“She Hath Done What She Could”
By Carolyn Allen
With the start of the Olympics this weekend, the breath-taking speeds and success of the athletes will be a thrill to behold. In truth, it’s rare to find something in life where speed is not the most important element. That’s why I am sure you have been thrilled, as I have, with Dian Thomas’s recent articles and photos of her long-term weight loss progress. Those pictures are so exciting, her weight loss tools are so practical and easy, her approach is so realistic and genuine that somehow it makes creating a healthier lifestyle a very do-able thing for all of us, even, as D&C 89 says, “the weakest among us.” (That would be me. I write these columns from the heart as a compulsive eater with a very difficult to locate “off” switch.)
I think perhaps my favorite sentence in her article “The Transformative Power of Weight Loss” is her answer to the question: “What was your average weight loss per week?” She replies: “I average 1/2 pound a week.”I know that you can lose more, but it did not happen for me.”She makes it very clear that it has taken five years to achieve a stunning loss of 130 pounds.
In other words, she is doing what she can every day with a cheerful acceptance of the whole process. Her extended reply– “What I am excited about is that I really enjoy what I eat, and I do not feel hungry when I eat foods that are healthy and nutritious”-reveals that she has the golden key to reach and maintain her goal, regardless of the slow, almost negligible results, from day to day. On a quiet, daily basis, she’s doing what she can.
Inspiration from a Tombstone
Her story reminds me of a beautiful day last September. A special family friend in Oregon had asked my sister, who lives in a most picturesquepart of New Hampshire, to check out a nearby cemetery for some family research she was doing. It sounded like too much fun and was a good excuse for meto go up and visit her for a weekend.
It was a gorgeous early autumn day as we drove through one picture-perfect little New England town after another to get to the cemetery. We had a wonderful time walking around tombstones dating back to the late 1700s, trying to locate the particular family plot. Many of the tombstones were too old and completely weather-worn to read, but stillit was fun to try and decipher them. My favorite was a woman named “Ellen M. Gordon.” She was born on April 1, 1845, and died on May 17, 1921. Since “April Fools Day” goes back to the 1500s, I’m sure her family had a good laugh when little Ellen was born on April 1. Perhaps the rest of her life was a bit of a joke as well, because underneath her name in letters almost to weather-worn to read is the simple sentence: “She hath done what she could.”
“She hath done what she could … She hath done what she could!” The phrase repeated itself over and over in my mind as I visualized what this might have meant. Did it mean her life was difficult or limited in some way? Was there a tragedy, a handicap, or a troubled family member or situation that warranted this modest accolade? We’ll never know, but what IS left are the words… “she hath done what she could”.
Will as much be said when our turn on earth and mortality ends in terms of how we care for our bodies? It’s an important question.
Even so, February is a dreary time to be excited about healthy living. The days are still short, the weather is often nasty, keeping us housebound and inclined to fattening comfort foods. Valentines treats are in the stores and will no doubt be arriving in many forms over the next week or so – and just when we’ve gotten rid of the Christmas stuff! That’s why a Dian Thomas is such an inspiration. For five years, she has been plodding along, and look where it is leading!
In the December 2009 Ensign, Seventy Bruce D. Porter has a most inspiring article, perfect for Christmas, and equally perfect for inspiring daily life, entitled “The Prince of Glory” (pages 26-30). In it, he draws upon the classic Mark Twain story The Prince and The Pauper. In a simple yet eloquent way, he compares the Savior to the Prince, who, through a set of strange circumstances, was required to live for a time as a Pauper. In the story, the Prince lost his title for a time, yet gained a most important understanding of his people. And so it is with the Savior’s life. He understands us, He knows what we’re going through, He will help us with our daily plodding when we aredoing the best we can!
He says, “Whatever depth of anguish, misery, or temptation we may experience, His understanding of our trials is perfect because He experienced them firsthand during His mortal life.”
Then Elder Porter quotes Alma: “And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people, and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy … that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities” (Alma 7:11-12).
In-firmities … think about that word. Though the dictionary definition is the state of being weak in health or body, especially from old age, in a literal way it says not firm, and that surely is a good way of describing our wavering desires and abilities to stick with healthy eating and exercise on a daily basis.
Bruce Porter was actually “Bishop Porter” for us over 20 years ago in the Springfield, Virginia Ward. We all still treasure the days that he, his wife Susan and their young children were with us. As a Bishop’s wife, Susan shared a story I have never forgotten. Bishop Porter was very busy professionally, as well as serving as the Bishop. The days were long with her small children. Wanting so much to be the kind of mother that made a difference, yet feeling like she was losing patience too often, one day she taped the word “Tenderness” on a piece of paper and posted it on the refrigerator to remind her of its importance. One difficult day she was overwhelmed with more errands, band-aids, squabbles, and spilled milk than she had ever thought possible. She went to bed exhausted and discouraged. She felt that she had simply plodded along through the day, barely covering the basics, and not in any kind of way that she was pleased with.
