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.

Kindness Can Never Be Underestimated

Brightly Beams our Father’s Mercy, From His lighthouse evermore

But to us He gives the keeping, Of the lights along the shore.

Dark the night of sin has settled, Loud the angry billows roar

Eager eyes are watching longing, For the lights along the shore.

Trim your feeble lamp my brother, Some poor sailor tempest tossed

Trying now to make the harbor, In the darkness may be lost.

Let the lower lights be burning, Send a gleam across the wave,

Some poor fainting, struggling seaman, You may rescue: you may save.

~Poem by Phillip P Bliss 1838-1876

I was “some poor fainting, struggling seaman” when the phone rang that afternoon.  On the other end, I heard the gentle voice of my friend, and a feeling of relief washed over me in pure gratitude for the calming reassurance that hearing her voice gave me.  She couldn’t have known how I wished I could talk to her that afternoon.  [My “eager eyes (were) watching longing.”] I mean, she knew I was struggling because we kept in touch by email, but I never expected her to call because I know she is very busy.  The roiling turmoil going on in my breast at that very moment she called was getting louder and harder to control.  And that is when the phone rang and she “Sent a beam across the way.”

We talked, and I cried. I cried because of what was going on in my life and she offered me the reassuring coos of a friend much like a mother with her child…”let it out”…”it’s okay to cry”…and on and on as if she had nothing better to do than to be with me and “hold my hand.”  She was the “light along the shore…” I was the “sailor tempest tossed…”

Though it took a while, I finally calmed down and felt a little better.  Feelings of gratitude washed over me like waves of the sea washing on the shore.  In her gentle way, she had taken the “debris” of my situation and reassuringly put it into perspective for me.  I was able to breathe again.  I was steadier.  She “sent a gleam across the wave…” and I was so thankful for her call.  She couldn’t have known how I felt as we hung up…almost as if God’s hand had come down from Heaven and steadied the pitching of my “ship” and calmed my stormy seas.  She was an instrument in His hands that day to still my troubled heart and sooth my anxious soul.

In this moment of my life, through the inspiration and love of my friend, I was able to see the “lower lights burning along the shore.”  She was and is the guardian of a sacred trust: to lift up the hands that hang down and strengthen the feeble knees. (See Hebrew 12:12)  Her actions let me know that the Lord was with me in my time of need, just as He promised in Isaiah 41:10:  Fear not, I am with thee, be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.  She reached out and became the instrument of God through which the balm of Gilead was administered. It was in this way that God chose to strengthen me. Through the kindness and love of another.

Kindness can never be underestimated.  It is the action through which Charity is administered unto the children of men.  “Paying it forward is the only way I can “pay it back.”

Thank you, my friend…I love you.

 

 

 

In Remembrance: Giving God the Glory ~ Part 2

In Remembrance ~ Giving God the Glory ~ Part 2

It has always been my belief that the word “remember” is one of the most important words we have in Christendom.  Before there was the written word, men used to pass down from father to son, the history and spiritual dealings of God with man.  This very act of telling the stories over and over required a great deal of remembering or memory.

Why is remembering so important?  Well, without it, we wouldn’t have known about Adam’s experience in the Garden and his walk with God before he was cast out.  Adam was a living witness of God.  He had walked and talked with Him.  God shared with Adam his plan of Salvation and gave him and Eve a choice.

After Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden, they didn’t forget about their lives with God in the Garden.  In fact, having lived and walked with God in the Garden, they remembered what it was like to live in His presence and they shared their experiences with their descendants.  Remembering these things helped them stay faithful through the consequences of their choice to partake of the fruit.  Being cast out of God’s presence brought with it the pain of the realization of what partaking the fruit ultimately meant: separation from God; but it also gave them hope, because God told them that He had provided a way to have Adam, (and the rest of us,) come Home to Him through His perfect and most righteous Son, Jesus Christ.  Adam taught his descendants the reality of God from his own experiences and that His Son, Jesus Christ, would provide the means for us to return to God, our Father.   This great truth was taught from father to son, down through the generations with the fulfillment of these truths revealed in the “meridian of time” with the birth of the Savior, His life and His eventual atonement and subsequent crucifixion on the cross.  During of the next 2000 years, the story of God the Father and Jesus Christ, was again repeated down through the generations.

