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sorrow

Susan and I are both attending funerals within the week.

I have dealt with death and funerals more that the average, I think.  From a young boy who battled cancer most of his life, to grandparents who lived long full lives, to young mom’s with small children left behind. In 2012 I lost my best friend only a few months after my husband lost his best friend.  No matter how long someone lives, it never seems to be long enough.

Death can be a bitter foe for those of us that are left behind. The pain of loss is very real and can last a very long time.  But faith is the one healing factor that can soften sharp pains left when someone dies. I’ve noticed in observing those mourning at the loss of a loved one, those who have a clear understanding of life after this one, while they are still immensely sad, they are somehow okay. While others seem to have have an inconsolable heartache from feeling that the existence of someone who meant so much, has just ceased.  Having an understanding of the eternal truth of our existence, opens up our hearts to hope and joy in a time of sadness.

In Psalms 116:15 it says

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.

While that seems like a strange statement, it seems like the Lord is grateful to have them back with Him, but also perhaps He is expressing the great peace that comes to those who die in the Lord, That they can have hope in the transition from a place of difficulty (this earth life) to a place of rest.

While in high school, I was close to my friend’s mom, who was sick in the hospital fighting cancer.  I had the chance to write a note to her, but being an awkward teenager, I didn’t know what to say, so I just didn’t say anything. Then when I found out that she died, I cried with regret, because all I really wanted to say to her was “I love you.”

That love for her, and the other’s I’ve had to let go, is why we cry, why we mourn. We love them. We’ll miss them. We wish we could still be with them.

Russell Nelson put it so beautifully when he said

The only way to take sorrow out of death is to take love out of life.

(His full message found here)

Another scripture teaches us that…

Thou shalt live together in love, insomuch that thou shalt weep for the loss of them that die.” D&C 42:45

When we love someone deeply, we surely don’t want to see them go, but the hope of meeting them again, when we pass through that doorway of death, lessens the sting, and gives something to hope for.

Because I have faced the reality of death so many times throughout my life, I have come to realize, in a very real, in my face, kind of way, that death is a part of life.

We read in the scriptures…

it was not expedient that man should be reclaimed from this temporal death, for that would destroy the great plan of happiness.  Alma 42:8

Our life on this earth is meant to be temporary. Life can be really hard and challenging and sad and painful at times. There have certainly been days when I have felt like I’m ready to be done with this fight. In many ways death can be a blessing.  A passing through a doorway into rest from trials and difficulties.

But I also know there are so many good things I can still contribute to this world, while I still have the pleasure of living here. With God’s grace, I have been given a certain number of days and years in which He expects me to learn and love and accomplish His mission for me.

I leave you with one more message from Russell Nelson

Meanwhile, we who tarry here have a few precious moments remaining “to prepare to meet God.”  Perpetual procrastination must yield to perceptive preparation. Today we have a little more time to bless others—time to be kinder, more compassionate, quicker to thank and slower to scold, more generous in sharing, more gracious in caring.

There is so much good we can all do in this world.  Even if just a little at a time.

While we will be mourning with others this week to show our love for the people in our lives who have passed, we will also be expressing, inwardly if not also to others, our belief in the atonement and in God’s love that will allow us to successfully pass through this life, and enjoy friendship and family relations in the eternities.   — Laura

 

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flower withers

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Stay Strong

I love a good movie.  Especially one that makes me cry.

Maybe it’s the female in me that loves a reason to get in touch with my sensitive side, especially when there is a redeeming message interwoven through out the film.

A few weeks ago, I talked about the movie “Courageous.”     This weekend, we pulled out another DVD to watch that I have seen many times, but I also love.  It is called “Forever Strong.”              

Forever Strong is based on a compilation of true life experiences within the Highland High School Rugby Team in Salt Lake City. Here is a little background on the success of this team.

Highland Rugby has gone on to a famous record, having the Utah State Championship every year between 1976 and 2011 and winning 20 of 27 USA Rugby National Championships contested between 1985 and 2011, with six runner-up national champions and one third-place finish. In 1998, it competed in the first World School Boys Championship in Harare, Zimbabwe. It was the only team from the Western Hemisphere to qualify for the tournament and finished third. Highland Rugby has competed all across the United States and in many countries throughout the world, including Australia, New Zealand, Tonga and Zimbabwe.  — A brief history of Highland Rugby found on HighlandRugby.net

Although this film is based off of experience with the team, it is not really a sports movie. It about honesty, integrity, values and respect for the team and family.  It’s about growth and redemption, and the ultimate value of real hard work, in knowing that you are working for something bigger than yourself.

