Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Keeping Promises

This post is about a promise:

When my mom was in her early 20's she lived in Alberta Canada. She had traveled all over the world in her teens and young adulthood, but Canada was different for her. She actually lived there and served people there and learned many important lessons there.

I can't even count how many times my mom said to me over the years, "Someday I want to take you to Banff National Park."

It never happened and so before she died she said to me, "Promise me, that you will get up to Banff in Canada. Promise me you will go to Lake Louise."

I promised.

Last week I kept that promise. It just kind of happened. An opportunity to go came my way, my mom's request whispered in my ear, and I jumped in with both feet.

I stood on top of Sulphur mountain and looked out at the majestic view and thought, "Okay mom. I'm here. You went all over the world, why is this the one place you made me promise to come?"
I didn't have a revelation. I didn't hear her voice, nor did I see her face.

 But I looked over at her granddaughter who was born after my mother passed away and I thought of the many gifts I want to give to my daughter simply because I know she will love them. Was that the answer? Did my mom make me promise to go just because she knew how much I would love the place? Did she know how it would fill my soul? Did she know it would bring tears to my eyes and inspire me and that I would feel like I had "come home"?

Is that okay? I mean, is it that simple? Is God that way? Does He sometimes send blessings or give us opportunities because He simply knows we will love them?

I believe the answer is yes. I believe that happens more often than we realize. I believe it happens every single day. I believe it is why He does anything that He does - simply because He loves us and it delights Him to see our joy and happiness.

I hope my mom knew I was there. I hope she felt as much joy as I did. I know that when I am able to give my children something they will love, I just might feel a little happier than even they at the realization of that dream come true. Hopefully, my mom was able to feel that as well. She deserves the happiness.

Did you make a promise to your parents before they passed away? My invitation is for you to keep that promise. Make it happen. You just might love it!

P.S. When you do keep that promise, take a better camera than I did. I just had my phone and that works for some things but when the scenery is as beautiful as Banff, my little phone just didn't cut it. I had to find photos online to do these beautiful mountains justice.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

A messy toy room and the Second Coming - what they have in common

This is something I wrote about 5 years ago. It has been coming to my mind lately and so I thought I would reshare:

 My two kiddos, (ages 6 and 4) share a room so that the other room can be used as a toy room. It is not cleaned every single day. I like that I can shut the door to this room and no one can see the mess. I have also adopted the philosophy that a messy toy room is some evidence that my children were playing with their toys instead of watching tv or playing computer games. (It makes me feel better about the mess! Ha, ha!)

However, at least once a week, that toy room needs a good cleaning. This isn't pretty as my sweet, adorable children have perfected their whining techniques claiming that I have asked them to do the impossible. But I stay strong. I didn't make the mess, they did. So, I've adopted the counting system. I give them a certain task within the mess and tell them to have it done by the time I count to 10. Usually, when I get to about 8, I start slowing down and even using fractions - 9 1/4, 9 1/2, 9 3/4 and then I take an extended deep breath before I say the number 10.  Sometimes, if I have gone to another room while they are cleaning, I come down the hall toward the toy room counting very loudly so they know I am on my way and they better finish things up. Why? I want them to succeed. I want them to complete the task. I love them. (and they are still young enough that this is an effective system) :)

"What in the world does all of this have to do with Jesus Christ?" you ask.

Well, let me tell you...
There has been a lot of talk lately about predictions of the Savior's Second Coming. Some people claim to know when this is going to happen. Some people think these people are crazy. Some people feel afraid. Some people don't care a single bit.

Remember, Satan flat out lies but he often takes the truth and twists it. The truth is that Jesus Christ will come again. He WILL It has been prophesied since even before He came the first time that He would come a second time. Here's one example:

"Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me; and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts." (Malachi 3:1 Old Testament)
Artist: Harry Anderson

Did that happen the first time He came? No. So it is a verse that is obviously referring to His second coming - a time when the whole world will KNOW without a doubt that Jesus was and is the Christ because He will not come as a little babe in Bethlehem. He will come as our King and He will reign in righteousness and glory and He will establish a perfect, peaceful kingdom. (I think this is a hard concept to grasp for those of us who live in an imperfect, non-peaceful world - which just happens to be all of us. But just because we can't comprehend it, doesn't mean it won't happen.)

