Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Blessing of Service

It is amazing to me how the Lord leads us to the places in our lives we need to be at any given time. It's been a tough couple of years for me. Nothing earth shattering has happened, really, but my family has had to deal with some serious challenges. A short recap would be: my wouldn't-harm-a-mouse husband, the guy who hates violence in any form, was wrongfully charged with child abuse, my sister-in-law had a brain tumor, my mother-in-law had two forms of cancer, two deaths of young children, my brother-in-law was wrongfully dismissed from his job, my son was suspended from school twice, my mother had knee surgery, I had a hysterectomy and discovered it was cancerous, and most recently we discovered that my husband was misdiagnosed and is bi-polar. I'm sure you can imagine all the stresses that went with each of those revelations, and that's just the big stuff. The day-to-day stuff nearly put me in the nut house.

Now, at the time, it seemed that each of these things was the end of my world. It felt as if my life was completely out of control and nothing would ever be right again, not my writing, not my family, not my sanity.

I was wrong.

I learned a great lesson through all of this. Something I wish I had fully realized years ago. It might not be an earth shattering bit of news to anyone else, but for me it completely changed my worldview. A simple thing, really.

Hitting those walls makes one stronger.

Years ago when I was a missionary in Connecticut, my brother sent me an essay a friend of his wrote about The Wall. You know the one--the wall of life? In this essay he spoke of how at the time it felt as if the wall were weakening him, it hurt to swing and push at it, but when he was done and looked back, he realized that pushing at the walls in his life had made him stronger. His hands and arms had thickened, his back straightened. It has forever stuck with me. When going through these trials, I remind myself, this will make you better in the end.

While doing our Young Writers Workshop last fall, I realized how much joy and strength there was to be gained from service. It was a difficult thing to do, teaching these kids how to write when I was still working my own way through the process, but I came to love those girls so much, and it seemed that in teaching, I grew. I learned more than they did, I think.

A while back I mentioned that there were some things going on I couldn't talk about. Well, now I can. For those of you who might be unfamiliar with the workings The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, every office, every job within the church are done by the members. All of them. Everything from the Bishop, who presides over the congregation, to the librarian. All teachers and leaders are called by the bishop to fill positions. We call it "A Calling". Recently I have had this experience. I've been called to be the new Young Women's President in my ward (congregation). What this means is that I am now responsible for over forty girls between the age of twelve and eighteen, only thirteen of which come to church on any kind of regular basis.

My point? I have learned of recent years the joy and blessings that come as a direct result of service. I honestly wouldn't want to be in any other place in my life than I am right now. This is where I need to be and what I need to be doing. It's almost as if when I forget myself and serve others, Heavenly Father helps to fill in the holes in my life and lift me above them. The hard stuff doesn't go away, but somehow I seem better able to deal with. I've found purpose in my life again, and through that purpose, not only do I feel more fulfilled, but I have this urgent desire within me to write once again. The Lord has brought me full circle, hopefully a little wiser, definitely more humble, and I have found myself through losing it. Mark 8: 35-36 says "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it."

That is how I feel right now. I've found myself again through service. What a blessing. What a joyous blessing.

Quote of the Day: "The ablest writer is only a gardener first, and then a cook: his tasks are, carefully to select and cultivate his strongest and most nutritive thoughts; and when they are ripe, to dress them, wholesomely, and yet so that they may have a relish."

~Augustus William Hare and Julius Charles Hare, Guesses at Truth, by Two Brothers, 1827