Sunday, March 11, 2012

Called to Serve

"Are you crying? Why are you crying?" Kim asked before wrapping her arms around me.

I didn't know how to answer the question exactly, but I tried my best.

"I just didn't want to let you down," I said. I just didn't want to let God down again, I thought.

Months of feeling like a total failure came to a head. I tried to be a good nursery leader. I LOVE nursery. In all the callings in all the church, it is the best. The closest, I think, that a person can feel like Heavenly Father does about his children in mortality. I mean, you have the benevolent adult (in similitude of our benevolent Father) caring for the needy and innocent children, kissing boo boos, giving subtle encouragement, breaking up fights, all while knowing that they will someday grow out of it, and move on to better things. But this is where they start. This is where that little buried seed starts to break open, absorb the nutrient-rich surroundings, and finally, grows upward towards Light.

But I was overwhelmed, guilty, tired, sick. Week after week of having sick babies was taking its toll. I didn't want to give up on my calling, but I didn't know what to do.

So, I brought up the troubles to the Powers That Be, and they said they would "take care of it." I had no idea what that meant, and what it would ultimately mean for me.

My mind went through all the possibilities and I could feel myself seeing that the only real solution would be for someone else to take my place all together.

It was like I suddenly realized, like waking from a dream, that yes, being sick was inconvenient for others I had to call upon to fill in, but it was affecting me as a mom. I was struggling to do what I needed to do for my kids because I was sick, tired and worn out all the time.

But I loved it so. And I loved that I got to spend time with Jeremy in such a sweet and gentle setting with those little people. And I loved that Lily was so happy and content with us next to her for those two precious hours every Sunday. And I loved seeing Eden develop and grow and love those little children. It was breaking my heart to think I would have to give it up.

"Maybe they'll just call people to serve with us?" I thought. "Yes! I like that idea..."

Then the call came.

They wanted our key.

We'd been released.

"WHAT?" I exclaimed. How could we have been released?? Wouldn't they have told us? Had we failed so miserably, caused so much trouble that it was just over? Like that??

I looked at Jeremy through teary eyes and begged him to call the counselor over us, and convince him that we wanted to stay, that we didn't want to be released. And in my head I cried, that I didn't want to disappoint God. Again. Turned out we weren't released, but were certainly planning on doing so.

Let's go back a few years....

I was younger, and I only had Josh. I had somehow managed to accumulate four or more callings in my ward. It was growing overwhelming, and I was starting to fracture under the stress. Jeremy was in school, and working nights, so I was a lone mommy with a very active little man, four callings to fulfill, and a will to do it, but the weakness of having a mortal body that could only do so much.

I didn't know what to do. But I knew I couldn't do it anymore. I asked to be released.

I felt like I had committed some unpardonable sin.

It's like that unspoken rule, that was probably spoken in my house, but not across the church: You ALWAYS except a call that is extended to you. It will make you grow. You NEVER ask to be released, because then you will be called to do something inane as punishment, and the chance of you ever being in a real calling will be denied you since you are a QUITTER.

And I felt, honestly, like I let God down.

The mantra "Endure to the end" haunted me. I didn't endure. I quit.

I was a quitter.

I was also pregnant, and didn't know. The following months were difficult and I was relieved that I didn't have responsibilities to worry about.

But in the back of my mind, I always wondered....Was God disappointed in me?

The more I thought of it, the more I wanted to believe it wasn't true. I wanted to serve, I wanted to be reliable. I wanted to do what was asked of me, and do it happily. Was it that my spirit was willing, and my flesh was weak, or was it that I was trying to run faster than I was able?

I finally decided that God wasn't disappointed. That he understood. I never had any doubts that he loved me (NEVER doubt that God loves you...another unspoken rule to live by).

And even though I felt pretty secure in this, relief would still flood my mind when I was extended callings that  weren't made up just to give me something to do. God trusts me, I would sigh.

I served in various capacities in the years following.

And then I was called into primary. I felt completely inadequate teaching. I had never taught any class before, but I knew, I KNEW that was where I was supposed to be. I was pregnant, and I was sick, and depressed, and it was difficult for me to feel the companionship of the Spirit because of the stress my body was under.

Cue Kim.

I sat in my chair the first Sunday I was in primary, and Kim bore a testimony to those little children that reached through the black fog and let the Spirit rest gently on my heart. I loved her from that very moment.

I was supposed to be there. It was hard, but it was where I was supposed to be.

I was released when I had Eden, and was content with being a mommy.

After six months, I started to get the craving to do something, serve somewhere.

"Use me!" I pleaded to the universe.

And then I was called into nursery.

I wanted it to be the best nursery ever! I wanted to teach those little people, and have fun, and revel in their heaven-fresh spirits.

So when that became increasingly difficult, I felt like I had failed. Especially since a part of me wanted to be released so my family wasn't sick anymore.

I was a quitter.


So, I gave Kim the best answer I could come up with why I couldn't stop crying there in the hallway at church.

I'm sorry I've caused trouble, I thought. I'm sorry I wasn't what I could have been, should have been, would have been. I'm sorry I'm a quitter, and I'm sorry, God, that I am so weak.

It all came out as, "I'm sorry about the nursery mess."

Kim waved it off kindly.

"You'll serve your time," she replied confidently.

I liked that. It made me feel like someday, somehow, I could make it up to God....

"We have different seasons," the councilor in the bishopric said two weeks later. "Thank you for accepting your new call."

I left the building smiling, knowing that I was called to do what I was supposed to do.

I stood in the chapel today as they sustained me to be one of the ward organists, one of the ward choir pianists, and Relief Society pianist. I thank Mom for that. Any talent I have was fostered by her determination that I practice, so that I could be useful.

So that I could serve in this time and season...

...and that I could bring joy to God.


Katscratchme said...

I'm glad you found your happy place.. I know I found mine (with its inevitable frustrations, of course). ;)


I think the music callings are great! I'm excited for you. Although choir pianist sounds like a lot of work! I am so sick of Ryder getting sick from nursery! And I either get sick from him or from going in to do the music. It makes me so mad when I look around and see kids with green snot escaping their little nostrils, or coughing on everything! When my mom did nursery, she would not admit children who were sick. They had to stay with their parents. And after church she sprayed the toys with Lysol. I asked our primary president if they could start doing that again, but she probably thinks I'm over reacting. But, like you know, it is so hard to function as a mom when I'm sick all the time or have a sick kid constantly!

Sarah Stufflebeam said...

Thanks for sharing your experience. A couple years ago I was choir director in my Singles Ward, and it was tough getting people to come, and so forth, but for the most part it worked out. Then one Sunday when the choir was supposed to perform, nobody showed up to practice, and because I knew they weren't ready, changed the music to a hymn, to make it easier, but proved a disaster regardless. I was frazzled, and the next week I was called in and they released me. Then the next Choir Directer got a budget, which I never was given, to buy new sheet music, and so forth. And I felt like such a failure. "Courage is knowing when to let go." But it's so hard!! Good luck:0)

Les said...

The Lord knows your heart, Dara. He knows that you have a gentle, willing, and able heart. He also understands the weakness of the flesh that sometimes makes it impossible to do what our heart so longs to do (which I am truly greatful for!). There was a talk given in a Priesthood session a while ago about lifting a grand piano with two fingers. I think it was called "lift where you stand". As long as you are doing you best where ever you are called to serve, we will bless the lives of those around us and we will be blessed as well. You will do so well in your new calling(s). You have always loved music and you will be able to share that love of music with the choir, the RS, and the other members of the congregation. I know Heavenly Father is aware of you and He proud of you.

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