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







Thursday, February 28, 2013

Thanks Mom and Dad

My mother was an extremely talented woman.  I do not think that there was much of anything that she wouldn't try or couldn't do.  As I grew up, I believe that I thought she was fearless. Our house was always clean and she was a really good cook.  She was well known for her home made rolls and raisin filled cookies.  She could quickly stir up a yummy meal for company from her abundant pantry.

I rarely saw her idle and she considered television to be a waste of time, which of course bugged me, because I liked to watch tv and she thought I watched way too much.

My mother could sew up a storm, cutting her own patterns from newsprint.  She sewed almost anything it appeared to me.  She could knit, crochet, and embroider and made dozens of quilts.  She belonged to a number of community organizations and served frequently as a leader.

Mother loved music. Her beautiful soprano voice filled the air as she worked around the house.  She sang with Sweet Adeline's and the ward choir.  She worked hard at playing the piano and organ, could whistle a tune, and out yodel anyone around.

My father was also an amazing person.  He never graduated from high school, but he educated himself.  He created his own business and was wise enough to know when the right time to sell it came.  He reinvented himself into another immensely successful career.  He too belonged to many organizations in the community, serving as a leader.

My dad didn't love music quite as much as mother.  Sometimes he barely tolerated concerts and musicals to please my mother. My sister and I often commented that we could tell how he felt about any performance based on his coat.  If he took off his coat, whatever we were seeing was good.  If the coat stayed on, we knew we were leaving the minute the show was over, even before the applause ended.

My dad loved computers.  He bought the newest and the fastest and the best.  He could often be found sitting at the computer in the middle of the night, much to the dismay of my mother. We inherited our first apple as a hand me down when dad upgraded to something newer and better.  He would love today's technology.

My parents traveled all over the world, learning about new countries and cultures.  They thrived on their adventures and enjoyed all the people that they were able to meet.  They loved to read, learning all they could. They studied and learned and taught others what they learned.  They continued to learn and grow as long as their aging bodies allowed them to.

Our lives are all made of different seasons. From what I could see, they made the most of every season.  I think that they came here to this earth to learn and grow, and they knew it.  So that is just what they did.

As I ponder on the seasons of my life, at times I am filled with regret that I didn't do particular seasons better than I did.  I have struggled and stumbled a lot along the way.  But I think that they did too. I am grateful for the examples that they set for me and the things that I have learned as I watched them.

Because my father changed careers in mid stream, I did not find it threatening when my spouse needed to do the same thing.  I have also tried to keep up with technology - sometimes kicking and screaming - but trying to learn.

As this year began, amid all the other things that I have chosen to do, I decided to learn a few new things.  Though I have found it to be frustrating at times, I have also seen a small amount of success.  I think that perhaps that is what we are here to do, to learn and to grow.

Today, I am grateful to my parents who spent their lives teaching me how and leading the way.

Monday, February 25, 2013

A brief Encounter

We were total strangers.  But for a few brief moments our paths crossed one afternoon.  I have thought about her many times since then.  I have wished I had done things differently too.

It had been a busy day for me and my last stop was the grocery store.  My list wasn't very long and I was grateful that I would be headed home soon.  Yet, I was really happy to see a dear friend coming my way down the dairy aisle.  We have known each other for years and she is always so kind to me.  She has taught me much by her kindness, her service, and her example. She greeted me warmly with a hug. And we began to chat.  She is much older than I and we talked a lttle about life in general.  She is frail, but certainly healthier than she was a few months ago. She has told me that her improving health is a miracle.

We talked about the seasons of life and how they change us and our circumstances.  Often, in social settings, the older people seem to be ignored, she commented. "The younger women don't speak to me" she said. Then she reminded me that I was moving into that category myself.  I knew what she said was true.  Many friendships and associations occurred in years gone by because I was raising children. I tended many children that were not my own.  And others tended for me.  We talked about our children and we carpooled our children.  We talked about school, grades, and parent teacher conferences.  We attended rehearsals, concerts, and plays.  We needed each other.

But we have moved on.  It is now the younger generation of mothers that are friendly and flocking towards each other.  I assured her that I was aware of the changing dynamics and was also seeing those younger than I begin to recognize they too were moving on in time.  I also expressed that I was ok with not trading babysitting anymore.

We parted company and I moved on through my shopping list.  And then she spoke to me.  I was not even aware that she was near me.  I was startled when she spoke, but so impressed with her courage to speak to a total stranger.

I had seen her in the store a couple of times that afternoon.  She was young, petite, and beautiful.  With her were two small adorable children and a cart filled with groceries.  "What was said about our generation being unfriendly is true," she said.  Then she told me that they had recently moved into a new neighborhood.  They longed for friends and had tried to create relationships with their neighbors to learn that no one had time for them.  "They are too interested in their careers and making money to have time for family or friends," she said.  We carried the conversation on for a few minutes.  She reminded me that President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints recently taught that at the end of our lives we may regret that we didn't make more time for loved ones, creating meaningful friend and family relationships.  "Someday our neighbors may be sorry,"  she said.  I thanked her for being willing to share and our paths separated.

Amazed that she had shared so freely with a stranger I pondered what she had said.  Technology is such a blessing. So much of the world is readily available with a few mouse clicks or the push of a button.  We can talk instantly around the world over the phone or a computer.  Many of us are literally attached to our cell phones and we would never leave home without them.  Texting is taking over the world of communication for some.  But I wonder, is technology strengthening our relationships?  If I can take care of  a communication with an email, why pick up the phone?  How many face to face decisions are really made via text?

When was the last time I wrote a letter? Some of the elderly generation adore letters and thank you cards.  They can be read over and over again and remember that someone cared enough to write them.

I wished that I had been smarter and introduced myself to her.  I should have asked her what her name was and talked with her about her children.  She was lonely and reached out and I didn't jump on the opportunity to attempt to alleviate her loneliness.

I don't know for sure that I would recognize this young mother if I saw her again.  But I hope I get a second chance.

Especially I hope that when an opportunity arises again, I will choose to do it better.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Miracle of the Box and the Tape

I had allowed my feelings to be hurt and my heart was wounded and tender.  My mind replayed the ugly scene over and over again on a mental tape recorder, as I tried to process what had happened.  I was having a hard time moving on with the tasks of the day.  I had not slept much at all the night before for the same reason.  But I had a project to complete, package, and send by mail. I had a deadline.

I had gone to my knees more than once, seeking peace and comfort.  I needed energy and focus as well.  Pushing forward was my only option when crawling back into bed, pulling the blankets over my head, and staying there was what I really wanted to do.

 I felt very alone.

Bit by bit, I completed my project, pleased with the result, and put it into the box I had already begun to fill with other items.  It didn't fit.  How could that be?  I juggled and shuffled the contents again and again.  I unpacked and replaced.  I walked away, frustrated.  I searched through my closets and storage room, knowing I had to have a different box.  But found none that would work.

It was a cold and wintry day, and I could not convince myself to go out dumpster diving for a box so I moved on to other tasks, mentally trying to figure out where in this house I could find a more suitable box.  I pondered on how I could magically make everything fit into the afore mentioned box. And I cleaned.

Then it came.  Not words, but understanding came that it was time to go get a box.  Too tired, upset, and cold I continued on with my tasks.  Again, I was prompted to go looking for a box and to do it NOW!

I threw on my coat and gloves, grabbed my purse, keys, and too little box (to judge size) and headed to my best dumpster spot.  There were tons of boxes.  Three dumpsters were loaded as well as large boxes filled with flattened boxes.  Certainly I could find a box.  But there was also an employee.  I hung around, waiting for her to disappear.  But she didn't.  After she eyed my suspiciously, I drove around the block.  When I returned, a huge freight truck was pulling in, making it impossible to have access to this abundant supply of boxes.

Discouraged I headed to another location, knowing full well that today was garbage pick up day there.  I peered into dumpster after dumpster to be greeted by smelly, empty space. I climbed into the car and headed down the dumpster line.  I knew that there had to be a box.  Heavenly Father had sent me on this errand.  I just had to keep looking.

I was filled with gratitude to find the box. It was a perfect fit!

Again, I went to my knees to thank my creator for sending me to get the box, before the garbage truck carried it away.  Then I carefully wrapped the gift item and packed the box, made the mailing labels, and opened the drawer to get the large roll of packing tape.

