Saturday, December 31, 2011

Day 365, December 31

The year is drawing to a close. For our family, it has been a year of ups and downs. I imagine it has been that way for many.
This year has been a journey for me. I've learned more about myself this year than in any other. Part of that is because of this blog. Writing about my blessings has been an eye-opener. The things that I have related haven't been earth-shattering. They are the day-to-day happenings in the life of a wife and mother and grandmother, a sister and friend and writer. They are the small things of which is life is made.
Most of us will not be a counter-terrorism operative (do you ever dream of spying for our country?). Most of us will not cure the common cold. Most of us will not invent the next best thing to sliced bread.
Does that mean that what we do doesn't matter?
No! Each time I write a card to a friend, I (like to) think it matters. Each time I drive a friend to the hospital or the store, it matters. Each time you serve in your church or community, offer a smile to someone who is down, or contribute to your favorite charity, it matters. It always matters when we stoop to lift another.
Life is made up of small acts, small and petty, generous and thoughtful. Life is made up of choices, foolish and wise, bad and good. I'm still wending my way through this journey called life, still trying to get it right, still trying to make me in to what the Savior wants.
As the year winds up, I had an epiphany: if I truly want to get it right, if I truly want to make me in to what the Savior wants, I have to turn myself over to Him. For only through Him, will I ever get anything right.
So, for today, and for every day, I am grateful for the journey of allowing the Savior to get it right for me.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Day 364, December 30

It is the day before New Year's Eve.
It is a time for reflection. It is a time for congratulations. (After all, we made it through another year, didn't we?) It is a time for goal-making. Notice I didn't say resolution-making. The word resolution tends to give me hives.
You're probably already thinking of goals for the new year. What are they? To exercise more? To spend more time with your family? To de-clutter your house?
All worthy goals. I've found that, at least for myself, goals tend to fall by the wayside ... unless I'm setting a goal for the right reason. Setting a goal to please someone else probably won't work. Setting a goal because I believe in it is far more likely to succeed. That was the case with The Gratitude Project. I set it because I believed in it, because I needed it, because it had divine approbation.
So, for today, I am grateful for worthy goals set for the right reason.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Day 363, December 29

"I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure, which is: Try to please everybody."--Pulitizer Prize-winner Herbert Bayard Swope
Writers frequently have discussions about whether we should write to the market. Christian romances are hot one year; erotic romances are hot the next. Paranormal and historical work their way in as well. Should we, we ask ourselves, write vampires and zombies because vampires and zombies are "in?"
To be honest, I tried to write a zombie story. I didn't have a zombie in me to be found--anywhere. I admitted that I couldn't do it, no matter how hot zombies are. Writing to the market has never worked for me, and I should have realized that.
Admitting that I couldn't please "the market" in writing was freeing. Just as is admitting that I can't please everybody. In fact some days I can't even please one person, including myself. So why do I beat myself up when I learn that I have yet again failed to please someone? Please don't misunderstand--I'm not saying we shouldn't try to help others, only that we shouldn't try to live our lives according to the "market."
Who should we try to please? That's easy. Heavenly Father and Jesus. If we manage to please Them, then we are probably on the right track.
So, for today, I am grateful that I finally understand whom I should try to please.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Day 362, December 28

I was fortunate enough to spend Christmas with much of my family, including my 12-year-old granddaughter, Reynna.
I've written about Reynna before. She is my delight, my joy, my treasure. I've already admitted that I'm shameless in bragging about my grandchildren, a fact that my husband, my children, and now even Reynna remind me of constantly. What can I say? I'm a grandma. That says it all.
Reynna gave me a very special present. She wrote a poem for me. I'd like to share it with you now:
Grandmother, grandmother, comfort me
Grandmother, grandmother, in times of need.
Grandmother, grandmother, love me so
Grandmother, grandmother, don't let me go.
Grandmother, grandmother, though I'm getting old
Grandmother, grandmother, I will always be yours--
Just like you've been told.
When I read this, tears pricked my eyes. What grandmother could ask for more? I received other beautiful gifts, other thoughtful gifts, other lovely gifts, but none meant or will mean more to me than these words.
So, for today, I am grateful for my sweet Reynna.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Day 361, December 27

A wise man will make more opportunities than he finds.
- Francis Bacon

I love this quote. I love the pro-active sentiment of it. I love the wisdom in it. How many times have I bemoaned lost opportunities, lost moments? Too many. I look at what I could have done, should have done, might have done if I had seized an opportunity, seized a moment, to make a difference.

Can you think of any times when you lost an opportunity? Chances are the answer is yes. If so, take heart. You can still make a difference. If not, congratulations. You are that rarity, someone who never lets an opportunity pass by.

I had a chance to make a difference in someone's life a week ago. Because I was involved in my own pity-party of one, I missed it. The sad thing is, I will never get that moment back. The good thing: I can do better the next time. If I choose to.

So, for today, I am grateful for opportunities that we make.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Day 360, December 26

It is the day after Christmas. For many, it is a day of standing in lines at stores, waiting to snap up the after-holiday buys or to return an unwanted gift.
I've been thinking a lot about gifts lately. Most of us have received, at one time or another, a gift that didn't work for us, that we didn't care for, that didn't fit, etc. It's certainly not wrong to want to find something that suits us. At the same time, however, we don't want to hurt the feelings of the giver.
As I ruminated over that, I started to think about a different kind of gifts. Has the Father given me gifts that (I believed) didn't work for me, that I didn't care for, that didn't fit? What must He think of my ungracious response? What must He think when I cast aside what He has picked out for me and whine that I want someone else's gift? What must He feel when I try to "return" that gift? I think He must be sad and disappointed.
How lowering that is, to know that I have disappointed the Father with my immature and selfish attitude.
So, for today, I am grateful for gifts from family, friends, and the Father.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Day 359, December 25

Did you know that Henry Wadsworth Longfellow originally composed "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" as a poem, "Christmas Bells?" Did you know that it was intended as much as an anti-war protest as it was a Christmas message? Did you know that he wrote it on December 25, 1864? And did you know that it started out with seven stanzas?

I didn't. When I did some research on the the origins of the hymn, I realized that I had many of my "facts" wrong. I had believed Longfellow to have composed the iconic words in response to his son's death in the Civil War. It is true that his son was injured but not fatally so. Longfellow composed the poem in his grief over his wife's death several years earlier. His wife died of burns received in a library fire.

Below I've included the poem in its entirety.

"I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till, ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
"For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep
"God is not dead, nor doth he sleep.
The wrong shall fail,
The right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men."

So, for today, I am grateful for inspired words from an inspired man. I am always grateful for Christmas bells.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Day 358, December 24

Do you feel the excitement in the air? Christmas is but a day away. This year, it falls on a Sunday. How appropriate that we celebrate Christ's birth on the Sabbath, the day set aside for worshipping Him.
I have always loved Christmas Eve. I love the anticipation of it. I love the last minute preparations. I love the secrets shared and the secrets kept.
Years ago, some friends brought over a bike they had bought for their daughter and stored it in our garage until Christmas Eve. That evening, they picked it up to have it ready for the morning. I was delighted to be "in" on the surprise.
What are your favorite Christmas Eve memories? Do you have special foods that always grace your table? With her husband of German descent, my sister and her family had German sausages, red cabbage, and hot potato salad for their Christmas Eve meal. Other families prefer to have their big meal on Christmas day. Traditions are important, not in the ritual, but in the sense of continuity they give.
So, for today, I am grateful for Christmas Eve.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Day 357, December 23

It is a season for miracles. I wonder if we would find more miracles in our lives if we, first, looked more carefully, and, second, broadened our definition of what a miracle is.
Let me tell you about some miracles in my life:
Last year at this time, our son was in despair. His life was in shambles, and he needed help. Help arrived. Friends and church members showed up in droves to help, with babysitting and meals, shoulders to cry on and hearts to weep with him. This year, he is in a good place. His sons are thriving. He has found a beautiful young woman to share his life with. He has found strenghts he didn't know he had.
Another miracle: a dear friend who has been in the hospital much of the year for chemotherapy treatments is now in remission and came home two weeks before Christmas to share the holidays with his family.
Another miracle: a month ago, in driving home from work, my husband was hit from behind. His car was totalled, but he walked away unharmed.
What are the miracles in your life? I'm sure you have them. Have you taken time to acknowledge them?
"There are only two ways to live your life ... one is as though nothing is a miracle, and the other is as though everything is a miracle."--Albert Einstein
So, for today, I am grateful for miracles.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Day 356, December 22

