Oct 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.

Oct 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!


Oct 25, 2014

Writers Quotes that Speak to Me

by Cindy R. Williams

"Either write something worth ready, or do something worth writing."  Benjamin Franklin

"You must stay drunk on writing so that reality cannot destroy you." --Ray Bradbury

"If there is a book you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it." --Toni Morrison

" Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia --E.J. Doctorow

Oct 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.

Oct 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?

Oct 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!


Oct 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

Oct 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 Smashwords.com in all ebook editions and at BarnesandNoble.com 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?

Oct 15, 2014

Heeding the Lantern-bearers

Beautiful but deadly jellies
by H. Linn Murphy

I missed my deadline for this site [but the blog admin waved her magic wand and fixed it] because I was up at Conference. That journey brought to the stage of my mind the fact that God, in all His majesty, is one of beauty and order and matchless love.

For us He has laid out a perfect road map to happiness, complete with ways to get back on the path when we make side trips and fall into swamps of sin and ignorance. He sets lantern-bearers to point the way and light our steps through the talus-filled passes and rocky shoals and sink holes.

Not only has He called men of great spiritual stature to teach and lead and  serve His sheep, but He has made a vast world in which we can grow and learn and try ourselves.

chambered nautilus
Every time I see a chambered nautilus with its perfect Golden Mean, or the symmetry of a jellyfish or the vastness of a stand of aspen--single entity as it is--I am reminded of that order. The lines of a deer bounding in flight, helictites sparkling in the depths of a cavern, fauna and flora in all their infinite variety webbing the world, filling every clime even to the most inhospitable, remind me that Our Father in Heaven loves us. I feel that love when I hold a newborn baby in its infinite, unmanufacturable perfection, or experience a tender mercy however small. I know He watches over me and sets guardians around me. I feel them watching at His bidding.
Gorgeous gypsum helictites

How can I, then, not pay heed to those who illuminate the way Home? How can I choose the unlit paths which lead only to pain and desperation and hopelessness? And how can I not take up a lantern and light the steps of those who come behind me?

I am utterly grateful for those men and women who stand as sentries before the gates, as examples of how to follow that road map, as reminders that we, though human, may strive for perfection and return to the God who loves us with limitless adoration.

Oct 11, 2014

Abe Lincoln said it well.

by Cindy R. Williams

Abraham Lincoln said, "Whatever you are, be a good one." I don't know about you, but I am trouble. I am a jack of many trades, but a master of only a few. I have my fingers in so many pots, and am spread so thin, I feel I am just spinning my wheels.

I admire people that find their calling in life early and are passionate about it from their early twenties on. Now that I think of it, maybe being a jack of many trades is much more fun. You get to try so many new things.

Is there a time in life where we must be absolutely one thing? Can we be a good one at different things at different times? I hope so because that is how I have lived my life. To me it has been more about seasons. I have found that some things remain constant through all these new things, the Gospel, my love for my family, music and story telling.

Since this is a blog and can be interactive, where do you stand on this? Are you a good one at what you have chosen to do, or do you try many things and continue to try many things and become good at them all along the way?

Oct 9, 2014

General Conference--After Thirty Years

By Susan Knight (Sorry, I had to paste into HTML view and it doesn't translate very well) Now that I live in Utah, I enjoy watching General Conference from the comfort of my sofa, welcoming the Spirit of Conference into my home. Back East, when I first joined the church, thirty-plus years ago, I had to drive over an hour to the stake center to “listen” to conference as it was piped in over the speakers. Eventually, satellite transmission with pictures arrived and we all could “watch” the general authorities and partake of their spirits. We could see what they looked like and distinguish the differences in their personalities. In 1990, after almost ten years of meeting in a small, white building that used to belong to a Baptist congregation, my new ward building was built. A satellite dish came as part of the package. We could finally travel to our ward, just fifteen minutes away, to enjoy General Conference, though the satellite dish hardly ever worked right. Many times we sat without transmission of the picture and only heard sketchy voices coming from the static-filled television. As the years went on, and satellites worked better, attending General Conference became a ward family affair as we all stayed to chat and visit between sessions, or went out to eat together on Saturdays—it was too far away to go home and come back for most members. We brown bagged it on Sundays, because we couldn’t go to a local fast food eatery on the Sabbath. I remember packing peanut butter and jelly or bologna sandwiches for my young family, making sure to pack extra for someone who may have forgotten, or chose to stay for the next session instead of go home. Soon, on Sundays, a potluck dinner come about. My children fondly remember these times of camaraderie during Conference. Back then they played with their church friends, whom they only saw on Sundays or weekends, due to the vast geography of our ward, which spanned seven school districts at one time. Last year, while all four of my children lived in Utah, they waxed poetic about the good old days of Conference—as I relished being able to stay home and watch it on television. Though my children long for the past, I love Conference in Utah. I confess, I don’t dress up as some people do. I stay comfortable in jeans and, dare I say, even pajamas for the first session. I can work in my garden in between sessions, or even go to the grocery store, or take a drive up the canyon and back. I feel blessed living here among the saints. It’s a new phase in my life, but one I thoroughly enjoy. Though there is not so much a “ward family” feel, because people live near their families, there are many perks not had in the East. I don’t have to drive fifteen or twenty minutes to my ward building—it’s only two blocks away. One can walk to church—and the stake center. There are five ward buildings within a five block radius of where I live—that I know of—and two of those are stake centers. There are four temples in my county. Salt Lake City is a fifteen-minute drive from my home. One day I will grab a ticket from the bishop and go to a Conference session in person. Over thirty years ago, I never thought that could be on my bucket list. It is now.

