Wednesday, October 19, 2011

By Small Means

I love this church. I love it for a million reasons but right now I’m remembering some special members who reached out to me and mine when help was needed. They lifted and strengthened by doing little things. Just little things. But then you know what the Lord has to say about that, don’t you? Something about by small means great things are brought to pass.

I remember when we were working to get our raggedy old converted family to the temple for the first time. You know, I think the adversary must really hate forever families because the closer we got to that special day the harder life became. Since joining the Church it had been line upon line, precept upon precept, one foot in front of the other, a day at a time, working steadily to become truly Latter Day Saints. Turns out that getting baptized was just the first step for us. Becoming Mormon was a long process. Larry had finally conquered a heavy cigarette habit which had tortured him for years, we were full tithe payers, trying to hold regular family home evenings, attend our meetings, read scriptures and all the rest. I was the ward Primary President if you can believe that, never having been to primary as a child. We had four children by then, the youngest a preschooler and our oldest daughter fifteen or so. This teenaged daughter and I had a strained relationship at the time, becoming difficult as she started high school. Nothing I said or did was right and Larry often had to run interference, sometimes literally standing between us so I couldn’t resort to blows. I once shouted in anger at her about how hard it was to be the mother of a rude, complaining, unreasonable, teenager and she shot back that it was no picnic being the daughter of a bossy, critical, thirty three year old either. You get the picture. She needed to interview with the bishop before going to the temple and I was terrified because I knew that while not exactly breaking any major commandments she was “dancing around the pit,” so to speak, just seeing how close she could get without falling in. She was hanging out with some member kids who had lost their way. She was trying to “help them,” she said. It had never occurred to me that one of our children might not be ready for the temple after Larry and I finally were. My heart was breaking. The next Sunday was fast Sunday and I was very emotional. I stood in Relief Society and bore my testimony. I very briefly mentioned my concerns about this daughter and the temple. That was all. Later that week this beloved, exasperating, child came in from school and as she walked down the hall to her room she turned to me and said in an irritated tone, “What did you do? Am I charity case number 62 or something?” I looked at her completely dumbfounded. I had no idea what she was talking about. “Huh?” I said. (Brevity was usually the safest path to take with her.) She continued accusingly, “This week my seminary teacher asked to take me out to get a root beer, the Mutual president and my teacher want to go to a movie on Saturday, and Bishop’s first counselor and his wife want to go get ice cream after school tomorrow. Did you call them? “No way,” I answered truthfully, “I certainly did not call them.” She sniffed and flounced off to her room.

Funny thing happened though. There was a miraculous change in her attitude. It was as if the care and concern of people other than her annoying mother made all the difference. She seemed to pull back from the edge of the pit. People she respected and admired cared for her, went out of their way for her, wanted the best for her. It changed something. We all made it to the temple.

Ice cream cones and movie tickets? Small means. Love and service? Eternal influence. Anyway, I know great things came to pass and I’m grateful.

Monday, October 17, 2011


I’ve had a few dealings with angels. Or at least their assistants.
Right now I’m thinking of a time over 20 years ago when two of them came to give me a message.
It was close to midnight in a hospital parking lot. In my mind, I can still see the pools of light cast by the streetlamps glowing on the blacktop beneath my feet.

I’d better explain.
Larry was in that hospital. He’d been there for about three weeks at that point. There had been a terrible car wreck. He had major injuries and was still a long, long, way from recovery.
By now we’d come past the panicked, can’t breathe point of “Will he live or die?”
That and “Can he survive surgery?” had been dealt with in the first week with major help from Heavenly Father. “Will he ever walk again?” was still somewhere up ahead.

Now we were at a different stage. We’d now moved to the, “Will any of us make it through this?” stage.

We owned a family business at the time, both of us working unbelievably long hours to keep it going. It was the start of the busy season. Our kids were part of that too, all of us working together.
Now, the “Can I keep the family business going all by myself, Are our four kids okay without either of us, because I’ve only seen them in passing for weeks now, and the What in the world will we ever do about money?” concerns were crashing in.

