Sunday, July 31, 2016

My Talk in Church July 31, 2016

**Since I just gave a talk a few months ago, I was rather surprised to find out I would be giving a talk again this year. I was just called into the Young Women's presidency, so, I guess that is how this all went down. Either way, this should cover me for a decade.**

I was nominated to give a brief introduction for all of us. Leg wrestling may or may not have occurred. Unfortunately, I’m a bit of a Polly Pocket over here, so I lost that battle before it began. Anyhow, We’re the new YW presidency. We have Lynne, and the Lindsays (Lindsis), and me, Kimber. I’m the secretary. We were volentold to speak today on the YW values. My focus will be Individual Worth and a sprinkling of Good Works thrown in there. These are my favorite values, so I’m going to get right to it.

I will be the first to tell you that the Young Women’s Program deeply affected me as a teen.

Unfortunately, my experience was… character building, if we are being politically correct. I was a rather awkward girl who watched Star Wars and Star Trek, worked on the newspaper staff, and sang in musicals as opposed to many of the other girls in my ward who all had many other activities and interests in common.  I had some hard things going on in my life that made it difficult to relate to my peers, and, unfortunately, the leaders struggled to relate to me too. Sundays and Tuesdays were often spent in a bathroom stall at the church, trying to fight back tears, or, in sullen silence, counting the minutes until I could leave.

Then, Barbra arrived.

Barbra was my Laurels Advisor. She was a tiny little thing who talked in hilarious voices. She brought a grabber toy in the shape of a shark that she named “Sheila the Shark” that she would let the Young Women in her class use to grab candy when we actually participated in class. She never made a big deal out of my hard days, but she always went out of her way to let me know how happy she was when she saw me having a good moment. She didn’t ever judge me or my habit of leaving church during Sunday School to get food from Wendy’s… as long as I remembered to bring her back French fries too. Barbra loved me with all her heart, and I knew I was very special to her.

Barbra taught me to love myself just the way I am, as quirky as I was, and still am. Because of her, I remember Young Women’s with some fondness, and I will always be grateful to her for that.

Now, it would be lovely to say the story ends there, but, it doesn’t. You see, as I became a young adult, I learned more about Barbra that really taught me how to live like a true daughter of God.

Barbra had a rough home life as a child. It didn’t get any easier for her as an adult. She married a man who left her when she was pregnant with her first, and only biological child. For the first 5 years of Chris (her son’s) life, she was a working, single mother. She met and married Manny Sanchez, and they were so happy together. They wanted more children, but, she had great health difficulties, and was eventually diagnosed with lupus. As a little girl, I remember seeing her come to church and barely being able to walk, with an i.v. attached to her. At that time, I didn’t comprehend how difficult that had to be for her.

In the spring of my Senior year of high school, when I was still in her Laurel’s class, Barbra’s son Chris came to church and passed the sacrament, dropped a note off at home, left, and committed suicide. I still remember the days after. The morning after Chris passed away, the neighbors tracked me down because she was asking for me to come to her house. She asked me to sing at Chris’ funeral. I spent most of my week assisting her in any way I could. I learned how to help someone in their worst moments that week as I helped before, during, and after the funeral. Around then, Barbra and I became family.

As I grew up and became a mother myself, I would visit Barbra and take my little baby girl to see her. Isabelle called her Grandma Barbra and I loved it. Barbra truly was the mother of my heart. 9 years after her son died, in the the fall of 2006, I received a phone call informing me that Barbra had suddenly passed away that day, and one of her requests was for me to again sing the song from Chris’ funeral, this time at her funeral. Barbra had told me of this wish several times in the years after Chris died. It was an honor I would give anything to not have experienced yet.

Barbra’s short life was full of pain and sorrow, and yet, she is the single person I can point to who taught me what Christ like love truly is. She taught me to understand what my worth was, because, she saw it when I couldn’t. In spite of her many moments of disappointment and great sorrow, she was a force for good in the world. At her funeral, many of her Young Women attended and had submitted memories of how Barbra had loved them and had changed their lives for the better. There were so many stories, they could only share a few of them during her service.

