The Sacrament table was right there. I saw the creases in the tablecloth, the glint of silver as a corner of a tray peeked out. I watched the young men reverently pass the tokens of the Lord’s sacrifice off of and back on to the altar.
I took the emblems of Him who drank the bitter cup completely.
I collapsed inside because I didn’t think I could do the same. I didn’t know what to do.
Enduring to the end is a cardinal doctrine. I wanted to endure. But I knew I couldn’t go on much longer.
So did my husband. He watched me on the stand watching the Sacrament ordinance. He gave me a weak smile. I didn’t like his counsel. I was trying to find my own way.
He wanted me to ask for a release. I felt like I should be able to barrel through the last three months of my calling. The thought came that I could ask for help without completely “giving up” and thus enduring to the end.
The Aaronic Priesthood brothers went to sit with their families. The chorister and I (the organist) did, too.
I told Anthony what I’d decided as I sat down. He gave me a hug. Sacrament Meeting continued.
Acting in Faith
Even though I’d decided how to approach the calling, I didn’t receive any real confirmation that it was the will of the Lord. I couldn’t hear anything! I wanted confirmation. I wanted Him to tell me exactly what to do. But He didn’t.
Later that week, we met with President Pharis, first counselor in the stake presidency, to talk to him about what I was experiencing. A chronic disease that I’ve struggled with since my mission had roared into full-fledged tribulation. My calling as early morning seminary teacher exacerbated the symptoms that troubled me most. Because of the disease, I don’t sleep soundly, so usually compensate by getting more unsound sleep to function. Long-term “constantly being on” takes a toll on my cognitive and motor functions.
I’d experienced two full-on physical crashes before—on my mission which sent me home and then again in Germany while working there for a year. I knew I was crashing.
I asked President Pharis for help, for a co-teacher who could teach twice a week and I’d teach the other three days. He compassionately agreed. He hoped to have someone called soon.
I determined to press on. Anthony picked up all of the slack left by my decision to press on.
Try His Works to Do
A few weeks later, I cried as I played the Sacrament hymn.
Oh, dearly, dearly has he loved!And we must love him too,And trust in his redeeming blood,
I mused that I hadn’t even played the organ foot pedals in months because my legs hurt so bad, how could I do His works?
We’d just passed the business portion of the meeting. No co-teacher had been called.
I felt absolutely mentally exhausted and physically smashed. I maintained my seminary lessons using my daily allotment of energy but then I couldn’t do my work efficiently. I worked all day on simple editing tasks which should normally take less than an hour. I was a contract editor making $15-$20 a day yet giving all I could muster. I don’t have sick leave or vacation time. I saw the pressure and worry piling on Anthony’s shoulders.
I watched the young men pass the Sacrament.
Why Couldn’t I Hear Him?
Did Heavenly Father hear me? I’d prayed to know His will but still hadn’t received a definitive answer. I moved forward in faith; however, I didn’t see any doors opening or relief coming. I felt pressure by loved ones to just tell the stake I had to quit, but I couldn’t leave the class without a teacher. Those kids mean the world to me.
I didn’t see a way to accomplish everything expected of me. And yet, I had just taken the emblems of Him who drank the bitter cup. How could I give up when I knew He’d drained the bitter cup alone?!
Why Wasn’t I feeling Him?
He usually hugs me in moments, if that makes sense. I hear a song or have green lights or find myself bathed in light. And He sends lots of rainbows. Rainbows are my favorite because they remind me of covenants. But I wasn’t outside very often lately and hadn’t seen any rainbows for a while.
I left the stand to sit by Anthony. He sits so I can fully lean on him and still remain upright. As I moved into place, one of my favorite little friends, Rachel Kauihou, came to me and handed me a bag. Surprised, I looked at her and took the bag. She smiled and hurried back to her parents.
I found her gift, a small canvas painting of…a rainbow along with some other sweet items.
He Sent a Rainbow!
Rachel painted me a rainbow! Her mother told me how Rachel insisted that I get that rainbow. When I thanked her, I asked Rachel about the cat sticker and what that represented. She matter-of-factly told me it was a cat meditating on a rainbow!! And laughed hysterically. Oh, I love her.
