Lisa Valentine Clark, BYUradio host of “The Lisa Show,” delivered Tuesday’s devotional address. She spoke on how her decades of improv work on the stage, TV and radio have taught her how to handle unexpected challenges in life and turn them into triumphs.
“The guiding principle of improv is ‘yes, and…’” she explained. “It means that you accept whatever is offered to you on stage and then you add something to it.”
Learning to work with whatever she’s been given was especially crucial when her husband was diagnosed with ALS. However, Lisa revealed that he also had a knack for making the most out of life.
“Christopher lived with this ‘yes, and…’ attitude, focusing on what he could do, which was a lot,” she said.
"Christopher decided, early on in his diagnosis, how he would respond. Most importantly, he gave everyone around him permission to laugh at ALS and himself." #BYUDevo #BYUSpeeches pic.twitter.com/2de9XnKOzQ— BYU Speeches (@BYUSpeeches) July 20, 2021
In the four and a half years he battled ALS, Christopher created a deep legacy of creativity, love and optimism among his family, students, peers and colleagues. He kept teaching at Utah Valley University, created lip sync videos with his children, joked about his condition, directed plays, painstakingly typed priesthood blessings for each of his five children and expressed love to every person in his life.
Christopher’s example is humbling and powerfully proves that happiness is a choice, not a lucky circumstance.
“While most of us won’t find ourselves facing a terminal disease,” Lisa explained, “we all have moments when we need to find a way to live with a bad offering.”
So what do we do when a new act of our life introduces tragedy or something unexpected? We can apply the “yes, and...” principle.
Focusing on that attitude, she asserted, can “move [us] forward and focus our grieving hearts on the reality of our situations.”
Extending faith instead of fear can be difficult. Despite her decades of learning to roll with what she’s been given on the stage and in life, Lisa stated, “I didn’t want the outcome that I am living with. Caring for a terminally ill husband while navigating a new career and raising five children — mostly teenagers — while navigating death, a funeral and mourning during an isolating global pandemic is not as glamorous as you might think.”
But through learning to apply “yes, and…” to these painful trials, Lisa learned that Christ will support her. “He weeps with me,” she testified, “and He prepares the path, and He is preparing me for the path.”
The quote “Serve God, love me, and mend” from Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing” also helped Lisa understand how to apply “yes, and… .”
“Serve God,” she stated, “is the driving force, the super-objective of our lives.” When trying to navigate life’s difficulties, our first priority should be God and our relationship with Him.
“Love me,” she explained, “reminds me to choose love — to love everyone. … It reminds me that it is a human need to be loved.”
And finally, “Mend” reminds us of the beautiful results that God can orchestrate in our lives.
“Our hearts are going to be broken. But they don’t have to stay broken.”
“We are going to make mistakes,” she declared. But as we apply “yes, and…” and recognize that life is essentially “one long improvisational story,” we learn to accept God’s will and let our trials refine rather than define us.
As we apply those principles, Lisa testified that we will find peace and realize that “our faith is in Christ, not in a specific outcome” — and that’s the happiest way to live.
Amy Jensen, College of Fine Arts and Communications associate dean, professor and BRAVO! series executive producer, will deliver the next forum address on Tuesday, July 27, at 11:05 a.m.
The address will only be available via livestream on BYUtv, BYUtv.org (and archived for on-demand streaming), KBYU-TV 11, Classical 89 FM, BYUradio 107.9 FM and SiriusXM 143.