Oh the dreaded moment that we all fear...
that of getting asked to speak in church!
While it was a stressful week with getting talks prepared and dealing with the craziness of life, I'm grateful for the opportunity that Tracy and I had to do this! We learned and grew together and while our talks ended up being totally different by Saturday afternoon, than they started out with at the first of the week,
AND, because of that,
we didn't have time to get them perfectly memorized,
I'm happy with how they turned out and I think that quite a few people in our ward were touched by what we said and really enjoyed them as well!
"Live In Thanksgiving Daily"
One of my favorite quotes is by Melodie Beattie:
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”
The story told in Luke Chapter 17 seems to be a recurring theme that keeps being addressed over and over again. Our wonderful prophet, President Thomas S. Monson has used this story on many occasions, including in his profound talk “The Divine Gift of Gratitude” that he gave in October 2010 . Our dear Bishop used this story as a thought in Priesthood opening exercises this past month. If you “google” “gratitude” and “LDS”, it is the most used story from the scriptures on the subject. If you haven’t already figured it out by now, this wonderful story on gratitude is that of the ten lepers.
“And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee.
“And as he entered into a certain village, there [he met] ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off:
“And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.
“And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed.
“And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God,
“And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan.
“And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?
“There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.”
“And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.”
As I was trying to “fine-tune” my talk this week, my sweetheart Tracy (who is always SO good at reminding me of the goodness of life), reminded me of a life changing event that happened in my own life that I have not thought about for quite some time. While I had collected pages of inspiring things on Gratitude that I was SO excited to share, for some reason, I felt that what Tracy had said was really what I needed to talk about today and hopefully, you won’t judge me too harshly when I open up and say what’s in my heart… hopefully, what I say will touch and inspire you in some small way.
So, let me tell you the story of two unlikely people who became wonderful friends and sources of strength and inspiration to each other. I love learning new things. While things didn’t work out with finishing up my college schooling, I have always tried to take advantage of any learning opportunity that I can.
In fall of 2004, Jade came home with a paper of the community “Love and Logic” classes and while I had attended these classes a few years earlier, I decided I wanted to attend them again, now that we had a 2 year old.
(A funny side note… Tracy and I had taken some Love and Logic classes before Ethan was born and the lady that taught them was really pretty and was a great teacher as well. She brought amazing treats to enjoy and she reminded me of the way that I would do things if I were to teach a class like that!)
So, when we went to the classes in 2004, we realized that the same lady that we enjoyed before wasn't teaching them anymore. The new lady that taught them was really conservative in appearance and dress, was kind of messy and she didn't bring beautiful cookies with cream cheese frosting and sprinkles... GASP! She brought store bought cookies! I’m so ashamed and embarrassed to admit this, but, we actually commented to each other “What could we ever learn from this lady?” Well come to find out she was hilarious, funny, and quirky… She was just about as opposite from what I was and yet I left her classes yearning for more and to this day (other than my wonderful husband) I have learned more from her, than I have from any other person that I have ever come in contact with.
After the Love and Logic classes were done,
I ended up attending 7 other different classes from her, because I loved her teaching style, her personality and the topics she was teaching so much. She was a master organizer, a master of adding FUN to home life (especially dinner time), a master at ideas for how to raise kids to do their share around the house and how to teach children life skills and how to take care of themselves so that when they leave the house to go to college and on missions that they can survive without mom and dad. She was such a positive, happy person that despite not being able to have children of her own, her and her husband adopted three children and raised them to be happy and successful adults AND she and her husband also took in dozens of foster kids truly impacting them and making a difference in their lives for good.
She truly was my hero!
She was the one woman that I admired more than anyone and I hoped that I could raise my kids as well as she raised hers.
In one of her classes, she gave the most beautiful tribute to her mother that I have ever heard someone give. It made me really think about my own mom, especially, since there is no way at all I could ever do that for my mom, because we don’t have the best relationship, but, after that, I tried even more to better connect with my mother. It actually helped me immensely!
I’m perfectionist to a fault…
I like things to be pretty and beautiful and if I can’t do things to a certain level, I just won’t do it… Joleen on the other hand was practical and wanted things neat, tidy and organized, and wanted to be able to find any paper in her house in 30 seconds or less and so CUTE was the last thing on her list. Because of Joleen’s simple approach to organizing I now have all of my recipes all nicely in a binder and the KEY… Plastic sleeves! It might not be scrap-book pretty, but, I can find any recipe I need in less than 30 seconds and that’s the most important thing! I love her for this!
