Friday, September 4, 2015

"Oh the FACES I've seen!"

      There is popular book entitled, "Oh the Places You'll Go" which would seem an apt one to use as I blog about my epic trip across Europe with my bff, Carol. However, I have chosen a play on those words for my title, as what I think of most when I look back on the last 2 weeks are not the historic and grandiose buildings and sites, but rather are the FACES of the beautiful people that crossed my path.

      At the very outset of my adventure, there were issues. And by "issues" I mean "major flight delays, missed connections, and cajoling for a different route to arrive to Europe" issues. I saw many people at the airports and on the planes. I have always loved to just "people watch" and the delays at the airport provided me with lots of that. I met a beautiful Brazilian lady with her 2 children who happened to be siting across the aisle from me on the long flight 'over the pond'. I spoke with her briefly in Portuguese and it was fun to see her face light up as she asked me if I too was from Brazil! I remember the look of love and concern she had for her daughters as they restlessly journeyed to England with her.

      As soon as I got off of the plane and made my way through the security and customs lines, I came out to the "greeting area" where the super happy and smiling face of Carol greeted me! Never mind that she had been planning on me arriving at 8 am, and it was now nearly 3 pm, she was just patient, understanding, and excited to see me. That sure made me light right up. I wish everyone could see that look of excitement on another's face as they are greeted!

    Then begin a cacophony of faces, faces, and more faces as we started what would become our daily use of public transportation. Metro, buses, subways and trains. I love the hustle and bustle of people as their lives intersect for nanoseconds all at one juncture. I saw people of every race, color, and creed. I was in my own little 'people Heaven', as it were.

    We toured all over London for the next two days. I remember the face of a young man, who seemed to be traveling home from work, exhausted. He had just boarded the crowded metro and found a seat. Only one stop later, an older lady got on and he instantly stood up to offer her his seat. I saw the look of satisfaction on his face, as well as the look of gratitude on the older lady's.

    I loved the look of friendship and familial concern on the face of my adorable cousin, Ciara as she lovingly guided us and hosted us around her hometown of London and as she gathered of her own bedding supplies to build a bed for me on her living room floor.  She was amazingly gracious!

     I loved the look of pride on the faces of the waiters as we had our "High Tea" at the Orangerie at Kensington palace.

 I remember the looks of bewilderment on the faces of hundreds of tourists quietly walking around the V&A museum as they beheld artifacts and priceless pieces of art and history surrounding them like ancient cries from the dust:  'remember me', 'see what we have left for you', 'learn from us'.

      I recall the looks of annoyance on the faces of the drivers that were forced to stop as we tried to get the 'perfect Beetles shot' of us crossing Abbey Road.  I remember the faces of tourists and of locals as we walked throughout so many other wonderful places in London such as: Picadilly Circus, trafalgar Square, Waterloo, St. Paul's, the Millenium bridge, Big Ben, the Globe theater, the Shard, the London Eye, the Thames River, Kensington palace, Prince Albert Concert Hall, St. Jame's garden park, Hyde Park, Buckingham palace, Westminster Abbey, Sherlock Holme's famous address, the Monument to King George, Knotting Hill, Portabello Street shops, and of course, King's Cross Station platform 9 3/4!

    I enjoyed the look of excitement on the Sister Missionaries' faces as three gals walked in off of the street into the Visitor's Center! They were adorable and kind-hearted and I prayed for their successes with the good people of London.

     Then, as we finished the London bit of the trip, we boarded the famous Eurostar train that speedily took us through the tunnel to France! We spent most of the first day on a trip to Versaille. Oh, Versaille. What a glorious sight. It is hard to describe the enormity of Versaille, but I shall try (via the interwebic world of information).

 "The title of “world’s largest royal domain,” as measured by the total area of the property, goes to the Palace of Versailles. Versailles’s grounds cover 87,728,720 square feet, or 2,014 acres, including 230 acres of gardens. The palace itself contains 721,206 square feet of floor space."

    And I kid you not when I tell you that you should have seen the faces on the cows when Carol and I popped up before them from behind an obscure area in the back of those 230 acres after jumping the moat and scaling the wall into a farm we were trying to get to! It may not have been the most rational or maybe even legal way to get there, but boy did we create a memory (and  FOUR VERY TIRED FEET) that day! 

