Thursday, February 07, 2008

Our last Sunday downtown and what I think I learned

Jan 27, 2008 marked the end of our year service in the ward in downtown Washington D.C. I knew it would be difficult, but lucky enough we had many distractions to keep me from having an emotional breakdown. Which is a reminder of one of the biggest blessings of serving in a ward that keeps you moving and serving, is that you don't have the time or energy to worry about yourself. I will try to describe our last Sunday downtown as well as answer the wonderful questions you all asked to sum up our year. (seriously thank you so much for your questions!)

Melinda Asked:
What was our first reaction when they called you to serve downtown?
I was shocked but then not shocked. This is the way it all came together so fast after moving here.
My first month here I went to Enrichment meeting (women's group) and met a cute grandma who was introduced to me as being in our ward but serves with her husband downtown. I was so thrilled to have someone to talk to and so I asked her everything about her experience downtown. When you talk to me you will know I get excited hearing about how you cut your toe nails. I asked her a million questions and was so intrigued with it all. While I was very interested in what she was saying, I in no way was saying - oh me and my family want or could do this. After that night she called the Stake President and told him about meeting me and the rest is history.

These were my words after our first Sunday. January 21, 2007

We are still learning what our responsibilities are and what we will do. I assume we will get callings in the ward at some point. But I know we are not there to lead but to teach many of these new, members to lead. It is going to be a wonderful new experience for us and after yesterday Jeff and I both said, we need them much more then they need us.

Jenmomof4 asked

You will have to post some background info when you get a chance, being Catholic we go to the same church in our town every Sunday. So you going to a different church for one year and serving is interesting and I would love to hear where your going next or do you go back to your regular church and then do a different service for the church?

Our family was asked by the leaders of our church in our local area to attend the congregation in the city for one year and help out in any way we can. While we were there Jeff served with the young men and I did the ward website and worked in the primary with the children. We also helped organize the Christmas efforts.
In our church worldwide you go to a specific congregation based on where you live. Not as many members of our church here live in the city. I can't speak for why that it is, but for us even though Jeff works in the city, we moved to the suburbs for schools, safety and community.
We are not the first family that has been asked to do this though out the church by any means, but this was kind of new experiment to ask a family with kids to come from our local ward/congregation to the downtown ward because of the distance. There had been a few Grandmas/Grandpa couples who had served in the city. I sometimes wonder if was harder for them then for us. I did feel a bit of a responsibility to have a good attitude and that families in our local ward would be watching to see our attitude. I tried my very hardest to never speak ill about our experience to keep anyone in the future from thinking it was something that their family could do. This was actually quite easy to do because any frustration or exhausted I had was always replaced with more love from the congregation. I have often said that if the families in our local ward knew of the amazing experience and blessings it would give their family. there would be a line out the Stake President's (local church leader) door to sign up.
We will now continue to go to our geographically assigned ward and will receive new callings and opportunities to serve.

Tasha asked
What act of service was the best use of your time over the last year?
This is such a great question. At first I might think the efforts for Christmas - but I think what was the best use of our time was being consistent. I wanted our Bishop and leaders in the city to know they could count on us. I wanted them to know that if they asked me to do something I would do it. I think Jeff sitting in the chapel each Sunday helping with his kids was such a great example to the young men who come every week without their parents. For the primary teachers to know that my girls would be there each week. I remember our first Sunday in primary when they asked who would like to give the opening prayer and Annie Kate said she would, the primary president said to her "thank you for being here". So, just being there every Sunday taught us to be consistent. I will never forget that after missing two Sunday's in November for Thanksgiving getting a call from a counselor in the Bishopric telling us that he had missed seeing us in church.
Sometimes the small little things like just being there on Sunday can be the biggest help to someone.

Sunshine asked
What experience did you most think would benefit someone there in that ward, and it ended up helping you individually in a way that surprised you.