So, yes, Jesus will come again. It is not a matter of if, it is a matter of when. But satan still tries to spread the lie that Jesus won't come. If satan can't convince you that Jesus won't come, maybe then he twists the "when". He convinces some people that they can know the exact day and time of the Savior's second coming.Why? Who knows. he just likes to get in there and wreck havoc wherever we are vulnerable.

Jesus HIMSELF said, "Of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only." (Matthew 24:36) He reissued this statement in modern day revelation: "...but the hour and the day no man knoweth, neither the angels in heaven, nor shall they know until he comes." (Doctrine and Covenants 49:7)

Back to my kids and their toy room. They know I'm coming down the hall because I told them in the beginning that I would come when time was up. They don't know the exact moment I will come. They can guesstimate but that's it. And if they have been listening, they have heard me counting the whole time so they can know when time is almost up and they better get moving  if they are going to be finished with their tasks in time.

So, aren't we all Heavenly Father's children? Yes. Often, we are a bunch of young children who need little incentives and reminders like our Father counting to 10 to motivate us to get things done.

The thing is that He has been counting to 10 for a very long time now. Those who have ears to hear and hearts to understand have been paying attention. We know that the time of our Savior coming again is very close. How close we don't know but it is probably safe to say Heavenly Father is at the point of using fractions like 9 1/2 and 9 3/4. He's coming down the hall toward the toy room and He's counting very loudly so as to get our attention so that we can be ready.

(When you visualize this, don't see Him as a gruff, mean, Father stomping His feet, ready to point out that we didn't do what He asked. Remember He loves us so much He let His Son suffer and die for us. He did not send us here to fail. Picture Him as the loving, patient, yet wise Father He is. Pray to know that Father.)

Unfortunately, one way our Father must "count loudly" so as to get our attention is by allowing wickedness, war and turmoil. "The prophets have warned that the earth will experience great turmoil, wickedness, war and suffering. The prophet Daniel said that the time before the Second Coming would be a time of trouble such as the earth has never known (see Daniel 12:1). We can expect earthquakes, disease, famines, great storms, lightnings, and thunder and hailstorms." (Doctrine and Covenants 88:90 - 91; Matthew 24:7; Doctrine and Covenants 29:16) (Gospel Principles: Lesson 43 "Signs of the Second Coming")

Sound familiar? Watch the news lately? How many times have you heard over the past few years that a weather-related catastrophe is the worst in recorded history? Our Father is counting and warning and doing all He can to help us be ready for that day when His Son, our Savior, comes again. He doesn't do this because He likes destruction and watching us suffer. Quite the contrary! (I've had to take toys away from my children just to help them finish their task. Not because I like to see them cry, but because I know they need to know that I'm serious about what I have asked them to do.) He does this because He loves us enough to do whatever it takes to help us be ready. He knows that the sadness and anguish we will feel at the Savior's Second Coming if we are not ready, will far outweigh any anguish we might feel now. He WANTS us to succeed. He would that ALL of His children would make themselves ready. But He will never force us so He does what a perfect Father would do, all He canIt is His work and glory, remember? (Moses 1:39)

Whether the destruction around the world is happening in your town or not, it is still a message to the whole world. We must pay attention to these events. Not to make us depressed or afraid, but so that we can be ready.

While cleaning the toy room, my children often become distracted by their toys. My daughter starts setting up the doll house - claiming she is sorting through the toys. My son begins a whole train/star wars/cars saga. Similarly, satan has been very successful at getting us to distract ourselves so that we won't be ready. We can be involved in so many wonderful and worthwhile activities. But if these activities are keeping us from preparing ourselves for our Savior's second coming then something needs to be rearranged.

We can listen for the counting and make ourselves ready, or not. It is our choice - completely OUR choice.

In giving some signs of His second coming, the Savior once said, "I tell you these things because of your prayers; wherefore, treasure up wisdom in your bosoms, lest the wickedness of men reveal these things unto you by their wickedness, in a manner which shall speak in your ears with a voice louder than that which shall shake the earth; but if ye are prepared ye shall not fear." D&C 38:30

Oh, and one more thing...I mentioned that sometimes I leave the room while my kids are cleaning. But usually, I stay right there with them, helping them clean up their mess, even though I am not the one who made the mess. Sound like Someone else we know? Yup.  Our Father and our Brother are much more involved in our lives than we know - I have no doubt.

The Second Coming of Jesus Christ is not a day that we need to fear. It is a day we can look forward to. It is a day to pray for and a day to prepare for.

