Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Loving It!


I’ve received a lot of questions about the short-term memory loss the doctor told me to expect. The main question is how I can keep writing. Yes, I am experiencing short-term memory loss—but not as much as was expected. It is very strange. I think of something to ask the person I’m talking to and by the time they quit talking, I can’t remember the question. I do get up to do something and can’t remember what I am doing. I have to write down when I take my pills because there is no way I can remember that fact.

BUT. . . writing is recording the thought the moment it occurs so it is like writing down where I am going when I think of it so I can execute the instruction after I’ve forgotten the intent. I also have the help of spell checker because I often come to a word and can’t spell it. (But amazingly my fingers can type it even though I can’t tell you how to spell it until I see it!) It is all very perplexing, but I am so thankful I can still write. I’m also constantly amazed at what these bodies are capable of doing!

Today I visited the ophthalmologist (thank goodness for spell checker!) and when he saw I was reading he shook his head and said, “You are a miracle! At the beginning of this, if I had to bet my home on you being able to read at this point, I would have bet against you.”

My hair is prickly. The swelling is almost gone. The black eye went away quickly. The only problem now is that all this sleeping sitting up has caused major pain in my sciatic nerve that shoots all the way done my right leg. Ouch! But I’m not complaining. Come what may, and love it!! The pain means I’m still alive and feeling it!!! You’ve got to love that.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Growing Faith

All 34 staples came out nicely!

One of the many lessons I’ve learned through this trial is the power of united prayer. After the crucifixion of the Savior, the disciples gather together and “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren” (Acts 1:14). In our own dispensation the Lord instructed, “And, as it is written--Whatsoever ye shall ask in faith, being united in prayer according to my command, ye shall receive” (D&C 29:6).

I’ve read and heard these things all my life and thought it was all about petitioning God in prayer and that the more praying the more influence it had for good. But during this experience, I literally felt the prayers sustaining me. It is not just about petitioning. It is about the faith of one person being exercised in behalf of another person and that faith empowering the one in need. I wish I had the words to explain it, but I can testify that it is very real.

Growing up in the faith, I’ve often encountered people who approach a trial and try to keep it secret. They don’t want to bother others or they worry about others bothering them. For some reason, they want to go it alone. There may be some valid concerns, but after what has happened in my behalf I can’t even begin to express how much we need each other. We weren’t meant to go it alone. We need the Savior. We need family. We need friends. I think this is one reason the Lord has put us in assigned wards so that we are close enough to know of each other’s needs and so we can learn to take care of each other. Everything in the Church points to that fact: home teaching, visiting teaching, serving each other, teaching each other in the organizations of the Church, and priesthood blessings to name just a few. We are meant to be an intimate ward family and an extended stake family.

But some of us are so afraid of opening up and being vulnerable that we shut out the very help we need. I know with my whole heart that I would not have the vision in my left eye without the faith and prayers of others. That faith guided the doctors and sustained me. Faith isn’t meant to be a lone, silent endeavor. Faith is meant to be shared and the more we share it and experience it the more it grows.

As I watch my hair slowly grow back, I'm going to consider it to be symbolic of the growth this experience has been to my faith!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

My Squeaky New Life!


Things are coming along well! I’m not in much pain, but I have a head that squeaks and drips. I’ll turn suddenly and something uncorks and inside my head there will be a drip, drip, drip. Or I’ll lay my head on a pillow and it squishes on the inside like a sponge expelling water. Very strange! But the best part is the giant “C” for Christmas that I have on the top of my head. In order to keep from frightening all the grandchildren, I call it my “zipper”. Some of the grandkids like it a lot and others don’t so my hats are coming in handy. The staples will come out Monday. (I try not to think about that!)

The most beautiful part of all this has been to watch my family take over. My daughters, all nine of them plus my daughter-in-law, have been here at some point over the holiday and helped to take care of me. My daughter who is a nurse stayed with me in the hospital and tended to my every need. They cooked an amazing sit down dinner for 37 people on Christmas day and we celebrated the birth of the Savior. After dinner the children performed the nativity punctuated with Christmas songs that we all sang together. Carl and I gave them our gifts and then we sat around for a long time talking about the Christmas’s we remembered best. There was something more there that night than just celebration. Everything anyone of us did or said was underscored by the fact that we had been the recipients a series of miracles from the very Savior whose birth we celebrated. The doctor can’t look at me without shaking his head and saying, “I’ve seen tumors much smaller than this cause blindness. There’s no way I can explain how you can see!”

It has also been amazing to watch my husband take over and tend to my every need. I’ve always been the care giver. He was bishop of a huge ward for five years and then mayor of a small city for eight years. In between he went back to school for an MPA from BYU. But to watch now as he carefully puts on my slippers for me, washes and medicates the Big “C” in my head, and thinks ahead to determine my every need has been so touching.

And I can’t even begin to thank all of you for your kindness, concern, prayers and love. This is truly a Christmas I will never forget.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

It is late Christmas Eve and my heart is full. There is no way to put into words all that I am feeling. Not being able to do much, I’ve been able to ponder the incredible miracles that have come into my life this week. I now have a beautiful, big scar on my head that will serve as a life-long reminder of the birth so long ago that changed the world: A birth that allowed miracles to occur. That first time I opened my eyes after the surgery, I glanced around the room then closed my eyes again. It was a moment before the thought occurred to me, “I saw everything! I’m not blind!” And then I fell back into a peaceful sleep. It was awhile later that I came to and the extent of the miracles began to unfold.

I do not know why some prayers are answered so miraculously and some are not. But what I do know is that the baby born to Mary makes everything all right. It might not be in the exact way we want or wish, but it is always right. Jesus Christ takes our sorrows, our griefs, our pains, all of our hurt and changes it into something wonderful. I don’t know how. I only know He does it. This Christmas Eve I am more sure of that fact than of anything else in the world. He gives love, light, and life to all who will follow Him. My prayer this Christmas Eve is that all will see His light. It shines so very brightly whenever we open our eyes.

Home for Christmas


Mom came home on Monday afternoon. She is loving recuperating in the comfort of her own home. We, of course, are thrilled to have her home for Christmas.

We sincerely thank you again for being a part of this miracle.


May your Christmas be merry and new year full of happy adventures.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Amazing

That's really the only thing that comes to mind as I think of what to say. Mom is doing great. She has amazed us and the doctors alike with the progress she's making. Today they moved her out of the ICU and she's now on the regular floor. She even took a walk around the floor a couple of times.

We're so thankful for your continued prayers and know she is feeling them as she heals. She was also thrilled and thankful when I told her so many have commented on her blog. So keep saying hello and granting good wishes.

We love you all.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Our hearts are happy

It felt like my heart started beating for the first time today when I got the call late this evening. Everything went very well. Grizelda is gone & she was not cancerous. No radiation or chemotherapy is in Mom's future. In the doctor's words it's a miracle that with the size that she (Grizelda, not my mom) was she didn't cause blindness. We feel so blessed that it was discovered when it was. He also explained that the optic nerve fell back into place after the intruder was removed (take that, big G). We'll continue to pray for a full recovery and for no obstacles along the way.

I can't wait to get my mom back (minus Grizelda of course).

If I could kiss your feet through the internet I would. I feel so much love for all of you. Thank you for loving my mom. Thank you for your faith in praying for the miracle we received today. Thank you for being you.

By the way, I'm Mariah & as my mom explained I'll be updating this while she's recuperating. I also blog at this is our tale if you want more nitty-gritty on who I really am.

Today's the Day. . .


I’ve been reading the Old Testament this last year and this very morning finished. I’ve read many of the books in the Old Testament numerous times, but this is only the second time in my life I’ve read it cover to cover. This verse in the last chapter of the Bible captures everything: “But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall” (Micah 4:2).

I have no idea what today will bring, but I trust in my Savior. I am in his hands. He cares for me like a farmer cares for the calves in his stall. He feeds, he protects, he grooms, he tends to my every need! I place myself in his tender care knowing that whatever the outcome, he will help me and that it will be for my best good.

Many, many thanks to all of you who are praying for me and who have kept me laughing and hoping and smiling. Thank you for the flowers, chocolate, hats, slippers, angels, but mostly for your love! I can’t even begin to tell you what it has meant to me. I love you all!

My daughter, Mariah, will be updating this blog daily with news. As soon as I can, I’ll be back, but remember I may repeat myself and who knows what else! Until then, please know that whatever happens, I know that Jesus is the Christ and that Thomas S. Monson is a prophet of God who leads and guides Christ’s Church on the earth today. That knowledge is an anchor to my soul and is what allows me to face this storm with such peace.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Hair Today; Gone Tomorrow!

My son ended up cutting my hair! I can't believe all the changes Grizelda has brought into my life!


I tried not to cry, but I really am ugly! But I will be a healthy ugly, and I will save a lot of time!


Carl and Josh both shaved their heads as a show of love! Who'd ever have thought I'd share a hairstyle with the men in my life!


I did find a silver lining! (It is amazing. . .there ALWAYS is one!) I thought that when I woke up and saw myself after my "haircut" I'd cry, but I broke out laughing. Then I found that without hair the shower spurting on my head is a delightfully different feeling. It was like getting a message! So relaxing!!!

And the great big silver lining in all of this is my family. My children, my husband, my children-in-law have all been absolutely amazing. Before the haircut, we went to the temple with those who are here already and then my husband, assisted by sons-in-law who were here, my son, my bishop, our life-long friend, and my home teacher, gave me a beautiful blessing.

There are no words to express how wonderful my large, chaotic family is. I love them more than I can begin to express. They are taking good care of me!

Calming the Storm


Last night my dear friend Sherri, brought me a picture painted by Julius Sergious Von Klever of “Christ Walking on the Water.” Since it is one of my very favorite New Testament stories, I remember it well . I remember empathizing as I read about the apostles shrinking in terror as they saw Jesus approach on the stormy sea. What could it be except some horrible monster! And they feared that even a greater harm than the storm was coming. But sensing their fear Jesus called out over the sound of the storm, “Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid” (Matthew 14:27). Every time I’ve glanced at the painting today those words have rung joyfully in my mind.

Then I had to put the words into practice. This afternoon they drew blood, took vitals, and banded me in preparation for tomorrow. One of the things the nurse did was to explain the measurement of pain. “They’ll be using a scale of 0 to 10,” she said, “with 0 being no pain and 10 excruciating pain. It’s best to try to keep the pain at five or under.” Then she looked down at my chart and remembered the procedure I would be going through. “Oh, but in your case we just hope we can get it down to a five. You are going to be in a really, really lot of pain.” She emphasized that last sentence by raising her eyebrows and shaking her head.

Obviously, those words failed to comfort me in any way. Instead they shifted my focus to the storm, but I knew I couldn’t go there. And so I shut my eyes and remembered the picture of my Savior walking on the water. I’m learning that if I keep myself focused on the Man who calms the storms instead of on the storm, I am instilled with good cheer despite the howling winds.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Count Down!

Of all the times of the year to be going through something like this, this is the best. Everywhere I go are reminders of my Savior. A dear friend gave me the cutest small, Mexican nativity that I have right by my bed so that it sees me safely to sleep and greets me first thing in the morning. It is so much easier to remember that "this too shall pass" when you have all these reminders of the person who makes adversity pass.

I am still laughing. It is getting a little harder, but so many people are helping me. Like my good friend Jill who brought me a picture of a Japanese invention for sleeping while sitting up. In essence it is a hard hat attached to a wall so as you sit under the hat it holds up your head while you sleep. (The picture is very funny!) And I can't even begin to list all the good people who comfort and calm--especially an amazing niece who volunteered to donate her beautiful, long, strawberry-blond hair to make me a wig. I can't believe how willing others are to sacrifice for me. I don't deserve it, but am certainly grateful.

Things start in earnest tomorrow at 2:00 when we do blood work. Tomorrow night we are going to have a family ritual and cut off all my hair. I wanted to donate it to Locks-of-love, but they won't take my chemically treated hair. (Ouch! My secret is out!) It should be a fun evening. I promise to put up a picture of me and Carl with matching hair cuts! Stay tuned!!!

Then Friday I go in at noon for another MRI (I'll soon be familiar enough with the procedure to run the machine. I wonder if those technicians get paid more than professors?) After the MRI they are going to shoot me full of a high dose of steroids to hold down the swelling. (I guess that means I won't be qualified for the New Year's Eve marathon. Shucks! And I thought this was my year to win the thing.)

The surgery will begin about 3:00. Dr. Gaufin will open up the skull, lift up the brain, and make a window into the orbital. Then Dr. Cook will find Grizelda and tell her (kindly, of course) that she needs to move on. We're not sure how she is going to take the news, but Dr. Cook is prepared for any eventuality. He may have to get a little tough on her, but if she refuses to leave we'll call in an oncologist to evict her with radiation. After Dr. Cook is through, Dr Gaufin will close me back up and everyone will go home except me. The procedure will take 3 to 5 hours depending on how stubborn Grizelda is.

At first they told me I'd be in ICU for a day. Now they tell me it will probably be 2 days and then 3 or 4 on the floor. Again, everything depends on Grizelda! But more great news, one of my daughters--the one who is a nurse--flies in tomorrow to be with me at the hospital. How blessed can one person be!

If I'm repeating myself, I have an excuse. I have a tumor in my head. That repetition thing will get worse before it gets better. The doctor warned Carl to be prepared. It seems I'll ask what's for dinner about ten times before dinner and several more times after I've eaten it. Poor Carl! As if I haven't given him enough trouble already.

Thanks again for all your help. Things are going to be fine. I appreciate how you keep reminding me of that!

Preparing to Navigate the New Life

They are preparing me for what things will be like after surgery. Surprisingly I am learning some tips that might be useful to others of you in my age category! It seems I will experience a short spell (three to six weeks) with little or no short term memory. To cope with this I am to carry around a pad of paper and the moment a thought comes to me I am to write it down.

For example: I realize that I am thirsty and need a drink of water. Before I do anything else, I write on my trusty pad of paper (Think Steve on Blue’s Clues!), “I am going to the sink to get a drink.” Then I stand up and take three steps and find myself wondering where in the world I am going. But alas, I have my trusty pad of paper and so I read, “I am going to the sink to get a drink” and I smile and take four more steps before I’m wondering anew where in the world I am going. But don’t worry about me, because I have my trusty pad of paper so I’m eventually going to make it to the sink and drink.

The more I think about this, it isn’t just good advice for people in my age category! God knew we would suffer pre-mortal memory lose once we were here on earth. He knew we wouldn’t remember where we were going or why we wanted to go back there so he gave us a “trusty pad of paper,” (better known as scriptures) on which he has written all the information we need in order to keep us going in the right direction. We take a few steps, grow weary and wonder where in the world we are going, read our scriptures, and then take a few more steps toward home. In this way we keep progressing until we reach the Fountain of Living Waters and drink deep.

God thought of everything, didn’t He!

My New Hats!


I slept very well last night! So this is going to be a good day. I just wanted you all to see my two new hats. Of course, I have hair under these, but I pushed the hair up inside the hat just to see what it would look like and without hair it is even more sophisticated! I think I might be discovering a new me.

There was a red hat at the store I really like, but I refrained and got the more practical black and gray ones so that they would match more clothes. You'd think that at a time like this I could finally shake that all-too-practical part of me, but I guess it is just too deeply ingrained. Come to think of it, I got it from my mother, so it must be a hereditary family trait!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Discovering Grizelda

I've had a number of people ask how I discovered the tumor. (I've named her Grizelda and have let her know that while I have nothing against her personally, she needs to find a new home.)

