Monday, December 23, 2013

Merry Christmas and Silent Night

I have a confession to make. And it’s not an easy one for someone who freely confesses a love of the Christmas season and Christmas music in particular. So this is difficult to admit, but…...Silent Night has never been one of my favorite Christmas Carols. There I said it. You probably think of me as shallow. Or worse, heartless. I still remember my watching my grandmother, her eyes moist with tears while we were watching the Andy Williams sing Silent Night on TV. After a long, reverent pause, she said, “That is just the most beautiful Christmas song ever”. But not me. I wondered what was wrong with me, that I didn’t feel Grandma’s emotion… the words were sweet, but not particularly moving. It was just a nice little lullaby.

“Silent Night! Holy Night!
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin mother and Child,
Holy Infant, so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace;
Sleep in heavenly peace."

Now please understand, I love Christmas. I have a deep, but tender testimony of the Reason for the Season. And, I don’t hate the song, it’s just never been very meaningful for me. I know and love the sweet story of how this beautiful hymn came into existence. Some would call it a tender mercy indeed- and I love stories that testify of God's tender mercies. I have sung this beloved hymn many, many times. There are many Christmas songs and carols that move me to tears. Just not Silent Night.

(you knew that was coming, didn’t you?)
Until the day my life changed so terribly and so drastically that I feared I would never sleep again. My sweetheart passed from this life on a bright summer day. After an afternoon and evening of grief filled emotion, the day finally ended leaving me in a dark, empty house. My heart hurt, and sleep was not to be. In my sorrow, I turned in prayer to the hymns that I knew would calm my heart and bring me peace. Wrapped in Robert’s robe for comfort, I curled up in my bed and cried as the music played. Finally, in an answer to desperate prayer for peace, a familiar, if out of place, hymn began to play. As it did, the words from the third verse filled my mind: 

“Silent Night! Holy Night!
Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from thy holy face,
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth;
Jesus, Lord at thy birth."

Redeeming Grace- what sweet peace those words brought to my soul! Jesus is Lord! His Grace is sufficient to redeem me. His resurrection ensured that Robert and I, too, will live again and be reunited. At last, I could sleep in the heavenly peace that is made possible only by the Son of God. The sweet tender mercy of that Christmas Carol, Silent Night, had finally become a tender mercy for me. I cried.

We live in a time when there is much unrest. There is not a corner of the world untouched by dissension. And there is not a corner of the world that is not in desperate need of a Merry Christmas and a Silent Night. We need Christ. Christ, the Savior, who was born on that Silent Night. There is nothing that His Grace cannot overcome, no sorrow his love cannot heal.. Christ, who loved each of us so much that He died and came forth on the third day for the Salvation of all. Nothing is more important and nothing gives us more lasting peace than our faith in Him. And all of this message is embodied in a simple but uplifting Christmas carol:

“Silent Night! Holy Night!
Shepherds quake at the sight!
Glories stream from heaven afar;
Heav’nly hosts sing Allelujiah!
Christ, the Savior, is born!
Chris, the Savior, is born!”

I cannot hear or sing this sacred hymn without tears filling my eyes in gratitude for this gift! For that reason, I want to share it with you. 

  Merry Christmas and Silent Night! 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Of Oatmeal and Fractions

I'm sure my mother didn't mean it. She was frustrated. I was six years old and stubborn. The oatmeal was cold. And slimy. I wasn't interested. I dawdled and dabbled, but I didn't eat it. "Eat," Mom nagged. It was gross, it got stuck in my throat. Mom's frustration bubbled out. She picked the bowl up, I thought to take it away, but instead the slimy, cold oatmeal wound up on my head...the gooey mess of oatmeal paste running into my ears. I'm sure mom didn't mean to be cruel, but my stubborn, fragile six-year-old spirit rebelled. At that moment, I vowed I would never again eat a bowl of oatmeal.

