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Can You Hear the Bells?

LG and I received a great Christmas present from his parents.
We were able to attend a Christmas concert last night
by one of our favorite gospel/bluegrass groups The Lower Lights.
I was touched by their retelling and performance of I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote the lyrics after suffering two terrible Christmas seasons. First his wife was engulfed in flames and died from her burns, leaving Henry permanently injured as well. Second, Henry’s son, without Henry’s blessing, went to fight in the Civil War where he also received significant injuries to never be the same.

As Henry strolled down the street in despair the words of this poem came to him after hearing the church bells ringing. “If you haven’t had to endure a holiday season full of despair, then it’s only a matter of time,” the performer said last night. Then he added some sentiment that communicated the great privilege it can be to experience a Christmas where we are broken, humble, hurt, and down-trodden because it’s in those times that we can really see God’s hand in our life. Thus the last verse:

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail, The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men

As I listened again to this inspired Christmas hymn tears ran down my cheeks. I felt the power of one person’s faith. I got thinking of my brother’s family. My nephew passed away last May and my brother was just talking about how hard it is to celebrate the holidays without Braxton. I then thought of my friend Rosie who will be stuck in a hospital tending after Hyrum, her critically-ill special needs son, for Christmas as she was for Thanksgiving. I thought of Aimee who has had terrible health problems and is waiting for her entrance into the Mayo Clinic. I thought of several of my friends who struggle with a lifetime of hurt from the abuse they received as children. I thought of so many children out there dealing with the antics of their bitter divorced parents. Then I was flooded with the memories of many heartbroken wives who have lost their marriages because of their husband’s addiction. The friends who are valiantly trying to provide for their children in the midst of job loss and an unstable economy also came to mind.

There is so much suffering.  I thought, “How does God handle it all?”
The answer came, “I don’t handle it, you do.”

Wait, what? I can’t handle it! Then the answer came further,
“No, one person cannot handle it, but everyone can do something.”
And all those somethings mean everything.

I’ve heard the bells. I’ve heard them so many times. I can’t even begin to count. I’ve heard them for me. I’ve heard them for friends. I’ve heard them for family. I’ve heard them by being served and I’ve heard them by being the servant. I’ve heard them ringing for strangers. I’ve heard them in the drop of a few coins in the Salvation Army buckets. I’ve heard them in so so  many surprise packages on my very own porch. I’ve heard them in a Santa Claus across the country buying a trampoline for kids he has never met. They are ringing strong all over the world. Take a minute to really look for them….listen carefully. I promise they are there.

At this time of year you can even hear them in advertising.

The bells are so beautiful.
My wish for each of you this year is the gift to hear.

This one is dedicated to my hubby who loves his Sarah McLachlan.

Home is a Feeling.

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Last week I just got done with the final unpacking. While making dinner Alison Krauss was playing over the portable CD player when LG wrapped his arms around my waist from behind and kissed my neck. The air smelled like apples from my Scentsy lamp but then LG’s familiar man-smell permeated my nasal passages. I took a long deep breathe. Two of our girls were happily playing Rummikub at the nearby dining table and the other two were sitting on the couch watching T.V.

I stirred whatever it was that I cooking on the stove and then turned to LG and gave him a hug and kissed him. The kiss became a longer kiss and then a really long kiss. The girls all started to murmur in objection to our public display of affection. “NO PDA allowed.” We laughed and whispered to each other that we would finish this later in private. I went back to cooking. LG stood close by trying to be helpful but mostly just supporting the cook with his presence.

I observed, “It feels like home.” LG questioned, “Which home? The old one down the street or the one we left in Tennessee?” I thought for a minute and said, “Both.” I pondered on how the feeling was the same even though the surroundings were so different and further communicated, “You know LG, I think home is a feeling, not a place.” He agreed.

No wonder why this is one of our favorite songs.

“There is a certain kind of yearning for home we should never want to lose. Home should be an anchor, a port in a storm, a refuge, a happy place in which to dwell, a place where we are loved and where we can love. Home should be where life’s greatest lessons are taught and learned. Home and family can be the center of one’s earthly faith, where love and mutual responsibility are appropriately blended. Thinking of home with its pleasant and happy memories can make us stronger during our present and future days here upon the earth….