At the second to the last week of the seven week class session, I was feeling sad as she informed us that she would no longer be teaching the classes. I thought to myself, “NO, that can’t be.” Thursday nights were my most looked forward to night of the week, because I was learning so many amazing things that were making my home life so much more rich and joyful.
Our home had never been happier and more content and I had a greater love and appreciation for my children. She gave us the tools to create better lives for ourselves and our families.
Because of Joleen, I have significantly changed by viewpoint on what really matters in life…she made me realize that it’s more important to give the BEST that you have to give at the moment, even if it’s not perfect and beautiful, rather than NOT doing anything at all.
Well, she had such an amazing impact on my life that I decided to write a heart-felt thank you note to her, along with making some homemade bread and cookies and I put it on her chair the last night of class. I had no idea that small gesture would have such an impact on her, until the middle of the next week, I received the following brown envelope in the mail.
“Lucky-to-have-you-for-a-friend” is more like it.
“Lucky-to-have-you-as-a-Community-Parenting-Class-Attender” is also a good one.”
I am overwhelmed by the things you wrote in your “thank you letter”.
My husband and I read it together when I got home last night.
I’ve never known anyone in my 57 years
that ever took the time to write something so beautiful, AND about me!
I am amazed that you would do that. I will always keep it and cherish it.
You have given me hope to continue on with teaching for the next four years.
You are the “one leper” who remembered to say thanks and that has made all the difference in my life, in this moment, and my prospects for the future.
Have a nice Spring, good person such as you are. Joleen
I was in awe when I read that card.
I cried tears of gratitude for this amazing woman! Never in my life had anyone said such, simple, yet profound words to me. It made me think, WOW! I need to remember this and do my best from this point forward to be like the “ONE” leper who fell down on his face at the feet of the Savior to give thanks!
So my ward friends, my question for you to ponder today is:
“What can YOU do to make sure you are the “ONE”?”
As you’re pondering this question, may I share a few things that touched my heart on the topic of Gratitude this past week.
“Live in Thanksgiving Daily!"
David Steindl-Rast quoted the following:
“It not happiness that makes us grateful… it is gratefulness that makes us happy! Each of us needs to STOP and be quiet and notice… and not just once in awhile be grateful, but moment by moment choose to be grateful.”
Did you know that there are over 2 billion people that have to heat water and cook their food over an open fire, that don’t have access to electricity and running water? That out of the 7 billion people on this planet only 2 billion have access to washing machines and the other 5 billion people have to WASH clothes by hands and many have the time consuming task of having to bring in water from far away. This means, they have low productivity because a large part of their lives are spent doing such time consuming tasks that they don’t have time for much of anything else… one of the biggest things of all, is having the time to play and read to their kids.
Do all of you realize how extremely blessed you are, each time you flip on a light switch and lights turn on, that you have a stove that you can flip a switch and you have instant heat to cook on. That each time you turn on your faucet, you have fresh clean water to drink, cook and bathe with and that you have the modern convenience of getting to throw your clothes into a machine that washes them for you?
Next time you’re tempted to complain about life, STOP and pause and think how blessed you are, how you should have a heart of gratitude for all of the simple and modern conveniences that make your life SO easy, because unlike billions of people on this planet, YOU actually have time spend playing, reading and having fun with your kids.
Do you ever STOP to think that because you are lucky enough to live in Sunnydell Idaho, that you are rich beyond measure? Even the most humble of circumstances in Sunnydell, Idaho are SO much more affluent than ¾ of the world population!
Think of the many women, men and children in this world that have to work SO hard just to survive!
So next time you’re tempted to groan…STOP, pause and be GRATEFUL!
Be grateful you have kids tugging at your apron strings, or shirt tails, because first, you have CHILDREN to love and most important of all, you have so much more TIME than you think you do to play, read, teach, have fun and create wonderful memories with them.
Be grateful for piles of laundry to do, because you have clothes to wear and a washing machine that washes them for you!
Be grateful, even if you only have time to fix “Top Ramen” for your kids for dinner, because you have something to eat and you and your children don’t have to know what hunger pains feel like.
Be grateful for your work stress, for you have employment!
Be grateful for dust on your furniture, be grateful for a chance to vacuum, sweep and mop floors, or clean windows, because that means you have pretty things and that you don’t have to sit on a dirt floor inside a humble shelter.
Be grateful every time you click on the furnace, or gas fire place, or, start a fire in a wood burning stove, because that means you have WARMTH with so much convenience!
