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

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Memorial Day

Cemeteries have often gotten a bad rap in scary movies. Ghost, ghouls and goblins reside there and chase away unsuspecting persons who enter. Haunting music sends chills up and down the spine as these now frightened victims run screaming from the premises. It makes for thrilling viewing, sometimes anyway, but is not my experience.

We gathered our flowers and visited three cemeteries on Memorial Day to contemplate and appreciate those family members who went before us and created such a good life for us. It is a time to be grateful for our parents who served and sacrificed for us.  nd to miss them.

My parents have now been gone for ten years. They were both amazing people who married young with almost nothing and worked hard to create opportunities for each other and their children. They stood firm in their testimonies of the Savior Jesus Christ and followed His example. They served others with their hearts and souls. They loved their community and believed in supporting it with their time and their business. They gave their all to so many causes, because they believed in them.

Their examples continue as a guiding star today.

My mother told me that her parents did everything they could to keep them apart when they were young and dating.  But once they were married they did everything that they could to help them succeed. Our parents did the same for us. I am grateful for my parents who loved, supported, and helped us for their entire lives.

My grandparents are some of my favorite people. They blessed my life with their goodness.  My Grandmother Heiner was a beautiful, well educated, refined city girl thrust into the rural Idaho desert among relatives who resented her beauty and education. They were not kind or even friendly to her. I imagine her life was difficult and lonely. My heart aches for her. What a relief it must have been for her to escape her tormentors.

My Grandmother Wilcox worked magic with her treadle sewing machine. She could make that machine whirl with her strong legs. She turned out many a quilt made with love and care. She fed the hungry and clothed the naked.

These women were genteel and without guile. They were kind and caring. Today, I retain a vision of them in my mind and my heart, leading and guiding me. Someday I hope to be a little more like them

Memorial Day was a big deal when I was growing up. We grew and gathered our own flowers to decorate the graves. We were up, cleaned, and ready to head to the cemeteries early. Folding chairs were an essential for those who would need a place to sit. We spent the day. Friends and relatives from near and far gathered to the cemetery to remember and to honor their loved ones. We helped to clean up the headstone and the surrounding ground.

Many of those who traveled only gathered this one time each year. Tears were shed and lives relived. My grandmothers embraced long lost relatives and rarely seen friends. It was a day to look to the past, to catch up on the present, and to plan for the future. Even with failing health, few willingly missed Memorial Day.

We did not see any of our relatives this year on Memorial Day. We did not share our memories. We did not catch up on each other's lives. We did not spend the day. We listened to the birds and watched the flags wave in the breeze. We thought of those  who gave their lives for our freedom. We talked of how long our loved ones have been gone. We looked at the flowers and the other large gatherings of families celebrating the lives of their loved one.

We talked a bit about our loved ones, honoring them in our hearts and remembering that they would most be honored by the way we choose to live our lives. Every Day. I hope that they won't be disappointed.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Room and Time

With all of the busyness of our lives, do we ever stop and wonder what it is that is making us so busy?  Do we ever really think about how we might be making others feel with our busy attitudes?  Do we really prioritize our busyness correctly?  Do we let the most important things go, while devoting our time to things of lesser consequence?

The truth is that most of us would not make the same choices day by day, even if our lives were exactly the same.  Our interests, talents, and desires are simply not the same.  So then it becomes a bit of a challenge to figure out what we really should be doing and when.

Several years ago I had the privilege to learn an important truth from Julie B. Beck who was then serving as the General Relief Society President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Sister Beck said she is often asked a great number of questions by women all over the world.  She is not always able to answer them immediately or adequately. She writes them down and prays about them so she can answer in Heavenly Father's way. On this particular occasion, she was sharing a number of frequently asked questions with in depth answers.

One of the most frequently asked questions she received was should women work outside the home.  With great emphasis, Sister Beck responded that this is the wrong question to ask.  Instead we should be asking, am I aligned with the vision that Heavenly Father has of me?  Am I becoming who He needs me to become? Am I fulfilling the non-negotiable duties that he gave me? The answers to those questions will not be the same for each of us.  We may not even receive the same answer at different seasons of our lives.

Those are difficult questions to ask, because that means we are willing to receive the answers and mold our lives to fit the answers.  It is much easier to just create our lives and then hope that Hewvenly Father is ok with our choices.

