Over the past few years the sibling rivalry between our only two daughters escalated to deep and spiteful mistreatment. They were competitive with each other, jealous, mean—fighting like cats and dogs! Heidi tried to push everyone’s buttons, and Adeline would go out of her way to make Heidi feel rejected. Anytime Heidi wanted to be with her or to be like her, Addie would refuse—she would change if they dressed the same, she’d cancel her plans if I said she had to include Heidi. It was getting ridiculous. All my Marmie-like transcendentalist dreams of raising powerful, loving, sisterly daughters were blowing away like so much Livingston winter snow.
Before our family trip to Nauvoo in June, part of my Fast Sunday prayer was that our girls might bond with one another on the trip and stop being so hateful to each other. They would be confined to the back seat of the minivan for several thousand miles . They’d have to learn how to get along or else kill each other.
Heavenly Father answered my Mother’s prayer. Sure enough, they found some common ground this summer and are wonderful friends now. Granted, the bonding was over Dr. Who and Sherlock, but I'll take it like it comes. I know Heavenly Father has the power to soften hearts and change attitudes, especially when we harness the power of fasting and prayer.
A Musical Miracle
As the Ward Music Chairperson and Choir Director, one of my responsibilities is to choose music and prepare the choir for special Christmas programs, in the ward and in the stake. Every year this is a scary prospect because so few people come to choir practice regularly. The past two years, the stake has held a special Christmas Concert and Nativity night, which adds even more pressure.
For Christmas 2013, we had scant choir practice attendance up until the last few practices. We ended up being one of the largest choirs in the stake and performing “Still, Still, Still” was such a powerful spiritual experience. I was so grateful to be involved and grateful for the singers who stepped up to help at the last minute. This experience increased my faith and I knew I shouldn’t get too anxious about choir attendance because everything would be okay in the end.
So for Christmas 2014 we chose our music and began to practice in October. Our numbers were few; the most men we ever had attend was five. Some practices consisted of a total of five singers, counting myself! I kept hoping for another Christmas miracle, but when only one man showed up at an emergency practice held the day before the Stake concert, I knew it wasn’t going to be like the previous year. I had already cut the choir down to one song, and now I was going to have to cut out the men’s parts all together. As we practiced, Sister Mills said, “Hey, wait a minute, I think I can carry this tenor part on my own.” There were only six other women singing, and Brother Mills singing bass. We tried it and it sounded amazing. We were more of an ensemble than a choir, but our song was a tender lullaby, so it was fitting.
The night of the concert arrived with a huge snowstorm. We were all afraid to drive to the stake center. A few of us didn’t brave it. But enough of us arrived safely to perform the song, and our dear accompanist, Sister Ryszka, had arrived alive, so we were going to be okay. As I rose to lead my “skeleton crew,” I prayed for another Christmas Music Miracle. The choir sang like angels. It was such a sweet performance, and we enjoyed the rest of the concert, as well. My prayer was answered. We received another miracle, though it was different than the year before.
This experience strengthened my testimony that God make us equal to our day, especially as we serve in the church. I don’t always understand why certain lessons or performances or activities turn out the way they do, but I know that God guides us to give to others exactly what is needed. The meetings go the way he needs them to go to accomplish his work when we allow him to lead us. When a lesson or activity or music plan isn’t going the way I planned, I’ve learned to truly “let go and let God,” because it’s His work and He knows the hearts of His children and what they need.
Sustaining the Priesthood
Talks by Naomi Johnson in 2013 then by Melinda Lowe in 2014 prompted me to be more supportive of my husband and more trusting in God’s plan for his daughters as well as his sons.
Many people I love and respect have made some sound arguments about changing the way we use the priesthood in the church. Many of these people have heartbreaking stories of unrighteous dominion and other ecclesiastical abuses. Some have taken these experiences to the conclusion that women should hold priesthood offices and authority and then we’d have fewer of these problems. Listening to these ideas began to create a fog of doubt and mistrust for me about the exercise and misuse of priesthood authority. I wondered if there was something missing that we as a church needed to ask for. Not necessarily ordination for women, but something different than what we have now.
When Naomi Johnson bore her testimony of the priesthood and working as a helpmeet with her husband, it touched my heart. I told Heavenly Father I wanted those feelings back; I told him I knew that my husband and leaders were worthy of my respect and sustaining and I wanted to have compassion for my sisters who were hurting and calling for change, but I also wanted the doubts to go away. Elder Oaks’ April 2014 conference talk was also a wonderful balm for my concerns. I knew that our prophets were aware of our concerns and have taken them to the Lord, and that things were as they should be right now.
Fast forward to Sister Melinda Lowe’s talk on sustaining the priesthood in Summer (?) 2014. She shared several personal examples of adjusting her attitude to be more supportive of her husband and the demands on his time as he tried to both provide for their family and magnify his priesthood callings. It was such a call out to me and all my murmuring and resentment about the time my husband has to be away from us for his scouting and stake responsibilities. My mind almost instantly changed from negativity to thinking, “I am so blessed to have a husband who has a job and works hard for us AND is willing to share his time and talents with the stake and with the scouts in our ward. He is blessing not just our family, but future families who will be led by righteous, skilled men who were once scouts with Brother Melin.” And I thought of all my friends whose husbands never even try to support their families or honor their priesthood, and I repented of my ingratitude right then.
I am so grateful for my faithful sisters and their testimonies. They helped me through a trial of my own faith and made me better through their words and spirit. Sometimes Sacrament Meeting talks just directly address my spiritual needs and I am grateful for the preparation that goes into each meeting.