Monday, March 31, 2014

Day 90, March 31

Yesterday, Larry spoke in Sacrament Meeting (our church's main meeting) on the Atonement and grace.  As always, when I think about the Atonement and Christ's sacrifice, I am moved to tears.

Christ's physical suffering was beyond comprehension.  His emotional suffering, as He endured the pain for all the sins that have ever and will ever be committed, takes suffering to a level we will never know.  I cannot even begin to understand that kind of love, that kind of sacrifice.

Sometimes I forget that the Atonement makes up for our sins but also for our tears, our pain that is inevitable in this mortal sphere.  I forget that this Miracle of Miracles is available to anyone, even to me, if I choose to partake of it.

Joy for today:  remembering the Atonement.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Day 89, March 30

Recently I read an article titled "The Barbie Battles."  The name immediately intrigued me, and I started reading, not surprised to find the article focusing on the negative images that the media foists upon your girls. Girls as young as seven and eight are dieting, concerned that they don't fit the Barbie mold of beauty as defined by today's society.

And isn't that sad?

While it isn't strange that commercials, television shows, and movies influence our definition of beauty, it strikes me as more than distressing that little girls, second and third-graders, are worried about their sizes, the shape of their noses, the color of their hair.  Will they be the next victims of the "boob job" fix that I wrote about in an earlier year's post?

I admit, however, that I was disappointed when the author stated, "Help children understand what defines real beauty."  Just another "Beauty is on the inside" cliche, I thought.  I was wrong.  "This isn't just the talk about how beauty is only skin deep.  This is the discussion where you give your child the tools to recongize their own divine heritage, individual worth, and priceless self-identity."

Wouldn't it be great if all of us, whatever our ages, had a real comprehension of our "divine heritage, individual worth, and priceless self-identity?"  Wouldn't we all be more apt to make decisions based on those eternal principles rather than the fleeting qualities of youth and looks?

Joy for today:  understanding eternal values and letting go of those of the world.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Day 88, March 29

Last Sunday, I had volunteered to teach in our church's Primary.  I wasn't feeling all that great, didn't really want to go, but I knew I had to keep my word and so I went.

And I was glad I did.

In sharing time, when all the classes gather together, the children sang one of my favorite songs, "A Child's Prayer."  (Have you noticed that many of my favorite songs are those written for children?)

"Heavenly Father, are you really there?
Do you listen to every child's prayer?
Some say that heaven is far away,
But I feel it close around me when I pray."

As I listened to the voices of these sweet children, I was beyond touched.  I blinked back tears and reminded myself that I had heard this song many times before, that there was no reason to cry over the familiar words.  And then I realized that our Primary President had tears in her eyes as well.  Apparently I was not the only one to be moved by the children's voices.

Joy for today:  listening to the voices of children.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Day 87, March 28

Well, we've spent the last week talking about people who persisted in reaching their dreams, in attaining their goals. Our subjects have ranged from Abraham Lincoln to Emily Dickinson, from Vincent Van Gogh to Heber J. Grant.  And, finally, to the Savior, who stands as the Greatest Example in all things.

What are your dreams?  Your goals?  Do you long to write?  Or paint a picture that will enchant not only today's generation but those centuries from now?  Do you long to be a righteous parent, to let your children know that you love them, no matter what?  Do you want to return to live with the Savior and Father after you have completed this life?

I suspect that you have many dreams, many goals, just as I do.  Sometimes I have persisted in my dreams; sometimes, I have let them slide.  But then I return to them and try one more time.

Joy for today:  trying one more time.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Day 86, March 27

Well, we've talked about a number of people who have achieved success through persistence, whether it be in making a baseball team or having a painting sold for millions of dollars. There are certainly others we could talk about--Oprah Winfrey, Colonel Sanders, etc, but I think you get the idea.

 But we have yet to talk about the Greatest Persistor of all:  the Savior.  Viewed with the lens of worldly success, Jesus didn't make the grade.  His following was small. He never made any money to speak of.  One of His apostles denied him three times, while another betrayed him.   He was scoffed at, scorned, and spit at.

