When faced with life's challenges,
it is Important to Remember
that although Daniel was saved from the lions,
he was not saved from the Lion's Den.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Happy is the Man (or Woman)

"A proverb in the Old Testament states: 'He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city' (Proverbs 16:32).
"It is when we become angry that we get into trouble. The road rage that affects our highways is a hateful expression of anger. I dare say that most of the inmates of our prisons are there because they did something when they were angry. In their wrath they swore, they lost control of themselves, and terrible things followed, even murder. There were moments of offense followed by years of regret. . . .
"So many of us make a great fuss of matters of small consequence. We are so easily offended. Happy is the man who can brush aside the offending remarks of another and go on his way."  Gordon B Hinckley

One of the lessons we talked about yesterday was in setting an example and remembering to have gratitude in our lives.  As I researched the topic today, I came across the previous quote.  I do believe that it is when we become angry that we get into trouble.  I know that many of the mistakes in my own life were made because I was angry at someone or something, or even at myself.
This next month is when the world celebrates the birthday of Jesus Christ.  I was reading online somewhere today of a family tradition.  This family hangs a gold stocking for Jesus and during the month of December, every family member writes down their gift to him.  It can be as simple as reading a book of scripture, or saying daily prayers.  It can even be more complex, such as serving every month at the local food bank.  I loved that tradition.  What a wonderful way to remind my children what the Christmas season is really about and to whom they should give their gifts.
My gift to the Savior this month is to be a little more kind to those around me.  Especially, at the Post Office.  It is so easy to get frustrated with others and to react instead of act.  Saturday was a great example.  I had a lady ring the bell and start yelling that we had her package.  She had mistakenly had it sent to the street address instead of the PO Box.  I have not seen her package, and it would have been so easy to yell back!  Instead, I asked her to lower her voice or else come back on Monday.  Than, I started to help her.  She calmed right down.  I did not accuse her or blame her for anything.  I simply made a note for the back table with her correct address, gave her my name and phone number and told her that I would not send it back if I received it.  It was such and easy fix and all my employees were amazed because she responded well to me.  (She is usually quite contrary).
It was actually easy for me to do because I wasn't reacting to her.  What a great way to start the morning.  After that experience, we had the lesson in church on Sunday.  Do you think that Heavenly Father is trying to give me a message???
So, today, I am trying to put into place calmness and gratitude in my own life.  Kayla was doing dishes and pouting and slamming the dishes.  She broke one of the plates.  I did not get made, just told her to throw it away and clean up the mess.  Then, I asked her to come see me.  She said "no!" with a pout.  Now , if you know my daughter Kayla, you know how great she can pout!  So, I started counting, 1, 2, 10!  Then I ran after her.  She ran laughing and giggling to the garage door where she couldn't get away from me and I tickled her.  She collapsed laughing and than went back and finished the dishes with no complaints.  Calmness AND gratitude.  I remembered to tell her how much I appreciated her and how much she contributes to the family when she is helpful.  We finished the evening, both happy.

Marcus B. Nash said, "In order to have joy, you need to understand that, as a child of your Heavenly Father, you inherited divine traits and spiritual needs--and just like a fish needs water, you need the gospel and the companionship of the Holy Ghost to be truly, deeply happy. Because you are the offspring of God (see Acts 17:28), it is incompatible with your eternal nature to do wrong and feel right. It cannot be done. It is part of your spiritual DNA, as it were, that peace, joy, and happiness will be yours only to the degree you live the gospel."

The second commandment, we are told, is like unto the first, "love your neighbor as yourself".  When I succeed in loving my neighbors, than I will realize that they also are divine and have inherited some of the same traits from our Heavenly Father.  Who are my neighbors?  I believe that they are all around us.  They are in our homes, our streets, our places of work, and anywhere we may visit.  I think that true joy and happiness, comes from doing the will of our Heavenly Father in all things.  I think that in the end it won't matter how many scriptures I know, or how many books I have read, or how righteous the world thinks I am.  Do you think that He will welcome me into His kingdom if I am angry and resentful?  How about if I justify my actions because of the behavior of someone else?
I don't think that I will make it to my Father's house if I am not kind and loving to His children.  I think that part of developing true charity is learning to love others that might seem different than we are.  It is also showing and over abundance of kindness in the face of anger and bitterness.  It truly is turning the other cheek.
My December gift to the Christ child is to work on cultivating a kind and loving heart, at all times and in all places.  May we each come to the manger with one good gift.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Make Love Your Walk and Talk

This was the fifth Sunday in the Heber first ward.  On the fifth Sundays, we do things just a little bit different.  I teach in the primary normally, but on the fifth Sunday, we teach the lesson first and then the young women and young men do singing time with all the kids so that the adults can meet together to get instruction from the Bishopric.  It is a great opportunity to learn and grow.  This Sunday was the first with our new bishopric.  All three of them gave different instructions about love and gratitude.  One of the talks was on "How do we become true disciples of Christ".  This was the conference talk by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf.  He stated,
"The Savior Himself provided the answer with this profound declaration: “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”  This is the essence of what it means to be a true disciple: those who receive Christ Jesus walk with Him.
Once again the Savior revealed the way. When asked to name the greatest commandment, He did not hesitate. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind,” He said. “This is the first and great commandment.”  Coupled with the second great commandment—to love our neighbor as ourselves—we have a compass that provides direction not only for our lives but also for the Lord’s Church on both sides of the veil.
Because love is the great commandment, it ought to be at the center of all and everything we do in our own family, in our Church callings, and in our livelihood. Love is the healing balm that repairs rifts in personal and family relationships. It is the bond that unites families, communities, and nations. Love is the power that initiates friendship, tolerance, civility, and respect. It is the source that overcomes divisiveness and hate. Love is the fire that warms our lives with unparalleled joy and divine hope.
Love should be our walk and our talk.

We are created in the image of our heavenly parents; we are God’s spirit children. Therefore, we have a vast capacity for love—it is part of our spiritual heritage. What and how we love not only defines us as individuals; it also defines us as a church. Love is the defining characteristic of a disciple of Christ.
Let us be known as a people who love God with all our heart, soul, and mind and who love our neighbor as ourselves. When we understand and practice these two great commandments in our families, in our wards and branches, in our nations, and in our daily lives, we will begin to understand what it means to be a true disciple of Jesus the Christ."
It has really made me think today.  How often is love my walk and talk?  One of the things that was said today is that we need to learn to learn to truly love our neighbors.  I am thinking that I do not always do that as well as I should.  Sometimes people can be rude or angry or just plain disagreeable.  However, I suppose that sometimes I can be that way as well.  I sincerely want to learn to love those around me, no matter how they behave.
One of the ways we talked about being able to do this is through expressing our gratitude.  Gratitude when it is not expressed is only a thought.  But when you take the time to share it out loud, you can change a moment or even change a life. 
We need to Think To Thank (TTT).  My goal is to try and remember to share my thanks with those around me.  Especially, those I work with and also those I serve.  Maybe if I remember to express thanks and gratitude than I can change my own view of things.  Perhaps, it is not other people who are the difficult ones.  Perhaps it is only my view of them that makes them unreasonable.  I need to make sure that love is my walk and my talk.  

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving Day!

I hope your day was happy and that you had as wonderful of a time as I did!  I hope that your tummy's are full and that your hearts are full of a time with family and friends.  I am a big believer in traditions.  Although sometimes, it seems like the traditions have to sift and change a little. 
We had several of our children here.  DJ and Amy Jo came up with their children, Cole, Jake, and Ellie.  Louis and Adam came up and so did Victor and Lori with their little girl Nora.  Of course, the kids still at home were here too.  Miracle, Mikayla, Anya and Josh.  It was pretty wild! 
The kids had a great time playing.  Of course, they all wanted to go outside and play in the cold.  It was below 20 degrees in the morning and we had to keep them busy in the house.  I love my traditions.  When the older kids were little, we always watched the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade.  This year was not any different from those days of old.  We put on the parade, and none of the kids watched it!  Oh well, times change. 
We always have a special breakfast.  For the past couple of years, our favorite is Stuffed French Toast Strudel with Apple Syrup.  We all love it and we even hope for leftovers!

