I spoke about this on a zoom call for my church women’s organization this week, so I thought I’d type it up as an essay and share it with you.
“Men and women who turn their lives over to God will discover that He can make a lot more out of their lives than they can. He can deepen their joys, expand their vision, quicken their minds, strengthen their muscles, lift their spirits, multiply their blessings, increase their opportunities, comfort their souls, and pour out peace.”
Ezra Taft Benson said this before I was born and I grew up believing it. I tested it out as I matured and found that he was right. By the time I was an adult my desire to do what the Lord wanted me to do instead of what I wanted to do was strong.
One of my biggest struggles as a stay at home mom has been the choices I make about how to spend my time. I’ve always been a busy person. I like having projects, events, parties and other things to keep me occupied. I felt vaguely guilty about this as a young mom. I had a half dozen hobbies that I liked to spend time on, but was that turning my life over to the Lord? Did he really want me to take time away from my family to do these frivolous things?
The short answer, is yes, although it took me years to realize it.
Creator is one of the Savior’s names. He created a beautiful world for us to live in full of imaginative creatures and bright colors and intriguing paradoxes. When we consider what it means to be Christlike, creation should be one of the first things that we think of.
In a talk to the women of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Dieter Uchtdorf highlights the importance of creativity.
You are spirit daughters of the most creative being in the universe… Think about it – your spirit body is a masterpiece, created with a beauty, function and capacity beyond imagination.”Dieter F Uchtdorf, October 2008
He talks about the meaning of creativity. It means “bringing something into existence that did not exist before.” His examples? gardens, homes, memories, laughter or a smile on someone’s face. He points out that we all have gifts and talents that the Lord has blessed us with and he wants us to use them.
I think it is important to note that He doesn’t place caveats on the use of our talents. He doesn’t tell us only to write a song if it is specifically religious in message. No, all the songs of the righteous are prayers unto him. Everything good comes from God. (Ether 4:11)
God encourages us to be creative and to use our minds to improve our situations. I think the Brother of Jared’s story illustrates this point. When he goes to the Lord to ask about how to get light in the dark boats he’s building, God encourages the Brother of Jared to use his creativity. He tells him to come up with a creative solution to his problem and that He, God, will support whatever the Brother of Jared comes up with.
Over and over again in the scriptures God’s people are forced to move to a new place where they are industrious and creative as they create a new home. They do this because they are followers of Jesus Christ and creativity is Christlike.
Henry B. Eyring has said “The Creator expects His children to become like Him- to create and to build.”
“Brothers and Sisters, we are children of God. Shouldn’t we be about our Father’s business? Shouldn’t we be creators as well?Mary Ellen Smoot, April 2000
As with everything the Lord commands us to do, if we obey we will be blessed in our efforts.
Mary Ellen Smoot advised: “Immerse yourself in the holy word of the prophets, both ancient and modern, and the Spirit will speak to you. Be patient, ask in faith, and you will receive guidance in your creative efforts.”
Elder Uchtdorf says “the more you trust and rely on the Spirit, the greater your capacity to create.”
What wonderful promises! As we try, just try to create, no matter how bad at it we are, the Lord will bless us. For me, that means He helps me find the deeper meaning hidden in the story I’m telling and bring it to the foreground. He helps me find the right words and structure to convey an emotion. For me, writing and sharing what I have written is a manifestations of the Lord’s desire for us to feel like we are part of a community, that we are not alone. And he helps me to accomplish that goal.
Over two years ago, I sent Love Over Easy to my brother. He had just started a small publishing house and I thought he might be interested in publishing it. I didn’t hear back from him. I had just gotten back from a pitch to Covenant that didn’t go well and I assumed that no news was bad news. Clearly my brother thought my book was terrible and he was just too polite to actually tell me that. I struggled with whether or not to continue writing for the next two years. I continued to do it because I couldn’t not do it, but I continued to doubt and question myself.
At the beginning of this year, when I was contemplating new goals, I wondered whether to continue writing again. I decided I should either double down and write much more regularly or I should give it up. I couldn’t decide what the right choice was so I Marco Polo-ed my brother to ask for his thoughts, just because he was another creative person and I knew he would understand my dilemma.
He said “Jossy,” (that’s what my brothers call me. No one else does, so don’t try. 🙂 “I don’t think that the Lord would put a desire in your soul to write, that has been there since you were a little girl, if he didn’t actually want you to. I just barely picked up your book this week and have really enjoyed it. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this is the day that you contacted me. I think it’s a sign.”
The lesson here is that even nepotism won’t get you to the top of the slush pile.
In all seriousness, I broke down and cried. I felt so overwhelmed with gratitude to the Lord for communicating with me in a way that I understood. I felt very certain that I should continue writing and that I should pursue publishing my books. I become more and more certain about that as I have gone through this process. I have learned so much and I feel like I have become a more Christlike person.
I’ll leave you with two more thoughts:
“You can seek revelation to know how to develop your talents, become like Jesus Christ and make yourself, other people and even the world better.”(from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints personal development youth guidebook)
If you don’t know where a creative outlet is in your life, look for one. Pray about it. I loved this advice from Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic: pay attention to what piques your curiosity. Instead of setting your curiosity aside, let it grow and feed it. You’ll find something.
Don’t let the fear of failure discourage you. Don’t let the voice of critics paralyze you – whether that voice comes from the outside or the inside.Dieter F. Uchtdorf
No one likes criticism, but we cannot let it keep us from doing worthwhile things. If you are never criticized for anything in our world of hyper criticism all it means is that you’re not really doing much with your life. We can never please everyone and we should never try. I’ve found the best way to get over it is to practice. Make a healthy meal for your kids, that should be good criticism practice,