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

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Hand of the Lord in My Life

Because life has so many bumps and bruises, it can be very easy for me to miss the miracles and blessings that come my way. That does not mean that miracles do not occur or that I am not blessed. It only means that I often miss them or fail to recognize them for what they are. I guess I get tunnel vision.

Last fall I took a trip to Oklahoma. I wanted to go! I bought tickets and took care of all the connecting details that I could think of. It was difficult to decide all the whens and how long to stay. I wanted to stay long enough to be helpful to my sweet daughter and her family. But I also wanted to leave while they could still tolerate me. It was a relief when the decisions were made and tickets were purchased.

My trip was wonderful! I loved being with this family. They did all they could to take care of me and make me feel welcome and at home. I played with my adorable grandchildren. I got to see the new little angel shortly after she arrived from heaven. I was so glad to be where I was.

The house was immaculate when I arrived. It was already decorated for the Christmas season. It required very little upkeep. But I tried to do what I could to ease the burden of my daughter. She really is more capable than I am. But she needed to rest. Anyone who knows about newborn babies also knows that rest is minimal.

As the day approached for me to fly away, I felt concern. My daughter did not seem to be bouncing back as well as I had witnessed previously. I realized that I had come a bit earlier this time and was leaving a bit earlier. But I knew that it was more than that. I began to wonder what I should do.

As I studied it out and prayed about it, I made the decision to stay a few more days. But how long? Again the difficulty of making decisions was upon me. But I forged ahead and faced the decision making dragon.

But there were some hitches to face. I had some obligations to attend to when I returned. What to do about them? One major assignment in particular loomed in my face. As I realized I needed to get someone to take my place, I also realized I had a name and a phone number with me to accomplish that mission, if this person was able and willing to substitute for me. I had not intentionally brought it with me. It was scribbled on another piece of paper because I needed information that was scribbled on it. One long distance call and I had the help I needed. A few more phone calls and my responsibilities were covered.

With credit card in hand, I changed my ticket. I still left earlier than I think I should. Looking back my daughter's after delivery complications were much more serious than any of us knew when I left.

I arrived home late at night on Saturday, unpacked and flopped onto my bed to rest. I was startled to remember that I needed to teach a nursery lesson in the morning. I had not thought of that once since I had left for Oklahoma.

Then I remembered that two weeks before I left for Oklahoma, The Holy Ghost told me to prepare that lesson. I resisted and was told again. So I did. At the time it made no sense to me. I knew I would be home in plenty of time to prepare a lesson for Sunday.

As I looked at the long forgotten lesson, I  realized that Heavenly Father knew I would not be  home to prepare that lesson. He told me to do it long before I left. I also realized that Heavenly Father knew I would need a phone number. He made certain that it was with me. I had not known when I bought plane tickets how long I needed to stay. I made the best decision I knew how to do. But Heavenly Father knew.

And Heavenly Father took care of things I would need in advance.

For me it is still a miracle!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

I Get It!

Once in awhile I have those experiences that some might call ah-ha moments. The light dawns or inspiration comes or even an 'I get it' opportunity. On Sunday morning it happened again. I was up early bustling around getting ready for the days adventures. Mentally I was complaining to myself. Gripe, gripe, gripe. I am not certain exactly what I was complaining to myself about. But my attitude about giving service was certainly a portion of the problem. To make certain that I am clear, it was not the service to be given that was the problem. It was my attitude about the service. I knew that then and I am certain of that now.

I believe in giving service. I choose to give service. I usually enjoy serving others. I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. We are an organized group of people who help others. There are many opportunities to give service within this church. I choose to belong to several other organizations where service is the name of the game. So I am all in favor of serving others.

But sometimes, my attitude is not so good.

So my moment of revelation came during my complaining. You see I also believe in prayer. I am on my knees several times each day. My mind also turns to Heavenly Father in prayers and pleadings frequently. There never seems to be an end to the things I ask for. Though it is often on behalf of others, I am a beggar. Please help me with this. Could you please take care of that. I do not understand why this is happening, could I please have some enlightenment? Someone is sick. Someone needs a job. Someone has a broken heart or is feeling depressed. Please take care of their needs.

Don't get me wrong, I also express gratitude. But never enough. My prayers are always heavy on the asking part and a bit light on the thanks. I also believe in gratitude. I believe it opens up my heart and colors the world in richer hues. I see things differently when I am blessed with the gift of gratitude. I know that I need to work on being grateful too. But that is another whole issue.

Sometimes I think I have mental complaining down to a fine art. No one living around me could hear what I was thinking. But Heavenly Father could. I was struck with understanding. Never have I heard Him say, "Don't ask me right now. Don't you know that I am tired of serving others?" He has never responded with anything like I was thinking. You know, like I need a break. Or, isn't it someone else's turn? Or I will be so glad when I do not have to do this anymore.

The impression cut right to the heart of the matter. I was reminded of who I am supposed to be and how far away I still am from the goal.

Does Heavenly Father tire of my whining, griping, and complaining? He certainly gets to hear enough of it. Maybe He does. I do not know. But He is still there, patiently listening. He is always there serving me.

Though I do not always immediately see the answers to my prayers, I do feel His presence and His peace. With his strength I carry on when my strength is gone. With His hope, I can face forward a little longer in moments of hopelessness.

What a blessing to be gently reminded that I can change, that I can be better. And that He believes in me.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Fear - Part Two

None of us gets through this life without a few hard knocks. Sometimes our experiences are difficult and even unsuccessful. Something does not go well. Someone may say something negative about our abilities. We may see our own lack of success. We may feel hurt. And we may feel fear. I believe we all experience a certain amount of fear in life anyway. For some unfamiliar noises are frightening. Small children often fear new and unfamiliar faces or places.