Listen to how the Savior describes what our world will be like once He has returned:
"But, verily I say unto you that in time ye shall have no king nor ruler, for I will be your king and watch over you. Wherefore, hear my voice and follow me, and you shall be a  free people, and ye shall have no laws but my laws when I come, for I am your lawgiver, and what can stay my hand?" (Doctrine and Covenants 38:21-22)

Artist: Simon Dewey
Wowsers! I wanna be there! 

Okay, one more one more thing, it's not just destruction and doom and gloom that signifies that the Savior's Second Coming is near. There are also promises of increased righteousness, the Gospel spreading to all the earth, temples, and churches being set up as safe places to gather. If we are prepared, we don't have to fear. So, we kinda need to actually prepare.

 "Fear not, little flock, the kingdom is yours until I come. Behold, I come quickly. Even so. Amen" 
(Doctrine and Covenants 35:27)  

This amazing painting was done by John McNaughton. Read his thoughts here and see more of his paintings:

There is so much that could be written here. I've only skimmed the surface. If you want to study more, here is a good starting place, "Preparation for the Second Coming" by Elder Dallin H. Oaks

Elder Oaks points out, "
"What if the day of His coming were tomorrow? If we knew that we would meet the Lord tomorrow—through our premature death or through His unexpected coming—what would we do today? What confessions would we make? What practices would we discontinue? What accounts would we settle? What forgivenesses would we extend? What testimonies would we bear?
If we would do those things then, why not now? Why not seek peace while peace can be obtained?"

He then says, "We are surrounded by challenges on all sides (see 2 Cor. 4:8–9). But with faith in God, we trust the blessings He has promised those who keep His commandments. We have faith in the future, and we are preparing for that future. To borrow a metaphor from the familiar world of athletic competitions, we do not know when this game will end, and we do not know the final score, but we do know that when the game finally ends, our team wins. We will continue to go forward “till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done” (History of the Church, 4:540). 

Friday, September 16, 2016

Miracles do not always appear to be miracles, at first...

This is a message for all of those who have been so kind in sending messages and making calls to offer your prayers and support for our sweet Elizabeth. Some reading this post, who have stumbled here without a knowledge of what has really transpired, might be a confused about a couple of details. Please feel free to email me and I will fill you in on the details.

This is just one part of a very long, learning, faith testing journey...

We have had a miracle...an absolute miracle.

On Wednesday morning, of this week, I received a phone call from a hospital 3 hours away where a Pediatric Neurologist had reviewed an MRI that was done of Lizzy's eyes and brain last week. Upon reading the findings, the doctor had told the Nurse Case Manager to call me and get Lizzy in to see him ASAP. He was concerned that if we waited for a regular appointment time, which would be about 8 weeks away, Lizzy's optic nerves and vision could be damaged and compromised if treatment was not started immediately.

I listened to my "Mommy Gut" which told me to go, so we went.
Thank you so much to all of you who helped with Ben and seminary and other duties at the last minute. I wish I could repay you with more than just a "thank you" but please know the gratitude comes straight from my heart.

It took us longer to get out of town than I had hoped and there were two accidents along the freeway toward Mesa that made our trip take longer than it should have. (That's important to the story) Once we arrived at the ER, the doctors there were very confused as to why we were there. I had been told that Lizzy's records would be made available and the ER staff would understand the situation.
They did not.
They were kind and helpful, but they were baffled.
It was weird.
Of course, there were those questions that implied I was probably a psyscho mom who had made this all up and I'm sure there were hushed conversations out of the room about how to get rid of the crazy mom.
I was asked to tell the reason why I was there again and again.
I am typically not an easily agitated person, but I remained even more calm than usual. I literally felt the Lord keeping me calm. To be truthful, I'm sure my ancestors were helping me as well.

Our Father in Heaven gave this daughter of His a great sense of humor and a bit of a crazy personality. It sure comes in hand sometimes. She and I had some good laughs in the ER together that day (and the next.)
The staff still didn't know what to do with us.
Here was a little girl in the ER with NO symptoms.
They treat symptoms.
They called the on-call Pediatric Neurologist who told them to tell me to go home. (That is important to the story - remember this part.)

"But it's a Pediatric Neurologist who told me to come. Can you call that Neurologist? I would not have come this far and on such short notice if I hadn't been told to do so by this doctor."

They could not locate him. Nor could they locate the Nurse Case Manager. They had all just left for the day and could not be reached.

The ER Staff called in their best doctor who came and did a thorough exam on Lizzy. She gave her a clean bill of health and told us that was the best she could do for us.
We were told to go home.

