Friday, December 30, 2011

A month of discouraging news but tender mercies

I am a little ashamed to admit it but I started out this month questioning whether or not Heavenly Father will ever answer my prayers.  Before you start freaking out thinking I am losing my testimony- DON'T. 
I know he answers prayers. 
He answers my children's prayers, 
my friend's prayers,
the prayers of some of the sisters I visit teach. 
There have been times I look back on in my life and vividly remember Him answering MY prayers and doing it rather quickly. 
(Deciding whether or not to move to Prosper and whether or not I should marry Brent being two I can think of off the top of my head.) 
BUT ... Brent and I have been praying for most of the same things now for several years.  One of the biggies being that he would be healed. 
 Completely. 
 It was promised to him in one of his initial priesthood blessings when he was sick.  
Sometimes, it FEELS like He isn't listening.

(Sidenote: This was probably brought on by the fact that he did not get into the Arizona study that we found so hopeful.  We were bummed for awhile.  Now we are trying to talk his neurosurgeon here in Dallas into doing it.) 

But the other day Brent said something to me that resonated.  Bigtime.  From the moment that his headache came on he told me that he knew he had enough faith to be healed.  He also said he could wait and be patient and do it when the Lord decided it was time.  He has done that really well.  He rarely gets discouraged.  He doesn't suffer from depression - which blows his doctors away!  They don't have very many patients with Chronic headache at the pain level that he does who don't also have to take depression meds.  But Brent has never struggled with that.   

Well the other day he said that he now realizes that
the test for him has not been whether or not he had the FAITH to be healed but whether or not he had the FAITH to NOT be healed. 
Because I am telling you, that is ALOT harder. 
But he does. 
I know he does. 
He has grown so much through this challenge. 
 They don't call them character builders
for nothing. 

Heavenly Father doesn't answer our prayers the WAY we necessarily want him to. 
 But he does answer them. 
And it is usually through another person. 
He knows what is best long term.  He knew in June of 2006 how much Brent would grow from this trial.  He knew I would too.  He knew our kids would become compassionate people by living in a home with someone who was chronically ill.  He HAS answered our prayers by helping us through the last 5.5 years with tender mercies along the way.  Big tender mercies like the fact that he has been able to work and provide for us, that he has not developed an addiction to the meds they have him on ....

This month he provided some more tender mercy to us by inspiring others to do anonymous things in our behalf that have completely been a blessing to us.  There is no way anyone could have known to help us in this particular way had they not been inspired.  We have felt so much love and support from our friends and ward family. 

 One night I was feeling particularly glum.  Not depressed.  I don't suffer from that either, btw.  Just a little down about things - just for a moment.  It was late.  Christmas Eve.  Around 1 am.  All of a sudden I got a text from a dear friend that lives in another state that I haven't seen in 4 years.  Stacey sent me an email in the middle of the night.  Here is what she said:

Hello my friend!
How are you today this Christmas Eve?
Sleeping I hope. 
I am waiting for some biscotti to bake the second time.

I saw a lovely new family picture on facebook.
You are so blessed!
I love you and miss you. 
Take care of yourself.
You are more than worth it!

SOOOO simple.  So quick.  Probably took her all of five minutes, if that but It was exactly what I needed.  It made my heart smile.  I knew that Heavenly Father wanted to remind me of that and he sent Stacey a prompting to get me the message.  I am so grateful for people who live close to the spirit.  I am grateful for husbands that have faith, doctors who perform miracles through modern medicine, angels who leave gifts at front doors,  and a Heavenly Father that hears and answers prayers.  Yes, even mine.


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

16 on his 16th

Here are 16 things I love about this sixteen year old on his sixteenth birthday. 

