Monthly Archives: July 2014

Life’s Magic

In the movie Sleepless in Seattle, the lead character’s mother described her first meeting with her father  …. It was magic.  Then Tom Hanks’ character describes taking his dead wife’s hand for the first time : It was magic! Meg Ryan’s character realized she didn’t have that with her fiance and decided she didn’t want to live without it. Neither do I, and I expect no one does.

I think we can all recall times of magic in our lives. Time stands still, a new emotional and spiritual reality envelopes us, and a peak experience emerges. As I get older (happening mighty fast!), I like to look back on some of my magical experiences.

The summer after high school graduation, I worked as a waitress at a summer resort in Wisconsin. A guest named Mike, a law student from Northwestern University, dated me the week he was there. We went to Leibkins and ate ice cream in the afternoons, drove to a corn roast after dinner wrapped in a blanket in a convertible with our friends. Then we ended up at 1:00 in the morning sitting on deck chairs, holding hands, watching moonlight on the water, and discussing our philosophies of life. He was smart, funny, and a complete gentleman. For those few days, we lived in a small world of our own – carefree, interesting and magical.

Pete and I moved to New Hampshire after graduate school following an exploratory visit. During our very first drive up Highway 123 between Peterborough and Stoddard, we were suddenly captivated by the leafy forest overhead and the filtered sunlight, creating a yellow green world very like being underwater.  It was enchanting, and the magic descended. Our friends Peter and Peggy put us up while we looked at houses and the guys built fences. We lived there three years, had two children, then divorced. Pete never left.

As a single mom during the next three years, still in New England, I discovered English country dancing, held in local town halls and churches. My friends and I carpooled each weekend along winding wooded roads, scurrying into the hall right at 8:30, like leaves blowing off the trees. We danced until midnight to centuries-old fiddle, concertina, and penny whistle music:  reels, contra dancing, and occasional round dances. No alcohol, no drugs, but we were high on movement, music, and the shadow of colonial history you could still feel. Absolute magic. Have a listen on CD Baby.

One of those winters, a boyfriend took me on his snowmobile into inaccessible woods and lakes. We passed waterfalls that froze in colors: blue, green, pink, and yellow because of the abundant minerals the water washed out of the rocky hillsides.  A white, frozen world where one could fantasize about figure skating alone on Center Pond at midnight under an archetypal night sky, all mauve, gray and pearly white.  More magic.

Later, entering the world of my children through late night walks in summer, watching our shadows grow longer and longer, talking about anything and everything. Starting the PBS miniseries, Middlemarch, at 11 pm with daughter Amanda on another summer evening years later, not ending until 4:00 am, and then going out for a walk to reflect on a great story. Picking Peter up from the dude ranch where he worked right after high school and listening to his stories of riding horses (I only landed on my head twice!) and playing with bull snakes in the hay fields.

Finally, I’ve been blessed with many magical experiences communing with the divine. Just this morning early, a pool of golden light – reflected through a small window opposite – appeared on my family photos and the picture of the Salt Lake Temple skyline at sunset right above them. It only lasted a few minutes but it seemed to be a direct message about the eternal nature of my family and the promises found in our temples. This is a magic that will never end.

Please post any of your special memories for us all to enjoy.

Frozen Waterfall Courtesy Image 11480

Frozen Waterfall
Courtesy Image 11480

The Blessings of Healing and Forgiveness

Today was the first really cool morning in several weeks. As I came home from my morning walk, I decided it was the perfect time to trim my three day lily plants – all the flower stalks were dead and the ends of the leaves were brown. I snipped the dead stalks with my rose cutters and trimmed the leaves quite drastically with my kitchen scissors. It was tedious work but it looked and felt great when I was done.

