Monday, April 30, 2018
My heart leaped and nearly stopped as I was extended the call to be our next stake RS president. A million thoughts passed through my head and a jumble of emotions rose up in my heart. Being such a visual person, I wish I could have SEEN Mark during this conversation, but he was very tender, encouraging, and supportive. We both accepted the call to serve with great emotion and awaited more details and information. Mark called me back after he left our stake president's office and we had a tender conversation together. Mark is such an amazing man! He is so supportive of me and quietly takes care of all the behind-the-scenes things so that I can give and love and serve. I truly am grateful for such a wonderful spouse; we are learning to be a power couple and accomplish great things side-by-side.
And so began the long and sleepless nights! In addition to worrying about gathering the rest of my presidency, there was something else repeating over and over again in my head. At first I couldn't even fully identify and articulate the racing thoughts. My mind just kept playing whatever it was incoherently in the back of my mind. It wasn't until almost a week and a half after accepting the call that I had a conversation with my sister that helped me pinpoint exactly what it was. She told me about a t-shirt she used to have that said, "I love Jesus and I cuss." We had a good laugh about it, but as Mark and I went up to our bedroom for the night, I burst out crying. That is exactly the problem! I really do love Jesus and I really do cuss! (I am completely serious about this. I had frozen my emotions because of deep pain and fear. Once they finally began to thaw with recovery work and rebuilding trust, an exclamation mark behind what I said wasn't enough to express the damed up emotions. Ask my kids, I have gotten so much better, but still...I do love Jesus and I really do cuss! I'm working on this.)
...And then a flood of nearly nonsense words tearfully surfaced while Mark patiently listened. "I am supposed to be the stake RS president and sometimes I still cuss!...Sometimes I yell at my kids!...I have a husband who looks like a biker...I still have last Autumn's leaves to rake up in my yard, I have a lawn full of dandelions, and flowerbeds full of grass...my kids scream and yell during Sacrament meeting (among other things)...I have been through betrayal trauma. Nobody even wants to talk about that and here we are so open about it...I am too young...I don't crochet lace doilies...and I'm not sweet and soft-spoken, but such a bold woman. I can't be the stake RS president and be who I am at the same time! I can't be both!!!" And suddenly I knew exactly what had been constantly chattering in the back of my mind. And it was simply beautiful to come full circle.
All of us have gaps, places we fall terribly short, or paradoxes. We know who we want to be or who we "should" be. We know what we want to be doing or what we "should" be doing, yet at the very same moment, most of the time we aren't that person...yet. We really can be both at the same time, and we will be both until we aren't both any more. These gaps don't just go away. We won't come to find ourselves and remember who we really are any other way. This is exactly where we must start! As we discover and acknowledge these gaps (rather than ignoring them) and as we invite and allow our Savior to enter into the details of working through them (rather than justifying or minimizing), then we slowly become the child of God that has been buried deep inside from living on a fallen planet surrounded by mortals.
And then in that moment of Light shifting my insight, so many other experiences and moments of inspiration since the call were strengthened and reinforced. During one long night, God answered my prayers for peace by reminding me of many tender, tender experiences where my family and I had been ministered to through our darkest hours. He showed me that even though there are so many things that I am and so many mistakes I have made or things I have done, that isn't why He needs me right now at this time in this capacity. He simply needs me because I understand ministering because of the ways we were taught. We were truly surrounded by Christ-like individuals who had found their Savior and allowed Him to work in their lives. The ways they lifted, blessed, and strengthened us simply happened naturally. It was an outward manifestation of what had/was going on inside of them. Although I have many weaknesses, shortcomings, and flaws, God still needs me. He needs me not in spite of all I have been through, but because of what I have been through. Being reminded that "I love Jesus and I cuss," helped me to know where my focus needs to be: ministering from the inside out. When my stake president extended the call, he said we are to assist in the Priesthood work of the stake. (It's not a women and the Priesthood thing!) That means anything that leads individuals and families to understand, prepare to make, remember, and honor covenants and the associated ordinances. Our efforts to minister are to not only meet individuals needs, but ultimately to point them to Jesus Christ and covenants---for it is through the covenants that our Savior is given increased power to draw us to Him as we turn to Him and choose Him more fully by entering into and keeping them. So, God needs me to support our stake as we learn to minister from the inside out in ways that lead individuals to covenants.
As I knew why God needed me, it made the important task of calling my presidency easier. It became very clear who to call. We need other women who understand ministering as well. We need women who will help our relief societies and wards to be safe havens where women and their families are truly loved and accepted regardless of outward appearances, past life experiences, our current choices or sins. My presidency is made up of brave women who have been through difficult experiences and love our Savior. Each one is a strong woman who will bring unique talents and abilities as we serve the women in our stake.
