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







Monday, December 30, 2013

Saying Goodbye

We will all soon say goodbye to another year as it slips quietly away into the new. For some it will be a very happy day as the new year launches. I have heard from some that this year that is currently dying has been a difficult and challenging season. I have even heard that it has been the worst year of an entire life. What a blessing it is that this year will be replaced by a fresh new year filed with hope and promise. One chapter ends and another begins.

Others will sorrow at the loss of the current year. It has been a wonderful, happy, joy filled season. Why would they want it to end? Perhaps the new year will not be so kind. It may even create a little fearful, letting go of a season and moving into another.

New year's resolutions are significant for many. It marks a season of reflection and desire for new goals and a fresh new perspective. New goals, changes, and challenges are like a spark for imaginations. Fresh ideas and perspectives propel them forward into new adventures.

For many, the year has been a combination of struggles and accomplishments. For every success, it feels that there has been a failure. For every joy, there has been a heartache. For every triumph, there was also a tragedy. Instead of a year of horror or of bliss, it has instead been a combination of both.

I am reminded that The Book of Mormon teaches us that there must be opposition in all things. Without evil, how could we recognize the difference between evil and good?  If there was never any bitterness, how grateful would we be for a taste of sweet? Without imperfection, would we be able to seek for perfection?

This could have been a year of health or one of sickness. Or perhaps a year of wealth or poverty. It could have been a year of being lonely or never being alone. It could have been exciting to the max or totally a year of boredom. Energy may have been present in abundance, or it could have been a year that is sluggish and difficult. It could have been a year of rejoicing or mourning. Success may have been the word that describes your life, but it could have appeared to be a season of failure. And the list goes on. It may have been any combination of highs and lows.

A new year may bring some closer to reaching long worked for goals, but some may have no goals for which to reach.

For me, this has been a year of definite and distinct contrasts. It has indeed been a year fraught with mountains to be climbed  and valleys of despair. In many ways it has been a year of struggles and sorrows, but if I change my view I can see many family accomplishments and triumphs.

Perhaps that is really the way Heavenly Father intended that most of our years would be, seasons where we can experience and learn from opposition. It may be that in the learning to choose and the experiencing we grow the most. We may stretch to new heights when facing the fires of adversity. But also, we may be kinder to others who are struggling, because we too have experienced the trials. Our compassion may also grow and blossom.

I usually have a number of goals ready, waiting in the wings as a new year approaches. Not so this year. I am unsettled, because my life has been unsettling. I am not sure which road is best for me to travel. But in time, I will see and begin again.

I always want to be more faithful in prayers and scripture study. I always want to be the best person I know how to be. I always want to strengthen my family in whatever way I can. These goals are unchanging. But there will be more.

As I watch the fading of the current year, I may find myself feeling a little sad or singing a song of joy. But however the ending feels, I will be grateful for the guidance I have felt from Heavenly Father, through the power of the Holy Ghost. I will still be amazed for the Savior Jesus Christ and His Atoning Sacrifice. I will carry on my personal quest to be kinder and more considerate. I will continue to work on my integrity and strive to give more service. I will try to be more cheerful and faithful.

And as I say goodbye to the dying year, I will continue my eternal quest, trying to trust Heavenly Father more, every day.  

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Merry Christmas

Thank you to all who have made the time to read this blog this year. Life is busy and we can not do everything we have to do as well as all the things we want to do. We get to choose many times each day how we spend out time. Thank you for spending a little of your precious time here.

Blogging was not something that I ever wanted to do or even thought about. I read a few blogs, mostly written by my family. But more than once the impression came to me from The Holy Ghost that I was to write a blog.

I had no idea how to begin or what to say. But I began to learn about the how first and the what came one piece at a time. There have been times when I had a list of blogs that were to be written several weeks ahead. But there have also been moments when I had no idea what to write. In those moments I have asked if it was time for me to be through writing blogs. But the answer was always inspiration of what to write about instead. So I have continued.

I suppose that the learning has mostly been for me, as I have not gathered a large group of readers. I rarely know who has read what inspiration has dictated me to write, but it does not matter. On occasion I get a phone call or an email about a particular blog. But those are few and come when I am discouraged and ready to be through writing, as if Heavenly Father is telling me to carry forward. And I do.

But I do believe I write for Heavenly Father, who blesses, strengthens, and watches over me. Because I felt that He asked me to. Because I want to be obedient. He has given me everything. All I have is really His. I just get to borrow it for a time. None of us really owns anything, but sometimes I forget that and take it for granted. 

Just like I forget that around the world there are people who have no easy access to water, electricity or food, and take those things for granted. I have so much. My home is warm and in a safe neighborhood. But some live in cardboard boxes with locked fences around them to protect what little they have. We own two vehicles. Many would be thrilled to just have a bicycle for transport. I live in a land blessed by God to be a place where His gospel can flourish and spread.

I am so grateful for all Heavenly Father has blessed me with. I am grateful for His kindness and His mercy to me. I am grateful to get on my knees and pray whenever I need to. What a blessing that I can feel God's presence as I pray and ponder. When there seems to be no one available to listen, He does. When I feel alone, unwanted, and abandoned, I can still feel God's love. When the burden seems to be too heavy for me to carry, unseen arms reach out to lift with me.

Jesus Christ is real. He is the God of this world and He is its creator. He was born in Bethlehem, baptized by John the baptist, and died on Calvary.

My gratitude for the Atonement of the Savior Jesus Christ is huge, but not huge enough in comparison for what Christ has done and continues to do for me. I have no understanding of how the Atonement works, but I feel it alive in my life. I plead for the blessings of the Atonement to bless, heal, strengthen, and empower my family and me. I trust in the Atoning power to help me change my heart for a new one, like Christ's. 

I believe that  prophets speak the words that God would have spoken. It is miraculous to me that we can have access to words of prophets, ancient and modern in our hands, readily and easily. Scriptures strengthen, guide, and teach me. 

Miracles are real and happen all around us. I believe that with all my heart. I pray for miracles. I look for miracles. Sometimes I fail to recognize miracles because the wrapping may not be what I expect. But Heavenly Father is a God of miracles.    

Merry Christmas to you all this week. May your homes be filled with love and laughter. May your hearts be filled with hope, peace and joy. And may you remember that Jesus Christ really is what Christmas is all about.

Laughter and Disaster

Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, the things we give our time and energy to do not turn out very well for us. Depending on how much time and energy we give and how important the project is, we may laugh or cry or both. It can discourage us. It can frustrate us. It can upset us. It can make us more afraid to try the next time an opportunity comes our way. We may be able to shrug it off with a few chuckles, decide not to take it personally and move forward to try again. So much within our personalities and our situation affect how we react to the things that just don't go right in our lives.

I have a two very busy sisters. Just listening to their lives wears me out. I cannot keep up with them. Nor do I try. We are different individuals with different circumstances, talents, and abilities. They amaze me with who they are and I am trying to learn from each of them all the time. They listen, share, and help keep me going. We laugh and cry and share.

One of my sisters is totally tidy. Her house is immaculate, always. No dishes allowed on the counter tops, ever. No foot prints on the carpet. You can eat off her floors. No piles of laundry. She also has plenty of time to serve others endlessly. Her creative handwork is nearly perfect.

Another sister is creative in other areas. She loves writing and teaching and organizing. She entertains frequently and looks out for the needs of others. If someone needs her, she will be there.She reads tirelessly and know so much about authors and literature. She serves everyone willingly and cheerfully.

Recently this sister sent me an email that made me laugh out loud. It sounded so much like experiences I have had. And may have again!  Despite endless preparations and arrangements, some things just went wrong. I did not see her face as she typed these words, but knowing her as I do, it was said with humor and wit. Instead of being upset, she laughed about it and moved on to the next project.

"About the dinner party. I just had to host, I didn't need to cook.  All the food was delivered to me.  I was keeping the pork and the carrots warm in the oven when the potatoes were delivered.  They weren't done, so I took the other food out of the oven and put the potatoes in to finish cooking while I went down the street to have soup and salad.  The soup never arrived, so I joked with them and said the soup was probably delivered to my house.  Surprise.  When I got home the soup WAS at my house.  Someone goofed.  Another Surprise.  The potatoes were still not done, and the oven was not even on.  I'm guessing that when I turned the oven up, I also turned it off.  The potatoes were crunchy and the meat and carrots were cold.  I served the soup, although it wasn't hot either, having sat on my counter for half an hour.  Some lucky people had already eaten soup with their salad.  The food was tasty (though underdone and cold) and the company was lovely.  We had dessert and entertainment  at another house, and when I got home I noticed the rolls still on the counter.  I had forgotten to serve them.  I'm not very good at this."

As I read my sister's experience, I was reminded of some of my own less than perfect experiences. I remembered an opportunity to serve a neighbor who had some health challenges, many years ago. Three of us were taking dinner for her family so she could rest. I had done my best to make a potato casserole, early in the day allowing ample time for baking, so the potatoes would be soft and tender. But they were not. The casserole was nearly cooked to death, but the potatoes were not tender. They were like crunchy and bony. It was too late in the day to do anything except take her what I had. Just before I left home to collect food from the other helpers, my phone rang. A delayed flight at the airport held one helper hostage, waiting for her husband. The green salad fixings were in her car, miles away. I ran to the store to remedy that situation and headed to neighbor number three in charge of dessert. She also had a disappointment that day. Her beautiful, frosted bundt cake had been resting, and ready on the stove when a small child decided to turn on the stove. She saved what cake she could and apologized as she handed it to me, missing a nice chunk.

