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







Friday, December 18, 2015

Gifts

The week of Christmas has arrived. For me it is a week away from work and many of the other things that take my time. I have spent many hours shopping, purchasing, wrapping, and mailing in the hopes that the week of Christmas will be more simple, relaxed, and celebratory of the birth of The Savior Jesus Christ.

For He is the reason we celebrate Christmas. It is because of the gifts that Jesus has given us that we have hope in this life. It is through His example that we see true charity and try to become more charitable. It is because of Christ that we have something in which to have faith. It is The Atonement of Jesus Christ that we lean on every day of our lives, hoping that we can return to live with Heavenly Father, and believing that we are loved.

Though life can be challenging to us in so many ways, it is because of Jesus Christ that I can sometimes almost be grateful for the trials that have come my way. With effort I can ask the question 'What am I to learn from this experience," instead of asking, 'Why me?' The hope in Christ also helps me think about the many things that I have not had to experience. And I am grateful that cancer has not been my challenge. I am profoundly grateful that all my children are living and thriving through life's challenges. I am grateful for the faith that saw me through hard seasons with parents whose lives were waning before my very eyes. It is through The Atonement that I hope to be a better forgiver and even more to hope that I can be forgiven.

I wonder if there will ever come a time again when all the Christian world will really celebrate the life, mission, death, and Atonement of Jesus Christ. Will we ever give up the shopping, the spending, the attitude of this is what I want for Christmas, and really be disciples?

Will the stores really stop putting out the Christmas trappings before Halloween? Will consumers really be able to resist the advertisements? Will we ever put The Savior first in our lives for even the season when we celebrate His birth?

It is easy to be sucked into the newest gadget and gizmo. It is easy to think we can and have to do it all. None of us wants to feel we have failed our friends and family. And truthfully none of us wants to be forgotten. Some people give and give and give with no expectation of receiving. With a pure heart that is how it should be. But it is pretty easy to be offended when we are forgotten by others.

The example of Jesus Christ was one of giving with no expectation of receiving. So how do I make my heart more like His?

One of the stresses of the season revolves around the gift giving process. How much should I spend? What is enough? Will it offend someone if I do not spend more than this? Who have I forgotten? Will what I have given mean anything to anyone?

As I think about Christ and His gifts to us and the blessings of Heavenly Father, it is really clear that nothing that I can give anyone in this world can come close to measuring up to the gifts I have received. Jesus Christ gave all that He had to give. Heavenly Father also gave me all. All that I call my own is really His. God can take it all away at any moment. But sometimes my selfish side rear its ugly head and forgets that part.

All they ask in return from me seems so small in comparison. Then why does it sometimes seem so hard?

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Christmas Past


Been thinking a lot about Christmas. Since it is just a week away, how could I not. I have pondered on the meaning of Christmas and thought about Christmases I can remember. I remember one Christmas log ago when I was a child, wanting to believe in Santa Claus and yet really believing that he was not real.

It had been a hard year for me. I had broken my right femur in a foolish bicycle accident, landed in the hospital for about six weeks in traction, and spent the fall in a wheel chair. I sat inside my third grade classroom in a wheelchair during recess, watching classmates outside, through the window. I was not able to participate in many things, as stairs were a huge handicap for me in the school building.

We had a foreign exchange student who lived with us that year. He was from Caracas, Venezuela. Luciano pushed me to school in the wheelchair in the morning and home again at the end of the day. He took the wheelchair and I up the steps at the beginning of the day and down the stairs when school was out. The rest of the day, I spent in the classroom, because I had no one to take me up and down the stairs. My mother came at noon and helped me visit the ladies room. Lunch was delivered to me in the classroom and I ate alone, because the cafeteria was down a huge flight of stairs.

Eventually, my cast was removed and I went to school on crutches. It was a trial to discover I could not walk at all. My right leg collapsed with my every efforts. But practice and hard work paid off and I was able to walk before Christmas. It had been a long five months!

As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, we did not participate in Midnight Mass at the local Catholic Church. But Luciano was a devout Catholic. And we went to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve with him. It was a new and different experience for me. I think that I realized then how different it must have been for Luciano to attend church with us. Though we both believed in God, we loved our own religions. That night I learned how very different our worship was to Luciano.

Christmas was on Sunday and I fully expected to see presents under our tree from Santa when we arrived home from Midnight Mass. I went to bed disappointed.

As a family, we attended our own church meetings on Christmas morning. It seemed long to me, partly because it was Christmas day, but also partly because of my puzzlement that Santa had not yet visited our house. Not a single new present had arrived during my night of restless sleep. Disappointment was real, but perhaps also fear that maybe there would be no more presents.

But Christmas is such a magical season and disappointment was dispelled when I walked into our home and saw presents galore decorating our living room. A very large teddy bear was tagged for me and a small, blue, rocking chair just my size sat under it. The three of us instantly fell in love.

To this day, I do not know how the magic of that day happened. Both my parents sat with us in church. I did not see them leave. I wonder still how Santa fulfilled his responsibility and chased away my fear and disappointment.

My Mother always loved Christmas. She spent grundles of hours in preparation and service. Somehow I believe she and my Dad orchestrated the magic that perpetuated my belief in Santa for another season.

For what other explanation could there have been?

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Lessons from The Life of the Savior

In the busyness of preparing for Christmas, it can be a challenge to do much of anything, except keep up with life as fast as one can. The whole meaning and purpose of Christmas can be easily lost in exhaustion, activities, financial woes, and commercialism. It can be really hard to remember why Christmas is important.

Long ago an angel sent from Heavenly Father visited a young woman who was not married in a far away land. The angel told this virgin something unheard of, something miraculous, something that might be hard to comprehend. The angel told Mary that she would become the mother of The Son of God. Mary was a remarkable woman. Scriptures teach us that she said to the angel, "Be it unto me, according to thy word."

Perhaps it is only remarkable to me that she answered so, because that is not what I think, when I know the Lord wants me to do something unheard of or hard to comprehend. I whine. I pout. I complain. And I avoid. I may need The Holy Ghost to remind me, pester me, and even nag me. I marvel at her attitude of faith and obedience.

No why me, Lord? No I am just too busy this week. No comments about how hard this would be. No words of 'are you kidding?'

Just simple obedience.

But when I think about that simple obedience demonstrated by Mary the mother of Jesus Christ, it really makes perfect sense. For her son, God's son, would also be perfectly obedient. He would come to this earth as an infant, helpless as all of us would come to earth. But He would rise to become a Master Teacher in His every word and deed. He would represent His Father and our Father, without flinching, whining or complaining. He would do all things that Heavenly Father asked Him to do.

Christ was obedient enough to tangle with Satan who tempted Him following fasting for days beyond my comprehension. I gripe and complain if I miss a meal. But Christ fasted for forty days and nights. When Satan suggested options for Christ's comfort and glory, The Son of God stood firm. He did not tangle with Satan. He cast Satan from His presence.

How often I wish I were as strong as that, to see Satan, or hear his lies, or see his tools and tactics and to simply shrug my shoulders and cast him away from me. But it is often after I have become ensnared that I recognize Satan for the Snake he is and then it is too late. I am caught in his web of deceit and must detangle myself, usually a painful process.

Jesus Christ had few earthly possessions. His mission was not things, but people. Another example for me to learn from for I am really good at acquiring things. I dream of things, I work for things, and then I spend hours and hours taking care of things. But I do not think I am that careful with people. I am often to busy to listen or serve or lift and strengthen another in great need. Too busy with the things to notice the people is so not what I would have seen Christ do.

God's Only Begotten Son worked miracles beyond my comprehension. Miracles may not have occurred every day, but then they may have. I am surrounded by miracles every day, yet fail to recognize, appreciate, and express gratitude for them. Some of those who lived when Christ did so many miraculous things also failed to be grateful. Sometimes I am just like the nine who were healed from their blindness, who went away and said nothing. NOTHING! How could that be, but is that a lot like me?

Christmas is a season to think of Heavenly Father and His willingness to give His Son to the world. It is about His Son who was willing to give His life as a gift for all the world. It is about following in His footsteps of obedience and service and gratitude and so much more.

As I think of Heavenly Father's blessings in my life and of the life and example of His Only Begotten Son, I am filled with overwhelming gratitude. And my desire to be more like Jesus Christ grows. I have a long way to go, but in Their patience and love, I find strength, and peace, and hope.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Winter Gratitude

Winter arrived with a vengeance to thwart our plans for Thanksgiving. It was a bit disappointing to not see as many family members as we would have liked, but the fact that they are all safe brought me great gratitude. I would much prefer their safety than their presence. Our twenty pound turkey will last us much longer and we may even get tired of it before it is gone, but that is just fine. Heavenly Father kept them home and off the treacherous roads.

We did spend a couple of days enjoying our son. He brought music and laughter and insight into our lives. He enriched my days and brightened my spirits. His presence strengthened me and brought me joy and gratitude.

And I needed that.

For my week had been fraught with challenges and disappointments and heartaches. It seemed to come at me from every side and I have had a hard time picking myself up again. But the days of Thanksgiving have helped me prepare to go forward with faith.

