The Music of the Gospel

Photo courtesy of
Photo courtesy of

Years ago I listened to a radio interview of a young doctor who worked in a hospital in the Navajo Nation. He told of an experience he had one night when an old Native American man with long braided hair came into the emergency room. The young doctor took his clipboard, approached the man, and said, “How can I help you?” The old man looked straight ahead and said nothing. The doctor, feeling somewhat impatient, tried again. “I cannot help you if you don’t speak to me,” he said. “Tell me why you have come to the hospital.”

The old man then looked at him and said, “Do you dance?” As the young doctor pondered the strange question, it occurred to him that perhaps his patient was a tribal medicine man who, according to ancient tribal customs, sought to heal the sick through song and dance rather than through prescribing medication.

“No,” said the doctor, “I don’t dance. Do you dance?” The old man nodded yes. Then the doctor asked, “Could you teach me to dance?”

The old man’s response has for many years caused me much reflection. “I can teach you to dance,” he said, “but you have to hear the music.”

Sometimes in our homes, we successfully teach the dance steps but are not as successful in helping our family members to hear the music. And as the old medicine man well knew, it is hard to dance without music. Dancing without music is awkward and unfulfilling—even embarrassing. Have you ever tried it?

In section 8 of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord taught Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, “Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart”. We learn the dance steps with our minds, but we hear the music with our hearts. The dance steps of the gospel are the things we do; the music of the gospel is the joyful spiritual feeling that comes from the Holy Ghost. It brings a change of heart and is the source of all righteous desires. The dance steps require discipline, but the joy of the dance will be experienced only when we come to hear the music.

There are those who ridicule members of the Church for the things we do. That is understandable. Those who dance often appear strange or awkward or, to use a scriptural term, “peculiar” (1 Peter 2:9) to those who cannot hear the music. Have you ever stopped your car at a stoplight next to a car where the driver was dancing and singing at the top of his lungs—but you couldn’t hear a sound because your windows were rolled up? Didn’t he look a little peculiar? If our children learn the dance steps without learning to hear and to feel the beautiful music of the gospel, they will over time become uncomfortable with the dance and will either quit dancing or, almost as bad, keep dancing only because of the pressure they feel from others who are dancing around them.

The challenge for all of us who seek to teach the gospel is to expand the curriculum beyond just the dance steps. Our children’s happiness depends on their ability to hear and love the beautiful music of the gospel. How do we do it?

First, we must keep our own lives attuned to the correct spiritual frequency. Back in the olden days, before the digital age, we found our favorite radio station by carefully turning the radio dial until it lined up perfectly with the station’s frequency. As we approached the number, we could hear only static. But when we finally made the precise alignment, our favorite music could be heard clearly. In our lives, we have to align with the correct frequency in order to hear the music of the Spirit.

When we receive the gift of the Holy Ghost after baptism, we are filled with the heavenly music that accompanies conversion. Our hearts are changed, and we “have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually” (Mosiah 5:2). But the Spirit will not endure unkindness or pride or envy. If we lose that delicate influence in our lives, the rich harmonies of the gospel can quickly become dissonant and can ultimately be silenced. Alma asked the poignant question: “If ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?” (Alma 5:26).

Parents, if our lives are out of tune with the music of the gospel, we need to tune them up. As President Thomas S. Monson taught us last October, we must ponder the path of our feet (see “Ponder the Path of Thy Feet,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2014, 86–88). We know how to do it. We must walk the same path that we walked when we first heard the heavenly strains of gospel music. We exercise faith in Christ, repent, and take the sacrament; we feel more strongly the influence of the Holy Ghost; and the music of the gospel begins to play again in our lives.

Second, when we can hear the music ourselves, we must try our best to perform it in our homes. It is not something that can be forced or compelled. “No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood”—or by virtue of being the dad or the mom or the biggest or the loudest—“only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, … by love unfeigned; [and] by kindness” (D&C 121:41–42).

Why would these attributes lead to increasing power and influence in a home? Because they are the attributes that invite the Spirit of the Holy Ghost. They are the attributes that tune our hearts to the music of the gospel. When they are present, the dance steps will be performed more naturally and joyfully by all of the dancers in the family, without the need for threats or intimidation or compulsion.

When our children are little, we can sing them the lullaby of love unfeigned, and when they are obstinate and refuse to go to sleep at night, we might need to sing the lullaby of long-suffering. When they are teenagers, we can tune out the cacophony of arguments and threats and, instead, perform the beautiful music of persuasion—and perhaps sing the second verse of the lullaby of long-suffering. Parents can perform in perfect harmony the tandem attributes of gentleness and meekness. We can invite our children to sing along with us in unison as we practice kindness toward a neighbor who is in need.

It won’t come all at once. As every accomplished musician knows, it takes diligent practice to perform beautiful music. If early efforts at making music seem dissonant and discordant, remember that dissonance cannot be corrected by criticism. Dissonance in the home is like darkness in a room. It does little good to scold the darkness. We must displace the darkness by introducing light.

So if the basses in your family choir are too loud and overbearing, or if the string section in your family orchestra is a little too shrill or a little bit sharp, or if those impetuous piccolos are out of tune or out of control, be patient. If you’re not hearing the music of the gospel in your home, please remember these two words: keep practicing. With God’s help, the day will come when the music of the gospel will fill your home with unspeakable joy.

Even when performed well, the music will not solve all of our problems. There will still be crescendos and decrescendos in our lives, staccatos and legatos. Such is the nature of life on planet earth.

But when we add music to the dance steps, the sometimes complicated rhythms of marriage and family life tend to move toward a harmonious balance. Even our most difficult challenges will add rich plaintive tones and moving motifs. The doctrines of the priesthood will begin to distill upon our souls as the dews from heaven. The Holy Ghost will be our constant companion, and our scepter—a clear reference to power and influence—will be an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth. And our dominion will be an everlasting dominion. And without compulsory means it will flow unto us forever and ever (see D&C 121:45–46).

The Mom Business

Photo courtesy of dee
Photo courtesy of dee

Mitt and my marriage has always been a partnership: His job was putting money in the bank; I was a full-time mother. Being Mom was my job: I cooked every meal, I was the taxi service for five active boys, I cleaned the house. Baseball season was especially tough on our dinner routine; we ate a lot of boy-friendly meals, a lot of spaghetti, tacos, and chicken fajitas. Food has always been the glue in our family; after all, our meals were one of the rare times when we could all be together.

InThisTogetherjacketWhile I felt completely fulfilled personally, I also knew that there were some who judged women who had chosen my path. Mitt was at Harvard Business School, surrounded by type-A personalities chasing success, while I was a stay- at-home mother during the day and attending Harvard extension at night. Mitt and I got married young, but I promised my father I would graduate from college. I knew that those who judged my choices had different priorities from mine; that their happiness came from following a different path. Most important, I knew Mitt completely understood I was working just as hard as he was, but in a different way, and that he valued my contribution to our family. It wasn’t just lip service. In every way, he truly considered me as an equal partner.

I so wanted to speak out for other stay-at-home moms, but I just didn’t know how to do that. I got that opportunity in the mid-1970s, when the Harvard Business School invited Mitt and me to join several other people speaking about our career choices. Career choices? I had never actually seen it that way. I understood why Mitt had been invited. He was on the path to great success. He was a relatively young vice president of a respected management consulting firm. Only a few years earlier he had sat in that same auditorium as a student and could offer some valuable real-world advice. But me? I had spent those same years changing diapers, burping babies, and making sure our kids got to school on time.

At the time we were asked to speak, we were living near Cambridge, where the feminist movement was in full bloom and motherhood was going out of fashion. There were many people in academia who believed the role of stay-at-home mother, my job, was no longer a viable option for young women. While I had agreed to speak, I didn’t have the slightest idea what I was going to say. I would be speaking to students at one of the best business schools in the world, and I knew for certain they weren’t spending so many thousands of dollars on tuition so that, one day, they could drive a station wagon and watchSesame Street. Years later, Mitt would describe me as “chief family officer.” That was clever, but it certainly wasn’t a title that these people were pursuing.

As the day of my speech got closer, rather than being anxious, I became more resolute. Rather than preparing my speech, I decided to be bold; I was going to speak from my heart and talk about the profession I had chosen. Somehow I had to justify the fact that while so many of my contemporaries were shattering the glass ceiling, I was home scraping Marshmallow Fluff off our boys. As I sat on that stage next to Mitt, watching students stroll into the auditorium, I honestly expected to be booed.

I was the last person scheduled to speak. As the five people who spoke before me explained how and why they had chosen their high-paying occupations, I didn’t move. When Mitt finished, the audience applauded politely. Then it was my turn.

“I could have done a lot of different things,” I began. “But I didn’t. Instead I became a wife and a mother.” I turned and pointed at Mitt. “And, by the way, my job’s more important than his, because what I’m doing lasts a lot longer than what he’s doing.” I channeled all my energy into that speech. I hadn’t realized just how long I’d been waiting to say these things, and they flowed out of me.

Being a wife and a mother is a complex and physically challenging job, I said. Not only that, it’s a lot more difficult than an office job, because it consumes twenty-four hours of every day with no time off. Once I got rolling I didn’t hold back. Every child is unique, I continued. Every child is his or her own person, with needs and wants, and no handbook could possibly provide all the information and advice I needed to be a doctor and a nurse, a psychologist, a teacher and a speech therapist, a consultant, a coach, a caregiver, sometimes a boss, and always a friend. I spoke for about ten minutes, which might have been the longest I had ever spoken to an audience.

Finally I concluded: “Mitt and I both know how important his job is. He’s the provider, and it’s challenging and he’s good at it, but we both know that our most important job is raising our kids, and that a lot of that responsibility is mine. And I am fortunate to have a partner that values me as much as Mitt does.”

My goal hadn’t been to change anybody’s mind about their own future; I just wanted a little more respect for women who had made the same choice I had. And whether the audience at Harvard liked it not, I had finally gotten to say it.

As I gathered up my note cards, the applause began— and it grew into a standing ovation. I wasn’t used to anything like that, and I probably turned a little bit red. Yet I couldn’t spend too much time basking in the recognition — I had to pick up one of our boys to take him to a basketball game and then go home to get dinner ready.

From IN THIS TOGETHER: My Story by Ann Romney. Copyright © 2015 by the author and reprinted by permission

Best Line Ever ‘She is Off Waterskiing Today’

Amanda is my niece and she was only two when they found a tumor in her leg. This is how they saved her life.
This is the first in a series of video stories about Amanda Merrell done by children’s miracle network.  The network supports children’s hospitals in all 50 states and each province of Canada.  Amanda is the face of their fundraising efforts supported through the videos and in-person appearances.  This is the first and I thought I would share with you all.
Amanda hasn’t even seen it yet.   She is off waterskiing today.

The Cool Aunt Knows This:

Photo courtesy of Alexander
Photo courtesy of Alexander

I tried, but I couldn’t improve on this list!

How to Be The Cool Aunt:

1. Buy them their first pair of cowboy boots and they will love you forever!

2. When you go on vacation, send them a postcard.

3. Take them to sporting events. Let them order nachos, candy, and a coke.

4. Sit at the kid’s table during the holidays.

5. And talk to them like they are adults.

6. Tell them all the cool stories about their mom or dad.

7. Take the girls for manis and pedis.

8. Give them gifts that are just a smidge above their age. (Just a smidge, you want your siblings to speak to you at Christmas!)

9. When Thanksgiving gets boring, take them to a movie or better yet, play Just Dance with them.

10. Take them trick-or-treating, while dressed up.

11. Pick them up from school unannounced (with parents permission, of course!) and take them to Sonic for a cherry limeade.

12. Intervene when grandma tries to buy them matching outfits.

13. Give them your old purses and costume jewelry to play with.

14. Bring them cool gifts back when you go on vacation.

15. Text them or call them just because.

16. Refrain (and encourage other family members to do the same) from posting on their social media.

17. But keep up with their social media.

18. Offer to help hide the body of the boy/girl who broke their heart.

19. Not really hide the body, but let them know you’ve got their back.

20. Let them talk to you about things they could never talk to their parents about.

21. Let them sit on the front row at the movies.

22. Take them to the drive-in. Take lots of snacks and let them dive in.

23. When it snows, play outside with them.

24. Let them listen to the radio station they want to listen to. Sing along with them at the top of your voice and dance!

25. Take them to get ice cream as often as you can.

26. Love them.

When I’m Gone

Photo courtesy of Goodwin
Photo courtesy of Goodwin

When I’m Gone 

via this site

Death is always a surprise. No one expects it. Not even terminal patients think they are going to die in a day or two. In a week, maybe. But never this week.

It was no different with my father. He was gone at age 27. He was young. Way too young. I was 8 and half, old enough to miss him for a lifetime. Had he died before, I wouldn’t have memories. I would feel no pain. But I wouldn’t have a father in my life. And I had a father.

I had a father who was both firm and fun. Someone who would tell a joke before grounding me. That way, I wouldn’t feel so bad. Someone who kissed me on the forehead before I went to sleep. A habit which I passed on to my children. Someone who forced me to support the same football team he supported, and who explained things better than my mother. Do you know what I mean? A father like that is someone to be missed.

He never told me he was going to die. Even when he was lying on a hospital bed with tubes all over him, he didn’t say a word. My father made plans for the next year even though he knew he wouldn’t be around in the next month. Next year, we would go fishing, we would travel, we would visit places we’ve never been. Next year would be an amazing year. We lived the same dream.

I believe — actually I’m sure — he thought this would bring luck. He was a superstitious man. Thinking about the future was the way he found to keep hope alive. He made me laugh until the very end. He knew about it. He didn’t tell me. He didn’t see me crying.

And suddenly, the next year was over before it even started.

My mother picked me up at school and we went to the hospital. The doctor told the news and my mother cried. She did have a tiny bit of hope. As I said before, everyone does. I felt the blow. What does it mean? Wasn’t it just a regular disease, the kind of disease doctors heal with a shot? I hated you, dad. I felt betrayed. I screamed with anger in the hospital, until I realized my father was not around to ground me. I cried.

Then, my father was once again a father to me. With a shoebox under her arm, a nurse came by to comfort me. The box was full of sealed envelopes, with sentences where the address should be. I couldn’t understand exactly what was going on. The nurse then handed me a letter. The only letter that was out of the box.

“Your dad asked me to give you this letter. He spent the whole week writing these, and he wants you read it. Be strong.” the nurse said, holding me.

The envelope read WHEN I’M GONE. I opened it.


If you’re reading this, I’m dead. I’m sorry. I knew I was going to die.

I didn’t want to tell you what was going to happen, I didn’t want to see you crying. Well, it looks like I’ve made it. I think that a man who’s about to die has the right to act a little bit selfish.

Well, as you can see, I still have a lot to teach you. After all, you don’t know crap about anything. So I wrote these letters for you. You must not open them before the right moment, OK? This is our deal.

I love you. Take care of your mom. You’re the man of the house now.

Love, dad.