Our son Rob and his two boys are here for Christmas. Brigham, 7, and Isaac, 4, are full of mischief, curiosity, and unflagging energy. The last year has not been easy for Rob's small family. The year started with heartache and disappointment, but Rob has come through with his faith in the Lord intact and his love for his boys stronger than ever.
The parents among you know that when your child hurts, you hurt. When your child grieves, you grieve. When your child cries, you cry.
What does this have to do with Christmas?
The answer is simple. With Christ at its center, Christmas reminds us that Christ is always the answer. No matter what the question is, Christ is the answer. When his heart was breaking, Rob turned to Christ. When my heart was breaking for him, I, too, turned to Christ.
So, for today, I am grateful that we can always turn to Christ.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Day 355, December 21

Are you feeling stressed during these last days before Christmas? I hope not. I hope you've been able to let go of things that don't really matter and to hold onto things that do. The trick is in knowing what really matters. That varies for each of us.
Does having a beautifully decorated home complete with garlands, exquisite ornaments, and fine holiday china matter to you? Then you should focus on that. Does hand-writing Christmas cards matter to you (as it does to me)? Then you should concentrate on that.
Isn't it wonderful that we're all so different and that we have the freedom to choose which holiday activities we'll expend our energies and time on? What matters to you? I've found that discovering what matters to you and then going after it is an important factor in happiness. If someone told me I had to spend hours--days--decorating for Christmas, I would be less than happy. That simply isn't important to me. Spending time with family and friends is important. I forego other things to make this happen.
So, for today, I am grateful for the freedom to choose what matters.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Day 354, December 20

I have always loved the triumphant and joyous words of the hymn, "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing."
It wasn't until I did some research that I became aware of Wesley's original words for this beloved Christmas carol. I wanted to share them with you today:
Hark, how all the welkin rings,
“Glory to the King of kings;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”Joyful, all ye nations, rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
Universal nature say,
“Christ the Lord is born to-day!”Christ, by highest Heaven ador’d,
Christ, the everlasting Lord:
Late in time behold him come,
Offspring of a Virgin’s womb!Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see,
Hail the incarnate deity!
Pleased as man with men to appear,
Jesus! Our Immanuel here!Hail, the heavenly Prince of Peace!
Hail, the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
Risen with healing in his wings.Mild He lays his glory by,
Born that man no more may die;
Born to raise the sons of earth;
Born to give them second birth.Come, Desire of nations, come,
Fix in us thy humble home;
Rise, the woman’s conquering seed,
Bruise in us the serpent’s head.Now display thy saving power,
Ruined nature now restore;
Now in mystic union join
Thine to ours, and ours to thine.Adam’s likeness, Lord, efface;
Stamp Thy image in its place.
Second Adam from above,
Reinstate us in thy love.Let us Thee, though lost, regain,
Thee, the life, the inner Man:
O! to all thyself impart,
Form’d in each believing heart.
So, for today, I am grateful for the inspired words of a master poet.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Day 353, December 19

A few days ago, Barbara Walters had a television special where she interviewed her "most interesting" people of 2011. I didn't watch it, but I couldn't help seeing advertisements about it. Among her most interesting people were the Kardashians (does anyone REALLY know what they do or why we should want to keep up with them?), actors, and others.
Walters is a respected journalist, so I figure she must have valid reasons for choosing these people. Let me tell you about some of my most interesting people. They won't make the covers of People or Sports Illustrated or Time magazines, but I'm pretty sure they will make more eternal publications.
A dear friend is undergoing horrendous chemotherapy sessions every 21 days. Rather than complain, she still finds the energy and compassion to ask about others, wanting to know how they're doing. Another friend visits her husband in a Denver hospital every day, making the 50 mile drive there and back, while at the same time caring for her three children and maintaining the house. Still another friend designs and sews beautiful doll clothes, then dresses dolls she has purchased, and gives them to the Salvation Army to brighten the Christmas of needy children. I could go on, but I'm sure you're getting the idea.
What, may you ask, does this have to do with Christmas? The segue is pretty straightforward: Christmas is about Christ and Christ is about service.
So, for today, I am grateful for truly interesting people.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Day 352, December 18

It is the last Sunday before Christmas. With our thoughts turning increasingly to Christ, it seemed appropriate that I quote the words of one of my favorite hymns. It is not precisely a Christmas carol, but it does express feelings of praise and worship.
(A bit about this hymn: Elder Bruce R. McConkie, 1915-1985, penned these words shortly before he died. This, I believe, gives them greater poignancy.)
I believe in Christ, he is my king!
With all my heart to him I'll sing;
I'll raise my voice in praise and joy,
In grand amens my tongue employ.
I believe in Christ; he is God's Son
On earth to dwell his soul did come.
He healed the sick, the dead he raised,
Good works were his, his name be praised.
Do you feel Elder McConkie's conviction, his absolute certainty in Christ's divinity and power? I do. Tears prick my eyes whenever I hear this hymn sung. Music frequently touches my soul more than does the spoken word.
So, for today, I am grateful for the beautiful words of a great man.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Day 351, December 17

"We're never so lost that our angels can't find us."--bumper sticker
Do you believe in angels. I hope so. I know I do. I believe in heavenly and earthly angels.
Chances are you can name many angels in your life. Who are they? A sister? Friends? Your mother? Your father? A favorite aunt? A member of your church? A stranger who helped you when you found yourself stuck at the side of the road when your car died?
Let me tell you of two dear friends who were angels when I most needed them. Fourteen years ago, my mother died in the early fall. My grief was so overwhelming that I stopped functioning for a while. At the same time, my husband's fledgling business was struggling, and money was scarce. Christmas was approaching, and I wondered how we were going to buy a few gifts for our five children.
Two weeks before Christmas, my two walking buddies, Tami and Marian, showed up one morning with a beautifully decorated box. They urged me to open it right then. With trembling fingers, I did so. Inside I found treasure after treasure: exquisite handmade cards complete with stamps, a variety of fine chocolates, and two angel pins.
My eyes filled with tears as I took in the very personal gifts. Each was chosen with care, with thought, with love.
Gifts don't make Christmas; love does. The love my friends showed me during what had promised to be a dismal season reminded me that angels were watching over me. These angels appeared in the guise of friends, dressed in sweats and sneakers, but their haloes were plainly visible.
Their loving gesture turned around my attitude. I found myself once again excited about Christmas, excited at the possibilities, excited by the reminder that Christ is always in my life and frequently shows His love through others.
So, for today, I am grateful for angels.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Day 350, December 16

To speak gratitude is courteous and pleasant, to enact gratitude is generous and
noble, but to live gratitude is to touch Heaven. ~Johannes A. Gaertner
Knowing that I love words, a dear cousin sent me this quote. It reminded me that gratitude, like many things, has different levels. Speaking, enacting, living. Sometimes it's hard enough to just speak words of gratitude. Have you noticed all the versions of thank-you cards that Hallmark and other card companies make available? I've wondered if we go to them when we want to say "thank you" to someone because we feel we don't have the words ourselves.
Don't get me wrong. I love beautiful cards. I love the verses that clever authors have put together to express gratitude. At the same time, however, I believe that we should not rely on someone else's words to say what is in our hearts.
Okay. We've covered speaking. Let's move on to enacting. How can we enact gratitude? Can we repay a favor by extending it to someone else in need? That is frequently the best way to show a generous giver that his or her kindness to us is appreciated and acknowledged.
Now comes the really hard part: living gratitude. That is where we show the Father that we appreciate His constant care, His constant watchfulness, His constant love. That is where it is easy to slip, believing that an all-knowing Father understands our gratitude. And He does. But, like all of us, He likes to hear it, see it, feel it occasionally.
So, for today, I am grateful for people who speak, enact, and live gratitude.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Day 349, December 15

Today is my son Hyrum's birthday. Hyrum was our "Christmas baby," with a due date of December 26. He arrived nearly two weeks early, eager, I always believed, to get on with the business of living.
When my husband and I shared the news with family and friends that we were expecting a new baby the day after Christmas, we met with mixed reactions. Most people were thrilled with the news; however, a few asked "What were you thinking? Having a baby so close to Christmas?"
For me, having a baby during the Christmas season heightened my love for this time of year. It drew me closer to Mary, as I pictured her "great with child."
And so I welcomed Hyrum in to my arms and in to my heart. He has always been a delight, a curious blend of vulnerability and brashness, sensitivity and humor. Please indulge me as I share a story about him with you.
Last March, Hyrum won an all-expenses paid trip to Mexico for two. His immediate reaction was to invite his older brother, Rob, to join him. Rob had had a rough year and was in much need of a few care-free days. Hyrum could have invited a friend, but he chose to include his brother. My heart was touched by the gesture.
So, for today, I am grateful for Hyrum, my "Christmas baby."

