In the Midst of the Storm

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Does your life ever feel like that scene near the beginning of The Wizard of Oz? You know, the one where Dorothy sits on her bed, a helpless spectator inside the tornado, while all the pieces of her life swirl frantically around her.

I remember watching it as a child with both apprehension and amusement as all the people and things floated past Dorothy’s window. I remember smiling as I saw the cow, the chicken coop, the old men fishing and the old lady knitting but Miss Gulch on her bicycle and the wicked witch frightened me. I empathized with Dorothy as she sat mesmerized by the scene as if she were a movie patron or the captive of a bad dream.

I remember my relief when her house stopped spiraling out of control and landed in Oz and how beautiful and peaceful it seemed by comparison.

In the chaotic, fast-paced, topsy-turvy world we live in today, it is difficult not to feel like Dorothy sometimes. It is easy to feel like a helpless spectator watching the world spinning frantically around us. It is natural to long for the calm, peacefulness of a place like Oz. But Oz wasn’t the solution, even for Dorothy.

So how do we find peace and tranquility while the world swirls madly around us? How do we find a way to feel in control and still or at least slow the storms in our lives?

There have been many times throughout my life that I have let the storms and chaos overwhelm me and keep me a captive spectator like Dorothy. It is during these times I have learned that while it is true, I cannot control all things, I can control some things. I can strive to make that part of the world that I can control as peaceful and calm as possible. I do not have to remain a spectator in my own life.

I have also learned that once I have done all that I can do alone, my Heavenly Father is there to help me. He may not always make the storms go away but He can and will help me to feel peaceful and calm while I am in the midst of them.

So the next time the storms in my life begin raging and I begin to feel like Dorothy, I know that I will not feel that way for long. I will remember that I am not helpless, I am not a spectator, and I am not alone.

I will remember these things, and I will feel peace in the midst of the fiercest of storms.

 

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Mountains and Mustard Seeds

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I have spent the majority of my life living on the plains, but I have always loved the mountains.

As a young child, my family visited relatives in Colorado and I saw my first glimpse of the Rocky Mountains. I still remember the feeling of awe and wonder I felt at the massive, majestic peaks that surrounded me. I remembered my Sunday school teacher had told me if I had faith the size of a mustard seed I could move mountains. At the time, I didn’t know how big a mustard seed was, but I remember thinking that it must be pretty big.

Later, as a young adult, I visited Yosemite National Park and witnessed the breathtaking beauty of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. As I sat at the foot of the towering peaks, my thoughts were drawn once again to that tiny mustard seed. Moving these huge walls of rock seemed an impossible feat to me but even then I knew that with God’s help all things are possible.

Today, as I look back, I recognize that my Heavenly Father has helped me to move many mountains throughout my life. He has helped me to move mountains of fear, mountains of worry and mountains of grief. He has helped me to move mountains of doubt, mountains of pain and mountains of regret. He has always been there to remove the mountainous obstacles in my life.

I still live on the plains but I still love the mountains and the reminder that they are to me. I know that no matter how large, no matter how mountainous a problem or obstacle may appear, it can be moved.

If I call upon my Heavenly Father and have sufficient faith, I can move mountains…

 

 

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Life in the rearview mirror

 

rear-view-mirror-835085_1920One morning recently, while leaving for work, I was struck by the beautiful reflection in my rearview mirror. The morning sunrise was shining through the trees behind me and filled the mirror with brilliant hues of orange, pink and purple. I was so impressed by the sight that I stopped the car and got out to take a picture.

As I gazed at the view before me, I was disappointed to find that it was not the same as the view in my mirror. The morning sun’s rays were brighter, harsher. The colors were faded and washed out. It was nowhere near as impressive as its reflection had been.

As I drove to work, I contemplated the cause of this disparity. I wondered what could cause these two views to be so different. I remembered that both my rearview mirror and my back window were tinted. The beautiful reflection that had captivated me so, had been filtered and softened by the tinted glass.

