A friend of mine told me about a Family Home Evening lesson she did. To prepare for it she inventoried her chest freezer and made a list of hard to find items. Then she put other food items on top of those food items on her list. For the lesson she handed out the list of things and had her kids go look for them in the freezer. They found a couple of the easy ones but couldn’t find most of the items. Now she knew they were there so she told them to go look again. They came back still only finding a few of the items on the list, partly because they didn’t really want to find them. Together they went and found everything on the list. She compared this to searching for answers to gospel questions. She told them that some questions are easily answered while others take perseverance and a lot of digging to find the answers and sometimes help is needed from someone with a lot of gospel experience. Just like digging for hard to find food items in a freezer we have to more than casually look for answers to our gospel questions and we need to really want to find the answers. For most of the questions we have, we are able to find the answers with a little effort. Some questions though take a lot of effort, pondering and prayer. They may take years or even a life time to find the answers and some may only be answered in the next life. But I have found that when I find answers to my questions it strengthens my faith that the harder to find answers are there and to keep searching for them, and to accept that for some I may have to wait until the next world to receive my answers. I have also found that when I have to work really hard for an answer that I value it more, I really appreciate the answer and sometimes I even treasure it. In some ways I think this is part of the plan. Our Heavenly Father knows that as we look for answers our faith grows and our knowledge increases and not always just in the arena of the questions we have. He also knows that when we have to work hard for something, we value it more. I know the answers are there if we faithfully persevere and look for them.
Many years ago I read the biography of Camilla Kimball, the wife of Spencer W. Kimball who was the President and Prophet of the LDS church. My favorite part of the book is when it describes a date that Camilla went on to a dance with a boy she didn’t want to be with. She made an excuse, went to the bathroom and climbed out of the bathroom window and left the dance and the boy. I loved that story because it was such a normal teenage thing to do and it left me feeling that if she could do something so normal and turn out so great that there was hope for me. She went on to bless the lives of many people and do a lot of good in the world despite being very human. Sometimes when I see people who appear to always have been perfect it’s hard to relate to them. But when I see people who have weaknesses and who have made mistakes in their lives and they are doing great things, it gives me hope that I too can do better and be better. My husband’s current calling at church is the Stake Clerk. He gets to work closely with the Stake Presidency and I have gotten to know them a little better than other Stake Presidencies. They are good men but in interacting with them it’s very easy to see that they are also just ordinary men who desire to serve the Lord and do their best. They are willing to give of their time and efforts to serve others but because they are normal they also make mistakes, have their own weaknesses and are not perfect. Sometimes people look at church leaders and complain because they make mistakes and have weaknesses and decide the church can’t possibly be true because of it. I think it’s amazing that God can take ordinary, fallible people and use them anyway to further His work here on the earth, despite their weaknesses. It gives me hope that even with all of my problems and weaknesses, He can use an ordinary person like me to do a little good in the world too.
I have had migraines for over 40 years, some of them so severe I didn’t want to be alive anymore. I have been to every kind of doctor, tried every cure and done everything that seemed reasonable and even tried some things that were unreasonable in trying to rid myself of this plague. There have been moments when I thought that if all my life offered was pain, it would be better to die. At times I have thought that I couldn’t stand anymore pain and felt desperate to end the pain but it continued on with nothing I could do. In desperation I have cried out to God many times for relief, knowing that He is the ultimate source of relief. Sometimes I have had an immediate answer on what I could do for relief. One time as I stood trying to relax in the hot water of a shower I was begging God for help. Quietly the thought “get into bed and relax” came into my mind. I turned off the water, got dressed and got into bed, relaxed, and as soon as I did my migraine was gone. I have pondered about this occurrence many times. God easily could have taken away my migraine while I was standing in the shower, so why did I need to get into bed and relax? In the bible there is the story of the captain of a Syrian army named Naaman who had leprosy. He came to the prophet Elisha to cure his leprosy and Elisha told Naaman, through his servant, to wash himself in the river Jordan seven times. Did the waters of Jordan have miraculous curing powers? Elisha could have blessed Naaman or cured him some other way, but washing in the waters of the Jordan required Naaman to act, to do something. For miracles to happen there must be faith and faith requires action. Just as Naaman had to act to be cured, I had to show my faith by acting. God could have taken away my migraine in the shower but He wanted me to show my faith through my actions. He already knew what I believe and how strongly I believed it but sometimes I need to be reminded, I needed to find out how strong my faith is. That night as I laid there with a grateful heart for the relief from pain I was also grateful to know I have a loving Father in Heaven who hears my prayers and gives me experiences to help my faith grow. I absolutely hate migraines but I am grateful for the spiritual growth I have had because of them.
