Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween & Make Room for Thanksgiving!

Cool, I get to blog on yet another holiday. Halloween has always been one of my favorites. As a child, it meant getting to wear a fun costume, and going trick-or-treating--I.E. getting that important yearly stash of candy. ;) It also meant the beginning of the holiday season. Even as a child, I understood that once Halloween had come and gone, the traditional turkey day, Thanksgiving, was just around the corner, and then the all-important event, Christmas!!! It was indeed a fun time of year.

As an adult, I can truthfully say that I still enjoy this time of year. Fall has always been one of my favorite seasons. It's not too hot (especially when it snows early on) and the trees are gorgeous in the nearby canyons. Plus as the holidays approach, one by one, I get to decorate for each occasion, and fix fun food.

My oldest son came home over the weekend and he was pleased to see that despite the craziness of my life at the moment, I had still managed to decorate the house for Halloween. True, my decorations possibly fall into the "sappy" category (I tend to go for humor and light-hearted fun, not the morbid stuff that is also available for Halloween decor) but that's how I like it.

Tomorrow, I'll take down the Halloween decorations, and put up all of my Thanksgiving ornamentation. Thanksgiving is also an important family holiday for our clan, since some of our ancestors were there for that famed first gathering between the Pilgrims and Native Americans. (We actually have ancestors from both sides of the table.)

I only have one complaint this time of year---have you noticed how Thanksgiving gets crowded out of things these days? In the stores you can see that it's already going from Halloween to Christmas. It makes me want to drag out my little blue stool I use to work on the garden, stand upon it, and protest--"WHAT ABOUT THANKSGIVING?!!!" I was raised with an understanding that this time of year, following the harvest, etc. it's important to offer gratitude for the blessings in our lives. Thanksgiving in our clan has always been of greater importance than Halloween, and almost as wonderful as Christmas.

True, during these stressful times, when most families are being hit with so many challenges, it can be difficult, coming up with a list of items to be grateful for, but I believe that an attitude of gratitude is crucial to survive the days ahead. I suspect during that first Thanksgiving, hearts were fairly tender. My 11th great-grandmother (Elizabeth Tilley) was no doubt still grieving over the loss of her parents after that first, disastrous winter in the new Pilgrim colony. Her mother perished in 1620, and her father passed away a couple of months later during the January of 1621. I'm sure it was a difficult thing for fourteen-year-old newly orphaned Elizabeth to sit down to a small feast that celebrated life and harvest during the fall of 1621, and yet, she did. She later married another Pilgrim survivor, John Howland, and together they raised a large family that included my 10th great-great grandmother, Hope Howland. I'm sure this young lady was aptly named. ;)

So as Halloween activities wind down after tonight, let's all take a moment to consider the blessings in our lives. Make room between Halloween and Christmas for Thanksgiving. Today's wordly wisdom would have us skip over this important celebration of gratitude. Perhaps if more of us protested this trend, our nation would notice that Thanksgiving is much more than another chance to feast. It is a time of year when we need to extend our gratitude to the One who makes everything possible in our lives.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Hope Smiling Brightly

It would be an understatement to say that life is crazy right now, filled with challenges and heartaches for so many people. Everywhere I look I see neighbors, friends, and family members bravely facing uphill battles as they strive to continue forward on their journey through life.

The trials faced vary: scary health conditions, financial worries, the loss of loved ones, family distress, and in some instances, overwhelming schedules that seem impossible to maintain. The adversary is also pulling out all of the stops to destroy self-esteem, marriages, and families. We are truly living in the latter-days and the war for souls is raging all around us in an intense manner that can fill the bravest hearts with fear and despair.

These days I'm often reminded of a scene from one of my favorite books, "The Return of the King," by J.R.R. Tolkien. Towards the end of the story, all seems lost. Death and mayhem are taking place everywhere as the battle between good and evil rages. As the fight continues, it becomes apparent that the forces for good are dwindling, and yet the survivors cling to the hope that they will triumph, despite overwhelming odds. The way is being paved for the return of the king, who will restore all that has been lost. Keeping that goal in mind, one by one, the main characters of this book push on, refusing to give up, despite the wounds sustained.

