Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Could I reach the octaves demanded by some hymns? Could I keep up the tempo of songs in 6/8 time? Could I hit the correct notes at all? I didn't know.
I started practicing playing, choosing hymns at random. Then, needing the comfort and familiarity of a favorite hymn, I turned to page 220 of the (Mormon) hymn book, "Lord, I Would Follow Thee." There, I found the words that never failed to sustain me: " ... finding strength beyond my own ..."
This I know for sure: the Lord's strength will always be "beyond my own." Fortunately, it is mine if I choose to partake of it.
Tuesday, October 30, 2012
If you're at all like me, you have reasons why you can't do something right now. I have reasons why I can't exercise right now--it's too cold to walk outside, it's too hot to walk outside, I have to finish a writing project, and so on. I also have reasons why I can't write right now--I'm suffering from writer's block, I'm too depressed, I have to clean the house (really?), I have to watch at TV program. I have reasons why I can't help someone else right now--I'm too busy, I'm too tired, I'm too selfish. There are always, ALWAYS, reasons why we can't do something. As Lessing says, "the conditions are always impossible."
I look back to Larry's and my early married years and marvel that we chose to have children when we did. The reasons why we shouldn't have children were numerous. Larry was still in school. We had no money. We had a tiny apartment. We were just getting to know each other. And, with every child, the conditions didn't improve. We still had no money. We discovered that pregnancy triggered violent depressions in me. And so on.
Still, we decided we needed, wanted, to have more children. The conditions remained impossible, but, with the Lord's blessings, we persevered.
This I know for sure: Satan will give us reasons not to do something. The Lord will wipe away those reasons with His love.
Monday, October 29, 2012
Abundance is ... a field of daisies.
Abundance is ... a lace tablecloth.
Abundance is ... walking across a campus on a crisp fall day.
Abundance is ... the wind in the sails of a sailboat.
Small thing, to be sure. Yet the recognition of them is huge. I find that when I am aware of and grateful for the small blessings in life, I also tend to be more aware of and grateful for the large blessings.
This I know for sure: abundant living has less to do with the size of our bank accounts and more to do with the size of our gratitude.
NOTE: For those who wondered why last Monday didn't have a post, it was because I saved it to draft rather than putting it on "publish mode." I apologize for the laspe and have used what would have been last Monday's post here.
Sunday, October 28, 2012
I fall into a vortex of negative self-talk, saying things to myself that I would never say to someone else. If I fail to complete a task, I call myself lazy, a slug, a slacker. If I don't do something well, other names come up: stupid, untalented. And so it continues. Sometimes these words become a self-fulfilling prophecy and I end up being the very things I abhore.
I have a feeling that I'm not alone in this downward spiral. It often seems to be women who suffer from this nasty disease the most. What, I wonder, have I taught my daughters by my putting down of myself. What example have I displayed for other women? My mind knows that this isn't healthy. More, my heart knows that this isn't the Father's plan for me, one of His daughters.
This I know for sure: the Father loves all of His children. Even me.
Saturday, October 27, 2012
5 RULES FOR HAPPINESS
Free your heart from hatred - Forgive.
Free your mind from worries - Most never happen.
Live simply and appreciate what you have.
These are not particularly new or earth-shattering. But they did remind me of the simplicity of the Lord's plan for happiness.
I struggle with all of the above, especially the first. Forgiving is hard for me. It's darn hard. It does not come naturally and probably never will. As for the others, I have to work on them every day. I worry too much. I fail to appreciate what I have. I must always remember to give more and to expect less.
I guess these rules are like housework. No matter how much you do it (or follow thse rules), you still have to get up the next day and do it all over again.
This I know for sure: the rules for happiness are only another way of saying "Live the Lord's plan." If we do that, everything will be well. If we don't do it, nothing will ever be right.
Friday, October 26, 2012
I had to read these words through several times before making sense of them. And then I got it. (I'm a bit slow at times.) In my daily prayers, I asked the Father to bless my efforts, to help me succeed in what I'm trying to do. Why did I not realize that I should be asking Him to tell me what I should be doing and to bless that?
It all comes back to my spiritual two-year-old self, still thinking that I know what is best, still believing that I know best. Nothing could be further from the truth. Haven't I collected any wisdom along the years? Apparently not. For I continue to believe that I'm in charge, that I can effect any kind of change in myself with my own puny efforts.
