Saturday, May 31, 2014

Day 151, May 31

Eleanor Roosevelt once said words to the effect that no one can make you feel inferior without your permission.  Much as I admire this one time First Lady, I disagree, in fact vehemently disagree, with her.

Words have power.  Words can build up ... and words can tear down.  I know, because I've been on the giving and receiving end of both kinds of words.  When I look back at the times that I've used words to tear down, I cringe.

One of the most egregious examples of words being used to tear down occurred between a grandfather and his 20-something-year-old grandson.  The grandson was struggling to lose weight.  At the same time, he wanted to marry and start a family.

His grandfather said, "Look for an ugly girl.  She'll be so grateful for the attention that she won't care about your weight."

I wondered then as I wonder now what was the grandfather's motivation in saying those words.  It certainly was not to build up his grandson.  And why say it at all? 

I offer this alternative to Mrs. Roosevelt's counsel:  If you're tempted to say something, ask yourself:  is it nice, is it true, is it necessary?

The grandfather's words weren't nice, they weren't true, and they certainly weren't necessary.

Joy for today:  using words to build up.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Day 150, May 30

Last week Loveland was hit by torrential rains, which resulted water in many basements.  The home of some friends was especially hard hit, with backed up sewage water flooding the basement. If you've ever had to deal with sewage water, you know that it's beyond yucky.

I learned through the Mormon grapevine that many boys and men, ranging in age from 14 - 60,  volunteered to carry out ruined carpeting, furniture, bedding, etc .  Others brought wet-dry vacuums to try to suck up the dirty water.  A sister in the ward brought over a meal.  I'm sure the service will continue.

Joy for today:  watching love in action.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Day 149, May 29

I read a story about a young man whose friend confided that he had fallen away from the church.  As the conversation proceded, it became apparent that the friend was downcast due to personal and family problems.

The young man felt prompted to share one of the principles by which he lived his life:  "Keep the commandments."

Three little words.  Like many truisms, the words are both simple and complex.  Simple in that they use common language and complex because they encompass so much.

Joy for today:  a reminder to keep the commandments.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Day 148, May 28

I found the following story in a newspaper insert.

"Dan Ito, a 22-year-old Service Missionary and LDS Business College student from Tokyo, Japan has made it his life mission to serve others, despite what may seem like difficult circumstances.

"He has spinal muscular atrophy, a disease that according to the US National Library of Medicine, causes muscle weakness and damage that gets worse over time.  There is no cure, and it eventually leads to death.  he has been unable to move his hands and legs on his own since he was a child and has never been able to walk.

"Students at LDSBC are most likely to be greeted by Dan in a wheelchair with a big smile and kind hello if they happen to cross paths.

"'I think Dan is probably my most favorite person in the history of everyone,' says a fellow student.  'I don't think I've ever seen him interact with someone that hasn't walked away feeling better about everything.'"

The article goes on to describe this Dan's love for service and for learning.  As I read the story, I couldn't help compare my own poor attitude to his exemplary one.

Joy for today:  being humbled by a remarkable young man.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Day 147, May 27

Recently I came across the origins of the word "Mayday."  The Mayday call originated in 1923, when Frederick Stanley Mockford, a senior radio officer at Croydon Airport in London, England, was asked to think of a single, readily understood word that would convey distress.

Mockford came up with "Mayday" because of its similarity to part of the French venez minder, which means "Come help me."

Isn't that a wonderful story?  I have often said those words "Come help me" to family members, to friends, to the Lord.  Maybe I should just say "Mayday" to communicate my need.  Knowing that there is someone who will come to my aid is both empowering and humbling.  I hope my friends and family know that they can say "Mayday" to me and that I will be there.

Joy for today:  knowing that we can say "Mayday" any time to the Lord.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Day 146, May 26

A few days ago, I wrote about a speech given at a high school graduation where the young man thanked all those who had helped him over the years.  Around this time, I was wondering whether I should continue with the blog ... or not.  It seems so few people read it that I started to think I was wasting my time.

Then a sweet friend left a comment on that blog, thanking me for being "uplifting and inspiring."  And I was persuaded that I should keep writing.  If I touch only one life, isn't that enough?

How lovely that she should thank me for a post about gratitude.  Perhaps gratitude is catching.  I wrote her back, thanking her for her comment.  And so it went--a blog about thanking others prompted her to thank me, which, in turn, prompted me to thank her.

