A Letter to My Dying Friend

Dear one,

I met you about 5 years ago.  I learned that you were seriously into horses and had some very funny friends.  You liked to sing and you were carefree.  When I met you, you had just come out of your son’s illness and things were still challenging.  Before he got sick, you suffered from cancer while your husband was away in Afghanistan.  I didn’t know you then, but I imagine going through that made you strong and taught you things about the value of life.

We never really became “great” friends; your interests were different than my own, and I just didn’t seem to fit…I loved it when your mother visited.  My mother would be roughly the same age if she were living….your mother is a saint and I have enjoyed her company immensely.  I have enjoyed the association I have had with her over the years.

Now you lay in a hospital bed with little time remaining on this earth.  This makes me very sad.  Your cancer returned and while you went through all the treatment to eradicate it, it would not be expunged.  Then, with an infection in your leg, things did not look good and you took a turn for the worse.  I was so sad.  Losing you would send a shockwave through Pella, and beyond.  So many people will be affected by your loss.

So many people have been affected by your fight, too. Your valiant efforts to try to overcome the illness showed all of us the value of life that perhaps we didn’t consider before.

I have had many experiences in my life that have felt like the loss of death.  Both my mother and my sister died when I was in my late teens.  Then, years later, I “lost” my children in a custody case. No details are warranted here, this is your post, but because all these painful things happened, I found myself living life a little differently than others.

With you so sick, and near the portal of death, I again find myself re-examining the life we all live.  Eating a salad after visiting you, I thought, you would never eat a salad again. Massaging your hands with cream and looking at your once busy fingers with one project or another, I thought of the projects that will now lie still, finished or not. The horses are in the corral or in their stalls wondering where you are with your special love for them.  The fruit trees you lovingly encouraged to grow, will now have to grow without your tender care. They will bear the fruit you encouraged to grow.

I know so little of this last year of your life…but I know that you tried to make quilts, hats, scarves and all kinds of things for all your children that they would be able to wrap them around themselves and feel your love for them in the future when you could not be there in person for them.  This will be the greatest loss for your children. Not being there for graduation, marriage, grandchildren…They will always remember and dream what it would have been like for you to be there sharing in those parts of their lives.

Trust me, they will never forget.

So, my purpose in writing you is to thank you for the unintended reminder that life is far more than horses, quilts and scarves…it is about people and how we leave them each day, for better or worse, because life is not a guarantee.  From one moment to the next we just don’t know what will happen.  With you lingering on the fine line between time and eternity, I would like to thank you for your life. I have learned so much from you, even at a distance. Most especially, I have learned that earth life is fragile and tenuous and we must treasure it not for what is coming or for what has been, but for what it is right at the moment.

I am hoping to see you off on your journey, but I know that it is a sacred time and that your family may not want anyone extra there.  I understand that.

God bless you, my friend. You have been such a great blessing for me.

The Purity of Heavenly Hope

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2 Corinthians 6:18

And (I) will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.

My soul is deeply stirred and moved.  As I think on my relationship with God and my love for Him, I think of it sometimes as a dance: me, here on the Earth – Him in the Heavens – Between us, a strand of spiritual DNA swirling up and around and between us.  My eyes close and the arms of my heart reach up in longing as my thoughts rise heavenward in a blessed blending of faith and hope sent swirling up to the Heavenly and Holy courts of my God, my King and my Holiest and most precious Father.  His response is in kind – condescending to bless me despite my imperfect state and lift me up through the Gift of His Most Beloved Son and my Divine Redeemer.  I am imperfect in every way – yet the promise of living with Him again makes its way down the strand of Holy communication and fills me with an urgent longing, a desire to strive for the promised, glorious blessing of seeing Him again….

I am rendered speechless; left alone in the absolute purity of Hope…My sigh is deep as I contemplate the possibilities of all we are taught that we can gain through the unmerited gifts of His Son…Because we are His sons and daughters…of Royal Blood…because He first loved us.