Recently I had the opportunity to hear Heidi Swinton share what she learned as she prepared to write a biography of President Thomas S. Monson.  She spent a great deal of time with him.  She saw him in differing settings and situations.  She watched a true disciple of Jesus Christ as he followed in Christ's footsteps and ministered to others.  She shared many experiences that she witnessed as well as experinces others had freely shared with her.

Then Sister Swinton taught the principles that she learned from a prophet of God.  As we strive to become disciples of The Savior, we need to make room for Him in our hearts.  It does not just occur.  We must make a place for Him and welcome Him in.  Of course some of that requires us to study and learn of Him.  It requires us to focus our minds and our hearts on who He is and how He lived and how He served others.

The second thing we need to do is to make time in our lives.  We need to make time in our lives to serve others as he would if Christ would of He here.  We need to open our eyes and our hearts to see the needs of others.  We need to listen to the quiet whisperings of the Holy Ghost as he teaches us where we need to be, what we need to do, and who we need to become.  We may need to change our schedules or our attitudes.  We may need to change our priorities and our hearts.

Her words have blessed my life as I have tried to be more aware of others and their needs.  I have tried to see into the eyes and hearts of others.  It has taken effort for me as I work on this process of looking outward.

An acquaintance recently did something bothersome in a public setting.  My first, selfish thought was that I wanted to throttle her, but as I approached her, I could see that something was terribly wrong. So we walked to a private place and chatted for a time, until she felt better. And we parted as friends.

For me making room in my heart and time in my life will be a lifelong quest.  But I am working on it everyday.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Badge of Honor

Some years ago a friend commented that many people "wear their busyness like a badge of honor."  I thought about that a great deal at the time.  I examined my own life to see if that was me she was speaking about.  Probably it was.

When we tell others how busy we are, we might be telling them how important we are, because we do so many things.  We might be telling them how much of a difference we are making in this world.  We may actually be elevating ourselves above others with our busyness.  We may in fact also be putting down someone else who hears our long list of busyness and accomplishments.  They may walk away after hearing how busy and important we are, feeling very much like a failure.

It may be that as we share our list of things that keep us so busy, we may also be telling someone why we do not have any free time to be a friend, or listen, or to serve.  It is an easy out.  All one has to say is "I am too busy."  It might be rather awkward to come right out and say, "I am too busy to be compassionate for a few minutes so I won't even ask you how you are.  I do not really want to know, because then I might have to spend a few minutes and wonder if there is something that I might need to do to help you."  It is just easier to begin with our busy attitude that closes the door to compassion.

Sometimes busyness protects us from doing something that we really do not want to do.  It may be something unpleasant or even something that is way out of our comfort zone.  It is easier to say I am too busy than to say, "What are you kidding me!  I hate stuff like that."

When the phone rings, we brace ourselves, ready to retreat into our busyness the minute someone asks something of us.  It does not matter who it is or what they want, we are mentally preparing our list of things we must do so that we are prepared to respond quickly and decisively that we are simply too busy at this time.  But, thanks for asking!

Recently I asked someone to substitute for me, to play the piano when I needed to be out of town.  Her voice instantly told me her level of total un-enthusiasm. There was no mistaking it. I wished I had not asked and simply replied that if it was something that she didn't want to do, she could certainly tell me no.  I would not be offended and would find someone else. Though she too was busy, she agreed to accept my request.  She even thanked me for giving her the opportunity, after she had played the piano for me.

How many opportunities do we miss because we are too busy being busy.

Busyness is a good excuse to not do so many things.  I can't provide food for a funeral luncheon because I am too busy.  I cannot help with community service because I am too busy.  I won't be able to attend your meeting, party, or whatever because I am too busy. I am too busy to listen.  I am too busy to care. I am too busy to be kind.

Does our busyness become a habit?  We just spout that out the minute we have a conversation.  We have to put that out there first so that everyone else knows not to ask anything of us.  It is a shield to protect our precious time.  We immediately put up our gaurd armed with a long list of things we are already doing, hoping it will scare away any possible offers for assistance that might be coming our way.

Today I had a conversation with someone in my neighborhood. We don't often see each other but this person made an effort to visit with me.  With places to go and things to do, there was time for a neighbor to stop and talk for a few mintues.  How kind it was to actaully make the time to be friendly and care about someone else. Our conversation reminded me of that long ago person who tried to teach me about wearing our "busyness as a badge of honor."  That act of kindness opened my heart just a little bit to be more aware of others that I might need to make time for.

