Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Way Too Long

by Terri Wagner

Mark this with a gold star. For the first time in my church history, I have been asked to talk in August. He said he liked to prepare ahead, any topic will be ok, you choose. That's waaaayyyyy tooo looonnnggg for someone like me. I've come up with three topics I feel passionately about it and then rejected. How am I suppose to pull a talk together having all that time to do it? I'm a fly by the seat of your pants kinda of person. Ask me five minutes before a lesson (been there done that), and I can stand up and rattle on. Seriously! Give me a few weeks, and I lose steam. Several months, and I'm prostrate with confusion. If I flub, I think I will blame him for too much time.

My rejects: well, a favorite principle of mine is President Kimball's talks on delayed blessings and delayed punishments. And I guess the corollary to that is that promised blessings often come differently than we anticipate. Rejected because frankly I have been there done that to death.

So my second topic was something I also feel strongly about. We are supposed to be joyful. And lately it seems everyone including church members drone on and on about the last days, the bad days, really focus on the bad stuff. It's depressing for anyone, and esp for those who struggle with guilt and unhappiness to begin with. But again that's a topic I have even covered here before. Recently, during a conversation with my sister about our current family situation, I declared I'm done with the negative waves in our family pond. I refuse to toss anything in the pond but good rocks. So that passion has been directed toward action not talk.

So now I am left with what is hands down my favorite kind of talk and lesson, historical context. I adore it when someone takes the time to say here are ways that will help you understand scriptures better, Christ's parables better, why the NT and BOM apostles responded so differently to the Savior's teachings. But that's a personal preference.

I have until August, any ideas here?

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Weeds and Roses



I have spent the day in the garden digging out grass and pulling weeds. 

We have moved into the old family home that my grandfather and his brothers built in 1920. My grandmother kept the yard pristine. After her, my mother kept the yard pristine. But two years ago this summer Mother was ill with cancer, and I took care of her. I didn't keep the garden pristine that year while she was sick. After she died, Bob and I served a mission so last summer no one kept the yard pristine at all. 

Now it is two years later, and the weeds and grass have taken over.  I'm reclaiming the land, but it's a lot of work to get from weeds to roses.

There is a great life lesson in all this. If I let my life go—as in not reading my scriptures or writing or caring for my family, my life can go to weeds. 

I seem to have this built in mechanism that makes me depressed if I don't read my scriptures, irritable if I don't do some writing, and lonely if I don't connect with my family, so I tend to stay on task.

Sad that my motivators are depression, anger, and loneliness. 

But if I do stay on task I feel peace when I read my scriptures, energized when I write, and joy when I'm with my family.

So I like to look at the 'roses' side of things. I love to feel peace, energy and joy. But I want to remember how hard it is to get from weeds to roses. When I finally get the weeds out of the roses in the yard, I hope I never let them come back. 

To be realistic, there will always be some weeds, but I'll keep them to a minimum,
What about you? Is your life weeds or roses? Probably, like the rest of us, it's some of both.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Life-Quakes

by Kari Diane Pike

I found another hidden picture (see my post from two weeks ago)! My mind exploded. The tectonic plates of my perspective shifted and forever changed the way I look at life. Could that be called a "life-quake?" 

In the Book of Mormon, the prophet Samuel describes the signs that will accompany the birth and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In Helaman 14:20 Samuel prophesied:
But behold, as I said unto you concerning another sign, a sign of his death, behold, in that day that he shall suffer death the sun shall be darkened and refuse to give his (emphasis added) light unto you: and also the moon and the stars; and there shall be no light upon the face of this land, even from the time that he shall suffer death, for the space  of three days, to the time that he shall rise again from the dead.
"His light"...Somehow I've always read that as the sun refusing to give its light. This epiphany shook me to my very core. Doctrine and Covenants 88: 8-13 teaches that the light of truth - the light of Christ - is in the sun and the moon and the stars, "and the power thereof by which [they] were made...and the earth also." It is the light that gives life to all things and "is the law by which all things are governed."
And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light which quickeneth your understanding. (D&C 88:11)
Samuel also taught that those signs testified of the divine role of the Savior so that "whosoever will believe might be saved" (Helaman 14:29).

