Saturday, August 29, 2015

Get over your mistakes

This may very well be the shortest and simplest blog post you’ve ever read (maybe), so here we go on my thoughts:

Don’t dwell on your mistakes. Who cares if you’ve screwed up, hasn’t everybody? I know too many people (I’ve fallen in this category) who dwell on their mistakes. You’re going to make mistakes, get over it! Learn from your mistakes and move on. Don’t continue to sit there and think you’ve failed, you only fail if you quit trying. Don’t think that you’ve missed opportunities to change your life, each second, minute, and hour of each day is an opportunity for you to turn it all around. Don’t fear failure, fear stops a lot of people from reaching their real and God given potential. Choose to be happy and choose to feel good. You don’t need a reason to feel happiness, you can feel it at any time simply because you’re alive, simply because you’re a child of God.

Don’t let your sins bring you down. Don’t be ashamed. Shame is a tool of Satan. We all sin in life and fall short of the glory of God. But, this is why we have a Savior. He died for us, He knows us! God doesn’t want you to sit there and have a pity party because you sinned or screwed up. He wants you to fix it and get over it! Guilt is a good feeling, guilt gets us to change. If you need to change, repent and move on. God has promised that as we repent and change He remembers our sins no more, we should too remember our sins no more. You are going to sin in your lifetime don’t be afraid. God loves to be merciful so follow His Son, fix what needs fixing, and move on from your sins.

Life is a gift. What we do with our life is our thank you card back to God. Life is short, life has many challenges. Don’t let your mistakes and shortcomings add to the pile of life stress. Choose happiness. Choose to feel good. Choose to move on. Choose to be healed. Choose to never fail. Choose God, because He always has your back.

Thanks for reading.

God Speed.

Friday, January 2, 2015

My Mission Was Not the Best Two Years

I left on my mission February 23rd, 2011 and went to serve in Philadelphia, PA. I'll never forget my very first few days of my mission and especially a specific counsel my Mission President gave us new missionaries. As we we're sitting in a room at the Church building he looked us in the eyes and said, "I don't like the term 'the best two years.'" When he said that I was so confused because that is the exact phrase we hear growing up in the Church. People tell you that all the time growing up, "just wait until you serve a mission, it will be the best two years of your life!" or " a mission is the best two years" Heck, there is even a iconic Mormon movie called "The Best Two Years" which I'm sure most of you, if not all, have seen before.

I took that to heart and since day 1 on my mission I thought about that every single day!  I have been home from my mission for almost 2 years now. Time sure has flown by and a lot has happened since then. And now, I can say that he was right. It wasn't the best 2 years of my life, and that's how it should be. My mission will forever be a treasure and the longer I'm home the more I think about my mission and all that I have learned, felt and experienced. I miss the people of Cape May, NJ, Valley Forge, PA, New Castle, DE, Honesdale, Pa and Allentown, PA. They all have deeply blessed my life and helped make me who I am today.

I urge everyone who has served a mission to not allow it to be the best years of your life, but to be a foundation of what can come from our mission experiences.

My Mission President continued, "A mission isn't and shouldn't be the best two years of your life. It is however, the best two years you could do for your life." I love that! He went on to say, "When you get home you will get married and have more sacred experiences than your mission can offer." He mentioned how much he loved his mission, but being married to his wife and the callings he's had has been the best years of his life.

My mission is a treasure and helped shape me into who I am as a person, husband and father. But, all the things that have happened since being home have built on that foundation and has been far more better than I would've ever imagined!

Since being home I must say I have had some many sacred experiences that makes what my Mission President say all true. I met my sweetheart my first weekend home and boy, did I jump in the fire with this one. She was traveling and speaking almost everyday in our relationship before we were married. I drove all over with her and saw my wife touch the lives of thousands of people all over the country. We have even met Church General Authorities, leaders and Apostles, all of which has impacted my life.

In August 2013 I was married and sealed in the House of Lord, and June of 2014 we welcomed our sweet angelic little girl Gracie Lena. Since being home I have experienced more and seen the blessings of God everyday. Life does get better after a mission and sacred experiences have been deeply richer.