It is based on the experience of a young man from Flagstaff, Arizona, who was sent to a group home in Salt Lake City.

In the movie he is portrayed as Rick Penning, a young man sent to a detention center in Salt Lake City, after his second DUI. Thanks to the compassion of the center’s manager, Marcus, he is encouraged to play rugby for Highland, mostly because of the positive influence that Marcus knows that Coach Gelwix could be for him.

Based on the winning record shown above, this coach obviously knows what he is doing in the sport, but what is more important, his real goal was to build boys to be good men of character.

Some of his teachings were in the sayings that he repeated to them.

Kia Kaha”  which is Maori for “Stay Strong.”

The longer version is

Be forever strong on the field, so that you will be forever strong off the field”

Another saying from this movie that I have seen posted in places to help serve as a reminder to people that are trying to do better with their lives is this

I will do nothing to embarrass myself, my family or my team

I think it is wonderful that there is a level of personal responsibility taught in this film, but also that loyalty to team and family are also a part of success.  The camaraderie that is developed because of that, is what keeps them strong and successful.  It’s not just a lesson about teamwork, but also for building strong families.

If you are looking for a way to influence and inspire your family, this in another film that I would recommend having on DVD in your home. You can purchase it now by clicking the link below.   — Laura

I also recommend the movie Courageous.  This is a steal of a price right now, and I would recommend getting both movies together, with free shipping if you have Amazon Prime.

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There are people whom I have met that have changed me for the better. That have touched me in ways more beautiful and life-changing than I could have hoped for. My husband’s grandma June is one such person. From the moment I met her I was smitten. She was always smiling and very welcoming. She reminded me of Marjorie Hinckley and that might be why I took to her instantly. I felt from her that she loved her family and loved the gospel. I watched her and hoped that I could be that loving and that kind. I never heard an ill word escape her lips. My favorite memory of her was how she would talk to me about her grandchildren and her great-grandchildren. I can hear it now as I type this. With a smile in her voice and her face lit up she would tell you something wonderful they had accomplished. Even if it was something as simple as how they learned how to walk. Several years ago dementia started to set in. When we bumped into her one day she had no idea who we were. She still greeted us with a smile and of course was sweet as pie. We walked away with sadness in our hearts. Grandma didn’t know we loved her. She didn’t know how much she meant to us and that was hard. Grandma now lives about 15 minutes from our house and doesn’t have very long to live. When I heard the hospital was sending her home to die I kind of felt mad that our poor bodies have to go through the dying process. Why after living a full life does one’s body shut down and then they are as if babies again, needing diaper changes and being hand fed? I was quickly going to get a greater understanding of why. Before I found out about grandma I had been praying for someone to help. Sadly that is not something I normally pray for but I felt compelled to on this particular day and I am changed forever from the answer that came. So when I heard that Grandma was so sick I immediately jumped on the opportunity to help. I offered to help with food and I brought Grandma her favorite red flowers in a red vase.  I was worried I wouldn’t get to see her before she passed so I went to the hospital before they sent her home. Seeing her excitement from the flowers will stick with me for a very long time. But while I was there I found out they were going to need some help once she got home. Most of the family who lives around here were going to be heading to a wedding. I thought my prayer was being answered by bringing flowers and food. What I was given instead was an opportunity to help Grandma. I got to see her a couple of times a day as we moved her from the bed to the couch. I got to help get her dressed. But more than any of that, I got to rub her leg and talk with her. I took it upon myself to see if I could get her to smile or talk to me even if it was just a simple response like yes. My whole day was better when I left her home. She probably doesn’t know who I am or what the little way I was able to help. I felt God’s spirit when I was with her. I could feel His love for her and I could feel His nearness. As I read in the scriptures this morning

And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God. Mosiah 2:17

And all of a sudden I understood. Growing old allows us, the younger generation, to give back in some way.  Not just to the one we love, but by serving them we serve God. That must be why I felt so happy giving to Grandma. In my small little way I was serving God. Heavenly Father doesn’t ask us to move mountains for Him. He doesn’t even ask that we change the world. But He does ask that we give where we can when we can. Maybe it’s babysitting for a friend in need. Or just being a listening ear. We have all been blessed with gifts and talents and more ways to give back than we can fathom. Even in Grandma’s state she has taught me again. She has shown me the power of serving. I would not have learned this lesson had she not needed my help. So maybe growing old isn’t for the weak in heart, but I now see the blessings that can come to those who get to love them and serve them. It’s actually much more glorious a thing than I could have previously seen. – SUSAN

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braver

I want to share with you another story of a strong woman, as shared by Bonnie Oscarson in this talk, who lived her life in a fearless meaningful way.  Her full story can be found here.

