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







Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Lesson From My Washing Machine

I learned a long time ago that when we pay tithing, we are blessed. Nothing is really ours because Heavenly Father gives us everything we have. We are given stewardship over the things we are blessed with. It can all be lost or taken away from us in a moment as well. Even though I have learned these lessons, I do not spend a great deal of time thinking about what I have learned or the experiences that have been my teaching tools. I simply write my tithing check every month and donate it to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. End of story. It is a habit, based on experiences that taught me the value of paying tithing. I already have a testimony that paying tithing blesses our lives.

When we supported missionaries I again learned that The Lord can make more of our money than we can. Nothing added up on paper, financially. But there was always money available to us to pay tithing and pay for a missionary to serve. I have also learned that paying tithing and financially supporting a missionary does not guarantee that there will be no financial challenges. Cars break down, children need medical care, appliances die, and the cost of living continues to rise. Yet, somehow, things really do work out.

As I loaded clothes into my washing machine one day this last week, I was reminded that my washing machine was a tithing blessing. It was a very fleeting thought, which I quickly left behind as I moved on with life's chores. But my washing machine was not through teaching me the tithing lesson. It began to make a lot of noise. The spin cycle was banging and clanging because the machine was unevenly loaded. My laziness wanted to ignore the noise and let the machine carry on unaccompanied. But instead, I decided to attend to its misery. I first tried the self leveling legs. Better, but not enough. I opened the machine and redistributed the sloppy wet load of clothes and towels. It was almost through washing and I decided to stick around to throw the clothes into the dryer.

It was then that I was reminded that my washing machine really was a tithing blessing. Literally! The machine is old. After my parents returned home to Heavenly Father, we divided up their earthly remains as best as we could, and I received the washing machine and clothes dryer as a portion of my inheritance. They were already well used by the time they arrived at my home. The washing machine has been repaired. In fact, the repairman told me that it was just a matter of time and it would need to be replaced. He did not expect it to last more than a few more months. I think he thought it was silly for me to have him fix the lid switch. Wasted investment!  But the lid switch was majorly not working, which also meant that the machine was majorly not working. He expected the pump to also cease and desist.

And therefore, so did I.

But the washing machine continues to serve us well. So I pondered the lesson of the washing machine and bit a tried to remember when it received its last physical. I knew it had been a few years but could only connect events to the last repairman's visit. I was privileged to help the youth of our ward and stake as they prepared for the youth temple celebration preceding the dedication of the Twin Falls Idaho Temple. Part of my responsibility was to provide care for the costumes worn by the young women of our ward.

They wore beautiful brightly colored dresses made of yards and yards of fabric as they honored Mexico with a native hat dance. I remodeled and repaired and laundered these dresses over and over throughout the preparation for the celebration. It was then that the repairman proclaimed the near imminent demise of my washing machine. My  still functioning washing machine was declared terminal in the summer of 2008.

My washing machine has lasted not just a few months but more than a few years since that declaration of doom. Again, my gratitude is great to God for His goodness and mercy to me and His gift of tithing blessings.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Gift of Children

I adore our children. I believe Heavenly Father sent the best He had to offer to our home to teach and rescue me from myself. I hope that someday they will get me raised.

Though our children are so near to perfection, they had very normal moments throughout their days of growing up. They were also raised in our home with a very imperfect mother. They made lots of mistakes and they got into lots of mischief and they made lots of messes. Sometimes they egged each other on in their misadventures.

They also teased and tortured each other. Some seasons it seemed to be more continual than other seasons. Some siblings seemed to pick on and pester other siblings more than others. Some were much more skilled in delivering torture and some were much more patient in receiving torture. As an inexperienced parent, I am sure that I handled it ineffectively more than I handled it well. But I did try to teach them to be kind.

There were many group discussions and private chats exploring the question; How would you feel if someone did that to you? I wanted to teach them to be compassionate and empathetic to each other and to the other inhabitants of this planet we all share. I wanted them to be willing to look at a situation from the perspective of others instead of just there own. I wanted them to become peacemakers not warmongers.

But mostly I think I wanted them to learn to like each other and hopefully eventually learn to love each other. Though at times, it seemed it would simply be an impossible dream.

I grew up in a very different home. I remember a few skirmishes with my older sister, but not many because they were simply not tolerated. The majority of my siblings were so much older than I was that there were not many opportunities for me to be anything but bosse around by them. I am sure I was a nuisance to them, always in the way. I expect I got into things and made messes and they had to be responsible for cleaning up after me and watching me to keep me out of trouble.

