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PRIORITIES

March 31, 2016

E. E. Cummings, poet and poignant powerhouse wrote simply, “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”

And I think homeboy had a lot of wisdom. I would add to that, it takes courage to grow up and purposely shape a life that reflects what’s really important. It’s easier and yes, less courageous, to go with the flow. I think God is good to give us flashes of eternal perspective and reminds us when we stray from it (which is probably multiple times a day) or when we just become stagnant. The reminders can come through a birth, a death, feelings of quiet peace and clarity, the examples of others. We’re reminded through the joys and the tragedies of life what really, really matters.

I think that’s kind of the point of all it.

So, let’s get real for a minute. I’ve been struggling for quite a few months with my job. Let’s be clear – it’s a fabulous job and it’s been good to me for over a year. Like any job, there have been stresses and cons, but the good has definitely outweighed the bad. I like the people I work with. I laugh at work. I love talking with our cute patients (especially the elderly ones, like the other day when a sweet old man had a dog bark as his ring tone and couldn’t hear it WOOFING in his pocket, and we loved him more than anything). I also like the crazy ones, because as MORTIFYING as it is to have someone bring a brown paper bag of  THEIR OWN POOP in out of “curiosity” and slap it on the front desk uninvited, it makes for a great story after. :/ I love seeing people helped and healed. This job has accommodated my changing school schedule over multiple semesters; it’s brought us income and opportunity. It’s been good.

But towards the beginning of the year, I started to feel like the stresses and busyness shaping my life each day no longer reflected the things most important to me. I didn’t feel like myself. I felt like walking STRESS. A year from graduation, suddenly I had so much more to do, more people to meet with, more things to plan, and not enough time outside of my class/work schedule to do it.  It was also harder to find time to get to the temple, or drop by to see a friend, or write a nice note, or do something that came to mind to make Cody’s day easier. It was harder to have good scripture study, meaningful prayer, to recognize the lessons God had for me in days that started to feel constantly overwhelmed. And I think I knew those feelings meant that, while this job had fit my needs for so long, it was maybe time to move on. I didn’t want to do too many things and none of them well, and I especially didn’t want to miss opportunities with my education. But A) change freaks me out, and B) change freaks me out, and C) why change a good thing, CHANGE FREAKS ME OUT.

So a few things happened.

The first thing being, I watched my mom take a step back from working full-time to part-time as a nurse at the hospital where she’s been for as long as I can remember. And while I won’t get into that too much, because that experience is her’s, I will say that watching her do that has been an incredible blessing to me. The courage she had (E. E. Cummings style!) to make the move to adjust something that had been so set for so long has made me admire her and love her all over again.  She had courage to act so she could have the freedom and time to be who she really is and have days filled with things that are eternally important, and that makes me proud to be her kid. YO DON’T GET ME STARTED ON LYNETTE BALLIF.

Then, my AP Art History teacher from high school posted an article about an adorable old lady named Miss Norma. And I don’t want to go TOO junior high yearbook on you, but she LITERALLY changed my life. Read this article, and PLEASE, if you do nothing else today, follow her cute Facebook page, “Driving Miss Norma.” It’s the sole reason I still check Facebook daily. Maybe every picture makes me teary. Here’s the gist: Miss Norma is a 90-year-old woman who, two days after her husband’s death, was diagnosed with uterine cancer. Doctors wanted to operate immediately and make plans for treatment, but Miss Norma replied, “Nope, I’m hitting the road!” And she’s been on an epic cross-country road trip with her son and his wife ever since. Oh, people. The PICTURES on her Facebook page. The joy in her face.

But mostly, guys, the sweet calm that washed over me reading her story and looking through her adventures. Rather than prolonging her life in a state that was sustainable but not ideal, Miss Norma made a bold move and took a road less traveled, because she had her priorities straight.

So I’m not terminally ill, or dialing back on a real career at this point, but these phenomenal women made me think hard about who I hope to grow up to be, and how I hope my life feels in order to (as much as a human can) keep that eternal perspective on the things that matter most. I thought back to my final zone conference with my mission president before he and his wife went home. Incredibly intelligent and financially successful, I was prepared for at least one point where he would lay out the keys to success, best fields of work, etc. Instead, he talked all about his family and his testimony. He talked about making time for the Lord, taking leaps of faith, and loving our fellow man. Period. He showed us slideshows of family trips, and told us how rather than giving his family the latest technology or the biggest house, he had first and foremost wanted to give his children education and experiences, through scholastics and through travel. He wanted them to understand the things that matter most – the things you actually take WITH you eternally.