Joy for today:  being grateful.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Day 145, May 25

"All the genius I have is the fruit of labor."--Alexander Hamilton

Have you ever said "I wish I could play the piano like she does" or "I wish I could paint like he does" or "I wish I could write like she does?"  I have.  Over the years, I've said many such things, as though by saying the words, I could transform myself in to that pianist, that painter, that writer.

Unwittingly, I negate the hard work those people put in to attain their talent, their prowess, their accomplishments.  For they have put in countless hours of work to achieve what they have.

Joy for today:  putting in the work.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Day 144, May 24

"If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn't seem so wonderful after all."--Michelangelo

Centuries after his death, Michelangelo is still regarded as an artistic genius, his work managing to inspire generation after generation.  But his genius came with a price tag, one of sweat, tears, work, and more work.    To create such masterpieces as The Pieta, David, and others required he give his all.

I realize that, as much as I say I want to write a best-selling book, I'm not willing to give my all.  I allow other things to get in my way:  laziness, procrastination, and fear.

Joy for today:  giving one's all.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Day 143, May 23

In the same article from which I quoted yesterday, the author goes on to describe the salutatorian's talk.  This young man used his five minutes at the podium to acknowledge each of the school's nine teachers.

"Blake said that without their instruction and support, he would not have even thoght about an academy appointment (he had been accepted to the Naval Academy, a high honor) or known how to get one.  Understanding that you don't succeed all by yourself will help make him a fine naval offier.

"I suppose Blake could have told his classmates to 'walk confidently in the direction of their dreams,' but instead he said 'thank you' to his teachers and the other community members who had helped him do that.  One of the local Tiingit India elders who live in this part of Alaska once told me that sometimes 'thank you' is the most important speech you can make.  Blake proved that."

As I read and re-read this article, I was moved by the recounting of the talks by these young people.  What wisdom and maturity they show.  And what lessons they have to teach some of us who are much older.

Joy for today:  remembering the importance of "thank you."

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Day 142, May 22

I found an article in a magazine entitled "Pomp and Circumstance."  The author described the high school graduation of a small high school in an Alaskan town, where the graduation is a town event..  Rather than giving the typical "go forward with confidence" speech, the valedictorian spoke about her classmates.

"Abby's talk lasted less than 10 minutes.  All she did was say one sentence about the best qualities of each student, but that was plenty.  As soon as the audience realized she wasn't only singling out the class stars, you could see each graduate anticipate his or her turn, then sit up and bask in the glow from Abby's praise.  The dads of those students nodded proudly or held up a camera while the moms reached for a tissue.

"Even the 'problem kids" received a good word.  Of a boy who barely earned his diploma, she noted that he could always fix your car.  (His dad pumped a fist and hollered "right on.")  About a girl who had some issues with attendance--she skipped school a lot--Abby said she always made her classmates laugh when they were down.  Her mother and aunts cheered."

I wonder if Abby knew what she had done, how her words of praise and appreciation affected the graduates, their families, the whole town.

Joy for today:  lessons from a wise and lovely girl.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Day 141, May 21

"What reflects us much accomplishes little." -- Schiller

Shouldn't our actions and words reflect us?  Of course.  

But I don't think the author had this in mind.  I believe the words "what reflects us much" refer to those things that we do in an attempt for self-aggrandizement.  I know I am guilty of this.  Don't I want others to think well of me?  Of course, I do.  Ironically, in my self-aggrandizing attempts, I do the opposite. Rather than thinking well of me, others see my pathetic attempts for what they are.

As for the last part of the quote "accomplishes little," I have to ask myself if I were trying to accomplish anything at all with my boastful words.  Sadly, the answer is "No."  At least, nothing of worth.

Joy for today:  reflecting little and accomplishing much.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Day 140, May 20

Each week I try to send some little something to my grandsons who live far away.  Last week, I sent pages of stickers.  Each sticker contained "cheers," such as "extraordinary," "super work," "out of this world," "4-star rating," "awe inspiring," etc.

It set me to wondering (once again, the strangest things set me to wondering) what would happen if we each tried to use such words in our conversations and dealings with others.  What if we tried to build each other up with our choice of words on a regular basis?  Would our world be a better place?  Would it be a happier place?  Would we feel better about ourselves and others?

Yes.  Yes.  And yes.