Don't let your mission be the highlight or peak of your spiritual life! There is more to come if you let it. Life moves on everyday, time waits for no one. Don't miss those opportunities to do better and be better and receive and experience more. A mission shouldn't be the best two years of your life, not at all! It is the best two years you could do for your life. With God, great things await us. Continue to press forward. Continue to grow. Continue to learn. Continue to strengthen. To serve. Because truly, these last two years since being home has been more impactful and sacred, filled with blessings and opportunities I would have never received without God and continued effort.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Hello, God.

For all my life, I grew up hearing the word God. Both used for the good and for the bad. I grew up learning about Him, learning about prayer, His plan and His son Jesus Christ. I grew up in a home where as little kids we would pray as a family and where my parents spoke of Him often. I grew up in a state and area where God, especially religion, is talked about openly and frequently. But, I don't remember as a kid praying to God personally that much and especially as a teenager, I don't remember saying personal prayers at all. Then when I got to High School I began to distance myself from God and started to question who He is and wondered if He even existed?

The distance between me and God all started when I was in High School when I found out I had developed a fractured lower spine and a very rare back disease that kept me from playing and trying out for the two sports I loved most; basketball and football. I became so upset, I started to distant myself from God and the very thought of Him. I became very mad at Him and I blamed Him for my injury and I would shake my fists at the Heavens and questioned Him: 'Why me? Why did you do this to me?What did I do wrong? You know this was my dream, how could you do this to me?' Me questioning God and being upset with Him went on for years and I began to not even believe in God at all. As that distance grew, I made many mistakes that taught me a lot of lessons, but ultimately it was leaving me feeling alone.

Long story short, when I was 19 years old I had God back in my life.  It happened at a very pivotal moment into my life. He and His son Jesus Christ came and rescued me from my dark, lonely, and depressing state that I was in. He saved me. For the first time in my life that I can remember, God became the centered piece of my life. With what I went through and the changes I made and the things I overcame, I thought I finally knew God. I wanted to start doing what He wanted me to do. I changed my whole life around, a full 360! I stopped questioning and being upset with Him and started to pray about what I should do with my life. God answered my prayers and told me to serve a mission, something I was very much opposed to my whole life. But, I decided to go and was called to serve in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

For two years, seven days a week, from 10am to 9pm all I did was talk to people about God, His plan, and His son Jesus Christ. In that two years, I taught and talked to over a thousand people about God, that He is our loving Heavenly Father. I taught them from my heart because I knew what it was like to not have Him in my life. Rejected at least about 8 out of 10 times, people just didn't want to hear. I was cussed out, mocked, shoved, hit, and some things probably not good to tell, but a lot of people did accept us and our message. Many people I met believed in God or believed in something which is great, but we were offering something to people to bring them closer to God than ever before.

For the past few years I felt I had a great relationship with God and finally had a pretty good idea of who He is. But, it wasn't until my wife got pregnant, and mainly it wasn't until my wife was in labor that I really started to understand who God really is. Seeing my beautiful baby be born I have a better idea who God is then I have ever before.

My beautiful and lovely wife was in labor for 42 hours! I wish no woman has to ever be in labor for that long. It's pretty much insane. My wife is my hero now. I felt so helpless being in the delivery room with my wife. Seeing her go through so much pain, literally to hell and back to bring our baby into this world. I couldn't do anything, except talk or rub her back. I hated seeing her in so much pain that brought her to tears. I prayed for 42 hours straight, not all verbally but in my heart and mind. Praying for my wife's health and pain, our baby Gracie, the doctors, praying that our baby would hurry up and get out! When I saw my beautiful girl come out at 12:58 pm on June 18th, 2014, I wept. I didn't just cry or shed a tear, I put my head on my wife's shoulder and I seriously wept my eyes out. It was seriously the most beautiful and coolest thing I have ever seen or experienced. Labor is insane and out of this world, but I saw God work that day. Ever since then God has constantly been on my mind. I know Him more than I have ever before because of that experience. Having a baby is God's plan for us, I'm humbled that He trusts me to be Gracie's father. God trusts two imperfect people to be the parents of one of His perfect and innocent children.

My life has changed these past 3 weeks since Gracie arrived. My wife and I saw God's hand that day when she was born; she brought more God into my life. Seeing my baby be born, I don't believe in God anymore. I know God. He is real. I know He exists. I know He loves all of us. I know He is my Heavenly Father. It's not a belief, it's a knowledge. I wouldn't trade that in for anything.

