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Ward Envy – Part II

By Kathryn Paul

Beata and Kathryn
Beata and Kathryn

“It seems like the more we try to live the gospel, the more trials we have.  Why ?”  I will never forget Beata’s question while I was studying in Poland last summer.  Dr. Whipple and I gave our best Sunday School answers, but our words felt empty and our hearts ached for her pain. My mind went back to the year when three eight–year-old children got diagnosed with cancer, all from the most faithful families in our ward.  It frightened us. Why did it seem like these families were being punished for their righteousness.  Why?   Beata’s question was not unique, but there aren’t easy answers in any language…

 All year I have prayed for Beata, her husband Cezary, and the missionaries assigned to the tiny Lublin branch in Poland.  I received a brief thank-you note from Beata after Christmas, but I had no idea how they were really doing.  I hoped my prayers were being answered in some small way. 

This summer I returned to Poland. Beata stood to bear her testimony.  A young missionary leaned back  and whispered, “Beata asked me to translate for you. She doesn’t want you to miss a single word…”   

Beata told us that last year was horrible. Every month their trials would just get worse. Her husband lost his job and ended up in the hospital. She tried to have faith, but by December she had lost all hope. She  still believed in God, but she didn’t believe that God loved Beata. She hit her lowest moment of despair on the morning of Christmas Eve.  They had no money and no food, but she had invited eight missionaries for Christmas Eve dinner. 

 In the late afternoon, Beata’s neighbor knocked on her door carrying two large bags.  They had just finished their family party and had tons of leftovers.  Did Beata want any of these yummy desserts?   Beata gratefully took them all.  

Later, Beata went to the mailbox and found two Christmas cards from the United States. One card contained a small amount of Polish money (zloty).  Beata was amazed because everyone knows that there are dishonest people working in the post office who open all the letters from the United States and steal any cash – especially in December.  She immediately took the small amount of zloty to the store, where they had just slashed all their prices before closing for the holiday.  Beata was able to buy a large amount of meat and vegetables with that tiny amount of zloty.  By the time the missionaries arrived for dinner, Beata had prepared an amazing feast for her eight beloved missionaries who were far from their homes on Christmas Eve. 

Beata ended her testimony by saying that she knows God loves her and that amazing blessings from heaven have continued flowing into their lives, including a great job for her husband, ever since the  Christmas card with the small amount of zloty arrived on Christmas Eve. 

Next I stood and this is part of the testimony I shared: “In October I was in the Warsaw Airport with 50 zloty left in my purse.  I figured I should spend it because I had no idea when I would return to Poland.   Maybe I could buy a t-shirt or a magazine.  But the Spirit told me to keep the money and put it in a Christmas card to Beata.  I told the Spirit that was not a good idea because everyone knows there are dishonest people working in the post office who open envelopes from the United States and steal any cash –especially in December. The Spirit told me again to keep the money and put it in a Christmas card to Beata.  So I did. “ 

I don’t know the reason why some of you are suffering right now.  I have friends suffering from the recession, friends who have challenging children, and chronic health problems.  Beloved members of our ward have died in the past year, causing tremendous heartache for their families.  I don’t even pretend to know why.

 However, there are a few things I do know.  I know that God loves Beata and our missionaries.  I also know that sincere prayers are answered in miraculous ways.  What do you know?

About Kathryn Paul

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29 thoughts on “Ward Envy – Part II”

  1. What an incredible post! What a testimony – both of them!

    I believe that we have faith in the Living God, not because of the gifts that he gives us – but because He is the living God. Otherwise, we are very fickle aren't we? Today Father blessed me, I think He's wonderful. Today my child/husband/wife/loved one is sick/dying – He hates me.

    Righteousness is it's own reward. Bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people – that is the imperfect world we live on. "it rains on the just and the unjust…."

    Do we question? Of course! Does it do us any good? No, unless it brings us closer to service. That's really our job – Service growing out of love and gratitude.

    I have had many questions in my lifetime of "why" God does things – all it has ever don, as I look back is waste precious time of what I am supposed to be doing for Him.

    This life is not supposed to be about me anymore. Not in my head and heart – it is about Him and His work.

