Till All Success Be Nobleness

Every year when we sing patriotic songs around the Fourth of July, this line always stands out me me from the song America the Beautiful.

Till all success be nobleness…

What is success?

Yaquina Head LighthouseWe all say that we want to be successful, but what does it really mean? It seems so broad and undefined. Successful at what?

Good old Merriam Webster defines success as:

Degree or measure of succeeding;  favorable or desired outcome; the attainment of wealth, favor, or eminence.

Feet on the BeachThroughout my life, I’ve wanted to be successful in a number of areas. A successful student. A successful musician. A successful runner, blogger, homemaker, photographer, school volunteer, wife. A successful mother.

How do we measure that success? Are we only successful when we reach that favorable or desired outcome? 

In terms of being a successful student- I don’t really know. High school wasn’t really my thing. I skipped a lot of school, and ended up graduating from my school district’s alternative high school a month after my class. Was that a failure, or was I successful once I was determined to finish?

Yaquina Bay BridgeI only have an associates degree and it took be seven years to get it. I found out I was pregnant just a few weeks after starting college, and went on to have two more kids rather quickly. I also supported my husband through his undergrad, graduate studies and law school. When it worked, I would take a couple of classes at a time, finally getting my “2-year” degree after 3 children, 4 big moves, and lots of hard studying. I graduated with honors. Failure or success? Or somewhere in between? And does it really even matter?

Screenshot_20170507-212132What really matters to me is that I’m a successful mother. Does that mean that my children will always be perfect and happy and kind and have clean rooms and nicely pressed clothes and perfectly strong testimonies of the gospel? Sometimes I think that’s what it means, but in moments of clarity I realize that success is not perfection.

Orr Fam on Temple SquareI was not always happy, and I had my struggles and made dumb choices. My room growing up was not very tidy. And yet, when I look at my parents, I would unequivocally describe them as successful. Why? Because I always felt loved. Because they taught me how to be a decent human being and they continue to be shining examples of love, patience and righteousness, kindness and humility. I think each of my siblings would feel the same way.

When can success be measured?

I’m reading in Mosiah right now, about Abinadi and Alma. Abinadi was sent to call Noah and his people to repentance. He taught them many truths and at one point, King Noah began to fear and was about to set Abinadi free, but he heeded the words of his priests and put Abinadi to death.abinadi-before-king-noah-39651-print

When Abinadi was dying, did he think he failed? Did he reach his desired outcome? He did not change the heart of King Noah, which was his mission. At that moment, did he consider himself a failure?

A person’s influence is far more reaching than what he can see at any moment in time. Abinadi didn’t know about Alma, one of the king’s priests, who believed his words. Alma went on to teach Abinadi’s words in secret and 450 people were baptized and came to a knowledge of their Redeemer. Consider also that Alma’s son, after his conversion went on to be a great missionary. Even still, how about us, two thousand years later, who read the words Abinadi spoke, and are touched by his boldness and willingness to give up his life, and are taught truths that bring joy and peace.

As humans, we yearn for success. We have this innate desire to progress. The problem, I think, comes when we put so much importance on the finish line. Or when we start defining our success as being better than somebody else.

I make more money than him. I’m successful. I’m skinnier than her. I’m successful. I have a prettier yard than them. I’m successful… This is dangerous thinking and I think is one of the biggest problems in the world today. True success never is never measured in comparison to somebody else, but only against yourself.

Another dangerous area I have found myself in many times is when we define our lives only by the success or failure of our goals. Don’t get me wrong- goals are important. Specific goals that you can measure help keep us moving forward. But when we define our lives only by the success or failure of those goals, or if we ignore the big picture, we will never be happy.

In the 1989 General Women’s Session of conference, Gordon B. Hinckley said: Please don’t nag yourself with thoughts of failure. Do not set goals far beyond your capacity to achieve. Simply do what you can do, in the best way you know, and the Lord will accept of your effort. Stacked Rockes in the grasses

Wait- The Lord will accept your effort? That’s the key right there! If we stop measuring ourselves against the world’s standards, we will find that true success extends beyond our lives- into the lives of those around us, of our descendants, and into the eternities.

Till all success be nobleness…

Most commonly associated with royalty, nobleness describes one’s high birth or distinguished hereditary rank and title.

Another definition is: Having or showing qualities of high moral character, such as courage, generosity or honor; Proceeding from or indicative of a character; showing magnanimity. (To be magnanimous is to be highly moral, especially in showing kindness or forgiveness, as in overlooking insult or not seeking revenge- or maybe not being easily offended.)

Stephen Covey said, “If you carefully consider what you want to be said of you in the funeral experience, you will find your definition of success.”

DahliaWe often hear that when we are on our death bed, we won’t be wishing we spent more time in the office. Most of us would want to be remembered as kind, honorable, courageous. Noble.

