Category Archives: Healing

The Three Pillars of Eternity: #3 The Atonement

Today is Easter Sunday when Christians celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, providing universal immortality. We are all also given an invitation to repent and be forgiven, as well as be healed of all our mortal sorrows.

In my previous post on The Fall, I recounted highlights from my own healing journey and how God’s grace blessed my fumbling efforts. The broken pieces of my childhood are finally mended, so I can look forward to future creative growth without that drag on my footsteps. Hooray! It’s a mini-resurrection for me. I have much work to do and growth to make, never fear, but that’s one challenge I can finally put “Paid” to. So yes, Humpty Dumpty can be put together again!

But no effort of mine nor anyone else’s can mend mankind’s fundamental brokenness. That happened through Adam and Eve choosing between two conflicting commandments: Multiply and replenish the Earth (Genesis 1:28) and Do not eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (Genesis 2:17). If they had stayed in the garden of Eden, they couldn’t have had children. By partaking of the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge, they gave life to the warning that they would surely die, meaning they would enter mortality with its condition of certain physical death. But only by doing this could they have children and fulfill the first commandment.

Why would Heavenly Father give contradictory commandments? I believe, along with many religious scholars, that He did this so that the Fall would come about by choice, not compulsion – a fundamental law of Heaven. And that fall into mortality was universal for all humankind. We have all “surely died” since then. Can any effort of ours overturn this awful condition? People have long sought for the Fountain of Youth or a magical path to immortality, but always in vain.

That’s why we needed a Savior, someone with more than mortal power. In an almost unbelievable story, we’re told that Jesus Christ volunteered to be that Savior in pre-mortality. He would be half god, half mortal. His mortal half could experience life as we know it, suffering all our temptations, trials, and deprivations. His godly half would have extra strength to resist evil and super intelligence to understand all things. Most important, He would have power over death just as Heavenly Father has.

To be our Savior, he had to live a perfect, sinless life of His own free will and choice, then choose to be unjustly sacrificed for all our sins and sufferings, hence the phrase “sacrificial lamb.” The ancient Israelites were taught about this upcoming event and practiced actual animal sacrifice of a perfect, lamb “without blemish” each year on Passover, so the lesson would be imprinted deeply on their minds and hearts.

The scriptures give us the glorious tidings that Jesus fulfilled His mission perfectly, suffering every pain, sin, temptation, and sorrow of mankind willingly. Once the “uttermost farthing” was paid, He gave up His life voluntarily – no one could take it from Him. Instead of endless night and bondage to evil for eternity, all people will be resurrected and permanently escape death! It’s my testimony that this is the true story of life.

The big picture promises resurrection and the hope of eternal progression in worlds of glory if we choose to come unto Christ and live the laws of life (The Ten Commandments, The Sermon on the Mount, etc.). Most important, we must repent of wrongdoing promptly for:

And no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom;
therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those
who have washed their garments in my blood,
because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins,
and their faithfulness unto the end. (Book of Mormon, 3 Nephi 27:19)

And from Isaiah:

Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence,
touch no unclean thing; go ye out of the midst of her;
be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord. (Isaiah 52:11)

In Joy to the World, our joy comes from the Atonement:

No more will sin and sorrow grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He’ll come and make the blessings flow
Far as the curse was found,
Far as the curse was found . . . .

The little picture promises divine guidance during our mortal journey, healing of our broken pieces, and rich rewards for our feeble efforts now. No matter how long it takes, our own personal curse, like Job’s, will be removed and the Lord will bless “our latter end more than our beginning” (Job 42:12).

The true end of our mortal journey is the promised Second Coming of Christ, a truly great day for the faithful, and the real promise of Easter!

The Second Coming by Harry Anderson Courtesy The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The Second Coming by Harry Anderson
Courtesy The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints




The Three Pillars of Eternity: #2 The Fall

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the King’s horses and all the King’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again!

We’ve all grew up hearing this classic nursery rhyme and probably didn’t think a thing of it, but I’ve found a deeper personal meaning in it.

