Having Goodly Parents

 

Anyone who knows me knows that whenever possible, I like to get up early to read, write, meditate, and listen to the world wake up. “Whenever possible” means when I’m not traveling with other people and when I don’t have a houseful of company. I like both of those scenarios, but they don’t work well for quiet time.

This morning, I decided to use a writing prompt and just go with whatever the first one was instead of sifting through them in hopes of getting something that grabbed me. I came across this one from January 5 of last year: Call Me Ishmael. “Take the first sentence from your favorite book and make it the first sentence of your post.”

I’m not sure whether it’s because it was Sunday morning and I had church on my mind or what, but here’s what came to mind immediately: “I Nephi, having been born of goodly parents….” Those are the first few words from the Book of Mormon, and they apply so well to my situation.

I don’t know how or why I got so lucky, but I had some amazing parents. They were young and in love and probably felt slapped silly at the quick and relentless toll that children can take on a person. Being young helped because they had energy, but still, what a life changer children can be! They worked hard, they sacrificed, they were honest, they set good examples, they believed in the value of education, and they loved us. Just about any and everything the church (LDS) stands for, so did they. All those years they were preparing me to become a Mormon, and they didn’t even know it. In fact, they might have been horrified to imagine it.

I won’t go overboard and risk turning people off, so I’ll keep it short and sweet. Here’s what I believe in a nutshell: I believe in God the Eternal father and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost. I believe Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon from ancient plates; there is no other explanation. I believe in the Bible and sometimes get a little amused by people who think it’s a sappy or sentimental book…do they even know what’s in it?

We recently went to see Exodus, and just the plagues were horrific!! And then there’s murder and betrayal and polygamy and bloodshed and incest and all sorts of unfortunate situations, especially throughout the Old Testament. We’re studying the New Testament this year, and Lisa has gotten us off to a good start. An excellent teacher, she’s planted a seed in her class members to follow Christ’s example and “love one another.”

It took me a long time to make the decision to join the church, but once I did, there was no turning back. I still feel that it’s the smartest decision I ever made, especially for my children because it affects all of us, now and forever. It’s a little thing but a cool one to visit other wards and walk by the Primary room on my way out and see the children and their leaders getting ready for sharing time. It’s wonderful knowing that five of my grandchildren went to Primary in the Camden ward a couple of weeks ago and felt welcomed and at ease.

I’ve already passed my 500-word limit so I’ll end with a few of the things I love about the church: the music, the lingo, the teachings, the reverence, the leadership, the love. Yes, the love and the feeling of unity and closeness that I share with my church friends.

And about the teachings, I can say, “Things will work out,” to my children and grandchildren, but somehow it carries more weight to remind them that President Hinckley used to say it too. I can say, “You can do it!” but the Young Women’s theme of a couple of years ago, “I can do hard things,” is more meaningful. It was uplifting to see these five words written in crayon and framed in my daughter Carrie’s home last week—in three different bedrooms.

And all of this came to pass in my life, I think, because of my goodly parents.

 

 

 

 

Peace and Love

chapel

One of the reasons that I love the LDS church so much is we have no paid ministry. We do it all ourselves, and most of the time, I think it gets done fairly well. At least I’d like to think so. An added benefit of this is that members get to grow and develop their talents.

Lots of people like to go to church, sit there, listen to a sermon, sing a few hymns, and be uplifted and edified. Hey, I like to do that myself! At the same time, I believe in the law of reciprocity, and I think we should both give and take. I recall a quote from a Relief Society lesson many years ago that followed some complaints of women proclaiming that they got nothing from Relief Society. I recall thinking that any woman who says she gets nothing from this fabulous organization must have some loose screws. The response from a church leader was more loving, however, and was in the form of a question like, “My dear sisters, what are you putting into Relief Society?”

So this Sunday I’m speaking in Sacrament, and it’s going to be an awesome talk. Not because I’m a good speaker but because my assigned topic is a great one and because I’m taking the heart of the talk from a recent General Conference address. How can I go wrong? The topic is how to be a more Christian Christian, a better follower of Christ.