No, the Savior didn't achieve the riches and accolades that many of us spend our days searching for.  But He succeeded wildly in what mattered most.  He kept His covenant with the Father.  He atoned for every sin that had been committed, every sin that will be committed, with the ultimate sacrifice.  His life.  He persisted.

Joy for today:  looking to the Savior.  Always.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Day 85, March 26

Writers know about persistence.  At least, those who are published know the value of it.  Yes, there are the superstars, who sell their first book for a seven figure advance, become overnight stars, and land on all the best seller lists.

The fact is, those are the exceptions.  Most of us just plod our way, hoping that we put the right story in front of the right editor at some point in our careers.

Once such writer is  Theodor Seuss Giesel.  Dr. Seuss was not an overnight success. In fact, his first book was rejected by 27 publishers. But he kept trying, and ultimately sold dozens of books, which have delighted children of all ages, including those of us whose calendar years put us well beyond childhood.  

Joy for today:  discovering that we do, indeed, like Green Eggs and Ham!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Day 84, March 25

 One of Vincent Van Gogh's paintings recently sold for $149.5 million.   Yet, while he lived, he sold only one painting. One.  To a friend, for the equivalent of pennies.  Did Van Gogh give up?   No.  He kept painting and created over 800 works. 
Today, Vincent Van Gogh is considered one of the greatest artists of all time, but success, as defined in worldly terms, eluded him during his lifetime.   Success for him meant painting and creating, and in that, he succeeded wildly.  What would have happened if he'd simply give up?  The world would be deprived of the beauty that he created with paint and brush.
Joy for today:  finding success in creation.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Day 83, March 24

When Heber J. Grant (7th Prophet and President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) was a boy, he had a love for baseball.  However, his abilities did not match his love for the game.

He resolved to improve, to be able to play in a major club of the state (Utah).  He practiced, exercised, and practiced some more.  In short, he persisted.

Heber realized that if he were to reach his goal, he needed to have his own baseball.  He shined boots to earn the money to purchase a baseball and then spent hour after hour throwing the ball against the side of the neighbor's barn.  Frequently, his arm would ache so intensely that he had trouble sleeping, but he kept at it.  His efforts were rewarded, but only after he spent the necessary effort and time to make his dream come true.

Joy for today:  following your heart.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Day 82, March 23

Noah of Biblical times has received a lot of notice lately with Hollywood producing a movie about him.  Do you remember your Sunday School stories about Noah and his taking the animals "two by two?"  It makes a great story; however, the real story of Noah is one of persistence.

Noah lived in a time that "was corrupt before God" and "filled with violence."  "And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imaginiatio of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually."  (Genesis 6:5)  (Doesn't this sound a lot like our own day?)

When Noah received the commandment to build an ark, people scoffed at him.  They pointed fingers, laughed, and generally treated him as though he'd escaped from the loony bin.  (I take refuge in that thought as some people think the same about me!)

Noah paid these nay-sayers no mind and set about to follow the Lord's commadments.   He "... did according until all that the Lord commandned him."  (Genesis 7:5)

Noah's persistence was rewarded.  The floods that the Lord had warned him of came and destroved every living thing.   While his scoffers and critics were swept away in the flood, Noah and his followers survived.  They had a remarkable opportunity:  to make the world a better place.

Joy for today:  learning from a prophet.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Day 81, March 22

I've written about Emily Dickinson before, of her love for sending letters.  That love evolved naturally from her writing.    Did you know that Dickinson wrote over 1800 poem?  Now, can you guess how many were published? Less than 1 percent, or 18.

Many of those pieces were altered to fit contemporary poetic rules.  (What were the editors thinking?)   Her first book of poems was published in 1890, four years after her death, by a group of friends. 

The first complete collection of her poems wasn’t published until 1955. Today, Emily Dickinson's works are  read worldwide, and she is considered by many to be one of the most important American poets  ever.

