Even smaller and arguably more mundane problems can be turned to God as well. A young mother, Winnie Dalley, relates this story.
As I look into the smiling eyes of my infant son and experience the warmth of his vigorous, chubby little body wriggling in my arms, I feel the fulness of the moment and sense a glimmer of eternity.
The sounds of my feuding preschoolers arouse me from my reverie. “She scratched me!” wails four-year-old Kendra. “She took away my dolly,” cries Brittany, age two. And before I can do anything, Kendra proceeds to bop her younger sister on the head. Soon there is crying, then there are attempts to get even, then more crying.
After pleadings and stern admonitions, I finally manage to placate each party and achieve a cease-fire. I breathe an inner sigh of relief, grateful for some reprieve. Then Brittany begins: “Mommy, I want more cookies.”
“Honey,” I try to explain to her, “you already had a lot of cookies today. You need to eat other food besides cookies to help you grow big and strong. How about some yogurt?”
“No, I don’t want yogurt; I want cookies. I want some, I want some now!” She starts crying ferociously, then screaming and then kicking. It seems impossible to reason with my little two-year-old.
Spencer, the baby, is crying too. He was patiently sitting in his swing, where I had placed him in my efforts to deal with his sisters’ crisis. But now he is no longer content by himself. I hurry over and pick him up. He looks into my eyes, and his pouting mouth slowly curves into a smile. I cannot help but give him a kiss on the cheek.
In the meantime, Brittany’s tantrum is showing no signs of subsiding. Kendra gets up on the couch and starts jumping. “Honey, don’t do that,” I tell her. “You might fall down and get hurt.”
“No I won’t,” she insists, continuing to jump without the least concern.
“Stop jumping right now,” I say, my voice rising.
Nearby in the kitchen, a mound of dirty dishes waits for me in the sink. The laundry is not done, the carpet not vacuumed, the bathroom not scrubbed. Toys are strewn haphazardly all over the living room and kitchen floor. A pile of unpaid bills sits arrogantly on top of the bookcase, exerting silent authority. All of a sudden, the negative aspects of the moment seem to outweigh the positive.
But it is really not so. I remind myself that I need to look beyond the temporal mists and regain my eternal vision of clarity. A house does not have to be perfect to be a home of joy, a child does not have to behave perfectly to love and be loved, and every moment of life does not have to be perfect to be of value.
Heavenly Father wants us to have joy. But He also cares far more for who we can become than He does about us being comfortable every moment.
Elder Scott said, “Just when all seems to be going right, challenges often come in multiple doses applied simultaneously. When those trials are not consequences of your disobedience, they are evidence that the Lord feels you are prepared to grow more. He therefore gives you experiences that stimulate growth, understanding, and compassion which polish you for your everlasting benefit. To get you from where you are to where He wants you to be requires a lot of stretching, and that generally entails discomfort and pain.”
Being part of a family is one of the ways the Lord provides that stretching.
Elder Bruce C. Hafen shares this story about his wife.
During her first pregnancy, Marie was sick—an odd way to be showered with joy. For part of each day for several months, she felt just terrible. It was morning sickness ad nauseum.
Then about four weeks before delivery she threatened to miscarry, which sent her to bed for several days, causing serious complications in the classes she was taking and those she was teaching. But when the big day finally came, even the hours of labor were worth it as she lay there in the hospital bed holding that beautiful baby boy.
Nothing could be more wonderful than this, she thought. Surely the world stops for such a beautiful baby.
The day after the baby was born, she was cuddling him happily in her hospital room when her doctor came in. A plain-spoken man, he looked at them and said cheerily, “How does it feel to have the easiest part over with?”
“Why sure,” he replied. “It’s the next twenty years that are going to be tough.”
Now, more than twenty years later, we have discovered, right there among mortality’s thorns, the sweet fruit of having joy in our posterity. After all the diapers, the bruises, the washing, the cheering, the cleaning up, the pleading, the nail biting, the crying, the laughing, the pacing, and the praying, we understand. We feel about raising children the way Ammon felt about missionary work:
“And this is the account of Ammon and his brethren, their journeyings in the land of Nephi, their sufferings in the land, their sorrows, and their afflictions, and their incomprehensible joy”.