Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Day 322, December 31

It is the day of New Year's Eve.  Some of us feel compelled to set goals.  I used to be that way.  Anymore, I     try to order my life by priorities.  Though they (goals and priorities) have similarities, I see a difference between them.

Goals, the good ones anyway, have a deadline, a method of measuring one's success in achieving them, specific steps.  Priorities provide a way of looking at life through the lens of perspective.  That's what I'm hoping to achieve.

I'm guessing your priorities are much the same as mine:  faith, family, friends, and purpose.  If I give my days to strengthening one or more of these, then I feel I am on the right path.

For the new year, I'm going to shift focus a bit in this blog with a theme of "Joy in the Journey," which I borrowed from our Relief Society.  Gratitude will still find its way into the blog because I believe that joy and gratitude are symbiotic.

I invite you to join me as we take a journey into joy.

So, for today, I am grateful for the journey into a New Year.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Day 321, December 30

You may have noticed that my day numbering is askew.  Somewhere during the year, I got off course with the days.  I don't believe I've missed posting a blog, so I've lost about 40 days.

It doesn't matter.  If that is my only instance of going off course, I would be in good shape indeed.  Unfortunately, it is the only instance of my going off course.  I've gone off course in many things, including letting hurt feelings fester inside of me.  Try as I will, I can't seem to let go of some hurts and pains.

In other things, I feel I am on course.  In my desire to be more grateful, I am (mostly) on course.  In my love for family and friends, I am (mostly again) on course.

So, for today, I am grateful for those times when I am on course and pray that the Lord will make up the difference when I veer off.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Day 320, December 29

We are but two days away from the end of the year.  It has been a year of reflection for me.  In many ways, it's been a hard year as I watch loved ones face grief and hardship.  And, in other ways, it has been a joyous one as I watch those same loved ones overcome whatever challenges are put in their way.

To a one, these family members and friends have turned to the Father, to His Son, to friends to succor them, to sustain them.  That gives me courage to do the same.

So, for today, I am grateful for the wisdom of others in turning to the Savior.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Day 319, December 28

"After nourishment, shelter, and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world."--Phillip Pullman

From the beginning of time, man has told stories.  Stories keep family lore alive.  Stories teach us how to live ... and how not to live.  Stories give us heroes and heroines.  Whether those stories are passed down by word-of-mouth from one generation to the next, whether they are chiseled onto cave walls, whether they are written with the flourish of gold pen, or whether they are typed into a computer, stories bind us together in ways that little else does.

Did your family get together over Thanksgiving and/or Christmas as ours did?  Chances are someone told a story from years ago.  Our family has a number of favorite stories, some humorous, some poignant.  When we are together, those stories are brought out, to be relished, savored, devoured.  It doesn't matter that we've all heard the stories numerous times before; what matters is that they are the vehicle by which we pass down family history and values.

So, for today, I am grateful for stories.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Day 318, Dec 27

Christmas Day is past, but the season is still upon us.  I rejoice in that, in this most holy time of year.  At the same time, I am saddened when we fail to pay homage to Christ as the center of the season.

A week ago, my husband and I attended our granddaughter Reynna's Christmas choir program.  It was lovely.  Needless to say, Reynna was the star.  (Hey, I'm a proud grandma--I make no apologies for that.)  The only problem with the program was that it was labeled "A Winter Holiday."  There was no mention of Christ or Christmas.

I understand the political correctness of using a salutation that will satisfy everyone.  The only problem with that is that it doesn't satisfy everyone.  It doesn't satisfy me.  But, much more importantly, I can't believe that it satisfies the Lord.

Here we are celebrating His glorious birth and we fail to even say His name for fear that we will be seen as insensitive.  What about our sensitivity to Him?  What about our reverence for Him?  What about our gratitude to Him?  How can we profess to honor Him when we fear to even utter His name?

Forgive me if I appear to be ranting.  That is not my intention.  But I cannot remain still when I look around and see our reticience if not downright refusal to put Christ into the the season, into our lives.

So, for today, I am grateful for those who eschew political correctness and embrace the Lord's name.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Day 317, December 26

The day after Christmas can seem a letdown.  All the preparations, the work, the frenzy of the season can feel that they were done for but one day, one unit of 24 hours.  And what then?

