Over the past month or so I have heard my sister talk about a program that she was helping with; it was a Stake Relief Society program based on a pamphlet called “Strength and Stillness: A Message For Women” by Sister Holland. My sister, who is working on writing her own book, started out by writing the script. As time progressed she took on more and more responsibilities – she made cakes for each table at the luncheon after the program, and she even helped with the physical programs that were passed out.
On a Friday, the day before the activity, I was thinking how I would love to be there for the program – after all, it was basically an afternoon of Melissa! Around 1:00pm I got to thinking about how fun it would be to see the program instead of just read the script. So I tried to get ahold of Jeremy, and around 2pm we finally connected. I asked him if he wanted to drive to Vegas and of course he was excited about the idea. I immediately called my sister and asked her if we could come for the program. She excitedly said yes, and an hour later we were in the car driving to Vegas!
The drive there wound up being 10 hours, which wasn’t awful. It would have been around 8 or 9 if we had just left a little earlier, as we hit rush hour on our way out of town. I drove for a lot of the trip, and holding my arms up made my pregnant rib cage sore! I’d never experienced that before. Also, we took the dog with us and this was the first time ever that he stuck his head out of the window and let us tongue hang out in the breeze. It was adorable! I don’t think he loved how long the car ride was, though – towards the end he was trembling. Sorry, puppy!
We arrived in Las Vegas around 1:30am, and boy were we ready to sleep!! Jeremy drove the last bit, and he was getting pretty tired as we drove past the strip into West Las Vegas. I kept giving him math problems to do in his head so he could stay alert.
The next morning we all headed over to the chapel for the program at 9am. Melissa not only wrote the script, but had the main part as the narrator. She sat on the stand in a cute purple blouse with bouncing, curled hair and flawless makeup. As Griffin put it, she looked “very attractive” up there in front of everyone!
The program was amazing. Seriously. Amazing. After an opening hymn and a few speakers, they turned the lights off in the chapel. The front row of sisters who sat in the center of the chapel had a microphone that they passed from person to person in the dark. Each person read from a script Melissa had written, iterating a prayer that a woman may utter in a particular difficult circumstance. Sincere words about loneliness, disappointment, and struggles of faith wafted through the room, and we could all relate to them. It was so touching to hear these heart-felt prayers, even if they were fictional. With the lights out and not being able to see the speakers’ faces, it felt very intimate and personal. It was amazing! Jeremy (one of 3 men in the room) told me later that it brought him to tears.
We heard some amazing stories from the various speakers – stories of how cancers had been healed, how family differences had been smoothed over, how temple worship is hard but brings blessings, and practical tips for scripture study.
There were musical numbers scattered throughout the program, and Griffin was one of those to play. His music is phenomenal! I would consider myself as someone who plays music, but Griffin is a musician. He arranges hymns by ear and plays them without sheet music. His arrangement was beautiful, as always, and brought me back to my mission. On my mission, Griffin would send me songs he arranged and my companions and I would listen to them over and over again. For one of my companion’s birthdays, I had Griffin create a medley of her favorite hymns. Griffin’s music brings me back to peaceful, Spirit-filled times on my mission, when I could feel God’s love despite the trials of laboring in his service. It also reminded me of my family at home, bringing a homey, comfortable, peaceful feeling. Suffice it to say, I always love hearing Griffin play.
After the program was over, we went into the cultural hall for a brunch. Each of the 20-something tables had a cake on it. There were something like 10 different flavors of cake my sister had made – Banana dream, snickerdoodle, and coconut lime were just a few. Of course, the cakes were amazing. Jeremy sat at the coconut lime table because one of the flavors of our wedding cake was that same coconut lime and we wanted to have some more of it!
At the end of the afternoon, I sat on the couch while everyone helped break down cultural hall because I’m pregnant and I can. I sat there and thought about Melissa’s participation in the program, in awe of how many different talents she brought to the table – baking, writing, speaking, etc. The program and her participation in it was an accurate portrayal of who she was and what her talents and gifts were. In all senses of the word she put her “all” into it. Melissa was truly an example of consecration.
Lately I have been reading about consecration because I think I know what the word means, but I don’t think I actually do. Elder Maxwell’s talk on consecration helped me understand it better. He defines consecration as follows:
“We tend to think of consecration only as yielding up, when divinely directed, our material possessions. But ultimate consecration is the yielding up of oneself to God.” (“Consecrate Thy Performance,” Elder Neal A. Maxwell, May 2002)
In short, the word “consecrate” seems to be a way to describe those who encompass the first commandment, found in Matthew 22:37 when Jesus commanded us to “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” Elder Maxwell explains that yielding up our heart, soul, and mind is a commandment that is always in effect, not just when it comes to material goods or for a few hours a week in the church building.
Just as Elder Maxwell explained we must do, without a doubt Melissa yielded up her entire self to God that weekend and the weeks leading up to the program in preparation. She held nothing back, willing to utilize all talents and time she had at her disposal. Maxwell admonished us to follow my sister’s example by saying, “We may, for instance, have a specific set of skills which we mistakenly come to think we somehow own. If we continue to cling to those more than to God, we are flinching in the face of the consecrating first commandment.”
Maxwell explained that “A stumbling block appears when we serve God generously with time and checkbooks but still withhold portions of our inner selves, signifying that we are not yet fully His!” After seeing my sister’s example, I wonder to myself what portions of my inner self I am holding back from Him. It has sparked a deeper introspection, one that I have not completed yet and therefore can’t describe. But to start, finding joy in my callings is a one way to become more consecrated. Primary is fun for me, but my other callings (yes, I have 3 callings) don’t always get my whole heart and soul like my sister gave to the stake women’s conference. My marriage, although a huge part of my life and something I derive great joy from, does not always receive the kind of attention it should. Today I bought Jeremy a little one-dollar cup of arroz con leche while grocery shopping to show him I was thinking of him. That may sound silly, but it made him feel loved and cared for; although marriage is not a traditional calling like my sister’s efforts at the Women’s Conference, I think strengthening a marriage definitely is something God would count as a step on my journey towards consecration. My sister’s efforts over the conference weekend were inspiring and encouraging. I am determined to continue my journey onward towards consecration, and towards my Savior.