PS: I didn’t write letters to your mom. She’s got my car.

He made me stop crying with his bad handwriting. Printing was not easy back then. His ugly writing, which I barely understood, made me feel calm. It made me smile. That’s how my father did things. Like the joke before the grounding.

That box became the most important thing in the world for me. I told my mother not to open it. Those letters were mine and no one else could read them. I knew all the life moments written on the envelopes by heart. But it took a while for these moments to happen.

My teenage years and my mother’s new boyfriend triggered what my father had anticipated a long time before. My mother had several boyfriends, and I always understood it. She never married again. I don’t know why, but I like to believe that my father had been the love of her life. This boyfriend, however, was worthless. I thought she was humiliating herself by dating him. He had no respect for her. She deserved something a lot better than a guy she met at a bar.

I still remember the slap she gave me after I pronounced the word “bar”. I’ll admit that I deserved it. I learned that over the years. At the time, when my skin was still burning from the slap, I remembered the box and the letters. I remembered a specific letter, which read “WHEN YOU HAVE THE WORST FIGHT EVER WITH YOUR MOM”.

I ransacked my bedroom looking for it and finally found it inside a suitcase on top of the wardrobe. I looked through the letters, and realized that I had forgotten to open WHEN YOU HAVE YOUR FIRST KISS. I hated myself for doing that, and I decided that would be the next letter I’d open. Eventually I found what I was looking for.

Now apologize to her.

I don’t know why you’re fighting and I don’t know who’s right. But I know your mother. So a humble apology is the best way to get over this. I’m talking about a down-on-your-knees apology.

She’s your mother, kid. She loves you more than anything in this world. Do you know that she went through natural birth because someone told her that it would be the best for you? Have you ever seen a woman giving birth? Do you need a bigger proof of love than that?

Apologize. She’ll forgive you.

Love, dad.

My father was not a great writer, he was just a bank clerk. But his words had a great impact on me. They were words that carried more wisdom than all of my 14 years of age at the time. (That wasn’t very hard to achieve, though).

I rushed to my mother’s room and opened the door. I was crying when she turned her head to look me in the eyes. She was also crying. I don’t remember what she yelled at me. Probably something like “What do you want?” What I do remember is that I walked towards her holding the letter my father wrote. I held her in my arms, while my hands crumpled the old paper. She hugged me, and we both stood in silence.

My father’s letter made her laugh a few minutes later. We made peace and talked a little about him. She told me about some of his most eccentric habits, such as eating salami with strawberries. Somehow, I felt he was sitting right next to us. Me, my mother and a piece of my father, a piece he left for us, on a piece of paper. It felt good.

My father followed me through my entire life. He was with me, even though he was not near me. His words did what no one else could: they gave me strength to overcome countless challenging moments in my life. He would always find a way to put a smile on my face when things looked grim, or clear my mind during those angry moments.

WHEN YOU GET MARRIED made me feel very emotional. But not so much as WHEN YOU BECOME A FATHER.

Now you’ll understand what real love is, son. You’ll realize how much you love her, but real love is something you’ll feel for this little thing over there. I don’t know if it’s a boy or a girl. I’m just a corpse, I’m not a fortune teller.

Have fun. It’s a great thing. Time is gonna fly now, so make sure you’ll be around. Never miss a moment, they never come back. Change diapers, bathe the baby, be a role model to this child. I think you have what it takes to be an amazing father, just like me.

The most painful letter I read in my entire life was also the shortest letter my father wrote. While he wrote those four words, I believe he suffered just as much as I did living through that moment. It took a while, but eventually I had to open WHEN YOUR MOTHER IS GONE.

She is mine now.

A joke. A sad clown hiding his sadness with a smile on his makeup. It was the only letter that didn’t make me smile, but I could see the reason.

I always kept the deal I had made with my father. I never read letters before their time. With the exception of WHEN YOU REALIZE YOU’RE GAY. Since I never thought I’d have to open this one, I decided to read it. It was one of the funniest letters, by the way.

What can I say? I’m glad I’m dead.

Now, all joking aside, being half-dead made me realize that we care too much about things that don’t matter much. Do you think that changes anything, son?

Don’t be silly. Be happy.

I would always wait for the next moment, the next letter. The next lesson my father would teach me. It’s amazing what a 27 year old man can teach to an 85 year old senior like me.

Now that I am lying on a hospital bed, with tubes in my nose and my throat thanks to this damn cancer, I run my fingers on the faded paper of the only letter I didn’t open. The sentence WHEN YOUR TIME COMES is barely visible on the envelope.

I don’t want to open it. I’m scared. I don’t want to believe that my time is near. It’s a matter of hope, you know? No one believes they’re gonna die.

I take a deep breath, opening the envelope.

Hello, son. I hope you’re an old man now.

You know, this letter was the easiest to write, and the first I wrote. It was the letter that set me free from the pain of losing you. I think your mind becomes clearer when you’re this close to the end. It’s easier to talk about it.

In my last days here I thought about the life I had. I had a brief life, but a very happy one. I was your father and the husband of your mother. What else could I ask for? It gave me peace of mind. Now you do the same.

My advice for you: you don’t have to be afraid

PS: I miss you

Student Rights

Photo courtesy of Losier
Photo courtesy of Losier

In September of 2005, on the first day of school, Martha Cothren, a History teacher at Robinson High School in Little Rock , did something not to be forgotten. On the first day of school, with the permission of the school superintendent, the principal and the building supervisor, she removed all of the desks in her classroom. When the first period kids entered the room they discovered that there were no desks.

‘Ms. Cothren, where are our desks?’

She replied, ‘You can’t have a desk until you tell me how you earn the right to sit at a desk.’ They thought, ‘Well, maybe it’s our grades.’ ‘No,’ she said. ‘Maybe it’s our behavior.’ She told them, ‘No, it’s not even your behavior.’

And so, they came and went, the first period, second period, third period. Still no desks in the classroom. Kids called their parents to tell them what was happening and by early afternoon television news crews had started gathering at the school to report about this crazy teacher who had taken all the desks out of her room.

The final period of the day came and as the puzzled students found seats on the floor of the desk-less classroom. Martha Cothren said, ‘Throughout the day no one has been able to tell me just what he or she has done to earn the right to sit at the desks that are ordinarily found in this classroom. Now I am going to tell you.’

At this point, Martha Cothren went over to the door of her classroom and opened it. Twenty-seven U.S. Veterans, all in uniform, walked into that classroom, each one carrying a school desk. The Vets began placing the school desks in rows, and then they would walk over and stand along the wall. By the time the last soldier had set the final desk in place those kids started to understand, perhaps for the first time in their lives, just how the right to sit at those desks had been earned.

Martha said, ‘You didn’t earn the right to sit at these desks. These heroes did it for you. They placed the desks here for you. They went halfway around the world, giving up their education and interrupting their careers and families so you could have the freedom you have. Now, it’s up to you to sit in them. It is your responsibility to learn, to be good students, to be good citizens. They paid the price so that you could have the freedom to get an education. Don’t ever forget it.’

By the way, this is a true story. And this teacher was awarded the Veterans of Foreign Wars Teacher of the Year for the Arkansas in 2006. She is the daughter of a WWII POW.

The Art of Being On Time

Photo courtesy of Von Canon
Photo courtesy of Von Canon

My grandfather was a stickler about being on time. Once when visiting them for the summer we all woke up late on a Sunday morning and everyone was frantically trying to get ready for church. We were just passing the point of no return – the point at which we couldn’t possibly be on time – when my grandfather made the announcement that he was not going to church if we were late.

My father shooed us into the waiting car in spite of all the hair brushing that still needed to be done and we tore out of the driveway behind my grandfathers car. That made an impression on me and his example helped make showing up on time a priority.

When our first child was born I had to re-adjust everything to keep timeliness as an important part of my life with kids. And then adjust again and again and again. If I hadn’t already decided that being on time was important it would have been easy to let it slip.

Now, I am not holding this up as the most important of the virtues, but I do think that showing up on time is a politeness to others. And it has to be a priority to happen.

Greg Savage, posted this no-holds-barred post about the importance of showing up on time. It may offend some, but take a breath and think about it for a minute. Think about it as a way to be thoughtful of others.

Here goes!

This post may offend some readers. But only because it’s going to cut close to the bone for many.

I don’t care if I sound old-fashioned, because actually it’s nothing to do with ‘fashion’ or ‘generation’. It’s got everything to do with basic good manners and respect for other people.

So here goes… How did it get to be “OK” for people to be late for everything?

Because as far as I am concerned, it’s not OK.

In recent years it seems that a meeting set to start at 9 am, for some people means in the general vicinity of any time which starts with the numeral ‘9’. Like 9.30 for example.

People drift in at 9.10 or 9.20, or even later. And they smile warmly at the waiting group, as they unwrap their bacon sandwich, apparently totally unconcerned that others have been there since five to nine, prepared and ready to start.

10 people kept waiting in a meeting for 20 minutes, while some selfish pratt who idles his way via the coffee shop, is actually 20 minutes times 10, which is 200 minutes wasted – while you keep us waiting because you did not catch the earlier bus. That is over 3 hours wasted. By you! How much has that cost the business? Shall I send you an invoice?

And an arrangement to meet someone for a business meeting at a coffee shop at 3 pm, more often than not means at 3.10 you get a text saying ‘I am five minutes away’ which inevitably means 10 minutes, and so you wait for 15 or 20 minutes, kicking your heels in frustration.

And often these ‘latecomers’ are people who have requested the meeting in the first place, are asking for your help, or are selling something. Fat chance, mate!

And it’s not only business.

Why do people, invited for a dinner party at 7.30, think its cool to arrive at 8.30? It’s rude. It’s inconsiderate. And it’s selfish, as I witnessed in a coffee shop near my home one weekend. Three “ladies who lunch” (a species not confined to, but heavily represented on, the lower North Shore of Sydney) were chatting loudly at the table next to me. One inquired what time the ‘drinks do’ was that night. The reply for all the world to hear was ‘Oh 7.30, but we won’t get there till 9 because by then it will have warmed up and all the interesting people will have arrived’. Nice. Imagine if everyone took that view. Cocktail parties would start at 3 am eventually.

Or a dinner at a restaurant where I was meeting two other couples. My wife was away, so I was flying solo. I arrived at two minutes to eight for an eight o’clock booking. At 8.20, I was into my second glass of Pinot and at half-past I got a text saying ‘on the way’. We finally were all seated at 8.45. There were not even attempted excuses from either of the two couples, who seemed oblivious to the fact I might actually have got there at the agreed time. Meanwhile I had put a huge dent in the bottle of Pinot, and was ready to go home.

And it is not that we lead ‘busy lives’. That’s a given, we all do, and it’s a cop out to use that as an excuse. It’s simply that some people no longer even pretend that they think your time is as important as theirs. And technology makes it worse. It seems texting or emailing that you are late somehow means you are no longer late.


You are rude. And inconsiderate.

And I act on it, too. My dentist kept me waiting 50 minutes not long ago. She has done it for years and years. But enough! I walked out, past a literally open-mouthed receptionist who had never seen a patient act on their frustration, only to get a frantic call from the dentist herself as I got into my car.

Sure she was “busy”, another patient took longer than she expected, blah blah.

But hold on, I am busy too! I would not keep her waiting 45 minutes if she came to see me as a candidate. And yet I am HER customer. I told her I have been coming to you for 15 years but don’t take me for granted. See fewer patients in a day if you have to, but see me on time or close to it. She has never kept me waiting again.

Me? Am I ever late? Sure, sometimes. That’s inevitable even with the best intentions. But I never plan to be late. I never ‘let time slide’ because my stuff is more important than yours.

I am not talking about the odd occasion of lateness. I am talking about people who are routinely late. In fact, never on time. You know who I am talking about!

And certainly I consider serial lateness a character flaw which I take into account when working out who to promote, who to hire and who to count among my real friends.

It’s that important.

Her Son Went to Harvard and Duke and Penn

Photo courtesy of Bruff
Photo courtesy of Bruff

This is so precious! No one asked us if we wanted to donate organs when our son died, and I don’t know how I would have felt about it then. But after reading this I know how I feel now. Isn’t it amazing how much we can learn from each other? Thank you Sarah.

When she found out early in her pregnancy that one of her identical twins would die at birth, Sarah Gray began a five-year journey that culminated last week in Philadelphia.

She had to carry the sick baby to term in order to protect his healthy twin. And she also looked into organ and tissue donation.

 “Instead of thinking of our son as a victim,” she said, “I started thinking of him as a contributor to research, to science.”

On March 23, 2010, Thomas and Callum Gray were born at Fairfax Hospital in Virginia. Callum, perfect, was five pounds, 10 ounces. Thomas, four pounds, was born without part of his brain. His mother nursed him, diapered him, cradled him.

He died after six days – five years ago on Sunday. Within hours of Thomas’ death, his eyes and liver were recovered and sent – along with umbilical cord blood from him and his brother – to researchers.

But that wasn’t the end of it for Sarah Gray.

She often wondered – what became of his eyes, his blood, his liver?

The Grays had received a thank-you letter from the Washington regional transplant organization, telling them their son’s corneas had been sent to the Schepens Eye Research Institute in Boston, and his liver and the cord blood to Duke University in North Carolina.

Two years later, on a business trip to Boston, Sarah Gray called the eye institute, which is affiliated with Harvard Medical School.

“I donated my son’s eyes to your lab,” she said on the phone. “Can I come by for a tour?”

The receptionist said she had never had such a request. “I’m not sure who to transfer you to,” she said, “but don’t hang up!”

The next day, Gray met James Zieske, the institute’s senior scientist, who told her “infant eyes are worth their weight in gold,” because, being so young, they have great regenerative properties. Thomas’ corneas were used in a study that could one day help cure corneal blindness.

Thirteen more studies had cited that study. Gray felt a new emotion: pride.

Before leaving, she bought a Harvard T-shirt for Callum, and decided she was going to go with the whole family to North Carolina, where Thomas’ liver and the cord blood had been sent.

Zieske also wrote her: “Your visit helped to remind me that all the eyes we receive are an incredibly generous gift from someone who loved and cared about the person who provided the eyes. I thank you for reminding me of this.”

A few months later in 2012, the Grays went to the Duke Center for Human Genetics in Durham, N.C., where even though the twins were identical, scientists found epigenetic differences in their cord blood, research that could one day help prevent Thomas’ fatal defect, anencephaly.

Sarah Gray bought Callum a Duke T-shirt.

The couple then drove down to the road to visit Cytonet, a biotech company that had used their baby’s liver in a trial to determine the best temperature to freeze liver tissue.

Already in the nonprofit public relations field, Sarah Gray became director of marketing for the American Association of Tissue Banks.

Her mantra has become donate, donate, donate, and not just for transplant, but also for research. Even if nobody asks you – doctors are often uncomfortable when a child is dying – bring it up yourself, she says.

At a conference last summer, by coincidence, Gray learned that the Old Dominion Eye Bank in North Chesterfield, Va., had shipped Thomas’ retinas to Philadelphia.

