Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Day 243, August 31

All over the nation, children are heading back to school. When my children were in school, the house brimmed with excitement over new clothes, sports sign-ups, and school supplies. Who can resist the crack of brand new books, the crisp rustle of notebook pages, and the squeak of new sneakers?
Now I have grandchildren in school. A few weeks ago, I took my eleven-year-old granddaughter shopping for school clothes. I realized my tastes were hopelessly out of date, but her excitement over the process took me back to twenty or so years ago when I did the same thing with her mother.
The cycles of life are reassuring. The familiar patterns remind us of past joys and leave us anticipating future ones. Where I used to attend my children's football games, band concerts, recitals, etc, I now look forward to attending those of my grandchildren. I smile at my children's pride and pleasure in their children. At my granddaughter's dance recital, I leaned over and whisper to my daughter, "She looks just like you."
So, for today, I am grateful for life's cycles.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Day 242, August 30

Have you noticed that we frequently prize those things for which we have paid outrageous sums? Case in point: a number of years ago, I purchased a coat at a retail store. (This was before I started garage sailing and earned the title of Garage Sale Queen.) The coat was not particularly flattering; nor did it wear well. But I couldn't bring myself to get rid of it. After all, I had paid lots of money for it. Eventually, I did donate it to a thrift store with the hope that someone else might enjoy it more than I did.
Much later, I found a lovely coat at a garage sale. I paid the princely sum of a nickel for it. I love that coat. I love everything about it, including the price. For mere pennies, I had purchased a quality garment that I've worn for five years and will continue to wear for many years.
Pondering upon this set me to thinking about what I value. As much as I love my nickel coat, I recognize that it is not important. A friend has a plaque in her home with the saying, "The most important things in life are not things."
What is important? Family. Friends. Faith. Relationships. Loyalty. Compassion. Honesty. Kindness. The list goes on. I can't purchase any of these at retail stores or at garage sales. Nor can I put a price on them. With them, I am rich no matter matter what my checking account says. Without them, I am poor no matter what my checking account says.
So, for today, I am grateful for things that have no price.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Day 241, August 29

Last week, men worked in our front yard, putting in sprinklers and laying new sod. Despite temperatures that hovered near the 100 degree mark, the men worked unceasingly, giving their best efforts to the job.
My admiration for them grew as the temperature climbed. As I sat in the air-conditioned luxury of my home, I acknowledged that I have neither the skill nor strength to do what these men did.
Too frequently, our society looks down upon work. As our nation becomes a land of entitlement where many expect to be supported by others, I am awed and humbled by those who perform physical labor. Could I lay sprinklers? No. Could I move sod? No. Could I do any of the chores these workers do with quiet efficiency? Absolutely not. My work takes different forms in different venues and requires different skill sets. What is important is not what kind of work we do but that we produce, create, serve.
Finding honor in work, finding satisfaction in a job well done, are increasingly rare qualities, and, occasionally, I despair over the fate of our country. As I gazed at these men, though, I found my faith in the future of America swelling.
So, for today, I am grateful for those individuals who value work over idleness.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Day 240, August 28

“Language is the amber in which a thousand precious and subtle thoughts
have been safely embedded and preserved.” Richard C. Trench, poet.
A writer friend sent this to me, knowing it would reach out and touch my heart. It is no secret that I love words. I love the beauty of them. I love the nuances and subtleties of them. I love what talented writers, such as the above poet, can do with a few well-chosen words.
English is a language of contradictions. Take, for example, the word cleave. It can mean to cut. It can also mean to cling. The difference lies in how it is used
I understand the use and power of language. Unfortunately, I don't always use that power in a positive way. Occasionally, I employ words to hurt, to criticize, to belittle. Surely that is not how the Lord desires me to use words. He desires that I use them to uplift, to inspire, to give praise to Him.
So, for today, I am grateful for the power of words to sing praise to the Lord.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Day 239, August 27

