Thursday, September 28, 2017

I Believe in Scouting (And not because it gives me a paycheck)

            In January it will be two years since I walked into the Trapper Trails Council office for a job interview and eventually was hired as a field secretary.  At that point in my life, my knowledge of the Boy Scouts came only from my experience as a big sister to two of them.  I admit, within about an hour of my first day, I realized I was in over my head.  The amount of information I was trying to fit into my brain was overwhelming.  There was so much to learn, far more than any other job I’ve ever had.  There were times when I wanted to walk away, but before I got this job I had been praying for weeks that I would find a job that I needed and where I would be needed.  I know this job was and continues to be the answer to my prayer.  I know that I can receive help.  Even when a difficult situation happened today and I felt discouraged, a little miracle happened to remind me of something important: I believe in Scouting.

            I believe in Scouting because today, one of the scout shop employees came to my desk and told me that a little boy had approached him, knowing he worked at the scout shop, and said he had $5 he would like to donate to the Boy Scouts.  As I was putting the precious donation in an envelope to store in our safe, these words on the back of the envelope caught my eye “On my honor, I will do my best.  To do my duty to God and my country…”I believe in Scouting because when all is said and done, all the paperwork is worth helping create a young man who embodies that timeless statement. 

            I believe in Scouting because I know a gentleman in his late 80’s who carries merit badge books around with him in his briefcase and will read them while he is waiting at doctor appointments and such, because “they are the best books in the whole world”

            I believe in Scouting because I have walked into work past rooms where good men are on their knees, praying to God to guide them in helping the young men they are responsible for.  How many people get to see that as they walk into work?

            I believe in Scouting because I heard a phone conversation yesterday about a pack in our area that includes boys from Mormon, Catholic, Muslim, and Agnostic backgrounds. Scouting can be a place where diversity is celebrated and all can come together.  

            I believe in Scouting because I have a spreadsheet on my computer of boys who have earned their Eagle Scout rank and the numbers of hours spent on each Eagle project.  Today, I got a total of those hours.  As of today, for just the Cache Valley service area, the total was 21,272 hours.  Just think of that! 21, 272 hours of making the world a better place! I believe in Scouting because of the stories behind those hours, stories of young men with vision, their friends who lend a hand to help, and the leaders who stand beside them and help shape who they are becoming.  

            Finally, I believe in Scouting because of this little boy.  Jack is the newest member of the Cub Scouts in our family.  He is joining his brothers, uncles, father, grandfather and so many others in a legacy of goodness and truth that will never be forgotten.  I believe in Scouting because I believe in Jack and he is going to do wonderful things in the next ten years and beyond. 

Whenever I get a little too overwhelmed or a little too discouraged at my job, I want to look at this picture and remember what it's all about.  Yes, there is a lot of paperwork and lots to learn and sometimes it just is confusing, but I will take a deep breath and promise that "on my honor I will do my best." Because that's what we do at The Boy Scouts of America. 

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Spirituality as a Fundamental Element in Normal Life

This is part of a beautiful talk that was given by Lottie P. Baxter at a meeting for the Relief Society board and was published in the Relief Society Magazine in June 1920.  I love this speech!

It is said that "A woman without spirituality is like a flower without perfume, or like a statue without the soul." No other quality in a woman's character is so far reaching as spirituality, except the quality of virtue, and a woman must be virtuous before she can be spiritual.  A woman rises to her full stature in the home, in the community, among men and among children, among the sick, who possesses this elevating and refining power.  A spiritual life mellows the lines of the face and a person who in youth had rather severe, hard, features is often beautiful in old age through the softening power of this elevating attribute.  A keen sense of humor is a splendid accompaniment to a very spiritual temperament and gives a perfect balance and poise.  A nature lover is usually spiritual, as is seen by our own dear Sister Wells (Emmeline Wells, the General Relief Society President at the time) Her little book of poems is full of enthusiastic praise of nature and the great Creator.

When the greatest psychologist who has ever lived held that memorable class in psychology with one pupil and said "You must be born again, born of the water and of the Spirit," the student wondered and countless numbers of intelligent people have wondered, what was the real meaning of the Master.  But to the individual who has experienced a rebirth of the spirit, day by day, through a long and useful life, the real meaning is clear and they know this rebirth of the spirit must be taking place continually to lead us to the great goal.

