Sunday, March 15, 2009

I put on waterproof mascara this morning

I think ahead.

See, in two days it is the anniversary of the Relief Society, an organization to which I belong. It was founded in 1842 by a prophet of God and serves two main purposes: to provide relief to the needy and bring people to Christ.

It is an organization of women. The largest in the world.

There is a hymn - a theme song - for members of the Relief Society. Title, "As Sisters in Zion." It speaks of the power and roles of women. How we are to be ministering angels. How we are here to work. How we are here to love each other.

I was always annoyed by the song.

It always seemed so cheesy to me. It is a gentle, suave song. Soft. And I preferred rousing numbers that got my blood going and made me want to march around and shout, "Hallejua!" Like "Ye Elders of Israel." Much cooler hymn.

And then I moved here.

I remember well my first Sabbath in Brazil. I didn't speak a word of Portuguese when we first arrived in Sao Paulo in October 2004. I had a brand new baby in my arms and held My Man's hand tightly. All of my adventurism and courage failed me at the steps of our church building. My sweet husband kissed me at the door and wished me good luck.

He left me.

I walked hesitantly into the Relief Society room. Head down, feet shuffling, I hurried to grab a seat in the back. The VERY back.

I had timed it just right - I took my seat just as the Relief Society president began the meeting. Sweet. No time for introductions.

She said some things in some language to some people. Everyone was smiling, finishing up friendly conversations and opening books I couldn't read.

I began to cry.

I missed my family. My friends. My language. I knew that there was absolutely no way I could do this. Truly, what WAS I thinking?

As I sat pondering my stupidity and feeling extremely sorry for myself, the pianist began playing the first strains to a familiar tune.

"As Sisters in Zion."

I couldn't understand the words, but my heart did. It swelled in size and warmth and sent chills down my spine. It didn't matter that I couldn't speak the language or didn't have a friend for thousands of miles. I had SISTERS here. I have SISTERS everywhere.

Fast forward four years.

This week my Relief Society president asked me to speak today, during our Super Special Relief Society Presentation in sacrament meeting. We all wore blue blouses and chique gold scarves. We sang a song. We had some talks. And then it was my turn.

I bore my testimony about this inspired organization of women. How we can have family no matter where we go. How we truly are sisters in Zion. And how the Spirit speaks all languages.

And then I sang our hymn - in English.

I broke down after the first line.

Tears streaming down my face, I kept one hand on my mouth, trying to control myself. I stood at the pulpit in the sacrament meeting room. All eyes on me. My face was glowing red and the piano continued through the music written by Janice Kapp Perry.

And one by one, my sisters joined me.

Soon the entire congregation was singing softly the words written over a hundred years ago. And I wept. I stood before my sweet sisters, sharing in their spirit and celebrating their strength.

As sister in Zion, we'll all work together
The blessings of God on our labors we'll seek
We'll build up the kingdom with earnest endeavor
We'll comfort the weary and strengthen the weak

The errand of angels was given to women
And this is a gift that, as sisters, we claim
To do whatsoever is gentle and human
To cheer and to bless in humanity's name

How vast is our purpose, how broad is our mission
If we but fulfill it in spirit and deed
Oh, naught but the Spirit's divinest tuition
Can give us the wisdom to truly succeed.

Amen and amen.

Women rock.


Kristina P. said...

You really put things in such a beautiful perspective. I will probably never look at this song the same way again.

SO said...

I'm glad I didn't have mascara on when I read this. What a beautiful story. Thank you so much for sharing it.

And I agree.

Women rock.

DeNae said...

Not long after we moved from Puerto Rico to Las Vegas, I was invited to speak at a Women's Conference on the 2nd verse of that hymn - the "errand of angels" verse. When I arrived at the chapel, I discovered that this stake was almost entirely Hispanic. So I kind of set aside my written talk, and instead spoke, in both english and spanish, about how much I had learned about the errand of angels during my years as a 'misplaced american'. You had me crying, dear. There is something about that universal sisterhood that gets you every time. Years after you're back in the states, you will still feel this way about that hymn.

Annette Lyon said...

Man, you got me all weepy. Good thing I've got on waterproof today too.

4handfulls said...

You have me all weepy too, but I do NOT have on waterproof mascara! Thanks a lot for that one ;)

janae said...

Women rock. But Latin women REALLY rock. Only in South America would something like that happen. I love those ladies!!

Melissa P said...