When we have a yearning and don’t know what it is for, perhaps it’s our soul longing for its heartland, longing to be no longer alienated from the Lord and the pursuit of something much higher, better, and more fulfilling than anything this earth has to offer.

After Joseph, youngest son of Jacob, had been reunited with his brothers, he asked them to return home to Canaan to bring his father, Jacob, to him in Egypt. As the brothers were preparing to depart, Joseph said to them simply, “See that ye fall not out by the way.” (Gen. 45:24.)

Might our Heavenly Father have given us much the same counsel as we departed his presence to begin our earthly sojourn?

May our yearning for home be the motivation we need to so live that we can return to our heavenly home with God our Father on a forever basis.”

~Marvin J. Ashton, Oct 1992

Check out this inspiring story of some Mormon missionaries in the Philippines who thought they would never again go home, but were miraculously saved.

remembering in the winter

Here in Orem, Utah the first snow of the year is on the ground.  It’s always so beautiful and daunting at the same time. The snow always seems to come too early. It sneaks its way onto the ground piercing the darkest hours of the night when all the sleeping are oblivious. They went to bed smiling while thinking about how much they were enjoying the fall only to wake up to see fall squeezed out all together. Snow is tricky and rude like that. Its like the supermodel of weather. Nobody really wants it around with its cruel personality but they can’t help but admire it for the beauty it brings to the table.

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In response to yesterday’s post I received a text last night.  A stranger was thanking me for encouraging words during a hard week. It made me feel so happy. I felt like I made a difference for one person. I ask for no more than that. All I want to do is help people be happy. All I want to do is be happy. Such a small moment made me so proud and grateful. I felt as if I was fulfilling one mission in my life: spread hope.

I have been pondering about happiness this morning. I’ve been thinking about the winters of my life.  When I was in the middle of the winters I wasn’t grateful for them. In fact I felt robbed. I felt abandoned by God. I felt hurt by perpetrators around me. I felt disappointed in myself. I was freezing and buried deep in snow. I felt like I would never live to spring.

The day I was diagnosed as Bi-Polar Type II sticks out as one of the harshest winters. I never wanted to be crazy. I felt totally cheated. What had I ever done to deserve such a cruel label? God must not have loved me. The time we lost our home in TN? That wasn’t fun. Receiving the news that my hubby didn’t pass the bar the first time was a big blow that seems totally minuscule now. One time in eighth grade a really cruel kid humiliated me for five minutes straight while my classmates all looked on and did nothing. He berated me calling me fat and ugly and worthless and everyone just stared as I tried to hold back tears. There was a day that I walked in on my ASB advisor to hear him bad-mouthing my family. The day I gave birth to Caroline I was fondled by the doctor who would later deliver my baby. While in labor, I cried and cried to my husband and mother-in-law who had been forced to leave the room right before the instance occurred. I was violated but I didn’t know what to do about it. Neither did they – that’s why we let the perpetrator deliver my daughter.

I’ve had extreme poverty as a child and as a mother of children. I’ve had difficult marital issues. I’ve lived three years of my life when both my hubby and I depended on one car to get us from work to school…that car was in the shop at least on a monthly basis. I’ve had health issues…pancreatitis, pluracy, gall bladder issues, club feet, and a chopped off toe. I served a mission for my church for eighteen months with nothing but a suitcase full of clothes that I bought myself at the thrift store. I’ve struggled with resentment that no one helped me understand earlier in life that graduating from college was something I could do.  I’ve had excessive pride, envy, and impatience.

Losing multiple family members and friends too early is when I might have been the coldest. I’ve suffered with four miscarriages and infertility. I’ve also suffered from the decision my hubby and I made to start our family earlier than I would have preferred because that is what we knew God wanted for us. It was very hard to raise three children for the ten years while my hubby was in college. Finding out that a most trusted loved one had been untrustworthy – that winter lasted about ten years. There have been plenty of struggles with friends. I’ve had dark depression and have also been so manic that I did and said really stupid things.  I’ve been engulfed in the chains of codependency wondering why people couldn’t even try to make me happy. I have hurt people. I have hurt myself. I have wallowed in pity. I have felt totally hopeless and in complete despair.

