Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Day 263, September 30

"Do what you can, with what you have, where you are." ~Theodore Roosevelt

Do you ever beat yourself up because you haven't done enough in some situation?  I do.  One difficult time in my life continues to haunt me.  I blame myself because I didn't act sooner, didn't do the right thing, didn't do enough.

My husband, wise man that he is, reminds me that I did the best I could given the circumstances.  And that should be enough.

Joy for today:  doing what I can, with what I have, where I am.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Day 262, September 29

"This is what I have learned: Within the sorrow, there is grace. When we come close to those things that break us down, we touch those things that also break us open." ~ Wayne Muller

It seems that it doesn't take much to break me down these days.  I cry at commericals.  I cry when I hear Primary songs.  I cry at television shows, ones that would normally make me laugh.

And perhaps that is good.  If I am "broken down," then maybe, as the author of the above quote states, I  am also broken open.  I don't know what his meaning of that is.  For me, however, being broken open means that I am receptive to things of the Spirit.  The tender mercies.  The small miracles.  The quiet moments.  All of these are gifts of the Spirit and, therefore, gifts from the Lord.

Joy for today:  breaking down and breaking open.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Day 261, September 28

"You cannot prevent the birds of sorrow from flying over your head, but you can prevent them from building nests in your hair." ~ Chinese Proverb

As I read and re-read the above, I realized that the counsel could apply to any circumstances.  You may not be dealing with "birds of sorrow" as I am at this moment, but you may be trying to cope with other painful circumstances.  Perhaps you are suffering from discouragement over a family problem or worry over a financial setback.  Such things are inevitable in this telestial world.

But we can keep the "birds of sorrow" from taking nests in our hair.  Sometimes it's a simple matter of developing a more positive attitude.  More often, though, simple fixes won't do it.  And then we turn, as we should have in the first place, to the Lord, begging for His mercy, His grace, His infinite love to help us deal with our earthly woes.

Joy for today:  cleaning out the nests in my hair.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Day 260, September 27

"I experience the joy of coming closer to the Savior and of His coming closer to me most often through simple acts of obedience to the commandments."--Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Do you ever think that you have to accomplish some tremendous feat, perform an unbelievably selfless act of service, or maybe give a kidney to a stranger to come closer to the Lord?  I sometimes think that, wonder how I, a sinner, can ever get closer to the Savior.  Then I realize that all I have to do is to follow Him.  To obey Him.

I say "all I have to do," but, in fact, it is a huge thing to follow Him, to obey Him.  If I truly do that, I will let go of my selfish tendencies, my doubts, my hurts.

Joy for today:  obeying the commandments.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Day 259, September 26

"Each difficult moment has the potential to open my eyes and open my heart." ~ Myla Kabat-Zinn

I wish I could say that I have opened my eyes and my heart after difficult moments.  Sometimes I've willfully closed them.  And other times, those times when I am in tune with the Spirit, I open them.  Then I wonder why I hadn't opened them earlier.

After my sister's death, I resolved to be more aware of the needs of others, especially a  particular sister in our ward (congregation).  To some extent, I did this.  But not as much as I would have liked.  The good news is that it's not too late.

Joy for today:  Opening my eyes and my heart.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Day 258, September 25

The month is almost over and I am still trying to play catch-up.  I wonder where the summer went and then cognize that we are now into fall, with winter soon to follow.

Much of my summer was spent at my sister's home, caring for her, trying to cheer her, and then, grieving when I knew that the end was close.  (The end being her mortal life; there is no end in eternity.)

Larry and I had plans to go to a writers' conference.  I had plans to finish a book proposal.  Plans that weren't realized.  Do I regret that?  Of course not.  For I was where I was supposed to be, where I needed to be, where I wanted to be.

I've written before about those times when plans are interrupted or even shelved entirely.  And that's okay.  When family or friends are in need, plans don't matter.  All that matters is being there for them.

