More than a plate of cookies

Over the years, I’ve gone in and out of phase with my like of visiting teaching. In the last two years, I’ve tried to be a better member of the Relief Society, by actually being a visiting teacher. There were some years here in the recent past where I was not a visiting teacher for various reasons. But when I felt the spirit nudge me to call the Relief Society President of our ward, and tell her I could do it again, I did. It was a really overwhelming thing for me, even though I felt I could do go and serve. Following that direction from the Holy Spirit has taught me that indeed the Lord does provide a way for us to do the things he asks us to do, just like he did with Nephi, and Moses, and Noah and so many others.

Back when I was still a single gal, fresh out of college, and freshly back in Mesa, AZ, after living in Provo and BYU for 3 years, where my visiting teacher was my roommate, and the sisters we taught lived five steps next door, I was in a big singles’ ward with a lot of people I didn’t know, and who frankly, scared me to death most of the time. I was also working for The Devil at a personal injury law firm, and making exactly .25 cents more per hour than I had made working at the MTC Mailroom, which was a job I actually liked. That job, in the bowels of the shark, and pit of hell, taught me a lot, but this post is not about that job, another day I’ll write about that job and the lessons I learned there.

This post is about that big singles ward and visiting teaching, and I why I don’t like dropping cookies off instead of having a visiting teaching visit, and especially why I don’t like just leaving a plate of cookies in the month of December with the sisters I’ve been asked to visit.

I had been assigned two visiting teachers in that big scary singles’ ward. They were very nice girls, and I cannot stress that enough. They were VERY nice, so this is not meant as slam on them. However, they were a bit clueless about visiting teaching. Every month they would drop a plate of cookies and a note. That’s all. They never came in to visit. They never talked to me more than a few minutes at church, and since Mesa is so big, I never saw them outside of church.

I was busy and overwhelmed with my job in the bowels of the shark and pit of hell. The Devil kept me busy, very, very, busy. That December, I crossed The Devil the wrong way one day. I had done something, unknowingly wrong. He called me into his office and dressed me down in front of another Devil for this sin of omission. I walked out of that office in tears, and shaking, to my own little corner, and closed the door. I knew I had to quit my job, that day, but I didn’t know how. And I was scared to go and face The Devil again.

He took care of it for me though. A few hours later, he called me into his office, and fired me. It was 11 days before Christmas and I was fired. I gathered my things, and he gave me a small severance check and I left this hell, not knowing what to do, but feeling strangely at peace with it all.

I got home from work 2 hours early, so obviously my family knew something was wrong. I told them what had happened, and we all had a good cry, of joy mostly, that I was free of this job. But I still didn’t have a job, and it was 11 days before Christmas. I had no money, I had no prospects and I was scared of the future.

And then I saw it …. a plate of cookies with a note, from my visiting teachers. The note read, “It’s been super awesome getting to know you this year! Have a Merry Christmas!!!”

I get it, it’s the thought that counts. But they had never even set foot in my house. They had never even had a proper conversation with me. They had not gotten to know me that year. All they had ever done was bring cookies. I was tired of cookies. I needed a friend. I needed to talk. I just wanted someone to share my burdens that day.

I threw those dumb cookies in the trash and ripped up the note, and cried some more. This time, though, I cried tears of hurt. I felt like all I was worth was a plate of cookies to them, and that hurt deeply.

The following Sunday, they saw me in the hall at church and approached me. “Did you get our cookies?” I took a deep breath and contemplated my answer. I was about to be honest.

“Yes, yes I did. But, can I ask you a favor? Please do not come to me ever again, if all you are going to do is drop me a plate of cookies. The day you left those cookies, I was fired from my job. I needed a visit that day. I don’t want anymore cookies. I just want a friend. You have never actually come in to my home and paid me a visit, you don’t know me at all. All you have ever done is leave cookies. I’m tired of cookies. And you have hurt my feelings.” And walked away, out the door and got in my car and went home.

