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

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