But as a parent I often wondered if my young children simply hated each other and always would. There were moments when they were very good at being partners in crime. But the quarreling seemed so very prevalent.

I remember seeing glimpses of their becoming friends throughout their last months at home, before launching into the world on their own. I loved seeing those moments. They could not be quiet because they had so much to talk about. It was as if they had been saving it all up for these moments. They could not be quiet during church. Though disrupting, I loved the evidence that they actually liked each other.

This year for Christmas our adult children worked together to provide us an unforgettable experience. Together they planned a date for us to see the Broadway production of Beauty and the Beast at Kingsbury Hall in Salt Lake City, Utah. Included was dinner at Toucanos, a place we had never eaten and somewhat more expensive than we would have ever chosen for ourselves. It was a wonderful day! Beauty and the Beast was outstanding and the adventure of eating at this restaurant was just plain fun. I tried everything that I could get my hands on until I was stuffed. It was fabulous to enjoy their gift to us.

But the greater gift for me is that they planned, communicated, and worked together. My children who had once demonstrated a great lack of tolerance for each other, are now friends. It has been this way for a long time now, but this gift was a great reminder of who they have all become. I see in them their greatness, their compassion, their empathy and their willingness to look through the eyes of the other people who live on this planet that we all share.  

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Goals

I have been a setter of goals for as long as I can remember. Notice I said setter not achiever! I believe that many people believe in setting goals and then working hard to achieve them. But I suppose that there are just as many who do not have any desire to set goals at all. That does not make either way of thinking correct or incorrect. It just makes us different.

I have often failed at my goals. Sometimes because of my own personal failures. Sometimes I have simply not given them the attention needed for success. It could be that life happens to drag, push, pull, or shove me in a completely different direction, and the goals quickly fade away from my memory. I think that this happens to all of us from time to time, when we realize that we are simply not in control of our life.

Sometimes the success or failure of reaching our goals is dependent on the actions of other people in our lives. They can be tremendous supporters and cheerleaders for us or they can build roadblocks for us at every turn in the road. They may even be simply indifferent to our goals and our desires, which is infinitely better than intentionally trying to sabotage us as we try to better ourselves and our lives.

After my high school graduation, I headed of to BYU to acquire an education. I had specific goals to graduate and have a career. After high school graduation, I was unsure which direction to go for my degree, but began to work towards becoming a teacher. Though I wanted to pursue a social life, I did not plan to leave school without a degree. I imagined myself working and traveling and maybe even living in an apartment in a big city somewhere, experiencing the fast paced life of Broadway shows and site seeing. Unattached and free, I could come and go and do as I pleased during my off work hours.

This is one of those times when a different path presented itself to me and I chose to get married. My education days faded quickly into the background among diapers and dishes and laundry. No regrets about raising children instead of pursuing a degree! I do however have many regrets about my lack of skill in that area, but the degree was never more important than my children, ever!

Some years later, I began to actively pursue my education again. I did my research and talked to a number of wise people, asking their advice and counsel. I went back to school. But road blocks began to appear. I did not put them there. I did not imagine them. They were real and being set before me by other people. It was difficult and discouraging to me to continue to have to find ways to go around or up and over the challenges that I found I had no control over. I continued to battle for a season, but when it felt that someone else slammed the door in my face, it was the end for me. I withdrew from school. I gave up. I quit on myself. I was done.

In 2013 I began to feel the pull and tug of reaching for my goal for education. I clearly remembered the difficulties that had caused me to give up. I wondered if I had the courage to try again, knowing that road blocks were very likely. But I began to investigate my options for returning to college. Yes road blocks began to appear in my path. They were coming from the same sources that they had come from before. I pursued and I gave up again and again as I proceeded to try to put the pieces into place for me to attend school.

I was considering heading one direction with my education and found a deadline looming before me. Sure enough another road block hit me clearly in my face. I could not control the actions of another person and so, I sat in a chair and gave up again. I was done. I shut down that desire once again. I could not fight anymore against the road blocks.

As 2014 arrived, I again felt compelled and driven to pursue a different avenue of education. Challenges still abounded and roadblocks continued, but one by one I crossed each bridge and climbed every barricade to begin school again. I told very few individuals of my choice, because I was not sure if I could handle the boulders that were coming into my path from a particularly challenging source. If I failed, I did not need to have a world watching my go down, again.