He oozes integrity. 
I can believe everything he tells me.
He has great hair.  :O)
He is a terrific older brother to Brady
 and steps in to help me with him when Brent is not around.
He NEVER complains
even when we ask him to take the trash out, which is sometimes multiple times a day.
He is a loyal friend. 
I have seen it for myself over and over again and because of that...
He doesn't hesitate to speak up for those he loves,
even when it is not the popular thing to do.
He is a natural missionary. 
We just had a convert baptism in our ward last month all because this boy was not afraid to talk about church with one of his friends from school.
He makes me laugh. 
 Hourly.
He is a momma's boy
preferring to hang out with me over ALMOST anyone.  He has no qulams about walking out in public with his arm around me or holding my hand.
He is talented. 
He plays guitar, piano, and swims a mean butterfly stroke.
He is a natural born leader. 
He just is.  He doesn't even try.
He makes friends easy. 
He reminds me so much of my grandmother who was known for never having known a stranger.
He keeps his room tidier than anyone else in the house. 
plus...He knows how to clean toilets and do dishes.
He lives realy really close to the Spirit.
Which is a blessing to his family, friends, and the young men in his Quorum because he is sensitive to their needs. 
He is comfortable in his own skin
and doesn't want to be like everyone else or care about being associated with a particular group of people. 
He bears a beautiful testimony on a pretty regular basis.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Ok. I know it's a little blasphemous but...Christmas is not my favorite time of year

(Do you see the resemblance between me and this guy?  Read on and you will...)

It's toooooo busy.  Way tooo busy.  And soooooooooooooooooo commecialized.  And so expensive.  I feel obligated to buy presents for alot of people who I barely know and some I don't especially like.  I know, I know.  Call me a scrooge.  I'm really not.  There are aspects of the Christmas holiday that I DO like. 
I like the Christmas movies on Hallmark Channel
 (despite the bad acting and sappy story lines.)
I like that people - strangers- smile more, seemingly anyway.
I like that my kids get to spend time with my Father
(we don't get to see him as much as I would like but he NEVER misses Christmas with us)
I like that my kids are home from school for a nice long break.  
I like angel trees and anonymour donors and salvation army cans.
I like Christmas music.
 (THIS christmas I am especially enjoying Micheal Buble's new CD.)
Tacky Christmas sweaters make me laugh.
My Aunt's Prime Rib she serves ONLY on Christmas Day. 
(It is to DIE for.  Really.  I mean it.  If I am ever on death row and the prison ward asks me what I want my last meal to be it is going to be her Prime Rib, my mom's twice baked potatoes, and a rather large slice of my grandmother's chocolate cake.)
but I digress...
Let me tell you what I  don't like:
all the work of decorating
-and then after a week or two of it being out-
all the Christmas clutter
vacuuming up pine needles EVERYDAY
trying to figure out what to get for the person who has EVERYTHING
and for the person I BARELY know
or those who are like my brother and sister and are soooo hard to buy for because they are so dang PICKY
ALL the spending
ALL the shopping
the crowds at the mall
all the evening commitments -I think we had FIVE in the last week!
(although, I did enjoy that Cookie exchange this past Tuesday, that was kind of fun...)
I don't like the fact that I can never survive December without feeling like I am burning the candle at both ends.  I'm worn out. Partly because of my last "dislike"..
all the BAD food associated with the holidays.  When I eat bad, I feel icky for days.

Okay at the risk of being a TOTAL buzz- kill I'm gonna stop there.

I'll take a simple Easter or Valentine's Day or Thanksgiving ANYDAY over all the hubbub of Christmas.  Honestly, since I'm up on my soap box I'll just go ahead and say it.  I think it has become something the Savior would not necessarily want it to be.  The world feels like it is super distracted from the REAL reason we celebrate Christmas. 
Sunday our family is going to go to a local nursing care facility to sing Christmas Carols with some other awesome people that we know.  I can't wait.  So many of those people are sadly forgotten this time of year.  The Savior was a perfect example of seeking out the 1 lost little sheep even when it came at the expense of the 99 that were truckin' along just fine.  He went to the lepers and the outcast.  People that everyone else avoided.  It's my last ditch ever to not let the world take over our Christmas.  I really hope it is the one thing that my kids will remember about Christmas 2011.  That Spirit of serving others.  And trying our best to spread a little Christmas Cheer, even those of us...hmmm  hmmm, that don't have very much.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Charity that is not in a casserole


This is my favorite story about charity.  It's from one of my faves, Sister Sheri Dew.  I have been thinking about it because of an experience I had last week.  A painful one.   It is a great reminder of what true charity looks like. 

