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.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Driving with Ice Cream

I love ice cream!  I am not saying this lightly.  I love most flavors, and most cones.  I love it plain or with toppings, and I love it most when it is hot and sticky outside.  There is just something old fashioned and comforting about an ice cream cone in the Arizona heat.  That being said, one of my favorite memories of ice cream happened when I was a teenager in Mesa Arizona and I had just received my drivers license.
I had some pretty terrific friends at the time who all liked to tease me and have fun.  That was a new experience for me, as I was very serious as a child and did not know how to have fun.  It was a learning process to learn to laugh at myself and one I still can struggle with.
I was sixteen years old, and finally able to drive.  Many of you can probably relate to that feeling of independence that comes with the knowledge that you are responsible.  I had passed the written test and the driving test, and most of all, I had passed my step-fathers test!  He was not such a good teacher, and the testing came with a lot of yelling and impatience for my failure at perfection.  But, finally, all the rules were satisfied and I was officially able to drive.
We had a music concert that night.  I was singing in the school women's chorus.  There were four of us that met and were going out together after the performance finished.  The guys came to see us sing and we were thrilled to have them there.  The music was great.  We did a wonderful job.  At that time, we had made all our own dresses, and we wore them during the concerts.  It was a source of pride to wear them on the activity afterwards.
We lived in a rural area, out toward Apace Junction.  We had a twenty mile drive to and from school, so it was not possible to walk.  For any school activity, one of us needed to drive and pick up everyone else.  I could finally take my turn.  That evening, we went out to eat and than over to the old Thrifty Drug store on Main Street in Mesa, for a little dessert.  We each got our favorite ice cream cone to eat on the way home.
Thrifty used to sell their ice cream in cones up to three scoops high.  The scoops were not round.  They were made with a special metal "scooper" and were square.  It was the only place that sold square ice cream.  Not only was it inexpensive, but it was fun too!  We could walk around the store if we wanted or just go straight to the ice cream counter and order our ice cream.  This particular evening, we all got the three scoop cones, and were busy trying to balance them while we all got settled in the car.
I had only had my license for a week, and was still working on the subtleties of driving.  (Particularly, the problems with eating and driving at the same time!)  We were talking and laughing when one of the 'gentlemen' friends reached across the seat and dumped his ice cream down the front of my dress.  I swerved and squealed and tried to throw my ice cream at him!  He reacted by taking that scoop and smearing it in my hair!  I swerved again and looked up into my rearview mirror to see flashing red and blue lights.  I was terrified!  (And humiliated as I did not look good with stringy ice cream covered hair!)  I carefully pulled the car over to the curb and the officer walked up to my side of the car and asked me to step out.  He looked me up and down and observed the ice cream all over my face, neck, dress and even in my hair.  I saw his face twitch a couple of times, but he never cracked a smile.  I thought he was going to take me to jail!  (Are there rules about ice cream in a car?)  He had me step to the rear of the car and than went back to the window and stuck his head into the car where he proceeded to address my friends.  He said that he would usually give someone like me a ticket, but he could tell through deduction of the evidence that I was not entirely to blame for the reckless behavior of my car.   He proceeded to tell my friends, that while he was sure I must be a wonderful person to tease and embarrass, they should not be so willing to do that while I was still learning to drive!  He then promised them that if he had to pull me over again, they would also get a ticket!  Then, he came back to me, gave me back my license and told me to drive more carefully in the future, and that I should maybe think about finishing my ice cream before getting behind the wheel.
Today, I still love ice cream, but I also am a little more careful about who sits behind me in the car!

That police officer, although he was completely in the right for pulling me over, chose instead to do a small act of kindness by not giving me a well deserved ticket.  He certainly could have done it.  But instead, he performed a simple act of kindness to a young woman who was still in the process of learning.
The same is true for each of us.  It is not hard to do a simple act of kindness for someone else.  The best acts are those that are unasked for and even secret.  We can all do simple, everyday things that make a difference in the lives of those around us.  We might not be able to do the same act as my police officer,  (some of us don't give tickets!)  but we can do other things equally important and memorable to those around us.  My challenge to you today is to do something that touches the life of another for good.  I know that someone is aching, not too far from wherever you are.

"How simple it is, really, to extend a kindness when we see the need.  Jesus set the example on many occasions.  He led the blind man out of the town.  Just a small kindness, but a powerful example.  God helps us to recognize the opportunities we have every day to touch lives in small and simple ways."
~Marjorie Pay Hinckley

