Saturday, April 30, 2011

Beauty Is Truly in the Eye of the Beholder

A few years ago I stood on a small hillside overlooking a field below. To the casual observer, there wasn’t anything special about this place. To me, it is a site of historical significance, a place of peace and solace where unexpected healing can transpire.

I had been there once before, ten years earlier. At that time, our family had traveled with close friends. As we exited our cars, most of us experienced a sense of profound reverence. Even our children were whispering as we walked around. My oldest son later told me it was like being in the temple. I tend to concur with that opinion. 

While there, two close friends and I wandered into the trees on the small hillside. It was a pain-filled day for one of us—it marked the birthday of a beloved daughter who had passed away a few months before. As our friend quietly grieved for her daughter, a beautiful young woman who would have been fifteen, we walked in silence, yearning for comfort.

We had brought along a small vase containing flowers that were originally meant for an ancestor’s grave. Two of us share a common lineage and we had planned to leave that vase of silk flowers on a grandmother’s grave in Nauvoo. To our sad shock, we learned that her grave was among those lost when mobbers ruined the old cemetery. And so we brought that vase of flowers with us as we wandered into the heart of Adam-Ondi-Ahman.

It didn’t take us long to find a beautiful place to leave the vase—a tribute to our friend’s daughter. As we stood together, gazing down at the flowers, a peaceful love eased our heavy hearts. Somehow we knew life would go on, despite the pain of that time. It was the first ray of hope to brighten that dismal day.

When we eventually walked out to where our families were waiting, the three of us passed by a young couple. They were glaring around as if puzzled. Both were shabbily dressed, and the young man held a can of beer in his hand. “What’s so special about this place?” he growled as we walked past. It was like a slap in the face after the spiritual boost we had experienced in that same location.

The three of us later talked about that day and we decided that so much of what we encounter in life depends on our mindset. If we are prepared to embrace truth and beauty, we will find it. If our expectations are lower, we will find that, too.

Ten years later as I stood on that same hillside, seeking solace for a silent grief I carried, I felt very much alone. I was the only one who wanted to be there that day. Everyone else thought stopping in this out of the way location was a waste of time. While my traveling companions stood around, discussing the plainness of the area, I slipped off alone.

Once again prayers were answered and the peace I had been seeking was granted. That spiritual experience would carry me through several darkened days that were ahead. I will be forever grateful for the vision of hope that slipped into my heart to sustain me when the need was great.

It was a witness to me of the importance of faith . . . and attitude. Those two items truly make a difference in how we see the world. We could be standing in the most beautiful spot in existence, but if our minds and hearts aren’t open, we will miss what is there. Do we see the beauty, or do we focus on the flaws? I suspect those questions are of eternal significance, when all is said and done.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Exciting New Book!

I've heard it said that desperation is the mother of all invention. This often happens in my own life when I'm in the middle of creating delicious cuisine for supper and realize I'm missing some of the key ingredients. =) Since it's more than a hop, skip, or a jump to the nearest store, I usually come up with a different way to tackle the meal in question.

I suspect we've all experienced moments in our lives when we've faced a challenging problem and had to think of a way to handle it in a creative fashion. Like last year at girls' camp when the girls from my ward invented a way to keep the food tent upright. It looked something like this:

What you can't see is the heavy rock they tied to one end of a rope to balance the weight of the tent. They threw it up into the pine tree, using a limb to hold the rope in place. And it worked! True ingenuity! =)

Three sisters that I know used a combination of meditation, prayer, and inspiration to come up with a solution to a dilemma they faced. Their mother had suffered from ill health for quite some time. She was unable to speak and though her mind was sharp until her death, her inability to express her needs was extremely frustrating to everyone involved. Susan, Jean, and Trudy often agonized over how they could help their mother and did their best to serve as translators for the hospital staff until their mother passed from this mortal world.

Susan's husband was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease shortly after these three sisters lost their mother. Once again this family was faced with the problem of being able to communicate with a loved one. Toward the end of Clayton's life, it was nearly impossible for him to express his needs to the hospital staff. In Jean's own words: "No patient should have to suffer such frustration in trying to express simple needs."

