Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Woman at the Well

On Sunday I was leading the singing in church with the children 3-11 years old, my favorite thing in the world!  I had a bunch of pictures of paintings of Jesus' life that would each lead us to sing a song about him.  One of the paintings I held up is the picture "Christ and the Samaritan Woman" by Carl Bloch  (Paintings of Bloch, Jan 1991). I had a basic idea of her story, but a lot of the details were vague.  My mind was suddenly filled with questions about this story.

So the basics of the story are (John 4:5-42) that Jesus and his disciples were traveling through Samaria and stopped at a well while his disciples went into the city to get some food.  Jesus asked a woman who was there at the well to get him a drink of water, and a discussion ensued about the gift of living water.  In the process, Jesus les her know that he knows she has had 5 husbands and the one she is now with is not her husband.  How old is this woman?  Its going to take some time to go through that many men! And what are we to make of the sentence "and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband"?  Kinda makes me wonder if she was living with some guy, but didn't mean that she could be stoned?  Was she keeping that a secret from her neighbors or did they know?

Then Jesus tells her that he is the promised Christ, and...

 28 The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men,
 29 Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?

And here come more questions:  How long did it take her to get there?  Did she go door to door, or maybe to the market or to a synagogue?  Did she go to strangers or to men she knew?  Did everyone she told come, or most, or just a few?  As she hurried to the city, did she doubt if she could convince anyone to come back with her?  Did she consider not doing anything?  Did she worry that maybe Jesus would be gone by the time she got back, then she would be considered a fool?

And the biggy, for me anyway:   If she told anyone who knew her, would they discount her message because of her lifestyle, because she wasn't perfect?

More questions:  How long was it before she and the men who did listen to her make it back to the well? Now in this age of technology, we can get the word out in seconds, and folks can jump in the cars and be anywhere in minutes.  Not two thousand years ago.  How long did Jesus wait?  It was long enough that his disciples were concerned about whether he had eaten anything.  And speaking of those disciples, how come they didn't bring a crowd to hear Jesus?

So I have lots of questions and few answers.  I tried to put myself there, that day. Honestly, the more I thought about it the more question I came up with (aren't you glad I did write ALL of them?).

 In the end, I come away with two understandings:  
1-No matter who you are, when you have truth to share, leave everything and share it, and no matter how imperfect you are, there will be those who listen.
2-No matter how long it takes,  Jesus will be waiting for you.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Why, Thank You

So yesterday I dragged my kid who is just home from college to the doctor.  She has been oozing snot and germs for two weeks and I knew it was time to get help once she told me her ear was clogged.

After asking all the usual questions the doctor went to look in her ears but couldn't see anything until she had done a bit of house cleaning.  I commented that was a family trait.  The doctor then quipped, "That means you will look younger."


"Weird as it sounds, " she said, "Studies have shown that the more ear wax a person produces seems to coincide with having fewer wrinkles."

Get out.

So the next time some one says, "Oh, no, you look WAY to young to have 6 grandkids..."

I will say,

"Why, Thank You, its the ear wax".

Why, Thank You

So yesterday I dragged my kid who is just home from college to the doctor.  She has been oozing snot and germs for two weeks and I knew it was time to get help once she told me her ear was clogged.

After asking all the usual questions the doctor went to look in her ears but couldn't see anything until she had done a bit of house cleaning.  I commented that was a family trait.  The doctor then quipped, "That means you will look younger."


"Weird as it sounds, " she said, "Studies have shown that the more ear wax a person produces seems to coincide with having fewer wrinkles."

Get out.

So the next time some one says, "Oh, no, you look WAY to young to have 6 grandkids..."

I will say,

"Why, Thank You, its the ear wax".

Monday, July 8, 2013

Lessons from Rattlesnakes

I think I read the story in one of those Chicken Soup for the Soul books.  A man described the home he grew up in as surrounded by tall weeds and that rattlesnakes were a constant concern.  I seem to remember that he said his mother was fairly short, but maybe that is just the way my imagination sees her.  Anyway, I guess the kids would play outside in the summer and she would watch from the kitchen window.  From time to time she would go flying out of the house, grab the hoe left at the ready on the porch, and tear out into the field.  He said sometimes the weeds were so tall and she was so short that all you could see was the hoe waving in the air.  She would return triumphant and warn the kids again to be watchful.  Be Ever Watchful.