     After a whole day of Versaille, we took in the vista from atop the Sacre Ceour Church. It is beautiful and has a lovely view of all of Paris. There were so many faces from all over the world walking reverently through the gorgeous cathedral and talking excitedly outside of it. I enjoyed seeing them all.

     We walked until we found a little cafe on a back road that was serving fresh crepes. It was my first experience eating real French savory crepes. I must have had an interesting look on my face when I first saw the plate being brought to us with a brown crepe. I had no clue that they were made from buckwheat! I thought that they were quite tasty.

     The next morning we got up early and headed to the Eiffle Tower. Carol was brilliant in the tricks of all things touristy-trapish and told me to get in the line for the stairs instead of the elevator. It was not only a shorter line but cheaper fees as well. I thoroughly enjoyed walking up all those stairs. With each one I kept thinking to myself, "I really can't believe that I am HERE. That I am INSIDE of the EIFFEL TOWER!" I must have had a huge smile on my face the whole time, because I remember my cheeks actually hurting from so much smiling that day. 

     We then got on the "hop on hop off" tour bus. It is really cool because you get earphones and they give you a spoken tour of everything in Paris as you drive by it. You are free to get off at any stop and back on whenever you want. I highly recommend it to anyone who may be heading to Paris. The one major stop that we got off for and spent several hours at was, of course, the LOUVRE. I was totally geeking out excited with how amazing it was to be there. Carol and I had a list of the top things that we wanted to see for sure, and we loved seeing them. We could have easily spent multiple days there and still not seen it all. I loved beholding the serene face of Mona Lisa, the mysterious face of the ancient Portrait of a Young Woman, the magnificent statue of Winged Victory, and so many others.


      We made our way over to the famous and awe-inspiring cathedral of Notre Dame. Walking through it's halls was wonderful and I especially loved the carvings showing the life of Christ in chronological order. The beautiful face of Christ depicted beginning as an infant, all the way till the cross and after the resurrection reminded me of all of the good in the world that has happened because of His perfect life and His atoning sacrifice. I truly can't wait to gaze upon His face again one day. How glorious it shall be!

    We chose to wait in a rather long line outside of the gates of the cathedral for the opportunity to pay to be able to ascend the spiraling staircases to the top of the cathedral. It was about 1.5 hours of waiting in line, as they only let up a certain number of people through the very narrow staircases to the bell tower and to the roof of the building. As we were waiting, I began to talk with the people around me in the line. 

     There was a beautiful couple just in front of us. They were from Iraq. They had been married for 5 years and were working and living in London. I really began to enjoy the couple and talking to them made me think that I could make friends with anyone throughout the whole world, because we are truly all brothers and sisters. At one point, something very simple yet amazing happened. It was super hot and anywhere you go you have to purchase bottles of water to drink, as there are no such things as public water fountains. At one point in our long wait, her husband left to go and buy her a fresh bottle of water. He brought it back to her and I could tell that she was so thirsty and so grateful for it. She hurriedly opened the cap and then as she was going to take a drink, she saw me there behind her, and she instinctively just looked at me, held out the bottle of water, before she had even touched it to her own lips, and offered it to me with a simple, "Would you like a drink?"  I quickly told her, "No, but thank you." Then I pondered on what had just happened. This total stranger that I had only just met in a line a few moments before was thinking of me before herself, was offering me a drink of her brand new water even though she had no physical way of knowing if I could have been sick or anything, she just instinctively offered. And it was a sincere offer. I stared at her beautiful face as she drank down gulps of refreshing water in that hot sun. I marveled at the compassion in her beautiful soul and at that moment I made up my mind to try and be more aware, more compassionate, more trusting and more giving. 

     I loved finally getting to the top and touching the old bells in the bell tower and listening to their tolling, and climbing to the roof and peering down on the gargoyles, but when I close my eyes and think of that day, what I see first is that sweet lady from Iraq and the look on her face in that moment that she offered me her water.

     We enjoyed some delicious French pastries that night and then boarded a train to return to London. Carol had her car waiting there for us and drove us to her home. Carol is so great at adapting to whatever situation she is in. She can drive on the "wrong" side of the road like a boss! And even in a stick shift where she has to shift with her left hand! I was completely in awe of her mad skillz. We spent the next few days at her lovely home on the Air Force base.

She took me to her ward where she is the Relief Society president and does a great job.

 She took me to a movie on the base that was just plain fun. She took me to her interval training class at the gym where I mostly made a fool of myself and tried to not look like a completed idiot as my face was bright red and dripping sweat as I made up my own version to the exercises I couldn't really do.

