Avail is a great word. To avail one's self of something literally means: to use to one's advantage.
A few years ago my friend Kim told me that she had been married 8 years and had only asked for one blessing from her husband--when she was pregnant. I was shocked because I know her husband. He is a good man, and incidentally, I have had two very powerful blessings through him last year.
I thought that may be the problem was Kim. She's a beautiful return missionary who I know has a testimony of the priesthood, but she grew up with a non-member father. I thought maybe that was it--she have never learned how to ask.
But I had a realization last Sunday when I was talking to a friend at church about her week. Melissa is a professional woman who always appears to have it together, but she told me about how she felt very overwhelmed the week before. Overwhelm is often the state of a woman's existence in these times, but the look in her eyes told me it was something more. I don't know why, but I asked if she had gotten a blessing.
She said no. She was annoyed at her husband, who didn't understand all that she was going through, so she hadn't.
"Oh," I said.
Then I had this moment of clarity. I realized that because I have not had the priesthood in my home I have had to ask for blessings from other men, men I don't have to live with and be annoyed and otherwise effected by their imperfections. It is difficult for me to ask someone else's husband to come and give me a blessing--and between me and my daughter it seems like we need one every month. I always thought it would be easier when I had a priesthood holder in my home, but now I see that it might actually be harder.
The priesthood is perfect. It is God's power to men on earth. But men are not perfect, and this has kept me from asking for a blessing from certain people I judge as insensitive or who might feel put out. But it hasn't stopped me from calling someone else I judged as more perfect--like my old home teacher. (I remember being shocked one day to hear his wife say something about his annoying habits. I had forgotten that he was a real human, and a dude.)
So my questions is, how do we avail ourselves of the priesthood, knowing what we know about the men in our lives who hold it? Our husbands, fathers, brothers, friends. We may know on an intellectual level that it is not that man blessing us--it is God--but as with most things spiritual, intellect is not all that is involved. There are feelings, and if you are pregnant or postpartum, there are hormones.
One thought I have as I write this is that there is power in a routine. When I write every day at the same time, my body and mind are already getting ready before I sit down. I don't waste half an hour with false starts and procrastination. It is the same with my daily scripture study. So perhaps a monthly date with your priesthood holder is a good thing (especially while you are pregnant). It occurs to me that this is why home teachers are supposed to visit at least once a month, because the Lord wants the priesthood in every home at least once a month.
Of course, it is great to have the faith and humility to ask for a blessing when you feel you need one, but let's face it, many of us, despite great faith, won't ask--and it is those of us with this problem, who may need most to hear the words of God directly to us. A regular blessing date between you and your priesthood holder might eliminate some of the resistance to asking, give him time to prepare and be present, and bring you closer together.
I had some of the most powerful blessing while I was pregnant, and I know it was because there were two of us. I once had terrible anxiety thinking that my daughter might inherit some mental illnesses from her father's side. My home teachers came and blessed me, and in the blessing God promised that my daughter would be born "totally healthy and perfectly normal in every way." And I had no doubt after that that she would be. And she is.