"The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.  He maketh me to lie down in green pastures, He leadeth me beside the still waters, He restoreth my soul, He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake, Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.  Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.  Thou preparest  a table before me in the presence of mine enemies.  Thou annointest my head with oil.  My cup runneth over.  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."

This confidence of the psalmist in God's grace, should be shared by every soul who has built spiritual thoughts upon spiritual thoughts until they have a foundation which cannot be shaken.  And though we "walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we fear no evil" for God is with us. In Relief Society work, it is necessary to have a well-developed spiritual presence, for our visits to the sick and where there is death, lose their benefit if they lack this soothing power of the Spirit.

My sisters, if any of you have never experienced this hope-giving, uplifting power that has come to untold numbers when trials were in their homes, do not let another day pass without getting in line to receive the blessings that are yours for the seeking.  A truly spiritual person is enthusiastic over health, education, work and play.  As we were singing yesterday, I noticed many a person singing with tears running down their faces, which bore mute evidence that they were carrying a heavy load.  Dear sisters, I hope and pray in the name of Jesus Christ, that the spirit of this conference will comfort all of you and particularly you who are heavy laden and that you will be blessed as you have never been blessed before in a conference and I ask it in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

So wonderful!!!


Sunday, August 20, 2017

A Treasure from the Relief Society Magazine

                                                        The Gospel of Beauty
                                                          Alice Merrill Horne

"If God spoke to Emma Smith concerning music and art, should not we, the recipients of benefits, from that "turning of the key" be glad to preach the gospel of beauty? Eliza R. Snow heard the music and sang.  She blessed me with a message of what I should do when I was but a little child. In the presence of Sisters Zinda, Bathsheba, Rachel Grant, Emmaline Wells and a dozen others I could name, she blessed me to bring forward a work which no one else could do and which would bring great joy in its accomplishment.  That call has never ceased.  It induced me to bring forward a law in the third state legislature for the promotion of fine arts and when asked to suggest a study for our year's work, I knew what it was to be.  You all know the response.  Every passing cloud, every hill-line, each patch of color, became charged with a message of beauty to a great multitude of observing and loving women.  Let us take up again this study of art in our society with the hope that the gospel of beauty may dispel much of the ugliness which grips the race.  Remembering always that it is our privilege to flood the world with the beautiful and good." April, 1920 issue

I love this quote! I didn't know who Alice Merrill Horne was but had the chance to research her life. She was incredible!! She was a mother to five children.  She was an artist herself and became a member of the Utah House of Representatives, the second women to be elected to that office and she was devoted to promoting the arts.  She saw to that art collections were put in 37 different schools so that children could be exposed to art no matter their financial circumstance. The state art collection is actually named the Alice Art Collection.  With her help, several artists were sent to Paris to study the masters and come back and paint murals for the temple.  She was a devoted member of the church and was a member of the Relief Society general board for 14 years.  What an amazing lady!!!

Cherry Blossom Walk, Sakura, Japan

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Girl's Camp 2017: A Journal

                                                                Day 1

            I don’t know if I’ve ever been so ready to go to the mountains for a few days.  I’ve got my girl’s camp baseball hat on, my sack lunch in my back pack and I’m excited.  I love riding to Cinnamon Creek with Cindy.  This is our fourth girl’s camp together. We chat along the way and listen to the rumble of the trailer hitched up behind us.  As we come up on the extraordinary blue vista of Porcupine Reservoir, it makes me chuckle to think of the first time I came to Cinnamon Creek three years ago.  “Wait a minute, when did all of this water get here?” I had asked, confounded that I had been living not even an hour away from this oasis for 10 years and been totally unaware of its existence.  Eventually we pull into Cinnamon Creek campgrounds and it feels good to be back.  The next little while is devoted to unloading the trailer and pitching tents.  There is always something fun about the smell of a tent that I associate with having a good time.  Cindy and Louise are my tent buddies this year, and when Shelly gets here, I imagine she’ll be joining us.  Michelle, who gets my vote as the greatest camp director of all time, gives us an orientation and I am glad I didn’t know much about the day to day activities scheduled this year because it is fun to be surprised.  The theme this year is pirates.  We are “treasure-seekers.”  Michelle has brought with her four pairs of wooden stilts, and right away the girls are delighted by this fun novelty.  Stilt competitions between girls and leaders alike start happening and I know the clap of wood against the concrete floor of the pavilion is something I will hear a lot in the next four days.

