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“In fact, is not managing life’s little challenges so often the big challenge? Those who wait for a single, spectacular, final exam are apt to flunk the daily quizzes.” (“Thanks Be to God”, Elder Neal A. Maxwell)
Quizzes. I remember having pop quizzes in school. Sometimes, the announcement would bring a shiver through my body. Largely because I knew I wasn’t properly acquainted with the material that would be included in that quiz. Ughh. Other times, it didn’t phase me. I was on top of class teachings and ready to ace that quiz.
So it goes in life. Because we are multi-faceted people, with shortcomings and weaknesses as well as strengths and talents, Life will bring us some ‘quizzes’ for which we feel unprepared. Maybe even panicky. Then there are others for which we know we’re ready. No wide eyes, quickened heart beat, or wild concerns about whether or not we can ‘do this.’
Yet, the overall learning of our lifetime is not in whether we pass every pop quiz, but in what we learn from the experience. Our judgment does not come from one – or one hundred pop quizzes – but from:
How we may have improved.
How we’ve brought ourselves into subjection to righteous and good things.
How much we’ve paid attention, and
How much faith has been grown during the tutoring process.
There have been a lot of pop quizzes I’ve blown. But there have been many at which I’ve done my best. For the ones I basically fell off the cliff? There is that wonderful knowledge that we aren’t judged on a day of our lives, Or a week. Nor a chapter. We have a lifetime of living- however long our lifetime is – to learn. To better discipline self. To tweak this habit, toss another; gain more love and empathy for others while we become wise enough to offend less people by speaking out of turn.
A great one we learn is to not take offense. In this world, there is mud slinging on purpose and there are times when others unknowingly may cause offense- if we allow it. From ‘poor’ pop quizzes earlier in life, I can attest and testify that it is freeing and So Much More Agreeable to – be more agreeable! Learning the little art of not taking offense is not so little at all.
What little things would you like to shift, toss, or gain? If we seek to take small steps in the right direction, there is light at the end of the tunnel. And that light comes from Christ.
We learn by reading, listening, watching, praying, studying, following the example of those who come before us, and interacting.
Most of us have probably heard the old saying, “Little pitchers have big ears.” Another is “Parents who are afraid to put their foot down usually have children who step on their toes.” Most all of us understand that children learn more by what we do than by what we say.
Those pop quizzes of parenting can be tough. Hard on the heart. They are often the ones that, after having felt like a complete failure for this or that reason, for having raised the voice, lost the patience, or – because of circumstances our children may never know – we must do things in a way we would never ordinarily choose, we want to tie ourselves to a whipping post and smack away at ourselves.
Yet – we are in a learning curve as parents. There is no manual, except for Holy Writ. We get insights and we receive personal revelation at times. But we also make mistakes. It is in the laboratory of parenting that we learn to become a parent.
So, while our children are learning, we are doing the same. And leaning on the grace of the Lord as we make mistakes. We celebrate when we do well on a ‘pop quiz’. For the ones we fall below the mark, we can reflect and ponder and pick ourselves up in order to do better next time. Right? It’s all the little things, on a daily basis, that teach us.
A lifetime of these little lessons bring us to a point of a more full gratitude for the Best Teacher, and His ways. The older we get, the more we can see that many of the things we’ve felt were of grand importance, and mattered so very much, will seem to not matter at all.
So I submit that we:
- Take a deep breath
- Organize ‘every needful thing’ (and there are so many categories we could set apart or get rid of, were we to focus on only the needful things)
- Pay attention to the experiential opportunities given us
- Take a clue from those who can teach from their experience
Like Elder Neal Maxwell taught, “We have moved, as it were, from first-estate theory to second-estate laboratory.”
In the lab, there are many little things to notice and with which to become familiar. These little things must be observed, experimented upon, and physically/ mentally done as we learn and grow. There is more understanding of this scripture in Proverbs 1:5 – A wise [man] will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels.
Here is a good example that a dear neighbor shared in a Church class:
“This is a story told by President Howard W. Hunter in a General Conference:
“It was on a summer day early in the morning. I was standing near the window. The curtains obstructed me from two little creatures out on the lawn. One was a large bird and the other a little bird, obviously just out of the nest. I saw the larger bird hop out on the lawn, then thump his feet and cock his head. He drew a big fat worm out of the lawn and came hopping back. The little bird opened its bill wide, but the big bird swallowed the worm.
“Then I saw the big bird fly up into a tree. He pecked at the bark for a little while and came back with a big bug in his mouth. The little bird opened his beak wide, but the big bird swallowed the bug. There was squawking in protest.
“The big bird flew away, and I didn’t see it again, but I watched the little bird. After a while, the little bird hopped out on the lawn, thumped its feet, cocked its head, and pulled a big worm out of the lawn.”
Watching nature is quite the way of focused, amazing example. Patterns are set and they are followed. Babies learn from their parents and do as their parents have done. They watch and, by and by, are able to follow the example set for them in order to get the needed results for eating. They learn how to do their best to stay alive and thrive.
We need to stay alive, too. Not simply exist and walk in a shallow way through earth life, but to be ALIVE! To take note of things and people around us, of the quiet whisperings of the Spirit that teach us, of teachings from the Best Books, and of all the little things- day in and day out- that help us understand ourselves and our Lord.
What we think and how we act, what we say and where we go – every single choice matters. Some may seem little and insignificant. Yet, the little things are the ones that build our character and renew our spirit when times are very hard. Those little choices that take us off the path need merely be tossed out, repented of, so we can turn again to the bright sunshine of “the way of life that keepeth instruction.” (Proverbs 10:17)
Any little thing that points us toward the bright sunshine is good and helpful and needed! Sometimes our own little light may barely flicker for a bit of time. Yet, the Father of us all is always full of light. When we turn to Him, there is more added to our own candle, so to speak.
Every morning, we can set out to find some new ‘little’ piece of information to help us be a better person, parent, child, neighbor, employee/employer or disciple. (in effect, being better at any of the first named choices helps us be a better disciple of Christ.) We can pray for more flexibility as a fellow citizen, in order to overcome the little things within us we wish to overcome.
May the Lord of Lords and King of Kings help us to watch, listen, and learn more about the importance of little things of life. They are priceless!
Vickey Pahnke Taylor is a wife, mom, grandmother, professional speaker, author, and songwriter. Her undergrad studies were in musical theater, and her Masters degree is in communications. She has taught for CES programs for almost 30 years. After working in a touring repertory theater company, she began speaking for the National Press Bureau speakers association. A Billboard award winning songwriter, her favorite use of music is as a tool to teach. In addition to three solo albums in the Christian market, she co-wrote Women at the Well with Kenneth Cope and My Beloved Christ with Randy Kartchner. Her Facebook page Goodness Matters and her website www.goodnessmatters.com are her ways of continuing to grow goodness in the world, & point people gently toward Christ.
She & her husband have 8 children & 8 grandchildren. She serves as Gospel Doctrine teacher, and Dean serves in their ward bishopric. Vickey, from Virginia, believes “You can take the girl out of the South, but you can’t take the South out of the girl.” She loves flowers, brownies, the ocean, and laughing every chance she gets. Oh…and the Hallmark Channel.