 Mom's Stuffed French Toast Strudel
1 (1 lb.) Loaf unslice French bread (can also use white bread)
1 (8 oz) pkg cream cheese, cubed
8 eggs
2 1/2 cups milk, light cream, or half and half (the more fat, the better it taste)  :-)
6 T butter or marg., melted
1/4 c. maple syrup

Cut bread into cubes.  (you should have about 12 cups bread cubes).  Grease a 9 X 13 baking dish.  Place 1/2 bread cubes in prepared dish.  Top with the cream cheese cubes and then the remaining bread cubes.  In a blender, mix together eggs, milk, butter, maple syrup.  Pour egg mixture evenly over bread and cheese cubes.  Using a spatula, slightly press down layers to moisten.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 to 24 hours.  Remove plastic wrap and bake in a 325 degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until the center appears set and the edges are lightly golden.  Let stand about 10 minutes before serving with Apple Cider Syrup.

Apple Cider Syrup

1/2 c sugar
4 tsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 c apple cider or apple juice
1 T lemon juice (use a real lemon)
2 T butter or marg.

In a small saucepan stir together the sugar, cornstarch, and cinnamon.  Then stir in the apple cider or juice and the lemon juice.  Cook and stir the mixture over the medium heat until the mixture is thickened and bubbly.  Then cook and stir for 2 minutes more.  Remove from heat and stir in the butter or marg. until melted.  Makes about 1 1/3 cups. 

John and I got up early and made the turkey and dressing.  Later in the morning we made banana bread, pumpkin bars and sugar cookies.  We had lots of dessert!  One of my favorite parts!  It was a hectic day and no matter how hard we tried, the schedule just could not seem to fit!  We seem to have a habit of running late for everything. 
Lori and Vic came up in the early afternoon (they got up late) and Lori made some spicy mashed potatoes and a different stuffing.  We all loved having different foods this year.  Lori and Vic introduced and hispanic theme to the occasion and I am definately going to make those potatoes again!  They were amazing! 
Louis had a football game and came up after they were done playing.  It is his tradition and the one time every year when he gets to play his favorite sport.  We all watched football for the day, (several games I might add), did dishes, cooked, did dishes, served, did dishes, (did I say that we did dishes??)  I finally went to the dollar store because the boys wanted soda and John made salsa but we were out of chips, so I bought everything we needed plus paper plates and cups! 
Amy Jo made homemade pumpkin pies and bought a Costco pecan pie.  The desserts were amazing.  We had pumpkin pie for breakfast the next morning!  We are still full from the day!! 
The kids all went out and played in the yard in the afternoon.  They liked to feed the chickens!  The chickens ate almost as well as the rest of us.  The kids would have stayed outside in the cold all day if we would have let them.  I am terrible at getting pictures and seem to forget it most of the time after the first few.  So, the only pics I have are of the grandkids with the chickens.

Maybe next year, I will remember to take more pictures!!!
All in all, it was an awesome thanksgiving and I just need to remember that although traditions are fun to preserve, it is ok to make new ones along the way.  Hopefully, every couple of years, the kids with be able to come home and help me decide what new ones we need to make!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Saved by the dog! (or Moosable Moments)

Last night, I was laying in bed and dozing off, when I received an urgent phone call from my son, Louis.  He was calling because his brother Adam was having seizures.  I told him to call 911 and stayed on the phone, pretty much powerless to help.  I tried to help him know what to do.  He tried to find the tester for Adam's blood.  Adam is diabetic and seizures are a sign of low blood sugar.  He could not find the tester.  Adam does not have a gluco gun which is a shot of glucose to bring up the blood sugar either, so the boys pretty much could only make sure that he did not inadvertantly hurt himself during the seizures. 
When the paramedics arrived, Adam's bloodsugar was 32.  That number is very low.  They were able to get the blood sugar up to 70, but not any higher.  They ended up taking him to the hospital for treatment and he was released after his blood sugar stablized. 
The really interesting part of the story I found out later from Louis.  My two sons live with another young man, Joey.  Both Louis and Joey had gone to bed for the night.  Joey was already asleep in his room, and Lou was getting ready for bed in his room.  Louis has an English Bull Mastiff named Moose.  He is a large dog who thinks I am a chew toy.  I guess he thinks Adam is another favorite toy. 
Anyway, Moose started barking and whinning and making lots of noise.  Lou and Joey both heard the noise and came out to investigate.  They found Adam collapsed on the couch having seizures.  Somehow, that crazy dog knew something was wrong and he barked until he got the boys' attention.  I think we owe that dog a few bones!  I know that if he would not have allerted anyone, Adam probably would not have survived through the night.  With a blood sugar of 32, his body would not have made it.  It would have shut down. 
Adam says that Moose only did that because Adam is his favorite chew toy and he wouldn't have had anyone else to chew on.  Imagine being saved just because a dog wants to chew on you!  Serously though, I wonder why Adam has such a hard time seeing that Heavenly Father is watching over him.  There have been several times in his life when he probably should have died, but he was saved by some kind of a miracle.  Yet, he persists in thinking "why me".  He doesn't see the results.  He only sees the trials.  How I wish that he would listen and feel the love that is his. 

Heavenly Father does not leave any of us alone.  If you remember the story of the tree of life in the Book of Mormon.  Lehi saw the faithful “pressing forward” to the tree of life, secured by “continually holding fast to the rod of iron.” (see 1 Ne. 15:23-24).  Nephi teaches us in that scripture story, that the iron rod is the word of God “Whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it,” Nephi declared, “would never perish, neither could the temptations and fiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness, to lead them away to destruction” (1 Ne. 15:25).

In my studies, I have found that there are verses in the Bible where Christ is identified as the Word of God.  The one that comes immediately to mind is John 1:1. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God".  I do not think that the Word here refers to the Scriptures.  Rather, it refers to Jesus Christ himself.  In this light, Lehi and Nephi are teaching us that Christ is the iron rod that leads to the tree. What a difference it should make to us to know that amidst all of the “mists of darkness” in the world and the insults and mocking that come from the “great and spacious building”, we are not left to find our way alone! Our Savior is not merely pointing directions to us and expectiing us to find our own way.  As the iron rod, Jesus provides us the only way to our desired end and also our protection against the mists of darkness and the taunts from the people in the great and spacious building.
As you have read that familiar story in the Book of Mormon, did you notice that not one of those people make it to the Tree of Life without taking hold of the iron rod? You can't just walk along side of the rod.  You have to grasp it and hold it, in order to follow it to the tree of life.  It is not just a matter of taking a few more steps and pressing forward.  Not one of those people could do it all by themselves.  Not one made it on his own, no matter how hard he tried, no matter how much he knew, no matter how determined he was.  On the other hand, every single one of them that let go of the rod were lost.  The were either lost in the mists of darkness, drowned in the filthy river, or wind up in the great and spacious building with those who were mocking the people of God.
There have been many times in my life when I have tried to go to the "tree of life" by just struggling on my own.  I don’t think I was conscious of the fact that I was doing it, but it was like I just thought I could push through the mists of darkness and still make it by myself.  I forgot the instruction to "hold to the rod".  I didn't see the Savior reaching out to me and waiting for me to understand.

Now, when I think of the iron rod, I don’t just think of a narrow path and an iron-rod. I think of Him with outstretched hand.  I see Him reaching out to me and clasping my hand and LEADING me home to the tree.  Even if I am battered and bruised.  Even if I have lost my way temporarily, I just need to reach out for His hand and not let go. I don’t have to find my own way to the tree.  I just need to find my way to the rod, then reach up, take hold, and hang on. Only then is my pressing forward with “a steadfastness in Christ” and a “perfect brightness of hope” going to enable me to endure to the end (2 Ne. 31:20). Enduring to the end is taking hold of His rescuing hand, holding on tight, following where He guides us, and never, never letting go.

Someday, I hope my son, who has such a hard time accepting the fact that the Lord is mindful of him always, sees the hand of the Lord reaching out to him.  I hope and pray that he (Adam) reaches back and never, never, lets go.  May you all realize how very much you are loved!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Try a little kindness....

"Gratitude on a daily basis means we express appreciation for what we have now without qualification for what we had in the past or desire in the future."