To all those who feel rejected by God, or abandoned, alone or feel like you've just missed to many chances in your life. I say just turn around. It's us that turn our backs on God way too soon. God is LOVE. The very definition of love is God. All the time there are things that suck in life that could make us question whats going on? Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has said: "God is in your corner. Everything will work out for our Good." God gives us bad and hard times so we can know what good feels like and that we can know what God's love feels like. He will never leave us. He will not leave you. He is our Father. He is yours and mine. He has changed my life again and again. He can change yours. You can know Him.  I love my Heavenly Father and now fully aware how all of this came to be.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Being married to the 'Tattooed Mormon'

Oh, the words of advice we were given from people before we were married. They would say marriage is tough. Marriage is hard. Marriage is a battle. Marriage isn't easy. Are you sure your ready? You're life is over. No more fun and games. Others would say that it was the best time of your life. A new adventure. A new beginning. True happiness.We've all heard them right? I think being married to my wife has been the best thing that has ever happened to me.

A lot of people know my wife as the 'Tattooed Mormon'. Though, I must say I very much dislike that nickname for my wife. I have never been a big fan of the name 'Tattooed Mormon' and she knows that. When we were engaged people at her speaking events, and even people I know would tell me 'How does it feel to marry a celebrity?' Or 'how do you do it? How do you look past the tattoos she has, knowing that people will stare?' Some would even applaud me on marrying her, because of her past and how her past is so visual. I mean really? Serious? Hearing that use to bother me. Not once have I ever noticed or even cared that she has tattoos, I just don't see them when I look her. Sure, I know they are there, but its not something I have ever cared about. When we were writing on my mission or when we were dating I would tell people about her, it was: "She is a blonde hair, blue eyed girl, with a killer testimony and personality." Not ever was it: "Oh, I'm dating this girl with tattoos, with blonde hair and blue eyes." Because, to me who cares if she has tattoos. It's not a big deal. That was part of her past, before she even became a member of the Church.

I don't think she should be defined or known by some as the 'Tattooed Mormon'. Sure she has tattoo's and to some her past shows, but why should that define her? She is just like anyone in this Church. The greatest part of this Gospel is that people can change. She is a wonderful example of that! Boy, is she ever! She has shared with me how hard it was for her in Utah with people judging her for her tattoos, not giving her a chance. Pasts scare some people. But, I love that about her.

I have a past that I'm not proud of, a past that took me years to overcome and years to cope with. I know very well now I have been forgiven and lots of blessings have come. I was always worried about who I would marry, because I thought who I used to be would be a road block for some girls. I always wanted to marry someone who knows me, and accepts me, and has a story of her own. I found her. I feel as though, it's hard sometimes to let people change. Or doubting that they even can. This Church and Jesus Christ is about accepting anyone and everyone. No matter what they look like, no matter what they have done or where they have been. Christ is the master of change. He gives anyone who comes unto Him a new heart and a new mind. He is beautiful. He makes everyone beautiful, if they just trust in him and believe they can change.

Let pasts go. Allow people to show you that they can change, grow, and become better. My wife was called out for how she looked on her first day in Utah because she was tattooed and holding a church book. That guy told her how foolish she looked. That's messed up. When my wife and I meet people, a lot of the time I will notice their eyes just starring at her tattoos. To me she is not the 'Tattood Mormon' nor will she ever be in my eyes.

Marriage for us, I can firmly say, has not been hard one bit. Sure there have been life difficulties, but we get over them. I love her more and more everyday. I love her more than the day I married her. I find her even more attractive then when we first met. I fall in love with her everyday. Even to this day when I look in her deep blue eyes, I know why I married her. I married her not for her looks, sure that's a bonus, but I married her for WHO she is. I love who she is, where she came from and what it took for her to get where she is today. I married way above myself. She keeps me corrected. She keeps me on the right course. Marriage should never be tough. Never marry because of looks and looks only. Marry someone who you are attracted to in every way, especially spiritually. Spiritual attraction is most important, that's what makes those hard things easier. Marry someone who has the same end goal in mind.