    She took me to a historic ruins place called Bury St. Edmund's.
She took me to Cambridge University where we got to go punting on the river and shopping at some awesome stores and street vendors.

She introduced me to the adorableness that is Cath Kidston. She let me join in on her family home evening with her cute children. I loved seeing their sweet faces each day I was there with them.

     Tuesday morning we got ready and took off for the airport. We got onto our Ryan Air flight to Italy. Carol had already been to Italy, but this was my first time. Anyone who knows me at all, knows that visiting Italy has always been super HIGH on my personal bucket list. I was beyond excited to be literally on my way there! I could hardly contain my enthusiasm as we landed in Rome!



     What a city. The first evening we walked around to things that were close to our hotel, like a few cathedrals and the very famous Trevi Fountain. As we rounded the corner to behold it, I remember the looks of disappointment on many faces as the fountain was blocked off with high barriers while it was under construction. Still, we made the most of it, took the obligatory photos, threw in the customary coin with a wish (yes, of course my wish involved Greg), and then made up for the disappointment by tasting my first ever LEGIT ITALIAN GELATO!

    It was honestly like the angels in Heaven were singing in my mouth at the first bite. It is truly as deliciously divine as I could have imagined.

     The following morning we got up early and headed on the metro into downtown. This was the day of my actual 40th birthday, but I was too excited to even think about that little fact. We went to the USO office and got reservations for our day trip to Pompeii for the following day. Then we signed up for a private tour (and by private, I mean a group of 55-60 people) for the Vatican. Carol was so generous in paying for that for my birthday. (In fact, she is such a generous soul, that I cannot even count all of the ways that she helped me out on the whole trip - bless her HUGE heart!) By signing up for that group, we were able to bypass the enormous line of tourists that were standing around the perimeter of the entire wall of the Vatican City waiting to enter. They say that there are around 30,000 people that visit the Vatican each day! Holy cow - that was a lot of faces to walk by as we headed to the entrance!

    The Vatican was beautiful, awe-inspiring, and generally just plain AWESOME! I loved being inside of the Sistine Chapel, seeing the residences of the popes, and going into St. Peter's Basilica. Standing at the spot where Peter, Christ's apostle is thought to be buried was just so cool. And then we quietly walked through the basement catacombs where all of the former popes from all of Catholic history lie in exquisite coffins with their stone faces memorialized in slumbering reverence atop them.

    We spent the rest of the day seeing all of the sights in Rome that we possibly could get to! We saw the grandiose Colosseum, Campo de Fiori, Piazza San Pietro, Monumento Vitorio, Piaza Veneza, the Pantheon, etc. etc.

    That night we found a restaurant to eat my birthday dinner at - I searched until I found one that would serve me gnocchi and creme sauce...just what I had been craving!

    When the waiter found out that it was my birthday, he winked and kissed me on both cheeks and said he would bring me a special surprise at the end of our meal. When we asked for the tab, he brought out a plate. I had been praying my "surprise" would be gelato, of course. However, to our surprise, he had brought out two shot glasses of limoncello (a famous alcoholic drink from the region). Not sure which face was more disappointed - mine at realizing I wouldn't be getting free gelato - or his when I told him I didn't drink?  I then proceeded to give the drinks to the friendly gay couple from New York that was sitting next to us! It was pretty hilarious when I think about that night!

     The next morning we got up really early and got on the tour bus to go to Naples and Pompei. It was fun riding on a big bus and seeing the sleepy faces all around me as we traveled. Naples was pretty cool, but just such a fast stop and quick walking tour that we didn't have time to take in many of the sights.

     Half way through the day, we stopped at a little restaurant where they fed us lunch as part of our tour package. They assigned us randomly to sit at a table for four. Carol and I quickly said hello to the couple at our table with us, and found out that they were from Spain and were on their honeymoon! I remember the beautiful face of this curly-blond as she showed me her wedding picture on her phone. She lit up with excitement and happiness as she looked at her brand new husband. I loved the equally enamored look on his face as he watched her talking to us. Even though it was only a matter of 30 minutes, I felt like I left that table with a new friend. In fact, today, through the modern miracle of technology, we are actually Facebook friends and we get to see each other's faces and get to know each other more through that medium. It reminds me of when I was a child, and we would have "pen pals", but today, not sure if any of my children would know that term!

