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







Monday, June 24, 2013

What Planet Did I Come From?

I confess that I do not believe I was meant to live on this planet. I do not know what planet I belong on, but I  just do not fit in here. If any of you can direct me to the planet I belong to please feel free to share. If you also think that you really don't belong to this planet, maybe we should talk and compare notes, cuz something is so totally wrong here!

Though I recognize that I am a work in progress and have a long way to go and much to learn, I believe that how we treat each other really matters. The words we say and the things we do impact those around us. When we do not do the things we say we will do, it also makes a difference in the lives of others. The way we act when we speak, and the tone of voice we use also sends messages.

I really believe that I often go out of my way to be kind to others and to avoid offending. I believe that we are all wounded on this planet. Some wounds are obvious, open draining sores, and everyone around us knows we carry a burden. It may be cancer, or diabetes, or disability. It may be lack of education or employment. It may be poverty or even possibly wealth. (I hear that wealth can really be a trial, however I have yet to taste that experience so I cannot be certain. These open wounds can be long term, incurable, and difficult to manage.  They may be more short term such as surgery, job transition, or moving).

Other wounds may be more difficult to see and maybe even more difficult to diagnose. They may be difficult to share with others because of their personal nature or the depth of pain and dysfunction they create. These may be wounds inflicted by others or even by ourselves because of our own self criticism or poor choices. They may also take the form of a more obvious illness but may also take on the form of anxiety, depression, anger, or personality disorders.

But because none of us is perfect, we carry wounds, trials, and burdens with us often if not always. Sometimes the actions of another reopens a wound, causing it to fester with infection. So often it was not intended, but sometimes it is very intentional. But either way it is painful and requires attention and time to heal.

Sometimes it is a word said with sarcasm or the roll of the eyes that opens a wound. It may be a careless deed or a broken promise. It may be the way it was said more than the words themselves. It may be even more obvious,  yelling, criticism, usurping agency, and on and on. The result is the same and the wound again festers and hurts.

Excuses often follow when an offense is served up. It may be easier to make a multitude of excuses than to say "I'm sorry. How can I fix it?" One that often baffles me is "But, I didn't do it on purpose." That implies that only wounds inflicted on another soul that are premeditated hurt. If it is an accident it does not hurt is the implication.

Really????????????????????????

So if someone accidentally hits me while driving their car seventy miles an hour it hurts less than if they plan to do it? Or, if the gun accidentally fires and a bullet pierces the heart are you any less dead than when someone is bent on murder? Does a 'planned' tornado do more damage than an 'accidental' tornado.

It feels so wrong for someone to expect that since the wound they inflicted was not 'on purpose' you do not have the right to be hurt by it and they are off the hook. Since when does the offender get to decide for the offended how they feel?

Perhaps you can guess that over the last week I was the recipient of a number of personal wounding opportunities. They seemed to pour over me in waves. Some were very loud and vicious. Others more subtle. In one case of multiple offenses from the same source, I believe they really were not intended. But they too could have been prevented.  It was simply a lack of respect and consideration for me. It was thoughtless and unkind. I appreciate knowing that this person was not out to hurt me, but hurt me they did. I do not think that it hurts any less because it was not planned.

Totally unaware of the hurtful way the situation was handled, I expect nothing to be offered to help my soul to heal. It is totally up to me, but it has reminded me of the words of a prophet of God who taught that appreciation is demonstrated through courtesy.

I like the way those words feel. I like the way it feels when I am treated that way. Can you direct me to the right planet?      

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Brain Power

Life reminds me often that I don't think like other people. It used to be that I believed that most people's thought processes were similar. I was so often baffled to learn that others thought so differently than I do. If you have a party for a large group of people and you want the desert to be the same for everyone, you better have it all made at the same place by the same people. If you give ten people the recipe, you will get ten different results. They not only will not look the same but they will not taste the same. There will be definite similarities but they will not be the same.  If ten people read the same set of rules for a game, there is bound to be some differing interpretations of how the game is actually played. A group of leaders of an organization will read the bylaws, handbook, or charter and disagree on what it says or how it says the organization should be run.