The truth is, I can't bring about the needed changes on my own. I will always need God's help. I will always need His blessings.
This I know for sure: God is in charge. Maybe I should accept that and learn from it.
Thursday, October 25, 2012
Have you ever been guilty of thinking "If I can just get through this day, this week, or this month, I'll be happy?" I have. As a young mother, I used to think, "As soon as the last one is out of diapers, I can start doing thing (anything).." Or "As soon as the last one is in school, I can take a breath of relief." When a family member was going through chemo treatments, I thought, "As soon as she gets through the last treatment, I can be happy."
The fallacy with this kind of thinking is that there is always, ALWAYS, something to be gotten through, something to be endured, something to survive. If we postpone our happiness with the idea that life will settle down, that life will get better, that life will be wonderful only when a certain problem is resolved or a certain situation is overcome, we will be forever postponing happiness. And, in the meantime, we will miss out on a great deal of joy.
This I know for sure: the time to live life, the time to be happy is now.
Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Our family has experienced being to the "end of our resources" many times over the years. And always, always, God has blessed us by sharing His.
In the fledgling years of my husband's business, we lived on savings, rice and beans, and little else. But we never went without. With provident living and through the generosity of family and friends, we made do. When it seemed the business couldn't possibly succeed, God came through, providing a new contract, a new opportunity.
It is not only in temporal matters that God is there for us. When my depression threatened to overwhelm me, God was there. Sometimes in the guise of a friend, sometimes through my husband's support, sometimes through a lifting of the cloud. God was there during the hard days following my sister's husband's death. He was there for our son when his wife abandoned him and their sons. He was there ... He is there.
This I know for sure: God's resources are so vast as to awe us, just as is His love.
Sunday, October 21, 2012
How many times have we been told or told ourselves that happiness lies within us? If you're like me, the answer is "Too many to count." And, frankly, I'm a bit tired of hearing it and of saying it to myself.
I much prefer the above definition of happiness--the union of ourselves with God. For when we are aligned with God, our natural appetites and desires are transformed to what He would have us hunger for what He would have us desire. When I satisfy a physical appetite, I have momentary pleasure. When I align myself with God, I have joy. A simple concept, to be sure, but hard to put into practice.
This I know for sure: happiness won't be found in the things of this world. It will be found in doing God's work.
Saturday, October 20, 2012
The author has captured my failure with unflinching accuracy, for I frequently do not see the "divine, the celestial, the pure" in my present world. And I realize that that lack is in me. It is not that the world fails to offer these God-like qualities, but that I, in my spiritually infantile state, do not recognize or cognize them.
Do I look at a rose and see the perfection and symetry in the pattern of its petals? Do I pick up a fallen leaf and examine the intricate veining of it? Do I hear the purity of a child's voice when lifted in song?
Somedays, less often than I would like, I take the time to appreciate these small but profound beauties. More often, I ignore them, occupied with the busy-ness of life.
This I know for sure: we see that to which are hearts are attuned.
Friday, October 19, 2012
It's ridiculously simple: write a brief note of thanks or cheer, address it to "Dear serviceperson," and mail to the address below:
Holiday Mail for Heroes
PO Box 5456
Capitol Heights, MD 20791-5456
If you write a batch of cards, put them in a large envelope The Red Cross will take care of distributing them. There is no need to stamp the cards. The Red Cross vets the cards, checking for harmful substances that may have been included. Thank you for considering this.
This I know for sure: those who defend and protect out nation deserve our recognition and appreciation.
Thursday, October 18, 2012
I associate Mark Twain with the down-home writing he brought to Tom Sawyer and his other iconic characters. I had not thought to find such a beautiful quote among his writings.
At one time, I had erroneously believed kindness to be largely a thing of the past; then, I looked more closely and found evidences of it everywhere. A few days ago, I received a cute card from a friend with a clipping about books enclosed. My sweet friend knows that I love books and thoughtfully sent this to me. Another friend held a baby shower for a new sister in our ward. She wanted this new mother to meet other ladies in the church and set about putting together a fun evening for everyone. Small things, you might say. But their rippling effects know no bounds.
This I know for sure: kindness is the universal langauge.
