April 15, 2015
The plan for last weekend was to have a three-generation party/time out with my mother-in-law and my newly adult daughter. Grandma set us up like queens, but when the time came to actually go, plans were falling apart. She decided to stay behind and deal with ongoing projects at home and Sarah had a UIL Choir Competition to attend until late in the afternoon.
I was optimistic that we would still make it in time to see John Bytheway, but alas, Houston traffic presented a greater hindrance than I anticipated, or at least, prayed would not be. We got to San Antonio after a quick stop at Buc-ee’s and checked in to the hotel knowing that the conference was just across the street. I was happy that there was a city parking lot right next door to the hotel and we scored a spot on the ground floor for $11 (in comparison to the $37 that we would have paid for hotel parking).
We walked into the room in time to catch the closing song and prayer. We later heard that the group performing, Gentri, had done a Les Miserable medley, and it was hard to not be bummed out. I would have loved to hear that having just watched the movie recently at a friend’s house. We were able to locate some friends from our ward and walked around the shopping areas. It was kind of a mad house with the mass of women and girls there. We made our way back to the hotel, prepared for the next day, and hit the sack pretty hard.
Everyone was on stage and took turns introducing themselves and telling what they would be speaking about.
Mercy River – trio sang a catchy song “Sing it Out”
Elaine Dalton – Excited to spend time and meet all of us, especially since she got there late and walked in with us when the doors opened. She said that her husband was a Texas missionary back in the day when the whole state was the mission. Her talk would be on “Becoming an Elect Lady.”
Lisa Valentine Clark aka “Info Girl” – Found out that mums is a thing in Texas and wants to bring it to Utah and the whole world. She would speak to us later on how we need each other.
Michael Wilcox – Loves Texas because when he went to a BBQ place there was a sign that said, “No Veggie Burgers Available.” He also loves the Alamo and grew up on stories of David Bowie and David Crockett. He went to the tour and when they came to the part where Santa Ana raised a blood red flag, he said everyone knew what that meant–even the people trapped inside the Alamo. It meant no quarter, no mercy, no forgiveness, and everyone would die in the attack. Later, when Sam Houston captured the Mexican General, he told Sam Houston that he should be proud for capturing “the Napoleon of the West.” He asked for mercy, but Sam Houston told him that he should have remembered that at the Alamo. Brother Wilcox said that the three most important sentences we can say to each other are, 1.) I love you, 2.) I appreciate you, and 3.) I forgive you. In our lives there are too many red flags.
Hank Smith – comedian of the group; his wife’s favorite phrase is, “No, we can’t afford it.” He let us know that he would be speaking to us after lunch so he asked us to pick the most responsible person in the group to make sure that we got back from lunch on time. His topic was going to be about the Plan of Happiness and what to do when the Lord changes the plan. He said that there was a time when his son was being raised by the DVD player and watching The Prince of Egypt a lot. He started to get a clue that he might be watching it too much when his wife spilled a cup of milk at dinner time and his son said, “Careful, slave.” (Probably the best line of the conference.)
Emily Freeman – her favorite state is Texas and one day she will live here. She started to tell the beginning of her story when her house filled up with teenagers… two daughters at home, two boys came home from missions, one boy came home from college, a boy asked to live with them, and the boy next door asked to live with them. She was saying yes before no, constantly doing dishes, and straightening up the house was the first thing to go, and then the laundry. Her talk would be on reminders, living proof or evidence of Heavenly Father’s love for us.
Whoopsy daisy, I forgot to post this. I have more notes to add, but time is flittering past with more important issues needing my attention. Sorry!
By the urgings of my favorite mother-in-law, I am sitting down to write more of my notes. 🙂
Elaine Dalton gave a talk that I’ve heard her give in Leadership Training when she was the General Young Women president. I was actually a little disappointed. Might have been good to take a picture with her or something, but I never saw her after she left the stage. I know one of the Stake Young Women presidents from the Houston area got a selfie with her because she posted it on Facebook, but I never shook her hand. 🙁
Anyway, she talked about becoming an elect lady. She complimented all the moms with daughters attending the Time Out for Girls in the next room. She had spent some time with them the day before he she said they are living proof of all of us being great mothers. She then clarified that she meant all the women in the room are living proof because even if we didn’t have a daughter there we are all examples to all of them and we have young women in our midst that we influence. Like the pioneers, we circle our wagons whenever someone is threatened and we as women do that for the young women. She encouraged us to encourage them and related how her mother always told her to “remember who you are.”