We do not all think alike!

I have definitely come to terms with that, but on occasion I am really blown away by the thinking of other people. Depending on the circumstance, I may really try to understand the place that someone is coming from. I may even spend some of my limited brain power to puzzle it over in hopes that enlightenment may come. But often it does not.

Recently I had one of those experiences. A total stranger and I had several conversations which left me totally confused. The more I pondered her words and her behavior, the more questions came to mind. I am still confused at how her brain ticks. Fortunately, we will probably never interact again, so I will soon forget this unpleasant person, who had made a commitment to do something for someone else. I was not involved at all in this agreement, as I had never even heard of this person. I found myself in the middle because this angry woman decided that it was no longer her responsibility to fulfill her commitment. She decided that it was my job to take over. Confused by her words, her demeanor, and her attitude I tried to explain my inability to do as she expected me to do. I gave her my phone number and asked for hers so that should I figure out a way to accommodate her demand, I could reach her.

Aghast at the situation, working on a solution, I called her to let her know I would take over her obligation. I left a message not once, but twice. She did not call me back. Again I called her to be reminded why this was not her responsibility but was mine. Angered when I explained that it had taken time (less than an hour) to rearrange my life around her need, she again reminded me that it was my responsibility. I ignored her attitude and assumed her responsibility. The next day I was treated to round two as she dumped a load of guilt and anger in my lap. I expressed feeling puzzled that she was so unkind to me after I had taken over something that she had agreed to do for someone else. As she drove away I could hear her yelling at me all the way down the street why it was my responsibility, not hers.

There were so many things I wanted to say to that woman, but it was obvious that the only opinion she was interested in was her own. Among them I wanted to acknowledge that for some reason she was angry at me for bailing her out of her responsibility, and express my hope that some day she would get over it. Unfortunately everything I wanted to say was unkind or catty. I even tried to understand that perhaps there was something else going on here that I was not able to see. Perhaps she was in an abusive situation. Perhaps she was ill.

Once more I had the opportunity to converse with her. Instead of saying all that I wanted to, I simply thanked her and left it at that. Later I learned that she had even been paid in advance for what I did.

There are so many things in this situation that I simply cannot wrap my head around; her words and her behavior. Silly me, I thought that when you serve someone, it is appropriate to respond with kindness and appreciation. I guess I was wrong.

I am certain that we all get our share of experiences where the words and actions of another confuse, baffle, and hurt us. But really, who in the world needs that!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Consequesnces

Today I asked someone a question. I was totally unprepared for the answer given. My first reaction was to be offended by the response, but the reality set in that I had asked the question. If I am willing to ask the question, I must also be willing to accept the answer. It was my choice to ask the question but once the words left my lips, my choice ended and the consequence comes into play. I do not have the ability to choose how anyone will answer my question. I realized quickly that if I was not willing to accept the answer, I should not have asked the question in the first place.

Hopefully next time I will be smarter. Who needs to invite unpleasantness into life. It comes to find me on its own, unbidden, and unwelcome.

So often we plow ahead through life without thinking of the consequences of our choices. In many instances, the consequences are insignificant and may not even be noticed. They have minimal impact on ourselves or others. But sometimes the consequences are huge, painful, and irreversible. Our choices may not only be painful to ourselves but to others. Scars that may take years to heal result.

We value agency, the right to choose, so much for ourselves that when we are toddlers and learning to talk, we walk around saying "self" telling the world "I can do it myself!" But with that agency comes the responsibility to learn to choose wisely. Some of us are very good at thinking ahead about the 'what comes after' part of choice. But often we give little thought to the consequence of what we say or do. Then we wonder why someone is hurt by our choice.

Someone once told me her philosophy was, "I can say and do whatever I want to you and if you get your feelings hurt, it is your problem." I did not like that attitude then and I find I like it even less now.  In what way does that attitude accept any responsibility.  I can choose whatever I want and if you don't like it then you fix it. With this attitude, the person gets to choose and then make everyone else responsible for their choice. Yet, many appear to live by this belief. Concern for others is missing in action.