Did she give up writing, in the face of rejection and relative obscurity?  No.  She kept at it.  Perhaps, like many writers, she is compelled to write, even when no one was interested in her work.

Joy for today:  remembering the example of a great lady and great poet.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Day 80, March 21

A writer-friend sent the following to me, written by another writer, Karen Ball.  It continues with yesterday's theme about persistence.

Ms. Ball starts with a story of a woman who pulled her aside after church and told her that her son was having financial problems and had decided to write a book to make some "quick money"  and wondered if she had any advice for him.  Those of us who have chosen writing as a vocation understand the absurdity of this.  Ms. Ball advised the woman that she had no advice for her son but had some counsel for the woman herself:  "Don't ever ask me that again."

She went on to say that two gems are necessary for success in writing and in most fields.  For those who are growing weary, who feel it’s taking too long, who wonder why they ever jumped into this pool to begin with, they need to cultivate these two gems.  What are they?  Patience and persistence.

Over the next week, we're going to look at some well-known people who possessed both of these gems. 

Joy for today:  holding onto patience and persistence.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Day 79, March 20

"That which we persist in doing becomes easier for us to do--not that the nature of the thing is changed, but that our power to do so is increased."--Ralph Waldo Emerson

This saying was one of my father's favorites.  When I would complain that a class in school was too hard, he would remind me to keep practicing, to keep learning.  Many years have passed, but I still remember my father quoting Emerson, its counsel seeing me through things when I want to give up.

Writing is a prime example of that.  I've been writing "professionally" for more than thirty years.  My successes have not taken the literary world by storm.  In fact, I remain quite obscure.  But even though my fame has not grown, I like to believe that my talent has.  Not because I possessed great talent, but because I persisted.

History is full of examples of people who refused to give up.  Thomas Edison performed over a thousand failed experiments before finally inventing the incandescent light bulb.  Despite being deaf and blind since childhood, Hellen Keller wenton to become a great writer, speaker, and plitical activist.  Abraham Lincoln, arguably America's greatest president, endured a mental breakdown, lost several elections, and failed in business before becoming President of the United States of America.

Where would our country, our world, be without these persistent people?

Joy for today:  persisting.  And keeping on persisting.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Day 78, March 19

In church last week, a speaker related his experiences as a water-polo player.  (Who knew there was such a thing as water polo?)  He explained that it was difficult for the players, who had to wear swim caps, to hear, each other and the coach.  This is especially true, he said, when a player's head  was down.

The speaker then compared this to our own difficulty in hearing the Lord when our "heads are down."  When is my head down, making it difficult for me to hear the Lord?

Is my head down when I am wrapped up in myself?
Is my head down when I am too busy to listen to a friend?
Is my head down when I am unforgiving?
Is my head down when I lack compassion?
Is my head down when I am selfish with my means and time?

Yes.  To all of the above.

Joy for today:  having my head up.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Day 77, March 18

I grew up in the Washington, DC.  In that area was a well-known hospital, Bethesda.  As a child, I hadn't realized the significance of that name.  Only when I grew older did I realize that the hospital was named for the Pools of Bethesda of Biblical times.

Not too long ago, I wrote about the crippled man at the pool, trying to partake of the healing waters.  Only when Christ appeared and helped him was the man able to take advantage of the water.  But I didn't write the whole story.

 "Will you be made whole?" the Savior asked.

Those words hold several meanings.  First, there is the matter of the man being healed of he disease that left him infirm. Secondly, there is the more important point of wholeness in spirit, wholeness in accepting Christ.

It is this wholeness that I continually try to find, and it continually eludes me.  Just when I think I'm ready to partake of Christ's wholeness, I fall short.  Again.

And so I try again.  And again.