Tomorrow will be the first day of December. It seems that fall was just a week or so ago. But the stores have been begging for and receiving my money for weeks now as we begin to look towards the Christmas season. I resent the stores that infringe on Halloween with Christmas decorations filling the aisles. I am more than resentful for the stores that suffocate Thanksgiving with their sales and desire to fill their pockets. I am sympathetic to employees who have no choice but to be to work on our national day of gratitude to take care of all of us greedy folks who want it all and demand a bargain. I would love to give up all the expenses of advertising and all the gimmicks. I would love to see merchants give us an honest price for all the things they sell, all the time. Every day. Every week. Every month. Every year. Frankly I am tired of the game!

Decorations are in place in my home thanks to the joy of a daughter and her son, who were delighted to bring us some Christmas joy. The tree will soon arrive and make its sparkling presence felt.

My house resonated this morning with the Christmas music of a wonderful Program I attended at the Utah State University Institute. It reminded me that Christmas is all about the love of our Heavenly Father who allowed His Only Begotten Son to some to this earth as an infant. He taught His Son how to live and how to love and How to sacrifice. And because His love for me was so big and so rich, Jesus Christ was willing to offer His all for me and for all who walk this earth. His gift is infinite and eternal. It is real and it is incomprehensible.

Because of the love of God the Eternal Father and His Son Jesus Christ, I have been able to walk on with faith when bombarded with disappointment and heartache. I have fallen to my knees in both frustration and gratitude. I have picked myself up and walked on with faith when the pathway was dark and dreary. I have felt peace in a world of turmoil.

Winter cold surrounds me but the warmth of God's love fills my soul.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Mistakes and Embarassment

Sometimes  we find ourselves in situations that could be embarrassing to us. Something we say may sound different to others. We do something foolish. We end up in the wrong place at the wrong time. We mess up. It even happens that embarrassing moments come to us simply from our lack of knowledge or experience.

I believe that all these experiences are part of our mortal existence. We are only temporarily mortal beings. We are actually children of a loving Heavenly Father and we chose to come to earth to learn and grow. We carry the Light of Christ or The Holy Ghost with us to guide us and protect us. But a large portion of our learning experience requires trial and error. That often means mistakes.

Few enjoy the experience that comes with making mistakes. Usually we do not rejoice in the embarrassing moments. Often we find a reason to blame others rather than ourselves. But if we are humble enough, we can learn much from our mistakes. They can be great teachers in life. Our attitude and willingness to learn can be a huge factor in how successful we are in learning lessons from life experiences.

Recently a dear friend shared with me that her day had been difficult and challenging. She recognized that it was a day of 'training' for her as mistakes littered her path. She had struggled to face the learning moments with courage, so that they really could be experiences that she would not repeat. They would help her to grow and change. Her faith and her attitude strengthened me.

A short time later, I watched a very young woman as she struggled. She was in a very unfamiliar setting. She was surrounded by dozens of people. She knew some of those people well but many were total strangers. It was a situation that could prove to be very embarrassing to her.

But it was not!

I watched those around her rally to her aid, not once but multiple times. No one did or said anything unkind or demeaning. They simply offered her kind words, encouragement and genuine concern. They offered her help and support. I watched from the sidelines as a team of earthly angels turned this moment into one of love and growth. I watched as she willingly received all the challenge and the kindness with meekness and appreciation. There were no signs of embarrassment or frustration. She smiled and expressed sincere appreciation.

I felt the warm witness of The Holy Ghost in those moments of the genuine kindness and love in the hearts of those who served. And I wanted to be more like them.

I also felt the witness of the genuine goodness of the Young Woman who willingly learned from others. Her humility was very evident in her demeanor. She was not only willing to learn, but grateful for the opportunity to be taught. And I wanted to be more like her.

The Plan of Salvation is God's plan for our success and happiness. It is a plan we accepted in the life before this one. It is our chance to learn and grow as we try to become more like Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. Yet, so often we resist those opportunities to learn from our mistakes and our embarrassing moments. We long for a scapegoat to blame or an excuse that relieves us of the responsibility to change. We fight and struggle and resist changing, cuz it is hard. We think we are wiser than Heavenly Father and resist His will and plan for our lives. We are so determined to be in control and do it our own way.

I appreciate the experience of watching these angels who were my teachers. Through their kindness and humility, I was taught by The Holy Ghost some important lessons for me about mistakes and embarrassment. It happens to all of us. I want to be more willing to learn from those experiences and change so that I can return to live with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ in the eternities.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

November Gratitude

The weather has turned cold here and we have had our first snow. The garden has been cleaned out, barren and brown. A few fall raspberries are still hanging on through the blustery wind. Winter is breathing down my neck and I am not sure that I am ready.

Snow is beautiful but cold is not. I am struggling to keep warm as adjustment to the new season takes place. But I am feeling blessed because we live in a home that has a furnace and I can crank it up to ward off the cold. I am grateful for the quilts that cover me in my bed at night and for the warm clothing that I can wear. I not only have pants that cover my legs and shirts with sleeves to cover my arms, but I have jackets and coats. I actually own more jackets than I need. I also have more gloves than I need too.

I am blessed!

When we need to leave our home, we can travel in cars with heaters. I do not have to walk very far, unless I want to. I can ride in comfort, protected from the blasts of winter weather. We may not be considered wealthy by the standards of the world, but I can stop and buy gas for my car, anytime. Last week, I did just that. The low fuel warning sounded in my ears and I promptly headed for the gas pump and filled up the tank.

We have clean air to breathe and plenty of water. I can get a drink anytime I want. I shower every day. Right now my washing machine is cleaning my dirty clothes without my assistance with plenty of clean water.

I am blessed!

Our garden provided us with food to add to our supply. I can cook a meal with things we have in our pantry and our freezer. But I can also go to any grocery store to buy what I need, without much inconvenience. I do not choose to buy lots of the things I see, but I could. No one restricts my choices but me. I have money to buy anything I want to.

Though my body has aged, I can walk and climb stairs. I can run if I choose. I can bend over to pick up things from the floor. I can carry and cook and clean. I have eyes that see and ears that hear. My heart beats without any effort on my part and my lungs exchange air and I never give it a thought.

I am blessed!

My gratitude is huge and immeasurable  to My Heavenly Father for all the things He has provided for me. I am immensely grateful for the opportunity to pray and the peace and comfort that prayers are heard and answered. I am blessed to have a testimony and faith that sustains me through life's challenges.

The Atonement of Jesus Christ is a mystery and a miracle to me. I lean on it and I depend on The Savior Jesus Christ and His gift of the Atonement. His willingness to suffer for my sins is incomprehensible to me. And I am grateful!

I am grateful for The Holy Ghost. Impressions and ideas come to me that I know are from Heaven. I have been counseled and taught and protected. I have spoken words that I know were not mine. I have said the words that were given to me and finished by saying these are not my words. I am not that smart.

I have been able to succeed more, learn more, become more because of the miracles of life provided by these three Heavenly individuals in my life.

I am blessed!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Personal Revelation

Thinking about personal revelation a bit lately, well really much of my life. It is a life long quest for me to come to understand how revelation comes to me specifically. I have learned a great deal from making mistakes. Not my proudest moments to be sure, but they really have been teaching moments to help me refine the process of listening to the still small voice of The Holy Ghost.

The longer I live on this planet that is really not home to my spirit, the more I have come to understand that learning to listen to The Holy Ghost is vital for me. I am far too human and easily prone to my own weakness. I am too easily swayed by the 'arm of flesh.' But in thinking about the mistakes I have made I realize and appreciate the opportunity to learn for myself how to interact more effectively with The Holy Ghost.

I am constant in my prayers to ask for the companionship of The Holy Ghost. I feel a great need for His power and presence in my life. I need the strength, the insight, the comfort,  and the peace that come with His influence. It is hard for me to navigate life with the lonely, dark, fearful feeling that swallows me up when The Holy Ghost is not near.

Sometimes I have a hard time recognizing why I am feeling so lost and alone or why the world has suddenly taken on a more sinister appearance. I find myself wondering, 'what is wrong with me?' Then the realization comes I am in need of being more aware. It may be that I have done something to offend The Spirit and He has left me alone. It may be that for a few moments (or hours or days) I must walk alone relying on my own light. Totally scary! But sometimes I have recognized that for me, this dark feeling or the feeling of being lost, or the sense of fear is really warning me of danger ahead. It is a clear signal to be more alert.

I experienced this warning within the last week. I felt that heavy feeling at an odd time and place. I was in no danger. I was doing something very good and worthwhile. I was in the middle of serving others. It made no sense to me. I felt the darkness begin to invade. My heart began to feel heavy. I attempted to shake if off, to talk myself out of it. 'Stop it!' I said to myself. But the uncomfortable feeling persisted for many hours. Then the situation occurred that caused me to struggle. It came at me with no warning and found me unprepared. I felt broadsided. Then the learning came. I had been warned. The Holy Ghost had been teaching me to be alert.

I had missed the warning!

So often that has been the case. I have been aware of the danger in a situation, but ignored it. When the disaster hit, I realized I had trusted in the arm of flesh, again. Though it is disappointing to not choose well, I have tried to learn from those experiences, how to listen better.

Sometimes I just plain resist the promptings of The Holy Ghost. The idea may seem crazy and impossible. The inspiration may simply be something I really do not want to do. Sometimes in my heart I know I must obey, but my mind says, 'It does not make any sense!'

A few months ago I had a really hard struggle with accepting inspiration and acting on the instructions that came clearly from The Holy Ghost. It was crazy and seemed impossible. And I did not want to do what I was told I needed to do. And to this day, it till makes no sense to me at all.

