Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Facing the Bridge


April 9th has stood out in my mind for a long time. To me, April indicates that spring is just around the corner. April 9th also happens to be the birth-date of a dear friend of mine, someone I’ve known since high school. This year April 9th took on an entire new meaning. That date would mark the first of two surgeries that I would need to keep the dreaded word, cancer, at bay.

Shortly before April 9th, I was diagnosed with a type of oral carcinoma that had settled in my tongue. Three doctors teased me about discontinuing chewing tobacco, thinking they were funny. But I guess that is what usually triggers this sort of thing. In my case, we’re still trying to figure out the culprit. I do have an autoimmune condition (Lupus) which can cause all kinds of adventures. And a genetic wild card—my paternal grandmother suffered from a type of oral cancer. Regardless, something I thought was just an annoying canker sore, morphed into a condition that was alarming.

As the doctor who would be performing the surgery explained the ins and outs of what I would be enduring, phrases like: “It may be difficult to speak.” “You may not be able to swallow for a while.” or “You may need speech therapy to restore these two abilities,” haunted me. Until they were in the middle of the actual surgery, they wouldn’t know how much of my tongue would need to be removed. So we told family members, friends, and neighbors what was going on, and asked for their prayers. We weren’t sure what else to do.

April 9th came all too quickly. My tongue was already sore from a biopsy that had taken place a few days before. If that was any indication of what was ahead for me, I wasn’t sure I wanted to go through with the surgery. And yet I knew my best chance to survive this ordeal, was to obediently submit to all that lay in store.

So on April 9th, we arrived in a timely fashion for surgery. And it wasn’t long before I was whisked away for the procedure.

As all of you know, in the middle of all of that, the Covid-19 virus was rearing its ugly head. Many precautions had to be taken before my surgery could take place, including a test to ensure that I didn’t have this disease. When my test came back negative, the surgery was scheduled.

Kennon was allowed to be with me on the 9th, but he had to remain in my designated hospital room until I could leave the hospital that day.

And because they didn’t want to keep me in the hospital any longer than was absolutely necessary because of the Covid risk, I was released to go home later that same day. In the words of my sons, “Leave it to Mom to develop cancer during a world-wide pandemic!”
In many ways, this adventure was like standing near a precipice. Far below lay a deep, scary canyon. Ahead was a tiny, swaying bridge that didn’t look very sturdy, and I was being asked to trust it to get me to the other side. I wasn’t sure I possessed the courage or stamina to do so. And then I was flooded with peace. I don’t know how else to describe it, but I knew it was a direct result of the numerous prayers that had been offered on my behalf. I’ve always known that prayer is a very real gift—it’s how we communicate with our Father in heaven. And I’ve known that prayer on behalf of others works—I’ve seen it before—but never in my life have I felt as carried as I was the day I had to cross that scary canyon alone. And yet, I wasn’t alone. I could literally feel the love of so many, and an assurance that no matter what, all would be well.

So, when the time came, and I was wheeled inside the surgical room, I slipped down from my gurney, and hopped up onto the surgical table, ready to face what was ahead. Shortly after that, the anesthesiologist did his job and the lights went out for me.

When I came around in recovery, I was relieved to still be in mortal mode. That is always a big risk for me—since I tend to throw blood clots. Yet another family gift. But all seemed to be well, aside from being unable to say much of anything. We were told that they had had to go deeper into my tongue than they had figured, but they had left my lymph nodes intact, thinking all was well.

After a bit of time, Kennon was permitted to take me home. And then the adventure truly began. Swallowing was not my friend. I had to really work to drink liquids, and for a few days, my diet consisted of mostly Gatorade, water, and milk shakes. Kennon did a fantastic job as my nursemaid, and I owe him big time for all that he did while I was recovering. Our sons and their wives and offspring also did a wonderful job of keeping my spirits up as well as providing answers to the questions we had about the medical world. And I appreciated my siblings who stepped forward to take care of our mother while I recuperated.

 My ability to talk was slightly impaired and as I’ve told people, for a couple of days, I sounded like a combination Julia Child/Cindy Brady.

I’ve always believed pride is a bad trait to possess, but that is what propelled me into a determination to improve my new voice. Not only had the left side of my tongue been carved on, but the stitches went down into my throat, indicating that a piece of it had been taken as well. We were just told that they had removed anything that looked suspicious. And the fact that I now had the worst sore throat of my life spoke silent volumes about what had taken place during the surgery.

It took me about two days to figure out that if I held my tongue at a different angle, I could talk quite normally. This took some practice, and at first, my tongue and I went the rounds over this new position, but as time went on, it became second nature to me and my ability to speak improved.

And something else took place that boosted my spirits. I currently serve in the Primary organization of our ward. Daily, we found cards and artwork created by the children of our ward. Eventually a scrapbook was dropped off to store all of these creations that are dear to my heart. I will be forever grateful to the leaders and children who took part in this endeavor—as well as to all of those who sent cards, flowers, etc. as we faced a daily battle of pain, healing, and hope.

