Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Confessions of a newly RELEASED Relief Society President

I sat down at the end of the day on Sunday, April 24th and just let the events of the day wash over me. I was a little bit numb from it all, but knowing that I needed to ponder and pray and spend some time with the Lord. While I was sitting there, I received a text from someone in a tough situation who needed help. Immediately my stomach did that little twist thing it always does and then my mind started to work out a plan of action and then, as if someone immensely kind and loving whispered them to me directly, these words filled my mind, "You don't have to do that anymore. It is someone else's turn now."

A wave of relief, gratitude and peace filled my heart and I called the new Relief Society President - the sister who had been sustained and set apart earlier that day. I called her and handed it over to her with the promise of helping in any way. Then...I let it go. It was really in the Lord's hands and I knew He would take care of everything - He always does.

In October of 2013, I was called to be the ward Relief Society President. This last Sunday, April 24th, 2016, I was released from that calling. When I started I didn't have any idea how long my turn would be. This release feels right at this time. I trust the Lord and His plan.

Several people have asked how it feels to be released from such a heavy responsibility - sad? - relieving? - joyful?

I'm gonna say...


...and I'm also going to add to those feelings, grateful, humbling and grateful, very, very grateful to have had this amazing experience.

I know I should say here that I felt so much joy as the Relief Society President - and I did. But I have to be honest...it was also hard...very hard. Every Relief Society President's experience is different. The needs I encountered were often very draining and confusing and overwhelming and unexpected and even painful at times and constant. That's just the truth. I'm not complaining and if you know me, you'll know that I'm a bit of a "Pollyanna" so, what I have written, is not meant to sound whiny, it is meant to be truthful. I know there are many women around the world who read what I write and I do not want to paint a picture that everything was centerpieces and casseroles. This is the work of Salvation we're involved in here - that's not an easy schmeasy thing.

Now, before you start lecturing me about how I probably didn't delegate or I took on too many projects, or I did too much...let me tell you that I have learned that we should never say that to a Relief Society President. Never. She is probably painfully aware of all that she is not getting done and the sisters she is never able to visit. Don't tell her she is doing too much - rather, ask her how you can help.

Let me tell you why...

You know what, I'm just going to write a list of lessons learned and I think that will cover it all. (I was not perfect at any of these items - that's why they were lessons. I could have still used a few thousand years to perfect them!)

1. Jesus Christ does it all. We think it is us and, to be fair, it is our feet and our hands and our thoughts and our time and energies that get the work done. But ALL of the energy, the thoughts, the motivation, the time, the love come because Jesus Christ loves us. This is all about us growing closer to Him while helping others grow closer to Him. This is His work and His glory. This is His job and His joy. He will not let His work fail and so He will not let you fail. He does it all. He does it all.

I love this specific picture of Jesus talking with the woman at the well. It reminded me always that maybe I felt like I was doing the work, but I always knew the Savior was watching and giving me the strength and inspiration to do that work.

2. All Jesus Christ expects from you is that you do your best. That's all. Just do your best. Yes, that means that there will be many things left undone. Yes, there will be those who do not understand that this is all that the Lord asks and so they will bring to your attention all that you are NOT doing - sometimes they won't be nice about it. You just have to let that go and concentrate on the Savior just asking that you do your best and He'll take care of the rest. Just focus on the Savior.

3. Always remember that everyone else is doing their best as well. You will wish that others were remembering that about you and so you must do that for others as well. This is a volunteer organization. We are not professionals. We are all learning and growing and making mistakes and we're all at different places each and every day in our discipleship. (Including yourself.)

4. Follow every prompting. Follow every prompting. Let me repeat...follow every prompting. No matter how small or inconvenient or even scary that prompting may be...follow it. It will take serious spiritual guts sometimes. You are on the Lord's errand. He will tell you what those errands are and you must follow. Miracles - big and small - will take place that way. Once again, some may not agree with what you are doing. They do not know the prompting you received and the reasons for that prompting. Do it anyway. Don't worry about what others will think. Just concentrate on the Savior. You serve Him.

5. Use your counselors and the visiting teachers. This is one area where a Relief Society President can get it wrong - trying to do it all by herself. That is IMPOSSIBLE! Let me repeat IMPOSSIBLE! Besides, you are not the only one who needs to grow. You are not the only one who can serve. Even Heavenly Father delegates. Follow His example and let/expect others to fulfill their callings and do their parts. Interestingly, enlisting the help of others will require a bit more work on your part. It is easier (at first) to just do things on your own and get them done in your own way and in your own time. If you choose to allow others to help, you will have to make more phone calls and do some training and do some groveling. But, once again, it is not all about you and your job is to help the women in your ward grow closer to Jesus Christ - let them do that by letting them do their part.

