Sunday, December 23, 2012

Tender Mercies and St Nicholas

If you are looking for faith promoting stories, you may find them in the oddest places.  I've been invited to join a chapter of Toastmasters International, an organization that promotes the ability to speak well in public.  Like they could shut me up if they tried.  The first meeting I attended was fascinating.  One person was giving a prepared speech, and then there were opportunities for anyone to give a "Table Talk".  Random topics, 2 minutes in length with only a few seconds to prepare and/or screw up your courage.

One woman volunteered and was asked to speak about someone who had influenced her life, made an impression.  And this is her story.

Maria was attending nursing school, and living away from home for the first time.  It was December, Christmas was coming and she wasn't going to be home for all the family Christmas traditions.  It was December 6, as a matter of fact, and she wasn't home to put her shoes out for the feast of St Nicholas.  She was blue and told her roommates about it.  They laughed at her, they didn't believe that he came early and put candy in your shoes, they'd never heard of such a thing.

But Maria was sad and lonely for her family, so she decided to go with tradition.  She got out her brand new nursing shoes, never worn.  Polished them up and set them outside the door and went to bed, roommates still giggling.

You know the rest of the story, right?  She woke up in the morning, opened the door, and what to her wondering eyes should appear...  oh wait, wrong story.  There in her shoes were oranges, candy and brownies.

The dormitory housemothers had filled her shoes in honor of the Feast of St Nicholas.

To her it was a tender mercy.  She knew that there were good people around her, that family and tradition were understood everywhere, and that God loved her and was taking care of her.

I don't know what her roommates learned, but I bet they put their shoes out the next year!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Broken Fall

About a hundred years ago....  okay, not that long.  About 54 years ago (that sounds way longer), my little sister fell up the stairs.  That is how it is always described - one of those family stories that get told all the time.  She was making a mad dash up the stairs with just her socks on her feet.  Wooden stairway and her  feet flew out from under her.  She landed on her chin and cut it.  Not a huge cut, but she had to have stitches.  It was the first time anyone that I knew had to get sewn up.

According to the commercials for medical alert devices, senior citizens fall on a regular basis.  Not that I consider myself anywhere close to senior citizen status, but the state of Ohio and most restaurants do.  And I have fallen three times in the last five years.  Once, we were having an ice storm and I was working in one building but had to go to another where my company also had offices.  My feet slipped and down I went.  It took four people to help me up and they walked me to the other building and wouldn't let go of me.  No broken bones, just a twisted knee. 
The second time was when Ronald darling and I were dancing at a ward dance.  We were doing the Swing, and I had just a little bit too much momentum and down I went.  Fortunately, I didn't take Ron down with me.  And it only took three people to pick me up that time!
The third time, I was coming out of a storage room in the gym at work.  There was a slope at the sill with no light behind me.  I went straight down, hitting the floor -  knees, trunk and head.  I got up all by myself, with the help of a chair.  I've been really grateful to have fallen, because nothing broke; it makes me think the old bod is not in as bad shape as it might be.
So, then there was Friday night.  I fell up the stairs.  I wasn't running, nothing broke and the bruises are colorful but not too bad.  My face didn't even hit the porch.  I felt a little (a lot) foolish and hoped no one saw it happen!
In my prayers Friday night, amongst other things, I thanked Heavenly Father for breaking my fall.  And I had an "ah-ha" moment.  He is always breaking my falls.  I don't fall up or down every day, but every day I need to repent.  Even on my best days, when I am practically perfect in every way, gluttony and sloth are right there.  And on those days when I was not PPIEW, I did some really dumb stuff (details will NOT follow), but He always caught me before I fell too far.  I am thankful that for spiritual falls we have the gift of repentance.  I wish I didn't have to use it every day, but I do.  Friday night I was thankful that he broke my physical fall and spiritual falls.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

A Matter of Perspective

A few years ago - okay, 20 years ago, I had just started a new job.  Same employer, different job.  I was taking complaints for the bank president.  Just me, no one else.  Next to me sat a lovely young woman who was working on a program for special handling of our more affluent clients' customer service needs.  She was the only one in that function, so they put us together in an out of the way cubby.  It worked great for us, we were like minded and got along well.There were bad things going on in the world.  The first Gulf war, Jeffrey Dahmer arrested, tried and convicted, riots in Washington DC, Rodney King, riots in Los Angeles, Mike Tyson arrested, tried and convicted, the Tailhook scandal, the first man to "go postal", one of the first high school shootings, Ruby Ridge and Waco.

