Checklist for Clarity

It’s been a rough morning. Want to see the list? Of course you do.

  • I have a headache.
  • The pile of laundry I need to fold covers a space on my living room floor approximately the size of a Volkswagen.
  • In a moment of profound weakness, I gave in and let my children adopt a kitten that our neighbor found. I actually like her a lot more than I thought I would, but I took her in for initial shots and exam yesterday, and let’s just say I was not prepared for that kind of investment. This morning I got the notice-of-overdraft email from my bank.
  • We had our family picture taken last night, and my children were suddenly possessed by demons. Keep in mind that I do not have any more toddlers or even preschoolers, and yet… YET… I found myself asking them to stop flopping around on the floor and ignoring every bit of instruction offered by the photographer. Here is a photo I snapped with my camera phone during the studio process.
  • We are headed out of town (which is a great thing), but the process of getting everything ready is stressing me out.
  • I keep remembering last-minute tasks that I should have finished before we go.  (When?? will I get them done?)

So while all this stuff was swirling around in my head, I had to stop myself and change the list. I had to look for and recognize the reality that’s happening alongside my stress list.

  • Natalie is putting up Halloween decorations and singing Christmas songs. ?? Whatever, she’s festive.
  • Clark is curled up on the couch reading a book.
  • I still have some leftover caramel sauce that I made for a Relief Society activity.
  • Grant has been helping me switch over the laundry loads.
  • Some parts of the house are mostly clean.
  • We all kind of like each other, and everyone is pretty much content (if you ignore my own personal bad attitude).
  • Our home is warm and cozy, and we’re all enjoying decent health.
  • In less than 48 hours, I will be taking that cruise I WON over the summer. [You do not need to tell me to shut up already; I am at this very moment in a process of self-correction.]

Anyway, that was my clarity checklist. My stress (and probably my headache) is the result of looking at my life in an unbalanced way.  President Uchtdorf JUST said last weekend (I’m a slow learner):

Brothers and sisters, no matter our circumstances, no matter our challenges or trials, there is something in each day to embrace and cherish. There is something in each day that can bring gratitude and joy if only we will see and appreciate it.

So as I hung the picture on the wall today, it struck me as funny how we always look at family pictures and make all these assumptions about how lovely and put-together that family is. We can’t see the behind the scenes meltdown at the photo studio, nor can we see the laundry piles and headaches at home.  But despite all that, I look at it on the wall today and think, “You know what? It really IS a beautiful family.” Because even though I know every single detail of the back-story, I can still see it for what it truly is– the whole package, the gory and the glory all wrapped up in one.  My day will still be busy, and I’m bound to handle things more stressed-out than I’d like to, but I feel my eyes just a little more open to things as they really are … and there’s plenty there that’s better than fine.

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GCBC Week 21: “The Lord’s Richest Blessings” by Elder Carl B. Pratt

As I looked over this talk again, I quickly remembered the great story he told about the bag of coins.  It’s worth studying one more time:

“The Lord’s Richest Blessings”

by Elder Carl B. Pratt

Of the Seventy

I love to pay my tithing because I need to pay my tithing.  With many years of schooling between Matt and I, there have been many (and will still be many) years of financial instability.  I love to write that check and turn it into the bishop because I don’t even want to know what would happen to our budget without paying off that debt to the Lord.  And though I can testify that our monetary needs have often been miraculously okay thanks to tithing, in my heart I also know that this is true:

He fulfills His promises, and if we faithfully pay our tithing, we will not lack for the necessities of life, but He does not promise wealth. Money and bank accounts are not His richest blessings. . . . I have come to understand that the Lord’s richest blessings are spiritual, and they often have to do with family, friends, and the gospel.

What stands out to you as you study this talk?  I would love to hear some of your experiences and testimony related to tithing.  Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

If you’re new to GCBC, go here to learn more about it, then join us!

How to have a bad day

If you’re in the market for the kind of day that makes you want to wake up any moment from the bad dream….

First, go to the DMV.  That usually pretty much guarantees a bad day, but if you happen to wait in line for an hour and then get turned away because you didn’t bring your marriage certificate (?!), you’re well on your way to a doozy of a day.  Apparently, the fact that your social security card and your previous drivers license have your maiden name AND married name on them is not enough evidence that you are truly the person your birth certificate says you are.