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Day 348, December 14

Eleven days until Christmas. Can you feel the excitement in the air? I can. As a child, I believed that due to the gift-opening of Christmas morning. As I grew older, my anticipation stemmed from my hope that those who I bought or made presents for would like them.
My anticipation has evolved again. Now I wonder (and hope) that the Savior will be pleased with my goal this year. Will my puny efforts earn His approbation? Will He find merit in The Gratitude Project? I hope so.
I doubt, though, that He will find merit in some of my actions and words, those that are unkind, selfish, immature. Will He, can He, still love me, despite my many failings and weaknesses and sins?
Of course.
Has He been hurt by those same failings and weaknesses and sins?
Of course.
That dichotomy, His simultaneous ability to love me and to be hurt by me, never ceases to amaze me. A childhood favorite hymn contains the words "I stand all amazed by the love Jesus offers me ..." I continue to stand "all amazed."
So, for today, I am grateful for the Savior's infinite capacity to love.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Day 347, December 13

Sometimes it seems as if Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus, receives little attention in the celebration of this most glorious time of year. It wasn't until I was much older that I understood the enormity and humility of what Joseph did in accepting Mary, when she was with child. Another kind of man could have, would have, had her stoned. Yet he gave her his name and lovingly cared for her.
Several years ago, I put together a small booklet of original poems for my grandchildren. I'd like to share one of those poems with you now:
I wonder what Joseph felt
When in the stable Mary gave birth
To the child, Jesus Christ,
The Savior of all the earth.
I wonder what Joseph felt
When he looked at that Holy Child.
Did he feel the glorious presence
In one so meek and mild?
I wonder what Joseph felt
When the shepherds came.
Did he, too, kneel in awe
Of the babe who bore Christ's name?
So, for today, I am grateful for Joseph, a noble and gentle man.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Day 346, December 12

I love nativity sets and all the figurines. I love arranging the sheep and the cattle around the baby Jesus. Recently I heard a song with the words "... sheep who have gone astray, who have lost their way ..."
The Savior was always concerned with lost sheep. I admit that I have not been very concerned about lost sheep. Maybe because I'm too busy trying not to get lost myself.
Then it came to me that maybe, just maybe, I wouldn't feel so lost sometimes if I spent more time tending the Father's other sheep, lost or not. Would I feel more "found" if I worked to tend other sheep, whether they be my grandchildren, my friends, the woman I see on the street who is pushing a shopping cart? I don't know. But I think it's worth a try.
So, for today, I am grateful for sheep, both found and lost.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Day 345, December 11

In my earlier years, I loved an ice cream named "Chocolate Ripple." Chocolate rippled through the vanilla ice cream in lovely waves, each one giving way to another stream of delightful chocolate.
Lately, I've been thinking about other ripples. Do you believe in a rippling effect, that one action begats another, then another, then another? Some people refer to this as the "butterfly effect."
I honestly don't know if the flutter of a butterfly's wings in Colorado can or will have an effect on someone or something in China, but it's fun to speculate on.
I do know, however, that one act of kindness (or unkindness) can and does have a rippling effect. In the post office one time, I complimented the clerk helping me on her quick and courteous service. I don't know if those words made her feel better. But they did make me feel better. I felt better about myself, that I had acknowledged the service that someone extended to me. And who knows? Perhaps those few words motivated her to compliment or thank someone else. And so on.
So, for today, I am grateful for chocolate ripples and the rippling effect.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Day 344, December 10

As I've mentioned (many times) in previous posts, I love words. I love the sounds of them. I love the inter-play of them when they work together. I love the beauty of them.
I also love the way words can mimic each other. Do you like homonyms (words that sound like each other but are spelled differently and mean different things)?
One such pair is presents and presence.
At Christmas time, we think a great deal about presents. Who does not get caught up in choosing, affording, and giving presents? But what about giving presence?
Does my presence at church mean something? Does my presence at a school ceremony awarding a grandchild a certificate of achievement mean something? Does my presence visiting a friend who is lonely mean something? I like to think so.
Sometimes it is easier to give presents than presence. When my children were growing up, they had my presence at home. They did not receive elaborate presents, though. I don't know what difference, if any, that made to them. I do know, however, that it made a difference to me.
So, for today, I am grateful for presence.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Day 343, December 9

"We have a great deal more kindness than is ever spoken." Ralph Waldo Emerson
Do you wonder what Emerson meant by this? I have my own ideas. Since this is my blog, I will share them with you. You, of course, are welcome to take them or leave them.
Recently, a dear friend's son had a birthday. I'd intended to take a present to him. You know what? I didn't get it done. In preparing for a trip, I got caught up in my own concerns. Laundry. Packing. Cleaning. Worrying. (I'm a world-class worrier. If there were a gold medal awarded in the worrying event, I'd win hands down.)
Anyway, I didn't get a present for him. I didn't even send him a card. Like so many of my good intentions, this one ended up in the recycle bin.
What does this have to do with Emerson's words? I had kindness in my heart but didn't translate it in to action. That is one interpretation of this quote.
Another: perhaps Emerson was referring to the kindnesses that are extended to us that we don't speak about, that we don't acknowledge, that we don't say "Thank you" to the giver.
One more: could Emerson be reminding us to the greatest of Gift-givers, our Savior? Could he be gently hinting that the Savior continues to bestow kindnesses upon us but that He never speaks of them but expects us to show our gratitude?
I don't know what was in Emerson's mind or heart when he penned these words. However, speculating on them has reminded me that I should be speaking more kindnesses, doing more kindnesses, and acknowledging more kindnesses in my life.
So, for today, I am grateful for words from a master poet.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Day 342, December 8

Yesterday I wrote about the parable of the talents. As so often happens with my posts, it appears that I've not finished with the subject.
The older I get, the more I believe that we have a narrow view of talents. Perhaps we should expand the word talent to include other gifts, spiritual and emotional gifts.
Do you have a gift of listening? That is a talent. Do you have a gift of knowing the right word to say in a difficult situation? That is a talent. Do you have a gift of feeling the Spirit? That is a talent. Do you have a gift of acting on promptings of the Spirit? That is most definitely a talent.
I'm certain you can think of other such talents. Do you know someone who prays constantly? What more important talent could there be? Do you know someone who receives personal revelation? Do you receive it yourself? Another great talent.
So, for today, I am grateful for an expanded definition of talents.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Day 341, December 7

Most of us are familiar with the parable of the talents. A master gives three servants one, two, and five talents respectively. The servant given only one talent buries his. The servants given two and five talents multiply theirs.
I've always felt sorry for the first servant. I imagined him so overwhelmed with that one talent that he just didn't know what to do with it and so feared losing it. At the same time, I wanted to give him a kick in the pants and tell him, "Hey, you're lucky enough to have one talent. Get out there and use it."
Are you like me and envy other people their talents? I am blessed with uber-talented friends and family. One friend is a world-renown sculptor. Why wasn't I given his talent, I rail at the Lord. Another friend writes beautiful inspirational romances. Why wasn't I given her talent? Yet another friend is a master of all things musical, she sings, she composes, she plays the piano, organ, flute, guitar. A cousin writes and designs lovely cookbooks. Couldn't I have just a bit of their talents?
And so I find myself in the unhappy position of the first and unprofitable servant. I am so busy lamenting that I didn't get more that I fail to use what I have.
So, for today, I am grateful for those times when I remember to use what I have been given.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Day 340, December 6