I find that tending my soul is a lot like tending a garden. This week, I’m coming to the end of processing a difficult social situation in which I was unfairly judged, then talked about, and finally the butt of some nonverbal rejection – all without my knowing what prompted it – hurtful in the extreme! I went through a series of reactions:

  1. Lord, was it me?  No. But it took a couple of weeks for me to believe it even though God took away my initial pain very quickly.
  2. Lord, how did this happen? I heard a voice in my head of the person and their original words that lit the flame of gossip.
  3. The Lord prompted me to share my experience discreetly with a few of my friends, without naming names. They had neither heard nor participated in the loose talk, and their support was quite healing.
  4. I felt a surge of confidence, and began looking people squarely in the eye.
  5. I met with our group’s leader. We came to a mutual understanding and a changed role for me.
  6. Then, for about a week, I felt righteous indignation and mentally said the words, You trashed my good name – I want it back! It felt very cleansing to acknowledge what happened and it’s effect on me, even if only privately.
  7. Monday, all of a sudden, it didn’t feel good to be indignant. I felt myself cross a line into bitterness and petty accusation, so I decided to create a more forgiving frame of mind. I doubt those involved realized the extent of what they did.
  8. Now I’m planning to initiate a visit with the two people who I know began this and deliver a calm “I Message” of how much this hurt me and our whole group. I’ll urge them to repent and get right with the Lord, then assure them of my well wishes. I’ll practice the wording and feelings of charity so I can speak with the right spirit.

It was painful weeding out my budding feelings of resentment and growing animosity but the peace that followed was worth it. Then I remembered The Nine Steps of Forgiveness and Healing From Abuse from my files:

  1. Accept reality, come out of denial, acknowledge and condemn sin [but not the sinner]. BLESSING: A fullness of joy
  2. Protect yourself from further harm. [You have a stewardship to care for yourself.] BLESSING: Justice and safety
  3. Pray for your offender, with specifics.
    BLESSING: Your heart is softened.
  4. Honest grief over loss and pain.
    BLESSING: Freedom to receive real healing [not just stuffed feelings]
  5. Resist bitterness and animosity.
    BLESSING: Humility
  6. Be accountable for your own reaction to abuse.
    BLESSING: Control and personal power
  7. Receive the Atonement of Christ, face our own weakness and give it to Him.
    BLESSING: Your burden is lifted.
  8. Let go of anger, pain, blame and shame/guilt.
    BLESSING: Restoration of personal dignity
  9. Offer compassion and understanding [this is not approval of abuse].
    BLESSING: Empowerment, fullness of joy (full circle back to Step 1)

My process didn’t follow this sequence in order, but I’ve covered the bases and am working on the final steps. This week, I looked Step 7 squarely in the eye and didn’t like how I was feeling. It wasn’t worthy of a Christian, so I told my ego to “take a hike”! I’m preparing to tackle Step 9 and am asking the Lord to give me the words, the compassion, and the confidence to undertake this in the proper spirit.

I think forgiveness is one of the hardest challenges we face, but it’s also one of the most liberating. It sets us free from the past, and it also sets those who hurt us free – to change or not. Then it’s between them and their maker, not between them and us!

If you’re feeling burdened by the past, please let the Master Healer help release you.

Peace at the Heart of the Rose Courtesy

Peace at the Heart of the Rose
Courtesy Image 270729

Tackling Big Challenges

When I was working full-time, it was easier to structure my time. At work, I had deadlines and many set tasks that carried me through my day. As soon as I walked in my door, I opened mail, put away my shopping, and started dinner without batting an eyelash. The momentum of the day carried me past dinnertime. By the time I could quit, the critical things were done and I could relax.

Now that I’m mostly retired, I find time management to be a bigger challenge. You’d think with more time and fewer tasks, it would be easier! But now I am getting to the projects I’d had to put off previously:  deeper gospel study, gardening, keeping up with friends, bigger projects with grandkids, and finally getting my house really in order.

It helps me to remember a freelance photographer describing how he worked. He categorized work into A, B, and C TASKS:

  • A‘s were the big ones – they take time as well as creative and emotional energy – easy to put off.  Examples: Writing my blog post for the week or cooking a company dinner.
  • B‘s are medium sized – still somewhat time-consuming but less daunting: Editing and typing the final draft of a report or doing an hour’s ironing.
  • C‘s are short and easy – we can string several together and hardly feel it: Emptying the dishwasher, checking email, changing the laundry, etc.

Then he went on to talk about A, B, and C TIME:

  • A‘s are peak energy and a bigger chunk of time – mornings for most of us, long evenings for night owls.
  • B‘s are winding up or winding down time – transitioning out of high energy – and a little shorter.
  • C‘s are low energy times when we need to relax, putter around, and reflect, and may only be a few minutes.

