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.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Have I done any good

President Monson speaks.  I love these short and sweet messages.  This one seems to have special meaning to me at this time.  My heart has been continually drawn to those who are struggling and who are enduring difficult times.  I know so many who are out of work and who can no longer provide for their families.  This is a wonderful message to each of us.  That we CAN reach out and make a difference.  We are surrounded by many who need our help, our attention, and our love.  May we never be so involved with living that we can not take the time to help another. 
I am going to engrave on my heart the quote that says: 
"We may find we have immersed ourselves in the thick of thin things."
Matthew 25:40
"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."
May our hands and hearts continually be drawn to help the least of these.  

Saturday, January 30, 2010

True Love

"True love is not so much a matter of romance as it is a matter of anxious concern for the well-being of one's companion."
— Gordon B. Hinckley (Stand a Little Taller: Counsel and Inspiration for Each Day of the Year)

I love breakfast. I like it for lunch, and even, sometimes, for dinner. Every now and then, I still make it after work. My children are sometimes shocked at my need to have pancakes or eggs for a meal. However, it has been a long standing tradition in our family and one of the things I need when I have had a really bad day. There is just something comforting about breakfast!

I remember one time, shortly after John and I were married, when I made breakfast for dinner after an especially long, hard day at work. On that evening many years ago, I placed a plate of eggs, bacon, and extremely burned toast in front of my husband. I remember feeling slightly rebellious, and at the same time, cringing inside while I waited to see if he would say something about it. Yet, all he did was reach for his toast, smile at me, and ask me how my day had been. I don't remember what I told him that night, I don't remember what we discussed at the table, or even what happened that was so overwhelming at work, but I do remember watching him smear butter and jelly on that toast and smiling at me as he ate every bite!

When we finally got up from the table, I apologized to my sweet new husband for burning the toast. I'll never forget how looked at me and what he said. With a soft voice and love in his eyes, he simply stated: "Honey, I love burnt toast."

Later that night, as we were laying in bed, I asked him if he really liked his toast burned. He laughed and wrapped me in his arms and said, "a little burnt toast never hurt anyone!"

You know, life is full of imperfect things, and imperfect people. I'm not the best housekeeper or cook. I tend to be way too busy helping others and not busy enough helping those who matter most. I seem to manage to forget things that I need to remember (like the toast in the toaster!). But, what I've learned over the years is that learning to accept each other's faults and choosing to celebrate each other's differences is one of the most important keys to creating a wonderful, loving and lasting relationship.
When we truly learn what it means to love someone else as our Savior does, than we are on the path to becoming what our Heavenly Father wants and needs us to be.
The New Testament tells us in John 13:34,35
34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

My sweet husband continues to teach me of the importance of this great message. The more we love, the more like Him we will become, and the more like Him we become, the more we love each other and forgive each other.

So many things in life are like this little bit of burnt toast. It might seem to matter now, but in the eternal scheme of things, it really is pretty minor. Lets not trade the things that matter most for the things we might want right now. I am sure that each one of us would love to have perfection in those around us, or even in ourselves.
It would have been so easy for John to have made an issue about my mistake. It would have been so easy to condemn me for my fault. He chose the higher road and it has made and continues to make all the difference in our relationship.
Today, John will still eat burnt toast, or the heels of the bread without complaint and always manages to love me anyway. He has helped me to know what it means to be loved and accepted in spite of the occasional piece of burnt toast.

