Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Musings from a Mother in Transition:

Written September 9, 2012

This mothers newly empty nest.....

"..... in all the world Our Nest is Best" is the conclusion of a classic children's book and a phrase we have oft repeated over the years regardless of where we called 'home'.
Over the previous seven years ALL five of our children have graduated from high school and moved on to college (interestingly all at BYU-I), and a myriad of other life adventures. But over and over again, they have returned accordion-like to fill up our home and then leave again leaving behind a different mixture of siblings to form tight bonds of familiarity and memories.
It has been our observation, that most families nests, empty one at a time, a year or sometimes many years in between, providing time for parents to adjust to at least some degree. But for us, it seemed the nest just became slightly less crowded, and the table a little less noisy, for brief months, before filling up again to near capacity. Just 7 weeks ago, although our first born Nikelle, was missing, our church pew was filled with a full complement of "birds", when one counted a son-in-law and, "fiancé" in the mix all home for the mandatory college break at the end of each summer.
That week, began a busy and chaotic period of work schedules, transportation cooperation, college prep, and wedding planning that is more the norm than not it seems for this household. And then, after weeks of packing and sorting, a living room scattered with lounging young adults and humming mac laptops, and white lace and sewing pins constantly about, in one fell swoop the nest emptied en-mass.
On Tuesday, we began the last trip in our big burgundy Astro Van, once again filled to capacity with college tubs, but also pulling a small U-haul trailer with bedroom furniture for Whitney's upcoming December 20th wedding.
Thursday we unloaded belongings at three different college apartments (Tiahna and Nikelle moved their own belonging), and a storage unit for Whitney, checked in our sweet last Freshman Kaloni, said our good-byes to all, and then drove away....alone....together.
The long drive home, completed the next day, which also happened to be my 47th birthday, was an unusual one for Jeff and me. Usually, we have so much to talk about as we drive, but this time we drove in silent reflection for hour on end. We have talked about it in the few days since and likely will discuss more as we sort out our feelings. But I believe we both felt a deep fatigue from having given our all to so consuming a task as striving to raise and prepare 5 wonderful, gifted, capable and faithful , but also sometimes willful young people, to be a blessing to the world. We are confident they will be an influence for good regardless of or perhaps in spite of us, from here on out. And in addition there were so many feelings, and memories to sort through in the hours we have driven so many times for so many years past.
Upon returning to town, we pulled in to return the U-haul trailer, found a powered car wash, (the first of many I believe, as we have never before, NOT washed our own vehicle at home), where we washed the bugs off the van, and then drove home where Jeff immediately sat at the computer to list the van for sell. Twenty-four hours later it is sold.
That good, reliable and versatile vehicle has been a blessing to us for nearly the same amount of time and years that Jeff served as Bishop of the Shoreline ward. We purchased it in the spring of 2005, and that fall he was called as Bishop. In June of this year, on Father's Day 2012, Jeff was released, in September all the children left for school. With Tiahna married, and her and sister Nikelle both preparing to graduate in December, Whitney preparing to be sealed and married also in December and her fiancé Austin Lee set to graduate next July, it seemed obvious that our need for so large a vehicle had mostly passed. We had taken one last trip together to Poulsbo to be at the wedding reception of dear and influential friends, earlier in August. Then it had faithfully delivered so many belongings to school for the kids, and now....
Well, Jeff and I had prayed that if it was right to sell it we could feel good about it and that it would be a blessing to another family as it had been for us. It sold so easily and under circumstances that we feel certain have answered that prayer. We slowly came to know that the man who called about it was also LDS, with four teenagers at home. Later we learned his wife had died of breast cancer 4 years prior as well. His plate is full, and we could see his old vehicle and know that this one would be a big improvement for them. It is a nice thing to be able to contribute in passing on blessings.
So many changes for each of us in so short a time. And for me personally. For several years I have spent many hours alone, being very busy, gardening, cooking, or doing who knows what that takes so much time in creating home for a family of busy teenagers/young adults, and a husband. The kids passed through in rushes, gusts and flurries of activity, words, and needs. And then passed out again to work and friends and sports, and assignments in the same manner. At the same time Jeff was serving our family and the Lord and passed in and out more quietly, but left me alone much just the same. Because of this, I had anticipated the "empty nest" a lot and had thought that it would not actually feel very different. Alas, I was wrong.
I have spent the last 3 days, feeling adrift and disconcerted even as I go about very familiar and ordinary tasks. The lights need to be turned off, not left on, the doors locked not left open, and food needs put away not left out. The reality that not only is no one home, but no one is coming home, leaves me tearful just to write and has been a very unexpected emotion.
My dear and good companion reminds me we are in transition and those are uncomfortable. But we are determined to strive to move forward, and on with grace and purpose. We are slowly bringing order back to our disordered nest, and preparing to try a few new things. We are discussing how we want to fellowship and associate with others so we do not become isolated and cut off from those to whom we can be a mutual blessing and influence. And we are setting goals. We are so grateful for the lives and choices of our children. We know we have been privileged to be known as their parents and to be mutually taught by one another in this great institution called "FAMILY". We want them to be as proud (Jeff would NEVER use that word) of us in the years ahead, as we are of them.
Jeff and I continue to be blessed by association with our parents and siblings. It seems I am esteemed by many because I am related to others who are esteemed. I expect that Jeff and I will find that continues through the lives of our children. We hope we will do the same for them.
Except for memories and desires for improvement in the future, our nest is empty now. But we hope our choices will create a nest that continues to draw back our children, friends, family, and neighbors to make even more happy memories in the years ahead.
With love and gratitude for you and the role you continue to play in our lives and this transition,
Becky (and Jeff) :)

