Friday, October 31, 2014

Why I No Longer Enjoy Halloween

by Marsha Ward

I used to enjoy Halloween. I was into the whole find or make or construct costumes for the kids and take them out to make the rounds of the neighborhood. And then, they were old enough to go by themselves, and I sat by the door to hand out the treats.

In 1997, life changed. My husband was in the hospital with a mysterious malady that had been treated as pneumonia but wasn't. He had been poked and pricked and drained and biopsied, and was ready to get on with life, if he could just get shed of this thing and go home. It was October 31.

His doctor and the surgeon came in, and life never was the same.

Both doctors wore solemn faces. As they spoke, we began to have an inkling of the doom they pronounced. My dear husband had an aggressive, terminal cancer, which had a very high mortality rate. Very few had survived it. My husband would not.

Lawyers make a lot of money these days on mesothelioma lawsuits. In those days, we'd never heard of it. My husband lived only ten and a half months after the diagnosis. It came with bone-chilling, blood-freezing force, more powerful than any fright a child could receive reading ghost stories.

Nowadays, I avoid any celebration of Halloween. If I buy candy in October, most likely I'm going to consume it, not Trick or Treaters. The day has lost any enchantment for me. It's only a day to remember when our lives took a very bad turn.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Lord Prepares Those Whom He Calls

by Kari Diane Pike

I'll probably get booed for saying this, but I love a good planning meeting. Especially if it’s for Relief Society. Not only do I get a break from the routine at home, but I get to talk to other women - wives, mothers, sisters, and friends. There's bound to be laughter, perhaps a few tears, and definitely a yummy treat.

I don’t remember details about this one particular planning meeting - except for one thing. It got hijacked. At least that's the perspective I drove away with.

When Sister Jones first showed up at the meeting, I didn’t give it a second thought. Rachel served in the Cub Scout program and I assumed she came to give us details about an upcoming Scouting event. I didn’t anticipate Rachel taking over the entire planning session. I mean, seriously. It happened so fast. When all was said and done, I walked out to my car, shaking my head and asking myself: What just happened? Who does she think she is anyway? She’s not even on the Relief Society board. Who gave her the authority to just take over like that and tell us what to do and how to do it?

While I waited for the red light to change, I gripped the steering wheel so tight I imagined I could bend it like the Hulk does in those cartoons. I tapped my foot on the gas pedal, prepared to stomp on it. My thoughts and my heart rate escalated as I speculated on how many other meetings that woman thought she could commandeer. The urge to scream exploded up from my chest. I don't remember if I actually screamed out loud, but I do remember the total silence and the quiet rebuke that followed.

Shame on you. It’s not like you to harbor these kind of thoughts. You don’t get offended. You’re wrong.

But she…

You don't understand. You need to repent. You need to let this go and be forgiving. 

The truth of those words stung. I was wrong. It wasn't like me to harbor these ill feelings. I did need to be more understanding. As soon as I got home, the anguish I felt sent me straight to my bedside to kneel in prayer. I asked Heavenly Father to forgive me for being so judgmental. I asked Him to take away my feelings of jealousy and anger and to help me not feel offended. I pleaded for relief from the pangs of guilt that tore at my heart.

When I woke up the next morning, feelings of resentment and guilt still clouded my mind. Really? Why couldn’t I let it go?

It’s not that easy. This is going to take more than words. You need to be humble. This requires true repentance, fasting, and sincere prayer.

Okay. I’ll fast about it Sunday.

Don’t wait. This needs to be taken care of today.

I fell to my knees and began my fast with a long conversation with Heavenly Father. I asked Him to help me understand Sister Jones. I prayed for the ability to see her through the Savior’s eyes and love her as He loves her.

Then I did what mom’s do. I got busy. I was standing in front of the stove stirring the soup I had prepared for dinner, when I felt a warm sense of peace wash over me. A picture of Rachel's face came to my mind and memories of her many acts of service to me, my neighbors, and ward members flashed by.

This is My daughter. She loves Me and wants nothing more than to return to live in My presence. And she loves you and everyone else so much she would do anything to bring you along…even if she has to drag you!

