Tag Archives: service

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?

Anything I Can Do?

Kelly Austin is the frazzled but happy mother of four. In her commitment to refuse to grow up, she has spent the entirety of her adult life on college campuses. She currently attempts to teach writing and literature to the oft sleepy and stressed students at Xavier University.

“Is there anything I can do to help?”

“Let me know if there’s anything I can do.”

They were phrases I had become accustomed to hearing. Mormons, I think, are trained well to ask such questions of each other. We had just learned that our third child, whom I was still carrying, had a rare and fatal chromosomal disorder. If Ani made it to full term, she would not live long. We were looking at minutes, maybe hours at most. There was nothing they could do.

Enter well-meaning family and friends, determined to do something, anything, to ease our pain, to soothe our grief. People wanted to know what they could do. Mormons are, after all, encouraged to be “anxiously engaged in a good cause.” The offers were often anxious. And always good. But I never had an adequate answer. I appreciated the offers. I knew they were sincere, from the heart. I just didn’t know how to respond. I was having a hard enough time navigating my own grief, my husband’s very different brand of grief and the grief of my young sons, then ten and five, to even know where to begin. Continue reading