It’s time to share this.
I started a journal entry nearly four years ago and finally got back to finishing it.
Notes from 2018:
Sometimes I feel that if I stop long enough to capture all my epiphanies, I’ll only have time to live HALF a life.
Lessons seem to come so rapidly, I seriously pray there is an angel scribe on the other side keeping track of it all, because of how often I feel unable to stop and describe what I’m learning. I also pray that I’ll be reminded of the details when I do finally have time to make the attempt.
This morning I felt prompted to do what I could to capture the lessons learned from the last 4-6 months. So here we go…
Last October, I accepted an opportunity to work as a weekly volunteer at the Gilbert Temple Baptistry. My shift was to be there and serve each Wednesday from 10:15 am-4:00 pm. My daughter had just left on her mission the month before, and with all of her preparatory medical attention and so forth behind us, I felt like I could take advantage of a new opportunity.
After having spent the previous year fully engrossed in her preparations and simultaneously working to build new momentum in my work, taking a day out of the middle of my week to stop, be still, and serve quietly for 6 hours was both a challenge and a blessing. It gave me an opportunity to think, ponder, and pray more deeply in one of the most inspiring, beautiful, and peaceful environments on the planet.
I discovered many times that the concerns or stresses I left behind to enter those doors were often resolved or diminished by the time I came out again. I also began to notice principles of ministering that I had not comprehended before, as I attended our weekly training. I was touched and impressed to learn that my job in the baptistry was to make sure the young people who came felt welcomed, loved, and appreciated, and especially, I was to avoid giving correction.
It seemed like a simple assignment, but contained within it was, to me, one of the greatest sermons ever preached:
Black woven ankle bracelet
I recall one Wednesday afternoon when a young woman came to the baptistry to stand in as a proxy for someone who passed away without the opportunity to be baptized. At the time I met the young visitor, she was frantically trying to remove a black woven bracelet from her ankle. She didn’t feel like she should participate in the sacred ordinance without first removing it, but it was tied too tight and I could see her anxiety rising. Remembering my training, I smiled and said, “It’s okay. You can do the work just as you are. We’re so grateful you’re here.” I LOVED that my training had instructed to assist the youth only with love, gratitude, encouragement, and kindness.
While it is better, of course, to perform sacred ordinances without distracting adornments, her ankle bracelet did not nullify the ordinance, and it was more important for that young girl to feel loved, welcomed, and appreciated. I didn’t need to correct or instruct her on how to be better prepared next time. By showing unconditional love and kindness, I felt assured that not only would she be more likely return, but that she would also be more naturally inclined to do what she could to prepare more fully in the future.
“People don’t resist change, they resist being changed.” ~ Bob Proctor
In other words, we often choose to change on our own when we are in an environment of unconditional love.
That experience caused me to reflect on my own life preparations. I imagined what it might be like to meet my Savior, Jesus Christ, and how it might feel, to suddenly be acutely aware of all MY imperfections, and yet hear him say, “It’s okay. I’m grateful for all you do, and I’m glad you’re here.” And without his condemnation, I would feel awe and appreciation for his mercy, and an increased desire to improve myself and extend the same kind of unconditional love, compassion, and mercy to others.
“For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” John 3:17
His love never excuses unholy behavior, and it doesn’t give us a pass to remain as we are. But through his unconditional love, when we really feel it, we can’t help but want to improve. It inspires us to change. It plants within us a craving to do whatever is necessary to know Him, and to qualify for all that He has for us. No other feeling compares, which is why you hear about people throughout history giving up everything to follow him. When someone is willing to make sacrifices to know Him, I believe it’s either because they have already tasted the pure love of Christ, or they intend to.
When we really feel His love, we feel compelled, completely willing to give away all of our vices, sins, opinions – in short, our will – to know Him, and to keep his Spirit with us. One taste of his unconditional love, and our loyalty and trust shifts, our hearts are made new, and we are changed forever, like Jean Valjean experienced with the priest in Les Miserables.
For me, I felt it in a dream when I was about 15. In my dream I was at a fireside (devotional meeting) where a panel of visitors was brought in to speak to us. There was a young boy among them, and he (at least) was from the other side – from heaven. No big deal. He kind of had the appearance of a boy from a Charles Dickens book. I don’t remember anything about the meeting itself, but after it was over, I approached the boy and asked what he remembered most about heaven. He looked at me and simply said, “The Love of God”. And when he said those words, the love itself filled me up and I awoke, weeping. The feeling was so real and profound, it changed me.
