A Siberian husky was not at the top of my list of desired pets. If we were going to get a pet, I would have preferred a cat that slept on the couch twenty hours a day. But instead of a sedate feline, life brought me a puppy with more energy than an over-caffeinated squirrel. In an attempt to dispel even a little of that energy, I rearranged my schedule to include a daily walk through the nature park behind my house. Regardless of the weather, we walked. If it rained I carried an umbrella. When it snowed I added layers, and then more layers as the temperatures plummeted.
I didn’t expect to enjoy walking a dog, but somehow those excursions became a delightful addition to my day as my puppy and I chased grasshoppers, followed waddling ducks, and crunched through fallen leaves. Though I had experienced all of these activities before, seeing them through the eyes of someone to whom they were unfamiliar (even if those eyes belonged to a puppy) made them new and fresh for me again.
Then one day, after years of traipsing along the same morning nature trail, I noticed I no longer looked around me as I walked. I rushed past the ducks, the grasshoppers had vanished in the cold, and the leaves hid more smells than I cared to stop for. I tugged the leash impatiently, anxious to get back home.
What had once been a source of joy for me had become just another task to be scratched off my to-do list.
I began to wonder what else in my life had once been delightful but had now become routine. How did I feel about my daily scripture study? Prayer? Serving others?
Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, an Apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, created a parable titled “A Summer With Great-Aunt Rose.” In this parable, Aunt Rose finds happiness by filling her life with meaningful things.
Filling our lives with things isn’t usually a problem, but how meaningful are those things? If they started out being meaningful, are they still?
What we do over and over has a way of becoming routine — even the essential things like personal and family prayer, church attendance, and time spent with loved ones. How can we keep them from becoming just another item to be squished into our busy schedules?
Sometimes we think the answer is to do more. Serve more, pray more, invest more effort. There are times when doing more is the right thing, and sometimes doing more is overwhelming and exhausting. Most likely, we just need to tweak what we’re already doing so that it continues to be meaningful. I didn’t need to take a longer walk every day; I just needed to find a way to enjoy the walk I was already taking. Spending a few moments to notice the muskrat swimming under the water and the great blue heron hiding in the reeds was all it took to bring joy back to my daily trek through the park.
Similarly, in our spiritual endeavors, the answer may not be to add more minutes to our scripture study. Instead, we may need to ponder what we read and open our hearts so that the Spirit can teach us. Maybe we need to practice listening for answers when we pray, or put our phone away while we’re in church. Small and simple changes are often all we need in order to see life through a new and fresh perspective. The Holy Spirit will tell us what small and simple changes we should make in our own lives.
Elder Larry R. Lawrence (a General Authority of the Church) said:
“The Holy Ghost really does give customized counsel. He is a completely honest companion and will tell us things that no one else knows or has the courage to say.
The Holy Ghost doesn’t tell us to improve everything at once. If He did, we would become discouraged and give up. The Spirit works with us at our own speed, one step at a time. . . .” (Larry R. Lawrence, “What Lack I Yet?” October 2015).
One step at a time.
One small and simple step.
One little change here, a tweak there can keep our lives filled with meaning and help us consistently find joy as we walk the Lord’s path.
Cami lives in Idaho with her husband, various family members who come and go, and an energetic Siberian husky. She volunteers as a costume director/seamstress for the drama department at her local high school where she gets to make elaborate clothing most people don’t wear in real life—which is what makes it so fun. She enjoys reading, bird watching, gardening, and Zumba, but her greatest joy comes from being with her family.