If anyone is really reading this blog, you have probably come to realize that it has become a place for me to think out loud and to express my thinking and personal journey, more than a place to give the travel log and day-by-day report of the mission. This blog too follows that suit. And Sister Cloward will have to give you the overview of the mission journey and the relevant descriptions of the resulting boatload of pictures that may follow since my last reminiscing.
There are so many things to remember! You know, important things your parents try to teach you early in life, things like “remember to brush your teeth,” “remember to wash behind your ears,” “remember to say your prayers” and “remember to flush.” Sometimes we remember that we are supposed to remember, but we forget “what” to remember. So there are tools to help us to remember, things like pictures, doormats, clocks, buzzers, signs, notes, calendars, cards, rings and prayer rocks.
There are some things we think that we will always remember and, there are things that we are afraid that we may never forget and wish that we could forget. There some things that are so significant that we think we will never, ever forget them. Then we get caught up in the stuff of life and the busyness of it all, or just get old and a bit fuzzy-minded and we do forget, at least for the moment, until something reminds us. So we make and put reminders in pictures, books, on our calendars, computers, phones and other more dependable memory mechanisms and voices like our spouses and children. We ask them to help us to remember the things that we don’t want to forget. Sometimes others remember what they know that we didn’t want to forget and they kindly and graciously remind us.
Of those ever remembering sources of reminding, I have been reminded again, this week, just what an incredible and valuable gift that helps me to remember everything. It always reminds me when I remember to ask for the reminder. That gift is priceless in terms of keeping me from getting into trouble by forgetting something that I need to remember or be reminded of. Of course that gift is the gift of the Holy Ghost.
He reminds me of the things I want and need to remember. He reminds me of the things I have learned – by study and experience. When I need to remember something for a test he can help me remember where or how I have filed that information, if indeed I have. When I need to remember a commitment or appointments or something as simple as a name, this gift of all gifts serves me well.
Today it was another reminder that triggered my remembering. It was the calendar that started the recall. Then, as I thought about it, I recognized the Holy Ghost reminding me of the importance of that memory and of some of the specific things associated with it that I do want to, must not, forget. The calendar reminded me that it was April 12 – April 12, 2014. That date, April 12 is a most significant date in the memories of my life. As I thought about it the spirit brought me back in touch to the memories associated with that date. I was reminded me that it was now fully six years ago that those memories started. It was the beginning of a great and terrible memory of my experience with cancer. Now, as then, it was right after the General Conference. The Conference had triggered so many other important memories.
I will not put you through the full memory of that day and the following days and months that have now come all the way from April 12, 2008 to April 12, 2014 more than half way around the world. May I just say that the poignant start of that memory with the doctor’s pronouncement of “a few days without aggressive treatment, perhaps two years if we act aggressively” created an indelible memory for myself, my sweetheart and others in our family. I can also assure you that the memory, now brought again to the present, reflects again the details of the day. The days, weeks and months that followed, the treatments, the hospitals, the kind visits by so many friends and loved ones, the relapses, prayers, music, cards and voices of the spirit have not faded. I remember and am reminded - gratefully.
I recall what I came to understand through the trial and I reflect back on the past six years and I am amazed about what I have learned has not always followed in enlightened action and choices. Oh how soon I forget! In the heat of the everyday battles of life, it is so easy to forget what I want so earnestly to remember. So here are my confessions as an exercise in remembering for the next time, that I am sure will come, to test my memory of April 12 and the resolves that followed that day. These are my learning determinations and my predetermined decisions.
Determination #1 – be patient! Be still and know that He is God and that “it” will all work out for the best – if I will let it.
Confession #1 – I am terribly impatient – impatient with others, the situations, the solutions, the clock and with most often, myself. Sadly, I am also often impatient with the Lord for the resolution of my bondage and the answers to my prayers and my priorities – especially time priorities. I know it, I detest it and I fall into that forgetful relapse again and again. The solution is simple – to be still and to know that He is God and that He knows best in terms of my needs and the timetable for those needs. It is a lesson I learned back in 2008 and that I have and continue to relearn and need reminding of – often.
