The best gifts are time & loveIt’s the week before Christmas and all through the town, it seems like there isn’t a soul in their home.  People and cars and traffic and stores, rushing and hustling in one big frantic blur…

We’re down to the wire. Just a few more days to make sure that we spend as much money as necessary to make sure that Christmas is memorable to our family.  But is it really getting that perfect “toy” that makes Christmas special?

I saw this commercial for Ikea, and was truly touched by the sentiment, and honesty of the people in this experiment.

I’m grateful for the fact that we don’t have to go without and we can give gifts to others to let them know we are thinking of them, but what is the most meaningful thing we can give?  It is the thing that is often most precious.  Our time. Time spent together is something we just don’t get enough of in a world filled with so much technology and busyness.

As I’m rushing to finish my Christmas preparations, I have chosen to make time together a bigger priority than shopping.

What are the brightest Christmas memories that you have from your childhood?  Mine were not necessarily the gifts (unless they were unexpected and I knew that a sacrifice was made for them.)  My most memorable Christmases were the things that we did together as a family. Reading the Christmas story and acting it out on Christmas eve. (Susan was Mary and put her cabbage patch doll in her shirt that fell out as she walked) We talked and laughed and enjoyed each other.  There were many Christmases where we included other members of the family, traveling to Grandmas, or having cousins over to celebrate together. There were times we went to sing at a nursing care facility to people who didn’t get to have family with them for Christmas.

My presents to my kids this year were plane tickets to come home for Christmas, and other adventures to do together while they are here.  The best part of Christmas for them is the ability to spend time with each other.

The most meaningful Christmas activity we can all do is attending Church together and take time to have family discussions about Christ, the atonement, and the gift of the Father sending His only begotten son to earth. As the angels sang at the first Noel, celebrating “Now, all is well”, we can welcome the spirit of Christmas into our homes by reading and singing and sharing our feelings and testimony of the greatest gift ever given, our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Our time on this earth is a gift from God, and we don’t know how much of it we will get.  Giving that time to family and friends at this season truly can be the best gift of all.

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The thought that someone we love is doing something special for us—and our excitement about the special thing we are planning to do for them—warms our hearts and fills us with love and anticipation. Add to this the glimmering lights, the delightful decorations, the sublime scenes of Christ’s birth, and it’s no wonder Christmas is such a beloved time of year.” Dieter Ucthdorf

Beloved! Yes, that is the best description and my sentiments exactly.  But what happens when the worry, the stress and the frazzle of it all starts to creep in, trying to strangle the joy and peace, the love and goodwill? Unfortunately as much as I tried, I felt the light of Christmas fading a week or so ago.  As I watched it go I was filled with sadness.  I wanted to cry out don’t go.  Please don’t go. Yet in that moment all I could feel was that I wasn’t measuring up to the expectations I had set for myself.  Why can’t I bake all the things, make all the crafts, be done Christmas shopping and wrapping all the presents, have thought of all the people in need and looked fabulous while doing all of it?

Do you relate to any of those feelings?  Seeing everyone’s best and wondering why you aren’t a little more like you wish you could be?  There is hope, There is peace. I had to be willing to see past what I am not and allow the true gift of Christmas into my heart reminding me of all that I am Because of Him.


In my moment of darkness the Lord sent me this video though a friend. 

It was the reminder I needed to stop focusing on myself and start seeing the Savior more fully in the songs, the lights, the wrapping paper.  For in all of it, if you will slow down and see it, is the reminder that He loves us now just as He did more than 2000 years ago.

Even when the world may appear quite dark—when things aren’t going right, when our hearts are overflowing with disappointment and worry, even in the midst of sadness and sorrow—we sing about “joy to the world” and “good will toward men”2 because of Christ, who came “to give light to them that sit in darkness.” Dieter Ucthdorf

His gift of joy to the world even covers my sorrow and self-doubt.  Joy for what I am instead of what I am not.  Joy for my family who loves me even when I can’t “do it all.” Joy for service given and received.  Joy that I am His daughter and loved without conditions.

This Christmas may you see with new eyes the gift of acceptance and love that our Savior is offering to you. SUSAN

 

 

I love Christmas… most of the season.  What I don’t like is all of the over planning and stress that leave me just glad that it is over on Christmas day.

