Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Parable of the Brown Sugar

The other day, Diana requested that we make chewy chocolate chip cookies. I did what anyone would and googled Alton Brown and his recipe on Food Network. One of the key ingredients in the recipe was brown sugar. This took us to the cupboard where we discovered not one, but two bags of brown sugar that resembled bricks of cement.

We gave up the quest for cookies that night, and I put the rock like brown sugar in a zip lock bag with a piece of bread. By the next morning the brown sugar had sucked much of the moisture from the bread. And a day later, the sugar was soft and supple, while the bread could double for a hammer if necessary.

I'm not even sure where I ever learned about this remarkable trick. But it occurs to me that a lesson can be learned from this little science experiment.

This is my problem. I used to be a piece of bread, soft and tender. But I have been sucked dry and now I am a stone.

Even though I have been advised many times to take care of myself first, I have not done that. I have been inappropriately selfless. In other words I have not been appropriately selfish. This is a huge light bulb moment for me.

Somehow naming my problem and believing that it is OK, even appropriate when it comes to my basic needs, well that is a huge way of rethinking how I live my life. It will be hard to fully make this change. I think that it is my nature to be caring and kind and this is not a bad thing, but I have taken it to far.

Part of my selflessness has been a necessary part of caring for a sick child, but at the same time I have given all I had and am left empty and emotionally dead.

Good news, there is a cure and just like restoring the brown sugar to life, I can be healed. This will take time and will require that I meet my basic needs for sleep, diet and exercise to name a few.

Last Sunday, I was studying more about hope. LDS.org has the following definition of hope:

"Hope is the confident expectation of and longing for the promised blessings of righteousness."

It reminded me that hope is not happiness. I wonder if I have been confused about that. In looking at that definition, perhaps I am not so hopeless after all. I just forgot to remember that I do have a confident expectation of and longing for future blessings. The Lord has shown me of his tender mercies countless times in the past, and there is no good reason to think this time will be any different. Other than the smoke screen of despair that Satan has managed to generate in my thoughts.

LDS.org goes on to say: The word hope is sometimes misunderstood. In our everyday language, the word often has a hint of uncertainty. For example, we may say that we hope for a change in the weather or a visit from a friend. In the language of the gospel, however, the word hope is sure, unwavering, and active. Prophets speak of having a "firm hope" (Alma 34:41) and a "lively hope" (1 Peter 1:3). The prophet Moroni taught, "Whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God" (Ether 12:4).

When we have hope, we trust God's promises. We have a quiet assurance that if we do "the works of righteousness," we "shall receive [our] reward, even peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come" (D&C 59:23). Mormon taught that such hope comes only through the Atonement of Jesus Christ: "What is it that ye shall hope for? Behold I say unto you that ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurrection, to be raised unto life eternal, and this because of your faith in him according to the promise" (Moroni 7:41).

As we strive to live the gospel, we grow in our ability to "abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost" (Romans 15:13). We increase in hope as we pray and seek God's forgiveness. In the Book of Mormon, a missionary named Aaron assured a Lamanite king, "If thou wilt repent of all thy sins, and will bow down before God, and call on his name in faith, believing that ye shall receive, then shalt thou receive the hope which thou desirest" (Alma 22:16). We also gain hope as we study the scriptures and follow their teachings. The Apostle Paul taught, "Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope" (Romans 15:4).

The principle of hope extends into the eternities, but it also can sustain us through the everyday challenges of life. "Happy is he," said the Psalmist, "that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God" (Psalm 146:5). With hope, we can find joy in life. We can "have patience, and bear with . . . afflictions, with a firm hope that ye shall one day rest from all your afflictions" (Alma 34:41). We can "press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life" (2 Nephi 31:20).

I also read some great conference talks. Elder Ballad had this to say in the October Conference 1992

"Living in these difficult times, brothers and sisters, requires each one of us to maintain a positive, hopeful perspective about the future. Today, more so than in the past, I am asked about the signs of the times and if I think the end of the world is near."

I am amazed that we felt that things were bad almost 20 years ago. He could be talking about today. He went on to say this most encouraging thing:

"My message to you today, my brothers and sisters, is simply this: the Lord is in control. He knows the end from the beginning. He has given us adequate instruction that, if followed, will see us safely through any crisis. His purposes will be fulfilled, and someday we will understand the eternal reasons for all of these events. Therefore, today we must be careful to not overreact, nor should we be caught up in extreme preparations; but what we must do is keep the commandments of God and never lose hope!

But where do we find hope in the midst of such turmoil and catastrophe? Quite simply, our one hope for spiritual safety during these turbulent times is to turn our minds and our hearts to Jesus Christ. The prophet Mormon taught: "Ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurrection, to be raised unto life eternal, and this because of your faith in him according to the promise.

