Thursday, March 31, 2011

Weak Things Can Become Strong

Given the heads-up by my daughter, Jackie, that it had been re-released as a PG-13 version, Brian and I immediately found time in our schedule to see "The King's Speech", this year's darling of the Oscars.

It held us spellbound the entire two hours, while being completely devoid of thrills, action, or explosions.  Instead, it reached into the reservoir of our own insecurities.  Who isn't able to identify in some way with this portrayal of a man faced with an unfortunate deficiency?

I was reminded of the great scripture from the prophet Moroni, found in the Book of Ether, Chapter 12.  He had expressed his concern to the Lord about his inadequacies, fearing the mockery of men.  The Lord reassured him that it is these very things that make us feel so lacking that can become our strengths if we learn to rely upon Heaven for help to overcome them.

"And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness.  I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them."(Book of Mormon, Ether 12:27)

It also made me think of the great Apostle Paul, who humbly admits to his own "thorn in the flesh", which "thing (he) besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from (him)."  In similar words which He spoke to Moroni, the Lord tells Paul:  "My grace is sufficient for thee:  for my strength is made perfect in weakness."

Recognizing that trials and weaknesses do, indeed, turn us to the Savior in humility, Paul then rejoices in his weakness:  "Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake:  for when I am weak, then am I strong." (2 Corinthians, 12:7-10) 

I love the zeal with which Paul approaches things, even to the point of rejoicing in his infirmities.  Bless his heart!  I'm not sure I am at that point, but I do recognize that the power of the Lord can aid us in overcoming weaknesses and making up the difference when we fall short.

I would encourage you to see this edited version of The King's Speech. It will certainly become a classic of uplifting and inspiring filmmaking.  I must warn of strong language, but unlike most movies that throw it in gratuitously, the strong words in this case actually do help move the story along.

And Colin Firth makes a lovely king.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Make Your Own Kind of Music

If I have taught my children anything, I hope I have taught them to be true to themselves.  In a world of bending and breaking to fit into society's predictable round hole, of sanding down the edges of perfectly beautiful square pegs in order to be just like everyone else, I hope I have instilled in them the desire to stand forth as the originals that they are.
They may not fit the world's standard of beauty; I believe they exceed it.  They may not fit the world's standard of virtue; I believe they exceed that too.  And they are gifted with genuine gifts of the Spirit.  They possess integrity and humility and a willingness to sacrifice a little token popularity in order to be true to what they believe and who they are.

Sometimes there is pressure to misrepresent who you really are.  Don't succumb to that.  There is an undeniable light in your eyes that deserves to be set on a candlestick, and not snuffed out under a basket.  The world would have you diminish your light to match the dullness of the crowd.  Don't do it.

I love the words of an old song from the Mamas and Papas.  If my children have learned nothing else, I want them to spend their lives making their own kind of music, singing their own special songs.

The world can be made better by our being in it. Don't be afraid to be the change you would like to see.

Even if nobody else sings along.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Just For the Fun of It!

Have you ever done something just for the fun of it?  For no real purpose other than to just gather with friends for good conversation, good food, and good fun?  This past weekend my husband and I did exactly that.  We hosted what we called a "Black and White @ the Beach" Party. 

I am finding that often in our lives we go from one requirement to the next; crossing off all the things that must be done while neglecting the seemingly superfluous things. My friend, Ralph Waldo Emerson reminds us that there is a need to make extra time for what he calls the "best property of all":

     "We take care of our health, we lay up money, we make our room tight, and our clothing sufficient; but who provides wisely that he shall not be wanting in the best property of all--friends?"

That is what we did this weekend.  We sought to take care of what we feel is as important as our health, as critical as our livelihood, and as valued as our family; we sought to nurture our friendships.

It was an opportunity to show them how much they mean to us, to spoil them a little, and to thank them for their involvement in our lives.
We couldn't feel more blessed to call them our friends.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Next Best Thing

There is at least one thing that I look upon with a twinge of regret; I wasn't able to give my son a brother. He really longed for a little brother and often felt overwhelmed and outnumbered by sisters, sisters, sisters. This seems to be a trend in my family. I come from a family with only one boy and many sisters. My husband comes from a family with only one boy and many sisters. Sorry, Robert. Perhaps it was just meant to be.
Thankfully, our lives and our families are not static; they are continually changing and growing. We feel so blessed to have had our family expand with the addition of our children's in-laws. What a blessing both of these families have been! I am so happy about the genuine connection we feel, and the real love they have offered to Robert and Erica.

And Robert has finally gotten some brothers! He has particularly made a connection with Josalyn's little brother, Jerry. They are inseparable. There is a special dynamic between the two of them that is undeniable. It truly is as though Jerry is finally the little brother that my son had hoped for.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

If Music Be the Food of Love, Play On

I was reminded yesterday of the power of music.  I was reminded how much it speaks to my soul; how it feeds my spirit; how it has the ability to touch hearts.  I was reminded of what an important part of my life it has always been.

I attended an evening devoted to the composition talents of a brilliant lady in our church community.  It showcased her work from a lifetime devoted to obeying the instinct to create with inspiration.  The simple, yet eloquent messages were elevated to soul-stirring by the accompaniment of beautiful music.  It was an important reminder of everyone's potential and capacity.  There lies within all of us the divine nature of creativity, which we can either tap into by listening to our hearts and minds, or we can let it remain dormant while the world suffers from one less masterpiece.

But creativity isn't merely about the result, it is about the things we learn and discover during the creative process.  We begin to open our eyes to the possibilities, to see things in new ways, to understand ideas on a higher level.  Then the one who truly benefits most is the courageous soul willing to take a chance to make something beautiful out of ambiguous puzzle pieces which no longer remain ambiguous.

But the end of the concert last night wasn't the end of my profound experience.  My husband and I came home, settled down to relax in front of the television, forgetting to spring forward our clocks.  We became engrossed in the Silver Anniversary Concert celebrating the timeless musical, Les Miserables, which was airing on PBS.  The familiar music spoke new notes to my hungry soul.  As I listened with new ears, the power and glory of this great work continued to swell my heart.  I was overcome with the eternal truths which were taught in this story of sacrifice, integrity, mercy, and love.

Perhaps the biggest surprise for me was the "new" Marius.  At first I was startled by the extremely young nature of this fellow, having been used to stronger, more mature voices whom I have heard in the past.  But as it progressed, I realized that the producers had gotten it right.  There was a stronger note of innocence, of fragility, of promise, of hope in the future.  As ValJean pleaded with the Lord to "Bring Him Home", we all were pleading the same prayer.  He was so vulnerable, so young, so innocent, and yet his heart was so "full of love", we could all identify with those same poignant feelings.

Imagine my surprise when it was brought to my attention that the new Marius was one of The Jonas Brothers, Nick Jonas.  Of course his wasn't the strongest voice in the cast, but his wide-eyed innocence filled the role with grace.
Towards the end of the concert I looked up at the clock and was startled back to reality realizing that what was a late night for me anyway, was turning into even an even later one as I set the clock forward one precious hour.

But some things are worthy of the sacrifice.  My heart was full of love, too.  It was bursting with love for my family, for my Savior and His mercy, for the gift of music in my life, and for powerful literature that captures life and transcends it out of the gutter and onto a higher plane.

Every day should be so full of light and truth.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Can You Say Tsunami, Again?

My husband purposely left the television news on this morning when he left for work.  He wanted me to discover, immediately upon my arising, the tsunami warnings.  He knew that I would be taken back to a year ago when we were in Hawaii.  Eerily, I was!
Here is the link to a blogpost I wrote on March 8, 2010, in the aftermath of that other tsunami warning that tried to ruin my Hawaiian Holiday.

Can You Say Tsunami?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Speaking of Boldness....

There is a talented lady I know that can do pretty much whatever she decides upon.  She is an amazing designer and is hosting a giveaway on her blog of some of her new cross-stitch designs.  Be sure to check in to see her work and leave a comment to earn a chance to win.

My sister, Wendy's Needleart Blog

Life is about being bold enough to follow your dreams, isn't it?  ;-)

Step Forward in Boldness

Why not?  Some things demand a boldness that may not come naturally, that may not fall within our standard modus operandi.  There are times in our lives when we need to step out of our comfort zone, to finally be daring and bold!

It is usually when the odds are not in our favor.  It is usually when, once in motion, there is no turning back. 

But even the likelihood of failure far outweighs living with the nagging wonder of having failed to try. The "what ifs" in life are the hardest pills to swallow.