This act of love and kindness totally unhinged me. I sobbed and sobbed. It represented so many things to me—covenant, love from the Lord and Rachel, God’s acceptance of my sacrifice in my affliction, and mostly that He saw me. The Holy Ghost prompted her action and she acted.
No adult words could have offered the same support and solace Rachel’s painting did. I hadn’t been able to hear the Lord through my grief, fear of failure, and discouragement at not being “strong enough,” but I heard the Lord through this pure gift from a little child.
Her gift was a turning point for my perspective. I no longer wondered if I was just flaking or giving up. I felt like I’d made the best decision in the situation.
We’ll Walk Thy Chosen Way
The following week, I sat behind the organ listening for stake business. There was none. I began playing the Sacrament song.
As now we praise thy name with song,The blessings of this dayWill linger in our thankful hearts,And silently we prayFor courage to accept thy will,To listen and obey.We’ll walk thy chosen way.
After the Sacrament, I went down and sat by Anthony. During one talk, I noticed our little friend Sydney scrutinized us and then looked down. She continued looking up at us, then quickly down. Her mom whispered, “She’s drawing you guys.” I eagerly anticipated the end result.
As Sacrament Meeting ended, Sydney presented us with her rendition of us. I loved it! I mean she did a great job!
I loved my added bow, Anthony’s mustache, my earrings, and Anthony’s tie, that she saw us smiling…and then I noticed the most meaningful thing. Sidney saw our hearts. She saw full and big, messy and whole hearts. So, of course, I cried.
“We love thee, Lord, our hearts are full. We’ll walk thy chosen way.”
OK. I could. I would.
Another child had strengthened my faith.
As I Walk Daily Here on Earth
Two more weeks passed. I sat at the organ listening for stake business. A member of the stake presidency and a high councilman sat on the stand. None. I turned to the Sacrament hymn.
Help me remember, I implore,Thou gav’st thy life on Calvary,That I might live forevermoreAnd grow, dear Lord, to be like thee.
To be like thee! I lift my eyesFrom earth below toward heav’n above,That I may learn from vaulted skiesHow I my worthiness can prove.
Give me thy Spirit as I seekA change of heart, another birth,And grow, dear Lord, to be like thee.
“I have something for you,” a special friend said. She brought me a Crunchie bar. Crunchies are a favorite treat discovered on my mission to Scotland.
The significance of this treat compounded during this time. On my mission, I experienced this loss of physical power and energy for the first time.
Determined to finish my mission, I worked myself to a crash that took me months to recover from. One day while studying the scriptures, the Holy Ghost prompted me to fast to know the Lord’s will about me staying on my mission. I asked my Mission President and Mission Mum and also my parents to fast with me to know if I should stay or go home a transfer early.
The answer came loud and clear to all of us. I had done what the Lord required of me. I was to swallow my pride and go home. I’d been adamantly unwilling to take that action. However, after the fast, I immediately packed my bags and flew home that following week. I never questioned that decision because I knew the will of the Lord.The Lord’s sent me five Crunchie bars through two friends during this trial. Five. That’s a lot for a chocolate bar that has to be hand delivered to Hawaii. I heard His voice. This was His will.
That same week, my sister Desirée received and followed the Holy Ghost’s prompting. Her note is sacred to me. Her actions helped me feel connected to a loving Heavenly Father who knows my need. I felt His love through her love.
Let Our Prayers Find Access to Thee
Six Sundays after humbling myself enough to ask for help, I flung myself at the edge of my bed in prayer to God. Again, I didn’t know if I could go on. Two friends had substituted three days for me during prior weeks. I’d received a powerful blessing. My family fasted for me. Prayers were offered in homes and temples for me.
But the thought of pulling myself together for another week so emotionally crippled me, I begged the Lord to show me how I could do it. Please heal me! I knew it was possible. I couldn’t understand why that wasn’t His will. I was trying to teach His children. He’d called me to this calling.
I knew it was possible. I’d been healed to functional states before. I had the faith to be healed.
And then I said the words of three of my heroes. “But if not“…
But if not, I will serve and do according to Thy will. I will drink this cup. This cup of trembling. This cup of terror. This cup that stretches my every sense of purpose. This cup that tests every piece of my will. I will drink it. And I thank you for it.
Let Me Not Forget, O Savior
I sat at the organ listening for stake business. Two members of the stake presidency and a high councilman sat on the stand. None.