Men died proclaiming His name because they remembered.

Here in the 21st century, we continue to carry the banner to remember.

We remember that God proclaimed His Son as the propitiation for Adam’s transgressions all the way down through the generations to this day.

We remember the life of the Son:

His compassion, His teaching, His love for others, His patience, His Grace under pressure, and His magnificent stature of Righteousness.

We remember the death of the Son:

His long suffering with His friends who turned on Him, His patience in suffering, His breathtaking pain in the Garden of Gethsemane, His slow walk under the weight of the cross, His silence as they crowned Him with thorns and mocked Him as King, His endurance as they drove nails through His hands and wrists, and His forgiveness of those who least deserved it.

Yes, we are to remember; having taken His name upon us through baptism, we covenant to ALWAYS remember Him.

He reminded us in Matt 25:40 that:

Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. 

And so, we have covenanted to remember,

~that when we interact with those around us, we are interacting with the Savior

~that we will bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light

~that we will mourn with those that mourn

~that we will comfort those that stand in need of comfort

~that when we are in the service of our fellow man or woman, that we are in the service of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and God the Father and,

~that we will stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that we may be redeemed of God

This, then, is how we bring glory to God in our daily lives: we remember Him and our covenant with Him through our service to others.  We are his hands.  We are His heart.  We are His servants.

In this act of remembering and doing, we bring glory and honor to God in our daily living.

 

 

 

In Remembrance: Giving God the Glory ~ Part 1

I had lunch the other day with a friend of mine. We were talking about this and that when the conversation took a more spiritual tone.  I marveled at my friends’ faith as she sat there and shared with me her feelings about how she arrived at her faith in God.   She was telling me how her faith was born out of the trials she has had, and she said that she doesn’t worry about the stuff that doesn’t matter anymore.  She then made this comment:

“I don’t wake up every morning thinking ‘What can I do for Ruth Ann today, (name is changed), …  no, I think, what can I do to bring God the glory today?’”

My attention was riveted to what she was saying.  I listened carefully as she spoke for her to answer her own question:  What can I do to bring glory to God today? but, she just kept going as if what she said was a common every day occurrence and she probably assumes everyone thinks that way.  Certainly, the Lord knows I don’t wake up that way…but I probably should.  I waited and listened, but she never did answer the question directly, and long after the lunch was done and the day over, I was still affected by what she had said.

What does it mean to give “God the Glory” in our every waking moment? How is this accomplished?  What do I need to do in my life to “give God the Glory?”  These were questions that occupied the thoughts of my heart and my scripture studies over the next few days.

In so doing, I remembered the scripture in Psalms 118:24,

This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.

How do we rejoice in the day the Lord has made?

The Lord says in a book called Moses 1:39, from the Latter-day scripture, The Pearl of Great Price,

This is my work and my Glory, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.

Purify my heart before Thee, O Lord…

Every week, during our worship services, we partake of the holy Sacrament.  An ordinance where we partake of the bread and water to renew our baptismal covenant with the Lord.  In Luke 22:19, the Lord says, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me and in verse 20 He continues, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.

Likewise, in the Book of Mormon, we are taught in detail what this covenant to remember the Savior means,

And it came to pass that he said unto them: Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;

 Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life—

 Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you? (Alma 18:8-10).

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, our Sacrament prayers, said every week before we partake, renew this baptismal covenant to “remember.”

For the bread:

O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this bread to the souls of all those who partake of it, that they may eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son, and witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him and keep his commandments which he has given them; that they may always have his Spirit to be with them. Amen.

For the water:

O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this wine to the souls of all those who drink of it, that they may do it in remembrance of the blood of thy Son, which was shed for them; that they may witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they do always remember him, that they may have his Spirit to be with them. Amen.