I should mention, Cody is kind of the best at this. He’s been incredibly supportive from the first prompting I’ve had to reprioritize, encouraging me to stop working and just focus on school. I have felt no pressure or judgment from him. He’s also been pretty smart to know that it takes me a while to make a decision, quick to remind me of the priorities ACTUALLY vital to our happiness, and probably had the faith to act on this months ago, yet he’s been patient and good to me while I got there myself. So the past few months, as I’ve wrestled with this, with not wanting to change, or inconvenience my supervisors, or let anyone down, those things have been on my mind. Things that matter:

My relationship with God – my testimony.
My relationships with my family.
My relationships with other people and my ability to give love and light.
My education and acquisition of personal knowledge, through school, through experiences, etc.

Things that don’t matter:
Everything else.

I’ve been so scared to slow down a little, to leave my job without another lined up, to make a bold stand to finish my schooling in a timely manner, to be able to start a family in a few years, to reprioritize. So after three months of stress, I prayed (FINALLY asking with intent to act) if I should leave my job. And the answer, like so many I’ve gotten, turned back to my agency. “You already know what you need to do, and when you’re ready to do it, I will provide for you.”

Great, I thought. An on campus job will become available and then I’ll know to put in my notice. (Haha! Psych! One never did.) But I DID know the answer and I did need to act. So I prayed and prayed for the faith to take that leap of faith – to leave my job without another lined up. And He provided it. And I put in my two-weeks notice. And I finally had time to meet with an advisor. And I registered for summer classes. And I realized, I’m graduating sooner than I thought, and maybe this was the Lord’s plan all along – slow down and focus on school. And I tried my best to beat down that voice that said, you should work, you shouldn’t have left a good job without another lined up. Cause that voice wasn’t coming from the same place I’d gotten my answer. That was my critical, though logical, natural man piping in there.

But, here’s the thing, I had courage to reprioritize so I can be who I really am divinely (I hope) and focus on what really matters eternally. Tomorrow is my last day of work, and as of Tuesday, I had no jobs lined up or plans to work this summer. Just straight school. And it humbled me to accept that.

And then I got contacted, out of the blue, by someone who lives near us to watch her baby two afternoons a week, and if you know me, you know that watching a baby is no chore at all. I WILL PAY YOU. This opportunity is less hours than I was working before, but somehow allows me to make almost the same amount I was making before. It allows me to finish school and feel balanced doing so, and is somehow at the exact time of day I wasn’t in class, though I’d registered without knowing about this opportunity. AND IF THAT’S NOT PROVIDING FOR ME, I DON’T KNOW WHAT IS.

So here’s what I’ve been learning lately. Keep your priorities (the big ones) in your sights and work couragously to shape a life that reflects that both longterm and in your daily activities. Take leaps of faith to make that happen — even if they feel scary, and maybe a little illogical in the eyes of the world. God’s ways aren’t our ways, and He can ALWAYS see the bigger picture. Sometimes we just have to jump first, and see the net after.

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2 comments

Beverley Shankland March 31, 2016 at 2:15 am

Once again, Shelby, you've hit the mark. This is exactly what I needed today. Thank you. I am so looking forward to seeing you and your fam when you come to Minnesota for a visit.

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Brad April 12, 2016 at 1:09 am

My reactions:

Shelby: "He showed us slideshows of family trips, and told us how rather than giving his family the latest technology or the biggest house,"

Me: Hey that sounds smart. Where has this advice been all my life?

Shelby: "…he had first and foremost wanted to give his children education and experiences, through scholastics and through travel."

Me: YES!

Shelby: "Things that matter:

My relationship with God – my testimony.
My relationships with my family.
My relationships with other people and my ability to give love and light.
My education and acquisition of personal knowledge, through school, through experiences, etc."

Me: Puh-reach, Sister!

Shelby: "Things that don't matter:
Everything else."

Me: Can I GET an AMEN?

Loved it, Shelby. Thanks for the perspective on priorities.

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