Christmas has always meant different things to different people. As others have so eloquently shared, it is a time of sharing and making fun memories as we celebrate the birth of our Savior. Annual traditions are important, and it tickles me to see some of our family traditions being passed on in my children's families--like our much anticipated Christmas Eve dinner. A tradition that started in my maternal grandmother's family has been passed down through the generations. We fix seafood dishes, and fun finger foods for everyone to enjoy. My maternal great-grandmother was from Scotland, and a love of seafood has been passed onto her posterity. Christmas Eve became a special time of sharing food that was hard to come by in the small Wyoming farming community where my great-grandmother raised her family. She would be happy to know that this tradition is very much alive and well in our clan. This year, however, it has been more of a struggle to feel the Christmas Spirit. So many of the people I know and love are struggling with difficult trials. My heart goes out to all of them, and I pray daily that somehow, we'll all make it through these trying latter days. For example, tomorrow there is a funeral in my husband's family. A cousin has passed away after bravely facing a debilitating illness. We learned yesterday, that a dear friend of my mother's passed away after falling and breaking a hip. Two good friends of mine were recently released from the hospital after enduring challenging surgeries. Others are facing financial setbacks, life-threatening health issues, and all kinds of icky trials that I wouldn't wish on anyone. For some, it really doesn't seem like Christmas this year. And yet . . . if we understand what this time of year means, it should be a season of peace, regardless of what we're facing. (Note to self: pay attention to this message. I was feeling less than peace yesterday.) The birth of our Savior brought hope into the world. His arrival meant that eventually, all of us would be able to return and live with our Father in heaven--thanks to the overwhelming sacrifice our Elder Brother would be making on our behalf. He paved the way so families can be reunited when this life is through--something that can bring comfort to those who have lost loved ones. His example showed us how we are supposed to treat each other while in mortal mode. It would truly be a much better world if we all followed the precedent He set. He also gave us the precious gift of peace. "And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:7) To me, this means that when we are going through heartbreaking moments, we need to remember that we're not alone. The precious gift of peace can be ours, if we so choose--a gift freely given by our Elder Brother. In my own life, when heartache has descended, the gift of the Comforter has eased that inner pain. "I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you . . . Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." (John 14:18; 27) I have found this to be very true, and inner peace is treasured gift I seek on a regular basis. How do we discover this gift when our hearts are on the floor, feeling stomped on by life? It truly is the simple things that open the door to peace. Acts of service seem to help the most. Whenever I'm having an extremely bad day, even though I'm not in a great frame of mind, I have found that when I do something for someone else, even if it's just a phone call to check on them, it eases the pain I feel inside. Going for a walk to clear my head is also helpful. Eventually I spot something that reminds me of the beauty of this world, and the great gift it is to us. An attitude of gratitude inspires peace. Searching the scriptures has also brought a ton of peace into my life. I can't tell you how many times I have turned to scriptures that have given me a feeling of hope when I've needed it the most. Prayer. Plain and simple, heartfelt prayer. I always rise from my knees feeling better than I did when I first knelt down. Those are the main things that help me through when life throws a curve-ball at my midsection. I still get caught off guard periodically, like the inspiring song that cracked through my fragile walls of defense yesterday (music always manages to pierce through to my heart--in part because it has been such a huge part of my life) but when I follow my formula, I can usually pick myself up, dust myself off, and continue on with peace in my heart, compliments of our Savior. So this year, as Christmas arrives, pause a moment to consider what the birth of our Savior actually means. Ponder the numerous ways our Elder Brother has touched our lives, and remember that the best gifts are those that come from the heart. One final scripture that has inspired peace in my life: "We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed . . . For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts . . ." (2 Cor. 4:8-9; 6) MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!
