I spoke in Sacrament Meeting last Sunday. Oddly, speaking in front of people has never scared me. It's pretty weird, considering I'm pretty much afraid of everything! Below is my talk. I am so grateful to my mom and pops for being there. I missed having Kaydon there. He is at his week-long scout camp. I'm so grateful for my boys. So grateful to be their mom. And, so grateful for a Gospel that gives us purpose.
Good morning, brothers and sisters. For those of you who don’t know my little family, I just want to take a minute to introduce us. I work full-time for Ogden City, as the Public Ways and Parks Office Supervisor. I work with 109 of the greatest guys! Jackson will be 18 in August, and a senior at Layton. Braxton will be 16 in August, and a sophomore at Layton. Kaydon will be 15 in August, and a 9th grader at Fairfield. Colton will be 14 in – you guessed it – August, and will be an 8th grader in the Special Education Department at Fairfield. We have lived in the ward for a year and feel that being in this ward was a direct answer to fasting and prayers on our behalf a year ago.
I was asked to speak today on “Finding Joy in Our Journey.”
“Come with me back to a second-grade classroom,” says Ardeth Kapp, “where Miss Nelson was doing her student teaching in preparation for her graduation. I was her supervisor. Miss Nelson, looking like an experienced teacher, skillfully gained the full attention of each second grader. ‘Boys and girls,’ she began, ‘I’m going to tell you a story about two different neighbors, and after the story I’d like you to think about their character, or their characteristics and attributes, and be prepared to share how you feel about each one and who you would like to have as your neighbor. There was a Mr. Brown, the friendliest man in town. She told in great detail how he knew everyone’s name, including the children’s, and how he would take the time to fix a broken wheel or a worn-out wagon or tricycle and make whistles from the small branches from his tree. She then introduced poor Mr. Jones. Dropping her voice and frowning, she explained that everyone knew him – especially the children. As children would walk past his house, they could see him through the broken fence sitting alone in an old chair on his porch. The only time they saw him move was when one of the older kids would dare someone to shout at him, open his gate, or throw a rock on his lawn. Then he had a very loud voice and would stand up and shake his fist. Miss Nelson closed the book and smiled at the children, inviting their responses regarding friendly Mr. Brown. The students were excited to talk about Mr. Brown. With the discussion nearly complete, Miss Nelson posed the question, ‘Who would like to be a neighbor to Mr. Jones?’ It seemed like a strange question, with no indication of a response until one second-grade boy on the back row, near where I was sitting supervising, raised his hand hesitantly. Miss Nelson was obviously unprepared for this. There was a childish snicker throughout the classroom, but the boy with the hand raised looked straight ahead, his arm held high and his eyes on Miss Nelson. Something in that moment changed the mood. The snickering stopped and Miss Nelson said, ‘Jeff?’ He lowered his hand nervously with all eyes on him and said, ‘I wish Mr. Jones was my neighbor because if he was my neighbor, my mom would bake a pie for me to take to him, and then he wouldn’t be that way anymore.’ A hush fell over the room. Miss Nelson responded, ‘Jeff, thank you for that beautiful lesson.” I sensed a room full of second graders trying to make sense of what we had just experienced. I saw a child who was true to his conviction stand alone among his friends and make a profound statement. And then, almost as a benediction, the silence was broken by one child who spoke in a whisper just barely loud enough for all to hear, ‘I wish I’d said that.’”
Elder Richard G. Scott said, “Your joy in life depends upon your trust in Heavenly Father and His Holy Son, your conviction that their plan of happiness truly can bring you joy. You are here on earth for a divine purpose. “
I am not a scriptorian, or an expert on Gospel history. I can’t recite the scripture mastery scriptures to you. I can’t tell you every prophet’s name in the history of the Church. But, I know… I KNOW that we are children of our Heavenly Father. I know that He knows who we are, individually. I know that He hears us when we pray and comforts us when we plead for peace. I know that what He sees is oh, so much bigger than what we see. According to Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, the first step in finding joy in our journey is to have faith in our Heavenly Father.