I had a nearly idyllic childhood except for one thing – my family didn’t communicate well. We talked about each other but rarely with each other. Differences often weren’t resolved, people were misjudged, then talked about with either concern or condemnation. Even worse, buried feelings smoldered and burned long afterwards, sometimes erupting without warning.

Not only did this damage our family, but it broke the fragile structure of my early self-esteem into many painful pieces that I’ve struggled to put back together most of my life. And don’t we all have broken places inside? Disappointed hopes, things we’re ashamed we did, ways we’ve been wounded, and ways we’ve wounded others?

After my marriage broke up, I had to look at those broken places and ask how they led me to marry someone who was never going to be right for the long haul. What in me brought me to this place?

I revisited family stories and family patterns. I studied psychology. I practiced better communication with my children, my friends, and at work. But I made only limited progress before I discovered God, prayer, and religion. What a great source of guidance, healing, and power beyond my own that’s been!

As stated by playwright Eugene O’Neill in my About This Blog message to the right:

Man is born broken.
He lives by mending,
And the grace of God is the glue.

That grace has led me to insight and ultimate healing, not in a single event but in round after round of growth cycles.

Scholars tell us that fairy tales, legends, and poetry often contain “archetypes” or classic themes common to many cultures throughout history. Cinderella tells a classic tale of adversity and rags to riches. The Three Little Pigs instructs us to not take short cuts to quality. But Rumpelstiltskin is the one that speaks most strongly about my path. It is a veiled tale of challenge and breakthrough as the Miller’s daughter, with magical help, spins ever larger rooms of straw into gold before she gets to marry the King. Go back and read it. Or listen to it HERE.

Each healing crisis in my journey seemed bigger than the last and more daunting, but God’s grace always appeared after I had worked hard and also sacrificed something precious to me: my pride, my laziness, my uncaring about others, etc. Marrying the King beckoned to me as symbolic of the final piece of healing that meant I could truly step out of the shadow of the past and fully turn towards a brighter future, with a healthier relationship with God and my fellow man.

This all dovetails with a symbolic dream I had soon after my divorce. I recalled it last week and shared it with my granddaughter. In this dream, I was instructed to sit in a wood straight-backed chair on the stone edge of a pool of water, with its back to it! I had to flip over backwards, chair and all, and land in the water (without the chair hitting me in the process), and then swim to the bottom of the pool to discover something that was there, waiting for me.

Being the physical coward that I am, I was very hesitant to even try. But finally, I gathered up my courage, hurled my legs up and over my head, and fell into the water well away from the falling chair. With relief, I then faced the dive, being a confident swimmer. But as I looked into the murky water, I again shrank from challenge. I dove, and my worst fears were confirmed as ominous seaweed undulated up towards me, threatening me with its slimy touch. As I swam, though, I found it couldn’t actually touch me. I kept swimming (oddly not needing a breath) until suddenly the seaweed disappeared and I only saw the off-white sandy bottom of the pool. Delicate yellow-green light wafted down. The whole scene lost its menace. It felt familiar and safe. So I swam around looking for what I was sent to find.

Very shortly I came upon a watch lying on the sand all by itself. I looked closer: It was a Mickey Mouse watch with a yellow patent leather band. I laughed at the whimsy of it, picked it up and thought, This is the gift of time!

Then I woke up. I knew it was important and contained a message I needed. I was newly divorced and just starting on my journey of self discovery and healing. A friend suggested the yellow color was important – that it was “the color of overcoming.” I decided I liked that meaning and it would be a symbolic banner to encourage me when times grew dark. But it remained only a mental image until 2004 when I went to Disneyland with my son’s family. I bought a Mickey Mouse watch to honor this dream. My ongoing quest was approaching 30 years, but oddly I didn’t wear it often. It ended up in my jewelry box, forgotten and not running.

Just lately I feel that God has put together the last of my inner child’s broken pieces. I’ve found that warm, white sand foundation in my soul, and I came across that watch. So now I’ll get a new battery and wear it with a laugh while I wait to see what the “Gift of Time” means in my life!