AT AGE THIRTY TWO, I WAS CALLED TO SERVE IN THE STAKE RELIEF SOCIETY PRESIDENCY, AND THE THREE OF US BONDED QUICKLY AS THE DEAREST OF FRIENDS. BECAUSE OF MY WORK SCHEDULE AND THE LARGE FAMILIES OF THE
PRESIDENT AND OTHER COUNSELOR, WE HELD PRESIDENCY MEETINGS ON
TUESDAYS AT THE UNEARTHLY HOUR OF 5:30 AM.
ONE MORNING, THE PRESIDENT RAISED AN ISSUE THAT FOR SOME REASON  SET ME OFF.  
I CLIMBED ON MY RAMEUMPTOM, DELIVERED A TIRADE, AND LEFT IN  A HUFF
BUT AS I DROVE AWAY AND HEADED TOWARD WORK, MY HEART SANK.
 I COULDN'T
BELIEVE I'D RESPONDED TO MY FRIENDS THAT WAY, AND I WAS DESPERATE TO APOLOGIZE. 

BUT I FELT AS IF I NEEDED TO DO IT IN PERSON, WHICH I DETERMINED TO DO THAT VERY NIGHT.  FINALLY EVENING CAME. I STOPPED AT HOME BRIEFLY TO PICK UP
SOMETHING,  ONLY TO HAVE THE DOORBELL RING.  

THERE STOOD MY TWO FRIENDS.  CASSEROLES IN HAND. 
THE MOTHERS OF FIFTEEN CHILDREN BETWEEN THEM HAD BROUGHT ME,
THE MOTHER OF NONE, DINNER.
"ILL NEVER FORGET WHAT THEY SAID: THIS MORNING WASN'T LIKE YOU. YOU MUST BE UNDER A LOT OF PRESSURE. WE THOUGHT DINNER MIGHT MAKE YOU FEEL BETTER." 
 TEARS FLOWED AS I APOLOGIZED, AND OUR FRIENDSHIP GREW INSTANTLY STRONGER.
IMAGINE WHAT THEY COULD HAVE BEEN SAYING ALL DAY ?
THAT LITTLE BRATSHE'S NOT EVEN MARRIED.  WHAT DOES SHE KNOW, SHE'S LUCKY TO EVEN BE IN THIS PRESIDENCY."  THEY COULD HAVE WHIPPED THEMSELVES INTO A LATHER AND PUNISHED ME FOR DAYS.
-BUT THEY DIDNT.
THEY DIDN'T GOSSIP.
THEY DIDNT JUDGE.
THEY DID GIVE ME THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT. 
THAT DAY I SAW WHAT CHARITY LOOKS LIKE.
CHARITY WAS NOT, BY THE WAY, THE CASSEROLES. IT WAS MY FRIENDS GENTLE
HANDLING OF MY MISTAKE,  AND THEIR WILLINGNESS TO ASSUME THE BEST AND
STEP FORWARD TO SOOTHE FEELINGS AND EMOTIONS.”

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

rudolph cake pops

We had a blast making these cute little Rudolph Cake pops last night.

The cast of characters:  Candy wafers, red m and m's (noses), candy eyes, (i found these in the baking section at Target), a baked cake, a can of frosting, lollipop sticks, and light brown pipe cleaners.
Once you have baked the cake and let it cool, break it up to fine crumbs.  It is easiest to do it with your hands.
Add some frosting from the can.  One big scoop will make the pops more "cakey" and two big spoonfulls will make it more "fudgey".

Once it is all mixed in well, form balls.  (One cake mix makes about 3.5 dozen)
Microwave your chocolate melts in 30 second segments and stir in between until completely melted.  insert popsicle sticks into the balls, making a hole.  Then pull it out, insert the tip of the lollipop stick into the melted chocolate and then back into the cake bal where the whole you created it.  Once it hardens it helps "cement" it onto the stick.  Wait a few minutes for it to let it dry and then completely immerse it into the melted chocolate.  Let the excess chocolate drip off.  Set it on wax paper to dry.

Once they have completely dried (maybe 15 minutes), add three more dots of melted chocolate to "glue" the eyes and nose into place.

Tie the pipe cleaners for ears!