I’m always looking for ways to simplify and make it just as special without letting it all get away from me and turning me into the Grinch.

Every year I try and every year there is some part of the season that I just end up grumpy and ready for it to all be over with.

Well, this year I want it to be better.  I’ve decided that I need to simplify in a way that makes sense to me.  I want to keep everything that makes Christmas special, but get rid of the excess.  In the past I’ve tried using Christmas planners, and lists, and I’m always so excited in the beginning, but near the end, I’m discouraged because of all the things that I wanted to do that didn’t get done.  Then I feel like a failure for what didn’t get done, instead of grateful for what we did get to do.

I decided that this year, I’m going to pare it down, and try to keep only the things that are important to me.  As I have analyzed all of the parts of Christmas and the expectations, I have come to one big conclusion.  The only really important part of Christmas… sharing love and testimony of the Savior with others.

That’s it.  That’s all there is too it.

Christmas is the spirit of giving

Of course there are a few details in how this comes about.  Because I have decided that people are the most important part of Christmas, I have divided my plan into 4 different groups of people.  Family… Friends that live nearby… Loved ones that live far away… People I don’t know, who need some Christmas cheer.

Family

Spending time with family is probably the very best part of Christmas.  I want my kids around me.  I want to see them laughing and enjoying each other’s company.  I remember wonderful times that we traveled to Grandma’s house for Christmas when I was little, and when my kids got to go to their grandparents’ homes for Christmas. I remember sledding and hot chocolate, and games and big dinners with all the traditional foods.  Every Christmas may not have all of these things, but time spent enjoying each other as members of a family are really the very most anticipated parts of the Christmas season.

Friends and neighbors that are nearby

Another important set of people to remember during Christmas time is our co-workers, friends, & neighbors. I love going to the many parties and gatherings at work and church and in the neighborhood. By taking the time to be with others, it helps recharge my batteries, and builds relationships with people I feel are a positive influence in my life.   I like taking gifts or baked goods to a few close friends and neighbors. This is the perfect time to tell the people who are in my daily life, that they are important to me and that I care about our friendship.

Distant loved ones

There will always be someone who I care about or have been thinking of who I won’t be able to see at Christmas. This is why Christmas cards are so much fun.  This year I put up a special holder just for Christmas cards that people give to me, so they will be a part of the decoration.  Unfortunately, I don’t always get my Christmas cards mailed out, but I still love the tradition.  Another way to reach out at Christmas is through social media.  When I’m feeling down, I can look at my Facebook or Pinterest pages and someone I am following will leave some type of inspiration for Christmas time that will help bring the Christmas spirit back to my day.  It does seem a little like spying on someone else’s Christmas, but if I leave a comment, it becomes interactive and I’ve made that connection during the Christmas season.  I also love when people leave pictures of the fun things they are doing at Christmas.  Is there anything better than seeing those cute little kids (and sometimes the big ones) really eating up the Christmas spirit, and reminding us that there is such joy to be had in the world?

God’s other children He wants us to be aware of.

There are so many opportunities for giving to others that are in need during Christmas.  I could give money, time, presents, or even just a smile and friendly hello.  I saw a small group of people gathered around tables at the Starbucks inside Target, with juice boxes, granola bars and various other items all spread out on the tables with Christmas ribbons and packaging. I could only imagine where these items were going. As they were dividing them up into individual containers, these people were so happy and really seemed to be genuinely enjoying themselves.  This year I took the easy way out, and just donated money to our church for a special project that they are working on for Christmas.  In years past, we made little goodie bags to keep in our car to hand out to homeless people who we pass on the street.  Another way to spread cheer to others is to be aware of them, and see if someone needs help with groceries, or shoveling the snow, or simply waiting a few extra seconds and holding a door for someone.  A little extra patience this time of year, could go a long way in helping another of Gods children from becoming burned out at this time of year.

There are a million little things that can be done at Christmas to make the season special, but that doesn’t mean that we have to do them all.

The reason we celebrate Christmas is to recognize the one most important gift we could ever have… Jesus Christ. God loved us enough to send His only son down to us.  To teach us, and love us, and to eventually die for us.  He gives us the gift of being able to repent and become all that He wants us to be… even all that we possibly can be. And ultimately that gift of being able to return to Him.  In return, He wants us to watch out for and love each other, and help His other children to find their way back to Him also.

