The Last Goodbye

tag

My tag on our fridge

Let me explain to you what happened in the evening of June 21, 2016, exactly one year ago.

I hadn’t slept in over 24 hours. The three flights of the day had made me feel slightly queasy. The slice of celebratory Round Table pizza I had eaten hadn’t helped either. My hair was dusty and crunchy from caked-on dry shampoo and my sweaty face was painted with a fresh coat of makeup – more than I had ever worn in the prior 18 months. I had forgotten what blush felt like.

My legs twitched and bounced as we waited in the foyer of the church building. I wasn’t sure if my on-edge emotions were the result of fatigue or from what I knew was about to happen. To ease the tension, I clung to the broken strap of my leather shoulder bag that I hadn’t set down since I got off the plane. I kept looking down at the left side of my chest, admiring the way the light glinted off my black badge.

I entered the stake president’s office first, alone. President asked me about my mission, where I had served, the whole bit. Despite having recounted this chronology many times, I stumbled to find the words in English and had to apologize when French words slipped out. When he ran out of questions, President recited some speech about transitioning home and gave me a little, laminated card with some scriptural advice. The card is still hanging on my bulletin board — I can see the verse from my desk:
Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding…

Then my family came in. More advice given. More praise for serving honorably. I can’t say I remember everything that they said. But I remember clearly what happened next. Abruptly and without any pomp or ceremony, the stake president asked my mom to stand up and remove my missionary tag from my shirt.

I had been prepared for this. One heart-wrenching, tender moment and I would no longer be a missionary. I knew how other missionaries had reacted in the past. I had witnessed my mom remove Ashley’s tag and my sister’s cool response, like she was a new person.

But when my mom removed the tag from my blouse, it hit me… hard.

I didn’t want it to be over. I wanted to go back to the people, the language, the schedule, the companions, the scriptures, the Spirit. But my time as a missionary was finished.

I had thought that I was going to be calm like my sister, but I was wrong. The second my mother cradled my tag in her hands, I started sobbing and I couldn’t stop. My breathing became jagged. I tried to regain composure to save face in front of the stake presidency, but it was too late. Every face in the small office stared in pity at the sleep-deprived woman in a stretched-out, stained skirt as she went through 3 packs of tissues wiping tears and the fresh coat of makeup off her face. I was a wreck.

I tried to contain my tears as we went back out to the car. I managed to hold back the waterworks until I shut the door of my sister’s PT Cruiser. Seeing my distress, Ashley thought it would be a great idea to play me the credits song of the Hobbit movie I had missed while I was on my mission.

“And though where the road then takes me
I cannot tell
We came all this way
But now comes the day
To bid you farewell

Many places I have been
Many sorrows I have seen
But I don’t regret
Nor will I forget
All who took the road with me”

The words only echoed what I was feeling.

I entered our home with swollen eyes and a streaked face. After going through some memorabilia, my parents sent me to bed. I shed many more tears as I lay on my mattress that night and for many nights after that.

Even after 12 months, my eyes still occasionally sting when I go to bed at night. Transitioning has not been easy for me like it was for my sister. For months all I wanted to do was return to the mission field where I had purpose and fulfillment. Out here, I felt lost, even while knowing the language and the people.

Don’t get me wrong – being reunited with my family has brought me so much joy. But I still miss my mission sometimes. If the fog of melancholy hangs over my head and I question my purpose, I remember the scripture that my stake president gave me – to trust.

Trust in the Lord. 

Makes me smile. If I learned anything in 18 months, it was that I could rely on the Lord. He guided my feet to my mission, and He will guide my feet ever after.

To these memories I will hold
With your blessing I will go
To turn at last to paths that lead home
And though where the road then takes me
I cannot tell
We came all this way
But now comes the day
To bid you farewell”

“The Last Goodbye” – Billy Boyd

My Weird Project: Women of the Scriptures Blog Series

Prepare yourselves:  A series of posts about women in the scriptures and the Young Women values! But first, a bit of explanation…

mary-magdalene-saw-jesus-1103329-galleryBeing the ~feminist~ that I am, I love to read stories about my fellow ladies in our religious canon. Knowing this, my grandma gave me some cheesy women-in-the-scriptures baseball cards for my birthday. Each card bore one of the Young Women values [click here to know more about these values] and had a picture of a woman from the scriptures who exemplified the said value. To my own surprise, I took an interest in these cards and found myself deeply analyzing each one. Do I know why? Nope, still don’t. But these cards both fascinated and bothered me.

