When It Was All Wrong

I want to tell a story of something that happened while I was a missionary.  At the time, I didn’t know really what to make of it, but as time and life have gone by it has made a little more sense…

A little background first: Every 6 weeks missions and missionaries have “transfers”. That’s when new missionaries come, old missionaries go home, and more get shuffled around.  The mission president assigns missionaries to places and companions prayerfully.  He does his best to follow the promptings of the Spirit in these assignments.  Often, as transfers are approaching, missionaries will often get an inkling of a coming change. (Similar to the feeling you get when you just KNOW the bishop is going to call you into the primary.)  Rarely do big changes at transfers come as a complete surprise.  At least, they never did for me, except for this one time…

In the last months of my mission, I knew that a change was coming at transfers.  There was no way I was staying in the same place with the same companion.  We just had too much fun together!  We got along wonderfully and had several promising people and families we were teaching. It was springtime and the area (although quite poor) was beautiful.  Flowers were blooming and the air was warm and we could smell the ocean in the mornings.  When things are going perfectly they just can’t stay that way for too long. 🙂 In the last week or so before transfers my companion and I would laugh ourselves to tears at some joke and then exclaim “Man, we are SO getting split up at transfers!” As we thought about it and talked about it, I felt like I would likely go to another area and she would stay.  She felt the same way, and usually when both companions get the same impression, it is pretty reliable.  It was only because I didn’t want to seem presumptuous that I didn’t start packing my bags a few days before.  I was that sure.

Transfer day came and the call seemed to take for-EVER. Any returned missionary can tell you that transfer day is kind of nervous and somebody always leaps for the phone when it finally rings.  When the call came, another missionary talked to the mission president then passed the phone to my companion.  Her face fell as she listened. Then she said good-bye and hung up. Wait, why did she hang up?  The mission president was supposed to give me my new assignment! My companion told us she was being transferred to a new city with a new companion to serve in a different language! President hadn’t needed to talk to me, which meant no changes for me.  WHAT?!?  I couldn’t comprehend it for a minute. This is not what was supposed to happen! This was all WRONG!

There had been times before where I felt something should go one way, but then it had gone another, but always in those times I had soon felt a calm assurance or an impression that all was well and things would work out.  I didn’t feel that way at all.  I didn’t feel calm or assured.  It felt wrong.  It felt like sick stomach feeling.  It felt like “rug pulled out from under me” feeling.  It felt like a big mistake.  I had been so sure of it!  Me leaving and my companion staying felt right – not this crazy assignment she was being given and me just sitting tight! It may seem silly to you now, but for me it was huge.

I had been taught to trust spiritual impressions and I had tried hard to learn to listen to the Spirit, but now I just felt upset and confused.  How could what I had been so sure of be so different than what was now happening?  I debated for a few minutes, then gathered my courage and called the mission president back.  I fully expected him to say something like, “Oh, I’m sorry.  There has been a mistake.  That assignment was supposed to be for YOU and your companion will stay.”  I explained to the mission president how I felt and what I had been so sure of.  I immediately felt embarrassed and a little ashamed for second-guessing the mission president…but what the heck??  He told me calmly and kindly that no, there was no mistake and that he had prayed and thought about it in the past days and  felt strongly impressed that this was how it was supposed to be.  When I hung up I was confused and frustrated to tears.  I ran and hid in the bathroom. When I emerged my fellow sister missionaries were sympathetic, but we saw nothing else to do but follow instructions help my companion pack for her departure.

As I prayed and did my scripture study that day I kept waiting for some confirmation to come.  It didn’t.  When my companion left and my new companion arrived, I looked for it.  Still nothing.  As I planned out our day with my new companion, I hoped for it.  Still no.  I still felt confused and wrong, although at least not as hotly.  It felt forced and awkward to go back to places and people I had been sure I was leaving. I was going through the motions when my heart wasn’t really in it; I was just doing the best I could for the work and my new companion’s sake.