Joy for today:  finding wholeness in Christ.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Day 76, March 17

In a comment on a previous blog about truth, a friend wrote the following:

"Truth always brings joy. Mina's math teacher in a lesson on graphing yesterday had the class graph happiness as it related to increasing salary. Mina refused, drawing a circle with a line through it over the graph. Out of a class of 27, she was alone in this. She was right, of course. Money and happiness have nothing to do with each other. To both of our joy, the teacher agreed, and making that very point was the goal of his lesson. Finding truth is a precious thing, and it's only right to feel joy!"

I was both moved and impressed by this young girl's maturity and wisdom.  Would I have had the insight and courage to do such a thing when I was fifteen?  Probably not.  Would I currently have the insight and courage to do this at my advanced age of 62?  Again, probably not.

Joy for today:  appreciating the maturity and wisdom of a teenage girl.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Day 75, March 16

"As we seek our Heavenly Father through fervent sincere prayer and earnest dedicated scripture study, our testimonies will become strong and deeply rooted.  We will know of God's' love for us.  We will understand that we do not ever walk alone.  I promise that you will one day stand aside and look at your difficult times, and you will realize that He was always there beside you.  I know this to be true."--President Thomas S. Monson

It's difficult, if not impossible, to add anything to the Prophet's words.  So I won't even try.

Joy for today:  knowing that we never, ever walk alone.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Day 74, March 15

Unexpected kindness is the most powerful, least costly, and most underrated agent of human change.

Bob Kerrey
When I found this quote, I knew I had to use it.  A few days ago, I read a story online of a young woman in a bridal shop overhearing a father and his daughter, also looking for a bridal dress, lamenting over the fact that they couldn't afford the dress she wanted.
The first woman arranged to pay for the dress.  Isn't that a beautiful act?
Most of us can't afford such a grand act, but we can afford other acts.  We can write a card to a friend.  We can listen to a friend who is needs to talk.  We can cry with a friend who is grieving.  We can read a book to a child.
Joy for today:  changing our world one kindness at a time.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Day 73, March 14

The other day, I Googled the word kindness and discovered an article asserting that the simple act of looking for kindnesses will change one's life.  We know, of course, that performing kindnesses will change our lives, but I hadn't realized that by merely looking for expressions of caring and compassion will also change our lives.

Isn't that a wonderful concept?  That by being aware of the performance of kind acts we can make a difference in ourselves.

What kind of difference would that be?  Would we be more aware that others are trying to do good in our world, just as we are?  Would we be less apt to judge others with a harsh yardstick?  Would we be more prompted to perform more kind acts ourselves?

Maybe all of the above. And more.

Joy for today:  looking for kindnesses.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Day 72, March 13

A week and a half ago, much of the nation, perhaps even the world, watched the Oscars.  I didn't.  Not because I don't respect talent and persistence in pursuing that talent, because I do.  But I find other expressions of that talent and persistence more appealing.

Okay.  So, what do I respect?

I respect the mother and father who are always there, doing the hard work of parenting.
I respect the worker who shows up every day, no excuses.
I respect the volunteer who gives of his time and energy to help others.
I respect the friend who listens without judging.
I respect the teacher who imparts knowledge and caring to his/her young charges.

Joy for today:  watching real talent in action.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Day 71, March 12

Yesterday I wrote about a child's desire to fast on Fast Sunday.  It appears I'm not done with the subject of fasting and prayer.  The Saturday before that Sunday, I received an email from a friend sent to several of us in the ward (church) about their son and his pregnant , asking us to pray for them as the daughter-in-law was in the hospital trying to carry her baby to a safe delivery time.

Immediately I got to my knees and started my prayers for this young couple.  At the same time, I was awed by the idea that many of us would be fasting and praying for this purpose.  I firmly believe in the power of linked prayers.  I know that Heavenly Father hears each individual prayer; I also know that He hears the joined prayers of many.

Joy for today:  joining in prayer and fasting for friends.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Day 70, March 11

A week ago Sunday, I was at my sister's house.  It was the first Sunday of the month, Fast and Testimony Meeting in the Mormon Church.  On these Sundays, those able abstain from food for a day.