As I read this, I could feel the spirit so strong. You had me in tears reading. That is an amazing story. This is one of my favorite hymns. That sounds like an amazing ward you have in Brazil.

elesa said...

Ah, and now you've got me all choked up...

Melonie said...

See, I came over to answer your question about the Prep Challenge and I get THIS. *sniffle* You got me. Although I kept reading to the bird part and now I'm laughing & crying.

And yes, my toddler is looking at me like "Mommy's gone bonkers AGAIN". ;-)

As for the PC, there are no rules, really. It is *sometimes* hosted over at Starfish Acres ( but she's been very busy on political stuff so she hasn't the time to blog it lately. I just keep muddling along each week and posting it 'cuz it's just a good checklist for me personally.

Somewhere I've got coding for a Mr Linky - if you'd be interested, I'd be interested in setting it up as a weekly meme. Know anybody else who'd join in?

Melanie J said...

Yeah, just that song would have made me tear up even without the story because I think that hymn is so dear. I used to hate RS but now I love it.

Perpetual Mommy Exhaustion said...

I don't know you, but I love you.
With a little editing, this would be a great story for the Ensign or Liahona.

Lara said...

I loved reading this. I think even those of us who move to a new ward (that speaks the same language) can relate. There's something great about knowing you will have instant friends wherever you go.

Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

I admit it, I think this hymn sounds just like that "yahoo do-ray" song that the whos down in whoville sing at Christmas time, and I feel like we should hold hands and sway while we sing it. Having said that, as I have grown older and I have realized how much we do need each other and how truly powerful our place as women is, the lyrics of this song have grown on me. And I don't make fun of it anymore. (Sorry if I ruined it for the rest of you.) Great post.

Sharon said...

Wow. I agree with Perpetual Mommy...submit it to the church magazines.

We had stake conference today and were told how many of our brothers and sisters are not in attendance at conference or are seldom in attendance at church. I was thinking about how I need to reach out more to others who might be struggling, and your post reinforced that.

You are AMAZING. Thank you for sharing your awesome testimony of Relief Society.


Jen said...

There really is nothing like going far, far, away, and finding people who think and believe like you do. Sometimes I wonder how people who don't have the gospel make it through this life!

Kristi said...

I wish i had on waterproof mascara! What a beautiful post!!!!!
I remember singing this song at a Sisters conference on my mission when it really hit me... ever since then I can hardly hear the first line without getting choaked up! We are truly so blessed to belong to a worldwide sisterhood!

Korbi said...

Yes, yes, we do, rock that is. :)

Stepper the Mighty said...

How vast is our purpose!

How broad is our mission!

Thank you so much for this post. And for your spirit and testimony. And for your bravery!

That's a day I'm sure none of those women will forget.

You've changed "as sisters in zion" for me now, too.

Thank you!

Lisha said...

Ah what a sweet spirit you have.

Carla said...

And I'm a Brazilian living in America. YOU rock. Great post.

Real Mom, Real Life said...

What a precious moment! This kind of stuff only happens in the movies. I love it.

Thanks for sharing the touching moment.

Good thing you had waterproof masquera!

Debbie said...

You wrote this so well! Beautiful.

Melissa said...

I loved your blog entry today. It made me cry. :) It reminded me of how special the hymns in our hymnbook are, and also of when I was in high school and would get SO annoyed whenever they sang certain hymns because they sang the same ones so often! I'm almost embarrassed to admit that it is "I Know That My Redeemer Lives." Now that hymn that was sung so often is my favorite hymn because of the different perspective I have on life. Funny how time can change things. :)

wonder woman said...

I've always felt kinda the same about that song.....and now I feel differently. I love the way you tell stories. --Now I'm wiping off my mascara.

Claire said...

Great, now I'm all teary!!! I've always loved that song, but reading about your experience makes me love it even more!!

trublubyu said...

this is beautiful. thank you for sharing. i love the society of women we are a part of. how blessed are we?

Head Nurse or Patient- you be the judge said...

Really wish I had waterproof mascara on when I read this! It is so true- that we have sisters all over the world. I can't begin to imagine the stress of doing what you did in moving to Brazil in the first place. It is scary enough to me moving to a new ward or area where they do speak English.

Thanks for the award! It is such a funny picture, and the quote could easily come directly from my own children.

I am going to try the pancake recipe with liquid buttermilk and see how it goes and I will let you know if it works- but I meant it when I said i would ship you some powdered.

in time out said...

