Friday, July 12, 2013


From June of 1990 until December of 1991, I served an LDS mission in southern France (similar geographical location to where Jacob will be).  That was 23 years ago. I remember a lot of things I loved about France. I could go on and on.  But my biggest memory of  missionary work in France is that it was really, really hard.  I came home from my mission feeling a little disenchanted about the whole thing. All these years later, I had a hard time with the idea of Katie serving a mission because I was worried about it being so hard for her too. I really only encouraged Katie to consider serving a mission because I had a strong, unsolicited impression from the Holy Ghost that the Lord needs her.

In preparation for Katie's mission, she and I have recently been reading blogs of letters from missionaries serving in the France Paris mission.  We came across Soeur Kayleigh Johns, who entered the MTC in February of this year and then began serving in the Paris mission in April.  Her blog, Kales Takes Paris, is full of her cute personality. (She could be Katie's companion!  She could be Katie's trainer!) Despite her strong testimony, her arrival in the mission field was challenging. In this blog post and this blog post, she revived my fuzzy 'missions are sure hard' memories with details and deep emotions.   She is a hoot to read most of the time and has a deep testimony of the Gospel, but she summed up so clearly why trying to share the Gospel with others can be so heart-wrenching and needs to be prepared for. It has been a walk down memory lane for sure.

In hindsight, I am so grateful I served a mission for so many reasons.  For one thing, it prepared me for so many of the life challenges I have faced.  Life can be hard, and it's good to learn how to deal with that reality early on in healthy ways.

BUT...why do things, good and right and inspired things, have to be so hard?

To be honest, I don't know.  But having a family can sure be hard sometimes.  Serving in the church (or supporting your husband as he serves in the church) can sure be hard sometimes. Sending off a missionary is pretty hard, too.  And that's not even talking about the real trials and challenges and problems that come along in life, like illness, job loss, financial struggles, and emotional problems.

One of the things that helps me when life feels hard is reading just the right quote by a leader of the Church.  I love that feeling when a quote speaks to my exact concern or problem.  Here are three of the quotes that have helped me when things have felt hard:

From The Crisis by Thomas Paine, written in 1776 before the start of the Revolutionary War:

These are the times that try men's souls.  The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.   Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.  What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives everything its value.  Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated. 

I believe you can replace FREEDOM with any good and righteous thing you are seeking after.  Family life, missionary work, an education, etc.  This quote gives me courage to press on.

From Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, p. 597 from a General Authority Training Meeting on October 1, 1996:

I hope you are enjoying your work and service.  I know that it is demanding.  I know that it is strenuous.  But what a tremendous opportunity we all have. What better thing could we be doing?  How could we better spend our time?  We are dealing with the very fiber of eternity.  We are dealing with the salvation and exaltation of our Father’s children.

I love the sentence We are dealing with the very fiber of eternity.  Any work we do to help in the work of the Father literally affects eternity.  That really puts things in perspective, even really hard things. Truly, what better way to spend our time??

Finally, one of my favorite quotes about hard by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland from a talk given at the Provo MTC on 20 June, 2000:   

Anyone who does any kind of missionary work will have occasion to ask, Why is this so hard? Why doesn’t it go better? Why can’t our success be more rapid? Why aren’t there more people joining the Church? It is the truth. We believe in angels. We trust in miracles. Why don’t people just flock to the font? Why isn’t the only risk in missionary work that of pneumonia from being soaking wet all day and all night in the baptismal font?

You will have occasion to ask those questions. I have thought about this a great deal. I offer this as my personal feeling. I am convinced that missionary work is not easy because salvation is not a cheap experience.Salvation never was easy. We are The Church of Jesus Christ, this is the truth, and He is our Great Eternal Head. How could we believe it would be easy for us when it was never, ever easy for Him? It seems to me that missionaries and mission leaders have to spend at least a few moments in Gethsemane. Missionaries and mission leaders have to take at least a step or two toward the summit of Calvary.

Now, please don’t misunderstand. I’m not talking about anything anywhere near what Christ experienced. That would be presumptuous and sacrilegious. But I believe that missionaries and investigators, to come to the truth, to come to salvation, to know something of this price that has been paid, will have to pay a token of that same price.For that reason I don’t believe missionary work has ever been easy, nor that conversion is, nor that retention is, nor that continued faithfulness is. I believe it is supposed to require some effort, something from the depths of our soul.

