You’ve heard about TGIF right…thank God it’s Friday? Consider if you will…what if you just stopped at the thank God part? Recently I was asked to give a talk (think sermon) in Sacrament Meeting (our “all congregational” meeting). A conversation with my niece tonight made me decided to put that talk here in hopes it will help her…maybe it will help you too.
Good Morning Brothers and Sisters! For those of you that haven’t read your bulletin or who didn’t pay attention to Brother Wade, I’m Sister Faith Freeman and though we’ve settled into Woodland 1st quite nicely, I guess I am still in the “new in the ward” category since my family and I have only been here 2.5 months. To give you a little information about me, I’m a single parent (though hopefully that part will be changing soon) and have the best three kids this ward has to offer, I’m a full-time student about to finish my bachelor’s degree in graphic design and am the “pioneer” so-to-speak in my family because only my children and I are members.
Unlike most everyone else that gets up to this pulpit, giving a talk in Sacrament Meeting doesn’t at all make me nervous and yet this is only the 2nd time I’ve done it in more than 20 years of church membership. But then again, I did letter in public speaking and debate in high school so that might have something to do with it.
At any rate, while on my way into the chapel last week for services, Brother Wade handed me a talk and I’m pretty sure it was me who responded with something like “oh so does this mean you’d like me to speak next week” and we both chuckled.
That talk is from the May 2014 General Conference session and is called Grateful in Any Circumstances given by President Uchtdorf. Kind of fitting given my current situation don’t ya think? President Uchtdorf is one of my favorite General Authorities and every time he speaks I am convinced he’s speaking exclusively to me. This talk was no different and while it’s absolutely worth reading in its entirety, I want to hit on a few of the statements he made that were kinda like a kidney punch for me and then I’ll tell you a little bit about what I’ve learned personally from choosing to be grateful no matter what.
President Uchtdorf says “sooner or later, I believe that all of us experience times when the very fabric of our world tears at the seams, leaving us feeling alone, frustrated, and adrift. It can happen to anyone. No one is immune. But those who set aside the bottle of bitterness and lift instead the goblet of gratitude can find a purifying drink of healing, peace, and understanding.” He later goes on to explain that there’s a different between being grateful for things and being grateful in things. He says “perhaps focusing on what we are grateful for is the wrong approach. It is difficult to develop a spirit of gratitude if our thankfulness is only proportional to the number of blessings we can count. It is easy to be grateful for things when life seems to be going our way. But what then of those times when what we wish for seems to be far out of reach? Could I suggest that we see gratitude as a disposition, a way of life that stands independent of our current situation? In other words, I’m suggesting that instead of being thankful for things, we focus on being thankful in our circumstances—whatever they may be.”
I first learned about being grateful in any circumstance on accident back in 2008. My children and I had just moved cross country and endured what were without a doubt the most difficult circumstances I had ever encountered up to that point. We moved to Ohio to be near my biological father’s side of the family, but since I wasn’t raised with them, I barely knew them and we were essentially on our own. Life initially was extremely difficult and I had to make a deliberate conscious choice to find things to be grateful for each and every day or I would have been swallowed whole by loneliness and despair. You should have seen the things I was grateful for initially…looking back so many of the things I was grateful for were pretty shallow now but we can’t all be deep and profound all the time right? I also worked hard to make sure I was finding new things to be grateful for every day. Some of the things I remember making the list were things like air conditioning, flowers, chocolate, care packages containing diet Pepsi lime…at the time it was my favorite drink and I couldn’t buy it anywhere in Ohio, and public school. I was thankful for public school a lot actually.
What I didn’t know until preparing to give this talk was that choosing to find things to be grateful for every day when life was really hard in time would allowed me to cultivate a grateful heart no matter what. A character trait I would need for the season of life I’m now in.
