Saturday, April 19, 2014
Stake Conference, Easter Week and a Life Lesson on"Regret"
It's fun to be new enough on our mission to continue to have "Firsts". Last week was our first General Conference. This week it was Stake Conference and in two days our first Easter. Holidays and vacation time are going to be the most difficult being away from family. I treasure our traditions that bind! At one of our Family Home Evenings the YSA went around and asked what family traditions they had growing up and I was AMAZED at how few had any. It's such a high value for me to have "Events" that we can count on, cling to and depend on that make our family who we are. It makes me happy to watch our children using some of the traditions they grew up with and creating their own traditions within their new families. It really is powerful and I miss sharing them with you!
It's been a nice week. We've had no Institute because of Spring Break so that means no lesson on Tuesday and no dinner on Thursday; two huge responsibilities off our shoulders. I've needed the break but realize that the "LOAD" (as Elder Bednar calls it) is part of this experience and I need to more fully embrace it and be glad for it. Still this has been a very nice break.
Our Stake Conference Saturday night session was amazing. President Phillips wasn't there. He's been gone for 3 weeks so they proceeded without him. The highlight of the Saturday night meeting was our Helen. She's Chinese and the one whose mother was converted over Skype. Her mom was actually here to hear Helen speak. Helen has only been a member for 5 months but she got up and spoke as if she'd done that sort of thing her whole life. Her English is very good and she was articulate and so spiritual. After the meeting I went and hugged her and expressed my gratitude for what she's said. Her reply, "I just want to be worthy to be His mouthpiece." Then she burst into tears. I cried right along with her and told her she HAD been his voice that night. It was so sweet. I adore this young, beautiful woman.
You all know how I've been so concerned about the YSA choir for the Sunday Meeting. I'd had about 55 kids the week before but knew that several of them that attended were not going to be there the following week for Conference. (Spring Break; all the kids road trip). I had no idea what I was going to end up with that morning. Our rehearsal was for 9:00 a.m. To my utter amazement I had just as many kids there that morning than the week before. Our rehearsal went amazing and was SO MUCH FUN because we were actually making beautiful music. I know the kids loved it, as well.
Our Stake was stunned by the YSA's performance. It really was very beautiful, especially with only 1 1/2 rehearsals. They brought and felt the spirit. It was a true miracle. This experience should never have happened. I feel like it was such a personal gift to me. A tender reminder that after I've done all I can then I need to exercise my faith that He will provide. It was so sweet and I truly acknowledge His hand in it. (Every day in my prayers I'm pleading with the Lord that He will increase the faith I have to GREAT Faith! That, along with having the Holy Ghost always, is my daily plea.)
Monday nights are always fun here. It's our FHE and all we have to do for it is show up and bring energy and enthusiasm for whatever they have planned. For the first couple months they would have a short lesson and then play volleyball. I requested about a month ago that we need to change it up so that everyone has something to participate in. The last few weeks we've been doing silly all-inclusive games that have bonded our group. THEN we play volleyball. There's a real benefit in having just plain fun together. It's worked!
Tuesday was a gorgeous day and I asked Jim how about us taking our P-Day and taking the train up to Hatfield, about a hour away, and going to see the Hatfield House. It's the house that Queen Elizabeth 1 grew up in from the time she was a baby, basically under house arrest. She was the daughter to Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII. Her mom was beheaded and Elizabeth was kept there until her late 20's when she eventually was informed she was the new Queen of England. (There was no male heir to the throne.) We heard it had beautiful grounds and that the house was used in lots and lots of movies and that it was a must see.
We took the train, which is always an adventure, and got there around noon. When we walked through the gate to pay we were informed that the grounds were opened and they were having a sculpture exhibit through the gardens, but the house was closed. We were SO disappointed! We almost didn't pay to go in, but decided we'd come all this way we might as well. I'm SO GLAD we did. We had an hour woodland walk, another couple hours through amazing gardens, so amazing they made me cry with homesickness for my garden and the exhibit was extraordinary. We then had lunch there at an outdoor restaurant. It was a lovely lovely day, even without getting into the house itself.
Another first was on Wednesday; our first Zone Conference! One of the surprises for us about our mission is how little we have to do with our actual London Mission. We work with the missionaries, see them every day. We've become good friends with Pres. and Sister Jordan and the other senior missionaries, but our lives are really consumed by the YSA. So it was wonderful to feel like a real missionary and go to Zone Conference. We got to meet all the missionaries from our Zone and be TAUGHT and I mean TAUGHT by the Jordans. They are both fabulous teachers and leaders. I was blown away with the quality and depth of their teaching. I have a better understanding of why the Jordans have been called to preside over the London Mission, not a small assignment. It's a very high profile calling within the church. Now I know they were called because they are magnificent, even more than I had supposed. Now I understand why this is the mission in Europe that every pilot program, marketing idea etc. is past through first. They really truly are amazing and I'm so grateful to get to learn from them. It's an honor to be here in this mission at this time.
