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Turning Our Messy, Complicated Lives into Something Holy

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A number of years ago I heard Sister Wendy Nelson, the wife of our prophet, speak at BYU Women’s Conference on “What Would a Holy Woman Do?” She challenged us to seek holiness in the activities that fill our time each day—things like work, home, school, taking care of a family, and taking care of ourselves. Is holiness even possible in the busy-ness of life?

I decided to give Sister Nelson’s challenge a try. I thought about how I could be intentional in seeking holiness every single day. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said, “Nothing that I know of that’s very worthwhile just happens.” In that same spirit, John Stott, an English Anglican priest, once said, “No one ever drifted into holiness.”

To help me focus, I made myself a little holiness journal, and each morning I prayerfully asked what I could do that day to increase my holiness. I thought about those things that I could do to have an increase of the Spirit in my life and about those things that I was doing to offend the Spirit.

The act of writing down the promptings or revelation I received was refining. When faced with difficult situations or difficult people, I found myself thinking, “What does God need me to learn from this? How can this make me holy? Who does God need me to be?” I was more conscious about acting on promptings and about filling my thoughts, my mind, and my spirit with things that would make me happy and bring peace.

Other women I greatly admire did this experiment with me. Here are a few of their thoughts:

  • “I had a greater interest in people and less of an interest in things.”
  • “In my prayers I used the phrase ‘Thy will be done’ more.”
  • “I was constantly on the lookout for direction from Heavenly Father.”
  • “I had more patience with the imperfections of others.”
  • “I thought more frequently about my purpose in mortality and an urgency to get to work.”
  • “I thought about the Holy One and the blessing to be called by His holy name.”
  • “I found myself repenting each time I prayed.”

And another woman wrote: “Praying every morning seeking guidance on how to incorporate holiness into my day has been one of the most impactful things I have ever done for my spiritual growth. Being intentional in this desire has brought me closer to my Heavenly Father. Not because of specific things I was doing throughout my day, which I thought might be the case when I started this experiment. I didn’t suddenly have more time to study my scriptures, attend the temple, or work on family history. My days looked pretty much identical on the outside. Yes, I prayed and studied my scriptures, but most of my time was still spent wiping runny noses, making peanut butter sandwiches, folding laundry, and changing dirty diapers. However, my prayerful desire for holiness changed who I was and how I felt about my life. I found myself asking, ‘How would a holy wife, sister, mother, or friend act in this situation?’ Being holy initially sounded so out of reach when I first started this challenge. I am so imperfect and fall short every day. However, by earnestly praying to be able to incorporate holiness into my life, I felt filled with His love for me and felt a desire to help the people in my life feel His love as well. Sharing that love with others became holiness in my days. Nothing changed, but somehow everything changed.”

On each temple is engraved the words “Holiness to the Lord.” I ask myself, “What can I do daily to engrave ‘holiness to the Lord’ in my heart? What sacrifices are required of me?” The process happens one small step at a time. Sometimes those steps are painful, and sometimes they are halting. But even our small steps can lead us to our final destination: holiness to the Lord, holiness with the Lord.

Regardless of our stage in life or our circumstances, we each have a stewardship over every single day. Every day, like every person, has a potential for holiness. We can be ordinary women doing ordinary, but really extraordinary, things—women who make their families and their homes holy because we make and keep covenants. As we turn our lives over to Christ, as we simply do whatever it is that He asks us to do, He can take our messy, complicated lives and change our focus and actions towards holiness. I know He can.

Adapted from an address given at BYU Women’s Conference in May 2018.


Michelle Craig and her husband live in Orem, Utah. She loves family history, temple work, reading, and enjoying time with her family. Read more from Sister Craig on her Facebook page.