When I knelt down to say my prayers that night, I felt sad mixed with a little guilt and frustration. I don’t remember what words, exactly, I prayed that night, but I remember saying, with resignation, something along the lines of, “Lord…just help me.  Just help me know what You want me to do and I will do it.”

The next morning was gray and overcast.  I was the same way inside.  It took some faith to step out the door that morning and begin to work.  We went to our appointments and visits as planned and nothing really remarkable happened.  In the early afternoon, my new companion and I went to see a woman named Silvia.  She had been visiting with the missionaries for some time.  Her oldest son had met the missionaries first and had joined the church a couple years before. He was currently serving a mission.  Silvia liked many things about the Gospel, but there were others she just couldn’t resolve in her mind.  As we talked with her about some of her worries, my companion began to speak to Silvia with words of comfort and wisdom that surprised me.  This girl was remarkable!

Then I felt it.  There it was.  It was not a grand revelation or an overwhelming burning in the bosom, it was just a glimmer…just a gentle release of anxiety and a faint ray of peace from behind gloomy clouds.  It was something I could hold on to.

As the days and weeks went on, my own worries began to be resolved.  It was not all at once, but more like “the dews of heaven distilling” or the “gradual rising of the sun until it is day.” Everything was all right.  I grew in appreciation for my new companion and the next time transfers came, I was happy that she and I would remain together in the same area till the end of my mission.  There were people we met that only she and I could have reached together.

I have wondered, at times, why.  If me being there was the right thing, why did it feel so wrong at first?  Why was I so certain I was leaving?  Why the confusion and the embarrassment and the frustration?  There are probably many reasons, but one lesson I have begun to better understand, is that perhaps this experience was a microcosm for bigger things later on.

There likely will come a time when you will feel much the same way I did. Maybe it will be a policy or a leader or an event or something that just makes no sense.  You might feel confused, offended, or just plain wrong. Sick in the stomach wrong.  “Rug pulled out from under you” wrong.  You will want to call them back and tell them there has been a mistake and maybe you will.  Then you will have to decide what to do.

When you do, I hope that you will step out the door in faith.  I hope that you will go back to the basics of your faith and follow the principles you know are true, even if it feels like your heart isn’t in them.  The Lord will help you as you try to do what’s right and as you follow your faith in Him, even if it isn’t in anything else.  I can’t promise you a grand revelation.  In fact, you probably won’t get one.  It won’t make sense all at one.  Some things might not ever be fully resolved.  But I can promise you that help, encouragement, understanding, and light with come “line upon line, precept upon precept” (2 Nephi 28:30).  So keep walking, and thinking, and praying, and trying, and all that is wrong WILL be made right. (Isaiah 54:10-13).

 

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Letter on the Atonement

Note: Sometimes, I have advice or wisdom that I would like to pass along to my children, but they are still quite little and not really at the point in their lives where they need it or would completely understand it yet.  I write some of these bits of advice or wisdom down in an attempt to squirrel them away so they won’t be forgotten when they are needed.  That is one of the reasons that this post is written in the form of a letter to my children in the future.  

My dearest child,

Of all the things in this world to understand, there is one that is very important; no, not just important, crucial, essential, absolutely necessary to your happiness that you understand it!  The irony is that it is something that we cannot fully comprehend.

I am talking about the atonement of Jesus Christ.

One of the most beautiful scriptures about the atonement says, “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows … he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53:4-5).  It is widely held by most Christians that Christ died for our sins, and He most certainly did.  When we sin, we can repent and Christ’s atonement works to our good to pay the price for us and liberate us from the chains of that sin.  That is true and wonderful.  Many people, however, don’t realize that it is so much deeper and broader than that.

