Once the newness of something wears off, do you find yourself struggling to maintain the same vigor as time goes on? If you do, you are not alone–at all. So many times we start out strong and willingly make the sacrifice and struggle through learning something new and feel proud when we start to feel comfortable, but that desire to keep going often fizzles out. It is not that we do not want to do it, per se, but we have other things that are far more enjoyable to us and they get our attention.
Find joy in the hard things?
Sometimes I think that we underestimate how hard things truly are going to be for us, in spite of the tools and experience we have. Some things simply take a complete and very concentrated effort on our part because we have “natural man” tendencies (Mosiah 3:19). This is not exclusive to men, but women fall to these tendencies as well. It raises the question in my mind, “What am I putting off?”
We are pushed–pressured–to be perfect, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). What does this mean, though? What does it mean to be perfect? Are we putting too much pressure on ourselves to reach a state that we are currently incapable of reaching?
Why do we keep going when we fail continuously? That is the question that I have pondered a lot in the past couple of months. Confession: we are struggling to complete our church recommended studying each week as a family. We are failing to accomplish the basic studying each week as laid out in the new Come, Follow Me manual that has been provided to us from the Church to help us study the gospel more
Not knowing exactly what I am supposed to do in order to find joy in this hard thing that we have been asked to do, I needed to come up with a plan to break down the process and build better habits. Perhaps it was believed to be easy, but for so many of us struggling to find the new normal and develop new or better habits, it is a trial. I do not believe that this will always be hard. I am going to compare it to learning a new skill–that is essentially what we are doing–and the amount of practice it requires.
One thing that bugs me most is that we simply have not made it a priority in our lives–or that is what it probably seems to most people. Why can we sit down for family movie night weekly, but fail to study the gospel weekly as a family? Right now, I am going for weekly and we will work up to daily, but for now, my expectation is weekly. What makes this so hard for us? Where is the joy amid the struggle?
“Thy faith hath made thee whole”
This week’s Come, Follow Me lesson is in Matthew and Mark. We are studying the teachings of miracles and the healing that Christ performed. In Pathway, I have learned a variety of different study skills. One study skill is taking the scriptures I read and likening them to my life, learning to identify the various principles and concepts being taught. I can then ponder how they apply to me as an individual given my circumstances.
This week, this scripture has really struck me in our struggles:
Mark 5:34Mark 5:24-34
God knows our struggles and He knows my desire to improve. He has not left us defenseless or powerless in our struggles, He knows what we need. This made me think about how sometimes we have to take that leap of faith and jump in with both feet–we have to take action even if we do not know that there is anything for us to step on once we do act. Faith and desire are so important in learning where those stepping stones are, they do not magically appear.
Using my talents is finding joy
Each of us is given different talents and it is up to each of us as individuals to magnify or expand these talents. We are even given the capacity to learn new talents if we are willing to put in the effort to do so. Faith is an action word. Believing is active. We are doing it–right now.
For me, one of the things that sucks the joy out of the Come, Follow Me at-home gospel study program is the lack of excitement in the lessons. The lessons are usually very short. This is a good thing as we do not have to endure very much for very long. In spite of their short length, the lessons are very rich in content drawn from the scripture passages assigned for the week.
The lesson for the week is only 4 pages and 1.5 pages of that are large(r) images. They are short.
I feel overwhelmed by how short they are. How am I supposed to get anything out of that? I suppose I should not knock the length because this is way improved over the previous Sunday School Study Guide Booklets they used to give us each year. After writing that out, I am now starting to see this manual as a blessing…
I found myself pondering how to use the tools more effectively? How do I spice it up? In comes the whole talents thing. I have been given the ability to make things look less overwhelming and appealing to any member of my family. My husband may not need it. My 22 year old and almost 19-year old may not need it, but my 14-year old definitely needs something to catch and draw his attention to get him interested.
What could I personally do to make him want to participate?
My attempt to spice it up
One of my many talents is graphic design skills. I have an eye for making things look good on the page or screen. I do not always do this to the best of my ability, but I do it so that it matters and leave the rest. Maybe I should repent on this half-hearted attempt to complete these tasks?
One of the things that kept coming to my mind was that I “wanted” my family to “want” to participate. I did not want to have to initiate the evening study sessions. I wanted them to be motivated to ask to sit down and study each night as a family. That is where the reality check happened–it was not going to happen. How could I expect my family to be motivated, when I, myself, was not motivated to take action?
I sat down at my computer, to complete a Pathway assignment, and I saw this template for a flyer similar to the ones that are common on public bulletin boards with the little tear tabs on them. If you are interested in the product or service, you pull off the tab which usually has contact information on it.
IT WAS PERFECT!!!
So I whipped one together using the concepts and principles being taught in that week’s lesson. It went together so naturally. Confession: I had never touched the template before and to be honest with you, I had not used the word processing program that it was found in more than a handful of times since owning my first MacBook Pro many many years ago.
I pushed through. Then the struggle started as I worked to understand how different things worked on the template simply because of my lack of knowledge with the program. I was going to make this work. Above, you see the results of those attempts. Is it perfect? NO! There was more than one typo in the original version that I printed out. I left them. It was the effort that mattered, not the presentation.
I printed it out and cut the tabs. Then I finished cleaning off the top of my coffee table and placed the scriptures that I could find dispersed around the room on the table, neatly. I dug a stack of composition books out of the supply cabinet so that we could create an “impressions journal” and placed them on the table in a stack. I laid my printout on top of the neatly placed items on the table. My husband noticed when he came home from work.
Lance, Ben, and I did our reading a couple of days later as a family. Then we each pulled a tab off my sheet and we went through the passages that we read searching for the answers to the questions on the tabs. Together we discussed the questions and answers.
I will confess that my mommy pride kicked in when Lance was able to answer the question he selected, showing a modicum of understanding. This is my worry that he simply does not understand, or rather, he chooses not to understand as is common with teenagers.
This week, we have not done our studying yet, but yesterday, I took a few moments to whip together another pull-tab Come, Follow Me flyer. I felt a huge sense of peace and accomplishment come over me as I worked on it.
This week’s version is obviously a bit more detailed (more topics, questions, headings, etc). You may not have noticed on the first one, that there were tabs for both individuals to find answers as well as group assignments to look together. Each time we sit down, the goal is for each individual to take a tab unless someone selects the group activity and then that is what we do for that study session. My goal is to work up to multiple nights per week of studying sessions, but for now, I will be content in building a habit on 1 night per week reading the scriptures for each lesson and then studying the contents of the lesson related to those scriptures. We are going to pace ourselves here!
In just making these simple attempts to find joy and facilitating my family members to find joy in the assignment to study the Come, Follow Me lessons each week, I have felt a calm come over me. I feel at peace with the fact that we are struggling and Heavenly Father knows and understands this. He knows my efforts and He has given me the talents to use to make this easy–eventually. I no longer feel resentment toward my family for not wanting to initiate our study sessions. I now understand how overwhelmed they may feel as I put words to my own feelings.
What have you done to help make Come, Follow Me a more enjoyable task each week?