You have touched my heart. What a beautiful post...thanks for sharing. hugs. You may be misplaced, but I believe you are right where you belong...on the lords errand. ♥

gigi said...

In the past I have felt that way about that song and then there are times that it really fills my heart. You did that this morning. Rock on! Thank you!
Happy Monday!

Mariel said...

that's awesome! made me think of that song in a whole new light!

lovely blog! thanks for the great read!

Becky said...

Beautiful post, sister! You made me cry.

Emily said...

Thank you for that wonderful way to start my week!

gina said...

You wrote that so beautifully, I could see it play out in my mind. I have cried when I tried to sing a moving song, and usually it is more spiritual than if i had sung it with perfect technique. Thank you for starting my day off with a spiritual moment!

Rachel said...

Music really is so powerful. I didn't move there, but I had a similar experience with "I Stand All Amazed" in Mexico. I couldn't understand a single word and it didn't matter. These people surrounding me knew what I knew and as I sat there listening it felt like home.
Thanks for sharing.

rad6 said...

Ok, wow. You just changed the meaning of that song for me too. Probably for many of us. The spirit is so comforting when we need it.
thanks for this post. Not even sure how I found you, but glad I did. I hope you don't mind if I visit often.
We are singing that hymn in Sacrament Meeting next week. I will think of you sitting in that RS room on that first sunday.
Thanks again.

Kazzy said...

Such an awesome post. I am somewhat envious of your adventures. I get the bug to do something uncomfortable like that sometimes. I wish my hubby and I had made that choice years ago, because now that we have older kids, including the possibility of grandkids in the next couple years, I feel rooted here. Dang it!

Great spirit to your post. Obrigada.

Lady of Perpetual Chaos said...

It's a good thing I'm not wearing mascara right now. ;o) You reminded me of the beauty of Relief Society that I sometimes fail to see.

The Motherboard said...

Wow.{{wiping the tears}} I had such a hard day today, and I really needed to hear this. I can only imagine how strong the spirit was in your meeting... based on the fact that I felt it all the way over here... in Crazyland.

Thank you. We are so lucky to be apart of the greatest organization on earth. I honestly don't know how others survive without it.

Stephanie said...

I found you through Carla...she linked up to you today..

I LOVE this post! I have been SO curious about the church in Brazil (since I will find out if I will be moving there on wednesday!)! I know it is the same everywhere, etc etc..but I was wondering is it REALLY...and now I can see it is! What a beautiful story and thank you so much for sharing it has really made my day!!!

Sharla said...

Darn you, I didn't put on waterproof mascara this morning. Now I'm definitely wishing I had! Hey, do you mind if I guest post this over at the Spiritual reflections blog I'm a part of? I would give you full credit and link it back to your blog!

Nikki said...

omigosh- totally bawling as I read this. What a wonderful sacrament meeting!

holley family said...

i think i'll just blame it on preggo hormones... but i was right there with you breaking down and literally crying reading this. thanks a lot becky. and you're whole ooooh i never have a period while i nurse... blah! people (more specifically gals) like you make me sick! (this is being said all in light humor... i'm smiling here ;) me? my body puts on even MORE weight when i nurse and my face looks like crazy pshyco teenager. yup, well, then, anyways, ahem, i guess that's all i need to do here. take care!!!!

Elizabeth said...

I've loved that song ever since I joined Relief Society. *hugs* I'm glad the Lord sent you that message when you needed it. Nice of Him to take care of you like that. I'll have to thank Him later. ;)

When Darcy and I went to Taiwan when we were first married we went to a regional conference. It was a little daunting until a group of Primary children got up and sang a number. (And seeing American missionaries helped, too, because there was SOMEONE who spoke English besides the Temple president -- a family friend -- and the visiting Area Authority -- Darcy's favorite mission companion's dad.) I love Church music and the unity and homey-ness it gives.

Lara said...

I am speaking in church tomorrow about worshipping through music. One of my points is that the singing of hymns unites us, and I would like to share this story. Do I have your permission?

Qait said...

I like you, Misplaced. :) And don't worry, you can check out my [blahhhg] blog anytime--I don't have those traffic thingies. I'm not quite savvy enough for it or something. And perhaps I'll follow you (you ARE in my favorites list), but I'll wait for your sake because I just read that one post about your Follower list. Anyway, don't think I'm a creepy stranger lurking around your bizniss! Stranger, yes, but a befriendable one.
PS: I've lived all over and can relate to not knowing the language, etc.