The discovery is a miracle. I had a head cold that would not go away--complete with cough, congestion, ear ache, etc. After four weeks of that I decided I must need an antibiotic and so made a doctor's appointment. I couldn't get in to the doctor for two weeks, but when the time came I still had the cold so I went. I seldom go to the doctor and so while I was there the thought came to me that I ought to ask her about these strange head aches I get. They are only in the back of my head on the left side and I only get them about every six months.

When the thought first came to tell her about them, I stopped myself thinking, "Sherrie, don't be such a hypochondriac." But again I felt like I should bring it up so I did. After I explained that I get these headaches, she said, "Only on the left side?" I answered yes, and without any more questions she responded, "I'm going to order an MRI." She didn't even ask how often the headaches occurred. I'm sure that if she had, she wouldn't have ordered an MRI!

Looking back on it, I know that the spirit was prompting me to complain and that the spirit prompted her to order the MRI. The interesting thing is that the tumor has nothing at all to do with the head aches. The tumor is in the orbital and couldn't cause a pain in the back of my head. So I am convinced the Lord sent the headache so I'd complain! The Lord works in mysterious ways, his wonders to perform!!!

The miraculous thing is that we discovered Grizelda before the symptoms started to manifest. If we hadn't found her before the symptoms, there would have been irreparable damage and possibly worse than just damage.

I've also been asked which hospital I will be in and it will be the Utah Valley Regional Hospital. Please pray for the doctors that they will be guided and directed! They are Dr. Todd Cook (the ophthamologist) and Dr. Lynn Gaufin, (the neurosurgeon).

Thanks again for all your love and support!

Theodicy

This sleeping sitting up isn’t working. It is 5:00 am and I have been awake since 2:30. That means I’ve been thinking for 2 and 1/2 hours. I’ll try to distill my thoughts down.

Yesterday a friend asked me why God lets some things happen. He used the example of a mother of five struggling on life support after a terrible car accident. If she had reached the intersection five seconds earlier or five seconds later, she wouldn’t be near death. But across town at the very same time someone has lost their keys, prays about it and the tender mercies of the Lord lead the person to the keys. Why did God take care of the keys and not the mother?

That does seem like a perplexing problem. But I would be very, very careful about blaming God. How do we know that the Spirit didn’t say to the woman, “Slow down. You’re going too fast”? How do we know that she didn’t think, “But I’m late. I can’t slow down now.” Or maybe before she left the house the spirit said, “Call Sister Smith.” And she didn’t think, “Why should I call Sister Smith?” or “I’ll do it when I get back.” Or maybe she was so preoccupied stressing about what happened that morning with a child or fretting about all the bills that needed to be paid tomorrow that she didn’t even hear or feel the prompting. From what I know about God, it is much more likely the case that God is always prompting, always transmitting the necessary help and guidance, but that it is we who fail to tune in.

None of us like to hear that it is our fault that we have a problem. But how do I know that a few months or years ago the Spirit didn’t prompt me, “Don’t eat that!” or give me some other warning that would have kept this tumor from developing, and I either ignored or didn’t hear the prompting? I firmly believe that God is no respecter of persons. So the logical conclusion for me is that bad things don’t happen because God wills them or allows them. Bad things happen because in our mortal frailness we make mistakes.

But God knew we would not always listen. He knew we would be preoccupied or fretting and therefore make mistakes. So he provided an Atonement that not only overcomes our sins, but compensates us for all we suffer if we will just trust in Him. Now is my time to trust and to learn to listen better.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Verdict Is In

My adorable sister brought my mom down today. It was her birthday so we went to lunch to celebrate and then she took me hat shopping. My daughter who lives here came with and we had a delightful time. I bought two felt hats! Simply stunning. Maybe I'll start a new style!!! I also bought two scarves to tie around my head. Just think--next time you're trying to get your hair to do what you want it to, I'm not. I think I'm going to like not having to take care of hair.

After we found the hats, we were browsing in a game store and the phone call came. The scans where clean which means there are no more tumors which would normally be very good news. But in this case it means that instead of being able to simply biopsy a tumor in my arm pit or glands, they have to cut open my head, move back my brain, drill into the orbital, and biopsy the tumor. Not fun!

Once the pathologist pronounces the verdict, they will make a decision as to what to do with the tumor. I won't know until I wake up what they've done to me. Talk about uninformed!

The surgery will be on Friday at 3:00 pm. That's exactly the time one of my New Testament classes will be taking their final. I'd rather be there agonizing with my students who I love, but the Lord has other plans for me. So, I'll go where He wants me to go in my new black felt hat. I've even decided that the first time I wear it to Church, I'm not going to let it bother me that I'm the only woman in a hat.

The only thing I really fear is that once they expose my brain they'll discover there is nothing in there! I've done such a good job of hiding that fact all these years!

I hope you're laughing with me. It helps. But at the same time I want you to know I am still at peace. I don't know how people who have no faith get through life! The gospel is true! It really works in our lives. The Spirit is with me and I know that everything is eventually going to be all right.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Marvelous Law of Opposition


As Lehi is about to die, he gives his son Jacob some wonderful counsel. One of the many gems of wisdom he shares is this: “For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things” (2 Ne 2:11). Every time I’ve heard this I’ve started on the positive side of the equation and thought of the bad thing as the opposition. For example, the opposite of health is sickness. The opposite of wealth is poverty. For some reason opposition always went from good to bad for me.

But what I’m learning now is that opposition also means that dire, negative circumstances have a positive to them. When I was growing up my father used to tell me a story about a boy who wanted a pony for Christmas. Christmas morning he awoke all excited but instead of a pony he found a room full of manure. His parents braced themselves for what they thought would be terrible disappointment, but instead the boy grabbed a shovel and began digging.

“What are you doing?” his father asked.

Without stopping the boy replied excitedly, “With all this manure, there has got to be a pony in here somewhere.”

I’ve got manure right now. Lots of it. But the surprising thing is not the stink. The surprising thing is that because of this wonderful law of opposition, tied to each negative occurrence, event or finding there is a beautiful positive. I’m beginning to find myself anticipating (just like the boy shoveling the manure) the good.

Take last night for example. Yesterday for the first time I began to experience pain in my eye. It is a sharp, biting sensation that shoots through the eye as if someone had stuck a needle in it. But yesterday I also received a marvelous gift. We had tickets to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas concert. As we walked to the Conference Center the beautiful lights on Temple Square were brighter, livelier, richer than ever before. They shot a sensation of absolute delight through my soul that warmed and elated me. I can still feel the joy these many hours later!

Then during the concert, the choir sang “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” and as they sang the thought coursed through me that one of the reasons Jesus Christ performed the Atonement was so that he would then be available to me at a time like this. Tears streamed down my cheeks as the full realization hit me. He didn't just suffer for my sins. He didn't just overcome physical death. He suffered, so that he could now succor me.

Jesus Christ is helping me every step of the way and for that I am very grateful.

"The Lord is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him." Nahum 1:7

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Learning Curve

I had a scare this morning. When I woke up I couldn't see out of my left eye. I only have 20/400 vision in my right eye so I could barely see even with that eye. I sat up and within a few minutes my vision returned, but this will happen more and more until we get the tumor out.

It was a little frightening, but the most important thing I want you to know is that even in that moment I was at peace. Throughout this week as we have been going from doctor to doctor and test to test, the most amazing thing to me is the peace I've experienced. I know that my Father in Heaven is with me and that I am about the face the trial of my life, but that He is going to help me every step of the way. There is something for me to learn from this and as I do I will share the learning with you so that you can learn from me instead of going through something like this!

