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.

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As It Were A Dream

There is a passage in the book of Jacob that always stands out to me.

In Chapter 7 verse 26, Jacob is concluding his record, and says:

 “…the time passed away with us, and also our lives passed away like as it were unto us a dream, we being a lonesome and a solemn people, wanderers, cast out from Jerusalem, born in tribulation, in a wilderness, and hated of our brethren, which caused wars and contentions; wherefore, we did mourn out our days.”

Jacob’s life was full of many many trials.

Mist on Antelope Island

He was born in the wilderness, after his family had already left Jerusalem. So he never had a real home. All he knew was wandering, moving from place to place in order to survive. He had amazing parents, and Nephi was probably the best brother a person could ask for. But he grew up with his brothers Laman and Lemuel constantly causing contention and trying to murder their family! When Lehi blessed Jacob in 2 Nephi chapter 2, he told him, “..in thy childhood thou hast suffered afflictions and much sorrow, because of the rudeness of thy brethren.” His days were filled with wars, and probably much confusion. Temporally, I wonder if Jacob ever felt secure.

Spiritually, he was a giant.

Going back to Lehi’s blessing, he continued, “…Nevertheless, Jacob, my firstborn in the wilderness, thou knowest the greatness of God; and he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain.”

In writing of Sherem, the antichrist, Jacob said “And he had hope to shake me from the faith, notwithstanding the many revelations and the many things which I had seen concerning these things; for I truly had seen angels, and they had ministered unto me. And also, I had heard the voice of the Lord speaking unto me in very word, from time to time; wherefore, I could not be shaken.”

Jacob knew the goodness and glory of God. He was blessed with a great testimony of Christ and of the gospel.

He became a righteous and great minister among his people. He gave us the allegory of the olive tree. He rejoiced in keeping the record on the plates. He was bold and said what needed to be said. I mean, just think about the book of Jacob. There are so many nuggets in those few chapters that teach and fill the reader with the desire to be better.

So focusing back on the phrase he uses- our lives passed away like as it were unto us a dream. I’ve been thinking about that a lot over the last month or so.

Because I feel the same way.Rainstorm on Antelope Island

When Carey was laid off last December, it was a shock for sure. But I was certain that within a month at most, he’d be back to work and that it would be even better than what he was doing before.

A month passed, and then another. We still had some energy, and were blessed with a temp position to help pay the bills. Still looking for the next step, and certain it was just around the corner.

Then all of a sudden it is July. And I’m not really sure where the last seven months have gone, except that they have gone and we are still trudging along feeling almost directionless. Still so grateful for the temp work, but keenly aware that there are only a few weeks left until that dries up.

I admit that the stress of the last seven months has really gotten to me. I’ve put on some weight, I have less motivation to keep up my house and keep up my regular routine, tensions are often high at home and my kids definitely feel that lack of normalcy and security. While we aim to stay where we are, we really don’t know if we’ll be here even a month from now. It’s not like we haven’t continued living- we have. We still go on little getaways, we still have movie night, we still make plans, we still live. But there is this shadow hanging over all of it for me.

With all those emotions and stresses, it really does feel like the months have passed away like as it were unto us a dream. It’s the best way I can describe it.

But I have had this growing feeling inside of me that I don’t want to waste this time. I feel like I have just been waiting for this trial to end, and not much else. I’ve been sleeping through it.

So how do I wake up live intentionally, instead of just waiting out my days? How do I grow and learn during this trial?

Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.  (Ephesians 5:14)

We see that word several times in the scriptures.

Awake.

In chapter 3, Jacob tells us to, “…arouse the faculties of your souls; shake yourselves that ye may awake from the slumber of death..”

Alma encourages us to “..awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words..”

Lehi pleads to his children, “O that ye would awake; awake from a deep sleep… Awake! and arise from the dust…”

The Light on the BeachI’ve actually been working on this blog post for a week or so. I’ve felt like there is something that I really need to learn in this, so I’ve been studying it out and pondering a lot. As I said above, I’ve been asleep. I desperately want to wake up! Because when it comes down to it, I know deep down this trial will come to an end, and I will be amazed (but not surprised) at what the Lord has done for us. But I don’t want to look back on it and see that I squandered my opportunity for growth, or that I whined my way through it.

The term Arouse your faculties caught my curiosity when I was studying. It is often seen when the writer is pleading for the reader to awake. I’ve read the phrase hundreds of times in my life, but never thought too much about it until now. I turned to the dictionary to try to understand it more.

Arouse: verb – To evoke or awaken

Evoke: verb – To bring or recall to the conscious mind. Or, to Remember.

Faculty: noun – An inherent mental or physical power.

Inherent: adjective – Existing in something as a permanent, essential, or characteristic attribute. Deep-rooted, fundamental. Perhaps eternal?

So to arouse your faculties means to remember your eternal power.

Remember who you are.

We are children of God. All of us! We have eternal spirits. We have power! We lived before this life and we will live and progress after.

We are not meant to sleep our way through this life. What would be the point of that?

It’s hard. When you feel so weighed down it’s hard to just get up.

But remember that you can. Just the desire to get up is enough to start stirring that power within you. Not just your power, but the power of God, and angels, and friends from the other side of the veil who are all rooting for you and cheering you on.

