I have finally taken the last of the Christmas decorations down. My home looks empty and darker compared with how it has been the last few weeks.
I love Christmas – the decorations – the lights – the kindness – the overall warmth of the season. I love the reminders of Christ that are everywhere. I made a decision years ago that I would decorate my home with reminders of Christ – so lights and nativities are principle parts of my decorations.
One reason I think my home feels empty is those tangible reminders of Jesus Christ are missing. The lights on the tree or around the entertainment center aren’t providing their comforting glow. The different nativities aren’t reminding me of the gift of Jesus Christ. And the spirit of warmth is missing.
So what to do. How do I make my January and February home full of the spirit of Christ without the many visual decorations that are present in December?
- Perhaps it can be in my demeanor – I can remember to be kind, to serve, to give the benefit of the doubt, to listen, to smile.
- Perhaps I can simply remember to turn on the light in the room and not be so concerned about conserving electricity (and I have those light bulbs that supposedly take 2 drops of electricity every year so it can’t be that expensive to turn them on).
- Perhaps I can make sure that prayer and scripture study are the beginning of my day – and always read something about Christ so he is part of my day.
- Perhaps I can play music that brings peace to my soul.
I believe if I spend a bit of effort (nowhere as much as it took to decorate my home for Christmas) I can keep the spirit of Christ in my home and life.
“Each of us in an innkeeper who decides if there is room for Jesus!” Neal A. Maxwell (Ensign Nov 1992)
In 1 Kings 17 we read a story that has me thinking.
As Jeffrey Holland describes it: “In response to King Ahab’s great wickedness, the Lord, through the prophet Elijah, sealed the heavens, that neither dew nor rain should fall throughout all the land of Israel. The drought that ensued and the famine that followed affected Elijah himself as well as untold others in the process. And so it went for three years.
As the prophet prepared for a final confrontation with Ahab, God commanded Elijah to go to the village of Zarephath where, he said, he had commanded a widow woman to sustain him.
As he entered the city in his weary condition he met his benefactress, who was undoubtedly as weak and wasted as he. Perhaps almost apologetically the thirsty traveler importuned, “Fetch me, I pray thee, a little water in a vessel, that I may drink.” As she turned to meet his request, Elijah added even more strain to the supplication. “Bring me, I pray thee, a morsel of bread in thine hand [also].”
Elijah’s pitiful circumstances were obvious. Furthermore, the widow had been prepared by the Lord for this request. But in her own weakened and dispirited condition, the prophet’s last entreaty was more than this faithful little woman could bear. In her hunger and fatigue and motherly anguish she cried out to the stranger, “As the Lord thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering two sticks [which tells us how small her fire needed to be], that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die.”
But Elijah was on the Lord’s errand. His prophetic duty made him more bold than he might normally have wanted to be. “Fear not,” he said to her, “but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for thy son. “For thus saith the Lord God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the Lord sendeth rain upon the earth.”
Then this understated expression of faith—as great, under these circumstances, as any I know in the scriptures. The record says simply, “And she went and did according to the saying of Elijah.” Perhaps uncertain what the cost of her faith would be not only to herself but to her son as well, she first took her small loaf to Elijah, obviously trusting that if there were not enough bread left over, at least she and her son would have died in an act of pure charity. The story goes on, of course, to a very happy ending for her and for her son.” Ensign, May 1996 Jeffrey R. Holland
There is a beautiful depiction of this experience in Zarephath that can be found here: Widow of Zarephath video
As I was watching this yesterday I was struck by 3 things:
- She was asked to do something very hard and was given a promise immediately after the request was made. She had faith in a prophet of God – faith enough to perhaps forgo her (and her son’s) final meal. Do I have that faith? When a prophet of God asks me to do something (perhaps follow a commandment, perhaps do something that I don’t understand completely, perhaps continue to do something that doesn’t seem to have made a difference in the past) how do I react? Do I go and do according to the saying of the prophet or do I give excuses why it won’t work for me? Faith.