Missing.  How could that be. The tape belonged in this drawer.  I had no idea where it might be.  I emptied the container of Christmas wrapping paper.  No tape.  I checked closets and drawers.  I pondered and I prayed.  My search continued downstairs where I again opened drawers and checked closets.  Tearfully, I again went to my knees, asking for help.  I knew I had plenty of tape.  I just didn't know where it was. I also knew that I could purchase tape, which would be inconvenient but not expensive.

It was ridiculous, even to me, to be falling apart over a roll of packing tape.  But I was.  Immediately as I rose from my knees I opened a  shallow computer desk drawer, which I had not opened before.  There was the tape.  How it got there I will probably never  know.

Again, I went to my knees.  This time with overwhelming gratitude to my Creator for being aware of me and my needs on this challenging day. On most occasions a box and a roll of packing tape are insignificant and unimportant. But on this day, they were not only important to me, but to Heavenly Father who let me know that He was aware of me and that I was not alone.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Testimony

On a very wintry day in Cache Valley, I sat in the Logan Tabernacle to be spiritually fed by several hundred of the rising generation who have chosen to participate in the choirs sponsored by the Institute of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

In a day when selfishness appears to be rampant among us, these young adults gather together to learn, sing, and prepare so that they can be missionaries and share their love of our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. They freely give of their own time amid busy work, family, and college schedules.  Their devotion to God is evident in their music and their spoken words.

Some of these young adults may be less outgoing than others.  Some may be less wealthy..  Some may be burdened with family trials.  Others may have come from far away and be homesick for the life they left behind.  Some may have roommate struggles or feel lonely.  Others may struggle with fear or anxiety.  Some among them may be ill or struggling in school. But none of that matters as they blend in songs of praise to God.

We had traveled on miserable roads to Logan that morning as the slush, snow, and ice continued to grow.  We had even considered turning back for home as we saw multiple vehicles stranded in the median or abandoning the freeway, but carried on with faith that we would arrive safely.  We were two hours plus behind our planned schedule of arrival, but safe and relieved to be able to attend Sacrament Meeting with our son.

The snow continued to fall!

There was so much snow when we left the church building that again I wondered if we had been foolish to come.  But it wasn't snowing when we left our home!  In my somewhat dressy Sunday shoes, I attempted to find my way to our car through the snow which reached mid-calf. We uncovered our car and headed to our sons apartment.  Again, glad to be safe inside from the ever increasing snowfall.

There had been some discussion of canceling this fireside we learned later, but guest artists were already on their way, faithfully keeping their commitment to provide music.  So cancelling was not an option.  And so the singers began to travel to the Tabernacle.  We discovered that we were stuck in the snow piles as we began the short drive to the Tabernacle.  Several kind, strong young adults muscled us out and we arrived to find many young men shoveling mountains of snow out of the parking lot.  They were missing the beginning of rehearsal to make the path more smooth for those who would follow.  

Inside the Tabernacle, many of the choir members had already arrived, seated prepared to rehearse. The choirs' directors explained that some choir members may simply not be able to navigate the roads and would be greatly missed.  Also the question of who would come to listen lingered in the air. But it didn't matter.  This fireside would go on and whoever was present would have the opportunity to be fed.  Those who provided the words and music of the fireside would pray and prepare to provide the food for all who came whether it was few or many.

And they did!

I have never been disappointed by the faith, testimony, or musicality of these choir members.  As I felt the Holy Ghost bear witness to me of the truths they sang, I was filled again with hope in the rising generation who will be our leaders in years to come.

My heart joins with theirs in praise and appreciation to our Heavenly Father, who watches over and governs us with wisdom, kindness, and love.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Love

Today is a day that we celebrate love in our country with balloons, candy, flowers, cards, and expensive dinners.  My guess is that many a store is busy today keeping up with the demands of customers who are searching for just the right way to express their love.  I have no idea what amount of money will be generated by today's show of love and affection, but I can only assume it is huge.

The office at our local high school is currently becoming a large re-distribution center for many of the aforementioned items.  School policy is that these items will not be delivered by staff members but must be retrieved by students.  I wonder how much work can be done in the office, interrupted by a myriad of deliveries.  I heard of one kindergarten mom who sent a whole bunch of flowers to her little girl today. Perhaps the education at the elementary, middle school, and  junior high school will also be significantly impeded today as well.

While the idea of expressing love is certainly worthwhile and appealing, is this what love is really all about?