It occurred to me that our reflections of the past are much the same. As we reflect on the events and relationships of our past we color them through filters of our own making. Like the tinted glass of my rearview mirror, these filters soften and enhance our memories causing them to sometimes appear more beautiful or desirable than they actually were.

Sometimes this tinted view of the past is preferable to the harsh reality of our present view or the view of what lies ahead of us. The difficulties and trials of the present and the uncertainty of the future can often prompt us to seek refuge in our memories of the past.

It may appear to be more comfortable or even safer to live in the tinted reality of the past. But if we are to progress and be happy it is important that we live in and enjoy the present always looking forward towards the future.

So I will enjoy today remembering that one day it will be that memory I see in the rearview mirror of my mind.

 

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The Christmas Chasm

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This year, like many others before, I have found myself caught in what I refer to as the “Christmas chasm”. This chasm is the great divide between the ideal Christmas in my head and the Christmas that I actually have the time, energy and means to accomplish.

This chasm is further complicated by the fact that there are actually two ideal Christmases in my head.

The first of these ideal Christmases is very elaborate. In this Christmas, I prepare months ahead of time and spend hours finding or making the perfect gift for each and every person on my list. In this Christmas, the decorations are up and the menu is planned before the last of the Thanksgiving leftovers have been consumed. This Christmas is filled with cookies, candy, caroling and parties.

The second of these ideal Christmases is much simpler. It is filled with peace, quiet and tranquility. In this Christmas, the focus is not on gifts, decorations and cookies, but on the birth of a child in a quiet stable over two-thousand years ago. In this Christmas, I focus not on the perfect gift or the perfect occasion but on the perfect child that was born and the perfect life that He led.

So, once again, I am caught in this Christmas chasm struggling between what the ideal Christmas is and how best to accomplish it. At times, I feel like this chasm is impossible to traverse, but like all the other chasms and valleys in my life, I know that my Savior is there willing to help lift me out and show me the way.

I know that He was the child born in that quiet stable more than two-thousand years ago. I know that He lived a perfect life and that He suffered and died for me. I know that He still lives and that when I need Him, He is always there for me.

Because I know this, with His help, I will try harder to celebrate the perfect Christmas-the one that focuses on His birth and His life.

I will strive to keep the things that He taught in my mind and in my heart this Christmas, next Christmas and all the days in between…

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Learning to Wait

Lite BritePatience has never been one of my strong suits. I’ve never been very good at waiting. Although, I have to admit that I have gotten better at it over the years.

The year that I turned seven, the Hasbro company introduced an amazing new toy called the Lite-Brite. It was a light box with little colored pegs and templates that created wonderful glowing pictures. It was the “must have” toy that year and was at the top of everyone’s Christmas list. My list was no exception and I gave my parents plenty of casual reminders to make sure they did not forget.

It seemed to take forever but Christmas morning finally arrived and I was not disappointed. I still remember the excitement I felt as I ripped off the wrapping paper. My reminders had worked and I had my very own Lite-Brite.

I couldn’t wait to start making my own glowing masterpieces. As soon as the last present was opened I raced up the stairs and tore open the box. I carefully removed my treasured gift from it’s box and plugged it in but nothing happened. My parents had failed to read a few very important words printed on the box…“light bulb not included”.

My excitement faded instantly. It was Christmas day! There were no stores open to purchase light bulbs. There would be no glowing pictures for me that day. My parents assured me they would buy me a light bulb the next day but I could not be consoled. I had waited long enough.

I spent that afternoon making every single picture that came with my Lite-Brite. I created pictures of butterflies, clowns, roosters and flowers. But the pictures I made were not light. They were not bright. They were just barely recognizable shapes made of colored pegs. They were not the wonderful, glowing pictures that I had eagerly anticipated.

The next day my parents kept their word and bought me a light bulb but it did me no good. I had used up all of the picture templates the day before. I had light but no more pictures to make. I had wasted them all the day before because I could not wait one more day.