As I carried in our pathetic offering, I felt embarrassed. We had all tried out best, but things had just gone wrong. Our neighbor was totally un-offended by what I delivered but I often wondered how much of it they really ate. I told her then we should have given them cash and they could have ordered pizza.

To my Sisters, isn't it fun we don't have to be perfect to care about each other?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Heavy Load

Tis the season to be filled with joy, peace, and happiness. Amid the hustle and bustle that we invite into our lives we can easily forget that this can be a very challenging and difficult time of year for many. I was reminded of this as I visited with a sometimes tearful friend who is still mourning the death of a dear friend. For her and many others Christmas can remind us of those we love who have left this earth and returned home. Her friend had been slowly sliding downhill and yet she was not prepared for his death. She is lonely and so much of what she does and sees reminds her of how much she misses him.

Lonely can easily describe many during the holidays. For those who are far away from friends and loved ones it can be a sad time. Watching others in their celebrating moods can be a reminder of our own loneliness. You can be among a very large crowd of people and feel totally alone.

For a family who is struggling financially, providing Christmas can be overwhelming, frightening, and disappointing. I know because I have been there many, many times myself. I remember meeting my husband in town after work one day to begin our Christmas shopping. As we sat down to eat a quick cheap lunch, he cautiously told me that he had learned that morning that the building project he was working on had reached a point that a number of carpenters were no longer needed. He was among them. We had not purchased a single gift. And so we wondered what do we do now? We had looked forward to actually having income during the holidays, a rare thing for us in those days. In the cold weather of Idaho, construction could be pretty lean in the winter months. We did the best we could that Christmas for our children, as we always did, but I am sure it was meager compared to so many others we lived among.

Many families struggle to make ends meet all year round. The added expense of presents and parties can be a real tipping point. When there is not enough money for groceries, lights, and heat every month, it is impossible to squeeze out money for a tree, gifts, and goodies. Being asked to contribute rolls or a salad or a dessert for a party can feel like a shove over the edge of the fiscal cliff. Sometimes people find that they must decline any and all party invitations. Not being able to participate in parties and activities adds to the feelings of isolation and loneliness.

A friend recently expressed how difficult Christmas was for her this year financially. Her husband passed away several years ago and her income has continually declined since that time. Her family has had many financial challenges over the years and she has given them aid as much as she could, but her resources have dwindled significantly. She wants to give gifts to her family for Christmas, but she has little to offer. Tears leaked from the corners of her eyes as she expressed her sorrow at her inability to share what she does not have.

Health can be an issue that interferes this time of year. In some climates, it may be too hot or too cold to be out and about shopping, decorating, and preparing. Going out to parties may not be possible if one does not feel well or travel is unsafe. Sorrow and loss can become our companions as we miss out on activities we desire to participate in.

Because there is so much to do during the holiday season, the added stress can be enough to send us into a tail spin. It may be family or work or even religion. It may even be that the things you want to do literally overwhelm you. The things we want to do and the things we must do may end up on a collision course to disaster.

I do not know for sure, but I do not think that Heavenly Father intends us to be over stressed and overwhelmed by the season that celebrates the birth, life, resurrection, and Atonement of His Son Jesus Christ. Buy I think that because God loves us, He is aware of the loads that we carry. It is wonderful to turn to Him and ask for help as we carry the load or decide what to jettison from our lives. But I do think that He who is our Creator wants us to be appreciative, hopeful, and more kind.

Because just like me, everyone out there is carrying their own heavy load.

Cold!

Last night my husband and I put on our coats and gloves and made the short drive to a local store, looking for a Christmas present for a particular person. I do not know what the temperature was, but it was COLD! As we were driving toward our destination, my spouse commented something along the lines that whoever thought of celebrating Christmas had a really good idea, but he would have liked it much better if they had done it differently. So I asked him what he meant. He indicated that he would really much prefer to be out shopping for Christmas presents in 70 degree weather.

We quickly found a present that pleased us, made our purchase and then zipped up our coats, put on our gloves, and ventured towards our car. I am certain that I complained about the cold again. We made it home just fine and soon warmed up enough to eat a dish of ice cream.

It really is cold! Winter has not officially begun according to the calendar, but for my money, winter is here. According to the weather channel it was 3 degrees when I climbed out of bed this morning. It is expected to reach up to 20 degrees as a high today. Wind chill adds a little extra delight chasing our temperature into negative digits most of the day.

I have heard myself complain - plenty.

But as I am thinking about it, I cannot help but wonder about those who have lived on this earth with less luxury than I currently have. And I am a bit ashamed of myself for my bellyaching.

You see I have a home with gas heat. I am on a level pay plan and I can choose to turn my heat up if I want to. It really isn't that expensive to heat my house. I have any number of warm shirts, sweatshirts, and  jackets that I can choose to wear, sometimes in layers. I have warm socks for my feet, and keeping my feet warm really contributes to my comfort.

I sleep in a warm bed at night. I can add warm jammies and extra blankets if I want to. I can throw on a pair of socks. I can turn up the hear if I get really cold. When I get out of bed in the morning, I step onto relatively warm. soft carpeting. No dirt, rocks, or twigs.

I have indoor plumbing with all its luxury, just steps away from my bed. Not an outhouse, tree, or bush. No rustling wind, rain or snow. No catalog pages to grab. No darkness to fight because I can just flip on a light. I climb in and out of a shower as warm as I want it and grab a soft towel when I am done. I dress in warm, clean clothes that were not washed on a rock in a stream somewhere..

Electricity is a wonderful thing. And I admit that I take it so much for granted. We have lights and heat (electricity controls my furnace too) Electricity allows me the use of a washing machine and dryer; a fridge and a freezer; a stove and oven. I can quickly heat up almost anything in my microwave. I listen to Christmas music on my CD player and check out what is on the television. I can use a sewing machine, iron, and glue gun. I fix my hair with a blow dryer and curling iron. I also use crock pots, blender, toaster, mixer, and waffle iron.

I have a computer. It is old but it works. I push a button and what I want printed appears, usually. I send messages across the world instantly. My fingers make a lot of mistakes as I type. No eraser or correction tape needed. I can pick up a telephone and call anyone. I can send a letter and receive a reply before I am any older and grayer. No pony express needed.

When we go somewhere, we climb into a car and drive. I do not have to walk almost anywhere in these bitter cold temperatures. My car actually produces its own heat. I am out of the wind and driving snow. I can usually get anywhere in my town in a matter of minutes and days. No bowed legs from riding on a horse or bruised behind from riding in a wagon.

I am convinced that I would have been a lousy pioneer. I would have whimpered, whined, and complained all the way to the Salt Lake Valley. I am a wimp!

What a blessing to live today when the Lord has given us so much.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Mine! Mine! Mine!

I am a very selfish person. Believe me it gives me no pleasure to admit to that. But it is a true fact. I want what I want and when I want it. I want to be treated in a certain way and sometimes my nose gets bent out of joint when I am not. There are plenty of things that I do not want to do either. I really do not enjoy cleaning house. I do really appreciate living in an orderly home, but cleaning it - no thanks! That goes for dishes, laundry, scrubbing toilets, vacuuming, dusting, washing windows, and etc. Feel much the same about yard work. Though I want my yard to look like a photo in a yard and garden magazine, I am only happy to do yard work for about a minute.

Recognizing that I am selfish is not big news to me. Known it for along time. Working on it. Praying to overcome it. Still got it.

At this time of year when we celebrate Christ and His total and complete unselfishness, it is particularly degrading to face ones own selfishness. But over the past few weeks, Heavenly Father, in His infinite wisdom, has given me some experiences with selfishness. In essence a mirror has been put in front of my face to help me learn some more about selfishness. 

A child gathered a rather large amount of candy that was probably not theirs to have in the first place. It was hidden away. It appeared that this child did not think anyone knew about the secret stash of goodies. When questioned about it by an adult who had witnessed the grabbing, the child told a fib and attempted to hide the misdeed. This child is young, and learning. Yet, I could see that as something that I could possibly do. Ouch!

Another incident also involved a child, hording candy and showing it to others, who of course wanted candy. Who wouldn't? The candy laden child had no intention to share and was fairly free with that information. I did not hear the word Mine! Mine! Mine! But I think the message was clear. I feel that way too sometimes. Mine! Mine! Mine!

Sometimes I feel that way about things. Other times it is money that I want to guard. Even my time is more precious at times than others and I want to shout Mine! Mine! Mine!

Another incident involved an adult situation. One adult took the last piece of pie and ate it, never offering any to anyone else and eating it in front of others. The adult, for whatever reason, must have assumed that no one else wanted any. Or perhaps this person thought it was justified for some reason. Or perhaps it never crossed this person's mind to even offer. But again I saw myself. That could have been me. Ouch!

I am not able to see into anyone's heart but my own. I cannot be certain of anyone's motives. But, in each of these situations I could see what appeared to be selfishness. Mine! Mine! Mine!

