And the prophet said…

Dear friends

This past weekend (first weekend in April) was General Conference for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, of which I am a member.  This happens twice a year, six months apart, and is when the general (world wide) leaders of the church address the general membership and the world.  With satellite and internet technology, wherever we are in the world, we can receive the messages, virtually instananeously, through live streaming, audio and/or video as the conference takes place at church HQ conference centre in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.

As a Latter Day Saint I believe in living prophets and I trust that, for our spiritual safety, when they speak, we should listen and follow.  For me it’s​ no different to the trust the ancient Israelites had to have in Moses, that if they followed him, they would gain their freedom from the Egyptians where they were in a state of slavery.  Which ultimately is what happened.

So the conference actually all began last weekend with the women’s session where female church leaders spoke on trusting the Lord and not leaning (Proverbs 3:5-6), the beauty of holiness and being faithful, certain women, in the New Testament sense.  And then an Apostle (Henry B Eyring) spoke on the peace that we can only receive from the Lord Jesus Christ; it was sublime.

When you prepare yourself for conference, it’s as if the speakers are speaking to you, personally.  The words resonate within my spirit as I hear words of truth.  There were admonitions to be kind, charitable, true, faithful, how to recognise and follow the Holy Ghost or Holy Spirit, how to not live by fear, how to overcome the world. 

And the prophet, Thomas S Monson, in his Sunday morning address, asked: We live in a time of great trouble and wickedness. What will protect us from the sin and evil so prevalent in the world today? And the answer: I maintain that a strong testimony of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and of His gospel will help see us through to safety.   And to develop and keep a strong testimony: read the Book of Mormon, each day 🙂  And the promise if we do this? 

As we do so, we will be in a position to hear the voice of the Spirit, to resist temptation, to overcome doubt and fear, and to receive heaven’s help in our lives.

I am very grateful for the simplicity which is the restored gospel of Jesus Christ – it is a the greatest blessing in my life and that of my family.  I love our Saviour, Jesus Christ; I’m grateful that He speaks still through living prophets, same as anciently – all things have been restored.  

Primary role

Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 19 verse 14

Dear friends

In recent weeks I have been called to serve in the Primary organisation of our church ward (local unit).  The Primary organisation is for the children, up to 12 years.  

It’s been about 10 years since I last served there – I recall because Son1 had not long been baptised (at age 8) when I was released. Daur1 and Daur2 were also there, but Daur2 was 3 years old so doesn’t remember.

You can imagine how excited Son2 has been since finding out that his Mum will be with him each Sunday:)!!  And I’ve been excited too.  I’ve already had a week in nursery (with children aged 18 months to 3 years) – I’d forgotten how delightfully stubborn a 2 year old can be! And this month I’ll be doing sharing time, with all the 3 to 11 year olds, about 12 of them so not too many.

Of course, I will miss the youth Sunday School class… not sure if the feeling is mutual 🙂 … and Daur1 did remind me they are little children!!  We had our first presidency meeting – I’m a counsellor -the secretary is the same, and filled us in on recent issues. With a couple of families moving out before summer we will lose several children in a short space of time. But things change quickly so we’re not relying on a small number of children to ease anything.  

This will take me out of my comfort zone, that’s always a good thing for me as it stops me becoming complacent. And I feel it’s so important to be able to share the gospel with children; the gospel of Jesus Christ is beautifully simple, and simply beautiful (not my phrase… I think one of the modern day apostles) and so to be able to explain eternal concepts in a manner that a child can understand is important.  That’s the way the Saviour taught us 🙂

camping & the genders

Dear friends

On Monday we dropped off our three eldest children at the church youth camps for the week.  (It’s quiet at home!)

The difference in the camps for the young women (YW) and the young men (YM)! Wow!!  This shouldn’t surprise me but it is enlightening to compare!  

First stop at a little before 10h was YW camp, to the north of home.  A beautiful green, well kept field, with new shower facilities, much to the relief of Daur1 who had already warned her sister, Daur2, “don’t shower barefoot!!”. Everyone worked together to erect large 6-8 man tents which the girls will be sharing in their age groups. A large marquee was also erected as a food tent, and each girl had been asked to bring not only secret sister gifts to share but also a camp seat/ chair (so they don’t have to sit on the ground).  As we hugged farewell Daur2 noted there’s music for the devotionals – a portable organ.