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Bottle

My daughter, Kirbi and I were making dinner and talking today.  The menu required sauteed chicken which she was quite adept at making.  While we were talking, I was doing the dishes and I remembered the time that her sister was making chicken in Kirbi's kitchen.
Kirbi likes decorated things.  She has candles and knick-knacks.  She also has a decorated oil bottle by her sink.  Emily was making the chicken and thought how the flavored oil would go really well with the chicken.  She grabbed the bottle and put a generous amount on the chicken than covered it with a lid and went out of the kitchen.  In a very short while she heard hissing noises coming from her dinner.  She went in the kitchen and found bubbles coming up and spreading out all over the stove.
She found out that her sister does not keep oil in the bottle by her sink, she keeps her dish-soap in there.  Of course, the dinner was ruined.  It is hard to rescue chicken from a soapy sauce.  Emily felt so bad, and so frustrated!  She could not understand why her sister would keep soap in an oil bottle.  We have all had a good laugh about it over the years.  Sometimes, that is all you can do in a bad situation, just find something to laugh about and go on.
I was thinking today that Satan acts a lot like that oil bottle in our lives.  He tempts us and tries us with things that are decorated and pretty.  We think we are getting one thing and instead, he leaves us with nothing but soapy water.
So many of the temptations we face today are designed to look great from the outside.  Think about it.  Alcohol looks good in the advertising.  The people look happy.  They are all drinking in moderation.  They are laughing and joking together.  But what is really happening?  Usually someone is drinking a little too much.  People are not acting responsibly.  They drink and drive, or drink and act foolishly.
On the surface, something that looks so blameless, can lead to so much heartache and sin, for themselves, and for those around them.  Watching movies, listening to music, steady dating, all of those can look harmless on the outside.
How many of you have ever heard or even said, "It's OK to listen to that, I don't even pay attention to the words.  It is the music that I like".  Or how about, "I know the movie is rated R, but the rating is because of the language.  There is nothing really bad in it.  I should be able to watch this movie".
Isn't it funny how Satan works to convince us that a little sin is perfectly acceptable.  Sometimes it can be easy to forget that those things are decorated bottles with nothing but soap inside.  The soap would bind us to Satan's paths and would lead us to believe that we are unlovable, unchangeable and unable to ever live with our Heavenly Father again.  With a little soap, he has convinced us that we can never go home.  There are so many things that he decorates on the outside, but inside they are never what you expected.
Remember that he is called the "Father of lies" for a reason.  He is under no obligation to tell the truth.  He usually works with partial truths until we have become completely ensnared.
The only thing that can protect us is to follow our Savior.  Remember, in Lehi's dream, the people had to grasp the iron rod.  It did not hold on to them, they could not just walk beside it, they could not go by sight.  They had to take the iron rod firmly in their hands and follow it to the Tree of Life.   Today, as you are involved in your daily tasks, ask yourself if you are holding tightly onto the rod, or are you led astray with nothing to grasp except a few soap bubbles.
Remember, it is not what is on the outside of the bottle that matters,  it is what is on the inside and what you are doing with it that counts the most.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Another Blizzard!

I have decided that there is just something about me and weather.  Somehow, where ever I am, it follows.  We left last Friday evening for a road trip to Missouri.  It was supposed to be a twenty one hour trip.  We had decided to drive all night and than see what we needed to do.  Somehow, we ended up getting stuck in an oncoming blizzard in New Mexico.
We dropped down to Highway 60.  It was a two hour detour, but since the Interstate 40 was completely closed, we thought it would be worth it to push on.  Instead, we ended up in a serious blizzard trying to get across the country.  We were able to make it through the state and into Texas, still fighting the storm and white-knuckling the steering wheel.  Neither of us got any sleep!  We were too afraid to close our eyes.  We kept each other awake all through the night and the day and the next night.  We were so tired!
We went 41 hours with no sleep.  A twenty-one hour drive took us about twenty seven hours.  The weather was terrible, we were in blizzard conditions for most of the trip.  John did not like driving in it and neither did I, but we both were afraid to stop because we might be stuck in it even longer.  We saw so many cars that spun out on the road, and even a jack-knifed big rig truck.  We also saw a car go right off of an embankment.  We were going the opposite way on the freeway.  John got off the freeway and we went on some back roads to try and get near the car and see if anyone was injured.  We were able to find them and give directions to EMS to get them help.  It was totally scary.  Thank goodness, the car hit several bales of hay instead of trees and everyone was OK.  I was so grateful for that.  The girls informed me, after I got back from hiking through the rain and brush, that they had said a prayer for the safety of those in the car.  They are really good girls!
I am so impressed when they think of things like that during an emergency.  My head kicks into my training mode and I forget about the spiritual things.  I was focused on the physical needs that are the result of an accident.  What a great lesson for me, that even though the girls were afraid, they still turned to their Heavenly Father first.  I think that I needed that lesson.  I need to turn to Him first of all and not wait until everything is said and done.
Elder M. Russell Ballard spoke at a Stake Conference.  He compared us to the pioneers and said:

"We all face rocky ridges, with the wind in our face and winter coming on too soon," he said. "Sometimes it seems as though there is no end to the dust that stings our eyes and clouds our vision. Sharp edges of despair and discouragement jut out of the terrain to slow our passage. … Today, we are all pioneers in a world where technological advances come faster than we can assimilate them, and in a world that seems to be spiraling out of control into an abyss of wickedness.
"If we are to survive and keep our families safe, we must remain anchored to the word of God as taught by the scriptures and modern-day prophets and apostles. We cannot afford to be caught up in the deceit of worldly logic."
I am so thankful that during the rocky ridges of my life, my children remind me to remain anchored in the Word of God.  They remind me what it means to have a pure, simple faith.  They remind me of what our Lord and Savior meant when he said, "Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not, for such is the kingdom of heaven."  May we each be just a little closer to heaven today in the face of our own difficulties and trials.  May we remain anchored to the word of God as we seek to understand His teachings and follow Him.   

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Time management

Better three hours too soon, than one minute too late.

William Shakespeare
I have found that you can take a woman out of the busy city, but you can't take the busy out of that same woman! (I hope that makes sense).  I moved here and got involved in all the things that I have always wanted to do, (but never had the time for).  I am an EMT at night, work all day as a Post Master, attend school functions, Sing in the Choir, help the kids with homework, blog, write, and even manage to travel when my boss needs me to do something extra for her. 
How do I do that, you ask?  I am NOT and never have been super woman.  I am someone who uses every moment of time in my day.  I don't relax too well, it is something I am working on and I think we might even have one picture of me in a hammock (I know that I have seen it somewhere!).  I actually manage to do many of the things I do by using the time managment strategies that I learned in my work place. 
I used to help teach a "7 habits" class.  If you don't know what that is, or have never read the books, I recomend that you try and find them on ebay (or at your local bookstore) and go through them.  They are by Stephen R. Covey.  I have read most of his books and love them! 
My very favorite visual aid with that class goes like this-

Start with a bucket, some big rocks enough to fill it, some small stones, some sand and water.
Put the big rocks in the bucket - is it full?
Put the small stones in around the big rocks - is it full?
Put the sand in and give it a shake - is it full?
Put the water in. Now it's full.
The point is: unless you put the big rocks in first, you won't get them in at all.