She couldn’t believe she’d never known this. She immediately wrote to the researcher at the University of Pennsylvania who used the donation in her efforts to cure retinoblastoma, the most common form of eye cancer in children.

Two days later, Gray got a reply from Arupa Ganguly, who runs the lab and is a genetics professor at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

“It is almost impossible to obtain normal retina from a child,” Ganguly wrote. “The sample from Thomas is extremely precious for us.”

Ganguly sent Callum a Penn T-shirt.

They arranged to meet last Monday.

First, Sarah, Ross, and Callum Gray went to the National Disease Research Interchange in Center City, which Sarah Gray calls “the of science.” The interchange connects hospitals that supply organs and tissue with researchers who request it.

“This seems to have brought you a lot of peace and joy,” Bill Leinweber, the interchange’s president and CEO, told Sarah. “You’ve been such a strong advocate for research and such an eloquent spokesperson for the value of research.”

After a visit there, the Gray family went to Penn to meet Ganguly and tour her lab.

Sarah Gray saw the marbled composition book in which the receipt of retinas was logged on March 30, 2010, the 360th specimen to be received. They became “RES 360,” short for Research 360.

“Is this the log book?” she asked. “Oh, my gosh.”

Gray ran her index finger over the cursive of Jennifer Yutz, the lab manager who recorded the entry.

“Ross, look at this! Med 360!”

Her husband took a look. Callum, then 4, hugged an inflatable Godzilla as tall as he is, a gift from Ganguly, bouncing it on the lab floor.

“Wow,” Sarah Gray continued. “Can I Xerox this?”

“We have a copy for you,” Ganguly said.

Penn also gave the Grays a copy of the Fed Ex packing slip confirming arrival, which Sarah Gray said she would “treasure like a war medal.”

Thomas’ retina tissue is so rare, so precious, Ganguly and her team are still saving some of it for future research. Ganguly’s staff led Sarah Gray into the hallway, where a refrigerator, innocuous and ordinary, stood across from student lockers. Yutz unlocked it.

Inside were hundreds of 1.5 milliliter tubes – smaller than cigarette filters.

Yutz pointed to two.

“There it is,” Yutz said.

“Oh my gosh!” Gray said. She couldn’t touch them. The tubes were frozen at minus-80 degrees centigrade (minus-112 Fahrenheit).

“It’s the RNA isolated from the retina tissue,” Yutz said.

Call it what you will, that was a piece of Thomas Gray, her son.

Ross Gray has long supported his wife’s journey.

“It helped her get over the loss,” he said. “It was part of the healing process, seeing that there’s still research going on five years after. His life was worthwhile. He’s brought a lot of good to the world.”

“The way I see it,” Sarah Gray said, “our son got into Harvard, Duke, and Penn. He has a job. He is relevant to the world. I only hope my life can be as relevant.”

The Power of Example

Photo courtesy of (Ziggy) Liloia
Photo courtesy of (Ziggy) Liloia

Story number one.

Many years ago, Al Capone virtually owned Chicago . Capone wasn’t famous for anything heroic. He was notorious for enmeshing the windy city in everything from bootlegged booze and prostitution to murder.

Capone had a lawyer nicknamed “Easy Eddie.” He was Capone’s lawyer for a good reason. Eddie was very good! In fact, Eddie’s skill at legal maneuvering kept Big Al out of jail for a long time.

To show his appreciation, Capone paid him very well. Not only was the money big, but Eddie got special dividends as well. For instance, he and his family occupied a fenced-in mansion with live-in help and all of the conveniences of the day. The estate was so large that it filled an entire Chicago City block.

Eddie lived the high life of the Chicago mob and gave little consideration to the atrocity that went on around him.

Eddie did have one soft spot, however. He had a son that he loved dearly. Eddie saw to it that his young son had clothes, cars, and a good education. Nothing was withheld. Price was no object.

And, despite his involvement with organized crime, Eddie even tried to teach him right from wrong. Eddie wanted his son to be a better man than he was.

Yet, with all his wealth and influence, there were two things he couldn’t give his son; he couldn’t pass on a good name or a good example.

One day, Easy Eddie reached a difficult decision. Easy Eddie wanted to rectify wrongs he had done.

He decided he would go to the authorities and tell the truth about Al “Scarface” Capone, clean up his tarnished name, and offer his son some semblance of integrity. To do this, he would have to testify against The Mob, and he knew that the cost would be great. So, he testified.

Within the year, Easy Eddie’s life ended in a blaze of gunfire on a lonely Chicago Street. But in his eyes, he had given his son the greatest gift he had to offer, at the greatest price he could ever pay. Police removed from his pockets a rosary, a crucifix, a religious medallion, and a poem clipped from a magazine.

The poem read:

“The clock of life is wound but once, and no man has the power to tell just when the hands will stop, at late or early hour. Now is the only time you own. Live, love, toil with a will. Place no faith in time. For the clock may soon be still.”

Story number two.

World War II produced many heroes. One such man was Lieutenant Commander Butch O’Hare.

He was a fighter pilot assigned to the aircraft carrier Lexington in the South Pacific.

One day his entire squadron was sent on a mission. After he was airborne, he looked at his fuel gauge and realized that someone had forgotten to top off his fuel tank.

He would not have enough fuel to complete his mission and get back to his ship.

His flight leader told him to return to the carrier. Reluctantly, he dropped out of formation and headed back to the fleet.

As he was returning to the mother ship, he saw something that turned his blood cold; a squadron of Japanese aircraft was speeding its way toward the American fleet.

The American fighters were gone on a sortie, and the fleet was all but defenseless. He couldn’t reach his squadron and bring them back in time to save the fleet. Nor could he warn the fleet of the approaching danger. There was only one thing to do. He must somehow divert them from the fleet.

Laying aside all thoughts of personal safety, he dove into the formation of Japanese planes. Wing-mounted 50 caliber’s blazed as he charged in, attacking one surprised enemy plane and then another. Butch wove in and out of the now broken formation and fired at as many planes as possible until all his ammunition was finally spent.

Undaunted, he continued the assault. He dove at the planes, trying to clip a wing or tail in hopes of damaging as many enemy planes as possible, rendering them unfit to fly.

Finally, the exasperated Japanese squadron took off in another direction.

Deeply relieved, Butch O’Hare and his tattered fighter limped back to the carrier.

Upon arrival, he reported in and related the event surrounding his return. The film from the gun-camera mounted on his plane told the tale. It showed the extent of Butch’s daring attempt to protect his fleet. He had, in fact, destroyed five enemy aircraft
This took place on February 20, 1942 , and for that action Butch became the Navy’s first Ace of W.W.II, and the first Naval Aviator to win the Medal of Honor.

A year later Butch was killed in aerial combat at the age of 29. His home town would not allow the memory of this WW II hero to fade, and today, O’Hare Airport in Chicago is named in tribute to the courage of this great man.

So, the next time you find yourself at O’Hare International, give some thought to visiting Butch’s memorial displaying his statue and his Medal of Honor. It’s located between Terminals 1 and 2.

So,what do these two stories have to do with each other?

Butch O’Hare was “Easy Eddie’s” son.

Grand gestures and tiny decisions, sometimes it is just a matter of asking ourselves – what is the right thing to do? Once that question is asked, it cannot be unasked.

I think it is really that simple!

Prayers Desperately Needed

Photo courtesy of
Photo courtesy of

Andrew White lives in Baghdad and serves as the vicar of St George’s Church. He has been dubbed “Vicar of Baghdad”, because his church is the only remaining Anglican church in Iraq. His people refer to him as their Aboona or father.  His main aim to gain the trust of key religious leaders on both sides in various conflicts in the area.

Lately though, his role has been as witness the killing of Christians in the middle east.

He is not immune to danger, having been hijacked, kidnapped, locked up in rooms with bits of fingers and toes. He has been held at gunpoint, been attacked. Many of his staff have been kidnapped or killed, with 11 of his staff murdered in a single year.

He has 35 armed guards assigned to protect him.

Five days ago he reported that ISIS is less than two miles away from the Christian community he is protecting. Here is what he reported.

“The Islamist group (ISIS) just took over Quaragosh, the biggest Christian city in Iraq. There are hundreds of men, women and children that are being beheaded. The people of Quaragosh are asking for prayers to be made on their behalf concerning the ongoing atrocity in their country. Please take one minute to pray for them. Pass the message across to all your contacts so that the prayer chain will not be broken. They asked for this special prayer. Please, ensure you pass across the prayer request to the body of Christ for fervent prayers offered on behalf of the brothers, sisters and children in Iraq. This is an urgent SOS. May God bless you. From Andrew White the Vicar of Baghdad.”

He later reported that he “has lost count of the number of church members I have lost” to ISIS. “We are talking about thousands of people,” he said. “They kill children as well. They turned up to one of our church members and said if he did not agree to convert to Islam they would kill his five children.”

The father of these children phoned the vicar asking if God would forgive him for advising his children to convert to Islam to save their lives. The next day ISIS knocked on his door and didn’t ask the father, but asked each child if they would follow Mohammed. Each of them replied ‘never’ and the men shot them all dead.

I think of my children, still sleeping in our peaceful home. I think of what I am going to do today – buy our yearly pool passes, go to the grocery store and the library.

But before I do all that I will kneel before our maker and pray for my brothers and sisters in Christ who are dying because they will not deny their faith. There is no way for us to reach out and help them from here, but we can care, we can pray and we can strengthen our resolve to keep the faith ourselves.

And, I will tell their story to my children and help them to understand the perils and glories of living in the last days.

Will you join me in prayer for these people today?

The Fallacy of Being the Perfect Mother

Photo courtesy of Zeising
Photo courtesy of Zeising

We all come to motherhood with an ideal in our minds, determined we will walk a certain path in a very particular way. Many of us have decide to improve on our childhood, we know what we don’t want to do. Others of us have this specific ideal we are certain we can reach, we want to raise the bar of motherhood, so to speak. I am not advocating mediocrity and I do believe we should have high ideals to strive for, but some of what we think is best is just a load of bunk.

Most of you know that our son died when he was two and, as you can imagine, it changed most of what I believe about motherhood. Looking into the abyss truly can change your perspective, and this experience changed mine. Reflecting back on Dale’s life the weeks and months after his death taught me what it was that I missed. What I would change and what I would keep just the same. I’m not saying that I never get caught up in crazy, useless kid drama, but it was easier to take a step back occasionally and reflect on what is most important – and easier to pitch some things out of my life forever.

I love this mother’s perspective and I hope that my younger friends will be able to see something that will help you as you parse the needs of your children, the needs of your husband and realize that you have needs as well. A list of things she is not going to do anymore!

1. Bathe the kids every day. Children, unless they’ve been rolling in the mud, do not need a bath every day. In the summer I rinse off sand, sweat and sunscreen pretty much daily, but in the winter it just makes their skin dry and rashy. Twice-a-week baths are fine and save me the soggy wrestling match that is washing a screaming toddler and preschooler.

Aside from Ann: I loved bathing my little ones, we have an old house and so the tub is huge enough to fit several children and the water can get deep enough to have fun. I have spent many evenings supervising my kids as they play in the tub. However, when I had Peter I had to stop. I just didn’t have the ability to do it all anymore and I was blessed to realize it early and not beat myself up because I had to change things up!

2. Do an elaborate bedtime routine. Literally everyone told us we needed to do a bedtime routine. Bath, infant massage, dim lights while nursing — this was bad enough and clocked in at about an hour. Now, with our 4-year-old, more rituals have crept in, like: 1) sing a song; 2) read three books; 3) listen to Freight Train Boogie; 4) dance; 5) play a game he and daddy made up, called “crashies,” in which I always get injured; 6) a good-night “wrestle” with his brother; 7) tooth-brushing; 8) a game called “burrito” in which he is rolled in a blanket, then unrolled like Cleopatra at Caesar’s feet; 9) prayers; 10) a dozen good-night hugs and kisses in a specific order and if we mess up we have to start over; 11) one more drink of water; 12) one more pee; 13) one more drink of water.

The bedtime routine starts at 3:45. In the interest of recapturing those hours, I’m eliminating all but tooth-brushing and prayers, which, mumbled at high speed while inching towards the cocktail cabinet, are more true to my Episcopalian faith anyway.

Another aside: Our bedtime routine could have been crazy. My ears actually hurt as bedtime approached! I tried to love each one just a bit before sending them off to bed and we were always trying to make sure that we had family prayer, but seriously, how could I possibly supervise even just the teeth brushing of so many children? Our best routine became putting the little ones down early and the rest of us spending a quiet, peaceful evening being grateful for our alone time. We were all tiptoeing around the house, closing doors quietly, hoping to keep them asleep. The thing is, my kids were always so extraordinarily happy to see me the next morning, they loved me and I loved them. Something was working!

3. Buy organic. I’ve spent the last five years standing in the fruit aisle debating whether to spend $2 for an organic apple or 50 cents for a regular one, and then, confused, I buy no apple at all. I am just not going to worry about it anymore. It’s better that they eat fruits and vegetables than not, and we can’t spend $200 a week on apples.

Aside: I bring home the best food I can find, prepare it the best I can, pray over it with as much faith as I can muster and leave the rest up to God. This is not something I give my life to.

4. Force my kids to eat vegetables. With my first child, we forced him to eat a certain number of bites of his dinner to get dessert. This resulted in bargains and negotiations and debates over exactly how much food on the fork counted as a “bite.” (It was a little like arguing how many angels can fit on the head of a pin.) By the time my second arrived, we started following Ellyn Satter’s division of responsibility, which makes meals a lot more peaceful. I mean, mostly. My son sat down at the table the other night, looked at what I’d made, and said, “This looks like an old head.” So yeah, it’s not all wine and roses, but at least I’m not squabbling about whether gently touching your tongue to a piece of broccoli counts as a bite.

One more aside: Meal time should be sweet, not time to go to war with a two-year-old, who will win eventually if you turn it into a fight. I do try to make our meals delicious and when the little one watches dad reaching first for the asparagus they want some of whatever that is. If I am going to serve something the kids might not particularly love I make rolls so they can try the grown up dinner but have something to fill up on if they don’t love it yet. I do not feed them junk just to get them to eat something though – it is a balancing act!

5. Be eternally patient. I try so, so hard to control my temper. But sometimes, one child is repeatedly pressing the “Oh Susannah” button on his music machine, the phone is ringing and I can’t find it, the oatmeal is burning, and the other child is experimenting with asking questions in a barely audible voice. (Remember the scene in The Office when Michael Scott negotiates for a raise by speaking very softly? This is what my son is doing.) And then sometimes I lose my temper. But the thing is — it’s not good for children to have infinitely patient, saintly mothers, because the world is not infinitely patient and saintly. Normal people lose their mind at too much loud-noise stimulus and burgeoning stove fires and a child requesting a cheese stick without moving his lips. It’s good for kids to recognize the incipient stages of someone losing their temper. This will serve them well in the world.

One more opinion: Yes! Be the mom.