I struggled and resisted. I procrastinated and whined. I avoided obedience and tried to talk Heavenly Father out of this unreasonable idea. But The Holy Ghost would not allow me to feel any kind of peace until I obeyed. My soul was in a state of torment as I wrestled with obedience. After I completed step one of the thing that I knew I was to do, peace came in an instant. I fell to me knees in gratitude for the Lord's patience with me and promised to follow each step ahead on this path as best as I could.

I am still walking along this path on a journey I had not wanted, expected, or looked for. But though it has its own set of challenges, it has been a journey that has been good. I have learned and grown in unexpected ways. I have developed skills and talents lost to my sight. I have grown to know and learn about others I had never met. I have found gratitude fill my heart for this journey, most days.

I walk this path, knowing I am on a journey for Heavenly Father. When I struggle with situations, I am firm in my conviction that I am where He has placed me. I know it is where I am supposed to be at this season. I do not know all things and I am not sure exactly why I am on this path, but I know how I ended up here. It is because I was willing to put away my pride and selfish nature long enough to obey the promptings of The Holy Ghost.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Oh How Great is the Goodness of Our God

The words to a song have filled my mind and my heart this morning. I am so grateful for all the blessings that come to me from Heavenly Father, every single day. In my heart I am singing, "Oh How Great is the Goodness of Our God," because that is how I am feeling.

Last week was filled with many challenges and much busyness. It seemed overwhelming to me as  looked the requirement for me to meet. At times it felt overwhelming in the middle of it. Even found some major hiccups of difficulty along the way. But through it all, I found help from Heaven arriving to my aid as I needed it.

What a blessing it is to get down on my knees and say my prayers, knowing that Heavenly Father is real, knowing that He is there for me, and that He will listen to me as I whine and beg and complain and plead. When I struggle and strain to meet the demands of every day existence, I feel the presence of His Spirit whispering peace and calm. In my mind I hear that it will be ok and all work out. When chaos tries to swallow me up and I feel clueless how to solve a problem, answers come through the calming voice of The Holy Ghost. When I am tired to tears, I feel revived until I can rest.

Though my week was busy, it was mostly all good things. I had several opportunities that may not come again and I am grateful for them. But even good opportunities can tax my stamina and capability. It is so reassuring to know that help does come from God. I believe He really wants all of us to succeed.

On Saturday afternoon I found myself headed to an assignment in a situation where I had not been able to brush my teeth. I felt a need to do that and an opportunity was provided for me to stop at a store and purchase toothpaste and toothbrush and brush my teeth. This miracle strengthened me and I felt rich because I could stop and purchased the very items that I needed.

I am rich!

My week ended with a sweet opportunity to witness a little family kneel at the altar in a Holy Temple to be sealed together, as a family for time and all eternity. I saw the tears fill the corner of the eyes of the mother as she prepared to become a forever couple with her husband. I saw the courage in the husband's eyes as he received counsel that it was up to him to lead his family back to Heavenly Father. I saw them kneel at the altar with two beautiful daughters, quietly awed by the beauty of Heavenly Father's Holy Temple. I heard the words for time and all eternity, as they were spoken with reverence and dignity.

This family with eternal possibilities gazed into the mirrors and saw a glimpse of forever ahead of them. They received instructions on the way Heavenly Father wants His children to live as families. They received a copy of The Family Proclamation and were taught that it teaches God's plan for families.

I am so grateful for the power that Heavenly Father has provided to create forever families. What a blessing to have temples to allow me to receive further instruction from God about living in this mortal world. I am so blessed to be able to travel a short distance to attend church meetings and  to listen and to learn. I am so grateful to be able to participate in the Sacrament and remember The Savior Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for me. It is wonderful to be able to repent and think of how I can improve myself as I ponder His life and teachings. Every Sunday I get the opportunity to begin again as I strive to overcome the temptations of this world.

And today I am filled with gratitude as I hear in my mind the words, "Oh how great is the goodness of our God,"

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Centered - Part Two

Sometimes I accepted my uneven project as good enough. But mostly, I cut the clay from the wheel, mushed it into a ball and shoved it into my large bag of clay. Then I would begin again. Some days sitting at the wheel, all I did was mush my clay into the bag. I walked out of the studio without completing a single piece. But some days, my success was good. I made bowls and plates and cups. I made a vase with a lid. I made a water pitcher with a handle and a spout. I experimented with "throwing off the hump" and created miniature bowls. My teacher was pleased with my willingness to attempt this more experienced technique. She explained that she did not really teach this technique until the intermediate ceramics class.

Learning to prepare and glaze the pots was another challenge. I faced it head on with as much courage as I could muster. Some of my pieces disappointed me after they had been fired in the kiln. But some surprised me because they looked better than I expected. I learned how to Roku pieces, literally putting them into the fire and then dousing them with cold water. I loved the look of these pieces.

I accomplished all that was required on the list, and more.

But centering the clay was always a huge challenge for me.

When Elder Richard J.Maynes spoke in The 185th General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, he immediately had my attention. He told of Elder Aoba from Shidoku, Japan whose vocation is making pottery. Elder Aoba taught youth that they could be successful in making pottery on a spinning wheel, only when they had correctly centered the clay on the wheel.

Elder Aoba first let these young men and young women attempt to create, by just placing the clay in what appeared to be the center of the wheel. They failed. As Elder Maynes talked, I could see myself sitting at the pottery wheel doing exactly the same thing. My experience had been the same. Failure!

But when Elder Aoba helped them try again with clay perfectly centered, these young people began to succeed. This too reflected my own experience. I was not able to succeed in creating what I desired to create, unless I had successfully centered my clay exactly on the pottery wheel.

Then Elder Aoba taught the comparison he wanted the young people to learn. Life is the same way. We need to have our lives centered in Christ. Only when we have centered our life in Jesus Christ will we be successful in allowing Heavenly Father to mold us into what He needs us to be.

Elder Aoba's lesson has penetrated my heart. Because I have experienced the process of learning to center the clay on the potter's wheel, I see more clearly the process he taught about centering life on The Savior Jesus Christ.

Because I want to become who Heavenly Father needs me to become, I am grateful for this lesson, which has changed my heart as I try to come closer to Jesus Christ. I want to learn more of Him and strive to be more like He is, so that I can have my heart in the exact center where it needs to be.

Centered - Part One

Last year I felt compelled to return to college to complete my associates degree. For me it felt like a formidable undertaking. Though I did not have tons of credits to complete, returning to school carried weighty concerns for me. I pressed forward with faith in Heavenly Father to prepare for the ride. My initial plan was to take a very full load of classes in one semester and then be done. I figured for one semester I could let almost everything else go, work hard, and give it my all. But as the days drew near for school to begin, the impressions of the Holy Ghost slowed me down and I completely changed course. I understood clearly that I did not need to hurry. Finishing was not a race. Slow down and enjoy the experience. Break it into two semesters. You have plenty of time. All these impressions settled my decisions.

I needed to select an elective the second semester. Choices were extremely limited and several of the interesting classes simply would not work with my schedule. So I signed up for Beginning Ceramics and showed up for class the first day. I immediately knew I had signed up for an entirely different class than I had expected. I was in a class where we were expected to turn clay into things. As I looked at the list of projects to be completed by semesters end, I felt panic rise in my heart. "I cannot do this," I heard in my mind. "You've got to be kidding!"

And so it began, the molding of clay by hand.

But the day came when it was time to learn to throw a bowl on the potter's wheel. Again, my mind told me to run from the room. "I cannot do this!" But my kind teacher helped me, sitting across the wheel from me, guiding my hands, guiding my control of the power of the wheel as it spun before me. My bowl was crude and rough looking, but it really was a bowl. The teacher left my side to help another student, as I prepared to cut the clay from the wheel. Suddenly the wheel began to spin. I was not pushing the peddle to activate the power and had no idea why it was spinning, completely out of my control. A more experienced student told me how to stop the wheel and explained that the power setting of the wheel needed adjustment. My crude bowl was now a crude plate. But it had not become a flying saucer as this student explained can often happen, as the clay literally rises from the wheel and flies across the room.

I was so disappointed that my bowl had become to me a total flop. But at least it was a plate!

I spent many hours throwing clay on this wheel. I found it therapeutic and began to love the feel of the clay in my hands. But centering the clay on the wheel was always a challenge for me. I worked at the centering process. I tried several methods, but often as I would gently poke my fingers into the spinning clay, I knew immediately that the clay was not centered as the mound of clay would begin to shimmy and shake. Sometimes it was not until I was closer to finishing a project that I began to see the unevenness of my creation. One wall would be thicker than the other. I would realize then that the clay had not been perfectly centered. With the clay unevenly sitting on the wheel, this was a nearly impossible thing for me to correct.

To Be Continued.

Friday, October 9, 2015

The Butterfly

When I was in the third grade, I was lucky enough to find a caterpillar that was destined to become a monarch butterfly. Carefully I captured it and safely contained it in a quart jar. I did all the things that wiser people told me to do to care for the caterpillar, so that it could become what it was destined to become.

It was a challenging time for me, as I had broken my right femur, spent more than a month in the hospital in traction, and was now confined to transport via wheelchair. My life had been seriously derailed!  But many kindnesses and miracles also accompanied this season of my life.