In that same scripture in Isaiah, notice that it actually doesn’t mention sin as a reason for Christ’s suffering (although it does later in vs 6).  It says that Christ bore our griefs, our sorrows, and our transgressions. Consider also Alma 7:11-12: “And he (Christ) shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the work might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.  And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities. (emphasis added)”  Christ suffered for our sins, but sin was only a part of it.  He also took upon Him our grief, our sorrow, our infirmities (weakness, sickness), and death.  He did this not just to prove His power or to hold it out like a carrot in front of us to encourage good behavior.  The scripture says that when He was in the flesh on the earth, he felt “pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind” and he did it so that he could (see underlined) know how to help His people!  In other words, because He has felt pain, sorrow, and sickness, He can help you through your pains, sorrows, and sicknesses too.  This means Jesus is an empathizing friend.  But there is so much more to it than that.

During His time on earth Jesus experienced many difficulties and pains.  Isaiah even called him “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3).  His life wasn’t long enough, however, for him to experience every possible pain known to mankind, but here is where part of the beauty of the atonement comes in.  When Christ “suffered the pain of all men” (D&C 18:11), He didn’t just suffer a bunch of really terrible arbitrary bad stuff.  He didn’t just feel bad so He can say, “I know how you feel” when we feel bad. He suffered the specific pain of all men.  In other words, every fear that has ever been felt – he felt it.  Every agony that has ever (or will ever) been caused – he suffered through it.  Every shame someone felt, every loss someone grieved, every weakness someone struggled with, every sin someone suffered for, every death someone mourned, every insult, every abuse, every failure, every despair – he lived through it.  As part of the atonement He suffered through them all; and not only did He suffer them, but He beat them and He triumphed over them!  THAT is why he was in agony, “his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44), He was carrying the great mass of human sorrow and painful experience and fighting every sin.

This means, that somehow, in a way that I don’t fully understand, when you pray for help, Christ is able to come to your aid because He knows perfectly.  He has felt it and experienced it.  He not only sympathizes, he empathizes at the deepest level because He was there too.  So when you plead for release from shame or grief, or help with pain or weakness, or for forgiveness, Christ is able to take your specific sorrow from the ocean of His atonement like a thread from a tapestry or a piece from a puzzle, and help you through it and heal you from it.  And all this because He is able to and He loves you.

Christ’s atonement was not just help you, but to heal you.  And not just to heal you, but to bring you to Him.  The prophet Jacob plead with his people, “Wherefore, beloved brethren, be reconciled unto him [God/Heavenly Father] through the atonement of Christ, his Only Begotten Son” (Jacob 4:11).  Christ wants to help us overcome so He can heal us, make us more like Him, and ultimately so He can bring us home.

Consider Lehi’s dream of the tree of life and the iron rod (1 Ne 8, 11, and 15).  What the parable doesn’t tell is that straying from the path, getting lost in the darkness, and not even a stay in the great and spacious building needs ever be permanent.  It gives new meaning to the often used scripture, “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).  There is only one way to get to the tree of life, and Christ is willing and able to bring us there, no matter where we start from.  No matter our pain, sin, sorrow, or how lost we may feel, Christ can heal us and bring us home if we will let Him.  Even if you have wandered far away, “notwithstanding a shepherd hath called after you, and is still calling after you” (Alma 5:37).

My child, pain, grief, and the effects of sin touch everyone.  No one will remain unscathed, but no one has to remain bitter, scarred, sorrowing, or lost either.  Healing is real, but it is only complete through Jesus Christ. Not only can Christ heal you, but He’ll make you better.  Only He can give “beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness” (Isaiah 61:3).

I have felt this healing myself.  I have felt Him replace my sorrow with joy, an angry bitter heart with love, my weakness with strength, and dark despair with light.  There once was a deep wound in my soul, but it has become a reason to smile. (Ask me about it sometime and I’ll give you the details). I want that relief and that joy for you in your life too.

With love,

Mami

Note again: I really like the paintings used in this post because they don’t glamorize the atonement.  It must have been harrowing and brutal.  This one below is my most favorite, however, because it shows the triumphant morning after the dark night of suffering.