I recently read the story of Marie Madeline Cardon, who, with her family, received the message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ from the first missionaries called to serve in Italy in 1850. She was a young woman of 17 or 18 years of age when they were baptized. One Sunday, while the family was holding a worship service in their home high in the Alps of northern Italy, an angry mob of men, including some of the local ministers, gathered around the house and began shouting, yelling, and calling for the missionaries to be brought outside. I don’t think they were anxious to be taught the gospel—they intended bodily harm. It was young Marie who marched out of the house to confront the mob.

They continued their vicious yells and demands for the missionaries to be brought out. Marie raised her Bible up in her hand and commanded them to depart. She told them that the elders were under her protection and that they could not harm one hair of their heads. Listen to her own words: “All stood aghast. … God was with me. He placed those words in my mouth, or I could not have spoken them. All was calm, instantly. That strong ferocious body of men stood helpless before a weak, trembling, yet fearless girl.” The ministers asked the mob to leave, which they did quietly in shame, fear, and remorse. The small flock completed their meeting in peace.

I love this image. Of all the people at this meeting who could have gone out and confronted this mob, a young woman, sure of her own intent and beliefs, didn’t wait for the men to go deal with the problem. She stood up and confronted the angry mob of men, head on. I imagine it was pretty scary, but she didn’t let that stop her. I hope that I can be like her when faced with doing what is right and necessary.

We are each more powerful than we often believe that we are, and through reading about people like Marie, I hope that we will see that it is possible to stand up for what we believe and face our fears with dignity, considering more about the benefits of doing what is right, rather than worrying about what might happen to us.  Make it a great weekend.  – Laura

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don't give upA few months ago, we saw the movie “The Theory of Everything,” a story of Stephen Hawking’s life.  Throughout most of the movie I kept thinking, “well, when does he die?”  They told him he had 2 years to live, at the age of 21, when he was diagnosed with a version of ALS. The longer the movie went on, the more years passed and it became more apparent that although the illness took a huge toll on his body, eventually leaving him in a wheelchair, unable to care for himself, and not even being able to speak without the help of a computer, he was still alive.

I didn’t realize going into the movie that Stephen Hawking is still alive today at 73 years of age.

He has definitely faced more obstacles than most of us will ever have to face. There are multiple reports out there with theories of why he was able to beat the disease, where others have died so quickly. There are lots of theories on ALS disease and upper neurons and lower neurons and probabilities.

Maybe it is just luck… But I don’t think so. I have my own theory.

Stephen Hawking is regarded as one of the most brilliant theoretical physicist since Einstein. For 30 years he held the position of Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge, he has authored several books, holds over a dozen honorary degrees, and is still traveling extensively giving public lectures.

My theory of his survival is his will to live, knowing that his brain would continue to function. The disease has affected almost all of his physical functioning, but it did not affect his brain. He valued his research and studies, and chose not to give up, when his body gave out. It seems that knowing he would maintain his brain functioning was enough for him, to have plenty of reasons to keep living each day to the fullest, not worrying about his imminent death.

I believe that our human “will” is much stronger than science can measure. That’s not to say that God does not play a part in bringing his children back to Him in His proper timing. But our will to live and work and grow, also makes a big impact on our lives, and the quality of our lives.

Later in life, Stephen said:

“Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious, and however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at. It matters that you don’t just give up.”  – Stephen Hawking

He made a choice not to let the difficulties of his particular life stop him from the things that he really wanted.  He was married twice, has three children and three grandchildren.  Since 2009 he has written children’s books with his daughter Lucy. He continued to do all that he could do, and wanted to do, without giving into despair, even though he requires full-time care for his physical body.

I think the lesson that we can learn from his life is that we all have something we can contribute, no matter how hard life has been. Each and every person that has ever lived has trials. We each mourn. We struggle. We battle. Even though our trials are different from each other, we all have the commonality of having to decide if we will fight to improve our lives in spite of our adversities, or will we use the adversities as an excuse to stop working.

We all have that choice. How will we proceed when life does not go as planned? Some people’s difficulties are much bigger than others, and that just means that they will have to work harder to overcome, but it doesn’t mean that they cannot overcome. It also means that when they have worked hard, and overcome more than others might have had to, they are also stronger, and have learned more about life.