Monday, May 27, 2013

On "Memorial" Day

Gratitude on this Memorial Day for a heritage of FAMILY!
The word "Memorial" is defined in the free Merriam-Webster dictionary as "serving to preserve remembrance" .
I am aware that the original intent and purpose of Memorial Day was and is to honor those who have died in the service of our country. I am even aware that there has been an effort to reinstate this focus by returning the date to it's original May 30, instead of the current , last Monday in May, to prevent further dilution of it's meaning. However, in a large family, that miraculously has been almost entirely kept out of military service, ( not from lack of willingness, or patriotism, but by unusual exemptions not for this entry), with the exception of one uncle who served in Viet Nam, and a great Uncle who served as a Paratrooper in WWII, I want to share my gratitude for a great heritage of faithfulness that has been exceptional, not for giving lives for a country, but for giving lives to raising contributing citizens. In this arena, our families have MANY worth honoring, both past and present.
As a child, our families honored these kind of family members (and what a travesty it would have been, had our parents and grandparents missed the opportunity this holiday of "remembering" provides, of connecting family heritage, and traditions of perseverance, loyalty and commitment, simply because none of our deceased loved ones had been soldiers), by traveling long distances to visit cemeteries throughout northeast Idaho, decorate the graves with lilacs, take photos of the graves, clean them and then gather for picnics afterward.
In the years we have been raising our own five children, living states away from any graves of known relations, we have still taken our children each year to cemeteries, where we "remember". We meander around the peaceful settings, some tiny and hidden, others large and celebrated by traditions of Memorial celebrations. We find those who died in wars, find the tiny markers for babies and imagine the loss to heartbroken parents, or note the family spots where numerous members of one family are combined together. We put flowers on those that seem to be forgotten and have taught our children respect, not only for the dead by not walking on the headstones, but also to consider the circumstances of their lives by considering what the towns, or world was like in the long ago years they were on it. I do not think it is primarily our government or schools who should remind our youth to "preserve in remembrance", the purpose of this day, but parents. And if, in their teaching, they also include gratitude and remembrance for loved ones that enabled a family to be and have the prosperity and blessings enjoyed now, then bravo!
Our country needs MORE grateful remembering of many kinds, not limited only to military sacrifices, however grand those may be and are.... which leads me to grateful, acknowledging and "remembering" of those still living, who bless and enrich my life.
I know it's not been popular to have more than a child or two for a really long time but I want to share just SOME OF the benefits missed out on by those who have only one sibling, or none, and no aunts, uncles, or cousins.
And believe me they are missing A LOT!
Recently I left home early to drive 5 hours to meet 3 of my 6 sisters for lunch. What a blast. They are educated, talented, but more importantly kind, wise and compassionate women, and also funny. (I won't go into detail here, but we had a dead car battery experience right in front of the Boise 'Kneaders' restaurant that involved laughing and prayers, and ended quickly and well due to blessings of preparedness, action by a good husband in advance, a sister learning how to use the equipment provided, and cooperation.). They are also wives to loyal, hard working men, and mothers to between us, nineteen children. (Wait till I add in my other siblings children!:))
The next day I drove a few more hours and visited with a fourth sister and her wonderful family of three children. It was so comforting to me to hear the interested questions Thom asked his children at the dinner table after his own long day at work and school. There are wonderful families in this world still and I get to live amongst many and get to be related to a whole bunch more! Lucky me!
In the evening, I drove 90 minutes to visit my parents. The purpose of my trip was to take my Mother, who serves so constantly to a myriad of others, to Women's Conference for her first time. One of my four daughters was able to join us (my Dad came too but that's another story, and turned out to be a great addition to the family memory). A day later, we were all happily staying with and visiting with my youngest sister in Utah and her busy family of four plus a nephew loved as a son.