I know that in my impatience I often say things and act in a way that is incongruent to my resolve and the character I am striving to develop and live by. Yet, as others have said with similar realizations “oh wretched man that I am,” “that that I would not, is that that I do, and that that I would, is not what I do.” What I have come to realize is that that forgetting often comes when I am looking beyond the mark and the moment. It is then when my impatience strikes at me. I think I am righteous in my desires, resolve, and prayers for deliverance from the source of my impatient pains, but in hindsight, I find I have overlooked the priorities and needs of the moment. I need constant reminding on this, my greatest source of my sins of commission and omission.
Determination #2 – be selfless, not selfish. True joy and life satisfaction comes from assisting others in their search for happiness and true joy.
Confession #2 seems to be a twin to the first – I am incredibly selfish in my impatience. If you don’t know that, you too may be as I am, too often fooled by my own self-interest-wrapped service. All too often, some unselfishness wrapped service and thoughtfulness covers an underlying selfish need for significance. Be that a meal I prepare and serve, a talk or sermon I give, or a smile and handshake along the way. What I find, painfully, is that even service can be a covering for selfish motive. Even that it is usually unconscious. Nonetheless, it is not even close to the real service spawned from genuine charity. It’s another lesson that requires reminding and trail-based learning, practice and testing. I am pained by the truth even though I am grateful for the insight.
Determination #3 – avoid the effects and influence of the Fall and my own fallen and brokenness.
Confession #3 takes on the full picture of being carnal, sensual and devilish. This, I have come to realize, is not just a description of whoremongers, harlots and sons of perdition alone. It is the sad fact of the influence that I must face as a result of my nature and mortal condition as a result of the Fall. Though I will be not punished for Adam’s transgression, I will be punished, or blessed by the choices I make in the face of that fallen condition. I am in constant battle with my fallen state. Unfortunately, there are reminders and mechanisms for focusing on the earthly things of life all around us. Yes, even here in Africa. It is almost as if one must walk with ears covered and eyes closed while humming alone to Tabernacle Choir to keep the distractions of worldliness away.
Now unless you think me battling more than any man with the seamy side of life, I must clarify that my battles are usually not with the issues of a moral life, but mine are with food, cooking, comfort and other creature distractions. These challenge my focus on the things of eternal import. It’s the “sensual” side of foods, food buying, and “fixing meals” that competes for my mind time, resources and focus. This is a battle I need reminding about – regularly. The bounds the Lord has set is general for all of us and there are specific applications for each of us individually – “Mary” I would be like. If I am seeking the fine-tuning of the Spirit – and I am, I must keep things in balance and His will ahead of mine. So I’ll do better this week – I hope!
When the resurrected Lord asked Peter, as he was standing by with the other Apostles and the pile of fish, “Peter, lovest thou me, more than these?” I do not believe that He was talking about the other men, nor was he condemning Peter’s profession, or interest and focus on fishing – his “former” career. Rather, His question was one of priority and a reminder of Peter’s call to be a “fisher of men,” the great commission we all now share in. So it is with me, my “fish” my hobby, my interest and preoccupations may not be sins of commission, but they may dilute my focus and sense of priority, becoming sins of omission. It is so darned easy to get tangled up in the nets of self-service versus real service of others. That could be a whole other discussion, the self-service of selfless service…not for today, however.
While we are yet over a year away from the here and now of the immediacy of thoughts, decisions and plans to consider upon our return, yet occasionally the thoughts of the future pull at the planning/organizing side of my nature. Questions of what to do with our cabin home, going back to work, future missions and resources, health and parent/grandparenting responsibilities come up often and do seem to compete with the task and service at hand. Left to the “fisherman in me,” I’d probably lean toward selling, doing a bed and breakfast, in a quiet rural, warm area, where I could raise a garden, chickens, rabbits, a few milk goats and make specialty goat cheese. That, while hosting grandpa weekend retreats and summer fishing adventures with the kids—that’s what “my will” would be. Maybe I’d learn to play the cello and paint and write and.…Ah, but that too is fallen me, the carnal, sensual and devilish side of life, if it draws me to seek my will over His. And so I battle and need the constant reminders of what this time of life and this dispensation’s priorities call me to do and to be. Now is a time of decisions, as was Peter’s time for him.