How I want to feel when Christ returns
I compared that to another dream I had around the same time, where I was at a water park with friends and looked up and saw storm clouds gathering and rolling together rapidly. Suddenly I saw the Lord far away in the center of the vaporous commotion, descending with his arms outstretched. In that experience, I felt horror – a sudden and sober realization that THIS WAS IT, and I was not prepared!! The feeling from that dream caused me grief and dread, and I determined that I did NOT want to feel that way when He returned.
It was much to ponder, and shaped many of my decisions going forward. I knew what it felt like to taste the Love of God, and I knew what the horror of unpreparedness felt like, too. I wanted to live my life so that I would feel only LOVE when my mortal test was over.
I’m sorry this is all that I am
It reminds me of a time when I was a young mother of three, overwhelmed and discouraged by my failure to create a house of order and a life of progress. I remember falling to my knees, not in a spirit of repentance but in a spirit of giving up. My defeated cry, after deciding it was impossible to be the person I wanted to be, was, “I’m so sorry that this is all that I am.” It was over. I felt that this mess of a person I was, was all I would ever be.
It was amazing, the shock I experienced almost immediately when I felt heaven SMILING at me, as the words filled my mind, “Finally! You recognize your dependence on ME. Now I can work with you!!”
What? You mean you’re not mad?
Christ said, “I am MEEK and LOWLY of heart.” As opposed to what? Angry and critical?
Wow. I guess so.
Love at home
And, as I thought about my experiences at the temple, I began to imagine how much happier my family life could be if I brought that culture of appreciation, patience, love, and kindness home with me. What growth could occur within each of the members of my family when impatience and criticism are completely avoided? How might hearts change if love was the dominating feeling in the home? What if commands could be turned into invitations, and expressions of disappointment could be turned into gratitude for the growth that has already been realized?
Any fear I had that our children might make worse choices if they were not corrected began to melt away. What if we just loved and appreciated them, just the way they were? Might the Spirit teach them directly what they need to do to improve? And might they feel more ready and secure to make those changes, when feelings of external expectations are not more prominent than the feeling of being cherished and appreciated?
If Christ was the example, then this approach is worth a try. Not to say that there are not times for righteous indignation, for even He had those moments. But they are more rare than common. It is to carry out the responsibility of parenthood with meekness.
David A. Bednar defines meekness this way:
- Meekness is strong, not weak
- Active, not passive
- Restrained, not excessive
- Modest, not self-aggrandizing
- Gracious, not brash
- Not easily provoked, pretentious, or overbearing
- Readily acknowledges the accomplishments of others
The promise is that the Lord will “guide, protect and strengthen us as we walk in the meekness of his Spirit;” (David A. Bednar) and by extension, I believe that our children can also be guided, protected, and strengthened as we demonstrate meekness in those relationships. It’s still not 100% natural. I have to remember the beatitude: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
As Neal A. Maxwell pointed out, Moroni warned, “none is acceptable before God, save the meek and lowly in heart.” (Moro. 7:43–44.)
He adds, “If we could but believe, really believe, in the reality of that bold but accurate declaration, you and I would find ourselves focusing on the crucial rather than the marginal tasks in life!”
For me, that was one major lesson of 2018.
What do I want to be when I grow up?
In short, this experience working at the temple enriched my life, and opened up a new sense of peace and freedom to love and enjoy my family more deeply. It got me thinking about how rewarding it has been to submit to a simple, sometimes mundane, quiet service opportunity. It has been in these very small, subtle experiences that I’ve been discovering giant rewards, and I’ve come to the conclusion that some of the greatest rewards can only be found in simple ways.
So what else might I do with my life, I wondered, to unlock even more of these hidden treasures of wisdom and fulfilment? What else could I submit to, to enjoy some of the sweetest rewards life has to offer?
What came to mind was this: what if next year, when all my children are at the high school campus (for 7-12 grades), I were to get a job as an office lady? Sure, I’ve got my books and my blog and all, but what if I stopped working on all that and did something totally different? What if I picked up a job where I could see my kids in the halls every day, to build relationships with their friends, and show them the kind of love and support I learned to have for the youth who visited the temple every Wednesday?
The more I thought of it, the more excited I got. It had been kind of refreshing over the last year to take a day each week to just do whatever I was instructed to do. To NOT have to think, or create, or market my wares, but to simply follow someone else’s instructions day in and day out, applying myself to the work joyfully, and serving with a heart full of love for God and my fellow men.
It sounded perfect. I actually let myself imagine it thoroughly, and check in with how it could feel.
Within two months I even got a phone call from someone who asked if I would like to take an office position that had just opened up at one of the other campuses. I hadn’t even submitted an application.
