So, the holidays have come and gone, most of the time spent in our new house. I love my new house, it’s big and old and full of character, and at least so far doesn’t seem to be haunted. My baby girl turned a year old the week after we moved which was hard to believe. Now she’s a full fledged toddler running around trying to get into all sorts of trouble. My older daughter is hitting puberty and all the glorious hormones that entails and is depressed about her new school and not seeing her friends everyday. My son seems to have adjusted well to his new school and is doing well in it.
At church we haven’t been as active as we should be, in fact we went 6 weeks without making it, yikes! Then I got called to give a talk in Sacrament meeting, even scarier! It was on the topic of taking inventory of my life with my Heavenly Father. I struggled with it for awhile, but finally came up with something that came in right at the 15 minute mark when practicing. Honestly I think it’s the best talk I’ve written for church. But it was very hard to give. It was full of personal things, shortcomings I guess you could say. I got a lot of compliments on it though. Had some people say I was too hard on myself, others said I could’ve been talking about them. So, it made me feel better, like maybe we are all in the same boat, trying to live as well as we can and all falling way short of the perfection we desire. One of my closest friends from church sent me a message later that totally made me cry, she said more nice things about me than I think anyone has ever said. And to me, she’s all those things and more, so to know that she feels that way about me touched me immensely. Heck, I get teary eyed just thinking about it. Then, another friend said that they used it in their lesson later that week they thought it was so good. I’m like really? Something I wrote? So, I’ve decided to post it here. I figure it is something that I worked hard on and am proud of, and also something that I think is beneficial to people, especially church members, to read. Not that it’s perfect or anything, but it’s me and my feelings, raw for the whole world to see. So, here it is:
Sacrament Talk 1/8/12
Taking Inventory of Where We Are
When Brother Knapp called me last weekend and asked me to give a talk today I immediately thought “why me?” Being shy, I hate getting up in front of people and the nerves kicked in right away. Then he gave me the topics and I knew why it was he had called me. Taking inventory of where I am is exactly what I’ve been needing to do and this forced me to actually sit down and do it. I haven’t been as active as I should be, in fact, I was a little surprised when I heard that we were on the Missionaries inactive list. So my husband and I talked about the things we needed to start doing, like attending church, paying our tithing in a timely manner, and saying prayer as a couple before bed, to name a few. I’ve also been thinking about the things I need to work on for myself. Things like magnify my callings, scripture study, and to not be idle with my time. That last one is a hard one for me because there are things that I enjoy that really don’t enrich my life any, like television and games.
President Thomas S. Monson said in the November 1979 New Era that “It has been said by one, years ago, that history turns on small hinges, and so do people’s lives. Our lives will depend upon the decisions which we make—for decisions determine destiny.” I came across this quote at the end of an article in the December 2011 Ensign by Adam C. Olson and it rang so true to me. My attendance at church has not been very regular over the past year, but it wasn’t exactly a conscious decision that I made saying “I’m not going to go to church as often”. It happened due to small decisions. Saying “I don’t feel good this week and I’m really tired, we’ll go next week instead. Or I don’t want to go by myself, or we don’t get much time together as a family, so let’s stay home and spend more time together.” We always tell ourselves that there’s always next week. Well, then before we know it, 6 weeks have gone by and we haven’t made it to church. So we make the effort and go the following week, only to come up with excuses for the weeks following. When we come, we always talk about how good it felt to be here, and how we feel that our spirits have been fed and we need to be here every week. But it’s like once you start missing, it seems to get easier and easier to stay home, and harder and harder to show up. Then, when you do, you feel guilty for all the weeks that you have missed. So, all these little choices we make, add up to us not doing the things we need to.
The worst part is that these choices don’t just affect myself, they affect my whole family. My heart broke one night when I was talking with the kids about us needing to go to church more and my daughter told me that church is one of the few places she feels happy now that she had to switch schools. And yet, we still don’t make it every week! This is something that I need to change and I need to change it now. I know that it is important that we attend church each week to set an example for them. Being someone who grew up, rarely (as in I can recall attending fewer than 5 Sunday church services from a total of 3 different churches) I know how important it is to give children a strong foundation to build their own relationship with Heavenly Father upon. If I had been given that, then I might have made some better choices as a young adult. Thankfully I have learned about the Plan of Salvation and have the opportunity for forgiveness. For it states in Moroni 6:8 But as oft as they repented and sought forgiveness, with real intent, they were forgiven. This scripture gives me hope that through making better choices I can turn things around and get back on the right path.
