Sunday, November 30, 2008


I love Thanksgiving! I'm sorry I didn't get in on the online spirit of thankfulness and put up a big list but I was a little busy over the holiday. Wonderfully busy.

I did take time to be grateful. Even better, I got to hear friends and family members be grateful. We counted our blessings while we ate our pomegranate, sitting around the picked-over table and feeling satisfied. The time spent united in thankfulness was a wonderful blessing in and of itself.

Now that I'm back on the internet, making the rounds, the joy of Thanksgiving is hitting me all over again. All of your blogs are tender mercies to me today. Reading about the things you are grateful for reminds me all over again of God's love.

In church today, one of the speakers said something that encapsulates how I feel about Thanksgiving. He said, "Gratitude helps us feel the constant flow of blessings between the heavens and us." And that's so true. God loves us and He is always blessing us. But when we are grateful, we notice those blessings.

From personal experience, I know that recognizing His tender mercies makes them that much more powerful.

And at Thanksgiving, we're all doing it! We're all being grateful! We're creating our massive lists and recognizing God's hand in every aspect of our lives! No wonder the world seems a little brighter and more full of hope on Thanksgiving.

I've been thinking today about how glad I am that we kick off the holiday season with a day of gratitude. It's a day when no one receives anything but is grateful for the things they already have.

With this blog and in my daily prayers, I try to observe a spirit of gratitude every day. But oh, how I love Thanksgiving! There is power in that special day.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


I am so grateful for food, in all its marvelous varieties.

Last weekend, Scott and I went grocery shopping to pick up our Thanksgiving essentials. We purchased turkey and potatoes and onions and garlic (lots of garlic). We got pumpkin for a decadent pie and creamed corn for a hearty stuffing. We also picked up vanilla ice cream and assorted aromatics.

But most importantly, we got our yearly pomegranate.

A few years ago, Scott and I started our very first tradition as a fledgling family. It was Thanksgiving and pomegranates were on sale at Smith's. I'd never had one before and they looked so tasty. Scott taught me how to pick a good one: you pretty much want the heaviest one you can find--as long as it's without blemishes.

I remember how we carried our Thanksgiving purchases home that year. The bags banged against my legs as we walked across the street to our complex then carried them up the outer staircase and turned the key to our door. Our one-room studio apartment was small and frigid; it seemed completely incongruous with the rich mound of groceries we piled on the kitchen table. And the most exciting treasure in that plentiful collection was our pomegranate.

As soon as the rest of the food was put away, we broke into the exotic delicacy. As we peeled away the rind and filled a bowl with the tiny fruit-covered seeds, Scott told me about pomegranates.

The pomegranate carried great significance for the Hebrews. Firstly, it was a symbol of fertility. One fruit carries upwards of 600 seeds! The Hebrew high priest wore a robe decorated with a trim shaped like dangling pomegranates to remind the people of God's promise that Abraham's seed would number more than the stars in the sky or grains of sand on the seashore. In the desert, the people would multiply just like the pomegranate.

In addition, the moisture-hogging plant that bore pomegranate fruits was expensive to maintain in the desert, at least in the time before Christ. In spite of their delicious and useful yield, pomegranates were very rare and consequently associated with royalty. Tradition has it that Solomon modeled his crown after the calyx on top of the fruit. From this comes the traditional spiked ring we think of as a crown today. The delicious little seeds were rarely eaten and the bright dye was jealously hoarded to make a king's purple robes.

This fruit of priests and kings, this rare delicacy of ages past, was ours to enjoy on that chilly November afternoon. Scott and I were students and newly married, living on below-poverty-level wages in the cheapest apartment we could find. But we could afford that pomegranate, a luxury anciently reserved for royalty.

That stark contrast between our bountiful lives and the meager lifestyle of our predecessors brought into sharp relief our need to be grateful. As we enjoyed the sweet fruit of the pomegranate and stained our fingers with its purple dye, we talked about God's tender mercies. Our gratitude was especially sweet that year as we considered what we had, not what we lacked.

This year, our circumstances seem opulent to me. Yet with our cupboards overflowing with bounty and our stomachs rumbling in anticipation, it is the tradition of the pomegranate that I most look forward to. The symbol of the pomegranate seems even more potent to me now. I have been granted queenly blessings for the time being and promised a divine inheritance in the life to come.

