Wednesday, August 6, 2014


On Sunday, our Sunday School lesson was The Gathering of Israel.  Our lesson started late.  We had exactly 29 minutes.  The lesson started out on track as we discussed the physical and spiritual gathering of Israel.  And then I shared something I had learned in my lesson study.  A quote from Elder Bruce R. McConkie.  (I actually used a lot of a talk he'd given in preparing to teach the lesson (Come: Let Israel Build Zion)).

The message which has come to us is that the Lord will “have mercy upon Zion: for the time to favour her, yea, the set time, is come.

I shall speak of the manner in which the Lord will build up Zion, the manner in which the Lord is having mercy upon Zion, and the part we are expected to play in the building of Zion. of now, the Lord has laid upon us the responsibility to lay the foundation for that which is to be. We have been commissioned to prepare a people for the second coming of the Son of Man. We have been called to preach the gospel to every nation and kindred and tongue and people. We have been commanded to lay the foundations of Zion and to get all things ready for the return of Him who shall again crown the Holy City with his presence and glory.

Zion is people; Zion is the saints of God; Zion is those who have been baptized; Zion is those who have received the Holy Ghost; Zion is those who keep the commandments; Zion is the righteous...

After sharing this quote, I asked first, "Where is Zion?" and second, "How is Heavenly Father showing mercy upon us?"

The remainder of our lesson was spent discussing Zion.  And our Heavenly Father's love of us that is shown so clearly within our Zion.  That is one of his greatest mercies.  That we are surrounded by those who love, serve, support, guide, and help us along our path.

Zion is right here.  It is my own little family.  My own little circle of friends.  My own extended family.  My own little ward.  My own stake.  Right here.  Right now.  

What is my responsibility within Zion?  We have been commissioned to prepare a people for the second coming of the Son of Man. We have been called to preach the gospel to every nation and kindred and tongue and people. We have been commanded to lay the foundations of Zion and to get all things ready for the return of Him who shall again crown the Holy City with his presence and glory.  Pretty clear.

As the discussion continued on preparing a people for the second coming of our Savior, we talked a lot about example and service.  Like it or not, regardless of our circumstances, and sometimes because of our circumstances, people watch us.  They watch what we say.  They watch what we do.  They watch how we treat those around us.  They watch how we respond to challenges and to the task of daily life.  I've heard it said many times, "You are always an example - you can be a good one or a bad one, but you're always an example."  This is something on which I need to work.

I really love our ward.  I really love our stake.  I really love our little town.  There are so many great people here.  So many people that love our Savior and constantly find ways to lift and serve others, not to say hey look at me, I'm so awesome!, but in a manner that that exemplifies the love of our Savior.

This discussion brought me up sharply in remembrance of all of the loving acts of service we have received.  Meals, money, fundraisers, cards, letters, texts, visits, treats... we live in our own little Zion and it's a pretty great place to live. 

However, that being said, I'll admit that it's been a rough few days.  

The days after a really awesome spiritual experience usually are.
I need to do better at remembering that.

Remembering that my emotions will be higher.  Tighter.
That my patience will be shorter.  
And that my tolerance level will be non-existent.

Satan is real.
And I let him in this week by allowing simple things to breed anger and impatience.
By responding with annoyance instead of understanding.

I simply must do better.

I took an interesting quiz yesterday at .
My results: 
Your personality type: INFP (turbulent variant)
Strength of individual traits: Introverted: 83%, Intuitive: 40%, Feeling: 81%, Prospecting: 56%, Turbulent: 93%. 

INFPs are driven by a strong sense of right and wrong and a desire to exercise their creativity, even if only behind the scenes. Their weaknesses include sensitivity to criticism, poor organization, and low assertiveness. Keirsey referred to the INFPs as Healers, one of the four types belonging to the temperament he called the Idealists.[2] INFPs are one of the rarer types, accounting for about 4-5% of the population.[3]

The turbulent variant part made me a little sad.  The best I can figure is that my emotions are still all over the place.  I suppose that just gives me an awareness.  I can't hide behind my grief.  Or use it as an excuse.  I can't live there.  I DON'T HAVE TO LIVE THERE!  I can miss Kenton, as I do with every piece of my heart, but I can miss him while still showing an outpouring of love and patience to those around me.

