Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Does Service HURT or HELP Your Family?

I wrote this post 2 years ago (don't think I'm pregnant right now, because I'm not - but I was then, haha, my mom just texted me with my last post-dated blog, "Are you pregnant")....  Sorry for the heart attack, Mom.  My baby is still my baby right now. :)

Then she asked me why I am publishing things from 2014....

I think I never published this one because of lack of confidence.  Deep inside myself I have the words resonating from others who say: "You need to learn the word no."  But I have passion on topics like this, and I have been inspired by others who live busier lives than I do.  Deep down, I still feel like I know the answer to the question at hand, but sometimes I still let the nay-saying gnaw at me from the inside....

Especially now that my husband and I have jumped into the journey of getting licensed for foster care & adoption, this question has been rolling around in my head again, so here we are 2 years later, and the question is still in the air....

(Written in Oct. 2014)

Here's a question for debate:  
Does serving HURT or HELP your family?  
I kid you not, I asked my husband this very question during our 10th anniversary date and since then I have come across the dilemma many times since in circumstances I didn't expect it to.  To clarify, I have been searching for volunteers to sing in the church choir - our church time has recently changed, and with it has come a change to the rehearsal time for the choir.  I have had several people tell me they can't come, because their family time is really important to them.  I get it - choir practice interferes with my family time, too - that's for sure.  Maybe this is meant to teach me that I need to get choir moved to an earlier time - like before church...but as I think about whether or not I want to lobby the Bishop for change in our congregation, I get to thinking about HOW MUCH I am willing to go down that road - I'm the director, and I have 3 little kids with 1 on the way, my house is supposed to be "presentable" for practice, and we're supposed to have treats for rehearsal, and my husband has meetings BEFORE meeting before church is not technically practical for MY family fact our time before church is critically chaotic family time preparing for church.  I do think it is possible that maybe the main reason I've had these experiences - is so I can advocate a different choir time - but in all honesty:  My personal philosophy is that there is no "good" time for choir practice.   My other personal philosophy is that service isn't really service unless it's a pain.  I don't really mean that - I have participated in various opportunities to serve that have been fun to do.  Even if service comes at an inconvenient time, it can be totally fulfilling when you have a good attitude.  What I truly mean is that more often than not, when someone I love truly needs something, it doesn't come at a time that is easy for me, but I think that happens for a reason.  I also know I'm not the only one that this happens to.  I think it's a test for us.  Can we drop what we're doing and help a friend?  If we're not able to make it to help them, will we find someone who is?  More often than not, service is not something that happens on our own terms, or it wouldn't be classified as service.  

At any rate, I DO understand that there are times and seasons for all of us - sometimes we can serve in certain capacities - maybe at choir, or at the food bank, or in the hospital, at a pet shelter, you name it, but once in a while life changes and we have to take a little break and then go back when we can.  I have had my own seasons of faithful or sporatic attendance at church choir practice.  I TOTALLY GET IT!  In this particular situation, I am not upset with anyone who cannot make it in their current time & season, BUT I am left to ponder....

Maybe all these instances happened for a different reason.   How strange is it that this topic has been brought up 5 times - once by me personally to my husband, and 4 times by others within a week and a half?  I think that maybe I need to ponder this very question I asked to my husband and find myself a REAL answer:  


Based off of my last post, it's obvious that I have been in over my head lately.  That's still true - even more so because my son turned 5, and I promised him a party.  I know that sounds simple, but sometimes simple can be stressful, and the stress makes it hard for me to function when I'm pregnant.  I have noticed that when I am stressed out, I throw up involuntarily, and frequently.  Someone I know and love has called me a wimp for this. :) Don't worry - she's nice, too.  She mercifully brought me a large Barq's Root Beer today - for some weird reason it makes me feel so much better, even though I'm an A&W girl by heart, this pregnancy makes me CRAVE Barq's.  I really don't get it, but I digress.

On our 10th Anniversary, my husband and I got some sad news about some of our close friends who are getting a divorce.  It was an eye opening moment - this couple we thought was perfect for each other, who never showed any obvious signs of incompatibility, who we thought would make it forever, is splitting up, and I believe that by now it's final.  This is all so devastating to me, actually.  It's scary to me, too, even though I'm still married.  I hate hearing stories like this, because I know for whatever reason someone has a divorce, it's got to be a not-fun reason, I know it's not what they envisioned when they tied the not all those years ago, and I know there had to be heartache involved at some point along the way, if it's not still on-going, and it makes me sad for them.

