A few years ago, I made a very difficult decision to set aside one of my personal interests. It was a novel I hope to write. For almost a decade I felt compelled to tell a story that was constantly in my head, and I spent much of my spare time developing characters, plot and subplots, and a culture and history to go with it. The story is about a young woman in a city of merchants. In the middle of a successful venture opportunity that is offered her, she finds herself surrounded by intrigue, a national revolution, and secret combinations. I have become very familiar with this character in the past ten years. When I made the decision to put my story aside, my feelings were deep.
At the time, I felt a couple of compelling reasons why I needed to put my own interests on hold. While I had responsibilities with work and also with my church, the biggest reason was my family. I considered the amount of time that I had available to spend with my children, and I figured that most of it would be taken in order to write my story. The two interests were starting to compete. The second reason was that I felt I needed to spend more time with people. I needed to make some visits. When I considered how much happiness I felt when I would visit a friend or an acquaintance I hadn’t seen in a while, and then compared it to the frustration I felt after spending a small amount of time on my story and not get anywhere, I decided it was time.
I remember the day I put my story in boxes. I had sketches and maps that covered the wall of my study, with storylines and resource material that I had researched. At no time did my interest seem wrong. It just seemed that it wasn’t the right time. I had this feeling that was small and quiet. I felt that putting my interests aside for a time was the right thing. It reminded me a lot of when I made the decision to serve a full-time mission and I had to leave family and friends at home, and focus on serving people I had never met before. The two years passed and were incredible. Afterward, I came back and continued the important relationships in my life. They have become much better.
Since that time, my interests haven’t gone away. I find that I still have a strong desire to write, and I take some time to do it. I still love to read, and I look for little places in my schedule that I can carve out for it. I love to paint and draw. I don’t get to as much as I would like, but I still have this strong desire to do so. Each of these is a gift. They are all things that I am interested in and have some ability to do.
As I have focused on my other responsibilities, I think I forgot some of the reasons for putting my interests aside. It wasn’t because I was too busy. My biggest reason was because of my children. Recently I was reminded of my gifts and how I could better use them.
Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to watch Rose Datoc Dall paint at a Deseret Book Lunch and Learn. I have admired her work for a couple of years now, and it was great to see her in person. She is a beautiful artist. As she painted she described some of the challenges and blessings she feels as a mother. Trying to find balance is not always easy. In fact, it often doesn’t exist because our circumstances are always changing. As we shared some examples of using our gifts and talents, I mentioned that I recently hadn’t painted as much due to time constraints. Her comment was, “Why don’t you paint with your kids?” That simple suggestion got me thinking.
Initially, the reason I stopped working on my story was because it was taking time away from my family. As I thought about other interests I have, I wondered why I shouldn’t spend more time sharing those interests with them. It would give us more in common and could help all of us to grow.
This morning I have been pondering a scripture about gifts. While it is specifically about gifts of the spirit, I think it has some relevant application. The Lord, Himself, taught, “seek ye earnestly the best gifts, always remembering for what they are given … they are given for the benefit of those who love me and keep my commandments, and him that seeketh so to do; that all may be benefited that seek or that ask of me….” (Doctrine & Covenants 46:8-9)
I have other friends who have provided constant encouragement and support for my talents. I am grateful for dear friends. They, with the events of the last few weeks, have given me reason to reflect on gifts that we are each given. What a blessing it is when a friend will share their gifts and talents with me. It is a privilege to do the same in return.
Perhaps the real lesson I needed to learn was not to set aside my gifts and interests, but to look for ways that they could bring me closer to those that I care about, remembering why friends and gifts are given.
The Art of Rose Datoc Dall
What I Believe…