Watching the caterpillar eat, and crawl, crawl and eat brought me much companionship through lonely hours, when other children were playing, riding bikes, jumping and shooting hoops. The caterpillar was my friend.

Eventually the striped critter crawled to the lid of the mason jar, created a chrysalis and spent a season in hiding. It was fascinating! I took my jar carefully to school with me in my wheelchair to show this magical transformation to my school mates. Together we watched as the chrysalis thinned and bits of color peeked through. Eventually the butterfly hung from the lid. We watched as wings dried and the butterfly had truly changed before our very eyes.

The butterfly was truly beautiful!

It stretched its wings and flew gracefully from the jar and out the classroom window, into God's beautiful world. It was where it belonged. It had transformed and become exactly what God intended it to be.

There was sorrow in my heart as I lost sight of the beautiful Monarch butterfly as it flew farther from the window. I could not follow it in the wheelchair.  But I rejoiced in its beauty and in its freedom.

As I have pondered the last General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter--Day Saints, I have thought of this experience again. I have been reminded of the process of change that I need to undertake in this life, just as the crawling caterpillar. I am not yet who God wants me to become. I am still crawling and eating and eating and crawling my way through life. I am not yet ready to attach myself to the lid of the jar to begin the last phases of my transformation.

But I am working on it! Every day!

Messages from prophets and apostles and other wise church leaders have reminded me that this life is designed for me to change, to become. This is a time for education and development and trial. Heavenly Father in His infinite wisdom and love provided me with the opportunity to learn and grow. But it is up to me to choose my path and I work at listening to the voice of The Holy Ghost guide me as I eat and crawl and crawl and eat.

Gratitude has filled my heart as I have pondered Jesus Christ and His Atonement for me. I am completely dependent on the mercy and grace of The Atonement. I have pondered on the sacrifice it was for my Savior and also for His Father, who stood by and watched as The Atonement took place. I a grateful for the trials that shape me as I crawl along. And even more grateful for the trials that have not been mine to live.

I am not destined to be a beautiful Monarch butterfly, filling the world with beauty and color. But because of the goodness of that God who created this earth, I have the hope that as I crawl and eat, and eat and crawl, that bit by bit, choice by choice, I am getting a little bit closer to becoming who God created me to be.

Friday, October 2, 2015

General Conference is a Great Time to Refocus My Life

Today is a busy day for me. I have begun many projects and am working to complete several 'in progress' projects. Tomorrow is an important day for me, and I am trying to prepare.

I have waited for six months to hear the sessions of The General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I want to be ready to receive all the instruction that comes from prophets, seers, and revelators. I have been praying for weeks for all who will teach in conference. I have asked Heavenly Father to teach all who will speak and help them prepare exactly what He would like them to say. I have also asked that my heart would be softened and ready to receive the messages that come directly from Heavenly Father.

It will not matter what is said, if I am not ready to listen and recognize what Heavenly Father wants me to hear. I need His guidance in my life every single minute of every single day. I need the Holy Ghost to be my teacher, to testify of truth and remind me what I need to be working on. I want to be prepared and ready to receive.

So, today I am doing the laundry and the ironing. I am taking care of the beans and cucumbers from my garden. I am taking care of endless small tasks that need to be cleared from my mind so that I can focus more fully on receiving God's word.

General Conference comes every six months. I have listened to the last conference several times, including last month to help me prepare for the new conference messages. I want to be ready!

It feels like my life has been quite stressful lately. Lots of things that have come my way and thrown me a curve ball. Not all of them are bad. Many are wonderful things. But I feel the stress in my shoulders, neck, and back. I am in need of a spiritual fix that will help me refocus my life. It will help me see exactly what I need to be working on, now. It will help me understand my purpose in life. It will help me identify the things in my life that are not important. It will help me let go of those things that may distract me from what I need to be doing most.

It is such a blessing to have access to scriptures anytime. It is a huge blessing for me to be able to access wonderful talks and inspirational messages on the internet as often as I want. These things strengthen me. But General Conference does more. It really does revitalize and rejuvenate my spirit. It is a great stress reliever for me. And I am in great need.

What a blessing to be able to listen to the words of encouragement and the uplifting music. What a blessing to be able to raise my hand and sustain prophets, seers, and revelators. What a blessing to sit in the comfort of my own home and feel God's love and guidance and comfort wash over me as it dilutes the stress and stains of living in this world.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Prophets

Because I am so excited that General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is almost here, I have been thinking about prophets. I have always been a member of this church and so I have believed in the value of prophets. My heart's desire is to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. But I often fall so very short.

If I knew that Jesus Christ was coming to the earth to teach on a specific day. My ears would perk up. I would want to know all the details. When and where would He come. How can I get there? I do not think I would have to check my calendar or check my wallet to see if I could afford to be where The Savior of the World would be teaching. I would not wonder about what to wear, or what to take, or how hard it might be. I would not consider the cost of juggling my schedule. I would not think ,"It is just not a very convenient day for me." I would just go.

What would I be willing to do to sit at the feet of The Savior and listen to His teachings?  That question was asked once in a class I attended. A faithful sister commented, "We would crawl on broken glass."

I think she is right. We would just go.

But often when there is an opportunity to listen to prophets and apostles of The Lord Jesus Christ, our attitudes are very different. We consider the cost of discipleship. "There are so many things to do that I just cannot spare the time," I hear. Faithful Sunday church attenders have no need to listen to General Conference.

And I wonder why are we so casual about listening to prophets?

We live in a wonderful day and age when it is really convenient and easy for most of us to listen to prophets of God, often within our own homes. Little effort is required of us at all. If we miss a meeting, it can be accessed quickly on the internet. I can read and listen to the talks almost immediately. Do we take for granted the value of being there on time, ready to listen, learn, and be taught by The Holy Ghost?

If we really believe that a prophet speaks for Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, what should we be willing to do to listen as they teach us, immediately? What could possibly be more important for the world? What could possibly be more important for me?

When I was a freshman at college, I remember gathering in the dorm lounge to watch General Conference. I was impressed by other female students who attended in their Sunday best. That showed to me the value that they placed on listening to prophets and apostles.

I love that I can be more relaxed in my own home. I can dress as I want. I can munch on a snack if I am hungry. I can sit on any seat I want. I can move around the room. I like that comfortable casual feel of enjoying General Conference.

But that does not mean I feel casual about the opportunity to listen to a Prophet of God. Because I believe he is the mouthpiece for Heavenly Father, and what he says is vital to my salvation, I want to be ready to hear every single word.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Listening

Does anyone really listen anymore?

Yesterday I had another one of those experiences that left me pretty wounded and it reminded me that listening seems to be fading around me. Interrupting, changing the subject, walking away in the middle of the conversation however appear to be on the rise.

It is disheartening and very discouraging!

I realize that I am not a genius and often have nothing that is worth listening to coming from my mouth. But many other people have the same problem. I try to listen!  Sometimes I listen long past my desire to listen, just to be polite and to show the person that I am listening to them and that I value them. But that same philosophy does not seem to be coming towards me.

In the middle of answering a question that I was asked by someone I thought was a friend, the subject changed and the person turned and walked away, leaving me sitting there, wondering why I had bothered to participate in the conversation anyway.  I wanted to respond to this person that if they had not been interested in a conversation with me, they should not have instigated it in the first place. Perhaps it is needless to say, not feeling like talking to that person right now. Still feeling a bit lonely and friendless since that experience.

It felt so unkind to me!

So I turned my attention to myself. Am I a good listener, really? Am I any different? Do I do the same thing? It is time for me to pay attention to the way I listen to others. Am I really listening or am I sitting on the edge of the conversation waiting to jump in and take over with my life experiences? Am I doing exactly the same thing to others?

What kind of listening do I really offer to others?

I was asked to participate in a phone survey last week. Not thrilled!  But I began to answer the questions. The person who was on the other end of the phone line kept trying to change my answers. She talked over me as I was speaking, repeatedly. I was not allowed to complete a sentence without her jumping in while I was talking. I finally told her that I was through with the survey since she was not interested in anything that I had to say anyway. I politely thanked her for her time and hung up.

Is my experience with listeners similar to anyone else or is this just reserved for me?

A friend became frustrated when her husband seemed to not be listening to her anymore. She said that she had told him she did not know whether to be angry that he was not listening to her or to be worried that he had Alzheimer's disease which was causing an inability to listen. I empathized with her a great deal. But I also wanted to say, "At least he used to listen to you. Many wives have not had the experience!"

Then I got on my knees to talk to the only friend I have who will listen to me, anytime, anywhere, any situation. Prayer will help restore my soul. Heavenly Father is not too busy to listen. He is not just waiting on the edge of His seat, ready to jump in and take over the conversation. He will not change the subject, or turn and walk away from me while I am still meditating. He will be there.

What a great blessing!  I want to work harder to be more like Him!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Miracles

I believe in miracles! I almost always feel that I need a miracle. Sometimes it is for me personally, but often it is for someone else I know. Maybe a spouse, a child, a grandchild or even a friend who needs a miracle. That ongoing need for miracles helps keep me on my knees. Sometimes miracles are huge and easy to recognize. Often they are more subtle and it may take a bit of time for me to grasp the significance of what has happened. Probably I miss noticing many of them as well.

But I am trying to see them!