Joy for today:  being where I am supposed to be.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Day 257, September 24

A few days ago, my daughter Alanna and I were talking about her eleven-year-old son Christopher who is learning to play the trumpet for his school band.  She told me that there were first, second, third, and fourth "chairs."  Of course, everyone aspires to be first chair.

I remarked that there can be only one first chair.  That is a lesson we must all learn, whether we are eleven or         decades older (like me).  Many times, I have denied myself opportunities because I think that if I can't be "first chair," then I don't want to do it at all.

The truth is, I am rarely first chair at anything. Sometimes I am adequate.  Sometimes I am totally inadequate.  Does that mean I shouldn't participate or try something?  Of course not.  But there it is, that belief that if I can't do something perfectly, I shouldn't do it at all.   It is a crippling condition, one I am trying to overcome.

Joy for today:  being second, third, or fourth chair.  (Or even fifth.)

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Day 256, Sseptember 23

Grace is defined as “a virtue coming from God, or a state of sanctification enjoyed through divine grace.” For much of my life, I believed grace to be something I earned from God.  If I were good enough, if I attended enough meetings, if I served others sufficiently, if I banished bad thoughts from my mind and unkind words from my lips, maybe someday I would receive grace.

Through the counsel of others, including my dear husband, I have learned that grace is not something I earn (though certainly it is "good to be good"); it is something that the Lord gives me through His infinite love.

These last months, as I have gone through intense mourning over the loss of my sister, I have sought the Lord's grace on a daily, if not hourly, basis.  When the grief seem too much to bear, when I feel I can no longer go on, I beg for His grace.  And loving as He is, He bestows it upon me.

 "This is what I have learned: Within the sorrow, there is grace. When we come close to those things that break us down, we touch those things that also break us open." ~ Wayne Muller

Joy for today:  receiving the Lord's grace, though I've done nothing to earn it.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Day 255, September 22

"I think of the trees and how simply they let go, let fall the riches of a season, how without grief (it seems) they can let go and go deep into their roots for renewal and sleep.... Imitate the trees. Learn to lose in order to recover, and remember that nothing stays the same for long, not even pain, psychic pain. Sit it out. Let it all pass. Let it go." ~ May Sarton

Knowing that I was going through a period of grieving and mourning, a cousin sent this to me. Maybe if I did as the above counsel directs, imitating the trees, I could lose some of the deep sadness and pain that frequently comes over me.

Please don't misunderstand--I don't want to lose all of the sadness and pain.  They are a part of my love for my sister.  But if I could lose some of it as the trees lose their leaves, I would probably function better, be able to serve others more.

Joy for today:  imitating trees.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Day 254, September 21

(This is a continuation of yesterday's post.)

"That clarity lets us see what help we need.  We need strength beyond ourselves to keep the commandments in whatever circumstances life brings to us.  For some it may be poverty, but others it may be prosperity.  It may be the ravages of age or the exuberance of youth.  The combination of trials and their duration are as varied as are the children of our Heavenly Father.  No two are alike.  But what is being tested is the same, at all times in our lives and for every person:  will we do whatsoever the Lord our God will command us?"--Henry B. Eyring.

What circumstances are giving you grief right now?  Is it worries over children or aging parents?  Or is it wondering if you can make next month's mortgage?  Or is it, as it is for me, the recent deaths of loved ones?
Whatever circumstances you are facing, the Lord is there.  He is with us when we are being tested.  He is with us when we think we can't take another step.  He is with us.  Period.

Joy for today:  being tested, with the Lord at our side.  

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Day 253, September 20

"The test a loving God has set before us not to see if we can endure difficulty.  It is to see if we can endure it well. We pass the test by showing that we remembered Him and the commandments He gave us.  And to endure well is to keep those commandments whatever the opposition, whatever the temptation, and whatever the tumult around us.  We have that clear understanding because the restored gospel makes the plan of happiness so plain."--President Henry B. Eyring

That sounds fairly simple, doesn't it?  Live the comandments.   Doing what the Lord has said isn't hard when things are going well.  When life is going my way, I'm happy to do everything He has said.  When things are hard--as they so often are--I start to grumble, to complain, to whine.  And I think (to my shame), "Well, I was trying my best and look where it got me.  Why should I even try?"

