elders quorum

Days 57 and 58 – I Can Talk Words

On August 28th, my wife lost her job. 24 hours later, I lost mine. This blog is a continuation of the day-by-day chronicling of our emotional journey back to employment. This is bound to be upsetting, hilarious and hopeful.

Saturday & Sunday – October 25-26, 2014

Saturday

10703573_10204792240863398_6428795307795303273_nToday was all about other people looking out for us. Our friend Kathryn makes shadow boxes for sale, and she had her husband come by to just straight up drop off a Star Wars box for me since they know I’m a fan. How generous is that? It’s a pretty fantastic little thing, and oddly perfect (to me, anyway) for Halloween. You can see more of Kathryn’s shadow boxes at her online store.

In the evening we went to a Halloween Party with several friends and several people we didn’t know at all. Made some new friends, which was nice. We’re in an area of town where people are just incredible nice and friendly and share a lot of common interests. We really don’t want to leave her. We will if we have to, but nights like this I’m more reluctant. That, however, doesn’t stop me from being excited about this:

Very, very late at night I got an email from my (step)sister, Kris, who is a famous crafter with her twin, Kim. Kris knew of a couple of leads on jobs that seem perfect me for me in Colorado. Really, really perfect.

Sunday

When I told Erin and Elora about the jobs and location, Elora asked where Denver is. I told her it was in Colorado, in the middle of the country, where they have all the school shootings. Elora just stared at me, horrified. I got the sense this was not the right thing to say.

Erin challenged me to put this anecdote in my blog, so there you go.

Since the whole stake blew up in the wake of the big ward boundary changes, it’s taken a little while for everyone to settle into their new roles properly. Case in point: today I was finally set apart as the Elders Quorum President of the McKinley Ward. A “setting apart” is a blessing given by the laying of hands on the person’s head by one who has authority, and in that blessing keys and rights are given to the person to be able to perform their new duty. I haven’t been able to do some basic things like calling other people to positions within the Quorum because I didn’t have those rights and keys yet.

Because of the nature of my calling, the Stake President himself had to do my setting apart. Unfortunately, the entire event turned into a comedy of errors.

I was late to the meeting in the first place because I got caught up talking to someone else in another part of the building. When I did finally make it to our Elders Quorum makeshift classroom on the stage, President Nef and one of his counselors were already waiting for me. So was Cami’s Sunday School teacher, who kindly informed me Cami needed a change. We’re going on ten years of diapers here so normally this wouldn’t be a big deal, but in this case I had to ask President Nef and President Biberston to wait some more while I went to change Cami in the men’s bathroom (on the floor, sadly, as there was no change table I could find). This was an event grosser, longer and more toxic than usual due to circumstances best left to the imagination.

I eventually returned and the setting apart actually happened. After the Stake President and his counselor left, I proceeded to take care of overdue business. Or tried to. There was some confusion with the teacher of the lesson and for about a minute we awkwardly played out our version of Who’s On First? in front of the class while I tried to communicate that I wanted to take care of some additional callings before he resumed.

Lead with confidence and clarity, that’s my motto.

When I finally persuaded the teacher, my friend Mike, to sit down, I then presented his name for a sustaining vote by the Quorum as our Secretary. And I presented another name as our Instructor. We do everything by common consent in the church, and if anyone has a problem with a particular person to whom a calling is issued, we are free to speak up and make our objection known for consideration.

This is all usually done very quickly with the request that everyone raise their right arm to signify their vote at the appropriate time. And then objectors are likewise asked to raise their arms as a sign they’re not cool with it.

It’s extremely rare anyone objects. It’s even rarer for the person who leads everyone in casting their votes to completely forget what to say and how to use words generally. I still can’t even tell you what I was supposed to say, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t “Raise your hands if you, uh, agree and then if you don’t you can raise your hands, too. Or whatever.”