There have been so many tender mercies in the past 2 weeks as I have processed through all of this. Quiet moments were very difficult because I would be flooded with thoughts and emotions that needed to be unpackaged. Just as I would feel settled and excited about this calling, I would discover yet another layer of insecurities, worries, and inadequacies to work through with Heavenly Father. On and on it went with some tiny traces still clinging on. There was one day that I decided to go for a walk. Miraculously, a friend had decided to walk the same route and my heart was lifted and lightened through our friendship. Another day, an amazon package with a book written by President Nelson showed up on my doorstep. The books' primary message is, "God uses the unlikely to accomplish the impossible." (I later found out that this was from my brother and sister-in-law, but oh, how I needed to learn that last week!) There were "random" texts of kind words and encouragement from friends who didn't even know that I was wrestling so intensely. I finally emailed our families after a week. I could feel the strength of their prayers helping me to push back the darkness. One of the sweetest tender mercies was the morning of stake conference. I had been asked about a month ago to conduct a children's choir for conference. We sang 3 prelude songs and then 2 others during the meeting. Although to some it seemed that it would add to my burden to have "double duty" on such a big day, Heavenly Father knew I would have been a nervous wreck. Instead of worrying as the meeting was about to start or before I spoke, I had two of my favorite things---children and music---to focus on instead of my new calling be announced and the invitation to bear my testimony during the meeting. I was completely overwhelmed after coming home and checking my phone. Complete strangers had looked up my number on the stake directory and sent me extremely kind and encouraging text messages. There were also sweet notes from others who know me and love me that have meant so much. I have been powerfully reminded of how much my Heavenly Father loves me! I have felt His arms around me in the past 2 weeks and I know He will continue to sustain me and meet my needs as I seek to do all in my power and in His strength to build Zion in our stake.
We were set apart yesterday as a presidency. We were each given powerful blessings and I literally felt the mantel settle on me. It is difficult to describe. There is a love and concern for the women and their families and their well-being that I cannot fully articulate. In my blessing, I was reminded that the greatest potency I will have as a president is to minister to the ward leaders and teach them about ministering rather than focusing all of my efforts on the women in the stake (but as I have opportunities to minister one-by-one, to do it). That was really amazing to consider on. In this calling, I have a much greater capacity to reach a greater circle of influence by teaching others and then supporting them as they primary do the reaching. It reminds me of my patriarchal blessing where it talks about how my efforts will touch others so they will be able to brighten the lives of others, too. God promised me that I will develop a meekness and gentleness that will make it possible for all women to be comfortable with interacting with me---where strong women can be intimidating to some personalities---but He told me to never bury my light or my talent. I have been aware of this need for a long time and I am excited for this. I was told to keep my primary focus on my home and my family and blessed with courage to cancel meetings or make any changes necessary to meet the needs of my family first. I have worried a lot about having such a young family with this calling. I was reminded that God knows and will give us what we need. I was told that heaven is aware of this call and that God is preparing angels to help us accomplish what needs to be done. It was such a beautiful blessing! It was a privilege to hear the rest of my presidency members' blessings too and God's awareness of each one of them. I learned about their strengths and the important reasons why each one of them is in this presidency. After we were all set apart, our stake president reminded us to keep it simple. He encouraged us to cut out any frills and to focus on the spiritual needs. I'm not a crafty/cutesty/make things pretty person, so I am excited for that!:)
Overall, I am humbled, amazed, and in awe for the beautiful opportunity and privilege. God knows each one of us and prepares us to bless and strengthen others in their moments of need. In the early hours of the morning yesterday as I rested in God's love for me, I could see that in order for me to serve at this time in this way, it was vital for me to pass through my greatest heartaches. It has shaped me and refined me and these difficulties granted opportunities for me to learn about ministering by God sending countless angels on earth to teach me and my family and to help us find our Savior and understand the power of covenants. Now I get to pass that on in such a big way! God is simply amazing!!!
Monday, April 2, 2018
Mark's Grandma Dalley passed away last week at the age of 96. She was amazing! Her obituary is HERE. Despite her age, she was still not only mentally sharp, but also witty. I cannot put her quick wit and sense of humor into words...she enjoyed the power of words and truly enjoyed people. She was still living in her own home (thanks to Mark's parents living nearby and hired help) and winning blue ribbons at the state fair up until a few months before her death. My kids were heartbroken, especially since they had a visit planned in just 2 more weeks. :( As with other emotions, we have done our best to support them as they process the grief and the surprise from her sudden passing.
The services were a beautiful celebration of her life! We enjoyed hearing the stories from her childhood almost 100 years ago and the ways she reached out to others no matter where she lived. I was particularly touched to meet a young man from her ward who claimed her as his best friend. As I spoke with his mother, I found out that he would help her with her walker into the building every Sunday. He would come visit her every Sunday. Even just a few weeks ago, he stayed all afternoon to help rotate ice packs after a recent surgery. I am reminded that I can do better and help my kids to do better to be more aware of others around us and to adopt grandparents here as others adopt our grandparents when we can't be with them.