Another incident was much closer to home. It belonged to me. I was asked to do something for someone in need. It should not have been a big deal. But selfishness raised its ugly head and roared at me. It took me a little while, or maybe a big while, to conquer my own attitude and be happy to serve. I did not like it one little bit when my own thoughts echoed Mine! Mine! Mine!

In the incident with the candy, a wise parent responded to the troubled pleadings of the children who were left candy - less. He told them all, the offended and the offender, that the child with the candy needed to figure it out pretty soon. He told them that the child who had it all would loose it all, if that child did not quickly figure it out.  I did not see the rest of that story, but I bet it had a happy ending.

As I have pondered upon my own attitude of selfishness, I have thought of the Savior Jesus Christ, who gave his all. Everything! Even His own life for others. He had no home, no bed, and at times no friends. But Christ gave all that He had for the world. Even selfish people like me.

In my heart I wonder if Heavenly Father is trying to teach me some much needed truths, just as a wise parent tried to teach his young child: 

If I don't figure it out pretty quickly, I could lose it all!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Agency

Been thinking about agency a lot lately and why it is important to me personally. I do not know anyone who really likes being told what to do and when and how, all the time by others. I remember an experience a great many years ago when my spouse and I were given an assignment and then promptly told exactly how it was to be done. We were just worker bees, doing the work that someone else wanted to have done. The creative energy was not ours, but that of others. Our ideas, input, and suggestions were not only unsolicited but also unwelcome. It left a little bit of an unpleasant taste in our mouths, but we did our best to do what was asked of us and in the manner we were asked to do it. I wondered then why the person who was really in charge did not just do it himself. Why did he ask us to do it and insist it be done his way, when we were not his employees, but simply drafted volunteers.

Because I believe in the plan of salvation, I also believe in the gift of agency, the ability to choose for ourselves. When Heavenly Father presented His plan allowing choice, another offered the plan of force. In some ways, knowing that we could come to earth with the security that we would all return to heaven sounds pretty good, since that is the whole point of coming to earth; returning to heaven. But part of that plan also meant that there would be no agency, no ability to choose. It was a plan of guarantee. Everyone would return. Period.  But at what cost?

I spend a certain amount of time with toddlers and young children every week. In them, I see their desire for independence. They really want to do things for themselves. They want to sit when and where they want to sit. They want to eat when they want and to choose what to eat too. They want to play with what they want, when they want it, and will almost fight to the death to retain possession. Given a choice, some would never eat a vegetable, ever. Maybe not fruits either. I have seen many a child melt into a puddle of tears when the marshmallows were put away before a sweet tooth was satisfied.

Though I hope I have some experience and maturity beyond the capacity of a two year old, I find I have some similar feelings. I do not particularly appreciate when others choose so easily for me. I hope I react more maturely when my choice is usurped by another. But I wonder why? Why, when you resent someone else taking your agency, do you so freely take mine away?

Sometimes we really do not realize we have taken away another's choice. It is a mistake or an accident. Hopefully when we realize the error of our ways, we quickly apologize and do all we can to correct our actions. But sometimes disregard of another’s agency seems to be very deliberate and intentional, an act of control or perhaps even superiority.

Again, I have asked myself why?

I believe we lived as spirits before we came to this earth with our Father in Heaven, who presented a plan and allowed us to choose whether we wanted to follow His plan. No force was used by Him to make anyone choose. I believe a war was fought over the gift of agency. Everyone did not agree. Again no force was used. Each spirit was allowed to choose. I believe that is the plan of heaven, choice.

Believe me there are plenty of times when I have usurped the agency of others. I have had a lot of learning opportunities with agency. As a parent with small children, I did plenty of "choosing what is best for you." But as years and maturity increase, I learned that the only way to learn to choose was to practice choosing, as painful as that can be. I did my best to allow that, though again very flawed.

I have often said in jest that I truly believed in agency, that I should have my choice and that everyone else would do things my way, we would get along just fine." Though there is a grain of truth in that, we do not all think alike or want the same things out of life, so it is truly preposterous to expect a whole world to agree with me on anything.

I believe that the right to choose, though challenging and burdensome at times, is a gift. We may not be able to choose every single thing for ourselves based on human restrictions, but we can choose many things. What a blessing to have a Heavenly Father who trusts us enough to allow us to choose, make mistakes, and try again to choose better. 

Because He has given me this great gift, I want to try to show my gratitude by choosing more carefully.

Monday, December 2, 2013

December

Today it is December. I find it hard to believe, since I am unprepared in so many ways for the month of December. I am not certain but I do not think that I ever got prepared for Halloween yet; and even though Thanksgiving has come and gone, I felt totally unprepared for that day as well. I also was not really prepared for the first frost or the first snow.

What is it about life that makes me feel that no matter how hard I try and no matter how hard I work, I cannot seem to get organized or get my act together or whatever terminology you choose. I am unprepared.

I want to be and try to be and I work at it. But there seems to be so much disorder in my life. I think my new year's resolution every year for years has been to get it together this year. Here it is December, eleven months past my new year's resolution to get organized, and I am still feeling chaos.

I guess the good news is that I have not simply thrown in the towel, given up, and succumbed to no longer trying anymore. But there is still the bad news that I am disorganized and not prepared for many things.

As I think of my lack of preparation for holidays and other life events, it gives me reason to ponder on some important aspects of spiritual preparation. How prepared am I, really, for The Second Coming of the Savior Jesus Christ?  

Perhaps this is a bigger and more important question to ask myself than how prepared am I for Christmas. Christmas will come and go, whether I am prepared or not. I cannot hold back time or stop the turn of the calendar. There comes a time when prepared or not it comes and it goes and life returns to whatever state of normal life was before. There may be some disappointments. Some gifts may go back to the store. A few tears may even be shed, but I do not think that there are eternal consequences attached to the lack of preparation for Christmas.

But there are eternal consequences to my lack of preparation for The Second Coming of Christ. I believe that.

So even though I feel so unprepared, at times I am anxious for the return of the Savior to this world to herald in a new millennium of peace and joy and love. I am anxious to be surrounded with others who love the Savior as I do and trust in His mercy and His grace. I long to live in the world He will create and govern with His perfect knowledge and wisdom. I ache to hear His words of truth that dispel all darkness and dishonesty.

Though my heart is imperfect and my mind in turmoil, I yearn for the order that He will bring. I long for the light He will share and the things He will teach. I desire to feel the safety of His world, where desire for sin and disunity disappear.

Today as I ponder the things I need to do as part of preparation for the Christmas season, putting up the tree and lights, gifts to buy, service to render, and on and on, I am thinking of these words by Mirla Thayne Greenwood:

 1. I wonder, when he comes again,
Will herald angels sing?
Will earth be white with drifted snow,
Or will the world know spring?
I wonder if one star will shine
Far brighter than the rest;
Will daylight stay the whole night through?
Will songbirds leave their nests?
I'm sure he'll call his little ones
Together 'round his knee,
Because he said in days gone by,
"Suffer them to come to me."

2. I wonder, when he comes again,
Will I be ready there
To look upon his loving face
And join with him in prayer?
Each day I'll try to do his will
And let my light so shine
That others seeing me may seek
For greater light divine.
Then, when that blessed day is here,
He'll love me and he'll say,
"You've served me well, my little child;
Come unto my arms to stay."  

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving

'Tis the week we celebrate gratitude and I have a great deal to appreciate and be thankful for. The list is endless, when I am willing and able to focus on blessings instead of challenges. For me, that takes effort, but is worthwhile and uplifting. I find that the list shifts and changes frequently depending on current life circumstances.

I often take so much for granted. I just expect my heart to beat and my lungs to provide me with essential oxygen. They always have and I hope that they always will. But for some people in the world, this is not so. Every breath may be a huge effort and when the heart beats this time, it will be their last. I am grateful for the automatic parts of my body that just function moment by moment, day by day round the clock.

This morning I pinched the tip of my finger in a closet door, reminding me that my nerves are also automatic. They just work. If I touch something cold or hot, the nerves quickly transmit that information to my brain, registering pain. What a blessing to feel pain. If I felt no pain, how long would my hand remain burning on a stove burner? My brain also functions constantly. I really try to turn it off sometimes, but it is constantly processing information. When I try to think of 'nothing,' my mind becomes busy thinking, "I am trying to think of nothing." I am grateful for my brain and nerves that never take a vacation from serving me.

My eyes see and my ears hear. My nose smells and my mouth tastes. I have been given the gift of language, which sometimes translates into the gift of gab. There are others who lack the ability to see, to hear, or to speak. I am grateful that my eyes see the beauties of the world, that my ears hear the music of life, that my mouth tastes the bitter and the sweet,

I expect my hands to work hard. I use them all the time. They function without much effort. They cook and sew, wash and clean up, write and type. When I see something that they need to do, they instantly get to work. I am reminded how much I use them when I attempt to sit motionless to avoid smearing drying nail polish. I almost cannot let them idle long enough. I am grateful for my hands.

My feet and legs also serve me well. I walk and climb stairs, every day. I can sit or stand. I can stretch and bend. They carry me through myriad of tasks without much effort or complaint. When they are weary, a few moments rest revive them and we are off again. I am grateful for my feel and legs.

