Sunday, July 31, 2011

Trusting in the Lord

1 Nephi 3:7: And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.

Jan. 1973
The Currant Bush

The Currant Bush

by Elder Hugh B. Brown

of the Council of the Twelve

This month the New Era is happy to introduce the first in a new series of articles to be published in the magazine: Stories from General Authorities. Over the years our General Authorities have recounted stories that have touched the hearts of their listeners and changed behavior. Many of these stirring examples come from their own lives or from the lives of friends and acquaintances. All ring as true today as when first recounted. It is with the permission and blessing of the authors that we print these Stories from General Authorities.

You sometimes wonder whether the Lord really knows what he ought to do with you. You sometimes wonder if you know better than he does about what you ought to do and ought to become. I am wondering if I may tell you a story that I have told quite often in the Church. It is a story that is older than you are. It’s a piece out of my own life, and I’ve told it in many stakes and missions. It has to do with an incident in my life when God showed me that he knew best.

I was living up in Canada. I had purchased a farm. It was run-down. I went out one morning and saw a currant bush. It had grown up over six feet high. It was going all to wood. There were no blossoms and no currants. I was raised on a fruit farm in Salt Lake before we went to Canada, and I knew what ought to happen to that currant bush. So I got some pruning shears and went after it, and I cut it down, and pruned it, and clipped it back until there was nothing left but a little clump of stumps. It was just coming daylight, and I thought I saw on top of each of these little stumps what appeared to be a tear, and I thought the currant bush was crying. I was kind of simpleminded (and I haven’t entirely gotten over it), and I looked at it, and smiled, and said, “What are you crying about?” You know, I thought I heard that currant bush talk. And I thought I heard it say this: “How could you do this to me? I was making such wonderful growth. I was almost as big as the shade tree and the fruit tree that are inside the fence, and now you have cut me down. Every plant in the garden will look down on me, because I didn’t make what I should have made. How could you do this to me? I thought you were the gardener here.” That’s what I thought I heard the currant bush say, and I thought it so much that I answered. I said, “Look, little currant bush, I am the gardener here, and I know what I want you to be. I didn’t intend you to be a fruit tree or a shade tree. I want you to be a currant bush, and some day, little currant bush, when you are laden with fruit, you are going to say, ‘Thank you, Mr. Gardener, for loving me enough to cut me down, for caring enough about me to hurt me. Thank you, Mr. Gardener.’”

Time passed. Years passed, and I found myself in England. I was in command of a cavalry unit in the Canadian Army. I had made rather rapid progress as far as promotions are concerned, and I held the rank of field officer in the British Canadian Army. And I was proud of my position. And there was an opportunity for me to become a general. I had taken all the examinations. I had the seniority. There was just one man between me and that which for ten years I had hoped to get, the office of general in the British Army. I swelled up with pride. And this one man became a casualty, and I received a telegram from London. It said: “Be in my office tomorrow morning at 10:00,” signed by General Turner in charge of all Canadian forces. I called in my valet, my personal servant. I told him to polish my buttons, to brush my hat and my boots, and to make me look like a general because that is what I was going to be. He did the best he could with what he had to work on, and I went up to London. I walked smartly into the office of the General, and I saluted him smartly, and he gave me the same kind of a salute a senior officer usually gives—a sort of “Get out of the way, worm!” He said, “Sit down, Brown.” Then he said, “I’m sorry I cannot make the appointment. You are entitled to it. You have passed all the examinations. You have the seniority. You’ve been a good officer, but I can’t make the appointment. You are to return to Canada and become a training officer and a transport officer. Someone else will be made a general.” That for which I had been hoping and praying for ten years suddenly slipped out of my fingers.

Then he went into the other room to answer the telephone, and I took a soldier’s privilege of looking on his desk. I saw my personal history sheet. Right across the bottom of it in bold, block-type letters was written, “THIS MAN IS A MORMON.” We were not very well liked in those days. When I saw that, I knew why I had not been appointed. I already held the highest rank of any Mormon in the British Army. He came back and said, “That’s all, Brown.” I saluted him again, but not quite as smartly. I saluted out of duty and went out. I got on the train and started back to my town, 120 miles away, with a broken heart, with bitterness in my soul. And every click of the wheels on the rails seemed to say, “You are a failure. You will be called a coward when you get home. You raised all those Mormon boys to join the army, then you sneak off home.” I knew what I was going to get, and when I got to my tent, I was so bitter that I threw my cap and my saddle brown belt on the cot. I clinched my fists and I shook them at heaven. I said, “How could you do this to me, God? I have done everything I could do to measure up. There is nothing that I could have done—that I should have done—that I haven’t done. How could you do this to me?” I was as bitter as gall.

