Friday, April 24, 2009

Had You Thought of This Like This Before?

I have in my van John Bytheways' book, "When Times Are Tough: 5 Scriptures That Will Get You Through Almost Anything". In it he outlines four sets of five scriptures that will help us improve our marriage, our family relationships, our faith, will motivate us to action and a set that will 'get you through almost anything'. It's been a great read.

In the set that are aimed at strengthening faith, Brother Bytheway relates a thought from Jeffrey R. Holland who counsels that the scripture that admonishes us to "not let our hearts be troubled..." (John 14:27) is a commandment.

Elder Holland says, "I submit to you, that [John 14:27] may be one of the Savior's commandments that is, even in the hearts of otherwise faithful Latter-day Saints, almost universally disobeyed; and yet I wonder whether our resistance to this invitation could be any more grievous to the Lord's merciful heart. I can tell you this as a parent: as concerned as I would be if somewhere in their lives one of my chidlren were seriously troubled or unhappy or disobedient, nevertheless I would be infinitely more devastated if I felt that at such a time that child could not trust me to help or thought his or her interest was unimportant to me or unsafe in my care. In that same spirit, I am convinced that none of us can appreciate how deeply it wounds the loving heart of the Savior of the world when He find that His people do not feel confident in His care or secure in His hands or trust in His commandments."
Brother Bytheway hadn't thought of this this way before. Neither had I. Had you?
But as I read it and thought about Elder Holland's comparison as a parent, I know he's right. I would feel the same as he said he would. And so as I relate that to my relationship with my Heavenly Father, I am inclined to increase my communication with Him that I might enlist His aid more in my life.
It's so easy to shy away from laying out our issues before the Lord, because we're embarrassed at what He might think of us when He has to deal with our shortcomings and imperfections and less-than's. (hint: he already knows!!)
It's also so easy to think that our troubles are too small, that we should reserve our time with Him for the big stuff, the really important stuff, like safety and health and making sure our boy has a desire to serve a mission or our girl will marry in the Temple.
But in all of my doing all of the above, I NEVER thought I was being hurtful. I actually thought I was sparing the Lord from having to deal with me. Of course that's not what He wants from any of us.
Thank goodness for the Perfect Patience of our understanding Heavenly Father. Thank goodness He is willing to let us go through the process of life, and learn and add ability little by little.
I have a desire to know my Father in Heaven, and for Him to know me. I want Him to be able to trust me as an instrument in His hands, and am learning that, by my actions, I can put my full trust in Him and never be disappointed.
How grateful I am to know that God loves us, that He cares about the big things and the little things in our lives.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

I Can't Remember

As I was doing my hair this morning, I was thinking about the day ahead and my mind flashed to the last few days as well.
Sunday was a rough day. While I didn't have a moment to pull Kurt aside and let him put his arms around me while I cried, the words came to mind many times throughout the day, "this is really really hard. this is a tough day."
Something about admitting it consciously rather than enduring it made a difference.
I've written already about the words I heard as I prayed. This morning as I tried to remember some of my very sharp feelings and aches I felt on Sunday, I couldn't remember.
I remember the day being rough. I remember looking at the clock several times during the day and thinking, "eleven years ago right now...."
At 1:30 she was standing my kitchen. We were talking about Easter dinner at Kurt's parents house. Dinner was at 5pm.
At 3:40 she died, while I was taking a nap.
At 5:00 we were racing to get out the door to Kurt's folks' house, eventually coming upon big orange cones and Sheriff's car parked on Hwy 55, blocking us from turning and going the way we usually do.
At 5:25 we pulled up in front of their house (I know that was the time because I looked at the clock in the car). When my mom's truck wasn't there, I thought she'd left because we were late. She wouldn't have gone in without us being there.
At about 6 I got the news.

As I was going to bed Sunday night my mind did the "eleven years ago today...." one more time. I would go to bed and get a good night's sleep, but eleven years ago that was not the case.