    Easy? Goodness no! Rewarding? when I let it!

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  2. That was a beautiful story. A few weeks ago I was struggling with a big decision I'd made; wondering if it was the right one. Then I randomly picked up an Ensign and started reading an article I hadn't seen before. There were words in it that confirmed to me that I had made the right choice. This was several months after making the choice, and I found that many times we really don't get the answer until after trying our faith, just as she didn't get an answer until after inviting over the missionaries. It's scary to do things without really knowing how they're going to work, but my faith keeps growing as I keep stepping into the dark.

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  3. I recently read the book, Hard Times and Holy Places, which was wonderful. It helped me to find understanding and peace for the trials in my life. It seems to me, no matter how hard we try to be righteous, the trials that my husband and I have seen since the day of our marriage seem to get harder and harder. From money woes to chronic health concerns, from lost pregnancies to lost hope, it seems like all of our "righteous desires" tend to go unheard for long periods of time. But just when it seems that all hope is lost, our prayers are answered and blessings rain down from the heavens. Why do we have trials, some of very severe, when we are trying to hard to be obedient to God's commandments? To quote Sherri Dew "If life was easy, it wouldn't be hard."

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  4. Twice now my comment has disappeared from in front of my eyes as I have finished it. Starting over again…

    I know that God loves us more than we can comprehend. I know that we need trials. I know that we do not have a great depth of understanding about our trials and situations. I know that eventually things often but not always work out, somehow. Faith is everything.

    Earlier this year my husband handed in his notice at work. The main reasons were that he strongly felt he should be at home more and not working away, also that he should be more available to serve. Two months later he became Bishop. The stake president said that they had waited since the beginning of the year for him to become free to have this calling, as they could not extend it while he was in his previous position due to work pressures. Next week he starts a new job which will be the first local job he has had our whole married life. When he quit work I was so scared but I honestly felt it was the right thing to do. I could never imagine back in March how our lives would change for the better. I had no comprehension of the way things would work out. I just knew they would.

    Admittedly life sometimes just doesn't get better. We struggle. Knowing we are not alone is one of the greatest gifts. There is help for us in many forms, and along the way we may help others too.

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  5. Okay, so I'm sitting here bawling!
    But it is for joy — and gratitude! I, too, have seen miracles happen at times least expected. Miracles that lifted burdens, or eased them, or distracted me from them for a little while so I could regroup.

    Just last night, a sweet sister in Minnesota called to tell us how our son is doing there on his mission.
    She didn't need to, but has made a tradition of calling the moms of the missionaries they feed, and relaying information — adventures, info on the area, and needs :-).

    Talking with her brought me such peace as I knew the Lord was mindful of our son, and of our family. I've included this sister in my prayers, in hopes that she will be blessed as she has blessed us.

    Do I know why the trials? Not always.
    Do I know why the sorrows? Not always.

    But, like Alma, I bear you my witness, gained by way more experience than I'd like :-), that
    "I do know that whosoever shall put their trust in God shall be supported in their trials, and their troubles, and their afflictions, and shall be lifted up at the last day." (Alma 36:17)

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  6. FoxyJ–
    My favorite scripture: "Faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith." (Ether 12:6)

    It's what keeps me stepping out into the dark too.

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  7. The scripture that has been rolling around in my mind this morning after I first read this lovely post is the one from John 9 where Jesus' disciples see a blind man and ask why he was born blind and the Lord answers that it was through no one's sins, but so that the works of God could be made manifest in him. Without my trials, I plead with less fervor and seek answers less diligently. I rarely notice the presence of angels in my life when I feel less urgently in need of them. In comparing my meager parenting to the Lord's infinite parenting, I know that there are experiences I will allow my children to weather themselves (like hitting their head on the underside of the coffee table as a baby) because they will only be able to learn by that experience. Is it possible that our trials make us more teachable? That has definitely been most true for me. I have seen the works of God made manifest in my life and those around me. It is so often how I know what I know. Thanks for the opportunity to reflect this morning.