Sure my wife has tattoos and a lot of people stare, and some know her as the Tattooed Mormon, and others know who my wife truly is. I love my wife and her courage to open her mouth to prove that people can change. I have. She has. We all can change. Don't let your appearance, your past, or whatever stop you from changing. Let people show you they can change, you never know what their potential is. Tattoos should never define someone. Pasts should never define someone. Christ died for our transgressions. If he forgets about them and doesn't notice us for what we have done, let us forget and forgive.

Friday, April 4, 2014

"You don't know"

As young person you're constantly thinking about the future and what the future holds for you. At least that's how I am. I am always thinking about whats going to be my career? What will be the ways I will provide? What should I study in school? Where are my wife and I going to live? Now, its what will my kids be like? I think about these things constantly, and at times I do not like the uncertainty of it. I guess I am a worry-wart when it comes to life and the future I am very impatient. I want everything yesterday. I had an experience a few months ago about these thoughts in President Henry B. Eyring's office. I'd like to share it:

My wife Al has a assistant at work who is President Eyring's granddaughter. So, with that President Eyring told her that He wanted to meet Al and I. Could we deny? No.Way. We were excited and I was pretty nervous, I thought he would look into my soul and shake his head at me. But, it was a wonderful opportunity to meet a Apostle of the Lord. We met with him for two hours.

When we first walked in he sat us down and looked at us and said: "Ben, tell me your life story." I thought my fears of him piercing my soul would be correct. But, upon telling him, he told me something that ever since has changed my perspective on the future. He was asking me about my schooling and what I'm going to school for. I told him I was going to school and taken some business classes, to get a feel for what I really want to do with my life. He looked at me and smiled: "You don't know what your going do. You don't know." I was like huh? a little confused here. He touched on that and said: "No one knows what their going to do with their life. You just don't know what will come and where Heavenly Father will take you and how he will use you." I was blown away. He mentioned how important it is to stay patient and stay close to the Lord throughout your life and pay close attention to opportunities that arise.

How much I needed to hear that! I get so lost in the thought of the future and worrying what is going to happen and worrying about what I'm going to do. It just gets flat out exhausting. It really starts to affect your daily life. I have come to find out through President Eyring that its not for us to worry about what is going to happen. In Ecclesiastes 3:1 "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven" It's not for us to worry about it. Everything has its own time and season. It's important to live in the now and to plan for the now, it's good to have future plans but, we shouldn't let those future plans come in the way of what we are to do now. Right now, I'm in the school season with studying and I'm in the married season. The season where I will have my career will come and I have my trust in that.

I have not a clue what the future holds. President Eyring was right. I am keeping my eyes open and my heart open to the opportunities that come my way. To often people miss opportunities that come, because we get so focused on one sole plan that we miss things, myself included. I think that one of the definitions of success is the ability to make choices and to act on the unknown. I firmly believe Heavenly Father is the director of our lives, he gives us our agency to choose. He is always throwing opportunities our way, sometimes we miss them, we don't see them or we are just flat out afraid to do anything about the. As Christ said "Fear not" and as President Eyring said as long as we live the Gospel, stay close to the Lord, and be patient we will be led to know what we are to do.

We are not meant to fail in this life. Heavenly Father rejoices in our successes. He just asks of us to remember him. Follow His Son. For it's beautiful. The Gospel in it's simplicity is beautiful. Little does President Henry B. Eyring know how much that has meant to me, when he looked me in the eyes and said: "Ben, you don't know..." It was a door that opened for me in life, and I'm trying to apply it in my life and not worry what the future holds. For I know it will be beautiful and excellent as long as I'm faithful. I hope one day to tell President Eyring how much it helped me. Like they say Heavenly Father usually meets our needs through someone else.

I wanted to share this experience for anyone who is like me. Don't worry about the future. Don't let it get you down. Seek the Lord and remain in patience for doors will be opened and paths will be shown. I'm starting to see that. I'm started to see that the Lord is Captain of my ship. Just let go and Let God and remember "You don't know".