In an instant, the specifics of why I got so angry evaporated from my mind. Thoughts about Sister Jones brought a recognition of how much I loved her and how grateful I was for her friendship. I could see her special gifts and I wanted to learn more from her.

Two days later, right after church services, our new bishop called me into his office. He asked if I would accept a calling as the ward music chairman. I accepted and looked forward to that new challenge. I rejoiced knowing that I felt right with the Lord and could ask for His Spirit to guide me.

Imagine my surprise when Bishop James called me at home, less than forty-eight hours later.

“Sister Pike, may I please come see you? I have something I need to discuss.”

“Of course. When would you like to come over?”

“Would right now be okay?” His voice cracked and he paused before speaking again.  “I really need to talk to you.”

“Um. Sure. Come on over.” Deep in thought, I continued to hold the phone to my ear after Bishop James hung up. The incessant beeping of the disconnect signal brought me out of my reverie. I turned down the stove, pulled off my apron and dashed into the front room to sound the "twenty-one-pick-up" alarm.

When the doorbell rang, I asked the older kids to entertain the younger ones in their rooms. I opened the door and Bishop James nodded a quiet hello as he shook my hand. I invited him to sit down. He made idle chatter for a minute before growing quiet again. He clasped his hands between his knees and stared at the carpet for a few moments. He cleared his throat a couple of times before he looked up at me. His eyes glistened with unshed tears.

“Sister Pike. I made a mistake. Sunday, I issued you a calling to be the ward music chairman, but I was wrong. The Lord needs you somewhere else. I’m so sorry.” He took a deep breath and leaned forward with his elbows on his knees, his hands clasped together. “We’ve called a new Primary president. She feels very strongly, and I agree, that the Lord wants you to serve with her as one of her counselors. Sister Pike, I hope you are not disappointed. I feel the Lord’s hand in this. The new Primary president is Rachel Jones. I know that you will be a great help to her. She is a great lady.”

My entire body tingled as the Spirit bore witness to the truth of Bishop James’s words. He had no knowledge of my wrestle with the Lord just a few days before. That had been between me and the Lord and no one else. Tears of joy ran down my cheeks. I accepted the calling with gratitude for a loving and patient Heavenly Father who sent His Spirit to prepare my heart and who sent His Son to make my repentance and mighty change of heart possible. The Lord truly prepares those whom He calls.

Fast forward about 19 years: The bishop of our new ward here in Gilbert showed up at the front door two weeks ago. He asked if he could visit with me for a minute.

"Sister Pike, when you got up to bear your testimony today, the Spirit told me that you were the person who could fill the position I was praying about. Would you accept the Lord's calling as the ward choir director? I don't even know if you have any music experience, but the prompting was so strong, I had to come over and ask."

Of course, I said yes!


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Clean Cut

I've been wanting to write this story down for years. I've listened to my dad retell it at every pumpkin-carving Family Home Evening for over twenty years, and now, we finally have it down for posterity. I'm glad this blog gave me the push I needed to create it. I have a deep affection for each character as well as this story. Allow me to take you back to October in Salt Lake City in 1967.

Clean Cut

By Andilyn Jenkins

Halloween was less than a week away. Snow hadn’t fallen yet, but the air held its breath against the crisp frost around the corner. Red, orange, and half-green leaves scattered the frost-bitten grass along the highway. And as the pale, blue Chevy rushed past, the leaves swirled up in its wake, waving to the fat orange pumpkins collected in the Chevy’s bed.

“I think my pumpkin’s going to have a scary face. I’m going to give it two big fangs and evil eyes,” announced the blonde-haired boy as he bounced in his seat. His cheeks flushed pink, both from the cold and at the excitement of selecting the pumpkins for his family—six brothers and one sister.

“Now don’t get too riled up, Michael. You be careful carving that pumpkin,” replied Dad, a big man whose taste for responsibility rivaled his addiction to his wife’s sweet breads.

“Yes, sir,” said Michael, taking that as an order to sit still during the rest of the ride home. The minutes passed slowly before Michael’s father exclaimed and brought the truck to a stop at the side of the road.

“What is it, Dad?” Michael questioned. His Dad rarely lost composure.

