” “Don’t waste your time calling him. He has a life. He is married, has kids, has a job, other friends, and in no way hastime to listen to you feeling sorry for yourself!”

It is all a lie. My life is filled with so many wonderful people. I am just a phone call or text away from some amazing souls who would give anything for me. I have a second family living two buildings away. I am even considered an uncle to their children. If I can fool myself into thinking they don’t care about me, then I can sell Eskimo Pies to Eskimos! I have other family members and friends who love me dearly. I know I have added so much value to their lives with my time, talents, and love. It’s illogical that I could ever feel alone in this world I have created for myself.

To get another perspective on things, I invite you to watch this talk, quite similar to that of Kevin Breel. It was recently delivered during the October, 2013 General Conference of the LDS Church. Although there are some stuff that is LDS-specific, the majority of the message could be related to by anyone.

“Trust [in] happier days ahead.” -Elder Jeffrey R Holland

No matter what you are going through, there is someone else out there with a similar story. I know through experience that when I get down, I start playing the victim role. I begin to feel sorry for myself. “No one else out there feels the way I do.” “Nobody would ever believe me.” “No one else could understand.” Again, these are all lies. These lies just push us farther from the healing process. We are a lot more similar to each other than we would normally accept or want to believe.

If at times you feel down, just know that you are not the only one. I am here with you. I sometimes become depressed, too. What I can tell you is that I am almost in a good mood. That comes from this inextinguishable fire inside that keeps me going. No matter what, I am imperfect. I will make mistakes that I will regret. This usually is followed by guilt (and sometimes shame).

The first thing you need to do is to talk to someone about things. That’s what I do. People love to help others. There is someone out there who wants to listen to you. I know I surely would! You may be apprehensive, thinking you may scare some people away. This is going to come across as harsh, but that’s okay if you lose some friends. This is not only a test in life for you, but it is also a great test to find out who your real friends are. The best friends will listen to you over and over and over.

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If I come to someone for help / companionship because I am down, I am not looking for a lecture. I am hurt. I need someone to listen to me. I need someone to let me know that although what I am going through is not desirable, the way I feel is normal and okay. Cutting me down or otherwise judging me for my mistakes will never assist me in improving my situation. You should be looking for that same kind of support when needed as I am describing.

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Sometimes all we need is a warm embrace. Before you are quick to judge, take a moment to discover your sense of empathy. Listen to that person in need; you might be that person sometime soon needing help yourself.

This became much bigger than I had anticipated. Although I have had so many wonderful experiences in life to bring me happiness for a whole lifetime, sometimes life does get me down. Sometimes I don’t know what to do in certain situations. Sometimes, I get stuck altogether. The thing is, my story is the same as yours. The only difference between you and me is we have different chapter titles and character names in our stories.

Thank you for listening.

Love,

Blessings this Weekend

This has been an incredible weekend so far! Friday I had an opportunity to get to know someone new. After some chaotic moments, things settled down and the fun happened. Finally, we had the chance to have some really great conversations in a peaceful place. What a fun evening!

Yesterday I got to go on an awesome hike with some equally awesome friends. Of course my camera was with me, and I was able to snap one of my best pictures yet! Then I just chilled at home for quite a while. It felt good to be lazy.

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It wouldn’t be a good night without stopping over to visit my neighbors, Joe, Hollie, and Adie. It’s crazy when you think about until December 31, 2012, I had never heard of the Beattys. A few months later, they let me be a guest in their home for a week. After numerous visits since then, I am now considered part of their family!

Today began with a Fast and Testimony meeting. For the second month in a row I came with no intentions of speaking, yet that fire inside got me up to say a few inspired words both times! This morning I spoke about my testimony of praying for inspiration of what Heavenly Father wants us to do instead of begging him for what we want. The main point I was making was letting go of those who have completed this Earthly journey. After losing Mom in 1992 and Dad in 2006, I have become quite familiar with the grieving process and have learned to find peace and happiness in time. I was urging others to appreciate the lessons / blessings we have from those we lost and to hang onto them instead of hanging onto wanting them back. Then my day was turned upside-down.

A young woman in the congregation was touched by my words. She recently lost a friend due to some sad circumstances. Not long after my talk she took her turn. It is not often that death is brought up during Sacrament / Testimony meetings in the LDS Church. I happened to be softly locking my fingers together on my lap. Her testimony of listening to the promptings of the Spirit touched me so much that I had begun squeezing my hands together. Needless to say, we had an incredible talk once Sacrament was over. I am grateful that we have been able to enter each others’ lives!

