Friday, August 29, 2008

Sickness and Health

This past couple of weeks I've been pretty sick. First I had a horribly painful bacterial infection and then I got a really debilitating viral infection. I'm just started to regain complete functionality. Now, granted, this was a finite and blissfully short stint of illness. Still, it has made me enthusiastically grateful for my good health! However, that's not what I wanted to write about. I am also grateful for sickness. Not just because it provides a stark contrast for the rest of my life. I am grateful for the lessons it can teach and the beautiful experiences that can flow from it.

First, there is nothing that reminds me of my own mortality more than being sick. Nothing makes me more desperate to show and receive affection and service. And nothing inspires greater introspection. These past few days of limited physical labor have been an opportunity for spiritual labor. I'm not trying to melodramatic. I knew I wasn't going to die just then. But I did know in a way I hardly ever face that someday I will die. And no one knows when that time will come. We must use every precious breath given us to prepare to meet God. For when we die, we will be possessed of the same spirit that we give ourselves to in this life.

So there's nothing like being sick to get me up off my butt and working on the things that matter most to me. Every ounce of strength that is not directed towards getting well is spent on the things that really count. Although sick, it was vitally important to me that I show love to my son and my husband. And, while that was about all that I could do, now that I am better I feel revitalized to attack the projects I procrastinated about before. I know that if they are important to the Lord, He will provide a way for me to do them. It's my responsibility to get them done while I can.

In addition, that reminder of mortality and prick of fear that comes with sickness can, if we allow it, bring us to the Savior.

I also had the opportunity to receive two blessings during this period of time. I felt such an outpouring of my Heavenly Father's spirit at those times. Although I was experiencing frightening physical pain, I was basking in the peace and joy of my Savior's love. And the blessings were a confirmation of the revelations I had received for myself during that time. The Lord spoke to me through the laying on of hands but also through personal revelation by the Holy Ghost.

Out of the crucible of illness can come the resolve, peace, and knowledge necessary to finish our mortal probation with courage and kindness. It reminds me of something I think Jennie inferred once. When we are sick, we have an opportunity to be healed. And although that healing may not manifest itself in (only) physical ways, we can still reach through the veil to grasp hold of the greatest healing available to any person.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Rejected Petitions

In sacrament meeting last week, someone made a comment about how you can tell how much the Lord loves you when you look back on the prayers that he has said, very gently, "no" to. I've been thinking about that a lot lately. I've been thinking about the people in my life and the person that I am today and how grateful I am for the way the Lord has guided my life by saying "no" to things I really thought I wanted.

For example, I remember praying so long and so hard that I would get accepted at the Oberlin Conservatory so I could study harp with Yolanda Kondonassis. I knew that it would be a grueling musical education and would prepare me for almost anything I wanted to do in the competitive harp scene. I remember wanting so badly that degree. I wanted to be a fierce and independent, the paragon of dedication and technical prowess. How far that is from the life I'm living right now! And yet, how grateful I am for the change of plans!

I love being laid back about music. I love being a wife and a mother. I loved attending BYU and using my talents with the harp to help others tap into the Savior's love. Now, I love being a homemaker and sometimes music teacher. And, not to sound so corny, I love being married to Scott. I never would have found anyone remotely like him at Oberlin.

Monday, August 18, 2008

A Scenic Drive

Have you ever experienced a sudden flash of awe, a burning in your heart? Almost like you were being touched by something much greater than yourself? Maybe it felt like an epiphany of the spirit? I felt that this weekend while driving up the canyon to a family reunion at Bear Lake. The mountains were solid pillars of majesty all around us and every once in a while we would catch a dazzling blue glimmer of the approaching lake. I felt a peace settle over me that I didn't even realize was missing.

Usually that is a feeling I experience when praying or when listening to edifying music. It feels like I'm being touched by the finger of God. I know that it is the Holy Ghost testifying of my Heavenly Father's love for me. I remember an old friend at Interlochen Arts Academy telling me that he knew there was a God because he could see his hand in the beauty and diversity of the natural world. Now I understand what he meant by that.

It's been a long time since I've driven out beyond the bustle and man-made aesthetic of tradition civilization. I'm grateful that I was able to go this weekend. And I'm grateful now to know that it's still out there. There's still a place I can go to where there is almost nothing interfering with the awe-inspiring simplicity of God's creation.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

In Memory of Jonathan Berry

Each life that touches our for good
Reflects thine own great mercy, Lord;
Thou sendest blessings from above
Thru words and deeds of those who love.