I registered for the class that I feared the most and purchased the book and showed up for class. Though the class was emotionally challenging for me as I faced my fears head on, I succeeded in completing the class. And I decided to try again. I spent much of the summer trying to put my life in order and prepare for another demanding semester of school.

And I began again. Within two weeks, dark clouds of despair and discouragement began to swallow me up. This time, the source was within myself. I was being eaten alive by doubt, fear, and a very real darkness. I began to plan my escape from school. At this point I reached out to my children to ask them for help, I asked for their prayers and faith. I asked for them to fast for me. I needed to know if giving up was the correct move for me or if I could lean on faith and Heavenly Father to go forward.

As the dark clouds began to lift, I returned to school with a determination to pass my classes, even if it was with a disappointing grade. And I began to work harder and harder. In many ways, it was the most challenging semester of my college experience. It required more of me than I thought I had to give. I faced up to the road blocks that others plopped in my way and found my way around. I also found support that came from surprising sources.

I was truly blessed!

My associates degree was added to my transcript in January 2015. Though my degree is small and insignificant to the world, it was the evidence of a long, hard struggle for me. It is a story of failure and triumph; of success and failure; of giving up and pushing forward; of faith and courage; and the love of Heavenly Father.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Lessons Learned in Primary

We traveled away from home over the weekend and attended Sunday church meetings in another ward. We attended The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints with our daughter and her family in Utah.

When I was a child I really did not like attending church meetings away from home. I especially did not enjoy attending Primary or Sunday School classes with people I did not know. I found it even more challenging as I became a teenager. I felt awkward and uncomfortable and completely out of place. I did not feel like I belonged in any ward I attended, that was not my own. I could not wait for church to be over. The one exception I can remember occurred when I was able to attend church meetings in Germany as I traveled with my family there. I could not understand what was said, but I felt The Spirit of the Holy Ghost and recognized the hymns that were sung. I realized how the gospel was the same in another country.

Over the past years, I have discovered that I generally enjoy attending church in other wards very much. I have learned so much as I have attended meetings in other wards and been blessed by these opportunities.

Sunday we attended Primary instead of Relief Society and Sunday School. I was so impressed with the knowledge of the primary children of our Savior Jesus Christ. I was impressed by their desire and enthusiasm to learn the gospel truths. I knew every song that they sang and was delighted to join my voice with them in praise to Heavenly Father and His beloved Son.

Mostly I was strengthened and amazed at the beauty of the simple truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that were taught and the Spirit that attended them. I felt the Holy Ghost bear testimony to me of these truths as we learned about the last week of the life of Jesus Christ through scriptures, pictures, discussions,  and music.

The first picture depicted The Last Supper, when Jesus and His Disciples gathered together to eat in an upper room. We learned how The Savior provided an opportunity for the bread and wine to be served as the Sacrament to the disciples. I was reminded as I listened to the scriptures and the discussion of the sacredness of the Sacrament, then and now. It is the most important portion of Sunday meetings, to partake of the emblems that remind us of who Christ is and what He willingly did for each of us.

We looked at a picture of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Though I know that story well, I was reminded that I do not comprehend what really transpired in those moments and hours when Christ suffered so much that he bled great drops from every pore. I cannot comprehend how He could endure the physical and emotional torment required to experience the sins and sorrows and afflictions of all mankind. It is beyond my ability to understand how He did what He did, even though I understand why He did what He did.

A picture of Jesus upon the cross at Calvary came next. I often weep when I see a picture of the crucifixion. I cannot bear the cruelty of the world that allowed such a thing to happen to anyone, especially someone who gave so much to all of us, selflessly. Though I have read and heard this story many times, my comprehension of what took place is weak. I do not understand how Christ could endure so much, so silently, so willingly, and with a heart that is filled with forgiveness for the evil deeds of His crucifiers.

Mary stood at the Garden Tomb, in awe of The Risen Lord in the last picture we talked about. My heart rejoices as I realize that The Resurrection is real. Jesus Christ rose from the tomb to walk and teach again. He returned to the disciples to show them that He lived again. He walked among the people of the ancient Americas as Risen Lord. He conquered death and sin. He released us all from the prison that death created. Because of Him, we will rise again.

As I listened and learned and sang with these little ones, I felt strength added to my testimony of the reality of the life and mission of Jesus Christ. My heart fills with gratitude for His life, His mission, and His mercy.

I know that my Redeemer lives!