“Mormon Journal,” Ensign, Aug 1991, 48–53
“Is This a Test?”
Lorie Fowlke, “‘Is This a Test?’,” Ensign, Aug. 1991, 48–49
When my husband, Will, first talked about spending three months out of town for special job training, I was not overly concerned. It wasn’t ideal timing—he was leaving three weeks after the birth of our fifth child. But I felt confident that though it would be difficult, we could handle things fine.
My first task after he left was to finish filling out our tax forms. A herculean task at best, it became a nightmare as I tried to work at the job while taking care of the housework, four kids, and the new baby. I was exhausted. When I finally got to the bottom line of the form, only to discover we owed a thousand dollars, I went into shock—we had expected money back! I got some sympathy from my distant husband as I made the necessary arrangements to get the funds and finally put that envelope in the mail. What a relief! Now I could relax and enjoy the children and my free schedule.
Less than a week later, our old car suddenly started belching out clouds of steam. It turned out to be the radiator hose. Two days after that was replaced, the lug nuts on one of the wheels flew off while I was driving along the road at fifty miles an hour. I pulled over with one lug nut left.
Next, our two-year-old daughter fell in the bathtub, cutting her chin. She charmed everyone in the hospital emergency room—until the needle went into her chin. It was heartbreaking to hear her scream. Again, my husband could only sympathize over the phone.
Two days after my daughter got her stitches removed, I missed my footing and fell down the front porch steps. I knew immediately that my ankle was badly injured. By the time I got my shoe off, the swelling on my ankle was orange-sized. Sure enough, the doctor said it was a bad sprain and I must remain on crutches for at least two weeks. As I sat on the couch nursing the baby, my leg propped up and topped with a bag of ice, I was still trying to laugh. However, when I realized I couldn’t even carry Joshua upstairs to his crib, the situation lost some of its humor.
I spent some time thinking while I was forced off my feet. I resolved that when things settled down, we needed to get back into the habit of family prayers. And both the children and I needed to start our personal prayers again. With all the goings and comings, we’d let our prayer habits fade.
I was just getting to the point where I could limp around when my oldest girl, age eleven, began complaining loudly and dramatically of a stomachache. She had, of necessity, been doing a lot of baby-sitting, and I initially thought she was looking either for an escape or for sympathetic attention, both of which she probably deserved. After she had done a lot of moaning and groaning, I finally called the doctor’s office. Three hours later, a surgeon removed her appendix.
Our valiant home teacher had helped us through several of our recent challenges. When he was called again, his first comment upon entering my daughter’s hospital room was, “Is this a test?” We all laughed, but I wondered. And again, I determined that as soon as things settled down, my family needed to get back on the prayer track.
A week later I came home from a late afternoon meeting to discover a note from one of my children stating she had had enough and was running away. She’d “be fine” and I was “not to worry.” We got her home within hours, but this time when I called my husband, I burst into tears. I had never felt so incompetent, and I seriously doubted that things would ever settle down.
The day after this incident I received a telephone call from my five-year-old’s preschool teacher. “Do you think you could come get Jonathan?” Not really—my car was in the shop again. “I think he may have broken his arm falling off the trampoline.” He had, in fact, broken both the bones in his forearm. The cast was still on when Dad finally came home.
My eight-year-old had a tantrum because he was the only one who hadn’t been to the hospital in the last six weeks. I was afraid for him. In fact, I was afraid for all of us. I felt helpless to escape from the dark cloud that seemed to envelop us.
When I called Will this time, his instructions were specific: I was to call the home teachers and have them bless every person in the house and bless the house. I did and they did. We were inviting the Spirit into our house, and I explained to the children what we were doing and why. They seemed to understand the solemnity of it. We decided to have family prayers and personal prayers morning and night, no matter what else we did. The children were eager to participate.
That evening after everyone was in bed, I pulled out my scriptures and looked through the Topical Guide. I remembered hearing of a scripture about trusting in God instead of in the arm of flesh. I found it in 2 Nephi 4:34 [2 Ne. 4:34]:
“O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm.”
I finally realized that in the confusion, my priorities had been totally reversed. Rather than waiting for things to settle down, I needed to first gather my children for family prayer and say my personal prayers and help my children do the same, and then peace would come—whether or not our family faced disasters and calamities.
The next morning, and every morning thereafter, we gathered in family prayer. Then I sent the children to their rooms to say their personal prayers. We gathered at bedtime to pray again. Within a few days, a feeling of peace began to return to our home, and the fear began to subside from my heart. There were no further incidents while my husband was away from home. I will not forget the lesson I learned—that peace of mind is a gift from God that comes from relying on him.
I Hoped She Wouldn’t See Me
Sandy Hirsche, “I Hoped She Wouldn’t See Me,” Ensign, Aug. 1991, 49–50
As I passed Judy driving down the street, I remember thinking, Thank goodness. She’s going the other direction, and I won’t have to talk to her.
Don’t get me wrong. Usually I enjoyed visiting with Judy. She is a sunshine person, with a smile that doesn’t stop and a personality to match. Her whole life seemed to be well put together. She was just about the last person I wanted to see when nothing in my life felt right.
