For those new here, about six years ago, when all of our five kids were still at home, we had the unique opportunity to live in China for one school semester for my husband’s work…and for the adventure of a lifetime.
We put our kids in Chinese schools and tried to get in as many adventures as we could to get to know that part of the world better.
I think perhaps my favorite part of that trip, aside from just the opportunity to be together as a family, was when we spent a night out on a boat in Ha Long Bay in Vietnam. (It is one of my very most poignant “thin places” and forever holds a big piece of my heart.)
As our ship captain showed us around this beautiful spot with huge green, vertical mountains jutting out of the water in the coolest formations, he took us to a little floating village. There was a school, a little market where people traded goods, a little pearl farm, I think there was even a post office. And one thing he told us about that floating village has really stuck with us:
When there is a storm predicted, those people float all their boats together in a specific formation and tie them tight. In this way they are able to brave the storms together because they are so much stronger tied together than floating separately.
So fast-forward to now…well, actually back at the beginning of October when I got a new calling at church. Our bishop called Dave and me into his office and asked if I would be willing to serve as our congregation Relief Society President.
Now, for those who are wondering what in the world the “Relief Society” is, let me tell you, I’ve learned that it’s pretty much the best organization in the whole wide world. Ha! But really and truly, it is an amazing organization filled with women. A worldwide circle of sisterhood really. And I adore it. As Wikipedia (yes of all things) describes it: ‘The Relief Society is a philanthropic and educational women’s organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was founded in 1842 in Nauvoo, Illinois, United States, and has more than 7 million members in over 188 countries and territories.” (those numbers may be old ones, but it gives you the main idea). In all my years serving in my church, I have never had a calling in this organization. I have always served with the Young Women or in the Primary (working with the children). So I’m on a steep learning curve here! But luckily there are so many amazing “teachers” in my midst who are so patient with me.
As I have contemplated this new responsibility, I have thought a lot about how important GATHERING is. Not only with those in our congregation, of course, but with all the women in our neighborhoods. Those who stand in grocery store lines with us and who are deep in the business of finding answers to life in the middle of a pandemic. All the women who’s hearts ache with a gaping hole from the loss or estrangement of a loved one, those who are dealing with mental health, who are lonely, who are weighed down with problems they feel may never be solved, those who feel like sometimes their prayers can’t quite reach Heaven. We, all of us who at times feel we are carrying the world on our backs. Those loads that may or may not be visible to others.
We have the power to weave ourselves together into a beautiful tapestry to help “strengthen the feeble knees.” The theme of the Relief Society is “CHARITY NEVER FAILETH.” and I think that is so beautiful to remember, even as the world seems to be flailing around us, charity, that pure love of Christ, never will.
As I have thought about this gathering, those boats in that beautiful bay in Vietnam that tie together in a storm have come to mind over and over again. I love the analogy that we can tie our own boats together in love to brave against the storms that come our way.
We need each other!
As I’ve written about before, I do like to be the one tucked “behind the scenes” and I have been overwhelmed over and over again during the last month trying to find a balance. But I have learned there is pretty incredible beauty that comes from opportunities like this to tie together in sisterhood.
And I am excited for all I’ll be learning from the women who encircle their boats around me in so many beautiful ways.