Dec 29, 2017

Looking forward to 2018

I'm not gonna lie.  I was done with 2017 by about January 27th. And March 12th. And I'm pretty sure I begged for 2018 about 37 1/2 times throughout the year. Somehow I survived with all my fingers and toes still attached, though some family members didn't kept all their body parts. 

I've spent years telling myself, "As soon as I get through this, I'll (insert goal here)."  My great epiphany of 2017 was that life is not going to settle down for me. This is my normal and I'd better figure out some way to cope and move forward.  If things haven't settled down after seven years, they're not going to settle down. 

So I pulled up my big girl panties until I had a wedgie, pulled back my shoulders, and decided to push onward.

This year, I refuse to look back. Only forward.  Goals are set and excitement is building.  Instead of enduring the torrential downpour, I choose to dance in the rain, puddle-jump to my heart's content, marvel at the lightening shooting across the sky, and howl with the thunder as it vibrates through my bones.

No matter what life throws at you, I hope I find you dancing in the rain with me - it's always more fun when you have someone to splash with. May your new year be amazing and filled with wonder.

Happy New Year!

Dec 23, 2017

Be a Bonfire

 Be A Bonfire 

by Deb Graham

I have Seasonal Affective Disorder, as do about 10% of western Washington’s residents. It’s an inconvenient disorder to contend with during the gloomy, dank, dark, dismal, sunless, often rainy, never-ending winters that plague this area. Symptoms include a mad desire for light in any form, carbo-craving, fatigue and lethargy, and a little internal voice that chants, “HiberNATE! HiberNATE!” when attempting to do anything vaguely ambitious.

Days are entirely too short here; often, streetlights shine before school buses pass the house. The only treatment I’ve found that sometimes helps, besides running up the electric bill and surrounding myself with special lights, is to plan a trip. Planning a sunny journey mid-winter gives me something to look forward to, as well as boosting my spirits enough to make through until springtime. Conveniently, my mother lives in Florida. I make a point to visit her in the darkest part of the year, To Be Sure She’s Alright. Mind you, she’s just fine the rest of the year, but in the middle of winter, I’d better go see for myself, and take a week or more doing it. I admit it’s a little transparent, as ruses go, but it beats jumping off a high building.

I think about light a lot this time of year. I find myself drawn to Christmas lights and candles and lightbulbs and flashlights and lamps and stars, when they’re visible, which isn’t often around here. Did I mention it rains? And I think about the Savior, the Light of the World, the reason for the pretty little Christmas lights all around. An oft-repeated admonition of Jesus is found in Matthew, and a few other places as well throughout the scriptures.

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.  Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
                      Matthew 5: 14-16

 The Lord is big on light, it seems, and expects us to shine.

Who am I to shine? This time of year, especially, I feel more like a weak, wet match than a bonfire. But let’s look at that match. Once lit, however fleeting or weak, it has the power to light a long-burning candle, a bonfire, a forest fire. When I taught my Girl Scout troop to light cooking fires, they did so under a sprinkler. It’s easy enough to light dry firewood, but to light rain-soaked wet wood, the kind we find north of Seattle ten months of any year, well, that’s a skill! They all succeeded in not only striking a spark, but boiling water and a single spaghetti strand soft enough to tie a square knot in.

As I sit in darkness, being a little candle, I feel mighty inadequate. And a thought comes to me: not one about a light big enough to cast a dim glow across a room, but a full-on summer-beach-sized bonfire. That’s the kind of fire to be; a roaring fire that gives so much light, tourists can smile from three miles down the beach, wishing they were included. That’s the kind of light I want to be, the kind of old that steered sailors from a rocky jetty, bigger than a birthday candle. I can do this through my writing as well as human interaction.

So is Letting My Light So Shine Before Men That They May See (My) Good Works a daunting task? Likely, but I can take small steps. I’m all about small good works, anything that pushes back the darkness a little more. My goal: Be a bonfire. Any spark has potential, right?

Dec 21, 2017

Christmas Blessings

by Kari Diane Pike

Having grown up in the snowy mountains of northwest Montana, I always struggle to get into "Christmas mode" without some snow and ice. Thank goodness for music and cheesy Hallmark Christmas movies and yummy cookie traditions.

