Friday, July 28, 2017

Just the Right Thing

The job in Utah was one of those dream jobs. Every time I attended training meetings in Utah, I thought "Oh, that would be SO awesome to work there!" Woking for LDS Family Services is a dream job anyway, but the position in Central Office would be icing on the cake. Robert even daydreamed with me…he would've moved back to Utah as well. After he passed, I felt very settled here, but some little part of me always wanted to work in Central Office and to live in Utah.

Robert had job dreams too. He loved his work, but when the Phoenix Temple was announced, he felt a special pull towards it. It became his favorite temple (I used to tease him about the fact that he was sealed to two different women in two different temples, but neither of those temples was his favorite!) He hoped that the position of Temple Recorder in Phoenix would be a paid position that combined both his Facilities Management experience and the exacting but important work of keeping temple records. His desire, since before we married, was to be a temple recorder. The Phoenix Temple was still under construction (or more accurately, was stuck in design phase) when Robert learned that the Temple Recorder position for the Mesa temple was about to open up, he contacted a longtime friend, Edgardo Carbajal, who works in the Temple Department, to ask about the position. Although one doesn't usually ask to be interviewed for such a post, Edgardo was delighted to arrange an interview.

Robert described the interview as not so much an interview, but a friendly visit. The brother doing the interviewing explained that he was meeting with people, trying to discover who it was the Lord had in mind for the position of Temple Recorder. They talked about many things, including the responsibilities of the job. Robert felt qualified for the job, for sure, but by the time the interview was over, he also knew he was not the one the Lord had in mind for the position. And in the end, what we both wanted was to be doing what the Lord needs us to do. Little did we know, the cancer returned only a few months later. "Ah, that was why!" we thought. Robert did not even live to see the Phoenix Temple dedicated in this life. I'm certain he was present on the other side of the veil, but not with his own feet set on earthly clay.

Then the 'dream job' position opened up. My first thought was that I loved my life here. Close to most of my kids and grandkids, not to mention many, many friends. Then I thought about the long term benefits of the job in Utah and positioning for retirement. I wondered how a better retirement fund would happen in my current place. After a struggle, I decided to apply for the job. I'm good at what I do, so I wasn't surprised when I was notified that I was one of the final candidates. Nervous, yes. But not surprised.

I loved the opportunity to be interviewed! I enjoyed visiting the Church Office Building and getting a little tour of the grounds. I especially enjoyed meeting so many people, all of whom work to move the Lord's work forward. They are all people I admire, many are people I enjoy working with from my current position. Working right there, I thought, would be so fun and so inspiring. I hoped it would be a terrific experience! At the same time, I had some mixed emotions about leaving what I've known for almost 30 years. And the idea of moving to Utah, the place Robert and I dreamed of living, without Robert felt a little odd. Still, I'm always up for a good adventure (that's something Robert and I had in common).

The morning after the interview, I wanted to just relax and enjoy the weekend with my son and his family in Idaho. As I prayed that morning, I felt perfect peace and assurance that "Whatever happens will be exactly right" for me and for everyone else. It was such a tranquil feeling that I commented to Jane (my sister-in-law) that I wasn't sure if I was even feeling things, because I felt such total calm. I went off to 'play' with my family and it was wonderful!

The following Thursday morning, when I arrived at work, I noticed the picture of Robert and I from our wedding had fallen off the sticky board where it resides. I picked it up and suddenly felt Robert so very close. All the memories of that Temple Recorder Interview streamed through my mind and it was as if he was standing right there saying to me, "Don't worry, everything that happens will be the right thing for not only you but for everyone else." And I wanted that most of all; whatever happened, I wanted it to be right for everyone and the work to go forward with whomever the Lord needed there to do it. And somehow I knew that meant I needed to stay right where I was. So, when Sandie called later that day, I wasn't surprised when she said someone else had been selected for the job, and I immediately felt peace about it. I am very aware that the Lord is mindful of my needs, my desires and my abilities. Sometimes the abilities I think are important to Him and not the ones He wants me to develop. Sometimes, times like this, I am given direction on which way to go. That direction came after I did my best to go a different way, but then the Lord said, "That's okay, I need you here."