I am grateful for the beauties of the world. I often miss the opportunity to see them in the busyness of life. I love the blue of the sky and the green of the grass. The roar of an ocean brings me feelings of peace and contentment. Flowers gladden my heart. Fresh garden vegetables put grocery produce to shame. I am grateful for the raspberry canes in my back yard that we enjoy all year round.

Technology amazes and blesses me every day. I would be lost without computers, phones, cars, appliances, airplanes, and the internet. I am grateful that I can pay my bills, buy an airline ticket, talk to my family, and research information quickly in the comfort of my home with a computer.

I am grateful to live in The United States of America. Our country may be less than perfect and facing multiple challenges, but it is probably the best option in our current world. I am grateful for that measure of freedom that I enjoy because of where I live.

I am grateful for my family who do all they can to build and contribute to the good of this world. My life is blessed by their goodness and their example every day. They are my teachers and my guardians as I walk life's journey. How sad I would be to be alone in this world.

I am grateful to have a testimony of Heavenly Father and of His Beloved Son Jesus Christ. I am grateful for prayer and faith and hope that strengthen me every day. I am grateful for The Atonement which shines forth a beacon to light my way back to Christ when I have lost my way. I am grateful for prophets, scriptures, and a myriad of resources that help me work my way back home.

Miracles are real.  I believe in them. I look for them, I pray for them. I am grateful for miracles.

Today and every day I appreciate all the things that I have been blessed with. Thank you Heavenly Father/

Monday, November 25, 2013

Oklahoma

I just returned from an adventure into another world for a few wonderful days. Because my daughter who lives very far away was ready to have a baby, I traveled to spend time with her and her family. It was a great experience for me to be with this family, in their home and in their lives. I am grateful to have been welcomed and greeted with hugs and smiles.

My eight year old grandson willingly gave up his bedroom for the duration of my stay. He slept on the floor of his parent's bedroom. His room became mine and he was happy to share.

The highlight of the trip was the safe arrival of a sweet, adorable granddaughter, safe, sound, and healthy. She was instantly adored by all, including her two brothers and two year old sister. Tears were shed when the same eight year old boy who shared his room learned that his baby sister and mother would not be coming home from the hospital as soon as he expected. Even though he understood the need for another night in the hospital, his little heart longed for them to be home.

The smell and feel of a new baby is like none other that I can think of. Perhaps it is because it reflects so much love in so many ways. The love of Heavenly Father who gives us life and breath. It is He who allows us the privilege of coming to earth, to learn and grow. It is also Heavenly Father who encourages family life and blesses our homes with the sweetness of babies. They come to this earth so helpless and dependent for everything that their little bodies do not know how to do automatically. What an evidence of His love and trust to send a new spirit into our homes.

It is difficult for me to describe the feelings I experienced following the birth of each new child that blessed my home. I am not sure that current language expresses accurately the pure love, joy, and peace that I felt. Perhaps those moments are a brief glimpse into heaven.

The love that a new baby brings as part of their persona is also very real. Even though the demands of new life are huge, time consuming, and sometimes exhausting, the love that encircles a new baby is all encompassing. An infant cannot express love in words nor demonstrate it by deed. yet the love just is and the love within the family grows. Even a tempestuous toddler can feel that love and quickly understands the need for gentleness, tenderness, and quietness. Baby kisses replace boisterous behavior.

I was reminded that life among children is very different than the life that I currently lead. I jumped on the trampoline, without breaking any part of my person. I played dozens of games of  Don't Break the Ice. I also played Don't Spill the Beans, Cootie, Trouble and a new game whose name escapes me. I listened to my grandsons play the piano and played Sarasponda over and over. I learned about Ninjago and General Grievious. I listened to The Wheels on the Bus and Five Little Monkeys Teasing Mr. Crocodile. I watched numerous videos of Thomas the Tank Engine.

I was blessed with hugs and kisses goodbye and goodnight. I read stories and listened as stories were read. I played Sudoku with a bright eight year old boy who also wanted to learn about crochet. I soon found myself crocheting a scarf for both of my grandsons, who received them with joy. I played with little ones at the Science Museum and held my granddaughter who was both thrilled and terrified by multiple rides in the elevator. I even drove to and from the hospital accompanied by my grandsons, which was mildly terrifying to me. But thanks to cell phones and expert son-in-law navigation, we arrived safely back at home.
 
Oklahoma is a beautiful place, but mostly for me it is beautiful because of my family who live there. They make the world a better place every day by the people that they choose to be and the things that they choose to do. The good they do and the service that is part of every day life touch so many without them even recognizing it. They just do good because they are good. And for me it was such a blessing to be encircled in the goodness of their lives.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Miracle

I am in need of a miracle. I have prayed for it for many months and continue to ask for it every day. It has been in my mind and my heart and my prayers almost constantly. At times I am discouraged a bit because the miracle I seek with all of my heart has not yet arrived. Sometimes I also remember to pray for patience as I wait for this miracle. Sometimes I apologize for my lack of patience. I also ask Heavenly Father for a greater ability to trust in Him and in His timing. And I wait.

But I do not give up because I believe in Miracles!

I wonder sometimes if Heavenly Father tires of my constant requests. Does He consider it nagging? When He sees me on my knees or hears my silent pleas, does He cringe and shudder and wonder why are you here again?

One of my favorite chapters in the Book of Mormon is Mormon chapter 9 because I am reminded that Heavenly Father is a God of miracles. He has always been a God of Miracles and because He is an unchanging God, miracles have not ceased.

19 And if there were miracles wrought then, why has God ceased to be a God of miracles and yet be an unchangeable Being? And behold, I say unto you he changeth not; if so he would cease to be God; and he ceaseth not to be God, and is a God of miracles.

20 And the reason why he ceaseth to do miracles among the children of men is because that they dwindle in unbelief, and depart from the right way, and know not the God in whom they should trust.

21 Behold, I say unto you that whoso believeth in Christ, doubting nothing, whatsoever he shall ask the Father in the name of Christ it shall be granted him; and this promise is unto all, even unto the ends of the earth.


I love these words. When I find doubt and fear crowding in and faith failing, I open the Book of Mormon and read and ponder these words. I can think over and over about these words and plant them into my heart. These words feed my faith and help to put fear farther away from me.

27 O then despise not, and wonder not, but hearken unto the words of the Lord, and ask the Father in the name of Jesus for what things soever ye shall stand in need. Doubt not, but be believing, and begin as in times of old, and come unto the Lord with all your heart, and work out your own salvation with fear and trembling before him.

Again I am reminded to 'doubt not but be believing' as I ask Heavenly Father for what I need. I am also reminded to ask Him with all my heart. I am not sure how to do that, but I feel like I am certainly trying to lay my whole heart open as I plead, petition, request, and ask Him in faith.

Instruction is also given that I must work out my own salvation. The use of the word 'work' is also very interesting to me. As I ponder this I understand that I must do all that I can to receive the needed miracle. Sometimes there may be little or nothing that I can do, but continue to pray and fast and ask. But for some miracles, hard work is required. Unpleasant, difficult things may be necessary as part of the 'work' necessary for miracles. "Work may entail study, asking questions, seeking for the truth, and even standing for what is right. Thankfully the Holy Ghost can help me find the answers needed in this department.

I am not giving up! I need a miracle. I will continue to ask, pray, plead, fast, seek, and knock until the miracle comes. I may not even recognize it at first when it comes, because sometimes our miracles do not look like what Heavenly Father sends. The packaging may be different, but the result is still the same. Sometimes part of receiving a miracle is recognizing and being grateful for the miracle given.

I will continue on my quest because I believe in miracles!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Gratitude

This is the month of gratitude when many of us try to put more effort into recognizing and expressing our gratitude for the things that we consider to be blessings in our lives. Some post a comment on Facebook every day during the month of November to acknowledge and share with others the things they are grateful for. Some say extra gratitude prayers. Others make lists or displays that draw attention to things that bless their lives. Some family members share something that they appreciate at dinner every night. Some keep a gratitude journal.

There are many ways in which to acknowledge our blessings. I do not think the process matters as much as the actual recognition and expression of words of thank you. The scriptures teach us that it offends our Heavenly Father when we are not grateful. I must say I cannot blame Him. He has given us everything, right down to the very air we breathe. We really own nothing. In essence, we are squatters on His land. It must seem disappointing to Him to hear us whine, complain, and bellyache when things do not go our way.

In thinking about gratitude, it is possible that many parents have a small understanding of the ingratitude of children. When we have given our best or our all to our children, we may find that in their eyes it was not enough or perhaps it just wasn't good enough. Or it was not the right size or color. Maybe the timing was a little off. Maybe we simply misunderstood their need or desire. Our offering may be met with a bucket of cold water instead of appreciation.

Some years ago I watched and listened as a teenager bad mouthed a parent. His words were biting and unkind. This mouthy teen threw disrespect and disregard eagerly at the parent who was present. This teen showed great disrespect for the religious beliefs of the parents who had raised him and given him all they had to offer. With cruelty, it was thrown into the parent's face. This parent was kind, patient, and silent as torrents of rudeness poured forth, until I could stand it no more. I said very few words, but told this arrogant teen that no parent who has done the best that they could do appreciates hearing what I was hearing. I do not suppose it made one bit of difference to that teenager, but I believe what I said to be true.