6. If you are a micro-manager, or a control-freak (I say that with love and kindness), #5 will be difficult. Your counselor who has stewardship over additional activities is entitled to inspiration within her stewardship. If her ideas are not the same as yours, that is OKAY. Did you read that? Say it with me...EVEN IF HER IDEAS ARE NOT THE SAME AS MINE, THAT IS OKAY! Different is not bad. Let her grow. The same goes for any other assignments within your presidency and board. Let them grow. As long as commandments are being kept, guidelines are being followed and you've been kept up to date about all decisions...let them do their thing in their own way.

7. This one is for those who are currently serving as a Relief Society President and those who are not: some of the "duties" of a Relief Society President are not truly her "duties" as outlined in the Church's Handbook of instructions. As an LDS culture, we have come to expect some things from a Relief Society President that are simply not her responsibilities and by so doing, we add unnecessary burdens on her shoulders. It is important for a President to know her duties and not get sucked into what others can and should do for themselves. It is just as important for those of us who are not Presidents to not expect more from her than we should.

8. This one is also important for those who are currently serving as a Relief Society President and important for those who are not, to know: As the Relief Society President, do not assume that your personal and family life will be free of trials and challenges. In fact, I'm gonna go out on a limb and say, satan may work extra hard on your family while you serve. he did mine. There were moments, days, weeks, months when I felt nearly unable to function properly because of the sadness, pain and anguish in my heart with regards to my personal challenges, while simultaneously responding to texts, emails and phone calls of others who were feeling the similar anguish in their own lives. The weight on my heart was very heavy at times.

9. It will be in your hardest moments, when your own heart is in anguish, yet you find the strength to comfort others in their heartaches, that you will come to know Jesus Christ better than ever before. Somehow, in those defining moments, when, in the midst of your personal heartache, your heart can find compassion for others during their turmoil, the Savior will heal your turmoil. He will. He will look down on your heartache and He'll be so touched by your willingness to still help someone else and He'll help you and He'll heal you and you will feel so very, very close to Him. You'll discover that you are surviving your life's ordeals BECAUSE of your service and you'll decide you better never be released or else you might not survive. ;) That doesn't mean all of your trials will go away, it just means you'll realize how much you need the Savior and you'll reach for Him more and you'll understand His pain more and you'll realize that in His greatest anguish, He reached out to us to comfort us. You'll love Him more than ever. Read this BYU devotional talk by Elder Bednar "The Character of Christ" - you will be so glad you did!

10. Okay, enough of the hard...have FUN! Find ways to enjoy the women you serve and learn from them and get to know them. Add fun parts to your additional meetings. Laugh with your ladies. Include the younger sisters in fun ways. Shake things up a bit sometimes by going on "field trips" - such as having every woman in Relief Society on Father's Day go over to the Priesthood Quorums opening exercises to surprise them all with cinnamon rolls. (That was fun!) Don't just do the typical, nice, sit and listen lessons on Sundays. (Besides, the time for "sweet" lessons has passed!) Try new things. Think out-of-the-box. Don't pressure yourself to be perfect - especially with decorations, handouts, activities, etc. Keep it simple so that the women in your ward will not feel pressured to do more than is necessary. SIMPLE is always better and happier. (You'll figure it out. Just have fun!)

11. Remember who it is you are serving - DAUGHTERS OF GOD. Remember who they are at all times so that when they forget you can remind them. Pray to see them how our Father sees them. You will LOVE those women so dearly and you will long to help them find joy in their lives. Remember what these royal daughters are capable of and tell them. Lift them higher. Fill their hearts with hope. Remind them of their divine DNA. Pray for an eternal perspective that will allow you to remain above some of the depression and darkness of the world so that your light will be bright enough to help others see the Savior.
Photo credit: http://www.sugardoodle.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2607

12. Expect miracles. You will watch miracles take place! You will be amazed at how people's lives can change and at how hearts can be touched and you will fall to your knees in gratitude.

13. DO NOT compare yourself to any other Relief Society President in any other ward, including those in your ward who have served before you. Do not allow yourself to think that you are worse than, or even better than the President before you or those serving in other wards near you. That is wrong and DANGEROUS! The Lord called YOU at this time to do what only YOU can do. Trust that and don't let satan convince you otherwise. Don't let others try to convince you either. There will be some who completely don't like you for reasons you may never understand. They will think they know your motives or how you should be doing things...but they won't...so don't let them get to you.

14. If you are a wife and a mother, your most important callings are being a wife and a mother. Relief Society comes after those two callings.

15. Appreciate the Priesthood brethren in your ward and work along side them with humility and gratitude. Remember who they are as well - sons of God - and remember that they are not perfect and they have families to take care of and jobs to do each day and they are just doing their best. Communicate with them. Work WITH them, not against them. I once heard Sister Julie Beck refer to the church as a row boat with the Priesthood Brethren having one ore and the Relief Society sisters having the other. If you are both rowing in opposite directions, your ward is just going to row around in circles. But when you work together, your ward will go forward.