And isn’t Humpty Dumpty really just symbolic of mortality for every single one of us? The process of life breaks all of us in pieces, one way or another. I recently watched a PBS American Masters special celebrating the life of composer and singer Carole King (watch it HERE, only available through March 4, 2016). In it, her early talent is very evident, but she had her own “broken pieces” and attributed her success to persevering – just never giving up. She said, One day that door does open and if you don’t persevere, you won’t be there when it does – meaning the break-through into creative and personal success she achieved after many heartbreaks and setbacks.

So let’s none of us quit. Let’s push through whatever life throws at us until we “can marry the King” – whatever that means to each of us – and we can ultimately return to our heavenly King to be welcomed home forever.

Humpty Dumpty Courtesy

Humpty Dumpty

Is Evil Real?

Last week I saw a wonderful movie, Woman in Gold, a true story about a woman trying to reclaim her family’s art that had been confiscated by the Nazis during their occupation of Austria – especially the stunning portrait of her aunt Adele Bloch-Bauer by Gustav Klimt, covered in gold leaf. The movie’s name is how the Nazis labeled it. At its heart, the film is about the personal journey of Maria Altmann and her attorney, but it also gives us a vivid glimpse into events most of us would label evil.

I think we would all agree that the holocaust was evil – inherently wrong at its core. And there are many, many books and movies portraying events and people participating in other horrific events in history. A prime example would be Left To Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust, by Immaculee Ilibagiza, which I highly recommend.

Left to Tell Book Cover

Left to Tell Book Cover

Maria Altmann’s family were educated and cultured, living a prosperous life in Vienna in the 1930s. They were lovely people caught up in events beyond their control. I couldn’t help compare their innocent suffering with the harshness of the Nazis and the blindness of most Austrians who welcomed them.

For decades, America has lived in relative peace and prosperity. Whole generations have known little adversity. I, however, grew up in the 1950s, under the shadow of the Great Depression and World War II. News of the atomic bomb and its potential to devastate the world terrified me so much as a small child that my parents shielded me from the news and all talk of world events.

In high school and college, movies and novels portrayed this history in journalistic detail, plus I’ve experienced enough unjust adversity in my life to truly believe that there is an evil force loose in our world. But I observe that younger people today seem to think the continuum of good and evil goes from Mother Teresa’s complete altruism down through rudeness, ignorance, dysfunction, and finally mental illness, and stops there. Evil, wickedness, and sin just don’t seem to make it onto the list at all. Values are relative, and conflict is just the result of different backgrounds and perspectives, among people basically of good will.

Let me suggest that there really are people who intend to do harm, who consciously plan our enslavement and the downfall of our freedoms, just as with the Nazi regime and many others. So far, they’ve worked behind the scenes, but I believe we’ll soon see this evil emerge increasingly in national and world events.

In the movie, Maria’s uncle was not so deluded. He saw the handwriting on the wall and left Austria soon after Anschluss was announced, taking her sister to safety with him. Maria’s father, however, thought it would all blow over and life would continue unchanged, a decision that proved tragically wrong.

I believe that the eternal battle between good and evil is heating up to the final confrontation long heralded in the scriptures, under the heading “Last Days.” Traditional values are being denigrated, materialism and selfishness are rampant, and the divide between the haves and the have-nots has never been greater. Even our own government is gearing up its military to fight “domestic terrorism” (google JADE HELM 15), anticipating much civil unrest.

I believe that we need to get clear with our values and right with God. It’s time to pray and learn to discern our Heavenly Father’s answers. In the days ahead, they will be sorely needed. And may we all be decisive like Maria’s uncle, not blind like her father, when we see events advancing and follow the spiritual promptings we receive.

It’s my testimony that there is a God who loves us, who wants to “gather us as a hen gathereth her chicks” and lead us to physical and spiritual safety. But if we don’t heed the invitation, He may allow adversity to bring us back to the path of true goodness.

I also believe that when the storm of cleansing is over, all good people will be able to move forward, all scattered families reunited, and once again civilization will flourish.

"Woman in Gold"

“Woman in Gold”

40 Years in the Wilderness

I was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 40 years ago as of yesterday. I consider this a huge milestone. Why? Because the ancient Israelites wandered for 40 years in the Sinai desert after miraculously escaping from 400 years of bondage in Egypt. The number 40 is very symbolic of a wilderness experience in the Hebrew culture.

