Saturday, October 31, 2009

Book Winners!

I love giving away books! A big thank you to all who entered. I've had so much fun, I'll do this again soon.

Now for this weeks winners. The lucky numbers drawn from my once-a-chocolate-box are #11 and #41. #11 belongs to M&M Embley. # 41 is Marti. If you will both send me your addresses via my email (smillsjo at gmail dot com) I will send out the books. Just let me know what you think of it after you've read it! If you lke the book tell everyone you know about it. If you don't like the book just keep it a secret! Congratulations!

To everyone--remember to make it a happy day. But then what else can it be with all those excited children running around in cute costumes. Enjoy!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Joy of the Day--Enthusiasm

Many years ago while driving on I-15 the warning light on my car suddenly glared at me and the car started growling angry noises. I pulled off the freeway at the next exit and as luck would have it there was an automotive shop just a way down the frontage road. I pulled in and a young man leaped out of the bay to greet me. “How can I help you?” he asked. I explained, and he took over while I sat on a chair and watched. He and another mechanic were the only employees present, but they both dropped what they were doing and began examining my car with such enthusiasm it was apparent they were delighted at the challenge of finding and fixing another motor problem.

For the next hour, I watched as they went about their work. Was I bored? No way! They were so excited and obviously loved their work so much that it was sheer delight to watch them. Since that day I’ve watched a lot of people work hoping to find that same kind of enthusiasm. It is rare, but it is worth it when you find it. People who love what they are doing are so happy and their happiness and enthusiasm is always contagious. I walk away from them wanting to be a happier, better person.

The word enthusiasm has an interesting history. Originally it came from the Greek words en and theos which mean “in god” and in its verb form meant “inspired or possessed by a god.” From there it passed from Latin and French into the English with the sense of “divine inspiration.” During the Puritan era it took on a derogatory meaning of “excessive religious emotion.” But the modern meaning of “eagerness” has displaced the negative meaning so that it now describes those young auto mechanics in a very positive way. They were inspired and possessed by goodness and joy and love.

I learned a lot that day that I have never forgotten. Each of us is daily faced with the choice of whether we will simply do what needs to be done, or whether we will do what needs to be done with enthusiasm. I’m voting for enthusiasm!

picture from:

PS Don't forget to sign up for the book giveaway.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Bring on the Light!

In the first Epistle of John we read that “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). I’ve always understood the metaphor in that verse, but lately I’ve been pondering on how literal that is. I think of the things I equate with darkness in my own soul. Obviously sin and fear are darkness as are depression, discouragement, and doubt. But there are other things like worry and stress that fill me with darkness. Too often I think of these as just part of life unlike sin which has to be overcome.
But when I read John’s words I began to rethink the matter. If there is no darkness in God then obviously He doesn’t get depressed, discouraged, or doubt. But He also must not worry or stress.
Learning that is helping me. Lehi taught that “Man is that he might have joy,” (2 Nephi 2:25), and worry and stress are not part of joy. So when I begin to feel worry and stress darken my day, instead of just accepting them like I do sunshine or rain, I realize that they are choices and that I have the ability to choose them or joy and that God wants me to have joy. Then I use one of the Truth Tools to escape the dark and live in the Light of Truth where joy is found in great abundance.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Secondary Messages

Recently I had one of those awakening moments—you know, a moment when you suddenly realize that not everyone sees life like you do. You’d think that by my age I’d have exhausted those moments, but the other day after teaching a student came up to me and said, “But the real meaning in that verse is. . .” as if there could be only one meaning. As he spoke to me I realized that he really thought that the statement made by Nephi could ONLY have one meaning.

For years I’ve been obsessed with looking at what I call secondary meanings. To my way of thinking everything in life has multiple meanings, especially the things we say. When a mother says to her child, “Put on your gloves. It’s cold outside” the first meaning is obvious. It’s a simple command. But the secondary message can be one of many things. Hopefully it is “She loves me enough to care about whether I am warm or not.” However, past experience or tone of voice can change that secondary message. Maybe the child perceives the secondary message to be, “She just wants everyone else to think she’s a good mother.” Or, “She spent all that money on gloves and she just doesn’t want it wasted.” Or, “She doesn’t think I can take care of myself. She doesn’t trust me.”

Understanding that what we read and what we say can have multiple meanings changes how we interact with the world. First, when someone reads a verse of scripture and gets something out of it that we didn’t we don’t need to dismiss it as “wrong.” Every verse in scripture can teach us many things. Second, when we interact with others we need to stop and think about the secondary messages that could be attached to what we are saying or doing. When a child is struggling to cut out a paper doll and you suddenly say, “Here, let me help you,” your intentions may be very loving, but the secondary message may be “You are incompetent.”

