Sunday, June 5, 2011

Colleen's Gift

And again, verily thus saith the Lord: Let the work of my temple, and all the works which I have appointed unto you, be continued on and not cease; and let your diligence, and your perseverance, and patience, and your works be redoubled, and you shall in nowise lose your reward, saith the Lord of Hosts. (D&C 127:4. See also D&C 97:8-9)

She had raised her family in exotic places all over the world; wherever Conoco Phillips sent her engineer husband. As long as she could remember, they had worshiped and served in the “emerging church”; filling in the gaps where called; using their background as Americans to help the Kingdom grow and stabilize in corners of the vineyard light years away from Salt Lake City.

When she walked to the pulpit on Fast Sundays, her straight back, long neck, and slightly tilted chin gave her a grace that only those trained at the ballet bar can have. (Though Ballroom Dancers were a long time ago for Colleen, she’d kept the lithe body and enthusiastic heart of her youth; all the more beautiful in maturity.)

And when she reached the pulpit and opened her mouth to testify, it was with such sincere creativity and charming conviction, no one could resist giving her rapt attention. The Bishop called her to teach Seminary and to preside over the Young Women organization (concurrently!) and I asked her to visit teach Maureen, Belinda, Sarah, and Erin. (Would you be surprised if I told you that she was the dearest, most vigilant, most caring visiting teacher I have ever known?)

Twice at my request, Colleen allowed me to tag along on her route (or “root” as they pronounce it here) and each time I marveled at the tenderness of her ministrations and the thoughtfulness of her preparation. The privileged sisters she had watched over loved her fiercely, making it extremely difficult when it came time for Colleen to follow her husband to their next assignment in Spain.

I was with her when she said good-bye, one-by-sniffly-one, leaving in their hands a token of her love – some little gift, usually an item destined for a charity shop, but which suddenly had great meaning because of the personal story Colleen would attach to it: a book, some beads, a toy. I was mesmerized by this talent for gift-giving (one I have never really mastered) and considered it my gift to have witnessed Colleen in action. As we pulled into to the train station though, my dear friend had one more surprise: the last good-bye and final delivery of the day.

When you came to England from the states, Mona -” she said - “I know you were expecting a very different experience. Things have not turned out the way you and your loved ones back home thought they would. You have done some traveling with Dale for his work, but not near as much as you might have...

"I know too, that you believed the day had finally come when you could indulge in study and writing and theater-going, but instead your days are taken up meeting the needs of dozens of people who were strangers to you until recently. You cry yourself to sleep for them and your prayers have never been so full of so many. Most days end with the feeling that you couldn’t possibly give any more, but the next morning, you wake up and give again.”

Disarmed, but swallowed up in her love, all I could do was cry. Colleen was a warm blast of sun, illuminating and healing at the same time.

“In Seminary last week,” she continued, “we learned all about the Kirtland Temple. I told the kids about the sacrifices the Saints made to build it: how in their poverty, they raised the most magnificent building ever seen in those parts. We talked about how the women spun cloth and sewed for the men who labored in the construction and how those women also gave their treasured, beautiful china to be smashed to smithereens so that the stucco on the temple exterior would literally glisten.”

I nodded thoughtfully, having told the same story myself in Seminary and Gospel Doctrine classes.

“The kids were interested,” she smiled, “when I produced a cup of my own bone china.” (I could easily believe Colleen had bone china: her collection of internationally-acquired valuables was exquisite.) But boy were they surprised when I also brought out a hammer!” Colleen laughed at the memory. “I coaxed each one of them, but they all refused to break the cup. ‘Okay,’ I said, ‘I’ll have to do it myself.’ And when I did--when I smashed the cup to pieces--they just sat there in shock.”

I was incredulous too: I have longed for a bone-china tea set since childhood. “You broke it?!”

“Oh yes,” she affirmed, “and I saved the pieces in the cup’s original box. Now, I wondered, what shall I do with this broken china?

She pulled out a small blue box and rattled the contents.

“That’s when I thought of you, Mona; of your dreams in pieces for the sake of something bigger; the dust of your dreams sparkling in the lives of your brothers and sisters in England.”