For sure this would be having that darling family we had over for Christmas eve and Christmas day. I thought we would be helping them so much but had no idea they would change how I will celebrate Christmas for the rest of my life. We gave them so little compared to what they gave us. I remember on Christmas day it being 2:00pm long after all the gifts were opened and Jeff and I had not opened one gift or even had a care what was under the tree for us. In fact we didn't open our gifts until a few days later. I will never forget hearing the wonderful story of one of the boys finding out, studying and joining the church. It was the best Christmas gift ever. He left for his mission 2 weeks later.
Our last Sunday Jeff had his early morning meeting so I loaded up the girls and the last stash of items that my girlfriend had given me to take downtown. I had 8 large trash bags filled with clothes. Annie Kate had to sit in the front because the entire back of the van was full. I had tried with all my might to leave early enough to make the Primary bulletin board before church, but just could not seem to get out the door before 8:30 am.

Kristi had asked me "What was the hardest thing you had to do?"
the distance was by far the biggest obstacle. I wish we would have been close enough to stop by people's homes and visit them, have then over for dinner. But then of course what at first seemed a trial became a blessing. Before Jeff had to start going down early in his own car, driving downtown gave Jeff and I a whole hour to talk with just each other. (of course the girls were kept quiet by watching a movie or sleeping) The drive home was always nice because we could discuss the day and all that we seemed to learning from this experience.
The other thing that was really hard for me was seeing how difficult the day to day was for so many in the ward/congregation. That was very difficult for me. There were many Sunday's where I would get in the car and just cry like a broken faucet because I felt helpless to change anyone situations. Every Sunday we went from literally one extreme to the other. It was hard for me that it took me learning to be grateful for what I have to see how little others have. I was kind of disappointed in myself for that. I believe that we should not have to see an angel to believe they are there in our lives. oh me of little faith.

so we got to church with just a few minutes to spare and so I called Jeff and had him meet me out front to get the girls and the many church bags that we always seemed to have to bring. I drove around forever trying to find a parking spot. I found one about two blocks away. As I was walking to the church I was grateful for the little walk and the time I had to take a few photos of the things I will remember seeing from downtown. This is the street that the building was on.
this is the apartment complex that is right next to the church. I remember one of the first Sunday's we went to church we would walk by and there would be so many kids just sitting in the window looking out. I wanted to shout up to them, come next door to church, we will sing fun songs and have yummy food. In the summer I always felt so bad for how hot it must have been in their little homes as they only have window units to keep them cool.

Tootie asked
What was the most surprising thing about your experience?

I think one thing was how humbled I became and how much pride I realized I had. When we moved to D.C. from Tennessee I was so sad that after 10 years of graduate school we still could not afford to buy a home or even rent a home, that we were renting a town home that our family sqwoze into. This is seriously almost embarrasing for me to write now. I laugh now when I think about it. So what surprised me about this experience is how grateful I become for anything I had in my life. My dishwasher, my air conditioning, a safe neighborhood, a place for my kids to play out front, good schools, a husband who works and comes home. I now feel so grateful that I have a home to rent and don't worry that it is small. I think this will have a affect on us when we move in 2 years and start home searching - I hope it will.
As I was walking to church I realized that as far as I was walking to church from my parking spot was as far as our home is from our local church and that the next Sunday we would be walking that far to church. While I knew that would be wonderful I knew I would miss so much about the great buildings and homes I saw each Sunday.
this is a little church at the other end of the street from our building downtown, I just love these big red doors.

Naomi asked:
How did this experience help you to have an increase in an attitude of gratitude? How did it change your perspective on what is really important? Did it change any stereotypical views you had before having the opportunity to serve among such a diverse group of people.

I am so glad Naomi got me thinking on this because I am afraid I may not have documented this part of my experience. I talked a little about become grateful and how I was sad that it took me seeing someone who had less than me to be grateful. So, I really had started thinking during this year, "how can it be possible to grateful even when you don't see the extremes?" I don't believe we have to have dramatic events in our lives to learn what we need to learn. I think I am so afraid of what I have learned will fade, that someday I will come back and read this and say, "oh ya, I forgot I learned that." I think I have prayed more to have an attitude of gratitude. If you want something you don't have you can pray to have it or find ways to have it.