She said that even though she was released from her calling in the Church, she wasn’t really. It was the Lord’s tutorial for her to do what he wants her to do forevermore. “You are elect ladies,” she said and then rattled off different references in the scriptures when Christ called to those to arise and stand. The Savior beckons us to do his work to stand as witnesses and “shine forth thy light”. We should not be caught up in comparing ourselves with others or minimizing who we are, but be a little better. She quoted President Gordon B. Hinckley’s talk “Standing Strong and Immovable” from January 2004, “When you save a girl, you save generations. She will grow in strength and righteousness. She will marry in the house of the Lord. She will teach her children the ways of truth. They will walk in her paths…”
What we must do is to strengthen our faith, quoting President Thomas S. Monson: “Unless the roots of your testimony are firmly planted, it will be difficult for you to withstand the ridicule of those who challenge your faith. When firmly planted, your testimony of the gospel, of the Savior, and of our Heavenly Father will influence all that you do throughout your life.”
Sister Dalton said we need to be PROS. Pray every single day, morning and night. Never miss. Read the scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon because it was written for our day, at least five minutes every day. Be obedient to the standards of the Church. S is not for service, but for smile. She said it’s the first thing she does in the mirror. We have the restored gospel and we have power available to us. She listed a bunch, but I only got that there’s power in personal purity. We are happy, joyful people. We were valiant in the premarital life and it has qualified us. We should defend the plan of salvation and think, “I know Jesus Christ” because I voted for the plan.
Opposition is greatest it has been, but so, too, is the opportunity greatest. Hasten the second coming of our Savior, walk the paths of virtue–why? Virtue is power. Personal purity is power because it enables us to have at the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. We are surrounded by things that are not suitable. Quoting President Monson again: Temptations to stray are all around you. Great courage will be required. The commandments are not negotiable. Ted Koppel: “We have actually convinced ourselves that slogans will save us. ‘Shoot up if you must; but use a clean needle.’ ‘Enjoy sex whenever with whomever you wish; but [protect yourself].’ No. The answer is no. Not no because it isn’t cool or smart or because you might end up in jail or dying in an AIDS ward—but no, because it’s wrong. …What Moses brought down from Mt. Sinai were not the Ten Suggestions, they are Commandments. Are, not were.” Sister Dalton was there when the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet was updated and said that the prophet requested that the ten commandments be placed at the front.
The Savior can help us return to virtue. You can be completely healed. Sometimes the road is steep, narrow, long, and hard. We must cleave to our covenants. She quoted M. Russell Ballard’s talk: “Popular culture today often makes women look silly, inconsequential, mindless, and powerless. It objectifies them and disrespects them and then suggests that they are able to leave their mark on mankind only by seduction–easily the most pervasively dangerous message the adversary sends to women about themselves.” And “Remember, sisters, God is the source of moral and spiritual power. We gain access to that power by entering into covenants with Him and keeping those covenants. Mothers, teach your daughters the importance of making covenants, and then show them how to keep those covenants in such a way that they will desire to live worthy to go to the temple.” Sister Dalton continued with doing family history work and taking names of our ancestors to the temple. I was busy writing that I should put pictures of those we took to the Nauvoo Temple up in Zack and Sarah’s room.
She concluded with admonishing us to keep our covenants. They are real. Keep them and you will drag your children away with you into heaven. How blessed we are to be women in these latter-days to be led by a prophet of God.
