Stale Bread

[ 17 ] Comments

by Marie Leslie

stale bread

I had a dream about bread last night.

In my dream, I was sitting with a friend with whom I often discuss things spiritual.  We are of different Christian faiths, but we are still of like minds and often discuss our spiritual issues and share our thoughts about God and religion and life with each other.  For some reason I wished to give my friend some bread.  And so I began pulling bread from my bag, but it was all crusts and stale and crumbled bread, and I had no good bread to give her, which distressed me and made me very sad.

As is rarely the case, upon waking my dream remained vividly in my mind — every detail.  Very often, I don’t remember dreaming at all, but I don’t sleep much, so that might have something to do with it.   As I pondered on this dream I was reminded of this scripture from the book of John, “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst (John 6:35).”

I began thinking about the significance of this dream. While I don’t take a huge stock in dreams, I do believe that sometimes they do have something to teach us. I clearly have something to learn here.

I only have stale bread to give. Why? I live a righteous life—at least I tell myself I do. I attend church every Sunday; I fulfill my calling. Admittedly there is always room to improve, but I am there. I am often pondering on principles of the gospel.

But over the past several weeks and months it seems that I have allowed the busyness of everyday life, the trials of motherhood and running a home, the challenges of running a small business, and all the other bits and pieces to take over my life, leaving me less time for studying the words of Christ and for nurturing my spiritual side.  This is not a good thing. My religious beliefs and my spirituality have always been an important part of my life.

Lately, I have felt overwhelmed. Some days it feels that there is so much to be done, though so much of it doesn’t seem all that significant. But I can’t seem to figure out lately which are the real priorities? How do I reconcile the temporal needs of my life with the spiritual ones? How do I trade my stale crusts for fresh bread that will fill and nourish both body and spirit?

by zakwitnij (CC)

So I begin the process of examining my life. What is it that has taken me away from studying the gospel and feasting upon the words of Christ? Why is there always a reason that I have time for only a quick reading of a chapter or two in the scriptures, or thumbing through a church magazine but no time to study and ponder? And even though a temple is less than 30 minutes away, why can I so rarely find my way there, to receive the peace and restoration I will find within its walls?

I think about what I am doing and realize that I have fallen into the trap of mistaking busyness for productivity. And as I have worked harder and harder each day, I feel like I am running up a never-ending down escalator. The faster I run, the faster it moves, until finally I can no longer keep up and I feel myself beginning to slide backwards while my goal of peace—and bread—moves ever farther from my view.

It is time to remove from my life the things that make me busy while leading me away from where I need to be. It’s not an easy process. Yes, some of those things are dalliances and time wasters, yet some are good and worthy pursuits. But if they aren’t leading me toward that strong relationship with Christ—and to the bread He offers—they aren’t worthy of my time.

As I begin to reprioritize my life, I am reminded of the words of Ezra Taft Benson, “When we put God first, all other things fall into their proper place or drop out of our lives. Our love of the Lord will govern the claims for our affection, the demands on our time, the interests we pursue, and the order of our priorities.”

While giving up some of my busyness will not be easy, it will be good. I have convinced myself that what I do is important, but when I look at it in the context of putting God first, it really isn’t. Some old habits will be harder to break and others I will be happy to set aside. I’ve already given up the silly online games that I rationalized with the thought that it gave my mind a break. Monitoring the time I spend online to make sure it’s really purposeful is a habit I will need to work at a bit more diligently. And I am pretty sure that my penchant for murder mysteries, while not bad in and of themselves could be tempered with more time spent reading books and articles that edify and inspire. My life will not in any way be diminished by the new habits I make and by reclaiming my time for that which is most important.

As I stop spending my “labor for that which cannot satisfy (2 Nephi 9:51), “I can already feel the fog lifting and my soul becoming lighter. I am looking forward to refocusing on my spiritual side and my soul eagerly awaits the promise of fresh bread and never hungering.

17 Responses to Stale Bread

  1. Paul says:

    This is a fascinating post to me. On the one hand, it is another take on the concept of Good, Better, Best — that we must prioritize our lives to take advantage of what Father would want us to have. On the other hand, it seems to place on us yet one more burden for finding our own way.

    Does our Father in Heaven want us to feel overwhelmed? And when we do, does He want us to bear responsibility for that? Or is there a place for us to place this burden at his feet? Is there a way to take up His yoke in a way that His burden is light?

    • Marie Leslie says:

      I don’t think Father in Heaven wants us to feel overwhelmed, Paul. I know I frequently find myself in a state of overwhelm, but I have come to recognize that it is nearly always of my own making. In my eagerness to serve or to share my talents–or sometimes, just to be needed–I commit myself to far more than I know is healthy. And I finally recognized this year that in doing so, I am actually acting selfishly for, not only can I not do my best when I am overwhelmed, but by overcommiting, I deny others the opportunities to serve and share their talents. I think He wants us to learn to pace ourselves and to learn to listen to the spirit in choosing what is not only best for us but best for the circumstance as well.

