"...but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer." 3 Nephi 22:8







Monday, December 31, 2012

The Redeemer

Christmas has passed with its shopping, eating, decorations, lights and stress.  There is perhaps remaining the  multitude of leftovers to eat, the bills to pay, the decorations to put away, and the attempt at returning to whatever in our lives is considered to be normal.  There may be sorrow that the season is over. There may be joy and rejoicing in the time we had to spend with our families.  There may be a sense of loss for the family members too far away to spend time with. For some there may even be a huge sense of relief that the Holidays are over and we have survived. Or we may feel  the loss of friends and family who have returned home to their Creator who embraced them with open arms.

I recently visited with a friend, who for a moment, recounted what a hard year it had been for her.  She was missing all who had passed on during 2012, including her sister and a son-in-law.  Her list seemed long as she named each one of them.  Tears moistened her eyes in memory of each one.

Quickly she turned the conversation to the may who were still here to bless her life.  Again, with tear filled eyes, she talked of those who had strengthened her and comforted her and stood by her side during the year.  She is a happy, lively woman with more energy than almost anyone I know, so dwelling on the dark side of things is only temporary for her.  But she still misses her husband who died of leukemia 18 months ago.  She still misses her good friend who helped fill the void that her husband left, who also returned home. For her, Christmas is a time to remember all who have influenced her life in so many ways.

I often wonder how people who do not believe in a life after this one manage to get through the long, dark, days that come to us because we are mortal.  Those who have no faith in the Atonement or the Resurrection of Jesus Christ must be made of stronger stuff than I am.  How could you lose a loved one and ever find peace or comfort if you believed that you would never see them again?  How could you let them go - ever?

I do not mean to criticize the beliefs of others in any way. It is just that my friends beliefs are what sustained her as she cared for her husband for thirteen years and then said goodbye to him. Her beliefs helped her get up every morning to face the loss and loneliness that was now her constant companion. It is her beliefs that comfort her in the loss of her sister, just a few short months ago. "When it rains on that hill where she is buried, I want to go stand over her with an umbrella,"  she said. She loves her sister.  She misses her sister.  But she believes!

My beliefs have sustained me through my own trials and challenges.  Some of them have been plenty hard to carry.  Some have broken me.  But because of hope in the Savior, I too rise to face the loss, grief, loneliness, and heartache that may accompany me for a season.

During the rush of the holiday season, it is so easy to become caught up in the commercialism of Christmas.  The list of things to be done is so long and overwhelming.  There are gifts to be purchased, wrapped, and delivered which may also include long lines at a post office or other shipping facility.  Decorations don't just hang themselves around the house.  Parties and travel may be involved, eating away our precious time. Cooking, cleaning, and eating all the holiday fare can be almost exhausting on its own.  And we may find our lives a little hollow, as if something may be missing.

And it is!  It is The Son of God, The Messiah, The Redeemer, Jesus The Christ.  That is really what Christmas is all about.  Yet sometimes, He is so quickly and easily forgotten in our celebration and in our every day lives.

May we remember Him every day of the coming year.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Favorite Christmas Story


On a cold winter’s night in 1951, there was a knock at my door. A German brother from Ogden, Utah, announced himself and said, “Are you Bishop Monson?” I answered in the affirmative. He began to weep and said, “My brother, his wife, and family are coming here from Germany. They are going to live in your ward. Will you come with us to see the apartment we have rented for them?”

On the way to the apartment, he told me he had not seen his brother for many years. Through the holocaust of World War II, his brother had been faithful to the Church, once serving as a branch president before the war took him to the Russian front.

I observed the apartment. It was cold and dreary. The paint was peeling, the wallpaper soiled, the cupboards empty. A forty-watt bulb, suspended from the living room ceiling, revealed a linoleum floor covering with a large hole in the center. I was heartsick. I thought, “What a dismal welcome for a family which has endured so much.”
    
My thoughts were interrupted by the brother’s statement, “It isn’t much, but it’s better than they have in Germany.” With that, the key to the apartment was left with me, along with the information that the family would arrive in Salt Lake City in three weeks—just two days before Christmas.
   
Sleep was slow in coming to me that night. The next morning was Sunday. In our ward welfare committee meeting, one of my counselors said, “Bishop, you look worried. Is something wrong?”
   
 I recounted to those present my experience of the night before, revealing the details of the uninviting apartment. There were a few moments of silence. Then Brother Eardley, the group leader of the high priests, said, “Bishop, did you say that apartment was inadequately lighted and that the kitchen appliances were in need of replacement?” I answered in the affirmative. He continued, “I am an electrical contractor. Would you permit the high priests of this ward to rewire that apartment? I would also like to invite my suppliers to contribute a new stove and a new refrigerator. Do I have your permission?”

I answered with a glad “Certainly.”

Then Brother Balmforth, the seventies president, responded, “Bishop, as you know, I’m in the carpet business. I would like to invite my suppliers to contribute some carpet, and the seventies can easily lay it and eliminate that worn linoleum.”

Then Brother Bowden, the president of the elders quorum, spoke up. He was a painting contractor. He said, “I’ll furnish the paint. May the elders paint and wallpaper that apartment?”

Sister Miller, the Relief Society president, was next to speak. “We in the Relief Society cannot stand the thought of empty cupboards. May we fill them?”

The three weeks which followed are ever to be remembered. It seemed that the entire ward joined in the project. The days passed, and at the appointed time, the family arrived from Germany. Again at my door stood the brother from Ogden. With an emotion-filled voice, he introduced to me his brother, his brother’s wife, and their family. Then he asked, “Could we go visit the apartment?” As we walked up the staircase leading to the apartment, he repeated, “It isn’t much, but it’s more than they have had in Germany.” Little did he know what a transformation had taken place and that many who had participated were inside waiting for our arrival.

The door opened to reveal a newness of life. We were greeted by the aroma of freshly painted woodwork and newly papered walls. Gone was the forty-watt bulb, along with the worn linoleum it had illuminated. We stepped on carpet deep and beautiful. A walk to the kitchen presented to our view a new stove and new refrigerator. The cupboard doors were still open; however, they now revealed every shelf filled with food. As usual, the Relief Society had done its work.

In the living room, we began to sing Christmas hymns. We sang “Silent night! Holy night! All is calm, all is bright.” We sang in English; they sang in German. At the conclusion, the father, realizing that all of this was his, took me by the hand to express his thanks. His emotion was too great. He buried his head in my shoulder and repeated the words, “Mein Bruder, mein Bruder, mein Bruder.”

It was time to leave. As we walked down the stairs and out into the night air, snow was falling. Not a word was spoken. Finally, a young girl asked, “Bishop, I feel better than I have ever felt before. Can you tell me why?”
                                                            President Thomas S. Monson April 1986

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Memory

The year I was in the third grade we had an exchange student from Venezuela living with us.  It was a great experience and I have many fond memories of him and that year.

Luciano was very good to me and treated me with kindness.  I had broken my leg during the summer and had the privilege of attending school for a time in a wheelchair.  Luciano pushed me and my wheelchair to the school and up the stairs, and into my classroom every morning.  He returned to push me home at the end of my day.  On primary day, he took me to the church and then returned to take me home. We became good friends.

Luciano's family had more wealth than mine did.  He was raised in a culture where domestic help was inexpensive and readily available.  This was what he was used to. We, of course were not!  But Luciano adapted to our lifestyle, learning to do things for himself.  I remember that he learned to iron his own shirts along with my brother Leslie at my mother's insistence.  Mom was trying to prepare my brother to take care of himself when he went on a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Our culture and our language were unfamiliar to him, even though he had long studied English. Our food was unusual to him.  I remember being surprised that he was not familiar with good ole Idaho mashed potatoes.  Our family gathered to eat in whatever we were wearing, but in his culture, taking a shower before eating was common.  I can still hear him say, "I go take a shower" just as we were sitting down to eat.