I've written in earlier posts about my disdain for the negatively-focused media, which seems to delight in reporting on people who act selfishly, foolishly, or unkindly. (Does anyone really care about the latest antics of a movie star who displays his immoral behavior for the whole world to witness?) Today, I'd like to share with you a story about my aunt.
Aunt Mae turned 87 on July 3 of this year. She writes a weekly column for the local paper in her small town in eastern Tennessee, in which she shares a recipe, a Bible verse, and an uplifting story. She has the church calling of sending cards to members of the congregation, those who are sick, lonely, or need an extra dose of love.
In talking with her this morning, I learned that she was in the process of making soup and cornbread for two widowers who don't get out much. At 87 years old, she manages to do all this. She doesn't drive, but she manages to make her presence and her spirit known throughout the community.
Every day, she tries to serve a family member, a friend, an acquaintance. What would our world be like if we each followed her example, doing something for someone else every day? Would not our neighborhood, our town, our nation, indeed, the entire world, be a kinder and more compassionate place? I think so.
So, for today, I am grateful for my Aunt Mae.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Day 238, August 26

Last Sunday, I attended church in Utah with my sister. A teacher asked what we do in our leisure time and put forth the idea that how we use our leisure time, in large part, determines the kind of people we are.
It was a wake-up call for me. I'm lazy. There. I said it ... or wrote it ... for all to see. I'm lazy and want to spend my leisure time reading, watching television, or napping.
There was a time in my life when the concept of leisure time was laughable. Five children, with fifteen years between the oldest and the youngest, kept me busy full time. Nursing the baby, getting the five-year-old to kindergarten and back again, taking the nine-year-old to Little League practice, and struggling to keep the house from being condemned by the Board of Health filled my days. I rejoiced (mostly) in doing those things. That was the life I had chosen. That was my role. That was my love.
Now, my days are much more my own. I work on my writing. I keep (or try to keep) the housework done. I do my church callings. But I could do so much more in helping others, serving others, loving others.
I doubt that Heavenly Father will look upon my reading, TV watching, or napping with approbation. I believe He will be far more interested in whether I visited a friend, sent a card to an elderly aunt, or read my scriptures.
So, for today, I am grateful for the reminder to use my leisure time with greater purpose.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Day 237, August 25

Friends and family know that I am a big believer in the power of prayer. With that in mind, they frequently send me requests to include someone in my prayers. I am thrilled to do that. I include the person's full name and the specific request (if I know it.)
When my prayer list grows to epic proportions, I stop and marvel that the Father can handle not only my prayers but those of everyone else as well. How infinite He is. How merciful He is. How loving He is.
For the most part, I take this for granted. Only when I stop and consciously think about it do I cognize the awesome gift we have been given, to know that we can turn at any time to our Father and pour out our hearts to Him, asking for blessings for ourselves, our families, our friends and always, (well almost always) thanking Him for His daily blessings.
I pray in plain and simple words. Sometimes I yearn for the eloquence of the prophets, ancient and modern, to express my feelings. But I have none of their power of language, so I use what I do have: heartfelt pleadings and sincere gratitude.
So, for today, I am grateful for the gift of prayer.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Day 236, August 24

While I was visiting my sister last week, we did some yoga together. I'm certain, that with my arthritic hip, I would have made a good candidate to star in one of America's Funniest Home videos. However, we persevered.
The teacher instructed us to center ourselves in the act of inhaling and exhaling. As I worked to do just that, I was reminded that I need to center myself in something--or Someone else.
How do I center myself in Christ? How do I give myself over to Him? These are questions with which I have pondered and struggled over many years.
Can I center myself in Him when I am angry? Of course not. Can I give myself over to Him when I am selfish? Again, no. Can I find Him when I am filled with pride? The answer is simple: don't be angry or selfish or prideful or anything else that takes me from the Lord.
As is true with so many of life's simple answers, the application is much more difficult. I will probably always trip over the stumbling blocks of anger and selfishness and pride and a host of other sins.
All I can do is to keep trying.
So, for today, I am grateful for the reminder to center myself in the true Center--Christ, my Lord.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Day 235, August 23

Last week, while I was in Utah, I had the opportunity to attend a class with the theme of changing the desires of our hearts. This subject was of special interest to me. (Confession time again: sometimes the desires of my heart are just plain bad. Sometimes I want to hurt people who have wronged me or my family. I want them to hurt as I have been hurt.)
The speaker gave four steps to help change those wayward desires:
- Pray with special attention to gratitude. Ask for very little.
- Tell the Father, "All I want is what Thou wants."
- Ask, "What would Thou have me do today?"
- Listen for promptings and then act on them.
These steps appear very simple. I tried them and found, not entirely to my surprise, that they are anything but simple. They require strength. They require wisdom. Most importantly, they require the humility to put the Father's wishes above my own.
Like anything other worthwhile thing, they will take time and effort to put into practice. Will I succeed? I don't know. But I intend to try.
So, for today, I am grateful for the opportunity to learn new ways and to try ... again.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Day 234. August 22