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Usually, I Like Mother’s Day…

Usually, I like Mother’s Day.

But not this year.

Usually, the little crafts and paper flowers from my kids give me a big goofy smile, and I keep the little cards they make even though I know their teachers mostly made up the words in them. I kind of like the typical “mom gifts”. Usually, I enjoy the Mother’s Day song the kids sing in church even though I’ve heard it before and probably helped them learn it. It might even make me get a little choked up.  Usually, I relax that Sunday afternoon and ignore the household chores.  Usually, I enjoy just sitting next to my husband and holding his hand.  Usually.  All of these elements were present this Mother’s Day, except the last one.

My husband was not there.

He lost his job about a month ago and found work in another state.  We knew it was the right thing to do; for him to go work and look for a house out there and for me to stay home with the kids until the school year was up and we could join him.  That didn’t make it easy.  He came to visit us every weekend he could, and was even there for the weekend of Mother’s Day, but he left early so that he could be back in time to get some rest before work on Monday.  He had left before, but this time something was different.  Something in my heart broke when I watched him go.

Maybe it was because it was going to be a while before I saw him again.  Maybe it was because the baby was sick and I was worried about taking care of him as well as the other kids on my own.  Maybe it was because I had recently received some bad news that was weighing heavily on my heart.  Maybe it was because it was Mother’s Day.

Maybe it was all of the above.

I put on a brave face and went to church with the kids.  Some kind friends helped to herd them and keep them occupied.  Wouldn’t you know it, after about 20 minutes the baby was so so hungry and couldn’t wait a moment longer, so I had to step out.  I hurried, but was crushed to find that I got back just as the primary kids sang the last notes of their Mother’s Day song.  I had missed it!  But I smiled and hugged my kids and told them “good job” and pretended I was just standing in the back and had heard every word.

Sacrament was over and time to be off to classes.  They gave all of the moms a piece of cake as a gift.  Of course the kids all wanted a taste, but I stuffed mine into my bag telling them, “later, later.”  I smuggled my cake into my class where I sat near the back and snuck bites of it when the teacher was looking another way.  It was delicious.  The last few bites turned to sticky cardboard in my mouth as the class talked about stories of people being strong and ways we could avoid trouble in the family.  For no logical reason, I felt myself struggling to hold my heart and my brave together.

I had been strong for so long.  I didn’t cry when I was 9 months pregnant and walking 4 kids to school.  I didn’t cry when my baby was born without anesthetic (not on purpose).  I didn’t cry when I had to spend 3 nights in the hospital with him when he later caught pneumonia.  I didn’t cry when my back twitched and ached from post-partum stress.  I didn’t cry when we had to sell our house and dig it out of the trash the renters had left behind and when a big chunk of the work fell to me.  I didn’t cry when my husband lost his job.  I didn’t cry when he left the first time for his new job out of state.  I didn’t cry when I drove 8 hours to go visit him one weekend with 5 children in the van only to find when we got there that he had to work overtime and we would only get to see him a few hours every night.  I didn’t cry when my kids fought me at bed times or whined for their daddy.  But now, as we sang a closing hymn that spoke of a longing for God and a pleading for comfort, my strong face began to crack and tears leaked out.

I tried to play it off and act normal, though my eyes were getting red and I couldn’t stop the leaks in my brave.  Maybe no one would notice.  Someone did notice.  She kindly helped me herd my kids to the car.  She hugged me and tried to talk to me to find out what was wrong, but I wasn’t much help.  I couldn’t put my finger on a spot and say, “It hurts there.”  When she left I leaned on the side of the van and sobbed a little.  My kids stopped what they were doing and looked at me with worried eyes.  “Mommy, what’s wrong?”  I couldn’t tell them that I was heart broken.  I couldn’t tell them that I was feeling the creeping tendrils of  depression, that dark-fanged monster, reaching out to grasp on to me.  Instead, I wiped away the tears and said, “I’m sorry guys, but I ate the whole cake.”  The outbursts that followed helped me laugh a little and get us all home.