     After lunch we drove into Pompeii and began the tour around that incredible little city. Our tour leader was great and you could tell by watching her face that she really enjoyed being able to tell people the stories of this incredible place, her hometown. She was engaging and excited about the history she was sharing with us. Walking around that deserted location, all I can say is that it felt almost sacred - like we were meandering throughout the final resting place of so many of our brothers and sisters who were taken suddenly, like we were inside of this vast burial ground where last breaths, last dreams, last hugs, last everythings were blotted out. I was in awe at the drawings on the walls, at the ingenuity and sense of community that was there. I closed my eyes and could see the countless faces as they must have eventually huddled together and faced their imminent deaths. When people ask me what things stood out to me most about the trip, I would have to say that Pompeii was definitely one of them!

      The next morning we left early for the airport and arrived at Carol's home where I began the sad task of having to pack up for my trip home. Carol and Dan graciously took me all the way to Heathrow and I really did my best to stay awake on the flight home to try and get my body fooled about jet lag. All the long flight back to Salt Lake I kept replaying in my mind over and over and over again what I had just experienced. It was like the dream that I had imagined it would be, but now it was a part of my actual life! I was (and am) so very grateful for the graciousness of my host and bff, Carol, for the loving gift of my sweet Greg who gave it to me for my 40th birthday, and for the many others who helped out with my family while I was gone.

    Indeed, when I think back on my epic trip to Europe, I hope to always remember the many many beautiful places I saw and the many many beautiful faces I saw.

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Power of Death

As a part of my goal to memorize more poems this year - I have recently memorized a poem entitled "Death Be Not Proud" by John Donne.  It basically talks about how Death shouldn't think that it has any power, because it is a temporary situation and that eventually we will all live forever and "death, thou shalt die".

While I understand deeply that this is truly the case in our eternal perspective, lately I have been feeling that there may be a power in death that I hadn't contemplated before.
And that power is the power to draw families together.

Just the other night at work, there was a patient that began to experience some life-threatening events. I was in the room with her and her nurse and was able to hold her body in my hands as her spirit tried to leave it. We worked hard and quick and got her back. She was on the brink of death, but fought to stay. Maybe not by choice, but after a few good sternal rubs and coaxing to consciousness.

After the adrenaline abated from the situation and after being able to ponder on it - the things that most stood out in my mind were the looks of concern and love on the faces of the family members as the reality of the mortality of their loved one sunk in. I saw the family literally being drawn closer together.

Again today as I was able to sit in the Tabernacle on Temple Square and listen to the messages shared from the pulpit and from the heart at President Packer's funeral, I was able to witness something very special. It was something similar to what I have felt at other funerals I have been to. It was like watching the literal "drawing in" together of the families of the deceased person.

Boyd K. Packer's son shared a simple and beautiful message of the truthfulness of the things that his father had spent his life teaching to others. I loved how he spoke in terms that were easy to understand for even a young child or a non member, as he explained the temporary separation of body and spirit that occurs at death.

When he spoke directly to the children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, it was like a huge warm blanket of peace and love were being wrapped around all of his posterity.

It is ironic to think about, but for those few brief moments at a funeral, there is likely  100% of your progenitors together as a captive audience and focused on listening and feeling the spirit, and that is the ONE THING that I imagine every parent wants most in life, and it is the ONE MOMENT that they cannot (physically) be there.

At one point in the funeral, the speaker mentioned the eternal union between President and Sister Packer. At the exact same moment, all of the couples sitting near me, to my left, right, and in front of me simultaneously grabbed the hand of their spouse and held it tight. It was almost like they had rehearsed that moment to perform it in unison! A beautiful feeling shot through me when I witnessed that scene. It was even more families being drawn together. It was love and it was truth and it was light, and I basked in it!

Yes, while I know that death has no lasting power on our eternal souls, it does have a seeming power of uniting that I am becoming more cognizant of and grateful for. 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Mother's Day Talk 2015

*This is the talk I gave at Church a few weeks ago. There were a few people asking about it. So, here it is!

May 10, 2015

     Good morning brothers and sisters. I am so grateful for this opportunity to speak today. I have to commend the bishop on his speaking assignment. He not only gave me a quote along with the surprising topic of mothers for today, but he also gave me a reference of a wonderful talk to use. The quote was by ElRay L. Christiansen and it reads: “So far, no worthy substitute has been found for good mothers.  Without them, civilization is doomed to decay.”

