Sunday, June 1, 2014

First Day of June, 2014

It’s Sunday morning and I haven’t had time to get to the blog. I have a couple hours before getting ready for church so I thought I’d take advantage of this time and catch up.

The work here continues. Sometimes it gets frustrating because it seems so slow. Yet looking back we are slowly moving forward with the work of serving the YSA in front of us and seeking the ones that are NOT in front of us. Along with re-activation is missionary work, the chance to fellowship and teach investigators.

Samni and Dorothy

Two weeks ago Jim was asked by our Elders if he would go with them to the home of a young Ugandan man who has been investigating the church for months. He’s 19 going on 40. Jim was gone all evening and when he came home he was full of enthusiasm for this amazing boy. Samni comes for a family of 3 boys and a committed, hard working mother. The father died 14 years ago at the age of 35 from cancer so the mother had to step up and be both parents.

From this meeting Jim was able to determine why Samni, even though he is totally converted, has not joined the church. In Uganda the culture is that the wife takes on the religion of the husband when they marry. Dorothy’s husband was Catholic so that’s what the 3 sons were raised as. For Dorothy it was a matter of respect to her dead husband’s memory to keep his religion. Samni, who adores and honors his mom, hasn’t known what to do.

Jim came home loving this Mom. They had totally hit it off. From that meeting Jim was positive that if Dorothy and I could meet it would help to break down her resistance towards the church. We were supposed to go this past Wednesday to their house for a discussion, but Samni ended up having to work. I was so disappointed.

Thursday night I was in the kitchen with kids helping me serve and trying to feed 80 kids when in walks the Elders and Dorothy!!! My first thought was how in the world am I going to friendship her and still feed my thousands?

We gave her a plate of food. Jim sat and visited with her but then had to leave to go teach Samni. She sat and watch this controlled chaos with kids coming in and out of the kitchen, kids lined up to be fed and my helpers and I serving up food. There was no way I could sit down and talk to her. Instead as each YSA came into the kitchen I would introduce them to her and they were DARLING!!! Every one of them engage with her, all so gracious and friendly. Then the next one would come in and it would repeat. 

Finally I was free enough to sit at the island. Jim returned from teaching Samni and we sat and talked and laughed and laughed for another 1 ½ hours, with still more YSA coming in and out and loving on her. I kept thinking to myself that if I were a mom of a 19 year old son who would I want for his friends if not these amazing young people. It could not have been more PERFECT!!!

What a great lesson for me. I was being my “Martha” self, worried about all the things that needed “doing”.  But God, in His goodness, saw it clearly. It was so obvious it had been orchestrated by One who loves and knows His children!

Dorothy and I are friends!!! I’m so excited to see what is next. And I don’t even need to know how it will play out. The Lord, once again, has made it plain that He is in charge!!! So sweet!

Week Full of MUSIC!!!

I feel like my soul has been fed and filled this week. The past two weeks have been finals for all our students. It can get really stressed and sometimes sparse attendance as the kids are buried on projects, dissertations and tests. But there is an upside to this. We have 2 YSA that are getting masters at the Royal Academy of Music. Their finals are short master recitals that are adjudicated and graded, but family and friends are allowed to attend.

We have two young women who had their recitals this week. Tara is a vocalist and Emily is a french horn player. What a delight to go and listen to extraordinary musicians perform. They were amazing.

One of our senior missionary couples is the Ohmans. Elder Ohman was assistant dean of music at BYU. He’s the one who played the organ for the movie “King of Kings” at Easter. We adore both he and his wife. These young women took classes from Elder Ohman at BYU and were friends even before they got here. On Friday night after Emily’s recital the Ohmans had us to their flat for a gorgeous dinner and a fun night of musical discussion. (Afterward Jim said he felt like he was listening to a foreign language. He was totally lost. Made me smile.)  

Then yesterday another one of our YSA, Rich Smith, invited us to a dress rehearsal for a recital he is preparing for. He is a euphonium player. Now when I heard that was the instrument he played I scoffed. When I was going to BYU a euphonium was kind of a joke of an instrument. No one took it seriously. Well, have I had a change of opinion (along with the rest of the music world). It is called the cello of the brass instruments. It was GLORIOUS!!! I was truly blown away by not only Rich’s playing, but the instrument itself.

After, we were walking home and I started to cry. Jim was surprised and asked why. I 
told him I was just so filled up by the beauty and gift of music in my life. This music had just fill all the holes in my heart I didn’t even know were there. I was so deeply grateful that I have had this gift in my life. To me music is like nature. It’s simply a gift from God. Its purpose is to enrich and bless our souls with beauty and to testify of His love for us. I cherish His gift to me!!!

Elder Phillips Driving to Costco

Elder Phillips is now officially a driver in England!!! For the past 4 months we’ve had to mooch rides any time anyone is making a Costco run. (It takes 1 ½ hours to get there.) Sometimes we’ve just had to make do with what I can get at the local stores, but it’s so much more expensive and no one sells quantities we need, except Costco. Costco is my BEST FRIEND here in England.

