Monday, December 09, 2019
Still, just about every time I climb into bed to fall asleep and snuggle up to her, or every morning when I feel her next to me, I pull her close, kiss her face, and say quietly, even as she’s sleeping, “I love you so much.” Claire was a baby when my dad was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. During the brief 6.5 week window from diagnosis to death, my sister Sue commented that Claire was a little ray of sunshine for all of us in the midst of so much devastating sorrow. I thought of that tonight on her 7th birthday and it’s still true. This girl is a champion snuggler, a chocoholic, and her spice will surprise you. She’s genuinely funny and always has me laughing. She’s smart as a whip, energetic, happy, fiercely devoted, tender, and full of love. 7 years later, she’s still lighting up our world.
Claire Elizabeth, I love you so. ❤️
Friday, December 06, 2019
I find myself wondering, when did this happen? And how did it happen? And I want to yell to the person driving the train STOP. STOP. RIGHT. NOW. But even that isn’t true because I want to see your life unfold and continue to marvel at the great gift that is you. And when I look at you, though time speeds forward, you are all the ages you’ve ever been to me. You are years and seasons and growth and pain and humility and joy. You are my tiny, tiny babes and my teenage sons in the same breath. You are every moment we’ve ever shared and this is a beautiful thing.
Thursday, December 05, 2019
CHRISTMAS ADVENT READINGS
December 1: The Angel Gabriel Appears to Mary (Luke 1:26-38)
*Elder L. Whitney Clayton: “Mary had been a young woman when the angel Gabriel appeared unto her. At first she had been ‘troubled’ by being called ‘highly favoured’ and ‘blessed … among women … and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.’ Gabriel reassured her that she had nothing to fear—the news he brought was good. She would ‘conceive in [her] womb … the Son of the Highest’ and ‘bring forth a son … [who] shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever.’
Mary wondered aloud, ‘How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?’
The angel explained but only briefly, affirming to her that ‘with God nothing [is] impossible.’
Mary humbly responded that she would do what God asked, without demanding to know specifics and undoubtedly in spite of having countless questions about the implications for her life. She committed herself without exactly understanding why He was asking that of her or how things would work out. She accepted God’s word unconditionally and in advance, with little knowledge of what lay ahead. With simple trust in God, Mary said, ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.’
When we decide to do ‘whatsoever [God] saith unto’ us, we earnestly commit to align our everyday behavior with God’s will. Such simple acts of faith as studying the scriptures daily, fasting regularly, and praying with real intent deepen our well of spiritual capacity to meet the demands of mortality. Over time, simple habits of belief lead to miraculous results. They transform our faith from a seedling into a dynamic power for good in our lives. Then, when challenges come our way, our rootedness in Christ provides steadfastness for our souls. God shores up our weaknesses, increases our joys, and causes ‘all things [to] work together for [our] good.’” (“Whatsoever He Saith unto You, Do It”, April 2017 General Conference)
*Consider listening to “Gabriel’s Message” sung by King’s College Choir:
December 2: The Beatitudes (3 Nephi 12:3-12)
December 3: Zachariah and Elisabeth to Have a Son Named John (Luke 1:5-22)
December 4: Be the salt of the earth (3 Nephi 12:13-16)
*Pres. Dieter F. Uchtdorf: “A story is told that during the bombing of a city in World War II, a large statue of Jesus Christ was severely damaged. When the townspeople found the statue among the rubble, they mourned because it had been a beloved symbol of their faith and of God’s presence in their lives.
Experts were able to repair most of the statue, but its hands had been damaged so severely that they could not be restored. Some suggested that they hire a sculptor to make new hands, but others wanted to leave it as it was—a permanent reminder of the tragedy of war. Ultimately, the statue remained without hands. However, the people of the city added on the base of the statue of Jesus Christ a sign with these words: ‘You are my hands.’…There is a profound lesson in this story. When I think of the Savior, I often picture Him with hands outstretched, reaching out to comfort, heal, bless, and love. And He always talked with, never down to, people. He loved the humble and the meek and walked among them, ministering to them and offering hope and salvation.
