Monday, December 21, 2015

Finding the Joy in Christmas

This time of year I find myself reflecting on the events leading up to the birth of our Savior. I read passages from the New Testament that share what transpired. I marvel at the great faith that Mary and Joseph exhibited. In my mind I picture the shepherds and their reaction to the appearance of an angel who told them about the birth of Jesus Christ. Their initial reaction was fear, which gradually transformed to great joy as they sought out the tiny Christ Child.

Wise men faithfully watched for a predicted sign, and then led by the Spirit and a marvelous star, they journeyed to bring gifts and to show their devotion to their Savior.

As I reread about these sacred events, I ponder how I would have reacted. Would I have had the courage and faith to be with the shepherds and wisemen, or would I have blocked my heart to the spirit of the time? Would I have rationalized away the great miracle and gone on with my daily tasks, oblivious to what was taking place?

Fast forward a "few" (okay, over 2000) years to our day. There are still shepherds and wise men among us who daily worship our Savior. They are the ones who bravely stand up for all that is right and good in this world. They are the ones who reach out to help those who are struggling or less fortunate. Through their acts of kindness they are showing their devotion to Jesus Christ. In following His example, they are reflecting a way of life that will bring true happiness and eternal joy.

So during this busy/crazy time of year when we're all rushing about preparing for the Christmas season, may we each take a moment to ponder what we're really celebrating. Reflect on the numerous ways our lives are blessed by the birth of our Elder Brother. Do those things that help us capture the true spirit of the season. Reach out to those around you who may be struggling. Offer a smile or a thoughtful word to someone who may need it. Be kinder and more patient with those who cause frustration. Keep in mind that most of us are on the same path, trying to find our way. Instead of pushing and shoving as we hurry forward, take the time to aid those whose footsteps falter. In short, the best gifts we can give to Jesus will be those that come from the heart. As we reach out to the people around us, we are reaching out to our Savior. (See Matthew 25:34-40)


Monday, November 23, 2015

Small & Simple Saves the Day

An experience came to mind recently, something I believe I’ve shared before, but I sense it’s something I need to touch on once again. Years ago, in the days following my father’s death, my husband & I helped my mother and my younger siblings pack and prepare to move. In the midst of the confusion, a plant that had been in our family for years was stashed inside of an open truck. By the time we arrived at our destination, this poor plant looked like it had been through a war. Its leaves were shredded, and it drooped horribly, but my mother didn’t have the heart to throw it away. Instead, she gave it to me, hoping I could nurse it back to health.

My husband and I lived about two hours away from where the rest of my family would be residing for a while. After we helped get everyone settled, we returned to our home with our infant son. The plant I had been given was placed in a corner and pretty much forgotten. This plant was at least as old as I was. It had been given to my parents when I was very young. A dracaena palm tree, it tended to grow quite lush and tall. When I inherited the plant, it was shorter from a recent pruning, and in a dilapidated state compliments of the move. It resembled what I felt like on the inside of my heart.

I kept it in a distant corner, where I didn’t have to look at it very often. I watered it when I watered my other plants, but I didn’t give it any special attention. Then one day, an observant friend looked at that plant, and then at me. “Why aren’t you giving that plant a chance to access any light?” she asked. Though I had given it water, no light could shine on its leaves, the very thing that would help it thrive. It had tried to survive, but now it was dying—the leaves had yellowed, and I wasn’t sure I could save it. That’s when it dawned on me that I had been secretly hoping the reminder of my dad’s demise would fade away. I felt a bit ashamed of myself. Had I been wallowing in self-pity so much that I was neglecting things of importance? 

Struck by the symbolism of that small tree, I pulled it out of the corner and trimmed off the dead leaves. I found a new place for it in the bright sunshine and gave it the attention it required. Within a couple of weeks, it began showing new signs of life and started to flourish. Giving it the nourishment it needed gave it the strength to survive its traumatic ordeal. I was so touched by all of this that I wrote a poem about it:

