6/02/2006

Tea Parties and Blessings

I went to a tea party today. An honest to goodness, not just a 3 year old's imagination tea party. Never done that before. A parent in our preschool put it on for our preschool administrator, who is moving this month. It was a fun way to send her off. During this little tea party (yes, there were other drinks available, don't worry), I got the chance to chat with some of the other mothers whose children attend the preschool. There was one mother whose daughter is in J's class, but who joined the preschool late in the year, so she was unfamiliar with most of the other mothers there. We were doing the typical "How many kids do you have" routine, and she seemed a little surprised that she was the only one at the table who wasn't a mother of an only child. "You mean, I'm the only one who has 5?" Yeah, lady, you're definitely the only one. We chatted some more, and then she said, "So, Heather, do you think you will have any more children? Do you want more children?" I took a deep breath and said, "Well, you know, we would love to have more children, but at this point, God hasn't chosen to bless us with any more, so...." and I shrugged. She look very intently at me and said, "God closes wombs, and He opens them, too. He opened Sarah's, and He can open yours. Is this the desire of your heart, to have more children? Then He will open your womb, I promise. I pronounce that blessing upon you in the name of our Savior Jesus Christ, Amen." Ok then. Admittedly, I'm a bit of a novice when it comes to tea parties, but does one usually get blessings at these things? I tried to laugh off what she said, especially since there was sort of an awkward silent pause at our table as she pronounced this blessing, and I said, half laughing, "Are you a prophetess?" She did not laugh. She smiled, though, and said, "No, but I am a servant of God, and you have a righteous desire to have children, and God grants us the righteous desire of our hearts, according to our faith. You just need to build up your faith, girl. And I'm going to give you my email address so you can email me when you are pregnant. Oh, I can't wait to get that message!" And she smiled again and got up to get her purse, presumably to get something to write her email address on. At this point, I got up to follow her, and said, in a low voice once we were away from the main table, "You know, it's kind of complicated", and I explained to her some of the medical issues I have been facing that would make getting pregnant, well, complicated. She didn't even bat an eye when I hastily poured out my lengthy medical history to her, an all but perfect stranger. She just said, "Complicated for you, maybe, but not for God. He heals people all the time. Here's my card, this is my address. Email me when you're pregnant." As the tea party wound down, and the guest of honor got ready to leave, this same woman called the whole party into the main room and said, "Hey, gather round so we can give Karen a blessing." All of the women stood in a circle, held hands, and this woman offered a beautiful blessing in the name of Jesus Christ on the guest of honor, and although the prayer circle thing was not exactly conventional, and was, I think, more of an impromptu thing done to connect the women in the room, the whole thing was actually quite moving. Not a single woman in the room besides me was Mormon. And yet we had an earnest and heartfelt discussion about God, the likes of which I have rarely experienced beyond a formal church setting. And a woman I never met pronounced a blessing on me, not because she was a prophetess, but because, as she said, she was just a servant of God, proclaiming His works and His love. And I was in awe of her faith. I mean, maybe she just had a gift with words and struggles as much as anybody, but her confidence in that moment came from somewhere, and I'd like to think it was from God. And it sure felt good to be around her. That can't be bad. I thought, We need more prayer circles in Relief Society. And maybe more tea parties, too. Celestial Seasonings, anyone?

17 Comments:

Blogger a. nonny spouse said...

Right before I came home from my mission, a Nigerian evangelical woman we'd been teaching laid her hands on my stomach and pronounced a long and specific blessing on me, which included, in part, that I would have a fruitful womb.

And, you know? I really appreciate the openness that some other Christian denominations have about their faith. For people like the Nigerian woman--and, it sounds like, the woman at the tea party--their religion is an integral part of who they are and they aren't afraid of offending people with their religion like I sometimes feel I am. I admire that.

6/03/2006 12:28:00 AM  
Blogger Tracy M said...

There are tears spilling down my cheeks... and lightning running up my back.

To quote you, "Go, Momma!"

6/03/2006 02:10:00 AM  
Blogger Deborah said...

Wow. That takes the cake for unconventional tea parties, Heather!

At a couple of my friend's homes, they circle up and hold hands for prayers -- there is something nice about the intimacy and connectedness of it . . .