One brave small hobbit named Frodo feels as if he holds the fate of the world in his tiny hands. He risks everything that he is to push forward toward a goal that terrifies him, and yet, he knows that is the only way to banish the evil foe that threatens all he holds dear. It takes everything he can do to press on, and he reaches a point where he feels as though he can't take one more step. That is when his trusted friend, Sam, practically carries him up that final mountain. There Frodo battles with himself and finally achieves his goal, his courageous stance halting the adversary in his tracks.

It is my belief that we are all doing our best to climb the terrifying mountains that lie before us. We are not making that climb alone. Loved ones from the other side of the veil are cheering us on, every step of the way. When we stumble, neighbors, friends, and family members walk at our side, helping us to continue on. And when it all becomes too much, we are carried by the One who walked that pathway before us.

The other day as I silently grieved for all that a dear friend is currently facing, the following lyrics popped into my head:

When dark clouds of trouble hang o'er us, and threaten our peace to destroy,
There is hope smiling brightly before us, and we know that deliverance is nigh--

It took me a few minutes to figure out which hymn those inspired words came from. These lyrics are from the second verse of hymn # 19, "We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet." The inspired message of that sacred hymn brought a ray of hope into my life, filling my heart with a sense of comforting peace.

It is true: we are led by a prophet of God. If we will heed his counsel, we will not fail. Though our challenges today seem overpowering, we can continue forward with hope in our hearts. We were all saved for this current day for a reason. Our Father knew we possessed the talents, courage, and fortitude that would be necessary to succeed. Step by step, we will triumph, even when the battle rages all around. Through hope, faith, and charity, we will place the armor of God upon us, courageously facing the challenges that come into our lives during this mortal journey. Bear in mind we are paving the way for the return of our King, when all will be restored, and sorrowing tears will be dried. Until that day comes, look for the good. Do those things that will inspire peace of heart and mind, knowing our focus shouldn't rest upon the many wounds we've sustained along the way--how well we embraced hope when all seemed lost is what will matter most.

Monday, October 3, 2011

A Temple in Star Valley, Wyoming!

I think I'm still in shock over the announcement that was made during the Saturday morning LDS Conference session. I was listening closely to President Monson as my husband and I were traveling to spend the weekend with loved ones in Utah. I smiled over each new temple site that was mentioned. In my opinion, our prophet saved the best news for last: a temple is to be built in Star Valley, Wyoming!!!

Star Valley has been like a second home for me since childhood. My mother grew up in Star Valley, which is only about 45 miles away from my current home. I spent many summers staying with my grandparents in this magical place. My mother has often commented through the years that returning to Star Valley is like recharging one's internal batteries. I totally agree. This beautiful area is such a peaceful place, surrounded by forest laden mountains, beautiful lakes and streams, and filled with down-to-earth people who work hard and play hard.

When I heard the news, I called my mother, who was doing the dance of joy in her living room. She had been listening to this same conference session and was so excited. She had never envisioned an LDS Temple in her former stomping grounds. She can hardly wait to attend the future dedication for this soon-to-be wonder.

Very soon after I talked to my mother about this news, I called my daughter-in -law, who also happens to hail from Star Valley. She was just as excited as my mother and I were over this announcement. She had just talked to her mother, who still lives in the area and told me that her mother was so happy she was crying over the news.

The closest temple to the Star Valley region lies in Idaho Falls, Idaho. That is where all of the temple ordinances have taken place for my mother's side of the family tree. To know that one will now be built in the Star Valley region is a dream come true, and the first temple to be built in the wonderful state of Wyoming!

Star Valley is part of the 7 stake region in our current neck of the woods. So for my husband and I, having a temple in Star Valley will be a wonderful thing. The closest temple for us lies in Logan, Utah, which is approximately 70 miles away. As I mentioned earlier, this new temple will be about 45 miles away, cutting the distance traveled by those in our area.

I will probably be doing the dance of joy started by my mother for quite some time. It still doesn't seem real, and probably won't until we see the spires of this future edifice. =) What a wonderful time we live in, despite all of the challenges! These new temples that are being built will affect many lives for the better. Numerous blessings will take place as a result of these inspired decisions--truly a sign that we are loved and watched over in more ways than any of us can imagine!