They look really cute tied up in a can with cellophane.

Monday, December 12, 2011

no such thing as a little thing

Just when you think life is never gonna change and trials are getting the best of you:
A friend smiles at you
or calls and checks on how you are doing
or grabs you in the hall and gives you a tug that lets you know you are loved
or your Bishop says just the right thing at tithing settlement
or you become painfully aware of others who have far less.

Just when you think that maybe Heavenly Father doesn't hear you:
someone has a prompting in your behalf
and is kind and generous in your time of need
and does it anonymously so that you can be sure to think the one who was REALLY behind it.

Thank you so much to the people in my life that help to make things better.

I love this quote from Emily Dickinson:
"Sometimes when I consider what tremendous consequences come from little things-a chance word, a tap on the shoulder, or a penny dropped on a newsstand-I am tempted to think . . . there are no little things."

My heart is full.




Friday, December 9, 2011

What in the world am I teaching my children?

(I gave this talk at Stake Conference last month but wanted to remember it so I stuck it in here in my blog so that I will not forget this really important principle.)

What am I teaching my children? - NOT by what I SAY, but by what they see me DO.


There are countless examples in the scriptures of children who learn a great deal by watching righteous parents. 

As Lehi left his home, “the land of his inheritance, and his gold, and his silver, and his precious things and took nothing with him save it were his family, and provisions, and tents and departed into the wilderness…” Is there any doubt that Lehi’s sons knew exactly where worldy possessions ranked in his value system?

