My Mom called me a little while ago. She received her mission call this afternoon. She was prepared to serve anywhere in the world and hoped to be called to serve a Temple mission. She was called to serve in the Washington DC Mission assigned as a Temple missionary to the Washington DC Temple.
As I reflect on this blessing for her and knowing that she was prepared to serve a mission anywhere in the world, I am quite touched by what a sweet blessing this is for her. The Washington DC Temple is our Temple. She and my Dad were sealed there and my brother and I were sealed to them there as well as my sister. Jim and I were sealed there as well. Those are wonderful memories for all of us. The Washington DC Temple is a beautiful temple and my Mom and Dad had served there previously for a short while as temple workers when they lived back east. The Washington DC Temple was one of my Dad's favorite places. He loved it there and he always felt so peaceful there. It is also nice that my Mom will be centrally located between my two sisters who live on the east coast with one of her granddaughters living in the same area because she works in DC. What a tender mercy for all.
Sarah was in the newspaper the other day in a picture where the photographer captured her holding up Nathan. Any child is blessed immeasurably when his or her mother looks at them like this...and means it. Such is the power of motherhood.
This very wonderful woman I have been blogging about a little the last few weeks came to church again yesterday.
She asked to have this picture taken after the Sunday School lesson about Easter.
She has a wonderful heart and seems to sincerely enjoy learning about Christ. She came to Easter dinner yesterday and then the missionaries came to our home after dinner. One is from Mainland China. He shared a gospel message with her in Mandarin. I was deeply humbled by this entire experience. It was a privilege to hear the gospel taught once again in my mission language, this time, in my own home. It is a gift to be able to share the message of the restored gospel with others and to witness the joy it brings to them.
As we were experiencing missionary joy in our home, my son is in another country doing the same thing. I thought about him as the missionaries were teaching in our home yesterday. This is a snippet from his e-mail this week. I can't post everything he writes because I want to be respectful to keep names and certain experiences private.
I had a great week this week. Things are finally starting to move again, it is slow, but it is a big relief. Also, we have been preparing to move to a new house this week so we have been pretty stinkin´ busy. ..So there a quite a few things that I wanted to talk about last week but didn’t have time. Firstly, my new companion. I am liking him a lot. He is a little guy and quite timid but he has a very good heart and we are working hard...
Well I hope that is everything is OK. I hope you all had a great Easter, we did. Me and my companion both bought a box of chocolates and ate them yesterday to celebrate. I bear my testimony that Christ lives, and the we too one day will live again through His great and eternal sacrifice. I know that the church is true and that God loves us. I know that we can help Him in His great work. Congratulations for your missionary efforts Mom! I love you all very, very much. I hope you have a wonderful week, I know I will. I am very much looking forward to talking to you all on Mother’s Day..."
Once again it is very early and I am awake. It's OK though because when I wake up this early, I usually take time to think about things. This morning I thought about getting up but found myself looking at this beautiful picture which hangs on my wall next to my bed. The artist is Liz Lemon Swindle. I saw this artwork many years ago on display the morning after Thanksgiving when I was shopping with my girls. The artist was at a table outside an art gallery store. She was putting brushstrokes on this still wet painting. When I saw this painting for the first time, tears came to my eyes. I was so touched by it and the artist was looking at me as I was crying. When a print became available months later, I bought it. It is called "Why Weepest Thou?"
I love the way Mary looks so concerned and worried and overwhelmed in this picture. She doesn't know that the Savior is near her and that He has risen from the dead. She really has nothing to worry about and her grief is about to be turned to great joy. The angels had just asked her the first time she went to the tomb that morning with other devoted women, "Why seek ye the living among the dead?" Luke 24:5 Christ was not in the tomb and she was left to tell the apostles that He was gone. After returning to the tomb and finding herself alone with her grief, she was soon comforted by the news of that first Easter morning, Christ had risen from the dead.
Today I will go to church and celebrate the events of that Easter message. I look forward to that.
As I looked at this picture this morning, I thought of my brother Rob. As mentioned before in my blog, he passed away 10 years ago. I remembered however Easter 1999 when he was still alive and I was with him. He had just had his bone marrow transplant about two weeks prior to that Easter morning. I had been staying/sleeping in his hospital room to help him through that awful time. I was there for nine days. Rob was so sick during that time and depression had taken a toll on him. He needed my help physically and mentally and his family needed the break. I remember that Easter morning in 1999 and the significance of what had happened that day.
