I have had two experiences lately that taught me a little something about myself and service.
The first one happened the day before a day-long Relief Society activity last month which I had helped plan. For one of my part-time jobs I work from home, so I was spending the morning working before I was to go set up for the activity at church. And I was feeling quite gloomy for reasons I won’t go into. I was doing my job of writing for our local newspaper, praying a bit, and crying a bit. It was cold outside and inside the house and since I didn’t have to go out until about 1 in the afternoon, I had dressed in sweat pants and two sweatshirts, which is quite unlike me. Being in three layers of clothing beginning with “sweat” is not usually a good indication of anyone’s emotional state.
Getting closer to the time to go, I decided I would pray and implore the Lord to help my mood. It’s an ongoing trial, so I really didn’t see where a solution was going to happen at that time, but maybe my attitude could be better. After I prayed for a while, I got the impression I should get up and get dressed because someone was going to do something to help me.
I immediately stood up, not wanting to be caught the way I looked, very drippy and too fluffy. I suddenly remembered the story President Monson told last conference about the depressed sister named Tiffany who was on the miraculous receiving end of a loaf of homemade bread. I became sure I was going to be that sister. I started getting ready to receive my loaf of bread.
Knowing that the batteries in my doorbell were getting weak, I kept going to the window to make sure I wasn’t missing a car pulling up at my house. The cats even started to get nervous because of my behavior.
Now, understand I have wonderful home teachers. They will come when I call and do whatever we need. But I knew one of them was on a cruise that week and although the other one gives out great peppermint candy every Sunday, I’ve never really known him to bring any homemade bread to my door. I’m not even convinced he cooks, having never seen any evidence of it. Plus, it was Friday, so I knew he was at his post at the Family History Center.
So who would it be coming to my door? I kept looking as I got dressed and refreshed my makeup and gathered my things since it was almost time to go to church. By that time I was sure it was not bread but delicious cinnamon rolls on their way to me, or maybe a whole dinner. Who knew what miracles were about to happen?!
Time to go
Well, by the time I got ready, it was time to be at church, so I packed up and left. I was wondering a little bit where my balm of Gilead delivery was, but maybe it was going to be waiting for me at church. Or when I got home-hanging on the doorknob in a bag.
I got to church and jumped into getting ready for the activity. For the next two or three hours, I ordered my one home teacher-who was at church, as I knew he would be-and another young brother around. I think had them move every single table from where it had been to the farthest spot in the building it could be. And some of them even back again.
I talked to the good people there who were serving and helping and laughing. And, guess what, I started to feel better.
When I got ready to leave, I mentioned to one sister that maybe I should go visit someone because I had been feeling a little blue, but when I checked the time, it was time for my husband to come home, so I went home and fixed supper. There were no cinnamon rolls hanging in a Walmart bag on the door, but I could I could a gentle impression from the Spirit that the person who was supposed to help me out of my gloominess was me. I was the one who needed to serve to feel better; I was not supposed to wait around to be served. I needed to get up off my knees, out of my sweats, get busy, and not wait for my loaf of bread to come to me.
Remember when Pres. Hinckley wrote home from his mission and told his father he was discouraged. What did his father say? He told the future prophet to forget himself and go to work.
More than our limitations
Now for my second story. If you read my column often, you know I have a daughter named Dawn who has cerebral palsy. She lives in a wonderful place in Richmond, Va., called The Virginia Home, and this story happened when she was home at my house this past Thanksgiving. She has seizures often so I keep a monitor on during the night so I can hear her. Early one morning about five I heard a noise from her room and jumped out of bed to go running into her room, afraid she was having a seizure. She wasn’t. But she was sobbing her heart out. I had never heard her cry like that. She usually only cries when she is very, very mad or gets hurt, which isn’t often.
But she was sound asleep and sobbing from some unknown sorrow from which I couldn’t wake her up or comfort her. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, she calmed down and continued to sleep.
Of course, she didn’t remember it later because she has memory problems and only an IQ of about 70. She is in a wheelchair and has never walked. She can’t use her hands well at all. The harder she tries, the more they are clenched. She can’t talk very well either or communicate except to repeat the same phrases over and over. The longest phrase she’s ever said was to my husband when we were driving her back to Richmond. She said, “David Elzey, pull over. Want cheeseburger French fries now.”
Now the day after she cried so disturbingly in her sleep I asked my son-in-law to give her a blessing of comfort. Her behavior is unpredictable at best, but when she gets a blessing, she stares with her big, brown eyes right into mine. It’s the only time in her life I see her as she was before she came into this life and get a glimpse of who she really is.
So I usually watch her as she gets a blessing.
During the blessing, my son-in-law told her through the Holy Spirit that she had always been a righteous, faithful daughter of God and told her-twice-that she would not live one minute past the time her mission on this earth was completed. Her eyes stayed on me while he said this.
I had never thought of Dawn in this way or in those terms. I know she has achieved her celestial reward pre-mortally, having come to earth without being accountable. How has she been faithful to the covenants she made in the pre-mortal life to follow Christ during her mortal life? How can she have a mission here on earth? She’s unable to do much at all. I had never thought of her mission independently of me as her mother before, only what my mission with her is.
Then I remembered her homebound teacher who came to our home one day years ago and found out the first day he came we were Mormons. He asked if we could teach him about the Church. He was baptized within weeks. He taught Dawn and loved Dawn for several years. He is still active in the Church.
I think about Dawn and Saturday mornings at TVH when they have their weekly Coffee Club. No matter how many times I encourage her to go to have something to do and tell her she can have hot chocolate and no one will force her to drink coffee, she shakes her head and says, “No, I Mormon.”
The same thing with the community group she goes out with. They had a British tea not long ago, and I knew I had to tell the people there that she would be trying to tell them she didn’t drink tea because she was a Mormon or things might get ugly.
I think of her Primary songs her aides faithfully put in her CD player every night for her to listen to. Do they ever listen or feel the calm spirit the music brings?
And I have no idea what else her mission in life is or what affect she has on others that might lead them to the gospel. I don’t know what our family would have been like without the sacrifices required by Dawn’s condition. But I know I will one day and will probably be surprised. I hope and pray I have sufficiently helped her fulfill it.
What is my point in telling you this?
It’s this. If my 83-pound daughter who cannot talk, cannot walk, cannot use her hands, cannot read or write, has never held a job, cannot drive or use a phone, but is fulfilling her mission in life and is being a faithful daughter of God, then everyone who reads this can also be faithful to their covenants and must also have a mission in life to fulfill, people to help, and callings to serve.
Elder Holland said in October’s conference, “We are infinitely more than our limitations or afflictions.”
Infinitely more than our limitations and afflictions.
Too often we concern ourselves with only our limitations and afflictions. We stay dressed in three layers of sweatpants and sweatshirts, waiting for loaves of bread to be delivered to our door when we can be up and dressed and delivering loaves to others.
How do we do that? First, we get our own lives on the straight and narrow path, then help our families, take care of our visiting teaching and home teaching routes, and then ask the leadership of the church what needs to be done or just look around and see for ourselves. All of this, of course, can be done simultaneously. Ask the Lord for help-He will use you and you will be blessed as you serve.
Susan is a freelance writer in beautiful southern Virginia. Her novel “Miracle of the Christmas Star” may be purchased on Amazon.com or mormonbooksandauthors.com. Email her at email@example.com