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  8. Bizarrely enough this is a time of peace and relative prosperity for our little family. This is a change for us. In the last ten years when it seemed the rest of the world was prospering, we were struggling- losing jobs, losing money on two homes, moving far from family, heavy burdens at church, health struggles. I don't think my life is all roses now, but I've finally learned how to be happy, regardless of trials. Now I don't ask 'why me?'. Comparisons between my life and others' are at a minimum. This is my unique life, when I allow myself to take comfort at the intimately personal nature of my trials then I am more likely to put my hand in the Lord's as I walk the rocky path. After all, that path has some amazing views that are wonderful to share with him..

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  9. Kathryn, thank you for sharing this lovely "tender mercy" experience with us! Beata is blessed to have you in her life.

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  10. Like Kathryn, I know that we have a Heavenly Father who know us to our core — much more than we know ourselves — and loves us more than we can comprehend. He listens to us in our prayers, and even in those times that he can't give us what we're asking for, he *will* bless us with tender mercies to make the rocky path easier. The hard times help us gain compassion, faith, wisdom, eyes to see his arm in our lives, dependence on him, and understanding of power of the atonement. All of these things are necessary for us, not only here and now, but in our post-mortal roles.

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  11. Thanks for this beautiful post. It is hard to understand why we must suffer – or why others must suffer. I've been thinking about this lately. I haven't been suffering, but I feel like the blessings that my family and I have received are unfair in the way that we have so much while others have so little. I then read the following scripture: "Counsel me not; I knew that it was a poor spot of ground; wherefore, I said unto thee, I have noursihed it this long time, and thou beholdest that it hath brought forth much fruit." (Jacob 5:22). I realized that we are all planted where we will best flourish – and it isn't always in the best conditions. The important thing is to simply trust our Heavenly Father.

    Thanks again for the beautiful post.
    -catania

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  12. I know that we know much less than the Spirit, Christ and Heavenly Father!

    I know that miracles happen when we listen to them, not ourselves. I know I regret it when I don't.

    I know that believing that everything "will work out for your good" helps when everything looks like it's going to the contrary.

    I know I love Segullah and everyone here!

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  13. As I've read your comments today, I've felt like I was sitting in a celestial Relief Society class where the comments and testimonies were all powerful and filled with light and hope. Since I've been teaching in the primary forever, it was a spiritual feast for me. I love Selwyn and all of you who have shared.

    I was pondering Faith without Fear's story about the woman calling from Minnesota to give her an update on her missionary son. It reminded me of the missionaries in Lublin telling me that they couldn't imagine having to work in Lublin without Beata and her family. It made me wonder if God intentionally placed mortal angels in unfruitful parts of his vineyard, to strengthen his young missionaries who labor there. A sweet sister in Germany, who had also fed six missionaries on Christmas Eve 2008, emailed all the mothers (including me) photographs of our missionaries acting out the Christmas story on Christmas Eve with her family. We received that e-mail on Christmas Day and it made me cry. I know my mother also makes a special effort to nurture the missionaries in Minnesota because she hopes that someone is doing the same where her grandchildren are serving.

    Then Catalina's comment dovetailed with my thoughts:

    “Counsel me not; I knew that it was a poor spot of ground; wherefore, I said unto thee, I have nourished it this long time, and thou beholdest that it hath brought forth much fruit.” (Jacob 5:22). I realized that we are all planted where we will best flourish – and it isn’t always in the best conditions. The important thing is to simply trust our Heavenly Father. – Catania

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  14. My only question today was "What do you know?" Many of you shared thoughts that I could never explain as beautifully as you did; therefore, here are some of your words that I wrote in my journal this evening:

    “This life is not supposed to be about me anymore. Not in my head and heart – it is about Him and His work. Easy? Goodness no! Rewarding? when I let it!” – Traci

    “It’s scary to do things without really knowing how they’re going to work, but my faith keeps growing as I keep stepping into the dark.” – FoxyJ

    “But just when it seems that all hope is lost, our prayers are answered and blessings rain down from the heavens.” – Aimee

    My favorite scripture: “Faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.” (Ether 12:6) It’s what keeps me stepping out into the dark too. – Jenny

    “Without my trials, I plead with less fervor and seek answers less diligently. I rarely notice the presence of angels in my life when I feel less urgently in need of them. In comparing my meager parenting to the Lord’s infinite parenting, I know that there are experiences I will allow my children to weather themselves (like hitting their head on the underside of the coffee table as a baby) because they will only be able to learn by that experience. Is it possible that our trials make us more teachable? That has definitely been most true for me. I have seen the works of God made manifest in my life and those around me. It is so often how I know what I know.” – Angie F.

