In which President Monson turned my stressful week around

Gas-CanIt’s early in the morning and I can’t sleep very well. I think I have Back-to-school jitters because it’s the first day of classes at BYU today. I get to teach two sections of Teachings of the Living Prophets and I’m so excited about that, but there’s always some anticipation and restlessness when it begins. As I lay in bed sleepless, I recalled an experience I had a couple weeks ago and felt like I should write it down before all the details elude me. I thought I should write it in my journal or something, but then I remembered I don’t have a journal. (I know, for shame.) Plus, the combination of my paltry blogging habits and the death of Google Reader in July has pretty much left me with a dozen readers who drop in occasionally to browse my archives. So to the few of you and my posterity when this blog eventually gets printed out in a pseudo-journal, here’s my story. It’s a cool one.

I taught at Education Week this year at BYU and it was a beautiful experience. Stressful, to be sure, but it stretched me in some important ways and reminded me how Heavenly Father can step in and do great things when we remember how much we need Him. On day two of teaching, I was still juggling all my preparation and nerves with all the responsibilities of getting my kids settled in to their first week of school. I was feeling overwhelmed but trying my best. I dropped them off at school, late again. Two for two so far. My gas light was on in the car and I had some serious doubts about whether I would make it to the school and back before I could hit the gas station. I rolled in on fumes and filled up and then headed to Provo, but even more behind schedule. I was just kind of in a wound-up state and my mind was busy with the frustrations and the obligations.

On my way down State Street, I moved into the left lane to turn towards Provo. On the right side of the road, I saw a man walking through the gas station parking lot with a gas can in his hand. Something about the way he was carrying himself made me think he had the weight of the world on his shoulders. My brain said, “you should go help that guy.” Now let me flash back a couple weeks when I was walking with my good friend and mentioned to her that one of the frustrating things about the world we live in is that sometimes it feels too dangerous to help people, especially as a woman. I might be driving along with my kids and see a man struggling in the rain, but the part of me who watches the news and wants to live says it’s just not wise for me to offer him a hand. The age of lodging strangers and picking up hitchhikers is past, you know. So when my brain told me to help him, I started rationalizing why that wouldn’t be a good idea. But the thought/feeling (let’s call a spade a spade: it was a prompting) came back, I felt a reassurance that it was okay and I would be safe. So I crossed the three lanes of traffic, pulled my car around into the parking lot, and pulled up to the surprised young man, now seated dejectedly on the grass by the road.

I rolled down my window. “Do you need any help?”

He just looked at me with some confusion, and mumbled, “No. I’m fine.” He was dressed in a mechanic’s jumpsuit and I’m guessing he was in his mid-twenties. He struck me as shy or soft-spoken.

“Are you sure?,” I asked. “You have a gas can in your hand. Do you need some gas?”

Still looking down, he shook his head no, and then said, “Well, I do, but I don’t have any money.”

Relieved that this was a very fixable problem, I told him, “Let me get you some gas.” He looked up with disbelief. “What?”

“Come on over to the pump and let me get you some gas. Meet me over there.” I pulled the car around. I watched him walk over to meet me, but he was incredulous. “Are you sure about this?” “Of course,” and I swiped my debit card and handed him the pump, “Here. Fill it all the way up.” He bent down to the ground and sat silently while the empty can took a drink. In my mind, I wished I had some cash to offer him so he could fill up his tank once he got back to the car, but I didn’t. I never have cash; I’m a mess. As he finished up, I heard myself offer him a ride to his car, but he declined. He screwed on the lid, and still without looking up, he said, “Thanks.”

“You’re welcome,” I said, “God told me stop, so He must have been thinking about you.” It just came out like that. There was a long pause, and then he spoke up, “Can I ask you a question?” Of course.

I don’t know what I expected him to say. Maybe “Did God really ask you to stop?” or “Why would you do that?,” but his actual question took me by surprise.

He asked quietly, “Do you think people can change?”

“Absolutely.”

Another pause. “Okay. Thanks.”

“You’re welcome.” And with that, he carried his gas can back across the parking lot, and I turned to my car. As I walked around the back and climbed into the driver’s seat, I felt the Spirit wash over me and I just knew I’d done something important. I climbed in, shut the door, and thought to myself, “Whoa. I just had a President Monson moment!”

