Stephen Savoia, AP
September brings a return to school, which usually means adapting to more demanding schedules and accepting new challenges. At this time, more than any other, it is helpful to balance our lives by taking time for the things that make a difference.
The management of that elusive element called "time" is one of the biggest undertakings we face. Yet, it is good to remember, and try to identify, those activities and demands which devour our time — often to no good or productive purpose at all. As Flora Whittemore said, "The doors we open and close each day decide the lives we live."
Our spirits need a daily amount of beauty to keep vital and flourishing those eternal elements of our nature — for it is these elements that aid so greatly in every success we achieve, every goal we reach, and in every dream we realize during the course of our mortal lives.
Hans Christian Anderson reminded us: "Living is not enough. One must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower." Five minutes with the lines of a poem, the strains of a symphony, or the splendid, expanding shades of a sunset can help restore our balance within and adjust the way we perceive essential things.
Our everyday lives are fraught with stress, fragmentation and endless expectations. Such things deplete and exhaust us, but we keep struggling on, reconciled to conditions that invade our hearts as well as our minds — conditions that seem to gobble up our hours. Along with the struggle can come a dangerous resignation to the assumption that there is nothing we can do to alter or improve our circumstances.
Let me share an example whose power and wisdom are encouraging as well as inspiring.
John Taylor, in June of 1846, started out from Winter Quarters at the head of a group of 2,000 Saints, 560 wagons, and hundreds of head of livestock, taking the north side of the Platte River and traveling 10-15 miles a day.
In the first week of September they reached South Pass and met up with Brigham Young and others of the original group of pioneers, who were returning to Winter Quarters. Brother Brigham was discouraged. There were several inches of snow on the ground, and it was only early September. He felt a need to re-appraise the strategy of the trek and to seek divine direction.
As the leading brethren gathered for a special council, John Taylor gave clandestine instructions of his own. In a lovely spot out of sight of the camp, some of the brethren set up make-shift tables, and the women lovingly drew out from the back of the wagons their finest linens, silver and china, and made the white-clothed tables gleam. With the help of the men they prepared all the food they could muster: fish, game, veal, fruits, vegetables, hot biscuits, jellies and jams.
While the sun did its part by melting the offending snow, the brethren partook of a "Feast in the Wilderness," followed by dancing, recitation and vocal solos amid the gentle shadows of descending dusk.
John Taylor might not have bothered. He might even have felt foolish at concocting such a scheme — or guilty at asking so much work and effort from people already overworked and fatigued. But, by the Spirit, his own tender and open spirit had perceived the need. “We mutually felt edified and rejoiced,” he later wrote. “We praised the Lord, and blessed one another.”
"We blessed one another." There is much to think of in this. The spirit in which such things are done is important; remember that. I like how Erma Bombeck put it: "When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, 'I used everything you gave me.'"
Take time for those things that make a difference — and that difference will rebuild and renew, and be everywhere felt.
Susan Evans McCloud is the author of more than 40 books. She has published screenplays, a book of poetry and lyrics, including two songs in the LDS hymnbook. She is the mother of six children.
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