Saturday, December 7, 2013

Got Joy?

I need my therapy!  Every time I walk into my garage and see "my toy" sitting there, I get this overwhelming urge to jump in and go for a ride!  In fact, I get down right giddy at the thought of it! Yes, this girlie girl loves to get out in nature and enjoy the dirt and mud!

There is nothing like being out in nature...observing, pondering, enjoying...even at times driving like a bat out of you know where! This has Radiator Springs Racers at Disneyland beat hands down! 

At times, after Paul died I wondered if I would ever feel true joy again.  I can honestly say, I feel a bit of that pure joy when I am out on my UTV.  I feel him close by.  I feel his happiness that I am happy.  Seriously, who needs to pay for a therapist? I will just jump on “my toy” and go for a ride!

It is a good thing that I have discovered other things that can bring me joy, especially since it is now winter and I can’t head to the mountains. As I have discovered, my UTV, is not the only thing that brings me joy. 

Service to others brings me joy.  I can remember as young girl always being told if you serve others, you will feel better.  Guess what?  It really does work!

Expressing gratitude brings me joy.  I know it sounds strange. But it really does work.  Give it a try!

Spending time with my children brings me joy.  When I take the time to just sit and listen to them.  Watch them.  Hold them.  Laugh with them. 

These are things that bring us joy that does not cost money.  They are things that if we choose to do, we will actually get back more than we give.

Do I miss Paul?  Every day!  Some days are harder than others.  Some days I just have a hard time breathing because I miss him so much…but I must keep going. 

During this holiday season I am feeling the sadness that comes when someone you love so deeply is gone.  The dark, overcast, cold days do not help.  I look for every bit of bright that I can find.  Often times, that bright is found through other people. It is through serving each other. It is love. It is kindness.

So, everyday as I longingly look at “my toy” and wish I could just jump in and go, I get crazy thoughts about buying a big sled to haul behind it…pull the kids around…not on my road because it is too small…over to the church parking lot across the street…no mail boxes to this crazy…one of those “you’ll shoot your eye out” kind of moments?

This is my therapy, what is yours?  What brings you joy?

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The First Thanksgiving

This is our first Thanksgiving without Paul.  I feel many different emotions today.  I know this day will be different without him here.  I already miss him bustling around the house...  

Paul loved to bake.  He made the best rolls ever!  He would make those the day before Thanksgiving so we could have the oven free to cook the turkey... 

I am so grateful for the knowledge that I will be with Paul again--that we are an eternal family. Of course this goes without saying, but I will miss him terribly today. 

I am grateful that I get to spend today with my wonderful in-laws.  I know that Paul will be  happy to see the family together.  Family has always been so important to him...not just "his" family but "my" family as well.  

Often times, we would combine my family and Paul's together for holidays and other important occasions.  We are just one big happy family!  Unfortunately, we are not able to have us all together today...but I know the love will still be felt.

As I ponder the things I have experienced the past couple years, I feel gratitude.  Yes, I have felt and at times still feel immeasurable sorrow; shed many tears; wondered how life could continue.  Through it all, I have been blessed.

The Apostle Paul counseled, “In EVERY THING give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thes. 5:18).

We are also told, “he who receiveth ALL things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold” (D&C 78:19).

We have been counseled in the scriptures to be grateful for every thing.  Not just the things that make us happy.  I have discovered, if I am grateful for all things, my life is greatly enriched and I receive even greater blessings.

Dallin H. Oaks has said, “we should even give thanks for our afflictions because they turn our hearts to God and give us opportunities to prepare for what God would have us become…

“When we give thanks in all things, we see hardships and adversities in the context of the purpose of life. We are sent here to be tested. There must be opposition in all things. We are meant to learn and grow through that opposition, through meeting our challenges, and through teaching others to do the same.”

As I discussed in my previous post, Grateful for Cancer, I have discovered that we can find sweetness in life in spite of the bitter or even because of the bitter.

I have an amazing widow friend, Veronica, who recently posted on this same topic.  I was teasing her the other day.  I told her she just wrote my next post for me.  Here is a link to that post.  How do you give thanks in all things?