"Imagine how our own families, let alone the world, would change if we vowed to keep faith with one another, strengthen one another, look for and accentuate the virtues in one another, and speak graciously concerning one another. Imagine the cumulative effect if we treated each other with respect and acceptance, if we willingly provided support. Such interactions practiced on a small scale would surely have a rippling effect throughout our homes and communities and, eventually, society at large."
— Gordon B. Hinckley (Standing for Something: 10 Neglected Virtues That Will Heal Our Hearts and Homes)

Friday, January 29, 2010

A beautiful day

Today, my daughter-in-law gave birth to a beautiful, baby girl. She is, of course, absolutely gorgeous! Her name is Lyla Ann. I can never hold a new baby without realizing how wonderful and special they are. A son or daughter of God, just come down from His presence. How amazing it would be to talk with her about what she has seen and done throughout her eternal life. It is so easy to look at this sweet little one and realize that she is a present, a wondrous gift. That she is unique. That she has value and individual worth. That she is important to her Heavenly Father, as well as the rest of us who already know and love her. It is so easy to see her potential. It is so easy to believe that she will make wise choices and remember who she really is.
So, today my prayer is a simple one. That you may know that you are also loved. That someone in your life cares about you. That you may remember that you are a son or daughter of God. You are needed right where you are in your own little corner of the world. You may never do anything that others would consider great, but to others you can be (and probably already are) an example. You can influence others to do good. You can lift the burdens of your brothers and sisters, you can help them to remember their joy. You can bring them to a testimony of our Savior. May you know that you are just as important to your Heavenly Father as my sweet little Lyla.

24 Things to always remember
by: Bill Greer, Chicken Soup for the Veteran's Soul

Your presence is a present to the world.
You are unique and one of a kind.
Your life can be what you want it to be.
Take the days just one at a time.

Count your blessings, not your troubles.
You will make it through whatever comes along.
Within you are so many answers.
Understand, have courage, be strong.

Do not put limits on yourself.
So many dreams are waiting to be realized.
Decisions are too important to leave to chance.
Reach for your peak, your goal and you prize.

Nothing wastes more energy than worrying.
The longer one carries a problem the heavier it gets.
Do not take things too seriously.
Live a life of serenity, not a life of regrets.

Remember that a little love goes a long way.
Remember that a lot … goes forever.
Remember that friendship is a wise investment.
Life’s treasure are people together.

Realize that it is never too late.
Do ordinary things in an extraordinary way.
Have hearth and hope and happiness.
Take the time to wish upon a star.


Thursday, January 28, 2010

Sometimes, we all fail

Years ago, when I was just a teenager, I had the opportunity to babysit for a family who had never left their small daughter with anyone that was not family. I had a lot of experience with kids, and, frankly, I loved them, (and still do!). I was given a very valuable lesson from this sweet (and very smart) little girl.

I was caring for this child whose mother and father had gone on their first overnight trip by themselves. The mother was very worried about leaving her little girl, and knew me from neighbors and church, so I was given the opportunity to babysit.  The day started off fine. We played, we watched cartoons, and we took a nap. But as the day grew darker, this little child became more and more upset. I cuddled and soothed her, I tried music, I tried to read a story, I tried holding her, but nothing helped. She wanted her mother.

Her whimpers became sobs which turned into full-blown (and very loud) crying and I, upset at the prospect of failing my responsibilty so completely, began to try and rock and shush her. Obviously, this didn’t help, but I was determined to get everything under control and make her parents happy.

So I kept on. The harder she cried, the more I shushed, until this little child completely astounded me by pausing right in the middle of her crying fit, looked me straight in the eye, and screamed at me,  "Don't you know?  It is OK to cry! That is what my mom says! I can cry if I want to! And now, I want to cry!"  And she did!

I was speechless. Of course it’s OK to cry, especially when you are a little girl and you miss your mom! Who was I to insist this child "shush", when, clearly, it was not what she needed to do?  Who was I to determine success or failure based on the simple fact that she needed to cry?

She knew something that I did not know until many years later. Sometimes, we all need to cry! That little child had her very loud, night-time cry. When she finished, she went to sleep in my arms, and was so happy when her mom came home the next day. And do you know the best part?  She wanted me to babysit again!
Sometimes, we have a bad day, or a week, or even a year. But that period of time does not determine whether we are a success or a failure. It is just a tough period of time and we will get through it!

Thomas Edison failed over 10,000 times before he invented the electric light bulb. When asked about his failures, he stated,
"I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."

