The rain falls tonight like cooling tears.
I am in the mountains this weekend, high above the trees, at a wooden table with a wooden chair on a wooden balcony. Sheet lightning lights up the sky, layer upon layer, and the rain falls like the laughter of little girls.
It has been my last week with Jessica. She goes to kindergarten next week, like a big girl, and is very excited about it. Tonight we played monopoly and she could hand over the right money by colors, count her spaces correctly, and read a few of the words on the cards. She can tie her shoes, pick out her clothes, do her own bath, and name her feelings. She can sign what she wants to say, and knows some spanish and some french. We made it to Alma 60, finishing up with the stripling warriors, before I blessed her little head (in an aunt-sort-of-way) with all she needs to be her own warrior.
I have given all I had to give, and she is ready to go.
It’s a feeling I have never had before, and not one that I have words ready to describe or share.
I gave my best, this time. I gave all there was to give. I really, really did.
I hope it was enough.
Billie was here, too, and having two kiddos is a good way to keep it real. There are no angels when there are two kiddos, and it is much easier to see weaknesses like bullying or arguing or selfishness.
But our theme this week was the stars of Abraham and what it has to do with being a family. We started by floating in the pool at night, watching all the stars. Another night we used my phone to find the different stars and planets in the night sky. Another night we looked at the genealogy of Abraham and his family.
We talked about what it means to be family, and how we learn and grow together. We talked about agency and our freedom to choose the right. We talked about how little things always become big things, like the seeds in the garden, and how we want to plant good things so that good things grow.
We talked also about those who didn’t choose well, and how this destroyed families. Abraham had two sons: Ishmael and Isaac. Isaac had two sons: Jacob and Esau. Jacob had his twelve sons, and they attacked Joseph.
There is this pattern, of there being two.
There is this pattern, of one choosing good and the other choosing evil.
More accurately, there is a pattern of one choosing eternal (inheritance) and one choosing temporal (porridge).
We talked about how the same pattern is in the Book of Mormon, with Lehi’s sons and their descendants that became the Nephites and the Lamanites.
We talked about how it isn’t about blaming others for what they do wrong, or being jealous of those who receive blessings, but how it is all about learning from each other.
We talked about how these stories of fathers and sons apply to daughters, too.
Today we finished the week with the “Joseph” show in Branson (thanks, mom!), watching the story of forgiveness and restoration unfold. This show was mom’s idea, and she is the one who got the tickets for us, and I couldn’t believe how perfect it was. I wept through most of it, truly, soaking in revelation and vision and understanding I never had before even though I know the story. It was exactly what I needed, and I was so grateful to mom for responding to that prompting and getting those tickets for that specific show when we checked in here last night. It was amazing.
When Joseph’s two sons appeared on the stage, I wanted to shout to the girls, “Do you see the older one? That’s Ephraim! That’s Ephraim!” I did tell them later, and explained, and said that’s us! I told them the story of how Joseph is our great-great-great-great-great grandfather, tickling them for every “great” they could bear.
When we gathered for family prayers tonight, we talked once more about the story of Joseph, and about the gathering of family, and about what it has to do with us – even the part about Ephraim being stubborn and obstinate, and how we can choose to use our stubborn-ness for righteousness and our obstinate-ness against evil. I told them He can redeem and restore even us, that He will, that He does, that He has, that I know it to be true.
I told them there is grace even beyond mercy, and that He pours so much goodness down upon us.
Blessings, I said, are so we can do something for Him. It’s not for us, I explained. It isn’t to make our lives easy, to make our Selves comfortable, or to give us rest from the hard work of living and serving. Everything is given to us to enable and empower us to serve Him, to care for His people, to be good stewards and share all He has given us. The more He gives us, the more there is to do. The more we do, the more He gives us.
Their eyes shine like stars when they soak in truths, even those truths that are filed away as presents for future understanding.
It’s hard work being an aunt, and I am grateful for those who unexpectedly helped with the girls last week while I worked. I am grateful for the parenting preparation, grateful to my brother and his wife for sharing their children and grateful for my nieces and nephews for letting me practice and learn on them. I am grateful to my mother, who testified with me to the girls that God has gathered our family, restored us to who He created us to be, and that we will not let go of that, ever.
And as long as we don’t let go, He won’t either.
It’s a promise.
I saw it in the stars.