Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Cottage or a Palace? - Part One

Welcome to a blog edition of the class I taught on Saturday morning at our Stake Women's Conference! This is especially for Michelle and Karen, but I hope that any others (you!) who visit might find something of worth here. Today I will post Part One of the class, and tomorrow I will post Part Two.

I have recreated my table setting from Saturday (above) so that you can get the full "Relief Society feel" ... after all, what's a class without something beautiful or interesting to look at while you're listening?? In the photo, you can see a copy of the handout, which contains fourteen fabulous quotes. You'll find each of these quotes within the outline below, noted by "Quote #". If you'd like to print out my hand-out as was given in class, message me your email address and I will send it to you via attachment.

I taught this class twice on Saturday, and though my outline was of course the same, the class itself turned out quite differently each hour. This was because of the fabulous comments and questions that were shared, which led us down paths that we were supposed to go that particular hour with those particular women. I have included many of these comments in my outline, noted in italics within parentheses.

Let's get started!


In our ward Young Women organization, we recently kicked-off a two-part Challenge called "I Can Do Hard Things". We have challenged our young women to 1) Complete Pres. Thomas S. Monson's new biography "To the Rescue" by the end of August, and 2) Train for and participate in our 22-mile "walk to the Seattle Temple", also at the end of the summer.

ASK?? - What do you think our purposes behind such challenges might be? What do we hope to have happen?

(The physical journey to the temple is symbolic of the ultimate destination we hope for for our YW. Experience for themselves that "in the strength of the Lord they can do all things". Encourage developing an interest in reading and/or fitness. Providing girls with opportunities to complete "hard things" early in life will strengthen their beliefs that they can accomplish difficult things later in life)

**As Latter-day Saint women, we are continually bombarded with "hard things" in our lives that we must deal with and overcome. Today we will share ideas on how constant guidance from the Holy Ghost and accessing the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ can help us heal our lives and move us toward becoming balanced women, "filling the measure(s) of our creation".

**Imagine: you are scooping up big handfuls of fertile soil - what does it feel/smell like? What words describe this fertile soil? (rich, moist, fragrant, living, possibilities, earthy) Now imagine: you pick up several chunks of dry, parched soil in your hands - what are its characteristics? (barren, dead, hard) Let's compare these two types of soil to our DAILY TESTIMONIES ... not the burning testimony you feel while listening to General Conference or during Fast and Testimony Meeting, but the daily testimony you carry with you in your heart, day in/day out, as you go about your busy lives. Would you say your daily testimony is more like rich, fertile, living soil, or more like a chunk of hard dirt has not been tended to lately?

**Let's take a real look at the health of four areas in our lives: our personal spirituality, our physical well-being, our emotional state, and our temporal responsibilities. As we consider each of these four areas, what are the "hard things" that we, as women, struggle with or are concerned about?

SPIRITUAL: (not enough time to do what I know I should be doing, "hit and miss" personal prayer and scripture study, striving to hear the Spirit in the midst of a world of distractions, attending the temple regularly)

PHYSICAL: (my weight, not enough time to exercise, health concerns, disease, comparing myself to others, worldly diets and health advice, concern with providing healthy food for family, trying to live Word of Wisdom)

EMOTIONAL: (how to combat stress, depression, making time for real friendships, having enough time to connect with my husband, remembering who I really am and that Heavenly Father loves me)

TEMPORAL: (how to keep my home orderly and clean, how to organize my time with all of the commitments of family members, financial security, food storage/preparedness, planting a garden, keeping up with the laundry, repairs and projects)

**Quote 1: "Imagine yourself a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps you understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing, so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of; throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage, but He is building a palace." (C.S. Lewis)

**I love this quote, but it has always bothered me a bit, too, for I have fancied myself a definite "cottage girl"! I love the cozy feeling of a snug little, shingled home tucked off the path in the trees. I have never sought after a palace! If we use the cottage and the palace, though, as metaphors for a life, what are the qualities of each?
COTTAGE: (small, in control, comfortable, capable of hosting a couple of friends, reliable, predictable, easily managed, no risks taken...)
PALACE: (grand, sweeping, open-armed, influential, example to many, view, holds many people, a gathering place, limitless, must rely on God to help direct and manage...)

Two terrific comments from class members at this point:

(1. Analogy of "how to train an elephant". When a baby, a heavy chain is attached to one foot, allowing it to go eighteen feet in any direction, but no further. As the elephant grows larger, the chain is replaced with heavy rope, then a thin rope, then finally nothing at all. The adult elephant, though not tethered in any way, never ventures beyond that eighteen-foot circle that he was conditioned to stay within as a youngster. Liken this to "cottage life": comfortable in a small space, never branching out or taking risks or experiencing what we're capable of becoming.)

