Saturday, May 11, 2013

Overlooked Beauty

One Sunday morning about 17 years ago, my 5 year old son, Eric, snuggled up next to me in Sacrament meeting. The sacrament was being passed and the room was very still. Sitting quietly was hard for this wiggle worm, so I took his hand in mine to let him know that I was pleased with his reverent behavior. Eric held my hand for a moment and then he slid his little fingers out from under mine and began to study my hand. His little tow head bent lower and lower as he peered closely at my palm. He turned the hand rightside up and upside down. He pulled on each finger and pushed on each fingernail. He stroked up and down the back of my hand multiple times. Then, he looked up at me with a smile on his face.

 “Mom,” he whispered, “I love your hands.” My heart melted. As I gazed at him through eyes brimming with tears, he continued, “They’re just like Great-Grandma’s.” What? What did he just say? How could my 38 year old hands be just like Great-Grandma’s 90 year old hands? I saw my hands as relatively young and pretty. GG’s arthritic hands were withered, gnarled, bony, and covered in age spots! My first reaction to Eric’s comment was a plan to moisturize my hands more often and try to keep them out of the sun. But then, I began to remember.

 My earliest memories of my grandma’s hands are from my childhood. When I was about nine, my family moved back to the rural area in which my parents grew up. Grandma and Grandpa Pemberton still lived on the same property where my mother was raised. Because I was the oldest, I was sometimes allowed to spend the night at Grandma and Grandpa’s house all by myself. I remember watching Grandma’s hands as they scrambled eggs and fried bacon for Grandpa and I. After breakfast, she and I would do chores. Using her hands to show me the correct technique, she taught me how to carefully remove her breakables from the bookshelves and then to dust with the grain of the wood, not against it. Her hands patiently showed me how to wash the picture window without leaving streaks. They gently guided me as she stood behind and pushed the vacuum along with me to demonstrate how to clean the white carpet without missing any spots. Finally, when the chores were done, I was allowed to read! Grandma and Grandpa’s living room had shelves and shelves of books. They had many years of The Children’s Friend magazines stacked in the bookcase in the hall. After a few minutes of reading, Grandma would leave me to my treasure. As a child, I never wondered what Grandma did while I read. As a young adult, I found out.

 When Joe and I got married, Grandma gave us a king sized quilt that she had hand quilted especially for us. At that point, her hands were already painfully arthritic and yet, every one of her 16 grandchildren received a large hand quilted bedspread when they married. When each of my six children was born, they received their own baby blanket, hand quilted especially for them by GG’s withered, gnarled fingers. I was grateful, but my young hands had no concept of the pain that Grandma experienced as she sacrificed to make memories for every single one of her posterity.

 A few years after that Sacrament meeting experience with Eric, GG died. As I visited her during the viewing, I saw her beautiful hands folded at her waist; those hands that had loved and given and sacrificed for so many generations of us. As I stood there, I realized that years before, my five year old Eric had recognized their beauty before I did. I am grateful for the lesson he taught me.

 Now my hands are getting old. The veins on the back of my hands protrude and I have age spots and wrinkles, many, many wrinkles. But I don’t mind. My hands are just beginning to look like GG’s. I pray that I will fill my life with love and service and sacrifice so that someday my hands might be as beautiful as hers.

Sunday, January 15, 2012


As Jesus returned from his transcendent spiritual experience on the Mount of Transfiguration, He was approached by a desperate father whose son needed help. The father pleaded, “If thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us.” Jesus replied, “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. “And straightway the father . . . cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief. ”
(Mark 9:22–24).

When I was a child and even into my early adulthood, that scripture confused me. I believed in a black and white world. People were either good guys or bad guys. Good guys chose the right. Bad guys didn’t. Good guys believed and had faith. Bad guys didn’t. My black and white mindset was challenged by a good guy who believed and at the same time asked for help with his unbelief.

However, I now have over 50 years of life experience under my belt. Joe and I have been married for almost 34 years. We have raised (and continue to raise) six children. We have four grandsons.

A few months ago, I was watching a movie with two of my grandsons. I can’t remember which movie it was, but I remember that we had reached a pretty exciting moment when the hero was in some danger and had to fight his way out. As the tension got a little thick, one of my grandsons turned to me with a worried look on his face and asked, “Grandma, is he a good guy or a bad guy?” (I’m pretty sure he needed to know that because good guys always get out okay and he need reassurance.) But his question reminded me of how I felt about the world when I was much younger.