Last week, my husband and I drove to Utah. We rode in air-conditioned, leather-upholstered comfort. Even with several stops, we made the trip in less than eight hours. More than a hundred and fifty years ago, my pioneer ancestors made a much longer journey, traveling in covered wagons and handcarts.
Food was scarce, their only shelter the tarps of their wagons if they were lucky. The children collected buffalo chips to use for fires. They buried loved ones along the way, giving them shallow, often unmarked graves. Babies were born and, frequently, lost.
I found myself grumbling about the length of the trip, the discomfort of sitting for so long. When I compared my journey with that of the pioneers, I could find only admiration for them and shame for myself.
I started this blog with the express purpose of reminding myself to be more grateful. My complaints and groanings pointed out how far I have to go, not just in relation to the trip to Utah but to every aspect of my life. When am I going to focus on my blessings rather than my trials? When am I going to find the wisdom ... and the humility ... to recognize the Father's hand in my life?
I don't know.
So, for today, I am grateful for reminders that I am, indeed, blessed, even when I don't acknowledge it.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Day 233, August 21

I love sunflowers. I love their unapologetically happy faces. I love their unpretentious prettiness. I love their in-your-face boldness. They push through the ground, grow quickly, and bloom in a burst of gold.
Sunflowers do not pretend to be what they are not. Among God's humblest creations, they accept what they are.
This is a good life lesson. Have you noticed that we are less happy when we pretend to be something that we are not? I occasionally long to be different from what I am. I long to be outgoing, bold, and brave. The truth is, I'm not any of those things. And I probably wouldn't be happy if I tried to be them because it is not in my nature. Just as it is not in the sunflower's nature to be a hothouse rose.
So, for today, I am grateful for lessons from sunflowers.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Day 232, August 20

My sister has four little granddaughters, ranging in age from two to six years old. They are delightful with an infinite capacity to play make-believe. They especially like to make believe that they are princesses. With that in mind, I haunt garage sales for princess costumes: Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Belle (from Beauty and the Beast), and others.
I, too, like to play make believe. In my fantasies, I am enviably thin, beautiful, and talented. In my more thoughtful fantasies, I am compassionate, spiritual, and kind. If I possessed all these qualities, I would be next-door to being perfect and probably insufferable, so it's just as well that these remain fantasies.
Do you have fantasies? I'm betting you do. What are some of them? Do you dream of writing a New York Times bestselling novel as I do? Do you dream of running in a marathon? Do you dream of winning the lottery? What do you have to do to make these dreams come true?
Do you remember the hackneyed story of the woman hoping to win the lottery? Dutifully, she prays every night. Finally, God tells her, "You've got to buy a ticket first." The moral of the story is, of course, that we need to put forth the necessary work if we're to make our dreams happen.
Some of our dreams require that we have a partner. When my husband wanted to start a business, he knew he needed a partner to supplement his skills. He found the right partner and, together, they built a successful business.
I'm not certain that God will bless our efforts to win the lottery, but I am certain that He will bless our righteous endeavors. When we partner with the Lord, we are bringing in the ultimate Partner.
So, for today, I am grateful for dreams and for the ultimate Partner.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Day 231, August 19

My sister and I were lamenting the loss of energy and strength that frequently accompany the passing of the years. How did we keep up with our children, we wondered. How did we do everything necessary to keep five children clean and clothed, to deliver them to orthodontist appointments and Little League practice, to make sure teeth were brushed and prayers were said?
"God knew we needed extra energy during those years," I said.
Looking back, I realize how right I was. God did give us extra energy. He gives us exactly what we need at any given time.
I don't always recognize that. Certainly, I don't always appreciate it. I grumble about what I perceive as lacks or deficiences in my life. Only when I look with eyes opened to the eternal nature of life do I understand God's wisdom.
So, for today, I am grateful for God's wisdom.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Day 230, August 18

