Enjoy the Sunflowers
Daisy said to meet at the sunflowers.
I put Hank in a little white onesie and some khakis. In his blue and white stripe
seersucker jacket he looked a lot more like a little boy than a baby.
We got in the car to head to Topham family pictures.
Daisy said to meet at the sunflowers, but when I asked Jake where that was, he didn’t know either.
I sat in the back next to Hank’s car seat to fix his Baby Magic mohawk. We drove towards Paragonah.
We saw Maggie’s car coming towards us from the opposite direction, so we slowed down to follow her.
We had just passed the spot by a few hundred yards.
On the side of the road there was a small patch of sunflowers we had missed.
When Daisy pulled up, I realized she didn’t have the small patch of sunflowers in mind.
We followed her and her camera up a small hill, and the patch of weeds I could see from the road transformed into an entire field of sunflowers.
It stopped me in my tracks.
How did I not see those?
Every time we drive to Paragonah I look for them now.
As things get colder I know they won’t last much longer, but I think I’ll still look for them.
Sometimes I read the scriptures and I find things I have never seen before.
Words or phrases that seem new.
New words chosen just for me.
In 2 Nephi 9 the prophet Jacob explains the Plan of Happiness.
He testifies of Jesus Christ and how He saves us from monsters.
He testifies of the resurrection.
“Wherefore, we shall have a perfect knowledge of all our guilt, and our uncleanness, and our nakedness; and the righteous shall have a perfect knowledge of their enjoyment, and their righteousness.” (2 Nephi 9:14)
Somehow I have always only read about righteousness or guilt.
I missed enjoyment.
“Wherefore, we shall have a perfect knowledge of all our guilt, and our uncleanness, and our nakedness; and the righteous shall have a perfect knowledge of their enjoyment, and their righteousness.”
Hank is getting older.
I watch in awe as he grows up.
I watch him kiss his reflection in the mirror, and I want to remember.
I watch him point to the spider on every page of his book, and I want to remember.
He reaches for me when he’s happy and when he’s sad, and I want to remember.
Jake is so special.
I hear him speak about people and things he loves, and I want to remember.
I see him stand up and stand out in every venue, and I want to remember.
I sit with him on my swing in my front yard, and I want to remember.
Then the spirit whispers,
“You can. Just enjoy."
What a promise made possible through the One who truly remembers and truly enjoys.
Life is not easy. Things do not always go as planned.
The moments fly by and the sunflowers do not stay as long as we hope.
But what a tender promise full of hope and love.
The Savior says, “Part of my plan is that you enjoy. If you do, you’ll remember.”
Here’s to more enjoying and to more remembering.
The Parable of the Brick Maker
I think I fell in love with Jake the first time I saw him. His hair was long and he was laughing as he walked into the Dairy Freeze. I remember hearing, "That's Jake Topham". I had no idea what was in store for me. Neither of us could have guessed. It feels like I have loved him forever. I am so grateful that I get to.
I wrote this when I was 17 for that boy I loved. It’s a favorite called, “The Parable of the Brick Maker”.
There once was a Master Brick Maker. Each day He would get up and take care of the bricks in his brickyard.
First, He mixed clay, water, and other ingredients together to begin the brick.
Then, He put the mixture in brick-shaped molds and placed them in long rows outside.
Many, many bricks laid in neat rows in the brickyard.
His job as Master Brick Maker was found mostly in the hacking process.
For the clay and water mixtures in the molds to become bricks, the water needed to drain out of them. This draining process is called hacking.
The patient Master would go outside each day to carefully turn each brick on a new side, allowing the water to slowly drain from the molds.
He repeated the process until all the water drained from His bricks.
Sometimes the weather was an enemy to the Brick Maker. With wind and rain, the process of hacking had to start over.
This never stopped the Brick Maker though. No matter the weather He would carefully turn each potential brick on a new side.
Hacking required all His energy, attention, and love. It took His time and His strength. He must have seen something worth it in His bricks.
Through much love and endurance, the bricks were finally ready to be placed in the Kiln and fired. This sanctified the little bricks. It strengthened them and prepared them for their purpose.
The bricks went all over town, providing strength, protection, and beauty to everyone who resided there.
I know that Brick Maker. His name is Jesus Christ. Each day he stands outside with me, turning me on a new side.
Sometimes it rains, but that’s okay. He waits.
Some of that water is hard to let go of, but He encourages me.
Each day I experience a new side.
He waits for me to let go and helps me become something more.
Something more beautiful. Something more useful. Something more His.
He sees someone worth His time, suffering, love, attention, and strength.
I’ve been a brick in His brickyard multiple times. I’m still there.
There are so many new sides the Savior has in store for me, so I am thankful He still waits for me in the brickyard.
Despite my imperfections, He asks for my help in the brickyard sometimes too.
He lets me help watch over some of the other bricks in the brickyard.
People Christ has let me touch through testimony, genuine concern, and the love that He offers me.
