I never would have thought that I'd want to hear that as a greeting at an early-Sunday morning meeting. But when Elder Holland said it to me yesterday, I realized that, at that moment, I could have wanted to hear nothing other than just that.
I wasn't going to write about this experience for my blog, since it's so close and personal...but then I remembered Elder Ballard's recent counsel that we should use our New Media to contribute to conversations about the LDS church. And, I figure that I'm more likely to blog than write in a journal, and I want to remember as much as I can about what happened this weekend. Lastly, at the risk of sounding too...I don't know what, maybe something that I share will inspire someone, so, you know -- great. (Incidentally, if you don't understand what I'm talking about here, send me [or Courtney] an email so that I [or she] can send someone to you to explain it.)
Back in December, Darin came home one frozen Sunday morning from his slew of meetings and informed me that he would have to be interviewed by Elder Holland on January 12th.
"What on earth for?"
"We're getting a new stake presidency, and Elder Holland will be presiding."
"Why do you have to be interviewed?"
"All the bishops [not Darin] and members of the high council [Darin] have to be interviewed. It's just how they do things."
I was excited for him, to be able to meet with the apostle we met at a football game; whose cousin is the man who was one of Darin's mission presidents (who also performed our marriage ceremony at the Bountiful temple, and after whom we named our youngest son). Darin told the girls about it and then joked, "And maybe Mommy will also have to meet with Elder Holland."
To which I replied, "And if Mommy has to meet with Elder Holland, you can be sure that Papi will never have to meet with him again." All our married years people have jokingly (?) predicted Darin being assigned to stake callings and such at a young age, and I've always explained that his wife disqualifies him from such things.
I had requested that I not work on that Saturday, since I didn't know what Darin's meeting would entail, and so I had the whole day off, which was nice. At around 10:30 a.m., Darin (who was in the shower at the time) got a call from the clerk reminding him that his appointment was at 11:30, and that they were running a bit ahead of schedule. At around 11:05, we had a family prayer and Darin drove off to church. Li'l ~j. was in her room and the other kids were downstairs watching a movie and playing. I was in the kitchen, listening to my new Celtic CD and experiencing my first attempt at making Almond Roca when all of the sudden, I felt something. It felt like two large hands being placed on my shoulders; it was a warm pressure and it was very comforting. I paused to pay attention to whatever was happening and made a mental note about the time: 11:30. The feeling lasted a few minutes, and when the feeling left, the comfort remained. I finished my baking experiment and Darin walked through the door at around 11:50.
"How was it?"
"Brief. They asked about my job. Elder Stone did most of the talking."
"Did you tell them that you're getting your doctorate and to please leave us alone?"
"No, it didn't come up. Elder Holland did encourage me to keep up on my Spanish."
"Oh, well, good."
"And he asked me if I'd be willing to go back out into the mission field. I told him I would in a heartbeat."
"Alright. Well, I made these cookie bars. They're almost cooled. I think they look gross."
I went upstairs to shower but before I did, I knelt down to pray (it's a habit, to pray before a shower, a habit which dates back to my single-at-the-Glenwood days). During that prayer I felt the warm-shoulder feeling again. It lasted a few minutes again, and then, just like before, when the feeling left the comfort remained.
After getting dressed, I took Curly on a date. (Actually, I first took Superstar on a date, which consisted of us driving to a gas station, Superstar buying a pack of Starburst, and then going home. She was happy as could be.) When we returned a few hours later Darin had to leave right away to attend the Priesthood meeting. When he returned from that meeting I went to pick up our babysitter, Danielle, who is a girl I knew in New York -- in fact, I remember when she was born. (Her mom was my seminary teacher -- now Danielle is all growed up and goes to the UVSC.) Having settled in the kids with Danielle, Darin and I went to the Adults' Meeting portion of Stake Conference (because 'Adult Session' sounds dirty). We sat in some hard, plastic chairs and watched as other people came in to find their seats. Right before the meeting began, I excused myself to go visit my friend Loo, and when I returned, during the announcement of the hymn, Darin whispered, "Brother Soandso said we have to meet with Elder Holland right after this."
"Who has to meet with him?"
"You and me."
"When did he tell you this?"
"When you were in the bathroom."
"Why do we have to meet with him?"
"I have no idea."
I started shaking and sweating and almost crying. I was able to calm myself down by rationalizing that most likely all the wives had to meet with Elder Holland -- they have to meet the wives to know which person to call, right? So, I told myself, we'll just hurry to the stake offices so that we can be first in line ahead of all those other couples and get home before it gets too late.
The meeting itself was phenomenal. I don't know what else I can say about it. I may write about it again another time, or I may just leave it at that.
After the meeting we walked to the stake offices to find: we were the only couple being waited for.
President B. (2nd counselor in the presidency which was being disbanded) welcomed us into the office. Elder Stone shook my hand and said hello. He did that thing where they hold onto your hand and pretend to be slow but you know they're ACTUALLY READING YOUR SOUL. And then I shook Elder Holland's hand as he bellowed, "Hello, Sister Eckton, we met your husband earlier and just had to meet you, as well. Have you met your new stake president?" He motioned to President B. and added, "You and the stake clerk are the only ones who know he's the new president!" This presented the following problems: 1., Elder Holland just let us in on a secret, so I felt there was no return, and 2., President B. has, for lack of a better term, a huge crush on my husband -- I mean that in the most respectful of ways, of course. They have worked together in many capacities at the stake and it always seems that President B. relies on Darin for one thing or another or twenty, so I suspected he'd want Darin on his team. Back to the secret announcing of the president, though, I turned to President B. and said, "Don't worry, I won't put that information online or anything." And then Elder Holland said, "Yeah, don't put it on your blog 'till tomorrow."