When I called the doctor to tell him about our latest development, he told me I can't sleep any more lying down. Well, I've never been able to sleep sitting up! So this is going to be a sleepless week. Thank goodness I have a lot of good books!

Thanks again for your comments, emails, prayers, faith, and love. It helps so much.

Friday, December 12, 2008

What a Day!


It is amazing how life changes when you don’t know what tomorrow will bring. I realize none of us really do know what tomorrow will bring, but we live as if we do know. However, when you really accept the fact that you don’t know and can’t know, and that there might not even be a tomorrow you look at things differently. I found myself clinging to every little detail today. As we left early this morning I soaked in the sight of my little cul-de-sac and marveled at what wonderful neighbors I have. While waiting for the ophthalmologist, I noticed with great delight how the eyeglasses in the optical shop lined up so neatly. They made marvelous patterns like a row of dashes on a paper. And the things I am learning! Wow! Have you ever seen the inside of your own brain? Amazing! (By the way, the neurosurgeon said the rest of my brain is beautiful! I’ve been saying for years that beauty is on the inside.)
We visited doctors today and took more images. The choices of what to do are narrowing, but we won’t make a decision until Monday. The very best scenario for me right now is that the tumor is lymphoma. In this case lymphoma is actually better than a benign tumor because a lymphoma can be removed with radiation while the benign tumor will have to be cut out and there is a high possibility of blindness if they have to cut. If you had told me a few weeks ago that I’d be praying to have cancer I would have thought you were nuts.
Thanks for all your comments, prayers, and emails. I can't even tell you how much they lift and encourage and help me.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Time to Practice What I Preach

Dear blog friends,

This past week I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Today we were told that the tumor is in the worst possible place it could be. It is behind my left eye and if they go in to take it out it will almost certainly cause blindness. For the same reason, they also can't do a biopsy. Because it can't be biopsied, we don't know if it is benign or malignant, but either way it has to come out because it is growing and eventually that will cause blindness.

Tomorrow I will be going through more tests and meeting with more doctors. There are four options and at this point none of them is good. Please pray for me. I trust with all my heart in my Heavenly Father. I know He is with me and that He will guide me. I also know that the prayers of many bring about miracles. I'm counting on one of those miracles. I love you all.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Glad Heart


In Lectures on Faith, Joseph Smith explains that in order to have faith we must know what Jesus Christ is like. I think that is one of the main reasons we are encouraged to read scripture—because that is where we get acquainted with our Savior. In scripture we come to know of his love. We read of him inviting the children to come to him (Mark 10). We read of him deciding not to leave when he knows how much the people want him to stay (3 Nephi 17). The references to his healing those in pain and sorrow are too numerous to cite and each tells us a little bit more about how very much he loves us.

Through the scriptures we also learn of his amazing attributes of justness, kindness, power, and mercy. There is no doubt that he is wonderful. But I used to find myself wanting more. I'd never seen an artist's depiction of the Savior with a full-on smile, and yet in my heart I felt certain that he smiles. I wanted to know if he laughs at jokes or if he playfully teases a child just a little. I wanted to know if he winks or if he sings when he is happy. Does he dance? Does he hug? Does he express delight at good food? What does he enjoy?

Then one day I found this quote that answered my questions. Heber C. Kimball said, “I am perfectly satisfied that my Father and my God is a cheerful, pleasant, lively, and good-natured Being. Why? Because I am cheerful, pleasant, lively and good-natured when I have His Spirit. That is one reason why I know; and another is—the Lord said through Joseph Smith, ‘I delight in a glad heart and a cheerful countenance’ (D&C 59: 15).” (JD 4:222.)

Since reading that quote, I've paid close attention to what I think, feel and am when the spirit is with me, and by so doing I’ve come to better know my Savior. Yes, he sings! Yes, he laughs! And I’m positive that at appropriate times he winks to expresses his joy.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Love of God


In my four-year-old grandson's Primary, the children were shown a picture of Joseph and Mary riding a donkey to Bethlehem. The children were asked if they knew who the people in the picture were. No one knew, but Eli raised his hand and said, "I don't know who they are, but why is a pregnant lady going camping?"

Since my daughter told me that story, I can't quit thinking about it. Why would a pregnant woman travel the 90+ miles to Bethlehem? Why would she leave her mother at the time she was about to deliver her first child? From that point there is no stopping the questions that tumble forth. Why would that child grow to be such a selfless man? Why would He suffer for us? Why were we so important to Him? Why?

There is only one answer to all the questions; Because of the love of God which resided in both of them. They loved God; therefore, they obeyed Him. Love is a powerful enabler and when the love of God resides in us, we too can do all that we are called upon to do.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Free!



Sometimes life closes in on us and we feel as if we were in a cage desperately trying to find a way out. We bang against the cage bars until we are bruised and we shout for help but no one comes to aid us. In those claustrophobic times, life seems so dismal, but the problem is not so much the cage but the fact that getting out of the cage is all we let ourselves think about.

During those times, I’ve found that if I stop fighting the bars that entrap me and step into the center of the cage—as far from the bars as I can—and then do anything except fight against the cage, things change. After all, even though the cage surrounds me, I can still sing! I can dance! I can commune with my Father in Heaven and let His love and light flood through me. I can love others. I can enjoy the sights beyond the cage. I can breathe in the wonderful aromas that waft through the cage. I can. . . well you get the picture. Despite the cage there is so much to still enjoy.

But the most amazing thing about doing this is that when I step back and concentrate on finding ways to “enjoy” the situation in the cage instead of fighting against it, I suddenly notice that someone has been standing there all along holding open the door. All I needed was to turn around and walk through it.

I hope cage doors open for you today!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Heritage


I’ll never forget the day several years ago when I was working in the kitchen doing all the normal things you do like wiping down the cupboards and cleaning out the microwave when suddenly while wringing out the dishcloth in the sink a shock went through me. The hands wringing water out of the cloth weren’t mine! They were my mother’s. How had her hands become attached to the end of my arms? It was a strange moment of discovery that I was aging, but more than that it was a moment of realization that I was becoming my mother. Genetically I had been programmed to have her hands.

Since that day I can’t look at my hands without thinking about my mother which means that I think about her about a hundred times a day. (Try to count how many times a day you see your hands!)And whenever I see her hands, I know what mine will be like in 20 years.

It is easy for most of us to look in a mirror and see the things about us that we inherited from our parents. But what isn’t as easy is identifying what we inherited from our Heavenly Parents. For some reason we let a false sense of humility keep us from acknowledging traits we inherited from Them. But that isn’t humility at all.
As Christmas approaches, I challenge you to identify at least two characteristics you inherited from your Heavenly Father and then to concentrate on those two things throughout the month. Of course, they won't be perfected like His traits are, but you will have those traits in a lesser form. Make it your Christmas gift to God to enhance them and to be grateful for them.

I’m in the middle of parents and children now, and I also know how delightful it is to notice myself in my children—especially my good qualities. Seeing your good characteristics in them is a true source of joy, and I’m sure that our Father in Heaven also experiences joy when we recognize and acknowledge ways we are like Him. After all He gave us those traits and as He said, “What doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive [acknowledges] not the gift? Behold, he rejoices not in that which is given unto him, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift” (D&C 88:33).

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!


I am thankful for:
1. The gospel(which includes the Savior, scriptures, temples, etc.)
2. My family
3. My health
3. My talents
4. My friends (YOU!)
5. This beautiful world
6. Music
7. A soft bed
8. A warm shower
9. Laughter
10. Technology (which includes the Internet and my dishwasher!)

That's just the top ten. There is sooo much more that I am grateful for. I can hardly contain myself with thinking about all that I have. So this Thanksgiving I'm going to follow the counsel of the Lord when He said, "If thou art merry, praise the Lord with singing, with music, with dancing, and with a prayer of praise and thanksgiving" (D&C 136:28). As a matter of fact, I think I'll start singing right now!