That is what He did during His mortal life; it is what He would be doing if He were living among us today; and it is what we should be doing as His disciples and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints….
Christ did not just speak about love; He showed it each day of His life. He did not remove Himself from the crowd. Being amidst the people, Jesus reached out to the one. He rescued the lost. He didn’t just teach a class about reaching out in love and then delegate the actual work to others. He not only taught but also showed us how to ‘succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees.’
Christ knows how to minister to others perfectly. When the Savior stretches out His hands, those He touches are uplifted and become greater, stronger, and better people as a result.
If we are His hands, should we not do the same?” (“You Are My Hands,” April 2010 General Conference)
*Sarah Elizabeth Rowntree: “Remember Christ has no human body now upon the earth but yours; no hands but yours; no feet but yours. Yours, my brothers and sisters, are the eyes through which Christ’s compassion has to look upon the world, and yours are the lips with which His love has to speak.”
*Mormon Message video titled Lessons I Learned as a Boy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=naqX9iYE0V0.
December 5: Mary Visits Elisabeth; John Born to Zachariah and Elisabeth (Luke 1:39-80)
December 6: Reconcile With Your Brother (3 Nephi 12:21-24)
December 7: Alma Prophesies of Christ (Alma 7:7-13)
December 8: Love Your Enemies (3 Nephi 12:38-45)
December 9: The Angel Tells Joseph to Marry Mary (Matthew 1:18-25)
December 10: Forgive (3 Nephi 13:14-15)
*Mormon Message video titled Forgiveness: My Burden Was Made Light: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E7zwQ_7q-fU).
December 11: Nephi Shown Christ’s Mission in the Tree of Life Vision (1 Nephi 11:12-33)
December 12: Seek Eternal Treasures (3 Nephi 12:19-21)
December 13: Samuel Gives the Signs of Christ’s Birth in the Americas (Helaman 14:1-8)
December 14: Cast the Beam Out of Your Own Eye (3 Nephi 14:1-5; John 8:1-11)
December 15: The Nativity (Luke 2:1-20)
*Consider listening to King’s College Choir sing “The Infant King”:
For text, visit https://www.hymnsandcarolsofchristmas.com/Hymns_and_Carols/infant_king.htm. I love how this carol reflects on what will come ahead, the full implications of the Savior’s birth.
*Nativity videos put out by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:
*Our family also likes to watch this movie together each December:
December 16: The Golden Rule (3 Nephi 14:12; John 13:15)
December 17: “For Unto Us A Child Is Born” (Isaiah 9:2, 6-7)
*Listen to “Carol of Joy”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ltdFKfJC1F8.
For text (so you can follow along!), visit https://danforrest.com/music-catalog/carol-of-joy. I love this one so much!
December 18: Love One Another (John 13:34-35)
*Ann Madsen: “[Jesus] taught his apostles, ‘As I have loved you, love one another.’ It sounds so simple a thing until we consider the quality of his love and surely he would have us learn to love as he loves us. ‘This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you’ (John 15:12).
How does his love differ from ours or from what we call love? Sometimes we say or mean, ‘I will love you if . . .’ or ‘I love you because . . .’—both qualifiers. Christ shows us how to say, ‘I love and will love you in spite of . . .’ That is the quality of Christ's love. The scriptures give it a special name: charity. It is pure and tender. It is eternal, not pretended, totally sincere, without guile or artifice, not selective, no respecter of persons. Sometimes what we call love is demanding, dominating, or manipulative. But his is selfless; free of ego needs, facing outward, not inward; reaching always outward. If we love in this way, we avoid much disappointment, pain, despair, and we experience more true joy. Sometimes there are those around us whom we love less. We can learn to love them more. Christ loves everybody more. So can we.” (from a talk given at BYU Women’s Conference titled “Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee”)
*Elder Marvin J. Ashton: “Charity is, perhaps, in many ways a misunderstood word. We often equate charity with visiting the sick, taking in casseroles to those in need, or sharing our excess with those who are less fortunate. But really, true charity is much, much more.