-- Bishop Robert D. Hales (April 1992 LDS general conference)

I have worked in the Postal Service for over 25 years.  I have also worked in restaurants, nursing homes, retail stores, fire departments, newpaper delivery, and even as a telephone solicitor.  In other words, I have spent all my live working with and for other people.
People can be very interesting creatures. They can be friendly or standoffish, impatient, angry, sad, generous, compassionate, and even funny. But each one of us has at our disposal one of the greatest powers on earth—kindness. 
Years ago, I was a single mom who moved to a new area.  I had six small children and did not know anyone else.  I had friends that helped me unload all our household goods and than left me there to put everything in order.  I had started putting things away and was feeling rather lonely and depressed (hard to do with six small children clammering all around you).  It was a new part of my life, and I wasn't sure that I was looking forward to it.  There came a knock at the door and three men stood there.  They were the new bishopric who had received a call from one of my friends and they were coming over to see what I needed in the way of help.  Within an hour, dinner had arrived from other sisters in my new ward.  Several people had come to help unpack, and I was welcomed into the area by my new neighbors. 
I seem to forget many things that have happened in my life.  All these years later, I can't remember their names, or which houses belonged to them, but I can remember the kindness shown  by a group of strangers to a woman who was embarking on a new and terrifying journey in life. They made all the difference for me at a time that was very difficult. They gave me the strength I needed to press forward with faith and hope.
How often have you heard the saying, "Kindness begets kindness". We've all been trapped in line at the supermarket, the bank, or even the Post Office. It doesn't take long for people to get out-of-sorts, to feel mistreated, to think that the employee is not hurrying fast enough. A glare from the clerk or teller, a surly comment from a customer, and the tension keeps mounting higher and higher, until it snaps and someone says or does something they should not.

Yet how many times have you seen a kind word or thoughtful gesture defuse that tension in an instant?   I have. In fact, it's usually the only thing that will work.   Once I witnessed a store manager calm an irate customer (my mother) by simply pulling over a chair for her to sit down.  It was amazing and actually defused a situation that was quite embarrassing to me. 
When I was in High School, I loved singing.  I wanted to be in the elite choir at school.  I tried out, and I knew that I had made it.  When the notice was posted on the board, I found out that I had not.  I was devastated.  I decided that I would not sing anymore.  Obviously, this teacher knew that I did not have any talent in that one important area of my life.  One of my seminary teachers said to me: "Patty, you are good enough, and you should have made it.  I think you have a wonderful voice and you should not give up singing".   Just a few kind words. It couldn't have taken more than a minute. Brother Parker believed I was good enough to be in the choir.  That little bit of encouragement made all the difference to a girl with a broken heart.  I did not give up.  I never did make that top choir, but I have sang at many places and for many different people.  Music has blessed me with some of the most amazing experiences of my life.  I am so thankful for that encouragement that gave me the strength to continue with something that has blessed me so much later on in my life. 
Kindness doesn't always come easy.  Sometimes you have to really work at it.  I was on my mail route many years ago and there was a family on one of the streets that I delived to whose father had lost his job right before Christmas.  There were seven small children in the family.  One of the neighbors got with me and we decided to play "santa" to this family.  I went home and talked to my children.  They had a game system that was in very good shape along with several games.  We took that game system, all the games, and several other items that were in great shape around our home.  We also used some of the money that I had been planning on spending for them that Christmas.  We wrapped everything and took everything to the neighbors home.  It was delivered on Christmas eve.  Our Christmas was a little small that year, but our hearts were full because of the gifts that we had given to these other children.  It was a great learning experience for all of us and Heavenly Father blessed each of my children as they learned to give something that they loved to other children who did not have as much as they did. 
We need to remember to be kind even when we don't know if it will be returned.  My family has hosted foreign exchange students several times in the past 15 years.  Sometimes, they are in our home for a couple of weeks, and sometimes, they can be there for a year or more.  It has always been a good experience for us to learn about other cultures.  The kids sometimes had a hard time adjusting to our american home, and sometimes my own american kids had a hard time adjusting to children from other cultures.  In the past year, two prior exchange students have found me on the internet and gotten back in touch with me and my family.  It has been a true blessing to receive the letters of thanks from these students and their families and to see what they have done with their lives.  We never know how we can reach out and touch others through our kindness. 
In the King James version of the New Testament we read in Matthew 25:34-40:
34  Then shall the King say unto them on His right hand, `Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

35  For I hungered, and ye gave Me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave Me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took Me in;
36  naked, and ye clothed Me; I was sick, and ye visited Me; I was in prison, and ye came unto Me.'
37  Then shall the righteous answer Him, saying, `Lord, when saw we Thee hungering and fed Thee, or thirsty and gave Thee drink?
38  When saw we Thee a stranger and took Thee in, or naked and clothed Thee?
39  Or when saw we Thee sick, or in prison, and came unto Thee?'
40  And the King shall answer and say unto them, `Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me.'

We can be kind at anytime.  Even when you don't realize how much it meant to someone else.
Being kind can change us.  It was a the Christmas season in the Post Office.  I had a long line of people and one particular customer had just been insulting and rude.  I was embarrassed and angry.  The next customer started complaining to me:  "I can't believe there are so few of you working," she groused.
"Look," I said, sounding just as unpleasant as she did , "give me a break, we are still trying to put up the mail and the packages."
That's when I recalled all the things I had ever learned about kindness. "Let me start again," I said. "I am sorry that the line is so long, how can I help you today?"  I finished her transaction and kept working through the line.
I don't know if she felt any better, but I did. I couldn't do anything about the long lines or the fact that the mail was late, or the shortage of clerks. But in a few seconds I'd been able to turn around a situation that would have had me complaining all through the day.
Whether it is a little gesture, a show of encouragement or simply seeing the situation from a different point of view, kindness is sometimes the greatest power of all, a power that can motivate us and change us.
William Wordsworth once said that the best parts of a good person's life are "the little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and love."  
I think I agree with that.  No one else might remember them, but I remember many of the small acts of kindness that have been done to me.  I am so grateful for those in my life who live this wonderful principle.  May we all take the time today to be just a little more kind. 
"Gratitude creates the most wonderful feeling. It can resolve disputes. It can strengthen friendships. And it makes us better men and women."
-- Gordon B. Hinckley

