I have written about being able to see and recognize blessings in previous blogs. I am learning a new layer about gratitude now though that is changing my life. I thought I knew about this before my mission, but I think I am learning this layer of gratitude on a whole new level. I am learning to not just be grateful for blessings, but to actually be accepting and grateful for who I am and what I can give with the Lords help. I know that sounds weird to us women, (and men too); to actually be accepting and grateful for who we are and what we can give. But I hope I can share what I am learning in such a way as to give this amazing treasure to you.
I expressed in my last blog that I stopped writing for a time because I felt like the pain and loss I was experiencing left me with nothing to write about. I had lost hope. I was letting despair and doubt get to me. I started studying hope and the change inside of me was amazing. But there was something else there too. I started to pay attention to what started it, what made me lose my peace in the first place. It was a subtle thing I hadn’t even realized was causing a loss of the spirit. I discovered what my problem was and where it started.
A month or so ago the reality of going home had hit me and I filled my mind with of all the things I wish we had done, what I wish we could have accomplished, what I wish would have happened, questions of did we do enough, work hard enough, and had we really accomplished all the Lord had in mind for us. I kept repenting over and over, thinking of everything we could have, should have, or would have done, when I prayed. A lot of it was things I didn’t even have control over, but I just felt so bad I kept talking to the Lord about it, filling my heart and mind with the negative.
I have to just laugh at myself because I think of how many departing missionaries have come to council with me about this very thing and I have had all the answers: “You’ve done a great job, look at what you did do and not what you didn’t do, your mission isn’t the end of your life, you are an unfinished project and your mission is not the end of your progress, and let God’s love and gratitude into your heart and know He is pleased.” Yet here I am at the end, and I am doing the exact same thing! It makes me just laugh at myself. I really wonder if the Lord puts me through these things on purpose so I can understand, love and teach better as I learn for myself.
Anyway it’s weird, but this is why I’ve been struggling so much. I kept coming to prayer with this feeling of wishing and wanting this perfect mission and feeling so much regret. I was filling myself with a weight and burden that was exhausting to bear. Wow. When am I ever going to completely learn that I am not perfect, things are not perfect, life isn’t perfect and people aren’t perfect? I know it in my mind and I think I am ok with it but then I have another experience like this and realize I’m still doing it. I just want everything to be good, true, right, strong, brave, done, and prepared. (Notice I didn’t put down clean and pretty, I don’t have those two tendencies, regrettablyJ). But this is how the adversary got to me and it made me vulnerable to the other hard things going on, weakening my strength.
Then we had new missionary training two weeks ago and my inspired husband again came up with doctrine he wanted to do for the training that was perfect for me. We studied 2 talks about gratitude and discussed them with the new missionary’s at their training. Pres Monson shared a story about George and the oil lamps vs. electricity. Something in the story touched me deeply. That night I came to prayer just thinking about all the Lord had given to us and decided to only express gratitude for it. I felt so different. I can’t even express the magnitude of change I felt. It was huge. I felt the spirit so strongly and felt my Heavenly Fathers love so powerfully, just by thinking and opening up myself to the good we had done. Pres Monson in his talk said giving thanks not only helps us recognize our blessings, but it also unlocks the doors of heaven and helps us feel God’s love. I experienced that for myself instantly and knew it was true. I recognized I wasn’t looking at all we had accomplished, what did happen, the spirit we felt, the good we did, all the people we had talked to and seeds we had planted. I was just looking at the lack. I have literally trained or talked about not doing this at least a million times to missionaries in the last 3 years. Yet I was doing it. It has drained me, worn me out and caused deep unhappiness inside of me during those weeks. Those feelings made me susceptible to the other negative things creeping in. I asked the Lord about it and realized I wasn’t grateful for all He had given, I was just wishing for more.
As I was praying this thought struck me: “Melonie, there is always more to do, you’ve never done it all, been it all, accomplished it all, or become it all. You know it in your mind, but you do not really understand or believe it in your heart. There are a hundred things you could do on a mission, but you are only going to be able to do 50. Are you going to chose to look at the 50 things you did do, or the 50 things you didn’t? Your life will always be like this; so much you can see that could be done, but not possible to do it all, so accept what you can do and be grateful! And then apply the atonement to all those other things. You have a savior to cover all the rest.”
It shot into my heart that it was pride that caused me to look at the 50 things we didn’t do. I know the Lord has blessed us with so much on this mission. I remember every training walking away feeling that it was good and the Lord had made a great work happen. So many conversations with missionaries that helped them and I felt the Lord had blessed me to know things to ask and things to say that made a huge difference. The Lord had blessed me with love so that I could be patient when I was exhausted, or keep going when I was drained. I knew it, but I was pushing it away, like it wasn’t enough for me. I think because of pride, I wanted more. It makes me cry to think that I was looking past all He had done for us and was only thinking of what didn’t happen. How prideful of me to negate all that the Lord had given. I didn’t even realize while I was repenting of all we hadn’t done that I should have been repenting of not accepting what the Lord had allowed. What I learned in my heart was that I need to be humble and thank the lord for what we did accomplish, the spirit we had, the great trainings we gave, the ways we did help, and the work that did go forth. And stop worrying if it was good enough. That is just pride.
Now, every day I approach the alter of His grace with gratitude in my heart. I feel so amazing. I am so grateful for this wonderful experience. I am so grateful for all He allowed us to do. I feel so accepting of who we are and what we did. That is huge for me! I am profoundly grateful for this learning. Every time I start to feel those feelings come back during the day, of: “we should have done this, why didn’t we do that, why didn’t we know this in the beginning, I wish I was….” I stop myself and offer a prayer of gratitude for what the Lord helped us do, made us into, inspired us to say, strengthened us to accomplish, and the opportunity to work with Him through it all. I have this feeling that this was His mission and we are His. He allowed us to do a part and a portion with Him. I am so changed as I feel grateful for the portion and feel I don’t need any more. I’m good.
I feel this is a principle for life no matter what the circumstance. It is humbling to be accepting. I have never understood before that gratitude is humility. I want to keep acceptance of what the Lord grants, gives and His timing in it all, and not need more, as part of my life forever. I really do feel it has opened the windows of heaven and I can feel God’s love as I work to invite gratitude and acceptance into my heart all day long through prayer. I love this gospel and I love the Lord. He is so good.
Go here to listen to Pres. Monson’s talk:
Go here to listen to Pres Uchtdorf’s talk: