Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Monday, March 30, 2009
Finding Joy in the Journey
President Thomas S. Monson
Thomas S. Monson, “Finding Joy in the Journey,” Ensign, Nov 2008, 84–87
Let us relish life as we live it, find joy in the journey, and share our love with friends and family.
My dear brothers and sisters, I am humbled as I stand before you this morning. I ask for your faith and prayers in my behalf as I speak about those things which have been on my mind and which I have felt impressed to share with you.
I begin by mentioning one of the most inevitable aspects of our lives here upon the earth, and that is change. At one time or another we’ve all heard some form of the familiar adage: “Nothing is as constant as change.”
Throughout our lives, we must deal with change. Some changes are welcome; some are not. There are changes in our lives which are sudden, such as the unexpected passing of a loved one, an unforeseen illness, the loss of a possession we treasure. But most of the changes take place subtly and slowly.
This conference marks 45 years since I was called to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. As the junior member of the Twelve then, I looked up to 14 exceptional men, who were senior to me in the Twelve and the First Presidency. One by one, each of these men has returned home. When President Hinckley passed away eight months ago, I realized that I had become the senior Apostle. The changes over a period of 45 years that were incremental now seem monumental.
This coming week Sister Monson and I will celebrate our 60th wedding anniversary. As I look back to our beginnings, I realize just how much our lives have changed since then. Our beloved parents, who stood beside us as we commenced our journey together, have passed on. Our three children, who filled our lives so completely for many years, are grown and have families of their own. Most of our grandchildren are grown, and we now have four great-grandchildren.
Day by day, minute by minute, second by second we went from where we were to where we are now. The lives of all of us, of course, go through similar alterations and changes. The difference between the changes in my life and the changes in yours is only in the details. Time never stands still; it must steadily march on, and with the marching come the changes.
This is our one and only chance at mortal life—here and now. The longer we live, the greater is our realization that it is brief. Opportunities come, and then they are gone. I believe that among the greatest lessons we are to learn in this short sojourn upon the earth are lessons that help us distinguish between what is important and what is not. I plead with you not to let those most important things pass you by as you plan for that illusive and nonexistent future when you will have time to do all that you want to do. Instead, find joy in the journey—now.
I am what my wife, Frances, calls a “show-a-holic.” I thoroughly enjoy many musicals, and one of my favorites was written by the American composer Meredith Willson and is entitled The Music Man. Professor Harold Hill, one of the principal characters in the show, voices a caution that I share with you. Says he, “You pile up enough tomorrows, and you’ll find you’ve collected a lot of empty yesterdays.”1
My brothers and sisters, there is no tomorrow to remember if we don’t do something today.
I’ve shared with you previously an example of this philosophy. I believe it bears repeating. Many years ago, Arthur Gordon wrote in a national magazine, and I quote:
“When I was around thirteen and my brother ten, Father had promised to take us to the circus. But at lunchtime there was a phone call; some urgent business required his attention downtown. We braced ourselves for disappointment. Then we heard him say [into the phone], ‘No, I won’t be down. It’ll have to wait.’
“When he came back to the table, Mother smiled. ‘The circus keeps coming back, you know,’ [she said.]
“‘I know,’ said Father. ‘But childhood doesn’t.’”2
If you have children who are grown and gone, in all likelihood you have occasionally felt pangs of loss and the recognition that you didn’t appreciate that time of life as much as you should have. Of course, there is no going back, but only forward. Rather than dwelling on the past, we should make the most of today, of the here and now, doing all we can to provide pleasant memories for the future.
If you are still in the process of raising children, be aware that the tiny fingerprints that show up on almost every newly cleaned surface, the toys scattered about the house, the piles and piles of laundry to be tackled will disappear all too soon and that you will—to your surprise—miss them profoundly.
Stresses in our lives come regardless of our circumstances. We must deal with them the best we can. But we should not let them get in the way of what is most important—and what is most important almost always involves the people around us. Often we assume that they must know how much we love them. But we should never assume; we should let them know. Wrote William Shakespeare, “They do not love that do not show their love.”3 We will never regret the kind words spoken or the affection shown. Rather, our regrets will come if such things are omitted from our relationships with those who mean the most to us.
Send that note to the friend you’ve been neglecting; give your child a hug; give your parents a hug; say “I love you” more; always express your thanks. Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved. Friends move away, children grow up, loved ones pass on. It’s so easy to take others for granted, until that day when they’re gone from our lives and we are left with feelings of “what if” and “if only.” Said author Harriet Beecher Stowe, “The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone.”4
In the 1960s, during the Vietnam War, Church member Jay Hess, an airman, was shot down over North Vietnam. For two years his family had no idea whether he was dead or alive. His captors in Hanoi eventually allowed him to write home but limited his message to less than 25 words. What would you and I say to our families if we were in the same situation—not having seen them for over two years and not knowing if we would ever see them again? Wanting to provide something his family could recognize as having come from him and also wanting to give them valuable counsel, Brother Hess wrote—and I quote: “These things are important: temple marriage, mission, college. Press on, set goals, write history, take pictures twice a year.”5
Let us relish life as we live it, find joy in the journey, and share our love with friends and family. One day each of us will run out of tomorrows.
In the book of John in the New Testament, chapter 13, verse 34, the Savior admonishes us, “As I have loved you, … love one another.”
Some of you may be familiar with Thornton Wilder’s classic drama Our Town. If you are, you will remember the town of Grover’s Corners, where the story takes place. In the play Emily Webb dies in childbirth, and we read of the lonely grief of her young husband, George, left with their four-year-old son. Emily does not wish to rest in peace; she wants to experience again the joys of her life. She is granted the privilege of returning to earth and reliving her 12th birthday. At first it is exciting to be young again, but the excitement wears off quickly. The day holds no joy now that Emily knows what is in store for the future. It is unbearably painful to realize how unaware she had been of the meaning and wonder of life while she was alive. Before returning to her resting place, Emily laments, “Do … human beings ever realize life while they live it—every, every minute?”
Our realization of what is most important in life goes hand in hand with gratitude for our blessings.
Said one well-known author: “Both abundance and lack [of abundance] exist simultaneously in our lives, as parallel realities. It is always our conscious choice which secret garden we will tend … when we choose not to focus on what is missing from our lives but are grateful for the abundance that’s present—love, health, family, friends, work, the joys of nature, and personal pursuits that bring us [happiness]—the wasteland of illusion falls away and we experience heaven on earth.”6
In the Doctrine and Covenants, section 88, verse 33, we are told: “For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift? Behold, he rejoices not in that which is given unto him, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift.”
The ancient Roman philosopher Horace admonished, “Whatever hour God has blessed you with, take it with grateful hand, nor postpone your joys from year to year, so that in whatever place you have been, you may say that you have lived happily.”
Many years ago I was touched by the story of Borghild Dahl. She was born in Minnesota in 1890 of Norwegian parents and from her early years suffered severely impaired vision. She had a tremendous desire to participate in everyday life despite her handicap and, through sheer determination, succeeded in nearly everything she undertook. Against the advice of educators, who felt her handicap was too great, she attended college, receiving her bachelor of arts degree from the University of Minnesota. She later studied at Columbia University and the University of Oslo. She eventually became the principal of eight schools in western Minnesota and North Dakota.
She wrote the following in one of the 17 books she authored: “I had only one eye, and it was so covered with dense scars that I had to do all my seeing through one small opening in the left of the eye. I could see a book only by holding it up close to my face and by straining my one eye as hard as I could to the left.”7
Miraculously, in 1943—when she was over 50 years old—a revolutionary procedure was developed which finally restored to her much of the sight she had been without for so long. A new and exciting world opened up before her. She took great pleasure in the small things most of us take for granted, such as watching a bird in flight, noticing the light reflected in the bubbles of her dishwater, or observing the phases of the moon each night. She closed one of her books with these words: “Dear … Father in heaven, I thank Thee. I thank Thee.”8
Borghild Dahl, both before and after her sight was restored, was filled with gratitude for her blessings.
In 1982, two years before she died, at the age of 92 her last book was published. Its title: Happy All My Life. Her attitude of thankfulness enabled her to appreciate her blessings and to live a full and rich life despite her challenges.
In 1 Thessalonians in the New Testament, chapter 5, verse 18, we are told by the Apostle Paul, “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God.”
Recall with me the account of the 10 lepers:
“And as [Jesus] entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off:
“And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.
“And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed.
“And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God,
“And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan.
“And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?
“There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.”9
Said the Lord in a revelation given through the Prophet Joseph Smith, “In nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things.”10 May we be found among those who give our thanks to our Heavenly Father. If ingratitude be numbered among the serious sins, then gratitude takes its place among the noblest of virtues.
Despite the changes which come into our lives and with gratitude in our hearts, may we fill our days—as much as we can—with those things which matter most. May we cherish those we hold dear and express our love to them in word and in deed.
In closing, I pray that all of us will reflect gratitude for our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. His glorious gospel provides answers to life’s greatest questions: Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where does my spirit go when I die?
He taught us how to pray. He taught us how to serve. He taught us how to live. His life is a legacy of love. The sick He healed; the downtrodden He lifted; the sinner He saved.
The time came when He stood alone. Some Apostles doubted; one betrayed Him. The Roman soldiers pierced His side. The angry mob took His life. There yet rings from Golgotha’s hill His compassionate words, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”11
Earlier, perhaps perceiving the culmination of His earthly mission, He spoke the lament, “Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.”12 “No room in the inn”13 was not a singular expression of rejection—just the first. Yet He invites you and me to receive Him. “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”14
Who was this Man of sorrows, acquainted with grief? Who is the King of glory, this Lord of hosts? He is our Master. He is our Savior. He is the Son of God. He is the Author of our Salvation. He beckons, “Follow me.”15 He instructs, “Go, and do thou likewise.”16 He pleads, “Keep my commandments.”17
Let us follow Him. Let us emulate His example. Let us obey His word. By so doing, we give to Him the divine gift of gratitude.
Brothers and sisters, my sincere prayer is that we may adapt to the changes in our lives, that we may realize what is most important, that we may express our gratitude always and thus find joy in the journey. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
4. Harriet Beecher Stowe, in Gorton Carruth and Eugene Erlich, comps., The Harper Book of American Quotations (1988), 173.
9. Luke 17:12–18.
10. D&C 59:21.
11. Luke 23:34.
12. Matthew 8:20.
13. See Luke 2:7.
14. Revelation 3:20.
15. Mark 2:14.
16. Luke 10:37.
17. D&C 11:6.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
So we headed out. (Granted, some of us embraced the afternoon and went with excited attitudes... others had to be dragged, kicking and screaming. But by the time we were done, I think everyone was glad we had gone!) We drove down to Redondo beach and took a walk along the boardwalk. It was absolutely gorgeous and we certainly were not the only people taking advantage of the beauty that this afternoon had to offer. We walked up and down the boardwalk and then sat and let the kids play in the sand for awhile. And then the sun began slipping behind the clouds again and we could see the rain in the distance. I'm so, so, glad we got out and enjoyed the afternoon, even for just a short time.
I have been trying to be more cognizant of everyday miracles. Today was certainly one of those days. When you live in a place where the sun is not a dominant feature of most days, it's really something to celebrate and be grateful for. I feel so blessed today!
Everyone started out in the primary room. The Elders taught the Easter story to the primary children. I was impressed with the knowledge base of even the smallest of children.
After that, everyone split into groups and traveled around the building to different rooms where various games and activities were taking place. These included:
An egg race:
A potato sack race:
Guessing how many jellybeans are in the jar (940 if you're curious!)
And Pin the tie on the missionary:
Of course when all the games were done, it was time for the big Easter egg hunt! Unfortunately, we were not able to have it outdoors as usual. As I've said before, I think that mother nature might be a little bit confused about the seasons. Rather than giving us nice, spring-like weather, she gave us 38F with a rain/snow mix! But this is part of life in western Washington. Today, it's 50F and sunny and we love it! The kids scored a lot of sugar and they were of course quite happy about that! It was a very fun day and I'm so happy I got to be a part of that!
Saturday, March 28, 2009
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
My friend Jodi stopped by yesterday and brought me a beautiful bunch of purple tulips. They were much needed and I felt that she had been inspired to knock on my door, totally unannounced, and present me with these gems. As I was wallowing about the perpetual gray and rainy skies that have seemed never ending, Jodi brought me a ray of spring sunshine.
Jodi has been my visiting teacher for several years now. She is the most amazing woman and I just love her so much. I could not ask for a better visiting teacher. She is always dropping off little treats at my house for me and the kids. She always has a kind word for me. She knows just what I need and when I need it. And most importantly, she is my friend. Thank you Jodi for all that you do and have done for me!
Ethan was bound and determined to make it up that hill. It wasn't too steep at the bottom. But as he went up it got harder and harder.
At times he slid back and even fell down.
But it didn't deter him from continuing on. I was so proud of him. He was a force to be reckoned with!
As I watched him climb and struggle with that hill, I was reminded of the scripture found in 2Nephi 31:20. It says:
20 Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.I was reminded that along the path of life, we will have struggles and trials. Sometimes it seems so much easier to give up, let go, and give in to the trial. But when we do so, we lose the opportunity for growth and learning. I find it interesting that in the above scripture, it doesn't just say that we must press forward... but that we should do so with a "perfect brightness of hope". I take that to mean that we really should embrace our trials as opposed to whining about them. We need to have a good attitude and be cheerful through the hard times. And when we overcome those challenges, we can smile and look back and see how far we've come. We can feel a sense of pride and accomplishment and know that we are better for it. Ethan's face and attitude certainly show how he felt about his climb up the hillside. When he got to the top he shouted quite loudly "I'm the king of the wooooorrrrld!" I learn so much from him.
He inspired his dad, his brother, and his cousins to follow him up there! He inspires me on a daily basis! I love you Ethan!
And just for fun... this is what his pants looked like when he got done!
Monday, March 23, 2009
We left Friday morning around 1100. We stopped at Costco and filled up our gas tank and picked up a birthday cake for Mary (which sadly never got eaten). And then we headed out! We took Hwy 18 up to I-90 and then headed up Snoqualmie Pass. There was LOTS of snow still hanging around over the pass. That really didn't surprise me since we've had snow way down here just in the past few weeks. But Mike did mention his concern... after all, camping season is just a few months away. Hopefully it'll all be gone by then! I'm glad I took these pictures on the way over. When we came back, it was late at night, dark, and very foggy.
It's so fascinating to drive along I-90. I'm always amazed at how there is such a definite line between the mountains and desert. There is a pretty defined demarkation between the two. You might miss it if you blink! One moment you are enjoying the beauty of the evergreen trees and the next there is vast nothingness!
We stayed at the Motel 6 in Moses Lake since the rest of the family was staying there. That was an interesting experience. It was definitely a cheap place to stay, but I doubt we'll do it again. The water was funky... it looked and smelled okay (we had bottled water to drink)... but it dried out our skin terribly. What's worse, I couldn't get it OFF my skin. I'm not kidding... it's like it had too much bleach in it. My skin felt slimy and I couldn't seem to rinse it off well. Mike got a rash. The beds were uncomfortable, the floors were cement (very hard on the feet and back), and the noise was outrageous. We could hear every footstep from the people above us. The kids had a hard time going to sleep because of all the loud noise around us. Oh well... we spent very little time there... it was a place to sleep and that's it.
We checked in, dropped off our stuff, and then caravaned with everyone else over to Time Out, where Aunt Barbara's family and friends had gathered to eat pizza, drink soda, and socialize before the party. It was WONDERFUL getting to connect and reconnect with everyone there! We had not seen Jon and Kreanna since their wedding day in 1999! And so of course we'd never met their children either. I had only seen pictures of them on Aunt Barbara's blog. They are so cute! And I personally had never before met Terri, Teresa, Steve or any of their children. So that was a real treat!
After meeting up there, we had some time. So we took the kids to play at a park. And then we headed over to the anniversary celebration. That was very fun. The decorations were perfect and it was so nice to see all the pictures of their family over the years. How exciting! When we were done at the party, our family all gathered over at Perkins for a late night bite to eat. We sang Happy Birthday to Mary but I think everyone was just too full and it was so late so we didn't eat the cake. That poor cake... we toted it around with us and finally brought it home. Nobody would take it off our hands. We each had a piece and then the entire thing found its way into the garbage. Sad.
We woke up somewhat early on Saturday morning (no choice really... the beds were so uncomfortable!) After checking out of the motel, we made plans to meet with Jon and Kreanna for lunch at the Golden Corral (along with Roy, Linda, Bekah, Loral and Emily). Roy had wanted to go to the Golden Corral the night before and we talked him out of it... just not worth the money when we weren't that hungry. I remember eating at a GC in Utah last year and I was REALLY impressed!
Anyway... we went in search of breakfast and happened upon a little place called Griffin's Bakery & Cafe. Um... YUM. Really... that sums it up. The have some of the best bakery fare I've ever had in my life. No exaggeration... in little Moses Lake, WA! Mike had a ham and Swiss pastry that was to die for. I had quiche that was melt-in-your-mouth. The kids had a yogurt parfait that was incredible and had the best granola I have ever tasted. And I had a piping hot cup of Mexican hot chocolate that was sinful! Truly... I almost want to make the drive again just to have breakfast there!! If you haven't had a chance to sample the fair, well, you really MUST stop the next time you are driving through central WA! Here are the guys, enjoying themselves thoroughly...
After having a nice breakfast, we drove around and checked out the small city. We hit the local Walmart and then spent some time cleaning out our car and vacuuming it. The car always gets so trashed when we go on road trips. Ugh. But it looked a lot better by the time we got done!
Later we met up with everyone at the Golden Corral and had a nice lunch there. When we were done eating, we decided to go to a park in Ephrata and let the kids burn off some energy. They had a LOT of fun playing with their cousins and enjoying the nice weather! (Ahhh... the weather was SO much nicer in Ephrata!) I love this picture!:
And isn't Miss Aleigha just so adorable???
Anyway... the kids had a blast... here are some other pictures:
The kids all climbed a steep hill while we were there too, but that deserves its very own entry!!
After playing for awhile, we all walked over to the adjoining cemetery to meet up with Steve, Teresa and their family. Their daughter Amanda is buried there. I remember Mike telling me the story of how he and Mary drove down there for her funeral and how heart breaking that was. That was right before Mike and I had met. While I've never had the honor of meeting that beautiful little girl, it was quite apparent that she has a lot of people who love her and her spirit was very present there that day as her family gathered around her grave and left flowers for her to enjoy. There was such a feeling of peace there and I couldn't help but reflect and be thankful for the plan of salvation and the ordinances that bind us as eternal families.
We all headed over to Aunt Barbara's house and spent the rest of the afternoon and evening there. It was so wonderful to be there. Mike and I have spoken about this and we both felt as though we were in the midst of such goodness there. We were honored to have been included in the evening meal and then we had such fun just talking and getting to know everyone better. We are so blessed to be able to call them all family. How lucky we are to be associated with such wonderful and good people! I thank them for gathering us into their fold and allowing us into their circle. (Of course they have us pining after the warmth of Arizona now... but that's a post for another day!) Here are some pictures snapped while we were there:
We headed out pretty late. I believe it was about 9:30pm. We stopped for a snack and then headed back over the pass. It was very foggy in places and the temperature was hanging right around freezing. There were some twists and turns that were a bit treacherous, but we made it home safe and sound, just after midnight. What an amazing weekend! Truly, we are so blessed!
We had the absolute honor of being invited to the 50th wedding anniversary celebration for Uncle Phil and Aunt Barbara. The moment the invitation arrived in the mail, I marked March 20th on my calendar and was so excited to make plans! In a time when the national divorce rate hovers around 50%, 50 years is an amazing accomplishment. Certainly it is worthy of a celebration! It was wonderful to be there and to connect and reconnect with so many people!! I'll write more about our weekend tomorrow. Right now we are into the wee hours of the morning and I need to wrap things up!
We went on a really fun adventure to Ephrata this past weekend. We went to celebrate the 50th wedding anniversary of Uncle Phil and Aunt Barbara. I'll write a completely separate entry about that. But in the meantime, I wanted to post a few pictures from Friday afternoon. We had some time between dinner and the party and headed over to the local elementary school to let the kids play and burn off some energy. They had so much fun. The picture above is my favorite of the weekend. There is something about it that just sings to my heart. Ethan and Sierra always seem to connect with one another. I think that what I love about this picture is that it shows the love that they have for each other, as well as how playful they are. They're so cute together!
I have attached some other photos as well. One of the things that I never can get over when I'm in central Washington is how absolutely big and stunning the sky is. It seems to just go on forever, the view uninhibited by tall trees or buildings. The beauty is breathtaking in its own special way.