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.