I was all set to write a blog post this morning, when the phone rang. The news was not good at all. In fact it was terrible news, and not a great way to start the day. I'm currently serving in a brand new Relief Society presidency (I taught my final teen Sunday School class last week) and we're still trying to get the hang of things. Today reminds me of a story a friend once told me about how he learned to swim. An older brother threw him into the lake and it was either sink or swim. Today is one of those days. I suddenly find myself submerged in the middle of a deep lake of emotion and I'm doing my best to attempt a weak form of dog paddle. My head is above the water--barely--but there is hope. That is what comes to mind this morning. There is always hope, no matter how dark the storm around us might seem. I've probably touched on this theme before, but it seems to be an important thing to remember these days. I believe the adversary is pulling out all of the stops, doing his best to fill hearts with discouragement and despair. How do we counter that tendency? This is a subject I'm all too familiar with. My entire family felt like we were dropped off in the middle of an ocean of pain when my father died. None of us knew how to swim through the intense emotions of losing a loved one to suicide, but with God's help, we all found a way to do just that. In the beginning, we learned to take life one day at a time. Sometimes we had to break that down into smaller increments, and coped minute by minute, or hour by hour. It was a basic survival strategy, but it worked. My mother would start her day by thinking, "All I have to do right now, is to get into the shower." Then after that it was, "Now I just have to get dressed." Followed by: "I should probably eat something for breakfast," so on and so forth. And eventually, the difficult day passed by, then the difficult week, month, year, etc. The advice a beloved bishop told us truly was a life-saver: "Keep busy!" At first, we looked at him and furrowed our collective brows, but there was wisdom in that counsel. Keeping busy helped us get through extremely difficult days. For example, my mother went back to school and earned a degree as a dental assistant. Her busy days of schooling, and then working in a dental office kept her going. We all found varying ways to follow her example. I stumbled onto the fact that each time I did an act of service for someone else, it chipped away at the the pain I carried inside my heart. It was like a soothing balm. So on really bad days, I looked for ways to help other people, and it helped to get me through that grieving process. And on the nights I couldn't sleep, I would grab some paper and write out everything I was feeling. Then I shredded those pages into the garbage. I didn't know it, but I found out later on that this is an important form of healing therapy. When my brother majored in psychology in college, he learned that this is a major way to work through a traumatic incident. It also helped to get together on holidays, and keep things light. One year we basically did an impromptu karaoke concert, dressing up to make fun of the silly songs we selected. We filmed most of our performances that day and that tape has been the source of multiple laughs through the years. We learned that there were items we had to avoid for a while. For a long time, I couldn't deal with Father's Day programs, music, or talks. The days I tried to endure such things, usually led to crying sessions in the women's restroom, and a massive headache. So on those days, we sometimes gathered as a family (there is strength in numbers) or went for a scenic drive. Eventually that day became easier to tolerate--I even spoke in church on that day a few years later and it was okay. But at first, when the emotional wounds are raw, we don't have to dump salt into them. I'm a water person, (ironically) and on bad days, it often helped to simply sit beside a calming creek, river, lake, waterfall, etc. and let the sound of the water soothe my inner pain. I would often make silent mental lists of the good things happening in my life to counter the ugly pain that often surfaced as I sat, doing my best to relax. This form of calming meditation always worked to help me survive. Physical activity was also important. I would often go for long walks, or get together with a good friend to play racquetball. Activities like these helped to release the angry frustration that goes along with this healing process. I took out the anger I was feeling on that racquetball, or burned it out by walking briskly in the fresh air.It always helped to clear out the mental cobwebs that were forming. I also had to realize that tears were another important release when dealing with an intense grieving process. I hate crying. It makes my nose run, usually gives me a headache, and makes my eyelids look all puffy. But it serves a purpose. It helps to release some of those intense emotions--it's a safety vent, like on my pressure cooker. That inner steam has to flush out to help us work through the healing process. Tears are an important part of that process. I learned the hard way that keeping everything tucked deep inside is just asking for trouble. Eventually, those tears would come, usually in a public format which was less than desirable, at least for me. I'd rather do my crying in the privacy of my home, not out in front of everybody. ;) Something a good friend is fond of saying, also comes to mind: "Just keep swimming." Or in other words, never give up! We all have icky days on occasion. It seems to be part of the test of this life. I have found that on those really bad days, it is important to just keep pushing through, knowing that the following day will be better. Because I grew up in a musical family, songs would often pop into mind that sometimes gave me the strength to keep putting one foot in front of the other. One in particular, sung by Maureen McGovern, was a favorite boost (The Morning After): There's got to be a morning after If we can hold on through the night We have a chance to find the sunshine Let's keep on lookin' for the light Oh, can't you see the morning after It's waiting right outside the storm Why don't we cross the bridge together And find a place that's safe and warm It's not too late, we should be giving Only with love can we climb It's not too late, not while we're living Let's put our hands out in time There's got to be a morning after We're moving closer to the shore I know we'll be there by tomorrow And we'll escape the darkness We won't be searchin' any more
The words to that song, and others, would often pop into my head, lending a much needed emotional balm, just when I needed it most.Was it all coincidence, I don't think so. That's something else to remember, we're never as alone as we sometimes think we are. Heavenly help is all around us, on both sides of the veil. We saw too many miracles in my family to ever think we were on our own. Too many things fell into place for us to ever doubt that we are watched over and helped when we needed it most. So . . . when we find ourselves flung into deep water--instead of flailing about in a panicked state, or sinking to the bottom, simply take a deep breath (of air) and strive to keep swimming. Eventually we'll reach the shore of peace that we each are seeking. The important thing is to never give up.
This entire month my teen Sunday School class has been learning about the importance of becoming self-reliant. Yesterday's lesson was all about making important decisions--you know--those life-altering moments when we stand at the crossroads and strive to determine what is the best path. College, mission, marriage, career, family . . . little choices like that--those items that eventually determine who we will become. We all face those crossroads at multiple times in our lives. And the decisions continue. It's part of the test we call mortal life.
