Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Day 56, February 29

"Peace is not the absence of affliction, but the presence of God."--Author unknown

Don't you love this quote? How I wish I knew the author so that I could give it the proper attribution.

As I look around my circle of family, friends, and acquaintances, I cannot identify anyone who is not suffering from some affliction. These afflictions vary, from severe health problems to financial problems to family problems.

Even those who seem to lead charmed lives are dealing with some kind of pain. One of my favorite hymns, "Lord, I Would Follow Thee," contains the words, " ... sorrow that the eye can't see ..." In a fit of self-pity and envy, I once said to my husband, "She (a friend) doesn't have any problems. Her life is perfect." Wisely, he said, "We just can't see her problems."

Since then, I've grown a bit in wisdom. I've tried to look at others with fresh eyes, trying to see beyond the surface. You know what? It's hard. It's hard to focus on something and someone besides myself.

I looked at my friend again and understood that her life was not problem-free, but that she coped with whatever life threw at her because she walks hand-in-hand with God.

This I know for sure: when I walk with God, I'm not carrying my burdens alone.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Day 55, February 28

Recently I watched a television (fictional) show which posed the theme "Can God talk with people today?"

I answered, "Of course, He can."

One of the show's character's scoffed at the idea, saying that God talked with people of biblical times but doesn't talk to us today. I was grateful that this was a fictional show, hoping that the actress portraying this character didn't really believe what she was saying.

How can I, how can anyone, get through a day, much less their entire lives, without believing that we can talk with God through prayer, and, what's more, that He can talk with us, that He loves us enough to answer us?

I can't. I don't believe anyone can.

This I know for sure: God talks with us; our job is to listen.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Day 54, February 27

Last weekend, Larry and I were fortunate enough to have two of our grandchildren, Reynna and Christopher, spend Saturday night and attend church with us on Sunday. We didn't do anything exciting. In fact, the children think I'm pretty boring. (True enough.)
The important thing is that we were together. On Sunday morning, there was no question that we would attend church. We had breakfast and dressed in our "Sunday clothes." Later that day, Larry and I took the children back to their parents. (That's the wonderful being about a grandparent--we can have the grandchildren and then can return them to their parents!)
I couldn't help but think of a recent conversation with a friend. She told me about her sister-in-law whose home boasted the sign "We don't do grandchildren here." That is certainly her privilege, her right.
But how much she is missing.
We do grandchildren at our home. We "do" them because we love them. We do them because they enrich our lives. We do them because family is important, in fact, the most important thing we have.
This I know for sure: my life would be poorer indeed without my grandchildren.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Day 53, February 26

Writers frequently talk about re-inventing themselves. It is akin to the makeovers that are so popular on television, but rather than donning new duds and trying new hair styles and makeup, writers work to makeover their writing.

Perhaps the writer who sold steadily to the historical market finds that she no longer has any stories left in her for Regencies and decides to write inspirationals. Or the non-fiction writer longs to try on a new persona and decides to write children's fiction. The possibilities are endless.

Like many women, I like to watch the transformations of a pretty but unexciting looking woman in to a head-turner as portrayed on television. And, over the years, I've watched writer friends re-invent themselves, adjusting to changes in their tastes, their needs, the market.

I wonder what would happen if I re-invented myself, not physically (though that is tempting), but emotionally, mentally, spiritually. The idea is an intriguing one. Would my new self find untapped talents and heretofore un-discovered courage? Would that new self find the strength to forgive those who wronged me? Would I give more generously of my time and means with a fresh store of unselfishness and compassion?

This I know for sure: makeovers are possible with the help of the Savior.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Day 52, February 25

Even hundredfold grief is divisble by love.--Terri Guillemets

Do you know anyone who has not been touched by grief in some way? Grief over a child's rebellion? Grief over a parent's death? Grief over a betrayal? This mortal sphere is an imperfect one, with sorrow the flip side of joy.

