Wednesday, June 18, 2014

It’s the Small Things that Matter Most

May 24, 2014

Big things are big deals, until you discover that it is really the little things that matter most. Like Mpho, the 10-year-old boy who showed up at Church the other day. He had a friend who was a member and he came to church to see him, but the friend didn’t show up for the meeting. When someone doesn’t “show up” the Africans say “He didn’t pitch.” Well, the friend didn’t “pitch”, but Mpho stayed because he liked the quiet feeling in the chapel. So I took the opportunity to go sit by him on the pew. It was 20 minutes before Sacrament Meeting would start and I am not sure how long he had already been there. And, oh my goodness, was he ever shy. I talked with him and treated him as a new- found friend and introduced him to the missionaries.

As it turned out, the little things I did and said, to try help him feel welcome and happy that he was there, turned out to be the big thing and the best part of my day. Perhaps even the best part of the week. In a calling that is so much of paper pushing and administrative stuff, this little-lost-lamb experience was sweet. It was a small thing - just a moment of time, but oh, it was a big thing - to him and to me.

Then, yesterday, BJ (his full name is too hard to remember, let alone spell) sat by me in in the YSA Sunday School class, after Sacrament meeting, where Sister Cloward and I had just spoken. BJ participated in the class discussion and, for all I knew, this 28-year-old single African was a returned missionary. He slid over beside me on the pew as we waited for Priesthood meeting to start and said, “You know, this is my first time here at this church.” Thinking that he was a member of another ward, I casually asked where he stayed (their terminology for ‘where do you live’). He told me the location and it was clearly near the Ward. Then it became evident that he had meant that ‘this was his first time to any LDS church.’

He explained that his parents were Muslim and that he had been searching and decided to come and see what happened in this church. He had liked what he heard and felt that morning in the meetings. No one had invited him to attend - no one except the spirit. My brief discussion, testimony and introduction of him to the Missionaries and a very sharp local returned missionary were, just a little thing, but again, but perhaps the biggest and best thing of the day and again, maybe the week. It is the little things that are the big things. It will be interesting to see when these little things lead to a big thing for Mpho and BJ.

Sister Cloward and I were the Sacrament Speakers and felt the power of the spirit in our talks. While the spirit was working through me as I spoke, I had the distinct impression that I was sounding much like Elder Holland in the things I was saying and the way they were coming out. That was a very unique experience for me. Then, after the meeting, two different people came up and told Sister Cloward, “When Elder Cloward was talking, it was as if Elder Holland was talking.” One of them was a very Senior (late 70’s) and savvy Missionary. He had experienced something similar to what I had felt during the talk. That was a little thing, but for me, who had been praying sincerely to have the thoughts and words given to me by the spirit, even that the Lord would have this congregation hear what He wanted them to hear, it was a big thing - for me.

I have come to understand how some seemingly little things are the real big things for all of us. There are many big things that are important for us to accomplish in our lives. Baptism, temple ordinances, missions, marriage, children, family and enduring to the end are really big things. However, I am coming to know that there are four little words that should become the “really big thing” in all our lives.

These words are among the first we learned about in the Plan of Salvation - there, and again here. They are the first words that become a pattern and great message of the Savior from His premortal and mortal life examples for us to follow. And, they are among the first words the Lord used to teach us how we should pray. They are the words that must become the driving influence and greatest desire of our lives - now, and forever.

These words, invite us to choose through our God-given agency, and then follow with the appropriate action, His example. They signal our understanding of the meaning of the first great commandment. Think about it, our agency is the only real thing that we have that is truly ours. We use it to get what “we really want most” in life and in so doing, we identify what is most important to us. We use it to choose a thousand little things each week. We make choices of what we want to pursue, to have, to buy, to use, to eat, to say and what we “will” to be. We combine our will, with our agency, to forge the priorities and thence, the realities of what we believe will make us happy. That is what we “WILL” choose. It is this little thing, our “will,” that becomes the really big thing.

Oh, what were those four little words the Savior said to the Father and they invited us in his teaching on how we should pray? “Thy WILL be done.”

When we determine that “our will” is to choose “His will,” even the Father’s will, we are following the example and first lesson of the Redeemer. Then when we exclaim, in thought, in prayer and in deed, “THY WILL BE DONE,” we make the power of our agency to align completely to His will - His work and glory - in us and through us.

So, what is His will for us? The rest of the Savior’s teachings and ministry examples clarify that will, His and our Father’s will. The Savior taught us how to “Be” in His sermon-on-the-mount discussion of the “beatitudes.” In His parables He taught us about priorities and gave concrete examples how those who are committed to keeping the first great commandment live. He taught us about relationships, priorities and about consequences to our willfulness and our selflessness.