And isn’t that the real meaning of life? To grow stronger, learn as much as we can, and love others, ourselves and God enough to keeping working and helping and improving the world right where we live.   — Laura

Information about Stephen Hawking found at http://www.hawking.org.uk/index.html

 

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After watching the above video I was kind of taken back. Do I really speak so harshly to myself?  If someone ever spoke to me that way I would be so offended and hurt. Can you imagine if you heard someone speak that way to your daughter?

Words spoken to us can have such a powerful effect. This last Sunday one of my sweet young woman, whom I teach in church, texted me and thanked me for the lesson. It made my day. I even got a little teary. I felt like I was doing something right, and I felt grateful for the gift of teaching the youth. When we express kindness to others we bring joy and happiness into the world. We bring a little light into someone’s day.

The same is also true when we speak to ourselves. I had a friend text me the other day telling me how grateful she was that she had been blessed with the gift of service. It was refreshing to hear her find gratitude for something Heavenly Father had given her. To often I think we forget to find gratitude in all that Heavenly Father has given to us.

While I was at my daughter’s volleyball game last night, I watched an interaction between a mom and daughter. A mom walked into the gym with a two Starbucks drinks and a small bag, also from Starbucks. The daughter ran up to get her drink. She looked really excited about it. She grabbed the drink and then tried to take the bag. But it didn’t come easily because the mom was holding her own drink with the same hand. She then yelled at her mom rather loudly to “give me the bag” in the rudest tone I had ever heard. She proceeded to storm off. The mom, I’m sure, was embarrassed and just went and sat down.

I thought how I might feel if my child talked to me in such a way after going out of my way to bring them a special treat. No appreciation given. No, wow mom, thanks so much. I really think my feelings would have been hurt and I would have been very disappointed in my child.

Do we ever act that way to ourselves?  Do we fail to see the good we do even if it’s a small thing? Do we instead focus on the tiny little snags that make life not as easy or good?


I feel this video is a great reminder to be gentler, kinder to ourselves.  I know it’s something I need to work on. I may not always be as organized as I want, but I usually don’t yell. Right now I can’t run 3 miles, but I can run my kids everywhere they need to go. I might not always be as present as I wish to be, but I do take time everyday to hug my kids.

What are you doing right today?  Take a moment to celebrate you. Think of 5 things you like about you. Don’t worry about the flaws. Let that go for now. Just recognize that God made you and He made you with special talents and gifts. Thank Him for what He has given you. You already know how it feels to beat yourself up. Take the time to see how it feels to build yourself up instead. –SUSAN

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?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????I’ve read the words of Jesus in the New Testament all my life, and learned more about them in Sunday School while growing up.  But every once in a while you read something and it has so much more meaning, as it is looked at in a different way.

In Matthew 17, Jesus was asked by a man to cure his son.  He said that he’d asked the Savior’s disciples to do it, but they couldn’t. Jesus responded very concerned, saying that He wouldn’t be with them for long, and they didn’t have enough faith to heal themselves.  Jesus then healed the boy, and his disciples asked him why they were not able to help this boy.

Jesus then said:

Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.

Looking at the full context of this comparison of a grain of mustard seed, I saw something new.  This mustard seed is being compared to the disciple. Both are God’s creations, both have to decide if they will believe that God can make of them what He promises.

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

The mustard seed is very tiny. It could easily look in a mirror and say “I’m just a tiny seed, I don’t really matter.  I don’t amount to much on my own, so why even try to be anything more. I’m content to just be the seed that God made me.”   This little seed, not believing he could be more, may not allow himself to be planted, to germinate, to reach and stretch and become something so much more. But with enough faith in God the little seed can grow to be a beautiful plant, that will produce more seeds and will continue on for generations, fulfilling the destiny that God gave to him.

If God can take this tiny seed, with enough faith to allow itself to develop the way it was intended, and make it into this beautiful field, don’t we deserve to give God the chance to do something wonderful with us also?

a field of mustard plants

 

As a metaphor, the comparison of this mustard seed was meant to teach His disciples to have faith enough to be able to heal, to preach, to help one another after Jesus was resurrected and ascended to His Father.

In our day He wants the same. God and Jesus Christ love each and every one of their children, but they cannot come down here to physically help all of us.  That is why He gave us mothers, fathers, friends, teachers… Each of us has a mission in this life to help each other, all of God’s children, as we make our way through this life.

And just as the mustard seed, we cannot afford to look in the mirror and think, “I’m just me, nothing special. I don’t have anything important to give to the world.”  If we think that way, we are denying the divine destiny that God has planted inside each of us.