     As soon as I read that I thought to myself, well, no duh – because trust me, if there were a substitute, I would have found it by now!

      A good friend of mine who writes a popular Mormon blog, reminded me of what we all are acutely aware of on this day: the fact that Mother’s Day can sometimes be seen as a day that mother’s avoid coming to church due to the inevitability of their feeling a sense of guilt or a sense of loss. He reminded me to emphasize that truly Mother’s day wasn’t created for those who ARE mothers, but rather for those who HAVE mothers! It is my prayer that as women we will try to think less about ourselves this day and more about the many mothers in our lives.

     There is a classic story that has been told and re-told many times in the circles of my family about my own mother. She is an amazing person who raised 11 children to become above average adults, by the way. She was a mother who always kept the house clean. I mean – not just ‘barely-manage-to-stay-off-the-TV-show-Hoarders’ clean, like me – but ‘honest-to-goodness-next-to-Godliness’ type of clean.  
     When she still had young children at home, and some in every other stage of life with all the chaos that brings, a lady once asked her very frankly “How do you do it all? Cook meals, play with the kids, and keep such a clean house?” To which she matter-of-factly replied “Oh – I don’t play with the kids”.

     We always get a good laugh out of this, but truth is, while she was always there for us when we needed her, she didn't need to spend a lot of time indulging us with play because there were ALWAYS other siblings around to play with. Just one of the benefits of having a large family.

      My mother always had a healthy snack waiting for us after school. She always had a smile on her face when we needed it. She always volunteered to help us, and always always always had a clean house.  I, on the other hand, tend to spend more time playing, watching, reading, talking in made up accents, and teasing my own kids, and not nearly enough time cleaning, cooking, or – what was that word again…ironing!
What I have learned to be true is the fact that there are definitely as many different parenting styles as there are parents, and that it is O.K.

    Two of the more popular styles of parenting that I have heard a lot about lately are seemingly contradictory to one another. They are known as “helicopter parenting” and “free-range parenting”. While the one seeks to be super involved, over-protected, and constantly ‘hovering’ over the child, the other is based on the notion “that we can give our children the same kind of freedom we had [as kids] without going nuts with worry and that when you let children out, good things happen as they gain self-confidence and self-sufficiency from doing things on their own.

     I personally tend to lean more towards free-range than helicopter as a parent, but I believe that it is important to have elements of both as we try to help our children navigate this crazy world that we are living in.  As I have thought about this, I had a thought penetrate my mind, and it has remained there strongly as I have been preparing for this talk, and preparing to send my children out into the world on their own. The thought is a beautiful combination of the two extremes in parenting, dependency and independence.  It is what I have named the new IDOHG method. It stands for “Independently Dependent On the Holy Ghost”.

       What I mean by this is that my end goal as a parent is to help each one of my children become independently dependent on the Holy Ghost. I want them to depend on the Spirit in every decision they make, the small things and the big ones.  I honestly could die happy tomorrow if I knew that my children could recognize the Spirit in their lives and would strive to have it with them always.

      Sometimes the following conversation comes up with friends or family: “What is your biggest fear as a parent?” or “Can you imagine losing a child?” Admittedly, my response to those questions was always somewhere along the lines of “Well, honestly, my biggest fear is that one of my children would leave the Church or that they would chose to not get married in the temple. My fear has never been physically losing a child, but rather spiritually losing a child.

         As I have learned and experienced more in life, I have changed my tune a little bit.  Instead of having ideals of “missionary service”, “temple marriage”, and “church activity” as an ‘end all’, I have decided irrefutably that the one and ONLY goal that I have for my children is for them to be dependent on the Holy Ghost. At all times. In all things. In all places.

      Why?  Because circumstances vary and life throws curve-balls to us all. Because we will each make mistakes and sometimes outright stupid decisions. Because the way is unchanging and we can ALWAYS come back to it at any point.  Only when we learn to depend on the influence of the Holy Ghost to guide us will we truly be successful in life, will be truly be driven of our own accord to follow the prophets, will we truly be happy.

       A parent can talk to their child about something over and over and over again, but at the very critical moment of decision, when the parent is not around, if they do not have the companionship of the Holy Ghost, then that is the very moment that the influence of the adversary will be able to infiltrate. And every single time that happens, then the Spirit is less and less with us.