My oldest son had said "You can't ask the Lord to bless your efforts if you don't make an effort to do something yourself." That's so true! (Wow! I have such wise kids!) I still don't know how that retirement positioning thing is going to work out. But looking back I see that so very many things I wondered about have worked out far better than anything I could have thought of. The Lord has blessed and continues to bless my efforts. I'm profoundly thankful for the opportunity and the experience.

Keep thou my feet
I do not ask to see the distant scene
One step enough for me.

Monday, July 24, 2017

To Be A Pioneer

If you're a Mormon, you might feel a certain amount of pride in having Pioneer ancestors. Ancestors who sacrificed all, crossed the plains in handcarts and wagons and began a new life in a new land. Pioneers who not only settled distant towns and made the desert blossom as a rose, they did so for a religion that filled their hearts with joy and peace.

Well, maybe if you're from a long line of Mormons, anyway.

Some of us, though, are pioneers ourselves, becoming the first converts in the family tree.

That's me. I joined the Church as a convert from another faith. My mother and I were baptized on the same spring day 50 years ago (ouch! I'm that old?). My father, after exhausting many a missionary, stepped into the waters of baptism a couple of years later. I completely loved and embraced this new Church. All of the peace and joy that was missing in my life I found here. There was just one tiny painful point. Most of my new-found friends were from Pioneer stock…and I was not. I could not yet see myself as a different kind of pioneer. I simply wanted to have pioneer ancestors. When my new friend, David Orgill spoke of the faith of his great-grandfather, Heber C. Kimball, I was jealous. When other friends spoke of pioneer ancestors who crossed the plains, I was green with envy. Oh, how I wanted to be one of those 'pioneer families'!

My hope was renewed when my mother began to take an interest in Family History work (Genealogy). I begged her to find some hidden line of Pioneers and I could finally claim a birthright I thought I was owed. She searched…spending hours in genealogy libraries and travelling to Utah for more. She authored five volumes of family history on her father's line. No Hidden Pioneers.

You don't have to push a handcart,
Leave your fam'ly dear,
Or walk a thousand miles or more
To be a pioneer!

(To Be A Pioneer, text by Ruth Muir Gardner, Children's Songbook, p. 218)

The wanting grew when we spent a summer visiting Nauvoo, Illinois and other Church history sites. That summer, I read and re-read the History of Joseph Smith, written by his mother, Lucy Mack Smith. Oh, how I longed for religious roots sunk deeps as theirs. Lucy became an example to me, her faith and dedication to do whatever the Lord required of her ennobled my heart. I can't explain the bond I felt with her, but time would prove the reason for it.

Years later, some of my longing for Pioneer blood was satisfied by knowing that my children have contributed to the posterity of Hyrum Smith, brother to the Prophet Joseph Smith, and a real Pioneer of the Restoration. Their father is a direct descendant of Hyrum. I found peace and joy in that knowledge and the feeling of love and admiration towards Lucy Mack Smith grew. I felt humbled to have had a part in blessing in her life. I realized that each of us is a pioneer of sorts, we each blaze our own trail. That concluded my desires for Pioneer blood of my own, and I even stopped asking the Lord for such a blessing. If such a link were ever found, that would just be icing on a beautiful family history cake.

Ancestry DNA is a marvelous thing. A few weeks ago, I did a DNA test through them, hoping to find clues to help untangle the Messenger family on my Grandmother's side. All efforts at research had stopped at my great-grandfather. My mother had concentrated her work on my grandfather's line, leaving my grandmother to do her own. When grandma hit a memory snag, she stopped as well.  It was messy. So messy that I reasoned there couldn't possibly Pioneer ancestors in that line anyway. When her father supposedly died, Grandma was sent to live with another family. The information stopped there. I felt stymied, so I took a break. Now Ancestry DNA had fixed the mess. And there he was! A TRUE Pioneer Missionary in the early church!! We aren't direct ancestors, but we'll claim him anyway!!

