Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mom...

Mom, for one last time on Mother's Day, I want to say Thank You....
For giving me both roots and wings...
For teaching me correct principles and setting me on the right path...
For the late nights and early mornings...
For the sleepless hours spent worrying and praying...
For simply being you...
The most precious Mother I could ever ask for...

Love you, Mom...

To infinity and beyond...



If you had asked me a year ago if this Mother's Day would be different than any other, I would have probably said, "No." After all, one does not anticipate a mother being diagnosed with a fatal disease whose progress seems to be on a highly accelerated track.

No, this year's Mother's Day is not at all what I had pictured it would be 365 days ago.

In a way, I am fortunate to have the knowledge that - on this side of the veil, anyway - this is likely the final Mother's Day I will have had the chance to spend with my mom. Others have their mothers taken from them in sudden and unplanned ways and don't have the chance to express their love and appreciation for their moms before they are gone. So, while I ache knowing that I will not have the chance 365 days from now to wish my mom a Happy Mother's Day in person, I am so very grateful I was blessed with the opportunity to tell her that today.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Gratitude...

I was asked to speak in Sacrament Meeting today on my favorite talk from this April's General Conference. When I was given the assignment I knew instantly which talk I was going to focus on because I was so profoundly touched by it when it was given. Below I have shared my talk. If you want to see or read President Uchtdorf's conference address in it's entirety I have added links so that you can do so.

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When I was asked if I would speak today, I was grateful for the chance. That’s a little ironic coming from me, since speaking in front of people is one of the things that make me the most nervous. Still I truly am thankful to have this opportunity. I pray that the Spirit will be with me as I speak so that I will be able to give the message I have prepared in a way that is of worth to all of us and pleasing to our Heavenly Father.

I was asked to choose my favorite talk from this past General Conference. That’s not necessarily an easy task, given that there was so much of great worth that was spoken of during Conference.  One of the greatest things I gained from Conference was a renewed testimony that our Heavenly Father and our Elder Brother Jesus Christ know each one of us personally and inspire our leaders to give us the messages we need to hear when we need to hear them.

The talk I chose to speak on today was President Uchtdorf's which seemed to be a direct answer to prayers that have been lifted to Heavenly Father recently. I hope you will bear with me and forgive me if I am a bit emotional as I speak because the message of this talk touched me so deeply.

President Uchtdorf began his address by saying: “Over the years, I have had the sacred opportunity to meet with many people whose sorrows seem to reach the very depths of their soul. In these moments, I have listened to my beloved brothers and sisters and grieved with them over their burdens. I have pondered what to say to them, and I have struggled to know how to comfort and support them in their trials.

Often their grief is caused by what seems to them as an ending. Some are facing the end of a cherished relationship, such as the death of a loved one or estrangement from a family member. Others feel they are facing the end of hope—the hope of being married or bearing children or overcoming an illness. Others may be facing the end of their faith, as confusing and conflicting voices in the world tempt them to question, even abandon, what they once knew to be true. Sooner or later, I believe that all of us experience times when the very fabric of our world tears at the seams, leaving us feeling alone, frustrated, and adrift. It can happen to anyone. No one is immune.

Everyone’s situation is different, and the details of each life are unique. Nevertheless, I have learned that there is something that would take away the bitterness that may come into our lives. There is one thing we can do to make life sweeter, more joyful, even glorious.

We can be grateful!

It might sound contrary to the wisdom of the world to suggest that one who is burdened with sorrow should give thanks to God. But those who set aside the bottle of bitterness and lift instead the goblet of gratitude can find a purifying drink of healing, peace, and understanding.

As disciples of Christ, we are commanded to “thank the Lord [our] God in all things,” to “sing unto the Lord with thanksgiving,” and to “let [our] heart be full of thanks unto God.”

Why does God command us to be grateful?

All of His commandments are given to make blessings available to us. Commandments are opportunities to exercise our agency and to receive blessings. Our loving Heavenly Father knows that choosing to develop a spirit of gratitude will bring us true joy and great happiness.

I know that in our own lives, all of us have times when we are dealt situations that may cause us to wonder how we can have a grateful heart as President Uchtdorf suggests.  It may be an illness of our own or that of a loved one. It may be someone we care about or even ourselves dealing with the emotional or mental anguish brought on by battling depression or anxiety. Maybe it is the separation from family members and friends who need to move on. Perhaps it is the loss of a family member or a friend in tragic circumstances and we wonder why they are gone so soon when it seemed they had so much more they could have done, so much of life left to live and so much left to give. 

President Uchtdorf says, “…some might say, “What do I have to be grateful for when my world is falling apart?

He then continues, “Perhaps focusing on what we are grateful for is the wrong approach. It is difficult to develop a spirit of gratitude if our thankfulness is only proportional to the number of blessings we can count…I don’t believe the Lord expects us to be less thankful in times of trial than in times of abundance and ease. In fact, most of the scriptural references do not speak of gratitude for things but rather suggest an overall spirit or attitude of gratitude.

It is easy to be grateful for things when life seems to be going our way. But what then of those times when what we wish for seems to be far out of reach?