My fourth great grandfather, Benjamin Franklin Johnson, and his young family traveled from Nauvoo, Illinois in 1844 when the Latter-Day Saints fled the United States to seek religious freedom in the west.  Brigham Young, the president of the LDS church at the time and leader of the exodus, asked Benny and several other families to stay behind a year and plant crops for those who would be coming along later. Among other instructions President Young left specific direction NOT to harm the rattlesnakes, and a promise that if they would leave the snakes alone, the setters would not be harmed.  He never promised that the snakes would leave the setters alone, however.

 Benny described several encounters with rattlesnakes.  One day he was pulling long weeds around his home and ended up with a handful of rattlesnake.  Remembering the direction from the prophet, he carefully carried the snake far from the cabin.  Another day the family was returning from a walk and found the 2 year old clapping her hands and pointing to something behind a chest, exclaiming, "Pitty, pitty".  It was a rattlesnake, coiled to strike.  Again, Benny carried the snake far from the cabin.  Benny describes how the family would walk to gather wild berries not far from their home, and as they traveled the path, they could hear the rattle of the snakes along either side of them.  They stayed on the path, gathered their berries and returned home, unharmed.  Benny's family never harmed the snakes, and the snakes never harmed them.  He followed an inspired leader, removed danger whenever it crossed the line, and stayed on the path.

I read this last night as I studied scriptures with my husband, "...there are two courses of action to follow when one is bitten by a rattlesnake.  One may, in anger, fear or vengefulness pursue the creature and kill it.  Or he may make full haste to get the venom out of his system. If we pursue the latter course we will likely survive, but if we attempt to follow the former, we many not be around long enough to finish it." (Ensign, Jan 1974)  Should the worst happen, and a rattlesnake enter and strike, with swiftness focus your efforts on healing.

So to my children who are all beginning to have children of their own I share these lessons from rattlesnakes:
Be Ever Watchful
Follow Inspired Leaders
Remove Dangers Far from the Family
Stay on the Path
Be Swift to Seek Healing.

Friday, July 5, 2013

There is hope

It's the day after Independence Day and I find myself thinking about hope. I have been doing a lot of family history lately and I like to imagine that my ancestors traveled to America because they were driven by a hope that some aspect of life would be better.

For example there is Lizzie and James. Living in England they found each other through their new faith, the restored truth preached by missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and fell in love. They wanted to be together forever, not just until they died, and they wanted their children forever, not just until the grave claimed them. They knew the best hope for that was to be sealed, not just for time, but for eternity, and they knew that opportunity was only available in the temple. So they bid farewell to their families and made the ocean voyage, and then the long journey across America to Utah, a dessert in the middle of no where that wouldn't even become a part of the United Sates for another 15 years. She was 17, he was 20. The year was 1881. They had an eventful trip but arrived in Salt Lake City and were married in the Salt Lake Endowment House June 9, 1881.  Their hope was well rewarded as they had a good long life together and had 15 kids!

The thing is, Lizzie and James didn't just sit around and hope, they got up and put their hope into action.  I think America is inhabited by people who not only had hope, but got up did something about it. I believe that I am genetically encoded, thanks to generations of good sturdy people from all over the world, to not only be hopeful, but to get off my well padded bottom and get going. I like that!

"For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope." 1 Corinthians 9:10

or as Audrey Hepburn said:

My granddaughter, Liberty Dale, was named after her Uncle Dale who was killed in Afghanistan. He was an American soldier who believed everyone should be able to live according to their hopes and dreams.

"For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease. Job 14:7

From Lizzie to Liberty, the seed of hope is handed down. Plant it, nurture it, water it, put it in the sun. Let hope grow.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Here A Piece, There A Piece

I have loved fabric since I was young.  I remember nagging my mother to help me make Barbie clothes until she couldn't take it anymore and gave in. I think I was all of 7.  I remember huddling with her in the basement of the cricket house (aptly named for the black cricket invasion one summer when we were living in Kansas. Ugh) while we worked on a little project.  As if the fact that she HATED sewing wasn't enough, she was still recovering from a horrendous car accident, leaving her with scars and burns and a dislocated shoulder.  Bless her!  I don't remember exactly how it worked out, but I do remember that I continued to beg her over the coming years to take me to buy fabric and teach me to sew.  Bless her again, she did NOT teach me to sew, but paid a ridiculous amount of money for sewing lessons each summer for years.