As a new member, I was finally set apart for my first calling. I am now the Photography Specialist in the McQueen Ward. My original responsibility was pretty simple. I have been coming up with some incredible ideas on how I may really magnify this calling and bless others!

Right after that I stopped over by my friends, Mike and Elizabeth. Mike had offered to help me start my family history. After losing contact with most of my family and not having parents to turn to for help, I realized that with the tools available to Church members, I was able to find some incredible resources about my parents!

Right after that, I have been honored to finally receive my Patriarchal Blessing! Some things that were said really touched me, as you might expect. There were some things I really believed would be mentioned, but I guess I will have to seek my answers through personal prayer.

Sometimes I feel alone. Sometimes I become sad. With weekends like this, I have to keep reminding myself of these times. Those rough times have come. They will come again. You just have to have faith and remember that these wonderful times will come again!

Love,

James Arthur Paderta – 2013

October 5, 2013

062787_Dad_and_MeJune 27, 1984 – Comiskey Park, Chicago, IL

It’s actually pretty cool that seven years ago Dad had passed away! Of course, your natural reaction is to think that there is something wrong with me for saying that. Here is your opportunity to learn how to listen to understand others instead of simply listening to respond or judge.

Here are my thoughts about Dad from last year. In the past I would share what was on my mind here more frequently. Recently I have not been writing much here in this blog. The intention is there. Desire / intention only takes you so far. I even have had a few things to write about, but nothing has been so pressing that I got off my lazy butt and actually did some work.

Tonight a miracle of sorts happened. While roaming through the grocery store tonight grabbing just a few things, I felt the prompting to write about Dad. Today would have been his 82nd birthday.

Happy birthday, Dad!!!

On July 25, 2013, the 7th anniversary of his passing, I somehow didn’t even think of him. I felt horrified because of this. How could I forget the man who brought me into this world? I get it; I was going through some pretty serious changes in my life right around then. It was when I was at a baseball game two days later that it really hit me. I promise you, Dad is not in the afterlife cursing me for forgetting him. If anything, I know he is so proud of me right now!

There is that famous phrase, “You don’t know what you got until it’s gone.” Honestly, there are usually negative connotations when that phrase is spoken. You usually think that while feeling regret for doing something bad or not doing something good when you had the chance. Since you know me and how I am, I have to twist this into something positive.

I now know who I had in my life for 29 years. As I had discussed last year, I was not that close to Dad for most of my life. He wasn’t exactly the most open person, and I just did not know then what I know now regarding getting others to open up to me. I did not know how to appreciate everything in life. Even the things he did for me that reminded me last year with a feeling of gratitude, this year they take on a new meaning!

Being older and wiser allows me to understand things much more differently. Last year I may have valued his hard work and how it allowed me to always have a place to call home. Now it means so much more. How much differently would my life be had we lost our house on Cullom Avenue?

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What would life had been like with such a drastic change? Would that had made me stronger? Suppose it ended up being what broke me. Maybe I would not have been the strong person I am today. Ultimately, Dad worked very hard to get me to where I am today, and everything worked out in the end.

I truly believe that everything happens for a reason. Heavenly Father knows it all. He has a plan for every single moment in our lives. He led me to struggle with my relationship with Dad. He taught me that not every relationship in life will go well. He then helped me realize that Dad might not be around for much longer. I am extremely grateful for spending a lot of time with Dad while he was in the hospital a year before he passed.

Sometimes words do not need to be said. Dad’s ability to speak clearly was really diminishing. However, all it took was him to look into my eyes. There was a message. This message was very clear. He loved me. He appreciated me being there. He appreciated that I loved him back. I understood what it all meant then, but it was truly the gift of time that was the greatest gift of them all; that helped me understand things even better.

As time passed, I have learned that things tend to take on different meanings. In many situations, my understanding of things just keeps intensifying. With greater understanding comes greater appreciation. With greater appreciation comes a greater sense of feeling loved. With that greater sense of feeling loved comes a greater reciprocated love for Dad.

It is so weird how for most of the time he was alive, I did not appreciate much that Dad did for me. I focused so much on what I wanted from him. I just wasn’t mature enough to just love him unconditionally for who he was and what special gifts he had to offer. Even though he has been gone for seven years, the wonderful things he did for me mean so much more now that I have had time to process these thoughts.

In the end, it truly is a blessing that Heavenly Father called James back to be with Him! I barely appreciated him while he was here. With seven years to process these thoughts and what he meant to me, I now feel closer to him than ever before! Opening my heart to the Lord, letting go of my personal desires, and allowing Him to guide me on His chosen path has brought me to where I am today.