 

Trying to Put God First

I am grateful for the Savior’s complete submission to the Will of the Father. How will I ever, ever be able to completely yield as lovingly as He did in the Garden and on the Cross? I have a hard enough time yielding from moment to moment let alone yielding under the pressures of everyday living. I know that God’s influence pumps through the fine spiritual matter that makes up my spirit body; that indeed I am a spiritual Daughter of God and thereby, I have His essence of Holiness and divinity flowing within me through my “spiritual veins.” How can I break through or let go of my human tendencies to allow this spiritual “blood” supply be the significant source of every decision I make? I feel so disturbed that this seems so unattainable and then, within my breast, I know that to keep the “human element” at bay, it takes constant work and surveillance of the horizon of my daily life. I beg forgiveness for my inability to transfer consistency from prayer to life.  Would that my life would or could reflect this love – my desire for greater devotion is far more fervent within my heart at moments like this when I reflect on Father, and His loving “Father-ness,” than when I get up from my desk and continue into my day.  My turned focus on the cares of this world suddenly seizes my attention like a pair of desperate, grasping hands begging for my attention, leaving behind to fend for themselves, my feelings of reverence and awe I experienced moments ago.  Worry and fretting take a front seat in my day as I steer my way around and though the tasks and responsibilities that life demands I address with differing degrees of urgency.

But, my days do seem to be put into better perspective when I take the time to write my prayers and attend to my spiritual education in scripture study and in the words of the Prophets. Somehow this devotional time has a distilling effect on my day and ultimately, my life.  I am not the most attentive daughter, my weaknesses and faults flare brilliantly before me in a myriad of ways – but as Father makes me more aware of them, I am determined to “hunker” down to try a little harder and work a little longer to cast these weaknesses aside.

Learning about Consecration

I have been thinking about the word “consecration” lately. All of the following words help describe a consecrated person or life.

Sanctified: to be sanctified we must go through a sanctification

Dedicated

Hallowed

Devoted

Committed

purified

perseverance

loyalty

devout

vow

promise

covenant

diligence

allegiance

fidelity

fervent

pledge

My definition of Consecration:

Consecration is a divine principle that invokes holiness to a life of purpose. It is a devotion or dedication that springs from a deep feeling of loyalty and love for God, and is a process of righteousness that leads one to live his or her life in consecration to the service of God. It is a hallowing of one’s life to a higher, holier purpose. A vow or promise to dedicate one’s time, talents and everything which the Lord has blessed one with to His Holy Service.

I have had many experiences which have taught me about the law of consecration, but none so “up close and personal” as having the missionaries for our Church in our home.  We were asked to house Sisters.  This experience is teaching me (us) about living the law of consecration.  It is a crash course in recognizing our weaknesses and humbling ourselves to learn all that the Lord would like us to learn.  Like glaring lights coming at me on a dark night while driving, my weaknesses and faults blaze in front of me testing my deepest resolve to humble myself before the Lord to bring glory to His Name through the way I live my life. (Eventually, I hope it may be so.) It has not been easy, but I am grateful that I have been given this experience because what I am learning could not have been learned in any other forum.  Thus, I expose my heartfelt expressions to my Father in Heaven:

I am grateful Holy Father, for Thee. My ability to express my feelings for Thee in human words is woefully inadequate. I would that I could but convey, in the most reverent terms, the tenderest feelings of my heart and soul towards Thee, expressing the deep love I feel for Thy perfectness as a Father; as THE Father ~ ultimately perfect in all things ~ ultimately loving me perfectly in all my imperfections.  I know what I know is a “hairs breadth” of information on all there is to know ~

Father – I am grateful unto Thee for providing Thy most Perfect and most Righteous and Holy Son, Jesus Christ to save us all from our mortal condition.  How perfect is He in His love for Thee in recognizing your loss of all of us if He did not come and fulfill the most ultimate of missions? How pure and perfect is He in fulfilling His mission for our benefit as well, through whose Sacrifice allows us to come unto Thee and Thy loving embrace once again? Whispers of His perfection gently resonate through my soul, stirring up traces of memories of my initial pledge to do all I could to return to Thee with His promised help.  His call to “Come unto me all ye that labor…” is a call from Thee Father, to come home through the grace of Thy Holy and Perfect Son.  Would that my heart and soul could just be transformed and enter into Thy presence!!!!  Alas Thou hast said that nothing unclean can enter into Thy presence except through the “Gate of Holiness,” Thy Son, even Jesus Christ. I heard a quote from one of Thy servants the other day and I loved it:

“The road to salvation always goes through Gethsemane and requires a journey to the summit of Calvary.” (JR Holland)

I understand this.

