I’ve been a part of our church’s general conference weekends for . . . well . . . my entire life I guess. I have so many memories all wrapped in with this weekend. (I almost said “holiday” instead of “weekend”. But that is kind of how it feels to me – like a special holiday weekend, complete with traditions and family and focus on hope and goodness.)
So many happy ties and associations: Lounging in pajamas and wrapped in blankets in front of the TV in our family living room; my mom listening on the radio in the kitchen as she worked on the big family “between session” meal. Joining her to peel the potatoes or set the table. All my married siblings arriving to eat – Amy always bringing orange rolls. Watching the last session with everyone – nieces and nephews included. Some people dozing off a bit. Others quietly working on photo albums. My mom stitching an apron. Someone rubbing my dad’s bald head (his favorite thing).
And other memories too. My mom driving me home from my first marathon down in St. George, UT – with conference on in the car. Waiting for conference tapes to be shipped to us when I spent a semester abroad in Jerusalem – anxious to hear what everyone else in my family had heard without me. Cleaning our first little married apartment on a spring Saturday – windows open and conference playing loudly in the background. Gathering around our computer in WA to listen when we only had “dial up” internet and we couldn’t see the speakers but we could still hear them and I wanted to kiss whoever made that possible.
Not all my memories are appropriately saturated with reverence. And often I don’t recall even what I heard. But what I DO know is what I always felt – peace, a feeling of purpose and of being known and loved, and something like . . . familiarity and home, I guess – like hearing things I’ve always known but maybe forgotten for a moment.
I don’t know how much my kids listen yet. (In fact, often their sole purpose seems to be to stop me from listening!) But I think they all like it. They like gathering together. Eating donuts. Coloring or building Legos – all while our church leaders speak on the TV in front of us. I don’t think it even really occurs to anyone that we will be listening to 8-10 hours of speakers over the weekend! It’s just a very happy, familiar holiday-like time for us.
Between sessions on Sunday we took a drive up in the mountains to go for a family walk and see the fall leaves. It was still in the 70s at home, so we were a bit surprised (and fairly under-dressed) for the brisk and windy weather up in the mountains. It really was quite cold. (In fact, it began hailing the moment we arrived back to our van from our walk!) Luckily we happened to have two blanket-like sleeping bags in the back of our van that we made good use of.
At one point Mike gave me some particularly great body-building poses when he caught me taking his picture. (I have, in fact, always been fond of his large arms.) I don’t know for certain if the baby stroller in the shot adds or detracts from this whole lovely scene. I’m just going to say . . . adds?
Anyway, I feel especially grateful just now for this Mike of mine and the load of children we’ve brought here – the noise and fullness and laughter and busyness and work and exhaustion of it all. The Monday following conference was Anders’ birthday. Mike had taken part of the day off to get a bunch of house things done, but we kept calling him up from the basement for birthday dinner and then birthday presents and then birthday cake, etc. He, of course, wasn’t able to accomplish nearly as much as he intended to, but something about it felt happy all the same to me. My husband. My kids’ dad. And just . . . life exactly as one would expect right now. Constant interruptions, constant detours, and yet . . . it being OK because they are important and good and someday we will look back on the two of us trying to get things done amidst the demands of eight (nearly nine) children . . . and it will be a fond memory. I don’t know even what I’m saying exactly – only, I wish I would have this perspective – the one I’ve had of late – more regularly; that I would see all the beauty and good of even the trying parts. I am blind to it far too often, and what a loss to not catch and feel the joy that is right here!