6/03/2006 09:13:00 AM  
Anonymous Susan M said...

My sister is not LDS (no one in my family is) but she is Christian and has a lot of faith. Years ago she was living on disability and felt like she couldn't do much for others, but she could pray for them--so she began to think of herself as a "prayer warrior."

I'm fully confident my husband got the job he did at that time, which totally changed the direction of our lives, because of her prayers.

6/03/2006 11:38:00 AM  
Blogger Julie M. Smith said...

There are lots and lots of reasons besides a lack of faith why you, Heather, would not be able to be pregnant at this time. So for her to act as if that were the only possible reason why you are not pregnant was not only a theological mistake, it was cruel because it blamed you for your sitation.

So let's just say it was a good thing that I wasn't there when this happened.

6/03/2006 03:11:00 PM  
Blogger lchan said...

I'm with Julie. Good things don't happen only to people who have faith and bad things don't happen to only those who don't.

6/03/2006 05:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My biggest trial of faith to date had to do with the withholding of a righteous desire. I didn't make enough breastmilk for my first baby. This is a possibility La Leche League neglects mentioning; their line is that everyone can breastfeed. Maybe it sounds silly for something like that to have been such a trial (there is formula now so it wasn't as though she was going to starve), but it was. I couldn't understand why I had failed her in this way, and more importantly, why God wouldn't heal me!!! I asked for a blessing, and I got the assurance that there was nothing wrong with my body and I would be able to nurse subsequent children succesfully. (Which was true, I made enough for the next two.)
But it almost tanked me. I never stopped going to church, but I was in a crisis of testimony for the better part of two years. I've pulled out of it now, but I still have no answers about that time in my life. Just lots of questions. Why did Jesus cure anyone He came across when He was on earth but wouldn't heal me? Did I not have enough faith? (Always an easy one to fall back on. Only one of us is fallible here.) Could I have done anything more to make a difference in the outcome? (I pumped every hour, prayed, etc.) Who knows why these things happen, or don't happen. Not me.

6/03/2006 07:24:00 PM  
Blogger Melanie said...

I think Julie makes an important point: no matter how much faith we have, we don't always get the blessings we want in the way we want (or at the time we want them). But it doesn't sound like this woman meant to criticize Heather--it sounds like she was just encouraging her in the faith that she already has. It is so refreshing to hear such strong testimony, especially in an unexpected context. Sometimes I think we get so caught up in our desire to be accepting of the Lord's will, whatever it is, that we forget that He can do miracles and that we are allowed to ask for them! Let's not put limits on the Lord...He always blesses us when we exercise faith, even if we don't see the how/why right away.

P.S. Heather--Like J, I am the only child of parents who wanted more children but faced medical complications. I meant to respond to your "Only is Lonely?" post awhile back, but had so much to say that I never got around to it. I hope you are able to have more children, but if not, don't worry--J will not be a lonely, spoiled, [fill in the stereotype] child! The older I get, the more I realize how Heavenly Father has blessed our family in unique ways. I have a million things to say about being (or parenting) a Mormon only child...email me if you'd like to hear more. [I'm new to blogging...can you get my email address from my comment, or do I have to post it?]

6/03/2006 11:19:00 PM  
Blogger Tracy M said...

Maybe I missed the point, but I read it as more about THAT woman's incredible faith, and her sharing it with Heather... It seemed loving and beautiful.

And the woman was not of our faith, so she wasn't making any theological mistakes as far as her knowledge carried her... Isn't that the way it works?

6/04/2006 12:39:00 AM  
Anonymous Tam said...

I share Tracy M’s perspective – I find this particular event very touching. I think it is somewhat reminiscent of the blessings the Relief Society sisters used to give pregnant women – blessings that were similar to the temple ceremony of washing and anointing. They were quite beautiful. And while I don’t expect that every woman who received such a blessing had no problems with pregnancy and delivery, I think it afforded them a marvelous bond as they called down the powers of heaven on behalf of mother and child. I don’t know that faith is necessarily about getting what you ask for – it seems to me that faith is more about believing there is a loving God in control and accepting His will. Faith from that perspective allows us to let go of our grief, anger, fear, etc., and enables us to focus on learning the lesson being taught by a particular experience.