A friend reminded me today of another friend who disappeared about three years ago and is presumed dead. And so I've been thinking all day about Jonathan Berry and the short, sweet friendship we shared. I've been thinking about how he impacted my life and how grateful I am to my God for Christ-like friends.

When I first met Jon, I was struck by his big ears, ruddy complexion, and contagiously exuberant smile. He invited us to sit with him at lunch. He was a sincere and amusing conversationalist. He said he was going to play Frisbee and invited Jennie and I to come. Is it any wonder that I knew from that moment that we would be friends? He was leaving on a mission at the end of our first college semester and so if we were going to get to know each other, it was going to have to be fast.

Jennie, Jon, Jason, and I played card games together almost every night. Jon was the life of the party. He was hillarious to watch when we played spaz and was always good-natured and energetic.

Jon played the cello and was in my music history class with me. Most mornings we would walk to class together and he would tell me about the graduate level class he was taking in modern music. He was very intelligent and enthusiastic about learning. We studied for our music history tests together and he always had a thorough and thought-provoking grasp of the material.

Jon suffered from depression and there were times when I could tell he needed someone to listen and uplift him. When given the opportunity, I always listened but I never knew what to say. Sometimes we would just pray together. Most of the time, though, he tried to keep it to himself. He thought that his depression was a burden he should carry alone.

Jon was a crazy dancer. We went to Homecoming together and he was not afraid to move! He wasn't really very graceful but his joy in movement was obvious.

When I knew him, Jon lived life to its fullest. He always wanted to extract every last ounce of experience from every occasion. He wanted to learn as much as he could. He wanted to laugh as much as he could. He wanted to move as much as he could.

When he came home early from his mission, though, he was very changed. He had lost faith in the Savior during the trials of life. But it was only the Savior that had power to heal him!

It is still the Savior who has the power to heal him. It is the Savior that will cause him to rise again. It is the Savior who can judge with perfect mercy his actions and will, in the end, be able to embrace him and comfort him in the way we never could. God is so wise and kind! I am grateful for his plan, which is a plan of happiness for all his children. He has provided a way for everyone to find peace and eternal joy, no matter what struggles they may face in this life.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


I just got back from a walk to the train stop in the nippy morning air. It felt wonderful to stretch my legs. Soren and I walk Scott to the station every morning and I really enjoy that laid-back time I get to spend with my family.

I've been thinking a lot lately how grateful I am for my legs. I love being able to walk and run. I love to dance! I love the sense of accomplishment and enjoyment that comes from physical exertion. I love propelling myself through life. I saw a show last week where a guy had to have a leg amputated. I was suddenly very grateful for my two legs. Actually, I should be grateful that my entire body functions properly (for the most part). How wonderful!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Lessons Learned from Amish Friendship Bread

Two weeks ago I received an Amish Friendship Bread starter from April, a great woman from my ward. I finally got to make the bread this past weekend and it was delicious. I'm so grateful that April gave me a start because I've always wanted to participate in this yummy baking pass-a-long tradition. Since making the bread, though, I've had the whole process on my mind. I've been thinking about why it might be important to preserve a tradition like this in our modern world.

Scott says that the Amish, not having preserved yeast colonies instantly available in supermarkets, use the friendship bread tradition to preserve their community's yeast. Someone in the community gets a yeast colony started with all the necessary ingredients as well as the required time and effort. Once there is a yeast colony thriving in their dough, however, they don't want to just bake it all. Then they would have to start the colony all over again! In order to preserve and share their effort, they pull a part of the dough out to make some starters, which they then disseminate throughout the community. Their friends and neighbors are then spared the trouble of having to build a yeast colony from the ground up. They now take on the responsibility of caring for the yeast and, when it becomes time for them to make bread, they will pass that blessing and responsibility on to someone else.

It's a wonderful tradition that is completely unnecessary in today's modern world. Yeast is very easy for us to come by and preserve. And when we use it to make Amish Friendship Bread, we are always putting more ingredients into the dough than we are getting out of it. When someone receives a starter, they should be well aware that they will be giving away three times as much baking stuff as they receive. When I came to the end of my cycle, I was grateful to have been a part of it but wasn't sure if anyone else would want to make the sacrifice that I had made. I thought maybe I should just turn all of the dough I had created from the starter into loaves of bread and give those away, instead of the starts. Wouldn't my neighbors rather have a loaf of Amish Friendship Bread right now than a start for it that would require ten days of waiting and a significant output of food on their part? It's not that I begrudged anyone the contribution I had made. I just doubted that anyone else would want to make the same contribution. In my eyes, the starter was a liability. Why should I pass it on?

