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







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!