It was kept in a darkened corner
Where light and warmth could not penetrate
A reminder of all that had gone before
Slowly, green faded into yellow
Then brown
At times it was pruned
But nurturing was limited
Gradually it slipped into partiality
Until one day
A chance beam of light
Dared glimmer on the withered leaves
Struggling through a forest of night
Reaching through leaves, stem, and decaying roots
It had been forgotten--this beacon from the past
Stored for a time
When strength could absorb
The offering of light
Awakening joy--pain--happiness--and sorrow
New life passing from roots to stem to leaves
Rebirth from the darkened past
Brought it forth into light
Where brown embraced yellow
Then green
Leaves reaching now beyond the rooted pain
Of mortal existence
Toward the hope of light
And truth
Green with the knowledge
Of warmer days.
Cheri J. Crane

As you may have guessed, this small tree was symbolic of the healing journey I endured following my father’s suicide. It still exists, taller now than it has been in years. It is a reminder  that despite the heartaches of this life, we can go forward and flourish, with the right nourishment. It is indeed those small and simple things that help us to endure challenging days: prayer, studying the scriptures, church and temple attendance, all of those items that nurture our spirit. When we neglect those things, we tend to wither. And currently, we live in a time when we each need to be as strong as we can possibly be as the adversary steps up his assault on all that is good. We can survive anything, as long as the gospel light shines within our hearts. It is that light that gives us the hope to face each day, knowing it will all be worth it in the end.

Monday, October 26, 2015

An Attitude of Gratitude

I've been thinking a lot about a distant ancestor of mine lately. Her name is Elizabeth, and she's one of my heroes. (Heroines?) When she was in her teens, her parents decided to journey to a new country, seeking religious freedom.So they boarded a ship along with others who shared similar beliefs and braved sailing across the ocean. Along the way, there were a few adventures--like the time a nasty storm threatened all of their lives, and Elizabeth's future husband was swept off the ship. Luckily, John managed to grab hold of a lanyard rope that were hanging off the back of the ship, and eventually someone noticed and pulled him to safety. We often refer to Grandpa John as the first water skier of the family, but I digress.

Finally, after weeks at sea, this little band of courageous men and women arrived in the harbor of what would become the famed Plymouth colony. They left the ship (The Mayflower) in December of the year 1620. It was a difficult time. They began this arduous journey with 102 fellow passengers. One died during the voyage, four more died while exploring a harbor (Provincetown), and one was born in that same harbor. Ninety-nine people settled the Plymouth Colony in 1620. It was a severe winter and supplies were limited. Nearly half of the residents perished due to disease and lack of food and medicine, not to mention the meager shelters that were shared during those first months. Among those who died were Elizabeth's parents, John and Joan Tilley. By the time another ship (The Fortune) arrived during December of 1621, only 52  residents had managed to survive.

A nearby tribe of Wampanoags saved the day. Taking pity on the surviving settlers, these friendly Native Americans taught the Pilgrims how to plant crops in the area. They planted corn, barley, and peas using fish (herring) to fertilize the tender plants. They became expert hunters and fishers, eating a majority of their meals from the sea, learning newfound skills from their native brothers. To celebrate their survival and to thank their God, and the Wampanoags who had helped them, they decided to hold a feast. This first Thanksgiving took place in the fall of 1621 and the following paragraph, written by Edward Winslow, one of the surviving Pilgrims, captures the excitement of this event:

"Our harvest being gotten in, our Governour sent foure men on fowling, that so we might after a more special manner rejoyce together, after we had gathered the fruit of our labors . . . many of the Indians coming amongst us, and amongst the rest their greatest King Massasoyt, with some nintie men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deere, which they brought to the Plantation and bestowed upon our Governour . . . And although it be not alwayes so plentiful, as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodnesse of God, we are so farre from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plentie."
("Plymouth Colony; Its History & People 1620-1691," Eugene Aubrey Stratton, pp. 24-25)

Though the hardships weren't over for this tiny colony, they still appreciated the great blessings that had been bestowed upon them, and they were quick to express gratitude. Their example is one we need during this current time of challenges. Sometimes we get so caught up in our busy lives and the trials we're enduring, that we forget the tremendous blessings that are also taking place. And it makes me very sad to venture into stores and notice that Halloween tends to merge into Christmas. Thanksgiving is often overlooked. To me, Thanksgiving is a holiday that needs more of the limelight. I think it's important to remember what it signifies and to reflect on those who paved the way for us to enjoy precious freedoms.

