One thing I have learned is that you can only notice the miracles around you when you cultivate an attitude of gratitude for the Lord. Only rarely does he interfere so much that we can see the miracles without looking and being aware that he is helping. Usually he assists in more quiet ways, and only a grateful and humble heart can even see those assists. I have appreciated the time I get to spend most days to sit and be quiet and find that assistance. For Thanksgiving week I hope to focus on things I forget to be thankful for.
Today I am thankful to my Heavenly Father for food. I was sitting down to eat last night and found myself blessing the food like I do every meal. Then I thought, why do I always bless the food? I probably don’t really need divine intervention to assure that it was prepared in a healthy manner. Half of what we eat we know isn’t good for us anyway, so it is not to plead for good health from the food. Occasionally it is with gratitude that we had the resources to purchase the food, but we don’t really experience actual hunger in this country. Most likely I should be praying to remember and recognize that even the food we consume every single day was ultimately provided by our Creator. Personally I have a tendency to be grateful to the people who directly purchased and prepared it. I rarely think about the many steps involved in growing, raising, harvesting, packaging, transporting and retailing what I just ate. I rarely think of everything that has to come together to make it as convenient for me as it really is. And unfortunately, I almost never actually remember to thank God for all the systems that work together in the earth itself so that I can enjoy a variety of wonderful foods, and the privilege I enjoy of living in extreme convenience. So this week I will try to actually mean it when I thank him for the food.
Last week I was helping out with a volunteer group. I was in charge of a large activity. I felt to take some time that morning that I could know how to focus my time and efforts to make the most of my work there. I didn’t even really know what I was praying for specifically, so my prayer sort of rambled and sounded like, “whatever it is I am supposed to be praying for help with I hope you know already better than I do cuz I have no idea what I’m praying for.” A few hours later I was delivering permission slips to the parents and felt to step in and visit with one of the families I had not talked to for a while. The conversation was kind of skirting around some potentially stressful family situations, but I felt directly impressed to share a personal struggle that our family had gone through a few years earlier. It turns out that was the exact thing that they were dealing with, and by sharing my story I was able to offer some hope and insight about how to deal with everything. It had nothing to do with the activity, except that was where the contact came in. I’m glad that Heavenly Father knew what I was praying for help for even if I didn’t.
I think sometimes the Lord gives us inspiration and guidance, and then we are to act on it. I teach piano and years ago I had an idea for a technique book. It has taken me several years to get around to putting it together enough to be able to use it. I have been using it, and refining it most of this year. I am surprised at how well it is working out. It not only addresses the problems it was designed to help, but others as well. At the risk of sounding prideful it is the best technique book I have ever seen, period. I have only had positive reviews of it, and a lot of success.
Yesterday I had a younger student beg me to let him start working in the book. He is only six, so I wanted him to have a little bit more background before starting on technique. Nope, his older siblings get to start on it and he wants to as well. There is nothing technically that he can’t do, so I told mom to go ahead and print him his own copy. It was a definite stroke to my ego to see someone begging for something I had created.
I am sure the source of the inspiration that got it going. I also put a lot of hard work into getting it working the way it is today. It is still not quite ready for the publisher, but I do feel a responsibility to do something with it. I guess we will have to see what is supposed to happen next.
One of my adult daughter’s favorite conference talks was a talk on tithing. I can understand why because she lives it so beautifully. Elder Bednar talked about the small, subtle blessings that come from paying our tithing. I know we have had more countless little blessings than we can count. I think both my adult daughter and myself understand what was meant by the blessings of gratitude that often accompany the payment of tithing. I have seen that gratitude and those blessings work together to deliver to us enjoyment of many of the better things of life. Despite the pitiful numbers reported on our IRS forms at the end of the year, and our larger than average family size, one example that comes to mind is how we have found ways to send our children to college without any student debt.
My daughter especially has seen this blessing as she has attended school away from home. Doors are opened. She is well aware that most of her fellow students, and even roommates simply could not get by on what she has to get by on. She does have to be more frugal, but she has sufficient. I’d like to share two examples of how her faithfulness has inspired me.