General Conference--After Thirty Years (Sorry, I cannot get in to write my blog. I'll try again later tonight :( )

Oct 8, 2014

Night Writer

by Andilyn Jenkins

If I could write in the dark, I would organize the shadows that give shape to my lost thoughts. I would always keep a scrap of paper and pencil under my pillow because the littlest movement frightens my thoughts away like discovered cockroaches.

But because I can't, I type on my phone, squinting in the screen's brightness. And I try to hold onto the dark whisperings, but they slip away from my senses and I can no longer feel them on my fingertips.

So I turn off my phone and accept the fact that the dark is meant for keeping secrets.

The ideas floating in my head churn like a piece of rubbery meat and can only be abated by spitting them out. But how do you spit out a thought?

Oct 7, 2014

Sacrifice Brings Forth the Blessings of Heaven

by Terri Wagner

I have tried to take the challenge to prayerfully select a question and then watch conference for an answer for the last several conference. This time the answer came very early in the hymn "Praise to the Man," one of my personal favorites. But as always there is so much more than "oh, that's the answer." I put out the statement to my singles FHE group. We talked about what sacrifice really means beyond the obvious.

Relying on the tried and truth method, we looked up the definition: the act of giving up something that you want to keep especially in order to get or do something else or to help someone. As we discussed it further it was obvious that it means giving up something you treasure for something better. I suppose the simple example is giving up an excess of food for better health. Somehow I have a feeling I am going to struggle with giving up something I treasure to get something I want.

The good news is I don't have to try to figure out what...I only have to be worthy enough (and savvy enough) to listen carefully to the Spirit. The trick will be convincing myself it's worth giving up. I guess it's what makes the difference between a follower of Christ and a true disciple of Christ.

Oct 6, 2014

An Exercise of Thinking

By Claire Enos

Today I sat down to help my 11 year old cousin brainstorm for a personal narrative essay he had to write. It had to be meaningful. Something important to him. His mind immediately jumped to Scout Camp because it was fun, but just by asking him why it was important to him I could tell that he was only thinking about the shallow insignificant things. He wasn't focusing on the friendships or relationships he developed out there at camp, or the skills he learned, or even the difference it made in his thus far short life. I tried to show him what I meant by shallow and meaningful but it wasn't sinking in. He was still just skipping across the water, seeing the small iceberg from above rather than the whole picture. So, I thought about his dad who died last year. I remember how sad he was when he realized his dad wasn't coming back. That's the kind of deep emotion I wanted him to portray, but he was ignoring that part of his brain and kept insisting he couldn't think.

I think that the ability to think of the big, deep, and meaningful things is what sets creative people apart from other people who are more logical. We can see how these experiences affect us on a deeper level, and then portray that in our writing, or art, or music. It's these feelings that make us creative in the first place. Sometimes we might find a block in our mind that doesn't allow us to feel these feelings, but in order to be great we need to feel something. If we can't feel what we write then we can't make the reader feel something.

Maybe this is why journal writing is so important. It allows us to write what we feel with no boundaries, and allows us to work through our feelings in a productive non-harmful way. So, I'm not saying that not being creative is a bad thing, I guess what I'm saying is that I'm proud to be creative because it's a part of who I am. I am emotional and over the top and sometimes I overthink everything, but that's just a part of being me, and being creative helps me to dial it down a bit.

