Thursday, December 31, 2009

My Wish For You

It’s the last day of the year! This year has gone by so fast it is almost scary. I hope the year was good to you. And if it wasn’t, I hope you made the best of it.

It has been fun blogging and “meeting” new friends through the blog. I appreciate your comments and the insights you have shared with me. (I just hope more of you who drop by will leave comments.) Thank you for the joy you've brought me and a great big thank you for the prayers you've said in my behalf. I know that is why I have healed so well and that Grizelda will soon be gone. I love you all!

My wish is that all of you will have a very happy New Year celebration and that the 365 days following your celebration will be full of peace, love, and joy.

God bless you all!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Who Are You?

When God appears to Moses in Moses 1:3 the first thing he does is introduce Himself. “Behold, I am the Lord God Almighty, and Endless is my name; for I am without beginning of days or end of years; and is not this endless?”

The next thing God does is tell Moses who he is, “Behold, thou art my son.” God then tells Moses that he has a work to do and proceeds to show Moses the history of the world. After this marvelous revelation, God’s glory withdraws and Moses is left overwhelmed and physically weakened from his encounter with God.

While in this weakened state, Satan appears to Moses and tries to tempt him by saying, “Moses, son of man, worship me.”

It is very interesting to me that the first and most important things God wants Moses to know is who He is and that Moses is His son. It is equally as interesting that the first thing Satan tries to do is demean Moses’ understanding of his divine origin. Satan wants Moses to think he is just a mortal, human being.

Later, as the temptation from the adversary becomes more intense Moses resists by saying, “God said unto me: Thou art after the similitude of mine Only Begotten.” In other words, the reason Moses is able to resist is because he is not fooled by Satan. Moses remembers who and what he is and instead of questioning his divine origin, he questions Satan’s lies.

Knowing that we are the spirit children of our Heavenly Father is empowering. When we cling to the fact that we, too, are of divine origin—we are the children of God—we will also be able to resist the temptations of the adversary and live the way our Father wants us to live.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Rejoice in the Process

There are a lot of lessons to learn from the creation account we find in Genesis. But one of the most important to me is how God teaches us the concept of process. Life is meant to be a process-not an incident.

In the beginning God organized the world by doing one thing at a time. When He was finished separating the water from the land, He didn’t sit down and cry about how He didn’t have plants or animals or a finished world yet. He stepped back, enjoyed the work of the day, and said, “It is good.” He rejoiced in what He had accomplished.

There is a lot we have to learn from this. Instead of going to bed each night frustrated over what didn’t get accomplished or upset at ourselves for things we said or did wrong, or feeling like there is still so much growth we need to make that we will never be the person we want to be, we need to make it a practice to each night look at what went right that day, what we accomplished, what we learned and rejoice in the growth. Often the very days when we did or said things wrong are our best learning days. Instead of fretting over what went wrong, we should concentrate on the lessons and rejoice in them.

Like God, we need to see the progress in each day, then step back and rejoice because, “It is good."

Monday, December 28, 2009


A new year and a new decade is approaching. For years I always made new resolutions as part of my celebration. Like most people I didn’t keep all of them, but I find that when striving for a goal even if I don’t keep it all the time I do better than if I have no goal at all. But last year D1 introduced me to something that I really enjoyed doing and so I thought I’d pass the idea along to you.

Instead of goals or resolutions last year I choose one word to define my year: positive. All year long I repeated the word and thought about being positive and finding the positive in any situation or in other people. The surprising thing was to watch how one word made such a difference in my life. I’d start to feel discouraged or sad at something that was happening and then I’d catch myself and simply say, “Positive, Sherrie, positive,” and the feelings would change and I’d start to see things differently; I’d see the good instead of the bad. It never felt oppressive or burdensome like goals sometimes do. I never had that, “I have to do this” feeling.

This year I had trouble deciding between the words simplify and rejuvenate. I finally choose rejuvenate. I want to rejuvenate old friendships, present friendships, my Church calling, my teaching, my prayers, my faith, my health, my life—everything! Whatever I’m doing I’m going to put more enthusiasm and effort into it and see how I can do it a little better. I’ll let you know how it goes.

If any of you want to pick a word and make a "word resolution" leave a comment here about the word you have chosen. That way we can get ideas from each other and besides that committing to something in writing always makes the commitment stronger. We'll help each other keep our commitments!