It totally changed my perspective on what is important, this could be one of the biggest things it gave me. I used to spend my Sunday's so worried about what the girls would wear, what I would wear, matching hairbows etc. Our Sunday's were so crazy - that only thing I had time to worry about were what food we were bringing, loading the car with donations - what we would wear became such an after thought: I will never forget the Sunday we went to church and we got all the way there and no one had put shoes on Sally Jane. Such a change from matching the hairbows to her shoes!
When I realized that I had a stake meeting for my new Girls Camp calling the night of our last Sunday, the first thought that went through my head was, "what am i going to wear" I had not thought that for a year. I am not sure why I thought that then but had not all year, it sure made me appreciate my new found feeling and wanting more of it.
Now don't get me wrong there is nothing wrong with spending that time to get ready for church and again last Sunday the hairbows were placed and dresses were ironed (a first in awhile) but I was amazed at how much I enjoyed now worrying about that downtown. I think one month I had worn the same dress three times in a row and didn't even think twice about it. It was a good change for me.
I absolutely had sterotypical views before serving downtown and they are so changed. I feel like I see peoples hearts first and their outside second. I have such tender feelings for one boy down there who is 17. He looks very rough on the outside and one may be a little timid walking past him on the street - but getting to know him he is the most tender boy, at the end of church I could not stop kissing his cheek and hugging him goodbye. I whispered in his ear, "you are my favorite in this whole ward!" When I see tough teenagers in any neighborhood now I hope I will realize they all have such tender hearts deep down inside.
Our Sacrament meeting that last Sunday was so incredible. my favorite young man spoke and gave an incredible talk. The year before he didn't know how to read and he read from the scriptures during his talk. Our first Sunday there the year before was the day he was baptized.
Jeff and I both spoke as the last speakers of the meeting. I told the bishop I have never been so grateful to give a talk in my whole life, I wanted to share with everyone how much I loved and admired them. I also said that it will save me from having to get a therapist to be able to get all of my feelings out. In our ward when the speaker says, "Good Morning" the entire congregation repeats "Good Morning" I will so miss that and loved hearing that for the last time.
Jeff gave an incredible talk and talked about pure religion and read a scripture from the Bible defining that ward. Because there are so many obvious needs for people it is so easy to serve them. You know who needs food, clothes and shelter.
From this experience we realized that what we were doing is easy! The hard work is in congregations where everything looks perfect from the outside, it takes a little more digging to find how you can help them. The same problems happen everywhere, our ward it was just more obvious. From this experience it made me realize our work has just begun and going back to our "normal" ward could likely be harder.

Stacy{s} asked
What was the most important thing you learned personally from a person in your ward? What do think is different about Annie Kate since this experience? Jeff? you?

There is a young girl in our ward who moved in the ward a few weeks after we did. Her reason for moving in was that her husband is in the army and was seriously injured in Afganistan. She could not be a day over 23 and had a daughter the same age as Sally Jane. She raced on a airplane to D.C. from Utah when she received the news. The first Sunday she was in town, she was sitting in church. At the end of our meeting when they have people stand and introduce themselves she stood and told her story. She should have introduced herself as Superwoman! This young girl is an amazing example to everyone in that ward and if there was a river out front our building she would walk right across it to get inside. It is a miracle her husband lived. They have had a rough year, but every Sunday she has come to church with her daughter. She wanted a calling and to help in anyway she can. She helped teach Annie Kate's primary class which was another blessing. This young wife and mother had told the story to all the primary children about her husband and during our primary good news minute she would give us all updates on his slow progress. There was one boy in our primary who was 4 and could tell you the kind of tanker her husband was on when he got injured. Her husband became a part of our lives. Our primary visited him at Walter Reed Medical center and that was an amazing Sunday. But the Sunday that he came to church will forever go down as one I hope I never forget. Due to his service in the army and injury he had not been able to attend church in over 2 years. This soldier had been seriously injured and had been unable to walk. The elevator in the basement was not working the Sunday he came. Jeff and a few men had to help him to WALK him up the many steps up to the door. He is unable to feel one of his legs Miracles happened in that building. I will never forget him and his wife for NEVER complaining about their situation. She has lived in the city now for over a year and may be here for another - and she smiles bigger than anyone in this whole town. She was able to go home for Christmas and before she left she had given us wrapped toys and Gymboree outfits in each size for the primary children.