I'm fortunate to know many "people builders."  These people take the time to build me and others up.  Unfortunately, I know a few "people destroyers."  As you might guess, these people do the opposite, taking delight in tearing others down.

Joy for today:  being a people builder.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Day 139, May 19

"Life isn't about finding yourself.  Life is about creating yourself."--George Bernard Shaw

The subect of creation is one to which I am drawn again and again.  That comes to no surprise to those who have been in my living room.  Above my piano hangs a print of an oil painting by Walter Rames of Christ creating the earth.  Below it, on the piano, is a sculpture by Mark Hopkins of Christ's hands creating the earth.

Outside of service, creation is the act in which we become most like the Savior.  Creation takes many forms.  The young mother who teaches her children with patience and joy is creating a lifelong love of learning in them.  Likewise, the father who spends time every night helping his children with their homework.  The engineer who designs products to improve our lives is creating, as is my friend who fashions doll clothes out of scraps for children who have little to nothing.

Whatever form your creation takes, you are creating yourself.  And you are creating a life.

Joy for today:  creating a life.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Day 138, May 18

"Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches on the soul--
And sings the tune without the words--
And never stops--at all.
                     Emily Dickinson

This is not the first time I've quoted Emily Dickinson and probably won't be the last.  As with all good poets, she says much in very few words.

The above especially touched me with its description of hope.  For sometimes I feel without hope.  And then four small lines remind me that there is hope, that it exists in my heart and in the Father's heart if I but listen to it.

Joy for today:  hope that never stops.  At all.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Day 137, May 17

"The goal is not to live forever.  The goal is to create something that will."  Chuck Palanuik

I admit that though I have given much thought to the act of creating, I haven't given much to the idea of creating something that will live forever.  What can possibly live forever?  We live in a disposable world.  Then I began looking at the idea with different eyes, a different heart.

Will my family, the generations of it, live forever?  Yes.  They will live long after I've passed from this mortal sphere.  Will a kind deed live forever?  Yes, again.  If it promotes another kind deed and that promotes another and so on.

Joy for today:  creating something that will live forever.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Day 136, May 16

The best place to find God is in a garden.  You can dig for Him there."--George Bernard Shaw

I'm not a gardener, but I admire those who are.  I admire their diligence and persistence.  I admire the hard work they bring to their tasks.  I admire their patience.

And are those not all qualities that God brings to His task of "growing" us?  Does He not employ diligence and persistence, hard work and patience?  Certainly, He needs all of those in growing me.

Joy for today;  finding God in a garden.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Day 135, May 15

A couple of weeks ago, Larry and I visited our son Rob and his family.  We didn't do anything special, just spent time together and spoiled Brigham and Isaac a bit.

My greatest pleasure, there, was to watch Rob help his boys with their homework.  Getting two energetic and sometimes grimy little boys to settle down to do homework is no easy task, but Rob did it with infinite patience and love.  Quietly, he worked with Brigham (9) on spelling words, then switched gears to work with Isaac (6) on reading.

Afterward, when the adults sighed in relief that the boys were in bed, I told Rob that seeing our child be a good parent to his children was one of a parent's greatest joy.

Joy for today:  seeing our boy be a father to his.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Day 134, May 14

" ... another important point to remember is that we usually experience our greatest growth when we face difficult, if not impossible, situations.  The acute awareness that we have of our own limitations pushes us to humbly seek the help of our creator."--Gerard Causse, first counselor in the Presiding Bishopric of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Elder Causse gives the example in the Old Testament of Gideon, head of the Israelite armies, as he prepared to fight the Midianites with 32,000 men.

The Lord said to Gideon, "The people that are with thee are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying Mine own hand hath saved me."  (Judges 7;2)

"... step-by-step, the Lord asked Gideon to reduce the number of his soldiers until only 300 remained.  It was when it became impossible for Gideon to conquer the Midianites with his own strength that the Lord sent him to battle and miraculously delivered the enemy into his hands."

Many times, I have faced the "difficult, if not impossible, situation" that Elder Causse describes.  And many times, the Lord has delivered me, but not until I had admitted my weaknesses and powerlessness, and recognized that I was totally dependent upon Him.

Joy for today:  admitting my weaknesses and powerlessness.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Day 133, May 13

It seems that the subject of success and failure is much on my mind these days, perhaps because some of my failures have been brought forcibly home to me.