"If you have made mistakes, even serious ones, there is always another chance for you. What we call failure is not the falling down, but the staying down." ~ Mary Pickford

Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.  Confucius  551 - 479 B.C.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Dancing on Life's Chips

I was in the mood for something inspirational the other day.  I had been snowed in and developed a really good case of "cabin fever".  So, I was looking for things to help change my own attitude, which was suffering from not being able to do what I had planned.  I found this story.  It was by that very famous author, "Unknown".  It is light, and so true.  I wish that I was not so serious all the time.  I wish that I could find the fun once in awhile on my own!  Most of all, I wish that I could learn to dance a little on life's potatoe chips.

Dancing on Life's Chips
Not too long ago I had "one of those days." I was feeling pressure from a writing deadline. I had company arriving in a couple days and the toilet was clogged.
I went to the bank, and the trainee teller processing my deposit had to start over three times. I swung by the supermarket to pick up a few things and the lines were serpentine. By the time I got home, I was frazzled and sweaty and in a hurry to get something on the table for dinner.
Deciding on Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup, I grabbed a can opener, cranked open the can, then remembered I had forgotten to buy milk at the store. Nix the soup idea. Setting the can aside, I went to plan B, which was leftover baked beans. I grabbed a Tupperware from the fridge, popped the seal, took a look and groaned. My husband isn't a picky eater, but even he won't eat baked beans that look like caterpillars. Really frustrated, now, I decided on a menu that promised to be as foolproof as it is nutrition-free: hot dogs and potato chips.
Retrieving a brand new bag of chips from the cupboard, I grabbed the cellophane and gave a hearty pull. The bag didn't open. I tried again. Nothing happened. I took a breath, doubled my muscle, and gave the bag a hearty wrestle. With a loud pop, the cellophane suddenly gave way, ripping wide from top to bottom. Chips flew sky high. I was left holding the bag, and it was empty. It was the final straw. I let out a blood curdling scream. "I can't take it anymore!!!"
My husband heard my unorthodox cry for help. Within minutes he was standing at the doorway to the kitchen, where he surveyed the damage: an opened can of soup, melting groceries, moldy baked beans, and one quivering wife standing ankle deep in potato chips. My husband did the most helpful thing he could think of at the moment. He took a flying leap, landing flat-footed in the pile of chips. And then he began to stomp and dance and twirl, grinding those chips into my linoleum in the process! I stared. I fumed. Pretty soon I was working to stifle a smile. Eventually I had to laugh.
And finally I decided to join him. I, too, took a leap onto the chips. And then I danced. Now I'll be the first to admit that my husband's response wasn't the one I was looking for. But the truth is, it was exactly what I needed. I didn't need a cleanup crew as much as I needed an attitude adjustment, and the laughter from that rather funky moment provided just that.

Now I have a question for you, and it's simply this: Has God ever stomped on your chips? I know that, in my life, there have been plenty of times when I've gotten myself into frustrating situations and I've cried out for help, all the while hoping God would show up with a celestial broom and clean up the mess I've made of things.
What often happens instead is that God dances on my chips, answering my prayer in a completely different manner than I had expected, but in the manner that is best for me after all. Sometimes I can see right away that God's response was the best one after all. Sometimes I have to wait weeks or months before I begin to understand how and why God answered a particular prayer the way He did. There are even some situations that, years later, I'm still trying to understand. I figure God will fill me in sooner or later, either this side of Heaven or beyond.
Do I trust Him? Even when he's answering my prayers in a way that is completely different from my expectations? Even when he's dancing and stomping instead of sweeping and mopping? Can I embrace what He's offering? Can I let His joy adjust my attitude? Am I going to stand on the sidelines and sulk, or am I willing to learn the steps of the dance He's dancing' with my needs in mind?
I'll be honest with you: Sometimes I sulk. Sometimes I dance. I'm working on doing more of the latter than the former. I guess the older I get the more I realize that He really does know what He's doing. He loves me and I can trust Him. Even when the chips are down.
by unknown

