Saturday, August 29, 2009

In Which I Fulfill My Destiny...

We knew it was coming when we saw the little red splotches on the highway. And when we saw the trucks, filled to the brim, we reckoned it wouldn't be too much longer. So when the clipboard came around, we knew our number was up and we resignedly signed our names.

Yes, it was Tomato Time at the Sacramento Cannery!

Oh the joys of serving. It's a labor of love for the less fortunate. If you are a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, you know the drill. Some people get to pick grapes. Some pick apples. Some get to harvest nuts. (Some go nuts.) We here in Sacramento get to can tomatoes.

It's quite an interesting process really...really. Fascinating process watching those tomatoes being offloaded from the trucks, picked over, washed, dunked in hot water and then picked over again and then making their way to the canning jars to be canned whole or made into tomato sauce. Fascinating.

Especially if you happen to be put at the conveyor belt where they are coming out of the hot water bath. Especially if you happen to be put in the front of the line, where they are sliding down the ramp and land with a little "sploosh" and splatter little red juice all over your little white plastic apron (and your arms, and your face), which is supposed to protect your from the splatters, but never quite seems to stay in place so you are constantly pulling it back into place with your tomatoey fingers and in the process getting more of the juice all over yourself. And then you get an itch on your nose and since there is juice all over your little blue gloves, you try to find some dry spot on your shirt on which to itch, but the only dry place is where you can't reach, which is your back.

So I stood at the conveyor belt for 3 hours and 23 minutes, watching tomatoes go by and picking out the ones with skin still left on them and putting them in another part of the conveyor belt. And at first it was kind of fun. I had earplugs in and so did everyone else, so since no one could hear me I belted out a few Veggie Tales songs as I was sorting the Bob's. Sometimes as I would pick up a half-peeled orb, the skin would slip the rest of the way off and I would think "that little tomato didn't want to end up as sauce. It wanted to fulfill it's destiny as being a whole peeled tomato." (Those thoughts started coming after about the first 30 minutes.) Then after awhile I started thinking about how monotonous it was getting to be (after about the first 31 minutes). Then I started thinking, "what if I had to do this all day, every day, for 8 hours straight?" What if I had been born before labor laws and had to do this for 14 hours straight? What if I had been born in the Deep South before the Civil War? What if I had been born with black skin in the Deep South before the Civil War? What if I had been born in Africa and had been taken captive and had been shipped to America on a slave ship to the Deep South before the Civil War?

In case you were wondering why my thoughts went thus, we are studying the Civil War this year and I had just read an account of a slave woman who served as the head cook in the house where she was in servitude. She rose at 4am and worked until 11pm. She slept in a stable on hay on the floor, with men and women all in there together. When she put the food on her master's table she trembled in fear because if he didn't like what she made, he either whipped her, or made her eat every bite while he was standing there. And then there were other matters not to be discussed in civil company...except that many of the little negro children looked an awful lot like the master.

Sometimes I complain because my husband doesn't like what I make for dinner...that is, if I make dinner, which I haven't done much of lately. Actually because my husband has been making dinner lately. And sometimes I complain because I have to get up at six to get my kids up for seminary...only to go back to sleep once they are out the door.

I have such a hard life.

Lucky me. I was not born in the Deep South before the Civil War. Or in Africa. Lucky me. I was born in America. In the latter days. After liberty was won. After the gospel was restored. After labor laws were put in place. I was born a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

So I could fulfill my destiny of canning tomatoes.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Is the first day of the rest of my life.

I keep telling myself that, but I am wondering when I am actually going to start.

It is 12:49 pm and I have done next to nothing.......

And I've been up since 6!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Pattern of Salvation

I had an epiphany today. Actually it’s been percolating in my mind over the past two weeks but today the idea finally manifested itself in a satisfying way. I’ve had the same Sunday School lesson twice over the last couple of weeks, once in Beautiful British Columbia (oh how I miss you) and again today. The subject was how our dead cannot be saved without us and neither can we be saved without our dead.

I get how we save our dead. We do the temple ordinances they can’t physically do themselves. But how we can’t be saved without them has somewhat eluded me. I’m sure I have had it explained to me before, probably countless times, but you know how sometimes the planets align just so and the light bulb flashes on in your brain?

PER'FECT, a. [L. perfectus, perficio, to complete; per and facio, to do or make through, to carry to the end.]

1. Finished; complete; consummate; not defective; having all that is requisite to its nature and kind; as a perfect statue; a perfect likeness; a perfect work; a perfect system.

When something is perfect, it is whole, complete. An analogy was given as to us being linked to our ancestors, like links on a chain. The sealing power of the covenant links us together and we, on the mortal end of the chain cannot be complete without a link to the chain on the immortal end. They are imperfect without us. We are imperfect without them. Our temple service links us to them and them to us, therefore making us complete. Whole. Perfect.

That part of the epiphany came during the first lesson. This part came today:

Really, it’s not a single, long strand that we are working on. Actually it’s more like...


Through our temple ordinances we are sealed as families and our links go up and down, side to side and even diagonally as we are connected as husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters. Just like the links in chainmail.

I didn’t realize there were so many different patterns that could be made from chainmail. They are each so unique and beautiful. Just like each family is unique and beautiful. And that was part of my epiphany, that the links forged go beyond the ordinances performed in our holy temples. Links are formed and patterns are made as we are entwined through our mortal experiences; and as we learn about our ancestors, and their traditions and stories are infused in our lives.

Traditions create patterns. One of my favorite traditions handed down to me by my mother was the reading of “The Littlest Angel” on Christmas Eve. When I have done that with my children I feel a closeness to my mother who is on the other side of the veil. It is a link to her, part of a beautiful pattern forged by her and carried on by me and hopefully my children will carry it on as well. It is also carried on by some of my brothers and sisters and perhaps their children will carry it on, linking them sideways and diagonally with my family, thus creating an even more intricate, beautiful pattern.

Stories also create patterns. Recently my aunt sent me a packet of stories about my ancestors that I had never heard. I had ancestors who crossed paths with Joseph Smith. Ancestors who suffered persecutions in Nauvoo. Ancestors who endured the long march across the plains to the Salt Lake Valley. And did you know that Sacajawea is my ancestor? Her story is also one of great strength and endurance. (Once my niece portrayed her in a school project and another boy who was a descendent of Lewis, (or Clark, can’t remember which) portrayed him! How uncanny is that!) When I tell these stories of faith and perseverance to my children I am forging more links, creating yet another pattern.

And now, my dearly beloved brethren and sisters, let me assure you that these are principles in relation to the dead and the living that cannot be lightly passed over, as pertaining to our salvation. For their salvation is necessary and essential to our salvation, as Paul says concerning the fathers—that they without us cannot be made perfect—neither can we without our dead be made perfect. ~Doctrine & Covenants 128:15

As we forge these links with our ancestors our chainmail becomes stronger and is a force and a protection against the adversary. We virtually cloak ourselves with the strength of our ancestors. The chainmail becomes whole. It becomes perfect. It is the pattern of salvation both for the living and the dead.