At these times, I try to remember some of my heroes, including George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.  Both experienced many failures.  Washinton lost several key battles in the Revolutionary War as general.  Lincoln lost many elections on his path to the White House.

Both also experienced great success. Both were also men of God, men who knew the power of prayer, who, indeed, spent much time on their knees, begging for the Lord's tender mercies.

Joy for today:  remembering great men.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Day 132, May 12

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal:  it is the courage to continue that counts."--Winston Churchill

Certainly, Churchill experienced more than his share of success and failure.  Most of us could probably say the same.  Over the last years, I've known both success and failure.  The successes give me courage to continue; the failures remind me that I have a long way to go.

Sometimes, whether with my writing or with relationships, I wonder if it makes sense to keep trying.  And then I remember that the Lord, our Savior, knew more than anyone of keeping trying, even when His earthly enemies prevailed.

Joy for today:  having the courage to continue.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Day 131, May 11

It's Mother's Day.  I freely admit that this is not one of my favorite days, for it reminds me of my weaknesses, my shortcomings, my disappointments in myself.  So I'm not going to write more of my own mothering.

Instead, I'll tell you about my mother.  Mom grew up hardscrabble poor in Eastern Tennessee during the Great Depression.  Work and more work defined her days, as a child, then as a young woman, then as a married woman putting her husband through law school.

Despite the poverty of her upbringing, Mom was generous with others, especially with her daughters and our families.  When Larry and I were first married, Mom, with my dad, supported us while Larry finished school. Without their generosity (for we had no other family support), I wondered if we would have survived, especially when our first baby arrived ten months after our marriage.  (An aside:  my pregnancy caused more than one person to count backwards!)  Once again, Mom and Dad came to our rescue, paying for the doctor and hospital bills.

Joy for today:  remembering my mother.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Day 130, May 10

Do you ever get discouraged with your weakness and failings?  I do.  I grow very discouraged when I seem to make the same mistake over and over again.

A recent argument (okay, I'll be honest, a knock-down-drag-out fight) with my husband reminded me that I continue to repeat the same mistakes.  I wanted him, no, demanded of him, that he do something that he was incapable of.  As he pointed out, I, too, have my limitations.

It was disheartening to realize that we were fighting over the same thing we've fought about from the first years of our marriage.  I keep hoping things will change and realize that they won't.  After a period of moping, sulking, and whining, I picked myself up and resolved to try again.

We aren't likely to resolve this issue in this lifetime. But, because we love each other and made covenants in the temple, we are sticking.  We're like two old pieces of Velcro, a bit tattered and definitely ratty, but we stick.

Joy for today:  sticking.  

Friday, May 9, 2014

Day 129, May 9

"Sometimes we need someone to simply be there......Not to fix anything or do anything in particular, but just to let us feel we are supported and cared about."

A friend sent this quote to me.  I don't have the attribution, but I thought it worth sharing.

Many times over the last few years, friends have been there for me.  Sometimes through a phone call, sometimes through an email, sometimes through a visit.  Always, they have lifted me and soothed my troubled heart.  My friends weren't able to "fix" my troubles, but knowing they were there was enough.

I have tried to be there for my friends as well.  I wasn't able to fix their problems, any more than they could fix mine, but I listened, I cried with them, and, sometimes, I brought chocolate.  

Joy for today:  being there.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Day 128, May 8

"Let your prayers for a good crop be short, and your hoeing be long."--Albanian proverb

I am a firm believer in the power of prayer.  As I've written in previous posts, I spend much time on my knees (and not on my knees) praying every day.  But (you knew that was coming, didn't you?) praying alone is often not enough.  The Lord wants us to work, and to work hard, as well as to pray, just as He did in His earthly ministry.

Joy for today:  praying short and hoeing long.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Day 127, May 7

Sometimes, when it seems that I am completely out of inspiration, something falls into my lap.  This time it was a quote a friend sent me.

"Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations.  I cannot reach them:  but I can look up, and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead ..."  Louisa May Alcott

Louisa May Alcott has long been a favorite author of mine.  This quote reminds me why I am always moved by her words.

What are your aspirations?  Do you dream of writing words that touch others, as I do?  Or do you dream of painting a beautiful picture or composing a haunting melody?  Whatever your aspirations, I hope you keep them close to your heart, so that you are reminded of them with each beat.  For where would we be without our dreams, our hopes, our reach-for-the-stars wonderments?

