Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Day 355, December 31--New Year's Eve Day

Dear friends,

We're here.  The end of the year.  We made it.  Well, in my case, sort of.

For a while, at least, this will be my last posting.

To those who followed "Joy in the Journey" this year, thank you.  And for those who have followed the full four years of "The Gratitude Project," thank you and congratulations.  You stuck in there as I muddled my way through the intricacies of blogging and struggled to find my voice.

A writer's voice is unique to him/her.  But we are not always aware of what it is until we start writing.  I've decided my voice is what I am, a Mormon woman, a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a sister, a friend.  It is not a "fancy" voice, just as I am not fancy.  It's a plain, down-to-earth voice honed by strengths and weaknesses, joy and pain, faith and fraility.  For better or worse, it's my voice.

Joy for today:  finding my voice.. and finding joy in the journey.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Day 354, December 30

Today is the second to last day of the year.  Did you ever think you wouldn't make it through?  I did.  I have.  And yet somehow here I am, still standing, still writing, still putting one foot in front of the other.  And sometimes that's all we can do:  put one foot in front of the other.

At the end of the year, it is customary to take inventory.  My husband, a business owner, takes inventory at the end of every year.  It is much the same with me.  I'm taking inventory of myself.

What have I accomplished ... and what have I failed to accomplish?  What have I learned ... and what have I failed to learn?  What brought me joy ... and what brought me pain?

The last is easy to answer, the others less so.

Maybe you are performing the same process, asking yourself the same questions.  I hope you find answers.

Joy for today:  taking inventory.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Day 353, December 29

"No kind action ever stops with itself. One kind action leads to another. Good example is followed. A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees. The greatest work that kindness does to others is that it makes them kind themselves." ~ Amelia Earhart

I believe the Lord arranged for me to find this quote to share.  It fits so beautifully with yesterday's blog.  My friends' kindness prompted me to try to be kind.  And perhaps that prompted someone else to do the same. Who knows where a single act of kindness stops?  Maybe it doesn't stop at all but continues until it is spread all around the world.

The same is frequently true of an act of unkindness.  Small and petty acts spread virally, sowing seeds of discontent, envy, anger, and pain.  I know because I have been on the receiving end of both kinds of acts.  Unfortunately, I've also been on the giving end of performing small and petty acts.  Ironically, the person they hurt the most was me.  In debasing myself this way, I felt my soul shrivel and my heart harden.

As in so many things, I resolved to do better.  And, as in so many things, too often I failed.  I picked myself up and tried again.  That is what I'm doing now:  trying again.

Joy for today:  picking myself up.  (Darn.  I should have skipped the eggnog this year!)

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Day 352, December 28

"Where there is love, there are always miracles."--Willa Cather

I found this quote on a Christmas card given to me by a dear friend.  It seemed appropriate to share today as it goes along with yesterday's post.

I wrote about my sweet friends who gave me such a thoughtful and loving gift, but I didn't tell you the rest of the story.  The gift arrived a couple of weeks before Christmas.  In those two remaining weeks, I felt my attitude shift, my heart soften, and my spirits lift.  There was the miracle I had been needing but hadn't known just how much I needed it.

I resolved to climb out of my hole of pity and try to do something for someone else.  A lady in our ward had lost her husband a year earlier.  What could I do for her?  Funds were limited, but I visited her more often, sent cards, and even managed to purchase a modest gift for her.  I wrote my aunts and expressed my love for them.  These were small things, but they were given from the heart.

Joy for today:  remembering a Christmas miracle.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Day 351, December 27

Before and after Christmas, much attention is given to gift-giving etiquette.  What do you give to your neighbor, your boss, the postman, friends, and, of course, family?  One of the favorite subjects addressed on morning talk shows is "the worst gift you've ever received."

I don't want to talk about the worst gift I've ever received (a duster--cleaning tool accompanied with the suggestion that I needed to use it) but to tell you about one of the best gifts I've ever received.  Yesterday I wrote about my granddaughter's loving letter to me.  That is definitely in the best-gift-ever category.

Another gift stands out in my mind.  Seventeen years ago, I felt (as I did this year) that I had little reason to celebrate Christmas.  My mother had died only a few months before, and I was still grieving.  Larry's fledgling engineering business was faltering.  We were living on $10 an hour, rice, beans, savings, and a whole lot of prayer.  

Enter my two walking buddies Marian and Tami.  One dreary December morning they showed up at our meeting place with wide smiles on their faces. They handed me a beautifully decorated box and told me to open it right then and there.  Eagerly, I did so.  

Inside was a treasure chest of things I love:  handmade greeting cards, stamps, three angel pins, and chocolate.  I was overwhelmed and so touched that I started blubbering.  Blubbering in the cold and snow and ice is not a pretty sight, but there I was, red nose, red eyes, and a heart full of gratitude.

I don't know if Tami and Marian remember that gift or its effect on me.  I only know that 17 years later, I remember it and am still reduced to tears by that memory.  They had given me the best gift of all:  love. 

Joy for today:  remembering a gift of love. 

Friday, December 26, 2014

Day 350, December 26

It's been a hard year.  It's been a hard month.  I am ashamed to admit it, but I just wanted Christmas to be over.  How could I celebrate when my sister, the other part of me, is gone?

On Christmas, I resolved to be happy.  Larry and I were spending the morning with our daughter's family.  We had an enjoyable time.  Everyone received way too many gifts.  As we started to pick things up, my granddaughter Reynna (15) presented me with one more gift.

I opened it and found this letter:

Dear Grandma,

Merry Christmas!  I love you so much and I'm glad that I have you in my life.  For the past month I've been trying to figure out what to get you.  About a week ago, I realized that maybe I shouldn't get you something physical.

So I decided that I was going to make my present a little more meaningful this year.  I know you love to write and it's something that makes you very happy.  For for your gift, I've given myself the goal to write you a hand-written letter like this at least once a week.

 I'm not very good at writing, but I'm going to try.  In my letters I can talk about anything you want me to, from school to church or just to tell you that I love you.  I really hope that we can both bond from this.

I love you, Grandma, and I hope you have a very Merry Christmas.



As you can imagine, my heart filled, my eyes filled, and my heart filled again.  How could I be sad when I have such a granddaughter?  Reynna is my light, as she is a light to so many others.

Joy for today:  having Reynna in my life.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Day 349, December 25--Christmas Day

More about the Messiah:
Handel composed his masterpiece in a three-part structure with the "parts" subdivided by Charles Jennens into scenes.. Each scene is a collection of individual movements which take the form of recitatives, arias, and choruses. 
In Part I, the Messiah's coming and the virgin birth are predicted by Old Testament prophets. The annunciation of the birth of the Christ is represented in the words of Luke's Gosepl. Part II covers Christ's passion and His death, His resurrection and ascension. 
Part III begins with the promise of redemption, followed by a prediction of the day of judgment and the general resurrection, ending with the final victory over sin and death and the acclamation of Christ. Jennens feared that the audiences of the day would not understand all of the allusions to scripture.  For their benefit, he printed and issued a pamphlet explaining the reasons for his choices of scriptural selections.
Though I lack the musical skil and talent to participate in the playing or singing of the glorious words, I still am enchanted each time I hear the words of this glorious work.
Joy for today:  thrilling to music about Christ. 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Day 348, December 24

Did you know that George Frideric Handel originally composed the Messiah as an Easter offering?.  I hadn't realized that until I did some research.

The Messiah burst onto the stage of Musick Hall in Dublin on April 13, 1742. The audience grew to a record 700.  Ladies were asked by management to wear dresses "without Hoops" in order to make "Room for more company." Handel was not the only draw; many also came to glimpse the contralto, Susannah Cibber, then embroiled in a scandalous divorce.
The men and women in attendance sat enthralled from the moment the tenor followed the string overture with his poignant opening line: "Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God." Soloists alternated with wave upon wave of chorus, until, near the midway point when the words "He was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief" were sung.  So moved was the Rev. Patrick Delany that he leapt to his feet and cried out: "Woman, for this be all thy sins forgiven thee!"
The Hallelujah chorus is perhaps the most well-known of the three part work as Handel quotes from the Prophet Isaiah in describing Christ:  Wonderful, Counselor, Almighty God ...
More than 250 years after Handel composed his masterpiece, audiences still thrill to the moving music and words.
Joy for today:  rejoicing in Christ through music.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Day 347, December 23

It is two days before Christmas.  Do you feel the excitement in the air?  The rustling of wrapping paper as children (and some of us older children) shake presents, caught up in the mystery and delight of the season.