Real charity is not something you give away; it is something that you acquire and make a part of yourself. And when the virtue of charity becomes implanted in your heart, you are never the same again….Perhaps the greatest charity comes when we are kind to each other, when we don’t judge or categorize someone else, when we simply give each other the benefit of the doubt or remain quiet. Charity is accepting someone’s differences, weaknesses, and shortcomings; having patience with someone who has let us down; or resisting the impulse to become offended when someone doesn’t handle something the way we might have hoped. Charity is refusing to take advantage of another’s weakness and being willing to forgive someone who has hurt us. Charity is expecting the best of each other.” (“The Tongue Can Be a Sharp Sword,” April 1992 General Conference)
December 19: Wise Men Come, Following a Star; Herod Asks Them to Return (Matthew 2:1-11)
*As you consider the wise men coming and offering gifts to the Savior, reflect on Christina Rossetti’s poem “In the Bleak Midwinter”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U0aL9rKJPr4. (“What can I give Him?”)
For text, visit https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/53216/in-the-bleak-midwinter.
December 20: The Flight Into Egypt and Herod Slaying the Innocent (Matthew 2:13-18)
*Consider listening to the “Coventry Carol”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UFnM8pSsyUU.
For text, visit: https://www.carols.org.uk/ba11-coventry-carol.htm.
December 21: Return to Nazareth from Egypt, Baptism of Christ, Childhood and Growing Up Years (Matthew 2:19-23; Matthew 3:1-6, 13-17; Luke 2:40-52)
December 22: The Sacrament, Atonement, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ (Matthew 26-27; D&C 19:16-19; John 21)
*Elder Neal A. Maxwell: “The more we study, pray, and ponder the awesome Atonement, the more we are willing to acknowledge that we are in His and the Father’s hands. Let us ponder, therefore, these…things. When the unimaginable burden began to weigh upon Christ, it confirmed His long-held and intellectually clear understanding as to what He must now do. His working through began, and Jesus declared: ‘Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour.’ Then, whether in spiritual soliloquy or by way of instruction to those about Him, He observed, ‘But for this cause came I unto this hour.’ Later, in Gethsemane, the suffering Jesus began to be ‘sore amazed,’ or, in the Greek, ‘awestruck’ and ‘astonished.’ Imagine, Jehovah, the Creator of this and other worlds, ‘astonished’! Jesus knew cognitively what He must do, but not experientially. He had never personally known the exquisite and exacting process of an atonement before. Thus, when the agony came in its fulness, it was so much, much worse than even He with His unique intellect had ever imagined! No wonder an angel appeared to strengthen Him! The cumulative weight of all mortal sins—past, present, and future—pressed upon that perfect, sinless, and sensitive Soul! All our infirmities and sicknesses were somehow, too, a part of the awful arithmetic of the Atonement. The anguished Jesus not only pled with the Father that the hour and cup might pass from Him, but with this relevant citation. ‘And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me.’ Had not Jesus, as Jehovah, said to Abraham, ‘Is any thing too hard for the Lord?’ Had not His angel told a perplexed Mary, ‘For with God nothing shall be impossible?’ Jesus’ request was not theater! In this extremity, did He, perchance, hope for a rescuing ram in the thicket? I do not know. His suffering—as it were, enormity multiplied by infinity—evoked His later soul-cry on the cross, and it was a cry of forsakenness. Even so, Jesus maintained this sublime submissiveness, as He had in Gethsemane: ‘Nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.’ …The wondrous and glorious Atonement was the central act in all of human history. It was the hinge on which all else that finally matters turned. But it turned upon Jesus’ spiritual submissiveness! May we now, in our time and turn, be ‘willing to submit.’” (“Willing to Submit,” April 1985 General Conference)