The big rocks represent your big issues, the things that are most important to you above anything else, the smaller rocks represent those issues that are still important, but not the most important, and the sand and water represent the inevitable issues that fill up your day and take up your time.  (This can be things like telephone, email, ect.)
If you start out by putting in the water and sand, you will never get the big rocks into the bucket.  Try it!  You will be amazed that trying to put everything in the bucket backwards does not work!  We used to use all the amounts pre-measured and use the same big rocks for both examples.  In the one bucket we would put in the water and the sand and than the small rocks and than the big ones.  The big rocks would never fit.  They would be sticking out all over the top, or they would fall out of the bucket.  Than, we would dump out everything and take the same bucket and put the big rocks in first.  Than, the smaller rocks, than the sand, than the water.  It is a great object lesson and I have found it to be true in my life. 
In other words: Plan time-slots for your big issues before anything else, or the inevitable sand and water issues will fill up your days and you won't fit the big issues in (a big issue doesn't necessarily have to be a work task - it could be your child's sports, orchestra, concert, or even a holiday).  I have learned that we can all make choices.  We can choose our big rocks.  It is up to you to decide which issues in your life are your big rocks.  Put those on the calendar first and than plan the rest of the month (or week, or day) around them.   I have found myself accomplishing so much more since I started putting the things that matter most ahead of all the ones that matter least.  At least this way, I make it to most of the things that I need to be attending. 
You really don't have to let the calendar run your life.  I only have the things on the calendar that I really have to accomplish.  That keeps me from forgetting.  Having a calendar doesn't tie you down.  It gives you freedom to plan and make sure you can do the things you have committeed to doing.

I once heard a speaker say, "Ask yourself, what comes first, the compass or the clock? Before you can truly manage the clock, (time), it is important to know where you are going, what your priorities are, in which direction you are headed (the compass). Where you are headed is always more important than how fast you are going. Rather than always focusing on what’s urgent, learn to focus on what is really important".
What is it that is important in your life?

This is the beginning of a new day.
God has given me this day to use as I will.
I can waste it or use it for good.
What I do today is important, because
I am exchanging a day of my life for it.
When tomorrow comes,
this day will be gone forever,
leaving in its place something
that I have traded for it.
I want it to be gain, not loss;
good not evil; success not failure;
in order that I shall not regret
the price I paid for it.
Author Unknown

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Butterfly

Helen Keller once said, "The marvelous richness of human experience would lose something of rewarding j.oy if there were no limitations to overcome. The hilltop hour would not be half so wonderful if there were no dark valleys to traverse."
Think about that for a moment.  How many of you have traveled a great way through valleys and forest, struggling to make it to the top?  When you get there, you sit down and feast your eyes on the wonder of being in such a place.  You thank your Heavenly Father for the opportunity that put you there.  You choose to remember the blessing instead of the struggle to reach it.
Being a parent can be tough!  It is not the midnight feedings, or the many times they crawl in my bed, or the whining, crying, fighting, biting, pinching, or screaming that have brought me to that decision.  It is the teenage years!  Don't get me wrong, I love my kids, I just wish they went from cute to grown-up without that extra step thrown in.
I have found that one of the hardest things to do as a parent is to let your children struggle.  They need experience in making decisions when they are young so that they know how to make them when they are older.  I try and give them lots of decisions, and pray that they make some bad ones so that they get a little experience behind them.  I really love to watch them when they make good decisions.  They are so proud of themselves!  They can't wait to tell you about it.  They just blossom under the praise and appreciation for their accomplishments.
Sometimes, I struggle with letting them learn to do things.  I can vaccuum twice as fast as they can.  I can do the dishes without grumbling, fighting and complaining.  It takes so much less time to be a bad parent!  Now, if I could just get them to do the laundry and clean their room!  I suspect that it is time to bring out the trash-bag and "help".
I hope today, that you help your children learn one important thing.  I hope that you remember that after the struggle comes the blessing.  Help them to learn to hang on until the blessing comes.  Help them to learn what it means to be a butterfly.

A man found a cocoon for a butterfly. One day a small opening appeared, he sat and watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its body through the little hole. Then it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared stuck.

The man decided to help the butterfly and with a pair of scissors he cut open the cocoon. The butterfly then emerged easily. Something was strange. The butterfly had a swollen body and shrivelled wings. The man watched the butterfly expecting it to take on its correct proportions. But nothing changed.

The butterfly stayed the same. It was never able to fly. In his kindness and haste the man did not realise that the butterfly's struggle to get through the small opening of the cocoon is nature's way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready for flight.

Like the sapling which grows strong from being buffeted by the wind, in life we all need to struggle sometimes to make us strong.

It is the struggle that turns us into the butterflies of life.  Sometimes we just need to have a little faith and courage to get through the moment and into the blessing.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Music Director

My daughter Miracle and I have had a real mother-daughter bonding experience this year.  Miracle joined the Northland Pioneer College Master Choral.  She is the youngest member at 13 years old.  I am probably one of the oldest!  :-)  We absolutely love singing together.  It has been such an amazing experience for both of us, but I think it has been so very eye opening for me especially.
I love to sing.  Anyone who has known me very long, realizes how much music means to me.  I sang in high school choirs, and ward choirs and even community choirs.  I have never been one of the best, nor have I even been in the best group, but I have worked at it and still perform today.  I have never had the opportunity to sing in college, or in a group that I did not help put together myself.  I have sang in weddings, funerals, community events, and in church.  I always enjoy it.  It makes me feel good to help others feel the Spirit that is such a large part of my life.
Music, for me, is an expression of feeling.  It is love put to voice and it touches my heart in wonderful ways.  However, I have never sang in a group like this one that we are with now.
How do I explain what it was like to walk into class the very first night and have the director (Miss Julie) blend all the individual voices into a song?  How do I explain what it felt like to be part of that group?  How do I share what it means to me to be singing in something this amazing?  I know that I am getting older, and I might not be able to do this for too many years.  I know that voices change as we get older and become weak.  But it brings tears to my eyes and pure joy to my heart to be part of it now.