This isn’t a principle that only applies with children. Any communication with spouses, friends, coworkers, or family carries secondary messages with it. If we learn to look for the possible secondary messages when dealing with others, we can make our communication more effective. And when reading scripture? By looking for secondary messages, we learn more. And when we are the recipient of a message? We should realize that the secondary message we are attributing to the person may be true, but then again, it may not!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Givaway: My Book - Gospel Insights for Everyday Living

This week, as I promised, I am giving away two copies of my new book, Gospel Insights for Everyday Living.  Writing this book was a labor of love. It consists of insights I have gleaned over the years about what the gospel of Jesus Christ is all about, and how it operates in our lives to bring joy and peace and hope into daily living. The “chapters” are very short. (That’s why I put chapters in quotation marks—they are so short they almost can’t be called chapters.)  Each chapter zeros in on one gospel principle and usually just one idea about that principle so that you can read a chapter in a few minutes while waiting for the carpool or for an appointment or whenever you have a few minutes.

Soooo. . . if you would like a chance to win a copy of Gospel Insights just leave a comment below. The contest will be open until Friday at midnight. Saturday morning I will randomly draw two winners from among those who leave comments and post the names here on the blog. Tell anyone who might be interested and you are welcome to post this on your own blogs in case anyone else wants to join in.

I love this giving away thing!!! Good luck!

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Parable of the Quicksand

One day while walking in the forest watching for birds, Clarence came upon a man stuck up to his waist in quick sand. Surprised that the man who was sinking deeper each minute wasn’t calling for help, Clarence asked if he wanted help. “Another one of you bird watchers,” the man said. “You think you have all the answers.”

Startled Clarence said, “But I have a good, sturdy rope. I could tie it to a tree and give you the end so you could pull yourself out.”

“You just don’t see reality do you?” the sinking man said. “You think that all there is to life is walking along your way enjoying nature, observing birds. But reality is mud and quick sand and those are the things we need to deal with in life. You think just because I hold on to some rope I can be out of this mess?”

“Well, yes. I once fell in quicksand, but I got out by using a rope.”

“How little you know of life. Are you not educated? Have you been brainwashed so that you don’t see reality? I know your type. A Simpleton with Pollyanna solutions to life’s deepest problems.”

Clarence could see that the man was getting deeper and deeper into the muck and he feared for the man’s life. “But you are sinking fast. Please let me help you out!”
The man laughed. “You think a rope is going to save mankind from all the sinkholes in the world. Take off your rose colored glasses, man! See reality for a change! This is reality!” and he pointed to the mud that engulfed him.

“But I’m standing on dry ground. That mud is not my reality.”

“So na├»ve!” the man said. But by now his chin was touching the mud.

“Please,” Clarence called one last time. “Let me help you. There is so much more to the forest than quicksand. Let me give you the rope and then show you the trees and animals and flowers.”

But it was too late. With a proud, all knowing smirk on his face the man slowly disappeared into the mud.

The moral of this story? Negative attitudes sink the soul but they also blind the eyes.

Picture found at:

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Waters of Marah

While camped at Marah, just three days after their miraculous deliverance from Egypt, the children of Israel began to complain to Moses because the water was bitter to the taste.  All they could think about was their thirst, and forgetting the power God had manifest in their behalf when He parted the Sea and allowed them not only to cross but to cross on dry ground, they murmured against God thinking He had now forsaken them.

You and I are also wandering in a wilderness called life where some days we experience miracles and other days trials. Is our memory so short that three days past the good all we can see is the bad? Marah means bitter and it was named that because of the water there, but it more aptly fits the people and their attitudes.  They forgot how the Lord had delivered them and chose to be bitter instead of grateful. But instead of murmuring, Moses turned to the Lord and asked how to solve the problem. The Lord showed Moses a tree and told him to cast the tree into the water. Moses did as he was commanded and the water became sweet to the taste.

There is so much symbolism in that story for all of us to learn from.  The cross of the Atonement is often called a tree, and the Lord was teaching the people that the bitterness of life could be made sweet through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Moses tells us that this was a test for the people and that they were then told, “If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the Lord that healeth thee” (Exodus 15:26).

The bitter experiences of life are a test for all of us. Will we murmur against the Lord because of the bitterness or will we trust in the Lord? If we trust the Lord will heal us and protect us from the “diseases” of the world.

After leaving Marah, Moses led the people to Elim, which means palms.  We are told that there were twelve wells of water in Elim and 70 palm trees.  Twelve is a symbol of priesthood and it is through the priesthood that the living water of the gospel (the covenants) is administered to mankind. Seventy is a symbol of perfection or completion and palms are a symbol victory. So the people were guided out of the place of bitterness to a place where the priesthood could complete them (through the covenants) and bring them to victory.

It is a given that we will encounter bitterness as we travel this wilderness called mortality, but if we diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord, He will lead us to victory and through the Atonement heal us of the bitter experiences we encounter along the way.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Mirror Addendum

Wow! I just found this and couldn't wait until tomorrow to share it with you. I found a scripture that says exactly what I was talking about in the last post on storytelling and how when we pass judgment it is often because the thing we condemn the other person for is the very way we think or react. The verse I read is in Romans 2:1, "Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things."