This year has proven to be particularly difficult. Honestly, between health challenges and the recent loss of family members and close friends, I couldn't find it in me to drag out the tree and the boxes and the strings of lights. My husband knew it was bad when, after wandering a bookstore for nearly an hour with the intent of purchasing Christmas gifts, I turned to him and motioned toward the door.

"Get me out of here." 

"But you didn't buy anything. Where else you would like to go?" Doug put one arm around my shoulders and pushed the exit door open with the other. A cool breeze swirled through the door and I shivered. The ache in my heart and the fatigue of a long day made it difficult to walk let alone think and make decisions. All I wanted was my bed.

"Can we just go to church Sunday, sing a few Christmas hymns and listen to a couple of talks and go home and go to bed? Can we just call off all the celebrations this year? I can't do it."

So home we went. A little chocolate and good night's rest helped restore my mood for a day or two. When I realized I had 9 days until Christmas and I hadn't even started shopping yet, I kind of freaked out. 

Then Tuesday happened. 

There's nothing like a little "could have been deadly" accident to bring the important things back into perspective. Doug and Amy were driving north from Gilbert to Prescott Valley on I-17. Just before the Pinnacle Peak road exit on the north end of Phoenix, the semi in front of them changed lanes, revealing a hand truck in the road. With no time to react, they hit the hand truck and lost part of the front bumper along with a parking light and damage to cowling around the tire and some sensors. But no one got hurt!!! And the car was driveable.

The highway patrolman asked if they saw what they hit, because all he could find was a couple of wheels. The hand truck had disintegrated. We have insurance and they will cover a rental car while repairs are made. The mechanics couldn't believe everyone walked away uninjured. We are blessed beyond measure.

Tomorrow the grandchildren are spending the day here decorating cookies and having fun. We will go caroling and play games Saturday evening. Sunday we will change up our traditional Christmas Eve trip to the zoo and act out a family version of the nativity. Family members will perform musical/reading numbers and we will enjoy lots of food and laughter. There might even be a few gifts exchanged...(assuming I can get off the computer and go shopping!)
It's going to be a magnificent Christmas.

I hope your holidays are full of love and joy. Merry Christmas to all and a very happy New Year.


Dec 12, 2017

Between a Rock and A Hard Place

by Terri Wagner

Appropriately enough our Gospel Doctrine lesson was on being a good citizen. In case you've been writing or hiding, you should know Alabama is voting on a new senator. We have quite the brouhaha here over our two candidates. While the lesson suggested you mention local elections, I did not want to get into a big discussion on this one. So I carefully read the riot act: vote, be active, run for office...and left it there. I did suggest they check the platforms of the people running for office, and prayerfully consider who to vote for. That's been tough here. How do you reconcile conflicting stories from 40 years ago...I have literally run from anyone trying to pin down who I intend to vote for while I considered and reconsidered. In the end, I made a decision based on as much fact (from fiction) as I could and prayed about my decision. And I still have no clear idea if I am making the right decision. I hope I am not wrong. I hope my vote counts, and the one I'm voting for wins, and proves to be what we need. So I'm signing off now to go vote.

Dec 9, 2017

It's the storm, not me, that's bound to blow away

It's the storm, not me, that's bound to blow away  

by Deb Graham

Lucky me– while in Utah visiting kids and grandkids over Thanksgiving, I attended a live broadcast of Music and the Spoken Word, with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  I saw them perform for the first time in July ,in the LDS Conference Center, and that was majestic and grandiose and overwhelming. This time was in the Tabernacle on Temple Square, a surprisingly intimate-feeling venue. We sat on seats hand painted by pioneers who wanted oak and had only pine at hand. Besides loving the swelling music that vibrated the seats and my heart,  two things jumped out at me.

 Mac Wilberg is a known musical genius, but I had no idea to what degree that’s true. We sat in our seats a few minutes early, and the Choir was rehearsing. Mac Wilberg stood on his podium with a headset on, the 110-member orchestra at his feet, the 360-member Mormon Tabernacle Choir in front of him. They ran through a line or two, and he waved his hand to a stop. He singled out three male singers  on the fifth row, and asked for “More energy, please, not more volume,” and called for the second and third cellos to pick up the pace on stanza eight, if you please.

Now, granted, I impress easily. I freely admit my only musical talent is as an audience, and a fine audience I am; polite, attentive, appreciative. To see a man so finely tuned that he could isolate three choir members and two cellists out of the all the waves of sound around him surprised me. How much do I miss in my life simply because I don’t block out the distractions around me?