Sometimes I think I am like that mouthy, arrogant teenager expressing my dissatisfaction to Heavenly Father who has allowed me stewardship over some of His things. Instead of appreciating His generosity and trust, I challenge and question His methods and His timing. I presume to know better than He what is needed and how to fix my world. I express and display my impatience and dissatisfaction freely.

How it must hurt Him to listen.

What a blessing that in His perfection, Heavenly Father is infinitely kind and patient. What a miracle it is that because He knows me so well, He provided a Savior who willingly atoned for all my sins. Jesus Christ has already paid the price for my selfishness, my arrogance, my pride, my ingratitude and so much more. Even in my weakness and my sin, Christ says, "Come unto me." His arms are open wide, ready and waiting for me to choose to follow Him.

Today and everyday I am grateful to have a Heavenly Father who watches over me and blesses me in my unworthiness. I am grateful for the Savior Jesus Christ whose sacrifice and example shine as the sun before me. I am grateful for the whisperings of the Holy Ghost that calm and guide me. Today I am grateful for the hope that comes, because of the goodness of God.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Good and Evil

The world I live in can be very confusing to me, at times. I wonder who I can trust and who can be believed. I really do not enjoy listening to the news much because it seems to me that anyone and everyone can slant the news to their advantage. What do opinion polls really mean when questions can be so craftily slanted that they will get the wanted answer one way or another. I hear cruel and unkind words being thrown around as leaves in the wind. Discussions about who is a liar and who is not seem rampant.

It feels like almost everyone has an agenda and will go to any length imaginable to achieve their own goals. Few can even agree on the definitions of such words as truth, integrity, honesty, and character. Picking apart words and phrases is as common as picking apart character. Some have learned how to disagree with each other in their banter in cheerful and innocuous ways but many seem to be almost toxic in their discussions.

While reading in the Book of Mormon I was reminded of these words give centuries ago by prophets to help me as I try to discern truth. These words from Moroni chapter 7 teach how to judge good and evil perfectly.

12. Wherefore, all things which are good cometh of God: and that which is evil cometh of the devil; for the devil is an enemy unto God and fighteth against him continually, and inviteth and enticeth to sin, and to do that which is evil continually.
13. But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him is inspired of God.
14. Wherefore, take heed, my beloved brethren, that ye do not judge that which is evil to be of God, or that which is good and of God to be of the devil.
15 For behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night.
16. For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.
17. But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him. 
18. And now, my brethren, seeing that ye know the light by which ye may judge, which light is the light of Christ, see that ye do not judge wrongfully; for with that same judgement which ye judge ye shall also be judged. 

These words penetrated my heart as I have pondered them. When I am surrounded by people who seem to know how I should think and feel, scriptures tell me that I should listen to the Light of Christ. When others choose for me or seem to think that they know what is best for me, these scriptures tell me that I already have the Light of Christ and have the capacity to know for myself what is best for me.

When the language of governments and politics becomes ugly, cruel, and sarcastic, I do not need to have others interpret for me what I see and hear and how it makes me feel. When others belittle my thoughts and opinions and are certain they are right and I am wrong, these words from the Book of Mormon tell me that I have the capacity to judge and think for myself, assisted by the Light of Christ, which is given to every man.

What a blessing to be able to think and feel and choose for myself!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Halloween

Another Halloween has come and gone. And I cannot say that I really feel bad that it is over. I guess my age is showing because I have discovered that I am not really a big fan of Halloween anymore. It was even hard for me to make the effort to buy candy to give away to trick or treaters. But I did and I passed out candy for almost an hour and a half., then turned off my lights and was done. The candy was not quite all gone, but pretty close.

When I was in elementary school, both of my parents dressed up for Halloween. My Mother had a pretty terrific witch costume which she made for herself. She wore a black tar paper hat over her horsehair wig. Her black skirt, top, nylons, and shoes completed her attire. She used silly putty to create her crooked nose, added makeup and even I did not know who she was. My Mother worked for the local school district and visited schools and offices. When she came to school, I really had no idea it was her.

Dad had an amazing skeleton costume. He had painted a turtleneck sweater and pants with fluorescent paint in the shape of a skeleton. Add the gloves, socks and mask that covered his face also painted with skeletal bones and the skeleton was complete. In the dark, all anyone could see was a moving, walking, dancing, frightening skeleton. It was terrifying to me. I knew it was him. But it scared me to death. I hid from him more than once.

Dressed in costumes, my parents really enjoyed handing candy out to any trick or treaters brave enough to come close. My mother cackled her witch voice and many a frightened child fled. The realistic skeleton had a similar effect. They could usually coax the kiddies back into their lair with their treats.

My parents lived in a 'nice' neighborhood which was often considered to be a premium location for trick or treating. Most families gave what was considered "good" candy. Car loads of trick or treaters poured into their part of town. Even though Mom and Dad looked frightening, they gave away a ton of candy (350 children on average) to children who were never quite sure it was safe to come up on the porch.

As my parents aged and their health failed, I spent several Halloweens passing out candy at their home. They still enjoyed seeing and visiting with little ghosts and goblins. They would interact as much as they could and for as long as they could.

I have done a lot of Halloweens in my life time. I took my turns at trick or treating until either I or my parents determined that I was too old. I do not remember if I ever had a store bought costume or if I always just made my own. I think a purchased mask was fairly common when I was a child for many, but I think most of us just created our own costumes.

I really enjoyed Halloween when I had my own children. I made many a costume for our little ones. As they grew up, they often designed their own and I was an assistant creator. We used the things we had, mostly. I thought some of our creations were not only clever but looked pretty darn good. It was fun to take them trick or treating and show them off.

Trick or treating was mostly somewhat limited. When we lived in the country, we drove from neighbor to neighbor, visiting a dozen or more friends and family. We always visited both sets of grandparents when we lived close by. That was enough. The children were able to show off and grab just enough treats to enjoy. Candy did not last long, because there was not much of it in the first place. And that was great with all of us. One grandmother and several close friends made homemade goodies every year and we never worried a bit about eating them

In our town the new 'nice' neighborhood is blocked off from the main road to prevent unsafe traffic with children seeking candy in droves. I understand that they give out from 1200 to 1500 pieces of candy on Halloween. Car loads of trick or treaters are dropped off to fill their bags. The waiting cars line the main street for blocks and blocks.

Many organizations sponsor trunk or treat opportunities during the week of Halloween. They welcome all who come. But candy disappears quickly so many who have already cornered the candy market simply move onto new territory for more. It is a quest to get all the free candy possible.

Anyone who gives away a candy that isn't considered to be good enough may also get to hear that from the little decorated darlins' standing on their porch. Sometimes it feels like we are creating a great deal of greed.

We spend a lot of time trying to to teach our children to be careful of strangers. We caution them not to talk to people they do not know. We discourage them from going to the home of anyone who is a stranger. But on Halloween all this education is meaningless. We take them to the door of strangers and teach them to beg for candy. At this moment,

I am wondering about our wisdom!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Playing the Piano

I have a very talented cousin that can play the piano flawlessly. She lives far away and I see her seldom. But when I do, it is a real treat. I do not know how young she was when she began to play the piano, but she has played for so many years that I consider her to be quite polished and expert. She has played for choirs to sing to, not an easy task I might add. She has played congregational music, piano solos, and accompaniment for other musicians. I love to hear her play.

I believe this friend has a real gift of music, but that does not mean she has not worked to acquire skill. She has worked hard and continues to practice her skill and mastery of the keyboard. Finger dexterity and speed disappear fairly quickly if practice is neglected. It takes effort and time to keep up with piano playing skills.

As I was reading one of my sweet cousins blog posts I felt great empathy for her. She was asked to play the piano for a group of children in a religious program for her congregation. Of course they would ask her, she is one of the best. She has done this many times before, so it is really not out of her comfort zone.

She made one small comment about the program. Tall children blocked her view of the person who was leading the singing children. She had to search for the chorister to know when to play. For the first time ever, she lost her place in the music. Her performance disappointed her. But I am certain any mistake she made went unnoticed by the audience, enjoying the spiritual message in word and song.

I was reminded of other musical flaws by myself and others. Our daughter played a piano solo in our Sacrament Meeting. She sat alone at the piano, well prepared and playing beautifully. Without warning, several sheets of music fluttered to the floor. She quickly retrieved them and carried on. She handled it well, but it was embarrassing.

A couple was asked to sing in Sacrament Meeting and chose a lovely, yet unfamiliar song about families. They had raised nine faithful children so they could truly sing this song with faith and testimony. They came to my house and rehearsed repeatedly. They brought me a tape recorder and cassette and helped me record the accompaniment so they could listen to it and rehearse on their own. They spent hours. We spent hours. They were totally prepared. We rehearsed just hours before they sang. It was beautiful and I knew now hard they had worked to create the feelings that this song evoked. As they stood to sing before the congregation, the wife was overcome with fear. All she could do was cry. Her husband did his best to carry forward as she wept, uncontrollably. She joined in for the last phrases of the song. No one else knew the sacrifice of their preparation.

