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

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.