I have been there, thought that, and experienced the inevitable letdown.  Then I had a paradigm shift.  That one day, that unit of 24 hours, was just that:  one day.  It was not, by any means, the whole season.  It is the designated day of celebration, but it doesn't mean our efforts must stop.  Nor should they stop.

Do you have an impulse to take a box of candy to someone who can't get out?  Do so.  Never mind that "Christmas is past."  Are you prompted to spend extra time listening to a friend who is going through a hard time?  Do so.  Have you wondered if the animal shelter has enough food for its residents and considered donating some pet food to it?  Once again, do so.

So, for today, I am grateful for impulses, promptings, and wonderings.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Day 316, December 25, Christmas Day

The poem below is from the same booklet I wrote of yesterday.


The first Christmas
Must have been a glorious night
With angels heralding the birth
Of Christ and the gospel light.

Mary wrapped her baby
To keep Him safe and warm.
Joseph stood quietly by
To protect Him from all harm.

If I had been there,
I would have fallen to my knees
To worship my Lord and Savior,
Who said, "Come unto me."

For today, and for always, I am grateful for the Savior.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Day 315, December 24

When we tell the Christmas story, it sometimes seems that Joseph didn't play much of a role.  I wrote the following poem for my grandchildren several years ago:

                                              I WONDER WHAT JOSEPH FELT

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.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Day 314, December 23

"The only way to get through life is to laugh your way through it.  You either have to laugh or cry.  I prefer to laugh.  Crying gives me a headache."--Marjorie Pay Hinckley

Marjorie Pay Hinckley was the wife of our dear Prophet Gordon B. Hinckley.  Sister Hinckley was (and is) one of my role models.  A gracious lady to the core, she never forgot how to laugh and to celebrate life's joys, both large and small.

So, for today, I am grateful for the words of a wise woman.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Day 313, December 22

"Men and women who turn their lives over to God will discover that He can make a lot more out of their lives than they can.  He can deepen their joys, expand their vision, quicken their minds, strengthen their muscles, lift their spirits, multiply their blessings, increase their opportunities, comfort their souls, and pour out peace."--Ezra Taft Benson

We've been talking a lot about God and His power during these last few posts.  I worried that these topics would not seem very Christmasy, then, duh, I realized that nothing is more Christmasy than writing about God and celebrating His power.

Isn't it wonderful to know that there is Someone who can make more of us than we can ourselves?  If I had to rely on myself to sustain me through the hard times of life, I would be doomed to failure.  Fortunately I have God on my side.

So, for today, I am grateful for His power to make "a lot more out of" me than I can.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Day 312, December 21

"In the gospel of Jesus Christ you have help from both sides of the veil, and you must never forget that.  When disappointment and discouragement strike ... you remember and never forget that if our eyes could be opened we would see horses and chariots of fire as far as the eye can see riding at reckless speed to come to our protection."--Jeffrey R. Holland

What a beautiful image Elder Holland evokes with these words?  Who among us has not had times of discouragement and disappointment?  How would we respond if we truly believed that forces from both sides of the veil were there cheering us on, that horses and chariots of fire were coming to our aid?  Would we proceed with more courage, more confidence, more faith?

I think so.

So, for today, I am grateful for help from both sides of the veil.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Day 311, December 20

"Nothing is going to startle us more when we pass through the veil to the other side than to realize how well we know our Father and how familiar His face is to us."--Ezra Taft Benson, Prophet

I hope this is true for me.  I hope it is true for all of us.  Will I recognize His face?  Will it, indeed, be familiar to me?  There are times when I think I might.  Then there are other times, those times when I'm being selfish, greedy, short-sighted, narrow-minded, and other nasties, that I am sure I will never know the Father nor find His face familiar.

The solution to this is easy:  all I have to do is not be selfish, greedy, short-sighted, narrow-minded, and other assorted nasties.  All I have to do is want to be like Him.

So, for today, I am grateful for those times when I do want to be like the Father.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Day 310, December 19

"When in situations of stress, we wonder if there is any more in us to give.  We can be comforted to know that God, who knows our capacity perfectly, placed us here to succeed.  No one was foreordained to fail or to be wicked.  When we have been weighed and found wanting, let us remember that we were measured before and we were found equal to our tasks; and, therefore, let us continue, but with a more determined discipleship. When we feel overwhelemed, let us recall the assurance that God will not over-program us; he wll not press upon us more than we can bear."--Neal A. Maxwell

Don't you love this?  I especially love the phrase, "... God, who knows our capacity perfectly, placed us here to succeed."