Recently a friend needed a miracle. She could see an adult child making choices that were clearly leading to disaster. She learned from experience that her child did not want to hear opinions that varied from her own. The counsel from mom was ruining her life. It squashed her happiness and her agency. And because it distanced the mother and child from each other, the wise mother kept her opinions to herself and counseled with the Lord.

There are many times in life when that is the best thing one can do. Go to the knees!

The good news is that the "child came to herself" and realized the error of her path. She could see the danger ahead, because of a simple question that someone else asked her. She chose to turn away from the direction of disaster.

And her mother rejoiced!

It was a big, easy to see, obvious miracle. It came at the right time and in the right way for the child to learn for herself from a loving Heavenly Father who listens to our pleas and orchestrates the details of our lives in ways we do not always understand or see.

On Monday my miracle was not quite so obvious to me. It took a little time to recognize the promptings of The Holy Ghost who lead us on a path we needed to walk. We needed to purchase an item that was just the right fit for someone else. It was a bit of a daunting task. We knew it was something we needed to do. But, the task was not simple as we did not know what the right fit would be. We hoped we would recognize it when we found it.

And the search began.

We shopped on line for ideas. We pulled out the phone book for shops to visit. We checked out what we believed was available in our small community. We saw lovely things. But nothing seemed to be the right fit. We traveled to a larger shopping community and shopped some more. So many beautiful options. But we left each store a bit more discouraged, because we had not found anything we would even consider buying.

We continued to pray and ponder and discuss. We looked online again and a few days passed. A deadline was looming in our path and we felt we had accomplished NOTHING!

Again on Monday we headed out to try again. We headed to stores, certain we would find nothing to meet our need. But as we headed away from home, a name of a store popped into my mind. It had never occurred to me to shop there. I almost never do. I forget it is even in our town. Though I could not imagine us finding what we needed there. I mentioned to my shopping companion that we might try this store before we left town again.

And there it was. The right fit. We both felt it was the best fit we had seen. But we wanted to be certain. We checked out all the other 'unlikely' stores first, and truly found nothing. We returned to the item that seemed right and purchased it.

I am sad to say that it did not occur to me for several hours that God had clearly answered my prayers. He had lead me on the path I needed to walk. But I was slow to grasp His goodness. It was subtle and quiet.

But it was miraculous!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Peaches

We have very nice neighbors who share our fences. I feel very grateful that we are so blessed with neighbors who are kind and friendly. We watch over each other from time to time. When a stranger is in the neighborhood, someone is often aware and spreads the word to be watchful. We greet each other and visit when we see each other out and about. We can visit about common lawn and garden problems and solutions. We have been known to share flower starts and garden produce.

We have not always had kind neighbors to share fences with. There have been many experiences with unkindness and harsh words. I have felt very threatened personally on occasion by these neighbors. I have kept my children in the house in the wonderful summer months for their safety. I think at times, we have all been somewhat nervous and even afraid.

We have also tried to be good neighbors. We have tended cats and dogs. We have watched over our neighbors homes and property. We have provided rides to school and activities. We have tended neighborhood children.

The neighbors who share the back fence with us do not speak much English. And I speak almost no Spanish. So communication has been difficult. As the little boys have grown up, we have talked a little more. I have tried to be friendly with these little boys as they have played in their yard. Occasionally a ball or other toy crosses the fence. It is returned quickly to them. I have not wanted them to fear us. We have taken them treats at Christmas. We have shared garden produce with them. They have shared fresh cobs of corn with us. Though the language barrier is present, I have felt that we had a neighboring relationship.

A few weeks ago we had small visitors with us. We returned from church and our guests changed their clothes and hustled outside to play. I threw together lunch.

One of the small guests did something that upset our kind Spanish speaking neighbors. I do not believe he realized that what he had done was wrong or would upset anyone. I think for him it was just play. I truly believe that there was no malicious intent at all. Just a little boy and his thinking. A younger sibling followed suit.

I did not witness the event. But was troubled when I heard of it from a witness. My concern increased when the door bell rang and the two neighbor boys reported the incident to me. They felt that the peaches on their tree had been threatened.

As we ate lunch I wondered how to handle this situation to mend the breach in the fence with our neighbors, but also to help these two little boys learn from their actions. I mulled options and ideas over in my mind. I prayed for guidance. And I watched the little boys closely as they played, fearing another bump in the already rippled afternoon.

As the promptings of The Holy Ghost settled in my heart, a plan formed and I privately chatted with the instigating child about the situation. He was open and honest and seemed to see the situation with more grown up eyes. We talked about how he might feel, if he were on the other side of the situation. Genuine sorrow filled his eyes and together we created a plan. Willingly he carried out his part of the plan, on his own without any supervision. And together the two boys and I walked to the house of the neighbor. No one was home, so we left our repentance offering and hoped it would help heal the wounds.

I was so proud of these little boys who walked and talked with me to try to make it right and my spirit felt lighter. And I continued to pray.

I had not seen the neighbors since that day until two days ago. In a hurry I hustled to the garden looking for a few more small cucumbers to fill up my pickle jars. When I saw the neighbors in their yard, I hesitated for a brief moment. But it was time to see how they felt about us.

And then he began to visit. He talked about the small cucumbers I was picking. I was happy to explain that I was making pickles so wanted them small. He noticed we had many yellow squash and I gave him three, happily. I wanted him to have them. Then he carefully selected and picked three peaches from his tree and said he wanted to trade them for the squash.

My heart was so touched by his sharing of his precious peaches, for the renewal of good relations, his offering of forgiveness, and for the answered prayers from Heavenly Father.

Friday, August 28, 2015

How Can it be Fall?

I cannot believe that the Fall Season is knocking on my door!  Where did the summer go? I know that we were busy and the days just seemed to fly by, but seriously, summer is over?

School is back in session. A definite sign of fall's arrival. The Cassia County Fair and Rodeo has passed. Yup, that is kind of the last local hurrah for the summer season. We attended the parade and found the weather good and the parade as per normal. Not hard to pick up and leave when it was over.

We also headed to the fair grounds to watch the horse races for a couple of hours. I know nothing about the betting and have no interest in learning. But the horses were beautiful. They were also fast!  My husband and I each picked a horse to win in each of the five races we watched. Criteria? Who knows. I picked one horse because I did not like the names of the other horses. In that race, the horse I picked was dead last. My husband, on the other hand picked the winner. I picked one horse that won a race. Funny how I cheered him on, when I could see he had a chance to win. So we each picked a winner and many losers!

Between the races, we walked among the food booths, eyeing all the goodies we should not eat and did not want to pay for. We did sample some corn crunch that was delicious, but contented ourselves to skip its purchase. We both knew we would gobble the stuff up, immediately!  We looked at the 4-H entries and I looked at the quilts. I did not recognize a single name among the quilts. In the open class entries, I saw the prizes of some friends and acquaintances. Way to go to all the winners!  And also way to go to those who just plain entered. If everyone followed my example, there would be little to see at the fair!

Today I canned some pickles. Our garden was handicapped from the start. It was planted very late. But we have shared our summer squash freely. Our peppers and cucumbers are also producing. My husband dug a few Yukon gold potatoes yesterday. We have eaten a few tomatoes. The corn is tasseled and the little ears are forming. I am grateful for all we will harvest!  It is a blessing. We purchased our plants for dirt cheap cuz it was so late. The potato seed was free!  Yes truly free!

I feel truly blessed that Heavenly Father has watched over our little patch of ground in this corner of the world and blessed us richly. God is my friend and my strength. I lean on Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ, daily, hourly, and minutely. The Atonement of The Savior Jesus Christ is my only hope for life eternal. I plead for constant guidance.

With this change of seasons, I have found myself in a new set of circumstances. A new challenge has come to me and I embrace it because I believe it was orchestrated by Heavenly Father for me. It is not yet comfortable in any way, but I trust and believe that it will become a great opportunity for me to learn and grow. It is also an opportunity for my faith to grow, as I lean on His arm, instead of my own.

Just as the harvest of my garden is coming in due course, I trust that the harvest of this season of my life will come as I work, struggle, and plead for God's Grace in my behalf.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Faith

Reading scriptures every day is a priority, or at least I work at making it be important. Some days it is trickier than others to make it happen, and on those days, it may be less time and less scriptures. I really do try to never miss a single day. I need the strength that comes from scriptures. I need the lessons that I can read and apply to me in the scriptures. I need the peace that comes when I read the scriptures. I ponder on the things that I read and some verses or phrases or words really seem to leap off the page at me. I just finished reading the Book of Mormon again, And I began again. I have no idea how many times I have actually completed the Book of Mormon. But I sure have read 1st Nephi a lot! 

One year I decided to start reading in 3rd Nephi just so I did not start with 1st Nephi and fizzle out there. 3rd Nephi is one of my favorite books. I am struck by the love that Jesus Christ brings to the American Continent after His crucifixion. I appreciate all He teaches. He allows every single person to come and see and feel the wounds in His hands and feet and side for themselves. I cannot imagine how long that must have taken. In my mind, I see His eyes; filled with love and concern for each soul who came unto Him. I do not see any impatience or selfish concern of "I have to be someplace so could you move it along."

The Savior healed the sick, the blind, and the lame. How many came looking for a mental healing? How many needed an emotional healing? And perhaps all needed some form of spiritual healing. I long to feel the healing that comes only through The Atonement of Jesus Christ.