In between uplifting classes, we all met for laughing and talking over beautiful lunches above the campus art museum, or in the fifties style old Creamery for burgers and ice cream! While we talked and ate, I shared a children's book that another sister had read to me a few months ago. How rich and interesting my life is because of these women whom I see far too rarely, but who fill my life with support, mentorship and encouragement.
Several have housed our young adult children while they did summer jobs, interviewed or came to conferences, provided tips on work, given great advice, and been terrific mentors on happy, successful family life. Spread all across this grand country, in addition to our children's four siblings each, are 57 cousins, 24 aunts and uncles and 4 grandparents, not counting a significant number of second cousins and great aunts and uncles that know and love and care about our family as well. My mothers frequent statement from my youth, "the greatest gift your Dad and I gave you is siblings", is given another level of merit and credence. In a society, where " who you know", is often more important for opening opportunities than "what you know", one would think providing more "relations" would be the "IN" thing, not the reverse!
We know people in nearly every quadrant of the country, and a huge variety of professions and fields, from self employed business men to doctors, dentists, teachers, engineers, and a number of accountants, CPA's, as well as others. There is a measure of security in knowing that nearly everywhere I go, there is within reasonable reach "family". It is a joy to think back on the times however brief when a sibling has lived with us, as we helped them find summer work, and learn to drive a clutch, or brought their family for an overnight as they passed through. We have loved having a niece or nephew for the summer while they worked to save college money, took drivers training or simply stopped by for a place to stay while visiting friends, or just passing through on their way somewhere else. These infrequent visits are tiny threads, knotted tighter by being repeated, that knit a family largely separated by age and distance, together over time. How blessed it is to have a "quiver full" of siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles!
Thank you, thank you dear Mom and Dad for giving me so many, and to my eight remarkable siblings, and Jeff''s four equally fabulous, thank you for raising such great cousins for our five kids. Even now, as all our children are young adults, we have heard of Nikelle being contacted by a cousin and his wife for a lunch date, and others went on a brief overnight Memorial Day campout with grandparents, aunts and uncles, and a Bird nephew stopped by here overnight on his way to a work convention. How dull and boring life would be without FAMILY TIES!
Yes, I patriotically, and lovingly salute those who died in service to my country full heartedly. But the reason I do, is because I understand their motivation was to allow and protect the continuation of generations to live happily, hopefully peacefully and war free in the future. Our family has certainly been the beneficiary of their sacrifice and I remember them and my family, living and dead, whether or not that life was sacrificed for their country or simply to raise more countrymen!
God Bless America!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

On SEEING "they that be with us.." (2 Kings 6)

Of  late I have been somewhat distracted and overwhelmed by events, and circumstances in our world.  With scandals at the very top of our Government,  unwise legislation being passed frequently and good laws being struck down in high places,  and terrible trials of heinous acts of violence perpetrated by women and children, being shared almost as entertainment, and much of my countries citizery choosing to support laws born of  greed, covetousness, or immorality,   my simple naturally trusting self, who craves order, peace, and beauty finds myself burdened with dispair.  In the midst of an afternoon feeling this way, Jeff and I had a regional training to attend for Stake and Ward leaderships and the ward leadership of those  involved in teaching the youth with the new Come Follow Me program.  David McKonkie, counselor in the General Sunday School Presidency came to speak with us, along with our wise and wonderful area seventy Elder Brad Risenmay with whom we have been privileged to have an number of associations in the last 6 months. 