If you are too young to know what all of those are, you don't want to know, so don't worry about it.  My friend and I looked at the world around us and thought that surely we were going to hell in a handbasket.
Then one day she said, "I don't really want to go through the end of the world, but I just wish He would come now.  It can't get any worse than this!"  I don't remember which news story prompted her to wish for the Second Coming of Christ.  It may have been one of the above, or another - there were plenty.

Since then, the world has gotten worse.  I won't give you another list, but it's worse.  Just as it's worse than when I was growing up and when my kids were growing up.

On the other hand (some day I will run out of hands), it's better.  There are wonderful people striving to do what's right against terrible odds.  The gospel is going forward, more people are learning of Christ and striving to be like him.  We are surrounded daily by angels, as Elisha was.

2 Kings:
15 And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do?
16 And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.
17 And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.

Be of good cheer; the Lord is on your side!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

So, Here's A Question

Back to resolutions.  That's where we were, right?
I suppose I'm the only one in the world who resolves each year to read/study the scriptures on a more regular basis and/or make it more study than read.  Right?  I'm not?  Go figure!

Of course, I also (always) resolve to make my prayers more regular, sincere and spiritual.  And to wait/listen for response.  And to make them more grateful than petitionary.  Sound familiar?  Maybe I'm not the only one.

So, let me tell you a story.  Several years ago I went to a business dinner, company wide.  Entertainment, awards, all of that essential business stuff that requires you to be away from home outside of business hours.  Large tables seating ten.  I was sitting with 9 women with whom I worked on a regular basis.  Three of us were LDS.  Dinner was being served and one of the other lovely ladies asked if we could bless the food.  Well, what are you going to do, say no?  So I agreed that it would be okay.  So she and several others reached out so that we could all hold hands while we prayed.  That isn't the way we pray at the table at home, but I'd already said yes.  So I joined hands and then dropped mine to below tabletop height.  I didn't want to be seen praying to be seen.  And, I was a little uncomfortable about the whole thing.

Since then, I've dined out frequently.  In fact, I love eating out, so frequently means at least once a week.  Just family, LDS friends, non-LDS friends, missionaries and just the two of us.  I occasionally bless the food, but not always and never out loud.  Some friends always want to pray over the food, aloud.  Others never mention the idea.  So, I am of two minds.  I am grateful for the food, for the hands that prepared it, and I want it to nourish and strengthen my body, and I'm also grateful for all the other blessings that I have been given.  (Does it sound like my blessing on the food is a little bit rote?  Yeah, to me too.)  But I am uncomfortable making a display of my prayers.

Here's another story.  Many years ago, when we were still in the Washington DC temple district I went to breakfast in the cafeteria.  We were eating breakfast first thing so that we could have the energy for several hours work.  I went through the cafeteria line, eggs, juice, bacon, biscuits...  my mouth is watering.  I got to the cashier and happened to be the first person in line.  The cashier asked me to bless the food.  What?  Yes, please bless the food for this meal.  Turns out that at the beginning of each meal time, they asked the first person in line to bless the food for that particular meal.  Who knew, unless you were that person.  I did, of course, you can't turn down a request like that.  And then, I watched as others came through later, paid for their meal, sat down, folded their arms, bowed their heads and prayed over their food.  I knew something they didn't know.  :)

So, do you or don't you pray in restaurants?  Do you pray silently or out loud?
Is there a right or wrong answer?

Saying Grace by Norman Rockwell

Monday, January 2, 2012

Be It Resolved

I make New Year's resolutions every year, but I don't write them down or announce them to the public. I also don't keep them. Hmmm.... I wonder if there is a correlation?  It's a possibility.

