Hank has one teeny tiny tooth and man, has he had to work for it.
A few nights ago after he’d finally gone to sleep I went into the kitchen to catch up on dishes and pick up the leftover scrambled eggs that escaped the highchair tray.
As I washed the dishes, a memory from a family trip came to mind.
We took the journey to Nauvoo, Illinois in the silver Dodge Caravan. Needless to say the words of a familiar hymn played on repeat in my mind, "Does the journey seem long?"
The car was cramped and full of clothes, various trail-mixes, and my family. The younger two kids especially grew restless on the long stretches of road to cover.
Sometimes the close quarters gave them a disease that made touching or looking at each other either repulsive or mandatory. Of course, at different times.
In response, my parents yelled, warned, begged, and bribed but nothing stuck for more than a few miles.
It was beginning to hit its peak when my mom changed the game plan.
With an impressive move using only an old receipt and a mostly dry Sharpie, my mom renewed our patience and stopped the fighting.
The note passed to the back seat read as follows,
"Thank you for trying hard. I love you both. Love Mom."
I thought of this experience in a new light among the suds and silverware in the sink. Isn't that how our Heavenly Parents work with us?
Sometimes, often times, mortality is uncomfortable and hard.
Temptation is relentless and imperfections sometimes look to be outnumbering our efforts.
But when we're discouraged, a little note passed from heaven to the backseat of mortality reads,
"Thank you for trying hard. We love you all. Love, Mom and Dad."
The waiting room at the cancer clinic is one of the most sacred places I have ever been.
Cancer is no respecter of persons so people from all walks of life sit together. Some talk with friends or family, but most seem to sit quietly. Jake and I would always hold hands.
We were all waiting.
Some wait for good news, to ring the bell, or hear the words “cancer free”. Others wait for a difficult diagnosis or a sad prognosis.
They all wait.
The most sacred part of the waiting room was the hope I saw in those who wait.
Whether they waited for the good or the not so good, they were kind, happy, and hopeful.
They smiled in the waiting.
I wouldn’t wish cancer on anyone, but I wouldn’t trade our time in the waiting room for anything.
Elder Gong, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said,
“During this life, we sometimes wait upon the Lord. We may not yet be where we hope and wish to be in the future. A devout sister says, ‘Waiting faithfully upon the Lord for His blessings is a holy position. It must not be met with pity, patronizing, or judgment but instead with sacred honor.’”
During Jesus’ mortal life he became aware of a man whose daughter was ill. On his way to heal her he met a woman who was waiting.
The scriptures say she had an “issue of blood” for twelve years. No treatment seemed to help. She saw many physicians, but no one could cure her. In fact, she was left with no money and the scriptures say she was “nothing bettered, but rather grew worse” (Mark 5).
“When she had heard of Jesus, came in the press behind, and touched his garment.
“For she said, if I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole.
“And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague.
“And Jesus, immediately knowing in himself that virtue had gone out of him, turned him about in the press, and said, Who touched my clothes?
“And his disciples said unto him, Thou seest the multitude thronging thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me?
“And he looked round to see her that had done this thing.
“but the woman fearing and trembling, knowing what was done in her, came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth.
“And he said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace and be whole of thy plague.”
Sometimes I think about this woman, what her life must have been like. Mostly I think of the faith needed to draw healing from touching the Savior’s clothing as He passed by.
I think her power came from the waiting.
I know people who are waiting.
Waiting for righteous blessings to be bestowed, answers to be revealed, or for wholeness to come or return.
Even I am waiting.
How often do I pity that position? Even though the waiting is so sacred. So holy.
I thought about that waiting room at the cancer clinic today. I remembered the last thing I wanted or felt was pity.
All I wanted, all we felt, was hope.
Imagine sitting in a waiting room to see a doctor with a 100% rate of cure.
How long would you wait?
We call Jesus Christ the Master Healer. The Perfect Physician.
The prophet Isaiah taught, “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint”. (Isaiah 40:31)
There is nothing He cannot cure, no hurt He cannot heal.
He can make us whole.
He makes the waiting Holy.
On September 19th, 2020 we brought home a tiny baby boy from the Cedar City hospital. The drive home was peaceful, and a quiet excitement filled the car. Jake and I were so proud. I remember getting settled on the couch in the front room. Jake lifted Hank from the car seat and handed him to me.
I laid him on my lap looking at his fingers and toes and softly rubbing his head and dark hair. His dark lashes and beginnings of tiny eyebrows stood in contrast to his clear skin.
He was beautiful.
In the quiet excitement I felt a strong desire to teach him all I knew. I wanted to tell him about his family, about his home.
I wanted to tell him about God.
