Thursday, June 14, 2012

Mountains to Climb

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

Mountains to Climb, by Henry B. Eyring
First Counselor in the First Presidency

Once upon a time, I was doing pretty well for myself. Everything, it seemed, was going my way. And yet, I was concerned by the smoothness of it all.

I was, after all, a full-time missionary and expected trial and conflict to be as much a part of life as were the companions that stayed with me, side-by-side. During this high-time of missionary service, I recalled a poem a friend shared with me before I left home. Attributed to Jack L. Brinkerhoff, Highs-N-Lows prepared me for trials and difficulties commonly associated with serving the Lord:

A mission is a strange experience. It's a trial and a test.
A mission throws at you the worst yet teaches you the best.

They told me this would be the best period of my life. But I guess they didn't explain it all too clear.
I came out looking for a bed of roses. I just wasn't expecting all the thorns I've found out here.

Since I've been out I've never been so happy. I've never been so depressed.
I've never felt so forsaken. I've never felt so blessed.

I've never been so confused. My mind has never been so clear.
I've never felt my Heavenly Father so distant. I've never felt him so near.

I've never been so discouraged. I've never been so full of hope.
I feel like I can go forever. I think I've come to the end of my rope.

I've never had it so easy. I've never had it so tough.
Things have never gone so smoothly. Things have never been so rough.

I've never traveled through more valleys. I've never ascended so many peaks.
I've never met so many neat people. I've never met so many freaks.

I've never had so many ups. I've never had so many downs.
I've never worn so many smiles. I've never worn so many frowns.

I've never been so lonely. I've never had so many friends.
Man, I hope this is all over with soon.

Gosh, I hope it never ends.

During this time of peace and success, I started to wonder about this poem. Sure I had had trials aplenty in the past, but things were so great now! It was lasting so long that I wondered if I was at a plateau and longed to climb higher.

This is when my companion and I had a talk. We decided that we would pray for growth. We knew that trials might be the avenue of growth, but ultimately we wanted to be "instruments in the hand of God" (Alma 29:9), come what may.

So we prayed, asking for spiritual growth.

Looking back, I wish I could remember what happened next (kind of a let-down, I know). This story sounds incomplete because I can't give a narrative of the next events.

What I do remember, though, is that things were going well, we prayed for growth, and things went even better afterward because of the growth we experienced. I know there were trials, but I can't remember them. I do remember the tender memories one expects from missionary service. And because I grew from these experiences, I remember that area with great fondness as one of the favorite times of my mission!

Fast forward to the present.

While I'm comfortable with the way things are progressing now, I don't plan on praying for growth anytime soon! President Eyring tells of how he "prayed for a test to prove [his] courage," but I continue to pray for patience, faith, and courage to do the Lord's will!

Before I continue, I want to say that I love my children. Really. I do.

Having said that, I'll admit that it's sometimes hard to be a parent.

As a family, we have a goal to have meaningful temple experiences monthly. We moved to Florida and found the distance to the nearest temple doubled from what we were used to. Not discouraged, we continued our temple lifestyle. But something started to seem different.

We found that with four growing children, taking all-day trips to Orlando became harder and harder--even with great help from my wife's sister's family who often meet us there so we can take turns. It got to the point where we had a discussion about decreasing the frequency of our visits. Quarterly visits are acceptable, we argued, for an active, sometimes-crazy family.

We planned on taking the month of June off.

Despite my willingness to have an extra Saturday of yard work, my wife added a temple trip to our schedule anyway. We both felt that we needed to try one more time.

So we did.

We changed things up a bit--she drove and I handled the entertainment and food distribution--and had an amazing time!

In fact, the pictures interspersed in this post are all from this visit that we weren't going to take!

It seems that my first story (about easy times as a missionary) doesn't seem to relate to the crucible of parenthood, but I'm going to try to relate them--and I'm not going to suggest that the prayers for growth were postponed for more than ten years until my children came.

As a missionary I recognized that I wanted growth because I wasn't content with the status quo, so I asked for a change.

Recently, our family had the monthly temple tripping routine down to an art. It was so easy, and so much fun. I'm starting to think that we were enjoying a nice family picnic on a spiritual plateau and have since started to hike up the mountain (perhaps the Mountain of the Lord?). The main difference being that I didn't ask for the challenges this time.

Despite the heartache I experience when things are hard for me as a parent, I found comfort in re-reading the Brinkerhoff poem quoted above, but this time I shifted some of the words. Instead of reading about "a mission," I inserted parenthood!

(I'll wait if you want to go back and give it a read again.)

I have to admit that the next time I miss the mountains of Utah in this flat, flat Florida paradise, I'll think of the mountains we've climbed here as a family, together. And as I enjoy the view from our position, I'll try to turn around, look up, and prepare for future mountains to climb.

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