What about those students who are among the 'ignored' on Valentine's Day list; those who did not receive a bouquet of flowers or a bunch of balloons or a box of candy.  Does that mean that they are any less loved or valuable to their friends and families? For some the cost of all this stuff is simply impossible.  Does that mean they love less than those who have deeper pockets?

What is love really about?  What does it look like, sound like, or feel like? Is it just the gifts and the squiggly feelings that cause our hearts to flutter?  Is it really best expressed with things?

I don't pretend to be any kind of expert on this topic.  I am still trying to figure it out myself, but I think there may be other ways to express love that are significantly less expensive and perhaps more effective.

How about kindness.  Could that be a part of love?  Genuine kindness costs us nothing but is so often invisible in today's society.  It seems far more fashionable to be cutting and sarcastic in our speech.  Some even border on the cruel.

Then there is respect.  It is a hard word to describe, but most of us know when we are being treated with respect and when we are not.  I think I would choose respect over flowers any day.

What about trust.  How real is love when trust may be absent.  I think that knowing that I can count on someone and they can count on me is worth more than any expensive dinner in a restaurant.  It is important to do all you can to do what you will say you will do and be where you say you will be and to become who you say you will become.  I want to believe what you tell me because I know you would never lie to me.

I also think a card can't hold a candle to being treated with dignity.  Don't mock or belittle me.  Don't put me down and make me cry.  Don't humiliate me in public.

Loyalty is often a 'missing in action' aspect of love.  When push comes to shove, will someone who offers love stand by you through thick and thin?  When all others have abandoned the ship as it sinks, is there a loyal loved one who will still be there?

Love is this and so much more.  It is staying up all night with a sick loved one.  It is cooking the meals and washing the clothes. It is wearing baby spit up on all your clothes.  It is plunging the toilets and showing up for work every day.  It is bed time stories and  homemade treats.  It is hugs when you are hurting or a visit when you are alone.

We received beautiful homemade Valentines from three of our amazing grandchildren in the mail.  Nothing from a store could ever top that!  That envelope was filled with love.

Love should be what we do and what we give every day of our lives, freely and joyously.

No one has asked my opinion, and I don't suppose that they ever will,  but I vote we trade the expensive trinkets and toys for more genuine, daily expressions of love to all who cross our path.

Let's figure out a way to make love and kindness a new way of life and today might be the perfect day to begin!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Light of the Son

February has brought a few days of respite from the bitter cold we experienced for several weeks in January.  What a treat to not only see the sunshine but to feel the warmth again on my face.  As I walked among  the houses in my neighborhood, I couldn't help but smile and enjoy the blue of the sky and the stately evergreen trees.  It was early morning and it felt for a little while like it might be spring.

I hadn't walked very far as I soaked up the sun when I was reminded that the light of the sun is very much like the light of the Son. Each blesses my life in countless ways and brings light into my soul.  I would be totally lost without either of them in my life.

My world is often very small but this week I had the opportunity to visit with several friends.  So many of us feel burdened by normal life challenges.  Loneliness seems to be rampant.   Emotional health seems to be so fragile.  Some we know seem to have totally lost their way and are fighting to find a new path.  Financially burdens seem impossible to carry.  Health challenges plague others.  Being a caregiver seems to suck up all of another's time and energy.

For many happiness and contentment are illusive or even nonexistent.  It seems almost impossible to smile.

How does this happen to us?  How do we fix it?  Can we fix it? Is there any hope?

So many of the thing in our lives feel broken.  We are at a loss to find our way and we flounder.  We may find it helpful to reach out to others for strength or we may become reclusive and sit in our own corner.  Some lash out at their world or others around them.  Some become silent in their heartbreak.  Some may even break the law in their quest for something different.

Life is a roller coaster and we bought a ticket for the whole ride. We don't often get to pick and choose which ups and downs we face or which curves to avoid.

But for me there is hope, even when I feel hopeless. And I was reminded of it as I soaked in the light of the sun.

Hope comes because of the light of the Son!  I know it sounds so simplistic but it is true.  He is my friend when I feel friendless.  He is my strength when I feel weak.  He is the balm when I feel wounded.  He is my courage when I am afraid.  He is my comfort when my heart is broken.  He is my peace when I am in turmoil.

I do not know how anyone can survive in this life without the hope that comes through the Savior Jesus Christ and today and everyday I am grateful that I don't have to!      

