Tuesday, March 28, 2017

A Tender Mercy

It's been quite a while since I've scribbled any new thoughts.
I have an excuse though.
My mind always did wander, but lately it's been off meandering around in some strange and foreign lands.
It keeps getting lost in unfamiliar landscapes.
You see this old retired teacher now finds herself in the first months of being a widow. After 51 years of being married I've been left behind.

Here I am, sent back to school to master a difficult life lesson, and being forced to pay attention to boot!

Whatever I'm supposed to learn from this experience must be critically important too, considering the sheer number of Father's children who are faced with a similar lesson plan.

So, even though I often find myself gazing wistfully out the window, daydreaming about past picnics on the beach, I'll pray to be a good student.

When my mind wanders off I'll send it back to the classroom where I must have said a thousand times to some teenaged kid meandering on paths of their own....

 "Hector! (Or Lucinda, or whomever) Will you please pay attention! You're smart, you can get this, but you need to focus or you won't pass Algebra! This is your last chance, Hector! If you don't pass Algebra this time you won't graduate! Focus please!"

Well you know what they say about paybacks.

In any case I'm surely not alone in deep water.
Virtually all of Father's beloved children are faced with these really hard life lessons at one time or another. The ones that knock the breath right out of you.
I can understand that too, because as a parent I know what a disaster it would be for my children to grow up in complete ease, without any difficult challenges.
What a mess they'd be, right? Weaklings for sure.
And heaven knows that the mightiest warriors are needed for today's battles.

Still, these past months, something that's been especially hard for me to see is my beloved children struggling under the burden of their own sorrow.

But now I have a new appreciation for Heavenly Father's perfect grit.

That he allowed his innocent Son to suffer so much was an amazing act of love for all the rest of us.
Mercy cannot rob justice and the Atonement was a perfect act of mercy and justice.
I can only imagine how much it cost Father to allow.

So, as I try to understand all that's in this "widow" lesson plan, I'll pray that each one in our family will move through their own grief, growing and figuring out important eternal principles as they do.

One thing I've learned is that Father doesn't leave us alone out here. I know that we're surrounded by his helpers, day and night, seen and unseen. I live with two of them.

And Larry himself came to help me a few months ago when I needed help most.

It was right after a beautiful Thanksgiving at our son's home. The first without Larry.

All of our kids, most of the grands, nieces, and many various other posterity were there. Everything was lovely and everyone was doing their best to be of good cheer.

We "West-sider" family had also used this day to bring baby gifts to shower our sweet Meg who was about to deliver our first great-grandbaby.

In addition, some of my wonderful family had given me a very precious gift.
It was a once in a lifetime labor of love that I will cherish always.

It was one of those "diamond days." This time filled with love and sadness at the same time.

Yet in the midst of all these bIessings I felt myself beginning to sink into a deep, paralyzing sadness. It was as if I were slowly falling into a dark hole.

It was the start of the holiday season and Larry wasn't here physically.

He always loved the holidays. For the first time in 51 years we wouldn't be together for all the happiness.
I was learning that the incomparable blessing of eternal marriage and knowlege of truth doesn't stop the aching of missing someone who's away.

After we left our son's home that afternoon I managed to tell the girls that I thought it would be best for me to skip Christmas this year.
I didn't think I'd be able to bear it without their father.
I hoped they would understand if I stayed at home by myself through all the rest of the festivities.
I didn't want to ruin everyone's happiness with my selfish tears.
They responded with quiet. Maybe they were praying.

Late that night something happened that changed everything for me.

Heavenly Father sent Larry with a message.
I feel it's okay to share it with you in hopes it may help someone else.

Most likely in a situation such as this you would expect a message from the other side to be filled with words of great comfort, gentle love, and encouragement.

But this is an exact quote of what Larry said to me. I recognized his irritated tone immediately.

"Knock it off, Babe! You're gonna ruin Christmas for a bunch of people on both sides of the veil if everybody has to worry about you! All I did was die! You know I like Christmas. And you know I love you and I'm waiting for you.
And, another thing. You have to quit wanting to come here all the time. You can't come here until you finish your mission."
Then he was gone. He didn't even say goodbye. He seemed to be in some kind of a big hurry.

Everything began to change then.