There is another kind of excitement, that of remembering the reason for the season:  the birth of Christ.  Though we know that the Savior was not really born at this time, we celebrate His birth, His life, His Atonement at this time.

That is the real gift of Christmas:  the Atonement. The knowledge He has paid for our sins, has paid for our weaknesses, has paid for our tears and pain and heartache.  That is the miracle of Christmas.   That is the miracle of life.

If we take upon ourselves His name, if we forsake the worldly trappings that we are too frequently caught up in, we can return to live with Him and the Father at some time.

Joy for today:  accepting the Miracle of the Atonement.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Day 346, December 22

I've written before that I am not a fancy person.  Those who know me well will attest to that.  My home is not fancy; my clothes are not fancy; my car is not fancy.

And that's okay.  My home, my clothes, my car and everything else about me are servicable.  That seems a bland word, a boring word, but a good word all the same.  I like to think that I, too, am servicable.  That I can do what needs to be done when it needs to be done.  Sometimes I falter and fail, then I start again.

Joy for today:  being servicable.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Day 345, December 21

Today is the official mark of winter.  In thinking of it, while I sit in my warm house with plenty of food and heat and all the comforts, I cannot help but think of the pioneers.  Is that strange to ponder about at this time of year?  Surely I should be thinking of Christmas things.  But there you have it--my mind likes to go off on tangents.

The Mormon pioneers left their homes in Nauvoo, Illinois after being driven out by mobs of angry, ignorant men.  The pioneers had little in the way of preparation to face the coming months as they traversed the frozen Mississippi River and made camp in Winter Quarters.

Children were born ... and some died.  Along with mothers and fathers and grandmothers and grandfathers.  Still, the faithful Saints kept moving forward, looking with faith to a new land where they could practice their religion without fear.

They sang; they prayed; they buried their dead.  And then they took up the reins of their oxen (those who were fortunate enough to have wagons) and began again, putting one foot in front of the other.

When I get discouraged, depressed, I think of their example and remind myself that I, too, can put one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward.

Joy for today:  learning from pioneers.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Day 344, December 20

Yesterday I wrote about Joseph.  I found the following song in the Primary Songbook:


When Joseph went to Bethlehem I think he took great care
To place his tools and close his shop and leave no shavings there.
He urged the donkey forward then, with Mary on its back
And carried bread and goat cheese in a little linen sack.

I think there at the busy inn that he was meek and mild
And awed to be the guardian of Mary's sacred child.
Perhaps all through the chilly hours he smoothed the swaddling bands
And Jesus felt the quiet strength of Joseph's gentle hands.

And close beside the manger bed, he dimmed the lantern's light
And held the litltle Jesus close upon that holy night.

Are those words not perfect to describe the gentle man Joseph must have been?  What a tremendous responsibility and honor he had to take upon him the care and protection of the Christ Child.

Joy for today:  thinking of Joseph.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Day 343, December 19

My favorite Christmas songs and hymns are those that focus on Mary.  Our Primary songbook contains an especially lovely song "Mary's Lullaby" that brings me to tears each time I hear the children sing it.

However, my thoughts turn to Joseph as well.  Sometimes he is the forgotten man at Christmas.  Yet he played a pivotal role in Christ's birth and upbringing.  It was Joseph who took care of Mary when he might have well turned her away or had her stoned.  It was Joseph who found shelter for the pregnant Mary.  It was Joseph who taught the young Jesus how to work with his hands in carpentry.

Joy for today:  remembering Joseph.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Day 342, December 18

It is one week before Christmas.  And I'm pretty much at peace.  Did I get everything done that I wanted to?  Of course not.  Did I get the things done that meant the most to me?   For the most part, yes.

When I was a young mother, I was frantic.  I had to make Christmas presents.  (I'm still not sure why, as no one liked what I made anyway, but there you have it.)  I had to bake cookies with my children.  I had to decorate my house with crafts I had made myself.  (I look back in abject horror at some of my crafting attempts.)  The list continued.

Are those bad things?  No.  But wisdom and a whole lot of years under my belt (or in my bra) have given me a different perspective.

Joy for today:  not being frantic.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Day 341, December 17

At this time of year, we often take stock, reflecting on what is ... and what isn't ... important in our lives.

Here is a partial look at my list:


Handwritten Christmas cards with a personal message.


A beautifully decorated house.


Being able to help our grandchildren wtih braces, special classes, etc.


A new car.  (Mine is circa 2000.)


Paying tithing to the Lord.


Expensive clothes.  (I am queen of garage sales.)


Loyalty to my friends.


Wordly awards.

Doubtless you have other things on your list.  Take a moment or two and decide what belongs on your important list and what you can let go.  It may surprise you.

Joy for today:  evaluating my priorities.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Day 340, December 16

I found this on a Christmas plaque:


Would have asked for directions,
arrived on time,
helped deliver the baby,
cleaned the stable,
made a casserole,
brought practical gfits,
and then
there would be

Perhaps it's a bit facetious, but it makes a certain sense.  I think of my women friends and can see each of them in these "Three Wise Women."  My friends see a problem, step in without fanfare or ceremony, and take care of it.  All of this is done with no thought of gratitude or reward or recognition.

Joy for today:  having many "Three Wise Women" as friends.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Day 339, December 15

Today is our son's Hyrum's birthday.  I won't say how old he is; I will just say the it makes it increasingly hard for me to claim to be 29.  For years, I had my grandchildren convinced that Grandma was only 29.  When their mother reached that age and more, the grandchildren became skeptical of Grandma's claims.

But enough of that.

Hyrum is a son any parent would be proud of.  Larry and I are no exception.  Hyrum has a sharp mind, an engaging personality, and a cute, if sometimes naughty, sense of humor.  (Where did he get that from?)  He also has a strong sense of morality and integrity.

When his older brother was going through a really hard time, Hyrum invited him to go on an all-expense paid trip to Mexico.  They had chocolate wraps, ate fine food, and didn't miss their mother at all!

Joy for today:  loving Hyrum.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Day 338, December 14

Yesterday I saw a cottontail rabbit in a friend's yard.  Such was his coloring that he blended in seamlessly with the brown and gray landscape.  It caused me to think of the perfection of the Father's creations.

Rabbits are prey to many other animals and birds, foxes, hawks, even an eagle.  They have little defense mechanisms, but the Great Creator gave them the ability to "hide in plain sight."

Sometimes I find myself questioning God's plan.  Why did He take my sister and others, who were so beloved and needed by so many?  I have no answers, at least none that make sense.  In the afterlife, perhaps I will be privvy to His plan.  In the meantime, I can only marvel at the details of His creations, His attention to even the protection of bunnies.

Joy for today:  finding joy in the Father's plan.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Day 337, December 13

"There is in every true woman's heart a spark of heavenly fire, which lies dormant in the broad daylight of prosperity: but which kindles up, and beams and blazes in the dark hour of adversity."--Washington Irving

I like to think that I have a "spark of heavenly fire."  Occasionally, I get a glimpse of it--or what it could be if I allowed it to "beam and blaze."

Too often, though, I put out the fire before it has a chance to take hold.  I run away from it.  I ignore it.  Or, worse, I'm not even aware of it and allow it to wither away and die. How sad is that.

I believe we all--men and women alike--have a heavenly fire within us.  Our job is to find it, to feed it, and then to act upon it.  We need not wait until the "dark hour of adversity" for it to beam and blaze.  We can use that fire to better our lives and those of others.

Joy for today:  nurturing the heavenly fire within me.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Day 336, December 12

Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas. -- Calvin Coolidge

Knowing that I love inspiring quotes, a friend sent the above to me.  Isn't it beautiful?  

Using President Coolidge's words, we can carry the spirit of Christmas with us throughout the year, just as Dickens's Scrooge promised to do.  How do we "cherish peace and goodwill?"   Cherish is to hold dear to one's heart, to revere, to adore.  If I truly cherish peace and goodwill, I will refrain from getting angry at the driver who cut me off in traffic.  I will refrain from gossiping.  I will refrain from finding fault with my husband.  

Are there positives I can do as well?  Certainly.  I can visit my friend Cathy (who lives in a care facility) more often and take her small but meaningful gifts.  I can write to my elderly aunt who doesn't hear very well and enjoys letters more than phone calls.  I can pray for not only my friends and family but for all those who need an extra dose of the Lord's healing and love.

Joy for today:  cherishing peace and goodwill. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Day 335, December 11

"Christmas is a time of reflection on what we can become because of God's sacred gift.  As we discover the gift, we learn of the immeasurable love of good and our absolute need for a Savior. As we embrace the gift, we strengthen our faith in Jesus Christ and desire to become more like Him.  As we share the gift, we follow the Master's footsteps, who invited all to hear His message."--Russell M. Nelson

What a powerful message, this reminder to share our belief in the Savior and our love for Him with others.  How do we do that?  By preaching?  No.  By serving, by giving, by loving.  This blog is my way of sharing.  What I can't say in the spoken word, I can try to say in the written word.