Elizabeth Tilley was one of those brave Pilgrims who managed to survive. She was in attendance at the first Thanksgiving, along with her future spouse, John Howland. They eventually married and had a massive posterity. Our family line descends through their daughter, Hope. I find that name inspiring and appropriate. It's a reminder to me that despite darkened times, there is always hope. Always!!!

Monday, October 12, 2015


The first weekend of October was a time of spiritual refreshment for me and many others. It was Conference weekend for the LDS Church. Some were fortunate enough to attend these inspiring sessions in person. Most of us viewed the proceedings in the comfort of our homes via TV or radio or Internet broadcasts. I was part of that latter group. A handful of family members gathered at my home to watch the four sessions on TV. We listened carefully as leaders in our church delivered heartfelt words of encouragement and counsel.

I've made it a habit to take notes during these talks, to record thoughts that pop into my head, and to write down the main ideas that surface for me. Later on I usually go back and highlight the things that touched my heart the most. Here are a few of the things I recorded during this most recent Conference: (this includes the General Women's Broadcast)

"Do more than just exist!"

"Don't give up! Believe in good things to come!"

"Our divine nature is a gift from our Heavenly Father."

"Pray to avoid temptation. Avoid those things that will drag us down."

"This is the time to prepare to meet God. Remember most of our blessings will take place in the '3rd act'."

"Remember the love our Father in heaven and Savior has for each one of us."

"Our trials may well qualify us for eternal blessings."

"Love one another. See the beauty in each other."

"In the midst of despair, have valiant hearts!"

"Our Savior sanctified the world. He has marked the path and  led the way. Follow Him."

"Serve each other with love and compassion."

"Family is the very heart of salvation."

"In the strength of the Lord we can do all things."

"Focus on the miracles and wonders of life to find happiness despite trials."

"Faith leads to hope--both will lead to confidence that one day, all things will make sense."

"Notice the good things. Avoid self-pity."

"Serve others--forget our sorrow in helping others."

"Don't chase after shadows!"

"Simplify! Focus on what's important!"

"Have a willing heart and a desire to believe."

"If we will be obedient, we can stay the course through troubled water."

"Gospel truths offer comfort and assurance during trials."

"We find true joy in living a Christ-centered life."

"If you do your best, it will all work out."

"The Holy Ghost makes a perfect traveling companion."

"Count blessings instead of challenges."

"Live faithful. All blessings will be restored."

"Be willing to forgive. Seek the good in others. Do not be offended, nor offend others."

"Choices matter."

"Never deliberately fly into a thunderstorm."

"We marry potential--not perfection."

"Maternal love is divine."

"We have only to ask for the Savior's help."

"Let your light shine--we can light the way for others."

"Bring hope to the hopeless. Help those in need."

"Radiate the light of Christ."

"Fear and faith can't exist at the same time."

"The Lord will qualify who He calls."

"To effectively serve others, see them through Heavenly Father's eyes."

"Comfort those who are struggling."

"We need women of discernment. Make important things happen because of faith."

"It's not always easy or convenient to stand up for Christ."

"We need a constant influence of truth."

"Ponderize--write a favorite scripture on your heart and mind."

"Don't just go through the motions."

"Trust the whisperings of the Spirit."

"Healing takes place on both sides of the veil."

"The light of Jesus Christ will shine through the darkness."

"Be faithful despite challenges. We all go through tests."

"When you cannot do what you've always done, focus on what is most important."

"Physical weakness can enhance spiritual strength."

"Cast out negative feelings of anger and spite . . . forgive all men."

These are just a few of the thoughts and notes I jotted down. I plan to reflect on them quite often in the days ahead. Let's face it--we live in a challenging time. What a comfort it is to know that we have inspired men and women at the helm to help us find our way.

Monday, September 28, 2015

And Let It Begin With Me . . .

Last week I witnessed something wonderful, quite by chance. It was one of those days when my body tries to show me who's boss (compliments of an arthritis flare) and I needed to take a brief time out to recuperate. So I relaxed on the couch and turned on the TV. I then sat transfixed as I witnessed a historical moment. Most of us know that Pope Francis was visiting the United States this past week. I happened to tune in just in time to watch his visit to the Twin Towers Memorial and Museum.