Gethsemane is the most heart wrenching experience one can experience in mortality.  Each of us has a personal “Gethsemane.”  While we naturally would shun painful experiences, my belief is that in order to become like the Savior, we must live like Him in all things.  None of us will be called to go through all that He went through, but, if we truly desire to become like Him, we must be willing to go through the refiner’s fire: a Gethsemane of sorts.

While I don’t believe that having the missionaries is a painful “Gethsemane” experience, I do feel it is part of the Refiner’s fire in exposing and discarding the impurities of my life so that eventually His countenance may shine through my own. I pray it may be so.

Going through the Refiner’s Fire is a trip to and through the Holy and Sanctifying Garden called Gethsemane.

Chocolate Cake by Wendy Wark

Chocolate Cake by Wendy Wark

Dry Ingredients

1 ¾ c GF flour mix

½ t xanthan gum

2 c sugar

¾ cocoa powder (or you can substitute carob powder)

1 ½ t baking soda

1 ½ t baking powder

1 t salt

Wet Ingredients

2 eggs

1 c milk

½ c oil

2 t vanilla

1 c boiling water

Directions:

Combine dry ingredients in large bowl and mix. Beat eggs well and add to dry ingredients with milk and oil. Add remaining ingredients and mix. Batter will be thin. Pour into greased and floured 13 x 9” pan Bake at 350 degrees 35 minutes. Allow the cake to cool completely.

Chocolate Frosting from the McCall’s Cooking School Cookbook, p 104

1 pkg (6 oz) semisweet chocolate pieces ( For GF, make sure they are not sweetened with barley malt.)

½ c light cream

1 c (2 sticks) butter

2-1/2 c powdered sugar

1 t GF vanilla extract

In a medium saucepan combine chocolate pieces, cream and butter. Stir over medium heat until smooth. Remove from heat. With a whisk, blend in 2-1/2 c confectioner’s sugar. With your bowl set over ice, beat frosting until it holds its shape. Frost cooled cake.

GF Buttermilk Cornbread

GF Buttermilk Cornbread 

Dry Ingredients:

 2 cups gluten free flour

1/2 cup 2-tablespoons sugar

1-1/2 tablespoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 cups white cornmeal

 Wet Ingredients:

 1 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup milk

Three eggs

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

  Directions:

Bring ingredients to room temperature (set out cold ingredients for about 1/2-hour).

Preheat oven to 425-degrees.

Sift together dry ingredients, add cornmeal.

Mix together wet ingredients. Add to dry ingredients and mix well.

Pour into greased 9 x 13-inch pan, smooth (10×14 works okay with this for thinner pieces.

Bake at 425-degrees for 25 minutes.

Recipe makes 20 pieces depending on how you cut it.

About Gluten Free Cooking

Hi Everyone,

My Gluten Free cooking goal:  That foods taste as close to the ones we grew up with when we were eating gluten.  (Alas, this is not always possible, but you can come close.)

My section on Gluten Free recipes will be a work in progress until I decide how to organize them.

FLOURS:

I have not made specific suggestions for flours because we all like “our” formula the best.  As you will learn, I like to keep things as simple as possible. This is because having to make so much from scratch already, takes up a lot of my time, so keeping it simple is my goal. If you are curious about the flour I use the most, it is Pamela’s Baking and Pancake Mix. I buy mine in bulk because it is so much cheaper. I keep it in a not so obvious place in my kitchen in a 5 gallon bucket.  It is always there when I want it. Now, I apologize to Pamela’s, but there are some recipes where I do use other flours. Sometimes, this is for health reasons, other times because it is more nutritious to do so. If I have a recipe listed here and there is no specific mention of flour, then I just use Pamela’s Gluten Free Baking and Pancake Mix. Otherwise the changes will be in the recipe you are looking at.