Luciano was a Catholic.  Our religion was strange to him, but he came to our church willingly.  I am not sure how he felt about it at all, but I don't remember hearing any complaints or criticism. He also attended his own church.  My parents were supportive of his beliefs and studied Catholicism a bit as well.  I don't remember anything but support and acceptance of our differing religions.

On Christmas Eve, our family attended Midnight Mass with Luciano.  I believe it was my first exposure to a Catholic service.  I found it somewhat fascinating, different from the church meetings I was so used to.  I also found that I understood almost nothing as it was not in English.  Things were so unfamiliar to me, including the robes of the Priest and the decor of the Church.  But I was not offended.  The service seemed long and because it was late, I became quite tired.                  

I think that I expected Santa to come while we were at the Catholic Mass.  I remember being surprised that he had not.  I was at an age where I was unsure about the legend of Santa and wondered what was true.  But he did not come.

Christmas morning we arose to find that Santa had not yet arrived.  I was puzzled by this, but in obedience dressed and attended church in our own familiar building.  Upon returning from church, we found our home had been invaded by the jolly man, Santa. Presents surrounded our Christmas tree. I was shocked! How could this be?  I knew that my family had all been in church.  This had to mean that Santa was real!

Today, that Christmas is just a memory, and perhaps a flawed one at best.  My siblings might remember it differently but it is a treasured memory of a season with my family and my good friend Luciano. It was a happy time, which for another year cemented my belief in Santa.  It was an opportunity to learn from my parents by example to respect and learn about the faiths and beliefs of others.

Some years later, my parents traveled to Venezuela and visited Luciano and his family.  He remembered us all, as we have remembered him. As Christmas nears, I am thinking of him and our Christmas together.  Though he may not hear it, I will say it anyway.  Merry Christmas to all.  Merry Christmas to you Luciano.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Sacrifice

I attended a Sacrament Meeting in a Student Ward the first Sunday of December.  I love this ward a great deal as they have embraced and included my son. It is a different experience as there are no small children in the ward and so meetings are not peppered with the sounds of children crying,  or the sights of little bodies escaping under the benches, or the goldfish crackers that decorate the floor. But the Spirit is strong and the teaching is sound. I always learn something when I am in this ward.

I am impressed by the participation of the ward members in Sunday School class and in Relief Society.  These college students are willing to risk sharing their thoughts and experiences with each other.  They appear to be very comfortable with each other, as a family.  Yet many of them have only known each other for a brief time.

The ward choir is wonderful!  I have heard them twice in the last few months.  They are well prepared and appear to be enjoying their opportunity to sing.  They smile and radiate joy.  It is obvious that they are singing what they feel and they sound like angels.

A member of the bishopric gave a talk about Jesus Christ and all He has done and continues to do for us.  The Savior gave willingly the ultimate sacrifice for each and every one of us.  He took upon Himself all the sins of the world, including mine. He did not have to do that.  Our Heavenly Father's plan revolves around agency. Christ could have walked away.  He told His Father in the Garden of Gethsemane that this was hard for Him to do.  But He did it anyway!

He did it for me!

The Atonement is truly beyond my comprehension.  I don't understand much of anything about it.  But I believe in its reality.

This bishopric member talked about the sacrifices that we are willing to make for the Savior.  He suggested that maybe we needed to make more sacrifices, being willing to do a little bit in comparison for Him in return for all He has done. What big sacrifice could we make this Christmas season as a gift of love and appreciation to Jesus Christ.

This talk really made me think!  (amazing I know!)

Within a short time, I made a mistake.  I did not realize at the time I did this foolish thing, that it would affect me as it did.  I was not bothered by it until the next morning.  I think I was too busy practicing my skills of rationalization and justification to think about what I had done. But reality hit me that I needed to take a new look at what I had done as the Holy Ghost pricked my heart.

What I had done was unknown to anyone but me - but it had occurred in a group setting and so I had to fess up and apologize.  This was hard. It was incredibly hard for me.  And I wept!

Later that day as my own grief and sorrow over my own failing washed over me, I was reminded of this wise man's words regarding sacrifice.  As I pondered, the whispering of the Spirit taught me about pride and how hard it can be for me to sacrifice my pride.

Ouch!  A hard lesson to be reminded by the Holy Ghost of my own pride and the need I have to be less prideful.  But it was a lesson I am grateful to be learning.  I fear it is not a one time lesson but will be a more continual one.  I am still a work in progress, with a long, long way to go.

I am grateful that both the Savior and Heavenly Father are infinitely patient!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Sounds of Christmas

One of my favorite Christmas experiences has come and gone. While I am sad that it is over, the memories linger and I am grateful for a wonderful evening of music and inspiration provided for me by the two choirs sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Institute at Utah State University.  These dedicated college students gave their time freely to sing their testimonies to a packed house for two evenings just before finals week.  People lined up outside the doors, anxious to get a good seat so they didn't miss a minute of the evening.

The preshow was a great audience instant involver.  Some of the music was inspirational  but some was humorous and just plain entertaining. Grown up people decked out in not so grown up jammies, delighted the audience with their singing. An experienced juggler kept brightly colored balls dancing to a lively Christmas tune.  I was hooked!

The evening was a wonderful mix of familiar Christmas carols and music that was new to me. The hall was also filled with delightfully fun songs as well as hymns of testimony, teaching of the birth of the Son of God.  My grandson sat spellbound on my lap for almost all of the this wonderful program.

"Sleigh Ride" has always been a favorite of mine and the Institute Choir created a beautiful sound, throwing in fun and surprise. Everyone seemed to be having such a good time!  Latter-day voices added to the fun with their "Variations of Jingle Bells."

Dancers added variety to the evening as well as the three angels who told about the Savior's birth. Two of the angels were part of the heavenly choir, singing in the field announcing His Holy birth to the shepherds.  One angel, though immensely talented, had not been invited to sing.  Bitterness filled her heart until she realized that her heart was not dedicated to the Savior but only to herself  

Since sometimes that is me, I totally understand that it is a hard lesson to learn, to give up our pride!

Of course the story has a happy ending as the truth of who the Savior Jesus Christ is and what He has done and continues to do every single day of our lives penetrates into her heart.  Joy fills her heart and her voice as she joins with the earthly choirs of angels to sing of Christ, His mercy, and His mission.

Christ is the only hope I have for eternal life.  I make mistakes every single day.  I try so hard and work at being a better person all the time. I can honestly say I don't think I have ever woken up in the morning with the thought on my mind of how rotten I can make this day or whose life I can mess up.  But because I am human, those things just happen.  My hope comes through Christ and his Atonement.  

"Hosanna! Hosanna! Thy Savior hath come. O, Israel, And blessed He'll ever be called!
 Hosanna! Hosanna! Sing praises to God. For our Hope, our Deliv'er, our All!
 Hosanna! Hosanna! Thy Savior hath come, Our Hope, our Salvation, our all!"
                                                                      from "Hosanna" by Gardner
   

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Money - part four

Years ago a woman found herself completely responsible to stretch a small amount of money each month to cover a large amount of family expense.  She never volunteered for this chore.  She never even agreed.  It became her job.  It reminds me of something my sweet mother-in-law said she had learned early in her marriage.  "Don't do anything once that you don't want to become your lifetime responsibility."

My friend found the burden heavy and difficult to carry alone, especially when her husband was unwilling to curb his personal spending.  Difficult discussions ensued and nothing seemed to change.  Not only was he unwilling to help fix the problem, the husband became critical.  He was the bread winner and she should be able to make what she had to work with do.  It seemed it was her fault that there was never enough money.  Now keep in mind that this man's salary wasn't all that great to begin with. And he knew it!

When the burden and the criticism became to much, my friend abdicated her role of being responsible to pay the bills and trying to please her husband and gave him the throne.  She hasn't paid the bills since. She doesn't miss it!

