Sunday, April 3, 2011

Farewell to the mission

The past couple of weeks have been a blur.  We have been farewelled by every conceivable group.   We had a family home evening with the group of elders and sisters who came into the mission with us 18 months ago.  They have been our "social group" by assignment since we got here and we have become good friends with them during the past year and a half.  Instead of entertainment we had a testimony meeting of sorts.  We were each asked to tell special experiences from our service.  Since we were assigned to many different zones after our training it was special and interesting to hear the varied experiences of our group.  Next was our zone hale and farewell, which is a potluck that kind of lasts all day long.  It was very sweet to be able to express the gratitude I feel to so many of the elders and sisters I have worked closely with.  I had a couple of private lunches and dinners with some especially close sisters who have become dear to me.  Monday night after closing all the zone who cared to, met at a restaurant for another farewell dinner.  Also very sweet.  David has endeared himself to many of these people.  I know they will think of him and his sweet spirit more than they will miss me.  Tuesday was the cafeteria's good bye party for David which I was invited to attend.  All the staff and missionaries gathered for a pizza lunch (they usually aren't offered pizza for lunch) and special send off for David.  They gave him a beautiful hand made Toy Story blanket, and made him a giant "cowboy" cake.  They all gave him hugs and high fives and generally made him feel like he had been an important part of the crew.  David's boss took me aside afterwards and said, "Make sure you tell them back home that David served a real mission.  This was real work that he did for the Lord, every single day.  The cafeteria is subsidized by tithing dollars, and every thing he did saved the church money."  Wednesday morning I was asked to briefly speak to our prayer meeting.  It  was hard to say goodbye, but I really wanted them to know how much I appreciated the love and support we have felt from them.  Everyone fussed over David because he was in suit and tie instead of his usual work clothes. I had a doctor's appointment to get a shot in my knee (interesting that it should just start bothering me again now, after 18  painfree months).  Afterward I took David to the baptistry of the temple to do baptisms for a large family of Quibell relations I researched.  He has been there enough that I was able to leave him, go back to the library to work, and come back for him in an hour or so.  At 11:30 we walked over to the Joseph Smith building for a beautiful farewell appreciation luncheon with the mission presidency.  It was delicious food and some really wonderful messages were given by President Simmons and his counselors.  Sister Simmons had requested that David sit at her table, so we felt very special and appreciated.
Elder David Demke with President and Sister Simmons

David's giant cowboy cake

David and some of his coworkers
That was it!  All done!  We are still officially missionaries until released by our stake president, but our mission service is over.
Grandma and Afton on her baptism day
Friday we flew to Houston for the baptism of my second granddaughter Afton McKenna.  It was so beautiful and I am so grateful that we were able to be there to see such an important ordinance for one so well prepared.  We enjoyed a few days there with our love ones, at the beach, zoo, museum and the flew back to Salt Lake City to enjoy the special conference weekend and then pack up and head home to California.
I'm going through some adjustment already.  It feels weird not to go into the library every day.  I hope and pray that I will be guided to choose significant ways for me and David to spend the rest of our lives. I am so grateful for this mission experience.  I wouldn't have missed it for the world.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