I recall the day of my first elk hunt and how, at an uncle’s invitation, I was so tempted to stay with his hunting group overnight to hunt elk – on Sunday. I was so excited about the hunt! They had been successful that Saturday and as I stood next to the huge elk they had in camp and heard how they had the next day’s hunt all planned out to get the “really big one” – it was so exciting, so tempting -- for just a moment. But then I remembered, I had made a conscious commitment not to hunt on the Sabbath. I never had hunted, nor fished on Sunday. I had always kept the Sabbath – even when family went away. Then, in that moment of choice came the clear reminder – that choice had already been made.
As we drove away, I did feel the sadness of lost opportunity. But I also felt the satisfaction of having stood strong in making the right decision for being the young man and disciple I wanted to be. I am still faced with that question every time any of those carnal, sensual and devilish temptations invite me to step out of focus, out of character and out of focus on His will.
Perhaps the biggest lesson, of my days in the hospital, back in 2008, came as I gazed out the hospital window at the wind-driven cherry blossoms from the trees around the parking lot. In one particularly crystal, clear moment, I realized that the Lord was lovingly reaching out to slow me down and to show me that I too needed to pause, to be still and – to remember. I had been rushing headlong into the work demands of the Heritage Makers business and was forgetting the difference between means and ends. I was making the needs and will of the business my highest priorities for time, attention and sacrifice. That had become my “fish” and my “fishing.”
I had left aside the important pause and ponder of life and priority of what was really most important. I had made a “gospel” of “my work” and left the gospel of “His work.” But then, wasn’t it, my new gospel, all about heritage and family and at least a tangent effort on the words of Malachi? So I believed and so I bleed the time and life of myself, and my family. Oh it was so easy to justify my will and wants as a means to “His ends.” The problem then and now is it must be by His means, not ours. A friend of mine reminds me how easy it is to “major in the minors.” To get caught up in transient things, turning means into self-justifying ends is a devilish delusion.
Though the fishhooks of the books, the business and the belief in the power of stories for establishing heritage-rich families was not wrong, nor bad, it was unbalanced and in the end proved to not hold the reward here or hereafter that many of us had hoped to achieve. Truthfully, there was little “fruit” gathered in. In essence I was battling for “Heritage making” and “Heritage Makers business” when I should have been more concerned about my Father’s business and will - not mine.
So it is. I remember and I forget and I am reminded and yet I forget again. It could be a real downer just remembering that I am likely soon to forget – again. But then that is the journey of life – learning to be remembered and reminded – soon enough to do something different – something better. Today I was reminded and remembered that above all else, I do not want to be impatient, selfish, nor carnal, sensual or devilish in any of their forms. Today, I want to be patient, longsuffering, meek, lowly of heart and mind, kind, charitable, forgiving and fully focused on serving the one. Today I want all the beggars that are at virtually at every intersection here in South Africa to have the food and the love and home and family and truth that will come when He comes. Today I want all those who suffer for want of any kind to be whole and warm and full. Today I want to help bring that day of “no poor among us” a little closer.
So today I remember what it is to remember why I am here and now and how I need to be and think and speak. Today I remember the lessons, blessings and thoughts of six years ago. And today I remember you and remind you to remember – lest you too forget and become subject to the carnal, sensual and devilishness of forgetfulness. Today I have been reminded to remember and refocus on righteousness.
Then, I forgot again. It was really several days after I started this blog. You see, the Davies were just here and we were talking about forgetting. It reminded me about the story of the Bishop who, when he got to church a little early to meet with his counselors, they enthusiastically asked him what he had given his wife for their anniversary. He turned pale revealing that he had forgotten all about it. They debated the situation and whether he, or one of them should sneak down to the store and get flowers, or chocolates, or a card, or something. At length, they decided he just had to man up to the memory lapse. He sat there on the stand looking down at his wife’s smile and just knew that he was in for it. He made his way down to her pew right after the benediction and said, with a bit of chagrin in his face and voice. “Hi, Honey, happy anniversary.” She opened her eyes wide as saucers and put her hand to her mouth in obvious acknowledgement of her forgetting.