Each new project gave me the chance to BUY FABRIC.  Oh my, I still remember a tiny little fabric store in Paradise, California that I would ride my bike to.  I would wander up and down the 2 whole aisles of fabric and had to touch every single bolt.  Frantically I tried to figure out how to get as much fabric as possible on my limited allowance.  Then I would take my fresh, crisp bits and put them carefully in my box that I roped to the back of my bike and fly home as fast as my chubby little legs could peddle.  I would lie in bed at night and wish I could figure out how to get all the scraps to join together so I could have one really big piece of fabric!

And now at the ripe old age of 53 I still thrill over every piece of fabric...

and carefully save them in stacks, and stacks...and stacks.   Best of all, I have figured out how to sew them into really big pieces of fabric...called QUILTS. And along with my ever growing stash of fabrics, I have also collected fellow fabric addicts, just like me!  We love the way the pieces of fabric interact, bringing out patterns and color and shape and movement.

I found this yummy piece of warm thought from one of my quilting buddies, a darling and generous friend I met while living in Tokyo, Japan.  She organized a huge group to meet at a local church with donated fabrics and make as many quilts as possible in a day to be sent to help in the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.  She wrote,

"To all my dear quilting friends:

" I was told a very touching story this week through a translator. More than a year ago as the tsunami devastated Japan the person telling me this story was making a presentation for her job to a group in Sendai. There was one woman in the group that lost everything (her home, her belongings, etc). Her job was essential wiped out also. Shortly after the tsunami she was sitting in a temporary housing site and feeling completely hopeless, alone, and forgotten. A car drove up with an employee from Monavie carrying all our quilts for Japan. As this woman was given one of these quilts she said she knew she wasn't alone. That there were others so far away that loved her and cared what was happening to her. It gave her great hope and much needed comfort. Even one year later she was still so touched by the gift of the quilt. I thought it would be appropriate to share this with you all. Thanks for your contributions! I think our efforts were worth it."

Truth be told, somewhere along the way the imaginations of a little girl and her pieces of fabric moved on to a big girl who likes to imagine that those pieces of fabric, sewn piece by piece into a quilt, bring a little comfort here and there.  I am no longer driven just by the thrill of a bit more fabric. I am driven to piece quilts because I cherish winter nights when everyone in the family wraps in a quilt as we gather.  I am driven to piece quilts by an image of a woman in a third world country dashing into a rain storm with an infant wrapped only in newspaper.  I am comforted by a small card in which a friend told me that when she needed comfort, she wrapped up in the quilt I made her and felt loved.

I believe by little pieces great pieces can be brought to pass.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