Christ gathered the little children unto Him. He did not send them away with words of "you are in my way." He did not say "get away from here." Though He may or may not have been tired, the record makes no mention of it at all.

And Jesus prayed for them all.

And Jesus wept.

I read other stories in the Book of Mormon about great prophets. I read about Nephi and Jacob. Mormon and Moroni. Enos and the brother of Jared. I long to be faithful as these men were. I long to feel the depth of their testimony and the strength to endure it well. I have endured many hard, challenging, and painful things - but probably I did not endure them well. My teeth were gritted and I groaned with complaints.

I know that there is a price to pay for this and I do work at trying to see with the eye of faith. But I have so very far to go.

Daily prayer is also a must for me. My plan is to have at least two kneeling prayers every day and most days that happens. I find that on my knees, I really am more humble and teachable. But I have prayed in many places and under many circumstances. When I need to pray, it does not really matter where I am. I can pray in my heart and in my mind. I believe God will hear my prayer, not matter my location.

I cannot comprehend how God is able to hear all our prayers. I also cannot understand how difficult it is for Heavenly Father to take care of all of us with our constant demands and needs. I also do not think it is always easy to say "no" or "you must wait" or "rethink your plan."

But I am trying to grow my faith. And a portion of that process is to jump into unknown situations and experiences with trust that Heavenly Father knows me and my needs. Each day that I get out of bed and go forth with faith is an exercise in trusting Him and His love and His wisdom and His kindness.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Pioneers

Pioneer Day has officially passed as it was celebrated on July 24th. But I am grateful for the brave men and women who picked up from their homes to cross The United States of America and settle in the west. Many of the pioneers had fairly 'uneventful' journeys. But it was still hard. Many suffered terrible loss on their journey. Some lost their health, their family, their possessions, even their lives. My mind tells me that each and every single pioneer who crossed the plains made a certain amount of sacrifice.

I honor them all for their choice to leave behind so much and to go forth with faith to an unknown future. I admire their courage and tenacity. I admire their physical and mental stamina. I appreciate how they banded together as a team to take care of each other and share with each other. They were amazing people.

As I stand in my hot shower every morning, I think of them. I imagine how they would have loved even just one hot shower along their journey. Imagine having shampoo, conditioner, soap, and lotion. Imagine a clean towel and a warm place to dress. For me these are every day things. But to them, I think they would be luxuries.

Yet, these pioneers who left so much behind, also left behind the ugliness of The Civil War.

I have come to appreciate this great blessing. The Civil War was the means of uniting The North and The South within The United States of America. That may not have happened any other way. But it was a brutal slaughter of so many men. It affected so many lives. The war wiped out cities and farms and families. It pitted brothers against each other. It decimated so much of the land used as battlegrounds.

Perhaps there was no other way to unite the nation. But it was a high price to pay.

But Heavenly Father removed the pioneers from the battlefields. He lead them to The Great Salt Lake, where they planted crops, built homes, created, a city, and built a temple. They had to begin again with whatever they had left on arrival and whatever they found in the valley. I cannot imagine it would have been easy at all.

In my mind, I imagine the tired eyes that rested on the desert land that was deemed the right place to settle. What did the valley look like to them? There really was nothing much there. The Great Salt Lake provided no usable drinking water. There was no lumber mill, no dry goods store, no dairy, or produce market to stock up at. There was no railroad to deliver supplies.

But these were people who were faithful and determined to succeed. And with the help of God Almighty they did. Again they rose to the challenge they faced with courage and a willingness to work together to create unity and prosperity.

But what might have happened to all these Saints if they had not moved west? How many would have been affected by The Civil War? How many would have been left to build up God's Zion? Who would have survived to begin building the temple?

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Currently reading a book about the Battle of Gettysburg. It is a tough read and has taken me a long time to get through. I want to read it and I want to understand it better. It is filled with unfamiliar names and places. I have a hard time keeping them all straight. It is a time with which I am very unfamiliar so keeping the North and the South straight in my mind is nearly impossible. I refer to the included maps often to help me.

This book is really focused on day three of the battle. It is a brutal battle, called a slaughter by some who were there. Men are cut down on both sides by use of weapons that were then available. I am struck by the comments made by those who survived. Some survivors from the North commented on the precision and dignity of the advancing enemy. They had seen none who looked more prepared and uniform in their march. But march they did, nearly 15,000 soldiers fighting for a cause they were willing to die for.

Certainly the South wanted to win this battle. They expected to and walked with dignity to their deaths. They honored the flag of their cause. When a flag bearer fell, another soldier would immediately lift their colors and carry on, sometimes for only a step or two before they two would be hit. Then the colors would be rescued by a nearby soldier and carried forward with pride.

The North also wanted to win the battle on July 3, 1863. They too expected to win. Many preparations had been made for this battle. Soldiers were placed behind walls and barricades created for their protection. They were armed and ready, waiting to fight for a cause they believed was worth fighting for.

The three day Battle of Gettysburg cost nearly 51,000 men. Most of those were dead, but some were wounded, missing, or captured. Of that number about 28,000 were soldiers in the army of the South. It was a devastating defeat for the South, turning the tide of events in such a way that the South would never fully recover. This bloody battle did not end the war and the South had other victories, but it was a critical win for the North.

I cannot comprehend the loss of life during the three days of The Battle of Gettysburg. I am struck by the families affected by that huge loss of life. I think of the sons and daughters who lost their fathers. I imagine the grieving widows. I think of those who lost a son or a brother and my heart weeps.

The Civil War of The United States is probably not one of the proudest moments in the history of our nation. It cost our nation the lives of 620,000 men. Again, how many families, communities, farms, etc. were touched in some way by this war. How many great minds and ideas were lost to this land? My heart is heavy when I think of this season of war.

I am no expert about The Battle of Gettysburg or The Civil War. I know very little. But I have come to learn enough to appreciate the need for slavery to be stopped in this land. I understand enough to believe that The United States of America is a covenant land, blessed by Heavenly Father to be a land where freedom was honored and expected. I believe Heavenly Father had great purpose for this land and citizens and leaders were not creating the land He needed this land to be. Freedom and slavery could not co-exist. They are opposites. I also believe that His Plan of Salvation could only be implemented in a land where God was really honored and men were free to choose.

Both The North and The South believed that they were right. Each wanted to live the life that was comfortable to them. Many were willing to die for what they believed in. And many did. The entire nation paid the high price for this war.

But the side supporting God's plan had to win, for God is in charge of His world.

War continues to rage between good and evil. Today and every day, Satan attacks us all on every side. I know that Satan cannot win this war. But again, there are many casualties.

God will win and I want to be on His side!

Friday, July 31, 2015

Independence Day

Today is the last day of July. I can hardly believe that we have gone this far into the summer. Tis a wonderful season of the year for me as I enjoy the beautiful world that Heavenly Father has created for all who dwell here. The raspberries have come and nearly gone. I am so very blessed to have these canes in my own yard. Every year when I cut them back, I worry that they will get even with me and fail to produce. But learning to prune them has been a great lesson for me. Pruning them is a key element of larger production and larger berries.

Heavenly Father is a great gardener. He is skilled and experienced. He knows how to use His tools to their best advantage. He is an expert.

In July I ponder on God's plan for me and for the country in which I live. Early in the month we traveled to Idaho Falls to be with our family and celebrate the founding of The United States of America. We had a wonderful time with our family, just being together was huge for me. But we also ate a lot of wonderful food and enjoyed the fireworks.

I love the feeling that comes with the 4th of July. As I watch the fireworks I am thrilled with the majesty of the founding of our country. I remember the struggles of the early settlers who fled oppression in their homeland and arrived on the shores of a foreign land to create a life where they could choose for themselves. A desire to worship according to the desires of their own hearts was a very powerful motivator. They were willing to risk their very lives for the opportunity to live as they believed without government intervention.

The sea voyage must have been long and hard. There must have been many frightening moments. It must have been a huge relief when they arrived at Plymouth Rock, knowing that they had survived the journey. But what was it that they found here? There were no welcoming parities. No cobblestone streets to walk. No stable or blacksmith to offer them a mount to ride. There was no government agency to offer them assistance. No lumber mill from which to procure lumber. There were no already settled neighbors to offer them a place to stay for a few days and a hot meal. No one to help with the cabin raising. They had to learn and do the work for themselves.

It must have been daunting to face the cruel reality of starting over again. But determination carried them to move forward with all the skills and stamina they could possibly muster. Many did not survive, but it was a price they must have been willing to pay. Surely they knew when they left the shores of home that life was fragile.

It was one of the seasons of pruning. In essence they were cut off from all that they knew. They left behind the familiar and walked away from most of the possessions that they had spent a life time acquiring. They were cut off from friends, family, organized religion the government they found so oppressive. They walked away from the only civilization that they knew.

They were pruned and replanted into a strange, unsettled land with hopes and dreams of a new and better life, someday. They were brave and courageous souls who listened to the promptings of that God who had created them. The plan He had for them included this season of challenge, and struggle and hardship. They must have been afraid. They must have wondered what in the world they were doing, sometimes.

But once the ship left the shore, the pruning began. To those who came first, I say thank you!

Heavenly Father has a plan for each of us. There will be seasons of growth when the blossoms and fruit are delicious and sweet and plentiful. There are also seasons of challenge and hardship and discouragement, when it seems that nothing will ever go right. There are seasons where we begin to grow wild and untamed and the pruning begins. These seasons may test and try our patience and our faith. We may struggle in our weakness. We may feel lost and alone and unwelcomed, just as those who came to this country so long ago.