The Choir sang a song I hadn’t heard. My daughter sat beside me, and at the first stanza, we turned to one another, locking eyes. She recently moved away, breaking several hearts in the process, including mine and hers. Those lyrics went right through us both; I felt it, I saw it in her eyes. We agreed we need to both print out the words and post them in our homes to remind us we’re tougher than we think we are. See if they don’t make you feel better!

 I also found the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s rendition on YouTube, should you have a few minutes to listen to it.

Hold On from The Secret Garden

When you see the storm is coming,
See the lightning part the skies,
It's too late to run-
There's terror in your eyes!
What you do then is remember
This old thing you heard me say:
"It's the storm, not you,
That's bound to blow away."

Hold on,
Hold on to someone standing by.
Hold on.
Don't even ask how long or why!
Child, hold on to what you know is true,
Hold on 'til you get through.
Child, oh child!
Hold on!

When you feel your heart is poundin', 
Fear a devil's at your door.
There's no place to hide-
You're frozen to the floor! 
What you do then is you force yourself
To wake up, and you say: 
"It's this dream, not me,
that's bound to go away."

Hold on,
Hold on, the night will soon be by.
Hold on,
Until there's nothing left to try.
Child, hold on, There's angels on their way!
Hold on and hear them say,
"Child, oh child!"

And it doesn't even matter
If the danger and the doom
Come from up above or down below, 
Or just come flying
At you from across the room!

When you see a man who's raging,
And he's jealous and he fears
That you've walked through walls
He's hid behind for years.
What you do then is you tell yourself to wait it out
And say it's this day, not me,
That's bound to go away.

Child, oh hold on.
It's this day, not you,
That's bound to go away!

We are not going anywhere. We just have to hold on and push back the swirling darkness. 

Dec 7, 2017

An Invitation to Grow

by Kari Diane Pike

About three and a half years ago, our youngest son Levi and our niece Megan participated in a cultural celebration to commemorate the dedication of the Gilbert Arizona temple for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Several hundred youth and their leaders rehearsed in dry, asthma-attack-inducing, dusty conditions and then performed as icy rain poured down from the sky. Megan described the event as the most horrible, magnificent experience she had ever had. All of the youth bore testimony of the Spirit they felt and the witness they received that Jesus is the Savior and Redeemer and that the Book of Mormon is another testament of Jesus Christ. They recognized that because of the conditions they faced, they could see how Heavenly Father strengthened them and gave them the ability to carry on with their celebration. They learned that they could do far more than they ever thought possible and do it joyfully.

 I've heard Megan's words echo in my mind quite a bit the past couple of months. Life is magnificent, but sometimes living hurts. And have you ever noticed that just when you think you've figured out some of the answers, the questions change? Or the challenge gets bigger?

Why does it seem so hard to follow through on those flashes of inspiration and promptings I receive from the Holy Spirit? Through prayer and study I've discovered answers to questions and greater insight into principles of the gospel that have helped me make sense of recent challenges. For instance, I came across a wonderful article by Wallace Goddard titled, "A Loving Perspective on Difficult Children" that I knew would help me understand and communicate better not only with my grandchildren, but with several adults in my life. Brother Goddard used a phrase that did more than light a bulb over my head. His "Irritation is an invitation" shot off fireworks in my brain. Thoughts and ideas that had been floating around began to fit together. But there was still something missing.

In seminary, we recently studied the book of Mosiah in the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. We compared the experiences of the people of King Limhi and the people of Alma. Both groups of people were descendants of the people who followed Zeniff from the land of Zarahemla back to the land of Nephi. Both groups ended up in bondage to the Lamanites and experienced great hardship and burdens. Both groups were eventually delivered from the bondage by the Lord. But their experiences also had some great differences. 

The people of Limhi had initially rejected the words of the Lord given through Abinidi and Alma. They stood by as Abinidi was burned to death and Alma was hunted. Only when they began to recognize that Abinidi's prophecies had been fulfilled, did they begin to change their attitude and repent. The Lord was slow to hear their prayers because of their iniquities, but He did hear them, and He began to soften the hearts of the Lamanites and the people began to "prosper by degrees". Eventually, Gideon came up with a plan and the Lord strengthened the people to carry out a plan of escape. 