So, as my modern mind was railing against this tradition, the starts sat fermenting on my kitchen counter. The yeast colonies grew. And they weren't going to be put to good use any time soon. Until my husband told me that passing on the dough was not about serving other people. He said that it was about giving other people an opportunity to serve. It was about developing closeness and interdependence in our community. It's not a problem that I'm passing along a bread recipe that will require more foodstuff than it will create. That's the whole point. How dare I assume that my friends and neighbors would not appreciate the chance to care for our communal yeast colony! How dare I assume that they would begrudge their friends and neighbors a few cups of sugar and milk!

I passed them along. I hope they come back to you. I hope you get to be a part of a community greater than you. I hope you get the chance to serve. If not, you can get things started in your area.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Priesthood is Restored

I testify that the power of God is on the earth today. The power through which this universe was created, the power Christ used to heal the sick and feed the multitude, and the power that gives authority to perform ordinances in God's name is available to us. This divine authority given to men is called the priesthood and it has been restored in these latter-days. I am grateful that God's true church is on the earth and with it, His power. The priesthood's capacity is limitless but it can also be very intimate. With it, righteous men of Zion can bless their homes and families. When they have been ordained by men holding the proper authority, worthy men of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can lay their hands upon the heads of the sick, the troubled, the seeking, and the called to pour out God's blessings on them.

I am grateful that my husband has the priesthood and uses it worthily and often. I had reason to call upon that power this weekend. I remember a friend once telling me that sometimes the Lord will gives us a reason to need a priesthood blessing specifically so that he can bless and counsel us. This was one of those occasions for me. I received a blessing of healing but it was also a blessing of strength and comfort that I was not expecting. I felt the Spirit very strongly as peace and love filled my heart. The blessing opened a conduit to heaven and I received the rejuvenating and uplifting gifts of the Spirit. I am grateful for God's great love and the wisdom of His plan. He allows me to feel His love and receive His blessings at the hands of my dear spouse.

Friday, August 8, 2008


So, some of you might be wondering why I've suddenly come online in full force. Firstly, it's because web pages can be so pretty and the temptation to design my own was too great to resist. But there are other (more legitimate) reasons. They make me very grateful for this wonderful communications network we have online.

1. I really feel that the more people you get to know and the more people you can reach out to, the more you can learn to love. That's really what this life is all about. As we try to be more like the Savior, we must understand that it is only when we love as He did that we will receive His image in our countenances. There are many opportunities God gives us to learn charity. I have caught a little glimmer of it in my family. My husband, Scott, and my son, Soren, have taught me how to love with a much greater depth of feeling. But if I want to be like the Savior, I must love all mankind. And it would be terribly hard for me to do that cooped up here in my own little apartment all day. So I am grateful for the instant access to the outside world that the internet provides! There are so many people we can come to know and feel empathy for and even encourage and serve on the internet. Of course I think face-to-face communication is superior. But we can supplement our limited capacity for one-on-one time with this near-unlimited capacity to reach everyone who is interested. The many tools online (blogging, email, facebook, news feed, chatting, etc) are equally valid forms of communication that can help us reach each other. Of course we shouldn't "hang out" online all day. Of course there are physically present friends, tasks, and services we must attend to. I'm just saying that the internet is another way to reach out and if we're creative, we can use it to serve and learn greater charity. So, for this reason, I am grateful for the internet.

2. I've been thinking a lot about positive communication and it's kind-of my new cause. I've been listening daily to Jeffrey R. Holland's talk "The Tongue of Angels" and this phrase is always bouncing around in my head now: "No misfortune is so bad that whining about it won't make it worse." I am sure that the reverse is true. No circumstance is so good that being grateful won't make it better. And also, no misfortune is so bad that being grateful won't make that better, too. In fact, I am sure that being grateful makes everything better. This blog has helped me be a more grateful. Writing about the ways that God has blessed me has replaced griping about my petty woes. And if I had a soapbox to get up on and share something important with the world, I would tell everyone to be grateful! Remember the marvelous things that your Father in Heaven has done for you! This blog is half inspired by Jennie Weinheimer and her gratitude journal. It is also half inspired by Heather Farley and her gutsy blog promoting breastfeeding and attachment parenting. (I don't agree with everything she says but I think it's super that she is rallying and strengthening mothers.) Online, we can contribute to a worldwide conversation. I want my contribution to be a positive one and I'm not embarrassed to say that I hope to influence others to do the same.