I have truly been blessed!  In closing this post, I would like to quote a widower friend:

As hard as it is to explain, I feel closer to the Lord than ever in my life; I echo Job’s summation: ‘the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Grateful for Cancer

Life is a “bitter-sweet” experience.  We have both good and bad experiences.  Because of the bad we can know and appreciate the good.  I have learned if I choose, I can even find sweetness in the bitter. 

When you are struggling with trials, it can be very difficult to find something to be grateful for.  In fact, sometimes you don’t even feel grateful for the obvious or “sweet” things such as family, friends, food to eat, clothing, a warm home, a good job, children, etc… Not because you aren’t grateful, you just don’t think to be grateful. 

Being grateful requires action.  You must think about it. You do not realize you are grateful, unless you take time to analyze the situation and realize there is something to be grateful for.  

Gratitude and optimism go hand in hand.  When I was a young girl, I can remember watching the Disney movie “Pollyanna”.  I loved that movie!  The movie was based on the book “Pollyanna”, written by Eleanor Porter in 1913.  I haven’t watched it in years, but I ordered the book and DVD on amazon yesterday so I can read the book and watch the DVD with my girls.

"Pollyanna" is a story about an 11-year-old girl who has an optimistic attitude about life. After her father's death, Pollyanna goes to live with her wealthy but bitter aunt, Miss Polly. Miss Polly is a stern disciplinarian, who frowns upon open windows and banging doors. Pollyanna has great enthusiasm for life because of her positive attitude.  Because of her attitude, she manages to change the lives of the people around her, including her aunt and other cynical people.

Pollyanna maintains her optimistic attitude by playing a game her father created called "The Glad Game".  This game came about when Pollyanna, the child of missionaries, was hoping for a doll to arrive for her for Christmas in the missionary barrel.  Instead, when the barrel finally arrived, it contained only a pair of crutches.  Her wise father immediately made up the Glad Game, teaching her that they must choose to focus on the positive, and be glad about the crutches – be glad because they didn’t need to use them!

One of many profound conversations that takes place in the movie is when Pollyanna stumbles upon her pastor as he is practicing one of his typical condemning sermons for the congregation:

POLLYANNA: There are eight hundred happy texts, did you know that?
REVEREND: No, I didn’t know that.
POLLYANNA: Yes, well there are. And do you know, my father said that if GOD took the trouble to tell us eight hundred times to be glad and rejoice, He must have wanted us to do it.

Being glad, isn’t that what gratitude really is? When Paul was in the middle of his cancer treatments, I realized I needed to figure out a way to remember to be grateful.  So I created a gratitude board.  I decided we needed to play the gratitude game.  Honestly, some days we were just grateful for toothpaste or toilet paper, but I can guarantee we were almost always able to find things to be grateful for!  
Gratitude Board

During Paul’s cancer journey, I know that we struggled to be grateful at times.  There was just so much to deal with.  Being grateful is not always easy.  Often times you have to dig deep within your soul to find gratitude. While reading past blog posts, I found this, I pray daily that Paul’s cancer will not return.  I pray daily that I will be strong enough to handle what comes our way.  I pray daily that Heavenly Father will forgive me for not always being as grateful as I should be. I do know that it is so important to be grateful for even the small things, but sometimes you just feel a little like having a pity party.  We really have been blessed throughout this whole ordeal.  God has given us amazing family and friends who constantly are supporting us and lifting us up.” 

I was happy to see that at the end of my statement I still managed to find something to be grateful for!

As I was reading through my past blog posts I came across one titled, “Trying to make sweet lemonade…” I would like to share an excerpt from that post:

“I have been thinking a lot about the phrase, ”When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.”  What does that really mean?  I visualize the lemons as things like cancer, someone losing their job, death, unexpected tragedies, etc.  But what is the sugar that sweetens the lemonade?  After all, lemonade needs to be sweetened with something or it can be very bitter and not really that delightful to drink.

After thinking about this for a while, I have decided that gratitude is the sugar that sweetens the lemonade.  If you have gratitude, things don’t seem so bitter in life.  If you remember that while you are being squeezed by life’s trials (lemons), you have the ability to be grateful (sugar) and focus on the blessings and tender mercies.  If you add enough sugar to lemonade, it can be very delicious.