“Darn black widow crawling up my pant leg. I’m lucky I saw it.”

“Can I see it?” Michael eagerly pressed. His infatuation with bugs, spiders in particular, drowned out any foreboding.

“No, son. I already swatted her,” Dad replied steadily, back on task.

They pulled into the driveway and unloaded their haul from the pumpkin patch onto the back porch. When Forrest, Michael’s younger brother by eighteen months, came out to assist, Dad left them to it.

“Forrest, you pick your pumpkin. I’m going to get the supplies from Mom,” ordered Michael as he slid open the glass door and bolted inside.

“Hey, Mom? Forrest and I are going to carve some of the pumpkins. Can I get a knife?” The seven-year-old boy asked matter-of-factly, expecting the largest carving knife for his obviously large job.

“Of course, Michael. Let me see what I’ve got,” Mom answered promptly. Her thick, dark hair pinned and tucked comfortably out of her face framed by horn-rimmed spectacles. She wiped her floury hands on her apron and opened a drawer, producing a small, short paring knife. “Here you are; that should do the trick,” Mom reasoned with a sweet smile, and without giving Michael a chance to demur, she went back to kneading her bread.

Michael clutched the paring knife and hustled back out the door. A small knife it may be, but it was a knife and would do the job. The little sculptors wasted no time in planning and preparation. They shared their mother’s paring knife, which Michael took first. He sunk it into his pumpkin, grasping the handle as though he were driving a stake into the ground. The squeaky squash cracked as Michael twisted the knife around and pulled open his carved lid. Michael set the knife aside and purged the pumpkin of its guts with his bare hands. Forrest followed suit.

Soon, the two boys were elbow-deep in orange goop and pumpkin seeds. Their excitement to carve the pumpkins didn’t extend far enough to tools for cleaning out the pumpkin, so they scratched at the walls with their fingernails and most of the slippery, stringy contents stayed in place. Once all the loose bits were cleaned out, however, they tired of the cleaning and once again, handled the paring knife.

Michael grasped the slick handle tightly in his clenched fist, the blade facing away from his body. He sat on his knees and had turned the pumpkin on its side and locked it between his legs for leverage. He deliberated while picturing his Jack-O-Lantern’s face then plunged the knife into the decided eye-socket.

“Shhhhhh-t!” Michael drew in a quick breath through clenched teeth as the puny paring knife toppled to the ground. He grabbed his right pinky and ring finger with his left hand and blinked through the quick pain then opened both hands to look at the damage. Forrest scurried up the porch steps to look over Michael’s shoulder. Before the blood began spewing from Michael’s little finger, Michael clearly saw tissue and bone.

“Want me to get you a Band-Aid?” asked Forrest.

“No, Forrest. I think this is too deep for a Band-Aid. We’d better go get Mom,” Michael reasoned. And both boys, with pumpkin seeds in their hair and orange, dried guts on their sweatshirts, blue jeans, and arms stood up and went inside.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Do Church & Social Media Mix?

by Terri Wagner

Maybe if I'm not in charge lol. I decided to take the church's suggestion and use my social media to pass on religious messages. Now I'm a quirky person. I don't really like to pass on say quotes of the prophets, or read the Book of Mormon hints, or let's all feel good about the world. Mainly because that's being done. I follow one LDS person on Facebook who seems to delight in presenting somewhat controversial comments to get people to respond. And boy do they! And I like that approach as well. But somehow I wanted to just post something with a humorous but thoughtful post.

Thought I had found one. Apparently, I did not think a second longer. My SM friends took it more like I was feeling that way, and rather seriously. Hmmm, should I try again?

Here's my post. Do you see the humor in it?

Monday, October 20, 2014

23 Things I've Learned...

By Claire Enos

I was trying to decide what to write about this week, and thought of my birthday this past Saturday. So, I decided to write a post to celebrate the start of my 23rd year of life.