I have known great grief. I have also known great joy. Would I recognize joy without having experienced the grief? I don't know.

But I do know that my grief is made bearable by the support and love of others. Chief among them are my husband, my children, my sister, my friends. They bear my burdens in countless ways. And then there is the Lord. He lifts me when I cannot lift myself. He carries me when I cannot carry myself.

This I know for sure: grief is inevitable, but love makes it bearable.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Day 51, February 24

A writer friend recently shared with me her goal to find an agent. It occurred to me that we all need "agents," for what is an agent but an advocate, a cheerleader, someone who is in our corner.

I've been fortunate enough to have many cheerleaders in my life: my husband, my sister, my parents, my friends. And I hope I have been a cheerleader for them. I don't always do as good a job as I'd like, but I keep trying.

Who are your agents, your cheerleaders? I hope you have many. I hope you have people who make you feel special, who make you feel that you're the most important person in the world, if only for a moment.

This I know for sure: we all need cheerleaders in our lives.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Day 50, February 23

Today is my daughter Alanna's birthday.

Alanna is more than a daughter. She is also my friend. In many ways, she is "older" than I am, in her life experience, in her wisdom, in her talents. She has skills and strengths I will never have.

As I watch her care for her family, her sweet husband and two children, I feel my heart burst with pride and love. She works full time and still finds time to volunteer, in the community, in her church.

Mothers and daughters typically have their ups-and-downs during the teenage years. Alanna and I were no exception. We fought. We cried. We made up. And we may do so again.

This I know for sure: Alanna brings joy to my life in ways no other can.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Day 49, February 22

"A sister is God's way of proving He doesn't want us to walk alone."--Author unknown

In past posts, I've talked about my sister, Carla. Though we aren't twins, we might as well be. My husband says that our hearts beat as one. When she rejoices, I rejoice. When she grieves, I grieve. When Carla's husband of 36 years, Rolf, passed away, I wept with her, held her while she wept, then she held me.

Carla is my only biological sister, but I am blessed with other sisters, sisters of my heart. They are dear to me in a myriad of ways. Some of those sisters are my age. Others are decades younger, others decades older. One of my best friends, Dorothy, was nearly thirty years older than me. It made no difference. We laughed together over life's absurdities and cried together over the tragedies that none of us escape.

This I know for sure: sisters are born of the blood and sisters are made of the heart. Each is precious.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Day 48, February 21

"A quilt will warm your body and comfort your soul."--Author unknown

Last year, I wrote of the quilts that my mother and her mother and sisters made during the Depression. Those quilts are precious to me for many reasons.

When I was a young mother, a group of friends made a quilt for our first son. The quilt was a simple tied one, but it represented love in action. I wrapped my son in it, used it to cover myself as I nursed him, then, when he was older, I covered him with it when I laid him down for a nap. Recently, I gave that quilt to my son so that he could use it for his sons.

Several years ago, the teenage daughter of some dear friends died unexpectedly. Her death rocked her parents and those who cared about him. What could I do for them? I wanted to wrap my arms around them and hug them with my love. I did, but it was a temporary thing.

Then it occurred to me that a quilt would be a constant reminder of my love. I wish I had the sewing skills to stitch a beautiful, handmade quilt for them, but I don't. Instead, I purchased a quilt in a cheery flowered fabric and took it to them with instructions to use it whenever they needed a hug.

This I know for sure: everyone needs a quilt in their life.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Day 47, February 20

A few days ago, my husband, Larry, and I were at a grocery store choosing a treat to take to a family in our ward (congregation) who were going through a rough time. While there, we ran into another lady from our church, who had just returned from taking something to the same family.

Afteward, I commented to Larry, "There can never be too many expressions of love at such a time."

I pondered on my words, and, a few moments later, said, "There can never be too many expressions of love at ANY time." Larry agreed. Certainly, my words are not original nor profound, but they caused me to stop and think. Do I limit my expressions of love to those going through hard times or do I give love naturally and unstintingly?