Here’s the kicker:  We need to match A Tasks with A Time and so on, for maximum productivity.  I then remembered a talk on time management with an object lesson (shown below), using tennis balls, ping pong balls and marbles (A, B, and C Tasks) in a bowl (the productive part of your day). The speaker made the point that if you start filling your day with the multitude of easy tasks facing you, then move to the harder ones, and leaving the big tough ones until last, it will look like the bowl on the left. You’ll get to the end of your day facing the biggest tasks when you’re most tired and least motivated.  You’ll feel guilty for not getting to all of them. And you’ll have gaps in your day when you’re bored but don’t have enough time to tackle the big projects, so you can’t really relax and enjoy it.

Now look at the bowl on the right. The same number of tasks are facing you, but you start by tackling A Tasks in A Time, then fill in the remaining time with B Tasks first, and C Tasks second. This way, you can both pace yourself and get it all done before the end of your day.

A B C Tasks By Author

I’ve been holding my feet to the fire this week and tackling the daunting projects early in the day, early in the week, and at the peak of my energy. I still want to procrastinate, but my mantra is NO EXCUSES!  And here’s the payday: There’s more satisfaction – way more – tied to A Tasks relative to the time and energy invested, and far more momentum to carry us into the next big project than if we miss that peak moment.

Tuesday I forced myself to go out in the heat of early afternoon and face my research goal at our local Family History Center. I was rusty and had hit wall after wall this spring while working on my own. This time, with help from two wonderful women, I identified my great grandmother Anderson’s brother Frederick to flesh out his family and do their temple work. He married Arianna Lorton in his late thirties, died five years later, childless, all in Davenport, Iowa. Arianna buried him in Chicago and moved there. Three years later, census records show her working as a hairdresser and as a Boarder with a single woman with a Machine Shop. I imagined them with living quarters above the shop, possibly with other boarders. Arianna’s death record many years later show her name still as Anderson; I assume she never remarried. I found her parents and siblings in the area, so she wasn’t alone. It felt like a little window back into history, and it tugged at my heart. Frederick was my great grandmother’s only sibling. I imagine she greatly missed him and will be thrilled to have them sealed to their family for the next life.

A final memory comes back to me: diving off the board at the City Pool as a teenager. I would walk quickly to the end and jump straight up while pushing the end of the board downward. As I dropped, the board came up, hitting my feet to spring me into the air and give my dive energy and height. If you hit it just right, it’s a little scary but much more exciting than just diving off the end of a stationary board. Using our creative energy synchronized with life’s timing is a lot like that. My second post, The Gems Within, talks about a life force out there that wants to work through us. Now I realize we have to use it at flood tide and not when it’s ebbing away – the ride into shore is thrilling and worth the effort!

Diver Courtesy Wikipedia Commons

Diver on Springboard
Courtesy Wikipedia Commons


Tough Decisions

Throughout my life, I’ve faced some complicated social situations that have defied simple answers. I’ve learned the hard way that when these challenges come along, the quickest way through them is to allow them to be lessons, not punishments. This takes me to my knees sooner rather than later. Why did it take me this long to understand? Especially when God’s promised rewards are so great and repeated so often in scripture.

We all know that Christianity and other religions counsel us to be charitable and forgiving, and I won’t argue with that. But sometimes that isn’t the whole story. You can forgive someone who repeatedly wounds your feelings, or worse, but then you have to decide how to relate to them in the future. Do we just lie down and let the hurtful behavior continue? Do we let that person hurt your family and friends? Does a relationship bring out the worst in ourselves, and what do we do about that? I propose that there aren’t easy answers nor rules to follow here.

In my church, we are given the gift of the Holy Ghost when we’re baptized so that we can receive personal, divine guidance for situations that are too complicated for simple rules. A gospel teacher once said, “We have only 10 Commandments for a reason – the rest of the time, we need God’s guidance coupled with our own efforts.”