At home, I tried to clean up some.  I tried to make dinner, but I just couldn’t. I couldn’t focus myself. The two ladies who had helped me during church came by with dinner.  It was a blessed relief.  They gave me hugs and told me, “please call us if you need anything, ANYthing,” and then left.  It was such a kind gesture, and I appreciated it.  It wasn’t enough.  I needed a friend to talk to, to hold my hand as I cried, to hold ME as I fell to pieces.  I wanted my husband. I didn’t want him to know I was sobbing.  I wanted to just fall to pieces. My kids ate happily, were full, and went outside to play.

I couldn’t fall to pieces; I needed to hold the family together.  All this crying was giving me a headache.

The next day I felt better, but I was still fragile.  The routine of getting kids ready for school helped take my mind off things.

Later, while I was loading the dishwasher, I turned on some inspirational music to seek some measure of comfort from the heaviness still sitting in my chest and sinking into my stomach.  After a few songs, “Be Still My Soul” came on. I sang the lyrics softly as they played.  The words said to me:

Be still my soul, the Lord is on thy side  (He has not left you, He knows where you are)
With patience bear thy cross of grief or pain (Be patient, some sorrows must be borne)
Leave to thy God to order and provide;   (He knows what you have need of…)
In every change he faithful will remain.  (…and it is coming, just like it came before)
Be still my soul, thy best, thy Heavenly friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.(sorrow is part of the journey, but not the end)

Be still my soul, thy God doth undertake, (God has led so many in the past…
To guide the future as he hath the past, 
(..and He is just as interested in us and the future)
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake,  (don’t forget)
All now mysterious shall be bright at last (though it doesn’t make sense now, it will)
Be still my soul, the waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while he dwelt below.

I cried a little more, and was comforted.

*NOTE*
To any reading this, please don’t worry too much.  I am ok.  I was describing a moment of weakness and I hope that by reading this, others will not feel bad for having them.  We all have moments when we fall to our knees under a load too heavy to bear or feel “like Peter a-sinkin’ “.  When I started this blog I made the resolution that it would be my thoughts and experiences unapologetically.  This certainly was.   🙂

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Doubting that the Earth is Round

On a road-trip recently I was driving through a particularly empty and boring stretch of desert.  I decided to flip radio channels to try to find something interesting to occupy my brain and I chanced upon a “news radio” talk show.  The host was interviewing someone who was presenting evidence supporting the “Flat Earth Theory” (note: I dispute their use of the word theory), which states (as you may have guessed) that the Earth is flat and that all the evidence indicating that it is round is a hoax.

My first reaction was that these guys were idiots, and I think I even said so out loud.  What proof could they possibly have that the Earth is flat??  I thought we had resolved this issue for good way back in the 15th century. Out of curiosity, and because my entertainment standards were lowered by boredom, I listened to what they had to say.

At first, their logic seemed ill-fated and stupid; something about a sailor who had taken multiple submarine trips to Antarctica in the 50’s and came back changed and how there are few “official” NASA photos of the Earth that are not composite photos.  But as I listened to what they said, I found myself starting to wonder if maybe they had a point.  Then I caught myself.  Wait a second, was I actually buying into this?

