Sunday, August 1, 2010

Not "Why" , but "How"

Sunday mornings tend to tetor on the disastrous side of life ... especially lately. The past few weeks I remember looking in the mirror while I applied a bit of make-up and smoothed out some hairs, just before running out the door to get to church on time. That moment of quiet I take for myself, looking in the mirror at myself, leads to some reflection.

Today ended up being the worst morning of them all ... I've hardly slept for four nights in a row, the boys got outside and were running down the street in their pajamas while I was getting dressed, and an entire pitcher of kool-aid spilled all over the kitchen floor (just to mention a few events).


That might have been the end of my rope.

But, we forged on, with a light mopping of the kitchen floor and digging out the church clothes that are hiding in all sorts of nooks and crannies as we suddenly find ourselves remodeling the basement.

Really, I could have just blamed it all on a lingering cough (which is the culprit for my recent lack of sleep) and called it a day.

Strangely enough, the thought never even entered my mind today. As I sat there looking in the mirror, taking a few minutes to get myself ready, a thought came to mind. I realized that when things were just ridiculous at times, I didn't start questioning "WHY" ... I just went straight to "HOW".

* How am I going to get us all to church on time?
* How am I going to deal with 2 insanely wild boys in the process?
* How am I going to keep them from burning down the house while I am showering?
* How am I going to get there?

I am so grateful that I already answered the "WHY" years ago, because if that was the question I was asking myself each Sunday morning, I don't know that I would be the right frame of mind to get the answer I needed. Fortunately I asked that question years ago and found my answer. And once that is answered, it never needs to be revisited. I know "WHY". I know that I have a Heavenly Father who loves me. I know that His Son is my Savior, my Redeemer, my Brother, my Friend. I know that when I follow the path that they have shown me, I will find happiness, I will feel the spirit and I will learn and grow from the experience. I also know that sometimes the path is hard, but it isn't ever impossible.

I also know that when I am floundering in a sea of "HOW's", that a simple prayer will provide more strength and support than I could ever imagine possible.

Now, there have been days where I let something keep us home from church, but I also know that there could have been a whole lot more.

So, we'll keep on working through these wonder years and I'll just keep in mind that it isn't ever going to get easier, but I will get to the point where grape Kool-aid isn't spilling all over my kitchen while I am getting dressed for church. And if it does happen again, a couple of towels will get me right back on track.

Note to self: No more Kool-aid on Saturdays!!!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Finding Strength Beyond My Own

Savior, may I learn to love thee,
Walk the path that thou hast shown,
Pause to help and lift another,
Finding strength beyond my own.
Savior, may I learn to love thee—

Lord, I would follow thee.

Who am I to judge another
When I walk imperfectly?
In the quiet heart is hidden
Sorrow that the eye can’t see.
Who am I to judge another?

Lord, I would follow thee.

I would be my brother’s keeper;
I would learn the healer’s art.
To the wounded and the weary
I would show a gentle heart.
I would be my brother’s keeper—

Lord, I would follow thee.

Savior, may I love my brother
As I know thou lovest me,
Find in thee my strength, my beacon,
For thy servant I would be.
Savior, may I love my brother—

Lord, I would follow thee.

Today, our Sacrament Services concluded with this Hymn. The words seemed to go straight to my heart and spoke to me as they never had before. I know this hymn well, it's one that we sing often and I even knew we would be singing it today. However, I guess there will always be times when something seems new to us. Even something this familiar.

Our neighborhood has met with a great deal of heartache over the past few weeks. Several of our dear friends and neighbors are battling for their lives, their loves, their sanity. There are some pretty serious things going on and you can feel the weight of it as you look around and see what people are going through.

I often wonder what I can really do to be helpful and be an instrument in the hands of the Lord in loving and caring for my brothers and sisters around me. Then, I defeat myself, feeling like there is more to be done then I can handle. And, that often leads me to do nothing, completely overwhelmed by the many, many dire needs, I don't see how I can do any good in all of this. That must be exactly how the adversary would want us all to feel.

That is why we are asked to commit to being true brothers and sisters to those around us. We need each other. Times get tough and we need to be able to be supported by those around us. My dear sweet neighbor is recently a widow, and she is so sad and lonely. The emptiness of her home is often more than she can bear. I have often told her that my home is now hers - she is welcome anytime. But I know I need to do more. I need to bring her over and seat her warmly at my table. We need to call her and keep tabs on her, and when she is in the depths of despair, I just need to sit and cry with her.