So every year, I make the same resolutions (or set the same goals).  For instance, last year I set a specific weight loss goal, a specific number of pounds to lose.  I didn't make it.  I did lose, but only about 15% of my original figure.  Now common sense and my daughter, tell me to set a goal of 5% of my body weight.  Medical professionals say that losing 5 to 10 percent of your body weight (presuming that you are overweight) gives you tremendous health benefits.  Frankly, I believe them.  I am making that my goal, to lose 5% of my total weight.  But, I'm not going to take a year to do it.
So, there you have it.  It's in public and it's specific.  I will even give periodic updates.  So let it be written, so let it be done.




Wednesday, October 19, 2011

On Trial

Have I mentioned, and you know that I have, that I don't understand why my life is so good? I mean, aside from being old and fat and creaky, my life is really good. Sure, I'd like to be rich and semi-famous, thinner, more gorgeous and with a mind like a steel trap, as I was when this picture was taken. Oh, yes, and with the best selling novel in the bag.

Other than those superficial things, there is very little I would change about my life. Ronald darling and I are getting older, but then, so are you! But we had a head start, so we are getting closer, in 30 or 40 years, to the end. But, I look at other people's trials that are so difficult, and wonder why my life does not seem to be a trial. I have friends with grave health problems, without work for months, dealing with deaths in their families, with wayward children and sin.

And I don't have major issues. I'm not going to confess my sins; I have them, but I'm working on them. We could be healthier, but we are working on that as well. So why don't we have major trials? Not that I want them, mind you. I just keep asking, "Why not me?"

Maybe the Lord won't give me huge problems because he knows I couldn't handle them - or because I could so I don't need them. Maybe I'm so good that I deserve a care-free life. Yeah, right! Or maybe I have trials, but I'm coping with them so well that I don't realize that they are there. Possibly the Lord is helping me carry them, so that I don't feel the weight.

So what is the purpose of trials? To strengthen us, to teach us and to encourage us to lean on the Lord. I found this poem that gives some insight. It's written from the perspective of a man, in the 19th century, trying to decide why he had been born black, when his race was a trial. It is from a play called I Am Jane, written about early members of the LDS church.

"I feel, Sister Jane, that ours is:
Not a curse but a gift t'us,
The best path we could seek
A place where God can lift us
We kneel; our knees is weak

And when one of us is kneelin',
We understand his fears.
We know what all us is feelin'
We cry each other's tears.

That's just what Jesus done
For all us human folk.
He agreed to come get born
To feel ev'ry pain and poke.

So's he could understand us,
What it is to be a slave.
So's he could get beneath us
And push us outa the grave

Would you rather be the massa
or the Roman with his whip?
Would you rather nail the Savior-
Put vinegar to his lip?

Or learn the lessons of sufferin'-
How we nothin' without grace.
Jesus, he give us a callin'
He gifted us our race."

The Lord has gifted us all our trials, even the ones that we don't recognize as trials. And they are blessings, even though they may not feel like blessings.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Who Leads the Lambs Away?

Isn't it strange, I've had this poem since last May. It was used in a Relief Society lesson by my visiting teacher. I was so struck by it, that I asked her to get me a copy. It was from a talk given by Elder Banks in 1999. It's interesting that you can hear something over and over, and then at some point you get that Ah-Ha moment. So this scripture, Matthew 18:1-13 inspired this poem by C C Miller.

Twas a sheep not a lamb that strayed away
In the parable Jesus told,
A grown-up sheep that strayed away
From the ninety and nine in the fold.

And why for the sheep should we seek
And earnestly hope and pray?
Because there is danger when sheep go wrong;
They lead the lambs astray.

Lambs will follow the sheep, you know,
Wherever the sheep may stray.
When sheep go wrong, it won't take long
Til the lambs are as wrong as they.