      How then can we as parents instill in our children the ability to recognize the Holy Ghost and the desire to live worthy of his companionship at all times?  I believe that this will happen by simply returning to the very same steps we each went through to get the GIFT of the Holy Ghost in the first place.

     I am certain that the majority of this congregation could repeat the following article of faith along with me in their heads: “The first principles and ordinances of the gospel are: First, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Second, repentance. Third, baptism by immersion for the remission of sins. And fourth, the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.”

       FIRST: FAITH!!!   As parents, as teachers, as influencers of the youth around us, we first and foremost need to demonstrate faith. We can do this as we show to our children that we have no need for fear. Faith is the very antithesis of fear. Giving way to worry, anxiety, and fear, even in seemingly merited situations, regarding the impending changes related to the second coming of the Lord will not help our children to prepare for it. Fear is the natural man’s reaction. Faith is the antidote for it. Two scriptures come to my mind on a near daily basis, “If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear” and “Perfect love casteth out ALL fear”. 

   Worried about what might happen to your child? Constantly thinking of “what ifs” or “worst case scenarios”? You may need to increase your recommended daily dosage of faith. Faith is increased as we read the scriptures and hear over and over and over again of how GOD ALWAYS WINS so that deep in our brains this becomes a solid fact and arms us with a constant recollection of whose side we are on, and who is on our side!

  “Perfect love casteth out all fear” is something that as tiny humans we all tend to experience. When we are scared, where do we turn? I, for one, remember several different occasions where I would be standing calmly at the foot of my parents’ bed whispering “Mom, Dad, I’m scared. Can I sleep with you?” To which their loving response was always to envelope me in their arms, and let me sleep in the middle of them. To this day, if I close my eyes, I can still recall the feeling of warmth, love, acceptance, and an INSTANT dissolving of any fear as I lay between them.  (Incidentally, I can also recall the feeling of confusion the next morning as I would wake up on the floor next to their bed.)

        It is precisely this instinct to turn to our mothers, to our parents in times of fear and doubt that Heavenly Father is relying on for us to remember and to turn to Him in prayer. I know that there is a real power in prayer, and that Heavenly Father hears each and every one of our prayers. 
      When I was 19 and getting ready to leave on my mission, I began to experience many trials. I knew that someone really did NOT want me to be going out and serving the Lord. First I was in a pretty bad bike accident. A week later, I was in a racquetball accident and lost several teeth. At this time in my life, my family was living in Hong Kong, and I was living at BYU. My roommate and I were driving down 1-15 in SLC on the way back to Provo.  All of a sudden we hit what must have been an invisible patch of black ice. The car began to spin and spin, doing several 360’s across all 5 lanes and facing oncoming traffic head on multiple times.  It was the strangest thing, because while we were spinning, I just knew that we were going to die. It wasn’t scary, I wasn’t screaming. I just said to my roommate matter-of-factly, “We are going to die”. Waiting to be hit head on by one of the many cars that were driving at 70 miles an hour right at us, it felt suddenly as if we were somehow lifted up. After what felt like minutes of sheer panic, the car stopped spinning and came to a stop facing the wrong direction in the emergency lane. Nothing had hit us. Both of us looked at each other in utter amazement and we instantly began to cry. We pulled off the exit ramp, and said a prayer of thanksgiving to Heavenly Father.  
      Later that night, when things had calmed down, I got a call from my father in Hong Kong. He was just calling to check on me to see how I was. He then proceeded to tell me of his experience that morning before he left for the office. My parents lived about 40 floors up in a high rise apartment in Hong Kong. Mom and Dad had already had their morning prayers together and prayed for each child by name, as is their habit.  He kissed her goodbye and headed out the door. In the elevator on the way down, he felt an impression to pray for his children. He thought it was silly, because that is precisely what he had just barely done. But the impression came again. So, he harkened the prompting, and after reaching the parking garage, he turned back. He said that he went all the way back up in the elevator, and back to his bedroom to again kneel before the Lord and pray for each child.  As he told me this story, and what time it had happened, I realized that although it was on the other side of the globe and across the International Date Line, his second prayer on bended knee occurred at the precise moment that our car was spinning on 1-15 in Utah.