I think if we can remember this important part of Christmas, loving others, then all of the other hustle and bustle can just fall into place, or fall away as needed.

Here’s to hoping this Christmas will be “simply” wonderful.

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The tree is up in all its simplistic splendor. For as long as I can remember Christmas never really felt real until the tree was up. There is magic at work while we put the ornaments on. Each one telling a story of a time long passed while simultaneously creating new memories of joy and togetherness.

However, the two years we almost didn’t have a tree hold their own sweet reminders for me of what Christmas is all about. Sacrifice and giving.

When I was in the 5th or 6th grade times were hard for our family. We couldn’t get a Christmas tree because my parents only car wasn’t working. I remember the sadness I felt looking at the empty spot where it should have gone. I didn’t understand the difficult times my parents were going through, I just knew it didn’t feel like Christmas. I must have been talking about how upset I was while at my best friend’s house and her mom offered to go buy us a tree. My parents didn’t let her but to my young mind I thought that was the nicest thing a person could over do.

I don’t remember the details of how my dad pulled it off, but shortly before the gift giving day he came home with the perfect tree. I can still picture it in my mind and the feeling of joy I had in my young heart was so big. He was a hero in that moment. He brought the magic of Christmas with a sacrifice I’m sure I’ll never understand.

Shortly after we were married, I was pregnant with our second child while Ryan went to school full-time and worked nights to provide for us. We had very little that year but we didn’t need much. My oldest was a little over a year and so his expectations were easily met. A tree would have been a huge extravagance we could not afford.

One evening after I had put my boy to bed, an unexpected knock came at our door. Tears came quickly to my eyes as I opened the door to find a huge tree siting in the doorway. But that was not all. We were given ornaments and presents as well. I felt an abundance of love and kindness that has stayed with me each year I bring out the decorations.

Because of one family’s thoughtfulness, we were given a desire to give back. To share that feeling of the true meaning of Christmas. The Christmas tree symbolizes to me the spirit of giving. Of thinking of others needs above my own. Of charity which is the pure love of Christ. The magic of the Christmas tree is so much more than my young heart could comprehend. For now I see it as the perfect reminder of Christ’s love for each one of us. He cared enough to send my family a tree so many years ago, and He cares enough today to show me how I can be more like Him.

“When we keep the spirit of Christmas, we keep the Spirit of Christ, for the Christmas spirit is the Christ Spirit. It will block out all the distractions around us which can diminish Christmas and swallow up its true meaning.” Thomas S Monson

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gratitudeHappiness and gratitude are inseparably linked.

While we may not be able to choose to just be happy, especially when times are hard, we can always choose to be grateful.  We can be grateful in our trials, even if we are not at a point of being grateful for our trials.  And even in the darkest of days, there can always be something that we can find to be grateful for.

Gratitude is a choice. There are things you can choose to do that will bring more gratitude and happiness into your life. Get ready to get active as we go through the list.  Here are the 5 things we can do daily to feel more gratitude in our lives.  Observe, Serve, Express, Record & Pray

Observe

Look around you.  Look for things that make you smile.  Is there a piece of art hanging in your home that you love? Are there pictures of family members? Is there a something decorating your home, because it was a gift from someone who was thinking of you?  What about outside your window?  Do you have snow right now? Or is it a beautiful sunny day?  Are there trees or flowers or clouds?  Maybe there is someone walking their dog?  All of these things bring beauty and variety to our lives. Think a little deeper.  Do any of these things have more meaning to them than just beauty?

Just outside my window is a rather large and sturdy snow fort that my son helped to make last week with a bunch of neighbor kids.  I look at it and I’m so grateful that he got to have that experience, that I got to see him out there for hours having fun, and that he has made good friends to be creative with.  I’m also grateful for the skills that he learned in creating something like this.

Look around and feel the gratitude for all the small blessings put together that can remind you of loved ones, and that can help you know that people care.

gratitude for simple things

Serve

Be prepared to give service to someone else, every day, showing that you have been blessed enough to be able to help others.  It doesn’t have to be big.

  • Returning the grocery cart so that it won’t ding someone’s car.
  • Hold the door for someone.
  • Leave a little note of cheer for a loved one, or on the car window of a stranger.
  • Carry some spare cash in your car or in a pocket to share with someone in need.
  • Smile and say hello to people who you see.