The hard part is remembering to be grateful when things look so bleak.  Lately, I have been realizing how many blessings I have been given.

I am grateful for a daughter who saw that I needed help to get the oil changed in the car because I don’t have the time do it.
I am grateful for daughters who are willing to come and spend time with their father at the hospital when I can’t be there. 
I am grateful for friends who run errands for me and bring me the things I need (food, new broom, toiletries, etc.).
I am grateful for the phone calls and messages I receive from friends and family.
I am grateful for friends who shovel my sidewalks.
I am grateful for friends who have helped me with my children.
I am grateful for a sister who helped me to get my husbands anniversary present because I didn’t have the time or the knowledge of how and where to get it (a reel for his fly rod and fishing line).
I am grateful for friends who are willing to drive us to Huntsman if needed.
I am grateful for friends who drop whatever they are doing to come bring me dinner at the hospital.
I am grateful for all the gift baskets and goodies we have received.
I am grateful for all the meals that have been brought over.
I am grateful for each and every kind act that has been shown toward my family.  There are too many to mention individually.  We have been so blessed!  Much love and thanks to everyone!

I just have to remember all the things I am grateful for, so I don’t feel bogged down by everything that is happening…After all, I would much rather have sweet lemonade to drink!”

That post was written at a very difficult time.  I remember it all too well.  Paul was very sick with pneumonia…not to mention his bowel blockage and everything else…the constant puking.  I remember being so completely exhausted because I was giving Paul four IV’s of antibiotics a day, in addition to his TPN…let’s just say I was getting little to no sleep…it was brutal.

As I look back on our cancer journey, I have discovered it was the remembering to be grateful that got us through—in addition to a lot of prayer and help from others!

I have been pondering my life’s experiences and the things I am grateful for.  It was easy for me to come up with a long list of the “sweet” things.  I decided to challenge myself.  I was determined to come up with a list of the “sweet” things I was grateful for that came as a result of the “bitter” times.

Here are a few things I am grateful for because of the bitter:

I am grateful for cancer.  Here is an excerpt from one of my previous blog posts, “I am not going to lie…cancer sucks!  It turns your life completely upside down.  The terror you feel when you hear that your loved one has cancer is something I never dreamed I would experience.   It is so very hard to watch the one you love so much, suffer so much…but…

Cancer can also be a blessing.  Cancer is a teacher.  It teaches you patience, love, compassion, humility, charity, gratitude, and many other things.  

One of the most important things that cancer is teaching us is to rely on our Heavenly Father.   We have had some very spiritual experiences while going through this trial.  I cannot adequately explain it in words, but I can actually “feel” the prayers of others.  It carries us through the tough times.”

I am grateful Paul was healed from his cancer.  I know that sounds like a strange thing to be grateful for, since he no longer possesses his mortal body.  But, was he not healed from his cancer?  He is still alive and well…only in spirit form.  He is no longer suffering.

I cannot say I am grateful for Paul dying, but I can say I am grateful for all the things I have learned because of his death.  When you go through a trial of this magnitude, you are driven to your knees.  You rely completely on a loving Heavenly Father. You learn compassion, faith, greater spiritual knowledge…a greater understanding of life.  I wish I could be who I am now, but still have him here with me.  However, I know that would not be the case, it is because of his death that I am a stronger, better person.  It is those excruciatingly painful trials that we grow from the most!

I am grateful for EVERYONE who comes into my life. There is something to be learned from everyone whether it be a positive or negative experience.  You have to experience the negative to understand the positive!  For instance, I have encountered people who are selfish and unkind, it is through those people that I learn forgiveness, patience and charity—these qualities are gifts from God.  

Being grateful does not eliminate all pain and suffering, but it enables you to find joy in life in spite of the trials.  I believe where the most growth and strength of character can be developed is by finding gratitude in the sweetness that can come because of the bitter.

Remember that while you are being squeezed by life’s trials (lemons), you have the ability to be grateful (sugar) and focus on the blessings and tender mercies.  If you add enough sugar to lemonade, it can be very delicious!

Saturday, November 2, 2013


Recently, I have been learning the true meaning of forgiveness.  I have always thought that I was good at forgiving…the Lord thought it was time to put me to the test. 

There are times in our lives when someone hurts us.  I have discovered there are different kinds of hurt and some are easier to get over than others.

Obviously, I am sharing this with you because I was deeply hurt by someone. This individual made some poor choices which has had an impact on both me and my daughters. 

I have been struggling with this issue for the past few weeks.  I hate feeling sad, hurt, and angry…I have been praying about this…I want to forgive…I want to feel peace…I need to feel peace! This I know, you cannot have peace when you harbor feelings.

At times I have felt like I was over this…only to have those feelings return again!  Seriously, why can’t I just get over this?  I have even thought maybe because I have had so much hurt this past year I am not as resilient as I could be…maybe I am tired out emotionally…

Anyway, I have prayed a lot about this.  I have asked God to help me forgive.  I have been searching my heart and soul.

A few days ago, while showering, the place where I receive the most inspiration, I had this scripture come into my mind:

Luke 23:34 -Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do

My first thought was how can this person “know not what they do”?  Then as I thought about it some more, I started to analyze the situation.  It dawned on me, this person truly may not realize how much they have hurt me.  Sometimes people are so caught up in worrying about themselves and there wants and needs that they forget to assess their actions.  In essence, they act without thinking.  They do not think about the impact of their choices on others.  So in that sense, they “do not know what they do” because they are so focused on themselves they do not see what they are doing to others.

I know there are times when we are offended by something someone says or does only because we misunderstood them….there was no malice intended…they have absolutely no clue they have offended you. 

There may be many various reasons why “they know not what they do”.  Does it matter? As I pondered this scripture, I came to a greater realization.  Even if a person appears to know what they did was wrong, would that change my responsibility to forgive them?  No.  I would still need to forgive.

So...I started to feel like I had this conquered.  I was finally over this hurt.  Then, my bubble was burst.  I saw this person and the old feelings returned again…what…I seriously thought I was done with this.

Back to my knees again.  Heavenly Father what is my deal?  I don’t want to harbor bad feelings!  I need to forgive.  As I was sitting in bed after saying my prayers, I felt impressed to look up forgiveness on the internet.

 I found an article in the June 2012 Ensign, “Finding Peace Through Forgiveness”, that specifically addressed some things I needed to hear, “That evening I pondered something about forgiveness that I had understood in principle but never fully appreciated: Forgiveness was not primarily about restoring my relationship with the person who had offended me. Instead, its focus was restoring and improving my relationship with God. It was about trusting—really trusting—that He would take care of me and that He hadn’t allowed anything to happen to me that wouldn’t eventually work out for my benefit. Forgiveness centered on drawing close to Heavenly Father, understanding the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and laying everything on the altar—and doing this cheerfully, with confidence that I was safe in Heavenly Father’s care…”

There were many other things in this article that touched me, but this stood out the most because I feel like I need to trust God more (see previous post Trusting God ).  If I trusted God enough, I would not feel a need for retribution.  I would know that God will make everything right.  I would leave this hurt behind me knowing that all will be well. 

So, I started to feel like I had this conquered.  I was finally over this hurt.  Then, of course, my bubble was burst again when I saw the person who had offended me.  I started to feel anxiety and unhappiness.  I started to think about what had happened.  Oh brother! 

Last night, I started to pray again and do more soul searching.  I woke up in the early hours worrying about everything…as I was sitting in my bed, a song came into my mind, “Ere you left your room this morning, did you think to pray?” 

At first I started to chuckle, I was thinking where did that come from?  I am sitting here in my bed…I haven’t gone anywhere…I was planning on saying my prayers.  Then I started to think a little more about the words…remembering there was a phrase about forgiving others…then I realized that it was Paul prompting me. 

I have had some special answers/promptings that have come from Paul through music.  I consider them tender mercies from God.  Paul loved music!  I know answers that come through music are from him.  In future posts I will share more experiences I have had through music.

Anyway, I looked the song up on the internet.  These are the words:

Ere you left your room this morning,
Did you think to pray?
In the name of Christ our Savior,
Did you sue for loving favor,
As a shield today?