As she was preparing to go to back school this year she knew she would need to get a part time student job just to be able to eat this year. (She could easily have opted for a small student loan instead, but we share a goal of no student debt.) In the past that idea has been overwhelming. A few weeks before she was able to move into her apartment she began searching for possible campus jobs. She became inspired that she may need to go to campus much earlier than she had planned on. As she was making preparations to do so, she was called and asked to schedule an interview from an application she was pretty sure she had not even finished submitting. Thanks to her faith and humility, everything fell into place. She was offered a job that was ideal for her situation, and is living frugally, but without fear of not having the money she needs.
Last week she was invited to be a part of a group date. She is a wonderful cook and offered to provide the food for the meal part of the activity. They could easily have just expected the guys to buy some food or stop somewhere, but didn’t. She made homemade pizza “from scratch.” From what I hear it went over very well. I know she loves to make her own pizzas, and they are not only delicious, but much healthier. She will someday make a wonderful companion to some lucky young man who loves being wise with his money, loves staying healthy, and loves pizza! No one said being careful with your money couldn’t be fun and good for you. I think Shanna is learning that.
Just wanted to share a few examples of the principles in action that were so beautifully covered by Elder Bednar.
A few months ago I had an interesting experience. We were right in the middle of dealing with a serious mental health crisis with my son. As we were dealing with this particular issue, we found out that Pres. Jeffry R. Holland was coming to visit our ward. It would be a short visit and he would be very busy, but I wondered about the timing. If I really believed that he was an apostle of God, as were the apostles at the time of Christ, could he help our family? Throughout the scriptures are stories of children and families being healed by Christ and the apostles. I knew that I love my child every bit as much as the parents in ancient times, and I knew that I needed help. Was help being sent? Did I have enough faith to receive help? I had many questions about how to help my son that needed answering, that my local leaders were unable to address sufficiently.
I did a lot of praying and a lot of fasting. I didn’t know exactly what type of help I needed. I was not sure exactly what to pray for. I prayed that if there was any way that this apostle could help our family that we would have enough faith to receive that help. I was told that my prayers had been heard, and that it was taken care of. The visit came and went. I had no direct interaction with President Holland. We attended a dinner with him, my son declined to attend, but we brought others to join us. As far as I knew, my son avoided any potential contact the same way he has continued to avoid all potential help. Still, I was at peace that my prayers had been heard and accepted.
This last weekend was LDS General Conference weekend. The incident over the summer was pretty much out of my mind. Then Elder Holland stepped up to speak. He opened his talk by stating that he was going to address those dealing with serious mental health problems. He then proceeded to answer all of my questions that truly needed answering. It was a direct answer to my personal prayers and I can not question that the Lord heard and answered my prayers this summer.
View of Conference Center spire taken from south of the Center on North Temple St., Salt Lake City (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I try to teach my children to decide what they want in life, consult with the Lord, then go forward to make it happen, having faith that the path will be opened for them. My middle daughter really wanted to be a part of the theater production this year. We have some serious scheduling conflicts with the rehearsal times, but told her if she really wanted it to go for it anyway and we would find a way. She auditioned but didn’t make it. It was tough but she put on her best face and said “There is always next year.” The next week she got a call. They had missed a pile of people to call to invite to be a part of the behind the scenes. She was ecstatic. She just wanted to be involved. Not only that, but the crew she got put on has a different schedule and we have no more scheduling conflicts.
Then there came the mandatory parent meeting. Both her father and I were working and did not have enough notice to get off of work. I tried contacting some other parents I knew were involved, but no luck. Then that morning I got an e-mail that something had come up and we had to make a last minute change to my schedule. A hole opened up exactly during the parent meeting and I was able to attend.
The best part was my daughter looking at me, smiling, and saying, “You were right Mom. Things do work out if they are supposed to.” I smiled back and said, “That was your faith in action Katie.”
Today I am grateful for all the Divine help I have had in readjusting my schedule to accommodate a last minute schedule change. There have been a few struggles, but many things have fallen into place as well. I can see how much the Lord wants my daughter to succeed, and has been opening things up for her benefit, funding her schooling, helping with her housing, and making her paths straight. She is one of my examples of how to live a faithful, righteous life, trusting completely in the Lord. Right now I’ll just have to trust Him to keep things here safe while I go help her.