I too have played the piano for a few Children's Sacrament Meeting Presentations. One in particular stands out in my memory today. We had a brand new chorister join primary in February. She had no idea how to lead music. She had a lovely singing voice, but really no musical experience whatsoever. She was willing to try. But it was a difficult year. She struggled. The children struggled. She declined help for a very long time. And she kept trying. As the scheduled program neared, she seemed to realize the need for help and was finally willing to learn a little about leading music.

We practiced the program the day before for an hour and a half plus a little. It was challenging and exhausting for everyone. But I could not see the chorister. No matter how I tried to impress on the mind of the leaders the need to be able to see the chorister, it seemed to fall on deaf ears. I was told repeatedly that the children were really following the piano anyway, after all she was not really leading. Minor adjustments were made and I could occasionally see an arm or hand waving.

To add interest to my experience, I was also told that the primary program was simply too long. We needed to speed up the tempo of the music. It needed to move more quickly and my assignment was to set the tempo of all the music. The children simply would follow the piano and the chorister was not skilled enough to set the tempo. Frustrated by not being able to see the chorister and the instructions to set the tempo much faster on all the songs, I again expressed the need to be able to see.

As I sat at the piano at the beginning of the program the next morning , I looked to see the chorister, and discovered I could not see her at all. Except the hair on the top of her head. For me this was not a good moment. All I could do was my best. I made a large mistake and played at the wrong moment. The congregation may not have noticed, but I wanted to drop into a hole in the ground. But all I could do was continue.Once or twice during this program of almost a full hour I could actually see a right hand waving.

I believe the chorister was thrilled with how things went for her, but I could not escape from the chapel fast enough when the program was over.

This post is for you cousin, who are so talented, and helped me remember that when we participate in music in front of other people, we open ourselves up to be seen in flawed ways!

Friday, November 1, 2013

The Warning Light

We loved our maroon grand caravan. We drove it all over town, into the mountains, to the ocean, and lots of places in between. It was sad to part with this old, worn out friend who took us to concerts, plays, and sporting events. I miss the power seats, weather center, and storage space. It did not matter where I was sitting, I was comfortable and felt safe mile after mile.

We bought our van used, after an exhaustive search for just the right van, not only locally, but in several cities much larger than ours. It felt like the right decision. One day, early in our ownership, I started the van to go somewhere and I heard a dinging sound. I was totally clueless to the meaning of this gentle ding. I had no idea if it was a good sound or a disastrous sound. I did not even know if the van might be unsafe to drive. Was something going to explode? Was some unknown part going to drop off while I was driving somewhere? Was it some signal for something that I needed to know?

The van came with a CD instruction manual, not one in written form. I had not listened to the CD and had no idea if the sound I heard would be explained on it or not. I turned off the van and sat for a moment, looking around at gauges and knobs, wondering what to do and feeling rather stupid. I started the van a second time, paying closer attention to the dashboard of the vehicle and. Priced that as the same dinging sound occurred, a small symbol looking like a gas pump lit up.

BINGO! I now understood what the warning sound meant. I was low on fuel. My gas tank had less than a quarter of a tank of gasoline.

What a relief. That was a situation I knew how to handle and I did.

Later as I pondered the warning signs of low fuel for our van, I thought about the need for me to have a similar warning system when my spiritual tank is running low. I believe it would simplify my life immensely if I were able to hear the gentle dinging that says, "You are getting close to be empty of spiritual reservoirs. It is time to refill your tank." I learned that the warning light remained on while the engine was running until I filled the tank with gasoline. The warning sounded every time I started the engine until I added more fuel. The van's system knew the truth and could not be fooled. I could postpone adding fuel, but only for a limited time. Eventually, the van would stop functioning and everyone inside knew it. We coasted into a service station in Nevada, watching the fuel center hit the number one, meaning there was fuel left for one mile and no more.

I used to think often of the lesson my fuel warning system taught me. But during the passage of time that lesson faded until a week ago when I sat absorbing The General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Mesmerized through the first two sessions listening to prophets and apostles of God teach,  I arose to prepare food when my own personal fuel warning system sounded. I clearly heard my warning system indicate that I was 'spiritually starving to death.'

What a wake up call. I am really working on scripture study and personal prayer, yet I am starving to death spiritually. What I am doing is not enough. I must do more. It must become a bigger priority in my life.

While I do not yet know all the fixes yet, I am working on discovering them. I am making adjustments. I am doing more.

Years ago I learned an important lesson from the fuel warning system of a vehicle, which faded subtly into forgetfulness. The whispering of the Holy Ghost were quiet, yet profoundly loud in my mind and I my heart.

The Holy Ghost is truly a powerful, personal warning system.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Change

Life can certainly change in a heartbeat for anyone. I think I forget that sometimes. But today there was a reminder that came and stared me in the face.

My phone rang early. After chatting with my son for a bit, I asked what was new in his life.  He had called to share the news that someone we have both known for many years had died last night. The person who died actually lives in the town I live in, not where my son lives. I wondered how he had gotten his information. The word spread on Facebook.

The man who died was really not that old, 69. He had, however had a very challenging time, mentally for over two years. A couple of different diagnoses were offered, but the bottom line is that for whatever reason, he had dementia. His family worked hard to provide good care for him as long as they could keep him in his own home. One of his daughters took a hardship semester off from her studies at a university and came home to help out. But eventually, it became necessary for him to have more specialized care.

The last few weeks have been difficult as his family has had decisions to make regarding his care again. For him to stay locally and receive the specific care he needed was simply not affordable. He was in a facility an hour and a half away, temporarily, until something more suited to his needs could be located. His wife has had so much to deal with, yet has risen to each occasion with faith, courage, and kindness. Though burdened and frustrated, she was not angry. She did not place blame on anyone's shoulders. She just collected information and worked to solve each problem, as they came.

She was truly his advocate.

In a matter of hours, this father of nine slipped through the veil into heaven and his family's lives will never be the same.

I have thought about this family today. My heart is filled with sympathy for them. And yet I also believe that there is life after this life. I believe that Heavenly Father is in charge of this world and the next. He knows His children and loves them. There is a plan for each of us and when it is time for us to leave this world, Heavenly Father calls us home.

Because I believe, I am also feeling gratitude for this family's blessing. Their husband and father, who has been burdened with a mind that did not function well anymore, has been released from bondage. His aging body is now replaced with one that functions easily, pain free. He has graduated from the education of earth life and moved on.

I cannot imagine how difficult it has been for my friend to watch her husband suffer and fail. Each visit is a reminder of what is lost. Grief and mourning for the loved one are often present. Loneliness for the companionship and support once present, but now gone, is huge. She spoke of the loss of communication and the challenge of having no one to help her make decisions anymore.

Because of her faith, my friend will continue to carry on as she has in the past. I do not suppose it will be easy. But I know she will.

And she will succeed.

Because she also believes.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Harvest

This morning the air outside feels different and the wind is whipping leaves through the air. I suppose it had to come sometime, but I am not sure I am ready for the beginning of the colder weather where I live. It has been a truly beautiful fall. The leaves have gently turned in their vibrant green summery clothes for red, yellow, and orange dresses. This morning they are dancing along the grass, blowing into the windows, and flying from yard to yard.

The raindrops come and one wonders if snow will be close behind.

We have already begun the fall clean up and been visited by Jack Frost. Our garden is nearly bare of vegetation, though somehow the weeds survive almost any kind of attempt at intervention. The tomatoes are now in jars, ready for another day. I pickled dozens of cucumbers. We ate all our fresh green peas. The red potatoes have been filling our plates and our bellies for months now. We ate all the corn, gathered the squash and devoured the strawberries and raspberries. My husband even dug our carrot crop. I think that there were five of them. Not bad when you consider that we planted them twice!

I enjoyed the harvest of the garden that we planted five-ish months ago. It is such a learning lesson to plant the seeds that turn into the food that we eat. A waxy store tomato never tastes as good as one fresh from the garden. Fresh corn tastes far superior to any that has been canned or frozen. A garden cucumber is almost as good as a candy bar. Almost.

There are things we do not try to grow anymore. Failures taught us that broccoli did not grow here without the companionship of little lovely, green, wormy caterpillars. Though I thought I had picked them clean, I found floating little, cooked worms which seemed so unappealing to me. Cauliflower was also not a success. We have had minimal success with melons as well.

For several years we purchased cucumbers plants, growing and healthy and put them in the ground to die. No matter what, they just did. Then we would go to the store. Buy some cucumber seed. Replant. We got smart. Now we skip right to the plant the seeds in the ground step. Saves on frustration.

There is much to learn about life from the law of the harvest as well. The scriptures teach us that we reap what we sow. I want to take that too literally sometimes. I want the harvest to be immediate. When I work hard, I want to see the fruits quickly, patting me on the back. When I sow seeds of kindness, I am stunned to have those seeds sprayed with rudeness and discourtesy. After planting creative seeds, I would really appreciate someone acknowledging that what I have created is at least sort of tolerable. When I go out of my way to serve someone, I would like to be shown appreciation in return.

But sometimes the law of the harvest has a slower timetable. The returns do not always come in this life. Because of the law of agency, we cannot control how anyone else will react to the seeds we choose to sow. There is no guarantee that anyone will see my acts of service or kindness the same as I do. They may not appreciate my efforts at all.

