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







Monday, September 30, 2013

A Week of Gratitude

From time to time as I muddle through life, I am blessed with the opportunity to see life through someone else's life. It can make me envious, if I let it, as I see how wonderful someone else has it. I can start to feel sorry for myself, wallowing in a pity party as I recognize the 'lack' in my life. There will always be someone who has more money. I may never get to live in my dream home. Others always seem smarter, more faithful, happier, kinder, and etc. than I am. It is so easy to see others who seem to have their lives so 'together' compared to mine. I can choose to create a real pity party for myself. Eventually as I tire of wallowing in it, I will let it all go and stop torturing myself.

It never makes me feel good about myself and I know it. I does not make me feel good about my life. So I really have tried to stop doing it! I believe I am making great progress. Instead of allowing envy to creep into my heart, I step back and say "Good for you" and I work at meaning it. Then I work at being grateful for what I have.

I do not live in my car or a cardboard box. My belongings don't fit in a shopping cart that I push along the street. Food comes from a grocery store not a garbage can. We have water, heat, and electricity. No one in my neighborhood is shooting weapons or dropping bombs around me. When I want to go somewhere, I get in a vehicle and drive. I do not have to wonder if my house will be standing when I return. My community, though far from perfect, provides a relative amount of peace and safety. I can access emergency help with a phone call, which I hope to never have to need.

This past week has been a real learning experience for me. I have been privileged to interact with a number of women whose burdens are huge. Their lives are complicated and difficult. These women are faithful and believe in God, yet for the moment their lives are in turmoil. Each feels pushed beyond the limits of their ability to manage. Yet, I heard one woman repeat over and over, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." And she meant it.

I admire the courage and faith of my friend who is reeling from the loss of a dear friend who has filled her life with purpose and joy. This friend has lost her spouse and two of her best friends in just a few years. Her tears of loss are also tears of gratitude for the time she has had with these people with whom she has shared so much.

Another woman is dealing with a spouse who has lost most of his mental capacity over the course of two years. She is now responsible for seeing he has what he needs and kind care. Because she is the family breadwinner, she cannot proved adequate care for him in her home, so she must now deal with the bumps and bruises that come with long term care. She has to run the business that provides for their needs. Last week was a bumpy one for both her spouse and her business.

A busy mother with five children lifted to pick up a toddler, wrenching her back. Now pain is added to her list of daily experiences.

A friend's world was rocked big time this week. In her moments of need, she has reached out for help and found few willing and able. Her confusion and sorrow are huge as she deals with the things life has handed her and the lack of friends and family available to support her. She is also afraid, yet recognizes she must forge through her trial.

I am so grateful for my life! Though not free of trials, burdens, worries of my own, I am so blessed when I see those around me. These women of faith strengthen me in their courage.

A long prayed for miracle took place for a family member during this past week. A small prayed over item that was lost is now found. We are not hungry or homeless.

Thank you Heavenly Father for the blessings of my life!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

General Conference

When I was a little girl, we watched or listened to general conference, when it was available. I must admit it was not necessarily one of my top ten favorite things to do. I must confess that I probably learned nothing. Maybe I never even heard anything. But I did learn that it was important.

I went to college at BYU the after I graduated from high school. I learned some things about General Conference there. For me conference was mainly a stay in your jammies and don't have to go to church thing. But many college women dressed for conference just as they did for church meetings. They always had. Who knew? Some of them had always had to travel to a church building to view or listen to conference. Others had been taught in their homes that dressing appropriately demonstrated respect, invited reverence, The Holy Ghost, and encouraged appropriate behavior.

I learned more about general conference from an older sibling. I spent some conference time in her home, watching and observing how she valued the opportunity to learn from prophets of God and other church leaders who were called to speak. I learned about the early morning welfare meeting that used to be part of general conference weekend. I too was stirred by the things I heard.

As a parent, I tried to instill in my family the value and appreciation for general conference. I encouraged participation. I provided treats and activity pages. I created family home evenings to review and remind. I did not care if anyone dressed up. I just wanted them there. How can anyone be influenced if they are absent.