MUCH LOVE TO YOU ALL! (Did you hear the music? I'm dancing, too! Join in! Sing! Dance! Be joyful! Making lists isn't the only way to be grateful!)

image from:www.crewsnest.vispa.com

Monday, November 24, 2008

Side-By-Side


When the Savior walked and taught upon the earth, He often gave the people visual images that would help them remember Him. For example, instead of simply saying, “I will help you,” the Savior told the people, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matthew 11:29). The people then knew what a yoke looked like. They saw one often, and saw animals yoked together working in the fields. After hearing the Savior tell them to take His yoke upon them, they would have thought of that every time they saw a yoke. Thus the image would serve as a reminder, something to help keep their hearts healthy.

I only see yokes in museums, and when I ask my students if they know what a yoke is, most of them don’t have a clue. Pictured here is a yoke for oxen. It keeps the oxen working side by side and the load that needs to be pulled is attached to the yoke so that the animals share in the work of pulling the burden. It is a beautiful image to remember—that when we are yoked with Jesus Christ he helps pull our load. (In my case, He often pulls ALL the load and me!)

Since I don’t see yokes on a daily basis to help me remember this concept, I’ve associated the idea with something I do see daily—my refrigerator. This may sound strange, but it works for me. I have a side-by-side refrigerator/freezer that work together to preserve food for my family. When I look at it, I think about myself working side-by-side with my Savior. I am never alone. He is always there. It reminds me that if I’ll just do my part of the job, the Savior will do the rest. We are in this together. How can I fail when He is helping me?

It is amazing how making an association like that can help you though a day. If the refrigerator image doesn’t work for you, associate something you see every day with something the Savior said and then let it remind you every time you see it of Him and His promises. You’ll be surprised what encouragement this will give you. That is one way to find “rest to our souls.”

Friday, November 21, 2008

Here's to Healthy Hearts


In Proverbs I found a piece of advice that I like. It says, “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23). The Complete Jewish Bible translates that same verse as, “Above everything else, guard your heart; for it is the source of life's consequences.” And the NIV translates it, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”

After reading these and other translations, I could easily see the importance of guarding the heart and began to ponder on how to do it better. I decided it entails keeping anything bad out and that takes concerted effort. Just as I strive to keep germs and bacteria out of my body, I need to keep filth and vulgarity out of my heart.

Right now I’m suffering from a cold, so evidently I’m not doing too well at the germs in my body thing. But that made me think some more. I am vigorously doing all I can do to rid myself of the germs and sickness. But when negative things like jealously, anger, resentment, grudges, or fear enter my heart do I spend as much time and effort ridding myself of them? Right now I’m using vitamins, herbs, and decongestants to fight my cold. I had these on hand and ready for the occasion the minute the sickness struck. This brings up another question. Have I acquired an “arsenal” of medications to use against sickness of the heart? When I feel these negative things creeping into my heart do I act immediately and fight off the negative emotions like I have this physical illness, or do I sit back and say, “Well that’s part of life” And let it linger?

Negative feelings are sickness to the heart which leads to negative issues in life and dire consequence. I think I’m going to work harder at guarding my heart; after all, I want my life to flow from a wellspring not a sickspring.

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Short Reason to Rejoice


The shortest verse in our English King James Bible, is found in John 11:35 and consists of two words and nine letters, “Jesus wept.” In the original Greek our New Testament was translated from, that phrase is not the shortest. In Greek it is three words and seventeen letters.

Instead we find the shortest Greek verse in 1 Thesselonians 5:16 where it consists of two words and fifteen letters. In English the verse reads, “Rejoice always.”

I know this is Bible trivia, but it is interesting to me that these two shortest verses in the English and Greek New Testament sum up the gospel of Jesus Christ. “Jesus wept” not only for the people gathered at Lazarus’ tomb but for you and I. In fact those loving tears culminated in the Atonement which allows us to return to the safety and love of our Father in Heaven. For that reason we should “rejoice always!”

Put the two verses together and you have the good news of the gospel summarized short and succinct—Jesus wept for us, therefore, we can rejoice always.

Friday, November 14, 2008

God's Love Langauge


While in South Carolina a dear friend, TeLene, spoke with me about the entry I wrote not too long ago about the five love languages. She said that after reading about how God speaks to each of us in our specific love language, she began to think about the fact that God must have a love language also and that His love language is acts of service. This means that whenever we are obedient and serve, God feels loved. She explained how this discovery had changed her. For example, she had an assignment to help clean the church and when the time came had other things she would rather do, but then the thought came to her, “No. I need to go clean so God will feel loved.”

I’ve been thinking about what she said ever since and just yesterday found these insights from President Thomas S. Monson, “We have a responsibility to prove to our Heavenly Father, by the things we do, that we love Him. . . . Though we may not necessarily forfeit our lives in service to our God, we can certainly demonstrate our love for Him by how well we serve Him. . . . Each of us has opportunities for Church assignments. This opportunity of serving in the Church enables us to demonstrate a love of God and a love of our neighbor. . . . There is no finer way to demonstrate love of God than by serving Him in the positions to which we may be called. (“How Do We Show Our Love?” Ensign (Jan. 1998), p. 2, 4, 5.)

We talk a lot about God’s love for us, but sometimes we need to think about our love for God. Recognizing that He wants to be loved and then “speaking” His love language not only demonstrates that love, but the conscious recognition that when we obey we are loving him can motivate us to do the things we should.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

It's Official! I'm An Honorary Southern Belle






I’m home. My trip to South Carolina was a dream. Everything you’ve ever heard about Southern hospitality is understated! I was treated like royalty and loved every minute of it. I spoke on Saturday morning to a warm, loving chapel full of sisters. Afterward they served a delicious turkey dinner and gave me a beautiful palmetto bag monogrammed with my initials and a brass palmetto welcome sign. (If you don’t know the significance of the Palmetto, check this out. Very interesting!)

After the conference my daughter drove me by the Columbia temple. It is small and secluded—a haven nestled in a forest. That afternoon six of the sisters, Cookie, Sue, TeLene, Laresa, Marie, and the hostess Cyndy had planned a surprise for me—a Southern Tea Party (herbal tea, of course!) A beautifully set table greeted me and all the trimmings of an English Tea—the sandwiches, scones, and sweets—but with a Southern flair that included pecans (that’s PEE-cans in South Carolina) and everything else that is good. The highlight came when they made me an honorary Southern Belle. To do that they instructed me in the nuances of “Southern Speech.” I learned how to properly tell someone that something isn’t going to happen. You say (making every vowel into two sounds) “That old dawg won’t hunt no more.” I learned that when addressing a group you don’t say “ya’ll.” Instead you say, “All ya’ll.” I learned how to properly use “reckon,” “fetchin’,” “fixin’ to,” “awfullest,” and a new sense of the word “best”—as in “You best not do that again!”

After being properly instructed, I was tested and required to repeat back three things I had learned. I am proud to say I passed the test and was presented a beautiful Palmetto pin and proclaimed an Honorary Southern Belle. I proudly wore my pin today!

The next day, Sunday, I attended the Camden Ward and again was overwhelmed with love. Then in the afternoon Laresa took me to a friend’s house, or rather I should say mansion. Holly Hedge House was built in 1842 and has been lived in since it was built. Originally it was a 600 acre plantation headed by a sprawling three story main house with wide inviting porches everywhere. Behind the main house stands the kitchen house—a two story building (much larger than my home) that housed the kitchen, butler’s pantry and a huge great room that doubled as dining room (you could easily feed 85 to 90 people in there) or a ball room. Originally the downstairs housed the household slaves. It is now bedrooms and a beautiful pool room. I can’t begin to describe how magnificent! But the magic came from stepping back in time. This wasn’t a museum with roped off rooms—this was a lived in, beautifully preserved, vintage home emanating personality from every nook and corner. Its charm gathered me into its secrets so completely that I was surprised when I passed a mirror to discover that I wasn’t wearing a hoop skirt with layers of rustling petticoats.