Happy new word!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

One of Life's Lessons

Many years ago when Carl was bishop and I sat through meetings with four children under the age of seven I would come home from Church so disgruntled. I often found myself wondering why I bothered to go to Church because I wasn’t able to listen or ponder or enjoy any of it. All I did was wrestle kids! Some days I even came home mad. I’d think about how sweet the moments of the Sacrament were when I was single and how all I managed to do now was to keep children from pulling each other’s hair or to stop teasing each other.
Then one day it dawned on me that what was ruining Sacrament Meeting wasn’t so much what my children were doing, but how I was reacting to the situation. I had let myself become a victim and I was holding a giant pity party every Sunday. I asked myself what the Savior would do and decided that He would simply love the children during the meeting. That decision to love instead of fret and worry was one of the best things I ever did. I’d hold a child on my lap and instead of resenting the intrusion into my pondering moments, I’d concentrate on how much I loved the child. I’d separate two contending children with feelings of love instead of frustration. No words were spoken, but it wasn’t long before I realized the children were responding to my unspoken thoughts. They had felt the fretting, frustration before and it fueled their own negative actions. Now they felt the love and responded differently—not perfect still, but much more positive.
The strange thing is that as the children grew up and I no longer had anyone sitting on my lap or needing to be “tended to” during meeting, I went back to the sweet moments of meditation during the Sacrament but found myself missing having a child in my arms. The loving, cuddling moments had been as productive of beautiful spiritual moments as the uninterrupted pondering.
Today I got the best Christmas present I received. Some of my children and grandchildren went to Sacrament meeting with me and I got to hold my wiggly eighteen-month-old grandson during the Sacrament. Who would have guessed those many years ago when I was fretting over the situation that I would one day actually cherish having a wiggly child in my arms during meeting? But then I guess that is what life is all about—learning and growing.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

After Christmas

Christmas day comes and Christmas day goes, but this year I have a feeling it will be staying with me all year long. It tended to do that last year and this year solidified it. Because of the surgery last year I didn’t get very involved in any of the traditional shopping and decorating or gift exchanging. I listened to the music, read the Biblical account of the birth of Jesus and had lots and lots of time to ponder the real reason for Christmas and experience its miracles.

This year I did a lot of the traditional things, but with getting sick two days before Christmas it was more of a repeat of last year. Again my nurse daughter and her husband the doctor came to my rescue. They mailed me an antibiotic that I took for the first time on Christmas Eve morning. I could tell it had started to work, but I was still too sick on Christmas Eve to go to my mother’s house for the traditional Christmas Eve dinner so the family went to mother’s and left me alone in a quiet house for the evening. I read the Christmas story and pondered the meaning of Christmas, did a little writing about my feelings, and just soaked in the Christmas cheer. It was wonderful. I had many thoughts, but the one that has stuck with me is that every story of a changed heart is a Christmas story.

This year I’m going to celebrate Christmas all year long.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Time for Truth Tools

I have been looking forward to this Christmas so much since I completely missed last Christmas because of the brain surgery. But yesterday I came down with the flu and am so sick. I start slipping into Illusion by feeling sorry for myself, but then I grab the Truth Tool gratitude and think how blessed I am to even be alive this Christmas. Somehow I'm hanging on and am realizing that my being sick doesn't change the real meaning of Christmas at all. I can contemplate and enjoy that even in bed.

I hope all of you have a very merry Christmas and that none of you are sick! God bless you all.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Mary the Mother

At the end of the Nativity account found in Luke 2 we are told that “Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). Some authors have taken this to mean that Mary didn’t understand what was going on. But I don’t believe that. To think Mary was naïve is to completely disregard the beautiful Psalm that Mary utters when she visits Elizabeth.
“My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.  For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation. He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy; As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever” (Luke 1:46-55).

Even if you believe that these aren’t Mary’s own words and that someone later attributed them to her, you know that after what she had seen and experienced these kinds of thoughts couldn’t help but be part of her thinking. She had seen and experienced things that no mortal before her or after her has ever experienced. There is no way she could be naïve. The prophecies were talked about constantly and even if, as a woman, she was not part of the synagogue discussions, she could not help but overhear the men talking of the Messiah that would be born to a virgin. She would know what His mission was to be and how He would be sacrificed for the sins of the world. Mary knew all these things.

I can only imagine what it would mean to cradle my newborn son in my arms and know the horrific fate that awaited him. Every time she saw a sacrificial offering at the temple, or heard of one, her heart must surely have broken. Of all people, Mary knew who this baby was. That she kept all that happened and pondered it in her heart was not a sign of ignorance, but an indication of the burden she lived with. Her Son would die for her and for all of us.

Picture by Amy Pectol :

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Good Will

In the Nativity story Luke tells us that the angels sang to the shepherds, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14). I would have loved to have heard that, but then maybe I did! Maybe I was one of the angels singing. I can’t be sure, but it is a wonderful thought to ponder.

