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Monday, January 14, 2008

"Good morning, Mother In Zion!"

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.


Anonymous said...


wendysue said...

"Good morning to you too!"

sue-donym said...

Yes you are. Is that how you were woken up this morning?

Anonymous said...

Wow! I can't even imagine what you and your hubby are feeling right now. I bet you are both a little overwhelmed but you will both be great in your new roles! Thanks for accepting it!

~j. said...

Sorry, I accidentally posted the title without the post, which is still being created. More to come.

b. said...

ummm....good afternoon!
Can't wait!

Anonymous said...

So Cari's comments answer my question.


QueenScarlett said...

Oh my gosh... are you mission presidents?

LuckyRedHen said...

Um, what's going on?

~j. said...

Okay. NOW it's up, and you can know what's going on (if you can bear to read all of it).

Anonymous said...

Thank you ~j for sharing all that. And let's do lunch soon because of course I want to hear the rest.

And Amen to Elder Stone.

Lisa said...

~j!!! I'm laughing and I'm touched by what you wrote because it's really honest ( I can see you internally rolling your eyes ) and I imagine you are comforted and overwhelmed all at the same time ("PROVO R-O-C-K-S)). We need to go out to lunch sometime with our almost 10 children. Scratch that. Lets just talk on the phone.

More Caffiene, Please said...


You must have one awesome husband and he in turn has one awesome wife.

That is really amazing. I will be praying for you and your sanity every single Sunday.

Emily said...

Thanks for sharing that! I loved every bit. I can only imagine the humility and wonder swirling about your head right now. And I don't know you but I feel strangely proud of you for loving the Gospel and your family and the Lord so much. Awesome, all of it!

C. Jane Kendrick said...

I love your commentary here and I love that I got to watch it all happen somewhere in between you going to the Loo at the (naughty) adult session and the look on your face as conference began the next morning.
I love you!

TheOneTrueSue said...

Wow. What an amazing weekend. I don't know if I should send congratulations or condolences - but it sounds that, no matter what - you will be blessed. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us.

{natalie} said...

jenny, i was thinking of you today. holy cow. i am in shock/awe for you guys. holy cow. congrats! let's really do lunch sometime soon!

Tiffany UnTwisted said...

ok so my spirituality knows many bounds .. all i could think about after the first bit of the story was .. the GLENWOOD .. really???

QueenScarlett said...

Chills... joy... warm tingly...and no I already went pee. I'm sending you an email.

Elder Stone is a smart man.

Can't get the image of the two large hands on your shoulders. Beautiful.

Guileless Mom said...

Just got an email from tia and I had to head over to your blog.

Beautiful. Just beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

Shar said...

Wow. I really enjoyed your post. Your family will be so blessed.

Geo said...

So incredibly beautiful. All of it. All of you. I hope you keep sharing this stuff.

I hope I will be invited to the tell-all luncheon. My attention dial is already set to "RAPT."

I am not one bitty bit surprised, but I am a whole lotta pleased.

sue-donym said...

My guts have just been ripped out. I didn't think about missing the sustaining vote until you mentioned it. I would have traded all the sun in the state to have been there.

(I guess I should maybe start listening to my conscience, you think?)

Lorien said...

wow. good luck.

put me on the lunch invite list!

Rick Galan said...

Isn't Uncle Jeff just the best? Seriously, he just knows the right things to say to make you feel loved and appreciated. Maybe that is one of the reasons he is an apostle!

Congrats on the calling! I'm sure it will be a little overwhelming at times but I know from my own dad being in the stake presidency that there are also great blessing in store for you family.

Kalli Ko said...

*sigh, I love the gospel

congratulations and GOOD LUCK!

wendysue said...

~j, thank you so much for putting that down. I know you'll be glad you did (ya know, in 15-20 years when he's called to be the Stake Pres., you can read it during your testimony at Stake Conference!)

Seriously, what a blessing (a trial, but an amazing blessing). . .you really are being watched over.

And I loved this part (He KNOWS I have a blog!)

Bek said...

Wow.. you guys are HOLY!!! ;-) This is why we don't go to the stake meetings..... Just teasing.

He IS young and there will be times when your family will see less of him b/c of it, but I think the right people get called.

When he is called as mission president in about 5 years, none of us will be suprised! Yay D. That must make you feel better about the other stresses in your life. You have the right cards lined up in heaven....

swampbaby said...

Holy crap, ~j!

I always think it's weird to say "congratulations" when people/families get a calling, but obviously you are doing something right. So congratulations! (?)

That's what you get for marrying an uber-spiritual guy. Should have lowered your standards some;-)I'm just kidding.

I would LOVE it if you were one of the wives in MY stake presidency and Darin was one of the counselors.

Carina said...

It's true, you just have to meet Darin and you know that he is called to do great things in this world. ~J, have fun on the ride, you keep him honest :)

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to throw my two cents in, and say be careful of what you say about the people in your stake. You don't know who's reading this, and in the blog, you come off as pretty mean towards the people sitting around you.

~j. said...

Thanks, Everyone, for your kind words and support. I know that our family will be blessed for what happens at this point in our lives.

anonymous -- Thanks for your two cents. Now here's your change: I have been told, not only through these comments but also from numerous emails, phone calls, and visits, that my honesty is refreshing. This from people who are, and who are not, in my stake. I can say to you (who haven't identified yourself) that I would say this to anyone - anyone - who I encountered on Sunday morning at the tabernacle. Everyone (as I mentioned) was more than supportive and loving when Darin left to take his place on the stand. Did you not read the part about them all taking care of my children so I could have a moment to myself? In fact, I didn't even write about the introductions and conversations I had with those kind people after the meeting. Or all the words of support we received in the hour following the meeting. I look forward to being able to get to know people in my stake that perhaps I wouldn't be able to without them knowing my husband in this new capacity. Still, I stand by my sentiment that when a pregnant woman with small children enters a meeting at the same time the stake president asks people to move in to make room, and that request is blatantly ignored, it's obnoxious. Had my husband not been called, would people have been as helpful? We all need to be more aware of everyone around us, not just those whose names are announced for one reason or another.