And I didn't. Oh, I bought oatmeal and served it to my kids on chilly winter mornings. Over 30 years later, many of them do like oatmeal. But I was careful to make sure it was warm and sugary, so they would never have cause to sit in front of a cold mass of melted oats in a bowl. And I ensured that I never touched the stuff. Some times I would remember the trauma and wish that I could overcome it. But mostly, I just refused to eat it (did I mention stubborn already?). My spirit never reached the place where I felt safe enough to try again, to overcome the hurt.

We all have them. Some traumas are silly, I mean, oatmeal is not evil. Some traumas are far, far from silly. They are hideous. I'm not minimizing by any means. But I believe that healing is possible. And I have experienced it. Yes, with oatmeal. But with many other things as well. 

One morning as Robert sat with of his bowl of warm, creamy, brown sugar dusted oatmeal and I sat with my tiny tub of yogurt, he gently said, "Tell me why you don't like oatmeal." No judgement, just a gentle question. Then I realized it was a silly reason to hate oatmeal, and as I explained the hurt that had splintered in my soul all these years, I laughed. And then I cried. Robert gently took my hand and kissed it, kissing the childhood hurt away. I understood for the first time how it felt to trust and not fear judgement for my childishness. 

My 4th grade math teacher probably knew better than to traumatize a classroom full of eager students, but I try to give him the benefit of the doubt. His spit-wad shooting, book throwing, angry outbursts and desk kicking put a permanent halt to my desire to ask questions in class. I have carried a lifelong paralyzing fear of math and being laughed at or scorned for wrong answers. It was rudely reinforced year after year, teacher after teacher, until it ended my freshman year of high school, where my fear found me frozen in front of a roomful of my peers, chalk in hand, attempting to publicly work a problem I did not understand. I heard laughter as the teacher cried derisively, "What's wrong with you? Everyone else in this room gets it! You can stand there until you do too." I never did. 

Mental block firmly in place, I have learned to cope. Calculators and spreadsheets have solved most of my problems (oh, and I married an accountant). That is, until this semester, when I was confronted with a personal finance class, a required course. I entered the course determined to work my way past the block. I pleaded with the Lord to open my mind, hoping I could understand the things that had escaped me before. I felt safe and I wanted to overcome the hurt.

I did relatively well until the unit on fractions.The fractured thought processes ingrained all those years ago began to creep around my homework space at home. They rattled my brain as I began an online math quiz. I sat frozen, my shoulders stiffened against the laughter that was sure to happen as I struggled to work the problems. Except this time there is no laughter. Quietly, gently, the impression enters my mind and I know that I will never be laughed at again. I am surrounded by peace. I can relax, and as I do, the problems untangle in my mind. I understand that I will have to continue to put in the work, but the derisive laughter, the fear are gone. I can learn.

Sometimes a gentle kiss heals our hearts. Sometimes it takes more; it takes faith and prayer and work. But always, the healing can come. Sometimes gradually. I suspect I will always struggle a bit with math, but I can see the growth, the layers of learning, and I am thankful for that much. Sometimes the healing takes us by surprise. Recently, as part of a 'get to know you' activity, I was asked, "What's your favorite breakfast food?" I answered almost without thinking: Brown sugar dusted oatmeal with raisins.

Tell me I'm a fool, 
Tell me that You love me for the fool I am, 
Comfort me like only You can, 
And tell me there's a place 
Where I can feel Your breath 
Like sweet caresses on my face again. 

Take me back to You, 
The place that I once knew as a little child; 
Constantly the eyes of God watched over me. 
Oh, I want to be 
In the place that I once knew as a little child, 
Fall into the bed of faith prepared for me. 

I will rest in You, 
I will rest in You, 
I will rest in You. 

(~ Michelle Tumes, Brent Bourgeois)

Friday, October 4, 2013

What's on Your Playlist?

(Or why it's ok to play Christmas music year 'round)

A 10 year old boy was sitting in my office waiting for his mother. He suddenly looked at me and said, "Hey! This song is from Prince of Egypt!" I listened for a moment as Brian Stokes Mitchell's voice nobly questioned, "If a man lose ev'rything he owns Has he truly lost his worth? Or is it the beginning of a new and brighter birth?".

