Everything in our St George house was tiny except the refrigerator.
It was obviously a more recent addition to the house.
I filled the dishwasher with the door barely cracked open because it would catch on the protruding fridge.
It was a great spot to leave notes though.
I had a piece of paper ripped from a favorite notebook posted to the fridge with a magnet.
“Things I love about Jake,”
and I added to it often.
For him, but mostly for me.
To keep track.
And to see.
And to remember.
And the list got long.
A few weeks ago Jake went on a motorcycle trip with his dad.
We barely crossed paths before he left.
I headed to work early in the morning and he left before I came home.
He tried to stop by on his way out of town, but I was teaching a class.
Our timing was just off.
It didn’t match up all day.
I headed home missing him.
When I got home I hugged Hank and walked to my room.
With my heels in one hand and Hank’s hand in the other, I opened the door.
And I laughed out loud.
Jake had opened every drawer.
Jake has a routine. I can tell because of the trail he leaves.
He leaves the shower door open,
followed by the top drawer in his side of the closet where he grabs his clothes.
Next I find at least the first, and usually the third, vanity drawers ajar where he gets out his toothbrush, toothpaste, and Suavecito.
Finally, his bedside table drawer is open to track down his keys or wallet or a phone charger.
When I come home from school I follow his trail,
visualize his steps,
because the evidence is there.
I shut the drawers so he can leave them open tomorrow.
It’s one of my favorite parts of the day.
One thing I love about him.
And a few weeks ago, I told him so.
So when I opened our door, I found that he had left lots of him to love.
Every bathroom drawer, closet drawer, desk drawer, and bedside table drawer stood wide open.
Not just his.
Every drawer was open.
I took pictures before closing each one.
And I missed him.
He makes me happy.
and it shall be given unto you;
and ye shall find;
and it shall be opened unto you. (3 Nephi 14:7-8)
There are no asterisks next to this verse.
No exceptions or qualifiers.
The Savior didn’t put an expiration date at the end.
So why is it so hard to believe sometimes?
I think it’s because of the space.
Ask ----> Given
Seek ----> Find
Knock ----> Opened
The part between the asking and giving and seeking and finding and knocking and opening.
Sometimes what we ask for is nowhere to be found.
Sometimes we have been seeking, but we still can’t find it.
Sometimes we have knocked, but the door is still closed.
It even feels locked sometimes.
So what do we do?
How do you trust in a timeless promise from the Lord in that space?
On April 20th, 2018 Jake and I hopped in the car to go to Disneyland.
We were waiting for news on fulltime jobs we were both really hoping for.
We would be notified by email, and we decided it would be fun to celebrate in Disneyland.
Or figure out new life goals in Disneyland.
I held both of our phones, one in each hand, and checked excessively for email notifications while Jake droved a borrowed Honda Fit on the freeway near Primm, Nevada.
Our phones buzzed and two emails popped up, side by side.
We got off the Primm exit and pulled into a gas station as I quickly opened the emails and compared them.
We were both hired.
Our lives changed.
Tears came for me.
We took pictures and called family.
It was the perfect day.
Although it was just the two of us at this point, this was the day I started to worry about the future.
We were not pregnant.
Kids were not even really on our mind at that point.
But as I sent the email back responding that I accepted the position, I wondered how long I would do it.
When I had children, would I stay home?
Would I keep working?
What was I supposed to do?
How would I know the right choice?
I took my question to the Lord.
I asked Him.
And nothing happened.
Over the next three years I studied, prayed, worried, and counseled.
I tried so hard to figure it out, but nothing came.
I took it with me on a sticky note to General Conference and other church meetings.
I studied the scriptures and asked people I trusted.
Fast forward a few months later and I was pregnant.
Now it was not just me asking this question.
Everyone seemed to want to know.
But I still did not know what to do.
Where were the answers?
Those open doors He promised?
I know I was knocking.
Towards the end of my pregnancy, I talked with HR about maternity leave benefits. Part of the paperwork asked me to write down a tentative return date if I was planning to return to work.
Without a second thought I checked the box that I would return and put the date down.
The answer to my question was so simple.
You’ll go back to work.
Recently I have looked back on that experience, those questions.
Why make me wait so long?
The answer was so simple.
The Lord could have given it to me so easily.
I know He could have shared it at the gas station in Primm, Nevada.
He could have told me after that in one of those meetings or scripture studies or priesthood blessings or prayers.
I know He loves me most and knows me best.
So why the space?
Because He loves me most and knows me best.
And He had much more than just a “yes” for me.
I don’t know all the answers.
But in the space, I found empathy.
I was slower to judge.
I listened to Him better.
I looked to Him more.