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
As I read this, Emily Dickinson's beautiful words touched my heart. Is it any wonder that her poetry lives more than a century beyond her death?
I love what computers allow us to do. For instance, this blog is made possible because of computers and software. Email allows me to keep in constant touch with faraway friends and family. But, and this is important, but ... I love the beauty of a handwritten letter as well. If our society abandons the art of letter writing, then we are truly on the path to destruction.
A few months ago, I learned (with dismay) that some schools are no longer teaching handwriting. How sad. How will our children ever write a letter to a grandparent, a birthday card, a thank you note, without learning to hand write? The answer is simple. They won't.
This I know for sure: handwritten letters are a thing of beauty and a mark of a cultured civilization.
Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Some scholars believe C.S. Lewis to be one of the most spiritual writers, outside of the prophets, who ever lived. Certainl the above quote is evidence of that.
When we look for happiness and peace outside of God, we're looking in the wrong place. It's like that old song, "Looking for love in all the wrong places ..." I've looked for happiness and peace in material possessions. I've looked for them in worldl achivements. I've looked for them in food.
None of those brought happiness. None of those brought peace. And, certainly, none of them brought joy.
This I know for sure: happiness and peace are inextricably tied with God and letting Him into our lives.
In previous posts, I've written about the big effects that little acts can have. If you're at all like me, you may grow discouraged when you observe so much need in the world. Children go hungry. Helpless animals are abused and neglected. Pollution of our water and air is rampant. And a myriad of other ills plague our world.
What can I do, I ask myself? What can I do to help? The truth is, I cannot cure any of these. Does that, however, excuse me from doing nothing? Absolutely not.
So, what can I do? I can pray for those who are suffering. I can serve in my church. I can listen to a friend who is troubled. I can contribute, with my means and my time, to worthwhile causes, in the community.
This I know for sure: that I cannot do everything is no excuse for doing nothing.
Monday, October 15, 2012
The simple words intrigue me for several reasons. First, the writer in me approves the play on on words. Second, and more importantly, the sentiment resonates within me.
On those days when I have contributed nothing, created nothing, and served no one, I feel that I have no purpose. Conversely, on those days, when I am busy--contributing, creating, and serving, I feel energized and filled with purpose. This is certainly not unique with me.
All of us, whatever our age and circumstances, need to feel that we are making a difference--to our families, to our friends, to our communities, to our country, to our God. Where we spend our time and efforts is not as important as the fact that we ARE spending time and effort for a worthwhile cause.
Finding that purpose requires prayer and a willingness to look around us, to look outside of ourselves for a need that needs to be filled. Recently, I started doing indexing for our church's genealogy efforts. I stumbled in to this, and with the help of a son, am slowly finding my way through the computer program. It's a relatively small thing but fills me with a sense of accomplishment.
This I know for sure: finding purpose in life is not a luxury; it is as essential as breathing.
Sunday, October 14, 2012
And isn't that the way with most of us? We rely on others for the things in which we are lacking, in the things which we cannot do by ourselves. I rely on my husband, my sister, my children, my friends. Most of all, I rely on the Lord.
Moses had an onerous task placed upon him. He did not do it alone. If Moses, one of the noble and great ones, needed help, why should I be ashamed to admit that I, too, need help? I need help in overcoming bad habits. I need help in learning to forgive. I need help in giving up those things which hurt me.
This I know for sure: seeking help is a mark of wisdom.
Saturday, October 13, 2012
I have quoted Orwell before. His insight and wisdom are remarkable. How well he foretold what would happen to our great country. Too frequently, we see those inspired men and women who tell the truth being pilloried by those who seek to destroy our nation.
Scriptures are replete with examples of prophets and others who were persecuted, even killed, for having the audacity and courage to speak the truth. The spilling of their blood sanctified their sacrifice, and their martyrdom stands as an indictment against those who sought to silence their voices. Joan of Arc is one such example. The Prophet Joseph Smith is another, giving everything, including his life, in an effort to bring the world the truth of the Gospel.
On a less grand scale, we witness the same pattern in our personal lives. Six months ago, I wrote about the hate mail my husband and I received after our letters to the editor appeared in the local paper. Such was the vitriol and implied threat in this letter that, for a while, I hesitated about submitting any more letters. I am deeply ashamed of that. Was I afraid of telling the truth?