            Early in the evening we have our photo shoot.  We take a picture of all of us together and then divide into classes.  This is my first year belonging to a class as earlier in the year I was released as the secretary in the presidency and called as the Mia Maid advisor.  I love posing with all the Mia Maids and then laughing as we take our “silly” picture.  Later that evening is our dutch oven bake-off.  One of the things I love so much about our girl’s camps is the fact that we have so many traditions we do every year: the dutch-oven bake-off, the ugly pants contest, Dan’s homemade bread for a snack, and many others.  I love all of our fun traditions.  Cindy and I are in charge of the bake-off again this year and the teams are Beehives, Mia Maids, Laurels, and leaders.  It is fun to watch as everyone joins in to prepare their creation.  Even those girls who are sometimes reluctant participants eventually join in the fun.  The dutch ovens go on the fire and there is a scripture scavenger hunt to pass the time.  Eventually the treats are done, and everyone is to vote on which dessert they like the best.  Cindy and I count the votes as the dishes are cleared away, and I make a joke that people are going to think we stacked the votes because the Mia Maids win by a landslide with their “extreme brownie.” Later on, Takiah and Destinee, two of our Girl Scouts lead us all in songs around the camp fire.  Some of the cute songs I’ve never heard before, some melodies come quickly back from the girl’s camps of my childhood.  I love watching the two sisters together.  It is Destinee’s first girl’s camp and likely Takiah’s last. I miss McKayla, the third Nish sister who graduated last year.  It is clear Destinee will bring the same steadiness and leadership that her older sisters have graced us with. 
            Eventually the stars come out, the evening gets chilly, and it is time for bed.  As Cindy, Louise and I all settle down in our sleeping bags, we hear ripples of giggles as well as the ripples of the water of the creek.  I smile at it all and close my eyes to go to sleep.  But…sleep will not come.  That is my girl’s camp curse. I don’t sleep well at night.  It’s not really that I’m cold or uncomfortable, I just can’t sleep.  I drift off for a while but not very deeply and for the majority of the night I am staring at the moon-shadows on the wall of the tent.  Melatonin has no effect.  A soothing audio book has no effect.  Even prayers for rest have no effect.  Eventually I look up towards the sky and pray for something else. “Is there something that you need to tell me?” I ask.  “If there is, I’m listening.”  The next thing I remember is waking up and at last seeing morning light.

                                                             Day 2

            It’s hike day, up to the old mine, and I’m a little nervous.  Hiking up hill has never been really easy for me, and after a second bout of pleurisy this year, I’m really not sure if I’ll be able to do this but I want to try.  I stand at the head of the trail and in my heart I hear the whisper of the Spirit. “Just take it slow.”  And so I do.   There have been so many times in my life when I have been told by people with frustrated and impatient eyes that I am too slow and that has always hurt a little.   Because of that I’ve always tried to go at a quicker pace, to never be the last one in the group.  But these girls have healed so much of the hurt inside of me and I feel the freedom of just going at my own pace.  There are so many sounds of birds and buzzing insects.  There are so many big and beautiful pine trees to delight my Oregonian heart.  I love walking with my friends.  Cindy turns and offers me a steadying hand as we climb a high bank or walk across the stream.  I make it to the mine just fine and sit at the bench at the top feeling strengthened. I enjoy hearing the girls’ tales as they climb out of the mine after having gone exploring. Not for me, but I enjoy living vicariously through them.   On the way down, I chat with Julie, another leader who is also taking it slow because of her knee.  I love talking with her.

