Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Last of the Anderson Women

Last week I attended the funeral of my great-aunt, Luzon. She was 94 years old and never lost any of her mental power; her wit, intelligence, and incredible capacity to love others stayed with her right up to the end. She was part of the Anderson clan; one of my grandmother’s many sisters. Of all my extended relatives, the Andersons were the only ones who played a part in my growing up. My grandmother died before I was born, but her sisters were strong, wonderful women who continued to care for and comfort us. Because of them, I know what my grandmother must have been like.

Aunt Luzon did nothing that would make news, but she was remarkable in many ways and has left an imprint on my life that I will treasure forever. She became a nurse and then married in her early twenties, but this was during WWII and her husband, a B-17 pilot, was shot down over Italy and killed five years after she married him. Devastated she moved back home with her widowed mother to help on the farm. In 1948 she married Verl Peterson, but they were never able to have children. You’d think that being 94 and outliving two husbands, all of your friends, and not having children would mean that the funeral would be very sparsely attended. Not so. There were more flowers and people than most funerals. But more amazing was the family gathering before the funeral. Every niece and nephew felt as if they were Aunt Luzon’s favorite. She had a wonderful gift for making you feel like the most important person in the world whenever you were with her. She delighted in the small things in life and demonstrated a rare contentment and peace with whatever life handed her.

When I was ten and my father was deathly ill, she and my Aunt Helen made the long trip from Richfield to Brigham City to take care of us for a few days. It was at the time when hula hoops were big and every one at school had a hula hoop except me and my brother. I remember recess in those days as a sea of swirling color as the playground turned into a mass of spinning hoops. I hadn’t even asked my mother for one because she spent most of her time at the hospital and the few moments she was home she was preoccupied and distant. But when Aunt Helen and Aunt Luzon came they bought my brother and me a hula hoop to share without us even asking for it. They didn’t have much money and I knew it was a sacrifice for them which made the gift all the more valuable. The next day as I joined the others on the play ground, adding my yellow hula hoop to the sea of spinning color, I felt such a surge of love for my aunts who had moved me from lonely onlooker to joyful participant. To this day I wonder if that is why yellow is my favorite color.

I will miss Aunt Luzon, but she isn’t gone. She will always be with me. She is the last of the original Anderson women–strong, vibrant, loving, witty, headstrong, and caring women who shaped me. I am so grateful to be an Anderson woman and pray that I can live up to the heritage they gave me.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Facing Adversity Head On

Today was one of those days when all you can do is hold tight to your faith and trust in the great wisdom and power of Jesus Christ. I was at girl’s camp yesterday and when I returned home today I received some devastating news. My daughter, Mariah, has been going through an in vitro process in order to get pregnant. This is the second time she has gone through the stressful, painful, emotionally draining process. On Wed. They harvested the eggs and fertilized them. The nurse from the doctor’s office called to tell her that everything looked good and that they would transfer the eggs to her on Monday. We were all so excited–sixteen eggs had fertilized and the prospects for this long awaited child were exciting. Then while I was gone the doctor called her to tell her that someone in the lab had accidently thrown the embryos away.

There is nothing we can do now, but practice what we preach. Forgive. Forget. Move on and trust that our Savior Jesus Christ will heal and compensate. I know He will, and that helps. But for right now the open wound is still hurting. Mariah is a woman of faith and that faith will get her through, but when I look into her face and see the sadness that I cannot erase my heart breaks.

Everyone at one time or another faces trials like this. There are times when nothing makes sense and there are no answers. All we have is the knowledge that Jesus Christ has promised to make everything all right. In Him we trust.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

BYU Education Week

I finally received my schedule for Education Week. I will be teaching a three hour class on Monday beginning at 8:30 am in the Varsity Theater of the WSC. It is entitled, "The Truth Shall Make You Free."

During the week I will be teaching in room 111 of the Benson building at 3:00 each day. This is a four day series entitled, "The Gospel is Good News!".

If any of you are coming to Education Week I hope you'll stop by and say hello!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Be Careful What You Pray For!

The mother of James and John, two of the chief apostles to the Lord, one time approached the Savior with a request.

“What wilt thou?” The Savior asked.

“Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom.” she responded.