She began praying for answers and eventually, some ideas came to mind. She envisioned a small book with simple sentences that corresponded to brightly colored icons. The patient could point to the icons to communicate with hospital staff, family, or friends.

Jean shared her ideas with her sisters, and soon the three of them began working together to create this book. Trudy is a gifted artist and she began coming up with ideas for the icons. Susan and Jean spent hours constructing simple sentences that would help most patients convey their needs or concerns. When it was finished, they used the proto-type with Clayton and were amazed by how well it worked.

Most hospitals have flash cards that are used when patients struggle to communicate. The problem with the cards is the time it takes to find the right one. With this book, the patient can quickly locate the icon that represents his or her concern. It has been used with numerous patients and all have expressed how helpful it has been in situations where communication is limited.

When Susan, Jean, and Trudy saw how well their proto-type worked, they decided to get this helpful tool published. It is now available for purchase on this link:   Communication for the Cognizant Nonverbal Patient This sixteen page book has the potential to help most patients who struggle with communication. I've been impressed with its ability to help those who cannot express themselves.

In recent months, one of my Laurels (yes, I'm still serving as the fearless leader for the YW in our ward) was seriously injured in a car accident. She was comatose for a time, and when she finally regained consciousness, she was unable to speak. Susan is her aunt and she loaned the proto-type of this book to her niece and her family. It proved to be an invaluable resource, providing a way for my Laurel to speak with a different voice until hers was restored. 

I predict this little book will help countless lives. I am convinced that Jean, Susan, and Trudy were inspired to create it. For less than what you would pay for three gallons of gas, you can have a book on hand that may help a member of your family to maintain dignity and peace of mind. 

If you are interested in learning more, click on  My Companion Voice Blog or go to Facebook and visit My Companion Voice.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Conference . . . in General

I love it when Conference weekend rolls around! It's more than the fact that I have a weekend off from all of the normal meetings that go along with my current calling (YW President). Though I also love lounging around in comfort at home with cool nibblies (my definition of tasty snacks) as I savor each talk, it's more than that, too.

I take lots of notes. Tons of notes. Someday when I'm dead and gone, my children will grimace when faced with the task of sorting through their mother's notes. I suspect they'll all get filed in the infamous "g" container and hauled off to the local dump. =)

For me, it's comforting to record bits and pieces of wisdom and peace that I glean from each talk. I write down impressions that come to mind, and scriptures that are shared. The latter item mentioned has become a bit more involved since most of the speakers no longer share the references. But I use a few key words to find those scriptures in the topical guide of my trusty quad.

I use tiny notebooks to record my infamous notes. Not only are they easy to haul around, but I can fit two or three in my scripture bag for later perusal. I'm planning on keeping this current notebook in my purse. There are days when I need those words of comfort and advice. Times when I need reminded of the peace I felt when a certain scripture was shared. I like having those items handy when I need them the most.

Here are some of the favorite thoughts I've gleaned this past week. This includes the talks given during the General YW broadcast:

"Make the Savior the center of our lives."

"Everyone is our neighbor!"

"Do a Samaritan-like act this week!"

"We do not run alone in this great race of life."

"Children are the key to helping us become like our Savior."

"The way we treat others reflects our devotion to the Savior."

"No pain we suffer is wasted."

"Angels sustain us during difficult times."

"LDS women are incredible!"

"Have I done any good in the world today?"

"We are often sent wake-up calls."

"The husband is the head of the family--the wife is the heart."

"Fear should not displace faith."

"Desires dictate our lives."

Etc. and so forth. As you can see, this is already quite a lengthy list and I barely scratched the surface of what I recorded. =) I also have a new favorite scripture: Hebrews 12:11. I didn't even have it marked in my set of scriptures---until yesterday. This scripture talks about trials, and the fact that we don't enjoy those challenges when they surface in our lives, but we always gain from those experiences.

Wow---I can't even put into words the insights I've gleaned from all of these inspired talks. As Elder Jeffery Holland stated yesterday, these messages are for us. They will help us survive the trying days ahead. They will bring comfort and peace, and nudges concerning the areas where we need improvement. Armed with their power, we can thrive during these interesting latter days.