At 1:30am we got home again (finally finding the courage to come home) to see her things on my kitchen table. I found a box right away and put those things in it ~ her new Mary Kay purchases, some papers I think. I don't know why I needed to put them away so fast, but a part of me that I am not proud of was glad to finally have my table back. We'd battled about her putting her things somewhere else. I'd even made a spot on a shelf nearby, but she didn't want to move anything.

Her pillow was still sitting on the couch where she slept. At some point I went over and smelled it. It still smelled like her. I'm really glad I did that because when I got up a a few hours later to feed Kathryn, that smell was gone.
It was easy that night to imagine that she was at work ~ she worked all night at the hospital ~ and that she would be home in the morning. Not having her in the room didn't make reality sink in any that night.
For the first and only time I can remember in my entire life, I laid down in my bed and did not go to sleep. Kurt put his arm around me, I curled up in the place where his arm meets his body, and we just talked. I don't remember about what exactly except that he shared how he just wanted to put his arms around me enough to take some of the pain I was feeling away. I know I felt that way about having to tell the rest of my family.
Spare them if I could just hurt in their place.
Finally about 4:30, we slept a little.
Kathryn got up at six, and I turned on the TV to see the morning news. The story was told; her name was shown on the screen as the person who had died. There.
That was reality.
I have digressed...

As I was doing my hair this morning, I was trying to remember the pain I felt on Sunday. This Sunday ~ two days ago. And I couldn't remember it. I searched for those feelings because I felt that writing about them would help, and I wanted to put some words to them so I could prepare for what I would write.

But I still couldn't remember them.

In the scriptures we know that the Lord eases the burdens of those who call up Him. The people of Alma were persecuted to the point that Amulon set guards around them to prevent them from praying publicly. Mosiah 24:12 reads, 'And Alma and his people did not raise their voices to the Lord their God, but did pour out their hearts to him; and he did know the thoughts of their hearts.'
The Lord heard the people of Alma as they poured out their hearts to Him. The Lord heard me as I poured my heart out to Him, confessing my shortcomings and telling him of the sadness and ache I felt in missing my mom on this anniversary of her death.

Verse 13: 'And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord came to them in their afflictions, saying: Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, for I know of the covnant which ye have made unto me; and I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage.' READ: "Go In Peace".
Not only does the Lord hear the cries of the people of Alma, but he promises them that everything will be alright.

Verse 14: 'And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.'
I can testify that this is true. The Lord does hear our prayers, he does visit us in our afflictions. Today I know that he can ease our budens so that we might not be able to feel them upon our backs. I know this because today I cannot feel any part of the pain and the ache I felt on Sunday.
Verse 14 is in the future tense, still something the Lord is going to do. Verse 15 tells us He follows through on His promise: 'And now it came to pass that the budens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their budens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord.'

I know that the Lord loves us. Loves me. He knows who I am. He knows what I need and as I allow Him to guide me, he has blessings to bestow. My blessing today is not being able to remember.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Go In Peace

It's Easter. How grateful I am for this day where the world celebrates and remembers (even through commercialism) the Savior's resurrection.

In Gospel Doctrine today, the question was asked, "why don't we have special Sunrise Services, or change our schedules for Easter Sunday"? The answer was immediately in my mind, and I raised my hand. I commented that in our church we focus on the Savior's life and his atonement and his resurrection on a regular basis, so the need to set aside one day is not as great as for those who might only think about these things once a year (my friend Jane said that when she was growing up, they called themselves "Creaster's" ~ they went to church on Christmas and Easter).

I woke up this morning with the same awareness the anticipation for this day has had: that it would mark the 11th anniversary of the death of my mother, though this is the first time, because of Leap Year, that April 12th is on Easter Sunday again. I've known that today would come for probably six years. One of the downsides to paying attention to dates like I do...

It's such a strange irony that the day my mom died is celebrated for the very reason I know I'll have her back someday.