And when I received my answer, I had no doubt that it was from God.
His hand in my decision has carried me through the difficult balance of life.
I know I am doing His will for me and for my family right now.
But even more important than the answer,
Someone was revealed to me.
The One who fills in every gap.
The One who is with us in the space.
Revelation is not just about receiving answers to questions we ask.
It’s about seeing more of Jesus Christ in our lives.
In the space.
And I see Him better now.
He makes me happy.
A student came to see me a few weeks ago.
She asked about Jake.
I showed her a video Jake sent me of Hank saying,
“Love you mom”.
My eyes watered just watching.
When it was over, she said,
“Wow. What’s that like?”
I wasn’t sure what to say.
It isn’t something I’ve been able to put into words yet.
But I think it’s like catching rainbows.
Jake still remembers the first time he saw a rainbow.
Just after a storm he saw the bowed colors in the sky and pointed them out to his parents.
“Do you know what’s at the end of those?” they asked.
Jake didn’t know.
“Gold!” they said.
Jake could not understand why they were just sitting at home when there was gold to be found at the end of the rainbow!
So, they hopped in the car, and they drove to find it.
Jake said they searched and searched.
He stretched his seatbelt out as far as he could to look over the middle consul to see out of the windshield.
Jake chose the direction they took.
His dad took every right and left turn Jake indicated with little pointing fingers.
It looked like it was just right there,
but they could never quite reach it.
Eventually the emerging sun burned away the colors, but Jake didn’t mind.
He said they laughed and smiled while they drove, and it was one of his favorite days.
A few nights ago, Hank and I were playing on the living room couch.
The decorative glass in the front door cast tiny rainbows through the living room.
The sun was just in the right place.
I could see one on Hank’s shirt, so I pointed it out to him.
“Rainbow,” he repeated.
The awe in his voice was sweet.
So, we tried to catch some.
We crouched down close to the front door, catching the rainbows left on the walls.
Hank laughed and smiled and showed Jake when he got home.
It was one of my favorite days.
What’s that like?
Like catching rainbows.
And I couldn’t be happier.
We use the word “orthopedic” to describe the branch of medicine called to correct or repair bones and muscles.
The word comes from an older word, “orthopedia” which Nicholas Andry, a professor of medicine at the University of Paris, used to title his book published in 1741.
It comes from two Greek words.
Orthos, meaning “straight and free from deformity”
And paidios, which means “child”.
Nicholas Andry wrote about the importance of treating children born with physical challenges.
Freeing them from difficulties many face from birth.
While the orthopedic world has come a long way, it’s incredible to consider its roots.
Even in a literal sense.
Nicholas Andry chose a symbol to represent his mission in orthopedia.
He penned a young tree with a bend in its trunk tied to a stake.
A little tree who needed a little help to grow.
When my sister Chloe was born, we discovered that she had a club foot.
She needed a little help to grow.
This tiny girl endured surgery, wore corrective shoes, braces, and endured extensive casting.
Each step she takes is a miracle.
We refer to the Savior as the Master Physician.
But sometimes I wonder if He would have been an Orthopedic.
One who corrects.
Who frees us from difficulties.
Who wants to help us take steps.
One who sees the child in all of us.
I think He knows we need a little help to grow.
And He's happy to help.
I haven’t always understood the early apostles’ response to the Savior’s death and resurrection.
Jesus warned them.
He taught them.
He told them He would die.
And He assured them that He would rise again.
Every miracle pointed to the infinite nature of His ministry and atonement.
Yet, the apostles seemed surprised at His death and even astonished at His resurrection.
I didn’t understand.
How did they miss it? Miss Him?
Didn’t they know Him?
Walk with Him?
Heal with Him?
But death is hard.
And resurrection had never been done before.
I think the Savior knew they would not understand.
Not at first.
He faced that a lot in His mortal life.
So what could He do?
How could He help?
When words failed and promises were forgotten, the Savior washed feet.
When Jake was in the middle of treatment he couldn’t shower alone. I sat on the edge of the bed listening and talking to make sure he didn’t get light headed or fall on the slippery tile.
At the beginning I had to help.
Some of the most sacred experiences of my life were washing Jake’s feet as he stood in the shower.
He couldn’t reach them.
Cancer made even the mundane painful.
And in the midst of our difficulty, I didn’t know what else I could do.
I didn’t always understand.
So I washed his feet.
With His final mortal day before Birthright responsibility and the Will of the Father pushed Jesus to the edges of Eternity, Jesus gathered His apostles together,
washed their feet.
Some disagreed, feeling that they should be washing the feet of the Master.
But He insisted.
Something about washing their feet made Him part of them.
Even after He died.
And while they waited for His resurrection.