My doctor soon called with the news that the pathology report revealed just how deep they had carved into my tongue, and because of that, I would need a second surgery to remove the lymph nodes in my neck. Somehow they had seen that at least 2 of them were enlarged, (possibly compliments of a recent CT scan) and they wanted to make sure that they had removed all of the cancer cells, fearing that some had strayed into the lymph nodes. And so, about a week after my first surgery, I found myself back in Logan for round two. Only this time, the restrictions in place against the Covid virus prevented my husband from coming with me into the hospital. He had to leave me curbside in the hands of a very capable, awesome nurse. Fortunately, we have family in the area (one of our sons and our daughter-in-law and their cute kids live fairly close to Logan) so my husband had somewhere to go while he waited. And this time, they were keeping me overnight—it would be a long time to just wait in the car. Most of the businesses in the area were closed—aside from drive-through restaurants and gas stations. I was relieved that Kennon could just stay with our kids.

As it turned out, I had some of the same surgical nurses that day that had been part of my tongue adventure. They were stunned by how well I could already talk. One of the nurses told me that the doctor had written in my chart that it would be a long time before I would be able to communicate because of the first surgery. When he was told that I was talking already, he had to step inside my hospital room to see for himself. He was impressed. That’s when I reminded him that I possess stubborn Scotch blood that helps me through adventures like I was facing. I also had the comfort of a recent priesthood blessing (I was promised that I would recover quickly from all of this—good thing—my husband and I are currently serving as service missionaries/housing coordinators for the missionaries who serve in our valley), as well as the numerous prayers that were being offered on my behalf. Once again I felt total peace of heart as I faced surgery number two.

I was told that depending on what they found with this second surgery, I would possibly need radiation treatments to ensure that the cancer was gone. The thought of that made me feel a bit sick. As a Type 1 diabetic, I’ve learned that everything affects my blood sugar. It had already been bouncing a lot compliments of surgery number one. I was sure it would continue to do so as I healed. Learning that I might be facing radiation, too, was almost overwhelming. But once again, my heart filled with peace as I faced this second string bridge across a daunting canyon.

Surgery number two went well and I was later told that twenty lymph nodes had been removed. They had done a quick inspection of the last lymph node during the surgery and it was cancer free. But it wouldn’t be until the pathology report came in that we would know if any of the others contained cancer.

I was wheeled back to my room where I received excellent care from a very compassionate nursing staff. And I need to pay a tribute to these brave women and men who daily face the Covid virus. Most of my nurses bore war wounds from wearing protective gear—especially the masks over their faces. Their noses were nearly raw from this requirement. My heart went out to them—they are putting their lives on the line to help others through this trying time. I have two sons who are also on the front lines of this disease and it is a worry, and one of those things that I put in the Lord’s hands each day. We need to be forever grateful to the men and women who are courageously facing this battle.

I did well after my second surgery—it seemed like a piece of cake after what I had already endured after the first one. I made jokes with my nurses about various unfunny things, and I was told by one of them that my positive attitude would get me through all of this. I should admit that there might have been a time or two when I didn’t feel so upbeat, but for the most part—I have tried very hard to keep a positive spin on things. And it has worked, as we saw two major miracles take place.

The first I’ve already shared—I was able to speak quite well in a matter of days and without speech therapy. I invented my own therapy—with help from above. The second took place about a week after the second surgery. I’d had an appointment with my doctor for a surgery recheck, and removal of an uncomfortable drainage tube. However, the pathology report hadn’t come in yet. It was hinted that I would likely face radiation as a precaution. We left that appointment feeling a tiny bit worried over what lay ahead, so we headed to our kid’s abode, since “Grandpa” had promised that this “Grandma” would put in an appearance after she felt better. It was a much needed break in our routine. And it was while we were surrounded by family that we received the welcome news that my lymph nodes had been cancer free and I would not need radiation.

My doctor heard all of the cheering in the background from our kids and grandkids, and possibly myself, and he laughed, telling me that I had quite the cheerleaders in my life.

He’s right—I really do! Thank you to everyone who fasted, prayed or sent positive thoughts my way throughout this adventure. I continue to do very well! It has taken me a bit to regain my strength, but that is improving daily. I know this battle isn’t completely over yet—I will be making monthly visits to my doctor for at least a year to make sure the cancer doesn’t return. But I know I’m still here for a reason, and I plan to make the most of my time in mortal mode.

Having this adventure in the middle of this world-wide pandemic has helped me keep things in perspective. I still feel peace—I know that as we place ourselves in the Lord’s hands, miracles can take place. I also know that we will be watched over and guided as we face the days ahead. We aren’t crossing this scary canyon alone—there are those who are at our side, some unseen, who continue to love us and help us through this perilous journey we call mortal mode. And someday, we will reach the other side as we take things step by step across the bridge of faith.




Friday, March 27, 2020

Dispelling the Fearful Fog



I believe most of you would agree that we live in an interesting time. So much is going on, it’s often difficult to know what to focus on. One emotion that seems rampant during this current world-wide pandemic is fear. I see it on the faces of people I pass in grocery stores as they frantically search for needed items. I see it in the faces of experts on TV who think they know all about the financial world. And I see it in the faces of political leaders who worry about the future.