But if I were singing, it would have been different words. From what I have learned about living in Truth and from studying the original Greek text that our King James Bible comes from, I think the proper translation and something closer to what the angels were singing went like this, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will.”

In this telestial world peace comes to people who strive to do good and to no one else. So this Christmas season, I am singing (in my heart because no one would like to hear my voice!) my own version of the angels' carol. But more than just singing the words, I am committing to be a woman that wills good.

Sing it with me! “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will.”

picture by Gustave Dore:

Monday, December 21, 2009

My Nativity Fiasco

During the past few months I built a puppet theater in my house. At Thanksgiving my grandsons put on a delightful puppet show with knights, a fairy horse mother, and a damsel in distress. I’m still chuckling over it. There are three young grandsons (ages 4, 5 and 7) here for Christmas and last night I helped them do a puppet show of the Nativity. The rehearsal went fairly well. Changing puppets every other sentence from angels to shepherds to wise men was tricky, but we managed it. Then we invited all the adults in to watch the show.

It started off well. The angel announced the news to Mary and then to Joseph, but when the donkey appeared and Mary hopped on for the ride things began to fall apart. A little laughter from the audience sent my young puppeteers off and the next thing I knew Joseph kept kissing Mary, the sheep were attacking the shepherds. and no one could remember their lines. In short, my well intentioned Nativity turned into a comedy.
A few years ago this would have devastated me. It didn’t last night. The Truth is that children are easily diverted. The Truth is that when funny things happen people laugh. The Truth is that everyone enjoyed the attempt, and even though it didn’t have a reverent feel about it, the message was still there. The Truth is that even though they weren’t exactly on task, they got the message that this is something very important to me. The Truth is that even though it didn’t turn out how I would have liked it to, because I didn't get all bent out of shape about the way it was going the good feelings were preserved and it is those good feelings that my grandsons will remember.

Once again I learned that when you take what comes and love it instead of fretting about it, everything turns out all right in the end.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

My Joy!

My favorite thing to do at Christmas time is set up my crèches. I have an olive wood crèche I bought many years ago in Jerusalem that brings back memories of the amazing trip we took to the Holy Land. I have a Fisher-Price crèche I set down low so the grandchildren can arrange and rearrange it. I have a white porcelain one and a Mexican one two wonderful friends gave me. I have a tiny one another friend made for me. I love them all, and as I said, they are my favorite part of Christmas.

It brought back some strong memories to get them out this year. Last year I set them up hurriedly in the few days between the CAT scans, MRIs and other testing and the day of the brain surgery. I put most of them downstairs where I didn’t see them much after the surgery, but the Mexican one I set up right next to my bed on a little table where I could see it all the time.

Last year as I set them up I wondered if it would be the last time I ever set them up or not. I remember contemplating the reality that I may not be around this year and that if I were around I may not be able to see the manger scenes very well. I remember putting the baby Jesus in the olive wood manger and thinking about the possibility that before long I could be standing in front of Him and looking into His eyes and feeling His love in a very real way. I wondered what He would say to me, and if I were ready. It made Christmas last year very new and different experience.

This year as I put the baby Jesus in the olive wood manger, all the memories and feelings from last year coursed through me but in addition I was filled with the gratitude that because of this little baby miracles had occurred. I could see. I was alive. And all because Jesus Christ was born, lived, and died for me.

I wish I had the words to express all I am feeling this year as I look at the Mexican crèche that I placed where I can see it while I work. I’m looking at it now and feeling all the feelings again and also feeling very frustrated that there are no adequate words. I keep trying to express what is in my heart and keep falling far short. All I can say is that Jesus Christ lives and loves us. What a blessing that is in our lives.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Memories of Rain

Christmas time overwhelms me with memories. There is something about it that causes me to think about all the Christmases past and all kinds of other memories. This morning I was thinking about one of my favorite mothering moments.

Late one night after all the kids were in bed and asleep it started to rain and I don’t mean just a sprinkle. Water poured down in great streams. I watched through the window for a few minutes as I started to get ready for bed. Light coming from the street lamp on the corner shined magically through the cascading rain and reflected in the large puddles forming on the lawn.

Suddenly, without giving it much thought, I woke up the children and marched them out into the rain. In our pajamas, we lifted our faces to accept the water's caress. We opened our mouths and drank in the heavenly water. We danced, we ran in circles, we splashed, we played airplanes, we laughed, we sang, we joined hands and played ring-around-the-rosies, falling into the puddles and feeling the tickle of wet grass against our cheeks.

