Sunday, December 20, 2015

A Lesson in Forgiveness

Recently I had the unanticipated honor of being seated at a table with a great lady named Thelma Soares and her son Paul.  Thelma is the mother of Lori Hacking, whose life was taken in 2004 by her husband Mark Hacking in a very public murder, investigation and trial.  Although I was interested, I had no intention of asking Thelma about the story, or how she was doing;  Somehow it came up anyway.  Thelma did not hesitate on this topic.  She told me the tragic story in some detail, along with her feelings about the loss of her only daughter.  There was no bitterness in her voice.  Paul sat quietly by and supported his mother.  She told me about her daughter without pain or anguish in her face.  She told me that she has frankly forgiven Mark for what he did. She told me that she even corresponds with him occasionally, and is very close to his wonderful family.   I asked her how she could accomplish such a difficult feat.  She looked straight into me with her piercing blue eyes and testified that by the gift of God's help she was able to forgive.  She referred to a talk by James E. Faust about forgiveness that was given a short time after the tragedy.  She quoted him with conviction as talking about having anguish but not anger,  and hurt but not hate.  She told me about three scriptures that have been her lifeline.  (1) ”All flesh is in my hand; be still and know that I am God,”  (2) Helaman 5:12 in which she inserted her name for “my sons” and (3)” . . . my peace I leave with you; not as the world giveth give I unto you; let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”   

She told me that although her heart is still broken, she is not troubled nor afraid.  She told me, "I don't think you ever 'get over' the tragic loss of a child." She talked about how forgiveness has been a gift from God to her, and has made her life peaceful despite hardship.

Thelma is a strong woman.  I could see it in her eyes.  She told me about the letters and support that had come pouring in from all over the world after Lori's murder.  She described money sent to her in all amounts and forms.  She described a child who had made a personal sacrifice to send her a crumpled dollar bill and a dime.  She told me many such stories.  She decided to set up a scholarship at the University of Utah in Lori's name.  Lori had graduated from the U of U just a year or two before her death.  Because of the high profile of the case, Thelma was able to gain the support of many famous names to help spread her cause.  The scholarship was set up and designed to lend aid to someone who had experienced hardship in their life.  Thelma has the great privilege to help choose the scholarship recipient each year.  

I was impressed with the passion with which she spoke, and the conviction and absence of sorrow and mourning in her eyes.  Somehow she has been able to heal.  Somehow she has let go of a bitter and tragic past and was looking forward.  I found myself wanting the peace that she has.  

I have things in my past that still bring me pain and tears.  I have been unable to fully forgive some wrongs done to me.  I was struck with amazement at this great lady who has been more wronged than I have ever dreamed of being,  and whose life has been more altered by someone else's horrific actions than mine will probably ever be, and yet there she sat - calm, peaceful, eyes clear and full of  They were full of love.

I reluctantly left her presence with a feeling of humility and the desire to forgive the pettiness of my heart that was holding me back.  

Especially at this special time of the year, may we all invoke the healing power that comes as we follow the example and counsel of the Savior of the world "to forgive all men".

Sunday, November 8, 2015

The Power of Being Positive

I used to hate our dog.  She's an american Eskimo/golden retriever mix, which makes a beautiful dog, but I hated her.  Her constant shedding of white hair all over the house drove me nuts.  Her constant barking like crazy any time someone came to the house, her little disobediences when she knew she was being bad and did it anyway...... I could go on and on, but I won't.  I couldn't get rid of her.  The kids would have been devastated!  So I continued to put up with her and all the things that drove me crazy.

One day I realized that I was making myself miserable.  She didn't seem to care one bit whether I liked her or not.  In fact, she continued to follow me around wherever I went just as if we were the best of friends.  I realized that the only one I was making miserable was myself.  I decided that instead of constantly noticing the negative in her, I would look for the positive.  I started to notice how loyal she was to each family member, and how happy they were to see her when they came home.  I began to notice the joy she brought to my children.  I realized that I was glad that no one could come to my house unannounced when I was home alone because of her.  I noticed that she would gladly clean up anything that spilled on the kitchen floor all by herself!  I was surprised that the things that bothered me before seemed to melt into the background.  These aggravating annoyances became almost forgotten, and when remembered, were very slight recognitions that contained none of the vehement feelings that had accompanied them before.  I found myself much more at peace,and much happier!

I decided to try this idea with another thing I do not enjoy: Going to Walmart.  I hated how far away you have to park to get in.  I hated how you can never find anyone to help you.  I hated how crowded it is, and the always long lines.  I had a bad attitude about the place.  I decided to look for the good in going there.  The first thing I noticed was that it was nice weather outside, and the walk to get in was not that bad.  I noticed that they have practically anything you could want to buy in a place like that.  I came across a very short woman who was trying to reach for something very high and couldn't get it.  I got it for her and she was so grateful.  That made me feel good! I noticed the friendliness of the people in line in front of me, and the cheerful cashier who had been on her feet for hours.  I left there with a completely different experience and feeling than I had ever had before.