For the most part, I feel a sense of peace and a calming comfort. I’ve been asked by some why that is. My mother and I even discussed it a couple of days ago. I suspect it’s due in part because of other events we have survived in our lives—difficult trials that brought us to our knees. Foremost among them would be the tragic suicide death of my father years ago. Our entire world shattered in one day, and everything changed.

I experienced a similar change when we learned that I was a Type 1 diabetic, and I knew that for me, life would never be the same.

With the birth of each child, I faced a myriad of health challenges, and during my final pregnancy there were moments when it looked as though my unborn infant son and I might not make it. My blood pressure plummeted in a dangerous fashion, and my husband thought for certain all was lost. When I survived, and our son was later delivered healthy and alive, my doctor cried, held that precious boy out for all to see, and proclaimed his birth a miracle.

On another dark night, our entire valley experienced a loss of lives that would impact every community in our rural county. Once again hearts were shattered and some of us wondered how we would ever go on. Would we ever smile again and actually mean it?

I also remember a night that seemed so black, I thought for certain I would never survive. Heartbreaking news tore at my very soul and I silently cried out to our Father in heaven for solace. Solace came in such a dramatic fashion, I’ve never forgotten that experience. For several precious seconds, I felt as though the Savior was right there with me, an image of His loving face was impressed upon me, and the following words were seared into my heart: “Ye shall find comfort in me.” From that moment on, I knew I would be able to endure, and all would eventually be well.

I could go on and on, but I think I’ve made my point. Each one of us has survived hard things. We are stronger than we think we are. And we are never as alone as we sometimes believe.

A couple of mornings ago, I had an interesting experience. It was one of those character-building moments that I filed away in my heart, knowing that when I had the time, I would write something about it—it seems to be what I do.

We had been enduring several wintry storms in our valley, on top of the current health crisis that our world is facing. It wasn’t lifting anyone’s mood, and for those of us with arthritis, we’re beginning to feel like human pretzels.

On the morning in question, I needed to drive into town, four miles away, to pick up my mother. I am her primary care-taker, and we’ve been understandably trying to keep her safe and well during this Corona Virus scare. As such, my mother keeps a very low profile, but I do bring her out to our house a couple of times a week to give her a break from her apartment, and to help her with things like her laundry.

As I gazed outside, I wasn’t amused to see that it was a foggy mess. The fog was so thick, we couldn’t see our mailbox that sits across the road from our house. My husband expressed his concern over my plans to drive into town that morning. I felt certain I would be fine and I figured the fog wouldn’t be as thick when I made it down to the main road that led into nearby Montpelier. I was wrong.

The fog was thick everywhere. I made it safely to the main road, then paused in a state of indecision. I couldn’t tell if anything was coming either way. Highway 30 in our neck of the woods is a major thoroughfare. Truckers use it all the time to transfer goods throughout the area, and to reach other communities. Usually, during foggy conditions, you can see lights coming that reveal trucks or cars are traveling through. But not on that morning. On that morning, the thick fog shrouded everything in a blanket of mist. You couldn’t see headlights until they were nearly on top of you.

I offered a silent prayer, begging for guidance, for help to find my way safely to my destination. When I opened my eyes, again, all I could see was thick fog. But I felt a calm assurance that I was safe to pull out onto the road. Gathering my courage, I did just that, and I was fine. I didn’t travel as fast as I normally do, because of the limited visibility, and when I reached a road we call the 8th street exit, I signaled, not that anyone could see me, and turned off onto a route I knew was a safer option that morning. This road leads into the heart of Montpelier and I use it quite often when the weather is less than great in our area. It has a slower speed limit, and semi trucks don’t usually use it.

I continued on my way and gradually the fog began to thin until I could finally see where I was going. This was a vast improvement. By the time I reached Montpelier, the fog was dissipating. At first I wondered why. As I approached the town, the answer became very clear—the sun was making an appearance. As its bright light moved through the clouds, the fog lifted and I could see things very clearly. Breathing a sigh of relief, I drove safely to the apartment complex where my mother currently lives.

As the sun continued to shine, spreading warmth and light, I was hit with a major analogy. (No groaning—it’s what I do.) We all face dark times in our lives, moments when the fog of fear and despair clouds our sight. Discouragement fills our souls as we struggle to know which way to go. Our faith is truly tested when we struggle to move forward, uncertain of what lies ahead.

Lehi saw this uncertain path in a dream he recorded in the Book of Mormon. This inspired prophet shared that the only way to move forward through the mists of darkness was to cling to the iron rod. Only then could people find their way to the tree of life, or the love of God. (See Nephi 8:19-24; 11:25)

I can truly testify that when the need is great, our Savior is right there beside us, helping us to find our way through the mists of darkness that often cloud our path in life. His light can shine through the darkest night when we think all is lost. The warmth of His love cuts through the fog of despair and grief, helping us to find our way. And whenever we feel the need for comfort or guidance, we have but to pray, and to search the scriptures for answers. Those are my “go-tos” as a dear friend calls it, whenever life has been a challenge.