The irony is that when things are hard, I need to try even harder.  Someday, maybe I'll figure that out.

Joy for today:  enduring well.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Day 252, September 19

"Procrastination is the fear of success.  People procrastinate because they are afraid of the success that they know will result if they move ahead now.  Because success is heavy, carries a responsibility with it, it is much easier to procrastinate and live on the 'someday if' philosophy."--Denis Waitley

I had never before thought of procrastination in this way.  I've written articles about procrastination, listed strategies for overcoming it, understood that procrastination was fueled by fear, but never imagined that it might be caused by a fear of success.

If asked if we wanted to succeed at our chosen endeavors, most, if not all of us, would say, "Of course."  But perhaps the writer is correct and we fear the success that plunging ahead in what we know we should do will bring.

Do I resist sending out a query or book proposal because I'm afraid that it might be accepted?  Maybe.  And just maybe I'm afraid that if it is, I will be confronted with the "heavy" part mentioned above, the "responsibility" of going forward.

Joy for today:  stop procrastinating and start succeeding.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Day 251, September 18

"What we sow or plant in the soil will come back to us in exact kind.  It's impossible to sow corn and get a cup of wheat, but we enitrely disregard this law when it comes to mental sowing."--Orison Sweet Marden

I had to stop and think about the words "mental sowing."  What is mental sowing?  Then the answer came (duh): my thoughts are mental sowing.

Too often my thoughts are often negative.  Sometimes they are negative about others.  But frequently they are negative about myself.  "What a dumb thing to say or do," I tell myself after a less than stellar performance.  Or, "Could you get any dumber, Jane?"

How self-defeating is that?  To expect that I will accomplish great things when I am sabotaging myself at every turn?

I don't think I'm alone in this habit.  I have heard others, mostly women, who put themselves down at every turn.  It makes me sad for them.  It makes me sad for me.

Joy for today:  sowing positive thoughts.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Day 250, September 17

"Human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes."--William James

This counsel is so simple, yet so hard to implement.  Many days, I wake up with a "ho-hum" attitude.  I think, "Nobody really needs me.  Why should I even get up?"

On those days I wake up with a "can-do" attitiude, I accomplish much, including serving others.  A number of factors play into this, but mostly it is a matter of attitude.

Joy for today:  "altering my attitude."

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Day 249, September 16

The most valuable of all capital is that invested in human beings."--Alfred Marshall

Two thousand years ago (or so), the Savior gave much the same advice when He said, "Love one another."  For isn't investing in human beings just another way of saying "Love them?"

How do we invest in others ... or love them?  One of the best ways is to listen.  Listening is in short supply these days.  Therapists and other counselors provide a valuable service simply by listening to their clients, but we don't have to have a degree in therapy to do this.

When a friend tells you about an experience, are you waiting impatiently for "your turn" so that you can tell a similar experience, maybe even "one-upping" hers?  As they say, "Been there, done that."  And when I do, when I fail to give my friend the benefit of truly listening to not only what she's saying but the feelings behind those words, I diminish her ... and myself.

Joy for today:  listening.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Day 248, September 15

"Honor is the capacity to confer respect to another individual.  We become honorable when our capacities for respect are expressed and strengthened.  The term respect comes from the Latin word respicere, which means 'the willingness to look again.'"--Angeles Arrien

When I came across this quote, I knew immediately that it would have to go in the blog.  I love this definition of honor.  Would not our world be a better place if we all treated each other honorably?  If that sounds naive, I apologize.  But, as I look around at families, communities, churches, towns, the nation, indeed, the entire world, I too frequently see a lack of honor, a lack of respect.