Maybe there was some errors that these guys had picked up on, and maybe our current knowledge of the universe is not perfect, but if you step back and examine the whole picture, how could you NOT believe the Earth is round? (ok, spherical).  We have the observations, mathematical evidence and proofs by people going as far back as Pythagoras, Eratosthenes, and the ancient Mayan astronomers.  We also have the travels of Columbus and Magellan, Wiley Post and Amelia Earhart, as well as more modern explorers that stand as evidence that the world is round.  Not to mention loads of scientific facts, and theories of physics and astronomy that support and hinge on the fact that the Earth and other celestial bodies are round and are orbiting each other.  And what about the fact that so many things in our modern world show us that the world is round; things such as time zones, and the Coriolis effect, and the magnetic poles, and eclipses, and the fact that there are satellites orbiting the earth right now making it possible for me to call my grandma on the other side of the country?  What about the orbit of the moon?  And, perhaps as the most convincing evidence, we have the testimonies of the few astronauts who have actually been to the moon, and seen the Earth from a distance and saw that it was round, and then used its gravity to get them home again.  All of these things only work and make sense if the Earth is indeed round. When I heard the man on the radio say “many scientists disagree” and then refer to “the controversy” I thought, “there is NO controversy! Just about EVERYBODY and EVERYTHING says that the Earth is round!”  Then this phrase popped into my mind, “all things denote there is a God.

This phrase comes from a Book of Mormon scripture story that goes like this: There was a guy named Korihor who started going around preaching to the people that there was no Christ and such a belief was foolish and even dangerous to their freedom.  Some people believed him, some rejected him.  He said that you can’t know of things you can’t see and therefore all these scriptures and prophets were just foolish traditions.  He also accused the teachers and priests who were teaching about Christ of doing so just to get power over the people and to get money.  Eventually Korihor’s carrying on got him in enough trouble that he was hauled before Alma, the High Priest of the land.  Korihor angrily accused Alma left and right, up and down, of the all aforementioned offenses.  Alma first debunked the argument that he taught about Christ to get gain, then he pointed out that Korihor didn’t have any evidence that there was no God or no Christ.  Korihor then said, “if thou wilt show me a sign, that I may be convinced there is a God … then will I be convinced of the truth of thy words” (Alma 30:43).  Alma replied to Korihor, “Thou hast had signs enough; will ye tempt your God? Will ye say, Show unto me a sign, when ye have the testimony of all these thy brethren, and also all the holy prophets? The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator” (Alma 30:44).

Just like the Flat-Earth theorists on the radio, when you listen to Korihor’s arguments, he may seem to have a point.  The arguments may seem to raise some doubt.  But what about the scriptures, the prophets, the verses that touched your heart, the times when you knew God was looking out for you, the prayers that were answered, the testimonies of those you love and trust, the belief that our spirits return to God after we die, and the peace that comes when we try to be like Christ?  What about that time when you felt warmth or joy or peace or love in your heart when a scripture passage spoke to you, or when you prayed with your whole soul, or when you took a leap of faith?  And perhaps most convincing are those few people who have actually seen God or Christ, have spoken to them, and have told their stories.  So many things only work and make sense if we know that God exists, that we are His children, and that He sent Jesus Christ.

When you stand back and consider the vast landscape of truth, and evidence, and faith, the arguments don’t seem so important.   In other words, we are given so many many reasons to believe and only a few reasons not to.  Dieter F. Uctdorf admonished, “my dear brothers and sisters—my dear friends—please, first doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith. We must never allow doubt to hold us prisoner and keep us from the divine love, peace, and gifts that come through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ” (General Conference Oct 2013).

Ignoring the mountain of evidence that the Earth is round and instead opting to believe the few reasons that it may be flat seems silly; like straining at gnats and swallowing a camel (Matt 23:24). Opting to completely abandon our faith because of a doubt may be just as foolish.  Are we, like Korihor, just waiting for a sign?

So whatever happened to Korihor?  How did his story end?  Well, he got his sign; he was struck dumb (unable to speak).  As soon as it happened, he confessed that he had always believed in God, but had just been deceived and he begged Alma to pray so that his curse could be removed.  Alma recognized that there was something fishy with his story and refused, saying that he would likely go right back to his Anti-Christ ways if it was gone. So Korihor lived out his days as a beggar and later died in an unfortunate trampling accident.

