One of the great blessings of having a daughter on a mission is that she recommends great reading/pondering material. I read this Tad Callister talk last week at Savannah's suggestion, and it made a huge impact. It's lengthy, but so worth reading.
The talk is directed to missionaries so I honestly wasn't expecting it to apply very well to my non-missionary life, but it did. I may not be serving a full-time mission, but I definitely have desires for my life and things I need the Lord's help with. I have a desire to be more articulate and clear when I speak and when I write. I want to be a better Gospel Doctrine teacher and magnify my calling better than I currently am. I want to have the Spirit with me more often to help me understand the scriptures, have more fulfilling days, parent better, and serve more willingly. I have a desire to have greater discernment; sometimes it's hard for me to distinguish between the voice in my head and the voice of the Lord. I want more confidence and to be more sure of my instincts. I want to increase my talents and use them to "fill the measure of my creation." I know, it's a lengthy list...
After I made that list of desires, and read Elder Callister's talk, I thought about what the Lord requires of us when we want to know Him better. Sacrifice. There always has to be some part of our old selves that must be sacrificed to make room for the better self that Heavenly Father has in mind. Savannah has chosen to sacrifice comfort, family, education, her boyfriend, her phone, social media, TV, independence, her opinions and her pride, and even her native language for 18 months in order to achieve her desire to serve the Lord and gain a greater testimony of His gospel. And in the process, He is answering her prayers and keeping His promise by offering her life-changing experiences which will become eternal treasures for her.
When the girls were little and a few of them shared a space, a lot of their "treasures" ended up living all over the floor. When I cleaned, it was hard to tell the difference between a 4-yr old's treasure and a candy wrapper that needed to go in the trash. So I thought of a brilliant plan to contain things and eliminate some clutter. I found storage boxes small enough for each of the girls to carry around with them, but big enough to satisfy the need to keep a few things safe from their ever-tidying mother and her trash bag. I printed their names on labels in fun fonts with bright colors and each girl personalized her own box with stickers and decorations. The Treasure Box Rule was that they could keep anything inside that they wanted (well, except food or other perishable things...like bugs and lizards, which we unexpectedly had to clarify for one of the girls) and the box contents would be safe from other sisters and more importantly, safe from being thrown away. The girls loved their boxes and my decluttering plan worked amazingly well...until eventually one box became too full to fit anymore treasures. We had to teach the value of purging and add a new Treasure Box Rule: once a box reached capacity, the treasures inside would have to be reconsidered and some eliminated to make room for additional treasures. This new rule was especially hard on Megan. For Megan, everything was (and still is) a treasure. It was heartbreaking to watch her cling to her little box of treasures, agonize over every scrap of paper and every broken toy in it, and then have to decide which things to discard and whether the new treasures were worth the trade. There were many, many tears shed on those dreaded purging days.
There are a few things in my personal Treasure Box that I have been clinging really tightly to. Like Megan, I wanted to put more treasures in the box (like that long list of desires I have up there,) but it was overwhelming and agonizing to think of taking anything out. Some of those treasures have been tucked away in that box for a long time and the idea of sacrificing any of them was heartbreaking.
"There is no escaping it. God will demand our all. If we are shy or reserved – God will compel us to change, to be bold. He will jerk us out of our comfort zone again and again. If we are lazy or idle, he will push us and pull us even when we are exhausted. If we are disobedient, he will press us until we have a child-like submissiveness. He will not let us be content with our weaknesses."With the help of a lot of prayers, and a difficult week of detoxing that I hope I never have to repeat, I managed to purge a few of those things I've been hanging onto. Some of them, I can honestly say, I am happier without (like Candy Crush and Netflix.) Even a short time away from them has made that clear. But others, I just have had to close my eyes, exercise faith, and hand over to Heavenly Father for a time.
"Whatever the weakness may be that holds us back from becoming (what we are supposed to be), the Lord has promised that if we have faith in him, and humble ourselves before him, that he will make weak things become strong unto us (Ether 12:26-27). I believe that. I do not believe there is one (person) whose weaknesses are greater than the potential strengths within him. Why? – because each of us is a son and daughter of God, with his divine nature and divine potential woven into the very fabric of our souls. I do not think the Lord expects immediate perfection of us, but I do believe he expects immediate progress, and with that progress comes consecration. I believe that he recognizes and appreciates every step we take forward, however small it may be, striving to put our whole souls on the altar of sacrifice."I don't know what Savannah will be like when she returns from her mission or which of her treasures she will get to be reunited with and which she will no longer have a need for, but I do know that Heavenly Father has a plan for her. And for all of us. And the more willing we are to give Him everything and set aside our treasures in exchange for His, the more we will be blessed for our efforts. There are a few things I needed to set aside...some forever and some hopefully just for a while. But however difficult last week was and however challenging the road ahead will be, I'm sure it will be worth it. This life isn't about getting to a place that's comfortable and happy and just hanging out there. It's about continually drawing closer and closer to the Savior until we are like Him. And I really want to be like Him.