“Ye know not what ye ask,” Jesus explained and then went on to prophesy of that the brothers would experience some of the same things he did, but that it was not his decisions as to who would sit on his right side and on his left. Only the Father could determine that. (See Matthew 20:20-23)

Matthew doesn’t record for us the mother’s response, was she disappointed, sad, upset that her request had not been granted, or did she understand what a mistake she had made in asking? You see, elsewhere in the scriptures we learn that the righteous will be on the right hand of God and the wicked will be on the left. As we are taught in the book of Alma, “For the names of the righteous shall be written in the book of life, and unto them will I grant an inheritance at my right hand” (Alma 5:58. See also, Mosiah 26:23).

So what James and John’s mother asked for is that one of her sons be among the righteous and one be among the damned. As Jesus said, she didn’t know what she was asking!

This story makes me wonder how many of my requests are like this? How many times have I prayed for something that actually would not be good for me? It makes me stop and ponder, but most of all it increases my trust in my Savior. He died to save me. Surely now he is also going to lead and guide me into all righteousness–even if I am asking for something else.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

A Reason to Rejoice

In the Doctrine and Covenants we are commanded to “Let your hearts rejoice, and be exceedingly glad” (128:22). As Elder Holland remarked in a talk a while back, this may be the most disobeyed commandment the Lord has given.

The problem is that we live in a telestial world where many terrible things happen. We hear of natural disasters killing hundreds of people. We hear of evil acts perpetrated by our fellow human beings. We encounter problems daily because of health, finances, disappointments, relationships, etc. Everywhere we look there are negative situations that make it difficult to rejoice not the least of which is our own tendency to sin.

So how do we keep a commandment to rejoice always? Instead of dwelling on the negative around us, we dwell on the good. We take every opportunity to savor the good and today–Father’s Day–is one of those opportunities. Not only should we rejoice over our mortal fathers, but today we should rejoice over our Heavenly Father. He loves us. He created this world for us. He provided an amazing plan whereby we can become like Him. He sent Jesus Christ into the world to save us from the dire consequences of our sin. All that we have is from our Father. So rejoice. Enjoy. Give thanks for your mortal father and for you Heavenly Father, not just today but every day of the year. Rejoicing in all that is good is a marvelous antidote for all that is bad.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Our Journey to the Promised Land

There is a beautiful metaphor in the story of the Brother of Jared. Like all Promised Land stories, this story is instructive in teaching us how to return to the land our Father in Heaven has promised us, which is the Celestial Kingdom.
In Ether 2 we are told that the Brother of Jared was building a vessel to take himself, his family, and his friends to the Promised Land. We too are making out journey in a vessel. The vessel we use to make our journey is our physical body. We didn’t build that vessel with hammer and nails as the Brother of Jared did, but we built it through rest, exercise, eating properly, etc.
When building his ships, the Brother of Jared encountered two problems. He needed to get air and light into the vessels. When he went to the Lord in prayer to ask how to solve the problems, the Lord told him exactly what to do about getting air. In other words, the Lord provided the solution. But as to the problem of light, the Lord told the Brother of Jared he would have to find the solution to that one himself.
This is the instructive part. The Hebrew word for spirit, ruwach, is also used to mean wind and breath. Thus in the scriptures the spirit is also called the Breath of Life and wind or air and spirit have symbolic connections that have great meaning in this story. We, as in the story of the Jaradites, need two things to make our journey through life. We need spirit (symbolically air) and light. The Lord solved the first problem for us when he placed our spirits or Breath of Life in our earthly vessels. But as with the Brother of Jared, He has instructed us to find the light, and we must search to find a way to bring the light that will illuminate our way back to God into our lives. It is essential that we do this because we cannot navigate without it.
There are many sources purporting to be the light, but the only true source comes from the hand of the Lord. As we pray and allow Him to touch us and light our way, we can travel the path to our promised land with confidence.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Let There Be Light!