The dense, paralyzing fog started to lift. I found myself back in the realm of regular widow sadness. I'd already learned that giving service to others, no matter how small, helps with that.

I'm so grateful for the Lord's tender mercies.
It's amazing to me that He cares for each one of His children personally, knowing the exact nature of their needs.
I'm also grateful to know that Larry is so busy while waiting for me. I know he's growing in knowlege every day and has many opportunities to serve.

I have a message of my own for him. From this side. I send it with my love.

"Thanks Babe. It is Babe isn't it?"

He'll understand.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

That Famous Old Snake Story

There's a famous story that's been around a long, long, time. It's about a snake.
You may have heard it. 

Most likely, hundreds of teachers, including myself, have told it to the young people in their charge. 
I don't know who the original author might have been, but they have my gratitude. I'm grateful because one or two of the young people who heard the tale in my class said that it made them think. 

Thinking is a wonderful thing in a teenager.

So, just in case you haven't heard about snakes, or know a kid who's fooling around with one, here it is. 

There once was an Indian people who made their home on the vast plains of a beautiful land. Majestic mountains stood guard in the distance. 
This tribe had many honored traditions handed down from generation to generation. Among those traditions was a right of passage that all the young braves and maidens undertook as they left childhood and became adults. 
It involved a sacred journey.  
This is the story of one.

A lovely young maid stood at the edge of her village at dawn on a summer's day. It was her fifteenth birthday and now it was time to make her way into adulthood. Her family and friends surrounded her to wish her well. 
The sun rose as she walked across the golden fields, until finally at midday she reached the sacred mountains. This was where she was to make the difficult climb to a lofty overlook. She began to make her way over the jagged rocks and after several hours at last she could see the secluded ledge. It was large, sheltered from the wind, and faced beautiful vistas of the valley below.

When she reached the ledge the maiden sat to rest, and then to contemplate her future and her place in it. She watched as the sun set and the stars began to appear. She prepared a place to sleep and built a fire for warmth and to prepare her food.  The night passed with the young woman deep in thought, surounded by the beauty of the stars and sky.  
Dawn broke and the maiden prepared to return home. As she did, there came a rustle fom some brush and nearby rocks. Turning toward the sound, she saw a large rattlesnake beginning to coil and raise it's deadly head. 

In fear she began to slowly back away. She was grateful to see that she was just out of reach of the deadly serpent. 
But then an amazing thing happened. Something she could scarcely believe. As the snake raised it's ugly head from its coils it began to speak to her! 
"Lovely maiden," he hissed, "There's no need to be afraid. I mean you no harm. In fact, I need your help." 

In astonishment she listened as the snake continued.

"You see, I find myself unable to get down from this ledge and back to my home on the plains below. The sharp rocks make it impassible. But, if you will carry me down with you I will repay the favor with great gifts."
The snake hissed on, "Wondrous gifts await you, I promise! You'll see colors you've never imagined, hear sounds never before heard, and feel amazing sensations that defy description!" 

The young girl stepped back and said in disgust, "No, never! You're a deadly snake! You'll surely kill me."

"You can trust me, young maiden," he went on. "I'd never hurt you! Believe me. To prove it, I'll even give you a special treasure. I'll bestow great confidence and beauty upon you! Everyone will find you irresistable! I promise."

So, enticed by his silky words, the maiden lowered her hand to the ground. 

The snake slowly slithered up her arm and draped himself around her shoulders, his huge head poised to whisper in her ear. 
She shuddered, but then began working her way around the sharp rocks. All the while the snake repeated his golden promises. 

At last she reached the base of the mountain. She lowered her arm so the snake could slither off, glad to be rid of him forever.
Just as his tail slipped off her fingertips, the great snake turned its head, as if to say goodbye. 

Instead he lunged, sinking his venom filled fangs deep into her neck.

She screamed. 

As the maiden writhed in agony and fell to the ground, she called out in disbelief, "You lied! You promised! You said you wouldn't hurt me!"
The snake was already slithering away. But he paused just long enough to turn,

"Really, you foolish girl." he smirked, 
"You can't possibly be suprised."

As he slithered off he hissed with an evil grin, 
"You knew I was a snake when you picked me up."

Think about it. 
Thinking is a wonderful thing.