6. Have a perfectly clean house. A friend recently said, “I wish I had known that motherhood is really just becoming a cleaning lady.” And it’s true. I clean the kitchen four times a day. I scrape things off the floor with my fingernails. I pick up so many little balled-up socks. But now — partly because I hate to clean, and partly because I think kids, especially boys, shouldn’t think that someone is always going to pick up after them — I’ve started a gentle insistence that they put their clothes in the hamper with no intermediate stop on the floor, that they return their bath toys to the basket, and that they help out with weekly dusting and vacuuming. It would be quicker to do it myself, and the house isn’t especially clean, but I hate feeling like a martyr. I’d rather have a slightly dirty house than be a servant, and eventually they’ll learn that small daily efforts are better for housekeeping than quarterly fumigations.

Most important aside: My husband once asked me if I wanted grandchildren, he said that our daughters shouldn’t feel like motherhood is the equivalent of slavery, but is a creative, enjoyable way to live! I like to have my house clean once a day. Not ‘you can eat off the floor’ clean, but picked up and neat, once a day. I love having company because that becomes our excuse to go a little deeper, but spotlessly clean is impossible if you are going to have a real family. And you do want your children to have fond memories of home, don’t you? They don’t get all the fuss about cleanliness and making everyone miserable isn’t worth the admiration of your neighbors. If you can keep this one in perspective you will be doing well.

7. Spend all weekend with my kids. The No. 1 thing I miss about singledom is time alone at home, to non-productively putter. So we’re starting a half-day-off policy; like the servants in Downton Abbey, we each get from 8 a.m. to noon, once a week, with no kids, work, or chores responsibilities. The other parent takes the kids out of the house. I am going to put spare change in the change jar and corral all my hair elastics and stack random pieces of paper on my desk. It’s going to be glorious.

To sum up: Happiness is contagious and striving for joy is what we are here on this earth to do. Freeing ourselves from the bonds of unreal expectations and impossible goals can be a defining moment in life. It might come down to making a whole new ‘to do’ list. Make sure you include all the things you love, things that bring you happiness and peace.

To Truly Remember Easter

Photo courtesy of B Agyei
Photo courtesy of B Agyei

Many of us sense that Easter is important. More important than bunnies and chocolate and even a ham dinner, but don’t quite know how to shed tradition and embrace reverence instead.

The term Easter only appears once in the King James Bible. In Acts 12:4, where it could also be translated as ‘Passover’. And nowhere in the scriptures are we encouraged to celebrate the birth, death, or resurrection of Jesus as holidays, rather, we are commanded to remember as we partake of the sacrament. In a sense, every Sunday is Easter. Every day we remember the birth of our Savior.
Many Christians celebrate Palm Sunday and the week before Easter. And much of the Christian world enters into a period of reflection and celebration known as Holy Week. Each of the events commemorated during this week highlights Jesus’ true identity as the Son of God, and reviewing them deepens the faith of believers. While my religion does not formally observe Holy Week, the time from Palm Sunday to Easter morning can be a wonderful opportunity for all of us to use the scriptures to remember the last days of Christ’s ministry.
It can be useful to remember holidays, to use them to focus our attention and our thoughts and to celebrate significant religious events. For some years now, our family has benefited in many ways by using gospel accounts of the Savior’s last week as the focus of our family and personal scripture study. It is a significant way to celebrate the sublime season of Easter.
Here are some ideas for remembering each of the days leading up to Easter Sunday:
  • Palm Sunday: The Triumphal Entry; the Cleansing of the Temple
  • Monday:  The Cleansing of the Temple; Teachings in the Temple
  • Tuesday: More Teachings in the Temple; the Olivet Discourse
  • “Spy” Wednesday: The Anointing in Mark and Matthew; Judas agrees to betray Jesus
  • Holy Thursday: The Last Supper; Farewell Discourses; Gethsemane; Before the Jewish Authorities
  • Good Friday: Jesus in the Hands of the Romans; the Crucifixion; the Burial
  • Saturday: Jesus in the Spirit World
  • Easter Sunday: The Resurrection


Choosing Our Ancestors

My kids are related to some really cool people. One of our family branches connects with Abraham Lincoln, and one line goes straight back through to the royalty of the Scots. We can claim German peasants, English Lords, southern gentlemen and western adventurers. Even ancestors that met and tangled with Mexican bandits and an inventor who invented the television.

While it might feel good to claim these people as our own, I hesitate to focus on their accomplishments. The question is, ‘what have they to do with us?’ Instead of working so hard to enjoy the reflected and distant warmth of our ancestors undertakings, we need to realize that we have nothing to do with them, no part in their achievements.  I can, realistically, be proud of my child if I didn’t ruin him or her, but our ancestors are the sole possessors of their glory and we need to work at making our own.

And work, as well, at not ruining our own children.

I submit that, at least in one context, we can choose our ancestors. There is a term for this in anthropology and that is ‘mythical ancestors’. We can create spiritual and mental ancestors, they are not our literal, biological ancestors, but they can be terribly important.

I am talking about the models that we, as humans, choose to work from.  That we choose to look up to and emulate and follow.

It is impossible to imagine anyone choosing Hitler as an ancestor, for example. Or Judas. The people we choose to look up to, to follow, reveal exactly what our dreams are, and every one of us lives and dies by our dreams.

So, our ancestry isn’t only a function of genealogy. We can’t choose our genetic ancestors, but we can choose and construct our own intellectual and creative family. An ideological lineage.

We can create a type of spiritual and intellectual parenting for ourselves. I made a note once of a phrase I loved, without writing down the source, ‘we are constantly creating our own cultural star-dust.’

So, who are our hero’s?

Who do you look up to?

At the end of your life, what do you want to have become?

Mother? Father? Saint? Artist? Cook? Super Hero? Friend? Prophet? Famous? Profound? Fun?

Can you make a list of people to include in your cultural and spiritual lineage? My list includes Abraham and Sarah, Mary, the mother of Christ, Adam and Eve, Joseph, Stephen the martyr, Marjorie Hinckley, Mother Teresa and some men and women I wouldn’t want to embarrass if I included them in such a public space.

As for me, I desire to be among women who value motherhood, kindness and humility. I hope to be included with women who figured out how to lift others. At the end, I want to be worthy to be called ‘friend’ by my Savior.

Let’s get busy considering, recording our lineage. And then spending a life time making it our own.

Why God Made Moms

Photo courtesy of Pinto
Photo courtesy of Pinto


Answers given by 2nd grade school children to the following questions:
Why did God make mothers?
1. She’s the only one who knows where the scotch tape is.
2. Mostly to clean the house.
3. To help us out of there when we were getting born.
How did God make mothers?
1. He used dirt, just like for the rest of us.
2. Magic plus super powers and a lot of stirring.
3. God made my mom just the same like he made me. He just used bigger parts.
What ingredients are mothers made of?
1. God makes mothers out of clouds and angel hair and everything nice in the world and one dab of mean.
2. They had to get their start from men’s bones. Then they mostly use string, I think.
Why did God give you your mother and not some other mom?
1. We’re related.
2. God knew she likes me a lot more than other people’s mom like me.
What kind of a little girl was your mom?
1. My mom has always been my mom and none of that other stuff.
2. I don’t know because I wasn’t there, but my guess would be pretty bossy.
3. They say she used to be nice.
What did mom need to know about dad before she married him?
1. His last name.
2. She had to know his background. Like is he a crook? Does he get drunk on beer?
3. Does he make at least $800 a year? Did he say NO to drugs and YES to chores?
Why did your mom marry your dad?
1. My dad makes the best spaghetti in the world. And my mom eats a lot.
2. She got too old to do anything else with him.
3. My grandma says that mom didn’t have her thinking cap on.
Who’s the boss at your house?
1. Mom doesn’t want to be boss, but she has to because dad’s such a goof ball.
2. Mom. You can tell by room inspection. She sees the stuff under the bed.
3. I guess mom is, but only because she has a lot more to do than dad.
What’s the difference between moms and dads?
1. Moms work at work and work at home and dads just go to work at work.
2. Moms know how to talk to teachers without scaring them.
3. Dads are taller and stronger, but moms have all the real power cause that’s who you got to ask if you want to sleep over at your friends.
4. Moms have magic, they make you feel better without medicine.
What does your mom do in her spare time?
1. Mothers don’t do spare time.
2. To hear her tell it, she pays bills all day long.
What would it take to make your mom perfect?
1. On the inside she’s already perfect. Outside, I think some kind of plastic surgery.
2. Diet. You know, her hair. I’d diet, maybe blue.
If you could change one thing about your mom, what would it be?
1. She has this weird thing about me keeping my room clean. I’d get rid of that.
2. I’d make my mom smarter. Then she would know it was my sister who did it not me.
3. I would like for her to get rid of those invisible eyes on the back of her head.
I don’t have a clue who wrote this, but I love the innocence and straightforward thinking of children! Enjoy.

On Fatherhood

Photo courtesy of
Photo courtesy of

How many years has it been since television portrayed a father with respect? I remember The Dick Van Dyke show, the bumbling dad falling over the ottoman each week. We have Homer Simpson, Modern Family, Everybody Loves Raymond and so on and so on and so on. It appears to me that the world has drawn a cross hairs on the back of men, centered on husbands and fathers. Today’s media are relentless in attacking, ridiculing and demeaning husbands and fathers in every way possible.

In reality, in my life, it was my father’s love and respect that gave me everything I needed to succeed in life.

The story is told of a school teacher who assigned her students essays in hopes that it would motivate the fathers to attend a PTA meeting. The fathers came in expensive cars and junk cars, a bank president, a laborer, a clerk, a salesman, a meter reader, a baker. Every man there had a definite understanding of where he fit in the hierarchy of dads, in terms of money, skill, or looks.

The children’s essays were read at random.

“I like my daddy. My daddy built my doll house. My dad took me coasting, or taught me to shoot, or helps with my schoolwork. My dad takes me to the park, he gave me a pig to fatten and sell.”

Every essay could be reduced in essence to: ‘I like my daddy. He helps me, he plays with me, he loves me.’

Not one child mentioned his family house, car, neighborhood, food, or clothing.

The fathers went into the meeting from many walks of life; they came out in two classes: companions to their children or strangers to their children.

Children who grow up without fathers, fatherlessness as a condition, has been linked with virtually every social ill you can name. Young men who grow up without fathers are twice as likely to end up in jail, 63 percent of youths who commit suicide are from fatherless homes, and 71 percent of high school dropouts come from fatherless homes. What these connections mean, (is it a symptom of poverty or a cause?), can be the subject of debate, but, sociologically, it is now painfully apparent that fathers are not optional family baggage.

I have seen that the self-esteem of a child, male or female, is directly connected to how their father connects with them. I couldn’t begin to speculate about why a mother’s love doesn’t compute to the same degree of esteem but I have seen the numbers and I believe them. I know that my father thought a lot of me, he liked to talk to me about the news, or politics or religion. How do I know that he enjoyed being with me? You cannot lie to a child, it is impossible to trick them. Kids add everything up and when they do it adds up to the truth, eventually.

My dad looked at me when I talked to him, he asked me questions about what I thought. He didn’t rush away when the phone rang. All those details turned into the truth.

I wish that I could convince young women that when they choose a husband they are really choosing their children’s father and that will be the most important gift they can give their child. Please don’t think you are getting someone with a great body, someone who makes a good living or someone who is a great kisser, please! The minute you meet your baby, you will know what the rest of the world knows. It is vitally important that you choose someone who will be a good father to your children. It is essential to your child’s well-being and your own happiness.

It is useless to debate which parent is most important. No one would doubt that a mother’s influence is paramount. The father’s influence increases as the child grows older. However, each parent is necessary at various times in a child’s development. Fathers and mothers do things intrinsically different for their children. Both mothers and fathers are equipped to nurture children, but our approaches are different. Mothers seem to take a dominant role in preparing children to live within their families. Fathers seem best equipped to prepare children to function in the environment outside the family.

Studies show that fathers have a special role to play in building a child’s self-respect. They are important, too, in ways we really don’t understand, in developing internal limits and controls in children. Research also shows that fathers are critical in establishment of gender in children. Interestingly, fatherly involvement produces stronger sexual identity and character in both boys and girls. It is well established that the masculinity of sons and the femininity of daughters are each greater when fathers are active in family life.

I make two simple suggestions: work to sustain and respect the father in his position and second, give him love, understanding, and show some appreciation for him.

Let every woman understand that if she does anything to diminish her children’s father or the father’s image in the eyes of the children, it may injure and do irreparable damage to the self-esteem and personal security of the children themselves. How much more productive and satisfying it is for a woman to build up her husband rather than tear him down. Women can be so superior in so many ways that we demean ourselves by belittling men.

The exalted position of a father was well stated by General Douglas MacArthur who said, “By profession, I am a soldier and take pride in that fact, but I am prouder, infinitely prouder, to be a father. A soldier destroys in order to build. A father only builds, never destroys. The one has the potentiality of death; the other embodies creation and life. And while the hordes of death are mighty, the battalions of life are mightier still. It is my hope that my son, when I am gone, will remember me, not for the battle, but in the home repeating with him, our simple, daily prayer, ‘Our Father Who art in Heaven.’”

It should have great meaning that of all the titles of respect and honor and admiration that could be given him, that God himself, he who is the highest of all, chose to be addressed simply as “Father.”

Do we give the title of father the respect it deserves? I think we can do better.

Regarding Motherhood

Photo courtesy of Ricciardl
Photo courtesy of Ricciardl

I am a girl who always wanted to be called ‘mother’. I was unashamed and sure I was going to be a mother when I was little, but as I got older and left for college I began to sense that this desire was not something I should be proud of.

So I hedged.

When anyone asked me what I was studying I made up some smart thing to say and intimate that I was going to blow the world away someday. But deep down, all I wanted to do was get married and have a family.

When I had dated someone for a while and fessed up by telling them that I wanted to have 12 kids, most of the boys didn’t exactly run but they were puzzled. Couldn’t figure out why I was bringing the subject up. I just wanted them to have a clue before they decided to like me, a hint that I was going to come with baggage.

Now that I am a grandmother looking back, it is obvious that I grew up at the beginning of the end of an era. A time when our society honored and respected the role of mother.

As a straddler of two completely opposing world views, I get them both. But it is time to re-think the way we treat mothers in our society.

On February 4, a blogger named Matt Walsh tackled the issue. I stand in awe of his thinking – you can find his blog here.

Look, I don’t cast aspersions on women who work outside of the home. I understand that many of them are forced into it because they are single mothers, or because one income simply isn’t enough to meet the financial needs of their family. Or they just choose to work because that’s what they want to do. Fine. I also understand that most professional women aren’t rude, pompous and smug, like the two I met recently.

But I don’t want to sing Kumbaya right now. I want to kick our backwards, materialistic society in the shins and say, “GET YOUR FREAKING HEAD ON STRAIGHT, SOCIETY.”

