Friday, May 27, 2011

A Cottage or a Palace? - Part Three

Thanks for coming back for Part Three of our Stake Women's Conference class! I just had my husband snap this photo of me, so that you can see what your "teacher" looks like, if you don't already know me personally. Let's jump back in to our discussion on creating balance in our lives ... we've covered the spiritual and physical components in the previous two posts, and now we'll finish with "emotional stability" and "temporal responsibilities".


**Being emotionally stable enables us to focus on both improving ourselves and serving others. It is important that we remember to fortify the "soil" of our daily testimonies with what it takes for us to feel happy and peaceful.

**I am not qualified to speak to the very real subject of clinical depression. What we will discuss instead are the occasional "down days" that we all have (that are a normal part of regular, busy, challenging lives), and a few ideas on how to put them behind us.

1. When my husband and I were "young marrieds", we lived in beautiful San Francisco where my husband attended podiatry school. We had a baby daughter, and we managed the 40-unit apartment building that we lived in. Though this was overall a rich, wonderful time of our lives, within a few months' time in 1989 I experienced two traumatic experiences there.

Perhaps you have put it together already: San Francisco, 1989?? Yes, we were there in our position of apartment responsibility when the big earthquake hit. As a 24 year-old young woman with little experience with crises, I was instantly called upon to assess damage to our building and the apartments therein, locate tenants, and our family's apartment became a stopping point for a couple of weeks for those who were dealing with large amounts of stress following the earthquake. My husband was there, too, but because he was in school during the days, most of the responsibility fell to me. This was a difficult and stressful time.

Not long after we recovered from the earthquake, my husband left for a month-long medical externship, leaving me "in charge" of our building. A series of events led me to find a tenant who had committed suicide in his apartment. It immediately became my job to work with authorities, notify his family, oversee his things being packed and moved out, and finally refurbishing his apartment so that it could be rented again.

The cumulative effect of these two events found me feeling like I had fallen into a black pit that I could not get myself out of. My parents were several hours away, and though I had a good support system of friends in the area, I felt very alone. Despair and a degree of depression set in, and I found it hard to make it through the day.

My sweet, elderly home teachers came by to check up on me one evening, and after I poured out my heart to them, they asked if they could give me a priesthood blessing. In that blessing, I was promised that if I engaged in hard, physical work, I would be able to come out of the funk that I felt buried in. The next morning, I scrubbed our apartment, mopped the lobby floor, vacuumed the halls, washed windows, and, in a few days' time, literally WORKED out of my black hole. The counsel from the Lord through his representatives proved to be the answer for me. I began to feel like I was making a difference for good again in my surroundings, and my whole attitude returned to normal. HARD WORK shifted my thoughts from myself to what I could do for others around me.

2. When I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis two summers ago, I hobbled around for a full three months before my medication really kicked in. My days felt like they moved in slow motion, every joint hurt, I was tired, and didn't feel like doing the things that normally brought me joy.

One night, as I lay in bed, I forced myself to think of the good things that had happened that day. I had to think really hard to pinpoint a couple. My mind was used to being in the "poor me" mode, and took it real effort to think of even one blessing. It may sound kind of cliche, you know "Count Your Many Blessings" and all, but I soon started to look forward to those moments in the dark where I would review my day and happily remember all of the good things that had happened that day. I even began to recognize blessings again as they were happening during the days. I could clearly see that Heavenly Father was with me through this trial, but I just hadn't made the effort to look to Him.

**Sometimes when we go through hard times - which ALL of us do - it is easy to become self-absorbed. I once heard a little phrase that has stuck with me for years: "Turn your mirrors into windows". Think for a moment about what that might mean. Especially when times are tough, we need to LOOK FOR and PRAY FOR opportunities to serve others. When we stop looking in our "mirrors" so much, and desire instead to view life through "windows", we become happier women.

QUOTE #10: "I don't want to drive up to the pearly gates in a shiny sports car, wearing beautifully tailored clothes, my hair expertly coiffed, and with long, perfectly manicured fingernails. I want to drive up in a station wagon that has mud on the wheels from taking kids to Scout camp. I want to be there with a smudge of peanut butter on my shirt from making sandwiches for a sick neighbor's children. I want to be there with a little dirt under my fingernails from helping to weed someone's garden. I want to be there with children's sticky kisses on my cheeks and the tears of a friend on a shoulder. I want the Lord to know I was really here and that I really lived." (Marjorie Pay Hinckley)

**My mother used to tell me when I was young to surround myself with the best of friends; to look for those who were strong and brought out the best in me, and to pursue friendships with them. I still think of this wonderful advice today as a 46 year-old woman. I am so blessed to be surrounded by truly magnificent women, who are some of the very best people I have ever met. These friends have done much to strengthen, support, and love me through the difficulties I have faced.

