Sunday, August 31, 2014

Day 233. August 31

"Therefore, strengthen your brethren in all your conversation, in all your prayers, in all your exhortations, and in all your doings."--Doctrine & Covenants 108:7

I have been strengthened over the last month by the conversation, prayers, and exhortations of friends and family.  In that respect, I have been blessed.

I wish I could say that I have done the same for others, strengthening them with my conversation, my prayers, my exhortations.  Too frequently, though, I have been on the receiving end and not on the giving end.  That is a sad state of affairs.

Joy for today:  resolving to do better.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Day 232, August 30

"The life which is unexamined is not worth living."--Plato

Lately, I've been doing a lot of life-examination.  Some of my conclusions are not very palatable.  Like when I found that my faith has taken a hit.   The faith which had sustained me through many crises no longer seemed enough..  In fact, it seemed pretty darned inadequate.  What was I to draw upon if I didn't have my faith?

So I did further examination.  And I realized that my faith wasn't inadequate; it was my willingness to rely  upon it.  So I rebooted.  Much as I would reboot my computer, I needed to reboot my willingness to rely on the faith of my childhood.

Joy for today:  rebooting.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Day 231 August 29

A few days ago, my husband and I passed a small farm where a pig and goats shared a gated area.  I hadn't realized that pigs and goats could share a place.  I find that enlightening ... and wonderful.  Pigs and goats don't seem to have a lot in common; yet, there they were, getting along, perhaps even making friends with each other.

It started me wondering why we humans find it so difficult to get along.  Whether it is a celebrity divorce, a court case with one party suing the other, or the larger landscape of world conflicts, where human beings perform atrocities against each other, the media is filled with examples of people who don't get along.

I apologize if this sounds facetious, comparing pigs and goats to people.  That is not my intent. But if pigs and goats can find common ground, perhaps we can, too.

Joy for today:  learning from pigs and goats.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Day 230, August 28

In an earlier post, I wrote about beehives.  To recap, a single bee contributes 1/12 of a teaspon of nectar to make a quart of honey.  A tiny amount, to be sure.  Yet, each bee's contribution is significant.

Do you ever feel like your contribution isn't significant?  I do.  I feel that way all the time.  What difference does my small contribution, whether to the church, the community, the world make?  Not much, it seems.  And then I remember the bees and their hive. The bees don't question their role.  They simply do what is necessary and rejoice in their contribution.

Joy for today:  rejoicing in what I can do.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Day 229, August 27

"We never touch others so lightly that we do not leave a trace behind."--Peggy Tabor Millin

I heard this quote on a television show about manners and civility.  In today's world, where many electronic devices begin with the letter "I," where we expect immediate gratification, where we have little patience for any kind of delay, manners and civility have taken a backseat to expediency and self-interest.

And isn't that sad?

Your mother was right:  manners count.  Good manners help our society run more smoothly while bad manners leave those on the receiving end feeling angry, resentful, and hurt.

Taking time for the "small" things affects not only the people with whom we come in contact; it also affects our own well-being.  When we know we have been in the wrong, our stress levels rise, causing spikes in blood pressure and heart rate.

Will good manners fix all that's wrong with our world?  Probably not.  But they will go a long way to smoothing out the rough edges of lives that are too often rushed and out-of-control.

Joy for today:  leaving behind a trace of respect and happiness.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Day 228, August 26

Yesterday I wrote, among other things, about the porcupine who wanted to be a different animal.  He followed around other animals, trying to hop like the bunny, scurry like the squirrel, etc.  The story concludes by the porcupine recognizing that he would always be a porcupine and accepting that.

I've always thought that that porcupine was very smart in reaching his conclusion in the space of a children's story.  And I wonder why I can't find the same wisdom in accepting what I am.

I look at my friends and want to have their talents, their strengths, their skills, their attributes.  I want to play the organ like Janet, write like Amanda, be organized like Suzanne, etc. (If I listed all my friends here and their remarkable talents, I'd be writing all day.)

So what's my point?  Like the porcupine, I'm me.  As I said yesterday, that should be enough.