I’ve had a lot of winter in my life, but I’ve had more summer, spring, and fall. I appreciate the warmer seasons but I am most grateful for the winters…they’ve made me a permanently worn warm woolen coat. Without my winters, I wouldn’t be so resilient. I also couldn’t help other people experiencing their own below freezing temperatures. I’ve found nothing more sweet and full of sunshine in this life then first helping myself to overcome and second being a beacon for others.

While pondering about winters this morning I came across this video below.
It’s a beautiful reminder that if we just courageously stand up to our winters,
we each have a moment of sure summer joy to claim for our own.

I’ve always loved this song by Bette Midler.

“The Rose”

Some say love, it is a river
That drowns the tender reed.
Some say love, it is a razor
That leaves your soul to bleed.
Some say love, it is a hunger,
An endless aching need.
I say love, it is a flower,
And you its only seed.

It’s the heart afraid of breaking
That never learns to dance.
It’s the dream afraid of waking
That never takes the chance.
It’s the one who won’t be taken,
Who cannot seem to give,
And the soul afraid of dyin’
That never learns to live.

When the night has been too lonely
And the road has been too long,
And you think that love is only
For the lucky and the strong,
Just remember in the winter
Far beneath the bitter snows
Lies the seed that with the sun’s love
In the spring becomes the rose.

Sunday Pin: The Lower Lights

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Today at church we had a mission farewell. Another young man in our congregation will be leaving his family for two whole years to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ this time to Guatemala. The missionary program of my church is pretty miraculous. This young man and eight other members of his family sang a beautiful rendition of Brightly Beams Our Father’s Mercy.  I love the hymn and they had gorgeous four part harmony.

It sounded about like this but with a lot fewer voices.


Don’t you just love those lyrics?

Brightly beams our Father’s mercy
From his lighthouse evermore,
But to us he gives the keeping
Of the lights along the shore.

[Chorus]
Let the lower lights be burning;
Send a gleam across the wave.
Some poor fainting, struggling seaman
You may rescue, you may save.

Dark the night of sin has settled;
Loud the angry billows roar.
Eager eyes are watching, longing,
For the lights along the shore.

Trim your feeble lamp, my brother;
Some poor sailor, tempest-tossed,
Trying now to make the harbor,
In the darkness may be lost.

I would have never thought of this song as a good song to send a missionary out to the field with, but WOW, how powerful it was to think of this hymn in the perspective of a missionary being a lower light.

Speaking of missionaries, check out these musical geniuses. LG and I both LOVE this rendition. I do enjoy how Mormons love music.

I want to be a lower light. I want to rescue and save all the struggling seaman wherever they may be. I will trim my feeble lamp and I will go forward knowing God can work miracles with my teeny little lamp.

And I can’t think of the lower lights without thinking of one of my favorite music groups The Lower Lights. They combine my love for southern gospel and Mormon missionaries. Enjoy. This song better be sung at my funeral someday.

This was a great concert; I’m glad I got to be there in person.

How to be Healthy

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I had a friend reach out to me the other day for weight-loss advice. She knows I have been trying to do sugar-free and she wants to join me as her doctor told her to go off white flour and sugar. Over the course of the conversation she mentioned that she wants to lose weight because she is sick of feeling like crap about herself.

This is what I told her:

I am proud of you. The BEST thing for me in my weight loss journey has been for me to LOVE myself first. I haven’t lost weight as a way to learn to love myself, I learned to love and respect myself and then the weight has come off naturally. You are such a beautiful person and you deserve to love you!

She responded affirmatively and told me she had never thought of weight-loss in that way.

With this post, I just want to be one right voice in a million wrong ones that stands up for loving ourselves and not aiming to look like supermodels.

When I see overweight people I give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they have terrible medical problems that keeps them from optimal health or maybe they have never been taught anything better. Maybe they have emotional problems. There is one thing I know about all of them in today’s society. If they are overweight, they are more than likely down on themselves about it. Even if it isn’t their fault, they feel profoundly flawed. What does our society do? They make them feel broken and incapable. As a society we aren’t really good at loving each other or ourselves.

We need a louder message of self-love. If we really want to change ourselves, we need love and education. First, though, we need love because no one is going to want education until they can love themselves enough to stop the self abuse. Even if they can find the willpower to lose the excess weight without self-love they will just use their physique as another crutch at fake self acceptance. I know a lot of really sick people who look perfect physically.

