Sunday, May 6, 2012

Sometimes, I learn.

For the first year of my marriage, I had nothing to do with church. I'm sure that I went to a baby blessing or baptism or two for my nieces, and I showed up to my "ward" one Sunday 2 months before we were to move. I wasn't sure how to balance my prior testimony with my current life.

When we moved into our house a year after we were married, I had a friend who lived in the ward. She immediately sent the relief society president to my house and before I knew it, I had visiting teachers. I showed up to church for years just to keep those relief society teachers from thinking that my life was anything less I thought they thought it should be (does that make sense?)

I spent a lot of years with two masters. I was afraid to tell people no at church and yet I knew that what they expected of me wasn't possible. I didn't want to let them down and I didn't want to let my husband down and I kind of let myself be pulled in more directions than it was possible for me to be pulled in. In trying to do what everyone else wanted me to do, I forgot to try and figure out what I wanted to do. It sucked and I ended up feeling twisted and turned and not very happy. And worse, I didn't feel like I did a good job on either front.

Two years ago, I was asked to be on the committee for our ward girls camp. I told them up front that I probably wouldn't be able to go to girls camp, but that I was happy to plan it. (Yes, this is unrealistic. But that is what I knew I could handle and my family could handle.) I was a little wishy-washy, saying (even as I knew it would never happen) that maybe I would come to girls camp for part of the time. That word "maybe" resulted in not everyone got the memo that I was a planner and not (possible, part-time) attendee. It caused tension in me and therefore tension at the planning meetings. I had people coming up to me in the hall at church and telling me how much fun I would have at girls camp and when I said - well, I won't really be there, I'm just planning it - I got some strange looks that all said - well of course you will be there! That's what you do! It sucked. (This may or may not be part of the reason I moved. Kidding, kind of.) A few phone calls sorted it out, and I moved, so my girls camp planning calling was suspended.

But I learned. I learned that I had to stop trying to please everyone. It did me no good all those years trying to be the perfect Mormon I thought people at church wanted me to be and then going home and trying to downplay my Mormon-ness. I learned that if I came clean up front with people, they would respect it, even if they didn't understand it. Maybe some would think it's turning down a calling to tell the one extending it what your reality is and the ways you will fail them in their expectations of you, but I don't. I feel like it is being honest with myself, with my husband, with God, with the bishop. It never did me a lick of good to try and pretend, it only made me feel stuck in the middle of church and home, and that happens enough. Realizing and voicing my limits makes me feel stronger, which is the exact opposite of what I thought during all those years of dancing to everyone else's tune.

History has a way of repeating itself. Today I met with a member of our stake who posed a very similar question of me: could I help with the food for this year's stake girls camp? I told him: yes. But this is my way of helping. I can plan. I can buy food. I can prepare food. I can come up for an afternoon into an evening. I want to help, but I can't pretend that my life is like (fill in the blank.) It was different from the time two years ago because I told them exactly what I could do in no uncertain terms: I will not be there and everyone needs to know that and be okay with it. It felt so much stronger to do it my way. I explained I was not turning down the request, just informing him of the conditions of my assent. I think he was okay with it. And if he wasn't? It doesn't bother me. Take me or don't, I kind of wanted to say. I knew I could come home and explain what had been asked to me to Shane and what I would do for it and know that he knew I would live up to my end of the bargain. Not because it's what he would want me to do or because of what the rest of the planning committee would want me to do, but because it was what I wanted to do.

In short, it felt good. It felt like something I could accomplish. For once I wasn't pretending my life was anything other than what it was. And I think that is kind of the point.


Amy Sorensen said...

I confess that I am still trying to match up the reality with the outward image. It probably, in my world, will never match up. Life is complicated. But you are right: all you can do is be YOU. You don't have __________________'s life, you have yours, and you have to find the peaceful routes.

Good job, sis. I am proud of you!

Lucy said...

I struggle with this too. Jay was just called as the Scoutmaster in the ward and it was just about impossible for me to admit that him being at Wednesday night activities and his monthly campouts would put too much of a strain on our family if I were to stay as YW president. I still have guilt admitting that I can’t do it all, both for the reason that I believe strongly that the Lord blesses us when we serve and also because I like my outward image to be bright and shiny and whatever I think people expect from me.

I think the right combination of faith, honesty and humility is the key. Sounds like you have figured it out.

Isabel said...

OH and I could talk about this for HOURS. (We'd have to invite Apryl into the conversation as well.)

Hooray for your being upfront and honest. That is 100% what Heavenly Father wants from you. He doesn't want to cause strain in your family, your marriage or your life. Yes, he wants you to sacrifice. But not at your family's expense.

I've never really been an adult living in Utah, so I don't 100% know how things work there. But I'm pretty sure they work differently then "in the mission field" (as my mom calls anywhere outside of Utah - GAG). Here nobody really knows what a Latter-day Saint is so there really isn't anyone to "show" to. And the people in the ward are there because they truly want to be there and not because they are afraid of what their neighbors would think because their neighbors wouldn't even notice if they didn't make cute handouts for Enrichment Night (or whatever they call it these days) of if they even missed church on Sunday.

(Seriously, I have so much to say it really would be better to talk on the phone. Oh well.)

Ken and I struggle ALL THE TIME with our boundaries. We truly believe in not turning down a calling. But YES, you must be upfront about it. "Yes Bishop, I'll serve in YW. I'm happy to teach every Sunday, but I can only attend mutual once a month." There is NOTHING wrong with saying that.

Another thing about living outside of Utah is that everyone has a calling and most of them are pretty visible callings. I've been ward Primary president, stake primary president (before I even had my own kids), in the YW presidency and multiple primary presidencies. Ken's been in the Bishopric, High Priest group leader, YM president and now he's back in the YM presidency. Since everyone has these types of callings and have families and jobs and extra curricular activities outside of church, we can only do what we can do and nobody expects more. Well, some might expect more....but I think they are more understanding when we tell them what our limits are.

And yes, we all have limits. And it's okay to say "no".

We also have to remind ourselves that being a member of the LDS church isn't about the food at girls camp and the primary program. It's not about YW Personal Progress or becoming an Eagle Scout. It's about the Savior and his atonement. It's about partaking of the sacrament on Sunday. It's about our own personal relationship with our Father in Heaven and how we can use all of this to make ourselves more like Jesus, which will make us better mothers, wives, sisters and people in general.

We all need to do what we can do. That's all Heavenly Fathers asks of us.

I love you and I hope you know that. I won't judge you for not attending Girls Camp if you don't judge me for putting together Sharing Time right before Primary starts or totally not attending Enrichment Night tonight. The sun is shining and I'd rather be at the beach with my family.

And that's what Heavenly Father wants for me.

Apryl said...

AMEN, Sister Janeece. AMEN.

I feel like I learned this years ago, but now am finally starting to have the courage to live it. Church should help build you up (and part of that is when we serve others), but we need to pick the best from the good, better, best. And if that means not joining the ward choir, saying no to the 2nd calling, not attending Girls Camp, etc., SO BE IT.)