The kit list for the Young Men was similar, minus gifts, camp seats, and including tents. My dear husband and I picked up Son1 (and Son2, too young for the camps, having ate first lunch prepared by Son1) around lunch time and headed south, into the forest.  Following the instructions we pulled into a discrete car park behind a golf course club house.  A gate in a hedge met us and beyond a grove opened up – the leader greeted us.  As we entered the shady grove, several tents had already been pitched around a central area with rubber mats and a rope with a large knot hanging from a tree.  I made no comment on what this scene could suggest… There were a few ‘seen better days’ huts and Son1 immediately began pitching his 4-man (all for me) tent at one end of the tent round, closest to the fire pit.  I noted plenty of logs that could double up for seats.  Others arrived, tents continued to go up, each team of young men working alone or with who they came.  Help was not requested and when offered it was rejected – we’re almost there. It was such a macho scene!!  Son1 looked embarrassed as I helped with the tent – but I didn’t care, I’m his mother!!  We left as more young men arrived and I really wonder if they will all fit – I think there will be some tent sharing for Son1. I’m concerned that he seems to feel he’ll cope without a sleeping mat… night temperatures have dropped… but that was his choice, he refused to get one.  His sisters took the air beds/ mattresses 🙂

We left Son1 deep in the forest and headed to my mother’s house for lunch – Son2’s second lunch!  

I am absolutely sure they will have fantastic camps. Men and women are different in so many great ways.  We have to learn from and be here for each other.

International Women’s Day

Dear friends
So life keeps going with all that it brings. 

The funnies: –
Me: (on why there’s a mid season break for extended filming) I don’t think it worked like that in my day!
Daur2: What?  You twerked in your day!!??

The compliment: –
Local Heritage officer: (on looking at my latest project) A very well designed extension.
This is why I’m an architect,  I love creating spaces for all to appreciate 🙂

The surprising/ thought provoking: –
Female friend (mother of 2, same age as me and the LDS seminary teacher): It is cancer. Their going to operate next month,  remove it completely and I have to decide on whether to have reconstructive surgery later in the year.  It helps to talk about it.

And then Mothering Sunday: –
My mother: (after lovely dinner prepared by my dear husband and why it’s not Mother’s Day) It originally started so those downstairs [ie servants] could visit their homes/ mothers at least once in the year. 
My children and husband (expressions – similar – in a card): Thank you for being the best Mummy!!

Latest read: – I’m reading Anil’s Ghost by Michael Ondaatje – I’ve read it before; it’s one of my older books retrieved from the garage last spring; it’s a great,  poetic read. 

Latest on running: – I’ve been running a little bit during these wintry mornings – I need to improve my stamina!  but my latest running partner (another mum with dog during early morning seminary) will be teaching seminary (in the absence of the teacher for surgery),  so I’m not sure whether to go down to the park to run on my own… it’s quite light in the mornings now but it’s a big grass and woodland area.  There are other runners… I’ll think on that one.

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View on my typical early morning run

Finally, to international women’s day, that this is, I can’t say I’ve done anything particular but I did decide (yesterday) to go to the LDS women’s conference on Saturday – I didn’t have much choice,  my mum declared she wasn’t going if I wasn’t!  I also thought on how if we don’t support such activities and conferences, they won’t be organised. It simply means a whole Saturday out… at least a friend is driving this year (it’s towards London).  The workshops do look quite interesting and despite my cynicism, I know I will enjoy the day, and probably meet some old friends.  

After all this,  I recognise that our family is greatly blessed by our Father in Heaven.  I am very grateful for where we live and the time we live in and the opportunities we have.  A different place,  a different generation,  and we would be living very different lives. That goes for all of us.  Take care. 

inside church

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Dear friends
This is my current view. It’s early morning, at the chapel, I’m waiting for Daur1, and yes, those are my sock clad feet to the bottom right of photo. 
I’m reading the Book of Mormon (1 Nephi 13 verse 1):