The NIV Bible says it like this: "You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things."

Drum Roll For The Winners, Please

These book giveaways have been so much fun for me that I wish I could afford to just give everyone who enters a book. Maybe someday. . .  In the meantime, the winners for the book Man, Woman, and Deity (which were picked at random from my sweet smelling once-a-chocolate-box) are #7 Martha, and #29 Melinda A. If you two will please email me (smillsjo at gmail dot com), and give me your addresses, I will send the books out on Monday. All I ask is that you let me know what you think of the book after you've read it.

Thanks everyone for entering. And next week on Tuesday the drawing will begin for two of my new books, Gospel Insights For Everyday Living. It is just off the press and barely onto bookstore shelves. You can read about it on Amazon by clicking on the book image on the left.

Thanks again.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Beware of Mirrors in the Stories We Tell

Yesterday I was looking for a book on Amazon and reading the various reviews of the book. Most of the ratings for the book were five star but one review was only a three star so I read it first. The reviewer talked about how good the book was, said the research was sound, but then said that the book was ruined because the author threw in a lot of historical research just so he could brag about the important people he had known and worked with.

The next review I read was one of the five star reviews. This reviewer said the same positive things about the book, but then added a comment about how the book slows down a little as the author explains the historical research in an effort to give credit to the scholars who have not been properly acknowledge for their contribution to the field.

Interesting example of Storytelling! Same book, but two people assigned their own meaning to the inclusion of the historical research. What Storytelling often reveals is not fact (neither reviewer can know for sure why the author included the research). Instead Storytelling reveals what our motivation would have been if we were the author. If we are the kind of person who would brag, then we think that’s what everyone else does. If we are the kind of person who would want to give proper credit to fellow workers, then that’s what we think everyone else is doing.

When we judge others we usually use our own criteria to make the judgment. So a statement of judgment can say as much about the person making the statement as it does about the person being judged. Listen to the stories you tell about what others are doing and watch to see if your own motivations to do things aren’t mirrored in the story.

I know I find myself in my stories about others all too often! So I laugh at how ridiculous I’m being and drop the story. Isn’t it wonderful we can all grow and change!

PS This is the last day to enter the book give away!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

How Are You?

The other day I attended a Relief Society meeting at a care center. I always enjoy going there and participating with these gentle, kind people who have lived long, long lives and seen so much of history. I enjoy talking with them after the meeting and hearing their stories. They all have led amazing lives with incredible experiences. But there is also a touch of sadness because some of them have lost the ability to recall their own stories. Some of them struggle to even know what is going on around them. And some have even lost the ability to struggle.

However, this week one of those women gave me a good laugh and made me think. I passed her in the hall after the meeting and said, “How are you?” Without looking at me she answered, “I don’t cook good.”

I was delighted at her honest and refreshing response. How many times a day do we exchange the how-are-you-I-am-fine greeting without any real emotion or meaning being exchanged? The word how means “state or condition,” and this woman told me what her condition was: she was not a good cook.

I hope this brings a smile to your day like it did mine. I also hope it makes you think about how you would sum your condition up in one sentence to answer the question, “How are you?” I think it varies day to day so that instead of the pat answer, “I’m doing well, thank you.” We could have a different answer every day. Today if anyone asks me “How are you?” I’m going to answer, “I’m a good reader.” Do you think that will startle anyone? Leave a comment and let me know how you are today.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Learning to Walk

When you watch a toddler learning to walk you notice the way he stumbles and falls, but at the same time in the back of your mind is a knowledge that this tripping and teetering is only temporary. You don’t look at the child and think “How terrible! This poor little thing is handicapped!” Often we even laugh right out loud at the awkward attempts and the stumbling which also testifies we know this is a temporary way to walk. We would never laugh if we thought this is how the child would always walk. No, we laugh because we know that within a few months the child will be running without the awkward flapping of arms and struggle to keep balanced. We watch the child with eyes that not only see what is, but eyes that know what will be.

That’s how God looks at us.

So why do we get so upset at ourselves, feel overwhelmed, and consider giving up as we learn to walk the path of righteousness? Yes, we stumble and sometimes we fall, but God looks at us like we look at the toddler. He sees what we are and He sees what we will be. He's as patient with us as we are with toddlers. He doesn't expect us to run the first time He stands us on our spiritual feet.

All we need to do is trust in Him, get back up when we fall, and continue on the path.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Another Book Giveaway!

As promised I am giving away two copies of my book Man, Woman, and Deity this week. Writing this book was a labor of love that took five years of research. I learned so much! It is difficult for me to describe the book in a few words. It is about men and women and their eternal roles. It is about why God has ordained marriage and the eternal significance of the marital relationship but in a way that is interesting to single people as well as married. In other words, it isn't a marriage book but more a theory of marriage book. It explains why family is the foundation of all else in the gospel of Jesus Christ. So if you are interested in any of those discussions, you will be interested in Man, Woman, and Deity.