Miss Julie has had a tough year this year.  She has been very ill and not been able to attend several of our practices.  She has been in and out of the Emergency room at the local hospital.  She has had personal struggles that are very overwhelming for her.  We miss her when she is not with us and can't wait for her to come back.  She lights our way!
We go on, because she has shown us what we can be.  We have been given a glimpse of what is possible and which direction we are heading.  There are several students that are music majors in school, and they lead the choir and help us to stay on track.  I think they do a very good job, and our director has every reason to be proud, but there is just something so amazing when Miss Julie steps behind the music stand.  She can bring things out of us that I had no idea we were capable of singing. She takes normal, everyday music and makes us part of something special, something unique, something that I have been missing.
Have you every had a teacher like that?  One who inspires you?  One who made you stretch and reach and become more that you ever thought you could be?

I think, that this is very much how the Savior works in our lives.  We all have talents and abilities.  By ourselves, we can be good.  We can do good things, we can be happy.  But when we allow Him to direct our paths, we can be so much more than merely good!  When He is directing, he places us where we can really shine.  He shows us how to change and perfect what we are.  He makes us whole.   He takes a world of individual voices and makes them harmonize to His song.
He becomes the Master Director.

I Know That My Savior Loves Me
Words and music by Tami Jeppson Creamer and Derena Bell

A long time ago in a beautiful place,
Children were gathered ’round Jesus.
He blessed and taught as they felt of His love.
Each saw the tears on His face.
The love that He felt for His little ones
I know He feels for me.
I did not touch Him or sit on His knee,
Yet, Jesus is real to me.

I know He lives!
I will follow faithfully.
My heart I give to Him.
I know that my Savior loves me.

Now I am here in a beautiful place,
Learning the teachings of Jesus.
Parents and teachers will help guide the way,
Lighting my path ev’ry day.
Wrapped in the arms of my Savior’s love,
I feel His gentle touch.
Living each day, I will follow His way,
Home to my Father above.


I know He lives!
I will follow faithfully.
My heart I give to Him.
I know that my Savior loves me.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Jesus take the wheel

Yesterday was a scary day!  I needed to go drive up to Sunrise to pick up Miracle.  She had a skiing field trip with her school, and also had a pre-concert practice with the college.  I drove to the ski resort to pick her up and take her to choir.  I started out in a snowstorm.  The wind whistled and blew around my little truck, I was able to make pretty good time until just outside of Showlow.  Then the snow hit in force.  The visibility shrunk down to only a few feet past the hood of the truck.  It took me an hour to drive up the the ski resort. 
I got there, to find my sweet young daughter, shivering in the wind and cold, waiting for me out in the parking lot because she was afraid I would not be able to find her in the snow.  We drove all the way to Snowflake in a blizzard.  The visibility was near zero, I could not pull the truck off to the side of the road because I was afraid of being hit by another vehicle.  You literally could not see if there were other cars on the road. 
The road was so slippery, that I put it into first gear and went slowly onward.  The truck did circles down the road at one point.  There were steep ditches on either side of the road and whenever I looked over the edge, I was certain we would not be found easily if we slid off.  It scared us both so bad and Miracle has decided that she is NEVER going to go anywhere in a blizzard again. 
Of course, we did not know that it would become a blizzard.  It was not on the news.  I only know that there were several parts during that trip when I am absolutely positive that it was not me driving.  At one point, we were sliding sideways toward a big ditch at the side of the road.  Right before we went over the edge, the wheels caught something and I was able to straighten out the truck.  We did finally make it to choir and were just in time for Miracle to practice her solo.  We had an amazing practice and another harrowing ride to get home to Overgaard.  It took me over two hours to get to Sunrise, two and a half hours to get to Snowflake, and another two hours to get home.  This is major dedication!  All I know is that when you can't see the road because of the storm, you need to not worry about going home!

While we were going through all this, a song came on the radio and stuck with both of us for the trip.  I thought I would share it with you.  It is so true.  Sometimes it is wise to remember that we don't have to travel this road alone.  There is always someone in our lives who is willing to help us.  He will take the wheel if we will only ask. 

"Jesus Take The Wheel"

She was driving last Friday on her way to Cincinnati
On a snow white Christmas Eve
Going home to see her Mama and her Daddy with the baby in the backseat
Fifty miles to go and she was running low on faith and gasoline
It'd been a long hard year
She had a lot on her mind and she didn't pay attention
she was going way too fast
Before she knew it she was spinning on a thin black sheet of glass
She saw both their lives flash before her eyes
She didn't even have time to cry
She was so scared
She threw her hands up in the air

Jesus take the wheel
Take it from my hands
Cause I can't do this on my own
I'm letting go
So give me one more chance
To save me from this road I'm on
Jesus take the wheel

It was still getting colder when she made it to the shoulder
And the car came to a stop
She cried when she saw that baby in the backseat sleeping like a rock
And for the first time in a long time
She bowed her head to pray
She said I'm sorry for the way
I've been living my life
I know I've got to change
So from now on tonight

Jesus take the wheel
Take it from my hands
Cause I can't do this on my own
I'm letting go
So give me one more chance
To save me from this road I'm on
Jesus take the wheel

Monday, March 8, 2010

Shake it off and step up

I have discovered that everyone of us eventually goes through hard times.  I believe that we are here to be tested and tried and that, somehow, whatever we go through in this life will help us as we go on into the next one.  It is by the struggle that we find our worth.  It is through our trials that we become closer to our Heavenly Father.  So, how do we endure to the end?  What does it really mean?  Is it suffering in silence?  It sometimes can seem so overwhelming!  Does that mean that we are enduring just for today, this week, next week, or is it possibly years down the road?  What exactly does it mean to endure to the end, and how can we possibly do such a thing?
Enduring to the end is not an easy task. It is intended to be difficult, challenging, and, ultimately, refining as we prepare to return to live with our Father in Heaven and receive eternal blessings.