Joy for today:  being me.  Warts, or quills, and all.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Day 227, August 25

My sister and I grew up sheltered, protected (some would say too protected) in Washington, DC.  It was the 50s, an innocent decade.

Fast forward five decades.  Carla and I were wives, mothers, and grandmothers.  We decided (well, really I decided, but Carla went along with me) that we should become street smart.  To that end, we learned some street smart language.  (These were not swear words, but, rather colloquialisms.)  There was only one problem:  we giggled each time we said the words.  "True dat," I'd say to her, and we'd both burst into laughter.  We finally accepted that we probably weren't going to pull off street smart, at least not to people who really were.

I've written before about my desire to develop a gritty writer's voice.  Try as I would, though, I couldn't pull it off.  It wasn't until I embraced my true voice that I sold the book of my heart.

One more story:  you've probably heard the children's story about the porcupine who wanted to be something different.  He followed around a rabbit, a squirrel, and other animals.  Alas, he couldn't be anything more than a porcupine.

What do these three things have in common?  The answer is obvious:  that we can't be anything more than what we are.  And that should be all right.  After all, didn't the Lord create us?

Joy for today:  being who I am.  Un-street smart, un-gritty, and still a porcupine.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Day 226, August 24

"Love is a softening of the heart; pride is a hardening."--Marilyn Arnold

I counted the words in the above sentence.  Eleven.  Eleven small words that say so much.

Love has everything to do with the Savior.  And pride has nothing to do with Him.  I can feel my heart loosening and softening when I am in tune with the Savior.  I am more likely to forgive, more likely to show compassion, more likely to act upon that compassion when I am in tune with Him.  A soft heart.

Likewise, when I am not in tune with Him, when pride takes over, I am thinking of myself and only myself.  I am thinking of how to get even with those who have hurt me or my family.  I am thinking of finding ways to justify myself and my sins.  A hard heart.

Joy for today:  allowing the Savior to soften my heart.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Day 225, August 23

A few days ago, a sweet friend, Suzanne, was helping me with some family history work.  Our efforts to get in to the site to post the information were continually thwarted.  Finally, Suzanne said, "I know what's wrong.  We forgot to start with prayer."

We folded our arms, and she offered a beautiful prayer, asking for the Lord's help in our efforts.  We struggled for a few more minutes to get in to the site, but then our efforts were rewarded.  We managed to post eight life sketches on family members and ancestors.  Why hadn't we started with prayer in the first place?

I realized that I had been so anxious to get this work done that I had neglected to invite the Lord to share in this endeavor and to ask Him for His blessings.  How foolish.  And how short-sighted.

Joy for today:  remembering to ask the Lord for His help.  In everything.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Day 224, August 22

Yesterday I wrote about storytelling.  Today's post is a continuation of that subject.

Recently, I have been working on writing life sketches of my sister, my parents, and some ancestors, then attaching them to a family history site in the Church called familysearch.  I love finding stories about those who have gone before and sharing them.

I am fortunate enough to have many stories about my father's ancestors.  He and his family were journal-keepers, who wrote about themselves and their family.  I am less fortunate in finding stories about my mother's people.  (In the South, family and ancestors are referred to as "people.")

I hope to do some digging and find some stories about my mother's people which I can then share.  Until then, information about her side of the family tree is sparse.

What is my point in sharing this?  It's an admonition of sorts to write about yourself, to write about your daily doings, your goings and your comings, your family, both past and present, so that that precious information will be preserved.  These writings will be treasured by your family and by those to come.

In a way, that's what this blog is.

Joy for today:  writing and sharing stories about family.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Day 223, August 21

"We are lonesome animals.  We spend all our life trying to be less lonesome.  One of our ancient methods is to tell a story, begging the listener to say--and to feel--'Yes, that's the way it is, or at least that the way I feel it.  You're not as alone as you thought.'"  John Steinbeck

These words immediately resonated within me when I ran across them.  Perhaps it is because I am an introvert that I am a voracious reader.  Perhaps I am trying to feel less alone in finding likeness in the words of another.  And perhaps that is why I write, as well, in that same attempt to find connection with others.