Monday, August 12, 2013

Overcome & Embrace

Lately, I have been thinking about this topic, its a topic that can very much be universal and something we all face in our lives. We face it in different stages and in different ways. It's the topic of being hard on yourself or beating yourself up, putting yourself down or however you want to call it. Being hard on yourself effects everyone at some point and in some way. For some, it can be severe and a constant feeling of being hard on yourself, that's how I was. For others, it may just be a fleeting thought that only lasts a little while. Whether its big or small, difficult or easy to deal with, it may be something we all face. It's something I have faced for the past few years.

About three and a half years ago, I made necessary changes in my life. I used the Atonement in such a strong way while working with my priesthood leaders. It was a hard and difficult change, but since that day that I was rescued by Christ, I started to become hard on myself. Any mistake that I made big or small I would deride myself. At times it would be hard to get over it. I was pretty ridiculous at times. Even when I was a missionary I struggled with it, some days were so tough because I would blame myself all the time. I remember in one of my areas, Valley Forge, PA., a trusted member of the Ward I was serving in and now a great friend, taught me something I have not forgotten and will never forget. He himself struggled with being hard on himself to the same degree I was. One night after my nightly prayers I texted him and asked: "How do you deal with being hard on yourself so easily? You seem to handle it perfectly. I'm struggling with it and need your advice." He texted me back and said: "Elder Carraway, I want you to get on your knees and ask Heavenly Father to see yourself through his eyes." So I got back on my knees and ask my father in heaven that question. Pleading that I would see what he sees when he looks at me. The answer didn't come all at once, but pieces at a time. Since that night I have asked Heavenly Father that same question and He has answered me and showed me what he sees when he looks at me. Its beautiful. What Heavenly Father sees us as and sees us becoming is remarkable!

Heavenly Father cares less about the mistakes we have made, what we have done or what we did not do. Heavenly Father cares more about where we are now and with his hand where we can end up. He sees the big picture, we see a small spec. If any of you reading this is struggling, I would ask you to do as was suggested to me. Pray to your Father in Heaven and ask to see yourself with his eyes, I promise, you'll be surprised with the results.

David O. McKay once said: “The greatest battles of life are fought out daily in the silent chambers of the soul.” Since going through this trial I have thought a lot about it and what I have learned. Though I don't struggle with it as much anymore, I do face a little of it day by day. But thinking about it realizing that life is a process. Making mistakes, even sinning, is part of that process. Cut yourself some slack and trust in God. Believe God when He tells you how good you are. He readily extends His forgiveness. You'll be surprised at how quickly He does forgive you.

Three things stick out to me that I've learned the most about this trial:
1. Shame is a tool of Satan. Satan is the master of disguise and wants to belittle us when we make mistakes. He tells us whenever we do wrong, "You are no good. Why even try. God wont accept you now." He seeks to destroy our happiness and darken our path of trying our best. I would always say, and I think a lot of us always say this when we mess up, "Well, I messed up. I wont do that again." -then you do it again." I cant believe I did that, I will never do it again." Boom, it happens again. Then you say: "I can't do this. This is so dumb." Then it happens again. You start to feel ashamed and that's the way Satan wants us to feel. Christ is the opposite, He wants us to be proud of our efforts but ultimately come unto him and take his hand. Don't be ashamed, don't let Satan tell you how you feel. Listen to the Spirit and trust in God.

2. Don't ever forget who you are when your trying to change. Who we are is essential to changing. The gospel doesn't change who we are, its changes what we are. I love the young woman saying: "We are daughters of our Heavenly Father, who loves us, and we love Him." I love that. I want to echo that, we are children of our Heavenly Father, He loves us! We are all created differently, we shouldn't let trials or circumstances change 'who' we are, they change the 'what' we are. Don't ever forget who you are! You and I are sons and daughters of God!
3. Just have faith in Christ and you can get through anything. "There is no obstacle too great, no challenge too difficult, that we cannot meet with faith." —Gordon B. Hinckley. Faith can pull us through anything. Faith is beautiful. No matter if it is just a "twig of faith" it can grow and get us through anything. One of my favorite verses in scripture is from Paul: "I can do all things through Christ which strengthenth me." (Phil 4:13) Having Faith in Christ and trusting in His ways is what helped me get through. It taught me that with faith anything and everything is possible. Nothing can be denied with Faith in Christ. 