Myron Spencer Higley is a cousin to my Great-great-great-great-grandmother, Martha Mills. His obituary shares the following information:
"Myron S. Higley, son of Job Higley and Dorcas Eggleston, was born in Simsbury, Ct. December 29th, 1801. His father supposed to be dead, in his 12th year Myron, with a younger brother, was leased to an uncle, but not relishing the treatment they there received, left without warning after two years' service; wandered off some forty miles and were kindly taken in by a stranger with whom they lived some years, when they went to Gananoqui, Canada and engaged in the business of turning wooden bowls and making water buckets, which Myron exported in large quantities.

"He married Priscilla Ebberson, October 1885; heard and embraced the Gospel just before the patriot war and moved to New York State… made his mother a visit and converted her to the truth of the gospel, but her husband (for supposing Myron's father to be dead had married again) being so much opposed to the religion, she concluded not to be baptized then…

"From Nauvoo he moved to Benton's Fort on the Des Moines River then to Council Bluffs, and from there to Uintah, Utah….His family number eleven children, seventy-one grandchildren and fifty-six great grandchildren. He was tender hearted, strictly honest and a faithful devotee of Mormonism."

Why do I share this? Why not leave the story un-fulfilled? Why not be happy with BE-ing a Pioneer of my own making?

For me, this entire journey proves how closely connected we are with each other. A glance at my social media feed shows me this as well- you know, that Six Degrees of Separation thing. But THIS connection is about family. Somewhere in this valley are other relatives of Myron Higley. Higley Road, Town of Higley, all surely named after some distant relative! We're all related somehow, the actual links are hidden in our ancestry. Before this event, I didn't believe I was connected to any of it. Often, how we see our connections shape how we treat each other. The same blood that made Myron a tender-hearted and faithful man runs through me and to my children. The strength to survive difficult life situations, the desire to work hard, the desire to have a strong family…all of these things are shared in our genes. That makes me think, what hidden and shared experiences are in the genes of that stranger I see on the street? What common ancestor-ly experience is shared by my new friend at church? What hidden link might I share with my neighbor? I wish I could see how your fourth-great grandfather was a kind stranger to my third-great-grandfather. It would give me greater cause for compassion and understanding. We need to be kinder to one another, because in the end, we're all connected.

May thy strong Spirit bind our hearts in unity,
And help us each to find the love from self set free.
In all our heart such love increase,
That ev'ry home, by this release,
May be the dwelling place of peace.

(Our Father, by Whose Name, text by F. Bland Tucker, Hymns, #296)

Sunday, January 22, 2017

A Full Bottle of Blessings

My home teacher asked me if I had a bottle of consecrated oil in my home. I knew I did. Well, I thought I did. It wasn't where I thought it was. Two weeks later, while looking for something else, I was digging through 'Roberts drawer' in the dresser I found it.

And there in Robert's writing is the date on the label: 9-09

September 2009. Robert was home from the hospital, doing Chemo. We were so full of hope. But I have forgotten about this oil....did Jeff come over and they consecrate oil together? Did they do that in a Priesthood meeting? I remember Robert had a couple of other bottles which he gave to others, but this one was ours. I remember the tender comfort I had, knowing that there was a bottle of sacred oil in the fridge, and more importantly, a Priesthood holder who was able and willing to use it by my side.

The bottle is nearly full. Not that Robert didn't give or receive blessings. He did. Some of my most sacred memories are of blessings received at his hands. There are precious few of them (how many blessings can a person have in just three years?) but he did give them. To me. To children and grandchildren. To others- we often made quick visits to hospitals and homes of friends so he could assist with blessings. But most of the blessings he received were in the hospital, using someone else's oil. So our bottle is almost full.

Full represents something else to me. Roberts favorite saying was "My half-full cup runneth over with blessings." A full bottle of oil. It is evidence that our life, his life, my life, have also been full of blessings.

And oh, the blessings we received. Not just Priesthood blessings, given by the laying on of hands. But blessing blessings. We filled journal pages listing the tender mercies of each day.  The way we met was a true tender mercy from the Lord, evidence of His design and Plan for us. And as the blessings of days together continued, he would squeeze my hand, or I his, as a silent recognition of a tender mercy unfolding before us. Even holding hands (which we always did) was a tender mercy! How have I forgotten this? But I have.