In the October 1993 Ensign Stephan E. Robinson has an article titled "Enduring to the End" which offers some perspective on this phrase. He talks about what it means and how we endure.
Sometimes I have thought of the word endure as meaning "getting through" afflictions and trials. While that is a part of it, Brother Robinson says, "The fact is that enduring affliction is only a small part of what “enduring to the end” means.  Most frequently, the scriptures use the term endure to mean to last, to continue, or to remain, rather than to suffer".  Isn't that a new thought for you.
I have always equated enduring with suffering!  For me, this article was so eye opening.  I have had to look at the term "to endure" in a different manner than I have ever looked before.  To endure means so much more than hurt, pain, and sadness.  It is to continue in the path that we adopted at baptism by keeping our commitments to Christ, until the end of our mortal life.
What a positive way to feel about enduring to the end.  We commit to Christ and then continue with that commitment. We make covenants and then keep them.  We learn the commandments and than obey them.
In addition, Brother Robinson says, there are other component parts of remaining faithful to our covenants these include:

  • Looking unto Christ 
  • Taking upon us the name of Christ 
  • Feasting upon the words of Christ 
  • Pressing forward in steadfastness, hope, and love 
  • Following the example of Christ 
  • Worshipping the Father in the name of Christ
  • Being patient in afflictions and humble in repentance
Notice that the common focus of all of these component parts is loyalty to Jesus Christ.  It is only through Him that we are able to fully endure to the end.

I found this great story that reminded me of what enduring means.  I hope that it also motivates you.  Sometimes, I think enduring is simply being able to find a different solution to the problem.  It is being able to see more clearly what it is that you should do.  It is shaking off the dirt of the world and looking toward the light and trusting that you will be able to do what is necessary.  Remember that your Heavenly Father wants you to do more than just suffer.  He wants what is best for you.  He wants you to have joy.  He wants you to come back home to Him.

The Donkey and the Well
One day a farmer's donkey fell into a well. The farmer frantically thought what to do as the stricken animal cried out to be rescued. With no obvious solution, the farmer regretfully concluded that as the donkey was old, and as the well needed to be filled in anyway, he should give up the idea of rescuing the beast, and simply fill in the well. Hopefully the poor animal would not suffer too much, he tried to persuade himself.

The farmer asked his neighbours help, and before long they all began to shovel earth quickly into the well. When the donkey realised what was happening he wailed and struggled, but then, to everyone's relief, the noise stopped.

After a while the farmer looked down into the well and was astonished by what he saw. The donkey was still alive, and progressing towards the top of the well. The donkey had discovered that by shaking off the dirt instead of letting it cover him, he could keep stepping on top of the earth as the level rose. Soon the donkey was able to step up over the edge of the well, and he happily trotted off.

Life tends to shovel dirt on top of each of us from time to time. The trick is to shake it off and take a step up.  Remember that it is not the trial that is important.  It is what you have done with it that matters in the end.   It is what you have learned from the experience.  It is whether you have stepped from the darkness and into the light.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Honor your parents

What does the word honor mean to you? The dictionary defines honor as: "to hold in honor or high respect; revere. To treat with honor.
An honorable man or woman is one who is truthful; free from deceit; above cheating, lying, stealing, or any form of deception. An honorable man or woman is one who learns early that one cannot do wrong and feel right.  A man’s character is judged on how he keeps his word and his agreements, not only to other men, but also to our Heavenly Father.
Heavenly Father has been very specific and clear on how we should conduct our lives as members of His Church. His laws are given to us in the scriptures and through latter day prophets.
President Ezra Taft Benson talked about how the "Ten Commandments describe our relationship to God, to family, and to our fellowman.

  1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
  2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.
  3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.
  4. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.

    Those four commandments demonstrate ways in which we honor God. The next commandment demonstrates how we honor our family relationships.
  5. Honour thy father and thy mother.

    There is no true greatness without honor to parents and progenitors. The last five demonstrate ways we respect our relationship with others.
  6. Thou shalt not kill.
  7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
  8. Thou shalt not steal.
  9. Thou shalt not bear false witness.
  10. Thou shalt not covet (Ex. 20:3–4, 7–8, 12–17).

You can readily see that if each individual honored these commandments, society—the sum of individuals—would scorn irreverence, uphold the Sabbath, honor parents and marital vows, and practice virtue".

Can you imagine what society would be like if we lived as God commanded?