Each day I wait outside and help turn them on a new side.
Mostly I sit with them and watch the Master work.
Sometimes the hacking process feels like it’s taking forever.
Sometimes it rains.
Sometimes we have to start over.
Sometimes the water they hold onto is hard to let go of.
It takes all my strength, attention, and love.
Sometimes this process goes on so long and so hard I turn to the Master and ask Him if it is worth it.
And if it is, can I even do it?
His reply is beautiful.
One that comes from the monotony, endurance, seemingly uneventful, but excruciatingly necessary hacking process.
“You can hack it. You can hack it because I did”.
I love the Master Brick Maker.
I will forever be grateful that He could ‘hack’ it.
Because He did, I wake up every morning and I help tend His bricks.
Because He did, I don’t flinch so much at new sides. Or the rain.
I try to give all my strength, attention, and love to the Master Brick Maker.
I know that I can ‘hack’ it, because He did.
When I was little, we used to make fairies out of flowers in my grandma’s backyard. Upside down blooms became fairy skirts and buds became their little heads. We’d make them dance and fly with the help of toothpicks, and tell stories or play games with them. They’d be invited to magical tea parties and playdates with cousins.
Whenever I see a flower, I see a fairy.
The summer before my freshman year of high school I got contact lenses. I remember my dad drove me to the Cedar City Walmart Vision center and after a brief exam I got to try on my first pair. It was a miracle. I could hardly speak for the excitement and awe I felt at what I could see.
I remember seeing individual leaves on the trees from the passenger window as we drove on the freeway. I had no idea that people could see that far.
Every time I’m on the freeway I look out my car window to see the leaves.
I love the Old Testament. It’s a beautiful story about an imperfect family loved by God. He loves them so much that He chooses them, makes covenants with them, fights for them, works miracles for them, and promises them a Savior in Jesus Christ.
One of my favorite Old Testament practices is how they remembered experiences they had with God.
When miracles happened, they would name the place after what they learned about God.
In one of my favorite stories, due to an extremely sensitive and difficult situation, Hagar, Sarai’s handmaid found herself running away from home. An angel stopped her on the way and told her to turn back.
An angel stopped her.
The angel gave her promises from the Lord and glimpses of blessings in her future.
What she saw allowed her to turn back and face her uncertain and difficult present.
Before she returned home though the scriptures say,
“…She called the name of the Lord that spake unto her, Thou God seest me; for she said, Have I also here looked after that seeth me?” (Genesis 16:13).
She named the well where she was “Beer-lahai-roi” which means “The well of Him who liveth and seeth me”.
Him who seeth me.
A few summers ago, I received a strong impression that I needed to pray to love my seminary students.
This wasn’t particularly unusual. I try to include my students in my prayers often, especially in asking for an increase of love for them.
The timing of the prompting was out of the ordinary.
It was summer so I did not have any students to pray for.
I knew a few from the year before, but I had no idea who would sit in my classroom.
So, I spent the whole summer praying for kids I did not know.
I prayed to love them the first time I saw them.
Just a few days before school started, I received an unexpected assignment to teach at another seminary.
I promptly cleaned up my office and classroom and headed to the new school.
The change was abrupt, and I was nervous.
The first day of school came faster than I was ready for.
As I stood in front of my first period class and looked, an abundance of love filled my heart. I was overwhelmed. I couldn’t speak.
I had prayed for them all summer.
I loved them even though this was only the first time I saw them.
That love served me well as I witnessed miracle after miracle that school year.
Those kids became some of my sweetest friends. I love them.
I miss them.
That first day of school I learned that the Lord sees.
He saw me and my new assignment, but most importantly He saw those students.
He wanted me to see them.
To see them how He sees them.
Like flower fairies and freeway leaves we don’t forget when the Lord shows us what He sees.
When life is complicated and we want to flee, angels stop at wells to remind us that He sees us.
He sees them.
He sees you.
He sees me.
"That Time I Never Gave Up"
We sat in front of a retired Parowan Elementary School teacher at a basketball game a few seasons ago.
He told us some stories about past students and filled us in on what it’s like to live the retired life.
I was impressed by the length of his term as a teacher and about how happy he was as he spoke of his career.
He even told us a story about a rough class he couldn’t leave alone for more than a few minutes. My father-in-law Dave was in the class.
One day the teacher left for a few moments to answer a phone call. The principal came to sit with the kids, but even he couldn’t handle them. When the teacher got back to his class, Dave and another boy were fighting.
After he broke up the fight Dave explained that they were just pretending. They just wanted to see what would happen!
I love the innocence of children.
Elementary schools are special places where kids learn beautiful things for the first time.
I walked the halls of Parowan Elementary a few years ago. One display outside a classroom caught my eye.
The painted sign read, “That Time I Never Gave Up”.
The sweet title stopped me in my tracks. I examined the explanations written and illustrated with second grade hands.
