Sunday, April 29, 2012

Hot Potato!

As I write, I am trying to cook around 80 potatoes for Sunday Supper at church today. Thankful the elderly missionary couple in my ward came over and helped me scrub, cut out yuck spots, and wrap all of them. Next time I think we should have freezer pizzas.

This week I read an great book, which really touched my heart and inspired me to be grateful for every day I have been given. Stephanie Nielson, the author of a well known blog Nie Nie Dialogues, wrote a book Heaven Is Here, all about her life's experience of being in a plane crash that left her close to death and how she learned to recover. If you haven't read it, you should!

Anyone who knows me knows I like it because she explained a few things about the church I attend, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but regardless of your faith, it is a book that reminds us the power of hope and love. Whether you find that through a knowledge of Jesus Christ and His atonement, or your own personal journey, it is undeniable that the human spirit needs love and hope to flourish. Her candidness and courage in sharing her story were quite admirable as well.

The fullness of heaven may not be here on this earth, but there are bits of it all around us. Our task is to open up our eyes and see them. I've noticed this past month I have been trying to focus more on what I do have than what I don't. It has made a lot of difference to my personal outlook on life. While all of us could create volumes of things we fall short of or wish we had, why is it a trying exercise to write a page of things we are grateful we do have? I know my personal gratitude list looks puny in comparison some days to how it should look.

For a year I kept a gratitude journal of how I have seen the hand of the Lord in my life, but somehow the hectic pace of life got in the way and I stopped writing in it. It is time to bring it back. Maybe this post should have been reserved for Thanksgiving, but I want to live in a spirit of thanks and gratitude every day. Shouldn't we all? What a happy way to live.

Yesterday, I had a long list of things to accomplish, and most of them I checked off of my list. This past week, my back and chest pain has been quite unruly and it finally worried me enough to get me to see the doctor. Quite possibly from the medication I took before my last surgery that had the side effect in bold letters, may cause kidney stones to form, I have a kidney infection. I knew I was feeling terrible this week, but my family says I'm a hypochondriac so I always have to be motivated by intense pain or sickness before I will get to the doctor. This time it was both. Nothing gets you to the doctor quicker than blood, nausea and pain. Nothing makes you miss your loving husband more than that either when you are wishing he was there to get you a ginger-ale and a tylenol, lately he's been getting good practice at it.

Have I taken a minute to throw myself a pity party for the last month of problems? Absolutely, I'm only human. But here is the other side of my resolve, and it seems to be much better than the pity party.

I am grateful for the gospel in my life. Without it, I would be utterly lost and am grateful for the peace and knowledge it brings into my life. For marriage and my loving husband who teaches me to love more fully and be kinder towards myself and others. Truly this past year with him has been a bit of heaven on earth. For being able to pay our bills, and the foresight God gave us to take out money through flex spending and an HSA account, which has helped us to pay the $4000 deductible we had to meet without draining our savings. Beauty, everywhere. The beauty of kindness in my behalf and in the behalf of those I love from family, friends, and sometimes complete strangers. How seeing people serving others brings joy into my heart and inspires me to action to try and create that joy for others. Very grateful I just looked at the clock and realized I needed to rotate the next batch of potatoes into the oven!

Realizing I am short on time, words will have to do for the rest of my gratitude. Empathy. Love. Nature. Stillness. Quiet. Teeth. Photography. Music. Indoor plumbing. Fire. Ibuprofen. Memories. Books. Cookies. Health. Wisdom. Friends. Family. Babies. Art. Modern appliances. Sacrifice. Perseverance. Smiles. Heaven. Bravery. Laughter. Pillows. Light. Internet. Flowers. Mercy. The color blue. Trust. Strength. Snuggling. Contentment. Happiness.

Thank you.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Writing Makes It Better

When we wonder where God is when we are having a hard time, remember, the teacher is always quiet while the student takes their tests.

This has been a yucky day. It's the kind that kicks you hard, where you aren't 100% sure you will be able to wake up in the morning and move because you feel like when you finally fall asleep you'll need to sleep a year to catch up you feel so tired. Today was that kind of day. The day I envy Rip Van Winkle. It seems almost comical to me today is the day I feel utterly overwhelmed, when in reality I had a stinking chest tube and was hospitalized just a couple weeks ago. (I guess the meds must have done more than I thought!)

It makes me very grateful for a wonderful husband, who has introduced me to lots of great speakers and books. And for the Lord helping me to recall things in the moment I need them most. A little while back I read a book called When Your Prayers Seem Unanswered by S. Michael Wilcox. He talks about how we have a fourth watch God. That he tries to help us learn, and allows us to struggle a little to do so.

Here is an excerpt from the book:

The night Jesus walked on the water he calmed the wind afterward, and the scripture specifically says:
"And immediately the ship was at the land whither they went" (John 6:21). Isn't that the ideal finale to
the crises of our lives? "Please calm my storms, Lord, and immediately get me to my destination." He can
do it, can't he? When the storms are blowing in my life, that is usually the solution I desire -- simply still
the storm, at least still it in the second watch. But if we arrive at the darkness of the fourth watch and he
still hasn't stilled it, we likely have learned something-- something wonderful and powerful, something
about ourselves.

The Lord knows all the trials and hardships we will encounter. He will never give us more than we are able to bear. "Before the wind ever started to blow, he prepared us to withstand it." If we couldn't withstand it, He would have stilled the storm by now.

This leads me to believe, that if he isn't stilling the storms, he must know my worn out boat can withstand the stormy seas. I wish I felt like I was in the fourth watch, but unfortunately, I don't think I am there yet. I just think whoever is in charge of the watch schedule made my watches a tad too long. Unfortunately my complaining doesn't seem to be shortening them at all, so it's probably better to be optimistic. After all, when I've prayed for years for the Lord to help me accomplish big things and to be more like Him, I guess I should expect to work for it. What worth accomplishing isn't hard to do?

So I ask everyone as a personal favor this week to be extra kind. Think twice before you say inconsiderate things about yourself or others. Compliment the people around you. If someone asks for help, give it willingly. There is enough negativity and gloom surrounding us every day, try to add something beautiful.

To quote my favorite talk from my church's General Conference this year, "Surely the thing God enjoys most about being God is the thrill of being merciful, especially to those that don't expect it and often feel they don't deserve it." If you have 15 minutes, this talk is well worth your time. Whether you share my faith or not, it is a wonderful message, and was EXACTLY what I needed to hear.

We all need mercy, from God, from others, from ourselves. Because none of us can get through this life on our own. Whether you realize it or not, whether you accept it or not, you need help. And the people who need it most are usually not the ones who will ask for it. Unfortunately people don't wear signs saying, "Be nice, my child died unexpectedly two weeks ago." or "I haven't showered because my house foreclosed and I have been living out of a car." You don't know what someone else may be going through, so please just be nice. Isn't that just easier?