Hearing the laughter Carl joined us and we played until everyone was soaked to the skin. Then we went inside, changed into dry pajamas, blew hair dry, and drank hot chocolate while still giggling. It was way past bed time and that wasn't the only family rule broken, but none of that really mattered. I can't remember if we were on time for scripture study the next morning or even on time for school. I don't remember any burden from washing all those pajamas and towels. All I remember is the love and joy I felt for my children and for my Heavenly Father as we danced in the rain.

Looking back on my days of mothering, the only regret I now have is that I worried too much about things such as bed time and laundry. I wish I had spent more time dancing in the rain.

Friday, December 18, 2009

One Year And I Can Still See!

One year ago today we had a head shaving party here at my house. My family and some friends gathered, I was given a beautiful blessing, and then my son took the scissors to my hair. A year ago tomorrow, the surgeons went searching for Grizelda. And then the miracles began. It hasn’t been easy, but I have been so blessed this year. My family took such great care of me while I was recuperating. This pictures shows D2 who is a nurse who stayed with me in the hospital. All of my children were so helpful  and I grew to appreciate them so much more.

It took awhile, but I have my full strength back now. I can still see! I have learned some amazing things. And I am happy.

This year has gone so fast! Besides the duel with Grizelda, it has been full of other adventures. I was able to see every one of my children and grandchildren—which doesn’t happen every year since they live so far away! My book Gospel Insights for Everyday Living was published. I wrote another book, Living in Truth, and taught many Living in Truth workshops. I especially enjoyed that because I met so many wonderful new friends.

Best of all is that I’ve grown so close to my Savior this year. I’m beginning to suspect that adversity is necessary in order for that closeness to happen. I hope I’m wrong, so I’m clinging to this closeness and hoping 2010 has a little less adversity but that I can maintain the closeness. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Home At Last!

I’m home! It was wonderful to be away, but so nice to be back. Things didn’t go as planned our last two days. We had a fantastic dinner on Tuesday and strolled down the Boulevard to go to the Donny and Marie show enjoying the lights and the people. We arrived in plenty of time only to find a long, long line and discover that someone was sick and the show had been cancelled. This is the second time we have tried to see the show and weren’t able to. So we walked back to our hotel and spent the evening watching Elf.

When we were in California D2 surprised us with Christmas stockings filled with goodies. I had also picked oranges from her tree so we made a party out of the rest of our time in Vegas from the treats in our stockings and the oranges. It wasn’t the trip we had planned, but it was relaxing and fun.

Now to get on with the Christmas plans. I’m still enjoying the lights and music more than I ever have. I feel like a child again. I get all giggly inside when I see the lights and the Christmas music literally warms my soul. I love this!!!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Thoughts On My Vacation

Surprise! I did get some computer time this morning. It has been an interesting experience to go from a baptism with family to Las Vegas. The feelings are so very different. We stayed at D2's home (that's daughter number two) and D4 also brought her four sons. Eight children under 14 means chaos and noise and sometimes trauma (for the little ones) and lots of work for mothers to keep up with everything but it was all good and wonderful and full of love and goodness. And as strange as it sounds there is a certain peace to the chaos--maybe because of the love that underlies it all. It is so fun to watch my girls mother and deal with these situations in patient ways. They each mother very differently but they are all amazing mothers.

Here in Vegas there is chaos and noise and lots of trauma but there is a very different feeling. It's as if you can smell it in the air! It is tangible and real. I saw a slightly overweight older woman yesterday, probably in her mid seventies who had obviously had face lift surgery and who was wearing a lot of makeup, walking around in tight white leggins and knee boots with high heels. It was almost sad to see how she was clinging to a long-gone youth, seeking happiness in the past.

In short, the contrast between the two parts of my vacation have made me even more thankful for the gospel and the principles of Truth that teach me to find happiness in what is and to be at peace with myself and my God. But most of all the gospel has taught me where to find true joy. I am so grateful for that!

On Vacation!

I've been traveling today. I've spent the weekend in California to be at the baptism of my grand daughter. It is so wonderful to watch these children grow up! Another daughter four brought her children to be part of the celebrating and so we got to see eight grand children. Wonderful!

Both daughters spoiled us. They are wonderful! Such amazing children I have. I'll explain more about our trip later. I only have a few minutes of computer time. Tomorrow and Wed. I may not have access either. We've stopped in Las Vegas to do some Christmas shopping and to see the Donny and Marie show.  I'll write tomorrow if I can. In the meantime, keep enjoying the season!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Power of Experience

The last power of the mind that Alma teaches us to use is the power to experience. “Experience,” you are thinking, ”isn’t a power of the mind. Experience is a power of the senses.”  But not according to Alma.  Many people think that what they experience is a result of their environment. To put it in a mathematical type formula stimulus = response. But as we all have observed, the same stimulus can be given to two different people and the response will be different. Thus the formula is stimulus + agency = response. We all choose what we experience.