There are times, too many, I'm afraid, when I feel unequal to the tasks placed before me.  It is at these times when I turn to the Lord with more frequency, more fervency.   And wouldn't it be wonderful, if I turned to Him with such frequency and fervency all the time?

So, for today, I am grateful for those times when I " ... continue ... with a more determined discipleship."

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Day 309, December 18

Many of my favorite Christmas carols center around Mary, the mother of Jesus.  A Primary song, "Mary's Lullaby," tells the story of Mary's love for her baby:

 Lullayby, lullaby, my little one, lullaby, my child so dear.  
Thy precious life has just begun; thy mother holds thee near. 
While Joseph watches through the night,
A star reflects thy radiant light.

Thy gentle head shall wear a crown, for thy Father is the King.
Thy tender hands so little now, have blessings great to bring.
Let all creation join my song
For peace and love this night are born.


Lullaby, lullaby, my little one.
Lullaby, my child so dear

So, for today, I am grateful for Mary, mother of the Savior.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Day 308, December 17

Of the "non-hymn" Christmas carols, "Up on the House Top" is one of my favorites.  I love the word pictures it evokes as well as the clever rhyming and rhythm.

According to William Studwell in The Christmas Carol Reader, "Up on the House Top," composed by Benjamin Hanby,  was the second-oldest secular Christmas song, outdone only by "Jingle Bells", which was written in 1857 (although the latter was originally intended as a Thanksgiving song). It is also considered the first Christmas song to focus primarily on Santa Claus. 

According to Readers Digest Merry Christmas Song Book Hanby was the first to offer up the idea that Santa and his sleigh land on the roof of homes.   Benjamin Russell Hanby was born in 1833 near Rushville, Ohio, the son of a minister involved with the Underground Railroad. 

So, for today, I am grateful for Christmas carols of all kinds.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Day 307, December 16

"It is a time to do what is right regardless of the consequences that might follow.  It is a time to be found keeping the commandments.  It is a season to reach out with kindness and love to those in distress and dto thsoe who are wandering in darkness and pain.  It is a time to be considerate and good, decent and courteous toward one another in all of our relationships.  In other words, to become more Christlike."--President Gordon B. Hinckley

Just when I don't know what I can possibly write, something presents itself.  In this case, it was a bookmark that was given to me in Relief Society.  On it is a picture of the Savior followed by the beautiful words of the Prophet.  What could be more fitting with the season than President Hinckley's counsel to do what is right, to keep the commandments?

The last part of President Hinckley's words particuarly resonated with me--"to reach out with kindness and love."  Many years ago, my father gave me some instruction that has stayed with me to this day.  He said, "Jane, it's easy to like those who are likable, those who look nice and smell nice.  It's much harder to like those who don't look so nice or smell so nice."  My parents lived by this creed.  Their Thanksgiving and Christmas tables were filled with forgotten people.

So, for today, I am grateful for the words of a prophet and the reminder from my father.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Day 306, December 15

Today is our son Hyrum's 30th birthday.  (This is making it harder and harder for me to maintain my claim to be only 29.  Oh, well.)

Hyrum was a delight as a baby and continues to be a delight as a grown son. He was named for a valiant servant of God, Hyrum Smith, the older brother of the Prophet Joseph Smith.

Last February, Hyrum and his sweetheart Cara made the decision to be sealed for time and all eternity in the Denver Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint.  Since then he and Cara have returned to the temple over and over, to do work for those who could not do it for themselves.  For that, and for many other reasons, I am proud of Hyrum.

So, for today, I am grateful for Hyrum.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Day 305, December 14

I love learning the history of how hymns and Christmas carols came about.  One of my favorite carols is "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing."

This carol first appeared in 1739 in the collection Hymns and Sacred Poems, having been written by Charles Wesley.  Wesley's original opening couplet is "Hark! how all the welkin rings / Glory to the King of Kings."

The popular version is the result of alterations by various hands, notably George Wakefield, Wesley's co-worker, who changed the opening couplet to the familiar one, and Felix Mendelssohn. A hundred years after the publication of Hymns and Sacred Poems, in 1840, Mendelssohn composed a cantata to commemorate Johann Gutenberg's invention of the printing press.  It is music from this cantata, adapted by the English musician William H. Cummings to fit the lyrics of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”, that we know today.