Things that I noted: For one, I thought it was cool that they found so many scriptural women (I mean, from what I knew, there weren’t that many). However, there was one thing that irked me (other than the quirky drawings on them – those things were weird, man) – the value designated for each woman. Some of them were great, but others just didn’t fit. I mean, who the heck are “The Women in the Wilderness”? And where in heaven’s name is Eve?! I stewed for weeks about these dumb LDS novelty cards. Then I decided I could take no more. I wanted to correct the mistakes made on these tiny pieces of cardstock – I needed to set the record straight.

My task: to search the scriptures and make my own list of women for each Young Women’s value, gosh darnit.

So I read, and I googled, and I searched. In the process, I found this AMAZING website called Women in the Scriptures that I highly recommend – check it out if you have a few minutes. This site really helped me formulate a good list.

In my research, I discovered a couple things.
1) My presumption that there were more applicable women to the YW values was correct but
2) There are SO MANY MORE women than I thought. Holy cannoli. I found that I could not narrow down my list to one-person-per-value. I cheated and made it two-people-per-value. Hope you don’t mind.

Now, after searching  f o r e v e r , I thought that I would share with you the results. Click any of the values listed below to read what I have found! (and don’t worry, Eve is there.)

FAITH
DIVINE NATURE
INDIVIDUAL WORTH
KNOWLEDGE
CHOICE AND ACCOUNTABILITY
GOOD WORKS
INTEGRITY
VIRTUE

 

 

 

Women of the Scriptures: Good Works

ruthRuth   Ruth 1

The classic Old Testament tale of service. When all the men in her family died and she had no means to support her daughters-in-law, Naomi told Orpah and Ruth to leave her so they could have a chance to remarry. Orpah tearfully left, but Ruth, seeing that Naomi would have no means to take care of herself, decided to stay. Ruth knew that this would mean that she would likely never remarry. She knew she would live in squalor for the rest of her life. She knew that she would be shunned by society for being a Moabitess. But she stayed anyway because she loved Naomi. And as we see later in her story, Ruth is immensely blessed for her act of kindness and charity. God will do the same for us. Perhaps he won’t send us a knight in shining armor, but He will reward us for serving His children.  

 

rahab5Rahab   Joshua 2, James 2:25

Talk about a dramatic story. You are living a less-than-respectable life to support your family. An infamous wandering nation is closing in on the city and two spies decide to stop by your house. You could turn them in and save your own skin, or you could hide them and help them. What a predicament. But Rahab knew that these were good men and that some Supreme Being was with them and their people. Even though there would be dire consequences if she were caught (and she almost was, they knew she had spies in her home), she helped the Jews achieve victory over Jericho. She is a great example to modern-day women of courage and compassion, and also that no matter our background, we can still do the work of the Lord.

Women of the Scriptures: Divine Nature

adam-eve-angel-rane-1339141-galleryEve   Moses 5:11, Genesis 1:26-27

Eve does not get nearly as much credit as she deserves. The whole eating the apple thing, yeah I get it. But here is the thing: She was created in the image of God, she was the culminating act of creation, and she was filled with the desire to live up to her divine potential. Living in the glorious presence of God on a daily basis, Eve likely wanted what every child wants: to become like her Parents. One of the main points in Satan’s pitch was that in eating the fruit Eve would become wise like unto her Father. I don’t think Eve partook of the fruit out of stupidity or rebellion – I think she ate the fruit so that she could become wise like her Father. Though she was instrumental in the fall of man from God’s presence, Eve exemplifies humanity’s innate connection to our Heavenly Father in that each one of us, male and female, was created in His likeness. Because of her, we each possess yet another spark of divinity within us: agency and knowledge. Thanks to Eve, we now have the ability to grow and choose for ourselves to follow our Savior and become more like Him.

 

mary-joseph-nativity-art-lds-191342-galleryMary   Luke 1:28, 46-55

Mary the mother of Jesus is one of the most beloved Biblical figures. What we can glean from her story is that she was a thoughtful, faithful, devoted, and virtuous young woman, and therefore highly favored of the Lord. Of all young women, God chose her to be the vessel through which the Son of God would enter the world. Mary, among her many other qualities, exemplifies the divine power that all women innately possess – the power to create. She brought into the world the One who would make it possible for each of us to harness and achieve our divine identity – our Savior. She also demonstrates how we – as imperfect and lowly as we are – can be molded and shaped by celestial hands to magnify the great potential that lies within us.

Women of the Scriptures: Knowledge

woman-holding-book-candle-rane-183369-galleryHuldah   2 Chronicles 34

Now here is an obscure figure for you. In the Old Testament, King Josiah found some troubling prophecies in scripture and was desperate to have them interpreted. So his servants sought out the prophetess, Huldah. She read the scriptures and explained them to the king, adding in further inspiration that she received from the Lord. What makes her story so cool, other than the fact that the King sought out the help of a woman to educate him on the meaning of scripture, is that she used the gifts of intelligence that God had given her and then relied on the Lord for further guidance. When we seek knowledge, we should follow the pattern set forth by Huldah: use our gifts, but do not forget from whom those gifts come.