I would make for a terrible actor. I have no memorization skills whatsoever. I’m not usually such a tongue tied or off-my-balance leader, but I paraphrase and reword everything and that’s my problem. This is great for avoiding cliches, but terrible for exquisitely crafted monologues. So, you’re welcome world, I decided not be an actor.

I’ll get better at all this, I know that, but it was highly embarrassing for me personally that any of this even happened. Presentation is, I think, pretty important. I blame the diaper. Pretty sure I’d register on a Geiger counter right now.

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Days 51 and 52 – Leading at Church and Guiding in the Mall

On August 28th, my wife lost her job. 24 hours later, I lost mine. This blog is a continuation of the day-by-day chronicling of our emotional journey back to employment. This is bound to be upsetting, hilarious and hopeful.

Sunday & Monday – October 19-20, 2014

On Sunday I performed my first acts as President of the Elders Quorum in the new McKinley Ward. I attended a ward leadership meeting in AM, and then during church I called someone to a position within the Quorum. I’ve never done that before. I’ve been on the other side of the experience dozens of times, but I’ve never sat with someone, said a prayer with them, asked them to serve, and then told them what I expected from them.

Actually, we didn’t sit down at all. I don’t know our new church building well enough to know where we can go for privacy, so I opened the first door I saw and we ended up standing together in the janitor’s closet among the mops and brooms. Now I know where to change into my super suit to fight giant robots.

We held our first Quorum meeting during the third hour. I had expected maybe 8 guys to fill the chairs, but we had twice as many show up, all looking to me to for what to do for an hour.

I’ve lead people before, but this is on a different level. We deal in the things of the eternities and salvation at church, so the only way to do a job like this is to have wisdom that reaches beyond mine. This is a spiritual job, and I am very much a temporal being. I have great faults. I stumble. I fall. The only difference between me and the other 17 men in the meeting today is that I was called to preside at this time, however long that turns out to be. No doubt some of them are thinking, “Please find a job in Albuquerque. Soon.”

* * *

Today, I got connected a little more to my baby girl. Violet is at the phase where she’s constantly pushing me aside in favor of her mom. She might just hate me a little. “No, not YOU!” is something I hear a lot. She’s three.

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We went to the mall together to exchange a belt at Macy’s, but that only took about ten minutes. For the rest of the three hours, I let her tell Violet be the guide. We went to the Disney Store and she explored every princess item they had on display, but she also got very excited when an ad for Star Wars came up on the big screen in the center of the store. If we’re going to have a geek girl, she’ll be the one.

She was fascinated by the fountain in the middle of the mall, and I had to explain to her why I couldn’t fish out the money to pay for the candy she wanted from the nearby dispenser. I also had to explain why my pockets cannot spontaneously produce quarters. We went up the escalator in JC Penney and back down again, per her request.

We ate at the Food Court, went back for another trip up and down the escalator, and dove back in for another round at the Disney Store. She insisted the singing Anna and Elsa dolls be next to each other so they could harmonize, never mind they were singing two different songs.

We capped off the afternoon with a double shot of Orange Julius. As we stood in line, Violet spotted more fountains outside. She asked if we could sit out there and drink. I told her we could and she screamed “Hooray”, jumped up and down, and hugged me.

I really needed this time with Violet. Not gonna lie, as heart melts go, mine turned to a puddle more than once.

I will allow that all this dad stuff is probably pretty boring, but this was one of the sweetest experiences I’ve had since starting this whole unemployment mess and I’m telling you about it, dang it. This was special. It deserves to be recorded.

And yet… there were odd moments of disconnect throughout the afternoon. At times, I felt like a passenger on the trip, not the one driving the boat. I didn’t smile as much as I wanted and lacked an energy you’d think would go along with making your daughter happy over and over again. Even now, as I’m writing this, I feel not totally plugged in.

It might be because I’m posting and rewriting this blog today, October 31st. Eleven days from the mall and Violet and fountains with money we can’t take for ourselves, things are tougher. The constant striving and disappointments are wearing on me. I’m not completely hopeless. I’m just having a harder time seeing the light.

