Mormon Journal

By Florence B. Nielsen

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    I Will Be Born in February

    Perhaps only couples who have been childless can understand the heartbreak, frustration, and envy that can develop in nine and a half years of a childless marriage. My husband’s patriarchal blessing had promised him children, but mine did not even mention marriage. We had asked for and received priesthood blessings twice—one from my father, who was our bishop, and one from our stake president five years later. The first promised children “in the Lord’s good time”; the second that we would lose no opportunity for a rich, full life.

    Time passed. My husband received his Ph.D. in June 1975, and with it came a job offer from Brazil. We put all our belongings in storage and flew to Brazil with two suitcases, a bag of books, and a violin to begin our new life.

    There are many children in Brazil—ragged, beautiful, rich, poor, healthy, crippled, happy. Most are loved—the poorest father will tell you proudly how rich he is in children—but some are put up for adoption, and we knew adopting a child would be easier here than in the United States. In spite of our eagerness to adopt a child, however, we always felt “not yet” when we spoke of it.

    Some weeks after arriving in Brazil—partly because of the different language and customs, but mostly because of an empty house—I became homesick. It was an aloneness I had never felt before. The feeling continued to oppress me until, one day, I suddenly felt a sweetness enter our home. With the sensation came the feeling that a spirit child was there with me. Though I could not see him, I sensed that he was as anxious as I was—excited, expectantly waiting. And then he said to me distinctly, though the words were never audibly spoken, “I will be born in February.”

    February was the month of Carnival. Everything simply stopped, and all of Brazil was a gigantic festa for a week. We did not participate—we found ourselves chaperoning a Church youth conference instead. The last weekend in February was our district conference. Then the month was over and there was no child, even though we had prayed earnestly that we would be guided to find him. The speakers at the conference only intensified the pain we felt by their references to the importance of having children.

    Thursday night following conference, a sister who works in the children’s hospital came to our home, greatly excited. There was a baby boy in the maternity hospital, and the social worker would save him for us till noon the next day. We were at the hospital by 7:30 A.M. We had had a sleepless night and had prayed fervently that we would have no problems—we had already had sufficient experience to know how difficult adoption could be. The social worker was very kind, but the natural mother had changed her mind and had taken the child home early that morning.

    Then she hesitantly said, “We have another boy here. Would you like to see him?”

    It seemed like we climbed a million stairs going to the nursery. Then they showed us a clear plastic crib containing a very wrinkled little baby. His tiny face turned to ours, and he looked at us with intensely blue eyes. We knew for a surety that this baby was for us.

    By noon all the paperwork with the juvenile court was done, and at 6:00 P.M. I picked up our son and took him home. We discovered that he had been born February 7, but since he weighed only four pounds at birth he had had to stay in the hospital nearly a month. As it was, when he came into our lives he weighed only five pounds and was too weak to cry. We worried that we would lose him.

    That Sunday was fast day, so we fasted for him, and Larry gave him a priesthood blessing. That very day he started waking up for meals, and two days later he managed a feeble cry and rolled himself over. Six months later he was a smiling, giggling, fifteen-pound, twenty-seven-inch normal baby boy.

    We wait for the Lord’s “own good time,” and sometimes we find it very hard. We get frustrated and angry; we cry, hope, envy—I even felt resentment during those nine years. But when the gift is given, we understand.

    Like Abraham and Sarah, like Jacob and Rachel, like the parents of Samuel and John the Baptist, my husband and I have felt the greatness of God’s giving. And watching this tiny, growing gift from God, we pray that we, like they, will be equal to His trust.

    The Answer to Her Prayer

    A dedicated mother of nine children who listens to the promptings of the Spirit, my daughter Karen has been blessed with ample opportunity to bring happiness to the lives of many.

    Not long ago, just a few days following the delivery of her ninth child, she felt strongly impressed, for a reason that she did not understand, to drive to the dairy to pick up milk for the next day. While getting into the car and while driving, she told herself again and again that she should not be driving yet—she was quite anemic and still very fatigued. And she certainly didn’t need to go for milk, because her husband could pick it up before breakfast the next morning.

    Nevertheless, Karen knew that she should go, whether she felt like it or not, whether she understood or not.

    After leaving the dairy, she passed by the store where she regularly bought groceries, all the while telling herself that she did not really need any. She felt too weak to do any shopping, and had not planned to make another stop.

    But all her reasoning did not dissuade her from it, and soon she was driving into the parking lot and walking into the store. She picked up groceries that her family didn’t really need, frankly puzzled.