Essentially, we were thrilled to make it to our 10th anniversary milestone, but the news about our friends that same day actually made us pause in the middle of our celebration, and it caused us to remember - 10 years is really just the beginning.  What are we going to do to make sure this marriage will last another 10, 15, 20, 30, 50, 100+ years?  What's the secret?  Is there a secret?  I don't know.  What I do know and believe is that the Adversary...the Devil, if you will, is ALWAYS doing everything He can to break up the family, because "The family is essential to the Creator's Plan for the eternal destiny of His children. (A Proclamation to the World by the LDS church)."  I do know that NOT ONE OF US is exempt from temptation or weakness.  I do know that the Lord can help us through any weakness, and that He can make weak things become strong to us.  However, there are still times when weaknesses, and addictions, and choices have consequences that affect the family.  In our family, a lot of the craziness our family experiences comes because of the way I schedule our lives & Mitch sometimes seems like he's along for the ride.  So in an effort to evaluate our marriage, I asked Mitchell if he felt like the amount of service our family participates in is helping or if it's hurting our family.  I wish I had written down his million dollar response, but it was totally different than I expected.  I expected him to tell me I take the family out of control too often, and that I need to quit doing so many things, and that we need more time for our family.  But he didn't.  He said that we need to serve.  I personally think the way we go about serving the church & our community as a family can still improve to make sure our family doesn't suffer,but I do still agree with him.  We need to serve.  I do believe it will help our family learn the lessons we are trying to instill in our children.  But even though I know that, there are times that I do pray, "Heavenly Father, please bless that this time we are giving will not hurt our family, but help us."  Only time will tell how it will affect our family.

So...back to my original question.  It is essential that we protect our families.  It is essential that we nurture our marriages.  It is critical to give these endeavors our full attention.  However, we are also told to serve others and to give our time and talents to build the Kingdom of God.  I have heard time and time again, "Family Comes First".  And it should.  We need to support each other at functions in both the immediate & extended families where possible and that's one way to put your family first.  But can I justify NOT serving in the church because there will be a sacrifice of family time?  Is there such a thing as a calling that doesn't interfere in some way with family time?  I'm pretty sure the Bishop & his family serve their hearts out. I'm pretty sure the Apostles & Prophets miss out on a lot of family things the rest of us get to enjoy.  Does that sacrifice hurt their families or does it help them?

I know MANY, MANY, MANY others who RUN CIRCLES around us and who give MORE of their time and talents to their churches, families, and communities than we do.  These examples seem to say to me that service HELPS your family.  In fact, in some ways, it almost seems that your own family cannot thrive without serving others.  I think I found my answer tonight.  Sometimes our life gets a little crazy.  Sometimes the price of serving someone else means the laundry and dishes get out of control, but let's be honest, they can get out of control anyway, so how is that a real sacrifice?  If we can keep the proper perspective, adding some craziness into your family time will not hurt you, your spouse, and kids.  It will help you.

Bro. Bess
Brother Bess hosted the missionary discussions for my friend, Jenny.  He worked with Young Single Adults, and always made us feel welcome and like we had a friend in the Bess family. He died early and it was so sad to me.  At his funeral, a story was told about how he LOVED stereo systems and had been saving up money to get a new one...we're talking thousands and thousands of dollars.  There was a moment in time where there was someone within his realm of influence who needed help, and if I got the story straight, his Bishop asked him if he would be willing & able help this individual with their circumstance.  Doing so, meant sacrificing that special stereo fund he had worked so hard to build up.  Bro. Bess did it, though.  The friend who told this story said he was shocked, but Bro. Bess essentially told him, "I'm not worried about the stereo system.  The Lord knows of our sacrifices.  I'm sure someday I'll get an even better one."  He understood that you can't make a sacrifice of any sort without getting a blessing that's worth more in the end.  It will still take faith to move forward when service requires sacrifice, and sometimes the blessings for our sacrifices are not monetary, but in the end Bro. Bess did get an awesome stereo.  Did serving someone else by giving of his funds hurt him or his family?  I think not.

Grandpa Tenney
My Grandpa Tenney had an assignment from the church to watch over certain families in his congregation, and to check up with them at least once a month, and help meet their needs in any way possible.  He was faithful in this endeavor while he was feeling well, but even when he was sick and on his deathbed, he didn't turn it over to someone else - he fulfilled his assignment and was checking up on these other families.  Grandpa took care of his own family, too, but he didn't stop his service because he was afraid it would hurt his own family for him to devote energy in his final days to caring about someone else.  In fact, it means more to me that my Grandpa was being selfless in his service. I still think of his example time and time again when I've been given assignments from my church to check up on others in my congregation.  I am sick and pregnant, and it's easy to use that as an excuse, but then I think of Grandpa.  He was DYING.  Literally dying must feel worse than being pregnant.  It's not a good excuse to be worried only about myself when I'm pregnant.  I love Grandpa & his example.  I miss him.

My friends Liane & Becky
I have been getting my feet wet with the Distinguished Young Women of AZ program.  Everything is run by volunteers and takes a lot of man power and hours to pull off this wonderful program that teaches young women to "Be Your Best Self" and to also award scholarships to these stellar young women.  The craziness lasts for a month or more depending on the assignment you help with, but these women are the directors, so their craziness lasts much longer.   This year they both suffered the death of a loved one during the heart of the competition.  This last month, Becky lost her mother in law, and Liane lost her best friend.  Both of these ladies served their friends and families, and continued to run the program & rehearsals without a hitch, and without complaining.  Most people didn't even know the burdens they carried as they served 29 young women from the State of Az.  Did service this year hurt them, or help their families?  They're still happy. They're still moving.  They're still going to do it again next year.  They both amaze me.