"Why are you playing that here?" he asked. (It's a little bit funny what some people think is appropriate music for my office waiting area. Like the guy who questioned William Joseph's piano only version of Led Zepplin's Kashmir.) I'm not sure what this boy thought, but I'm sure it surprised him to hear something he recognized and obviously knew well. I like the message of the song and thought it was very appropriate for a counseling office: 

So how can you see what your life is worth
Or where your value lies?
You can never see through the eyes of man
You must look at your life, 
Look at your life through Heaven's Eyes.

Later that day, a friend said she was looking for new 'workout' music and asked what I listened to when I walked. And that got me thinking about playlists. 

We all have them, lists of music that we like to listen to for different occasions. I love Spanish Guitar, especially on Saturday afternoons, with the windows open and a breeze gently rustling. I love good jazz, especially on Friday nights, when I need to unwind after a long week at work. Christmas music, though, inspires me in ways that are difficult to explain. 

And then I thought, "What would happen to people if we did listen to Christmas music all year long?"

The haunting melodic voice of Mindy Gledhill singing "In the Bleak Mid-winter" can soothe a dark windy day and reminds me to warm my heart with service:
Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air,
But His mother only 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.
And the jovial melody of Carol of the Bells (ok, my favorite version is by the California Guitar Trio) seems to free my feet, and I can dance through almost anything. More importantly, it frees my heart:

        Hark how the bells, sweet silver bells,
All seem to say throw cares away....
Gaily they ring, while people sing
          Songs of good cheer....

(who doesn't needs some good cheer?)

Then there is the gentle lullaby we sing to sleeping grandchildren, that entreats us to receive the Savior:

          O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie,
          Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by"...
          How silently, how silently the wondrous Gift is giv'n!
          So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His heav'n.
          No ear may hear His coming; but in this world of sin,
          Where meek souls will receive him, still The dear Christ enters in.

Not too long ago, on an incredibly warm (that's an understatement) summer day, I found myself in a mood that did not match the happy laughter of the children playing nearby. Those moods don't strike me often, but they do come. On this day, it seemed as if every little comment, as tender and kind as it might have been, made me cry. Some days are like that. 

I said a prayer; I needed to feel some joy, to lift my mood. The day was full of places to go and people to see, so when I got in the car to travel to another destination, I quickly flipped through my playlists, looking for something peaceful. I landed on a Vocal Point album, Lead Thou Me On, which is mainly an album of hymns. But the first song that played that tearful summer day was, you guessed it, a Christmas song. Just the perfect one: 

           Infant holy, Infant lowly, for His bed a cattle stall;
           Oxen lowing, little knowing, Christ the Babe is Lord of all....

As the song continued, I remembered anew the reason for it all...the reason for all that we do on this earth, why we are here and Who is most important to our existence. Peace overpowered my dark mood, I felt strength to go on, given from One who gives us both. 

           Thus rejoicing, free from sorrow, praises voicing, greet the morrow:
            Christ the Babe was born for you, Christ the Babe was born for you!

It's a thought that needs to be heard- and felt- more often than just the month of December, wouldn't you agree? 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

On Father's Day

Today is Father's Day. I need to attend church. Today, it sounds like two opposing ideas. 

Like many people, my father has passed on, making Father's Day more a day of remembering. This is also the first Father's Day since my sweet husband passed on. More remembering. There is a part of me (of many of us), that finds it difficult to celebrate when the loss is so new. Our grief consumes us. We think, "I might as well stay home, it will be so hard, I will miss him so much, all I'm going to do is cry anyway." I know that attending church, feeling the Spirit, opens the windows to my soul and lets the rain fall down my cheeks. Days like today make it hard to do publicly.

Still, I needed to renew my spirit, and I knew that one important way to do that is to partake of the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper. God in his wisdom, knew I would have days (weeks, months) like this. And He provided a way to be healed, that way requires that I (able bodied as I am) attend Church, where the Sacrament, that renewal, is provided. So I gathered my kleenex and I went. As I arrived, I met a dear frIend who had been widowed only a few couple of months ago. She said she hadn't planned on attending. I was glad she was there, but I know how know how even little comments in a talk, or the words of a hymn can make the tears start to flow. While our friends are kind, and understanding, we still feel a little out of place. 