Choice can be compared to a stick. When you pick up one end of the stick, you also pick up the other.You can't leave part of the stick on the ground or throw just one end of the stick away or hit someone with one end of the stick without using the other end. When you pick up a stick or use it, the whole stick is involved. The same is true with choices. On one end of the stick is the ability to choose. The other end of the stick is the consequence that comes with the choice. You cannot pick up one end of the choice without also picking up the end that is the consequence.

If one picks up the choice end of the stick and chooses kindness, it is reasonable to expect that the consequence end of the stick will also be kindness. Of course there is no guarantee that it will turn out that way. We are not able to choose for another. But what does one really expect the consequence to be if they pick up the rude end of the stick? Or the choice end of the stick of dishonesty, lateness, or disobedience?

Sometimes we mess up and then we simply don't want to face the consequences of what we have chosen. It is easy to see when the word "Sorry!" is shouted out as if it is a filthy word. It also comes across when a person who offends another expects the offended party to really not be offended.  Some offenders even demand that others 'just get over it.' An offender may even be angry at the offended if they mention why they are offended. It makes no sense to me that when someone is rude or unkind, they think they have the right to demand that no offense be taken. Or, they think they have the right to determine how hurt the offended is allowed to be and decide when it is time for the offended to be through being hurt by offensive behavior.

I have wondered if our criminal justice system works that way. Do criminals really get to tell someone how hurt to be and for how long?  Does an inmate get to say that they are tired of hearing about their mistake so stop reminding me? Can they decide when they have done enough time to compensate for the loss of another? Yet, walking around us are those who think that they get to choose when forgiveness comes for another. Even though they picked up the choice end of the stick, they do not want to also accept what is on the consequence end.

Part of the gift of agency is that you only get to choose for yourself. You do not get to choose for another person. I was reminded of that lesson today. When you pick up one end of the stick, you also pick up the other end.








Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Joy of the Journey

I remember riding in the car as my other crocheted. She was making a bedspread. It was made of squares, each following the same pattern. When she had completed enough squares, she planned to crochet them all together into one big, beautiful bedspread for the bed she and my Dad shared. Unless she was reading to my Dad or taking a scenery watching break, her hands were busy as she whipped out those stitches. We rarely got into the car for a journey of any distance without her bag that carried her crochet hook and a ball of white thread.

We did not take lots of vacations or pleasure trips but we traveled to see family often. We traveled on occasion because of a business need for either of my parents as well. Once in awhile we went far away for a convention or for continuing education opportunities.  We traveled long distances for weddings or holidays with cousins. And my mother crocheted.

Once in awhile a project of more immediate need replaced the white thread and squares. The needed gift of an afghan, embroidered towels and pillowcases, or a mending project might go for a ride with us a time or two but would soon be replaced again by the bedspread.

I do not have any idea how many squares were needed to complete the bedspread. Perhaps I never knew, but it was many. For years the bedspread in creation was a regular traveling companion. Then one day it joined us no longer. Enough completed squares now became the long awaited bedspread of my Mother's dreams. It was complete and on the bed. It was amazing, beautiful, and unique. I had never seen anything like it before. The lacy look of the stitches were elegant and rich. The intricate blocks melted into each other creating a true work of art.

The bedspread decorated my Mother's room for only one day.  Almost as quickly as it landed it was gone. Puzzled I questioned my Mother who simply responded that it was too heavy. That was the end of the discussion. The old bedspread returned to its place of honor and the lacy, elegant, crocheted bedspread earned its place, relegated to a top closet shelf.

Years later as my Mother aged and began to fail, I often wandered around the house looking at the things she would leave behind as she slipped through the veil. Drawers, closets, and shelves laden with treasures collected over years of living told the stories of her life. Books and bells and thimbles from all over the world told of her travel, years after the completion of the bedspread. Fascinating book titles told the story of her quest to learn. Drawers filled with jewelry told a story of the fashions of her life. Much of it was old, inexpensive, and dated but I had seen her wear it all. Her hats, shoes, and clothes indicated her sense of style and her inability to discard the pieces of her life. Handmade quilts and linens taught of her thrift and skill.