And yet this week, as I had petitioned Heaven for a return of some of that Joy, the bottle of oil appeared to remind me. It's always been there. I just lost it for awhile. A bottle full of oil for blessing others.

Oil for my lamp, and a light unto my feet.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Of Grace and the Broken Cord

I think I've always had an independent streak. When my sisters and I were very young, Dad often referred to us as "Little Miss Independence". Usually when we were asserting our right to 'do it myself'. My earliest memories are dim, but there is photographic evidence of my efforts to do more than I was capable of.

 I also remember Dad saying the same about my younger sisters. For the sake of our continued sisterhood, I won't post photographic evidence for them, but I do recall at least one sister stomping her foot, arms folded firmly, "I DO IT!" at about age three. "Ok, Miss Independence!" Dad responded and smiled as he watched her. 

As I grew older, I often preferred doing things myself over asking for help. While seven months pregnant with my oldest son, I rearranged the furniture in our apartment, lifting a heavy bookcase onto the top of a desk by myself. I'll admit to being tired afterwards, but I really thought the 'adoo' made by others over this apparently risky behavior was a little unwarranted. Arms folded stubbornly, I claimed there was nothing wrong with doing it myself.

Sometimes I lack the patience to wait until someone else is available to help. I recently undertook a project of painting my large wood entertainment center. It comes apart, the sliding center shelf is heavy, and I realized I couldn't take the thing apart by myself without risking damage to the TV underneath the shelf. I called two trusty helpers from church who lived nearby, "Hey, Home Teachers!" and they happily hurried right over to assist. 10 minutes and the shelf was dismantled. I was quickly reminded that people love to help when asked, and I was thankful they were available and most wiling to help.

When painting was complete and I was ready to reassemble it, I decided I was independent/strong/stubborn enough to put it back together without help. This involved lifting the long, heavy center shelf with loose inserts up over my head and settling it onto the four small brackets by simultaneously sliding the inserts out towards the sides. I figured the brackets would hold the shelf up until I could secure them to the shelf with screws. I lifted...the inserts both suddenly shifted...and before I knew it, the entire shelf slid down the wall and slammed to the floor behind the cabinet. I had to crawl behind the cabinet to get the shelf out, but it didn't appear there was any lasting damage other than additional distressing on the already distressed paint finish. Good enough!

But then I found damage I wasn't expecting: a broken electrical cord. I'm not sure if the shelf slamming to the floor severed the cord, or if the cord snapped from being stretched tight, but I now held in my hands two parts of the power cord for my stereo speakers. No power, no sound. I sadly realized that if I had just asked for help, the broken cord would still be whole and the speakers would still work. (The music lover in me points out this is a great loss).

What prevents me from asking for help? For me, it's most often impatience...I just want something done NOW and don't want to wait for someone to come to help. Other times, I prefer to work alone because I don't want to work someone else's plan. How stubborn is that? 
Sometimes I overestimate my own strength. I knew I could lift the shelf, I just hoped the sliding boards wouldn't shift. When they did, the shelf crashed to the floor.
And THEN I asked for help. Of course! How many times do I pray for Father to undo a mess I created? 

This is SO like my spiritual self! The Lord willingly offers all that I need and more: "My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness." He promises that I don't have to do it all on my own. And if I ask for help, the Lord is not only eager to help, His Atonement is perfected as he does! Paul's words tumble into my heart, "Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me." Suddenly my weakness is a happy thing, a thing that brings me closer to Christ. I need not be afraid of asking for help. I promise to work at not stamping my foot and insisting on my own way. And as I do, His Grace is sufficient for even that impetuous act. 

