As I thought about this, I realized she was totally right. There is nothing like the feeling of having accomplished something hard and good! (I guess I talked about that here a bit too.)
And yet we do believe in "wholesome recreational activities," too, and I love that about the church. We are not joyless or overserious. We love to have fun. And I love that word "recreation" because it implies so much more than "fun"—but instead an actual re-creation, renewal, re-generation of energy and self. In fact, I love it when the work and the recreation overlap; when doing something hard is both energizing and renewing AND fun. The best church activities I've been to have had that balance. (It's hard to find it, though, I've found when planning activities! It takes a lot of thought and effort.) I'm thinking of service projects that had people working together happily, or times when Sam and I worked together on planning and carrying out some activity that other people enjoyed doing.
Elder Victor B. Brown talks about this very thing:
When an Aaronic Priesthood leader takes the work of the quorum seriously, he is not afraid to call upon quorum members to inconvenience themselves and sacrifice. When these members experience the sweetness and joy of self-sacrifice, which the world at best can only partially give, they begin to regard the priesthood with solemnity, appreciation, and respect.
…Brethren, Aaronic Priesthood holders should not have to wait for the mission field before experiencing the joy of sacrifice associated with service to God and mankind. They should not have to wait until they reach the age of nineteen before having cause to love and even defend the priesthood.
…I am not suggesting that we should have all service projects and no recreation. In the great tradition of the Church there must continue to be recreation and social and cultural enjoyment. What I am saying is that there can and should be a balance and a blending of service and recreation. Every activity—even an activity of games—can be planned to help build people, if only those participating. Every activity—even a project in which physical work is done—can be great fun. Spiritual experiences can be built into everything we do.Then there's President Kimball, who says:
Sometimes we have thought of rest as being a place where we get on the chaise lounge, or in our sneakers, or we get outside and lie on the grass, something where we are at rest. That isn’t the kind of rest that the Lord is speaking about. It is he who is the most dynamic, the one who works the hardest, puts in the longest hours, and lives the closest to his Heavenly Father who is rested—rested from his labors, but not put away from his work.These talks made me want to recommit to finding things our family can do together that are both satisfying and enjoyable. With so many ages, it's sometimes hard to think of what those things can be—but I know they're out there. This is one thing we've done a couple times that fits the bill. There must be others. And for just myself, too, it makes me want to not be afraid to tackle a hard goal or project that I know will bring me joy when I accomplish it. Because I think just like President Kimball says, "resting from our labors" doesn't necessarily mean "putting away our work." Somehow, if we want to be like Heavenly Father, we have to learn how to do both—to rest and re-create while still doing those hard things that will bring us joy.