Even the Sparrows

I recently moved into a new home in a somewhat rural area. My room has a nice large window that allows me the opportunity to look out over the front yard. Fortunately, the trees in my front yard provide homes to many little sparrows and I have enjoyed watching them.

I have marveled at their variety and uniqueness. They are different sizes and colors. They sing different songs and have different markings and habits. Some of them are so unique that I have begun to recognize them when they land in my yard. Some even have names.

My son bought me a massive bag of birdseed and I have watched with pleasure as they gratefully consume it. I have also watched happily as they play with one another and worried when they sometimes squabble. I have also watched helplessly as larger birds swoop in and scare my little ones away.

As I have watched my little birds, I have been impressed with the miracle they are. I am reminded of Christ’s teaching from the New Testament that even a sparrow cannot fall to the ground unnoticed by our Heavenly Father. Our Heavenly Father created each of these little birds and watches over them still.

Our Heavenly Father created and watches over each of us too. Like these sparrows, each of us is unique and special to Him. We come in different sizes and colors. We have different habits and sing different songs. But He knows each of our names and loves each one of us individually.

He watches over us as we “play nicely” with one another and when we unfortunately squabble and bicker. He watches as our enemies “swoop in” with dangerous intentions. But unlike me and my sparrows, He is not powerless to help us.

As I watch my sparrows this week, I will remember how much love went into creating them and I will remember that love exists still as He watches over them each day. I will remember that the Savior taught us that in the sight of God we have more value than many sparrows and that even the hairs of our head are numbered by Him.

I will remember these things, and I will be grateful to Him.

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Butterfly’s, Lightingbugs and Charity

When I was nine years old I spent part of my summer vacation at my grandmother’s house. That summer, in a tiny Oklahoma town in the middle of nowhere, my “granny” taught me some invaluable life lessons through her example.

My granny taught me the value of hard work as we cooked, cleaned, canned and gardened. Granny was just months away from turning sixty that summer but she worked right beside me and probably did ten times the amount of work that I did.

She also played right beside me. She taught me that if you work hard you deserve to play hard too. We spent that summer swimming, exploring and catching butterflies and lightning bugs-together.

My granny also taught me about charity. Her possessions were small but her heart was huge. She always cared more about the needs of others than her own. If she heard that someone had a need she did her best to fill it. If she did not have the resources, she would not rest until she found someone that did.

I remember when I was very young, my granny would collect my extra toys and give them to children that she knew would not be getting any toys for Christmas. I really didn’t understand this at the time, and in all honesty, I was not very happy about it. In my view, I didn’t have any “extra” toys. Today, I cherish this memory and the example of selfless service that my granny was for me.

One of the greatest lessons that granny taught me was to have an eternal perspective. Granny’s favorite song was “This World Is Not My Home”. She sang it often. She was a happy, joyful woman no matter the circumstance. She knew that the trials, hardships and difficulties of this life were temporary. She knew that her home would one day be with her Heavenly Father.

It has taken me many years to fully understand and appreciate all of the lessons that my grandmother taught me that summer and throughout her lifetime. She has been gone nearly thirty years, but she lives on through me. Every good thing that I do and every act of service that I perform are a tribute to her, the example she set and the life she led. I hope and pray that one day I may leave a similar legacy through the life that I lead.

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Why Easter is My Favorite Holiday

***Originally posted April 20, 2014***

Easter has always been my favorite holiday. My mother always thought it was strange that while other children were looking forward to Christmas or even Halloween, I always had my sights set on Easter. When I was a child, I used to tell everyone it was because of all the chocolate, but even then I knew that wasn’t the real reason.


In all honesty, I love everything about Easter. I love candy in the shape of bunnies, eggs and chicks. I love the colorful baskets. I love dying and decorating eggs in a rainbow of colors. I love hiding and hunting for the eggs after they are decorated. I love seeing everyone all dressed up in various pastel hues.

I think one of the other reasons that Easter has always been my favorite holiday is the season. I love Spring. I love witnessing the earth coming alive again after the dead of winter. I love the smell of the air and the feel of the breeze. I love seeing the trees bud with new leaves and lawns and pastures turn green seemingly overnight. I love seeing flowers literally bursting out of every field and flower bed that I pass.