I’ve always been fascinated by the creation story that begins our Bible. Think about the first sentence for a moment: “God created the heaven and the earth.” The majesty, the grandeur, the power, and the miracles inherent in that simple statement are mind boggling. But most intriguing is the fact that God begins with darkness and a formless void which He makes into this amazing earth. In other words, He began with a very negative set of circumstances and changed them into something very positive.
Right now I am looking at the bright pink roses in my back yard, the grassy green expanse of yard, the bright blue sky with puffs of white clouds adding a touch of whimsy, trees already heavy with budding fruit, and I marvel that God created this out of a formless, dark, void. Imagine what would have happened if He had said, “There’s nothing good here. I can’t make something out of this mess. I need at least a little something to build on.” But He didn’t. He took what He had and worked with it until he “saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:12).
And how did He do it? He began with a simple command, “Let there be light.”
I think there is a lesson in that for me. Much of what I encounter in this lone and dreary world is chaotic, dark, formless, and painful. Negative things abound in a telestial world. But the creation story teaches me that as His child I have the power to change the negative into something positive. When I encounter negative situations I can follow His example and command, “Let there be light.”
The way I use this is when I come into a negative situation, such as grief, stress, being critical of others, feeling discouraged, feeling rebellious, any negative thing, I press my tongue to the ridge in the roof of my mouth and say the words, “Let there be light” or “Let in the light.” It may sound silly, and I’m not sure why or how it works, but it does. When I do this, I can feel the negative feeling leave and the positive “light” take its place. The words would probably be enough, but pressing my tongue gives me a physical sensation that then becomes connected to this change in feelings and like Pavlov’s dog it helps assure the response. It is also something I can do without anyone seeing or knowing what I am doing.
I know it sounds over simplified, but commanding light worked when creating a world and it works in creating our lives.
[photo by Gilbert Tremblay]

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Building Our Children's Strengths

Before I leave the subject of building on strengths, I have to say one more thing. One of the best things to do for your children is identify their strengths and help them develop in those areas. A lot of problems can be avoided if we know our children’s strengths and then encourage them. Too often we push them in directions of our own strengths thinking that this is what makes us happy so of course it will make them happy also. But that isn’t always true.
One of my daughters is a nurse–something I never could have been. It has been a delight to watch her develop in the medical field. She loves medicine and loves caring and helping others. Right now she is a full time mom, but when the time is right, she will return to nursing because it is one of her strengths and she loves it. I shudder to think of what would have happened if I had dissuaded her or insisted she follow a course I would have prescribed.
On the same web site as I wrote about last time,, there is a test for children to take so that parents can know what their children’s strengths are and then help them develop in those areas. It is very interesting to see how different each of your children are and to more fully recognize their individuality. It is also interesting to see how when you taylor your parenting to the child’s strengths special bonding moments occur. You enter their realm and build on a foundation that is already in place. I don’t have words to express all that happens, but when you help your children develop into their own selves instead of trying to make them into a little “you,” it brings a joy and dimension to parenting that is extremely rewarding
Take the test yourself. Give the test to your children and let me know what you think!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Discovering Your Strengths

Last entry, I wrote about mothering according to your own strengths. In other words, if you are musical and like music, teach your children music and interact with them through music. If you are good at sports, then by all means center your nurturing around sports. Plan time each week to throw balls around. It’s your job! Make it fun.
But what if you don’t know what your strengths are? How can you identify them? Usually your strengths are the things you enjoy doing most, but there is a more scientific approach that is also fun. If you are having trouble identifying your strengths, take a simple personal strengths test. Go to and register. It is free and no one will send you unsolicited emails. This is a web site sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania and is based on the research of Dr. Martin Seligman, a psychologist who is largely responsible for the new movement toward Positive Psychology.
There are many fun tests you can take on the web site, but the one I am referring to is the VIA Signature Strengths Test. After taking the survey, you will be told your top three strengths such as creativity or discipline. Once you know what these are, ponder on ways to include them in your interactions with your children. Your nurturing will always be more sincere and rewarding if it is accomplished in the course of something you enjoy doing, not just something you feel is your duty to do.
As a mother, you choose how to mother–how to nurture. There is no set way to do it. It is as individualized as all of us. So, incorporate your strengths into your mothering and watch what happens! Not only will your mothering be more exciting; so will life!
Experiment. Enjoy. Include your children in what you love. After all, God sent this son or daughter to you because He knew you were the very best person to raise that particular children. If He’d wanted them influenced by your neighbors strengths, He would have sent them to your neighbor!
As you attempt to do this, the adversary will haunt you with thoughts of your weaknesses. Don’t even think about them. Forget all about your weaknesses. Dwelling on weaknesses accomplishes nothing positive at all–it will only depress and discourage you. The truth is that the best way to overcome a weakness is to drown it in a strength! So push any though of failings out of your head by thinking about your strengths. Identify them. Find ways to use them in your mothering, and enjoy the journey.