Heavenly Father has set the example for us.  I can call anytime and anywhere to Him.  I can speak the words out loud or only in my heart or mind.  I can be sitting, standing, kneeling, riding in a car, or laying down. I can be warm and comfortable or in terrible trouble.  Praying works when I am alone or in a crowd.  He is always there.  I never get a busy signal.  He doesn't start out our coversation with "Could you hurry it along please.  I have a long list of things that I need to do today." Never once has he said to me, "Get in line. There are dozens ahead of you."

Yes, there really are reasons why can't do everything all of the time. But thankfully our loving Heavenly Father doesn't wear His busyness as a badge of honor.

Monday, May 20, 2013

A Forgiving Heart

The scriptures teach that we are required to forgive.  It is not an option.  That is one of the things that we are on earth to learn to do.  Further, we will be forgiven as we forgive others.  My mind understands this concept but my heart is lagging a long way behind.  I cannot logically explain why this principle is so difficult at times for me.  I am amazed by many examples that can be seen in the world, those who have been the victims of horrible crimes, who just forgive because it is the right thing to do.  In my eyes, these are true disciples of Jesus Christ. And I really want to be just like them.

I want a forgiving heart.

I wish they could share their magic formula with me.  I need to know how it works.  I feel like I work at it all the time.  But how do you know when you get there, to that place of forgiveness, complete and unquestionable?

My mind also knows that forgiveness is a blessing for the one who gives it.  It frees up a lot of time.  But more importantly, it frees up a lot of mental, emotional, and spiritual energy to pursue other spiritual roads.  Imagine how many other spiritual truths could be learned if one is not reliving and rebandaging the same old wounds over and over again.

On the surface, it seems like such a simple principle.  But how does the process really work? I have read and pondered and prayed, asking for heavenly guidance and instruction.  I have listened to the wisdom of those who know.  I really want to develop a forgiving heart.

I think that I have often been the victim of misconceptions about forgiveness, believing that if I could still remember the offense, I had not forgiven.  But that may not be true.  I have been shocked by my stove many a time.  I do not hold any grudges or refuse to use it, but I am more careful, aiming to avoid being zapped again.  Would I be wise to forget that the stove has the capability to shock me?  Does Heavenly Father really want us to forget someone who has harmed us?  Should we continue to put ourselves in danger?

Sometimes we need to forgive those who have broken our trust. How many times can our trust be broken and we just forget and trust again? Are we supposed to forget that they cannot be trusted and allow them to continue to damage us as they continue to demonstrate lack of trust?  I do not know the answers to these questions.  I wish I did.

A friend told me several years ago that she hoped she would give anyone and everyone a second chance. No questions asked. Everyone deserves an opportunity to try again.  She also believed that she would offer anyone an additional chance.  Mistakes happen and we are all so very human.  But then she said she felt that if they valued her so little that they would continue to repeat offensive or untrustworthy behavior after being given two chances to try again, she believed she would discontinue that association.

How many chances are we required to give?  How many times should we willingly put ourselves in danger of mistreatment?

How does one know when forgiveness is complete?

Jesus Christ freely gave us all the gift of the Atonement which allows us all to choose to repent and access forgiveness.  I have done nothing to merit His gift.  Why then is it so difficult for me to freely give the gift of forgivenesso others?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

My Grandchildren's Mothers

The world we live in today is very different than the world of my youth.  Much of it is wonderful, exciting, and inviting.  Technology changes in the blink of an eye.  I resisted cell phones for a long time, but now that cell phone is antiquated.  It has no camera or Internet capabilities.  I almost never text and on those rare occasions, it takes me forever.  I watch others whose fingers fly across the keyboard in amazement. My grandchildren can use an iPhone, kindle, computer, or iPad without fear or intimidation.  They speak the language of devices fluently and I need lessons.

I grew up in a world where motherhood was considered to be important and worthwhile.  Few mothers worked, choosing instead to teach and take care of their own children.  It was an honorable thing to do.  Mothers participated in PTA meetings and volunteered in the classrooms.  They still held quilting bees and sewing circles.  Woman helped each other out in many ways, tending each others children, driving in carpools, swapping garden produce, and even canning together.  They listened to each other and leaned on each other.