Look! And I looked and beheld many nations and kingdoms…

And I looked around to ponder. And my mind cast back to when I first entered this building nearly 30 years ago, one spring morning for church.  It looks a little different – back then the walls were brick internally. But the feeling was the same. A feeling that I was home, where I should be. 🙂
And the beautiful paintings always remind me who I’m following.  I love our buildings, so simple and functional on every level.  When I visited St Vincent (in the Caribbean) it was great to see a lovely two storey building reflecting local stone materials, responding to the terrain (a hill and that’s why it was two storey).  And to know that our tithes are used for these. 🙂

I’ll take a few more photos (I need to slip on my shoes…) for those of you that have not seen the inside of a LDS church building. Enjoy! 🙂

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minority families…

Dear friends

Last week there was a policy announcement from church leadership. I wasn’t aware of it until Sunday, when after church meetings, Daur1 said it was mentioned in young women’s lesson and there is loads of comments on the Internet about it.  So, back home I looked up lds.org to see what it was about, for myself.

In my words, it’s that children of / within a same sex marriage couple can not be baptised until they are 18 years old. 

This seems perfectly reasonable to me – no point having a child baptised (we don’t believe in infant baptism, a child must be at least 8 years old) when their parents are in a situation which opposes those beliefs.  Regardless of how stable and how supportive those parents  may be of the child’s decision, at some point there will be conflict.  Either for the child or for one or both of the parents. And, I’m certain, for the child, it will be confusing at some point, even if eventually that child manages to mentally resolve it. I can refer to my own situation, which some of you may feel is not the same, but for me, it feels relevant.

My dear parents were never married, and, as far as I can tell, never lived together. I don’t know why – I’ve never asked, and I probably never will.  My Dad has a wife and children and a home.  He visited my Mum and us once a week.  For the bulk of my childhood I said nothing more than “Hello Daddy” and “Goodbye Daddy” at the start and end of an uncomfortable 20 minute visit where he money to my Mum and pocket money to us.  I am the oldest of his children.  My younger brother is younger than my oldest half sister, so you can work that out!  My relationship with my dear Father deserves a post of it’s own, so back to the point of this post.

I was in the clear minority at school, not only for my skin colour, for growing up in a single parent family, for “having no Dad” as my peers described, and I felt that as a ‘stigma’.  I knew I was loved and was very matter of fact with friends that asked, “do you have a Dad?” Response “yes!! Everyone does. He just doesn’t live with us.”

By the time I reached my teens, although I knew what was right in terms of civic society – not hurting, stealing, killing, lying – when it came to what was right in terms of my own personal welfare, well, I was in a state of confusion, particularly in terms of relationships, questions like what is the real, true position, God’s point of view, on premarital sex?  I was in search of personal peace, personal answers, as I was becoming an adult. I never felt able to ask my mother since I was fully aware that she had all of us out of wedlock.  And although my mother was firm, provided a Christian upbringing (Mum not affiliated with any particular church though I went to a pentecostal Sunday school) and and told us not to ‘drink from the governor’s cup’ (or some strange phrase where the governor and his cup was an innuendo for sexual activities), it was a struggle, at least for me to reconcile this with her own actions.  (You may judge me as weak because of that).  Once I had the opportunity to learn more, I made a choice, to make and keep covenants with God, and I found peace. 

So, what am I saying? I’m saying when it comes to eternal matters, our choice matters.  And most of us, when we reach adulthood, will have the ability to choose things in this life.  And quite simply I believe that our Father is fair and that 18 years in any loving home where respect is taught for parents, with one, two, male, female, black, white, parents, is beneficial for our eternal welfare – family love can be learned and that is fundamental.  There will be time, and I feel, time to make and keep sacred covenants once we individually make that choice…

I’m probably not explaining this very well.  It may be difficult enough to grow up in a minority-type family, so why would our Father want to make it worse for his children in such a situation.  So I totally accept this policy statement as Father’s will.  And I fail to understand why others feel this shows intolerance or a degree of being unfair.  I expect the reason it wasn’t explicit before is because same sex marriage is a new situation.  Thankfully, revelation is always relevant and for the times in which we live.