March 10, 2011

Heaviest snow since Thanksgiving
Monday night a huge snowstorm blew through the valley leaving a foot or more of the cold stuff in its wake.  Normally after a big snow like that I would borrow my Mom's front wheel drive van, plow through it and go to work.  She had loaned her car to a visiting relative so my options were to wait for the snow plows, or risk our necks in the truck.  I opted to wait, and I'm so glad I did.  As we waited my beautiful niece April and her husband came by for a visit.  I have known of April since she was born 31 years ago, but never met her.  Her parents divorced when she was very young and we have had limited contact with the whole family since.  I wept as I saw her, so grateful to reconnect with this loved, but formerly lost branch of our family.  April is as nice as she is lovely.  She was interested in our family and really wanted to connect with her paternal side.  I don't normally like snow, but this storm was a gift.
April Osborn Hebert
Yesterday it was 60 degrees and sunny.  Today it reached 68, so the huge snowfall is almost all melted away.  I had my exit interview with our mission president, President Simmons, yesterday.  As I walked across Temple Square to his office I noticed that the crocus and tulips are coming up and will no doubt be in perfect bloom for general conference the first weekend in April.
Brave little blooms
My exit interview was sweet.  President Simmons asked about our mission experience and it gave me a chance to reflect on the wonderful, often miraculous events of the past 18 months.  He told me how grateful he was to us for our service, and how grateful he was to our dear Stake President Albrecht for writing and recommending that our initial rejection be reconsidered.  I add my gratitude to his.  My puny attempts at describing this mission experience fall so miserably short of the sublime experience it has been, that I am reluctant to try.  President Simmons asked what I planned to do when I got home.  I told him about my somewhat nebulous plan to create a theraputic riding center.  He told me to go for it, that he was always glad he grew up on the back of a horse.  He and his sweet wife will be leaving the mission this summer, so he agreed with me that it will be hard to leave.
With that interview behind me I started feeling a little trunky.  We are not released for another two weeks, but having been thanked and dismissed got me thinking about going home.  It was almost hard to go into work this morning.  Still there is work to be done, and I'll do it.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


I was told that our famous groundhog weatherman failed to see his shadow last February 2nd, thus predicting an early spring.  People at home are no doubt enjoying spring already, as it usually arrives in February in Orange County, California.  Here in Utah it is a different story.  I remember all too well last May 28 driving to work through a blowing, freezing snow storm.  I don't dare expect winter to be over, but the past few days have made me hopeful.  We had a high of 57 today.  Pretty warm for February.
Saturday I was out on the trail wearing uninsulated clothing and nothing but a light hoodie for warmth.  It was beautiful.  The picture is deceiving because of all the snow, but what you can't see it that the snow was  mostly slush, wet melting stuff.  You also can't see or hear the birds, every kind including robins, that were chirping and hopping from tree to tree.  You can't see the beautiful big red fox that crossed our path, also feeling warm enough to be out of his den.  You can see the big sun hat I was wearing to protect my lily white skin from the bright sunlight.  My big hairy horse was actually sweating by time we got back to the barn.
More snow is predicted for this week, but with expected highs well above freezing, it won't stay long.  Maybe I'm being foolishly optimistic, maybe not.  But I'll enjoy the hope of spring while it lasts.
(Look at those mountains.  They are really spectacular every season of the year.)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Wonderful Weekend

We had a most amazing weekend.  It was our stake conference, and since our stake president has been called to be a mission president somewhere far away, we had 2 general authorities visiting.
Friday was a stake temple day with a special chapel session.  Mom and I were able to go.  She has completely recovered from her flu, and I am so grateful as I had missed her presence in my temple attendance.
Saturday was a busy day of housework, shopping, horsing, etc., but best of all an adult session of conference where the Spirit was present and we were taught at the feet of an apostle of Christ, Elder Richard G. Scott.  Normally Mom sleeps through church, but when we got there the only seats were on the front row, where we were eye to eye with the apostle--no sleeping.  Really amazing messages and spirit!  David, who always seems to make friends with everyone and is a special friend of the outgoing stake president, was personally escorted by him to meet Elder Scott and Elder Crittendon.
Sunday we were treated to more of the same.  We were able to sustain our new stake presidency, which coincidentally included our bishop.  I guess more surprises are coming next Sunday.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

A dear missionary sister friend of mine came to me the other day to announce the birth of a new granddaughter.  She showed me pictures of the precious baby, told me how loved she is by her proud parents and grandma and then told me she has Down Syndrome.  She admitted that knowing David and feeling his loving spirit prepared her to receive with joy the news of her granddaughter's condition.
I am sometimes asked by concerned friends or relatives who know parents facing this new challenge.   "What can I tell them?" they ask.  I always reply, "Tell them to rejoice."
Sister Stevens and David
There was a time when I would have made David "normal" if I'd had the power.  I would have taken away the syndrome that makes it so hard for him to do so many of the things we take for granted.  I would have left him without the protection and insulation that a wise and loving Father in Heaven gave him for his journey through this life.  I am now so glad David is who he is.  I'm so glad that I know his special spirit and enjoy his unique gifts.  He is indeed a special child of God.  He has a mission here as surely as anyone else, one only he can do.  I feel honored to know him and to be counted worthy to be his mother.  I don't pretend to know all the whys of David's mission and others like him.  I only know that he is a pretty wonderful person and will likely be light years ahead of me in our next life.  Looking forward to knowing him then too.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Why I am a Missionary