On the hill of Calvary there were many people who experienced joy and rejoicing as they witnessed a blasphemer be crucified and receive His just reward. Other people on that same hill experienced extreme sorrow as they witnessed their Savior and King suffer extreme pain and degradation. What they experienced was a choice, and what we experience is a choice. When we go to Sacrament meeting do we experience the sweet spirit of the Lord rejuvenating us and encouraging us? Or do we sit through the meeting thinking about the new hairdo of the woman three rows in front of us, or how we wish the speaker were better, or all we have to do during the coming week to get ready for Christmas?

Alma asks the people if they have experienced feeling the spirit in their lives and if they have in the past if they are still experiencing it. Alma understood that experiencing is a power of the mind that we can use to bring us closer to our Father in Heaven and to increase our faith. Each of us can choose to experience what the Spirit is offering you right now or you can choose to get caught up in the things of the world—the emotions and thoughts that push us far from the Spirit.

Remembering, imagining, and experiencing are abilities we have all been given that when used properly will strengthen and empower us to be Christ-like.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Power to Imagine

Yesterday I spent the day driving to California and didn’t have Internet access. I love long car rides and watching the world pass by. I know a lot of people think the drive between Utah and California is nature at its most forlorn, but even in the desert I find an amazing peace and beauty. God has created a fascinating world and I love seeing the different formations, creations, and beauty of it.

Now back to Alma 5. The next power of the mind that Alma talks about is the power to imagine. He asks us to imagine ourselves standing before God. What will we say to God? What will we do? Do we think that at that point we can fool God? No way!
Imagination is powerful. We can use this power to project ourselves into the future and decide how we will deal with specific problems or situations. We can use it to imagine the consequences that will come from decisions we are about to make. We can imagine ourselves in the celestial kingdom and feel how wonderful that will be and then use those “sights” and feelings to motivate ourselves to do what is right so that we will be in the celestial kingdom.

Using the imagination to help us live righteously can help us immensely on our journey back into the presence of God.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Power of Memory

In Alma’s great speech to the people of Zarahemla, one of the first things he asks is if they have “sufficiently retained in remembrance the captivity of your fathers?” He goes on to ask them if they have remembered God’s mercy and longsuffering toward them and how through the atonement Christ has delivered them from hell. He asks if they have remembered how the hearts of the people were changed and how they were freed from bondage.

This is one of the great powers of the mind that help us to use our agency correctly. If we use our minds to remember Christ and all the marvelous things He has done for us and our forefathers, it becomes very difficult to give into temptation. Learning these stories and then thinking about them often is empowering.

 I have many family stories I often recall about the hardships my ancestors endured so that I could be a member of Christ’s church. There are also a lot of Church history stories that are the heritage of all members of the Church.  I also have many experiences of the tender mercies of the Lord in my own life that I recall often to help me remember how much the Lord loves me and how He has helped me. But most of all, as Alma says, I am blessed by remembering the Atonement and what it means to me personally.

 If we constantly keep these things in our memory, we are fortified to make right choices and every time we make right choices our faith grows. Remembering the good and remembering Christ fortifies us. Memory, therefore, is a powerful tool that helps us draw closer to God.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Spiritual Conditioning

Often in my religion classes I have young men and women who are on athletic teams at BYU. I am astounded at the amount of time these young people put into their sport. Depending on which team they are on, they report spending 3 to 6 hours per day conditioning, watching film, learning plays and practicing. It takes so much time and effort and literally becomes a way of life. They have to eat right, mentally prepare for opponents, learn rules, create team camaraderie so they can work together well, follow coaches instructions, work out to create strength and stamina, and many other things. Some of this we realize. After all we know that no one is going to end up on a NFL team by accident. A professional athlete plans and prepares for years before.

There are parallels here to our spiritual life. No one is going to end up in the celestial kingdom accidentally. We have to plan and prepare if we want to go there. So what do we do? Spiritual conditioning for those who want to go to the celestial kingdom is as necessary and real as physical conditioning is for athletes. Since faith is mental process, spiritual conditioning takes place in the mind, and Alma tells us how in Alma chapter five.

In his great speech to the people of Zarahemla, Alma instructs them on the use of the three powers of the mind: the power to remember, to imagine, and to experience. When we learn to use these three powers and then daily exercise them we are strengthened spiritually. They are incredible powers and build faith just as weight lifting builds muscle.