I will say that Annie Kate is a different person from this experience. One week we cleaned out all of her clothes and boxed them up to bring to a girl in her primary class. I had explained to Annie Kate when she wears them not to say, "oh that was my dress" Annie Kate said to me, "no duh mom" Every Sunday this little girl would wear the dresses (which was neat because many of them were hand-me-downs from her cousin Kara who is now 15) and I would hear Annie Kate say, "you look so cute today" making an effort to say something but hoping it was the right thing.
This past year I found myself always thinking of what people needed when i was out and at stores and if I ever saw a sale on something or at Goodwill my mind was always thinking, "downtown" One day at Goodwill Annie Kate found these coats and said, "Mom these would be great for the boys" Jeff's young men became our boys and Annie Kate liked that.
I asked Annie Kate one Sunday what was her favorite thing about going downtown and she said,
The people and being able to see the Temple every Sunday when we drove home. As we would get on the freeway driving home and it was almost always dark, there was the temple that would pop out of the dark and my girls would get so excited. Annie Kate is the only one who knows it is the temple for our church, the younger girls think it is a castle where a princess lives, hopefully before we move they will understand.
Two weeks before our last Sunday I told Annie Kate that we only had two weeks left. Her eyes got as big and quarters (mississippi P) she then made a frown on her face and pulled down the corners of her mouth with her fingers. I asked her what she was doing and she said, "I am trying not to smile so i don't make you feel bad" She was so excited to go back to our neighborhood ward. At first I was kind of sad, then I realized for the first time what a sacrifice it had been for her. We had just moved to a new town, she made new friends and then 6 months later had to start all over again. I gained so much respect for her that night. Jeff and I had honestly never considered much how it would affect the girls - we have a very "suck it up" kind of parenting method. But seeing her excitement sure did remind me how much she had missed our local ward, I am sure much more than me, and that girl never complained getting in that car and doing that each week.
I remember one Sunday in August when I thought I could not do it anymore, taking the kids down each week. I had even considered going to our local ward once a month and letting Jeff just go downtown. I remember thinking that as a parent I want my kids to have qualities that make them stronger but am I willing to make the sacrifice to teach them that. As a parent i feel like me indulging them is really indulging me, because right now they are young enough where they don't really care. They wouldn't care if I threw all the t.v's out the window, but I would never do that because having them watch a movie gives me a break. So, i also learned how strong Annie Kate is and hope she never forgets this experience. She will probably be the only one who will remember it.
Jeff is different too. He is more patient (which is amazing because he is pretty patient) and his heart is softer. When he was given a blessing to be the Young Men's president his blessing said to "soften his heart" we both so saw that.
Me! i feel like a different person! i think I have described many things already. But the one big change for me was to RELAX! I remember my first weeks in primary and i would come home and search all these things on the internet that could help with reverence, teaching etc. I kept thinking oh we need to make laminated signs on all the doors and posters... then I realized that that just did not work in this ward. It was a new Sunday every Sunday. In our church you always hear the church is same all over the world - because every congregation says the same sacrament prayer, has the same lessons for their primary, Sunday school, Relief Society (meeting for the women) and Priesthood, it is really amazing how organized it all is. But it is the GOSPEL which is the same the people are different, the buildings are different and so different things work in different places. Once I humbled myself and learned that what works for one does not work for another.
I would have thought that with a primary of only 12 children I would have made all these little handouts, gifts crafty things for all the kids, but i really never did. Where in other wards i have been known for making 50 of something to teach a lesson. I am not sure if I will do much more of that, this was a good lesson for me to learn. Many sharing time lessons for the children I would just pull out the scriptures and would read from them. I didn't worry about table cloths and decor to match my lesson. And again I say there is a time and a place for everything.

