Sunday, September 29, 2013

Talk For the Funeral of My Dad

A few years ago I attended the funeral of a man who was firefighter by profession.  Displayed at the church was the uniform he wore as well as the medals of honor he had earned. Squadrons of uniformed firefighters lined the sides of the church as the family filed into the pews.  As part of the funeral services, the fire chief conducted a symbolic ceremony called “The Ringing of the Final Bell”.  It was apparent that the world highly regarded this man and he was deserving of such honor and recognition. He was a good man and dedicated firefighter.

My father has never worn a uniform, either military or one of civil service.  He has never earned medals of honor. Although successful, the world would not consider him to be a man of great significance, and I think the world would find it hard to celebrate the life he has lived.  But I do not gauge my dad or his life by worldly standards.  

My dad wore a white suit with a white tie and pinned to the coat of that white suit was a badge that read:  Lester Skousen –Sealer.  These words represent a power so great that it surpasses mortality and extends into the eternities.

He loved the temple and the work that is done within its walls.  I remember a time when Jared and I and some of our children went to the temple to participate in sealing work. Upon seeing us, his face lit up and he walked out from behind the little desk in the sealing room to greet and hug each one of us.  I can only describe the look on his face as one of just pure joy.  He showed us off and introduced us to the other workers.   As wonderful as it was for my dad to be with his family in the place he loved most, his understanding of the sacred work that we would engage in was more important and his countenance reflected that.  Whenever he performed sealings his voice was reverent and unhurried, and his eyes were fixed upon the persons kneeling at the altar.  I knew by the way my father conducted himself inside and outside of the temple, that he knew that “in the ordinances,…the power of godliness is manifest.”   

The world would never celebrate that, but the heavens do!  I have contemplated the hundreds and hundreds of people who have undoubtedly greeted my father since his passing, who have surely expressed their joy for finally having the sealing power manifest in their lives because of his service.  He knew the magnitude of the importance of the work he did.

As was mentioned by my sister Kellee, my mom and dad embarked upon three Spanish speaking foreign missions together; missions that were focused on providing my father's beloved brown-skinned people the blessings of the temple.   Just a side note………as a young girl, I loved to hear my dad speak Spanish. And because my dad could speak Spanish and was born in Mexico, I just assumed that he was a Mexican and that is what I told people and I was so proud of that. 

During this past week, I have heard my mom express on four different times these words: “ I am so grateful that your dad and I served those three missions.”  I don’t know exactly why that has been so impressed upon her right now; I am sure they were significant for many reasons very personal and sacred to her.   I do know that these missions were defining times in the life of my dad.  He loved these foreign lands and serving in their temples. The Latino people adored him. He spoke their language and understood their culture and customs.  And most importantly, he gave them his heart.  I want to say to my mom……….thank you.  Thank you for doing hard things! I know it was difficult for you to learn the language and had feelings of isolation and frustration, but I can’t help but think that these missions were some of dad’s greatest times in his life.  Thank you for having the courage and faith to leave your home, children and grandchildren.  Most of all, I say thank you for the supportive role you were for dad so that he could shine and do that which he most loved to do.

I believe that the example my mom and dad have set for us four children, their 18 grandchildren and their great-grandchildren will result in literally hundreds, if not thousands, who will receive the blessings of the gospel.  What a legacy!

This legacy has already impacted a granddaughter who is currently at the Mexico City MTC learning Spanish.  The day after the passing of her grandfather I received an email where she writes specifically of what that legacy means to her:  “I love that [grandpa] always made sure his family knew he loved them, the temple, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You know that those are the things most important to him, and I want to make sure that everyone always knows that family, the temple, and the Gospel are important to me.  I know that Grandpa will be helping me, and I have already felt his love. I know that he is so happy with where I am, in a country he loves, learning to speak the language he loves, so I can teach others the gospel that he loves.”

How grateful I am to be born of goodly parents, to a father who loved his wife and children, who honored his priesthood and raised a family unto the Lord.  I never want his influence of goodness and kindness to leave me.  And I don’t think it has too. I believe that as we honor his legacy- especially as we serve missions and participate in temple work, we will feel his arms around us, guiding us, teaching us and loving us even to the extent as if he were here.
Because of the events that have transpired over the past ten days, I can stand before you and testify that even amidst the pain and sorrow that accompanies death, the Lords Plan is one of joy and of the peace.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Wind Beneath Our Wings

Comments I heard at our family beach reunion a few weeks ago:  "I just love Emily, she is so great."  "I am so happy Emily married Daniel."  "It seems like Emily is loved by every person  in this family".    

The spiritual gift that I focus on for Emily may seem a little  "sub par" in the spiritual gift department to some, but do not be fooled into thinking that this spiritual gift is  less in anyway.  It is not!  It is a gift that only a  humble, meek person can acquire.  The person that bears this gift is self assured, powerful and competent in what they choose to do.  The person who uses this gift, values others  and does whatever is needful to help that person  shine a little brighter.

Daniel's personality is such that he is often in the limelight because of his strengths and great qualities.  Emily  is what I  view as an amazing supporting actor, not ever seeking the staring role, but playing her supporting role in such a way that Daniel shines far more than he could on his own.  It truly is a selfless gift.

She is not showy, loud or demanding.  In a gentle, non-assuming way she glides into our lives and makes us better. This ability was displayed in  our little family tourney of Kuub at the beach where Daniel and Emily were partnered against Brittney and Derrick (?).  It was a classic Daniel / Emily moment.  Daniel was fixed, determined and very demonstrative as he threw his sticks; sometimes successful in knocking over the posts and sometimes not.  Emily stood  up to the line, without fanfare or displays of competitiveness, she threw her sticks to consistently knock over the intended targets.  I can still hear Daniel's  triumphant shouts of  "PB"!!!! as she would save the game over and over for him.     I know this was just a game, but it is very symbolic of Emily's demeanor and capability of simply being her own quiet self so that the person who needs to shine actually can.

