Friday, September 24, 2010

A Princess in Gold Cloth, Rags and Tatters, or Both?

Today is September 24. For once, I don't have anything on my mental calendar for this date. It's just a regular Friday and I'm happy to have one. Erica is at a cross country meet, Greg and Steven are on a camp out, and the rest of the family is chillin' at home. Soccer is almost over and a blank night on the calendar might actually be looming on the horizon. Better not blink!

A friend and her children are coming to visit UT this weekend and I can't wait to see her. It's been a couple of years. We've been friends for just about as long as we didn't know each other. We've stayed in contact for all the time and miles- and a good portion of that pre-email and Facebook. At times as far away as opposite ends of the country and then as close as the same town. We have children the same ages, almost exactly. Our girls are both graduating and heading off to college next year. How crazy is that?! We have snapshots of the two of them next to each other in their infant carriers and now they'll be leaving their respective coops together. It doesn't seem to matter where we are or how long it's been, we pick up right where we left off. Everyone needs friends like that.

This weekend, and the last month, has had me thinking, though. I still have cleaning that hasn't gotten done, baking I need to do, tomorrow will be a crazy day with activities and the Relief Society Broadcast. Sunday will be it's own kind of busy. I've even been a bit under the weather today and enjoyed a forced day of rest. Then there's all the background pushings and pulling on time and energy that never seem to go away. Sometimes one starts to feel a little put-upon. After all, I have plans and dreams for my life and I seem to be diverted from them frequently. My life is certainly not the hardship that I sometimes make it out to be, but the selfish part of me wants to know why my life can't go as I want it to. I'm trying to be a good person, doesn't that count for anything?

Right about now is when I'm given a gentle reminder of what's what. As an "assignment" for a wellness activity we're participating in through Greg's work I re-read the book "A Little Princess" by Frances Hodgson Burnett this week. I read it years ago and remembered the gist of the story, but was delighted by all the details I'd forgotten, and now better appreciate somehow as an adult than I did as a child.

The main character, Sara Crewe was raised by a loving father in India until she was sent to a boarding school in London. For a couple of years she lived as a princess, but was never a mean or proud girl. She befriended those around her and tried to make her world a better place. Her father died both suddenly and penniless. Sara is only kept from being turned out into the street by the fact that she is a bright girl and the headmistress plans to force her to work until she'd old enough to become a teacher at the school. She spends the next two years living in unloved squalor, doing every imaginable horrid chore, and being treated as less than human sometimes. Sara has a vivid imagination and decides, there's the key- she decides- to live her life as if she was a princess. She refuses to lower her behavior to match those around her. She shares what she has with those who need it, which most of the time means all she has to offer are her imagination and her friendship. It drives the headmistress crazy to see a girl who should obviously be in disgrace carry herself as one who is of noble birth.

"What ever comes," she said, "cannot alter one thing. If I am a princess in rags and tatters, I can be a princess inside. It would be easy to be a princess if I were dressed in cloth of gold, but it is a great deal more of a triumph to be one all the time when no one knows it."... This was not a new thought, but quite an old one by this time. It had consoled her through many a bitter day, and she had gone about the house with an expression in her face which Miss Minchin could not understand and which was a source of great annoyance to her, as it seemed as if the child were mentally living a life which held her above the rest of the world. It was as if she scarcely heard the rude and acid things said to her; or, if she heard them, did not care for them at all. "

In the end, what is rightfully hers is returned. She hadn't lived a life that deserved punishment before, but she faced a pretty sore trial none-the-less. Her experiences, however, combined to make her an even better person than she already was.

It reminded me of Dieter F. Uchtdorf's talk at the last Young Women broadcast.

"Today I want to draw your attention to something very significant, very extraordinary. On the first page of your Young Women Personal Progress book, you will find these words: “You are a beloved daughter of Heavenly Father, prepared to come to the earth at this particular time for a sacred and glorious purpose.”1

"Sisters, those words are true! They are not made up in a fairy tale! Isn’t it remarkable to know that our eternal Heavenly Father knows you, hears you, watches over you, and loves you with an infinite love? In fact, His love for you is so great that He has granted you this earthly life as a precious gift of “once upon a time,” complete with your own true story of adventure, trial, and opportunities for greatness, nobility, courage, and love. And, most glorious of all, He offers you a gift beyond price and comprehension. Heavenly Father offers to you the greatest gift of all—eternal life—and the opportunity and infinite blessing of your own “happily ever after.”

"But such a blessing does not come without a price. It is not given simply because you desire it. It comes only through understanding who you are and what you must become in order to be worthy of such a gift."

"In each of these stories, Cinderella, Belle, and the miller’s daughter have to experience sadness and trial before they can reach their “happily ever after.” Think about it. Has there ever been a person who did not have to go through his or her own dark valley of temptation, trial, and sorrow?"

"Sandwiched between their “once upon a time” and “happily ever after,” they all had to experience great adversity."

"My dear young sisters, you need to know that you will experience your own adversity. None is exempt. You will suffer, be tempted, and make mistakes. You will learn for yourself what every heroine has learned: through overcoming challenges come growth and strength."

"It is your reaction to adversity, not the adversity itself, that determines how your life’s story will develop."

"As an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, I leave you my blessing and give you a promise that as you accept and live the values and principles of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, “[you] will be prepared to strengthen home and family, make and keep sacred covenants, receive the ordinances of the temple, and enjoy the blessings of exaltation.”10 And the day will come when you turn the final pages of your own glorious story; there you will read and experience the fulfillment of those blessed and wonderful words: “And they lived happily ever after.”

Whether dressed as a princess in cloth of gold or the rags of a beggar, we choose our reactions to the situations in which we are placed. Some situations are the result of our own actions and some are not. It doesn't really matter. What we do with each one determines how we travel through them and the outcome each provides. It is easy to be happy, kind and charitable when things go "right". It's a little more difficult to do the same when things go "wrong". But, like Sara said, it's more of a triumph to do and be the princess we really are inside at those times. Trials are not given to punish, but to bless us and help us live up to the potential we have as children of God. The rewards are there and will be given to those who really want them. The choice is up to each of us.


Mom O' Nine said...

Powerful, simply powerful. Reminds me of a chapter in a Sherry Dew book, and I love and admire her a lot. Well, I love and admire you a lot, too. My Breezy will be going off to school next year, too, only it will be community college here by us as we just aren't ready to give up the last one. Selfish, we are, selfish. I loved the little princess book, too.

Paige said...

Thanks for sharing those thoughts. I hope all is going well with your family. We definitely miss your family and the ward. I can't believe Erica is so close to graduating!

NatureGirl said...

Lovely...And one of my very favorite books!

cvtippetts said...

Eden just watched the Shirley Temple version of "The Little Princess." Your review makes me want to read the book. Thanks for your uplifting thoughts!

Nichole said...

"He has granted you this earthly life as a precious gift of “once upon a time,” complete with your own true story of adventure, trial, and opportunities for greatness, nobility, courage, and love."

Loved this! Following you from Julie's Blog Roll :)