Keeping the business going seemed to be Larry’s main concern despite his many injuries. It was our only income and it weighed heavily on his mind. Every time I walked into his room he had a hundred questions and instructions. Even on that first terrible day in the emergency room, bones crushed and bleeding, the first thing he said to me was, “It’s payday. You have to get the payroll out to our employees!”

Well, while in this precarious state of mind, at about 11:30 at night the angels came.
I was leaving the hospital to go home to take a shower, check on the kids and then come back to sleep in my chair by Larry’s bed until I had to leave for work at 6:00 am. I’d slept there so many nights it was now, “my chair.”
As I walked down the halls I could smell antiseptic hospital smells, so unlike someone’s home, I thought.
A wave of self pity, exhaustion and despair started to wash over me. The past awful weeks and the uncertain and bleak future came crashing in. The doctors still had no idea when Larry would get out of the hospital. The only thing they knew for sure was that after that, if all went well, it would be at least 6 months of wheelchairs and rehab. This for a man who worked 60 hour weeks a month ago.
Suddenly it was all like a choking blackness. I can’t do this anymore, my mind shouted. It’s too much. I can’t be out of my mind with worry about my husband, run our business by myself, be the sole breadwinner, be there for my scared and anxious kids who needed me and not have a breakdown.
In fact, I’m having a breakdown right now!
I walked out to my car in a spiral of despair. "This is too much….you’ve given me more than I can handle, Heavenly Father….why me?" You get the picture.

As I neared my car I saw two women coming toward me.
When they got closer I could see it was our ward Relief Society president and one of her counselors, who was a good friend of mine.
I wasn’t surprised at the late hour because my friend was a notorious night owl, often doing her weekly grocery shopping at the 24 hour grocery in the wee hours of the morning. Her habits must be rubbing off, I thought.
I called to them, they came to me, we hugged.
They said they had just left my house and our son had sent them here.
They wanted to know how Larry was doing today. They wanted to know how the kids were. They wanted to know how I was.

Then they delivered the message. The one from angels.

One of them said “Kathy, Sister Jones called today. She wants to help you in any way she can. What can she do for you? I promised her I would find something she could do.”
Before I could reply my other friend said, “Yes, Kathy, I promised somebody too. Sister Brown called and wants to help you and your family. How can she help?” (Names have been changed)

I didn’t hear anything else they said after that.
Because it was like a bucket of cold water had been thrown in my face.
I could almost hear a voice saying sternly, “Stop whining! You can handle what you’ve been given. It’s not too much for you. You are not alone. ”

You see, that ice water sensation came for a reason.

Sister Jones, who wanted to help me, was a sweet sister, and a friend.
She had just given birth to a baby with multiple physical defects and most probably profound, lifelong mental problems.
She also had several other children, a home and husband to care for while seeing to the needs of this new, special spirit.

I knew Sister Brown who also wanted to help me, less well, but we had worked together in Relief Society for a short time.
I knew she was a wonderful, faithful woman with a lovely home and family. She, too, had just given birth to another beautiful daughter. All were well and healthy, thank God.
But, her husband who was an active member, out of the blue had recently decided to leave her and his kids for a married woman he had met at work.
No one who knew the family could believe it. Everyone was stunned.

Yes, both of these sisters wanted to help me. Both had contacted the Relief society to see what they could do.
Maybe they were angels too, because the cloud of despair began to lift from my mind as I stood there in that pool of lamplight next to them.
I knew that I would be able to do whatever was needed.
My burdens were no heavier than others bore. In fact, I wouldn’t trade.

I also knew that a message had been deliberately sent to me that night.
I was on the verge of losing it and Heavenly Father had sent word of his care and concern.

I sent a silent prayer of thanks to Him. Then I asked Him to help those dear sisters instead of myself.  For the first time in weeks I was thinking of others.

Yes, I’ve had some dealings with angels.