Whatever the reason, I am grateful for storytelling.  I am grateful for the art of it and for those who practice it.  When I was a little girl, I made up stories about my friends.  They came to me at lunchtime in our school's ancient cafeteria (there were no cafe-audio-toriums at that time) and asked me to tell them a story about themselves.

Of course I obliged.

The stories ranged from heroic princes saving tragic princesses to pioneers crossing the plains and carrying everything they owned, including refrigerators, in their handcarts.  (I never said these stories were realistic, did I?)

Without iPads, ipods, iphones, and "I" everything else, we entertained ourselves and each other with stories. They were wonderful times.

Joy for today:  finding connections through storytelling.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Day 222, August 20

Today would have been Carla and her sweet husband Rolf's 41st wedding anniversary.  I say "would have been," yet that is inaccurate.  It is still their wedding anniversary, still a day to celebrate their love.  For that loves continues.

I picture them in heaven, doing the things they did not have the opportunitiy to do here on earth because  circumstances--health, caring for elderly parents, jobs--did not permit.  I imagine them taking ballroom dance lessons, serving a mission, raising their daughter Kathy, and I rejoice for them.

Joy for today:  celebrating a love affair that is never-ending.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Day 221, August 19

"Be the living expression of God's kindness.  Kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile, kindness in your warm greeting."  Mother Theresa

Not surprisingly, I found this quote in a book that two kind friends gave me for my birthday, A HEART LIKE HIS.  My friends epitomize kindness in their concern for me, for others, for people they don't know.  One friend volunteers at The House of Neighborly Service where food, clothes, and other goods are offered free to anyone in need.  The other friend makes a point of visiting a lady in our ward who can't get out.  These are but a few of the giving things these special women do.

I have many other friends who also live kindness.  They inspire me to do better, inspire me to pull out of myself when I want to wrap myself in my grief.

Joy for today:  having friends who live kindness.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Day 220, August 18

"Sameness is to be found most among the most 'natural' men, not among those who surrender to Christ.  How monotonously alike all the great tyrants and conquerors have been; how gloriously diferent are the saints."--C.S. Lewis.

I had to read the above words several times to absorb them.  And then, as though the proverbial ligiht bulb went off in my head, I got it.  Those who choose to align themselves, to surrender themselves to Christ, are different.  They are different in how they love, in how they perceive others.  Those who choose not to align themselves, to surrender themselves to Christ, are alike in that they will always value power and appearance over substance, they will always find ways to bully others.

Joy for today:  being gloriously different.  Or trying to.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Day 219, August 17

It's been almost four weeks since my sister died.  So many things remind me of her.  I see a Subaru car, and I think, "That looks like Carla's."  I watch a show on TV and think, "Carla would have laughed with me at the antics of the characters."  I hear a hymn that she loved and think, "Carla should be hearing this with me."

And so on.

Then I realize that Carla knows my thoughts, knows that I miss her, knows that I love her still.  My heart is gladdened to know that she is never far away.

Another part of my heart, that part which is still grieving, which will always grieve, longs to hold her, to share with her thoughts and feelings, to call her up and laugh over silly things.  It is a heart divided.

Joy for today:  remembering Carla.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Day 218, August 16

Recently I read of some scientists at BYU (Brigham Young University) who are using tree mapping (studying the rings of trees) to better predict and understand current draught conditions in Utah.  By doing so, they hope to help people prepare for and work within water limitations.

Isn't that great?  By studying the past, we can help understand and better our present and future.  The writer in me sees a parallel between this and family history work.  If I come to know my ancestors, their trials, and struggles, I can understand myself and my family more, to prepare us for our own "draught" conditions.

And we will all face draught conditions.  Whether it be the death of a loved one, unemployment, a child who strays from the faith, whatever, we will face them because we live in a telestial world, where sorrow and pain are inevitable.

I've faced my own draught recently, trying to come to grips with it and at the same time go on at the loss of my sister.  When I read of my grandfather who left his wife and little family to serve not one but two missions to a faraway land, I am strengthened.  When I read of my grandmother who carried on after the death of her husband, raising nine children on her own, I am strengthened once again.

Joy for today:  learning from the past.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Day 217, August 15

Today is Larry's birthday.