I learned what the commandments were a long time ago and have them memorized.  I can recite them easily.  
But sometimes, it is hard to live them!  For me, learning to obey the commandment to honor you parents, has been one of the most difficult. I could bore you with details about why, but I heard a very good talk yesterday on not making excuses. It seems like good advice to me, so suffice it to say, that I do not remember a very large part of my childhood, and most of those things that I do remember are not very good. I had a hard time getting past the not so good, and learning to obey the important commandment of Honoring my parents.  It has taken me a long time to reach the point of forgiveness and healing.  I believe that each one of us need forgiveness and healing.  No matter who we are, or what type of life we have led.  Because I need that blessing and want my Heavenly Father to provide it for me, I also believe that I must forgive those perceived hurts in my own life.  In order to move into the future, we need to let go of the hurts from the past.
That being said, one of the things that I learned the most from my past is that we each control our own life.  I am the only one responsible for my decisions.  Other people can do things to me, but I allow them to impact my life in a good or bad way. 
I think that the part of my life that has helped me in learning the meaning of honor is to become a parent myself.  I remember the days with some of my older girls when they would make statements like: "MY KIDS are never going to act like that!"  or "MY KIDS are never going to be allowed to wear clothes like that!"  Or my personal favorite, "MY KIDS are only going to have ten toys and they will NOT be noisy toys!"  It is amazing how much your perspective changes when you actually have children of your own.
Life is so much different than those childhood dreams could ever be.  All of your opinions and ideals have a tendancy to fly right out the window when parenthood flies in.  I love the quote that says:  "Before I had children, I had six different theories on how to raise them better;  Now I have six children and no theories!"  I know that I am not perfect, but I also know that I have done my best.  I know that I learned what type of parent I did not want to be, and that I have tried to be a better one.  I have made so many mistakes, and I want so much for my children to be able to forgive me for them.  It is always heartbreaking to look back and know that the person you are now, could do so much better than the person you were then!  Part of honoring your parents is in turning your heart to your ancestors and it is found in remembering the good in them and not focusing all your attention on the mistakes and pain.  It is in remembering that they are human and make mistakes.
And so, I also learned one of the greatest lessons in this life, how to forgive. 
“Here is my counsel to children. The Lord gave you a commandment with a promise: ‘Honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee’ (Mosiah 13:20). It is the only one of the Ten Commandments with a promise. You may not have parents that are living. In some cases, you may not feel that your parents are worthy of the honor and respect of their children. You may not even have ever known them. But you owe them life. And in every case, even if your life is not lengthened, its quality will be improved simply by remembering your parents with honor.”
Henry B. Eyring, “Our Perfect Example,” Ensign, Nov. 2009, 72

Friday, March 5, 2010

Letting the Lord guide your Footsteps

I am a very busy person! I promise that I am not exagerating. I am the happiest when I am busy with the people I love doing things we all enjoy, but sometimes I am just plain busy. When we moved to a smaller town, I worried about what I would find to do there. No stores, no shopping, no movies, only a couple of restaurants, convience stores, and a small country store.
I had many people try to talk me out of accepting a job in this small town. I suppose, I was on the fast track going somewhere (today, I am not even sure where that somewhere was!) I had a very strong impression to put in for this job when it came open. I always try to follow the strong impressions! I was given great counsel once by a loving bishop to keep a paper and pencil by the bed. He explained that the spirit often impresses us the most when we are quiet and can listen. He counseled me to write down what I felt in those quiet moments in the morning or evening. So, that is what I have done. It is amazing the things that you can learn at O'dark thirty in the morning.
That is how I learned that I needed to take this job. My husband had actually been asking me to quit, but I have too much time invested in this and the family depends on my pay check to make ends meet.  This job was posted when I was at a very low point in my career.  I just wasn't happy.
When a job is posted, you have to put in a very detailed request for the position.  It identifies your strengths and what you can bring to the position.  It is very time consuming to get it all done and there is usually a two week deadline to get everything into HR.  It can be pretty daunting when you are being overwhelmed with everything else.  I did not even see the posting until it had been out for a week. 
My husband and I talked it over and he wanted me to put in for it. The little town is up in the mountains of Arizona.  The community is nestled in the Pine trees, quite a ways from other communities.  We had been up there before, for the yearly fireworks desplay over the forth of July weekend.  As a matter of fact, we used to try and come up every year because it was cooler and the sky is so black that the firworks look amazing!
 I was so afraid that they would tell me I was over qualified. I had been managing up to 125 people at work, and this job was one where I would only be managing 4, but I would be completely in charge and involved in the community. We prayed and fasted about it, and I woke up one morning with the strongest feeling of peace and certainty. I knew that I was supposed to put in for it. I did all the paperwork, and waited, and waited, and waited. I also put in for other jobs during that time, trusting that Heavenly Father would lead me in the direction that I needed to go.

There was another job that came open only one mile from my house. I thought that I really wanted that job. It would be a promotion, a pay raise, and it would be so close to my house that I might even be able to spend more time with my family. I prayed so hard for that job (it had been over three months waiting for the other one and I was afraid that they had canceled the position). I never had any feelings about it one way or the other, but I was hoping that it would work out.  I was so sad when I found out that I did not get it. The manager who did not hire me called me on the phone and said that for some reason she did not know, she felt like I was not suppose to have that job (she is also a very religious woman but does not usually, openly talk about it, however she knew that we shared the same beliefs, so she shared her impressions with me). Since two of us were equally qualified, she chose the other woman over me. I was really pretty sad about it.  I actually really wanted to work with that manager.  I still did not know what I was supposed to do. I found that it is easy to forget the certainty of a moment when you wait such a  long time before the confirmation.

The very next day, I received the news that I was approved for the original job in a small town three hours away from home. There were so many things to be done! We had to sell the house, buy a house, move the kids. My husband was unemployeed for three years, but this move is the very best thing we have ever done. We are happy here. We fit in, we belong, we love it.

And I am STILL a busy woman!

What is amazing to me is how the Lord guides you in all you need when it is the right thing to do.  No one else was selling their homes, but ours sold.  I had some people come into my office and offer me their house for a price I would have had a hard time turning down.  I went and looked at the house and I fell in love with it.  It was a price we could afford in a neighborhood that I liked.  (Pretty much all the neighborhoods up here are the same).  My kids we able to start over up here and make friends.  The community is a good one.  I can still not believe how everything clicked together when we needed it to. 
I have discovered that sometimes, the Lord does not want you on the fast track.  Sometimes, you just need to be willing to listen and trust in His guidance.  He knows what you need.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Kids can be mean