There is much to be thankful for.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Scott often teases me about my desire for trials. Yesterday he painted a verbal picture of our family in apocalyptic times for me. He said, "I can just see us, gathered around a pitiful fire in the freezing cold. Over the coals would be hanging our dinner: a pot of water with chopped up leather shoes floating in it. And still you'd be saying, 'It's just not fair! There are people out there without even shoes to eat! We're not being tried enough!'"

His jokes sting because they're true, to a certain degree. Sometimes I really am that ungrateful.

While I have so much to be thankful for, I'm increasingly uncomfortable with my ease, happiness, and prosperity. I don't have to look far to see people who are hungry, cold, lonely, confused, or ignorant through no fault of their own. I sometimes wish I could trade places with them. Sometimes I wish I could give them my secure and comfortable life while taking on their challenging one.

It's never a good idea to wish for trials.

But I sometimes wonder: Does God think I just couldn't handle it? Then I realize it's my pride and not my compassion that has got me pining for trouble.

I told Scott yesterday, "One of these days we're going to wake up and find we've lost everything. And you won't be cursing God, you'll be cursing me. It'll be my fault for wishing some great challenge on us."

So, instead of wishing for challenges, I'm trying to understand why I've been blessed as I have. And when I'm feeling particularly brave, I'm trying to gather my resources and pit myself against my neighbors' challenges.

Because I have been given much, I too must give.
Because of thy great mercy, Lord, each day I live.
I shall divide my gifts from thee with every brother that I see,
Thus shall my thanks be thanks indeed.

When I see the inequality in this world and wonder why I emerge unscathed, I learn about the efficiency of God. He allows some of us to be rich and some of us to be poor (either temporally or spiritually) so that we will rely on each other. And the long-suffering saint who gives her widow's mite is no more tried than the wealthy man who is asked to give up everything.

As one who has known little sorrow or misfortune, I am still called to give everything that I have for the building up of Zion. I must gladly receive God's blessings and then turn around and consecrate them all to His work.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Spiritual Fuel

In Relief Society yesterday, we talked about L. Tom Perry's most recent conference address, "Let Him Do It with Simplicity". In this talk, Elder Perry discusses the four basic necessities of life: food, clothing, shelter, and fuel (both temporal and spiritual).

In these trying financial times, it's easy to be grateful for the necessities (and comforts) I have that money can buy. I try to acknowledge daily that it is by the grace of God that I am fed, clothed, and housed.

But sometimes I forget to thank my Heavenly Father for the bountiful spiritual fuel I receive. It is that most vital fuel that lends me energy and optimism in trying times.

And although I'm usually not as grateful when life is cushy, spiritual fuel is vital in more than just trying situations. My spirit needs constant feeding just like my body does. Christ calls himself the bread and water of life and we are counseled to feast of His words. Too often, though, I find myself starving and thirsting unnecessarily. Denying my spirit sustenance stunts my spiritual growth and leaves me weak and unprepared for challenges. On the other hand, when I spend time every day in prayer and scripture study, I enjoy the attendant blessings.

And still, just as with the temporal blessings I work to enjoy, spiritual fuel is a gift from God and always will be, no matter how hard I work to receive it. My Father has given me His Word, which alone is a tender mercy. In return, He asks that I study and obey. As I try to show Him my gratitude for the words of the prophets by reading and pondering on them, He in turn blesses me with the even greater gift of personal revelation and the accompaniment of His Spirit. Still in His debt, I try to use those gifts to better serve Him but, as I do so, He increases my faith, my hope, and my capacity to love. He makes me over in His image, which is the greatest blessing I could ask for.

These are blessings I could never earn. They are tender mercies from a loving God.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Enough Eggs

I was sitting on a stool in Alisha's kitchen, crunching graham crackers in a plastic bag to make cheesecake crust. The window behind me was open and frigid air was brushing against my back and up my skirt. The oven in front of me was preheating and even with the door closed, it's warmth spilled into the room. Between the chilly November afternoon at my back and the powerful heat of baking at my front, the room was very comfortable.

