Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Education I Came Here to Acquire


My friends and I studied this talk by Paul V. Johnson yesterday at General Conference Book Club.  GCBC has been such a blessing to me.  I always feel fed spiritually when we meet, and the wisdom and love that I receive from the other women in our group is really an important part of my week...quickly becoming an important part of my life.  


Elder Johnson's talk seemed "laser-pointed" to me and my recent experiences and trials.  Here are some quotes from the talk that jumped out at me:
"These trials are not just to test us. They are vitally important to the process of putting on the divine nature. 3 If we handle these afflictions properly, they will be consecrated for our gain. 4
Elder Orson F. Whitney said: “No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. … All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable. … It is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire.”
"Since personal growth is an intended outcome of these challenges, it should come as no surprise that the trials can be very personal—almost laser guided to our particular needs or weaknesses. And no one is exempt, especially not Saints striving to do what’s right."

"The furnace of affliction helps purify even the very best of Saints by burning away the dross in their lives and leaving behind pure gold. 6 Even very rich ore needs refining to remove impurities. Being good is not enough. We want to become like the Savior, who learned as He suffered “pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind.” 

We don’t seek out tests, trials, and tribulations. Our personal journey through life will provide just the right amount for our needs. Many trials are just a natural part of our mortal existence, but they play such an important role in our progress.

Sometimes we want to have growth without challenges and to develop strength without any struggle. But growth cannot come by taking the easy way. We clearly understand that an athlete who resists rigorous training will never become a world-class athlete. We must be careful that we don’t resent the very things that help us put on the divine nature.

Not one of the trials and tribulations we face is beyond our limits, because we have access to help from the Lord. We can do all things through Christ, who strengthens us. 

Our Heavenly Father loves us, and we “know that whosoever shall put their trust in God shall be supported in their trials, and their troubles, and their afflictions, and shall be lifted up at the last day.” 18 Someday when we get to the other side of the veil, we want more than for someone just to tell us, “Well, you’re done.” Instead, we want the Lord to say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”


I am guest blogging over at Or So She Says today...We're slaying DRAGONS!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Will I Be Swallowed Up or Will IT Be Swallowed Up?



Well, my blog friends, I am really struggling.  Can you tell?  This whole blankie thing has really pushed me over the edge emotionally.  Even as I knit the new blankie, it does not bring me peace.  Perhaps it is because normally when I knit this blanket, it is because I am expecting a child...and this time, I am not expecting another baby.  And I will probably never be able to have another baby.  This fact makes knitting this familiar pattern that much more painful for me personally.


I am struggling with the sadness.  For anyone reading this who has ever struggled with this type of sadness, you know that it is not a trite sorrow that I am describing.  It cannot be wiped away as simply as tears can be.  It lingers...and it often waits just below the surface for some otherwise benign events to make it reappear.  It is a sadness that threatens to swallow one whole. 


This grief that I am feeling, obviously reaches far beyond the loss of blankie, and encompasses me like nothing else.  I am sure that it is clouding my judgment.  It is definitely affecting my relationship with my neighbors.


So the test for me now is this:  Do I love my neighbors more than I love blankie and all that blankie meant to me and to my son...and all that it means for me personally to reknit that blanket when every stitch reminds me that I will probably never have another child?  


I say that I love my neighbors all the time here on my blog...because I do.  Sincerely.  They are very good people, good families.  We are lucky and blessed to live in such a family-oriented neighborhood.  


So--out of love for my neighbors, I will be deleting any comments from the comments section that passed judgment on them, because that was never the purpose of my post.


The family has let me know that it was the father who mistakenly threw out blankie, so I will also change any reference to the person who threw out blankie to "someone," so that no one has to unfairly take credit for it.  


I love children after all, and it would be very selfish of me to cling to my own grief instead of setting a child free when I had the opportunity to.


Although I don't think I have said anything malicious about them, it is not my opinion that matters, it is their feelings that matter to me most.  And I hope that they can find it in their hearts to forgive me.  

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Perfect Note


One week from today is our annual neighborhood 4th of July Parade.

I've been so busy that I haven't yet found anyone to sing the Star-Spangled Banner at our flag ceremony...so I guess the task falls to me.  I figured I'd better get my trumpet out and figure out the notes, so I can actually play it.  (I had to write out the notes, because my music from high school doesn't have the melody in one section.)  

I have avoided doing it myself during previous parades, because I already have a lot of details to worry about and coordinate...but this year, I have no choice.  Also I feel like I have to re-memorize it, because playing with music in my hand just feels wrong.  I prefer to have the music originate from somewhere inside of me instead of from a piece of paper.

I also feel pressure to play it perfectly, because...it is the Star-spangled Banner after all.  I can tell by the way that I am feeling that today is probably not the day to require perfection of myself...but perfectionism is my weakness...truly.  I try to keep it in check, but sometimes it gets away from me...

All Blankies Go to Heaven


I was beginning to think that Guy was way too mature about the loss of blankie, when out of the blue he asked me as I was tucking him in to bed last night, "Is there any way to get blankie back?  I mean, can't we just ask the person who threw it away what bag it's in and go get it?"  I explained again that blankie was in a dump somewhere and that it would be nearly impossible to find him.  Tears and sadness ensued.  I really had no comforting answer.  I mean, blankie is sitting under a heap of garbage, and I am powerless to bring him back.  I was all out of awesome mommy answers for the evening.  

Then I told Guy that one person knows exactly how he feels.  Guy responded, "Jesus?"  Yes.  And Heavenly Father.  In fact, Heavenly Father sent his only begotten son to earth, and people were not very nice to him. They hurt him and caused him to die.  And Heavenly Father saw it all.  This made him very sad, so I'm sure he knows how you feel about losing blankie.  

I also reminded Guy about the funeral that we went to about a week ago for our young friend Christian.  When the funeral ended, we all watched as his mother bent over her son's body and kissed him good-bye for the very last time.  I reminded him of that moment, and reminded him that other people feel sadness too.  Imagine how she felt, I said.  At least we still have each other, and that is something to be very happy about.  

Then we said a prayer...a prayer that God would take blankie to heaven so it didn't have to remain in that lonely old dump.  It was the only ending to this story that I could be satisfied with.  If God can move mountains, he can certainly look after the blankie of a little boy, right?  Hopefully, it is not sacrilegious to petition the Creator of the Universe for such a thing, but I believe in a God who cares about the feelings of a little boy.  And if Guy can believe that God cares enough to watch out for his blankie, then I can too.  We also prayed that we wouldn't be sad anymore, and that I could make a new blankie that we could all love...and make it fast!

Now I am feeling a little bit like that chick in Rumpelstiltskin...Guy has given me just 10 days to finish re-making blankie.  (At least he is willing to help!)  He says that I can stay up half of the night making it and sleep in half of the morning.  Sweet!  I've got my work cut out for me...

Sunday, June 26, 2011

See What God Hath Done


I went to put something away in my basement this morning before running out the door to go to church and found a lot of water, all ice-cold and perky, ready to greet me (or my feet anyway) with a big wet kiss!  Luckily, we keep almost everything in plastic bins and off of the floor so nothing important was lost.  I just had to laugh and thank God for protecting my precious things from being ruined.  

It was the second indication in less than 24 hours that God is watching out for us.  

Last night, as we were returning from a fishing trip to the lake, we got a flat tire.  I counted this as a HUGE BLESSING, because it happened 1) while I was with Steve, 2) not far from our home, and 3) it didn't happen earlier this week while we were driving to or from Cleveland (a 5 hour trip with kids in tow!).

As Steve painstakingly changed our tire last night (using what he deemed a completely inadequate jack), I sat comfortably in the front seat, knitting Guy's new blankie, and I just reflected on what a blessing it all was.  And I felt completely awash with GRATITUDE to the Lord.  I felt calm, safe, and protected.

So to find a few inches of water in my basement this morning was just another ridiculously lovely sight, because it was just more proof to me that God exists, that he cares about us, and that he is involved in the intimate details of our lives.

I see these events as subtle reminders that we go from day to day by the grace of God.  I am pretty sure that if we knew how many accidents and troubles he and his angels have saved us from during the course of our day, we'd all fall to our knees and praise him -- and we'd live life a little fuller, a little happier, and a little more gratefully.

After picking up some wet boxes and such, I decided that more than anything I wanted to take the kids to church so that we could all take the sacrament today.  This was an act of gratitude to God that I did not want to miss doing...not today.  The basement would keep for an hour or so.  So that is what we did.

And of course, the rest hymn was "Count Your Many Blessings"...and the final hymn was "Scatter Sunshine".  (There was also an awesome talk on faith by my friend Kacie that I'm glad I didn't miss.)  I've highlighted some of the lyrics that touched me today.

When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.
Refrain
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
And you will keep singing as the days go by.
Refrain
When you look at others with their lands and gold,
Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold;
Count your many blessings. Wealth can never buy
Your reward in heaven, nor your home on high.
Refrain
So, amid the conflict whether great or small,
Do not be disheartened, God is over all;
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.