The meeting started…I looked around. I did not feel out of place. So many kind friends! I felt 'at home'. The words of the hymns reminded me of eternal truths:
"Jesus of Nazareth, Savior and King!
Triumphant over death, Life thou didst bring,"

The words testified that death is not the end, and more importantly, I was reminded of the sacred reason for this miracle; the Savior's sacrifice! 
Tears did not flow this time (hmmm…I must be adjusting), but my heart was no less moved. 

"As to our lips the cup gently we press,
Our hearts are lifted up;
Thy name we bless!" 

I'm so thankful to sing the prayers of my heart! As I sang, I gave silent thanks for this certain knowledge, this Plan of Happiness! I also tucked this understanding away, as a hedge against future days when I am reluctant to attend, knowing the joy I feel when I am here, surrounded by loving friends, and partaking of His Grace in such a sacred way. 

"Guide us where'er we go,
Till in the end
Life evermore we'll know
Through Thee, our Friend."

Father's Day, Mother's Day, Birthdays...they are all merely earthly celebrations. They remind us of things of eternal significance; our families and time on this earth. I need to remember that and celebrate well while I am here.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

I Saw A Mighty Angel Fly...

I spied it on Facebook; “This Wednesday, May 15th, we will have a Ward hike at Thunderbird Mountain. If there is any way that you can make it, please come. This will not be an ordinary hike. It will be an opportunity to witness something extraordinary. That is really all I can tell you at this time…” A strange excitement gripped me. Although the post was not really meant for me, I commented on it, and received a direct invitation, “You are invited, Sister Hoopes.”

The next afternoon, a sudden burst of realization gave me a clear understanding about the mysterious invitation and my heart leapt at the thought. Tears filled my eyes as I made a plan. Instantly, nothing could deter me, neither heat nor work would stand in my way. In my very dearest dreams, I had hoped to do this, now I smiled every time I thought of it.

The night before arrived, I was nearly giddy with anticipation. I recalled conversations with Robert, dreaming of this day and hoping we would be able to witness it together. As I dusted off my hiking shoes, I spied Robert’s battered straw hat and pulled it off the shelf. If Robert couldn’t be beside me, I would bring him along on the hike by wearing his hat.

Wednesday morning dawned warm, with a mild breeze. I gave silent thanks for the cooler temperature as we hiked the desert mountain trail. Almost a half-mile later we found a grouping of black volcanic rocks just off the trail, a perfect viewpoint, where we set up camp to await the event.

The super-heated rocks became our benches as we peered through cameras and binoculars, watching the activity around a large, white building a half a mile away. The temple is a sacred place where our eternities united and our hearts rejoice. This temple is being built, 'our' temple is further away. When this temple was announced, we happily made it 'ours' as well, hoping to work there side by side, once it was complete. Now I watched as tiny people moved around the bases of two huge construction cranes. The group chatted lightheartedly until at last the largest crane began to move, and we settled in to watch. Our hopes were soon dashed, as we realized the crane was simply moving a large piece of stone. With nervous sighs, we returned to our restless waiting as the crews below continued to work. Soon the enormous crane began to move again! Slowly, ever so slowly the object of our affections came into view amid our exclamations, “Oh look! See that bit of gold?” “Look, you can see the top!” until finally the entire figure appeared, a mighty angel, Moroni. It glinted in the sun like fine jewelry. The angel appeared to fly as it was carefully guided into place atop the spire.

A hot wind blew, Robert’s hat flapped on my head. I thought what this would have meant to him as I watched the angel settle into place; a gilded trumpet raised to the east, heralding the Savior’s return. My eyes filled with tears as I thought about that day, and the happy reunion that will take place. I wished Robert were with me, that we were holding hands as we always did. A gust of wind knocked his hat off of my head and kissed the tears on my cheeks. Even outside temple walls, there is sacred ground.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Keep Thou My Feet

"Life is what happens when you're making other plans..."