It’s in all of us. We are all of noble birth, as we are all children of God. That’s where that yearning comes from- our spirits know of our nobility and push us to progress. Then all the messages from the world get mixed up inside our minds and all of a sudden we lose focus, we lose the true meaning of success: Living a noble life.

grandpaMy grandpa died five years ago. He was never wealthy or successful by the world’s standards, but he left behind an unbelievable heritage. He had 13 children, 87 grandchildren, and his progeny continues to grow with over 100 great-grandchildren at the time of his passing.

4 Generations with Grandpa

Each and every one of those children and grandchildren revere him as a man who left a great legacy of faith, hard work, good humor, wisdom, and good stories to his family and all who knew him. He was a noble man.

Meerdink men at Portland Japanese GardensCan you imagine what our country, or what our world would be like if we lived by those words. Till all success be nobleness. If we all sought to live lives that honored our God, and honored each other. If we were generous and courageous. If we could be kind, and stop being offended so easily. Let us seek to be noble, to live to that higher standard. Then will our lives be filled with success.

Having Been Born of Goodly Parents

The very first thing Nephi tells us in the Book of Mormon is about his parents. Have you ever thought about why that is?

I was just sorting through some photos of our weekend in Utah, prepping for some upcoming temple posts, and came across this photo of my parents…

Mom and DadIt touched my heart. I’ve been thinking about my parents a lot over the last couple of days, for a couple of reasons.

First, I just saw them last week, which was such a treat. It had been since July before that. We had such a great time visiting and celebrating my brother’s wedding. It was just good to be home. Funny thing how it will always be home, even though I moved away almost 20 years ago.

Another reason they’ve been on my mind is because I snuck and opened my Mother’s Day gift early (sorry mom and dad). I have a good reason though. I don’t have the capacity to not open a present if it’s just sitting there. I have sort of a history of sneaking in to the Christmas presents and knowing every gift that was coming every year. So when they texted me last week and said my gift would arrive early but not to open it, they really should have known better. I actually had every intention of waiting, but when the box arrived my strength crumbled.

Here’s the deal though. I opened the box, but I didn’t open the package inside. Yes, I knew what it was, but I wasn’t using it. …until last night.

You see, the third reason why I’ve been thinking about my parents is because I am a parent. I have been blessed with some amazing boys who are sweet and kind and so smart. They are also teenagers, and yesterday was one of those really hard days as a mom.

We want so much for our children to be happy and to never have to face the growing pains that we all have to face in order to progress. But that’s not really possible. I mean, it’s the whole point of this life, isn’t it? To progress. To be refined. To learn from our experiences and grow closer to God and Jesus Christ, which usually comes with a great struggle.

As a mom, there have been many days when I have wondered if I’ve done a good enough job to prepare them to face the world. I only have one year left before my oldest graduates from high school. Will he be ready? Have I done enough? I am usually 99% sure that I have failed as a mother. I can be highly emotional, and sometimes I don’t know when to stop talking.

So anyway, yesterday was one of those really tough days as a mother. And I started thinking about my own parents, and how they showed me so much love and kindness when I was doing my stretching and growing. There was never a time when I did not feel their love. And at specific times when I felt I was so undeserving of it, they would go to the end of the earth for me and bring me back in, always with kindness.

Screenshot_20170507-211938My mom was my best friend growing up- she and I have very similar personalities- a little mischievous and sometimes snarky. There were many days when she would let me skip school and we’d go to the movies together. Last summer I got to spend a lot of time with her after she had broken her back. We did a lot of crossword puzzles together, and lots of laughing. She is so in tune with the spirit and I aspire to have her spiritual capacity.

me and dadMy dad is amazing. My boys think he’s invincible. He started running marathons at age 60 and continues to impress our family with his ability to just keep going. He is so wise, and has a calm, measured approach to solving problems or answering questions that just leaves the inquisitor feeling so peaceful. At my brother’s wedding reception, I was talking to Sister Joy D. Jones, who is the Primary general president. My dad works with her on a regular basis, and she described him in the most perfect way. In speaking about how much she respected him, she said, “He is without guile.”  Such a perfect description. He is honest and humble and the perfect example for me.

Screenshot_20170507-212132Back to my story now. I was feeling really down, and needed a lift. I needed some hope that I could be thought of, at least a little bit, by my children the way I think of my parents. And also, I was just needing to know that I meant something, that it wasn’t all for nothing. So I went into my room and pulled out my gift: a beautiful blanket that feels like a big comfy sweater. Along with it was a note: Carrie, A mother is much like a soft comfortable blanket, offering love, support, and reassurance to her children. We hope this throw reminds you of your important roll as a Mother.

That’s how my parents are- offering love, support and reassurance.

That’s how I hope to be.

therefore I was taught in all the learning of my father.