I have thought about this experience many times over the years. It has always served to remind me to be more patient. It has also reminded me that sometimes we must sacrifice the things we want now for something better or greater in the future.

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The Master Gardener

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It might be my dread of the cold, dark winter soon to come or perhaps my anticipation of the glorious spring I know will follow. Whatever the reason, this week, as the crisp, chill of autumn made its entrance, I was entertaining fond memories of gardening with my grandmother.

Many years have come and gone since I helped my grandmother in her garden. I was very young and I am quite sure I wasn’t very much help. Many times I couldn’t tell the young plants from the weeds, but Granny knew what she had planted and where she had planted it. She knew what the young seedlings and plants should look like and more importantly, she knew what they could become.

My grandmother taught me that each plant looked different and had a different form and structure because each had a different job to do. Potato plants grew potatoes. Carrot plants grew carrots and corn stalks grew corn. Each seed and each plant contained within it exactly what it needed to do what it was created to do.

She taught me that each plant had to get just the right amount of sun, water and fertilizer. Each needed to be protected from weeds, insects and other predators. Each of them had to be carefully nurtured and cared for to fulfill their purpose and produce the fruit or flowers they were meant to produce.

My wise grandmother also taught me that people were a lot like the plants in her garden. Each is different and unique because they have different jobs to do and different talents and gifts to offer. Each has a special place on this earth and a purpose they were meant to fulfill. Each of them needs to be nurtured and cared for if they are to grow, thrive and fulfill that purpose.

Just as my grandmother knew the potential of the little seedlings and plants in her garden, our Heavenly Father, the master gardener, knows the potential that lies within each of us. He watches over, nurtures and protects us so that we might become who He knows we can become.

As we uplift, inspire and help those around us recognize their own potential and then work beside them as they strive to achieve it, we are helping in His garden.

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The Warmth of Angels on a Cold Winter’s Night

winter-625925_1280This week, as the last lingering days of summer were making their exit, my thoughts were led to a cold winter’s night outside of St. Louis, Missouri. That night, more than forty years ago, I witnessed an example of kindness that I have never forgotten.

My family and I were in town to watch the St. Louis Cardinals play. We were excited about the game but I don’t remember who they played or even if they won that day. The only thing I remember about that game was that it was played in single digit temperatures and we were all freezing.

When the game was over, we stopped to fill our gas tank and started our journey home. At the time, we had no way of knowing that the gas we had just purchased was watered down. As the sun set and the temperatures continued to fall, the water in our gas tank froze and our car stopped.

On a cold, dark road in the middle of nowhere, our family was stranded. There were no city lights in the distance. There were no lights from a nearby house or business. There were no cell phones, no OnStar. We were freezing, frightened and alone.

Just as my father was about to set off on foot to find help, we saw a pair of headlights that seemed to come out of nowhere. As they got closer we saw an old truck come toward us, slow down and pull over. The driver of the truck was a kind old man. He drove my father to the nearest service station, waited with him while they towed and fixed our car and took my mother, sister and I to his home to wait while he did.

His wife was equally as kind. She made sure we were warm and made us hot cocoa. She made and decorated Christmas cookies with us. She even showed us how to make little Santa Claus figures out of apples and marshmallows. She could have made us feel that we were an inconvenience or intrusion but instead she welcomed us. Her heart was as warm and inviting as her home was that night.

The night could have ended very badly for us. At the very least, we could have come away from it feeling bitter, hurt and defeated. Instead, the kindness of the old couple left us feeling warm, safe and loved.

Sometimes, I think if I had gone back the next day, the old truck, the house and the couple themselves would have all magically vanished because they were really angels sent to rescue my family on that cold, dark night. I know they were probably just as real as you and me but that doesn’t make them any less Heavenly messengers or any less sent from above.

We were never really alone that night. As we travel the cold, dark, scary roads of this world we are never truly alone. Our Heavenly Father is always there and He will always send His messengers both Heavenly and earthly to rescue us in our time of need.

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