President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “Each of us is a son or daughter of God, endowed with something of his divine nature. Each is an individual entitled to expression and cultivation of individual talents and deserving forebearance, of patience, of understanding, of courtesy, of thoughtful consideration. Believe in yourself. Believe in yourself as a child of God. Believe in your capacity to do good in the world, to spread light and truth and understanding; to reach out to those in distress and need to help and bless them. Do you feel gloomy? Lift your eyes! Stand on your feet! Say a few words of appreciation and love to the Lord. Be positive. Keep the faith. Nurture your testimony. Walk in righteousness and the Lord will bless you and prosper you, and you will be a happy and wonderful people!”
The Book of Mormon references three different societies whose inhabitants lived after the manner of happiness. If you read through the chapters describing their lifestyle, it become apparent that each of these societies had three things in common: they knew how to work, they lived without contention. And they kept the commandments in all things. It’s a simple formula for happiness. In the beginning of the Book of Mormon, after Nephi and his people left Laman and Lemuel and fled into the wilderness, Nephi described their day-to-day conditions and said, “And it came to pass that we lived in a manner of happiness.”
Later, in the book of Alma, we read of Captain Moroni. His people were described as “those who were faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord.” Because of their faithfulness they were delivered at all times, and Mormon wrote, “Behold there never was a happier time among the people of Nephi… than in the days of Moroni, yea, even at this time.”
Last we read in Fourth Nephi of the people who lived in a time without envy, strife, tumult, lying, or murder. The scriptures state, “And surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God. And how blessed were they! For the Lord did bless them in all their doings.”
There have been countless times in my family’s life when we have been driven to our knees because we couldn’t think of any other place for us to go. In those moments, one of my boys would always instruct that we needed to pray. We needed the comfort of angels. We needed guidance. We needed love. Sometimes we are so busy praying for the answer we want, in the way we envision it will happen, that we almost miss the answer the Lord is sending us. Although we are praying without ceasing, the answer can go unnoticed. Our Father is completely aware of our need and the situation we are in.
Throughout our lives, there will be times when we find ourselves praying without ceasing. Heavenly Father hears those prayers. It is important for us to remember that sometimes, instead of sending the answer we want, He sends us the answer we need. When our eyes and our hearts are open to recognize those answers, we will be led to see good days.
Over a decade ago, I was praying without ceasing that my children’s father would be in their lives and would pay child support. It was a constant prayer. Constant. Never ceasing never ceased as much as it did then! One of my closest friends had taken me to lunch. She said, “Heidi, what are you praying for?” I told her. She said, “How about if you try something else?” Huh?! She said, “Why don’t you pray that you will be able to forgive him and that Heavenly Father will make up the difference for you and your boys?” Uhhh?!?! She said, “Just try it.” And I did. I have never since prayed for the unceasing pleas I once did. Since that day, both my boys and I have received numerous Priesthood blessings, telling us that Heavenly Father has blessed my boys with the characteristics they would need to be able to endure this life well. We have also been blessed that we would be taken care of.
The second and third ways that Elder Wirthlin tells us to find joy in our journey is to set goals and work to achieve them! Goals are different for each of us, and change as we continue on our journeys. Distractions are endless. Endless. As a single mom of four boys, one with special needs, who works long hours to support us… the distractions are literally endless. Whenever I hear the word, “goal,” I freak out a little bit. Okay, a lotta bit. To me, goals are big. Like, climbing Mt. Everest. Like, running a marathon. Like, starting my own business. Like, finishing the Book of Mormon in one week. I seriously don’t have time to go to the bathroom somedays! Goals don’t have to be monumental. For me, kneeling morning and night to talk with the Father is my current goal. Reading one chapter in the Book of Mormon daily is my goal. Not hurting the children is a goal. And, those are worthy goals! If our goals are righteous, the Father will help us to accomplish them as long as we are doing everything in our power to succeed.
Emily Freeman, author of Love Life and See Good Days, said, “In our attempt to see good days, our focus becomes essential. If that focus becomes impeded, if we let other things get in the way, it is hard to recognize the good that is happening all around us. Sometimes it requires heaven’s help to lift us high enough to look past the distractions and see good again.”
Ardeth Kapp said, “In our busy lives, we may look but not see, we may listen but not hear, we may think but not ponder. We can see life in many different ways – with the eye, the mind, but most importantly with the heart. We see what we are looking for, burdens or blessings, weeds or flowers. And sometimes we need help from the Gardener.”