I keep a very worn triple combination close during foggy moments in my life. I have marked so many scriptures on those sacred pages, that it appears the entire book is marked. I have taken it with me when I travel, and it has helped me survive many dark nights. It has a sticker on the front. I placed it there the night my mother nearly passed away in a large hospital in Salt Lake following a major surgery. It simply says: “ER Visitor,” and it is stamped with the date, Sept. 29, 2005. I keep it there as a reminder of yet another trial we endured and survived.

The pages of this book not only contain scriptures that are comforting to me, but also notes of encouragement I have received through the years, as well as tiny artwork treasures made by my grandkids. Someday, it may be a precious keepsake for my posterity. I truly hope it will be. And I hope that during their dark days, my children and grandchildren will pause to reflect on the comfort this book can offer.

We can do hard things! We will survive the days ahead, no matter what they may bring. The Sun will eventually appear and disperse the dark mists of fear that cloud our vision, and we will grow and learn from this experience as we go on, knowing there will be brighter days in store.






Monday, November 4, 2019

Falling into Gratitude




Hi all. So I’m sitting here, wide awake, still adjusting to the time change, staring at a blank computer screen. I keep feeling like there’s something I’m supposed to be sharing in a blog post . . . but I’m not sure what that is. I guess I’ll ramble for a minute and see what takes shape.



It has been an interesting past few months. I’m sure everyone else can relate. We had a cold, looonng winter, not much of a spring, two months of summer, and an extremely short fall, and yep, back to winter. Sigh . . . joys of living in a mountain valley. We usually enjoy three months of summer, but that was not the case this year. As I recall, we built a fire for warmth on June 22nd for an outside social, and still froze. It really didn’t start getting warm until July. So I’m a bit peeved that winter surfaced in our neck of the woods long before Halloween. Most uncool . . . actually, it has been very cool, pun intended.



And is it me, or does time keep picking up speed these days. It seems like it was just a few weeks ago that we were huddling around a campfire trying to stay warm the end of June, and now we’re entering that interesting time of year when most stores, etc. skip from Halloween to Christmas, jumping over my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving!



I love Thanksgiving!!! I love getting together with loved ones, cooking up a storm, and pondering the blessings that have come into our lives. So I still stubbornly decorate for Thanksgiving right after Halloween as my way of protesting. Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas, too, but I think it’s sad that Thanksgiving gets lost in the shuffle.



And this year, despite a myriad of challenges, there are many things that I am thankful for. I am grateful that for once I was able to grow not one, but two pumpkins in my short-lived garden, something that has never happened before. We used to try growing them when our boys were young, but the plants always froze. This year I cheated and bought actual plants instead of seeds, figuring it was the only way I would harvest anything this year with our two month summer. And it worked . . . after my first plantings all froze and I had to start over. Good times.



I’m grateful that my husband and I survived being in charge of not just one, but three reunions this year. Whew, no wonder the summer was a bit of a blur.



I appreciated the time we were able to spend with our kids and grandkids just recently in South Dakota, and throughout the year at family gatherings, reunions, camping trips, etc. Those are the things that matter most. My family means everything to me, and I’m hoping that one day, we will manage to get everyone together at the same time. Shush . . . one can dream.



I also treasure the time I was able to spend with a dear friend that we lost not too long ago. I miss her gentle smile, but I will always remember her courage, positive attitude, and compassion for others as she faced the tremendous challenge of Lou Gehrig's Disease.



And I am so grateful for friends who help me maintain my sanity during these crazy times! You all know who you are and you are all very much loved and appreciated!!!



I am grateful for the beautiful world in which we live. True, some places might seem a bit more scenic than others (this said after surviving 2 jaunts through the Wyoming desert recently) but even in the desert, there are wonders to behold.



I’m thankful our youngest son and his awesome wife survived med school, and all that that entails. They were able to move to South Dakota for his residency after his graduation this year, and things are falling into place. I’m grateful that our others sons currently both have wonderful opportunities to embrace that will help them achieve the goals they have with their own chosen careers in dietetics, and cyber security. All three sons have come in handy with the sage advice they offer as their father and I blunder through life. And we will be forever grateful to our wonderful daughters-in-law for all that they do, and for patiently hanging in there as our sons pursue lofty goals.



I think I mentioned something about this earlier, but it warrants more attention: I am beyond grateful for each and every one of my grandchildren. They are the light of my life! And the plaque one gifted daughter-in-law made for me that hangs in our living room is true: “Grandchildren are God’s reward for not killing your children!” We love the time we get to spend with these precious gifts from heaven, and look forward to future adventures.

I'm also extremely grateful for a husband who is supportive to all of us, and goes out of his way to help everyone around him.  

And I need to add how much I appreciate my awesomely talented siblings who have always been there for me. We've walked a difficult path together and it has bonded us in ways we're still figuring out. I'm also grateful for their respective spouses, and their families who all hold a special place in my heart.  

Also on my list of blessings are all of my in-laws on my hubby's side of the family tree. They have all played important roles in our lives.