So did I have a “wilderness experience” these last 40 years. You bet your boots I did! After growing up in a Midwestern university town with little exposure to religion or spirituality, I then detoured through six years as a New England hippie, glorying in the back-to-the-land culture of the late Sixties and early Seventies. Not only did that affect my lifestyle (burning wood for heat, hauling water from a well by hand, and using an outhouse for two of those years) but those lovely, silent woods awakened my soul to a profound spiritual reality. I experimented with astrology, meditation, and night walks along lonely back roads. I sensed unseen beings and a higher power.

After an amazing conversion to Christianity and then to Mormonism, I moved briefly from my little hippie house to Iowa, and then settled in Salt Lake City soon after my baptism. That began my sojourn learning how to be a good Latter-day Saint (saint meaning “follower of Christ,” not holy person). Over the ensuing years, I had to confront a multitude of faults: my unchristian resentment of those I felt had wronged me, my lack of desire to serve those around me, and coveting the blessings of others, to name a few. I needed to think before I spoke, learn the place of faith and grace in my life, how to pray and get answers, and so much more. I found an image on the front of a greeting card years ago that’s provided needed encouragement when the road seemed long. This young woman is resolute in spite of inadequate clothes and winter weather, and she’s surrounded by snowflakes representing spiritual guidance and miracles:

Winter Pilgrim, from Greeting Card

Winter Pilgrim, Publisher Unknown

As I tackled motherhood after my divorce, various jobs and church callings, each one seemed to provide tutoring along the path of discipleship. My children taught me patience and living in the moment. Difficult bosses taught me to either speak up professionally or learn charity and long suffering. Friends encouraged me and provided needed R&R. Prayer was a refuge from the storm and an anchor to my soul. While I have much to learn and master, I feel I’ve finally “caught up with myself.” The little wounded child within has been made whole by the grace of God, and my future challenges seemed designed for creativity rather than healing.

I had a dream very early on that foreshadowed my spiritual odyssey and also gave me hope: I was in the Florence, Italy train station on a balcony overlooking several tracks with trains backed up to a platform, waiting for passengers to climb aboard. I was trying to decide which train to take when I noticed a headlight burning in one of them with its engine idling. All the others were dark and still. I said to myself, “I want to get on that one.” I entered through a door at the back of the caboose and, as soon as I did, the train took off at a terrifying speed. The vibrations were so strong I dropped to my hands and knees and crawled forward with difficulty. I slowly progressed through several seemingly emtpy cars, crawling on a slightly dusty but clean linoleum floor. Finally reaching the engine, I groped my way unto the engineer’s seat and studied the complicated control panel in front of me, trying various switches to learn how to drive the train. Finally, I opened a hatch over my head and put it through a cold, dark, ominous opening. But then, amazingly, my face was struck by warm night air, I could hear the crickets along the track and see down it by the headlight. I was free, exultant, flying along, and driving my own train!

I feel I’m at the end of this journey and about to put my head through the hatch. All the threads of my spiritual and personal growth have come to a healthy place. I have great hope and expect life to open up with new creative and fulfilling opportunities. I encourage all of you to find an image or allegory that helps propel you forward and see where it takes you.


Spring Roads, New Life

My granddaughter stayed with me last weekend while my son’s family was out of town. We are Lord of the Rings fans, so over the course of four days, we watched all three LOTR movies, the extended versions! We each had our favorite scenes and characters: Aragorn and Legolas for Taylor, Theoden and Eowyn for me.

The weather was also unseasonably warm and balmy, so we went for a walk on our local riverside Greenbelt. We saw ducks, geese, and a surprising amount of new, green grass, and it was only early February! Falling for a long-standing cliche, seeing the new green grass made me reflect on all the new things appearing in my life. They seem to focus mainly on building better health, hopefully sprouting up as increased energy and leading to new adventures. Here’s the photo I shot that day:

Spring Roads, New Life. Photo by Author

Spring Roads, New Life. Photo by Author

First up: Homemade kefir that reminds me of the army of Rohan that helps rescue Gondor in the final battles of Middle Earth (The Return of the King). Kefir is like super yogurt providing 3-4 times more strains of good bacteria as well as healthy yeast. I culture a new batch every two or three days and drink some at bedtime with ginger and a little Stevia to soften the tangy flavor. I purchased my kefir grains online and use local raw milk. Check out my source on ebay. They have 100% positive ratings for good reason.