I believe that this little thing, that is such a big thing in our lives, is the choice of His will, not only over our will, but also our will. It is at the center of Lamoni, his father, Alma and his son and every prophet and every truly converted person’s mighty change.

As Alma asks those who had experienced and felt the change in their lives previously, “can ye feel so now” suggests, this is not just a one time choice. I am finding over and over again, that it is a daily, choice-by-choice process. It becomes more “natural” for us as we as for, seek and find His will in all of our choices. Therein is the challenge. Perhaps that is why the pattern of the Lord’s prayer is to include the words “thy will be done”, continually.

Some days it is easier than others to be aware and conscious of the choices and difference between my will and His. Some days, under the pressure of frustration borne of impatience I find, at least in thought, that I have not remembered that I have chosen to always seek His will. This has led me to realize that frustration is, in reality, a form of self-contention. And, of course it follows that the direction of the spirit to choose His will is blocked by all contention - as I am finding, especially self-contention.

The further problem with self-contention seems to be that we, I, so often turn to “kick-the-dog” attempts to release of the frustration, only to realize how foolish and too often hurtful I have been. When there is no dog to kick, we often turn to hitting the wall, or the door, or worse, we turn to verbally “hitting” those around us. These are often those who would reach out with concern, care and love.

The cycle is vicious. The burdens I heap upon ourselves grow heavier and eventually wakes me up to my fallen and awful state. The pain, personal and vicarious, brings me to my knees with a remembrance that my will has taken over - again. On my knees I again plead for grace and change.

It is then that I remember, that for me, and I suspect for most of us, the battle to have my choice of His will over mine comes incremental as we listen and choose the little things. It is the some of those little choices…little things, that lead me to the big thing of overcoming the world.

So there you have it. I continue to work at figuring it out. I read, ponder pray and repent - again and again. But I tell you that the spirit witnesses, in some very small, yet to me, some big ways, that I am making a little progress here and there. That thanks to boys named Mpho and boys named BJ and even bigger boys named Elder Davie.

If I can keep winning a few of the battles of “will,” I may get a little closer to where Sister Cloward operates - naturally. Her will is always His will.

Speaking of Sister Cloward, I think it is past time for your comments…if you will.

Sweetheart, you truly do love me to take me on my life-long pursuit of finally serving a mission for my Savior…with my eternal companion -- my dear husband, father, grandfather and my one and only! You complete me and I continually pray that we will have our family forever throughout the eternities!

Oh my! It is amazing to me how two hearts can become as one in purpose and thought! I have been thinking so deeply on this concept of doing the Lord’s Will…all month long! It IS His way and it’s tough for MY human nature (the “brown man” as my mother would say) to allow this change of heart in my mortal state. We have amazing children who are also coming to understand how to hear and hearken to that still small voice that beckons us to do His will. Their example and sharing their experiences with us help us press forward in His work!

I find myself yearning to “get it right” more often as my tears clean my cheeks with gratitude for recognizing again and again where my look, or word or thought is out of balance and NOT in accordance with His will.

This mission experience I have looked forward to since Elder Cloward asked me to marry him on our 2nd date, the day after our first blind date. I remember telling him if I married him, he would have to promise me that he would take me on Mission! And Mission it is! FINALLY! :) It has its challenges, rewards, joys and sorrows but it is definitely worth the effort to serve the Lord in His vineyard!!

I have been up for the past hour thinking about my life, and me, constantly having silent conversations and prayers. I finally got up at 5am to re-proof Elder Doug’s blog entry again (I didn’t save my corrections right the first time…arrgh!) I am typing in my flannel PJs with my purple-striped footies on my feet to try and keep warm by the TINY 12”x6” rotating floor heater that has been working all night to heat up our un-insulated flat! Maybe if I type really FAST my fingers will thaw!?

When we went for our early 7am 5K+ walk yesterday, there was frost on the field and we could see our breath! It’s brrrrryyy cold out here. It’s winter here and when the wind blows, my oh my! I’m a thinkin’ I will need to buy a robe to wear over my Missionary attire at my flat just to keep my hands warm enough so my husband will want to hold mine!

Our new mission president arrives next month and we have been assigned to inspect 17 missionary flats and their cars. This process takes several days to complete and puts hundreds of Ks on our car!

