"We are not measured by the trials we meet -- only by those we overcome."
- - Spencer W. Kimball
March 26, 2015
Love Like a Box of Rocks
by Hannah Bird

I am terrible at being pregnant. People often assume I had easy pregnancies because we have a lot of kids. But the truth is, I just really like my kids.

Pregnancy was awful. My first pregnancy, I went into pre-term labor as I later would with all my kids. My sweet young husband and I were terrified. I spent a week and a half in the hospital. When I was released, I was ordered on strict bed rest.

Bed rest sounds fine for about the first two hours. After that it gets really tough. Seven weeks of bed rest was miserable. One of the hardest things about bed rest is, only you are resting. Every single thing that you need to do is still there.

This was back in the olden days and the only way to pay bills was by the United States Postal System. You had to write a check, put it in an envelope, put a stamp on the envelope and mail it. No stamp, no mail. My husband was working crazy hours because we were closing on a house and needed to have several thousand dollars more than we had. He was at work constantly.

The Relief Society president stopped by to see what I needed. I explained that I needed stamps. I just needed someone to pick them up. I tried to give her money. She was very sweet and solicitous. I got meals. Lovely meals. People who had never met me put a great deal of effort and money into making nice meals.

It was so kind.

I still needed stamps. When they would drop off meals, people would ask me what they could do. I kept saying I needed stamps. My need for stamps was getting dire. My bills were going to be late. We were trying to close on a house. I needed to mail documents. My pregnancy was being contested as a pre-existing condition by insurance. More documents to mail.

No one ever took my money. No one brought me stamps.

I appreciated the meals. But I was fine without them. I was genuinely not fine without stamps.

I was served. I was served far above what I really required. But I was not seen. I said again and again that I didn't need meals; I just needed a book of stamps. But that individual need disappeared in the general service of (delicious) food. I had a need. So casseroles must be the solution.

While I am rubbish at pregnancy, I am fabulous at giving birth. My first delivery was three hours from start to finish. My second was under 45 minutes from the first contraction to a wild-eyed baby girl. As nice as it is to labor for 30 minutes and push for 10, there are some drawbacks. My body had dumped a whole bunch of adrenaline. Then I didn’t need it.

I am crabby and antisocial on my best days. But after labor, I was roughly ten million times worse. My husband’s job (and he did it well) was to keep everyone away from me. I felt raw and jittery. I was a lunatic. I could not bear to be by other people. Conversation was excruciating.

Letting someone else touch my baby was out of the question. I wanted to be left alone. But more importantly, I desperately needed to be left alone.

I tried to gently explain this to people. I put a note on my door asking to have visits later. I didn’t add, “When I am not crazy.” But that is what I meant.

They still brought meals. It was very kind. They meant me to be able to relax and enjoy my baby. They were trying to love me.

Christ told us to love our neighbors as ourselves. For the past several years this has been read as a commandment to love ourselves as if the Creator of the world could not count from one to two. Love yourself and love your neighbor would be the second and third great commandments. Also, he didn’t use the word love to mean just a feeling the way we do.

I think he was trying to tell us how to love. I think he was giving us a way. If I love my neighbor as myself, that requires a profound awareness of my neighbor’s need. I know what I need. I know what my worries and fears are. No one needs to tell me that I need to tend to the needs in my life. I worry about them constantly. I work on them constantly.  Those needs are ever-present.

I think that is what it means to love our neighbors as ourselves. I think it means we have to know what the needs are. I think we have to understand the particular struggles. We have to understand when casseroles are needed. And we need to know when to help someone get a book of stamps and then leave them alone.

There have been some real heartaches in my life lately. My needs have been overwhelming. I need to write. I need to cobble this into some kind of future. My family has big needs. There is so much hurt and lack around me that some days it felt like a vacuum pulling all the air out of my life.

And I already can’t breathe.

Then someone sent me a box of rocks. I knew it was rocks, from the name on the return address and the weight of the box. I held my breath as we opened it. The first thing I saw was a lovely page with a scripture on it:

Doctrine and Covenants 128:23: Let the mountains shout for joy, and all ye valleys cry aloud; and all ye seas and dry lands tell the wonders of your Eternal King! And ye rivers, and brooks, and rills, flow down with gladness. Let the woods and all the trees of the field praise the Lord; and ye solid rocks weep for joy! And let the sun, moon, and the morning stars sing together, and let all the sons of God shout for joy! And let the eternal creations declare his name forever and ever! And again I say, how glorious is the voice we hear from heaven, proclaiming in our ears, glory, and salvation, and honor, and immortality, and eternal life; kingdoms, principalities, and powers!

Beneath it lay bag upon bag with amazing specimens of rocks, each with a little note about where they came from. There was star-shaped sand and dendrites. There was petrified wood and a thin cross-section of antler. There were tiny dog-tooth calcite crystals and much larger cubes. There was analcime in two different clusters.

My kids and I read each note and breathlessly took out each treasure. We saw the black stars in the agate that lights green in black light. We touched the fiberglass-like shards of a calcite. It was a box of pure joy.

I love rocks the way some people like gardening, or baseball. I love rocks like some people love meeting new people. Ever since I was a tiny child, peace for me was a lovely stone in each hand.

An amazing lady named Lynette still lives back in the town that I call home. She was my babysitter when I was a tiny child. Now, she is a grandmother. She hikes almost daily. And she loves rocks. So she sent me this box.

The last thing we took out of the box was a pair of large smooth white stones. Lynette’s note told me that they were from our beloved Heart Mountain back home. Following her instructions, we turned out all the lights and rubbed the stones together.

They lit up in our hands, earning their name — lightning stones. It was a tiny miracle in our own hands. It was a miracle I needed.

There is nothing wrong with casseroles. There is nothing wrong with clumsy love. But we can still reach to know each other and love each other well enough to know when we can make a miracle with a box of rocks from home.

It was a gift many people wouldn’t want. But it was a gift I could not have borne to be without. I still turn out the lights and make lighting in my hands. I have never felt more loved, or more seen.

The stones rubbed together make just a little flash of light. But it was light enough to brighten and warm. It was light enough to find my footing on my path. It was love enough to remind me to hope. It was just for me, as I am.

Being seen and being loved just as we are is the greatest miracle of all.

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About Hannah Bird

I am me. I live at my house with my husband and kids. Mostly because I have found that people get really touchy if you try to live at their house. Even after you explain that their towels are fluffier and none of the cheddar in their fridge is green.

I teach Relief Society and most of the sisters in the ward are still nice enough to come.

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