A friend took on the burden of financial money management for her family when her husband was in school.  It was necessary, since he was rarely home.  When he graduated, she mentioned that she longed for him to pick up the burden and help her carry it and hoped he would be willing.  That was several years ago.  I am not sure, but I think she still must carry the load, as his work schedule isn't much better.

Another friend recently talked about the way finances were managed in her home.  Even though she had her opinions of things that her family needed, her husband expressed that there wasn't enough money to purchase  any of those things.  Then he came home with expensive items without even discussing their purchase with her.  Seriously?  What is wrong with this picture?

Money, or lack there of, destroys relationships.  Ideas and attitudes about the use of money vary and if we are not careful they can be come toxic.  The inability to listen, compromise, sacrifice, and learn to work together as equal partners can poison loving relationships.

Equal is just what it says.  No one is better than another.  Neither opinion is more valid than another.  No one's knowledge is superior to another.  Each partner has an equal say.  If one spouse eats out for lunch every day, why shouldn't the other?  If one has discretionary money for toys or entertainment, both should have the same. No one has the right to decide how to spend all the money.

Neither partner should make all the money decisions!  

That requires effort!  That requires respect and cooperation.  It requires unselfishness, And it isn't easy!

Many in relationships simply take over and take care of all financial decisions, excluding their companion from even expressing their feelings or needs.  They want to be in charge and they will be! They may express irritation or negativity every time their spouse goes shopping, belittling purchases. Others may even do all the shopping themselves, so that their spouse can't make purchases that they don't approve of.  This is so demeaning to the spouse who may feel they must beg and plead for enough money for ordinary expenses.

Others have the glory of financial responsibility thrust upon them. Their partner has abdicated and is unwilling to discuss or participate in anyway in paying the expenses.  They may add to the burden by "spending what they want, when they want" leaving their burdened partner in the dark. They may also criticize how the job is done.  How unfair to be unwilling to be part of the solution, yet stand back and continually find fault.

Neither of these is a partnership in any sense of the word! Both are toxic!

President Spencer W. Kimball who was a prophet of God taught that when a marriage occurs, all decisions within a family now require being made, giving consideration to the entire family.  Decisions no longer affect only one person, but all family members. Any decision that affects more than one person is to be made unitedly by the husband and the wife. Until there is agreement and unity, nothing should be done.  This counsel applies to financial matters as well.

Managing the finances for a family can be a daunting challenge and a heavy burden and should be carried equally by both partners in a marriage.  There is no one right way to do this.  Even when we agree as a couple on a specific way to handle monetary decisions, if we find it doesn't work out well, we need to be wise enough to realize a change needs to be made. It may be that only a little adjustment here and there is necessary.

The only way to determine if the way we handle financial decisions in any marriage is successful, is that it works.  That means it works equally well for both companions.  That doesn't mean that one companion just thinks it is working.  Sometimes we have to be willing to take off the blinders and take a long, hard, honest look followed by some long hard discussions.

Because if it really isn't working for one partner, then it really just isn't working at all!



Monday, December 10, 2012

Money - part three

Many years ago a friend purchased some expensive glass tables for her living room.  She mentioned that they didn't currently have the money to pay for them.  So I bravely asked how they would cover this large cost.  Her response surprised me. "I spend whatever I want.  My husband will just have to work more hours to cover whatever I spend."  I must admit that I have no idea what her husband did for a living now and perhaps not even then, but I could not wrap my head around that philosophy.

I still can't!  When we marry, we are supposed to form a partnership of equals.  That didn't sound like a very good partnership to me. I don't mean to criticize them either.  If that is how their system of money management works for them, more power to them.  I must admit that it sounds pretty good to be free to spend whatever I want, knowing that someone else is then responsible to pay the debt incurred. Sign me up!

One friend mentioned that her husband always took a large chunk of cash for himself from each paycheck. It lingered in his wallet so well that when the household money was gone, he wouldn't even fork over enough for a gallon of milk.  This money was his!  For some reason I got the feeling that she really resented that!

A couple I know has an agreement to pay each other $50.00 from each pay check. This is their money to do with what they want.  They choose to spend their own money knowing that they are not accountable to each other for their choices. This system fits them perfectly!

For another couple, the agreement is that either one can spend up to $25.00 without consulting with each other.  But, neither one can spend one penny more without coming to agreement. They also agree to total accountability for all expenses.

A neighbor went to work some years ago, leaving her children in daycare.  The money she made was hers, she said.  Her husband's money was for the whole family.  I don't know what she did with her money.  It was foreign to me to think of it that way.  But not to her.

I know one man who keeps a detailed ledger of all expenses. Every single penny is accounted for, by category.  I watched his wife cower when she was unable to account for a small some.  She couldn't remember.  It was a pittance and I really felt sorry for her.

In some situations, the husband has plenty of money to purchase his toys or to participate in his brand of entertainment.  But the wife is not granted the same privilege.  This scenario is also reversed. The wife spends on herself and her own pleasure while her husband has none.  If that really works to create equality or happiness, I would truly be surprised.

In one struggling family, the husband eats lunch out every workday with his co-workers.  His wife is left at home to eat leftovers or peanut butter sandwiches.  Money is a huge issue for this family of tots to teens.  From time to time their phone service is disconnected or they get behind on their bill payments.  That would be so hard for me.  It isn't even just the money. He gets to be out and socialize for lunch five days a week while she sits at home tending the tots, feeling lonely and left out. She would love to go out to lunch!

A woman I know felt inspired by the Holy Ghost to give a rather large sum of money to a family in dire need.  She called her husband at work, explained her impression, and waited for his response.  He reverently honored her spiritual impression and she delivered the sum the same day.  Another felt impressed to deliver a quick meal to a sick friend, to find herself criticized by her spouse.

In some marriages the wife is responsible to make certain that all the bills are paid each month.  In others it is the husband.  Many couples work the process together.  For some relationships it is a deliberate choice who actually does the mechanics of bill pay. But default, willingness to accept the responsibility, or time availability may be the determining factor.

One thing I think that should be remembered here is that being responsible for all the family expenses is a burden for those who never have quite enough. It is not fun.  It is not pretty.  It can be consuming, discouraging, and downright depressing.

Another point to remember is that marriage is intended to be a partnership of equals.  No one should have to bear the burden alone!

To Be Continued. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Money - part two

For many of us, there never seems to be enough money.  The expense of our needs and our wants always surpasses the amount of money that comes into our lives.  That means there could be some competition for the use of this resource.  There may be some need to make a list of all the things that are really needed and purchase them in order of priority.  When the money is gone, so are the needs.

Everyone doesn't deal with the long list of needs versus the income in the same way.  A friend pays all she can until the checking account has $5.00 left, then puts the checkbook in the cupboard until pay day rolls around.  Another has a grocery budget which she has in cash every month. When her cash is gone, she is through buying food for her family.  If she has money left at the end of the month, she uses what remains to purchase food storage items.  Some use credit cards to pay their bills.  Some use only cash.  Everyone doesn't own a checking account, though many do. Some use internet bill pay and others pay all their bills in person. Some hire accountants to handle nearly all aspects of financial management.

Paying interest to me has always felt like a total waste of money. It seems to me that you just as well throw the money in the garbage or flush it down the toilet.  I avoid interest like the plague!  But there are reasons why paying interest may be a necessary evil.  We simply could not save the amount of money to purchase a home in cash. Sometimes the same has applied to the purchase of a car.  We have had plenty of emergencies crop up in our lives and have found ourselves willing, when pushed into a corner, to pay interest.  Yet, for many interest payments are not a huge concern.  They are just considered an ongoing component of being able to purchase what they want, when they want it.

Some people endlessly strive to live within a budget.  Others are simply uninterested in even creating a budget. Credit card expense is perfectly normal to many while others refuse to own or use a credit card.  There are those who only charge what they can pay immediately on receipt of a bill.  Others charge endlessly, racking up ever increasing amounts that they simply cannot pay.