I was having a difficult time adjusting to a teenager who was challenging our family standards. No matter what my husband and I tried or did, we could not seem to help this child. I felt as if part of me was dying as I struggled with this hurt and pain.
But there were things that had to be done, so here I was driving to the grocery store, hoping I wouldn’t see anyone.
My relief at seeing Judy going the other way was short-lived. She swung her car around and flagged me down. I donned my smiling face and tried to pretend all was right in my life. Judy got out of her car, walked over, and got into mine.
She got right to the point. “Will you do something for me?” she asked. I told her I’d try. She said, “I want to start going to the temple on a weekly basis with you. Can you arrange your time so we can?”
I told her I could. She also invited our whole family over for dinner the next Sunday. Only a real friend would do all the work necessary to have a family of eight come to dinner! I always knew Judy was special, but I was seeing just how true a friend she was. She also offered to fast with me.
Judy put her caring into action. When she stepped out of my car, I knew I was not alone in my problems. Even though Judy is a busy lady with lots to do, she took time out to stand by me. For over a year, we went to the temple together every week. Those trips were like a retreat into the comforting arms of my Heavenly Father. Because of them, I made it through a difficult time. I thank my Heavenly Father for a friend like Judy.
The Rock Lesson
Jo Ann Piccione Attwood, “The Rock Lesson,” Ensign, Aug. 1991, 50–52
Student teaching at Lafayette High School was fun and challenging. I really liked my three classes, each consisting of about thirty to thirty-four freshman girls. We were just finishing up six weeks of track and field.
One morning I awoke and knelt beside my bed to say my morning prayer. As I asked Heavenly Father to assist me in teaching my students well and with fairness, I felt a sense of foreboding. The strong impression came to me that today would not be ordinary. I felt that something bad was going to happen and that I needed to be watchful and prepared.
The first hour went well, and the second was fun and uneventful. Now it was close to the end of my third-hour class. In fifteen minutes, my school day would be over. I remembered the warning and wondered what it could have meant. All had gone well, and this hour, too, seemed to be moving along quite normally.
We were doing the softball throw. Each girl made three attempts, which were measured and recorded. Jane, a student, was assisting me, watching where the softballs landed and calling out the measurements. She was doing a good job, and she seemed proud of that.
Jane had few friends, and I wondered how she dealt with the insecurity and rejection she faced daily. I cared about her and looked for opportunities to show kindness.
So far, Jane had been very accurate as she called out each measurement. Finally, a ball was thrown for which Jane called out a measurement that looked about a foot and one-half short. After a discussion, I told her that I respected her opinion but that since we didn’t agree on where the ball had landed, we had to give the student the benefit of the doubt and record the longer measurement.
At this point, Jane refused to assist me anymore. She got in line with the other girls, and the class continued to throw the softball.
After one measurement, I looked up just in time to see a large rock hurtling through the air toward me. In another instant it painfully stung my right thigh. But the pain that ripped through my heart far outweighed the pain in my leg, which was already beginning to show a little blood. Tears filled my eyes behind my dark sunglasses. What had I done that had hurt one of my students so much that she had wanted to hurt me like this? I had grown to love them all. How could it be that one of them did not know that?
When the rock struck me, the class stood there for a moment in silent shock. Then a few students asked me if I was okay. Others yelled, “Who did it?” I choked back the tears and got control of my shaky voice. I told the class that I was fine, asked them to be quiet, and explained that I did not want to deal with this at the moment.
With a few protests, the girls reluctantly quieted down. They were obviously perplexed. They had never seen a teacher do what appeared to be nothing about something so violent and wrong.
As I watched the softballs hit the ground, I reviewed the events of the last hour in my mind. I realized that only Jane had a reason to be angry with me.
I knew, of course, that I could take Jane to the principal’s office and demand punishment, but what good would that do either of us?
Jane would just feel that I was against her rather than for her. Besides, I had a feeling that if I waited a little longer, she would realize that I meant her no harm and would confess her mistake.
When the last softball was thrown, I dismissed the class. A few students remained to help me gather my things together. Through the corner of my eye, I saw Jane watching us from a distance, looking alone and afraid. Finally, the rest of the girls left. As I watched her, Jane silently and bravely walked across the field toward me. She faced me, lowered her head, and confessed, “Miss Piccione, I threw the rock at you.”
“I know you did, Jane,” I said.
“I’m so sorry, Miss Piccione,” she begged. “Did I hurt you bad?”
“Jane, the only thing that really hurt me was thinking that you must not know that I love you, just as I love all my students,” I replied. “I would never purposely do anything to hurt you. I want you to learn and have fun in my class, but more than anything, I want you to know that you are special and that I care about you and how you feel.”
“Oh, Miss Piccione, I’m so sorry!” she said, with a sincerely repentant look in her eyes.
“It will be all right, Jane. This is just between you and me,” I reassured her as we walked back to the gym.