What about Isaac?  What did he learn about his father, Abraham by watching him?  There are many examples of Abraham’s obedience to the Lord’s will. I like the one in Genesis.  We learn that God commanded Abraham to circumcise every male in his household. Upon receiving that commandment, Abraham did not say, “Ok, I’ll be sure to get right on that the early part of next week.” Instead of procrastinating his obedience, Abraham went out and complied “in the selfsame day.” Isaac learned it was important to not only heed commandments but to heed them quickly.
(secretly, I wonder if Isaac would have preferred Abraham procrastinate THAT one.  OUCH!)
(oh...and they don't have a picture of Abraham circumcising himself or Isaac in the Gospel Art Picture Kit, in case you were wondering.)
What about Noah’s posterity?  They watched as their father was mocked and ridiculed  for his propethic warnings.  I'm sure everyone in the community thought that Noah was crazy.  Ark.  But did he let the world’s opinion of him stop him from building an ark?  What the world thought of him meant nothing to Noah, what he was more concerned with was honoring and obeying his GOD.
Lest we think that children only learn from their Father’s examples, Let’s ponder upon the apostle Paul’s words to young Timothy,  who wrote in praise of Timothy’s “unfeigned faith … , which dwelt first,” he said, “in thy grandmother Lois, and [in] thy mother Eunice.”4 “From [the days when thou wert] a child,” Paul said, “thou hast known the holy scriptures.”5 To be sure, Timothy – who went on to become a great missionary for the church in the OT grew up in a home where a love of the scriptures and faith in God were priorities.
You and I are the same.  Whether we want them to or not, out children are watching us.  They learn much  more from what we DO than what we SAY.
It has been said that three greatest teachers are example, example, and example.
Our children watch the way we deal with adversity, the way we resolve conflict with others, how we spend our free time, what we spend our money on, the attitude with which we serve in callings, how we speak of others, and how we heed counsel from priesthood leaders.
In October Conference, Sister Elaine Dalton (General YW President) taught us this concept.  She spoke to Fathers of daughters in particular and said this: 
“The most important thing a father can do for his [daughter] is to love [her] mother.”1 By the way you love her mother, you will teach your daughter about tenderness, loyalty, respect, compassion, and devotion. She will learn from your example what to expect from young men and what qualities to seek in a future spouse. ....Did you know that your testimony has a powerful influence on your daughters? I knew my father had a testimony. I knew he loved the Lord. And because my father loved the Lord, I did too. I knew he cared about the widows because he took his vacation to paint the home of the widow who lived next door. "
Actions speak louder than words.
Emerson said: “ What you are thunders so loudly in my ears, I cannot hear what you say.”
 IT gives MUSCLE to our teachings and testimony when we can back  it up with action.  Alma knew this when he counseled his son, Helaman.  In Alma 36,  Alma shares a beautiful testimony of his experiences and exhorts his son by saying, “I would that ye should do…” but if you read this passage of scripture, notice that almost every time Alma expresses hope that Helaman will do these things he follows it up with “As I have done” or another phrase that is suitable to that situation. 
If our children see us engaged in personal scripture study, fervently praying, selflessly serving others, turning off questionable media that offends the Spirit, opening our mouth as member missionaries, making temple worship a priority, and facing the challenges of life with faith and hope – chances are excellent they will do those things too.
Likewise, we should never permit ourselves to do anything that we are not willing to see our children do. If entertainment is not suitable for our children, it is not suitable for us.  We should refrain from gossip, murmuring, filling too much of our free time with meaningless activities, the use of profanity, and stirring up contention.
We are commanded to LEAD the way, not POINT the way.
Satan wants to neutralize the power of righteous parents.  He works overtime trying to limit the amount of influence we have on our children, in particular – our teenagers.  And he has some very effective ways of doing it. Because teenagers have an especially low tolerance for hypocrisy, he knows if that if our youth see us making choices that are contrary to the way we tell them to live, it nullifies the effect what we have taught has on them. 
Perhaps this is what the Prophet Joseph Smith meant when he spoke of the qualities of Priesthood leadership in the Doctrine and Covenants 121 when he said:  that influence can be maintained ONLY  “without hypocrisy and without guile”. 
Another effective tactic Satan uses is to get our youth’s time so tied up with technology, peers, and extracurricular activities and OUR time so tied up with work, worldly obligations, and yes – sometimes even church commitments – We don’t have any time to spend together.  The amount of time we spend with our children is directly proportional to the amount of influence we have on them.  The world is an intense place full of mixed messages that generally run contrary to what is taught in gospel centered homes.  Persuasive marketing pervades and confuses them about where TRUE happiness comes from.  The more time they spend out there listening to those messages, the more we compete to influence their lives.
As an example,  when Brent was Bishop he was gone Tues, Wed, Thurs. nights and all day Sunday.  Friday evenings were reserved for our date nights.  That didn't feel like enough time with the kids who were only 7, 6, 2, and 1 for Brent.  So we started the "daddy dates".  Every Monday night after FHE he would take turns taking one of the kids out on a one on one date for about an hour.  They would go get ice cream, play at the park, ride bikes, go to the church and shoot hoops.  Whatever that child wanted to do with Dad.  It was the highlight of their week.  And his, I think.  
In reality, one of the BEST examples we can set for our children is when they see us make mistakes but then activate the principles of repentance and the power of the Atonement – they see us change and become more like our Savior. 
Here is  the true story of a young 7th grade girl who wrote this for the Ensign magazine.
““One day while we were reading our scriptures, we talked about how important it is for each of us to have our own knowledge and testimony—and that we must not put off asking Heavenly Father for this. That night I went to my room and shut the door. I waited until everything was very quiet. Then I knelt down by my bed and prayed. I asked Heavenly Father to please send me an angel to tell me for sure if the gospel was true. He answered that he would, and I was to get in bed and wait for the angel to come. I felt very peaceful and happy, and I waited.
“The house was very still, and I think I had dropped off to sleep. I woke up when I heard a voice. It was Mother. She was kneeling beside my bed praying. She was praying for me. I listened, and when she finished I touched her hair so she would know I was awake. She put her arms around me and held me and her face was wet. She told me I had a Father in Heaven and that he loved me. She said she was glad he had let me come to live in our family. She told me he sent his own Son here to give his life so we could return to live with him if we obeyed his commandments. She told me to always remember that the gospel had been restored, and I must live it so I could go back to my Father.  “We held each other for a while,” Stephanie continued, “and then Mother left. After she left, Father in Heaven said to my mind, ‘I sent you your angel.’”
(“Living By The Spirit” , Ensign August 1984, p. 15)
I'm thinking  of a list of ways I want to be a better example to my children.  Starting today.

. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Turning the other cheek


I got some more practice at turning the other cheek today.  Uuugghhh.  It is so hard to do sometimes but I know it is what the Savior expects of us.  I had to go back and read the counsel straight from his mouth.
27 ¶ But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you,
28 Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.
29 And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also.
30 Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again.
31 And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.
Luke 6:27-31.
I dunno about you but this one has always been one of the harder ones for me.  I have to really work at it. Counting to 10,000 helps.
I also tend to refer to this guy when someone has gotten me hot under the collar.


Elder David Bednar
(He is pretty much genuis.)

"When we believe or say we have been offended, we usually mean we feel insulted, mistreated, snubbed, or disrespected. And certainly clumsy, embarrassing, unprincipled, and mean-spirited things do occur in our interactions with other people that would allow us to take offense. However,
it ultimately is impossible for another person to offend you or to offend me. Indeed, believing that another person offended us is fundamentally false. To be offended is a choice we make; it is not a condition inflicted or imposed upon us by someone or something else.
In the grand division of all of God’s creations, there are things to act and things to be acted upon (see 2 Nephi 2:13–14). As sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father, we have been blessed with the gift of moral agency, the capacity for independent action and choice. Endowed with agency, you and I are agents, and we primarily are to act and not just be acted upon. To believe that someone or something can make us feel offended, angry, hurt, or bitter diminishes our moral agency and transforms us into objects to be acted upon. As agents, however,
you and I have the power to act and to choose how we will respond to an offensive or hurtful situation.

In many instances, choosing to be offended is a symptom of a much deeper and more serious spiritual malady.
The Savior is the greatest example of how we should respond to potentially offensive events or situations.
“And the world, because of their iniquity, shall judge him to be a thing of naught; wherefore they scourge him, and he suffereth it; and they smite him, and he suffereth it. Yea, they spit upon him, and he suffereth it, because of his loving kindness and his long-suffering towards the children of men” (1 Nephi 19:9).
Through the strengthening power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, you and I can be blessed to avoid and triumph over offense. “
Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them” (Psalm 119:165).

In some way and at some time, someone in this Church will do or say something that could be considered offensive. Such an event will surely happen to each and every one of us—and it certainly will occur more than once.

Though people may not intend to injure or offend us, they nonetheless can be inconsiderate and tactless.  You and I cannot control the intentions or behavior of other people. However, we do determine how we will act. Please remember that you and I are agents endowed with moral agency, and we can choose not to be offended.
(Note from me:  I LOVE this example he gives below:)
During a perilous period of war, an exchange of letters occurred between Moroni, the captain of the Nephite armies, and Pahoran, the chief judge and governor of the land. Moroni, whose army was suffering because of inadequate support from the government, wrote to Pahoran “by the way of condemnation” (Alma 60:2) and harshly accused him of thoughtlessness, slothfulness, and neglect. Pahoran might easily have resented Moroni and his message, but he chose not to take offense. Pahoran responded compassionately and described a rebellion against the government about which Moroni was not aware. And then he responded, “Behold, I say unto you, Moroni, that I do not joy in your great afflictions, yea, it grieves my soul. … And now, in your epistle you have censured me, but it mattereth not; I am not angry, but do rejoice in the greatness of your heart” (Alma 61:2, 9).
One of the greatest indicators of our own spiritual maturity is revealed in how we respond to the weaknesses, the inexperience, and the potentially offensive actions of others. A thing, an event, or an expression may be offensive, but you and I can choose not to be offended—and to say with Pahoran, “it mattereth not.”
I think Elder Bednar might have just called me "spiritually mature".  Which  makes me feel much better. 


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

What a Prophet teaches me about ADVERSITY

Elder Dallin H. Oaks
Adversity will be a constant or occasional companion for each of us throughout our lives. We cannot avoid it.
 The only question is how we will react to it.
 Will our adversities be stumbling blocks or stepping-stones?
Father Lehi taught his son Jacob that in order to bring to pass righteousness, the Lord’s plan allowed for wickedness. In order for God’s children to appreciate joy, they must also be subject to misery (see 2 Ne. 2:23). To accomplish the purposes of God, there must needs be “an opposition in all things” (2 Ne. 2:11). Our adversities are part of that opposition. Elder Howard W. Hunter explained the principle in a general conference address many years ago:
“We came to mortal life to encounter resistance. It was part of the plan for our eternal progress. Without temptation, sickness, pain, and sorrow, there could be no goodness, virtue, appreciation for well-being, or joy” (“God Will Have a Tried People,” Ensign, May 1980, 25).
 The Lord uses adversities to send messages to his children.