Joy for today:  sharing His message.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Day 334, December 10

Once again I am quoting my son Rob:

"We all want to go out and get just the right gift for our loved ones.  Why don't we start with giving the PERFECT gift.  Start this season by giving yourself the FIRST gift and then go share His gift with all."

When I saw this on Rob's facebook page, I knew I had to use it, for he has given us the recipe for a perfect Christmas.  Too often in the past, I have fallen into the trap of thinking I had to spend X amount of dollars on each child, give the most expensive gift I could afford, whether that be $5 or $500.  The trouble was, gifts didn't bring happiness.  Love did.

And love of the Savior, love for the Savior, is the most precious gift we can possibly give.

Joy for today:  giving the perfect gift.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Day 333, December 9

Colorado's weather changes faster than a teenage girl's moods.  Bright and sunny one day; cold and gloomy the next.  As I was pondering upon this, I realize that my own moods undergo lightning-quick changes.  Like the weather, I am "bright and sunny" one day, "cold and gloomy" the next.

What makes the difference?  Part of it is brain chemistry.  Part of it is the weather itself:  when the sun appears, I am more likely to be upbeat and happy; when the sun disappears, my happy self disappears as well.  And part of it is my attitude.

I mentioned attitude in a recent post.  What power it has.  Given that only I can determine my attitude, why do I seem determined at times to have a poor one?  I excuse it, telling myself and others that life is hard and that I'm entitled to my bad attitude.  That is, to use a phrase from decades ago, a cop-out.  As I have little patience for those who have an air of entitlement, claiming that the world owes them a living, I should have little patience for my own sense of entitlement.  Yet one more thing where I need to improve.

Joy for today:  banishing excuses for a poor attitude.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Day 332, December 8

If we are not happy and joyous at this season,
for what other season shall we wait and
for what other time shall we look? ~Abdul-Baha

I believe the above can be taken in several ways.  "This season" can refer to the Christmas season, which is upon us.  It can also refer to the current season of our lives.

I tell myself that surely I can be happy at this season of the year, when we celebrate the birth of the Savior.  If I could only keep that at the top of my mind, rather than allowing it to be pushed aside by other things, I would do far better.  Unfortunately, I let other stuff clutter up my thoughts:  Will I get my package mailed to my far-away son and his family in time?  Have I bought gifts for everyone on my list?  Is the house clean enough?  And so it goes.

And what about my season in life?  A few days ago, my husband and I took our cat Harley to the veternarian.  A chart showed Harley's age in "people years."  It turns out that Harley and I are about the same age, which was listed as "geriatric."  Both Harley and I were offended at the classification.  But there it was.  So I'm at the geriatric season of my life ... it is both humbling and freeing.  Humbling in that I have to accept that I can't do some things as well as I once did.  Freeing in that I realize I'm pretty much beyond living up to the expectations of others.  If I don't decorate my house for Christmas, it's okay.  If I choose to eat cold pizza for breakfast, it's okay.  If I send goofy, even naughty, cards to my friends, it's okay again.

Joy for today:   being happy at this season, the holiday season and my season, geriatric as it is.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Day 331, December 7

“Make yourselves nests of pleasant thoughts! None of us yet know, for none of us have been taught in early youth, what fairy palaces we may build of beautiful thoughts, proof against all adversity; bright fancies, satisfied memories, noble histories, faithful sayings, treasure-houses of precious and restful thoughts, which care cannot disturb, nor pain make gloomy, nor poverty take away from us; houses built without hands, for our souls to live in.” --John Ruskin, 19th century writer

I love the imagery of "nests of pleasant thoughts."  I picture happy, industrious birds gathering bits of twigs and straw and angel wings, fashioning nests to shelter their families from a cold world.  We, too, can craft nests.  What thoughts would I put in such a nest?

My gratitude that our tiny (3 pound 1 ounce granddaughter) is now home and growing stronger.
My joy in meeting another granddaughter for the first time.
My pleasure in spending time with my friends.

With so many pleasant thoughts from which to choose, why do I spend so much time and energy on unpleasant ones?  Any answer I come up with is an indictment of my lack of gratitude and my poor attitude.  I resolve to change both.

"The pleasantest things in the world are pleasant thoughts: and the great art of life is to have as many of them as possible." ~ Montaigne

Joy for today:  building nests of pleasant thoughts.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Day 330, December 6

We shall find peace. We shall hear angels.
We shall see the sky sparkling with diamonds. ~Anton Chekhov

Where do you find peace?  When do you hear angels?  When do you see the sky sparkling with diamonds?  Chances are likely that our answers will be as unique as snowflakes.

I find peace in my home cuddled up with my cat.  I find it when I attend church and partake of the Sacrament.  I find it when I gaze upon pictures of my newest granddaughter.

What about hearing angels?  I hear angels when I attend concerts where my grandchildren are playing an instrument and singing.  I hear angels when I listen to the voices of the Primary children as they sing about Jesus.  I hear angels when I listen intently after giving a prayer.

And the sky sparkling with diamonds?  Crystaline snowflakes dancing in the air outshine any diamond as does the glint of the sun on a glass-smooth lake.

Joy for today:  finding peace, hearing angels, seeing the sky sparkle with diamonds.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Day 329, December 5

" ... to recognize Him as the Creator of the earth, the Redeemer of mankind, the Only Begotten of the Father, the King of kings, the Prince of Peace."

Did you count the number of titles referring to Christ listed in the above?  There were five:  Creator of the earth, the Redeemer of mankind, the Only Begotten of the Father, the King of kings, the Prince of Peace.  There are more names for Him, of course:  Messiah, Counselor, Almighty God, Mediator, Everlasting Savior, Alpha and Omega, the Lamb, and others.

Each of these titles or names refers to Christ's role in saving us, in bringing us back to live with Him and the Father when we have finished our mortal probation here on earth.

Joy for today:  recognizing Him.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Day 328, December 4

"As we draw nearer to Him, we truly begin to find Him and to recognize Him ..."

How do we draw nearer to the Savior?  One of the best ways is to serve His children. Service is often most effective when it is done privately, without fanfare, without drawing attention to the act.  Christ singled out the    
forgotten people, the woman with the "issue of blood," the lepers, those people who were shunned by mainstream society.

We emulate His example when we serve quietly and humbly.  It's great to help our friends and family; it's even greater to help those who cannot give us anything in return.

Joy for today:  drawing nearer to Him.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Day 327, December 3

"As we engage our faith and commit our energy to draw closer to Jesus Christ, we begin to understand more fully who He really is.  As we seek Him diligently, we gain a deep and abiding testimony of His matchless love, His perfect life and example, and the blessings of His great atoning sacrifice.  As we draw nearer to Him, we truly begin to find Him and to recognize Him as the Creator of the earth, the Redeemer of mankind, the Only Begotten of the Father, the King of kings, the Prince of Peace."--Craig C. Christiansen

For the next couple of days, we're going to take apart this quote and examine the pieces.  For today, let's talk about the first part:  How do we "seek Him diligently?"  One way is through prayer.  When we pray to the Father through the Son, we gain a greater appreciation for Christ as our Mediator to the Father.

Another way to "seek Him" is by studying His life.  Through study, we learn that Christ was not about grand gestures, but focused on small acts that had grand results.  Most of us will not have the opportunity to perform grand gestures, but we can each make small acts.

Joy for today:  seeking Him diligently.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Day 326, December 2

One cannot tell when he is going to be healed, so do not try to set an exact time limit. Faith, not time, will determine when the cure will be effected. ~ Paramahansa Yogananda

Do we not all need to be healed in some manner?  Whether we are grieving over the death of a loved one or we are trying to come to terms with an abusive childhood or we are hurting because of the cruel actions of another, all of us need the healing power of the Savior.

As I read the above quote, I struggled with it, wondering if the author meant that if we have faith enough, we will be healed faster.  I don't think that was his intent.  I believe he meant that faith will bring us healing in the Lord's time and in the Lord's way, which are perfect.  The trouble is, we don't understand what His time and His way are.  Our understanding is finite, that of spiritual children who are trying to run before they can walk.

I know my understanding is that of a child.  I see a problem and I want to direct the Lord in how to fix it.  How arrogant.  How foolish.  How naive.  What I see what my mortal eyes is such a tiny part of the larger eternal picture.  I am trying to "let go and let God."