And sometimes I still am. Still, something inside of me compels me to speak out when I see the effects that injustice has upon our society and nation.
This I know for sure: if telling the truth is an act of rebellion, then let me lead the charge.
Friday, October 12, 2012
Now, when my time is more available, I have another excuse prepared: "I'm too old"or "too tired" to do ----------. Once again, that excuse seems acceptable until I observe those with many years on me still serving, still working, still doing.
And, as I observe these servers, these workers, these doers, I notice something else. Inevitably, they are happier than those who sit on their rumps and plead lack of time, lack of energy, lack of talent.
This I know for sure: Benjamin Franklin was right when he said "those who are good at making excuses are seldom good for anything else."
Thursday, October 11, 2012
In our high tech world, we tend to look for the whys and the hows. We want to know why something happens, how it works. We want to know the mechanics of it; we want to figure it out. Less often, though, do we seek to simply accept it.
I try to walk every morning. Our Colorado scenery is worthy of any painting by the Great Masters. The vibrancy of autumn, gaudy with colors that only God can create, surrounds me. And, for those few minutes, I simply accept. I accept the beauty of the turning of the leaves. I accept the bite of the crisp air. I accept the faint aroma of a wood-burning stove.
Left behind are my computer, the television, the cell phone, and all the other trappings of modern life which we feel necessary for survival. There is only me and a quiet wonder in our world.
This I know for sure: without this wonder, we are in danger of losing ourselves.
Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Where do we find grace? When do we find it? Can we consciously look for it, or does it appear unbidden? I don't have those answers. I wish I did.
However, I know when I feel grace. And perhaps that is all that is needed.
I feel grace when I take the Sacrament of the Lord on Sunday. I feel grace when the Spirit moves me to give of myself on behalf of another. I feel grace when the Savior allows me to know that He approves my efforts.
This I know for sure: grace is available to all; our job is to find the humility... and wisdom ... to accept it.
Tuesday, October 9, 2012
It has only been in recent years that I understood that grace is a gift freely given by our Savior. He does not expect us to earn it, for we cannot possibly earn anything from the One who has given us everything.
So where does that leave me? If I'm not supposed to earn grace, how am I supposed to be worthy of it? Another flash of understanding: I will never be worthy of it. I can only strive to do what the Father and the Savior have instructed. And, imperfect being that I am, I will always struggle to do that. I will always struggle to be obedient, to be humble, to put aside my pride and my desire to "do it all by myself."
My spiritiual two-year-old self is a stubborn being. It is still convinced that it can do whatever is necessary "all by myself." What arrogance. What foolishness.
This I know for sure: grace is mine for the asking. But I must do the asking. The Father will not force it upon me.
Monday, October 8, 2012
My very soul is webbed to it,
and if I were a bird,
I would fly about the earth
seeking successive autumns.
-- George Eliot
George Eliot describes autumn in words that bring the season to life as surely as the scent of wood-burning stoves and pumpkin pie. Would that I had that gift for poetry.
The phrase "my very soul is webbed to it ..." causes me to wonder why my soul is webbed to. Is it webbed to the things of this world? Sometimes. Or is it webbed to eternal things? Less frequently.
This balance between being in the world but not of it is, like all matters of balance, difficult to achieve. At least for me. I am mortal enough to enjoy the pleasures and joys of this world. I am also wise enough (occasionally) to want something more, something more lasting.
This I know for sure: whatever my soul is webbed to defines me more surely than any outward description.
Sunday, October 7, 2012
Do you think the Lord was trying to tell us something with His repetition? Sometimes I wonder why the Lord tells us the same things over and over. And then I get it--He repeats Himself because we haven't obeyed the last thousand and sixty-six times. (I made up that number, but it sounds good.)
The parable of the ten lepers reminds us of the Lord's emphasis on giving thanks. Only one man thought to thank Christ for His healing powers; the other nine went on their way, healthy now in body but sick in spirit because of their lack of gratitude.
This I know for sure: whatever we do, whatever we give, will never begin to thank the Lord for His goodness.
Saturday, October 6, 2012
Christ knows and feels every tear we shed, every cry of despair we utter, every piercing of our hearts. He also sheds tears, also cries in despair, also knows heartache on our behalf. There is nothing too small ... or too large ... for Christ to feel.