For some, shopping is a hobby or even therapy. This can create the attitude of spend now, pay later.  Others shop the bargains, waiting endlessly for the right price.  Some choose to live without air conditioning or adequate heat, to lower living expenses.  Some could care less what utilities cost.  When it is cold - I want to be warm.  When it is hot - I want to be cool.  Money doesn't matter!

I don't think it is the process that really matters.  I think that what is really the most important, is that how we manage our finances works for the current situation and that we have the wisdom to recognize that if our circumstances change so may our need to manage money. What worked once, may not work so well now.  Or maybe we have some new ideas that could work better.

When one is single, how money is spent is a one person job. There is little to no need to discuss your finances with anyone else.  How one spends their finances is no ones business.  If it goes well, three cheers for you.  If there are failures, no one else is to blame.

Adding a companion changes the situation.  Marriage adds a totally new dimension to money management.  Now two people must learn to work together to create a financial plan that works for both.

At least that is the ideal!

To Be Continued!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Money - part one

My aunt used to come and visit when I was a little girl.  She would give me a nickle or a dime and once in a while a quarter to spend at the little store in the village.  What a treat to walk to the store, carrying my coin, anticipating what I might choose to buy.  It was very, very rare for me to have any money except on those occasions.  But it didn't matter because I don't remember thinking that I 'needed' any money.

Money now plays such a huge role in our lives.  It determines so many things in our lives including where we live, what we eat, what we do for entertainment, what we wear, what we drive, how much we pay in taxes, and the list goes on.

How we decorate our homes may be influenced by not only our creativity but our financial resources.  I don't think I personally know anyone with million dollar paintings hanging on their walls.  I have been in homes where homemade art is always in style. Some people I know have hand me down furniture and worn carpeting.  Others shop only at the thrift store. It is not uncommon to see slipcovers or throws hiding threadbare furniture.We had no living room furniture for many a month after we were first married.  Eventually a worn out, footless sofa arrived for us to sit on.

Sometimes money determines things that maybe it shouldn't.  It plays a huge role in who wins elected offices in our country.  Name recognition is often what wins a vote and getting that comes with a price tag attached. Money may be a determining factor in who we associate with.  If all your friends can afford to eat lunch out every day, but you cannot, you may find yourself drifting away from each other.  If you want to go to a Friday night movie but your friends can't afford to go, you may find yourself going alone or choosing an alternative activity.  If belonging to a book club requires you to purchase a new book each month, you may not be able to belong for financial reasons.

A man once told his brother that he believed he was more valiant than his brother because of his wealth. I can only imagine how truly 'poor' that comment must have made the brother feel.  I have known of some who have actually broken off friendships with others, because of money.  It can go either way.  The friend who has no longer wants to associate with one who doesn't.  Or, the friend who doesn't have may feel too inferior to the one who has and choose not to be friends an more.

If money is not lacking, there are classes by the dozens to take to learn new skills and hobbies. Money may make it difficult to do ceramics, photography, beading, quilting, and more.  Children may not be able to take swimming lessons, dance, or gymnastics.  Eating and electrical power may be more important.  A friend sacrificed much to provide dance lessons for her daughters.  Her gardening labors provided food to free up money for classes and costumes.  She worked hard all summer and fall, filling her shelves so that her girls could dance. I don't think she ever regretted it!

Everyone does not see money the same way.  For some, money is for saving.  For others, it burns a hole in their pockets until it is spent.  Some are able to find a good balance between the saving and the spending. Some spend every waking moment acquiring just enough to get by for one more day.  For them, money is truly just a means of survival.

To Be Continued.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Waiting

A young father left to run an errand.  His wife and little children stayed behind.  During the course of his errand someone asked him for his help on a project.  In kindness this father agreed to help out.  But as time passed, his wife began to wonder where he was and why he had not returned yet.  She knew that he had been gone longer than necessary to take care of the agreed upon errand.  Concern began to etch her face.

While there was nothing wrong with this father helping someone else, this was definitely not an emergency situation.  It wasn't even urgent or very important. The man he helped could have easily called to ask for help from this father  But he had not. They just happened to bump into each other. The husband's choice to change the plans as agreed upon with his wife, left her clueless and concerned.  I wondered too, why didn't she deserve the courtesy of receiving a phone call?

There was no emergency for her either - but there could have been. But was her need any less than that of someone else?

We do not live in the horse and buggy age when it could take a great deal of time to send a message to someone.  Both of these parents have cell phones!  They even know how to text. A quick phone call from a caring husband to his wife seemed in order to me. Since this was not an immediate need, I think he should have checked with his wife first, to find out if there was a greater need with his own family.  If there was, he could kindly schedule a time to serve the other person that would be more convenient for everyone. Just because it seemed to be convenient for the other man and the dad didn't mean it was convenient at all for his wife and children.  But he didn't know, because he didn't give her the chance to be involved in his change of plans.

At the very least, I think the husband owed his wife a phone call to let her know where he was and what he was doing and when he would return!

I don't know if this incident caused any ruffles between this father and his wife.  I only heard her express her concern and witnessed the worry on her face.  Perhaps kind words of apology were spoken afterwards as the young father realized his complete lack of consideration for her feelings.  Perhaps this is a common practice and this sweet mother believes that she has no right to speak out against her husband's choice. It may be that she felt safe expressing her concern to me but did not feel safe expressing her concern to her spouse.  Perhaps she was even so relieved that he had not been in an accident that she simply didn't care that he was late.

Some wives pace the floor for hours wondering where there husbands are.  I know!  My mother said that much of her life was 'hurry up and wait.'  And wait we did for my father.  I hated it then!  I hate it more now!  Why were my father's last minute friendly conversations more important than his family who was sitting waiting at home for him. We waited for meals.  We waited for travel, with the car packed and loaded for hours.  The phone never rang!

Perhaps in some families it is the husband who waits for his wife.  Maybe she is slow to get ready.  Maybe she is slow to return from the store.  Maybe she is the one who changes plans and fails to let him know.

Is it possible that those who make others wait are clueless?  Is it possible that they don't realize that changing plans agreed upon with another person affects the other person?

President Spencer W. Kimball, a prophet of God, taught that any decision in a family that affects more than one person should be made unitedly by a husband and wife, unless circumstances make it impossible to do so .  Honestly how many decisions regarding families don't affect several people?

Watching these parents I found this thought coming into my mind. If you really love and care about someone, why would you want to put them in a position to wait, wonder, worry, or become concerned?

Why would you ?  I just don't understand!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Fingerprints

The house is quiet except for the sound of the washing machine spinning. Though there is much to do, I find myself rather unmotivated to begin the days work.  Here and there I find a toy or crayon that has yet to be returned to its home.  A crumb here and an unmade bed there.  A pile of towels and sheets waiting for their turn in the washing machine.  A black and white polka dot hair bow and some gift wrapped presents. Leftovers in the refrigerator. All these things remind me that for a few days our house was filled with family.

There is so much in life to be grateful for every day.  We have a roof over our heads and an abundance of food.  I have more clothes and shoes in my closet than I will ever really need. We have clean air and water.  A myriad of appliances hum, whir, and beep as they make life easier for me.  Outside there is a car with a nearly full tank of gas waiting to take me anywhere I may need to go.  My furnace kicks on and off automatically, keeping my house comfortably warm in the midst of November.

For all these things and many more I am so grateful today.

But as I tidy up the house, it is the fingerprints for which I am most grateful today.  There are many.  I see them dotting my kitchen counter tops.  They are splattered on the front glass door.  They linger near the bathtub.  There are fingerprints on the television, refrigerator, stove, and the microwave.  I see them on the doors, mirrors, and walls.  There are as many different sizes of fingerprints as there were people here sharing my world with me.  For a few days, this house was filled with the giggles and laughter people who mean the world to me.

Today, I am grateful for the fingerprints!

I am grateful for those in my family who filled my often quiet world with life, joy, and enthusiasm.  I am grateful for those who surrounded my table with gratitude as we enjoyed the meals of harvest together.  I am grateful for the books that were read and the songs that were sung.