This is only a bit of all that happened. I’m still floating! Why, I had such a fetchin’ good time I’ve a mind to go back dreckly!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Drink or Dig?


The prophet Jeremiah taught at the same time Lehi did in Jerusalem, but instead of taking him away to a promised land, the Lord instructed him to stay with the people and urge them to return to God. He obeyed but his efforts were in vain. The people refused to repent and brought upon themselves the very destruction Jeremiah and Lehi had warned them about.

At one point the Lord told the people through Jeremiah that they had committed two evils, “They have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water” (Jeremiah 2:13). Reading this you and I get a sense of the meaning, but the intensity of it is lost on us—people who turn on a tap to get hot or cold water and then watch it run down the drain without a thought as to what is happening.

In Jeremiah’s day water was a valuable commodity. Recognized as absolutely necessary for human existence, water procuring occupied much of their time and thoughts. And once procured, protecting that water became equally as important. Every family member would be constantly reminded of the importance of water, and no one would dare waste water. It was much too precious. Water was life.

So when the Lord offers them a fountain (source) of living waters they should have rejoiced and drunk freely. Instead they rebelled and spent much effort to build themselves cisterns that broke and were unable to hold water which meant they went thirsty and died.

This is difficult to understand. When the Lord says, here drink from the living waters I’m giving to you, why would anyone turn their backs on that water and instead go to all the work of building and trying to fill their own cistern? It makes no sense, and yet repeatedly throughout the history of mankind we see people turn away from the life-sustaining waters offered by the Lord and instead spending a great deal of time and effort in an attempt to build leaky cisterns.

The question this makes me ask myself is, “Am I drinking from the Source or digging my own well?” Drinking is easy. Digging is hard. But the adversary does a very good job of confusing those two.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Jehovah is my Song!


At one point in his writings, Isaiah proclaims that Jehovah is his strength and his song. Jehovah being my strength, I understand. How Jehovah is my song isn’t as clear. In the Psalms we find the declaration “with my song will I praise him” (Psalm 28:7). This makes more sense to me. After all, music is a powerful way to praise God. And maybe that is similar to what Isaiah means when he says, “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid; for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; he also has become my salvation” (Isaiah 12:2 and 2 Ne 22:2). The Hebrew word translated here as song, is zimrath, and means “song of praise.” So maybe Isaiah means that Jehovah is what he sings about and praises.

But he says Jehovah is his song so maybe there is more to this declaration that he wants us to understand. A song is a type of music and music is “the art of ordering tones or sounds in succession, in combination, and in temporal relationships to produce a composition having unity and continuity.”

This takes a little thought, so ponder on it for a moment. If we let Jehovah order our lives, he orders the experiences in succession, in combination, and in relationship to each other to produce a life having unity and continuity. So our life becomes a song and Jehovah is the composer. Sometimes life is like modern music—full of polyphonic, dissonant and syncopated events. But when we trust in the composer, he always brings it back to harmony, melody and rhythm. And the promise is that it will eventually end in harmony, melody and rhythm and stay there forever.

But still, Jehovah in this analogy is the composer, not the song. There has to be one more step in the process. Jehovah is our song when he becomes our life. When we stop trying to order the events of our life and let him do it, he produces a composition having unity and continuity and He is that song.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

South Carolina Here I Come!

I'm getting excited! A week from tomorrow I will be in South Carolina to speak at a Women's Conference. I can't wait to see all of you who get on here from SC. I hope you will all introduce yourselves so that I can put a face with the names!
See you soon!
(Besides the down home cooking, I can't wait to get some boiled peanuts. I love them, and I can't find them out West!)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Words


I often tell people that I have learned more about the gospel of Jesus Christ from a dictionary than any other source. They usually look at me like I’m crazy, but I’m not. (Don’t ask my family to verify that!) At any rate, let me show you what I mean. There are many words that we think we know and so we don’t ever look them up in a dictionary. For example let’s look at the word temple. My dictionary says that a temple is “a place set aside by a prophet for observation.” A second definition (my favorite) is “a place where one gets one’s bearings on the universe.” That expanded my feeling for what a temple is.

Elder John A. Widtsoe taught that “The endowment and the temple work as revealed by the Lord to the Prophet Joseph Smith fall clearly into four distinct parts: The preparatory ordinances; the giving of instruction by lectures and representations; covenants; and finally, tests of knowledge.” (“Temple Worship” The Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine 12[April 1921]:58.)

Let’s look at one of those words. Our word endowment means (1) To provide with property, income, or a source of income. (2) To equip or supply with a talent or quality. It is composed of the prefix en which means “to put into” and the root word dower which means “a natural gift; a dowry.” This definition is much more meaningful when we remember that throughout the scriptures the Lord is depicted at the bridegroom and the people of the church as the bride. Therefore, the endowment is the dowry given to the bride. It is a gift of power, priesthood power and those who are obedient to the covenants made in the temple will be empowered.

I hope I’ve got you curious. Next time you go to the temple, a church meeting, or study the scriptures remember just one word and then look it up and see how it enhances your understanding. A word doesn’t have to be sesquipedalian before you head for a dictionary! Words you’ve known for years can contain subtle nuances that have escaped your understanding. This means that looking up even the simplest of words can enlighten you. Try it!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Love Languages


Years ago I read The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. In this book Dr. Chapman discusses the ways we show our love to others and how we feel loved by them. He has determined that there are five ways we express love. (1) Words of Affirmation (2) Quality Time (3) Gift Giving (4) Acts of Service and (5) Physical Touch. He explains that if we feel loved when people affirm us verbally we usually affirm others verbally in order to show our love for them. But this can misfire if the other person’s love language is one of the other four. While we may think we are abundantly expressing love, the other person may feel totally unloved.

On Dr. Chapman’s web site there is a 30 second Test to discover your primary love language so you can better understand yourself, but more than that by watching how those you love express love to you, you can learn their love language and better love them.

But loving others isn’t what this post is about. After I’d read the book and observed the love languages at work, I discovered something amazing. God knows my love language and daily He communicates His love to me in that language. In 1 Nephi 31:3, Nephi tells us that God, “speaketh unto men according to their language, unto their understanding.” That doesn’t only mean that if I speak Spanish or English he communicates to me in that language. He knows what makes me feel loved and he loves me in that way.

My major love language is gift giving. I always feel loved when someone gives me gifts and I love to give gifts. As I realized this, I began to notice that daily God sends me gifts. Just today I was working when I suddenly looked up and in the beveled edge of my mirror a rainbow of bright blue, green, red and yellow reflected into the room. For several minutes I savored the stunning color—more distinct and bright than anything I’ve seen before. It was a gift just for me and as I pondered that thought the gift spread love into every cell of my being.

I don’t know what your love language is, but I do know that God is speaking to you in that language. Just listen!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Positive Power

Shortly before Lehi dies he teaches his son Jacob a beautiful lesson on justice and agency. (see 2 Nephi 2) One of the important things Lehi tells Jacob is that "It must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my first-born in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass" (2 Nephi 2:11). We often hear the first part about opposition in everything being necessary and focus on the fact that this world contains many negative elements. But the next phrase is important and we don't often hear it or stop to contemplate its meaning—that if there were no opposition there could be no righteousness.