Joy for today:  being healed in the Lord's time and in the Lord's way.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Day 325, December 1

Today is December 1.

For many, New Year's Day is a day of reflection, of goal-setting, of trying to get your life on track--again.  For me, this process starts in December.  In trying to figure out why this is, I came up with a couple of answers.

One: The busy-ness of December can cloud priorities and values.  Though it sounds counter-intuitive, making time to reflect on those priorities and values can restore a measure of peace to the days and deflect some of the busy-ness.

Two:  The buying of gifts causes me to do some self-evaluation:  what do I want in life and what do I want my children and grandchildren to have.  Material gifts are fun, but gifts from the heart matter far more.

Third:  And most important.  Remembering that the Savior should be the center of our activities and thoughts (as He should be throughout the year) requires me to focus on what is truly important ... and what is not.

Joy for today:  reflecting, evaluating, remembering.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Day 324, November 30

When we need these healing times, there is nothing better than a good long walk. It is amazing how the rhythmic movements of the feet and legs are so intimately attached to cobweb cleaners in the brain. ~ Anne Wilson Schaef

We all need healing times.  Whether we are grieving or whether we are just trying to get through a hard day, we need healing.

As the author of the above says, a long walk can do what other things cannot.  The act of putting one foot in front of the other, that simple but important movement works to un-muddy our thoughts and to remind us of the miracle of our bodies.

Maybe your thoughts are never muddy.  Not so mine.  They swirl around in a murky mess, tangling and twining and twirling. Walking and writing and, of course, praying are the best ways I know to put them in focus again.

Joy for today:  clearing my mind with walking.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Day 323, November 29

At our monthly dinner club last week, the hostess played the piano while the rest of us sang (or, in my case, tried to sing).  Our hostess is an accomplished musician who plays with not only great skill but with great love.  The hymns she played were solace to the soul and balm to the heart.

As she accepted our compliments graciously, I was impressed by how much music adds to our lives.  Even for someone like me, who can't carry a tune in a casserole dish (the actual saying is "can't carry a tune in a bucket," but I liked to add my own Mormon spin to it), music touches my heart in ways that other things cannot.

Music and other arts enrich our lives.  Our families, our churches, our society, our world, would be poor indeed without their beauty.

Joy for today:  being uplifted by music.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Day 322, November 28

It is Black Friday.  I am not a Black Friday shopper.  The crowds and noise send me into overdrive, so I sit home and venture out when things are quieter.

Over the years, I have written several stories for the Chicken Soup collections.  I love the whole concept of Chicken Soup for the Soul.  Occasionally I want to suggest to the editors that they do a Chicken Soup for the Quiet Soul.  My soul needs quiet.  I suspect others do as well.

Though I love to be around friends and family, love church and other gatherings, when I come home, I am grateful for the quiet.   My kitty and I curl up together and absorb the quiet, then we are ready for the world again.

Joy for today:  breathing in quiet.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Day 321, November 27

Today is Thanksgiving.

My heart is rebelling at the concept even as it is embracing it.  What can I say?  I have a fickle heart which feels one way at a moment and another a moment later.  (No wonder my husband is often confused.)

At this fragile moment in time, my heart is embracing.  I think of our newest granddaughter, as fragile as this fleeting moment, and I give thanks that she is doing as well as she is.  I think of my husband, children, grandchildren, and friends, and, once again, I give thanks.  And I think of the Atonement of Christ, the ultimate miracle, the ultimate blessing bestowed upon me, upon all of us, and I give thanks again.

Joy for today:  giving thanks.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Day 320, November 26

And with tears of blood he cleansed the hand,
The hand that held the steel
For only blood can wipe out blood
And only tears can heal. ~ Oscar Wilde

Recently two friends and I were talking about grieving.  Each of us is grieving, in our own way, in our own time, over the loss of someone dear to us--a sister, a daughter, a husband.  Our grief takes different forms, and what works for one may not work for another.

Grieving usually involves tears, but tears are frequently difficult to shed.  For me, an intensely private person, I struggle to hold them back for they show the world my vulnerability.  I work to do my grieving in private, so that no one knows I'm hurting.

In talking with my friends, I realized that maybe, just maybe, I need to share my tears just as I share my joy. And maybe, just maybe, I can find solace in shared tears and strength in shared grief.

Joy for today:  healing through tears ...and friends.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Day 319, November 25

In a Dear Abby column from many years ago, the advice maven said, "Loneliness is the ultimate poverty."

This reminded me of holidays from my childhood, especially Thanksgiving and Christmas, where our table was filled with people who had no family and few friends close by.  These were the "forgotten" people of the ward--the elderly, the widows, the people who had nothing to give in return.

Our home was not fancy; the food was not gourmet. But my parents were warm and welcoming, (which trumps fancy any time) and the food was hot and filling.

To my shame, I would occasionally grumble about our holidays always being shared this way.  "Where would you have them go?" my father asked when I complained one Thanksgiving upon learning that three widows would be joining us.  "Somewhere else," came my selfish response.  To this, my father said, "They have nowhere else."

The poignancy of this conversation, more than 50 years ago, causes tears to sting my eyes even today.

Joy for today:  remembering my parents.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Day 318, November 24

A painful time in our life is what I call a “healing crisis.” We are letting go of something old and opening to something new. ~ Shakti Gawain

It's difficult to let go of things.  Whether they be material things or feelings or expectations or whatever.  Sometimes it is even difficult to let go of grief.  If I let go of my grief, will I also let go of precious memories?  But if I don't let go of it, I am in danger of losing myself.

As in most of the "biggies" in life, I do it in bits and pieces.  I let go of part of the grief and hold onto another part.  In time, perhaps I will be able to let go of that as well.  Then comes another challenge:  replacing the grief with something else, opening myself up to something new.

Joy for today:  letting go and opening up.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Day 317, November 23

The holiday season beginning with Thanksgiving and lasting through New Year's Day is nearly upon us.  For many it represents family, friends, faith, and, of course, food.  All good things.

For some, such as myself, it also represents a test:  can I make it through this time without my sister?  I suppose I will, for what choice do I have?  I tell myself I should have a list of worthy projects, fulfilling projects, service projects.  After all, isn't service supposed to ease heartache?

To an extent, it does.  But only to an extent.  I know, I know, we aren't supposed to have doubts that service dissipates pain and sorrow--it's practically anti-American and certainly anti-Mormon to even suggest such a thing. (Have you noticed that I've used the word "supposed" three time already?  Those "supposed to's" in life can be real downers.)

But even with my list of "supposed to's," even with the help of family and friends and faith, grief creeps upon me.  I think of Carla when I'm wrapping a gift.  I think of her when I see little children giggling for we spent many hours giggling together as little girls and then as mothers and grandmothers of little girls.  I think of her when I see a blue Subaru on the road--she loved her Subaru and even named her.

I think of her all the time.

Joy ... and sorrow ... for today:  thinking of my sister.  And remembering.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Day 316, November 22

Healing is impossible in loneliness; it is the opposite of loneliness. Conviviality is healing. To be healed we must come with all the other creatures to the feast of Creation. ~ Wendell Berry

Whether we are dealing with grief or just with the ordinary trials of everyday living, we need others. An introvert, I am comfortable being alone for much of the day.  But sometimes my soul and my heart crave the company of others, the give-and-take and exchange of ideas and feelings, the sharing of hearts.

When I am in a good place, I remember that I need to give back.  Perhaps someone else is lonely and needs me and whatever I can offer.

I love the final words in Berry's quote:  "... the feast of Creation."  I paid particular attention to the capitalization of the word "Creation."  To me, that implies that Berry was referring to the Lord's Creation.  We are all products of the His loving hands.  And in feasting with other creatures at His feast, we are not only healed, we give healing in return.

Joy for today:  coming with all other creatures to the feast of Creation.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Day 315, November 21

Clearly in our world today it is a rare and precious thing to have a testimony that God our Heavely Father lives; that His Son, Jesus Christ, is our Savior and Redeemer ... The profound blessing of having a testimony of these truths cannot be measured or ever taken for granted.--M. Russell Ballard

You need not be perfect to have a testimony.  You need not have rid your heart of all unkind feelings or your mind of unkind thoughts to have a testimony.  You need not have given up every sin to have a testimony.   Our church buildings would be empty indeed if only the perfect, the completely pure in heart and mind, and the sinless attended.

No, you need not have any of these things to have a testimony.  All you need is to believe that the Father and  the Son love you and that They live.  They live!  That is my testimony.  That is my miracle.  That is your miracle.

Joy for today:  having a testimony

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Day 314, November 20

I've referred in previous posts about our church's Primary Sacrament Meeting Program.  This year I was given the opportunity to write the program for the children in our ward (congregation).  It was my privilege and delight.