16. Everything is going to be okay. This is the Lord's Work of Salvation. He will not let it fail. No matter what you do wrong or how you flub up or upset someone or overreact or forget something important or whatever it may be. You are not going to destroy the Lord's Kingdom with your weaknesses. People will not know most of what you do. That's okay. The Savior will. He'll be with you.

17. Be released graciously and humbly. This is not a competition. You are not being fired. You knew when you started that one day you would be released. It was your turn once and now it is time for someone else to have a turn. Be the new Relief Society President's biggest cheerleader! She'll need your support - remember? :)

There's more, but this will do for now. I'm most certainly not an expert. I was not perfect at any of these items - that's why they were lessons. I could have still used a few thousand years to perfect them! Yes, I copied this from above because it is very true!

When I was very first called to be the Relief Society President, I wrote a post entitled "Confessions of a newly called Relief Society President". That post generates viewers every day and email messages from Relief Society Presidents all over the place. It is a tough job - a job that requires help from Heaven every single moment.

The truth is, callings come and go. What we must remember is that we are Disciples of Jesus Christ who are willing to serve whenever and wherever He needs us - our homes being of the utmost importance to Him. Our callings are just opportunities for us to smooth out our rough edges and become more like Jesus Christ.

I LOVE being a member of the Lord's RELIEF Society in these last days before He comes again.  I get to be the Sunbeam teacher now. I've gone from a stewardship of 250, to a stewardship of 6. I love it and I'm grateful to serve and learn about the Savior in a different way and from a different set of His children.

I'm most excited to be able to spend some more time with my own children who wanted to stand up and cheer on Sunday when they heard that I was released. They are wonderful and they have gone on many a Relief Society adventure with me over the past few years - sometimes cheerfully, sometimes not. They are my greatest stewardship in this life and I love them very much.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The 5 Words That Changed My Life!

A few years ago I read a BYU devotional talk entitled "Personal Ministry: Sacred and Precious" given by Sister Bonnie D. Parkin. At the time she gave this talk, Sister Parkin was the Relief Society General President for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

To put it simply, this talk changed my life. Well, to be more accurate, 5 words in that talk changed my life.

This is how the talk begins:

My daughter-in-law’s mother, Susan, was a wonderful seamstress. President Kimball lived in their ward. One Sunday, Susan noticed that he had a new suit. Her father had recently returned from a trip to New York and had brought her some exquisite silk fabric. Susan thought that fabric would make a handsome tie to go with President Kimball’s new suit. So on Monday she made the tie. She wrapped it in tissue paper and walked up the block to President Kimball’s home.

On her way to the front door, she suddenly stopped and thought, “Who am I to make a tie for the prophet? He probably has plenty of them.” Deciding she had made a mistake, she turned to leave.
Just then Sister Kimball opened the front door and said, “Oh, Susan!”

Stumbling all over herself, Susan said, “I saw President Kimball in his new suit on Sunday. Dad just brought me some silk from New York . . . and so I made him a tie.”

Before Susan could continue, Sister Kimball stopped her, took hold of her shoulders, and said: “Susan, never suppress a generous thought.” 

Did you see 'em? Did you see the 5 words?
If you didn't, I'll write them again...

"...never suppress a generous thought."

 I loved that thought and I started thinking more about it day after day. I wanted to try it out so if I had a thought to send a friend a note, I sent a note. If I had a thought to give someone some money, I gave someone some money. If I had a thought to make someone dinner or offer to babysit some kids or give someone a ride, I did not suppress those generous thoughts. I acted on them and I began to notice something...the more I acted on those thoughts, the more of those thoughts I would receive. 

(Let me say here that there is a risk in putting something like this out into the public. It may seem that I am trying to point out all of the good that I think I do. Trust me when I say, I know the good is being done by the Lord. I'm merely pointing out what can happen when we let the Lord work through us to bless the lives of others. It's all Him...ALL HIM!)

It was fun and exhilarating to feel a prompting to call someone on the phone and then find out that person had really needed that phone call and had even prayed for help that day. The Lord had let me be part of His answer to that person's prayer and I loved it! I felt as if I was constantly on this grand adventure in following the Spirit and serving the Lord. I met wonderful people and had happy, faith promoting experiences that kept me wanting more!

But then the promptings started to change a bit...or maybe I started to change.

One night I was sitting by the door of my 4-year-old daughter's bedroom. She was crying in her bed. Sleep had never been an easy part of her life. From day one, I knew it would be one of our greatest struggles.Yes, I tried all of those methods and read lots of books. At this time, I was trying to let her cry it out while still being close enough, but I was frustrated. It had been a very long day and I might have lost my patience a time or two or ten during the day.

I sat there by the door, with a little bit of frustration but then the Holy Ghost clearly whispered, "Go to her." I fought it, thinking it was just me giving in and I was bound and determined to stick with the "book's" instructions. But then the Holy Ghost knew exactly what to say to me, "That was a generous thought I just gave you."