Now, all that said, I want to mention that there are some very good variations on GF flours that you can make or buy. Combinations of flours change from brand to brand and the end product (texture) using one flour versus another flour will not always be the same.  This is because the ingredients for those flours are different and they produce different results.  I do not make my own flour recipe, except in very few instances.  Simple…remember we are keeping it simple!

Occasionally, I will post things on “how to” do certain things and soon I will post a “tips and tricks” page for GF cooking.  If however you have any questions about something, just post it in the “comments” section and I will be happy to help you.

I am aware that Halloween and Thanksgiving are coming up, as well as other holidays. I have a fully tested array of GF recipes to help you.  It will take some planning on your part, but I will give tips along the way so that you can make the Holidays wonderful for you or for the GF people you love.

I look forward to sharing and hope that you will also share your GF successes.

 

 

The Quilt: A Life Lesson

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Be ye therefore perfect as your Father, which is in Heaven is perfect…Matt 5:48

The  Quilt

I normally don’t require absolute perfection when making a quilt, (you do have to adhere to the principles of perfection fairly closely because if you don’t, it can throw the whole quilt off and make it difficult to piece it together in the end the way it is supposed to be.)  The quilt I recently made for a friend though was different. For me, I was trying to send a message in this gift and I wanted it to be absolutely as perfect as I could make it.

I thought it would be a wonderful gift for her and I was hoping she would see that the time and effort I took to make it perfectly, would indicate how I felt about her. This person is close to me in relationship, but our relationship has never been what I felt it should be; but it wasn’t for lack of trying. Having grown up in a life of privilege, she had never had anything given to her hand made before. This person was accustomed to buying the latest, most impressive things for herself and her home.  I wanted to give her a gift however, and I knew that while she loved the finer things in life, if I made my quilt absolutely perfectly, she would have to love it…and me…

After the quilt was given, it was clear it wasn’t appreciated and so I began this post. Here was my unsaid message to my friend.

You don’t have to like this quilt, but I want you to know that it was made with love from deep within my heart.  Carefully, and with great thought, I chose the pattern named after your favorite person in history.  The colors were chosen from your alma mater and your love of blue.  Painstakingly, I made sure every square was cut perfectly; every seam stitched exactly ¼ of an inch and pressed exactly the way it was supposed to be to make sure the quilt would lay flat when finished. When, I made a mistake, out it came and it was done over. I held my breath as I cut and sewed, hoping it would be perfect and hoping you would love it.  I prayed that every thread would be blessed so that it would be filled with the love of God that you may not only be wrapped and warm in this quilt, but that you would feel wrapped and warm in the love of God.  Somehow, I hoped you would be able to feel my love too.

I later wondered why it was so important to me for it to be perfect and then I realized that because I wasn’t perfect, if I gave you something that was, it would somehow make up my short fall.  Alas, it is just a quilt and had no transformative powers.  However, I enjoyed making it and I knew it was perfect; I was sorry that it didn’t have the effect I wanted, but I know it was not for lack of trying. I let it all go.

There is, however, an object lesson in this experience and it was not lost on me.

Our lives are like a quilt. Carefully, and with great anticipation (I imagine,) our Father in Heaven plans our lives for us.  Knowing the experiences that will make our lives rich, he carefully lays them out in a specific pattern and as we move forward in our lives, that pattern begins to emerge.  Our reactions to the experiences sometime force alterations in the pattern, and sometimes, by the choices we make, we “tear” the original work of Heavenly art.  Mending is necessary, sometimes, “ripping out the stitches” and starting over is required, but in the end, if we yield to His Hand in our lives, a beautiful “life-quilt” begins to emerge.