            Just before lunch Amy arrives, wearing her traditional cowboy girl’s camp hat.   I’m so glad she’s here.  It’s not the same without her.   Lunch also marks the start of the Ugly Pants contest and girls are immerging from their tents wearing the most hideous DI pants they could find. But the star of the day is Melissa who struts her stuff wearing a rainbow-colored jumpsuit she (wait for it) crocheted herself.  The afternoon is almost unbearably hot, but Michelle has a duck race planned.  The girls decorate rubber duckies with sharpies and then race them in the creek.  Julie the master craftsman also has us decorating wooden treasure boxes. Later on it’s time for the afternoon snack, Dan’s freshly baked artisan bread.   The air smells so good.  There is homemade raspberry jam as well as bowls of balsamic vinaigrette and olive oil for the savory breads.  It is so good having Dan here as our camp chef.  Last year he said he was going to “retire” and I’m so grateful he decided to come one more year. I’m glad Eric is here again this year too.  Mike Howle came up today too with his funny jokes and big hearty laugh.

            Tonight is our pirate pageant and the girls are all doing a talent, a pirate walk, and answering a question.  It is so delightful to watch them.  I marvel at their talent.  I laugh at their cleverness.  Our three newest Beehives sing a sweet trio of “True Colors.” Lizzie does a fabulous dance.  Kennedy limbos under her sister’s arm.  But London brings the crowd to their feet as she walks up to the stage in a Napoleon Dynamite costume and wig and proceeds to (with a completely straight face) do the Napoleon Dynamite dance.  Every four or five girls, there is “commercial” provided by the leaders.  It is great fun to watch and participate as my friends act out the little skits I wrote weeks ago.  It is hard to pick between the Star Wars and the Geico commercial as my favorite.  As we walk back to camp, I see that Shelly has come, bringing with her ice and all of her wonderful Shellyness.

            Later on, we gather at the campfire and I teach the girls how to play “In the Manner of the Adverb.”  I love watching the fun as they catch on.  I love seeing the smiles on their faces and hearing the giggles.  Shelby and Annika surprise me as they are excellent little actresses.  We play round after round, stopping to make s’mores and roast starbursts.  Sweet Ashley has made everyone a purple beaded bracelet to remind of us of integrity as a pillow gift.  As we settle in again, this time with Shelly in our tent, I once again realize it is going to be a long night.  There are a lot of things on my mind, things I wanted to leave at home but won’t stay there.  Somewhere around 2:00, Shelly and Cindy get up to walk to the bathroom and I go with them.  The moon is shining so brightly, we almost don’t need Cindy’s lantern.  As we walk I think about how grateful I am for these two and how they steady me in my life. Louise joins us soon and we all giggle as the suggestion is made that when we get back to the tent we should talk and laugh for a while and keep the girls up for a change. 
                                                             Day 3

            Tracy comes in the morning and it makes me smile to hear her laughter ring out as she hears stories from the week.  I sure do love my president.  After breakfast there is certification with a matching game and a knot tying class using Twizzlers pull-apart licorice. (Did I mention we have the best camp directors ever?)  Then it’s over to the field for a pirate obstacle course, put together by Shelly and Melissa, or as they are affectionately known, “The Morties.” These two Beehive leaders are extraordinary on their own, but together…they are superheroes.   We are all back at the pavilion later on and there is a card game and a game of Telestrations going.  Some girls are coloring and of course the stilts are in use.  I look up from my coloring page to see that our dear Michelle is in tears.  She has been going to check her phone every day and today she got word that her sister-in-law had passed away from cancer.  It is an expected passing, but none-the-less hard.  Michelle is the picture of grace as she explains to all of the leaders what is supposed to happen next and then says a tearful goodbye to the girls.  It is hard to see her go, but we are all so grateful for this wonderful gift she’s given us of so many beautiful and precious memories this week.

