Wednesday, October 14

Reflecting, a Testimony, and My Hopes for the Next 5, 10, & 20 Years

When I was a girl (and that doesn't feel that long ago.......because it wasn't), I always dreamed of being married in an LDS temple, a mother of many children, an amazing cook, and having a beautiful, peaceful, and welcoming home where friends and neighbors felt welcome (on the ocean or a lake...minor details;). Those were my main goals. I also wanted to be an editor or writer and to graduate from BYU with a degree in English and travel.

In one of my last high school English classes with my favorite teacher of all time, Mr. Hutchison, we made poster boards with our life goals depicted on it. I can still picture my poster, and I'm pretty sure it is buried somewhere in my old room (the room which now belongs to my brother, Donovan).

Today, as I was considering where I hope to be in the next 5, 10, 20 years, it occurred to me that where I am now, at 24, is pretty much right where I had hoped to be six years ago as an 18-year old young woman (including the goals/hopes that I didn't have a lot of control over, like getting married).

I attended BYU-Idaho, was set up with my wonderful future husband while there, married him in the Boston temple, worked as an administrative assistant in an office (I'd always wanted to work in an office...I loved it more than any other job), learned to cook well (still improving daily), started my family (and have been so blessed by my darling girl and boy), graduated from BYU with my bachelor's in English, traveled quite a bit within the U.S. in the last four years (I've been to New Hampshire six times since leaving home, Florida twice, San Diego, Arizona twice, Las Vegas, and Idaho many times). We have no debt, a reliable car, a great ward, and Dalin has a great job. We haven't had any major health problems, financial problems, or issues in our marriage. Sometimes (okay, quite often) I wonder when the Big One is going to hit. The big trial that will seriously test my faith and that we will struggle to get through as a family. (If you know me, I'm a pretty optimistic person but I have my negative (or as I prefer to say, realist) moments).

I share this in awe because I feel so immensely grateful for the blessings my family has received, and which I have received personally. I do not know why or how I've been so lucky but the only thing I can attribute these things to is my daily choice to live the gospel of Jesus Christ.

My life is by no means a cakewalk. I have trials that test me personally, and I have doubted before. Questions have entered my mind and still do sometimes and I've felt my faith tested. But when those doubts have come into my mind, I've recalled the words of a wise apostle: "Doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith." I've prayed for strength. I've prayed for knowledge of the truth and for answers. And through my own pondering, prayer, and scripture reading, I have found answers. I did not sit idly by and hope for a vision. I have sought out answers or the peace to accept things as they are without my full comprehension of them, trusting that someday I would be provided with an answer. These thoughts have crossed my mind before: I don't want to go to church today, and What if I just stopped going? But during these instances, in the back of my mind I have felt the gentle reminder that the gospel has never led me astray--instead it has only guided me to true happiness whenever I have let it.

Sometimes the gospel feels complicated. There are so many responsibilities and things I should be doing that it's overwhelming and my sights and desires are not always aligned with that of Heavenly Father. But it's me who is making it complicated, because really, the gospel is very simple, and our Father does not expect perfection. He knows we will make mistakes and loves us for it anyway. We just have to be the best we can be and that is enough because of the sacrifice of our loving Brother, Jesus Christ.

I feel fervently that my efforts to live the gospel have been key to my happiness. I have strived to live the gospel throughout my life and I truly believe I have been rewarded for it. I know that this does not mean those who have had trials--trials which I cannot even fathom facing--have done less or more poorly than I have. In many instances, they've probably done better to demonstrate their immense faith. I also know that hard things may be ahead for me and my family. But I believe that Heavenly Father does not give us more than we can handle. He knows our limits and He tests us to strengthen our faith, which, like a muscle, will grow the more we endure.

I have joked that I must not be able to handle very much because I have not been given any significant trials, just lots of little ones. But Heavenly Father knows me, and I trust in Him.

With that shared, my goal in the next five years is to have more babies, continue to travel and take vacations as a family (hopefully, Ireland and Scotland, but I can wait if need be), read more, worry less, play with my kids more, paint more, be happier, and more grateful for what I have. I hope in the next five years we will be settled in a home and that Dalin will have completed his master's and have started a career he will love. I hope we will all be healthy and be able to visit our extended family often. I hope I will have found an enjoyable means of contributing to our family income that will not take me away from my children.

In the next ten years, I hope we will have completed our family, moved to the east coast (ideally;), and settled in a home we can remain in for many years to come. I hope we will be close to the ocean or a lake and that we will be able to travel often to visit family. I hope my children will be strong in the gospel and be healthy and smart and active in school activities.

In twenty years, I hope we will be sending Tenley and Declan off to universities and missions and preparing them for eternal marriages. I hope my other children will continue to be strong in the gospel and excel in school and whatever interests they pursue. I hope we will have traveled as a family to Europe and been excellent examples of service to others, both in our community and in other places in the world. I hope I will have taken on a job as an editor or writer or teacher (or something else I'd love) and be able to support our family. I hope we will have taken some risks, like flipping a house, or traveling cross-country with our family. I hope Dalin and I will continue to nurture our marriage and our love for one another will grow even stronger. I hope we will look back on the last twenty-something years of marriage and be proud of all we have accomplished. I hope we will have created the beginning of a family legacy that our parents, grandparents, and ancestors would be proud of.

Those are my hopes for the little Gunnell family. I don't expect them all to happen, but I know that we are in good hands and in the end, everything will work out.

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