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Starting Fresh

It’s normal for any of us to get overwhelmed by the difficulties in the momentum of our lives. Let’s take hope and heart right now from God and the creative divinity He has placed right inside us.

As I pull out of yet another gas station in my tiny gold Daihatsu (think Ford Fiesta), onto the long stretch of Kansas flatlands on Interstate 70, I realize that I am physically halfway to my new life. While I have just left behind a caring boyfriend doing his graduate studies at Stanford, I am looking forward to my new adventure in Chicago. What will it be like to study at a university in a large urban center? Who will I meet next? Will I like living by myself in a Brownstone on Kimbark and 53rd Street? These and many other questions fill my mind and heart as I listen to the playlist my ex had made for my solo road trip. Rather than dread the uncertainty of the future, in my enthusiasm, I am looking forward to starting again and to learning more about myself and the world in a new physical location with new people and no personal history. I feel confident about creating whatever I want for my new life in Chicago.  

Like my 24-year-old self, when you think about starting afresh, you often think about switching out something undesirable, boring, or downright awful like my rotting veggies in the fridge for something novel and exciting like a promotion, international trip, or new significant other. You might also imagine trading in “old things” for entirely new and different things. In both cases, you are anticipating a positive change in your life and expecting something better in return. Surely, 2022 will be better than 2020 and 2021, right?

Yet, only six months into my new life in Chicago, I faced (new) intense romantic heartache, intellectual challenges, and demanding church responsibilities that I couldn’t easily throw away and trade in for something easier, better, or different. In short, I couldn’t just walk away from “hard.” I began to understand that starting afresh in relationships, jobs, education, neighborhoods, politics, and close friendships meant re-working and re-imagining existing relationships, dreams, and goals to create different results. So, rather than somehow throwing out the people, jobs, personalities, faith commitments, and life experiences that have been connected with some disappointment, frustration, and even heartache, life demands that you recycle old materials with new visions.

We are “re-creators” of the lives we desire when we involve God in refashioning existing relationships and situations with new plans or blueprints.

To start afresh, you don’t have to reject the people you love, move across the country, or turn down a church calling because you face challenges. Instead, consider several eternal principles of creation that follow God’s patterns of renewal and refreshing. With changed inner vision (not just different materials), we bring to life improved situations, relationships, and closer approximations of peace. In many cases, we are “re-creators” of the lives we desire when we involve God in refashioning existing relationships and situations with new plans or blueprints.

Let me explain.

Several years ago, my friend lost her entire family through a nasty divorce process. Her ex, an expert attorney, knew how to work the divorce court, so a wonderful mother lost custody of her children. As the years passed without custody, she surveyed the wreckage and wondered if there was anything left to salvage. Her children seemed to believe her ex-husband’s narrative that theirs was an unfit mother and that their religious life had been a hoax. While she sometimes doubted if she would ever be close to her children again—considering the awfulness they had all been through together—God began sharing with her a different creative vision for her family. He suggested unique and often untried approaches for each child and promised to send helpers along the way. Over several years, God guided this dear woman in rebuilding and strengthening her relationships with her children using existing feeble family ties to create the beginnings of now thriving patterns of peace and love with her children.

Like my friend, you might look back with nostalgia and wish for the older, simpler times when everyone trusted each other; the innocent times before the troubles. Yet, rather than long for the past, you can follow Jesus Christ’s example of using existing materials to create something even more wonderful (and strong) than what existed in the past. The Savior designed something of beauty and purpose from elements that might have even once formed parts of other planets. As explained in the Book of Abraham, Jesus Christ used existing materials to design the earth upon which we live, perhaps after many failed iterations “until [His creations] obeyed.” The earth’s creation was not instantaneous nor ex-nihilo, just like your creations will not be made from nothing and will rarely be instantaneous. Through many lengthy stages of creation, the Lord shaped and developed a place that could sustain human life in diverse environments. Rather than rash, creation was a premeditated and inspired act happening in multiple phases of development.