Sometimes it is a challenge to not become cynical, deciding to dish out what seems to come my way. It is hard to control my tongue and sometimes my tears. For a moment it seems that it would feel better if I return in kind what is given me.

In weakness, I confess I sometimes do.

But I am trying to hold on. I want to plant the seeds that will pay dividends of eternal worth. I am grasping onto the words of the Master who promises that He who knows all is an honest paymaster and always pays His debts. I believe Heavenly Father sees things so differently than I do that He will know how to make all the things that seem so wrong for the moment seem so right. I believe that holding on to faith in Jesus Christ and His Infinite Atonement with all my heart will help me conquer the stains of my own sins.

I believe that someday the Master of the harvest truly will see that what as we sow, we shall reap.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Friendship

I hear that life is busy from almost everyone. I believe it is really true. I find I can always be busy too. It is not hard. There are so many things available to do, to see, to read, to go to, and to participate in, that it can simply be overwhelming just to think about it all. Making choices of what to do and when to do it, seem to be an almost full time job. Sometimes choosing what not to do is even harder.

Today I am wondering about choices a little bit. I realized today that I needed to let go of another friendship. At least I thought it was a friendship. But it occurred to me that I was perhaps the only one who did. I have kept investing my time, energy, concern, and caring into another person. Today, it occurred to me that perhaps I was the only one who cared enough to do that. It made me sad to realize that I only hear from this friend when she needs something from me. It has not always been that way. But now it really is.

I really do not know when it changed and I certainly do not know why. Except that I hear again how busy life is. My guess is that she will never even notice that things are different. She will also not know how hurt I am at this moment. Because I believe that we each already have a different view of what our relationship is.

I remember many years ago when someone commented to me that we wear our busyness like a badge of honor. In our minds, it makes us seem and feel more important to be busy or at least to be able to tell others how busy we are. After all, how valuable and important is someone who is not busy? I thought a lot about those words then and decided that I did not think I wanted to 'wear busyness as a badge of honor' to indicate to those around me that I was too busy to be kind or too busy to help or too busy to listen.

What is it that fills life so full that we are really too busy to be available for a friend? or a sister? or a neighbor?

When someone is in need, am I really too busy to be there for them or has busyness become a quick, easy, and automatic excuse that is given?

All these thoughts and more have crossed my mind as I realized, again, how few people I really have in my life who care genuinely about me. My phone rarely rings unless someone has something that they want from me, to help them out. I cannot remember the last time someone called me, just to see how I was.

I was reminded of my friend again who wanted to spend time with a sibling who lived far away. They would be in town and called to arrange a time. Turned out the sibling was just too busy. Sorry. My friend was pretty hurt by that experience. She would have loved to make time to see this same person if the tables were turned, she told me. I know that she would. She would have cancelled almost anything that would interfere with even a short visit.

Many people still would. But it seems that there are far fewer people that are willing to cancel or reschedule things in their life to accommodate the needs of others. They are just too busy!

I am certain that I too am guilty of this exact same thing. I can easily get caught up in my own world and my own projects and my own problems. I always have a book to read. I always have a quilt project to work on. I always have laundry to do and a house to clean. My work is never done!

But are those always the most important things to be doing, really?

I wonder.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Words

Two years ago I played the piano for the children in our church as they participated in a church meeting with short talks and many songs. These children had practiced for many months to sing these songs for the congregation. They had been taught much about what the songs meant. This was their opportunity to share their budding testimonies of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. I spent hours practicing with the children as they prepared to sing. The rehearsal held the day before the program seemed long and difficult as bugs and kinks were worked out. Children grew restless and weary. Teachers and leaders also tired of the challenge of rehearsal. But on Sunday when it was their turn to speak and sing for their parents, the children gave all they had. They sang and smiled. They spoke with faith and testimony. They even sat with a little more reverence.

My performance at the piano was less than perfect. I did the best I could, but perfection, it was not. I was keenly aware of my own mistakes and allowed a certain amount of insecurity and self criticism to enter. Escaping from the chapel quickly, I breathed a huge sigh of relief, moving on with other responsibilities of that particular day, trying to shake off my own, obvious to me, public musical errors.

Someone, whose opinion was quite important to me, totally dismissed the effort I had given at the piano. While the program was totally about the children, I too had given my all. I had spent just as much time preparing as any child. I had spent hours writing musical bridges from song to song, attempting to create smooth musical transitions. For some this is a simple task, but for me it was difficult. Though lacking perfection, I guess I believed my efforts perhaps had earned some words of acknowledgement.

I was wrong.

The dismissive words I heard sunk deep into my heart, ripping and tearing at my self esteem. I was stunned and crushed at the attitude of this person whose opinion of the program was simply that it was way to long. Not one word of kindness, support, or acknowledgement of anything anyone had done or said that was worthwhile. It sounded as if the entire program was simply a complete waste of time.

I did not initially realize how cutting the attitude and words really were to my soul. Wounded I buried them deep, hoping that their pain would dissipate in time. I continued to play the piano for the children every Sunday as they sang until a new assignment was given. I tried to play my best each week, concerned that nothing I did would distract from what these little ones were learning. I moved on to play the piano for the women of our congregation. Again, trying to give the best I could give. I arrived early to play prelude and instead of visiting after meetings, I was at the piano playing postlude, week after week.

But I did not play the piano at home anymore. The joy was gone. The music of my soul had died. My piano was only opened when someone else wanted to play; a son, a daughter, a grandchild. If pianos have feelings, I suppose mine felt ignored because it was. Occasionally someone has asked me to play for them to sing. I opened my piano to practice and rehearse. Then closed it was, until the next time. My granddaughter asked me to play a piano solo for her baptism earlier this year. I could not tell her no. Again I opened the piano and began to prepare. Finding nothing that felt just right for her, I selected and arranged familiar, appropriate music, just for her. I spent hours preparing to give my best.

Then the piano closed, again. For months.

Again, I have played only when asked to by others. Not for me.

Crossing the imagined barrier has been a difficult journey for me. There is still heartache and sorrow surrounding this experience. It may not ever totally disappear. But I decided to no longer be controlled by the words I heard. I have recently reopened my piano and begun to play.

It is a difficult barrier to cross, for me. The message I received was that playing the piano was a complete waste of time. While there is no possible way for me to know what was intended, I clearly understood that I had no talent or skill and should stop wasting time.

As I have opened up this painful wound, begun to drain out the puss, and remembered, I have wondered why we choose to be so unkind to others. When we really know that none of us is perfect, why are we so anxious to point it out to each other. Sometimes the words we speak are clearly painful. Sometimes the hurt comes because of the words we choose not to speak. We withhold compliments, controlling them with an eye dropper. Praise can be painful to give. Because we are so human, we often fear that by elevating others a notch or two, our position is lowered. We seem so concerned with not letting anyone acquire any sense of pride that we keep them ground to a powder of nothingness.

The truth is that no matter what it is that I might think I am fairly good at, there will always be someone who is better. Though my house is often fairly clean, I have a sister whose home will always be cleaner. While I can write a musical bridge with blood, sweat, and tears I have a brother who can whip out a five minuter. While I take a stab a writing occasionally, my sister is published. While I have a modicum of musical skill, I have a brother who was a music teacher. Each of my children is smarter than I am, thank heavens. I hope they will also be much richer as well. Someone will always be faster, smarter, or stronger. Someone will always read it better, sacrifice more, pray more fervently, and spend more time serving. There will always be a better teacher, quilter, organizer, and piano player.

Because none of us knows what burdens another is carrying, we have no way of knowing how our words may cause them pain.

Today I want to choose more carefully. I know I need the help of heaven on this quest.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

We have a cute, lovable older couple in our neighborhood who are pretty much home bound because of health issues. Their children live far enough away that they can only visit on weekends. They help with chores and grocery shopping, and other immediate needs. These neighbors have some help from the medical community and occasionally this couple calls on neighbors for help, but mostly they seem to take care of each other. In visiting with the wife last week, she expressed concern about getting their cornstalks into the garbage, so I decided I could help them out with that. So I hauled my freshly emptied garbage can to their back yard to load in their cornstalks, to be surprised by the husband hollering at me not to do that. Stunned I listened to him and sheepishly drug home my garbage can, a bit puzzled I carried on with my day.

Seems like that was the beginning of days filled with challenges and annoyances.

Does it ever feel like no matter how hard one tries to serve and work hard and sacrifice, the only thing one can see coming back in their direction is unpleasant, challenging, or disappointing?  Seems a little bit that way to me since the cornstalk incident.

One thing after another has seemed to attach itself negatively to my life. I keep working at shaking them off, but when I stubbed my toes on the corner of the cabinet early this morning, after dragging myself out of bed, sick, to fix my husband breakfast, it seemed like the last straw. In my mind I heard the words 'no good deed goes unpunished.' I think that might really be how I feel right now.

