SaucepanI often listen to inspirational messages from my church leaders (Conference Talks) when I exercise. The other day I listened to Elder Uchtdorf’s talks “Of Regrets and Resolutions.” One line really stood out to me. He said, “Let us resolve to be happy, regardless of our circumstances.” I have really thought about this line and usually my thoughts are along the line of, “I wish it was that easy. I wish I could just make the choice to be happy.” Believe me, I’ve tried and at least so far, it hasn’t worked for me.

So yesterday while I was running I listened to a talk from our prophet, Thomas S. Monson. When he started talking about how we can be happier, my ears perked up. He said, “I have found that, rather than dwelling on the negative, if we will take a step back and consider the blessings in our lives, including seemingly small, sometimes overlooked blessings, we can find greater happiness. . . . I would recommend . . . that you take an inventory of your life and look specifically for the blessings, large and small, you have received.”

I wanted to take a moment to review some of the blessings I received just this week.

Blessing #1

In May, my husband lost his job. As I prayerfully considered what I could do to help support my family, I felt impressed to expand what I call my rice bag business. For over a year my chiropractor has been selling my products. I thought that if I could increase my clientele this would be a way for me to help support my family without having to work outside my home. I worked all summer, developing brochures and expanding my product line. My sweet husband went around to a number of chiropractic offices as he looked for work himself. Toward the end of the summer, I became a little discouraged. I had sold a few rice bags, but had not added any regular customers. I couldn’t understand why the Lord would encourage my efforts if they weren’t going to be fruitful.

And then my best friend got sick, and I began to spend a lot of time with her and her family. I can remember thinking more than once, “I am so glad I wasn’t able to find more people to sell my rice bags. I don’t have the time to sew, and even if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be able to focus enough to do a good job.”

My friend passed away three weeks ago. My life has slowed down again, and my chiropractor finally needed more bags. Monday, I was able to start sewing again.  As I did so, I was a little disappointed that I wasn’t able to build up my business more. My husband did find work, but only for nine months. His contract will end in June.

Tuesday I received a call from a woman who had purchase some bags back months ago. She wanted to order more for her husband’s chiropractic office. She had lost my brochure and was only able to contact me by getting my name off her check register and looking me up in the phone book.

Blessing #2

One of the most important things my father taught me was that children are more important than material possessions. When I dented the fender of the family car, he didn’t even seem irritated. I have tried to follow his example and place my children’s happiness over my desire to keep my belongings in good condition.

I also believe that items are meant to be used, not treasured. So when my four year old asked to wear my grandmother’s necklace to preschool I grudgingly agreed. I have many items of jewelry that belonged to my favorite grandma and I didn’t think this particular necklace was an expensive piece. My daughter had already proven to me that she took care of the jewelry she wore.

When I picked her up from school, I was disappointed to hear that the chain of her necklace had broken while they were playing in a grassy area. Her teachers had not been able to find that quarter sized heart-shaped pendant. For sentimental reasons, I did not want too loose that pendant. I said a prayer in my heart and after an hour of sifting through leaves and grass with my nephew’s metal detector, we did find that heart.

Blessing #3

With four kids and a busy husband, life can get pretty chaotic. Wednesday, I left the house to attend a church activity with two of my daughters. I completely forgot that I had a pan of broth boiling on the stove top. An hour and a half later, I returned to a house filled with smoke and a very charred sauce pan. For some reason the smoke detectors were not working. I feel very blessed that nothing caught fire and I still had a house to return to.

I named my blog smelling smoke, because of the joke my husband always repeats when someone says, “I was thinking” or “I had an idea,” but this week we were all literally smelling smoke for many days. I grateful that a foul order was the only negative consequence to my forgetfulness.

http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2012/10/of-regrets-and-resolutions

http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2012/10/consider-the-blessings?lang=eng

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RebekahH

Over the last couple of days I’ve gotten a lot of questions about how I am doing since the passing of my best friend, Rebekah. I really am doing okay. Let me explain why.

