"No obstacles are insurmountable when God commands and we obey"
- - Heber J. Grant
March 6, 2013
It All Matters
by Marian Stoddard

There are a lot of things that I simply can’t do. It’s not that I don’t want to do them, because I do. I would love to be able to come help you pack for a move, or tell you to drop off your small children so I can watch them for you. But I am physically unable to do those things.

When I said something to that effect one day after our Wednesday class, one of the sisters gave a slight wave of the back of her hand in dismissal.

“Oh, that’s not important, anyone can do that.” Well, no, I thought, ‘anyone’ can’t. I can’t, and I want to. Even after all the years that I have adjusted to my limitations, there are still moments when I really, really, just want to tear into something that needs doing, or be first in line to bring help, to be able to do something that needs doing without worrying about it. Her meaning was that I can teach, and she found more value in that, and I am grateful that she feels that way. I love to teach the gospel; I am grateful to be able to do so, and grateful for the spiritual help I find every week. It would be nice, though, to be able to do those other things, too.

I am way ahead of where I have been.

I was injured a great many years ago, sitting at a red light, hit by a pickup truck whose driver was not thinking as he came around a curve in the road. I spent sixteen months in physical therapy and recovered slowly, but not completely.

It was ten years later that I started having sciatica, while my dearest friend was dying of cancer. (See “Do you believe?” June 13, 2012.) I pushed that aside in my need to spend time with her, and promised my family that I would catch up on everything that needed doing once the end came. Then a week after the funeral I suffered a massive disc rupture while simply reaching over for something as I got ready for church.

This brought me brutally up against my limitations, which were now sharply increased. When they ask you to rate your pain on a scale of one to ten (I hate that question) this was the measure of ‘ten.’

I often already felt like a failure. I measured my life as a mother by all the things I was not doing well, by the tasks. I felt very inadequate.

Now, I could not stand for more than a few minutes, I could not stay sitting for more than twenty, or walk normally. (I felt like a stroke victim, moving one foot forward maybe half a stride, bringing the other up to meet it, then the first foot forward again.) I could not drive. Any mom with teenagers has “chauffeur” at the top of her job description, so schedules were an immediate crisis. Dinner became whatever I could fix in small steps, lying back down in between, so we had a lot of stew or—horrors—box mixes. I spent most of my time lying down on the couch with support under my knees, and to get up off of it, at the beginning, well…it was neither easy nor quick.

But, less capable of the tasks than I had ever been, I came to realize that I was still “the Mom.” I was in charge of home and children. I still had the responsibility and capability of directing things at home and teaching my kids, and I came to see that I was doing a good job of the things that really mattered. My children were old enough to help, mostly, and they were willing. My husband took up as much of the slack as he could. Life with teenagers and younger children at the same time was crazy enough before, and crazier now, but we got through it.

In my forced physical inactivity, I had a lot of quiet time to think, read, pray, and study. I did have some improvement from the intense pain and curtailment at the beginning, but ultimately the choice was surgery or be crippled for life. I shouldn’t have let fear delay me.

Some days I have just had to repeat to myself, “It will all be fixed in the resurrection.” I have come to terms with being careful, pacing myself, and continuing my ‘rehab’ program indefinitely. I have been in additional accidents, none of which would have given me much trouble except that I was already injured. And I can’t come help you pack up your belongings, instead I have to ask for help with mine. Sometimes that’s hard. My youngest daughter, only three when my back went ‘splat,’ had a much different experience than my oldest, who will remember me getting down on the floor to play. But I was, I am, still the mom, and it is the connections of heart and testimony that matter the most, not the physical work you can or can’t do. It’s the true attention that’s really important. Love, faith, service, and choices are what make us who we are.

It’s good to know that the Lord can teach and use every one of us. I really do love to teach. It doesn’t matter what your circumstances, the Lord can use you in some way. If it’s as simple as sending a note, making a phone call, stopping to really look and listen to someone who’s having a rough time, each of us can make a difference. Each person matters so much. If you will be in tune, you will find and see so many ways, and find so many blessings.

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About Marian Stoddard

Marian J. Stoddard was born in Washington, D.C., and grew up in its Maryland suburbs. Her father grew up in Carson City, Nevada, and her mother in Salt Lake City, so she was always partly a Westerner at heart, and she ended up raising her family in Washington State. Her family took road trips all over the United States and Canada, so there were lots of adventures.

The adventures of music, literature, and art were also valued and pursued. Playing tourist always included the local museums as well as historical sites and places of natural beauty. Discussions at home, around the dinner table or working in the kitchen, could cover politics, philosophy, or poetry, with the perspective of the gospel underlying all. Words and ideas, and testimony and service, were the family currency.

Marian graduated from Winston Churchill High School in Potomac, Maryland, and attended the University of Utah as the recipient of the Ralph Hardy Memorial Scholarship, where she was graduated with honors, receiving a B.A. in English. She also met the love of her life, a law student, three weeks after her arrival; she jokes that she had to marry him because her mother always wanted a tenor in the family. (She sings second soprano.) They were married two years later and have six children and six grandchildren (so far). She treasures her family, her friends, and her opportunities to serve.

Visit Marian at her blog, greaterthansparrows.  You can contact her at bloggermarian@gmail.com. 

Marian and her husband live in Tacoma, Washington. Together they teach those who are preparing to go to the temple for the first time, and she also teaches a Stake Relief Society Institute class.

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