The desire to teach him and tell him was so strong it was heavy.
Jake sat beside me. He handed me a blue envelope addressed to the two of us.
A sweet friend of mine in my little hometown had written us a kind note of encouragement and congratulations. Inside she included a handwritten copy of a poem given to her when her first son was born.
As a family of three we read Carol Lynn Pearson’s “My Day Old Child”.
My day old child in my arms
with my lips against his ear
I whispered strongly "How I wish,
I wish that you could hear,
"I've a hundred wonderful things to say
(A tiny cough and nod)
Hurry, hurry, hurry and grow
so I can tell you about God."
My day old baby's mouth was still
and my words only tickled his ear,
but a kind of light passed through his eyes,
and I saw this thought appear,
"How I wish I had a voice and words,
I've a hundred things to say,
Before I forget, I'd tell you of God,
I left Him yesterday."
I left Him yesterday.
The heavy feeling vanished.
The Spirit whispered, "Let him teach you".
The past ten months with Hank have put Jake and I in a sacred, sweet, and fun classroom. Hank is the teacher, and he teaches us something new every day.
Shortly after Hank was born, I received a new assignment to teach at the institute. I felt a similar pressure and overwhelm to teach and to tell. The Spirit whispered to me,
“Let them teach you”.
So, I did.
My classroom changed.
A few weeks into that assignment, I received an anonymous compliment from a student. They said, “She wants to learn from her students, not just teach them”.
I really do.
My dad passed on some advice given to him when he was a young teacher. He said, “Don’t ever forget how it feels to sit in those desks”.
I hope I don’t.
Jake and I will celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary this winter. As I look back on the past five years, I am amazed at what Jake has taught me.
I have a lot to learn. That keeps me humble.
To my day-old child, my 10-month-old baby, my Jake, my students, and everyone in between, thank you for what you teach me. I think that is why I’m so happy.
Nate and I make up what we call the “black hair gang”. As the two dark headed children in the Townsend family we are always on the same team.
When he was born I remember thinking that baby had come to our family just for me. I was protective of him and I loved having him close.
I have my own little boy now and people say he looks like Nate. I can only think of one greater compliment: that he acts like Nate too.
My little brother inspires me. He is good. He is kind. He is hardworking. Every once in a while I am reminded just how good he really is.
One day Jake, Nate, and I were talking baseball. He let slip to me that before each game he pitched he would read the Bible story in 1 Samuel 17- David and Goliath. He said it always helped him play better.
I love that story. David, the young shepherd underdog takes down 9 foot 9 Goliath, the biggest and meanest the Philistines had to offer. When everyone else saw an insurmountable challenge, David had faith and turned to God to help him win. He does win. One stone takes down the giant Goliath and the Children of Israel are once again free.
I love my brother for much more than just baseball and his scripture study habits.
These past few months have been tough on him. Since receiving an inspired mission call it has seemed that he has been bombarded with bad luck. From colleges withdrawing offers because of his two year decision, an injured knee, and a lost state championship, he has had some tough days. It’s hard not to look at such a good boy doing all the right things and wonder why God hasn’t blessed him. Why hasn’t he taken down Goliath?
The story of David and Goliath is important, not just because of David and his big win with God’s help, but because of what this story represents, what it points to.
Do you know who David is? He is a boy from Bethlehem who would grow to become the King of Israel. In fact, many years down the line, a very special person would be born to his family.
Jesus Christ Himself.
He would be born in David’s hometown and would grow to face a bigger, meaner Goliath than David did.
He would face death and sin, and He would win.
The biggest win there was or would be.
And because He won, our losses are wins too.
I don’t want to take away from the sorrow we feel in the upset moments of our lives. Sometimes it feels like Goliath is winning. Sometimes we have bad luck. Sometimes it feels like things are at their worst when we are trying our hardest to do what is right.
I don’t know why we have to have those moments. I do know, without a doubt in my mind, that He will make it up to us, because Jesus Christ won.
Jesus Christ won.
I love my little brother. I look forward to the good things he’ll do and I’m proud of who he has become. Even when things don’t quite seem to go his way he is GOOD.
I hope Hank is just like him. That would make me happy.
Black-hair gang forever dude. I love you.
This year I received a new assignment to teach full-time at the Cedar City Institute. The assignment is stretching, humbling, and amazing.
This summer I’ve had the sweet opportunity to teach a Tuesday evening class called “Coming Closer to the Savior Through Music”. On the first day of class a young lady walked in and took a seat. She told me her name and we chatted for a minute. As a few more students trickled in she looked up and said, “Did you teach seminary at Canyon View a few years ago?” I told her that I did! Before I was hired as a student teacher I did a two week teaching practicum in another teacher’s class. This young lady was there and she remembered me. I remembered her too.