For the next few days, I’ll blog about these powers and how we use them. In the meantime, read Alma 5 so you can add your comments. Happy reading!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Feeling Christmas

I can’t get enough of Christmas this year. I think it is because I missed Christmas last year. The brain surgery was on December 19th and the entire week before that I was going through testing and visiting doctors and scrambling to get people to take care of my three religion classes and at the end of a semester with all the work that entails doing that was a major endeavor. So, last year I didn’t experience much of Christmas let alone enjoy it.

But this year every light, every note of Christmas music, every Christmas movie, every Christmas wish is sinking into my heart and exploding in joy. It’s like I am experiencing Christmas for the first time! But it is much more than just the décor and music; those things are simply catalysts. I find myself this year really pondering Christmas. For example, yesterday I heard “Round yon virgin, mother and child” and I began to think of Mary and what Christmas meant to her.

I’ve had children. I know the pain and the emotions of childbirth. But Mary was young and alone. Most scholars think she was probably about fourteen years old. Certainly she was scorned by the small community of Nazareth for getting pregnant before being married. And then there was the journey, about 90 miles, to Bethlehem while being pregnant. Tradition tells us she rode a donkey, but walking would be more comfortable than the jolting ride on a donkey. I imagined how she felt, her first child and she was without mother or sister or female kin of any kind! Alone, rejected, inexperienced, far from home, in a dirty, stinky stable she gave birth to the Son of God. She wasn’t spared the pain, the emotions, the fear or any of the other things that accompany child birth, but she did it.

Not knowing how she would deliver, or who would help her, or what would happen to her, she went forward trusting that God would help her and care for her. Oh, the faith of that woman!

This Christmas I’m not just thinking about but feeling the birth of the Savior in all its wonder and glory, and I’m appreciating  those who helped bring Him into the world. I’m celebrating it all!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Counting My Blessings

I am so blessed. Living with a tumor in your head could be a very stressful situation. It is like living with a time bomb. You can’t see inside it to know when or if it is going to go off or what it is doing. You don’t know if it is growing or shrinking. You just have to wait and see what happens.

But because of the priesthood blessings I have received, even on a bad day when I can feel the pressure inside my head, it doesn’t cause me stress or worry because I know the Lord is with me and is caring for me. I know that eventually everything is going to be all right because of the promises I have been given. I am so very grateful for the priesthood of God and for its healing power.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Home Teaching

There is a stray cat that frequents our cul-de-sac. The cat is around so much that my five-year-old grandson, Eli, has become attached to the cat and named it Meow-Meow. The other day Eli was asking his mother where Meow-Meow goes at night and who feeds him and what does he do as he roams from house to house. Mariah kept answering that she didn’t know and finally Eli looked at her and said, “I know, Mom! Meow-Meow is a home teaching cat.”

For those of you unfamiliar with the Mormon culture, the men in each Mormon congregation are assigned to be “Home Teachers” to a few of the families in the congregation. Thus my husband goes with another man to visit two families and two men from the congregation visit us monthly to give us a spiritual message of faith and encouragement and to see if there is anything we need or if they can serve us in any way. In time of need, such as last year when I underwent surgery, our Home Teachers checked on me regularly, prayed for me, and brought treats and messages of love and concern during the entire ordeal not just once each month. In short, home teaching is a marvelous out-pouring of love and a way to serve and care for one another.

To Eli, Meow-Meow was a cat who went from home to home giving love and delight to those he encountered. It was very interesting to me that at his young age, Eli had realized that home teachers do the same thing.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Mother Nature is Ready for Christmas

It is cold outside. My walk this morning was brisk and nippy. I loved it. But there was more this morning than just the cold to make it wonderful. I always stop on the bridge that crosses the Provo River and do a little meditation to start my day right. I begin by looking downstream and imagining the river running right through me to wash away all the Illusion, negative feelings, and problems within me. Then I turn upstream and imagine the Fountain of Living Waters filling me with all that is good. I learn something new and different every morning and love those few moments and how they start my day.

This morning, as we were about to leave the bridge, one of the friends I walk with pointed out how the tree boughs that bend to almost touch the water had balls of ice on them. It as if Mother Nature had decorated for Christmas. Real ice spheres hanging from the tree branches! It was beautiful—magical—and I am still delighting in the memory of it.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

This Essay is My Christmas Gift to You

I passed through masses of icons, silver lanterns, and trinkets before descending the stairs into a sea of people crowded into the small cave. Heat and noise mingled in the heavy, stale air. People jostled for position, nudging, pressing, seeking to see the silver star that marked the place where some say the Savior of the world was born.