For my birthday two weeks ago, my husband gave me a beautiful sculpture depicting the Lord's hands creating the earth. The sculpture speaks to me on several different levels.
I love the theme of creation, the idea of making something, whether it be a piece of art, a loaf of bread, or the earth.
I love the idea of hands at work. As I've mentioned before, hands fascinate me: hands of different shapes and sizes, hands of different colors and talents. My own hands are fairly small; nor are they particularly strong. However, they can and do do work. When my children were small, my hands were constantly busy: changing diapers, preparing food, soothing away the hurts and bumps of life. Today my hands do a different type of work, creating a different type of life.
I love the representation of the Lord's hands. For He is the ultimate Creator.
Creation and hands. The two are iinextricably connected. When we use our hands to create, we emulate the Lord.
So, for today, I am grateful for hands.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Day 229, August 17

I feel my Savior's love
In all the world around me.
His spirit warms my soul
Through everything I see.
I feel my Savior's love;
Its gentlesness enfolds me,
And when I kneel to pray
My heart is filled with peace.
I feel my Savior's love
And know that he will bless me.
I offer him my heart;
My shepherd he will be.
There I go again, quoting lyrics from a Primary song. I apologize. I can't seem to help myself. Primary songs, and this one in particular, speak to my soul. Could it be that those who write music for children are in extra close touch with the Lord? I think so.
I, too, feel my Savior's love. I feel it when the sun shines upon my face like a benediction. I feel it when I hold a baby in my arms. I feel it when a grandchild puts his arms around me and whispers, "I love you, Grandma."
Yes, I feel my Savior's love. In everything.
So, for today, I am grateful for my Savior's love

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Day 228, August 16

Nearly fourteen years ago, my mother died. When my father passed away ten years later, I was left feeling anchorless. There I was, a grown woman, and I felt like an orphan. I was being foolish, I told myself. I was a wife, had children and grandchildren, yet I could not shake that feeling.
Not until sometime later did I realize that I had a parent Who is always there. My Father in Heaven is as close as a prayer. Why did it take me so long to remember that? In my grief over the loss of my father, I had forgotten my other Father.
Remembering that He is there for me, for all of us, is a comfort like no other. I truly do not understand how individuals who do not believe in a higher being get through a day, much less through life. How do they function without that knowledge?
When I was a child, my earthly father provided for me. He sheltered me, protected me, taught me, loved me. My Heavenly Father does much the same. He shelters me. He protects me. He teaches me. He loves me.
So, for today, I am grateful for my fathers.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Day 227, August 15

Today is my husband, Larry's, birthday.
Larry and I have been married for 38 years (a miracle when you realize that I am only 29). Over the years, we have weathered pregnancies and PMS, flooded basements and the teenage years of five children, car wrecks and family photo sessions, and a myriad of other disasters. Somehow, in between carpools and Little League games, we managed to have a life.
He was and is a hands-on parent, changing diapers, cleaning up messes, and sharing every part of child-rearing. Today, he is a devoted grandfather.
Larry has put up with my less-than-stellar driving, including my backing our first car into the wall of our apartment building (I was avoiding hitting a bird), my hot flashes, and a number of other trials. Through it all, he has been there.
When our cat, Harley, needed not one but two expensive operations, he never flinched, only said to the doctor, "Do what you have to to save her." He took time off work to help me take Harley to the vet and stayed with me until we knew she was all right.
Don't get me wrong. We have had our share of problems. We have been through both the "richer and poorer," the "in sickness and in health" part of the marriage vows and somehow have come out on the other side. Perhaps because we knew the Lord was on our side.
So, for today, I am grateful for my husband. I am always grateful that the Lord is on our side.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Day 226, August 14

Today is our grandson Brigham's seventh birthday. Brigham came to our family by way of adoption. He is a delight, full of questions, energy, and more questions. He loves Legos, transformers, Star Wars, and all things that make up a little boy.
His smile is infectious, inviting all who see him to share in his sheer joy in life. Gaps where his baby teeth once resided give him an especially mischievous look, a contrast to his sleeping self where he looks like a slightly grubby angel.
My husband and I had the opportunity to look after Brigham and his brother this past spring. They gave us a run for our money. I admit that I couldn't run fast enough to keep up with them. Which is all right. Grandmas aren't supposed to keep up with grandchildren; they are only supposed to love them. That, I can do.
I've written before about my grandchildren. They remind me of all that is good and right in life. While some look about the world and see despair, I look at my grandchildren and see hope.
So, for today, I am grateful for Brigham.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Day 225, August 13