I start my day with homemade yogurt and fruit, using the same raw milk. Contact me if you want the Lazy Woman’s Yogurt recipe. I use Stoneyfield Farms organic plain yogurt as my initial starter since I like its mild, creamy flavor. I make 1-2 quarts at once, it keeps 10-14 days, and provides starter for the next batch.

I just received Sally Fallon Morrell’s new book Nourishing Broth. What an eye-opener! We’ve been robbed by the food industry who’ve substituted MSG and other artificial flavorings for old-fashioned, long simmered meat and bone broth. I highly recommend you look into it. Here are two sites for further information: and of which Mrs. Morrell is President.

Rather than always making homemade versions, I’ll also buy some high quality extracts: Vital Proteins is the recommended source of collagen supplements. See: Dr. Ron’s Ultra-Pure for a source of “additive-free” foods and supplements, including the oils below.

I’ve also discovered the benefits of high quality fermented cod liver oil combined with healthy butter oil for maximum absorption of nutrients. The recommended brand is Green Pasture, in chocolate, cinnamon or plain flavors, available on multiple sites. Don’t buy into the food industry’s PR about saturated fats. My research shows that’s how they sell cheap vegetable oils for huge profits, none of which are healthy, according to more independent research. The Weston A. Price Foundation has recommended suppliers (which include all those listed here). I’ll rely on their research, but you should also do your own due diligence.

The more I learn about health, the more I realize our digestive tract is critical. Good probiotic bacteria manufacture B vitamins and other nutrients, is a major player in our immune system vanquishing the bad guys, not to mention breaking down and properly absorbing nutrients from our food.

Why let those orcs and trolls of disease dominate our health? We can call forth armies (Kefir, yogurt), wizards (nature’s foods) and ordinary Hobbits (good habits) to vanquish them. If you feel small and helpless in the face of the many assaults upon our health, remember Eowyn, the only woman on the battle field at Minas Tirith, who faced the Lord of the Nazgul. He threatened her with these words: No man can kill me. Her reply: I am no MAN and proceeded to plunge her sword straight into his head, ending his reign of terror. We too have power if we dig out nature’s precious knowledge and apply her remedies. I’m already reaping more energy from my daily yogurt and kefir routine.

Have a wonderful spring and remember Bilbo’s words from The Lord of the Rings:

It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road,
and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.

Isn’t that the point of good health – to be able to have those adventures and enjoy them?

Going Out the Door. Courtesy

Going Out the Door. Courtesy


Come To Bethlehem and See

Last Sunday we had our annual Christmas program at church. It was beautiful and uplifting from start to finish. At one point, the congregation joined in for Angels We Have Heard on High, and when we started verse 3, I was struck by the first line and couldn’t get past it:  Come to Bethlehem and SEE…

I had a flashback to my conversion to Christianity when my very first prayer, God, if you’re there, I need to know it…., was answered with a stunning outpouring of love. Suddenly, I could see: see that God was real, see that He loved me, and see that I should henceforth follow Him. My life has never been the same, and my focus shifted from:

  • How do I get this baby to sleep through the night?
  • What am I doing this weekend?
  • How do I pay my bills?


  • How can I be a more serene and loving mother?
  • How can I teach Kevin (and Billy and Roxanne) to read?
  • How do I stand approved before my Savior?

Robert Frost wrote:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Well, this Christian journey has made all the difference in my life, taking me far from where I would certainly be today without it.

We start looking at baby Jesus in the manger at Christmas, but we can also look ahead to His full triumphal return in glory. Please enjoy the following pictures and scriptures as we turn our eyes to more fully see “Him whose birth the angels sing”:

Baby Jesus in a White Stone Manger Courtesy

“Little Lamb” (in a White Stone Manger)

And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only. (Matthew 17:8)

For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. (Matthew 13:15)

But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. (1 Corinthians 2:9)

And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth. (Revelation 5:9-10)

Come to Bethlehem and see – see differently!