Mercy River took the stage and before actually singing to us, they talked to us first. I think it was Soni that shared that her friend texted her to tell her that she looked cute today and apologized for not saying it when she was with her. Compliments are often thought up in our head, but we forget to say them yet compliments are an easy way to uplift and inspire each other. She encouraged us to say our compliments and not just think them. Then Whitney talked about how she wasn’t “crafty mom” or “intricate hairstyle mom” and it used to bring her down until one night her husband put on some music and she began dancing around with her children. She discovered that she was “crazy dance party mom”. “I’m not ‘patient mom’ and by the way, we all hate you.” After we all danced around like crazy people, she brought the Spirit back into the room by saying that she may not be the perfect mom, but she was the perfect mom for her children because Heavenly Father gave them to her and he knows what he’s doing. She said we should mother authentically, not trying to be someone we’re not. Brooke had her turn talking about how crazy it was trying to teach her small children and saying to a primary class, “Hold still, little one, I’m trying to teach you about gratitude.” She was restless and weary and she was caught up in to and fro and craziness of the days when she prayed to ask for help she heard, “Hold still, little one, I’m trying to teach you about your daughter.” She quoted from Richard G. Scott and I made a note to read the talk “Trust in the Lord” from October 1995 rather than write anything down. Actually, the last thing I wrote was “Let Him give you rest.”
Lisa Valentine Clark, aka “Info Girl”, was next. She is dubbed “Info Girl” because she did all the video presentations giving us information about the particulars surrounding the conference. She was a surprising gift for the weekend. I actually got to meet her and take selfies with her afterwards. She impressed us so much with her humor and her honesty. We are resolved to watch her full series at www.prettydarnfunny.com. She shared with us a clip from one of the episodes which describes how we can spend a lot of time “one-upping” with the overly capable moms we encounter. She asked us what we can contribute in an apocalypse, describing how much she loved theatre and improv. She said that she and her family would provide a show at sundown in exchange for hard red wheat. This was to describe how we all need each other. She then went into a kind of rant that started with, “Because I know what it’s like…” and ended with “…to be pregnant and cleaning up red vomit off new carpet when you get the call that your brother…” I can’t remember what came next, but it was some kind of an illustrious achievement. Her siblings are doctors, lawyers, interior designers, and the lead guitarist for Maroon 5. The audience audibly gasped and she bent down and said, “Let me just pick up that huge name I just dropped on the floor.” She spoke really fast, so I enjoyed the ride her presentation took me on, laughing a lot. I jotted down things like: What are your personal offerings? Self-evaluate what you love to do and see what it is you can contribute. We forget to be grateful for others’ offerings. We all need mercy/grace and not judgment. Listen. Learn about the other side instead of trying to be right (especially in comments on social media). Not seeking for validation from others. Get away from mommy specialization. Lower the bar of being awesome–not our standards, but our expectations on ourselves and others. Are we kind? Am I doing the best for me and my kids? Examine our choices and decisions, change if necessary. If we miss the humor in life, we miss the point. Celebrate our differences in order to relate well to everyone. Understand the atonement of Jesus Christ. Respect our journey and the journey of others. Constantly practicing. She had a funny aside about the phrase, “It takes a village,” because when something goes wrong with a kid the comments are, “Where is the mother?” There’s no village then. Mothers do what needs to be done. We need each other.
S. Michael Wilcox is the only presenter that made me cry. He said he was born asking questions and sometimes he’s given answers and sometimes not. When doing temple sealings he finds himself wondering, “What if they didn’t like each other in life?” On one occasion he suddenly had an answer, “There is much forgiveness here.” There needs to be more of that in the world and in our hearts. When the Savior taught he did not give long lectures. He simply told stories. We feel the forgiveness in the story so we feel the ability to forgive. Shakespeare said, “Mercy is twice blessed” because the forgiver is both receiver and giver. Genesis is a story about a family. Told of Jacob going to meet his brother Esau after many years and they both had families. Esau “came near”. Joseph takes Benjamin and Judah pleads for him to take him instead. Joseph said, “come near to me” and “they came near”. The prodigal son’s father went to his son when he was still afar off. “Then drew near unto Jesus the publicans and the sinners”. All of the forgiveness in these stories involve a “coming near”. William W. Phelps (wrote hymns) was key in sending the prophet Joseph Smith to Liberty Jail. He asked for forgiveness in a letter to receive full fellowship. Joseph Smith wrote back that he was welcome to come to him, ending the letter with a poem, which was how they had once communicated with each other. This was a greater show of forgiveness because he also extended to William W. Phelps his friendship.
