The Beginning of Something


I’m really loving these colors lately – yellow, gold, peach, coral, pink.  They remind me of a sunrise as glowing colors chase away darkness, full of promise and clarity for the coming day.

There was a pause in my afternoon that could only be properly filled with a prayer of gratitude.   I began the year with a burning desire to conquer myself, to seek self mastery and discipline in the deepest parts of myself where my particular bundle of characteristics, gifts and gaps leave me lacking and especially in those areas that affect my family.   For the first time in years I haven’t spelled out specific goals, seeking instead a destination that I don’t see yet but sense is there waiting – beckoning – to me and my family.   Like those first golden rays of day, I feel like I’m at the beginning of something wonderful.   It seems like there should be a destination, but what really beckons me isn’t a what or a place but a WHO.  My calling at church right now has me flying back and forth through my scriptures – Genesis to Galatians, then to Helaman and on to Revelation, then back to Abraham and in the end I sit in the center of it all, my mind spinning and reaching and reeling.  And yet still.  Perfectly still and centered on the reality of Jesus Christ and his Atonement.  His atonement for me.  For my family.  For the lady sitting in the pew behind me who I’ve never met but when I introduce myself tells me her story and has me in tears before the meeting starts.  For all of us.  And like Hannah, I think to myself, “There is no other rock like our God!”

He is where the sunrise comes from.  I’ve been on my knees more, seeking help with challenges much bigger than I am, trying to place EVERYTHING on the table and hold nothing back, almost desperate for the recipe – both ingredients and ratios – he has for my family.  I feel willing to change anything he tells me to change if it means my children will be drawn closer to Him.  It’s so interesting to pray, try, fail, pray, try, fail and then suddenly to have more clarity than I can act on in one day.  It happened this weekend and it felt like a sunrise.  It would be easier if there was an overall need to pull in, or the prompting to push out in all directions – a simple shrinking or expansion of a circle.  Instead it’s a pull in here, a stay steady there, a bump out in one spot and a major push in another.  I think I understand my instructions but get going and make a mess anyway, then go back for more instructions.  The thought occurred to me this week that maybe the Lord is drawing a circle after all; I just never knew how misshapen mine was to begin with.  I look around at other parents who have seen teenagers through the tunnel of adolescence and into the light of adulthood and wonder if this intensely personal experience is really a rite of passage for all parents, the quiet that lives behind the gritted teeth and quiet determination I’ve sometimes sensed.

Here I go again making everything solemn and serious and important (one of those fundamental parts of me that I’m trying to master).  There’s so much more to it than that!  As I type this, my 16 year old son laughs and chases his 11 year old sister across the room to pick her up and swing her in a circle.   My oldest daughter sits at the piano working on her piece for an upcoming recital and I remember that not once have I asked her to practice and yet her music elevates everything, adding a layer of beauty to us all.  My 13 year old curls up with a book while the younger three girls sit quietly drawing.  The almost eight year old boy who never eats dinner asks if he can make another sandwich.  The dishes are done, the floor is swept, rooms are tidy.  If you walked in our door right now you might feel like you’ve entered a storybook of sorts because in this moment we have a beautiful family culture.  But it wouldn’t tell the story of this afternoon’s fight between two brothers, of the food that flew across the kitchen during dinner from the wildly waving fork of that youngest boy.  You would have missed the ill-timed nap of the four year old who awoke an emotional wreck or the accusations of teenagers about how unreasonable their parents are.  You never saw the girl whose cell phone isn’t working right nearly hurl it across the room.  The mess I made preparing dinner is gone and the stress of getting everyone up an hour earlier for school in the morning (daylight savings time)  has been delayed a day thanks to some random day off of school.  Which is precisely why I’m relaxed enough to sit here and type instead of being militant about bedtime.  I’m reminded of something Howard W. Hunter said many years ago about the story of Jarius who sought Jesus as his little daughter lay near death:  “I pray thee, come and lay thy hands on her, that she may be healed; and she shall live.”  President Hunter said, “These are not only the words of faith of a father torn with grief but are also a reminder to us that whatever Jesus lays his hands upon lives.  If Jesus lays his hands upon a marriage, it lives.  If he is allowed to lay his hands on the family, it lives.”

I want my family to live.

The bubble has burst and the moment is gone like the last traces of sunset in a now dark sky.  Someone is screaming and someone else is poking their neighbor in the back.   I think back over my week and see pieces of many things:  A conversation with a friend who carries an invisible but crushing burden with such grace and faith that she looks glorious to me, a school teacher reaching out to a struggling child, a boy weeping over his struggles, a little girl curled up on my lap fighting a fever.  I wish I’d kept count of the number of women I watched as they went about doing good, each of them teaching me something.  I did some things right and a lot of things wrong.  I talked too much (another fundamental flaw).  Yesterday I needed to repent and felt so good when I’d done it.  I remember teen-aged boys showing up at my house for lunch, another boy being humble enough to do what was asked of him, a little girl who worked hard to earn a privilege that was important to her.  I ran into a friend and my heart broke to hear firsthand her journey in recent months.   My heart felt broken for my little sister.  A far away friend shared a touching summary of recent months for her family.  Again and again I was struck by how hard life is for all of us, by how tremendous our burdens are, but also how perfectly tailored they are for our development and increased happiness.  I heard determination, faith, optimism and hope fighting their way to the front of their lives (those glowing colors again!) as they, too, reach for the promise and clarity that Christ has to offer.

He is where the sunrise comes from.  The beginning of everything good.  A journey worth taking.

Effort and Mercy

I sit on the couch at the moment, something I don’t usually do during school hours, but today is different.  It’s day three of sick children home from school, day three of life in two worlds as we keep the healthy ones moving and nurse the sick ones on the couch.  This means, of course, more time sitting, holding, reading than I usually do.  It’s also provided time to think and for that I am grateful.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this blog lately, about why it is that I seem to have lost my voice, why so often I sit down to write a post and never publish it.  I’ve been writing here for 4.5 years now and it’s been such a blessing in my life.  One of those blessings has been the process of “finding my voice.”  Yet as this calendar year has progressed, I find myself sharing less of life and mostly posting pictures of my sewing.  While I love quilting and it makes me giddy to be part of that online community, there is a part of my heart that weeps a little at the clamps that seem to be on my heart when it’s time to type.  I have always felt a desire to use my blog to encourage myself and others and I feel I’m failing in this goal.


Yesterday I had a telephone conversation with someone who helped resolve a problem facing one of my children and as I hung up the phone I was amazed by the outcome.  I wondered how it was that things could be so simply solved, aware that a more difficult solution would have been just, wondering if perhaps a dis-service was being done my child through an easy resolution.  Until I remembered reading this quote last week:

“No human face is exactly the same in its lines on each side, no leaf perfect in its lobes, no branch in its symmetry.  All admit irregularity as they imply change; and to banish imperfection is to destroy expression, to check exertion, to paralyze vitality.

All things are literally better, lovelier, and more beloved for the imperfections which have been divinely appointed, that the law of human life may be Effort, and the law of human judgment, Mercy.

– John Ruskin (emphasis added) I walked through my kitchen as that last word struck me profoundly.  Mercy.  The power of it and a sense of what a gift it is rushed through me and all my wondering was replaced with profound gratitude for mercy expended in my child’s direction.  A heartfelt desire to have that gift for me, as well, followed closely on its heels.

I’ve always known that our family is full of imperfections, but somehow believed that by the time they were grown we would have managed to overcome the worst of them.  This week my oldest son started a new job and not seeing him for 12 or more hours each day has been strange.  It has also helped me identify something I’ve been struggling with, something which has contributed greatly to the clamps that have silenced me so much.  It’s sobering, humbling, and a little bit frightening to be so near the point of sending a child out into the world, an “adult”, realizing that you probably won’t overcome or fix everything you wanted to master while they are still at home and under your influence.  The continued struggle and ongoing battles have made me quiet.  I question myself more, not because my values or beliefs are at risk, but because I don’t know how to make someone different of myself when all I have is me to work with.  This year my imperfections have felt like my enemies rather than things that make life better, lovelier or more beloved.  I have felt discouraged when my efforts seem to bring no material change.  I have recognized I’m in the middle of an ongoing but largely imperceptible transformation and the slowness of it has made me almost desperate with frustration.  I feel like I have little to add to life’s conversation because all I really know is “get up and try again tomorrow and try to believe that in another 20 years you will see a difference.”  And this, while my children grow at warp speed.

These words keep playing in my heart:

“that the law of human life may be Effort, and the law of human judgment, Mercy.”

I am good at effort.  I can do that.   I will work at mercy, as the tiny taste I had yesterday was so delicious to me.  I think of this blog, of my relative silence, and consider that perhaps I can contribute to the conversation of EFFORT as one of life’s blessings and goals.

I noticed the above leaf this week and was so intrigued by it that I paused to study it.  The dry and crumpled edges such a contrast to the supple center, the red and yellow with a white vein in the center.  Such an imperfect leaf, and yet I preferred it to the more “beautiful” leaves nearby.  As I studied it I was reminded that imperfection is beautiful in its own way, and resolved to live my imperfect live with eyes open to its beauty, and with faith in my Heavenly Father’s mercy.  Maybe that will help unlock my heart…

Full of Gratitude: My Birthday Heart


It’s been one of those weeks that is so full you hardly know what to say about it and yet something must be said before the march of days swallows it all.  It’s been a week of thoughtfulness in many directions, of joy and mercy and abundance of the best kind.  Forgive me if the sifting results in a lengthy post!

I received an unexpected visit from a dear friend on Monday night.  She came bearing a yummy treat and a beautifully wrapped gift which she insisted I open in spite of my birthday being the following day.  I was completely stunned to open the gift and find inside it the book you see pictured above filled with letters to me from friends and family near and far.  She, with lots of help from my husband, had secretly worked for weeks with the goal of collecting forty letters from forty friends to mark my 40th birthday.  They got more than seventy.

I sat up late into the night reading letter after letter, more humbled with each one by the generosity of my friends and family.  The kindness of their words lifted my heart in a way nothing else could.  It is true that our Heavenly Father knows our needs far better than we do, and when he meets an unknown need so completely through the work of someone we know the gift is overwhelmingly sweet.  Such was the impact of these letters.    Some of them came from people I lost touch with years ago, and many came from friends I dearly love but whose friendships I’ve neglected in the past few years while trying to find my stride as a mother of eight children.  Some came from people whose friendships are newer and carried a warmth I had not thought yet formed.  Some made me laugh out loud and many sent silent tears down my cheeks.  There was a note from one brother that touched me deeply and countless compliments from people I admire so greatly that I felt I should be the one writing such things about them .  Throughout all of them came the whisper “you are loved, you are accepted, you are good.”  Perhaps the whisper was the best part of all, the golden thread that wove through every word and wrapped it all up with a big bow and left me with the distinct feeling that I’d been given back my friends.  Not that they weren’t there before, but that I’d assumed I was disqualified for a dozen reasons.  It felt like Heavenly Father put it in my lap and said, “I know it’s been long and hard, but here you go.  It’s time to run with this again.”  Which is exactly what I hope to do.

I was surprised by themes that emerged in the letters, by how many times certain qualities were mentioned.  Surprised that I was worth the pause in their too-busy lives to contribute to the project.  Surprised.  Grateful.  Healed.

When at last I put the book down, having read every word, I was also filled.  Filled with determination to arise and be the person they seem to think I am capable of being.  Filled with longing to aim higher and farther.  Filled with wonder at the mercy and generosity of these people I know, who had obviously sifted through much and chose to focus on the best in me.  I want to be like them.  I thought again of my friend Kathy who passed away this summer, of her happiness on her special day last year.  I remembered the smile on her face and realized I was tasting what she felt that windy afternoon.   I am filled with a desire to be more, to do more, to give more, to find whatever energy and strength of will it takes to follow every impulse to do good, to lift, to contribute, to build.  I don’t ever want to miss an opportunity to be a part of strengthening someone as I was strengthened this week.

All the other trappings and trimmings were icing on the cake:  a special birthday breakfast, phone calls, pretty packages, cake, dinner with my husband, balloons, an evening rainstorm.  Then Thursday night I was off for a couple of days for a girls weekend with most of the women in my family and it was awesome in every way.  I’ve learned so much this week, about myself and others, about goodness and kindness, life and dreams.   And we are happy when we are learning, so I feel rich in joy.

So my heart sings out “thank you” in a thousand directions while tonight I sit in a pile with my children who I’ve missed as much as I enjoyed the break.  I look around me at the smiles on faces so very dear and marvel once more that although I am certainly one of the least of God’s daughters, still He chooses to work in my life.  THAT is the gift of a lifetime.


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