There’s only one time I ever semi-seriously thought about divorce from my husband. We had been married for about 10 years and had 5 children. My husband travels for his business several days a week and at this time it was often just me and 5 very active children, and breaks away seldom happened. It was hard to get sitters for my kids because they were so active and they usually wore a baby sitter out. One time I overheard a group of girls from my church talking about babysitting and heard one of them say about our family “they pay great but it isn’t worth it.” So in hope of time away I had signed up for a craft class on a Saturday afternoon which would provide a much-needed respite for me, and I was really looking forward to it. My husband had some work to do at his office and promised to be home in time for me to get to my class. I got ready to go and got all of my supplies packed and I was really looking forward to the project I was going to do. The time came and went when he was supposed to be home. I tried calling him but he didn’t answer the phone. It was too late to try to find a willing and brave sitter. The class started and he still didn’t come home. I was so upset that he hadn’t come home and I had missed the class. When he finally got home I asked him what had happened. He had more work to do than he thought and had decided to finish it. That was it. Nothing urgent, or serious or even necessary. He just stayed to finish his work which he could have done on Monday. I was so hurt and mad, and I remember later driving down a road crying and wondering if I could stay married to him. As I thought about it I figured out the real issue-could I stay married to a man who didn’t value what I wanted to do just as much as what he wanted to do, who didn’t think that what I wanted was just as important as what he wanted. Later, when I had calmed down, I told him that at some point he had decided that what he was doing was more important than what I wanted to do or he would have kept his promise and been home on time. He didn’t get it. Over the next few days I kept trying in different ways to calmly explain it to him and he still wasn’t getting it. I remember riding with him in a car one day and trying again to tell him that at some point he decided that what he was doing was more important than what I wanted to do or he would have stopped working and been home on time. Suddenly the light went on in his eyes and he got it. He finally understood what I was saying. He apologized and promised it wouldn’t happen again, and you know what? He has diligently tried to keep that promise. Maybe I kept trying to get him to understand because I knew he was a good man. Since then he has been conscious of my time and has really made an effort to be aware of my interests and if I wanted to do something he has done what he can to make sure I could do it. For me, staying calm, thinking about what the issue really was and then persistently addressing it was key. Of course it helps that he’s a good man.
Many years ago I had some one new cut my hair and she cut it very short, a lot shorter than what I wanted. I was embarrassed it was so short, was sure I looked idiotic and no longer feminine, and drove home crying. When I got home I immediately called my husband at work (this was before cell phones). As soon as he got on the phone I started crying and through long pauses, in which I tried to control my crying, I could barely get the words out that my hair was ruined by being cut too short. His response? He started laughing. It turned out he was sure that one of the kids had been hit by a car or something equally terrible and he was so relieved that it was just my hair that he started laughing. This didn’t go over too well because I was very upset about my hair and he was laughing! A few weeks later my hair grew out, life looked better and I began to learn about perspective. I began to learn about what is truly important and what seems important at the time but is really unimportant in the scheme of things, like my terrible hair cut. I have learned there are few truly important things worth getting upset over and they were usually things that really would affect my life, and often had great impact on me. It seems that most of the things I would get upset about when I was younger actually fell in the truly unimportant area. Things that seemed important like a messy house when someone came over unexpectedly, saying the wrong thing at the wrong time or my kids not excelling in ways I thought they should, and a whole host of other silly things. When these kind of things happened I would sometimes stew about them for days feeling very inept. I basically beat myself up for not being perfect, but ironically, not perfect in unimportant things. Over time I had experiences that taught me about life and I was able to better judge what was worth getting upset over. I learned to ask myself “will this matter in 2 years, or even 2 weeks” and the number of years varied based on what was happening. Usually the answer was not just “no” but it was an emphatic “no.” Most of the things that I worried about were unimportant. This little question helped me to learn perspective and to save my energy for the important things that happen, because the important things of life usually take a lot of energy. Now when my hair is cut too short I am able to be philosophical about it because I know it will grow out and really, in the scheme of things, a terrible hair cut is something to laugh about.