            We have a service project in the afternoon, taking deadwood down off of a hill and to a place where it can be used for fires.  The girls are troopers and I am so proud.  There is no need to tell these girls that they can do hard things.  They simply do them.  The sweltering afternoon heat bears down during afternoon free time.  I use a washcloth with some ice wrapped up inside for relief until Cindy takes me down to the creek for a while to stick our feet in the water.  Oh my, that feels good.  I find balm in both the water and the company as we sit and talk for a good half-hour.   Later on it is time for another one of my favorite traditions, the letters from home and the personal scripture time.  This year the girls receive a “message in a bottle,” a painted black bottle with their name in gold letters and their letter wrapped up inside.  I decide to take advantage of the quiet time and do a little scripture reading of my own.  I am unzipping the tent when a fragment of scripture suddenly comes to my mind.  My prayer a few nights ago comes back to me and I know that this is no random thought.  I know I am receiving communication from God.   I take my scriptures and find a quiet place.  I know where the scripture in my heart right now comes from and I turn there.  As I do, I read the scriptures ahead of it and I am amazed.  I hope I never stop being amazed at this miraculous process, no matter how many times it happens in my life.  The entire passage is a direct answer to the prayer I have been pleading for weeks.  As I sit there I am filled with light, clarity, and strength.  I am overwhelmed with gratitude. 

            Marty and Bonnie Reeder, our guest speakers arrive in time for dinner, along with the bishop and his wife and Brother Miskin and his wife Joyce. Joyce is my mom’s best friend in the ward and she has a delivery for me.  My own sweet mom has written me a treasured letter from home and I steal away for a few minutes to read her letter on my own.   Unfortunately I miss Bonnie and Marty’s talk because one of the girls isn’t feeling well but we make it back just as Marty is tearfully telling the end of his story of a time when he faced danger while sailing.  I watch the girls’ faces as he bears testimony of Christ being an anchor in our lives.  I hear that God used the sky as a visual aid as Marty was telling his story.  I wish I could have seen that.  We all go back to pavilion for wonderful dutch oven cobblers, one of the best camping comfort foods ever.  The cold and sweet vanilla ice cream is wonderfully delicious as it melts against the crispy buttery topping and the warm fruit.  We head to gather at the fire and play a few more rounds of “In the Manner of the Adverb” I love seeing the smiles.  I love seeing the friendships. 

            Tracy starts off testimony meeting with an inspiring testimony as usual.  The world is still as we listen to the fire crackling and the water rushing.  The sisterhood between us all, girl and leader alike runs deep as we get up and share our stories.  One girl shares about how she misses her older sister, who died when she was young, and when she sees a pair of sisters up here together it makes her sad.  But when she sees the type of butterfly up here her sister loved, she knows that her sister is indeed with her.   Another speaks of depression struggles she’s been having and the peace she’s found.  Another talks about how she asked herself at the beginning of the year if she was going to church for herself or for her parents and she realized she was going for her parents but would continue to go.  Now she says she knows she goes for herself.  Girl after beloved girl, story after story, I don’t want it to end.  It is extraordinary to me as I watch and listen to the beautiful youth leaders who have grown so much and give so much leadership to the younger girls.  Wasn’t it just last year that they were first years themselves? One day little Lizzie, Annika and Destinee will be the youth leaders giving treasured words of wisdom.  And…how is it possible that it was so long ago that I was once one of these girls, crying with my friends as we all felt the Spirit together? But that is the great beautiful circle of Young Women.  There will always be a little piece of my beloved Young Women leaders in me and there will always be a little piece of me in my girls.  One day, some of them will be sitting around a campfire, filled with a love of God and their girls.  And so the legacy goes on and on and on.  After testimony meeting is completed, there comes the part that I love almost as much.  Everyone hugs each other as we say goodnight.  My mother heart that longs to give affection is very happy as I hold the girls close and feel the blessed feeling of daughter-like love.  I think sleep will come a little easier tonight.  And it indeed does.
                                                            Day 4

          It is hard to say goodbye.  After breakfast we have the fun of awards and the secret sister reveal.  Thanks to cute little Kennedy, my secret sister, I now have a new love of cocoa butter lotion.  Then it is down to the business of packing up and breaking camp.   Again the girls are troopers as bathrooms are cleaned, tents are taken down and bags are brought back down to the trailer.  I’m grateful for the chance to care of the land we’ve been blessed to stay on for a little while.  I hope the next group enjoys their stay as much as we have.  Soon the cars are loaded and it is time to head out.  I am checking on something with another leader as Cindy pulls out, ready to start the caravan.  I stick my thumb out to hitch a ride and then climb in.  As we pull away and Girl’s Camp 2017 comes to an end, I think about something someone said to me a few weeks ago.  They asked if I was still in Young Women and if that was how I got “roped into” going to camp again. They don’t understand.  I can’t believe I’ve been so lucky.  I can’t believe I’ve been so blessed.   I doubt any pirate, real or imagined, could ever find a treasure as precious as mine. 