Could I suggest that we see gratitude as a disposition, a way of life that stands independent of our current situation? In other words, I’m suggesting that instead of being thankful for things, we focus on being thankful in our circumstances—whatever they may be…the choice is ours. We can choose to limit our gratitude, based on the blessings we feel we lack. Or we can choose to be like Nephi, whose grateful heart never faltered. When his brothers tied him up on the ship—which he had built to take them to the promised land—his ankles and wrists were so sore “they had swollen exceedingly,” and a violent storm threatened to swallow him up in the depths of the sea. “Nevertheless,” Nephi said, “I did look unto my God, and I did praise him all the day long; and I did not murmur against the Lord because of mine afflictions.”

We can choose to be grateful, no matter what.”

To me, that means we can be thankful in spite of what we may see as endings. Instead of remaining sorrowful at the loss of those for whom we care, we can have gratitude that we were blessed to know them for whatever amount of time we did, whether lengthy or brief.  Instead of being saddened by the trials we are asked to go through we can be grateful for the strength the Lord gives us to help us overcome them through our own efforts or through the blessing of others who are prompted to help us.

President Uchtdorf reminds us that “We can choose to be like Job, who seemed to have everything but then lost it all, yet…responded “… the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

This type of gratitude transcends whatever is happening around us. It surpasses disappointment, discouragement, and despair. It blooms just as beautifully in the icy landscape of winter as it does in the pleasant warmth of summer.

When we are grateful to God in our circumstances, we can experience gentle peace in the midst of tribulation. In grief, we can still lift up our hearts in praise. In pain, we can glory in Christ’s Atonement. In the cold of bitter sorrow, we can experience the closeness and warmth of heaven’s embrace.
We sometimes think that being grateful is what we do after our problems are solved, but how terribly shortsighted that is. How much of life do we miss by waiting to see the rainbow before thanking God that there is rain?

Being grateful in times of distress does not mean that we are pleased with our circumstances. It does mean that through the eyes of faith we look beyond our present-day challenges.

This is not a gratitude of the lips but of the soul. It is a gratitude that heals the heart and expands the mind.

Being grateful in our circumstances is an act of faith in God. It requires that we trust God and hope for things we may not see but which are true. By being grateful, we follow the example of our beloved Savior, who said, “Not my will, but thine, be done.”

True gratitude is an expression of hope and testimony. It comes from acknowledging that we do not always understand the trials of life but trusting that one day we will.

In any circumstance, our sense of gratitude is nourished by the many and sacred truths we do know: that our Father has given His children the great plan of happiness; that through the Atonement of His Son, Jesus Christ, we can live forever with our loved ones; that in the end, we will have glorious, perfect, and immortal bodies, unburdened by sickness or disability; and that our tears of sadness and loss will be replaced with an abundance of happiness and joy, “good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over.”

In light of what we know about our eternal destiny, is it any wonder that whenever we face the bitter endings of life, they seem unacceptable to us? There seems to be something inside of us that resists endings.

Why is this? Because we are made of the stuff of eternity. We are eternal beings, children of the Almighty God, whose name is Endless and who promises eternal blessings without number. Endings are not our destiny.”

“The more we learn about the gospel of Jesus Christ, the more we realize that endings here in mortality are not endings at all. They are merely interruptions—temporary pauses that one day will seem small compared to the eternal joy awaiting the faithful. How grateful I am to my Heavenly Father that in His plan there are no true endings, only everlasting beginnings.

While I was inspired by all of President Uchtdorf’s talk it was the part I just read that addressed so clearly what I needed.  I’d like to share some of the reasons why.

Starting around October my mother began to have some significant health issues. After meeting with her doctor several times with little conclusive information on what was happening to her, and with her health continuing to deteriorate - my mom was finally referred to a neurologist in Provo at the beginning of March.

 After battling and surviving cancer almost a dozen years ago, and dealing with and successfully managing diabetes for the last several years, I think we all thought that my mom would be able to beat whatever it was that was causing her health issues. 

After meeting with the neurologist he said that given the progressive state of her condition he felt that it could be one of two things. However without further tests, the neurologist didn’t want to make a final diagnosis. He wanted my mom to see another neurologist, an expert in the field of ALS research who runs the University of Utah’s ALS clinic. He put in an urgent request for a consultation with this doctor and my parents were sent home to wait for the ALS clinic to call and set up an appointment. They were told that it could be several weeks before they were able to be seen by the doctor and so they prepared to wait.  It was about a week and a half after her initial meeting with the doctor in Provo that the ALS clinic called to say there had been a cancellation and that they could see my mom if she was able to come in the next Tuesday. Arrangements were made and they met with the neurologist on March 25th. After some more tests were run, they concluded that my mother had a rapidly advancing form of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) and that, given how quickly it is progressing; she might have up to six months to a year left to be with us. It was shocking news to all of us.

And yet, in spite of the situation, I have found several things that added to an ‘attitude of gratitude’ for me in this situation.

I am grateful that there was an actual diagnosis. After months of not knowing, to have a definitive answer is a blessing, even though it is bittersweet.

