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By Melissa Young

I have a small life. I live in a small house with thankfully small utility bills. Our town is small, with a small grocery store and small library (the librarian calling me by name on my second visit almost made up for the lack of books). Big things don’t usually happen here, and I like it that way. It’s a fortunate blessing most of the time.

But there are times when I wonder about bigness. I want to feel the weight of it, see the height and breadth of it, smell the thickness of it. I suppose that’s why I like history. The panoramic scope of centuries helps to put today’s headlines in perspective. But there is something beyond headlines and events, something bigger.

It’s part of what I loved about Carol Petranek’s experiences in “Linear Thoughts…Acts of Creation.” Not only was it fascinating to read about the efforts of Mormons in Washington, D.C. to celebrate Black History Month, there was a pervasive sense of bigness surrounding the event: “Burning within us was an understanding of the Lord’s direction of this activity; all who were involved, even in the smallest degree, recognized that same spirit.” Being inspired by God—that’s big.

While we mortals have created some pretty amazingly big things, I am convinced that true bigness is solely God’s territory. Ironically, though, I don’t think size matters to Him. Whether it’s planets orbiting a sun or electrons orbiting a nucleus, I think He is equally aware. How this can be—how He can create worlds without end and still number the hairs on our heads—is of course beyond me; but it gives me comfort that through Him, I can have bigness even in my small life.

About Melissa Young

(Emerita) is a native of Utah and lives in Cache Valley, Utah, with her husband and three of her four children in their emptying nest. She has an MA in TESOL from Brigham Young University and currently volunteers with the English Learning Center.

6 thoughts on “Small”

  1. Melissa–I think it's that capacity to simulataneously think big and small that is uniquely God-like and something that I strive for.

    I went through a period where I felt so weighed down by small thoughts (combing hair before church, cleaning the house, creating sanity in routine, etc..) that I left the realm of dreams and hopes. I then swung back to thinking only BIG things like overhauling our new home, creating and maintaining a business, and going back to school. And, oh how I wish that I could name the hairs on my little one's heads, the ones that have been left uncombed while I'm out creating something better for myself, and hopefully for them.

    I wish that my sons could know that I mourn their little sorows and dream their big dreams, and I also hope they forgive me for doing the same thing for myself.

  2. I revel in the small and simple tasks of my life, except when I don't. I'll happily skip along, enjoying my family and my life, and then be smacked in the face by something large — orphaned children, natural disaster, neighbor tragedy, whatever. Sometimes the large things weigh me down and make me feel totally powerless. Until I realize that most changes in the world didn't come about through largess and grandiosity. They came about by small means.

    And so it is, my small efforts continue, hoping to somehow ride the butterfly effect to largeness.

  3. I love how the Lord works with our individual minds and personalities. Carol (my mom)has a penchant for thinking and doing big. So she's received much revelation to organize large-scale events, projects, etc. that minister to many at once. Others are more tuned in to meeting one-on-one needs, and the Lord sends them to this house and that house to minister to individuals. I agree that one is not more important than the other.

  4. I just hope I'm in-tune enough to know what I should be doing, big or small. Does that sound too fatalistic? It seems like there are two camps on revelation. One that says we should pray over every little thing, and the other that says hel-lo, God gave us a brain so we could use it and make our own choices. I tend to fall in the second camp, and sometimes I think I close myself off to inspiration.

    I loved that Carol wasn't even asking about anything, though. It just came to her. A neat experience to read about.

  5. It's inspiration that makes the difference in my ability to feel at peace when life is small. Often my dreams are larger than my capacity to follow them–at least in this stage of my life. I need to be reminded that I am where I am supposed to be, and I need to be and sustained in my efforts here.

  6. In my stake we are organizing a BIG Christmas program. Over 100 voices, narration, soloists, a childrens' choir. My husband's playing the organ and I am cowriting the script. It is a big endeavor.

    It's been hard for me to work on it in part because I keep second-guessing it: is this too big? Isn't it? Isn't it taking too much time away from our families? (or, actually, just from mine. I am whiny. People who aren't music people do not realize how much time it takes to learn music.)

    What calms me down is the spirit at the rehearsals, which is also big. If it were up to me, I would balk at putting on something so big. I would keep it small, maybe have one ward from each stake sing a couple of numbers and call it good. But I feel like the Spirit is guiding this production to be as big as it is, for whatever reason. When I read the article about Carol Petranek I immediately thought of our Christmas program, and the woman in our stake who spearheads it. She pulls off these amazing things, and just like Carol, after the initial vision of the project she encounters opposition all along the way. A lot of it comes from people like me who wonder if what she is trying to accomplish is too big. But I think that sometimes the Spirit wants things big, by way of many many small and simple contributions. It's like Nephi getting the vision to build the ship–that was big, and it needed to be done, but he had to convince Laman and Lemuel to contribute to it.


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