Among the pieces of her life was the bedspread. A reminder of all the miles it traveled with us on the journeys of so many miles and years. What would become of her work of art as well as all the other pieces and collections of her life,  I wondered.

In time, Mother peacefully returned to the welcoming arms of her husband and Heavenly Father. We began to sort and embrace the things that showed us who our parents were. We tried on the hats as we emptied their treasures. We shared the memories of Mother's jewels. Her closet bulged with clothes we knew so well. Piles of books were removed from their homes. Tenderly we touched her hand made quilts and the bedspread, embracing its familiarity, and remembered. No one seems to know where the crocheted bedspread ended up. Perhaps it ended up in a pile that went to Deseret Industries. I hope that wherever it is, it is loved and cherised as it was meant to be.

The lesson that I learned from my mother and the bedspread is still profound to me. My mother enjoyed the process of creating the bespread much more than she enjoyed the use of it. It was in the creative process that she spent the most time, energy, and devotion. Once it was done, the real thing was not as servicable as the dream.

Sometimes I think of that as I work towards something that seems to be so important. Once a project is completed, it may even be a let down or a disappointment. It may not meet my expectations. It may not serve me as I had intended. Or it may just be that I am sad that it is done. Not all projects end this way.  Many truly are a celebration of completion.

But sometimes, the joy really is in the journey.


















Monday, June 10, 2013

Choice

I inherited a package of baking mix. I have rarely owned or used such a commodity. I grew up cooking and baking from scratch and have mostly continued to do so. The one general exception has been to purchase boxes of cake mix on sale. When the price is right, I indulge.

I decided to make some pancakes for breakfast one day with the baking mix. It sounded really good.  I envisioned them being light and fluffy, like restaurant pancakes. I was prepared for a real treat. Perhaps because I eat so much of my own cooking my taste buds were all set for these yummy pancakes.

The pancakes cooked beautifully. I could hardly wait to taste them, smothered in butter and syrup. And I took my first bite. Disappointing! Ok, maybe it was just that one bite. But it was not. The beautiful pancake was dry and mealy and disappointing. Twice more I added syrup to aid me as I choked down the crumbly pancake. It took a lot of milk to wash it down. I was really glad that I had only cooked myself one. As we cleared the table, I noticed that my husband had not eaten all of his pancake. I had made his pancake larger than mine. He made no comment until I mentioned my disappointment. We decided that homemade was better.

It was just a simple choice but I have thought of it since then. Sometimes we want something that we do not have.  It may be something simple that we want. We want to try something we have never tried before. And when we get the opportunity, it is not all that we imagined it would be. It might be mildly disappointing or totally unsatisfying on the whole. We may even laugh at ourselves in light of our desire versus the result.

We may make other choices, more important choices based on our desires, that are more significant with greater consequences attached. We may scrimp and save and sacrifice to purchase something we believe will change our lives.  It may be difficult to wait for and our anticipation grows and blossoms during this time. And then the blessed day arrives when we acquire the long awaited thing. With excitement we purchase the desired item and carry it home. It feels that life is now complete. It is a joyous occasion. It may turn out to be exactly what we dreamed it would be. It may be a huge blessing. It may be all that was hoped for. Or it may not. It may turn out to be a disappointment. It may fail to satisfy the anticipation created by the desire. It may even become a burden as it needs to be stored, maintained, or dusted.

We have the opportunity to make thousands of choices every day. We may not think about all our choices with depth. We may not contemplate and anticipate the end result with a great deal of time or energy. We often make choices based on habits or societal norms and expectations. But we make choices. What will I eat today? What will I wear? Do I need an alarm clock? What time will I go to bed? These and so many other choices may come as we live life on automatic pilot.