**Do we see our precious friends for the great women that they are? Do we look for their strengths, try to build and support them, and "champion their causes"? Someone once said that we should never supress a generous thought, and I think this is a great way to be a friend to others ... when we notice something or hear something good about our friend, TELL HER! It just may make her day.


ASK?? Would we all agree that it is hard to have lasting success in any area of our lives if our homes are a mess? (a resounding "yes"!!!)

**It is vital that the "soil" of our daily testimony includes a good plan for keeping the temporal things in our lives (our homes, our finances, our meals, our laundry) running smoothly. For me it is nearly impossible to be spiritually and physically on-target if my house is out of control.

**Confession: this is one of my hard things! My mother is the most excellent housekeeper that I know, as was her mother. I did not get the natural "clean gene"! I have to work really hard at it, then things fall apart, then I work really hard at it again. I hold on to that scripture that I quoted earlier (Ether 12:27) that tells us our weak things can become our strengths if we trust in the Lord ... someday I will conquer this!

**Stephen R. Covey ("7 Habits of Highly Effective People") talks about moving from "crisis living" to "preventive, joyful living", or "doing TODAY what you could put off 'til TOMORROW".

**Have you experienced either of these scenarios?: "Quick, family, ____________ (fill in the blank) will be here in ten minutes!!! Everyone take a room and get let's get this house picked up!" OR "Aaahhh! It's 5:00 already?! What am I making for dinner??" Well we have, more often than I'd like to admit.

**I have created a list for myself which I call my DAILIES. I have listed a bunch of things that, if accomplished, make it a "good day". Things like: clean up kitchen after each meal, put away clean laundry, have a good conversation with a friend, listen to some classical music a little on the loud side, study the scriptures, exercise, eat a green salad and a serving of berries, spend quality time with both husband and daughter, read from an uplifting book, spend some time in the sunshine, write a note to someone ... you get the idea. I have a list of about 20 DAILIES, and if I am able to accomplish most of them on most days, it makes for a pretty great week. I encourage you to give this a try! Make your own list of DAILIES and see if referring to it regularly doesn't help you stay focused on things that are important to you.

QUOTE #11: "Home is where women have the most influence; therefore Latter-day Saint women should be the best homemakers in the world." (Julie B. Beck, General Relief Society president, "Mothers Who Know", Ensign, Nov. 2007)

**It is important to remember that there is a difference between HOUSEKEEPERS and HOMEMAKERS. ASK?? What is a housekeeper? (one who cleans the house, does the laundry, keeps things orderly) ASK?? What is a homemaker? (one who strives to bring the Spirit into her family's home, one who makes home a refuge from the world, one who is concerned with beautification as well as cleanliness, one who focuses on the needs of her family within the walls of her home, one who encourages traditions/celebrations in home)

**We have been counselled to "stand in holy places". These places include the temple, our church buildings, OUR HOMES, and within ourselves. Truman S. Madsen has written about our homes having the potential to be like "mini temples". This is wonderful to contemplate!

QUOTE #12: "In the latter days there will be a people so pure in Mount Zion, with a house established upon the tops of the mountains, that God will manifest Himself, not only in their temple ... but when they retire to their homes, behold each home will be lighted up by the glory of God, a pillar of flaming fire by night." (Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses)


A fertile, rich, living daily testimony depends on a near-constant infusion of prayer, the following of spiritual promptings, studying of the scriptures, and using the power of the Atonement to improve. If we are careful and deliberate about adding these things to our days, our lives will grow, blossom, and bear fruit.

Likewise, as we stay balanced spiritually, physically, emotionally, and temporally, our lives will naturally become more "palatial" than "cottage-like", and our influence for good in the world around us will be immeasurable.

QUOTE #13: "Dare the encounter with God. It is up to each of us. We must choose. God does indeed stand with His arms outstretched, waiting, and a voice within us demands that we ascend. Such an encounter has its risks and its costs because, once we know, we become responsible. But, once we know, all His options are open to us. That is one of the unique teachings of the Restoration. His course is not easy, even now. He weeps or rejoices over us just as we do over our children. Our constant questioning, "Where art Thou, Lord?" is mirrored in His final question to us, just as He called for this earth's first children in the garden: "Adam, Eve, where art thou?" (Genesis 3:9) The day will come when I myself, the me whose heart he can read, will be the only answer that will be given." (Ann N. Madsen, "A Voice Demands That We Ascend", BYU Women's Conference)

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