And though I may cuss it a lot on occasion, especially during stormy times when Rheumatoid Arthritis tends to rear its ugly head, I am still grateful for a body that functions . . . most of the time. There is the occasional blood sugar glitch compliments of Type 1 diabetes, but I am able to do most of the things that I desire.



I’m also grateful for the chance I currently have to be my mother’s primary care-taker. Her health has steadily declined the past couple of years and there have been some challenges, but her determined spirit continues to amaze and astound doctors, nurses, and myself. She experienced a slight stroke in January, and has fought her way back. She is still living in her own apartment and I check on her daily to help with varied needs. Her perseverance is a wonderful example to us all.



So . . . in short, though this year has been filled with challenges, it has also been filled with wonderful people and experiences. And this Thanksgiving, as we gather together with precious loved ones, I will have a lengthy list of blessings to be extremely grateful for. And I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels that way. ;) [This is a hint. Start pondering your own list . . . just sayin’--it does make you feel better about things when life appears to inhale, like early snow, for instance.]




Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Braving the Trail


Salu! It has been a looooonnnngggg time since I composed a blog post. In my defense, life has been a blur the past few months. Weddings, graduations, reunions (we were only in charge of 3 this year), camping adventures . . . and unfortunately, funerals, have occupied our time. In short, we have not been bored. I’m sure most of you could say the same.

In recent days, I have mourned the loss of a dear friend who faced her Goliath of a health challenge (Lou Gerhrig’s Disease) with courage and grace. She will be missed greatly by anyone who knew her. And though our hearts are aching, we are grateful she is no longer suffering. And we know that someday, we’ll see Deb again.

I was appreciative that shortly after her passing, I was able to spend time in the nearby mountains with family members who helped me absorb the pain in my heart. And on one of our adventures, I was taught an important lesson that has helped me regain perspective. I’m hoping to share this now for any who might also need a small boost along life’s journey.

Each year our family spends time together in the mountains, enjoying each other’s company and feeling the healing peace that is there. We usually spend some time looking for fossils. This has become a fascinating family hobby that we enjoy together. This year we decided to hike back into the famed trilobite bed that lies up a local canyon. We have made this journey before and though it is a long, hot hike in and out, we’ve always found trilobite treasures that take the sting out of the ordeal.

This year, we decided instead of walking in on the fairly easy path that lies out in the hot sun, we would take the other trail that descends through a forested mountain, thinking the shade would be an easier way to go.

My husband and I rode in on our trusty RZR to where the trail begins down the mountainside. As we waited for the others who were walking in the entire way, we did some explorations. My husband selected a path on the right side, and I chose one on the left, trying to figure out which one would be better for our grandchildren to use. I hiked in several yards, then came back to where the RZR was parked to wait for everyone else. Just a few short minutes later, the rest of our group showed up, with one exception. Our son had decided to take his three-year-old in on the lower, hot and dusty trail, figuring it would be easier for her.

My husband still hadn’t returned to the RZR. What I didn’t know at that time was that he had already descended down to the fossil bed and was waiting for everyone else to arrive. So as the rest of our bunch decided to head down, I waited by the RZR for Kennon. A few minutes later, I was very glad that I was there. My five-year-old granddaughter softly called to me, “Grandma, I need your help.”

I looked up and saw that my granddaughter was on her way to where I was, looking quite distraught. “Oh, Grandma, I couldn’t keep up.” Nearly in tears, she was in need of comfort and encouragement. I assured her that all would be well and that I would help her make that difficult journey. This granddaughter takes after me somewhat in the height challenged department and is not very tall. Her short legs couldn’t keep up with the older kids who had hurried down the trail. The adults in the lead hadn’t caught on that this young lady was missing yet, but I knew they would eventually. So, hand in hand, my tiny granddaughter and I began what proved to be an arduous climb down that mountain.

I could quickly see why my granddaughter had panicked. There was a lot of tree-fall all along that trail. At one point we ran into 4 large trees that had fallen on top of each other. We had no choice but to walk down to where the tip of the trees lay on the ground, a place where we could finally straddle the trees and climb over. I was able to lift my granddaughter up and over that set of trees, and each succeeding log or tree that blocked our path. Together we faced spider webs (we both hate spiders), ants, and places where the trail seemed to disappear as we carefully made our way down that steep mountain. When we began to see that we were nearing the ravine where the fossil bed lies, we began hollering, hoping someone would hear us. We knew that by now they were aware that two of us were missing and we wanted to let them know that we were ok. Winded, scratched, and bruised in places, but fine nevertheless.

Eventually, my husband heard us. He had come back up to search for us, figuring we were somewhere along the path. When I assured him that we were ok, but taking our time on the trail, he went to share the news with everyone else that all was well.

Not long after that, we emerged above the fossil bed, and made our way to where everyone else was waiting. It was a joyful reunion as most had been concerned about the missing five-year-old, and her diabetic grandmother. We had survived that journey together, realizing that we had needed each other to make it through.

And that is the lesson I learned that day. We were never meant to make life’s often difficult journey alone. We are blessed with family members and friends who can help us along when the path ahead seems daunting. We will all face challenges that will stretch us beyond what we think we can endure—having others at our side helps us to survive and make it through.