I sit here at the computer, wrapped in a quilt and I am trying to think of how to get out of cleaning the bathrooms. Tuesday is bathroom cleaning day and since my nest emptied out in January, its up to me to clean BOTH of them. But surely a good blog post has as much merit as clean bathrooms, right?
Last week at dusk I was watching TV and suddenly the TV went off. My first impression was that we had flipped the breaker again. This is a common occurrence in our old house, and with four girls who were either doing their hair or trying to get warm in front of a space heater, and then add to that in late November I my award winning Christmas Light display (no, really I won an award this year. Apparently only 4 people entered). However, I was the only person in the house and I had been sitting there an hour (do I want to admit that?), and I now realized the electricity was out for the whole house.
I knew I had only about 20 minutes before it was completely dark outside so I set to work. I shot texts to a spattering of neighbors and found that the outage was fairly widespread. I suggested to one friend that we just head into the city and go see a movie. She said she had to help her daughter with a report on Lincoln due the next day, even if it was by candlelight. I suggested we could go see "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter", and call it good. She was not amused. Fine.
So I set about trying to find our camping lanterns. I found two, a little bitty one and a nice hefty one, but the hefty one was dead. So by the light of the little bitty, I scrambled thru the battery drawer to replace the dead batteries. Still no light. So out the batteries came, and I tested them, but they are good. Light fading faster. So I ran to the kitchen for my reading glasses to see if I put the batteries in wrong. Nope, lantern is dead. By now the light in the little bitty lantern is fading and I trade those batteries out for new. Phwewf. Just as the last of the sunlight disappeared. It was now very dark.
I needed more light. So I felt my way to the basement for my candle stash. I have four drawers down there filled with pillars, votives, scented, unscented, at least one of every style and color. So by the light of the little bitty I start digging. I reject candle after candle, thinking, "NO, I am going to wish I hadn't lit that one" over and over. First drawer, then the second drawer. I eliminated all the smelly candles, for if they were all burning at once the over all effect would be so confusing I would pass out. Third drawer, SCORE! I found a bag full of candles that I had lit decades ago and these I could stand to sacrifice for the occasion. Only trouble is, now what do I put them in? I go back through the drawers and find that there is nothing I want to put lit candles in because I am too lazy to scrape the wax off when the lights go back on. Remember, I am only writing this because I am too lazy to clean the bathrooms.
Finally the fact that the furnace has not been on for like an hour now forces me to get on with this and get curled up somewhere with a couple of quilts. I remember that there is a vase that is cracked in in my recycling pile so back up the stairs I head, find the vase in the dark and spend 20 minutes trying to get the candles to stand up. I rearrange them 100-150 times and at last get them all standing. I then manage to find my book, my reading glasses (abandoned by the battery drawer), 2 quilts and a lighter.
Lighter in hand it takes me another 15 minutes to decide which candles to light, for I realize that if I light them all it will be a melt down to rival the Great Mascara Meltdown just prior to Junior Prom of 2006. FINALLY the quilts are in place, glasses perched, and I take a deep breath and  think this is going to be kinda nice.
And the lights flickered.  Some well meaning and efficient power company employee had just robbed me of a romantic evening with a good book read by candlelight.
Oh well, the whole curl up and read a book by candle light thing wasn't quite perfect until I had warmed up some hot chocolate in the microwave to sip as I read.  I would love to tell you this is how I finished the evening anyway.  Nope.  As soon as I figured out where I had put the remote it was back to re-runs of Duck Dynasty.
AS for right now I guess I had better go clean the bathrooms just in case the lights DO stay on.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

of Faith and Nerf

On this particular day in late December our little cottage in the canyon was packed to the brim. We had 13 humans all crammed in together and you couldn't step anywhere with out squishing something or someone. It was AWESOME! This particular morning the air was charged withe anticipation because we were prepping for the great and dreadful NERF WAR. I had crawled into the depths of the closet under the stairs which my brother referred to as the "slasher closet", and truthfully really did look like something out of a slasher movie, and pulled forth (cue the angelic chorus) "THE ALL POWERFUL BUCKET OF NERF".

Now it may look like a simple 5 gallon Home Depot contractors bucket, but I promise, within it's depths lies so much more. It contains finely studied ammunition and weaponry. It represents hours of target practice (shooting the dogs) and detailed studies of aerodynamics ("look at how the darts go behind the frig when I hold it like this"). And most of all it symbolizes the most fun we have at Christmas time. I hate to say it but if asked, I bet my kids would vote to save the bucket of Nerf over the Christmas tree with out blinking an eye.

My 3 grandsons, 4, 6 and 8 years old, were crazy with anticipation, unlike the rest of the family who were still asleep, so I set about to give them something that would keep them entertained for a while. Out of old foam core boards from assorted abandoned art projects I cut 3 shields. I was even so awesome as to fit the shields with pieces of waistband elastic (leftover from Christmas PJ's) so the boys could slip the shields onto their arm. I handed the boys each a shield and the washable markers and let them go to town. I did learn washable markers don't adhere all that well to the slick surface of the foam core, and before long there was some smearing, but what the heck, it was all washable, right? At leasts that's what I said to their mom when she saw their faces and hands coverered with red, blue and green ink.