Sunday, July 16, 2017

My 39th Year

Hey friends!

I've had fun making plans for what I want to accomplish this year! Thank you for all the support for my goals and plans this last year!

My 39 before 40 cooking list 

I didn't do too well on my cooking/baking list this past year.  I am super excited for this year's list though! I plan to get started right away!

1) Back in the Day Bakery chocolate mint cookies
2) Lemon sugar crusted cake
3) Back porch lemonade
4) Million dollar pasta bake
5) Root beer float caramels
6) Magical hot cereal
7) Caramel corn hot chocolate
8) Sea salt caramel toasted coconut chips
9) Summer fruit pizza
10) Orange sugar ginger cookies
11) Snickerdoodle granola bars
12) Corn muffin coffee cake
13) Sister Layton's monkey bread
14) Mormon strawberry ice cream
15) Softest sugar cookies of your life
16) Cinnamon chip blondies with pecan streusal
17) Luscious strawberry punch
18) California dreamin cookies
19) Orange Italian cream drink
20) 7 up up and away cake
21) Pizza Hut creamy chicken alfredo
22) Fudgsicle granita
23) Noodles and Co copycat mac and cheese
24) Bear Lake raspberry shake
25) Strawberry julius
26) Orange dreamsicle popcorn
27) Bavarian mints
28) Sugar cookie hot vanilla
29) Orange flavored pie-dough cookies
30) Caramel cream vanilla pudding cups
31) Caramel apple pretzel salad
32) Fresh peach sorbet
33) The best darn lasagna on earth
34) Mexican vanilla gelato
35) Idaho potato waffles
36) Buttered raspberry jam
37) Caramel cinnamon rolls
38) Simply sinful cinnamon muffins
39) Buttery fudge popsicles

Stay tuned for pictures and recipes!

My Challenge for the Year 

I absolutely loved my temple challenge this past year.  What a wonderful blessing it was! This year I am accepting President Russell M. Nelson's challenge to read and underline each of the scriptures having to do with Jesus Christ listed in the Topical Guide.  If I finish before the year is up, I will read as many conference talks about the Savior as I can before my next birthday.  I am so excited this year to learn more about the Savior.  I will share what I've learned along the way!

A Year of Learning 

My 38th year was my "year of gratitude." After my last birthday, I made a list of 52 people who have made a difference in my life and I cut the list up and put the names in a jar.  Each week I would draw one name out and then send that person a thank you note to let them know how much I appreciate them.  I absolutely loved my year of gratitude and having a chance to express my thanks to so many people I love.  This year will be my "year of learning." I made a list of 12 subjects I want to learn more about and cut up that list for my little jar. At the start of each month, I will draw out one subject and spend the month studying it. I'll share what I learn on this blog as well.

It's going to be a GREAT year!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

101 things in 1001 days #96 Read Elder Bednar's Learning Series

Hey friends!

This was such a wonderful experience.  Elder Bednar was the president of BYU-I when I was there and I have such a great love and respect for him.  I was friends with his wife too while I was there and it was delightful to see and hear from her in the videos that accompanied these books.  These books are truly inspired.  They build on each other and connect together in a way that is beautiful to experience.  In the first two, there are designated DVD segments throughout the book where you stop reading and listen to Elder Bednar talking.  In the last book, the DVD comes with an interview and several discussions with different groups of LDS individuals (i.e. there is one with women, couples, etc.) I loved each of the DVD's.  Elder Bednar is profound and is such a great teacher and is also gentle and inviting.  The pages of the book have large margins specifically designed for note-taking.  After each chapter, there is a work book type section where you answer some questions and "act" as Elder Bednar counsels throughout the entire series.  I am so blessed to have been able to read these books and experience the change of heart I felt from the Holy Ghost as I read, listened, and acted.

