Saturday, August 15, 2020

Oh, the Places You'll Go!

I recently found the notes from a panel presentation from 2010. This was for a BYU Women's Services conference exploring women and the challenges of navigating decision-making during the critical (and often stressful) young adult years.

For personal history purposes, I wanted to record this here, especially since my children are all currently living in the "decade of decision" [an Elder Hales phrase]. Truth be told, these principles are true for all of us, regardless of the phase of life we are in!

This conference was held in 2010. There were two different sessions and each session included four panelists. Panelists were chosen specifically to show the wide variety of ways a woman's life can unfold. It was an awesome conference and I loved working with BYU Women's Services to plan it. (Helping support female students at BYU was part of my charge as a member of the BYU Marriott School Undergraduate Management Advisory Board.)

The conference was entitled, "Oh, the Places You'll Go!" Hat tip, of course, to Dr. Seuss.

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I have three points I would like to share, using this fun and quite insightful book from Dr. Seuss. [Isn't it awesome how many ways true principles can show up? Just shows how merciful God is to teach truth as often as He can, through as many people as He can.]
You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go.
I will take minor issue w/ Dr. Seuss a here. The truth is, we know what we know, but what we know is often insufficient to make all the significant life decisions we face. Fortunately...

We are not alone in making decisions

Elder Scott: "I know that each one of you faces overwhelming challenges [I will add decisions]. Sometimes they are so concentrated, so unrelenting, that you may feel they are beyond your capacity to control. [Have you ever felt the press of too. many. decisions. facing you all at once?]

Don’t face the world alone. “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). (Richard G. Scott, Finding Peace, Happiness, and Joy (2007), 248–49.)

There were many times in my college experience, either in making decisions about classes, my major, or dating relationships, that I realized how very little I knew about what I should do. I often felt this way and perhaps you can relate a little:
You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted. But mostly they’re darked.
A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin!
Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?
How much can you lose? How much can you win?
And if you go in, should you turn left or right…or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite?
Or go around back and sneak in from behind?
Simple it’s not, I’m afraid you will find, for a mind-maker-upper to make up her mind.
I have a belief that the Lord can't direct us unless we are moving our feet. Sometimes I felt like I was walking blindly, and sometimes the dark, unmarked streets lasted longer than I would have hoped, but in the end, answers came when they needed to come.

Answers weren't always what I thought they were going to be. It took me what felt like forever to decide on a major. And the one major I had deliberately ruled out ended up being the focus I felt impressed to chose for my Master's Degree! When I took my “I've decided not to serve a mission, is that ok?” to the Lord, I got my answer, and my papers were in two weeks later! When I pleaded with God to let me marry the wonderful young man I dated after my mission...when he proposed, I could not say yes. (This actually happened a few times before the right time and person came along.)

When I thought about moving from NJ – a state w/ NO single's ward AT ALL – to a place w/ many singles, I felt to stay in New Jersey. I met my husband while living there. I met him at a time I didn't think I was ready for another relationship, but it just felt right to move forward. [I'd had many experiences with what a no felt like in my over 10 years of dating.] We had three children quickly, which was a surprise, but I realized later God's mercy and wisdom in this because of health problems that came shortly after our third was born.

You just never know the places you'll go! Let God help you figure out where you should be going. He can help you experience things that will be beyond what you could have planned for yourself, alone.

Speaking of the word alone, I have something to say about that. So does Dr. Seuss. Which leads to point #2.

You're going to feel scared sometimes, but “Don't worry, don't stew”
[W]hen you’re alone, there’s a very good chance you’ll meet things that scare you right out of your pants.
There are some, down the road between hither and yon, that can scare you so much you won’t want to go on.
But on you will go though the weather be foul.
On you will go though your enemies prowl.
On you will go though the Hakken-Kraks howl.
Onward up many a frightening creek, though your arms may get sore and your sneakers may leak.
On and on you will hike. And I know you’ll hike far and face up to your problems whatever they are.
I spent a good chunk of my young adult years single. It was not easy to be alone. But even after marriage and motherhood blessed my life, there still have been times when I have felt alone and overwhelmed by the challenges that have come my way. For example, chronic illness [now going on 18 years] altered my life significantly, and the accompanying heartache of not feeling right about having more children was something that took me years to come to peace with.

Have you ever considered that blessings and opportunities can also be sources of overwhelm? I'll never forget, for example, how terrified I was when I looked at that pregnancy test that confirmed that I would finally become a mother. [And while being a mother has stretched me beyond anything I have experienced, I cannot adequately express what being a mother means to me. For some, being a mother may be their greatest heartache. And for others, the heartache of not having children may never fully go away in this life. [See the link to the Worldwide Leadership Broadcast below. Julie Beck had something beautiful to say about that divine desire.]