Sky

There will always be trials. That’s why we’re here. Some will trip us up and some will knock us down completely.

Ecclesiastes 7:8 says, Better is the end of thing than the beginning thereof..

At the beginning of a trial it seems it will never end. The end is where the light comes, that refreshing breeze. But the middle is where the growth happens.

The middle is where you get to remember who you are.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Thing of Naught

A few thoughts from my scripture reading this morning- 1 Nephi chapter 19.

Nephi is commanded to make plates of ore. He first makes a more detailed record of his time in the wilderness on those plates. Later he is commanded to make the gold plates, which contain things that are more sacred.

He sure did a lot of writing. How grateful I am that he followed the commandment of the Lord to make these other plates. He could have said, “I’ve already made plates!” But no, he knew that the Lord has a purpose in all things, so why not this?

Nephi quotes scripture about Christ and his coming, his life and his death. He writes of those of old who may have erred in their writing, but that doesn’t take away from the truth of their words.

Here’s the part that really struck me, verse 9:

And the world, because of their iniquity, shall judge him to be a thing of naught; wherefore they scourge him, and he suffereth it; and they smite him, and he suffereth it. Yea, they spit upon him, and he suffereth it, because of his loving kindness and his long-suffering towards the children of men.

This is such a beautiful scripture to me. This perfect man was seen as a thing of naught.

Naught means nothing,

nothing at all,

no point,

no purpose,

no effect.

It is difficult to even type those words in relation to my Savior. No purpose? No effect?

jesus-praying-in-gethsemane-39591-printOur very existence and our eternal welfare depended on Him. And because of him, we are saved both spiritually and temporally.

He is THE purpose.

THE point.

Everything.

pictures-of-jesus-crown-thorns-1127729-printAnd here’s the thing. He knew this. He knew his purpose. So when the people saw him as a thing of naught- what must that have felt like? He was there for them too. But he didn’t do any grandstanding or set himself above them. He let them scourge him, and smite him, and spit on him. And crucify him. And he suffereth it because of his loving kindness…

Do we esteem him as a thing of naught?

What do we do with his words? Do we study and seek to understand? Or do we set them off to the side until we have the time to read them.

What do we do with the temple? His house? Do we try to go as often as possible, to be in his presence? Or do we let one month, two months- or a year go by because we don’t have two house to spare? Do we see a purpose in attending?

For the things which some men esteem to be of great worth, both to the body and soul, others set at naught and trample under their feet. Yea, even the very God of Israel do men trample under their feet; I say trample under their feet but I would speak in other words- they set him at naught, and hearken not to the voice of his counsels.

president-thomas-s-monson-lds-591264-printWhat counsels have we received? Very recently in general conference we received counsel from his Prophet and Apostles.

Our dear prophet, President Monson, spoke with all the energy he could muster. He only had the strength to speak for a few minutes at a time- once during the priesthood session, and again on Sunday morning. What did he say? Read the Book of Mormon every day, and be kind. Of all the things he could have said, these are them.

Read the Book of Mormon every day.

Be kind.

Will we set these things at naught?

He Shall Prepare a Way

Last week I finished the Book of Mormon, which means that I also started the Book of Mormon again.

Those familiar words are like coming home. I Nephi having been born of goodly parents… perhaps the most read passage in the Book of Mormon?

Anyway,  today I read 1 Nephi chapter 3.

This is a classic and well known chapter where Lehi sends his sons back to Jerusalem to get the brass plates from Laban.

Laman and Lemuel murmur as they do, but Nephi is faithful and says in verse 7..

I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.

path through the painted hillsThis is such an important scripture because it tells us that it is possible to follow the Lord in all things. We’ve all experienced moments of weakness or great times of trial. This scripture assures us that there is a way through it.

Something that stood out to me this time through was Nephi’s idea to go and get his father’s gold and silver and precious things in order to gain the brass plates. Laman had tried to get the plates by asking Laban, which did not work. So Nephi, knowing that God will provide a way, remembers their riches that they had left behind.

I wonder if he thought, “oh! It makes sense now. It all fits together! We left our riches so that they would be here just when we needed them in order to get the plates.” He definitely thought it was the solution to their problem.

But, it wasn’t.

They gathered their riches and presented them to Laban as a trade for the plates, but Laban lusted after the gold and tried to kill them. They lost their property and still didn’t have the plates that they were sent to retrieve.

I wonder if Nephi was at all confused. His brothers were certainly angry. So much so that they beat Nephi with a rod so badly that an angel had to intervene for his sake. But if Nephi was discouraged, he doesn’t talk about it. Think of it though! He thought he had received the answer and was willing to give up all of their riches, and it turned up nothing.

How often has this happened in our lives? We seek guidance and feel prompted to go a certain direction only to have it not work out. It can be incredibly discouraging.

boy on a pathBut as we see in the coming chapter, there was a better solution. One that Nephi could never have imagined on his own. One that not only benefited Lehi’s family by providing them the plates, but also gave them Zoram, and later allowed them to get Ishmael. And who knows how many other lives were blessed because of the removal of a wicked man.

God truly does have a plan, a way for us to accomplish his works. So when our first or second or third attempt at reaching our goals, or at following the commandments of the Lord do not get us to where we thought they would, hold tight.

God will provide a way.