Only this time, instead of the coziness of speaking in a ward Sacrament meeting, I was asked to speak at the evening session of stake conference last night. Also, I got a stake calling.* It was a fairly nerve-wracking week, to be honest. Several people mentioned they would like a copy of the talk, so I am posting it here.
I started planning my life at a very young age. By grade school I had sketched out a rough plan as to how my life would go. I would be living in a bustling metropolis, New York, Boston, D.C., London, it changed depending on my mood, working in some fascinating occupation, which also changed depending on my mood. I would live a sophisticated life far removed from rural Eastern Washington, see the world, amass a spectacular shoe collection, and finally settle down at the age of 28 by marry an interesting, sophisticated man four years my senior and buying the perfect home. That was the narrative I crafted year in and year out as I slowly made my way from grade school to junior high to high school and on to university. Not to spoil the story, but that isn’t exactly how it turned out. In fact, very little of it has gone according to plan. Aside from amassing a fairly large shoe collection.
How far has reality diverged from my life plan? Well, I currently pay the bills by working in property management while trying to find a full-time teaching position. I am still single and home-ownership is a distant, improbable dream. However, I do know, despite the drastic difference in youthful daydreams and adult reality, that I am where the Lord wants me to be. His plan is vastly different than mine. By the world’s measurements of success and achievement it may look like something has gone wrong, but in His merciful wisdom the Lord has led me along a path infinitely better.
Being laid off from my administrative job in Salt Lake City six and a half years ago and having to move home a few months later felt, at the time, like a colossal failure. However, it meant being able to spend every day with my mother for the last four months of her life. It meant being called to teach Mia Maids and realizing a) I really like teaching and b) I really like teaching middle schoolers. It meant regaining my Washington residency and being able to attend Western Washington University to obtain a teaching certificate and a Master’s degree. It meant ending up 70 minutes away from my brother’s family and being able to spend every major event in my nieces’ and nephew’s lives with them. In hindsight, losing my job and moving home was the kindest, most merciful thing the Lord could do for me.
I am, unfortunately, slow to learn. I came to Bellingham with a plan. I was going to attend graduate school, get a part-time job while in school, and then start a grand new adventure as a first-year teacher in some previously undiscovered part of the country. That was my plan. It will probably not surprise you to hear that it was not the Lord’s plan. A month after I moved here and started school, I was called to serve as a counselor in the YSA ward’s Relief Society presidency. A few short months later, following the weddings of both the other counselor and the president, I was called to serve as the YSA Relief Society president. This was really NOT part of my plan. But it was part of the Lord’s plan. I didn’t end up getting that part-time job, but I received a very specific promise from the Lord that if I magnified my calling, that He would take care of me. This promise didn’t come when I was set apart, rather in His infinite mercy, it came a month before I received the calling, while sitting in this very room during Stake conference four years ago. The Lord knew what I needed and when I would need it.
That property management job I am not particularly fond of started as a temporary summer position the week after I graduated from Western and miraculously transformed into a permanent, full-time position that pays all my bills and includes a boss who allows me to take days off to substitute teach and I recently started an online teaching job to add experience to my resume. The Lord has taken care of me.
I came to Bellingham to pursue a degree in education. I also received an education in submitting to and waiting upon the Lord.
Submitting and waiting are not things that I am particularly good at. However, I have learned a few things about it. First, submitting is not throwing one’s hands in the air and giving up. It is not dejectedly moping in the corner like Eyeore. It is actively pursuing to your fullest extent the righteous desires of your heart and looking forward with hope to the fulfillment of the Lord’s promises. It is following the promptings of the Holy Ghost while working as hard as you can to progress in your life. Submitting to the will of the Lord is understanding that when difficulties arise, when all your righteous efforts seem to fall to dust, that the Lord is not punishing you nor has He forgotten you. Rather, He is leading you to something infinitely better.
Waiting upon the Lord is not sitting in our metaphorical or literal recliners waiting for the Lord to deliver. A friend of mine, who is currently serving a mission, and I have been discussing what it means to wait upon the Lord. The conclusion we came to, with help from Elder Perrell’s mission president, suggests there are two aspects of waiting upon the Lord. In the grand tradition of the wonderful and frustrating English language, wait has multiple meanings. The first meaning denotes patiently enduring the passage of time while looking forward to something. The second meaning of wait involves active service to something or someone. Both are inherent in the idea of waiting upon the Lord and integral in our becoming perfected beings. To truly be waiting upon the Lord, we must follow His timeline while serving Him by serving His children.
Brothers and sisters, the Lord has not forsaken us as we go through the trials and tribulations that are common to all human experience. If we cheerfully submit and wait upon the Lord, as difficult and impossible as that may seem at times, He will bless us. In Doctrine & Covenants 123:17, amid the horror and persecution of Missouri, Joseph Smith gave this instruction to the early Saints from Liberty jail :
“Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed.”
This promise also applies to us now. Submitting and waiting are not meant to be easy. They comprise our covenanted sacrifice to the Lord. They are our paths to following the example of Jesus Christ and they are a key to sanctification and salvation. Despite the trials, the difficulties, and the sorrow that is part of my continuing education in submitting to and waiting upon the Lord, I am grateful for the goodness, mercy, and love I have already seen and felt in the Lord’s plan for me. I know that by following the Lord’s plan, submitting in obedience, and waiting upon the Lord, I will continue to be blessed. I know that as we all continue in the path of submitting to and waiting upon the Lord we will be worthy to receive all His promised blessings and that “All that is unfair in life can be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.” As we each prayerfully seek Him out and grow in our use and application of His Atonement, we can find joy and consolation in submitting to and waiting upon the Lord. He is the Balm of Gilead to take away the pain, sorrow, and discouragement of our hardships. Depend on Him and He will take care of you.
*For the curious, I was called to serve as the first counselor in the stake Relief Society.