Going forward, my goal is to be less sharp, less critical, more supportive, more forgiving, more understanding.  I respond too quickly.  Expect too much.  Allow hurt to enter too easily.  We have been commanded to preach the gospel... and in my experience that mostly comes down to living the gospel.  Responding with kindness, patience, love.  Doing my part to build up my own little Zion instead of tearing it down. 

Today I am grateful for forgiveness.

** And, yes, I realize that this post is all over the place and probably makes zero sense to anyone reading it.  Not that anyone really does read it, but whatevs.  Today I needed to dump my thoughts.  That's how I attempt to organize and work through them.  I don't know if it worked or not.  

Monday, August 4, 2014


Jesus climbed the hill
To the garden still
His steps were heavy and slow
Love and a prayer
Took Him there
To the place only He could go

Jesus loves me
So He went willingly
To Gethsemane

He felt all that was sad, wicked or bad
All the pain we would ever know

While His friends were asleep
He fought to keep
His promise made long ago

Jesus loves me
So He went willingly
To Gethsemane

The hardest thing That ever was done
The greatest pain that ever was known
The biggest battle that ever was won
This was done by Jesus.
The fight was won by Jesus.

Jesus loves me
So he gave His gift to me
In Gethsemane

Jesus loves me
So he gives His gift to me
From Gethsemane

Saturday night I went to bed and found myself praying.  That's not an unusual occurrence, but this night there were many dear friends on my heart...

In my little circle there are many that are struggling.
Feeling lost.
And just so sad.
Facing trials that could break them.

As I prayed, I kept repeating the phrase ...and please, Father, let them feel thy peace, the peace that only comes through the Atonement.  Please...

With tears on my cheeks and a continued prayer in my heart, I closed my prayer and drifted off to sleep.  As I was slipping into sleep, I heard this song.  It's one of my favorites.  But I've never heard it sung quite like I did that night. A chorus of angels were singing me to sleep, reminding me of the greatest gift I've been given.  Helping me recognize and remember the love of our Father and our Savior.

This morning on Facebook, I read the update on our little friend Ethan that his mom posted last night...
For those who haven't heard, Ethan has gone steadily downhill on a slippery slope today. He has basically lost one function after another. We were told by the doctors that he will most likely not make it through this. The kids are on their way, and they will make sure to keep him alive until the kids can get here to say their goodbyes. There is a very small chance that things could turn around, but right now, it isn't looking good. I am so grateful for the plan of happiness, and the peace of the gospel. I don't know how we would do this without it.

He felt all that was SAD.  
All of it.
Even this.

We're not alone.
We never have been.
We never will be.

I am so grateful.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

[recognizing tender mercies]

Yesterday was started out as a hard day for me.  
I was grumpy.  

McKayslin wanted a friend to play.  I don't blame her.  I didn't want to be around me either!  She called to see if Ella could play.  She could!  :)  They decided to play at Ella's house after lunch.

I dropped McKayslin off and ran in to get a few things in town.  Callie and I were texting back and forth (and the girls were sending me hilarious pictures of themselves).  I asked Cal when we should start our temple trade-off trips again.  We've been talking about it since we decided to take the summer off from trading and have really missed going to the temple on a set schedule.  Her text back was something along the lines of How about next week?  Unless you want to go tonight!!  A few more texts back and forth and it was decided that we'd start up again this week.  As in last night.  McKayslin was already at her house, so Luke and I would get the first trip.  

I sent Luke a text telling him not to pick up McKayslin but to come home and get ready to go to the temple instead.  
We made it to the chapel just seconds after the 3:30 session went up.  We sat and listened to the music as we waited for the 4:00 session.  The first hymn that I remember hearing was "In Humility Our Savior."  And the only phrases I could remember from the hymn were... fill our hearts with sweet forgiving...teach us tolerance and love...then when we have proven worthy, of thy sacrifice divine, Lord, let us regain thy presence, and let thy glory round us shine.