This past Sunday, one of the Primary workers presented me with a stack of thank-you notes from the children.  No store-bought card with flowers and fancy verses could compare to these hand-written notes with "original" artwork.  My heart melted a little with every card I read until it was a big puddle of love.

I looked at the painstakingly printed names of each child.  "Thank you Sister Choate for writing our program," one card read.  Some, from children too young to print, had only pictures.  I treasure each card and will probably show them off to anyone who comes to visit.

Joy for today:  being reminded of Heavenly Father's littlest angels.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Day 313, November 19

"Grieving can strip us of our mental structures, and disconnect us from the other forms in our lives: possessions become devalued in the face of sorrow. You are now primed and ready for that shift in consciousness that the universe asks of each of us. "

I found the above in a group of writings about grieving.  The words struck a chord in me as I realized that grieving had indeed stripped me of my "mental structures and disconnected me from the other forms in my life."  What had once seemed so important faded and, in some cases, disappeared in the face of my sorrow.  What did a writing success or anything else matter compared to my loss?

Lately, I've begun to find pleasure in some things again, especially with the birth of a new granddaughter.  How could I not take joy in this tiny scrap of life who is fighting so hard to eat and to grow stronger?  She reminds me that there is much good in life, even when my heart is still aching, still hurting.

Joy for today:  remembering there is much good in life despite pain.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Day 312, November 18

The angels of light bring the air alive reminding me the time of inner growth is at hand.~Terry Lynn Taylor, Angel Days

I am trying to figure out who--or what--the angels of light are.  Are they friends who shore me up when I am down?  Or are they the new souls who have just come to earth in the guise of grandchildren?

I have felt the brush of angel wings when my granddaughter hugs me.  I have felt the brush of angel wings when I picture my son gazing in awe at his two-week-old daughter.  And I have felt the brush of angel wings in the touch of my husband's hand.

Joy for today:  knowing the brush of angel wings.

Day 311, November 17

Writing became such a process of discovery that I couldn't wait to get to work in the morning: I wanted to know what I was going to say. ~ Sharon O’Brien

Often I don't know what I'm going to write in this blog.  Sometimes a quotation, like the above, will inspire me, but I still don't know what I want to say until I start writing.

Does that sound strange?  Perhaps it is for some.  For others, like me, it is only through writing that we know what we are thinking, how it makes us feel, what we want others to know about us.

For the past four years, this blog has been my form of expression, saying through the written word what I do not have the ability or talent to say aloud.  It is my journal, but it is more.  It is my testimony, my value set, my belief system, my sense of self.  And, most of all, my gratitude to the Lord for His unending patience, infinite love, unfailing grace.

Joy for today:  finding out what I am thinking through writing.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Day 310, November 16

A human being is part of the whole, called by us "universe," a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, has thoughts and feelings, as something separate from the rest-- a kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. ~ Albert Einstein

Einstein's words came as an indictment for me.  He's right--I have imprisoned myself in my care and love for "a few persons nearest" to me.  I need to broaden that.

Our area has been hit hard by what the meterologists are referring to as a polar vortex.  In a word, it's cold.  It's really, really cold.  And this from a woman who runs consistently hot!

Lately my prayers have included those who don't have shelter or heat or warm clothes.  In particular, I pray for the small creatures who are without shelter and warmth and ask for the Lord to soften the hearts of those responsible for them.

So, maybe, just maybe, my heart is trying to expand, to free itself from its self-imposed prison.

Joy for today:  widening my circle of compassion.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Day 309, November 15

"The future is an unkonwn, but a somewhat predictable unknown.  To look to the future we must first look back upon the past.  That is where the seeds of the future were planted."--Albert Einstein

"To look back upon the past" can mean many things.  To look back upon my ancestry, the legacy of family, I read family journals, letters, talk with those who remember those times.  How grateful I am for those who kept histories and records of nearly a century ago.

"To look back upon the past" can also mean acknowledging the seeds I've planted, whether for good or for ill, and see what they have brought forth.  Some of those harvests have been wonderful; some, less so.  I bear a responsibility for both.

Joy for today:  looking back and look forward.

Day 318, November 22

When you really listen to yourself, you can heal yourself. ~ Ceanne Derohan

Do you listen to yourself?  Sometimes I don't.  Listen to myself, that is.  I am too busy paying attention to the buzz of noise from phones, televisions, ipads, and all the other things that make up our lives.

If I truly listened to myself, I think I would hear needs too fragile to be expressed.  Those oh-so-fragile needs are probably leftovers from past hurts and heartaches.  Precisely because they are so fragile, I bury them, afraid to allow them to be viewed, much less voiced aloud.

Maybe I would learn that I need someone to listen when I tried to sort out mixed feelings about my childhood.  Maybe I would learn that I need someone who listens without judging.  What would you learn if you genuinely listened to yourself?  Try it and see.

Joy for today:  listening and healing.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Day 308, November 14

"None of us were meant to match. We were meant to fit together. Two identical puzzle pieces don't fit.'"--Beth Moore

Sometimes I wonder why Larry and I can't match better.  He thinks in linear terms, and I think like a bowl of spaghetti.  He likes cars and machines.  I like pretty necklaces and my kitty Harley.  These are some of the more obvious differenes.  Deeper are those in how we try to reach our goals.  Though we have the same goals for our family, our eternal progression, we go about achieving them very differently.

When I look at my children and worry over them and their mates, I see many of the same things Larry and I struggle with.  We each want the other to be more like ourselves.

And then I realize that that won't work either.  What if Larry and I were identical?  (Well, not really identical, but you get the point.)  Neither of us would be happy because we would only reflect each other, rather than complement each other.  I don't want to wake up in the morning and see a carbon copy of me.  Yuck!

I want to wake up and see the person who completes me, who understands me, who puts up with me, who loves me despite all of that putting up with.  

Joy for today:  fitting.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Day 307, November 13

"I am me and that is good enough."

I found this in my son Rob's blog.  This is not the first time I've quoted Rob.  It probably won't be the last.  He has an insightful way of expressing himself and possesses a sensitivity that surprises me at times.

Have you ever wanted to be someone else?  (If not, stop reading.  This blog is not for you.)  If you have, if you are like me, and want to be someone else, with someone else's talents and strengths and gifts, you know that it can be a frustrating, even painful, experience.

I want to be Alanna.  I want to be Janet.  I want to be Amanda. I want to be Alisa.   I want to be Marilyn and Laurie and Jeannie and Audra and  Marian and Tami and Leslie and Karen and Beverly and Barbara and Stephen King!  Well, really, I don't want to write horror as King does, but I would like to have his talent and command of the language.

Instead, I'm just me, with all my foibles, weaknesses, and sins.  Not to mention a few eccentricities which my family likes to remind me of.  And so I keep trying.  To be a better me.

Joy for today:  being a better me.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Day 306, November 12

Last week, a friend and I were emailing back and forth as she waited for news about her mother's health.  (Her mother has cancer.)

We talked about the fact that Heavenly Father loves her mother even more than she does, that His love is perfect and infinite.  Of course, the Atonement came up.  I reminded her (and myself) that the Atonement makes up not only for all of our sins, but also for all of our suffering, pain, and tears.  Isn't that amazing?

Christ's Atonement is so vast, so far-reaching and yet so intimate, so personal.  That is the miracle.  We have only to accept Him into our lives to make the Atonement ours.

Accepting the Savior into our lives, making a covenant with Him requires we have a broken heart and a contrite spirit.  That is difficult for those of us (me) who have a proud heart and a rebellious spirit.  When will I ever learn?  I continue to be amazed at the Savior's patience.

Joy for today:  realizing that the Atonement can be ours.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Day 305, November 11

"Love begins with a smile, grows with a kiss, and ends with a teardrop". ~Anonymous

This weekend has been a roller coaster of emotions as Larry and I returned to Utah for the first time since my sister's death.  The reason for being here--to see a new granddaughter--is a cause for joy.  There was much smiling.  There were no kisses, unfortunately, because Julie Nadean was born a month early and had to be protected from any possible infection.  But I did get to hold her, to tell her that Grandma loved her and would always love her.  And then there were teardrops as I saw familiar places where Carla and I used to go.

That pretty well describes life, doesn't it--smiles, kissing (even in my dreams), and teardrops.

Joy for today:  having reasons to smile, dreams of kissing, memories with teardrops.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Day 304, November 10

A new granddaughter arrived four weeks early.  It was scary and worrying and wonderful.  Steven and Melinda's sweet Julie Nadean burst into the world at three pounds and one ounce.  Incredibly tiny.  Incredibly perfect.  Incredibly welcome.