My mouth dropped open and I knew He was right.

I got up and snuggled up with my crying, sleepless girl and just loved her and let her know that everything was gong to be okay. What followed was a sweet experience as a mommy apologized for the events of the day, and then talked with her 4-year-old daughter about life and love and our Father in Heaven. She even asked me some very deep questions during that snuggle that I would have missed if I had dug in my heels and refused to see that impression for what it really was.

From that moment on, I started to see generous thoughts as not just opportunities to give stuff and money and time and tangible things. I started to see them as simply loving, forgiving, sustaining, teaching and being on the Lord's errand.

The generous thoughts kept coming but they were different now. They required more sacrifice, more courage, more hard work and more faith.

Case in point:

One day I was driving home from the gym (Don't be too impressed. That was an unusual occurrence which only made this situation more of a divine intervention than a coincidence.) at 6:15am and drove passed a little woman sitting on the side of the road on her walker. It was 6:15 AM! What was she doing? The Holy Ghost whispered, 

"Stop and help her."


"Stop and help her."

"I have to get my kids off to school."

By this time I had driven passed her. "Turn around and go help her."

"The truth is that I'm scared. She doesn't look like someone I would usually associate with." (I'm embarrassed to write that, but its the truth.)

"Turn around."

I turned around and pulled up beside her and said, "Do you need some help?"

"Yes! I could use a ride back to my trailer." 

I pulled into the parking lot right next to her and got out of the car. I opened the passenger door and reached for her walker so that I could put it in the back of my car. I was overwhelmed with the stench of cigarette smoke and the lack of a bath for far too long. I got back in the car to take her home and she said, "You must go to church! You must be a Christian!"

"Well, yes I am! I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Would you like to come to church with me this week?" (Where was my boldness coming from?)

"Mormons? No! I hate Mormons!"

That was 2 years ago. That grumpy little old lady on the side of the road has now become a good friend who comes over to my house for dinner on Sundays, plays games with my children and gives us many opportunities to serve. She was even baptized (!) and comes to church every week with us. She still often smells the same and she still lives in the teeniest little trailer I've ever seen. But she has changed me. Our Father has helped me see her, the real her, and it is my honor to serve her. He has told me to love her, just love her. And so that is what I try to do.

Generous thoughts come for all sorts of reasons and at all sorts of levels. I have learned some very important lessons about serving the Lord. Sometimes, when we act on generous thoughts, we will not always be doing something that is warm and fuzzy and the results will not always be wrapped up in bright pretty packages. Sometimes generous thoughts will lead us to unexpected places and present us with opportunities that require great courage and will ask us to step out of our comfort zones...way out of our comfort zones. 

Another thing I've learned about generous thoughts is that the results will not always be what you first envisioned. In fact, sometimes, it may look like you have made a terrible mistake or made matters worse. Hang in there, keep your eyes open for the Lord's plan and remember that He works in mysterious ways. He sees what you do not see and knows what you do not know. As long as you are not breaking the commandments or the covenants you made at baptism, trust Him. He can make such beautiful things come out of chaos. (The universe for instance!) 

The reality is, the two most generous thoughts in the history of the universe were just like this. When our Father sent His beloved son to earth, knowing how He would be treated and the pain He would suffer, was that not a generous thought? Wasn't He thinking of us and how much He loved us and how we wouldn't be able to return Home if He didn't act on that generous thought?

Moreover, who can think of a more generous thought than that of our Savior as He suffered in Gethsemane and on the cross? That was done for no other reason than to help us, every single one of us, because of His astounding love for us. Aren't we grateful our Father in Heaven and our elder Brother Jesus Christ did not suppress those generous thoughts, even though it meant things were going to be harder than any of us can comprehend?

You see, sometimes generous thoughts require us to do hard things. They almost never come at convenient times and often you are asked to do something smell or messy or scary. Sometimes generous thoughts are tangible and sometimes they are spiritual. Sometimes you will be asked to deal with situations that not many people would be part of - except for Jesus Christ. (Remember that last part when He asks you to respond to one of those particular generous thoughts. He gave it to you because He trusts you.)

 You can choose to accept the opportunity of acting on those generous thoughts or not. The Savior will love you the same no matter what you choose. It has been my experience, however, that when we act on the generous thoughts that require us to dig deep and seek the Lord's sustaining companionship, those are the greatest adventures of all and those are the times when you feel closer to the Savior than ever before. It kinda makes you want those kind of opportunities all of the time and it makes you appreciate the sweet, simple, warm and fuzzy opportunities more.

 Never suppress generous thoughts....especially the ones that take guts!

I am not perfect at this yet. There are many generous thoughts I do not act on, for many different reasons. Sometimes my mortalness gets in the way and I forget and have to be reminded how wonderful it can be to follow those promptings. I'm getting better though and I hope I'm helping my children learn.