My Ku'ulei said...

Wow J, I wish I could say that I'm surprised, but I'm not. Darin is amazing and you are too - I'd better watch my language around you now ;) I love you both and will pray my guts out for you. - Kuu

sue-donym said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sue-donym said...

Dear anonymous,
I didn't think it came off as mean at all. I thought it sounded truthful, and I don't think there was meanness on the part of anyone.
This to me just shows that we can all work harder to be aware of the people around us, and always be alert to ways we may be helpful to others. Most of the time it is ignorance that precludes us from helping others, not intention.
As a member of this same stake, I love many of the people, as does ~j, I'm sure. That does not mean there are not those who can be ignorant at times. This is how it is everywhere, I'm sure.
Now please if you will, reread her message here and take the positive aspects from it. Believe me, it's worth reading twice.

Elizabeth said...

I don't know you, but I would love to come to the lunch session too. This was beautiful, and I am so glad that you shared these thoughts with us.

I kind of am related to Georgia...does that qualify me? :)
(p.s. Isn't she the best?)

Boy Mom said...

Hi, new reader, I loved your sharing of experience. I had to laugh at anonymous, we had Stake Conference the same Sunday a little to the north of you. The stake presidency spent an hour and a half at the adult session (I find I am more likely to go if I delude myself that it's going to be a little nasty, beats the usual guilt-myself-into-going trip) proclaiming the vision of being one as a stake. As I left I did my usual make eye contact and smile at everyone who looks back thing, not a single person met my gaze. I think love, courtesy and oneness has to happen amongst lowly Wayfaring strangers in the same stake not just showered on LDS celebrities. you go girl! love your attitude and your style!

C. Jane Kendrick said...

Oh Anon, bless your heart.

cabesh said...

This is so great--we've always admired Darin. You're a strong lady--you'll make it...with style!:)

Anonymous said...

"Most of the time it is ignorance that precludes us from helping others, not intention.."

Yeah. What Sue said.

We don't give ourselves room to grow unless we're willing to listen when someone tells it like it really is.

La Yen said...

So does this mean I can't tell Papi "Boo, You Whore" any longer?

Melody said...

Good for you . .. and your husband, family. God bless. What a wonderful post. Thanks for sharing.

Melody said...

Lunch . . . when, where?

amanda said...

I hate to sound selfish but I'm really going to miss you at work. I wish you didn't have to leave us, though I do understand that your time is needed more elsewhere.

b. said...

The honesty is refreshing.
You taught me so much with this experience....and someday, I will share with you how that's so.
I am excited for you and I am anxious for you.
Did I miss lunch?

And, DOES he know you have a blog? Does God tell people that? I'm totally serious.....

Sister Pottymouth said...

Damn. I take a week or so off from blogging and all the good stuff happens.

Good for you and D! Is "condolulations" the right word for this situation? I'm so glad you shared your beautiful experience with the rest of us. I want to be at lunch for the details....did I miss it already?

Anonymous said...

I'm with b., lunch?

I also need an update. You know, how are you feeling a week later...

QueenScarlett said...

I just came back to see what's up with ~J....and saw the Anon comment and ~J and Sue's fabulous responses.

I thought I'd share my two cents...and maybe anon will unveil him/herself and give me some change. I doubt it...but a girl can hope.

I'm with all those who love ~J's honesty. There is frankly, not enough of it in the world - and often ... not enough sincerity in the Church/Ward families. (I'm talking about people - not the gospel)

It is a fact that unless you have some kind of "status" people won't give you a second glance, or in ~J's case - seat...until they found out... and that is as she said, obnoxious.

We're supposed to treat everyone the same - regardless of situation... standing etc... we are supposed be a Church that is built of lay people - thus status should not be a factor. But...unfortunately it is for most people.

I could care less if someone is stake pres or ... a famous director who happens to be LDS. I will treat you the same... if I like you or if I don't. If I don't like you - I won't invite you to my party. ;-)

We have the a well-known lds director's daughters in our stake. They are nice enough - but I will not go out of my way to kiss a-- just so I can say I'm in their crowd.

We also recently had a film director from LA move in... there's this one woman who is NEVER outgoing or friendly...but who suddenly pulled out all the stops to welcome and befriend this new family.

Honesty people... it's a good thing. We need more of it. That's why I'm a HUGE fan of ~J. I believe that's why Elder Stone wants her to stay who she is and why Holland called her a MOTHER IN ZION.

Sister Pottymouth said...

And can I add a robust "Amen and Hallelujah" to Queen Scarlett's comment?

Tori :) said...

How the heck did I miss this post??
Um, congratulations?? What is the proper thing to say in this situation??

Grace said...

It's grace. Please tell Darin congratulations for me. I love keeping tabs on you guys. Jen, you are unique and fabulous. Just remember that Darin couldn't be where he is today without you. Love you!
Grace Crowther

Anonymous said...

I have so many years in USA, and pass through many difficult time, but knowing you and Chenene is one of the greatest blessing in my life, your example your devotion, just yourself is an inspiration to me. Congratulation in the new calling, and I know that The Lord will bless you and every step of the way. Love you!!!
Sandra Hooks.

Annette Lyon said...

First-time visitor--and what a post to stumble upon. Wow. You brought tears to my eyes in several spots. Thanks for sharing all of this.