Prayers and fasts were offered on her behalf and that of her parents.  They still face a long road as Julie works to gain weight and grow stronger.  Each ounce gained is a cause for celebration.

Joy for today:  rejoicing in this new life.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Day 303, November 9

Yesterday I wrote about clouds.  Today's post is a different take on the same.

As a child, I saw animals, trees, dragons, fairies, and even the occasional cow in clouds.  My active imagination knew no boundaries.  As an adult, I lost much of that ability.  My mind was cluttered with the busy-ness of life. Important things, I told myself.  Necessary things.  And maybe they were ... are.  But how sad that I lost so much.

Where did that creativity go?  Did it just evaporate?  Or is it still there, buried beneath worries, grief, and other burdens that make up so much of this mortal existence?  I don't know, but I'm going to try to unearth that child-like imagination.

Joy for today:  setting my imagination free.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Day 302, November 8

 ""In the Bible clouds are always associated with God. Clouds are the sorrows, sufferings and providential circumstances, within or without our personal lives, which actually seem to contradict the sovereignty of God. Yet it is through these very clouds that the Spirit of God is teaching us how to walk by faith. If there were never any clouds in our lives, we would have no faith. 'The clouds are the dust of His feet" (Nahum 1:3). They are a sign that God is there.'"--Oswald Chambers

IIt seems that I've had too many clouds in my life in the last year.  The death of a dear friend, that of my sister, and of two sweet aunts brought me to my knees.  And then I realized that that was just where I needed to be.  On my knees.  There, I was reminded to humble myself and to beg for the Lord's mercies, which He, of course, extended liberally.

Joy for today:  having clouds in my life to remind me of faith's sustaining power.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Day 301, November 7

"If we want to walk in the Pure Land all the time, it helps us to let go of the things that keep us from being in the present. It can be done when you drink your juice or your tea. Drink in such a way that the Holy Spirit is present in you. You have enough already to be happy now. Nourish yourself every day with the wonderful things that life has to offer you. Nourish yourself in the present moment." ~Thich Nhat Hanh No Death, No Fear

Over the last years, I've realized that I am frequently not present.  I'm physically there, but my mind, my heart  are elsewhere.   Too much of my time was spent in worry over the future.  I worried about my dear Carla.  I worried about my children.  (I still do.)  Would Carla get better?  (She didn't.)  Would my children make wise choices.  (Pretty much they do.)  My worry didn't do a thing except to prevent me from enjoying and embracing the RIGHT NOW.

I'm trying to do better.  I'm trying to do better in a lot of things.  Not a whole lot of success so far, but at least I haven't given up on myself.

Joy for today:  being there.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Day 300, November 6

Today is my mother's birthday.

Mom has been gone for 17 years, and I still miss her.  I want to show her that I love her.  I long to share my delight in my grandchildren with her.  I want to tell her that I finally sold a book to the publisher I had been submitting to (and being rejected by) for the last 30 years.  I have so much to show her, to share with her, to tell her.

My husband pointed out that Mom knows.  She knows everything and has been watching out for our family for all these years, just as she did when she was here with us.  Mom never had much in the way of material goods, but she had a quick sense of humor, a quest for learning, and a no-nonsense way of getting things done.

Mom would have been bewildered by and, quite frankly, impatient with the air of entitlement that is so prevalent in our society today.  She would have said to those who think the world owes them a living, "Get up.  Get moving.  Get doing."  Good advice whatever our circumstances.

I guess I inherited some of that, because I, too, can be impatient.  I don't let it bother me because I figure if I can have some of my mother in me, I'm doing okay.

Mom worked hard all of her life.  She gave generously, paid tithes and offerings, and remembered her grandchildren with cards and calls and silly gifts.  On one visit to the family, Mom snuck rocks inside her grandson's backpack.  He carried them all day before realizing what she'd done.  Go, Mom!

Joy for today:  remembering Mom.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Day 299, November 5

I found the following in IMPRIMIS, a publication of Hillsdale College:

According to the Oxford English Dictorinary, the Latinate word "compassion" means, literally, "suffering together with another--it's the feeling or emotion, when a person is moved by the suffering or distress of another and by the desire to relieve it."

The author, William Voegeli, goes on to differentiate between having intentions to be compassionate and actually being compassionate.  As I read and then re-read his essay, I was struck by this distinction.  How many times have you heard "If you need anything, just call?"  Perhaps you have even said those words.  I know I have.  Later, I cringe, because if I were truly compassionate, I would have made a specific offer.

I believe the difference between having good intentions to be compassionate and being compassionate is action.  When my sister died, many friends showed compassion for our family.  In Carla's ward, friends showed up with meals, with offers to drive her (Carla's) granddaughter to daycare, with unexpected hugs.  I received cards (all of which I kept, needing to read and read again the loving words).  One dear sister offered to come every day to take care of our cat while Larry and I were away from home.  (As it was, we had already made other arrangements, but I will never forget her generous offer.)  Prayers were said and heard.

My point?  These dear friends acted.  They are exemplars of compassion, of love, of the Savior.

Joy for today:  understanding what compassion is .. and what it isn't.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Day 298, November 4

We are approaching the time of gift-giving.  For some it is a stressful time.  For others, joyous.  No matter where you fall, you will probably be searching for at least a few gifts during this season.  Finding the right gift is sometimes difficult, even stressful.

When I ran across the quote below, it reminded me about choosing gifts thoughtfully.

"Flowers have spoken to me more than I can tell in written words. They are the hieroglyphics of angels, loved by all men for the beauty of the character, though few can decipher even fragments of their meaning." ~ Lydia Maria Child, Letters from New York

What speaks to you?  Is it flowers, as Ms. Child writes of above?  Is it beautiful music?  Is it a new book?  My sister loved flowers.  When she was alive, I frequently sent flowers to her.  For me, flowers are okay, but I prefer a long-anticipated book.

Showing the we love somone, that we value him or her, means zeroing in on what speaks to them. I remember one Christmas many years ago, I gave my husband a leather-bound journal.  I was very excited, believing that he would want to write in it as I did in my journal every night.  I even pictured the two of us writing together.  (What can I say?  I was young and naive.)

It was a perfect plan, save for one flaw:  Larry doesn't like to write.  I knew that, but somehow I brushed it aside when I chose the journal.  I wasn't getting him a gift; I was getting myself one.  Since then, I've tried to do better in the gift-giving department, but I still fail occasionally.

Joy for today:  giving from the heart.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Day 297, November 3

Today is our granddaughter Reynna's 15th birthday.  Reynna is in that in-between stage, neither child, nor woman, but a delightful combination of the two.

She loves her parents, karate, her little brother Christopher, all things to do with hair and makeup, Seminary, choir, Joe-Mama (cat) and Ginger (dog), her Young Women's class at church, and her grandparents.  I think Larry and I used to be higher on the list, but we've been demoted over the years. (My demotion happened early on when she went to school and found out that chocolate was not a vegetable.)

Reynna has a quick sense of humor, a sharp mind, and a loving spirit.

Joy for today:  loving Reynna.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Day 296, November 2

Two days ago, I wrote about a young man preparing to serve a mission.  What I didn't include was sharing what happened after he spoke.  His mother and two sisters sang a hymn "I Know That My Redeemer Lives."  One of my favorites, this hymn was made even more beautiful by this lovely threesome who honored their son and the congregation with their lovely voices.

This hymn has a special meaning to me as it was sung at my sister's funeral (at her request).  When I hear the words "Oh, sweet the joy this sentence gives; I know that my Redeemer lives," I puddle up.  In fact, it was all I could do to stay in Sacrament Meeting as tears were stinging my eyes.  I focused on the beauty of the voices and made it through.

Joy for today:  remembering that "my Redeemer lives."

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Day 295, November 1

"I never knew I could suffer so much. And then, at the same time, you think; now I'm ready to open myself up to life in another way, to make it worth something and make it about the right things and not waste time." ~ Gwyneth Paltrow, Vanity Fair

Shortly after my sister died, my son Rob sent me a card with the counsel "You've served your sister well.  Now it's time to serve someone else."

I recognized the truth in the advice even as my heart rebelled against it.  How could I possibly open my heart to another, especially when there was a hole big enough to drive a semi-truck through?

But I resolved to try.

At the same time, I was assigned to be the visiting teacher to a sister in our ward who is not able to attend church.  This sweet lady is paralyzed on one side after suffering a stroke and lives in a care home.  I decided I wouldn't be a "once-a-month" visiting teacher.  I would visit as often as I could.  With each visit, I brought a treat--chocolate, of course--and took delight in my new friend's pleasure in the small gift.  Soon, my visits became more than a church calling and turned into a joy.