Finally after much pleading from the littles, the bigs were dragged out of bed, fed and pushed into assorted cars. We arrived at our nearby church where we had the building to ourselves. Teams were drawn up and rules were made that pretty much no one followed and for over an hour sanctioned mayhem prevailed. Squeeling, laughing and a massive amount of darts flying in all directions. Except me, it was my job to hold the sleeping newborn baby of course. They began with assorted strategies but for the most part they just shot each other until they ran out of ammo and then reloaded and started again. The only rule that they adhered to was that if you got hit you had to "die", meaning throw yourself on the floor for ten seconds before you could get up again. Most "deaths" were award winning in their theatrics and never lasted a full 10 seconds and somehow the dead person had managed to completely reload at the end of their brief visit to the great beyond.

Truth be told, I would choose the bucket over the tree if anyone asked.

This last week I was getting ready to sing with my 4-11 year olds in church and was thinking about what we do to protect ourselves spiritually. I got to thinking back on the shields that I made with my grandsons. I hadn't paid much attention to it at the time, but the shields were pretty much abandoned after about ten minutes. It seems to me that it just took too much coordination to hold up the shield while trying to shoot everyone within range. To be watching the enemy and aiming and shooting took up most of everyone's concentration. To be able to swing up that arm and fend off incoming darts at the same time would have taken more practice than the once a year we have our Nerf war.

So on Sunday I told the kids that story and explained that we could look at that shield as if it were our faith (see D&C 27:15-18). Our faith can shield us from so much that could harm us, but we are going to have to practice. We need to exercise our faith every day if we are going to balance all that comes and goes in our lives.

Then we sang this song:
"Faith is knowing the sun will rise, lighting each new day.
Faith is knowing the Lord will hear my prayers each time I pray.
Faith is like a little seed if planted it will grow.
Faith is a swelling within my heart, when I do right I know."

My own faith has shielded me time and time again. There have been some pretty good darts that have come my way, and a handful of times when they have come from all directions. And let me tell you I have given some award winning performances myself as I have throw myself to the ground, sure this dart or that may have been my undoing. But for some reason I never abandonded my sheild. And my shield never abandoned me.

So what if I had to choose between the three, bucket, tree or shield? I'll choose the sheild. Even if I have to practice.

Monday, February 4, 2013

If Only I Had Eyes To See

This is a little something about the Christmas that I understood the first Christmas a little better...

It had been a busy day, that day in December 1985, with two small children sentenced to stay inside a tiny bungalow by the winter's cold chill. Now as the day drew to a close the young mom was finally having a quiet moment. The four year old had finally stopped asking how many "sleeps" until Santa came and the three year old that she was rocking had finally settled down. The young mom's gentle back and forth motion belied the activity of her mind as she ran over all of the things she still hoped to achieve before Christmas Day.

Between the ages of 12 and 18 she had faithfully attended over 300 Young Women’s meetings, full of focus and preparation for her future self and potential family life. During those years she had been a regular at the Annual Festival of Trees, where she had gathered a mountain of magical ideas for traditions to create when she had a family. Now that she had a family, the reality was the actually wanted to be fed and nurtured more than decorated and paraded.

She sighed. At this rate she wouldn't even be able to wrap packages before 2 am Christmas morning. In her mind's eye she saw herself running out of wrapping paper and grabbing for anything that would do: the sports section, paper towels, last year's gas and electric bills. She knew she was being unrealistic, but she wanted her little world to be as magical as the Festival of Trees. She wanted her tree perfectly trimmed, gifts wrapped with huge bows, cinnamon sticks, berries and maybe even a live kitten, or at least a gerbil.

The Christmas tape that had been playing made a popping noise as it came to the end, and gingerly the young mom got up from the couch that had belonged to at least a dozen family members before ending up in her front room. She started to tip toe down the hall, so as not to wake the young husband as he lay settled down for his long winters nap. Then she remembered that since the procurement of the white noise machine, now humming away on the nightstand next to her husband’s head, Santa and his sleigh could have hosted a party in their front room for several hundred, and her "wake at the drop of a pin" husband wouldn’t stir.

