Sunday, September 14, 2014

On the move again

When we moved to our lovely corner of north-west North Carolina 3 years ago, we felt sure this was our last move in mortality. We had witnessed so many miracles and strong spiritual promptings in connection with this move that we were certain this was the place God wanted us to be -- and we silly mortals assumed He wanted us to finish our lives here.

But, over the course of the past year, He has made it clear that it was time to move again. We had actually been looking for a better situation here in NC, as we consider this the most beautiful spot in the US.  (I was going to say in the world, but then recalled some breathtaking beauty we enjoyed on our visit to Taiwan.) After many many months of looking at countless homes in the area, we had concluded that what we were looking for just wasn't available here. So, we had pretty well decided to see what we could do to modify our current house to be a better place in which to grow old. Then, through a series of events, a spot in southwest Virginia came to our attention.

We visited the area and liked it. We came back to NC and pondered and prayed and continued our house hunting here. We became increasingly frustrated with our local house hunting, but felt prompted to put our house on the market and, if we couldn't find anything by the time it sold, we'd just rent and keep looking. It sold. We decided to include VA in our search and notified the nice real estate agent who had taken a day to show us around on our earlier visit. She sent us 5 listings. The first of the batch looked absolutely perfect - on paper at least. We went up. It was indeed just what we were looking for.

And so, we are moving again - not very far, but still unexpected. I don't like being a little further from my 92 year old father. Neither of us likes leaving 3000 feet of elevation and the lovely cool summers that brings. But, I don't believe in serendipity. I recognize God's hand in events from bringing our new home town to our attention, to prompting us to put our house on the market, to sending us that perfect listing. He even put the fellow we needed to talk to right beside us in Lowes so we could arrange to get some work done on the house before we  move. And most of all, He blessed us both with the peaceful feeling of certainty regarding our decision.

So, newly made friends will be left behind as we embark on our next adventure. And new friends and new opportunities for service and growth surely await us.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The never-ending pride/humility battle

Our ward Relief Society had a really thought-provoking discussion on the topic of humility today. The mark of a good lesson for me is one that pricks me and causes me to reflect on myself and repent and try to be better. Our discussion today had that affect (or is it effect? I can never remember the difference. Ah! Looked it up. Effect is the noun)

Many of the comments made were pretty standard, but one really hit me because it describes me all too well. The sister leading the discussion made the comment that too often she wants to minimize her mistakes. ZING! My heart was pricked as I recognized myself all too clearly in that description. I've been reflecting on it since and trying to discover why I am sometimes very willing to admit my failings and stupidities and errors; and other times I go to ridiculous lengths to try to cover up for myself and not let others realize where I have messed up. Here is what I have come up with so far:

In some situations I am very comfortable with the people around me and feel very secure of my personal position with them. I feel respected and valued by the group or individual or I am actually in some position of authority over them. In those situations, surprisingly enough, I am quite willing to admit my goof-ups. For instance, in my position as a FamilySearch missionary, I am greatly respected. I have served 7 years -- few have been around longer. For that reason, and because the Lord has blessed me with a pretty good mind and I have a great desire to serve effectively and to learn, I am considered something of an authority on many subjects. When I am training new knowledge authors or providing in-service lessons for my team, I will freely admit that I don't know something or that I have stated something incorrectly. No hesitation. No feeling of awkwardness. I'm secure. I know I am valued.

On the other hand, often I am not really comfortable with the people I am around or am feeling insecure or inferior in various ways. Those are the times I'm most likely to try to cover up and not admit where I have messed up. I recall an incident recently - a silly one really, but it serves to illustrate. I was helping an elderly sister in our ward get her family history on the computer so she could provide saving ordinances for her deceased husband and parents. We were in the family history center and I needed to sign in to the computer. The patron sign in was not working for me. I managed to get in as administrator and accomplished our task. No problem admitting the problems I was having to her. She loves me and was grateful for my help and we just laughed about it and moved on. But, when I got home, I mentioned the problem to my husband and he suggested that perhaps the full-time missionaries had changed the sign-in info one time when they were using the center computers. He called and asked. Both the elders and sisters said they had not changed anything. Next time I was in the center, I could sign in easily as normal.  Just fumbly fingers the other time, I suppose.

So, one would think that was the end of it. But, a few days later we were at the church and the missionaries were there too. One of the elders asked if I had been able to figure out what was wrong with the patron sign-in.Instead of laughing at myself and saying something like, "Yes, just a senior moment or something on my part. It works fine," I was embarrassed. We had some new sister missionaries and I didn't know them very well or feel comfortable with them yet. So, I walked over to the elder and told him not to worry about it. That we had gotten it fixed and all was well again. Which, of course, was side-stepping the facts to cover up for my stupidity.

