Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Octo Mom: Don't Mess with The Omniscient

If you take the Washington Parkway exit, going south on I-15 (toward Las Vegas) go through the roundabout to the stop sign and turn right. You will see a giant turf farm ahead on the right. Turner Turf farm. It's gorgeous. It's so greeeeeeeeeeeen. When you live amongst the red rock, green stuff is pretty rare. We live right across the street so I get to watch it grow and change. I love both growth and change.

The Turner Turf Farm will always remind me of the Washington Eighth Ward. My family away from family that picked me up when we were on the heels of losing Noah. When we arrived, we were a liability. We were like walking zombies. That ward, saw our "wick."

In the musical The Secret Garden, Mary discovers the garden and thinks it's dead. Dickon, the house help explains:

When a thing is wick, it has a life about it
Now, maybe not a life like you and me.
But somewhere there's a single streak of green inside it.
Come and let me show you what I mean.

For my non-Mormon readers, a "ward" is a group of Mormons that live near you and attend the same church building with you every week. When I lived in Japan I had to travel 2 hours to church every week, because the closest ward building was in Hammamatsu. I know a couple of them read my blog! Shout out to the Hammamatsu Ward! They became my Japanese family away from family. I didn't understand a word of what was being spoken in church, but the Spirit was the same. Matthew 18:20 - "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them." I understand that Hammamatsu has it's own stake now. WOOT! Wards are powerful groups of people that look after each other. It's ingenious really. As if God himself thought it up. Ha!

When a thing is wick, it has a light around it...

When we started looking for a house to buy in St. George, we didn't pray for a great house, we prayed for a great ward. We told the Lord that we would go where He needed us. But, in the end, He sent us to people that we needed. Don't mess with the Omniscient.

I think the whole purpose of a ward is to gather and organize the saints to build group strength. This ward rebuilt me. It had only been eight weeks since our son Noah died when we first walked into this new ward. It took us a few weeks to actually get up the nerve to go to church. What would we say when they asked us the obvious question, "Do you have any kids?" Well...we knew what to say, I just hated making people uncomfortable with the answer. Bishop Turner didn't flinch. I remember that he said "Well, the Lord has a different plan for everybody, doesn't he?" Perfect. Yes. A different plan for us, for Noah too. We were older newlyweds without children. Not strange to Bishop Turner, but unique. Like we were the missing puzzle piece. I remember that he said the ward could use an injection of our skills and our "youth." I liked him immediately.

As we were walking into the chapel for the first meeting, Bishop Turner's wife approached us. She walked right up to us and said "Hey...are you new or just visiting?" Like it was no big deal. I felt instantly at ease with her not because she was observant, but because she was so real. So grounded. She looked me straight in the eye and I was feeling so self-conscious about the still-very-apparent-post-pregnancy weight I was carrying around with me like a protective blanket.

The Turners
You clear away the dead parts
So the tender buds can form
Loosen up the earth and let the roots get warm

Come a mild day, come a warm rain
Come a snowdrop, a-comin' up!
Come a lily, come a lilac!
Come to call, callin' all the rest to come and see!

It takes a long time to get to know the entire ward. These families were "old" Washington families. They came from pioneer blood just like I did. But there are always about 350 - 400 of them. And we spent most of our days and nights at Tuacahn. So here's the funny thing - because she sat with her kids in the front, I had this kind of reverence for her because I thought she was a single mom. F.O.R. A. Y.E.A.R. I'd sit and look at those amazing kids and say "there's that lady that went out of her way to get to know me."

Well, one of the early callings we got was to compile a ward contact list. As I was typing along one day, I came upon the bishop's name, then directly under his name...her name! "Her last name is Turner?!" And there were all their kids! I laughed for an hour. She wasn't single. Her husband was just the ward leader and sat on the stand in front of us/them. Look who's completely UNobservant. WOW. My respect level for her skyrocketed that day. Any bishop's wife (or single mom...same thing) deserves a medal for sure.