I had plans. 
Robert and I had plans.
We were going, play with grandkids, spend time with our kids and grandkids, and maybe in a few years we would retire and serve a mission. Where would we go? It was all so fun and exciting. I love having plans. It's true, I'm a planner.

Now Robert's gone. Now what? What was my plan? I felt I had walked to the edge of the light...but I was staring off into darkness. So, I did what any good planner would do: I made immediate plans.

Lead, kindly light amid the encircling gloom;
Lead Thou me on!
The night is dark and I am far from home;
Lead thou me on!

I went back to school. I felt it was important and found an opportunity that suited me. I kept the plan to serve a mission after retirement. I tried to replace the happy mental pictures of Robert and I serving together, knowing that even serving alone would still be a happy endeavor. Still, the path between now and then seemed a little forlorn. Retirement is a few years off. I just couldn't picture in my head what the intervening years looked like. It's easy to make plans with someone, thinking of fun and happy times along the path. But this new plan, well....really, what fun and happy times were there going to be? 

I prayed to know what to do. Was I making the right plans? Was I being wise here? Or there? Like an actress on a stage, I needed motivation. I needed to see just far enough ahead to feel confident that moving ahead in a certain direction was the right thing. Part of finding joy in the journey is knowing you're on the right path, no matter what briars and brambles are thrown in the way.

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

And I kept going. That's the other part of finding joy in the journey...not giving up. Joy is around the corner, this I know. (well....sometimes joy is under a rock and you have to move the rock to find it).

The Lord heard my queries and answered in a sweet and inviting way. The light shone not just on the closest steps along the path, but a ways up the road as well. I see and understand where I'm going now. I'm still open to inspiration and possibilities, but for now, my feet are standing on the right path. I can still play with grandkids, do a little traveling, and make plans long into the future. It's possible things will change, but I've learned that the Lord holds His lantern high, so I can see just far enough ahead to keep walking no matter where I am.

So long thy power hath blest me, sure it still
Will lead me on 
O'er moor and fen, o'er crag and torrent, till
The night is gone.
And with the morn those angel faces smile,
Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile.

Isn't that like the Lords plan? He sends us here to earth? He gives us all we need to succeed. We know enough for now to move elong our earth-life path and be joyful along the way.  

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


God's timing is amazing. I know, we shouldn't be surprised..and I'm not, I'm just sharing an observation.

About a year ago, in fact it may have been last Easter Sunday, I'm not sure, I was privileged to lead the discussion in our women's class at church. The topic was "The Immortality of the Soul". A few days later, Robert would undergo surgery which we hoped would extend his life, and as I read the lesson material, I felt the message sink deep into my soul in a way that rarely happens. One quote stood out to me: "eternity doesn’t begin after this life but that mortality is a crucial part of eternity"- (George Albert Smith). I commented to the ladies in our group that with the 'reality if mortality' staring me (us) in the face, I felt a huge sense of comfort in this understanding. Whatever we were about to face was dwarfed by the Savior's immense love for us. I believe God's timing- that I would lead this discussion at such a time in my life, was not an accident. God meant for it to happen to remind me of precious truths: To know that life is eternal is a wonderful blessing. This idea is not foreign to us; William Wordsworth wrote:

"Our birth is but a sleep, and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,
hath had elsewhere it's setting
and cometh from afar."

Our journey on this earth is filled with darkness and light, health and sickness, pleasure and pain, happiness and sadness. We cannot experience or appreciate one without having an understanding of the other. The tiny bright green buds on a tree seems to glow after the darkest of winters. So it is with life. Easter reminds us of that. And not just the Welcome Spring part of Easter, though that is part if it, but the real Story of Easter. (I do not have poetic language for this, it is a simple truth, so I say it simply) Jesus Christ lived, died and rose again on the third day, and because He did so, we too will rise again. He lives! George Albert Smith said, "The Saviour’s righteous life is a perfect example to all, and His resurrection was the first assurance to humanity that we, too, shall come forth from the tomb."

I marvel that he would descend from his throne divine
To rescue a soul so rebellious and proud as mine,
That he should extend his great love unto such as I,
Sufficient to own, to redeem, and to justify.