Brother Wilcox then spoke of how he grew up without a father because for reasons that don’t really matter, he abandoned the family. When he was given the assignment to talk about fathers, he could only think of his mother and the things she had done to raise him. Just then, his two sons came in and he felt such love for them and thought, “fathers share things with their sons,” and he remembered times they had gone fishing together or played catch. The Lord then told him to write about his father. This was an invitation that he needed a “coming near” with his father. They began to include him in their lives. His father could not know him, but he could know his grandchildren. It was one of the sweetest experiences of his life to learn to love his relationship with his father.
He spoke of the parable in Matthew 18 were the king made an accounting and found that one of his servants owed him 10,000 talents. He brought the servant before him and told him that he and his family and all his possessions would be sold in order to repay his debt. The servant fell down and asked for more time and he would pay all. The king had compassion for him, loosed him, and forgave the debt. The servant left and found a fellow servant who owed him 100 pence and told him to pay it. The fellow servant fell down and asked for more time and he would pay all. The servant would not and cast the fellow servant into prison. When the king heard about it, he called the servant back and told him he should have showed the same compassion he had been shown, and threw him into prison until he could repay his debt. After telling this story, Brother Wilcox said when he takes an account of his life, he owes Him every time. His goal is that there be no debts to be paid by fellowmen. Get compassion and pity. The king loosed his servant = clear our own hearts. We forgive and then we help those to be relieved of guilt. We loose the debtor.
A daughter who had been given up for adoption grew up in a lovely family. Her birth mother later contacted her and after she made it clear to her adopted mother that she would do nothing to hurt her, she wrote back saying she would love to see her. The birth mother came and the daughter showed her how her life had been blessed. She “loosed the debtor” and helped her birth mother to not feel guilt about her old choices.
A pharisee saw a woman anointing Jesus’ feet with oil and asked Jesus if he knew that she was a sinner. He didn’t see the woman, but saw her sins. Brother Wilcox began talking about how men and women can be different and relayed a story about going to buy a bed spread for his wife a few days before her birthday. He thought that he was done giving her a gift, but when her birthday came he was indignant that she wanted to go to dinner, too. There was a fight and he said, “Well, I’ll never do that again!” He was saying that he would never buy a birthday gift and give it to her early, but what she heard was that he would never buy her a present again. She began to cry, and he asked her somewhat annoyed why she was crying. She said, “You said you would never buy me a present again.” And I saw the woman. He hugged her and corrected her, but he said it still pains him to remember saying that. (This is the part where I cried.)
He talked about Susanna Cibber who was involved in a scandal, but when she sang in the first production of Handel’s Messiah, Patrick Delany proclaimed, “Woman, for this be all thy sins forgiven.” Her career was revived.
He noted Jacob 2:35 and how hearts died or were broken, pierced with deep wounds. It’s hard to forgive. Sometimes when he’s not ready, he tells the Lord in prayer that he can’t give forgiveness now, but he will give him what he can; he will forget. He will chase it from his mind and not think about it. Eventually, he is able to.
If he asked what we must do to be forgiven, he would receive a doctrinal answer every time, but the answer is to just ask. Ask for forgiveness and be willing to forgive others. Bury the weapons – don’t dig them up again – it’s like 500 pence pain for 50 pence offence. He ended his talk with if the Savior did something for someone in the scriptures, he will do it for us. Like the healing of a leper who asked to be made clean. Jesus said I will. Be thou clean. May we do that for others. No red flags.
Mercy River then took the stage with “The Reason for the World.” You may not know the reason why, but you know the Savior.
At this point, it was time for lunch! We joined a group of about a dozen people for lunch at a Mexican restaurant on the Riverwalk. It was a nice spot, but the restaurant food was not all that great. Still, I enjoyed it! Even when we had to walk back in the rain.
Hank Smith’s presentation was standup comedy using the news of his wife’s pregnancy with baby number four which he renamed baby number last. When they went through the ultrasound they discovered they were pregnant with twins. His wife later described life with twins as “horribly wonderful.” There was a lot of laughter when he showed us pictures of the twins as they had grown. One of them had a perpetually surprised look on his face in every picture. The rest of his presentation was dedicated to the top ten things that happy people do.