Over and over when people heard what brought me to Ohio I heard all kinds of things like what my ex-husband deserved to have happen, and how justified I was to feel hurt or angry or vengeful, how horrible my experience was and whatever else. Initially I did feel hurt and angry and scared and frustrated and worried and countless other things but then I realized how much power I was giving away to man who didn’t know where I was, who didn’t have any way to reach me, and who never really cared in the first place. It was time to shift my focal point and this is when I started looking for things to be grateful for. By diligently seeking things to be grateful for each and every day no matter what, I became a grateful person.
In time, I was able to write a letter to my ex-husband that I posted on my blog many years ago…I want to share part of it with you because it details many things I am still grateful to my ex-husband for:
I should hate you. Nobody I know, except maybe your mom and family, would blame me for hating you. Heck a few people even actually encourage me to do it and yet I don’t. Instead I’m grateful to you. I know, it’s a strange concept considering how abusive you were, but really I am thankful beyond words for you.
Thank you first and foremost for my children. They are one of the two things that matter most to me in this world and I’d be lost without them. The sweetest sound in the world is that of them calling “mommy” and the best feeling I’ve ever known is that of their arms wrapped around me tightly along with the feel of their lips on my cheek. I owe that sound and feeling to you, thank you.
I’m grateful you were selfish. It allowed me to be selfless. When you put yourself first, it required me to put myself last. I learned how to go without the things I wanted so I could give our children what they needed. I also learned that “stuff” really isn’t that important in the grand scheme of things.
Now that I don’t have to live with your rage, I find myself thankful for it. I no longer have to look at our precious children bruised and battered and demand to know what you’ve done. In fact, I’ve enjoyed a peaceful home for over a year now. One in which there are no fist/feet holes in the walls, no jugs of syrup thrown through the walls, no deliberately broken toys, no flying watermelon, and no interior doors treated like punching bags. If it wasn’t for living with your rage, I might not appreciate all of those things the way I do now, so again I thank you.
I am grateful for your lack of faith in my God. It’s allowed me to realize exactly how important my faith in Him is. I am grateful that you never lived worthy of taking me to the temple, despite being baptized and ordained to the priesthood. Your failure to do so ensures I will have no problems being sealed for time and all eternity to a worthy mate in the future. Your lack of faith in my God makes me appreciate this feature in others more than ever before.
I’ve learned to be grateful for your refusal to pay the full court ordered support. When you don’t, it often requires me to ask others for help. In asking for help, I’ve learned how to be a little more humble and countless others have been blessed for their service to our children and I. I am also grateful to you for this because it fuels my desire to work even harder to provide for our children.
I am also grateful to you for being essentially none of what I wanted and needed in a spouse and too little of what I did. I settled on or for you and my experience with you has taught me not to EVER do it again. Your failure to be who I used to believe you could be, let alone who I wanted you to be, has allowed me to realize I am valuable and don’t have to settle for anyone who can’t see that.
Preparing for this talk and looking back on all the things both good and bad that have happened to me has given me a chance to think about was I grateful for things, or truly grateful in things and though I’ve still got a ways to go, I think I can honestly say I’m at a point where I find myself more often than not grateful IN things.
Adversity is inevitable and I genuinely believe our attitude during tough times is a critical component in enduring it well. The better our attitude, the easier the adversity is to deal with. When we choose to be grateful in things, it brings us closer to the Savior. President Uchtdorf says “Gratitude is a catalyst to all Christ-like attributes! A thankful heart is the parent of all virtues. The Lord has given us His promise that those “who [receive] all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto [them], even an hundred fold, yea, more.” He goes on to say we can choose to be grateful, no matter what. “This type of gratitude transcends whatever is happening around us. It surpasses disappointment, discouragement, and despair. It blooms just as beautifully in the icy landscape of winter as it does in the pleasant warmth of summer. When we are grateful to God in our circumstances, we can experience gentle peace in the midst of tribulation. In grief, we can still lift up our hearts in praise. In pain, we can glory in Christ’s Atonement. In the cold of bitter sorrow, we can experience the closeness and warmth of heaven’s embrace. We sometimes think that being grateful is what we do after our problems are solved, but how terribly shortsighted that is. How much of life do we miss by waiting to see the rainbow before thanking God that there is rain? Being grateful in times of distress does not mean that we are pleased with our circumstances. It does mean that through the eyes of faith we look beyond our present-day challenges. This is not a gratitude of the lips but of the soul. It is a gratitude that heals the heart and expands the mind.”