I felt so happy to help this friend as I’ve been on the side of being helped and it was nice to see the assistance to full circle. I still have a long way to go in my optimal health but I feel so good because I know I love me and I am taking care of me to the best of my ability.

Like I said to my friend, “Even though the doctor’s BMI chart says I need to lose forty more pounds, I don’t need to lose any more weight to feel happy with my health. When I do lose weight it’s just a positive grade on my report card.” Whenever I lose weight it just affirms what I already knew, “Good for me! I am eating right and exercising correctly. My body, my mind, and my heart are in sync .”

Here is one of my favorite motivational YouTube videos about weight-loss,
it is a beautiful true message from a really talented and brave musician
who happens to agree with me about self-love and the power of God in overcoming weakness.

 

Family – Hinckley Style

While living in Tennessee, we got to know a wonderful family
who also happens to be extremely talented musically.

I have always loved this song which has a beautiful parenting theme.

Yesterday I discovered one of Derek’s most recently written songs and it brought me to tears.
It has such a true message about raising children,
the sacrifice of it, but most of all, the rewards gained.
It made me even more grateful to be a mother.
I hope it does the same for all of you.

And here is an added bonus.
It’s two of the Hinckleys singing one of my favorite love songs
for a TN local talent show audition: The Nashville Star.
This song describes perfectly the love that I share
with my extra quiet hubby. “When You Say Nothing At All”

Moms Cutting Loose

Sometimes as a mom you just have to cut loose and have fun, even when your serious kids try to hold you back.

Here’s a funny video clip from a local show on a local network.
I’ve never seen the show, but I may have to check it out
and hope that the teenager in me that had a slip n slide dance routine to Eye of the Tiger won’t make a reappearance.

I ended my run on Ice Ice Baby the other day.
I am pretty sure I threw in a running man or two out on the highway.
It was a happy place, and let’s face it,
moms need as much of that as they can get.

Here are some more moms who dance on YouTube.

This mom dances with her kid on Ellen.

Have you ever noticed how much more tolerable it is to do dishes when you dance and sing?

These dancing moms are local celebrities.

This mom and son dance at his wedding.

And I saved the best for last. Jimmy Fallon with Michelle Obama.

Just dance moms.

You’re Gold.

I’ve thought many times that I should dedicate this song to my girls.
They are gold literally and figuratively.
If you don’t get it, remember our last name is Gold.
I married into a great last name, but even better than the name is the fact that I am a mother to four beautiful daughters who are truly golden. They shine so bright and make me the richest woman in the world.

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Here are Bella and Sophia mining for gold at The Mormon Batallion Center last week.

I was impressed today by this video made by a bunch of old stuffy Mormon clergy.
It touched my heart as I thought about these old dudes putting aside their stodginess to get a very important message out to the youth that they are called to lead.

You’re gold. You’re all gold.

We had a lady get up in church yesterday and talk about her newly appointed position as the suicide prevention specialist for the state of Utah. She talked about how excited she was to get out an important message to the kids in the state of Utah. Her message is the same: You’re all gold. She said she may not be able to teach them the gospel, but somehow she would find a way to get the message into the kids….they are of infinite worth.

This is a concept with which I have a personal struggle. In fact I received a message today from another lady from church. She sat through a lesson and heard a comment I had made. She took a moment today to say this to me:

Just thought I would pass along this quote to you after what you shared in Relief Society. It’s something I’m working on too! “One of the greatest weaknesses in most of us is our lack of faith in ourselves. One of our common failings is to depreciate our tremendous worth.” Elder Perry We need to try to remember that we are daughters of Deity and are so loved. Have a Great Day! P.S. My impression of you is you seem very giving and an incredible mom.

This beautiful little note was such a contrast to the barrage of texts I got last Friday from a disgruntled family member. [Noted: She had every right to be upset with me after my last post that I ignorantly shared and very promptly removed  – My hubby helped me understand that although my quest for honesty is very noble, I can’t force it upon other people or air their dirty laundry] Anyhow, I heard what she had to say but she kept dishing out advice via many texts. It was overwhelming and I couldn’t even process all she had to say. I just agreed with her and tried to keep the interaction to a minimum. She was right, I was wrong, but the circumstances reminded me of my own tendency to think I should control how other people do or do not act instead of just loving them where they are.