(I HAD casually mentioned what I was thinking to a friend of mine, who, unbeknownst to me, had told someone else, who arranged for the phone call.)
Suddenly the possibility became very real. The opportunity was showing up a year sooner than I expected, and it wasn’t at the location I had imagined, but what if I took it? I ran the numbers and got really serious about what the job would entail, and what sacrifices I might need to make in order to accept the position.
- It would be full time, a good 40 hours a week.
- I would need to cancel all of my events already scheduled for the coming year.
- I would need to ask permission any time I needed time off for my business or my family.
- It would pay in one month what I sometimes make in a day.
- It would likely not be the same kind of environment I enjoyed every week at the temple.
- I would have to quit my weekly temple assignment.
- I would have to keep up on my business in the remaining hours of the day after work.
- And this one struck me the most: Is this the life I worked 20+ years to build for my family?
The conclusion I came to was this:
I CAN do it if I want to. I have that choice.
But what a colossal waste of the gifts, knowledge, work, and talents the Lord has bless me with through all my trials… and for what? To hold a position that someone else could fill, just because I think it might be fun to try something new, something that doesn’t require my leadership, thinking, or any of the other skills I’ve spent the last two decades developing?
I feared that if I squandered what the Lord has given me, it might be taken away forever. What if I forgot all I learned, because I didn’t feel like applying myself to it any more? What if everything we had built was allowed to evaporate, just because I was kind of wanting to stop tending it?
We had been through too much, and I had learned too many powerful things, to not continue on the path of sharing what we’d learned far and as wide.
Choosing my Master
Part of my motivation for considering a job like that was because, over the years, I had battled with the pull between work and family. Helping clients, vs. serving my children. Making a paycheck, vs. giving myself to causes. I’ve spoken about balance, and the myth that it is. I’ve swung between the two worlds, bending back and forth so much I sometimes thought I might break. Both seemed to be worthy causes. Both needed me in ways that could not be delegated. I lived in overwhelm for many years wondering how I would possibly do it all.
So, I thought, maybe if I get a regular job where I don’t have to think so hard, I could be a better mom. Makes sense, right?
But it had me wondering:
What IS my mission?
Is it to be the wife and mother I always dreamed of being, or is it to be a teacher of true principles that helps other wives, husbands, mothers, and fathers around the world? Should I take up an occupation where I might have the mental bandwidth at the end of the day to be more fully present with my family? Or, should I continue in my own work and business, and hope that God will hold my family together despite me?
Eventually, it hit me.
I don’t know why it took me two decades to see it, but this wrestle between the two worlds, the two paths, or options, literally melted away as I came to a new thought altogether:
I had already come to the conclusion that I needed to stick with my own work and business rather than pursue the job as an office lady. But the wrestle between motherhood and business was still there. Until I realized that I wasn’t serving two masters (family and work), I was really only serving ONE Master:
Serving God and letting Him be my master means that I serve HIM by assisting whoever needs me in any given moment. Sometimes it’s a family member, sometimes it’s a client. But in every case, it’s really God that I serve.
When I wake up in the morning, serving Him looks like providing my daughter a breakfast shake and a ride to school. Later, it looks like responding to a customer who needs help accessing his online lessons. After that, it might be helping a woman from church get her car home from the shop. It’s teaching classes, writing newsletters. It’s making dinner and doing laundry. It’s traveling to conferences, and smiling at the grocery store clerk. It’s writing books and buying school supplies. I’m not juggling multiple things, I’m only doing ONE thing: and that is serving God.
Suddenly it all seemed so simple. I no longer have to feel pulled between multiple worlds. I realized that if I wake up to simply serve God, then every activity – home, work, church, marriage, community – all of it – is only ONE work, for ONE Master.
God vs. Mammon
If you work for the purpose of getting a paycheck, you serve mammon. But if you work to serve God and his children, then no matter what that work is (driving Uber, being an architect, selling tamales, it doesn’t matter – all work is designed to help others in one way or another) – if you do that work with a servant’s heart, giving your best to whoever you’re working with at the time – then you really only have ONE Master, and that internal wrestle evaporates.
This is Operating in God’s Economy, trusting Him to pay you through your employer as you serve his children (your clients, customers, co-workers, and superiors) with generosity and integrity. Consider it, and your confidence will grow as you begin to test and practice losing your life in the service of others in whatever you’re doing. Just be 100% with whatever you’re doing and with whomever you’re serving in the moment, and you’ll find that God makes a way for you to have the time you need to do it all.