This conversation shouldn’t be necessary. I shouldn’t need to explain why it’s insane for anyone — particularly other women — to have such contempt and hostility for “stay at home” mothers. Are we really so shallow? Are we really so confused? Are we really the first culture in the history of mankind to fail to grasp the glory and seriousness of motherhood? The pagans deified Maternity and turned it into a goddess. We’ve gone the other direction; we treat it like a disease or an obstacle.

The people who completely immerse themselves in the tiring, thankless, profoundly important job of raising children ought to be put on a pedestal. We ought to revere them and admire them like we admire rocket scientists and war heroes. These women are doing something beautiful and complicated and challenging and terrifying and painful and joyous and essential. Whatever they are doing, they ARE doing something, and our civilization DEPENDS on them doing it well. Who else can say such a thing? What other job carries with it such consequences?

It’s true — being a mom isn’t a “job.” A job is something you do for part of the day and then stop doing. You get a paycheck. You have unions and benefits and break rooms. I’ve had many jobs; it’s nothing spectacular or mystical. I don’t quite understand why we’ve elevated “the workforce” to this hallowed status. Where do we get our idea of it? The Communist Manifesto? Having a job is necessary for some — it is for me — but it isn’t liberating or empowering. Whatever your job is — you are expendable. You are a number. You are a calculation. You are a servant. You can be replaced, and you will be replaced eventually. Am I being harsh? No, I’m being someone who has a job. I’m being real.

If your mother quit her role as mother, entire lives would be turned upside down; society would suffer greatly. The ripples of that tragedy would be felt for generations. If she quit her job as a computer analyst, she’d be replaced in four days and nobody would care. Same goes for you and me. We have freedom and power in the home, not the office. But we are zombies, so we can not see that.

Yes, my wife is JUST a mother. JUST. She JUST brings forth life into the universe, and she JUST shapes and molds and raises those lives. She JUST manages, directs and maintains the workings of the household, while caring for children who JUST rely on her for everything. She JUST teaches our twins how to be human beings, and, as they grow, she will JUST train them in all things, from morals, to manners, to the ABC’s, to hygiene, etc. She is JUST my spiritual foundation and the rock on which our family is built. She is JUST everything to everyone. And society would JUST fall apart at the seams if she, and her fellow moms, failed in any of the tasks I outlined.

Yes, she is just a mother. Which is sort of like looking at the sky and saying, “hey, it’s just the sun.”

Of course not all women can be at home full-time. It’s one thing to acknowledge that; it’s quite another to paint it as the ideal. To call it the ideal, is to claim that children IDEALLY would spend LESS time around their mothers. This is madness. Pure madness. It isn’t ideal, and it isn’t neutral. The more time a mother can spend raising her kids, the better. The better for them, the better for their souls, the better for the community, the better for humanity. Period.

Finally, it’s probably true that stay at home moms have some down time. People who work outside the home have down time, too. In fact, there are many, many jobs that consist primarily of down time, with little spurts of menial activity strewn throughout. In any case, I’m not looking to get into a fight about who is “busier.” We seem to value our time so little, that we find our worth based on how little of it we have. In other words, we’ve idolized “being busy,” and confused it with being “important.” You can be busy but unimportant, just as you can be important but not busy. I don’t know who is busiest, and I don’t care. It doesn’t matter. I think it’s safe to say that none of us are as busy as we think we are; and however busy we actually are, it’s more than we need to be.

We get a lot of things wrong in our culture. But, when all is said and done, and our civilization crumbles into ashes, we are going to most regret the way we treated mothers and children.

Okay, you mothers out there. Lets quit apologizing for what we do.

I salute parents for the value you add to our society and I send you a high-five for the tackling the heart wrenching, expensive and most difficult job ever invented.

If I could send you anything to compensate you for all you are doing I would send you a complete weekend of deep and dreamless sleep.

Do You Believe In Life After Death?

Photo courtesy of
Photo courtesy of

In a mother’s womb were two babies.

“Do you believe in life after delivery?” one twin asks.

“Why, of course. There has to be something after delivery. Maybe we are preparing ourselves for what we will become of us later,” the other replies.

“Nonsense,” says the first. “There is no life after delivery. What kind of life would that be?”

The second responds, “I don’t know, but there will be more light than here. Maybe we will walk with our legs and eat from our mouths. Maybe we will have other senses that we can’t understand now.”

The first replies, “That is absurd. Walking is impossible. And eating with our mouths? Ridiculous! The umbilical cord supplies nutrition and everything we need. But the umbilical cord is so short. Life after delivery is to be logically excluded.”

But the second insists, “I think there is something, and maybe it’s different than it is here. Maybe we won’t need this physical cord anymore.”

The first replies, “Nonsense. Moreover, if there is life, then why has no one ever come back from there? Delivery is the end of life. In the after-delivery, there is nothing but darkness and silence and oblivion. It takes us nowhere.”

“Well, I don’t know,” says the second, “but certainly we will meet Mother, and she will take care of us.”

The first replies, “Mother? You actually believe in Mother? That’s laughable. If Mother exists, then where is she now?”

The second says, “She is all around us. Without her, this world would not and could not exist.”

Says the first: “Well I don’t see her, so it is only logical that she doesn’t exist.”

Photo courtesy of Kesiak
Photo courtesy of Kesiak

But then the second twin answers, “Sometimes, when everything is quiet and you really listen, you will feel her presence and hear her loving voice, calling down from above.”

– Author unknown

I know we are sometimes afraid to believe, unsure of what is real, but doesn’t it make sense to trust that we are here for a reason and that there is a plan prepared for us by God?

I promise that if you can even just desire to believe, that fledgling faith will work in you to grow and strengthen.

Err on the side of trust and before long you will be a witness of the fruit of your faith. You will know. A knowledge born of the heart and spirit, not of the intellect nor of reason. But knowledge none the less!


Gold Medal Parents

Photo courtesy of Alvar
Photo courtesy of Alvar

If I am remembering right, Art Linkletter once did a show for ‘Kids Say The Darndest Things’ , the set up was a fake talent agency calling kids into the studio to audition. But, instead of filming the children, he had the camera trained on their mothers. I am sure the kids were adorable but the love on their mother’s face was priceless, intense and personal.

In the video below you will find parenthood distilled, loves essence compressed into two minutes of raw truth. There is no explaining motherhood or fatherhood. There are no words capable of conveying the enormity of what happens to normal, everyday people when they become parents. But this comes close.

What we sacrifice for our children brings us happiness.

How can that kind of love really exist? I don’t know everything, but I do know that this love is the best part of us.

I hope that watching this video will intensify the love you feel for your children and rekindle appreciation for your parents. I thank God that there is love this pure still on the earth. Pass it on.


Toughest Job Ever

like mother like daughter Eddie Lopez
Photo courtesy of Lopez

I remember one Halloween my daughter wanted to dress up like a mother. She got her purse and filled it with all her important things. She found her favorite doll and wrapped it in a blanket. She wore an apron, although I don’t even own one so she wasn’t copying me! She put on some dress up shoes and we combed her hair and pulled it back into a ponytail. And off she went to school.

I worried just a little, that the other girls or the teachers would say something derogatory about my daughter’s choice of costume, but she came home unscathed.

At other times, however, the message that girls should want to be more than just a mother came through loud and clear. My girls have been told all their lives that they can be and do anything. They can be teachers and CEO’s, they could even aspire to be the President. The world is standing before them, glittering with options.

The flip side of that is the role that images play in a girl’s life. Women are portrayed on the big screen as having perfect bodies and skin and teeth. Women are given leave to be anything they desire and then TV, movies and magazines tell them that they are nothing if they don’t have a perfect body. This duo message is trumpeted, every girl gets the message.

Our society has gone into hyper-drive to convince girls that they are as good as boys, like being male is the goal! What is wrong with being a girl?

Women are the emotional  glue that holds families and other organizations together. Women are gifted in traits of faith and faithfulness. Our innate tendency to put the well-being of others ahead of our own and our spiritual strength and tenacity are gifts that we possess in abundance.

With all my heart I hope that we will not to look to contemporary society for our role models and mentors.  I hope that we will model ourselves after strong, virtue filled women. Can we look to our mothers instead of celebrities? Can we learn from her strengths, courage and faithfulness?

Today our society is pounded with messages about woman and mothers that are dangerously false. We will need to teach the young women of this generation to find joy in becoming a mother, in nurturing others. Who else is there that will teach them this truth?

No matter what messages the world sends us, our homes and families are where our love and talents can have the greatest eternal significance. Remember the counsel that ‘the most important … work you will ever do will be within the walls of your own homes’.

So, to the men who are reading this, please help us by valuing the gifts and talents unique to women. To the women who are reading this, try to ignore the demeaning messages the world sends us every second of the day and night.  It won’t be easy, silencing the clamoring messages of the world, but together we can be an example of the truth.

The Flight of Your Life

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Photo courtesy of

My father was a professional pilot and was well-respected for his ability to fly many different types of planes. On one occasion, a friend of his from California asked him if he would fly his newly built plane back from the East for him. I was elated that he wanted me to be his copilot.

It was on the second day of our flight that my father started to feel the fatigue of the trip. My dad had been giving me flying lessons for quite a while. He decided that I could navigate the plane while he slept for a few minutes. As a wise parent, and one knowing the dangers involved, he gave me some instructions which were plain and easy to understand. He pointed the way I should fly the plane. He said that I should never vary from that path. Off in the horizon was my goal, a big rugged mountain. In addition, he showed me compass and map bearings and even pointed out Omni beacons which aided pilots when they flew at night or in stormy weather. Then before going to sleep, he reassured me that if anything should happen he would be nearby so I wasn’t to hesitate to wake him.

I was elated to be trusted by my Father! My eyes were constantly scanning the horizon for other planes and evaluating the instruments of the cockpit. About 30 minutes had gone by, and my father still slept. I felt so sure of my ability to navigate the plane that I decided not to wake him. The mountain that he gave me as a goal had long since passed. I then discovered a roadway some 10,000 feet below. The road appeared to be going in the right direction so I decided to follow it.

This was fine for a little while, but then I became bored with following the road and decided to do some experimenting. I began by turning the plane from side to side, then moving the rudder back and forth causing the tail of the plane to go from side to side. I was completely engrossed in my experimenting when I began to realize that I did not know where I was or in which direction I should be going. I was anxious to get back on the proper course and feared being caught in my mistake. I tried to use the map and compass but could not find my bearings because of my lack of knowledge of that area. I tried to recollect my father’s instructions, but I couldn’t remember them.

Then I was confronted with another problem. Seemingly out of nowhere two United States Air Force jet fighters flew up and positioned themselves on either side of me. The predicament I was in now was so desperate it caused me to lay aside my guilt and embarrassment and I quickly woke my father. He took immediate control of the plane, quickly got our bearings and guided the plane back to the proper course. He told me that I had been flying over a restricted zone, the site of an underground test launch area for missiles. The jets had been sent up to check us and escort us out of the area.

When I first read this story I was shocked at the amount of trust this father placed in his young son and then, as I thought of the symbolism of the event it began to dawn on me how well it equated with the type of trust our Father in heaven places in each one of us. We have been launched into life, into a body and with a family to guide and protect us.

Sometimes we find that we have already flown past familiar landmarks and are in need of finding another goal to aim for. Sometimes we experiment with the controls, trying to figure out how everything works. Sometimes we find ourselves entering restricted zones and in need of a course correction. Then there are times we need our Father’s guidance and help, to rescue us from foolish or willful decisions.

What is the best decision we can make when we find ourselves off course?

We need to quickly wake our Father if we don’t know the way! Forget embarrassment. Get over feeling weak. Count on God’s love. And do what needs to be done.

We all need a little help from time to time!

Endure It Well My Son

Photo courtesy of r
Photo courtesy of r

Dear John:

Your letters of the past couple of weeks have conveyed to us that you are experiencing the buffetings of opposition. So to offer my support and love I am sending you the gist of a talk that I have read many times over the years. It has helped me to stay the course.

The talk is titled, ‘Endure It Well’, here goes:

On one of those rare occasions when His very voice was heard, the Father testified, “Yea, the words of my Beloved  are true and faithful. He that endureth to the end, the  same shall be saved.” Of all that the Father might have said, He stressed endurance. Why?

First, because God has repeatedly said He would structure mortality to be a proving and testing experience. He has certainly kept His promise. He has carried out His divine intent, hasn’t He? Thus, even our fiery trials, said Peter, should not be thought of as some strange thing. Hence, enduring is vital!

By taking Jesus’ yoke upon us and enduring, we learn most deeply of Him and especially how to be like Him. Even though our experiences are micro compared to His, the process is the same.

There are so many things to be endured: illness, injustice, insensitivity, poverty, aloneness, unresponsiveness, being misrepresented and misunderstood, and, sometimes, even enemies. Paul reminds us that meek and lowly Jesus, though the Lord of the universe, endured. Smaller variations of these contradictions or hostilities will be felt by His disciples.

Therefore, true enduring represents not merely the passage of time, but the passage of the soul—and not merely from A to B, but sometimes all the way from A to Z. To endure in faith and do God’s will, therefore it involves much more than putting up with a circumstance.

With enduring comes a willingness, therefore, to press forward even when we are bone weary and would rather pull off to the side of the road. Hence, one prophet was especially commended by the Lord for his unwearyingness, (see Helaman 10:4; see also Helaman 15:6.)

Paul wrote of how, even after faithful disciples had done the will of God, they had need of patience. How many times have good individuals done the right thing initially only to break under subsequent stress? Sustaining correct conduct for a difficult moment under extraordinary stress is very commendable, but so is coping with sustained stress. Either way, however, we are to run with patience the race that is set before us, and it is a marathon, not a sprint.

When you and I are unduly impatient, we are suggesting that we like our timetable better than God’s. And thus, while the scriptural phrase “in process of time” means eventually, it also denotes an entire spiritual process.

By itself, of course, the passage of time does not bring an automatic advance. Yet, like the prodigal son, we often need the process of time in order to come to our spiritual senses. So many spiritual outcomes require saving truths to be mixed with time, forming the elixir of experience, that sovereign remedy for so many things. Without patient and meek endurance we will learn less, see less, feel less, and hear less.

How can there be refining fires without enduring some heat? Or greater patience without enduring some instructive waiting? Or more empathy without bearing one another’s burdens—not only that others’ burdens may be lightened, but that we may be enlightened through greater empathy? How can there be later magnification without enduring some present deprivation?

The enlarging of the soul requires not only some remodeling, but some excavating. Hypocrisy, guile, and other embedded traits do not go gladly. We find that sorrow can actually enlarge the mind and heart in order to give place, expanded space, for later joy.

Thus, enduring is one of the cardinal attributes; it simply cannot be developed without the laboratory time in this second estate. Even the best lectures about the theory of enduring are not enough. All the other cardinal virtues—love, patience, humility, mercy, purity, submissiveness, justice—they all require endurance for their full development.Therefore, one of the most powerful and searching questions ever asked of all of us in our sufferings hangs in time and space before us: “The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?” Jesus plumbed the depths and scaled the heights in order to comprehend all things.