Myself, I tend to be the eternal two-year-old: “Do it myself!” seems to be my theme. But I am learning that there are times when it’s too difficult to do things alone. How grateful I am for those who willingly wade in after me . . . and for the times when I am given the opportunity to do so for others. And to me, that’s what life is all about.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Life-lines


I know it has been a while since I last composed a blog post. Life seems to be a blur these days as we journey from one adventure to another. And everywhere we look, people are being stretched in a myriad of ways. There are so many trials and heartaches. The world does indeed seem to be in commotion and our hearts are being filled with fear, as the scriptures have predicted.

Despite all of that, there can be peace. It is found in the small and simple things we have been repeatedly asked to do. These things are so simple, we sometimes turn our backs to them, thinking there is no way we can find solace in what many consider to be old-fashioned nonsense. Many cling to scientific discoveries or worldly views, thinking that is where truth will be found. And yet, their hearts are still filled with a gnawing emptiness as they continue to turn away from the only source of comfort.

In this world, we all have to find our own way to comforting peace. Sadly, we sometimes don’t search for that path until our lives lie in ruins. When we find ourselves broken, overwhelmed, and discouraged, that is often when we realize that an important aspect is missing.

One of my grandfathers owned a dairy. He milked cows most of his adult life. My mother often relates how wonderful it was to walk out to the milking parlor where her father was sitting on a stool, milking one of his cows. In her tiny hand was a tin cup. She would hopefully hold out that cup, knowing her father would fill it for her. In that way, she gained desired nourishment, comfort, and joy.

There are several analogies we can create from that small and simple thing. The first one that comes to mind is that for my grandfather to be able to fill his daughter’s empty cup, he had to be steadfast and solid himself. If he hadn’t been anchored on a strong foundation, the cup would remain empty, and the life-giving substance would go to waste.

So we begin with the foundation: in this case a sturdy, 3-legged stool. A 2-legged stool is too wobbly—all three legs are very much needed for solid balance. To my way of thinking we all are in need of a sturdy, 3-legged foundation. To survive in today’s crazy world we need prayer, testimony, and faith. Those are the 3 legs that will hold us up, despite heart-rending trials.

I look back over my life and I know that whenever I have faced hard things, prayer has been a crucial life-line. I have endured numerous health glitches, some so scary I wondered if I would survive. My heart has been repeatedly shattered by horrific loss, and yet comfort has been attained. I have agonized over choices made by loved ones—but peace descends when I need it most. All of that has come through sincere prayer. The answers don’t always surface at once, but every prayer is heard, and eventually answered by a loving Father in heaven.

There is an argument that if you can’t see something, it doesn’t exist. Fortunately, we were blessed with more than one sense. My mother is losing her eyesight. She depends on her ability to hear, touch, and smell to orient herself. For her, prayer is a needed lifeline. It has held her together through countless trials.

I feel the same way. Prayer has guided my course through life and provided peace when I’ve needed it most. When we humble ourselves enough to truly talk to our Father in heaven, amazing things take place. I have seen too many miracles to ever doubt that prayer is real. Prayer is one leg of our sure foundation.

Testimony is another crucial leg of our foundation. Without it, we pretty much are blown about by whatever wind comes into our lives. When we sincerely crave to know what is true and what this life is all about, then we seek a genuine knowledge. It comes in a myriad of ways: experience, education, and what our heart tells us is right. I found it through savoring the scriptures. It doesn’t come through skimming through them—but through diligent study . . . and prayer. One leg helps to hold up another. To achieve the desired balance, we must rely on each leg of our stool.

The final leg: faith. We have to believe in what we come to know is truth. We have to push our way through darkened paths to find light and joy. It’s not easy. I have found myself broken on life’s path, overwhelmed by inner pain. I have gazed at the sky and seen only clouds—it’s easy to forget that beyond them lie the stars.

I have shared this experience before, but I feel impressed to share it again:

A few weeks ago, I had been feeling quite discouraged. I think we all experience times like that in our lives, times when we wonder why life has to be so challenging. I don't feel that way all of the time, but for some reason, at that particular instance, despair seemed to creep into my heart. One night when everyone else in my family had gone to bed, I wandered outside. Sometimes listening to the night sounds brings comfort and so I sat on the porch and listened for a bit. I remember silently praying, asking why I was feeling this way. The thought came to mind, "There is still beauty in the world." I agreed, but still wanted to know why things seemed so bleak. I had been having some challenging health problems and at that time, there were several trials taking place with some of my extended family members. As I wondered why everything had to be so hard, I stood and glanced up at the sky. It was one of those star-filled nights--the entire sky was lit up with stars. Again the thought came to mind, "There is still beauty in the world." As I gazed at the stars, I noticed that clouds were moving in. This is something that has probably occurred millions of times, but for once, I was watching as it happened. Within minutes, every star was covered. As I stared at the sky, I was so amazed by how quickly the clouds had moved in. Another thought came to mind, "Are the stars still there?" With that thought came the peace I had been seeking. Other thoughts came, "Is the Church still true? Does your Heavenly Father love you? Did your elder Brother lay His life down for you? Are all of these things true despite the discouragement, despite the challenges, the heartaches, the pains of life? Are the stars still there?"
The lesson I was taught that night has been such a comfort. Every time I start feeling a little down, it comes to mind: "Are the stars still there?"
To make a long story short, [I wrote] a song based on that theme . . . Here are the lyrics:

