Monday, September 28, 2015

And Let It Begin With Me . . .

Last week I witnessed something wonderful, quite by chance. It was one of those days when my body tries to show me who's boss (compliments of an arthritis flare) and I needed to take a brief time out to recuperate. So I relaxed on the couch and turned on the TV. I then sat transfixed as I witnessed a historical moment. Most of us know that Pope Francis was visiting the United States this past week. I happened to tune in just in time to watch his visit to the Twin Towers Memorial and Museum.

Representatives from several different religions had gathered together to welcome the Pope, and to share sincere pleas for peace and understanding among religions and races. It was one of the most touching things I had watched all week. At the end of this inspiring program, a group of students from varied backgrounds, joined in singing the song, "Let There Be Peace on Earth." It was all I could do to keep my emotions intact. The news commentators who were narrating this event were visibly touched. One of them remarked that this was quite  possibly the most important gathering during the Pope's historical visit to our country.

I've found myself reflecting on that event quite often the past weekend. It was an amazing effort to push aside differences and reach out in a way that seldom happens these days. I have pondered all of the good that could be accomplished if we all put aside our judgmental prejudices to help each other. What an amazing world it would be!

These days the news stories are filled with such negativity and violence. It was a refreshing change to see such an inspiring gathering where people were making a huge plea for peace.

We can make a difference in our own realms. It could be as simple as having patience while waiting in a long line in a store, and not yelling at the clerk over something silly that is usually out of his or her control. We can be more tolerant as we drive on busy highways or slow country roads. Instead of erupting in rage over an imagined infraction, swallow some pride and be the one who makes an effort to be kind and understanding.

When you see someone struggling, take a few minutes out of your busy life to offer assistance. It could be something simple, like holding open a door, or helping an overwhelmed young mother with her children. If someone says something rude to you, smile in return. (I know, this is a hard thing, but it truly is the simple efforts that will make a difference.) Count to ten before blowing a gasket. Do something thoughtful for someone else without expecting anything in return. So on and so forth. In short, ponder the popular saying, "What would Jesus do?"

And in quiet moments, reflect on the lyrics to this song:

Let There Be Peace on Earth 
(Jill Jackson/Mark Miller

 Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me.
Let there be peace on earth
The peace that was meant to be.
With God as our father
Brothers all are we.
Let me walk with my brother
In perfect harmony.

Let peace begin with me
Let this be the moment now.
With every step i take
Let this be my solemn vow.
To take each moment
And live each moment
With peace eternally.
Let there be peace on earth,
And let it begin with me.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

More on Adversity

I'll follow Cheri's topic with some insights of my own since I'm undergoing another of those "bumps-in-the-road" that are supposed to be for our good and development. I've been diagnosed with breast cancer and will have a mastectomy next week. I wanted to keep it a secret and not tell anyone and just go about my life and get it over with and heal, but my husband gave me a blessing the night after I discovered the huge lump and said it would be for the good of others. When he told my bishop about it, my bishop counseled me to tell everyone so it would remind them to make sure they were okay. And, he said, you need to let people pray for you.

I have had an incredible outpouring of love and prayers from people. That makes me very happy. What makes me even more happy is that several people have said they immediately scheduled a long-overdue mammogram. My doctor's wife is a breast cancer survivor and has two mammograms per year, but for some reason, she didn't have one last year - or yet this year. When she read my facebook post, she realized it had been awhile and scheduled one. My doctor said he has had several people we both know call and make appointments since my post. So apparently it is working!

A friend called me to say "It's not fair! You of all people should not be having this problem! You have spent your life helping people." That shocked me. It also made me sad. Why would she deprive me of a "refining fire" experience? I'm sure it was just a knee-jerk reaction - a denial that bad things can and do happen to good people all the time! No one is immune.

I love Neal A. Maxwell and have been reading his insights into adversity. I'll never forget when he was in the hospital dying of cancer and suffering horrible pain, he said later he had come to know the Holy Ghost intimately as that was his only companion and comfort through the long dark hours of pain-filled nights.

I especially liked this quote: "God said He would structure mortality to be a proving and testing experience (see Abraham 3:25; Mosiah 23:21). Clearly He has kept His promise and has carried out His divine intent. Therefore adversity must be part of the pattern rather than always an aberration. Therefore even our fiery trials, as Pete said, should not be thought of as being "some strange thing" (1 Peter 4:12). Hence throughout the varying lengths of our lives there is rolling relevance contained in the counsel to endure it well." (Neal A. Maxwell Quote Book)

So many of you have had excruciating trials that leave me awed and amazed. My hope is that I can follow your worthy example and come out on the other side of this surgery and it's aftermath with the grace and courage you have shown. Thanks for your wonderful examples.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Finding Happiness Depsite Adversity

Recently I had to speak on this particular subject. I decided since I had already established some ground work on this, I would morph it into a blog post. =) {No, this is not cheating . . . this is creative use of time and energy.} =D

Let's face it, we all have really bad days. Like the time I was playing city league volleyball, slipped on some melted snow someone had unfortunately tracked into the gym, and fell, smacking the back of my head on the gym floor. I was told later on that it resonated throughout the gym, sounding like a gunshot. Nice. I have no memory of that sound, since I was unconscious for a few minutes. When I came back around, the team sponsored by the local hospital, and made up of mostly nurses, had surrounded me, and were frantically waving fingers, asking how many they were holding up. This was slightly confusing and I wasn't sure what to answer. When they finally asked if I knew my name, I passed with flying colors. I was helped to my feet and dragged over to the bleachers to sit by my husband. He had heard the loud noise earlier, but hadn't realized that incident had involved his wife until someone else pointed out what had happened. I sat there for a while under intense scrutiny, and after we all decided I was going to live, Kennon took me home where I spent a few days recuperating from a slight concussion. I had a headache from hades for about a week. It was not a good time.

I've had a few head injuries in my life. This tendency began when I was thrown from my grandfather's horse at the tender age of 3. (He had taken me with him that day to go gather his dairy cows.) My grandfather had slipped down from his horse to open a gate. The horse jumped, startling me, and I squealed. This spooked the horse and I went flying. My head connected with a large rock, and I was knocked unconscious. I've been told by my mother that my grandfather sobbed as he carried my limp body to the house, certain I was dead. They were all relieved when I finally opened my eyes and knew my name. Evidently this is an important step in verifying that one's fetchies are still about them. (A quaint saying that indicates one still has one's wits about them.)

Then there was the time my family was involved in a car accident. I was about 10 years old at the time. My brother and I were riding in the back of our truck inside a camper shell. (We thought we were really cool, since our younger sisters had to ride up front with our parents.) We had been camping and were getting ready to head home. As my father pulled out of the campground turnoff, he was struck by a car. He hadn't been able to see it coming because of the campground sign that blocked his vision. Regardless, we were hit by a Volkswagen bug and were rather knocked askew. A cast iron skillet came loose from its mooring, and it clunked me upside my head. Once again I found myself sprawled out with a slight head injury. Not my idea of a good time.

The list goes on and on. There have been numerous head wounds, and yes, I will more than likely be one of those entertaining types in the nursing home someday as a result. ;) I was told a few years ago that I have a bit of scar tissue on my brain. (They had been looking for a brain tumor at the time.) While it was a relief to know that I didn't have a tumor, it was a little disconcerting to know that scar tissue has taken up residence where brain cells should exist. =D I endured that battery of tests when physicians were trying to discern why I was having seizures. This tendency surfaced during my college years. I would attend class on campus, and come to in the infirmary where I was told that I had passed out and had experienced a slight seizure. Character building moments.

In time we would be directed to a specialist in Salt Lake City who ran her own battery of tests and came up with the diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes. (Seizures can take place with an out of control diabetic.) I was relieved to know that I didn't have a form of epilepsy, compliments of my numerous head bonks, but I quickly caught on that the diagnosis of diabetes was pretty much a life sentence.

Dealing with a chronic illness is a challenge. It's something I live with every day as I face the highs and lows of bouncing blood sugar levels and the fun that goes along with that. But it is possible to live a fairly normal life despite this bit of adversity. Through this, and other challenges I have learned the following formula that is key to surviving bad moments in life:

1. Attitude is everything. The more positive you can be, the better. I know a lot of complications can go along with being a Type 1 diabetic, and I've chosen not to dwell on those. Instead, I focus on good things and do the best I can to control what I can.

2. Serve others. When I'm hurting for whatever reason, I've found that that more I do for other people, the better I feel. One example, a good friend who was also a Type 1 diabetic, helped me run a diabetic support group for people in our neck of the woods for several years. Through helping others, we discovered a lot of joy and hope for ourselves along the way.

3. Pray . . . a lot. I've found so much peace and comfort through personal prayer. I'm also a firm believer that there are a lot of blessings our Father in heaven desires us to have, but sometimes we have to ask for those items first in humble prayer.

4. Laughter is truly the best medicine. A couple of years ago, my husband and I spent some time with two of my closest friends from my high school days, We met in what used to be my father's drugstore. It's now a pizzeria, but they kept the soda fountain intact. Anyway . . . we ate awesome food, reflected on past exploits, and laughed so hard we nearly fell out of the booth. We literally closed the place down and when we were eventually kicked out by the patient people who were running the place, I was impressed by how much better I felt.

5. Keep busy. That's one of the few things I remember being said at my father's funeral. It was good advice. When I'm having a bad day, I've found that if I can busy myself with a multitude of tasks, I tend to feel a bit better, and time moves on.

6. Surround yourself with upbeat people. I've heard it said that misery loves company. This is true. I avoid pity parties whenever possible.

7. On the other hand, there are times when we need to "vent." I do this on a regular basis with a good friend. We get together and walk, which is another way to release stress--physical activity. When we exercise, it releases natural endorphins, which enhance our mood. This is good.

8. Know that tomorrow will be better. On dark days, that knowledge is crucial. I try to remind myself that we're in mortal mode for a reason, and that some of what we're here to learn, takes place compliments of trials. There are some trials that are so heart-rending, sometimes we have to break things down into small increments of time to survive. After my father's death, my mother said that one of the ways she coped was to take life in small pieces. "Right now, I just have to get out of bed. Now I just have to get into the shower. And now I just have to get dressed  . . ." so on and so forth. Eventually she was able to handle life in bigger pieces--but it helped to take it in smaller chunks for a while.

9. Never give up. Ever. Despite the pain of rheumatoid arthritis, I once climbed a mountain not far from my home by following my mother's example of taking the climb in small increments--one step at a time. Eventually I reached the top and the view was definitely worth it.

10. Realize that we are never alone. We are constantly watched over and protected in more ways than we can possible imagine. I have felt that strength on numerous occasions and I know it to be true. We are never as alone as we sometimes think we are. Not only is our Father and our Elder Brother aware of our pain, but the veil is very thin and we are often helped by loved ones on the other side who are cheering us onward and upward.

Well, it's probably time I cease rambling . . . for now. Hopefully some of this makes sense and offers hope to any out there who may be struggling. It's something we all experience from time to time. I suspect it will all make sense when this life is through. And hopefully, despite my numerous head bonks, I'll have enough fetchies about me to appreciate that information. ;)