There were no hard and fast rules written anywhere, but during my lifetime, fewer and fewer women have made a decision to remain at home to raise, teach and love their own children.  Daycare has taken over that role for many women.  I am not attempting to judge or condemn anyone or their choices.  I am instead only desirous of offering praise and appreciation for the mothers of my grandchildren. I consider it one of my choicest blessings that each of these precious children lives in a home where they have both a father and a mother.  They live in a home where their lives are blessed by mothers who have chosen to sacrifice education and careers for motherhood.  When they arise in the morning, their mother is there.  When they come home from school, their mother is there. When they are sick, their mother is there.

Mere words seem very inadequate.  How can I put into words how much I mean these word, thank you?

I believe this is very rare, and I am grateful.  Another woman once told me that she would never have chosen to go to work if her husband had ever considered what she did in their home important.  She raised five children.  How sad that he did not value her service and example in their home.  So, with that in mind, to my sons and sons-in-law I also express my appreciation and praise for providing financial support so that the mothers of your children can be exactly where they need to be.  Thank you for supporting, encouraging, and helping your wives in their role as nurturer.  They need to hear your words of appreciation, suuport,  and encouragement. They need to know that what they do is truly important and that you value them and what they do.

I don't think you can ever show them enough appreciation or give them too much support!

Believe me, I know full time motherhood is not always easy. When everyone else around you lives a lifestyle that seems so different, it is difficult not to wonder or compare.  When there is never enough money to go around, doubt creeps in. When finances are near desperation, panic pours in. On days when children are less than cooperative and you would sell them free to the first peddlar who darkens your door, you question your own sanity.  Some days you feel like this bumper sticker that says, "If a woman's place is in the home, why am I always in the car?"  When everyone in the family has been sick for more than a week, including you, you feel like you might cream if you don't get out of the house for a little while.  When little bodies are starving and they tell you repeatedly, in less than kind ways, you want to huddle under the covers in your bed with your bedroom door locked.  When you finally get a five second potty break and all the little bodies join you or pound on the door, you wonder why you even considered taking the break in the first place.

Some days you wonder if there really is a shower in your home and wish you could make the time to find it.  There are nights of missed sleep and lost patience as you help with that unfinished science or sewing project or help your child make a kite that is due tomorrow.  You wonder how you will find the time to make it to the bakery and grab the cupcakes or cookies that someone forgot that they 'have to have tomorrow' then wonder what you will do without to cover that unexpected surprise. When you find yourself pawing through the garbage can or the crud you vacumed from your floors for the missing Barbie shoe, you might be thinking of how easy a job anywhere else might be. As you struggle through the every growing mountain of never ending laundry, you wonder, how much could I make doing laundry for a living.

And the list goes on and on.  Yet it all melts away in the sweet moments of sticky kisses and homemade cards and gifts. Those simple words 'Mommie, I love you" make it all seem worthwhile.

And it is!

Monday, May 13, 2013

My Mother

My mother spent the last few months of her life living in a facility in a small town about forty five minutes away from my home.  She seemed to be fairly content living there and from everything that I could see, she received good care.  I drove to spend time with her every other day.  I visited with her.  I watched television with her.  I ate with her.  We looked at pictures together.  I tried to keep her from being too lonely since my dad had recently passed away.

One Sunday evening we gathered with other residents to the table for the evening meal. One woman at our table was misbehaving, minorly.  I do not even remember what it was that she said or did.  I did not find it annoying.  But one of the workers did.  She tried to control the behavior, but to no avail.  Perhaps this happened at evey meal.  Perhaps this patten of behavior escalated.  Perhaps it was annoying to many other residents.  But a small battle of the wills ensued resulting with the resident being escorted back to her room.

When the worker returned, she apologized for the removed resident's behavior.  I commented that I was certain that if the resident had been herself, she would have been so embarrassed by her behavior. This kind worker told me that in this case it may not be so, but she could understand. "You would think that because, Your mother is a lady."

That kind comment meant so much to me.  My mother had been failing in mind and body for several years.  I did not know if she had any idea who I was or why I came to see her.  My siblings were sure that she did not.  As her mind had slipped away, she had fooled so many people because of her well developed social skills.  She made others feel at ease.  She covered her errors with such grace and skill.  She and my dad had 'covered' for each other readily and easily.