Maybe in some ways we are not so different, as we willingly submit to the pruning tools of The Lord.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Blessings of the Lord - The End

During the time we waited for the tire guy, we turned on the tv, which was tuned to news in Denver. We heard of the flooding, landslides, and mudslides that had plagued Denver the day before. Roads had been damaged and closed. People had been injured. It was big rain and the damage was big news. Though we had struggled through the deluge of water, we had made it through. But some had not been so lucky.

It had been a very frightening and stressful situation for us, but Heavenly Father had strengthened me and I had remained calm. I had not felt panic or fear. We had carried on mile after mile through the storm, listening to it pelt on the windows and watching it cover the freeway. Hydroplaning had occurred but not frequently. We had come through, virtually unscathed. Gratitude overwhelmed me as I realized how real the danger had been and that we had escaped. What if our tire had chosen that moment to blow?

As I looked at the whole in the tire, I remembered the debris that littered the road. Had debris caused the problem with our tire? Had Heavenly Father kept that tire functional, until we were safe? How much worse could our situation have been?

We were blessed and watched over and I knew it. I felt it, into my bones.

Once we landed safely at the tire guys place of employment, we breathed a sigh of relief. We had been at this tire situation for several hours and we were no closer to heading down the road. Should be just a jiffy to change the tire and off we would go, laughing again at our mis-adventurous journey home.

Then it was time to face the totality of our situation. There really was no way to tell what had caused this tire to blow. Could have been debris. Could have been the weather cracks and age of the tire. Though not close to the end of the warranty, they were all the same age and in the same condition of age. Any one of the three other tires could follow suit at any given moment. Or they could last for miles and miles. No one twisted our arms or told us what to do. But facts are facts. We still had a long way to travel home. And so the time to make decisions began.

I had expected that we might need to replace two tires and have them rotated. We have walked the road before and been told that replacing two is just better. But replacing all four? Not a fan! They should have gone several more years without touching the end of the warranty. But what if we had another blow out on the way home? What would be the best choice? What choice would be the easiest on our wallet? And on and on went my little brain. Add to that the question, would you like to get the road hazard insurance with the tires? Then, do you want the white walls facing in or facing out? At that point, my husband had an almost crazy look in his eyes.

After we agreed to replace all tires, we crossed the road to eat lunch as the tires were being changed. Yes, we needed to make more decisions. I almost did not care what I ate. I almost did not care if I ate, but we were way behind on our days journey and I knew we needed to eat now and not stop for lunch once we hit the road. It had been a long morning!

With lunch behind us, I think we both felt a bit better and smiled as we arrived just in time to sign away our lives to pay for the new tires.

It was just after noon when we pulled away from the tire place and headed for home. It had been a long morning, but we were now headed in the right direction, and all seemed right again.

And it was.

We could have flown much cheaper than our drive had been when looked at in the totality of the situation. But through it all, we had what we needed and we had it when we needed it. Our lives were never threatened or in any serious danger. We had a really wonderful time with our family and had no regrets about our trip. We had made the best decisions we could make. We had chosen to spend more time with family and give up sight seeing on the way home. It was a good decision. We had traveled through the Denver Deluge and been at peace, feeling the comfort and calm of Heavenly Father wash over us with the rain.

We had been watched over and carried in the hollow of God's hand through the challenging portion of the journey.

And my faith and testimony stretched a bit as I felt the power of God in my life.

Seeing the Blessings of the Lord - Part Three

The moon washed light over me as I sat in the van, reading scriptures, and praying. It was one of those experiences where time seems to stand still and the hands of the clock seem frozen. Though I really was feeling that Heavenly Father was watching over us and protecting us, I was still concerned and could not see ahead how this would all work out for us. I just believed it would and worked on trusting Heavenly Father.

Certainly I recognized that we were at least within knocking distance of civilization and not stranded on the freeway somewhere in the middle of nowhere. I knew we could get help, or help ourselves in the morning. But it was very late at night, in a water slogged unfamiliar part of the world.

I was relieved when my husband came into my sight. Though he is certainly capable of handling the situation, one never knows what dangers lurk around us. He had tracked through the surrounding area to identify that our best option was to drive to the closest motel, slowly and carefully. All other roads were muddy and who knew what kind of traction we may have with our blown tire. What if we got stuck in the mud after midnight?

So he carefully drove through the sloppy trail to the name brand motel dead ahead. We discovered we had not saved a single dime on the price of a motel by our trek, but at this point and time, beggars cannot be choosers and we paid the price and checked into a room. This motel was run down and worse than the disappointing motel we had stayed at in Colorado on our way East. So we laughed again at our expensive, dilapidated motel room and crawled into bed.

In discussion with the desk clerk regarding our plight, our plan of attack in the morning was to arise, prepare for the day and eat breakfast. Then once my husband removed the spare tire, replacing the pancake tire with it, and then we would drive to get a new tire. We could quickly drive merrily on our way.

We walked to the breakfast room to be greeted by puddles and dripping and buckets laden with rain water, followed by the breakfast attendant. She greeted us warmly and announced that there was almost nothing for breakfast today as they had run out of all but just a few items. She was cranky and griped to every other worker who seemed to be around her, attempting to control the deluge of water. Over and over I heard her tell guests about the pathetic breakfast. And it was. Some guests left with nothing. We found enough to eat and headed off to conquer the flat tire.

What a surprise that removing the spare tire seemed to be unconquerable. Discouragement began to set in as we could see ourselves sitting indefinitely in Laramie, Wyoming, paralyzed by a flat tire. After a multitude of failed attempts at tire removal, it was time to call for help. We had no idea who to call - so a visit with a desk clerk offered ideas. But the phone was dead!  Investigation discovered it had no phone cord. It was purely decorative. Thank heavens for cell phones!

We soon learned that it was not inexpensive to get help! In our neighborhood a phone call to the tire store would have brought a repair man to our home and he would have taken care of us and charged us nothing. From experience, I know! But not so here. So husband attacks the tire again with a vengeance. During this last attempt, a knock sounds at the motel room door. A maid is there holding a cell phone power cord, since my husband had mentioned that the phone had no cord. Seriously? Eventually she returned with a real live phone cord. Really, who has a clunky old desk phone that they use just for the ambiance it gives a room?

We surrendered and accepted the price of help as a necessary element of our trip and waited for the cavalry to arrive. This experienced tire guy expected to have us on our way in a jiffy. Wrong! As the heat of the day increased, and the sweat from his labor began to pour, he reminded us that though a challenge, he was still smiling. And Smile He Did, through dozens of tools, none of which was provided in our handy dandy factory provided tool assortment. The spare was finally removed!

Then there was the issue of the jack. He quickly abandoned ours and moved through two more before hauling out the heavy duty, hydraulic one. (And I was not seated in the van at the time!) He struggled from second one to the bitter end. And the smile endured, though it looked a little less sincere.

End of Part Three.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Seeing the Blessings of the Lord - Part two

The rain continued in spurts and sputters and occasional deluges for some time, and we pressed forward into the darkness. I was grateful for the peace that I felt around me, not because of the storm, but from the presence of The Spirit as it comforted and strengthened me. I felt we were going to be ok.

We found a place to add the needed fuel to the tank and pressed forward, knowing we were on the correct road and heading forward with faith intact. Eventually we decided it was time to eat and felt we could spare that amount of time as well, since our troubles were all behind us.

The rain began again with a certain amount of fury about the same time we found ourselves in bumper to bumper traffic. Pelted again by the rain, it was impossible to identify the cause of the traffic jam. Eventually we could see it was road construction. We had encountered lots of road construction on this trip. I guess we should have known. At least I was not a road construction worker, stuck in the rain!

As we neared Cheyenne, I wondered if we should call it a day. We had been on the road for nearly twelve hours and some of it had been quite a bit less than relaxing and not even close to fun. But things really seemed much better now so on we headed, our goal in sight. We hoped to make it to Laramie.

It had been so much fun to be with family and it was so hard to say goodbye that we had stayed two days longer than we initially planned. We had a commitment we needed to be home to and felt a need to get home and regroup before the next event. So on we pressed, missing a couple of the things we had really wanted to stop and see on the way home.

With Laramie in our sights, I think we both breathed a huge sigh of relief. We were tired and ready to be off the road and in a bed. We were grateful to be safe and to feel the stress begin to melt away as we stopped to check out a couple of motels. The motels seemed pretty pricy and we had no trouble passing them up and heading towards other motels we could see, just a short drive down the road.

Then it happened. That bumpity bump feeling that occurs when something is very much not right with the vehicle one is driving. My first hope was that we were on an incredibly rough road, but I knew it was a flat tire. And we pulled off the road at 11:30 at night to investigate.

The tire was indeed flat. It was wearing a very large hole, perhaps five inches in diameter. It was completely unsalvageable. Though I have the automobile expertise of a pigmy, I could see an unfixable tire, even in the dim light of Laramie, Wyoming.

My husband left to scout out our options, in the darkness of the unknown country. I locked myself into the van, and began to read the scriptures and pray. We were on a side street, with little light and zero traffic. Though focusing was hard for me, I continued to be watchful. How long should I wait for my spouse to return?  Would I know if he was in danger?  What could I do if he was in danger?