We lived for a season in an area where radio was our only option for hearing general conference. It seemed so hard to pay attention. We decided to clean ourselves up and go to our stake center to listen and watch one Sunday session of general conference with our four little children. It really made a difference. Sad to say, our lazy ways quickly returned and we usually stayed home.

In nine days, it will be general conference weekend again. I have been preparing already for this opportunity to listen to prophets, apostles, and other leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It is a part of my daily prayers to ask for all who will participate in conference to be blessed as they prepare. Speakers choose their own topics. What an overwhelming responsibility that must be. I am certain that they are pleading for heaven's guidance as they prepare to speak the mind and will of the Lord. The least I can do is to pray for them.

I am preparing my heart to be ready to receive. If my heart is hard and my mind is closed, nothing they can say will penetrate. The Holy Ghost cannot teach where it is not welcome. I want to be able to receive whatever the Lord has in mind for me to receive. It is difficult for me to comprehend that everyone who is willing to receive, can receive exactly what they need from the same talk. Everyone does not need the same message, but through the power of The Holy Ghost, they can receive what they need.

I am anxious to know what Heavenly Father wants me to hear at this time in my life. I know that it may be that there is only one thing that jumps right out at me. It may be found in one talk or one phrase or even one prayer or song. It may be that several talks penetrate my soul. It may be that one session will cover topics that feel just right for me. Or when conference is over I may feel like the whole conference was perfectly designed for me.

I will anxiously begin to listen to and read the messages again and again. I usually know exactly which message I need first. Perhaps I am a slow learner but it takes many times for messages to sink into my heart. But I am willing!

Dressing up is not so important to me, but being prepared and present are. We live in a wonderful day and age when so much of God's word is readily available any time of the day or night. Our children who live far away from the heart of the church are able to partake of the heart of the Gospel of Jesus Christ through the miracle of technology. I think that perhaps much of technology has been prepared for just a time as general conference.

I have nine days to prepare. I hope I am ready.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Another Day

Ok, it's another day and I am up, physically anyway. I did not want to get up today I must admit. For one thing my bed was still warm and comfortable. As I lay there, resisting getting up, the furnace kicked on for the first time since early summer. Though I love and appreciate my furnace, hearing it running tells me that it is cold outside. Suddenly, I really wanted to cover my head and stay there. And the rationalization began. I could think of so many reasons to stay. I could ignore all the reasons I needed to get up. I almost had myself sold on staying in bed.

I heard someone say that it isn't the things we have done that make us tired. It is the things we have not done that wear us out. I think that there is much truth in that. I am weary before I ever put one foot on the floor. My list of things to do today feels long and heavy to me. Add to that fact that my list of things that were on yesterday's to do list are not all crossed off yet. So in essence, I am starting off my day behind.

Lest anyone misunderstand, that is not particularly unusual. But today the list seems to weigh particularly on my shoulders. It seems heavy and burdensome. Mentally I was worn out before I sat up in bed, struggling to rise. What should I do first? What are the most important things I need to do? What can I eliminate? What will I fix for breakfast? If I do this what wil I fix for lunch? If I go here will that still work? What about supper tonight? If I skip the one thing that has been written on my calendar for more than a month because I want to do it, will I get more of the have to do things done?

I have not cleaned my bathrooms for nearly two weeks. I have nursery lesson materials scattered around my living room. I have tomatoes that need to be canned. A mountain of mending is calling my name. I know several people who need to be served today and most of that cannot be done here. But there are also several phone calls that need to be made. I need to walk, but that time may be better used in service to others. And the list can go on and on.

My list may not seem like a big deal to anyone but me, but then someone else might share their list with me and it would look like a cake walk to me. It is our own list of to do things that overwhelms and sinks us, not someone else's.

I recognize that my focus is all out of whack and I am thinking too temporally. I am not able to see has Heavenly Father sees. If I could see through His eyes, I would not be overwhelmed and exhausted before I even begin. I would clearly see that the list was doable and know exactly where to begin and how to proceed.