I have a better understanding now of why Alma declared "O that I were an angel and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the whole earth..." (Alma 29:1). I shout out to the world and share the joy and hope and peace - the light -  that blesses my life. I know that God lives. I know that Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer. He lived, He suffered, He died, and He lives again. He knows me by name and He wants me to return to live with Him, in the Father's presence. He wants that for all of His children.

I have a young friend whom I've known since he was about 6 years old. During the twenty-something years I have known him, he's never believed in God's existence. Life threw some pretty rough challenges at him. He made a lot of choices that created even bigger problems - and found himself in the dark, deep pit of heroin addiction. 

But you know what? That young man's mother knows the power of prayer. Oh, how she prayed. She prayed hard and long. She asked her friends to pray. And despite her own personal battles, she did what mothers do best. She fought for his life. She went out and looked for him. She picked him up, cleaned him up, and sent him away to a new place to start over. She hasn't stopped praying.
I've been exchanging messages with my young friend. He's experienced his own life-quake. He's beginning to see and feel the Savior's light. Here is a little piece of what he shared with me:
I hope I get to share some more of my experience with you...It's incredible to me how God has taken an interest in me even when I did not take one in him. I have had the sudden and profound realization that I can no longer deny his existence. I'm not sure if my mom has ever or often talked to you about my faith, or [the lack thereof] but I have been a devout atheist since I was about 6 years old...There was an empty God-shaped hole inside of me that I tried to fill with many bad things. I'm just so fortunate to have found him.
Wow.

Elder Richard G. Scott said, "Despite all of the negative challenges we have in life, we must take time to actively exercise our faith". Heavenly Father gave us tools to help us exercise our faith. The first is prayer. The second is scripture study. ("Make the Exercise of Faith Your First Priority," Ensign, Nov. 2014, p. 92) President Boyd K. Packer said,

The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior." ("Do Not Fear," Ensign, May 2004, 79) 
I know that personal scripture study blesses my life. Every single day. Just as promised, through scripture study, I have found answers to questions, strength through adversity, a greater desire and ability to love, and a stronger testimony of Heavenly Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and of Their love for me. I can feel that love. I know that Heavenly Father hears and answers my prayers. Every single day. I pray that my young friend will feel our Savior's love too!

hugs~

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Yeah, Tomorrow is April 15

by Marsha Ward

Let me tell you right now that I HATE February, March, and part of April.

That's because every year I have this sense of doom hanging over me during the annual hair-pulling, days-wasting run-up to April 15.


January is okay. I have to wait until all my 1099s of whatever ilk come in. But once February hits, the doom floods over me in distressing volume. I know that before I can even blink, that short month will be gone, and March, with all our family birthdays, will be upon me. Then April will scoot into view, and I'll be gritting my teeth.

I thought I had a handle on taxes this year, at least as far as getting an early start at pulling all my hair out. I DID start early, in March. However, things came along to divert my attention, so once again, that awful day approaches, and I'm shuffling piles of paper and receipts and vowing that NEXT YEAR I will get organized.

The heck of it is, I'm RETIRED! with my meager income and a home business with plentiful expenses, I rarely end up paying anything. Uncle Sam rarely pays me anything, either. So why, again, am I putting myself through this torture?

I have friends who tell me they don't file taxes because of this, that, or the other reason. ??? I doubt I could get away with not doing the yearly Dance of Despair. But that hectic dance plays havoc with my health, so maybe I should find out if their reasons are legitimate.

I hope that by the time you read this, I will have hit all the right buttons to send in my returns and will spend tomorrow flat on my back, resting. One can only hope!

What are your concerns about Tax Day?

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Thoughts from San Francisco

by Andilyn Jenkins

“So I’ve got an idea for a story,” my dad tells me as I roll my suitcase off the escalator and give him a hello hug.