Like the Savior, you can also draw from existing eternal elements to design lives and relationships of greater purpose and peace, which are even better than previous creations. While you might want to occasionally throw up your hands and say you’re done, you might just need a new vision and not new materials. Certainly, there are abusive situations that necessitate drastic measures to cut ties with abusers, but many situations are not beyond repair and can be renewed. When you more fully seek and claim your divine creative inheritance, you are more likely to begin imagining new possibilities.

Speaking of divine creative inheritances, thirteen years ago, I sat in a church pew listening to Elder Dieter Uchtdorf explain how we are children of the most creative beings in the universe. As a stay-at-home mother of three young children with one more on the way, I felt so uncreative and exhausted. What could I create of beauty from my fettered suburban home? Yet, when Elder Uchtdorf said, “Isn’t it remarkable to think that your very spirits are fashioned by an endlessly creative and eternally compassionate God? Think about it—your spirit body is a masterpiece, created with a beauty, function, and capacity beyond imagination,” a fire lit within me. He was speaking truth to me: beyond childbearing, I needed to “take unorganized matter into [my] hands and mold it into something of beauty … something that did not exist before—colorful gardens, harmonious homes, family memories, flowing laughter.”

Like me, perhaps, you avoid opportunities to create because you are too tired, afraid, disappointed, jaded, or just pessimistic about the future. Maybe you don’t believe that you have good enough ideas for creating anything of worth but nothing is further from the truth about your spiritual capacities. To start, you begin with a plan, which I like to call a spiritual blueprint. 

As God explains to Moses, “I, the Lord God, created all things, of which I have spoken, spiritually, before they were naturally upon the face of the earth.

Following Christ’s example, you benefit from spending time upfront in the necessary steps of the spiritual creation even when you are anxious to begin knocking down walls and rebuilding right away. Making a spiritual blueprint is not just about a scribble on the back of a napkin—although that may be a good beginning. Just as you don’t create something out of nothing, this is about taking time to create a viable blueprint for your creations by infusing your life with God’s light found in His temples, breathing fresh air on majestic mountains, or simply uttering a sincere prayer.

With a blueprint or spiritual creation, you also take the time and effort to carve out concrete steps of renewal and “re-creation” by learning the skills that will allow you to rebuild a marriage, get an education for a needed career shift, or befriend a former enemy. Creating a spiritual blueprint gives you confidence and refines your vision because it involves you becoming a new creature with the capacity to bring your plans to life. When you have a plan and a strategy for how to create something of renewed beauty and purpose, you are following Christ’s patterns of spiritual creation before the physical.

Seek to understand your roles as creators and repairers of the breaches you face.

Returning to my first winter back in Chicago, I recognize how scrapping old spiritual blueprints based on my former strategy of discarding the old helped me mature and find more peace among the messiness of life. I didn’t just walk away. As I returned home day after day to my lonely Chicago Brownstone, eventually I felt the Spirit of Christ bring new insight into “the old waste places” of my mind and heart. Like Margaret with her eventual reunification with her children, gradually I felt a current of enthusiasm and hope settle into my soul that inspired me to find new ways of imagining my relationships.

When I think back to this time of learning these key principles of creation as a grad student and as a young mother, I experienced the Lord’s promise that my soul would be “like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.” The Lord inspired (and helped) me to build up my “old waste places” and to repair the breaches that I had often created for myself.

Rather than flee the aftermath of your failed attempts to create beauty and belonging, I challenge you to seek to understand your roles as creators and repairers of the breaches you face. As children of the most creative Beings in the universe, you have the opportunity to take from existing materials—including your most important relationships—to create the peace, joy, love, and belonging you seek in this new year. Start afresh with the vision available to all of God’s children to take unorganized matter into your own two hands and bring to life that which you most desire. The visions are truly limitless “for with God nothing shall be impossible.”

About the author

Emily de Schweinitz Taylor

Emily de Schweinitz Taylor is a mediator, developmental psychologist (BYU Ph.D. '24), and author. She holds master's degrees in international policy (University of Chicago) and alternative dispute resolution (University of Denver) and has published two books on conflict resolution topics: Raising Mediators and Conflict Fluent.
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