                                 Are The Stars Still There?
By: Cheri J. Crane

1st:
Dark were my thoughts--all around were storms of heartache and strife
All those tests that sometimes just go with life
Mountains that seemed too steep to climb.
I walked outside--to clear my head and ask my Father, "Why?"
My inner peace had dissolved for a time
Where was the faith that was mine?

Chorus:
Staring at the star-filled sky--my heart revealed its inner cry
"Father, if You're listening help me know the reason why."
A thousand tiny twinkling lights were covered, hidden from my sight
Grey clouds veiling light that once had shone so bright.
Darkness seemed to fill the night as every star was veiled from sight
Yet peace crept in my heart and comfort eased the black despair
As the question came, "My child, my child--Are the stars still there?"

2nd:
Now when dark thoughts come and some nights seem too long
I remember the words of this song
When everything seems to go wrong
The answer to my prayer--the night I struggled with despair
The night my Father heard my silent prayer
And reminded me the stars are always there.

Chorus:
Our Father's love is always there--through layers of grief and care
Hope is shining brightly through the clouds of dark despair
A thousand tiny twinkling lights--though covered, hidden from our sight
Grey clouds veiling light that once had shone so bright.
Though darkness seems to fill the night--And every star is veiled from sight
Peace and love seep through to ease the black despair--
Remember the question--"My child, are the stars still there?"

Faith, testimony, & prayer—these are the legs for our much-needed foundation. They are lifelines in today’s’ crazy world. For any who are struggling through life’s journey, these are the things that will help us survive. They will help us find a balance that is crucial. And once we establish our own balance, then we can help fill the cups that others hold out to us.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Piecing Life Together



Salu! Yes, I know, it has been a long time since I’ve attempted to compose a blog post. Life happened, and then happened some more. Part of the adventures were wonderful, like the birth of our youngest grandson 3 months ago. Some of the adventures were not so wonderful, and others tore at our hearts. In short—life picked up speed and dragged me along for the ride.

I did learn some things along the way: for example, it’s never good to tuck things away and tamp it all down inside. Yep, I’m one of those kind of people. Something happens, it rips my heart out, and I tend to tamp down the pain and move on. I’ve done this so often, you would think that I would realize that this is a really, really bad plan.

This tendency always ends in disaster. Instead of sorting through and dealing with a painful situation, I tuck things away until the dam finally bursts, and all of those emotions come pouring out despite a valiant effort to stifle the flood.  Good times.

Actually, it’s not . . . and it has taken me months to clean up the mess. Thankfully with our Father in heaven’s help, and the patient encouragement of a close friend, I was able to do just that. I will be eternally grateful for her willingness to wade in after me.

I tend to be quite independent. My parents told me that I came that way. I suspect that many of us are the same way. We do our best to tackle extremely difficult challenges on our own. It’s kind of a pride thing, which I understand isn’t a great attribute to have. Despite our stubbornness and determination to handle trials as best we can, the truth is, we were never meant to walk those difficult pathways alone. We have to learn that there are times when we need help—whether it’s as simple as praying for guidance, or accepting a hand that reaches down to pull us back onto the path.

I’ve looked back over the past few months and it has been a journey of healing. I think Someone decided that I had tamped down the emotions from a particular trial for far too long, and it was time to lance the wound. That pain came pouring out like puzzle pieces. I examined each one and with a friend’s help, was able to piece that picture back together.

The upside is that I’m feeling peace (for the most part—this is latter-day mode, after all. There are still a plethora of adventures taking place everywhere . . . but I digress) and I’m no longer feeling numb. I’m sure it’s all part of the grieving process we go through when facing a traumatic challenge. And because we’re all different, we heal at different times and in different ways.

For me, I had reached a point where I needed to clean up my “inner house.” Sadly, it took a tragic loss to break through the brick wall I had carefully constructed around my heart. But it needed to happen, and now I feel an inner strength that wasn’t there before. The scripture: “ . . . because thou has seen thy weakness thou shalt be made strong . . .” (Ether 12:37) has taken on a whole new meaning for me. So has the following poem that I composed in 1992:

Pieces of Life

Carefully the pieces are sorted

Some have edges that are easy to fit

Others seem cut

h

  a         z a r

    p h a         d

l

  y

Making it difficult to discover their destination

And yet . . .

They are all a part of the final picture

There is a purpose for the design

Patiently you continue

Until it becomes obvious

Why the pieces

Were given their assigned shapes

The completed picture testifies of their importance

Their absence leaves a void unfilled

Their presence lends a sense of unity

Stepping back . . .

We realize we’re ready

For the next challenge—

May we remember the lessons of the one before.

