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