Sunday, November 22, 2009

An Attitude of Gratitude

“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures. –Thornton Wilder

Dan Millman, described a time when his mentor, Socrates, challenged him to sit out on a large, flat stone until he had "something of value" to share. Dan sat out on the rock for hours. At different times, believing he had come up with something to share, he went to tell Socrates. Each of those times, Socrates decided the statement was not good enough, and he sent Dan back to the rock for more hours of pondering. Finally, Dan had an insight that he knew was something of value. When Dan shared this insight, Socrates looked up, smiled, and welcomed Dan back inside. The "something of value" that Dan had realized was this: "There are no ordinary moments."
This is the meaning of gratitude. Nothing in your life, not a single moment, should be taken for granted. There are no ordinary moments!  When we develop gratitude for every moment, for the simple joys, as well as for the challenges that we face, we come to truly enjoy and appreciate life. We are then able to see the blessings of the Lord in our lives every second of every minute of every hour of every day.
There were times in my life, when something especially wonderful happened, and I genuinely felt grateful for being at that place and in that time. But I never really thought about consciously cultivating an attitude of gratitude until I read a conference talk given by David B Haight, from the Ensign, Nov. 2002.
Now, each day, I try to come up with a few specific events that occurred during the day and for which I feel grateful. Some days, it is easy. Other days, it is more of a challenge, so I begin with the basics, like, "I am grateful for being alive, I am grateful for the gospel, I am grateful for my testimony."
As I give myself time, I always come up with more and more things that I am grateful for.  It seems to be easier if I start with the little things that I am always thankful for.  A home, church, family, work, a loving husband, food to eat, clothes to wear.  You can start to get the picture.
There is an old saying in the Post Office where I work, "What gets measured, gets done".  I have found that gratitude is actually a lot like that saying.  It we don't acknowledge it, we don't notice the things we have in our lives to be grateful for.  But, if we take a moment to really look, we can see the miracles and blessings that surround us.  We can measure the things in our lives that we are grateful for.  When it gets noticed, it gets done. 
Sometimes, it seems a little hard to focus and think about gratitude.  Especially, after a particularly bad day.  (The day all the girls got the flu comes to mind).  But, if I start with the basics, the things I am ALWAYS grateful for, somehow, it is not as difficult as it first seemed.  
Trying to cultivate an attitude of gratitude has changed my life: I am much more happy and at peace than I have ever been before. I feel the spirit more often in my life.  I recognize the Lord's hand in the daily experiences that I have.  I appreciate the many little things that are done in my behalf every day.
I am certain that if you try to find a moment everyday to think about the gratitude you have for your many blessings, it will change your life also. Taking the time to think about the things for which you feel grateful is a way to increase your individual happiness. You are reminding yourself that there is good in your life, and ending your day on a positive note. You will also find more things than you ever noticed before to be grateful for.
This positive attitude seems to carry over from one day to the next. Over time, you may notice that you feel happier, closer to the spirit, and more aware of your blessings.  You may realize that the "little annoyances" that would have disturbed you in the past, no longer bother you in quite the same way. The more you are appreciative, the more you will notice, throughout the day, so many other things for which you have reason to feel grateful.
Heavenly Father is aware of everything that happens to you.  He doesn't cause things to happen, but he sometimes allows them to happen.  Our difficult experiences often bring to us the greatest teachings of our life. Where ever there is pain, there will also come a blessing.  So much so, that we will not have room to receive it.  Sometimes, our experiences are meant to help us "morn with those who morn and comfort those who stand in need of comfort".  Sometimes the challenges in our lives help us by developing and reaffirming our core values and beliefs.
When you can maintain an attitude of gratitude, even on a bad day, then the challenging days will not feel as bad, and the good days will just seem that much sweeter to you. You will realize, as Dan Millman did, that "There are no ordinary moments." You will begin to see the blessings in your everyday life.
 Life is about choice.  It is about free agency.  Or, as the young women say, "choice and accountability".  To be spiritual people, we must be willing to make spiritual choices. We must be willing to choose the right.  In other words, we must be willing to act on our convictions.  Honesty is a spiritual choice. So is faith, integrity, good works, virtue, and any other good thing. We owe it to ourselves to choose wisely. We can do that thanks to the principles that we have been taught. 

"It’s so easy in life for us to receive blessings, many of them almost uncounted, and have things happen in our lives that can help change our lives, improve our lives, and bring the Spirit into our lives. But we sometimes take them for granted. How grateful we should be for the blessings that the gospel of Jesus Christ brings into our hearts and souls. I would remind all of you that if we’re ever going to show gratitude properly to our Heavenly Father, we should do it with all of our heart, might, mind, and strength—because it was He who gave us life and breath" (David B. Haight, "Were There Not Ten Cleansed?," Ensign, Nov 2002, 24).

20 Little Attitudes
of Gratitude

  1. Mind your manners. Say please, thank you and excuse me.
  2. Smile when you see your family. Turn your frown upside down.
  3. Pick up after yourself.
  4. Notice when others do kind things for you, show gratitude by action or words.
  5. Say I love you before going to bed.
  6. Give hugs daily.
  7. Don’t worry about tomorrow. Focus on what you are happy about today.
  8. Create gratitude journals to keep track of daily blessings.
  9. Show thankfulness for even the little things others do for you.
  10. Leave love notes in unexpected places like lunch boxes and under pillows.
  11. Encourage someone with a compliment.
  12. Verbalize what you are grateful for when you feel like complaining about life.
  13. Keep a basket of small slips of paper on the table. Write notes of thankfulness during the week and read them to each other during a family meal.
  14. Remember to thank God for blessings each day.
  15. Surprise your family (or friends) with little gifts or treats to show you thought of them.
  16. No grumbling about minor annoyances around the house.
  17. Do special things to cherish time with your family. You never know what tomorrow will bring.
  18. Reflect on happy memories regularly. Make inspiration boards of special times.
  19. Help someone out without them having to ask you. Watch for someone in need.
  20. When you are doing household chores, be grateful you have a home to clean.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

He loveth His children

1 Nephi 11:16-17
And he said unto me:  Knowest thou the condescension on God?  And I said unto him:  I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.

"I know that He loveth his children".  How wonderful are those words!  I am not sure that it is possible to comprehend the love of God until you have had children of your own to love.  I know that I never understood how much it means to love a child until I had my first one.  The love fills you up.  And I am an imperfect person.  Nevertheless, I know that my Heavenly Father is perfect and if I can love this much imperfectly, how much more is He able to love you.
Now sometimes you probably don’t feel loved.  You probably don't feel very lovable.  We have all sinned, and sometimes that sin causes us to feel like we could possibly be a son or daughter or God.  You think you are not worthy of His love.  You don't feel noble.  You often feel pain, sorrow and loneliness.  You don't feel like a son or daughter of a king.  Sometimes, you feel insignificant, insecure, inadequate, and even lacking in faith.
Our Savior knows exactly how you feel. Remember the story from the New Testament, when Lazarus died and was in the tomb?  Jesus came to Mary and Martha.  They were in pain and full of sorrow wondering why their brother Lazarus had to die. In that moment Christ wept with them. Why did he weep?  Why didn't He just say something like:  "Don't be sad!  It is going to be fine.  I am going to fix it!"  Why did He take a moment and week with them?  He knew that he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead. He had told Peter what He was going to do when He first received the message that his friend Lazarus was dying. Yet, still he wept. He felt the pain of Mary and Martha. He felt their sorrow and their great love for their brother.  He shared that burden with them.  He had the solution, but he first took a moment to weep with them. he acknowledged their pain. He "mourned with those that mourned".
In the Book of Mormon, we read:  “He will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death, which bind his people and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh. That he may know, according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities. “ Alma 7:12
Christ has taken upon himself your  infirmities.  He has already felt your pain.  He cries with you when you are lonely, when you are hurt, when you are remorseful, and when you feel unworthy of His love.  He acknowledges your pain and has infinite compassion, understanding and love for you personally.
Your Savior is right there with you. No matter what you’ve done in the past (deliberate or otherwise). No matter how inadequate you feel, no matter how much of a failure you think you are and no matter what your weaknesses. He has never left you, nor will He ever leave you. He will never give up loving you. He will always be by your side.  He stands ready to embrace you with his infinite, unconditional, and personal love for you.  He has felt your anguish, he has borne your grief and he will wipe away your tears because you are His child. You are of infinite worth.
Marvin J. Ashton said, “Commune daily with your Heavenly Father who knows you best of all. He knows your talents, your strengths, and your weaknesses. You are here on earth at this time to develop and refine these characteristics. I promise you he will help you. He is aware of your needs. He is aware of your unanswered prayers.”
I pray that you will catch a glimpse of how much the Lord truly loves you. I pray the you will come to know of your own individual worth.  I pray that you will know, with every fiber of your being, that you are loved.  We are daughters (and sons) of a Heavenly Father who loves us and we love Him.  We will stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all places.  May you remember always who you are!

"I feel to invite women everywhere to rise to the great potential within you. I do not ask that you reach beyond your capacity. I hope you will not nag yourselves with thoughts of failure. I hope you will not try to set goals far beyond your capacity to achieve. I hope you will simply do what you can do in the best way you know. If you do so, you will witness miracles come to pass."
- Gordon B. Hinckley