The course of our lives is seldom determined by great, life-altering decisions. Our direction is often set by small, day-to-day choices that chart the track on which we run. This is the substance of our lives – making choices.
The fourth way Elder Wirthlin tells us to find joy in our journeys is to magnify our callings. Let’s face it, all callings – big or small – outside our home or inside our home – are service-based. That is the purpose of all callings – to serve.
Elder Uchtdorf said, “Discipleship is the pursuit of holiness and happiness. It is the path to our best and happiest self. The more we devote ourselves to the pursuit of holiness and happiness, the less likely we will be on a path to regrets.”
Be happy in that which you do. Cultivate a Spirit of gladness in your homes. Subdue and overcome all elements of anger, impatience, and unbecoming talk to one another.
President Hinckley said, “I believe that for most of us the best medicine for loneliness is work and service in behalf of others. I do not wish to minimize your problems, but I do not hesitate to say that there are many others whose problems are more serious than yours. Reach out to serve them, to help them, to encourage them. There are so many boys and girls who fail in school for want of a little personal attention and encouragement. There are so many elderly people who live in misery and loneliness and fear for whom a simple conversation would bring a measure of hope and brightness. All of us can become discouraged. It is important to know, when you feel down, that many others to also and that their circumstances are often much worse than ours. And it is important to know that when one of us is down, it becomes the obligation of his friends to give him a lift.”
My boys have had a combined 27 operations. One Thanksgiving Day, Kaydon was at Primary Children’s following one of 13 surgeries that would save his life. He was in isolation. Primary’s was our second home, and while I was there with him, my other three boys were with my parents. I remember looking out the hospital window, listening to the monitors, rocking my fragile baby. I remember wishing that we were with his brothers. I remember thinking about how the world just continued to go on. Then, I heard the dreaded, “Code Blue, Infant Unit. Code Blue, Infant Unit. Code Blue, Infant Unit.” Because Kaydon had coded multiple times, I had been asked by the charge nurse to go and stand with the parents, who were scared and didn’t understand what was going on. I realized in that moment that it was Kaydon’s little buddy, Aiden. Aiden was born with sick kidneys. He was an only child of two hard-working parents who lived in St. George. They were only able to be with Aiden at Primary Children’s on the weekends. In order to have medical insurance to afford his care, they had to continue working during the week. Aiden had surgery Thanksgiving morning to remove his sick kidneys, place him on dialysis, and await a transplant. Aiden died that day. Aiden was 10 months old. All I could do was hug his parents, pray for their comfort and their peace. There is always someone who has it worse. May we find them. May we love them.
Fifth, according to Elder Wirthlin, is to enjoy the journey. Enjoy it!!
President Monson said, “I believe one of 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.”
Days pass and the years vanish and we walk sightless among miracles.
Sometimes in life we become so focused on the finish line that we fail to find joy in the journey. After three back surgeries and a heart surgery, I decided I was going to run a 5k. I don’t run. Ever. Unless something big and scary is chasing me, I’m not running. But, I began training. Every night, I went out and I ran. I started by running half a mile, then a mile, and so on until I was running 3 ½ miles without walking. My boys went with me each night to practice. They ran with me and encouraged me when I was pretty positive I was dying. The day of the race, Braxton ran also. He ended up taking third place overall, then ran clear back to then run with me. I am pretty sure I came in last place, but I didn’t walk once. My boys were at the finish line cheering for me and giving me hugs and kisses. That day, and for that month, it wasn’t about the race. It was about my journey, and how sweet the finish line was! I haven’t run since!
Elder Wirthlin said, “We have so much to smile about, be happy about, yes, even to laugh about. So many of us are always waiting to be happy. If only I could graduate, if only I could afford a car, if only I could get married (and may I add – stay married)… For too many, happiness is just over the horizon, never reachable. It’s a terrible thing always to be waiting for tomorrow, always depending on tomorrow, always excusing our todays because we are sure that only in the future will we possess the things that will fulfill us. Don’t wait for tomorrow! Don’t wait for the right job, the right house, the right salary, the right dress size. Be happy now. Be willing to laugh at yourself!”