Other choices that may not seem so important may pertain to our financial well being.  Will I eat out today or cook at home?  Will I buy that new whatever I want or will I postpone that purchase?  Will I decide that it is really just a want and not really a need, therefore I will never choose to purchase it at all.  Will I pay my bills on time or instead choose to pay a late fee?  Will I be collecting more debt today or will I instead make choices that lead to being debt free?

Sometimes we live in choice overload.  There are so many options to pick from that it is overwhelming.  What kind of ice cream should I buy, as you look over the myriads of flavors and varieties.  What should I order from this ten page menu?  What should I watch on tv as you scan fifty or a hundred channels.  What kind of toothpaste, or hairspray, or deoderant should I buy?  Which book should I read from the stacks and shelves filling the library? Which gas station should I stop at? Which blog or internet site should I read?

My mother-in-law who is wise and experienced says on occasion that she is tired of making choices, and that she wishes others would just tell her what to do and she would happily do whatever they say.  At times that is how I feel too.  I want someone else to decide what to cook once in a while.  I will make what they want and save the brain power that it takes to decide for myself.  But on the other hand she just as often expresses that she is not included in the decision making process. Others don't share their plans with her and she feels excluded and a bit "like a cork being bounced around on the waves of the ocean."  That too is me. You planned what withouth talking to me? Where was I when that was decided?

It can be tough to balance!

Other choices may be more eternally significant.  Will I say my prayers today?  Will I read the scriptures today?  Will I make time to think of Jesus Christ?  Will I try to be a little bit more like Him?  How will I treat the other people I come into contact with? Will I respond with rudeness to someone who is rude to me?  Will I be on time or will I leave other people waiting for me? What kind of person do I want to be? What kind of relationships do I want to have? What kind of example am I setting?

Our Heavenly Father who loves us gave us the ability and opportunity to choose. Agency is so important that a war was fought in heaven before this world was created over the gift to choose. It is a blessing and a responsiblity, for with each choice comes consequences.  And we do not get to choose the conseaquences. They are part of the package of choice.

Sometimes our choices are like pancakes, dry, mealy and disappointing.


Thursday, June 6, 2013

A Mighty Change of Heart

Frequently I find that I need to change the condition of my heart. Sometimes it actually feels hard inside my chest cavity. It may have become that way because of the unkindness of another person towards me. I can feel my heart shrink and harden as it changes into protective mode. I hear my mind as it relieves the unpleasant experience over and over, justifying the hurt my heart feels, closing off from the world a little bit. In this condition, I may become more self centered and less likely to see the needs of those around me. I may miss the opportunities that come to listen and help another in need.

Even though I logically know that comparing myself with others is not helpful in any way shape or form, I find that I still sink into that mode from time to time.   work at not comparing because I know that it affects the condition of my heart. It can lead me to feel superior as I convince myself that in some way my life is better than someone else's life. Or maybe in someway I am a better person. Comparing can also have the opposite affect as well, making me feel inferior to others who are smarter, richer, more attractive, wealthier, more spiritual, and so much more. It is usually most discouraging to compare who I am and what I have to those around me.

My heart needs to be changed when I find I believe something that is not correct, or have a bad attitude as well. Sometimes I really do not want to do the things that I am asked to do or that I should do. I do not always want to be kind and considerate. Sometimes I really want to be selfish and have things my own way. Sometimes I want to respond to rudeness with rudeness. I want to be lazy instead of productive.I like to eat things that are not healthy.

It takes effort for me to change my own heart. It also takes time. Sometimes it takes several days for me to get over an unpleasant encounter with another person. Sometimes longer. If the wound is deep enough, it may be uncomfortable enough that I am happy to not see the other person for quite awhile. Sometimes forgiving can be very hard for me.

My mind rarely thinks of revenge, but my wounded soul aches and I am puzzled, wondering why someone has treated me in this manner. Often, I simply cannot wrap my head around the behavior of another that damages me so deeply. What did I do to deserve that?