So what do you do when they do not understand?
When words fail and promises are forgotten.
How could you help?
You wash feet.
Every evening a little one and a half year old that looks like me with all of Jake’s colors insists on “bath time”.
He lets me wash off the remnants of the day,
dirt, bubble soap, dinner, and more.
And then he lets me wash his feet.
I do not always understand.
Sometimes, despite the promises and the warnings and the words, I still miss things as Jesus works in my life and in the world.
But I find when I am washing feet, He is part of me.
And I start to understand.
And I feel understood.
And I am happy.
Do you remember the presidential fitness test?
Elementary kids across the country tried their hand at five fitness categories to earn a certificate signed by the President of the United States.
The run was no big deal. Sit-ups and push-ups went okay, but the v-sit and reach proved impossible for me.
Sitting on the ground with our legs apart, we leaned forward with reaching hands. A piece of tape on the floor marked the required distance, and we had to hold the position for three seconds.
I could not reach far enough.
I sat and practiced all through gym and again when I got home.
When it was time for the test, I failed.
I was several centimeters short.
And incredibly embarrassed.
The yellow tape was just too far away for my reach.
From my perspective, I was the only 5th grader in the United States of America that could not reach.
I was mortified.
But I had a great teacher.
She read the rules.
And she told me that it did not say I could not have help.
And so she grabbed a friend.
And she smiled reassuringly.
She sat my friend down in front of me, touched her feet to mine and told her to grab my hands and pull them towards the tape.
She held my fingers against the yellow tape for three seconds.
I made it.
We made it.
I reached it.
And we smiled.
Hank is growing.
He slid off my bed this morning, and his big brown eyes still peeked up at me over the covers.
When did he get so tall?
I notice his reach these days.
Often accompanied by tip-toes, he’s always reaching.
For things he loves.
Sometimes I wish I could reach further.
I try to do it alone until I fall several centimeters short.
Then I remember I’ve read the rules.
And there’s nothing that says I can’t have help.
He reaches my reaching.
The fact that an all-knowing all-powerful Being can reach and touch a situation, a life, reveals much about His character.
And we are seen.
And so I reach for Jesus.
and with Jesus.
and I find it’s enough.
That makes me happy.
When Jesus came to Earth, He brought heaven.
Everything and everyone He touched became heaven.
Because He was here.
He taught heaven.
People who loved Him learned it.
When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:
And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:
And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: (Matthew 25:31-34)
So what’s the difference?
What’s heaven like?
Who are the sheep?
For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. (Matthew 25:35-40)
Done it unto me.
How we treat other people.
When I was growing up, I had mixed feelings about parent teacher conferences.
I was a good student, and I tried hard in school, but somehow the meetings still made me nervous.
I remember one specific parent teacher conference my dad came with me.
My sister had one on the same night, so my mom went with her.
It was a divide and conquer type of night.
My dad sat next to me in the tiny chairs in my elementary school classroom, and we talked with my third or fourth grade teacher.
I was excited for him to see my latest art project, hear about how good I was on my green recorder, see the great score I got on my last math test, and to hear about all the books I had read so far.
My teacher went through all of those things with him.
He oohed and aahed at all the right times.
At the end of the conference however, he surprised me.
My teacher asked if he had any questions.
I started to stand, thinking it was time to go.
“Yes, actually” he said.
I sat down and looked up at him.
“It sounds like Maddie is doing great in school,” he said,
“but I would like to know, Is she kind?”
Is she kind.
My teacher was surprised.
So was I.
Was she kind?
In that moment, my teacher was able to share that I had been kind to my classmates.
My dad beamed at that.
As we walked back to the car, I had a little skip in my step.
I also had a firm realization of what was really important to my dad.
As cool as the test scores and art projects were, he wanted me to be kind.
I don’t know exactly what judgement day will be like.
But I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a lot like that parent teacher conference.
I’m sure we’ll be excited to show Him things-
maybe talents, accomplishments, education, a marriage, a great career, a beautiful home or family.
Our Heavenly Father will ooh and aah at all the right times.
But at the end I think He’ll ask,
“But were you kind?”
I hope with all of my heart that in that moment my answer will be,
And I think He’ll be happy.
Maybe He’ll beam.
And I’ll have a skip in my step.
Because it’s not about me, but how I make others feel.
That’s what makes Him happy.
I squeezed a little toothpaste on my toothbrush last night taking care to wipe any excess off the tube and carefully twisted the lid back on before replacing it in the bathroom drawer.
That’s how I know I love Jake Topham.
He makes me different.
Not just in the tiny toothpaste ways but in ways that matter.
He makes me brave.
I love being Sister Topham.
I love being Hank’s mom.