If He could come forward in the night, kneel down, fall on His face, bleed from every pore, and cry, “Abba, Father (Papa), if this cup can pass, let it pass,” then little wonder that salvation is not a whimsical or easy thing for us. If you wonder if there isn't an easier way, you should remember you are not the first one to ask that.  Someone a lot greater and a lot grander asked a long time ago if there wasn't an easier way.

Those thoughts have carried me many, many times.  When I want to cry to heaven, "Does this have to be so hard?", I just remember that the Savior, who also asked a version of that question, knows what I am going through.  He will bear my burdens.  He will send comfort.  He is there.

Why is life hard, even when we are doing good things? That is a good question for another blog post. However, I know there is purpose in the struggle and that our Father in Heaven is not unaware of us and has given us many things to support us when times are hard.  And I am so grateful.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

After the enduring is over

Tonight, I sat looking over the mountains as three of my children and I ate dinner at McDonalds.  It was a lovely evening, with the sun setting, a cool breeze, and beautiful mountains and homes around us. Who knew the McDonalds of Simi Valley could have such a lovely location and be so relaxing on a Tuesday evening?  This nice setting got me to thinking.

It has been a tough few weeks.  Apparently, when you send a missionary off (or when you leave? Jeri, can you confirm?) you receive opposition.  I feel like we faced our fair share of challenges.  Just getting them out the door is tricky because there are long lists of things to get done found in several places: in the call, in the letter from the mission home, and on the MTC website.  Then we were in the middle of replacing our flooring and master bath shower. Things kept going wrong.  Then our kids' car broke down and the repairs came to more than the car is worth. So we found ourselves searching for another car.  Then, just as we were about to leave on our last camping vacation with the whole family, we discovered head lice.  Are you scratching your head?  Just reading those two words together makes me scratch my head.  Or cry.

I have done a fair share of crying the past few weeks.  Can opposition really come in the form of head lice???

Finally, last Wednesday, we got Jacob out the door and on the plane.  (And I shed some more tears off and on for a few days about sending off our son.)  We were left with the reality of cars to repair and sell and a new car to pay for, and a remodel, and camping laundry, and HEAD LICE (which makes it hard to get ahead on camping laundry since you do the same few loads of bedding every day.)  In addition, we had a trip to Southern California to take Daniel and Josh to the Santa Barbara EFY.

Late Saturday night, I laid my head on Rich's shoulder and cried one more time.  How could I be expected to do all this? And when do these amazing rewards come for sending off a missionary?  All I felt was tired and worried about another trip.

Rich suggested we to lay there and think about some of the positive things that could come from having head lice, Connie Ten Boom style.  Well, the house has been really clean.  I have had more time with the little girls, as I checked their hair every day.  We booked hotels for our vacation, which would mean extra fun for the little kids (free breakfast, hotel pool) and maybe some extra sleep for me (I have a very hard time sleeping when ANYTHING is going on, like when we are visiting family.)

As it turns out, our vacation has been such a treat so far.  We had a super easy drive down to Southern CA. We have been able to sleep in, read, rest, play in the pool.  We got to watch a movie together, the kids and I.  The weather was absolutely perfect for the water park today. It just could not have been more fun.  Even tonight at McDonalds, overlooking the sunset and the mountains while eating together was so nice.  Then we received two letters from our missionary son.  People tried to tell me, but you can't imagine how much the letters will mean until they come.  Yes, the rewards come.

The moral of the story?  Hang in there.   The problems come and we have to endure them, but then they go away.  And the time after the enduring is over is so sweet.  It is full of deep appreciation for little things. Hang in there through mishaps, and challenges, and worries.  Hang in there through disappointments, broken cars and even HEAD LICE.  Things will get better. The vacation will come.  The problems will pass.  All will be well.  In fact, all will be even better because of passing through the hard.

As President Gordon B. Hinckley used to say, "Oh, things will work out."  They always do.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The power of love

We traveled to the coast last week for one last family vacation before Jacob leaves on his mission.  As we drove over the mountain pass that is the last stretch before reaching the little town of Fort Bragg, I was reminded about how green and plush it becomes the closer you get to the coast.  On this particular drive, the change is dramatic.  You come up over a mountain pass and descend into a forest of pine trees.  The effects of the ocean moisture are almost immediate, and the side of the road is full of a great variety of plants.  The picture I am posting just shows a bit of how the plants go crazy along the coast.  It seems like just about anything can flourish by the coast (and does!)