"If you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always gotten."
This is one of those make-you-think pieces of advice. If I do what I've always done, I'll get what I've always gotten. That's great--if I'm satisfied with what I've always gotten.
The trouble is, I'm not.
I'm not satisfied in my writing. I'm not satisfied in my exercise. I'm not satisfied in my personal life.
So why do I go back to familiar patterns and comfortable routines? Could it be precisely because they are familiar and comfortable? I've heard that most women wear 20 percent of their clothes 80 percent of the time. We have our favorites, the clothes that make us feel good or that hide our figure flaws or that flatter our complexions.
Isn't that the same as to why we choose the same behaviors over and over, even when they don't prove effective or have outgrown their usefulness? Let me share a quick experience with you. I received some feedback from an editor about a book project. She gave some compliments, then ended with the troubling comment, "There's too much introspection."
I've received similar comments (and rejections) from other editors. "The characters spend too much time thinking. They don't interact with each other enough."
Why, then, do I persist in writing instrospective scenes? Because they are familar. They are comfortable. Too bad that they keep earning me rejections.
What other familar, comfortable patterns am I stuck in? I won't bore you with them right now--it could get downright depressing. I'll ask, instead, what patterns are you stuck in? Do you have things you want or need to change?
So, for today, I'm grateful for those rare times when I change what I've always done and get something different than what I've always gotten.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Day 339, December 5

At Christmas time, our thoughts frequently turn to gifts. "What shall I get my husband?" "What would my eight-year-old grandson like?" And so on.
Gifts are important. Not in the sense that we spend money, big or small, on them, but that we take time to think about the other person and what would show him/her that we care enough to choose something meaningful.
In writing the blog this year, I've been thinking more of what would be a meaningful gift for the Savior. Christ doesn't want material gifts. He doesn't want a cashmere sweater. He doesn't want a favorite cologne. He doesn't want a Valentino purse.
What does He want? He wants my obedience to His word. He wants my broken heart. He wants my contrite spirit. He wants my humility. I don't know about you, but those are the hardest kinds of gifts for me to offer, the most difficult gifts for me to find within my soul.
Send me on a mission to find a "CARS"-themed T-shirt for a grandson, I'm there. Send me out to find my sister's favorite cologne, I'm all over it. But ask me to find obedience and humility and a host of other attributes, and I'm lost.
The irony is that to give Christ the gift He most desires, I must go to Him and ask His help. I must humble myself sufficiently to ask, "Lord, would thou help me to give thee what I want to?"
So, for today, I am grateful for those times when I remember to turn to the Lord for His help in gift-giving.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Day 338, December 4

As I've confessed in earlier blogs, I am hopelessly old-fashioned about some things. I grew up in an era when we said the Pledge of Allegiance aloud every morning in school. We prayed in school. We also referrred to school Christmas programs as "Christmas" programs.
When my older children were in school, Christmas programs were still called that. Somewhere along the way, though, it became fashionable or politically correct to refer to such programs as "holiday" or "winter" programs. (I have had many goals over the years. Never once, though, have I aspired to be politically correct.)
When I see a reference to a school's (or office or church or any venue) program or party titled "Winter Wonderland" or some such thing, I want to ask, "What gave you the right to take Christ out of Christmas?"
I can see you shaking your head and saying, "Well, the silly old woman is on one of her rants. What is she thankful for in this bit of rambling nonsense?"
Well, I'm hoping that there are a few of you who believe as I do: that Christ belongs in Christmas. He belongs in the word. He belongs in the songs. He belongs in our celebrations. He belongs in our hearts.
So, for today, I am grateful when Christ is in my heart and in Christmas. (I'm also grateful for anyone who has not aspired to be politically correct.)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Day 337, December 3

Do you love Christmas music? I do. I love sappy ones. I love spiritual ones. I love hymns like "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear." I love fun ones like "Up On the Housetop." Who does not love Christmas carols? Who CAN not love them?
Christmas carols remind me of what's good in the world. They remind me of happy times spent with family and friends. They remind me of attending church on Sundays and listening to the organist play Christmas hymns for the prelude.
What is your favorite Christmas carol? My "faves" have changed over the years. At one time, it was "O Holy Night." My current favorite is perhaps a little known one called "Mary Let Me Hold Her Baby." It will probably change again.
I can't sing worth a darn. Though I can read music and stumble my way through a song on the piano, I can't sing. But I love to hear others sing. I love to hear the blending of soprano and alto voices, with the men's tenor and bass complementing the women's higher tones. And perhaps that is a talent right there: being able to appreciate the talents of others, those individuals gifted with pure, true voices.
So, for today, I am grateful for Christmas carols.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Day 336, December 2

You can hardly turn on the television or surf the internet without seeing ads for teeth-whitening toothpastes. Miracles are promised. You will look prettier, younger, more vibrant, and just generally all-around gorgeous if your teeth are whiter.
As Martha Stewart would say, "It's a good thing."
With all the things that make our physical selves prettier, younger, more vibrant, and all-around gorgeous, we are sometimes in danger of losing sight of more important things. Things like keeping promises. Things like being honest. Things like being honoring one's word.
So, why am I writing about such things when I should be writing about Christmas? I guess because I'm old-fashioned enough to believe that giving one's word should be a bond. Have you had someone break a promise to you? I have. It hurts, doesn't it? It hurts down deep.
So, for today, I am grateful for individuals who keep their promises.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Day 335, December 1

Do you have goals for December? Do you plan to have all your card and package mailing done by the first week? Do you plan to have your wrapping done by the second week? Your baking complete by the third week? And so on?
I used to have these kinds of goals. In fact, I measured the succcess of my holiday season by how much I got done. How many cards I wrote. How many presents I wrapped. How many decorations I put up. How many lemon bars I baked.
I still have goals, but they have evolved. I have a goal to do something nice for someone each day (following my Aunt Mae's example). I have a goal to write in my journal every day. I have a goal to follow through with the Gratitude Project.
What is meaningful for me may not be for you. And what is meaningful for you may not be meaningful for me. Isn't it great that we're all different? And isn't it great that that's the way Heavenly Father created us?
So, for today, I am grateful for the evolution of goals.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Day 334, November 30

It is the last day of the next-to-last month of the year. For me, it's been an up-and-down year. My life has been a roller coaster of highs and lows, ups and downs, and everything in between. Do you ever feel like that? Do you ever want to say, "Please, life, just settle down." Do you ever want a period of just plain old boredom? Sometimes, boring looks really appealing.
I wish I could report that I have come through the highs with humility and the lows with faith. Unfortunately, my humility and faith are as up and down as a teenage girl's emotions.
Through it all, the Father and the Savior have been there for me, as They have been there for everyone. They carry me when my knees are weak and my faith is fragile. They lift me when my legs threaten to buckle. They are simply there.
So, for today, I am grateful for the Father and the Savior, who are there, no matter what.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Day 333, November 29

Every month, Oprah Winfrey ends her magazine "O" with a column titled "What I Know For Sure." It caused me to think about what I know for sure. Below are some things that came to mind. Doubtless you can add others.
I know that Heavenly Father loves His children.
I know that Jesus Christ sacrificed His life to make the atonement possible.
I know that the Lord's love for us in infinite.
I know that family, friendship, and faith make life worth living.
I know that trust should not be broken.
I know that we emulate the Father when we create.
What do you know for sure? What are the immutable truths to which you cling? Or are you like me and cling to some things that masquerade as truths but are, in reality, shoddy imitations?
So, for today, I am grateful for those things that I know for sure.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Day 332, November 28

Are you as weary as I am of hearing about the "occupy New York, occupy Denver, occupy Salt Lake" etc movement that has swept our nation? People, apparently with nothing better or more important to do, have decided to "occupy" public parks, streets, wherever they can set up their tents and sleeping bags.
Why? Because they don't feel that they should have to repay loans they have taken out. "We don't want to repay our loans," they cry. "They're too high. We'll never get out from under this debt." These individuals have a sense of entitlement that rivals any I've ever witnessed.
Why should they repay their loans? Why, indeed? What about for the simple reason that it's the right thing to do?
I know. That sounds simplistic, naive, even. Despite my advanced years, I plead guilty to those charges.
I contrast the attitude of these "occupiers" to that of others, people who haven't enjoyed nearly the same opportunities but who remain dedicated to doing the right thing, to paying their debts, to behaving honorably and honestly. Our world is filled with such people, but they rate little attention from the media.
So, for today, I am grateful for those who pay their debts.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Day 331, November 27

Do you remember Dorothy's line from The Wizard of Oz, "There's no place like home?"
Never have those words had more meaning to me than now, when I've been gone from my home for over two weeks. Don't get me wrong. I love traveling. I love visiting my sister and other family. I loved being able to attend my son's weddding.
But it's good to be going home.
Home, for me, is a modest house in Loveland, Colorado. We've lived in this house for over thirty-five years. That must be some kind of record in our very mobile society. Four of our children came to us since we've been in this house.
When Larry and I started discussing the possibility of an addition or of moving, I chose the addition. How could I leave the home where my children took their first steps, learned to talk, learned to play the piano and a myriad of other things?
Home is more than four walls. It's more than an addition. It's more than a remodeled bathroom. It is a place of refuge. It is a place of worship for most of my prayers are said in my bedroom as I kneel at the side of my bed. It is a place of love.
So, for today, I am grateful to be going home.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Day 330, November 26