Now I am certain that my list of difficulties and disappointments will seem like nothing to others, but they are mine and I intend to whine about them for a moment or two. Fixed a meal, took over an hour, someone turned up their nose at it. Went to a meeting that is usually valuable, uplifting, and enriching. Instead it was long, drawn out, discouraging and disappointing. Expressed interest and concern over someone's life. Received hostility in return. Major challenge with husband's employment. Several nights of little or no sleep. Several days of sickness.  Spent hours working on a gift for someone. Now that it is done, don't like it much. Probably won't give it as a gift. Worked on a simple sewing project for someone else. Picked part of it out three different times. Took hours to finish. Was not all that proud of it when it was done either. Because my refrigerator has an unpleasant odor, cleaned it out. Still stinks! Cross words with someone. Spent several hours reading a book before it hit me, I do not want to read this book. Delivered several items to someone as a service. First thing I heard back was that I forgot something she wanted. Struggling really hard with the preparation of a lesson for Sunday. Gave into temptation and ate chocolate donuts, yes, more than one.

There are more, but it just feels like I cannot do anything right now that does not have a negative impact. Simple things go wrong. Quick things take long. Kindness seems to backfire. Service seems unappreciated.

If I continue to dwell on all the negative things in my life, I know it will continue to drag me down. It will muddle my thinking, discourage me, and keep me from putting one foot in front of the other-trying to move forward.

Truth is I am very blessed. I have a roof over my head and food on my table. We do not live in a cardboard box. We are not homeless. While I cannot have everything I want, I have everything I need. No one in my family has been in a car accident. No one is in the hospital. We have the ability to purchase groceries, because my husband is employed. I have a house that is warm and plumbing that bring us water. I have access to a car that can take me where I need to go. I have working appliances and technology at my fingertips. I have faith in Heavenly Father and in His Son Jesus Christ. I have access to his word through scriptures and living prophets.  Where I live is relatively safe. We are not plagued with tornadoes or hurricanes. We are not surrounded by warfare, bombs, or missiles  in our neighborhood nor have I had to send my children off to war.

This list could also go on and is actually much longer than my list of difficulties and disappointments.   I want to refocus and see these things.

But maybe I will do that tomorrow, I think that for today, I will eat another chocolate donut and crawl back into my bed.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Blessing of Tithing

Today I visited with my daughter by telephone.  What a treat!  She is far away and thanks to the miracle of telephones we can talk and share and laugh and complain to each other.  And we did!

This life brings us all challenges.  They don't all come wrapped in the same kind of paper or packaged in the same size box, but they come.  Different seasons of life bring different kinds of trials but I don't know of anyone who has escaped difficulties in life.

As we visited, I was reminded of a lesson I learned many years ago about my own trials. Life seemed to be a constant financial battle for my family. My husband worked as a teacher and though he worked long hard hours, his salary rarely seemed enough to provide for our family of eight. We did the best we could but discouragement and disappointment seemed frequent visitors.

We attended our church meetings regularly, serving as best as we could to build the kingdom of God. We sacrificed our time and grew our talents as we organized meetings and taught lessons. Because we have seen miracles happen by living the law of tithing, we faithfully continued to pay an honest tithe every month. It was always the first check written and we lived on what was left. Deductions for taxes and health insurance seemed to shrink our income before our very eyes. At times what was left just could not cover our normal living expenses.

Because of our faith in Heavenly Father and His son Jesus Christ, we forged ahead month after month, paying our tithing in full to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. We placed our faith and trust in God that we would be taken care of. We worked our hearts out in serving where we were asked to serve and I waited for the miracles to pour forth upon us.

During a particularly trying financial struggle, my faith begin to lag and I began to wonder where our tithing miracles were. Why were they not showing up at my door and filling my life with new found financial ease? Where were the tithing blessings?

It was long enough ago that I do not remember how much I whined and complained to Heavenly Father. But I am certain that I squawked plenty. But still no large sums of money arrived in my mailbox. The monthly paycheck did not grow. Expenses did not stop coming. I could not understand. I was doing all I knew how to do.

Picking up a pen and paper I began to calculate the cold cruel reality of our situation. On paper there was simply no way to make ends meet. I began to explore again the possibility of getting a job which would require day care expenses for two children. I calculated and juggled numbers. I could see that my working would probably only net an additional $100.00 a month, if things went well. It was never worth it to me to send my children to day care for that small sum so I picked up my chin and went back to work cooking from scratch, baking our own bread, cutting our hair, and doing all I could think of to stretch our meager funds.

One day as I stood on my front steps, listening to the woes of another mother, my miracle happened. No money was involved. Our circumstances had not changed. But my perspective did. This mother was telling me about the car accident her teenage son had just been involved in. He was not seriously injured, but had required some hospitalization. The car was totaled. It was not his first accident that year. Another son had also totaled another vehicle. Financially they were reeling and her concern for the safety of her teenage drivers was now huge.

It was then that Heavenly Father taught my much needed lesson. "You are looking in the wrong place for tithing blessings." My mind filled with understanding that my teenage drivers were safe, unharmed because of faithful payment of tithing. Not only had we not incurred additional financial liabilities because of wrecked automobiles, our insurance was not being increased. But most importantly, my children were being watched over and protected.

What a humbling moment for me as I recalled my whining, complaining, and questioning of Heavenly Father. I would gladly trade the safety and protection of our children for money any day, without any doubt.

My heart still fills with gratitude to this day as I think of the lesson I learned. Heavenly Father does not see as I see, with limited vision. He sees all and knows all.

Thank Heavens!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

All Over the World

There is a climate of unrest and fear all over the world. So many seem dissatisfied with life. Rebellion is widespread. Seems that everyone wants change. Within the confines of my own country, the words leaders say to, and about each other appear arrogant and demeaning. Words are casually tossed about without any appearance of concern for how they sound or what they mean. Sometimes the words they speak actually seem to diminish the speaker. Rumors and mistrust are rampant. Leaders have ravaged the coffers and trust of the common man. In a nation where government of the people, by the people, and for the people seems to be in serious jeopardy, one would wonder, how bad could this get?

Yet, there must be hope among us. I have listened to the words of prophets, apostles, seers, and revelators who addressed audiences all over the world through the General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in recent days. Members of this church sustain fifteen men to lead, teach, and receive revelation for us today. These men walk the walk and talk the talk as best as they are able, that Jesus Christ would have them speak. They are men of honor, integrity, and humility.

I was privileged to hear the words of each of these men as well as talks from other wise, honorable men and women who also prepared to teach through fasting, study, and prayer. I was spiritually fed words of faith, hope, comfort, joy, and peace. I had not realized that my spirit was so near to starvation, until midway through this conference. I soaked up the words and bathed in inspired music.

Much of what we hear from conference is really not new. We have been told before to be kind, considerate, patient, and tolerant. Prophets have taught for generations that we should be prepared for any emergency as much as we are able. I grew up with food storage. It is not a new idea to be good neighbors or to honor the differing beliefs of others. Certainly repentance is not reserved for our day. We hear again and again that we need to read the scriptures and get on our knees and pray. Meekness and humility are taught in the bible.

I must need to hear it all again, since I am still a work in  progress. The Savior has taught that we must be as He is. I hope I am somewhere on that road to becoming, but I may still just be inches from the start. Certain that I need reminders and wake up calls and blaring truth, I listen and read the revelations again and again. I have miles to go, but I am willing to try. For me General Conference is not just about reminders and instructions. There are moments of praise, encouragement, and cheer leading as we are reminded how truly blessed we are. They rejoice with us in small victories.

All over the world there are men, women, and children who are suffering. They are lost and feel overwhelming hopelessness as they navigate a difficult life without faith in the Savior Jesus Christ. They have never heard of The Atonement. They have no idea that Heavenly Father loves them. The Holy Ghost is unheard of. They feel abandoned and alone.

I was struck by what I did not hear in General Conference. Even though our government is in 'shutdown' mode, I did not hear any words of fear or panic. In fact, I did not hear a single one of these well prepared speakers mention a single word about the situation of the government of our nation. I did not hear one word of criticism or fault finding with leaders who some may consider to be self serving. I did not hear anyone tell us to rise up in rebellion against our government or the leaders of any land. I did not hear cautions to store up weapons or flee to the hills. Even though we were taught that we needed to be prepared, I felt it was more about our own personal, spiritual preparation.

All over the world there is dissatisfaction and turmoil. But I did not hear any mention that it was time to rise up and rebel. Instead, I heard words of peace and righteousness, kindness and consideration, hope and faith. Instead of teaching it was time to look out for number one, there was counsel to go out and serve. Instead of words that it is time to arm ourselves to fight the enemies who attack our country, I heard it was time to use the tools of prayer and scripture study to prepare to battle the evils of Satan with righteousness. Instead of creating a panic for improved food storage there were words of encouragement to spend more time storing up treasures of knowledge and faith.

When newscasters make it sound like the sky is falling in and commentators talk in rhetoric, when leaders talk in jargon and misconception, when mind games and deception seem to be the conversation of the day, we shake our heads in confusion. We ask ourselves, "Who do I believe?" As fear rises and we feel there is no one left to trust, we can remind ourselves that we can always trust in God and those He has called to lead and teach and bless.

All over the world, the words of prophets and apostles still sing with clarity and truth. All over the world God's children hold on with faith and hope. All over the world men, women, and children unite their voices in prayer and praise to Heavenly Father, His Beloved Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost who walk with us daily as we attempt to navigate the quagmire of confusion and the quicksand of despair.