Rebekah and I met over a year ago when she and her family attended services at my church, a Loveland congregation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We spoke briefly in the hall way, mostly about the challenges of raising strong-willed children. I saw her a couple of months later on Labor day. I was holding the door of our church building open for my family when she approached. She asked if I remembered her, which of course I did. I am sure there are very few people in this world who are capable of forgetting Rebekah. I invited her to sit with our family which she did. I did not see her again until after she had been diagnosed with Stage IV cancer in early October.

Six weeks earlier, Nicole, a friend of mine from high school, had discovered that her breast cancer, thought to be in remission, had progressed to Stage IV. I don’t know a lot about cancer and the different stages, but I knew enough that I did not expect either Rebekah or Nicole to recover. I think this expectation would bother anyone, but it meant something a little different to me.

Both Rebekah and Nicole had young children. I knew what it was like to be a single parent. I knew what it was like to lose the father of my children. I knew that the future their families were facing would be extremely difficult. I was determined to help, and hoped that by the time they passed away their families would continue to allow me to be a part of their lives.

My efforts help Nicole’s family were not as successful as I would have liked. Because Nicole lived I was not able to visit her as frequently as I would have liked to. I had a strong desire to share my religious beliefs with Nicole. She had expressed concerns online about what would happen to a person when they died. However, for some reason, I was too afraid to talk to her about my faith.

When I learned of Rebekah’s diagnoses, I decided that I would not make the same mistakes. I visited her frequently, and when I did, we talked almost entirely about religious subject. I set up a “Meal Train” for Rebekah and her family just like Nicole’s friends had done for her. When Nicole passed away the day before Thanksgiving, my efforts to serve Rebekah increased.

Unlike Nicole, Rebekah knew exactly who God was and I was amazed at her faith. She did not blame God for her illness, and continually expressed hope that God would miraculously heal her. I believe in miracles and had seen a number of them in my life and so this point, I supported Rebekah’s hope with all my heart.

I had recently read a book that talked about the miraculous healing of Lance Armstrong, the cyclist. He was given only three months to live. If I remember correctly, the cancer had spread throughout his body just like Rebekah’s had, and yet he is now cancer free. That man had gone on to make some pretty bad choices. If God could heal a man like that, He could heal Rebekah. I wasn’t 100% certain of my new outlook, because I know from personal experience that God does not always answer our prayers in the way we want Him too. But I was no longer 100% certain that she was going to die, either.

Four weeks ago, I celebrated my 40th birthday by throwing myself the biggest party I could. Even though Rebekah’s health had taken a turn for the worst, she attended and thoroughly enjoyed herself. This was the first time my family had met my new friend Rebekah. I was not prepared for their reaction.

Both my father and my sweet mother-in-law asked me about Rebekah in hushed tones. Their words supported my optimism, but I could read the concern on their faces. Their looks said, “We know your friend is dying and we are worried about you.” At first, I was angry at their lack of faith. And then I became upset. What if they were right? I really had to do some soul searching that weekend.

At the time, I had been focusing my scripture study time trying to find more information about how the Atonement (what Christ did for us) and the Gospel of Jesus Christ could help us overcome the effects of a dysfunctional childhood. I felt that I had been healed but I knew so many other people who had not reached that point yet and I wanted to help them. I had discovered a list of talks (articles) the one of our Church leaders had created for people in that situation and I was gradually reading the talks on that list. However, after my birthday party, it seems everything I read talked about how Christ could help us overcome trials, including the death of a love one. I decided that God was trying to tell me something. I knew then that Rebekah would not be with us much longer.

Because of the things I had just read and my previous experiences, this knowledge did not bother me as much as it had just a few days before. Because of the death of my first husband, I had spent a lot of time researching that topic. I knew exactly where Rebekah would be going, and what she would be doing when she got there. I knew that she would still be interacting with those of us she left behind (See Eternal Perspective post). I knew she would be happy and peaceful there.

I know I’ve mentioned this teaching before, but I’m going to quote it again because it is important:

“Jesus Christ, is our Savior and Redeemer, whose Atonement not only provides for salvation and exaltation but also will compensate for all the unfairness of life.”
Elder Quentin L. Cook, https://www.lds.org/liahona/2011/11/the-songs-they-could-not-sing?lang=eng

http://www.dictionary.com states to compensate means to provide or be an equivalent; make up; make amends. The Savior cannot return Rebekah to us, but He can make up her loss to us. He can make us whole again. As I’ve mentioned before, I know this is true because I’ve seen this in my life and the lives of my children after the death of their father. I have also witnessed miraculous healing power of the Atonement, as I was finally able to let go of the negative feelings I had for my mother just weeks before she passed away. Once again, I was healed and made whole.