Today our son Steven is marrying his sweetheart in the Rexburg, Idaho Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In the Mormon church, we believe that marrying in the temple is not just for time but for all eternity. Such marriages are sealed by Priesthood authority.
It is a wonderful, awe-inspiring thing made all the more beautiful by the very simplicity of it. And isn't that the way with many things, those that are the most special, the most sacred have as their hallmarks simplicity and truth.
As I think of Steve and his lovely bride, I am excited for the new life they are forging together. What they had before is now assimilated into a union sanctified by the Lord, with His blessings and His approbation.
In anticipation of this event, it was easy to become wrapped around the parties and clothes and flowers and food that go into making up a wedding reception. I reminded Steven that those things were well and good, but that they were just the outward trappings, that anything of true importance happened within the temple walls.
So, for today, I am grateful that my son and his bride can be sealed together for all eternity.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Day 329, November 25

Keeping a blog every day for 329 days hasn't been easy.
Somedays I want to quit. Somedays I want to say, "It won't hurt to skip a day." After all, I skip days in exercising (too many). I skip days in reading the scriptures (again, too many). I skip days in saying "I love you" to my family and friends. Why not take a day off in keeping this journal?
The truth is, I don't know. Something compels me to keep going. To keep trying. Maybe it's because I had the Lord's direction in starting this project. Maybe it's because of those of you who have encouraged me to keep writing. Maybe it's because I have a stubborn streak a mile wide. Maybe it's a combination of these things.
Whatever keeps me going, I'm grateful for it. I haven't kept up many things in my life. I'm lazy and too often tend to take the easy way out.
So, for today, I'm grateful for the Lord's and your help in keeping me going.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Day 328, November 24

Today is Thanksgiving. I am fortunate to be spending it with family and friends. Add faith to that, and you have the recipe for a perfect day.
It is fitting that I write about Thanksgiving in a blog devoted to gratitude. Thanksgiving is sometimes a neglected holiday. Between turkey and Black Friday, the spirit of the day is frequently lost.
Do you know the name of the Indian tribe who celebrated with the Pilgrims? Wampanoag. I am ashamed to admit that I didn't know that and had to look it up. Why didn't I know that? Why haven't I educated myself more about this important day? Is it because I am caught up in the food and shopping and excesses of the day? I'm afraid so.
Can I change? I hope so. Can I remember to carry the spirit of Thanksgiving in my heart, not just today but every day of the year? Again, I hope so.
So, for today, I am grateful for the opportunity to be grateful on Thanksgiving Day and every day.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Day 327, November 23

A dear friend is going through a hard time with her 93 year old mother. Her mother, suffering from diabetes, dementia, and a host of other things, can no longer be alone and is under Hospice care. My friend confided in me her frustration with people who would call and offer their help but fail to follow through.
In the weeks she spent with her mother (in Idaho), no one stopped by to relieve her of her caregiving duties so that she could attend to other things necessary in tying up the threads of her mother's life. "Just sitting with mother for a few hours would have been such a help," she said on a wistful note.
In telling the story, she passed off her frustation with the words, "Well, everyone is busy."
Everyone IS busy. Everyone has responsibilities to attend to. We all understand that, because we are busy ourselves. When we are too busy, though, to help someone in true need, perhaps it is time to re-evaluate.
This friend is the same woman whom I wrote about a month or so ago who bought a coat for the elderly lady at a thrift shop. She is the first to volunteer to bring a meal or offer a ride to neighbors or church members. She is the first to give of her time and means.
If the situation had been reversed, I know she would be among the first to offer help. She would have showed up to clean bathrooms, prepare a meal, sit with a friend's elderly parent. That is her nature.
So, for today, I am grateful for people like my friend who are never too busy to serve.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Day 351, December 17

Day 326, November 22

In reading one day (does it seem I spend a lot of time reading?), I found the history of the word serendipity. The word was coined by a 19th century English writer, Horace Walpole, who loved an ancient fable titled "The Three Princes of Serendip," (Serendip being the early name of the beautiful, teardrop-shaped island off the southern tip of India).
In the fable, the three young princes embark on a search for their fortunes. Alas, none of them finds a fortune. All three, though, discover things that are better than a fortune--truth, love, and opportunities to serve.
How did they make thse discoveries? They paid attention to things that other people miss and thus found unexpected joys and happiness.
Walpole explains his coinage of the word: "We do not have an English word that expresses that happy ability to find things that are better than what we think we are looking for." Thus was the word serendipity born.
I love this story. I love the very word serendipity. I love the sound of it, the smooth syllables that seem to roll from the tongue. And I love the idea that we can find treasures we aren't looking for simply by paying attention to what is going on around us.
In our garage sale travels, my friends and I use "serendipity" when we stumble upon a sale that wasn't listed and find a treasure we hadn't known we needed. (Who can resist a Chanel purse, after all?)
Have you had a day when you accomplished nothing on your to-do list but, instead, found someone who needed you? Did the help you extended end up taking most of your day? At the end of the day, did you feel uplifted? Life happens, and, when it's happening, we sometimes must stray from our schedule and pause to lift up another.
So, for today, I am grateful for the opportunities that serendipity offers.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Day 325, November 21

To nurture: to cultivate, care for, and make grow.
I ran across this definition recently. It intrigued me. Sociologists and psychologists frequently engage in the debate of nature versus nurture. Does nature play the major part in a person's development or does nurture?
I believe that the two work together and who can say where one leaves off and the other picks up? But answering that question isn't the purpose of today's blog.
Do you have people in your life who nurture you? I hope so. I pray so. For we all need nurturers in our lives. When we are young, our parents are our primary care-givers. As we grow, other people come into our lives who also provide nurture: friends, teachers, sisters, spouses, etc.
I can identify many nurturers in my life. There is my sweet husband who is always there for me. There are my children and sister and friends, each of whom bring something different in their care. The other day, my sweet daughter, who knows I love to send cards, brought me a packet of her hand-made cards. In doing this, she was nurturing me. When I send a card to a friend, I, in turn, am nurturing her. And so it goes.
So, for today, I am grateful for all those who nurture.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Day 324, November 20

Mormon wards (congregations) tend to be noisy. You know what? I don't mind. I don't mind because I love that parents know they can bring their small children and babies to meetings. I love the babblings, the squeals, even the outraged cries for they remind me that, despite all the bad stuff that goes on in the world, there is hope for tomorrow. How can one doubt that when that hope comes in the guise of such innocent faces and sounds?
As a mother who has raised her chidlren and a grandmother, I am looking at this from the other side of the equation. In the throes of mothering, I cringed when one of my toddlers let out a blood-curdling scream in the middle of church. When I look at the young mothers as they struggle to instill reverence in their children, I want to reassure them, "It's okay."
I believe that Heavnly Father loves the noises that babies make, for He, Himself, is a Father. I picture Him in heaven smiling when one of His littlest angels babbles "Uh-oh" over and over in church. I imagine Him wrapping His arms around this child and drawing him into a tender embrace.
So, for today, I am grateful for the voices of angels.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Day 323, November 19

Today is the anniversary of the day, November 19, 1863, that Abraham Lincoln delivered what has come to be known as the Gettysburg Address at the Soldiers' National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

President Lincoln was not the main speaker at the event. Indeed, he was more of an afterthought. The other speakers were given more time, more notoriety. His words held none of the arrogant pontification of the other speakers but were humble and simple, spoken from the heart.

His remarks, only a few hundred words, took a scant two minutes. Those attending appeared to give little notice to them. Or to him. Yet, nearly a hundred and fifty years later, it is those remarks which live on.

As a schoolchild, I was required to memorize these words. As an adult, I have a greater appreciation for their meaning. As a writer, I am in awe of their beauty.