O how praying rests the weary!
Prayer will change the night to day;
So when life seems dark and dreary,
Don’t forget to pray.

When you met with great temptation,
Did you think to pray?
By His dying love and merit,
Did you claim the Holy Spirit
As your guide and stay?

When your heart was filled with anger,
Did you think to pray?
Did you plead for grace, my brother,
That you might forgive another
Who had crossed your way?

When sore trials came upon you,
Did you think to pray?
When your soul was bowed in sorrow,
Balm of Gilead did you borrow
At the gates of day?

After I finished reading the lyrics, I pondered what he was trying to tell me, besides the obvious things-pray...forgive.  I kept noticing the words Balm of Gilead.  I had heard those words used frequently in the past few weeks…I can’t even remember where.  

So, of course, I did what I always do, I looked the words Balm Of Gilead up on the internet.  I wanted to understand the significance…since it was a term I had heard over the years, but never paid much attention to.

In my research, the first talk I came to was Boyd K. Packer, “The Balm of Gilead”.   The article stated: “The Bible records that in ancient times there came from Gilead, beyond the Jordan, a substance used to heal and soothe. It came, perhaps, from a tree or shrub, and was a major commodity of trade in the ancient world. It was known as the Balm of Gilead. That name became symbolic for the power to soothe and heal.”

As I continued reading, I knew I was reading something of great importance.  I was very touched by what I was reading.  I knew that Paul wanted me to read this…that this has some key points to help me in my journey to forgive. 

I would like to share a story from the article that really made me think:
If you suffer from worry, from grief or shame or jealousy or disappointment or envy, from self-recrimination or self-justification, consider this lesson taught to me many years ago by a patriarch. He was as saintly a man as I have ever known. He was steady and serene, with a deep spiritual strength that many drew upon.

He grew up in a little community with a desire to make something of himself. He struggled to get an education.

He married his sweetheart, and presently everything was just right. He was well employed, with a bright future. They were deeply in love, and she was expecting their first child.

The night the baby was to be born, there were complications. The only doctor was somewhere in the countryside tending to the sick.

After many hours of labor, the condition of the mother-to-be became desperate.
Finally the doctor was located. In the emergency, he acted quickly and soon had things in order. The baby was born and the crisis, it appeared, was over.

Some days later, the young mother died from the very infection that the doctor had been treating at another home that night.

John’s world was shattered. Everything was not right now; everything was all wrong. He had lost his wife. He had no way to tend both the baby and his work.

As the weeks wore on, his grief festered. “That doctor should not be allowed to practice,” he would say. “He brought that infection to my wife. If he had been careful, she would be alive today.”

He thought of little else, and in his bitterness, he became threatening. Today, no doubt, he would have been pressed by many others to file a malpractice suit. And there are lawyers who would see in his pitiable condition only one ingredient—money!

But that was another day, and one night a knock came at his door. A little girl said simply, “Daddy wants you to come over. He wants to talk to you.”

“Daddy” was the stake president. A grieving, heartbroken young man went to see his spiritual leader.

This spiritual shepherd had been watching his flock and had something to say to him.
The counsel from that wise servant was simply, “John, leave it alone. Nothing you do about it will bring her back. Anything you do will make it worse. John, leave it alone.”

My friend told me then that this had been his trial—his Gethsemane. How could he leave it alone? Right was right! A terrible wrong had been committed and somebody must pay for it. It was a clear case.

But he struggled in agony to get hold of himself. And finally, he determined that whatever else the issues were, he should be obedient.

Obedience is powerful spiritual medicine. It comes close to being a cure-all.
He determined to follow the counsel of that wise spiritual leader. He would leave it alone.

Then he told me, “I was an old man before I understood! It was not until I was an old man that I could finally see a poor country doctor—overworked, underpaid, run ragged from patient to patient, with little medicine, no hospital, few instruments, struggling to save lives, and succeeding for the most part.

“He had come in a moment of crisis, when two lives hung in the balance, and had acted without delay.

“I was an old man,” he repeated, “before I finally understood! I would have ruined my life,” he said, “and the lives of others.”

Many times he had thanked the Lord on his knees for a wise spiritual leader who counseled simply, “John, leave it alone.”