My mother truly was a lady!  As was her mother.  As well as my father's mother.  There is no doubt in my mind.  These were educated, gracious, talented woman.

These woman influence my life in countless ways.  Each is unique, but beautiful and creative.  They used their skills to feed the hungry and clothe the poor.  They encircled others who were lost, alone, and afraid.  They comforted those who experienced great tragedy and loss.  They supported husbands and children.  They served faithfully within their beloved religion to build up Heavenly Father's kingdom.  They suffered unkindness and cruelty at the hands of those who should have honored them.  But because they are women of faith and virtue, they endured it, and tried to create peace instead. They now serve well with the angels of heaven.

They are my legacy and I thank them.  I hope that in some way, my life honors them.

My handsome son created this wonderful Mother's Day Tribute for me.  I could not think of any better way to honor the great legacy of my mother and my grandmothers than to share his creation. You can watch it here:


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

In Defense of Families

Families are in trouble, at least that is what I hear so often.  I certainly believe that family life has changed a lot during my lifetime.  I can only imagine how different it may seem to those who are older than I am or to those who have gone home to Heavenly Father.  I think often of the pioneers who crossed the plains of our country in order to establish their homes and their religion in peace.  Tired of persecution they took what little they could and headed west to follow a Prophet of God to build up a new society.  Every family member was needed and important to their survival.  They worked together.  They played together.  Some even died together.  They were bound by their covenenats and their love and their need.

Recently I heard a very wise woman make a comment that really struck me.  This expereinced, grey haired mother just buried a son and found herself surrounded by much of her remaining family, who were mostly glued to their electronic devices. They simply could not put them down to converse with her or each other. She mentioned that ipads, smart phones, ipods, and other devices were in everyones hands. Some even mentioned how easy it was for them to mulit-task and participate in conversation and still interact with their toys. She was troubled.

Another woman commented that she used to be able to converse with her husband when they were riding together in the car, but now he is either on the phone or listening to Sirius radio.  I sensed her feeling of being alone, even though he was still in the car with her.

In the days gone by it seemed that out of necessity, families pulled together versus today's life that seems to pull families apart, sometimes ripping them at the scenes.  Gone for many families are daily dinners shared at the table along with news of the day.  Gone are the days when being together in the car meant talking, laughing, and singing together. Earbuds attached to devices have replaced family connections.  Instead of everyone gathering around the tv together to watch and talk about a program, multiple tv's and activities separate us into differening spaces.  And the list goes on.

The Logan LDS Institute sponsors a group of talented singers who recently presented a wonderful program, "In Defense of Families" to teach and remind us that it is up to us to make a difference within our own sphere of influence and strengthen our family.  With ginormous copies of The Family  A Proclamation to the World for us to see, they taught through word and music about the value of family.  We believe that this Proclamation given to the world September 23,1995 is needed more today than it was when it was given.  A Prophet of God, inspired by a loving Heavenly Father who is concerned for our welfare began to prepare those who would choose to live by its words, for the onslought of things that now bombard families.

Its teachings are straightforward and simple, ringing true to ears that are willing to hear and eyes that are willing to see. Each of us, you and me, are children of our Heavenly Father.  He loves us.  He blesses us and watches over us.  He sends miracles to us every day.  He grants us our lives and all that we have.  He wants us to be happy so Heavenly Father also offers us commandments and counsel to help us walk everyday.  He loves us enough to let us choose for ourselves.  We do not have to follow any of God's teachings.  We can rebel and ignore any and all of the things He offers us.  We must learn for ourselves.

Family members need to work together to create a happy home.  They need to treat each other with kindness, couresty, and respect.  Families should also play together, eat together, and pray together.  If we want our family to become a priority, we have to be willing to make the sacrifices that make it important.  We may not all be able to do and have all the things that we want to have all the time. We must sacrifice some of our wants for something better.  Families should read the scriptutres together and study the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Family Home Evening.  If we want to have a "Forever Family," we need to figure out how to get along with each other, support each other, and love each other now so that we really will want to be together Forever. We need to look to the example of the Savior Jesus Christ, trying to be evermore as He is.

I do not believe the world is becoming kinder or working to unite and strengthen famlilies.  But I do belive it is time for us to rise up and join these young adults in defense of families.