Twenty-Three Things I've Learned

  1. I've learned that practice makes perfect
  2. And that life isn't perfect.
  3. I've learned that goals take persistance
  4. And time, lots of time.
  5. I've learned that my parents aren't perfect,
  6. But I couldn't imagine a life without them in it.
  7. I've learned that without music my life would be boring,
  8. And that boring isn't attractive, at all.
  9. I've learned that in order to make life interesting it sometimes calls for imagination
  10. And that imagination is REALLY attractive!
  11. I've learned that I can't live in a book,
  12. But reading them is pretty close to perfect,
  13. And writing them is even Better!
  14. I've learned that caring for another life is a lot of work,
  15. But that I couldn't imagine life without my animals.
  16. I've learned that it takes time to change,
  17. But if it's change I want, change will come: Good or Bad.
  18. I've learned that rules can be good,
  19. And that Rules=Freedom
  20. I've learned that my Heart has an infinite capacity to Love
  21. And that just because I don't want to love any more, doesn't mean my heart will listen.
  22. I've learned that through it all there are two things I can count on:
  23. Family and God.

Well, I didn't mean for my list to turn into a poem, but it did. And I wouldn't know it if I hadn't learned that poems don't need to rhyme in an English class I've taken in College.

I hope that you enjoyed this. It doesn't cover anywhere near everything I've learned in my 23 years of life (I have a feeling I could never write a list that long), but it covers what I found important at the time I wrote it. 

Have a great week!


Saturday, October 18, 2014


Here's an update on our crisis. My husband's open heart surgery went well. He had a triple by-pass, valve repair and an oblation.

As I told you in my last post, we wanted to sell our home as soon as we got back from our mission. So I was busy getting the hard wood floors refinished and new carpet for the basement (besides repainting most of the house.)

To top it off, I have a book, Family Talk, that came out while we were on our mission. I needed to get a blog tour ready and do some marketing.

The last two weeks have been crazy busy. I didn't think I would make it from there to here. But as I sit and reflect on what's happened, I can hardly believe the blessings we've received. Countless friends and family have added us to their prayers. They have called, emailed, or come to visit. People really are wonderful.

Most important, my husband is home from the hospital and recuperating well. He gets stronger each day. His energy level is already better. I'm so happy his quality of life has improved.
The house sold two days after the realtor listed it. That is unheard of. We know there are angels watching over us. We feel so blessed.
I also got my blog tour organized. Most of the people I contacted were willing to help me. I have such dear writer and blogger friends. I do love being associated with all of you. You are so kind and generous with your time.
I think I'm going to crash for a few days. I can't keep up this pace.
I'm a little more humble, and a lot more grateful. Blessings come from difficulties.
AND I've had no writing time at all. My creative 'side' is ready to slide into action again

Friday, October 17, 2014

Life is a Whirl

by Marsha Ward

This month will be one of the most crazy-busy that I can remember!

It started out viewing five sessions of the General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That is always a very good way to fill my spiritual wells.

Then began a week-long Blog Book Tour for my newest novel, Gone for a Soldier. I got a few great reviews from that, and lots of other kinds of publicity. I hope to sell some books from the effort. I hope!

I decided to revamp my website, using WordPress technology wedded to my hosting site. That is still a work in progress.

I agreed to write three interconnected short stories, and the deadline is breathing down my neck. Along the way, I lost the flash drive upon which the work resided. Fortunately, I had printed out the text, so I re-typed the story, but my notes are gone.

I saw the film, Meet the Mormons, and was able to stop by the visitation for a man who was way too young to leave his family. This meant a day-trip, but it all went well until I got caught in a huge traffic jam on my way home. The highway closure was caused by a very serious accident, which resulted in a snarl that kept me sitting in gridlock and in a convenience store parking lot for four hours.

I put the ebook version of one of my novels, The Man from Shenandoah, up for free on a few sites for the week that ends this coming Monday. It's at in all ebook editions and at as a Nook ebook. I don't know if Amazon will match the price before then, but check out the other sites.

This week will be my 50th Class Reunion. Oh. My. Gosh! Where did 50 years go? How could I be so old?

And then, next week I'm traveling again. I'll participate in a book signing, and present a class twice at a writers conference.

After I return, I'm going with relatives and friends to the Phoenix Temple Open House. I need to cram visit teaching in sometime that week. And then...

The month will be over!

Putting it all down this way makes me even more aware of how frenetic it has been and will be.

What was the most busy time of your life?