Friday, November 20, 2009

Apple Butter

My house smells like apple butter.  Wonderful, cinnamon aromas sifting through the air.  I love the smell of apple butter when it is cooking.  However, more than the smell, I love the lesson that making apple butter has taught me.
We bought two large boxes of apples several weeks ago and put them out in the garage where it is cool and the apples stay fresh longer.  The kids have been eating them for lunches, snacks, and caramel apples.  The apples in the last box were starting to get bruised, wrinkled and soft.  They were no longer very good for eating.   The nice thing about apple butter is that you can use the fruit when it is bruised and mushy.  You take the apples and peel them, core them and slice them into pieces and throw them in the crock pot, bruises, blemishes and all.  You add a few other ingredients and let them simmer for several hours.  When it is finished, it is amazing. 
Now, you are probably wondering what I mean by a lesson!  It is pretty simple actually.  You see, the apples are bruised, stained, and not very good.  By adding to them and cooking them, you end up with something that is better than you ever thought it could be.  It fills our entire house with the delicious smell of bubbling apples.  It is a lot like our earthly lives.
We are born into this world crisp and clean like new apples.  Time goes on, and we do not stay the way we started.  We get bruised and stained with sin and trials.  We get discouraged and frustrated.  We loose our shine.  We loose our way.  We might even look undesirable to others.
But we are never un-redeemable to the Savior.  He takes us with all of our bruises and sorrows and adds to us until we become something completely different than we were, and oh so much better!  He can make us more than we ever believed or thought possible.   Through Him, we become more like Him.
Repentance makes us into what He needs us to be.  Sometimes, it does not seem very pleasant, but once we trust in Him, changes take place and we become better.  We can't do it on our own, but with His help we can become perfect.
All the pictures in the world, could never describe to you how wonderful my house smells right now, nor could they describe how great the apple butter tastes when it is finally done.  The same is true of the changes that the Savior can make in your lives. 
No matter how hard I try, I could never explain so that you understand, how much He loves each one of us and how absolutely amazing the principle of repentance really is.  He ALREADY suffered for all your sins!  No matter what you have done, you can still turn to Him and change your life.  No matter how bruised, torn or broken you are, He still can help you become what He needs you to be.   You are not, and never have been unloved. 
To me, it is amazing how we can take something that appears useless, and turn it into something that is wonderful!  Apple butter reminds me of how the Lord takes us and changes us to be His. Through Him we can be forgiven and redeemed. 

Mom's Apple Butter

6  lbs apples - peeled, cored, and sliced
4 cups white sugar
4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp salt

Place apples in crockpot.  Add sugar, cinnamon, cloves and salt.  Mix well.
Cover and cook on high one hour.
Reduce heat to low and cook 10 to 12 hours, stirring occasionally, until mixture is thickened and dark brown.
Mash apples with a potatoe masher.
Uncover and continue cooking on low for one hour.
Spoon the mixture into sterile containers, freeze.
You can also prepare jars and put in jars.  The heat from the apple butter with seal the jars.  Leave on counter for several hours, check seals and put on shelf.

Monday, November 16, 2009

My Cup Has Overflowed

As we start the season of Thanksgiving here in America, I am reminded of how very much I have to be thankful for.   Sometimes, life can be overwhelming, and it can be easy to overlook our many blessings because we are busy living in the moment.  Sometimes, we each need a reminder to be thankful for every good thing. 
Our realization of what is most important in life goes hand in hand with gratitude for our blessings.  It is so easy to sacrifice what is most important for what we want right now.  I think that one of the reason we can be so willing to sacrifice those things which are most important, is because we start to take them for granted.  Sometimes, we need to step back and see with new eyes.  Then we can behold the abundance of every good thing with which the Lord blesses us. 

Sarah Ban Breathnach said: “Both abundance and lack [of abundance] exist simultaneously in our lives, as parallel realities. It is always our conscious choice which secret garden we will tend … when we choose not to focus on what is missing from our lives but are grateful for the abundance that’s present—love, health, family, friends, work, the joys of nature, and personal pursuits that bring us [happiness]—the wasteland of illusion falls away and we experience heaven on earth.”
How amazing is that?  We can experience heaven on earth simply by seeing and being thankful for that which is already present in our lives.   I know that I am never happier than when I acknowledge that which I already have.  It just touches your heart in so many ways to be grateful. 
In 1 Thessalonians 5:18 we are told by the Apostle Paul, “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God.”

Stresses in our lives come regardless of our circumstances. We must deal with them the best we can. But we should not let them get in the way of what is most important—and what is most important almost always involves the people around us. Often we assume that they must know how much we love them. They must know how much we care.  We assume that they want the same things we want, and we take them for granted because they will always be there.  But we should never assume; we should let them know. William Shakespeare once wrote, “They do not love that do not show their love.”   We will never regret the kind words spoken or the affection shown. But we will later regret it, if those things are omitted from our relationships with those who mean the most to us.
This has been a hard lesson for me in my life.  It is so easy to get involves with what other people need from me.  It is so easy to go to work, and work some more.  Bake a cake for a neighbor, babysit someone else's child, take chicken soup to someone who is sick.  And then I am too tired to give the same courtesy to my family. 
President Monson said:  "Send that note to the friend you’ve been neglecting; give your child a hug; give your parentsa hug; say “I love you” more; always express your thanks. Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved. Friends move away, children grow up, loved ones pass on. It’s so easy to take others for granted, until that day when they’re gone from our lives and we are left with feelings of “what if” and “if only.” Said author Harriet Beecher Stowe, “The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone.” 
This is our one and only chance at mortal life—here and now. The longer we live, the greater is our realization that it is brief. Opportunities come, and then they are gone. I believe that among the greatest lessons we are to learn in this short sojourn upon the earth are lessons that help us distinguish between what is important and what is not. I plead with you not to let those most important things pass you by as you plan for that illusive and nonexistent future when you will have time to do all that you want to do. Instead, find joy in the journey—now."
I love that quote.  I love the idea of finding joy in the journey.  I think it is never to late to try and become who we need to be.  Hopefully, it is not too late to let my family know how very much I love them.  

Remember account of the 10 lepers:
“And as [Jesus] entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off:
“And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.
“And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed.
“And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God,
“And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan.
“And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?
“There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.”  Luke 17:12-18

This is one of the most amazing scriptures.  I used to not understand how they could receive so great a miracle and not even come back to say thank you.  But, now, I understand better.  I can't tell you how many times I do something for someone at the Post Office or in the Ambulance and they never even think to come back and say "thanks".   It happens so seldom, that I really cherish the few people that do come in.  I know that I too am guilty of that.  The really sad part is that I usually remember to say thank you to strangers, but I struggle to remember to say it to my own family. 
Said the Lord in a revelation given through the Prophet Joseph Smith,   D&C 59:21 
“In nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things.”
May we be found among those who give our thanks to our Heavenly Father. His hand truly is in all things.  Sometimes we can't see the blessings because we are so busy looking for the things we want.  If ingratitude be numbered among the serious sins, then gratitude takes its place among the noblest of virtues.
Despite the changes which come into our lives and with gratitude in our hearts, may we cherish all those that we hold dear and express our love to them in word and action.  My we fill our days with those things that matter most of all. 

I've never made a fortune and it's probably too late now

but I don't worry about that much, I'm happy anyhow.
And as I go along life's way, I'm reaping better than I sow
I'm drinking from my saucer 'cause my cup has overflowed.

Haven't got a lot of riches and sometimes the going's tough
but I've got loving ones around me and that makes me rich enough.
I thank God for his blessings and the mercies He's bestowed
I'm drinking from my saucer 'cause my cup has overflowed.

Oh, remember times when things went wrong, my faith wore somewhat thin
but all at once the dark clouds broke and sun peeped through again.
So Lord, help me not to gripe about the tough rows that I've hoed,
I'm drinking from my saucer 'cause my cup has overflowed.

If God gives me strength and courage when the way grows steep and rough
I'll not ask for other blessings - I'm already blessed enough.
And may I never be too busy to help others bear their loads
then I'll keep drinking from my saucer 'cause my cup has overflowed!!

Author Unknown

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Early Thanksgiving

 “If you want to turn your life around, try thankfulness. It will change your life mightily”  Gerald Good

Today was an amazing day.  We invited all of our home teaching families over for an early Thanksgiving appreciation dinner at our house.  Joyce and Bob Ober had one of their sons and their daughter in law with them at their house.  So we told them to bring their family also.  The more the merrier.
Maude Dallman came and so did Loren and Cynthia Willis.  So, we had seven extra people, plus Josh, Miracle, Mikayla, Anya, John and me.  John and I got up at 5:00 this morning to get the turkey and stuffing going.  I also had to make french toast strata for breakfast.  It is the girls favorite breakfast and takes a little work, but it is not too bad to get it all ready.
I finished breakfast while John stuffed the turkey.  We got everything in the oven and the roaster and then I sat down at the computer with Mikayla and finished her talk.  It was mostly done thanks to the gospel art kit in our upstairs library.  If you haven't seen one, you should look.  It makes helping the girls with talks so much easier.  I love it!  It has a library of pictures with the story on the back.  It is perfect for primary talks and could also be used for family home evening.
Anyway, we got everything done and then went to church for three hours.  I had a class to teach and we didn't want to miss church anyway.  We made sure everyone was still planning of coming for dinner, and than we came home and finished the dinner.  I did not get my Sunday nap, but that was ok because we had a really great time with everyone.
John made mincemeat pies for the first time and they turned out pretty good.  He loves them and it is tradition in his family that his mom makes mincemeat pies every Thanksgiving and Christmas.  It is an aquired taste and the girls all prefer apple pie!  He made one for them too.
We visited with everyone for several hours and had good conversation with very good friends.  The kids are coming up Thanksgiving day and so we will cook again for the rest of the family that is able to come here.  We should have this down now!  It was so nice to have our families over for dinner.  I wish we would have thought of this before.  It was such an nice way to visit with everyone.
I wanted to end with this quote.  It expresses how very important I believe gratitude is to each one of us.  It is not the things that happen to us in this life that are the problems, it is how we face those difficulties and what we do with them that make or break us.  Attitude is everything.  