Larry and I met 45 years ago at Brigham Young University at what was then called "Meet Your Bishop" night.  He came up to me and said, "You've got good-looking legs."  Alas, that that were only so today.

We started dating.  The following summer, Larry left for a two year mission for our church.  We wrote continuously, and I sent him care packages.  (Incidentally, one of his mission companions was Rolf Berger, who, when he came home from his mission, met my sister.  But that's a story for another day.)

The spring after Larry returned, we were married.  Things got bumpy right away.  By bumpy, I mean a pregnancy bump and a bunch of other little bumps.  But we persevered.  Forty-one years, five children, grandchildren, and a cat who thinks of us as staff later, we are still persevering.

Larry has stuck by me through depression, the ups and downs of writing, losing my parents and sister, and a host of other things.

As I said, things haven't always been easy, but we love each other and love the Lord.  In the end, that's what really matters.  In the end, that's all that matters.

Joy for today:  being married to the man I love.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Day 216, August 14

Today is our grandson Brigham's 10th birthday.  Brigham is filled with mischief and curiosity, energy and love.  When he smiles, his whole face lights up into one big dimple.

I sometimes tease him, telling him that he can't show those dimples (for which he is justifiably famous) for one hour.  He lasts, at the most, one minute before the dimples break out again.

Can you tell that I love those dimples?

Joy for today:  loving Brigham.  And his dimples.    

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Day 215, August 13

I ran across the following story in the CHURCH NEWS:

"Visiting teaching has always been a priority for Afton Van Kampen and Alta Roskelley of the Pleasant Valley 4th Ward in the Ogden Utah Pleasant Valley Stake.  These two cousins became visiting teaching partners in November of 1990 when Sister Roskelley moved to South Ogden."

Okay.  Great.  These cousins have been visiting teaching partners for 24 years.  That's wonderful.  But that's not what makes the story so great.  Read on for the punch.

"Sister Van Kampen is now 102 and Sister Roskelley is 100, but they still haven't missed a month in all of their years of visiting teaching together.  'We both feel it is an important calling,' said Sister Van Kampen.  'It's something you should do, and you've been called to do it.'"

That pretty well puts any excuses I or anyone else might offer for not doing their visiting teaching to rest.  In fact, it leaves any excuses I make for anything I don't get done in the dust.  What a slacker I am.

Joy for today:  learning from two centenarians and resolving to do better.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Day 214, August 12

A couple of days ago at church, a dear friend came up to me and said, "You're my hero."  I couldn't have been more surprised than if she'd said, "You're wearing your dress inside out."  (In fact, I would have been less surprised because I have, in the muddle that is my mind lately, been known to wear something inside out.  Fortunately, my husband stopped me before I went out in public that way.)

I asked her why.  Among other things, she said, "Because you're still blogging."  I felt like a fraud, because I serioiusly considered giving up this blog.  I'd started it three and a half years ago, when Carla received the third diagnosis of cancer.  It was my way of reminding myself that there were still things in the world to be thankful for.  Now Carla is gone (from this earth), and I felt that my purpose in blogging was gone as well.

But something, whether sheer stubbornness or the feeling that I still had things to say, prevented me in giving up the blog.  Maybe some day I will, but not today.  I share this story to continue to remind myself that there are still reasons for which to be grateful.

Joy for today:  being a hero, at least in someone's eyes.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Day 213, August 11

I have a confession to make:  a while ago, I watched a snippet (for that's all I could stand) of the "Kardashians."  I wanted to find out, once and for all, why I should want to keep up with them.

You know what?  I couldn't find a single reason.  So I talked with my husband and posed the question:  Why do I want to keep up with the Kardashians?.  What do they have that makes them so (supposedly) interesting?  Wise man that he is, he replied, "They have big boobs and wear too much eye makeup."

Finally, an answer.  It is probably as good as any other reason why we should follow the antics of such a self-involved group of people.

Now that that buring question has been solved, I moved on to something more important.  Who should I want to "keep up with?"  Of course, the answer is "The Savior."  Why should I want to keep up with Him?

