Faith, Hope, Love, and Joy

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Last night was the broadcast of women’s conference for our church (If you’d like to watch it, go here). This is a bi-annual worldwide broadcast where woman, ages 8 and up, get to gather together and listen to the leaders of our church to get direction and be guided in the direction we need to go. Last night’s broadcast consisted of one of the ladies from each of the auxiliary presidencies, and by no means I want to discredit what they said, but today’s post I’d like to focus on President Uchtdorf’s talk.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf is the second counselor in the First Presidency and one of the Apostle. I love his imagery that he uses in his talks and I have a soft spot for him because he is from Germany and I love the beautiful country of Germany.

He begins by saying he is going to speak as the Savior taught: in parables. I find parables or stories a great way for me to understand what exactly the speaker is trying to get across. I can relate to it and I can apply it to my life. Parables also tend to have many layers of teaching and you can get something from it no matter the age.

And so he begins his story about a little girl named Ava, age 11, who was going to go stay with her great aunt Rose for a whole summer while her mother had a surgery and went through recovery. Great aunt Rose is not someone that Ava ever sees and she is convinced she does not want to go. She argued, she pleaded, but when it came down to it, she was going to have to go for the entire summer.

So she got in the car with her father and drove a long distance to great aunt Rose’s home. When she arrived she found the house outside of town and there was no kids her age to play with. One more time, Ava thought she’d try to get out of this, which of course her father did not give in, and she was left with great aunt Rose.

Great aunt Rose’s home was old and filled with baubles and bottles and a very angry cat that perched himself on top of the tallest thing in the room. For the first little bit, Ava was so worried about her mother, that she didn’t interact with her great aunt that often. But each evening Rose would sit down on the sofa, pull out her scriptures and read aloud. Every once in awhile she would interrupt her reading and say things like, “Oh, he shouldn’t have done that.” or “I didn’t know that.” or “Isn’t that the most wonderful thing you have ever heard?”. Ava simply ignored her, to caught up in her own worry for her mother. Nightly she would pray that her mother’s surgery would go well and she would heal quickly.

When word arrived that Ava’s mother’s surgery went well, Ava felt relief and the worry disappeared. And then she noticed something about her great aunt Rose: Rose was always happy. And this was peculiar to her. Rose was an old maid, so to speak. She had never married and lived at her home, retired, by herself. She was a big woman and she had a hard time getting around, tying her shoes, or climbing upstairs. But as she went around the house doing her chores she would sing and laugh and was just happy.

When Ava and Rose went to town to go shopping or pick up something else, great aunt Rose was always surrounded by people who wanted to talk to her. Great aunt Rose had once been school teacher and her former students would come up, give her a hug, introduce her to their children, and thank her for the impact she had on their lives. Not only was Rose happy, people loved her.

And so Ava began to watch her. And as she began to get to know Rose, she started to do things and learn things from her. They made orange marmalade and picked berries. Ava learned about her great, great grandmother that came across the ocean and walked with the pioneers across the prairie to be with the Saints.

Consequently, Ava soon realized that she was happier too when she was around great aunt Rose. Soon, Rose informed her it was almost time to go home, something Ava had looked forward to from the first day she was there. At that point Ava realized she was going to miss the strange house, the stalker cat, and, especially, her great aunt Rose.

On the last day she was there, Ava finally got up enough nerve to ask her great aunt something that she had wanted to ask her for a long time: Why are you so happy?

Rose escorted Ava over to a painting in the hallway of a little girl in pioneer clothes. This little girl in the painting looked like she was skipping down the sidewalk. The sun was shining and there was beautiful green trees with birds in them, probably singing.

Great aunt Rose asked, “What do you see?”

Ava said, “A little girl, she looks like she’s skipping.”

Great aunt Rose explained, “The pioneers had so many hardships. Hardships we can’t even understand. And yet this little girl is happy, she has hope. And she is moving forward and upward. There are so many things that can go wrong in life, and we can focus on those things. But I know people, that when things don’t go right, start to focus on the miracles of life. These people are the happiest people I know.”

“But you can’t just flip a switch and turn on happy.” said Ava.

“No, but God didn’t design us to be sad. He designed us to have joy. If we learn to trust him, he will help us recognize the good things in life. And eventually the road will become light and happy. It is not instantaneous, it takes work. But things like homemade bread and orange marmalade take patience and work and their some of the best things in life.”

“Maybe it’s not so simple for people that don’t have things perfect in their life,” Ava said.

