Tag Archives: service

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

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

Letter To My Younger Self

Dear Little Blue,

You don’t really need this letter, because you’ll eventually figure all these things out on your own, but if I could share a few insights with you, I’d let you know that even though it feels like there’s not a soul on earth who’d really care if you ceased to exist, in just a little while that will change. Some angels will appear in your life, in the form of a school teacher,  a church leader, and various acquaintances.  Their kindness will carry you through the next few years, and you will start to feel what it’s like to be nurtured and cared for.

Your sense of your identity is going to evolve, too.  You don’t know yet that you’re not utterly worthless, or that that’s even how you think of yourself, but soon you’ll start to notice some of the internal beliefs you have, and question them. This is good.  Examining everything we believe is an important exercise in life, and requisite for growth. You’ll start to feel something inside–called resonance–when things are true for you.  If you honor that, you’ll be led and directed in ways that will be good for you.

Not everyone is guileless.

It’s going to take decades, but someday you’ll forgive your parents and older sibling. They probably won’t ever be a part of your life, but you’ll eventually find peace with that situation.

You’re going to learn the most from the hard stuff you go through, so I’m not going to tell you much, but you might just want to turn and walk the other way when you meet a dude named Kevin.

The cure for anything is saltwater: sweat, tears, or the sea.

A lot of the people you love most will lose their faith in God and leave the church. You’ll struggle for a long time with your faith, too, and part of it will be the shock that this even happens to people.  Now you know, so just remember to trust what rings true within you, prove ALL things, and hold fast to the good.  Proving requires righteous living.  Be fastidiously honest with yourself, regardless of what other people believe.  Eventually you’ll find your own, bona fide faith, and it will be worth the effort.

Don’t judge others who are doing anything differently than you. They get to.  Love them for where they are at, no matter what.

There’s something called Healthy Boundaries.  Life would probably be easier if you learned about them before your forties.  Just sayin’.

When you’re 18 years old, you’ll meet a boy who will be nice to you and care for you and accept you loose ends and all. You’ll learn to love each other and provide a safe harbor for each other to heal, evolve, and grow for a long long time.  Despite all that, he’ll break your heart little by little, and you’ll break his.  But you’ll become fantastic individuals, and raise completely fabulous children together. I don’t know the end of this story, so we’ll have to find out together.

You won’t believe this now, but you are not going to be lonely. There are loads of unbelievably wonderful people in your future, and you will be overwhelmed with gratitude for the goodness and love in your life.  You’re going to discover some things about yourself that will surprise and delight you, and this world will be a better place for having had you in it. So hang in there, kid. Remember, we’re all just winging it in life, and none of us is here very long.  The journey is the reward, and it’s a wonderful journey.

Older, slightly wiser Blue

What experiences and lessons have most surprised you in your life.  
Do you have any advice for your younger self?   Are there any kids in your life (especially non-related) who could use some care and nurture…who you could make a difference for?

It’s that Time of the Month!

Photo credit: LDS.org

I have recently been called to be the Visiting Teaching Coordinator in our ward. This is the third time I’ve had this calling – the second time in my current ward and a previous stint in another ward. I personally love visiting teaching and have a testimony of it, even though the execution of it is sometimes less than ideal. We are all imperfect people trying to administer a divine mandate: to mourn with those that mourn, to comfort those who stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God.

In theory, visiting teaching is a beautiful idea: Neighborhoods full of people who look out for each other and attend to each other’s needs. In some parts of the country, this is the case – I have many friends whose ward IS the block on which they live. How easy would it be to run across the street and do your visiting teaching? In many other areas of the country and around the world (i.e., my ward), the ward boundaries are far-flung and can encompass dozens, if not hundreds of square miles. It’s a lot harder to run a casserole to someone who lives on the other side of town or farther away. Regardless of where you live, you have been called to be a visiting teacher, so let’s talk about some practical ways that it can be done. The ideal visit, or as I call it, “The Traditional,” doesn’t always work – there are women who work outside the home, who work at home, who homeschool their kids, who are going to school themselves, or any other myriad of circumstances that make “The Traditional” less than practical. The following is a list of strategies that my companion and I have used to contact the sisters on our visiting teaching route. In my opinion any of these contacts “count” as a visit. What’s most important is that you meet the needs of the sisters on your route on their terms, not yours.

* The Traditional: Scheduled visit with a lesson. Sit down together in the visit-ee’s home and have a nice chat and a spiritual message often accompanied by treats and a crafty handout.
* The Crisis: Bringing over a meal, taking care of children, helping clean, helping move, etc.
* The Afternoon (or Morning) Off: Offer to watch a visit-ee’s children so she can get out of the house and have some time alone.
* The Group Activity: Invite everyone on your list out for breakfast, lunch, dinner, a movie, a pedicure, or even a play date.
* The Drive-By: Call everyone on your list and tell them you will be coming over with a treat and a message within a certain time frame. Have a quick chat and hug at the door, and then everyone gets on with their busy lives.
* The Divide and Conquer: Split visit-ees between you and your companion and do any of the above.
* The Help a Sister Out: Your companion is having her own crisis, having a baby, or is out of town, so you handle the visiting teaching for her for the month.
* The Grab At Church: You know that the only time that you, your companion, and your visit-ee will be remotely able to see each other is at church, so you sit in the foyer during Sunday School together and have a visit. Treat optional.
* The Phone Call: Has all the benefits of a nice chat and a spiritual message, and you can get your laundry folded at the same time. (Does anyone else dust and fold laundry while they’re on the phone?)
* The Letter: Sending a letter with the monthly message. Cutesy or funny card is optional.
* The Email: Corollary to “The Letter” – catch up with someone via email or even Facebook.
* The Text: Only to be used in desperate times. Only counts if the visit-ee responds back!

The most important strategy is the one that works best for the sister being visited. Sometimes she might need a shoulder to cry on or a dinner and sometimes she might need a quick check-in. Being able to meet the needs of the sisters on your route takes truly knowing them and listening to the Spirit.

What are some strategies you have used to visit the sisters on your route?