 Elder Risenmay is a man who while still working in his insurance company in Moses Lake, is also responsible for approximately 35 Stakes, training and assisting thier Stake Presidencies and many other duties .  He is almost never home on weekends, traveling constantly to do his duty, in this case even on a Friday evening, of a Memorial Day weekend holiday.  He carries himself with nearly constant Good Cheer.  I capitalize that because that is how Jeff and I label him... a man of pleasant, comforting, never drawing   attention to himself, never showing or speaking of fatigue or inconvenience that he must feel, but radiating steady, encouraging good cheer.  He is a role model and mentor of great character.  He conducted the meetings, introduced both the topic and Brother  McKonkie, and spoke again very briefly  at the end of the meeting, and left me with some reminders, that helped shift my discouraged thoughts to the truth of our situation instead of the one my natural eyes tend to see.

As this meeting was in regards to the new teaching methods and materials, he spoke of the miracle that the Come Follow Me Curriculum was completed and ready at nearly the same time as the Prophets revelation to lower missionary ages to 18 for young men and to  19 for young women. This change has increased our missionary force from 54,000 in October, by nearly 20, 000 currently with thousands more awaiting calls or in the process of paperwork.  It is  expected by the end of the year to have between 80,000-100,000 missionaries serving throughout the world.  He said, "The Lord is showing forth HIs marvelous power in a magnificent way."  

There is hope and magnificence, in a strong and courageous army of youth, younger than ever before, but striving to be worthy and willing to volunteer to boldly go into a largely apathetic at best, and  wicked world, to share with them the Good News of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ.   To testify that there are yet again Prophets and Apostles called of God, who speak with and for God to His children on the earth, to guide, protect and lead us if we will listen.  It is the only message that will bring lasting peace and prosperity to individuals, communities, and countries.  Never has there been more need, coupled with so many messengers.  And the Lord in his wisdom is sending it forth through the weak and simple, nearly from the "mouth of babes" will it largely be spoken.   

With this remarkable contnranst in my mind, a passage in a small book I am reading stood out as TRUTH, even now, in our time, in my circumstances.  In Brent L. Top's book "When You Can't Do it Alone, Take the Saviors Hand",   he shares the story from 2 Kings 6:17, and how Elisha and his young servant were encircled by a Sirian army determined to capture him.  The young servant is fearful and asks in essence, 'What are we going to do?'.  Elisha responds with "They that be with us are greater than they that be with them, " and then petitions The Lord to open the young mans eyes.  This occurs and he is then able to discern the mountain behind them filled with horses and chariots of fire  sent to defend and protect these two righteous servants of the Lord.

With this in my mind, and the thoughts of Elder Risenmay so recently in my mind, I was uplifted, to be reminded that The Lord can and is fighting his own battles. He is NOT unaware of the troubles in my day and He is sending forth an army of His own choosing.  I can be a part of that army as I trust in faith and become familiar with His word for us in both the scriptures and the modern counsel of prophets.  I have been reading the Conference talks and marking the "to-do's" so I can easily reference them in reviewing what counsel we have been given for our modern protection and guidance.  If I keep focused on my Savior, remembering that He is "mighty to save", he always has and he does and will, to those who trust in His methods and seek to see him in the midst of our own circumstances. 

 I was then curious about what happened to Eilsha and his servant. What method of deliverance was used?  Did that army of fiery chariots obliterate the  enemy army?  It seemed logical to me.... but my son Layton looked it up as we discussed and reminded me of the facinating outcome.  The entire army was struck with "blindness"  such that Elisha walked out and told them this was not the city they sought and led them instead to Samaria.   Some brief pondering on this tells me that the army was not actually made blind in that they could not see ANYTHING, but in fact they could not see truth.  They could not recognize that they were in fact actually exactly where they had meant to be and were speaking with exactly the man they had intended to capture, and they could also not see that they were headed for the center of enemy territory.  Their unrighteousness allowed them to be blinded too Truth. 

On the other side, the righteous assistant to the Prophet Elisha was allowed to have his "blindness" removed that he coudl see the reality of the protection Heaven was providing them.  In  the end, the fiery Chariots of Heaven did not destroy the Syrian army at all.   I wondenred what they were there for then?  I am not sure, but I believe what seeing htem would have done for me, had I been Elishas servant, was to inspire confidence.  And isn't this exactly what I hope to have always as a disciple of Christ in this challenging world?  Confidence in My Lord and Savior.  I think I am going to be altering my prayers in the future to more clearly see His might and great works in the world around me. This is how I can more fully come to know and feel the "peaceable things that bring joy..." see see D&C 42:61.

And that's the only kind of songs I want to be heard singing.....

Happy Sabbath All!