The Second Coming by Harry Anderson Courtesy The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The Second Coming by Harry Anderson
Courtesy The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints


Coming Into Port

A further insight on my last post:  By letting my emotions flow freely, even through intense pain, they kept on flowing completely out of me, as long as I avoided the shoals of self-pity. The pain was gone more surely than any amount of stuffing it back into my subconscious could achieve. It felt like gliding into port and stepping on solid ground again.

Then I was prompted to reread Elizabeth Gilbert‘s famous book, Eat, Pray, Love. I just finished it this morning (actually in the middle of the night when I do a lot of my reading) and I was struck by several thoughts. First, I’m not nearly the emotional basket case she is, or at least I don’t live “as large” as she does.

Second, I was reminded of the vast array of spiritual practices in the world and how they bring multitudes to the throne of grace. I had explored many of them, back in my hippie days searching for God: Practicing stillness, auto suggestion, chanting. I remember hearing of an ancient Native American practice of sending depressed people to walk along the banks of a moving river until their own emotions came unstuck and could flow into healing pathways. I had walked along the banks of the Iowa River one summer wrestling with the growing conviction that I couldn’t stay in Iowa to raise my two children under the protective wing of my family; I would have to go to Utah and face those challenges alone where my higher spiritual path beckoned. The process worked, I tuned into the quiet flow of the natural world and God spoke to me through it.

Sometime later, I came across a religious cartoon, showing two movie theater marquees across the street from each other. The billing on one read ABOUT GOD with a long line of people stretching around the block, while the other read GOD with only a few patrons straggling in! I think many of us are afraid of actually experiencing God so we substitute listening to other mortals’ ideas of God, a lesser experience. But all true religion begins and ends with an actual connection with the divine. I propose that comes in many ways, not all of them filled with spiritual sunbeams and lollipops.

Elizabeth Gilbert’s book is an account of her journey out of a once vital marriage, through an ugly complicated divorce, devastating to her self-esteem and life path. She goes on a year-long quest to find answers and peace – first pleasure (eating in Italy), then purity (meditation and yoga in India), and finally a balance of the two in Indonesia where she actually finds it, along with real love.

At the end of the book she returns with her new-found mate to an island where she had retreated two years before just as she hit her lowest point. The first time, she spent 10 days in solitude and silence flushing out all “her sorrows and her shames,” letting them flow through and out of her. So this island acted like bookends punctuating the beginning and end of her odyssey. An inspiring read, even if it’s a little edgier than my comfort level. She ended up making a patchwork life now married to the lovely Brazilian man she found in Bali, where their lives take them all over the world, separately and together. Most importantly, it’s a much higher level of creative achievement and personal happiness for them both.

A third similarity: She was wrenched away from the comfort of her first marriage by her own insistent creative growth. A life force much bigger than her tossed her about until she came out the other side, all rearranged and new. And I’ve been a vagabond in my own life, never completely fitting into any one “port” – Midwestern schoolgirl, New England hippie, nor Utah Mormon – but with a bone-deep connection to all of them. Trying to synthesize these into something coherent has been more than tough. Under my own power, it’s been impossible. But the Lord has led me on an amazing creative and spiritual journey into a higher level of me-ness, not in a selfish way but in a growth way. Just as I described in one of my earliest posts, The Gems Within (ironically sparked by a television interview with Elizabeth Gilbert), the life force has pushed to live even more intensely through me, as it will in all of us, if we let it.

This morning a memory flashed through my mind: of me at age 17 or 18 standing on the footbridge by the University of Iowa Student Union at night watching a couple of otters cavorting on the bank of the Iowa River, silently and powerfully gliding beneath them. Their fur glistened in the darkness as they darted in and out of the water, their long, sleek bodies moving like quicksilver. I realized that if I would deepen my trust in the life force that wants to live through me, I could eventually be like them, moving in total harmony with the universe, in utter joy and abandon – but also doing good and being good.