1.) Happy people surround themselves with happy people.
2.) Happy people try to be happy. He gave a caveat that depression was a health problem and not a spiritual problem, so if you need to, go get some help.
3.) Happy people are givers.
4.) Happy people have deep in-person conversations. Not Facebook, not email, not texting.
5.) Happy people laugh. Pick the comedy over the drama.
6.) Happy people use the power of music.
7.) Happy people exercise and have a healthy diet.
8.) Happy people unplug and go outside. Even just 20 minutes per day outside increases happiness.
9.) Happy people get enough sleep.
10.) Happy people take time to meditate.
Then he told us to just pick one that we’re going to work on. He read two perspectives on the same situation using a voice for Nephi and one for Laman. (He does voices for the children when he reads the scriptures to them.) Nephi felt blessed and Laman complained that if they had never left they might have been happy.
Where is happy? It’s always elsewhere. If only this, then I would be happy. If only that, then I would be happy. Try to find happiness right here wherever you are.
Quoting Elder Holland, Ensign May 2007: “I have often thought that Nephi’s being bound with cords and beaten by rods must have been more tolerable to him than listening to Laman and Lemuel’s constant murmuring. Surely he must have said at least once, ‘Hit me one more time. I can still hear you.’ Yes, life has its problems, and yes, there are negative things to face, but please accept one of Elder Holland’s maxims for living—no misfortune is so bad that whining about it won’t make it worse.”
He also quoted Gordon B. Hinckley, July 2001, when he said to accentuate the positives and that we speak more of one another’s virtues more than our faults. With our hearts and eyes wide open, find the positive, find the faith.
He told a story about Rodney whose wife was dying. They carried her through the house, giving a tour. The kitchen where she had given countless meals, the living room where they had held family home evening countless times, and thanking her for all that she had done. She died and later when Rodney was asked how he was doing, he replied, “I am a happy person and that is not going to change.”
After this there was a video presentation by Hilary Weeks about her friend Amy telling what what it means to become living proof. Amy’s husband was addicted to pornography and she had felt so hurt that she began drinking. It was to get back at him and also to cope. After the divorce, she began drinking every day. Her sister found out and went to their parents. With unconditional love they put together a plan and within four hours she was in detox. Amy, now clean, worked at the same clinic and a woman came in feeling so broken. She told her, “You are me,” and knew that moment was a gift to her because she exposed her rehabilitation for the first time telling this woman that God loved her. She told the woman that I’ve been here and I’ve overcome. She was also telling herself that God loved her.
Mercy River then sang to a video mash up of their song, “Move.” Afterwards, Whitney told us that her baby in the picture was now 5 weeks old and she expected foot rubs from all of us. She kept us laughing with, “I’m going to be a better person. I’m going to go outside for twenty minutes.” It was going to be hard to go back to the dishes, the messy house that was clean when we left, and laundry, etc. etc. She sat at the piano and said that being here at Time Out for Women is holy ground because whenever two or more people meet in His name, it becomes holy ground, and then they sang their song with that title.
My handwriting was starting get really messy at this point, with one speaker to go. Her name was Emily Freeman, and she made friends with the whole room when she said that Texas was her favorite state and she would live here one day. For now, she lives in Utah and shared how crazy her life became when her house filled up with teenagers. One of them was Ian who wanted to move in with them and prepare to serve a mission. He kept asking if it was going to be hard. When she said, “yes,” he wanted to know what would be the hardest thing. She said, “For you, it will be shaving.” She told of a hard week when two of his investigators got sick — one of them being a neighbor who had a seizure in front of them while walking to her apartment. She fell before they could reach her and she hit her head hard and began to bleed profusely. Their mission president came to talk with them to help them through the ordeal. Ian opened his scriptures and began to read about the Brother of Jared seeing the finger of the Lord. He got really mad and slammed his scriptures closed because he couldn’t see the hand of the Lord. When he calmed down, he opened his scriptures to read it again.