The people of Alma sought him out and found him near the Waters of Mormon. They risked their lives to listen to him preach the truths of the gospel and to be baptized. They received warning when wicked King Noah discovered their whereabouts and they were lead safely to the land of Helam where they began to prosper. But then in Mosiah 23:21, 23 we read: 
Nevertheless that Lord seeth fit to chasten his people; yea, he trieth their patience and their faith...For behold, I will show unto you that they were brought into bondage, and none could deliver them but the Lord their God, yea, even the God of Abraham and Isaac and of Jacob.
While I thought I understood in my heart what the Lord is trying to teach in this account, I couldn't think of the words needed to answer the question I knew my students would ask : But they were obedient and making good choices. They were good people, so why did bad things happen to them? Why does the Lord see fit to reprimand people when they are being good?

Then I came to a quote in the lesson that added the missing piece to my puzzle:
“The word chasten comes from the Latin castus,meaning ‘chaste or pure,’ and chasten means ‘to purify’ [see Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary,11th ed. (2003), “chasten”]” (Lynn G. Robbins, “The Righteous Judge,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2016, 97).
All this time I had been looking at "chasten" as a reprimand or lecture or punishment. But purification - now it all made sense to me. When my trainer at the gym sees that I have progressed as far as I can physically with the exercise routine he had set up, he adds new challenges and pushes me to go faster, lift more weight, etc. He wants to help me increase my fitness, so he makes the workout more difficult. The Lord saw that the people of Alma were ready to grow. As a result, they bore their burdens with grace and humility. They prayed for deliverance. Because of their righteousness, the Lord answered right away and strengthened them to be able to bear their burdens until such a time as He saw fit to deliver them out of the hands of their captors.

The Lord delivered both groups of people from their bondage. The main difference is that the people of Alma saw their trial, or irritation, as an opportunity to submit their will to the Lord and remained steadfast and immovable despite the persecution.

So, I made it my goal to stop and think when I feel irritated by circumstances or the actions of others and ponder the invitation I am being given to grow spiritually and to become more like the Savior as He purifies me. For some reason I feel like more situations than ever have cropped up to challenge my desire to do and be a better person. Sometimes I manage to recognize them and navigate through successfully, but more often than not, I find myself distracted or focused on other things and I trip, stumble, and even fall flat on my face.

Oh, how grateful I am for Jesus Christ's Atonement - the one and only way I can be strengthened enough to get up, find my bearings, and continue moving forward. I can let go of irritation and let it become an invitation to grow, to change, and to humbly submit myself to the Lord. This does not mean I have to tolerate abuse of any kind - please don't misunderstand. It does mean that I can let go of offenses - whether they are intentional or perceived - and I can forgive myself and others and extend love the way the Savior extends His love to all. I can experience happiness and joy amidst the challenges by knowing that it is through those challenges that I will learn who I am: a daughter of a Heavenly King who loves me so much He sent His Only Begotten Son to live, love, serve, suffer, bleed and die, and rise again - opening the way for me to also be redeemed and choose eternal life.

Life is magnificent and the pain is worth it.

Dec 5, 2017


by Marsha Ward

It seems like time is rushing by so fast I can barely keep track of the days.

I noticed two days ago that I had a calendar stuck on October. As I regretfully flipped past November, I wondered where all that time had gone.

Had I used it wisely?
Had the hours been spent doing something good and/or worthwhile?

I think so. Two weeks of October were spent traveling to and from and attending a week-long workshop on the coast of Oregon. The over-arching theme of the workshop was "Time," and how authors--especially indie authors--don't have enough of it to do everything they want to accomplish. I came away dazed, and with my head so full of information that I thought it would explode.

In November, I finished working on a piece of fiction that I wrote over the span of three years, mostly because the main character wasn't ready to move on. I can't force characters to reveal their secrets until they are ready. However, I managed to publish Mended by Moonlight on the last day of the month.

I also traveled to attend a family Thanksgiving celebration. That was very nice. I may spend Christmas Eve with that side of the family again.

Now I'm starting a new story. The challenge there is to break away from everything else I do and make time for writing it.

I have so many plans for things to do in the new year: cover re-dos for better branding, writing, marketing, learning. I have to focus hard and pick the most worthwhile projects and endeavors.

What do you do with your time?