Alisha and I were baking for a bridal shower. Our sons were squawking at each other in the next room and the kitchen air was thick with devastatingly delicious smells. I couldn't think of a more pleasant way to spend the afternoon.

"You know, I have exactly the right number of eggs," Alisha commented to me, while cracking a few into her whirling blender.

I smiled and kept crunching crackers, turning them to powder between my fingers.

"I mean, exactly the right amount," she said, turning off the blender and facing me. "Enough for all my baking and then exactly enough left to make deviled eggs to fill this dish."

She wiped her hands on her apron and left the spinning blender blades to hold up a plastic serving dish. I looked up from my task and saw it was a round platter with grooves set in for about twenty eggs.

"Wow, that's cool," I said. "What a coincidence."

Alisha chided, "No, it's not a coincidence. It's because God understands." She smiled as she checked on her batter. "God loves me and He made sure I had enough eggs."


Later that evening, I was fixing dinner for my downstairs neighbors.

I would have survived without, but when I opened my egg carton and found just enough eggs for the baked macaroni and cheese I had planned, I felt God's love wash over me. Tears filled my eyes and I fell to my knees in a prayer of thanksgiving.

Such a simple thing. But God loves me and He made sure I had enough eggs.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Scott's Work with Translation

After I finished my post yesterday, I continued thinking about the value of the scriptures. In particular, I was thinking about the peace I had found while reading the Doctrine and Covenants.

Then my husband came home from his business trip in California. He spent a week there, assembling and training the team who would translate the Doctrine and Covenants into Hmong. It was a long week for me and I was so glad to see him again.

But even as I embraced him, I realized how important that trip had been. I wouldn't have kept him here for anything. I am so proud of him and so grateful to be a part of the work he is doing. After enjoying that very book he was working to offer the Hmong people, I want to offer everything I have, even the precious time spent with my husband, to build up the kingdom of God.

Scott's job is a tender mercy from the Lord to us. Even when he is traveling.

Friday, November 14, 2008

There is Hope Smiling Brightly Before Us

It seems I can't turn around without reading or hearing another scary story. Financial ruin all over the world; "anthrax" at the Salt Lake and Los Angelos temples; wars in Israel, Iraq, Afghanistan, Congo, Somalia, and South Osetia; devastating earthquakes and hurricanes; parents killing children; children killing parents; and people dying from hunger, disease, and cruelty all over the world.

This is a frightening world we live in.

Sometimes I wonder who's in charge here. Sometimes I want to cry out, "O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place?"

God answers even those doubting cries, as he answers all my prayers. He answers them with knowledge, strength, and peace. He answers them through His holy scriptures and the gift of the Holy Ghost.

The prophets have written about our day for millenia. The calamities we face daily have been prophesied and their resolution has been promised. And these prophesies, especially those found in the book of Revelation and section 88 of the Doctrine and Covenants, have been a tender mercy from my Father this week. As I have read and seen our day reflected in the sometimes obscure language, I have been strengthened. My mind has been expanded to include more than our present tumultuous circumstances; it has seen through this crucible to the great day when our Lord comes again.

Because of this scriptural study and the affirming power of the Spirit, I can say this with certainty: God is real. When He set His plan in motion, He knew all of this would happen. He knew it and He still gave us our agency. He gave us the power to choose it for ourselves. Then He prepared a way to save us all, to heal our broken society, and to usher in His kingdom. That way is Christ. Christ can heal each of us individually--this very day!--if we choose to follow His plan for us. But the day will come when Christ will return to set the whole earth aright.

We cannot know the hour of His coming but we can see the signs all around us. Some of the prophesies are still unfulfilled, but I know that God cannot lie and those events will take place. Perhaps it will not happen in my lifetime, but there is hope in knowing that all the promises of God will be fulfilled.

And when the signs of His coming have all been shown, I know He will come again.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Election is Over

Scott brought home a copy of a speech given by a general authority of the LDS church in 1978 for me today. It was very pertinent to the dilemma church members in California faced yesterday when voting on Proposition 8. I found it reaffirming and my first thought (after thanking God for the foresight of our leaders) was, I have to put this on my blog!

