"Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next."
- - Ezra Taft Benson
May 22, 2012
The Picture of Contentment and Peace
by Vickey Pahnke Taylor

She was digging a hole. All alone, with a plastic pail and an ice cream scoop, she sat in the back yard. In her own little world, she hummed as she dug up little tiny bits of earth. Smiling and talking quietly to herself, she was the picture of contentment and peace.

Her name was Sally. She was 47 years old. I watched her for a while, and then approached to learn more about Sally and about this project of hers. What she told me took me back a bit, and it taught me yet again about the purity and goodness of these angel-people among us.

"I'm making happy space. I'm making Mother Nature smile and putting love into the earth."

This didn't make much sense to me, so I figured she needed to talk down to me, so I'd get it. Long ago, working with Special Olympics athletes, I'd learned about these amazing folks. It had been very clear to me that, although many of them have a limited vocabulary, their ability to understand things of most importance is stellar. If I don't listen carefully enough, I lose the immense lessons they can share with me.

So I asked her if she could explain more about this project of hers.

"Sure," she said. "I take out some of this dirt and I thank it for helping us. We can put seeds in it and water it and take care of it. Then, we can grow flowers or bushes or even trees. Then, trees can be a little home for birds."

I was starting to get it - beginning to see things from the point of view of a soul who looks with pure eyes. Who is captivated by the tiniest miracles of nature - every wind that blows, each leaf dancing in the wind, and every petal in a perfect flower. A soul who treats the earth as sacred.

But there was yet another lesson for Sallie to teach me.

"So, what are you putting in this hole you're digging?" I asked.

"Lots and lots of love. After I talk to these dirts [I loved the way she said that] I will put them back in the hole again. But they will be full of love, because I told them that I love them."

She smiled the sweetest smile. It melted my heart. And I got it. Here was authenticity at its finest. Wisdom at its core. Peace in the midst of a world gone a little bit crazy - or OCD about having everything "perfect." I guess I learned - as I have over and over again - that perfection is all in the eye of the beholder.

I'd take Sally's back yard any day over the Better Homes and Gardens "picture of perfection." Perfection - the word- seems an awful lot different than it did when I was younger, though. I'd most likely choose a raggedy pair of jeans with years of memories attached than a pricey new pair. I'll take comfort over style most times. And a dug-up yard filled with "Lots and lots of love."

Sally's yard is a yard full of uneven grass. A few bushes have even been dug up "because they needed a little bit of extra loves." They're a little ragged for the experience, but still growing and still green. Long ago, a smart and loving mother learned to let it go. To create different priorities. To be content with her daughter's contentment. That's what moms do.

She figured that lots of people can have perfectly manicured lawns. But not everybody can have a yard with so much "tending." And she supposes that our Father in Heaven would rather enjoy that polka-dot lawn, all filled up with love.

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About Vickey Pahnke Taylor

Vickey Pahnke Taylor is a wife, mom, grandmother, teacher, author, and songwriter. Her undergraduate study at BYU was musical theater. She has a Masters degree in interpersonal communications.

A Billboard award-winning songwriter with hundreds of songs to her credit, she uses music as a teaching tool. But her favorite way to use music has been to sing to her children. You should hear the family's rousing versions of "Happy Birthday"!

In addition to three solo albums in the LDS market, she co-wrote "Women at the Well" with Kenneth Cope and "My Beloved Christ: with Randy Kartchner. She is co-writer of the theme song for Utah's Make-A-Wish foundation, the song for the Special Olympics program, and EFY's theme song.

She writes for several online magazines and columns, and has authored several books. Her website, www.goodnessmatters.com, is her way of continuing to grow goodness in the world, pointing people gently toward Christ and eternal principles of truth.

She has spoken for the Church's various Youth and Family programs for 25 years. She and her husband Dean have eight children and four grandchildren. She adores being a wife, mom and grandmother. She loves flowers, brownies, cooking Italian and Southern foods, the ocean, and laughing every chance she gets.

Vickey was baptized a member of the Church as a teenager in Virginia. She serves as gospel doctrine teacher in her ward, and Dean serves on their stake high council.

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