Personally, I’m still waiting for the “an hundred fold, yea, more” part that President Uchtdorf spoke about but here’s what I’ve learned by being grateful in my circumstances, no matter how difficult they may be.
- I’ve learned that Heavenly Father knows my name, He knows my needs, and He will meet them.
- I’ve learned that no matter how bad I think my situation is, someone always has it worse.
- I’ve learned that I am stronger than I ever thought I could be.
- I’ve learned first-hand the difference between being grateful for things and grateful in things and that difference has made all the difference in my life.
- I have learned to have or find peace in any circumstance.
- I’ve learned that things aren’t the most important things anyway.
- I’ve learned that Heavenly Father’s timing is always far better than my own.
- I’ve learned that there is always something to be grateful for no matter what.
Lemme just say that again…when you learn to have a grateful spirit, when you chose to be grateful in things instead of for things, you will ALWAYS find something to be grateful for no matter how difficult the situation may be.
- I’ve learned that gratitude is contagious. When we choose to be grateful in our circumstances no matter what, those around us instantly become grateful too.
- I’ve learned that the more grateful I am, the happier I am.
President Uchtdorf says “being grateful in our circumstances is an act of faith in God. It requires that we trust God and hope for things we may not see but which are true. By being grateful, we follow the example of our beloved Savior, who said, “Not my will, but thine, be done.” True gratitude is an expression of hope and testimony. It comes from acknowledging that we do not always understand the trials of life but trusting that one day we will.”
When it comes to the trials I’ve had to face, there’s a lot I don’t understand. I don’t understand why I’ve had so many really hard ones and other people I know seem to have really small ones in comparison. I don’t understand why these huge trials I have come back to back to back, last as long as they do, or continue to come despite my best efforts. When your life is plagued with epic trials like mine, it is often difficult to be of good cheer but being grateful in things honestly does make a difference. I believe that the reason I have been blessed the way that I have is largely dependent on having learned to be grateful in all things. Not just the good things, not just the ok things, not just the moderately bad things, not just in the things I like, but in ALL things good, bad or ugly.
President Uchtdorf concludes his talk saying “how blessed we are if we recognize God’s handiwork in the marvelous tapestry of life. Gratitude to our Father in Heaven broadens our perception and clears our vision. It inspires humility and fosters empathy toward our fellowmen and all of God’s creation. May we “live in thanksgiving daily”—especially during the seemingly unexplainable endings that are part of mortality. May we allow our souls to expand in thankfulness toward our merciful Heavenly Father. May we ever and constantly raise our voices and show by word and deed our gratitude to our Father in Heaven and to His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ.” And it is my testimony that if we do this, we can count on the same experience happening to us that happened to Alma in Mosiah 24:15 “And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord.”
Being grateful in all things hasn’t really changed any the trials I’m presently in the thick of. I still hate most of the things that make up my daily existence and life is still difficult. There are often days I just don’t think I can do this one more second let alone one more minute or hour or day and then Sister Davis shows up with fresh baked cookies or cheesecake or Brother Crawford shows up with wood or propane or extension cords or Sister Harper shows up with a meal or comes and gets us and takes us out to dinner just because, or Brother Shaw is hugging me and telling me how wonderful my children are or Sister Crawford is sharing with me what an amazing Home Teacher my son is or my boyfriend calls me to tell me he wants to come to church with us today so he can hear me give this talk or, or or…These are the kinds of blessings that are mine to enjoy despite this difficult circumstance because I chose to be grateful in things instead of for things. By doing so, I can see God’s hand at work in my life despite the circumstance and that allows me to continue to face each day with more resolve knowing it won’t be like this forever. May we all seek to develop a perpetual state of gratitude in things instead of for things is my prayer, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.