A Few Things about Daniel

He serves.
He is a Sterling Scholar.

 

He knows how to figure things out, whether it’s a robotics, physics, or calculus problem, or the daunting task of finding a good wrist corsage for a date.

This is the robot in progress.

He has a job as a clerk for a company related to construction. He has saved almost enough money for his mission.

He plays the piano in a stream of consciousness, blending melodies from different pieces, without music, late at night.

These are just a few of the things I admire about Daniel.

Last Week

Last week was a wrestle. I wrestled with church dilemmas, the clock, illnesses, and expectations. But there was a three-tiered cake one night, and clean surfaces everywhere, evidence that when I am doing mental work, physical work goes right along with it.

Last week,  there was so much calling me to stay home with the family. They needed my skills, my advice, my health, my early mornings, late nights, afternoon errands, and my touch.

Last week’s lessons:

  • Don’t bury concerns. Express them.
  • BYU application essay editing is a good way to spend a LOT of time with your senior. BYU requires six, people. Six!
  • You can’t wash your hands too often during flu season.
  • The boost in morale will come.
  • It’s ok to choose the less time-consuming option.
  • Conversations happen away from screens.
  • I experienced a miracle.
  • Everyone’s faith is a little different, even within the same church, and that is ok.
  • God knows ahead of time when I will fail to act, whether from laziness or pulls from different directions. He prepared a contingency plan or two last week so people were still cared for.
  • Life is long. I don’t have to do it all at once.
  • To write is to be vulnerable.
  • The sacrament is so precious to me.

There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch, cherish, and lift

After Apple Picking

My long two-pointed ladder’s sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there’s a barrel that I didn’t fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn’t pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch, 
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
For all 
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it’s like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.

-Robert Frost

 

I have mentioned this before, but since I was called to be a R.S. president I write down the names of the sisters I visit or interact with each day on my calendar. It is my reminder that the work is about individuals, not activities, lessons, and cookbooks. It reminds me that I didn’t fail *these* sisters today, even if I am concerned about so many. Most of the time, it is incredibly helpful to me to keep this record.

In December, I gave up writing down the names. I was looking at life through a distorted lens, as through ice over water. Despite my efforts, the problems multiplied in my mind. There are a lot of reasons for my discouragement, some obvious, some subtle, some avoidable, and others unavoidable. I am not beating myself up about this. It is OK to be tired sometimes, and I don’t resent or regret anything I did for others.

I played a musical number with Daniel on Christmas Eve for the ward and hurried away from church because with this last service of giving music, I had given my all. Everything. I was dry. I couldn’t even face compliments. When Richard came home ready to tell me all the positive things people had to say about our music, I simply told him, “I don’t want to talk about it,” and made my way out the door for one last visit to a sister before Christmas.

Instead of coming home after the visit, I drove to the temple and sat in my car in the parking lot for a long time. I remembered the impression from the Spirit that I had during the sacrament a few hours before. It was simply, “I love you. Don’t worry about working on anything else for now,” and I drove home with that thought.

How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is giv’n,

Still God imparts to human hearts the blessings of his heav’n.

-O Little Town of Bethlehem

I have rested, I have rededicated myself to habits that bring me strength, and I am being gentle with myself. I know it IS enough to simply love someone through their problems, for this is the pattern that Heavenly Father showed me on Christmas Eve. I took some needed and worthy time for rest, and this included not keeping a catalog of my efforts. I take comfort that “all things are written by the Father” (3 Nephi 27:26) and no detail of my silent and private service is lost to Him.

On January 2, I started writing down the names again. When I awoke to the news on January 3 that President Monson had passed away, I couldn’t think of a better way to honor President Thomas S. Monson on his last day on earth than to make those visits and keep a record of their precious names, even though I know that angels are doing the same on the other side. This day, writing the names didn’t deplete any energy, it invigorated me.

You are, of course, surrounded by opportunities for service. No doubt at times you recognize so many such opportunities that you may feel somewhat overwhelmed. Where do you begin? How can you do it all? How do you choose, from all the needs you observe, where and how to serve? 

Often small acts of service are all that is required to lift and bless another: a question concerning a person’s family, quick words of encouragement, a sincere compliment, a small note of thanks, a brief telephone call.

If we are observant and aware, and if we act on the promptings which come to us, we can accomplish much good.

-President Thomas S. Monson

My current tool kit

My current tool kit for life includes:

Tissues: I sense over time that there is a correlation between trust and the number of tears I witness as a Relief Society president. When I hand a sister a tissue, I know her tears are precious, and I am honored to share the moment with her.

