Prioritizing Our Lives to Find Joy: A Lesson for Relief Society

I had the opportunity to teach the lesson in my ward Relief Society today. The focus of my lesson was adapted from President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Of Regrets and Resolutions” (October 2012). Here are some of the highlights.

President Uchtdorf once related the experience of a nurse who cares for the terminally ill. As her patients have prepared to depart this life, she has often asked a simple question: “Do you have any regrets?”

How would you answer that question?

I would like you to reflect for a moment, and reflect personally on your own life. If you knew that your death was imminent, how would you answer that question? Do you have any regrets? (Give a minute to ponder this).

In his conference address from October 2012, “Of Regrets and Resolutions” President Uchtdorf discussed the top three responses to that question.

I Wish I Had Spent More Time with the People I Love

When this life ends and we pass onto the next, the only thing we take with us is the knowledge that we have gained, and the meaningful relationships that have enriched our lives.

One of my favorite teachings of President Monson is this:

“what is most important almost always involves the people around us.”

How we treat others, the love and kindness we offer, is what is most important.

It isn’t always easy to focus on what is most important. Too often we get caught up in the endless tasks of day-to-day life. Now, at this stage of my life, My life feels like a series of unfinished projects. Do you ever feel the same way? To illustrate:

Monday is usually my day to recover from the weekend and get the house back in order. This week, among the usual tasks of laundry and dishes, etc, I worked on sorting through my baby boy clothes that Adam has grown out of, so that I could pass them along to a sister that has a new baby boy. I had to work quickly, since 10-month old Adam was at my side, pulling items out of the box almost as fast as I was putting them in. I got the box ready to go and planned to deliver them that day, but by then it was lunchtime for Adam and myself. After feeding Adam, I mixed up a batch of granola to go with the smoothies I had planned for after school snack. The granola was in the oven and I started to work on the lunch (and breakfast dishes), but by this time Adam wanted some attention. I sat down with him and read him a few board books. Once he happily crawled off my lap, I turned my attention to the laundry that had just finished drying. I put the sheets on the bed, but then the timer beeped for the oven-baked granola, before I could put away the rest of the clean towels and cloths. I had hoped to deliver the baby clothes that day, but it was now time to load up the baby for the walk to the bus stop and meet my big kids. Once they get home it is whirlwind of activity as I balance the needs of four children: snack, chores, homework (27 spelling words to practice!), piano practice for all three, a lesson for me to teach, trying in vain to get the baby to take his afternoon nap, prepare dinner, eat, FHE (thankfully it is Jared’s turn for the lesson, and truthfully I snag a two-minute doze on the couch while he engages the children in an activity). By the time the kids are washed and read to and in bed, I walk past the clean laundry that is still sitting half-way out of the dryer and spilling onto the floor, and the dinner dishes that aren’t finished. I focus on dishes, in between comforting my five-year-old son who is having trouble sleeping because of a knee that he fell and scraped earlier in the day. At 10 p.m. I crawl into bed with him until he is sound asleep, leaving the laundry for yet another day.

Does this sound familiar to any of you?

President Uchtdorf taught:

“Isn’t it true that we often get so busy? And, sad to say, we even wear our busyness as a badge of honor, as though being busy, by itself, was an accomplishment or sign of a superior life.

Is it?”

“I think of our Lord and Exemplar, Jesus Christ, and His short life among the people of Galilee and Jerusalem. I have tried to imagine Him bustling between meetings or multitasking to get a list of urgent things accomplished.

I can’t see it.

Instead I see the compassionate and caring Son of God purposefully living each day. When He interacted with those around Him, they felt important and loved. He knew the infinite value of the people He met. He blessed them, ministered to them. He lifted them up, healed them. He gave them the precious gift of His time.”

At this stage of my life, while I am busily in the throes of “young motherhood”, there is a phrase that I tell myself almost daily “this is what God gave you time for”. It comes from a talk by Elder Andersen in Oct. 2011:

“Motherhood is not a hobby, it is a calling. You do not collect children because you find them cuter than stamps. It is not something to do if you can squeeze the time in. It is what God gave you time for.”

Eventually the laundry and dishes will get done. I may not be crossing off many things (or anything!) on my to do list, but as I hold my napping baby in my arms, as I help my eight-year-old with her math problems, as I read a book with my five-year-old, and as I teach my 11-year-old how to cook something in the kitchen, I remember that “this is what God gave you time for”. The relationships I have with my children and spouse are what is most important.

No matter what stage of life we are in, we would do well to remember this teaching from Sister Linda Reeves, in the April 2014 General Conference:

“The only things that really need to be accomplished in the home are daily scripture study and prayer and weekly family home evening.” (Linda Reeves, April 2014)

I Wish I Had Lived Up to My Potential

Another regret people expressed was that they failed to become the person they could and should have been. They realized that they never lived up to their potential.

President Uchtdorf is clear. He is not speaking of “climbing the ladder of success in our various professions”. We don’t need to be the most famous author, the most successful businessperson, or the scientist who discovers the cure for cancer.  Instead, he is “speaking of becoming the person God, our Heavenly Father, intended us to be”.

As we reflect on our lives and the way that we spend our time, consider this teaching of President Uchtdorf:

“Discipleship is the pursuit of holiness and happiness. It is the path to our best and happiest self.”

“Let us resolve to follow the Savior and work with diligence to become the person we were designed to become. Let us listen to and obey the promptings of the Holy Spirit. As we do so, Heavenly Father will reveal to us things we never knew about ourselves. He will illuminate the path ahead and open our eyes to see our unknown and perhaps unimagined talents.

The more we devote ourselves to the pursuit of holiness and happiness, the less likely we will be on a path to regrets. The more we rely on the Savior’s grace, the more we will feel that we are on the track our Father in Heaven has intended for us.”

I Wish I Had Let Myself Be Happier

The last regret that we will focus on is this: “They wished they had let themselves be happier”.

“So often we get caught up in the illusion that there is something just beyond our reach that would bring us happiness: a better family situation, a better financial situation, or the end of a challenging trial.

The older we get, the more we look back and realize that external circumstances don’t really matter or determine our happiness.

We do matter. We determine our happiness.

You and I are ultimately in charge of our own happiness.”

“We shouldn’t wait to be happy until we reach some future point, only to discover that happiness was already available—all the time! Life is not meant to be appreciated only in retrospect.”

From his most recent address, in the story of the Summer with Great Aunt Rose, he reminded us that “God didn’t design us to be sad. He created us to have joy!”

I love this scripture found in the book of Psalms 118: 24 “This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.”

Each day is a gift. What do you do to find joy each day?

“To avoid some of the deepest regrets of life, it would be wise to make some resolutions today. Therefore, let us:

  • Resolve to spend more time with those we love.
  • Resolve to strive more earnestly to become the person God wants us to be.
  • Resolve to find happiness, regardless of our circumstances.

It is my testimony that many of the deepest regrets of tomorrow can be prevented by following the Savior today. If we have sinned or made mistakes—if we have made choices that we now regret—there is the precious gift of Christ’s Atonement, through which we can be forgiven. We cannot go back in time and change the past, but we can repent. The Savior can wipe away our tears of regret and remove the burden of our sins. His Atonement allows us to leave the past behind and move forward with clean hands, a pure heart, and a determination to do better and especially to become better.”

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