My world is no longer black and white. There are many beautiful colors. I have learned that there aren’t just good guys and bad guys. In fact, I haven’t met very many bad guys in my life. I’ve met a lot of good guys (and good girls) who sometimes make bad decisions, but they are still good guys.

And, as I have lived out these 50 some-odd years, there have been many times when I have had to pray, sometimes with tears, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”

I have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. I know that He lives. I know that He is the Son of God. I know that He is my Savior and Redeemer. I know that He loves me. I know that it is only through the His “merits and mercy and grace” that I can return to live with my Heavenly Father. (2 Ne 2:8)

So why, even with all of my faith, do I still stumble? For me, the answer lies in my ability to trust the Lord. Proverbs says, “Trust in the Lord with all thy heart and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy path.” (Prov 3:5)

One of my favorite scriptural examples of faith (and trust) in the Book of Mormon is the brother of Jared. As I review his story, notice how it parallels our own lives.

The brother of Jared was a prophet at the time of the Tower of Babel. I’m sure you all remember the story. The people had decided to build a tower all the way to heaven. As a result, the Lord confounded their languages so that they could not communicate with each other and thus could not continue building. At this time, Jared asked his brother (a “man highly favored of the Lord”) to cry unto the Lord that their language and the language of their family and friends would not be confounded so that they could remain together and communicate with each other. The brother of Jared did cry unto the Lord and the Lord heard him. Their language was not confounded. The brother of Jared then asked the Lord what they should do and where they should go.

The Lord answered and in the first chapter of Ether, verse 41 says:

41 Go to and gather together thy flocks, both male and female, of every kind; and also of the seed of the earth of every kind; and thy families; and also Jared thy brother and his family; and also thy friends and their families, and the friends of Jared and their families.
42 And when thou hast done this thou shalt go at the head of them down into the valley which is northward. And there will I meet thee, and I will go before thee into a land which is choice above all the lands of the earth.
43 And there will I bless thee and thy seed, and raise up unto me of thy seed, and of the seed of thy brother, and they who shall go with thee, a great nation. And there shall be none greater than the nation which I will raise up unto me of thy seed, upon all the face of the earth. And thus I will do unto thee because this long time ye have cried unto me.

So we see that the brother of Jared had been crying unto the Lord for a long time. He was a prophet. He had faith in the Lord. He obviously trusted the Lord because he and Jared and all their friends and families are obedient. They pack-up and head into the valley northward as the Lord directed.

So, fast forward a few years.

Jared and his brother and their families and friends wander in the wilderness for awhile and they end up at the seashore. They pitch their tents and they dwell in their tents on the beach for four years. I’m guessing that life at the seashore was a little difficult to begin with. I’m sure they had to start everything over. They had to re-create the lives they were living before they left. They had to plant and harvest crops. They had to hunt for game and tend their flocks. There were babies being born and children to attend to. There was school to teach and homework to do. There were clothes to wash and meals to prepare. (Sound familiar?) But, after a couple of years, life probably got into a nice smooth routine. They were living at the beach. Life was probably pretty good.

Ether 2:14 says:

14 And it came to pass at the end of four years that the Lord came again unto the brother of Jared, and stood in a cloud and talked with him. And for the space of three hours did the Lord talk with the brother of Jared, and chastened him because he remembered not to call upon the name of the Lord.

This is why I LOVE the brother of Jared. He was just like me! He got distracted by life. I’m pretty sure that the brother of Jared didn’t forget about God and lose his faith. I bet he thought about God a lot during that four years, but he was busy with the temporal things in life. He was working hard building a life for his family and friends. I’m sure he spoke of the Lord often, especially to his children as he taught them of spiritual things.

But, he gradually “stopped calling upon the name of the Lord.” The scriptures are silent as to how long the brother of Jared didn’t call upon the Lord. It may have been a month or two, it may have been longer, but at some point, he got distracted enough that he didn’t even pray. Maybe he decided that life was comfortable there at the seashore and he really didn’t want to shake things up and go to the land of promise. So, perhaps, he just stopped calling upon the Lord because he didn’t want to hear what the Lord had to say. Maybe the brother of Jared was afraid that what the Lord would require from him would be hard. Instead of trusting the Lord, the brother of Jared was “leaning unto his own understanding.”