Jesus Christ will return again someday...someday soon. Until then there is work to be done and volunteers are needed! If you choose to join the ranks, start following every prompting EVERY PROMPTING. You'll learn and you will make some mistakes and you will realize you still have a lot to learn but you will find you and your family being part of grand adventures with the Savior as your guide! You will watch Him working in the lives of others and in turn you will see Him working in your life and you will know how wonderful He is and how in charge He really is and how He really does have everything under control. 

Never suppress a generous thought...

He never does.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

A Note from a Relief Society President

Wowsers! it has been a long time since I posted something on this blog. My most popular posts in the last year or so continue to be about my experiences serving as a Relief Society President. It is a challenging calling, no doubt. Just when you think you've got it figured out, you get a curve ball sent your way and you have to start all over. I have been so busy with the calling and my kiddos and just plain life, that I haven't really had mush time to sit and post on this blog.

I had some strong thoughts this morning about Relief Society and I decided to post them on my ward's private Relief Society Facebook page. I feel that I should post them here. Maybe someone out there in blogger land needs these words today as well. Usually, I'm the one who needs them most.

Yesterday was the 173rd birthday of the Relief Society of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

I had a chat with a dear friend from out of town yesterday about her feelings regarding Relief Society. She hasn't yet caught the vision and just sees it as tablecloths, casseroles and quilts and a bunch of women just sitting around doing crafts and that no one has any serious problems and no one is in her particular situation and that no one really wants her there. She thinks Relief Society is the hour in church on Sunday or the activity once a month or the woman who asks if your Visiting Teaching has been done. She feels that she doesn't fit in and she doesn't belong.

I remember the times when I felt that way. I remember, during the long difficult years waiting and longing for children to come to my family, going to Relief Society was not fun. It was very hard to sit through the lessons on motherhood and family and feel like any of it was for me. Rather, it just seemed to intensify satan's whisperings that I wasn't a worthy daughter of God. I know that sounds silly, but that is how powerful his whisperings were in my ears and I couldn't always get past them. I felt lost and alone and like I didn't belong there. I realize now that was all happening in my own head, and not what was really happening. There have been other reasons I haven't felt comfortable in Relief Society over the years - maybe I'll share those with you someday.

For now let me just share what I have felt the Lord help me see...Relief Society is a place for all of our Father's daughters, no matter what. There is no definition of what a Relief Society sister is, other than a daughter of God. If the truth be known, every single Relief Society sister has an ache in her heart and feels guilty about something, or insignificant or has times when she wants to stay away. That is called being mortal...and its okay. RELIEF Society is a place where our Savior wants us to find relief and He knows we'll need to find it over and over and over again at every stage of our life. He also knows that the more we discover that Relief Society is about Him, the more we will want to share it with others and the more good we will be able to do and the more relief for ourselves we will be able to feel as we participate.

Truly, we all belong. Sisters, the Relief Society is the largest and oldest organization for women in the world and it was organized by Jesus Christ Himself. If that is something you question or don't yet grasp, ask our Father in Heaven about it. He'll help you see as He helped me.

The day is drawing closer and closer to when Jesus Christ will return. That also means satan is going to work harder and harder to get us to not be ready for that day. he'll do that in any way that he can. As we stick together and help each other, we will be stronger. Every member of the Relief Society is different and will contribute in different ways and this is exactly how it is supposed to be. If you feel that you don't fit the mold of the ideal Relief Society sister, please know that the truth is THERE IS NO IDEAL RELIEF SOCIETY SISTER. The sooner we can let go of that belief, the sooner we can get on with doing what we were born to do and with what the Lord has asked us to do.

I LOVE being part of the Relief Society. I haven't always felt that way, but I do now and it has helped me have a greater sense of exactly who I am, the power I possess, the courage to use that power and Who is really in charge!

- "There are many sisters who are living in rags—spiritual rags. They are entitled to gorgeous robes, spiritual robes. … It is your privilege to go into homes and exchange robes for rags." —President Spencer W. Kimball (Daughters in My Kingdom, 117)

"Although the name may be of modern date, the institution is of ancient origin. We were told by our martyred prophet that the same organization existed in the church anciently." —Eliza R. Snow, Relief Society general president, 1866–87 (Daughters in My Kingdom, 1)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

A pep talk for a Relief Society President - and anyone else who serves the Lord

I am someone who shares my testimony often. That doesn't mean it doesn't take a lot of courage and that I don't ever feel hesitant or second guess myself. Am I saying too much? Am I saying too little? Am I turning people away? Am I preachy? Am I scaring people, rather than inspiring them?

These are all questions I often hear in my mind. Do any of you ask yourselves the same questions?

I have lived long enough and experienced enough to know that I need to push through those questions and never let them stop me from doing what I feel is right. Yet, I still have moments when I need a pep talk.

One of those moments came this last Sunday.

