Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Stolen Memories

Precious memories, how they linger,
How they ever flood my soul.

The police officer looked me with a straight face, "Who do you know who wants to take all your stuff?" I stared back at her. Names and faces ran through my mind, but I quickly sent them away. Who indeed? Who would take things that have great meaning for me personally?  Who would want the silver rings and pins made by my grandparents? Who would gain enjoyment from wearing jewelry my mother wore? Who would want a box full of well worn and loved pocketknives belonging to Robert, set aside to give to our grandsons?

But someone did want, and so they entered my home while I was away and took them. They stole my memories. They took precious gifts from my husband, things saved for later, things beloved by my mother and grandmother. They dumped drawers on floors, emptied closet shelves and looked through boxes and cases, scattering the contents about, leaving only a portion of what was there before. Now part of me was missing. Gone.

I remember the next morning, December 23rd, weeping again, as I realized just how much my things were a part of me. As I dressed for work, the ring once belonging to my grandmother- gone. The necklace, given to me by Robert- gone. I looked around. No silent reminders of family or love or anything. It felt as if Robert had left again, I missed him. Intensely. I try not to be a 'thing' oriented person, so I was surprised by this. But his things were gone. "Robert's love is eternal," I reminded myself. I didn't feel frightened. In fact, I felt complete comfort. I felt enveloped in peace and during that day, even though the confusion of loss remained, I knew and recognized the Divine Signatures of the Lord as the day unfolded. "They are only things," I reminded myself. Although the stolen things could never be replaced, I was thankful that at least that I was ok. My family was ok. My little dog was ok. Still, I ordered an alarm system.

And then, as if taking a few things wasn't enough and before the alarm system arrived, the robbers returned a week later and took even more. I stared at the dining room floor where silver knives lay, the silverware drawer empty, handmade Irish lace linens tossed aside (at least they didn't take those!). My grandmother's silverware gone. Who does this? And I cried. Too much of me was missing now. Not just when I dressed for the day, but now the things I used and loved in daily life.

Then the next wave of unwanted feelings arrived: I trusted no one. I began to feel afraid. Everyone was suspect. "This is not me," I think as I close every blind in the house, shutting out the sunlit back yard view and the purple Ruella blossoms. As I prepared to leave for work, I did more than a routine check. Locks that weren't usually locked were checked and locked. I took special note of where and how I left things. Who will try to steal my life while I am gone? And as the fears began to race through my mind, I prayed that God would help me lose the fear. 

And He did. He changed my heart. Now I felt concern. Not for me. Concern for a thief. I wondered what kind of person would have such a need that they could violate someone else's space in such a way? "They [thieves] don't think like you and me." the police officer had said. I knew that was true! (C'mon, you know I have to laugh, right?)  I knew I wanted to forgive that person. What if I met them? How would I feel? What would I say? We think of people like this as poor in Spirit, as needful, and we assume they feel remorse. It's easy to forgive remorse. What if there is no remorse? What if they cruelly melted my grandmother's sterling jewelry without a thought for the care and love she poured into it? Then how would I feel? I know what I WANT to feel. I want to feel charity. I want to forgive as I have been forgiven. I don't want fear, alone-ness or mis-trust to invade my life, and for that reason, I needed to forgive. 

How do I forgive someone who has taken parts of me away? It's easy to find comfort in THINGS, isn't it? I miss Robert, but I still have his wedding ring. Wait! It's gone! What will remind me now? Again, the distinct Divine Signatures of the Lord arrived. As I juggled demands of work, holidays, insurance adjusters, and life in general, things slipped into place in amazing ways. There were moments that worked out miraculously and as they did, I felt the impression from the Spirit, "I am aware of you! I know what your TRUE needs are, and I will give them to you as you need them! You need only to remember Me!" 

"Always remember Him" is the sacred promise I renew each week. When I do that, I feel charity toward those who have stolen from me. When I remember Him, no one can take His love away. No one can take Robert's love away. I need not fear, for I am always in His care. No one will steal my peace or my joy, for they are given by One who knows and loves all. And that's enough.