One of my brothers frequently tells me of his trip to the Holy Land in the hope that one day I’ll go there. I won’t. It’s too far, too expensive, too dangerous, and from the reports I’ve read, too touristy. What I’ve told him is that I care more about walking How Jesus walked than about Where He walked. I want to be more compassionate, kind, patient, nonjudgmental, and service-oriented. I want to be more like the Good Samaritan and help people who are different from me. I know for a fact that our Creator loves people of all races, creeds, and social classes. He doesn’t care about the size of your bank account but about the size of your heart.

In preparing Sunday’s remarks, Christ’s words to “feed my lambs” and “feed my sheep” keep coming to mind. I needed that reminder, and I’m wondering if Todd knew that when he nabbed me in the foyer last Sunday and gave me this assignment. Hmmm. I think he knew that we all need a reminder to feed His sheep. Sometimes those sheep might be the little children in our homes, and at other times, they could be our neighbors. I was thinking just yesterday of how often I had sheepishly (there’s that word again) skulked by the Salvation Army bell ringer outside of Wal Mart without putting even a dollar in the bucket. What’s wrong with me?? What would Christ have done?

I could go on and on. I just need to post this and get back to my talk preparation. Reading Elder Hale’s conference address inspires me to be a better follower of Christ at the same time that it makes me realize where and how I’ve fallen short. Just like you, I’m a work in progress. For today, I’m going to start practicing the Christ-like qualities mentioned my Elder Hale, Christian love and Christian caring. I’m going to throw in some peace and forgiveness too.

And P.S., If you want to learn more about becoming a more Christian Christian and feel the warmth of Christ-like love,  join us at the LDS chapel on Chestnut Ferry Road in Camden this Sunday at 11:00.

Confessions and Revelations

Confession: My friends and I aren’t perfect. Revelation: Neither are you!

A facebook post from my friend Connie has motivated me to say a few things that have been on my mind and in my heart lately. She and I attend the same church and see eye-to-eye on most (maybe all) things spiritual. She’s a “sister” who, like me, does her dead level best to be kind, honest, caring, giving, and all those other positive things that we’re supposed to do. We turn the other cheek, work on being nonjudgmental, love our families, attend most church meetings, pay our tithing, and even visit sick people in the hospital.

Connie and I often laugh and joke at where we’d be and what kind of lives we’d be living without what we refer to as “the gospel” in our lives. It’s only a skip and a hop to pondering the same thing about our friends and acquaintances who are apparently farther along the path of enlightenment than we are…or so it would seem from the outside looking in.

But are things always the way they seem? I know folks who darken the church doorway more frequently than I probably do, but they’re judgmental, unforgiving, and rumor mongering (always wanted to use that term). Others are pessimistic beyond belief although throughout the scriptures we’re told to be of good cheer. They worry incessantly about tomorrow despite the frequent Biblical instruction to have faith. Remember the tiny sparrow?

And then there are those who could spout off the 10 Commandments like nobody’s business, but they put possessions and “other gods” before God, take His name in vain, and/or treat their parents abysmally. And let’s don’t forget those who think keeping the Sabbath holy means going out to eat after church and sleeping the afternoon away. Don’t even bother responding to this by telling me that going out to eat as a family keeps unity going AND helps insure that those working in restaurants have jobs. (As an aside, I’ve been known to do all of the above.)

Here’s the difference between Connie and me and “those other people.” We KNOW that we aren’t perfect, and we don’t need anyone to tell us that or to remind us of the shoulds and should nots. We know them, and we’re trying to incorporate them into our lives as best as we can. All of us are in different spots in our spiritual progression.

Time to bring this to a close. Here’s what I know: LOVE is the word. As I write this, I can’t help but think of my former mother-in-law and the many acts of love and compassion that I’ve seen her perform. This afternoon, I’m thinking specifically of how she’d often leave church early to go home and put the finishing touches on a scrumptious meal for her family. Lots of mothers do that; I used to too (although my children might take issue with the scrumptious part).