Representatives from several different religions had gathered together to welcome the Pope, and to share sincere pleas for peace and understanding among religions and races. It was one of the most touching things I had watched all week. At the end of this inspiring program, a group of students from varied backgrounds, joined in singing the song, "Let There Be Peace on Earth." It was all I could do to keep my emotions intact. The news commentators who were narrating this event were visibly touched. One of them remarked that this was quite  possibly the most important gathering during the Pope's historical visit to our country.

I've found myself reflecting on that event quite often the past weekend. It was an amazing effort to push aside differences and reach out in a way that seldom happens these days. I have pondered all of the good that could be accomplished if we all put aside our judgmental prejudices to help each other. What an amazing world it would be!

These days the news stories are filled with such negativity and violence. It was a refreshing change to see such an inspiring gathering where people were making a huge plea for peace.

We can make a difference in our own realms. It could be as simple as having patience while waiting in a long line in a store, and not yelling at the clerk over something silly that is usually out of his or her control. We can be more tolerant as we drive on busy highways or slow country roads. Instead of erupting in rage over an imagined infraction, swallow some pride and be the one who makes an effort to be kind and understanding.

When you see someone struggling, take a few minutes out of your busy life to offer assistance. It could be something simple, like holding open a door, or helping an overwhelmed young mother with her children. If someone says something rude to you, smile in return. (I know, this is a hard thing, but it truly is the simple efforts that will make a difference.) Count to ten before blowing a gasket. Do something thoughtful for someone else without expecting anything in return. So on and so forth. In short, ponder the popular saying, "What would Jesus do?"

And in quiet moments, reflect on the lyrics to this song:

Let There Be Peace on Earth 
(Jill Jackson/Mark Miller)

 Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me.
Let there be peace on earth
The peace that was meant to be.
With God as our father
Brothers all are we.
Let me walk with my brother
In perfect harmony.

Let peace begin with me
Let this be the moment now.
With every step i take
Let this be my solemn vow.
To take each moment
And live each moment
With peace eternally.
Let there be peace on earth,
And let it begin with me.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Finding Happiness Despite Adversity

Recently I had to speak on this particular subject. I decided since I had already established some ground work on this, I would morph it into a blog post. =) {No, this is not cheating . . . this is creative use of time and energy.} =D

Let's face it, we all have really bad days. Like the time I was playing city league volleyball, slipped on some melted snow someone had unfortunately tracked into the gym, and fell, smacking the back of my head on the gym floor. I was told later on that it resonated throughout the gym, sounding like a gunshot. Nice. I have no memory of that sound, since I was unconscious for a few minutes. When I came back around, the team sponsored by the local hospital, and made up of mostly nurses, had surrounded me, and were frantically waving fingers, asking how many they were holding up. This was slightly confusing and I wasn't sure what to answer. When they finally asked if I knew my name, I passed with flying colors. I was helped to my feet and dragged over to the bleachers to sit by my husband. He had heard the loud noise earlier, but hadn't realized that incident had involved his wife until someone else pointed out what had happened. I sat there for a while under intense scrutiny, and after we all decided I was going to live, Kennon took me home where I spent a few days recuperating from a slight concussion. I had a headache from hades for about a week. It was not a good time.

I've had a few head injuries in my life. This tendency began when I was thrown from my grandfather's horse at the tender age of 3. (He had taken me with him that day to go gather his dairy cows.) My grandfather had slipped down from his horse to open a gate. The horse jumped, startling me, and I squealed. This spooked the horse and I went flying. My head connected with a large rock, and I was knocked unconscious. I've been told by my mother that my grandfather sobbed as he carried my limp body to the house, certain I was dead. They were all relieved when I finally opened my eyes and knew my name. Evidently this is an important step in verifying that one's fetchies are still about them. (A quaint saying that indicates one still has one's wits about them.)

Then there was the time my family was involved in a car accident. I was about 10 years old at the time. My brother and I were riding in the back of our truck inside a camper shell. (We thought we were really cool, since our younger sisters had to ride up front with our parents.) We had been camping and were getting ready to head home. As my father pulled out of the campground turnoff, he was struck by a car. He hadn't been able to see it coming because of the campground sign that blocked his vision. Regardless, we were hit by a Volkswagen bug and were rather knocked askew. A cast iron skillet came loose from its mooring, and it clunked me upside my head. Once again I found myself sprawled out with a slight head injury. Not my idea of a good time.

