Sunday, May 13, 2012

Priorities in our lives

Brothers and sisters, my name is Jessica Ashurst.  We moved into the ward a few months ago with our four children. As I am looking into the room, I will admit that in a room full of former bishops, lifelong members, among so many other impressive people, I feel anxious about saying just the right thing to all of you, especially on Mother’s day.

So, I am just going to be myself.  Normally when I give a talk, I spend hours researching quotes from tons of talks, and I substitute others words for my own. I often feel inadequate because I just never can say things as beautifully as all of those other people.

Let me share with you something I am passionate about.  I love taking pictures.  If I ever forget to bring my camera with me, I wish I did.  I find myself constantly wishing I had brought it to this random place or that.  Mostly I take pictures of my kids to document their lives as things naturally happen, sort of a photo journalism approach.  I photograph my children or our daily lives, catching the precise moment with the background out of focus, training my eye on the most interesting part of the frame.  

I Don’t take pictures of “not baking bread” of “not doing family home evening” or “not picking apples in orchard to make homemade applesauce” . Why don’t I take pictures of these things?  Because life isn’t about things that we don’t do.  Life is really just like my camera lens and the question is, what do I want to  focus on?   In those frames, sometimes when taking a picture of my child who is playing in a messy room, I adjust the shot to get the right angle to crop out the mess of daily life. When I take a shot of my family playing in the yard, I choose to snap the picture with the beautiful tree in the background rather than a neighbors rusty trailer.  The purpose of this is to celebrate the beautiful moments in our lives.  It does not mean that those trailers are missing in or that we don’t have messes ourselves, but rather we can choose to focus our attention on the good things in our lives. As we have learned in the Article of faith 13. “If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report, or praiseworthy, we seek after these things”

In April 2001, Richard G Scott gave a talk called “First things First” where he spoke about the eternal nature of families. I sat down and was talking to my cousin about this, and found I didn’t know the right thing to say about such a sensitive subject as everyone’s family and life experiences. Especially since everyone has such unique experiences.  

As we were talking about this subject, I felt inadequate because there are so many things that I’m not doing enough of. How can I talk about living and creating an eternal family when I don’t always read my scriptures every day. Often I don’t get up on time to curl my girls hair on Sundays because for me that extra 15 minutes of sleep is so worth it.

I was surprised at her response.  I found that I tend to focus on the mess in the background, the rusty trailers, the unread bedtime stories.  I did not realize how focused I was on these elements until she smiled and said, “Comparison is the thief of Joy.”   So where is my lens focused? Whatever we seek, we will find. If we look for beauty as we are commanded in article of faith 13, we will find it. And if we look to find our shortcomings, we will find that too. History books are written about things that people actually did. Not about what they thought about doing, or wish they had done but didn’t have time for or get around to.

In his talk Richard G Scott asks” what are my highest priorities to be accomplished while on earth?”  and continues “how do I spend my discretionary time?”  and “is some of that consistently applied to highest priorities?”

So what are my priorities? In my family, loving my kids, sharing with them our love of the outdoors, which is why we moved here to Midway, and doing small things to knit our family closer together is our family’s priority at this phase in life.  

In the frontier times, people spent all day with their families just to provide food, shelter, and the basic necessities of life.  Through these daily chores, it is easy to see how they were able to create close bonds with their families.  In modern times, how can we replicate such a feeling?  

We can get excited with our children. Doing the little things. They are not looking for major life changing moments every day. But for the everyday moments like making a skirt out of fabric scraps, reading a story, or tucking them into bed at night.  

My son gave me this mothers day card.
He loves me this much.

 In it he thanks me for the things that make me “the best mother HE has ever known” and I quote “you buys us clothes and shoes. You make us dinner, and lots of other things”  My son doesn’t love me because I do his laundry, or because he has clean socks in his drawer. Not for making a fancy new recipe, or for trying out some pinteresting home decorating scheme. He loves me for the small things I do for him each day. Because every day I do my best. And some days, my best looks very different than other days, but at the end of the day, my best is enough. That’s just what I have to learn to remember.

I got more than one card. My daughter wrote an acronym for my name Jessica Ashurst.
English, actually I’m dutch
I am common
Anxious, which after asked her about it, she actually thinks means easily exciteable
I am stressed out
I am run
I am strict
and I train.

What did I do when I saw this list? I’m sure many of you can imagine. I picked out all the less flattering traits. But I also realised that she thinks I have a great singing voice, I never realised she paid any attention to my singing. My 10 year old daughter also thinks I am interesting. She sees me sewing, and also started learning to sew. She has watched movies of my dancing in the past, and Friday night I got to see her beaming with pride while square dancing for the first time.  

These cards represent real life.  Everyone has moments they are proud of, and some things they would rather were not on the list.  Brothers and sisters, what are our highest priorities in life, where should we focus our lens?  We can beat ourselves up for every shortcoming in our lives, but just as the wayward prodigal son returned beat up and in despair over his choices, his father had his arms outstretched to receive him.  After all, when we are blessed to return to our father, the question is not if he will accept us, but whether or not we trust Him enough to come back after doing all that we can do, doing our very best, whatever that may be, and allowing Him to embrace us in all of our imperfections.  

In the name of Jesus Christ


Maddy S said...

Jessica, this was beautiful. Thanks for sharing it. I will reread it again when I feel down. You are awesome and I am glad to call you a friend.

Mom said...

This is a great talk. Mother's Day talks are very hard and you did a great job of getting the focus where it should be.

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