Barbra Sanchez didn’t just recite the Young Woman Values with us every week, she lived them. My testimony of those values stand on the foundation of her legacy. She was, and is, my first real hero.

Sometimes it is hard to remember that we are of value, particularly when our lives aren’t going as we had hoped they would. We wonder if God is listening, if we are being seen at all. It’s hard when the people who are supposed to love us the most don’t appear to value us and see our worth. I’m here to tell you that we are all very, very different… and that is a wonderful thing, because this world needs us to bring our different abilities and strengths and weaknesses to the table. That thing we think makes us unlovable may just be the thing that someone else adores the most about us. We may falsely believe we are too broken to do anything good in the world. It is my experience that the most broken among us are the ones who bring about the greatest blessings in other peoples’ lives. Our Savior himself was viewed as odd, an outcast. He made many people in his day uncomfortable, angry even. He spent his time with the least of these, the sick, the widows, the poor, the strange and unwanted. He had a life of sorrow. He was misunderstood and hated. And yet, we know who he is and what he has done for us. We understand his worth to each of us. Don’t you think he knows exactly who we are and what we are capable of? I promise you, he knows each one of our names.

If our Savior knows each of our names, how can we not see how important we are in our own very distinct ways. The value of Individual Worth is so important because, as women (and even men, this can go for you too of course), we think we have to fit a very specific mold in order to be a part of God’s Kingdom. This isn’t true. We need to be ourselves. Each one of us was created differently because we have special roles to play in this life, and they won’t be the same. We go through different trials, we have different talents. Much like the spring, summer, fall, and winter we all have different purposes and reasons that we are important. (And yes, I know in Idaho we really only have winter and August as our seasons… try and pretend with me for a minute). The key to finding our worth is remembering it is an individual thing.

As we become more comfortable with who we are in our own skin, we are able to more fully understand and live the value of Good Works. Let me read from Colossians 3:12-17:

12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. 14 And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. 15 And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Now, I’m not going to pretend that I hear this scripture and live this to the letter. I’m human, and some of these adjectives don’t really describe me, such as gentle. I’m less gentle and more feisty. But, I do know that every day I strive to act as God’s instrument in the work I do. When we are working for the good of others, God needs us to take on our individual roles to help others. I love the song from “Meet the Mormons” called “It’s Glorious”:

It's like a symphony just keep listening
And pretty soon you'll start to figure out your part
Everyone plays a piece and there are melodies
In each one of us, oh, it's glorious

[Verse 2:]
And you will know how to let it ring out as you discover who you are
Others around you will start to wake up
To the sounds that are in their hearts
It's so amazing, what we're all creating

As we discover who we are, we are able to see how we can best be a part of changing the world for the better. It won’t look the same for everyone, nor should it. I know that there were many great YW leaders when I was a teenager, but, the one I needed was different from the others. She walked to her own beat, and she taught me to do the same. The world needs more people who are unafraid to do good in their own personal way.

Now, I would like to take a moment to speak directly to the Young Women in our ward. I’ve known nearly all of you since you were my primary girls and I was your crazy music leader. I’ve seen you have good days, and I’ve seen you have less good days. The good days are fun, and the less good days help us grow. I’ve seen that in all of you. I’m not going to tell you that you are a bunch of sweet spirits or anything like that right now. I’m going to tell you that you are awesome weirdos who God needs in order to do great good in this world. I know this because I’m an awesome weirdo too. If I could give you one piece of advice right now (and I can because I have the microphone) I would tell you take this time of your life to be kinder to yourself. Teach your inner voice to treat yourself better, because, speaking from experience, that voice can be very unkind at times. You are exactly who this world needs you to be, and we are all better off because we know you. This is the moment to discover who you are and what your purpose is.

I’d like to close with a poem Barbra gave me years ago. For me, it is a daily reminder to be mindful every moment of what I am standing for and what I am doing to make this world a better place.

I have only just a minute,

Only sixty seconds in it.

Forced upon me, can’t refuse it.

Didn’t seek it, didn’t choose it.

But it’s up to me

to use it.

I must suffer if I lose it.

Give account if I abuse it.

Just a tiny little minute,

but eternity is in it.

By Dr. Benjamin E. Mays

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