Jeff finished part of his testimony/talk with sharing how much he loved the young man that had spoke before him. That was to be the end of the meeting. But when Jeff had sat down, the young man who had still been sitting on the stand, jumped back up. He got very emotional. He said that when anyone ever thinks of him they always think trouble or that he is bad. "no one ever tells me that I am good" oh my the tears were flowing now! I looked at Jeff who Never gets teary and this was a sign that his heart had softened. I am sure we have had feelings when we would love to run to the pulpit and tell someone thank you, or feel a need to say something but never would just do that. What is so great about this ward is that while spontaneous talks are not encouraged they are not discourged either. In a weird way him getting back up right before the song started was so appropriate.
After the meeting ended they introduced all the visitors. This was so my favorite part of Sundays and think every ward should do this! There are so many tourists that come to visit and it is fun to see where everyone is from. One Sunday someone stood up and said they were from Farmington, NM! That is where my parents live. I ran up to them after the meeting and found out the girl knew my brothers in school. As a visitor she would have come and went if we didn't have that chance to meet everyone.
There were two missionaries (21 year olds) who were released from their mission on the Wednesday before and their parents had flown to the mission to pick them. I thought is was amazing that of all the wards they served in they brought their parents to this one! I think that tells you something right there.
One of the moms came up to me after the meeting and before she said it I think I could have asked her question for her (I could just tell by her pause and cautious look) "Do you have a blog?' Oh no I had been found out! I admitted yes and she had said that a friend of a friend had forwarded it to her thinking that the ward i gush over could be where her son was serving. So to that nice lady with the cute missionary son, if you read this Thank you for saying something. I am sure you now gush about this ward too to your friends at home.
Then before we all went to Sunday School they had our family and the two missionaries going home come up on the stand. The congregation stood and sang the first verse to "God be with us until we meet again" This is a wonderful tradition in this ward. I kept thinking to try to look at as many people as I could and not just hang my head while I was crying. I could not stop crying or smiling. It was just amazing to be so encircled by so many people that we love.
Then as we turned around to get off the stand many of the primary boys and young men had come up to hug us - most people did not know this was our last Sunday. It was so tender to see them sad to see us leave.

Jessica asked
I would write down what this experience has done to shape how you look at thing differently now - how you look at yourself, your family, our church, service opportunities, Primary. etc.

Denise asked:
How will it effect you and the ways in which you serve moving forward?

So to kind of answer both of these questions in regards to how will I look at myself in service opportunites and me serving and moving forward. I won't be as afraid of service. Doing this year really freaked me out before we started. My new calling is on the Stake Girls Camp committee over the crafts and 5th year girls and am i freaked out yes. believe it or not the crafts part kind of scares me a bit. But I just keep thinking, we just did that for a year I can do anything. It is kind of the marathon mentality you tell yourself that anytime you want to quit running.
After my experience seeing that powerhouse couple I don't think I will wait around to serve as much as I did in the past. I won't worry as much if I offend someone from service or resist taking dinner to someone because i don't know what allergies their family has. I think I will just do, or I hope I will.
I have gained a respect for organization and see a need for it, but sometimes I think the ligisticts of serving keep us from serving.
I also hope that our serving will make someone else think they could serve or do something in their life that seems hard. This seemed very hard for us, a challenge and something that we considered turning down.
I remember the first time we met with the Bishop of that ward I asked him how do we handle the question "so why are you here in this ward" I didn't want to make anyone feel like we thought we were coming in to save the day. I will never forget what he said, "honestly no one cares why you are here! Just serve" I think most of the ward didn't even know that we didn't live in the ward boundaries. When I got up to speak and say it was our last Sunday no one but a few people even knew. I learned it is so much better to just do instead of talking about what you are doing. (it was one of the reasons I told no one i was training for a marathon, I was afraid i would get so tired of talking about it I might get too tired to do it)

Amanda asked:
What do you think they learned from you all? Where there specific things that only your family could bring to the ward? How did you share your talents with them?

Well, this is such a awesome question because I would never have even thought about this. I don't know what anyone specifically learned from me, hopefully my being consistent. I hope they learned how much I love and support my husband. Having Jeff be downtown once week till 10:30 or 11:00pm getting all the boys home from activities was hard for me. They were long days for him. I hope people felt I supported him in his calling.
I hope they learned I love them so much!
The specifics that only our family could bring - screaming girls in sacrament meeting who had every toy and book and were still the noisest ones there in the meeting, frog eye salad and when Jeff would take the boys home after church they would say, "Thank you for letting me ride in your truck" - I hope there is more than just that but not sure what it would be.

sharing my talents - Jeff taught them some of his sweet basketball skills and he was a huge blessing to have in the ward and be the connection Walter Reed for LDS soldiers who come to the hospital, I taught them of my love of ribbon and i always had my camera with me everywhere I went. Before we left I put some of the photos throughout the year on the bulletin board in the hallway. Wish i would have taken a photo of that.