Does the person who does not repay a loan have honor?
Does the child who steals from his parents have honor?
Does the employee who shorts his employers in his work have honor?
Does the nation which invades another nation, enslaving the conquered people have honor?

Of course, the answer to each of these is no.

Joy for today:  living honorably.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Day 247, September 14

Christmas ideas for decorations and gifts are festooning stores.  The Hallmark Channel is advertising special holiday movies.  And I am already planning gifts for three new grandchildren, two of whom will be around at Christmas, one who will still be growing inside his mother.

Do I mind this early preparation for Christmas?  No.  I see it as extending the celebration of that most holy of days, the birthday of our Savior.  Though the prophets have told us that Christ was not born on December 25, it is the day we have set aside for that celebration.

And then I wonder, why do we not celebrate this miraculous event all year long?  If His birth, His ministry on earth, His atonement are truly the most important events in the earth's history, then we should be celebrating Him all year round.

Notice I say "celebrating Him" rather than "celebrating His birth."  That was deliberate.  Our lives should celebrate Him.  Our comings and goings should celebrate Him.  Our words and our listenings should celebrate Him.

Naive?  Perhaps.  But if we bring Christ into our lives on a daily basis, on an hourly basis, it can change us.  It can change the world.

Joy for today:  celebrating Him.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Day 246, September 13

"The difference between the top money winners in the PGA golf tour and the bottom money winners can be as little as one stroke a day."--Steve Miller, former PGA tour player

(In case you didn't pick up on it, this goes along with yesterday's blog.)

One stroke a day.  I'm probably never going to be on the PGA golf tour--strike that, I'm never going to be on the PGA golf tour, but I can relate to the one stroke a day part.  For a writer, that could translate to an extra hundred words a day.  For a sprinter, that could mean an extra half mile a day.  For a piano player, that could equal one extra hour of practice a day.  And so on.

What is your one stroke a day?  Do you want to be able to improve your organ playing so that you can provide music at your church services?  Can you squeeze in an extra hour, or half hour, or even fifteen minutes of practice a day?  Do you want to participate in a 5 K race?  Can you spend five minutes of your thirty minute walk jogging instead of walking?  Do you want to ---?  You fill in the blank.

Joy for today:  taking one more stroke today.  And the next.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Day 245, September 12

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

Have you ever said, "I'd give anything to be able to write (sing, play the piano, paint, sculpt, etc) like he does?"

I have.  I've said it about nearly all of those things--writing, singing, playing the piano, painting, sculpting, and the etc-ing.  You know what?  I was lying.  Because I wouldn't give anything to do those things.  I wouldn't give the time and effort and energy and just plain hard work to gain the mastery that others have achieved in their chosen areas.

I have a friend who plays the piano and other instruments beautifully.  I peck at the piano, but I don't practice it as I should if I wanted to have mastery of it.  I have tried painting and decided I was a no-hoper there, so I stopped trying.  And so it goes.

For most of us, mastery doesn't come from genius, but from hard work. It's when we are willing to put in the work, the sweat, the time, that we achieve true mastery.

Joy for today:  working.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Day 244, September 11

9/11 is an infamous day in the history of the United States.  For me, it has a far more personal meaning:  it is my parents' anniversary.

My parents met in Washington, DC during WWII.  Those two young people fell in love.  My mother followed my father to California, where they were married.  There was no long white dress or sit-down dinner or even a buffet following their wedding.  My mother wore a simple yellow suit, my father his naval uniform.  Soon after they were married, my father was shipped to the Pacific Theatre, where he was wounded aboard a ship which was torpedoed.

Though he was given the option of being sent home, he refused to take it.  (The Red Cross urged him to go home, seeing as two brothers had recently died.) Instead, he stayed there and helped write letters to the families of those men who were killed.  He kept up correspondence with those family members for many years.

My mother worked, saving money for when her sweetheart would return home.  She lived modestly, sharing the small home of my father's sister and her family.