He knows I have a blog, I thought, in horror. That is until I realized: duh.
Elder Holland then invited us to all have a seat, and there we sat, the five of us. Now, when a general authority sits down to talk church business with someone, I have always gotten the feeling that, in general, they control and maneuver the conversation in such a way as to avoid small talk and wasted time. Not that they wouldn't LOVE to get to know every person who crosses their path, but you know, things need to be gotten on with. Imagine my surprise, then, when Elder Holland said, "So, Sister Eckton, tell us about yourself."
And then they just sat there. Just sat there waiting for me to fill the air with stories about . . . me?
So I began and answered a few of their questions and told my life's brief summary. Twice during this tale I burst into tears and cried, "What am I DOING?!? Am I seriously TALKING to you guys??"
After some very sweet compliments and such, Elder Holland got down to the business of informing us that Darin had been called as the second counselor in the stake presidency. After a series of kind of awkward (but necessary) questions, he acknowledged certain elephants in the room: Darin has never been a bishop. And we're young. He then assuaged these concerns with his confidence in stating that Darin's having been called is right, and it is truth. Also, he shared with us the story of when he was first called into a stake presidency (at age 27) and assured us that we will experience more blessings than we have up to this point in our lives, as well as the fact that the stake president and other counselor will pay special regard to our needs as a young family and adjust meetings and schedules accordingly.
After being informed that we were to attend a meeting at the church at 8 the next morning, with the other presidency members & wives, we headed out to the cold parking lot. "Well," I told Darin, "if we didn't fit into the ward before, we sure won't now." We drove home with careful conversation and contemplation and acknowledged that perhaps we're supposed to remain in Provo -- again.
When we got home, we asked Danielle if she could babysit the next morning. Sunday morning came very quickly and I picked up Danielle at 7:30 -- bless her, while we were at the meeting she fed the kids, did their hair and got them dressed.
Darin and I walked into the stake offices and were greeted by Elder Stone who said, "Good morning! You look wonderful! You look beautiful!" I replied, "That's what 45 minutes of sleep can do for a person." He thought this was so funny that he he told everyone about it in our meeting that morning. Sitting in the big conference (or whatever that is) room, Elder Holland arrived and shook everyone's hands and welcomed them. This is when he greeted me with the title of this post.
The morning meeting was, essentially, for the wives. It was lovely and calming and inspiring. It was supposed to have lasted an hour and consisted of us asking questions, but at 9:10, after us not asking questions but rather delightfully listening at the feet of an apostle, Elder Holland said, "I realize that you sisters were supposed to get to ask questions, but I'm afraid we're out of time. Do you have any questions about how to do this?" I raised my hand. "Only . . . a million." He asked, "Would you like to start with just one?" I declined, as we had to hurry home, take Danielle back to Orem, and then load up kids (& equipment) and get to the tabernacle in too few minutes.
Entering the tabernacle (and ensuring li'l ~j. was in her choir seat), we searched for a seat. We'd notice a pew with space available, but upon approaching it, the occupants refused to meet our gaze, denying even the chance that they might let us squeeze in. I can't blame them -- I, too, would want to make sure that my coloring books had ample room. We ended up in the balcony, in a corner, right up next to a stained glass window. We cried and were nervous, and then the announcement was made. I have to say, to see a tabernacle full of people raising their arm to sustain your husband is quite a sight. He was invited to take his place on the stand, and he kissed us all goodbye. Superstar said, "Where's Papi going?" I told her, "Say, 'Ciao, Pop, see you when I'm fifteen.'"
Remember all those people who wouldn't look at us or move over so we could sit down? Well, here's your cure: just get this calling. All of the sudden, out of the woodwork: Can I help you? What can I do? Can I take your baby? Can he play with this? Would they like to color? With an internal roll of my eyes, I wanted to say, "You know what would help? Not having to crawl over all you people to get to the bathroom." Bubby was tired and cranky (nap time) and was being noisy when Darin was bearing his testimony. A lady in front of us said, "Can I take him for you? So you can listen?" "Oh, no, that's okay," I told her, "besides, Darin says this sort of thing ALL the time, so it's no big deal." *mental note: not everyone picks up on my sense of humor*
There was one point when my friend Linda had Bubby (but I didn't know where they were) and the girls were being watched by complete strangers, but I was just so out-of-my-mind that I just let it all happen. I had to. Somehow, it was a survival tactic at that point. I couldn't breathe, and tears kept welling as I felt the guilt from not having all my children sit reverently in our corner, contentedly and quietly drawing, listening to the speakers (I know, what was I thinking?!), but more from not being able to do it all myself. I stepped out the back door a couple of times to feel and breathe the cold air. As I stood there looking across center street at the cute shops, I realized something: this is not just for today. This is my life. This is what my life will be for roughly the next decade. My challenge, my trial, and my blessing, will be to allow others to help me out with the practical stuff, so I should just learn to let it go.
Bubby didn't sleep the entire meeting. He was deliriously tired by the end of it all. We all drove back to the chapel for the setting apart meeting that needed to occur. President B. had his parents and family in attendance. President C. had all of his posterity there. Our girls were in the nursery, so representing Darin was myself and a sleeping Bubby. Something particularly wonderful happened when Elder Holland set apart Darin for his calling, but I don't think I should write about that right now. (Let's go to lunch so I can tell you all about it, though.)
At the end of that meeting, Elder Stone shook my hand and told me I'm wonderful, and told me to hang on to my sense, and to never lose my style, that he really enjoys it .
You got it, Dude.