So, for today, I am grateful for the beauty of this hymn.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Day 304, December 13

Sometimes (too frequently, I'm afraid) I focus on what is missing in my life, in the things or accomplishments I don't have.  And I fail to thank the Father for the things I do have.

Some things that come to mind:  a loving family, a warm home, a cat who cuddles with me, friends, a reason to get up in the mornings.  These are just a few of my blessings.  So why can't I remember them with greater thanks and acknowledgment?

The answer that comes to mind (and it's not a particularly palatable one) is that I'm ungrateful.  Here I am writing a blog called "The Gratitude Project" and I realize that I'm ungrateful.

So, for today, I am grateful for a moment of self-honesty.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Day 303, December 12

Winter means shorter days.  Though I love many things about the season, I don't enjoy the decreased daylight hours.  As I've written before, I love the sun.  I need the sun.

At this time of year, we celebrate the birth of The Son.  The Son of God.  Though scripture teaches us that Jesus was actually born in the spring, December is our traditional celebration of this most glorious of events.
In the hurrying and scurrying of holiday preparations, sometimes we forget why we are celebrating.

My goal for this month is to focus on The Son and to forget that I am missing the sun.

So, for today, I am grateful for "the reason for the season."

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Day 302, December 11

Here it is, fourteen days before Christmas, a scant two weeks.  Over the last weeks, I've watched many Christmas movies on television.  And, just as with Christmas carols, I am enthralled with them.  Only one thing was missing from the heart-warming movies:  Christ.

Not one of these otherwise lovely movies mentioned Christ, the true reason we celebrate at this time of year.  Is it old-fashioned on my part, naive even, to expect someone to at least mention His name?  I don't think so.  I want to watch a movie where families talk about Christ, where the wonder of His birth is the focus.

And then I realize it was up to me to put Christ in Christmas.  If I want His presence, His spirit in my holidays, it is up to me.  I need to talk of Him, to praise Him, to give thanks to Him.

So, for today, I am grateful for those times when I, when anyone, remembers to put Christ back in Christmas.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Day 301, December 10

"It is high time that the ideal of success should be replaced by the ideal of service ...  Only a life lived for others is worthwhile."--Albert Einstein

What does this quote have to do with December, with Christmas?  In case you haven't guessed, service is (or should be) the highlight of this season.

Let me share with you some examples of service I've witnessed over the last weeks:  There is my dear friend Amanda who makes doll clothes and doll blankets to give to organizations which will distribute them to little girls who would otherwise have nothing for Christmas.  There is my friend Janet who, as Relief Society president of our ward and just an all-round wonderful person, sees to the needs of many.  There is my daughter Alanna who sends cards to her great-aunts just because she wants them to know they are thought of.  There are the families in our ward who welcome the missionaries into their homes to live for three months at a time.  The list could go on and on.

So, for today, I am grateful for those who serve.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Day 300, December 9

I love Christmas carols.  I love the sounds, the way the words and phrases fit together to make something lovely.  I love the sentiments.  I go all gooey inside when I hear the words "peace on earth, goodwill to men."
I go equally as gooey when I hear "I'll Be Home for Christmas" or "Upon the Housetop."

In fact, I'm downright sloppy over all the songs, whether they be hymns or "Frosty the Snowman."

I grew up in the non-digital age.  There were no iPods or CD players or even tape recorders.  There was the record player and the piano, but they were enough to make beautiful sounds from beautiful words.

So, for today, I am grateful for Christmas carols.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Day 299, December 8

One week into December and I'm not scrambling to get things done.  That is something of a miracle.  Lest you think I'm bragging, I'm not.  It's not that I'm so organized or have it all together.  It's that I've learned to let some things go.

I've learned a few things over the years.  I don't have to do everything that my friends do.  Nor do I have to create the "perfect Christmas."

What I want to create is a Christmas of memories.  I want my husband and children and grandchildren to remember that I love them.  I want my friends to know that I am there for them.  I want Heavenly Father to know that I'm doing my best to obey His commandments.

So, for today, I am grateful for letting go of things.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Day 298, December 7

"Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must undergo the fatigue of supporting it."--Thomas Paine

Today is the 73rd anniversary of Pearl Harbor, one of America's most infamous days in history.  America survived and, ultimately, came back to conquer because of the spirit of her people, the quest for freedom that would not be denied.  America survived because God proclaimed it a promised land.  As Paine so wisely said, though, freedom does not come without a price.