It’s amazing to find those connections sometimes. The longer I teach the sweeter it is to find those students. It’s a miracle to remember and to be remembered.
Since those first days of student teaching I’ve had a favorite part of my job.
I love to watch the students come into the building and make their way to the classroom.
To me those steps represent sacrifice, effort, and faith.
I often tell my students how much those steps, their sacrifice, their faith, and their presence means to me.
I know the Lord notices them and their steps.
When I was a senior in high school, a policy change within Seminary and Institutes set things in motion for me.
I remember my dad sent me a link to the Deseret News article explaining that women with families could be hired as full-time seminary and institute teachers for the church. It mentioned maternity leave benefits and quotes from administrators explaining the changes.
I think maybe subconsciously I decided that day that I would give this profession a try.
Even before Hank was born I had questions about what life with him would look like. Did the Lord want me to leave my job and stay home with him? If I continued working would people think I was a bad mom? Would I be letting others “raise him” if I needed help with childcare?
Lots of questions. I’ve always trusted my own ability to receive revelation.
As we prepared for Hank, we diligently sought the Lord’s will for our family. We felt strongly that for our circumstances at that time I was to continue working full-time. We weren’t sure how it was going to play out, but we knew that was the right choice.
Before we even announced our pregnancy we put in a request to return to the Cedar City area. Two spots were miraculously available and we were given those assignments.
The Lord provided lots of babysitters for us as we moved back to Parowan surrounded by family.
Our largest concern was addressed and it started looking much more possible for us to both work full time.
That didn’t mean it would be easy for me though.
When that new baby came, amidst all the bliss and love, there was anxiety about leaving him behind. I felt guilty and wondered how he would do without me. I completely trusted my amazing mom and others who would help, but I worried what the consequences of my decision to go back to work would be.
The night before I went back to work I requested a priesthood blessing from Jake. The experience was sweet and sacred. As he laid his hands on my head I snuggled Hank close and offered a fervent, silent prayer.
I just wanted Jake to say what I needed, though I had no idea what that was. My pleading prayer was answered by the Lord through my husband.
“When you smile at him, he’ll smile back”.
“When you go to work you will feel sure of your decision”.
“You’ll know when to take days off and you won’t feel guilty”.
"You'll know he's in great hands".
The inspired promises flowed and my tender heart was lifted. The sweetest promise came at the end.
“Your relationship with your baby will grow in gratitude and love as you work. Working won’t damage that relationship but will strengthen it”.
In my journal that night I wrote, “I don’t know how the Lord does it, but I’m clinging to those promises tonight”.
That was about 7 months ago. I still don’t know how the Lord does it, but I’ve seen Him do it these past few months. I still cling to those promises.
The best part of my job is the faith it takes to walk in the building. Most of the time it’s the faith of my students that inspires me. Sometimes it’s my own.
I walked up the steps of the institute a few weeks ago with a tiny pair of socks in my pocket and all the faith I could muster.
I don’t know how He does it, but He does. Maybe that’s why I’m so happy.
3 years ago June 8th we saw a little house in St. George that immediately felt like home. Despite the lime green walls, we knew it was the place for us. The Lord prepared us to see it and feel that way. Despite eleven other offers, it became our place.
Family filled the house that first week, helping us paint and move furniture inside. There's still a small piece of blue tape in the corner of the shower. My dad put it there during prep for paint. It got missed in the clean up and I never took it down.
That little house became a refuge, a place for revelation, and a place for solace and peace. Through Jake's cancer treatment it was a place of healing and miracles and ministering.
We brought the names of students home with us where there was an abundance of love, and we prayed for them.
It became the Hurricane Seminary building as the Covid-19 pandemic forced classes online. Jake's classroom was the kitchen table and mine was the laundry room.
If I didn't shut the door my students could hear Jake's testimony too, just like in our old classrooms. I left the door open a lot.
We had a house of faith and our faith grew there.
I told Jake we were pregnant on the front porch on January 27th, 2020. Jake was so excited he laughed out loud.
He waited for me in the parking lot at each doctor's appointment, but he felt lots of tiny kicks at home. It's beautiful to me how the Lord can make a space sacred.
We talked excitedly about a new baby boy preparing to arrive and that excitement was sacred.
We sold the house on Jun 9th, 2021.
3 years of miracles after the ones that brought us there.
I didn't get to say goodbye really. We rented the house for a year so there wasn't anything to move out but a washer and drier and some patio lights.
Jake said it was better I didn't go so I could remember the place like we had it.
Like we had it.
It was the right place.