Joy for today:  dreaming, hoping, reaching for the stars.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Day 126, May 6

"Everyone has enough to do in weeding his own garden."  I found this (Flemish) proverb in a book about gardening.  At first I didn't know what to think of this quote.  In truth, it sounded a bit selfish, as though we should be concerned only with our own affairs, our own problems, our own lives.

Then I re-thought the words and realized that if we think of our "own garden" as including our families, our friends, our communities, our churches, our places of work, then the words make sense.  If I am tending to my family, I am weeding in my own garden.  If I am helping a friend, I am weeding in my own garden.  If I am serving in my church, I am weeding in my own garden.  And so it goes.

Joy for today:  weeding in my own garden, wherever that may be.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Day 125, May 5

Larry and I just returned from being with our son Rob and his wife and two sons.  Our grandsons are a delight, full of energy and enthusiasm and questions.  If I had only an iota of their energy, I would be far more productive!  As it is, it was all I could do to try to answer a question now and again and try not to trip on a Lego.

The experience reminded me of how perfect the Father's plan is.  Young parents are charged with taking care of their children and all that that entails, while grandparents are charged only with loving and spoiling them.  That, I can do.

Joy for today:  loving and spoiling grandchildren.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Day 124, May 4

Recently I attended a writers' meeting.  The workshop presenter talked of "voice."  A writer's voice is a blend of his experiences, his background, his heart, his mind.

I love to read mysteries, suspenses, and thrillers. These books are frequently written with a gritty voice.  I  have always wanted to have that same hard-hitting voice.  Try as I would, though, I couldn't make my writing voice what it wasn't.  I tried, I really did, to turn my voice in to what it wasn't.   Finally, I accepted that my voice can't be what it isn't any more than I can be what I'm not.

Joy for today:  accepting my voice, and myself.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Day 123, May 3

Recently our son sent us a picture of his son, nine-year-old Brigham, holding up a medal.  Brigham had received the medal during a football game.  His team had not won the game, but Brigham had demonstrated sportsmanship and teamwork while playing.

It is part of our nature to want to win, but Brigham rose above that and found satisfaction in playing the game and helping his team members. My heart swelled with pride when I realized that Brigham had learned a lesson that many of us are still trying to learn.

Joy for today:  being proud of Brigham.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Day 122, May 2

"At the zenith of His mortal ministry, Jesus said, 'Love one another, as I have loved you."  To make certain they (His listeners) understood exactly what kind of love that was, He said, 'If ye love me, keep my commandments' and "whosever shall break one of (the) least commandments, and teach men so, he shall be ... the least of heaven.'  Christlike love is the greatest need we have on this planet in part because righteousness was always supposed to accompany it.  So if love is to be our watchword, as it must be, then by the word of Him who is love personified, we must forsake transgression and any hint of advocacy of it in others.  Jesus clearly understood what many in our modern culture seem to forget:  that there is a crucial difference between the commandments to forgive sin (which He had an infinite capacity to do) and the warning against condoning it (which He never ever did even once)."--Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quroum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

I had to read this quote several times through to understand it.  Finally, I think I got it.  Christ was and is all about love. But that does not negate His directive to do right.  If, in our attempts to love, we make the mistake of condoning sin, then we are not following Him.

In our current world, it is unfashionable, even condemned, to say "That's wrong."  We fear offending someone if we stand up for the truth.  I am guilty of this.  I don't want others to think less of me if I stand up for what is true, for what is righteous.

And isn't that sad?  Do I value the opinon of others more than I do the words of the Lord?  Apparently so.  All I can say is that I'm trying to do better.

Joy for today:  understanding that loving does not mean condoning what is wrong.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Day 121, May 1

Finding joy in every day occurrences shouldn't be hard.  And sometimes it isn't.  Sometimes, the ideas and words come as though the Lord Himself is guiding my thoughts and hands.  Other times, however, ideas and thoughts are stifled.  When I asked the Father why He was denying inspiration to me, I realized that He was not denying it; I was unable to hear it because my mind and heart were blocked.

I'm learning to recognize those times when my mind and heart are blocked.  At those times, my thoughts are turned inward, and I become totally self-absorbed.  How can I expect to hear the Lord when I'm so completely focused on myself?  Of course, I can't hear anything but my own words screaming inside my head.

Joy for today:  turning outward rather than inward.