I love the season, symbols and celebrations of the Easter holiday, but they are not the reasons that Easter is my favorite holiday. The reason that Easter is my favorite holiday is the same reason that we celebrate it in the first place. I love Easter because it is a celebration of the life, teachings and resurrection of the Savior.


Over two thousand years ago the Savior lived a perfect life of love, compassion and service. He taught others His message of love and service through his words and through his example. He suffered great pains and ultimately died for each of us, but His death was not the end. We celebrate on Easter because three days later, He rose again.


So, yes, Easter is my favorite holiday. It is my favorite holiday for many reasons but most of all because it reminds me of the gratitude I feel for my Savior. I am grateful for His life and for His teachings. I am grateful that I know not only did He suffer and die for me but that He rose again.

I know that He lived and I know that He still lives and I am eternally grateful.

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Consider the Lillies

I was born precisely nine days before the fiftieth birthday of one of the people I admire most, my maternal grandmother Lillie May Estes. I know this fact very well because she often expressed her disappointment that I didn’t “wait” nine more days to make my entrance. She was, however, pleased that we at least share the same birth month.

Because we share the same birth month, we also share the same birth flower-Lily of the Valley. Long before I knew what a “birth flower” was, I loved Lilys of the Valley. My grandmother loved flowers too, and when I was very young, I thought these tiny little lilys were named after her. As I grew older, I was sure of it.

According to legend, the small white blossoms of the Lily of the Valley symbolize both the tears that Eve cried as she was banished from the Garden of Eden and the tears the Virgin Mary shed at Christ’s crucifixion. They are mentioned several times in the Bible and are known to symbolize purity, humility, joy, sweetness and hope. 

Everything about these flowers reminds me of my sweet grandmother, their name, their form and their symbolism. Like the flower that bears her name, my grandmother was beautiful yet strong, delicate yet resilient. She was pure, humble, joyful and full of love.  

This little flower symbolizes hope for the second coming of the Savior. My grandmother lived her life filled with this hope and filled with great love for both her Savior and her fellow brothers and sisters.  

Like Eve leaving the Garden and the tears she shed that these tiny lilies represent, my grandmother had a difficult life filled with sorrow and hardships and she shed more than her fair share of tears. But my grandmother always knew that this earth life was temporary. She knew that it would end and she would return to live with her Heavenly Father and Savior.  

I am grateful that I share my birth month with my cherished grandmother and I am grateful for our birth flower that continues to remind me of her. I am grateful for the example she was to me and the things she taught me. I too know that this life is temporary and one day I will return to my Heavenly Father and Savior and I will see my beautiful grandmother again.

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Never Ignore a Prompting (aka: The Disappearing Blog)

All week I worked on a blog that I planned to post today. I thought it was a good one, but for some reason I kept getting the feeling that it was not the blog I should post. It was a hectic week and consequently I continued to ignore the feeling. Last night, when I went to finish it and get it ready to post, I found it had “disappeared”.

After my initial shock and a chaotic, frantic search, I realized it was gone. It would not be posted today. As I pondered how and why this happened, I remembered all of the feelings I had ignored earlier in the week. I got a distinct and powerful impression that these feelings and disappearing blog were all from my Heavenly Father.

I spent the rest of the evening and a good part of the night considering these promptings that I had ignored all week. I remembered the words of Thomas S. Monson: “We watch. We wait. We listen for that still, small voice. When it speaks, wise men and women obey. We do not postpone following promptings of the Spirit.”

I remembered an activity from my youth that taught me the importance of listening carefully to my Heavenly Father’s promptings. I was blindfolded in a room full of obstacles and barriers. A friend was on the other side of the room giving me the directions for my safe passage. All I had to do was listen carefully for her voice and follow her instructions. Unfortunately, there were other voices and other noises that interfered with my ability to hear her. I had to focus very carefully on her voice and ignore the other voices and noises. If I did, I would travel through the room safely.