But we’ll get to that.

Day 45 – I Have a New Job (Just Not the One I Was Expecting)

On August 28th, my wife lost her job. 24 hours later, I lost mine. This blog is a continuation of the day-by-day chronicling of our emotional journey back to employment. This is bound to be upsetting, hilarious and hopeful.

Sunday – October 12, 2014

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This is such a misleading photo. I don’t know why I used it.

Today, it happened. Four wards dissolved in the Fresno East Stake and six new ones were created. If the preceding sentence makes absolutely no sense to you, I highly recommend reading yesterday’s post in which I explained what was then only a potentiality.

So, yes, boundaries were redrawn and our ward, the Fresno 7th Ward, got cut into pieces. Erin and I ended up in the McKinley Ward, which is also the ward that most closely resembles our previous ward, but with about a third less people. We lost a lot of friends. No, they’re not dead, but we won’t see them as much in the future now that we’ll be attending at a different building. There’s not even a chance of running into people in the hallways. Lots of tears in the room tonight as all this was announced.

Butler BuildingAlso part of the announcements: everyone was simultaneously released from their callings (ie, jobs within the church). The key difference between the organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormon) and most every other church is that we are run–from the very top on down–by a lay ministry. No one makes a dime serving in the church.

No one makes a career out of it either. Callings are extended to members and they are expected to take them. That’s part of the commitment we make at baptism–to sacrifice our time and talents to serve in the church. But every calling comes with a release. You may be a Bishop one day–in charge of running a 500-person ward–and the next day be released and called as a nursery leader, instead pouring water from a pitcher into 8 little Dixie cups for 8 little Mormon rugrats. In my time in the church, I’ve been a teacher of children, teenagers and adults; a counselor; a secretary; and financial clerk. I don’t have a lot of time for this stuff, no one does, but we all serve gladly anyway. It just plain feels good to serve the Lord in these capacities, and we know we’re serving each other as well.

Six new wards meant six new Bishops, and they were identified immediately, during the meeting. Six new Bishops meant each of them needed two new counselors and three new secretaries, a group collectively known as a Bishopric. These were all also identified.

20 minutes before the meeting started, Erin and I were called into the Stake President’s office. There, he extended to me a calling to serve as the Elders Quorum President in the McKinley Ward. An “Elder” is one of the offices of the priesthood and the Elders Quorum is generally the largest “quorum”–or male group–in the ward. If a Bishop is like a pastor and his counselors like assistant pastors, then the Elder’s Quorum President is like an assistant pastor that leads the men.

What do you call that? A specialty pastor? Is that a thing? I don’t know. I’ve been to lots of other churches, but I’ve never been clear on the different rankings of pastors.

Stake President Nef made it known that there was some hesitation about calling me to this position because of my status as unemployed. Not because they doubt my abilities, but because I could up and leave town to pursue a job at any time, and they know that. But like an annoying tick you can’t shake off, they couldn’t get my name out of their minds and made the ridiculous and ill-advised choice to call me to the position anyway.

That’s the other thing about callings: really, they’re from the Lord. Lots of prayer goes into each and every one of them. I can’t imagine what President Nef has been through the past several months as he tried to sort through all these changes and the dozens and dozens of callings he’s had to extend.

I’m of mixed feelings about the whole thing. I’m incredibly excited to take on this responsibility and throw myself into this job that pays terribly yet yields high rewards, but how long do I really have to do it? I’m interviewing with two different companies right now, both of  them far, far away. It’s entirely possible I’ll just get things started in the Elders Quorum so I can make it easier for the next guy. Or, maybe this is the next three years of my life. I don’t know.

What I do know, immediately, is what I want to focus on as President. I want us to take care of each other; to do a better job reaching out to those around us–particularly those who do not attend church–and let them know they are loved and that someone is mindful of them. It’s a tall order, but I hope to be able to inspire the brethren I lead to do exactly what Christ commanded Peter to do when He said, “Feed my sheep.” There’s lots of people starving in one way or another. I  think we’re in a position to help.