You see, part of the problem is that I do not want to clean the bathrooms. I have no desire to can the tomatoes or do the mending. Ignoring the nursery lesson would be my choice. I do not want to cook, serve and clean up any meals. And on and on. My own rebelliousness is peaking out its ugly head at me. I think it is even sticking out its tongue in my face. I would rather stay in bed. I would rather read a book and work on a quilt block. I would rather leisurely skate through my day, doing as I please.

So to my rebellious side, I say too bad! There is work to be done and I will do what I can to conquer the list of to do things that feels burdensome.

But first, I will go to my knees and thank Heavenly Father that I have things to do to contribute to the world. I will ask for His help as I look at the list so that maybe as I see through his eyes a little, I will understand where to begin and what to do next and how to move through the day. I will ask that He will guide me and help me to focus my eyes spiritually instead of temporally. I will ask what needs to be left for another day. And I will ask for the energy to do what is required of me for today. And I will begin.

And He will help me!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Feeling the Love of The Lord Daily

Four years ago a new temple near my home was dedicated. Previously we were able to attend any one of a number of temples within a two and a half hour drive, but this temple is forty five minutes away. As we watched the progress ans the construction of this temple and then attended the dedication ceremony, I felt impressed by The Holy Ghost that I should set a goal to attend the temple every week as much as was possible. I was not certain how to make that happen, but I held that goal in my heart.

As the dedication neared, I knew it was time to consider more seriously the impression that I needed weekly temple attendance. As I prayed, I felt peace. As I pondered the expense and the time, I felt peace. I wondered if my older vehicle would make that weekly trek. I wondered if I should go alone or invite others to ride with me. With a large vehicle, it seemed foolish to drive alone, but who would like to ride with me?

Shortly before the dedication of the temple, someone called and asked if I would like a ride to the temple, the week following its dedication. Heavenly Father had taken care of the details for me, providing me with the means to do what inspiration told me I could do. For nearly two years I was able to attend the temple most weeks that it was open. I drove rarely. I generally had a ride available. This season of temple attendance was sweet and delicious.

Heavenly Father knew I needed the temple.

We were greeted by friendly, kind temple workers week after week, no matter when we attended. One sister seemed to radiate an inner peace and calm. She often went out of her way to greet us and welcome us. She truly seemed to enjoy serving with us. She was a sweet, kind temple friend. There was something definitely different about this sister that was visible to us. One day my friend had a few minutes to visit with her and learned that she prayed every day that she might feel the love of the Lord in her life every day. By feeling the love of the Lord in her life, she felt others would feel Heavenly Father's love through her. She also felt it would enable her to serve others with more love.

It was the love of God that radiated from this sister.

I long to be able to radiate the love of Heavenly Father in my life to others as this sister did for me. It is a work in progress, but I am trying. I have a long way to go, but there are moments and days when I believe I am making progress. I see the world differently and I feel differently. I believe that feeling the love of the Lord in my life daily has the potential to change so many things. It seems easier to smile through hard things. I have found it easier to do those hard things in the first place. Serving others seems less burdensome. The world is brighter and more beautiful. Irritations fade. Frustrations disappear. Choosing well seems more effortless. His love creates more kindness and patience. It can help blind our eyes to things we do not need to see. His love has the power to change things that I cannot change myself. His love has the power to change my nature.

His love cannot be purchased in any store or ordered on line. It cannot be demanded or ordered. But it can invited, treasured, and received with gratitude.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Closure

People come and go in our lives all the time. For a season we interact with someone who has an impact in our lives. We may have much in common with each other, so we have an abundance of things to talk about and enjoy with each other. We may have the same likes and dislikes or hobbies. We may have similar beliefs. We may live close by each other. And for a season we become friends.

We may talk on the telephone or visit by email. We may visit each others homes or go out to dinner. It may be that we associate at work or in a volunteer capacity. As we continue to interact with each other, we decide we like each other. Our guard lowers as we let a new friend into our world. We may share stories from our pasts, experiences of the present, and our hopes for the future.

