Friday, December 21, 2007

If the rest of it really doesn't matter, why do I want to do it all?

I was on the phone with a friend today. She asked how Christmas preparations were coming, and I shared with her that my body had basically hit bottom. I spent essentially all day horizontal. Many of the things I have wanted to do, including for family, have either been put on the back burner (our family members living out of state won't receive their gifts until after the holiday) or will just fall off the plate.

My friend kindly offered her help, and then reminded me that when I look back, the stuff that didn't get done won't matter anyway.

As I lay on the couch, playing games with my daughter, basking in that sweet time together, I wondered: "If most of the trappings and the extras really don't matter, why do we do them all?" And I wonder how much of that might apply to my day-to-day life. Am I so consumed with stuff that really won't matter that I am sometimes (often?) missing what does?

But then again, how does one decide what 'doesn't matter'? I suppose each of our plates can carry different amounts at different times, and I think each day will probably be a little different. But this week when I have felt so rotten, and throughout the course of my struggle with chronic illness, I have struggled to figure out how to balance. Where is that line between diligently striving to be "anxiously engaged" in "many things" (Doctrine and Covenants 58:27) and running faster than I have strength?

I know there is no pat answer to it, and that we need the guidance of the Holy Ghost to help us. But as my husband and I have had to work to just keep the bare minimum going, we have realized how often we really don't seek the Spirit and instead just sort of let life live us. It's so easy to let the good things keep us from the most important things.

Although my obvious wish is to have more strength to do more of what I want and feel I need to do. However, I can't help but wonder how much of that stuff along the way is really that important. I feel I am learning a lot, especially the past while (and with the help of several talks at this last General Conference), about the importance of proactively seeking to have my priorities in place, every day.

Truth be told, I felt more joy today lying on the couch playing with my daughter than I would have felt doing almost anything else on my "list" even with how much I love Christmas. Might this be a lesson the Lord wants me to learn through all of this?


  1. I think we do some of those things because they are fun, because they bring joy to others. I bake cookies because everyone likes cookies. I put up a Christmas tree because my daughter loves the lights. I have lived in an environment where all these things were seen as foolish and silly. As a result, much of the simple, silly joy was leached from the holidays. I've been slowly trying to do these extraneous "foolish" things, despite my lack of habit. As a result, my family is able to have fun and laugh together in ways that seem brand-new to me.

    The trick is to keep these "good" things balanced. It's like the analogy with the golf balls, the rice and the water. If you put in the better things, you still have room for a lot of the good things. If you let the good things come first, you'll find no room for the better. It is as Christ said to the Pharisees; "ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone."

    Christ wasn't saying the tithe (a good thing) was bad, but that the tithe without mercy, etc. was empty. It was simply going through the motions while missing the point. Putting up a Christmas tree while yelling at your kids probably doesn't have the desired effect. In such a case, the trimmings are indeed foolish.

  2. SilverRain, thanks for your thoughts. I don't mean to diminish the good things that bring joy, and that bring families together. The point is, if they are truly bringing joy and laughter to your home, then I think that follows under 'better' or 'best' according to Elder Oaks and Sister Beck. A loving, warm, laughter-filled home doesn't just happen. This is something that we have to choose and work at. And it is work of its own kind.

    I love the holidays. I grew up with lots of hoopla around them and loved that. I try to have fun things for my family, and want to do kind things for people I care about. But this year has been different because I crashed before the holidays, not after. And so I have had to really scale down. My husband has had to help fill in gaps with time spent with the children. It's all been different than I had hoped and planned for. But in the end, we are still spending happy time together and still feeling holidayish, even though I haven't baked with my kids, or haven't been able to do as much service and sharing as I would have liked in my neighborhood and community, and we haven't gone to as many extended family things as we would have liked to. Most of this holiday is ending up being the golf balls. And that's ok, too.

  3. Having had to go to work this year (not by choice), this comment of yours particulary resonated with me: "I suppose each of our plates can carry different amounts at different times". Thank you for a thought provoking (for me) post.

  4. namakemono,
    Thank you so much for your comment. Best wishes in figuring out your balance. More and more, I am realizing that what matters is that I do my best, and do that with God's help. Yesterday, I was vertical for only two hours, and yet my husband and I felt that it was a good day, because we sought to spend the time and energy we did have focused on family as much as possible. And miracles happened. The Lord magnified our efforts and helped us get things done in less time. It really was amazing, and has reaffirmed these principles of priorities that we have been taught so well as of late by our leaders.

    Now, if only I can remember that every day, and really seek the Lord's help in figuring out what is most important!

    Merry Christmas to you!

  5. No answers to your questions, only sympathy. I'm sorry you don't feel well enough to do all that you'd like to. I'm certain, though, that you are doing what matters, and that your joy in what you are able to do will be magnified because of your righteous desires. Merry Christmas!!

  6. Well, I think even "better" and "best" can become "good" or even "bad" if we run faster than we ought.

    Sometimes we are humbled and shown that what we "ought" is less than we thought.

  7. Kristine, thank you for your kind words.

    SilverRain, I agree. That's why I'm realizing it's so important for me not to hold too tightly to my lists, and instead seek the Spirit to guide me each day -- because each day will probably be a little different in terms of what matters most.

  8. A word of advice I could give you is to put your relationship with the Lord first and everything else will fall into place. Matthew 6:33

  9. Anonymous, thank you for your advice, and I agree wholeheartedly. But I probably didn't make that obvious in this post. :)

    We have a quote in our kitchen that I love, which we refer to often:

    "Men and women who turn their lives over to God will discover that He can make a lot more out of their lives than they can. He will deepen their joys, expand their vision, quicken their minds, strengthen their muscles, lift their spirits, multiply their blessings, increase their opportunities, comfort their souls, raise up friends, and pour out peace. Whoever will lose his life in the service of God will find eternal life" (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988], p. 361).

  10. I enjoy doing things if I have the strength. A lot of things that seem fun when I feel good are sheer drudgery when I'm down.

    I don't recall if we've talked about your illness, but I also have a chronic illness and it's really, really hard.

    I made myself do some Christmas candy, with Bill's help, one day, and I got so tired I finally cried (which I seldom do).

    There are many many things I wish I had the strength to do. That's when I have to "turn it over" and ask God where my priorities should be and to help me accomplish them.

    God bless you, I'm right there with you.

  11. annegb, thank you for your kind and empathetic words. I don't know that we have discussed it, but I knew you struggled, too, and I'm sorry for your struggles. It IS hard. Very hard.

  12. m&m: I linked here from bycommonconsent and enjoyed your comments here. I think too often we can get in the mode of just going through the motions almost without thought, and when this happens, we cheat ourselves from great joy and blessings. Or, like you said, sometimes we can get distracted by things that really won't matter in the long run.

    I've read some articles from Richard Eyre at meridianmagazine that touch on these topics- if you aren't familiar with them, see what you think:

    There are LOTS of articles there and some are a bit redundant in my opinion, but I love the concept of developing what he calls "serendipity, stewardship, and synergicity" to combat what he calls the deceivers of "control, ownership, and independence." If you go to the link of the articles, they are listed chronologically with the oldest one at the bottom of the page, and it is best to read them in order.

    Anyway, thanks for your comments here and elsewhere. It's nice to find others with similar ways of thinking...

    from: my2cents

  13. my2cents,

    Thanks for your comment. I am familiar with Richard Eyre, but haven't read that series thoroughly. Thanks for the recommendation.