My daughter had a rough day at school today.  Unfortunately, she is now in Junior High where the kids seem to develop a sense of mean.  For some reason, she is the one that they have decided to be mean to.  It was so bad the other day that one of the teachers approached me to ask who was doing it.  Evidently, she had started crying.  After talking to her a little, she finally opened up and let me know that a young man she liked had told her that she is worthless to everyone.
The mother in me wanted to boil.  How dare any person call my dear daughter "worthless".  She is a child of God and she is amazing.  Instead of getting mad, I bit my lip and thought for a moment.  We then proceeded to have a wonderful discussion about people and attitudes and how we give people the power to hurt and offend us.  We talked about choice and about some things that she could say or do the next time she finds herself in that situation.  Most of all, we talked about her worth and my love, respect and admiration for the wonderful young woman that she is becoming. 
I can't fix this for her, or make it go away.  It is something that most of us go through on the road to adulthood.  I would protect her from it if I could.  But than, I remember the growth that comes through the trials.  The skills that come from the practice.  The knowledge that comes after the faith.  And I know that this is her time to learn and grow.  It is not what happens to you that counts.  It is how you react to what happens to you, especially when you are faced with unexpected difficulties and challenges.
Many people spend their entire lives searching for happiness.  They somehow think that it is something to seek, buy, or even take.  They look for peace externally.  They search in dreams, activities and even other people, all the time hoping to find that which they seek, when really, the only person who has the power to make us happy is inside ourselves.
I shared with her my very favorite quote.  I have it hanging up in my office to help me during those days when my own attitude is not what it should be.  (We all have days like that now and then).  The quote is by Charles Swindle and is well worth repeating.

"The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life.
Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company... a church... a home.

The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past... we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude... I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.

And so it is with you... we are in charge of our attitudes."

I would also like to share this story today.  It is a different way of looking at a problem. 

This short story illustrates that every one of us has the choice whether or not to take personal offense from another person's behavior.
It is said that on an occasion when the Buddha was teaching a group of people, he found himself on the receiving end of a fierce outburst of abuse from a bystander, who was for some reason very angry.

The Buddha listened patiently while the stranger vented his rage, and then the Buddha said to the group and to the stranger, "If someone gives a gift to another person, who then chooses to decline it, tell me, who would then own the gift? The giver or the person who refuses to accept the gift?"

"The giver," said the group after a little thought. "Any fool can see that," added the angry stranger.

"Then it follows, does it not," said the Buddha, "Whenever a person tries to abuse us, or to unload their anger on us, we can each choose to decline or to accept the abuse; whether to make it ours or not. By our personal response to the abuse from another, we can choose who owns and keeps the bad feelings."

Oh yeah,
Just in case you think I am totally heartless to teenage problems, we went shopping in town tonight (read forty-five minute drive)  and got her a new haircut!  It is amazing how a little change can totally give you a new outlook on your feelings.  And of course, a little extra special treatment for an extra special daughter doesn't hurt either!  

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Would you LIVE for him?

There was a speaker at the youth conference in Missouri.  I do not know his name, I was not there.  But I want to share a story with you that my daughter shared with me of her experience.  First of all, let me preface this by saying that I am not trying to offend any of you.  If you don't agree with my view, that is fine.  I am merely presenting this as something for each of us to think about.
This speaker spoke about obeying the Prophet of God.  He talked about the time, many years ago, when Gordon B. Hinckley came out and addressed the fads of tattooing and piercing:
“Now comes the craze of tattooing one’s body. I cannot understand why any young man—or young woman, for that matter—would wish to undergo the painful process of disfiguring the skin with various multicolored representations of people, animals, and various symbols. With tattoos, the process is permanent, unless there is another painful and costly undertaking to remove it. … A tattoo is graffiti on the temple of the body.
Likewise the piercing of the body for multiple rings in the ears, in the nose, even in the tongue. Can they possibly think that is beautiful? It is a passing fancy, but its effects can be permanent. Some have gone to such extremes that the ring had to be removed by surgery. The First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve have declared that we discourage tattoos and also ‘the piercing of the body for other than medical purposes.’ We do not, however, take any position ‘on the minimal piercing of the ears by women for one pair of earrings’ ” (Ensign, Nov. 2000, 52).
The speaker continued to speak on the importance of this principle and he talked about those whom he knew personally that had made the decision to follow the council of the Prophet.  My daughter and I, when we were both much younger, had two holes in each of our ears.  We both liked the practice and thought that it looked nice.  I still remember when President Hinckley came out with his counsel on ear piercings.  We looked at each other, and went home and removed the extra earrings.  It was not a hard decision for me to remove the second earring.  I did not understand "why" at that time, but if the Prophet told me to, than I was willing to follow that counsel.
Sitting next to my daughter in this Youth Conference, on the bench in that chapel, was a young girl who was not a member of the church.  Partway through the talk, she left.  When my daughter was telling me this, I wondered if she might have been offended, because she had several piercings in each ear.  She came back to the meeting approximately ten minutes later, with her ears bleeding and all of the earrings except for the bottom hole in each ear removed.  Some of the piercings were recent, so they reopened and bled when she took the earrings out.  This young girl, though not a member of the church, was nevertheless, touched by the spirit to follow the words of the Prophet in these latter days.  It is so amazing to me!  Sometimes it is hard for us to follow the counsel and teachings even though we have a knowledge that he is a prophet of God.  Yet, here was a young woman who was not even a member of the church and she went and took out her earrings.
Today, Satan is trying so hard to challenge and discourage our youth.  He works constantly to try and make them want to "fit in" with the crowd.  Do you remember the story of Lehi's dream?  Do you remember the large and spacious building with the crowd of people who were laughing and mocking those who chose to follow the Lord?  Doesn't it remind you of the things we face today?  Doesn't it remind you of the world?
Now comes the harder question.  What one thing, are you holding onto that you shouldn't?  What one thing could you change in your life that would allow you to truly follow the prophet and be closer to your Savior?
Remember Satan?  He seeks to have us be like him.  Cast out of Father's presence.  His nature is to lead us away.  His nature is to keep us from our home.

