We have a family website we use to keep in touch with each other. For ten years we have compiled letters, stories, pictures, and intimate pleas for faith and prayers for each other. We have shared each other's lives and kept in touch, though the miles have separated us as an extended family.
Patsy reminded me tonight about an e-mail exchange dating back several years. She is preparing for a Relief Society meeting tomorrow night. Her topic is the value of scripture study. She recalled this story and asked me for a copy of it. As I re-read the words, I thought it might be useful to many others and decided to share it here.
For each of us there is always a "big daddy hug" when we seek solace in the scriptures:
January 1, 2004
I just wanted to take a second to thank you for all you do to keep us in touch with each other. I just spent a while today (two separate times) trying to catch up on some of the letters and journal pages from the past month or so. What a blessing it is in my life to be able to turn this computer on and feel close to not only you, but Mel and Jake [a sister and a brother then serving as missionaries] who are on the other end of the earth. Their journal pages and letters, and your letters to them are truly inspiring. As I read these amazing experiences and testimonies of these younger brothers and sisters I just can't help but admire them for the wonderful people they have become and the awesome examples they are to me. I can't believe that I was ever called "the brilliant one" because I really feel like the dumb bell now.
I am thankful for the experiences I have had these past few months and years and can see the wisdom of a loving Heavenly Father in allowing me to have them. I especially appreciated your letter to Mel and Sis. Sorenson about being healed and the will of the Lord. I have been a brat, whiny, wondering why I have to go through these things, why I have to do all these things I find no joy in, etc. But I have come to realize that through these experiences, I have gained a greater understanding and compassion for people who suffer with depression. Before I always just thought why can't they get over it? or they just must not have enough faith. It is amazing to me how judgmental we can all be even when we don't think we are.
It has been an interesting experience being in this calling and now being released this past week. I have come to the conclusion that we may always feel like we could have or should have done more in a calling, but we can also feel like we have served well and done the best that we could have done with the other circumstances in our lives. As I have reflected on this past almost 2 years in the YW, I came to the conclusion that I really did accomplish what I set out to do and what I was challenged to do by my bishop. He told me to love the girls through good and bad, to love the Lord and share that love and my testimony with the girls, to get them focused on the path that leads them to the temple and to help them to "come unto Christ."
Someone made the comment to my friend Linda this week about how great the new YW pres will be because she has so much enthusiasm and will be so fun. I was grateful that Linda came back with "Well Emily has brought a spirituality to the Young Women that I for one (as a mother of one of the YW) am grateful for." It is true, I probably wasn't very fun for some of the girls, I cut a lot of the fluff, but I don't think the girls could ever deny that I love them and that I shared my testimony with them and that we were focused on the temple. It just frustrates me that some people have to be so critical. Why is it that we can't just appreciate each other for our unique talents and abilities and realize that we are all human and therefore prone to be imperfect. It is these people that think they do everything right and have perfectly well-behaved children who are all "shoulding" on me that drive me crazy. Can't we all just love? I am actually really looking forward to getting outta here and moving on. I am excited about my new, bigger house and a new and fresh ward to start over in. I have let a few too many things get in the way lately of what is really important and look forward to this new experience and year to set some of my priorities back in order. I will miss some of the people here, but we've been there done that and I know we will see them all again eventually (whether in this life or the next) and hey, that's what Christmas cards are for right?
Anyway, I don't know exactly where that all came from because really I just wanted to tell you that I love you and am so thankful for your influence in my life. This was sort of a rushed holiday season, so I didn't get much out to others, but I did eat a box of orange sticks in honor of you and I have spent a lot of time counting my blessings. My family is at the very top of my list of those blessings. Thank you for showing us, not telling us. Thank you for your patience with me. I have felt that I have really struggled with a lot of basic things this past year and am so thankful for the foundation that you and mom have given me to help combat that. This depression thing really sucks sometimes. I find myself barely able to cope with the most simple things sometimes and I never used to be like that. I have been thankful that Di and Mom talked me into seeing a counselor because she has helped me to see things in a different light and realize that I can do things for myself and discover again who I am and what my talents are. She also has given me some techniques to use to help pull me out of the funk - sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't, but it is good advice nevertheless. Thank you for your love and support.