It's interesting how those plans change on occasion. For instance, at one point in my life, I pondered becoming a professional ice skater. One year for Christmas, my entire family received ice skates as gifts from Santa. We were thrilled. A lovely pond existed not far behind our home, and we spent many hours enjoying our new pastime. For someone who is not very gifted with grace, I found that I could balance and glide with ease with my new skates. (Amazing, eh? You would've had to see it to believe it.) I believe I was about ten years old at the time. My parents told me I was a natural and of course my confidence grew. I practiced and watched ice skating competitions that were broadcast on TV, thinking I had found my niche in life. Then disaster struck. It happened at school one day. For some unknown reason, an ice skating pond had been developed in the middle of the school yard that year. I hadn't brought my skates to school yet, still keeping my secret new love close to my heart. That was something I enjoyed after school, when I returned home.
On the day in question, I was walking along the side of the pond, daydreaming about my future plans, when I heard a teacher holler, "Hey (I can't remember the boy's name) _______, grab Cheri's hand and swing her around on the ice." In this teacher's defense, I'm sure he thought he was doing me a huge favor by helping to pull me out of the shell of shyness that I often retreated into as a child. He meant well, but his suggestion turned into a horrific event in my life.
The boy he had hollered at obediently ran over to where I was standing in shock, grabbed my hand, and pulled me out onto the ice. I was quite small for my age and this rather tall boy was able to swing me around without any problem, until I hit a bad spot in the ice. Needless to say, because of the momentum, I went flying through the air. I'm sure it was spectacular to watch . . . until I landed hard on my face on the ice. That's all I remember. When I came to in the school infirmary, people were running and shouting, and my head felt like it had connected with a brick wall. After things came back into focus, I caught on that the blurry red stuff that was all over the place, was coming from my nose.
My mother was called, and by the time she arrived, it had pretty well been decided that my nose was broken. My new coat was ruined, and I endured a horrible headache that lasted nearly a week.
I didn't ice skate much after that incident. I tried, but memory of my very bad day at school surfaced, and the tiny bit of confidence that I had been developing, slowly faded away. Falling became an every day event on the pond, and after a while, my ice skates mostly hung in my closet, tucked out of sight.
Life is like that. We believe we have things all figured out, and then an unexpected explosion changes everything, like an unwanted health diagnosis, the death of a loved one, unemployment challenges, so on and so forth. We are left standing at the edge of an icy pond, questioning what's really important.
I think that's why it's crucial to have a sure foundation in place. That's what helps us survive the glitches in our lives. If we've already made the decision to find out who we are, why we're here, and where we're going, we can survive those unexpected bumps in the ice, even if we feel slightly broken for a while. In time we heal, and take baby steps back out onto the ice, until we're ready to glide about with ease. The trick is to never give up, despite the difficulties that arise.
I wish now that I had persevered with the ice skating adventure. I seriously doubt that path would've eventually led to a professional career, but it might have remained a favorite pastime. The old adage, "get back in the saddle," is something to consider when dealing with unexpected challenges . . . unless it is applied to riding Shetland ponies. Then my grandfather's advice is possibly more on the mark: "Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, throw a dirt clod at the naughty pony, and walk back to the house with your head held high." ;)
We all have a comfort zone. It's where we feel loved, accepted, and safe. However, life very rarely lets us stay there. I'm thinking that's part of why we're in mortal mode--it's a challenge we actually thought was a good idea during a certain council meeting we all attended before Earth life began. Because of the decision we made during that time, we are continually presented with situations that force us forward. As such, it probably doesn't behoove us to throw ourselves when change arrives in our lives. (But we tend to do it anyway, eh?) It takes a certain amount of courage to tamp down our nervousness, and do our best to embrace those growing experiences when they come. I'll admit there are moments (like this past week) when I've been tempted to run screaming the other direction. To borrow a phrase from Cap'n Hook, that is considered "bad form." This past week, I was sustained in a calling that terrifies me. A lot. I'm totally being pulled out of my comfort zone of working with the youth--and find myself serving adult women. Gulp! I suppose this means that I have to grow up now. ;) It helps that I won't be facing this challenging time alone--I'll be serving with some wonderful women who are already doing a fantastic job. But there are still moments when a bit of fear gnaws at my heart and I tremble as I ponder some of the stretching that will now take place in my life. (Did I mention, GULP?!) I've been thinking a lot about other times in my life when courage was required. For instance, when I was about nine years old, one of my great challenges involved a feisty rooster. We lived on a small acreage and possessed several animals, including chickens. One of my assigned chores was to gather the eggs each day. I loved finding the eggs--it was like a treasure hunt as I searched the creative places our hens tended to use in the chicken coop--instead of the nice nesting boxes my parents had constructed. I hated that each day I had to face a mean rooster we had named, Doodle. Doodle was a rooster with an attitude problem. He felt it was his duty in life to attack anyone who dared to invade the chicken coop. He was particularly gifted at utilizing the large spurs on his strong legs to share his displeasure each afternoon. I caught on that it was a good idea to enlist the help of my younger brother with this task. He would stamp around the outside of the fenced chicken yard until Doodle ran out to accept this obvious challenge to his manhood. I would race inside the chicken coop and slide a board over the opening that led out into the yard, effectively locking the rooster out of the coop. Then I could gather the eggs in peace. This system worked well--my first adventure with teamwork. But there were days when my brother couldn't help me. Then I had to come up with a different plan. One day when I came back to the house bleeding and eggless from one of my daily battles with Doodle, my mother gave me some good advice--speak not so softly and carry a big stick. I didn't like this option as well, but I found that when the ox was in the mire--or Doodle was on the rampage and I had to face him on my own, I could smack him upside his head with the stick and while he wandered around trying to regain his fetchies, I could quickly gather the eggs and leave before he realized what was going on. It took a lot of courage on my part to tackle this version of handling Doodle. When he came charging at me, my instinct for survival kicked in and it was tempting to run the other way screaming. Instead, I had to stand my ground--and bravely face the oncoming fury, praying for help as I wielded my small wooden sword. We're all facing battles of epic proportions in today's crazy world. It requires a lot of courage to stand our ground, and not give way to the fiery attacks of the adversary. He loves to inspire fear and discouragement anyway that he possibly can. It's up to us to figure out a way to avoid the pitfalls he leaves in our path, and to continue on with our journey, leaving our comfort zones behind. How wonderful that we don't have to make these journeys alone--that we are blessed with the help of others who can bolster us along the way, giving us the added strength we need. Someday, when we look back on the lives we led in mortal mode, I think it will be those times when we left our comfort zones that will mean the most to us. We will look to those occasions and smile, knowing those were the moments that inspired the most growth, helping us to become who we are meant to be.