I am grateful for a knowledge of the plan of salvation and that the sealing power of the Priesthood has been restored so that my family can be together eternally if we live worthily.

How grateful I am for personal prayer. It has been a sustaining thing for me. I am equally grateful for the prayers of friends in my behalf and in my family’s behalf. There is not much sweeter than hearing a child with all their tender faith praying for you.

I have gratitude for the fact that my five brothers and sisters, along with their spouses and children (except my nephew who is on his mission) were able to meet at my parent’s house the weekend after the diagnosis to spend some time together and were able to witness the power of the Priesthood in action as a family prayer was said and then as a blessing of peace and comfort was given to my mom by my dad with my three brothers and two brothers-in-law standing in the circle and then a blessing was given to my father by my brother with my remaining brothers and brothers-in-law again exercising the precious gift of the Priesthood. There wasn’t a dry eye as these special prayers were given and it felt like Heaven was a little closer for those moments. How could I not be grateful to have had the chance to experience those special moments with my family?

Three of my siblings live in Huntington near my parents and have taken on the day to day support of both my mom and dad. I am grateful that they are there and willing to give the care and support that those of us who live further away cannot give.

Many people who know my parents have called or stopped by to visit and tell my mom what a profound impact she had on their lives and how grateful they are to know her. Because it has become more difficult for her to communicate, some dear friends come simply to sit and share quiet moments with her. Several men in the ward came together and over two days built a ramp for my parent’s house so that my mom can move around with the wheelchair she now must use. Another friend provided a chair with a lift to make it easier for my mom to get out of the chair when she needs to. How thankful I am that my parents have that support.

I have gratitude for a mother who has been a profound influence and example in my life of love and care and compassion especially for her family.

I have gratitude for a father who has a deep and abiding love for my mom and takes care of her with such love and tenderness every day.

I am grateful for and have been blessed by both of their examples throughout my life.

I am thankful for friends who share and care and love and support in so many different ways. All of these things mean so very much.

I have found that even in the midst of trials there are so many blessings that can be counted when looked at with an attitude of gratitude.

President Uchtdorf concludes his talk by saying, “Brothers and sisters, have we not reason to be filled with gratitude, regardless of the circumstances in which we find ourselves?

Do we need any greater reason to let our hearts “be full of thanks unto God”?

“Have we not great reason to rejoice?”

How blessed we are if we recognize God’s handiwork in the marvelous tapestry of life. Gratitude to our Father in Heaven broadens our perception and clears our vision. It inspires humility and fosters empathy toward our fellowmen and all of God’s creation. Gratitude is a catalyst to all Christlike attributes! A thankful heart is the parent of all virtues.

The Lord has given us His promise that those “who [receive] all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto [them], even an hundred fold, yea, more.”

May we “live in thanksgiving daily”—especially during the seemingly unexplainable endings that are part of mortality. May we allow our souls to expand in thankfulness toward our merciful Heavenly Father. May we ever and constantly raise our voices and show by word and deed our gratitude to our Father in Heaven and to His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ."

I add my own testimony to that of President Uchtdorf’s. I know that we have a merciful and kind Father in Heaven who will sustain us through all we are asked to go. I know that having a grateful heart in all our circumstances will allow us to become closer to our Heavenly Father and more like our Savior, Jesus Christ. I have a testimony of the power of prayer, of the power of the Priesthood, of the eternal nature of families. I have a testimony of the Atonement. I know that because our Elder Brother bore all things for us in the Garden of Gethsemane and then on the cross that we can do all things and return to live with our Heavenly Father and with loved ones, our families and friends when our time on this earth is through. I have a sure knowledge of these things and so many more. I leave you with this testimony in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Media of the Week - Blessings...

There are days when we all wonder why we are called to walk through trials and hard times. Sometimes we may even wonder if anyone is really there to hear our fears or heal our heartache. What we may forget is that during these moments, during the times when it seems that no one knows or understands, there is One who does. One who will succor us and support us. One who will turn our trials into some of the greatest blessings we may ever know.
"What if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are [His] mercies in disguise?"




Blessings
- Laura Story
We pray for blessings, we pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
And all the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

'Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

We pray for wisdom, Your voice to hear
We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt your goodness, we doubt your love
As if every promise from Your word is not enough
And all the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we'd have faith to believe

'Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not,
This is not our home
It's not our home

'Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near

What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can't satisfy
What if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are your mercies in disguise

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A new year begins...

The sun has set on the old year and risen on a new one.



As we enter a new year, this is my hope for those with whom I share this earthly journey...

That the year will be filled with blessings for those around me.
That we will be courageous enough to go after our dreams.
That those burdened with sorrow or illness will be blessed with comfort and healing.
That we might be blessings to others.
That we all will live healthful and healthy lives.
That we will follow good advice, ignore bad advice, and know the difference between the two.
That we all will end the year better people than we began it. 


May your blessings be more numerous than your trials, and may your trials turn out to be blessings in disguise. 

Happy 2014!




Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A view of Christmas...

It's looking a lot like Christmas at the "Durrant Village" that takes up the better portion of two rooms in my parents' home. Merry Christmas! Enjoy!