Last night, I was able to learn first-hand how much we will be strengthened when we are reaching out to help another. The Lord gave me an opportunity to give more at the end of a physically exhausting day. And although the opportunity came up very quick and unexpected, it resulted in a very joyous evening, during which the last thing on my mind was my exhaustion. And when it was finally time to rest I was able to do so with a smile in my heart. If I had comtemplated that opportunity before it was presented, I am not so certain I would have taken it. Thank heavens for events that are placed in our paths, and for the times we take those on.

So, after my experience last night and my further prompting with a song today, when I start looking at all that needs to be done around me, I will be confident that when I "pause to help and lift another", the Lord really will bless me His strength. And the words of John will be there to prod me on, as needed:

"... let us not love in word, neither in tongue;
but in deed and in truth."  (1 John 3:18)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Lessons in Love

I am so very grateful to my Heavenly Father for constant reminders and lessons that seem to pull me in the direction I need (and desire) to go, if I am, but, attentive to these lessons. Although I often wish I didn't need to learn so much, I am grateful to have opportunities, I am grateful that the Lord hasn't given up on me. I also hope that I haven't missed out on too many others.

Lately, I have been given many opportunities to learn about LOVE. And, I've noticed that what I take away most from these lessons is usually one simple question I ask myself, "Why didn't I think to do that?" Not in a being-hard-on-myself kind of a way, but in a kindly kick-in-the-pants-because-you-CAN-be-like-that-if-you-want-to-be kind of a way.

My prayer is that by being more mindful of the GREAT examples all around me, and through constant petitions to my Father in Heaven, perhaps I will grow more compassionate and intuitive to the needs around me.

For example, I have a sweet friend who found out that one of her friends was having a REALLY bad day (due to a telling Facebook post). So, my friend called her up, took her for a pedicure and then they went to one of the Twilight movies. I didn't even find out about this through her, but word gets around (ok- my husband does share some good information with me whenever he can) and I was moved by her ACTION. She was aware of the need because she was checking up on this friend of hers, and she put a plan into play rather quickly. Such an easy, fun thing to do, but full of benefit for not just those two friends, but anyone else blessed to become aware of this act of kindness.

Another example is a neighbor of mine, but I don't even know which one. This neighbor saves her change all year long and finds a home for it each Christmas. She very thoughtfully and prayerfully considers who she should pass this change on to each year and then gives it with great love. What I love most about this is that I have lived here for YEARS and never even knew about it, and I still don't know which neighbor of mine does this. And I don't want to know, I am just grateful to have that good example to learn from. To know that there are so many out there (right around me) who are thinking of ways that they can be a kind and loving brother or sister to those around them.

There is another situation that I need to share, but this one is kind of difficult because I really think that this should have been me. I was given such a clear opportunity to serve, but I just didn't have my mind or heart in the place it needed to be in order to be an instrument in the Lord's hands. I hope that I will be ready for any other times when I find myself in a similar situation, I hope my heart will be open and my mind quick, and my body able to act. For now, however, I have to be grateful that I was, at least, a witness to the kindness that another offered when I was too blind to see.

This happened a few months ago as I was finishing up a shopping trip to the thrift store. I had picked up a few great finds and was checking out, with my two little boys - who by now were on the energetic side. I placed my items on the counter and started rummaging through my purse for a payment method. As I was completing the transaction, I noticed that a lady approached the person behind me in line. This lady (angel) very quietly told the mom behind me to have her kids go over to the rack of costumes and pick out one each and she would pay for it.

As I looked at this mom behind me in line I could see that she had a handful of small children and it looked as though their means were very meager. Halloween was just a few days away and I can imagine she was probably spinning her wheels trying to figure out what to do for her kids. But purchasing from the thrift store even was not in their budget.

This is the painful part, while I was conducting my own transaction, I overheard her talking to her daughter. Her daughter was asking what they would do for Halloween costumes and if they could go and pick some out from the rack nearby and if they would be able to find a Snow White costume for her. This mom, with such a sweet, patient, enthusiastic voice just said to her daughter that they would just have to be creative and find things around the house for their costumes.

Although my ears heard all of this, it never really got to my heart until after the fact, until it was too late for me to do anything. Busy in my own little details, I unknowingly shuffled all of that to the side, and kept on with my business.