When a thing is wick and someone cares about it
And comes to work (church) each day, like you and me,
Will it grow?

It will.

Then have no doubt about it
We'll have the grandest garden ever seen! 

Our neighborhood filled out pretty quickly because our town homes, in 2007, were a great buy (little did we know). So over the first six months we met the people in our neighborhood, the Jewkes family, the Gordons, the Ricks and the Porters. Young, beautiful people with babies. So many babies.

People assume sometimes that if you have had a hard time having children of your own, that you are resentful of those that can successfully have children. It's melodramatic to think that every time I saw all those babies coming into the neighborhood that I was increasingly discouraged about my own fate. I wasn't. Not every time. ;-) The way to get over that is to get to know the people that have those babies and assume a shared responsibility to keep the neighborhood safe for the kids. "It takes a village" kind of thing....Then they sort of become your kids too. Aiden, Lydia and Zander became my kids too. But I don't have to pay for their college education, the cars they wreck or Prom. Such a great arrangement.

Aiden and Zander proving to me that
they can both fit in the dog kennel..
I've been known to discipline Gus by saying "You want a spank?" and it shuts him right up. I've never actually spanked him, but I think he knows it could be V.E.R.Y. bad. Aiden and Zander got inside our dog kennel one day and started talking to each other as if they were Gus and Lily. It was hilarious.

Zander: (barking, bark, barking, bark, bark)
Aiden:  You want a spank?
Zander:  (thinks)  No.
Aiden:  Well, you're gonna get one if you don't stop barking, kid.
Zander:  I'll give you a spank.
Aiden: I wasn't barking.
Zander: Oh.... Let's play zoo. I'll be a tiger.
Aiden: I'll be a tornado. (Aiden loves tornados)

I could be having the worst day, and those two boys will show up and turn it upside down for me. I'm really going to miss them.

Dickon: You give a living thing, a little chance to grow,
That's how you will know if she is wick, she'll grow. 
So grow to greet the morning,
Leave the ground below, 
When a thing is wick it has the will to grow and grow!

I believe that after you have had a formal education, God puts certain people in your path that teach you what you need to know to continue growing as you live through the trials and tribulations of adulthood. Another reason for wards! God is great! An example:

Effie (we also call her Jackie Kennedy
but she probably hates the
connection to a democrat! Love you
One day in our women's meeting, a beautiful sister named "Effie" talked about dealing with the death of her first husband. I was just getting through the days then. My depression was bad. Yet here was this woman, the classiest, smartest woman I have ever known talking about her darkest moments in her soft southern drawl. A thought was given to me, "this is what it looks like on the other end." Not that I needed to "get over it", push it away, or avoid thinking about it, but that I would have to go through it. I would decide how the unfortunate events in my life would leave their mark on me. On Andy. Effie is the picture of radiance, togetherness and courage. My loss paled in comparison. She lifted me up and she didn't even know it. Because of her, I started smiling at people again. Effie taught Sunday School and she would call on Andy because he had a big actor voice. Effie really left an impression on both of us. Right after we started sitting up straighter, Bishop Turner called us in and asked us to teach Primary.

Year one. 10 year-olds. There was a kid. His name was Shandon. He looked like a mini-Andy. The first day of Primary, we were getting introductions. He said "My name's Shandon, but you can call me Penguin." Dang, dang... I was squeezing my knees together to keep from laughing. We love that kid and have watched him turn into an incredible young man. Couldn't be that his parents are absolute pillars of awesomeness, could it? Yes... that's surely it.

Year two, our second calling - wait, did I explain what a calling is? Reading back...no.... A calling is a job. A volunteer assignment, responsibility. Mormons don't have a paid clergy. We all just kick in our skills and hope it turns out okay. Our second calling was the activities chair people, and our first assignment was to plan a Christmas party for 350 people. I don't ever, EVER, say no to a calling because I have GUILT. We can discuss that later. So I called my mom who said "have a Christmas breakfast and then it's over by 10 in the morning." Dang, she's brilliant. The bishop said "have it catered." E.A.S.Y. But then I was over budget. So I assigned the leadership in the ward to make pancakes, the women to do juice, and I had the egg casserole catered in, the Warby's sang, (I love the Warby's!) the wonderful Jones Family helped us decorate the room.