After I read that story I remembered something Paul had shared with me right after we first got married.  He told me that he was struggling with the death of his first wife.  He wanted to know why she suffered from mental illness and why her life ended the way it did.

Paul told me as he prayed, he received a very distinct answer. He heard an audible voice say, “Let it go. You cannot dwell on this.  If you do, it will destroy you.”  He said at that point, he let it go.

I started to cry as I realized what my sweet husband wants me to know.  He wants me to “let it go”…”leave it alone.”  It is time for me to put my trust in God and forgive.  I need to move forward.

Boyd K. Packer said, “Some frustrations we must endure without really solving the problem. Some things that ought to be put in order are not put in order because we cannot control them. 

Things we cannot solve, we must survive.

If you resent someone for something he has done—or failed to do—forget it.

Too often the things we carry are petty, even stupid. If you are still upset after all these years because Aunt Clara didn’t come to your wedding reception, why don’t you grow up and forget it?

If you brood constantly over a loss or a past mistake, look ahead—settle it.

We call that forgiveness. Forgiveness is powerful spiritual medicine. To extend forgiveness that soothing balm, to those who have offended you is to heal. And, more difficult yet, when the need is there, forgive yourself!”

So now the journey begins again…back to forgiving.  I know that it is easy for my mind to wander back to the situation and rehash it.  After all isn’t that why a person can’t forgive?  Our minds go back to the past and relive and rethink things.  I realize that a big part of success in life is learning how to control your thoughts. If I can control my thoughts, I can forgive!

When past hurts resurface, I am going to redirect my thoughts.  I have heard of suggestions to memorize scriptures, sing a song (of course not out loud if your in public—then again that could make life interesting), think of a favorite quote…any other suggestions?

As I discussed in a previous post (Staying In the Present), I need to choose to act and not be acted upon.  I need to stay in the present!  Staying in the present doesn’t mean that I don’t learn from the past.  It just means that I don’t dwell on the past.  

What I am learning from this experience is that God, at times, allows us to struggle to forgive someone because it can make us stronger.  When we are struggling, we tend to be more humble and less prideful; therefore we are more receptive to growth and learning.  Forgiveness is a process.  It is something that doesn’t just happen over night.  I am learning through prayer and the help of a loving Savior, I am going to do this!  I am going to let it go!

A book that I highly recommend about forgiveness is called,  “Let It Go”, by Chris Williams.  A couple of months ago, I had the opportunity to talk to Chris…what a great experience!

I would also recommend reading the articles I referenced in my post.  There is a lot of great information to ponder!

Happy reading!  I have made it easy for you…here are the links!

Finding Peace Through Forgiveness 
The Healing Power of Forgiveness-James E. Faust 
Balm of Gilead-Boyd K. Packer 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Put On Your Own Shoes

I have been pondering the sorrows of many who have lost a spouse, myself included.  There is indescribable pain in losing someone you love so deeply.

My mom passed away six months before my husband.  I remember feeling such great sadness at her passing.  I remember feeling so lost without her…then my husband died…wow…and I thought I couldn’t feel deeper sorrow…now I know a deeper, indescribable sorrow that causes you to physically hurt…it’s the kind of sorrow that brings you to your knees…you curl up in the fetal position and sob uncontrollably…

I do not know the sorrow that comes from losing a child.  I have never lost a child, nor do I wish to ever have that happen!  I can only imagine the pain and sorrow which follows…I pray I NEVER have to face that loss.

My dad and I have had many conversations about the death of our spouses.  At first, I was frustrated at how he kept saying I can’t believe this happened…how could she have died?  My initial thoughts were, “Seriously, dad?  You can’t believe she died? Death doesn’t come as unexpected when you are in your 70’s.  At least you had 52 years in mortality with her.  At least, your reality is that you will see her a whole lot sooner than I will see Paul. My husband died when I was in my 40’s…mom was in her 70’s…I might be here another 40 years without him…you might be here another 10 years (not likely because of health).  At least all your children are raised…I still have young children to raise. 