Now we can go when we need to go. It’s more liberating than you can imagine. So proud of his courage (There’s no way I want to drive! It’s so CONFUSING!!!)

Bri and Dan’s House

Your sweet Daddy has had late nights this whole week working with Bri and Dan trying to figure out what they should do with their housing needs. Of course it has to take place very late here because of the time difference. (Not that your dad minds. It’s a great excuse for him to get to stay up late!)

We are waiting to hear if an offer has been accepted on a house they are bidding for. We hope it will work but what is so great is they have other options that are available, in case it doesn’t work out.

We’re so glad we have a home they can come stay at. There is even a house that was for sell in our ward that they are now going to rent. It would be a perfect alternative if the offer is not accepted. We just want Bri and family safely home. What a gift and a blessing to have them close once again. That’s the most exciting thing of all!!!

*God’s Love Learned in Centerville

Time for a couple of life lessons learned while we lived in Centerville. These are stories that my children have all heard before but it needs to be written for my grandchildren. It’s been on my mind because I shared one in our Institute class a couple weeks ago and once again felt the impact of what I learned. These are experiences that every one of us needs to experience some time in our lives because it changes the way we perceive ourselves and God’s relationship to us individually!

We moved to Centerville in the summer of 1984 when Tanner was only a couple months old. It was a very difficult move because we left behind an almost Camelot existence in our neighborhood in Mission Viejo. We lived on a cul-de-sac with five other LDS families, all with children the same ages as ours. I was heavily involved with all things musical, having started Sing Noel there. I also was teaching Relief Society. My dear friend lived right next door. We loved the pace and flavor of Orange County and we were only 4 hours from San Luis Obispo, where the rest of our family lived.

When we moved to Centerville, our home was down the end of a street, all by itself. When Jim brought home his first paycheck I burst into tears exclaiming, “You brought us here for THAT?!!!” It was by far the least income we ever had in our marriage. The financial stress put Jim’s body into a spin. He almost died from a horrendous ulcer (another story).

In Mission Viejo the ward was family, but in Utah everyone was related to each other. We were definitely odd man out. It took 6 months before I was even called to be a Visiting Teacher! I went from being the center of all the action in our Mission Viejo ward to being an outsider that was “one of those California Mormons!” It was ROUGH!!!

Eventually we made some friends and very gradually were accepted into the ward.  I got called as ward choir director that helped break the ice. The dearest friend I have in the world came from Centerville; my Stana Lou!!!

I need to share how that came to be. We had been there a few months. I still felt lonely and a little lost when we had a new woman who had just moved into our ward teach the Relief Society lesson. She got up and started to teach and I remember thinking to myself, “Where has this woman been? How have I not known her? She’s way too happy to be from Centerville!” 

She was loud and enthusiastic and so converted and a little over the top; just my kind of person! I LOVED her spirit! I LOVED her essence. I KNEW I KNEW her! After the class was over I went up to her and said these words, “Stana, you don’t know me, but you and I are going to be best friends!” AND WE ARE TO THIS DAY!!! She was worth the whole Centerville experience, just to find my Stana!

We had been there a couple years when Jim and I were called into the Bishop’s office. I need to give some context to this. Growing up I had acquired an aversion to being in charge. I really don’t know where it came from. I don’t know if it was knowing if I accepted a responsibility I would have to follow through or if I just was not wanting the burden of being the person in charge. Whatever it was, I did everything I could to avoid being the chairman or President of anything!!!

In the Bishop’s office he looked at me and then said the words I had dreaded my whole 34 years of life, “We want to call you as the new Relief Society President.” My internal gut reaction was a resounding “NO!” I didn’t voice the NO but fear coursed through my whole body. I bowed my head and started to cry. Then came a VERY STRONG message to my soul, “You are not being because you can lead. You are being called because you can LOVE!”

I stopped crying. And in my heart I knew I could do that.

I can testify, and have many times through the years, that my accepting that call was one of the most important decisions of my life. I am living proof that the Lord can make more of us than we ever could dream possible. I WAS able to truly love and unify my sisters in that calling. But He also took my weakness and turned it into one of my strengths. I laugh. I feel like I’m in charge all the time. And that’s O.K. The Lord can use me wherever he chooses. All because I said yes to a servant of the Lord!

Our financial situation continued to worsen Jim became deathly sick with his ulcer because of total lack of control at work. He went and received his blessing from Elder Ballard who healed his ulcer and then told Jim to go back and do what he loved in California. Feeling the inspiration in his words we put our house up for sale.

Our timing trying to sell the house couldn’t have been worse. Utah was in a recession and the housing market was a disaster. Yet we just knew it was time to move. Jim found a job that took him back to Southern California and he begin to commute every week back and forth between the two states. He would fly out Sunday and then fly back to Utah on Friday night. It gave him a Saturday and half a Sunday to be home with us. Then the waiting begin.