I see the Lord's hand in those years and I see His hand in the plans we have next.
Sometimes I look at pictures of us three years ago.
I see the gratitude and wonder we had on our faces at all the good we had. Life was good.
I look at pictures of us today and I see the same gratitude and wonder. I see more of it even. Life is good. God is good.
I can't wait to create home again. Home with Jake. Home with my little family. That makes me happy.
When I was a little girl, all I wanted was to be Ariel from "The Little Mermaid". My mom told me when I was tiny I would swish my hair around in the bath tub and pretend to be her. I even begged for red hair so I could look just like her. My mom settled for a few highlights for the first day of Kindergarten.
During my first week back to work after Hank's arrival, my mom sent me a video of my fed, happy, clean baby laying on the bed. He did a little smile for me and I could hear "The Little Mermaid" on in the background.
When Jake and I started dating I got my wisdom teeth out. It was a few days before the 4th of July and I wasn't feeling well enough to participate in any of the festivities so I watched "The Little Mermaid". Jake came and watched it with me upstairs. He laughed when he realized I could quote every word and sing ever song.
I never get tired of that movie. I am so familiar with it now that when I see Ariel long for land and Eric and independence, I can't help but look forward to what she has coming.
When adversity strikes I want to assure her that it all turns out in the end because I know it does. I've seen it.
It turns out all I really needed to be like Ariel is curtain bangs. When I put my hair up this morning I caught a glimpse of her. Maybe it's the longing for blessings to come. Maybe it's the wonder I see in the littles of things. Who knows. I've seen the movie enough times though to know that everything works out in the end.
All adversities are overcome, every relationship is mended, and every worthwhile dream comes true.
Isn't it neat?
When I was a little girl, I was afraid of my shadow. I discovered it in the backyard one day and was disturbed by how closely it followed me. It bothered me so much in fact, I tried to retaliate. Of course I couldn’t make contact, my shadow moved as I did. My dad caught the violent exchange though and he asked me to apologize to shadow. I gave that shadow a hug and a kiss against the backyard fence.
We’ve gotten along ever since.
The first seminary lesson I ever taught was Acts 1. After Jesus’ resurrection he spent 40 days with his disciples and then ascended into Heaven. The now eleven apostles were really on their own this time. With changed hearts, a young church to lead, and a vacancy in the twelve, they watched their Master ascend into heaven.
As they watched him go, I wonder if they were lonely.
During His mortal life, Jesus healed a blind man on the sabbath. After mixing a little clay with spittle, he put it on the eyes of the man blind since birth and commanded him to wash in the pool of Siloam.
The pool would have been a far trek for the blind man, and from what we see in the scriptures, he made the trek alone. In the ceremonial washing pool outside the city, the man born blind would have seen his reflection for the first time. The scriptures say he “came seeing”. His story is unique because it does not end there. The Pharisees don’t respond well to the miracle. After hearing the man’s budding testimony of the “prophet” who healed his blindness, they cast him out of the synagogue.
I wonder if he was lonely. A man born blind who came seeing was now completely alone.
When Jake was sick nights were hard. I would get him comfortable and asleep and then my head had time to spin. Scary and tired thoughts would fill my mind and I would become quickly overwhelmed with our situation. I was exhausted and sometimes I felt alone.
Motherhood can be lonely too. There is a pressure and desperate need to do the right things for a tiny boy who needs me. It’s hard not to feel like I’m alone in the newness of it all.
When Jesus ascended into Heaven he promised His disciples that he would not leave them comfortless. He wouldn’t leave them alone. He gave them the sacrament, the Holy Ghost, the scriptures, each other, and other reminders of Him. He didn’t ever really leave them.
Two weeks after we got married Jake gave me a Christmas present. It was a painting by J. Kirk Richards called “Ascension”. In it you catch the Savior’s light as he ascends into heaven. The apostles reach for him with their hands and they watch him go with upturned faces. Jake bought it for me so I would remember that I am not alone in my reaching and watching either.
When Jesus heard that the seeing man was cast out of the synagogue, he went and found him. He gave the man his very own witness that Jesus is the Christ and that he was not alone.
In the quiet moments when Jake was so sick, I felt the Savior the closest. Only He knew how it felt to be Jake, and only He knew how it felt to be me. He gave me strength beyond my own when I needed it. It was in those moments He reminded me I wasn’t alone.
A baby boy with eyes like mine snuggled in close to me today. As I studied his little fingers and his sweet face, I was reminded that I am not alone either.
Christ came for the lonely. He has mercy for those who feel left behind. We are not alone. I am not alone. I think that’s why I’m so happy.
My name is Maddie Townsend Topham and I am a happy wife!