There are several things implied here, but one is the fact that it is through opposites that we have the power to dispel evil. And what do I mean by that? Well, too often in life when trying to overcome a bad habit or repent of a sin we focus on what we don't want to happen. For example, when trying to lose weight we say to ourselves, "Don't eat." But that only puts the mental picture of eating in our heads. The mind can't imagine don't. The mind can only imagine do. A friend once told me never to say to a new teenage driver as she backs out of the driveway, "Don't hit the mailbox" because as soon as you say it, the picture of hitting the mailbox is in her head and the next thing you know a dented car hovers over a fallen mailbox while you try to console the hysterical child.

These opposities, the negatives and the positives of life, are powerful. But the most important thing to realize is that the positives have power over the negatives. When we learn to think in positives, act in positives, and deal with others in positives we bring about righteousness and avoid much pain and suffering in life. "Drive straight out the driveway!" is a positive that avoids the mental picture of hitting the mailbox. "I eat healthy," helps a dieter stay on track. Affirmative thinking is powerful.

But there is more. The only way to overcome negatives is to replace them with positives. The only way to make darkness go away is to replace it with light. It does no good to fight the dark or even say, "Go away dark." Instead you simply let in the light. Opposition can bring about righteousness if instead of fighting against the negatives of life, we ignore them, identify their opposite, and fill our lives with the positives.

The statement that there is opposition in all things means that for every bad thing there is something good. Look for it! Dwell on it! Enjoy!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

"I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee" (Isaiah 41:13).

My students often complain that Isaiah is too difficult to understand. I agree that in some places it takes a lot of study and prayer to comprehend his meaning. But I encourage them not to let the difficult passages keep them from the love, comfort, and joy that are very clear in Isaiah.

We've had a very difficult week here. My daughter who went through in-vitro for the third time, was told the process had worked and that she was pregnant with twins, but this week she miscarried. She was devastated. As I called to tell her sisters and brother what had happened, I found out that one who had been training for a marathon had a stress fracture in her tibia and that several others were facing difficult problems. By the end of that day, I could barely function physically because the emotion had sapped my strength.

But as the week wore on, I felt the Lord's hand take mine and comfort me. But there is something more than just the offer of help in this verse. The right hand is symbolically the covenant hand. So besides a promise of comfort this verse is a statement that there is an extra promise for those of the covenant. The covenants have power and force. They are sure. They bind us to God in such a way that if we hold fast to them, they lift us from the pain and suffering of life. They bind us to God in such a way that nothing but sin can alter or break them.

I have watched as my daughters suffered the initial, inevitable pains that mortal adversity causes. But I have also watched as they have turned to God, taken His outstretched hand, and held on tight. They are children of the covenant. His promises are sure.

My heart is full. This week I've seen the power of God working in the lives of my children. This week I've felt the power of God seep into my sorrowing heart and ease my pain with the healing words, "I'm here to help you."

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Is Your Marriage Fireproof?

I've always loved a good movie, but nowadays a good movie without a lot of unsavory elements is very difficult to come by. Today Mariah and I saw a great movie with not a single unsavory moment and with an incredible message. I can't recommend this to you enough. It was a powerful, well done, emotionally impactful movie about the importance of marriage. This is a must see. Not only will you love it, but it is the kind of movie we need to support so that someone will get the message that this is the kind of movie we want to see more of. The movie is called Fireproof and stars Kirk Cameron. Go see it and let me know how you like it.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

A Lesson From My Students

This semester is the beginning of my tenth year teaching religion at BYU. I have loved every minute of it. I love working with the students. I love getting to know them. I love their enthusiasm and their zest for life. I love studying the gospel deeply on a daily basis and then walking into the classroom and discussing gospel topics with my students. They teach me so much!

I have also learned a great deal from some of the more subtle things that occur in teaching. For example, I require my students to read from the scriptures ½ hour a day and to then write a journal entry about the thoughts, feelings, and insights they had while reading. In addition, I end class a few minutes early and have them write a journal entry about the things we discussed in class that day. The intent is that they capture the things the Spirit is teaching them. Over the years I've watched how some students do exactly what I ask and when they do amazing things happen. I know I am limited as a teacher. I know that the true teacher is the Spirit and those who allow time for the Spirit to teach them receive many insights and epiphanies and learn so much.

But there are other students who see the journal as a task to get done. They write their classroom journal entry while we are discussing and then sit during the journal writing time with their book bags in their lap waiting for the bell to ring so they can bolt from the classroom. Their daily reading entries are mundane and short. "Nephi is a good guy," or "I don't really understand this Isaiah dude." They write a journal entry, but there is no learning taking place. It is very frustrating as a teacher to see the difference in those who do what I ask them to do and receive such incredible blessings and those who go through the motions but don't quite do it right and therefore receive nothing. Sometimes I want to shake them and say, "You are missing out on so much!!! You don't realize what could be yours!"

Well, as I listened to conference this weekend, I found myself wondering how much I have missed out on by not always following the instructions given me in conference exactly. I heard about dressing properly for Sacrament Meeting, about being reverent before the meeting, about praying more about what I am grateful for and less about what I think I need, about being more positive about my life experiences. As I heard these things, I wondered how often in the past I have rationalized my behavior and because of that missed out on the blessings like some of my students do.

My resolve this conference is to do better at doing what I am asked to do—not just doing part of it, but all of it. I've seen the difference sincere obedience makes in my students' lives; it is like night and day. So I am making a list of the things I need to do and committing myself to do them to the very best of my ability because I want more of that glorious light in my life!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Nephi’s Psalm

When I'm feeling discouraged or depressed there is one place I can go that always lifts me. That place is 2 Nephi 4. Thirty years after leaving Jerusalem, Nephi is writing a history of his experiences. He writes about the persecution from his brothers and the death of his beloved father. Recalling these many trials is painful and Nephi begins to feel discouraged and sorrowful over some of things that have occurred. In this state of mind he pours out his heart beginning with, "O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities." (4:17). He goes on lamenting but suddenly stops himself short saying, "Nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted" ( 4:19).

You just know that the adversary is jabbing at Nephi from every angle with such thoughts as, "Nephi, you preach all these things about love and patience and faith, but look at the times you blew it!" Nephi seems to sense that this line of thinking is going to cause him more problems and so after acknowledging that he has trusted in God, he begins to list all the blessing God has given him. God has heard his prayers and sent angels to minister to him. He has been shown mighty visions and great things. As you read the list, you can feel Nephi's soul soar! Gratitude does that. It lifts us out of the dark and into the light. But the adversary doesn't want that to happen. Just as Nephi seems to have stepped into the light, the adversary comes in with a left hook to the gut, "But Nephi, if the Lord has given you so much, why do you yield to sin like you do? Why do you give in to temptations? Why do you get angry with your brothers? Let's face it Nephi, you are a pretty bad guy."

And how does Nephi dispel this punch? He commands himself to think differently. "Awake, my soul! No longer droop in sin. Rejoice, O my heart, and give place no more for the enemy of my soul!"

Reading this psalm and listening to Nephi conquer the darkness always lifts my own soul. But in addition, the BYU Singers have recorded a version of Nephi's Psalm that is absolutely magnificent. The album is called Songs of the Soul and this incredible piece of music is the first track on the album: entitled "I Love the Lord." There is absolutely no way you can listen to this and remain downhearted. It infuses with love, joy, and peace. Listen and tell me what you think.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Children of God


For my personal study the past while I have been reading the Old Testament. I know most people shudder at the thought of the Old Testament, but I love it. This morning I started Isaiah and was struck with the first thing Isaiah has to say: "Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the Lord hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me. The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider" (Isaiah 1:2-3). As a parent of many, I know the feeling of being unappreciated. I know how it is to teach and train and have children say, "Oh Mom! You are so old fashioned!" And then dismiss me without any recognition of the fact that I have been down the very road they are traveling and know where the pitfalls are and what to look out for. You'd think they'd be grateful for the help, but they usually aren't. So when God says that the ox knows his owner and the ass knows where his food comes from, but Israel doesn't know or consider her master, I have to stop and ask myself if I know. Am I doing the same thing to God that my children have done to me? There's more than one reason why remembering that God is our Father is important.

