Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Lord's Hand in My Life

As I mentioned last week, I have been attending an adult institute class held in our stake.  Last week's assignment was to look for the hand of the Lord in our lives each day.

I will admit that at the end of the day I have been somewhat--what?  Not exactly discouraged, but also not amazed, you know?  Like I have thought, "Well, I saw this thing (usually something of a spiritual nature), but that's not really unusual for my life."  It sounds really ungrateful to say it that way, and I am very grateful.  But I guess I've been frustrated that I am unable to see some of the small things that I know must be there.

Today everything kind of culminated for me as I pondered the entire week.  This will be a long post, but I felt that I should write down the things that have been opened to my understanding this week (and especially tonight).  I am extremely grateful for the blessings I receive and recognize; I do try to be grateful for things all the time, but tonight my cup runneth over.

My friend, Amber, and I were talking about The Biggest Loser (of all things!).  On this week's episode, the contestants had to go shopping for just $10 a day.  I remembered a time when all of our children were very small, and our MONTHLY budget for all six of us was $60.  We received assistance through WIC, and that helped immensely for things like milk and cheese and cereal. 

But I also remembered a time when my mother-in-law, Ruth, called me.  She said that her sister's neighbor wanted someone to come and pick as many peaches off their tree as they possibly could or they were just going to go to waste.  The kids and I loaded into the van, along with several large boxes and buckets.  We picked peaches to our hearts' content, and I literally bottled peaches every day for that entire week.

The same thing happened another year, when a neighbor invited us to come get all of her peaches.  Again, I bottled for the entire week, and we had peaches for a year and some more.

Someone once called me and said, "I don't want to store these bottles any more.  Do you want them?"  I don't think I've ever had to buy bottles to can produce in.

Once my friend Charlotte called. She said, "I have a client whose tomatoes have been very prolific this year.  Would you like some?"  I think I went home from her client's house with about two bushels of tomatoes that night.  Between those and what was in our garden, I bottled enough tomatoes to get us through an entire year of soups and sauces.

What struck me this week was how merciful the Lord had been to us at that time.  And also, how blessed I have been this week to have this brought to my remembrance through the Holy Ghost.  A two-fer!

Our Taylor was set apart as a missionary 6 months ago today--did you know that?  The letter that came from Taylor this week was a little bit down and frustrated.  My brain knows that he is being cared for and watched over; I know that it is important for him to learn these lessons; I know that he is and will be OK.  But my mommy heart has been tender.  It just wasn't that long ago that I could gather him in my arms and kiss his owies better.  In the extreme, I could pull out a bandaid!  :)  Now he is hundreds of miles away; and even if he were here, there would not be anything I could really do to "fix" this.  In fact, I would not be doing him any favors to take away these growing boo-boo's, as they are important to his progression and growth.  My head knows these things, but my heart still hurts a little bit.

But, oh! how grateful I am to be his mother!  I'm so glad he is where he is, doing what he is doing and learning what he is learning.  I KNOW (and this is a sweet gift from our Father in Heaven) that he is being carefully watched over and guided and taught.

Spencer and I went to dinner last night, and part of our conversation was about each of our children:  their talents, their personalities, the things they've taught us, the ways they've influenced each other, and their differences.  We wondered about the kinds of adults they would be when they had more age and experience.  We realize that they have choices to make--daily--that influence who they are becoming and who they will become.

Today I thought about the marvelous blessing that it has been to LANDON to have his sister and brother serving missions.  He has shared experiences with us that help us to see that he has a testimony and is not afraid of standing for the right, often boldly.  We came to know and love his friend Tanner in a special way, and I know through the Spirit that that experience--instigated and followed through by Landon--is a direct result and blessing of having missionaries serving in the field.

Plus, I got to go to dinner with my best friend!  Another two-fer!

My boss's father passed away on Sunday.  Most people, I think, have bosses who are meaningful in their lives only as a co-worker.  My boss is a cherished friend.  We have shared many sweet experiences with one another as my grandfather and his father--near the same ages--have fought the good fight and endured to the end of their mortal journeys.  Like my grandpa (for whom I am also feeling very tender), Dean's dad struggled near the end.  It truly was a blessing for his spirit to be released from his old, worn physical body.  Still, that doesn't stop his family from aching with the loss of one so dear.  And that has made me a bit heart-heavy.  Again, I wish I could help to somehow ease the hurt.  It is a helpless feeling.  I was wishing I was more like my mom, who would be able to see something to do or know just what to say.