a musical assignment

Dear friends

When I was around 8 or 9 years old, I really wanted to play the piano.  I was already learning the tenor horn at school but I absolutely became desperate to learn piano.  I received a small electronic organ for Christmas but I must have continued to pester my Mother, or my Mum decided that a child playing piano was a great thing, because on my 10th birthday I received piano lessons which my Mother continued to pay for for the next several years… I think until I moved away to university.  Sadly, we could never afford more than my two octave keyboard, and I was never that diligent in practising…
The first opportunity I had to live with a piano came several years later when I served as a missionary.  I was in Lancaster, Lancashire, and our house had a piano, and of course, a church song books.  The hymns were tricky but the children’s song book… So over the following couple of months, I spent time on our free day playing piano and became fairly competent at a few pieces. 
After my mission, I had a flat mate with an old piano who left it when moving out to make room for my dear husband.  We kept the piano for the first flat move but with children and subsequent moves it got left in a large unfurnished two bed with a moisture problem!
Several years and two more children later, we decided to put together some Christmas gift vouchers the children had received and buy a Yamaha keyboard – 5 octaves.  I recall Son1 was not too keen on a family keyboard taking the place of more wooden train tracks.  He still remembers that!
So here we are, Daur2 is learning piano, Son2 will hopefully start piano lessons at school this term, and I often have a nagging feeling that I’m not using my musical talent…
Flash forward to last Sunday and after church meetings the choir director is in the hall getting support and I hear her call out – I need someone to play piano.  In a moment of generosity I admit I can, enough to play the melody, in fact all four parts but not at the same time (I’ve never truly mastered playing more than one key with each hand!).  Then, out of nowhere, my dear mother states – oh yes, Vanessa can play, did piano lessons for years! And I’m thinking – please don’t big it up too much.  Sister Choir Director thrusts some sheet music into my hands and asks:

Can you play this?
With some practice!

I respond. And that’s it! I don’t even recognise the hymn – but it’s not like it’s in C major so that’s a plus, I think.  On telling my dear children on the way to the car, Daur1 asks, and when are you going to find time to practice that!?  Mmm… a good point me thinks!! This post has taken the best part of 3 days to write.

It’s nearly the middle of the weeks, four full days till next Sunday, and I’ve yet to touch the keyboard but I have done some air piano :). Maybe Sister Choir Director is planning on the hymn being sung a capella and only needs the melody played to learn the hymn… doesn’t everyone dream of doing a piano recital… I’ll update you on what happens…

Sabbath delight

Dear friends

Mini holiday was fun! Unfortunately I missed the ‘chilly night’ in the weather forecast which had day temperatures of +20c.  And even though I was sandwiched between my daughters, they’d already chosen the superior sleeping bags, and I kept waking up.  Kayaking was great and relaxing – it’s a sheltered spot on the river – neither of the girls capsized this time.

The rest of the weekend has been uplifting.  There was a special Europe (northern) wide broadcast of a live conference from Edinburgh (my second home!) with Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, an Apostle of the Lord.  What would an Apostle say specifically to the Latter Day Saints in this part of the world?  Well, it was a warning message – this is a time of sifting – wheat & tares, goats & sheep, wise &foolish – but also one of hope – cling to the iron rod, cling to the word of God, cling to the scriptures.  And the following description from Paul of this time was used a couple of times 2 Timothy 3 vv1-5:

1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.
2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,
4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;
5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

But we do not need to fear – we need to have faith in Jesus Christ and know that the Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion – if it stands, everything does; and if it falls everything falls; after 185 years of the book, no one has claimed to be it’s author, despite the impact it has on lives and the claim that it’s one of the most important US books.

I have read the Book of Mormon many times – I know it is the word of God. It stands with the Bible as another testament of Jesus Christ. If you’ve not read it, you need to – get a copy and get to know some wonderful prophets of old.

outnumbered: days 8 to 10

Dear friends

I am writing this retrospectively, things got busy!

Day 8 – finished clearing out the garage, well, one big card board box left and the single wardrobe occupying the middle zone – we were all pleased with our efforts; my Mum offered to buy us dinner – so that was chicken and chips again – the defrosting meat was put in the fridge 😉  I missed Costco so a quick supermarket shop picking up baguette & melon for the church munch and mingle the next day.  The children asked but no, I haven’t told your father about taking up the hall carpet!