The list goes on and on. There have been numerous head wounds, and yes, I will more than likely be one of those entertaining types in the nursing home someday as a result. ;) I was told a few years ago that I have a bit of scar tissue on my brain. (They had been looking for a brain tumor at the time.) While it was a relief to know that I didn't have a tumor, it was a little disconcerting to know that scar tissue has taken up residence where brain cells should exist. =D I endured that battery of tests when physicians were trying to discern why I was having seizures. This tendency surfaced during my college years. I would attend class on campus, and come to in the infirmary where I was told that I had passed out and had experienced a slight seizure. Character building moments.

In time we would be directed to a specialist in Salt Lake City who ran her own battery of tests and came up with the diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes. (Seizures can take place with an out of control diabetic.) I was relieved to know that I didn't have a form of epilepsy, compliments of my numerous head bonks, but I quickly caught on that the diagnosis of diabetes was pretty much a life sentence.

Dealing with a chronic illness is a challenge. It's something I live with every day as I face the highs and lows of bouncing blood sugar levels and the fun that goes along with that. But it is possible to live a fairly normal life despite this bit of adversity. Through this, and other challenges I have learned the following formula that is key to surviving bad moments in life:

1. Attitude is everything. The more positive you can be, the better. I know a lot of complications can go along with being a Type 1 diabetic, and I've chosen not to dwell on those. Instead, I focus on good things and do the best I can to control what I can.

2. Serve others. When I'm hurting for whatever reason, I've found that that more I do for other people, the better I feel. One example, a good friend who was also a Type 1 diabetic, helped me run a diabetic support group for people in our neck of the woods for several years. Through helping others, we discovered a lot of joy and hope for ourselves along the way.

3. Pray . . . a lot. I've found so much peace and comfort through personal prayer. I'm also a firm believer that there are a lot of blessings our Father in heaven desires us to have, but sometimes we have to ask for those items first in humble prayer.

4. Laughter is truly the best medicine. A couple of years ago, my husband and I spent some time with two of my closest friends from my high school days, We met in what used to be my father's drugstore. It's now a pizzeria, but they kept the soda fountain intact. Anyway . . . we ate awesome food, reflected on past exploits, and laughed so hard we nearly fell out of the booth. We literally closed the place down and when we were eventually kicked out by the patient people who were running the place, I was impressed by how much better I felt.

5. Keep busy. That's one of the few things I remember being said at my father's funeral. It was good advice. When I'm having a bad day, I've found that if I can busy myself with a multitude of tasks, I tend to feel a bit better, and time moves on.

6. Surround yourself with upbeat people. I've heard it said that misery loves company. This is true. I avoid pity parties whenever possible.

7. On the other hand, there are times when we need to "vent." I do this on a regular basis with a good friend. We get together and walk, which is another way to release stress--physical activity. When we exercise, it releases natural endorphins, which enhance our mood. This is good.

8. Know that tomorrow will be better. On dark days, that knowledge is crucial. I try to remind myself that we're in mortal mode for a reason, and that some of what we're here to learn, takes place compliments of trials. There are some trials that are so heart-rending, sometimes we have to break things down into small increments of time to survive. After my father's death, my mother said that one of the ways she coped was to take life in small pieces. "Right now, I just have to get out of bed. Now I just have to get into the shower. And now I just have to get dressed  . . ." so on and so forth. Eventually she was able to handle life in bigger pieces--but it helped to take it in smaller chunks for a while.

9. Never give up. Ever. Despite the pain of rheumatoid arthritis, I once climbed a mountain not far from my home by following my mother's example of taking the climb in small increments--one step at a time. Eventually I reached the top and the view was definitely worth it.

10. Realize that we are never alone. We are constantly watched over and protected in more ways than we can possible imagine. I have felt that strength on numerous occasions and I know it to be true. We are never as alone as we sometimes think we are. Not only is our Father and our Elder Brother aware of our pain, but the veil is very thin and we are often helped by loved ones on the other side who are cheering us onward and upward.