By preparing to give to others, it naturally helps you to see the gifts that you have in your own lives. If you can give money to someone in need, it means that you are blessed to have your needs taken care of.  If you can help someone with physical labor, you are blessed with a body that can work and is strong.  Spreading cheer through a smile or a little note shows that you are grateful for happiness in this moment and you are willing to share it.   Think of what you can do to share today.

Express

Express your gratitude to the people in your life. There are many ways to show your gratitude to others.

  • Say “thank you” in person and right away when you notice someone doing something kind. It only takes a second, and it can be an instant mood enhancer.
  • Compliment someone when you notice something you enjoy about them… whether it is their appearance, their cheerfulness, or anything else that you admire. I remember one time when my kids were little, we took them to a restaurant, which can be a little challenging and sometimes embarrassing. On this occasion a fellow diner, came to our table to complimented us on how well behaved our kids were.  I can’t tell you how meaningful it was to hear that, and obviously I’ve remembered it these many years later.
  • Write a thank you note and mail it to someone who has touched your life. I have a small collection of the thank you notes I have received over the years.  They are so precious to me. Sending a card in the mail is so rare now, but it is something so meaningful when it is received. Some of the most meaningful cards are the ones that were sent as an appreciation for small things.  A very busy woman at my church sends out thank you notes regularly, to show gratitude for small acts of kindness, or comments made during lessons, or something she got out of a talk that was given. It was so meaningful when my son got a thank you card from her, when he gave a talk in church.
  • Give a hug when it looks needed or is appropriate. It may not always be appropriate, but a friend came up to me yesterday and hugged me and said “I just want to share the love, physically.” It was a fleeting moment, but it was a meaningful connection between friends.

Record

Record your blessings.  Whether you use a journal, a notebook, or a to-do app on your phone, there is somewhere that you can begin recording the many blessings that come into your life.  I have a special journal that I keep by my bed so that I’ll remember to use it.  I try to write down each day 3 things that I did well, 3 things that I’m grateful for, and 3 things that I want to do better at.  Sometimes there is overlap, but it’s surprising how every day there can be some new thing to be grateful for.  This was a new project for me, because writing long journal entries, as much as I love them sometimes, were often too hard to remember to get around to regularly.  By making gratitude a part of my bedtime routine, it helps me to remember to look for those things to be grateful for.  Think of some daily habit that you engage in, where you could add recording of gratitude too. If you exercise daily or meditate or read or plan, see if you can put gratitude into part of the routine, and you will also be more likely to feel gratitude in your life.

Pray

Use your recorded gratitude in prayer. Show the Lord that you recognize the tender mercies that He sends down to you to help you in your life.

I heard a story a few weeks ago of a young woman who had a very difficult life.  Her father was killed while she was very young, and her family struggled to stay afloat financially.  But she always looked for the tender mercies of the Lord in her life.  For her it was especially meaningful whenever she saw a butterfly. She loved butterflies and when she would see one, whether in a painting, on someone’s clothes or a real live butterfly, it reminded her that the Lord is watching out for her.

The Lord does send tender mercies upon us all the time.  All too often we don’t notice them, and that can cause us to forget how merciful our Heavenly Father truly is. Take the time to thank Him in prayer every day for all the blessings and gifts that He gives to us on a regular basis.

Making gratitude a part of our lives may not be easy, or come naturally at first, but as we try to incorporate it into our lives, it will bring greater blessings of happiness and friendship.

Decide to start today and  remember these 5 things, Observe, Serve, Express, Record & Pray and you are on your way to living a fuller more blessed life.

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8 years ago I had 5 children under the age of nine. The day’s seemed long then, so very long. I homeschooled my two oldest while trying to keep the three littles entertained. Let’s be honest here. I was also trying to keep them from destroying my house, or each other,  while I tried to teach the other two. My husband was starting a new job and we had just moved across states. It was a crazy time. A good crazy, mostly.

In the midst of all this chaos I heard a talk that changed me. Here is an excerpt from my journal

The talk that meant the most to me, that filled me with what I need to do, that gave me hope for joy and peace, was Henry B  Erying’s. It seemed as though God turned on a light bulb when he spoke. It was as if I was being told that if I can more fully do what he suggested I would find joy I never thought possible.