In the 1990s, I was on the HOA Board of the condominium building where I lived, and we faced some sticky problems relating to each other and the owners at large. Another board member said something I’ve never forgotten:  “A relationship is a lot like being inside a large circle of rope on the ground; sometimes problems can’t be solved, so you just need to step out of the circle – just STEP OUT.” Wow, that seemed harsh at first, especially to someone like myself who can overdo the “mothering the whole world” mentality. But we can’t take care of everyone, we can’t make every relationship work (“it takes two to tango”), and we don’t have unlimited emotional and physical energy to invest without robbing other areas of our lives where we can be effective. Coupled with divine confirmation, I have actually found this to be both liberating and a quicker path to reconnection, should that be possible.

None of this should discount the very real times when we need to stick it out in a long-term relationship with serious challenges: a family member with an addiction, an ongoing health problem, or a rebellious child – to name just a few. Sorting out whether a situation calls for us to stay or to go is tricky and shouldn’t be undertaken lightly. As Dr. Phil repeatedly advises, in a marriage with children, you have to earn your way out: prayer, counseling, legal advice, more prayer, etc.

I like the classic book, The Dance of Intimacy by Harriet Lerner that goes into far greater detail on gracefully stepping away or drawing closer. Don’t we ultimately want to dance through life – riding rhythms of energy, creativity, love and service – and “mount up with wings as eagles” (Isaiah 40:31). A final remembered quote: We are constantly deciding whether to love or pass unswervingly by.

The world doesn’t acknowledge God much anymore, especially not in a positive way – how we miss out!  From Proverbs 3:5-6, 11-12:

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
In all thy ways, acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. . .
My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord; neither be weary of his correction:
For whom the Lord loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.

Getting spiritual answers is like finding lily of the valley blooms in my grandmother’s garden as a child. They were hiding under the greenery and I had to push it aside to find them, a lot like pushing aside our daily busyness to find God. More and more, I find it’s worth the trouble to pray, then wait for inspiration.

Lily of the Valley Courtesy

Lily of the Valley


Covenant America

Today’s the Fourth of July and I always like to celebrate our nation’s struggle to gain freedom. It’s a story every school child knows, and we all know someone who’s fought to defend it.

But what we may not understand is the spiritual heritage and mandate resting on our nation. It originated with our ancient Old Testament patriarch, Abraham. Because Abraham was righteous in worshiping the true God of Israel and not the idols surrounding him, and because he was willing to sacrifice his son Isaac to the Lord on faith, God made some profound promises to him:

  • He would inherit a Promised Land – Canaan in Israel – in mortality and in eternity.
  • He would have a posterity too numerous to count that would bless all other nations.
  • His posterity would be prospered and protected as long as they were righteous and refused to worship idols.

Both this blessing and its associated “curse” are described in the Book of Deuteronomy, summarized as follows:

If the children of Israel are obedient, they will be blessed temporally and spiritually—If they are disobedient, they will be cursed, smitten, and destroyed; diseases, plagues, and oppression will come upon them; they will serve false gods and become a byword among all nations; fierce nations will enslave them; and they will eat their own children and be scattered among all nations. (Chapter Heading, Deuteronomy 28, LDS King James Bible)

In Old Testament times, Egypt was the big world power, and Assyria was the country by which disobedient Israel was punished for idolatry. Israel ultimately was destroyed as a nation and scattered throughout the Earth.

George Washington, our first president, invoked these blessings on America in his Inaugural address and subsequent official prayer:

. . . it would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official act my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being Who rules over the universe, Who presides in the councils of nations, and Whose providential aids can supply every human defect – that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States a government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes.  . . . We ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained;  (Click HERE for full address)

Furthermore, Abraham Lincoln invoked these ancient promises and protections during our nation’s greatest struggle for survival, the Civil War. Some quotes:

I know that the Lord is always on the side of the right. But it is my constant anxiety and prayer that I and this nation should be on the Lord’s side. . . . Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it. . . . It behooves us, then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.  

In our day, America is the world power, and the nations who wish us harm are modern counterparts to Assyria who can potentially remove our freedoms. See the writing of Isaiah scholar, Dr. Avraham Gileadi for further enlightenment. Are we, as a nation, living in such a way as to preserve our national security from adversity and attack? What do recent natural disasters and the events of 9-11 say to us?

Let us not be drawn into the idol worship of our day, and may we see the Lord’s hand in providing and protecting our precious freedoms!

George Washington Taking Oath of Office Courtesy Wikipedia

George Washington Taking Oath of Office
Courtesy Wikipedia