Over time, I have come to realize that both the opportunities and the undesired challenges all can be tremendous blessings. If we embrace our journey, the hard and the great, we embrace the opportunity to continue to learn – not just through formal learning, but the life-changing learning that comes through personal experience, walking in faith, and experiencing triumph over trials. [If you want some excellent free therapy along these lines, I recommend searching for Craig Berthold's podcast. Actually, his daughter is the host of the podcast, called "The Full Cup."** Craig is a therapist, and this is her daughter's way of allowing her dad to share his professional insights [and personal faith journey] -- all about letting life's stuff all be turned to wisdom. Just as a note, his style is not, shall we say, General Conference-esque, but I can guarantee some transcendent moments if you let the principles he teaches distill. It's recommended to listen to the episodes in order. They build off each other. Craig's daughter, Rachel (also a therapist) is interviewed on a few episodes, and her insights are also awesome.]
Out there things can happen and frequently do to people as brainy and footsy as you.
And when things start to happen, don't worry, don't stew.
Just go right along. You'll start happening too!
Fear and faith (and fear and contentment) cannot easily coexist. [Sometimes we feel fear even though we are fostering faith, but our brains can't really do both at once.] Watch for fear in your life – either when hard things happen, or when good things do! – and practice replacing that with faith, confidence, hope, and a continued effort to move forward. ["Faith is action, not prediction." I thought I needed to reference that quote I have on my mirror, but the post that prompted me writing that down only contains "faith is action." Apparently it was the setting of the story that prompted the mirror quote. Still, this story is a powerful example of letting go and walking by faith, so I'm sharing the link.]

My last point relates to another stanza from Dr. Seuss.

The "Great Balancing Act" [Dr. Jeff Hill (family friend and BYU professor) would reframe this as the quest for Life Harmony.]
So be sure when you step to step with care and great tact and remember that Life’s a Great Balancing Act.
Just never forget to be dexterous and deft. And never mix up your right foot with your left.
Right now, most of you are trying to figure out how to balance all the demands on your time and attention, on your heart and your life. You are trying to balance prioirities between all we are taught that matters. Home, church, family, education, wholesome recreation – it all matters. [In truth, we are all always trying to figure this out. That never changes.] No one can figure out your formula for balance but you.* And the balance can change even from day to day. [My college roommate used to quip that we should just be sure we aren't repeatedly dropping the same ball. Obviously, it's more nuanced than that, and a lot more Spirit-led than that, but her thought helped me get more centered while I was stressing out about the dropped balls in my life.]

Through this BYU Women's Services conference [or by asking lots of people questions about their life stories] we hope you can see there are many ways your life can unfold.

Sister Beck said this in a Worldwide leadership broadcast in 2008, when talking about the balance of family and church service (and I think this can apply with any of the things we are talking about – balance of family, church, education, service, and personal development):
I would never want to say that it’s either...or. It has to be a...unity of what we commit to the Lord to help build His kingdom and what we’ve committed to build a family. They go together. It’s not one or the other.
[See also this article about a talk given by Sister Mary N. Cook about how education can help us help the Lord build His kingdom.]

Here are some related thoughts from Sister Tanner (from the same broadcast) that have stuck with me over the years:
"I remember [as a young adult] hearing [prophets and apostles] preach that we were to get married, to have children, and to get an education, sort of all simultaneously, as impossible as it sounds. And I think that maybe it does seem sort of impossible and that we have people who question and wonder about that. ...I believe that it requires of us great faith and great courage and often great sacrifice. I think [doing what is right, in accordance with God's plan and prophetic counsel] requires us to be in tune with the Lord to receive personal revelation..., and I think it requires a pure heart so that we are not judgmental of other people who are exercising their faith and having their own personal revelation."
Leave space for all that we are taught is important, and God will help you know how to balance it all through every stage of your life. And know without question that Christ will cover and consecreate the messiness of the process and the good desires of your hearts.

And, as Dr. Seuss says:

Kid, you’ll move mountains!
So…be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray or Mordecai Ale Van Allen O’Shea, you’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!

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*That can sometimes feel really lonely, but it's also awesome because, as therapist Craig Berthold discusses, if we take responsibility for our lives, we get to also take the wisdom from doing so.

**The symbolism of the podcast name is wonderful, but I wouldn't recommend searching on the podcast's name or you may spend the next week or so trying to telling your social media ad feed that you really aren't interested in all the bra shopping. It took me a while to figure out what on earth was going on in my Facebook feed. If you are wondering why on earth that happens, I recommend watching The Social Dilemma. And now you know that I've added some notes to this post, post-postdate. The original post was an unformatted mess. (Blogger is not my favorite, for the record.)

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