I was reminded of this talk again last week and have listened to it several times since. One deep pondering worthy question has stood with me through the years. It’s a question he asks himself everyday before writing in his journal.

Have I seen the hand of God reaching out to touch us or our children or our family today?”

He goes on to say,

As I kept at it, something began to happen. As I would cast my mind over the day, I would see evidence of what God had done for one of us that I had not recognized in the busy moments of the day. As that happened, and it happened often, I realized that trying to remember had allowed God to show me what He had done.”

8 years have brought with it trials unforeseen and joy beyond comprehension. And also a deeper understanding of how to heed this counsel.

Gratitude is more than just recognizing the good in your life. It is seeing that even in the difficult and trying times, God is showing you He is ever present. But all too often we forget to even see it. We get bogged down by life and don’t even say thank you to our loving Father for what He is doing. Recognizing He has something mightier in store for you than what we would settle for.

Being the month of gratitude, I thought a little bit differently about this talk then I had 8 years ago.  Back when I had just those 5 cute littles at home, I felt impressed to write down more of what was good in my life. I looked for the positive, knowing I was planning on blogging and I was never disappointed.  I was blessed with a recollection of the joyous times we shared. And my gratitude for motherhood increased.

Today, however, I feel impressed to seek for God in my life. To focus my gratitude towards what He has already given to me. To see more fully how He has been guiding me in the path He has in store for me and my family. To recognize what has been placed before me, even when I have been blind to His mercy and was unwilling to see it.  That I can let go of the fear that holds me back, and I can more fully trust Him and His timing and His sometimes mysterious (to me) ways.

Gratitude is this beautiful thing that does not give you more of what you desire but simply magnifies what is already right before your eyes. What you could not see becomes a huge mountain of hope, joy and peace. The mundane is taken over by contentment. Sorrow is replaced by happiness. Really it’s like magic.

Gratitude is magic.  It changes everything without changing a thing.

Whatever it is you need in your life, more joy, more trust, more patience, ponder how God has already given that to you. Write down the thoughts that come. Find the magic by picking up the magnifying glass of gratitude.

Take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life.” Deuteronomy 4:9

Open your eyes and go make today magical. SUSAN

09. November 2015 · 1 comment · Categories: Hope, Joy

“What do I have to be grateful for?”

Have you ever heard someone who is going through a difficult time say something like this?  Have you ever caught yourself saying something like this?  It is true that there are a lot of difficulties that go along with life, and sometimes it can be really easy to get caught up in all the things that seem to be going wrong, or that you lack in your life.  But… there are reasons that we need gratitude in our lives.

Fear not, in everything give thanks

Gratitude isn’t just nice, it is necessary.

Did you know that there are 194 references in the scriptures to thankfulness and thanksgiving?

In Mosiah 18: 23 it says

And he commanded them that…every day they should give thanks to the Lord their God.”

Psalms 118:29 states

O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.”

In Doctrine and Covenants 59:21, it says

And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things…”

Why is gratitude so important?

God wants us to be gracious.  He also wants us to be happy. He is a loving father, who wants us to come back to Him, in righteousness and glory. Gratitude is one important step on this road. Following are 3 reasons why we should seek out gratitude in our lives.

1- Grateful people are happier people

When you choose to find things to be grateful about, you take the focus off of your troubles. The focus changes to things that are blessings in your life. It only seems logical that when you feel blessed you will feel happy.  But this theory transfers over to real world applications.

There have been multiple studies to show that people who are grateful have higher levels of happiness in their lives.  One such study, found here, happened like this…

One group wrote about things they were grateful for that had occurred during the week. A second group wrote about daily irritations or things that had displeased them, and the third wrote about events that had affected them (with no emphasis on them being positive or negative). After 10 weeks, those who wrote about gratitude were more optimistic and felt better about their lives. Surprisingly, they also exercised more and had fewer visits to physicians than those who focused on sources of aggravation.

Happiness doesn’t come out of having an abundance of good things and an absence of troubles.  We all have troubles. They are naturally a part of life. But for those of us who can recognize their blessings and express regular gratefulness, whether to God in prayer, to ourselves in our journaling, or to others who bless our lives, a greater sense of well being and happiness will come into our lives.