In my life, I begin to lean unto my own understanding for two very different reasons. Sometimes, I forget to trust the Lord because my life is so good. I’m comfortable in my day to day routines and it is uncomfortable for me to change. So, I don’t. I know that, in order to become more like Christ, I should study my scriptures more or pray more or do more service or magnify my calling (whatever that might be), but I don’t want to shake up my easy lifestyle. I trust my easy chair or the novel I’m reading or the movie theater or my hobbies or anything else that takes up my free time each day more than I trust the Lord.

Even more often, I forget to trust the Lord when my life is difficult. When I am tired and overwhelmed. When babies won’t sleep. When young children argue. When loved ones are making hard choices and experiencing the consequences. When there are too many bills and not enough income. When there is too much work to do and not nearly enough time to get it all done. When I see suffering around me that I cannot control. Sometime, in these circumstances, although I always have faith in Jesus Christ, my ability to trust Him falters. I begin to lean unto my own understanding and I forget to “cast my burden on the Lord”. (Psalms 55:22) I forget that “[His] yoke is easy and [His] burden is light.” (Matt 11:30.)

Now comes my favorite part of the story of the brother of Jared. The Lord comes to the brother of Jared in a cloud. He chastens him for not calling upon Him. Then, the Lord talks with the brother of Jared for THREE HOURS. The scripture does not say that he chastened the brother of Jared for three hours, it says He talked with him. I like to believe that Jared was immediately chastened when the Lord showed up in the cloud. And that as soon as his heart was turned back to the Lord, the Lord used the rest of that three hour session to love him and teach him.

So, fast forward through the story again.

The Lord tells the brother of Jared to build eight barges that are “tight like a dish” so that they will not sink as they travel across the ocean. Repentent, brother of Jared builds the boats and realizes when they are done that when they are sealed up tight, there will be no light or air.

Jared takes these problems to the Lord.

2:19 And behold, O Lord, in them there is no light; whither shall we steer? And also we shall perish, for in them we cannot breathe, save it is the air which is in them; therefore we shall perish.

The Lord responds by giving the brother of Jared the answer to one problem (how to get air into the barges). However in regards to the issue of light, he says to the brother of Jared, “What would ye that I should do that ye may have light in your vessels?”

Repentant brother of Jared is up for this task. He goes to the mountain and creates 16 molten stones that are “white and clear like glass”. He takes them to the Lord and says (in an amazing declaration of trust in the Lord),
3:4 And I know, O Lord, that thou hast all power, and can do whatsoever thou wilt for the benefit of man; therefore touch these stones, O Lord, with thy finger, and prepare them that they may shine forth in darkness; and they shall shine forth unto us in the vessels which we have prepared, that we may have light while we shall cross the sea.

And to make a long story short, the Lord touches the stones with His finger as the brother of Jared requests. And, the brother of Jared’s faith (and trust) is so strong that he sees the finger of the Lord. In fact, the Lord shows Himself completely to the brother of Jared because of his great faith. (Remember, this is the same man who one chapter earlier wasn’t even praying.)

Fast forward again and we see the brother of Jared and his little band of family and friends in their “tight like a dish” barges,

(Ether 6)

5 And it came to pass that the Lord God caused that there should be a furious wind blow upon the face of the waters, towards the promised land; and thus they were tossed upon the waves of the sea before the wind.
6 And it came to pass that they were many times buried in the depths of the sea, because of the mountain waves which broke upon them, and also the great and terrible tempests which were caused by the fierceness of the wind.
7 And it came to pass that when they were buried in the deep there was no water that could hurt them, their vessels being tight like unto a dish, and also they were tight like unto the ark of Noah; therefore when they were encompassed about by many waters they did cry unto the Lord, and he did bring them forth again upon the top of the waters.
8 And it came to pass that the wind did never cease to blow towards the promised land while they were upon the waters; and thus they were driven forth before the wind.
9 And they did sing praises unto the Lord; yea, the brother of Jared did sing praises unto the Lord, and he did thank and praise the Lord all the day long; and when the night came, they did not cease to praise the Lord.