In a world where sorrow
Ever will be known,
Where are found the needy,
And the sad and lone;
How much joy and comfort
You can all bestow,
If you scatter sunshine
Everywhere you go.


Refrain

Scatter sunshine all along your way;
Cheer and bless and brighten
Every passing day;
Scatter sunshine all along your way;
Cheer and bless and brighten
Every passing day.

Slightest actions often
Meet the sorest needs,
For the world wants daily
Little kindly deeds;
Oh, what care and sorrow
You may help remove,
With your songs and courage,
Sympathy and love.


Refrain


When the days are gloomy,
Sing some happy song;
Meet the world’s repining
With a courage strong;
Go with faith undaunted
Thro’ the ills of life;
Scatter smiles and sunshine
O’er its toil and strife.


Despite a breakdown over the loss of blankie a few days ago, and a flooded basement, and a flat tire...the burden we are asked to bear is not heavy or hard to carry.  Calling it a burden is really an exaggeration, especially compared to what trials we could be facing.

Right now, a friend of mine, actually an entire family of friends of mine is standing by waiting for their mother, the great matriarch of their family, to pass from this life to the next.  Their cross must be unbearable, even with the great faith that they have.  This will be a supreme loss for them.

So, while my husband is downstairs shopvacing our basement floor, I am counting my blessings...and baking bread and cookies and dinner to take over to this family.  Because we have been blessed...and for today, we have been spared, and because I love them, and because it is what they would do--and have done-- for me in my hour of need.

Who can you help today? Who's burden can you share?  What trial can you look to with gladness?  Walk with confidence knowing that God is truly over all.


Saturday, June 25, 2011

So It Is With Us


I like to talk things out.  If I have something that is troubling me, I often won't go to bed until I have talked it to death to the person closest to me, and when I have resolved it in my head, I go to sleep.  This person used to be my sister and perpetual roommate, Marissa.  Now it's my lucky husband.

So, after the blanket episode from earlier today (actually yesterday now), I was still left wondering WHY?  (By the way, just to set the record straight, I don't harbor any bad feelings for the person who happened to throw Guy's blanket away.  Just to be clear.)  Anyway, after calming down a bit, buying new yarn, starting to knit a new blanket (and then having to rip out row three, because I did something wrong already, not sure what)...and after already learning some important lessons in humility, responsibility, and perspective, I was still left wondering WHY? 

I wondered aloud to Steve:  I know these were important lessons for us to learn, but WHY, of all things, did this have to happen to Guy's first possession in this life?  The first thing that was really his, that he really loved, and that he was truly personally responsible for?  (And boy did he take good care of that blanket...seriously, for a five-year-old, he was very, very vigilant about that blanket.)  I mean, why couldn't it have been a book or something replaceable that we have like a million of?

I figured this must have been an extremely significant lesson, if the Lord was using this first and very sentimental object to get a message to us.

I had to dig deeper for the meaning.

By this time, I could finally see some comedy in the excruciating moments of the day.  (I have to credit Scarlett here for providing some great comic relief when she suddenly, and very matter-of-factly interjected while walking through Walmart, "We know what happened, we're just not talking about it."  My four-year-old astutely derived that from what she overheard me say on the phone with my mom.  What's done is done.  Don't dwell.  Kids are so great.)

So, after relaying that little funny Scarlett-ism to Steve, I half-laughed as I made the following observation about Blankie:  

I told Steve that, strangely enough, on the one hand, Guy's Blankie is irreplaceable.  It would be impossible to recreate the way that blanket has been worn over the course of its life.  No one could ever possibly recreate a blanket that has the same scars and tears that have been carefully mended by me over time.  That blanket was unique in all of the universe and can never be replicated.  No machine or other person could exactly duplicate my careful stitches, the way that I wrap my yarn or tie off my stitches.

HOWEVER, ironically, IT CAN be recreated by just one person...and that person is Me, the person who created it in the first place.  I know the yarn that was used. I know the pattern.  And I am even using the same tools that I used to create the blanket originally.  

But when I remake Guy's blanket this time, it will be even better.  It will not have the old battle wounds.  Accidental tears that were hastily mended will no longer exist.  I have the ability to make that blanket something spectacular, something strong, and free from past mistakes, because frankly, I'm a better knitter now, and I know what the blanket needs to be great (and to be, once again, a great companion for Guy.)

As I made these late-night analogies, the spirit chimed in like a bell. Ding-ding-ding.  Yes, that was it. That was the lesson.  I was finally coming around to the really important message from this experience.