The scorpion and the Frog
Once upon a time a scorpion wanted to cross a brook. On the bank he saw a frog and asked if the frog would give him a ride to the other side.
"Oh no," says the frog, "If I carry you on my back you will sting me."
"But why would I sting you when we would both surely perish," replied the scorpion.
The frog eventually conceded that the scorpion had a point, and agreed to the request.
Half way across, the scorpion stang the frog, and they both began to drown.
"But why did you break your word and sting me, knowing it would be certain death for us both?" cried the frog.
"Because it is in my nature." said the scorpion.

Satan, with his nature, would have you drown in the fads and fashions of the world.  He would have you think that the little things don't matter.  He would have you believe that it is OK if you follow some commandments and not others.  If you chose to walk with him, you will surely be lost in the mansion or the mists.  His nature is to lie just like the scorpion in the little story.
I have often heard people say that they would be willing to die for the gospel of Christ.  That they would be willing to die for their Savior.  I don't think, at this time, He needs us to die.  I think He needs us to live and follow Him and be an example and a testimony to those around us who are seeking for Him.  
Your task is to choose who you will follow.  You have been called at this time and in this place to LIVE for your Savior.  You have been asked to become more like Him.  May we each seek to follow His prophets in all they do and say.
Bruce Barton has said:  "Sometimes when I consider what tremendous consequences come from little things - I am tempted to think there are no little things".

Monday, March 1, 2010

The difference of one (or even seven)!

I used to be a photographer.  It was a job I loved.  I have done many weddings and proms as well as senior pictures and family reunions.  It was a second job for me during a time in my life when I needed every dime I could earn.  Today, I still take pictures for pleasure, but I also am sometimes convinced (reluctantly, because I know how much time it takes to do a good job) to take pictures for others.
It is usually a gift of love on my part, as I have a hard time charging for something that I enjoy doing.  Often, I am asked to do more when the friends of the family see the pictures and would like the same type.  It is not so much now, because I really need to upgrade all my equipment to digital.  That is so expensive that I haven't gotten around to doing it yet.  I want to, but the budget does not afford it easily.
Today, I was going through some of my old pictures and found one from one of the Proms that I worked at.  It brought back memories of a very special dance.  I used to work with a studio that did the photography for many of the proms in the Mesa area.  I would go in, set up the picture area, take pictures all night, and leave after the dance and after we had taken down all the sets.  It was exhausting!  It was also exhilarating and fun!  There is something about working with a group of teenagers.  Sometimes they could be very hard.  Especially when they thought they wanted pictures that really would not look good later.  It was a real challenge to talk them out of the more crazy ideas and into a pose that they would be happy with.  Crazy was and continues to be OK, to a point!  But you have to be a little careful when it is Prom, otherwise they will all be back in the studio for retakes!    
Anyway, there was this one dance that I will always remember and treasure.  The where and when doesn't matter, it is the what that sticks with me to this day.  There was  a large group of kids, four couples that all came in together.  Most of them were completely ordinary in every visible way.  Four boys, three girls, all laughing and giggling and having fun together.  They were enjoying each other's company, and right in the midst of them, laughing and giggling was a young woman who was not quite like the others.
She was in a wheel chair, she could not talk or actively participate with them.  She could only smile, gesture,  and laugh, but what a wonderful, joy-filled smile lit up her face.  Her date had bought her a corsage that was one of the most beautiful in the room.  It was pinned on her totally amazing prom dress in such a way that it would not be crushed and she could look at it and enjoy it.  This group of teens wheeled her into the dance, with compassion and understanding and love, but probably the most important thing for her that night, was the fun.
One of the girls in the group was her sister and the rest of them were friends.  I talked with them while we were getting the group set up for their photos.  They were so happy to be sharing this night with her!  Her date told me that the group had gotten together and decided that she needed to go to a prom before she got out of high school that year.  She was very intelligent, but could not communicate easily without special equipment.  However, she was able to be involved in the planning and the preparation for this very special "first" date.  The boy who took her, had gone to school with her for a few years and was also friends with her family.
She was given the place of honor in the middle of the picture with all the other teens gathered around her chair.  It was amazing.  There was no arguing, no longing faces, no ridicule.  None of the other negative emotions that I had seen already that night.  There was simply love and acceptance for a friend.  The young girl smiled while I took her pictures and waved as she went off to the dance floor with her friends.
For me, the best part came later that evening, when a woman came up to me and asked me if I had helped with the group.  She wanted to order more of the pictures for her family.  That woman was the young girl's mother.  She told me of how this group of kids came into her daughters life at the beginning of high school.  How they had taken her under their wing and included her in their activities.  How they had made her feel accepted, wanted, needed, and loved.  Her mother had tears in her eyes as she shared with me the change that these seven teens had brought into her daughters life.    We watched them all take turns on the dance floor with each other and with this beautiful young girl.
When I am tempted to think that my one voice does not matter, that my one kindness doesn't count, that my one gift did not make a difference, I often find myself thinking of this young woman and her seven friends.  They taught me that the greatest gift of all is the one you give of yourself.  It doesn't have to be a big gift, or an elaborate one.  It simply needs to be something that someone else needs and you can give:  a little kindness, and loving word, a moment of your time, a small token of your thoughts, a simple prayer.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf has said:
"Think of the purest, most all-consuming love you can imagine. Now multiply that love by an infinite amount—that is the measure of God's love for you.
God does not look on the outward appearance (see 1 Samuel 16:7). I believe that He doesn't care one bit if we live in a castle or a cottage, if we are handsome or homely, if we are famous or forgotten. Though we are incomplete, God loves us completely. Though we are imperfect, He love us perfectly, Though we may feel lost and without compass, God's love encompasses us completely."

On that day, those teenagers showed me what it feels like to love completely.  They taught me that part of being whole, is to make someone else feel the same way.  They taught me that just because you are different, you don't have to be forgotten.  They showed me that even though we are all imperfect, sometimes we can love others in a nearly perfect way.  May we all treat others as those wonderful young people treated their very special friend.