The music was beautiful! In addition to Mark's brother and his family singing and his Aunt Carla's beautiful piano arrangement of, "How Great Thou Art," all of the great-grand children sang, "My Heavenly Father Loves Me." It was perfect! Grandma loved nature, especially her flowers and gardens. All of the grandchildren sang, "I Know that My Redeemer Lives." It was a double-treat for me to have the privilege to accompany this beautiful tribute to Grandma. The music was powerful, especially after Rob's talk highlighting The Plan of Salvation and our Savior's central role. I cannot think of a better way to teach our children about the power and wonder of Easter Sunday than to have a real-life experience with the death of a loved one! <3 We love you, Grandma! We know that because of Jesus Christ, we will see this giant of a woman again. Easter was a beautiful and much more personal celebration this year because of the timing of these tender experiences.
Although we would have loved to be able to visit longer with the family members who gathered for the weekend (we had lots of little hands tugging on us), we are happy to have been able to catch up with so many cousins and extended family members.
Conference was incredible---at least what we caught of it with our kiddos and the family (thank goodness for online options to catch the rest and review it later!). :) Temples coming to India and Russia, big changes to minister more precisely and effectively, the sustaining of a new prophet and two new apostles, and a spiritual feast all weekend long! It was such a blessed weekend for our family!!!
|This selfie elicited a crazy laugh from Mark. This is Mark with his brother, Mike, and His dad making double chins.|
|Waiting for their turn with pictures: a small handful of the great-grandkids after the luncheon.|
|Gav, Mark, and Le...crazy boy selfie|
|Send catching up with her cousin|
|Easter egg hunt|
|About to head out for the egg hunt|
|Mark was able to meet up with two high school friends and catch up.|
|Ship playing with the toys|
|Send watching conference|
|Silly Ship and parents' selfie|
|Our primary presidency put together conference packets for every child in the primary. <3 We have the most amazing people and leaders in our ward! They care so much about our kids. They are making conference trail mix here.|
|Setting up the tramp for the weekend with Grandpa.|
Monday, March 19, 2018
|Gavin and Shipton helping me put the demo boxes together. It has been about a 6 months process start to finish, but we were given the go-ahead to assemble care packages for the women in our stake battling betrayal trauma from a spouse's sexual infidelity! Each item was clearly meant to be included (check out Mark's video HERE to see what they are like). I was expecting a request for maybe 20, but the bishops asked for 60 (so we did 70 to have a 10-box-buffer). My family could help me do a few of these, but 70!?! I quickly realized this was bigger than us, which is how it should be. As I considered possible dates, I realized my B-Day was coming...I cannot think of a better way to celebrate my life than by making others' lives brighter! With amazing connections that were truly God sent, everything arrived on time. As we made our final preparations for these, it has been a beautiful experience for me. There is healing in paying it forward, making the path smoother and clearer for others, and pointing others to Christ. It doesn't change what happened, but at the same time, it softens the experiences from the past and allows even more love into my own heart. I believe one reason we go through difficulty is that God can use us to reach His other children; we would be unable to do so without our experiences.|
|A woman in my self-reliance group made me a birthday basket. It was so thoughtful!|
|Mark scheduled my B-day off, which was a nice surprise. We snuck away for lunch together.|
|My beautiful roses aren't as fresh today as they were when Mark gave them to me, but their fragrance has filled the house.|
Friday, March 2, 2018
Last year, Mark's parents took us on an epic family vacation to CA. Unfortunately, we were rained out for our Lego Land day. The kids were devastated! Lego Land offers an unreal promise: if you are rained out the day of your tickets, then you can come back within 1 year (now it has been recently changed to 6 months). Our tickets were going to expire the end of February, so we needed to make our trip happen. We had a blast! Lego Land is a kid's dream---especially our Lego-head, master-building kids. We drove at nights, which was nice/difficult. It was nice to have quieter travelers, :) but Mark and I came home tired. So worth it for the kiddos, though!
|The kids had been saving their money for almost the entire year. First thing in the park, they wanted to make their purchases. Lego Land will hold onto your items and have them ready for you to grab on the way out of the park. Genius!|
|Everyone raves about the apple fries. I, personally, thought they were okay. The rest of the family was wild about them.|
|Shipton's and Leland's faces! <3|
|As soon as we got back to the hotel room, the master builders started into action.|
|...and started again first thing after waking up.|
|Day 2 Lego Land!|
|Even though Lego is traditionally considered more of a boy toy, there is an entire section of the park for girls (or boys who like Friends Legos).|
|About to watch the 4-D movie|
|We somehow missed this opportunity on the first day. You pay $25 for unlimited professional pictures throughout the park.|