Let us not quibble or complain

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Member Finances Fireside of the April 1990 Conference.
From what I gathered just reading these talks, this fireside was to announce, or explain, a recent change in church budgeting. I guess this was when the switch was made (for members in the U.S. and Canada, at least) from church members paying for their own ward buildings and activities, to those costs coming from the general tithing funds of the church. I didn't know this had happened so (relatively) recently—in the 1990's! I don't ever remember it being any other way.

What struck me, though, was how much this change in budgeting was tied to the church's wish to help families. It seems like such an obvious early step toward the "home-centered, church-supported" focus we've been talking about so much lately! Elder Packer said:
This change in budgeting will have the effect of returning much of the responsibility for teaching and counseling and activity to the family where it belongs. While there will still be many activities, they will be scaled down in cost of both time and money. There will be fewer intrusions into family schedules and in the family purses.

Church activities must be replaced by family activities. Just as we have been taught with temporal affairs, the spirit of independence, thrift, and self-reliance will be re-enthroned as guiding principles in the homes of Latter-day Saints.…

This decision will set a better balance between families being assessed time and money to support Church activities and Church activities complementing what families should do for themselves.
I also liked his reminder about the blessings that come from freewill offerings: 
For those who can and are willing, there comes the opportunity to make generous offerings. In leaving decisions to you, do you not see the fundamental doctrine of moral agency asserting itself? Do you not see the change from assessment to offering something of the testing which is fundamental to our mortal probation?
The primary responsibility for building testimonies and providing faith-building experiences in our members, including our youth, resides in the home. The Church should continue to support the determination of the family to do this. Priesthood leaders will wish to increase their efforts to build strong, gospel-centered homes.
I liked President Hinckley's thoughts as well:
In those days we would have thought the Millennium had come if we had received word that the Church would bear all of the costs of providing land, all of the costs incident to building construction, operation, and maintenance, let alone an activity and administrative budget allowance of forty dollars per year per individual, based on the number who attend sacrament meeting.

It is not the Millennium, but this long hoped-for and prayed-for day has come. Though I have been a party to its inauguration, I still stand in awe at what has happened.…
I had never really thought much about this aspect of the church—that buildings are provided without cost to us, etc.—because it's just so normal to me, I hadn't thought to be grateful for it! But it is pretty amazing that we have all that, as well as ward budgets for youth activities, etc., and no one has to be left out because they don't have enough. At the same time, I have always been in wards that have taken this advice seriously, and I'm so glad that I've seen this example from a young age:
What we have done is an act of faith. I believe it to be a tremendous act of faith. The Church is not so wealthy that it can indiscriminately scatter its resources. We must be extremely careful and wise, and I believe inspired, if this program, which involves many millions of dollars of added expense, is to function. We ask every stake president, every bishop, every branch president, every administrator of Church facilities, to teach our people principles of frugality. Watch the lights and turn them off when they are not needed. Watch the heating and cooling. Watch the sprinkling of lawns and telephone usage. We may be as free as we wish with our own funds, but not with the Lord’s.
And then I felt like this counsel could apply to so many things today, including Home Church, changes to Youth programs, and just the general weirdness of church amid the pandemic:
In working under [these changes] let us not quibble or complain. Let us not get bogged down in discussions over a division of dollars and dimes. Let us not worry and get all worked up about [things] that now may not be possible. …[We] are people of ingenuity who with faith and prayer can work out programs costing little in dollars that will yield tremendous dividends in wholesome recreation and faith-building activities. Perhaps we should be less concerned with fun and more with faith. …As with any new program, there will be a few items that will need to be corrected as we go along. There are still unanswered questions…Time and experience will provide the answers. Meanwhile, be grateful and prayerfully go to work to make it function. I promise you that you will be happy if you do so. Family life will be strengthened and faith will increase.

Leaf Explorers

I have loved the warm weather through September and October. The kids have played outside nonstop; we've eaten dinners and lunches and even breakfasts in the backyard or on the hill; I've been able to run in short sleeves. So it's not that I haven't enjoyed the season! But I did look around about a week ago and start to worry that I had almost missed Fall—the leaves, the trees, the canyons. We've hardly had time to take a breath and I'm always feeling like there's some box or other I ought to be unpacking.

And so (every year I say this)—"we almost didn't go"—but thankfully we DID go! We took a picnic and went up the canyon one morning instead of school. (Or should I say "for school"? hee hee) Malachi gallantly volunteered to stay home with a napping Gus, which made the rest of us much freer to explore!
Daisy and Junie had remembered all year about their "horsie" they'd played on last Fall. It was a bouncy tree growing sideways out of the mountain, and they had so much fun on it! They asked if we could go play at the same place again, and I was not at all sure that we could find it—or if the tree would still be there after the winter. But they remembered right where it had been, and it WAS still there! Just as horsie-ish as ever. They were so happy.
Little Zekey spent the first 45 minutes tripping and falling over rocks hidden under the leaves. He wanted to stay close by me so I could kiss his hundred little bonks and scrapes. But after awhile he found his footing (and got smart enough to stop RUNNING everywhere) and then we could hardly keep him in sight! He was playing motorcycle some of the time, and forklift some of the time—making "vvvv"-ing sounds everywhere he went, of course.