    “Comparisons between my life and others’ are at a minimum. This is my unique life, when I allow myself to take comfort at the intimately personal nature of my trials then I am more likely to put my hand in the Lord’s as I walk the rocky path. After all, that path has some amazing views that are wonderful to share with him.” – Jendoop

    “I know that we have a Heavenly Father who knows us to our core — much more than we know ourselves — and loves us more than we can comprehend. He listens to us in our prayers, and even in those times that he can’t give us what we’re asking for, he *will* bless us with tender mercies to make the rocky path easier. The hard times help us gain compassion, faith, wisdom, eyes to see his arm in our lives, dependence on him, and understanding of power of the atonement. All of these things are necessary for us, not only here and now, but in our post-mortal roles.” – Strollerblader

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  15. I have loved reading this and the comments. Thank you, Kathryn. I also know that God knows and loves each of us individually, and I am so grateful for that knowledge.

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  16. Will this story EVER stop making me cry?

    Probably the thing that stands out to me most is that Beata's righteous desire on Christmas Eve was not for her husband to find a job, or for him to get well, or to even feed herself; the desire of her heart was to feed others.

    It reminds me of a gypsy that we had an appointment with on my mission in Bulgaria. Elka. When we came into her apartment, her hands were shaking as she cut up a head of cabbage. It was the only food she had been able to get for her family for 3 days.

    Now I know that we weren't supposed to use our missionary fund to feed people–but we couldn't let her go hungry! We left and came back with tomatoes, cheese, bread, eggs, potatoes–more food than she had seen in weeks. Her little boy's eyes grew wide and as we came in he pointed to us and said "Mommy look–BREAD!"

    And then Elka whipped into action. Pulling spices out of thin air and energy from anticipation, she chopped, seasoned and fried. And when it was done she wouldn't touch a bite until we (2 fat, overfed Americans)had eaten first. When we asked why, she said "If I give–I will always have."

    So, what do I know? I know that we are watched over, cared for and that we are never alone. I also know that the Lord will not require or allow us to suffer 1 minute (or second!) more than is needful to transform us into something worthy to meet Him. Nothing we suffer is EVER wasted. It is all masterfully orchestrated into knowledge and power that stays with us forever.

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  17. I know that tender mercies are real. I know that life is harder than hard sometimes, and I both hate that fact and realize that it is really in the hard times that I have learned the most about God and about myself.

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  18. Wow — what a surprise when I was avoiding my chores this morning to do some bloggernacle-hopping and I see a picture of my dear childhood friend, Kathryn! I rarely check this blog, and randomly did today, but I was so glad to find you here. Your post brought tears to my eyes — what a sweet evidence of God's love for all his children and awareness of their needs. What a blessing that you and Beata were able to experience those tender mercies. Living in Nigeria, I have often felt such pain and sorrow as I see how the faithful Saints here struggle to provide for their basic needs. But they toil on, with faith that they will receive blessings in eternity beyond what they can hope for in their mortal lives. I do know that God loves them and is aware of their trials.

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  19. Check out Carolee's blogsite:
    http://lookingforgoodinlagos.blogspot.com/

    I love her approach of focusing on the light in Nigeria, instead of whining about the discomforts.

    The internet definitely makes the world seem smaller. This summer I watched while a missionary translated the first blog I wrote about Beata on the Segullah site into Polish, so that Beata could enjoy her brief connection with the LDS sisterhood on Segullah. One of the comments on that post was from the wife of one of the missionaries that Beata had mothered in Lublin. Cezary showed me how Beata keeps track of dozens of her former missionaries and their young families through Facebook. It brings her lots of joy and makes her feel less isolated in Lublin. I even promised Beata that I would finally join Facebook, so I could be part of her internet family.

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