How silly we mortals are! How often we do things like that in situations of little import. But, as a reflection of my character, it is not minor. It is evidence of pride. And something to be corrected. Seems that pride thing is just in the way all over the place. Wonder if I'll ever be free of it? Well, I can but try, and recognition of a problem is a good first step. Hoping to develop the courage to admit my mess-ups - regardless of the audience.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Scripture commentaries - an aide or a hindrance?

One of our sons was visiting us recently. We were talking about scripture and each of us shared times when we had read scriptures we were very familiar with and were struck with an application we had never considered before. Which led to talk of how we study scriptures.

Our discussion reminded me of a statement by Ezra Taft Benson (1899-1994). He was the president and prophet of The Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1985-1994. Speaking of how best to benefit from scriptures, he said:

Always remember, there is no satisfactory substitute for the scriptures and the words of the living prophets. These should be your original sources. Read and ponder more what the Lord said, and less about what others have written concerning what the Lord said.
This seems to be a key to receiving personal revelation through the scriptures. There are various scripture passages which are especially powerful to me. And it's not because I learned something about them from a gifted speaker or teacher or from reading a manual or book or something on the Internet. I have learned in that way, but the learnings that have stuck and mattered came differently. They came because, as I was reading from the scriptures, I was taught by the Holy Ghost and enjoyed tremendous "aha" moments.

For instance, I could have read or listened to some wise person talk about the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt as a sort of parable and been impressed. But I didn't. I read that section of the Old Testament that I have read too many times to count, and was focused and receptive and suddenly it was all new to me! I was excited about what I was learning and made copious notes and enjoyed the uplift that comes after spending time with the Holy Ghost for hours afterwards. I still get a warm feeling every time I read those particular chapters of Exodus that had been just a story to me for many years.

In this day when so much of others' thoughts are available to us through the click of a mouse, I wonder if too few of us take the time to do our own thinking and our own pondering so we can receive that wonderful, powerful, personal insight and revelation. It certainly doesn't happen every time I open scriptures -- or even most of the time. But when it does, it's amazingly wonderful!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Tyranny of the Mirror

In his January 1984 essay for the Walnut Acres catalog, Paul Keene made this statement:
The marvelous thing about growing older is the escape from the tyranny of the mirror. The wrinkles and blemishes are there, but we really don't see them. Rather than looking at our faces, we now appreciate more the feeling of life surging through us, and are thankful. There is too much to be done, too much that is wondrous to be experienced, to be held back by a mere piece of glass.
When I read that, I find myself chuckling at the thought that we probably don't notice the wrinkles and blemishes as much because eyesight is fading as for any other reason. Immediately following that thought comes the thought that it's probably the men-folk who are able to disregard the tyranny of the mirror more readily than we women are. And why is that?

For one thing, from the time I was tiny (and I think it is true of women in general - at least of my generation), approval was most often expressed by telling me I was cute or pretty or something having to do with my looks. My brothers, on the other hand, got approval for being smart or hard-working or athletic. Hopefully such things are changing, but I think there is still way too much emphasis on the appearance of girls and women - to the point that we tend to gauge our worth based on whether we are thin enough, or have a pretty face or wonderful hair, or the latest fashions.

As I am beginning to see an old woman gazing back at me in the mirror, I find I am still not immune to the mirror.  Rather than echo Keene's words, I am more likely to find myself singing along with Dave Mallett: "Sweet bird of youth, don't pass me by...."

I find myself bothered by thinning hair -- it's been white too long for that to bother me any more. I see my overweight self and feel like I don't want people to have to look at me. Maybe that comes at least partly from my intolerance of overweight people when I was young and thin - serves me right! I wear makeup more when I am going out and fuss over my hair more than I ever did when I was young. All of which is silly, of course. None of those things is going to make me lovely and young again. But Keene gives me hope that, in a few more years, I might grow accustomed to this aging body and not resentful any more. I need to find peace with the aches and pains and aggravations of growing old. I'd like to be blessed to live many more years on this earth and have continuing opportunities to grow and try to be better and to watch my much loved children as they progress through life. Guess it's time to work on learning to "escape from the tyranny of the mirror"  and to "appreciate more the feeling of life surging" through me. I am incredibly blessed with basically good health and a body that still pretty much does what I want it to do and a brain that continues to function -- most of the time. Time to set aside focus on the mirror and focus more on the gratitude for life and opportunity.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Difficult Issues and Faith

I hesitate to wade into the current mess of emotion and illogic regarding certain social issues of the day. But, given that my blog is rarely read by anyone and more of a place for me to record my thoughts, I do want to record a scripture and a quote that I find helpful in dealing with these sorts of things.