When one of my children was 3 years old she struggled with having her socks just the right way on her feet. Not only did she want to wear a certain kind of socks (just the right thickness and feel), the line across her toes had to be perfectly straight and if it wasn’t for some reason she couldn’t cope and she would have a major melt down. When we got the line straight it had to stay straight while going into her shoe and had to be straight across her foot while in her shoe. If the sock pulled in any way she would rip the shoe off, scream and straighten the sock. Sometimes she would take the shoe off just to see if the sock line was still straight. It was a major ordeal every time I helped her get dressed. I might have handled it better but every time we did errands she would take her shoes off in the car and before we went into a store we would have to go through this ordeal again, and again before the next store. I couldn’t convince her to keep her shoes on no matter what I tried and I dreaded having to do errands with her, especially because I had other things to do and other children to help. This same daughter also had to have her blanket on her bed perfectly straight while she slept. When she woke up during the night if the blanket was not straight and smooth she would very loudly scream and since we lived in a duplex, letting her scream several times a night, every night was not an option. I was exhausted from the constant battle between shoes and blankets and didn’t know what to do about it. Comforting her, yelling at her, scolding her and anything else I could think of in my very tired brain during the many trips to her room each night was not effective. She still woke up screaming if her blanket was not perfectly straight. One day, after many months of this, I switched from mom brain to therapist brain, and in thinking about it I realized that for some reason she needed her world to be orderly to cope with her life. So I gave her a new coping mechanism. I told her that when she woke up in the middle of the night that if her blanket was not straight to tell herself “it’s okay, mommy will straighten it for me in the morning.” I also remembered that positive reinforcement worked better than negative reinforcement, so we made a star chart together and I told her that if she slept through the night without waking up and screaming about her blanket she could put a star on her chart in the morning. The night came and went and no screaming! I went into her room in the morning to check on her and the first thing she told me was she had awakened during the night, saw her blanket messed up and told herself that it was okay and that I would straighten it in the morning, which I gladly did and then she very proudly put a star on her chart. She soon learned to straighten the blanket by herself and thankfully she eventually outgrew the sock and blanket behaviors. I learned that life can be hard for children too and giving them the skills they need to successfully cope is important. I also learned to look beyond the behavior to understand the cause better and to think of solutions and not about my anger or ineptness as a parent.