You know how he’s always telling stories of doing and saying small things and being in the right place at the right time and how he learned to “never delay a prompting”? Well, I’ve had several simple experiences with that principle, but this was the clincher for me. I felt so . . . grateful, honored that Heavenly Father would use me as an instrument in that moment. I loved Him and I loved that man, and I could just feel God’s love all over myself. It was awesome.

The rest of the drive to campus was a totally different mindset. No more stress. No more worrying about my schedule. No more frustration. Just gratitude.

Since I was late and had already missed the first class I had planned to attend, I hurried to campus and went straight to the classroom I thought I wanted next. Once it got going, I realized that this wasn’t my intended class, but decided to just sit it out and see how it went. Part way through her class, the teacher mentioned, “Today is President Monson’s birthday.” Really? Whoa. I had no idea. And then she said, “This is how we are going to celebrate.” A few years ago, a reporter had asked President Monson what he wanted for his eightieth birthday from the members of the church. Her power point put this quote up on the screen.

“Find someone who is having a hard time or is ill or lonely, and do something for him or her.”

I don’t think my gas station experience was a coincidence. It was a way for me to unknowingly honor President Monson on his birthday and gain a testimony of his prophetic influence and the power behind his sometimes simple counsel.

Happy birthday, indeed, President Monson, and thank you for reminding a stressed-out mom what really matters.

GCBC Week 19: ” First Observe, Then Serve” by Linda K. Burton

This week’s talk was a memorable message by sister Linda K. Burton, our recently called general Relief Society president. It goes along so nicely with some of the lessons we have been studying lately in the Doctrine and Covenants about following and acting upon personal revelation.

First Observe, Then Serve By Linda K. Burton

linda-burton

I have felt myself being a little stressed out and maybe snippy lately. Today it dawned on me that maybe I have allowed my life to get too busy and therefore have not left room for things like spontaneous or purposeful service to others. President Hinckley often taught that work/service were a way to get over your own problems, and President Monson has been such a great example of acting upon charitable thoughts and feelings.

What are some of your thoughts after studying this talk? How does it affect your goals? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

(A reminder to those of you who are new to General Conference Book Club: You’re welcome to return to this post any time this week and leave your comment and thoughts in the comment section below. You may also want to see what others are saying about the talk and engage in a conversation for mutual understanding and encouragement. A new talk will be posted each Sunday and will be studied and discussed throughout the week.)

4th Annual 12 Days of Christmas Challenge (It’s easy.)

You are hereby invited to participate in the easiest capture-the-real-Spirit-of-Christmas activity that you can do by yourself or with your family: Random acts of kindness every day for the Twelve Days of Christmas. It can be anything. (Hence, “random.”)

Here are a few ideas I threw around in my head: mailing a Christmas package to someone, paying for the next person’s order in the drive-thru window or swiping my card to pay for a particular someone’s purchase behind me in the checkout line at the grocery store, write a letter or make a phone call to someone who might need it, show up at another tired mom’s house and help her fold laundry or wrap presents, drop off goodies at the house of a grumpy or lonely neighbor, . . . You get the idea. No need to spend– just look for an opportunity for kindness and jump on it, whether for a loved one or a stranger.

So join me, starting on Thursday, December 13th and spread some Christmas kindness every day through Christmas Eve. And I’ll involve my children as much as possible– coming up with ideas, or making something together, or delivering or whatever– so that we can feel the spirit of it as a family. Who’s in?

Here’s a button if you want one. You can blog about it and invite others, or put it on your sidebar as a reminder, or do whatever works for you.

html code for the button:

<a href=”http://wp.me/ppuBj-1qG&#8221; _mce_href=”http://wp.me/ppuBj-1qG”><img class=”aligncenter size-full wp-image-1963″ title=”christmas challenge button” src=”http://diapersanddivinity.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/christmas-challenge-button.jpg&#8221; _mce_src=”http://diapersanddivinity.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/christmas-challenge-button.jpg&#8221; alt=”” width=”195″ height=”130″ /></a>

This post right here can be the gathering place for sharing the joy. Come back and report some of the things you do, if you want to, or if you have a great story to share. (I’ll keep a link on my sidebar here for easy access.) You’re welcome to comment your “reports” anonymously or with initials or a pseudonym or something. I just think it would be fun to hear about each other’s experiences and rejoice in the whole business of joyful service together. Plus, we can read and then steal each other’s ideas.

“In short, the Christmas spirit is the Christ spirit, that makes our hearts glow in brotherly love and friendship and prompts us to kind deeds of service. ‘It is the spirit of the gospel of Jesus Christ, obedience to which will bring ‘peace on earth,’ because it means—good will toward all men.’ Giving, not getting, brings to full bloom the Christmas spirit. Then each Christmas will be the best Christmas ever.”Thomas S. Monson

Here’s a fun idea that my family did last year and we’ll do again because the kids loved it.  We made up award ribbon signs and then drove all around our neighborhood looking at everyone’s Christmas lights.  We decided together which houses were our pick for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place, then knocked on their door to give them their awards.  I’m sure they were flattered by the great honor.

Marriage Is Essential, by Michele Stitt

A few years ago, our LDS Bishop called me into his office where he was counseling a newly married young couple.  “Tell them what it means to be equally yoked,” he directed.  “Tell them why you and Jeff are happy in your marriage.”  At the time, I mumbled something about horses and wagons and pulling together.

…Let me see if I can be more clear now.  I’ll start by quoting the Proclamation:

“Marriage between man and woman is essential to God’s eternal plan.  …Fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.”

Elder David A. Bednar once said:

“Righteous marriage is a commandment and an essential step in the process of creating a loving family relationship that can be perpetuated beyond the grave
1. [because] The natures of male and female spirits complete and perfect each other, and therefore men and women are intended to progress together toward exaltation and
2. By divine design, both a man and a woman are needed to bring children into mortality and to provide the best setting for the rearing and nurturing of children” (6/06 Ensign, 82-84).

It has been said that in a contented marriage, partners have 5 positive feelings or interactions for every 1 negative one.  Since Jeff and I have been hitched to the same wagon now for nearly 15 years, I thought I’d share 5 POSITIVE THINGS he does that reinforce our partnership.

He actively loves (which I’m sure often involves “praying with all the energy of his heart” for charity).  He makes sure we have a weekly date; he brings home newspapers from his travels for me to read and discuss with him; he always shares his chocolate.

He listens.  He understands that I cannot sleep if the kitchen is a mess, so no matter how late he got home from work or how tired he is, he works beside me until the last dish is loaded in the washer.  He understands unspoken cues like—pulling-the-blanket-over-my-head-on-Saturday-morning means “Please feed and dress the kids and make sure they’re ready to go to soccer/piano/scouts/etc. by the time I get up.”

President Gordon B. Hinckley taught

“I am satisfied that the application of a single practice would do more than all else to [strengthen marriages…It is that] every husband and every wife would constantly do whatever might be possible to ensure the comfort and happiness of his or her companion… Argument would never be heard. Accusations would never be leveled. Angry explosions would not occur. Rather, love and concern would replace abuse and meanness.”  (11/04 Ensign, 82).

Jeff gets this.

Jeff forgives and moves on.  When Jeff and I were first married, I backed his brand new car into a cement pole.  When I called Jeff to tell him the bad news, I expected the first big trial in our fledgling marriage.  But do you know what he said?  “Are you okay? Don’t worry about the car.  It’s a car.  But you—how are you?”

Do you know what is even more wonderful to me about this story?  In all the time since this accident, Jeff has never complained about our insurance rates going up.  He never stands behind and beside the car waving his arms (like missionaries do), to help me back up.  He forgave and forgot about it.

As I think about Adam and Eve, they inspire me as people who certainly had trials but who “got over it” and moved on as equal partners.  To quote Marie Hafen:

“Adam and Eve fell that they might have JOY.  But they didn’t skip merrily out of Eden singing and wishing everyone a nice day.  They walked in sorrow into a lonely world, where they earned their bread by the sweat of their brows and learned about joy in the midst of misery and pain.”

Just as we have no record of Adam constantly bringing up Eve’s transgression in their two hundredth year together, Jeff has never once mentioned the totaled back-end of his car.

Jeff remembers who I am.  He tells our children by word and action that I’m a beloved daughter of God.  He remembers I’m his best friend by calling me in the middle of the day just to see how I’m doing; he relishes telling every new dinner guest our “how-we-met” story; he is the first to give me credit as his partner for any success he experiences in his career.

So there—5 good things about Jeff.  I’ll have to get back to you on a negative one.  In the meantime, I’ll just keep gratefully pulling along right beside him.

Michele is a wife and mother of two who currently resides in Alpine, Utah. She and I became friends in Minnesota, and she has been a mentor and example to me for many years. Thank you, Michele, for sharing these great ideas and insights.

♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

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3rd Annual 12 Days of Christmas Challenge (It’s easy.)

So here’s the basic idea: Random acts of kindness every day for the Twelve Days of Christmas. It can be anything. (Hence, “random.”)

Here are a few ideas I threw around in my head: mailing a Christmas package to someone, paying for the next person’s order in the drive-thru window or swiping my card to pay for a particular someone’s purchase behind me in the checkout line at the grocery store, write a letter or make a phone call to someone who might need it, show up at another tired mom’s house and help her fold laundry or wrap presents, drop off goodies at the house of a grumpy or lonely neighbor, . . . You get the idea. No need to spend– just look for an opportunity for kindness and jump on it, whether for a loved one or a stranger.

So I’m going to start Tuesday, on December 13th and spread some Christmas kindness every day through Christmas Eve. And I’ll involve my children as much as possible– coming up with ideas, or making something together, or delivering or whatever– so that we can feel the spirit of it as a family. Anybody want to join me in the challenge?

Here’s a button if you want one. You can blog about it and invite others, or put it on your sidebar as a reminder, or do whatever works for you.

html code for the button:
<a href=”http://diapersanddivinity.com/2011/12/12/3rd-annual-12-days-of-christmas-challenge-its-easy/&#8221; _mce_href=”http://diapersanddivinity.com/2011/12/12/3rd-annual-12-days-of-christmas-challenge-its-easy/”><img class=”aligncenter size-full wp-image-1963″ title=”christmas challenge button” src=”http://diapersanddivinity.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/christmas-challenge-button.jpg&#8221; _mce_src=”http://diapersanddivinity.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/christmas-challenge-button.jpg&#8221; alt=”” width=”195″ height=”130″ /></a>

This post right here can be the gathering place for sharing the joy. Come back and report some of the things you do, if you want to, or if you have a great story to share. (I’ll keep a link on my sidebar here for easy access.) You’re welcome to comment your “reports” anonymously or with initials or a pseudonym or something. I just think it would be fun to hear about each other’s experiences and rejoice in the whole business of joyful service together. Plus, we can read and then steal each other’s ideas.

“In short, the Christmas spirit is the Christ spirit, that makes our hearts glow in brotherly love and friendship and prompts us to kind deeds of service. ‘It is the spirit of the gospel of Jesus Christ, obedience to which will bring ‘peace on earth,’ because it means—good will toward all men.’ Giving, not getting, brings to full bloom the Christmas spirit. Then each Christmas will be the best Christmas ever.”Thomas S. Monson

 

Here’s a fun idea that my family did for Family Home Evening tonight.  We made up award ribbon signs and then drove all around our neighborhood looking at everyone’s Christmas lights.  We decided together which houses were our pick for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place, then knocked on their door to give them their awards.  I’m sure they were flattered by the great honor.  The kids loved it, and it was a fun family activity.

GCBC Week 13: “Finding Joy through Loving Service” by Elder M. Russell Ballard

Believe it or not, we are already about halfway through the talks.  Crazy, huh?  This talk is one of many from conference that reminded me about the importance of charity.  There seemed to be a lot of emphasis on service.

“Finding Joy through Loving Service” by Elder M. Russell Ballard

May we show our love and appreciation for the Savior’s atoning sacrifice through our simple, compassionate acts of service.

One of my favorite quotes from his talks was in his introduction of his topic of charity:

Brothers and sisters, the gospel of Jesus Christ is simple, no matter how much we try to make it complicated. We should strive to keep our lives similarly simple, unencumbered by extraneous influences, focused on those things that matter most.

This is a principle I am struggling with a little bit right now, and I know that, just as he said, I simply need to focus on “what matters most.”  It’s so easy for those details to get lost, just like the story he told about the gold flakes.

What stood out to you as you read?  In what ways do you think he’s asking us to apply this message?  Share your thoughts and conversation in the comment thread below.  If you’re new to GCBC, check out the club here.

GCBC Week 5: “Opportunities to Do Good” by President Henry B. Eyring

This week’s talk is “Opportunities to Do Good” by President Henry B. Eyring.  My family is going to study it tomorrow in Family Home Evening and try to come up with ideas to seek out more service.  I think we can come up with some ways to make sacrifices and bless others’ lives more than we have been doing.

What do you like about this talk?  What messages and goals stand out to you.  Please share comments in the conversation below.  If this is your first time to General Conference Book Club,  go here to learn more.