Friday, July 30, 2010

Finding Joy In The Journey



I know this is something I struggle with because when President Monson was giving this talk in conference two years ago, I was listening and thinking, “Hmm, I need to pay attention”. I looked over at my husband and he was giving me THE LOOK like, “Are you listening? You need to pay attention!”

But I find it hard. I think I developed waiting for tomorrow as a coping mechanism during the difficult surgery years of my babe. I always thought that when this passed then life would get better. When we finish having kids, then life will get better. When my kids get older, then life will get better. I’m have been so focused on getting past my current trials to this distant utopia that I can’t seem to enjoy today. But, as President Monson said in his talk titled “Finding Joy in the Journey“,

You pile up enough tomorrows, and you’ll find you’ve collected a lot of empty yesterdays.

He goes on:

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 nonexistent future when you will have time to do all that you want to do. Instead, find joy in the journey - now.

This talk was given two years ago, and I’m still working on it. It has become much more apparent to me how important this is, as our society is going through this recession. Living in Las Vegas we really can see first hand how many people are effected. But I also can see just how truly blessed we are. I am learning three things that are helping me to find joy in the journey now. They are to laugh, to be grateful, and to trust in the Lord.

First, to laugh. In the same conference session as President Monson’s talk, Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin gave a talk titled, “Come What May, and Love It“. This was the last talk he gave before he passed away. He shared a few things that helped him through his “times of testing and trial”.

The first thing we can do is learn to laugh. Have you ever seen an angry driver who, when someone else makes a mistake, reacts as though that person has insulted his honor, his family, his dog, and his ancestors all the way back to Adam?

There is an antidote for times such as these: learn to laugh.

I remember loading up our children in a station wagon and driving to Los Angeles. There were at least nine of us in the car, and we would invariably get lost. Instead of getting angry, we laughed. Every time we made a wrong turn, we laughed harder.

Getting lost was not an unusual occurrence for us. Once while heading south to Cedar City, Utah, we took a wrong turn and didn’t realize it until two hours later when we saw the “Welcome to Nevada” signs. We didn’t get angry. We laughed, and as a result, anger and resentment rarely resulted.

The next time you’re tempted to groan, you might try to laugh instead. It will extend your life and make the lives of all those around you more enjoyable.

In this talk, Elder Wirthlin says something profound that I have heard repeated many times. He says:

I do believe that the way we react to adversity can be a major factor in how happy and successful we can be in life.

Second, choose to be grateful. President Monson said:

Our realization of what is most important in life goes hand in hand with gratitude for our blessings.

Said one well-known author: “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.”

Third, trust in the Lord. I think that trusting in the Lord means submitting to the Lord’s will.

When I think of submitting to the Lord's will I think of Him saying “I will lead you along”. As I pondered this, I thought of the Nephites, who were led along one step at a time. First they were told to flee to the wilderness, then to go back and get the plates, then to go back and get Ishmael’s family. Then to sojourn in the wilderness, then to build a ship. It all came a step at a time - just as much as they needed when they needed it. They knew the end result (promised land), but they did not know each little step. I imagine it would have been frustrating at times. I can imagine Laman or Lemuel (or even Lehi or Sam) saying, “What? We left Jerusalem and wandered all over the wilderness to get stuck by the ocean? How can this be God’s will for us?”

I wonder how many times I have said similar things. But, God does have a plan for us, even when we can’t seem to see or understand it. We need to trust Him and seek His guidance.

In the October 2002 conference, Elder Lance B. Wickman gave a talk titled, “But if Not” and said:

It is in nurturing humility and submissiveness that we may comprehend a fulness of the intended mortal experience and put ourselves in a frame of mind and heart to receive the promptings of the Spirit. Reduced to their essence, humility and submissiveness are an expression of complete willingness to let the “why” questions go unanswered for now, or perhaps even to ask, “Why not?” It is in enduring well to the end that we achieve this life’s purposes. I believe that mortality’s supreme test is to face the “why” and then let it go, trusting humbly in the Lord’s promise that “all things must come to pass in their time”.

In the Ensign last year was a short story I think about frequently. It was about a mother who lost her toddler and then found him caught in blackberry vines. Each time he would move, the thorns in the vines would dig deeper. As she was untangling him, I imagine she was cursing (Mormon-style) to herself and wondering why God would let this happen to her son. But then she remembered the large pond in her neighbor’s yard. If the blackberry vines had not stopped her son, he may have ended up drowned in the pond.

I wonder how often I am caught in the blackberry vines, cursing God, without even noticing the pond they are saving me from.

I need to trust in His promise in Romans 8:28 that

All things work together for good to them that love God.

I think that trusting in our Heavenly Father can be the difference between feeling happiness during a trial and not. If we really believe that all things will ultimately work together for our good, and can be patient and not become bitter, we can experience joy through the journey.

I know that as I incorporate these things into my life - choosing to laugh, choosing to be grateful, and choosing to trust in the Lord, I can feel happiness and find joy in my journey. I believe the words of President Monson when he says:

If you are still in the process of raising children, be aware that the tiny fingerprints that show up on almost every newly cleaned surface [and for us, it’s a lot more than just fingerprints], the toys scattered about the house, the piles and piles of laundry to be tackled will disappear all too soon and that you will - to your surprise - miss them profoundly.

Stresses in our lives come regardless of our circumstances. We must deal with them the best we can. But we should not let them get in the way of what is most important - and what is most important almost always involves the people around us.

I feel so strongly that we need to find joy in our journeys now. We do not know what tomorrow will bring. We need to love our families and enjoy them today.

I know the Lord loves us. I know He wants us to be happy and to find joy. I know that He has given us the tools and that He stands ready to help. We just need to reach out to Him. I pray that we may have the courage to do so, and that we may feel His love for us.


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