"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

So, for today, I am grateful for Abraham Lincoln and his enduring words.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Day 322, November 18

We are probably all familiar with the term "first responder." These are the brave men and women who are the first to appear at accidents, fires, emergencies of all kinds. Recently I read an article about "first responder friends."
Some phrases just reach in and grab you. This was one of those for me. (If you haven't noticed already, friends and friendship are important to me. Must be why I write about them so frequently.)
I have many first responder friends. These are those sisters of my heart who I know will be there for me no matter what. They are the ones I cry with over the heartaches of life. They are the ones I turn to when life gets too hard to handle. And, I like to think, that I am a first responder to them as well.
A few days ago, one of these friends shared happy news with me: her daughter is expecting. It reminded me that we share the good times along with the bad. We rejoice with each other over good news. We grieve with each other over sad news. And always, always, we are there for each other.
Life continues to throw challenges at all of us. How wonderful to know that my first responders are there for me.
So, for today, I am grateful for first responder friends.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Day 321, November 17

Whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that
of an ignorant nation.
- Walter

Some of my happiest childhood memories involve my sister and me piling in the car and our mother taking us to the library. We scoured through the books, finding treasures such as Little Women, The Scarlett Pimpernell, and Robin Hood. We devoured those and others. Such trips to the library were a regular part of our lives.

Fast forward fifteen years. I was a young mother with two little toddlers. Again, libraries played an important part in our lives. Every week, a friend and I took our children to the library's story hour. There, the children listened as dedicated librarians read aloud stories.

When I started writing, libraries played a new role in my life as I researched any and all topics. Librarians helped me mine for obscure bits of information, those golden nuggets finding their way into my stories and articles.

So, for today, I am grateful for libraries.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Day 320, November 16

A week or so ago, I wrote about the storm that hit Loveland, taking down trees and, consequently, power lines. As Larry and I drove through town the following day, we saw tree branches littering yards, parks, and streets.
Many of those branches were from cottonwood trees. Cottonwoods are large, showy trees. They grow quickly, reaching their maturity in a matter of years rather than decades as do other trees. Perhaps as a result of this, their branches are weak, their roots shallow. The roots spread beneath the ground like tentacles, but they fail to dig deep.
I couldn't help but make the comparison between cottonwoods and some people. You probably know the kind I mean. They are large and showy in their accomplishments, in their possessions, in their talents, but they never reach their true potential because their roots are shallow. Like the cottonwoods, they don't have the strength or stamina to withstand life's storms.
Then there are the other kind of people, those who hunker down and weather out a storm through sheer grit, determination, and a healthy dose of faith. They may bend, but they don't break.
So, for today, I am grateful for trees ... and people ... whose roots grow deep.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Day 319, November 15

We are probably all familiar with Paul's discourse on charity in the New Testament. Defined as the "pure love of Christ," charity makes us sensitive to the needs of others and prompts us to act on that sensitivity.
In speaking to the women of the church, Prophet and President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints says this. "Charity is having patience with someone who has let us down. It is resisting the impulse to become offended easily. It is accepting weaknesses and shortcomings. It is accepting people as they truly are. It is looking beyond physical appearances to attributes that will not dim through time. It is resisting the impulse to categorize others."
When I first read this, I was taken aback by the Prophet's words. Am I being uncharitable when I lose my patience? Am I uncharitable when I become offended? Am I uncharitable when I fail to accept weaknesses and shortcomings in others ... and myself? Am I uncharitable when I fail to look beyong physical appearances and categorize others? Yes, yes, yes, and yes.
As always, President Monson challenges us to do more, to be more than we are. Taking a meal to a family in need is not hard. Forgiving the person who has offended or wronged us is. Sending a card to a lonely friend is not hard. Seeing beyond an individual's faults and weaknesses is. Well, you get the point.
So, for today, I am grateful for a prophet's wisdom.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Day 318, November 14

Recently our oldest son Rob became engaged. While I haven't met Jenny, I have talked with her on the phone and was impressed with her down-to-earth attitude, humor, and love for my son's two small boys. A special ed teacher, she is committed to service and helping others.
It made me wonder about her parents, in particular her mother, and the influence she played and plays in Jenny's life. Her mother has obviously guided her daughter, teaching her, supporting her, loving her.
Mothers take a bad rap sometimes. Psychiatrists are fond of abscribing a child's problems back to faulty mothering. Mothers are belittled by the media and, occasionally, even by their own families. This is especially true for stay-at-home mothers.
There is no one who works harder than mothers. Mothers keep the world spinning on its axis. We make certain that baths are taken, underwear is changed, and homework is done. Does that sound menial? Not at all. What would happen if mothers didn't do these things? Picture a world of dirty, smelly, and uneducated children.
Mothering involves these things. And more. It is "the more" that is so important. The more includes showing a child how to pray and then listening to their prayers. It includes staying up at night waiting for a teenager to return home. It includes finding a remaining speck of energy to help with a homework project when every fiber in you screams with weariness.
So, for today, I am grateful for righteous mothers everywhere.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Day 317, November 13

An ancient prophet gave the encouragement, "By small and simple things are great things brought to pass."
I've always loved this scripture. It reminds me that I do not need to possess great talents or skills or courage to make a difference in the world.
Most of us will not lead a nation out of bondage as did Moses. Nor will we build an ark to save our families and friends from an earth-sweeping flood. (I don't know about you, but I'm relieved to know I probably won't be called upon to do those kinds of things.)
But what can I do?
I can pray for someone who is sick.
I can send a card to a friend who is lonely.
I can listen.
I can tend a grandchild.
I can embrace a friend who is grieving.
By the same token, I have been the recipient of many small and simple things. A comment on this blog lifts my spirits. A hug from a grandchild warms my heart. Whispered words of "I love you, Grandma" from a long distance grandchild do the same.
What are the small and simple things in your life? Are you like me, a grandmother who dotes on anything to do with her grandchildren? Are you a teacher like my future daughter-in-law and delight in watching a child grasp a new skill?
So, for today, I am grateful for small and simple things.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Day 316, November 12

"Don't try to be better than your predecessors or contemporaries. Try to be better than yourself." -- William Faulkner
Writers encounter a lot of competition. We compete for ever-decreasing publishing spots, whether in books or in magazines or on the web. We compete for publishing dollars. We compete for editors' time and interest. We compete for marketing dollars.
I suppose that is the same in most industries and endeavors. My husband's power supply business competes with other businesses selling similar products. Athletes compete for first place. Some go on to compete for the "gold" in the Olympics.
Faulkner's words remind me that my true competitor is myself. Am I doing better today than I did yesterday, the week before, the year before, the year before? If so, then I am a winner.
And then let's get to the really important things: Am I kinder today than I was yesterday? Am I more in tune with the Spirit today than I was yesterday? Am I more obedient today than I was yesterday?
So, for today, I am grateful for those days when I do better than I did the day before.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Day 315, November 11

Today is Veteran's Day. How many of us regard it only as a shopping day featuring sales and not-to-be-believed deals? Newspapers and the internet abound with such ads.
Veteran's Day is so much more. It was created to help us to remember and honor those who have served in America's armed forces.
I've written before about my feelings for those who protect and defend our nation. We cannot honor or revere them enough. When I hear stories of veterans who are homeless or disabled, my heart weeps. It weeps again when I hear stories of the disrespect that some people show our veterans.
Please forgive me as I quote George Orwell (again): "People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf. " To this, I would add, "and rough women" for we cannot and should not forget the women who serve our country as well.
So, for today, I am grateful for those men and women who stand ready to make the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedoms.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Day 314, November 10

"I'm not afraid of trying and failing. I'm afraid of succeeding at the wrong things."
I found this quote in a talk by a pastor. It stuck in my mind, and I knew I had to write about it. In past blogs, I've written a lot about trying and failing and trying again. But I'd never thought about succeeding at the wrong things.
What are the wrong things in my life? Is wanting a child who doesn't live by our standards to change her ways the wrong thing? No. Is trying to force her to do that the wrong thing? Probably.
Is wanting a beautifully appointed house and manicured yard the wrong thing? No. Is sacrificing time with family and failing to obey the commandments in order to get those things the wrong thing? Definitely.
Do you have wrong things in your life? Are you working to succeed in them? Or are you working at the "right" things? What is right for someone else may not be right for you ... or me. That's where we rely on the Father's guidance and personal revelation.
So, for today, I am grateful for those times when I don't succeed at the wrong thing.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Day 313, November 9

Finding a penny on the street is always a cause for a smile for me. It reminds me that Heavenly Father is watching out for me. Does that seem a stretch? Maybe. But I still believe it.
Pennies are the humblest of coins. Yet, when put together, they can add up to a lot. And perhaps that is what the Father is trying to tell me. Take the pennies and add them up. Make a dollar, two dollars, and more, from them.
What else can I add up to make something more? What would happen if I add up blessings? What would I have? A fuller life. A more grateful heart.
What would happen if I added up all the cards I've received? Would I have a tangible reminder of friends and family who thought enough of me to send me a note?
What can you add up? Can you add up kind words given to you? Can you add up prayers offered on your behalf? Can you add up the kind words you've given? Can you add up prayers you've offered for someone else? You will probably find you have too many, on both sides, to count. And isn't that wonderful?
So, for today, I am grateful for pennies and the reminder they offer.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Day 312, November 8