I'm extremely grateful for what I've learned from this trial I have gone through. Wish I knew these things during the hardest times. I know God loves us and wont give us any challenge we cant handle. Heavenly Father is in our lives, ready to direct if we ask Him. "Our task is to become our best selves. One of God's greatest gifts to us is the joy of trying again, for no failure ever need be final." —Thomas S. Monson. No failure ever need to be final, don't be hard on yourself when mistakes happen or whatever may occur. Cut yourself some slack and trust in God. Get up and keep trying, don't ever quit. The Lord is always waiting in every storm we face, with open arms.

For questions or comments:

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Embrace The Change

Recently I have thought a lot about change. Its been a topic my fiance Al and I have discussed a lot in our long car drives is change, but change in regards to the Gospel. Change in the Gospel is something we hear a lot of, sometimes we embrace the change, but sometimes this kind of change is often ran from than actually embraced.

I came across this quote that puts change so simply. "We can have no progress without change, whether it be basketball or something else." -Coach John Wooden. In regards to the Gospel we can simply replace the word basketball with 'the Gospel'. We can have no progress without change, whether it be in the Gospel or something else.

About three years ago when I was becoming converted to the Gospel and applying the Atonement in my life, I had to change many things in my life. In all seriousness my lifestyle needed to change. I lost about 90% of my friends; habits and hobbies also had to change. But, it came step by step as I grew closer to the Lord and His Atonement. Change was so hard for me, I felt so alone during this time in my life. My wonderful Bishop at that time, who I was working with so closely told me: "Ben, since you have met with me, there will come a big change in your life in the next few months. You will lose friends, dates, etc. But know this..." and he gave a promise. "the Lord will bless you with better friends and better dates."

How right he was! After that day in March 2010 I started to change. Most of the time I didn't even notice the change that was happening within me. Its like I was given a new mindset, heart and attitude. Now, it reminds me of this scripture in Ezekiel: "A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh." (Ezekiel 36:26).

Change can be a lonely thing, change can be hard. But we shouldn't dwell on past mistakes. We shouldn't let mistakes keep us from changing. So what if you have sinned. Who hasn't. God cares more on where you are now than he does on where you have been and what you have done. He cares more about your future and with his help on what you can become. His help may and probably will require change. Don't run from it.What better help for change do we have, than Christ? His hand will always be there.

Don't fear change. Don't let friends, family, habits, lifestyles, etc., keep you from changing who you are meant to become. Becoming who Heavenly Father sees you as becoming. Even on my mission I worried about change, cause their was such a big emphasis on change. I was worried I would change for the wrong reason, I couldn't be the Ben Carraway I have been my whole life. It was hard to by myself, at times I was being someone I wasn't and it really bothered me. It came clear to me one day. The Gospel doesn't change who we are, it changes what we are. God has blessed us all and created us all completely different. With personalities, talents, looks, gifts, etc. That is who we are. He wants us to be 'who' we are. The what we are is what the Gospel changes, habits, lifestyles, etc. That is the only thing the Gospel changes.

Do not fear change. Do not doubt change. Do not worry and say: "man, I can't change and become converted in this Gospel. I will not be me anymore. I will become someone else." Or, "I can't change, if I change, I will lose all my friends." Don't shut out a reoccurring thought to change. Especially when you know you need to. I shut out that thought of changing my life for 3 years, until I was 18 almost 19 years old. But this change that came into my life has blessed me so much. I served a mission (never thought I would), & saw many people change on my mission. Now serving in the young men's presidency in my ward. And the biggest blessing of all, I'm being sealed in two months to my sweetheart Al Fox. All of those blessings and countless of others would not have happened if I didn't embrace change.

Be yourself, who you are does matter. Your talents, ideas and 'who' you are will make a difference and it will bless the lives of so many in this church and your life, if you just try. Don't run from change, embrace it. The Gospel doesn't change who we are, it changes the what we are. Change is beautiful. Just know, it is never to late to change. It is never to late to be what and who Heavenly Father sees you as becoming, no matter if you think you have failed and missed too many chances and opportunities to change. The Atonement will always be there for you. Christ will never be to far away for you to reach. I will end with this quote: "Don't wait until you are ready to die, to decide to live." - Pres. Dieter F. Uchtdorf.

Don't fear change. Embrace change.

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