It’s a pity that Relief Society prayers have become “decentralized.” While it’s wonderful to receive meals from the Relief Society during times of need, I would love to see the spiritual power of the sisters harnessed and directed on behalf of those in need through some kind of formalized prayer forum.

Thanks for sharing your experience, Heather.

6/04/2006 03:52:00 AM  
Blogger Thoroughly Mormon Millie said...

I'm sitting here with my jaw dropped open...

Wow, what an experience. I've heard the term "prayer warrior" before and I've had a lady (not of my faith but devout Christian) pray for my daughter, who was sick, over the phone while I was in a conversation with her. I mean, as soon as I said "she's sick," this lady began praying... but wow.

I think Mormons tend to be more polite about their faith - not that this was an example of rudeness, exactly, but I think (hope) that the reason why we're not more open about giving or praying for blessings, is because of the "secret prayer" scripture. It doesn't mean we're ashamed or less loving or faithful if we don't do it right there in Enrichment meeting. We're praying for family and friends as much as anyone else - we're just following the commandment to "enter into our closets."

As for the "I can't wait for the pregnancy email," this lady sounds a little off her rocker. Sorry. Heather, I have all the faith in the world that you will have more children if God wills it, but this lady is totally discounting the fact that Heavenly Father might have more for you to learn in NOT being able to conceive soon, or ever again. Maybe that's His will. Sounds to me like this lady was thinking more of her own power than His. And I agree that it is kind of cruel.

6/04/2006 04:35:00 AM  
Blogger Julie M. Smith said...

Tracy M wrote, "And the woman was not of our faith, so she wasn't making any theological mistakes as far as her knowledge carried her... Isn't that the way it works?"

I'm not an expert on all of the flavors of Christianity, but I'm not aware of any group that thinks as this woman does--all recognize that God may withhold desired blessings for reasons other than 'lack of faith'.

6/04/2006 01:43:00 PM  
Blogger lchan said...

We're going through infertility treatments and if someone gave me a blessing and then happily told me to call them when I was pregnant as if it was a simple and easy thing, I'd feel like throttling them (but I'd probably just break down in tears).

It sounds like Heather has healthy perspective about the whole thing, and I'm glad she was able to find something positive in the experience.

6/05/2006 10:50:00 AM  
Anonymous queen serene said...

"I don’t know that faith is necessarily about getting what you ask for."

I'm glad this was said. I think faith can mean that, but not necessarily. There is a big difference between having faith that "God can," and having faith that "God will." To have confidence that God will do a specific something, we need a promise from him first. So like Naddin J, I'm totally confident that God could open your womb, but until you have a promise from him that he will, I don't see how anyone could exercise true faith that he will.

In other words, I'm blown away by this woman's confidence in "God can" but think her "God will" was misguided, unless of course he was channeling her to make that promise (unlikely).

But in any case, I'm really touched by the women-praying-in-a-circle image.

6/06/2006 11:40:00 AM  
Blogger lchan said...

Queen Serene,
I think you have just the right take. You have put into words something I couldn't quite put my finger on it.

6/06/2006 08:57:00 PM  
Blogger Heather O. said...

Julie-

I have to admit, your reaction surprised me a little. I am well aware that having faith that God will do something doesn't mean it will always come to pass. But I don't think that was this woman's point. Yes, she was a little abrupt and perhaps out of line pronouncing a blessing on me, but her own faith was quite inspiring, and if nothing else, the advise about building up my own faith would help me understand God's plan better, and perhaps accept His will when my faithful prayers are not answered in the way that I would hope.

And I didn't feel anger at her at all for promising something that, really, she has no business promising. She believes herself to be a servant of God, and took the opportunity to testify her witness of Jesus Christ.

And I don't think you can dismiss the idea of the Spirit channeling through her so lightly. Certainly I did not go out an buy a pregnancy test that day, but still, she could have had a message for me from the Lord. Stranger things have happened.

6/06/2006 10:53:00 PM  
Anonymous queen serene said...

I agree that others can receive messages for us (not just people with stewardship over us, either). It's happened to me and I know it was for real.

Heather, it sounds like you're being wise and taking the experience seriously, but also keeping your feet on the ground, seeking out your own revelation.

6/06/2006 11:22:00 PM  

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