More importantly, Dad is not gone. Just look around. He is everywhere! One of the best signs that he still lives on is right here through my nephew and nieces:

IMG_2782Christina, AJ, me, and Samantha – August 21, 2013

Dad, happy birthday! I love you today more than ever!

Love,

 

How relationships with your parents may impact your own romantic relationships

Here’s a new hypothesis that I just came up with, inspired by many couples I know. This is not aimed at any one person in my life. Furthermore, this is only written from a male point-of-view, as I have not really thought about the obverse situation.

For the majority us men tend to look for ladies that remind us of our mothers, and ladies look for men that remind them of their fathers. Especially during the teenage years, eventually there becomes some conflict with the father-daughter relationship. If that relationships have been severely damaged and they never forgive their fathers, very often those ladies will struggle to get close with any guys they date / marry or may even sabotage their relationships.

If the guys they date / marry do mean things to them at any point in the relationship, then the ladies have a reason to validate their belief that their boyfriends / husbands are just like all the other men: jerks.

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As we are all human, we are all bound to make mistakes and do things we wish we never did. However, if these ladies are never able to forgive their fathers *and* their boyfriends / husbands make drastic improvements, these ladies will find ways to sabotage these relationships. Gone are the bad guys. The challenges to find the “jerks” and turn them into nice guys is gone. Since they never changed their way of being, these ladies will still never believe that their boyfriends / husbands, just like “all” men, are jerks.

I understand I am being very bold by sharing these thoughts. I also understand that I am not a therapist, so I have no proven information to back this up. These are just thoughts that go through my mind throughout my day. The point of this post is to express my deep desire for each of you to do anything possible to heal your relationships with your parents, regardless of who may have caused any problems. If you love your parents, you will stop at nothing to see the completion of this goal. This may very well save your own marriage.

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Love,

So much good happening in my life, yet self-sabotage keeps getting in the way.

So much has happened since my last post. I almost do not even want to write this. I miss writing so much. I have barely written in my journal. I used to write daily. I have barely touched Bonds That Make Us Free or Daring Greatly. I have barely picked up my camera. I have barely gone hiking. My performance at work has not been as good as normal.

Recently so much has happened in my life. After just under three years of investigating, on June 1, 2013 I was baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. From what I learn from the Church, The Arbinger Institute, and Brené Brown, I have been blessed with an immense sense of clarity. My mind has been able to process solid solutions very quickly. I am able to finally really listen to people. Sometimes it even means dismissing the words coming out of their mouths and instead focusing on what I hear coming from their hearts.

After all this great stuff, I have continued to avoid doing the things I want to do. To learn a bit more, please check out this post from Forward Walking about self-sabotage. Also, Brené Brown talks about this a lot when discussing the topic of shame. “You are not good enough to make those sales.” “You do not deserve to write in your journal or blog.” “You do not deserve to spend some time to get your dishes or laundry done.” This is killing me. What good is it to have all these great gifts and clarity if I am going to toss it away by not honoring what makes me happy?

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I am selling myself short. I can be making more money. I can be putting aside time to plan meals and finances. I can go out shooting pictures. I can go out hiking. I am not reading. I am not writing.

It seems like reading and writing is what fuels my soul. I need to just stop all the running around.  The lyrics from More Love by The Dixie Chicks come to mind:

We’re afraid to be idle
So we fill up the days
We run on the treadmill
Keep slavin’ away
’til there’s no time for talkin’
About trouble in mind
And the doors are all closed
Between your heart and mine

Today is June 16, 2013. Today I stop choosing to hold myself back from the things I want. Great. I have been able to be very giving to others. I am useless to them if I do not do good for myself. I will have nothing to give to others if I am not whole.

Either I am going to do this 100% or just give up, and I am not exactly in the mood to give up!

Love,

“I’m gonna give him a peace of my mind!”

This is a follow-up to We are Afraid to Do What is Right. Tonight I was listening to a talk at Church. I really do not remember what the immediate subject was, but I was thinking along the lines of my last post. I was thinking how when people get mad at someone else for doing something that was bothering them, they usually say something like, “I’m gonna give him a peace of my mind!” If these people follow through, usually an argument or sometimes even a fist-fight is the result.

We know this happens all too often. Most of the things I discussed in my last post were about us having the fear to say what we really want to say deep down inside. This reminds me of when I was going to school for an education degree and I had to take a behavior modification class. This one story / analogy sticks out so strongly and will never escape my memory.