“Oh you do, huh?”

“Yeah! Tell me what you think,” and off he goes, detailing to me a beautiful novel involving love, spirituality, heartache, and adventure.

“Wow, Dad. I’m going to write that story,” I reply as my mind wraps itself around writer-ly things like what genre the story falls under and where I would need to go to do the proper research.

“Oh it’ll be fantastic! Okay, so do you want another one? I’ve got more stories,” my dad says. And he does—dozens of beautiful novels that he works on in the shower or walking the dogs but never writes down. And I’m his outlet for them. His writer daughter, who’s never written a novel or even thought of a compelling idea for one, receives prompt after prompt because the ideas come and he doesn’t know what else to do with them.

So here I am in San Francisco, sitting in my dad’s apartment at the top of Montgomery hill looking over the Bay and wondering what I’m going to write my blog about for today. But struggling. And I wonder if other writers have the same problem. Every ANWA meeting and conference I go to seems to be full of writers bursting with stories they can’t write down fast enough and deciding which characters’ tales are the loudest or the most marketable.


But is there anyone else like me? I really want to tell a story. I want to have characters and plots, rising and falling action, sleepless nights, rejection by publishers. But I’m going on ten years of writer’s block. And aside from short stories from my personal life, I just can’t get a grip on where to go from here.

Anyone? Beuller? Beuller? 

Until then, I guess I'll write down some of my dad’s stories. Preferably while sitting on the deck; breathing the cool, salty air; eating a cannoli from Little Italy; and allowing the winks of sunshine to breathe thoughts over my face.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Cookie Cutter Darth Vaders

by Terri Wagner

Picking your antagonist is probably more important than picking your hero/heroine. Since the opening scene of “A New Hope,” the Darth Vader archenemy has been done to death. I should know being a huge SW fan. In most of the 1980s films, the antagonists have been bullies, built tough, and speak with foreign accents…you should know a few of these characters.

What is the role of the antagonist? Simply put he/she/it is the catalyst that allows our protagonist to emerge as the hero of our story. They are in a literary sense the yang to the yin, the bad for the good, etc. Antagonists tend to fall into familiar territory…in an action movie they nearly beat up the hero until the defining moment when you just know the hero gene has flamed up. Nobody probably did this better than Sylvester Stallone in his Rocky or Rambo films. You always knew when the music changed, that Rocky or Rambo had reached the tipping point, and the bad guy was going down.

Star Wars put an intriguing twist on the antagonist. In the first three films, Vader was a bad guy, but interestingly was obviously at the peck and call of a much greater menace, the emperor. It isn’t until the prequels that we get the backstory. The emperor was a complicated person whose lust for power was fed by his political career. Vader was a tormented soul who could not find peace. Even in SW, the antagonists became fallible human beings whose descent into evil is well documented.

Deciding who or what is your antagonist is the key to building your protagonist. Do you want a simple bad guy that goes around beating up or bullying your main character, do you want a sly backstabbing individual or an unfeeling consortium that dehumanizes its employees. Lately films seem to turn on the best antagonist ever, a run-amuck government. There really doesn’t have be a backstory to a too-powerful government…we all seem to agree they are just inherently evil.

So take the time to flesh out your antagonist. Makes sure his/her/its actions lead to that wait for it moment when the hero emerges.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Slinky Time

by Christy Monson

Do you ever get so serious you have to take yourself down a notch? Sometimes I get so intense about things—making sure I'm on time and everything is perfect and running smoothly—I get a little crazy.

When that happens I have to take a step back, breathe deeply, look at the big picture, and smile.

Laughter is my best medicine. We have a daughter that can put things in perspective.


The world as viewed through slinky eyes is not that serious.

Now I know there are times to be somber, but when I'm overwrought, it's really Slinky Time.


Slinky Time gives one a new perspective. A relaxed, springy view of the world. Try it sometime. It's helpful!