My son was right:  I need to serve someone else.

Joy for today:  learning from a son.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Day 294, October 31

"When a man takes an oath... he's holding his own self in his own hands. Like water." ~ Robert Bolt

It frequently seems as though integrity is in short supply today.  The idea of honoring one's word is too often perceived as old-fashioned.  And isn't that sad?

At this election time of year, jokes are told about dishonest politicians.  As is true in many cases, the jokes have an element of truth as we hear politicians misrepresent themselves and the facts.  This is not exclusive to politicians, however.  Many of us are prey to the temptation to stretch the truth.  How refreshing it is to hear someone own up to a failing and not gloss it over.

Joy for today:  honoring ourselves and others with the truth.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Day 293, October 30

Last Sunday, a young man leaving for a mission spoke in church.  We have known Parker since his parents moved to our ward 19 years ago.  (And doesn't that make me feel old?)

Parker spoke in simple but eloquent terms of his love for the Savior and his desire to teach the Gospel.  It was beautiful and touching and humbling and so much more.  I marvel at these young people--men and women--who sacrifice two years of their lives to serve others and the Lord.  They do so at their own expense.

At a time in life when many youth are planning for additional schooling, careers, marriage, they postpone these things to do as the Lord asks.

Joy for today:  standing in awe of a courageous and faithful young man.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Day 292, October 29

Last week, my husband and I voted (by mail).  We don't take this lightly.  We discussed the proposed amendments and the candidates.

There is much wrong in our country.  But there is much more right.  Sometimes we forget that.  Sometimes I forget that.  And then I listen to news stories of life in other countries and I remember how blessed we are, those of us fortunate enough to live in America.

We have the right to vote.  We have the right to dissent.  We have the right to make our voices heard.  We have the right to move from one state to another.  We have the right to worship as we see fit.

Joy for today:  being an American.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Day 291, October 28

I admit it:  I'm a softie when it comes to children.  Two days ago, I had the opportunity to watch the practice for our church's Primary Sacrament Meeting Program.  (Every year the congregations or wards in our church  hold a special program where the children present the songs and talks.)

Their sweet voices lifted in praise rival even those of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  What these voices lack in training, they make up for in enthusiasm and love for the Savior.

Joy for today:  listening to the purity of children's voices.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Day 290, October 27

"In a world of such beauty as birds in flight, surely I can come to feel at home again, even after my loss." ~ Martha Whitmore Hickman

One of my favorite Primary songs talks of the beautiful world Heavenly Father created for His children.  Surely this time of year bursting with vibrant color is proof of the Father's love for us.  Why else would He have designed such beauty?

Still, when my heart is grieving, I have a difficult time remembering that.  When I question "Why?" I sometimes forget to look out the window.  When I do, I rejoice, not only in the reds and golds and greens but in the balance of the colors, each in perfect harmony with the other.

And I remember that my life, too, has balance.  When it seems that grief outweighs everything else, I look to that harmony in nature and feel a measure of my own restored.

Joy for today:  finding the Lord's harmony.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Day 289, October 26

Yesterday, I blogged about fabrics and lives. Sometimes our fabric tears, tears so badly, in fact, that we fear it will disintegrate altogether.

When someone dies, there is a tear in the fabric.  Several friends and I have experienced the loss of loved ones in recent months.  My fabric ripped apart; indeed, I felt that my life had ripped apart.  How do we repair those tears?  For it is our job to re-weave the strands, to strengthen the fabric again.

By honoring the memory of your loved one; nurturing those memories by writing them down in your journal is one way. Creating a scrapbook of photos and journal entries could be another. Painting, drawing…however you can express the memories best. One of my ways is to tell stories about those who have passed on to the next life.  I love stories, especially humorous ones.  In telling these stories, I remind myself and others of that dear sister, mother, friend who has left us for a short while.

The strands are all there: to the memory nothing is ever lost." ~Eudora Welty

Joy for today: strengthening fabric, strenghtening memories, strengthening love.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Day 288, October 25

Do you remember the myth of the three fates?  They spin threads together, creating a beautiful fabric.  The fabric of our lives is composed of our relationships, those whose lives we have influenced, those who have infuenced our own.

Whether our fabric is  beautiful or ugly is largely determined by the kinds of relationships we have spun.  A life of greed and dishonesty will likely yield an uncomely fabric; a life of love and service will yield a fabric of untold beauty.

Joy for today:  spinning lives of beauty.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Day 287, October 24

"The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone." ~ Harriet Beecher Stowe

I think Harriet Beecher Stowe's words can apply to tears shed over those who have passed on and those who are still among us.  Chief among my regrets are the kind words and deeds I haven't said or done.  (I have plenty of regrets for things I have said or done, but not nearly as many as those left unsaid and undone.)

You would think that at my advanced age that I could figure it out.  Say it now.  Do it now.  Don't wait.  Don't postpone to a more convenient time.

Joyu for today:  saying and doing.  Now.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Day 286, October 23

"Everything in life that we really accept undergoes a change. So suffering must become love. That is the mystery." ~ Katherine Mansfield

I had to read and re-read this quotation several times to gain even the slightest understanding of it.  When I saw the word "change," I wanted to stop reading.  I don't like change.  I don't adapt well to it.  I resent changes in my life.

When my sister died, I had to adapt to the biggest change and challenge in my life.  I had to find a new way to live, to accept, to love.  The mystery is that I've done as well as I have (which isn't really very well at all, but it's all I have).

Joy for today:  accepting change.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Day 285, October 22

 “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”--Winston Churchill

Yesterday I wrote about the relationship between failure and success.  I suppose there are those few among us who have never experienced failure; for the rest of us, it is part of life. 

On one bleak day, when the rejections had piled up and my courage and energy were waning, I decided to give up writing.  I decided I'd try something else (becoming a special ops soldier came to mind).  And then I realized that writing was a part of me.  I could no more give it up than I could give up one of my children.  (Yes, I've considered that before as well.)

Have you ever decided to give up something because the failures had become too frequent, too painful?  Did you go through with it?  If so, don't beat yourself up over it.  We have only so much time, so much energy, and we can't do everything.  If you decided to keep trying, what caused you to change your mind? I've been on both sides of the fence.  

Joy for today:  stumbling from failure to failure.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Day 284, October 21

“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six  times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”--Michael Jordan

When a friend sent this to me, I knew I had to include it in a blog.   It is incredible to me that basketball icon Michael Jordan believes he has failed.   But he doesn't end there; he credits that to succeeding.   Could not all of us benefit from his insight?

I used to joke that I could paper my house with all the rejections I've received.  Currently, rejections come in electronic form, but the "joke" remains the same.  One year, I figured that I had received over  12 book rejections, with dozens upon dozens of rejections on short stories and articles.  And still I kept trying.  Part of the reason is sheer obstinacy on my part, and part is the belief that I could succeed if I just kept trying.

Joy for today:  failing ... and succeeding.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Day 283, October 20

"Anyone who tells a story speaks a world into being." ~ Michael Williams

Do you remember the days of storytelling?  Grandchildren, cousins, parents, aunts, and uncles gathered around the storyteller, usually a grandparent, and listened, enthralled, to stories of "the olden days."  I loved those times.  I loved the feeling of family as much as the stories themselves.

I didn't mind a bit of some of the stories were exaggerated.  In fact, I preferred "tall tales," a sign of the storyteller's creativity.  Perhaps this is where my love of reading and writing comes from, because, in the end, aren't books just storytelling written down?

Joy for today:  telling stories, true and otherwise.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Day 282, October 19

Last week's Relief Society lesson was on "Being in the World, But Not of the World:  In other words, being firm in keeping the commandments.  The teacher gave an interesting definition of the word firm:  not yielding to pressure.

We find pressure in every aspect of our lives.  Whether it is to dress as the fashion mavens tell us is stylish (never mind modesty), or to live beyond our means, or to give up paying tithing in favor of buying something "fun," we experience worldly pressures.

The trouble with these things, of course, is that they do not bring happiness; they may bring a momentary pleasure, but that is all.

Joy for today:  being in the world, but not of it.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Day 281, October 18

Last week, my husband and I drove to Denver to attend the LDS Temple there.  Early morning fog obscured the road for much of the way, causing me to clench my teeth and pray for our safety.  Larry navigated it with his usual skill, and we arrived safely.

As we drove through the fog, I was reminded that a different kind of fog can obscure other roadways in life.
The fog of wanting worldly success and rewards can blind us to true success and rewards:  that of living a Christ-like life and returning to live with Him someday.  The fog of wanting material possessions may cause us to treat others dishonestly.  The fog of criticizing others to make us feel better about ourselves can canker our souls.  And so on.