Here’s what set her apart from me and the other mothers. Before any family members partook of the Sunday feast, she fixed a plate of goodies for a “shut-in” neighbor and sent it over by one of her sons. Did she leave church early? Yes. Did anyone at church have anything to say about it? Yes. Did she show love? Yes. Did you?

Here’s my goal as found in Micah 6:8. I rediscovered this scripture after reading Same Kind of Different as Me.  “And what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”

Sisterly Thoughts

Sometimes people look at me a little curiously when they discover that I’m LDS. And no, it’s not my imagination. I’m a pretty intuitive person and can pick up vibes, both positive and negative. That’s a topic for another day, however. This evening I just want to share a little something about one of the major reasons that I love this church so much.

Are you ready? It’s my sisters. Truly, no matter where I am or what I’m doing or who I’m with, when I see a “sister,” I feel an immediate connection. I know that she knows and believes the same things that I do and that we speak the same language. I don’t have the time to go on and on about this today so I’m going to mention only one person, Lisa C, and her influence on my life. I chose the above picture becaue she’s artistic and likes to ride horses.

I don’t want to embarrass her, but she needs to know that these three incidents made a deep impression on me, on my soul.

When my grandson Seth was born last July, I had the privilege of being there when he made his entrance into the world. In fact, the doctor and I were the first ones to see him. Right away, I could see that he wasn’t the rosy color that I thought he would be. He didn’t seem to be moving very much either and appeared to be kind of flaccid.

My amateur impressions were correct, and right away the doctor signaled for the neonatal specialists to come in. If I recall correctly, three nurses came in and began working on the little fellow. What did I do? I stood looking at him, trying hard not to cry. My beautiful daughter kept asking, “What’s wrong? Why isn’t he crying? Is he breathing, Mama?”

“He’s fine,” I said. “Just fine.”

I began talking to him as gently and soothingly as possible. Although I can’t remember the exact words, I probably said some things like, “Hey, Sweet Boy. Do you hear me talking to you? This is Grandmama. How do you like being in this big old world so far? Huh? Come on now. Open your eyes so I can see them.”

I pretty much repeated the same ramblings over and over as the nurse competently cleared his lungs and throat. And then a miracle occurred. Seth opened his eyes and looked right into mine. Yes, I know babies don’t have 20/20 vision for several months and that he didn’t know me from the television hanging on the wall, but still….He looked at me for several seconds as I continued speaking in low, calming tones.

Months later, I told Lisa C about his birth and remarked that I liked thinking that I was the first person he saw when he opened his eyes and that he sensed my love for him. Without blinking an eye and with complete sincerity, she said, “You communicated spirit to spirit.” And you know what? We did. We absolutely did.

Here’s the second incident. One day in Relief Society, the women’s organization in our church, Lisa told a story about her daughter going to school. I can’t remember all the details, but it was probably one of the first days that her child went to middle school. Like every pre-teen in  America, her daughter was a wee bit nervous about the situation.

There are a number of ways that a parent can handle a child’s apprehension about new things, but here’s what Lisa C did. She reminded her daughter that she was the daughter of a Heavenly Father who loved her very much and that she was a princess, the daughter of a king. That might sound corny to people who aren’t LDS, but I love that way of thinking. Lisa, her daughter, my daughters, and you and I are also of divine origin.

Okay, here’s the last scenario. Months ago, one of Lisa C’s young sons (I think he was 11 at the time) was speaking in Sacrament meeting, and he said how grateful he was for his mom. Here’s a paraphrase: “Moms are the ones who keep everything together. If it weren’t for them, we’d probably all be floating out in space somewhere.” He said this with the cutest smile ever, and I thought, “Wow, what a tribute!” If a child can stand in front of a congregation and say something like that, then the mother is doing something right!

There are probably some errors in the above paragraphs because I’m in a hurry to get to the grocery store (story of a woman’s life), but I wanted to share these thoughts about one of my sisters. Anyone with an open heart and mind can understand a little bit more clearly about why I love the LDS faith so much. It’s because of Lisa C and women all over the world who are just like her, women who speak my language.