So, why does this story resonate with me? I haven’t seen the finger of the Lord. But, when I look for it, I see His hand in my life. And if I (like the brother of Jared) thank and praise the Lord all the day long, then my faith in Him is strengthened and I see His hand in my life even more frequently. In this way, He is never very far from my heart and my mind. And when the furious winds blow and I am tossed on the waves or buried in the sea of life, I can remember that I have seen His hand upon me and that the winds of life will always blow me toward my promised land if I trust in the Lord.

President Ezra Taft Benson gave this counsel:

“... we must be careful, as we seek to become more and more godlike, that we do not become discouraged and lose hope. Becoming Christlike is a lifetime pursuit and very often involves growth and change that is slow, almost imperceptible. The scriptures record remarkable accounts of men whose lives changed dramatically, in an instant, as it were: Alma the Younger, Paul on the road to Damascus, Enos praying far into the night, King Lamoni. Such astonishing examples of the power to change even those steeped in sin give confidence that the Atonement can reach even those deepest in despair.

But we must be cautious as we discuss these remarkable examples. Though they are real and powerful, they are the exception more than the rule. For every Paul, for every Enos, and for every King Lamoni, there are hundreds and thousands of people who find the process of repentance much more subtle, much more imperceptible. Day by day they move closer to the Lord, little realizing they are building a godlike life. They live quiet lives of goodness, service, and commitment. They are like the Lamanites, who the Lord said “were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not.” (3 Ne. 9:20.)

We must not lose hope. Hope is an anchor to the souls of men. Satan would have us cast away that anchor. In this way he can bring discouragement and surrender. But we must not lose hope. The Lord is pleased with every effort, even the tiny, daily ones in which we strive to be more like Him. Though we may see that we have far to go on the road to perfection, we must not give up hope.” (First Pres. Message 10/1989)

In a BYU devotional in January of last year, Elder D. Todd Christofferson stated;

“ you ask in prayer for your daily bread, consider thoughtfully your needs –both what you may lack and what you must protect against. As you retire to bed, think about the successes and failures of the day and what will make the next day a little better. And thank your Heavenly Father for the manna He has placed along your path that sustained you through the day. Your reflections will increase your faith in Him as you see His hand helping you to endure some things and to change others.”

Most of you know that we have a son on a mission in the NYNYS mission. When I found out I was going to give this talk, I emailed Eric and asked him for his thoughts on faith.

This was his response:

“Hey mom, I think and strongly believe the secret of helping people see their faith and how powerful it can be is strictly by allowing them to see how they are already tapping into it. What miracles are ALREADY happening in our lives DAILY? I think powerful faith carries with it a whole lot of gratitude.

Why are we all at church? Obviously that sprouts from our deep roots of faith. Why do we all want to improve? Why do we all know we need to read more scripture, to pray more often? Once again, all of those desires are tied into our deep roots of faith. So yes, we are faithful, not perfect, some more obedient than others, but we all have faith, and it can move mountains when we rely on it.

I think that is a major secret I have learned. I have a whole lot more faith than I think I do, and I only recognize that when I fully rely on the little amount of faith that I think I have.

Help the members recognize the miracles they see daily because of their amount of faith. Help them to see how those daily miracles are connected directly with their faith. Help them to have more gratitude in the little things, in recognizing what the word 'miracle' really means. To me a miracle is anything that causes a bit more conversion within myself or within another person... and as we are more grateful for all the things we have around us we are constantly full of the spirit and more and more converted every day... which in turn, leads to faith.

And tell them I said I know Vista 8th has a TON of faith, because I have felt their prayers, and it has really made the difference in my mission. It is what makes me able to put one foot in front of another on those TOUGH days.”

The Lord has promised that if we keep his commandments, we can have peace and joy in this life and in the life to come. I trust Him to keep His promises. The Lord loves us and wants us to be with Him.

Elder Uchtdorf has taught:

“Though we are incomplete, God loves us completely. Though we are imperfect, He loves us perfectly. Though we may feel lost and without compass, God’s love encompasses us completely.

He loves us because He is filled with an infinite measure of holy, pure, and indescribable love. We are important to God not because of our résumé but because we are His children. He loves every one of us, even those who are flawed, rejected, awkward, sorrowful, or broken. God’s love is so great that He loves even the proud, the selfish, the arrogant, and the wicked.