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

No Mere Mortals

I heard this story in church on Sunday and was amazed at the inspiration of these two men.  I thought that I would share it with you.  I hope that it inspires you to be just a little bit better.
The story of Dick and Rick Hoyt

I understand that we never really know the greatness of those around us–whether they’re our friends, students, our bosses, our employees, the mailman, the grocer, or the homeless amputee asking for a handout. Sometimes we find ourselves face to face with the glory of another person, and marvel that we hadn’t recognized it before.  Sometimes, we forget to look for the good in others and because we don't look, we don't see the spark of the divine in their eyes.
Only when we truly love them will we see them as they really are and will we realize all that they can accomplish.

C.S. Lewis penned in “The Weight of Glory”:
"It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship... There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations–these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit–immortal horrors or everlasting splendours."

Monday, January 25, 2010

I walked a mile with Pleasure

One of my favorite poems is by Robert Browning Hamilton.  It describes my life pretty well.  We all would like to walk with pleasure.  However, some of our greatest learning and experience comes from out times of walking with Sorrow.

I walked a mile with Pleasure;
She chatted all the way;
But left me none the wiser
For all she had to say.

I walked a mile with Sorrow,
And ne’er a word said she;
But, oh! The things I learned from her,
When sorrow walked with me.

With all the differences in our lives, we have at least one challenge in common. We all must deal with adversity. It is there, all around us.  Each one of us has to endure it.  There may be periods, sometimes long ones, when our lives seem to flow by with little difficulty. But, sooner or later, comfort gives way to distress, periods of good health come to an end, and misfortunes arrive.  When the comfortable times have gone on for a while, the arrival of suffering or the loss of security can bring fear and sometimes even anger.

The anger comes, at least in par,t from a feeling that what is happening is unfair. We want things to be good, for ourselves and also those we love.  We believe that we deserve good things.  When we are doing the things that are right, it is easy to feel like life is treating us unfairly. We develop a feeling of injustice about our circumstances. I have heard (and uttered) the question more that once, “Why me?  What have I done to deserve this?  How could this happen?”

That aching for an answer to “How could this happen?” becomes even more painful when those struggling include those we love; our children and our loved ones, our families and our friends.  It is especially hard for us to accept when those afflicted seem to us to be blameless, an innocent child or a loving daughter or son.  The distress from this type of trial can shake faith in the reality of a loving and caring God.  Doubt can grow and spread until some may even turn away from God.  They may say that he is indifferent, cruel or unloving to His children here upon the earth.  And if unchecked, those feelings can lead to loss of faith that there is a God at all.
How can we find peace in this world? How can we endure to the end? How can we overcome the difficulties and trials we are facing?
The Savior Jesus Christ said: “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”

As part of our earth life, we pass through affliction, pain, and disappointment. Only in Jesus Christ can we find peace. He can help us to be of good cheer and to overcome all the challenges of this life.  He can help us as we journey with sorrow for a time.  He can help us to learn what we need to learn so that we can become who He needs us to become.

Where can I turn for peace? Where is my solace?
When other sources cease to make me whole?
When with a wounded heart, anger or malice
I draw myself apart, searching my soul?
Where, when my aching grows, Where,when I languish
Where, in my need to know, where can I run?
Where is the quiet hand to calm my anguish?
Who, who can understand?  He, only One.

May you overcome you adversity and afflictions through the love of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  May you find hope in His promises and endure to the end.  Most of all, may you recognize that He truly loves you and will bring peace.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Finish the Race

One of the most memorable Olympic Athletes of all time came to the 1968 Mexico City Games.  He was a marathon runner from Tanzania. His name was John Stephen Akhwari.  He did not win any medals, he did not place, he doesn't get a mention in the record books. But that's not the point. In fact, I think that it is just possible that more people remember John Akhwari than the person who actually won the gold medal.