Cheri J. Crane

So the good news is, I’m back. (I guess we consider that good news.) ;) I’ve learned a lot the past few months and while it was not my idea of a fun time, I do see the wisdom in taking time to sort through the pieces of our lives when our mortal journey hits the fan. Life is so crazy/busy these days that sometimes we don’t realize how important that process is, especially when we’re dealing with heart wounds.

One last thought: our Savior truly does understand the pain we endure in this life. He knows what is the best thing to help us heal if we will only swallow our pride, and turn to Him. This holiday season, we tend to reflect more upon His life and all that He willingly did for us. We give gifts to each other to emulate the gifts given to the Savior upon His birth. What a wonderful thing if we will strive to give a gift to the Savior during this Christmas season. Whatever we give is strictly up to us—whether it’s a pledge to do better—be kinder—more forgiving—etc. I don’t think it matters as long we do so with real intent and do our best to pay tribute to His life and His willingness to sacrifice all things on our behalf.












Monday, August 6, 2018

A Time of the Triple T's



I know . . . it has been a while since I’ve composed a blog post. I apologize. As with many of you, my life has been a blur for months. It seems to keep picking up speed, and I find myself hanging on for the ride. Sometimes by my fingertips, but I am hanging on.

I remember hearing a seminary or religion teacher in college (BYU-Idaho/Ricks) state that in the latter days, life will be so crazy we won’t have time to dwell on all of the negative things taking place all around us. In the words of my sons when they were quite young: “Are we there yet?”

I am trying to remember that despite all of the turmoil, tribulation, and trials (Yes, it is a time of the triple T’s) there are good things taking place, as well. I have tried to pause for a moment each day to appreciate the beauty that exists in our world. I love nature (as is evident from some of the pictures I share) and I know this world was created for us by a loving Father. I’m sure He hopes that during difficult times, we will take a moment to reflect on how much He loves us, and find peace in His creations.

Myself, I am drawn to water. I’m sure that is due in part to the fact that I grew up around bodies of water. For nearly 9 years we lived on a small acreage that was across the road from Snake River. There were times when I would sit on a large rock and watch as the water hurried on its way. I noticed even then that I experienced a sense of peace as I sat and reflected on what was taking place in my life at that time.

In Ashton, my beloved hometown—the place where I attended high school—made eternal friendships—and gained a testimony, I found another place of peace. It’s known to most people as Mesa Falls. It has changed through the years. A wooden walkway now keeps everyone safe. My mother would probably cringe to know that on difficult days during my teenhood, I would often sit on a rock next to where the water plunges down below and ponder life’s mysteries. It was one of my refuges from the storms of my life at that time. I would sometimes stick my hand in the water and feel the powerful current as it pushed forward, despite the obstacles in its path. It gave me hope.

Here in Bear Lake, there are several places where I can go fill my spiritual bucket when it is beyond empty. I think we all need places of refuge in our lives, especially when life hits the fan, so to speak. The mountains, the forest, & obviously: the lake, have all provided peace when I’ve needed it the most.

Also, I always feel peace inside the temple. It doesn’t matter which temple—we do have a selection these days. Inside that sacred sanctuary I can push the world aside with all of its worries and cares, and take time to ponder what really matters.

My home is also a sanctuary of sorts. I love it when I can find a moment or two to quietly reflect on the challenges currently taking place. I think private meditation is crucial these days. I keep a favorite triple combination close at hand for those occasions. The scriptures have always provided comfort during difficult times, as well as personal prayer. These items are lifelines on this journey in mortal mode.

I will also be eternally grateful for dear friends who kindly help me sort through the puzzles life throws our way on occasion. We were never meant to wander through this life alone. For someone like me who tends to live by the two-year-old adage: “Do it myself!” it is a humbling experience to realize that is not always the best thing.

So, I guess what I’m trying to say is during these turbulent latter days, it is so important to take the time to fill our spiritual buckets. Life happens, and to borrow a quote I recently shared during a talk I had to give in church not long ago:
“The arrival of a typhoon is no time to dust off the gift of the Holy Ghost and figure out how to use it . . . We need the Holy Spirit as our guide in calm waters so His voice will be unmistakable to us in the fiercest storm.” (“Take the Holy Spirit as Your Guide,” by Elder Larry Y. Wilson, May 2018 Ensign—pg.76)

Fierce storms come. I’ve lived through several in my life—and this current year is no exception. When our hearts are shredded, it is a difficult thing to find peace—to find the courage to keep putting one foot in front of the other as we make our way forward, past obstacles that often tear our hearts out. How grateful I am for the guidance that comes in many forms, and often from those around us who are walking a similar path.

The key is to never give up. Even on days when all seems lost. On those days especially, we need to hold on with everything we can as typhoon strength winds come into our lives. Eventually, those storms will pass and it is possible to pick up the pieces of our lives and continue on. It takes time, patience, and faith, but it can be done. And again, bless those who take the time to help when they see we are struggling. They are often the answer to our prayers, and instruments in the Lord’s hands when we need it most. And how wonderful it is, when we can return the favor.