Preparing hearts

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Sunday Afternoon Session of the April 1990 Conference.
I have felt sad lately as I think about the struggles of friends and family members in their marriages and families. Life can be so hard! I don't know if there are more people struggling right now, or if it's just one of those instances of seeing something and then noticing more of it, but everywhere I look, it seems like marriages are faltering and relationships that once seemed strong have become strained. When a relationship is difficult, it's so hard to look back and see the good in it—but it seems important to believe that the good existed; that the happiness—whatever amount of it there was—was real and meaningful, even if it wasn't permanent.

As I've been thinking about marriage, and the relationships I'm forming now with my children—and also my hopes for them in their eventual marriages and with their children, I really liked H. Burke Petersen's advice:
We cannot force love and respect and admiration.

We cannot force faith and testimony of truth.

Even though we cannot force those things that matter most, there are ways we can help one another. That is, we can prepare hearts to obtain a deep and abiding testimony that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world… 
If your home is a home where family members are loved unconditionally, regardless of behavior, then your home will have a spirit of warmth that will prepare the heart to receive the testimony of truth. 
Now, you may think, “I would like to love my family and friends and neighbors unconditionally, but sometimes it is extremely difficult. How can I learn to feel that pure love?”…
First, look for the good in each person, and mention it in a sincere and consistent way. It is amazing how hearts can be softened, testimonies implanted, and relationships improved when we begin to give a daily portion of heartfelt appreciation. It has a marvelous effect on preparing the spirit. Even mentioning a little thing will have a positive effect. It usually isn’t earth-shaking—just a simple act or attribute that will blossom and be multiplied if it is noticed.… 
Another way of preparing the heart of someone is to create an atmosphere where judging is held in reserve until anger has subsided, until the hurt has dissipated, until all sides of an issue have been explored. Criticism is a destroyer of self-worth and esteem. It is demeaning and cutting.
…Any individual in a position to influence another realizes that the power to influence others for good comes through love and praise and patience. In relationships where there is forgetting and forgiving, joy and trust are nurtured. 
As you develop your capacity to love unconditionally, remember that listening is a part of showing love. If your home is a home where children are listened to, even when what they say doesn’t seem important or you don’t feel you have time, then you are preparing hearts…Remember, you can listen to understand, not necessarily to agree. Ofttimes we do our best teaching when we listen. Husband-and-wife relationships are nourished and strengthened as we listen to each other more. Hearts are softened. 

Even though I can think of plenty of other people who need to follow this advice (ha ha) the one who needs it most is ME! I can't think of any relationship that wouldn't be improved if I could strengthen in all these attributes in myself.

Heights we can hardly imagine

   
I can't believe we're on the other side of this, talking about it in past tense as if it's all over and wrapped neatly up; a story with a middle and an end. There are still boxes and questions and projects—so many projects—but we did it! I did tell myself we would—that we'd be here at some point. But I don't know if I really believed it. First there was SO MUCH to do. It felt like on every surface in the house, someone was making one of those creations like in the first two pictures, or else there was something to fix—dents in doors, scribbles on walls, or the even-more-discouraging general dinginess that has the air of being impossible to clean at all. We made lists, of course. And we got rid of things. And we instituted and re-instituted very strict clean-up-after-yourself policies. (But if you are a parent you know exactly how effective these policies are.)

It seemed like a miracle when the house was all cleaned and sparkling ready to be put up for sale. It was so beautiful! I couldn't imagine anyone not wanting to buy it. (And we accepted an offer after one day, so I suppose at least some other people agreed!)

 
Then the house was sold and everything began to look terrible again. It was that kind of terrible that has a purpose and a direction—the same way your room always looks the worst right before you finish cleaning it—but the end seemed sooooo farrrrrr away that it might as well not have been there at all. Boxes! So many boxes! And no matter how much stuff you put in boxes—no matter how many times you thought, "Okay, that's almost everything in that room done"—there was always more. 


My text threads with Sam were full of pictures like this. "Can I throw these out?" "What on earth is this?" "Whyyyyyyy?"


We took multiple ("By Appointment Only!") trips to D.I. with things to give away. The kids were sent outside to play or sit on the porch swing a lot. (Philip and Allison took all the little kids to a park one morning when they were in town, and it was so wonderful!) Everyone started saying irritably "Where is the tape? Where is the paper?" and when the answer was (inevitably) "Boxed up," we were just forced to make do.