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (1917–2008) said gratitude “is a quality I have found in every happy person I know”

grateful and happy

2- People who express gratitude, find more things to be grateful for

Once you start looking for things to be grateful for, more things begin to come to your mind. The natural outcome of looking for things to be grateful for, by “counting your blessings,” is that you realize that there is always just one more thing to be grateful for, the list could truly be endless.  Watch this video and see what some people in New York have to be grateful for, and see if it doesn’t remind you of things you are grateful for, that you may have overlooked.

I especially like the young man who says he is thankful for the future opportunities.  Which brings me to the last reason why we should be grateful.

3- Showing gratitude opens us up to receive future blessings.

When we show gratitude to others, it increases our feelings of good will toward each other, and helps to build and/or strengthen the relationship.  With stronger relationships with the people in our lives, we have more opportunities to help and bless them, and they in turn will continue to further bless our lives. So maybe gratitude will help us to build our circle of friends, along with creating a strong network of family and friends.

The next place we should show gratitude is to God, considering all of the scriptures that give us specific instruction to do so. When we thank God for our blessings, it shows Him that we recognize His hand in “all things” including our own lives.  He loves us and He surely sends blessings to us in greater abundance than we know. By taking the time to count our blessings and recognize and express gratitude for those blessings, we are allowing the Almighty to continue to be a part of our lives, and this will invite future blessings that we may not even be able to comprehend.

In Doctrine and Covenants 78:19 we are promised

He who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more”

Does it get any better than that?

Over the next few weeks, leading up to Thanksgiving, we will share more about gratitude, and how we can more fully incorporate it into our lives.

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 As I headed to the airport over a week ago a I came across a giant and slightly scary sand storm. I was already running slightly behind and didn’t have the luxury to pull over like other cars did. I white-knuckled my way through and prayed I would be guided even though my vision was limited. A peace came over me and a calm settled in. For a brief moment I felt as though unseen hands were on my hands assuring me of heavenly protection. I was going to be ok and I would get safely to the airport.

I pulled up to the long-term parking and felt relieved I had arrived sooner than I had expected. That is, until I stepped on the tram. When I announced which terminal I was departing from the driver questioned me. Lucky for me another passenger informed me I was at the wrong airport. Panic set in. Who goes to the wrong airport? Me.

Apparently there are two airports in the same town 45 minutes apart. One is tiny and so I didn’t know it existed. I do now. I quickly ran to my car and punched in the new location while tears began to fill me eyes. How was I going to make it?

I prayed again hoping I would get there on time. Hoping I could somehow defy the odds and make it much quicker than GPS estimated. I don’t know how but God softened my heart and helped me come to a peaceful place. He knew what I was trying to do. If I didn’t make it, He could help me with a plan B. And if plan B didn’t work maybe there was a reason.

There have been times in the past few weeks where I have felt myself come to trust a little more. Understanding that my ways are not God’s ways. In those moments of accepting I have seen His hand more prominently as would again become evident as the I arrived at the airport.

As soon as I got there I found my flight had been delayed by an entire hour. Not only did I now make it on time, I had time to spare. God answered my prayer in a very real and tangible way. One I could not dispute.

I did not need this experience to have faith in God and His great love and awareness for me. But I felt a growing understanding of how He wants to bless His children. How much He is waiting to help us if we will trust not only that He can but that He will. And trust that He has a grander picture then my small perspective can understand.

As we begin this month of gratitude I cannot help but feel thankful for the knowledge that God is ever-present in our lives. This experience was unique for me. Moments like these help to sustain me when I can’t see His hand so clearly.

All is well

I love music.  I always have.  When I was a little girl and couldn’t fall asleep, I would lie in bed and sing myself to sleep. It’s a little embarrassing to think of my parents hearing me singing in bed, but it made me happy.

As I was studying things to do to reduce stress, I found a list that included listening to music, which I’m sure is helpful, but for me, it is 10 times more helpful to be a part of the music.  Whether singing to the car radio, or playing an instrument. I used to play the piano as a teen, in order to work out my frustrations.

Music really can be therapeutic.  In church I was asked to share some thoughts on my favorite hymn, and although I really don’t have a favorite hymn (I like lots of them for lots of different reasons) I choose to talk about a pioneer song, “Come, Come Ye Saints.”