This I know for sure: there can never be too many expressions of love, at times of crisis or at any time.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Day 46, February 19

Many of you know that I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints--a Mormon. I am proud of legacy of my Mormon ancestors, indeed, of all those who have gone before.

I am blessed with a rich family history of Church service and sacrifice. My Grandfather McBride was called to serve two missions to Samoa during the early 1900s. He willingly accepted the call to serve, leaving behind a wife and small children. After several years, he returned to his home in Arizona, stayed for a year, then returned to the mission field.

What faith it must have taken on his part to go to a strange land halfway across the world, with little money, to live on plants and grubs (a small shrimp-like creature). And what courage it must have taken for his wife to send him off, knowing that her husband was far away with little means to communicate with her, to know that she alone was responsible for her little family.

Could I have done this? I sincerely doubt it.

Faith sustained those brave people and others like them. Faith and an unshakeable resolve to do what the Lord commanded.

This I know for sure: if I am to follow in their footsteps in even the smallest manner, I must put aside my worldliness and selfishness and focus on what truly matters.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Day 45, February 18

"Coincidence is God's way of remaining anonymous."--Albert Einstein

A few years ago, my sister's family was going through a really hard time. Christmas was approaching. She confided in me that her spirits had never felt less like Christmas. The next day, unknown friends delivered what was to be the first of twelve gifts to her family. The gifts had obviously been chosen with great care and and thought.

More than five hundred miles away, I pondered what to do to make our Christmas a bit brighter. My sister's troubles weighed heavily upon me. I approached my husband about taking anonymous gifts to a neighbor family, and he agreed. (This was before I knew about the gifts delivered to my sister and her family.)

When we compared notes, we laughed and cried over the coinicidence. Upon further thought, though, I decided that this was not a coincidence at all, but God's way of touching hearts. I couldn't help my sister, but I could do something for someone else.

This I know for sure: when God is present, coincidence ceases to exist.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Day 44, February 17

Tis the privilege of friendship to talk nonsense, and to have her nonsense respected.

- Charles Lamb

Those who know me, or who have been reading this blog for a while, know that friendship is a subject close to my heart. I am blessed with many friends, each of whom bring something different and special to my life.

This is my sister and best friend Carla, who complements me in so many ways and makes life better for all who know her.

There is my sweet daughter Alanna, who shares my offbeat sense of humor and has given me two beautiful grandchildren.

There is my friend Amanda, writer extraordinarie, who offers up encouragement and understanding when I get down about this crazy profession we've each chosen.

There is Laurie, who has known me and put up with me for more than 16 years. She forgives my goofiness, occasional naughtiness, and teasing.

There are Tami and Marian who, for more than 12 years, have walked with me, adjusting their rapid, younger pace to my slower, older one.

There are Jeannie, Janet, Holly, Barbara, Joan, Myrna, Patti, Phyllis, Judy, Julie, Mary, Grace, Marilyn, Marlene, Karen, Bev, Deliese, Natalie, and dozens more.

This I know for sure: each friend is a precious flower in the bouquet of my life.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Day 43 , February 16

"The golden moments in the stream of life rush past us and we see nothing but sand; the angels come to visit us, and we only know them when they are gone."--George Elliot

I am guilty of allowing the golden moments of life to rush past me. I am usually too focused on what I could have done differently, how I might have done something better, why didn't I give more than I did. That is a sad way to live. What have I missed in my misplaced focus? What joys have I denied myself?

Too many.

And what of the angels I failed to recognize? Some angels cannot be disguised. They come in times of need, sorrow, grief. Many angels have ministered to me over the years, the friend who held me when I cried, another friend who planted flowers to commemorate my mother's passing. I work to cognize them, to thank them. However, others have appeared, and I failed to know them for who they were.

This I know for sure: golden moments and angels are all around us; it is up to us to look upon them with fresh eyes and a glad heart.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Day 42, February 15

"Faith is not without worry or care, but faith is fear that has said a prayer."--Author Unknown

Who among us does not have worries or cares? Who among us does not fret over our spouse, our children, our grandchildren, our friends? Who among us has not been touched by tragedy, whether it be the too-soon death of a loved one, the terror of a life-threatening illness (and isn't it always more frightening when it happens to someone you love than to yourself?), the heartbreak of a child who chooses a different way of life than what you tried to teach?

None of us escape this life unscathed. Fortunately, the Father has provided a way to communicate with Him, to render our cares and worries into His hands. We don't always understand His way, but we know that He is there and is as close as a prayer.

This I know for sure: I cannot navigate this life without prayer, nor would I even want to try.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Day 41, February 14

It is Valentine's Day.

Who has not seen the array of candies, cakes, cookies, flowers, cards, and even stuffed unicorns all bearing hearts and cupids and the like at the stores?

You know what? Though I think all these things are lovely (especially those filled with fat-laden calories), they don't set my heart to longing and yearning. As I tell my husband, I'm not "a hearts and flowers" kind of girl.

What, then, touches my heart?

Little things: My husband, Larry, says he "puts up" with our sweet kitty. In fact, he loves her. When he picks her up and cradles her in his arms, my heart melts. Big things: When I voiced my concern about my (widowed) sister's health insurance, Larry said, "We'll add her to ours if need be."

This I know for sure: Valentine's Day is but one day of the year; the constants in my life, such as evidence of my husband's love, are there every day.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Day 40, February 13

A few days ago, I had the opportunity to talk with a lady whom I don't know very well. We discovered we had much in common, and I was grateful for the chance to get to know her better. In the course of our conversation, she thanked me (several times) for writing her at the time of her mother's death.

I had nearly forgotten having sent her some cards at that time. I do remember, though, empathizing with her at losing a beloved parent.

This incident set me to wondering, would this woman have made the time to talk with me if I hadn't sent the cards. I don't know. But those cards smoothed the way to what I hope will become a sweet friendship.

Certainly, sending a card is not a big thing. It won't cure the common cold, make politicians stop lying, or promote world peace. But it made a difference, albeit a small one, in this woman's life. In turn, she made a difference in mine with our conversation.

This I know for sure: small words and acts can have long-reaching effects.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Day 39, February 12

"What we do when no one is watching defines what kind of people we are."

I heard this on an advertisement. I can't tell you now what the advertisement was for, but the words stuck in my mind.

It started me thinking about what I do when no one is watching. You know what I found out? I'm lazy. I like to sit around in an oversized T-shirt, read or watch television or eat something fattening. Sometimes I do all three at once. (Who says I can't multi-task?)

What does this say about me? Not much, I'm afraid.

And then I realized that Someone is watching. The Savior is watching all the time. What would I do if I remembered that? Would I be reading the scriptures more? Would I be serving others more? Would I be on my knees thanking Him for all the blessings He's bestowed on me more?

I hope the answers would be yes, yes, and yes.

Unfortunately, I don't remember it very often. And so the questions are moot.

This I know for sure: if I want to succeed in the things that I claim are important to me, I better start behaving as though I know the Savior is watching.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Day 38, February 11

"It is more important to do right than it is to be right."--Anonymous

At first glance, this quote appears to be mundane, prosaic. The more I ponder it, though, the more I realize the power of it.

How many of us must be right in every situation? How many of us defend our position to the death? I have done it. (Ask my husband.) So certain am I of my "rightness," that I sacrifice good feelings and relationships in my need to prove that I am right.

How much happier I would be if I spent my time doing right. Doing right means a myriad of things. Doing right means putting another's needs above my own. Doing right means sacrifice. Doing right means having the humility to say, "I'm wrong."

This I know for sure: being right is a matter of pride. Doing right is a matter of courage.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Day 37, February 10

I am not someone who delights in snow; however, even I am drawn to the pristine beauty of a freshly fallen snow, perhaps because I like the quiet stillness of it. Or perhaps because it covers the winter brown grass and the dingy gray of the streets.