Thank heavens another lady had her eyes, ears and heart open. I watched as the mom instructed her children to go over and pick out costumes. I felt the earth shake from their enthusiasm and joy as they flew over to the racks and started choosing their costumes. I saw the thankful look in the eyes of the mom as she spoke with this passing lady and I saw that this particular lady wasn't doing anything too out of the ordinary, this seemed like a simple, easy, normal part of her day.

Then I gathered up my bags and my boys and went out to my car and cried.

Why hadn't I listened to the words I heard? Why hadn't I acted on the knowledge I had been given?

I thought of the beautiful Snow White dress I made for my daughter a few years ago, now sitting in an old costume box at home. It was the perfect size for that little girl behind me in line. We have no use for it anymore, it could have been passed on to her with very little effort.

And, I could have spent the money to buy a few more costumes, that wouldn't have been a problem for our budget.

I was beating myself over the head with so many would haves and should haves ... tears were falling quite freely now and I felt like a shriveled old raisin. Not a very happy thing.

Thankfully, the Lord got through to me and helped me see a little more of the situation. He helped me to see the example of that wonderful lady who stepped up to meet this need. I very well could have walked out of those doors none the wiser to the entire situation. Instead, He made sure I could witness such a kind act and learn from it. He wants for me to be that kind-hearted, intuitive person that I so badly want to become.

He provided a great learning experience and provoked in me an even greater desire to become that person that I know is somewhere down inside of me.

So, these lessons are all etched in my heart and I am becoming more and more aware of the beautiful acts around me. And bit by bit, I hope to grow up to be just like them.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Love is the Answer

I have been pondering quite a bit lately on the importance of love. It is something that is pretty easy for me to do, most of the time. And that's the problem I am facing. Most of the time is not enough. We are taught in the scriptures that ... "God is love" ... a phrase I have heard over and over throughout my life.

I have never doubted this sentiment, but I have also never really pondered it's significance. Reading over the scriptures provided a great deal of understanding:
"Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.

He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love."
                                            (1 Johns 4: 7-8)
Very simple to understand, and very profound. Simply stated, if I am have love for someone, I am doing as God would want me to do. If I don't have love for someone, than I am very far away from where God would want me to be.
We are taught that the first great commandment (of ALL the commandments) is to love God. And the second great commandment (of ALL the commandments) is to love our neighbor as ourselves. And from these two commandments hang ALL of the other commandments. It is all based on love. Everything.
As I thought about the significance of love in my life, I had a very strong image come to mind. There will come a day when I will have to stand before the Lord and account for every person I didn't love. Every single one. The Lord did not ask me to love most people, He commanded me to love everyone. I am sure I would be able to come up with all sorts of justifications and excuses for why there were certain people that I couldn't bring myself to love. But there is no addendum to the commandment starting with the word "except" ... it is nowhere to be found.
If Jesus could look, with love, upon those who were crucifying Him, how can I consider myself to be exempt from loving certain individuals. I cannot. It isn't part of the plan. Love truly is the one thing we can do that will always put our will in line with God's will. If there is sincere, God-like love in our hearts, all that we say and do will be good. When love slips out of us a bit, that is when our thoughts and actions start to slip.
I was blessed to have all of this reaffirmed to me today in Sacrament Meeting. As we listened to the wisdom of a wonderful man who I have been blessed to know for years, he emphasized that love is the principle characteristic we need to have in our lives. He referred to one of Elder Uchtdorf's talk from the October 2009 General Conference. He stated:
"Because love is the great commandment, it ought to be at the center of all and everything we do in our own family, in our Church callings, and in our livelihood. Love is the healing balm that repairs rifts in personal and family relationships. It is the bond that unites families, communities, and nations. Love is the power that initiates friendship, tolerance, civility, and respect. It is the source that overcomes divisiveness and hate. Love is the fire that warms our lives with unparalleled joy and divine hope. Love should be our walk and our talk.

"When we truly understand what it means to love as Jesus Christ loves us, the confusion clears and our priorities align. Our walk as disciples of Christ becomes more joyful. Our lives take on new meaning. Our relationship with our Heavenly Father becomes more profound. Obedience becomes a joy rather than a burden."

