Tag Archives: service

Present

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I was leaving town on December 8th for the winter so I went visiting teaching earlier than usual. Afterwards, I decided to stop in unannounced at another ward sister’s home  to say farewell. I hadn’t seen Cora Lester*  for a while and the last time I’d heard, she was in remission from last year’s terrifying battle with thyroid cancer.

She looked weary and was recovering from pneumonia. She shared the devastating news that one of her daughters living in another state had just been diagnosed with lung cancer, and that another of her out-of-state daughters had brain cancer.

Cora, whose heart is oceanic in its compassion and generosity, seemed broken and bowed under the weight of these challenges. She felt helpless to give anything “more” than empathy, a shoulder to cry on and her ears to hear her family’s sorrows and stories. Continue reading Present

The Cost of Leisure

IMG_0300When I told people that I was taking my children to Hawaii for the week of Christmas, reactions ranged from admiration to disbelief to jealousy. I generally tried to temper things with the caveat that my children’s father grew up in Hawaii, so we would be visiting family and friends, and that trips to Hawaii have always been a somewhat regular part of our family life. We hadn’t been over there for three years, and a trip to Hawaii seemed like a better family Christmas gift than more physical objects that would just clutter up the house. I spent a year saving and planning, but still felt a bit of guilt at the extravagance of such a vacation up until the moment our plane landed in Honolulu and we walked out into the warm, tropical air. Continue reading The Cost of Leisure

Mommy and E

Stand as Witnesses

Orlando is a great vacation destination, but its location at the lower east corner of the United States makes it difficult for the majority of my family and friends who live in the northwest U.S. and Canada to pop over for a quick visit.  My nearest and dearest knew about the difficult life of my son, Ethan, and although they knew and loved him from afar, very few had stepped inside my home.  In the nearly 10 years that we have lived in Orlando, my family has come to visit, but very few of my close friends.  In early 2013, all of that changed.  In January, to my delight, Justine and her family came to Orlando for her daughter’s 12th birthday.  We spent some time together at the temple, went to church, and had dinner in our home while they were here.  They stood at Ethan’s bedside, murmured loving phrases to him, and held his hand.

Andrea and Justine

Then in May, Julie came to visit on her way to Cuba via Miami.  She had known him in Sacramento when we lived there, but marveled at how he’d grown since she saw him last.

Andrea and Julie

A few weeks later, the delightfully saucy Kel messaged me and asked if she could spend a few days with us while on her whirlwind trip through the U.S. from Australia.  She brought the little boys gifts of boomerangs and Tim Tams and a kangaroo pelt for Ethan because he loved soft, fluffy things to touch.  Later, she told me this about meeting Ethan:

“I remember walking into his room behind you, checking out the equipment, and as I turned I saw your face as you straightened. I had yet to see you mother, to see you with your kids, and your face in that moment was so soft and fiery and devoted it choked me up. It was a moment of truth, and I realised again that just being in your house, being in Ethan’s room, was a gift, a vulnerability, and I loved you for it and felt honoured.

‘Hey, Ethan,’ you said, “this is my friend Kellie, she wants to meet you.’

My god, did I.”

Andrea and Kel 3

Heather was also able to make it down from South Carolina during Kel’s stay, and showered us with gifts and lively conversation.  I realized after they left that three of my beloved Segullah friends had met my son for the first time.

Andrea and Heather B

Later that year, as Ethan’s health began to decline, Heather and Nate, Brittney and Andy, and Aaron and Stina all were in Orlando and all visited my home.  These were dear friends, some of whom I had known since college, who stood at Ethan’s bedside, stroked his soft hair, held his hand, and kissed his cheek as he neared his last days on earth.

Andrea and Heather

Brit and Andy

Aaron and Stina

Mosiah 18:8 – 9 counsels us to “…bear one another’s burdens that they may be light…mourn with those that mourn…comfort those that stand in need of comfort… and stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things and in all places…”  It is not uncommon to feel helpless in the face of another person’s tragedy.  Death, divorce, disability – these things and more leave us groping for the right thing to say or do.  Our case was no exception.  Ethan’s disabilities were profound and his health was very fragile, and although my friends and ward members were willing, only a person with specialized training or a nursing degree could give me hands-on help with his day-to-day needs.  What meant more to me during that time in Ethan’s life were the people who came into my home, stood by his bedside, stroked his hair, held his hand, and bore witness to the life that he and our family lived.

Not all problems can be solved.  Not all hurts can be healed.  Not all losses can be restored.  Sometimes it is enough to stand as a witness.

Muffins and Miracles: Church Service in the Real World, by Linda Hoffman Kimball – A Book Review

Some questions for you to think about during this review: Has there been a book that has helped you with you with a difficult calling, or service endeavour, or the way that you looked at Church service? Has there been a book that you wished you had years ago?

At age 21, less than a year after being baptised, I was called to be the Second Counselor in my ward’s Relief Society – specifically, the (newly renamed) Home, Family and Personal Enrichment Counsellor. I thought my bishop had lost his mind, a contagion no doubt caught from the incoming Relief Society’s President’s insanity/inspiration to call me as her counselor.

“Um, you do know I work full-time, right?” I checked repeatedly in the interview. “You know my son’s in day-care, I have a non-member husband, I don’t quilt, or scrapbook, or… or CRAFT in any way?”

Bishop just smiled, chuckled and reassured me that the Lord definitely wanted me in this calling. I sighed, reminded myself I believed in inspiration, accepted, and then asked for the manual to go with this specific calling.

“There isn’t one.” He shrugged. “You just pray about and for your sisters, and do what seems right.”

Fifteen years later and halfway through Linda Hoffman Kimball’s Muffins & Miracles introduction, I said out loud “I needed this book then.” Twenty pages later I had highlighted two paragraphs, flagged a page for future discussion with a friend, and had told the dog “I really needed this book back then!” so often she’d left the room to snooze uninterrupted somewhere else. Continue reading Muffins and Miracles: Church Service in the Real World, by Linda Hoffman Kimball – A Book Review

Once upon a soapbox

Disclaimer: Admittedly, I am on a soapbox today. I find myself completely unapologetic about that.

I’m not in the habit of rewriting scripture, but there is a particular verse in James to which I would like to take my red pen:

Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. (James 1:27)

I still remember the time a divorcée who had just moved into my ward called my house and asked for my husband. I don’t remember what exactly she needed, except that she needed a priesthood bearer, she had already met my husband, he gave her our number, and she thought to call him. I didn’t give it a second thought until later, after I met her myself, when she explained to me that some people do give it a second thought and aren’t entirely comfortable associating (or particularly allowing their husbands to associate) with divorcées.

I had no idea. Continue reading Once upon a soapbox