Sometimes we find ourselves thrown into a situation, not of our choosing, and come out with a friend we might never have made. We may not have much in common. We may not live close by or see each other at our jobs. We may not have similar family situations or experiences. But we become friends. We find a listening ear and compassionate heart and welcome our new friend into our world. As opportunities to share present themselves, we find we have much more in common with each other than we had imagined. It feels good to be so comfortable with each other. And the bond deepens.

Many friendships are really just for a season. Lives and situations change and for whatever reason, friendship fades. Sometimes it is me. Sometimes it is my friend. But drifting apart happens. In some cases nothing is said. No one recognizes what has happened or why. One day you just realize that the friendship has ended and it feels sad. For a time, it can feel like such a loss.

Last year I had one of those losses. My friend and I were thrown into a situation where we worked with each other for a season. Of course it was awkward at first. We appeared to have so little in common. But in time, we became good friends. We found many hidden commonalities. We always had things to talk about. She shared some very personal things with me. I shared with her. Even though we saw each other often, we emailed oftener. I looked forward to reading her emails. She made me laugh. She made me think. She helped me to grow. I asked her questions that could be hard for her to answer. And she answered me. I learned so much about her. I learned about people who were different than I was. I am grateful for her willingness to be my friend and my teacher.

Then without warning, our circumstances changed. We no longer worked with each other in the same situation. We tried to keep our friendship alive. And we did for awhile. But it became hard for her. She pulled away, little by little. I kept investing, holding on and hoping to save my relationship with my dear friend. But she slipped further and further away until the kind thing was to let her go.

I see her on occasion. She always acts happy to see me. I usually get and give a hug. I know that she still cares about me. And I care about her. I know that she was hurt by someone else and I am a reminder of that to her. It isn't me she is upset at. But she is wounded and when she sees me, it is a reminder of her hurt. So she closed the door on that chapter of her life, leaving me behind.

Recently we were thrown together again for just a small moment or two. She is talented and sings like an angel. When asked to sing, she requested that I play the piano for her. I really wanted to, so that we could see each other again. I think for a moment there was hope that we could become good friends again. But there was a problem with the scheduling. I was not available.

The person who requested this angel to sing called again offering a solution to my scheduling, if I were willing to take it. I quickly snatched up the opportunity. We visited as if we had never lost touch with each other. Again when we talked, we laughed and shared. I understood better why she was hurt and how. And for a brief moment, the walls were down and we were friends.

I played for my friend to sing. And sing she did! It was beautiful and stirring. People flocked around her to express their appreciation for her talent. She was in the spotlight where she belonged. And I was so happy for her.

I knew she needed it!

She needed to feel accepted and admired and appreciated. She needed to see that these people loved her and were happy to see her. She needed to be the center of attention. For a moment she needed to be encircled in love.

We hugged as she expressed her appreciation for my service at the piano. We spoke for a moment or two, but I knew it would not be a renewal of our friendship quickly as she turned and walked away. For a moment or two it felt a little sad to me again, to say goodbye.

As I was driving in my car the next day, enlightenment came, clearly and distinctly into my heart and I understood that Heavenly Father had provided me with this opportunity. I had not seen it as He and seen it. I had not understood as He did. But I now understood that He had provided me an opportunity to have closure with my friend. I now knew that we would never have the same kind of relationship we once did. I better understood her pain and need to move away and on, emotionally. I clearly saw Heavenly Father's kindness to me and His guidance. My heart swelled with gratitude to Him.

I am grateful also for my friend. If she ever needs me, I will do all I can to be there. I plan to send her a birthday card next April and tell her.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Changing My Perspective - part two

My perspective was changed because my circumstances changed. I saw things very differently. Disappointment turned into a miracle and a blessing. It took months before I could see things from a different perspective.