Well, it's probably time I cease rambling . . . for now. Hopefully some of this makes sense and offers hope to any out there who may be struggling. It's something we all experience from time to time. I suspect it will all make sense when this life is through. And hopefully, despite my numerous head bonks, I'll have enough fetchies about me to appreciate that information. ;)

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Falling to the End of Summer

There is a definite zing in the air in this mountain valley--letting us know that summer is on the decline, and fall is just around the corner. Temperatures have dropped into the mid to upper 30's at night, causing those of us who braved planting a garden a bit of stress. Such is life in our neck of the woods. ;)

The huckleberries came on early, and I'm hearing that the chokecherries are not far behind. These are signs that the frantic pace of the past three months will soon be replaced by the equally crazy months of autumn. Some of us will be canning various items from our gardens/farmer's markets. Some will be gathering firewood for the cold months ahead. Others will be prepping for hunting season. Still others are trying desperately to cram in a few more summertime activities before school starts again.

To me, this time of year signals a fresh start. I know for most people, the beginning of a new year offers a blank page for life. Others herald spring as a time of rejuvenation, renewal, etc. Myself, I have always considered fall to be a time for a changing perspective. I suppose that tendency started during my grade school years. Each fall as we began a new school year, we prepared by purchasing new shoes, clothes, and school supplies. There was an excitement in the air as the first day of the school year approached. It was a new beginning--a magical time of endless possibilities.

Each fall it seemed like there were intriguing challenges, unique things to learn, and social skills to master. It was a chance to improve upon the year before, and to verify that we were retaining items already learned. (Sometimes.)

I love all of the seasons, but I do possess an especially warm spot in my heart for fall--a time for sweaters, fun fall camping adventures, welcoming fires, and cold noses. (Mostly at night.) Leaves magically turn impressive colors. Life seems to slow down before the holiday rush. Hot chocolate appeals, as well as pumpkin pie spice, and beautiful sunflowers.

This year we will be welcoming our newest member of the family about mid October. That will also make fall a favorite time of year. =) Little Spud Crane will be welcomed into the family with open arms. =D As one of his grandmothers, I can hardly wait.

So, don't be too sad as summer winds down. Though I love the summer months, to my way of thinking, there is always something fun to anticipate as time marches on. I doubt there's anything any of us can do to stop it from pressing on, so make the best of the last of the nice, warm days, and savor the season that is coming.

Monday, July 20, 2015

A Tiny Taste of Heaven

Last week our entire clan was able to get together for a few days of fun and relaxation. The last time we were able to get everyone together was a little over a year ago. This is due in part to everyone's schedules and current locations. For instance, our youngest son and his wife now live in Pennsylvania while he attends med school, so family gatherings are a rare and precious occasion. After everyone arrived and we had visited, partaken of luscious grilled hamburgers, etc. not to mention spent a bit of time playing favorite games, I felt a deep sense of happy peace. The thought came to mind, "This must be what it will be like in heaven someday, when everyone is all together." I'm not sure why that particular image settled inside my heart, but it did and I've reflected on it since.

To me, the family is the most important unit in existence. The love shared by family members is crucial, and how wonderful it is when negativity, judgement, and criticism are replaced by respect, patience, and devotion. I don't think any family can be perfect in this mortal realm, but I do believe we get a tiny glimpse of heaven when we spend time together in a good and positive way.

It saddens me to see some of the horrible news stories depicting families that are are torn apart by selfish acts of abuse, bitterness, and cruelty. There are days when I can't bring myself to watch the news because of the horrific scenes that are often displayed. 

We do live in a troubled time, but there are a lot of good things taking place as well. Though some families are struggling, there are many more who are pulling together in love, eager to help each other to succeed despite tremendous obstacles. 

I believe that's part of why we're here--and why families are so important. We weren't meant to exist alone. We are social creatures who need each other to survive. When we support and love each other, great things can take place and the world becomes a better place. 

