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."
"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.