I also know this is statement is true because God has written in on my heart through the power of His Spirit. I know this is true just like I know that the sun will rise tomorrow. Christ can heal any hurt. It just so happens that this time He chose to heal me before I lost my friend, not after.

Trust me. When I say I’m doing well, I mean it. Rebekah’s in a better place. Her family is going to be okay. I’ll miss her, but I’ve gained valuable experience and new friends and family members to love through knowing Rebekah. I’ve already been compensated for my loss.

Mountains

Often the deep valleys of our present will be understood only by looking back on them from the mountains of our future experience. Often we can’t see the Lord’s hand in our lives until long after trials have passed. Often the most difficult times of our lives are essential building blocks that form the foundation of our character and pave the way to future opportunity, understanding and happiness.
Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Ensign, May 2010, 58

The experience in my life that best fits this quote has to do with one of my greatest challenges as a parent. My husband and I were forced to admit that one of our daughters suffered from mental illness when her second grade teacher urged us to take our daughter to counseling. We followed the teacher’s advice, but by the time my daughter was in middle school, her depression had only deepened.

Her struggle with depression was very difficult for the whole family. Our home was filled with constant turmoil and contention. I felt like this daughter was always in trouble. I became obsessed with her condition which led to my own depression. We had no idea how to overcome this trial. Those were dark days.

Years later, I cannot express the joy I feel when I see this daughter laugh or smile. She still had days, like the rest of us, when she’s hard to be around, but for the most part, her depression is gone. Occasionally, we have issues with how she interacts with other members of the family, but other than that, I couldn’t ask for a more obedient child.

Now that this trial has past, I can look back and list the blessings we received from this experience. During that time, I began attending the Addiction Recover Group which has drastically changed my life for the better. In an effort to help her, we made changes in the way our family eats and that has benefited all of us. We were able to discover that my daughter is Autistic, a diagnosis which helped us significantly. We were now able to explain behaviors that before were hard to understand. This new knowledge helped us change how we parented which had a positive result. We received yet another witness that our prayers were heard and answered. This trial was very difficult to overcome, but it was worth it.

http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2010/04/continue-in-patience?lang=eng

Child Praying

If all the sick for whom we pray were healed, if all the righteous were protected and the wicked destroyed, the whole program of the Father would be annulled . . .No man would have to live by faith. . . There would be little or no suffering, sorrow, disappointment, or even death, and if these were not, there would also be no joy, success, resurrection, nor eternal life.
Spencer W. Kimball, As quoted by Malcolm S. Jeppsen, Ensign, May 1994, 17

I’ll admit that I do not understand why there has to be opposition in all things, why we would not know joy without suffering. I’d like to think that my love for God is strong enough that I would depend on Him even if I was trial free, but I’ve never been without some kind of affliction. I do understand that with our physical bodies, without resistance, or something to push against, our muscles and bones cannot become stronger. I guess our spirits work the same way.

I do not understand why faith is more powerful than knowledge. I’d like to think I would obey even if I knew. I do understand that God does not make Himself known to mankind as a whole to protect those that would not obey even when they had a sure knowledge.

Even though I don’t understand completely why God does the things He does, I trust Him. I trust that His “program” is one that is carefully designed and overseen. Even though my life has not been easy, and my prayers have not always been answered in the way that I want them to, I know God loves me.

2013-09-21 17.19.36

Your Father in Heaven and His Holy Son know better than you what brings happiness.
Richard G. Scott

I have been thinking a lot about this quote after a conversation I had with my father. The conversation took place after my birthday party a couple weeks ago. To make sure I didn’t get depressed about turning 40, I decided I to have a more elaborate get-together than I normally do. Since my husband had been out of work for five months and had not yet received a paycheck from the three jobs he was now working, I had no money for presents or decorations. All I could provide for my guests was food. The only reason I could do that was because we had a surplus on our food stamps card. Because my husband was never home, I basically had to do all the preparations by myself.