One month, three months, 9 months, a year; still no buyer. We were showing the house several times a week, usually right at dinner time. (Artic Circle became our best friend). I had to keep our 5,000 square foot home immaculate. With 5 small children that was a full time job. On top of everything I was still serving as Relief Society President. All of this was going on with no husband home to help.

As the months past it became more and more difficult to stay positive. It was no way to live; half in Utah and half in California. Then 12 months into our ordeal the Realtor called and said the next day we had not one, but TWO offers coming in! I remember falling to my knees in gratitude for this miracle.

The next morning I was busily trying to get the kids ready for school when the phone called. It was the Realtor informing me that one of the offers had backed out. I thought to myself how grateful we had two or this news would have been devastating.

It was only 30 minutes later that I got another call. Once again it was the Realtor telling me the other offer had also backed out. There would be no offer coming that day.

I remember sitting at the desk in the office, hanging up the phone and letting out a long scream and then starting to sob. My poor children came running and gathered around me and up on my lap, trying to comfort me. But I was beyond comfort. I felt it was simply too much. I could not keep going.

Then it happened. Through my sobs I felt a warmth start to fill my body and I heard a voice, “Starla”. Then I was literally embraced in the arms of His love. I was so shocked I stopped crying. My children didn’t know what was happening. I sat there and felt the heavy burden of fear and despair lifted off me and I knew three things perfectly. I KNEW that God knew my name. I KNEW He loved me. I KNEW that He was aware of what we were going through. And I KNEW if that was true then all this was part of my curriculum and for my growth! I had assurance that I could do this because He would help me carry the load.

We didn't sell the house for another three months. It didn’t matter. That experience changed everything. I’ve never again doubted the Lord’s love for me. I KNOW He knows and loves us individually and is aware of the challenges we face. Each of us needs to come to truly know that for ourselves. In the end that knowledge makes all the difference. With all my heart and in the name of Christ I can testify that this is true!!!

Love to all!



  1. Carrie Anne Prince Sucher;
    Starla!!! I just had to write you today. You have totally made my day today. I was feeling sorry for myself and you turned it around. You may or may not know this about me, but I am a big believer in really celebrating birthdays and today is mine. It is hard to go crazy when it falls on a Sunday, which is just fine. But, Marc has been working a ton (summer hours plus our house) so him taking me out last night was an after thought. Which is fine, I know how busy he is. I just woke up feeling a little sorry for myself like I said. By now, you may be thinking get to the point...well I opened up facebook today and saw where you have posted about updating your blog. I haven't had the chance to read any of it. So, I started on day one and am now completed caught up! Everything that is happening with you guys is amazing!!!!!! I felt the spirit so strong while re-living your experiences. Incredible is all I can say! So, basically I wanted to thank you for making my birthday great! I am jealous all those kids get to sit at yours and Bishop's feet. I miss having those LATE night conversations. What an amazing journey you guys are experiencing. So, couple of things related to your posts. First of all, you mentioned Bishop Gill. I am curious to know if he is related to Gurcharan and Vilo Gill (maybe parents). They are my backdoor neighbors. A number of this things you mentioned about him make me think they might be related. I plan on asking them when I see them. I missed them at church today or I would have asked already. And secondly, you mentioned the Garners. I think you said Lynn (wife is Kaye), they live a across the street up two houses. They are amazing. So crazy they you are possibly serving with 2 connections from my ward. I actually visit teaching the girl living in the Garners house. She is very fun. And has a really neat conversion story and meeting/marring her husband story. Well, I am sure I have bored you enough, but know you guys are loved in the Sucher home. We miss you! I can't wait to continue on your mission with you via your blog. I guarantee I will not be getting behind again! We pray for you both and hope the work keeps spreading. Love, Carrie

  2. I'm SO SAD. I just wrote a super long comment and it deleted because Google Chrome doesn't let me comment on this. I AM SO MAD! UGH! Love you guys.

  3. I remember that day in the office in Centerville! Now that I am an adult/wife/mother, I have such a new understanding of how powerful a woman you are. It is amazing all that you did as a mother of five crazy kids and a husband who was gone all the time. You had to carry a huge load, often on your own. I love you Toot. You are and have always been my finest example of a powerful women and mother. Hugs.

  4. Love you, Aunty!! God does know our names and cares so very deeply. Love the way you love! XOXO

  5. Shmarty, you are my hero today, and every day! Thank you for that Centerville story! With Wayne being in school and working, and me working, taking care of Finn, my parents and two house I've been feeling really burdened down. I know the Lord is watching over me and helping me, and I felt the spirit so strong affirming that while reading this post. I miss you like crazy and am so happy and proud of you guys of all of the wonderful work you are doing over there! Love you lots!!!

  6. Wow...It blows me away that you were only two years older than me when you were called to be RS president. EEK! That makes me very nervous haha. You are amazing mom.