P.S. Before I wrote this post, I woke up with Hymn # 243 going
through my head. Its title: "Let Us All Press On." ;) Check out the
lyrics when you get the chance.
For some reason I've been thinking a lot about some of my pioneer ancestors lately. Possibly in part because I've been tackling a bit of family history work. I think it's a wonderful thing to do when life seems a little overwhelming. Sometimes it helps to look at our ancestors and see how they handled some of the stresses in their lives. True, their trials were of a different nature and time, but tough times are tough times regardless of when they occur. The emotions are the same: disappointment, heartache, and grief are experienced by one and all. Ponder, for example, how Adam and Eve must have felt when Cain slew Able. That had to have been a difficult time. And yet, we read nothing that indicates they threw in the towel, and said, "That's it! This is too hard!" Instead, they lived on, had other children, and did the best they could under challenging circumstances. I think that's all any one of us can do, when tribulation enters our lives. We all get knocked flat from time to time by various trials. The true heroes are the ones who quietly pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and continue on their way. One of my ancestors, my 10th great-grandfather (John Howland) fell off the Mayflower. (This is where we suspect we inherited our klutz gene, but I digress.) It would've been easy for him to have panicked and decide that was it--life was over. Instead, he fought desperately to survive. He managed to grab one of the halyard ropes hanging off the back of the ship, and he held on for dear life until some of the other passengers noticed his plight. He was hauled aboard, and fought off the ravages of a severe cold. He also managed to survive that first, ugly winter in the Plymouth colony, during which time, several people perished from illness and lack of food. John Howland managed to live through all of that, and he eventually married another survivor, Elizabeth Tilley. Both of Elizabeth's parents died during the first winter in that settlement, but she endured, and went on to help her husband raise a large family. (I descended through their daughter, aptly named: Hope.) Keturah Lunn Broadbent, was expecting a child when she crossed the plains in a handcart company during the 1800's. One day as they crossed the Nebraska plain, she didn't feel very good. During a brief lunch break, she wandered off and sat under the only tree visible for miles. The pioneer company didn't realize she was missing, and started back on their journey west. Meanwhile, my 2nd great-grandmother went into labor all by herself. Eventually, a passing Native American saw her plight and helped deliver the baby, a strapping boy she later named, Orson. This wasn't the way she had envisioned giving birth, but she got through all of that, and the new friend who had helped her, rode after the pioneer company to let them know that she had been left behind. I could go on and on . . . but I won't. ;) I think you get the idea. This life wasn't meant to be a smooth and easy journey. It was to be filled with challenging trials that would stretch us to the limit of what we think we can endure. Looking back over my own life, there are things I have experienced that I would never want to wade through again . . . like the suicide death of my father . . . barely surviving my first pregnancy that was filled with complications . . . the severe illness I endured before finally getting diagnosed as a Type 1 diabetic, etc. and so forth. Though I wouldn't want to relive those events, they are the things that have helped to shape me into who I am today. From the lessons learned during my own school of hard knocks, I have learned patience, empathy, tolerance, and the fact that no matter what life throws my way, I can survive if I will follow the courageous example of my ancestors, and keep moving forward. An interesting sense of humor has been passed down through our family line. I know it helps us to cope when challenging moments come. I've always believed that laughter is truly the best medicine. There are times when hard trials surface and it seems like you will never smile again. But I have found, even during those difficult days, the Comforter helps us find a way back to the sunlight. Someday, our example will be discussed by our posterity. Hopefully we will have left a legacy that will inspire faith, a smile, and the courage to continue on. We may think that we are the only ones affected by the choices we make, but we're not. Others will come along who will look to us for guidance in dealing with the challenges they will face. May our lives reflect the image of hope they will need.