I think that sums up so well all of the things that have been fluttering around in my head and heart over the past few months. I am focusing my efforts on love now. When I look at someone, I have made it a goal to immediately think to myself, "I love you". I am working on implementing the beautiful advice given by Elder Marvin J. Ashton about acting with charity. His words were life-changing to me and I hope to continue to remember these words throughout the course of my life. He said:

"Perhaps the greatest charity comes when we are kind to each other, when we don't judge or categorize someone else, when we simply give each other the benefit of the doubt or remain quiet. Charity is accepting someone's differences, weaknesses, and shortcomings; having patience with someone who has let us down; or resisting the impulse to become offended when someone doesn't handle something the way we might have hoped. Charity is refusing to take advantage of another's weakness and being willing to forgive someone who has hurt us. Charity is expecting the best of each other."

I am making a plan now to improve my capacity and ability to love. It will be my focus for this next year, I will seek opportunities to practice, I will pray like I have never prayed before, I will study the scriptures for perfect examples, I will search words of the prophets and fill my desk with their gentle reminders.

And, hopefully, I will become a more loving person to ALL of my brothers and sisters.
No exceptions.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

I Need to Fill My Bucket

This past month has been hectic, tiring, crazy and flat out overwhelming. As a result, I am tired, I am whiny and I am not allowing my husband leave my side again for a year. Except for work, gigs, and youth conference, of course.

In April we started a project in our home that was put on hold for a while so that we could gather funds and find the right person to fix the first job we had done. It seemed that once we finally were able to get things going we were running with it. We stayed up at night working together on all the little details. For about a week, we really focused and made a lot of progress. We were tired from all the late nights, but it was nothing because of how much closer we grew working on the projects together.

Then it was time for my husband to go with the scouts on a week long camp. I was very excited about this trip for him. I knew it would be a good experience and I didn't think a week alone would be so bad.

Until the puke started coming. The entire week was spent cleaning puke and other extractions all over my home. Many, many loads of laundry later (and a few days), we seemed to be back in good health. And I was exhausted. Without my husband there to help that week, I had the entire burden, there was no help or relief for me and most of my good attributes were slowly wearing away.

Then he came home. I was so glad to see him, I probably would have cried, but I was too tired. I was so glad to have his support again, his friendship, his unconditional love.

But life started right back up for him and he was off to work, meetings and gigs right away. And then he was gone for another camp where he was needed, only for two days this time. The anxiety I was feeling must have gotten the better of me and I wasn't able to sleep, so I was not only emotionally exhausted, but physically as well.

We made it two more days and then he came home, however, just for a few hours before another gig and then work the next day.

It just feels like I have hit the bottom of my bucket and there's not much in there.

I want to kick myself for being here and feeling this way because I know what great experiences my husband has been having. He has been strengthened and nourished spiritually and emotionally over these past few weeks. He comes home strong and happy and wonderful. And he comes home to me, a pitiful little beaten down mouse waiting for him, sucking all that great energy right out of him as soon as he sets foot back in our home.

I whined to him about all that I have been through and how crummy I felt. He was very concerned and very understanding and VERY lovingly attentive to my complaints. And although I wanted his sympathy and I wanted him to know how much I need him, I also felt a tinge of guilt for taking away what he had been filled with during his experiences.

But, I still continued on in my sulking and whining.

He still has one more conference to go to this summer and I am not looking forward to it.

It seems a bit overwhelming and I am not exactly sure how to handle it. But I am running on empty and I don't seem to have the strength and the power I need to be the kind of person I know I can and should be. The kind of person I would want to come home to.

Thankfully, in church today, my heart was pointed toward something that has made a big impression on me and given me some hope, perhaps even the "Umph" I need to really turn to the Lord and ask for Him to fill in for what I am lacking right now.

We were told stories of some of our early church members and the many experiences they had. As I listened to stories of men being called to serve missions, leaving families behind as they went off to serve the Lord for months, perhaps years, at a time, my thoughts were turned to their wives. I thought of them staying home with their young families, not really knowing how they would manage. But, they did manage, and they were blessed. They faced hardships and sorrows on their own, without their beloved spouse there to support them at the time. They took on the responsibilities of running the home and the farm and whatever else was asked of them.

And they did it all, for months, or years.

It makes my little experience seem so small, so insignificant, so fixable. If the Lord could bless these women with the strength to carry on and handle their circumstances with faith, courage and dignity, then certainly, He will be there for me, too. If I can put my bucket in a position to receive blessings and love for my Savior, then it will be filled.