Last night was a rare first for me. We have, as one of our Visitor Center's senior missionaries, Elder Ohman. He was on the BYU Music faculty as an Organist and instructor. One of his unique skills is his ability to play the organ for silent movies. Last night the Visitor Center had an open night to the public showing Cecil B. DeMille's movie "King of Kings, a two hour black and white silent movie on the ministry and death of Christ. I LOVE Elder Ohman. We've become very good friends, but I actually wasn't too excited about sitting 2 hours through a silent film. OMG it was amazing! The movie itself was campy and old fashioned, but it truly testified of Christ. And Elder Ohman was unbelievable. You need to understand there is NO WRITTEN MUSIC. He just improvises as the movie unfolds, adjusting the music to what's happening on screen. It is a lost art form. It was magic to watch (they had a screen on his hands so we could watch him play, along with a huge screen with the movie on it). I also didn't know how many would come but we probably had 250 people there. It was a huge success and so appropriate for this upcoming Easter Sunday. Along with King of Kings we are going tomorrow to a production of Rob Gardner's Lamb of God. It's absolutely gorgeous music that I hope will be done well. It's being put on by Wadsworth stake with YSA participating from all over the UK. To top all this off I have been reading this week Bill O'Riley's "Killing Jesus", the historical and political history of the time of Christ and how all things collided to make the conditions perfect that would allow Christ to be crucified. Christ has been such a center of everything I've been involved with this week that I've actually been dreaming about the Savior for the last few nights. What a marvelous way to prepare for Easter. It's been powerful.
So this week I've been thinking about regrets and what we have said to each of our children as they went to serve their missions, "No regrets!" This saying has become our mantra, as well. My children know of an experience I had when I was at BYU that was a pivotal experience for me. It literally changed the way I have lived my life. As so many of my deepest learning experiences have been, I learned the horrible weight of regret from a tragic experience.
My sophomore year at BYU I lived at Sparks Apartments. Right next door we had a mom, her daughter and daughter's friend move in. The mom's name was Ladorna. She and her family had lived in Laguna Beach until a recent divorce sent Ladorna back to college to get her degree in Art. Her daughter was just starting BYU and was playing tennis on a scholarship. It was odd because it was Ladorna, not her daughter, who became my good friend. I found out that Ladorna's husband had been a Bishop who had had an affair with one of Ladorna's good friends in the ward. Ladorna had 3 daughters, the older two left the church over his affair and her youngest who she was living with was the only one who had stayed active in church. It was a such a sad situation.
We remained good friends that whole year. My junior year Ladorna moved into nicer apartments and I didn't see her again until our Senior year when we were placed in the same Teaching Certification module for the whole semester. I would see her everyday. It was there that she told me about another tragedy that had come into her life. Her tennis star daughter had just been diagnosed with cancer and was very sick. I was heart-broken for Ladorna. I remember thinking how much can one woman take? Through the semester LaDorna kept me appraised of her daughter's status.
It was a cold late afternoon in the dead of winter when Ladorna took me home from our class in her car (I walked everywhere. No car for me!) We were sitting talking when she turned to me and said she had a favor to ask. She told me what a difficult time she was having keeping her daughter's spirit up, especially with the cold, dreary winter weather. She told me that I was such a bright force of energy that she just knew I could make a big difference to her daughter if I would just come visit her and bring some light. I told LaDorna that I could do that for her and I really intended to.
Here was the problem. I was carrying 21 credits that semester. I was Activities Chairman for our ward AND bottom line I really didn't know the daughter and had no idea what I should say. It was an uncomfortable situation to walk into. It was very easy to just put it off. Our semester ended and so did my daily interaction with Ladorna. Eventually I forgot all about it.
That is until my last semester at BYU, a summer session that would allow me to graduate in August. I was sitting in a General Ed Class; Humanities 101 that I needed to finish up. I was bored so I opened the Daily Universe, BYU's newspaper, and there on page 4 was an announcement that Ladorna's daughter, BYU Tennis Star, had succumbed to cancer at the age of 20. I sat there stunned and then the tears came. I got up and walked out of class, got on my bike and begin peddling to Ladorna's apartment, crying as I rode. My heart was broken for her and I was filled with shame.
For the first time in my life I recognized what true regret felt like. I would go and beg Ladorna for forgiveness for not doing a simple act of kindness. I would offer her my sympathy and tears. But no matter what I did or said it was too late, eternally too late to do the one thing that would have made any difference for Ladorna. Her daughter was gone and anything that mattered that I could have offered was gone with her.
I realized that what I was feeling is what hell would be; the recognition of what we might have been. I made a vow that day that I would never shy away from a difficult situation simply because I was uncomfortable or didn't know what words to say. I vowed that I would try to live my life that at its close I could look back and not regret the choices I had made or actions I had taken. I NEVER wanted to feel the way I was feeling that afternoon ever again.
Forty years later I can say that my regrets are limited. My main regrets are not for the things I've done, but more for the things I was not diligent about. I have truly tried to keep my promise to myself to not shy away from hard situations. I've come to realize that there are no right words, only love, that matters. I've learned that no matter how careful I am to do what's right I make mistakes. But those mistakes can be swallowed up in the gift of the atonement. It's only deepened my gratitude for the mercy and grace of my Savior. For all these lessons learned I am grateful. And it all started with Ladorna.
I hope and pray that someday I can thank Ladorna, face to face, that though I failed her in her greatest time of need the lesson I learned was not in vain. It changed my life forever!