So, in summary, I am grateful to be online because here I can come to know and, hopefully, love other people. I am also grateful to be online because my voice can be heard and I want to share a message about gratitude and remembrance.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Blessed are the Pure in Heart

So my parents are in town, which is wonderful. I know Scott is a little tired of having company (heck, so am I!) but he's being a real good sport about it and it's nice to spend time with my parents.

We took them to see Prince Caspian last night. Yes, I went again. It was just that good. It was better the second time. There were a lot of things I missed. (Although when I told Scott about them, he was all, "yeah. yep. I know, pretty cool, huh?" So apparently, he gets everything the first time around and I'm just slow. He says it's because he's read a lot of war stories.) It's just a very thought-provoking movie and all of the thoughts it provokes are good ones. I like that.

I was thinking a lot about Lucy while I was watching it. Of course Edmund is my favorite character. We all love a redeemed protagonist. We love to believe in our capacity for life-altering change--and I do believe that Christ can make that change happen for us! But I was really struck by the simple and unwavering faithfulness of Lucy. My sister says she probably represents children. On a more analytical level, I'm pretty sure she represents John the Beloved. But I also think she represents the person we should all be, the person King Benjamin was talking about when he told us to put off the natural man and become as a little child. Lucy was pure in heart and because of it, her experiences with Aslan were very personal and beautiful. What struck me is how richly she was rewarded for her faithfulness. All of her siblings were kings and queens of Narnia and Aslan loved them all. But Lucy had peace and joy and direction even in the most turbulent times because of her faith.

It can be the same for us. I know that Jesus Christ loves us all and wants to save us all. He is very powerful and great. His Atonement will redeem many of God's children and welcome them into His presence. But His Spirit can be with us on a day to day basis if we are pure in heart today. If we seek Him out and make time to feel His peace, we will be richly blessed with it. Lucy was always looking for Aslan. She always knew she couldn't do it alone. We must always look to the Savior. We cannot do it alone. I shouldn't wait for trouble to come unto the Savior. This whole line of thought reminds me of Jacob's sermon to the Nephites. He was calling them to repentance, but he knew that there were some in the congregation who had been faithful and didn't need that clarion call. To them he promised: "Behold, I Jacob would speak unto you that are pure in heart. Look unto God with firmness of mind, and pray unto him with exceeding faith, and he will console you in your afflictions, and he will plead your cause, and send down justice upon those who seek your destruction. O all ye that are pure in heart, lift up your heads and receive the pleasing word of God, and feast upon His love; for ye may, if your minds are firm, forever."

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Sleep, Glorious Sleep

Last night Soren woke up over and over and over again, screaming with intense and inexplicable rage. After the third time, I just dragged my stuff into his room and fell asleep on the floor with him hooked up to the breast. I haven't done that since week one but I just had no idea what to do! Usually he's a very good sleeper (something we trained him to be).

So right now, I'm exhausted. And I can't help but remember that it used to be like this day after day in the beginning. Groggy one day turned into sleepy the next which turned to exhaustion, then dead on my feet by the end of the week. I remember being dead on my feet for weeks at a time. I'm very grateful that part of my life is over, for now. I'm grateful that a sleepless night is unusual and eventually I will be able to sleep with carefree abandon once more.

Rest is wonderful. God rested on the seventh day. He promises that those who come unto Him will find rest. He commands us to rest on the Sabbath. I know that a lot of God's plan is about work, the kind of work that is fulfilling and brings happiness. But I am very very grateful that His plan also includes rest.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Good Media

Today I am very grateful for movies. They are a powerful medium for conveying any idea and when they are used to share good messages, they can facilitate a powerfully uplifting experience for the viewer. I had a professor at BYU tell me once that heaven would have a great library where we would all read the classics and listen to opera. I think it is terribly arrogant to assume that just because electronic media is more popular that it has no redeeming qualities. If we will be reading good books in heaven, I think we will also be watching good television. I do believe that it is a technological advance given by God to help spread the good news of Jesus Christ and the plan of happiness. They can also just be fun, which is (of course) another gift from God.

Last night I went to see "Prince Caspian", which is why I am thinking about this. It's a film about being Christian in a fallen world. The message is that when you stand with Christ, you are never alone. And it's a perfect example of something that is both entertaining and uplifting; I highly recommend it. I think that this movie, along with all the other positive films out there, is one of God's tender mercies to His children. It is an easy way to access a one of the gospel's precious truths.

So if you're discouraged by all the smutty films out there, I don't think the solution is to give up on the entire genre. We need to support the truthful and family-friendly media out there. Let's let true principles flood the big screens and take over this powerful tool of persuasion!