I do not know whether this week’s lesson was intended just for me or whether someone out there needed the reminder also, but I am grateful. I am grateful for my knowledge of a loving, kind Heavenly Father who is there to lead us safely through the perils and pitfalls of this life if we will only listen for and follow His promptings…

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Reminiscing with Hall & Oates – Revisited

It has been eight years since I wrote this blog and attended this concert. This week as I read my thoughts and feelings from that day, I wondered how my advice might have changed with the knowledge I have today. Would I tell my younger self that less than eight years in the future, her sweet husband would no longer be sitting by her side but would be on the other side of the veil? Would I tell her to hold on to him so very tightly and never take a moment with him for granted? I definitely would want to, but I still agree with my advice from eight years ago…

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Thirty-one years ago this month I attended a Hall and Oates concert with my future husband. This month, with my husband of over thirty years by my side, I attended another Hall and Oates concert. As I sat in the auditorium waiting for the concert to begin, I couldn’t help but reminisce about that first concert and the thirty plus years that had transpired since.

I thought about the young woman at the first concert. I smiled as I remembered how full of hope and excitement she was as she anticipated her future. I thought about all the things I would like to tell her if I could. I could warn her about the poor choices and bad decisions I had made. I could tell her about the struggles and trials that lie ahead. Maybe I could help her to avoid some of the pitfalls and stumbling blocks that I know the next thirty years will bring.

As I reflected on what I might tell my younger self, I realized that I wouldn’t want to warn her about any of those things. If I had not made the choices and decisions that I have made, if I had not experienced the trials and tribulations that I have experienced, I would not be the person that I am today. I would not have the empathy, compassion and patience for others who are experiencing similar trials and making similar choices.

So what would I tell her? I would tell her that her Heavenly Father loves her very much and will be there for her no matter what. No matter how hard things may get or how much her heart is breaking, He will always be there for her.

I would tell her that her Heavenly Father will also send many special friends to help her through the hard times. They will love her, hug her, cry with her and stay by her. I would tell her that she should never pass up an opportunity to do the same for them and for others in her life.

I would tell her to always look for miracles because they are all around her. I would tell her that if she doesn’t see one right away, she should help make one happen for someone else.

So while I sat waiting for my second Hall and Oates concert to begin, I recognized that I am a little older and a little wider, but I am also a little wiser. I am very grateful for who I am today and for who I may yet become with my Heavenly Father’s help….

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A Mental Health Message from the Past

Earlier this week, I learned a bit of information that changed my past, at least the past as I knew it. This bit of information brought me even closer to my beloved mother and caused me to have an even greater sensitivity and understanding of those in the world with mental illness.

I was chatting with my sister, whose arrival on this earth predates mine by almost 4 1/2 years, and she told me that almost immediately after I was born, my mother fell into a deep depression. It was so severe that she even became suicidal.

As soon as I heard these words, I immediately thought of “Postpartum Depression”, but the year that I was born very few doctors had even heard of this diagnosis. As a result, my mother ended up in a mental institution and I ended up without my mother for a time.

The stigma and shame attached to mental illness at the time was much greater than it is today and the institutions and treatment methods available were immature and crude. The thought of my sweet mother being stuck in one of those places and not getting the help that she so desperately needed broke my heart.

It was particularly frustrating for me since my mother has been gone now for several years and there is nothing I can do to change what happened to her or comfort her after the fact.

As I continued to think about the time my mother spent in this institution, my thoughts drifted to her fellow patients. It occurred to me that all of these patients were someone’s mother, father, sister, brother or child.

My thoughts fast-forwarded to present day. While the stigma associated with mental illness has lessened, it still exists. Many of these patients are ostracized and even blamed for their own illnesses.

Everyone we meet is usually struggling with some type of inner turmoil and many are battling some form of mental illness. These individuals are someone’s mother, father, sister, brother or child. They are our Heavenly Father’s children and our brothers and sisters. They need our love, patience and understanding.

So earlier this week a bit of information changed the past as I know it. Now, it is my hope and prayer that it will also change the future as I strive to be a little kinder, a little more sensitive and a little more compassionate to everyone I meet.

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To Everything There is a Season

Tree

There is a huge tree outside my office window. I’ve grown quite attached to it over the last couple of years. It has been my companion through the ups, downs and stresses of my work days. My office is one of the few that has a window so I consider myself fortunate.

My tree has character. It has extensive, sprawling, gnarled branches. It is the kind of tree that you might expect to see in The Wizard of Oz, but much larger. I can’t really explain why, but watching it grow and change outside my window seems to bring me peace and solace which is a stark contrast to the chaos that is often inside my office.