- She was willing to serve someone. She had very little, perhaps some would say nothing, but she was willing to give what she had. Service is important and so needed. I hope that I am willing to serve others as she was. Serve.
- She was prepared by the Lord for this experience. Often, we don’t see how we were prepared to survive a difficult time in our life until it is over. It is good to remember that the Lord knows what I can handle and when things are quite difficult – I can remember that I was prepared for this experience and the Lord knows that I can see it through. Prepared.
Faith. Service. Preparation. Good thing to remember when perhaps I don’t quite understand why.
I was wondering last week – if a BMW or Mercedes would be a better solution to a mid-life crisis?
And then the practical, accountant side of me kicked in and I thought of having a car payment – of the cost of repairs/maintenance/insurance on a car like that. And then I wondered what would a nice car really do to help in a real crisis situation? I’m sure Scott would make a case that a really nice 4-wheel drive truck could help in a crisis situation – but in most crisis situations that I encounter – the make of the car doesn’t really matter.
That got me to thinking about what a better solution to crisis might be.
My friend Tara wrote the following last week on her blog:
I keep thinking about getting stuck. How many times have I been faced with a challenge and become stuck and then shamed and then paralyzed? More than once. How many times will it happen again? Hopefully fewer after this week. It’s as if I can hear Heavenly Father’s voice. “Tara, you have to talk to me. You have to talk to me so I can fix it. You have to talk to me so I can help you.” How many times have I allowed myself to become paralyzed and then forgotten to talk to Him? Forgotten to ask for help? How many times do I need to be reminded with His gentle words, “Tara, I will never ask you to do something you can’t do. I will never ask you do something that isn’t safe.” http://bestillmysoul.weebly.com/1/post/2014/04/talk-to-me.html
I loved her insight and isn’t that a better solution than a BMW? Faith and prayer.
Last week, on Easter Sunday, my son who is serving a mission for our church shared the following with me:
“After a little bit of time feeling down and extra irritated because I felt like that on Easter Sunday, I was prompted with just what that Sunday meant. Easter is a time to remember what exactly Christ has done for us. All the pains and the sorrows he went through were for me as much as for anyone else around. He didn’t even just do it to help us overcome sin and death. Because of what Christ did, we are able to overcome literally everything through the power of His Atonement. As I thought on this, I opened my heart up to God in gratitude and thanks for all He has done. I then asked for His help. I let Him know exactly how I had been feeling and let Him know that I didn’t know how to do it anymore on my own and that I desperately needed Him. As I prayed, I was filled with peace and happiness. I was filled with a sweet optimism as I received a witness that everything would work out as I tried my best. I felt that, imperfect and flawed as my efforts were, Christ’s Atonement made up for it. My Easter was incredible, not because it was problem free and easy, but because I got a chance to personally partake in some of the blessings of the Atonement.” Drew Rapier
The Atonement and prayer – again much better than that 4 wheel drive truck.
It sounds simple and childlike – prayer and the atonement. But it works and is real. A totally cool car can’t made difficulties go away. An amazing truck can’t ease hurt or calm hearts. Jesus Christ can and will. He is waiting.
“The Lord is good to all.” Psalms 145:9 Oh how good he is – much better than a BWM or Mercedes!
Different songs from Hello Dolly have been sung in our home very regularly lately. Our sophomore daughter has been a part of this production and we have thoroughly enjoyed seeing it several times the past two weeks. One of the assignments I had the weekend before opening night, was to pull together the props for the scene in Harmonia Gardens (if you remember the movie this is the scene where Louie Armstrong sings the title song to Barbara Streisand). There are 8 tables in this fine dining establishment on stage at Mesa High. I needed plates, silverware, wine glasses, food, vases and flowers.