People kissed the walls. Others walked through, merely curious. One weeping woman knelt despite the throng, kissed the floor, then gave herself up to intense yet soundless sobbing. Uncomfortable with the sudden exposure to a stranger’s soul, I looked away.

By straining, I caught a glimpse of the star embedded in the marble floor; then I eagerly sought the egress that would take me from the place. I had seen what I came to see but not felt what I hoped to feel. Disheartened, I hurried out of the cave into one of the churches built over it. Few tarried there, and I found in the courtyard a more amiable spot than the one below. Freed from the sights and sounds and press, I sank onto a chair as cold jolts of disappointment intensified in me. How could this be the place of the savior’s nativity?

For years I had imagined, pondered, and prepared, and I wanted the place to elicit all the feelings I’d encountered while studying. But it didn’t. In an attempt to push away the disappointment, I let my mind wander over what I’d learned of the event in Bethlehem that I’d come to love.

Bethlehem–the name means “house of bread.” Whether or not the cave below me was the actual stable of Christ’s birth, this was the town. Words came to mind, words I had heard almost every Sunday since I was a child: “Bless and sanctify this bread to the souls of all those who partake of it, that they may eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son” (D & C 20:77). Christ, the Bread of Life, was born in the house of bread and placed in a manger.

As a child I had thought manger was a synonym for crib. I remembered my surprise at learning that a manger is a box made to hold food for animals, a feeding trough! Now, as I sat in Bethlehem, I imagined a manger filled with oats that beasts of burden hungrily devoured. They, like me, would eat and in a few hours want more. No matter how nutritious earthly fare is, it is never enough. The next day, even the next hour, the stomach growls for more.

In my mind’s eye I saw hands brushing away the last few oats. The same hands filled the manger with fresh straw and placed the Babe in the feeding trough. Words leaped to mind: “He that cometh to me shall never hunger” and “He that eateth of this bread shall live for ever” (John 6:35, 58). The heavenly fare offered
in the manger was not only eternal but capable of lifting us to God. How fitting that Mary should cradle her son, the Bread of Life, in a manger.

I thought of Mary, His mother. The intense emotion of birth was familiar
to me, but Mary was the mother of God’s child. I thought of the joy and the sorrow she bore and wondered what her feelings were as she wrapped the Son of God in swaddling clothes.

Oh, the swaddling clothes! As Mary beheld Him in the manger, did her heart race with premonitions of a time when she would see Him wrapped in linen and laid in another cave, called a sepulcher? In a stable-cave Mary gave Jesus mortal life, and from a sepulcher-cave Jesus came forth to give Mary and all mankind immortal life. Both caves are mortal reminders of Jesus’ condescension, or of His descending “below all things” (see 1 Nephi 11:16; D & C 88:6).

His condescension is difficult to understand. He was God “but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:7). The same verse in the Greek New Testament does not mention reputation but instead says that He “emptied himself.” He was God, yet He emptied himself of power to begin anew, growing form grace to grace. He was the Word, and yet He came as a wordless infant. He was the Almighty One, and yet helplessly He took nourishment at Mary’s breast. He was king of Kings, and yet He came as the servant of man. He, the great I Am, condescended to be the beast upon which all burdens would fall, born among animals at Passover time.

I thought of the significance of the Passover. As families throughout the land prepared their symbolic meal of lamb, the Lamb of God was being born, and because of His living and His dying, the nullifying effects of death would pass over us. But Passover also meant springtime–lambing season. A few miles away shepherds were helping to bring new lambs into the world. Deemed by the upper classes as men of naught, the shepherds were nevertheless saviors to the sheep. Besides assisting in the births, they nourished, gathered, comforted, and protected their flocks, sometimes risking their lives to defend them. There was deep irony in the fact that Jesus, the Good Shepherd, would be deemed by the Pharisees and Sadducees as a man of naught while in the very act of giving His life to save them.

But there is more to this symbolism of shepherd and sheep. One scholar notes that a tower called Migdal Eder–the watchtower of the flock–stood on the road between Bethlehem and Jerusalem. The sheep that where gathered there belonged to the temple flock, from which the sacrificial lambs would be taken. Some Jews believed that the Savior would be born in Bethlehem and revealed at Migdal Eder (see Marvin R. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament, 4 vols. [1887-1900], 1:269).

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). How fitting that the angelic announcement was made to humble men serving the needs of sheep that might die in similitude of the Lamb of God. But that has not changed. It is still to those who are feeding His sheep that He reveals himself. It is to those who serve that the testimony is revealed, the testimony that all who are unclean have a Savior and can come forth from the darkness of their tombs into the Light of Life.