You see in those who endure it well a quiet, peaceful majesty, an unspoken, inner awareness that, like Paul, they have kept the faith. And they know it, though they do not speak of it.’

I don’t know if the truth will help you endure and prosper in your assignment, but I do know that understanding God’s desire for my life has made all the difference to me. I have never wanted, for my children or myself, an easy life. Rather, I have hoped that you will someday meet a challenge that will take you to the limit of your own ability. And when you face that challenge my hope is that you will not give up but rather that you will turn to God and discover the extent of His love for you and discover, as well, the power of that love as He works miracles in your life.

Then, and only then, you will become a disciple of Christ and a true servant of God.

I have confidence that you will prevail, that you will have the strength to stay the course and that you will be an influence for good wherever you are.


Your Mother

A Worthy Battle Scar

Photo courtesy of Ripp
Photo courtesy of Ripp

There is a story that touches me and creates within me the desire to help lift the earth. It goes like this.

‘I boarded a train in Osaka for Yokohama and a ship that would take me home (from Japan after the war). It was a very chilly night. The railroad station, what there was left of it,was very cold. Starving children were sleeping in the corners. That was common sight in Japan in those days. The fortunate ones had newspaper or a few old rags to fend off the cold.

On that train, I slept restlessly. The berths were too short anyway. In the bleak, chilly hours of the dawn, the train stopped at a station along the way. I heard a tapping on the window and raised the blind. There on the platform stood a little boy tapping on the window with a tin can. I knew he was an orphan and a beggar; the tin can was the symbol of their suffering. Sometimes they carried a spoon as well, as if to say, “I am hungry; feed me.”

He might have been six or seven years old. His little body was thin with starvation. He had on a thin, ragged shirt-like kimono, nothing else. His head was shingled with scabs. His one jaw was swollen—perhaps from an abscessed tooth. Around his head he had tied a filthy rag with a knot on top of his head—a pathetic gesture of treatment.

When I saw him and he saw that I was awake, he waved his can. He was begging. In pity, I thought, “How can I help him?” Then I remembered. had money, Japanese money. I quickly groped for my clothing and found some yen notes in my pocket. I tried to open the window. But it was stuck. I slipped on my trousers and hurried to the end of the car. He stood outside expectantly. As I pushed at the resistant door, the train pulled away from the station. Through the dirty windows I could see him, holding that rusty tin can, with the dirty rag around his swollen jaw.

There I stood, an officer from a conquering army, heading home to family and a future. There I stood, half-dressed, clutching some money which he had seen but which I could not get to him. I wanted to help him, but couldn’t. The only comfort I draw is that I did want to help him.

That was thirty-eight years ago, but I can see him as clearly as if it were yesterday.

Perhaps I was scarred by that experience. If so, it is a battle scar, a worthy one, for which I bear no shame.’ 

Can you hear the voice of the Lord saying to each of us just as He said to Peter, “Feed my lambs. Feed my sheep. Feed my sheep?

There are times when I hear people disbelieve in God because they look around them and see the almost unbearable suffering that is everywhere. Blame falls on God because they feel like He allows the suffering, the most cynical wonder if He enjoys watching us suffer.

But, what if God is waiting to see what we will do about it? What if we are to give of ourselves to lift the poor and poor in spirit?

Every prophet has instructed us that we are to feed the poor, that we are to love each other as we love ourselves, that we are to do away with contention and anger. That we are to choose God and love each other.

Think of all the ills of society that would be done away with if we lived those two commandments! If we choose God, we choose to keep His commandments. If we love each other, well, that would take care of everything else.

This is our earth, it has become what we have created. We have no one to blame but the collective us for the appalling conditions we accept and allow. And while we have pockets of goodness, even greatness among us, no one will dispute that there is too much suffering for anyone to be content with things as they are.

Do you remember the fall of the Berlin Wall? One day the people of Berlin decided to tear it down.  That thought, that act, ended the separation of Germany. Can it possibly be that simple? I don’t know, but it might be.

So I am asking, what can you do to aid in the creation of mercy, of love, of kindness, today? And remember, if we can’t help everyone, right this minute, we can help someone.

The full story told above is recorded here.


Brokenhearted Hero

Photo courtesy of
Photo courtesy of

Our son drowned when he was two. One of the miracles of his death was the way every single person, medical, ambulance, police, neighbor, family, bishop, worked so hard to bring him back to us.

We didn’t learn much of the story until later but we were told that a doctor from Arizona had trained the emergency room staff for a week, on how to resuscitated and treat drowning victims. He was waiting on the curb for his taxi to the airport when the ambulance pulled in. Instead of leaving he missed his flight home and came back to help our little son. Never sent us a bill, we have never learned his name but someday we will know who he is and if he needs a kind word from me at the throne of God, it is his.

Dale’s room was filled with beeping, hissing machinery. Doctors and nurses coming and going, measuring, monitoring and determinedly not looking at us. A hospital chaplain waited quietly in the hall, ready to help. I remember them cutting his t-shirt off, and I remember that his hair had dried into blonde curls.

There came a time, after our bishop had come to pray over him, that the doctor softly asked us what we wanted to do.

We had waited and watched. The doctors couldn’t figure out why he didn’t just cough and sputter and wake up, they didn’t give up easily.

I remember looking at Dana and just nodding. Dana told them to turn off the machines.

One of the nurses asked me if I wanted to hold Dale. That is when I started to cry. “If you can give him to me, I want to hold him,” I said. But that sweet body laying on the bed was not him.

I touched his curls and held Dana for a moment and then we turned and walked out of the room and went home.

My appreciation for the education and skills at work in that hospital that day are enormous. They fought for us with everything they had to give.

There are moments in your life when you know that from that point forward you will never be the same. And I have since learned that the job these men and women do affect them as well. They had no idea that they would be called on to try to save a  little boy that day. They didn’t know that they would leave battered and bruised because of a job that demands intense service.

These women in this photo could be any nurses. They represent, in my mind, the people who tried so hard to save our son. They don’t always break down in a hallway; sometimes it’s their car on the way home, the employee lounge on a break or in the bathroom when they can’t stand it anymore. But, when they left our son’s room and a thousand others, after watching our dreams shatter, they shatter too. They ache with us, grieve for us and carry our burdens deep within their hearts. They are our brokenhearted heroes.

I want to thank you from the deepest part of my heart, even though I never knew your name and can’t remember your face. Your service is etched upon me and I hope you can feel my appreciation.

And sometimes I imagine that Dale watches over them as an extra special guardian angel. Someone should!

Have I Really Lived?

Photo courtesy of
Photo courtesy of

There are times that I try to remember heaven. I know I lived with God the Father before my birth and it seems strange that I have no glimmer of memory, nothing but a single-minded faith that this is true.

Our body is a glorious creation and though sometimes it seems that my body is me, it is important to remember that it is the spirit that gives our body life. We are really made of spirit with a covering of a body! Until the resurrection our body and spirit are only joined temporarily.

We are here to learn to subject the mortal, physical desires of our body to the more refined understanding of the spirit. To learn to listen to the best part of ourselves.

 Since my birth I have taken 272,981,505 breaths.

My heart has beat 1,810,311,224 times.

My fingernails have grown about 54 inches.

My hair has grown about 30 feet.

I have had 93000 dreams!

I have blinked approximately 480000000000.

I have smiled about 1050000 times.

It is obvious that I am not the same person I was at birth. The art of creation is going on to this day.

I have pledged to use my hands to help others.

My tongue to speak the truth and words of kindness.

My heart to love.

My mind to think pure and virtuous thoughts.

My feet to walk the paths of righteousness.

One this day of continued creation, may we grow closer to God and all that makes us a true child of the light.

The Christmas Story From The Bible

Photo courtesy of Christian Oterhals
Photo courtesy of Christian Oterhals

This is the story of Christ’s birth taken from the New Testament, Luke Chapter 2 and Matthew Chapter 2. I have removed the parts that little children will not understand and only distract from the story. I have also mashed the stories from Luke and Matthew so you have them in one place. 

Now, turn down the lights, set the scene and share this story with your children.  Help them feel the reverence and love you have for the Son of God. Help them to understand the reason we celebrate Christmas.

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem because he was of the house and lineage of David. To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God,and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,

Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.

When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.

And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judea: for thus it is written by the prophet,

Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.

And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.

When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.

When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.

And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshiped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.

And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.

 And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.

 When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt.



Missing Jesus?

Photo courtesy of
Photo courtesy of

We have an exquisite nativity set, made from olive wood and hand carved in Israel. It is beautiful, symbolic and at risk.

My kids adore the nativity set, the figures fit perfectly in little hands and while they love the lambs and shepherds and Mary, the favorite by far is the baby Jesus. It is pretty sturdy but a child’s love can be a destructive force.

I have fished the baby Jesus out of the washer and found it tumbling in the dryer. We have lost him in the couch and under the car seat cover. He has spent days in the crib, been forgotten under beds and I have even rescued him from the church ‘lost and found’. It can be counted a minor miracle that we still have him after years of being played with by a steady onslaught of two-year old children.

I once bought a cute but cheap kid friendly nativity set but kids know the score and they wouldn’t have a thing to do with it. It sat on the table, never played with and never loved. I resigned myself to the inevitable and brought out the priceless middle east nativity for good.

Over the years I have watched as my children seemed to find a great love for the Savior and I wonder how much it has to do with seeds sown as they played with that nativity set. I can remember nights when the children played with the baby Jesus by the soft glow of the Christmas tree lights. The Christmas story seemed real to me as I watched them.

Life is made up of moments and I am glad that I put our baby Jesus in the hands of our children year after year.

Our grand-daughter will be able to play with the family nativity figures this year and I am sure that she will pick up the baby to carry around the house. I am glad that we have kept it intact enough that it might bring joy to another generation of children.

I smiled as I watched Samuel and Karen set it up by the fireplace in our family room last night. The baby Jesus is still with us…I will keep you posted.


In A Bleak Midwinter

Photo courtesy of
Photo courtesy of

I am not into poetry but I do love beautiful language. When an author uses precise, lovely language to reveal the truth it softens and strengthens my soul. I wanted to share poem with you and then a song.

Prepare for the experience of bathing in the spirit of God, the spirit of Christmas.

In A Bleak Midwinter

In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him
Nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When He comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter
A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty,
Jesus Christ.

Angels and archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Thronged the air –
But only His mother
In her maiden bliss
Worshipped the Beloved
With a kiss.

What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb;
If I were a wise man
I would do my part;
Yet what I can, I give Him –
Give my heart.

The words resonate with my soul but the music lifts each word into the sublime.

I know many of us believe that our Savior was born in the spring and not in the bleak midwinter, but I acknowledge that the world stood in desperate need of the supernal sacrifice of God.

The cold and bleakness of winter perfectly symbolizes our condition before the Lord came into the world, offering us hope and salvation! I have listened to many renditions of this song, this rendition with Renee Fleming and Rufus Wainwright has reached perfection.

If you could see how Renee smiles when she sings the name of Jesus Christ you would recognize that love is there in the singing. Rufus sang this song to his mother, at her request, the Christmas before she passed away. I am sure that experience lifts his emotional response as the music soars from his heart.

If I could sing, this would be my song. Every time I listen to this song I do offer the Lord my heart. My prayer is that He will take my heart, my life, and count me worthy to be His friend.

Looking at Motherhood Through Tired Eyes

Photo courtesy of
Photo courtesy of

When I read about mothers that have the energy and creativity to do things like this. I am sure that my kids memories will revolve around two things, I loved them and I was tired most of the time! We have ten children and I had days, many of them, that I went to bed with aching ears. We were a noisy bunch of people in those days and my ears and other body parts just couldn’t keep up.

I am glad that some lucky child has a mother that plays with them and I am so blessed that my children were happy to make do with me as their mom!

When they wanted to play with me I would steer them towards a game where I was a sick mother and was reading on the bed while they played puppies or pirates or house. Sometimes I convinced them that brushing and styling my hair was the height of fun. I did love to watch them play at the park or the city pool and they were sweet enough to want it to be fun for me. One of them would always make sure I had my book in tow for the outing. I even tried to make cleaning fun but that only worked when they were very, very little.

I am sure that not all families are supposed to be huge entities, sprawling over 20 some years. Families, like people, come with their own personality and luckily for me children are mostly happy with their mom if they feel treasured. I guess they don’t know that there is any other way to be, not for a while at least.

I have a sister that loves to hike and swim and ride bikes and she loves to do those things with her children. If there is a game to be played or an activity to plan, she is right in the middle of it. I have another sister that is the best cheerleader a kid could ever want. If her daughter wants to be Miss Idaho or her son decides to run for student body president, just an off-handed mention is enough to set their mom figuring out how to make it happen. I have another sister that we all love and she is the crazy one. She is just plain fun and has purple highlights to prove it. I’ll bet all the neighborhood kids wish she was their mom!

When I think about the hundreds of mothers I know personally, I am amazed at how much we vary in every way possible. And our kids adore us as we are.

Someone once got me thinking by asking me how much I loved my children. I assured them that my kids were adored and he then asked me if I ever got up on Saturday morning and ran in and jumped on the kids beds to wake them up.

The truth was that when I get up I tiptoe around as quietly as possible to keep the kids sleeping.

Our kids want to be as close to us as possible, they don’t get tired of us and they think about dad and mom the second they open their eyes every morning. They resist going to sleep at night because they want to be near us.

I hope you can appreciate the strengths you bring to the role of mother or wife or sister or friend. We are not all the same and I am glad of it. Just love them and realize that it is enough.

The Reason For The Season

What do you do when hard things happen in your life? We all face challenges, we all walk up hill sometimes. The crucial question is… can you open your heart and trust that God is truly watching over each one of His children?

If you can take a step towards Him, and I’m not saying that it is an easy thing to do, you will begin to know that the story of Christ is real.

Life? Have faith in the right things and looking backwards you will see that it is all true.

There is a God in heaven. You are His child and He loves you. He loves us all and our part is to trust that love and to give love freely to each other.

Watch when others testify of that love, you will see in their eyes humility and gratitude. When you see that look it might give you hope that it can happen to you.

At this season of joy and hope I pray that you will find our Savior and feel of His love for all of us.

All I Want For Christmas is Authenticity

Photo courtesy of
Photo courtesy of

‘My daughter is a musically talented young woman. For many years I felt that this talent would not be developed unless I loomed over her at the piano and insistently supervised her practice like a Simon Legree. One day, sometime in her early teens, I realized that my attitude, probably once useful, was now visibly affecting our relationship. Torn between a fear that she would not fully develop a God-given talent and the reality of an increasingly strained relationship over that very issue, I did what I had seen my mother do when faced with a serious challenge. I sequestered myself in my secret place and poured out my soul in prayer, seeking the only wisdom that could help me keep that communication open — the kind of wisdom and help that comes from the tongues of angels. Upon arising from my knees, I knew what action I must take.

