While I wait for the smoke from my oven to waft out of my house I thought I'd put baking fish on hold and write an entry about my Book of Mormon reading find today. It has kept me thinking throughout the entire afternoon, which is probably the reason my house smells like burnt rosemary and bacon right now.
I was reading chapters 8-15 of 1 Nephi and although I could write all day about my my own revelations regarding the infamous Tree of Life, another verse stood out to me and it made me stop and think... really think.
When I was young I didn't imagine to a great extent what my future life would be like - not in specifics, anyway. I really only had two images in my mind: 1) Marrying The One in the Temple, and 2) Raising a family in the Gospel. Everything else that took place occurred from ideas or opportunities that presented themselves on the journey. But somewhere along the way in hindsight, and to my surprise, all of my hopes and dreams were fulfilled; even those I never knew I wanted! Not only was I actually blessed to find and marry The One and have the opportunity to raise a family in the Gospel, Heavenly Father decided to throw in some of my little fantasies; I visited and studied in far-away lands, I fulfilled a mission to a destination I had literally only dreamed about, and I even managed to scrape together a degree. I feel much like Ammon as he speaks of the blessings they saw with their missionary work preaching to the Lamanites. Some thought he was boasting, but he told them it wasn't boasting, he was glorifying in the mercies and the blessings of God and the magnificence of what had been accomplished all because of Him and His plan.
I feel the same way about my life. In all seriousness I hadn't 'planned' most of it. I simply had a goal as a Young Woman to please Heavenly Father, and trust that he would bless me accordingly. That is why this scripture stood out to me today: 1 Nephi 12:18. It speaks of the "vain imaginations and the pride of the children of men". When I read the words "vain imaginations" I thought about what that could actually mean. I immediately cast my mind to the most recent imaginations created in my mind....it was of my future kitchen. No joke. I know exactly what my 'dream kitchen' looks like. I know the color and fabric of the bench tops, the size and layout, the shelf designs... heck, I even know the color of the door handles! I've already pre-imagined the style of house I would like the kitchen to be in, and I even know the suburb in which my family will dwell.... I think about the future and what I would like to have quite often, particularly as my kids get bigger and my house feels smaller....
Upon reflection of my childhood and Young Adult-hood, the imaginations I created weren't nearly so specific. They were more general: "I wonder who I will marry?", "what will I look like when I'm 30?", or "how many kids do I imagine I'll have?"
But nowdays my dreams have become more like GOALS, as in something that I am aspiring to accomplish. I don't think this is a bad thing, but this scripture and another I was led to in Jeremiah 7:24 reminded me of the differences between desires and dreams and "vain imaginations". Jeremiah calls it "walking in the counsels and imaginations of their evil hearts" and they "went backwards and not forward". This got me thinking. Is my dream kitchen still just a day-dream I think about as I hand-wash my cheap, old dishes? Or has it defined who I want to be and the path I need to take to accomplish it? It got me thinking.
I have a friend who is now engaged to a wonderful man. She has been through so much, with two divorces and raising her three children alone. After returning to church activity about six years ago she made the choice to stop looking for what she didn't have and start focusing her energy on knowing her Heavenly Father and living to please only Him. She decided to dedicate her life and the life of her family to following Christ, serving others as best as she could, and choosing the right. In other words, she let go of the 'vain imaginations' of her heart. She understood that as long as she was doing what Heavenly Father wanted her to do, life would turn out the way that was best for her and her family, whatever that may be. If this meant she would one day meet a man and get married, then that was a nice twist in her journey, but it was not her ultimate goal anymore.
Then, about a year ago she met a man, but still she didn't let vain imaginations overcloud her goal to follow Heavenly Father's Will. To her delight, His Will led the two of them to eachother and they are now in the process of planning their wedding and their life together.
My own and my friend's experiences remind me of the importance of not allowing those 'vain imaginations', as fine and innocent as they may be, to become the actual goals we seek to achieve in life, occupying our thoughts, feelings and the intents of our heart. When we follow the goals outlined in the Gospel, that is when our greatest dreams and desires really come true... and it certainly takes the pressure out of thinking of ways to achieve those hefty goals!
And on that note I am going to try frying fish instead of baking it.