A fellow missionary asked me to write up my experiences leading to our call and service in the Family History Mission.
My dearly loved husband died in September of 2006.  His death was sudden and completely unexpected.  Even though we had each had our share of health challenges we both expected to live long productive lives, including senior missionary service, together.  It never occured to me that I would serve a mission without him.
I went through a year of feeling quite numb, going through the motions, trying to be a good person, taking care of my family.  (They undoubtably remember that year as taking care of me, which they did)
As I emerged from the "widow fog" I started to feel very restless.  Unsure of why, I wondered if it was time to sell my home and move closer to some of my grandkids.  I worked hard, and hired people who worked even harder, getting my house fixed up so that it would really appeal to prospective buyers, and put it on the market.  It just sat there.  Homes around us were selling, but no one even acted interested in mine.
I told David that it was time to find out what the Lord wanted us to do and get his input on my restless feelings.  We set aside a day to fast and pray.  (If you know David you know that he hates to fast, so this was a big sacrifice for him.)  As we were preparing to break our fast I offered a prayer asking for direction.  The unmistakable impression came to me that WE should go on a mission.  I almost shouted "You're kidding?! Really?  That was what this was all about?"  Why had that no even occured to me as a possibility?  Just dense I guess.
Anyway, I told my son, my boss, that we were going to go on a mission.  As usual he was sweet and supportive.  I told our bishop and he said he thought we'd be coming in to talk to him about that.  How come I was the only one who was surprised.
Then the stake president and bishop informed us that Salt Lake wasn't so excited about the idea.  It seems they welcome couples with special needs adult children, but weren't so sure about a single sister and her handicapped son.  I told the Stake President that I wasn't worried, because this surely was not my idea, so the Lord would make it happen if He wanted us to go.
I guess my dear Stake President really went to bat for us, because a few weeks later we got a call to serve in the Salt Lake Family History Mission.  We were told that there was nothing for David to do here, then almost immediately told David would be a part of the mission too.  No one was sure how that would happen, but we all knew it would.
The rest is history.  David has a wonderful assignment working with other special service missionaries in the Church Office Building Cafeteria, and I work with beginning family history patrons in the Family History Library. 
I have a feeling that we were not called here because of what we had to offer, but rather that the Lord had things to teach us we couldn't learn any other way.  Whatever the reason, I am grateful.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

I'll be Wearing Ribbons in my Hair

Mrs. Clause (not drab)
You may have read a recent news release from the church noting the changes in dress and grooming requirements for sister missionaries.  I did, with some interest, since I am one.  It seems that the frumpy, drab clothing our sister missionaries have been required to wear are turning some prospective investigators away.  The new standards, although still modest, are far more fashionable than the old.  Sisters are encouraged to wear lively colors and patterns.  Skirts can be knee length (instead of mid calf to ankle length).  And here is the best part:  Nylons (stockings, etc.) are optional!  Our mission president got word of this rule change a while ago, but thinking of the hairy, varicose veined, flabby legs of the older sisters, opted not to tell us about it.  Nevertheless, it applies to us so I shocked everyone by announcing the new policy in prayer meeting, and throwing away my pantyhose (although not in prayer meeting).  The ladies all cheered of course, the gents just wondered why we cared.  Additionally, we are encouraged to accessorize.  To all my friends who mocked my flowered and ribboned head bands, dangly earrings, now I'm right in step with the prophet's counsel.  I didn't really bring many fashionable outfits with me, but the drabbest of them are going to DI tomorrow.  In addition to improving the face of missionary work to the world, this new policy has got to improve mission morale.