We all have been in the store where we see kids asking parents for candy, a toy, or some other special treat. Sometimes the parents give in right away. Sometimes the parents say no. In certain situations, the kids may start making a scene in an effort to get what they want. Eventually the parents either give in to avoid any chaos or get caught in the trap of anger.

One of the best ways to avoid this situation altogether is to proactively set rules and resulting consequences for when those rules are broken. When you go into the store, set the expectation that you are going there to buy A, B, and C. Good behavior will be rewarded accordingly. That way, when your kid wants you to buy D, you can reiterate that you are there to buy just A, B, and C. Acting inappropriately would result in not earning your kid’s reward. Respecting his / her agency to do the right thing is the best thing you can do.

If you do not take the time to set these rules beforehand, you do not have a plan should there be a problem. Many times kids will just keep pushing harder and harder to get what they want. Once you give in, they will know your breaking point. They know eventually you will give in again. They would rather put up with you being upset and get their “reward” instead of getting nothing and honoring your request. It is not because kids are inherently bad; they are simply testing the waters, as kids naturally do.

Of course, certain things just happen so quickly before we can chose the proper or best-fitting course of action. Please take a moment to watch this awesome video.

In this powerful story, Chris Williams shares how he already decided ahead of time how he would react or act in certain situations. Of course we are not psychic, but we can at least plan ahead in a general sense. If someone bumps his / her shopping cart into me in a store, I would chose to keep calm. Most likely the other person will apologize, and we could be on our way. Had I not planned my general way of being, I would have most likely started yelling, swearing, and blaming the other person. That fist-fight might even break out!

Chris has lost his entire family. What would most of us have done? Look deep inside yourself. Could you honestly act the way he did? Think about what could have happened. Chris could have been resentful and hateful towards the young man driving the other car. He would then have to carry around that pain.

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Of all the lessons I have learned in life, one of the most important is learning to let go of the past. There is not a thing I can do to change what has already happened. If I break the screen on my phone, I have two logical options. I could either deal with the messed-up screen or get a replacement screen. No magic wand will go back and undo that damage. The quicker I let go of the pain, the quicker I can allow myself to resolve the problem. My old ways of screaming and swearing never got my problems resolved any quicker.

I began this post with a less-optimal result of an undesired situation. Again, we crave peace, connection with others, and happiness. Of course, conflict makes us unhappy. For some reason many of us resort to what in the moment seems the easier way out. The results are almost never good.

Let us imagine another scenario. I know I need to leave home by 5:40 AM if I want to get to work on time without running last minute. I might start driving faster than normal in an effort to not be late to work if I had left a few minutes late one morning. This happens to be the day that I get behind someone driving a few miles per hour under the speed limit. So many of us might get angry inside and even start venting our frustrations. In the unhealthiest of situations, road-rage is the result.

Maybe this guy was recently in an accident and wants to drive a little slower just to be safer. Maybe he just got pulled over for speeding the other day and wants to avoid another ticket. Maybe his wife recently passed away and is just really mellowed out. To understand what I am getting at, I want you to look at this graphic from The Arbinger Institute.

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We all have feelings. We all have certain things that make us happy, scared, hurt, sad, and angry. We all can get emotional at times. We all have our good times and bad times. However, we usually get so wrapped up in what is on our mind that we fail to pay any attention to our fellow man’s needs.

No one is saying you have to go over to this guy’s house, cook his dinner, do his laundry, and mow his lawn. Just treat him how you wish a stranger would treat you. This is not just some self-help garbage that someone is just trying to shove down your throat. As I have discussed previously, we just get caught up acting how we see others instead of following our heart.

Next time someone says something to you that really ticks you off, stop and think about things before “give[ing] him a peace of [your] mind.” Having a bad day gives no one the right to say hurtful things to you, although you still can chose to be empathetic. Maybe this person just did not know how to get the point across without sounding hurtful. Maybe this person has no idea that he hurt your feelings or angered you. Is this really worth fighting over? Can this be resolved in a more peaceful manner?

Flip things around. Next time someone does something that really gets your blood boiling, try to take a moment to think about what best to say. Try to imagine various scenarios where this person upset you by accident. Also try to consider that this person just does not know any better. If that is the case, maybe you could instead offer to help this person improve himself in some way.

Ultimately, we all want peace, love, respect, and happiness; you are lying to yourself if you can find any way to disagree with me. If this is really what you want, do what you can to avoid veering off your path. Do what you need to do to speak from your heart and truly “give[ing] him a peace of [your] mind.”

Love,