It was sad to see everyone in our clan depart, one by one last week. However, there is an eternal bond between us that makes our time apart bearable. We know these temporary separations are just that, temporary. Someday, we'll be together again--how grateful I am for the knowledge that families are truly meant to be together forever. That belief is the light in the darkness that often seems to prevail during these interesting latter days. 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Why I Believe

In today’s crazy world, there are so many mixed messages being broadcast, twittered, published, and shared in various forms of social media, I can understand why there is confusion about what is real, and what is not. We live in a world of technological wonder, and yet there is more unhappiness, misery, anger, and greed flourishing despite all of the remarkable items that are available to make life easier. I have to ask, then, what is missing? In my opinion, it boils to down to simply one thing: we’ve lost our way. We have become so disillusioned, hardened, and skeptical, we no longer believe in the simple things that make life worthwhile: faith, hope, and charity.

I understand the confusion. I felt the same way years ago as a struggling teen. At that time we lived in a community where several religions existed. When school was in session, lunch hour became a heated discussion in the hallway as my peers did their best to prove that their way of thinking was correct. Doctrine was shared and debated, and each day I grew more confused as I tried to figure out for myself what was true.

At home, I continued to receive mixed messages. My mother had always believed in God, and had taught us at a young age that prayer was how we communicated with our Father in heaven. Nightly prayers were encouraged before we went to bed. It had become a habit. Then one day, my maternal grandmother became critically ill. When her life hung by a tiny thread, our father gathered us together in the living room for the first ever family prayer rendered by our clan. For the first time I heard my father pray out loud as he begged for my grandmother’s life to be spared. Sadly, it was not. After her death, my father told me that prayers were not answered. It was a confusing time.

Because it was a habit, I continued to pray each night, and I often begged to know who was right and what was true. Then one night (back in the “olden days” sacrament meeting was held at night) as I sat with some of my friends during a fast and testimony meeting for the LDS church, a young lady stood up to share what was in her heart. She was a college student, and someone most of us respected. As a result, we listened to every word she said. When she shared that she knew she was a daughter of God, my heart began to burn within my chest. It was something I had never experienced before and I was puzzled. Later I would understand that I had received some very strong promptings from the Holy Ghost, but at the time, I had no idea what was happening. Regardless, that incident filled me with a desire to gain a testimony for myself. The problem was, I had no idea how to go about obtaining such a thing. So I asked one of my friends for advice, someone I knew would be honest with me. We were the same age, and she lived next door, which was handy. I wandered over one night to visit, and eventually asked this friend of mine how one went about gaining a testimony. She told me that I needed to read the Book of Mormon, and then pray about it. 

Excitement filled my heart. Could it be that simple? I hurried home to put her counsel to the test. I went inside my bedroom, shut the door for privacy, and dug out my copy of the Book of Mormon. I sat on my bed and read a couple of chapters. Then I closed the book, knelt down in prayer, and asked for a witness that it was true. I was expecting something similar to a fireworks display, and was disappointed when it didn’t happen. I did experience peace of heart, which was an indication I was on the right path, but I was too young and silly to appreciate what that was. 

Disappointed, I tried to go to sleep, my father’s words echoing in my head. “Prayers aren’t answered. No one listens. Why bother?” 

A few days later, I talked to my next door neighbor/friend again and told her about my experience and how disappointed I was. She simply smiled, and told me that I needed to read the entire Book of Mormon—stressing that eventually, I would receive the witness I was seeking. Sighing, I finally comprehended that gaining a testimony wouldn’t happen overnight. 

To make an extremely long story short, let’s just say that during the next few months, opposition descended with a fury. This happens whenever we are trying to do a good thing. The adversary doesn’t just stand idly by when we are struggling to find truth. He throws everything he can at us to prevent that from happening. Doubts are whispered into our hearts and minds. Others around us are prompted to do and say hurtful things that can become obstacles as we seek to find our way. And challenges arise that sometimes bring us to our knees. 

The death of my grandmother that year was a constant heartache. I had been her oldest granddaughter, I carry her name, and there had been a special bond between us. Losing her made me question things I thought I knew about life and death . . . and prayer. 

A few months later, one of my closest friends was diagnosed with Lupus, and we nearly lost her as her kidneys shut down. She spent months residing in a hospital in Salt Lake City as I once again came face to face with questions about life . . . and death . . . and prayer.