My Heavenly Father, God, carefully chose the pattern for me and my life and arranged for me to have exactly what I needed to make a perfect end result. But, like everyone else, I have a healthy dose of shortcomings, faults and sins. My “quilt” has at times, needed some serious ripping out of stitches, and a considerable rearranging of the pattern. God knows I am not perfect, even though I strive hard to be.  He is, however, my number 1 supporter, encouraging me to get up again and again no matter how high the odds are stacked against me. I am so grateful for my loving Father in Heaven whose gently encouragement inspires me to try a little harder, dig a little deeper, reach a little farther and stand a little taller. He gives me the renewed promise that by accepting His Son, Jesus Christ, and taking His name upon me, that perfection, while mostly illusive here in this imperfect world, is very much a reality because of His Son.  His Son, my Savior, stands as my advocate through all my imperfections. Psalms 37 prompts us to “Rest in the Lord, Wait patiently for Him.” To my tired and imperfect heart, He has communicated with me that He will patiently wait for me as I strive to make my “life-quilt” all that it can be.  It is because of this infinite Love and Perfection as a Father, that I am encouraged to remember that the reason we are here is not to prove to others that we love them, but to prove to God that we love others no matter what they say or do to us.  The ultimate goal is to become as He is: Perfect.

Thank you, Holy Father. I love you!

Following a Recipe: A Metaphor for Obedience

When my daughter was 12, she said to me, “Mommy, every time I try to make cookies, they always turn our yucky! They are terrible!” So, I proceeded to ask her about what she was doing when she made these cookies. What recipe did she have? Did she read it through before she started to make the cookies? Did she have all the ingredients? Did she have the right ingredients? Did she follow the recipe exactly?

She went on to tell me that she had done everything that she was supposed to do and it just did not turn out. “My cookies are like rubber!” she cried out in frustration. Although there are some recipes that you can get away with altering a little, many are not as forgiving, especially in baking.  Well, we were never quite able to figure out what happened that made her cookies turn out “like rubber,” but she was beginning to learn that baking, like many things in life, require one to follow a prescribed method in order to achieve the desired results.  We are tempted at times, when things are just slightly off,  to say, “oh that’s okay, I can live with that.” However, we fail to realize that, that one little change can alter the whole outcome.

I see a lot of parallel between these life experiences and obedience to God. Although I don’t think of obedience as a science, I do feel many of the principles between the two are similar. For example, the desired outcome of obedience is perfection and getting the desired results takes time, practice and patience.

This principle I am talking about is best illustrated in a talk I heard by Dieter Uchtdorf a few years ago.*

For my purposes, I will share a story from it:

In 1979 a large passenger jet with 257 people on board left New Zealand for a sightseeing flight to Antarctica and back. Unknown to the pilots, however, someone had modified the flight coordinates by a mere two degrees. This error placed the aircraft 28 miles (45 km) to the east of where the pilots assumed they were. As they approached Antarctica, the pilots descended to a lower altitude to give the passengers a better look at the landscape. Although both were experienced pilots, neither had made this particular flight before, and they had no way of knowing that the incorrect coordinates had placed them directly in the path of Mount Erebus, an active volcano that rises from the frozen landscape to a height of more than 12,000 feet (3,700 m).

As the pilots flew onward, the white of the snow and ice covering the volcano blended with the white of the clouds above, making it appear as though they were flying over flat ground. By the time the instruments sounded the warning that the ground was rising fast toward them, it was too late. The airplane crashed into the side of the volcano, killing everyone on board.

It was a terrible tragedy brought on by a minor error—a matter of only a few degrees. 

Further into his remarks he makes this correlation:

Suppose you were to take off from an airport at the equator, intending to circumnavigate the globe, but your course was off by just one degree. By the time you returned to the same longitude, how far off course would you be? A few miles? A hundred miles? The answer might surprise you. An error of only one degree would put you almost 500 miles (800 km) off course, or one hour of flight for a jet.

No one wants his life to end in tragedy. But all too often, like the pilots and passengers of the sightseeing flight, we set out on what we hope will be an exciting journey only to realize too late that an error of a few degrees has set us on a course for spiritual disaster.

Like Kati and her cookies or like the pilot in the story, our lives revolve around the day-to-day decisions we make.  Some have small consequences, and others, like the pilots, have disastrous ones.  So the question begs to be asked, “How do we keep ourselves from making decisions that land us places that we don’t want to be?”

Obviously, this whole blog could center on this theme, but for my purposes, I will just focus on one little portion of my experience that has led me to a small understanding of obedience and decision making.