The following day, as class began, I explained that I knew who had thrown the rock the day before, that I had discussed it with her, and that we had resolved the matter between us. It was important to let my students know they were safe in my class.
That day and for the rest of the school year, Jane insisted on carrying the heavy softball equipment to and from the gym. I hoped I had helped her carry her own heavy load a little more easily.
I know it is not always appropriate to handle a student’s violent behavior in this manner. But Jane learned more that day about love and compassion than she would have if she’d been scolded and punished. So did I: the warning I received that day as I prayed helped me to remain calm, knowing the Lord was guiding me.
Stamp of Kindness
Lisa H. Fernelius, “Stamp of Kindness,” Ensign, Aug. 1991, 52
The air had a hint of autumn, but the noon sun was a constant reminder of the hot summer that was coming to a close. As I drove downtown to complete my long list of errands, I decided to park in a spot near the center of all my destinations. That way, I could enjoy the beauty of the day and get some exercise, and I would not have to get my two children in and out of their car seats at each stop. So, finding the perfect spot, I parked, and off we went—newborn, toddler, mother, and stroller—to complete errand number one.
I marked each errand off my list as we finished it. Finally we returned to the car, put our parcels in the trunk, and grabbed the package to be mailed. I was down to my last errand—the post office.
It was one errand too many. My previously pleasant helpers immediately turned into tired, fussy children as I entered the postal lobby. Both, in their own language demanded to be held.
As I tried to calm children, hold my package, and push my stroller along in the line, a few people stepped in front of me.
Frustrated, I decided I would have to mail the package another day, and I headed for the door. Just as I was about to leave, a gentleman stopped me. “Ma’am, have you finished your business here?” he asked kindly.
The mood in the lobby changed. He and his friend offered to help with the children. The lady at the front of the line invited me to go ahead of her. People began conversing one with another, sharing details about their families. I mailed my package, thanked those who had helped me, and left.
I often think of that day in the post office when one man’s small act of kindness brought forth the goodness in so many others.
Words from My Hands
Carol Walker Dallas, “Words from My Hands,” Ensign, Aug. 1991, 52–53
As I slowly sat down, the room seemed to darken around me. I focused only on Mary’s face. Her expression told me not to worry. And yet I knew how desperately she wanted the words that would come from my hands. The chair was cold and hard against my backbone, and I was numbed by fear.
Just five months earlier, I had started a class in American Sign Language. Mary’s former interpreter was teaching the class in order to help prepare a new interpreter for Mary. The class was full at first, but after a few weeks, only six people remained, struggling to position their fingers into the ABCs.
I seemed to learn signing easily, and I soon realized that I would be Mary’s interpreter. I remembered virtually every sign I was shown. The Spirit was clearly aiding my progress by quickening my understanding and retention so that, through me, Mary could fully participate in Church meetings on Sundays. Although no bishop had asked me into his office, I felt as if I had received an important assignment from the Lord. Over the following weeks, I studied signing during every spare minute. I made a pact with a co-worker to learn at least two signs a day, and my co-worker held me strictly accountable, never allowing me to slip away from work without using my two new signs in a sentence. At home I practiced interpreting television programs and radio commentary.
Today my time had come. I was in the Relief Society room, facing Mary for the first time as her interpreter. As I sat there, my body felt limp as I prayed, “Lord, let me remember the signs I’ve learned. Mary needs my help.” I swallowed hard to hold back tears of anxiety. Then, as I concentrated on each word of the lesson, my fingers and arms began to move—awkwardly at first, then with increasing ease. Mary smiled with encouragement. I breathed deeply and continued.
As I interpreted for Mary during the following year, whatever blessings I gave to her returned to me tenfold. I found solemnity, even sacred ground, in that shared silent world. I experienced a kind of bonding with Mary that rivaled the feeling of mothering my first child. My visual perception increased, allowing me to find greater beauty in the curve of an infant’s cheek and the jagged violet edge of a mountaintop. Even the most subtle gestures caught my glance.
We enjoyed humorous moments together—when Mary joined several signs together at once to startle me or when I tried to “talk” to Mary while driving my car. One Sunday while I was vigorously signing the words of a talk in sacrament meeting, I circled the side of my hand around my face, accidentally smacking my forehead and knocking my glasses down onto the end of my nose. The congregation could not help noticing Mary’s chuckle that day.
In Ether 12:27 we read, “I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; … for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” Through Mary’s need and the motions of my own fumbling fingers, the Lord blessed me with the privilege of glimpsing life through Mary’s window while deeply enriching the view from my own.
[illustrations] Illustrated by Rob McKay
Lorie Fowlke is a Sunday School teacher in the Timpview Second Ward, Orem Utah Timpview Stake.
Sandy Hirsche is a Sunday School teacher in the Edgemont Fifteenth Ward, in the Provo Utah Edgemont North Stake.
Jo Ann Piccione Attwood is ward music chairman in the Lafayette Ward, Baton Rouge Louisiana Stake.
Lisa H. Fernelius is a visiting teacher supervisor in the Roy Twenty-seventh Ward, Roy Utah South Stake.