We (and by we, I mean my husband) built some shelves last week in our new-to-us old farmhouse. And, for the record, I am completely and totally unhandy. My husband is a little better, because he thinks logically and understands things like measurements (me, I am more of a “splash of this,” and “titch of that” kind of measurer).
Then we went to church, and Elder P. and his wife, recently returned from a mission in Alaska, spoke and Elder P. talked about building shelves.
Heavenly Father really does care about every detail.
Elder P. and his wife were called to serve a humanitarian mission, which meant a lot of shelf building, pipe fixing, tree felling and food delivering. And very little preaching. All Elder P. wanted to do on his mission was preach the gospel, and he kept finding himself doing repair work.
One day, he was on yet another assignment fixing up some old run down place–this time it was building shelves. And he found himself addressing Heaven in frustration:
Why this? What am I doing here? I gave up my home, my car…my life…for this mission–nd you sent me thousands of miles to the ends of the earth so I could–build shelves? Really?
And in the silence of that dark, damp basement in the middle of nowhere came the answer:
And then he understood. All he had to do was show his love through his work.
God sent him all the way out there to let people know that He loved them, and He did it through the shelf building, pipe repairing, tree felling acts of Elder P.
And, in the end, the people in the middle of nowhere knew Elder P. loved them, and they knew God loved them. And isn’t that the gospel of Christ in its purest form?
And, I thought about our shelves in the pantry in a farmhouse tucked in the hills in the far reaches on the edge of the middle of nowhere, and I thought about what I am doing, and how often I have not understood the way the Lord has for me.
Having a mother heart–nurturing God’s children–so often it feels to me like I am building shelves in the middle of nowhere that no one will ever see.
I have given everything because I wanted to do something heroic and some days I feel like I am just building shelves…
So, God sent Elder P. on a mission and brought him back here so I could remember that shelf building and dinner fixing and floor sweeping and late night comforting can be heroic.
Even if we are sometimes in our own basements in the middle of nowhere thinking “Why me? Why this?”, when we continue to press forward and do those things, we become heroic. What we do becomes sacred and beautiful. Because it is in the giving of our time–our lives, really–in the almost monotonous taking-care-of-things that we are able to persuade and then convince those precious souls around us not only that we love them, but that God loves them, too.
It is in the looking back on those minutes and hours and days of gardening, bedresting, housecleaning, car driving, food fixing, and sick tending that the ones we have loved so very much realize:
She loves me.
And then, when they feel that–when they know it–not because we’ve said it, but because we have worn out our lives in fighting for them–that they can really come to understand:
Because she loves me, I know God loves me.
And, then, suddenly, one day we realize that what we thought was shelf building was actually battle fighting and instead of “just being moms” we realize we were the “army of God,” or as Sister Dew so eloquently put it, “God’s secret weapon.”
And all along we thought we were just floor sweeping, song teaching, prayer pleading servants, when in reality we were generals, admirals and commanders in the greatest war of all time.
And we realize that we weren’t exhausted from bedroom painting or car pooling or grocery shopping.
We were exhausted because we were fighting to somehow make a heaven out of the hell of this immortal war we fight while blindfolded by mortality.
We were exhausted because we were fighting to keep our family and friends safe, so we could all go home when the war was finally over.
And that is what building shelves is really all about, isn’t it? If we are doing it with our whole mother soul, then shelf building and history making is all about one thing:
To have it burned into the souls of everyone within our small range of influence that God loves us. Each of us. Absolutely.
And because He loves us, and we know He loves us, we can win this war and we can be heroes.
All of us.
Even the lowly shelf builders, wherever we may be.
The lifetime of man is a day of trial, wherein we may prove to God, in our darkness, in our weakness, and where the enemy reigns, that we are our Father’s friends, and that we receive light from him and are worthy to be leaders of our children — to become lords of lords, and kings of kings — to have perfect dominion over that portion of our families that will be crowned in the celestial kingdom with glory, immortality, and eternal lives. -Brigham Young