This I know for sure: when we feel alone, when we feel so beaten down that we fear we will never get up again, when we cry out in heart-wrenching pain, Christ is there.
Friday, October 5, 2012
I have always been intrigued by the idea that gratitude begets happiness. Conversely, ingratitude begets unhappiness. Yet we spend much of our lives being passively, if not agressively, ungrateful.
Let me share with you a story that happened some years ago. It's not one of which I am particularly proud, but it serves as a good example of ingratitude. I had been writing for several years with more than my share of rejections. An editor who had bought one book from me rejected every manuscript I had sent her following that one precious sale. In a writers' magazine, I found a notice that she had left the publishing house and that a new editor had taken her place.
"Listen to this," I told my husband and read the notice to him. "This is my chance to start over with a new editor."
I submitted a query to the new editor, who requested to see the full manuscript. Within a few weeks, I had a sale. (This was particularly significant in that the previous editor had rejected the book.) I was ecstatic. "We need to celebrate," I told my husband.
"Maybe you should first thank Heavenly Father for allowing you to see that notice in the magazine," he ponted out.
"Hey," I said (and this is where my cheeks burn with shame). "I did the work. I deserve the credit."
Nearly twenty years later, I can still recall that conversation. How dare I take credit ... for anything? Whatever blessings I have, whatever blessings I might have, are all courtesy of the Father.
This I know for sure: gratitude is the mark of a civilized and happy person.
Thursday, October 4, 2012
Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach
Does this sound counter-intuitive to you? I had to read it a couple of times to understand the wisdom in the words. Around the third reading, I got it.
What happens when we have everything we ever wanted? Are we more content, more satisfied with our lives, ourselves? If you can answer "yes" to this question, congratulations. You have it all together. I find that when I find I have eveyrthing I want, I am discontent, for the striving, the trying, the struggling is absent.
Something else happens, as well. When we have everything, or close to it, we start finding fault with those possessions. They begin to look shabby; they aren't as good as what a friend has; they aren't up-to-date. Or, we allow those possessions to control us. We think, "Oh, I can't sit on my new sofa" or "I can't use that new purse. What if I get it dirty?"
Over the years, my family has lived on very little. And sometimes we have lived on much more. I noticed something when I compared those times: we weren't any happier during the "fat" times than we were during the "lean" times. I know: that isn't particularly startling and certainly not original with me. But it caused me to realie that possessions don't define who we are. What we believe in, what we value, whom we love--they define us.
This I know for sure: being content is found in our hearts, not in our stuff.
Wednesday, October 3, 2012
Tuesday, October 2, 2012
George R.R. Martin (Author of The Game of Thrones)
I can't help myself. When I run across a good quote about books and reading, I have to share it. It's an obsession with me (a good one, I hope).
I cannot remember a time when I wasn't reading. As a young child, when I was supposed to practice the piano (an hour a day, no less), I would prop a Nancy Drew book on the piano and read it while playing a song, over and over, which I had memorized. I don't know if my mother knew or not. If so, she never said anything.
Nancy and I solved crimes and got heart palpitations over Ned Nickerson. We laughed with our good friends Bess and George. We literally grew up together. I was Jo in Little Women. If you remember, Jo was the writer. In The Scarlet Pimpernel, I was Sir Percy, rescuing French aristocrats from Madame Guillotine.
Today, I am still reading. I am a schoolmarm in the American West, teaching in a one room school. I am a special ops soldier in the Middle East, saving lives and squashing terrorism. I am a thousand people living a "thousand lives," all through reading.
This I know for sure: books hold treasures far beyond those of Aladdin's cave.
Monday, October 1, 2012
President Brigham Young learned of their plight. He stood in General Conference and told the members of their brothers' and sisters' dire circumstances and said, "Your faith will not save you if you do not help those in need."
The prophet's call to action did not go unheeded. The brethren prepared to leave with oxen and wagons. The sisters did not remain idle. Though they had little, they stripped off petticoats and underskirts, they raided meager cupboards of foodstuffs, they ripped blankets from beds, all to send to the little band of Saints.
This I know for sure: faith and action work together, for neither can survive alone.