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Monday, April 24, 2017

Don't Miss Out on Your "Elephant Rides" and Other Lessons I Learned from my First Solo Trip to Salt Lake City

One of my earliest memories is of going to the circus with my dad and sister.  I don’t remember much, but remember being so excited when it was announced that they were offering a ride on an elephant at the end of the show.  I remember running with my sister to get in line behind a gate and when the gate opened, Jenni ran fearlessly towards the elephant but after seeing him up close, I got too scared.  The gate closed and the ride started.  Now, I realize that it was a perfectly natural thing for a little girl to be afraid of but even at that age as I stood behind the gate and watched from a safe distance, I had the sense that I was missing out on something I really wanted to do because I was too afraid.  Over the course of my life, there have been “elephant rides” along the way, opportunities and special moments that have also frightened me when I get closer and see them looming up before me.  Sometimes I have stayed back and watched at a safe distance.  Sometimes I have walked through the gate to meet them.  One such experience happened a few weeks ago over conference weekend. 

I had received an invitation from my best friend to come to the Salt Lake area for a family gathering to watch her son be ordained to the Priesthood and then for a potluck lunch afterwards.  It sounded wonderful because they live out of state and I don’t get to see them very often.  There would be so many people there whom I love dearly and it would be such fun to be able to spend a special evening with them.  There was only one problem.  I am very afraid of driving on busy freeways and while I have done it other places, I had never driven on Salt Lake City freeways because they particularly frightened me.    There was just no way it could happen.  The bus was out of the question and I hated to ask my dad to be chauffer and drive me all the way there.  But I really missed my friends and kept thinking about how wonderful it would be to see them and be there to see something special happen to this awesome kid I’ve known all his life.  Maybe…just maybe, I could drive.  For a few days before the event, I went back and forth about it and then one night I thought about that missed opportunity for an elephant ride so long ago.  I was tired of missing out on things I wanted in life because I was too afraid.  And then I had an image in my mind from when I was a little girl, of my mom facing one of her fears.  I had known then that she was afraid but she showed up anyway.  Suddenly I felt the Holy Ghost in my heart speaking to me.  “That is the legacy you have.  You come from people who show up anyway, even when they are afraid.”  I knew then that I needed to face my fear and make the drive.  It wasn’t just about seeing my friends anymore and having a good time with them.  There was a much more important reason. 

The night before the ordination, I put the address in the MapQuest program online and carefully studied the directions.  All the different names for freeways, highways and exits caused my anxiety to rise again.  It was a different language and it made me feel lost before I had even left home.   Then that next morning, I was getting ready for the day and I felt another impression from the Holy Ghost.  “Bingham High School.”  I didn’t understand at first, but then it hit me.  Of course! I knew how to get to Bingham High School!  It was a point of reference that I was familiar with.  I would concentrate on getting there, then put the address in for the ordination and go from that point.  The fact that it was raining as I left Cache Valley did not help my anxiety but by now I was sure this was something that I needed to do.  I was nervous, but got through Salt Lake City alright until I came to an exit that I thought was the right one and by the time I realized that it wasn’t, I was off going in the opposite direction.  My first instinct was to panic but then I realized that I still had the directions on my phone and all I had to do was pull over and my phone would recalibrate the directions based on my current location.  It worked, I got back on my way and I ended up at Bingham High School.  I felt such relief as I started to see things that were familiar to me from my childhood.   I had a lot of time before the ordination began so I decided to take go the extra 10 miles or so down to Riverton where we used to live.  It was delightful.  I stopped at my old elementary school and junior high.  I saw my old house and stopped and talked for a few minutes with my beloved former young women leader who is also one of the dearest friends I’ve ever had.  I had no problems getting to the ordination from that point and I had such a wonderful time.  Seeing my friends was soul-satisfying.  I absolutely loved spending time with them.  The ordination was beautiful and I was so glad I was able to be there. 