Before I could fully remember and tell the story to the Davies I was struck with the date – today -- April 20th!! My, forgotten anniversary!! For real!! As I finished the story I looked sheepishly over to Judy who was cleaning up from the Easter dinner we had just had with the Davies and I said with that same sheepish apologetic look “Happy anniversary, Honey.” The response was that equally shocked look of forgotten remembrance. I am still not quite sure if Davies fully realized that that was not part of the story! We embraced and forgave one another, just as I hope He forgives me of the priorities I am late in remembering.
And so it is that I need reminders to remember. So if I forgot something involving you, know that it was the fallen forgetting nature of myself and laugh at me and with me and then please forget it!
Sweetheart, will you remind our readers of the wonderful experiences of Conference, the people, the service and experiences we have encountered over the past couple of weeks?
Sure, Sweetie, after I dry my eyes from your incredible insightful blog! I surely do love you forever ‘n’ ever and for teaching me how to “fish.” And only after you remind me of what our last week included…remember how badly I’ve wanted to put up a calendar so I can cross off the days and write down the highlights of the day?...
I remember thinking our anniversary was coming up SOON. I totally lose track of time out here. One day blends into the next. The days are beautiful, sometimes light or heavy rain, but gorgeous billowy clouded skies, robin egg blue sometimes, sunny, GREEN trees, shrubs, bushes, everywhere (unlike Bots!) which we continue to enjoy.
I finally did by myself a calendar for our wall…it was a “mom” calendar of 2014 and the first one I’ve seen with 6 lines per day to write cryptic reminders! I DID hang it up on our wall Saturday, but I took it down and started to put in all our our Seminary and Institute Teacher’s impt dates (BDay, Anniv, Baptism day…etc) and kept it out so I could enter all of our families Bdays & Anniversaries as well. It got late and I didn’t have time to put our important family dates on it. Unfortunately, after church on Easter Sunday, I put it away with the other stacks of papers in our hall closet to make our flat presentable and get ready for our dinner guests. But it was just as Elder C wrote. I knew my anniversary was coming up, but totally forgot it was that day! I guess 41 years later, it’s okay…?! We’re looking forward to our next 41…!
It’s been a while since Elder C posted…just looked at the pics…We enjoyed going to the Joberg Zoo with the Davies. It was a beautiful, NOT rainy day and the Zoo has a lovely sprawling landscape. We were on our feet for 3 hours as we meandered between monkeys and polar bears and…
It was on a weekday holiday and the preschool and elementary age kids were there. They were so well behaved! Loved seeing how the teachers had them place their hands on the shoulders on the person in front of them.
When they were walking down the paths, one group started singing their songs while making cheerleading actions with their feet and arms as they sang in unison as marched to their school song. It was amazing! [I even tried joining in some of their moves as I moved towards them…they got a kick out of my antics :) It made them smile.
Some of these children were climbing up a short cement wall, their feet dangling behind them while they were holding onto the cement ledge while looking at us on the circular steps below.
Dangerous, yes! Cute? Absolutely! We were commenting to them that that was not safe and they needed to get down from there. Gratefully, the teachers finally caught up with their students and continued the reprimand. But it was sure cute to see their faces in their hands as they looked at us “whities.” The Davies and us wondered why we had done our early morning 2+mile walk that day! We were tuckered out but had a delightful “Pday.” I enjoyed seeing the angel Moroni on the temple spire high on the hill in the distance. What choice friends and memories for us.