 

farewell_my_stripling_warriorMothers of the Stripling Warriors   Alma 56:45-48, 57:21

This group of women was not always righteous. They used to be part of a fallen and ruthless people. But when the gospel entered their lives thanks to the missionary work of Ammon and his brothers, these women forsook their sins and lived the teachings of Christ. They treasured the light they had received and made sure they taught their children everything they knew. So great were their teachings and examples that their sons were exactly obedient and had iron-clad faith in God which led them to victory. The mothers of the stripling warriors valued the knowledge of Christ and made sure that their children grew up in and were strengthened by that knowledge. May we treasure the knowledge we have and then spread that knowledge to benefit those around us.

Women of the Scriptures: Faith

Faith was tough to choose for, in that virtually every woman in the scriptures is an exemplar of faith. In the end, I settled on these strong women whose stories reflect a very intense trust in the Lord.

widow-of-zarephath-1268030-galleryThe Widow of Zarephath   1 Kings 17:9-16 

Like many women in the scriptures, (including many women in this list) the Widow of Zarephath goes unnamed, but this in no way diminishes her importance. She lived in a time of drought, a single mother with no means of supporting her family. One day, the food ran out and hope ran out with it. In this dire moment, she met a man – whom she recognized immediately as a holy man – who asked her for the unthinkable. He asked her to feed him first instead of her own son. Even with the promise of food thereafter, I am mesmerized by her ability to agree to his terms and use all of the ingredients she had left to make him a small cake. Through her faith in the prophet and promises of the Lord, despite not having any proof that food would arrive thereafter, she and her son did receive and endless supply of meal and oil, and thus survived the drought.

 

king-lamoni-wife-rane_1296837_inlKing Lamoni’s Wife   Alma 19

There are not a whole lot of women mentioned in the Book of Mormon, but the ones that we do have are incredible, and King Lamoni’s wife is one of my favorites. She lived in troubling times – her kingdom was divided against itself with rebellious men stealing her husband’s sheep on a regular basis. Then a mysterious, enemy Nephite prince arrives and starts working as a servant. Matters only get worse when one day after having an extended conversation with this Nephite, her husband the king dies. We see from a later account with Lamoni’s father that it would have been easy for her to execute the man supposedly responsible for Lamoni’s death. But instead she does something interesting – she listens to her servants’ side of the story. She seeks out information from those of lower status than her. Then she ultimately decides to confer with the possible murderer of her husband. When Ammon arrives, she does not accuse. She does not rail on him. She asks him for help. When Ammon tells her that her husband is not dead, she has no one to confirm his claims – but all the same she humbly submits to his advice and believes his words. “There [had] not been such great faith among all the people of the Nephites” (Alma 19:10). This queen stands as a wonderful example of the humility and grace of faith.

 

 

 

 

Women of the Scriptures: Integrity

hannah-presents-son-samuel-barrett-82857-galleryHannah   1 Samuel 1, 2

In the Old Testament, those women who could not bear children carried a heavy weight of shame. Hannah was one of these women. She sought divine aid many times, but it was not until she made a promise to the Lord that she would give her son to Him that her pleas to have a child were answered. Here comes the tricky part: you finally have the son you have always wanted. You could easily make excuses to keep him. Plead with the Lord again, ask Him for more time, another child. But Hannah didn’t do this. She kept the covenant she made to the Lord, even though giving up her only child was the likely most difficult thing she had ever done. She stayed true to her word when the stakes were high, just as we should always stay true to our values and promises no matter the circumstance.

 

jochebedShiphrah and Puah   Exodus 1:15-21

These women are hidden gems. In their story, Pharaoh had just decided to slaughter every newborn Jewish boy in order to halt insurrection. One of his extermination methods was to recruit Jewish midwives as undercover executioners. Pharaoh demanded the following: if Shiphrah and Puah helped birth a baby boy, they were to immediately and discreetly kill the baby. For obvious reasons, Shiphrah and Puah were not too keen on this task. So they straight up lied to Pharaoh’s face in order to save these children. They explained that the Jewish women gave birth so fast that the kids were already born before they could get there in time. Under this excuse, they were able to continue to save the lives of many male infants. Shiphrah and Puah demonstrated the higher virtue that nothing is more precious than life, and it should be protected at all costs. They held true to what they knew was the most important, even when this put their own lives in danger. Dang cool ladies.