More than once, the Spirit has gently taught me that love has this same effect on human life.  Almost anything can flourish (and will!) when living in an environment filled with love.  Sometimes I wonder what I can do to have the greatest effect on my children, and on the lives of those around me.  As I drove along the coast last week, looking at the abundance of plants and amazing flowers, I could almost hear a voice in my head say, "Love your children. Love your husband. Love others. "

This reminds me of my favorite quote from the book Les Miserables. It comes at the end when Jean Valjean is saying goodbye.  He tells Marius and Cosette, " Love each other dearly always.  There is scarcely anything else in the world but that: to love one another."

That goes deep into my heart and I know it is true.  There is scarcely anything else in the world but to love one another.  Nothing else works long term but love.  Nothing else lasts.  Nothing else brings about true change.  Love involves patience, long suffering, gentleness, unselfishness, kindness, lots and lots of time, biting the tongue, giving the benefit of the doubt, mercy, humility, a sense of humor and not taking things too seriously.  It involves seeking the Holy Ghost for guidance as to how to act, rather than relying on self.

I loved driving along the coast remembering this.  I know this is how my Heavenly Father and my Savior treat me.  Oh, if I could just remember it when I am hungry or tired or hormonal or it's been a long day!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Thoughts on Missionary Work

Sorry for the long leave of anyone still out there?  I decided to try writing again because I love it and miss it.

My thoughts lately have been on missionary work.  Our son and daughter have both received mission calls to serve in France, leaving six weeks apart. (Katie France Paris Mission, Jacob France Lyon Mission) It has been so exciting to see them both make this choice, especially since that is where I served my mission. I have been excited right up until the last day or so when it became the actual month that Jacob leaves.  I started thinking about the sacrifice it will be to send off our son for two years.  And then our daughter.  And then another son.  And then probably a son or daughter every few years for a long time.  That thought makes me so sad, and I have wondered how I will be able to do it.  To be perfectly honest, I started to feel pretty sorry for myself over the whole situation.

So I had two thoughts yesterday that helped me to see things very differently.

First, I remembered that I am the product of missionaries.  I am the product of member missionaries inviting me to church and activities and into the lives of their families.  I am also the product of full-time missionaries and their great teaching and testimonies.  Everything that I have in my life, everything that is dear to me, I have because I chose to join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints twenty-six years ago.  That is not an exaggeration.  I met my amazing husband at BYU.  Also, I served an LDS mission, which influenced decision-making for the rest of my life.  My life is so happy, full and wonderful.  I can share the blessings I have by allowing my kids to go find other people waiting to hear about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  There is certainly a need.

Second, I read this story.  It is from the LDS April 2013 General Conference, told by Elder Stanley G. Ellis in his talk "The Lord's Way".  This principle was a major paradigm shift for me.

For 16 years I served in the presidency of the Houston Texas North Stake. Many moved to our area during those years. We would often receive a phone call announcing someone moving in and asking which was the best ward. Only once in 16 years did I receive a call asking, “Which ward needs a good family? Where can we help?

In the early years of the Church, President Brigham Young and others would call members to go to a certain place to build up the Church there. The irony is that even now we have faithful Church members everywhere who would go anywhere the prophet asked them to go. Do we really expect President Monson to individually tell more than 14 million of us where our family is needed? The Lord’s way is that we hearken to our leaders’ teachings, understand correct principles, and govern ourselves.

I learned from this that I need to quit thinking of myself and instead think of others and their needs. I need to think of where we are needed rather than what I want or what it most comfortable for our family. President Monson has told us where he needs our help.  He has changed the age that missionaries can serve.  He needs our missionaries.  I can't personally go build up the church in France, or South America, or in the United States.  But I can send my children, who are willing and worthy to go.

So I feel buoyed up. There will be tears shed on June 26 when Jacob leaves, and more shed on August 7 when Katie leaves.  But I know that we are serving the Lord in the way we can right now. That knowledge strengthens my faith and gives me peace.