And then I remembered that the voting is over, Proposition 8 was successful, and the time for arguments is over.

I'm glad that California, Arkansas, and Florida were successful in banning gay marriage in their states. I'm disappointed that my presidential candidate of choice, Bob Barr, took 0 electoral votes (although that was to be expected). I'm glad Jim Matheson will be representing my district in the House of Representatives and wary of the pricy bonds my city will be taking out to finance zoo and aviary renovations.

However, the emotion I feel most strongly is relief. I am so glad that the time for debating is over and the time for peacemaking has come.

Which is true for every election or proposition voted on yesterday. No matter who or what won, I'm just glad that the races are over and the contention can cease. Whether or not we agree with the politicians and policies in place, it's time to band together as Americans and do the best with what we've got. It's time to pull up our bootstraps and get to work. And it's definitely time to show a little more love for those with a different worldview.

Happily, I heard a reiteration of this in Obama's acceptance speech. I'm glad he understands that, in these rough times, every hand is needed to alleviate suffering and right wrongs. I heard in his speech an admission that the government can't solve our problems, it can only lead us to solve them ourselves.

And so this is definitely not the time to throw up our hands and abandon our leaders or laws just because we didn't vote for them. Voting is not the only contribution we make to our nation. It's only the beginning. Now is the time to really get involved.

And that's the blessing of an ended election. As "exciting" as these past few months have been, the important work begins now. And a great day of unity is coming.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Vote

It was sleeting so I didn't walk to the polls. I strapped Soren into his car seat instead of his sling and we drove the half-mile to our voting location. I ran from the car into the elementary school, carrying Soren, hunched over to shield him from the freezing rain.

My neighbor, Steve, was one of the voting administrators. I showed him my ID and registration card, explaining that they'd spelled my name wrong (shocker) and would I still be able to vote? He said, "No problem" and gave me a pen to sign the list. Then he passed the voter access card across the table to me and offered a sticker to Soren.

It was still early so there weren't any lines. I balanced Soren on my hip while I touched the electronic voting machine's screen. I got a thrill when my votes were recorded and, although I knew my preferences wouldn't be upheld in every circumstance, I was proud to be a part of the decision-making process. This is my America.

I waved at Paula and Pedro, more neighbors, on my way out. Their 3-year-old daughter was dancing on the auditorium stage while her parents cast their ballots. When she saw me, she stopped and stared with solemn eyes. I hugged Soren tight to me; this is their America, too.

And since then I've been thinking about America and democracy. I've been grateful for God's hand in the forming of this nation, which makes my right to vote a gift from Him. I am grateful for God-given agency and its political counterpart: suffrage. With that right to choose comes the responsibility to choose wisely, to refrain from abusing our power and to keep the good of the whole, not just ourselves, in mind.

I know God's hand directed the founding of this nation. I pray that we will not abuse our powers of agency but will allow Him to continue to direct us.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Happy Arithmetic

A few days ago, a column in our local newspaper was offering financial advice to the worried consumer wondering where to invest his savings. The advice given by The Salt Lake Tribune was to pay off any consumer debt, which would offer a higher and surer return in the long run than any other investment. The theory is that it would be much better to pay of debts now than it would be to save money for a future in which you are paying off those same debts, only at greater cost.

This advice, and related counsel given by religious leaders, got me thinking. I called our related financial institution and got a payoff quote for the car. Then I looked up our savings account balance. The two numbers were within $50 of each other. Now that's what I call happy arithmetic.

I looked at the numbers. Scott looked at the numbers. We took the leap.

Now we are debt-free.

It's not like our debt was a huge burden or something I worried about very much. It seemed worth incurring and I was always fairly certain we would be able to make the payments. Still, I am elated to be free of it. There's not really a down-side to paying off a loan and making sound financial choices always excites me.

I am so glad we are now free from debt. However, it would be very arrogant of us to take all the credit. Things could have turned out very differently. The Lord has been good to us and we are enjoying relative prosperity. All that we have is really His, a universal fact that is particularly applicable to us since all Scott's paychecks come from God's coffers. And so it is only through His providence that we are (currently) financially secure.

I hope I would still praise and honor Him if all this were taken from me.