Many have paid the price for our freedoms with their lives.  Those who died on December 7, 1941, and those who lived to continue fighting deserve our respect and reverence, just as do those who have fought in every other battle to preserve our country.

So, for today, I am grateful for those who "undergo the fatigue of supporting" our freedoms.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Day 297, December 6

"Talking is like playing the harp; there is as much in laying the hands on the strings to stop their vibrations as in twanging them to bring out their music."--Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

Some of the best conversationalists know the value of silence on their parts.  They know when to speak ... and when to cease speaking.  In short, they know how to listen.

You may know someone who talks all the time, who, so enthralled with the sound of his own voice and so taken with his own opinions,  pays little attention to what others are saying.  Chances are this individual is not known as a great conversationalist.  In fact, he may be known as a bore.  (Or is that boar?)

Then there are the quiet, thoughtful people who listen more than they speak, who give an attentive ear to the words of others.  These are the people to pay attention to, for when they speak, they will have something worthwhile to say.

So, for today, I am grateful for those who "lay their hands on the strings to stop their vibrations."

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Day 296, December 5

"You don't just luck into things as much as you'd like to think you do.  You build step by step, whether it's friendships or opportunities."--Barbara Bush

Barbara Bush was one of my favorite first ladies.  Her words remind me that important things happen when we build slowly and with care.  As I think of the best things in my life, I realize they didn't happen by accident or luck.  They came about because I cared enough to do the hard work necessary to make them happen.

The same holds true for the lives of others.  My friend Janet, who plays the flute, piano, and organ beautifully, didn't "luck" into her talent.  She built it a day at a time through practice and persistence.  My daughter Alanna didn't wake up one day to find that she could fashion beautiful hand-made cards.  She experimented with techniques, took classes, and, once again, practiced.

Then there is the Lord.  He builds us step by step, precept by precept, until we leave behind the natural tendencies and take upon us His yoke.

So, for today, I am grateful for building step by step.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Day 295, December 4

"The world is so empty if one thinks only of mountains, rivers and cities; but to know someone who thinks and feels with us, and who, though distant is close to us in spirit, this makes the earth for us an inhabited garden."--Goethe

Chances are you have a dear friend or sister or aunt or someone else close to you who lives far away, just as I do.  I have all of the above, all who live in different states.  Some of these people I see only infrequently, but they are in my heart and prayers, as I know I am in theirs.

Isn't that wonderful, to know that we are close though miles separate us?  Love and prayers keep us close.

So, for today, I am grateful for those who are close even though they are far away.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Day 294, December 3

"It's a little bit the fiddle, but lots more who holds the bow."--Wilbur Wilson

Most of us know the story "The Master's Touch," of the man who picks up an old violin and makes beautiful music from it.   It is the one "who holds the bow" who makes the difference.

In life, it is the Lord who holds the bow.  It is He who brings forth the music from us, whether it be in words, in paints, in sculpture, in parenting.  It is He who makes up for what we lack.

So, for today, I am grateful for the one "who holds the bow."

Monday, December 2, 2013

Day 293, December 2

"Never a daisy grows but a mystery guides the growing."--Richard Rene

Does it seem strange to write about flowers growing in December?  Perhaps.  Or perhaps not as I mentally substitute "God" for the words "a mystery" in the above quote.

In October, my husband and I planted spring bulbs.  We won't see the blooms until next March or April, but I have faith that they will grow because I have faith in God.  He created the flowers: daisies, tulips, daffodils, and thousands of others.

So, for today, I am grateful for God, the greatest Creator of all.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Day 292, December 1

Here it is the first of December.  How grateful I am that I no longer feel I have to measure up to some artificial holiday standard.   Thankfully, I've outgrown that (for the most part, at least).

I no longer feel I have to decorate the house.  I'll try to keep it clean and call it good.

I no longer feel I have to make holiday shaped cookies.  I'll make a pan of lemon bars.

I no longer feel I have to attend every concert and party.  I'll go to those that are meaningful to me and my family.

I no longer feel I have to make every Christmas present.  I'll tell my friends and family that someone made it, even if that someone is a worker at a factory.

What is important to me?

Choosing the right Christmas card for family members and friends and including a hand-written note.

Showing my visiting teaching ladies that I love them.

Mailing packages to my far-away grandsons.

Attending church services with my husband.

So, for today, I am grateful for the freedom to choose.