I missed church that morning. It was probably the only Easter I ever missed church in my life. I felt bad about that but my brother needed me and I had no way to get to church. Late morning, Rob's doctor came in to see Rob. He had just come from church himself. He looked so happy. He came to tell my brother that he had just reviewed Rob's latest blood work. He told Rob that the bone marrow transplant was a success. Rob had the faintest glimmer of new life in his new marrow. He told him that new life giving and life sustaining cells were forming in his brand new marrow and that he believed Rob would be getting well. I remember vividly the look on that doctor's face. I remember how he told Rob that he thought it was so significant that on Easter, he was having the chance at a new birth so to speak, a new life. The doctor seemed so pleased and so touched by this news. Rob's leukemia was a particularly virulent kind called natural killer cell leukemia and this news was significant because he was the first known patient with this kind of leukemia to have received a bone marrow transplant for his condition. I remember having tears in my eyes and looking at the doctor and exchanging meaningful looks with him because of the significance of the news he was telling us that Easter morning. Rob was so, so sick that the news didn't really phase him that much. But I thought about it that day and what the term "new life" meant on that Easter day.
Rob lived another year and a half after that. The leukemia eventually came back and he passed on. He is buried in a lovely cemetery in Connecticut. I came across a scripture after he died that has meant a lot to me. “And the graves of the saints shall be opened; and they shall come forth and stand on the right hand of the Lamb, when he shall stand upon Mount Zion, and the holy city, the New Jerusalem; and they shall sing the song of the Lamb, day and night forever and ever.” D&C 133:56
Just as Mary looked in the tomb of Jesus and found that he was not there but was living, I believe that because of Christ and His resurrection that first Easter morning, my brother Rob will also be resurrected one day. We all will. When that happens, he will have new life yet again. That time however, he will never die again but will live forever. And I will get to see him again.
That's the message of Easter. Christ died for all of us. More importantly, He rose from the dead and lives and because of that most significant event in the history of mankind, we will all rise from the dead one day and have the opportunity to live forever.
Job said it best in the Old Testament in the Bible, “And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.” Job 19:26 That is the message of Easter, new life because of our Savior Jesus Christ.
Handel set these sentiments to music and they are wonderful.
“O death, where is thy sting? O grave where is thy victory?” (1Corinthians 15:55) “…the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised…” (1Corinthians 15:52) “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing... Blessing, and honour, glory and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever. Amen. “(Revelation 5:12, 13) (Handel's Messiah)
My parents moved next door to us in 2000. My Dad suffered from Parkinson's disease and they needed help. This was shortly after they arrived. My Mom had an Easter egg hunt for the kids in her backyard. They had a great time.
When I was a child, there was much we did to prepare for Easter outwardly. Easter celebrations were always very sweet to me and very important.
Now that I am older and my children are mostly gone, there are not many outward preparations left for me to do. Each year it seems that there is less and less to do. I do however continue my Easter preparations in my heart. I think about and ponder about what this Easter week means. I think about what Christians the world over do in preparation and celebration to remember the most important event in the history of this world.
I reflected upon these things in my prayers this morning and what I used to do as a child, as a young adult, as a young mother, and now as a middle aged woman. I thought about the fact that the feelings in my heart are the same as they always have been, yet my understanding and consideration of Easter have deepened so much over the years. When I was of elementary school age, I always set aside time on what is known as Good Friday to ponder the events of our Savior's atonement and death. Today I did the same thing, some forty years later. I have reviewed those events in my mind, studied about them, and thought about what they mean for me. I am as touched now by those events and Christ's love for me as I was as a child. My love for the Lord and gratitude for Him is the same now as it was when I was a girl. He knows I am devoted to Him. I have always been thus and pray that I will always be so.
Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is always there for us. His goodness is always near us. It is we who have to make time to remember Him and what He has done for us and reach out to Him.