What changed?  The walk was still long, the help scarce, the lines long.  Nothing had changed.  Nothing except me.  I was amazed that I could go to the same store I have been going to for several years and, for once, come away with a completely different feeling.  Happiness instead of drudgery.  I marveled at how this is possible.  All I did was look for the good and ignore the bad, both with my dog and with going to the store.  Can it really be that simple?  Can simply looking for the good, and ignoring the bad make that big of a difference?  I am here to tell you that it is working for me, and the possibilities are endless!  Driving in traffic, your children, spouse or others, telemarketers and salesmen at the door, unpleasant tasks that you must do, or a job that you don't love. Anything!

Pick something that bugs you and try it.  You will be amazed at the difference!

Friday, October 23, 2015

A Path Worth Taking

About a year ago I had the idea to sit down and make a list of all the people who have changed the course of my life, people who I consider to be mentors throughout my 50 years.  

I began reflecting on my life beginning as a child and prayerfully went through my life in my mind to pinpoint who these key people were.  It almost seemed that as I followed the path I had trod in my mind, that there were very specific times where the path turned one direction or another.  I was able to identify key people, and how these people were instrumental in my decision to turn one direction or another on my path.  Funny how I could not see it at the time, but in looking backward it became so obvious.

This kind of reflection about my life gave me great insight and perspective into who I am and the people who have helped me become who I am today! 

The first people (other than parents of course) who I came across in my reflecting were the husband and wife I used to babysit for as a teenager.  Their family was a lot different than the one I was growing up in, and their example of healthy ways to parent and love children stuck in my brain and mulled around until I became a parent myself.  Their example greatly influenced my desire to be that kind of parent too.  It set me on a journey of book-reading and class-taking in an effort to be the patient and loving parent I saw exemplified in their family.  

The next person on my path was a seminary teacher who brought Christ and his gospel alive for me.  Because of this teacher's influence I developed a thirst for a testimony of who Christ is, a thirst which has brought me a very long way.

Following him was an institute teacher who gave me a love for my heritage; a friend from college who taught me to serve and love others without expecting a return; my husband who has taught me multiple layers of lessons on many subjects; a former bishop of our congregation who taught me about priorities in marriage; several close friends who have taught me many things; some therapists who helped me become a more loving parent, wife and person; and a wise younger friend who has taught me so much about refining who I am, even recently!  

It was so rewarding to recognize the different people who have played a key role in my life, and to know that their influence has permanently changed me and led me to where I am today, on an ongoing path in a direction I want to go.

2 weeks ago I decided to write each of these mentors a letter detailing how they had been a positive influence in my life and thanking them for their role in helping me along my path.  So far I have written 4 of my 12 letters.  

I did not anticipate the great influence it would have on ME to write to each of them in such detail.  It has been a rewarding and very humbling experience, one I wish I would have done long ago.  I am lucky enough to have everyone still living that I wanted to thank, but I had decided at the beginning of this effort that I would still write the letter even if I could not deliver it.  There is something about writing it down, about putting it physically on paper that is therapeutic, and has instilled gratitude and humility in me.  It just feels good!  This is a path worth reflecting on!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The 50/20 - A Lesson for Life

A good friend in my neighborhood recently sent me an incredible picture of her husband quite literally supporting her son as he walked the 50/20.

For those of you who don't know about this grueling event, the 50/20 is a 50 mile walk done in 20 straight hours.  My friend's son Thomas and his group left late in the afternoon and walked all night in an effort to finish the next day.  Six boys and their two scout leaders plus one girl had signed up for this grueling and character-building exercise.  As I later visited with Thomas about his experience, he described to me how different people in his group dropped out at different points in the walk for different reasons.  One person stopped at 8 miles, another at 18, more at 25.  By 32 miles only he and one leader were left.  Thomas described how hard it was to keep going when other people stopped.  He described how it was easier to walk with a group and how he felt lonely when it was just him and his leader, often walking within sight of each other, but not together.

By mile 35 Thomas was in tears from fatigue and pain.  He was ready to give up.  He told me that he would have given up if his dad had not come to walk with him at that point.  His father had checked in with Thomas' leader to see if there was anything he could do to help.  The message was conveyed that Thomas wanted his dad, so his dad came bringing food, enthusiasm and support.  In order for his father to walk with him for a time he would park way ahead of where they were, walk back and walk with his son, then go back to get the car and move it far ahead again, repeating this process multiple times.  As his father did this for him, Thomas was strengthened and encouraged and was able to keep going.  After a little more than an hour, Thomas seemed renewed enough to continue, and his father left him to keep walking.

By the time Thomas reached mile 43, he was again struggling.  His father again met up with Thomas and his leader and carried their backpacks for them to help ease their burden.  He stayed with Thomas the rest of the time.  By this time Thomas was crying.  He would say "I can't do it" "I want to be done!" "I hate this!"  But he kept walking.  He later told me that what kept him going was the goal he had set to finish and that he did not want to disappoint himself or his father who was rooting for him.