Months later, my father returned to the States.  He needed further treatment for his wounds.  After this, he enrolled in college, then law school on the GI Bill.  Even with that financial aid, he and my mother worked long hours while he went to school, he as a short order cook and she with the Department of Engraving and Printing.

The word entitlement did not exist then, at least not in their vocabulary.  The very idea would have baffled them.  There was work, sacrifice, service, and more work.  They did their best to pass these values on to my sister and me.

Joy for today:  remembering my parents.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Day 243, September 10

Three days ago, we attended a special Stake Conference at church.  (Stakes are geographical divisions of church membership.)  The primary speaker, Elder Baxter, spoke on, among other subjects, finding joy and acceptance for ourselves.

He admonished us to give ourselves credit for the good and praisworthy things we do.  Too often, he said, we fall victim to Satan's trap of beating ourselves up, of believing that we are unworthy of the Lord's love.  This is not the Lord's plan.

In particular, Elder Baxter chastised women for criticizing and denigrating ourselves.  We are better than we believe, he maintained.

Joy for today:  loving myself as well as others.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Day 242, September 9

Yesterday I mused about becoming.  Sometimes in my prayers, I say something like "Please help me become kinder."  Or, "please help me become less judgmental."  And so on.

The trouble is, as I mentioned in yesterday's post, I don't want to do the work to become.  I just want to be. The writer in me recognizes that the word "be" is a passive word, while the word "come" is an active one.  If I "come," I am in motion.  If I "be," I am stationary.   That same writer knows that using an active word is just about always better than using a passive one.

So there I am.  Stuck between passive and active, between being and becoming.  Being doesn't take much thinking.  I can lie around like third base.  Becoming, however, takes some thought and some doing.  Becoming takes wanting to be more than I am.  Becoming takes wanting to be what the Savior wants.

Joy for today:  wanting to become.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Day 241, September 8

"In contrast to the institutions of the world, which teach us to know something, the gospel of Jesus Christ challenges us to become something ... The gospel of Jesus Christ is the plan by which we can become what children of God are supposed to become.  Charity is something one becomes."--Dallin H. Oaks

I love the idea of becoming something.  I especially love the idea of becoming charity.  How do you suppose we go about that?  How do we become charity?

If charity is defined as the pure love of Christ, then it would follow that to become charity, that we become like Christ.  That is a daunting prospect.  Become like Christ?  Does that mean I have to give away (well, really, get rid of as no one wants them) my sins?  Does that mean I have to banish mean thoughts from my mind and unkind words from my lips?  Does that mean I have to give up those nasty feelings of jealousy, greed, and envy?

Yes.  Yes.  And yes.

Okay.  Maybe I don't really want to become charity after all.  Maybe I just want to stay me.  But then I'm not becoming anything.  I'm just staying.  Becoming takes work.  Staying only requires maintaining the status quo.

Yes, this is going to take some thought, this becoming. And, more, some action.  I'm leaning toward staying. But I don't really want to stay me.  I want to become ... more.

Joy for today:  becoming.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Day 240, September 7

Joy abounds, yet sometimes my heart does not feel it.  When my heart is closed, it fails to recognize joys that would be immediately apparent on another day.

I liken it to a window or door closed against the world.  I have been known to do this, to close the blinds and take refuge inside, not letting in the sunshine or even a visitor who might knock on the door.  Do you ever do that, closing yourself in, perhaps in an effort to protect yourself or perhaps in an effort to protect others from your bleak mood?

It is counter-intuitive, but an instinctive reaction, at least to some of us.  On the other hand, when my heart is open, I tend to open the blinds, to leave the door unlocked, to reach out to others.

Joy for today:  opening my windows ... and my heart.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Day 239, September 6

I love this time of year.  I love the green-apple snap to the air.  I love the breeze that cools my face when I walk.  I love the changing colors.

"It should stay this way all year round," I said to my husband on an early morning walk.

He only smiled at me, knowing, as I did, that I didn't really want that.  I only thought I wanted it at that moment.