That’s a homecoming I’ll gladly welcome, even after a terrifying storm. I hope you can also trust your “sorrows and shames” to the Master of us all to guide you into port.

Boat Safe on Shore Courtesy

Boat Safe on Shore

The Heart of Darkness

We’ve all heard of “the ugly cry,” right?  When some deeply repressed pain finally floats up, it usually takes us by complete surprise, and we blubber, bawl and wail!

I remember an obscure movie, The Pumpkin Eater, in which Ann Bancroft plays a 1950’s style housewife, self-sacrificing and taken for granted in the extreme by her husband and children. All looks good on the surface until one day she melts down in a department store, sinking to the floor in uncontrollable sobbing. While I think we’re usually much better now at recognizing our feelings, these moments come at one time or another.

I was horrified when my marriage of six years fell apart, mostly at the six years spent building a relationship and lifestyle that came to an abrupt and irrevocable end. I vowed not to take such a big life detour again, especially since it affected two adorable children even more than myself. While I’ve always wanted to remarry, psychological patterns from my childhood stood in the way of creating a healthy relationship, one with less chance of sudden implosion. All these years, the Lord has promised me the blessing of an eternal companion, so I’ve trudged my way through personal transformation while raising my darlings and navigating the work world. It was a slow process, requiring “sucking up” my feelings most of the time, but while I am getting closer, a lot of years have passed!

This last month I hit the wall, the dam broke, and I decided to just let those repressed, raw feelings flow and see where they took me. My two rules: I couldn’t sink into self-pity and I couldn’t take out my frustration on others.

As I wondered why I seemed to be stuck in spiritual and relationship limbo, I thought of a woman I worked with long ago. She was single and nearing age 40, but bitter and angry at life. In spite of our shared Christian beliefs, I failed to lift her faith. Sitting on the bus in downtown Salt Lake after work one December night, I saw her staring wistfully at a store window displaying a child’s doll house. I knew she was imagining the daughter she didn’t have playing with it, and I felt so bad for her. She’s never married and I’ve wondered why not. After all, she was worthy in every way to receive God’s blessing.

Years later, I found a possible answer in the LDS Bible Dictionary under Prayer:

As soon as we learn the true relationship in which we stand toward God (namely, God is our Father, and we are His children), then at once prayer becomes natural and instinctive on our part (Matt. 7:7–11). Many of the so-called difficulties about prayer arise from forgetting this relationship. Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other. The object of prayer is not to change the will of God but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant but that are made conditional on our asking for them. Blessings require some work or effort on our part before we can obtain them. Prayer is a form of work and is an appointed means for obtaining the highest of all blessings. [emphasis added]

I realized that I could be too self-sacrificing and fail to more actively ask for my promised blessings. I saw that part of what held me back was an unwillingness to fully feel my own pain. Stuffing it isn’t faith, and it certainly isn’t courage. Perhaps it was better to face it, feel it, and then actively pray for greater inspiration and blessings.

No great revelation or change has yet appeared, but as I stay open and sometimes on the edge of tears, I also feel an unexplained increase in hope. There is a light glimmering in my dark place, I feel I’m on the right track, and how appropriate for the season in which we celebrate the light Christ brings to the world.

I hope that light richly blesses each of you this Christmastime!

A Candle in the Darkness Courtesy

A Candle in the Darkness

The Cycle of Life and Death

Recently I visited with a friend at church who’s going through the “empty-nest syndrome” since her two oldest children went off to college this fall. Her pain was palpable. I tried to console her with prospects of her girls’ future achievements out in the world and grandchildren to come, but I came away feeling that I hadn’t been very successful.

Sitting in my living room last night looking at the twilight landscape, I saw nothing left but dead leaves hanging dejectedly from the “wall of green” shrubbery that I’d enjoyed all summer. I grieved for that lush, living companion that’s now deader “than a door nail”! (Anyone know where that saying came from?) I remembered how much I miss my own children when they were little, making up original songs and building elaborate structures from Lego’s. I miss my grandkids saying cute three-year-old things now that they’re teenagers. I miss Iowa. I miss New Hampshire. I miss my relatives who’ve gone to their eternal reward.