Lauralee asked:
How do you think you have changed and what are you going to do about it? How can you continue somehow what you have learned and experienced?
I will say that I learned you don't have to have these experiences serving in a ward miles away from my home in the nations capital. The feeling of service can happen anywhere and does not have to be huge to happen. I hope that I will find the "underground service". The service that no one knows about and find ways to do it. But at the same time I hope my husband and I will have another chance to do something like this again. The blessings we received throughout the year were just amazing.

So after Sacrament meeting I rushed down to primary to soak in my last 2 hours with these kids. As I walked in hanging on the wally was a quilt - i knew immediately it was for me. The tears came back a flowing. One of my first Sunday's in the ward I had made a hanger filled with ribbon tied to it to look like a rainbow, I can't beleive I had never taken a photo of it. I would bring it all the time when I did singing or sharing time. I would twist around and wave it as watching the ribbons fly would seem to distract them and get their attention. They all knew how much I loved ribbons. I called it my rainbow and would bring out the rainbow when they needed something to focus on. One week I had pinned the songs were going to sing that day on the bottom of each ribbon and they got to pick from the rainbow.

The quilt was just beautiful and reminded me so much of this past year. It is all hand quilted. It has a pocket in the back that holds little stars to represent each child. Each child wrote a note with their name on the stars. The primary president's mother in law who is not a member of our church made it for me. It is such a treasure! The quilt is embroidered in gold thread, "Love is a many splendored thing"

Annie Kate's primary teacher gave her this darling framed hand embroidered, "I am a Child of God" So thoughtful.

Sally Jane's class all colored her different pictures and her teacher colored one with the words at the bottom "the sprouts in the nursery will miss you! Sally Jane we love you"

I was thankful to have a few minutes before primary ended to tell all the kids how much I love them and how much Heavenly Father loves them.

Because I had not got to church early to do the primary bulletin board I had to do that before we left. I was looking forward to standing out side to say goodbye to the members and hopefully get some photos. But realized that this would not happen as by the time I finished doing the board everyone was cleared out of the building. This was probably a good thing and just a great way to finish my last Sunday by working up until the last minute. The board turned out great! Thanks to Lauralee who did a white "I am a Child of God" vinyl lettering. Lauralee it was just beautiful! I had taken photos of all the kids in front of the church sign and had them all on the board. Then I used this print from the 2008 Ensign of Jesus Christ with the children. I also printed the theme for each month and had it in a envelope so that they can just pull it out each month. I also had Randy's wonderful Reverence drawings on the board.

I wish I could have got a photo of Jeff and all of his boys about 15 before we had left that day. There were just a few that I could talk into posing for a photo. Stacy{s} I had to post one with John M.
This is Jeff's braces buddy. They both got their braces at the same time this past year.
We are really going to miss those boys!

After church our friends had some of us over for a lunch at their home. It was such a blessing because I think if we would have gone straight home we would have just laid and the couches and cried! We didn't want leave their home and say goodbye but I realized that I had a meeting at 6:30 pm at the Stake center for Girls camp. As Jeff and I were driving back on the freeway he called me on my cell phone and said, let's switch cars and I will take the girls home you won't have time to go home and come back. So we met in the parking lot to switch cars. It was the most beautiful night. We were standing in the parking lot with the temple all a glow behind our back. We had been talking on the phone about t
he day and just what an incredible blessing this whole experience has been for us. It was kind of a tender moment. This was the photo I took of the girls before I left and went into the meeting. I have taken many photos of them this past year zonked out in the car.
It makes sense now why someone told us near the end of our year, "your girls looked so tired"

I was so tired and knew I would not be getting home till after 9:00 pm. I was a little worried about being able to switch gears so fast and now be 100% into girls camp. During the meeting when we all introduced ourselves and ward ward we were from I got a bit choked up. I said I was claiming the D.C. ward at least until midnight that night.

After coming home from the meeting I got straight into bed and fell right asleep. I have enjoyed being exhausted in service this year. I will miss all of our new friends but am grateful for Stake conference and other activities like girls camp where I will get to see them again.