I have always been intrigued with the story about Christ found in the Bible in Mark 2:2-12. It tells of a man in Capernaum who had palsy. Christ was teaching in a home and it was so crowded that people spilled out of the doorway into the outer court. The man who had palsy had 4 friends that carried him on a litter and tried to get him into the house. They were sure that if they could get their friend into the house that Christ could heal him. When they couldn’t get into the house because of the crowd of people, they took him up to the roof and made a hole in it and then lowered the man down through the hole to Christ. In verse 5 it says “When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.” Now there were scribes who were there listening to Christ teach and they “reasoned in their hearts” as the scriptures said, that only God could forgive sins and that Christ was speaking blasphemies. Jesus knew their thoughts and in verse 8 we read that He said “Why reason ye these things in your hearts? Whether is it easier to say to the sick of the palsy, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (he saith to the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house. And immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went forth before them all; insomuch that they were all amazed, and glorified God…” One of the things that I like about this story is that the man with palsy had very good friends. They obviously had great faith and were willing to do whatever it took to bring their friend to Christ and they didn’t let obstacles stop them in their quest. So questions come to my mind: Do I help my friends come to Christ? Am I an influence for good in the lives of others? Sister Linda Burton, who was the Relief Society General President, asked “How can we expect to strengthen families or help others unless we first have written in our own hearts a deep and abiding faith in Jesus Christ and His Infinite Atonement?” So in order to be a good friend, I must work on having a deep and abiding testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ and apply the blessings of the atonement to my own life. I can do this by increasing my own faith through obedience to the principles of the gospel. Sister Burton also told this story: “A woman walking along a road fell into a pit so deep she could not climb out. No matter what she did, she could not get out by herself. The woman called for help and rejoiced when a kind passerby heard her and lowered a ladder down into the pit. This allowed her to climb out of the pit and regain her freedom.” She goes on to say “We are like the woman in the pit. Sinning is like falling into the pit, and we can’t get out by ourselves. Just as the kind passerby heard the woman’s cry for help, Heavenly Father sent his Only Begotten Son to provide the means of escape. Jesus Christ’s atonement could be compared to lowering a ladder into the pit; it gives us the means to climb out. But the Savior does more than lower the ladder, He comes down into the pit and makes it possible for us to use the ladder to escape. Just as the woman in the pit had to climb up the ladder, we must repent of our sins and obey the gospel principles and ordinances to climb out of our pit and make the Atonement work in our lives. Thus, after all we can do, the Atonement makes it possible for us to become worthy to return to Heavenly Father’s presence.” I love this analogy, especially that Christ climbs down into the pit with us, He not only gives us the ladder but helps us climb up it. In Mosiah 18 it teaches us to “mourn with those that mourn, comfort those that need comforting and to stand as a witness of God in all times and in all things and in all places.” It is interesting that comforting others is linked with standing as a witness of God. Being a good friend involves both. So other questions to ask myself are: do I do these things? Can I do them better? Am I like the friends of the palsied man who had such great faith that they brought him to Christ and didn’t let anything stand in their way? I know this is the kind of friend that I would like to have and that I would like to be. My faith in Jesus Christ is strengthened through the atonement that not only enables me to climb out of the pit but also gives me power to continue on the strait and narrow path that is enriched through good friends who help bring me to Christ.
I try to read all of the General Conference talks that are printed in the Ensign each May and November and I write the date I read the talk at the top of the page. I say try because I am usually not successful and often feel guilty thinking that this is another area that I’m not doing great in, some other way that I’m failing and another point that says I will never fully measure up. One day when I was feeling discouraged at my shortcomings and thinking I will never improve enough, I thought I should read a few talks in the Ensign instead of relaxing by playing a game or some other trivial thing. I picked up the Ensign and looked through it for a talk that didn’t have a date at the top of the page. I kept leafing through and eventually saw that every talk had a date, and surprisingly to me, that I had read them all. I had the thought come to my mind “You’re doing better than you think.” This tender mercy happened because I was trying to do what’s right and even though I’m far from perfect, Heavenly Father blessed me for my effort. It’s so easy to get discourage when we think about all of the things we are supposed to be doing in our lives. Sometimes it’s overwhelming to have lessons to prepare, scriptures and Ensigns to read, topics to study, classes to prepare for by reading the assigned material, Family Home Evening lessons to get ready and occasionally talks to write. I try to do these things but sometimes fall short and then I beat myself up because I failed– again. Doctrine and Covenants 46:9 teaches me that I am blessed not only when I keep the commandments but also even when I seek to do so, so in other words, trying counts. This concept teaches me that becoming better is a process, not an event and when I honestly try, that slowly I do better and become better. This tender mercy from a loving Heavenly Father showed me that efforts, even small ones, add up and to give myself more credit for trying. Maybe I am doing better than I think, and maybe you are too.