In the Pearl of Great Price God teaches Moses some amazing things beginning with His own majesty. He explains to Moses that He is mighty and eternal and endless then He says, "Thou art my son" (Moses 1:4). He wanted Moses to know who he was, but he also wanted Moses to understand that was his heritage.

After this great vision, Moses is left alone, weak and weary from the encounter with God. In this state, Satan comes tempting him saying, "Moses, son of man, worship me" (Moses 1:12). Satan knew that if he could make Moses forget who he was—a son of God—he would be able to then tempt him. But Moses remembered. "Who art thou?" Moses asked, "For behold, I am a son of God, in the similitude of his Only Begotten; and where is thy glory, that I should worship thee?" (Moses 1:13). Satan doesn't give up, but neither does Moses. Satan tempts in every way he can, but Moses, remembering who he is, resists until finally "Satan cried with a loud voice, with weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth; and he departed hence, even from the presence of Moses" (Moses 1:22).

As Isaiah said, it makes our Father in Heaven sad when don't consider Him. And it makes us strong when like Moses when we do. Our spirits are literally the children of God and when we remember that we are stronger and life is simpler.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Rising

This week in my New Testament classes we discussed the baptism of Jesus Christ. I don't remember much about my baptism, but over the years I've pondered a lot on the symbolism of baptism—being buried in the water and coming forth again a new creature. The idea of the old person dying and being buried (the one that sins and is miserable) and being born again into a new life of joy and happiness is so beautiful. The problem is that so often we forget that it is possible. We wallow in misery needlessly because we think we need to do it all ourselves. Instead we simply need to submit to Christ and let Him raise us up to joy and happiness.

I've been studying the ways to do this lately and am surprised at how easy they are. I'll write more on that later, but for now I'll just say that one of the adversary's greatest lies is that it is difficult.

As I studied the Savior's baptism this week I was reminded of all this. John tells us in John 1:28 that Jesus was baptized in the Jordan river at a place called Bethabara. Bethabara means "house of crossing" and tradition tells us that it is the place where Joshua led the Children of Israel across the Jordan into Jericho. The Hebrew form of the Greek name Jesus is the same as Joshua. Thus we have two Joshuas. The first Joshua physically led the way so his people could cross the waters of Jericho into the Promised Land. The second Joshua spiritually led the way for all people to cross the waters of baptism into the Promised Land of the celestial kingdom.

But there is more to the symbolism. The Jordan river at Bethabara is just a few miles north of the Dead Sea and happens to be the lowest fresh-water point on the face of the earth. So Jesus Christ, a God who condescended to come to earth to save us, was baptized at the lowest place on the earth. What this underscores for me is the fact that He descended below all things so that we could rise above all. That is love.

Friday, September 12, 2008

My Crown


I found the best scripture the other day while I was studying. I don't know why I've never heard it before—or maybe I heard it before I was a grandmother and didn't understand it. The verse is from Proverbs 17:6 and says: "Children's children are the crown of old men." I can add from personal experience that they are also the crown of old women. Oh what joy! I am in California for the birth of our 29th grandchild. (His name is George and he is adorable—like all of my grandchildren!) His big sister, Jane, calls him "My baby." It is so cute. "Why is my baby crying," she'll ask as she hovers over him. To see the love she has for him already is amazing.

We've also had two grandsons move in with us to go to school and what a delight! I feel ten years younger! Family Home Evening is so much more interesting with four people instead of two and family prayer feels more complete. Ryan and Nate are wonderful. They are both a lot like their Papa and it is fun to see these traits pass through the generations. They are helpful. They tease me. They wrestle with Papa (but they make sure they don't hurt him!) They are even more fun than when they were younger—and they were a lot of fun then!

Maybe this verse in Proverbs jumped off the page and wrapped itself around my heart because I REALLY felt the truth of it. There is a lot of work and worry attached to parenting that obscures some of the joy. But with grandchildren, you just get the joy.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Prosper in the Land


When I think back on my growing up years, the first thought that comes to me is that nothing went right. It seems that trials and tribulations were all my family encountered at every turn. My mother had undulant fever. My father contracted encephalitis from a mosquito bite and almost died. Our house burned down. Dad started several businesses and problems plagued every one of them. Dad had blood clots in his lungs. Financial problems hung over us like a storm that wouldn't abate. I could go on, but this is enough to give you a feel for the things that plagued us.

Despite all of this, my parents were always faithful in the Church. They paid a full tithe. They studied the scriptures. They attended the temple often. They taught us. They served in the Church and were always very active. The problem with all of this is that I kept hearing and reading verses of scriptures such as that found in 2 Nephi 1:20; "Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land." I saw that my parents were diligently trying to keep the commandments, but they weren't prospering. This bothered me a lot and challenged my testimony.

It took years of study and gospel scrutiny for me to finally realize what the Lord means when he says "prosper in the land." I should have caught on from the very verse I just quoted. The rest of that verse says, "But inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments ye shall be cut off from my presence." I was always so caught up in the "prosper" part that I didn't see that the opposite of prospering has nothing to do with wealth. The opposite is to be cut off from the Lord. This led me to the realization that this earth is one day going to be the celestial kingdom. So to prosper in the land means to stay here—to be part of the celestial kingdom. This is explained in Proverbs 2:21-22, "For the upright shall dwell in the land, and the perfect shall remain in it. But the wicked shall be cut off from the earth, and the transgressors shall be rooted out of it."

While it is true that righteous people often acquire more earthly prosperity, it doesn't always happen. There are many righteous people who struggle financially and many wicked people who don't. But righteous people will always acquire faith and will "prosper in the land" in that they will receive a celestial inheritance in this land.

When I think back on my growing up years, my second thought is that everything went exactly as it was supposed to. My parents had faith. What more could I ask for?

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Pulling Carts of Sin


If you've been reading this blog long, you know that I love the visual images presented in the scriptures. One of my favorite pictures is painted by Isaiah in Isaiah 5:18 (also 2 Ne 15:18). The image is of us pulling on a rope attached to a heavy cart. As Isaiah puts it: "Wo unto them that draw iniquity with cords of vanity, and sin as it were with a cart rope." At first when I'd see this picture in my head it filled me with sadness. It sometimes still does, but more often now it makes me chuckle.

Think about it. Isaiah is telling us that sin and vanity are like ropes that bind us to a heavy, heavy load. The load we drag around with us, the load that weighs us down, consists of such things as depression, discouragement, guilt, pride, self-doubt, grudges, and any of the other negative feelings caused by sin. Once you get the picture in your head of a weary, feeble, sad person, the rope of sin over his shoulder digging more painfully into the muscle with every step as he drags the enormous load everywhere he goes, you see that every step gets harder and more painful. But all he needs to do to stop hurting and make his journey easier is to let go of the rope! It is so simple. How easy the journey would be without the heavy cart. And the irony? That's what makes me chuckle. No one needs to pull such a cart. Lugging the cart is self-inflicted pain. So why do we drag heavy loads around? Many reasons, but most of them boil down to pride. We can't admit we're wrong. We can't admit that all this junk we've been hauling behind us wasn't necessary. We're too embarrassed to admit our mistakes and repent. We are stuck in our old ways and too proud to learn something new.

But without the cart, we have the energy and the ability to skip—no make that dance—the path of life. Without the heavy cart obstacles in the road are a nuisance, but not insurmountable. Without the cart, the journey of life is a joy, not a burden. So let go.

Let us leave the cart with all its burdens behind, and let God take our blistered hands and help us along the path. He will, if we will let go of the rope and put our weary hands in His healing hands.

Photo from Getty Images by AFP/Getty Images