And then I thought, "Wow!  I have a great mom!"  Yet another two-fer!

It has surprised me how watching Dean and his family has played at my heartstrings in regard to not only my grandpa but also my grandma, who has been gone now for 16 1/2 years.  I am incredibly thankful for the influence of these (and many other) wonderful, loving, extraordinarily GOOD people in my life.  I recognize that much of who and what I am today is due in large measure to my grandparents, who influenced my parents for good in so many ways.  I am so grateful!

Another sweet thing that has happened with the death of Dean's dad is that we have had the opportunity to touch. That sounds creepy or weird, but it's not meant to be. Here I have this cherished friend. We share laughter and tears (mostly mine ;) ) and spiritual conversations. But we are very careful to keep our relationship appropriate, and we never touch. But at the viewing last night and at the funeral today, we were able to hug and shake hands, just to share our love and concern for one another. And just to prove that it's NOT creepy or weird, we did that with our spouses standing right next to us. Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow we will not touch--we each adore our spouses and our friendship is just that. But for a tender moment, it is sweet opportunity.

It is also a marvelous blessing to know of God's plan for our happiness and salvation.  How blessed are we to KNOW that life has meaning and purpose?  Extremely!  We know that our associations do not end with death.

It is also wonderful to know that many of our associations did not begin with birth.  Through tender and very personal experiences this week with a couple of my friends, I have come to KNOW (again through the Comforter) that these people are my spirit brothers and sisters, and we knew and loved and grew together in our premortal lives.  I'm so thankful that Heavenly Father put our paths back together for a season in mortality, even though our human-year ages are quite disparate.

Tuesday night was our ward temple night, and that was a tender mercy for me.  Because of things leaving my heart feeling burdened, it was absolute JOY to think that we had the blessing and opportunity to attend the House of the Lord.  I am grateful that Jesus Christ is willing to take our burdens upon Him, and I am thankful that in the temple I feel the conduit to allow me enough peace and faith to actually give my burdens to Him. 

I am also awed to know that in spite of my lack of full faith or my stubbornness or whatever it is, He will still love me, forgive me, and help me at every possible opportunity!  How I love my Savior!

These are the big things, but there are dozens--maybe hundreds--of seemingly small things which I have noticed this week.  Health, home, employment, food, adorable children, beautiful music, the scriptures, the sun (oh! how thankful I've been to see some sunshine and blue sky this week!), a good car, my family, many dear friends, covenants, laughter, reading.  The list is long and amazing.

In the end, you see, I was not completely missing seeing God's hand in my life.  Perhaps what is most apparent is that God is there so much, so often, so completely, that I take for granted the amazing gifts and blessings He gives me.

There.  My cup runneth over.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Overheard at Work

"That redhead up there said, 'Look, Mills, you wanna have dinner tonight, you better cool your jets.'"

The best part is I can TOTALLY hear Sister Mills saying this to her hubby!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

When We Think Deeply and With Our Hearts

My good friend's dad passed away on Sunday.  He was 88 years old.  He'd been deteriorating over the past couple of years.  He's literally been near death just two months ago  --  in fact, my friend did not expect that his dad would make it to Christmas.  Every day for the past two months has been a gift.  Sometimes the gift was difficult, and sometimes it was joyful.  My friend is blessed that his dad remained mentally strong through all of this, even when physically he was very weak.

My friend is sad.  It doesn't matter how prepared you think you are.  It doesn't matter if you've prayed for the suffering to end.  It's still your dad.

One of those times when I wish I could fix it for someone else...

Friday, January 25, 2013

Seeing God's Hand

Our stake is hosting an adult Institute class to discuss the topics that the youth will be discussing in their Sunday School, priesthood, and YW classes.  It is being taught by a wonderful man from our ward, and it is held on Thursday nights.  The first meeting was last week, and it was delightful; so I decided to go again last night.

We had wonderful discussion about and from the scriptures, and Brother Hughes gave us homework:  Look for the hand of  God in your life daily and write it down each day.

Yesterday we had freezing rain here.  I don't remember ever experiencing freezing rain, but it was literally raining ice.  I think you'd sort of have to see it to understand it.  Anyway, I left home over an hour earlier than usual, and when I first left, it was just rain.  By the time I was about halfway to work, though, it was ice.  About 100 yards ahead of me I witnessed a full-sized pickup truck spin from the left side of the freeway to the right, back to the left side and back to the right again.  Incredibly, the truck didn't hit any other vehicles, and it came to a stop just beside the guard rail on the right, facing oncoming traffic but out of the way.  When that skid started, I hit my brakes, only to find that all I could do was skid.  Fortunately I had plenty of room to pump (and thank goodness for ABS!) and slow, and so did the vehicles travelling behind me.  Had it happened during my regular commute time, there would have been much more traffic, and the outcome would probably have been much different.