And so with the sheep we earnestly plead
For the sake of the lambs today,
For when sheep are lost, what a terrible cost
The lambs will have to pay.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Facebook Friendliness

I have 285 Facebook friends. Really!
I have friends that are family, friends in my ward (congregation), former missionaries who served in my ward, friends in my former wards, friends who serve with me at the temple, friends from high school, friends from work, friends from my former job, people who I barely remember, and a few that are in the"how did they get on my list" category.
I use Facebook primarily for church work and family contacts, but for some reason, I read all of the wall posts that pop up every day. It's interesting, fun and sometimes sad.
Like many of you (however many of you there are who read my blog and do Facebook), I have heard about engagements, breakups, marriages and constant relationship upheavals. I've read about births, deaths, pregnancies, miscarriages, illness, surgery and accidents.
I am amazed at the personal details people are willing to put out for all the world to see. They fight with their significant other, and all the details are there. They go out and get snockered, and all the details go right on the wall. Pictures of new babies, new cars, new pets, new toys and surgical scars.
I share some of those things as well, but only in private messages, not posted on the wall for 285 friends, Romans, countrymen and strangers to see.
And then, a couple of weeks ago, I saw this wall post.
"When ur elbows have fat rolls u might have a problem."
Now that's a true statement. I understand, even though my elbows have fat rolls. But did this person really intend to hurt my feelings? She didn't, by the way. Hurt my feelings, I mean. But she has 185 friends, surely some of them are not svelt. One shot back a little - I'm heavy but I'm going to LOL response, and one of her friends 'liked' her post.
Face book feels anonymous, even though your name is right there for all the world to see. The world is a very out there, reality show kind of place. Perhaps if we want privacy, we should keep things a little more private. Just sayin'.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

He Just Gets Better!

You know I've got this guy, right? Ronald darling? Yeah, him!

He has some good qualities, a few anyway. He makes the best brownies in the world. He cuts roses for me from the garden. He does most of the cooking and cleaning and laundry. Of course, he's retired and has a little more time for it. But he doesn't particularly like the way I dress, and he was brave enough to say it.

Actually, he's been saying it for a couple of years. Something about everything I wear looks like every other thing I wear. And he's right. Saturday he just insisted that I go shopping and replace my wardrobe. I didn't want to do it, I hate shopping! I don't like the way I look and I don't like looking at myself in the mirror. Most days anyway. But I agreed; I was going shopping, but for some reason, he didn't trust me. He expected that I would come back with more stuff that looked exactly the same. Probably right. He went with me. We shopped for four hours. Four hours, for crying out loud!
So this is what we got. Two dresses, three skirts, five blouses and two jackets. And two pair of shoes. Now I have to go through what I have, figure out what needs to get pitched and then shop for the rest of the wardrobe. Who knows, maybe I will learn to like shopping. And spending money!

So, when you see me and I'm wearing something different, remember, it's Ronald darling's fault! And if I look good, try not to sound surprised when you say it. LOL

Sunday, May 22, 2011

This May Have Come Up a Time or Two Before

I love to sing. Really? Yeah, really! You may have heard it a time or twelve before; I love it.

A few weeks ago, six sisters sang in Sacrament meeting. I loved hearing them, loved the feeling that they brought to the meeting. It was sweet and lovely. I'd been watching them practice for weeks. They wanted to make sure that the notes were right, the harmony was right, the words were right and that the spirit was right. Also, they wanted to make sure that they didn't make any major mistakes or look foolish in front of friends and family. Trust me, I know. I've been there and done that!

As you know, I've been around for decades. The first time I ever remember going into a church, was when I was nine; a friend invited me to go to church with her. Who knew Presbyterians did missionary work? My folks weren't thrilled with the idea, but couldn't think of a good reason to refuse, so I went. I don't remember anything about the church service, but my friend sang in the children's choir and asked if I'd like to sing, too. Again, see my parents response two sentences ago.

And then , one Sunday, the children's choir sang. I thought my parents would love to come, but they did not want to come hear me sing for the first time in public. Not because they didn't love me - they did! They just did not want to go to church! They did come to hear me, but reminded me before and after that they would not be coming whenever I sang. Just so I'd know!


And that's the way it's been; I've been singing in choirs, school and church, ever since. Holy cow, that's more than 50 years! And for many of those years, I also sang with a group of five other sisters in the church. We'd sing at Christmas, in regular Sacrament meetings and at funerals. If a special musical number was needed, we did it. We were the go to gals. The sisters who sang a few weeks ago reminded me so much of that earlier crew.

So Jane, Mabel, Rosemarie, Laurie and Mary - sure miss you!