Day 9 – a bit of rain in the morning but we swung into the car park at church with 5 mins to go; inside the chapel was full of cooking smells!!  It was testimony meeting – we have a conference next week – and we filed into one of the back pews in front of a couple of elderly sisters, overhearing their comments on the testimonies shared… who’s he?…I can’t hear what she’s saying… Then our youth class where as we began I noticed one of the class members looking behind me, focused on the wall; within seconds the other class members were looking and one said, is that a really big… SPIDER! I turned to be faced with a large, but slow moving spider. I leapt across the room but amid cries of ‘kill it’, I did rescue it after we got a large bowl by throwing it outside.  Finally back home and I cooked – rice & chicken (yes, we love chicken), cheesy bread rolls, banana bread. Still nothing said about the hall carpet.

Day 10 – I track flight 652 during the day – my last check in places it north Africa having crossed the Sahara desert – 2 hours to touchdown.  A trip to the music store, three books bought, flute-piano-piano, one on order; I resist buying the latest easy Disney and flute Les Miserables.  Back home, I clean the kitchen floor; and all troops are mobilised into positive action.  Children are starting to get nervous about Dad’s reaction to no carpet in the hall. 
It’s raining, windy and cold, when my dear husband arrived back in town – I even turned the heating on for him!  Entering the house, the carpet, it’s great is his response – and I exchanged knowing glances with our children. 

I am grateful to have my dear husband back.  The last week or so has been a great learning time for us all. From Doctrine and Covenants section 122:

If thou art called to pass through tribulation… and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son [my daughter], that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.

saying farewell

Dear friends
Thursday was the funeral of a cousin, my father’s cousin to be exact – their mothers are sisters. 

I can’t say I really knew Ada, but my father spoke of her often so I really went to support Dad.

I’m not good at funerals; who is? But I have a hard time not breaking down in tears. So, arriving early, I sat a couple rows behind my aunt and my cousin – there was no space on their row – and I saw on the programme that they were both participating – a poem (Do not grieve) and the eulogy. My Dad arrived with the family and casket.

One thing about Caribbean/ West Indian church services is the singing 🙂 so loud and passionate. Even though I couldn’t quite manage to sing the last couple verses of ‘All things bright and beautiful’, the singing uplifted me and the old man next to me sang wonderful harmony to Bill Withers ‘Lean on me’ the music on leaving.

Another thing about attending West Indian church services in my home town is that I am guaranteed to be recognised by someone that I don’t recognise. My dear husband has decided that I don’t recognise them because, in his words, “you’re not a people person.” !!!
So as everyone filtered out into the foyer after Bill Withers, two women (I DID recognise one, but I couldn’t remember her name) said hello and asked for my Mum, sister and brother. You see, growing up, our Mum sent us to the New Testament Church of God for Sunday school and we dutifully attended. My Mum was not a member and stayed home enjoying a peaceful Sunday morning with her Jim Reeves albums, I always suspected 🙂 I stopped attending Sunday school after my 16th birthday, not because I didn’t believe but because I did believe. That church did not have everything which I could see, from the Bible, that Jesus’ church should have. My sister continued to visit when she came home from university and so everyone knows her. Therefore, amongst this group of people, I am always seen in the context of my big sister, rather than as an individual, at least that’s how I feel.
Even one older woman who approached me – who I know I’ve not seen in about 30 years and I gave her a big hug – and asked if my sister has any children. I said no, waiting for her to ask for my own family, but no, this dear lady asked for my brother. He’s well, living in L, my sister’s in B and I’m here. Pause. I’ve got children, four of them. And that was the end of the conversation until I asked for her children, who I recalled were older than me, and who now live all over!
I began to wonder if it was the presence of my bright red coat, but I was carrying it and wore a dark work suit with white blouse. Sometimes families ask for people to wear bright colours, so I’d come prepared!
But I’ve decided it’s more likely that I am seen as rebellious, fallen or wayward. I was always a nonconformist in the small Sunday school. I was asked once to offer a prayer – I offered it with only Amen said out loud. Another time, I challenged the teacher by declaring that discos (this was the 1980s) weren’t inherently bad places – you could choose not to get drunk or do bad stuff. And let’s face it, a year after leaving the Sunday school I was baptised, with my mother, as a Latter Day Saint. I’ve never really expressed to them what a big positive impact Sunday School had on me! 🙂
So as I said farewell to our cousin, I felt I was saying farewell (again) to people from my past. I felt sad that although we all pleasantly speak, we go back to our own worlds, ne’er to meet again, except around the next casket!