Looking at the severed power cord, I think that I could probably fix it myself (I've done a few things like that), but since I am practicing a better way, I unfold my stubbornly crossed arms and resist the urge to stamp my foot. In a sheepish text message, I confessed the broken cord to my son. "Can you fix this?" 
"Probably" he says. The offer of a pizza and game night sweetened the deal, so he brought his family. We played games, we talked, he fixed the cord. The symbolism is not lost on me, a son repairing that which was lost. He was happy to help, even though it caused some strain on his already tired hands. And he gave a warning...if the cord gets warm, it's best to just get a new speaker than risk a fire. Whole power cords are better than repaired ones. 

Our Savior's Love
Shines like the sun with perfect light,
As from above
It breaks thru clouds of strife.
Lighting our way,
It leads us back into his sight,
Where we may stay
To share eternal life.

I understand it now! My limitations are not something to be ashamed of, rather they are the means by which I may become a partaker of His Grace. We cannot save ourselves. And so I will most gladly glory in my infirmities. With His love, I am not afraid of letting others see my weakness. I no longer want to stomp my feet through life, my stubborn nature creating bigger struggles along the way. How much better to leave the power cords whole by asking for a couple of extra hands at times, than to insist on doing it all on my own? 

And so, this morning, I called a friend, “I need your help…..”

Friday, January 1, 2016

Packing Up Christmas

Sometimes I wonder why we do it....all this decorating and hanging of lights. This year it was hard to get started with all the decorating and hanging of lights. Some Grandchildren eager to help decorate the tree made that a happy memory and a new tradition. That started the process that for me takes days to begin. There are over 100 nativities to unpack and arrange. Even with a few that stay out all year long, it takes daayyysss. But soon all the nativites were set up, the lights strung and my heart was ready to celebrate the birth of the Savior. And it was wonderful! How I love the Christmas season. Even when difficult things arise, Christmas reminds me of THE most important and wonderful event ever! 

This year, though, it was truly an effort to put it all away. it wasn’t that I was sad to see the holiday be done (I've felt that before, too), but I just didn't want to go through the effort. For some reason I felt overwhelmed with doing it all by myself and found it difficult to find the motivation. I simply didn't want to do the work. Curling up on the sofa with a good book sounded right...not the ladder climbing, box carrying, wrapping and packing tasks that loomed before me. 

Looking at the half empty boxes of tissue paper and bubble wrap strewn about the family room, I resolved to do it anyway, and discovered a change of heart and understanding in the process. 

I began by gathering the nativities from around the four corners of the house (did I mention 100+? They are everywhere!). As I swept the surfaces of my bedroom, a painting caught my eye- "She Worketh Willingly With Her Hands" by Elspeth Young, a print I had chosen because it reminds me to do the 'work' of my life with a willing heart. I felt a little bit chastened as I realized my grudging packing away of a sacred celebration was quite far removed from willing. What had I just celebrated? honored life and sacrifice made by my Savior, the Child born in Bethlehem. Of course.

And now I felt reluctant to put away the mementos of such a celebration?! Suddenly I recognized the gratitude I felt for such beautiful things to remind me of sacred events.

As I gathered a set of camels carrying wise men, I wondered how it would have been if those scriptural sages had not put forth the effort to make the journey to honor their King? My King? Was I making a true and honest effort to honor Him?

Next I found a well beloved (read: damaged) set of wooden figures. I thought about how I would need to repair some of the damage next year (this has become an annual ritual, the Nativity repair place). But as I held the wooden manger, I thought about how the Savior heals my damage. Suddenly the damage to these few pieces became sacred...He could heal me and I looked forward to healing the carefully carved figures in remembrance. 

In the next room I found the open armed Mary from Peru, welcoming her visitors. I pondered if I was truly welcoming and open armed myself? Yet, as Mary, the Savior welcomes all with open arms and a caring heart. I carefully moved Mary to a permanent place where her loving arms could remind me of this all year long; that I want to have open arms and an open heart and not fear those who might hurt my feelings or act in ways with which I am unfamiliar. 

As I carefully wrapped and packed lovingly handmade figures, many given to me by dear friends and family, I was gently reminded not to pack away their friendships or my love for them. My relationships with those I know and love is important to me, so while I carefully pack the mementos away, I want to remember to create more memories that give these mementos greater meaning next year. I want to find greater joy as I unpack next year and place the keepsakes out for a rejoicing celebration. 