My sister's six-year-old granddaughter Lily came to her and said, "Grandma, I know I'm not really old enough to fast, but I'm going to try to today."

My heart was touched and my faith strengthened by this example of faith.  Fasting is hard for me.  In short, I don't like to go without my meals.  Sometimes I make it, and sometimes I don't.  But that Sunday I knew I had to try as hard as this little child was trying.

Joy for today:  witnessing the faith of a child.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Day 69, March 10

I often pray during my morning walks.  Though I try to start my prayers with thanking the Lord for His blessings, I frequently move to asking Him for yet more blessings.  The other day, during a walk, I promised myself and Him that I would spend the entire time being grateful rather than beseeching Him for more blessings.

With that directive, I started seeing many things for which to be grateful--a sunny day, warm weather, a safe neighborhood in which to walk, energy, the chirping of birds, etc.   My gratitude segued from nature to family and the blessings of a good husband and sweet children and grandchildren.

Pretty soon, my walk was over and I had fulfilled my goal.   I don't do this on every walk, but I have wondered what would happen if I spent that much time every day consciously listing my blessings and giving thanks for them.

Joy for today:  giving thanks.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Day 68, March 9

Last week I was at my sister's house and had occasion to help her granddaughter with some homework which involved verbs, changing the tenses, etc.  I thought I should be pretty good at it; after all, I am supposed to be a writer.  It turns out I wasn't very good at it at all, especially we encountered irregular verbs.

It set me to thinking.  (Once again, the oddest things set me to thinking.)   With the segue of irregular verbs, I realized that there are also all sorts of "irregular" people in the world.   I'm one of them.  I decided it wasn't so bad to be irregular.  Many of my friends are also irregular.  We don't fit a mold.  And isn't that wonderful?  Who wants to fit a mold anyway?

Heavenly Father created each of us to be "irregular"  in our own unique ways.  How are you irregular?  Do you have an off-beat sense of humor?  Do you march to the beat of a different piccolo (notice I didn't say drum)?  Do you write silly poetry?

Joy for today:  embracing my irregularity.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Day 67, March 8

I love the changing of the seasons and am fortunate enough to live in an area where we get to experience every season in all its glory. Then why, I wonder, do I often complain about what comes with those seasons?

In the winter, I complain about the snow.
In the spring, I complain about the wet.
In the summer, I complain about the heat.
In the fall, I complain that it will soon be winter again.

In short, I complain.  Not a very palatable thing to accept about myself.

What if I turned my thinking around?

In the winter, I can appreciate the pristine beauty of a new snowfall.
In the spring, I can appreciate the awakening of the earth.
In the summer, I can appreciate the blueness of the sky.
In the fall, I can appreciate the gilding of the leaves.

Joy for today:  appreciating rather than complaining.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Day 66, March 7

Finding pieces of joy and sharing them is not always easy, especially for someone who suffers from chemical depression as I do.  Though my intellect accepts that there is always joy around us, my emotions have a more difficult time of it occasionally.

Perhaps that is why I chose "Joy for the Journey" as this year's theme.  I have to make myself do the hard stuff.  And you know what?  Life is full of hard stuff; that's part of our reason for being on this earth--to be tested.

As I read what I just wrote, I realize I'm rambling.  So I'll try to get to the point.  Yes, life is full of hard stuff. But it is also filled with tender mercies, slices of happiness, and miracles.

Joy for today:  remembering those miracles.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Day 65, March 6

A couple of weeks ago, my sister and I, both women "of a certain age," went to the movies.  A discreet sign at the theater announced that people would be "carded" if they were seeing an R-rated movie.  Well, we weren't seeing an R movie, but I still thought it would be nice if the woman at the entrance carded us.

"Aren't you going to ID us?" I asked her brightly.


"ID us," I said.  "You know, ask to see if we're old enough to see the movie."

She gave me a confused look.

"Jane," my sister said in a stage whisper.  "We aren't seeing an  R movie."

"I know, but I want to be carded anyway."

Finally, the beleaguered ticket-taker waved us on.

