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.

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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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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Catch the Wave

The missionary age change made some eight months ago, has caused a lot of excitement in the church and HUGE growth in missionary-work. 18 is the new 19 in the church and 19 is the new 21 for sisters. Serving a mission has become more popular than perhaps ever before. To serve or not to serve is the question? I would like to share my personal experience of going on a mission. But, mainly of how I got there. To hopefully reach out to those on missions, going on missions or most importantly for those who feel they don't want to go, or are confused if they should or not. That's how I was.

As a eight year old kid in primary you sing the famous song: "I hope they call me on a mission". But, for me I never thought I would ever serve a mission. I didn't have any role models of missionaries. No one in my families history ever served a mission. Both my parents are converts and got baptized in 1986 in North Carolina. I didn't truly know what a mission was. I thought all missionaries did was knock on doors all day. I don't remember ever saying growing up "I'm going on a mission." Just wasn't something I wanted to do. I had other dreams and desires that really blinded my thought of ever going on a mission.

My goal from when I was a little boy, was sports! I literally thought I was going to be the next Michael Jordan. Well to my surprise, it didn't happen. I had other things placed before my faith and Heavenly Father, worldly things. To simply put it, my life wasn't where it needed to be. At times I was in situations that could have been avoided and mistakes were made. 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. The guilt and pain is hard to face, so a lot of times you just feel like giving up. "No hope for me, I've made these mistakes over and over again. Why should I even try? the expectations of living is just too high. I'm done". I thought those things all the time.

The thought of seeing a Bishop is scary. We tend to just avoid it. "I cant see my Bishop. He knows me too well. I will lose his trust. He will look down on me and tell everyone. I cant tell him. I'll just stop and change it on my own." I really tried to turn my life around by myself and each time I did, my hole kept getting deeper and deeper until it was dark and there was no light. We can't do it by ourselves. It can come to a point where our holes are so deep that we become lost in the dark, its lonely and cold. But one comes beckoning to us: "Come unto me. Come home." That's Jesus Christ. He is the light. The only one that can pull us out of our dark holes and pierce the darkness in our lives. My opinion is that God cares more about the future of your life, than he does about your past. He wants to forgive you and for you to forgive yourself.

When Christ came into my life, I was in that dark hole, lonely, depressed, felt like giving up, all my dreams and desires I had growing up didn't happen. Even my track and field scholarship fell through. But he led me to the Book of Mormon. Where for the first time I read its pages cover to cover. Reading 1Nephi 10:18-22 changed my life. I will never forget that feeling. I wanted to read more, but I couldn't read anymore. Because, those verses gave me the answer that it was True and that I needed to change. Which change led me to meet with my Bishop. It can be a daunting task to talk to a Bishop and/or a Stake President. But, Bishops are set apart for that reason of helping you and I find and receive forgiveness. They won't look down upon you, or tell you "well, its over for you. You messed up this time." instead, they will prescribe you a plan, for you to become better.

I came to find out and it wasn't til I was on my mission that God loves us so much. God loves us enough to hurt us, to put us on the right path. He did that for me. No wonder all my dreams and goals never happened. No wonder I wasn't the next Michael Jordan. It wasn't what God wanted me to be. Wasn't what he wanted for me. Don't give up, don't lose hope. If you fall down, even if its over and over and over again. Just get up, dust yourself off and keep pressing on. Don't let a past mistake keep you from happiness. Don't let your past keep you from your future. It can be bright and full of light. Leave the past behind you.

To all those young men who feel like, "I cant serve a mission. I've made some big mistakes. I'm to unworthy to go." I was there. Don't lose hope. There is absolutely nothing that you could have done that is outside the healing powers of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. You can be forgiven. To those who feel like they don't want to go. I've been there too. Their is nothing in this life that can be greater for you than to serve a mission. I wouldn't trade anything for my mission. Even if the NBA came knocking at my door, I would serve a mission before choosing that. For those who are unsure about a mission or not. I would say Pray and ask God if you should and trust his answer, don't be afraid if its yes, just Trust God. A member in my ward always told us young men, that their are three things that keep a young man from going on a mission.
They are:
  1. Girls
  2. Girls 
  3. Girls 
But hey, all the girls are going on missions now anyways. So they are not going anywhere! There are people around the world waiting for your heart, for your testimony that only you can bring them on your mission. People God has prepared for you to touch and bless on your mission. They're waiting for you. Go for it. Catch the wave!
Pic from my mission. Baptizing in the historic Susquehanna River

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