Jim and I went to the St. George area the last few days. I had only been once or twice before but never to stay. Seth went to Disneyland for spring break so we went so Jim could have a little rest. Turns out I was the one who really enjoyed it. Jim just needs any napping place with little distraction and he's good to go. I like a good pool, some sun, and flowers. I didn't bring my camera but I took a few shots from my cell phone so the pictures aren't great but I'll share what I liked best.
I found two hammocks under a weeping willow tree where we stayed. My grandmother had a hammock under her weeping willow tree. When I was a girl, I used to love to swing on that hammock and her hammock and weeping willow tree made for wonderful memories. So while Jim was taking a long afternoon nap the other day, I found myself on this hammock. I thought about Nanny.
This picture doesn't do this justice but these are wisteria vines which were in full bloom. They were right near the hammocks. The fragrance of wisteria vines in full bloom is intoxicating.
I just had to take a picture
even if the picture doesn't do the scene justice.
They were very pretty and the smell kept drawing me back.
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are helping with cleanup and recovery efforts after a series of violent tornadoes struck the southern United States.
Latter-day Saints in North Carolina have been working for two days to help neighbors whose homes were damaged or destroyed. On Sunday, 17 April 2011, local Church leaders asked members in 29 congregations in Fayetteville, North Raleigh and Holly Springs to leave their church meetings early to assist in the cleanup effort. “We have friends and neighbors who are in need,” stake president Joseph Catlett said. “Go home, put on your work clothes, and let’s go help.”
Mormon teenager James Tollett, who helped haul tree limbs and rubble, said he was shocked by what he saw. “I’ve only seen things like this on the news or the Internet. There was so much damage. Trees split houses and cars right in half,” he said.
Hundreds of Church members in their yellow Mormon Helping Hands vests worked to spread tarps across damaged roofs, remove fallen trees and clean debris from yards. Others helped residents rescue their valuables from beneath piles of rubble. One woman who received help commented that she was “deeply moved” by the sea of volunteers who came to her rescue.
Fayetteville resident Stephen Sanders says the volunteers are glad to contribute to the cleanup effort.
“It feels good to help, especially these folks who are hurting so badly. The look of gratitude in their eyes makes it all worth it,” he said.
Despite the devastation, there was a sense of hope and camaraderie as the Mormons worked side by side with their neighbors to help those affected by the tornadoes. “Our hearts are always warmed when we see neighbors helping each other,” Catlett said. “It captures the essence of our faith and our religion.”
All Latter-day Saint missionaries in the area are safe and are helping with the cleanup effort. Three homes belonging to Church members were destroyed and one meetinghouse sustained minor damage. Over the next few days, Church leaders will work closely with religious, civic and government agencies to evaluate needs and determine how the Church may provide additional resources and help.
I've been somewhat out of the loop the last few days I guess. The tornadoes that devastated the east and in particular North Carolina went right through the city my sister lives in. I am amazed at what has happened there.
Sometimes I don't watch the news. Sometimes I follow the news. Sometimes I take breaks because occasionally the news can be too depressing. Gratefully they are all OK. Elisa will visit them on Thursday as part of her trip. I'm glad she's going.
These kinds of devastating events remind me of a scripture about the power of nature and the power of the Lord. "How long can rolling waters remain impure? What power shall stay the heavens? As well might man stretch forth his puny arm to stop the Missouri river in its decreed course, or to turn it up stream, as to hinder the Almighty from pouring down knowledge from heaven upon the heads of the Latter-day Saints." D&C 121:33
My heart always goes out to people who suffer because of the effects of nature gone awry sometimes. We all really are in the Lord's hands. That said, I am the first to say that I do get overwhelmed by news like this sometimes and am intimidated by nature's fury a lot of times.
So it seems that there is rebellion in the ranks and three people commented that they did not like the idea of me taking a blog hiatus...so....you win....I'll blog you silly people. :)
A few things. My new friend from China came to church yesterday and she is quite delightful. She mentioned that she never went to church before last week and that she had never heard about religion either. Yesterday she sat in church next to me and I realized that she started singing the hymns with me. I was particularly touched to hear her sing all four verses of "I Believe in Christ" which was the closing song. I don't think I'll ever be able to hear that song again without thinking of that experience. I believe she was learning about Christ as she was singing that hymn. What an amazing experience.
It sounds like Ian is doing better now too. This is from today's e-mail:
"Dearest Beloved Beautiful Family, (got to love that greeting) It has been one crazy week, and it feels like forever since the last p-day, but things are now returning to normal. So I don´t know the best way to tell you all everything that has happened so I guess I will just start at the beginning. Monday morning we left the apartment to take my companion to the bus station to leave for Londrina, I still didn´t know about transfers yet though, we just knew that my companion was leaving. I was already planning on staying one night with the other elders while waiting for my new companion to arrive so I had a few things with me but when we got to the bus station I found out that I would be going to another city that is about 3.5 hours away to accompany some elders doing transfers. I thought, alright, no problem, I thought that I would get back still get back on Tuesday, just a little bit later. The next day I found out that I would actually spend the night in the other city with the other elders and only return the next day. So I went to the other city and spent the whole day in the bus station waiting for elders. The next day we returned to the bus station, and our bus was supposed to leave at 1:30, but when we got there we went to the company (they have many different ones that all leave from the same bus station) our tickets weren't there, so we went to the others. Finally we found out that it was at a different bus company, but that we should have left at 7:50 that morning, but they said that they had another bus leaving at 3:40 and that we could take that one. While waiting at the airport, we talked to a few people. I was trying to call back to Prudente to talk to some members to organize rides for the new elders. We got yelled at by a drunk who after finding out that I was of Italian decent, started yelling that it was the Romans who killed Christ and NOT the Jews, and that we needed to read more. Lots of fun stuff. We then got on the bus which was the weirdest bus that I have ever ridden in my life and it took 5 hours to get back. We finally got back at about 9:00 that night so we had to sleep in the house of the other elders house again. The next morning we went back our apartment and after unpacking and organizing we had time to teach one lesson before returning to the other elders' house to sleep that night. The next morning a van came to pick us up at 5:20 and take us back to THE SAME city where I was for zone conference. We spent the day there for zone conference and only got back to Prudente at 9:30, so we had to sleep with in the other elders apartment again. Finally on Saturday night I got to sleep in my own bed again for the first time in about a week. I am out of time again and I have much more to tell you but it will have to wait for next week. I am now with my new companion, a short little Brazilian who is awesome. Things are much much better and we are working hard. I will probably call you guys with Skype. The church is true and I love you all immensely."
OK, I have read this twice and I am still confused by all the bus station adventures and sleeping in various places saga. He sounds good though and sounds like he is on an upswing. Thank goodness! And he'll get to call home in a few weeks for Mother's Day. Thank goodness again.
I know Ian has been worn down and tired lately because he has said so in his e-mails. He was scheduled to meet his new companion today and he was really looking forward to that. I hope it turns out to be a good experience for him.
From his e-mail:
"This week was a good one, I got a ton of mail, which was a great blessing. I got the letter that mom sent me, so thank you very much for that, and also a few letters and a package from Jessa which was awesome. I also got some mail the week before last week and I was elated to find out that my good friend Jacob received his mission call to Germany.
I have some big news! Big for me at least. My companion left, but three elders will come in his place, we will now have two companionships in our ward and living in our tiny house for now. Double the work! I am out of time but I testify that the church is true and I love you all"
Good for him. Too bad I have to wait a whole week to hear how this all turns out but he'll be able to call home on Mother's Day. I am so looking forward to that!
I met my new friend on Temple Square this afternoon. We spent about 2 1/2 hours together. Between her English and my Chinese, we were able to have a decent conversation although her English is better than my Chinese.
We met again with the first missionaries she met on Temple Square last week. One of them is from Taiwan and she gave us a long missionary tour in Mandarin. I decided I can decipher the Taiwan Mandarin accent better than I can the mainland China Mandarin accent. They are different even though it is the same language. It was wonderful to hear the gospel preached once again in Mandarin.
We spoke plainly about a lot of gospel truths.
Jim met us for a few minutes because he works close by.
The Temple is always very impressive.
The trees were in bloom and the spring flowers were beautiful.
This was on the roof top of the Conference Center.
I was very touched by the magnitude of what this
scripture on this black marble means generally
and what it meant specifically today.
This is the scripture:
"And this gospel shall be preached unto every nation,
I guess you just never know what each new day will bring. I study Chinese several times a week so I don't lose it. Most times I study a little something everyday. Sometimes I listen to talks in Chinese, sometimes I study vocabulary, and I read the Book of Mormon in Chinese. Sometimes I take a break and let a whole week go by and don't study anything. This week I studied more than I have been lately. Sometimes I just tell myself that I'm not really doing anything with my Chinese but I keep studying anyway because you never know. Today was one of those "you never know days."
I walked into Church this morning a little bit early. I like to be a few minutes early. There are two doors into the church and I decided to take the one which would give me an opportunity to say hello to Jim because he leaves so early because he's the Bishop. When I walked in, I noticed one of the clerks speaking to a woman who was obviously foreign. He motioned me over. She had just showed up to our church and introduced herself to him and asked to visit our church. She is a professional from China. Our clerk looked relieved to have introduced me to her because he knows of my Chinese background. She said she had visited Temple Square last week and met a missionary from Taiwan who invited her to visit an LDS meeting. She was very excited to be here. I introduced myself to her as I was the first woman she met having just showed up at our ward. I explained our three hour meeting block and she was surprised I could speak Chinese although her English is OK too. She was happy to go with me. I introduced her in our first meeting and other people welcomed her as well.
By the time we got to our last meeting which was our Sacrament meeting, she understood a little bit more of what was happening. I explained that the first meeting was a woman's meeting. She was impressed that our teacher was a lawyer. I explained that our second meeting was Sunday School and that we would be talking about Jesus Christ and His teachings from the Bible. When we got to Sacrament Meeting, I explained how the meeting was broken down to two parts. I explained that the first part was when we take the bread and water remembering Jesus' sacrifice for us. We had just learned about the significance of that in Sunday School. Our bulletin had a picture of Jesus on it. I pointed to the picture and asked her if she had ever seen that picture before. She had only heard about Him and seen a picture of Christ on Temple Square last week. I said to her in Chinese as I was pointing to his picture, "The name of our Church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. This church, pointing to where we were sitting, is His Church." Even I was touched by the simplicity of those words. This was her first time EVER being in a church, ever. She had only heard about Jesus Christ once last week. She felt something and wanted to come to our church. The truth of those simple words were so apparent to me, "This church is His church." That is true. It really is. I had taught her a truth. It was so simple yet that message is so deep.
She asked me when they were passing the bread if she could take a piece. I told her of course. She only understood a little of the significance of that. I had explained to her before the meeting that today was a special meeting. I told her there would be people who would randomly come up to the microphone to bear testimony of their feelings about Jesus Christ and their feelings about His church. As the meeting went on, she started to cry. She listened intently and at first she was wiping away a tear or two. Then she reached for tissues and openly, softly wept the remainder of the meeting. It was very tender. I was touched by her and the opportunity to have her sit with me for those three hours. I was touched by saying those simple words to her, "The name of our church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. This is Jesus Christ, this church is His church." I was touched to know that the Spirit was touching her heart as the meeting went on.
The gospel is so simple. Those who spoke today spoke about how much Jesus loved them and about how much Heavenly Father loved them. That is true. The Spirit touched her that she would know that that was true.
I kept thinking during the meeting how much my Chinese lacks and how much more I could be studying. I never know when I will need my Chinese or when I can serve the Lord because I have whatever limited ability I have. I thought about how sad my comment was yesterday on my post about the air quality in Beijing is and how selfish a comment that was.
Today is one those days where you see the Lord's hand all around you and acknowledge your nothingness but mostly your gratefulness.
I invited her to go with me back to Temple Square sometime this next week when she has time. She said she would like to. I also invited her to dinner before she leaves to return to China and to come back to Church next week if she wants to. She was happy for all the invitations.
I guess you just never know what each new day will bring. Today, God brought me a new friend from a far away land and we are both His daughters and I could speak her language and teach her about Jesus Christ. I felt in my heart that today was an important day for her. It was for me too.
I read the following on the local news website this evening:
"...flying in the pilot advised us we we'd be landing into the normal Beijing haze. Which is like Utah's worst inversion times a population of like 20 million." This was written by a local reporter who had flown to Beijing to cover a news story related to our state. I have to admit, if I don't do well with Utah inversions, how would I ever handle "normal Beijing haze"? Hopefully that was just an exaggeration.