But lately the young wife worried that that machine might be doing it’s job just a little too well. Last Sunday they had run into Myrtle and Emmet Greenwell in the hall at the ward house. Emit and Myrtle’s back yard met their backyard, and they had been wonderful neighbors since the young couple had moved into the neighborhood. Emit always called before cranking up some power tool to make sure that neither of the little ones were napping. Myrtle had brought over a crocheted sweater for the littlest one. Last year when the fence between their two yards needed to be repaired, Emit patted the young husband and said that he would handle the whole thing. Wasn’t long before a solid eight foot tall cinderblock structure arose that could rival the great wall of China. The young couple weren’t exactly sure what to make of it and decided that being good neighbors meant deciding not to make anything of it at all.

But last Sunday Emit shook the young husband’s hand and said, "Boy, what a night, eh?"
"Uuuuh, last night?" said the young husband tentatively.
"Well, sure, all that noise from the fire trucks" Emit said, looking at them curiously. The young couple looked at each other for some clue as to what this man could possibly be talking about.
"You mean to tell me that you didn’t hear that commotion just after midnight?”

As it turned out, the night before one of the rental units just across the street from the young couple had caught fire when teenage daughters had left both curling irons and a set of hot rollers on in the bathroom when they all left for a movie. So the fire department had been called when smoke began pouring from the home and the fire trucks had arrived, lights going, sirens and all. The radio alone kept folks up for three blocks in each direction. Except all those within the melodious sound of the white noise machine.

At the conclusion of the conversation the young couple slipped into one of the back benches with rather pale expressions on their faces. After a minute to ponder all the possible dangers to her little family while sleeping through a fire directly across the street thanks to the white noise machine, the young mom glanced around meeting with some concern. Sister Fisher was sight impaired and lived right next door to the torched rental, in the basement of her mother's home, and the young mom was apprehensive about how those two lone women had fared through the night.

The young mom searched the congregation for Sister Fisher’s bright flowing mane of hair and was relieved to see that regardless of the eventful evening’s fire work’s, Sister Fisher was in attendance.

This meeting turned out to be one of those rare times when the young mom actually managed to be in her seat more than out in the foyer with a squirmer. She knew she was in for a treat as Sister Fisher made her way up to the stand to speak to the congrigation. Sister Fisher always had this pleasant, hopeful air about her in spite of the difficulties of her life.

"Brothers and sisters" she began, "I just have to get up and express my gratitude today. As some of you know I had the opportunity to undergo surgery on my eyes." Great, thought the young mom, I live across the street and I had no idea...again! What kind of white noise blocked that out?

Sister Fischer continued, “I wasn’t aware of much improvement at first, but before long I realized that I could make out whether or not I was walking on cement or blacktop. Now I am pleased to announce that I can tell which side of the Christmas wrapping paper is the right side or the wrong side and my presents will actually be wrapped correctly this year!"

Those concluding words of Sister Fisher’s echoed in the young mom’s ears as she laid her sleeping three year old into her crib and tucked the quilt around her daughter’s finally peaceful form. Sister Fisher had concluded with a sure, gentle testimony of the Savior, of the wonder of his birth and humble beginnings, of the reality of his life, atonement and resurrection, and of the huge sacrifice that the Savior had made for us.

The young mom stroked her daughter’s little cheek, and thought how much her own sweet child had sacrificed to come to serve their little family. This little one would not know what wrapping paper was, let alone whether there was a wrong or right side. Though she was three years old she would not know that there would be presents under the tree, nor understand the upcoming holiday festivities. In the dim glow of the night light the damp wisps of hair clung to her cheeks, evidence of a long evening as her imperfect body had struggled until exhaustion took over.

The young Mom wondered at that mother so long ago who swaddled her baby in a stable. Two centuries separated them in time, but a mother’s heart is timeless. Mary probably knew, as did the young mom, that the road ahead for the child they held would not be an easy one. There would be so much pain, so few who would understand, always the distant rumblings that these little ones, so loved, would be taken long before their mothers were ready to let them go.

So maybe getting around to a 6 story French Provincial gingerbread house wasn’t so important. Maybe impressing the crud out of the neighbors with intricately wrapped presents wasn’t exactly where the magic of Christmas lay. Maybe the magic of Christmas was a new and improved dedication to what mattered most. Maybe the magic was in just one more breath together.