As she said her prayers that night, upset over how much was yet undone on her “to-do” list, she told the Lord that she was “just plodding along and not accomplishing much of any importance.” There was an instant, kind response from heaven. The sweet impression, “Susan, the Lord loves a plodder!” filled her mind and heart. It was enough. That heavenly response made a difference for her, and it’s made a difference for me.
So often nothing shows! Yet you are doing what you can, as Ellen Gordon did 150 years ago, and Dian Thomas is doing today.
When we can accept that the process itself is as important as the tangible results, then there is peace and progress, no matter the pace.
Another less than speedy story is making our family smile these days.
My husband grows fabulous tomatoes every summer. We enjoy them for several months, freezing the extras for winter sauces and soups. Then we all cry when the last fresh-from-the garden ones are gone in the fall.
Last summer, I vowed I would figure out a way to grow tomatoes indoors for winter sandwiches and salads. I spent some time on the Internet and found a great site with advice and instructions for starting them, setting up lighting indoors, etc. I ordered the recommended seeds that would be good in containers. “Ninety to 120 Days” until you’ll have your own indoor tomatoes!” the site said.
In September, with thoughts of homegrown tomatoes in January, I started 12 plants in tiny bathroom cups on the front porch as the weather was still warm and very sunny. Eight sprouted. That’s a pretty good yield! In October it was time to bring them indoors, and I went shopping for lighting. An accomplished gardener at our local hardware store came to the rescue. His face lit up as he launched into telling me about his own winter indoor tomatoes. “Better than the summer ones!” he said. “If you’ve got them this far, you surely will be having tomato sandwiches in January!”
I moved some clothes out of a small closet and hung the fluorescent shop light from the rod. I transplanted them into bigger containers and set them under the lights. Of course, there were jokes galore from teenagers about “Mom’s tomatoes coming out of the closet in January” and it became a fun source of interest and conversationfor the family.
They grew and grew. However, buds didn’t appear until Christmas. So much for tomato sandwiches in January!
As reality set in for how long it was going to take for them to bear fruit, however, I was so tickled with the process that I wasn’t too disappointed. Each morning, it was a joy to have that distinctive tomato-y, summertime smell from the leaves on my hands asI tended them. Sadly, my pretty little yellow blossoms kept dropping off. Clearly something was wrong. It didn’t take long to determine that with no bees, they were not being pollinated.
It was time to learn about hand-pollination on Youtube. Soon I was gently brushing the blossoms with an electric toothbrush to simulate bees. I learned to gently shake the plants to simulate the wind blowing. Lo and behold, it worked! I have tiny tomatoes growing!
Now, for reasons I don’t understand, much like Dian Thomas’s slow progress, the growth is much, much slower than I’d been told. Remember the 90-120 days? At this point my precious tomatoes are 6 months old (about 2 feet tall) and the baby tomatoes themselves no bigger than BB gun pellets. At this rate, perhaps we’ll have tomato sandwiches sometime in early June or July, not too much before Bob’s outdoor tomatoes are ready. Nevertheless, these slow-growing tomatoes are a source of fun conversation at our house, and a success in ways that make life more fun.
My tomatoes, like Ellen Gordon, Dian Thomas and Susan Porter, are simply plodding along, doing what they can. It’s not too exciting, yet there’s pride, pleasure and some fun in the process, even if there are not astounding results for the time being.
As Dian is proving, just plodding along with smart tools and doing what she can each day, is the absolute ONLY speed for long-term success on the path to lasting health and fitness.
What can you we do today that, whether it shows or not, will make a difference tomorrow, or next week or next year? We can say a prayer, listen to the promptings, then write down two or three things that will make a difference! We can be brave and act upon those impressions today. We can pray to find a measure of pleasure in the process, regardless of immediate results. We can choose to create health day by day so that when all is said and done, the honorable words “She hath done what she could” will be ours to claim.
Oh, the Lord, loves a plodder, indeed!
Author’s Note: I hope you’ll have a chance to check out my new website, www.SuperCheapGroceries.com. This online grocery store is great for food storage and non-perishables at discount prices. Though there are typical foods and snacks there that we will quietly ignore, the significant cash savings for household and family essentials will free up your grocery budget for buying more fresh fruits and vegetables that make such a difference to our health.
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