What this means is that, regardless of our current state, there is hope for us. No matter our distress, no matter our sorrow, no matter our mistakes, our infinitely compassionate Heavenly Father desires that we draw near to Him so that He can draw near to us.” (The Love of God, Conf 10/09)

Let’s trust in the Lord with all our hearts and allow Him to direct our paths. Let’s recognize His hand in our lives and live accordingly. As we do, our faith and trust in the Lord will grow to the point that we, as the brother of Jared, will be “brought back into [the Lord’s] presence” and He will show himself to us. And when He does, we shall know Him because we shall be “like Him”. (Moroni 7:48)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

My Daddy

I've been writing this blog in my head ever since Mother's Day. I've written it and re-written it in my mind. But now as I sit down to put it on my blog, I can't seem to organize my thoughts.

There are so many wonderful things I could say about my dad. So many great memories. So many, in fact, that they are all jumbled in my mind; each one fighting for a chance to be told. If I told it all, this blog would take too long to write and way too long to read. So here are only three of the most important things I learned (and continue to learn) from my daddy.

1. Love Everyone

I don't think my father has ever met a stranger. I know that sounds weird, but once he meets you, you are his friend. I remember when I was a little girl and we would go on camping trips. One of the first things Dad would do once we got our tent up and got settled in was to meet the neighbors. He would introduce himself to everyone camping around us. If we walked to the Ranger Station, he would make friends with everyone along the way. If we had to go to the campground laundry facilities, by the time we left, he could tell everyone in the laundromat goodbye by name.

While I was growing up, Daddy was a highschool band director. He had an award-winning band program. In a highschool of 600 or 700 students, he had a band of 100 to 150 students every year. One of the reasons Dad had such a successful band was that he LOVED everyone of those kids, and they knew it.

When I got into highschool, I loved being Mr. Bos's daughter. I loved how much he was loved. Having your dad as a teacher in highschool would probably be most kids' worst nightmare, but - because of my dad's love - having him at school with me everyday was the best!

2. I have a Heavenly Father Who Loves Me

This was kind of a residual lesson that Dad taught me without saying it outloud. The concept of a loving Heavenly Father was always so easy for me to understand. It was easy for me to concieve of a Father in Heaven who loves me unconditionally; Who loves me just as I am; Who loves me in spite of myself; Who loves all of me. When I attended BYU during my first semester, I remember sitting around the kitchen table with my room-mates one night discussing unconditional love. Some of them could not grasp the concept of a Heavenly Father who could love them even if they were not always doing what was right. They had a hard time understanding a God who loves ALL of His children, good and/or bad. During that discussion, I had a huge "aha" moment and realized that my ability to believe in a Heavenly Father who loves me came because of my life experience with an earthly Father who loves me. Thank you Daddy for always loving all of me, good and bad.

3. Serve Others, Willingly, Joyfully and Quietly

My Dad (and Mom) taught all of us how to serve others by showing us service in it's purest form. Dad taught school full-time. When he got home, many nights he went on church assignments. On weeknights after work and on weekends, he worked around our house. Mowing, weeding, planting, painting, fixing our cars, fixing our pump, fixing whatever needed to be fixed. Then, he was always first in line when there was a service assignment. If someone needed to move, he was there to help. If someone needed a lawn mowed, he was there. When we had a church farm assignment, he (and ALL of our family) was the first one there and the last one to leave. Growing up, I don't think I ever left a church meeting/activity before everyone else was gone and all the dishes were done and all the chairs were put away and all the work was done. I don't ever remember complaining or feeling badly about that. It's just what we did. My daddy has spent his life serving others. I am greatful for that joyful legacy.

Happy Father's Day, Daddy. I love you!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

My Mother

I am 53 years old. I have lived for over half a century. When I say that out-loud, it’s kind of scary. I don’t feel that old. In fact, sometimes I feel very young. (Then I look in the mirror or notice the rolls around my middle and I remember.)

Anyway, as Mother’s Day approaches, I think about the fact that my mother is almost exactly 20 years older than I am. (Which means that she is almost 3/4 of a century old, but that’s not what this blog is about.) What this blog is about is that fact that she has always been just far enough ahead of me to lead the way and mark the trail before I get there.

I kind of think of her as my point man. My forward scout. My own personal trail-blazer. In reality, I know that’s not true. I know that she has led the way for my two brothers and two sisters. I know that she is still blazing a trail for her grandchildren. I also know that she quietly marks the path for others, some I know and many that I may never know about.