Half way through the race John Akhwari fell, badly cutting his knee and dislocating the joint. Most runners at that point would give up. As a matter of fact, only 57 runners out of 74 actually finished the race.  But after a few minutes John Akhwari picked himself up, strapped up his leg and kept running.

A little more than an hour after the winner's ceremony had finished, and more than five hours after the start of the race, with just a few thousand spectators left in the stands, you can hear the sound of the police sirens and whistles as well as the motorcycle brigade echoing thought the night.  Flashing red and green lights broke through the cold, dark Mexico City evening. The word was passed to the press box and filtered to the few thousand faithful spectators who had remained in the stadium.  The last runner was coming in.

Into the stadium came John Stephen Akhwari of Tanzania. His leg was bloody and bandaged. Wincing with pain at every step, he pressed on and the thousands, who just a few minutes before had sat in silence, began a slow, steady clapping.  John Akhwari made his way around the track in pain filled steps.  The cheering grew louder the closer he came to the finish.  Finally, he shuffled his last few steps across the finish line and the crowd roared as if he had been the winner. 

He finished last among the 74 competitors.

"My country did not send me to Mexico City to start the race, they sent me to finish the race".
He knew who he was.  He was an athlete representing his country, Tanzinia.  He knew that his purpose was to finish the race.  He knew that he had to endure the trials and endure to the finish so that he could honorably return to his country.
Who are you?  What is your purpose here?  Even when you feel the truth of the kindness and love of our Heavenly Father to deliver you in your trials, it may still test your courage and strength to endure.  Remember the Prophet, Joseph Smith, cried our in agony in the liberty jail:
"Oh God, where art thou?  And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place?  How long shall thy hand be stayed, and thine eye, yea thy pure eye, behold from the eternal heavens the wrongs of thy people and of thy servants, and thine ear be penetrated with their cries?"
The Lord's reply is there to comfort us in our own times of adversity.  He said,
"My son, (or my daughter), peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment.  and then, if thou endure it well, god shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes."  Our mission here is much the same as John Stephen Akhwari's.  We were sent here to this race by our loving Heavenly Father.  We were not sent just to be born, but to return back home to him in honor.  We will all face great trials and difficulties.  We will all stumble and fall.  But I know that our Heavenly Father is there waiting for us to return home.  We were sent here, not just to start this race, but to endure our trials with faith and finish it well.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A Safe Harbor


There is a true story of a battleship cruising the Atlantic off the northern coast of Maine one stormy evening. The commander of the battleship was notified. "Sir, there's a light ahead. Oncoming vessel."
"Signal oncoming vessel, 'Change your course ten degrees to the west.'" The message was sent, but a light flashed back, "Change your course ten degrees to the east." The commander barked, "Signal again, 'Change your course ten degrees to the west. I am an admiral.'" The light flashed back. "Change your course ten degrees to the east. I'm a seaman third class."

By this time the admiral was incensed as he thundered, "Signal again. 'Change your course ten degrees to the west. I am a battleship.'" And the message came back, "Change your course ten degrees to the east. I am a lighthouse!" Needless to say, the admiral changed his course!
Sometimes we act like we think we are admirals. We're the boss. We're the one in charge. We are going to do it our way!  But if we listen, our "lighthouse" is saying, "Change your course." When that happens, we need to change our course.

Jeffrey R. Holland has said, "Love. Healing. Help. Hope. The power of Christ to counter all troubles in all times—including the end of times. That is the safe harbor God wants for us in personal or public days of despair. That is the message with which the Book of Mormon begins, and that is the message with which it ends, calling all to 'come unto Christ, and be perfected in him' (Moroni 10:32)."

Storms fascinate me. Maybe it’s because I grew up in the Arizona desert where rain, or even a cloud, is not something that you see every day.  I grew up east of the city, in an area where the washes ran into the roads and a storm would seem to completely cut you off from civilization.  Since each storm in the desert is an Event, I have learned to anticipate and enjoy the few I have encountered.

