Drop by Drop

May 12, 2014 1 Comments

The day after Mother’s Day.

A morning in which we awaken after a day of praise and adulation and get back to work as usual. A day when we can’t help but compare our lives to the idealized portrayals lauded from pulpits and Hallmark cards across the country.  A time when we try our best to take the compliments and roll with it, while wondering in our heart of hearts if we’re really doing enough to deserve it.

Because in the real world it’s easy to feel that you aren’t doing enough. That the seemingly small efforts we give daily simply aren’t enough. And in the darkest of hours perhaps you’ve wondered if you yourself are even “enough.”

It is one of the great lies of our time– that who we are is not enough. In a world of Pinterest perfection, patient perseverance is underappreciated.

We forget that it is through small and simple things that great things are brought to pass. That small means in many instances confounds the wisdom of the so-called experts and lifestyle gurus. (See Alma 37:6)

Little things do count.

Sister Patricia T. Holland tells the story of her great-grandmother, who after having grown up residing in the majestic beauty of the Bern-Interlaken region of Switzerland, joined the Latter-Day Saints. After immigrating to the United States and traveling westward to be with the body of the Church, they were called to settle the tiny community of Enterprise in Southern Utah.

Now while there is a certain kind of beauty to be found in the desert, it is certainly no Switzerland. I would imagine that being called to leave a perfect picture-postcard locale to make one’s home in a barren, windblown desert would be quite a trial of faith.

Sister Holland relates:

My great-grandmother decided she would do something about it. With her two hands and a shovel, she harvested some small pine seedlings from the mountains not far away and planted them around the small church building that had just been erected. Then every day she would carry two buckets of water from her home nearly three blocks away, one bucket in each hand, to water those trees and keep them growing. It was arduous work for a little woman bent over with osteoporosis, but she made every drop count in a daily ritual that over time gave each tree a regular, if meager, drink of moisture.

As she made her way through town to water the pines, she would often bring her young granddaughter with her, sharing wisdom and tales of her life growing up in Switzerland. On one such trip, one of the brethren of the community stopped her, wondering after her seemingly futile endeavor.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, husband to Patricia and a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, continues her story:

[The gentleman] said, with something of a dismissive tone, “Oh, Sister Barlocker, why do you make this useless journey each day to water those scrubby little pine trees? They will never survive in this harsh climate and difficult soil, and even if they did, they will never grow to any size in your lifetime. Why don’t you just give up and forget your high Swiss hopes in this matter?”

Well, little Sister Barlocker rose to the full 4 feet 8 inches of her stature, looked this good brother in the eye and said, “I know these trees will not grow very large in my lifetime. But if I stay with it, they will live and they will grow. And although I will not enjoy their beauty and their shade, this little girl will. I am doing this for her.” 

The little girl alongside this good woman in the story was Sister Holland’s mother. And though her grandmother would pass on, she and the entire community of Enterprise would live to see the pine trees grow, and grow, and grow– until they literally towered over the small town. To this day they stand– a memorial to a mother and grandmother’s love and diligence.
(Holland, Jeffrey R. and Patricia T. “What Time is This?” Brigham Young University Women’s Conference. Provo, UT. 4 May, 2007.) 

Just last month our family traveled through Enterprise on our way to Snow Canyon State Park in Southern Utah. We stopped at the old chapel, now a museum for the Daughters of Utah Pioneers and enjoyed our lunch in the shade of those magnificent hundred-year-old pines. As I considered them, I was deeply impressed with just how far-reaching the small actions of our simple lives can be.

In the trenches of motherhood, there are days and weeks where it may seem that our earnest efforts are feeble and fruitless. The mountains seem too high and the valleys too steep. We labor through exhaustion and discouragement, wondering if we will ever see the end results we yearn for.

Perhaps there are moments when we wonder if we are up to the task.
If we are the right person for such a work and time as this.
If we could ever possibly be “enough.”

But you and I are enough and more. For God is with us, and with Him nothing is impossible. (Luke 1:37) He fills in the gaps, brings light to the darkness, and strengthens our aching backs as we struggle to nourish the tiny saplings of our lives.

With Him, it is always “enough.”

I loved what Sister Linda S. Reeves had to say in her most recent Conference talk:

I love the prophet Nephi’s declaration of what his people did to fortify the youth of his day: “We talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, [and] we prophesy of Christ … that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.”


How can we do this in our homes? Some of you have heard me tell how overwhelmed my husband, Mel, and I felt as the parents of four young children. As we faced the challenges of parenting and keeping up with the demands of life, we were desperate for help. We prayed and pleaded to know what to do. The answer that came was clear: “It is OK if the house is a mess and the children are still in their pajamas and some responsibilities are left undone. The only things that really need to be accomplished in the home are daily scripture study and prayer and weekly family home evening.”
We were trying to do these things, but they were not always the priority and, amidst the chaos, were sometimes neglected. We changed our focus and tried not to worry about the less-important things. Our focus became to talk, rejoice, preach, and testify of Christ by striving to daily pray and study the scriptures and have weekly family home evening. 

A friend recently cautioned, “When you ask the sisters to read the scriptures and pray more, it stresses them out. They already feel like they have too much to do.

Brothers and sisters, because I know from my own experiences, and those of my husband, I must testify of the blessings of daily scripture study and prayer and weekly family home evening. These are the very practices that help take away stress, give direction to our lives, and add protection to our homes. Then, if… challenges do strike our families, we can petition the Lord for help and expect great guidance from the Spirit, knowing that we have done what our Father has asked us to do.

It’s not about the extras. It’s about the essentials.
With that as our focus, we will never fail– messy, chaotic imperfection and all.

And what a beautiful mess it is.



1 Comment

  1. Reply

    Montserrat Wadsworth

    May 13, 2014

    Ahhh I had forgotten that story! We drove by and looked at the chapel right before Easter. My father-in-law attended stake conferences there growing up. I'll have to remember that story for the next time we head that direction.


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