You can read the complete story of Korihor in The Book of Mormon, in the book of Alma chapter 30.  Read it online here.

Side note:

I find the last phrase of this chapter rather telling.  After we are informed of Korihor’s death because the people turned on him and trampled him to death, it reads, “and thus we see that the devil will not support his children at the last day, but doth speedily drag them down to hell” (Alma 30:60).  This is a stark contrast between God and the adversary, between good and evil; that God shows His love for His children no matter where they are and will support them and call after them.  Evil, on the other hand, seems to discard a person as soon as he is done with them.

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Who am I to Judge her Gift?

Years ago, I served as a missionary for my church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormons).  In case you didn’t already know, our missionaries (male or female) always travel in pairs and we don’t get to pick our partners or companions; they are assigned to us.

I was about halfway through my time as a missionary when I was assigned a companion who had a little bit of a reputation for being a goof ball.  Sister Williams was fun, for sure, but I could sometimes see the looks on other missionaries’ faces and tell that they were annoyed with her.  Sometimes people would roll their eyes at things she said or did.  Sometimes they would give us looks like, “don’t be a slack off” or “quit messing around and do what you’re supposed to do.”  No one ever said anything directly to me, but I knew that unkind things were sometimes said about Sister Williams.  I’ll admit to sometimes being annoyed too, but little did I know that this companion would teach me one of the greatest lessons I learned on my mission.

After only a week or so, Sis. Williams confided in me that she had been having pain in her feet.  Over the next few weeks that pain only got worse.  We tried to take the car as often as we could and go home for lunch so she could put her feet up, but it was no use.  Her pain only got worse and worse.  She was still silly at times, but I saw her struggle to keep her spirits up at times.  It got to the point where she would bite back tears as she took her first steps out of bed in the mornings and could only be working for a few hours before the pain would overcome her.  Our list of contacts and people to visit dried up because we simply could not go out for very long.

About this time, Sister Williams had a very serious conversation with our mission president.  He and she talked and considered and prayed and came to the conclusion that the best thing for her to do would be to cut her mission short and go home to recover.  I remember sitting with her and helping her pack the night before she was to leave.  A friend from the ward (local congregation) had given her little good-bye present to make her laugh.  It was a stuffed cow.  She hugged it and giggled and then sobbed as she realized that this was it and she was leaving in the morning.

That was when the great lesson dawned on me.  I saw Sister Williams crying and I realized then that she had given all she had. She had done her very best. Others had criticized her for not doing enough or being a slack off, but she had given all she had and that was her gift to the Lord.

In the parable of the talents, (Matt 25:14-30) the Lord gives each servant a different number of talents, and likewise when he returns from his journey each servant gives him back a different number of talents. (one servant got 5 and gave back 10, another servant got 2 and gave back 4, the last got 1 and gave back 1).  The Lord did not require each servant to achieve a certain “talent excellence achievement level”.  He only required each servant to do the best he could with what he had been given.  He praised both the servant with the 10 and the servant with the 4 equally.  He was only angry with the last servant who did not give his all.

When I saw Sister Williams weeping and when she left the next morning, I had the distinct impression; “Who am I to judge her gift?  She gave everything and her gift to the Lord has been acceptable to Him.” It didn’t matter if the gift of her missionary service was the same or as grand as someone else’s as long as (like the widow’s mite) it was her all.  I didn’t know her capabilities or what was in her heart, but God did, and He would judge. I remembered the scripture, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.  For with what judgement ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measurement ye mete, it shall be measured unto you again” (Matt 7:1-2).

I couldn’t help but think…”Am I doing my best?  Am I giving my all too?”

 

Check out this awesome talk by Elder Deiter Uctdorf on the subject titled, “Lord, is it I?”