    As she was about to leave the parking lot, she noticed a woman standing by a grocery cart with two small children in it. She had seen them in the store just a minute earlier. The children appeared to be upset, and their mother looked as if she had no place to go. There were no groceries in the cart.

    Karen tried to convince herself that someone else would offer the woman and her children a ride, all the while knowing that she herself would end up doing so. She found the woman was stranded, without food or money, a divorcee with no work. She was many miles from her home and had ridden busses all day trying to make connections to the welfare center for help before it closed. This was as far as the bus would take her. Her children had become hungry and cross and the day was nearly over. Silently, she had prayed over and over for help.

    It was then that Karen understood the reason she had felt compelled to go to the dairy, and the reason she had stopped to buy food her family did not really need. After sharing supper that evening with the young woman and her children, my son-in-law helped them return home, with the groceries my daughter had bought that day.

    Needless to say, Karen felt especially thankful for her own bounteous life and the blessings she and her family had received from our Heavenly Father—blessings that made it possible for her to lighten the burdens of someone in need.

    Ruth Heiner, mother of six, teaches Relief Society lessons in her Burley, Idaho, ward.

    The Little Clay Sheep

    On my desk sits a handcrafted, somewhat mangled, little clay sheep. I keep it there to remind me of the real reason I get up in the morning.

    During 1971–721 I was stationed at a large U.S. Air Force training center, populated primarily by lonely, sometimes insecure single adults. In an attempt to respond to their needs, my wife, Kathleen, and I decided to hold a special family home evening once a week at our home. Each Sunday night our living room was jammed with upwards of sixty to seventy young people, many of them rootless and frustrated, who came to play with our children, talk with each other, and get some feeling of being at home again. We served refreshments, sang, played games, sometimes had serious discussions. The intent of the evening was simply to let them know that they were worthwhile and that they had a place to relax.

    After holding these home evenings for several months, my wife and I decided to experiment with an unusual activity. One evening we asked our young friends to express the meaning of family home evening in their lives. We provided crayons, paper, scissors, pencils, clay, toys, and other items, and encouraged them to choose whatever media seemed most appropriate. We then turned them loose for approximately forty-five minutes.

    What followed was a very enjoyable evening, full of laughter, fond memories, and serious personal reflections. Everyone took a turn reading a poem, showing a picture, describing a drawing, or just talking to a safe audience.

    There were two young adults, however, who were very different from the rest. One, a loud, boisterous, rather unpleasant young man whom nobody really liked, wrote a poem, a very sensitive poem, couched in mathematical terminology. Nobody understood it but himself. But we knew that we had provided him with a forum to express himself, and we encouraged him to do so. As a result, he felt safe and comfortable. We found out months later that that evening had very possibly been a turning point in preventing his suicide. He had been extremely depressed, and that experience was the first evidence he had found that life was worth living. We learned of those feelings when he called us long-distance from Turkey to say “thank you.” Somehow that made a lot of sacrifice worthwhile.

    The other young man, John, was extremely quiet. Although he came to our family home evenings, he always sat in the corner, never saying anything. Though others would try to start a conversation with him, he would not respond. Kathleen and I would invite him over on other days of the week, but he wouldn’t come. We tried everything we knew to get him to express himself and let him know that he was worthwhile. He never responded. We were particularly worried about him because he showed all the symptoms of dropping out entirely, and we didn’t really know how to get through to him, to let him know that he was worth more than his social security and that he had more to offer the world than the stripes on his sleeve. During that special home evening activity John convinced us that we need no longer be so gravely concerned.

    At the beginning of the assignment, he took some clay and went off to a corner of the living room. Almost hiding, John very quietly stayed by himself throughout most of the evening, working the clay. Occasionally he smiled as someone else in the group made a contribution. Generally, he showed no emotion whatsoever and said absolutely nothing. So after everyone had made a presentation but John, we prodded him to speak.

    To our pleasant surprise, John stood up and then said, “In the Bible there is a story about a shepherd who lost a sheep. This shepherd, as the story goes, was very concerned for the lost sheep, so concerned that he left the whole flock to seek out the one that couldn’t be found. I feel like I am the lost sheep, and you have found me. I want to give you this little clay sheep to show my gratitude.”

    Then he sat down. No one said a word. I doubt that there was a dry eye in the room.

    I can’t think of a better reason to get up in the morning than to feed my Father’s sheep. So, as a gentle reminder, I keep John’s gift on my desk—always.

    [illustrations] Illustrated by Cary Henrie

    Russell L. Osmond, an LDS chaplain for nine years, is now a banker and serves on the high council in Syracuse New York Stake.