I have never done anything with props before – but I figured I could find stuff to set a table with. The director, Sandy Stones took the time to give me her vision of the tables and then I was on my own. I did the best I could but I had a few questions long after Mrs. Stones had gone on to solve other issues that inevitably arise. What to do? Do I bother this totally busy, needed by so many people, amazing woman? Do I try and figure it out? Do I ask someone else? This was 3 days before dress rehearsal and to say things were very chaotic would be an understatement!
So the easiest was to ask someone else – which I did. The assistant director didn’t know and directed me to ask Stones. I wandered around backstage and eventually found her – surrounded by several people who needed direction from her (just like I did). I hated to join the line but really had no choice. It was crowded and busy and I waited for my chance to quickly talk to her.
When it was my turn I was amazed at how calm and caring Sandy was. She looked at me and gave me her full attention. We had to move to a different room to get the answer to my question and she willingly came and provided the needed direction. I felt like she was happy to see me, to give me direction, and grateful that I was willing to help.
I have been thinking about this short interaction for a while. I couldn’t help but compare her interaction with me to that of the Savior. I am pretty sure He is busy – but He always has time for me. I know he is aware of what I need. I know he will give me the direction I seek. I feel love, concern, and comfort from Him as I pray.
What a blessing to me to feel of the Savior’s love and be reminded of how the Savior treats me by the way I was treated by another of His daughters. And what a good reminder that I can treat others the same way! Thanks Sandy for being such an example to me of Christ-like kindness and concern!
Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Seventy in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints shared the following story:
In the late 1980s a man I will call Mr. Brown came to a hospital in Salt Lake City with severe heart disease. Despite the most advanced medications available, his heart could not adequately support his circulation. His medical providers determined that he would soon die without a heart transplant. While he waited for a suitable donor heart, his condition worsened and surgeons had to implant mechanical pumps.
At that time mechanical pumps were useful for only a short time. After a few days other organ systems would begin to fail. All involved in Mr. Brown’s care knew that if a donor heart did not become available soon, he would certainly die.
A suitable donor heart became available, and Mr. Brown received a new heart. Unfortunately, the heart did not work. Now his situation became dire. But just as his doctors were about to give up, another donor heart became available. This donor heart was marginal at best and could not be used for any other recipient. The doctors involved in Mr. Brown’s care decided that this marginal heart was his last hope and that they should attempt to use it.
Mr. Brown soon underwent another operation, and within hours he began to recover. The mechanical pumps were removed, and over the course of 10 days he was ready to be discharged from the hospital.
The day before his discharge, I walked into Mr. Brown’s hospital room and noticed that something was not right. He looked angry. He sat on his bed, gripping the hospital tray with his breakfast on it.
“Mr. Brown, what is wrong?” I asked.
Through clenched teeth, he replied, “The oatmeal isn’t hot, and the milk isn’t cold!”
Think of it! Ten days before, Mr. Brown was near death. Now he was complaining about the hospital food. For that moment he had lost sight of the bigger picture—of where he had been and of the future he now had. He would go on to live 18 years with an excellent quality of life and die of something unrelated to his heart. Elder Renlund article
I wonder how often I find myself reacting like Mr. Brown as I deal with my day-to-day challenges. I think it is easy to focus on the difficulties and choose to be upset or offended instead of taking a long-term view of the situation. I like to think of it as eternal perspective. Am I choosing to see my difficulties as something to depress me or cause hopelessness? Something to be angry or discouraged about? Or do I understand and see them as ways to learn, to endure gracefully, as well as an opportunity to give others the benefit of the doubt?
As Dale Renlund said, “Maintaing an eternal perspective means we remember that life is more than the here and now, that life continues after death, and that our choices have eternal consequences.”
And how do I remember to keep the right perspective? The suggestion Elder Renlund makes is to remember the many good things God has done for us. When I live in gratitude it makes it easier to see my blessings and not be bothered by so many of the inconveniences of earth life. (and quite frankly our inconveniences today pale in comparison of the inconveniences of years ago)
Eternal perspective and gratitude – two things to remember when life is coming hard and fast.