" Fear not, little children, for you are mine, 
and I have overcome the world, and you are of them that my Father hath given me;
And none of them that my Father hath given me shall be lost....
Wherefore, I am in your midst, and I am the good shepherd, and the stone of Israel. 
He that buildeth upon this rock shall never fall.
And the day cometh that you shall hear my voice and see me, and know that I am.
Watch, therefore, that ye may be ready."
(Doctrine and Covenants 50: 41-46)

Saturday, December 20, 2014

A Baby Brings So Much Hope

Years ago, my friend Sally and her family found themselves in a hard situation. Their joint business venture with another family had failed, they lost their large lovely home and as they tried to repay creditors and investors, they became financially strapped. They moved to a much older and much smaller home. But before they could begin this process, Sally gave birth to another beautiful baby. I asked her if she felt as if the baby added to the stress of the situation. “Oh no!” she replied, “It was the perfect message from Heavenly Father, a reminder that even when we had lost so much, we still had what was most important, each other. A baby brings so much hope!"

“Come, Lord Jesus, to the Manger;
May we see thy tender face?
Great Creator, here a stranger,
Infant in this humble place."

Many of us find ourselves beset with sadness at this Christmas season. For a variety of reasons and in a variety of ways, we sometimes find it difficult to reconcile the happiness of the season with the sadness that surrounds us. Not so long ago, I found myself wondering the same thing. I wondered if I would ever feel the deep joy that comes when my heart is full of purpose. In my head I knew the answer; I knew what things were most important, but my heart just wasn’t feeling it.

I decided a purposeful study of Scripture was needed. What better way to feel the answers I needed than by reading the words of the prophets? I knew myself and my hectic schedule needed a little prodding, so I signed up for a class. I knew the requirement to daily ‘dig deeper’ would force me to take time to ponder, not just to read, but to read long enough to feel. 

Darkness scatter, Morning swell;
Come, dear Lord, Immanuel;

As part of the class, we were to choose an attribute, something we wanted to develop. And so the adventure began, as I studied and planned and, eventually, I noticed some progress in my feelings. I re-learned that faith is an action word, that to daily feel of God’s love I needed to also act. I prayed for, looked for and found ways to serve, often anonymously, that I might act on the faith I needed and felt. Sometimes the acts were small. And often, so was my progress.

October flew past, November began, I recognized that gratitude was also essential to warming my heart. As I recognized the many blessings in my life, my eyes were opened to more and my heart once again began to feel a deeper joy. And then, as if to test my resolve, a grandson arrived six weeks early. While his mother and father stayed in the hospital with him, two sweet siblings stayed with me. As the two kiddles and I snuggled together on the sofa one evening, we read a Christmas story. I remembered my friend’s words, “A baby brings so much hope!”. There it was…even while one baby struggled for life, we all had hope. Then I was reminded of A BABY who came to ensure that all would go well for all of us forever!

A few days later, a newly widowed friend said to me, “I just can’t be happy at Christmas. I have lost so much, I will never be happy again.” As I wrapped my arms around her in a hug, I knew the answer: A baby. A Holy Baby, the Savior of the World. Together we wept, but these words brought us peace, “…And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictionsand temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.
And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.” (Alma 7: 11-12) 

Come in glory to the earth,
Come to us to rule and reign,
Ready us to kneel and greet thee,
Come, Lord Jesus, Come! 

I will always celebrate Christmas! This season is the season of Joy! Even the saddest, most heart wrenching things can become a path to know of God’s love for us in a greater, deeper way. I know of pain and heartache. I know of loss. I know there is One who heals all wounds, binds up our broken hearts and fills them with joy. He gives us peace, love and purpose! How can we turn away from celebrating Christ, who gave us everything? The baby who brought so much hope to the world! 

"Without Christ, there would be no Christmas. Without Christ, there can be no fulness of joy. Without His birth and His Atonement, we would have no Intercessor, no Advocate with the Father, and no Mediator who makes it possible for us to return to the presence of our loving Heavenly Father and live together as eternal families.” Bishop Gary M. Stevenson, Liahona, December 2014, The Reality of Christmas.