But nothing is so sweet or so sacred as being Jake’s sweetheart.
He’s my best friend.
My soft place to land.
My sounding board.
My tech support.
My financial advisor.
My favorite story.
My laundry specialist.
My first kiss.
My comic relief.
My personal chef.
My vacuum extraordinaire.
My favorite smile.
My interior designer.
My true love.
My hand to hold.
All the best parts of me.
He’s proof that miracles happen.
They follow him around
Everywhere he goes.
And I get to watch
Right there with him.
And nothing could possibly make me happier than he already has.
So I’ll try to keep the toothpaste tube clean, but I know he’ll love me, even when I forget.
Happy 26th Jakey T. I’ll never get tired of writing about you.
Sometimes I wonder what the Lord is preparing me for.
Things stand out to me in the scriptures and in my life and I wonder when I'll need them.
Sometimes I see the whole picture in a few minutes of studying.
Other times the lessons learned and the knowledge gained stay with me a little longer, ready for when I do need them.
Whether I need the stories, the attributes, the truths in the next 30 minutes or 30 years, I'm glad I have them.
I'm glad they came.
When Jake and I were first married we lived on Cedar City Main Street.
It was the perfect place for us.
I still remember what Jake's car sounded like pulling in the driveway and what the front door sounded like when he opened it.
We watched for cars and ran across the street hand-in-hand for treats at the gas station hundreds of times.
We loved it there.
Even apart from Jake's sweet company, the house was special.
It was my Great Grandma Murray's home.
She and her brother Raymond had moved to a care center and she agreed to let Jake and I stay there.
If walls could talk.
I know a little of what these would say.
My mom visited them weekly to do their hair.
She bought special hairspray just for Grandma Murray.
I smell it sometimes and it reminds me of her.
Whenever I think of Grandma Murray and Uncle Raymond, I think- "long-suffering".
A Christlike attribute the two lived beautifully.
Raymond experienced an injury causing brain damage at birth.
In addition to being his friend and protector in his younger years, she cared for him in their adulthood as well.
Her father left when they were young and she lost both her mother and her husband much too soon.
Loie Murray never complained though.
She lived an inconvenient life but whenever I came to see her, she seemed to love it anyway.
She took care of Raymond for at least 42 years.
The pure love, patience, and long-suffering I saw in that little house with those little old siblings changed me.
I remember them and I think of Him.
In each standard work the Savior's long-suffering" is made mention.
He was patient despite troubles, especially those caused by others.
Maybe long-suffering is putting the same toys away, picking up food off the floor, and matching tiny socks.
Maybe it's trying again despite inadequacies.
Maybe it's sending a text even if there's no reply.
Maybe it's going.
Maybe it's staying.
Maybe it's inconvenience.
But maybe it's salvation.
The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)
And account that the long-suffering of our Lord is salvation. (2 Peter 3:15)
Isn't that sweet?
Salvation in the Suffering.
Salvation is the Suffering.
And Jesus is there too.
That makes me happy.
When Hank was brand new I couldn’t wait to give him a bath.
Even before he was born it was one of the things I was most excited for.
I remember my mom bathing my siblings when they were newborns.
I remember thinking it was so funny that they were tiny enough to take a bath in the sink.
I remember how the soap smelled and the soft, tiny washcloths.
She was so careful and they all loved the warm water.
Hank’s first bath was one of the sweetest moments of my life.
He loved it.
He floated and relaxed in the water.
He even fell asleep just before it was time to get out.
As I washed his face I noticed there was a little dark smudge above his eye.
I softly tried to remove it with the washcloth.
I rubbed a little harder.
I started to worry it might be a bruise or something when I noticed a matching smudge above his other eye.
I was trying to scrub off his tiny eyebrows.
Jake and I just laughed.
We truly had no idea what we were doing.
But we loved every minute.
Hank is a great teacher.
Every day I learn something from him.
Something about goodness.
He makes me-
That’s his favorite word.
He says it when he wants more food or more water.
He says it when he wants more books or more songs.
He says it when he wants more of me or more of Jake.
Tomorrow we start a new year.
As I reflect and look forward all I can think of is-
I just want more, I think.
More Diet Coke and audiobooks and car washes with Jake.
More playing in the snow or with my food or with the mirror or in laundry baskets with Hank.
More bath times.
More bacon and eggs for dinner.
More family pictures.
More Hank hugs and kisses and scrunchy nose faces.
More Jake and Maddie.
More fit for the kingdom
More used would I be
More blessed and holy--
More, Savior, like thee.
So here’s to a New Year.
Though I can’t imagine things could get any happier than this.
My name is Maddie Townsend Topham and I am a happy wife!