Take time to STOP, pause and notice that sunset, or sunrise, the moon and starlit night sky, the beautiful clouds, the birds chirping, or in flight, the rain, the sunshine, flowers and bugs in the summer-time, the colorful leaves and foliage in the fall, the beautiful snow, frost and icicles in the winter-time. Take time to smell the fresh air, roses, or, those good down home country smells!
Most important… May you choose to Live in Thanksgiving Daily…not just once in awhile, but day, by day, moment, by moment. Never be too busy to STOP and be the ONE! To be the person to say THANK YOU to others for the difference they have made in your life!
Just as Melody Beattie quoted…
“Gratitude turns what we have into enough and more…(such profound words)
Gratitude can turn the simple meal into a feast...
Gratitude can turn the most humble house into a home...
Gratitude can turn a stranger into a friend
(remember my friend Joleen, who was a complete stranger, but, became the greatest friend)…
Gratitude brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow!"
In closingI would like to publicly tell my greatest hero, (that guy) my husband
how much I love and adore him…
He is the real deal…
he’s the most funny, kind, compassionate, Christ-Like person I know,
there is nothing about him that bugs me at all
and each and every day of my life is filled with JOY because of him!
I’d like to tell both of my sons…
I love you, I’m proud of you, it is an honor to be able to call myself your MOM!
My wonderful friends of Sunnydell, it is with gratitude in my heart
that I leave these thoughts and feelings with you.... Amen!
(my amazing husband's talk he gave!!)
Gratitude In Adversity
Tracy Smith - 03/16/2014
I’d like to begin my talk with three particularly enlightening, if not somewhat humorous experiences I’ve had over the past several years.
Five years ago, I was serving in the Sunday School Presidency. As my family gathered around our dinner table for Sunday dinner, my dear companion asked me who taught the Gospel Doctrine Lesson that day and how it went? She was working in the library at the time and it meant she missed out on Sunday School each week. I told her, Rebecca Taylor had taught the lesson and it was a wonderful lesson! She asked me if I made any comments during class? I emphatically responded, “of course NOT!… I’d never want to draw attention to myself in that particular venue….in-fact, I’d HATE to have to teach those lessons!” This is not an exaggeration but it wasn’t 30 minutes later and there was a knock at the door. Richard Hatt, the Sunday School president and my friend and neighbor had come over to ask me if I would please teach the Gospel Doctrine lesson the following Sunday!
The next experience occurred a short while later. It began with a conversation I had with a coworker. I was telling him of our busy but fun summer and fall we had enjoyed. He related all of the things he had been up to… most of which were related to his calling as Scout Master. There was a week at Scout Camp, monthly campouts, weekly activities, Round Table meetings and many more. I distinctly remember telling him how I had enjoyed my Scouting experiences as a youth and was incredibly grateful for the sacrifices my leaders made but that I was not cut-out for a calling like that! While I do love the outdoors, adult Scout Leaders seemed particularly “Scouty”. I expressed my admiration for his dedication as I groaned that I just wasn’t “Scouty” and I think I would HATE to have THAT calling! You can imagine my extreme surprise when a very short while later, Jeff Johnson asked me to meet with him and invited me to accept a calling as the Troop 242 Scout Master!
And, finally, just this past Sunday we found ourselves once again, gathered around the dinner table conversing. Ethan and Jade were mentioning how much they enjoyed Bishop Bennett’s talk in sacrament meeting. I commented on his opener... about how despite his service as a High Councilman 5 different times, he said he still has trouble speaking in sacrament meeting… it scares him to death! Well, I for one, love when Wally speaks! He speaks from the heart and is real and genuine! As we continued to discuss Wally’s talk, I made the comment that I sure hope I don’t have to speak any time soon because I’m sure I feel far worse about speaking than Wally does! After dinner, while going over some Scouting things, with Brother Joos, our doorbell rang… Brother Scott was at the door. He asked to visit with Kimberly and me. He had such a serious look on his face, I asked him if he’d come over to kick us out of the church or something… he said “WORSE! I’ve come to ask you both to speak in sacrament meeting next Sunday!”
Having related those experiences, I ask… what is the important principle here? That I had possibly forgotten to knock on wood each time I opened my big mouth?
In Bishop Bennett’s talk he read a verse that had not been previously highlighted in my own scriptures. As I pondered what I might speak on this past week, I realized a deeper meaning of the truths in those sacred words:
The reference is: D&C 78:19 and it reads:
And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more.
“He who receiveth all things with thankfulness!”
Wow! Can I really receive all things with thankfulness?