     SECOND: REPENTANCE.  This is one of the most abundantly available yet severely underutilized resources known to mankind. Yes, I said resource. I believe that there lies in repentance and it’s equally vital counterpart, forgiveness, an actual source of power. A power so great that it has the capacity to change not only the lives of the forgiven, but also the lives of the forgiver. About 3 months ago, there was an occurrence that happened at home between me and Emerson. I lost my cool and snapped at him. Overcome with sadness at my own rash reaction, I asked him to please forgive me. He just looked at me and said, “Give you what?” I saw that he didn’t understand what forgiveness was, so I explained to him as simply as I could that when we do something that we shouldn’t have done, and we say sorry to a person, we ask them to forgive us and then if we forgive them we are telling them that it is ok, that we still love them.” Well, he must have really remembered that little lesson, because now he tells me several times a day that he forgives me, or asks for my forgiveness. We will be driving in the car and he unbuckles his seatbelt without my noticing, then as we make a turn and he tips over, he will say, “Mom, will you forgive me for undoing my seatbelt?” Or if he wants more chocolate milk when I have already said no, he will tell me: “I forgive you for not giving me the chocolate milk”. While it is sometimes humorous, I do hope that it is a word that will remain in his vocabulary and be used often as he forms relationships with others throughout his life.

 I recently heard a quote that struck me as something I really needed to implement in my life. It was 5 simple yet powerful words. “Forgive Everyone, Everything, Every time”.

      On my mission I was able to repeatedly teach others of the importance of baptism. I would explain to them the beautiful symbolism of baptism, of the burial of an old life and the resurrection to a new one.  I wish I could adequately describe to you the look of hope in their eyes as they pondered the idea that they could actually start anew, and then seeing the pure light in their eyes as they were brought forth from the waters of baptism, pure and clean.  As a child growing up in Argentina, I attended many convert baptisms.  At one point while I was in Young Women’s, the thought occurred to me that by me being born into the church, and thus baptized at a young age, I was denied this opportunity to feel what it was like to start a completely new life.  In my immaturity, I neglected to realize the fact that I wasn't denied anything. The truth of the matter is that each and every Sunday as I partake worthily of the sacrament, I can literally be reborn and start over.

  Taking the sacrament is the very reason why we are each here today, the very reason why we are commanded to ‘meet together oft’ and to renew our covenants. 
At the Last Supper, Jesus explained the ordinance of the sacrament as he ate with the Twelve Apostles:
·         "Jesus took bread, and blessed it; and he took the cup, and gave thanks."
·         "Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life."

        If we ever let things such as schooling, vacationing, sports, hobbies, work, or even sleep become excuses to justify our missing the sacrament, no matter what location we are in on the Sabbath day, then we are sending a powerful message to our children through our actions that we do not really need the Savior’s atoning sacrifice that week.

        And once we begin to miss here and there, it becomes easier and easier to do. As we distance ourselves from weekly renewal of our sacred covenants, we are opening the door for the persuasions of the devil to enter into our hearts, to tell us that we are not good enough, not clean enough, and not worthy enough to partake of it.  It doesn't matter if you feel like you have had a particularly good week or a rather rough week, there are blessing to be had by humbling ourselves and partaking of the sacrament in a spirit of repentance. 

       The world may preach the need for us to take some ‘time out’ to ‘find ourselves’ to indulge in activities of ‘renewal’, but there is no activity, no exercise, no practice, no treatment that will provide the most essential RENEWAL that our souls need --- that of the frequent RENEWAL of our baptismal covenants.

     And FINALLY, FOURTH is the GIFT OF THE HOLY GHOST. This is the end goal of steps one, two and three. This is what we need to be with us every day, yea, even every hour of every day.

       It would be foolish to think that just because we were baptized at any age and had received the gift of the Holy Ghost that we would be able to feel it at-will forever after. We need to live in a way that lets the Spirit guide us. In this last General Conference, Elder Eyring talked of how we need to always be ready to receive inspiration. Speaking to the priesthood he said:
“All of us must speak and act in the name of God in moments when our unaided judgment will not be enough without inspiration. Those moments can come upon us when there is not time to make preparation. That has happened to me often.”

A scripture in Deuteronomy states:
And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” (Deut. 6:6-7).

       Truly, this is ultimately the only goal I have of my parenting: to guide my children to have testimonies of their own, to encourage them on their way so that they can develop a relationship with the Lord and a strong desire for the companionship of the Holy Ghost. This is how we can help our children to be INDEPENDENTLY DEPENDANT on the HOLY GHOST.

