For dinner tonight, Andrew didn't make a casserole.
Nope. That has all kinds of, and I quote: "icky Relief Society connotations."
This meal was baked in a glass oblong, oven-safe baking dish. It had noodles and sauce and meat and a topping. Any trait of "casserole" that I could find was present in the dish that Andrew made.
But this was no casserole. Apparently. It was "pasta al forno." In other words, a casserole.
Then this one time my mom and I decided that it would be nice to paint little wooden Christmas ornaments for a wholesome recreational activity. We were all sitting down as a family doing what I thought was enjoying each other's company while painting the ornaments. I knew we were enjoying each other's company because we were mostly pleasant to each other. I knew we were enjoying painting because people kept asking for certain colors to be passed and there were a few squabbles over who got to paint the last sled or what have you.
The phone rang. It was for my dad. The person on the other line asked what he was doing.
"Tole painting--my daughter's idea," my dad scoffed.
The person on the other line said something else.
"I know. What does she think this is--Relief Society?"
And what exactly is wrong with Relief Society? We may be a bit overzealous when it comes to tablecloths and center pieces, I will give you that; but we aren't a bunch of casserole-baking, tole-painting old cronies, although we have been known to do both of those activities.
Personally, I couldn't wait to get to go to Relief Society. I was in college for my last year of young women's and that kind of changed the way I interacted with the youth in the ward. By the time the oldest laurels were ready to graduate, I was so glad to be rid of their trivial conversations and shallow comments. I went to Relief Society the minute "high school" was officially over. Most of the other girls in my ward attended young women's for the rest of the summer--they wanted to stay in as long as they could manage.
The women in Relief Society are such a fountain of knowledge. I can swap stories with new mothers who are experiencing the same things that I am; I can get advice from women who have weathered through handfuls of children--we even have some great-great-grandmothers in our ward; perhaps best of all, I can be spiritually uplifted.
I really liked the quote from President Spencer W. Kimball that was in the visiting teaching message this month. He said, "To be a righteous woman during the winding up scenes on this earth, before the second coming of our Savior, is an especially noble calling. The righteous woman's strength and influence today can be tenfold what it might be in more tranquil times. She has been placed here to help enrich, to protect, and to guard the home--which is society's basic and most noble institution. Other institutions in society may falter and even fail, but the righteous woman can help to save the home, which may be the last and only sanctuary some mortals know in the midst of storm and strife" ("Privileges and Responsibilities of Sisters," Ensign, Nov. 1978, 103).
For me, Relief Society is a great place to learn how to make my home that sanctuary. I do consider the home I grew up in a sanctuary. I also consider Andrew's childhood home a sanctuary. There are other people, not in Relief Society with me, whose homes I would consider a sanctuary. However, if I tally all those homes up, it does not even compare to the knowledge bank we have in Relief Society.
I want my home to be a sanctuary and Relief Society is a great place to learn how to do that. We have people from all walks of life who have experienced nearly everything there is to experience. And they are all so ready to serve.
Andrew and I did the music in sacrament meeting today. We got there early to set up and do prelude, and there was hardly anyone there. Those who were at church that early were there for a reason and were also bustling around. And so, I had Rachel on my hip while I put the numbers up. Just as I was attempting to set up the music stand one handed with a squirming baby on my hip, the Stake President walked in. He took Rachel while I found a hymn book and set up the music stand.
I took her back when I was finished and walked down off the stand to find someone to watch Rachel. I had hardly made it down the stairs when I was bombarded with offers. I handed the baby to Sister Kitchen and walked back up onto the stand, confident that Rachel would be taken care of. She was passed back and forth between a few ladies for the whole meeting and was happy as a lark the whole time. I'm not sure there is any other situation where I would be perfectly comfortable to have my baby be passed around a crowd while I sat several yards away, sometimes not having visual contact with her.
So I suppose what I'm saying is that Relief Society is full of women who I just love. They really are like my sisters. Some are more like mothers than sisters, but still, I trust them like I trust family. They are helping me to be a better wife and mother. They are helping to strengthen my home. And they are always on the lookout for me, ready and waiting to fulfill my every need.
How could anyone survive without a Relief Society? Doesn't everyone need a casserole every once in a while?