Saturday, October 27, 2012


I've been thinking this last week about how much control we have over what happens in our lives, and about how much the decisions and actions of those around us, and simple happenstance over which none of us has any real control, affects what experiences we have in life.

I went to a stake training meeting last Saturday (though I haven't been set apart yet, I was called to serve as the education councilor in the ward Relief Society), and there was some discussion of making sure that sisters are prepared for helping to dress bodies for funerals, should the need arise (and in an aging ward and aging stake, it arises often).  They asked everyone who had had the opportunity to offer that service to a family to raise their hand.  Several sisters expressed mild surprise to see my hand go up (as is often the case--and I'm starting to get used to it--I was the youngest one in the room by about 10 years, maybe 15.  Someday I'm going to be the old lady in the room and its going to completely catch me off guard).

Along with one of my cousins (who actually has the same calling as I do at the moment, in her own ward, ha!), I dressed my grandma's body for her funeral.  When my grandma passed away, she had been only half-active for many years, and I don't think anyone knew when she had last been to the temple (several decades at the very least), but I expressed my thought that she should be buried in temple clothing.  I wasn't sure how that advice would be received, since only two of my grandma's children identified themselves explicitly as LDS anymore--and one of them was completely out of sorts due to Alzheimer's, and the other has never been through the temple herself.  To my delight, they all agreed that that was a good idea.  But because of the directions that most other members of the family have chosen for their lives, myself and my one cousin were the only active, temple-endowed sisters close enough to perform that service, so with the help of a dear family friend and a member of the ward Relief Society presidency, Alyssa and I dressed Grandma.  I think we both hold very dear the memory of sharing that sacred experience of offering together that simple but important act of sacred service to the woman who had given so much in service to us.

That got me thinking about a few other experiences I've had that were a bit unusual for my age and circumstances.  I have had the privilege of serving as an escort to one friend as she received her Endowment, and the responsibility of being a witness for another at a disciplinary council.  I certainly never expected either of those things, particularly by this point in my life, but there I found myself. Going through the temple with my very best and oldest friend has been one of the most precious and profound experiences of my life.  On the other hand, in a way that is difficult to explain (at least here, in this context), the very different experience of going to that disciplinary council is also an experience that I cherish.  Few things have so taught me the value of following the guidance of the Spirit, and taking the long-view;  few things have better taught me the true meaning and value of love, and that hope is not usually about the immediate, but the eternal.  Hope is more resilient than fear or anger.  I know that deep in my soul, partly in thanks to that experience.  The contrast in those experiences has taught me more about myself, and about Christlike love, for while I certainly have more in common with one of those girls than I do the other, am much closer to one at this point, I love both of them equally, I can see the tremendous good in each of them.  Sometimes I remind myself that when someone is choosing something other than what I think they should.

And the experience that always comes back to me, that tugs at me often and heavily:  of having to go through the grief of losing our baby nephew and striving to find some way, any way, to comfort and be a friend to his grieving mother, and to speak at his funeral and try to convey that love, that wonderful personality of his, to a roomful of people. That is one experience that I hope never to have to repeat.  But I am grateful for what it taught me.  For all it took from us, I am indeed grateful for what it gave us--first and foremost, little Claire, my mischievous delight, whom we likely would never have known if Conner hadn't been taken.  I am grateful for that baptism of fire that made me a better friend, a better wife, a more appreciative sister, and a much better mother.  I am grateful for the ways in which it strengthened my testimony of our Father's love, and, nearly as importantly, his wisdom.  I'm grateful for the strange way in which the outpouring of love gave several others a safe place to express their own pains, to feel loved and so to move forward.

I'm grateful that Amanda asked me to speak:  I had never been one, by nature or, frankly, by training, to be open with my thoughts or feelings.  I had always been very reticent to share those things with others.  But as I prepared for that responsibility, I felt keenly that it would be a great disservice to Conner, to Amanda, and to everyone else present, to be anything less than completely forward and open.  I had the opportunity to share my feelings completely and honesty, unashamed by emotion, to share my testimony boldly and without reservation, and the love and spirit of those present there that day helped me to see how such things can lift, serve and help others.  It wasn't long after that experience that, with the help of a few clear promptings from the Spirit, I started this blog.

So what's my point?  There's a lot that we can control in life, so we ought to take care to make wise decisions.  But there is so very, very much that is out of our control, so the the most important decisions we make are about who we will be, what sort of person we will make ourself into, so that whatever experiences come to us in life, we can, with the Lord's guidance, make them for our "profit and learning".  If we choose to be teachable, all things truly can work together for our good, the wonderful blessings and the uphill challenges alike.  Experiences in our lives, including those that don't necessarily come because of our own choices, have the impact on us that we choose to let them have.  My experiences have taught me a little more all the time the importance of trusting in God, and not leaning on my own understanding.

The beautiful truth in that is that as I have trusted in God, my own understanding has increased.  That chosen reliance on him also increases my own capacity for understanding and growth.  Eternal progress starts now.  The only agency you control is your own.

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