I have been weighed down with what feels like an awful lot of failure these past several days ~ failing at an exercise program that has completely gone by the wayside, not to mention any accompanying weight loss; failing at any sort of discipline whether spiritual or in the schedule of activity in maintaining my home; and a terrified feeling that the new business we are trying to get off the ground and all the dreams we're making with it's success, will only fail.

I've also felt a nearly unbearable tiredness in my own every day battles ~ taking great care of two small children and not having slept more than a few hours at a time in nearly eight months; the financial juggle we've been dealing with the last two years; and again being constant in the maintinance of my home.

However, in the midst of my sorrow and frustration over my weaknesses and through the thickness of the haze of tiredness , there has been that ever-present feeling of my Heavenly Father's love for me. I know he wants me to come to Him. I know he wants me to succeed. He did NOT send me here to fail in my mission.

As I went to Him this morning it was the words to a song that came to my mind. There has been only one other time that I remember having a song answer my prayer, but what a powerful reminder and /or comfort these words have brought.

I heard this morning the words, "Go In Peace".

These were the words the Savior said to the woman of questionable morality. She knew her sins were many and sings of the weight that is lifted off of her when He sees good in her and tells her to "go in peace."

What a sigh of calm and comfort I felt as these words washed over me and my mind began to chew on them.

Peace brings to mind thoughts on what it is exactly, and what it is not. The opposite of peace is fear. Fear is not something the Lord instills, rather that is from the adversary. My grandma Ruby marked all of the "fear not" and "fear thou not" phrases in her bible, and they are many. Constantly the Lord tells us to be not afraid. "Be not afraid, only believe" he says in the New Testament. Not hard to remember, but easy to forget when we get caught up and lose perspective a bit.

It is not my morality that is in question, but those words to "go in peace" have brought great comfort to me today.

How grateful I am that the Savior's atonement means that I can overcome my weaknesses. How wonderful to know that because the Savior took up his mortal body into immortality, I will see again those whom I love but whose time on the earth has already ended.

With peace comes a renewed sense of determination, and a willingness to act in faith, even when I'm not sure of the path ahead, or really feel up to the challenge walking that path might bring. Thank goodness for Alma 32 that describes the power in exercising even a tiny bit of faith.

I have a desire to gain in knowlegde; to draw closer to my Heavenly Father; to reap the benefits of teaching my children well and being an example in word and deed. I have a desire to serve, to be a useful tool for Him. "when ye are in the service of your fellow being, ye are only in the service of your God." (Mosiah 2:17). I know that service is the purpose to life.

Tonight I am rejuvenated in spirit. Willing to exercise that portion of faith so that I might fulfill the mission I am on the earth to accomplish. Have these challenges gone away? No. But with an improved sense of self and a knowledge that I do not have to do any of this alone, I will begin.

So tonight, I "Go In Peace".

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Sharp Pencils

I love new notebooks and sharp pencils. They are so fun to use and write with. A sharp pencil is so important when you want to write your best. Which is sort of an interesting thought ~ be sharp, be your best.

My good friend Jessica had the most beautiful writing. I was always a little bit jealous! I wanted to have writing just like hers.

One of the things Jessica always used was a newly sharpened pencil. She was at the sharpener a lot! But the results were impressive. Her schoolwork, even the notes we passed, were like art.

Now I think I should admit a few things. First, I was not a part of Jessica's "sharpened pencil" club. I was more comfortable with a tip that was a little worn down. And all my life I had compliments on my handwriting. I knew it looked pretty good. I could have been pretty happy with myself.

But something just bugged me about Jessica's writing. Not so much that she was better than me, but that just maybe I could be better.

That maybe Jessica knew something that gave her the edge.

So one day I tried it. I sharpened my pencil. I mean really sharpened it. Guess what happened? My pretty good writing became lovely too. Suddenly that sharp point in my hand gave me confidence and pride like I'd mever felt before. My writing was elegant ~ yay! What a feeling!!

