It all began with a simple and heartfelt prayer.
After several nights in a row of little sleep, I fell to my knees in desperation and prayed, “Heavenly Father, please help me be able to get the sleep I need. I am so tired!”
Within three hours, my prayer was answered.
Much to my surprise, the delivery of a ton and a half of mulch was that answer.
When I saw the pile of mulch sitting in my front yard, I smiled, for I knew that the physical labor that would be involved with moving the mulch around my yard would likely induce several night’s worth of deep sleep for my well-exercised and weary body.
Wasting no time, I grabbed a shovel and began to tackle the pile.
An hour into the job, a friend drove by, then immediately turned her car around, stopped in front of my house, and asked what in the world I was doing with such a large pile of mulch in my front yard.
I explained, and she insisted on helping.
Later that day, she returned and, for an hour and a half, we worked and talked and had a wonderful time. I was so grateful for her willingness to minister to me in the precise moment she recognized there was a need, and for the connection that took place between the two of us as we worked side by side.
Two days later, after taking a day to rest for the Sabbath, I was back at it. With shovel in hand, I was using a bucket to help distribute the mulch to various areas in my garden when I happened to glance up and see my retired neighbor pushing a wheelbarrow in my direction. Inside the wheelbarrow were a large, flat-edged shovel, and an old pair of work gloves.
“This might make the job easier,” he offered, as he set the wheelbarrow down in front of me. “I’d offer to stay and help, but I have a back surgery coming up that prevents me from any doing physical labor.”
I can’t tell you the emotions that ran through my body in that moment. The knowledge that this neighbor had watched me from a distance, recognized a need, and immediately taken action filled me with an immense amount of gratitude, warmth, and brotherly love. He made ministering to others look effortless.
For twenty minutes, he and I stood and talked about current events, politics, family, and religion. Though our religious backgrounds differ greatly, we were able to discover areas of commonality in our lives and in our religious traditions that kept our conversation lighthearted and filled with the spirit of true connection. By listening, being interested, and seeking to understand, our connection as neighbors deepened, and by the end of the conversation, I knew that, should I ever need anything in the future, I could turn to him for help. And vice versa.
The wheelbarrow, as it turned out, was a lifesaver. It was a newer model–light as a feather and easy to maneuver–unlike the one in my backyard that I had been avoiding. Old, squeaky, heavy, and completely covered in rust, it seemed more of a nuisance than a help.
My neighbor had apologized for the worn out condition of the gloves he was loaning me, but I was grateful for them as I put them on my blistered hands and reached for the large, flat-edged shovel. Five times as large as the shovel I had been using, this shovel had me working five times as fast. Who knew what a difference these new “tools” would make? What a blessing they were!
The following day, as I stood in the scorching sun scooping mulch into the wheelbarrow and wiping the sweat from my face, another neighbor walked up with a pitchfork in hand.
“Here,” he said, pushing the pitchfork into the mulch and lifting it up in front of him to reveal a massive pile of mulch, ready to be tossed into the wheelbarrow. “I think this might be more effective.”
I thanked him and explained that the large, flat-edged shovel worked wonderfully on the east side of the pile, where I could push the mulch onto the driveway where it could then be easily shoveled into the wheelbarrow. The west side of the pile, I explained, was more of a challenge, since it couldn’t easily be pushed over to the driveway, and my only other option–a regular shovel–was not an effective way to transport it to the wheelbarrow.
“Well, borrow my pitchfork for as long as you need it,” he said, as he handed it to me. “That way you can work over here on the west side of the pile, which is under a tree and out of the sun. You shouldn’t be working out in that sun…”
He smiled as he turned and walked back to his house.
His generosity nearly brought me to tears. He was younger than my other neighbor–in his late 20’s or early 30’s–but he followed the same pattern of ministering that my older neighbor had: he was observant, he recognized a need, and he took immediate action.
When I began the task of moving mulch, the small, pointed shovel and five-gallon bucket seemed sufficient to get the job done. Though this method was labor and time-intensive, I hadn’t considered that there might be other options.
When my neighbor shared with me a better way—a wheelbarrow, large, flat-edged shovel, and work gloves–my eyes were opened to new possibilities.
Just when I thought things couldn’t get any better, I was introduced to the pitchfork, and–Wow!–what a difference it made!
As I shoveled mulch for the next few days, I spent a lot of time thinking about the new “tools” my neighbors had shared with me, and how they had made my life easier.
My thoughts then turned to other “tools” that have made my life easier.
There have been times in my life where I was moving forward, thinking that things were going as well as they possibly could go, until something would happen to make me realize that life could actually be better.
Sometimes it was something that happened.
