Greener Grass

Recently, my morning drive was slowed by a couple of young cows endeavoring to make their way to the pasture across the road. I’m not sure how they escaped the confines of their own pasture. I’m also not sure why they wanted to escape. But whatever the reason they left the safety and comfort of their own pasture.

The little cows made it safely across the road, I made it safely to work and I quickly forgot about them.

Later that week, in another pasture, across the road from the first, I saw a little cow stretching its neck through the barbed wire fence. The little cow was trying to reach the grass on the other side of the fence. It appeared it was stretching its neck as far as it could possibly stretch. It looked uncomfortable and painful, but it just kept on stretching.

As I thought about these cows, I wondered what would make them want to leave or stretch their necks out beyond the safety of their own pasture. The pastures they call home are vast, green and lush even in the dead of winter. To me, the two pastures looked equal in every respect, yet these cows risked their comfort and safety trying to reach the grass across the street or on the other side of the fence.

It occurred to me that we are often like these little cows. Even though we are greatly blessed ourselves, we sometimes believe that our neighbor, our coworker, or even someone we just met has “better” blessings than we do. Instead of being grateful for what we have, we take our own blessings for granted. We waste precious time envying blessings that appear to be more desirable on the surface.

Every morning and evening now when I pass these little cows, I take a moment to reflect on all of the many blessings in my life. Then, I say a prayer and thank my Heavenly Father for each and every one.

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Remembering the tiny gnat

You know the people you see standing on corners and at intersections holding signs and asking for money? I see them all the time and sometimes if I have a little cash, and I am at the intersection at just the right time, I will roll down the window and give them a few dollars.

A few days ago, I had no cash and the light turned red just as I approached one of these intersections. As I sat there trying to avoid eye contact with the young man holding the sign, I felt a terrible uneasiness. As I looked up our eyes met, and I saw a sadness in the young man’s eyes that haunted me for the rest of the day.

That night it was bitterly cold. The next morning, I looked for the young man but he was not there. As I sat at the intersection, I wondered and worried about him. I hoped that he had found a warm place to sleep and a warm meal to eat.

A few days later my electricity went out in the middle of the night. As I considered whether I would need to get some extra blankets out of the closet or build a fire to stay warm, I saw his face. I wondered if he were warm.

The next day, I had a pleasant lunch with friends. Afterward, while complaining about how full my stomach was, I saw his face. I wondered how long it had been since he had a meal and how full his stomach was.

As I continued to think of this young man, I wondered what more I could do to help him. I wondered what I could do to make things better for him and for so many others like him. As I pondered this question, I became overwhelmed. I felt so small, so unequal to the task.

Then I thought of the tiny little gnat.

Last summer, I visited a beautiful wilderness area. It was quiet and peaceful there and I sat silent and still trying to appreciate the tranquility. My solitude was quickly disrupted by a tiny little gnat flying around my face. I was astonished that something so tiny, so miniscule as this gnat could have such power, such influence.

I attempted to ignore this little gnat’s intrusions for a time, but soon it was joined by many friends. I quickly found that it was impossible to ignore an entire horde of gnats, so I soon gave up and left.

As I thought about the power of this tiny little gnat, it occurred to me that while I may not be able to do everything, I can do something. While I may not be able to help every homeless person or every person in need, I can help someone. And like these little gnats, if each person does something, no matter how small, it can add up to something huge and powerful.

I still see the face of this sad young man. I don’t know exactly what I will do to help yet, but I know that no matter how small it can make a difference.

I can make a difference.

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The Prayers of Bedford Falls

I know that Christmas Day was over a week ago and even New Year’s Day has come and gone. But today, it is a Christmas movie that is still lingering in my thoughts.

The movie is one of my all time favorite Christmas movies “It’s a Wonderful Life.” I love this movie for so many reasons. I love the star of the film, Jimmy Stewart. I love the story, the characters and the setting. I especially love the message of the movie that every person’s life is important and has value. Each of us touch the lives of so many others often unseen and unknown to us.

But today, I am reflecting on the message this movie teaches about prayer. One of my favorite parts of this film is the very beginning where the people of Bedford Falls are praying for George Bailey. I love how the movie shows these prayers being heard in Heaven and then answered when Clarence the angel is sent to help George during his time of crisis.

I was impressed that these people did not just pray and then leave it to Heaven to help George. They prayed for God’s help and then did everything they could to help him on their own. It was not just Clarence the angel that was answering these prayers. He had the help of George’s friends and family.

I love this movie and the message that it shares. I know that just as Heaven heard and answered the prayers of the people of Bedford Falls, our Heavenly Father hears and answers our prayers too.

I am grateful for this knowledge. I am grateful that I know that even when we are facing our darkest and most difficult times, we can pray and He will always be there to answer.

Sometimes these answers will come through angels sent from above and sometimes they will come through angels that we call friends.

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My Gift

This is the last weekend before Christmas. For the past several years, this has traditionally been the weekend that I have traveled to Texas to visit my mother and deliver her Christmas presents. This year, my mother is in Heaven, not Texas, and on this, my first Christmas without her, I have been feeling a bit lost.

This is the first Christmas that I can remember not giving her a gift, and I have struggled a bit because of this. I like to think that she is watching over me from Heaven. So I have been pondering what I could possibly do from here below to still give her a gift this year.

My mother taught me so many things through her words and through her example. She taught me to work hard. She taught me compassion and empathy. She taught me to love and to serve others. So, this year, I will give her the gift of trying my best to live my life the way that she taught me to—the way that she lived hers.

As I reflected on this, I thought about the first Christmas gift, given over 2000 years ago. On that very first Christmas, our Heavenly Father gave us the gift of His son, our Savior.