Tithing is another duty that we need to improve on. I carry envelopes with me, some filled out with checks in them, but I forget to give them to anyone. I need to start mailing them to make sure that they get where they need to be. They’re sure not doing anyone any good in my purse. With it being a new year, that is one of the items at the top of my list to improve on, so that I won’t feel ashamed about it any more. It’s also important for us to show the kids a good example by being full tithe payers so that we can go to the Temple. Especially as Dannielle turns 12 and will be able to go to the Temple with the youth. I want to feel like I can go in there with her and her brother and share in that wonderful experience. I look forward to this new year and the blessings that will come as we follow the law of tithing.
The third thing my husband and I have started working on together is saying prayer as a couple. I know how important it is to a relationship to kneel down in prayer together. But due to our different work schedules and going to bed at different times we had gotten lax in saying it every night. I can remember when we were dating long distance, we would take turns saying prayer over the phone each night. Then after we were married it always felt so good to kneel down beside him at night and pray together. I know it brought us closer to each other and to Heavenly Father. Elder Joe J. Christensen wrote the following in an article I found. He said “And so the need to pray. Many Church leaders and marriage counselors indicate that they have not seen one marriage in serious trouble where the couple was still praying together daily. When problems arise and marriages are threatened, praying together as a couple may be the most important remedy”. That last line really struck me. Sometimes if I’m upset, the last thing I want to do is kneel down beside the person who has upset me and pray. Probably because I know it will be hard to stay upset after that. But reading this article made me think that it is exactly what we need to do each and every night to strengthen our relationship and ensure that we are united. I’m glad that my husband and I have been working on making praying together a priority. I can feel us grow closer each time we do, and the lines of communication between us open up more. Sometimes it’s almost easier to broach something on my mind by praying out loud about it, which then gives an opening for us to discuss it. It also helps me think about my own personal prayers more and have them not be so routine. We do say prayer as a family each night with the kids and I know that helps them. I can tell by what they pray for at times that it is a necessary thing for them to have the comfort and blessings of family prayer.
A big thing that I need to work on myself is to magnify all of my callings. I am thankful for callings in the church. It is one of the things that helps us to stand out from other churches and religions. It also gives us the opportunity to serve one another in a variety of ways. I admit that there have been times when I’ve been frustrated with some of my callings, but I try to remind myself that I have been called by Heavenly Father into these positions. They might not always be positions that I’ve wanted or felt that I was qualified for, but the decision to call me to them was not for me to make. President J. Reuben Clark, Jr, of the First Presidency taught “In the service of the Lord, it is not where you serve but how. In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, one takes the place to which one is duly called, which place one neither seeks nor declines.” When I was taking the discussions from the Missionaries, I remember Elder Hallgren talking to me about callings, and telling me how they come from Heavenly Father and so refusing a calling would be the same as refusing it from Heavenly Father. That stuck with me. I found an article relating this story told by President Packer about a calling that was presented by President Henry D. Moyle of the First Presidency to a man to preside over one of the missions of the Church. President Moyle said to the man, “We don’t want to rush you into this decision. Would you call me in a day or two, as soon as you are able to make a determination as to your feelings concerning this call?” “The man looked at his wife and she looked at him, and without saying a word there was that silent conversation between husband and wife, and that gentle almost imperceptible nod. He turned back to President Moyle and said, ‘Well, President, what is there to say. What could we tell you in a few days that we couldn’t tell you now? We have been called. What answer is there? Of course we will respond to the call.’