I found some pictures from last Easter, all the grandchildren (and children- thats a crowd!), gathered in our back yard, playing egg toss games, laughing and smiling. How precious and Sacred the time we have together on earth is! This Easter we gathered again, playing games, laughing, smiling. There were not as many of us this year...some have moved away, too far to join us for a day and, well, Robert was gone. But when I think about the eternal plan, the sadness is lessened. When I think of the love and sacrifice of my Savior, I am overcome. I know what sorrow and pain feels like. Christ does too, for He suffered mine, and everyone else's. He did this just so our eternal lives could continue. That's amazing to me!

I think of his hands pierced and bleeding to pay the debt!
Such mercy, such love and devotion can I forget?
No, no, I will praise and adore at the mercy seat,
Until at the glorified throne I kneel at his feet.
Oh, it is wonderful that he should care for me enough to die for me!
Oh, it is wonderful! Wonderful to me!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Lonely Hearts Club

Valentines Day

I knew it would be hard. I prepared for it- made plans to keep busy and serve others, but it was still hard to hear and see the Valentine greetings of others who had spouses or partners who would be available for sweet moments later on. Lets face it, going home to my sweet little dog just isn't the same. The bottom line is, I miss Robert, something fierce.

Now you understand that I have spent Valentines Day alone before. My divorce was finalized on Valentines Day years ago. (Its the Lord's way with me- He knows I have a sense of humor). There are those who would say, "go find someone to be with on Valentines Day," but that is not me. It can't be just anyone, and I'm stubborn besides (a Zehrbach trait if ever there was one), I just want MY own sweetheart.

So my day began with a more earnest than usual prayer, but, as I have learned I did not ask for things, I gave thanks. Thanks for a beloved companion who loved me in a way I had never understood possible. And for temple covenants, that bind is together eternally, and make possible a glorious reunion. Thanks for my Savior, who sacrificed all to provide an infinite atonement, by whose power and grace all things are possible. Thanks for sweet friends and family, who are here on earth and who bring Joy to my life. Thanks for my understanding of the Gospel plan, which gives me hope and peace. And finally, thanks for the opportunity to offer some kind of service and love to another this day, and lift them as Robert would have, so that I might feel closer to him.

"Savior, Redeemer of my Soul,
Whose mighty hand hath made me whole,
Who'se wondrous power hath raised me up
and filled with sweet my bitter cup.
What tongue my gratitude can tell,
O Gracious God of Israel."

So that was my prayer as I left the house that morning. And as I did, I noticed that the gratitude in my heart made me smile. I began to feel happier, less alone. I discovered that I was still a bit jealous of others with their sweethearts,but the good feelings returned as soon as I sent valentine wishes to ALL my children (and some spouses), and that kept things moving along.

Sure, there were still tough a text message from a friend saying, "we're sure Robert is nearby" - and really, that was still a sort of happy sad moment. But by the end of the day, I felt so peaceful and happy, even those things didn't make me cry. As day drew to a close, I looked back, trying to learn from the experience. The more I thought of others, the better I felt. The more I gave thanks for the blessings I had, even blessings that came as a result of hard things, the more aware I became of the needs of others, and as I tried to serve others, the more I felt Heavenly Father's love. Thinking of Robert and our beautiful life together only made me smile. I know we will be together again. This short time apart will feel like nothing then. But what I DO in this short time apart- that will make all the difference in how we do feel then.

"O'errule mine acts to serve thine ends.
Change frowning foes to smiling friends.
Chasten my soul till I shall be
In perfect harmony with thee.
Make me more worthy of thy love
And fit me for the life above."

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Then Sings My Soul

Robert called it his 'Green Bible', his hymn book. He knew the tender feelings in our hearts as we sing of spiritual things. My first hymn book was a thick blue Lutheran Hymnal, my favorite hymn as a little girl, the Crusader's Hymn. I loved the thrill in my heart as the chorus floated around me in church:

"Onward, Christian Soldiers!
Marching as to war,
with the cross of Jesus
going on before."