Elder C made an incredible homemade potpie for me on my birthday. He prepared a dinner for six! His culinary skills are becoming legendary here. Wally ‘n’ Ann and Davies joined in our feast. And what a feast it was! The K’s gave me a gorgeous white blooming amaryllis plant. Within a week it had 4 large blooms with a beautiful spring green interior hue inside each blossom. I was so happy that I could actually keep the plant alive(!) and “grow” something so beautiful…just like my children…:)
The Davies gave me some delicious chocolates, a room freshner with those bamboo-type sticks that stay in the bottle of fragrance and continue to this day to give a fresh scent to our flat. They also gave me a double-sided, heart-framed hinged picture frame with pictures they had taken of us (me w a giraffe and Elder C w the monkey on his head and shoulders!). And my husband gave me a HUGE surprise that morning …. an Electronic Keyboard (the kind they use in the churches)!!!! I was SO excited to have something I could play hymns on. It calms my soul and draws me closer to my Savior when I sing or think of the words in the hymns. Now maybe I can start practicing often enough so that when I’m asked to play for the stake choir minutes before Stake Conference started because the pianist had car problems, I actually can! (When asked if I could play the piano, I said, “I can play hymns” And yes, I really did play hymns and accompanied at the Dob Stake Center for Stake Conference…and yes, I really did a terrible job!..They chose songs we never sing at home… one was a men’s chorus song that was in that funny clef and I had no idea how to play it! I hadn’t played a piano for 3 months and tried to remember how to play the automatic hymns and couldn’t remember how…it was embarrassing, humbling, and now I have a way to rectify future on-the-spot requests…I hope:)!) Thank you for helping me develop my “talent” again…!
When we arrived in Joberg in January, my crown broke while eating a piece of KFC chicken. On my first bite! A tender mercy—my crown popped off whole! I was able to have it glued in. (This crown was put on 2 days before we entered the Provo MTC on Sep 1). Unfortunately, that glued-on crown only lasted 2 months before it shattered when I took my first bite of the most moist, large soft, chewiest macaroon I’ve ever had!) [Is there a message here for me..my firsts?...] So we were led to my third dentist in Roodepoort who is trying to get it right this time for me.
My original crown was too thin. The glued in attempt the 2nd time was not done properly, and so we pay for a 3rd time on one tooth…and no, our missionary insurance does not cover dental…) They say 3’s the charm…we certainly hope so! (This dentist I’m seeing 3 times!)
We went to Africa’s type of Tucanos with the Davies.
Not the same but tasty and filled some hungry missionaries! It took us an hour to find the location in the pitch dark (that’s another story in itself—thanks Sister D for your trusty cell phone gps…through the glimmering rain-covered roads). We really do have a wonderful time just being around the Davies and sharing our “war”d stories. :)
On Monday, at 3 am, Elder C beat me to the bathroom nearest our bedroom and I, like Pavlov’s dog, got up and scurried to the other toilet next to our flat entrance door. There is a sizeable landing with a step down into the kitchen/dining/front room. In my early morning hurry and feeling that “rush” suddenly coming on which encouraged a trot, not saunter, apparently I tripped on the 6” step up to the landing and the side of my head hit the tile landing. It happened SO fast I faintly remember I was falling but then only remember thinking I couldn’t stand up because my right leg was under me and my right foot toes hurt and were crunched against the 6” upright tile ledge. I was able to pull my legs out from under me and accomplish my mission—I crawled to the toilet! Success! I didn’t tell my husband about my fall because I could gingerly limp back to my nice warm bed and get some more zzzz’s before our 6:30am morning walk with the Davies.
Well, when I awoke 3 hrs later to go to the bathroom near our room, I looked in the mirror and to my horror, above my left eye I had a purple-ish swollen bruise across half of my forehead and down the side of my eye. I showed Elder C and he had the sense to have me get ice in a baggie and place it on my forehead. It felt better after that and I braved the cool morning and enjoyed our morning walk. However, my middle toes on my right foot were not very happy…they were swollen and I thought, “Great, I have some twinner feet—both have broken toes.” I put a bandaid on the one that owwied the most. I put my mascara on w my lipstick accented eyelids and off to the CES office we went. Strangely enough, not one person commented about my bruised purple/blue forehead, so, I didn’t either. However, Sis Davies wondered if I had some cover-up makeup I could use on my bruised forehead…nope. I use almond oil on my face for my “base.” So I decided I’d forgo the makeup on only one eye the next day.