“Dear Ava, do you think that my life is perfect? My life didn’t go as planned and I was bitter and angry for a long time. I wanted it to just be fixed and made better, and then I discovered faith and faith lead to hope. I realized that because of the Savior, all the wrongs would be made right. All my worrying and brooding was not going to change that. I realized that my story could have a happy ending. This life is not for our happy ending, it is for the next life, where we could dwell with God and then there would be no more pain. We would be able to experience all the things that God has prepared for us.”

“But can’t some happiness happen now?” Ava asked.

“Of course it can. This is part of eternity. Look around you and open your eyes to what lies ahead of you. Faith gave me the hope to live joyfully now. And so I decided to fill my life with meaningful things: I went back to school, I got a career of teaching children, which I loved doing. And I filled my life so I was busy.”

“But being busy doesn’t mean you’re happy.” Ava commented.

“Ava, you are wise beyond your years. No, it doesn’t. I know many people that fill their lives just to busy and are really quite miserable. But I didn’t just fill my life, I filled my life with love and service. Love is at the heart of the Gospel. All the commandments lead to love. I knew that I needed to stop thinking about my problems and start worrying about others. It was that love that lead me to live a life full of happiness and joy. And so, now I go about my day, filled with singing and laughter, but also with faith, hope, and love.”

As you can imagine, Ava left great aunt Rose with a heavy heart, missing her already, but with a new perspective.

I think about this story, and more importantly of the exchange and the things that I can learn from it.

First and foremost: I need to be happier. I think so many things in life seem to weight us down. Right now a few of those things would be a few decisions of my past that has affected where I am today. The feeling of overwhelm with fitting everything in throughout the day and through the week: homework and reading, meals that need to be prepared for my family, love and kindness, my church calling (young women), trying to refill my own spiritual cup, my blog, my business, my house that seems to never get clean, my desire to do things like craft and scrapbook (how much scrapbooking is really important?), my own health and fitness, as well as my goals and desires that I want to accomplish. Or maybe, I have allowed this overwhelm to weigh on me and it has turn me bitter. The fact that I get frustrated and irritated so easily and that I snap at my kids and my husband, when all the need from me is time, love and affection. So where do I start on this one??? I don’t know, it’s so overwhelming, but I think this is what my Heavenly Father wanted me to learn first and foremost.

God didn’t design us to be sad, he designed us to have joy!

Next, that my faith and hope in my Savior allows everything to be made right. That there is forgiveness and repentance. That there is a happy ending where I can dwell with our Heavenly Father and my family.

Next, the best things take patience and hardwork. There is no instantaneous fix. Whether it’s creating habits or losing weight or making bread or training for a marathon or anything. I need to develop more patience and I need to work harder, push through, get back up after I fall, and find joy in the journey.

And last, love should be the center of our life. Whether it’s those in our home, who deserve the most love and kindness from us. Or in our work, give them the benefit of the doubt or love them and share what you have to offer with them. Or in our church callings, I need to love my young women know, let them know, through my actions, that I love them. Or just kindness to those around us, someone just might need that extra smile or kind words, it could make their days.

I’m sure there’s many more things that I can learn from this parable, however, these are the things that I feel my Heavenly Father wants ME to learn right now. I love how the spirit talks to you and gives you direction as you listen to his chosen people. I love that He tells me exactly what I need in this point in my life.

In closing remarks, there’s one scripture that great aunt Rose read to Ava that I forgot about and wanted to share with you, Rose says it’s here favorite, and I agree, it’s a good one.

Phillipians 4:13: I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

It’s very similar to my favorite scripture:

Alma 26:12: For in his strength I can do all things.

I know that my Heavenly Father is there and hears me when I pray. I know that He lifts me up and strengthens me when I need it, when I ask and sometimes when I don’t feel like I am worthy to ask. I know that He loves each of His children and He wants us to come to him in prayer and fasting (if need be) and that He wants to help us and bless us. I know that there are so many blessings He can give us and He’s just waiting for us to turn to Him so He can bless us. I know that my Savior lives and that He is the beloved son of our Heavenly Father. I know that I can repent and be forgiven of my sins and that through my Savior, Jesus Christ, I can be made whole. I know that families can be together for eternity and for the sealing powers that can be found in the temples that seal us together as families and bind us for eternity. I’m grateful for the priesthood that I have in my home and at church so that I can weekly take of the sacrament and be cleansed. I’m grateful for my calling and for the young women I get to come in contact with every week. They are special young women. I’m grateful for this beautiful world that we have to live in, and I pray that I will learn to appreciate it more.

And I hope that you will too. For this is a beautiful world with things to see and experience. I hope you have a great sabbath and feel of His love this day. Have the faith that there is hope in happiness. Know that He loves you and wants you to have joy.