My life has been fraught with decisions I have made that I have found myself later feverishly trying to clean up the messes. Good grief! What I have done to myself because of my decisions!?  But, what I did then means nothing when I compare what I had to do to “clean up” my “act.”

To say the least, my life has been challenging. I fully acknowledge that it has been so because of the decisions I made. The resulting consequences led me to much self-deprecation and misunderstanding about my worth as a child of God.  Eventually, through much effort, I came to see that it was my willfulness in wanting to do things “my way” which led to my pockmarked life.

It is hard to be honest with ourselves.

It is hard to face the reality that we have made decisions that have landed us somewhere where we really don’t want to be.  This is where I found myself when I finally let the following scripture sink into my soul:

And, finding there was greater happiness and peace and rest for me, I sought for the blessings of the fathers, and the right whereunto I should be ordained to administer the same; having been myself a follower of righteousness, desiring also to be one who possessed great knowledge, and to be a greater follower of righteousness, and to possess a greater knowledge, and to be a father of many nations, a prince of peace, and desiring to receive instructions, and to keep the commandments of God, I became a rightful heir, a High Priest, holding the right belonging to the fathers. –Abraham 1:2

This hit me like a rock. Abraham was a follower of righteousness and he desired in his life to be a greater follower of righteousness. Oh that I might be filled with this desire wherein I yearned for greater righteousness and obedience in my life! I loved reading the following quote in relation to this yearning:

Desire is a particle of faith that develops within us as we experience divine truth.   It is like spiritual photosynthesis. The influence of the Holy Ghost, acting on the           Light of Christ within every human being, produces the spiritual equivalent of a             chemical reaction—a stirring, a change of heart, or a desire to know. Kevin Pearson, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ General Conference, April 2009.

Spiritual Photosynthesis ~ I love this analogy!

These thoughts slowly permeated through the rocky crevices of my heart and soul and I began to feel the same desire. Knowing my life was not where I wanted it to be, and believing for a very long time that I had completely messed it up, I wanted to “switch course” and make my final destination where it should be instead of where it was headed. I pondered over this scripture for a very long time.  While doing so, I also made it a matter of prayer, “help me to desire greater righteousness in my life.”

This query eventually led me to another scripture:

That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness. D&C 121:36

Wow!!! The powers of Heaven cannot be controlled nor handled ONLY upon the principles of righteousness! As you can imagine, my heart and mind were stirred to greater activity as I began to contemplate these things.

What does it mean to be righteous?

What part does obedience play in the pursuit of righteousness?

Is faith a key activator in the pursuit of obedience and righteousness?

Ultimately, I found myself asking this question:  What does it mean to be righteous enough to activate the powers of Heaven?

I found an answer to these questions in several places.

From Bruce R McConkie:

“Faith is a gift of God bestowed as a reward for personal righteousness. It is always given when righteousness is present and, the greater the measure of obedience to God’s laws, the greater will be the endowment of faith” (Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. [1966], 264).

From General Conference

“Desire, hope, and belief are forms of faith, but faith as a principle of power comes from a consistent pattern of obedient behavior and attitudes. Personal righteousness is a choice. Faith is a gift from God, and one possessed of it can receive enormous spiritual power.”   Kevin Pearson, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ General Conference, April 2009.

In the Doctrine & Covenants we learn:

There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations                     of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated— And when we                       obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon                              which it is predicated. (D&C 130:20-21)

I have concluded that faith unto obedience is first in the pursuit of personal righteousness.  Our faith is implemented by our desire to do right. Because these feelings “swell” in our breasts, our desires for greater obedience are activated and righteousness will then most certainly follow as we pursue a course pleasing to and in line with our Heavenly Father’s Will.

Kati has since grown up into a lovely young woman who is very proficient in the kitchen. She has learned to follow the recipes and as a result, come up with perfect results.

If only life could be so easy!! Living a life making the right decisions all the time is not quite so simple when everything is factored in, but we can greatly minimize disastrous results by keeping our eye “on the mark,” even Jesus Christ.  Strict obedience and submission are two of the keys to obtaining the end result of righteous living and the eventual prize of living with our Heavenly Father and His Son.  We want to carefully consider the Savior’s promise: “If ye will have faith in me ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me” (Moroni 7:33). I am learning the fulfillment of this promise by degrees and I am ever grateful for His constant show of patience with me as I try to keep my life on track through faith and obedience.