    • MSKeller says:

      I agree Paul, even as I wrote a similar article entitled “Enough” – I struggle to know what on earth I can eliminate. It seems it isn’t about ‘good, better’ best’ but ‘best, best, best’ and which one to ignore. This quote is one I constantly come back to from Anne Morrow Lindbergh – ” My life cannot implement in action the demands of all the people to wom my heart responds”. I struggle daily with ‘too busy’ and to understand which of all the essentials that I can eliminate. Every one chosen will have consequences and unintended consequences in tandem.

  2. jendoop says:

    I’m with Paul on this. I appreciate your post and I agree, but I need more. This week I feel that my calling is the thing that is merely crust, yet I’m told at church that it is part of my relationship with God.

    Last night in the dark hours long after I had turned off the light to sleep I knew that some of what burdened me unnecessarily came on me because I did not ask God before I committed. But still here I am, committed. Does that mean that I, and by association my family, has to endure my over-commitment? How do I reconcile all that seems necessary? Then add in the little surprises like sickness, deceit, human failings, etc.

    All too often I am tempted to stand a little further outside the community of saints to feel the lightness of Christ’s burden. Sometimes the pressure to conform to others’ expectations is the straw that breaks my back.

    • Marie Leslie says:

      I feel your pain, Jen. I really do. I’ve spent much of the last several months in a state of overwhelm. Part of it came from overcommitment–like agreeing to take on stake assignments when my ward calling was more than busy enough–and without asking God before I committed. I have to re-learn that not all requests to serve must be answered with a yes. My overcommitment was compounded by a family situation that could not be passed off to others because there are no others to pass it off to. And when I realized it was so much more than I bargained for, even then I did not choose to ask for help as the spirit prompted or even to delegate out commitments I could have. And now I am paying the price with both physical and spiritual exhaustion.

      I have felt that pressure to conform keenly since I was very young. I didn’t do it well then and I didn’t deal so well with it either. It took me many years to realize that I could choose not to conform to those expectations and still be a righteous and worthy member of God’s kingdom. But sometimes it is still a struggle and it can make me feel very much like I am standing outside of the community of saints. But I haven’t quite figured that one out yet, so I keep struggling and keep trying and hang on to the hope that I will eventually figure it out.

    • MSKeller says:

      Waiting for these same answers Jen. There has to be something I’m missing, I keep feeling. Some principle I’m not seeing correctly, a talk I’ve not read that will give me that ‘ah-hah!’ moment. My daughter has the same questions and frustrations and while I long to be able to give her answers, I don’t have any for myself either.

      • jendoop says:

        Thank you both for sharing, even if there aren’t clear answers it feels nice to know that others are searching too. I guess in this way we find a place in the community of saints, with each other. What is also good about your comments is that even though you aren’t getting immediate answers you are still living a life of faith, moving forward confident that the Lord will answer in his time.

        Yesterday while walking I had a small ‘Aha’ moment. One of the things I over-committed to was being homeroom mom for my son’s class. I felt dumb for signing up when there are so many capable moms with less on their plate. I was lamenting my stupidity and asking for forgiveness and mercy when, in a quick flash of the Spirit I heard, “I gave you this so that you could feel success in the midst of difficulty.”

        So many other things in my life are difficult and will not be resolved as easily as the Fall Party. Because of my service in the church I know how to throw a party, it really isn’t difficult, and it is an opportunity to socialize, support my community beyond church, to serve people I might not come in contact with otherwise, and enjoy it! (If I’ll stop beating myself up long enough to do so.) While it could be seen as a merely good or better thing, in this circumstance it was the best thing because of the blessings the Lord mercifully wanted to extend. How kind and sweet His guidance is.

        I pray that you all, your daughter too MS, find your merciful answers and some sweet relief. Looking forward to Conference this weekend for more illumination.

  3. Missy says:

    This is a great post. I was reminded of a song that I love it’s called “Running Up That Hill”, it’s about a person who wishes they could make a deal with God and trade places with someone else. None of us can trade places with anyone else, we can try to walk in another’s shoes to understand their struggles but we have to go with what the Lord has laid out for us as it is in our best interest. What Paul said about prioritizing our lives to take advantage of what Father wants us to have, and making sure that our relationship with the Lord is one of those priorities. I’ve felt extremely overwhelmed also lately, I’ve been struggling with issues that literally seem impossible. I think that these challenges are being placed in front of me for a purpose, my task is to figure out how to eliminate what can be and keep what should be saved. I think that I am supposed to keep “Running Up That Hill”. keep trying if you will and at the end of the day the Lord is and will always be there for me and all of us to lay our burdens down at his feet. I think it is our task to do whatever we can to figure out and prioritize our lives, actually do the work and know that through the Grace of the Lord, our Merciful Lord he will always be there to lighten our burdens when it becomes to much. This also reminds me of how essential prayer is, when we get mired in the muck of life and feelings of being overwhelmed we always have a direct line to the Lord, he’s always going to be there…I feel like I am going off on all sorts of tangents here, I apologize if this isn’t making sense…The other thought I had when reading this post is that General Conference is coming up and it is another opportunity for us to be guided and directed. I’ve often heard the analogy of the empty vessel, that we may be low and Conference comes around and our vessel’s are refilled. Great post thanks for sharing this!

