When my oldest daughter was a toddler she was a hand full at church. To help keep her quiet and entertained, my husband would take his silk handkerchief that matched his tie (an 80’s thing) and roll and fold it in such a way that it looked like a canoe with “babies” in it. He would rock it between his hands and she would sit quietly and play with it. One time at church he forgot to wear his handkerchief and as we were listening to the speaker my daughter started looking through his pockets, moving his tie around and getting in his face. Since she was being quiet we didn’t think too much about it until she loudly shouted, “Where’s that little thing you use to make babies with daddy.” That quickly got our attention, especially as the people in the pews around us started laughing. We immediately put our heads down in deep embarrassment and explained that daddy forgot to bring it. Of course we laugh about it now! When she was a little older, she and her sister opened a 20 lb bag of flour and had a “snow” fight. When I found them, all I could see were two white faces with big eyes looking at me. That was a huge mess to clean up! Another time she and this same sister blocked off the bottom of the door of the bathroom with towels and filled the floor full of water to make an indoor slip and slide. I was downstairs doing laundry when I saw water pouring down from the ceiling. I ran up stairs and found 2 girls having great fun. I was amazed at their creativity but not amused with the damaged ceiling. One time I found my electric skillet in her bath tub with dried up food in it. It turns out that she and her partner in crime (this same sister) would take my electric skillet into their bedroom and cook things when they were supposed to be asleep. All of these things were basically harmless but they kept me really busy because what one daughter didn’t think to do the other one did. Of course there were a few things that weren’t so harmless like when she let her 14 year sister take her car and drive around with some friends. We were really lucky no one was hurt with that escapade. The years have passed and now this same daughter just celebrated her 33rd birthday. She has grown into a compassionate, thoughtful person who champions the underdog (humans and animals alike!). She has this knack for reaching out to others and becoming friends with them, and still keeps in contact with high school friends. When she is your friend you will have a friend for life. She will always have your back and she tries harder than anyone else I know to improve herself. She cares about her family and reaches out to build relationships. She is an amazing person who brightens our lives. In spite of all of her antics, I am glad she’s my daughter. Happy Birthday!
A friend of mine recently died. She had Multiple Sclerosis for many years and had been in a wheel chair and then bed ridden for the past 15 years. She had lots to complain about and yet whenever I would see her in a store in a wheelchair she was cheerful and fun to chat with. During our conversations you would never think she had any problems at all, let alone a failing body. To me she was the best example of cheerfully enduring to the end, focusing on others and looking for the good. Years ago she was my Visiting Teacher and she told me a story about her mother and prayer. My friend’s eight year old son was being baptized and she really wanted her mother to attend the baptism. Her mother was not a member of our church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) but my friend wanted to share the experience with her. Since her mother did not want to participate in it, she decided to pray about it. She prayed for several weeks that her mother would be able to attend the baptism, and then my friend was in a car accident. She wasn’t seriously hurt but because of the multiple sclerosis she had to have some help so her mother came to stay with her to help her recover. This accident occurred shortly before the baptism of her son and so her mother was in town and attended it. My faithful friend testified to me of the power of prayer and that God always answers our prayers even if in unexpected ways. This story says as much about her as it does about the power of prayer. I know she relied on prayer and her faith in Jesus Christ until the end of her life, especially when she was bedridden and struggled with bedsores and pain. She showed grace in her trials and acceptance of God’s will, and as I struggle with migraines and other situations in my life I am grateful for her example of faith and cheerfully enduring to the end. Hers was a life well lived.
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.
Many years ago I lived in a ward with a family where the wife died from cancer leaving a young family for her husband to care for. The father asked to have visiting teachers assigned to him to teach him how to cook, clean, shop, do little girls’ hair and a whole host of things that he needed to learn in order to serve his family. The process worked well and after a few months he was able to do what he needed to do independently. I’m impressed that he recognized that he needed to learn some things, knew he could turn to the good women of his ward and was humble enough to ask for help. Visiting Teaching has blessed my life in many ways just like it did for this man and his family, and for some reason I have always liked Visiting Teaching. Even when I was a teenager I couldn’t wait to be a Visiting Teacher and yes, I know that’s a little odd but I have always felt drawn to it. I like the one on one connection, I like getting to know other women in a more personal way. I like discussing gospel principles and having time to go into more depth with the topic, and I have noticed that I leave feeling the Spirit more and it lingers with me for the day. I like having women for whom I feel a responsibility to care for, to pray for and to think about their needs and ways I can serve them. I have been inspired by the women I visit with, have learned from them and have felt their strength as they go through hard times with faith. Whenever I have met women in the various wards I have lived in who I didn’t particularly like, either I ended up being their Visiting Teacher or they were mine and it didn’t take long before I realized how wrong I had been in my judgement. Because of this I have learned to be less judgmental and to give people the benefit of the doubt more, and to realize I’m not seeing the whole person in the limited setting of a few hours at church. I have not always had women who were easy to visit and even then I learned more about the struggles of mental health or being less active and serving when it wasn’t easy. And just as I have been blessed by being a Visiting Teacher I have been blessed by having Visiting Teachers who have listened to me, taught me more about the gospel of Jesus Christ and been my friends. The new focus now is ministering-really focusing on the needs of the women I visit. What an inspired program! Recently I was working in a ward service project involving the cleaning up of yards of people in our neighborhood. While I was raking up weeds, one of the home owners came out and upon seeing many women working alongside the men commented “it seems that women can be ministers too.” I sincerely replied “they always have been.”
Several years ago I was pondering the many talents that people have, the vast majority of which I do not have. I thought of a friend who was very musical and thought I would love to be able to play a musical instrument or sing really well. I thought of people who were artistic, who were excellent teachers or who were really good listeners, and then there are people who are mechanical and good with technology. There are people who are really good gardeners and people who can fix just about anything. I can’t draw and I am horrible with mechanical things and I definitely can’t think of anyone who would ever have me fix something for them. The list of talents that I don’t have goes on and on. As I sat there feeling slightly sorry for myself and pondering why I couldn’t have any or all of those talents the thought came to me “because then you wouldn’t need anyone else.” Another eye-opener! We are taught in the scriptures that talents and spiritual gifts are to be used to bless the lives of others and I have definitely been blessed by other people’s talents.