I have been immersing myself in Ralph Waldo Emerson of late, and I found a quote from his journal that I find unusually stirring.  It is this:  "Let us answer a book of ink with a book of flesh and blood."

Now I don't presume to necessarily grasp exactly Emerson's meaning from this, nor do I even guess what your interpretation would be.  But, to me it is about inspiration.  It is about taking our studies, taking the things we have read and then acting upon them with our whole souls, holding nothing back.  It is to step forward with boldness and not just live our lives vicariously through book characters or another man's thoughts and dreams.  At some point, it becomes our turn to "write our own book", to lay down our own story; to hold nothing back, to not just dream the dreams but be ready to bring them to life.

Perhaps I have come to that point in my life.

Perhaps you have too.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

"Come Unto Me, All Ye That Labour"

I feel inspired today to share one of my favorite scriptures, found in Matthew 11:28-30.

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart:
and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

For those of us that have been taught about our Savior, Jesus Christ, just these simple words can have such power.  We should cling to the peace they bring.  It can be lasting if we will always remember Him. 

I can't even recall all the times that this passage of scripture has spoken peace to my soul, but I do remember specifically one time when I so needed to hear this message.  It was years ago when I was going to college.  I was very far from home and very overwhelmed with the demands of school.  It was an afternoon after classes and I had gone home to my apartment.  My roommate wasn't there and I went into my bedroom.  Sat down on my bed.  Knew I needed some help.  Saw my scriptures sitting on my desk.

Though my knowledge of the scriptures was in its infancy stage, I knew that there was power in that book.  I had faith that my answer was to be had in its pages.

I decided to put my faith to the test.  I told myself that whatever page the book fell open to, there would be something of value there for me.

My bible fell open to Matthew, and this passage, which had been underlined earlier, immediately caught my attention.  I wept.  I didn't weep for sadness, though I was homesick.  I wept for the knowledge I had that this was absolutely true; all I needed to do was to come unto the Savior and He would offer me the rest I needed; He would offer me the comfort and love and reassurance I so desperately needed.

Let us all cling to whatever particle of faith we have.  Let us all remember that we are never alone if we remember to whom we may always look for peace.  Sometimes in a chaotic world the only peace we will feel in is our hearts.  Often that is enough.  He will give us courage to press forward.  He will give us enlightenment and guidance to face and deal with the troubles in our lives.

Let us put behind us the mistakes of the past and look forward with a brightness of hope.  He has sent His Comforter to be with us.  It is real.  As we keep His commandments and strive to improve, we will be blessed to always have His Spirit to be with us.  His promises are sure.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Are We Really Any Different Now?

If you take two little eight-year-old girls, both with blonde hair and big brown eyes, who were inseparable, who only lived a short bike ride from each other, who thought alike and dreamed alike, and then separate them for forty years, can you really expect them to still be friends?

I would suggest that Yes! whatever brought them together as children, whatever bond was fortified between those two kindred spirits as children, that same kinship and love never goes away.  I know this as fact, not merely speculation.  It was tested just today, and proven.

I got a phone call from a number I didn't recognize.  Rather hesitantly I answered.  After one simple introduction, the hesitation turned to marvel, which turned to happiness, which turned back to marvel again.  Could it really be my friend, Karen, from Lander, Wyoming?

We spoke with the ease of friends that had never parted.  We caught each other up on the last forty or so years as though that time was merely incidental.  And apparently it was, because the connection that had been there as children continued as strong and clear and evident as ever.

She remembered my married name was Haws.  She googled me, and found my blog.  Life continues to be a wonder and a blessing.  Friendships are timeless.  Our defining personalities, our souls, which we squeeze into little bodies, obviously do not change all that much over time, even as those same bodies grow bigger and older (and fatter and wrinkled).  We like to think that we mature and grow and develop into outstanding members of society.  Apparently we are really not all that different from when we were young. 

Thanks, Karen, for the lovely reminder.  And here is that newspaper clipping that I have treasured all these years, saved as my only tangible memory of that special time. The intangible memories, held tightly in my heart, have never faded.  Now I have a new facebook friend and the promise of another special friendship rekindled.
Can you find me?  Karen says I look just the same....;-)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

What a wild card!  Every night we settle into bed, turn out the lights, close our eyes, and calmly invite whatever turns of the involuntary imagination may come to play across our minds.  And we do so willingly. It is as though we regularly acquire a ticket for whatever happens to be showing, without checking the billboard, without knowing beforehand what the entertainment will be.  Yikes!