But because I had not flogged myself enough, (too much delegating gives me guilt) I also made a Victorian style Santa suit for Andy which I had always wanted to do anyway. Santa would show up, read a Christmas story to the entire group, hold the kids on his lap, and mysteriously leave for the North Pole (via Honda). "Being Santa" was Andy's calling for three years. What the...? S.O. U.N.F.A.I.R. But, dang, he looks so good in that suit. I can't help myself, we always make out when he's in the suit, sans beard, of course. (and only once a year....just kidding!) T.M.I?

Come a mild day, come a warm rain
Come a snowdrop, a-comin' up!
Come a lily, come a lilac!
Come to call, callin' all the rest to come and see!

I got called to teach in the Relief Society after that. Relief Society is the largest women's organization in the world. Literally. I will blog about my true feelings for R.S. but for now, just believe me. I USED TO hate Relief Society. But now I realize that what I hated, was that the lessons lacked a kind of modern sensibility for us girls that were bringing in the bacon all day and weren't raising kids like the ideal Mormon family. I felt that I could add here. But after an 14-hour work day, the last thing I needed was to prepare one more lesson.

So I prayed that God would show me, tell me, speak through me. I was so blessed during that time period. And I was happy to have a calling that required scripture study in depth. I learned how to depend on the Spirit because I had no other choice. I am indebted for the personal growth I received at the feet of God for that calling. But then one Sunday I substituted for the children's song leader and they found out I was musical. So long Relief Society.

My last calling, began exactly a year ago. I needed to teach the Primary kids (Sunday School for the kids under 12) how to sing. Mormons sing a lot. It's a calling you have to do every single week which is tough because...well, it's not tough I just don't get little kids. Give them to me when they are 14 and we all get along just fine. Those little ones, especially the 3 year-olds that can't read yet and are obsessed with their shiny shoes...the ones that shout out "my dad slept on the couch last night!" While holding their dresses up over their heads. I don't get those kids.

I digress...terribly.

At the end of every year, the kids get to present a sacrament meeting program where they sing about 12 songs, and give micro-talks about some theme. This year it's "Choosing the Right." Because a performance is involved, I GET THAT. That's right up my alley. I need those kids to sing out, Louise! They focus on a new song for the program each month. June's song is called "Nephi's Courage." I'm struck with the irony of this song as it relates to the fact that we are moving away, starting over.

The song is about Lehi, a Book of Mormon prophet and his family, that are told by God to leave Jerusalem and escape into the wilderness. His son Nephi is commanded to build a boat and sail to a new land even though they are without tools, without boat-building knowledge. He does it, because he has faith. He is "wick."

See...the reason I am all weepy about the Eighth Ward, is that today (Sunday) was our last week here because we are moving to the wilderness. Not literally, of course...yikes...but we are finally ready, thanks in part to our great friends and neighbors, to move on. To leave the ghosts behind. To find our promised land. Because of this incredible ward, we are "wick." Their love and devotion to God lifted me...showed me the way.

Don't wait for a ward to come to you....you must go to them...and keep going, and going... and over time, you will see their wick. And it will LIGHT you up! But it's up to you.

We will celebrate Father's Day at our friends, Jen and David's cabin - where did we meet them you say? In the ward! They too, have struggled with fertility. They are just like us. Doppelgangers even. You would like them. They are Mormons with a little sass. They are totally WICK! I will miss them most of all.

We still have a long ways to go. I mean, as I have been typing this blog, I have eaten an entire bowl of caramel popcorn. So no...I'm not there yet. But I'm growing.

Mary and Dickon:
Calling all the rest to come!
Calling all the world to come!

And all through the darkest nighttime, 
it's waiting for the right time.
When a thing is wick, it will grow!