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Sacrifices and Choices/Blessings, Blessings

By Brooke Benton

As one who oft’ complains about her calling, and made her #1 new year’s resolution to “stop being antagonistic at presidency meetings,” I felt humbled when I read Gold to Give, an essay from the latest issue of Segullah.

To hit the pillow on Sunday night, exhausted and still in your stockings, having had to economize your time to serve one who seemed more needy than the next—only to regret your decision the next morning”¦ Well, that makes my own morning decision (Should I bring out the hearts yet? Or leave up the snowflakes?) seem just plain trivial.

Please read it– best 10 minutes of your day, I promise– and share with me the feelings, relationships and things you have sacrificed to serve in your part of the vineyard. Tell me what you have traded and why you made the choice that you did. And was it worth it? (I’m sure it was.)

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About Brooke Benton

(Blog Team) is attempting inner om with this writing stuff. Proud to claim four loud children, a patient husband and a fat black cat as family, she feels blessed to be their mommy-- their giver of kisses and baker of cookies. She is ever seeking a good novel and wishing for the sand between her toes, palm trees, the ocean.

8 thoughts on “Sacrifices and Choices/Blessings, Blessings”

  1. I read this last night (read most of the Consecration issue, actually), and I was moved by her experience.

    Although I've never had an experience as extreme as hers, I have had my share of frustrations. I did end up losing two good friends through it. Here are my stories (as summed up as possible):

    While serving as the Enrichment counselor in a BYU married student ward, I had to leave town and left the had-to-be-done responsibilities to my enrichment leader. When I returned and spoke with her, not only had she not done what we had agreed to, but she changed a lot of it. After speaking with the RS presidency for a long time about the situation, I had the awful assignment of speaking to her about what she had done. Except for absolute-must situations, she never spoke to me again. I replay that phone conversation over and over, trying to find what I said wrong.

    Then, while serving as a PP in my family ward, an older friend was called to be a teacher. We hadn't been best friends (she was quite older than me), but we had been good friends for 5 years. A terrible situation, this one, because we spoke on the phone, and I didn't understand what she wanted or expected of me as the PP, and she ended up hanging up on me. And then the Bishopric was told about my terrible leadership (all within 2 weeks and I was 8 months pregnant with my fourth child). I was devestated. Even after trying to fix the situation and writing her a letter of apology, she refused to speak with me. We have since moved away, but when we went back to visit, she wouldn't even look at me. It still breaks my heart because there was no hint of forgiveness. And I still think she is an amazing person. Like my other experience, I keep trying to find what I did wrong. How could it have happened?

    But yes, it was worth it. I learned so much from both experiences, even if it was just that leadership callings are difficult and must be met with patience, understanding, and great love for those we serve.

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  2. thanks for sharing, cheryl. it's difficult to lose friends over situations that we tried our best with. i have to wonder if there's ever a way to make everyone happy.

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  3. Cheryl, I think that one day we will see eye to eye with people we have unintentionally hurt, and they will know that we did not intend to do them harm, and we will forgive each other.

    My favorite calling scripture is in Ether 12. It's God talking to Moroni as Moroni stresses over whether the Book of Mormon is good enough for all the people who read it. Will we, his future audience, view all his mistakes with the charity he wants us to?

    And God says, "If they have not charity it mattereth not unto thee; thou hast been faithful."

    I hope the people I have worked with in the church have charity for my lapses, and I hope I can be faithful, and therefore worthy of that charity…

    I don't know that, outside of my mission, I've ever experienced anything like what the "Gold to Give" author has, a calling so demanding that it pulled everything she had. But even my little stewardship now is full of both my giving and my blunders.

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  4. I remember watching my RS president awhile back as she worked with a couple of kids from my ward who are a lot of work and who need a lot of help. I've watched these kids–this family even–not only just survive, but also come a long way with her help and her attention. I was humbled because I don't know if I have it in me to give in the way she does.

    Thanks for such a thought provoking post.

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  5. My biggest experience with sacrifice, blessings, and callings has not been with my own calling, but my husband's. My husband is in the bishopric in our ward. This is his second time serving in a bishopric. The first time wasn't a big deal. We didn't have children, and while I got lonely at times, I also enjoyed a great deal of "me" time.

    This second time around, the lessons are harder to learn, but I can see that great blessings have been given to our family and continue to await us. When dh was called, he was heavily involved in caring for his mother, who was elderly and needed 24-hour care. We had been doing this for about 1.5 years and it was very difficult for us. I didn't always have a good attitude about this service and the amount of time it took away from our little family. So when the bishopric call came, we both worried about how we would juggle this on top of everything else. We were also waiting to adopt a baby, and I couldn't imagine how a new baby would fit into the mix, yet I also could not bear the thought of having a baby postponed even longer.

    It's amazing how the Lord takes care of things! Within two month, my mother-in-law passed away, which was a blessing for her and, while we of course missed her, it opened the door for new things for us. A week later, we found out that we were becoming parents for the second time, and in a few short days, we held a baby girl in our arms. Life was a whirlwind! I knew without a doubt that the blessing of this baby was directly tied to our willingness to accept dh's call.

    However, blessings can be challenges too. The first few months of bishoprichood (for lack of a better word) are kind of a honeymoon. Yes, he's gone, but the excitement of the call makes up for that. As a feamily, we felt honored and our hearts leapt at the chance to serve the Lord in such a way. But then, reality sets in. So many changes in such a little time. Having a new baby on short notice was truly life-altering, and more than a little overwhelming at times as we tried to adjust literally overnight. We weren't getting any sleep (we still aren't, 18 months later…) My dh started having some health problems. He had to let go of a career track at work, and in the meantime his boss was frustrated with him because he suddenly couldn't give 180% to the job as he had in the past. All of a sudden, we felt spent. We were running on almost empty.

