Sunday, July 11, 2010

My Sacrament Meeting talk on Service

When I was asked to speak in church, I mentioned that I haven't done something like this since I was in Young Women's talking about my favorite scripture. Brother Prince reminded me I needed to speak for 15 minutes.

I've been asked to speak on service.

First I'd like to share one of my favorite scriptures.

Jacob 6:12
Oh be wise, what can I say more?

If I chose that as my favorite scripture, I would have a hard time filling up my 15 minutes. There is more to say on the subject of being wise though, it leads me into a very familiar scripture that most of you have heard about service.

And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.

It truly is wise to serve others. There are so many benefits for us. Especially if we are serving with pure intent and not to see how we can benefit from it.

It's hard for us to directly serve God, because he isn't here in person. Serving others is the perfect alternative! We not only show our love for God but we show it for people that are suffering through the trials of this life, just like we are. We can be a balm and help ease those sufferings, at the same time we can help ease our own.

When we are suffering and in pain, we tend to narrow our focus. We slowly lose the ability to care about those beyond the bounds of our own struggles. We become mired and self-involved. The more that happens, the more our pain affects us. It is a vicious cycle. When we look beyond ourselves and try to ease the burdens and suffering of those around us, our own burdens become lighter. We realize that our trials aren't as bad as we feel they are. We experience the joy of the service to others as well. We aren't as concentrated on the negative emotions we are experiencing. Just being a listening ear to a friend, showing an interest in their lives, is a service to them. There are so many different opportunities and ways to serve! Time and again the scriptures state that if we ask, our burdens will be made lighter. Your service to someone else could very well be the answer to that person's prayer.

When I was getting ready for church this morning, I prayed that I wouldn't be nervous. I prayed that I would say what I needed to say. I kept going over things in my head. I felt impressed to share something extra. I grabbed a pencil and the nearest thing to write on was the back of a greeting card. It was from my mother and she gave it to me when I was having a really rough time. She just told me how spiritual and special I am and that I would get through this.

I'm a single mother raising two children. I was inactive for over ten years. I had a hard time giving the church a chance. I'm a shy person. I felt the church was invasive. I wanted to be left alone in my worship. I didn't want to give talks, have a calling, or even talk to people. I wanted to come to church and feel the spirit then go home. One time I was complaining about it to my aunt, I must have sounded so petty. She told me that having a testimony was like the embers in a fire. If one is off by itself, it grows cold and goes out. Having the other embers around keeps them stronger and going longer. After I left my ex, I decided I was going to try every day to be a better person and a better mother. I wanted to raise my children the way I was raised, in the church with positive influences around them. I read the Book of Mormon all the way through in about a month. I wanted to make sure that I was following the right path. I never really knew if the church was true, I hadn't developed my own testimony when I was young. I lived on borrowed testimonies. I had so much fun reading the Book of Mormon again and hearing the stories I was taught as a child. Suddenly they weren't stories to me, they were accounts of real people and their struggles. It was really powerful to me. I felt so much peace reading the scriptures, that I knew that my decision to come back to church was the right one. The time the missionaries spent with my family was a great blessing. I'm grateful for the kindness of the ward members. I've always felt like I've belonged here. That was a service to me and it helped me during a lot of rough patches. The adversary didn't like the direction I decided to go. He tried to steer me away many times. You can never know the affect you can have on others with just a simple smile when it is easier to walk by without a glance.

Service comes in many forms. We are needed to complete the Lord's work here on Earth. Missionaries serve others for 2 straight years of their lives. They help so many others and in the process they change, profoundly. They gain an appreciation and love for others through their service. One missionary said this, "Serving your fellow men is the same as serving God. Serving is really the key to coming to know Jesus Christ. That’s why we serve people wherever we can.”

Knowing Jesus Christ helps us to become more like him. He is our shepherd and He leads us. Through His example, we can see how to pattern our own lives. His whole life was spent serving others. The scriptures are an account of His life and a guide for our own. It's like an open book test!

I read a quote about service that I really loved. I would tell you who said it but I can't pronounce his name.
I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.

I know that this is true. I am blessed to work in a job that helps people. I see the benefits daily. My boss is someone I look up to. He has a true spirit of service. I was joking with him earlier about this talk I had to give. He was trying to make me feel better by saying, well if you don't do a good job, they won't make you talk again for a long time! He really does make our work place a very pleasant and fun place to be. When he was hired, I asked him what made him decide to work here because it isn't the easiest job out there. He shared with me his story. He watched the movie "The Ultimate Gift" and he said it changed his perspective on life. He wanted to make a difference and help people. The job opening was only up for a week. He was sitting at his desk and decided right then he was going to get a different job. He thought about where he could work that would be more meaningful. He decided on the school district or the hospital. He opened up the web site and saw the job listing and applied for it. He ended up taking the job. He now makes 20k less a year so that his job will be meaningful to him and make a difference in people's lives. I hear people's stories every day and I KNOW that I am making a difference too. One woman came in from the Dove center. She was probably trying to get out of an abusive relationship. She had 2 children and she desperately needed church clothing for all of them. They only allocate a certain amount in a voucher but I was able to make sure she had what she needed. It made me so grateful for my family and the help that I receive on a daily basis. I didn't have to escape an abusive relationship and I don't have to do everything alone either. I am blessed to have help. This job helps me to see how bad things could have been though and I'm grateful for what I do have. I'm so thankful that my children don't need anything. Serving others gives you that perspective. I don't get paid much and sometimes it is a thankless job, but there are days when those people come in and they are so truly grateful for what we do and it makes it all worth it. I come home and my burdens feel lighter because I witness those whose burdens seem staggering. I hope that what I do, helps lift them up and give them hope. I heard another woman say that if it wasn't for us or the programs we have at our store, she wouldn't have sheets on her bed.