You may look small in the beginning, but with faith that God will help you to become something more, you can then step out and start looking for ways to be all that He wants you to be. You have it all inside of you.  You were meant to do good, to grow to a greater capacity than you can see from just looking in a mirror.

God has a purpose for you. If you believe Him as He attempts to guide you, and continue in faith like this mustard seed, you will be amazed at what He can do with you.   – Laura

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I have come to love Gods words. They are friends to me that I can always count on and always turn to.  The scriptures have come to be something I could not live without. It hasn’t always been that way and so I can see the contrast of living without them.

This weekend I was privileged to hear Sheri Dew speak. Sheri is a prominent woman in my faith. She was once in the general auxiliary of our church, she has written several books which I love, and is now the CEO of Deseret Book. I highly respect her and look up to her. So when she spoke I listened.

Sheri Dew talked about the word wrestle. I thought of a wrestler and the work that goes into being a good wrestler. It takes hours and hours of practice for just minutes on the mat. But those minutes determine the fate of a wrestler. Will he win?  Will he move on?  Or will he get pinned down. To wrestle to me implies a lot of work.

As I opened my scriptures today to where I had been reading I came across this

And I will tell you of the wrestle which I had before God, before I received a remission of my sins. Enos

I am not a big believer in coincidence. I believe after we die we will look back and see all the times the Lords hand was in our lives, and we will be humbled and amazed.

Again that word wrestle. What does it mean to wrestle with the Lord?  Sheri Dew explained that when we have questions or concerns we need to be willing to go to the Lord. But it doesn’t stop there. We have to then be committed to do our part to find the answer. To put in the work, just like the wrestler, to be able to pin down our own answers.

Being a mom of six children, I have often had those little people, and now not so little people, come to me wanting me to fix their problems. Sometimes I can. Like when they want help tieing their shoe or they need a ride. Other times all I can do is give them suggestions because it’s something they need to figure out on their own. Like who do I invite to the party or what college should I go to?  I know they want me to fix their life. To solve their problems. But I can’t always give them that.  I have seen them roll their eyes or stomp away in frustration that I’m not giving them what they think they need. However, I can listen. And I can council. But as the parent I know they need to work through these problems to benefit most from the answers.

Sometimes I have been just like that child who came to my Father in prayer and wanted my life fixed with no effort on my part. I asked in hopes that He would just give me what I wanted. Right then. No work on my part. I can’t think of many times that kind of prayer has been answered. Usually, I need to come to Him with a willing heart. With a desire to do whatever it takes to find the answers. To study it out and then come again in prayer. To trust that He will guide me in the process. To wrestle with the Lord as I seek for answers.

That kind of willingness has led to answers more sweet than had I been given what I thought I wanted instantly. When we are willing to wrestle with the Lord, He will answer or prayers. Both big and small. They aren’t always the answers we think we want, but they are always what is the very best for us. Many times I have looked back and seen His wisdom in the answer and I can recognize why His way was better than my way.

God is so good. And He loves me so dearly. He loves each of us deeper than we can even comprehend. If you are reading this and you don’t know that yet, if you haven’t yet recognized or felt His love and hand in your life, I want to testify to you that I know He loves you, immensely. But you don’t have to take my word for it. As soon as you can, take a minute to kneel in prayer and ask Him, believing He will answer you. If you need to borrow my faith for that one moment. Ask Him to help you see His love. And then imagine He is right beside you. Let Him fill your heart with the love you deserve.

Over Thanksgiving I was having an especially rough time and this song came on Pandora. The words to this song are so poetic and given to me right when I needed to hear them.  I pray they will touch your heart and give you the courage you need to wrestle with the Lord. – SUSAN

YOU INVITE ME IN
“I’ve been searching
Wandering and hurting
Ashamed of the shape I’m in
Afraid You’ll see who I really am

But, You invite me in
Doesn’t matter where I’ve been
Your arms are open wide
There’s nothing left to hide

How can this be?
A love so unfailing
Reached down and lifted me
From ashes to beauty

And You invite me in
Doesn’t matter where I’ve been
Your arms are open wide
There’s nothing left to hide

For You invite me in
Doesn’t matter who I’ve been
Your arms are open wide
Pulling me to Your side

And now I’m walking away
From the life I once knew
And running into Your grace
That covers my shame
Again and again, I find my life in You

You invite us in
Doesn’t matter where we’ve been
Your arms are open wide
There’s nothing left to hide

You invite us in
Doesn’t matter who we’ve been
Your arms are open wide
Pulling us to Your side

Your arms are open wide”
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Smile Meme