‘Because it was just three days before Christmas, I gave to Mary as a personal gift an apron from which I had conspicuously cut the apron strings. There was a tiny pocket on the apron in which I tucked a note. It read: ‘Dear Mary, I’m sorry for the conflict I have caused by acting like a federal marshal at the piano. I must have looked foolish there — just you and me and my six-shooters. Forgive me. You are becoming a young woman in your own right. I have only worried that you would not feel as fully confident and fulfilled as a woman if you left your talent unfinished. I love you. Mom.’

‘Later that day she sought me out, and in a quiet corner of our home, she said: ‘Mother, I know you want what is best for me, and I have known that all my life. But if I’m ever going to play the piano well, I’m the one who has to do the practicing, not you!’ Then she threw her arms around me and with tears in her eyes she said, ‘I’ve been wondering how to teach you that — and somehow you figured it out on your own.’ Now, by her own choice, she has gone on to even more disciplined musical development. And I am always nearby to encourage her.

‘As Mary and I reminisced about this experience a few years later, she confided in me that my willingness to say, “I’m sorry, I’ve made a mistake, please forgive me’ gave to her a great sense of self-worth because it said to her that she was worthy enough for a parental apology, that sometimes children can be right.’

This story come from a talk given by Pat Holland and you can read the full text here, I would encourage you to read it. She raised good children even while combating self-doubt and uncertainty, in spite of parenting under the influence of all those turbulent feelings.

She continues: ‘We all come into the world crying—and a little bit wobbly. For parents to take a newborn infant, who is then only a bundle of potentialities, and love and guide and develop that child until a fully functional human being emerges is the grandest miracle of science, and the greatest of all arts.

When the Lord created parents, he created something breathtakingly close to what he is. We who have borne children innately know that this is the highest of callings, the holiest of assignments—and that is why the slightest failure can cause us crippling despair.

Even with our best intentions and our most heartfelt efforts, some of us find our children not turning out the way we’d like. They are sometimes very difficult to communicate with. They might be struggling in school or emotionally distressed or openly rebellious or painfully shy. There are lots of reasons why they may still be wobbling a bit.’

If I may inject my opinion here, I would say that good parenting has little to do with technique or adhering to some or another doctrine. I have seen wonderful children emerge from homes enamored with sports as well as those who love music. Great people have been raised in large, intact families and homes presided over by single mothers. The secret, I believe, is authenticity.

It is impossible to fool a child.

They see how we look at them and they know if we really see them or if our eyes are looking at them while thinking about a million other things. They can tell if it is love that shines from our eyes or something less than that.

If we can approach parenthood with humility and a single-minded love for our kids, they will know our interest in their welfare is real. You can’t fake it. It isn’t possible.

And if you feel that your own, meager, supply of love isn’t quite enough to fill up your starving child, lean upon One whose love is endless. One whose love is as deep as the ocean and fills the immensity of space. God can fill your heart with love for your child.

And why wouldn’t He? They were His children long before He lent them to us.

What Are We Teaching Our Children About Christ This Christmas?

Photo courtesy of for the Word
Photo courtesy of for the Word

There is a gentle Austrian carol that calls to mind the mother of our Savior watching over him while he sleeps and reminds us of all the beauty, majesty and love that is the story of the first Christmas.

Did Mary rest while Jesus slept or did she watch over him as mother’s often do?

Did she feel the majesty of who he was and what he came to do?

All children are certified miracles, sent to our arms straight from God’s presence. They testify of God and goodness and are our chance to shine, to love and serve.

As we begin this Christmas season I hope that love will abound, that it will spill over and reach all who need to feel tenderness and mercy.

I hope that we will remember to teach our children exactly what that first Christmas means, by our words and by our example. Children don’t need harried parents, checking boxes and cramming Christmas ‘to do’ lists down their throats. Keeping it simple and keeping it focused on what is most important will bring the spirit of our Savior to our celebration of the season.

My list of things to do this Christmas include teaching my children, again, about promise of a Savior and the events surrounding His birth. Listening to and singing songs that invite the true spirit of Christ into our home. Filling our home with the smells of Christmas and sharing our creations with those who might be lonely and forgotten at this time of the year. Helping our children think of others while buying and wrapping a few gifts for each member of the family. Keep it simple and joyful and foster unselfishness.

We have our children make lists of things that their siblings might want instead of making the list for themselves. I am always surprised at how excited they all get about bringing happiness to each other.

We are extremely careful about what music we listen to. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with ‘Jingle Bell Rock’ but I hope to use music to create memories that include the reverence we should feel about the Lord and His birth.

I want the spirit to be rich in our home.

We also do one fun thing a day, it doesn’t matter what it is. Sledding, setting up the tree, baking, wrapping, crafts, building a fire, reading, hot chocolate, looking at lights. The possibilities are endless and I am careful to keep it simple and focused on Christ, not the production Christmas can become if we aren’t deliberate.

We always give a gift to the Savior for Christmas. We have fed the missionaries, spent time with someone in prison, taught the gospel, read the New Testament, written a soldier far away from home, made a gingerbread house to give away. Always simple. Once it was just a promise to Him to take care of and teach our new baby, born right after Christmas.

If we aim at the right things the hectic, distracting activities will fall away from our celebrations naturally and without effort. Aim straight at the Savior and the love of others, not just our love of our children but teaching them to love and give and worship.

When our aim is true the rest will follow.

This song captures the spirit of everything I hope for at this season of joy and gladness!


Still, still, still,
Let baby sleep its fill.
Maria sings a lullaby sweet
And lays her true heart at your feet
Still, still, still,
Let baby sleep its fill.

Sleep, sleep, sleep,
My precious baby sleep.
The Angels are all music making
By the Manger jubilation
Sleep, sleep, sleep,
My precious baby sleep.

Rise, rise, rise,
All Adam’s children rise.
O, kneel at the feet of Jesus now,
Our sins to atone he did vow.
Rise, rise, rise,
All Adam’s children rise.

We, we, we,
We all implore Thee:
Open for us heaven’s gate
Let your kingdom be our fate.
We, we, we,
We all implore Thee.

It Is Well With My Soul!

Photo courtesy of Andersen
Photo courtesy of Andersen

It is a sacred custom of my faith for fathers to bring their very young babies before the congregation and in company with family and church leaders, to bless the child.

I was the first child in my family and have pictures of several generations of family in attendance the day of my baby blessing. My mother fitted me out in white finery and handed me over to my father. My dress blanketed over the men’s arms as they held me and gave me a name and a blessing from heaven.

Of course, I remember nothing about that day but I am told that my father commenced to bless his little daughter with ‘trials and tribulations’. I can’t imagine that my mother was very happy about that promise! To me, it is a testament that my father was able to hear the whisperings of the spirit of God.

I can say, with conviction, that a blessing from God is indeed just that. What He gives to us is calculated to uplift and teach us. I have been taught richly by the things I have suffered. And, the sweetness of indescribable joy that keeps company with faith and tribulation is mine as well.

Most of you have heard the Christian hymn ‘It Is Well with My Soul’, it was penned by Horatio Spafford in 1873. After the death of his only son, who died of scarlet fever. After the Great Chicago Fire ruined him financially. And finally, after losing his four remaining children (all daughters) after sending them by ship to Europe with his wife. The ship sunk rapidly after colliding with another vessel.

His wife was miraculously saved and sent him a heartbreaking telegraph saying, ‘saved alone…’.

Horatio took the next available ship to join her and when the Captain heard of the tragedy he carefully marked the spot where the ship carrying his family was sunk and as they reached the sacred spot invited Horatio to join him on the deck to remember all those lost, including his children.

It is said that Horatio wrote this song after returning to his cabin. The thought of all he had lost heavy on his heart.

How is it that sorrow can cause the sublime to blossom in our hearts? How is it that grief can produce wisdom and faith? I couldn’t tell you the recipe but our Father in Heaven knows the ingredients required to produce an eternal being and I trust that He will carry me along. Us along.

There is something sublime about this song and I am happy to share it with you all.

For some reason the song doesn’t start until the 40 second mark… if you would like to read the words, I have included them below.

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,

It is well, with my soul.
It is well
With my soul
It is well, with my soul.

My sin, o, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole
Are nailed to the cross, and I bear them no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

It is well, it is well with my soul.
It is well
With my soul
It is well, with my soul.

And, Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

It is well, it is well with my soul.
It is well
With my soul
It is well, with my soul.

Comfort For Our Grief This Day

Stephen - so sorry to say goodbye
Stephen – so sorry to say goodbye

I am occasionally troubled by nightmares, usually a variation of dreams about our little boy in a coffin, but after finding this story I find it easier to push the image away and look forward instead to the day he will be restored to us.   The following is my summary of an experience recorded by Zeke Johnson.

“I was breaking farm ground in San Juan County Utah, making a home in Blanding.  The whole area was covered with scrubby desert trees and sagebrush. Working to clear the ground, my little boy Roy was with me to help plant the corn. I’d plow a row, he would plant the furrow with corn and I’d cover it and plow again. While plowing I discovered the remains of ancient buildings.

As I was plowing I noticed that my plow had turned out the skeleton of a small child,

the skull and backbone were visible but most of the bones had decayed. I stopped plowing immediately and turned and looked back. As I was looking at that little skeleton, and to my great surprise, I saw the bones begin to wiggle and begin to change positions and to take on a different color and within a minute a beautiful little skeleton had formed on the earth. It was perfect.

Next I saw the inner parts of the natural body coming in,  the entrails, heart, lungs, etc. I saw flesh coming on and I saw the skin come on the body when the inner parts of the body were complete. A beautiful head of hair adorned the top of the head and in about a half-minute after the hair was on the head, a beautiful crystal decoration appeared in the hair which was perfectly combed and parted on one side. In about half a minute after the hair was on the head, the child stood up on her feet. As she got up a beautiful robe came down over her left shoulder and I saw it was a girl, about 5 to 7 years old.

She looked at me and I looked at her, and for a quarter of a minute we just looked at each other smiling. Then in my ambition to get hold of her, I said, ‘Oh you beautiful child.’ I reached out as if I would embrace her and she disappeared.

I just stood and wondered and thought for a few minutes.  I couldn’t tell the story to anyone, because it was so mysterious to me. Why should I be witness to such a miraculous experience? I didn’t know the features of a human being enough to accidentally plow that little body out and imagine what happened.  I wondered and worried about this experience for years.   Why was I allowed to see it, a common man like me – uneducated as I was. Why was I allowed to see such a marvelous manifestation of God’s powers? One day as I was walking along with my hoe on my shoulder, something said, ‘Stop under the shade of the tree for a few minutes and rest.’  As I stopped in the shade understanding was finally given to me:

When the child was buried in my field it was either in time of war or it was during wintertime when the ground was frozen, and they had no tools to dig a deep grave.  If it were during time of war they couldn’t possibly take time to dig a deep grave. They just cared for the little body as they could under the circumstances. I could hear the sorrowing mother worry about her daughter buried in such a little shallow grave.  She knew that  the first beast that came along would smell her body, dig her up and scatter her to the four winds.

A man in their company, a minister of God promised the mother saying,  ‘Calm your sorrows, for when her body is disturbed or uncovered, the Lord will call her up and she will live.’

Since that time I have taken great comfort, great cheer, consolation and satisfaction with praise in my heart and soul, until I haven’t the words to express it, that it was I that uncovered that little body and saw that resurrection.”

I look forward to the day our sorrow will be replaced in full measure by the joy of reuniting again with those we have loved and lost.  Until then, I will nurture faith and push away fear.

My family is mourning the death of our son, brother, nephew, uncle, grandson and friend this day and we will miss him until we are reunited again. Hopefully, this story will help us all remember the sweetness he brought to our lives instead of the way he left us. Too many angels watching over us!

The When of Prayer

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Photo courtesy of

I have worked with the children of our church for about eight years now and most of it has been a delight. Kids do say the ‘darndest’ things! I once asked my class of six-year-old children if they said their prayers before they went to sleep.

Every arm went up, in the affirmative.

‘Do you pray in the morning, too?’ I asked.

A good portion of the children raised their arms again,  but one little boy announced that he did not. When I asked why, he explained that he wasn’t scared in the daytime!

Fear of the dark should not be our only motivation to pray—morning or night.

Today I wanted to write about the when of prayer. When is it appropriate to pray? When is it best to pray? To read more about the ‘W’s’ of prayer you can go to the Who, What and Where of prayer to read more.

We are counseled in the scriptures:

  • Luke 18:1  And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray.
  • Doctrine and Covenants 93:49  What I say unto one I say unto all; pray always.
  • 1 Nephi 18:3  And I, Nephi, did go into the mount oft, and I did pray oft unto the Lord; wherefore the Lord showed unto me great things.

By these scriptures and hundreds of others we learn that we are to pray always. I believe that the Lord means what He causes to be written by his prophet’s, it is up to us to figure out how to comply and reap the blessings of obedience.

So, how do we pray always? I don’t know how others comply, but I can share with you how I manage the feat. We are all carrying on internal conversations. I have, over time, converted those conversations with self into conversations with God. So, instead of saying to myself, ‘look at those black storm clouds!’ I have changed it to, ‘Father, do you see the storm that is brewing near our home?’

Instead of feeling shame or embarrassment over thoughtless words I change the conversation to a contrite apology for my lapse in judgement and move on.

It changes my day, moment to moment. I am sure there are other ways to manage, but this is mine.

Next, we are counseled to pray when we are alone:

  • Luke 9:18  And it came to pass, as he was alone praying. 

For me, the most powerful prayers I offer are when I am alone. It is nice when the world around me is quiet and still but it isn’t necessary to the process. You can be alone in the midst of a crowd and still feel the Lord standing near.

Hearing the Lord’s answers is most often accomplished when you are truly alone, which is why so many stories about prophet’s receiving revelation happen high on a mountain or in God’s temple. Away from the distractions and noise of the world.

We are also counseled to pray when we are in need of God’s comfort and help.

  • 1 Samuel 1:10  And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the Lord.

This scripture refers to Hannah, who became the mother of a prophet. Her womb was shut and she had no children. Where did she turn? Who did she turn to? She supplicated God, she turned to God who had created her and had the power to heal her and grant her the desires of her heart. Or not, according to His tender wisdom.

When we are in the midst of bitterness, do we turn to God for comfort and help or do we turn from Him in anger that life has treated us so roughly?

It is a real question and one that we will need to answer over and over, throughout our lives.

When should we pray? The answer truly is always. When will He listen? Again, the answer truly is always! If you stop to listen you will feel His love envelop you. You will feel direction and peace and His tender and unfathomable love for you. For you, not us in general, but you as an individual and beloved child.

Prayer is touching heaven and I admonish all of us, myself included, to spend a greater portion of our time in conversation with God.

Death and Infant Baptism

Left to right: Joanie, Ann, my mother and Mary, my father and Paul, Kay
Left to right: Joanie, Ann, my mother and Mary, my father and Paul, Kay

I will tell you what I remember about my sister Mary and although it isn’t much, it is enough to love her.

I remember that her hair had reddish tints in the sun.

