Portraits of Mormon Women: Margaret

All my life I’ve wanted just a little more sleep to do the right thing. To earn God’s love. Crazy I know but there it is. I tell people I’m a recovering oldest daughter. Must do it right.

Now it’s about pleasing God and not doing it right. That new attitude is the result of what I now call my happiness program but when I started it I called it my “survive-the-day” program. My first husband had gone off to live the life of a gay artist. I was a single mother and the sole financial support of eight children with my own business, finishing up my college degree and serving as the activity chairman in our ward. I had 48 hours of things to do each day and only 20 hours to do it.

That’s when I started my “survive-the-day” program. I figured God knew what was coming in the future – when a client might decide to change the appointment I’d just spent all night preparing for or a professor would give us extra time for a project. He knew what was essential. So each day I took my very long list of things I needed to do to God and asked Him what to do. He told me. He’d have me cross things off the list and add a couple of things I hadn’t listed (i.e., call and set visiting teaching appointments.) I did that. And God took my overburdened life, got it under control, sent my second husband Parker – a generous man of Scottish ancestry (he’ll give you the shirt off his back but not the money to buy it with) into my life and gave me a completely different life than I had written out on my five year goals.

Then I stopped doing it because, hey, my life was under control. Until it got out of control again. After I married Parker, I stopped being an executive in the high tech industry, started marketing products online, was serving as Relief Society president in our branch, and still had two sons and an additional two foster sons at home. Once again God took my life and made it work. More than made it work. Taught me, changed me and gave me new understanding that changed my life. What did I learn?

While serving as Relief Society president in our small branch I came to feel His total love for His daughters some of whom were messing up royally in my opinion, but apparently not in God’s, because He always just told me to bring them comfort and cheer not advice on how to shape up. After a couple of years it finally sank in that He loved imperfect me that much too. But I still kept trying to “do it right.”

Seven years ago we sold all of our stuff, got a friend to handle the Internet business and drove off to serve missions, using the program I now thought of as God’s “tasks-for-the-day” program to plan our days. Our first senior mission was Spanish-speaking Albuquerque, New Mexico where we did not learn to speak Spanish but did learn excellent Spanglish. We started a successful irreverence program in one extremely unfriendly ward, hauled young missionaries around since we had unlimited miles for our car and they didn’t, checked apartments and taught and baptized a few dear friends – the best part.

In the middle of that mission where we were both committed to keeping all the young missionary rules and feeling overwhelmed as a result God finally said gently but firmly, “Stop trying to do it right and just do it well.” Oh.

Our second senior mission was to Alaska where, to my great relief, I was not eaten by a grizzly bear. We did eat fresh seal, lots of salmon and some caribou. Again we went to God for our tasks and ended up entering 8500 names of Inupiaq ancestors into a genealogy database. Parker also had the unique experience of baptizing a young man in the just-barely-thawed Arctic ocean.

Today we live on 38.5 acres in wild wonderful West Virginia. I wanted to be near as many grandchildren as possible and Parker wanted free natural gas. Which we have thanks to the gas well on our property. Once again I’m serving as Relief Society president in our small branch where Parker is first counselor to the branch president.

I blogged and emailed about the experiences of turning my life over to God on a day by day basis then collected the writings together into a book. Or three. But I just didn’t know what it was all about. I asked God what the theme was since it looked like just a bunch of strung together anecdotes to me.

He said it’s about learning to be happy. And that’s when I really got it. It’s what Christ meant when he said “the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.” John 8:29

It’s not a “survive-the-day” program or a “God’s-task-for-the-day” program. It’s a “how-to-be-happy-soul-deep” program. Each day I take my very long list of things I want, ought, need to do to God and ask Him what He wants me to do. He tells me. It’s often not easy to do. But I do it. All day while I’m doing it I feel His love and pleasure. And I’m happy. And I’m not even 70 yet. Must still have lots to learn