I did want to tell you an experience I had a few months ago.....it was one night when everyone had gone to bed and I was feeling especially low, sad, and really lonely. Jay was tired and had gone to bed without telling me he was going and all I could think was that I just really wanted a big hug from my daddy. Just a big hug that says I love you and everything will be okay. It was late and I knew it couldn't happen because you are so far away physically. My Book of Mormon was laying on the side of the couch and I thought well, if my dad can't be here in person to give me a hug, maybe if I open this book I can feel closer to him and to my Father in Heaven as well. And it worked, it settled me down and lifted my spirit and filled me with love and hope. I also made that connection because I knew of your love for the B of M and the gospel of Jesus Christ. When I told my counselor about the experience her comment was "What a wonderful thing that you have an earthly father that is so wonderful that you get a glimpse of the love our Heavenly Father has for us too. And that you can make that connection so easily. Many people don't get that from their fathers and therefore have a totally different take on what our Heavenly Father is like." So in a sense, I felt like you were there with me that night when I needed a hug, because of the things you had taught me in my youth and because you had taught me where to look for comfort and support.
I love you, daddy of mine. There have been days when I wish I could just go back in time and be the carefree little girl again, instead of the mommy. Thank you for giving me such a wonderful childhood and providing me with such a happy home. You really made it look a lot easier than I am finding it is to provide for my own children. I hope you have had a great holiday season and look forward to being closer so we can see you more often.
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|Fast Forward 7 Years|
How I love you, and your sweet expressions in your e-mail this morning. I was particularly humbled by your story about finding that big daddy hug in the Book of Mormon. There have been so many times in my life when I felt all alone, and like you, I have found the guidance and comfort I was seeking again and again in the Book of Mormon.
I remembered when I read about your therapist's comments an experience so many years ago when George and Janice [not their real names] were going through their winter of discontent with their parents on both sides. George made a comment to me once about his father, who was emotionally and physically abusive. He said he had never been able to visualize a loving and compassionate Heavenly Father because of the abusive nature of his relationship with his earthly father. I am so grateful to have not repeated that pattern in my children's lives -- hopefully so far so good anyway. . .
When I pointed out to George and Janice the pattern the scriptures reveal of who our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ really are, he could scarcely understand it. Interestingly though, somewhere along the line he must have discovered the truth, because today I see him fulfilling his role as a father with great success and happiness, even though he missed it in his own life. That's the lesson, I suppose, to do for our own families what we missed in our childhood. I know we weren't perfect -- maybe your memory is simply fading away after all these years -- but I am grateful for whatever degree of happiness you have received because that was always our greatest desire to help you find happiness and fulfillment.
Em, let me share one other important insight. I smiled when I read the part about feeling like the dunce these days. Let me assure you -- it only gets worse. I wish I had the self-assurance I felt when I was nineteen as a green missionary. No matter how long we live and no matter whatever degree of success we may attain in the world's eyes, we are only happy if we achieve what we alone determine with our companion is the definition of our success. If we set our standard for measurement by anyone else's expectations, we are sad and frustrated most of the time because we never measure up to those false traditions and standards that others may superimpose upon us. It is only by looking deep within ourselves that we finally and accurately determine what we will define as success in our own lives, and thus finally and accurately determine what Heavenly Father's purposes in our lives can be magnified with our submission to his will. He will always make of us something far greater and finer than we can ever make of ourselves in the eyes of others.
I can't begin to tell you how pleased Mom and I have been as we have observed the step-by-step spiritual process that you and Jay have undertaken in the last several months to finally arrive at this point of embarkation on another important step in your progress as you move to Rexburg. We could sense for so long your collective frustrations with the NFL imperatives that took Jay away from home so often, particularly on Sunday. Looking back now, you can both readily observe the Lord's hand in it, guiding you step by slow and tortured step to this decision. That will be even truer in the years ahead, I believe. And we are grateful that in it all you have found the keys to receiving answers to your prayers.
We often wonder why it has to be so painful, and I can tell you both by my own experiences this past year how valuable the chastening can be in our spiritual progression. God only chastens us when he is determined to show us his love for us. The chastening is what produces the true disciples, because only in the chastening are we purified. It's a true principle, and he only chastens those he loves most who are seeking membership in his kingdom.
I know this move will require sacrifice, and in the sacrifice will emerge the blessings you seek as a family. How often have I wondered what might have been if we had stayed in SLC, living in relative ease and comfort in our spacious home. What if? We can always speculate endlessly on the question, can't we? But I truly believe after all these years of observing the consequences of that choice to move to our wilderness home in Woodland, that we took the path "less travelled" and that truly "has made all the difference." And so it will be for you and Jay. I cannot accurately forecast today what the future will hold for you both and for your children, but I do know this much -- God is in the details, and now you can embrace him more fully having chosen him first.
This morning we are buried in snow. There are two feet on the back deck that was shovelled off two days ago! The prayers for moisture have been answered in Utah. The wind was blowing all night last night and drifting snow everywhere!
All my love, and hugs and kisses to Logan, Katelyn and Spencer -- I loved your pictures!!