This lovely girl owns my heart. She, and a couple dozen other young women who are beautiful souls trying to maneuver the treacherous path of life; that individually designed road that weaves in strange and interesting ways through temptations and challenges, struggles and successes. Her name is Megan, and she is fourteen years old. Actually she’s one of those forty year old spirits in a teenage body, except she has the delightful personality of that teenage girl.
One day after I had taught a lesson on the value of mistakes and trials, she came up to me, commented on the lesson, then gave me a hug. While we embraced she whispered in my ear:
“Cori, sometimes I pray for trials, because I know they’ll strengthen me.”
I pulled her a little closer to my heart and whispered back:
“Oh Honey, don’t pray too hard!”
In this blurry phone-ograph Megan is speaking at the pulpit in our church. It wasn’t a Sunday meeting. It was a weeknight. She and her fellow Young Women are used to standing at this pulpit, so to them it’s not a huge deal, though I can tell you some turn the other way when they see you coming toward them with a certain clipboard in hand. I am immensely proud of all of them when they stand at this wooden pulpit and share words of wisdom and inspired words of living prophets and apostles as well as sacred words from ancient scripture. I served as their YW president for just over three years and was released last year. That was, I tell you, a very sad day at our house!
Megan is at the pulpit this day because one of the sweetest, kindest, most beguiling and guileless girls in our neighborhood (who happens to be one of her closest friends) was doing this:
This is Stephanie. And that’s her brother baptizing her. Stephanie’s parents, to their credit, allowed Stephanie her free choice as to where she decided to plant her faith. And while she has lived in a relatively “LDS” community her whole life, and most of her family were members of the LDS church, Steph, for reasons essential to only her, had decided not to be baptized. But she was very much a part of us, joining us at weekly activities, occasionally coming to Sunday services, trekking with us at Girl’s Camp, sitting around my firesplace at Christmastime. When I first got my rosters as YW president Stephanie’s name was not on the Beehives list. “She hasn’t been baptized, so her name is not on the church records for YW”, the clerk told me.
“Yes she is,” I replied, “check the records again.” I simply could not believe this girl so full of the spirit of love and goodness, who was so comfortable among us, was not a member. But they were correct.
And so, last year, her courageous friend who prays for trials asked Steph if she would like to meet with the missionaries at her house and learn about the church. And you know what? Well, I guess you know, because that’s Steph in the water and that’s Megan at the pulpit.
So I’ve been thinking about pulpits. I’ve been thinking about how few pulpits are made of wood. I think more often they are made of fresh mowed summer grass, all fragrant and clean, where a circle of girls whisper life dreams late at night. They are made of soft living room couches, or accommodating beds at a sleep over. I think they are invisible as they move with the masses of kids in the hallway at school, in the curb on the street when the neighbor is taking the garbage cans out and the kids are a little rowdy in the swimming pool. Pulpits are rivers with girls strung together riding them in the heat of July, their bums skimming the surface of water through the center of a large black inner tube. They are blazing campfires with angelic voices singing ‘round them. They are tearful apologies for feelings harmed, and giggles of acceptance in circles on the playground. They are thresholds at open doors, with hand delivered invitations to join us for this or that. They are people genuinely loving their kids’ friend’s parents, and those parents genuinely loving back without judgment.
Blessed young men who taught our Stephanie on those many evenings at Megan’s home. Blessed family of Megan’s who opened their arms and supported that gathering. Blessed parents who allowed her to choose. Blessed girls.
Those missionaries taught her much about the gospel, in the correct order, so she could make an educated and spiritually driven decision. But before those young men taught her, there were many who taught her from various pulpits. Their lives are testaments.
When my daughter Kate was on her mission in Hong Kong I sent her a little sign that said this:
Such wonderful wordless teachers…these Young Women I love!
|That's itty bitty Steph in the front at Girl's camp a few years ago. We will always have your back, Steph!|