But, when it’s just me and my mom, I still feel like it’s all about me. That’s one of the things she’s the best at. My mom is really good at listening to you and making you feel like you are important. Like your feelings are important. Like your ideas are important. Like you’re smart and witty and fun to talk to.

She will listen to me whine about my problems and act like she enjoys listening. And, once I’m all talked out, she’s exceptionally good at gently teaching me what I need to know and making me think that I thought of it all by myself. I am the mother I am because of my mother. (and father, but it is Mother’s Day, so daddy’s blog will have to wait until June.)

A few things my mother taught me:

1. Fulfill your commitments. Once when I was a teenager, I didn’t do the dinner dishes when it was my turn. My parents were out for the night and instead of cleaning up, I goofed off and went to bed. When my parents got home, my mother came and woke me up. She was not angry, just firm. She reminded me that the dishes still needed doing. Then, she stayed up and sat in the kitchen and talked to me and laughed with me while I did them. She didn’t need to give me a lecture. I got the message.

2. Keep confidences. I came home from junior high one day and tried to repeat some gossip about one of my friends to my mother. As I started to speak, she said, "Is this something nice? Will telling me this help this person?" When I responded negatively, she informed me that she didn’t want to hear it if it wasn’t nice. I was extremely frustrated by that! However, it created an opportunity for her to teach me that gossip hurts not only the gossipee, but also the gossiper! One of the main things I remember learning from the conversation is, "If you have a friend who talks about other people when you are with her, then when she is with other people, she will be talking about you."

3. Treat everyone (including your children) with respect. My mother called me one day just as I was in the midst of a conflict with one of my young teenage sons. I felt that he was not treating me with the respect I deserved as his mother. Consequently, we were clashing frequently and it was impacting our relationship negatively. As I told my mother of my difficulties with this child, she said, "It takes two to fight, Michele." I explained again that I was not starting the conflict, I was just responding to his bad behavior. "Who is the adult here, Michele?" I again (heatedly) explained that I was his mother and he would treat me with the respect I deserved. "Do you treat him with respect?" I finally said goodbye and hung up the phone. I was disturbed by her questions. I knew I was in the right! But, as I humbled myself and really pondered her instructions, I knew she was right. I needed to respond to this son in love, not in anger. I needed to be more concerned about his feelings than my own. I needed to act like the adult in the situation, not the child. I changed my attitude and (not surprisingly) his also changed.

4. Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Some of my earliest memories are of attending church and church activities with my parents. I remember kneeling at my bedside with my mom and dad as a small child and saying my prayers. I remember prayers with my family morning and night. I remember service projects at the church farm. I remember Family Home Evenings where I learned to bake my first treats and prepare my first lessons. I grew up knowing that God was real and that He loved me. I knew that because He loved me, I loved Him. And because I loved Him, He would help me to keep His commandments. My life (and the lives of my husband and children) are richly blessed because my mother (and father) taught me to trust the Lord.

There are many more things I learned from her, but you get the general idea. My mom continues to teach me as I watch her live her life twenty years ahead of me. Even now, she is not afraid to stretch and grow and learn and change. In the picture at the beginning of this blog, she and I are standing at Jeffries Bay in South Africa. She and my dad had just finished their mission to South Africa/Namibia.

As I watch my mother's life, I can see what to look forward to. I am able to pattern my life after hers and know what the results will be. In a way, she allows me to see my future. And, the future looks good!

Happy Mother’s Day, Mommy. I love you!

Sunday, March 21, 2010


“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.”

This is a quote attributed to Maria Robinson. I have no idea who she is or was, but I love the quote.

Today I am feeling like there are many things that I wish I could change. I'd like to be able to go back and have a chance to change some of the decisions I have made over the years that have led us to this point, but I can't. It is comforting to know that I can start today and make a new and better ending to our lives.

I am incredibly grateful to my Heavenly Father for all of my blessings. I want to be a better servant and disciple of Christ in order to show my gratitude. I love Alma 5.

7 Behold, he changed their hearts; yea, he awakened them out of a deep sleep, and they awoke unto God. Behold, they were in the midst of darkness; nevertheless, their souls were illuminated by the light of the everlasting word; yea, they were encircled about by the bands of death, and the chains of hell, and an everlasting destruction did await them.