Point being—at the end of my party—which did turn out nicely—I was exhausted and still a little frustrated. My father, noting my fatigue, made a comment about life being a negative thing (I won’t quote him since he likes to use “colorful metaphors.” Without a moment’s thought, I corrected him. “No, Dad, I have a good life. I’m just tired.” He actually thanked me for correcting him, most likely a first time event.

My dad and I live at almost exact opposite ends of the spectrum. He has retired and so can spend almost his entire day doing what he wants to do. He is financially secure. If he wants something, he buys it He has so many belongings that he has to rent a storage unit to house them all. He had a successful career and has a long list of accomplishments. Any yet, he’s not happy

For the first time in a long time, I felt grateful for my full life. I realized that my life was full of things God knew would make me happy, not the things I thought would. Where I in charge I probably would have chosen a life similar to my father’s. I’m glad I’m not in charge.

“Trust in the Lord,” https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1995/10/trust-in-the-lord?lang=eng

Tall Green Tree
A friend once told me she had been taught that for those that love Him, our Father in Heaven answers prayers in three ways:

1. Yes
2. Not yet
3. I have a better way

I have really been thinking about her words lately as another friend is, most likely, preparing to return to her heavenly home. She will leave behind a husband and three beautiful daughters. For over a year now, many of us have been praying for her recovery, that her life might be spared. While I know God could still heal her at any moment, I believe the answer we have received to these prayers is the last one on the list. I know it may be hard for many to understand how taking a mother from her young family could be considered a better path than allowing her to remain here. I wanted to share my thoughts on the matter.

Russell M. Nelson, one of the Twelve Apostles, has said, “From an eternal perspective, the only death that is truly premature is the death of one who is not prepared to meet God”( http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2011/04/face-the-future-with-faith?lang=eng). It has been obvious to me that my friend has already learned the lessons that usually take a life time to learn and she is prepared to meet God. Her life here has been challenging and I know she has earned the right to “enter into the rest of the Lord” (Moroni 7:3, http://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm/moro/7). The future she has in store will be glorious and wonderful. I agree that life for her there will be better than it was here.
A modern day prophet has stated:

I believe we move and have our being in the presence of heavenly messengers and of heavenly beings. We are not separate from them. . . . How much more certain it is . . . to believe that those who have been faithful, who have gone beyond . . . can see us better than we can see them; that they know us better than we know them. . . . We live in their presence, they see us, they are solicitous for our welfare.
Joseph F. Smith, (http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2012/04/how-to-obtain-revelation-and-inspiration-for-your-personal-life?lang=eng).

My friend will still be a part of her children’s life. In fact, her role in their lives will no longer be limited by “our finite condition, surrounded by our mortal weaknesses”(Smith, reference above). So in a way, you might say that her ability to be a good mother to the children will be enhanced and broadened. She can be with them now whenever they need her, even while they are at school or other places where when she was in her physical body she usually couldn’t go.

As for the family she left behind, I believe that they will be compensated for her loss. How do I know this? I’ve seen it in my own life. My first husband was killed when our children were six and four, over eight years ago. While I’m not to the point that I can say their life is better that it would have been if he had lived, I can say it is just as good. I feel like God has provided them with the blessings and healing that they needed. They miss their dad and always will, but I don’t think their life is less joyful or complete because they can’t see or hear him when he is near.

My church leaders have taught us many times that the Atonement compensates for all unfairness in life. I know taking my friend home so early might seem unfair. But I honestly believe that God will make up her loss to her husband and children. They can be an eternal family someday, and this separation will seem but a moment. For those of us her grieve her loss, we now have the wonderful opportunity of acting as God’s hands as we serve her family.

MP900315598

I found this list of questions in an article I read the other day. I thought that they were helpful in determining why we have the experiences we do. The author went on to say, “Many of life’s most important lessons are learned from the trials and challenges we experience.”

Is there anything I have learned or can learn from this experience?

Are there others who have experienced something like this whom I could emulate?

Can I develop increased compassion for others and their difficulties because of this experience?

Can this bring me closer to God?

https://www.lds.org/ensign/2013/09/the-healing-balm-of-hope?lang=eng