The key word in all of these scriptures is “remember.”

The covenant is clear: Partake of the emblems of my body and blood to remember and to testify in and through your daily living that you do indeed remember and follow the Savior.

This daily “remembrance” is how we bring “Glory to God”…

Part 2 to follow….

The three people I would like to meet

Last night, at dinner, my husband told me that he heard one of the talk show host’s pose a question to his listeners. The question was, if you could have lunch with 3 people who would they be and what would you ask them? This led to an interesting conversation between him and me. He mentioned that a lot of people said they wanted to meet Jesus. We talked about that for a few minutes, and I asked him who he would like to meet. He said he would like to have lunch with his grandfather. That was an answer I wasn’t expecting, but that I completely concurred with. As the conversation continued, I mused in my mind who I would like to meet. Jesus is a logical choice, but whom else? Who else has made an impact on my life that I wanted to choose? I was finding that decision difficult. First on the list were Jesus, Abraham and Joseph Smith. My husband said he went through his mind of some people in the Bible. Isaiah he said. John the Revelator was another. Then a rush of other ideas came to my mind. My thoughts were led to others I have thought of in past who I would like to meet: 

Ruth, for her devoted faithfulness and service to God and her people.

Captain Moroni for his steadfastness in upholding the cause of liberty.

King Lamoni because he was willing to give up everything to know Christ;

Alma, the elder, for his courage in standing up for the truth at the risk of his life;

Alma, the younger, for his missionary zeal fueled by his desire that all men change their hearts towards God.

King Benjamin, for his complete obedience in teaching the people of Christ and committing them to covenant.

Nephi, for his unwavering faith and devotion to the cause of righteousness.

Mormon, for the wisdom and insights putting the gold plates together must have given him;

Moroni, for the loneliness he must have felt as he lived in that cave by himself.

The Brother of Jared, for his profound faith.

President Gordon B. Hinckley, because everything about him, made me want to live better….

How can I leave out Paul and his indomitable spirit?

Timothy testifying against all odds.

Stephen, Abinadi, Noah, Moses, James and Peter… Sigh…I can only have 3…but the list could go on and on…

Truth is, I have met all those who are on my list. But not in the traditional way. I have met them through my studies of the scriptures and the words of the Prophets. Yes, it would be nice to meet these great sons and daughters of God in reality; however their exemplary lives are very evident throughout the pages of Holy Writ; ready and waiting for me to discover and learn more about their lives through prayer and personal revelation about how I might change my life towards something more in line with what Heavenly Father wants for me.

Well, as the discussion with my husband progressed, I found another thought or question formulating out of the original one. Considering all these wonderful people and the traits that I admired so much in them, I then decided that I would like to have one wish to go along with my meeting them. It is something like this:

I wish that it could be easier for me to overcome the tendency to sin. I wish the ability to be more righteous came more naturally to me; that the “natural” tendencies for human-ness were more easily overcome, such as my willfulness, my tendency to take the “easy” road, and my propensity for self-doubt. I wish that my efforts to do more good, and be more righteous would be consistent enough so as to “push out” (or burn off) the weaknesses and flaws (or dross) in my character, and leave these new and “mighty” changes as a solid foundation on which to build. Then, when all that is done, I would want my capacity to sustain these new changes to be made stronger and more durable against the tides of temptation and sin.

But alas, there is only one way to do this: In order to change, I must humbly submit to the refiner’s fire, (see Mosiah 2:19), which means to submit to the heat of whatever will be the most useful for me so that I may be made more useful and strong in the cause of the Kingdom of God. Nevertheless, notwithstanding the audacity of my wish, I know I do not sin in wishing for this, because I know it is a righteous desire, just as Abraham’s desire was: to be a greater follower of righteousness. (See Alma 29:3; 2 Nephi 4:17-35 and Abraham 1:2). Therefore, knowing I cannot escape the process of refining, I will alter my wish and request the strength to withstand the heat and the pressure of the refiner’s fire…that my faith may be bolstered by the power of God and my diligence fortified by the examples of those I choose to meet through my studies.