We need each other. Probably more that we understand or realize. And yet – we often try to go it alone – why is that? In my case – it is always due to pride. I don’t want others to think I can’t do it all or perhaps see some of my weakness.
This weekend I saw firsthand how much I need others. I volunteered to help Scott’s brother with a wedding luncheon. I figured that the parents of the groom had more important things to do after the wedding than set up tables and serve food. I figured that they needed me and I could do that – no problem. They brought me everything I needed 2 days before the wedding. As I looked over the food/serving utensils I started making a list (and does that surprise you that I needed to make a list!). I realized that I couldn’t do this alone.
So I called 2 of my sisters who live in town to see if they would help at the luncheon to set up and serve. They also volunteered to bring their 12 year old daughters. I then texted 5 of my friends to see if they had crock pots I could borrow. Between the 5 of them they had 7 (and I only needed 5 and one had a drink dispenser that she let me borrow as well!). I called another friend to ask a cooking question. She had the answer I needed and helped me walk through how to prepare the meat correctly (because killing the wedding party and all of Scott’s family would be a bad ending to the day!). I called another sister for ideas and help with the table decorations (they were having a bit of a problem staying up). She had a great idea as well as some advice to go read the first chapter of a book that would help (and it helped me laugh and gain some much needed perspective). Scott was a huge help hauling stuff, putting up tables and chairs, and providing encouragement. I needed 12 people. Family and friends – if we don’t have one we always have the other – God is good to make sure we have one or both.
That doesn’t count the other people that brought food or supplies, helped with set up and clean up, offered help and expressed gratitude. Marjorie Hinckley said “Oh, how we need each other. Those of us who are old need you who are young. And, hopefully, you who are young need some of us who are old.” In Virginia H. Pearce, ed., Glimpses into the Life and Heart of Marjorie Pay Hinckley (1999), 254–55
We need each other.
I was thinking today of the words to a John Denver song (yup – I’m dating myself here – and for the record I did have flush toilets, running water, and color TV when I was growing up!)
“Some days are diamonds … some days are stone … sometimes the hard times won’t leave me alone”
Isn’t that the truth. Some days are good – full of good memories and happy times – working hard and feeling accomplished. And other days .. well … not so much. And isn’t part of our time here on earth to prove to ourselves that we can make it through all kinds of days and emerge victorious.
Some days it is a victory to put on clean clothes before dinner and other days a victory is not yelling – even if you were perfectly justified. Some days a victory isn’t crying in the car to or from work and other days a victory is cheering up someone even when you feel lousy yourself. Some days getting one thing accomplished is a victory and other days you feel you could scale buildings and solve all your children’s problems (with them agreeing with your solutions and so grateful for your amazing brilliance!)
For me – the one thing that enables me to get up on those hard days is knowing that Christ has promised: “I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.” Joshua 1:5 I know that sometimes the Savior calms the storm and sometimes he lets the storm rage and calms me. The history of the world is full of those who have struggled and who have remained of good cheer and steadfast to the Lord. To those heroes of mine I owe a huge debt of gratitude for those who came to the kingdom for such a time as this.
One short example – A woman from my church recently came to visit me. It was a get-to-know-you visit. She didn’t really know me and I didn’t really know her. I was struggling with a variety of things and I certainly wasn’t going to let her know of my humanity -so I put on a good face. (Isn’t that what most of us do!) In the middle of our very nice visit (it is nice to have someone want to know us better!) we found a mutual love of an author and she suggested a book by this author that I had never read. Being a voracious reader – I pulled up Amazon and soon had that book coming to me! As I read the book it occurred to me that this wonderful woman (whom I now count as a friend) in suggesting this particular book, knew exactly what I needed to read and think about to help with some of my struggling. Well, perhaps she didn’t know what I needed, but God did. And she listened and I was blessed. God never fails us or forsakes us. Never.