The Last Word

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In a season during which we recognize gratitude, I was reminded of this beautiful painting by the inspired Latter-day Saint artist Caitlin Connolly. Driven by a curiosity of the feminine, she has painted so many lovely pieces that speak to my heart. The one shown here particularly whispers to my spirit.

When I first saw it, I imagined myself as the younger woman on the left. Next to me, so close she is almost a part of me, is my mother. And next to her, virtually flesh of her flesh, is her mother—my beloved grandmother.

Seeing it again now so I could share it here resurrects all the feelings I had the first time I saw it. Then and now, I was moved with gratitude for all the ways those two women—my mother and my grandmother—became part of me in such central ways.

BLOG WOMEN paMy grandfather served in World War I, and after he returned, he developed what was then called “shell shock.” We know it as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). After a career on the railroad and at Columbia Steel’s pig iron plant at Ironton, his mind slipped away, succumbing to the terrors of war. He was hospitalized at the Utah State Mental Hospital for the last two decades of his life.

BLOG WOMENn grannyEvery Sunday afternoon, regardless of the weather, Granny packed a picnic and walked to the end of Center Street so she could have lunch with “Pa.” Most of the time he didn’t know her. No matter to Granny. Her weekly pilgrimage was one of the last ways she could express her love and devotion to the man with whom she had built her life, and she kept going until the frosty February morning when he cut the tethers binding him to mortality.

While her own two sons were fighting in World War II—one in the army, one in the navy—Granny spent countless hours knitting hundreds of pairs of woolen socks for the U.S. troops, wherever they were stationed. She taught me to make plum jam, showed me how to care for newborn kittens, taught me to quilt, and sat with me while we made dolls out of her hollyhocks.

BLOG WOMEN courtingWhen my father was diagnosed with cancer just seven years into their marriage, my mother became his devoted caregiver. Through the four years he fought to remain with her and us, she never wavered from doing everything she could to make him more comfortable. I don’t think she ever gave up hope. I can still see the pain in her eyes when she gathered me and Marty into a stifling hot living room that sweltering July afternoon to tell us that our Daddy wasn’t coming home from the hospital. Then she squared up her shoulders and faced the daunting task of raising two young children on her own.

By that September, she was a member of BYU’s faculty. She spent the next thirty-plus years working to support our little family. In addition to her teaching responsibilities at BYU, she did film work, television work, and stage work, including a summer at the Utah Shakespearean Festival. She was president of the National Federation of State Poetry Societies and an officer in University Women. Amid it all, she never missed a play or concert or debate meet or baseball game we participated in. Hearing her characteristic little cough from the audience always calmed my heart and gave me the courage to do my part.

These two women taught me about love, devotion, diligence, hard work, creativity, faith, courage, responsibility, and the importance of showing up. I like to remember that, just as in the image created by Caitlin Connolly, I have some of what made them so wonderful. And that even though they are both gone from my sight, they are pressing against me even now, holding me up and preparing me to soar.

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Bee on Flower

In this life, each of us is on a journey—and when we try to do it alone, we inevitably fall. Our spirits get bruised and battered—something that happens even to the strongest. The good news we should all remember is that Jesus Christ voluntarily accepted an assignment from the Father to save us. To save you. Your soul. Christ knows your name and loves you and willingly promised to do His very best to bring you back into the presence of the Father.

His ability to do so depends on your ability to trust Him.

BLOGBeeWindowAs I consider the need to trust the Lord with all my heart, regardless of what is happening in my life, I am reminded of an experience related by Elder James E. Talmage. Elder Talmage was writing his seminal masterpiece, Jesus the Christ, in a room in the Salt Lake Temple where he was free from distractions and had unrestricted access to the Spirit to assist him in creating that work.

MOSESWaterWhenever I look at mountains that are in my path, the ones that stand between me and my desired goal, I think of others who have overcome seemingly immovable obstacles. And those thoughts always lead me to Moses.

The great prophet Moses was given stewardship over the children of Israel—he was to lead them out of captivity in Egypt and take them through the desert to the promised land. That sounds pretty daunting to me, and perhaps it might have felt the same to Moses. But in fulfilling that stewardship, Moses taught us all two lessons of eternal import.

MOSESHorsesWith the children of Israel in tow, Moses led them from captivity as instructed by the Lord. But the Egyptians were not going to be easily denied. Fast on Moses’s heels, Pharaoh’s army approached with gathering speed, determined to capture their former slaves.

The chase was on, and Moses and the children of Israel were maintaining a shaky but decisive lead. Then it happened. It was the Red Sea. There Moses and his people were: towering sand dunes on every side, six hundred chariots bearing a ferocious army behind them, and nothing but a lot of water in front of them.

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Adoniram Judson was one of the first missionaries from America to be sent overseas. He entered what is now Brown University at the age of sixteen and graduated as valedictorian of his class at the age of nineteen. During his final year at Andover Theological Seminary, he dedicated himself to God and decided on a missionary career.

In 1812, just a few months after marrying his wife, Ann Hasseltine, he was sent to Burma, where he served as a Christian missionary for almost forty years.

img blg CUPOldCup1Ann and three of their children died while Adoniram was serving in Burma. When a fellow missionary, Sarah Boardman, lost her husband, Adoniram penned a letter to her in which he wrote: “You are now drinking the bitter cup whose dregs I am somewhat acquainted with. . . . I can assure you that months and months of heart-rending anguish are before you. . . . Yet take the bitter cup with both hands. You will soon learn a secret, that there is sweetness at the bottom.”

Some of the sweetness at the bottom of the cup surfaced years later when Sarah and Adoniram married and continued serving together in Burma.

I found such hope in that tender story. And I love the image of sweetness at the bottom of a bitter cup, waiting for the faithful to discover it.

But I love even more the image of the Savior filling a bitter cup with sweetness—transforming the entire cup from one that was bitter into one that testifies of His power and goodness. Creating a cup that overflows—every drop of it sweet. To read more, click below.

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During the past few weeks, I have watched a glorious change of seasons begin in the mountains surrounding my home. With it, we are easing into my favorite season of the year; I agree with poet Stanley Horowitz, who penned, “Winter is an etching, spring a watercolor, summer an oil painting, and autumn a mosaic of them all.” It seems that as each season fades I look toward the next with energy and excitement, ready for all it will bring—even those things not yet seen or known.

img blg SeasonsNewAutumn CopyDuring those same few weeks, I have been easing into a new season in my life—one that is bringing me peace and hope and renewed faith. I have looked at it much as I have looked at the magic of the changing leaves around me—with a sense of wonder and gratitude. But as I reflected on the changing seasons of a life that spans the decades, I asked myself, Am I even a fraction as eager when facing my own change of seasons as I am to see the change in seasons around me?

The answer gives me pause. I embrace the new season I am facing today. But I can’t say the same for every new season that has entered my life and swept me into new circumstances. New possibilities, often with unmeasured risks. Some filled with such uncertainty I doubted my ability to navigate them. New horizons—some of them bringing the prospect of frigid winds, some bringing the promise of gentle warmth, much like this sunrise over the Atlantic we captured one still, tranquil morning just a few months into our marriage. 

img blg SeasonsSunriseBut then I realized the upside in every change of season: there is beauty to be found in every changing of the earth’s seasons. And there is a deep, innermost grace to be found in standing firm, meeting the changing of each of the heart’s seasons as well, because in them we can also find beauty—even if not apparent at first. To read more, click below.

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