The snow white-washes the harshness that winter wreaks upon the land. Ocasionally I try to white-wash my sins. Unfortunately, they can't be as easily disguised as the brown grass and gray streets. Sins have a way of clinging to a person like a bad smell.


Who wants to have a bunch of smelly sins clinging to them? Yet that is exactly what sins do. They burrow their way in to the very pores of our being.

This I know for sure: if I want to cleanse myself of sin, I cannot white wash them away. I must do the heavy lifting of repenting and finding a new way of living.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Day 36, February 9

"In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes an act of rebellion." George Orwell.

Perhaps at no other time in our nation's history have we so great a need of men and women who have the courage to tell the truth.

Are you as disheartened as I am of the media distorting and flat out lying about political candidates? Stories are related out of context; innuendo is reported as truth. It is discouraging enough when the candidates throw insults at each other. Now we must endure the bias of those who are charged with speaking truth as well.

There are many honorable persons in the press; however, there are also those who abuse their power for their own ends.

This I know for sure: we are all charged with speaking the truth, for, one day, we will be held accountable for every word we have uttered.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Day 35, February 8

“We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”
Albert Einstein

I saw this quote on a friend's Facebook page and immediately fell in love with it. Despite my approval of the sentiment, though, I find that I continue to repeat past behavior that hasn't brought the desired results.

While I occasionally consider myself to be a person of some intelligence, I know I am not being wise when I hold onto habits and thoughts and feelings that halt my progress, both in this life and in that to come. (Oh, yes, there is a life to come, one in which we will be judged by our actions and behavior here.)

What can I do to stop repeating foolish choices? I can use discipline. (Alas, that is in short supply in my stash of traits.) I can try hypnosis. Or I can beg the Savior to change me.

This I know for sure: if I want to change, I need the help of a Higher Power, a Divine Friend, and my Lord and Savior.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Day 34, February 7

I recently watched a television show with the theme of "everyone deserves to feel like a star at least once in his life." Though the show was a comedy, the idea so touched me that I found myself crying as the main character revealed how he had been discarded in high school, dismissed as unimportant, not deserving of anyone's interest, much less their regard.

Haven't we all felt this way at one time or another? I know I have. I listened to the naysayers, those who would have me feel less than I am. And too often I believe them. I believed the editor who told me that I would never sell a book and suggested I look for another profession. I believed the family member who is unrelentless, indeed, merciless, in his criticism of me. I believed the child who told me that I was a horrible mother.

I know, I shouldn't let others' words and opinions affect me so. But the truth is, words can hurt. Don't we all bear a responsibility to lift others up, to give them reason to feel good about themselves? Don't we all find pleasure when we give a boost to another?

This I know for sure: life is hard enough without heaping hurt on each other.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Day 33, February 6

"What is this life if full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare ...
No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare."--William Henry Davies

Don't you love these words? The poet possesses undeniable artistry with words; he also possesses insights into the human condition that cause us to not only read the words but to ponder upon them.

All of us are busy. All of us have a myriad of duties and chores to perform. All of us have limited time and energy and resources. But if, as Davies suggest, we have no time to "turn at Beauty's glance," then our time is ill spent.

I don't believe that the poet refers to the world's definition of beauty of even features and air-brushed perfection of super models and movie stars. Rather, I think he suggests we find beauty in the branches of a winter-bare tree, the valiant rays of sun striving to break through scuttling clouds, or the pristine stillness of a winter landscape. Beauty can be found all around us, if we but look.

This I know for sure: a life without beauty is a barren one indeed.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Day 32, February 5

Do you know how to tell if you're going in the right direction? It's all up hill.

Do you ever feel like that? That you slide back two or three steps for every step you take. I do. All the time. I feel that way in my writing. For every acceptance I receive, I get at least two rejections.

