A Lesson from Cleaning Blinds

We go along, busy with life, work, school, church responsibilities, families, thinking things are okay. But when we take time to sit back and ponder having the Spirit or the Light with us, we look a little closer and we can see that there are some things, or “dirt,” that we can clean out of our lives to be clean and pure before the Lord.

I went to Utah to help our son with his boys while his wife went to Girls’ Camp – a week-long camp for teenage girls. I knew she had been busy, not only with her three small boys, but there is a lot to do when you are in charge of a Girls’ Camp: you are planning activities as well as food. So I wanted to help with some of the deep cleaning that I knew she had not had time to do.

One of the things I wanted to do was clean her blinds and windows – sometimes those are the things that get forgotten or are last on the list. I told my son one evening that that would be my main focus the next day. He looked at them and said, “Mom, don’t worry about it. They don’t need to be cleaned.” I thought, “Well, it’s dark, and you can’t see that they do need it without the daylight.”

So the next day, their oldest son and I started to clean them while the other two played beside us. We were about done with the first big window when we looked and saw how dirty the wash water had gotten. I started to think about how this can relate to our spiritual lives. We can sometimes get so caught up in our everyday activities that we forget to do some of the little things that help us stay close to our Father in Heaven. We could say, “I don’t have time to read my scriptures today, so I’ll read extra tomorrow,” and then tomorrow it is easier to put it off one more day. Extracurricular activities may get in the way of Family Home Evening. “I’m too tired to pray on my knees tonight, so I will say a quick prayer in bed.” But we never get to the ‘Amen.’

We are counseled by our church leaders to do these things daily as a family and personally, because, if we don’t, our lives can soon become like the blinds in the darkness. We can’t see the dirt or ‘sin’ that we are letting in. Only with the Light of Christ can we truly see that those little things we do daily can bring us closer to Him and our eternal salvation.

John 8:12 – “Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”

Removing the Umbrella of Ingratitude

Christ’s Examples of Gratitude
When I think of gratitude, I think of our Savior Jesus Christ.  He is the perfect exemplar of gratitude.  In Matthew 15, Jesus feeds 4,000 with seven loaves of bread and “a few little fishes.”  As He takes the meager offerings of food, He gives thanks to His Father in Heaven before passing it to the hungry followers.  His disciples watch, I’m sure amazed, at the miracle that transpires before them.

Again, Christ shows us the example of gratitude when raising Lazarus from the dead.  In John 11, Mary and Martha weep for the loss of their brother.  Despite the doubt of the crowd that gathers, Jesus asks Martha to remove the stone covering the burial cave.  We read in verse 41, “Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid.  And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me.”  He calls Lazarus to come forth, and the crowd sees the Lord perform yet another miracle according to the will of the Father.  

The President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, President Thomas S. Monson, shares the account of the Lord healing the ten lepers in a talk on gratitude – An Attitude of Gratitude.  Christ heals ten lepers, and only one follows our Savior’s example by turning back and giving thanks.  President Monson then speaks of the plagues of today – how they linger, debilitate, and destroy.  “We know them as selfishness, greed, indulgence, cruelty, and crime, to identify a few.  Surfeited with their poison, we tend to criticize, to complain, to blame, and, slowly but surely, to abandon the positives and adopt the negatives of life.”

Glass Half-Empty
Unfortunately, I have to admit that I am one who often sees the glass half empty and the grass greener on the other side.  So often have I done as President Monson said and adopted the negatives of life.  In reading this talk, I had started to notice just how much I had abandoned the positives for the negatives.  I can tell you by experience that this way doesn’t lead to happiness.  About a year ago, I started to notice that I complained to my husband about everything.  I would complain about my old job, school, my wardrobe, not having enough time in the day, having too much time in the day, traffic, being too hot in the summer and being too cold in the winter.  You name it, and I’ve probably complained about it.  That’s a lot of griping for what was only a year of marriage at the time.  

After I realized how much complaining I was doing, I knew it needed to stop.  I prayed and prayed to my Heavenly Father for help.  His help came.  I lost my job.  That same week my husband lost his job.  My prayer was answered, and I stopped complaining.  I began to fear.  I feared, stressed and worried about our finances, our future, what we were going to do, where we going to live, how we were going to eat.  Again, I looked at the negatives of the situation and vented that to my husband.  It was in those wonderful moments that my husband reminded me of the love of our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.  As long as we have faith in them and rely on them, they will bless us in our circumstances.  

Shortly after losing our jobs, a leader of the church, Dieter F. Uchtdorf, gave a talk on living the gospel joyfully.  He gave the analogy of an umbrella.  He said, “Heavenly Father is constantly raining blessings upon us.  It is our fear, doubt, and sin that, like an umbrella, block these blessings from reaching us.”  

I took this statement home with me and truly pondered it.  It opened my eyes to seeing what had happened to me when I let all the negativity into my life.  It wasn’t just an umbrella of fear, doubt, and faith.  It can be an umbrella of ingratitude that prevents us from also seeing the blessings the Lord has for us.  I decided to change.  I told the Lord I would do all that I can and give it my best effort to remove the umbrella of ingratitude if He would help me see the blessings raining down.  

Removing the Umbrella
As the next few days passed, my eyes were opened to the many blessings the Lord had to offer us.  I saw clearly the Lord’s hand in our life as I strived to be more grateful in our circumstance.  A wonderful, inexpensive apartment became available for us, Keith got a job, and somehow, even without a second income, we always seemed to have money to pay the bills.  Each time I saw a miracle, no matter how big or small, I immediately thanked my Heavenly Father, not only for the wonderful blessing, but for the grateful eyes that saw it.  

Alma 34:38 tells us to “live in thanksgiving daily, for the many mercies and blessings which [the Lord] doth bestow upon [us].”  Each time I saw a tender mercy or blessing from the Lord, I wrote it down to always remember the experience and to show Heavenly Father how truly grateful and mindful I was of His hand in our life.  In the words of President Monson, “Regardless of our circumstances, each of us has much for which to be grateful if we will but pause and contemplate our blessings.”  

I still catch myself complaining, criticizing, or judging, but I also know that the Lord is helping me.  As we strive daily to recognize the blessings we have been given, in times of comfort as well as in times of distress, the negatives of life will be abandoned, the positives of life will be adopted, and our hearts will be made grateful.  To quote President Monson once more: “a grateful heart … comes through expressing gratitude to our Heavenly Father for His blessings and to those around us for all that they bring into our lives. This requires conscious effort—at least until we have truly learned and cultivated an attitude of gratitude.”