Sometimes it was something that was said.
Sometimes it was just a feeling I had.
One thing is certain–there have been times where I desired for things to be better, I just wasn’t sure how to move in the direction of “better”.
With the help of others’, and the use of specific “tools”, I was always able to make my way to a better, happier way of life—a more peace-filled life, filled with the light and love of my Heavenly Father and Savior.
As I reflected on the “tools” that have helped me get to a more satisfying place in my life, four particular “tools” came to mind:
I have learned that whenever I don’t know where to begin, prayer is always the answer. If you don’t know where to begin, try praying. Pray to your Father in Heaven, speaking to Him as if He were sitting right next to you.
Explain to Him how you are feeling. Are you feeling sad? Angry? Tired? Helpless? Share that with Him. He wants to hear it all!
Express your gratitude. What are you grateful for? Perhaps it’s your food, your job, your family, your friends, your pet. Choose at least one thing and give thanks for it.
Ask Him for the desires of your heart. What is it that you seek? What is it that you want out of life? Tell Him like it really is. Be honest. Be open. Share it all. He will understand everything you attempt to express—your thoughts, your feelings, your words, your emotions.
Finally, end your prayer with the words, “In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen” and sit still for a few moments, paying particular attention to how you are feeling, and the thoughts that are coming to your mind.
Repeat this process at least once a day. You will begin to see a change in your life. You will begin to receive thoughts and ideas of things you can do to move your life in the direction of “better”.
2) OPEN THE SCRIPTURES
Find a copy of the scriptures, either an actual copy or an online copy, and read a few verses. It doesn’t matter where you read at first. Each page of scripture is filled with the power of God. This is particularly true when reading from the pages of the Book of Mormon. Begin with reading a few verses a day and see where that leads you.
3) ASK QUESTIONS
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Seek out friends, family, and church leaders and have the courage to ask them any questions you might have. Asking questions, with the intent to seek truth, leads to growth. Your questions might revolve around life, personal pain, trials, God, religion, faith, or a plethora of other topics. Regardless of the topic, find someone who can help you find legitimate, faith-based answers to your questions.
4) ATTEND CHURCH
Locate a church building near you and attend a Sunday meeting. Just walk through the front doors and take a seat next to everyone else. If your church congregation is not meeting together at the moment, ask who in your area might be willing to invite you to join their at-home church meeting. Be bold! Take control of your spiritual destiny!
TIME IS RUNNING OUT
Never before has there been a better time to raise the bar for the life you are living.
Never before (in our lifetime) have we heard a Prophet of God speak with such urgency:
Speaking during the Sunday morning session of the 189th Annual General Conference on April 7, 2019, President Russell M. Nelson said, “My dear brothers and sisters, Jesus Christ invites us to take the covenant path back home to our Heavenly Parents and be with those we love. He invites us to ‘come, follow me.’ Now, as President of His Church, I plead with you who have distanced yourselves from the Church and with you who have not yet really sought to know that the Savior’s Church has been restored. Do the spiritual work to find out for yourselves, and please do it now. Time is running out.”
Now is the time to prepare to meet your God. Time is running out.
The people of ancient times likely grew tired of listening to the prophets’ warnings and stopped watching for the signs of the times. When Samuel the Lamanite preached of the coming Messiah, and Noah prophesied of a flood, the people mocked them and continued with life as normal. But Christ DID come, and so did the floods.
Jesus Christ is coming again.
Today, our prophet is telling us that time is running out.
Could it be true?
Will we believe?
I promise that, if you desire, you can move forward towards a better life, despite any sins and misdeeds of your past:
“I testify that you have not traveled beyond the reach of divine love. It is not possible for you to sink lower than the infinite light of Christ’s Atonement shines.” ~ Elder Jeffrey R. Holland
A PATTERN TO FOLLOW
Don’t delay! Begin today to create a better tomorrow for yourself and your family.
Be willing to be ministered to by others, and to put to use the spiritual “tools” they are eager to share with you.
Use those tools and be willing to do the physical, spiritual, and emotional work yourself, for that is how true growth takes place.
Be eager to take council from God.
Be open to new possibilities.
Just when you think things can’t get any better, they WILL get better!
Follow the ministering pattern my neighbors followed and minister to yourself and your family:
Recognize any needs you have.
Take immediate action.
Our loving Heavenly Father will respond to your needs, just as He responded to mine. The answer may not come in the way you expect (MY answer surely didn’t), but He will answer in the way that is best for you.
Whether you are in desperate need of sleep like I was, or are concerned about your spiritual well-being, the first step to finding the answer you seek is the same:
begin with a simple and heartfelt prayer.