(2. Example of Pres. and Sister Pugh of the Seattle Temple presidency. The Pughs loved serving in the Church early in their marriage, and had dreams of a full but predictable life. Called to serve as mission president in PA with children still at home. Looked forward to retirement years, visiting grandchildren, traveling. Called to serve as temple president and matron. Despite their lives not going "as planned", they have loved every minute of serving in such capacities and have been able to touch countless lives because of their willingness to go where the Lord wanted them. Liken this to "palace living": being used far and wide as influences for good, spreading the gospel on a large scale, making friends all over country/world, finding more joy in living than ever expected.)

**Quote 2: "There are two important days in a woman's life: the day she was born, and the day she finds out why." (Elaine Cannon)

**When I ask you, "What were you born to do?" or "What is your life's mission?", what feelings come to the surface? (excitement, nervousness, guilt, hope, empowerment, feeling of being overwhelmed, uncertainty, motivated...)

**We discover what we were born to do by working to discover our talents, developing them, using them to lift others. This is when we become true partners with the Lord, when He can use us at our full potential to build up His kingdom within our spheres of influence.

**Two examples of women in our stake who (to me) are using their talents to do this:
Jennifer: ability to bring together a motley group of young women/Primary children/adults/whomever into a choir, work patiently with them, teach them about music, and lead them to produce a truly heavenly musical result EVERY TIME.
Mary: gift for gathering people. As a Relief Society president, she has gone out to the outer boundaries of her ward to visit and invite less-active sisters to participate in a weekly group of women who study the gospel together, led by the full-time missionaries. Through this inspired idea, women have returned to activity, and they now have a solid group of friends within their ward. All are preparing to attend the temple. (My mother is one of these fellowshipped women. It has changed her life, and it has changed mine.)

SPIRITUAL HEALTH: we must be consciously adding nutrients to our "soil" (daily testimony) to build a healthy, thriving foundation from which our lives will be able to grow and blossom. A couple of ideas for doing this:

1. Designate / create a small, quiet space in your home or yard for daily personal prayer, meditation, scripture study, planning, listening to the Holy Ghost.
ASK?? Why do the scriptures refer us to our "closets" as places to pray? What is it about "closets" that make them desirable for this habit? (they are small contained spaces, free from distractions, they allow us to focus internally more easily, they are private, they are set-aside for holy pursuits, they are closed off from the world)

In my "closet", or prayer space, I have a small stool that I sit on when I pray. I turn on the lamp on my bedside table in the morning, which reminds me of the heavenly Light that is available to me that day if I take the time to seek after it. I leave the lamp on all day long, and sometimes when I'm bustling in and out of my room later in the day, I will let the physical light draw me back to my space, to offer a quick prayer. Or, I will see the light and just remember what I am to be about that day.
On the wall next to this space, I have a large ribbon-board which holds things that are inspiring to me: photos, letters/cards, a great talk to study, momentos, handwritten notes to self to remind me of my goals. Seeing things visually, especially when my mind is focused on spiritual things, is another way to keep me moving toward what I am trying to accomplish at that time in my life.

When we take the time to establish a habit of personal, daily prayer, we begin to work hand-in-hand with the Lord to transform our lives. We are better able to start becoming the women we were meant to be. Even our weaknesses can be identified, sacrificed, and offered up, with the Lord's promise of creating strengths from them:

**Quote 3: "And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness tht they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things beome strong unto them." (Ether 12:27)

2. In our morning prayers, we must INVITE the Holy Ghost to be our constant companion that day, to guide and direct us in the ways of the Lord. As baptized members of His Church, we have been given this precious gift to use to our benefit as we are worthy of it and as we ask for it:

**Quote 4: "The Spirit is a divine entity. It therefore gives the ultimate example of politeness. It will not intrude into our lives. It will not force itself into our lives except under circumstances in which we may endanger our salvation...The Holy Ghost has been given to us as a gift, but it can only become an active part of our lives when we become aware of its dormant state and develop in our souls a desire to awaken the Spirit to life." (F. Enzio Busche of the Seventy)

3. Example of my mother. After years of investigating the Church, she was finally baptized twelve years ago. However, at this time she was also caring for my father who had had a debilitating stroke, and this took all of her energies. When she could no longer care for him (he now lives in a wonderful adult family home), she began to feel that it was time for her to return to Church. This happened last year, and following a personal, inspired visit from her Relief Society president, (see "Mary" above) for the first time is an active member of her ward. She has served on the Activities Committee, and is a committed visiting teacher who has learned to enjoy giving the monthly message. My mother is such an example of it never being "too late" to make a significant change in one's personal spiritual habits.


1 comment:

  1. Madre, I just read the whole thing. It's fantastic! Thank you for sharing things like this. It helps me feel more involved in your teaching opportunities. By the way, you're such a thoughtful teacher! It's definitely a major skill of yours. Love you!