18 May 2009

Saying "Thy Will Be Done" in Advance

Almost twelve years ago, my daughter Julie became aware of how seriously Alzheimer's disease had affected her grandmother's memory and personality. She, along with several other relatives, visited her in a care center where she was recovering from a serious fall. I was living abroad at the time, on a mission with my husband, and in answer to a letter from my daughter I wrote the following:

Dear Julie,

We appreciated your information on the visit to see Grandmother in the care center on the day of the [family] reunion. I am grateful that you understand things the way you do. I feel the same way. It certainly is terribly sad to see Grandmother suffer, and to realize that she will probably soon leave this mortal existence. But she is ready to go, and she seems to be trying her best to be brave and endure whatever she needs to right now.

We talked to Uncle [D] Friday, and he said that he thought that it was an eye‑opener for most of the grandchildren to see her as she was. He mentioned that perhaps many had not realized the extent to which Grandfather stage‑managed visits when he was present to help her deal with her Alzheimer's disease. Apparently she has times when she is more lucid than others, and times when her memory is sharper than others. (Michael said that his visit with her on Tuesday went well, and that she remembered their conversation when he talked to her on Thursday). But her short term memory is definitely unreliable, and seems to be deteriorating rapidly.

Uncle [D] said that Thursday she was still very confused as to where she was and why she was there, wondering if she were lost, and needed to go home. But Friday she was much calmer, and accepted the fact that it was best for her to stay in the care center for now. Grandfather realizes that he cannot carry her around; but they are hopeful that in a week or so the therapy will enable her to walk again, so that she can go home. If it turns out that she will not be able to walk, then they will need to consider whether to adapt their condo with a stair lift, hospital bed, etc., or to move somewhere else.

Apparently when you all arrived at the care center, Grandmother said something like, "I'm old, I'm dumb, and I'm ugly." When Uncle [D] mentioned that she had said that, I cried. I thought about how difficult it must be to FEEL that way because you can't take care of yourself, and you can't think straight, make decisions, or remember things.

Her entire life has been one of cheerful, unselfish service to those around her. She always had a high energy level, and whether it was vacuuming, sewing or doing crafts, she was incredibly quick. It wasn't until she was in her fifties that I noticed that I could work comfortably at her pace!

As age and infirmity began to slow her down, she came to terms with her situation, but continued to try her best to do things for others. These last few years she even struggled with her arthritis to keep making cards and [ribbon] roses for friends and family even though it was painful and time‑consuming. She always loved to cook and bake, and she has had to turn all the meal preparation over to Grandfather. She always took pains to be well groomed for Grandfather, as well as for the world in general. Now she probably can't even put on makeup by herself. She was a marvelous teacher and administrator, both in church callings and in the community. Now she realizes that she has to ask others to decide everything for her, and help her with the most basic every day tasks. She IS incredibly brave.

In the zone conferences this month I have been talking about maintaining our enthusiasm as missionaries, and overcoming discouragement. Some of the scriptures I am using seem to me to apply to Grandmother, and I hope they will always apply to me, too:

"And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord." Mosiah 24:15

"Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed." (D&C 123:17)

Grandmother has always been an example to her children, and she continues to be a light and an inspiration to all her posterity as she deals with her problems now. She is a righteous woman, and whatever she may have to suffer until Heavenly Father determines that it is time for her to leave this mortal sphere, it could be said to her as it was said to Joseph Smith:

"all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good" (D&C 122:7)

"peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; and then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high" (D&C 121:7‑8).
Truly her faith in Christ and her life of good works have given her the sure hope of a glorious resurrection.

Once again she and Grandfather face the refiner's fire, and I know they will both emerge even purer and stronger. Although in the future Grandmother may lose so much control that she can no longer be as cheerful and accepting as she is now, I firmly believe that her spirit has already said, "Thy will be done."

I love her. I honor her. I pray that I may demonstrate that love and honor as I try to follow her example, even unto the end.

With all my love, Mother

Although my mother recovered physically enough to return home, she became bedridden a few months later. My father installed a hospital bed in the living room, and lovingly cared for his eternal sweetheart until she passed away at the age of 91 in August 1999.

I will turn 69 shortly. As I see the effects of aging manifest themselves, I can't help but wonder if my life will follow a path similar to that of my mother.

Will I end up with a body unable to move from a bed on its own? Will my mind cloud over and fall prey to degenerating nerve connections? Will my spirit go dormant; or will it remain totally aware of being trapped in a mortal housing that is cut off from all meaningful communication with those around me?

