***My sisters and I are pleased to have a guest blogger, Jamie Johnson here on The Kusi Life sharing her story in our “See the Happy” Series.
My story begins by a lighthouse in a small coastal town of Portugal. My father was serving as Mission President and I was 16 years old. As a family, we would often visit this particular spot on the beach and I loved to sit on the craggy rocks and listen to the music of the ocean waves. But the best part happened when the sun would set and the lights of the lighthouse would turn on, casting their piercing glow out into the darkness.
The lighthouse left a lasting impression upon my heart, and it became a metaphor for my life. I desired to be a keeper of the Lord’s lighthouse. I wanted to shine the light of Christ so others could return safely to the harbor of His love.
Fast forward a few years and I was sitting right here in the 2012 Time Out For Women Conference. By this time, I was married with three small children under 5. My hands were quite full but so was my heart. And I came to the Conference searching for guidance on how I could better shine His light. My answer came when a presenter taught 3 key steps to incorporate service in our everyday lives. First, open eyes to see. Second, open hearts to feel. And third, take action – your way. The message of doing service in my own way had never occurred to me. Because I did not love to bake cookies or casseroles or sew beautiful quilts, I felt like service was pure drudgery. But that day a spark was lit within me. I realized that service is key to shining His light and I knew I needed to find “my way” to arise to the call. As it turns out, the way found me.
I remember the day in 2014 when snuggled up on my couch, I watched the replay of Elder David A. Bednar’s address given at BYU Education Week. He spoke of sweeping the earth with a flood of light and truth. He exhorted us to #sharegoodness on the internet and social media. In that moment, I was overwhelmed with the strongest desire to be a writer of light, hope, and peace.
My mind traveled back in time to my childhood days when I all I wanted was to be an author. The countless stories, poems, and essays that are all packed up in my attic boxes attest to this. But somewhere along the way, I stopped writing because I felt it would be selfish to do something I enjoyed when my hands were full mothering small children. I told myself that someday I would write again, maybe when all my children left the house and I had more time. I convinced myself that writing wasn’t a necessity, just a hobby that could be put aside for half a lifetime.
But the message to serve in my own way, coupled with Elder Bednar’s admonition caused deep feelings to stir in my heart. I wondered if I had been hiding my light under a bushel. Perhaps my love for writing wasn’t just a hobby. Maybe it was my way to serve. When I went to the Lord and asked Him to confirm this call to #sharegoodness through writing, I was led quite remarkably to a passage of scripture in Mosiah 15:16-17:
“And again, how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those that are still publishing peace!
“And again, how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those who shall hereafter publish peace, yea, from this time henceforth and forever!”
As I contemplated the parallel of “publishing peace” and pushing a “publish” button to post on a blog, my eyes filled with tears. Within these verses, I found my answer, and so my blog (writinginthestillness.com), was born.
For several years, my vision was to change the world through words of goodness and peace. I wanted to stand as a guardian of the Lord’s lighthouse and shine His light. My intentions were good, but my understanding was shallow. I became sidetracked with growing my social media and gaining new followers because it was the only way I thought I could make a difference.
Then last year, my story took an unexpected turn that changed my focus forevermore.
Three days after the birth of our 4th child, I started experiencing extreme pain in my chest. Each breath felt like a knife stabbing right in the center of my back. The most disconcerting of all was the slow thrum of my heart – as if giant hands were holding it tight and each beat was trying desperately to break free. I felt for my pulse and wondered, can it really be ticking this slowly? Lightheaded as I stood up, I carried my baby into my husband and told him my symptoms. I asked him to check my pulse. He’s a physical therapist – I knew he’d know what to do.
The concern in his eyes betrayed his voice as he told me my heart rate was only 37 beats per minute. Just the thought that my heart was not working properly sent me into a wave of panic that something wasn’t right.
By 11:00 that night we were in the emergency room and I was rushed through procedures and tests of all kinds to find the culprit of my condition. The whiteboard on the wall displayed the care team and treatment measures to be filled in by the nurse. But I couldn’t stop staring at the words on the bottom of the board: “Going Home.” I assumed this section was meant to be filled with a time of discharge, but I couldn’t help wondering which “home” I would be returning to that night.
I tried to think of my sweet family to get my mind off the anxiety of it all, but each memory was haunting. Flashes of my sweet children played before my eyes like scenes on a movie screen. I saw them playing and dancing, their laughter echoing through the corridors of my mind. Each memory broke my heart in pieces wondering if I would be granted the opportunity to continue to raise them. All I wanted was to go home and cradle them in my arms and be with them and kiss them and love them. But in the rush of getting to the ER, I hadn’t kissed their sleeping faces. What if I never had the chance to say goodbye? Would I ever get to see them again?
It would be several long days and more tests before the doctors knew for certain that I was experiencing Peripartum Cardiomyopathy – a rare form of heart failure induced by pregnancy. Medication was prescribed, a blessing was given, and prayers were said. And through the Lord’s tender mercies, my life was spared. I did return home and since that day, each moment with my family has been ever so precious.
When the Savior gave His Sermon on the Mount He said: “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.
“Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
I realize now that for most of my life, I had only focused on being the light on the hill and shining forth the rays from His lighthouse. But I had glossed over the part about lighting a candle on a candlestick and giving light to “all that are in the house.”
My heart failure softened and changed my heart to accept the candle, the small stewardship, that the Lord was giving me. Little by little, my desire changed from wanting to reach the whole world to only desiring to minister to my family and those in my small sphere — one by one. I still strive to be a keeper of the light, but now I am shining His light closer to home. I don’t need followers — I want to be a follower of my Lord and Savior. My mission is merely to point others to the Master in the smallest and simplest of ways.
So with little grandeur or fanfare, I wholeheartedly homeschool my four precious children and together we are learning to serve one by one in our own special ways.
We delight in bringing home a resident of our local care center to our Christmas Eve dinner each year. We are saving money to start a family charity called “Blossoms of Grace” so we can take monthly bouquets of flowers to each resident of the care center. We are creating “boxes of sunshine,” to give to those who may need some extra love.
We are uncovering the gifts of our children and discovering the ways in which they would each like to serve. And I continue to write words of encouragement on my small and simple blog — only now I know it doesn’t matter how many followers I have. The Lord doesn’t want me to reach the whole world. He wants me to reach “the one.” And the greatest “ones” who need my ministering are the “ones” I tuck into bed each night. Out in the dark world, my small candle is but a speck of light, but here in my home, it can light up an entire room. I know I have found my purpose.
So to each one of you, I would invite you to find your own ways to serve that light up your soul with joy and then accept the Lord’s call to shine forth no matter how small or insignificant your candlelight seems. Arise and join the ranks of our Lord by ministering in His way – one by one. Hold up His light and let it shine. Together, we can fill the earth with light, one flicker at a time.
Jamie is wife and mother of four. Her family lives in a white farmhouse on a 2-acre piece of farmland. She says it’s her little slice of heaven on earth and wouldn’t trade it for the world. She loves her simple life. She homeschools and enjoys each day with whitespace to create & treasure family memories. She also delights in the daily pockets of quiet to ponder, read, write, & enjoy each precious moment. She blogs over at Writing In The Stillnes