Sunday, March 22, 2009

In Search of a Mantra

“Happiness does not depend on what happens outside of you but on what happens inside of you.”
President Harold B. Lee, 1974

"What you need is a mantra . . ." my dear sister friend Thelma said to me in one of our many long telephone conversations in which she lovingly offers a much-needed listening ear and even-more-needed encouragement and validation. She went on to explain that in one of the roughest times in her life she found herself reading a certain chapter of scriptures several times a day to help get her through. It became her mantra of sorts. Her words have been on my mind ever since . . .

Last month I had the privilege of teaching the Young Women in our ward. The topic--Finding Joy Now. The Lord in His infinite wisdom knew that I was really the one who needed such a lesson so I was blessed with the assignment. It seems that's often the case with me . . . maybe it's just that I'm in need of lots of lessons. Anyway, I am embarrassed to admit that I struggle to find joy now. I am a worrier. It's in my genes, every one of them. I feel such a responsibility in teaching the Young Women though and took my assignment very seriously. I studied and read and read some more. Intellectually I could grasp the concepts, putting them into practice in the face of potential lay-offs, images in my mind of my children being abducted (you don't want to know), and a rapidly declining economy suggesting an imminent Depression is another thing completely. Maybe the adversary was working a little overtime with me but the entire time I was preparing for this lesson my struggle to find joy intensified.

Often when I am in the middle of a challenge or problem it feels like I am running a very long race--a difficult and uncomfortable experience for me requiring tremendous endurance and intense concentration. I am not a very good runner--it's easy for me to get discouraged and really tired. I often give myself pep talks as I run. I tell myself that surely the race is almost over and I am just certain that I can even see the finish line in the distance. I tell myself that I will feel so much happier when this race (struggle) is over. Invariably though, what I think is the end of the race is just a bend in the road, presenting itself as a new challenge or problem to overcome. I am tempted to wish that the race would be easy. Teaching this lesson reminded me that I need to enjoy the running a lot more.

The President of our church, President Thomas S. Monson, said in a recent conference, “This is our one and only chance at mortal life—here and now. The longer we live, the greater is our realization that it is brief. Opportunities come, and then they are gone. I believe that among the greatest lessons we are to learn in this short sojourn upon the earth are lessons that help us distinguish between what is important and what is not. I plead with you not to let those most important things pass you by as you plan for that illusive and non-existent future when you will have time to do all that you want to do. Instead, find joy in the journey—now.”

In that same talk President Monson quoted an author named Sarah Ban Breathnach, “Both abundance and lack of abundance exist simultaneously in our lives, as parallel realities. It is always our conscious choice which secret garden we will tend . . . when we choose not to focus on what is missing from our lives but are grateful for the abundance that’s present—love, health, family, friends, work, the joys of nature, and personal pursuits that bring us happiness—the wasteland of illusion falls away and we experience heaven on earth.”

One of my favorite talks that I read while preparing for my lesson was the talk given by Elder Wirthlin entitled "Come What May and Love It." I have read it several times since--it makes me laugh, it touches my heart, it provides perspective. Click here if you too are in need of some heart touching, perspective providing laughter.

The day after I presented my lesson I received a sweet e-mail from my friend Linda. She is the Young Women's President in our ward. She is kind, encouraging, and faithful and I am learning so much from her. Either she was in tune or I was overly transparent--maybe a bit of both--but she sent a link to a beautiful talk given by Elder Holland entitled "Come Unto Me." It brought me much peace. Click here if you too are in need of peace.

This is one of my favorite parts of Elder Holland's talk ". . . the night of the greatest suffering that has ever taken place in the world or that ever will take place, the Savior said, 'Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you. … Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid' (John 14:27). I submit to you, that may be one of the Savior’s commandments that is, even in the hearts of otherwise faithful Latter-day Saints, almost universally disobeyed; and yet I wonder whether our resistance to this invitation could be any more grievous to the Lord’s merciful heart. I can tell you this as a parent: as concerned as I would be if somewhere in their lives one of my children were seriously troubled or unhappy or disobedient, nevertheless I would be infinitely more devastated if I felt that at such a time that child could not trust me to help or thought his or her interest was unimportant to me or unsafe in my care. In that same spirit, I am convinced that none of us can appreciate how deeply it wounds the loving heart of the Savior of the world when he finds that his people do not feel confident in his care or secure in his hands or trust in his commandments." This reminded me of the loving nature of our Father in Heaven. It brings peace and gratitude to my heart.

As I drove to the temple by myself several days later I heard this song in my car and I felt the spirit so strongly--I was actually brought to tears. I know, I'm a goofy sap. When I related this to Eric he kind of raised his skeptical eyebrows and grinned, "Really?" Thankfully he loves his crazy wife. I had to remind him of the comment he, himself, recently made in Sunday school about how the spirit speaks to everyone in different ways--in ways that we can each best understand . . . right before he related a story about an investigator on his mission who claimed that he was told to read the scriptures by a Ouija board. Different strokes for different folks, I say. Maybe he wouldn't have listened to the spirit in any other way. I have always been prone (vulnerable?) to hearing the spirit speak to me through unlikely music . . . like the time when I was in sixth grade and a couple of friends and I prepared a special musical number for church. We were rehearsed and ready to sing "Fading Fast" by the Go-Go's (one of my MOST favorite groups at the time). At first glance it's a simple breakup song but in our minds, with a little imagination, it was an assertive stance against the devil. Our big plans were foiled at the last minute when we did a run through for my friend's mother and surprisingly she felt that our song wasn't appropriate for church. She insisted that instead we quickly learn "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands" for our performance. I don't know . . . go here and decide for yourself--it's a compelling argument.

And so with eyes wide open and my dear friend's words resonating in my ears, I find my many Mantras, all around, gathered at my feet like little red flags waiting for me to see, waiting for me to allow them to strengthen and help me--just like Heavenly Father intended when He gifted them to me.

. . . And now I am going to take another piece of advice from my wise friend Thelma. I'm going to quickly click the "Publish Post" button . . . before I second guess myself and chicken out.