I remember she was quiet and small.

I remember them naming her Linda, but the name didn’t stick and they had it changed to Mary after bringing her home from the hospital.

I remember my mother leaving Mary with my father and taking the rest of us kids to see a show and then leaving abruptly for home when a passing siren disturbed her.

I remember pulling up to our home in Inglewood California in our station wagon, a fire truck and an ambulance parked there as well with their lights swirling into the darkness.

She died from crib death on Christmas day, 1965.

‘My mother grieved, knowing that we were too young to remember her and knowing also that none of her grandparents had even seen her.  Mary seemed destined to have lived and died to be remembered only by her parents.

This concern became the burden of her prayers and eventually an idea began to form in her heart, she felt strongly that if, through Mary’s death, she and the baby could work together to change someone’s life, the comfort she needed so much would come.

Late in January my mother went to get her hair done and the stylist, Jan, asked about the baby.  When she learned that Mary had died she asked if she had been baptized.  My mother explained our belief that infants do not need baptism, but that they are innocent until they reach the age of accountability.

Jan shared that her father had been a boy when their baby died and he remembered the minister of their church telling his grieving parents that they could not bury the baby in the church cemetery because he had not been baptized.  Her father, even as young as he was, decided he would never again set foot in the door of that church or any other that taught such doctrine.  And he never did.

Jan found great comfort in learning the doctrines of our church and was baptized. My mother began to feel at peace about Mary’s life and premature death.

Christmas is a bittersweet day for my parents, they miss their daughter but are comforted because through the birth of the Savior and the gift of His atonement they will be together with Mary again someday.

There is a poem that paints a picture of the Savior leading a flock of sheep. They reach the edge of a river and Jesus wades in but the sheep are too afraid to follow. Coming back to the shore he gathers a little lamb into his arms and wades out again into the water. This time the mother of the lamb follows and behind her the rest of the flock, until they are all safe on the opposite shore.

Mary is a beacon light, drawing us, through the power of our shared love to her celestial home. Like the mother sheep who follows her lamb, we find renewed courage to forge through the dangerous waters of life. And on that distant shore, we see not just our own little lamb, but the Shepherd himself, waiting patiently for each of us to join them.’

My sister is buried in an old pioneer cemetery in Utah where I went to college. There were times that I felt alone and lonely, I would drive out to the cemetery and sit near her grave. I didn’t talk to her but I would find myself praying and feel her close to me. It was comforting to feel that someone cared, that someone was watching over me, someone who knew everything about me and still loved me.

I don’t know if I will recognize Mary when I see her again, but I know that she will be there to greet me when I do pass from this life to the next. A perfected daughter of God. One that didn’t need the purifying experiences of life but was given a body and a family and then taken into the bosom of God.

I don’t know if there are any of you, my wonderful readers, who grieve because your child or sibling wasn’t baptized before death. I am sure, beyond any doubt, that there is no sin in a child that would keep them from attaining the highest glory God has to give to His children. They are innocent before God and have no need of baptism. The traditions of men are strong but there was no hint of infant baptism until long after Christ was gone. He never taught it, rather he taught that we were to become as little children ourselves. If you struggle with doubt I plead with you to ask God, who giveth to all men liberally, and He will put your heart at rest.

Enjoy these family pictures and contemplate the fact that I am five years old in these pictures!  Five children under six. My mother is a champ.

Joanie, Mother and Mary, Ann and Kay
Joanie, Mother and Mary, Ann and Kay
My sister Joan and Mary
My sister Joan and Mary

Mom and Mary

Mary Merrell October 20, 1965
Mary Merrell October 20, 1965




Dying Young as Late as Possible

I don’t know what makes people experts on certain subjects, sometimes it is just the ability to turn a phrase.  A gentleman named Ashley Montagu decided that ‘the idea is to die young as late as possible’, and besides sounding cute, it resonates with me!

Get here, learn a ton, enjoy everything good this world has to offer, love everyone that comes in sight and then get out before your life becomes burdened with ill-health and brittle bones.  Sounds like a plan to me!

I found a song I haven’t heard for a long time and thought you might enjoy it too.  Have a wonderful weekend.

What Ifs and Lessons Learned


Aunt Ilene and Dale
Aunt Ilene and Dale
Dale and Washington monument 001
Dale, three days old in Washington DC

When I was sixteen my littlest sister Ilene was born, at home!  When she was presentable the doctor wrapped her in a blanket and my father brought her downstairs and laid her in my arms. It was magic. She was beautiful and she was a tomboy and she was good. Ilene’s hair was always on the wild side and being the youngest girl in a big family she grew up fast.

She was properly awed when I tried on my wedding dress and was always happy to babysit Dale and Jody when I needed help later on. She became the most awesome aunt! There aren’t many people who remember our little son, but she is one of them. I caught them giggling together more than once, giggles that were pure gold.  I asked Ilene to share with me what she learned from losing her nephew. she was nine when he died. This is what she wrote:

Ilene, David and Dale 001
Ilene and Dale

‘There are moments in a persons’ life that are forever ingrained in their mind. I hear people say, “I remember the exact moment I heard about JFK being shot” or “I know exactly where I was when the plane hit the tower”.  You remember minute details, like the shirt you were wearing or how the sun reflected off a window.  You can recall sounds or smells.  For me, I remember words that changed everything:  “Dana, Dale’s in the pool!!!”

I was sitting in the basement watching The Addams Family on TV.  I can probably still describe the episode.  I remember hearing those words and I started running.  It took a minute or two to realize what was happening.  I stood to the side while Dana started CPR and I couldn’t help but watch my oldest sister, standing by the side of the pool, soaking wet after she jumped into the pool to pull out her little boy.

Dale and bandaid 001
Dale and his curls

If you ask any member of my family who was present that day, they could all replay the same events.  It wasn’t until many, many years later that we all confessed the same thing to each other.  We all felt some responsibility that we weren’t there, even just a second before Dale fell in the pool, to save him.  I was watching TV.  My mom had been in the garden moments before.  My little brother David had been outside as well and came inside without Dale.  We all wanted to go back in time, do something different, pay attention, follow him around as he explored in the backyard.  We carried guilt and sadness and regret.  What if just one of us had felt a prompting that he was in danger?  Or happened to be outside at the moment he leaned over the water.  What if his little body had responded to his fathers’ breath and chest compression? What if the first responders had been able to shock his heart back into its rhythm?

I think we all understand now that any one of us could have been there in that moment to stop this tragedy from ever happening.  But in my heart, I know that we were meant to NOT be there.  I truly believe that we all have a mission in life to fulfill.  We were born with gifts and talents and have been placed on this earth to perform our divine mission.  We knew what trials we would face, and we still agreed to come.  Some people are required to stay here longer and some, in my opinion, don’t need to be here long to perform theirs.  Some are here just long enough to take a breath and gain a body before our loving Heavenly Father calls them back. Dale completed his earthly mission in just 2 short years.

The week before Dale died
The week before Dale died

As painful as it is to go back and remember those moments of Dale’s death, I try to replace the sadness with lessons I learned from it.  I learned that faith can sustain you in the hardest of times.  I learned that our Heavenly Father hears our pleas and that the Holy Ghost is truly a comforter.  And I learned how important it is to KNOW that we will see our loved ones again.  Death is a temporary separation and I long for the time when I will get to be reunited with my sweet nephew again.’

I do know that if Dale left this earth reluctantly, it was in large part because leaving his Aunt Ilene and his fun Merrell uncle’s was hard. I plan on watching when they are re-united again one day. Love will be there, of that I am sure.

And, if any of you need advice in the Aunt department, I know just who you should ask! It might be fun to start an Ilene’s Aunting Advice Facebook page, I know my kids have stories they could tell…

Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep

Photo courtesy of Olivera
Photo courtesy of Olivera

Two weeks before our son died I had some professional pictures taken of him and our daughter Jody. It was pure agony for Dale, but he tried his best to do what the photographer asked of him.  Jody, on the other hand, grinned from ear to ear the during whole session.

When he passed away we went to the studio to see if we could get a portrait for the funeral only to find out they had lost the pictures, negatives and all! They offered to re-take the pictures, I mumbled something about that being impossible and we left.

Later, when I looked through Dale’s woefully small journal, the pictures were sweet but didn’t bring him back. Which only served to push photo’s farther and farther down my ‘to-do’ list.

Family pictures seemed a little pointless because we were missing so many little faces.

Then I heard about a service that comes to the hospital and takes professional photographs when a child dies. It is called Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep and you can see their website here.

If you know anyone in the position of losing a child, please share this service with them. I went on their website and looked up photographers in my zip code and six names and phone numbers were listed. They photograph the child for no cost. What a wonderful service and the pictures are breathtakingly beautiful.

Looking back on our experience, I can honestly say that this might have helped me. I hope this simple post will be the instrument to someday provide a service that will help someone else in their hour of greatest need.

Will you, my sweet readers, be my hands and help spread the word?

How Does Death Feel?

Photo courtesy of
Photo courtesy of

I know there are those of you who, while not afraid of being dead, have a general, nagging fear of actually dying.  I remember vividly a conversation I had with my grandfather a few years before he passed away.  As we talked I gradually realized that his fear of death was constantly lurking, tapping him on the shoulder and reminding him that an extremely unpleasant if not terrifying experience was waiting for him up the road. He would brush the topic away but his anxiety about it kept bringing it up again and again.  If you feel this way or if someone you love suffers from a fear of dying, this post is for you.

When our son passed away I was disturbed with thoughts about how he felt while dying.  Did he wonder where his mother was? Did he feel abandoned?  Drowning seems a horrible, suffocating, panicky way to die!

My default behavior when seeking information is to go to the library and I did so then. This was before the internet existed and I was fortunate to find a book that answered my questions and soothed all my anxiety.

The author detailed several kinds of traumatic death, talked to physicians and then interviewed people who had actually died and were brought back to life.  They spoke about how they felt and what they experienced as they died, what a topic!

In no case was the death painful or excruciating!  Car and other accidents, fire, drowning, heart attack and bleeding out were some of the types of death covered in the book.  Each type of death experience was discussed in great and generous detail.

The people who drowned, for instance, wrote about how they experienced a feeling of euphoria before death.  The nightmares I had of struggle and panic, did not happen, were not a part of their memory.

Universally, the people interviewed spoke about the pain they suffered at returning to life, not at leaving life.

Fear is a heavy burden to carry alone.  Imagine taking a hike with a 100 pound backpack, you can ignore the extra weight for a while but it will grow heavier and more burdensome with each step.  The only real relief would be to put the weight down. Some of us can put the fear of dying aside for moments but end up taking it up again and again.  We seem powerless to let it go and walk away!

I recently discovered a TED talk, given by an emergency responder.  He speaks about dying.  I learned and re-learned so much from this man, my first thought was to share it with you. Listen and share this information with others who might need reassurance.

You will discover that removing the lurking concerns you feel about dying will enable you to find an added measure of peace and hopefully, a renewed love of the life you are in the middle of living!

A Person’s a Person, No Matter How Small

Photo courtesy of Tipton
Photo courtesy of Tipton

Today I want to talk about pregnancy and infant loss, a heavy subject and one I am concerned about.  I think it is time we decide, once and for all, that a pregnancy is a baby.  It is time to break the silence surrounding the death of babies and children.

A pregnancy is hope and dreams and love.  A pregnancy is creation and potential.  A pregnancy changes a woman, a family, in exponential ways.  It is a soul changing, life changing, relationship changing process and should be acknowledged as such.

Many of you know that our oldest child died when he was two, we had three boys that were still-born and a miscarriage, also a  (more…)

God is Filled with an Infinite Love for You

Photo courtesy of Katsoulis
Photo courtesy of Katsoulis

A friend shared this article with me and something about his words struck a cord within me.  I am quoting Dieter F. Uchtdorf.

‘Think of the purest love you can imagine. Now multiply that love by an infinite amount—that is the measure of God’s love for you.


No Regrets

Mom and DaughtersLife is so often full of regrets.  We regret how we treated other people, the words we said.  We regret the choices we made.  It’s a rare occasion indeed that we can come through one of life’s biggest transitions without regret.  I feel so blessed that I have no regrets over my mother’s last days.  When she passed from this life into eternity, I knew that I had done everything possible to make her final months as comfortable as possible.  I had no regrets, beyond the fact that she was gone. (more…)

The Magestic Power of Forgiveness

Photo  courtesy of
Photo courtesy of

Corrie Ten Boom was a part of the Dutch underground rebellion against the Nazi invasion during the second world war and was eventually taken and imprisoned herself along with the rest of her family.  Her sister Betsie died in the camp.  After the war she set up services to help concentration camp survivors and dutch collaborators.  She regularly preached forgiveness to a war-weary world and it was at a church service in Munich that she was approached by one of her jailers. (more…)

Which Wolf Are You Feeding?

Photo courtesy of
Photo courtesy of

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, “My son, the battle is between two wolves that live inside us all.

One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

Since our son died I have naturally been interested in the subject of life and death, subjects that knit and unravel together.

I have read and listened and prayed and there is truth to the story of the wolf.

If you look up ‘grief and loss’ or ‘what is death?’ or ‘bereavement’ on the internet you will find blogs about these subjects in an endless variety.  I have found that these writings are divided into two basic camps.  Some turn towards God and others turn deliberately or petulantly away from anything to do with Him.

The people who turn to God are filled with hope, even as they suffer.  They seek peace and understanding and their pain is tempered and softened by their hope.

The people who turn away from God seem to be filled with an angry or maybe despairing spirit and refuse to accept any notion of comfort or peace.   ‘I refuse to believe in a God that would take my child (or husband or mother) away from me.’ They exclaim.  It seems an exhausting, bristling pose, one that rejects heaven out of hand.  Almost like a lover that ends a relationship before their loved one can hurt them first.

I can understand, intellectually, why someone would react this way.  But I wonder where this particularly bitter road will take them. We have a choice to make.  We might be victims of circumstance but as in the grandfather’s story, we choose which wolf we will feed.

There is a peace that comes when we turn our hearts and our will over to God.  A comfort that covers and warms us and it is real.  Trust God!  He is our Father and to those who can nurture faith He will turn all things to their good.

Carly Marie Project Heal

carlymarie project heal
carly marie project heal

Today is the day to heal, to celebrate the life of a lost child, to savor the relationship and connection you have with that child or children, to share that love with everyone who will allow the intimacy.

If you follow the link here you will be able to share in the World-Wide Remembrance Ceremony for The Bereaved Parents Community, come join other parents in remembering.

Thank you Carly Marie and Christian.

If you take the time to read through her blog you can’t help but see how the nightmare of losing their son, Christian, has become something that she has used to help parents around the globe.  She brings together a community of people who have experienced the death of a child and have nowhere to turn and few connections with people that understand.

She is good and has found peace.  I wish that for each of you, for don’t we all mourn?  And don’t we all need an increase of peace in our lives?

Take a moment and share in the day of remembrance and find an element of healing for yourself or someone you care for.