The last item to be packed each year is a large rustic manger lined with raffia hay. The manger is empty- the cloth 'baby' is packed with the nativity costumes. I considered the symbol of this empty manger, as I look forward to the Savior's return to earth again. Am I ready? What is the condition of my heart and how will I feel when He returns? These questions are part of the pondering path I have traveled in preparation for the coming new year. As I place the manger in the shed and close and lock the door, I remind myself that next year when I begin the preparation for Christmas, that empty manger will be the first thing I see. My heart is filled, my soul wants to do all I can to be ready to welcome Him...welcome Him always. 
The tumult and the shouting dies;
The captains and the Kings depart.
Still stands thine ancient sacrifice,
A humble and a contrite heart.

(God of Our Fathers, text by Rudyard Kipling, Hymns, 80)

My heart is lighter now, my rooms a little less crowded with animals and figures bowing in reverence. I never want to forget or pack away the reverence that I've learned and felt this day and this season. How thankful I am for His Divine Love always, and Christmas time in particular! With a humble heart, I turn the page of a New Year and a page in my hymnbook to find words for today: 

Press on, enduring in the ways of Christ.
His love proclaim through days of mortal strife.
Thus saith our God: "Ye have eternal Life!"
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

(Press Forward, Saints, text by Marvin K. Gardner, Hymns, 81)

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Where the Dandelions Grow

Last weekend, I took a little break to do some traveling with dear friends. My companions were ladies of great faith and full of fun, ladies I am blessed to call my friends. We share a the common bond of widowhood, and they are each an inspiration and blessing in my life. It was not by accident that we have found each other, but that is a story for another day.

On this day, we are visiting some historic Arizona homes and some pre-historic Arizona forests (otherwise known as petrified). The perseverance of both pioneers and tall trees is amazing. I am awed and inspired thinking of the faith and fortitude of those who’ve gone before, and realize that even hard times make for beautiful people and crystal forests.

As we trekked about the northern reaches of our state, I spotted this large rock, nearly as tall as I am, in the middle of a carefully manicured lawn. The beautiful home behind it was surrounded by huge elegant hydrangeas. But for the plaque mounted upon it, this large black rock seemed out of place. And the greenery that adorned it seemed even more out of place: a lowly dandelion!

“Weeds grow anywhere!” I thought. (True, isn’t it? I’m always pulling weeds!) Then I thought of toddler hands, gathering yellow flowered dandy-lion bouquets as gifts. I looked again at this stately, fluffy headed ‘flower’, the fluff of many a child’s wishes. The rock soil of this little dandelion was strong enough to provide all that was needed for its growth and this little flower is about to explode! What can I learn from dandelions that grow in tough spots? Keep the Faith! Keep growing!

“Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God.”(Ether 12:4)

And now, as I look over the pictures from our trip, I am reminded of dandelions and pioneers and widow ladies, all of whom have mounted rocky climes in life and bloomed beautifully!

"You have nothing to fear from the journey,
Though your way may be burdened by thorns.
For the Lord will be with you each step of the way
As you travel with faith through the storm.
And you've nothing to fear from your trials,
Though they may seem too heavy to bear.
Take His hand and He'll lead you gently along
And you'll find peace and safety there.

There is nothing to fear from the nights that are lonely,
There's nothing to fear from the cold!
and there's nothing to fear from what might be tomorrow,
For heaven is with you, And angels watch over His fold."

(You Have Nothing to Fear by Rob Gardner)

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Prayers and Giggles

"Daddy, will you tuck me in?" Bedtime stories and hugs from my dad were the best, but this night I had a different plan. I think now, that if my Dad had known what trickery was in my innocent mind, he would have done things differently. My five year old heart had decided, with the added ammunition of a little book I'd received while visiting a church with our neighbors, I was going to ask my dad. It never occurred to me that Daddy probably didn't do much praying. I wanted to learn, I assumed he could show me. Don't Daddies know everything? 