I did not feel that was right.
You don't tell a mom in an urgent phone call that if she doesn't get her daughter to the ER ASAP that her daughter may become blind, and then expect that mom to just leave if that hasn't been addressed.

I was filled with the KNOWLEDGE that the Lord had arranged this and I was to stay put until He let me know we were done.

There was no question in my mind of what to do.

A good friend had come to the hospital to see us, so we went home with her and slept at her apartment that night.

The next morning Lizzy and I got up early so that we could be the first ones at the door when the Pediatric Neurology clinic opened. This was where the urgent phone call the day before had originated, this was where I was to go. It was a wild goose chase finding that place, but I still felt that was what we were supposed to do.

Never once did doubt enter my mind.

We found the case manager.
She was so kind.
She had no idea we had been turned away from the ER the day before.
I told her that I wasn't going to leave the hospital that day until my daughter was seen by a neurologist.
I said it with a smile on my face and a resolve in my tone and this sweet woman got a tear in her eye and told me she was supporting me 100%.
She went back and talked to the neurologist who had been so concerned.
He called the ER himself and said he was sending us over there and they were to let us in and begin a list of tests he felt she needed ASAP - CT, Spinal tap etc.

So, back we went.

Once again, the ER staff was SOOOO KIND! They ushered us in and treated us with concern and I was so grateful.

But then it started to happen again.

I could hear the doctors and nurses out in the hall saying, "But why is she here in the ER?" "Who talked to the doctor?" "What do we do with her?"

One ER doctor came into the room and asked me to tell our whole story beginning from the very first Optometry appointment in April of 2015 when the swollen optic nerves were discovered.

Then another doctor came in and asked me to share the story.
Then a nurse came in and asked me to share the story.

I very kindly, but firmly, again, said that the only reason I was there was because a pediatric neurologist had told me it was urgent. I explained that we live 3 hours away; we don't even have a working car at this time; I had to borrow a friend's car to make the trip; I have no money and now have two ER visits to pay for and why in the world would I have done that, if I hadn't been told to do it by someone I thought I could trust?

I asked them to PLEASE call the Neurologist over in the clinic.

That's when the biggest miracle happened.

The Pediatric Neurologist who had been on-call for the ER the night before, the one who had told them to tell me to go home, happened to wander into the ER. He had wanted to get Lizzy's information so that he could tell the other neurologist that he would be happy to see us on Friday (today) if we wanted to come back.

"Well," they told him, "She's back."

He wasn't very happy about that and so he thought he would just nip it in the bud and get us out of there himself.

What came next was 70 minutes of one on one care from one of the top doctors in the country, maybe the world, in the field of pediatric neurology and childhood Multiple Sclerosis.

Once he realized why I was there, and how far I had come in order to be there, he calmed down and his concern for our situation took over.

This doctor lives in Wisconsin. He comes to Arizona about once or twice a year to see his grandchildren. While he is here in AZ, this hospital has asked if he would be willing to assist at the hospital when he can. This doctor, I was told, is the one all of the other doctors call and consult with when they need more expertise. He doesn't ask them for help, they ask him.

He did a thorough exam on Lizzy, looked at the results of tests that have already been done and determined that she is a perfectly healthy little girl, who just happens to have optic nerves that are a bit swollen. He cautioned me to keep an eye out for any changes in her vision, blurred vision, double vision, seeing lights, seeing spots, seeing colors differently, sharp pain in her head or eyes etc. He also instructed us to have our doctor check on Lizzy's eyes every 6 months for the next 2 years. Other than that, he feels everything is okay. Lizzy still has the food allergies and she needs to adhere to those guidelines, which, actually will help her body continue to be strong and healthy.

My "mommy gut" felt peace. I felt that this is what we had come for and we could now return home.

I asked him why he thought I received the urgent phone call just the day before. He said that the textbook answer to swollen optic nerves is MS - every time. He was certain the other neurologist felt the need to start Lizzy down an aggressive MS treatment path - a path he does not feel she needs to go down. The other doctors are all very good doctors, I have no doubt. But Lizzy is not a textbook and she does not have MS. It appears that only a very skilled, very experienced, very intuitive doctor would have known that. The Lord arranged for us to meet with that doctor.

1. If my friend had not called me the other day to say that she felt impressed to let us use her old van for as long as we needed to, I would not have had a reliable car to make the quick journey.

2. If I had not received the urgent phone call telling me my daughter might go blind if I don't go ASAP, I would never have gone in the first place.