Dad & Mom
My dad is a very busy man.  Like, actually, he's ridiculously busy of his own accord, running a business.  But he is also an Assistant Director of the Easter Pageant, and he puts on amazing, highly professional, 3 day Community Christmas Concerts for free, and he speaks publicly whenever asked, and almost always whenever anyone asks him to sing he will pull strings & is able to make it work out, and now he's the Bishop of a Young Single Adult Ward in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, too.  My mom is the same way - she jointly runs the business, she cheerleads my dad in his musical endeavors, she feeds hundreds of missionaries at conferences, she decorates for large events, she keeps the family together, she makes visits to others in need, she makes dinners for people in need, and I only hear her complaining about how imperfect things the dinners she makes - never is her focus on how hard it is for her to do so much for so many people.  When I grew up, my parents taught me & my siblings that NO MATTER WHAT the Bishop might ask us to do to serve in the church, that we need to go on faith that the Lord will help us do it.  The Lord will help us develop the skills we need to do the job we were asked to do.  I have never considered saying no to the Bishop, because that's what my parents taught me, and I have always been enriched in the end by the service to my congregation, even when I had a responsibility that was completely new to me.  Does it hurt my family that my parents do so much in their church and community?  No.  I talk to my mom every day.   And my dad calls his kids individually - multiple times a week.  He thinks about us.  He shares his feelings immediately, and he teaches us the lessons he's learning as he's serving.  I cannot tell you how many times my testimony has been strengthened by the service of my parents, because they have a story to tell or a deep insight to share that they would have received in no other way, but through serving others.  I actually get many opportunities to spend time with my family because they need my help with the projects they're working on to serve the community.  So in this instance, even though it usually feels like insanity in their schedules, service brings our family closer.

Uncle Lewis
My Uncle Lewis was an amazing man.  I didn't realize how "famous" he was until he died.  I just knew he thought I was special, because he told me.  But he was well known throughout all of Northern Arizona.  At his funeral, the church building we were in was packed to the back, and the service was BROADCAST to at least 2 other church buildings.  Family out of town could watch the stream online.  I know the people in the buildings felt the same way about my Uncle Lewis - he made them feel special, but they probably didn't realize he was as famous as he was, either, because when around Uncle Lewis, it was never about him, it was about the person he was talking to.  He touched so many lives, and so many people came to honor him.  He even had a letter read at his funeral that was sent from the First Presidency of the Church to thank him and his wife & family for the service they rendered.  When my cousin Dave gave his life sketch, I couldn't even count the amount of organizations he had served in.  There was seemingly no end to the way he gave to his community.  There was even a story of Aunt Mary and the way she supported him - one time, there was an early morning church meeting for Priesthood leaders, and Uncle Lewis slept thru his alarm - it was early like 4am, but she wasn't about to have it.  She put her cold feet on his back and pushed him out of bed...she could have let him sleep thru so they could have breakfast together, but instead, it wasn't about her, or him, it was about what they could do to serve the Lord.  I have never been so motivated in my life than I was by that funeral.  I left with a commitment to do an act of service every day besides my normal daily tasks for my family.  My Uncle Lewis has changed my life and my outlook on service.  I have found that as I have taken this challenge that I felt the Spirit prompted me to do, that I have had my life enriched in ways I didn't expect.  I have also found that when I do service I almost always need someone else to help me...I don't know what I need to learn from that, but it seems like every endeavor to serve takes more than one person.  Sometimes I cannot serve the community unless someone watches my kids.  Sometimes I cannot make dinner on time without having a helper in the kitchen.  Sometimes I cannot fulfill any assignment, even if it's musical, unless I have my hubby at my side (for example, HE was my right hand during the Gilbert Temple Cultural Celebration, and still is during Choir Practice...he makes copies, he keeps the kids entertained, he makes treats sometimes...I CANNOT do it without him).  But I think about Uncle Lewis & Aunt Mary.  They had a TON of kids - double the size of family I grew up in, and yet, they still served their community.  Did that hurt or help their family?  I think it only helped them - all of their kids are grown and are successfully providing for their families - all of their kids are serving their community in major and time consuming ways, and they attend church regularly & serve there - many as Bishops & priesthood leaders, they leave Secret Santa's yearly as tradition started by their parents, and there are positive waves rippling across the world because of the Lewis & Mary Tenney Family.

Since I attended Uncle Lewis' funeral I have also started to pray that the Lord will increase my capacity & capability to serve.  I have seen the Lord do this, and I have had so many fulfilling moments of joy that would have come in no other way, but by helping a friend.  (I have also had an increase in feeling crazy, but that's okay.)

So what is it folks - is service helping us or is it hurting us?  

All any of us can do is have faith and trust in the Lord that He will bless your efforts to serve in a way that helps your family.