Death and loss seem to be ever present. This time of year, it can seem pretty bleak – cold rain, gray days, waning energy as winter comes to claim her own. In a book I love, Father Fox’s Penny Rhymes, the mother fox stands gazing out at the relentless rain while her many children whine and cry around her. She moans:

The rain falls down
The wind blows up:
I’ve spent all the pennies
In my old tin cup.

Father Fox's Pennyrhymes  By Clyde Watson Courtesy

Father Fox’s Pennyrhymes
By Clyde Watson

I know just how she felt. Don’t we all have those hopeless moments? I decided my friend just needed her feelings acknowledged and understood. They’ll evolve in their own time, just as mine always do.

As I sat and reflected, suddenly the moon rose behind those stark branches, full and luminous – promising a new perspective and new life. I know my friend will find her own comfort, and I do enjoy each stage of life with my children and grandchildren. I wouldn’t really want them to stand still.

This full moon is a magical reminder that life is not all loss, that new horizons and new birth are around the corner for all of us.

Fall Moon by the Author

Fall Moon by the Author

Dealing With Loss

Yesterday I expect we all revisited the horror and sadness of of September 11, 2001. I was teaching in a suburban high school at the time. During first period, my students and I watched in disbelief as the second plane hit the World Trade Center. It was a day of shock, tears, and sober reflection. Where were you that day? I expect you remember it as vividly as I do.

It’s a short step to remembering other losses: my grandparents, aunts and uncles, and finally my own parents. There were other, less obvious losses: leaving my hometown, moving away from my beloved New England, seeing my children grow up and fly the coop. I miss teaching and the energy of adolescence, designing some of my best lessons while walking to the front of the classroom! I am certainly mourning some aspects of my lost youth with its fullness of health and vitality.

How have I dealt with each loss? Sometimes less well. For a long time, I just tried to stuff my grief after moving from New Hampshire to Utah. That simply didn’t work, caused a mild depression, and stopped me from discovering the very real opportunities for happiness and fun all around me, until I realized what I was doing, and stopped living in the past.

A friend once told me about two people in a family who’d lost someone close to them. One avoided grieving and had emotional and physical health problems for a long time, as a result. The other, while almost hysterical in her grief, worked through it much more quickly, emerging on the other side with a balanced focus on good memories.

So I’ve learned to feel my feelings and work through them, no matter how ugly, and I agree it’s a better way. When my elderly mother was dying of cancer in 2004, she was given no hope of recovery, but we had the gift of being able to say goodbye over six months. I took every opportunity to spend time with her.  One long August weekend, I was the only visitor. We watched old movies, reminisced, and addressed a difficult dynamic between us. She gave me my grandmother’s china and boxes of books from her shelves. I cried pretty hard on the drive home, but when the funeral came in early January, I could fully celebrate her life and achievements with our large family, a true memorial.

Finally, I have the perspective of eternity grounded in my Christian faith. I recently participated in sealing some ancestors in eternal marriage and children to their parents in the Boise LDS Temple (their choice to accept or not). It’s like a window above my head opened, and I could see the grand vistas of blessing and opportunity that await all of us in the next life. We have the firm hope of reunion with those who’ve gone before us and the promises that we can keep progressing indefinitely. I take a great deal of comfort in that, as well great anticipation.

What will it be like hearing meeting with my Great Aunt Ella who married Judge Henry Shute? She lived in Davenport, Iowa, and he was from Exeter, New Hampshire, a widower with two children. I can’t wait to hear how they met and what their life there was like. He was a judge in the local police court for many years, finally turning to writing fiction about the many boys who came before him. The best known is The Real Diary of a Real Boy (available for free on Kindle). He had many short stories published in magazines like the Saturday Evening Post and was called the Mark Twain of Exeter.

We all have amazing stories behind us and those unfolding before us. That is my focus and ultimate comfort. I hope it is yours as well.

Polstead Church, Suffolk, England  Courtesy Image 362353

Polstead Church, Suffolk, England
Courtesy Image 362353