      To my own children, I want to take a moment to express to you my deep love for the Savior. I know that He lives. I know that only by Him and through Him will you ever find lasting happiness.  Maelynn and Landen, Seth, Sadie and Lane, Miles and Emerson, please, please, please, if you remember nothing else that I have ever told you or taught you, please remember this:  Live in a way to receive the influence and inspiration from the Holy Ghost and ALWAYS follow the promptings you receive.

      This is something that my own mother taught me. I know that she has a relationship with the Lord and a rich history of the Spirit blessing her life. I have seen it too many times to not know this.  I have heard her testimony verbally and have seen her live her testimony in a way that I know makes Heavenly Father proud of her. I hope to pass on this same strength of testimony as a legacy to my children.

      Being towards the tail end of my family, I have already lost all grandparents on both sides, as has Greg. In preparing for this talk, I asked my parents and my in-laws and also some other trusted friends whose parents have died:
“What do you miss the most about your mother?”
Every single response was essentially the same thing:

“I just miss her being there.”
“I miss her listening to me.”
“I miss hearing her voice”
“Just telling her about my joys and my struggles”
“I still want to call her up and talk to her and tell her about things in my life.”
“I want to tell her the sad or exciting events in my life”
“She was such a good listener”.
“Sure I miss the cooking and all that, but mostly I just miss having her THERE to talk to”.

     After feeling the emotion as each of these people I love spoke of their own mothers, I realized that just BEING THERE is what really really matters. I have been reminded that I don’t need to provide amazing trips, perfect meals, scheduled activities to fill every waking minute, gorgeous clothes, or the latest technologies and toys. What I need to do more of is to simply BE THERE.

          I would like to conclude with a beautiful tribute by Elder Holland from an address that he gave in General Conference of 1997, the year I first became a mother:

    “May I say to mothers collectively, in the name of the Lord, you are magnificent. You are doing terrifically well. The very fact that you have been given such a responsibility is everlasting evidence of the trust your Father in Heaven has in you. He knows that your giving birth to a child does not immediately propel you into the circle of the omniscient. If you and your husband will strive to love God and live the gospel yourselves; if you will plead for that guidance and comfort of the Holy Spirit promised to the faithful; if you will go to the temple to both make and claim the promises of the most sacred covenants a woman or man can make in this world; if you will show others, including your children, the same caring, compassionate, forgiving heart you want heaven to show you; if you try your best to be the best parent you can be, you will have done all that a human being can do and all that God expects you to do.”

      I likewise echo these sentiments and I know that God is our loving Father, and that His Son, Jesus Christ came to the Earth for us. He lived to show us the way, He died to provide us a way, and He will come again to take us the rest of the way.  In the sacred name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Tugs at my HEART strings

April 24th 

What does it feel like to have a heart attack?
Does it begin slowly, as the muscle is deprived of blood?
Does it hit suddenly as a door slamming the unsuspected fingertip?

I don’t know. But I know that my father does. He suffered one last night.
I am on my way to see him today.

As I laid in bed, wiping tears from my face, wiping fears from my mind,
I imagined that as soon as his body realized his heart was in pain, the rest of it also began to hurt.

Likewise as the group text came in to all my siblings about dad, we each began to ache.
To fear, to cry, to question, to pray.

As I dropped to my knees, I imagined at least 10 other pairs of knees on the floor, each of my siblings, across the country sending similar petitions Heavenward.

And at that moment I realized that we were the body. And my dad and mom are the heart of us. They are the ones that not only gave us life, but continually pump the blood of spirituality, faith, and love into each of our lives. And that no matter our current circumstances, situations or locations in life, we all stopped a moment, we all dropped a moment, we all ached a moment when our family’s heart was attacked, was threatened.

Then a few hours later, I began to see news of the earthquake in Nepal and the thousands of people who are hurting physically, who are grieving the sudden loss of their loved ones and searching in fear for those unaccounted for. I immediately prayed for them and felt the outpouring of love and concern being sent their way from all around the globe.

At that moment I realized that we are the body. And that Christ is the heart of us.
 His atoning blood not only gives us life, love, and hope, but will sustain us as humanity – as we reach out to one another, like vessels compensating for a lack of blood flow. His love is the blood, our lives and how we live them are the vessels that carry it to the body in perpetual need.

And one day when He comes again, there will be millions of knees on the ground, simultaneously, across the Earth voicing praises to His name.
Every Knee Shall Bow Photo Courtesy of J.Kirk Richards