Courage filled me and somehow I knew I could do anything with Jesus beside me. And I knew of His gentleness too, for the words of my Grandmother's favorite hymn taught me:

"What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer."

Christian Hymns were my first line of learning spiritual things as a small child. The music entered my heart and planted sweet seeds of the Good News of the Gospel long before I ever had any other formal instruction.

Perhaps that is why Christmas music has always been my favorite. The joyful melodies and tender words meant so much to me when I was young, as my family, who were not religious at the time, gathered and sang those beloved carols to our King. Joy to the World! I felt as close to Heaven as possible when I was singing with my family.

When i was about seven years old, we found a new church to attend and this time, our new friends invited my parents into the fold. My sisters and I sat together with my father, while my mother played the organ for our congregation. I thought this was surely heaven, and my heart rejoiced as I learned new music to gently teach my spirit:

"I am a child of God
and He has sent me here,
has given me an earthly home
with parents kind and dear."

Through the years, the hymns became as sacred to me as scripture. Singing hymns brings me closer to my Savior. In times of trouble, I could always sing a hymn to invite the Comforter and to remind me of eternal truths:

"Nearer, my God, to thee,
Nearer to thee!"

I can find comfort:
"Be still, my soul: The Lord is on thy side."

"Though deepening trials throng your way,
Press on! Press on, ye Saints of God!"

No matter my need or desire, singing hymns lifts my soul. I am constantly in search of more hymns, more versions of hymns, to fill my home with music.

One of the most precious memories I have with Robert is the discovery that we shared a favorite children's hymn:

"I wonder when He comes again,
Will herald angels sing?
Will earth be white with drifted snow
Or will the world know spring?"

Sweet is the memory of our grandchildren singing those words at our wedding reception! What greater blessing could they give us? A testimony of our Savior and that because of Him our lives are eternal! That memory is a tender mercy to me in the lonely hours.

These days I find myself leaning on the Savior than ever before. I find great Joy as I daily remember His sacrifice for me, and of my part in His plan. I daily search scripture, and find peace and hope there, but most often I find my mind filled with the words of a beloved hymn:

"I believe in Christ; he stands supreme!
From him I’ll gain my fondest dream;
And while I strive through grief and pain,
His voice is heard: “Ye shall obtain.”
I believe in Christ; so come what may,
With him I’ll stand in that great day
When on this earth he comes again
To rule among the sons of men."

It's true! Robert's 'Green Bible' is full of peace and inspiration.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Pie Jesu

I found a video on the iPad I'd nearly forgotten about. I took it in a sneaky way, I'm not even sure I should have done it. But I will never erase it. It's a precious, if devious memory.

Andrew Lloyd Webber's setting for Pie Jesu has been one of my favorite pieces for many years. Jenny Oaks Baker recorded a version that caught Robert's ear, and we played it many times at home. He always asked the name, and I would reply, "Pie Jesu" which I interpreted as Sweet Jesus (Pie is Latin, meaning Pious). The melody is sweet and simple, and spoke to both of us.

There's another song, "Sweet Jesus", that happens to be my little grandson's favorite song, from a Kenneth Cope album. The music is more contemporary, less sacred, yet the words match the message of Pie Jesu: Sweet Jesus, please won't you catch us, save us. I know it sounds desperate, but...sometimes we feel desperate, and this really is what we say to our Savior in those times.

The Mayo Clinic Hospital offers music therapy, in the form of three wonderful musicians who bring instruments and play in patient rooms. It's well known that musicians often perform in the lobbies at Mayo, but these special private performances bring peace and comfort to many people in a more personal way. Robert was visited by a talented harpist, Paula, who asked what we would like to hear. This particular day, she offered to play some Andrew Lloyd Weber and Robert said to me, "What is that song I like?" Sure enough, Paula was able to play it. And because I had the iPad handy, I recorded it. It's beautiful. "Sweet Jesus, Give us rest". Sweet was the peace that entered our hospital room that day. Paula couldn't have known, but she surely felt the need for peace, as Robert sobbed while she played. I can hear him, even though I never turned the camera toward him. I mark that day as the day we knew, or felt in our hearts, how very little time on earth together we had left. And we both cried, "Sweet Jesus, please catch us," in our prayers that entire week. Sweet is His peace. Sweet is His rest. Sweet is the peace of the Gospel, the Good News of the resurrection. We sat together later, reading words of solace from the scriptures and our hearts were filled with peace. "These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." Pie Jesu.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, January 7, 2013