One of the most amazing storms in the desert is a "common" dust storm.  These storms are not little like you might see in other areas of the country.  On a hot summer day, in the late afternoon, a dust storm rolls into the Valley of the Sun. You might notice a brown blur off in the distance. It looks a little like brown smoke.  As it blows nearer, it takes form as an immense wall of dust.
This storm comes at you literally like a wall.  You can see the edge and gauge the distance.  If you are smart, you bring in the outside laundry, put away all the toys that are loose in the yard and bring the kids into the house.  You also close all the windows, no matter how hot it is!  (And believe me, in the summertime it is HOT!)  I have found from sad experience that it is easier to bear with a little heat in the house instead of spending hours and days cleaning up the sand and dust! 

But once we are all safe inside the house, we enjoy the wind. We watch the storm blow in.  First, you can see the trees in the park across the road start to flutter and blow.  Dancing a slow dance.  Soon, they are moving faster and faster, like they are listening to their own dance music.  Then the wall of the storm hits!  All you can see is brown bits blowing through the air outside the window.  You can't even see the neighbor's house.  You feel like you are all alone in a strange, brown, whirling world.
A brief rainstorm usually follows with big splashes of water, dampening the desert, bringing out the smell of the mesquite trees and the orange blossoms.  Seeing the difficulties coming and preparing for them can help us to find our own safe harbor.  We feel safe together inside the shelter of our home. 

But dust-storms fade next to the amazing treat of a real rain storm on the Arizona desert.  I have not always enjoyed storms. In fact, I remember being afraid of thunder and lightning when I was younger. In the desert, the lightening dances around the sky in a big blaze of white light.  It is a spectacular show, even more brilliant than the fourth of July fireworks. When the thunder rumbles throughout the desert, it drowns out all other sound, and the rain falls in sheets of water, drenching everything in it's path. 

My three little girls have always been afraid of storms.  They don't like the loud noise of the thunder or the bright flash of the lightening.  When we moved up into the mountains of northern Arizona, we realized that the lightening storms are even more spectacular and often bring with them the added scare of starting a nearby tree on fire.  (Never a pleasant experience when your house is right next door!)
Every year, in the months of July and August, the storm builds up and breaks loose on our little town.
One year, the lightning was so fierce that the girls were terrified. They called me when I was at work, crying and sobbing, hysterically, on the phone and than held hands and huddled under the dining room table until I could get home to them.
That was the first year that we lived on the mountain.  I did not know how to calm them, except to be home with them when they were so afraid.  Every time the thunder rumbled or the lightening flashed, they would cower in terror.  Their dad was living and working in the valley at the time and selling the old house before he moved up with the rest of us at the end of the summer season. It was a long summer for us.  I did not know what to say to help the girls through their fear. 
The next year, he wasn't working and was home with the girls during the monsoon.  He would go out the door when the wind picked up and stand in the driveway or on the dirt street, shielding his eyes from the blowing dirt, and teach the girls about storms. He talked about the movement of the clouds and how to tell if a storm was coming.  He talked about the different types of clouds and what caused the storms. He talked of larger weather patterns and how to calculate the distance from you to the lightning.

But more than teaching them the scientific facts about the weather, their daddy quietly taught them, through his example, not to be afraid. He taught them that storms are to be appreciated and admired, watched and studied, but not feared.  Knowledge and love help to counter our troubles and bring us to our own safe harbors were we can be less afraid.
As we plan and prepare and are anchored by the love of our families and the gospel of  Jesus Christ, we find the safe harbor that Helaman spoke of: “Remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, … when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power to drag you down … , because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation” (Hel. 5:12).

Yes, I have seen the storm.  I have experienced it's power.  I have been amazed at it's magnitude.  I have even felt it's fear.  But I have also learned that the "lighthouse" of our Savior stands ready to help guide us in our journey and lead us home.  He is the rock.  Only He can calm the winds and the waves of trial and adversity in our lives.
He alone has the power to say, “Peace, be still”.