What do you like most about writing?


Oct 3, 2014

Disaster or Miracle?

This is the post I wrote in my head this morning. (Right now it's 10 pm and I'm tired so I don't feel this way, but I will tomorrow morning. Catch me in the early hours of the day. I'm better.)

One could say my life is a disaster.

We just finished our mission, and I miss the converts I worked with a LOT.

When we got home, we immediately went to work to get our house ready to sell. The realtor suggested we take up the carpet and redo the hardwood floors. 

This is our kitchen right now.

Our bedroom.

To top it off, my husband had to go to the emergency room the first of the week. He couldn't breathe and felt sick to his stomach. After many tests, he is now scheduled for triple by-pass surgery along with a valve replacement. He's been in the hospital all week, and will be there for a at least ten more days.

After our mission life seemed to fall apart, or did it?

We have the blessing of talking to our family and all the converts who are like family as often as we can. Their prayers, along with ours, will pull us through. We are a much bigger extended family than we were. And I LOVE big families.

Even though our kitchen and bedroom are a mess, this is what our floors look like.

I'm excited for my husband's surgery (although it's scary) because he'll have a lot more energy and feel much better than he has. And we're so grateful we got to finish our mission before he fell apart.

So I can see shambles, or I can see miracles. 

Ask me when I'm not too tired, and I can find the miracles. Life is good!

General Conference: A Twice-Yearly Delight

by Marsha Ward

Two times a year I sit in my comfy reclining chair at home, or go to an LDS meetinghouse, to see live broadcasts of LDS General Conference. This is a Must-See event in my life.

President Thomas S. Monson

It's a chance to gain knowledge and spiritual renewal at the feet of living prophets and other leaders of my church.

I get to hear glorious music from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and other choirs made up of members of the church from the urban Utah areas.

For me, it's a time for reflection, a time to ground myself once again, a time to weep, to rejoice, to feel the Spirit of God, and to resolve to become a better person.

How about you? Will you join me this weekend, October 4th and 5th, for an uplifting series of meetings that will bring joy into your life?

Oct 2, 2014

Magnificent Momentum

by Kari Diane Pike

Can you feel it? It's building up all around me. Some call it anticipation. Others refer to it as a kind of energy. Momentum, perhaps? World calamities increase in frequency and in their destructive power and heroes step forward to help comfort and rebuild. On a personal level, I don't remember seeing so many people under such heavy burdens of struggle and loss. I stand in awe of the acts of courage and perseverance I've witnessed. It's an increase of forces, good and bad. And while the bad darkens from gray to black, the good continues to grow stronger and brighter.

As I prepare for the 184th Semiannual Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, my gratitude for living prophets knows no bounds. I can't count the number of times I have prayed for direction and peace and heard the Lord answer through His servants. Messages from last April's General Conference have supported me through turbulent waters all summer long.

I try to record my thoughts in a journal every day. It helps me process. I feel sorry for some future descendant who finds the courage to open its pages and read its contents. I tend to repeat myself. Mostly because I am slow to learn and have to retake a lot of life's daily exams. I love it, though, when I fill a journal and get to start a new one. Who doesn't like a fresh start?  The first paragraph from my newest journal says:
... I don't know if anyone will ever read these words, but if they do, I hope they feel the hope and joy and gratitude I have for my Savior, Jesus Christ. Life is magnificent - and is filled with lots  and lots of learning. I know that doesn't express life very poetically, but it's truth. And even though circumstances, experiences, or whatever one may call them, can be difficult, they are also filled with joy and beauty. There is an opposite to everything - I need opposition in order to learn good from evil. Opposition strengthens me physically, mentally and spiritually.
 Here are a few of the treasures I gleaned over the last six months of daily scripture study and messages from our living apostles and prophets:

  • Fear not, I am with thee...be ye not afraid.
  • As I develop greater faith and trust in the Lord, I can access His power to bless and deliver me.
  • Heavenly Father has a plan to see me safely home again. He accomplishes His miracles one prayer at a time, one person at a time.
  • I can feel peace in the midst of turmoil.  I have felt the Lord hold my hand through trials.
  • What would I do if I knew I could not fail? Who would I be?
  • I am far from perfect, but as I strive to repent and be obedient, the Atonement makes up for my imperfections in my performance. 
  • I am not alone.
  • It is "the load" that gives me the traction I need to stay on the road and out of the pit. 
  • Do something! and do it with a prayer in my heart and confidence that the Lord will guide my efforts.
  • And most recently: Elder Bednar's admonition to close that umbrella of fear and sin that is blocking me from receiving all the blessings that Heavenly Father continually rains down upon me.
Over the past two months far too many of my friends and family members have experienced trauma and loss. Most recently, our daughter-in-law's youngest brother, a bright and loving seventeen-year-old, took his own life. Having Ryan gone still feels surreal. Except for the pain. The pain is all too real.  But you know what? Despite the tragedy, the loss, the bitter pain and sorrow - when I walked into that family's home, I felt the presence of the Spirit permeating every corner of every room. Love, friendship, sorrow, hope, peace, and a special reverence could be felt throughout the home. All of this created a healing balm against the negative effects of pain. Because Ryan's family  is built on a solid foundation of faith in Jesus Christ, what I did not find was suffering. Through the power of His Atoning sacrifice, something tragic is touching hearts and lives and creating something brilliant.

One of my brightest moments this summer: Our youngest daughter was preparing to be married in the Gilbert, Arizona temple. In preparation for that event, she chose to take out her endowments (an ordinance of making sacred covenants with Heavenly Father) in the Mesa, Arizona temple. As we followed the sidewalk toward the front doors, Micaela stopped for a moment and, gazing at the temple said, "I've always wanted to walk through those front doors. Up to now, I've only been able to go through the back doors (to the baptistery). I'm so excited." 

Can you feel it? Good versus bad. Light verses darkness. It's almost tangible. Life's magnificent momentum. I look forward to hearing messages from the Lord through His servants this coming weekend. I know I will find the nourishment in their words that will strengthen my own foundation and help me to be more courageous, more discerning of light and truth, and ready to walk through the front doors of whatever the future has in store. 

Here is a link to access the 184th Semiannual Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Everyone who seeks an answer will find one there. I know it. 


Oct 1, 2014

Another Farewell

by H. Linn Murphy

I'm going in a few minutes to dress a lady for her final hours. I can't express the emotions running through my head and heart. I didn't know her well, but I know her daughter-in-law. I know how she's already missed. I can't keep the tears from falling, despite knowing that there is nothing truly sad about continuing the journey beyond the veil.

She puts me in mind of another sister who waits to follow her into the next phase of life. This one I do know. I go to her immaculate house and sit near her, reveling in the calm quiet. She grins at me past the cannula in her nose. It's a new development since last night's bout with breathlessness. She's still fighting it. She probably thinks of it as one of the last clinging strands holding her to this earth.

Dianne has been ready to go for twelve years, since her husband breathed his last. She has filled most of those years with love and service. Her last wish was to bring her children back to the church. One son, at least, is finding his way into the fold, bringing his family with him. She asks me to find the temple-ready card which bears her mother's name so a friend can take it and finish what Dianne cannot. I rifle through years worth of trappings and memories and finally find it tucked away in an obscure corner. I wish fleetingly that I could be the one taking that name to the temple.

She grins at me and I feel the peace of the next life wafting from her. I love her personality. She has such a twinkle in her eyes, even knowing that she's spending her last hours here. They've told her several times that she is terminal, and then that she has dodged the so-called bullet. This time there is no dodging. But she's okay with that. In fact, all of the backing and forthing has exhausted her. She'd rather be running full tilt into her future--into her husband's arms.

I'm so grateful I've gotten to be by her side. Although I'll miss her greatly, I know, except for her children, the things holding her here mean less and less to her. She's ready to leave the shackles behind and soar.

My grandmother was like that. By the time she died, her body was so pain-wracked that her last breath was a pleasure. I feel her sometimes up there, mostly dancing in a white 1920's dress. I know she wishes sometimes that she could leave a little money clenched in my child's hand as she once did. But maybe her aid is much more important. Maybe she's very busy making sure that I reach my proscribed ending. Maybe she's hovering around my missionary son. Whatever it is, I know it's important. And I know it's a labor of true love.

My mind turns inward. How ready am I to meet the Savior? Will He smile or will He shake His head and sigh? I can't help thinking that I'll never be quite ready. There's so much left to do that I can't leave in another's hands. And I'll always be wondering if I've done enough to warrant the smile instead of the sigh.

They're coming to get me soon. I need to dry my eyes so the wise, previous Relief Society President doesn't think her new one is a basket case.