And then I heard a voice, and I recognized the tone of this voice. It was my own voice, and the voice said, “I am the gardener here. I know what I want you to do.” The bitterness went out of my soul, and I fell on my knees by the cot to ask forgiveness for my ungratefulness and my bitterness. While kneeling there I heard a song being sung in an adjoining tent. A number of Mormon boys met regularly every Tuesday night. I usually met with them. We would sit on the floor and have a Mutual Improvement Association. As I was kneeling there, praying for forgiveness, I heard their voices singing:
“It may not be on the mountain height
Or over the stormy sea;
It may not be at the battle’s front
My Lord will have need of me;
But if, by a still, small voice he calls
To paths that I do not know,
I’ll answer, dear Lord, with my hand in thine:
I’ll go where you want me to go.”

(Hymns, no. 75.)

I arose from my knees a humble man. And now, almost fifty years later, I look up to him and say, “Thank you, Mr. Gardener, for cutting me down, for loving me enough to hurt me.” I see now that it was wise that I should not become a general at that time, because if I had I would have been senior officer of all western Canada, with a lifelong, handsome salary, a place to live, and a pension when I’m no good any longer, but I would have raised my six daughters and two sons in army barracks. They would no doubt have married out of the Church, and I think I would not have amounted to anything. I haven’t amounted to very much as it is, but I have done better than I would have done if the Lord had let me go the way I wanted to go.

I wanted to tell you that oft-repeated story because there are many of you who are going to have some very difficult experiences: disappointment, heartbreak, bereavement, defeat. You are going to be tested and tried to prove what you are made of. I just want you to know that if you don’t get what you think you ought to get, remember, “God is the gardener here. He knows what he wants you to be.” Submit yourselves to his will. Be worthy of his blessings, and you will get his blessings.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Trust, Answers and Talents

Today, I got some answers to questions I didn't even fully realize I was asking. I have been having a few minor existential struggles lately, wondering about certain things, which is perfectly normal and healthy, but I was just reminded of what is probably actually my favorite scripture of all time today:

1 Nephi 11:17: And I said unto him: I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.

I think these are some of the wisest words ever spoken by a mortal being in the history of mankind. There are a lot of things I don't understand. That's not going to necessarily change. But I know without a shadow of a doubt that our Heavenly Father loves each of His children. Sometimes, I might not understand why, or why He does some of the things He does, but I do know He loves us all. I think that this is an important principle to remember in our lives in general, and one that I needed a reminder of today.

Another answer to a question I didn't really know I was asking was given to me in the form of the first verse of the hymn Lead Kindly Light. This has always been one of my favorite hymns, and I was actually humming it to myself on the way to church. It didn't hit me just how much it applied to me until I sang that verse today the words of which are:

Lead kindly light, amid the encircling gloom. Lead thou me on. The night is dark, and I am far from home. Lead thou me on. Keep thou my feet, I do not ask to see the distant scene one step enough for me.

This verse applies to me in a lot of ways right now. Firstly, I am far from home in quite a literal sense, and I am so blessed to have the guidance and comfort of the Lord in my life on a daily basis. But what hit me even more was the last phrase. Since around January or February, I have been trying to decide whether I was going to student teach or intern. I still don't know. I also have to figure out what I'm doing for winter semester if I intern, and when I'll be able to go home next time. This verse reminded me that I do not have to see every step my life is going to take or every direction in which it is going to go. I will be ok, and I don't have to plan everything a year in advance, or even a couple of months in advance. The Lord will take care of things for me, and if I haven't gotten a specific answer, it's for a reason. I'm so grateful for this wise council and for the fact that the Lord does have a plan for my life, and it's so much greater than anything I could have ever come up with on my own.

One evidence of this is some of the things He has blessed me with in my life. I have been greatly blessed from the Lord with certain gifts and talents. One of those gifts, as is stated in my Patriarchal blessing, is the ability to understand things which are detrimental and can cause sorrow and pain. This gift, as I have developed it over my short life, has applied to everything from sin to sickness, both mental and physical, and to difficult situations like breakups, deaths, the illness or pain of a loved one or family member, and various other situations. I feel very humbled and blessed to have this gift, as it is a gift that only really is there to serve others. I am so grateful that the Lord has trusted me with this specific gift. I have been blessed with so many opportunities to provide comfort and solace to people I love. I feel like this gift relates very well to the priesthood. Adam once said to me that he wasn't sure why women had issues with men being able to have the priesthood. He pointed out that even though men have the priesthood, it's a gift that can only be used to serve others. If a priesthood holder wants a blessing, he has to turn to another priesthood holder, much like a sister would.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Life is a tale told by an idiot...full of sound and fury, and in the end signifying nothing.
I don't know what to do. I feel sick to my stomach, and my head hurts, and I am on the verge of a mini-meltdown. I never cry, and yet there are tears in my eyes. I don't feel like I can do this. I feel so incompetent, and I don't know why I'm here. I need help. I am confused. I don't know what I want anymore or how I am feeling or what I should do, and everything just seems so hard right now. I won't grow up, I don't wanna go to school, I don't wanna have a job, I just can't do it. Why does everything have to be so hard? I hate whining and feeling this way. I hate it. I just don't feel confident. I made a decision to do an internship, but I have never been sure about that. I don't know where I should go with my life. I don't know. I feel sick, and tired and incompetent and I don't know what I want. Before, I felt so good about the idea of student teaching. It was like a giant weight off my shoulders. Then, Dr. Ashbaker made that damn comment about me interning, which I really appreciated, but I kind of let all my real reasons for deciding on student teaching in the first place go out the window. I wasn't just thinking about student teaching because I was worried about burning out. I chose student teaching because, if I student taught, I would be able to be home a lot sooner, maybe get married a lot sooner, spend time with my family, and financially, it wouldn't be bad as long as I could find some kind of work in the winter. And if all else failed, I could at least be a substitute teacher. And I wouldn't have to pay rent, and things would just be wonderful...I could take a break, which I already desperately need, and will need much more then. Oh my word, I need a break. I always feel such relief when I think about student teaching. I like this idea. It's so...easy and doable and doesn't make me feel so...bad inside. I like this idea. I like it a lot.