The Savior then gave us the gift of His life, His teachings and His example. He lived a perfect life of love, compassion and service and then freely gave His life for us. Because He did, I know that I can return to live with Him again… I know that I will see my mother again.

I am so very grateful for my Savior and for the great gift that He has given to me. This year, and every year, I will try harder to follow His example—to love as He loved, to serve as He served, and to live as He lived.

Living my life for Him, will be my gift to Him.

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Objects in the Rear View Mirror are Closer than they Appear

I spend a lot of time driving. Commuting back and forth to work five days a week racks up a lot of miles and translates into a lot of hours spent behind the wheel.

I consider myself, for the most part, to be a friendly, courteous driver. I slow down to let people merge onto the highway or into my lane. I try to get out of the way of someone who wants to drive faster than I am. I use my turn signals and maintain a safe distance from the car in front of me.

I also consider myself, for the most part, to be a fairly kind and understanding driver. I try to remind myself that there are blind spots and other factors that cause some drivers to attempt to share my lane. There are medical and other emergencies that cause some people to drive at dangerous speeds. I remind myself that we are all human and we all make mistakes.

I try to remember all these things, but I have to admit that sometimes it is still difficult. Sometimes, when other drivers tailgate or come close to running me off the road, I get irritated and feel anything but kind and understanding.

One morning this week, while I was driving to work, a car began to pull into my lane. As the car got dangerously close, I noticed that it was a car very much like the one my daughter drives. I wondered how differently my feelings toward this driver would be if she were my daughter. Would I, instead of anger, feel concern? Would I worry about the cause of her actions instead of attributing blame? As I pondered these questions, the irritation that I had begun to feel for this driver instantly vanished.

For the remainder of my drive to work, I tried to remind myself that the other drivers were all someone’s daughters and sons, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers. When they did something that would normally cause me to be angry or frustrated, I tried instead to be patient and considerate. I tried my best to give them and their actions the benefit of the doubt. As I did, I found myself becoming more courteous and friendly and less stressed and irritated.

Later that day as I reflected on the experience, I wondered how different my daily commute might be if everyone treated the other drivers as if they were someone they loved and cared for.

How different might the world be if we extended this to include not only those we share our drive with but also those we share our walk through life with each day?

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Tires and Talents

One morning this week, I passed by a man changing a flat tire on the side of the highway. It’s not an unusual site to see on the side of a busy interstate, but it occurred to me that in all of the miles that I have driven through the years, I have never had to change a flat tire.

It’s not that I haven’t had my share of flat tires. I have driven over my share of nails, screws, broken glass and other tire hazards. Also, during my college years, when I sometimes had to choose between buying food or tires, at times I drove on tires so thin they had no other choice but to go flat.

It’s not that I don’t know how to change a flat tire. My father sold automobile parts for a living and was determined to make sure I had a good grasp on the basics. Since that time, my husband and sons have tried to continually reinforce this knowledge.

The reason that I have never had to change a flat tire is simple. Every time I have had a tire go flat, before I can even get the jack out of the back of my car, a kind stranger has pulled over and offered to change it for me—every single time.

That thought warmed my heart as I continued my drive to work. I smiled as I thought of how blessed I have been by the kindness of others throughout my life. I am grateful that no matter which highway I have been on, or which city or state I have been in, there have been people willing to give of their time, talents and energy to help someone they didn’t even know.

As I continued to reflect on this, I became inspired by the example that these kind strangers have set for me. With my limited experience, I don’t believe that I would be much help to someone changing a tire, but there are so many other things that I can do to help those around me. I believe we are all blessed with different gifts, talents and abilities so that we can help and lift each other in times of need.

So, if you need help changing a tire, I may not be your best choice. But I’ll be keeping an eye out for you, if you need a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, or anything else which I have the ability or capacity to give…

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A Lesson from the Whos down in Whoville

Tomorrow will be the first day of December. Halloween has come and gone and all that is left of the Thanksgiving feast are leftovers. While retailers and early birds began celebrating Christmas as soon as the last trick-or-treaters returned to their homes, tomorrow it will be official. The Christmas season will begin.

For the next month the radio stations will be filled with Christmas carols and every television channel will be packed with Christmas movies and Holiday specials. While I enjoy most of the newer Christmas movies and specials, it is the classics that hold a special place in my heart. It is these programs that seem to instantly transport me to my childhood.

One of my all time childhood favorites was Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas. I loved Whoville and all of the little Whos. I loved watching them and their excitement as they busily prepared for Christmas. I loved watching the Grinch and his little dog Max as they went to each of the homes in Whoville attempting to “steal Christmas.” Most of all, I loved watching all the Whos down in Whoville wake up on Christmas morning happy and singing as if nothing had happened and seeing the Grinch’s heart grow three sizes as he realized that Christmas “doesn’t come from a store.”

As a child, I am positive that I would not have been as happy as the people of Whoville if all of my Christmas presents and treats had been stolen. As an adult, I would like to think that I would handle it better, but I have serious doubts. If I woke up on Christmas morning and all of the presents, decorations and food that I had spent so much time and effort preparing had been stolen, I do not think that I would feel like singing. At least, not at first.

Tomorrow as the Christmas season officially begins, I am going to try harder to remember that presents, decorations and delicious food are the ways we celebrate Christmas, they are not the reason we celebrate. I am going to try to do a better job of following the example of the Whos down in Whoville and focus more on the birth and life of the Savior.

Hopefully, if there are any Grinches in my life that are watching me, their hearts will grow three sizes this year too….

Posted in Miracles | 3 Comments