Isn't that the way with many things?  We think we want something.  We sometimes pray for that thing quite fervently.  Then we realize that if we were to be granted that, we probably wouldn't want it after all.

Of course, I like this beautiful weather.  And, of course, I think I want it to stay for the entire year.  But without the other seasons, the brilliance and beauty of fall would pale.  So I am trying to appreciate the blessing of it for the present.

Joy for today: reveling in today.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Day 238, September 5

Last week, I attended a baby shower held at the home of a good friend.  This friend is always elegantly dressed, always graciously welcoming.  Her home was beautifully decorated, tastefully appointed, and meticulously kept.  I had a vague feeling of dissatisfaction with myself, with my house, with my life.

Why, I asked myself, can't I be as elegant and gracious as my friend?  Why can't my home be as exquisite as hers?

And then I remembered my blog about porcupines.  I'm a porcupine.  I'm not elegant and gracious as is my friend.  Nor is my home beautifully decorated, tastefully appointed, and meticulously kept.  It is casually decorated, casually appointed, and, I'm afraid, casually kept.  In other words, it reflects Larry and me.

Joy for today:  being a porcupine.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Day 237, September 4

Have you had a day where, despite your best goal-setting  and plans, you got distracted?   Afterward, we feel bad about ourselves that we didn't accomplish our goals.  And that's okay.

But there can be times when something more important comes up, interrupting the best laid plans, the most noble goals.  One Friday morning, I had my day laid out, the time meticulously divided up between activities. Then my eighty-something year old friend called in distress, afraid she was having a stroke.  I dropped everything, jumped in the car (still in my exercise clothes), and drove to her place.  We determined that she should go to the hospital.  The next six hours or so were spent with Dorothy at the hospital, where we learned that she had a UTI.

My goals didn't get met; my plans were interrupted.  And that was all right.  It was far more important that I spend the time helping my friend.

Joy for today:  interrupted plans.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Day 236, September 3

Last Sunday at church, the teacher spoke about "good, better, best."  You know the motto:  don't let the "good" get in the way of the "best."

I have been guilty of that many times.  I justify myself by saying, "Well, this is a good thing.  I should be doing it."  But it was not the best use of my time, talents, or energy.  Then I wonder how much time, talents, and energy I have squandered on things that don't even classify as good: the television shows that are questionable at best, the books that were only so-so, the activities that served no useful purpose.

What will the Father say to me when I pass from this life to the next?  Could it be, "Well, Jane, you did some good things.  Too bad that you didn't do more things that are best."

That is not acceptable.

Joy for today:  spending more time, talent, and energy on the best rather than the good.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Day 235, September 2

My blogs have been rather heavy lately.  I guess that is normal as my heart has been heavy as well.  But there is still room for smiles and even for laughter.

Following are a few things which have made me smile or laugh over the last weeks:

Discovering that I had put my shirt on inside out--again--and worn it that way while I went visiting teaching.
Seeing the antics of two cotton tail bunnies on my morning walk.
Enjoying a holiday barbeque with my family.
Finding a new book at a garage sale.
Taking chocolates to a friend.

Joy for today: remembering that I can still smile and laugh.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Day 234. September 1

The year is two-thirds over.  During the last months, I have been tested in ways I never wanted to be.  My heart aches, and it probably always will, as I contemplate going on without my precious sister.  The only thing that keeps me going at times is that someday I can be reunited with her.

Isn't the Father's plan wonderful?  That we can see those who have gone before again?  I rejoice in that, even when the tears come, as they so often do these days.  So, even though it's been difficult to find joy in these last weeks, I can still rejoice.  That is a miracle in itself.

Christ's sacrifice makes my grief bearable.  He lives.  And we will, too.

I have often quoted from one of my favorite hymns "I Know That My Redeemer Lives.".  One passage that resonates within my heart is "Oh, sweet the joy this sentence gives:  I know that my Redeemer lives."

Joy for today:  knowing that my Redeemer lives.