*Dieter Uchtdorf: http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2008/04/a-matter-of-a-few-degrees?lang=eng

Reconciling our lives with God by faith

“But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)

During my teenage years, my mother lived in a house that was on the beach in Florida. When we were teenagers, and visiting my mother, my sister and I were out swimming one day in the ocean and when we looked up, we noticed that it was raining over my mother’s house. I thought it was hysterical that it was raining on her house while just 500 feet away, we were swimming in sunshine! I remember wondering if the fact that it was raining over her house meant “something.”

Many years later, I also lived in Florida. I was married and had 4 children. When my children were quite young, I liked to find fun things to do with them among the ordinary ins and outs of daily life. Since we lived in Florida, I noticed (and remembered) with interest that on occasion, you could be in one spot in the area, but in another spot, not so far away, you could see that it was raining. One day, this interesting phenomenon presented itself to all of us while we were in the car, and I said to my children, “Let’s go chase the rain.” They were curious to understand what I was talking about, so I pointed out the rain to them that was falling in the distance. I told them, “Let’s go find out where it is falling,” and off we went. It was like a scavenger hunt as we drove around that day taking a left here and a right there not caring where we ended up. Soon, without too much difficulty and with much satisfaction, we found and entered the rain storm that we had spotted a few miles away. We all laughed and had fun that we had “found the rain.” We made a wonderful memory that day.  While there are many implications you could gather from this story, there is one that means the most to me: Memories are timeless treasures of the heart. They are all we can take with us from moment to moment in our lives.

Years after that experience of chasing the rain with my children, my marriage had been dissolved and the custody of my children awarded to my ex-husband, I found myself in alone in New York City attending cooking school. The memory of separation from my children was painful and sharp and relentless, but I had to carry on. One day, while riding on the subway, I noticed a woman behaving badly with her child and I thought to myself, “Lady, if something happened to your child tonight and tomorrow she was gone, would you look back and regret what you had done with your child today?” I was all too aware of the answer to this question.
This is an interesting question and one that has been formed on many lips throughout the ages. It usually begins with, “if only,” and is often accompanied by a tragic experience. “if only I had said ‘I love you,’”…”if only I hadn’t said, __________________ “(fill in the blank)…if only…if only…if only…you know what I mean. All of us have said it in one way or another.

Regret is a paralyzing emotion. We look back on our lives and regret this or that. Because of guilt, we emotionally “flog” ourselves into believing we are no good. Certainly, regret causes much sorrow in our lives. However, when we take the opportunities to learn from others, regret doesn’t have quite the painful sting as it would otherwise. I would long remember the lesson I learned from that woman in the train station that day and the way she treated her child. The lesson I learned was timeless: life is short and offers no glimpse in to the future. We cannot change the past; we can only influence the future by what we do in the present.

This was a huge lesson.

As painful as my life was without my children, it would be infinitely more painful if the only thing they remembered about their mother when they were with her, was that she was angry and bitter about the “hand” she’d been dealt. Therefore, I determined that if I would “stand fast in the Lord” (See Philippians 4:1) and wait upon the Lord, trusting Him to give me the strength to go on and be supported by His gracious hand, I would be able to run and not be weary and walk and not faint. (See Isaiah 40:31; Psalms 37:7; Proverbs 3:5-6).

I have never been able to reconcile the outcome of my life without my children. In this, I have had to walk by faith. I have had to learn that some things will never be understood in this life. In this painful and often bitter time of my life, I needed to learn to trust in the Lord; To rest in Him; To let go of the control of everything and let Him work His marvelous work. This has not been easy by any stretch of the imagination, but I can testify with the assuredness of my soul that He have never, ever let go of me in my lonely path. He allowed me to feel the pain of separation from my children. He allowed me to experience all that was necessary to achieve my ultimate goal of becoming like Him. It has been the most difficult thing I have had to endure in my life and I am still not sure whether I will pass “the test.” He is gracious and good and all I am today is because He never gave up on me and my ability to endure with His help.