Emily said she was proud of him for going back to the scriptures. She said if we can’t see the hand of the Lord, to look for the His fingerprints. She referenced President Uchtdorf when he said that taking a step begins from right where you are right now. As a representative from Deseret Book, she began attending events where other denominations would be present. At one event, they were invited to take a rock and write one word on it that would represent their faith step. There was one woman that she admired a lot and she watched from above as she walked to place her rock on the table. She wondered what her word would be. The woman was called to the front and asked to share what her word was. She said that every step she had taken started with faith. “I want faith still, ” she said, and the word still was written on her rock.
Sometimes when we are in the depths of despair, it is possible to discover heights of peace; of heaven. In those moments, God reaches down to touch us. A lot of his fingerprints come when we are in the depths. She told another story of when she was flustered with preparation for speaking and she was in the bathroom tying the bow on her skirt and it kept coming undone. Someone came in the bathroom while she was in there and while they were in the stall she asked if she had a safety pin. The woman in the stall began to laugh. Emily asked her why she was laughing. There, behind the door, the woman was looking straight at a safety pin. Emily felt that the Lord knew her and what she was needing even to the smallest detail. It was a tender mercy and the fingerprint of the Lord. He is found in the little details when we are waiting for answers to bigger things, he is aware of what we need.
Like the stones the Brother of Jared presented to the Lord to touch, we become the offerings. Touch my life, oh Lord, so I may be able to shine forth in the darkness.
When David was young, he killed a lion with his bare hands and then a bear. It prepared him for Goliath. They were God’s fingerprints. He was not being forgotten. He was being prepared.
Last year, Emily got really sick. She was frustrated and upset. Her sister asked her if she was writing things down in a journal, but she asked why? She did not want to remember, but there are blessings received in unexpected ways, things we would not have chosen.
She told the story of the woman in scriptures who lived in the city that King David as ordered Joab to destroy. She was a mother in Israel and she became the Lord’s fingerprint. When Joab surrounded the city, she went out alone to find him and talk to him. He told her that if she could tell the people to give him the evil man gathering an army, he would leave. She went back to talk to the people, they found him and gave him to Joab. The city was spared because of one woman who knew who God was. God is able and exceedingly abundant. He not just makes promises, but fulfills them.
When we hold witness of lions we have faced, we become difference makers. What are you living proof of? Where is your ministry right now?
Her house filled up with young adults and then emptied out. Instead of taking caring of children, she is now taking caring for chickens. Her husband loves chickens and calls them his ladies. This year they are helping to raise other people’s chickens and they now have 39 chickens at her house. She always wants people to be able to come to her and ask her for help.
She asked us to stand up if… (I don’t remember the exact wording, but it was basically the following:) we had given service, received service, helped someone receive the gospel, received an answer to prayer, been an answer to someone’s prayer, etc. Pretty soon the whole room was standing. She said that we are living proof that the Lord keeps his promises one by one, evidence that God’s love is real. You are God’s fingerprints. Become a difference maker. Be living proof still. Jesus Christ lives.
Mercy River sang their last song which I do not remember the title to, but it was sweet. Afterwards, we took selfies with them and talked about Stephanie Mabey who wrote that last song. It was fun to be bouncy and crazy with them, and Sarah rolled her eyes and remarked that she was the adult now and I was the child.
It was a very uplifting way to spend the weekend. I remember the first time I went to TOFW, I was enthralled and was really craving the time out from my beloved children. It was a different experience for me this time now that they are mostly grown and do most things for themselves. I appreciated being able to share it with my newly adult daughter. In the beginning she said that Mercy River was not her kind of music, but by the end of the day she was begging me to buy her their CD. It was the only thing I allowed myself to spend money on and it was doubly sweet since we got all their signatures on it.
Driving home went a little quicker. We did stop at a restaurant supply store before coming home, but did not find what we were after. We also stopped at Buc-ee’s on the way back and saw lots of familiar faces heading home from TOFW, too. A couple of them were volunteers at the event and had received a couple of free tickets for their trouble. I think I would like to do that the next time they come around.
Posted on April 20th, 2015 by trish
Filed under: Church