Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Love in the everyday

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Welfare Session of the October 1976 Conference.
I've been thinking lately about the practical ways in which Relief Society helps me learn to care for other people. It happens so simply and with such little fanfare that it's easy to feel like you aren't really doing anything. Usually just a sign-up sheet goes around, and you sign up on it. Or, someone calls and says, "Can you help with this?" and you say, "Sure." And it's probably always true that we could do MORE, and BETTER. But still, I love having constant reminders and chances to decide to do something for someone else—rather than staying always caught up in my own routines and worries.

When I was growing up, there was a lady in my church congregation that had Multiple Sclerosis. The Relief Society brought meals to her family—twice a week, maybe?—for YEARS. Ten or fifteen years at least. I helped my mom bring meals in, so many many times. It seemed such a normal part of our dinner routine. And all the ladies in the ward shared that work. It wasn't VERY much trouble for anyone in particular. Now, I know meals don't solve every problem in the world. But it seems so good and right that for all those years and years, her Relief Society sisters did act like sisters—taking care of family members they loved. Even when I was just a little girl, I recognized that that was how things should be!

There have been ongoing needs in other wards I've been in over the years, too. I was looking at a sign-up sheet recently for one of our Relief Society sisters and Daisy was asking me, "How long is the ward going to keep doing this?" And I loved that I could say, with confidence, "As long as she needs us! Forever, if necessary!" If it were just ME—that would feel pretty daunting. But when it's all of us together trying to help, it just feels good. Again—it's not everything. We're not curing her. We're not taking away all her troubles. But it's such a privilege to be doing something that shares in God's love even a little. And that IS the word that comes to mind: privilege. I am honored to be part of an organization that encourages me to do such things as a matter of course! I loved being able to say to Daisy, "This is Relief Society! This is your role as a woman. This is just what women do."

And of course it isn't only women. Here's what Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone said about priesthood quorums in his talk in the Welfare Session of Conference:
There is a holy brotherhood in a good quorum that draws the members together with bands stronger than steel. The quorum is a brotherhood of charity wherein the “pure love of Christ” prevails. When this “charity” pervades all that is done, then every member has a Christlike interest in every other member. Quorum members feel the weight of the burden which is carried by their unemployed brother as though they themselves were unemployed. They are motivated to action.
It sounds kind of lofty at first. Intimidating. How can any quorum possibly ensure that charity "pervades all that is done"? People are so different…and they annoy and misunderstand each other…and it's hard to have charity all the time in families, let alone in a ward full of random neighbors! But yet in the Relief Society, I have in fact experienced what he's talking about: times where I actually "feel the weight of the burden" of someone in the ward I have grown to care about. I may not be wholly "one" with that person in opinion or personality type, but their sufferings or joys resonate in my own soul when I hear of them. It seems improbable, but I've felt it and it's real!

Sometimes I feel bad that I don't do more to be like "real sisters" with the people in my ward. I know if I knew them better, I would be able to serve them better. I know people won't trust their deepest needs and feelings with just anyone. But it seems so daunting to try and forge those true bonds when there's so little time or opportunity for me to do it! Still…I'm realizing how much good can be done, how much charity can be learned, even when conditions are less than completely ideal. An awkward or self-conscious word of comfort can still be comforting. A superficial conversation in the hall after which you think, "That was dumb; why did I say that?" is still the beginning of a relationship. A freezer meal for someone that you only remember at the last minute, and you wish you didn't have to do it tonight, but you do it anyway because you signed up, is still a way of reaching out. And if you keep taking those small little opportunities year after year, the "sisterhood" part has a way of surprising you when you least expect it. Your neighbor's husband dies and though you've never shared a heart-to-heart conversation before, you hug her and cry with her and feel your heart stretching toward her again and again even later when you pray. Or you walk into the church gym and see ladies decorating the tables with balloons and stringing up lights and all of a sudden you just feel like bursting with love for these strangers you didn't even know the names of ten years ago. Or you watch a new teacher's hands shake with nervousness as she starts her lesson and you find yourself praying that she will realize you don't even care what she says in her lesson, because you already love her anyway. Whenever this happens to me I'm overcome with amazement: Lord, how is it done? And every time I ask it, the answer is so simple: it happens bit by bit as I keep doing what I'm asked by God to do.

Other posts in this series:

Sunday, August 13, 2017

The house by the bay

We've never been on a trip with anyone before (except, I guess, staying at my brother's house in California lots of times) so we were excited to see what it was like staying in this house with Sam's parents. And it was great! It was fun to go places together. It was fun to split up and then come back later and report on our different adventures. And it was fun in the down time, to just be sitting there reading near each other and talking if we wanted to. The kids loved having Grandma and Grandpa to talk to and play games with whenever they wanted! And we loved having a date night with them one night while Abe and Seb babysat at the rental house. 

It really was a great house. The stairs up to it were formidable, but that's part of what made the house so great: it was up so high that the views from the windows were amazing! And I LOVED (as I mentioned here) watching the tide go in and out of the bay! I was kind of sad every time I had to step away from the window to do something else besides watch the ocean. And I loved the balcony. Like every other woman on the planet, I don't sleep well when I'm pregnant, but I loved getting up in the midnight hours and going out into the dark cool air and listening to the ocean waves, and catching glimpses of moonlight reflected in the water. It was so calming! I kept telling myself to remember how lovely it was, because soon it would be just a memory. (And now it is!)
You can see the row of houses of which ours was one—we were in the tallest one you can make out in this picture, up against the trees.
View from the balcony, down the street
We loved this big long table, with room for all eleven of us!
Looking down from the loft. The boys were so happy Grandpa would play card games with them! And there's Grandma faithfully peeling potatoes for dinner. And me taking pictures of her instead of helping! :( Sorry, Mom!
Loft. So light and airy!
And that beautiful view.
These guys are a little odd.
Goldie helps Grandma
Junie out on the balcony—post-bath
Sam working. Daisy watching. Teddy snuggling with his bunny.
Always something pretty to look at. Beach with tide coming in.
Tide fully in. See how small the beach is?
These old pier posts were a good measuring point. Here they are exposed by the low tide…
and getting covered by the high tide.
The green section (in the left picture) was rocky and had crabs and clams in tide pools, at low tide. 
More tide comparisons. (Please forgive me if this doesn't enthrall you as it does me.) You can see the sandbar, exposed in the left picture and covered in the right one.
Sunset, with pajama-clad boy
Here is a view of the whole bay area from above our house. It was a lot easier to see the crescent shape of the…island? peninsula? sandbar? from up there.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Beach Campfire

We love a good campfire, and having fires on the beach is always fun! The light was so pretty on this particular night.
Daisy, looking very grown-up in this picture!
Junie dropped her hot dog in the sand while she was roasting it. We told her to go wash it off in the ocean, which she did enthusiastically. Good as new!
Curious about the fire