 They can turn our hearts to God.
Nephi was told that the natural enemies of his descendants would be “a scourge unto thy seed, to stir them up in remembrance of me” (2 Ne. 5:25).
The idea of a scourge to cause people to remember God reaffirms a familiar teaching in the 12th chapter of Hebrews: “Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth” (Heb. 12:6). Even as adversities inflict mortal hardships, they can also be the means of leading men and women to eternal blessings.
I read of a ...contrast after the devastating hurricane that destroyed thousands of homes in Florida some years ago. A news account quoted two different persons who had suffered the same tragedy and received the same blessing: each of their homes had been totally destroyed, but each of their family members had been spared death or injury. One said that this tragedy had destroyed his faith; how, he asked, could God allow this to happen? The other said that the experience had strengthened his faith. God had been good to him, he said. Though the family’s home and possessions were lost, their lives were spared and they could rebuild the home. For one, the glass was half empty. For the other, the glass was half full. The gift of moral agency empowers each of us to choose how we will act when we suffer adversity.
 Our responses will inevitably shape our souls and ultimately determine our status in eternity. Because opposition is divinely decreed for the purpose of helping us to grow, we have the assurance of God that in the long view of eternity it will not be allowed to overcome us if we persevere in faith. We will prevail. Like the mortal life of which they are a part, adversities are temporary.
 What is permanent is what we become by the way we react to them.
Our adversities can be the means of obtaining blessings unobtainable without them.
How can adversities be for our good? Speaking in area conferences more than 20 years ago, President Ezra Taft Benson explained:
“It is not on the pinnacle of success and ease where men and women grow most. It is often down in the valley of heartache and disappointment and reverses where men and women grow into strong characters”
(in Conference Report, Stockholm Sweden Area Conference, 1974, 70).

“Every reversal can be turned to our benefit and blessing and can make us stronger, more courageous, more godlike”
 (in Conference Report, Philippine Islands Area Conference, 1975, 11).
A few years ago I listened as a widow spoke in fast and testimony meeting. She told how she had lost her husband a year earlier. “He was a good man,” she said, adding, “I lived in his shadow.” Now that he was gone, she said she had to develop qualities in herself that were dormant during her husband’s lifetime. She expressed appreciation for that opportunity. Some might not understand that expression, but I do. I heard my own mother express a similar thought about the effect on her of losing her husband—my father—after only 11 years of marriage. To carry this point to an even more personal level, I know it was a blessing to be raised by a widowed mother whose children had to learn how to work, early and hard. As promised in the scriptures, the Lord consecrated her affliction for her gain (see 2 Ne. 2:2) and for the blessing of her children.
Thousands of years ago, Egyptian taskmasters afflicted the Israelites with heavy burdens. However, the Bible records, “the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew” (Ex. 1:12).
We may look on the shortage of money and the struggle to find rewarding employment as serious adversities. I remember such experiences and feelings, and I am unpersuaded that relative poverty and hard work are greater adversities than relative affluence and free time. You are all familiar with the cycles reported in the Book of Mormon in which prosperity led to complacency and pride and spiritual downfall and in which deprivations led to humility and spiritual growth. I believe that the easy way materially usually is not the best way spiritually. For many, though not all, material wealth and abundant free time are spiritual impediments.

If we face up to our individual adversities or hardships, they can become a source of blessing. God will not give us adversities we cannot handle, and he will bless us richly for patiently doing the best we can in the circumstances.
Elaine Cannon reminds us of an important way these blessings come and how we can make the most of them.
“When we are pushed, stung, defeated, embarrassed, hurt, rejected, tormented, forgotten—when we are in agony of spirit crying out ‘why me?’ we are in a position to learn something”
(Adversity, 47).