But some time went by and I found that I was back to just pretty good. Argh! Why? How did this happen? I had sharpened and things were great. For a while. I thought that having known what it's like to write with a pencil that was really sharp, I'd just adjust and still be great when the point wore down. But what had I done wrong?

Then I understood.

My trip to the sharpener was a one-time event, but it needed to be a regular one!

I realized that Jessica's writing was always lovely because she made her trips to the sharpener often.

I have to say that my decline to "pretty good" again wasn't instant. It happened slowly and so I really didn't notice right away the effects that the dullness of my pencil was having. After all, my writing had always been pretty good. I could have been satisfied with what I had. But Jessica's writing was still beautiful and now I had tasted that, too. And I wanted it all back.

So I made the trip back to the sharpener, and I sharpened my pencil.

It's been a long time since I started sharpening my pencil regularly. Admittedly, I'm not always vigilent/diligent enough and my pencil gets a little dull. But I'm getting better at paying attention to the point of my pencil, and I do make more regular and frequent trips to the sharpener. My writing? It's better, but not in the way I thought I wanted it to be better back when I was in classes with Jessica. It seems that my sharpening has given me writing I would/could not have anticipated.

The other thing I remember about Jessica's writing was how neat and clean her papers looked, even when I know she'd made mistakes and had to make corrections and revisions.

Jessica was a good eraser! I know that might sound silly ~ to compliment someone on their erasing skills ~ but you would have too if you'd seen the crisp, neatness of Jessica's work.

Notice I didn't say perfection.

Perfect would have meant never making any mistakes.

Jessica's papers I think were even more attractive because of the effort she made in erasing her mistakes. To the point that usually you'd never know she'd made them. Jessica put the same amount of effort into erasing that she did in getting to the sharpener regularly.

I continue to learn lessons as I strive to keep my pencil sharp.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Precisely the Point of EVERYTHING

Some months ago, while I was pregnant with Emily, I was in the most common position and place of the day ~ horizontal on my bed, with pillows tucked in all the right places. I was not asleep, but neither was I awake. It was that place in my mind where great thoughts take place sometimes. It is a place, I believe, where revelation comes more easily.

The question, "what is the purpose to life?" popped into my mind... it was something I'd thought consciously about not long before, and here was the question again.

This time though the answer came very clearly: TO SERVE.

Quickly my mind raced through analyzing if this was really the right answer: Education? yes. Job? yes. Calling at church? yes. Exercising and eating right? yes, because being healthy means you can do more for others. Marriage? of course. Parenthood? absolutely.

So the question that so many seem to trip on, seem to wonder about, has a simple answer: The purpose to life is to serve.

The End.

On Being a Planner

I am a girl who likes to have a plan. I do better knowing what's coming, not necessarily enjoying having to change directions on a dime.

With that "flaw", once I make up my mind, it's not likely to change which makes me pretty loyal. All for better or for worse....

I am reminded that the Lord is also a planner. Not only does He have a Plan, THE Plan, but he's also outlined his Plan, and it's summarized in Moses 1:39 ~ "for this is my work and my glory, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man". Everything is to accomplish this end.

Long ago I read something by Stephen Covey who was talking a bit about planning... he described the time he and his soon-to-be wife sat in a park under a tree and talked about the life they wanted to have. They talked about their home and their future children. How they would handle different situations and what they wanted things to be like.

I loved this, and it made me ache a bit that I hadn't thought of doing this. I was SO clueless regarding home and marriage and family. So very VERY clueless.

Now, don't get me wrong ~ we're doing a pretty fine job with things overall, but deciding along the way or in the middle of a tough situation is tougher than it would be if we already knew, if we had already decided.

If we would have established "no matter whats" beforehand, and not just stumble upon then along the way.... that would have been better I think.

Thankfully, the Lord is merciful, our kids are good people and we've taken some time more recently to plan. Experience is a great teacher, and I am a believer of "when you know better you do better". Yes!