But before any of that noise gets to happen I really need a couple counselors of my own. And a secretary. This job is way to big to do it alone for too long. Lots of my own prayers ahead in the next week.

After the meeting, lots of people congratulated me on the calling. I’m honestly not sure that’s entirely appropriate. For one, it’s not like i did anything to get this calling. There was no campaign and desire on my part to have it. There’s simply no “moving up” in the Church, and certainly nothing we gain based on our own merit. Secondly, this calling is tough.

I generally prefer to offer condolences when someone gets a calling, particularly one that will require a real time and emotional commitment. To lead and set an example is work. It’s not always easy, and, like I said, the people who serve in the Church don’t just do church stuff. They have all of their regular, normal life responsibilities as well. They have jobs.

Well, most people do, anyway. There are some notable exceptions.

Day 24 – We All Need to Be Needed

On August 28th, my wife lost her job. 24 hours later, I lost mine. This blog is a continuation of the day-by-day chronicling of our emotional journey back to employment. This is bound to be upsetting, hilarious and hopeful.

Sunday – September 21, 2014

This dog gets it.

This dog gets it.

Sunday is church day and on a busy church day that means meetings. I serve as the secretary of our ward’s Elders’ Quorum (read: men’s group) which means, working with the Assistant Secretary (yes, I have an assistant–I’m big time), I keep track of everything going on and get all the computer work done. Basically, I take notes and push buttons.

An hour before church started, I met with the rest of the Quorum leadership. We went over things that need doing and people who need attention. Every time I sit down with these guys I have the same thought: I’m the only one without a job. I don’t mean to go there, but I can’t be the only one who plays One-of-These-Things-is-Not-Like-the-Others every time they’re in a group of people. Right? None of the guys did anything to suggest they look down on me, but still my mind went there. I do my best to not associate my unemployment with shame, but that feeling of difference leads to the feeling that I’ve done something wrong and that leads to feeling bad. It shouldn’t be there, logically, but it is always there at the edges of my mind. Thankfully, these moments are fleeting.

After the meeting, I did the pushing buttons thing. Any time I get to serve in this way I get reminded of what it feels like to have a job, lo, those three weeks ago. The entire morning–on the Day of Rest–felt like having a job. It wasn’t so long ago I was calling for meetings and giving instructions to my team and handing out assignments. That was all a big part of what I did. The other part was at the computer executing my own assignments. It just felt felt good to do a little of that again, even if it was all terribly non-creative.

On the heels of that I got an email today from a former colleague who was also laid off this year. He’d heard I’d just been let go and wrote an incredibly gracious note that spoke fondly of our time together and expressed his utter faith that I will find something suitable for and worthy of my talents. Even offered to be a reference for me. He reminded me of my value, which can be so easy to forget.

I’ve always thought of a job as just a job, the thing I do to put food on the table and take care of what really matters to me–my family. But in the last few years the job really became something more as I stepped up to assume the role of Art Director. The job became much more than a job. It was a source of real accomplishment and friendships and fulfillment. I was excited about what I was doing and felt like I was making a difference, not only for my co-workers and the people who had entrusted me to lead, but also for kids and teachers and everyone in education whose lives we were trying to make easier.

Now, I get that feeling of being valued when I’m at church, which is no small place to feel such a thing. I’m immensely grateful for church and my church family. Not only is everyone there a constant source of strength for us, but they need me there (or they’re at least great at making me feel that way). They look at me as someone who has something to offer and that’s something everyone needs. We need to be needed. To be not needed is to be lost. To have nowhere to go and nowhere to be is a nightmare.

This is what can sometimes make being in need such a difficult thing. I know we’re in a spot right now where we have to accept help, but I don’t want to just spend my days receiving. I want to give as well. If I can’t do that in a job, then, for now, I suppose it’s enough that I can at least do that in other ways.