8 And now I ask of you, my brethren, were they destroyed? Behold, I say unto you, Nay, they were not.

9 And again I ask, were the bands of death broken, and the chains of hell which encircled them about, were they loosed? I say unto you, Yea, they were loosed, and their souls did expand, and they did sing redeeming love. And I say unto you that they are saved.

10 And now I ask of you on what conditions are they saved? Yea, what grounds had they to hope for salvation? What is the cause of their being loosed from the bands of death, yea, and also the chains of hell?

11 Behold, I can tell you—did not my father Alma believe in the words which were delivered by the mouth of Abinadi? And was he not a holy prophet? Did he not speak the words of God, and my father Alma believe them?

12 And according to his faith there was a mighty change wrought in his heart. Behold I say unto you that this is all true.

13 And behold, he preached the word unto your fathers, and a mighty change was also wrought in their hearts, and they humbled themselves and put their trust in the true and living God. And behold, they were faithful until the end; therefore they were saved.
14 And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?

I have experienced this mighty change in my heart many times in my life, but I'm in a bit of a slump. I'm having a hard time making these changes I need to make in my life. I'm allowing the stress and cacaphony of the world take control of my life. Daily, I lose sight of my eternal goals and become focused solely on what is going on in my mortal life. I know I need the Lord's help more now than ever, but I'm having a hard time asking for it. I'm not praying or reading the scriptures like I know I should. It's not so much that I am putting my trust in the arm of flesh, I'm just not putting my trust anywhere. I love the Lord, I know He loves me, but I'm so exhausted by just trying to keep the wolf from the door that I have lost my connection to Him.

I want to sing the song of redeeming love. I want the peace that comes from righteous living. I want my soul to expand and I want to share the joy that comes from the Lord with everyone around me. I need to make some changes in my life and I can NOT do it without help from Jesus Christ.

I am so grateful for repentence. I am so grateful for Christ's atoning sacrifice. I am so grateful for mornings and fresh starts.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Behold the Wounds in Jesus' Side

This weekend was our stake conference. The entire conference was good, but the highlight for me was on Saturday night when our stake choir sang a song I don't remember hearing before.

It was written by John V. Pearson and put to music by David R. Naylor.

The lyrics are:

Behold the wounds in Jesus' hands,
The Marks upon His side.
Then ponder who He meant to save
when on the cross He died.

We cannot see the love of God
Which saves us from the fall,
Yet know that Christ from wood and nails
built mansions for us all.

Behold the outstretched hands of Christ,
Our God, who came to save,
Whose love and grace redeems our souls
And lifts us from the grave.

Though bruised and battered as we stray
His loving hands caress,
He washes and annoints with oil
Then in His arms we rest.

Behold the wounds in Jesus' hands,
Look to your Lord and live
He yearns to bless you with His love
And all your sins forgive.

Oh empty is the heart of man
When it is filled with sin.
Come open wide your broken heart
And let your Savior in!

Behold His wounded hands and feet!
Come touch and see and feel
The wounds and marks that you may know
His love for you is real.

Then as you fall to worship Him
And wash His feet in tears,
Your Savior takes you in His arms
And quiets all your fears.
Your Savior takes you in His arms
And quiets all your fears.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Will I ever get it right?

Friday night, a dear friend of mine died of breast cancer.

For many years, she was my neighbor. Our children grew up together. She had three boys who matched up pretty closely in age with three of my sons. For a few years, it seemed like one of them was with one of my boys almost 24/7. We love those kids. When I go back through family pictures from that era, there are many pictures of her boys mixed in with our family pictures.

About ten or eleven years ago, her husband (the boys' father) died of cancer. The day he died is a tender memory that I hold in a special place in my heart. Her youngest (who was 9 at the time) called to tell us that his daddy had died. He called in the middle of the night and because we did not hear the phone, he had to leave a message. If I concentrate, I can still hear his little voice giving us the news.

The next morning, as soon as I heard the message, I threw on my jeans and a sweatshirt and ran to their house. I spent the morning snuggled on the couch with the family while daddy's body rested in the other room as we waited for someone to come and pick him up. I loved that little family fiercely at that moment. I vowed (in my heart) to always love those boys and their mommy. I promised (to myself and to the Lord) that I would always be there if they needed me.
A few years later, with only one son still in high school, my friend moved away from our street. We lost touch. I still saw her kids now and again. Sometimes they would drop in to visit. Sometimes we would run into them. I didn't love them any less, but because they were not close, and we didn't spend much time together, it was less convenient to stay in touch. I allowed myself to grow apart from my friend. I saw her very rarely, and we would talk on the phone once or twice a year.