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity.... It turns problems into gifts, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.”
Melodie Beattie

May you have gratitude for everything life brings you. 

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The fruit of the spirit

Sometimes, it seems so hard to feel the spirit in my life.  I struggle, I pray, I read scriptures and I cry.   I wait and I try listening, but sometimes it seems as if my Heavenly Father just isn't there for me.  I know that we have all felt that way at one time or another in our lives.  Today, I was listening to a talk CD in the car on the way to Show Low, and the speaker recited a scripture in the New Testament.  It was one that I am sure I have read before, but it was not marked. This scripture was an answer to my prayers for the spirit to be with me.   

Galatians 5:22-23
But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
Meekness, temperance:  against such there is no law.

So, have you been happy today?  Have you been kind to someone else?  Have you treated your husband (or wife) with love and respect?  Have you felt peace and calm?  If you have felt any one of those things, than you have felt the spirit with you today.   Remember that the spirit does not speak with a loud voice although sometimes, I think that I would like it to.   Sometimes, I would just like to KNOW that He is listening!  So this scripture was exactly what I needed to hear and in a way that I needed to hear it.  It was the still, small voice, spoken in such a way that even I could understand.  I could recognize the voice through the understanding of the scriptures.
So who do you think you are?  The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “If men do not comprehend the character of God, they do not comprehend themselves.”  Knowing who you are—who you really are—is closely tied to knowing God, for you are His children. Think for a minute what this quote means.  We have part of the divine nature of our Heavenly Father inside us.  If we honor that nature and come to know it and appreciate it, we can also come to a closer understanding of our Heavenly Father and a greater understanding of ourselves and what we need to accomplish here on the earth. 

Elder Richard G Scott said:  "With all my capacity I encourage you to discover who you really are. I invite you to look beyond the daily routine of life. I urge you to discern through the Spirit your divinely given capacities. I exhort you to prayerfully make worthy choices that will lead you to realize your full potential".

So part of understanding and discovering who we are happens as we make worthy choices that lead us ever closer to our Heavenly Father.  Part of discovering who we are, also involves looking past the normal cares and worries of the world and seeking the gifts that He has given each one of us.  We are supposed to be in the world, but not of the world.  I think that the world works a lot like background noise in our lives.  If you let it, the background noise (or cares of the world) can overwhelm everything else.  We can get so involved with the daily aspects of living, that we don't think of anything else.  We don't try to find and hear the whispers of the Spirit that is trying to guide us. 

President Gordon B Hinckley:  "Never forget that you came to earth as a child of the divine Father, with something of divinity in your very makeup. The Lord did not send you here to fail. He did not give you life to waste it. He bestowed upon you the gift of mortality that you might gain experience—positive, wonderful, purposeful experience—that will lead to life eternal.".

We are daughters of our Heavenly Father who loves us, and we love Him!  Think about what those words mean.  He does not want you to fail!  He sends help for you all along the way.  He knew that we would each make mistakes, but the amazing part is that those mistakes were already atoned for!  Now we just need to take His name upon our selves and live His laws and His teachings. Of course, there will be some problems along the way. We all have difficulties to overcome. But they will not last forever. He will not forsake us on our journey.  One of my favorite hymns can be found in the LDS Hymn book.

When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings; name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done. …

So amid the conflict, whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged; God is over all.
Count your many blessings; angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.
(“Count Your Blessings,” Hymns, no. 241)

He is watching over each of us.  He hears your prayers and will answer them.  He loves each one of us and shows us that love through the constant blessings that He gives to us.  Let the Holy Spirit guide you in all that you do and be aware of it always in your life.  Remember that you will recognize the Holy Spirit in your life through the fruit that it brings to you.  You can always become someone different than you are today.  If the road you have traveled is not the road you want to be on, than turn around and change.  You can do it. You will have friends and loved ones to help. And God will bless you as you pursue your course home to Him.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The grapefruit syndrome

I was listening to one of my church CD's today and the woman was telling a story from one of the church magazines called The Grapefruit Syndrome.  I loved it so much that I came home and looked it up and wanted to share it with you.  

Lola B. Walters, “The Grapefruit Syndrome,” Liahona, Sep 1999, 24
As a young wife, I learned that marriage could be sweeter if I didn’t focus on my husband’s faults.
My husband and I had been married about two years when I read an article recommending that married couples discuss truthfully and candidly the habits or mannerisms they find annoying in each other. The theory was that if partners knew of such annoyances, they could correct them before resentful feelings developed.
It made sense to me. I talked with my husband about the idea. After some hesitation, he agreed to give it a try.
As I recall, we were to name five things we found annoying. I started off. After more than 50 years, I remember only my first complaint: grapefruit. I told him I didn’t like the way he ate grapefruit. Instead of cutting it open and eating it with a spoon, he peeled it and ate it a section at a time. Nobody else I knew ate grapefruit like that. Could I be expected to spend a lifetime, and even eternity, watching my husband eat grapefruit like that? Although I have forgotten them, I’m sure my other complaints were of similar importance.
Then it was his turn. It has been more than half a century, but I still carry a mental image of my husband’s thoughtful, puzzled expression. He looked at me and said, “I can’t think of anything I don’t like about you.”
Gasp. I quickly turned my back, not knowing how to explain my tears. I had found fault with him over such trivial things, while he hadn’t even noticed any of my peculiar and no doubt annoying habits.
I wish I could say this experience completely cured me of faultfinding. It didn’t. But it did teach me early in my marriage that we need to keep in perspective, and usually ignore, the small differences in our spouse’s habits and personalities. Whenever I hear of married couples being incompatible, I always wonder if they are suffering from what I now call the grapefruit syndrome.

Sometimes (okay, often) we seem to find fault with each other over the smallest things.  It might be the socks on the floor or the dishes in the sink.  I could be the way a child makes a bed, or who leads family prayer.  I think the grapefruit syndrome is applicable to both marriages and children.
When I look back years ago, I can't even remember why I was angry or what I was angry about.  This goes for my experiences as a mother and as a wife.  As a mother, I know I made many mistakes.  I know that I yelled too much, that I did not have enough patience, that I did not always know what to say or how to say it.  I know that I worked too much and worried over every little thing, (and the not so little ones too!).  But the one thing I hope none of my children ever doubt, is that their mother loved them.
I always wanted them to know that and believe that.  I wanted to be like the perfect mom that existed somewhere in my own mind, but she never managed to quite find her way out to my real life.  Instead, they got an imperfect mom who tried the best she could to make their childhood at least a little better than hers had been.
My children have taught me so much and continue to teach me today.  My husband truly treats me like a princess and a queen.  He loves me exactly as I am and has never once found a fault that he asked me to change (he might have thought them, but he never voiced them to me!)  I wish with my whole heart that I could go back in time and take away those grapefruit moments.  I am not so good at knowing when to look and say simply, I love you, just as you are.
Now I finally understand that time is fleeting and but a small moment.  Now I see how much those I love really mean to me.  My family is so amazing!  They have loved me through all my years and they have helped me to grow and become more of the person that I should be.  I am so blessed to be surrounded by those who love me for myself and can forgive me for my grapefruit syndrome.
Together, Heavenly Father has given us that which we need to make it back to Him.   We each have different strengths and weaknesses, but together we are complete and those strengths are enough to help us make it back home to Him.
If I could go back and change anything in my life, I think that I would not choose to do so.  My Heavenly Father knew what I needed to help me become who He needed me to be.  He knew what things I need to experience to make me the woman I have become.  I am content with the things I have learned and continue to learn.   I don't always like them when they are happening, but the blessings that come because of them are so meaningful to me.
May we each be more like the sweet husband who said, "I can’t think of anything I don’t like about you.”

