We reached our half-way mark this week and Jessica was here to celebrate that with us. There were mixed emotions about only having ten months left to enjoy this sacred opportunity and to learn all we can from the protective bubble we sense as we serve here. We are removed from many influences, cares, and strife in the world. Elder Schwitzer explained what this bubble offers. It is a window of opportunity to learn how the Spirit speaks to us because we have fewer distractions, and our focus is on the Savior’s 2nd Coming every day. That allows us to recognize the difference between the voice of the Spirit and our own voice of reason. Of all the souvenirs we plan to take home, we most want to return with an increased ability to hear and heed His voice, and see His hand in our everyday life.
Monday, Jessica went on what I call the “Church History Circle Tour.” It takes in the Hawn’s Mill Memorial in Brechenridge, the Hawn’s Mill site along Shoal Creek, the Far West temple site, Three Witnesses’ Monument and the Pioneer cemetery in Richmond, as well as the Alexander Doniphan memorial and David Whitmer grave site. The locations are roughly 30 minutes apart and the visits are not lengthy. But the spirit of each place is tangible and very temple-like for me. Knowing and sharing the stories of each location touches me deeply and I always hope it does for others, too. For good measure Jessica and I took in the famous murals of Chillicothe and the Eight Witnesses/Zion Camp monument as well. It was a full, but a wonderful day.
I had the feeling Monday that we needed to stick close to home on Tuesday rather than venture out. We were both grateful for that prompting. Jessica had multiple phone calls with her stake president or parents regarding adjusting her mission start date in light of her ability to speak Spanish so well. In the end, she is planning to leave as planned and simply be a resource for the first three weeks.
As an outgrowth of the Elder’s prayer meeting that morning it was decided that we should retire three flags following our progressive dinner. Being at home gave me a chance to research, compile, and write a program to invite the Spirit of Patriotism to that sacred event. The progressive dinner was yummy, but the flag retiring ceremony was even sweeter.
I was particularly moved by the reminder of what the white stripes of our flag represent. They should remind us of the purity, cleanliness of purpose, thought, word and deed essential within the people of America. Clearly, the founding fathers knew the government they instituted was only sufficient for God-fearing, moral, self-governing citizens. Most attribute Alexis de Tocqueville as wisely saying, “America is great because she is good, and if she ever ceased to be good she will cease to be great.”
Our service concluded with “Thanks be to God for His hand in preserving this nation. May the light of these burning embers reach Heaven, petitioning the Lord to watch over our service members now serving, strengthen families everywhere, and protect the freedoms needed to gather Israel in preparation for the Savior’s glorious return to this land over which Old Glory proudly waves…May God’s holy light spread over us, bring warmth to our prisoners-of-war, provide a beacon for our missing-in-action to return home, and bring renewed devotion to God and Country.”
Jessica flew home on Wednesday. The only way I could maintain a smile at the airport was to remember what a glorious week of memories we share, and to anticipate the growth we will make before seeing each other again because we will be serving missions concurrently.
All the 2021 missionary couples attended the Kansas City Temple together on Friday. It was a first that one or more were not missing and it was wonderful to be together. A couple of 2020 missionaries told me that the winter would be long and I would get tired of just being with six other couples. I have not found that to be true. Every day that passes I found new reasons to love these faithful people more. They are a strength and continual inspiration to me. Below is a link shared by Elder Brown that came on a day I needed it most.
Much of my extra time this week has been in preparing for my lesson today. It focused on Enoch’s life as recorded in Genesis 5 and Moses 6. My admiration for Enoch increased this week through my study. How grateful I am for the added insights on this great prophet and seer through the revelations of the Prophet Joseph Smith.
Moses 6:63 is one verse that has interested me for decades. It’s message to me is that there are situations in our mortal experience that have the power to teach spiritual truths if we are watching for them. We’ve heard some such as what we learn from Canadian Geese flying in formation and what we learn from the life cycle of salmon. I’ve learned that some are more personally designed as we look with eyes to see. While preparing to lead our discussion, I had the thought that an example would be provided if I kept my eyes open. It happened!
Saturday, Sister Snow came to help me learn to make quilted stars. I had gone as far as I knew how. As she instructed me, she made mention that the fabric had a linear pattern if I looked closely. She asked if it mattered to me that lines were uniform. I said that from a distance no one would notice. She suggested I look closely to see if that slight change looked better. Indeed it did! I said, “I would never have picked up on that.” She said that she didn’t at first either, but as she repeated the quilting pattern over and over, looking for ways to improve, she noticed that making even subtle linear lines uniform made a difference. Then she said something profound, Once I noticed that, I could never go back!”
Suddenly I saw this quilting experience as a metaphor for life. In my mind I heard the words of Elder Renlund in his Oct 2016 GC address. See the link below for the full address.
Elder Renlund concluded, “…Exercising faith in Jesus Christ, repenting, receiving help from Him, and being forgiven are not onetime events but lifelong processes, processes that are repetitive and iterative. This is how we “endure to the end.”
In a quilting context that principle was easy to see. Serious quilter’s don’t just repeat the steps. They repeat them with the intent to perfect their technique. That is what iterative means! In life we can simply live repetitively, but it isn’t likely that we will make the needed progress and we may become bored, disenchanted or quit. However, if we repeat essential things iteratively, or with the intent to improve or perfect, they remain engaging. As we are lead to see a “more excellent way” drop by drop over time, we, like Sister Snow, must determine that we will “never go back.” We will never be the same. That is where growth and joy lie.
Because Sister Snow was willing to share the wisdom of her repetitive and iterative efforts, I started as a beginner on higher ground. It occurred that this is one reason we share the gospel. We lift each other to higher ground as we share what our experience has taught us. It’s the embodiment of the proverb “Thee lift me and I’ll lift thee, and we’ll ascend together.”
A rush of spiritual enlightenment came from that brief encounter hoping to learn how to make a quilted star, because I had been reminded of the truth that “all things have their likeness,” and “all things testify of Him. Plus, I came with the attitude of learning, and I had a master quilter willing to share what she had discovered in the process of time from her repetitive, iterative efforts.
May our efforts to keep the commandments this week be both repetitive and iterative!
Our love, Darrel and Karen Kenison