The contest will work the same as last week's contest. If you want to enter, simply leave a comment after this entry. The contest will go until Friday at midnight. Saturday I will number the entries, randomly draw two out, and announce the winner.

Thanks for all the kind comments last week. It makes writing this blog a lot more fun when I hear from you!

Monday, October 19, 2009

He Will Come!

In the book of John we are told that one day while walking through the streets of Jerusalem the apostles encountered a man that was born blind. While passing him the disciples asked Jesus what caused the blindness the man's or his parent's sins. Jesus explained that sin wasn't the cause. The reason the man was born blind was so that "the works of God should be made manifest in him" (John 9:4). Jesus then stopped, spit on the ground, made clay, anointed the eyes of the man with the clay and told him to go wash in the pool of Siloam. The man does as he is instructed and is able to see. It is an amazing story that has so many lessons in it that this is usually all the story that gets discussed. But there is more.

When the Pharisees find out that this blind man can see, they are angry and they cast him out or, in other words, they excommunicate him. His joy at being able to see is now doused by the anger directed at him and the fact that he will no longer be part of the congregation and society that has been his entire life. You can imagine his feelings. Perhaps he even wished he were blind again!

But what happens next is for me as important as the fact that he was healed. Hearing that the man has been cast out, Jesus searched for and found the man and introduced Himself to the man as the Son of God. In this way he assured and encouraged the man to endure the persecution and adversity of being shunned by his own people.

Likewise, Jesus will find us in our darkest moments. He will come to us and He will encourage and assure us. Rather than wallow in self-pity or other negative emotions, we can expect His arrival with its sweet assurance and love.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Happy Sabbath!

I love Sunday mornings. Up until the time of Jesus Christ, the Sabbath was celebrated on Saturday, but since the resurrection of Christ (on a Sunday morning!) Christians have celebrated the Sabbath on Sunday to commemorate that glorious event. So besides God proclaiming the Sabbath day to be holy, it is a day that celebrates the triumph of Jesus Christ.

I firmly believe that if you pay close attention you can feel the difference between the other days of the week and the Sabbath. Maybe that is one of the reasons we are told to rest from our labors on the Sabbath. Maybe it is resting that we are allowed to feel and partake of the holiness of the day. If you pay close attention Sabbath mornings have a special peace about them that is independent of weather or other worldly happenings. Sabbaths always feel sunny even if the sky is overcast and stormy. It is a sunny that warms the soul and sinks to the very marrow of the bones. Sabbath days are also full of hope. It is a paradox, but the silence of a Sabbath day rings with joy and love.

So enjoy! Let the Sabbath ring in you. Rest from your labors and soak in the holiness that is the day of the Lord.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

And the book winners are. . .

I put the numbers for everyone who entered the book give away in a box (it once held chocolates and still smelled so good!) and drew out two. The first winner is the Machen Family (number 2)! And the second book goes to Kara (number 9)! Congratulations! If you will email me at and give me your addresses, I will put the books in the mail for you. I hope you enjoy!

Everyone check back next Tuesday when I'll be giving away two copies of Man, Woman, and Deity.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Families Aren’t Meant To Be Perfect

At church meetings and other places that encourage and support the family, we hear about how important the home and family are. We learn that the home is a sacred place like a temple. We learn that it is a refuge from the world where good is taught and evil shunned. This teaching is important and true, but when we focus only on these holy aspects of family life we often create an incorrect perception—a perception that is discouraging and unrealistic.

Yes, home is a sacred place and a refuge from the outside world, but at the same time it is a laboratory for learning. This means that not everything that happens within the walls of a home is going to be a sacred, perfect, wonderful experience. A laboratory is a place where people experiment to find the right ways to do things—the best ways. This takes practice. A laboratory is a place where trial and error is one of the greatest teaching tools. Mistakes are often made but learned from. A laboratory is a place where basic truths are accepted and then applied in order to expand knowledge and learn new and better ways. All of this implies that there will be mistakes and times of chaos and starting over and lots of activity. But in a laboratory this is considered a type of delightful chaos as new things discoveries mean growth. Thomas Edison used his laboratory to experiment with thousands of different filaments before he found materials that would glow for long periods of time. But he accepted that as a purpose of a laboratory and didn’t get discouraged because the first materials he tried didn’t work. He just kept experimenting until he found what worked.

What I am saying is that perfection is not what the family unit is all about. Family is meant to be our laboratory for immortality. It is the place where we experiment and learn how we can be like Jesus Christ. So when things go wrong in the home, when experiments as to how to handle situations fail, when others don’t understand the experiment and seem to be sabotaging our efforts, or when any other problems occur, don’t get discouraged. Instead, like Edison, just recognize that you’ve learned one more thing that doesn’t work and then go on to try something else. My bet is that within your family—whatever its composition—you have all the variables necessary for you to learn everything you need to know about how to be a good Christian. So move on and happy experimenting!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Best Is On Its Way!