Well, Tuesday morning I was up at 3 am and couldn’t sleep…tried for 3 more hours but had to adjust myself just so in my bed so I could I had more color to my bruise and Doug noticed a couple drops of blood on the floor below the tile landing. So I put on my tracker “hat” and looked closely at the floor throughout the flat where I had walked. Ah hah! I found more here and there blood spots: in our bedroom, in the hallway, by our desk, etc. Not a lot, mind you, but enough to wonder where I was bleeding from. Not my nose, and yes, my toes!
I looked under my FAT and sore toes and noticed that the underside of one of them was black, purple and blue! (…my toes hurt, they are swollen and far spaced tiny drops of miniscule blood…duhh!) So I borrowed some Neosporin (yes, we left ours in our hurried departure trip from Botswana) from the Davies and Dr. Doug fixed my two toes up with bandaids and off to the Elders Flats we went to do the Flat Inspections. And yes, my toes felt better and worse from all the walking and stair climbing I was doing.
Wednesday morning I woke up and looked in the mirror and saw what looked like leftover eyeliner/mascara running down the left side of my left “bedroom eyes” (my inherited trait from my mother :) ) eye…did I explain that well enough for you to get the picture? Had I had forgotten to remove my mascara the night before? Then I remembered. Nope. I didn’t put any makeup on the day before. So I turned on the bathroom light and laughed. I had a thick black “eyeliner” type of bruising on my left eye. Sis Davies thought I could try and match my “eyeliner” bruise trailing ½” below the corner of my eye on my other eye. I opted not to enhance my other eye…
So now it’s Thursday, and when I lower my eyelids, my left eye lid is clearly colorful with the blue, black and a hint of green…can’t match those colors on my right eye but my “thick, running-down-the-corner-of-my-eye “eyeliner” is even lower now. So I decided to put on a bit of mascara and a bit of Babbelonia lipsticks “eye” shadow on my right eye…guess I should have tried that all the time. We were observing a Home Study Seminary group at 6am this morning. After the class, the teacher asked me what happened. Hooray! I think I’ll go put on some more lipstick…Maybe I should try that permanent eyeliner trick…My left eye seems to get all the attention, right now…
Elder C and I are venturing on an additional assignment today with the Pathway program. It is an online course with BYU-Idaho that allows members of the church to start their pathway back towards achieving higher educational pursuits. This three-term, one-year program requires 3 terms and the students take an institute class and one curriculum class [Maths, English, or Lifeskills] each term. When they achieve the required percentages, they can then matriculate (start toward their degree) at BYU-Idaho or any other institute of higher learning. We are very excited about this program. So tonight Elder C will teach the Institute class and I will instruct the students about their Gathering class for the English course. (I will have Elder Cloward expound on this Cohort concept on the next blog…)
It will be a combined mission for us now…Seminaries & Institutes (CES: Church Education System) and Pathway on Thursdays. I will continue to keep the records while learning great teaching methods and skills that I hope will become a part of EMM...[enthusiastic missionary mom:)] Elder C just gave me his thumb drive with the pics he’s adding for this blog. I will look at them and add an explanation for Bryn]
The bottom line…I was SO blessed to have not broken major bones or lose my eyesight or worse when I fell. It happened SO fast that I only remember opening my eyes and being embarrassed at how being in a hurry to “make it in time” to the toilet” caused me to see beyond my mark…the landing….BEFORE the toilet…I truly am a missionary-in-training wheels right now. I’m getting the hang of driving on the left side of the street and enjoy doing so only during daylight hours…(I don’t henpeck my dear Sweetheart on his driving when I am driving :) I love being here with my eternal companion and look forward to each week we can attend the Temple. The gospel has been restored to the earth, the times and seasons are changing and we have a lot to do before our Savior’s return. May we follow Him. His promises are sure and He is aware of every one. He is the one and only begotten of the Father and in whom, I trust.
And oh yes, forgot to mention that Elder C continues to remind me that he misses American tissue for our nose and bums. It’s just not the same softness…Love to all of you who have the patience to read through this and thank you for your prayers and calls and emails and love! DITTO…123….!!!! Sister Cloward
|Ann and Wally|
|Over 200 Pound Watermelon|