Thursday, November 12, 2009

As If

I have a new favorite way of doing things.  I call it the "as if" principle.  Once, when I was a lot younger, I really wanted to know if the church was true.  We read in seminary from D & C 42:61 that says:
"If thou shalt ask, thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things - that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal". 
I thought that was a great scripture.  My life had been rather difficult up to that time, and I decided that I needed to know if the church was true.  If it was, then the way my parents treated me wouldn't matter, but if it were not true, then I needed to try to keep peace in my family. 
I went out in the desert and prayed.  I waited.  Nothing happened.  I decided that my Heavenly Father really must not love me, or else He was too busy to be bothered with me because I just wasn't good enough.  So, the next day, I went to seminary to tell my teacher that I would not be coming anymore.  It must not be true because I did not get an answer.  Brother Reed stopped me and asked me to stay and listen to what he had to say. 
We went back to the Doctrine and Covenants section 9:7-9.  It states: 
"Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.  But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it our in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.  but if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong;"
I read that scripture and it made so much sense to me.  I could see how I was like that.  I just asked and expected Him to answer me.  I really didn't try very hard or put any extra effort into finding out for myself.  I needed to study it our in my mind and my heart first, and then ask if it was right.  I went home and started reading.  It took me four months, but I read the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price.  This is the time of my life when the "as if" principle became part of my very makeup. 
As I was reading in the scriptures one day, I realized that it was not enough to say that I wanted to believe in the scriptures.  I was given the impression that I needed to live my life "as if" I believed.  I needed to live "as if" I was a righteous daughter of God.  In short, I needed to change from someone who followed the easy way, to someone who tried to live the way the scriptures and the Prophet taught.  I went through all my clothes and discovered that I only had one dress that fit the standards of the church.  I got rid of everything else.  I only had two pair of pants and a few shirts that followed the teachings of modesty.  I gave away everything that did not fit. 
I started living the gospel.  I quit drinking tea (this was the only drink always available in the fridge) and turned to water.  I opened and closed every day with a personal prayer.  I tried to become more like those whom I admired as righteous women.  After I finished reading the Book of Mormon, I went out into the desert and prayed.  This time, I received an answer that I have never forgotten.  I won't say that I saw a vision, because I did not.  But I knew with every fiber of my being that the Church was true.  I have never doubted since.  I can't forget the way my heart burned and the absolute feeling of rightness that filled me.  I don't always make the right choices.  (I am not perfect yet, or anywhere close to it).  But I have never denied my testimony of the gospel. 
Now I try to act "as if" I am living the correct principles and as I do so, I have noticed that things get a little easier when I am consistent with that teaching.  Imagine for a moment how much easier it is to love and care for others when you act "as if" they have divine nature, or when you act "as if" they are kind.  I have also found, that if you treat someone for long enough "as if" they have those attributes, they tend to at least start to develop them, and so do you.  Imagine how much impact you can have on your family by treating them "as if".  I have seen it happen.  I know it works.  Just give it a try, but remember, in your challenge, you cannot be sarcastic, even to yourself.  You can not snicker behind their backs.  You can not think that you will never make it.  You have to force yourself to believe that it is possible and act "as if" you are already there. 
My challenge to you is to work on changing yourself by believing and seeing those things in you that are most like your Heavenly Father.  What does He see when He looks at you? 
Act "as if" you have divine nature.
Act "as if" you have faith.
Act "as if" you have integrity
Act "as if" you have individual worth.
Act "as if" you have knowledge.
Act "as if" you have good works.
Act "as if" you have choice and accountability.
Act "as if" you have virtue.

Can you see how much you can change yourself just by acting "as if"?  Try it!   I have and I promise that it works.  You can be the person that your Father in Heaven knows you are!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Red Leaf

 Today, we all went on a hike together to a place down the Rim called See Canyon.  We took a forest road until it ended and than went on a short hike up the canyon.  The trees were in different stages of fall, with the leaves gold, brown, orange, pink and red.  I have seen many leaves in my days, but this is the first time that I have ever seen pink ones.  We hiked through all the beauty and came to a stream that was flowing back toward civilization.

The girls had a wonderful time playing in the stream and splashing in the water, and watching the leaves travel away with the rushing current.  John and Josh went on a hike further up the mountain and up the canyon.  The girls were content to chase the leaves by the stream and to walk in that one beautiful area of the forest.  We stayed quite awhile before calling it a day and driving home.  When I got home, I looked up beauty in the scriptures and found this verse in Ecclesiastes 3:11, "He hath made every thing beautiful in his time..."  I really liked that.  If I had seen these leaves, even a month ago, would they have been this beautiful?  Yet, at the end of their lives they are so amazing.  I hope that the end of my life can be so much better than the beginning.  I think that I really struggled with things in the beginning, but I would like to think that I have finally found my way toward the end.  I hope that I am much like these leaves that we saw today. 
It is said, "Beauty... is the shadow of God on the universe."  ~Gabriela Mistral, DesolacĂ­on    

That is such an apt description.  I know that I feel closer to my Heavenly Father when I am enjoying the beauty that He has placed around me.  It is amazing how much beauty there is in the simple things in life.  Probably the most amazing part of this journey has been the fact that I would not have experienced it if He had not taken a hand in my journey at this point in my life.  A month ago, I was working every night with the fire department in our small town.  Things happened internally and they decided to limit the number of shifts we can work.  This has been very difficult for my family because it represents a substantial amount of earnings every month.  However, I was gone on many evenings and nights and missing all of these possible memory making moments with my family.  I think Heavenly Father decided that if I was not going to take care of the problem myself, He would have to do it for me.  Now, I only work five nights a month and each day is an additional opportunity to spend with my children enjoying the simple, beautiful things in life.  Sometimes, I think we all find it easier to choose the things that we want most today over the things that matter most in the eternities.  It is not really that today is more important, it is just that it is more pressing.  The demands of today are louder than the promise of eternity.  Remember that sometimes it is necessary in your life to take the time to be still.  Sometimes, a quiet hike is all it takes to hear the whisper of peace.  


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

And these things shall give thee experience

I think it is important to realize that hardships and difficulties come to us largely for three reasons.  Sometimes, it is because of our own sin, something we did to bring those circumstances to pass.  Sometimes, it is because of the sins of others.  Someone else has done something that has had consequences for us and our daily experiences.  And sometimes, the hardships and difficulties are just a part of everyday living.  It is just something that happens.  We need to make the effort to learn and grow from our afflictions. 
I don't believe that the Lord ever causes bad things to happen to us, although, I do believe that He allows things to happen to us.  I also think that if He knows how many feathers are on a sparrow, He knows just what you and I need to help us along our journey.  Just because we are His people does not exempt us from the trials of this world.  As a matter of fact, if you read through your scriptures, you will see example after example of righteous men and women who suffered because it was part of this life and part of their individual experience. 

I wonder if Abinidi ever cried out and asked the Lord, "Why me?"
I wonder if Alma ever asked why God sent him "That son?"
Did Job curse God?  or bless Him??
Did Ruth cry out that life was not fair because her husband had died?  Did she go back home to her family because things were too hard?
Did Mary curse God because He took her son?
Did Christ refuse to go to Gethesemene because he would bleed from every poor and would that He might not drink the bitter cup?

Each of these sons and daughters of God were able to bear the burdens that the Lord gave them without blame or ridicule.  Why does it seem so much harder for us to bear our burdens in the same way?   We are all asked to bear our burdens.  As a matter of fact, we are asked to "bear one anothers burdens, mourn with those who mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort.  And to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things."  Mosiah 18:9 
Maybe the questions that we ask should be: 
What are you doing with your trials? 
How are you walking in His footsteps? 
Are you standing as a witness of God at all times, and in all things and in all places? 
Maybe we need to be focusing more on what we can DO instead of on what is happening to us.   That is always a challenge. 