When she got breast cancer, her son told me. I called her. We talked for a long time. She was determined to beat it. She told me she would not let cancer take both parents from her sons. Over the months, I would get reports once in awhile from one of her kids and then I would call. She and I would talk as if we were still neighbors. It was as if time had not passed and we were still young. We would talk about our life hopes and dreams; about our children and their lives; about life in general. But, we never really talked of death.

A little later, I had a conversation with her. She told me that her treatment was not working. She was going to try some alternative treatments that had worked for a friend, but she was not sure how they would work. She sounded less sure that she was going to survive, but still determined to do everything she could to fight. She sounded more afraid. I still did not talk to her of death.

A few months ago, I spoke to her again. She said that nothing was working. She would do no more chemo. It made her horribly ill and was not stopping the cancer. She would choose quality of life over quantity of life. It was the last time I would speak to her and we did not talk of death.

Last week, I got a call from her second son. He was on his way home on emergency leave. The Red Cross had contacted his command and asked that he be allowed to go home for a few days to say goodbye to his mom. I asked him to call me once he saw her and let me know how she was. I did not call her. I prayed for her. I thought about her. But, I did not call her or go and see her. I knew I should. I knew it was urgent. I was prompted almost daily to find out where she was and to go and see her. But, it was a very busy, hectic week at home and at work and at church and every day I found an excuse not to call. I kept saying to myself, "Next week will be less busy for me. I'll call her then. And when I do, we will talk of death. I will share with her my knowlege of what waits for her. I will try to bring her comfort and peace as she passes from this realm to the next."

Saturday I was on my way out of the grocery store after doing my weekly grocery shopping. I was rushing because we needed to leave for a baptism in less than an hour. My day was so busy and filled with activities that I had not even allowed myself to think about visiting my friend. As I drove out of the store parking lot, my cell phone rang. It was my youngest daughter telling me that my friend's youngest son was at our home. I had the instant thought, "That's great! He can give me an update on my friend so I will know when is the best time to go see her next week."

Then my daughter said, "His mama died last night."

I am ashamed. I am heart broken. I am so so so sorry. Now, I will never talk to her of death. I will not bring her peace and comfort. I will not tell her I love her and hold her hand as we speak of things to come. I missed an opportunity to serve her and serve my Father in Heaven. I filled my life with things that really didn't matter and missed out on the one thing that did. I did not listen to the promptings of the Spirit which told me over and over and over to go to her.

I am not worried about her soul. She is a daughter of a Heavenly Father who loves her. I knew her heart. I saw how she loved and tried to do what was best. I know that she no longer has pain or sorrow. I know that she has peace now and is now learning much about life and God and things to come.

No, I am not worried about her soul. I am worried about mine.

I have missed so many opportunities to serve in my life. Each time it happens, I tell myself that I will not allow my life to get in the way of my spirit again, but still it happens. I'm reminded of the these lyrics (by Steven Kapp Perry):

"How could I change?
How I had tried.
How I had failed Time after time.
Needing a strength More than my own,
Leaving my faith In God, alone.

How I had prayed Seeking for peace,
How could I change?
How could I be

Born of God, born of God,
A new creation as at first.
Born of God, praising God
For the wonder of a second birth.

O Jesus, thou Son of God,
Have mercy on me!
And remember my sins no more
And may my spirit be

Born of God, born of God,
A new creation as at first.
Born of God, praising God
For the One who came to give us second birth."

I am so thankful for my Savior, Jesus Christ. I am so thankful for a Father in Heaven who loves me even when I am a slothful servant; who allows me to try again and again and again to change. I want to change. I want to become an instrument in the hands of my Father in Heaven. I want to be His hands and His feet and His mouth and to bring His peace to His children.

The second verse of the song goes:

"Seeing the past--How wrong I was.
Saying at last, "Thy will be done."
There was no voice, No shaking earth,
No wond'rous light At my rebirth.

Only a sigh Marking the change,
Only forgiveness Calling my name.

I want to say, "Thy will be done." And I know, with the help of my Savior, I can change. I can be born of God and be a new creature who will listen and obey. This is my prayer.