Then, adding insult to injury, I was attacked in the park across from my home one night. It wasn’t a random event. I had been called by my attacker (he lied about who he was—and this was before the day of Caller ID) and I was invited to an after-Christmas party, something I was assured all of my friends would be attending. Thinking this was a chance to de-stress, I walked over since the park was just across the street from our house, and found myself under attack from an unknown person. (We never did discover who he was.) Following strong promptings that came immediately (it was like someone was yelling inside my head to get my attention, since I was paralyzed with fright) I fought back and my assailant dropped me in the snow, and ran away. I was not harmed physically, aside from a few bruises, but emotionally, I would carry scars for a very long time. After that, I didn’t trust people. I was terrified to go anywhere alone, especially at night. So on and so forth. Once again I struggled with questions about life . . . death . . . and prayer.

My Young Women leaders were concerned because I seemed to retreat into a shell. I rarely attended meetings, especially those at night. I went to school, came home, and spent a lot of time in my room playing my guitar. I felt betrayed by everyone, including God. How could He have allowed this terrible thing to happen? Wasn’t I trying to be a good person? Hadn’t I been working on gaining a testimony? I was so busy feeling sorry for myself, I blocked out how watched over I had actually been during the attack at the park.
About three months later, my desperate Young Women leaders went to my parents and begged for their help. A tri-stake youth fireside would be held in West Yellowstone that spring and they felt this event would help me return to a sense of normalcy. In the past, my parents had always vetoed trips of this nature. I was their oldest child and they had been a little over-protective. The attack in the park didn’t help with this. However, they were beginning to worry over my retreat from life. And so we witnessed a tiny miracle—my parents gave their permission for me to attend the youth conference. I was stunned. I hadn’t even asked to go, since I didn’t want to go anywhere, and I knew they would say “NO!” My parents and leaders assured I would be watched over and protected during the entire experience, and eventually, I agreed to attend.
It was a blissful weekend. My friend who had been in the Salt Lake Hospital, was home recovering, and she went with me to this event. The two of us stayed in a hotel room with one of the Young Women leaders—a promise made to my parents—and I felt safe for the first time in weeks. The workshops held were enjoyable, and I actually smiled, something my friends and Young Women leaders pointed out. Everyone held their breath, hoping I was on the way back from my traumatic event. 

The last night of the conference, a special testimony meeting was held. As I sat with my friends, we were in agreement that a person had to be crazy to get up in front of all these people. We had been mixed in with kids from all over the area—it was a tri-stake event and there were people in attendance that we didn’t know.About half-way through the meeting, my heart once again felt like it was on fire—the same thing I had experienced months before when the college girl had shared her testimony. I found that I couldn’t just sit there. I stood up and headed to the pulpit. My friends and leaders were shocked. I had pretty much become a recluse since the attack. Now I was on my feet, walking toward a microphone. That was yet another miracle.

I don’t remember everything I said that day, but I’ve never forgotten how I felt as I shared what was in my heart. It was a simple, heartfelt testimony of truth. No details about my very bad year were shared—but as I stated that I knew I was a daughter of God, a strong witness was borne to me that this was true. And suddenly, all of the answers I had been seeking fell into place. I knew the Book of Mormon was true, something I had been studying all year. And because it was true, I knew that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. All of the pieces of a testimony I had prayerfully begged to obtain, came together. When I returned to my seat, my heart was filled with a joyful peace I’ve never forgotten. That feeling stayed with me the entire night. The best part was, after the meeting, a younger girl in our ward came up to me and gave me a hug, telling me that for the first time, she had felt something from someone else’s testimony—the circle was complete.

I have had many trials—many challenges since that time, but the testimony I worked so hard to obtain, has stayed with me. It has been the glue in my life. Years ago, it helped me heal from a traumatic event that could have ruined everything. It helped me understand the miracles that had been a part of my life all along. It has helped me appreciate the little things that are actually the big things in mortal mode. It has filled me with the knowledge that God is very real, and He loves His children. He does answer prayers—but it is often in a different way and timescale than we anticipate. Faith and hope matter—and being charitable toward others is the key to finding true happiness.

I still reflect on life . . . and death . . . and prayer—but now I know how important these things are. I’ve never taken them for granted and each one has touched my heart in a myriad of ways.

To those of you who are seeking truth—know that the pieces will come together eventually. Sometimes we just have to put our trust in God and steadfastly do those things we know will eventually help us find our way. It will take time and effort, but the end result is very much worth the journey.