Christ also teaches us in the New Testament:
"In the world ye shall have tribulation:  But be of good cheer;  I have overcome the world".  John 16:33

"Be of good cheer" seems to be a common theme in the scriptures.  Some of my favorite "Cheer" scriptures that I read when I am not cheerful, can be found in the Doctrine and Covenants: 

"Wherefore, be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you; and ye shall bear record of me, even Jesus Christ, that I am the Son of the living God, that I was, that I am, and that I am to come.  D&C 68:6

"Ye cannot bear all things now; nevertheless, be of good cheer, for I will lead you along."  D&C 78:18

"Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed." 
D&C 123:17

Elder Orson F. Whitney said:
“The Prophet was lying in a dungeon [Liberty, Missouri] for the gospel’s sake. He called upon God, ‘who controlleth and subjecteth the devil,’ and God answered telling him that his sufferings should be but ‘a small moment.’ ‘Thou art not yet as Job,’ said the Lord, ‘thy friends do not contend against thee.’ Job’s friends, it will be remembered, tried to convince him that he must have done something wrong or those trials would not have come upon him. But Job had done no wrong; it was ‘without cause’ that Satan had sought to destroy him. God said to Joseph: ‘If thou art called to pass through tribulation; if thou art in perils among false brethren; perils among robbers; perils by land and sea; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the billowing surge conspire against thee, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience and shall be for thy good .’

“There is the reason. It is for our development, our purification, our growth, our education and advancement, that we buffet the fierce waves of sorrow and misfortune; and we shall be all the stronger and better when we have swum the flood and stand upon the farther shore.” ( Improvement Era, Nov. 1918, pp. 5–6.)

May you cheerfully, bear your burdens and grow from them today and always.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Sometimes, we all make mistakes.

"If you can't say somethin nice....don't say nothin at all". Thumper in the movie'Bambi'

Today is not a good day.  It happens sometimes, and that is usually fine, but not when the choices you make are the reason the day is bad.  It started out with something as simple as a propane company. 
We have had the same company for several years and they have been a little expensive, so we decided to change to a different company in town.  That would have been fine, except that when John called to change the company, the old company told him they were charging us $105.00 to take their tank off of our land.  John and I both got a little (ok, a lot) upset about it.  It represents money that we don't have to spare right now because of some financial things that have happened in the last month or so.  Anyway, John was angry and I guess he went to the office and said some things that he probably shouldn't have because he would not calm down.  Anyway, one of the ladies from the office came in to see me today and she said John is the worst customer she has ever dealt with since she has been here, and if I would have talked to her than she would have made everything right. 
I am embarrassed because I know that John is not usually like that.  I know that he has been hurting everyday for a week with pain in his back and hips, but that is no excuse for being mean.  I also know that he is not usually mean to anyone.  However, I have to look at my own self too in this.  I am not sure that I did anything to calm the situation down.  Things are so much different in a small town.  You have to see the people that perceive they have been treated badly by you.  You have to associate with them, you have to serve them, and you have to get over the embarrassment of your own actions.  In short, you have to let life move on. 
I must admit if I am honest, that I am very ashamed of myself.  I was not Christ-like in my behavior and I did not set a good example.  I also know that I have the ability to calm John down when he gets really upset, and I did not take the time to do that.  I was frustrated too and I am as guilty (or even more so) than he is over this incident.  I chose to be angry instead of compassionate.   I chose to be hard about something that is so trivial it doesn't even matter in the eternal scheme of things.  In other words, I chose to be mean spirited.
There is an old saying that says, "When you choose the first step on the road, you also choose the last".   I suspect that I chose the last step because I got angry on the first one. 
So why am I writing things about myself that are downright embarrassing?  I am hoping that you won't make the same mistakes.  You see, being nice wouldn't have fixed the problem, but neither did being angry.  The bill would still be there, but I wouldn't have to feel so bad about it.  I think maybe that is what I need to learn from the experience.  If you can't change what is happening, at least you don't have to be remembered for any negative actions on your part. 
I would far rather that the first and last steps on this road would have been filled with kindness and love.  I think that I need to be more conscious of my thoughts and reactions toward other people.  If  I can recognize the times that I could have chosen kindness over judgement, than I might just be able to make the changes in my life that I need to make. 
I have a friend that was bit by a snake last year.  He had to be flown from his small town to a hospital and then the anti-venom had to be flown in to the larger hospital because they did not have enough to give him what he needed.  He had to be given that anti-venom as soon as possible, and even so he was very sick for quite a while.  It was weeks before his leg was mostly normal again. 
I think that unkind words and deeds act a lot like snakebites in our spiritual life.  We need to take care that we aren't the cause of spiritual or emotional snakebites to those around us.  In our culture today, the virtues of forgiveness and kindness are belittled, while anger, ridicule and criticism are encouraged.  Think about how common road rage is today, or how common it is to go to a store and belittle a clerk for not having what is advertised. 
People get so angry over the things that will only bring satisfaction for this moment.  None of those things will be important tomorrow or the next day or even the day after that.  Just like my friend with the bite, we must do everything in our power to neutralize the snakebites in our own lives.  We must work constantly at removing ridicule, criticism, anger, rage, and unkindness that we exhibit toward others. It is not worth the cost of eternity to keep it around any longer.  We have agreed, through baptism, to take upon ourselves the name of Christ.  What are you doing with His name?

May you make better choices today than I did on Friday.

"I think [forgiveness] may be the greatest virtue on earth, and certainly the most needed. There is so much of meanness and abuse, of intolerance and hatred. There is so great a need for repentance and forgiveness. It is the great principle emphasized in all of scripture, both ancient and modern. Somehow forgiveness, with love and tolerance, accomplishes miracles that can happen in no other way."
--Gordon B. Hinckley, "Forgiveness," Ensign, Nov. 2005, 81

"Kindness is the essence of greatness and the fundamental characteristic of the noblest men and women I have known. Kindness is a passport that opens doors and fashions friends. It softens hearts and molds relationships that can last lifetimes."

--Joseph B. Wirthlin, "The Virtue of Kindness", Liahona, May 2005, 26–28

"All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them; for this is the law and the prophets".  Matt. 7:12

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Behold, I tell you these things

"Oh, it is wonderful to know that our Heavenly Father loves us — even with all our flaws! His love is such that even should we give up on ourselves, He never will." Joseph B. Wirthlin - 2007 Oct. Gen. Conf

Today was an interesting day in Primary.  For sharing time, the Primary President put a scripture on the chalk board.  The scripture says:

Mosiah 2:17
"And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God."

Once she had the scripture on the board, she had the children start memorizing.  They would all repeat the scripture and than she would take a couple of words off the board.  Fifteen minutes later, the entire primary was reciting this scripture with no help.
Imagine that for a moment, 60 children, all under 12, completely reciting this scripture by memory within 15 very short minutes.  What an amazing thing to teach them.  It inspires me to try and memorize a few more myself.  I can do the same types of things.  I can memorize one a week anyway.
Have you any idea how powerful this scripture is?  When ever we do service, we are doing the service for our Heavenly Father.  What ever kindness you can do, whatever honorable act, you are acting as His hands and one of His angels.  Think about that the next time you know of someone who needs help.   Think about being His representative here upon the earth.  Think about how He has helped you, and what He needs from each of us.  Are you willing to be His hands and His help?  Or are you someone who is not willing to serve.  Do you just think that you can never make a difference.  That you shouldn't try?
You can make a difference.  You are born to make a specific difference in this world.  We are all supposed to be different.  We all work together to be a force of good works across the world.  We can accomplish much more by being different than we ever could if we were all alike. 
Go out and constantly engage in good works.  You will have opposition, but you will accomplish great things. 
What we are is more important than what we have been, and what we can become is more important than what we are.  Keep your eyes on the future and not on the things of this moment.  Remember that YOU are His earthly angels.  YOU are one of those who accomplish His miracles.  You are His child and He loves you.

"I believe there is nothing in all the world that can compare with the joy that a man feels when he realizes that he has been the instrument in the hands of the living God of reaching some honest heart, inspiring in it a love of God and the desire to serve Him." Heber J. Grant - Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J Grant