During the past year as I’ve gone through brain surgery, radiation, and treatment for skin cancer I have learned so much about the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Before then I knew the intellectual answers as to what the Atonement was and how important it is in our lives. I knew about the Atonement in my head. But this year my heart has learned a lot of things about the Atonement my head never comprehended. In my heart I now feel the ache of how empty life would be without the Atonement. There would be no miracles, no tender mercies. There would be no love, no light, no life.

As my heart has grown with feelings, I’ve learned some of the more subtle things that are made possible by the Atonement. For example, only someone who does not believe in the Atonement of Jesus Christ would think that the future will be the same as the past. Because of the Atonement change is not only possible but extremely probable. Each new day is full of possibility. When we live in Truth, we realize that nothing—no matter how bad or traumatic it is—that has happened to us need impact what is yet to happen unless we let it. Jesus Christ can heal our past, and He can arrange our future. Yes, we will have temporary learning experiences that might be unpleasant, but we learn, move on knowing the best is yet to come.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Avoiding Fiction in Real Life

We haven’t talked about Storytelling for awhile and lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how the stories we tell ourselves affect our lives. We write our own stories to explain why other people are doing the things they do. For example, your neighbor isn’t as friendly as usual. That is the simple truth of the matter. But as human beings, we like meaning and so we begin spin a story about it why she is so offish. Too often those stories are negative. We think things like, “She is so arrogant. She thinks she’s so much better than other people.” Or “Oh no, I’ve offended her. What have I done?” Or “She must not want to be friends anymore. She never did like me very much.” But it is just as likely that the story could be that she isn’t feeling well today, or she’s preoccupied with thoughts of the family finances, or she’s worried about a child, or she just received bad news concerning her mother’s health. When someone is offish there could be hundreds of reasons. But when we live in Truth we don’t create a fiction, we simply deal with the Truth—today my neighbor isn’t as friendly as usual.

But there are other ways—much more insidious ways—that we create unnecessary pain for ourselves by writing stories contrary to truth. These are stories we tell about ourselves and these stories tend to define our lives. That’s why they are so dangerous. We tell ourselves that we aren’t pretty or handsome, or smart, or talented, or athletic. Usually these stories are told as a comparison with someone else. We aren’t as good as the neighbor down the street because she bakes whole wheat bread for her family. We aren’t as pretty as a friend. Our home isn’t as fashionably decorated as our cousin’s. The list goes on and on and we’ve all done this! But each of these things is simply a story. It doesn’t matter if we aren’t as pretty as a friend. The truth is we are all pretty in some way. We might not bake bread, but tell me where in the scriptures it says you have to bake bread to be good? The truth is we are good in many ways.
 Life is meant to be full of joy and goodness and to a large degree the amount of joy and goodness we experience is determined by the stories we tell ourselves. Right now tell yourself a true story about all that is right and good about you. Avoid any fiction that might come to mind. And if you say there is nothing good, you are lying.  Every son and daughter of God has a “genetic” inheritance of all that is good. So stop writing fiction stories and stick to the Truth. The Truth is you are a beautiful, talented, capable son or daughter of God. Bask in that wondrous story.

PS Remember the book giveaway. Just one more day to enter!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Take The Joy!

It’s a snuggly autumn day here in Utah—the kind of day when breezes dance among the tree leaves, the sun lazily appears once in awhile, and a slight chill invites you to cuddle up in a comforter and read a good book. It’s as if the very air whispers that life isn’t going to last forever, so enjoy it while you can. It’s a good reminder to take pleasure in every moment. Drink it all in and taste all there is to taste.

God has create such a beautiful world yet we so often worry through it without noticing. So for awhile at least, drop the worry, stop fretting, slow down, take a deep breath and savor every second. Joy is here for the taking! So take some.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Book Giveaway!

I’m in the mood for something fun today, so I’m going to give away two copies of my book Spiritually Centered Motherhood. To enter, simply leave a comment at the end of this entry. I won’t be answering any of these comments because it will throw off the contest. Say whatever you want to say except remember what your mother taught you about saying nice things!  Please enter only once. The contest will last until Friday, October 16th, and then I will draw a winner from among the comments. Winners will be announced Saturday. Please invite everyone you know that might be interested to enter, and post the giveaway on your own blogs.

 And be sure to stop by next week when I’ll give away two copies of Man, Woman and Deity, which is a book about marriage. And then the week after that I’ll give away two copies of my new book Gospel Insights for Everyday Living. Who knows what I’ll think of after that? This is fun!

Sunday, October 11, 2009


I thought I'd share a snippet of one of the chapters from my new book, Gospel Insights for Everyday Living. I hope you enjoy!