My lonely piano smiled as gifted hands played the keys, filling the air with sweet melodies.  Little hands smothered the keys with fingerprints as they 'helped' others play or took a turn of their own.  Collective Soul and The Beach Boys also for a time filled our home, played skillfully on a son's guitar.  Little fingerprints joined his as he allowed those small hands a turn strumming the strings, experiencing the thrill of creating a sound of their very own.

Today I am grateful for the days we spent together watching the legs of little people run with unbounded energy from task to task and from toy to toy.  I am grateful for the crisp air the pinched the tiny cheeks of those who ventured out to play football on the nearly frozen lawn.  I am grateful for the olive covered fingers and the never ending jars of pickles.  I enjoy the memory of the disappearing pancakes and the never enough pile of bacon.

I miss the families we could not see!  Distance and work kept many of our clan away, but they were never far from out thoughts or our hearts.

Life will return to normal for us all, whatever that may mean.  But we are changed a bit by our time together.  We have learned a little more about each other and shared each others lives. We have each sacrificed to have these precious moments which will linger with us, even as the days pass.

Just as the tiny fingerprints on the panes of glass, we have left our fingerprints on each others hearts.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

My Summer of Abundance

My lawn is dressed in painted leaves that have danced and drifted with the winds of Autumn.  Some of my yellow leaves have flown away to other lawns and in return my yard has collected red and orange leaves that once lived in other yards. The blue sky peaks through the clouds which hide the sun from my view, but the day is still bright.  Many trees stand naked along my street and many flowers have shed their blooms, but I still catch glimpses of red and yellow and purple.  Birds race from tree to tree, chattering their news in obvious haste. The world is a canvas painted for me by the hand of a Master painter with endless shades of beautiful.

"Tomorrow will bring snow," I heard the weatherman say.  And I am sad. I have reveled in this season of  harvest as I have walked among God's creations. And I will miss those moments of appreciation and contemplation.

Yet my heart is filled with gratitude as I ponder on the blessings of my summer of abundance.

Our family has harvested so much this year that it will be impossible to remember it all, but that doesn't lessen my gratitude. Many seemingly impossible burdens were whisked away through the seasons of the year and others were made lighter, so that they were easier to bear.

This year began with a dire need for employment for one of our own, so that a family could do more than just survive. When an opportunity that initially appeared to be only a temporary solution came, we rejoiced, bracing ourselves, knowing that it might be short lived. Within weeks a huge promotion was offered with a significant improvement in compensation.  A new house and a healthy new baby later, I rejoice as this family now thrives.

Our hearts moved miles away with our faraway Maryland family.  Though this family is doing well, there have been heartbreaks and disappointments for them too. But we harvested a wonderful week of their lives, seeing the good they have created and the progress they have made toward their goals.  Recently fear wracked my heart as they endured another major hurricane.  But they were prepared and protected. And I am grateful.

A huge season of frustration for another family has concluded with peace as an unknown future that came with finishing up a residency was replaced with a job where he makes a difference every day as he helps a manager learn to 'work smarter' instead of harder.  Many unpleasant challenges faced this family as they fought the battle with landlords and moved on to home ownership.  Their "little' plot of ground suits them well. And for me, this is a miracle.

A new roof sits on the house of another.  It was leaking and in definite need of replacement but the cost was impossible for this family.  Until a heaven sent hail storm encouraged the insurance company to replace this roof.  Financial challenges have not ceased but they have a new roof overhead as winter approaches.  Other expensive repairs have been taken care by their own ingenuity.  Health challenges have been met as have earthquakes and tornadoes. We are so blessed.

My summer blessing was to have a son come home.  He worked at a temporary job that I know he did not enjoy.  But he never complained.  He traveled with us when he could and filled our lives with music.  He sat by me when it was hard to sit alone - even though he never knew that it was hard.  He ate my homemade cookies and cakes. He went with us for ice cream and ate with us at our table.  He brought his kindness and humor to fill my sometimes lonely world.  And I miss him.

Another family survived a semester of college and a summer of cockroaches.  Though living in San Francisco  may sound like paradise for some, I know that it was not. The determination to endure with a smile won out as they moved on.  A tiny babe grew into an adorable toddler who learned to walk and then to run.  Who recognizes Jesus and speaks His name.  Who gathers up his coat, shoes, and socks when he decides it is time to go. And they are happy.

I too have faced hurdles of hardness and drops of disappointment.  But my life is good and I feel so blessed. We harvested our garden of abundance and discarded the dead vines. We gathered the berries and filled up our freezer.  We have visited all our children in their homes and treasured in sharing their lives.

I feel so blessed to have a Heavenly Father who has listened to me, and taught, me and strengthened me and provided me with an amazing summer of abundance.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Competition

Because the world we live in has limited resources we find ourselves surrounded by competition.  We compete for toys, grades, schools, and degrees.  We compete for jobs, housing, healthcare, and money. There is competition for the best deal, the best meal, and the best wheels.  We live in a society of competing ideas, political views, and theologies.  Pop culture gives awards for the best song, the best tv show, the best actor, and the best movie. Recently the media has been swamped with candidates competing for our votes, challenging that they have the best ideas, the best record, and the best vision.

Often good can come from competition as we find ourselves rising to our best.  But sometimes I wonder if we have carried competition a little bit to far.  A number of years ago my friend Mary confided that she felt her friend Sally was a bit too competitive.  Sally had plenty of money and Mary did not.  Mary noticed that things that she wanted to have, Sally soon owned.  She began to watch their conversations carefully and sure enough if Mary told Sally that she would like to own something, Sally soon had it. Mary decided to try a bigger test to see if what she suspected were true.  She told Sally how much she really liked a particular car and she really wished that she could buy it.  She was very specific on make, model, and color.  Within weeks, Sally was driving around town in Mary's ideal car.

Recently a friend had a discussion with her husband regarding the feeling of competition she felt within their relationship.  Her husband appeared to be oblivious.  There was no competition in their relationship or within the family. She was stunned!  No competition in their relationship or within the family?  "Are you kidding me?" She thought to herself.  Within most families there is plenty of competition.  There is competition for any resources that aren't unlimited. Six people living in a one bathroom house may create competition, and long lines.  There is competition for bedroom space, telephones, televisions, cars, and computers.  Watch someone eat the last cookie or the only candy bar and tell me that someone doesn't feel like they lost out.  There is competition for the best piece of pizza, chicken, or pie.  There is competition for money, clothes, time, and you name it.

Shouts of "Its my turn," "I wanted that," "Hey, that's mine," "He took that away from me," and "I want the front seat," are all different ways of saying the same thing to me - two people are competing over the same thing.

There is another vocabulary that is indicative of competition.  "Its not my turn to take out the garbage."  "I babysat last time."  "I washed the dishes yesterday."  "He got to choose last time."  These words indicate that someone is competing their wants against the wants of someone else.  And at my house the infamous line, "I didn't do it!"  Everyone competing for innocence.

No competition in their marriage?  Sometimes it is heard in this manner. "I changed the baby's diaper last time."  Or "I put the kids to bed last night."  Perhaps like this, "I missed the meeting last time and you went."  Or "I need the car today too!"  Or "Its my last five bucks." And this one, "I got up with baby the last time he cried."  And "Is that what you really want to watch?"  Perhaps "You spent how much?"  Some may hear, "You fixed leftovers?"  It could be "Did you fix the________?"  Or "I can't be late for work, you take him." "I know that there is only so much money left, but I really have to have it!" Are not these indicators that two people are competing over something?

In marriages there may be competition for many of the same things money, time, energy, cars, careers, parenting, ideas, goals, etc.  Sometimes the competition heats up into arguments or  silence.  In some cases, the competition continues with ideas that "I won't be the first to apologize."  Or "Let me see how long he can take the silent treatment." Or "I'll let him be the first to cave."