I've mentioned in earlier posts about my Mormon heritage. Please forgive me as I return to that theme once again.
In October of 1856, Prophet and President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints spoke to the Saints in General Conference. There, he described the plight of handcart pioneers who were stranded on the plains hundreds of miles away and needed assistance.
"Your faith, religion and profession of religions, will never save one soul of you in the celestial kingdom of our God unless you carry out just such principles as I am now teaching you. Go and bring in these people now on the plains, and attend strictly to those things which we call temporal, or temporal duties, otherwise your faith will be in vain."
Lucy Meserve Smith was among those who heard the Prophet's words. While men prepared to leave then and there, the sisters "stripped off their petticoats (large understkirts that were part of the fashion of the day and that also provided warmth), stockings and every thing they could spare, right there in the Tabernacle and piled them into the wagons to send to the Saints."
What valiant women. What bold women. They couldn't leave their families while their men departed, but they sent what they could. There was no false modesty. No murmurings that, "Hey, we might need these things ourselves." There was just obedience. Immediate, unquestioning obedience.
So, for today, I am grateful for courageous women.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Day 311, November 7

A friend shared with me a story of her son who had trained to participate in a state competition of cross-country runners. He'd honed his body and his mind in preparation for the race. He was feeling good. Loose. Ready to take on all comers.
Everything was going well. Then it happened. As he rounded a curve, his feet encountered a slick patch of mud. And he fell. Added to that, another runner ran over him.
Later, he reported to his mother that he knew it was over at that moment. Still, he picked himself up and continued the race. What kind of courage that must have taken? To know that he wouldn't win, probably wouldn't even place, and still to continue. His team, which had been predicted to take first place, ended up in the fifth position.
What if we all did that? What if we all picked ourselves up after a fall (a disappointment, an illness, a financial setback, whatever) and kept on going? Would we be happier? Of course. Would we be stronger? Definitely. Would we be more like our Father in Heaven? Most assuredly.
So, for today, I am grateful for those people who pick themselves up and keep running.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Day 310, November 6

Today is my mother's birthday. (I know--I wrote about my parents two days ago and should have waited until today to write about my mom. But I figure she deserves at least two postings.)
My mother was born November 6, 1921. She was born at home, in a tiny house without central heat, without indoor plumbing, pretty much without anything at all. But she survived and she thrived. Three years later, a set of twins was delivered, and a few years after that, another girl.
My mother, the oldest of the four children, had responsibilities at an early age. She worked hard because not to work wasn't an option. She attended a little country school, earned prizes for her penmanship, and attended Sunday School.
It sounds like something out of the Waltons, doesn't it? Life in that small slice of Tennessee during the Great Depression wasn't easy. But it instilled within her the desire for more education, more knowledge, more awareness of the world outside.
Eventually, she traveled to Washington, DC. There, she worked as a secretary, sending money home to her widowed mother and siblings. It was there, too, that she met the man who would become my father.
My mother never had much in the way of material goods. Even when she no longer needed to, she lived frugally. Her money, what she had, was rarely spent on herself. I don't believe she knew how to spend money on herself and would have been puzzled by the idea of it.
So, for today, and for every day, I am grateful for my mother.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Day 309, November 5

Larry and I have reached that time in life when things keep happening. You probably know the kind of things I mean. The yucky things. The tear-your-heart-out-of-your-chest things. The make-you-weep-till-you're-hanging-over-the-toilet things.
Recently, several dear friends have been dealing with cancer. Cancer is that elephant in the room. It is spoken of in hushed whispers and only after a furtive look around, because you don't want to talk about it in front of someone who is dealing with it, or, worse, someone whose loved one is dealing with it.
But my friends are cut from a different cloth. They put it right out there in the open. They talk about it. They laugh about it. And, yes, sometimes they cry about it.
All of those take courage. Tremendous, mind-blowing courage. The kind of courage I don't have. I admire my friends more than I can say. I admire their knuckle-down-and-let's-deal-with-this attitude. I admire their optimism. I admire their unwavering faith.
So, for today, I am grateful for courageous friends.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Day 308, November 4

Do you ever wonder where all the money went? Do you have months when there is more month left than money? If so, you're not alone. The last few years have brought new challenges to many families.
Making do on less is new to some of us. When I think of my parents and the near poverty of their early lives, I marvel. I don't believe they thought of their childhood as deprived.
My father was a self-admitted farm boy who considered his mother's homemade bread dipped in milk from the family cow a fine meal. Even when he could afford much more sophisticated foods, he turned to those simple foods of his childhood. Warm bread. Jam. Milk.
My mother grew up in Appalachia, in the rolling hills of eastern Tennessee. There were no store-bought clothes for her and her brother and two sisters. But there were quilting parties with her mother's friends. There were trips to church revivals. There were bottles of homemade jam and sweet pickles.
No, they never thought of themselves as deprived. They counted the blessings of family and friends and faith and considered themselves fortunate.
So, for today, I am grateful for the example of my parents.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Day 307, November 3

Today is my granddaughter Reynna's birthday. She is twelve, that age when she hovers between childhood and the teenage years.
I admit it: I am one of those obnoxious grandmothers who believes the sun rises and sets and rises again in her grandchildren. I attend church and school programs and preen over the any and all accomplishments. I imagine people looking at me and smiling indulgently, knowingly.
And you know what? I don't mind.
When Larry and I were hosting a dinner party one night and Reynna was visiting, I had her sing for our friends while I accompanied her on the piano. After everyone had left, Larry said, "You were in uber-grandma mode tonight." He was right. I couldn't help myself. I believe, no, I know, that Reynna is wonderful and I wanted everyone else to know that as well.
I know the time is quickly coming when Reynna won't want to spend time with her grandparents. I've already lost some credibility when she started school and learned that chocolate was NOT a vegetable. (Who would teach her such a thing?) She will spend more time with friends, with her own activities. That is natural. That is right. And I will be sad. In the meantime, I hold onto time with her and savor it as the precious thing it is.
So, for today, I am grateful for the wonder of Reynna.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Day 306, November 2

"For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness, and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone."--Audrey Hepburn
I found this quote in a woman's magazine. Hidden among articles on choosing jeans to flatter one's tush, the best ways to shape one's arms, and how to use eye shadow more effectively was this small jewel.
Will expensive creams soften the growing wrinkles around my eyes? Unlikely. Will collagen injections plump up my lips? Maybe. But who wants fat lips anyway? Will wearing designer clothes give me more poise? The possibility that I will ever be wearing designer clothes is slim to none, so I won't worry about it.
But Ms. Helpburn's words can help all of us. Male or female. Young or old. Fat or thin. Her counsel is ageless, as was her beauty.
So, for today, I am grateful for words of wisdom from a classy lady.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Day 305, November 1

Has your life turned out exactly as you planned? If so, congratulations. You are the exception. You may have heard the old saying, "If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans."
I figure I must be providing God with a great deal of laughter. My plans didn't include so much of what has happened in the last years. They didn't include my son being left a single father. They didn't include health problems for me and other family members. They didn't include collecting more writing rejections than a politician spouts lies.
And then I started thinking. The last years have brought new friends and strengthened old friendships. The last years have added grandchildren to our family, and, soon, a beautiful new daughter-in-law. The last years have reminded me what matters ... and what doesn't.
So, for today, I am grateful for plans that turned out and (even) some of those that didn't.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Day 304, October 31

A few days ago, a heavy snow took down trees which, in turn, took down power lines. We, along with much of Loveland, were without power for a day. I discovered (if I didn't already know it) that I am not hardy pioneer stock, as were my ancestors.
I moaned. I whined. I complained. I couldn't use the computer. I couldn't use the washing machine. I couldn't watch television. I couldn't even turn on the lights. I ended up spending the day at my husband's office which did have power.
We returned home later that evening to find that our power had been restored. I nearly wept in gratitude.
It set me to thinking (have you noticed that the strangest things set me to thinking?) about a far more important Power in my life. This Source of light is always available and is not subject to the whims of Mother Nature or other vagaries.
Of course I am speaking of the Lord. His Power is always there, mine for the taking, if I but choose to do so. Did you pick up on the operative word there--choose? I must choose to partake of His power. He will not force it upon me.
So, for today, I am grateful for sources of power and Power.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Day 303, October 30

I love learning new words, new phrases. A few days ago, my husband taught me an expression I hadn't heard before: "He's all hat and no cattle."
I love the symbolism of these words, how they express in six meager words what some of us might spend hundreds, if not thousands, of words to express.
Chances are you know someone who is "all hat and no cattle." Most of us can point to certain politicians or celebrities who take pleasure in flaunting their talents, their wealth, their breast size. Because they possess little or no substance, they must rely on outward trappings to feel good about themselves, to impress their "inferiors."
Fortunately, we can also point to individuals who are "no hat and all cattle." These persons find joy in serving others, in giving of themselves, in praising the Lord. Their feelings about self come from within rather than from without.
So, for today, I am grateful for those persons who are "no hat and all cattle."