"Oh?" And "Hmm" were Daddy's first responses. I showed him the little booklet of prepared prayers. There were the usual mealtime prayers everyone knew: 
God is great, God is good, 
Let us thank Him for our food.
And then there were other prayers for bedtime. Until that little book, I'd never thought of praying at night before bed. Daddy looked through the book and showed me one, "What about this one." Suddenly I was gripped with an odd thought. If I needed to read the prayer, how could I close my eyes to pray? Well, besides the fact that I couldn't read all the words yet.
"Yeah, that one!" And handing the book back to Daddy I said, "You read it" 
Daddy grunted uncomfortably, "This is your prayer, you should say it." 
"What does it say?" I asked. And as Daddy read the rhyming verse, I had another odd thought: this prayer doesn't really match what I think.  "No....I don't like that one. Can't I just say what I want? Do prayers have to be from the book?", I asked. 

Long pause. Daddy's eyes got a little moist, I could tell. "Sure" He said, "you say whatever you want. I think God listens to all prayers." 

And then suddenly, I ruined it. Yep. I got the giggles. And Daddy lost his patience. "I think you're too silly to pray," and he kissed my forehead, patting my head as he turned to leave the room. 

It was a long time before I thought about praying again. At least, in a serious way. We said 'Grace' over our meals sometimes, but otherwise prayer was rarely mentioned or discussed. Not until I was much, much older. Not until after we started going to Church and Daddy started going with us. Not until then did prayers became a little more common place around our house.

Although I'm sure I sat through many, many lessons about prayer after that, I don't think I took it too seriously until I was in my early teens. Sure, I had prayed and received answers before that. The embers of my faith were fanned into a tender flame through prayer. But it took years to learn not just how to pray, but what to ask for. The scriptures remind us to 'ask not amiss', and I learned that asking the right questions was important. I learned, after weeks of begging the Lord for miracles, that neither I nor He could interfere with the agency of others. Over the trials and tears of life, I learned that giving thanks for those trials and challenges endowed me with the ability to see the good in them. I learned that when I pleaded with the Lord to deliver me from sorrow, His promise was often not deliverance but instead it was His constant companionship. "I will be right beside you, all the way." was the constant reminder as life situations changed. I have learned that prayer is so much more than a child's poem to be recited day after day, night after night. My prayers are the sacred words of my heart on wing directly to the heart of my Heavenly Father. No worldly noise can interfere. Over and over again, prayer has been the gentle hand that opens my eyes to the beauty in the world around me. 

Abide with me; 'tis eventide, 
and lone will be the night 
If I cannot commune with thee 
nor find in thee my light.

(Abide With Me; 'Tis Eventide, Hymns, No. 165, text by M. Lowrie Hofford)

I am still learning and practicing the art of prayer. A few months after Robert passed away, I realized that because of the change in our morning routine of praying together before I said my morning prayers, and also due to the "widow's fog", I had neglected those morning prayers. A return to that routine, even though the prayers themselves were anything but routine, and the fog began to lift. It is a constant learning process, I think. And He listens to all of it. Sometimes the answers are immediate, sometimes they are not. But prayerful moments always leave me filled with peace. 

Bright and happy mornings, gratitude filled days, sorrowful sunsets and sleepless nights, I have been able to express the desires of my heart to my Heavenly Father and He has lifted me up through all of it.  I can share whatever I feel, He loves me anyway. From the morning planning meeting as I begin the day, to the evening return and report, He fills me with peace. Through prayer I am reminded that I am loved with an Infinite Love.

He answers privately,
Reaches my reaching
In my Gethsemane,
Savior and Friend.
Gentle the peace He finds
For my beseeching.
Constant He is and Kind,
Love without end.

(Where Can I Turn For Peace, Hymns, No. 129, text by Emma Lou Thayne)

In time I not only heard my dad pray, but as his own faith flame grew, I saw that he too, understood the power of prayer. Now, as I look back at my first nervous, attempted prayer filled with uncontrollable giggles and I realize that Daddy's words were more true than he knew at the time, "You say whatever you want...God listens to all prayers." 

Daddies know everything.