By mile 47 Thomas was so tired that he could barely continue.  His arches hurt, his legs hurt, his whole body hurt.  His father walked beside him and held his hand, encouraging him to keep going, telling him he could do this, and that they were almost there.  Thomas described the disappointment he felt every time they would come around a bend and stretching before him was a long road still to be walked.  He said that he felt that the journey would never end.  During this last few miles, he would take a break every half hour or so and lay on his father's back.  His father did not take any steps for him, but he would lift him up onto his back, stand in place, and let him rest for a count of 60, then Thomas would continue walking.  Thomas described how he could not rest for longer because his muscles would cramp up.  He had to keep moving, keep progressing forward.

According to Thomas the last mile felt like ten.  Thomas probably stopped around ten times to rest on his father's back that last mile.  They began picking a spot or a tree up ahead, and Thomas would commit just to get to that point.  Every bend that was not the end was discouraging.  All the other participants had long since finished by now.  Even the rest stations had been taken down.  He kept thinking "I want it to be done" "I hate this!"  "This is stupid!" yet he kept walking.

FINALLY after 22 hours and 39 minutes he crossed the finish line.  Surprisingly he felt no great sense of accomplishment but just a sense of relief that he had succeeded, that it was done.  He and his leader were the only ones to finish from their group, and the last to finish the race, but they DID finish.

As Thomas told me this story, I was struck by the parallels in his story to life and God's role in our lives.  We all have trials and tribulations.  Some of them are our own choosing, like Thomas, and others that are  not of our choosing.  As with Thomas, we have no idea what is ahead or how hard it is going to be.  Often we are not prepared for how painful it will be, or how long it will be, or how heavy it will be, or how lonely it will be.   Although the support of a group was helpful while it lasted, the most helpful for Thomas and the only thing that could have sustained him to the end was his father.  So it is with us in our trials and tribulations.  We definitely need support along life's long journey, but in the end what offers us the true and lasting support we need is our Father - the only one who can truly make our burdens light, who can hold us up and give us "rest" when we think we cannot keep going, who ultimately through the Holy Ghost gives us peace and encouragement, and holds our hand to the very end when we feel we can't do it, when we cry and say about our trials and tribulations "I want it to be done" "I hate this" "This is stupid!"  And sometimes when the Spirit whispers "hang in there, you're almost done" and then we come around another bend and see the path stretched out before us we wonder if there will really ever be an end or will the pain and suffering continue on forever.  It is at those times when we feel we cannot keep going, when we are ready to give up, when we have nothing left to give that God lifts us up onto his back and gives us rest, allowing us the ability to dig deep and keep going.  He does not walk our journey for us, but he knows what we need to make it to the end, and he walks beside us holding our hand, and he lifts us onto His infinite back to give us rest when we need it.  

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Some days are just like that!!

Sometimes life just doesn’t go the way you want.  Like this morning when I was in a hurry to go somewhere, and I decided to hurry and wax my eyebrows.  Well, the wax is almost gone, so it was a little hotter and drippier than usual when I heated it up.  In all the time I have been waxing I have never had this happen -  but as I was waxing my eyebrow the wax dripped and landed on my eyelashes!  Yikes!  I tried to hurry and get it off before it hardened, but it is designed to harden quickly, and it does!  There I was with half my eyelashes on one eye glued together in one blob!  How was I going to get out of this?  Sure, I could rip them out, but that didn’t sound like a very appealing option.  Finally I decided to try to heat the wax up with hot water from the tap.  I kept splashing my eye and trying to soften and pick the wax off.  I finally got it all off after about 10 minutes, and I still have some eyelashes left! (maybe half).  Better than none!  My mother always said you have to suffer to be beautiful.  Sometimes that is more true than others.  
I hurried to get dressed.  As I was putting my pants on I noticed that my jeans had a hole in them.  I figured it was low enough in the pants that nothing would show through that wasn’t supposed to, and I wasn’t going anywhere fancy anyway.  On my way out the door I realized that I needed shoes.  As I sat down to put the shoes on I realized that indeed, something was showing through the hole in my jeans!  What to do? What to do?  I didn’t have another pair of jeans that would work at the moment.  So I grabbed a needle and thread and sewed the hole up while I was wearing the jeans.  No, it did not look pretty, but at least I didn’t sew my unders to my jeans or poke myself.  I consider that a bonus on a morning like this.  Some days are just like that.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

"Market Research"
A couple of years ago I discovered a fabulous cupcake shop right next to where my daughter worked.  I decided it would be fun to find the place that makes the best cupcakes in the valley.  So I started doing my own “market research”.  I made a list of all the places that offered cupcakes, and over a period of time I frequented them all, always ordering a chocolate cupcake.  I always took a child or friend with me (great mother/daughter date!) to help me sample.  I live in Utah County, Utah.  I tried Cupcake Chic, Sweet tooth Fairy, Decadence, Kneaders, The Chocolate, and Cravings.  Hands down Cravings in Pleasant Grove won!  Ironically, it was the first place I had tried, next to where my daughter worked.  
This last week I went to a little diner with my dad and sister for breakfast.  I wasn’t very hungry, so I just ordered a cinnamon roll.  It was so good!  Hmmm, time for some more market research?  
Try this with whatever food makes you happy!  It is a great adventure to take!