The holidays can be joyful for many of us, or really, really hard. Right now, my sweet mother-in-law is in a nursing facility, away from all of her family and our many holiday traditions with her. Any of us could be mourning the passing of a loved one, or feel trapped at home in order to stay healthy, experiencing poor health, or watching our adult children struggle with something hard. Life isn’t fair.
How can some have loving husbands and others be divorced, or feel trapped in unhappy marriages? How can some people have children, and others be infertile? I posted earlier about the prophet Zenos’ Allegory of The Tame and Wild Olive Trees in Jacob 5 in the Book of Mormon. It is such a comforting scripture passage for me. In the allegory, at one point the Lord of the Vineyard talks about planting trees in “a poor spot of ground”. If you were put in a poor spot of the Vineyard, we are promised in Jacob 5 of the Book of Mormon that the Lord of the Vineyard will always nourish us.
21 And it came to pass that the servant said unto his master: How comest thou hither to plant this tree, or this branch of the tree? For behold, it was the poorest spot in all the land of thy vineyard.
22 And the Lord of the vineyard said unto him: Counsel me not; I knew that it was a poor spot of ground; wherefore, I said unto thee, I have nourished it this long time, and thou beholdest that it hath brought forth much fruit.
72 And it came to pass that the servants did go and labor with their mights; and the Lord of the vineyard labored also with them; and they did obey the commandments of the Lord of the vineyard in all things. Jacob 5: 21,22, 72
Which of us doesn’t have poor spots? You might say, ” I have pages and pages of them!”, and the Lord would say He has unlimited angels seen and unseen to help you through those poor spots.
I thought I would tell you about one of my poor spots.
My mother receded from my life when I was a mother with young children, in my late twenties. She had a Ph. D. in Child Development, she taught at BYU for a while, and I needed her wisdom and help. The irony was, I was feeling completely overwhelmed, and my mother was an expert in child raising. Her own challenges made her withdraw in discouragement and become very bitter. I remember one call when I said after a few words, “So you don’t even want to see your grandchildren?” and she sighed, loudly and said, “If you put them on the phone, I will talk to them.” This has been one of the biggest trials of my life, to be everything my mother raised me to be, and for her to lose interest in me and my family.
Through the years the Lord labored with me, as it says above in Jacob 5:72. My mother had a long, terrible menopause without any hormonal intervention or help. As I started menopause, I called my older sister and she said, “Just so you know, it might be a long haul for you– we have a 15 year menopause.” As I studied more, I realized that menopause can be brief or…up to 15 years. My genetic history was on the far edge of the extreme edge. That helped me understand my mother better. Her experience also helped me to find a trusted medical advisor to help me manage better than my mother had, hormonally. The Lord also nourished me by helping me have compassion for my parents, who were unhappy at 30 years of marriage, and hung in there for another 10, and finally divorced at 40 years. I was nourished with understanding. I realized one reason my mother got her Ph.D. was to prove to my father that she was as smart as he was. She went through all that and it didn’t change their relationship. All of that effort and her life didn’t change for the better.
The Lord of the Vineyard kept tending my poor spots. My mother-in-law has always loved me dearly. She calls me her angel. Who wouldn’t like sharing every holiday with someone whose eyes light up when they see you? We spent every Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter together. Over and over I have seen, when I have a lack in something, the Lord of the Vineyard finds a wonderful substitute to nourish me.
The Lord labored with me to have compassion for my mother, to realize I got her best self in the most important part of my life, when I was young and in my formative years. When I finally went through menopause I could relate even more.
Also in my part of the vineyard was a neighbor, Sandra Whitaker. My mother was her Young Women’s leader over 55 years ago when we lived in St. Louis, and Heavenly Father placed Sandra right across the street from me. I visit taught Sandra for years, as part of my church stewardship, and when we made the connection of living in St. Louis at the same time, and that she knew my family well, it was such a miracle for me. Sandra knew my mother at a happy time in her life and she will bring up my mother every now and then, and tell me how joyful she was, and encouraging and loving. It is such a great comfort to me!
The Allegory of the Wild and Tame Olive Trees has brought me so much hope and comfort over the years. I saw what bitterness did to my mother. With all of my heart I wanted a different experience.
As we deal with our poor spots through “the most wonderful time of the year”, my hope is that we can notice all that is going right in our lives, how we are being well nourished by the Lord of the Vineyard laboring with us.