As I left to head back to Logan, there was a part of me that wanted to drive on the freeway just until Highway 89 started and then take that the rest of the way.   It was a lot less busy and a lot slower.  But did that mean I wasn’t fully conquering my fear? As I got closer to the exit for Highway 89, I felt good about pulling off and going that route the rest of the way.  As I came into Cache Valley later on that evening, I was very glad I had pulled off.  It was clear that it had been raining again.  When I pulled in my driveway, my parents met me at the door and told me they had been anxious for me because a bad thunderstorm had just passed and they could see black clouds over Sardine Canyon, where I was coming from.  Because I had taken Highway 89, it had taken me longer to get to Brigham City and then to Sardine Canyon.  Had I taken the freeway, I might have very likely hit that storm right as I was coming over the canyon and that would have terrified me. 

As I sat at home safe and sound, I felt proud that I had faced my fear and grateful for such a special day.  But there was also so much more.  I thought about how facing your fears often begins with just the acknowledgement of a possibility, something you hadn’t really ever considered.  I thought about how we are never alone, and how we can gain strength from legacy of those we come from.  I thought about how Heavenly Father had not only encouraged me to face my fear, but had strengthened me and given me the power to do it.  I thought about Bingham High School and how the Spirit had directed me to not worry about trying to figure everything out, but instead to focus on one familiar destination.  Isn’t that like this journey we are all on? We know the end destination, where we want to be, but each journey is different.  Heavenly Father sometimes directs all of us to destinations that are meant to help us take a breath, get our bearings and continue on.  Going to the high school first probably added another 30 plus miles onto my trip, but who cares? And during my trip I made a wrong turn.  During life I have made many wrong turns.  But each time I have pulled over and consulted the ultimate GPS, aka, the Holy Ghost, I have been given directions based on where I am then.  I am so grateful for repentance and the chance to get back on course.   

I’m so grateful for a Heavenly Father who watches over me.  I’m so grateful that he knows me so well and helps me in a kind and gentle way to overcome fear and doubt.  I am so grateful for this extraordinary life that gives us so many opportunities.  As one of my favorite authors Sarah Ban Breathnach says: “Life is full of wonderful surprises if we’re open to them.  Some mornings you wake up not knowing what will happen during the day, and then you get to ride an elephant!” 

Sunday, March 5, 2017

"Only Love Today," A welcoming porch of the heart.

          My father has said that one of the problems in the world is that nobody builds porches any more.  There was magic in a big beautiful porch with comfortable chairs where friends and neighbors could sit for a spell and share a joy, a secret, or a trouble, along with a glass of lemonade.   This image conjures up a longing for a more Mayberry-esque time.  But surely the comfort, friendship and love felt in such an exchange depends very little on a physical structure built around a house, but instead on the welcoming porch that each of us can build around our heart.  

 In this beautiful book, “Only Love Today,” Rachel Macy Stafford invites everyone to come on up onto her porch as she shares her stories, her journeys and her heart with you.  As you look out and enjoy the view, you will delight in each of the seasons of nature and the seasons of life and each of the unique and special gifts they bring.  The book is divided into four sections, complementing each season of the year.   There are no instructions to read a section each day.  Skip to very last page if you like and then tomorrow, start at the middle.  Let your heart be your guide. 
           The story of how the phrase “Only Love Today,” came to be is told in the book and it is a beautiful story.  It became a treasured talisman for the author against the powers of the inner bully and against the power of hatred.  In this book, there is no attempt to white-wash the sometimes harsh realities of life.  This is no self-help book where you will find the perfect a+b=c equation for getting what you want out of life.  But in those three simple words, Rachel reminds us, as Viktor Frankl once so eloquently did: “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”  In every moment, no matter what our circumstances may be, we can choose to feel love, express love, be love in all the ways that we can be.
           I have followed Rachel’s blog for years now and in her I have found a sort of cyber big sister/neighbor/dear friend.  That is the magic of Rachel Macy Stafford.  Her heart and her presence are  in her words.  The image is the reality.  You can trust her. As I was talking about this book to my parents the other night and reading them some of the underlined, starred, and tear-stained passages, these four words summed it all up, “She has changed me.”
           So as Rachel would say, “Come as you are.” Come on up and join us here on the porch swing. Come learn about the power of “soul-building words” and seeing life as a “Noticer.”  Come gain strength to share your stories and your heart with those who are or who would dearly love to be visitors to your own porch.  Enjoy a glass of lemonade while you read and take a long, sweet, deep breath of the fresh air.