In this day and age it seems like there are numerous cases of cancer of varying kinds being discovered with increasing frequency. Though we are often saddened by the number of people who are affected by this ravaging illness, it isn't until cancer strikes one of our own that we take a personal interest. For me, cancer was that dreaded "c" word that had taken the lives of distant aunts and uncles. Then several years ago it claimed the life of one of my grandmothers, striking a more personal blow. Since that time, I have stood helplessly by as others, just as near and dear to my heart, have struggled bravely against this debilitating disease. As mentioned, it comes in a variety of forms, targeting different part of the body. All of it is nasty and heartbreaking. Some win their battle against it--I've known friends who courageously underwent painful surgical procedures, and then endured the supreme discomfort of chemo and radiation, and have successfully gone on with their lives. There are family members who have also faced this harrowing gauntlet and come out the other side, cancer-free. In recent days, my mother's sister struggled through this process and is currently recuperating at home under the care of loved ones. We've been amazed at her tenacity and applaud her determined spirit. Then there are others who fought just as bravely, like one of my sister-in-laws. She fought harder than anyone I know against tremendous odds, doing daily battle with glioblastoma--a vicious form of brain cancer. Though her attitude remained positive right up until the end, she lost the final battle. She had lasted longer than most--living a year after the initial diagnosis. We lost her in February of 2013. Her courageous example holds a tender place in all of our hearts. A few days ago, I was asked to blog about another kind of cancer, mesothelioma. I was hesitant, at first, but then decided that if it would help others who are facing this kind of illness, or maybe even provide information that would prevent people from suffering from this disease, it would be worth it to share some details. Not long ago, the father of a good friend, passed from this mortal existence from this form of cancer. We suspect it may have also had something to do with the premature death of my father-in-law. As most of you know, this type of cancer is preventable. It is caused from exposure to asbestos, which used to be utilized as a form of insulation. It was found in industrial work places, some homes, and older buildings. It was also used to build ships, in railroad infrastructure, and in power plants. The reason it is so hard to treat, is that it is a very durable product and once someone's lungs become contaminated, it causes untold damage. It often lodges in the outer lining of the lungs, also called the mesothelium. Workers exposed to asbestos had no idea at the time that they were breathing in these damaging fibers. And they weren't the only victims. Often their spouses and children were exposed when these workers returned home; the fibers were on their clothing, hair, and person.
Here is a link to an extensive list of items that were contaminated by asbestos: Asbestos Products Fortunately, the EPA and the Consumer Product Safety Commission took a stand against the production of asbestos in 1989, regulating this dangerous product. Sadly, for many people, the damage was already done. But the good news is that there is treatment available (Mesothelioma Treatment ) and people are winning the fight against this disease. ( Mesothelioma Survivor ) Here are the symptoms to watch for: lower back pain, side chest pain, shortness of breath, difficulty swallowing, persistent cough, fever, weight loss, or fatigue. The disease is characterized by a lengthy latency period--the average length of time between exposure and the development of the cancer is often 35-40 years. The scary thing is by the time this illness is diagnosed, it's often in a progressed state. You can read more about that on this link: ( Mesothelioma Symptoms ). So just a heads up--if you suspect that you, or someone you love may have been exposed to asbestos, go get things checked out. It may just save your life, or the life of someone you love.
I have many favorite scriptures. So many, I've started to organize them into groups. One such group is entitled: "Cheer." This may seem like an odd title for scriptures, but to me, it makes perfect sense. There are some days when I need to be reminded that it's important to be cheerful . . . or full of cheer. This is often a difficult challenge during these lovely latter days. There are days when I feel like shouting: "There is no sunshine in my soul today!!!" That's usually when an annoying snatch of a hymn, or a snippet of a scripture, or an inspiring thought from a book I'm reading will strive to snag my attention. I'm ashamed to admit that there are days when I do my best to ignore those items. Sometimes I want to pout. I want to shake my fist at the cloud-filled sky and bask in self-pity mode. When bad things happen, the last thing we want to be told is that we're supposed to be a good sport about it. I suspect it's part of our very human nature to desire a moment to throw ourselves, burst into tears, or smack someone who has truly upset/annoyed/traumatized us. That's when I do my best to walk away for a brief time-out and I try to get my "fetchies" back about me. (It's a family saying. It's important to not lose one's fetchies.) I've learned, that for me, it often takes a combination of things to help me sort everything out and get back on track. A brisk walk in the fresh air, having a water moment (I'm a water person--sitting beside a gurgling brook, or an inspiring waterfall, a gorgeous lake, etc. soothes my spirit) or losing myself in a good, inspiring book, reading through a handful of my favorite scriptures, etc. This past weekend, a plethora of bad things hit the fan all at the same time. We did our best to survive the adventures, but I think by Sunday, we were sitting in a bit of shock, doing our best to keep our fetchies about us. Fortunately for me, I had been battening down my hatches without fully realizing that's what I was doing. I had felt impressed to pick up a certain book and begin reading it before the