It could have been really ugly (more for the driver of the truck than for me), but I was reminded of something I'd been prompted to do before I left home, and I feel sure that God's hand was in my safety on that drive yesterday, based at least in part on my obedience to that prompting.

I told a number of people about that incident yesterday as we discussed the strange weather.  You know what, though?  After Institute when I came home and was doing my homework, it took me a few minutes to remember that specific experience when it came time to do my homework.  I am really grateful to have taken the opportunity to ponder the day and recognize the hand of God in my life.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Presidential Inauguration

Don't worry--I won't wax political on you.  But today I read that the President must be sworn in on January 20.  Since that was on a Sunday this year, they opted to hold the inaugural "festivities" on January 21.  But President Obama was still sworn in on January 20.  Did you know that?

Neither did I.  And this is why.

20 years ago today I was in labor.  20 years ago today there was NOTHING on TV on any channel except the Presidential Inauguration.  20 years ago today Bill Clinton was being inaugurated as our nation's president.  I remember the day very well.

Only guess what?  It seems that what we were all supposed to be watching on television (forgive me for not being interested that day) was just the FESTIVITIES.  It wasn't even the real thing. 

I'm kinda ticked, to be honest.  It's one thing to watch the president get sworn in ON EVERY CHANNEL.  It's another to watch a party.  When you're in labor.  All day. 

I'm just sayin'...

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A Tremendous Coup

I have actually been busy at work lately, which means less blogging.  However, today I had to report my amazing success.  First a little background:

When I first came to work--5 1/2 years ago--my boss's office was a MESS.  There were papers strewn everywhere.  I made it a priority to spend some time every day getting caught up with the filing.  In doing so, however, I found that the files were filled with things that were nearly 20 years old.  I brought the filing up-to-date and then I started bugging him about going through the files and getting rid of things.  It actually didn't take too long before he was willing to do that.  That exercise was actually very helpful for me in getting to know the business that was done there, what was important to the person I was working for, and not going crazy because of what I thought was a "mess."

At the same time, I was also supporting a group manager.  The man is--to this day--one of my favorite people on earth.  He is kind and gentle and sensitive.  He is also a MASTER at his business.  But organized he is not!  One week he got sick, and I shut myself into his office for three straight days.  I tidied, trashed, filed, organized, and deep cleaned.  When he came back his initial reaction was delight, mostly because I had organized his family pictures on top of this Steelcase.  Later that same day, he realized that things had been moved.  By that time I knew the business, and I was confident that nothing important had gone away; but he was nervous.  Luckily it took only a short time for him to realize that all was well.

The next assignment I had was in an office that had been occupied by three different people in about 6 months' time.  There were files and duplicates of files.  So I got busy and got things organized, archived, and general cleaned up.

Then I moved to my current position.  That was 2 1/2 years ago.  My boss has had about 18 huge binders in his office that were dated back to 1998.  When I first dug into his filing, I asked him about those binders (and many others).  I told him they were OLD.  I reminded him that he had never looked at them.  I got a lot of things organized and even tossed, but those many binders stayed.  About a year ago we physically moved to another office and floor.  Again we went through all of his files and binders.  Again we got rid of quite a bit.  But again we could not get rid of those binders.

The man is brilliant when it comes to systems, but for some reason he needs to keep a hard copy of everything.  After a year in these digs, every drawer and every shelf has been filled to the brim.  I started bugging him in November, telling him that we needed to go through everything and decide what was important to keep and what was not.  It looked like the week of Christmas was going to be our opportunity, but he got sick.

You know what's coming, right?  Today was the day!  He set aside time for only me, and we went through the cabinets in his office.  Finally FINALLY we got rid of those binders.  I promptly stripped them of their materials and threw the innards into the shred bid.  We emptied about 50 binders. The binders have been salvaged (to be re-used), the papers have been taken away by custodial services' shred service, and one entire cabinet has been emptied.  My stack of things to file is tall, but not nearly as tall as the stack of garbage we tossed.

 I feel like I just conquered the world! 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Sharing a Memory -- Jr. High English

Yup, you guessed it.  Daily journal-writing.  This is what Mr. McCormick used to tell us all the time.