Forty Years

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Tomorrow marks my 40th year that I will have been a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints . Wow.  That’s big.

I joined the church when I was still in high school. I had to write a paper to practice writing for college and I chose to write it on the “Mormons.”  Little did I know how writing that paper would be a life altering decision for me and one that I have never regretted. I was 17 when I learned about the Church and in order to join, I needed my father’s permission. He was very reluctant to give it to me, so since he had to sign to give his permission to allow me to be baptized, he made me take “dictation” telling me to write down that I would hold him totally blameless for any mistake I made joining the Mormon Church. He then made me sign it, and then he signed my card… I have never looked back.

I grew up in a home where we were well taken care of, but my parents did not get along and there was a lot of tension. My mother was an alcoholic which contributed to many problems in her life. After years of difficulty, they finally decided to get divorced. My older brother and sister were in boarding school at the time, but my younger sister and I were still at home. When my parents separated, my little sister was sent to live with my mother, and I went to live with my father’s brother, Uncle Ben. He had 11 children living at home so what was one more?

I remember very little about those days and eventually I too was sent to boarding school.  I went in 8th grade and the school was in the countryside of Massachusetts. I remember that there were soaring pine trees and lots of fresh air. If there were any tensions, they were mostly between the students. I was relieved to be away from the rancor at home and remember that I expressed that relief by being outside by myself in my free time.

I never really did well in school and my father often compared me to my brother and sisters, who did much better.  It was discovered that I could sing well and I was encouraged to take voice lessons. I eventually had a teacher from the New England Conservatory of Music, but because of a lack of support and encouragement, I never fully developed that talent.

I found out about the Mormon Church in my junior year of high school. My teacher said the paper was good, but to make it better, I should have the missionaries come and talk to them about the Church.  They gave me the introductory lessons, but I chose not to join at the time. I finished my paper and got an “A” on it. When I got home to Rhode Island that summer, I had the missionaries over to give me the lessons again.  This time, I was invited to join with the youth group and be a part of their activities and also a part of their families. It was there, in those homes where I could finally breathe a sigh of relief. I saw and felt things in those homes which were totally foreign to me.  Parents were involved and interested in their children. I saw a commitment to work together to make a marriage work and do all that could be done to work as a family.  Of course, in my young mind, I didn’t know these things, but I could see them and feel them, so when the missionaries asked me to be baptized, I said “yes!”

The Church and its people became the example of goodness that I learned to follow.  I attended all the meetings and learned all I could, but the things I learned in the 17 years prior to that from my nuclear family were very hard to unlearn, and I made a lot of mistakes. I have remained faithful through all of it and because of the Grace of God, I have learned that life is a growth process.  I am a better person for all I have learned in these 40 years.  The only regrets I have are because of some of the choices I have made; but even in my darkest moments, I have stayed true to my commitment.

It would take a book to say all that I have learned from my membership in the Church, but the one I will pay tribute to is the Relief Society.  This is the largest and oldest women’s group made up of sisters from many countries around the world .  It has been through the education I have received from this program, that I have learned everything about being a woman, a wife and a mother.  Relief Society has brought purpose and meaning to my life.  With my mother an alcoholic most of my growing up years, I learned next to nothing about my role as a woman.  Therefore, in Relief Society, I soaked up everything: spiritual learning, social learning, motherhood ideas, homemaking ideas, sewing, cooking, quilting…all of it.  I watched from a distance and made mental notes of the things I saw the women doing. I learned about my divine worth and destiny, integrity, hard work, learning, righteous living, service to others, and the joy of womanhood.

Now, lest you think I captured all of this in my first few years of membership and led a perfect life right from the beginning, nothing could be further from the truth.  I had been greatly affected by my parent’s choices.  The wonderful traits that I have listed did not come naturally or easily for me.  In the Book of Mormon, there is a scripture that says:

For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have. Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 28:30.