Shauna asked:
What will you miss the most? What will be a relief to have behind you?

I will miss Brother K. raising his arms to welcome us to church and saying from the pulpit, "Welcome to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints" in his true Congan accent.
I will miss Sister M. singing the little song on testimony Sunday that she learned when she was about 5. She wore a ski cap every Sunday and was so generous to all the children yet had so little.
I will miss the family that made cookies EVERY Sunday but fast Sunday for the entire ward. Their little girls would pass them out in baskets out front of the church. They were the cookie girls. I think it is the most amazing idea and perfect for that ward. It always made Annie Kate want to serve the cookies. I learned a lot from these parents who gave their children the opportunity to serve - I need to do more of that. This was another example of just serving, no one asked permission if they could pass out cookies - they just did!
I will miss the building. There is no foyer. Everyone has to go to class. On Sunday back in our local ward I had to leave Sunday School 5 minutes early and walked out into the foyer FULL of people, laughing and it was so loud. I wanted to stand on a chair and say, "you are missing the best Sunday school lesson ever!" it was on the life of Gordon B. Hinckley. I have had my days of hanging in the foyer for no reason - no more of that!

I will miss the wise, wise words from our Bishop. When ever he spoke you didn't want to miss a word. This is a photo of Jeff after church on our last Sunday listening to him speak. (he is on the left and I cut his face out because I am worried he is too famous to put on my blog) It is such a great memory of how when he spoke you didn't want to miss a syllable.
I will miss munch and mingle! The dinner we had on every second Sunday. On Sunday back in our local ward Caroline asked if they had food here? I was sad to tell her no.
I used to be totally anti-buffet dinners of any kind. Now I see what a bonding experience it is. People talk about recipes, your labor to get you food there makes you appreciate everyone else cooking too and it just brings people together. I used to be so worried about the chef of a dish licking their fingers while making it, but we were always so hungry and tired I just didn't care and knew it would all work it's way out just fine.

relief to have behind me - our gas bill will go down dramatically!

Michelle asked:
What will you do with your Sunday's now?

that is such a great question. I hope that we will have learned something from this that being exhausted from service is a good thing and not something to be afraid of. We are definitely exhausted. So, hopefully get a breather and then be creative with how to make the best use of our Sunday's.

Jill asked:
Do you think it will be hard to go back to a "normal" ward after all you've seen and been through downtown?
I do think this will be a big challenge for me and Jeff- the girls, no so much. Annie Kate was running to church on Sunday and so happy to be back. Caroline asked if we are going to the "far away church" again and said she really like the church by Annie Kate's school. It was cute because during Sacrament meeting in our local ward on Sunday, Caroline whispered in my ear, "Do they have a class for me here?" I don't she has any memory of the 6 months we went to church there.
My biggest fear is in my local ward talking too much about the downtown ward, because honestly I don't think many people want to hear about. I don't want to sound too excited to be back because I don't want people to think we were dying to get out of there, we weren't and it was a VERY hard to think that maybe we should do another year. (couples in the past have been called for one and stay for 2-4 years) But I don't want to sound sad to be back either. It kind of goes back into my whole moving post and how no one wants to hear about how much you love where you have been because it only makes them think you don't love where you are now. So, this will be a challenge for me for sure.
Our local ward is a extreme opposite of where we have been and I believe in extremes situations you will have just as big problems they just manifest them in different ways. Adjusting back will be very difficult for me and even more difficult because don't really feel like I have a place to talk about it.

Heather asked:
In what way were your burden's made light and in what ways were your needs met after you had been "stretched" as much as you could?
It always seemed that right when I thought I could not give another Sunday someone would invited us over for dinner or call out of the blue to see how I was doing. My visiting teachers from my local ward never missed a month on checking in on me. It was a very lonely year for me and times when I feel like 6 months was not enough time to make close friends that I could call on for a good cry on someone's couch. Those times when I felt the most lonely are the times that my relationship with my husband were strengthened.

Denise asked:
Did you eve murmur? Was it easy to serve downtown? If there were times of murmuring, how did you get past it?