We are all like an old loved, well-worn blanket.  We are all unique in all of the universe.  We all have a Creator who took great pains to make us what we are.  Life happens. Some of us are mistreated. Some of us are abused or tossed by the way-side. All of us receive the regular wear and tear of life which leaves us less than perfect, even undesirable in the eyes of others who do not see our true worth.  The Lord mourns for all of us, and wants to help return us to our true form. 

It would be impossible for us to be replaced.  It would be ridiculous for any mortal person to even try.  But we can be mended.  We can be healed.  We can be made perfectly whole and better than new by just one person:  Our Creator, who's mercy is made available to us through the merits of his son, Jesus Christ.

It is so ironic, but so completely true.  We are irreplaceable, but malleable.  We are flawed, but capable of becoming perfect some day.  We are lower than the dust of the earth, but by the touch of the Master's hand, our worth is of greater value than any human being can hope to conceive.

Even the sharp anguish that I sincerely felt earlier today over the shocking loss of this blanket was merely a bite-sized likeness of the sorrow and pain that is felt by our Heavenly Father when any one of us are lost, mistreated, or undervalued.

In my mom's blanket post, nestled next to her anger, there were some pearls of wisdom for all of us.  She paraphrased the creation story recorded by Abraham which says,  "And the Gods watched those things which they had ordered until they obeyed.” (Abr 3: 24-25)

My Mom continued, "So it is with us. We must suffer and have joy and learn and when we have learned to be obedient and kind and live a peaceable life, we will be good."

I am striving to live this peaceable life, to be obedient, kind, and good.  I am so far from it, but I can see where I want to go, and I can see His hand in helping me to become a creation that he can look at and finally say, "She is good.  She has become what I wanted her to become."

I am so unbelievably grateful for the lessons taught to me by a loving Heavenly Father to help me conform to and understand his ways.  

Who knew that a worn out, old blankie, sitting in a city dump could teach me all of this? I guess, if God can use something sitting under a pile of garbage for good, then he can use any one of us for good, right?  

And I guess it really is true what they say.  One man's trash is another man's treasure.

A personal glimpse into God's plan for us...What could be more priceless than that?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Blankie's Terrible Fate


When Guy was about 3 months old, I knitted him this baby blanket.  That was a beautiful time in my life.  I was a new mother, experiencing the bliss of holding and loving a child that I had created inside of myself.  Every new development was such a joy to watch.  That winter was so peaceful as I held my young son and watched the snow falling softly outside of our apartment window.  I often relate to Guy that I knitted this blanket for him while he lay on my lap.  He'd reach out and get his fingers tangled in the yard, curious to touch the soft blue thread, but unable yet to control the movement of his hands.  I would laugh and untangle them and continue to knit while he drifted off to sleep.


I took this picture of Guy wrapped up in his blanket as soon as I finished it.  I'll always remember that the first thing he did when I gave it to him was spit up on it.  I thought, well that figures!  I quickly cleaned the spot and wrapped my sweet baby up in his new blankie.  Since that day, Guy and blankie have been practically inseparable.  What a team!


I was so pleased that he loved the blanket that I made for him.  It was rather difficult for me to make, because I'd never really knitted anything before.  I can remember being frustrated when I realized that I had missed a stitch.  I thought I had made such great progress that day, only to realize that I would have to undo rows and rows to fix my mistake and re-knit the blanket.  So, to watch him latch on to this special gift brought me great satisfaction.



Over time, Blankie became a steady companion, a comforter, and then a friend.  I will always remember when we took our first family road trip. We were caught in a thunderstorm on the drive home.  Guy had never really experienced a thunderstorm, and this was a wicked one.  I thought he was asleep, but I looked back to find Guy covering his face with his blanket, holding onto it for dear life.  He wouldn't lower that blanket for anything.  That was a moment I'll never forget.  Blankie surely brought security.  Whenever Guy gets a boo-boo, he insists that we immediately apply Blankie to his wound!  Blankie has also been employed by Guy as a comedic prop: he used it to play peek-a-boo while making his baby sisters laugh, he used it as a train, as a whip, as a tent, to pretend to be a ghost...the list goes on.  Blankie is basically part of our family.  I thought blankie would eventually become a family heirloom.



So, you can imagine how distraught I was when we returned home from our family vacation today, to discover that Guy's blanket had been thrown away.