3. If we had arrived a few minutes earlier, the first doctor and the case manager would have been available and they would have called the shots.

4. If the ER staff had the correct information, they would have started the tests the first doctor had ordered.

5. If I had gone home that night, I would have still thought Lizzy needed to see a neurologist and whomever I took her to, probably would have started the MS treatments.

6. If I had not gone back the next day, we never would have been able to meet with the great doctor who helped us so much. Who also happens to be leaving AZ tomorrow.

Basically, what the Lord did was orchestrate the most amazing plan to help us know that everything is okay.

Isn't that wonderful?!

My whole life, I've been telling myself "Everything is going to be okay." as a way of calming my fears and sadness because of the constant challenges that have been given to me. It has become the norm for me in the past few years to think in my mind "Everything is going to be okay after this life." because it seemed to me that was when I was going to need to wait for the "okay" to happen.

On the 3-hour drive home, I imagined the Savior sitting in the passenger seat next to me.

Him: "Did you get my message today?"
Me: "That Lizzy is okay? Yes, thank you so much!"
Him: "Well, yes, that is one of the messages. Did you get the other message?"
Me: "Um, that you love us and you will take care of us. Yes, thank you so much!"
Him: "Well, yes, those were also messages I sent. Did you get any other messages?"
Me: "Um, well...."
Him: "Why did I orchestrate all of this?"
Me: "To help me know that everything is going to be okay."
Him: "Going to be okay? or ..."
Me: "Oh, wait, I see, often we think you are just there when something is wrong so that we can take care of it and to comfort us. We think of you healing the wrongs and the hurts and that you are there to fix things."
Him: "Yes, keep going."
Me: "But this time, you showed me that you also rush in to tell us when life is okay. Truly okay. This time, you didn't rush in to fix a problem or heal my daughter's eyes. You rushed in to tell me that they didn't need healing."
Him: "Yes. I wanted you to not only feel that everything is going to be okay, but that there are some parts of earth life that are okay right now. I know I have allowed you, and continue to allow you, to go through a lot of hard, hard experiences in your life. You have felt great amounts of heartache. You know that I've always been there, right next to you, holding you and loving you. You have learned so much and I'm so proud of you.  I just wanted you to know that not everything is hard and that I have not forgotten you."
Me: "You're not supposed to make me cry while I drive!  But thank you. Thank you so much. I love you."
Him: "I know. I love you too."
Me: "I know."
Him: "Now, dry your tears so you don't get in an accident. Then things won't be okay." (With a wink and a smile - He does have a sense of humor you know!)

So, there you go! There's the story.
So many prayers have been said and so many prayers have been answered.

I believe that these experiences happen to us more than we know and realize.
I believe that our Father in Heaven and the Savior and all those interested in our success and happiness are very, very involved in our day to day earth life.
I believe that the more we believe that, the more we will recognize their help and the more it will be offered.

We do not have to travel through this life alone.
Wait, let me rephrase that.
We do not travel through this life alone.
We just don't always recognize the Heavenly help that is always there.

Thank you, each of you, for your generous help and prayers. Prayer is more powerful than we know. I mean it when I say that I felt stronger from the prayers that were being said.
I hope you all see God's Hand in your life today. Somehow, somewhere, in some way, He will send you a message and it will most likely be, "I love you."

Love to you all!

P.S As the good doctor was leaving the ER exam room, he turned and said, "I apologize again for not coming in to see you on Wednesday night. My two grandchildren are severely autistic. I had told my daughter and her husband to go out and enjoy themselves before I leave on Saturday while I took care of the kids. It ended up being a challenging night with both of the kids and I just couldn't leave them." The tears filled his eyes and I said, "No need to apologize. You were right where you were supposed to be."

And with that we see that the Lord is truly in charge. His timing and His methods we do not always understand, but they are always right. Our trust in Him can be absolute!

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. 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 those who will tell you why you are worse than, or even better than, the last Relief Society President. Not even entertain their comments. Each President is different, with different talents, Heavenly assignments, trials, circumstances etc. We are all different and that is just how it should be.

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. That is easier said than done. But when all is said and done, it will be your children you are held accountable for, not anyone else. If you have small children (like me) that simply means that many things will fall through the cracks and you will just have to learn to live with that. Heavenly Father knew your children would need to come first when He called you. He is finding ways to take care of the things that must be sacrificed.

15. Appreciate the Priesthood brethren in your ward and work alongside 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)
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