Friday, May 1, 2009

On Pulling Weeds (Apr 27 09)

Dear Family and Friends,

I graduated from BYU this week. I loved having my parents and grandmothers here; it was a rewarding experience to simply spend time with them among the festivities of convocation and commencement.

Looking back, the work that I accomplished in order to graduate seems small. I worked for two summers doing research for my Honors Thesis. I wrote hundreds of pages for essays and projects, took tests, and read textbooks. I attended thousands of hours of classes... and, in a moment, it's over. And while I look back and see many things that have become easy with the doing of them, I look ahead in life and see massive mountains to climb – things I have no clue how to start, let alone finish. I guess I'm going to become a mountain climber.

When I was growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, a common family project was pulling the perpetual weeds that plagued our front, side, and back gardens. Because of the high clay and rock content of our soil, there was rarely any real “pulling” of weeds – instead, we often had to use a shovel to loosen all the surrounding dirt before the roots would come free. For that reason, I often equated pulling weeds with tedious, tiring work that could stretch over days. So, when I went outside on Saturday to pull weeds (here in Utah), I was surprised at how easy it was. The weeds seemed to be jumping out of the soil into my hands. I could even simply grab them by the base and pull... and they would come out by the root. I know that Utah has a much lower proportion of clay and a higher proportion of sand in its soil, and the regular applications of mulch in my grandmother's garden probably make a difference, but I had an amazing experience – pulling weeds on Saturday wasn't tiring or tedious. It was soothing and peaceful.

My next thought was, “If everyone in Utah has soil like this, then gardening should be natural to everyone... and their gardens should be amazing!” In the same breath, I realized that different difficulties plague gardens here when compared to the Midwest. While Chicagoans struggle with deep-rooted weeds, too much water caught in the clay, and rocky soil, here there is a hot, desert sun, a lack of rain, and few natural components in the soil to release moisture over time. And deer. We can't even plant some plants because the deer will eat them. And I thought that the squirrels eating our apples were frustrating... (And I'm sure that some people who haven't had the experience of pulling weeds in Chicago loathe pulling weeds here.)

Just as each of our gardens is different, each of our lives is different. One person may find it easy to make friends while another does not. One person has the ability to do mathematics in her head, and another has trouble using a calculator. There is no one in the world that has the exact same life as another... but we all have something in common. Life is always hard. It may be hard from having to use our blessings and talents to bless the lives of others... or it may be hard from the trials that surround us. If we compare our lives to others, it may seem that one life is harder than another. In reality, whatever our blessings and circumstances are in the moment is the best possible environment to help us grow.

As I enter a new stage of my own life, I realize that some things that once were hard come naturally. And other things, that I took for granted, can become more and more of a struggle. But the methods for overcoming those obstacles haven't changed – perseverance, hard work, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

I know that God is the gardener in our lives. He knows the areas of the field and the conditions we need in order to thrive. If we will turn to Him and cheerfully do all that we can do, some day we will see the fruits of our labors. Our gardens will always have weeds, rocky soil, too much sun, or some other difficulty... the trick is to gain an eternal perspective. Then, perhaps, pulling weeds and perfecting our own lives will change from being painful and tiring to sublime. The field is white – go out and be missionaries!

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