Chartreuse, Olive, Purple, Tan, and Silver Thread: These are the colors needed to sew on Scout patches. Recently, I transferred Mark’s patches to Daniel’s old shirt and moved Daniel’s old patches to a larger shirt. Timothy needed me to sew on about 15 merit badges. I do this sewing so they are prepared for big evenings like we had this week. Daniel completed his board of review for Eagle Scout rank, and I was asked to give a few words about his scouting experience. I shared a little of what it is like to send my 11 or 12-year-old to Scout camp for the first time, and to hear later from a leader that he did well. I shared what it feels like to let go, and see a son grow in leadership and ability because I allowed him some danger and adventure.  I didn’t earn Daniel’s Eagle for him. What I did was watch, wait, and encourage. This was the longer and more difficult path, but better. Later, I noticed this was the shirt I was wearing beneath my sweater for the Eagle board of review. Perfect.

One, Three-ring Binder for Each Child: When a child comes home with a certificate, report card, recital program, or blue card for a Scout merit badge, it goes in a sheet protector in this binder. When college and scholarship applications are due, this is a great reference for what they have done during high school. To keep merit badge blue cards organized, I use plastic sheets made for baseball trading cards. I can’t emphasize enough how important it was for me to keep track of these, through a move and changes in leaders.

Small notebooks: I carry these around with me so I can keep track of ideas, which swirl around me and are fickle about staying in my head very long.

Sugar free Ice Breakers Wintergreen Mints: because I talk to many people.

Small fabric bags with zippers in my purse: I have one for keys, and one for pens. They keep me organized.

A great phone plan for texting: for teens and church work

Laser printer: I am learning that writing a book means endless drafts.

Paper scriptures: Lately, I gravitate toward paper over electronic, because I have 20 years worth of notes in the margins of these scriptures. They have been steady friends during times of change.

Yearly tasks written on a calendar: In January, when I put up a new calendar, I took some time to write in the margins some hints about what needed to happen each month. For November, I wrote that during the first week I needed to go to a certain store for the best selection of Christmas cards. Another week we needed to do the Christmas picture. This has been so helpful! (And I realize probably everyone does this already.)

Less: Our family doesn’t need as much as it used to. Toys, art supplies, curriculum, and smaller clothing need to make steady exits from our house… as I have the courage to part with them.

If I think of you, I will make some effort to contact you: This isn’t a tangible thing in my tool kit, just an idea that I have recommitted to this month. Basically, I trust there are reasons I think of random people in a day, and make efforts to find out why.

Goblin Valley

Richard took the Scouts to Goblin Valley a couple of weekends ago. I am finally getting to the pictures. Mark is lucky to get some extra camping as an eleven year old. I think the picture of Richard and Mark shows the same smile on two people.

 

My Favorite Chapter in the Book of Mormon

Mosiah 18 has it all: an imperfect, repentant priest who preaches the gospel of Jesus Christ to great effect; persecution, blessings for those who labor in the church, wise counsel on religious behavior, and protection from the Lord. If I had to choose just one chapter to keep from the Book of Mormon, it would probably be this one. I wonder which one you would choose. It’s a tough question to answer, I know.

Daniel’s Eagle Project

For Daniel’s Eagle project, we freed these teens who were locked in the nursery closet for several years. They had grown a few feet taller, and had survived on goldfish crackers and kept clean with hand sanitizer. They didn’t seem to be bored with the toys. They played happily with the cash register, farm toys, tools, puzzles and kitchen sets as we cleaned the area. The reunions with their parents were too precious to photograph.

The shelf installation went smoothly. Not pictured are many people who donated the materials for the project, and Daniel’s grandpa who helped him with a design and ideas. I feel very grateful for the support people showed Daniel.

What I might have missed

If I had canceled the Relief Society presidency meeting like I wanted to, because I was tired, we wouldn’t have gone through the names of the sisters in the ward. If we hadn’t gone through the names, one by one, we wouldn’t have thought to visit a sister yesterday, and we would have missed out on one of the most remarkable visits ever. During the visit, the woman told us some of her life story, which I would never have guessed, all around the theme of God being involved in her life.

I came away from the visit with a few lessons.

  1. Everyone has a story, and it needs to be shared. Write your stories for your families! Don’t wait until you are old.
  2. You can’t always gauge a person’s faith by appearances.
  3. The Lord directs the work of Relief Society. How else would we have known to go to this home?
  4. My counselors and secretary are inspired. They are the right ones for the job.
  5. Connection can only happen when we show who we really are.

A piece of cake and trips to Home Depot

Yesterday, my friend Janine brought Timothy a piece of chocolate cake to congratulate him on his piano solo played in church. Many others have cheered for him and congratulated him in other ways.

Daniel’s Eagle project is this week, and the doorbell keeps ringing with people coming by with supplies. So far, every person who has come by has asked how he or she could help more. Other people have heard about it and have taken time to inquire what else is needed. Weeks ago, my parents gave up an evening to help Daniel begin the planning and design of his project.

I am no stranger to seeing the generosity of our neighbors, whether it is for funerals, illnesses, moves, births, gatherings, or weddings. This week, though, we are the direct recipients of this generosity and my heart is touched. When your child stretches, or does something difficult or new, you just love the people who show up to help and encourage.