    • Marie Leslie says:

      Thank you, Missy. That is much how I have felt lately. As I reread this post and the comments on it, I had one of those a-ha moments in my wee hours of insomnia (just once could I have a moment of enlightenment that doesn’t come at 3 a.m. after staring at the ceiling for two hours?). I realized that while I am really good at prioritizing and organizing my life, I am only good at doing it with the temporal things. I struggle to figure out how to make the spiritual things of my life the priority they are and how to reconcile my spiritual priorities with my temporal ones. The spiritual ones are rarely as overtly demanding as the temporal ones.

      And then I realized that one of the reasons I don’t know how is that I was never taught these things. And so now I am struggling to figure out how to combine my spiritual life with my temporal life because they aren’t separate. I cannot compartmentalize my relationship with the Savior any more than I can compartmentalize my need to maintain my home or to create art or to write. Because most of my priorities don’t really fall neatly into one category or the other. We tend to toss out “spiritual to-do’s” in church lessons and they pile up on my list as I try and squish them in until I feel like the “Girl in a Whirl” and I become so overwhelmed by all the spiritual “priorities” that I give up and focus on the temporal things that call so much louder for my attention.

      • Angie says:

        Marie, this difficulty prioritizing spiritual things is exactly why I found Sis. Beck’s Women’s Conference talk a few years back so enlightening. There were many awesome things about this talk but the idea that the first, most important thing on the list always is know the mind and will of God (and therefore, do the things necessary in life to be worthy and receptive to that revelation) was a lightning bolt to my brain and heart. I wish I could say things have been smooth sailing since, but at least I have the pattern now. For me, having the pattern is the first and biggest part in prioritizing anything and realizing the first thing on my to do list every day (in order for things to work, at any rate) is to seek out revelation makes all the difference in those days I am in the right place.

        I think it’s very interesting that so many of us are coming up with various angles of the same question–how to serve fully without coming up empty or ‘letting our margins show’ like jendoop commented on my mites post.

  4. Bonnie says:

    I’m going to take an entirely different perspective and say that dreams are often messages. It is not God’s pattern to overwhelm us, so if he sends a message, it is because it’s within our power to alter our lives. We may feel overwhelmed, but in those moments, God’s messages to us are kind and encouraging, or perhaps guides to alter our course to create the necessary improvements.

    I appreciate a God who calls a spade a spade when I’m up to it. I’ve been kicked in the pants and told my bread is stale and crusty more than once. I’m not offended, because when I mourned the staleness of my life, he told me how to regenerate it, because I already knew it was crusty. He doesn’t tell us what we already know, beating a wounded horse. I appreciate the journey of discovery Marie has taken and shared with us when she didn’t know.

    • Paul says:

      I agree with you , Bonnie, and Marie, I didn’t mean to pass judgement on what you had experienced. Clearly the message that came to you was valuable for you, and that’s the way those divine messages should work.

      Bonnie, I hope it’s true that God’s messages to us are kind and encouraging. I think HIS messages directly to our hearts are that way. Messages we may confuse as His, heard in lessons or talks, may not come to us in that way, and that difference might be a clue to interpreting them correctly.

      • MSKeller says:

        Like all of you, I understand this principle, but as of yet have received no answer for my own situation and life. So I shelf it for a time and wait for things to be ready to happen. I revisit, repray, regoal and resigh. Perhaps that is why we read and comment on blogs, one day something is said at the right time, in the right way that reaches deeply and flicks on that switch of deeply personal understanding.

  5. Bonnie says:

    I think this is a really important discussion. We have all been in over our heads, and for a variety of reasons. I really appreciate the “talking out loud” Marie and others are doing and how it focuses our concerns on practical causes and solutions.

    When I’m on overwhelm it’s usually because I’ve let the chatter in my head turn negative, or I’ve lost the “why” of what I’m doing and am just doing. When this happens, the only way I can get my balance again is to retreat temporarily, to go off to the mountain and think. Because I’m a list-maker, I often emerge from these 2-3 hour retreats with categories of priorities. That’s what empowers me. Other ideas?

    • MSKeller says:

      It helps me to remember. Revisit old epiphanies. Re-read my journal and remember times, discussions, ideas, books, quotes that reminded me of both the HOW and the WHY. Now, to find the time to do that. . . :: half smile ::

    • jendoop says:

      Acting with intent. I’m like Marie, getting caught up in the physicality of doing so that I don’t think as much about why I’m doing it. There’s a preparedness class? OK, I’ll put it on my calendar. Then I follow my calendar. If I’m busy I don’t even stop to assess the calendar, I just follow. When I should be wise and slow and patient. Being rushed seems to begat more to do, not less, because my thinking is set aside for action. My idea, even when there is so much to do: Slllloooowww dddooooowwwwwnnnnnnn….

      (It’s like that Brian Regan joke, if you need to zap fry your pop tarts then you should loosen up your schedule. (Pop tarts are bread, right? It applies to the post :)-

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