The first two phrases were for me. 
Very specifically.

And the last phrase, a promise and a reminder that Kenton is safe, well, and happy.

I could feel an underlying excitement running through me as I looked at the name on my card. Lena M. Alford.  It was a different feeling than I'd had at the temple before.  A feeling of anxious and excited energy.  And then I felt the calm familiar feeling I get when Kenton is close.  And I knew that we were exactly where we were supposed to be at exactly the right time.

The session was small.  Less than 30 people.  Throughout the session, I continued to feel both that anxious and excited feeling (which I'm thinking must have been Lena) and Kenton's calm and familiar presence.  It made me smile.  

During the session, as always, I found myself praying for peace.  
For understanding.
For strength.

Usually there's a phrase that sticks out to me a little more than usual.  Yesterday it was one simple word, directed at Satan from our Heavenly Father.  Depart.  Several other phrases became more clear to me as I understood more clearly than ever that the powers of Satan only become powers when we allow them to.  

Depression is real.  And it's scary.  
Anger is real.  And it's scary.
Feeling lost and alone and worthless is real.  And it's scary.

At least in my life, those are the powers that Satan uses against me.

BUT GUESS WHAT?! He can't use them against me if I don't allow him to!  Isn't that awesome?! of what I let in.

(Please allow me to add that I KNOW that, in some cases, simply saying he won't be allowed to use these powers does not give some the strength to fight against them without help from an outside source or a medical professional).

For me, I needed to be reminded that I get to choose.  

I get to choose if I allow my sad or my mad or whatever I'm feeling that day to take over my day.  To take over my week.  I GET TO CHOOSE!!!  I have to let myself feel each emotion.  Locking them up would not be healthy.  Or safe.  But as I allow myself to feel the anger, the grief, the sadness, the loneliness, I don't have to stay there.


As the session progressed, the anxious excitement was getting stronger, pulling, frustrated that things weren't moving faster.  It kind of made me giggle.  

We prepared to move to the last part of the endowment.  I heard Kenton say, "Mom, I have to go now, I'm proud of you.  Thank you.  I love you."  And I felt him leave.  I imagine he had one more thing to do to help Lena with this last step.

The sweet temple workers directed us to the final step.  I could feel Lena tugging on my hand, urging my feet to move faster.  I could feel her excitement and her gratitude.  Several times I have had confirmation that the work I've done has been accepted.  But nothing like yesterday.  It was incredible.  And such a blessing of peace for my heart to know that my boy is being the great missionary we knew he would be!

As it were, I was the first to enter the Celestial Room.  I heard one more quiet thank you, and I was alone again. Tears of gratitude filled my eyes and I felt peace. 

I know that's where we were supposed to be.  And I know that we wouldn't have gone had Cal not been listening to a prompting and willing to keep McKayslin.  I really do have the best friends.  

As I was studying for my Sunday School lesson last night, I kept coming back to this part.  "He gathers them so they will build temples and perform sacred ordinances for ancestors who have died without having this opportunity."  

And more specifically to this phrase.  This is what my friends do.  They strengthen me so I can find protection from the unrighteous influences of this world.

In April, 2005, Elder Bednar gave the talk The Tender Mercies of the Lord...

I have reflected repeatedly upon the phrase “the tender mercies of the Lord.” Through personal study, observation, pondering, and prayer, I believe I have come to better understand that the Lord’s tender mercies are the very personal and individualized blessings, strength, protection, assurances, guidance, loving-kindnesses, consolation, support, and spiritual gifts which we receive from and because of and through the Lord Jesus Christ. Truly, the Lord suits “his mercies according to the conditions of the children of men” (D&C 46:15).