Sometimes it is very difficult in my life to see things from a different perspective. I do not see with anyone else's eyes. I do not feel with anyone else's heart. I do not think with anyone else's mind. I do try to understand and see how things look to others. I am especially concerned about how things feel to others. It is easy for me to weep with someone who is weeping. I feel pain when someone else has been wounded. I feel outraged at the injustice that another may feel.

But sometimes I find myself a little too close to the forest to see the trees.

A friend who could see I was struggling sent me a link to a blog post she had read that has begun to help me shift my perspective again. I am very grateful for her insight and her awareness of my need for a helping hand and I am trying to incorporate what I have learned into my life.

The blog is titled: "One Question to Snap Out of Any Funk"

This blog post talks about one of my favorite books, The Hiding Place. Corrie and Betsie ten Boom, who hid Jews from the Nazis ended up in a death camp where they had immense trials to endure, yet managed to find the blessings in their trials. They had great faith in Heavenly Father and His words found in a small Bible Betsie was able to secretly carry into the death camp. They read and studied His words and taught all who would listen about Heavenly Father and His love for everyone.

The author of this blog said, "When misfortune befalls you, when your expectations are violated and things don't go as planned, ask yourself this question:

                                     How is this good?


What a powerful question this is. I have asked myself this question many times since I read and pondered this blog. Last night something happened, unexpectedly, that brought me up short. It was temporarily frightening and very concerning. It was not something that was happening to me personally, yet affected me greatly. As the situation normalized I wondered why had this happened? What happens now? Will it happen again? and on and on with the questions. Then I stepped back and asked my self,  "How is this good?"

Immediately my perspective changed. I could see much that was good and instead of great fear felt gratitude and peace. The concern for someone else will linger for a time, but I can see the blessings that I could not see before. I am grateful for words of wisdom that I can glean from others to help me on my quest to improve and change and become better. To my friend who was inspired to help me yet again - Thank you!

To read the post my friend shared with me follow this link: http://blog.lifemanifestos.com/question-funk/

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Changing My Perspective - part one

Many years ago we planned to build a new house. We invested a lot of time, money, and energy into this plan. We had an experienced person in our corner who was working hard to make our dream home become a reality. We jumped through all the hoops, filled out tons of paperwork, provided all the necessary documents, bought the blueprints, and began the process to acquire the land. In my mind I can still see how the house was supposed to look. Everything was in order. Our helper assured us that almost nothing could go wrong. All we had to do was wait until the money became available from the lender.

We felt so blessed to think of our home, which would actually be much, much more than we could afford since my husband would be doing so much of the work himself along with another very capable contractor. Our friend was amazed at what we could qualify for on such a limited income, taking into account the huge discounts in labor costs. I think she was nearly as excited for us as we were.

Then, things did not go as we had planned or expected. The news was devastating to us all. No money would be available for the area in which we lived. Period. End of discussion. All the money that was to be loaned was being dispersed in a much larger more metropolitan area. Our friend was broken hearted and apologetic. And our dream died.

For some time it was hard to see anything but hurt and disappointment in this unexpected turn of events. We hoped for a time that a mistake had been made or that something miraculous would turn things around. After all, we had qualified. We had done all that we could do.

Months passed and life for us carried on. The sting of disappointment faded with time and we began to forget the loss we felt. We had a roof over our heads, even if it was not our own home. Then there came a day when my husband decided it was time to return to school to earn a college degree to enable him to change professions. He began driving to a community college forty five minutes away from our house for classes, every day. Once he had completed all they could offer him, he rode a bus early every morning to a city an hour and a half each day to school. again at the end of the day he rode an hour and a half.  He arrived home each night in time to eat dinner and fall into bed in order to turn around the next day and do it all again.

My husband wrote his papers on the bus as he rode to and from school every day. I sat at my electric typewriter and plunked out his papers for him while he sat in class. Sometimes his writing was difficult to decipher and I would struggle to understand what he had written. We both did our best to make it work. Our children barely knew they had a dad and it became apparent that we needed to move closer to the university so he could acquire his degree.