"There are some moments in life that change you forever. One of those happened to me many years ago during a Relief Society lesson. I don’t remember what the lesson was about, but somehow it had turned into a discussion of husbands’ faults. One after another of the sisters began to complain about her husband’s lack of responsiveness or his failure to help out
around the house, etc. You’ve all been in a situation like that and know how contagious negative feelings are.

At the time, my husband was bishop and our ward was very large. He was gone almost every night, leaving me to care for our five children under the age of eight. In short, I felt overwhelmed
and alone, so as I listened to the other women complain, my husband’s faults and failings kept popping into my head. With every new comment from the group, another fault of his would
come to mind and I’d think, “Yea, my husband does that too!” or “That isn’t half as bad as what Carl does (or doesn’t) do!”

The Relief Society instructor failed to get the class back on track, and as the comments got more negative so did the feelings within me. I didn’t vocalize them, but I certainly was thinking them, and those thoughts were generating all kinds of hot, negative feelings within me.

But then something happened that changed me. A woman in the back of the room began to rave about how her husband made a mess in the entryway every time he came home from work. He worked construction and he’d take off his dirty boots as soon as he entered the house, drop them near the door, walk into the family room, plop down to watch the evening news, and pull off his stinky socks, dropping them beside the couch for her to pick up later. “It’s disgusting,” she said, and several women nodded in agreement.

But at that point the elderly woman sitting in front of me, who had been a widow for 23 years, turned to her gray-haired friend sitting next to her, a widow of 19 years, and whispered, “I
wish I had socks on my floor.”

I’m sure that besides the friend, I am the only person in the room that heard those words—words that pierced my heart and instantly erased all my negative thoughts and feelings. In that moment, my perspective shifted from that of victim of my husband’s thoughtlessness to that of grateful wife. I had someone to pick up after—what a blessing!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Thank Goodness for New Days!

Already today is a better day. I’m still not sure what happened yesterday. When I was younger it used to happen all the time. Yesterday made me remember that. But I don’t wake to the feelings much anymore so I was surprised yesterday when I woke up with that choking sensation negative feelings create.

Just writing about it made me feel better. It made me see and feel how silly it all was to be feeling bad about absolutely nothing, and by the time I finished writing I was laughing at myself. That felt food. But after a while the feelings returned. Then I Anchored myself. That worked, too—for awhile. I then used the Tool Gratitude and began counting all the wonderful things in my life. That worked—for awhile. The Truth Tool that finally worked for good was Distraction. My dear husband lugged my sewing machine upstairs and I made quilt squares—four Morning Star squares and three Four Patch squares. (I just had a wild thought—if I have enough bad days, I’ll soon have a beautiful quilt!)

I don’t know why these funky days happen, (maybe it’s a test to see what we will do!) but some days are just down days. What we need to do is hang in there and keep fighting the feelings until they are gone. Don’t give up. Don’t give in. Keep on fighting! (This pep talk is for me. If it helps anyone else, that’s great. If not skip this last paragraph.) Much love to you all!

Friday, October 9, 2009


Old Screwtape works in rotten ways, his malice to perform! After waking up the other morning feeling like heaven was at my door, I woke up this morning feeling like I’d been sucking lemons all night. And I don't understand why! Is there emotional pollution in the air? Is some dark phantom lurking around bedrooms spreading gloom?

It’s now almost nine o’clock, I’ve been out walking, and in working, and feel a little better but still haven’t completely shaken the negative feelings. Who knows what happens or why! I was fine when I went to bed last night, but I woke up grouchy, ornery, and spitting fire. (Maybe the Tooth Fairy got bored last night and dusted my pillow with ornery powder!) So, it’s time to call on my arsenal of Truth Tools. I'm going to be hammering and sawing away today! I’ll use a few tools (I already know it’s going to take more than one this morning!) and let you know what happens. In the meantime, keep me laughing.

P.S. I hope you all woke up feeling happy and cheerful and pleasant today! (But then again that's not quite true. When I'm out of sorts, I want everyone else to be out of sorts, too!)

P.P.S. Are you laughing? Just writing this is making me laugh! Truth Tool Humor to the rescue. This is going to be an interesting day.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Getting Better

Hurray! The cancer spots are disappearing. The silver-dollar size scab on my cheek and the quarter size scab on my lip are healing very well. What an amazing experience to get up each morning and see the progress—slow but sure. It has made me think a lot about the processes of growth and healing that are part of life. It is an absolute miracle how it all happens. Just think; I have done nothing except keep the site clean, and yet each day I watch the wound disappearing and healthy skin beginning to show through. Soon there will be nothing left of the ugly sore.