Is competition in relationships healthy?  Should it be eliminated?  Should we become carbon copies of each other so that we both believe the same things so our ideas never compete?  Should one person swallow all their hopes and dreams so that only one can soar?  Should one simply allow the other to always have his or her way?

I think how we learn to handle the competition within a relationship is what really matters, not what we are competing for.  Open, safe dialogue can certainly be a good place to start.  Just because our ideas aren't cookie cutter similar, doesn't mean we can't express our opinions with kindness.  We can learn to listen with a more open heart and mind.  There really could be many ways to solve a problem of competition, but if we close our minds, we will never hear them.

Relationships are fragile and aren't intended to be judged by who wins and who loses.  They aren't judged in the same way as a prize animal at the fair or the latest hit song.  Healthy relationships are judged by cooperation, consideration, and kindness.  They are strengthened by service, sacrifice, and satisfaction.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Trust - part three

When we enter this world, we trust anyone and everyone.  We are totally incapable of taking care of ourselves, therefore we are dependent on others to meet our needs so that we can survive.  Our ability to trust others is learned little by little as our needs are met.  But somewhere along the line things may go wrong.  Someone whom we have learned to trust hurts us in some way.  Often these incidents are not intentional but we must step back and rethink our position with this new information.

I believe that we are also born with an innate ability to trust our Heavenly Father.  Life experience may alter our view and we may begin to doubt His infinite ability to protect us from harm.  As we grow and learn, we may also begin to doubt His love for us.  As we learn to fear others around us, we may also trust Heavenly Father less.

A friend once told me how she struggles with trusting Heavenly Father.  I know her well and she is to me a spiritual giant, filled with faith, kindness, and charity.  I have watched her reach out and serve others, silently so that she does not draw attention to herself.  I have watched her face hard challenges in life with courage and wisdom.  What a shock for me to hear of her own personal struggle with faith in our Creator.

She explained that because so many mortals had let her down so many times, it made it more difficult for her to trust Heavenly Father.  What an 'ah ha' moment for me.  I believe it is possible that many of us have that same issue, but until she put it into words, it had not clicked in my head.

We all let each other down.  We are sometimes the one who is hurt and other times we are the one who has disappointed another.  Our human nature provides us with infinite opportunities to rub each other the wrong way.  It is easy.  It requires no effort.  We open our mouths and immediately stick our foot in by saying something we cannot call back, but desperately wish we could.  Sometimes we fail to show up for someone when we say we will or even just when we are needed.

But can we do better?  I hope we can but first we may have to recognize the ways we may be letting each other down, and develop a desire to do better. Then practice, practice, practice!

I also wonder how to not let the actions of other mortals affect my ability to trust in Heavenly Father. My friend, who shared her own struggles with me often smiles and says, "Its another day to practice living with faith." I know a great deal about her day when I hear that.  I know that somethings are hard and she is working on trusting Heavenly Father when her nature would like to throw in the towel and call it quits.

I know that she has chosen to believe.

I choose to trust and believe in Heavenly Father no matter what! I want to believe that I can count on Him and lean on Him and talk to Him.  I want to feel that He is there, always.  Some moments are harder than others to draw on my faith and I may say "I believe.  Help thou my unbelief."  Difficulties may drive me to my knees more often or send me to scriptures and words of prophets for peace, comfort, and direction.

During a particularly difficult season for me, this scripture flooded my mind, "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart: and lean not to thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct they paths."  Proverbs 3:5-6   I had to hunt for these comforting words because I had no idea where to find them. Now, I have them memorized and I cling to them, like a life preserver thrown to me as I was drowning by my Heavenly Father, in whom I trust.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Trust -part two


I learned another painful lesson in trust from a young woman who stayed at our home many years ago. I don't remember much about her at all, just that she had no place to stay and my parents welcomed her into our home for a few days.  When she left, my watch was missing.  I had saved and saved to be able to purchase this watch.  When I discovered it was missing, I told my mother.  It wasn't her fault and there was nothing she could do. Days later, we bumped into this young woman in a nearby town in a Sears store.  She appeared to be uncomfortable to me, but of course she would.  She was wearing my watch.

For a season, I worked as a receptionist in a dental office where people in pain begged to see the dentist.  They promised to pay, no matter what, and I placed myself on the line for them.  They signed an agreement stipulating their willingness and ability to pay.  Yet, once the pain was no more, so were they. Those were hard lessons too.

Because we hare human and flawed, we make a lot of mistakes.  We rub each other the wrong way on a frequent basis.  Sometimes we are the rubbed and sometimes we are the rubbee.  These things will always happen and be a part of our mortal experience.  It is easy to understand and forgive because it is not intentional.

Sometimes though, it is hard to believe that things that damage our trust are not intentional. This is much harder to forget and to forgive.  These are the times we are left waiting for hours for someone who has promised us they will be there.  Or the times we end up walking home because the person who offered to pick us up was on the phone, or whatever and just never made it.  These are the times that people promise us things that they will not deliver.  These are times when someone says that they will do something that they never do.  

I know, things happen and we all mess up!  But what about the person who does this stuff over and over and over.  When does it move from being an 'accident' to an 'on purpose?'

How many times do you believe the same story?  The same person?  

Recently I read a new idea for me about creating trust with other people  I have pondered it a bit and kind of like the simplicity of the idea.  With every choice comes the opportunity to either turn towards the person you are trying to create a relationship with or to turn away from them.  If you turn towards your friend, you create trust.  If you turn away from a friend, you damage trust.  Or in other words, if a friend reaches out to you and you are there for them, trust is strengthened.  If I ignore my friend's need, I have hindered the growth of trust.  

Here is another example that perhaps has been a part of everyone's life. Those who included us in their lives or activities, also helped us learn to trust.  Those who chose to exclude us, taught us to stay away from them.   Or those who consistently told us the truth invited us into their lives.  Those who fed us a pack of lies, were soon not a part of our lives.

With the recent rhetoric of political campaigns, I have wondered over and over - Who do you believe?  How do you know what is true?

I don't know all the answers.  In fact maybe I don't know any of them.  I want to be trustworthy and I want to be able to trust others.  

But, at times is difficult to learn to trust when surrounded by the untrustworthy!

To Be Continued.  

  

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Trust - part one

I admit that I struggle a lot with trust.  I didn't use to, but life experience has encouraged me to create an ever growing attitude of distrust. I find it rather sad!

I used to believe that everyone was honest.  I know perhaps that sounds rather childish and naive. I did not think that anyone would say things that were not true.  Why would they?  I had no concept of theft.  I was filled with the belief that everyone and anyone could be trusted.

The first painful lesson that I can remember learning about dishonesty occurred many years ago, yet I remember it as if it were just recently.  My parents brought me a very long pencil from Disneyland.  It was probably two feet long, brightly colored, and the biggest pencil I had ever seen in my life.  The lead was multi-colored and the pencil was topped off with a large eraser shaped like Pinocchio's head.  I have no idea what this pencil cost my parents, but to me it was priceless.

I took the pencil with me to school for show and tell.  I don't think I often had things to share or even the desire to stand up in front of the class, but this was a treasure.  Perhaps no one else had anything like it.  Maybe none of my classmates had even seen a pencil quite like mine.  How my pencil show and tell went is not a part of my memory, only its loss.

After school I took the short walk to the building where I attended primary.  I have no recollection of what age I was or which class I attended.  I hung my jacket up in the coat room and left my school books and other personal items with my jacket, as I had done dozens of times before.  I knew that it was not appropriate to  take these things to primary as they distracted not only myself but other children.  Teachers had taught me well and I willingly complied.

Upon completion of primary, I hurried to retrieve my belongings from the coat room and discovered my prized pencil was missing.  How could that be possible?  I feverishly searched through my belongings, knowing it had to be there.  I searched the coat room in vain, brokenhearted and disappointed at my own foolishness for leaving my treasure unattended.  I accepted the blame for my missing pencil. It had never occurred to me that anyone would take something that didn't belong to them. 