Joy for today:  navigating through the fogs of life.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Day 280, October 17

"Experience is a good teacher, but her fees are very high."--W.R. Inge

I can be a stubborn person.  It frequently takes me years to learn a lesson.  One would think that a reasonably intelligent person (which I am most of the time) could learn from experience.  But, no, I have to learn the same lesson over and over (and over).

What a sad commentary.  Try as I will to "get it," the Lord has to put me in positions to learn what He wants me to know.

Joy for today:  getting it the first time.  (Or the second, third, fourth, or fifth.)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Day 279, October 16

I've written before about my sweet daughter Alanna.  Alanna is a role model to me in many ways.

Her daughter, Reynna, started seminary this year.  Seminary is an early morning church lesson.  Teachers volunteer their time, to prepare and to teach the youth (ages 14-18) gospel principles.  This is no easy matter.  Seminary starts at 6 am, going until 6:50, when the kids leave for school.   Those stalwart men and women who teach seminary receive no compensation and precious little recognition.

Why am I telling you about seminary teachers (other than to make you grateful that you aren't one)?  I share this with you to help you understand why Alanna is my role model.  She told me that she had the impulse (see yesterday's blog) to send a thank-you card to Reynna's seminary teacher.

Alanna crafts beautiful cards, each a miniature work of art.  To receive one is to receive a cherished gift.  I can only imagine Reynna's teacher's delight and surprise to receive such a card.

Joy for today:  finding a role model in my daughter.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Day 278, October 15

"I don't know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know:  the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve."  Albert Schweitzer

I have regretted many things in my life, most of them being missed opportunities, especially those to show love.  I've recounted before how I berated myself for not taking the time to visit a lady in our ward.  When she died unexpectedly, I grieved, not just at her passing, but that I hadn't made the time to go see her.  A missed opportunity, to serve and to love.

I suspect that most of us have had the experience of having an impulse to do something for someone else and then life got in the way.  Sometimes, we can make that up, and sometimes, like in the above, the chance to fulfill that impulse is gone forever.

Joy for today:  finding opportunities to serve and to love.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Day 277, October 14

"The universe pays every man in his own coin; if you smile, it smiles on you in return; if you frown, you will be frowned at; if you sing, you will be invited into cheerful company; if you think, you will be entertained by thinkers; if you love the world, and earnestly look for the good therein, you will be surrounded by loving friends, and nature will pour into your lap the treasures of the earth."  Mike Lea

This quote reminds me of the law of the harvest:  we reap what we sow.  Sometimes that reaping is immediately apparent, as in the above.  A smile reaps another smile; a frown reaps a frown in return.  And so on.

Sometimes what we reap does not make itself known until years later.  Such is the case with my writing.  I have spent more than three decades practicing my craft.  The rewards, at least financially, have been minimal.  But I kept "sowing," knowing that I would not reap anything without putting in the work. Lately, I've experienced some success and rejoice in it.

Of far more importance is my relationship with others, including the Lord.  Sowing seeds of love and friendship and loyalty has reaped blessings without number. My life would be poor indeed without these precious connections, with family, friends, and the Lord.

Joy for today:  sowing, reaping, and loving.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Day 276, October 13

"Education should prepare people not just to earn a living but to live a life--a creative, humane and sensitive life."--Charles Silberman

Decades (or eons) ago, I graduated from college with a degree in sociology, with a minor in psychology.  Three days later, I was married.  Our first baby came along ten months after Larry's and my marriage.  We decided that I was needed at home more than I would ever be needed at the workplace.

What does this little recap have to do with the above quote?  It's easy.  I never earned a living with my degree.  And some wondered why I didn't, if I had wasted my education.  I like to think that the learning I did in college and beyond prepared me to "live a life."

Am I always creative, humane and sensitive?  No.  But I try to be upon occasion. I try to find ways to create, to give, to understand.  This blog is one of those ways.

Joy for today:  using what I learned.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Day 275, October 12

A friend sent the following to me:

Powerful Prayers for Troubled Times by Stormie Omartian.

Columbus wrote in a book called Book of Prophecies that he could not have reached the shores of America without prayer and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

In his own words he stated, "It was the Lord who put it into my mind ... I could feel His hand upon me ... the fact that it would be possible to sail from here to the Indies ... All who heard of my project rejected it with laughter, ridiculing me ... There is no doubt that the inspiration was from the Holy Spirit... No one should fear to undertake a task in the name of our Savior if it is just and the intention is purely for His service."

Isn't that inspiring?  To know that the Lord Himself compelled Columbus to search out America, a promised and blessed land?  

Joy for today:  recognizing the Lord's hand ... in everything.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Day 274, October 11

Did you know that you are entitled to personal revelation?  Yes, you and I are entitled to receive revelation from the Lord.  This is not just a tender mercy; it is a miracle.  If we accept it.

When I understood this, I had an "ah-ha" moment.  That I--unworthy and too often unrighteous--was entitled to revelation was both humbling and empowering.  If I pray and listen, I can receive counsel from the Lord about my life, my family, my stewardship here on earth.

Joy for today:  accepting the miracle.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Day 273, October 10

"I brake for butterflies."

I found this on a bumper sticker.  (Have you noticed that I read everything--from books to bumper stickers to slogans on little girl T-shirts?)

Maybe we should all brake for butterflies.  This is a new take on "stop and smell the roses."  If we took time to better appreciate the beauties of this world, the wonders and miracles of it, the butterflies and roses, we would undoubtedly be happier.  And maybe, just maybe, the world would not be so filled with conflict.

Joy for today:  braking for butterflies.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Day 272, October 9

"Be calm and wear a tutu."  I found this piece of sage advice on a little girl's T-shirt.

It made me smile.  More, it made me think.  I decided I would do well to follow this counsel.

I am a world-champ worrier.  The trouble is, worrying doesn't solve or improve anything.  If I heeded the advice to "be calm," I would approach things with a more peace-filled and hope-filled heart.

As for the "wear a tutu" part:  just the idea of wearing a tutu makes me smile.  And even if I can't find a tutu to fit me, I can enjoying the picture it conjures up in my mind.

Joy for today:  being calm and wearing a tutu.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Day 271 , October 8

"Everyone has lost, or will lose, someone they love. The sense of solidarity which comes with the recognition of this fact is powerful. The fine gifts of understanding, empathy and love are rich rewards for the sufferings of grief.

"No matter the color of our skin, the country of our birth, we are all one humanity. For that, I am deeply grateful."  Taken from a funeral home pamphlet.

The media is satiated with stories of all that separate us.  Whether it be wealth or poverty, black or white, Muslim or Christian, Democrat or Republican, or whatever, the focus is on our differences.

The above quote reminded me that loss is a common denominator.  We have all lost or will lose someone whom we love.  Our grief is the price for loving.  It is a high price, sometimes, we believe, too high, but we can gather strength from those who have experienced similar feelings.  And, in doing so, our differences melt away.

Joy for today:  finding what brings us together (rather than what divides us).

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Day 270, October 7

"There are as many nights as days, and the one is just as long as the other in the year's course. Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness and the word 'happy' would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness." ~ Carl Jung

Scriptures teach us that there must be opposition in all things.  Lately, I feel like I've had more opposition than I needed, certainly more than I wanted.  "Why does everything have to be so hard?" I asked my husband one evening.  "Why can't anything ever be easy?"

Even as I said the words, I realized that I wouldn't fully appreciate something that came easily. In dealing with my pain over the loss of my dear sister, I rejoice on those days when the grief doesn't ambush me.  On those days when it does, I hunker down and resolve to get through it anyway I can.  Sometimes this means having a good pity party and then getting up and trying again.

Joy for today:  experiencing the bitter so that I might better know the sweet.


Monday, October 6, 2014

Day 269, October 6

Don't you love hearing stories about Prophet Thomas S. Monson?  During the recent general conference, I learned a new story about him.  Following World War II, Elder Monson (this was long before he was President of the Church and Prophet), he visited Germany.  At this time, Germany was a land of chaos, where poverty was so overwhelming that even hardened soldiers wept at the hunger and need they witnessed.

Elder Monson was so moved by the plight of the people that he gave away his second suit and all of his white shirts but one. (I suspect he would have given away his other suit and white shirt if he hadn't needed something to wear home.)

On the flight home, he was wearing a pair of house slippers because he had given away his shoes.  What compassion and generosity.  And what an example for the rest of us.

Joy for today:  loving our Prophet even more than I already did.