Friday, February 25, 2011

I have a headache, and I'm just feeling very unmotivated. Uncertainty dominates my mind right now, indecision guiding my footsteps. I feel like Alice talking to the Cheshire cat at the crossroads.. I don't know where I want to go, but I would certainly like to get somewhere eventually. I suppose if I just keep walking, I will manage that eventually. Sometimes, I feel like quitting for awhile. Last night, I dreamed that I went on a mission to the Madrid, Spain mission, and my study abroad professor from Mexico and his family were all there. Sometimes, a mission seems like it would be an escape, an easier way to structure my time. I don't think those are the right reasons to think about a mission. I've lost sight of things like sharing the gospel...not that I don't want to help people and serve and such. I just never really think of missionary work.
Today, we had an internship fair for my program. I found out that I was basically conditionally approved to intern. I could do it, but they would want to make sure I had really good support in place and good mentors, essentially. This was kind of a blow to my confidence. I have not once felt completely certain as to what I should do, and I have gone back and forth and made up my mind on different things so many times it makes it hard to be sure. I want help and guidance. I also really want my head to stop hurting. It makes it hard to think. I am trying lately to get more on top of things. I have a terrible habit of putting everything off, and I don't want to be that way. I am trying to stop doing that. I got ahead on homework recently, and I really, really like being ahead. I hope to stay that way...not to say I am very ahead, just a bit. This entry is less abstract and stream of consciousness than my other entries of late. I felt the need to write a bit more concretely and not worry so much about writing to sound good or whatever. I don't really feel like doing much right now, but writing makes me feel better. Sometimes I have trouble talking to people about things, and writing is an easier way to express myself because I don't have to worry that I am talking too much.
I haven't gotten a letter from Adam in 3 weeks now. I am trying not to expect anything. It helps a lot if I know when the last time he sent a letter was. I don't know if he understands or appreciates what waiting for him is like. I know I don't fully understand what it's like to be on a mission. It's definitely a different life. I think the hardest thing for me about being on a mission would be not getting time for myself, or maybe never really stopping, or always having to plan around my companion, or perhaps getting rejected and having hurtful things said to me by other people. I don't know. Being on a mission is hard. I have had a few experiences that have shown me that. One was my time studying abroad in Mexico. I realized what an independent person I am, and got a little more appreciation for what it would be like to always be with a companion. Another is this semester. I have been so busy this semester, and I think it has given me a better appreciation for what it is like to have all your time structured. It makes it go by so quickly. I feel sick. Migraines suck.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Emptiness. Apathy. Don't know what to do with myself, so I waste my time just to fill it. Don't feel like doing much. Blessed silence is sweet relief. Alone at last, I can peruse the inner workings of my mind for thoughts to write down. Freedom. So contrary to listening, writing, working all night. Sometimes, I just feel like writing. I need to write something, about my hectic life, how busy I've been lately, either self-inflicted or added on by others, it makes no difference. It's been fun. But I think, tomorrow, I will be better rested than I've been in a long time. Things get chaotic. Always moving, like a force of nature. What does nature do when it stops? Is that where the earlier emptiness comes from? Evenings of spending time with my computer, listening to piano men playing in bars or watching doctors and roses fly through space..such evenings are rare now, and somewhat sweeter for it. I love life lately. It has been wonderful. But soon, time for sleep. Rest. Closing my eyes and feeling the gravity sink in to relax my muscles. I've been learning a lot of things not to hope for words from you when I get home at the end of the day, and that time is really moving faster, or at least it does when you are a force of chaotic nature. When I was a little girl, time was so still, and a day so a day is nothing, a week is nothing, and a month is fast. A year is still a long time, but how long before it isn't anymore? It's already surprising. Time is a train right now...I can't believe how fast it is. How long before it becomes a plane and starts flying me to places I never thought I would go? This is life, always going forward no matter what tries to stop it. Even when it is over, it keeps going. We will never end.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Life is 10% what happens and 90% what you make of it.