My thoughts included the idea the whoever took that pencil could have done it by mistake.  Of course now I realize that a two foot long pencil just doesn't happen to jump out of its hiding place into someone else's belongings.  But then, that was easier to grasp than the idea that someone had taken it intentionally.  As the idea of theft wormed deeper into my mind, hurt blossomed and was eventually replaced with anger.  How could anyone steal my prized pencil?  Then, came the realization that someone attending primary had done this terrible thing to me.  How could that be?  We were clearly taught in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints that stealing was wrong.  How could someone who believed in Jesus hurt me so?  How could someone who was working as hard as I was to be like Christ do that?  The whole concept was totally incomprehensible to me. 

I simply could not wrap my head around this concept of dishonesty and my heart was even further behind.

Did we all really believe the same thing? 

To be continued.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Fort McHenry

Carefully preserved in the Museum of American History in Washington D.C. is the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the National Anthem for The United States of America.  It lies at a slight angle in dim light and is threadbare and worn.  Pieces of the flag are missing, given as souvenirs to family member of Major George Armistead.  Major Armistead wanted a flag that was large enough that "the British will have no difficulty in seeing it from a distance."  The flag was made by Mary Pickersgill for $405.90 and measured 42 by 30 feet.



Seeing this flag was a sacred experience for me.

Several days later later, we drove to Fort McHenry, a star shaped fort with a beautiful view of the Chesapeake Bay. We spent several hours here, learning a bit about the War of 1812 and the writing of "The star Spangled Banner."  This too, was a sacred experience to see the sight that inspired Francis Scott Key to pen the words that helped turn the tide of this war.  We looked out into the Chesapeake Bay to see where he was detained as he watched the bombardment of Fort McHenry, watching through the night whether The United States would survive.

He expressed how he felt when he saw the flag still flying above the fort on September 14th, "Through the clouds of the war the stars of that banner still shone in my view, and I saw the discomfited host of its assailants driven back in ignominy to their ships. Then, in the hour of deliverance, and joyful triumph, my heart spoke; "Does not such a country and such defenders of their country deserve a song? was its question."






These bunks held four men, two on each bunk.



Large guns aimed into the bay.

I loved the time I spent at Fort McHenry, where my desire to learn more about our great heaven inspired country was again ignited.  The war of 1812 was a war that probably our young nation did not have the capacity to win, without the help of Heavenly Father, who has blessed and preserved this land for a people who love and follow Him.  

We are so blessed!  


                          

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

National Archives

We had only a little while to spend in the Natural History Museum and it was in the afternoon so we were not able to see the animals come to life.  Next time we plan to make sure we get there at the appropriate time to see the live action.


This elephant really is huge!
The dinosaur skeletons were also very large and the huge room that held the display of countless skeletons was 'alive' with people.



                       


The cursed Hope Diamond was surrounded by interested spectators.  It is huge and beautiful, but I wondered if it would be nearly as interesting if it weren't surrounded by stories that really make it appear that ownership is not a good thing!

The last thing we did this day was to head to the National Archives. Fortunately for us the tourist season was waning as the lines to see our country's most significant historical documents can be really, really long.  We still had to wait before we were admitted into the heavily guarded area where we were able to see the original Declaration of Independence, The Constitution of the United States, and The Bill of Rights.  Only about 20 people are admitted at a time, yet the area was filled with people who linger to read this sacred documents.  I knew that we were already past the suggested deadline to leave Washington D.C. so I tried to sneak in between visitors to see these documents but it was difficult to do. People who had waited to view these documents were very territorial so I quickly learned that you just get in line and do the best you can because even though a small group of people were being allowed in at intervals of time, people didn't leave.  These documents that charted the course of our nation were important to everyone I saw.

Photography is not allowed around these documents, yet I saw a teenage girl with her cell phone out, suspiciously appearing to take photos.  I was not the only one who spotted her.  She was warned from a short distance by a very large, armed guard.  She tried really hard to be sneaky and carried on with her cell phone camera.  The guard was not fooled.  I thought to myself something like "What an idiot" thinking that a man with a large weapon is not to be messed with.  Eventually two guards seemed to have sufficient impact on her to put away her phone.

We visited a number of things on our trip that had a sacred feeling for me.  As we walked past the Magna Carte on our way towards the heaven inspired documents that started our nation, I felt that sacredness descend.  Even though there was a large group of people devouring these documents with their eyes, there was a hushed feeling of reverence, respect, and awe for these guarded, preserved records.  I heard my son explain the significance of each document reverently to his young daughter.

What a blessing to live in a country, founded on religious principles.  Modern scriptures teach us that Heavenly Father inspired righteous men to create these documents so that all who live in this country could be blessed by principles of freedom as long as we choose righteousness.

Somehow all the political rhetoric seems meaningless compared to that!  


Monday, October 29, 2012

Singing Testimonies

There are many things in this world that trouble me. Crime is rampant.  Poverty abounds. War and natural disasters ravage the earth. During this season of campaigning, the lack of civility at times seems to swallow us up. It could be easy to become cynical and see little that is good around us.  At moments, we can all fear for the future of our community, nation, and country. 

Last night I saw the future in an entirely different light as I was privileged to attend a Missionary Fireside in Logan, Utah. A very large congregation attended this fireside held at the Institute of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The stage was filled with the smiling faces of the members of the Latter Day Voices and the Institute Choir who shared their testimony of the Savior Jesus Christ and the power that comes into their lives as they read and study the Book of Mormon. 

Faces radiated with faith as they sang about the messages contained in this holy book of scripture preserved for our day by a loving Heavenly Father who knew that we would really be in need of its council and warnings.  It was obvious that these institute students believe with all their hearts in the message of the Book of Mormon.

Testimonies were shared in word as well by a number of institute students.  They shared how the Book of Mormon blesses their lives by strengthening them in times of trials, guides their daily lives, and draws them closer to the Savior Jesus Christ.

One student bore his testimony of the Savior's Atonement, His crowning achievement. The choirs then sang "O Divine Redeemer" pleading with the Savior for His mercy.  This angelic choir sang with intensity as they individually petitioned their own personal cause before the throne of the Savior.  None of us is without sin.  We all need His mercy desperately!  The faces of these faithful choir members clearly demonstrated their own personal desires to invite the Savior and His mercy into their lives.

Another testified regarding the visit made by the Resurrected Christ to the American Continent after His death and resurrection.  It is truly amazing to me that Christ ministered "one by one"  allowing all of the multitude to come forth "one by one" to feel the wounds in His hands and feet and thrust their hands into the wound in His side so that they could not only see with their eyes but feel with their hands that truly He was the Resurrected Son of God.  Then they cried out with one accord, "Hosanna! Blessed by the name of the Most High God!"  3 Nephi 11:15-17.

A young man from India shared his testimony of the Book of Mormon and the impact it had in his life.  He had considered himself a skeptic, setting out to prove that the Book of Mormon and therefore the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints as well could not be true. Instead He was baptized the day before the fireside.

An  18 year old convert shared his personal conversion story, choosing to be baptized after he was of age to sign his own documents because of the great opposition to his baptism by his parents and family.  What a hard spot to be in to have to choose between faith and family.  He indicated that his parents accepted his choice to be baptized better than he expected but it has definitely strained their relationship.  His desire is to be an example to them, always.

A bubbly young woman shared her eight year conversion story. For those years she had many LDS friends surrounding her, but it was reading The Book of Mormon that changed her life.

Several hundred missionaries sang praise and gratitude to Heavenly Father for His gift of the Scriptures.

My heart sang with them.


Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Smithsonian

After visiting the White House we were heading to the Smithsonian Museums when an large, armed security spoke in a threatening manner, "Step away from the curb. Now!"  Frozen in fear, we weren't even sure who he was talking to so we looked around.  Yes, he was definitely talking to us.  "I need you to step away from the curb.  Now!"  His voice sounded menacing as he guided us, with weapon in hand away from the curb towards the fence surrounding the lawn.  He continued to clear everyone from the street and sidewalk in the vicinity with his stern, authoritarian manner.  We had no inkling of what was happening, but were somewhat relieved to see that we were not being singled out, arrested, and hauled away to jail.  Suddenly a caravan of large, black, SUVs  with darkened windows screamed around the corner, exiting the White House onto the street.  They drove fast enough that wheels screamed as they took the curve.  It happened so quickly that I did not count how many or identify what kind of vehicle we were seeing. There was no way to identify who was inside.  Seeing the speed with which these vehicles were driving I could see the need for the street and sidewalk to be cleared

There are so many Smithsonian Museums to visit and so much to see in each museum that it is difficult to decide where to begin.  Our time was limited and we opted to begin with the American History museum. 

Archie Bunker's chair.

Our granddaughter with Dorothy's Ruby slippers from the Wizard of Oz.  The slippers appeared to be larger than I expected them since they are supposed to be about a size 5 1/2 B. These shoes are speculated to be the pair worn most by Judy Garland during the shooting of the movie.  This was a hard place to get a photo.  Lots of people waiting here with cameras.


The Scarecrow's hat and shoes.



                           

Baseball memorablia.


 Abe Lincoln's top hat.









A very large doll house!



 Kermit the Frog and the original Muppets.

 










TV Memorabilia including Howdy Doody, the Lone Ranger, Mickey Mouse Club and Captain Kangaroo.

Another really hard place to get a chance to see the exhibit included information about the first ladies of our country.  Inaugural gowns and other clothing and personal items were displayed.  The crowd here was huge!

I loved this museum!  There was way more to see than one can see in a day! 

Photos courtesy of Gary Johnson.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Institute Fall Fireside

On Sunday, October 4, 2012 we drove to Logan, Utah for another fabulous fireside sponsored by The Utah State University Institute of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. This fireside was held in The Spectrum and was very well attended. 

We traveled to hear our son sing with the combined Institute Choirs who as usual did not disappoint us.  These dedicated, well prepared singers again brought their talents to fill this immense facility with music, singing praises to our loving Father in Heaven. Their testimonies of the Gospel of Jesus Christ shine on their faces and through their music. These faithful choir members obviously spend hours rehearsing, since we have never seen them use any music. They appear to follow the instructions of their directors as if with one voice.  Their music was beautiful and inspiring!

Elder Gregory A. Schwitzer of The Second Quorum of the Seventy was the speaker at this fall fireside. I personally found his message to be inspired and profound.  He taught of the need to develop Self-Discipline in our lives.  Even though the largest portion of the congregation were students, his message was equally applicable to anyone who is on the path towards discipleship.

He shared five suggestions for us to incorporate into our lives to aid us as we strive to discipline ourselves.

1. Develop an Understanding and a Commitment to Integrity.
     He encouraged a commitment to civility and fidelity and talked about the importance of being honest with others as well as ourselves, including giving the right impression of the facts.  He taught that it is vital to avoid distorting facts to paint a picture that does not coincide with the truth.  It is incorrect to twist the facts to suit a personal agenda.  We should be absolutely truthful not only to others but to ourselves.  We should not be found rationalizing our choices or behavior as this is in itself a form of dishonesty.  We should be living a moral life.

2. Put Your Living Environment in Order. (ouch!)
     When the Savior Jesus Christ invited us to "Follow Me," he was inviting us to be clean and model our homes after the House of the Lord.  I thought about the Twin Falls Temple and the shining crystal chandelier which was cleaned earlier this year.  Relief Society sisters took the entire chandelier apart and cleaned every single crystal. In my mind I see the absolute cleanliness that is maintained there.  I have a long way to go to catch up!

3.  Practice Consciously the Skill of Self Denial.
     We should eliminate activities and things from our lives that do not contribute to our eternal progression.  We need to choose our entertainment more carefully and let go of more worldly activities.  He counseled regarding movies, videos, television, video games, and sports as being potential things in our lives that do not lead us to Christ.  He spoke out against pornography.  Self denial is our cross that we bear.

4.  Identify and Attach Ourselves to a Higher Cause than Ourselves.
     He suggested that we should "be like unto Christ." We are to change ourselves from belonging to the Church to instead be Christ's.  Elder Schwitzer said that the Church is You!  It is our self denial that helps us keep our covenents and pledges.  We need to be able to say, "I don't do that because that just isn't me,"  and mean it!

5.  Learn to be Obedient.
     Once we make the commitment to be obedient, we need to practice the skill of being obedient.  Commandments are a reflection of our reltionship with Christ.  Sin is a relationship destroyer but obedience is a relationship strengthener. (this applies to all relationships!) If we love Christ we will be obedient. Teaching little children to be obedient will help them prepare for a better relationship with Christ. 

Elder Schwitzer asked us to consider how much self discipline we want to have in our lives.  He asked us to consider how we use our time and even the small things that we may be overlooking.

He asked us to each consider how we can apply this mesage to ourselves and in our famlilies.  Elder Schwitzer asked this question, " What will change the way I behave?' 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The White House

I have never been through so much security in my life as I was on our trip to Maryland.  Of course one expects all the security at the airports traveling across the country and back.  But to park!  Yes, when we went to Washington, D.C. we had to show our driver's licenses and have the van inspected before we entered the parking garage.  When we returned to retrieve the van, we had to show our driver's licenses again plus all our belongings went through the xray machine and we were also scanned.  Every time.  My poor driver's license, which I might add is new this spring, is now bent from being carried in my pocket so much.  We went through similar scanning in a number of buildings we entered.

White House security is even more strict.  We had to request help from a United States Congressman to assist us in securing a permit to visit the White House several months in advance. All our personal information was submitted for security clearance.  About ten days before we left for Maryland, we received a White House permit with instructions and a time to arrive.  You miss your time.  You miss your tour.

We traveled through heavy rain and traffic to arrive in time to park and run to the security checkpoint for our tour.  Again, we showed our driver's licenses to be checked against the list of approved visitors.  There were six of us going through this checkpoint.  And one of us failed!  How could that be - we had jumped through all the hoops and yet one was pulled aside because of a clerical error.  This family member remained calm and unruffled as a security guard escorted him to a tent in a totally different direction, to wait while another security clearance was run. He was not alone.  There were probably eighteen other people in the same tent, guarded and waiting.

We were told it would be a few minutes before our missing member would be able to join us, so we started to wait outside for him, but found our umbrellas lacking so headed into the White House.  There is almost nothing that you can take into the White House.  Yourself, your ID, a cell phone, (which will be confiscated if you use it), and an umbrella.  No cameras, no food or liquid.  No diapers, no strollers, no backpacks, no purses.  Again we went through heavy security with xrays and body scans. Which should be simple, right? Part of us went through security but again one was stuck on the outside with a stubborn umbrella which refused to be closed. Can't send an open umbrella through an xray machine.

Our group, minus one finally made it into the White House to wait.  Some of us were pretty wet and some of us were pretty tired (children), and at least one of us was pretty worried.  I watched as each person entered the door, anxiously waiting for our lost child. The wait was longer than a few minutes but ended happily.

And our tour began.  It is a self guided tour through a limited amount of the White House.  There are lots of pictures to look at of previous White House residents and their guests.  We saw dishes used by previous Presidents of our country.  Artwork and statuary were plentiful.  Many paintings were so high on walls, and behind barriers so that there was no way for me to identify them in anyway.  The rooms were interesting and ornate.  A guide was in each room to answer questions.  But for the most part - I had no idea what to ask.  I did ask about the bountiful bouquets of flowers in each room - were they always there. The answer was yes.  They are changed about every three to five days.  They were striking.

The tour seemed rather brief, perhaps because it takes so long to actually get to the tour. I found it interesting and worth my time. I am glad that we got to see the White House.  Again, I learned how little I know about so many things in my own country.

I would love to post our photos of the White House tour but - No cameras, no phots!