Of Growing Up and Empty Nests

I have always enjoyed helping my children learn new things and have new experiences. Sometimes this presented a problem. When my oldest son started falling out of the crib (to the hardwood floor) because of repeated attempts to climb out of the crib, I reasoned it was far safer to teach him to climb out safely than to nurse bruises. A few hours of instruction, he had it figured out. Trouble was....he could then climb out of the crib (read, he could not be contained)! Duh!

I decided I would enjoy my children's growing up as much as possible. I knew women who wept at every growth event from the first haircut to the first day of school, they complained that it was so hard to watch their children grow up. I didn't find it hard, I loved it! I did work hard to enjoy the moments and try to remember them, but I was always thrilled for their new experiences.

One sweet friend cried the day her son turned 12 and could no longer sit with their family during church, because he was fulfilling his Priesthood duties. She wanted to know how I 'did it' (my boys were older). I explained that I saw it as a first step towards becoming a missionary, towards being a responsible young man. I loved watching them grow!

When Robert became ill, we worked hard at enjoying our moments together and with our families whenever possible. I think the attitude served us well, as we tried to plan activities together that would allow us to make memories. If I had spent the time being sad over the potential loss, I am certain much of the joy of those moments would have been lost. We were very aware of our situation, we just chose to focus on the joys of the moment.

That's what happened last summer, as my adult married kids had made plans to attend a family reunion for their Dad's family in the Pacific Northwest. They also planned to visit my sisters and mother while they were there. My mother hasn't seen many of my Grandkids, so I wanted for all of them to have the time together. But, Robert was ill. Well, ok, Robert was dying. My kids were worried. They didn't want to leave us, but they didn't want to miss the opportunity to see the rest of their family, either. We said to them, "Go!" We wanted them to have the time with all of our family.

We prayed that somehow we could have some good experiences before they left. And those prayers were answered in an amazing way as little miracles collided to allow us to have a large family gathering in our home (Robert had been released from the hospital, but was too ill to travel), the weather that day (July, Phoenix) was a perfect 70 degrees! All of that meant that our children and grandchildren as well as one of Robert's nieces and her family (I think we counted 37 people) could all gather in our (tiny) house and because of the beautiful weather, they could spill over into the yard and have a wonderful party together. It was a sacred moment to treasure. we counted it as one of our miracle days.

The next day, my children left for their trip north. They spent sweet time with my mother in Washington, and then while they were in Oregon, they saw their great-grandmother for the last time (she passed away last month). Beautiful photos of her with my grandchildren (most of whom she was meeting for the first time ever), are precious memories of their experience...I was happy they had the experience, even though that meant they could not be close to me at a difficult time. I do not regret it one bit! I hope they don't either! For the record, the video of my sweet grandchildren singing to me via FaceTime on the evening that Robert passed away is as sweet as any memory of that day. I would much rather see my loved ones have precious experiences, make amazing memories together and to see them learn and grow than to keep them all to myself forever. After all, in the eternities, they will not be tiny children. They will be prepared for eternity by the experiences I have encouraged them to have on this earth. How can I be sad about that?

So here I am, one of my children has accepted an offer of employment which will mean he will move his family to a far away place. I am excited for their adventure! It will mean good things for them. Then again, it also means they won't be a ten minute drive away any more. Duh!

Ok, I guess I'll cry a little about that. Right after I make sure some of my Grandkids get a turn to spend the night at Grandma's before they move away.

And if I could
I would
Ask time to stand still
So I could hold you a little longer
I'd make the minutes stop
So we would always have today
I won’t let the sun go down
Until you know how I feel
I love you so much
I wish time could stand still.
(- Hilary Weeks)

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad