"Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to let you in."

-- Robert Frost

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

lead me, guide me, i'll walk beside thee

Like just about everyone else in the internet world, I read a blog post titled "President Monson ... I wish I could have come and held you up." by Greg Trimble. Who didn't feel the same way as the world watched our beloved prophet sink deeper and deeper with the final power of his eternal message leaving his physical body?

In my living room world, I struggled to hear around little children still jumping from couch to couch despite my frantic silencing and best efforts at containment.  Teenagers shuffled and nudged one another and at the very pinnacle of testimony, wouldn't you know it, our rural internet connection glitched sending our screen into reboot mode.

Still, my brain fairly screamed, "Won't somebody please help him!" as my heart swelled with love for that great man.

He has, as Trimble pointed out, endured so much. A pure example of a doer of the work, he faces the trial of opposition, the weight of carrying such a large organization, the joyful burden of proclaiming truth, and the emptiness of walking the path more or less, alone.

In the day that followed such an uplifting conference, my thoughts revisitied a class taught by a particularly insightful college religion professor way back when. Had I been a little more of an attentive student, I could tell you his name. His thoughts centered around another "sinking" moment in time where the Son of God in His final moments, continued to do what He was sent to do. Lead and guide and walk beside even when the going got rough.

This professor made a very possible connection between Simon the Cyrene, compelled to assist our Savior's final burden of His cross carried down a crowded street, and Rufus whom later the apostle Paul hails as "one chosen in the Lord."

Simon the Cyrene, father of Alexander & Rufus as the scripture states (Mark 15:21), must have been well known among the Christian crowd. He's mentioned by name and lineage. I imagine him there on this day in Jerusalem having "passed by as he came from the country", a common bystander in that throng. Much as I felt on Sunday morning, I see him straining to hear through the hubbub, shifting to and fro for a glance through the chaos around him. The procession passing in front and the focal point of which, Jesus the Christ, stumbling to the ground under the burdensome weight of all things.

Rough soldiering hands grab at this observer and pushed toward the spectacle, Simon unsuspectingly finds himself assisting the Redeemer of all mankind through those final steps;  not able to carry the absolute weight the Son of God was called to carry, but doing his small part to not leave Him alone.

I wonder what transpired there on both sides. What look? What word? What touch?

This particular professor of religion from my college days surmised that Rufus (Romans 16:13),  later honored so highly by Paul, could very likely be that son of that same Simon. Somehow, in some way, that journey together to Golgotha had resulted in a change from casually passing-by Christian, to one rooted so deeply in faith, that posterity stood actively firm.

Monday night, I gathered with my family to rewatch the words of our loved prophet. The air was different. A cool evening called for a warm fire, pj'd little people, teens tired and gently conversational with hot chocolate infused by a dollop of pumpkin ice cream in hand. If Simon could cut through the crowded chaos and make a change for his family, by golly I'd redouble my efforts to do the same.

My heart burst wide open as, together with these kids of mine,  I once again watched President Monson grow heavy as his message made me light.

In the discussion that ensued, we chatted about all of the ways we would be better. Our prophet had not only just served as our Savior's spokesman here on earth, but also as a metaphorical "type and shadow" teaching us the very core meaning of his words.

Carrying a load of worldly cares, Christ too had stumbled. What would we do in our daily lives to step forward as Simon and be the hands needed to lift when the burdens are heavy .. in our family, in our lives, in our world? Would we be compelled? Or would we volunteer? Even Jesus, in His final hours radiated enough light and goodness to be the change within Simon's own world of cares. Would we make sure that each interaction ... no matter how long or how short ... would pioneer the future? Would we make every look ... every touch ... every word ... count? Would we remain craning our neck in a crowd to look on, or would we be active participants. Could we quiet the distractions of life, not unlike that first viewing of the message itself, and truly notice those around us so we could actually hear the spirit lead and direct us to be the hands needed here on earth.

I felt the depth of these words I love:

"When you understand the Atonement, 
then you understand the joy of being rescued."
-- M. Russell Ballard

I imagine Simon and Jesus locked in a powerful moment encircled by the truth of that very statement one to another.

Everything within me wants to be a part of that.

President Monson, I too would have held you up. But most importantly, inspired by your words that teach and your example that is even more than what you say, I hope to do a little bit better in using every day to step forward and within the reach of my ability, uphold my Savior as He gives His everything to lift up me.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2015


What feels like ages ago now, my best friend and I would take our swarm of little children for an outing to library story time every Friday. Lunch at a McDonald's playland followed and the best part was always the adult conversation of another mother. It was an unbreakable routine and key to the survival of our endless weeks of spills, tears, exhaustion and traveling husbands.

I needed her and our little time together like air to breathe.

So it was no wonder that after my fifth child was born, I was back at it with a two-week-old strapped in a baby carrier.

The story time was no small feat. We'd cuddle into a crowded space, fight to keep over active toddlers seated, struggle to stop the clearing of bookshelves, sharpen our senses for stray little people, avoid the presence of climbable surfaces and try to make sense in conversational snippets.

The restaurant playland provided release as kids momentarily ceased their jungle gym climbing of us with distraction of the colorful structure.

And we'd talk interrupted only by the momentary need to free a screaming little friend from a stuck high up place.

One rather intermittent session, my friend and I had turned from our courtside table to referee multiple times and was surprised to return to a woman whose countenance expressed her feelings of displeasure.

"You know ... I've watched you leave this sleeping baby repeatedly and I can't believe you would be so incompetent and neglectful. Someone could steal him so easily!" she fairly shouted.

My sweet friend leaned forward and hugged her out of the blue. "I'm so grateful when women look out for one another. I'm so glad you were here." she said.

The flurry of fear welling up within me was replaced by relieved peace as the defused stranger mumbled a "your welcome" and moved on her way.

And I never forgot my friend's unintentional lesson.

I'm reminded of this:

"We need to build and strengthen one another. We must never lose sight of the fact that we are to 'succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees'." (D&C 81:5)
-- Gordon B. Hinkley

And this:

"Reach out to help one another. All of us need help from time to time. We need encouragement. We need friends who will stand by us through thick and thin. I ask each of you to be that kind of friend."
-- Gordon B. Hinkley

How about this one:

"I have often thought that if great numbers of the women of all nations were to unite and lift their voices in the cause of peace, there would develop a worldwide will for peace which could save our civilization and avoid untold suffering, misery, plague, starvation, and the death of millions."
-- Gordon B. Hinkley

Ever wonder where we'd be without this?

"The world needs the touch of women, and their love, their comfort, and their strength. Our harsh environment needs their encouraging voices, the beauty that seems to fall within their natures, the spirit of charity that is their inheritance. The God in whom so many of us believe has endowed His daughters with a unique and wonderful capacity to reach out to those in distress, to bring comfort and succor, to bind up wounds and heal aching hearts, and, most of all, to rear children in love and understanding."
-- Gordon B. Hinkley

Do you sort of get the feeling I love the words of that man?

Here we go:

"The world has enough women who are tough; we need women who are tender. There are enough women who are course; we need women who are kind. There are enough women who are rude; we need women who are refined. We have enough women of fame and fortune; we need more women of faith. We have enough greed, we need more goodness. We have enough vanity; we need more virtue. We have enough popularity; we need more purity."
-- Mararet D. Nadauld 

These women are all of that.

We are hard on each other. And we are hard on ourselves. I've heard it said that if we talked to our friends the way we talk to ourselves ... we wouldn't have any friends.

It is divinely inherent that women nurture. That quality came from before. It's a piece of the royalty within. In times of trial or sorrow or disaster or hardship ... we worry with those that worry, cry with those that cry and do our best to bake something that might ease a burden if only just a bit.

I've seen it.

Nurture is more than from mothers to children. It's women to women. It's from within for what is within. Understanding our best that we are each doing our best.

And truly no other work reaches so close to divinity as when we look out for one another.

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Monday, September 28, 2015

at the house and people we love

I've mentioned before the building of eternal relationships. We met so many with whom we will be connected forever and love with all our hearts.

The warmth in this woman's house didn't even allow us to miss the lack of hot water in her shower. Edena is amazing. I could sit and talk with her all night ... and almost did ;)

And so many laughs with Charity. How can one woman come from such hard days at the local hospital and still lift others with her lightness of heart. My new example always.

Sampa makes meals to die for. I stood over her shoulder stealing recipes as well as her techniques. She taught me perhaps the most valuable lesson of all ...  keep it simple so there is more time to spend with the people you love rather than for the people you love.

With the help of Yvonne.

She dressed up nshima to taste like heaven at the end of a day.

These beautiful girls help their momma (Yvonne). They are so sharp .... and witty ... and cute!

This fine gentleman keeps things tidy.

And these ladies blessed every day by doing our laundry and changing our beds.

As well as teaching the value of a dryer.

Sleeping under the mosquito net is kind of romantic in a dreamy sort of way ... unless you get malaria, I guess.

Not a day goes by that we don't think of Fred. (Look, Fred, now you are famous on our family blog and "The Facebook"  ;)

I hope this entire family is loving up those beautiful twins that were born right after we left. Jackie and Lord just radiate sunshine.

Beautiful inside and out, Sharon.

Faith and I are mothers of strong willed little girls among other children. She and George are two of my favorite people on earth.

Josephine. She's a woman of strength like I can only dream to be.

Next year my gardens are going to be a huge improvement because of Justin and his knowledgeably about growing against all odds. Talking successful planting strategies with limited water supply and excessive heat over the rows of his gardens was a gift. He doesn't waste even the smallest of seedling sprouts and there's a whole metaphor in that for another day.

And Meshach ... my friend ... I'm coming back for that cosway hunt one day. Even though I'm pretty sure you are still trying to take me on an African version of a snipe hunt.

These and so many more. My life is more full for having met you. I'm so grateful for friendships forged in this life that will carry beyond this short lifetime.

"If we have no peace it is because we have forgotten that 
we belong to each other."
-- Mother Teresa

All of my love!
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