I have talked to Emily about this spiritual gift of supporting and how I cherish her for having it.   She too acknowledges it as a gift from God and feels blessed to help others achieve and grow and is happy doing it.   Just as her talent of playing the violin softens that blare of the horns, adds dimension to the monotony of  the  percussion, and enables a musical score to reach greater heights of beauty and majesty than possible with any other instrument, that is what Emily does in our family. Each person in our family (because everyone does love Emily) is positively influenced by her.

Back in the 1980"s Bette Midler made famous a song titled "The Wind Beneath My Wings".    Those words so perfectly portray who Emily is.  Her grace, presence and goodness lift me up and make me a better person.  Her support and  love  for Daniel allow for him to fly higher.  Emily, you are a soft, refreshing breeze, even a wind  that  elevates our family. We are blessed that you are ours forever.  Happy Birthday dear daughter, I love you.   Lorri / Mommy

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

It Is The Way It Is Supposed To Be

*Written June 2013
Holly and Hannah left for Girl's Camp this morning.  Shortly after dropping them off at the church, I left on my walk with Judy.  I mentioned how lonely it was going to be for the next few days not having those two around to liven things us.  As we continued to walk, my thoughts turned to  the upcoming events of  Noelle's wedding and Natalie's mission.  Judy and I talked about that for a little bit and then the conversation painfully gravitated towards the time when all my girls would be gone, out of the home, away from me.  The realization of that time was more than my mind and body could handle.   I stopped  in the middle of the road, unable to move.   My throat tighten and I was having a difficult time breathing. I don't know how I still managed to sob, but I did.

When the boys left, I still had four girls to raise.  When the girls are gone, that is it; no more children left at home. I don't want my girls to leave me, but I do want them to leave. And just like my wish for my sons, I want my daughters to love deeply and live passionate, productive lives.  And they will.  It  is the way it is supposed to be.

I wrote this back in June but did not post it.  I found it  painful to admit such deep emotions to myself, let alone  to my entire family.  But time  has passed and I thought I was getting used to the idea of  my daughters leaving home......... until I experienced the following little setbacks today.

Noelle has now been married for 6 weeks.  Today I addressed an envelop to Noelle Hillam and chocked back some tears. I know her marriage is good, right and eternal.  I am happy for her, and grateful for the man she married, but I am having a hard time adjusting to this Hillam thing.   I have never had a child change names before and to be honest, it has thrown me for a loop.  I guess it is because I know what accompanies a change of name .... there comes a change of heart.   Eric becomes her family first and foremost and although it tugs at my heart, it is good. It is the way it is supposed to be.

Natalie has been in the MTC for one week and it has been week since we heard from her last.  I know she is safe, but I long to hear from her and share in her experiences.  I have checked my email on the hour all day long. Why can't she just write a short email every other day or so?  Would that be so bad?  Don't worry, I know the answer and although the situation tugs at my heart, I am in total agreement to the guidelines. Natalie is now a missionary first and foremost and it is good.  It is the way it is supposed to be.

I truly am grateful for the paths that Noelle and Natalie have chosen and have every confidence in what they are doing.  But I can't lie.... I am so grateful to still have Holly and Hannah home.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Eighteen Months of Service.........A First In Our Family

This time tomorrow Natalie will be on a plane bound for Mexico City.  I will undoubtedly shed at few tears as my dear, wonderful friend, even BFF,  leaves me for eighteen months.

Natalie may be gone, but she will leave behind some amazing lessons.  Yesterday Natalie spoke in two different sacrament meetings, giving two completely different talks.  I learned much.  I learned that Natalie has a humble, gifted way to teach others.  It is not showy or loud, but  meek, personal and very powerful.  Her understanding of gospel doctrines and principles are deep, intact and firmly rooted in who she is and how she conducts herself on a daily basis.  I  learned that her testimony of  The Plan of Salvation, the Atonement, Resurrection, a living prophet, the Book of Mormon and Jesus Christ are genuine and sure.  She knows what she believes and trusts in those beliefs.  I learned that she is a child of great faith.

Her faith has served her well in life. In one of her talks, Natalie shared her testimony of paying her tithing because that was what she had been taught to do as a little child.  She spoke of the realization that not only are others blessed by her obedience to that commandment, but she personally is  blessed as well.  She then talked about the wonderful blessing and opportunity of being able to attend  and fund college with help beyond what she was capable of doing on her own and attributed that to always paying an honest tithe.

That example of faith and obedience  is why I share the following experience.  A couple of weeks ago Natalie expressed concern about not having the $200.00 cash that is suggested for a missionary to have on hand as they enter the MTC.  She had been very frugal with her money and had spent it in preparation  for her mission and she had undoubtedly  paid the Lord his tenth.   Last night as we gathered for family council, she held up one $100.00 bill and two $50.00 dollar bills given to her by two different individuals at our family dinner.  I have no doubt whatsoever that the Lord had once again blessed Natalie; this time to the exact penny.  I am grateful for her obedience and faith.  I am grateful for two people who obviously acted on prompting and were the Lord's hands in this blessing for her.

Natalie, your faith will help grow the Lord's kingdom in Ecuador.  Your teachings will be anchored in humble, receptive hearts and not only will they be blessed, but you too will be blessed  because of your service.  I am sure in the next eighteen months  you will  be taxed beyond what you have ever experienced or even thought possible, but you will be refined beyond what you ever could do on your own.  Work hard.  Pray hard.  Heed counsel and obey and always move forward!   I so respect who you are and how you represent the Savior and His church. Until we meet again dear daughter..............I love you.   Mommy