Someone I know made a huge mistake that became very public. We are acquaintances, not close friends.  What was done was in no way directed to me. t certainly was not personal. My heart hardened towards this person, and then I decided that I did not even know what was true. I changed my mind and hoped to learn truth that would exonerate this person. It broke my heart for everyone involved as I thought of this situation. But there were still things that felt uncomfortable to me. I did not know how to feel.

One day, in an instant, my heart changed.  It was not changed by me, but through the influence of Heavenly Father.  I knew what I was to do.  The confusion was gone and clarity was present. I did not need anynother information. It was truly a gift, given freely and received gratefully. I felt a burden lift from my heart.

Many times, I have been blessed with a mighty change of heart. Sometimes the change comes quickly and easily as a gift. Some changes of heart occur slowly, a little bit at a time, almost impossible to detect changes, until the change is complete. Occasionally a change of heart occurs because new information is received. At times I have felt alone as I struggled to change my own, stubborn heart.

I hope that someday my heart reflects that of the Savior Jesus Christ and will be able to feel as He would feel. The desire is there to think as He would think, to speak as He would speak, and to act as He would act. I am a work in progress with a very long way to go.  Thankfully our Heavenly Father is a very patient God!









Monday, June 3, 2013

Tornado Weather

Tis the season when I watch the weather channel in many of my leisure moments. We have family, whom we adore, living in America's heartland where it is now tornado season.  his year it snuck up on us. We were unaware as a tornado barreled toward them.

It was Sunday, May 19th and they were in church when the sirens began. There was no time and no place better to go, so they gathered into the hallways where there were no windows, and waited. There were many frightened people, waiting and wondering and fearing,  many of the children were crying and panicking. I suppose seconds may have felt like hours as fearful anticipation filled the air.

For us a miracle occurred as the tornado rose again into the air and roared over the top of the church building, sparing the lives of all these people. To my knowledge the building was also unscathed even though there was damage nearby. This deadly tornado was soon followed by storm chasers as it thundered into Shawnee and Bethel Acres, damaging homes and property in it path.

We are so grateful that our family was protected!

But many lives have been lost and indescribable damage has been done by the myriad tornadoes that have crossed the midwest.  Our daughter traveled to help in the clean up efforts in tornado ravaged areas.  Her words say it better than I ever could.

"Just wanted to let you all know that the destruction from the latest tornado is unreal.  I went down to moore on saturday and felt like I was in a movie scene...I can't even describe all the sadness that I saw.  Seeing it on tv and in pictures was one thing, being there a whole other!  That day I was sent to a park by the stake center in moore.  It had a neighborhood surrounding it, much like mine, only it didn't look like a neighborhood anymore.  The park was filled with missionaries and members of our church working together, that part of it was a beautiful site.  I found lots of pictures, clothes, broken toys, scrapbook supplies, shoes,everyday items, etc along with bricks, wood, pieces of sheet metal, etc.  We were separating personal items from unsavables and putting them in huge piles.  Houses were completely gone, cars overturned, it didn't look like a neighborhood.  The playground equipment was still standing, but completely warped.  Lots and lots and lots of trees with the bark and leaves ripped off them with clothes, couches, stuck in them.  I google mapped it when I got home that night and couldn't believe the difference.

Sunday they had us meet early in the morning, combining wards for sacrament meetings.  We were to attend in work clothes and sent out to work right after.  All of the stakes in the area were doing the same.  Our ward and one other were assigned to a small town about 30 minutes away where mormons weren't previously appreciated.  We had 300 people that came and worked in the sun, doing hard labor all day long.  I think we might have shown them something about mormons :-)  It was a Sunday unlike any I've ever had.

I could go on and on about the things that I saw and the stories I've been told by people that went through it.  I just wanted you to know that the need for help is very very real here and will be for some time.  If any of you want to help, feel free to give a little extra on your fast offering slip.  And for those that can't do that or want to help in another way, prayers are still very much needed!!!  I can not help but look at the HUGE amount of destruction and low death count and believe that God was watching over the people here."