Last week we had several tender mercies as our Garmin didn’t take us to our desired destination and the N1 [12-lane toll road] was clogged with police making random checks of cars…! We didn’t know how we were going to complete our missionary flat inspections in the limited time we had left before the end of the day. We were about to turn left onto a road that would have taken us into a roadblock and a long delay. We passed that one and went on hoping to find an alternate route.  We took a left turn onto a dirt road under construction and it looked like we were going to be stuck again, but blessings abound and it paralleled the N1, heading us back to the missionary flats, without hitting the roadblock. We avoided the huge delays, 4-wheeled in two wheel a bit, but were able to finish the job.

The “Martha” in me has been cooking up some homemade brownies to take to the missionaries when we visit them as their flat inspectors. I have never ever really made brownies before successfully and trying to make do with what ingredients we don’t exactly have has been a unique experience, but one I have been accustomed to through my motherhood years :)!

I discovered LATE last night as I was making my 2nd batch of brownies that sugar icing (similar to our powdered sugar) isn’t the best substitute for the sugar I ran out of on our first batch of brownies. The 2nd batch we took out of the oven around midnight had more of a cake-like consistency. But my sweet husband assured me that the Elders will be glad for anything homemade and will consume them…hooray! :) I found out that making 1.5x of the recipe because I ran out of eggs and sugar and putting it in two longer-than normal brownie pans didn’t work well either. They were too thin and cakey (sp?!) but Elder C was right, 2 out of the 20 thanked us for them…reminds me of a familiar parable….

This past Friday night I made my first Texas Sheet Cake in a pan that was ½ the size it should have been…(the size of A4 paper—the standard norm for Africa). [The missionary couples were asked to each bring a cake to the Zone Conference.] Elder C chose the recipe from the internet for me so I could make it. I cooked and cleaned everything up by midnight and saw that this cake looked fantastic!...The cake had risen 2” above the ½ inch sides of the cake pan and looked like it was a soufflé—perfectly raising on all sides beautifully! I admit that I knew the pan was not the right size and I had expressed my concern to Elder C, but having never seen nor eaten a Texas Cake before, I thought that the Lord was blessing my meager efforts to get this done for the meeting. The next time I checked on the cake, I noticed the old tiny oven was smoking a stream from the oven door! I looked inside and saw that my cake had oozed out of the soufflé side and onto the burner coil on the bottom and it was burning! I quickly opened the oven door, which made matter worse because the smoke was then engulfing the kitchen! I was able to touch the cake to see that it still needed some more minutes before it was done so I decided to turn the oven off and keep cooking it while it smoldered. Elder C was asleep and I started opening up all the windows I could! [Mind you, we had walked at 7 am that morning and could see our breath and the sports field grass we walked on was covered with frost…!] Then I turned on the floor fan and table fan and pointed them at the windows. Our two tiny floor heaters weren’t a match for all the cold that pours into our flat!  After the small fire died down, I opened the door to get the cake out and yup, you guessed it! SMOKE poured out!!!...The next morning, my sweet husband who slept through the disaster smelled the smoke and was concerned. After telling him what happened, he went to the oven to see the terrible toasted cake oven coil and black remains of what I imagined to be a perfectly shaped Texas Cake. He surprised me with a clean oven! Girls, I’m here to tell you that I think I have a corner on the market for this great man of mine! He felt my pain and anguish and said not a word but went right to work. He reminded me to put out the vinegar in small containers to collect the remaining smoke smell…. :)

Moral of this long story…remember to put out the vinegar while there is smoke in the house and be grateful for no smoke alarm that would have awakened our neighbors who are right behind our flat and brought us the security man! :)  P.S….Elder C tried the other cakes and said that mine tasted the best—it was more brownie like…I surely have a great husband with a big and kind heart who eased my burden…

The GREAT Elder and Sister Davie!

African Tiger Fish


  1. I love reading your blog! My son is in your mission (Elder Adam Wheatley) and the new Mission President and wife (Mike and Linda Dunn) were my neighbors growing up. Tender mercies abound! Thanks for your service and your amazing testimonies and sharing them so eloquently! Love, Heidi Wheatley (from Heritage Makers)

  2. Brother and Sister Cloward- Thinking of you and missing you, and praying for your success and well-being. We miss you!! Hugs, Toni and Rich Hulme

  3. Just a small thing . . . A Texas Sheet Cake is essentially a sheet cake size pan of brownies! Thanks for sharing your experiences at baking and sharing in a foreign land :). I just baked a Texas Sheet Cake and shared with some of the flood victims in the Gordon Creek area while they were spending their day scooping mid from their basements and garages - Peggy and Elwin and family along with some of their other neighbors. Brownies are small things - things showing love:)