This song was written specifically about the trials and hardships of the pioneers and early members of the church who sacrificed so much for their religious freedom, but also for the building of and survival of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  When I think of the final anthem of this song “All is well,” the first thing I think is “all was not well.”  They had just been chased from their homes, had property stolen from them.  Many had been physically assaulted, and had suffered sicknesses and injuries.  Many women had already lost their husbands to the violence, and many others died from illnesses and exposure.  The beginning of this journey west, was a dark, scary and difficult time.  But it was also a time of great bravery and hope for a better future.  It was a huge hardship for those who chose to stay with the church, and I believe that this song helped to give them courage to continue.

I have more than a few ancestors who were a part of this pioneer trek west.  Two of them, Gardner and Sarah Snow gave a record of their travels. It reads

In February the Exodus began. Two more grandchildren died. The women walked, rain or shine, until arrival at Winter Quarters. Twenty-two Bishops were called, Gardner being one of them. This was a sad time, for outside of Winter Quarters were 300 graves. One was their daughter-in-law’s, which resulted in Sarah raising two more grandchildren.”

I can’t even imagine having to bury and leave behind so many people, including family members.

I think this song was meant to lift their spirits and help them to have the courage to keep going each and every day.  I think it can do the same for us, in the trials that we face also.

The second verse of this song can be especially meaningful in our world.

It starts

Why should we mourn, or think our lot is hard? ‘Tis not so, all is right”

When I look at the “lot” of these pioneer ancestors, I think they have every reason to say that they have it hard.

I can’t tell you how many times in my own life, I have felt like my load was just too big to carry .  I learned not to ask the question “Why me?”  of the Lord, when my trials become more that I think that I can bear, because I have talked to so many other people who go through trials just as difficult or more so than mine.  If I ever dare to say “why me”, I have to remind myself “why not me?” Why would the Lord have me avoid the trials of earth life that are meant to stretch us, and strengthen us.  Each person on this earth has their own set of difficulties that they have to deal with. The difference in how we come through is how we look at it.  Can we say in the midst of trials, “Why should we mourn, or think our lot is hard?”

The next line in the song,

Why should we think to earn a great reward, if we now shun the fight.”

Sometimes it really is a fight against the evil spirit that wants us to give up, and give in to despair.  But unlike the pioneers, our fight is not physical, our fight is spiritual, mental and emotional.  And sometimes the “great reward” that I want to earn is just to be in a place of peace, for at least a little bit of time, and ultimately to be living with God, in a place of ultimate peace.

The song continues

Gird up your loins”

Meaning, get up and get ready. Choose to stand up and face the challenge that you probably can’t avoid anyway.

Fresh courage take”

Find the courage inside of you to choose to do something – what that something is will be different for each of us, in our own trials, and the most important part is remembering that

Our God will never us forsake.”

Even if we are in a place of sadness, that we can’t feel the spirit anymore, the Spirit is still there.  God will not leave us.  He has a plan for us.  And sometimes we just need to remember that He allowed us to be put into this situation, because He knows us well enough to trust in us to be able to overcome.

And soon we’ll have, this tale to tell.”

When do you tell that tale?  Long after the trial is over, and you can see the lessons that were learned, and the strength that was gained from the trial.  When the trial has past, and you have endured it well, then you can see that the trial may have actually been a blessing.  That is when you can proclaim

All is well, all is well.”

Whatever you might be going through right now, know that God is on your side and He will help you overcome.  Also know that He has put other people in your path to help you. Whether they be friends, family, counselors, doctors, teachers etc., let people in with the understanding that they may just be the angel that was sent to help you when you needed it most.

Laura

Ps: we would love to hear any stories you would like to share, on how you have overcome trials. Feel free to leave a comment or send us an email.


There was a time I rocked my babies to sleep in a rocking chair that my own mother rocked me in. The day’s seemed long back then and the nights even longer. Crying was the only form of communication from those sweet babies, and there were nights I cried right along with them.

Motherhood would be one of the hardest things I had ever done. But the love I would feel would be deeper than any I would ever know.

Well intentioned older mothers would tell me how fast the time would fly by so I should enjoy those babies. I didn’t understand. How could those long nights ever be missed and yearned for again?  I wished time would go by faster.