I share this story, not to shame them, although, at the time, that was my intention when I left them standing in the church hall. I share this story as a reminder to myself that I have to sacrifice my time and myself to be a good visiting teacher, because I don’t want anyone to feel like I think they are only worth a plate of cookies.

I struggle with interpersonal relationships sometimes. Am I too overbearing? Do I keep my tongue in check? Am I slow to anger? Am I patient? Am I being annoying and too opinionated? These questions are always on the train of thought that runs thru my mind every day. I also don’t feel like I am one of those ladies they tell stories about in General Conference, who radiates goodness, kindness, and rainbows. And I have never had a promoting from the Holy Spirit saying, “Betty needs dinner and a babysitter today.” I am not crafty, nor do I make cute hand outs or doo-dads to give to my sisters. It’s hard to go with little kids as well. It seems like my children are especially adept at tearing up peoples’ houses. And we all can agree that, this is bad visiting teaching form. I never remember to prepare a spiritual message either, and the ones in the Ensign rarely inspire me.

But I go.

And yes, there are months that I miss. And there have been times when I have dropped a dreaded plate of cookies. However, I try not to do that. And I don’t want to make anyone feel guilty if they’ve done that, or are doing that, this month. This is not about guilt.

The point I want to make is this, it’s December, and it’s the holiday season. The sisters we serve might be struggling for various reasons. I know I struggle with enjoying the holidays and even wanting to participate in things during December. It’s a very hard time of year for me, even when I haven’t been fired from my job! I want to challenge everyone, and myself, and even the guys reading this, to pray and ponder on the people we’ve been asked to visit and home teach. Is there more we can do for them? Is there comfort we can give them, or a burden we can help bear up? Are there weak knees we can strengthen, and weary hands we can hold this holiday season? Have we shared our testimonies with them? Do they know we love them, and that the Lord loves them most? Do they know they are important?

This is my reminder to myself, everyone is worth more than a plate of cookies — although cookies and treats are nice anytime of year — I can always do more. Think, ponder, pray, and then serve the people we’ve been given stewardship over, especially in December. The Lord can and will provide a way for us to do this, because He loves all of His children, and we are all important and precious to Him.

Sacramental Christmas

This Christmas we will take the sacrament together. The ordinance will be, or can be, bigger than the time and place. Bigger than the place, because it binds us to all the Saints who are taking it with us worldwide, and to God in his heaven. Bigger than time, because it brings us to the foot of the cross and to the times when we made our covenants. Continue reading

Good Tidings of Great Joy: Pictures from Nazareth and Bethlehem

[Cross Posted from Sixteen Small Stones]

In September and October of 2010, I had the opportunity to visit Israel with my wife and children. I am preparing a series of posts detailing our adventures.  Since they are not yet ready, for Christmas I wanted to post a few pictures from our visits to the Nazareth and Bethlehem.

We visited the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth.  The basilica is where the Roman Catholic church believes that Mary was visited by the angel Gabriel.  It was built in 1969 on the site of older Crusader era and even older Byzantine churches, the ruins of which are still visible, where originally a shrine had been erected in the 4th century in the cave where Mary had supposedly lived.  The basilica features depictions of Mary from many different cultures and nations that celebrate the mother of the Son of God. Continue reading

Putting the “X” Back in Christmas

The other day, while roaming the halls of facebook (because let’s face it, that’s where people are these days), a friend mentioned in her status that she was very offended by the use of X-Mas instead of Christmas, Some have even suggested that we all need to boycott retailers and business that use this term in place of Christmas.  (Frankly, I’ve never seen this used in any Christmas or Holiday display, ever).

 
I know there are many  that share this sentiment and are upset by the use of X-mas. Their knickers are sure to twist when I say this. X-Mas does not bother me, nor should it bother any of us. In fact, neither does Happy Holidays, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza, or Merry Winter Solstice bother me . I have friends that celebrate all of those things and I think at this time of year it’s all good. They let me have room to celebrate Christmas; I can only extend the same courtesy to them. This does not however mean, I will stop defending the Gospel or Christianity in general. What I’m saying is, before we get angry, we need to take a step back, especially at this time of year. Continue reading