In typing this, I cognized that I have been blogging for 225 days. (Well, 226 if you count New Year's Eve where I began with a preface.) Who would have figured that I could have kept this up for 225 (or 226) days?
As I've confided in earlier posts, I wasn't at all sure I could or would continue. Yet here I am, still writing about the things that go on in my life, still trying to find the wisdom and the energy to continue looking for things for which to be grateful.
Do you know what? It isn't easy. I am surrounded by blessings, but it isn't always easy identifying them or writing about them.
In talking with my niece, I told her that the right things in life are usually not the easy ones. They take time. They take effort. They take discipline and commitment and persistence and all those other virtues that slip through my fingers like water.
Rarely do I possess those virtues. I take the easy way out and let things slide. I let exercising slide. I let my writing slide. I let volunteering write. Sometimes, it seems like I'm just one big slippery slope.
So, for today, I am grateful for the times when I don't let things slide.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Day 224, August 12

Life marches by, and, sometimes, I find myself wanting to call a halt and say, "Wait for me."
Technological advances, in everything from phones to refrigerators, computers to cars, frequently leave me feeling left behind. My eight-year-old grandson routinely uses power-point in school presentations. His eleven-year-old sister helps me find glitches on my computer.
Neither of my grandmothers ever learned to drive a car. At the time, I didn't understand why. Now, I do. Cars intimidated them. Just as today's technology intimidates. I have an i-phone. After eight months, it still surprises me, doing things I didn't know it could do. Why haven't I learned how to use all those apps?
I realize I am still a child in all things technological. It occurred to me that I am also a child in all things eternal. I picture the Father, looking down from heaven, shaking His head, wondering, "Why hasn't Jane figured things out yet? Why is she still struggling to get things right?"
Fortunately, for me, and for all of us, He possesses infinite patience. He knows that I am trying ... sometimes. He knows that I want Him on my side. More, He has given me a way to talk with Him through prayer.
So, for today, I am grateful for technology that makes life easier. I am always grateful for the Father Who makes life eternal.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Day 223, August 11

We are in the "dog days" of summer when the temperature tries even the most mild of persons. My own gentle soul (picture my husband rolling his eyes at this) does not tolerate the heat well. And then I remember that I live in the comfort of an air-conditioned home, travel in the luxury of an air-conditioned car, and shop in air-conditioned stores.
Air-conditioning is a boon to those of us who melt in the heat and those who live with those of us who melt in the heat. I've noticed that when temperatures rise, frequently tempers do as well. When the Father created our human natures, He expected us to learn control.
Too often, I witness individuals (myself included) who fail to exercise control of their tempers. Road rage, a fairly recent term, has been coined to describe those who allow their anger at other drivers to escalate to unreasonable proportions.
When did we, as a society, decide that it was acceptable to take our anger to such extremes? In earlier posts, I've written about poor manners. Is not the expression of such anger just an extension of bad manners? Yet such behavior is not only tolerated but rewarded when celebrities and other public figures exhibit it.
Thankfully, there are still those who treat others with kindness and respect.
So, for today, I am grateful for air-conditioning. I am always grateful for people who return rudeness with civility.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Day 222, August 10

Yesterday, I started the blog by writing of a man who spoke plainly and directly. I realize I did not give this subject due attention.
Plain speaking is a commodity in short supply today. The media bombards us with sound bytes of politicians, movie stars, and other celebrities, each of whom seems to have a preponderance of fancy words delivered in a fancy manner.
These words rarely, if ever, touch me. More often than not, they are written by someone else and are given with supposedly heartfelt emotion. That is probably why they so often fall flat. Words written by someone else and presented with psuedo-feeling will fail to touch souls. Conversely, words written from the heart and delivered with heart reach in and squeeze my heart every time.
So, for today, I am grateful for plain speaking.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Day 221, August 9