This is precisely how learning came to me: very slowly, imperceptibly and with much trial and error.  And that is the way life is, it is a slow learning experience which is influenced by our choices and our surroundings. Nevertheless the goal remains the same: strive towards returning home to the God who made you…thus, step by step, I have learned to live better each day from the day before.

The Gardeners in my life

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Today, I was reading another blog and as usual, was moved and inspired to write the author a letter of thanks. Having read many posts from this blog, I decided that it was finally time for me to create my own blog. This blog/journal will be my exploration of the journey my life has taken and will yet take and the lessons I have learned along the way.  I have no idea what the final result will be, only that it will be a journey mapping the insights that I have gained through the experiences of my life.

I like my life. Now.  But, it hasn’t always been that way.

Throughout my life, I have been close to my God, my Father in Heaven. He has watched over me tenderly and carefully. My Heavenly Father taught me the true meaning of the word “Father.”  He showed me that no matter how much I tried to push Him away, He would never stop loving me.

I suffered from chronic self-loathing and could not imagine why anyone would love me. But, this perfect Father, my Holy Father, reached into my life and touched it through a myriad of tender mercies; golden threads of love that he wove into the fabric of my life that brought new meaning and value to my understanding of who I am.

Who do I understand I am?  I am intelligent, spiritual, funny, responsible, compassionate, filled with wonder over God’s creations, loving, courageous, strong, and thoughtful.  I live life well on the side of good and try to do what I believe God would want to find me doing.  Sorrow has been my frequent companion and as it has wended its way through the halls of my experiences and choices, with joy flitting around, teasing me with temporary moments of wonder.  It had never been my privilege to have more than a passing “dance” with joy and wonder. The things I wanted for my life seemed beyond my reach and it seemed my lot in life was to “fight” for the right to breathe the same air as those who would snuff it out of me.

My Life: Now

Now, I am married to a man who is a most wonderful companion. He shies away from any of the accolades that I use to describe him.  The first and most prominent quality I ascribe to him is that he is kind. This may not seem like much to the average person, but for me, who has known much distress throughout my life, it has been a great healing balm.  His kindness and long suffering has brought a stillness to my life that has helped me see that I am not the bad person I had always been led to believe that I was.

I arrived in the marriage over 14 years ago, emotionally and spiritually scarred and bruised. My self-worth was next to nothing, although I never let on.  Early on in those days, he saw my trouble and without telling me, decided that he would never yell at me.  To this day, he has kept to that commitment (this is not to say that I haven’t given him plenty of reason!) He decided that there were better ways to deal with the difficult moments and found them.  It was years before I found out about this personal commitment he made with himself.  I lived with a man who chose peace instead of rancor.

My husband is a gardener.  He loves, loves, loves, to go out and sweat and work with seeds, soil, compost and peat moss, and then lovingly, patiently watch and wait for his tender plants to make their appearance on the “canvas” of his garden. Like a loving parent, he carefully tends to his seedlings and nurses them along, making sure they have sun, fertilizer and water. Throughout the summer months, he goes out every chance he gets, no matter how tired he is, and tends to his garden.  He doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty.  The end result of all of his watchful care is the produce that comes at its specific time.  He is a patient man.

Now, you may be wondering why I chose my first post to be about my gardener-husband.  It is because, like my Father in Heaven, he tends to me and our marriage the same way he tends to his garden. Daily, in the garden of our united life, he plants a variety of seeds; a variety of acts of kindness that nourish and strengthen our relationship.  I make the comparison that my husband’s love and patience with me is a small reflection of the love and patience that God, my Father has with me. God has asked me to trust Him as He works the canvas of my life. Weaving a thread here, clipping another thread there; then stretching me through new, unasked for experiences and lovingly urging me to hang on and move forward.  I have been afraid of the perceived pain; but learning to take His hand and let go of my fears I have found new strength.