I feel that way in my relationships with family and friends: for every positive thing I do, I manage to stick my foot in my mouth or do something unkind or hurtful twice over. It's discouraging. When am I going to get it right?

And so I keep trudging, putting one foot in front of the other, hoping that the steps I've taken haven't been in vain, that they are making progress, even when I can't see it.

This I know for sure: going up hill is hard work, but once you get there, the view is spectacular.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Day 31, February 4

"He who begins too much accomplishes little."--German proverb

This quote resonates with me. My computer is filled with barely started, half-finished, and nearly finished stories. They range from romance to historical to suspense. What they all have in common, though, is that they remain unfinished.

Teachers occasionally said of my children when they were younger, "They have a hard time staying on task." I can't criticize as I, too, have a hard time staying on task. The moment I don't know what to write or come up floundering with what my characters should do next, I leave that book and start another. That is why I have nearly two dozen unfinished books languishing in cyber-space.

Do you suffer from task-itis as well? Perhaps you are like my sweet mother-in-law and have quilt squares that never made it into a quilt or a knitted sweater, all finished but for the buttons. Friends and I laugh together over the craft projects that we started and are now stuffed at the back of a closet.

The cure for task-itis is to grit one's teeth and stick to one project until it is complete. Easier said than done.

What about lives left unfinished? What do I mean by this? I have qualities that I want to develop, to acquire, yet they languish in my wishes rather than finding their way into my being.

This I know for sure: an unfinished book never has a chance to be published. An unfinished life never has a chance to be fulfilled.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Day 30, February 3

Do you have toxic people in your life? I hope not. I hope your life is free of the people who bring you down, who spew poison with every word.

Most of us aren't that fortunate, though. We have family members, friends, co-workers, neighbors, and others, who make us want to run and hide.

In listening to a psychiatrist on a TV talk show, I learned a good definition of toxic people: they are the people who when they show up on your caller ID, you cringe to answer. In fact, you may not answer the call at all. You let it go to voice mail. You make excuses not to return the call. You schedule an appointment for a root canal rather than having to talk with that person, for you know, with absolute certainty, that you will come away depressed and discouraged. Like the flu bug, toxicity can be catching.

If you are made of sterner stuff than me, you grit your teeth, answer the call, and endure. If this is you, congratulations. If it isn't, rest assured that you aren't alone.

This I know for sure: if I don't want to catch toxicity, I need to immunize myself with the Savior's love.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Day 29, February 2

Colorado is a dichotomy in weather. The sun can be shining brightly while it is snowing outside. Doesn't that sound contradictory? Yet it happens.

As I observe myself and others, I see dichotomies in behavior. I see people who are both generous and stingy, kind and mean-spirited, intelligent and unwise. Most of us are a mix of traits, whatever quality is shown at any given moment a product of that individual's needs and background.

How do we keep the positive qualities at the foremost and the negative at bay? That is a question that stumps counselors, both secular and spiritual. Relationship problems abound when our "natural man" traits topple the kinder, gentler traits that the Savior exemplified.

I notice that when I have problems with someone else, it is usually because I've allowed my baser self to take the upper hand. If I am emulating the Lord, I can find something good in the other person. The world teaches us that kindness is synonymous with weakness.

This I know for sure: kindness is strength in its purest form.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Day 28, February 1

I've written in earlier posts about my sweet cat, Harley. Harley likes to sun herself, sitting in front of whatever window gives the most sun. She craves the sun, basking in its bright gold and warmth.

I wonder if I basked in the sun, letting its rays soak in to my soul if I, too, would find the solace and comfort she takes in it.

The comparison of the sun and the Son is not new with me, nor even new in this blog. I suppose I can't quit thinking of the inevitable analogy. If I basked in the Son, would my soul be warmed? If I basked in the Son, would my heart be softened? If I basked in the Son, would I find the peace that so often eludes me?

Yes. Yes. And yes.

This I know for sure: if I bask in the Son, I will never be alone.