The questions continued to plague my mind. I was not terrified or panicked, but I was definitely concerned.

Then a police car came into view, heading straight towards me. It was the only car that had come anywhere close to our car since we had been on this road.

With relief, I thought our help had come.

But it had not. Though the van sat clearly in the roadway with flashing lights, the car sped on by, leaving us in its trail of dust

End of Part two. 

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Seeing the Blessings of the Lord - Part One

It can be difficult for me to recognize my blessings in the midst of trials. It is definitely not a gift for me to see the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow in the middle of a deluge of water from heaven. But I am working on seeing the good amid the challenge. It requires me to see things differently and to put forth some effort.

It must be nice to have the gift of seeing all the good around, no matter what is happening. Sometimes it is easier for me to close my eyes to the things that are happening in the world than it is to see all the ugly and seek for the good.

Occasionally the blessings are just plain simple and visible for me to see. Though I struggle to deal with the difficulties of the situation, I am blessed with the clarity of thought and the understanding that things really are so much better than they could be. I can see the disaster that was avoided and the help from heaven that arrived in the nick of  time.

And I am grateful!

We had one of those blessed disasters last month as we traveled home from Oklahoma. It had been a simply wonderful trip and we were heading home, sad to leave our beloved family behind, but grateful we had the opportunity to share a portion of their lives.

The first stretch of the two day drive was relatively uneventful and we cruised along stopping only for food, fuel, switching drivers, etc. But the afternoon tide turned against us. We struggled to navigate through Denver to find the correct road into Wyoming. Road signs seemed confusing and we felt a little bit lost amid the myriad of roadways. Relieved when we found ourselves headed in both the correct direction and on the correct road, we breathed a sigh of relief and relaxed.

Then we turned a corner and I drove us into a world of darkness as the black sky swallowed us up, surrounding us in the clouds, and refused to let us go. The rain began to pour from the sky in torrents assaulting us on all sides. The water ran so fast and so hard it washed out the possibility of listening to the radio. The windshield wipers failed to keep pace with the deluge. I gripped the steering wheel to brace against the gusting wind and drove forward, nearly blinded by the river of water threatening to drown us, car and all. I could not see other vehicles, only their lights. I could not see road markings most of the time. Debris littered the road and blew at us from all directions. It was not safe to stop or pull to the side of the road. So I prayed fervently and held on for dear life.

Occasionally there was a small break in the river of rain or the gusting of the wind and I would begin to relax, just a little. But it was short lived and the storm returned, each time with a vengeance.

For a very long time there was no place that I could see where I could possibly pull over to switch drivers, and I was very ready after driving for a number of hours, navigating through Denver, and then the downpour of rain. I felt relieved to see a rest area coming ahead and bailed from the car into the wet world, rushing towards the shelter. I was getting soaked from the rain but also discovered that my sandals failed to protect my feet from the water on the sidewalk that was well over the top of my feet and almost to my ankles. Because it was difficult to see through the rain, I just sloshed ahead. When I discovered  how wet my feet were, I decided to pick where I walked more carefully on the return trip to the car.

It did not mater where I walked, the water was everywhere and rising.

We pressed on through the storm, waiting and hoping it would just lighten up a bit. Again, every reprieve was short lived and I wondered what we should do as the gas gauge dropped almost as if it was in tandem to the rain.

Eventually the storm became a more like a normal rainstorm for the most part. It was interspersed with bits of rage and intensity, but they were becoming less frequent and less intense. And we drove on toward Wyoming, laughing at our plight and hoping for better luck ahead as we drove into the darkening night.

End of Part One

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Father's Day

Though my father left behind his mortal body and returned to Heavenly Father many years ago, I think of him often. I miss him more as the days turned into months and then into years. He was a very wise man. Even though he did not complete high school or earn a diploma, he was well educated and knowledgeable. He studied and read a great deal. He picked himself up by his bootstraps and learned what he needed to learn to survive in a number of different jobs. He took college courses to excel in a career he came to late in life. He knew an awful lot about a lot of different things.

We had a television when no one else I knew had one. It was black and white and I remember watching the test patterns. My mother put curlers in my hair while I watched tv on Saturday nights. I can still remember when a brand new color television with a record player arrived at our house to replace the old black and white. I had no idea we were getting it!  It was such a thrilling surprise. Again, I did not know anyone who had color tv.

Dad loved computers!  He bought a home computer when it was very expensive and completely unaffordable for most people. He upgraded to newer, better, faster equipment a number of times. I remember when he purchased a printer for over $2000.00. It was a top of the line Qume home printer. He was mighty proud of that purchase. $2000.00 was a fortune to me then and still seems like a lot of money, considering we spent about $50.00 for our last printer and bought it mainly because the ink for our previous printer cost more than a new printer.

Dad would love today's technology. He loved the technology that allowed him to watch video cassettes and eventually DVD's. He had a room with dozens of state of the art gadgets and gizmos to play with in his technology room. He would probably have an IPAD, cell phone, a laptop, and a desktop. And he would enjoy them all!

My Dad could do almost anything!  He could fix and mend and create what was needed. When my Mom and Dad were dating and newly married, they always carried a tire patch kit with them in the car, cuz there was always a good chance they would need it. Dad fixed car engines for many years until the computer age outpaced him. He painted and plastered walls, laid carpet and linoleum, fixed plumbing and electrical issues. One year he installed a new faucet on my kitchen sink for me, when my husband was never home long enough to do it himself.

Dad knew a lot about money. He made a lot of money. And there were times when he lost a lot too. He seemed fearless in his investing. His skill enabled him to provide all that he and my mother needed until the end of their earth life.

My Dad promised my Mom that he would show her the world if she married him. And together they traveled and kept that bargain. I never knew how much Dad liked to travel, but Mother loved it and he loved Mother so he went.

Mother loved music. But Dad, not so much. But he was willing to please her and attended all kinds of concerts, plays, operettas, and musical theatre. Sometimes he sat through a whole performance with his overcoat on and we left the minute the show was over. But when he enjoyed it, the overcoat came off and we did not need to rush out so quickly. He sang duets with Mom, sang in the ward choir, and even sang with Singing K's.

Twas a blessed day when my father's weary and worn out body was able to go home to Heavenly Father and rest. His last days were a struggle as he completely wore out. It was a very sacred moment to sit with him as he took his last breath, knowing what awaited him on the other side.

Though tis sad for me to have him far away from me, my heart is at peace, knowing he served Heavenly Father well. In my mind, I see the sweet reunion with his mother and father and others who had already graduated from this life. And I can hear Heavenly Father say, "Well done," as He welcomed him into His arms.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Covenents

Because I feel so much like a spiritual pygmy, I keep trying to learn more and new and better, the things that I think everyone else knows already. I am trying to play catch up to the rest of the world who have greater faith and testimonies than I do. Things that come as great revelation to me are old hat to others. Inspiring insights and ah-hah moments are yesterday's news. But I keep plugging along, trying to not be too discouraged at the turtle pace I walk.

I came home from BYU Women's Conference with a fairly long list of things I need to learn more about; and the desire and determination to learn more. But I also came home and soon started to not feel very well. So as the crud invaded my body and my life, a bit of that desire began to fade. Though I really only felt pretty sick for a few days, the level of health that I was hoping for has seemed slow in coming. So it has seemed like it has required more effort to feed the fire of desire to learn. But I am still slowly, but surely pressing forward at my usual turtle pace, to learn!

Wendy Watson Nelson taught me about covenants, a definite subject on my list. So I have spent some time thinking about covenants and reading about covenants. There is much for me to learn but I have a few notes I took as I listened to her speak.  I have placed these statements from her message on my fridge, to help remind me that I am seeking Heaven's inspiration about covenants.

Covenants are a gift from God.

I have asked myself, how do I value these gifts from God?  Do my words and my actions demonstrate to God that I value His gift?

I promised God I would follow His Son in what I do, think, and say.

Though sometimes I think that I do this, is it frequent enough?  Would others answer this question them same as I might? What does Heavenly Father think?

Nothing is more urgent and nothing has more power than keeping my covenants.

Am I feeling the power of keeping covenants? What changes do I need to make in the way I am living to be a more dedicated covenant keeper?

Nothing in this life is more important than making and keeping covenants with precision.

How precise am I really? How often do I find myself making excuses and slacking off?
 
Sister Nelson quoted from Elder Russell M. Nelson, "The greatest compliment that can be earned in this life is to be known as a covenant keeper."

I have thought about the compliments I have received and longed to receive. I must be honest and say, this idea had never, ever occurred to me. So, since I have not thought about this, it is a pretty safe bet that I have not put forth any effort to be known by anyone, even God, as a covenant keeper.

Ouch!

Reading and pondering on these words remind me that this topic is pretty important for me. I am seeking, knocking, and asking more about covenants. I am pondering questions like, what covenants really are and what covenants I have made. I am pondering about how my choices, words, and deeds actually fit in with my own covenants with God. And maybe more importantly how do the things I do not fit in with those same covenants.

Sister Nelson taught of the fruits of covenant keeping.

The Savior becomes more real and prayers change. We prepare for and can expect revelation. Our very natures change.

So, that is who I want to become, the person who knows Jesus Christ and knows He is my Savior. I want to receive more revelation and know that it will come. And yes, I know that I want my nature to be changed to be a little more like Jesus Christ, every single day.