Me, about 1996
I've always been different from my peers.
As a child I had many of the same personality traits that I have now. I have a unique gift to not care much about what others think of me. I am my own person and don't struggle with peer pressure. And while that is such a protection, such a blessing, it has left me alone rather often.
My mom says that I've always gotten along better with people younger than me or older than me; there was just too much competition in my peer group. Even today some of my closest friends are older or younger than me.I am a perfectionist, especially when it comes to inter-personal relationships. I doubt myself a lot. Sometimes I get so overwhelmed by my expectations of perfection that I can't even begin. I like chocolate milk too much and vegetables too little. I like to read in voracious chunks - I'll read an entire book in one Friday afternoon and go for a month before I seriously read another one. I have a strong aversion to confrontation. I need a lot of alone time. I'm not good at hiding my feelings, so when someone annoys me they, unfortunately, find out about it.
I hunger for eternity.
While other fourth graders read "Baby-sitter's club" or "Goosebumps" books, I was reading "Little Women" (which has been my favorite book ever since). In high school others were content with running around and having fun, but I longed to go to BYU. I knew that none of my friendships there would be very deep or lasting. I wanted friends who would really understand me, who would help me grow, who would be my friends forever. And even now, as I enjoy the wonderful spiritual and social environment of BYU, part of me longs for the future when I will be a mother and a wife. There have been times when my roommates are hanging out with people in the ward and I stay at home, talking to my mom on the phone or reading Segullah or doingFamilySearch Indexing. I anxiously look forward to the end of April when I will fly home to be with my family, be a pseudo-mom again, put on tea parties for little girls in the world, and hopefully be an EFY counselor (I'm still waiting to hear back).
And I'm not good at worldly things.
I was listening to a devotional talk the other day and this story hit a special place in my heart. It as an experience that happened to Elder Holland's daughter, Mary, when she was 7 years old. These are the words from her journal at the time.
I was practicing the piano one day, and it made me cry because it was so bad. Then I decided to practice ballet, and it made me cry more; it was bad, too. So then I decided to draw a picture because I knew I could do that good, but it was horrid. Of course it made me cry.
Then my little three-year-old brother came up, and I said, 'Duffy, what can I be? What can I be? I can't be a piano player or an artist or a ballet girl. What can I be?' He came up to me and whispered, 'You can be my sister.'
Me and my sister, about 1994
Friday was one of those "what can I be?" days. It was just another day at school, but it seemed like everything I did was a failure. It all culminated in clogging, my last class of the day. We were finishing up a combination that I had been struggling with. The teacher introduced some new steps that just put me over the edge. Everyone else seemed to get it just fine. I had asked my classmates for help, but each time they seemed annoyed that I couldn't pick it up. They would rush through the step and I would pretend that I understood it to avoid annoying them further.
I wearily climbed up the stairs from the Richards Building, trying to ignore my sweatiness and the tears of frustration welling in my eyes. Why couldn't I do anything well? Why couldn't people be more patient with me? Was there anything I could do well? In essence, what could I be?Then one of my favorite scriptures popped into my mind.
"Be patient in afflictions, for thou shalt have many; but endure them, for, lo, I am with thee, even unto the end of thy days. And in temporal labors thou shalt not have strength,for this is not thy calling. Attend to thy calling and thou shalt have wherewith to magnify thine office." -D&C 24:8-9
Temporal labors. Was that what I had been seeking after? My desires to do well in school, my social life, dancing, singing - these were all temporal. They weren't lasting. In the eternal perspective - in God's perspective - they didn't really matter.
The Lord has taught that He GIVES us weaknesses to keep us humble, to teach us that He is the only source of lasting strength (see Ether 12:27). He could have created me to be gifted in "temporal labors," but He did not. And He did it for a reason.
I think one of those reasons is addressed in Ether 12:27; my weaknesses keep me humble and keep me coming back to the Lord for help. But that verse also promises that God can make weak things become strong unto those who seek them. That has happened for me in many areas (my testimony, social skills, ability to love, optimism, and self-confidence) but not the areas I have listed above. God could make be an impressive dancer, singer, and/or scholar. But He doesn't want to.
When I ask Him why, the answer is always the same. "For this is not thy calling."
So then, what is my calling? What areas do I have strength in?
I like to think I am pretty good at writing. My mother always tells me so. And that fact that you are reading this seems to be proof that I'm not horrible. I've gotten positive comments on the blog posts I've written and the quotes I post on my facebook. It is a small thing, but through it the Lord has been able to uplift and strengthen others.
I'm not bad at singing. At BYU my gift doesn't help much, but when I go home my voice is needed more. It is so fun to sing in my home ward's choir and feel that my voice is actually a benefit to them. And of course, my favorite way to sing is to testify of Jesus Christ.
I've gotten better at meeting new people and making them feel comfortable. I'm good at making new friendships and maintaining the old ones.
I have a special love for youth and children. I love spending time with them, talking to them, and caring for them. I want to teach them about Christ so they can be their best selves, so they can reach their full potential. That's another gift -I have a strong testimony of the gospel. I know that God lives. I know that He loves me and blesses me and guides my life. I know that Jesus Christ is my Savior, the Son of God. I know that His Atonement is real and has the power to heal, to transform, to make ugly things beautiful once more.
So what is my calling? To testify of Christ. To love my brothers and sisters and teach them about the Savior, who will ultimately bring them back home to Heavenly Father. To be a wife and a mother that will base my family on the gospel of Jesus Christ. To raise children unto the Lord. I will testify with words when its necessary, but mostly in being a window to the love of Christ. When people think of me, I want them to think of the love the Savior has for them. I want to be a living manifestation of that love. I want everything in my life to point to Christ, to testify of Him, to glorify Him, to accomplish His work and glory - "to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man" (see Moses 1:39).
And when I remember that great work the Lord has given me the ability and desire to do, suddenly nothing else matters. I don't want to be a clogger anymore - I want to be a disciple.
I was pondering all of these things yesterday, still feeling a little sad and trying to remind myself of all of my blessings. I was battling another round of negative thoughts about myself when the Spirit whispered, "You are not filling the measure of your creation here; you are preparing for it."
At this point in my life I am not able to be a wife or a mother or teach youth about the Savior. But I am able to serve those around me and share my testimony with them. But mostly I can prepare to fulfill my life's mission. Study the gospel. Strengthen my testimony. Get even closer to the Lord. Get ready for those years when I will be required to give a tremendous output.
Christ had to pass through Gethsemane to become who He was born to be; Am I greater than He? No, and I must pass through my own Gethsemane to become who God wants me to be.
And I am willing to pay the price because I know that He will make some better than I could ever imagine.
And that He will help me through every step of the journey.
And though I may not
Know the answers
I can finally say I am free
And if the questions
Led me here,
Then I am who I was born to be.
This is what I was born to be.