Some showed soccer games or math tests. Others depicted chores or piano lessons.
As I examined the responses, I tried to think of my own.
I got a little discouraged as I looked back on life for one aspect where I could absolutely say, “That Time I Never Gave Up”.
I couldn’t think of one I could honestly draw or write about.
As we get older I think it gets harder to draw that picture. It’s more difficult to write that story.
In 1830 the Lord called Emma Smith to “make a collection of sacred hymns” (D&C 25:11). The 1835 edition of the hymnal came because of Emma and others' efforts to keep that commandment. In her revelation the Lord promised that hymns would be “given” to her by Him.
Twenty-seven of the sacred hymns included in the 1835 hymnal are still in the hymnbook we use today.
One is a favorite of mine- “How Firm a Foundation”.
In Emma’s edition of the hymnal, quotation marks were placed around the last five verses. The hymn writer wrote the verses as if the Savior were speaking.
He based the Savior’s words on clear and bold promises He makes to each of us in the scriptures, through prophets, and through personal revelation.
Our current hymnal no longer includes the quotation marks, but I added them to mine.
Those little pencil marks remind me that it is Jesus, and not me that says,
“The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose
I will not, I cannot, desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, I’ll never, no never,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake!”
So maybe it’s not about “That Time I Never Gave Up”.
Maybe it’s about the One who never gave up on me.
Maybe in heaven we’ll have an elementary school hall.
Maybe we’ll have a painted sign that says, “That Time I Never Gave Up”.
I think the Savior might hang a picture of us there.
Or maybe we’ll just look at the palms of His hands.
“But Zion said, The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me. Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.” (Isaiah 49:14-16)
Jesus Christ is always the answer.
He will never, no never, no never forsake.
He will never give up.
Playing for the Hall
The jump from Foothills Elementary to Spanish Fork Junior High was a tough one for me. I was terrified to be there.
I went from walking to school to catching the bus, and from one teacher to seven. Lockers were new to me, not to mention remembering my combination.
My relief was found in a classroom that housed the Spanish Fork Junior High Orchestra, directed by Paul Wells. Mr. Wells was a skinny man with a sweet smile and a combover. He loved music, and it showed in his talent.
I worked hard in his class. In 8th grade I even took a turn in the first-chair violin seat.
I will never forget the feeling I had playing my first piece as a first violin.
Mr. Wells taught me more than just dynamics and playing position though.
One day we had a rough rehearsal. After weeks of practicing a piece, we still did not sound ready for an upcoming performance.
Timing issues, wrong notes, and short attention spans filled the class period. In the middle of a particularly rough run-through Mr. Wells cut us off and dropped his hands to his sides.
We stopped playing and then sat in silence, wondering what would happen next.
Mr. Wells walked to the door of our classroom and propped it all the way open.
“Let’s play for the hall,”
We all looked around, a little confused at his request.
Why would he want anyone to hear us after a run-through like that?
We didn’t have time to question his sanity or motive. He put his hands up and we all got ready to play.
The violins sat up straight and tall and fixed their bows to the strings. The violas uncrossed their legs and kept their pinkies down. Cellos and bass positioned their wrists with beautiful precision, and a miracle happened.
We really played.
Everyone came in on every cue.
Each member was precisely in tune with the next.
The beauty of the music was overpowering. We all felt it.
At the end of our song, we packed up and headed to our next class.
For the remainder of the year, Mr. Wells had us “play for the hall” from time to time and the miracles continued.
Lately I’ve wondered what difference playing for the hall made.
What did Mr. Wells know about us that led him to prop that door wide open?
Discipleship is a little like orchestra. We hold rehearsals each day.
From church meetings, to seminary and institute, to personal scripture study, we practice truths with the door closed.
This is necessary to master the piece, but eventually, the door is opened and we play for the hall.
We act on the promptings we’ve received, and the witnesses we have gained.
We share the beauty of what we’ve been practicing with all those in the hall that day, in hopes that lives will be better because of the the beauty they see and hear.
As we leave the solitude of classroom study discipleship, we play for the hall.
Sometimes we have tough rehearsals.
Sometimes we may not feel confident in our own abilities to play or perform our given piece.
What gives me hope is our Conductor.
The Savior holds the baton with a perfect view of our potential. Even after rocky rehearsals He sees us as capable instruments.
With flawless skill, confidence, and experience He directs the work and we sit privy to miracles.
The violins sit up straighter and the violas uncross their legs.
The cellos and the bass fix their wrists, and we play something so beautiful, that people are touched.
I’m a conductor now. Whenever I stand up to conduct a piece my heart beats fast and I smile. I love each member of my little choir.
As we rehearse sometimes I think about Mr. Wells and his confidence in a junior high orchestra.
Every time we rehearse I think about Jesus Christ. I know He loves when we sing for Him. I know He listens when we play for the hall.
My name is Maddie Townsend Topham and I am a happy wife!