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Richter Scale of Rudeness

Everyone of us is less than perfect.  We all make mistakes, often.  Sometimes I make the same mistake over and over. I am a slow learner!

Recently I participated in a discussion that has left me puzzled and a little bit confused.  Only adults were involved  so in my mind mature thinking should also have been involved.  Now I also truly believe that I do not think like other people in the world, so maybe I am truly crazy to find this discussion puzzling.  So here goes.

An adult, whose rudeness was being questioned, began to hone in on the fact that it was not such a big deal because it was accidental.  It was not planned. There was no intent to hurt anyone with the rude behavior.  Therefore, it was a lesser offense.  In other words, "This is really your problem. Get off my back!"

Add to this scenario that apparently this was not the first time that this particular rude behavior had been displayed.  Sounded like it had happened before, plenty.  Also, this person who was "accidentally" rude was fully aware that this rude behavior offended the other person involved., the recipient of the rudeness.  So, the recipient of the rudeness had a difficult time understanding that this particular rudeness was "on accident."

Now, I am truly baffled as I watch this discussion center on whether the rudeness was an "accidental" or an on "purpose."  I need to read and study the bylaws of rude behavior to help me understand this challenging for me concept.

Does "accidental" rudeness suddenly become less rude?  Is there a sliding scale of rudeness where it is only a five on the Richter scale of rudeness versus a ten when it is premeditated and planned? Or is it just that it is not considered to be rude at all because it was an "accidental" account of rudeness?  How many "accidental" accounts of rudeness does it take to make it a real rudeness?

Now the recipient of the rudeness has to pull out the handbook of rudeness to find out the criteria for "What rude behavior I am allowed to be offended by."  Then they have to ask how in the heck do we quantify that?  How many minutes of forethought go into premeditated rudeness? If a person thought about it for less than one minute does that make it "accidental" rudeness? When does it become premeditated rudeness?  Does that happen at sixty-one seconds? Is it governed by the five minute rule? Does it have to be in the works for twenty-four hours before it is considered premeditated?

Now, it is time to check the rule book for appropriate responses to "accidental" rudeness versus "planned" rudeness.  Because it was "accidental" is it supposed to hurt less?  What if the recipient of rudeness is still hurt, does that make them rude?  How upset can one be if it is an "on purpose?'' Doe it matter how long the rude behavior was being planned?  If it is only planned for five minutes, does that mean it will hurt much less than a rudeness that has been simmering for an hour or so?  If it was a rudeness that was planned for five minutes- does that mean it will stop being hurtful in exactly five minutes? How about one that has been planned for a full day - how much can that one hurt?

Now, I know that retaliation is not supposed to be considered at all in this equation.  But how long can the recipient have to allow their feelings to heal?  What does the handbook of rudeness say.  If it is is an "accidental" rudeness - are they not allowed to be offended at all?  What if it is an "on purpose?"  Does the offended only get to be hurt for as long as the offender spent "planning" to be rude?  So if rudeness has been in the works for five minutes, does the handbook say that the offended will automatically feel better after five minutes?  What if the same offense if repeated again and again?  Does that change anything here?

Does the offended have to whip open to the page in the handbook of rudeness to identify how they are supposed to feel?  What if their feelings don't match up with the handbook rules?  Does that make them deviant or bad?

What does the handbook of rudeness teach about apology?  Does one only need to be sorry if it is an "on purpose?"  Is it ok to say that it was an "accidental" so if you got your feelings hurt, it is now your problem?  When does the responsibity of the giver of rudeness kick in, exactly? Does a "premeditated" rudeness require a five minute apology if it was planned for five minutes?  What if you have been planning to be rude for twenty four hours?  Do you then need to apologize for an equal time?

How about trusting the person who has been rude?  If it was an "accidental" rudeness does that mean you must trust that rude person?  How many acts of rudeness does it take to damage trust?  Can you only be wary of on who has assaulted you with "premeditated" rudeness?  Does the handbook tell you exactly how many rude behaviors and what kind constitute grounds for broken trust?  How many "accidental" rude behaviors indicate that maybe this person who is being "accidentally" rude just isn't interested in being a friend? I hope the rule book of rudeness explains that.  But then - how does one quantify the degree of rudeness?  Is there a chapter on that?

The more I think about it the more puzzled I get. Am I crazy?

Who is in charge of recording all of this stuff anyway?