How much more motivating it is to hear a person tell me one good thing about myself. In fact, it’s a million times easier for me to to take advice when I know someone truly believes in my worth and wants to lift me up. I am praying specifically this week that God will help me see everyone as the gold that they are, especially within my family. I also hope that my very overwhelming experience from last week will help me remember to keep my compliments at full-tilt and my advice to minimum.

{Family member if you are reading this – which I hope you are not – I love you – I understand you – We are very much alike – I have processed and reprocessed everything you had to say and will try to be better – Please don’t flood my phone with texts again. My heavy heart can’t handle it. Today I am just working on trying to remember that you are gold, and the even harder task is convincing myself that I am gold too.}

On a Wing and a Prayer

While we were at the San Luis Rey Mission in Oceanside last week,
I accidentally captured this photo of a bird in flight.
Seconds before the shutter, the bird was sitting on the head of the Christus.

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We got home in the middle of last night from our family reunion/vacation. It was way more reunion than vacation. The phrase “on a wing and prayer” was forefront in my mind this morning as I reflected on our safe travels. Our car is fourteen years old and after putting in the necessary $600 in repairs and using up most of our short-term savings before we left, the check engine light still came on while we were in San Diego.  When we pulled out of our driveway last Wednesday, I had prayed for the miracle that whatever was to happen with this sad car, I would be able to handle it within our very limited budget. I told God that I would go without a car all together when we got home if it just meant that He would get us there to be with my parents as it was so important to them to have their whole family there. If a running car wasn’t in His plan for us, I asked Him to let me accept it with dignity.

When we arrived without any breakdowns my prayer was all gratitude. Then while in SanDiego when the car wouldn’t start, I prayed for more patience and an angel arrived at my moment of most frustration. We discovered that CA legislation wouldn’t allow Auto Zone to run the free computer diagnostic and that it would cost us $85 at a mechanic’s shop to do something that we are accustomed to doing free at home in Utah. We decided to chance it without figuring out what was going on. On our way home, we pulled over in the middle of nowhere in Southern Utah to look at the beautiful stars and we noticed the car smelling funny but kept going on a wing and a prayer. I was almost in shock when we pulled back into our driveway last night without ever seeing a mechanic.  I then prayed in gratitude again to the best mechanic of all who had watched over us. I fully expect that whenever I finally get unpacked and out from under the mounds of dirty laundry and go out to the car to get groceries that it won’t start at all, but it will be o.k. I know that God watched over us when it mattered most.

I don’t like living on a wing and a prayer. I like having control over everything. I prefer to live without limitations. On this latest trip, I would have preferred to have a new car or at the very least a rental car.  I would also prefer to be like the 12 other high-school friends I shared dinner with while in town: they each have one or two kids and a job. (I am not saying that they aren’t living faithful lives, as I am sure they are, it’s just that I am kind of jealous at the semblance of control they have) I would not prefer to live without two of my children but I would prefer the sense of control that comes with two incomes and a smaller family, but that is not what God wants for me.

God wants me to live on a wing and a prayer. I know this may sound irresponsible or even crazy, but God and I are in tune. I can’t deny it. I also can’t deny that the only way I made it to California was because of Him. In his great mercy, He didn’t just get me there, but He sent me an angel when I needed it, and even got me home too. I don’t deserve his grace. I honestly don’t even want to do it His way. But I am doing it His way (on a wing and a prayer) and I guess He counts that for something. Doing it His way is the best way. If I did it any other way, I wouldn’t have such a sure knowledge, like I do now, that He is there watching over me.

Read here for the origin of a wing and a prayer and enjoy the song.

Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not,
neither do they reap,nor gather into barns;
yet your heavenly Father feedeth them.
Are ye not much better than they? ~ Matthew 6:26

Raising Girls

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I recently guest posted over at Pearls for Girls about life lessons I feel are important to teach girls.

I am so grateful for my most amazing husband who fathers girls with so much loving concern, patience, and attentiveness. My husband is one of my heroes. As I watch him with my daughters I know how blessed I was to see his kindness from the get-go and to marry him because of it. He has not one mean bone in his body and I can’t think of a better kind of man to father four girls.

Here is a video about raising girls that I just watched and enjoyed. It very much could have been done by my husband.