Changes and Challenges…and the Dust of Eternity
One of my favorite talks of all time is called “The Abundant Life”. In this conference address, Elder Wirthlin explains his recipe for being truly happy by filling your life with faith and service. He also utters the memorable line that we are “made of the dust of eternity as much as of the dust of the earth”. Our potential exceeds anything we can imagine, if we can only see ourselves the way the Lord sees us and allow Him to work in our lives. Elder Wirthlin shares the story of Snowman, a decrepit old plow horse, sold for virtually nothing to a riding teacher who saved it from the slaughter house out of pity. When the horse kept disappearing from its pasture, the new owner discovered that this flea-bitten horse could effortlessly clear any fence. The horse looked like a worthless animal, but became a famous national jumping champion. In the same way, the people of David’s day saw only a young shepherd boy, but the Lord saw a king and a prophet. Joseph of Egypt was looked upon as a slave, but the Lord called him to be a seer. Where we sometimes only view the outward appearance, the Lord perceives eternal potential.
This talk touched me so deeply because it was given right around the time that my own life changed dramatically: In October of 2006, I was called as Relief Society President. I did not see myself as the ideal candidate for this position by any stretch of the imagination. I was only 36 years old, with six young children living at home, including 3 year old twins, and a husband who traveled out of town on business virtually every week. I didn’t particularly enjoy cooking and had never cooked for anyone outside of my immediate family. I couldn’t sew or quilt. I had zero talent in home decorating or crafts of any kind. I didn’t like change, felt uncomfortable meeting new people, and awkwardly avoided hugging others (I blame this on my German heritage, we are a rather stiff and proper people, for the most part). The thought of seeing a dead body or participating in a funeral terrified me. Lastly, I had mostly been teaching Primary since joining the church and had no leadership experience to speak of. I could only see myself as a stay-at-home mother with few talents, who often felt like she didn’t fit in, but the Lord saw a future Relief Society President.
So trusting in the Lord, I accepted my new assignment. Over the next seven years, my faith in the Lord grew immeasurably, as I learned to love and serve the sisters with all my heart. I served alongside three different bishops, had three first counselors, four second counselors, and multiple secretaries. With the constant turnover in our military ward, visiting teaching routes had to be adjusted virtually every month. I learned to delegate, recognizing and appreciating the talents of others as I organized many Relief Society activities, dinners, and service projects. For one whole Relief Society additional meeting, I walked on a broken foot the entire night. With my counselors, I cooked for three general authorities and 100 missionaries, all on short notice. We made numerous baby blankets and baked countless cookies to welcome new members to the ward. We became fearless about knocking on doors, trying to find those who didn’t attend. We cleaned homes and bought Christmas presents for those without funds. With the loving guidance of more experienced sisters, I overcame my fears and learned to dress sisters for burial; experiencing this as one of the sweetest services we can perform for those ready to meet their Heavenly Father. A house burned down, ward boundaries were re-aligned twice, and a bishop deployed to Afghanistan for six months, requiring detailed daily email updates on the state of the ward. Serving the Lord and the sisters was a joy and a privilege and a never-ending adventure. (But I still don’t do crafts, period!)
Last month I was released from service in the Relief Society and immediately asked to teach early morning seminary. Again, I feel utterly inadequate. I can’t stress enough that I am NOT a morning person. My teenage daughter has probably arrived at seminary on time a grand total of five times during the past year. I’m not sure I have ever truly immersed myself in the scriptures sufficiently to teach with competence. I haven’t worked with the youth before, my own children excluded. Speaking of my children, I still have three elementary and middle school children who now need to get ready for school on their own, since their father still travels. I see a sister in need of rest, but the Lord believes that I can be a valiant seminary teacher. I reread my favorite Elder Maxwell quote on my refrigerator, “The Lord is not interested in our abilities or inabilities as much as he is interested in our availability. And if we show him our dependability, He will take care of our capability.” Apparently, I am available each morning before school starts and the Lord can depend on me to study the scriptures and love His children. I trust in the Lord’s promise that “if ye will have faith in me ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me.” (Moroni 7:33) Even if this promise requires getting up at 5am every day! Moving forward in faith, I believe that with the Lord, all things are possible. When we follow Him and do what He has asked us to do, we can fulfill our eternal potential and truly become His sons and His daughters and live the abundant life.