This past Sunday, a man spoke in our church services, bearing his testimony of Christ. He was "plain of speech," his words simple, direct, and to the point. They touched my heart, perhaps because they were simple and direct.
I, too, am plain of speech. I have no fancy words and, occasionally, yearn for the gift of lyrical prose that some writers achieve seemingly effortlessly.
As I pondered this yearning, I realized that I am being ungrateful to my Heavenly Father when I wish I were different from what I am. Why can't I appreciate the gifts I have been given and stop coveting those of others? The answer is, of course, that I am weak and all too human. I want what I don't have and fail to appreciate what I do.
That, among other things, is the reason I started "The Gratitude Project," to remind myself of the blessings I have been given. Could I find things in myself to appreciate? The short answer is, "It depends on the day."
On any given day, I can believe that I have something to contribute. By the following day, I am equally convinced that I have nothing whatsoever to share. What makes the difference? Could it be that on the first day, I am looking outside myself, searching for ways to help others?
Maybe. Probably.
So, for today, I am grateful for those days when I remember to look beyond myself.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Day 220, August 8

"Success is often achieved by those who don't know that failure is inevitable."--Coco Chanel.
I love this quote. I love the optimism, the in-your-face defiance it exudes. I've always admired Coco Chanel, a woman who defied the odds of a woman succeeding in business at a time when the role of women was narrowly defined. When I heard this quote, I gained a greater appreciation for her.
How many times have I stopped myself from doing something because I knew I wouldn't succeed? Far too many. And what if I hadn't succeeded? Would the world have come to a stop? Would life as we know it have ended because I tried something and failed?
But I stopped myself because I didn't want to add another failure to an already long list. How sad is that? As I enter a new decade in my years, I am determined to try new things and, inevitably, to add new failures. There. I've said it aloud.
Perhaps in a later post, I can share some of those with you.
So, for today, I am grateful for people who succeed when failure is inevitable.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Day 219, August 7

In earlier posts, I've written about my Mormon ancestry. Early Latter-day Saints were driven from their homes by mobs, watched their temple destroyed and their prophet martyred, and traveled across an inhospitable land to settle. In the Salt Lake Valley, they were finally able to practice their faith.
Mormons were not the only religious group to suffer persecution. The Amish and other sects also faced ill treatment. The tenet of religious freedom, one of the basic principles upon which America was founded, was denied to many in past centuries.
Today, Sunday, I can go to church without fear. I can proclaim my faith in public forums such as this. I can practice my religion as I see fit.
What a blessing this is, one, which, I'm ashamed to admit, that I do not always appreciate. Could I have held to my faith while I watched my husband being tarred and feathered? Could I have stood by my beliefs while being threatened by mobs? Could I have sacrificed everything to move to a barren desert?
I don't know.
So, for today, I am grateful for religious freedom.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Day 218, August 6

Too often, our society seems intent on idolizing poor behavior. A quick glimpse of a television program entitled Bridezillas left me shaking my head in bemusement. When did rudeness, selfishness, and downright meanness become a cause for celebration?
My husband says that I don't get out in the real world much. The fact is, I like my world just as it is. We have a young family in our church who epitomizes generosity. This past week, I called the mother to ask if I could hire her children to do some yard work. After talking with her children, she said that they couldn't take pay for serving someone else.
This is not an isolated incident with this family. They give of themselves to everyone, neighbors, church members, friends. They perform their acts of service with quiet grace, never drawing attention to themselves. In fact, they go out of their way to avoid the spotlight.
What a pleasant contrast to media superstars whose so-called charitable acts are accompanied by a fanfare of trumpets. The Savior warns against this when He counsels to do our good deeds in secret.
(As I re-read what I've just written, I realize that I've jumped from Bridezillas to the Savior. What can I say? My mind makes odd leaps at times.)
So, for today, I am grateful for people like my friends who do their good acts in secret.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Day 217, August 5

I've mentioned in earlier posts that life has thrown our family some curves this year. We are not alone. Nearly everyone I know is going through some kind of crisis, whether it be family problems, illness, caring for an elderly parent, or just struggling in this down economy.
Suffering through life's problems isn't fun. I grumble. I whine. I grouse. And then I start all over again. After I go through my litany of complaints, I hunker down and get to work.
What gets me through?
Faith. Family. Friends. I call them my trifecta of strength. Without them, I would surely crumble under the pressures of life. I believe that this is the Lord's plan, to give us these things, these people, to see us through the tough times and to rejoice with us during the good times.
I can't think of my faith without thinking of family and friends. And I can't think of family or friends without thinking of faith. The three are inextricably connected. Once again, the Lord has devised a perfect plan.
So, for today, I am grateful for faith, family, and friends.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Day 216, August 4

