Friday, December 12, 2014

Advice to Myself

For the past few months, I have served as the president of the women's organization in our congregation. I watch over roughly 200 women. Many of these women remain a mystery to me, names on the rolls but unresponsive to our efforts to reach out to them. Others are women I love, women I have counted as close friends for years and with whom I have served and laughed, worshipped and wept.

Somewhat of a recluse by nature, I appreciate that this calling forces me to seek out other women, moving beyond the comfortable routine of my life and away from my favorite spot on the back row. Often, I am privy to both the minutiae and the momentous in the lives of my sisters, feebly offering counsel when they request it, as if by virtue of my office I have somehow stumbled upon a store of wisdom previously beyond my reach. I observe as they offer service to one another and as they discover their own talents and power in that service. Those moments inspire me.

There are other moments, too, when I walk into the darker valleys with these women. Because I work with the bishop of our congregation in order to lift the families and the women we serve, I learn much about their struggles. And herein lies today's dilemma. Perhaps the grey clouds this week have filtered my vision, but I begin to see primarily pain and illness, disappointment and sadness in the world around me. Jobs refuse to materialize, bank accounts fail to balance, illness stubbornly clings to those who are weary of its presence, children flail against the enormity of all that life expects of them, parents and friends stand by helpless. And I, it seems, have nothing to give them. I offer an ear or a prayer but little of any tangible value.

At the same time, my perspective shifts, and I have yet to determine if the shift is a positive one. Like those I serve, I chafe at a reality that often fails to match up to my expectations. I want to live within my means. I want to eat more responsibly. I want to reach toward my potential and achieve something wonderful, instead of slogging through each day just to accomplish a couple of the "must dos" on my checklist. But as I look around me, I begin to tell myself that to dream about that potential is foolhardy. I have a good life, a wonderful family, so many blessings that others will never have. To want more, to expect more, out of life would be ungrateful, perhaps even unkind, and certainly selfish.

At times like these grey days, I find I have to give myself the same advice I would give anyone else:

  1. Keep dreaming. Dream big and don't apologize for it. Be willing to sacrifice lesser things for your dreams. Family and faith are not lesser things.
  2. If something about your body bothers you, you probably already know what you need to do about it. Stop making excuses and do it! If there is something beyond your ability to fix, learn to love it.
  3. Illness happens. Depression happens. To everyone. Remember that God gets it, that He knows exactly how you feel and that He cares. He may not take the burden away, but He can make you strong enough to bear it, and He will truly help you to shoulder the load. Remember that others also struggle under burdens of physical and emotional illness. Reach out to them with the empathy your struggles have given you. That empathy is a gift to be used.
  4. Love those around you. Truly love them. Remember that God loves them way more than you do, and that He will watch over them just as He watches over you. You do not have the responsibility or usually the capability to solve their problems. That's OK. Just be there for them when you can and pray for them when you cannot.
  5. Ask for miracles. Expect them. Understand that they may not appear exactly according to your design or in your timetable, but know that the miracles will come and in a way and a time that are best suited for you. Look for them and express gratitude for each and every miracle you see.
  6. If you are trying your best to do the right thing, to be in tune with the Spirit, to find the path God wants you to be on, then keep moving forward. It will all work out, even though right now you walk through a fog.

5 comments:

  1. I find that the advice we give ourselves is very unique. You are simultaneously unafraid of your compassion and unabashedly blunt. This is emphasized by your use of the phrases, "Stop making excuses and do it!" as well as "Reach out to them with the empathy your struggles have given you."
    When I struggle, I try to remind myself, "This life is a unique adventure. Pain and struggles are a unique adventure. There will come a time when the adventure ends, and I will not be capable of experiencing them again." Although this kind of advice motivates me to have a better attitude, I almost never bring the idea up to other people. Perhaps it would be insensitive to see someone suffering and say, "Isn't it exciting?" So, I don't go down that road... after all, I'm not always able to take that kind of advice from myself, so why should I expect someone else would be able to. I might go so far as to say that my advice to myself requires a timing and precision that only I (as an internal observer) am able to achieve.
    Still, it is refreshing to see the advice that you give yourself. There's something honest about it; something hopeful; something understanding. Also, something expectant - if anybody can have expectations for you, it's you.
    Very nice post.

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    1. Jacob, I love the idea of thinking about trials as an adventure! I'm sure that wouldn't always be easy advice to hear, but it's a fabulous way of looking at things. Thank you for your insights.

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  2. When I filled that calling a few years ago, I learned so much from it; mostly how much I didn't know yet. One of those things was how much I could love those women and how much their trials affected me. You truly get to walk through the grey days along with them. It's a big load sometimes, but looking back at it, I know I'm a much better person because of it. And at times I miss it. Love you, cousin.

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