*Elder David A. Bednar: “Most of us know that when we do things wrong and need help to overcome the effects of sin in our lives, the Savior has made it possible for us to become clean through His redeeming power. But do we also understand that the Atonement is for faithful men and women who are obedient, worthy, and conscientious and who are striving to become better and serve more faithfully? I wonder if we fail to fully acknowledge this strengthening aspect of the Atonement in our lives and mistakenly believe we must carry our load all alone—through sheer grit, willpower, and discipline and with our obviously limited capacities. It is one thing to know that Jesus Christ came to the earth to die for us. But we also need to appreciate that the Lord desires, through His Atonement and by the power of the Holy Ghost, to enliven us—not only to guide but also to strengthen and heal us.…The Savior has suffered not just for our sins and iniquities—but also for our physical pains and anguish, our weaknesses and shortcomings, our fears and frustrations, our disappointments and discouragement, our regrets and remorse, our despair and desperation, the injustices and inequities we experience, and the emotional distresses that beset us. There is no physical pain, no spiritual wound, no anguish of soul or heartache, no infirmity or weakness you or I ever confront in mortality that the Savior did not experience first.” (“Bear Up Their Burdens with Ease,” April 2014 General Conference)
*President Dieter F. Uchtdorf: “We often speak of the Savior’s atonement---and rightly so!…But as ‘we talk of Christ, … rejoice in Christ, … preach of Christ, [and] prophesy of Christ’ at every opportunity, we must never lose our sense of awe and profound gratitude for the eternal sacrifice of the Son of God. The Savior’s atonement cannot become commonplace in our teaching, in our conversation, or in our hearts. It is sacred and holy, for it was through this ‘great and last sacrifice’ that Jesus the Christ brought ‘salvation to all those who shall believe on his name.’” (“The Gift of Grace,” April 2015 General Conference, emphasis added)
*President James E. Faust: “Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou?” The Savior was speaking not just to the sorrowing Mary. He was also speaking to us—men, women, and children and all of mankind ever born or yet to be born, for the tears of sorrow, pain, or remorse are the common lot of mankind. The complexities of this life at times tend to be very dehumanizing and overwhelming. …Many who think that life is unfair do not see things within the larger vision of what the Savior did for us through the Atonement and the Resurrection. Each of us has at times agony, heartbreak, and despair when we must, like Job, reach deep down inside to the bedrock of our own faith. The depth of our belief in the Resurrection and the Atonement of the Savior will, I believe, determine the measure of courage and purpose with which we meet life’s challenges.” (from a talk titled “Woman, Why Weepest Thou?,” October 1996 General Conference)
December 23: Repent & Preach the Gospel (3 Nephi 18:18-32; Mark 16:15; D&C 18:9-15)
*Pres. Russell M. Nelson: “Nothing is more liberating, more ennobling, or more crucial to our individual progression than is a regular, daily focus on repentance. Repentance is not an event; it is a process. It is the key to happiness and peace of mind. When coupled with faith, repentance opens our access to the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
Whether you are diligently moving along the covenant path, have slipped or stepped from the covenant path, or can’t even see the path from where you are now, I plead with you to repent. Experience the strengthening power of daily repentance—of doing and being a little better each day.
When we choose to repent, we choose to change! We allow the Savior to transform us into the best version of ourselves. We choose to grow spiritually and receive joy—the joy of redemption in Him. When we choose to repent, we choose to become more like Jesus Christ!” (“We Can Do Better and Be Better,” April 2019 General Conference)
*“Preach the gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words.” (attributed to Francis of Assisi, but not verifiable)
December 24: Feed My Sheep and Trust in the Savior (John 21:15-17)
*Elder Robert C. Gay: “One of my favorite scriptures is John 4:4, which reads, ‘And he must needs go through Samaria.’ Why do I love that scripture? Because Jesus did not need to go to Samaria. The Jews of His day despised the Samaritans and traveled a road around Samaria. But Jesus chose to go there to declare before all the world for the first time that He was the promised Messiah. For this message, He chose not only an outcast group but also a woman—and not just any woman but a woman living in sin—someone considered at that time to be the least of the least. I believe Jesus did this so that each of us may always understand that His love is greater than our fears, our wounds, our addictions, our doubts, our temptations, our sins, our broken families, our depression and anxieties, our chronic illness, our poverty, our abuse, our despair, and our loneliness. He wants all to know there is nothing and no one He is unable to heal and deliver to enduring joy.” (“Taking Upon Ourselves the Name of Jesus Christ,” October 2018 General Conference)
Tuesday, May 21, 2019
Today while driving Claire to dance class, I found myself unexpectedly choked up in tears.