    I grudgingly adjusted to life with my dh being gone a lot. Sundays were, and still are, the worst, as I battle my two little ones through church. For about six months, things were really, really hard. I held post-adoption depression at bay–barely. People at church started to notice and comment that I didn't seem like myself. I found myself crying in RS lessons. All I could think of was that this was going to be my life for the next five years. I sought advice from my sister-in-law, who was almost at the end of her husband's bishopric service. She told me that the only solution was to accept that I would be doing it all. She said that she only found peace when she accepted that her dh simply would not be available to do much, so she needed to accept it. She threw herself into making his life easier. That was the last thing I wanted to hear!

    I don't think that my husband's and my solution has been exactly the same as my that of my brother and sister-in-law. But I am learning that complaining and resentment make things worse. I am most at peace when I try my best to love our life as it is and not lament things. I try to be open to seeing the blessings we've received and how we've been sustained by the Lord this past 20 months. I am learning to be at peace with things like walking the halls with my restless children at church, even if it means missing all my meetings. I have learned to accept all the help I can get from others. I had a really hard time giving over my baby during sacrament meeting to the woman who offered to sit with us. Now, my toddler adores her friend, whom she calls "gwama" (grandma).

    One of the hardest parts has been accepting the fact that my duty right now is to my children. I have an advanced degree in music, in organ performance, and serving as ward organist has been one of my most fulfilling opportunities over the past years. However, with my husband on the stand, I had to be released. We both felt that it was important that our children be able to sit with family members during church if at all possible. I had no idea how much the loss of that calling would affect me…how much playing the organ lifted and sustained me each week. One week, my dh was scrambling around looking for an organist, as he wasn't sure if either of those who were called had shown up that week. I watched him incredulously as he wracked his brain trying to figure out who could play, and then said, "Hey now, don't forget that I play the organ!" His reponse: "But you have to sit with the children" was deflating. It reflected how I had been feeling about many things related to his calling. I had to sit with the children. Yet at the same time, I realized that being with my children during this time literally WAS my calling.

    I have not yet learned everything and grown in all the ways I need to during this calling. We still have at least three more years, and I know that many more experieces will come. I take great hope from watching my sister-in-law, as my brother was finally released after spending seven of the prior eight years in bishoprics. Being a wife in this situation has literally transformed her. I know the low points–I saw the times when she struggled, even with her basic testimony, as she worked through the challenges of keeping the homefront together while he was away doing church work. She told me once of all the difficult personal and family trials they had endured while he was serving. And she said that there were times she sat alone in the house after kids were in bed, but before he got home, and wept because of the burdens and wished he were there to support her through them. But she said that if he had been there, she probably would not have relied as much on Heavenly Father, and her relationship with Him could not have developed as it needed to.

    Right now I feel happy. There are times when I don't know quite how we will manage. I just got a fairly demanding church calling myself, and as I drove to the store the other day, tears came to my eyes as I wondered how I would manage, and especially, how I would best care for my children as I filled the demands of this new calling. I was instantly filled with a feeling of peace. Somehow I just KNEW that it would all work out, that we would be blessed for my service just as we are continually upheld because of dh's.

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  6. Sacrifice to me means bringing an offering to the Lord. It is not giving up something in order to get something better. Abraham was asked to offer Isaac, and then provided a substitution.

    As I think about the things I have offered in terms of preparation time, effort and developing usable talents, they constitutes a sacrifice where there can be no substitution.

    At times it has seemed that it wasn't worth it when others who would have done things differently have expressed their displeasure through letters or face to face conversations. But the purpose of magnifying my calling was not to please them. The purpose was to present an acceptable offering to the Lord.

    I remember once when my missionary companion and I had stay in our apartment because I was too sick to go out in the cold. This lasted for several days to a week. Over that time period we talked about many things. In the course of that long running conversation my companion, my senior companion, talked about and evaluated all of her former missionary companions. She talked about one missionary who was somewhat of a legend as a spiritual giant. Then she said, "I don't think you are very spiritual."

    Her words stung deeply. Later when she was out with two elders while I continued to recover I took my wounded heart before the Lord and asked if I truly was not very spiritual. The answer to my prayer was clear and plain. My offering and life was acceptable to Him.

    Since, then I have felt that when I do my best and try to please the Lord my offering will be enough. When it brings me closer to Him it is worth it.

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  7. Emily M.
    I believe that to be true, also, but the interim sometimes feels very long!

    Brooke-
    Honestly, I don't think it is possible to please everyone while in a leadership calling. We sure try, though, don't we? 🙂

    btw, eljee, I loved how you said you knew it would work out and be okay. I truly believe we are given the tools to rise to the things that are asked of us (man, now I've got "Nephi's Courage" stuck in my head!).

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  8. I believe the Lord always provides a way, just as he promised Nephi. But the way isn't always the one we expect, or want. Life can literally fall apart during times of intense obedience/sacrifice, without any nifty toolkit in sight. 🙂 That's the hard part–keeping faith when everything is in shambles and you're left to wonder why you aren't being blessed Primary-song style.

    Thankfully, Cheryl and Nephi and President Hinckley are right–we can have 100% faith that it will all work out in the end, even if the process is painful and bewildering at times. Kudos to this author for reminding us of the value of the refiner's fire.

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