How about an assignment that challenges my confidence… or a calling that takes an immense amount of time away from my family and requires me to spend countless nights on the cold, hard, ground, waking up to breakfasts of half-cooked hash browns and burnt pancakes?
Or a speaking assignment that causes me a great amount of anxiety?
In hindsight I must say YES!
We can receive all of those things and more with thankfulness!
Teaching the Gospel Doctrine Lesson ended up being a confidence building and testimony expanding experience. Serving as a Scoutmaster has truly been one of the best opportunities in my life and has changed my life for the better! As you know, I was recently released from that calling and it has left an immense hole. I could go on for hours about how much it has meant to me, seeing the boys have fun, face their fears, do hard things, build character and grow into young men. Last week Kimberly and I were out doing some grocery shopping and Ethan called to let me know Caleb Taylor had delivered some treats and left a handwritten note. It read: “Dear Tracy, You were a great leader. You were fun to go on campouts with, and were always trying to make me happy. From: Caleb. It brought tears to my eyes as I realized I had come to the end of this particular era in my life.
While it may seem obvious we should endeavor to receive Church callings and assignments with thankfulness... how about a dishwasher that leaks all over the hardwood floor we worked so hard to put in? How about the loss of a job? How about a health challenge or even a health crisis? Some of these may seem trite and trivial, others more serious.
Life is going to be full of challenges, trials and tribulations. We will all experience adversity.
The Savior told us “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world”. John 16:33
He also told us “And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments.” D&C, 59: verse 21
So on the one hand, the Savior has told us the sobering reality, our life will have adversity. While on the other hand we are told, lacking in gratitude is on the short list of ways to offend him.
I am coming to know as a part of my personal testimony, that with the right attitude… challenges, trials, tribulations and adversity are quite literally the seeds we need to grow and experience deeper gratitude in our lives. And… that, gratitude, (as Kimberly so beautifully illustrated), is intrinsically connected to our personal happiness.
Through adversity, we can Rise Up!
We can avail ourselves of opportunity!
We can learn that having gratitude especially during times of adversity is a powerful skill…
that allows us to come to realize, we hold the master key to our happiness in our own hands.
In a talk entitled: Come What May, and Love It delivered in the October 2008 General Conference, ELDER JOSEPH B. WIRTHLIN said:
"There may be some who think that General Authorities rarely experience pain, suffering, or distress. If only that were true. While every man and woman on this stand today has experienced an abundant measure of joy, each also has drunk deeply from the cup of disappointment, sorrow, and loss. The Lord in His wisdom does not shield anyone from grief or sadness.
For me, the Lord has opened the windows of heaven and showered blessings upon my family beyond my ability to express. Yet like everyone else, I have had times in my life when it seemed that the heaviness of my heart might be greater than I could bear. During those times I think back to those tender days of my youth when great sorrows came at the losing end of a football game.
How little I knew then of what awaited me in later years. But whenever my steps led through seasons of sadness and sorrow, my mother’s words often came back to me: “Come what may, and love it.”
How can we love days that are filled with sorrow? We can’t—at least not in the moment. I don’t think my mother was suggesting that we suppress discouragement or deny the reality of pain. I don’t think she was suggesting that we smother unpleasant truths beneath a cloak of pretended happiness. But I do believe that the way we react to adversity can be a major factor in how happy and successful we can be in life. If we approach adversities wisely, our hardest times can be times of greatest growth, which in turn can lead toward times of greatest happiness." (close quote)
I grew up in a home where feats of physical strength and ability were often showcased. My dad was and still is a very agile and wiry man. He taught my sisters and I how to do back flips, backbends, headstands, handstands and to walk on our hands. We always had a rope hanging down from a high tree limb that we were encouraged to climb. Our house always had a beam or a bar of some kind where chin-up contests between my dad and I were frequently had. When we weren’t doing that, we were having push-up contests or arm wrestling matches and when cousins or neighbor boys came to the house, my dad would teach us wrestling moves or pass out the boxing gloves and officiate in boxing matches. Through high school I worked on a ranch earning the money for my mission. The hard labor combined with the ever present feats of strength in my home, helped build my physical strength and became something I prided myself in to some degree. Even from the MTC, I sent home photos of me walking on my hands, in my suit, with my tie dangling down or photos of me shinny-ed up high between two walls with my companion pretending to hold me up with one arm.
