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.
How blessed your ward is to have you for their Relief Society President! You are such a wonderful example of Christ-Like Love! You are compassionate! You like Grace and the rest of your family have a glow about you! I’ll be praying for strength for you to be able to do all you need to do! Bless you, my friend!
Aw that is so sweet, thank you so much!
Congratulations! Nothing like a stretching experience for growth! You bring so much to this new role.
I’m reminded of Saint Theresa’s prayer: “May today there be peace within you. May you trust that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith in yourself and others. May you use the gifts you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you….”
I laughed out loud with the “Charity never faileth” as I remember that being the t-shirt slogan for the reunion when Charity couldn’t be there LOL!
Oh I love that prayer, Libby! Thank you for sharing. And yes, I loved that t-shirt too!
I love turning “charity never failed” inside out to “charity ALWAYS succeeds.”
I was 38 when I was called as RS president and my youngest was 4. I cried, sobbed lol and served for 3 years. In those 3 years I was exhausted, constantly worried and it was probably the best 3 years !! Lol not only was I stretched as a woman but it opened my eyes to others. My heart aches for those struggling, was full of joy for those celebrating and the list goes on. I bawled when I was called and bawled when I was released. I love love this about tying those sisters together to make them stronger .. oh how we need that right now x
This was a good description of I feel…aching heart but oh, so full as well.
What an exciting new adventure for you!!!!! And the timing of it as you transition to two kids at home feels so symbolic. I was just thinking about the special “moving up” dinner you had with your younger three when the first two had left for college, and wondering if you would do something similar now that your family has transitioned to just Claire and Lucy at home with Grace’s missionary departure. So many new beginnings for you all on this journey! As always, thanks for sharing a peek into it with us!
So true! I love how all these “new beginnings” beckon us to keep learning and growing!
It’s already been 6 years since your stint in China?! Wow time flies by with rapid speed. I’m a long time reader and it sure went by fast!
Good luck with your new calling!
Yes can you believe how fast that time flew? Thanks for the well wishes!
I love the thought from the story of the brother of Jared that as we strive to bring light to others, we come to better know Christ. Although that isn’t a new concept, when applied to the imagery in the details of the story, I have been strengthened by what I’ve learned. I can imagine how much more powerful it is when we are gathered together in our good works, and in our efforts to gain and share light.
Good luck with the learning curve as Relief Society president! No doubt you will do an awesome job.
How wonderful about your new calling! Those sisters are very lucky to have you. Insights like the one above, and all your outflowing of love will deeply benefit some, if not all of them. I look back on my years as RS President with special fondness. It certainly did push me to grow. But most of all, it gave me a lot more faith and appreciation for God’s understanding of women and their needs.
Oh my word! This spoke to my soul… I was just called as Relief society president too and have never served in the organization… I have four kids under 11 and definitely stressed and cried for the first week. You have such a great attitude about it all… Thankfully I have a supportive husband and have already seen blessings, including my eyes being open to the needs of others… Which is a blessing to me and my family. You’ll
Be amazing…Good luck!
I am also the Relief Society president in my ward in Washington. It has been a such a privilege to really get to know all the amazing women in my ward. I was very overwhelmed at first because I didn’t feel adequate. But I knew enough and I had qualities that would help me to succeed. You have those too. The ladies in my ward were so helpful and kind and mostly grateful that I was serving as RS president and not them. Haha. You are going to do amazing and the time will fly. I’ve already served for 2 1/2 years and I’m nearing the end of my time. On Sunday I taught our RS zoom meeting. I felt confident, I was surrounded by friends and felt loved and supported. You will too. Good luck and enjoy this special opportunity.
I too get what you mean by wanting to be “behind the scenes”. I served as a primary president and it was really hard for me to be the one in charge (I HATE being up in front of people and making final decisions), but I grew in so many ways and loved the kids so much. I had a bad experience once where I was criticized by someone in my ward, and even though it was hurtful, it helped me learn to be more empathetic to others and to never judge. It also taught me to stand up for myself more- things I wouldn’t have learned so deeply without such a stretching calling. Good luck in your new calling! You will be amazing!
I listened a great podcast today that I think you would enjoy. https://leadingsaints.org/how-i-lead-as-stake-relief-society-president-interviews-with-angela-griffiths-and-jennifer-coleman/ Two stake RS presidents (one from the UK and one from Vermont) are interviewed and they had some great ideas and wisdom. Check it out. 😊
I love that a seemingly fun event 6 years ago is giving your a strong foundation for your new calling. I know you are equipped for this calling and you demonstrate it in all that you write…and do. Wishing you well!
This will be a life-changing experience for sure! You will be spectacular, even though it will be a huge challenge to help carry some of others’
heavy burdens! But it will also be full of so much joy! I’ll be praying for you every day! 🙂
love the tied together boats metaphor, and love how you teach! *=(dad)
Aw thank you for all the kind comments, I appreciated each of them so much. So so grateful for blog readers who “tie their boats to mine” in so many ways. I feel the strength from you and I am so grateful.