It didn’t take me long to realize that his loss was just as significant to him as was mine to me.  I am ashamed to say that I even thought those things. You may lose your spouse after only 3 months or it might be 60 years later.  I have come to realize that it doesn’t matter when you lose your spouse, it IS PAINFUL.

I have also come to realize that everyone grieves differently.  Some people grieve longer than others.  Some people appear to not grieve at all.  It is not my place to judge anyone else for the way they choose to handle their grief.  It is my responsibility to love unconditionally.

Recently, I have thought a lot about the sayings, “you can’t understand a person until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes” or “don’t judge someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.”  I have come to the realization that even if you were to put on another persons shoes, your experience would be different.

What if your feet are larger or smaller than the shoes?  What if your arch is higher? What if your feet are wider or narrower? Realistically, your feet would fit in those shoes very differently than the person originally wearing them.  You would feel things differently, because the shoes fit differently.  Therefore, your experience would not be the same. In order to have the exact same experience in those shoes, they would have to fit you exactly the same way.  That is not realistic, because even if your feet were almost exactly the same…they are not the same. 

Let’s take this a step further and say you even wore the same size of shoe as someone.  You were each given the same pair of new shoes to wear at the same time.  Would your experience wearing those shoes be the same? Not likely.  You still have differences in your feet.  No two people have exactly the same feet.  There may be just small differences, but differences nonetheless.

So it is with experiences in life.  Even if two people could be given the exact same trial to deal with, it would be felt and handled differently.  We all have different personalities; different life experiences; different perceptions about life.  It is those things that influence how we deal with our life circumstances.

I have learned that while the sorrow from the experience of the death of my spouse may be different than someone else’s, I still know sorrow.  I do not know the depth of someone else’s sorrow nor can they know mine.  But what we both know is that we are hurt and sad.  We can focus on commonalities.  We can show compassion and empathy towards others just simply because we understand pain. Knowing that we cannot completely understand how someone is feeling, we can still do our best to support and love unconditionally.  We can follow the teachings of our Savior and just “mourn with those who mourn”.

There are many types of loss in life.  Some may experience it through death, divorce, illness, work lay-offs, etc… All loss causes a form of suffering. Some people may want someone to talk to them.   Many people just need someone to listen to them.  Some people may want visitors and others may prefer to be alone. 

I know that it can be difficult to know how to help someone who is grieving.  The best advice I can give is to let the Holy Spirit guide you.  If you pray to specifically to know the needs of another, God will guide you through the Holy Spirit.  It may be something as simple as letting them know you are thinking of them…it can be through a card…it can be in person….of course food is always welcome!  Sometimes it’s the simple things that mean the most.

It is not our responsibility to attempt to put on someone else’s shoes and judge them or try to completely understand how they are feeling.  You can never walk in another person’s shoes and have the same experience!  You will never completely understand. You don’t need to walk in someone else’s shoes to show compassion and empathy.  You can put on your own shoes, with all the experiences they have provided you, and walk beside them and help them through their trials!

I have been blessed with so many kind, compassionate and understanding family members and friends.  I am grateful they wear their shoes and I wear mine and we walk together side by side. For this I will be eternally grateful!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Trusting God

I have discovered one of the biggest challenges in this life is to REALLY trust God. It is easy to say that I do, but can be very hard to actually put into practice.  When trials, like the death of my spouse, come into my life I have been tested to see where I really stand.  

Time and time again, I have seen the hand of God in my life.  He is guiding my life.  So why don’t I always trust Him?  Why do I “fight” his guidance? I have been pondering these questions a lot recently.

I have come to realize, trust is more than believing that God is directing your life and has a plan for you.  It is trusting that, with God’s help, you can endure the direction your life is headed.  It is trusting that I will receive the best outcome for my personal plan and growth. Therefore, trusting God is really a three step process.  First, I must trust that God knows my plan and is directing my life.  Second, I must trust that He will guide me through the path placed before me.  Third, I must trust the end result will be what is best for me.

I have discovered that, more often than not, I trust God is directing my path.  However, I have lacked, at times, the trust that He will help me on my path.  I forget that He can and will help me to get through the loneliness, sadness, pain, etc… I have also struggled with the third part of trust. It is hard to trust God because it is hard to visualize that something so painful can turn out to be the best thing for me.

