Monday, November 18, 2013

Confessions of a Newly Called Relief Society President

A little over a month ago, I was called to be the ward Relief Society President.
It already feels like it has been a year!

 If you want the shortened version of this post, here it is:
1. I am tired
2. I simply can't do it all.
3. I am so grateful for Visiting Teachers
4. I am so grateful for wonderful counselors and secretaries.
5. I am so grateful for a good Bishop whose burden is even heavier than mine.
6. I hope I'm doing some good.
7. The Lord is with me every day - opening my eyes, opening my ears and opening my heart.
8. He magnifies my abilities.
9. I'm tired. (Oh, did I say that already?)
10. I know it will get a bit easier.
11. I've never been so grateful for Visiting Teachers. (Oh, I said that already too. Oh well, it is the truth!)
12. This is actually the Lord's work and I love being part of the Lord's RELIEF Society organization.

If you want more, keep reading...

First off, some of you who are not members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints may not know what the Relief Society is. Well let me tell is the Lord's organization for women and it is the largest and oldest women's organization in the world! It was reorganized over 170 years ago and has been building in strength and influence ever since. Every LDS congregation in the world has a Relief Society organization. You can read more about the Relief Society here: Introduction to Relief Society.

I LOVE being a part of the Relief Society but I haven't always.  It wasn't that I didn't like it, but I hadn't yet caught the vision of this great organization.

The Lord decided to teach me...

As I look back, it would seem that the Lord enrolled me in a "Catch the Vision of Relief Society" course. One part of my course work has involved being part of the local Relief Society leadership. This is not a paid position. It is not something one is elected to, or campaigns for. It is all volunteer work and much of it is not easy, or convenient or publicly noticed.

For the past 6 1/2 years I have served as a first counselor in a Relief Society Presidency - 2 years in a ward Relief Society Presidency and 4 1/2 years in a Stake Relief Society Presidency. It has been my absolute honor to be the first counselor to three different, yet equally amazing Presidents. Wow! They have taught me so much. They have listened to me and respected my input and loved me.

During this whole time I was so grateful to just be the counselor and not have to worry about being the President. As part of the Stake Relief Society Presidency, part of my job was to help train new presidents in how to do their job. I was always so grateful I wasn't that President I was training. I have been a Young Women's President before so I was happy to be a super supportive counselor and cheer on the Relief Society Presidents of the stake.

Then, one day, all of that changed.

Can I practice what I have been preaching?
Is it going to be anything like I have thought it would be?

The answer to that last question is "yes" it is what I thought it would be, but magnified ten fold.  It is harder than I thought it would be. It is more time consuming than I thought it would be. I am more tired than I thought I would be. There are more demands on me than I thought there would be. The weight of responsibility on my shoulders is heavier than I thought it would be.

On the flip is more rewarding than I thought it would be. My time and talents are more magnified. My access to inspiration from the Holy Ghost is greater. The love I feel for the sisters in our ward is deeper . My ability to hear someone's situation and discern the needs of that person, is more refined. My patience with the demands is more abundant. My shoulders are stronger than I thought they would be - meaning, I sense the weight of responsibility, but I know I'm strong enough.

Now, I know this assignment doesn't need to be as demanding or time consuming as I make it. The Bishop told me that this can be as hard or as easy as I want it to be. I understand that and I understand that we shouldn't run faster than we have strength.

Here's the thing, I'm counting on the Lord making me stronger so I can run faster. :)

When I am handed a list of almost 250 women, many of whom I do not know, and told that I am to watch over and care for these can I just do the "easy" parts? How can I watch over and care for women I've never met? When I know that these names on the list are so much more than just a name to our Father in Heaven, they are His daughters and He longs for them to return Home...How can I sit still and not take this seriously and not do the hard work? Our Savior doesn't take His work lightly, neither should I.

So, my personal mission right now is to meet these sisters and know something about each of them and I want them to know me well enough that they will know they can come to me.