That blue box has sat on my bed stand ever since. The shippers came on Friday and tried to pack it up, but I rescued it just in time, from what – I couldn’t say. I just knew the broken cup couldn’t leave. It’s taken two days of musing and prayer for the reason to catch up with the decision, but I’ve finally got it.

I’m going to give Colleen's gift to the new Relief Society President.

Muse with me: What about your broken china?
(If you have a related post on your blog, please share.)

Watch "The Building of the Kirtland Temple"

What You Don't Have or Have Lost

Beautifully related musings by fellow musers:
Visiting Teaching at LDS Women of God


ldsjaneite said...

My entire life after the age of 18 has been broken china. Almost none of it was what I had planned, hoped for, or expected. Some times I was all right with that. Other times, it was very, very hard. But always, it has been the Lord knowing best. And as I look back over my life and see the mission, marriage, and children that did NOT take place, I also see all of the many things that did--two college degrees, YW and RS presidency callings, my precious Nauvoo semester, my now 18 nieces and nephews, service in singles' wards and branches, a closer relationship with my mother, frequent temple attendance, family history work, time to grow closer to God, and more. These things have helped me to better be an instrument in the Lord's hands in all aspects of my life. I do hope my broken china glistens.

Sara Lyn said...

What a beautiful gift. Wow. I love this thought and can't wait to turn it over in my mind for a while.

Hannah Z said...

Um, wow. I'm going to have to digest this through the tears.

Evan said...

Well come on home and the boys can "create" some more broken dishes for you.

crumbcrunchersmom said...

Mona, you've always had a talent for discerning the Lord's path for you - and changing course if necessary. And judging how you've acted every time our kids have left their mark on your valuables at home, I'm pretty sure you would have been the first one in line for the Kirtland china smashing, and you would have been laughing, not crying about it.

Domestic Diva said...

This is such a beautiful and inspiring post, I am so inspired by this message. Thank you.

Kara said...

Thank you Mona. Beautiful! A reflection taking hold on my heart. So excited to see you soon!

Bri... only she said...

Beautifully written. I know you consider it a privilege and joy to break dishes for the Lord. :)

OneBoot said...

Dear, dear Sister Zabriskie; I just wanted to thank you so much for your post. This is the first of your "Mona's Musings" I've read, and what you posted has just helped me make a decision I've been struggling with. It's helped me to realize that if I put myself first, I'll never have the opportunity to beautify the lives of others. So, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. :)

--Lauren Cowles :D

Mona said...

ldsjaneite: It really is all how we look at it, isn't it? because it seems to me the you have a full set of china. It must be a challenge though to always look at things in an eternal perspective - I guess that's called faith - believing in the promises of the Lord while living in the reality of the here and now.

Sara Lyn: Don't turn it over for too long, I'm dying to get your input.

Hannah Z: Your super soft spot for church history combined with your personal knowledge of my circumstances and the people here would make you a tear jerker - and I LOVE you for it!!!

Evan and Crumbcrundersmom: You are both right of course. It's just stuff!

Domestic Diva: Let's keep on inspiring one another! because you do me!

Kara: Ooooo! I miss yoooou!

Bri Colorful: It doesn't always feel like it at the time, but then later, the rewards come - including joy.

One Boot: Wow. That makes me very happy.

Lois Brown said...

what an amazing and beutiful post! Thank you!

ALB said...

I've been pondering this post, trying to internalize it this week. After much fasting and prayer, I smashed my own china teacup that represents my life. It's been a peaceful struggle to gain eyes of understanding for what the Lord has in store for me because of this choice. Other hopes and dreams seem in jeopardy after some disconcerting family news from home. All I can do is present the broken pieces to the Lord and place my trust in His unconditional love for me. I know these recent broken pieces will be added to the glistening temple of my life still in construction. Thank you for this post. It has helped me keep my eye on the Lord this week.

All my love!

VICTORIA said...

Hello dear Mona,
I am a Christian artist and was amazed when, as I was surfing through images looking for a broken cup image, up came your site!
I love the comment from Idsjaneita who says that her entire life has been 'broken china'. This is the theme of my painting and I wondered if you would mind my using this image, as it saves me breaking a perfectly good cup myself!
My website is if you would mind replying there? Thanks so much. Bless you in your ministry on this site. Victoria