adventures started. The title, ironically, was: "If Life Were Easy, It Wouldn't Be Hard," by one of my favorite authors, Sheri Dew. I had actually read this thought from the pages of that book moments before a phone call that shared some rather bad news: "God never bestows upon His people, or upon an individual, superior blessings without a severe trial to prove them." (Brigham Young; Journal of Discourses, 3:206) After Sister Dew shared that thought, she mentioned that it would've been easy for the handcart pioneers to have turned back when things became a bit dicey--but they didn't. In her words: "They didn't turn back. And neither can we." Shortly after reading that passage in Sister Dew's book, and after doing my best to absorb the news that had been shared via the phone, a knock sounded at my door, sharing further bad news. Later, as I sat in a bit of dazed shock . . . my fetchies all a flutter, I turned to a favorite scripture, one of those I keep filed away under the heading, Cheer: "Wherefore, be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord an with you, and will stand by you . . ." (D. & C. 68:6) Taking comfort in that thought, I then rolled up my sleeves and did what I often do when tragic moments arrive and I'm not sure what to do to help . . . I bake. I made brownie cookies to share with loved ones who were having an extremely bad day. That task kept me distracted for a while, but I'll admit, my fetchies were threatening to bounce off the deep end again later that night. So I watched the talks from the General Women's Conference . . . and it helped me rein things in again. It seems to me that when challenging times descend, we are never left alone to wade through the deep waters of despair and grief. We are given tender mercies that help ease us through--even if we don't realize it at the time. Looking back, we can always see a pattern of help that emerged quietly--there to soothe us if we so choose. "In seasons of distress and grief, my soul has often found relief . . ." is extremely true. (Hymn # 142, Sweet Hour of Prayer). I've experienced this process too many times to doubt that it happens. There are no coincidences. We are prepared, helped, and comforted when we need it the most. All we have to do is to push away the human tendency to lose our fetchies, and humbly accept our Father's loving embrace. It comes in a variety of ways--those I've already listed, and others I haven't touched upon. Since we're all quite unique, how we experience spiritual solace varies. And, as with anything important, the adversary is right there to do his best to scatter our fetchies. It becomes quite a task to block his negativity, and to cling to the positive light that can shine in our lives if we so choose. Wherefore, we should be of good cheer . . . and not full of fear . . . for our Savior is near . . . to restate the scripture I shared a moment ago. This needs to be our mantra during these crazy latter days. We never know what lies in store, but we can rest assured we will always have the help we need to survive it.
I read that book when I was in about the 3rd or 4th grade and truly enjoyed it. The title attracted me, since I had endured several such days myself. I find it interesting that a movie is now surfacing based loosely on this small book. I will more than likely go see it, to compare notes, and to see how closely the script follows the storyline. ;)
That being said, I suffered through one of those horrible types of days last week. It was not my idea of a fun time. At all. When I woke up, my first hint that it would be a less-than-fun type of day surfaced. I did not feel well. But since this sometimes happens because of my interesting body (as some of you know, I an a Type 1 diabetic, blessed with a form of rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus. yay.) On the day in question, I chose to ignore the signs that all was not as it should have been, and continued with the plans we had made to journey to Logan and attend a temple session in that location.
There were moments that indicated this was not a good idea, but I ignored them, thinking I would eventually start feeling like a person. After all, that's part of my life a good deal of the time. I wake up feeling like the last chapter, start moving around, soak in the tub, stuff like that . . . and "ta da," I begin feeling better. I've learned that with the type of RA that I endure, I'm better off to hit the ground moving, and the sore joints loosen up. Soaking in a warm bath helps with that process.
My first clue that things were amiss on the day in question should have been the fact that as time went on, I felt worse, not better. The "ta da" factor didn't kick in. This was a bad sign.The nausea I woke up with continued, and I pondered the reason why it didn't go away. Arthritis pain can inspire such moments, as can bouncing blood sugar levels. Etc. Plus, I was planning to hit a temple session with my husband. I've learned that oftentimes, obstacles will surface to challenge me along the way. I usually persevere and eventually, things fall into place and I get along just fine. Except for this day. This day was going to be the exception to that rule.
It turned out to be the worst session that I've ever suffered through. (Emphasis on "ever!!!") I knew I was pathetically sick by the time we reached Logan. Still, I was determined to go through with our plans for the day, since I felt it was important. So I took something for nausea and prayed for help, figuring I had covered my bases. WRONG!!!
About 15 minutes into the session, I quickly caught on that I was less than well and this had not been a good idea. (Sigh . . . I know . . . sometimes it takes me a while to put things together. I was not the sharpest knife in the drawer that day.)
As I sat there in total misery, the following thoughts dawned on me:
1) I think I'm really sick.
2) Kennon claimed to have some type of food poisoning the night before--after we had consumed food from a local eatery . . . and I ate something similar. Totally uncool.
3) There was a nasty stomach bug going around . . . hmmmmm.
Regardless of the cause, I knew I was in trouble and had finally caught on that things weren't getting better--in fact the discomfort was growing worse.