I have written several times that I am currently serving as the Relief Society President in my ward. Within my stewardship, I am to care for and watch over all of the women ages 18 and older in our ward - about 230 women. Of course, I don't do this alone. There are many, many people who participate in this watch care. However, as the President, I often have women on my mind that no one else seems to worry about. Each week I make phone calls or visits to women who haven't been visited by anyone in a very long time or who don't feel like they fit in and/or who are afraid to come to church and join us,.

I share my testimony and love with these women and invite them to come to church. I do this often and every Sunday, before Sacrament meeting begins, you can find me waiting at the doors to the chapel, or even the doors to the building, looking for those who have promised to come. I want to greet them and help them feel welcome and glad they came.

They don't come. Sometimes they do. Most of the time they don't. I usually feel sadness at their absence but I can't let that drag me down, I have too many other reasons to be happy about all of the women who are there each Sunday.

But I care...sometimes I think I care too much. Is that possible?

That deep caring won't allow me to give up. I have a testimony that I am on the Lord's errand. I know He won't give up and so I can't. Jesus Christ has put into my heart a love for these women and I know how important and precious they are to Him. How can I give up when I know who these women really are...daughters of God?

This last Sunday was a particularly difficult day and my sadness overcame my optimism. I hate to admit it but I thought to myself, "Why? Why, Heavenly Father, why have you put into my heart a love for these sisters if it seems that they will never return? Aren't there more productive ways for me to spend my time and energy?" I will admit to some tears in Sacrament meeting.

But then in Sunday School, the Lord began to answer my question. I was asked to read this paragraph in our class and I choked up on the last two sentences, "The Apostle Paul was a great missionary sent to the Gentiles. After he was converted to the Church, he spent the remainder of his life preaching the gospel to them. At different times during his mission he was whipped, stoned, and imprisoned. Yet he continued to preach the gospel (see Acts 23:10–12; 26)." Gospel Principles Chapter 33

Then the teacher showed this video:

I will admit, once again, to more tears during this short movie - lots of tears.

In this divine answer to my questions, I was not told, "Don't give up." I was not told "Love others no matter what." I was told that I love the Savior. It was as if Jesus whispered to me that He knows I love Him and He knows my heart and that is why He asks me to do the hard things and that's all I need to remember.

It's all because of Him. That's why I go visit and share and encourage and love over and over and over again, often without any sign of progress. Because of Him. I love Him with all of my heart and the deep-in-my-heart reason why I do all that I do is because of my love for Him. If everything else was taken away, I would still want to be part of the Lord's work because it is simply that, the Lord's work and I want to be where He is, doing what He is doing.

I know I am not alone in that sentiment. I know there are many others in our world who feel exactly the same as I do.

And then the thoughts started pouring in...

My mind began to remember all of the verses of scripture that tell of how prophets or servants of God were discouraged, even shedding tears, because their assignments from the Lord were hard and often, no one seemed to listen or even care.

A desire began to burn in my heart. A desire to read the Book of Mormon again and search the Bible again for some very specific messages - messages from those who have felt exactly as I feel. If I were standing with Nephi or Isaiah or Moroni, if they were giving me a pep talk for my daily assignments, what would they say? 

I started that day with 1 Nephi chapter 1 - THE PERFECT PLACE TO START for someone who needs a pep talk from someone who knows how hard being involved in this work can be sometimes. I'm going to write about that one in my next post.

For now I want to say that I am a happy, cheerful, optimistic, hopeful person who also feels sadness and discouragement as I take part in the Work of Salvation. I know I'm not the only one. I'm normal and so is every one of you who has  felt those same feelings.

I'm going to write about the pep talks I am given as I study how those who lived thousands of years ago overcame their fears, insecurities and discouragements and served the Lord no matter what, even when it was hard, no, especially when it was hard.  They have much to teach me and I'm so excited to have them be my tutors in this work.

 I can't think of any better teachers than those who proved themselves to be the Savior's friends, for that is the title I want most of all...I want my dearest, truest, most loyal friend, Jesus Christ, to be able to look at me and call me "friend" as well.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Spencer was right!

Many years ago, as an 18-year-old girl, I was asked to teach the 5-year-old Sunday school class. My class consisted of some very energetic, rambunctious little boys. Needless to say, although I planned great lessons about how Heavenly Father loves us and how He made the sun, moon and stars, my lessons usually ended up being about why we don't stand on the chairs or color on the walls.

One Sunday, in "Sharing Time", the teacher asked the whole Primary a simple question, "Why are we here on earth?"

Hands shot up and the older kids were shouting out the usual answers: "To get a body!" "To be tested!" All the right answers; they had been taught well. But then someone taught me something greater.

A little boy in my class named Spencer began to tug on my shirt sleeve. "Teacher! Teacher! I know the answer!"

"Raise your hand Spencer and maybe she'll call on you to give your answer."

He shook his head in embarrassment but continued to tug at my sleeve wanting to share what was bursting from his little heart.