First, a scripture. In John 6, we find recorded an incident of Jesus teaching difficult doctrine. I quote some of verses 60-68:
Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying: who can hear it? When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you?.... the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you that believe  not.... From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.
Lessons learned:
1. All of us are going to run into difficult doctrine. The doctrine where I stub my toe might not be the same as that which threatens to uproot another's testimony. But those tests will come to all who try to follow Christ.
2. It is by design that these tests come. God will sift His people from time to time. He always has done so. In this dispensation, the issues of plural marriage and the Equal Rights Amendment spring to mind.
3. To get through these times, I need to constantly be working to build my faith and my relationship with my God. As I come to know Him, I come to better trust Him and am able to "be still and know that [he] is God". In that stillness I can examine myself. Whose wisdom am I relying on? The world's? Mine? Or the unfailing wisdom of He who knows all?

And, a quote  from Jane Eyre  by Charlotte Bronte:
Laws and principles are not for the times when there is no temptation: they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigor; stringent are they; inviolate they shall be. If at my individual convenience I might break them, what would be their worth?
Sticking with what we know is right, regardless of our desires, or the opinions of others is just not always going to be easy. If it were always easy, where would be the virtue of being steadfast? How would we grow into the beings we are meant to be?

I fear I am not a very courageous woman. But I know what I know and my confidence in God has grown over the years. I hope and pray I will have moral courage when it is required of me. Fortunately I have experienced siftings in the past and know that if I just hold on and trust, things become clear (or clearer) and the turmoil is survived, and I come out stronger in the end.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Beans and Daisies

One of my favorite of Paul Keene's essays was published in July 1983 and titled "Lesson of the Daisy".  In it he talks of daisies and making the best of difficult situations. I quote from his essay:
They [daisies] will grow in the most unlikely places - along railroad tracks, on steep banks, in wet fields. Yet how thoughtful of Nature to endow us with such sturdy, persistent, indomitable examples of beauty created from what one finds at hand.... This wondrous plant makes the very most of circumstances that may seem poor to us. Those copious roots spread in all directions in an incredibly thick, interwoven mat. As if by determined seeking they have found life.
The application to our lives is obvious. We can look at our circumstances and give up, or we can determinedly push down and spread out our roots and grow where we find ourselves. We can decide to make our circumstances have as much beauty as possible. In Keene's words:
Life and power and beauty are where you find them. Nothing is too much work in letting one's roots seek out  one's life sustenance. Nil desperandum: never despair. Take what you have and build beauty from it. It is possible; it does work. In times when the heart is slow, one must remember the daisies of the field.
Our society seems to encourage discontent with an individual's lot in life. We are encouraged to always want more and better. Perhaps we as a people need to step back a bit and learn to be content with what we have. As we determine to make the most of what we have, we can find contentment and beauty all around us.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014


In one of his essays, written in 1984, Paul Keene tells of the problems of dealing with spring floods on the farm. He closes the essay with this observation:
Out of having to cope, and in doing so, one can develop a strength, a depth of understanding, a realization that life does not promise us eternal ease and comfort and release from problems and difficulties. We learn that within us is a power we seldom realize we possess: the power to rise above. We normally use - or want to use - but a tiny fraction of the stamina and sturdiness that are our birthright.... Life goes on, people cope, they rise above. That is one of the beauties of the human condition.
I think he has captured much of the purpose of earth life and of problems during our mortal sojourn. It seems that we are sent difficult circumstances from time to time so we can learn what we're made of. Often I imagine we disappoint ourselves by not handling those trials better. But most folks learn,  grow, and do better with the next problem. 

I'm not sure why it is that some folks seem to be dealt more of those coping situations than others. Certainly we bring many problems on ourselves because of our foolish choices but many are no doubt sent to us so we can learn and grow. And I am confident that they are sent by the One who understands us perfectly and knows exactly what experiences we need to be enabled to progress toward perfection. For each time we get through a difficult patch, we find ourselves just a little stronger and better able to get through the next one. We are further down the road to becoming all we are meant to be.

Bottom line: while I certainly don't go looking for trouble nor rejoice when it comes my way, I have learned that the trouble has a purpose and hope to weather each of my personal life floods successfully.