It makes me realize that I should relax and trust in God more. Without my help He is changing this ugly lesion into smooth, healed skin. If He can do that surely He can also heal and guide the rest of my life if I submit myself to Him instead of trying to do it all myself. He wants to help me. He wants to heal me. It is me that sometimes gets in the way of that help and healing.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Feel the Happy

I woke up this morning happy. I like happy. There is a lymphangioma behind my left eye, cancer on my face, a painful cyst in my left foot, not to mention that I’m getting more wrinkly by the minute, but that is nothing compared to what some people suffer. I’ve had a great morning. Besides the normal business of the day I walked three miles on the tread mill while watching a hilarious episode of “The Irish R.M.”; breathed in the crisp, morning air; ate a delicious, juicy plum; received a delightful “I love you” text message from my daughter in Austin; teased my grandson Ryan; and am lounging on my bed typing this. I'm writing--doing what I love to do!

Life is wonderful! Life is a series of constant choices and I get to make them—no one else can. Life is living in every moment with what you have instead of thinking about what you don’t have. I am so blessed to know that!

If you haven’t felt the happy in today yet, do something right now that will make you smile.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A Woman's Power

Throughout history headgear has been a symbol of the power or authority a person possesses. This cultural phenomenon isn’t used much in modern society, but it is still used enough that we all recognize what many hats represent. All of us recognize a nurse’s cap, a mortar board, a chef’s hat, a policeman’s hat, a court jester’s hat, and a crown. Throughout time there have been many other types of head gear to represent a person’s attainment or the power they have acquired to tend to the sick, or to cook, or to rule a country.

One of the most interesting types of headgear that modern society has lost the meaning of is the veil that brides and women in many parts of the world still wear. You remember that when Eliezer brought Rebekah back to marry Isaac, as they neared Issac’s lands, she saw a man off in the fields and dismounted from her camel. “What man is this?” she asked Eliezer. “It is my master,” Eliezer answered, and upon knowing that this was the man she was to marry, Rebekah “took a vail, and covered herself” (Genesis 24:65).

What is happening here is beautifully symbolic. A woman’s veil, like any headgear, is a symbol of her power. In this case it is a symbol of the power a woman has to give life. When veiled a woman is unseen and inside the veil, just as her power to give live is internal and unseen to anyone looking at her. So as Rebekah beholds the priesthood bearer she is to marry, she veils her face representing the fact that she is bringing to him the power to give life. Sealed together they will then have the authority of priesthood and the power to bear life which are both needed in order to be like God.

It is such beautiful symbolism that it sends a tickle of delight through my soul when I see a bride or one of my Muslim sisters who still wear veils that symbolize the great power God has entrusted to women.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Parable of Constraint and Circumstance

At the very moment Grace was born, Constraint took hold of one of her hands and her sister Circumstance took hold of the other and not knowing any better, Grace held tight to the hand of each sister. At times it seemed annoying. She’d find new things that she wanted to reach out and touch, to bring them closer so she could enjoy their scent, or even sometimes to taste them. But the hold Constraint and Circumstance had on her hands didn’t allow her to reach out and grasp anything else. And she never thought to let go. After all she’d never seen anyone who wasn’t holding tight to the same sisters

As she grew older the grip seemed so natural that most of the time it was actually comforting. “What if they let go?” She’d find herself thinking. “What would happen to me?” So she’d worry and hold tighter than ever. But even then there were times when she’d imagine what it would be like to have her hands free. She’d always had a secret longing to write poetry, but Constraint and Circumstance in the unspoken way they had of communicating let her know that poetry was impractical. She was meant for cooking and cleaning not reading or writing poetry.

So she put away the thoughts of poetry and went the way Constraint and Circumstance guided her without complaining. That is until one day in her late teens when a new girl, Faith, entered her cooking class with no one holding her hands. There was an audible gasp as Faith entered the room and took her seat. The teacher looked annoyed even when Faith expressed her delight at being able to take a cooking class. She’d always wanted to be a chef and this was the beginning of fulfilling her dream.

At first Grace sat bewildered unable to concentrate on what the teacher was saying. The bewilderment soon turned to curiosity and then a resolve to talk to Faith. As soon as class ended, Grace stood to move toward Faith, but found herself pulled back by the unflinching Constraint and Circumstance. Faith was leaving the room and the opportunity would soon be lost. The desire to speak to Faith burst into courage. Grace let go of the hands that had held her so long, and hurried to Faith’s side.

Seeing her approach, Faith smiled and embraced her enthusiastically. “Oh, finally a friend!” she exclaimed.

“What?” Grace asked. But as she said it, she realized she had let go. She was free. She didn’t need to ask the questions of Faith. She knew! After all these long years, all she had to do was let go.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Today is the Day

Today is the first day of the rest of my life. We’ve all heard that, but do we believe it? I like to ponder the implications. For one thing, it means that each day is a new beginning. No matter what happened in the past, this is a new day. I can’t change the past, but the Savior can atone for anything that needs to be changed. So I don’t need to worry or fret or become depressed because of it. A new day is like a clean slate that I can write upon. What has happened in the past is erased from the slate and I can write whatever I want on the slate that is this day. I just need to stay close to God and do what is right in this moment—the only moment I have control over.