So, I asked him if he would be willing to whisper his answer into my ear. He liked that option so I leaned in closer to him.

I can still feel his little whisper in my ear, "We're here on earth to love Jesus."

My heart melted. With a quiver in my voice I said, "Yes, Spencer, you are right!" as my eyes filled with tears, I realized this little 5-year-old had just taught me more than I could have ever taught him.

The first great commandment, is the first great commandment for a reason."Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind." (Matthew 22:38) The Lord is not selfish or vain, He knows that when we love Him, we will keep His commandments and make it Home to Him.

Keeping the first commandment always leads to keeping the second, because to love the Father and the Son is to serve those They love. In answer to our prayers for guidance, They send the Holy Ghost to tell us how to help others and to feel at least a part of God’s love. So in that service, our love of God increases and the keeping of the second great commandment leads us back to the first, in an ascending circle. In time, our very natures change. We are filled with the love of God, which, even in a world with so much misery and despair, brings us happiness and hope. [Henry B. Eyring, Because He First Loved Us (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2002), ix] 

Spencer was right. We are here to love Jesus because when we do, we will do all of the other things Jesus has asked us to do. We will know that He gives us commandments and guidelines because He sees what we do not see and knows what we do not know. When we love Jesus, we will trust Him and follow Him and long to be with Him again. We will not worry about what others think or if they agree with us because our hearts will belong to the one who loves us most. When we love Jesus, we will find peace in this life despite the chaos and heartache that may be going on around us. We will have the courage to do what is hard no matter what. When we love Jesus we will know that He will help us overcome ALL things in our life and that we will never, ever be alone.

Even with all of those good reasons to love Jesus, the simplest reason is that, "We love him, because he first loved us." (1 John 4:19)


...and He always will.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Once upon a time there was a little red headed girl...

I once knew a little girl whose mother was an artist. This mother wanted to help her 5-year-old daughter develop some artistic talents. She learned of an art contest at the school and decided to have her daughter enter the contest. Each entrant was asked to create a piece of art/music/poetry finishing this phrase, "Love is..."

The mother sat down with this little girl and said, "I am going to say something and I want you to finish the sentence for me....'Love is...'" The little girl didn't even think for a full minute. She replied, "Everyone!"

So the mother and the little girl sat and decided what kind of picture to create. They decided to make a picture of different people from around the world. The mother practiced what to draw with the little girl a few different times. She gave her some artistic tips and encouraged her to use certain colors and styles, and taught her how to fill in all of the spaces with her crayons, but the art was done completely by the 5-year-old.

That little girl started to think even more about her picture and she felt the truth of those words deep in her little heart...and she still does 37 years later. She is no longer that little girl. She has two children of her own, a busy life and lots to think about, but she still believes. She still chooses to believe that "Love Is Everyone". Despite the fact that since those days, she has had some experiences which challenge the simple truth she drew about so long ago. She knows that in the eternal scheme of things, in the eyes of our Savior, love truly is everyone.

She is so grateful for a mother who took the time to help her develop a talent (although she doesn't draw much better now than she did back then - maybe the talent being developed was a different kind of art ). There was a lot of sadness in their home, but there were bright, beautiful experiences too - this was one of them.

BTW...the little girl won the contest and went on to receive other awards as the picture was passed on to different levels of competition. The little girl was excited to win but all she really understood was that several times she was asked to stand up in front of large groups of people, hold up her picture and say, "Love Is Everyone'".

(BTW#2...now that little girl, who is all grown up, has a blog devoted completely to Jesus Christ, the one who has filled her heart and taught her to continue to love because He always loves. The blog is called "Much More Him" and maybe it is her adult way of standing in front of groups of people and saying "Love Is Everyone", because she has learned, on even deeper levels than before, that to our Savior Jesus Christ, that saying is very, very true!

This one was obviously not done by me (the little red headed girl, if you did pick up on that.) This one is by Greg Olsen - a true artistic talent.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Even More Confessions of a (no longer newly called) Relief Society President

I've written two posts on this blog since becoming the Relief Society President in my ward.

Confessions of a Newly Called Relief Society President


More Confessions of a Newly Called Relief Society President

Every so often I get curious and I check the stats of this blog and what I am shocked at each time is how many hits those two posts get, how often they are shared and what search questions lead readers to those posts. Search questions such as "Overwhelmed Relief Society President", "How do I be a good Relief Society President", "Helps for Relief Society Presidents", "New Relief Society President needs help"...the list goes on. Somehow typing those questions into a search bar leads them to these two posts on my blog.

I want to write more but here's the thing...I NEED THOSE SAME HELPS MYSELF!! How can I write a post of encouragement and support when I'm sitting in the same circle with all of those who need help from someone who knows?

So I want to ask some questions...

*Does the busyness of this calling sometimes come in waves? (Sometimes Tsunami waves?)

*Do you love it when you see the sisters in your ward supporting each other and loving each other and you think, "Oh this is wonderful!"