What I really want is to invite all of these sisters to come unto Jesus Christ because I can't save these women. I can't heal their hearts and solve their problems and ease their burdens. That can only be done by one man, the man whose organization for women I'm honored to be a part of - Jesus Christ.

So I search out these women because I know that is what the Savior would do. Actually, I know that is what He IS doing and then He is leading me to them and helping me know what to do to help each individual sister.

I mentioned above that I am counting on the Lord to make me stronger so that I can run faster...He's doing it. I cannot deny that He is making me stronger and more capable.

Here is the other thing...I still can't get to everyone. I have two children and a husband who need to be more important to me than anyone else and, well, I'm mortal and I can't seek out and find all of these women over night.

I have NEVER been so grateful for the Lord's program of Visiting Teaching. When I hear of a Visiting Teacher who has done something to take care of the sister she has been assigned to watch over, I want to jump up and down for joy while simultaneously falling to my knees in gratitude.

I have also never been so grateful for good counselors who are willing to do their jobs, offer me counsel and insights and serve the Lord in the position He has given them at this time. I  know that "In Counselors There Is Safety".  I need them so much and I'm so grateful that they are there.

Even with all of the work of Visiting Teachers and the great support and work of my counselors and secretaries, I somehow feel a bit lonely. That is not a complaint or a victim stance. It just is.

I read an interview given by Sister Julie B. Beck, former Relief Society General President in which she stated,

“It’s never not been overwhelming,” she says. “I don’t think I’ve slept through a single night since I’ve had this calling. I can never take my head off and put it to rest somewhere and put on my resting head. I can never take these shoulders off and put them on a shelf somewhere and put on my resting shoulders. It’s always with me, but I’ve become more comfortable with how uncomfortable it is. The Atonement covers our ineffectiveness and insufficiencies, and it’s my whole dependence on the Lord that makes it possible for me to become more comfortable with the burden.”

She continues, “The calling is lonely—it just is. Having to worry about Heavenly Father’s daughters on His behalf is given to me. There’s nowhere for me to turn except to heaven most of the time.” (LDS Living Interview with General Relief Society President, Julie B. Beck.)

Sister Beck was given stewardship over millions of women around the world, I just have 250 to watch over in a little spot in the middle of the Arizona desert. But I echo her words, my dependence on the Lord makes it possible to do what He has asked me to do. There is nowhere for me to turn except to heaven most of the time, and I'm learning Heaven is ready and waiting to help. In fact, Heaven is usually already taking care of things before I even ask.

The fact is, serving the Lord is not always easy. It is not always convenient or pretty or acknowledged by others. Often it is smelly and messy and it will often break our hearts. But it is always worth it and the joys outweigh the hardships.  I think we can get to a point in our discipleship that serving the Lord just becomes who we are.

That's my goal.

I am a member of the Lord's RELIEF Society. Am I bringing relief to those around me - especially my family? Am I always on the Lord's errand offering relief to anywhere He sends me? Does He know He can count on me?

I hope so. I have so much room to grow but I really hope so.

So, actually, this work isn't too tiring or too hard or too lonely. It is the Work of Salvation. It is the Work of Love. It is the Lord's work. Right now, at this time of my life, the Lord has assigned me to be the ward Relief Society President. He will have another assignment for me after this one and so forth. I will trust Him and serve Him and invite every one of those 250 sisters in my stewardship to turn to Him.

 As for myself, I'm going to duck tape myself to the Lord and learn to love the journey!

To read more confessions, click on this link "More Confessions of a Kinda Newly Called Relief Society President" 
Even More Confessions of a Relief Society President

Every time I hear this song, sung by Hillary Weeks, I think it is a Relief Society President's theme song:

It is now May 2016 and I have just been released from this calling - my Bishop did a "clean sweep" of all auxiliary presidents in one day. Wow! It is such a mixture of relief and sadness. To read my thoughts and what I learned, go to "Confessions of a Newly RELEASED Relief Society President."

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