Once upon a time, many years ago, I was having an ugly duckling day.
I was in my twenties and attending Utah State University, living in an apartment with three marvelous girls. I was doing well in my studies, I had gotten past the homesickness and awkwardness that I had felt earlier that year, and all in all, I was doing quite well.
And yet, on that particular day, I had been feeling a little "less-than" (as opposed to "greater than"). I don't remember exactly what had caused these feelings this time around, but my guess is that I was feeling a general sense of dissatisfaction over the fact that my life wasn't going as I had originally expected it to go, that I wasn't doing what I had expected to be doing at that point in my life. I have since learned that very few people, if any, go through life having everything go exactly as they originally expected, that we all end up doing different things than was our plan. At the time though, I was a little naive, and I honestly thought that I was one of the few in this particular situation of living a life that was different from what I'd wanted.
It was a Sunday, and for some reason, all my roommates were out and about, so I had the apartment to myself. I was reading through some of my papers and scriptures, and I chanced to read my Patriarchal Blessing.* As I did this, I had an experience that gave me enough hope that I still remember it, all these years later.
I can't explain exactly how it all came to me, as I know it wasn't a voice that I could hear, nor was it anything that I could actually put into words, but as I sat there in that empty apartment, a feeling dawned on me, slowly at first but gathering intensity, that I was going to have it ALL. Far from being forgotten and derailed, I was actually going to be blessed beyond my wildest dreams. My life was going to be one in which I would be able to serve a mission, graduate from college, get a graduate degree, find employment that I enjoyed, travel the world, learn to sing, and experience life with many different people. Nearly all of these were experiences I had already had, and with the exception of the college graduation, none of them had been in my original life plan. But then, as if that wasn't enough, it was made known to me (or at least suggested very strongly) that at some point I would be able to marry and have children, and enjoy the life of motherhood and helpmate-hood, and home-i-ness that I had always hoped for and planned for.
(Don't think for a minute that I don't know that I just made up two new words in that paragraph above. Just call me Charlotte Webster. It's just a matter of time before I publish my own dictionary.)
That's all I remember about that day, but from then on, at times when I would feel frustrated about life, I would think back to how I felt then, and I would be comforted.
As it turned out, it was many many years (like nearly fifteen) before the helpmate-hood came about, and another year or so after that before the motherhood part started, but they both came.
You might have guessed though, that my original life plan included more than one child. In addition, it did not include me working outside the home, or in the employment of any one other than myself and my family. It included a houseful of children, and me staying home with them, helping with homework, teaching them to cook and straighten the house, working in the garden, volunteering in the PTA, attending Little League games and band concerts, you get the idea.
That's okay though. As I've written here before, I've found peace with the differences between what I wanted and what I have, and I've accepted that the Lord's plan for my life and my plan for my life are not the same. I've learned that given the choice between the Lord's plan and my plan, His plan is always more fulfilling, more joyful, and all-around better, and I will do well to choose His over mine every time. So I do. I choose His plan for me, and I trust that whether in this life, or the next, I will have the desires of my heart. If that means a bunch of kids to raise and a passel of grandchildren eventually, then that's what I'll get, at some point. And I can be okay with that. Shoot, I can be better than okay with that, I can be happy, and joyful, and have a whole lot of fun and laughs with the life I have now, while I contentedly wait for the other righteous things that I want to enjoy and experience. I can do that, and I do do that.
So, you can imagine my surprise when, just when I thought I had made peace with all that I had, and had learned to find joy in my unexpected journey, the Lord turned around and gave me what I most wanted, and filled my house full of kids.
They aren't really my kids of course, at least not in the sense that I clothe them, and put them to bed, soothe their nightmares, and register them for kindergarten or preschool. They have their own homes, and their own parents for all of that. Nor do I see them every day, but on the days that I'm working from home, or on the weekends, it seems that they nearly always find their way over to our door, ready for play and fun and adventure.
It all started out with these two blondies, but over the past few weeks, the group has gradually expanded to include a semi-random assortment of girls and boys who come in and out of our home, stopping here for a break, a snack, some fun, before heading back out on their route of great places and imaginings.
|On this day, they each wanted an individual fort.|
About a week ago, I was in the kitchen, chopping vegetables or something all domestic like that. Our kitchen has a window that looks out into our living room, where there were some kids playing, (building a yarn web like those you see above, if I remember right). Every once in awhile, I would hear a big "THUD" from Heather's room above, where other kids were presumably jumping off her (not so high as to be super dangerous, but still high enough to be adventurous and a little risky) dresser onto the floor, as well as off the bed. As I did so, I had a feeling that was not all that different from the one I had lived all those years ago in that empty apartment.
Again, it wasn't really in words as much as it was a feeling, but the feeling I got was one of peace. This time, I did try to put my words to it, and although this isn't an exact translation, it's not all that far off. It's a little personal, and some may find it cheesy, but it's as close as I can get, so I'm just going to post it, cheese and all:
"See? You DO have it ALL. I told you you would, and you absolutely do. You have a husband who is patient and hilarious and understanding, a home that is full of love, a daughter that is all that you could ever want, a circle of friends that is un-matched, a job that you enjoy, a mind full of happy memories, and well, well, well, would you look at that?? You even have a house full of children!
Did you think I had forgotten you? Never. Not even for one moment."
Some years ago, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles gave a talk in General Conference that has stayed with me ever since. It was a pep talk of sorts, filled with a few stories, a few scriptures, some counsel for us to keep going when things seem difficult or even hopeless. It was a talk that contained a whole lot of hope.
On that particular day, he chose to end his sermon with this:
Some blessings come soon,
some come late,
some come late,
and some don't come until heaven;
but for those who embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ,
I believe that with all my heart.
(After all, I've got a house full of kids to prove it.)
*Patriarchal Blessing: My explanation is that this is a blessing given to Latter-day Saints when they reach a semi-mature age (I was 14 when I received mine), by a person with a special calling in the priesthood, (called a Patriarch). Priesthood Blessings can be given at any point many times over the course of a person's life, but a Patriarchal Blessing is generally given only once. Unlike other blessings, the Patriarchal Blessing is recorded, saved, and while kept private, is also (ideally) read over and over again many times throughout the person's life. I feel like mine provides a glimpse into how my Father in Heaven sees me, some of my strengths, some of my weaknesses, and provides guidance into His plan for me, and what may be in store for me in this life, if I am faithful and continue to keep the commandments, and stay close to God.
For a more official definition, look here.