Second, drive half an hour back home to pick up your daughter from preschool and then turn around and go half an hour back north again to meet your husband for lunch.  Right after you take the exit, get sideswiped by a State of Utah truck that knocks off your mirror and delays you on the side of the road for well over an hour as you hang out with the recreational crasher, police officer, and a very tired and hungry 3-year-old in your back seat.  Take deep breaths as the officer claims there’s no way to tell who’s at fault, and you’ll just have to leave it up to the insurance companies to decide.

Third, realize that there’s no time for lunch after all if you have any hopes of getting back home in time to pick up one son from the bus stop and take your weekly turn doing a walking carpool to pick up the other son from his new school.  Panda Express drive-thru window.  I now know that a-la-carte does not mean “skip the side dish and the soft drink combo”; it means no rice, no nothing, just a nasty pile of meat in a tiny little carry out cup that will spill grease on one of the few pairs of pants that fit you.

Fourth, get caught in road construction and sit still on the highway in a panic as you realize you will NOT get home in time to claim your children or fulfill your pick-up-the-neighborhood-kids responsibility.  Kick yourself because you don’t know anyone’s phone number in your new neighboorhood.  Call your husband with a desperate plea to help and then hear back from him about 15 minutes later that he wasn’t able to reach anyone.  (!!!?)  Tell him as many last names as you can remember and then fret the rest of the way home that your neighbors probably think you are the most irresponsible dork on the planet.  Try hard not to cry from embarrassment when you apologize to the sweet lady who rescued your orphaned child wandering the streets alone and then went and picked up the walking group and helped them get home.

So, there you have it.  1+2+3+4= really cruddy day, just in case you were looking for the magic formula.

Solution:

Take lots of deep breaths.  Apologize to abandoned children many times.  Give them their new library books and send them to their rooms for a long, quiet reading time.  Flop yourself down on the sofa and watch the finale of Top Chef you recorded yesterday.  Unload the dishwasher, clean the counters, and wait patiently for your husband to come home so you can announce that you are going out for dinner.  Sit around a table of food that you did not have to prepare and laugh and tell stories with your family.  Don’t order a milkshake, but take bites of everyone else’s.  Sit quietly in the car on the way home and listen to all three of your children snoring softly in the back seat.  Count your blessings.  Write it all down.  Go to bed.

“You must not mistake passing local cloud cover for general darkness.”  ~ Neal A. Maxwell

GCBC Week 10: When the Lord Commands

General Conference Book Club Week 10:


“When the Lord Commands” by Elder Bruce A. Carlson

First, a little congratulations to all of you who commented on last week’s General Conference post:

1. Jessica,

2. Kristen M. and…

(crickets chirping)

Huh, I guess that’s it.  Thanks, Jessica and Kristen.  Now for the rest of you, get your GCBC pants back on and join us!  Because we miss you.

We live in a society of convenience, sometimes called entitlement.  “If you don’t feel like it, don’t do it.  It’s your choice.” I’ve written before about the danger in treating obedience like a buffet– we can’t just pick and choose the commandments we like the most and expect to receive a fullness of blessings.  Elder Carlson teaches in this talk that :

Faithful obedience, regardless of the apparent size of the task, will bring the Lord’s guidance, assistance, and peace.

He outlines the reasons we often use to release ourselves from the obligations of our covenants and points out the folly in our excuses.  Simply put, he testifies that to access the blessings, we must obey.  Period.  It’s a refreshing reminder of a basic gospel principle and a stern warning against lame excuses.  What do you like about this talk?

Go here to find the media versions of the talk (audio, video, mp3, etc.).  If this is your first visit to the General Conference Book Club,  click here to learn more about it.

General Conference Book Club Week 8: Elder Sitati

I know this will be a busy week, so I picked a short talk, but I wanted one that would help me focus on the things I should be most thankful for (in the spirit of Thanksgiving).  Elder Joseph W. Sitati gave his talk, “Blessings of the Gospel Available to All,” during the Sunday afternoon session of conference.  Did anyone else think it was as cool as I did to hear a General Authority from Africa speaking at General Conference?  My parents recently served a mission in South Africa, so I felt a connection to what he was referring to as the outpouring of the Lord upon the African nations.

His talk increases my testimony of the Lord’s hand spreading his church throughout the world, and it’s also a great historical/doctrinal summary of the building of the Lord’s kingdom.

God’s children on the earth today have the opportunity to understand His plan of happiness for them more fully than at any other time.”

You can read the talk here, watch it here, or listen to it here.  It’s also on page 103 of the November Ensign.  (Go here for GCBC information.)

As you read this talk, what blessings do you feel grateful for?  What blessings from the gospel have you seen in your family, or maybe even throughout the world?