I want to share this story about someone who wanted to be thoughtful and help someone else.

A few years ago a friend of mine was going through a difficult separation from her husband. She swore she still loved him but his actions had hurt her deeply. It was Christmas and my friend's husband had been away for a few months. The family was large-they had six children-and I wondered how my friend and her brood were going to make it through the Christmas season. Not only because of their recent lack of money, but more importantly, because their father would not be as closely woven into the festivities this year as in previous years.

After discussing the problem briefly with my young children, we decided that what the family needed was some plain and simple fun.

We purchased some tickets for a local sporting event, bought a card, and planned a day to deliver the surprise. As an afterthought we decided to buy a potted plant-nothing fancy, but my children thought the purple blooms were beautiful.

When the day arrived to deliver the gifts, all hearts were beating in anticipation. Eagerly my husband and I walked, while the children rushed to the door. We were greeted by three of her small children. Behind them stood their mother. She invited us in.

"We thought you'd like this," I began, the potted plant held snugly under one arm. She reached for the plant, but what I'd meant to give her was the tickets in the crisp, white envelope.

Suddenly, my friend burst into tears. "How did you know?" she said, taking the potted plant in her hands. Tears were streaming down her face and I had no idea what to say. Neither did any of my family members.

"Today is my wedding anniversary. He always buys me flowers. But this year." Her wedding anniversary?

My friend's voice trailed off and I felt the lump that had entered my throat grow into mammoth size. I wondered if she was angry that we'd made her remember her special day. I wondered why we'd purchased that stupid plant.

But her next words surprised me even more than her first revelation. "Thank you for helping me to remember."

I blinked my eyes, realizing that a few tears had begun to accumulate on my own eyelashes. I wiped them with the back of my hand, and almost as an afterthought, handed my friend the tickets, explaining what they were. As we left, she thanked us again for our thoughtfulness.

I walked outside in a daze. What had just happened? But the true gift was unmistakable.

Let the spirit prompt you when you are serving others. The spirit will help you to provide what that person really needs. That simple plant made such a difference to that woman. It reminded her of some of the good times in her marriage and as a result could be something that brings her and her husband closer together again.

Service can be as simple as being a friend to others. It can be sacrificing 2 years of your life to be a missionary. You can do genealogy and find hundreds of names that need their work done. You can attend the temple and help complete the work of all those names. You can help a neighbor in need with yard work or meals when they are unable to do it themselves. You can help take care of someone's kids so they can have a chance to go on a date with their spouse.

I am also lucky to work with volunteers. They spend hours at the Thrift Store and they don't get paid for it. I love their example and it helps me to work harder. I've heard that for those volunteers that are older, their lives are longer. It gives them something to look forward to and live for. They have purpose in their lives and they feel needed. I'm sure it helps ease some loneliness as well. They are such great people. It is amazing to be surrounded by selfless people. Their service and sacrifice is such an inspiration to me and to others. I love talking about my job because of all those people and the service we do for others.

I hope that we can all find ways to be of service to others. I know that this is what Heavenly Father would want us to do.

*Testimony* I'm grateful to be a member of the church, I'm grateful that no matter how tough life gets, we have the church and the gospel to guide us and be our island of calm and assurance. I know that this church is true. I am grateful for the guidance of a true prophet of God. I'm grateful for the scriptures and the guidance they can give us if we will read them and let them be a part of our lives. I'm so grateful for God's presence in my life. Just knowing there is someone there that will always listen and always look out for me, makes my burdens lighter. I know I'm not alone. I pray that we can keep other's ember's warm and lit. I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Natalie, you are so awesome. I wish so much I could have been there in person to hear you deliver your talk, but reading it today was such an inspiration. Thank you for your words and your testimony. I am so proud of you and I love you so much. Love, Aunt Denise

Anonymous said...

Wow! I love your simple heartfelt belief in service. I teared up a couple times while I was reading this. It was amazing! You can help me write my talks anytime. Love, Amy

Anonymous said...

Natalie,
I love your post. I have a talk to give on Sunday on service. I love the story of your friend and the plant. I plan to use it in my talk because it relays exactly the message the Spirit is guiding me to give. "You just never know when or where you will be the answer to someone else's prayer. And that answer usually comes in the form of service!" I hope you don't mind that I use it. Thank you for your inspiration.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much. I have to give a talk on Sunday and reading this really helped me put together the message I want to deliver on Sunday. This was perfectly put and I got some things I would have never thought of!

Erika Contreras said...

Thank you for this talk. I've been a member for a long time but have been inactive for more than half the time. I've recently returned and now I have a calling. I was asked to talk tomorrow and I wanna say you have helped me greatly.