No matter what the coming years may bring, my trust is in the Lord. I will continue to strive to make the best of whatever circumstances I may be in, and my goal is to truly internalize the wise advice of Elder Joseph P. Wirthlin's mother, as he explained it in his General Conference talk, "Come What May, and Love It."

I want all my loved ones to know that I say now to Our Father in Heaven, while in full possession of all my faculties, and with all my heart ( just as I believe my mother did), "Thy will be done."

19 January 2009

Following My Leaders in Faith

One of the LDS blogs I greatly enjoy and follow regularly is The Rains Came Down, the personal blog of a woman who goes by the name of SilverRain. I find all of her posts both inspiring and thought-provoking; and I have a similar reaction to her comments on other blogs.

One of her follow-up comments to her December 30, 2008 post entitled “If Only the Church Would Change,” contained the following observations:
It is hubris to believe that you know more and understand better than those who are called of God. Even if it is true, it's a moot point. It doesn't matter. It's even more prideful to believe that your agendas trump everything else the leadership has to deal with. This goes for a local level as much as a general one.
SilverRain’s thoughts struck me as both true and important. As I pondered them, I thought back to times past when I have occasionally been aware of things that leadership (at various levels) was having to deal with which were not public knowledge. I would then be particularly grateful that most faithful members are willing to be patient in difficult situations, and trust that even though our leaders are not perfect, they are usually trying their best, and they are usually inspired.

We are God’s children, not his puppets. Rather than always dictating the details of the "correct" way to do every single thing in the Church, the Lord usually allows us to use our agency and intelligence to try to solve problems, and set and achieve worthy goals. We are encouraged to seek personal revelation about many things, rather than relying solely upon the opinions of others.

For reasons we many not fully understand, Heavenly Father has not felt it necessary or wise to reveal all the knowledge many of us would like to have about many subjects that come up regularly in the Bloggernacle. However, thanks to the Restoration that began with the prophet Joseph Smith, I believe we now have access to all the knowledge that is necessary for us at this time.

As a part of allowing His children to grow and learn how to use their agency, God tolerates some less-than-perfect choices by all his children (including leaders). If we are wise, we will probably choose to extend the same understanding and forgiveness to our leaders that we hope others will offer us. We will try to learn from mistakes (those of others, as well as our own), seek healing from the Lord, and move forward.

I know I have been blessed when I have followed the counsel of my leaders in the past--even when it may have seemed unnecessary, inconvenient, or very difficult. I also believe I will blessed in the future as I choose to follow my leaders in faith, and cheerfully embrace whatever changes in programs or practices they are inspired to make.

02 October 2008

A Worthy Challenge --Completed Early!

Blogger Mormon Soprano has invited her readers in a post yesterday to Join the Hinckley Challenge, which is to re-read the Book of Mormon in 97 days in honor of President Gordon B. Hinckley.

She also gave a link to the website The Hinckley Challenge that explains the challenge and has a useful tracker to help monitor our reading.

I followed the link, and decided to register at the site, because I think it is a great way to motivate me to participate regularly in a worthy effort.

The Book of Mormon has been one of the most powerful influences for good in my life, and I know that a complete reading of the entire book right now will bring me added inspiration and blessings, just as it did when I accepted the original challenge from President Hinckley in 2005.

27 September 2008

The Power of Example

I have a grandson who thinks he's a dog. An only child, he's almost a year old, and he has grown up in close association with a very friendly and protective family pet. Although he can walk several steps alone now, he prefers to crawl; and lately he has taken to carrying toys in his mouth as he scurries around on all fours--just like his older and bigger "brother" does.

Very soon, of course, he will realize that he is really not a dog, but a human like Mom and Dad. Once he is able to walk faster than he can crawl, he'll see that hands are better than his mouth for carrying toys. But meanwhile, he is a living example of how naturally little children learn by example.

I'm around little children a lot, and I need to remember that the things I do and say, the way I deal with everyday crises and triumphs, even the expressions on my face that show how I react to things--all these are examples that can help those little ones to grow into honest, compassionate, hard-working adults.

Just as my grandson will come to know that he is more like his earthly parents than like his dog, I pray he will come to realize he also has the divine potential to develop the attributes of his Heavenly Father.

The family dog can teach a boy a lot about having fun, loyalty, obedience, and affection. But it will be the good example of the humans around him that will truly help him see who he really is, and what he can become.

25 September 2008

Plumbing the Depths without Languishing in the Dumps

(Note: I have never suffered from clinical depression, so in this post I am referring only to my experience with emotions. I recognize that my case may not be typical.)

Mulling & Musing has written a beautiful post on motherhood at her blog, entitled Digging Deep. It set me to thinking about how and why I had grown and changed for the better over the last 41 years since we had our first child.

My memories of being a stay-at-home-mother of six were sharpened earlier this summer, when I received a packet of about 40 letters I had written over a period several years to my sister-in-law, telling of our daily life when the children were growing up. As I read about some of the incredibly demanding times in my life, I recalled how much I had to learn to rely on the Lord to bring me through the tough times.

I could also remember how much I loved being a mother of my children at their different stages of life; and how much joy came into my life--and still comes into my life--because those six amazing spirits had been lent to my husband and me by the Lord. I can't imagine any other career that would have given me the breadth and depth of intellectual, emotional and spiritual experience that I have been privileged to have as a wife and mother.

Even though as LDS mothers we are bound to have feelings of inadequacy, and there are times when we aren't sure we can stand the pressure one more minute, we can know that if we are willing to have faith and trust in the Lord, there is a sure source of divine help that will never fail. Often, for me, the answers or solutions did not come immediately. But when I was willing to let go of my anger and/or anguish, the comfort and reassurance always came. The faith and trust part usually involved plumbing the depths of patience if I wanted to avoid remaining emotionally in the dumps.

My children are all grown now, and I try to treat them as equals--not demanding too much attention, and shying away from giving unasked-for advice. But I will always be their mother; and I continue to weep for their sorrows and rejoice at their happiness and success in life. My love for them only grows stronger, and I will always, always, care about how their lives are unfolding.

In her post, M & M quoted from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s talk “Because She Is a Mother” , given in the April 1997 General Conference. This is a favorite talk of mine, also, and I read that same quote to our Marriage and Family Relations Sunday School class recently because it is a key part of the lesson on the sacred role of mother.

I guess I must have cried a million tears over the years. But I have also laughed a lot more than I have cried. Fortunately, as time goes by, I find that I forget more and more of the sad times, and remember the happy times. As I have sorrowed over my mistakes as a wife and mother, I have tried to fully repent, and then allow the miracle of the Atonement to heal my broken heart. This is still an ongoing process for me, but I can see that I have made progress.

Whenever I am tempted to sink from sadness into despair because of my failures and shortcomings as a mother, I try to remember the sentiments expressed by Elder Holland in that same talk:
Rely on Him. Rely on Him heavily. Rely on Him forever. And "press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope." You are doing God's work. You are doing it wonderfully well. He is blessing you and He will bless you, even--no, especially--when your days and your nights may be the most challenging. Like the woman who anonymously, meekly, perhaps even with hesitation and some embarrassment, fought her way through the crowd just to touch the hem of the Master's garment, so Christ will say to the women who worry and wonder and sometimes weep over their responsibility as mothers, "Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole." And it will make your children whole as well.
That ultimate hope--that my children can be healed of any harm due to my thoughtless or unwise words or actions--sustains me when I wonder if I have contributed to the cause of any of their present sufferings.

Once again, M & M found the way to beautifully express the thoughts of my heart about why I have been, and still am, immensely grateful to be a mother:
. . . I am doing this motherhood thing -- giving so much of my life and self and time and energy -- not just because the children need me (which they do, imperfect as I am), but because I need them. I need to be their mom, to learn to overcome my natural self. This role is teaching me new depths of faith and love and sacrifice and endurance, and helping me feel new depths of God's love and grace and refining power.

09 July 2008

Standing Tall for What We Believe

I just read a great blog post on Happy Meets Crazy, one of my favorite LDS blogs.

If you want to reconfirm your feeling that we are richly blessed to be women living in this day and age, when the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored to earth; if you want to read about how we can be an importance influence for good in a world that is losing its way; if you just want a reason to stand up and cheer for all that's good and true--read this post: Followers of Jesus Christ, Women of God

01 July 2008

Back to Blogging, after a Long Hiatus

It's time for me to get back to blogging, even if my life is hectic, and I sometimes forget which state I am in.

I have been so inspired by some of the blog posts I have read recently, including several on The Rains Came Down and The Things of My Soul blogs, that I am determined to make the time to blog here about things I am learning.

Perhaps through sharing the some of the experiences, ideas and feelings that are helping me to examine and make changes in my life, both my readers and I will grow closer to God, and find even more peace and happiness in our daily lives.

Only time will reveal if this resolution to blog holds firm. But writing this post will definitely encourage me to follow through on my intentions!