Another thing that comes to mind when I hear this saying is hope. It rings with hope. I can repent. I can change. I can grow because of Jesus Christ. That is what hope is all about. Without Him there would be no hope, no future, but because of Him there is always hope. I just need to remember and cling to that hope instead of heeding the competing cacophony of doom and despair that fills the world.

Today is the first day of the rest of my life implies that my agency is key to my life. I am the one who chooses. I am the one with the power to make this day a good one. No one else can do it for me. So I’m going to make it the best day I possibly can. And tomorrow? Well, when it comes I’ll consider it. For now, I only need to think about today.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Cancer Lessons

This has been a year of intense learning for me. A few weeks ago it was discovered that I had some spots of skin cancer on my face. The first thing I learned is that many, many people have been through this. Skin cancer is like the common cold and is treated just as easily. For that I am very grateful. To get rid of the spots, the doctor gave me a chemo cream that I simply rub on them. He warned me that at first it would turn red, but then it would fester and scab and I’d look like I had leprosy. He was right.

There are now two ugly spots on my face, one large and one small, that are absolutely grotesque. Here’s where the second thing I learned comes in. At first it was difficult to go out in public. I can’t cover the wounds with bandages or dressings because of the position they are in. The large one is in the outside corner of my right eye and goes around and down onto my cheek. The other is on the top lip. I feel bad for people who have to look at me, like my students. Some people would just not go out in public, but I can’t do that. So I determined that when I encountered people, I’d send them as much love as I could exude so that they’d feel the love instead of the shock at what they saw. So when they stare, I smile (even though it hurts to smile because the scabs crack) and just love. It has been very interesting to watch people’s reactions. Some turn away embarrassed. Some awkwardly pretend they don’t notice. Their eyes strain to look elsewhere, but keep darting back to the spots on my face. Some make eye contact and accept the love I am sending, and send love back. Some relax from the awkward how-shall-I-handle-this state to she’s-not-embarrassed-why–should-I-be state. Usually those people then simply ask, “What happened?” And I tell them.

Like all of you, I’ve been on both sides of these kinds of situations. But another thing I’ve learned is that I appreciate people who sincerely and simply ask, “What happened?” and let me explain. The problem is that not everyone appreciates that kind of response and so the rest of us don’t know what to do or say. So I’d like to pose two questions. (1) When something like this happens to you, how do you like others to respond? And (2) If we were all living in Truth, what would be the response? Or would there be only one? Leave your comments and let me know what you think.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Life as a Prayer

The scriptures advise us to “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Most of us think of prayer as folding our arms and bowing our heads, or kneeling down and talking to God about what we need and what we are grateful for. But prayer is as much an attitude as it is words. After encouraging the people to pray without ceasing, Paul tells them, “In every thing give thanks.” Again we might think of this as stopping what ever we are doing, bowing, and verbally expressing thanks in prayer. But there are other ways to give thanks.

Try an experiment. Whatever you do today fill you mind and heart with thoughts about how grateful you are for that thing or something connected to it. For example, when preparing a meal think about how grateful you are for the food or how grateful you are to have two hands that work. While cleaning your house, think about how grateful you are for a house that is a haven from the world, or think about the wonderful modern tools that make cleaning so easy. When doing even the grossest jobs such as changing a dirty diaper, think about what a privilege it is to serve one of God’s children by doing for them what they cannot do for themselves. Whatever you are doing all day long, think of what you are grateful for—think constantly about the great blessing it is to be an instrument in God’s hands to serve others and to do His work on earth.

After a day of this, meditate for a few moments on what happened to you. Review the events of the day and how different you felt when concentrating on gratitude. One thing you will notice is that by being constantly grateful your life itself became a prayer.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Choose a Merry Heart!

I love the book of Proverbs and find so much encouraging wisdom in its verses. One of my favorites is: “All the days of the afflicted are evil: but he that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast.” (15:15). Normally we think of affliction as things such as sickness, sorrow, death, despair, abuse, and poverty—the necessary pains of life that we must pass through. But notice that in this verse we have a couplet. The first half of the couplet is “All the days of the afflicted are evil,” and the second half of the couplet is “He that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast.” A couplet compares by placing two thoughts parallel to each other. So the writer is comparing the afflicted to the merry in heart and saying the first will have evil and the second a feast.

When we look at it this way we realize, that “the afflicted” in this case are not those who are sick, sorrowing, or grieving. Instead the author is drawing a comparison between those who are afflicted with negative thinking and those who have merry hearts or positive thinking. This affliction that brings about evil is the unnecessary pain we inflict upon ourselves because of our attitudes and the way we fight against truth. When we afflict ourselves with negative thoughts it can only lead to bad and evil. It is what happens when we fall into the Pit of Illusion. When we have a merry heart we feast on good and righteousness. That is what is ours when we live in Truth.

So choose the merry heart and feast (continually) on the joy and happiness that is available in any given moment.