Yes I did murmur or complain - but I tried to only do it to my husband. He has a very "get over it" type of personality so there is not much time spent in our house complaining - darn!
It was not easy to serve downtown. The distance made it difficult. But I will say that things that were hard would then become easy and then another hard thing would come up and then that became easy and so on.
the best blessing in that ward is that at times you can feel such an instant gratification for your efforts. So when I did murmur or complain on the way to church it always seemed to be replaced with the wonderful stories of the day. And over time my complaining either fell on deaf ears or it began to seem like a waste of my time.
One of our last Sunday's seemed extra hard to get in the car and go. But that Sunday there were 5 people from South Africa who were baptized in French! What an amazing experience for my kids to be able to see and the love that was in the building was amazing.


Lauralee said...

that was so good to read.. the story of the boy getting up after jeff the last sunday.. oh that is so sweet.. that just makes me cry.. especially your description of him.. how he kinda seems rough.. but not really inside..
that quilt is beautiful.. what a treasure.. good luck adjusting to your "home" ward.. that would be a hard thing to balance- your feelings for being back there.
thanks so much for writing that all down and sharing it.. it makes me think differently about my service.. I love the cookie girls who doesn't need a cookie after church?

Barb said...

That was a post worth waiting for!
I am intrigued by your famous Bishop.
I appreciated everything you said, but I really appreciated your thought that there are people with needs everywhere, just you will have to look harder to see them in your local ward.
And I totally agree that the example of being consistant is a great lesson.
Thank you for sharing your experiences downtown this past year, they have affected me.

Marcie said...

My mom's best friend was in town and happened to attend. She said you did a great job speaking and wished that she had the opportunity to attend that ward as well.

Sunshine said...

I am BAWLING now...not crying, BAWLING. You have lived by standards and principles that are eternal. You have purely displayed those for your girls to see. They will never forget you and the way you served and they too will be willing to do the same kind of thing some day. I am thankful for you, for your example and encouraging actions that speak loudly to me. Thanks for an awesome post! Hugs to you!

carlo said...

i should have known that you were working on something big-- i agree with Barb-- WORTH THE WAIT.

amazing, amazing, amazing. THank you for sharing it with us

katherine said...

I have learned a lot about service just reading that Q&A. What an experience :)

April said...

What a wonderful experience. Thank you so much for sharing. I have learned so much just by following along.

Neighbor Jane Payne said...

Ditto to Barb and Carlo's comments. I really, really appreciate you taking us into the private parts of your heart and mind and sharing this with us, Kristi. I loved the wisdom you gained that service opportunities are everywhere. Good luck readjusting.

Wende said...

wow, all i can say is wow. that was definitely worth the wait and i'm so glad for YOU that you got it all written down. i loved the part about it being a sacrifice for annie kate, what an awesome girl you've got there! thank you for sharing and good luck with stake girls camp! i was just called to be camp director for my ward and i'm shaking in my boots!

Quelly said...

Thank you so much for taking the time to document your thoughts and feelings on this past year. This is such personal stuff and I feel so lucky that I have been able to read about all of these amazing and personal experiences. It was almost like reading an ongoing story that would be published in the Ensign or New Era and this entry was like the final episode.

Elizabeth said...

So much to learn from here. I am so glad you have shared this special year with us.

Shauna said...

There is so much to learn and take in from each of your answers. Thank you for taking the time to share and teach each of us through your experiences.

Traci said...

Great post and wonderful questions. That was such a great idea to do. Look at all those blessing you and your family received this past year!

Jessica said...

This post is like a good Ensign article; I'll have to read it a few more times to feel like I really got everything out of it I want to! One of the best part of your service, I think, is that you took the time to take us all along with you.

Missy said...

Wow. I really enjoyed sharing in your experiences by reading about them on your blog, but this might be the best posting of all. There were several different a-ha moments for me while reading this post.
Thank you.

Jill said...

It has taken me several different visits to be able to read all of these questions and answers, but I did it! What a wonderful way for your to share more of your experience with all of us and for you to record these thoughts and feelings while they're still fresh.

Your experience is so unique, so personal and such a blessing. It makes me sad to think of you going back to your regular ward and not being able to share it because people might not want to hear it. You can keep posting about it, because we want to read about it!

I'm at a loss for words really, but am so grateful that you've documented your year so well and blessed us all with your experiences.