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Day 302, October 29

I realized a few days ago that it is less than two months until Christmas. Two months in which I have a wedding to plan, several trips (wedding related) to make, holiday shopping to do, a house to prepare for my son's and grandsons' visit, and a host of other things.
When I was mentally reviewing all that needed to be done in two short months, I started feeling overwhelmed. That is a common feeling with me these days. I am easily overwhelmed. Things that another person might accomplish without breaking a sweat leave me feeling anxious and ... well, overwhelmed.
I began breaking down the tasks and realized that no one thing was the "straw that broke the camel's back." It was the accumulation of things. And isn't that often the way it is? Instead of obsessing over what needs to be done, what should be done, what can't be done, I should take a deep breath and then enjoy my son's wedding and sealing to his sweetheart, enjoy the time with family and friends, enjoy the holiday season.
So, for today, I am grateful for deep breaths ... and a dose of common sense.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Day 301, October 28

In working on a writing project, I discovered that I had to delete several pages, thousands of pages. It was a painful process. After all, I had shed tears and sweat over writing those words. But they didn't work, and they needed to go. Reluctantly, I pressed the delete button.
There. It was done.
It got me to wondering why it isn't as easy to press the delete button on other aspects of my life. Why can't I make a clean sweep of my sins and faults and weaknesses? Do I want to hold onto them, as I wanted to hold onto those pages, even though they are no longer working
I'm ashamed to admit that the answer is yes. I do want to hold onto to certain behaviors. They may hold me back. They may keep me from achieving my goals. They may even take away the possibility of new pleasures and joys in my life. But, darn it, they're mine. They're familiar. They're comfortable. They fit me.
Fortunately, the Father has provided a delete button. It's called repentance. And it's available to everyone.
So, for today, I am grateful for delete buttons, on the computer and in life.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Day 300, October 27

Doing the right thing for the right reason. How many times have we heard those words? Sometimes, it is difficult enough to do the right thing. Putting that together with the right reason ups the ante.
Have you ever done the right thing for the wrong reason? I have. I've done the "right" thing for any number of less-than-noble reasons. I've done the "right" thing because I didn't want others to know how lazy and selfish I truly am. I've done the "right" thing because I wanted others to ascribe pure motives to me.
How foolish and short-sighted is that. The Father knows all. He knows the workings of my mind. More, he knows the motives in my heart. Those times when I do manage to do the right thing for the right reason fill me with incredible joy.
So, for today, I am grateful for those people who do the right things for the right reasons.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Day 299, October 26

If you don't know history, then you don't know anything. You are a leaf
that doesn't know it is part of a tree.

- Michael

As you have probably figured out by now, I love words, especially those found in inspiring quotes. The above quotation reached in and captured my imagination.

The older I get, the more I appreciate heritage, especially my personal heritage. My ancestors, on both my mother and my father's side, were stalwart men and women. They sacrificed for their children, for their beliefs, for their faitih.

My Mormon ancestors suffered from persecution and abuse that I am only beginning to understand and deplore. What must it have been like, to be driven from one's home, family, and friends?

My Tennessee ancestors endured their own share of trials and poverty. Scraping out a living during the Great Depression, my mother's family clung to their pride and their faith at a time when many people abandoned both.

I started this post with a quote about history. So why am I writing about my ancestry? Because it is my personal history. If I don't know where I came from, how will I know where I am going?

So, for today, I am grateful for heritage.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Day 298, October 25

The year is nearly over. Leaves litter the ground. The days are growing shorter, the nights longer. And my year of being grateful (on this blog) will draw to a close in two short months. What will I do after that?
I hope I will continue to be grateful, to look for the good in life. I hope that my gratitude is not so ephemeral that I can't find it in me to thank the Father for His blessings without the prompt of this blog.
As I've mentioned before, friends and followers and faith have kept me going this long. Several people have been kind enough to leave comments on the blog, to share their thoughts and feelings about the postings. I wonder what would happen if we left "comments" for everyone in our lives?
Would we be kinder, gentler, more Christ-like if we spent a few seconds telling someone that we appreciate him or her? Would our homes, our churches, our workplaces, indeed, the entire world be a more beautiful place if we gave a compliment, a word of praise, a small kindness that was unexpected by the recipient?
I like to speculate on these things. Maybe it's the writer in me who wonders "What if?" What if we all resolved to say one kind word, perform one act of kindness, offer one extra prayer of thanks a day? Could we change the world? Or maybe, just maybe, we could change ourselves. And then we, imperfect mortals that we are, could change the world, or at least, our little part of it.
I don't know. I'd like to think so, though.
So, for today, I am grateful for unexpected kindnesses.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Day 297, October 24

Yesterday I wrote about using green corrective concealer. A disaster. When I discovered that it didn't work for me, I got rid of it, literally tossed it in the trash.
Why isn't it as easy to dispose of other things in my life that don't work? Why can't I dispose of my sins, my weaknesses, my selfishness, and other flaws by simply tossing them in the trash? Unfortunately, that seems to be beyond my capabilities.
Finding new behaviors to replace old ones that no longer work is difficult. It takes wisdom. It takes self-discipline. It takes hard work. These are all things that are in short supply, at least in life.
What is in your life that you'd like to replace? Do you have a problem with procrastination? Are you prone to entertaining negative thoughts? Does discouragement plague you? I wish I could wave a magic wand and make your problems (and mine) disappear.
Fortunately, we have a Friend who can take our sins and weaknesses unto Himself. He can't make them disappear, but He can give us the strength and faith and courage to overcome them.
So, for today, I am grateful for a Friend in Christ.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Day 296, October 23

A few days ago, I tried some "corrective concealer" to cover up the dark circles under my eyes. Imagine my surprise when I squirted a bit of the cream on my fingers and found that it was green. Yes, green! A pretty springtime green, but green all the same.
I decided the manufacturers must have had a reason for that so I gamely dabbed some under my eyes and tried to blend it in. It didn't. Blend, that is. I spent the next fifteen minutes working to get this green gunk off my face, then off my hands, then off the bathroom counter.
Lesson learned: green concealer is not for me. Or for anyone.
The experience caused me to think of what other kinds of concealer I use in equally vain attempts to correct things wrong with myself. Do I use shopping to lift my spirits when I'm feeling down? Do I gossip about other people to make me feel better about myself? Do I indulge in self pity-parties and then drag others in with me?
Are these and other such behaviors not the equivalent of green concealer? If so, why do I do them? I don't have an answer, at least, not a good one.
Why don't I turn to the Savior to find the "corrective" action that I need? Why don't I turn my sins and weaknesses and frailities over to Him and allow Him to do what He has promised?
So, for today, I am grateful for the Savior's corrections.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Day 295, October 22

Stories of families being "upside down" in their mortgages abound in the news. It was just in the past few years that I learned what being upside down meant: people owe more on the mortgage than the house is worth. As I try to wrap my mind around that, I realize that I am downside up on my gratitude to the Father.
Yes, you read correctly. I am downside up in the gratitude department
Surely what the Father gives me is worth far more than the paltry bits of thanks that I offer Him. He gives me life. He gives me family. He gives me friends. He gives me faith. What more can I ask?
A lot, it seems.
My prayers are full of "give-me's." Despite my best efforts to focus on my blessings, every other phrase in my prayers seems to be, "Please do this. Please do that. Please bless ..." And the list goes on.
As in so many areas of my life, I am a work in progress. I keep trying. I keep working on myself. I keep praying for strength and endurance.
So, for today, I am grateful for reminders to be grateful.