I need to set out my bucket,

I need to ask for His help.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A Happy Little Lesson

I am going to admit something in this post, something that you probably already know about me, but I don't often say it out loud. This is something that perfectly clarifies the overall "nerd" that I am.

I love going to church.

I always have.

Even as a kid, a teenager, I loved it. My mom never had to drag me out of bed for Sunday (although there was that year when we had late church and I was racing to get home in time for 21 Jump Street - not my finest moment). I just always wanted to be there, I always enjoyed learning about spiritual things, I loved sharing testimonies and singing hymns. It all brings so much joy and peace into my life.

That being said, last week I realized my little baby isn't so little and neither are his sounds. After a few minor interruptions in Relief Society I realized it was probably best for everyone if I just went out to the hall with him. I started pacing around with him, feeling a little irritated that this was probably the beginning of me not going to class anymore for a while. It would probably be another year before I would be able to go back to class and sit peacefully through lessons again.

I wasn't very happy about all of this. I was bothered and felt like I was missing out on something.

Right then, I had a wonderful comfort come to my heart. As I held my little one, I realized that I had another year to just hold him and squeeze him and watch him and kiss him and cuddle him and, well, all that wonderful stuff moms just can't seem to get enough of. It is very likely that this is our last baby, so to be able to prolong every single moment I get with him is a gift straight from heaven.

I might be missing out on a lesson, but I would rather not miss out on my baby. I am so grateful for the beautiful children Heavenly Father has sent my way. They are so precious and perfect. I wish I had been more aware of how important these little moments with them would end up being to me. I am glad, however, that I was finally able to recognize the importance of this time before it was over.

I have years and years full of Relief Society and Sunday School lessons. But my baby years are almost up and when they are done, they are done. This is my big clue to enjoy the NOW.

It is so beautiful, afterall.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

My Brothers and Sisters

One of the great things I have really come to love about the organization of our church is the strengthening we receive from our brothers and sisters in the gospel. As we come to know one another we are influenced by the testimony and goodness of those around us, and in our turn offer our strength to those around us who stand in need. And when we gather together to worship, the combined strength that is felt can be a huge lift to our spirits, something to give you the strength to go on and to do better.

Today was another wonderful Sunday where I was so moved by what I heard and witnessed, my soul has been singing and my heart has been much lighter, I am so grateful for the example these brothers and sisters show to me. But today, specifically, I was priviledged to be sitting near to a family that is a pillar of strength in our ward. They are goodness and courage and graciousness and fun all wrapped up into one. They are practically perfect in every way and I figure they are still here on earth only because we need keep learning from them.

This family has had their struggles, but their faith shines through whatever may come their way. We first met them 10 years ago when we moved into this ward. They had three children at the time, the youngest of which was just two years old. (They have since had one more child, just for the record.) He has a very serious congenital birth defect and requires a great deal of medical attention, so there are constant doctors appointments and medical procedures as a part of their daily lives. Yet, through it all they have all been so optimistic and hopeful and this young man is now 12 years old and doing very well. And today was the first day he participated in administration of the sacrament.

At first, I saw him passing the sacrament and my heart was full and excited for him. Then, I saw his mother and began seeing this miracle through her eyes and my heart was overcome with love and gratitude, faith and hope. So many miracles have happened with this young man and his family, miracles I am sure I haven't the slightest idea about, but you could see them all in her face. It is normal for all moms to beam as they watch their young men meet these milestones and receive the priesthood and grow in their gospel knowledge and understanding. But she wasn't beaming (although I am certain I will be), she did not have a look of pride or relief on her face. Rather, it was a look of gratitude far beyond anything many of us could relate to. It was a look of complete reliance on our Heavenly Father and appreciation for the countless blessings received over the years. It was the most humble, soft, faithful look I have ever seen in a mother watching a child moving forward and accomplishing new things in life.

It really was the glow of a loving Heavenly Father in her countenance. I have heard that scripture so often but today I saw it, I felt it and I have been changed by it.

Where would we be if we didn't have others around us to provide love and examples for us in our lives? I don't want to even pursue that thought at all. I just want to thank my Heavenly Father for letting me see this sweet sister today, for being able to sit close enough that I could see the years of miraculous events and tender mercies shining from her countenance. Because of her proximity, I was able to literally feel the love and appreciation she has in her heart for her Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ. And that has been a great reminder to me that Our Heavenly Father's love is available to all of us, an unlimited supply and an unending time table.