"Some people just don't get my sense of humor," I said to my sister.

She rolled her eyes at me.  "Lots of people don't get your sense of humor."

I had to agree.  But that doesn't mean I won't ask to be carded again.

Joy today:  laughing at myself.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Day 64, March 5

Did you know that your are entitled to personal revelation?  You can receive it by asking the Lord to enlighten your spirit, to quicken your mind.  That's the easy part, the asking.

The harder part comes with listening.  In our noise-filled world, it is easy to forget to listen to the Lord.  It is easy to miss His voice admidst the noise of computers, cell phones, i-pads, television, and music.  All of these are good things, but they can block out the quiet promptings of the Lord when He is trying to answer our prayers.

Joy for today:  listening in quiet.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Day 63, March 4

One of my favorite Primary songs is "We'll Bring the World His Truth" by Janet Kapp Perry.

We have been born as Nephi of old
To goodly parents who love the Lord.
We have been taught and we understand
That we must do as the Lord commands.

We have been saved for these latter-day days
To build the kingdom in righteous ways
We hear the words our prophet declares:
"Let each who's worthy go forth and share."

We know His plan and we will prepare.
Increase our knowledge through study and prayers
Daily we'll learn until we are called
To take the gospel to all the world.

I love the message of truth and faith.  Both seem in short supply today.  We are bombarded by un-truths from the media, from politicians, from Hollywood personalities and others as they try to convince us that unrighteousness is righteoussness, that wrong is right, that evil is good.

Does that sound naive?  I hope not.  I hope it reminds us that the truth exists, despite the lies that some individuals and organizations try to pass off as truth.

Joy for today:  hearing the truth and accepting it.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Day 62, March 3

A few weeks ago in church, a lady talked about her and her husband's efforts to save a small bird that was trapped in their window well.  After some effort, at last the little bird was able to get out.  It reminded me of the story another friend told me about trying to save several baby rabbits who had fallen into their (the friends') deep window wells.  Again, they were able to save the rabbits.

I think our Father in Heaven is pleased when we work to save His little ones, whoever they might be.  In fact, I'll change that to I KNOW He is pleased.  Our world is filled with those who cannot look after themselves, whether it be small animals, little children, or the elderly.  The kind of care and compassion and love we extend to them largely determines what kind of people we are.

Joy for today:  knowing that there are those who extend themselves to help the helpless and defend the defenseless.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Day 61, March 2

A couple of weeks ago at church, I noticed a young mother with three little children, ages three and under.  As the mother held her baby boy in her arms, the younger of the girls took off running in the other direction.  This sweet mother never raised her voice, never grew angry.  Quietly, she rounded up her little girl and brought her back to their seats.

I have been that young mother, trying to ride herd on three small children.  I was not always as patient as this mother.  Sometimes I did raise my voice.  And sometimes I even grew angry.  I look back and am filled with regret over allowing my frustration to get the better of me.

Perhaps that is why I so admire this mother, who does it all on her own at church.  I admire her patience, her sweetness, her quiet demeanor.

Joy for today:  watching a righteous mother in action.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Day 60, March 1

"Your Heavenly Father loves you--each of you.  That love never changes.  It is not influenced by your appearance, by your possessions, or by the amount of money you have in your bank account.  It is not changed by your talents and abilities.  It is simply there for you when you are sad or happy, discouraged or hopeful.  God's love is there for you, whether or not you feel you deserve love.  It is simply always there."--President Thomas S. Monson

In this time of changing values, changing morals, and an ever-changing world, isn't it wonderful to know that one thing never changes?  Our Father's love for us never changes.  Like the loving Parent He is, He is always on our side, always there to hold us up when we can no longer hold up ourselves.

To me, the above quote is more than comforting.  It is a love-filled reminder that whatever we go through, whatever trials we must endure, the Father knows of them and is there to wipe away our tears, to hold our hand, to wrap a loving arm around our shoulders.

Joy for today:  knowing that Father is there.  Always.