Have you ever noticed that when you aren't feeling up to par, time slows down? A lot? That session proved to be the longest 2 hours of my life (at least it seemed like it.) I pondered my options, but they seemed rather limited. I didn't want to draw attention to myself, but wasn't sure my body understood that concept.
I found it difficult to concentrate, and broke out in a cold sweat as I did my best to survive that difficult time. Prayers for help were repeated silently as the discomfort I was experiencing grew worse. A scripture popped into my mind, one of my favorites that I had actually turned to earlier in the chapel, before the session began:
"My (daughter), peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; . . . thou are not yet as Job . . ."
(D. & C. 121:7-8; 10)
Actually, during that miserable moment, I felt a sort of kinship with Job. I felt certain he would have expressed empathy for what I was suffering that day. ;)
Then again, I realized that my temporary discomfort did not hold a candle to what Job, or Joseph Smith suffered long ago. That scripture did quite a bit to snap me out of self pity mode, and I continued to suffer in silence through that session until it was finally over and we could head home.
Later, as I lay on the couch in our living room and did my best not to die, I realized that despite everything, I really had been watched over that day. It could have been a lot worse. And even though I suffered a bit for about 3 days (we're thinking it was a nasty flu bug) I did eventually recover and continue on with things.
I believe we each experience terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days. Days of discomfort, grief, and pain. Those are indeed the times we are convinced that no one has ever suffered as we have. Sometimes it takes a while for us to realize that despite everything, there is One who does understand how we're feeling. Our Elder Brother experienced everything any of us would go through-- during His time in the Garden of Gethsemane. It is impossible for us to envision or comprehend how excruciating that challenge was for our Savior as He paid the price for our mistakes, and endured every pain we would ever suffer. He truly knows our hearts and He know how to help us through when we are wading through our own painful trials.
So when those terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days surface (and they will . . . it's part of this probationary time) remember that despite everything, we're never as alone as we sometimes think we are. Cling to the glimmer of hope offered to us by our Savior during our darkest moments. With His help, we will survive--and better days will come.
We’ve endured some fairly impressive storms the past
couple of weeks. Before one arrived, I received an alert on my cell phone,
compliments of a so-called “app” on my Droid. It hinted that a doozy of a storm
was due to arrive shortly. So we did all we could do to batten down the
hatches. The garbage container was wheeled into the garage because of the high
wind advisory. Windows were shut in the house, and in our vehicles, like the
truck and the camper, which were outside. We also warned family members,
neighbors, and friends that things were possibly going to get ugly. We figured
we had done the best we could to prepare, and then the skies grew dark. Beyond
dark. Scary dark in the middle of the afternoon. This led us to believe that
perhaps we were in for the tornado that had been predicted, a rare event in our
Not long after that, it began to rain, in what
looked like sheets of water. The temperature dropped, and it began to hail. It
wasn’t a light hail, like we normally see—it was a powerful hailstorm of epic
proportions. Plants were shredded, as hailstones the size of a dime fell from
the sky in a massive quantity. Crops were destroyed in this farming community.
Animals panicked. Our poor little cat was traumatized. She loudly cried for comfort and reassurance that all would eventually
It fell to me
to convince her to come out of her hiding place under the porch in our garage.
This took some intense coaxing, but finally, she came out and practically flew
into my arms for safety. It was all I could do to convince her that she would
survive, and that despite what she believed, the world had not come to an end.
I suspect that is part of the challenge of our day.
Many storms will come into our lives, some of epic proportions. There will be
moments when we’ll fearfully wonder if we will survive, especially when the
days are dark, and full of scary events. We may hide, certain of our impending
doom, as the adversary does his best to convince us that all is lost. It will
take a lot of faith to trust in our Savior, to come forward as He coaxes us out
of our hiding places and into His safe arms as He helps us weather the storm.
He knows our hearts and how best to help us heal from the destruction that may surface
in our lives. He will walk beside us until we are strong enough to walk on our
own, and He will lend us hope when we are certain there is none to be found.
He will expect us to prepare as best we can to face
the challenges that will come. That is something we’ve been warned about from
those who are called to alert us to the dangers that may lie ahead. It is up to
us to take the suggested precautions, and to do all we can to help others along
the way. Together, we can weather the crazy days ahead, relying on the One who
can bring light in the midst of any storm.