*Visiting Teaching? (I think I can leave that at just those two words and you'll get it.)

*Just when you think you have some situation under control, does it suddenly blow up again?

*Do your kids hate your phone? (Because you are always on the phone)

*Do you love sharing your testimony with the Sisters and feeling the love of our Father in Heaven flow through you to them?

*Are you sometimes amazed at the ideas the Holy Ghost gives to you and you know they aren't from you and you are so grateful?

*Are you amazed at how clueless you can be about what to do sometimes?

*Do you want to stand up and shout for joy when you see a sister who hasn't been to church in a very long time walk through the chapel doors?

*Do you go through weeks when you hear of sad situations in your ward every day and you can't help but just sit down and cry and plead with our Father in Heaven to bless those dear sisters and help you know how to help?

*Do you struggle to set appropriate boundaries?

*Do you call the temple to put names on the prayer roll more than you ever have before?

*Do you sometimes wonder what in the world the Lord was thinking when He called you?

*Have you been more aware of your weaknesses than ever before?

*Are you so grateful for good and talented counselors who have great ideas and you are glad they share those ideas?

*Do you want to depend more on your counselors but sometimes you just don't know how and they have busy lives and their own trials too?

*Do you sometimes feel like you are drowning in all of the varied and differing responsibilities that rest on your shoulders?

*Do you wish, with all of your heart, that you could respond to every distress call your heart detects but you just can't, so you turn to the visiting teachers and hope they do?

*Do you wonder how your Bishop is able to take care of a whole ward when you sometimes feel overwhelmed just taking care of the women?

*Are you so touched by how giving the women in your ward can be?

*Are you amazed at the many different talents the women in your ward have and you want to find a way to let them all use their talents and be more involved in each others lives?

*Are you also amazed at the talented women around you and know the ward is filled with smart, wise, spiritual women who would all do a wonderful job as the Relief Society President and you are humbled that at this time it is you?

*Do you absolutely love the time you get to spend with just your family and you see even more clearly now why it is so important to teach them the Gospel of Jesus Christ and love them and forgive them and remember that your most important calling is to be a wife and a mother?

*Do you find that you are more able to handle whatever may come if you read the scriptures every day, pray several times a day and keep yourself away from many of the world's distractions?

*Do you know that you will be a safe place for some women to vent their heartaches and frustrations and sometimes that includes taking out their frustrations on you and you needn't take it personally, just love them. (Although you don't need to allow yourself to be abused. That is an important boundary to set.)

*Do you know that you will never be everything to everyone and the mistakes you make will always be pointed out much more than the successes you have?

*Do you know you aren't perfect but you are doing your best and you realize that is all you can do and that is all the Lord expects of you and so you square your shoulders and keep moving forward?

*Do you need the Savior every moment of every day?

 *Do you know He is with you? Do you know He is giving you this opportunity at this time to help others but, even more so, because He knows how much you need this growing experience. When you look at that picture of Him, does it feel as if you are looking at your best friend, someone who knows you better than anyone else and still loves you? He keeps loving you and He keeps healing you and forgiving you and raising you higher. He keeps reminding you that He loves you so much, no matter what. Are you so very honored to be on His errand and in His service and part of His Relief Society?

This song seems to fit perfectly here:

* Do you just want to help the women of your ward to grow closer to Jesus Christ because you know you can't solve their problems or heal their hearts and homes? You know that only He can.

*Do you know that everything will be okay?

I hope you do...because it will.

This life is so short compared to our eternal existence. If we learn as much as we can right now, someday, off into the eternities, we will each look back at these experiences and know that our Father knew exactly what He was doing and we will be so grateful.

Right now it is our turn to be the Relief Society President in our individual wards. We have each had different callings before this one and we will each have different callings after this one. In actuality, the specific calling isn't as important to our Father in Heaven, as is the lessons we learn. Because within each calling and other learning experiences that are given to us are opportunities for our rough edges to be smoothed over and our impurities to be purged out and for us to become more like our wonderful elder brother Jesus.

Each calling and each opportunity we have is designed by a loving Father to lead us Home to Him. That is what it is all about - going Home and helping as many of our brothers and sisters as possible to get back there too.

What this is all about is LOVE.
Truly, that's what it is about.

What I'm trying to say with all of this is...we can be faithful, spiritual, righteous, loving and dedicated Relief Society Presidents AND still have hard days and struggles and make mistakes and feel inadequate and desperately need Jesus Christ in every moment! We are not alone. We have each other and we have the Creator of the Universe on our side. I welcome any and all comments - from those who are struggling and from those who are not. These issues are not reserved only for Relief Society Presidents - every calling and assignment has similar challenges - especially that greatest of all callings and assignments...parenthood!

I don't know who will read this but my prayer is that you will know you are wonderful and doing a fabulous job and the Lord knew exactly what He was doing when He called you!

Once again...everything is going to be OK!
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