If I keep up with the Savior, I can return to live with Him someday.
If I keep up with the Savior, I can find happiness, true happiness, here on earth.
If I keep up with the Savior, I can bless others, no matter how miniscule my talents are.

And the list continues.

Joy for today:  finding out that I don't need (or want) to keep up with the Kardashians.  Thank goodness!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Day 212, August 10

The day of my sister's funeral, two dear friends of hers who also included me in their friendship gave me a book entitled DOING WHAT WE CAME TO DO--Living a Life of Love by Ardeth G. Kapp.  In the accompanying card, these sweet friends wrote, "The title of this book fits Carla.  She so loved unconditionally and her light shined so bright."

Each time I look at the book and re-read the card, tears fill my eyes.  For Carla did love unconditionally.  Could there be any greater thing that can be said of an individual?  Loving unconditionally means loving like the Savior.

Joy for today:  remembering my sister, who loved with her whole self.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Day 211, August 9

Do you ever think about re-inventing yourself?  I do.  I think of re-inventing myself as a writer, as a woman, as a person, as a child of God.  Each of these roles requires different things of me.

A life-changing event caused me to re-evaluate myself and what I want from life.  Of course, my overriding goal has not changed, that of returning to live with the Lord someday.  And the main route in achieving that goal has not changed.  But there are a myriad of changes I can make along the way.

What are they?

I can pay more attention to what is going on around me.  Did a friend appear down the last time I saw her?
I can appreciate my friends and family more.  Did I think to say thank-you to my husband who does so much for me?
I can get down on my knees and thank the Lord more.  Is it possible to thank the Lord too much?  Of course not.

Joy for today:  re-evaluating myself.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Day 210, August 8

Last Sunday inn Relief Society, our president Janet taught the lesson.  She read from a book titled THE BOY WHO CHANGED THE WORLD.  It was a compilation of stories of boys who turned their passions to help others.  Then Janet read from another book NO ONE CAN TAKE YOUR PLACE.

Each story reminded us that we can make a difference, right where we are, with the talents and abilities we currently possess.  It was empowering.  Can I make a difference?  With my miniscule talents and abilities, can I, Jane, make a difference?


I was ready to go out and take on the world.   Now if only I can keep those feelings.

Joy for today:  knowing that no one can take my place.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Day 209, August 7

Do you remember the story of CHARLOTTE'S WEB?  Wilbur the pig did not like Charlotte very much when he first met her.  He thought her cruel, even bloodthirsty.  But Charlotte spun a special web just for Wilbur, letting people know that Wilbur was no ordinary pig and should not be slaughtered.

Because Charlotte, who had by this time become a friend, told him he was special, Wilbur began to believe it.

"Why did you do all this for me?" he asked Charlotte.  "I don't deserve it.  I've never done anything for you."

Charlotte's response?  "You have been my friend.  That in itself is a tremendous thing.  I wove my webs for you because I liked you. ... By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle.  Heaven knows anyone's life can stand a little of that."

This story always touches me.  I have been blessed with many friends like Charlotte, who try to lift me up with their friendship, even when I've done nothing to deserve it.  Especially when I've done nothing to deserve it.

Lately, I have been so involved with what's going on in my life that I have given little thought to my friends.  It's time to change that, to make a 180 and get back to where I need and want to be.

Joy for today:  remembering friendships.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Day 208, August 6

The other day I read an article online about a young mother who was asked to leave a fast food restaurant because she was nursing her infant.  A little background:  the mother was sitting at the rear of the restaurant, had a blanket placed discreetly over her baby son, and was quietly nursing him.

As I read and then re-read the article, I grew more and more incensed.  What is going on in our country when it is all right, even legal, to smoke and eat marijuana but it isn't all right to nurse one's baby?  Could there be any greater irony?

Okay.  I get it.  I know some people are uncomfortable with the sight of a woman nursing her child.   But don't order her to leave a restaurant, where, by the way, she was a paying customer.  

I nursed our first four children and consider those some of the most precious experiences of my life.  Not only was I giving my babies the very best nourishment I could give them, I was bonding with them in the tenderest way possible.  (Our fifth child was adopted, and though I tried nursing her, it wasn't to be.)