Suddenly my perspective changed. I realized how blessed we were that we did not own a home. I saw the wisdom of Heavenly Father. I felt His hand in my life. We lived in a rural area where it would have been difficult if not impossible to sell a home. Renting it out would have also been difficult. We were miles from our small town. At that time, not many people wanted to live where we were living.

What would we have done with a house to take care of an hour and a half away?

It would have been a burden to us. While it is true that my husband could have continued to ride the bus to school every day, the sacrifice of having any time with a dad seemed too high a price to ask our children to pay. If we left the house in the care of others, how would it be taken care of and by whom, would have been a constant concern. I have no idea what we would have done or how it would have worked out.

But Heavenly Father knew! He took care of that problem simply and easily, months before it arrived. He had already blessed us with a miracle. We packed up our belongings into a large U-Haul truck and waved goodbye to our community to a life that we hoped would lead us to a brighter future. Eventually!

To Be Continued.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Labor Day

Today is Labor Day in the United States of America and is considered a national holiday. Many American workers get to take the day off from work, to celebrate as they choose. There will be no postal delivery today. Most government offices are closed. The air will be perfumed with the multitude of traditional barbecues. Some will play baseball or soccer. Some will travel to spend the day with friends and relatives. There will be eating, lounging, television watching, swimming, games, and eating.

I am thinking today of my parents who were such hard workers. I do not think idleness was a word in either of their vocabularies. They were always busy doing worthwhile things and often impatient with me when I was not. They expected a great deal from me, but they expected even more from themselves. They worked hard at their jobs, to earn a paycheck. Long hours were not uncommon. My mother had a unique job which required her to make early morning home visits. Evening and weekend visits were also normal. My father willing accompanied her as companion and protector. Dad sometimes travelled as part of his job. Mother willingly rode shotgun.

Mother interacted with many of our communities underprivileged. She collected clothes and shoes and school supplies. For a time this storehouse was in a closet in our home. When it outgrew its space, a closet in a school was filled with a myriad of items to meet almost any school child's needs. She arranged for special items to be donated by local businesses. Sometimes this bulging closet just did not have what was needed.

My mother and father were very active participants in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. They attended faithfully and served vigorously to help The Kingdom of God grow. They taught classes, directed music, lead organizations, and sang with the choir. They delivered cookies, pies, cakes and casseroles. They spoke at meetings, funerals, and parties. They visited the sick, lonely, and suffering.

My parents loved and believed in their community. They believed that we should support the local businesses and not shop out of town. The lived what they believed. The supported Kiwanis, Music Club, 4-H, Toastmasters and Toastmistresses. Mother sang with Sweet Adeline's and Dad harmonized with the Singing K's. They helped with parades and supported worthy political causes. They promoted literacy and education. They signed petitions, ran for public office, and openly supported the democratic processes of our nation. They helped out at the local fair and rodeo, baking in the heat of the summer sun.

I learned a great deal about work and community from them. I was expected to work. I spent many an hour babysitting for twenty five cents an hour. I also knew it was my responsibility to leave any home in which I tended in as good or better order than I found it. My dad helped find me jobs, not pleasant ones, but I learned to clean up new construction for habitation. I scrubbed tar off newly laid linoleum tiles with a cleaner that ate away an ugly wart on my knee, (bonus!)

When I went looking for a real job on my own, I believe part of the reason I was hired was because the boss knew my parents were honest, responsible, and hardworking.

Heavenly Father also teaches about work. In the Bible we learn of the creation of the world. He spent six days creating all the world around us. Then He rested.

From scripture we also learn that we are the object of His work.   

"For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man."  (Moses 1:39)

On this National Holiday that honors the hard work of this nation, I honor those who have lived and died, working their hearts out to build our country. I  honor those who serve far away from their homes in the military, laying their lives on the line for my freedom. I honor the pilgrims who left their homes far away to pave the way for religious freedom. I honor the pioneers who paved the way for my family to have the right to live where we do. I honor my grandparents and my parents who worked that I might have a good life. 

And I honor my Heavenly Father who walks beside me as I too work on my eternal life.