Then suddenly every day seemed like it was some "last." Last wave from the front porch. Last popsicles in the backyard. Last early-morning run on my favorite route. One of those last mornings as I was running, the power went out, and everything was suddenly utterly dark. I wasn't sure what had happened at first. I thought maybe just the streetlights on that street were out of order, but then I noticed how profound the silence was. It always seems silent on those early mornings, but this was degrees beyond the usual—no creaking air conditioning units starting up; no quiet crackling from porch lights. Only the temple still glowed in the darkness. It sounds like it might have been scary, but it was beautiful—like the world was standing still with only me to move through it and say goodbye to all the little places and moments I've accumulated these past twelve years. Here I took pictures of baby Malachi in his Halloween costume. Here little Sebby ran to push the sprinkler down. Here on this bench I cried from sorrows too deep to be contained in my usual bathroom/closet crying places, and here on this path God spoke to me in feelings too big for words.

We were too busy to say goodbye to everything, and too excited. But I felt it anyway, underneath my skin. Last time dusting this ledge. Last time watching the playhouse light glow across the lawn. Last, last, last. Everything—rooms, furniture, sleeping arrangements—felt mixed-up and strange.
 

 
 
When the time finally came we had two days to move, which was nice. On the first day we had a truck to use from our realtor (that was extremely exciting and the kids ran in and out and up and down nonstop—sometimes actually carrying boxes—though it took Ziggy a couple of hours to actually dare to walk all the way up the ramp into the truck). Our realtor also used to be Goldie's church class teacher, so she was pretty excited to see his enormous face on the moving truck. :)

The next day we had movers come to do the big furniture and the piano and the last of the boxes. They were SO strong and SO tireless. (Their name is The Other Side moving company, actually—they have the coolest mission and purpose. You should read about it.) Ziggy wanted to ask them endless questions ("Are you taking the table apart? Are you carrying the bookshelf?") and they were so kind and patient. I don't know HOW we would have managed this move without them! By that evening the house was looking so empty and so strange. Everything looked bigger and foreign, like we were staying in someone else's house, or like we'd gone back in time—I kept having memories flash across my mind of when we first moved in, with two little preschool boys and a brand new baby.

That night we put the little kids to bed and left some boys at the new house with them, and then stayed up so late cleaning the old house, and Daisy and Junie were amazing helpers. They worked and worked and worked, even when the cordless vacuum ran out of batteries and we had to haul the huge heavy one up onto each stair, and even as we scrubbed every corner and every shelf and every window, and even when we were so tired we wanted to lie down and die. Daisy climbed up on the ledge to dust and scrub. I kept imagining how happy the new owners would be to have everything so clean. (And our glorious bunny room! I have loved it so. I know they'll probably just paint over it, but I loved seeing it unobstructed by furniture one last time.)
It was a REALLY WEIRD feeling to drive away from this dear house knowing it would never be ours again. I shed some tears (silently, so as not to make the girls sad too).

   
   
But then there was so much excitement on the other end! The younger kids got to see the new house for the first time in person, and it was so echoing and empty and beautiful and new. And then it filled up with boxes and was so chaotic and cluttered and daunting—and then somehow in a haze of long days and late nights and frazzled hasty fast-food dinners and exhausted sighs of "Just have him wear Goldie's underpants" and "Just put it anywhere for now" and "Just get them into bed without their teeth brushed, then"—this is the part I can't believe we're on the other side of; it's all a blur—the house started to look like our house. Our house, but bigger—lighter—maybe even prettier! And I started to think maybe it all hadn't been such a crazy idea after all.

Things started to seem almost right and familiar again. Babies (labeled "Boy" by someone who got a little too enthusiastic with the label-maker) crawling around. Boys wearing hats, suit coats, and underpants. Kids making "rides" for other kids. Girls reading in strange and unlikely spots. And our food storage room, every item in which I had agonized over having to pack up ("WHY didn't I stop buying pinto beans?") but which I truly love having and is a thing of beauty in this new house. We really will eat all that food within a year, and more will be rotated in.

We had the most glorious weather and ate out on the deck. We played in the backyard—one night I went outside and Junie was playing basketball, Goldie was reading, Teddy was swinging, Ziggy was walking around doing whatever it is he does (?), and Daisy and Sam were working on her Pinewood Derby car. It felt like home.

We watched beautiful sunsets—over our hill, and from our hill. We acquired a part-time cat (such friendly, happy, affectionate cat—he was there almost all the time for those first few weeks, and now we haven't seen him for awhile and we miss him!).

We climbed the hill to watch clouds and storms, and the kids slid down the hill on boxes again and again and again and again.

So here we are. "Settled in," I guess, whatever that means; still pretty astonished at how this year has surprised us over and over and over.  And just about every day I think about Elder Uchtdorf's words from Conference:
Our best days are ahead of us, not behind us. This is why God gives us modern revelation! Without it, life might feel like flying in a holding pattern, waiting for the fog to lift so we can land safely. The Lord’s purposes for us are much higher than that. Because this is the Church of the living Christ…we are moving forward and upward to places we’ve never been, to heights we can hardly imagine!

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