Joy for today:  reading of a mother's love. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Day 207, August 5

I found an article in a fashion magazine about four styles:  the sexy librarian, the cool schoolgirl, the tomboy, and the galleria fashionista.  As I read the details of each style, I realized I didn't fit any of them, and I started to wonder just where my style lay.

The term "second-hand Rose" comes to mind, as 99% of my clothes, purses, and jewelry come from garage sales.

Though that came closer than any of the other so-called styles to mine, it still wasn't where I wanted to be.  Finally, I realized that I wanted my style to be "Daughter of God."  I doubt that is going to make any of the style magazines.  But then neither will I.

And that's okay.

So what is the "Daughter of God" style? Here are a few random thoughts.  She is modest.  She is appropriately dressed (okay, that lets me out right there as I'm often dressed in sweats).  She is more concerned with doing good than looking good.

Joy for today:  finding my own style (even if it won't be featured in a fashion magazine).

Monday, August 4, 2014

Day 206, August 4

Forgive me if I write more about my dear sister Carla.

Following her funeral, her four (living) children got together and talked about how best to honor her, especially in dealing with some people who had hurt her deeply.  They came up with "WWCD?" (What Would Carla Do?), a play on the familiar acronym "WWJD?" (What Would Jesus Do?)

Isn't that lovely?

I teased one of her sons that WWCD was far more fitting than using WWJD to say "What Would Jane Do?"  For Jane (that's me) would not be nearly as kind or as forgiving to these people.  She would want to rain down fury upon them.   In fact, she still wants to do that.  In many respects, I'm still that little girl of decades ago, all bony elbows and knobby knees, threatening to punch out anyone who dares to even think of hurting my sister.

And then I realized that that isn't what Carla needs.  Like the Savior, she needs me to have a broken heart and a contrite spirit.

So I am trying to honor Carla as her children, far wiser than I, wish.

Joy for today:  honoring Carla.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Day 205, August 3

Today is Fast and Testimony Meeting.  (In this meeting, members of the congregation come forward to the front of the chapel and bear their testimonies of the Savior.)  Once again, I lack the courage to bear my testimony aloud.  And once again, I wish I could find that courage.  But I want my family, my friends, to know of my love for the Savior.  So here is the testimony that resides in my heart:

He lives.  Christ lives. He is here for you ... and even for me.

A favorite hymn includes the words, "... He calms my troubled heart."  Indeed, the Savior has calmed my troubled heart during this last month.  He calmed my troubled heart as I watched my much-loved sister fade away.  He calmed my trouble heart as I lay beside her, holding her hand, on that last night.  He calmed my troubled heart as we celebrated her life at her funeral.

My words are but palty vessels to convey the depth of my love for the Savior.  Words will always be paltry vessels for this most important truth:  the Savior lives.

Joy for today:  knowing that the Savior lives.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Day 204, August 2

Many flowers arrived at the time of my sister's passing.  One morning, I needed to switch from my "usual" spot at her dining room table to a different place.  I looked up from my computer ... and gasped. A bouquet which had occupied the center of the table for several days appeared totally different as I gazed at it from a different angle.

A large lily, its yellow sun color vibrant and joyous, confronted me.  It bloomed with cheerful determination, a benediction to my tear-reddened eyes.

Would I have ever noticed it if I hadn't moved from one chair to another?  I don't know.  It reminded me that a change of perspective is all that is needed sometimes to find miracles in this life. And perhaps that is the biggest miracle of all--that I am able to find miracles at all when my heart is still so broken.

Joy for today:  finding miracles.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Day 203, August 1

Yesterday I wrote about letting go of the sins and pains of the past.  Of course, the story of Christ and the adulteress comes to mind.  You remember the story:  a woman was accused of adultery; cruel critics dragged her to the public square, with the intent to stone her to death.

Christ posed His oft-repeated challenge:  let him who is without sin cast the first stone.

The Savior didn't condone the sin, but He did love the sinner.  He showed mercy to her, a mercy that continues to challenge me to show to myself and to others.

Joy for today:  basking in Christ's mercy and maybe even finding it for myself.