What an awesome example of willingness to serve. Not to mention unity in marriage. To be able to just look at one another and know the answer without needing to discuss it or being afraid of the other not being supportive is a prime example of what a marriage should be. We should support one another in our callings. Without that support, then it becomes more difficult to fulfill them. In the Book of Mormon the Prophet Jacob gave us one of the most important references to magnifying our callings in Jacob 1:19 where it says “We did magnify our office unto the Lord”. Many of us have struggled to understand what it means to magnify our callings. President Thomas S. Monson said:
“What does it mean to magnify a calling? It means to build it up in dignity and importance, to make it honorable and commendable in the eyes of all men, to enlarge and strengthen it to let the light of heaven shine through it to the view of other men. And how does one magnify a calling? Simply by performing the service that pertains to it.” I’m learning that you need to not only perform it, you need to perform it willingly and happily. Not look at it as something that needs to be done, rather as a service that you are happy to perform for your Heavenly Father. President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency taught how to receive guidance in our callings:
“With your call come great promises. One of those promises is … that the Lord will guide you by revelation just as He called you. You must ask in faith for revelation to know what you are to do. With your call comes the promise that answers will come. But that guidance will come only when the Lord is sure you will obey. To know His will you must be committed to do it. The words ‘Thy will be done,’ written in the heart, are the window of revelation.”
Another area that I struggle with is scripture study. I know that it’s important and that it teaches us about the savior and our Heavenly Father and that by doing it I will grow closer to them and be able to more freely feel the guidance of the Holy Spirit. And I’ll do well with it for awhile. But then I get to bed late and think, well one night won’t hurt, or if I do try to read I don’t comprehend any of what I read due to how tired I am. President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency shared some insights into what makes successful scripture study in the July 2005 Ensign. He said “The only way you can be sure that a busy schedule doesn’t crowd out scripture study is to establish a regular time to study the scriptures. I have found that the beginning of the day and the end of the day are mine. Those are times I can usually control. So my pattern since I was a boy has been to read my scriptures at the beginning and end of the day. I read the Book of Mormon many times before I was 18 because of that pattern.
When I am in situations where I break out of the pattern, it’s hard on me. Once you get used to regular scripture study, you miss it if you don’t have it. It’s like food—you have to have it. I know that I need the scriptures like I need food. I don’t miss a regular meal, and I don’t miss regular scripture study.” I plan on using his example, and setting aside time each day to study the scriptures, not just read them, but really study them. I have been doing better lately. I always look forward to the New Year and getting into a routine of things, so now is the perfect time for me to include scripture study in my daily routine. And I also need to include the kids in daily scripture study. I hate how I’ve let life get in the way of the important things we should be doing, so I’m working on setting aside time so that we don’t let things interfere with our progress any more.
The last thing I thought of while looking into my personal relationship with Heavenly Father is my idleness. D&C 88:124 tells us to “cease to be idle”. Idle may mean to be still, but as Ian S. Arden of the Seventy said in his Conference address last October, “The poor use of time is a close cousin of idleness.” He also said “With the demands made of us, we must learn to prioritize our choices to match our goals or risk being exposed to the winds of procrastination and being blown from one time-wasting activity to another. We are well taught about priorities by the Master Teacher when He declared in His Sermon on the Mount, “Wherefore, seek not the things of this world but seek ye first to build up the kingdom of God, and to establish his righteousness.” Some days it seems that’s exactly how I spend my time, one time-wasting activity followed by another. I do believe that we need to be able to do things we enjoy, but we also need to do things that serve the Lord, our families, and each other. Where we get into trouble is when we get sucked in by addictive activities that then take the focus of all available time. So, as I work on the other changes I’m making in my life, I believe I’ll have less time available to spend wastefully or idly. My focus will be on living in a way that draws me closer to Heavenly Father rather than pushing him away. If we spend all of our time watching television or playing games or looking at Facebook, then we close the door on the Holy Ghost and push it out of our lives. There are better uses of such time. Like reading scriptures, visiting family and friends, doing acts of service for one another, doing our Visiting and Home Teaching, fulfilling our callings, and developing our talents. Heavenly Father gave each of us talents to use, so we should put them to use and build upon them rather than have them waste away.
As I have spent time taking inventory on where I am with my Heavenly Father I’ve had to take a close look at different aspects of my life. While in some areas I felt strong, there were several as I’ve discussed today that I found myself lacking in. I’ve made a promise to myself and my Heavenly Father to strive to correct what I can and do what I need to do to strengthen my faith and testimony and live in a way that is pleasing to the Lord. I’ve set new priorities for this New Year and have already started making changes in some areas to be sure that I will be a better follower of His church, a better wife to my husband who I love dearly, a better mother to my 3 beautiful children, and a better friend. I testify that I know that this is the Lord’s church, that the doctrine we teach is true and that by following the commandments and living in a way pleasing unto God that we will draw closer to him and gain blessings and happiness more than we can imagine. I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.