Two nights ago, our kitty, Harley, accidentally got outside. (Harley has been declawed and is a strictly indoor cat.) My sister, my husband, and I spent the next couple of hours frantically searching for her. Finally, I enlisted the neighbors' help. Mind you, this was at 11 pm.
I asked our neighbor if I could borrow a flashlight. He readily loaned it to me, then started looking for her on his own. We finally found Harley tucked away in the corner of the basement of the addition we are building. Our hearts settled. I gave Harley a stern talking-to and said a special prayer of gratitude for her safe return.
The incident made me think of our neighbors. Larry and I are not great neighbors. Though we try to be considerate, we are rather private and not very out-going. Yet our neighbors have extended themselves on our behalf.
Our next door neighbor volunteers every year to clean out our gutters. He steadfastly refuses any kind of payment. Another neighbor always asks about our children, whom he has watched grow up over the years. The list goes on.
Neighborhoods are a kind of family. Neigihbors know when there is sickness in a family, when a new baby is born, when a death has occurred. Neighbors bring in mail when one is away from home, water lawns, and watch pets.
So, for today, I am grateful for neighbors and neighborhoods.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Day 215, August 3

I started "The Gratitude Project" in an effort to remind myself (and maybe others) that no matter what life throws at us, that we all have much for which to be grateful. Despite that lofty goal, I still find myself complaining, whining, and moaning, all unattractive qualities.
Why can't I get my mind off what is wrong in my life and concentrate on what is right? When I am going to get it right? Sometimes I think, "Never." And sometimes I catch a glimmer of what I could be if I allowed the Lord into my life on a daily basis.
Too frequently, I deny Him entrance. No, I don't say aloud, "Lord, I don't want thee in my life today." But I do keep Him from letting His spirit guide me when I am selfish, when I am cruel, when I am thoughtless with the tender feelings of others.
The solution, of course, is not to be that way. It is so simple. And so hard to do. That seems a dichotomy, doesn't it? A contradiction. Part of me works to be a better person and another part works just as hard to prevent that from happening. I know I have a greater chance of being what I want to be, being what the Lord wants to be, when I let the Spirit in.
So, for today, I am grateful for those times when the Spirit finds its way into my life.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Day 214, August 2

This past Sunday, a man spoke on faith. His talk spurred me to think about my own faith. Do I have faith? Do I practice it? Do I use it to better my life and that of others? The answer is, "Sometimes."
My faith goes up and down. (A lot like my weight.) It is bolstered by the examples of others. I have been blessed with many examples of faith.
I've written in earlier posts about my Mormon ancestry, of those brave pioneers who left their homes to travel across the plains to the unknown land. Once there, they were called again to leave their homes and settle the harsh terriortory of Arizona. Their faith awes me. It humbles me. It inspires me.
More recently, I've watched dear friends forge their way through a different kind of pioneering as the husband has endured the treatment for leukemia: chemotherapy, a bone marrow transnplant, and now long months away from home so that he can be close to the hospital. Their faith has sustained them. Like my ancestors, they suffered, but they endured. And they continue to endure.
Faith does not vanquish life's problems. It is not a magic elixir. Faith is that bone-deep knowledge that we are not alone, that the Lord is at our side, even when we cannot feel Him, even when we willfully fail to acknowledge Him.
Faith does not vanquish life's problems. It is not a magic elixir. It is that bone-deep knowledge that the Lord is at our side, even when we do not feel Him, even when we willfully fail to acknowledge His presence. (Yes, to my shame, I have done that.)
So, for today, I am grateful for those who exercise their faith and inspire me to do the same.

Day 213, August 1

Yesterday was my birthday. It was one of those big birthdays, the kind with a zero on the end. I took it in my usual calm way and told people I was 29. When those knowing that I have three children older than that asked how that was possible, I explained that it was the new math. They nodded, a pitying look in their eyes and ascribed it to my advancing years.
My family and friends remembered me with cards and gifts. The greatest gift of all took me completely by surprise: my sister, Carla, flew out to be with me for the week.
I've mentioned my sister in earlier posts. She is my best friend, the other part of me, the best part of me. Those of you who have sisters know what I'm talking about. Sisters help us remember who we were, who we are, who we hope to be.
I'm fortunate to have other sisters in my friends. They make me laugh. They dry my tears. They share their problems with me and listen while I share mine with them. They are sisters of my heart.
So, for today, I am grateful for surprises. It goes without saying that I am always grateful for sisters.