She was holding my hand, and then started to feel my bones and look at my fingernails. She was pushing the skin together (“I’m making your skin have wrinkles, Mom.”).
I found myself thinking—and I told her about—how I used to play with my dad’s hands when I was a little girl. The veins in his hands would sometimes get big—like mine sometimes do—and I loved to sit by him and push them around, play with them.
At the same time, Claire and I were listening to a song in the car by Lori McKenna that I love titled “You Won’t Even Know I’m Gone,” and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. It’s a song about a mother who’s preparing so that when she’s away, her children won’t notice her absence.
“I pray that every prayer I pray will reach you, every wish I make will keep you safe and warm.
And may God forgive the things I do that put one mile between me and you—
To thine own self be true, to thine own self be true.”
That is a prayer I hold for my children, and it’s probably dad’s prayer as he cheers us on from where he is.
And it is in these little things that I find him—the smell of pie baking in my kitchen, the feel of dirt on my fingers as I plant geraniums, a particular hymn, the way I rock a baby, a favorite carol, a late night grocery store run. He is with me when I rake leaves and make apple butter in the fall, as I listen to conference, when I carefully place years of tradition on my Christmas tree. I could go on and on.
Dad, I do feel your absence.
But you are also here every day and I love your hands and the ways they were used—your talents, your hugs, your time, your service—to bring so much love and goodness to my life and the lives of others.
You are in us and through us and a part of us.
Thursday, December 20, 2018
Ralph died last week and was buried next to his bride.
Every day, I look at his house across the street.
It is the same, and it will never be the same.
(Ralph reading Stegner to me, in the car)
Ralph's son, Ron, read a little verse by Edna St. Vincent Millay, one of Ralph's favorite poets, at the service.
"Where you used to be, there is a hole in the world, which I find myself constantly walking around in the daytime, and falling in at night. I miss you."
Tuesday, October 30, 2018
Tonight I was thinking again about something Claire said to me last year when we were driving to dance class.
We were listening to Drew Holcomb's song "Wild World," a favorite of mine.
And there's a lyric in the second verse that goes like this:
"Whether or not you pray, black or white, straight or gay,
You still deserve the love of your neighbor."
We're driving along and we come to that part of the song.
And as soon as those words are out, Claire, without skipping a beat,
said out loud, with emphasis:
"Of COURSE you do!"
I love that she said those words, and I've thought about that little moment so many times.
I hope these four people in my care grow up to be good humans--people who treat others with kindness, respect, love, and compassion.
Thursday, October 04, 2018
Saying goodbye to him was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, but cancer doesn’t ask your permission.
Today marks 5 years since my sweet dad passed away. I miss him; I’ll always miss him. So many of the things I love were instilled in me by this man. Thank you, Dad, for pointing me toward good things, blessing me with your love and gifts, and making my life so much more beautiful, so much the fuller and richer.
After dropping my kids off at school this morning, I drove to the cemetery by myself and sat in front of the dark granite stone that marks your grave on this overcast, cool, rainy day. I listened to your arrangement of “Abide with Me” on the way. That hymn is inseparably connected to you in my mind, and its message comforted me again: “Change and decay in all around I see; O, Thou who changest not, abide with me.”
The knowledge of loving heavenly Parents, an atonement, and a greater plan sustained me through losing you, and the difficult, unexpected turnings of events in my personal life in the months that followed.
I love you, Dad, and I’m thinking about you today.