I am astonished that we invite this.  I am astonished that our progressive society, which seeks to have control in every other facet of our lives, still leaves this completely to chance.  Why haven't we been given a pill to tame or to thwart this variable, this unknown?  Surely we shouldn't be leaving ourselves open to the ludicrous, or the impractical, or the harrowing, or the triumphant, or the frivolous....  It seems to go so contrary to everything else in our lives that is about order and inside the lines and bridled.

I find dreams to be exhilarating.  I welcome this scheduled step into another world.  I see it as an opportunity for self-discovery.  Sir Thomas Browne, of the Seventeenth Century, observed "We are somewhat more than ourselves in our sleeps; and the slumber of the body seems to be but the waking of the soul."

William Hazlitt, of the Eighteenth Century, claimed:  "We are not hypocrites in our sleep.  The curb is taken off from our passions, and our imagination wanders at will.  When awake, we check these rising thoughts, and fancy we have them not.  In dreams, when we are off our guard, they return securely and unbidden."

I have made discoveries in dreams, not always welcomed, but certainly undeniable when faced with the them in the harsh light of morning.  I have expanded my ideas and my thinking.  I have cast off the inhibiting timidity and walked boldly where I wouldn't have gone before.

I find it interesting that we can discuss this idea of dreams with people from previous centuries because dreaming is a universal experience.  Politics change, technology changes, modes of transportation, and agriculture, and exploration all change.  Yet we share a fascination with this other-worldly nightly encounter which noone can really explain or justify. 

In the words of the Nineteenth Century poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who expresses it better than I could:

"Dreams or illusions, call them what you will,
They lift us from the commonplace of life
To better things."

Not all dreams are welcomed.  Some are scary.  Some are disturbing. Some bring the welcome relief of waking.  Yet they all carry the capacity to lift us from the commonplace, to see things with fresh eyes, to explore and take chances without a safety net.  My favorite dreams are those in which I can fly.

And the ticket is free.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

All in Good Time

I may have mentioned I live in Oregon, a place renowned for its stunning flora and its ubiquitous green.  Everything is green, whether we want it to be or not.  We merely dream of white Christmases; and whereas most winters are classified by dormancy, we are enrobed in brilliant evergreen, bright lawns, and the ever-present moss that covers the ground, the sidewalks, the houses, the trees, the fences.  Are you getting the picture?

I often feel there is even a thin covering of moss on me, for lack of sufficient sunshine and activity.  Moss may not grow on a rolling stone, but it does gather on a cloistered recluse who sits and sits by the window each day, watching the incessant rain, and wondering if outdoor activity will ever be possible again.

I try to look for the blessings.  I recall to mind the beauty of my home, the abundance of trees, shrubs, and year-round flowers.  But it loses a little when most of the time they can only be enjoyed from the indoors looking out.

My body aches to stretch its legs; to climb out of this hibernating state and breathe the fresh air.  I have also realized the multiplicity of benefits from a good, swift walk around the neighborhood.  It expands my focus, expands my thinking, and expands my hope.

It also expands my productivity.  While reading this morning from an address given by Ralph Waldo Emerson at the funeral of his friend, Henry David Thoreau, I was reminded that Thoreau also placed great value on daily walks.  Emerson stated that Henry valued every stride his legs made.  "The length of his walk uniformly made the length of his writing.  If shut up in the house he did not write at all."

And characteristic of Thoreau's appetite for solitude, he seldom welcomed walking companions, but preferred the rich reward of solitary jaunts through the woods, that of personal introspection and enlightenment.

While the stouthearted would not let a little (okay, a lot of) rain keep them locked inside, I do not profess to be that sturdy.  So I guess I will continue to find worthwhile distractions within, keep an eye on any change in the weather, and anticipate some drier days.  My soul longs for the inspiration that Thoreau found on his walks.  I desire to open my eyes to the wonder of my surroundings and my ears to the whisperings of the Spirit, that can best be had with nothing overhead to restrict communication with heaven.

I know Spring is on its way, and then Summer is sure to follow.  These are the blessings of predictable change.  God knew that we would welcome a natural rhythm to our days.  Forgive my shortsightedness.  I simply must learn patience. 
All in good time, Ardith.  All in good time.