Saturday, September 16, 2017

The Big Change

I missed church for my Chicago trip, and that just so happened to be the Sunday that they announced a big change: our ward was being dissolved and we were all assigned to one of the two other wards in our building. It came as a complete surprise and I don't think I fully processed the information for at least a week. We met the following week as Trendwood Ward one final time, they released all of us from our ward callings, and we turned in all our materials and keys. It feels completely bizarre and normal at the same time - bizarre because it was so sudden and we're being separated from people we've served with for over 5 years, and normal because the Church is true and the work goes on and ward boundaries are arbitrary when it comes to testimony and personal conviction.

My first thought when I heard the news was, "ah! Which of my friends aren't in my ward now!?" and my second thought was, "wait! That means I'll be released!" I couldn't tell if I felt angry, sad, overwhelmed, relieved, or confused, or all of the above. Mostly I just couldn't get over my surprise. "Dissolving" just seems so abrupt - I prefer "assimilating" or "reorganizing." Denise called me right after the meeting to give me more information and we spent at least half of the conversation saying things like, "I just can't believe it." 

So, we're in the Capital Ward now. We lost our entire Bishopric (Haines, Bundy, Chamberlin), plus most of the other "permanent" families: Birdsall, Beddes, Sherrill, and many other families who we love. It will feel very weird to not see them and work with them every Sunday. My RS counselors are still in my ward, which is a huge relief to me, and also many of our student friends (although they will be leaving Lincoln in the coming years anyway). The dividing line is 56th street, and we live on 54th, so we are really close.

We were released from our callings. Austin had been in primary for over a year, and I had been RS President for almost 2 years. I feel sort of naked without this calling. It's been such a huge part of my life these past years and I don't think it's really sunk in yet that I'm done. No more making sure RS goes smoothly every Sunday, passing out visiting teaching slips, Ward Council, scheduling presidency meetings, dealing with food orders, keeping up with the stream of emails and texts about compassionate service, carrying the weight of what people in the ward are struggling with, and trying to make sure every sister's needs are met in the way they need to be. No more ministering visits, presidency temple trips, requesting callings, making sure people have rides, planning activities, organizing funerals, taking attendance, sending letters, praying for sisters to feel our love. 

We had one last Trendwood Ward Council on the final Sunday, and we each had an opportunity to share joys we've had, things we've learned, and advice we'd give to others who will have our calling. I loved listening to what the leaders in this great ward had to say, and was touched by the love I could tell they had for the people they had served so well. 

Here's some of what I've learned by being Relief Society President:

Never underestimate people. Let them rise to the occasion; don't make excuses for them.

Visiting teaching is hard but must be done in order to properly care for the ward. 

Every single person is dealing with hard personal struggles. Every single person.

You can't do the work alone; you have to rely on counselors and utilize the people who are called to help you. Expect people to do what they have been called to do and trust them to do it without you stepping all over them. Don't make everything your responsibility. There are no unimportant callings. 

I was the most successful and effective in this calling when I was devoting enough time and energy to reading and studying my scriptures. It was a 100% clear cause-and-effect relationship. 

Go to the temple. You will literally ALWAYS be blessed. 

Boundaries are important. You don't have to answer every single phone call or make a visit every single day. Finding family, recreation, and church balance was a constant struggle but an important one. 

It must be so hard to be a Bishop. As much weight as I carried on my shoulders, I'm confident the Bishop carried double. I have more reverence for that calling now and will always strive to support and sustain my Bishop. 

Some of the joys I experienced in this calling:

Working with my Denises. I still think it's funny that both of my counselors were named Denise (and Denice!). They continue to be a giant blessing in my life, both as friends and mentors. I have loved serving with them more than they could know. 

Seeing visiting teaching work the way it's supposed to: calling someone to alert them to a need of someone they visit teach and having them tell me that not only are they aware of the need, but they have already taken steps to help. Amazing. 

Working closely with Bishop Haines. Learning how to lead and serve and follow the Handbook. Feeling like he believed in me and knew I could do what was asked of me in this calling. 

Getting to know sisters that I would never have even met otherwise. 

Feeling supported from all the women in my ward. I don't think I went a single Sunday without someone giving me a hug or nice note, telling me I'm doing a great job. Those little actions and words really make a huge impact.

A greater desire to know God's will, since now I was seeking it on behalf of our Relief Society and not just my own self and family. My prayers have changed. 

And so much more! How can I capture everything? 

Sigh. I'll never forget this time in my life. I'm grateful for my experiences and what they have taught me. I know that I have been blessed and that I will continue to draw on these years for what they are worth for the rest of my life. Change is good. I'm ready to do something different, and I know the Denices feel the same, even though we're all sad to end our official service together. 

I was asked to bear my testimony in Sacrament Meeting after we were all released and I don't remember everything I said, but here's one thing that has stuck with me:

"We don't have to be anything other than what Jesus Christ wants us to be, which is as He is. So many people told me that they didn't feel like they fit in, or they felt judged for not being a certain way or doing certain things. Many of these sisters stopped coming to church and never came back because they couldn't measure up to the expectations, perceived or otherwise, of others. I know that this is not what our Savior wants us to feel. He only expects us to follow His example and strive to be like Him, and that will be enough."

I'm kicking myself for not getting a picture of me, Sister Ashby, and Sister Noble. I'm grateful we had the chance to be on the same team. I'm grateful we can continue to be together, even if we're not working directly together in callings. 

I'm grateful for Austin. He continues to be the best there is, in every way. 

Thanks for the memories, Trendwood. It's been unforgettable. 


  1. Thanks for serving Jessie! You did a fantastic job!

  2. Aww, I wanted to cry while reading this. You seriously gained so much wisdom in this calling, woman! I felt like I learned more and my testimony was strengthened more while reading this! You are an amazing woman! I know you did such an outstanding job as Relief Society President, I miss you. I miss Trendwood ward. Now you all will unfortunately join the "I miss Trendwood ward" group. Let's make bumper stickers haha. But as you said, the church is true, we move forward, we grow, and the relationships we gained while together can never go away. Love you girl! (Casey read this while I did too and was feeling all the feels too, that was a special ward). Thanks for being such a wonderful president!