Friday, December 13, 2013

Journey Home

Two of the most formative experiences of my life occurred as a teenager. The most important decision I ever made in my life was at sixteen. My father was speaking at a Church meeting and his message struck my soul, “Before you can truly have a testimony of any part of The Gospel, you must first have a testimony of Christ.” So powerful was the impact of that message that I decided then and there that I wanted to know Christ and to spend my whole life seeking a relationship with him. I believed The Gospel and tried to live its teachings before that experience. But, afterwards I went forward wanting to know, praying more sincerely, studying and not just reading Scripture. I came to know Christ and to grow in gratitude for what He has done and continues to do for me. He became my best friend. His influence is the most important in my life.

The other formative experience was that right after I graduated from high school my family moved from Richland Washington to Boise Idaho. The decision to move was prayerfully made as a family. Every one of us felt the inspiration that it was right for the family as a whole and for each of us individually. Trials and blessings came out of the move. My biggest trial also turned out to be a huge blessing. I was left without a home. Anytime I was with my family I felt at home. But, while they were settling in, forming relationships and roots in Boise I felt like a stranger in a strange land whenever I visited. That was hard, however it also took away any fear I might have had about leaving the nest to fly. Had I always had Richland to go back home to I don’t know that I would have gone much further than Richland. It was a great place to grow up, but I guess God had other plans for me.

The move also taught me a lot about what home is. Home is where you love. So, Boise has become a home for me, because my family, whom I love dearly, is there. I’ve also found a home in Pullman Washington, Israel, Southern New Jersey, Phoenix Arizona, and eventually back to Washington. All because of love.

I’ve heard a metaphor before that life is like riding a bicycle built for two. We often operate under the belief that we are steering only to be reminded that God is actually in the front and our job is just to pedal.

I’m eternally grateful that He leads my life. I would have never guessed that I would be living on a farm in Loon Lake Washington. Nor would I have guessed that I would find a home by getting to hang around a bunch of teenage girls, but that is what has happened. God’s answers are always infinitely better than anything I could come up with.

My move to the farm has been a tremendous and unexpected blessing providing the opportunity to work more intensively with families working on attachment issues. I also have really cool neighbors whose inspiration and generosity led to this move.

Moving also afforded me the opportunity to join a new Church congregation. Rather quickly I was asked to teach the 14 and 15 year old Young Women’s class. Right off the bat I felt a bond with these young ladies. I found them to be funny, random (we had discussions about a plethora of interesting things), incredibly insightful and spiritually sensitive. I was supposed to be teaching them, but I always came away from our lessons having learned from them. I also was able to witness an inspiring amount of kindness and compassion for each other, for me, and just people in general.

In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints our congregations are divided into wards based on geography and number of members. Within each congregation are organizations for children, young men and young women (12-18 years old), men and women. I was part of the Young Women’s organization as a teacher. But, the leadership consists of an adult woman who is called to be the Young Women’s President. She also has a 1st and 2nd Counselor and a Secretary who serve with her as The Young Women’s Presidency in that ward. The President at the time was a fantastic leader who seemed well organized and had a great love for the girls. But, her time as President was going to come to an end over this past summer and a new Presidency was going to be called.

Months before the change was to happen I kept getting an impression that I was going to be called to be the President. To be honest I thought the idea was pretty far-fetched. I’d never been asked to be a President of anything and I also thought that it would be better for these remarkable Young Women to be led by someone who is a mom. But, there was a part of me that was quite excited at the prospect of spending more time with these impressive girls and getting to know them better. Thus began an inner struggle between fear and love, a struggle that became intensified over the summer when the Bishop sat with me and extended the calling. The conversation went like this:

Bishop: “So, you been keeping busy.”
Me: (thinking he was just making conversation), “yep, keeping busy is better than looking for something to do.”
Bishop: “Well, we are thinking of making you busier.”
Me: (thinking ‘uh oh’)
Bishop: “How would you like to have a family?”
Me: (thinking ‘is he trying to set me up with some guy he knows?’)
Bishop: “We’d like to give you a bunch of daughters. We are calling you to be the Young Women’s President.”

Its probably a good thing I had had some pre-inspiration that this was coming, it was not as much of a shock as it could have been, but it was still a shock. Fear versus love. I chose to love and accepted the calling. Then I found an empty classroom, knelt down and cried. I was overwhelmed with love for the Young Women I was asked to serve. But, I also felt the weight of it and feared to mess it up somehow. I didn’t know how to be the Young Women’s President and I told God so. But, I knew that He knew what He was doing, because He told me so.

The weeks that followed I experienced bouts of peace but a whole lot of anxiety. The peace would come when I would think of the girls and some random funny comment or a witnessed act of kindness. One of the weeks between the calling and the actual switch of Presidencies I got to spend a lot of time with them at Girls Camp. I got to know them even better and enjoyed playing apples to apples or uno in the hot sun, or watching them go out of their way to serve each other. Amazing and inspiring.

At some point during the wait I was traveling with my brother and his family, they were playing their music and a song I’d heard before came on but this was the first time I actually heard the words, it was “Home” by Philip Phillips. The words were like the voice of God speaking to me, ‘settle down it will all be clear, don’t pay no mind to the demons they feel you with fear, just know you’re not alone, I’m gonna make this place your home.’ I calmed down and trusted that God had me and the girls well in hand and that I would feel like I was coming home.

When the switch was finally made I was grateful for the graciousness of the previous Presidency and of the women called to serve with me in our current one. I was also filled with even more love for the Young Women of the Chewelah Ward, a love which has continued to grow.

I am having a blast! I get to hang out with the Chewelah Ward Young Women every Sunday and Wednesday. Plus I get to go to basketball games, cross country meets, concerts and whatever other activities might come up and have my girls to cheer for. I get to laugh with them, have more serious conversations with them, play ridiculous games like pickle ball and charades, and I get to be inspired by the remarkable youth that will be my future leaders. I am a changed woman for knowing and loving my girls. I’m more compassionate, I have more fun, I have more love for everyone I come in contact with. I feel more purpose and more grateful. I know The Savior more now because I know them, they remind me of Him in so many ways. Knowing the impact they have had on me, I can only begin to imagine the impact these remarkable Young Women will have on the world, all for good.

Fear versus love. Back to those formative experiences I had as a youth. I could have looked at life with fear as I did not feel like I had a home to go back to. Instead I embraced the love of The Savior and discovered that I was always in His arms. That gave me the courage to face everything being first centered in His love. Fear doesn’t win when love is present. And He will always help us feel at home.

What I want most of all for my girls is for them to feel the love of The Savior in their lives. Perhaps they will be able to feel a glimpse of His embrace when they feel my love for them. If they can be filled with His love and trust in Him then their journey, like mine, will lead home in more ways than any of us can know. I’m grateful for the many homes I have been blessed with, and right now to have a home where I am, and with the remarkable Young Women of the Chewelah Ward. One day we will all return to the home of all homes, right there with The Savior. And oh how I will rejoice in that day when I can be in His presence, and I will rejoice even more to be in His presence with the people I love.