Are we really approaching the final days of summer? Doesn’t
it seem like it should still be about the first part of July or the last week
of June? Is it me, or did this summer fly by much too fast? Yesterday I asked
my teen Sunday School class when school would be starting and was informed that
it will resume in about 9 days. Wow!!! Then again, I think about everything
that has been packed into the past 4 weeks, and time has definitely been
marching on. In those 4 weeks, we attended my 35th (yikes!) high
school class reunion, I helped direct a humorous, historical musical production
for our community for the sesquicentennial celebration (150 years have flown by
since our town was first settled), was shanghaied into helping for a couple of
days at this year’s county fair (I didn’t realize how many people it takes to
pull something like that together), went camping, attended what seemed like a
plethora of family reunions, attended the famed Preston Rodeo with our youngest
son and our daughter-in-law (she had never seen a rodeo before), helped them
with a yard sale before they headed off to Pennsylvania for the next 4 years
(he was accepted into med school in that location), hosted a family gathering
or two for our clan, and went for some bodacious rides in our new Polaris RZR. (Love
it—it’s so comfy while riding around in the nearby canyons.) We also picked
huckleberries, played in the lake, went fishing a time or two, and raised a few
tomatoes—the biggest ones I’ve ever coaxed into surviving a typical Bear Lake
summer. (We still had snow storms in June . . . and it’s acting like it could
freeze toward the end of August . . . yay . . .) In short—we’ve managed to cram
in a ton of stuff during the few short weeks of summer. Perhaps that’s why I’m
feeling a tiny bit tired. =) But we’ve had a lot of fun, and we’ve spent
precious time with family and friends. Isn’t that what summer is all about? =)
Though the frantic pace is sometimes hard to keep up with, as I look back,
there are few regrets. Pictures document all that we managed to accomplish and
enjoy. And someday, when life slows down (yes, I’m rolling my eyes, too) I will
attempt to organize those pictures for future viewing.
Perhaps Majorie Pay Hinckely said it best: “I don't want to
drive up to the pearly gates in a shiny sports car, wearing beautifully,
tailored clothes, my hair expertly coiffed, and with long, perfectly manicured
fingernails. I want to drive up in a station wagon that has mud on the wheels
from taking kids to scout camp. I want to be there with a smudge of peanut
butter on my shirt from making sandwiches for a sick neighbor’s children. I
want to be there with a little dirt under my fingernails from helping to weed
someone's garden. I want to be there with children's sticky kisses on my cheeks
and the tears of a friend on my shoulder. I want the Lord to know I was really
here and that I really lived.”
― Marjorie Pay
We are indeed here to live, to do the best we can do, and to
serve those around us as best we can. I suspect that part of our test is to see
what we’ll do with the time that we have. Perhaps time means more to me now,
since my little heart glitch. It’s made me prioritize a few things—and even
though I still get talked into doing a bit more than I probably should on
occasion, again, there are no regrets. Most of those items are acts of service—something
I believe is important. In fact, I came across another thought the other day
that pretty well sums up how vital those moments are in our lives:
Christ said, ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life
for his friends.’ (John 15:13) This doesn’t mean we have to die to show our
love for our friends. We lay down our lives every time we put someone else’s
needs before our own.(And the ‘friends’mentioned
in the scripture above can be understood to be everyone we meet, since Jesus
also commanded us to ‘love one another.’) We lay down our lives through
service. Church members have many opportunities to serve. We can do small acts of
kindness for our neighbors, take part in community service, fulfill
responsibilities in our local congregations, or contribute to the Church’s
large-scale humanitarian efforts. These actions, whether great or small, let us
feel the happiness of connecting with our brothers and sisters, and remind us
that God often allows us to be the answer to someone else’s prayers.”
go out and enjoy these final days of summer. Then look forward to fall and all the
color that it brings into our lives. We are here to live and to make the most
of each day that we’ve been given. It’s my hope that when I arrive at the
pearly gates, I will do so in my RZR, my hair in an extreme wind-blown fashion,
a camera around my neck that contains the proof of what I’ve been up to,
huckleberries heaped in a large bucket to share with one and all, and a broad
smile on my face. Definitely a little bit of heaven right there. =)
Periodically I am asked to review books on my blog. Most of the time it's something I enjoy, since I love to read. This time around, I absolutely loved the book I was asked to review. A middle-grade read, The Rebel Princess is a fun story for all ages. The author, Janice Sperry, has created a clever, new-age twist on fairy tales that will entertain anyone who has the chance to read it.
The main character is an anti-heroine, Raven, who is determined to never become a princess like her mother. Set on becoming as evil as possible, Raven barely tolerates her twin brother: Edgar; a wannabe best friend: Amy; and she absolutely shuns the new kid on the block: Eric Charming, convinced he is a total rat.
The storyline contains a great deal of tongue-in-cheek humor, and as Raven finds herself lost in the horrors of the Enchanted Forest, the plot-line thickens. Interesting characters, like the one Raven labels Princess Loathsome, also known as Pansy; a young girl named Ella, who seems destined to face a wicked step-mother; a confused dragon who finds himself wearing an orange tutu; and the Muffin Man who is tired of dwelling on Drury Lane, surface throughout Raven's quest to find her way back to reality. It doesn't help that she has to rely on people who formerly annoyed her: her twin brother, Edgar, Amy, the wannabe best friend, and Eric Charmingto survive.
The ending was as delightful as the entire story, and it left me hoping there will be future adventures for Raven and her friends.
I give this book a huge thumbs-up recommendation and I plan to buy copies for my granddaughters, knowing they will enjoy this story as much as I did.
Welcome to Crane-ium: thoughts, poetry, lyrics & photography of Cheri J. Crane
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