Guy had unknowingly left it at someone's house before we left to visit family for the week.  I thought it very strange the Guy did not bring Blankie with us, but I guess he was just so excited to be traveling with cousins, and I was too busy to inquire about the missing blanket.


Another person mentioned to me that Guy's blanket was left in our friend's yard, so relieved, I sent Guy to retrieve it.  It was not there.  When we knocked on the door, someone responded from another room that it had been thrown away, in the trash...and the garbage had already been collected for the week.  


I felt the blood drain from my face.  I felt a rush of horror, grief, and disbelief wash over me.  I am pretty sure that I went insane with sadness for approximately an hour today.  This was not just a blanket to us.  It was a symbol of a very special bond of love between mother and son that someone had thoughtlessly tossed in the trash.  That action really, really hurt.


My son, who was there, when our friend delivered the news, began crying, a very quiet cry of pure loss that I had never heard from him before.  And all I could do was cry too.  We didn't exchange any words.  We had watched as our friend checked the outside trash cans.  He was kindly humoring us.  What else could he do?  He had already indicated that the trash had been picked up this week, so Guy and I both knew that this was the end of Blankie.


I shudder to think of that blanket lying in a dump somewhere.  The love that I poured into making that blanket and the care that Guy attached to it through their many wonderful childhood adventures together...ran through my mind as I had myself a good cry in the shower this morning.



After that, I played strong for my kids.  I have taken great efforts to teach my children that things are things and people are people and people are more important than things.  But this was a tough one.  


Scarlett overheard me sobbing over the phone to my mom as I relayed blankie's terrible fate.    My kids have very rarely seen me cry out of true sorrow, so this was very foreign to them.  I decided to go buy the exact same yarn and re-knit blankie.  (Actually, given the choice, Guy picked the same yarn again!)  Just having the yarn in my possession is easing the pain.


My Mom has suggested vengeance for blankie, but I'd rather not taint our memory of blankie and Guy in this way.  I had however talked with Guy about being extra-careful, because things that are special to us are not always valued in a similar way by others.  That was a sad lesson for all of our family to learn today, but I trust that the Lord brought that lesson into our lives to save us from a bigger heartbreak down the road.


And now, I am just thankful for all of my children and for the memories that we have made together that no one can throw away.  And I count it an honor to knit that blanket AGAIN for my firstborn baby.  And it will be exactly like the old one, only unimaginably more loved and treasured...by us both.


PS - Just to clarify...this post was about our loss and lessons that we learned and is not directed toward the person who inadvertently threw out the blanket. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Please Climb.


This tree was just begging to be climbed.

It really should have had a sign that said, "Climb me."

Guy motioned to some boy he didn't know who was watching him curiously.  Guy said, "Come on up!"  The boy said, "I'm not going up there.  There are black ants in that tree."  Guy said, "I'm not afraid of black ants!"  And he isn't...I mean, Guy eats ants for crying out loud.

Earlier, as I was walking Guy over to the park restrooms, I watched as another boy, who was walking in the same direction we were with his mother, stopped abruptly and placed both hands on the deeply-grooved bark of another tree.  He seemed to be exploring it with both his hands and his eyes.  His face was so close to it.  It made me smile to see this kid taking time to really experience nature, instead of rushing by to get to tennis practice, or checking cell phones, as so many of the other adults at the park were doing.

God gave us trees.  God gave us this world.  And God gave us summer.  Hopefully, we are taking every measure to fully appreciate these gifts.
 

You Can't Always Get What You Want

Source
Yes, it's true.  You can't always get what you want in this life...nope, not even me.  (Shock! ;)

So, despite the fact that many of you answered the call to cast a vote for my blog in The Power of Moms Blog Contest...(THANK YOU, by the way!!!)... I did not make it into the ten selected participants.  

This statement from the Power of Moms website explains how they selected the top ten blogs:

"Thank you for all the wonderful nominations we received for our blog contest.  Wow!  There are a lot of great blogs out there. Based on the number of times a blog was nominated for the contest, we narrowed down the list of almost 100 nominated blogs to the short list of blogs below that meet our criteria. "

It sounds like there were 90 or so pretty great sites that just didn't fit their criteria...I wish they'd publish the complete blog list, because I'd love to read them ALL.

Again...you can't always get what you want...

Well, as every good loser who fails to advance in the primaries does, I am throwing my full support behind my girl Carrie Stroud, who DID make it into the top ten blogs.  

If you get a second, please hop over there and cast a vote for All That Is Sweet In Life.  She's fourth from the bottom of the list, but she's number one on mine!  Way to go, Carrie!!
(Ok, my pitty-party is now officially over!)