Thoughts of that light brought to mind the Christmas star. Piercing the darkness, it stood above all nations, far above and untouched by anything worldly. Christ, the Life and Light of the World, is like that star. His light, the light of Christ, still guides wise men and women to their promised land, where they can behold for themselves the greatest star, the Son.

Ah, the Wise Men. Of all the stories associated with the birth, their story intrigues me most. They must have had scriptures or an oral tradition that prophesied of Christ’s birth, or they would not have recognized the sign or known where to go once they saw it. We are told they saw the sign in the East and then traveled west to Judea. It was a long journey, and once in Jerusalem they began to inquire, “Where is he that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him” (Matthew 2:2).

News of their inquiries concerning a king reached Herod, and he sent for them. He was troubled by prophecies that another would rule Israel–after all, wasn’t he the king of this land? But the Wise Men knew that he was not the king they sought. After they left, they followed the star until they reached Jesus, and there they presented their gifts to Him.

And what marvelous gifts they were! We don’t really know how many Wise Men came, but tradition claims three because there were three gifts: gold, the metal of kings and symbol of a celestial world because of its refined purity; frankincense, used in making incense that was burned on the temple altar as a symbol of prayers arising and connecting God and man; and myrrh, an aromatic gum used to make incense, perfume, and ointment for embalming. I remembered a picture of a myrrh plant and was startled anew by its spikelike thorns. Even at the Christ child’s tender age, the gifts given Him bore testimony of who He was and what He would do. Gold for the King of Kings, frankincense for the Mediator between God and Man, myrrh for the body that would be buried for us.

For us! That was the most important part. If He had not died for us, no light, no sign, no bread would be enough. We would have spent our lives in futility and then perished. But because of Him, we live and will live. Because of Him, all who desire will find light. Because of Him, all who seek with pure intent will find God.
All who seek! I ventured into the crowded cave once more and looked again at the worshipers and icons that surrounded me. Something had changed. Before, these sights and sounds so foreign to my upbringing had made me uncomfortable. Now, instead of gaudiness, I saw expressions of love. Instead of strange behavior, I saw devotion. Instead of disappointment, I felt peace.

And in that moment of recognizing the peace, a symbol came to me that I hadn’t thought of before. The celebrated birth was to a virgin, innocent and pure. As if calling me from a deep sleep, chastening words whispered, It is only in a pure heart that Christ can be born again.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Pondering Christmas

I put my Christmas tree up while some of the grandchildren were here to help me. I’m not big into decorating, but one of the things I love about having a Christmas tree is it gives me a special place to sit and contemplate the real meaning of Christmas. Our tree isn’t beautiful—it’s more a conglomeration of memories and children’s art work. We usually buy a new Christmas ornament during the year to remind us of something special that happened during that year. We’ve been married for 42 years so that means a lot of ornaments and memories!

I turn off the room lights, turn on the tree lights, and cuddle into my favorite comforter on the couch and savor all the memories that are filled with love and hope and faith. But besides memories, many of those ornaments are nativity scenes or other things directly related to the Savior and His birth. The pondering session always eventually takes me to the manger in the stable and the glorious event that occurred there.

There is so much to do, especially for mothers, at Christmas time. But don’t forget to stop and enjoy and remember what it is all about. All that is good comes from Jesus Christ. Without that birth in that stable, you and I would not have any beautiful, wonderful memories to contemplate.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

You Are Radiating

I changed the Words of Encouragement today. The quote I posted is one of my all time favorite quotes. It came from President David O. Mckay. “There is another responsibility correlated and even coexistent with free agency, which is too infrequently emphasized, and that is the effect not only of a person’s actions but also of his thoughts upon others. Man radiates what he is, and that radiation affects to a greater or lesser degree every person who comes within that radiation.”

We’ve all been in the presence of someone who lifts and encourages us just by being. It isn’t the words they say or the stories they tell. It is something tacit that radiates from them and empowers us. On the other hand, we have all been in the presence of someone who depletes us, sucks power from us, and drains us. This empowering or depleting is the effect of the radiation that President McKay is talking about.

When we consistently use our agency to choose righteousness, we become strong and that radiates to influence others. When we consistently use our agency to choose evil, we become weak and needy and that radiates to influence others. It is a mistake to think that we are just one little person and so what we do or say or think doesn’t matter. We do matter. We influence all those we come in contact with and we add to the righteousness or evil in the world. That is why it is so important to remember what King Benjamin said, “Watch yourselves and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds” (Mosiah 4:30). Our thoughts determine our words and deeds and are the source of what we radiate. If we live in Truth and watch our thoughts and feelings we will radiate goodness and love and will be a powerful influence for good in the world—especially to those around us.