PS. Names have been changed

 

 

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The Parable of the Poopy Diaper

Not too long ago, an older mother came home to find a younger mother cleaning off a high chair from the aftermath of what could only be described as a diaper explosion.  The older commented, “Oh, you’re cleaning with clorox wipes? I can’t stand those.  Bleach and disinfectant spray is much better.”  The younger mom was surprised and answered, “I like the wipes because then I can just throw them away and I don’t have to wash a nasty rag.”

The father of the family, who was seated nearby, heard this conversation and looked up from what he was doing.  He had a look on his face that said it all; he seemed to say, “I don’t really care HOW you clean it up, as long as it’s effective and I don’t have to do it.”

Moral of the story:  Sometimes it doesn’t really matter whether its this way or that way.  There is often more than one right answer.  Don’t forget to stand back and see the big picture.

Oh, and be nice to the people who have to clean up the poops!  🙂

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The Yellow Notebook

Some of the best advice I got as a young adult was to keep a journal of funny and wonderful things your kids say and do.  I actually started this while serving a mission for my church.  It helped me remember some of the funny moments and wonderfully spiritual moments.  Later, I started a new journal in a yellow notebook for my husband and kids as they have grown and it has been one of the greatest things.  Every now and then, my husband and I will laugh and laugh at something and then look at each other and say, “You’ve GOT to put that in the yellow notebook”.  Sometimes we will go back and read entries from past years and laugh and smile at what we remember.

Here are a few gems from our family:

“You make me happy.  You bring a smile to my heart and I enjoy it.” -My fiance (now husband)

College classmate when we got our quizzes back: Ha ha ha! I got a ’10’.
Me: I AM a 10!

Me: Kid!  You ate all the ketchup!
Boy: But mami, my tummy says, “Give me ketchup!”

My 4 year old had a small cup of water and he showed it to me:
“Mami, this is my commotion.”

Me: Save that chocolate cake for Daddy!
Dad: Hey!  Did you eat my chocolate cake?
Kid: It was an accident!

(this one is in Spanglish)
I am cooking and a kid is watching.
Kid: Mami, what is that you’re mixing?  Is that leche?
Me: No, that’s maizena.
Kid: It’s your cena???

My 4 yr old son is just standing around in the bathroom.
Me (getting frustrated): Just pee already!  Does it take an act of congress just to get you to pee?
Kid: L’action congress?? THAT’s not a number!

Kindergarten age son: I’m going to marry you.
Me: You can’t marry me, I’m already taken.
Kid: No, I’m going to marry you.
Me: But you’re not allowed to get married until after you graduate kindergarten.
Kid (suddenly very worried): But… who can I marry??
Me: Don’t worry, I’ll tell you who you can marry.

I realized there was no paper left in the bathroom, so I yelled for help from the nearest available person – who happened to be my 2 yr old daughter.
Me: Quick! Go to the other bathroom and bring me some paper!
Kid: Ok Mami!
She comes back with 1 little square.
Me: No, lots of paper!  Bring me LOTS of paper!
She leaves and is gone for a while.
Me: Helloooo? Hey!  Are you coming???
Kid (finally back and holding something): Look mami!  I got cheese!

Me having a heart to heart with my 2 yr old who is potty training:
You’re a big girl now.  Big girls don’t wear diapers anymore, they poopoo in the toilet.
Kid (with some sad eyes and a pensive look): Mami… I need bacon.

Daddy gave our 5 yr old son his milk in a pink Hello Kitty cup.
Kid: Dad! This cup is for girls!
Dad: Yeah, but you guys watch My Little Pony and that is for girls.
Kid: But I don’t tell anybody!

(I laughed about the bacon one for days!)

I would recommend this idea to you for your family. It brings you back to happy and funny moments with your family.  You can even glue little love notes or pictures your kids drew into your own “yellow notebook” too.  If you don’t have kids or are not married, write down some of the funny things that friends and family say and amazing moments in your life.  I have even saved favorite scriptures or inspirational sayings along with a note about why I kept it.  It will become a treasure, I promise.

 

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