I turned to the Sacrament hymn, my very favorite hymn, “In Humility, Our Savior.”
In humility, our Savior,Grant thy Spirit here, we pray,As we bless the bread and waterIn thy name this holy day.Let me not forget, O Savior,Thou didst bleed and die for meWhen thy heart was stilled and brokenOn the cross at Calvary.
Fill our hearts with sweet forgiving;Teach us tolerance and love.In thy holy courts above.Then, when we have proven worthyOf thy sacrifice divine,Lord, let us regain thy presence;Let thy glory round us shine.
That “but if not” Sunday, two weeks ago, President Pharis stood at the pulpit right before Sacrament Meeting ended. He said he had urgent business that needed to be done that day even though the other wards in the stake would not have an opportunity to offer a sustaining vote.
He called the woman’s name. I’d been praying for her. She’s extremely busy. She’s got another calling. She shows such love and strength. She knows the Lord and His gospel.
She stood. I looked at her across the chapel. I knew she was for me, my co-teacher. The words came. The hands raised. I fell back into my pew. He sent Wendy. I knew I could get through the final seven weeks with her.
The Lord heard my cries. He sent a ministering angel for me and my class.
Teach Us Tolerance and Love
That day, several other people also saw my physical struggle. The Furuto family didn’t know any specifics but saw me during Sacrament Meeting and noticed that something was wrong.
All six of the Furuto family members came to our home and ministered to us. We hadn’t laughed that much in a long time. Our home isn’t really childproofed, so Anthony was fielding questions about swords and spears while making sure no one got injured with the swords and spears.
Wendy jumped right in and taught seminary two days that first week. I slept and worked more capably and made 40 whole dollars those days.
To Achieve Lasting Conversion
The following Sunday I did not play a Sacrament hymn. Instead, I listened to General Conference. In the very first talk of General Conference, Elder Ulisses Soares said,
Our purpose as we seek to learn and to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ must be to increase faith in God and in His divine plan of happiness and in Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice and to achieve lasting conversion. Such increased faith and conversion will help us make and keep covenants with God, thus strengthening our desire to follow Jesus and producing a genuine spiritual transformation in us—in other words, transforming us into a new creature, as taught by the Apostle Paul in his epistle to the Corinthians. This transformation will bring us a more happy, productive, and healthy life and help us to maintain an eternal perspective.
I seek to learn and teach the gospel. I want to be transformed.
Transforming Us Into a New Creature
My last gift from a child came as a knock and run attempt in between Conference sessions. After the first session, I fell asleep. Anthony saw part of the giver at the open door knock and run away. So I asked his mother to confirm the treats and drawing.
Along with rainbows, sunsets connect me to God. For me, they represent closure, resurrection, the glory that comes from enduring. I physically see the hand of God as He paints the sky at the close of His day, still with beauty in details and unapologetic glory filling the expanse. I love watching the sun set over the sea.
My friend Roxy recently drove me to the sea to watch a magnificent sunset. She’s nicknamed me her Fragile Phoenix. I love that name and laugh because while fragile now, I’m determined to rise from these ashes, transformed into a new creature.
Benson’s drawing brought the sunset I’m not seeing often right now into my home. It felt like the Lord promising me that I would rise from this trial.
Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall:
But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
No, God did not answer my prayers in His usual way. Perhaps I was too wound up in survival mode to hear Him in the usual way.
So He sent a host of angels ministering in ways I would see, hear, and understand His voice and will. He sent children whose pure motives opened my most fearful heart to the Holy Ghost. He sent pray-ers and texters and drivers and lesson teachers who said, hey, we’re on the same team and we’ve got this together. He sent parents whose love and concern was palpable thousands of miles away. He strengthened Anthony who not only provided emotional support but did laundry and dishes and picked up the rest of the pieces I couldn’t hold.
And Heavenly Father sent His Son, the Captain of that host of angels. Every Sunday, He spoke to me during the Sacrament. He drank the cup. He is the Way. I felt it. I heard it. I remember it.
He sent his Son to walk with men on earth, that we may know.How could the Father tell the world of sacrifice, of death?He sent his Son to die for us and rise with living breath.What does the Father ask of us? What do the scriptures say?Have faith, have hope, live like his Son, help others on their way.What does he ask? Live like his Son.