But I believe many of our fears are learned behaviors. We step out of our comfort zone and give our best shot to do or say something and are met with some form of criticism. Maybe even just a small laugh when our intent was not to be funny. But some reaction tells the heart, "I am never doing that again." And we don't.

I have been told by word and reaction that I am not funny by those in my inner circle. Eventually one gets the message that their humor is not appreciated. Interestingly some of those who find me so unfunny are easily offended when their jokes are not appreciated. But that is another story. So for the most part I do not try to be funny. But in some settings with other people, I have been told I have a very good sense of humor. I remember one experience when I visited with some people in my home, one of them made the comment that they had no idea how funny I was. But among my inner circle, I no longer attempt to be funny very often. I have had enough of their reactions. Fear has taken over.

Because of my faith in Heavenly Father, His Beloved Son Jesus Christ, and The Holy Ghost, I am well aware that fear should not be. It erodes faith. When fear gets a strong enough hold in our hearts, it can squish our faith into a corner. It can slam the door to our faith.

Fear can paralyze and keep us from doing things we really want to do. It can become a prison of our own making.

I have allowed a great deal of fear to enter into my heart over my life time. Sometimes the why or the how seemed unknown. Only that the fear was real and threatening. Sometimes I believe it was a product of my own recognition of failure. But often I have accepted fear as a result of the words and actions of others. Things that mattered to me were mocked. My desires and feelings went unheeded and often unheard. Cruel words were spoken. Ridicule became my companion. And others slammed doors of opportunity in my face.

I realized I had allowed myself to be boxed in. I felt that if, in a moment of bravery, I opened the lid to try to peak out, someone was there to shove that lid right back down, keeping me in side. But more and more I have opened the lid and peaked. Once in  awhile I have risen to see things outside the box enclosing me. As courage came I tried more and more to occasionally escape the box.

It is a battle. In many ways it is easier to stay in the box. Those who like the safety of keeping me in the box make it unpleasant and difficult for me to escape. The battle wearies me. But I carry one.

This year, I took a huge step from the box to face one of my fears. It has challenged me to fight the forces that hold the lid of the box down. But I move forward to face my fear.

Fear- Part One

I am not a particularly courageous person. Many things can seem overwhelming and frightening for me. I have cowered in a corner more than once or twice in my life. Yet, at times I have wanted to try some of the things that may seem frightening to others. I used to want to sky dive. Perhaps it is the appearance of the freedom that sky divers have as the float through the air. Perhaps it is the similarity to flying as a bird. I thought it looked like fun. I also wanted to learn to fly a plane. I used to dream I was flying, without a plane, when I was a child. Maybe that sparked that desire. But I can now bet that neither of those things are ever going to happen. But I still like the idea that we can have things we would like to do, lurking in the recesses of our hearts.

I think I was able to bolster more courage when my children were small. I had to at least PRETEND to be brave for them. They inspired my courage. I remember once when I was standing at the kitchen sink fixing a meal, I heard the distinctive sound of a mouse trap snap, accompanied by the delightful sound of the mouse who was caught. I squealed and jumped six feet in the air which of course attracted the attention of all my children. Quickly throwing on my armor of courage, I calmly reply that something startled me, yet everything is fine. As I listen to the mouse trap flopping around and the mouse squealing in the kitchen cupboard underneath the sink, I do the only thing I can do. I lie! I do not want my children to develop fear of a mouse, because I am afraid.

When we lived in this same house, we also had the pleasure of the company of snakes. Not just a snake, but snakes. I HATE snakes. I want nothing to do with a snake. I have actually touched one, discovering that they do not feel as creepy as they look. But it doesn't matter, to me they are creepy. One afternoon after tucking my four little ones into bed for a nap, I heard a little voice mention that there was a snake in the bedroom they shared. Of course I believed them instantly. NOT! It sounded ridiculous, and I was not buying it for a moment. I do not remember how many previous complaints I had heard from this room or how many times someone had needed a drink or a last minute trip to the bathroom. But telling me there was a snake was certainly more creative than usual.

Finally to prove my children wrong, I went on a snake hunt. And I found a snake!

I was terrified! I HATE snakes. But I could not show my terror to my small children. So I chased the snake with a fly swatter, which of course is the perfect weapon of choice for snake hunters. Eventually I cornered the slithery serpent and beat it to death with my trusty fly swatter.

Thus our season of snakes had begun. Another slithered my direction as I sat on the floor watching television one evening. My husband had prudently chosen to sit on the couch that evening. Calmly he disposed of that particular visitor.

One sleepy eyed child quickly startled into wide eyed awakening as a snake slithered out of the sink at him when he went to get a drink of water one early morning.

I asked the landlord/next door neighbor about the possible presence of snakes in this house previously. She looked at me as if I had spoken in Japanese. I was serious and seriously wondered if snakes had been part of our rental agreement that I misunderstood. As I asked again, she looked at me a little sheepishly. Aging adults had lived in this house before us. As their health failed, they complained of snakes. To humor them, their family members had moved the furniture around to hunt for the imaginary snakes and pacify their senile parents.

People laughed at our snake stories. Of course it is funny, because the snakes are not living in their house, terrorizing normally somewhat sane individuals. They suggested we should be glad that we had snakes so we would not have mice. Which of course in this case was definitely not true. Snakes and mice coexisted well in our home.Perhaps they had a contract or maybe just a verbal agreement. However they decided, it worked well for each species because they seemed quite content to let us share their space.