President Kimball gave us these inspired thoughts on the blessings of adversity:
“I’m grateful that my priesthood power is limited and used as the Lord sees fit to use it. I don’t want to heal all the sick—for sickness sometimes is a great blessing. People become angels through sickness.  “Have you ever seen someone who has been helpless for so long that he has divested himself of every envy and jealousy and ugliness in his whole life, and who has perfected his life? I have. Have you seen mothers who have struggled with, perhaps, unfortunate children for years and years, and have become saints through it? … No pain suffered by man or woman upon the earth will be without its compensating effects if it be suffered in resignation and if it be met with patience” (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball [1982], 167–68).
I know that the consequences of the “furnace of affliction” bring eternal blessings. Those blessings are made possible because of the Resurrection and Atonement of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I know and testify to the truth of Alma’s teaching: “Whosoever shall put their trust in God shall be supported in their trials, and their troubles, and their afflictions, and shall be lifted up at the last day” (Alma 36:3).

Monday, December 5, 2011

Having a heck of a time seeing the shoreline...


I ran across this post on the TOFW (Time Out For Women) blog. I love it. It articulates exactly how I feel.
Do you know the story of Florence Chadwick?

She was the first woman to swim the English Channel.
Both ways (England to France and France to England).
No. small. feat.


Two years later she attempted to be the first woman to swim the 21-miles from the Southern California coast to Catalina Island.
The water was 48 degrees.
The fog was thick.
Visibility? Nearly nada.

She finally quit.
Only to find out she was a half mile from her goal as she was pulled into the support boat.
A half mile.

When she was asked by reporters why she had quit when she was so close, Florence said:
"I was licked by the fog."

She swam 20.5 miles of her 21 mile journey.
And she quit.
Because she couldn't see the shoreline.

A similar thing had almost happened on her earlier attempt to swim the English Channel. The fog was too much and Florence became discouraged. But this time, when she wanted to be pulled into the boat, it was her father who pointed out how close she was to shore. Florence lifted her head, saw land, and finished what she started.

I’ve had times in my life when I’ve almost been licked by the fog.

It happened at mile 9 of the half marathon. And I walked the full mile.

I was so frustrated I couldn't run.
The cramp in my calf had started at 6.5 miles and by mile 9 it had done me in.
I was tired.
Every self doubt was coming at me full force.
I was done.
I knew I couldn’t quit.
But, I was done just the same—a paradox to be sure.

My running partner, Erin, was still by my side but I had hoped she would get to run the last bit at her pace. I knew she wanted to but I also knew she wasn't going to leave me in the state I was in. And while I was grateful for that, I knew somehow the state I was in wasn't going to leave me unless she did. For as perfect of a partner as she was from the beginning, I sensed I had to dig deep on this one. I had to do it because I was capable of doing it...not because someone was capable of getting me to do it.

We passed mile marker 10 and I told her to go.
I promised her I would be okay.
And I watched her run off ahead.

Then I hit "play" on my little nano.

A dear friend wanted to make sure I had “Walk on Water” by Christian artist Britt Nicole. But, he couldn't have known when it would play...how much I would need it. And truly, the song could not have been a more perfect expression of the Lord's complete awareness of me and the very spot I was in. The Lord knew what Mile 10 would be for me.

I knew He knew.
And, through the tears, I started to run (again).

There is a living God who knows our lives intimately.
Are you swimming towards a shoreline you cannot see?
Are you running towards a finish line that feels too far away?
The shoreline is there…the finish line is fixed. Trust He will help you get to it.

Because He will.


A little over five years ago I set out on an endurance swim of my own. Brent got sick, then unemployed, then we went through a substantial amount of savings paying for attorneys so that he would be allowed to work. Throughout all that we have suffered financial reversal and been faced with money issues that, quite frankly, I never thought we would have. None of it has been through our own doing. It has just been life happening.
Now we are dealing with another employer issue not paying us what they originally agreed to pay us. Life has been harder the last 6 months than it has in my entire life.
This morning I told Heavenly Father in my personal prayer that I was tired! If I could just see the shore line! I can't. I am fighting as hard as I can to not get discouraged. I know where discouragement comes from. Heavenly Father keeps telling me to choose to have Hope.
Some days are better than others. Today was not such a good one.
I'm tired.