At some point along the journey my heart changed. I distinctly recall an evening when I was looking at my children, my oldest was 12 and my youngest was 2, and my heart swelled up and I wanted time to freeze. No one should  grow up anymore. How I wished I had relished in the moments a little more. Loved a little deeper.

They are all still in my house, for now at least. And I try a lot harder now to enjoy the moments. Their fleeting time with me has become so very clear. More evident than I care for it to be.

So when I came across this quote the other day tears welled up in my eyes. For I understood all too clearly what the author was portraying. I am not raising babies. I never was. They are adults much mightier than I just temporarily in childhood form.

Susan

Anna Quindlen on Motherhood
All my babies are gone now. I say this not in sorrow but in disbelief. I take great satisfaction in what I have today: three almost adults, two taller than I am, one closing in fast. Three people who read the same books I do and have learned not to be afraid of disagreeing with me in their opinion of them, who sometimes tell vulgar jokes that make me laugh until I choke and cry, who need razor blades and shower gel and privacy, who want to keep their doors closed more than I like. Who, miraculously, go to the bathroom, zip up their jackets and move food from plate to mouth all by themselves.

Like the trick soap I bought for the bathroom with a rubber ducky at its center, the baby is buried deep within each, barely discernible except through the unreliable haze of the past.

Everything in all the books I once pored over is finished for me now. Penelope Leach., T. Berry Brazelton., Dr. Spock. The ones on sibling rivalry and sleeping through the night and early-childhood education, all grown obsolete. Along with “Goodnight Moon” and “Where the Wild Things Are,” they are battered, spotted, well used. But I suspect that if you flipped the pages dust would rise like memories. What those books taught me, finally, and what the women on the playground taught me, and the well-meaning relations –what they taught me was that they couldn’t really teach me very much at all.

Raising children is presented at first as a true-false test, then becomes multiple choice, until finally, far along, you realize that it is an endless essay. No one knows anything. One child responds well to positive reinforcement, another can be managed only with a stern voice and a timeout. One boy is toilet trained at 3, his brother at 2. When my first child was born, parents were told to put baby to bed on his belly so that he would not choke on his own spit-up. By the time my last arrived, babies were put down on their backs because of research on sudden infant death syndrome. To a new parent this ever-shifting certainty is terrifying, and then soothing. Eventually you must learn to trust yourself. Eventually the research will follow.

I remember 15 years ago poring over one of Dr. Brazelton’s wonderful books on child development, in which he describes three different sorts of infants: average, quiet, and active. I was looking for a sub-quiet codicil for an 18-month-old who did not walk. Was there something wrong with his fat little legs? Was there something wrong with his tiny little mind? Was he developmentally delayed, physically challenged? Was I insane? Last year he went to China. Next year he goes to college. He can talk just fine. He can walk, too.

Every part of raising children is humbling, too. Believe me, mistakes were made. They have all been enshrined in the Remember-When-Mom-Did Hall of Fame. The outbursts, the temper tantrums, the bad language – mine, not theirs. The times the baby fell off the bed. The times I arrived late for preschool pickup. The nightmare sleepover. The horrible summer camp. The day when the youngest came barreling out of the classroom with a 98 on her geography test, and I responded, What did you get wrong? (She insisted I include that.) The time I ordered food at the McDonald’s drive-through speaker and then drove away without picking it up from the window. (They all insisted I include that.) I did not allow them to watch the Simpsons for the first two seasons. What was I thinking?

But the biggest mistake I made is the one that most of us make while doing this. I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs. There is one picture of the three of them sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages 6, 4 and 1. And I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, and how they looked when they slept that night. I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less.

Even today I’m not sure what worked and what didn’t, what was me and what was simply life. When they were very small, I suppose I thought someday they would become who they were because of what I’d done. Now I suspect they simply grew into their true selves because they demanded in a thousand ways that I back off and let them be. The books said to be relaxed and I was often tense, matter-of-fact and I was sometimes over the top. And look how it all turned out. I wound up with the three people I like best in the world, who have done more than anyone to excavate my essential humanity.

That’s what the books never told me. I was bound and determined to learn from the experts. It just took me a while to figure out who the experts were.

–Anna Quindlen is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and bestselling author.