"Wherefore, if a man have faith he must needs have hope; for without faith there cannot be any hope."

Faith in God and in His Son, Jesus Christ, is absolutely essential for us to maintain a balanced perspective through times of trial and difficulty. Remember, nothing will occur in our lives that He does not understand. Alma taught, "And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people." (Alma 7:11.)

Please turn to Him if you are discouraged and struggling for direction in your life. Armed with the shield of faith, we can overcome many of our daily challenges and overpower our greatest weaknesses and fears, knowing that if we do our best to keep the commandments of God, come what may, we will be all right.

Of course that does not necessarily mean that we will be spared personal suffering and heartache. Righteousness has never precluded adversity. But faith in the Lord Jesus Christ—real faith, whole-souled and unshakable—is a power to be reckoned with in the universe. It can be a causative force through which miracles are wrought. Or it can be a source of inner strength through which we find peace, comfort, and the courage to cope.

As we put our faith and trust to work, hope is born. Hope grows out of faith and gives meaning and purpose to all that we do. It can even give us the peaceful assurance we need to live happily in a world that is ripe with iniquity, calamity, and injustice."

I love to read that. I need to hear these words because they help me remember what I have forgotten.

Neal A Maxwell said:

"Unsurprisingly, hope is intertwined with other gospel doctrines, especially faith and patience.

Just as doubt, despair, and desensitization go together, so do faith, hope, charity, and patience. The latter qualities must be carefully and constantly nurtured, however, whereas doubt and despair, like dandelions, need little encouragement in order to sprout and spread. Alas, despair comes so naturally to the natural man!

Patience, for example, permits us to deal more evenly with the unevenness of life’s experiences."

That is so true about the despair sprouting like dandelions. I need to pluck daily those little weeds, before they overtake my field of hope and dreams.

Russel M Nelson said this about hope:

"A more excellent hope is mightier than a wistful wish. Hope, fortified by faith and charity, forges a force as strong as steel. Hope becomes an anchor to the soul. To this anchor, the faithful can cling, securely tethered to the Lord. Satan, on the other hand, would have us cast away that anchor and drift with the ebb tide of despair. If we will cling to the anchor of hope, it will be our safeguard forever. As declared in scripture: "Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast."

And so the best news of all for me is that the Savior is the Bread of Life. Through the Atonement, he has an unlimited power to soften anyone hardened by life's trials.

So there is hope. Definitely. And I am going to work harder to remember what I have always known and yet somehow forgot.

11 comments:

Eliza said...

What a beautiful message and just the thing to get me ready for conference.

Smart Helm said...

I agree with Eliza.

A great analogy!

Kris said...

I'm glad that you found a little hope. My hope it that you will find a way to come to women's conference after watching the dress rehersal. We will miss you, but understand if you do not make it.

Heidi Ashworth said...

I adore everything Neal A Maxwell ever said. He was such a poet! Still is, I imagine. Isn't it good to know there is a piece of bread out there with your name on it? :)

Shelle-BlokThoughts said...

I never knew that about bread and softening it for brown sugar...could have used that many of times!!! :)

But way to turn that around into something so needful for me right now!

Thanks!

Anjeny said...

Very inspiring post. I love the discovery of the bread and brown sugar..I never would have thought of something like that.

Thank you for the beautiful post about hope.

Marjorie said...

Thanks for a very inspiring look at hope. I love it! I am so excited for you and your discovery! My favorite quote from your post is:

"And so the best news of all for me is that the Savior is the Bread of Life. Through the Atonement, he has an unlimited power to soften anyone hardened by life's trials."

With all my struggles and dark thoughts this last week that was just what I needed to hear. It always comes down to turning it over to the Lord. He can fix anything if we will remember to let him.

Jen said...

Just want to say that I'll be holding you to this new resolution! I'm a big believer in personal time, and you'll only benefit from getting back in touch with the fun, non-mom part of you.

I think I hear the need for a girls' night???

(I think I've mentioned this before???)

April said...

Hope....the true meaning....is what everyone needs. Thanks for sharing!

The Crash Test Dummy said...

Pat, how did I miss this beautiful post.

I'm glad I did though because I came to it from a different perspective because I was studying about hope yesterday. I am teaching it in my class on Wednesday so I was trying to get a firm definition. I came across an article that explained the there is a difference between hope and ultimate hope. "ultimate hope is not wishful thinking which brings disappointment." Ultimate hope is tied to Jesus Christ and the great atonement and brings a perfect brightness of hope.

I'm going to print this to use in my class on Wednesday.

I'm do happy you have had that emotional break through. I totally agree.

And how cute to see what your mom said. I agree with her.

The Crash Test Dummy said...

PAT CONGRATS ON THE WICKED TICKETS! Your positive mental attidude is paying off already!