Less than a year into my mission, while serving in Bridgeport, CT, something terrible began happening in my body… I began to experience pains in every joint, weakness, fatigue, poor circulation in my legs and hands and a number of other serious issues. I went to quite a few doctors both traditional and alternative I was desperate for a diagnosis even if it was a scary one… I wanted to at least know. I never did get a diagnosis, although it has been hypothesized that it may have been Lyme disease, a relatively unknown condition at the time (discovered in Lyme, CT). It became extremely difficult to tract and do the work at the physical level we had been doing. My mission president offered the option of an early honorable release. After much pondering and prayer, I accepted that I would be just as sick at home as I was in the mission field, so I just as well stay out and keep on going! I am here to testify to you that despite extreme physical hardship and trials, the second-half of my mission was truly the happiest, most enjoyable and most successful part of my mission… even in and possibly due to some fairly significant adversity.
Upon returning to civilian life, I began college at Ricks and despite the incredible blessing of meeting and marrying my beautiful companion, the effects of chronic pain often wore me down and discouragement crept-in. I felt sorry for myself. I even found myself cursing the mission I had been called-to and felt inclined to wonder what my life might be like, had I gone straight into college instead. I would find myself watching others as they walked around campus and wondered if they were feeling grateful for their good health? I was 21 years old and my hinges were all rusted up.
One day in Feb of 1992, while listening to the Tuesday devotional on the radio, I heard a talk given by Sister Becky Reeve. She is the daughter of the late Rex C. Reeve. of the first quorum of the 70 and the sister of JoAnne Reeve who taught volleyball at Ricks. Her talk truly changed my life! She started out her talk, “This is going to be totally awesome!”. She had such a joy and happiness about her and a genuine sense of humor… you could just feel it. As she spoke, she said, “Life usually turns out different than you imagined!” She wanted to be the GREATEST mother that ever lived… but when she got to be 21 and hadn’t yet gotten married (to her surprise), she accepted the call to serve a mission. She made the commitment she would be the GREATEST missionary that ever lived… and just when she was enjoying her mission the most, her life was changed forever in a split second and at age 22, in 1962, she saw her hopes and dreams smashed to pieces after being involved in a car accident that left her paralyzed from the neck down. But… as she was lying on that frame with a lot of time to think, she thought to herself, “what can I be now? The world is full of average people… what can I do? I don’t want to be average”.
“I know! I can be a cripple!
I don’t know how to be a cripple but I’m going to be the GREATEST cripple that ever lived!”
She learned to walk by faith, to trust the Lord and over 30 years later had come to the knowledge that she had lived an extremely rich and rewarding life that at first she hadn’t thought possible! Her talk taught me that you have to have gratitude and you have to keep going and keep going and not give up! I had never felt so inspired and so ready to greet the comparatively minor challenges in my life with a whole new attitude! That devotional was the only one I ever actually purchased (the book store used to sell them on cassette tape). I’ve listened to that devotional talk many times through the years… I always come away with an immense amount of personal gratitude!
In closing, I would like to bear testimony that the Savior lives and He loves us! He wants us to be happy. Our lives can be blessed through adversity. We can avail ourselves of many opportunities for growth through adversity and as my dear companion taught, we can always find something to be grateful for in any given moment.
I am grateful for the long days and late nights spent as a young boy, while friends played, helping my dad, build their home and remodel several others. I am grateful for the many times my parents said, “I’m sorry, but we can’t afford that”. I am grateful for a dad who instilled in me the principle to enjoy each stage of life, no matter how difficult and never wish my life away to some future date when the grass would supposedly be greener.
I am grateful for in-laws that required my wife to work hard on their dry farm, laboring with tasks such as picking rocks and rolling hay bales by hand so they could be loaded more easily. Those seeds of adversity in her formative years helped build her into the strong person she is today… she has stood beside me for nearly 24 years as my help-meet. We have enjoyed raising our sons, building our home with our own hands, hiking, backpacking, shoveling snow, working in the yard and many more things together.
I am grateful that my dear companion is the kind of person who brings out the best in me and puts up with the worst.
I am grateful for a broken dishwasher that allows us the opportunity to wash dishes together, by hand and have many priceless conversations.
I am grateful for the opportunity I had to serve a two year mission, with all the accompanying trials.
I am grateful for every calling and every act of service I have been asked to perform.
I am grateful for my dear sons. I don’t think I would have ever truly learned what love means without the challenges and blessings parenthood has availed.
I am even grateful for the opportunity to speak in sacrament meeting today!
It is my sincere prayer we can follow my sweetheart’s counsel and be as the one leper who remembered to express his sincerest gratitude to the Savior.
I say these things in his sacred name --Amen.