Right now, there are only a handful of leaves left on its branches, but I know that in a few months they will be covered with tiny green buds. I also know that seemingly overnight those buds will literally burst into thousands of brilliant green leaves hiding its twisted branches from my view.

I know this because I have watched it happen season after season. I have seen the tree appear almost dead in the middle of Winter then bud out with new life and new growth in the Spring. I have seen it full of life and covered with leaves in the Summer only to drop those leaves again in the Autumn.

So today as I gaze out the window at my tree and its barren branches, I know that this is a temporary condition. I know that it will be plush, green and beautiful again. I know that there is a season, time and purpose for everything.

I also know this to be true in my life. When life is difficult and trials seem to overwhelm me, when my soul feels as barren and lifeless as the branches on my tree, I know that this also is a temporary condition. I know that in time, the season of trials will pass and it will produce new growth and new life to my weary soul.

So no matter how dark and dreary things get, I will continue to have faith and hope. I will continue to thank my Heavenly Father for my trials and my blessings, and I will look forward to the glorious Spring that lies ahead and the better person that I will be when it arrives…

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Friends of Great Worth

I have been blessed with some amazing friends. My friends are some of the most caring, compassionate and loving people around. They also happen to be some of the most gifted and talented people I know. Let’s face it, they are some of the most awesome people on the planet.

Unfortunately, some of them don’t know it.

For some time now, I have been somewhat troubled by this fact. It is difficult for me to understand how some of the most exceptional people I know fail to recognize their own worth. They ignore or downplay the talents and gifts that they have and underestimate their own value.

I discussed this with my daughter one evening. I told her how frustrated I was that some of my friends didn’t seem to recognize their worth. I told her that these friends were so awesome but that they just couldn’t seem to see it. She looked straight at me and without a moment’s hesitation said “You mean like you?”

Her words pierced my soul and stopped me right in my tracks. I wondered, could I really be guilty of the same thing? As I pondered her question, I came to the conclusion that she was right. I decided that to varying degrees we are all guilty of underestimating our own value or worth.

We judge ourselves too harshly. We compare ourselves to others. We continually criticize ourselves. We exaggerate our faults and mistakes and minimize our talents and accomplishments. We are much kinder to others than we are to ourselves. It is not surprising that we sometimes feel worthless or inferior.

But we shouldn’t.

We are all children of a loving and kind Heavenly Father. He has created us and we are of great worth. He has given each of us different talents, gifts and abilities, not so that we might compare ourselves to each other but so that we might use them to help one another.

I am grateful for all of the wonderful friends that I have. I am grateful that they so willingly share their abundant gifts and talents with me. I am grateful for my knowledge of my Heavenly Father and I am grateful that I know I am His child and as such, I have great worth.

I will try to remind my friends and myself of that more often….

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Judging Myself

Have you ever read a quote or an excerpt from a book or an article that just seemed to hit you like a ton of bricks? Something that seemed so simple, so obvious, yet so profound? Something that made you wonder why the thought had never occurred to you before? Earlier this week, I read just such a quote.

This particular quote was about judging, or more precisely, about not judging. While I readily and humbly admit that I am far from perfect on this topic, I have always tried not to judge my fellow brothers and sisters and endeavored to find the good and positive in each of them.

This quote, however, suggested that the commandment to not judge includes not judging ourselves. As I read this quote, suddenly my far from perfect mastery of this precept became even farther from perfect in my mind. Am I really supposed to resist the continual urge to judge myself?

This is a challenging concept for me because I tend to be somewhat hypercritical of myself. I strive for perfection and instead of applauding myself when I get closer to my goal, I berate myself when I fall short.

I think we all struggle with this from time to time. We seem to have no trouble overlooking the minor indiscretions and mistakes of others but condemn and judge ourselves for the very same actions. We allow others to be human, to have weaknesses and make mistakes but do not allow ourselves the same courtesy.

As I pondered this concept, I remembered the Savior’s teaching to “…love thy neighbour as thyself.” (Matthew 22:39) So, to truly love our neighbor or our brothers and sisters, we must first love ourselves. We need to treat ourselves with the same patience, love and compassion with which we treat others.

I will continue to strive for perfection, but I will try to be more patient and forgiving of myself when I fall short. I will continue to look for the good and the positive in others, and I will try to follow the example of the Savior and love everyone…including myself.

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