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.

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A conversation that made me smile

chocolate-chip-cookies

Today for our morning devotional, we talked about baptism and watched this video about the baptism of Jesus Christ. Clark asked “Wasn’t Jesus related to John?,” and Grant answered that they were cousins. That led to a discussion about the rest of Jesus’ family. “Did he have brothers and sisters?” “Was he married?” I answered with what details we do know from the scriptures and explained that there are some details we don’t know.

Natalie asked, “Is there a Heavenly Mother?”

“Of course!,” I said. “We don’t know very much about her, but we definitely have a Heavenly Mother.”

She grinned and thought for a minute. “Do they have cookies in Heaven?”

“I don’t know. I’m not sure we get hungry in heaven.”

“Well if they do, moms make the best cookies.”

“Oh, so you think Heavenly Mother would make the best cookies ever?”

She nodded. “You’re probably right,” I said.

Then they had a long discussion about all the delicious things that Heavenly Mother will probably make … a doughnut bigger than the Texas doughnuts…a hundred layer cake…

Sometimes I really love my kids.

Happy Mother’s Day

ah110g6f1[image credit: Annie Henrie, “Angels Round About Thee”]

“Do the best you can through these years, but whatever else you do, cherish that role that is so uniquely yours and for which heaven itself sends angels to watch over you and your little ones. …

“Yours is the work of salvation, and therefore you will be magnified, compensated, made more than you are and better than you have ever been as you try to make honest effort, however feeble you may sometimes feel that to be.”  –Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “Because She Is a Mother”

Worth Celebrating

I already know I’m repeating myself a lot this week, but it’s a message worth repeating. A few days ago, I made this little graphic to try to get moms to look at Mother’s Day a little differently.

Mother's Day

Then today, I have a piece up over at LDS Living that highlights some of the reasons why moms should give themselves permission to be celebrated.  It’s called “Hey, Moms: George Washington Wasn’t Perfect Either.” Go check it out and then pat yourself on the back for a minute.

LDS Living is also offering a free e-book for moms that you can download right here.

Cover

So do me (and yourself) a favor, and tell me in the comments one thing you do well as a mom, or one good thing you think your children will remember about you. (If it’s really that hard, just ask them. You might be surprised.) I’ll celebrate that with you this Mother’s Day.

The Mother Well

well

In November 2009, I had three small children, ages 6, 5, and 3. I had spent about a year in an intense personal journey to gain a better testimony of my role as a mother. One early morning at the gym, my friend and I had a discussion about the pressures of womanhood and motherhood as we huffed and puffed on the treadmill. My mind sifted through scriptures and I began to put together some thoughts that would later become important ingredients in the book I would eventually write. Many experiences like this one polished my understanding of my divine role. Here is what I learned on the treadmill that day.

…. Read the rest over at Real Intent, where I’m guest posting today.

Quotes and Happenings from BYU Women’s Conference Day 2

Day two is over and I’m ready for a good night’s sleep. There were some great classes and talks today and I learned a lot. I also met some really wonderful people. One of the highlights of my day was meeting Annie Henrie, the artist whose work is on the cover of my book, and being able to tell her how much I love her work and how honored I feel to have my work connected to hers. I’m pretty sure we’re BFFs now.  Here are the tweets from today’s lessons, again in reverse chronological order. (And you can still click on the links to see photos, etc.)

Tweets

  1. Amen! I bear my testimony that God LOVES His daughters. #holyghostsaysso #byuwc #finaltweet

  2. Blessing from Pres. Eyring: You will feel by the Spirit his appreciation for your faithful service as His friend. #byuwc

  3. Can I leave “a glorious spiritual heritage” like John Taylor did? Am I a defender of the prophet? #thoughtsinspiredbyEyring #byuwc

  4. The gift if the HolyGhost in action= the gift he gives all His friends who are offering sanctification. #Eyring #byuwc

  5. The Lord’s power is greater than all the forces that that oppose His faithful servants. #Eyring #byuwc

  6. The Lord protects, guides, and watches over those who are His trusted friends. #Eyring #byuwc

  7. The friend of God is one for whom the Savior died. #Eyring #bookofjohn #byuwc

  8. There are physical and spiritual dangers for us and those we love. We will need divine protection. #presEyring #byuwc

  9. Gathering at the feet of a living prophet, seer, revelator. Waiting to hear Pres. Eyring. #thegospelisrestored #byuwc pic.twitter.com/hy4ybSO3Hy    View photo

  10. Singing all the longest hymns we know while Pres. Eyring is stuck in traffic. #waitingontheLord #byuwc pic.twitter.com/W6Krv1W55H   View photo

  11. Just because I can’t do it today doesn’t mean I can’t do it someday. #carlahansen #byuwc

  12. The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The 2nd best time to plant a tree is today. # chineseproverb # carlahansen #byuwc

  13. The Lord needs healthy servants. He needs us to run and not be weary. #carlahansen #byuwc

  14. Count your blessings, not your blemishes. #katiedavis #byuwc

  15. You are worth more than a number on a scale. Your weight is not what defines you. #katiedavis #byuwc

  16. If you have a relationship you want to improve, try taking them for a walk. #katiedavis #byuwc

  17. D&C 59:19 Food enlivens the soul. Food is not the enemy. #katiedavis #byuwc

  18. Men can learn. Men can be taught. They don’t learn from criticism. They learn from a constant, elevating vision. #brosandberg #byuwc

  19. Making love begins in the kitchen. (Do the dishes.) #sandbergs #byuwc

  20. When we nurture love and friendship and marriage, we create a safe haven and a secure base. #sandbergs #byuwc

  21. “Pray for the love which allows you to see the good in your companion.” #eldernelson #sandbergs #byuwc

  22. When we love Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, it’s manifest in the choices we make. #michelleking #byuwc

  23. In marriage, we have to avoid negativity just like we avoid pornography. #paraphrased #sandbergs #byuwc

  24. Charity is a state of becoming. It is a way of life that takes a lifetime to achieve. #michelleking #byuwc

  25. We become better and not bitter as we humble ourselves. #michelleking #byuwc

  26. “The most common problem in marriage is DRIFT. Life will do that to you if you are not intentional.” #sandbergs #byuwc

  27. “If you want something to last forever, you treat it different.” #elderhoward #sandbergs #byuwc

    NEXT WEEK, I’LL TRY TO TAKE THE TIME TO WRITE UP MY NOTES MORE THOROUGHLY AND SHARE THE MESSAGES FROM THE CLASSES I ATTENDED.  SO, HAVE A GOOD WEEKEND, BUT STAY TUNED….

     

 

Invigorating?

PrayerDraw1[image credit: Jenny Stevning]

Nick Galieti, who interviewed me about my book a while back (you can listen to that here), wrote me this morning to let me know that he had written an article about it in the Deseret News.

That was a fun surprise.

There were also a couple other surprises.

The title of the article was “LDS author Stephanie Dibb Sorensen invigorates motherhood with practical doctrine”. I love that he used the words motherhood and doctrine together because that’s really what I hope makes the book different. I tried hard to steer away from fluff and to just show through scripture and personal experiences how our daily mothering is really the doctrine of Jesus Christ in action. The word “invigorates” made me laugh a little because, although it’s a great word and it felt like a compliment, the idea that I “invigorate motherhood” just humors me. I spent several hours this week doing yard work. This made me feel old and sore. Ever since I got home from church today, I’ve been fantasizing about taking a nap. I fantasize about naps on most days. So I don’t consider myself a very invigorating specimen of motherhood, but I’m so glad Nick thinks I am. 🙂

The other surprise from the article was the discovery that I apparently speak out loud in very long run-on sentences. I should really learn to punctuate a little bit when I speak. I am a fast talker, especially when I’m nervous, but now I know that I also craft paragraph-sized sentences effortlessly.

Warning: subject change….

I’ve been blogging for a long time, and one thing I’ve learned is how thoughtful and smart my readers are. There are many times that your comments have encouraged me or helped to me to gain insight into circumstances and principles. Some of you may have read a recent post I wrote called “An open letter to two real moms.” Among lots of other run-on sentences, I whined a little about book signings and I shared a few lessons I learned from general conference, including this one:

President Packer testified of the power of mothers’ prayers. Sure that means prayers for our children, but I also think it means prayers when we need help being a parent. God will honor those prayers.

Well, this morning I got a comment on that post that is still in my moderation queue, and I’ve been thinking about it most of the day. I have a variety of ideas, but I’m not sure I know how to answer her. I decided that I’m going to open it up to you to help answer her question.

Where is the help, I need it now! I have been poring out prayers to heaven. They say we have this power as a mother to get help from heaven. Well, where is it. I need it, and have been asking for it for years.

I will allow her to remain anonymous and I will email her and let her know that many wise mothers will be sharing some thoughts with her. Be kind to her and answer as if she were your own daughter, because I think she could use a little “invigorating.” Just share your thoughts in the comments below. Thanks, friends.