We should not underestimate or overlook the power of the Lord’s tender mercies. The simpleness, the sweetness, and the constancy of the tender mercies of the Lord will do much to fortify and protect us in the troubled times in which we do now and will yet live. When words cannot provide the solace we need or express the joy we feel, when it is simply futile to attempt to explain that which is unexplainable, when logic and reason cannot yield adequate understanding about the injustices and inequities of life, when mortal experience and evaluation are insufficient to produce a desired outcome, and when it seems that perhaps we are so totally alone, truly we are blessed by the tender mercies of the Lord...

I am thankful for the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ through the Prophet Joseph Smith and for the knowledge we have today about the Lord’s tender mercies. Our desires, faithfulness, and obedience invite and help us to discern His mercies in our lives. As one of His servants, I declare my witness that Jesus is the Christ, our Redeemer and our Savior. I know that He lives and that His tender mercies are available to all of us. Each of us can have eyes to see clearly and ears to hear distinctly the tender mercies of the Lord as they strengthen and assist us in these latter days. May our hearts always be filled with gratitude for His abundant and tender mercies.

I was reminded, also, of President Eyring's talk in October of 2007.  O Remember, Remember.

I heard in my mind—not in my own voice—these words: “I’m not giving you these experiences for yourself. Write them down.”
I went inside. I didn’t go to bed. Although I was tired, I took out some paper and began to write. And as I did, I understood the message I had heard in my mind. I was supposed to record for my children to read, someday in the future, how I had seen the hand of God blessing our family. Grandpa didn’t have to do what he was doing for us. He could have had someone else do it or not have done it at all. But he was serving us, his family, in the way covenant disciples of Jesus Christ always do. I knew that was true. And so I wrote it down, so that my children could have the memory someday when they would need it.
I wrote down a few lines every day for years. I never missed a day no matter how tired I was or how early I would have to start the next day. Before I would write, I would ponder this question: “Have I seen the hand of God reaching out to touch us or our children or our family today?” As I kept at it, something began to happen. As I would cast my mind over the day, I would see evidence of what God had done for one of us that I had not recognized in the busy moments of the day. As that happened, and it happened often, I realized that trying to remember had allowed God to show me what He had done.
More than gratitude began to grow in my heart. Testimony grew. I became ever more certain that our Heavenly Father hears and answers prayers. I felt more gratitude for the softening and refining that come because of the Atonement of the Savior Jesus Christ. And I grew more confident that the Holy Ghost can bring all things to our remembrance—even things we did not notice or pay attention to when they happened.
The years have gone by. My boys are grown men. And now and then one of them will surprise me by saying, “Dad, I was reading in my copy of the journal about when …” and then he will tell me about how reading of what happened long ago helped him notice something God had done in his day.
My point is to urge you to find ways to recognize and remember God’s kindness. It will build our testimonies. You may not keep a journal. You may not share whatever record you keep with those you love and serve. But you and they will be blessed as you remember what the Lord has done. You remember that song we sometimes sing: “Count your many blessings; name them one by one, And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.”2
It won’t be easy to remember. Living as we do with a veil over our eyes, we cannot remember what it was like to be with our Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, in the premortal world; nor can we see with our physical eyes or with reason alone the hand of God in our lives. Seeing such things takes the Holy Ghost. And it is not easy to be worthy of the Holy Ghost’s companionship in a wicked world...  Tonight, and tomorrow night, you might pray and ponder, asking the questions: Did God send a message that was just for me? Did I see His hand in my life or the lives of my children? I will do that. And then I will find a way to preserve that memory for the day that I, and those that I love, will need to remember how much God loves us and how much we need Him. I testify that He loves us and blesses us, more than most of us have yet recognized. I know that is true, and it brings me joy to remember Him.

He loves us. 
He blesses us more than most of us have yet recognized. 

I add my testimony that I know Heavenly Father loves us.  
I know He is very mindful of us.  
And I know that most of the time, our prayers are answered because someone close to us was willing to act on a prompting He sent. 

Today, I recognize.
And I remember.

I am so grateful.