Let’s face it, we all want to feel loved; most of us don’t want to be alone; we don’t want to feel sadness; we don’t want to hurt.  Many of the things we face in this life cause us to feel these undesired—downright painful—emotions.  Even though we may know the outcome will be in our best interest, we still try to avoid things that will cause us pain to get to that point.  That is human nature. God understands why we struggle with trusting Him completely. 

One of my favorite books is called “The Lord Looketh on the Heart”, by Max & Bette Molgard.  I would like to share a story from that book.  It is an old Arab Legend that can help us to understand God’s panoramic view. 

“The great prophet Moses was visited by angels and invited to come to heaven.  While there he noticed God giving orders to some of his angels.  Curious, Moses asked if he could accompany an angel on his mission.  The Lord was reluctant at first to send Moses, claiming that he would not be able to understand what the angels had been sent to do, but with further pleading he finally consented, with a condition.  Moses must promise not to question the things he would see.  To this Moses agreed and soon found himself flying with the angel down to earth.

They first flew over the water until they came to a small fishing boat upon which seven poor fishermen were trying to catch their daily sustenance.  As they flew nearer, the angel looked upon them and waved his arm.  Immediately the ship broke in half and all seven of the humble fishermen drowned.  Moses was stunned at this and began questioning the angel. The angel reprimanded Moses, reminding him of his promise, and they flew on in silence.

The second circumstance found them flying over the desert near a small village.  Walking down a dusty path was a young boy of about ten.  As they flew by, the angel once again waved his arm and the young boy dropped dead on the path.  Moses was again astonished at the irrational behavior of the angel and began to protest loudly until the angel again silenced him by reminding him of his promise to the Lord.  A quiet but angry Moses continued on the journey with the angel, confused that the Lord would send an angel to work such destruction and sorrow upon innocent people.

The third episode involved a small family living on the outskirts of a large city.  Along the caravan road entering the city lived a poor widow and her only son.  They were desperately poor and lived solely upon the meager harvest of a small garden scratched into the dust of their backyard.  The garden was alongside an old stone wall erected to separate the home from the caravan route into the city.  As Moses and the angel flew by, he once again waved his arm, and the stone fence fell into the widows garden, destroying all the produce.  At this unexpected turn of events, Moses could no longer be silent in his protesting and the angel took him back to heaven and to the Lord.

Moses asked the Lord why he would do such things, and the Lord reminded him of the warning that he would not be able to understand the workings of God.  After further protests, the Lord decided the only way to teach Moses would be to send his again with the angel, this time to see things he had not seen before.

Once again Moses and the angel flew over the water where the fishermen had perished.  Debris and wreckage still floated on the surface of the water.  As Moses watched, he saw something that he could not see the first time.  Far over the horizon, just barely in view he noticed another boat.  The angel allowed Moses to see what would have been had he not been sent of God.  The other boat was full of pirates, and Moses knew that the fishermen would have been captured, tortured, and sold into slavery had the Lord not in his mercy chose to bring them home.

They then passed the young Arab, still lifeless along the desert path.  Moses was allowed to see that later that same afternoon this young boy would have accidentally killed his brother.  According to the custom of the village, he would have been disowned by his family and made an outcast in the town, being forced to make his living begging in the streets until death from disease freed him from his misery.

Finally, they flew over the widow’s garden, where the woman and her son were struggling to salvage something from the chaos that was once their garden.  As the young boy dug away the earth under a large rock, he noticed a small cache.  Investigating further he found a small chest.  He called to his mother, and they looked inside and found a treasure trove of jewels and riches enough to provide a comfortable living for them for the remainder of their lives.

With a smile Moses flew back to heaven with the angel.  He finally understood what the Lord had been trying to tell him.

As we consider the legend, the words of Isaiah come to mind: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9). “

Trusting God means I will not always understand why things happen.  Trusting God means letting go of what I think or thought should happen. Trusting God means that I need to have faith that He knows what is best for me.  Not just for this mortal life, but for eternity.   Trusting God means I have faith He will help me on my path.  Trusting God means I understand that my path may be very undesirable and painful at times, even with his help, but that the end result will be worth it!