Category: Principles

Focus and Light – We never have all we need but it will be enough

I have a field that I keep weed-free.

I have been doing this now for two years. I have learned many things while toiling in the field. This week, two experiences gelled for me that I believe will be highly meaningful to some of you. Because I want you to get the full import of what I am attempting to share, I will take the time and words needed. Thank you for bearing with me.

I have been able to keep this field cleared on my own with just a hoe. I go there six days a week for 15 to 30 minutes. I have carved the field into sections in my mind, and I do one area each day. But, here is something I have noticed. No matter how careful I am in each section, I miss weeds!

Since the field is weedless dirt, I can see where I have walked in each section. Often, right next to a footprint, there will be a weed or a small group of weeds. This is a consistent phenomenon. How does it happen? I scan the whole area around me before I take the next step. But no matter how careful and methodical I am, it happens every day! I have thought a lot about that.

Here is what came to me this week – focus and light.

You can only focus on one thing at a time. Then you shift your focus to the next place and so on. You cannot focus on the entire section, or even the whole area right around you, just one spot at a time.

Here is something else. When I walk out to the field, I hoe weeds as I move to the section I intend to work. There is lots of dirt, and those tiny green seedlings are clear. I can see them, and I hoe them up as I go. But the odd thing is that as I make my way back from the section I just finished, I see weeds I missed. What! In this case, it is an issue of light—the light matters regarding what weeds I can see. Depending on the direction of the light, I can see certain plants but not others. It happens every day. Like focus, it determines what seedlings I see and what seedlings I miss.

This focus and light issue happens in parenting. We can see a problem that needs resolving, and we give it all we’ve got. Then later, we realize that there was another issue just as vital, if not more so, and we missed it. It can cause us grief because if we were being good parents how could we miss something so important.

Let me give you a real-life example so that you understand what I am sharing with you.

There was a time when four of our oldest five were struggling in school and with drugs. It was bleak. I was a focused, good mother. I spent enormous amounts of time trying to help these kids, keeping them alive, finding them services, attending counseling, etc. It has been decades since then. They are in their forties and fifties, have worthwhile lives, contribute. I believe they are reasonably happy.

But in my effort to focus on what seemed so important, vital even, I missed the pain of my two youngest children. I was there physically; we had meals on the table, I attended concerts and football games. I loved them and made sure they were safe. But I wasn’t emotionally available to them. It was all going to the four I was keeping alive.

These two youngest are now in their thirties. They also have worthwhile lives; they contribute, they seem reasonably happy. But I know they are still dealing with the pain of feeling abandoned, unseen. This was never my intention. I thought I was getting all the weeds, but I missed some despite my careful scanning of the area.

And then there was the issue of light (knowledge). My resources were limited, my information was lacking, and I couldn’t see what I couldn’t see. As I have moved forward, I have gained more knowledge. I can clearly see what would have worked better for the four than what I was doing. I also know how I could have helped those younger two, so they felt seen and heard.

I have been tempted to allow myself to feel like a bad mom, a failure. The truth is that for a long time, I did allow that. Then I gained more knowledge, light, and I STOPPED!

Thursday, this whole issue of focus and light was brought home to me even more. I wasn’t weeding a section of a vast field. Nothing was overwhelming in what I was weeding. I was working the strip between the sidewalk and the road. It is about 3 feet wide and 12 feet long and gravel-covered. Those weeds stick out like sore thumbs. You can quickly scan from one side to the other with each step. When I got to the end, I was feeling good. I was sure I had gotten every weed. But on the way back, right where I began, I found two weeds that I had missed.

Then I weeded a strip down the side of our driveway. It is only 1 foot wide. Easy peasy, right? And besides that, I was weeding on my hands and knees. But you know what, as I reviewed my work, I still found a couple of weeds I had missed.

Our focus and knowledge aren’t ever going to be perfect. Despite our best efforts, we can and will miss things that matter. If we could see them, we would do something about them but we don’t see them. What can we do when this happens, and our children are wounded because we are human and imperfect? It isn’t helpful to berate ourselves. Guilt is not an emotion. It is a state of internal condemnation. It damages and does not enlighten. Some call this state shame.

When we find ourselves lacking in our parenting skills there are better ways to respond. Here is what I have learned after many decades.

Speak kindly to yourself despite your failure. Forgive yourself for not being perfect, for lacking the knowledge you needed, for not seeing every need.
Be honest and take responsibility for what you missed. You did miss it. Avoid blaming anyone or anything else. Your honesty will help you see clearly so that you can move forward.
Increase your knowledge so you can make whatever repairs you can.
Remember that your kids came with an empty bag. You have added something to it even though you didn’t want to or plan to. Know that the cleaning out of their bag will help them become the people they are meant to be.

As for my two youngest, they have some work to do. It is their work. But I am here to support them. I pray so that I can know how to do that in the best way. Often, I am counseled by the Spirit to step back and leave them to their work. At other times I am guided to reach out.

They will do what my five oldest have done and are still doing. These older ones are emptying out their bags, and they are growing into amazing men and women. I’ve seen it. You will see it. If you never give up on your family, if you don’t berate yourself for being imperfect, if you keep growing and learning, increasing your light and knowledge, then you will see what I have seen. You are a good person and parent. You are doing your best, and as you improve your best, it will be enough!

Let parents you care about know that they can do this despite being imperfect!

It Isn’t Enough to be Inspired!

Inspired to What End?

One day, after church, someone said to me, “I am so inspired.” In my heart, I responded, “Inspired to what end.” It isn’t enough to be inspired. We must be moved to action.

Over the years, I have read many books, articles and attended events that have inspired me. Just as often, I have let that inspiration lay dormant until it died away. I watch this happen to others. It’s sad because we desire to grow, change, and create. That is how we were made, and when inspired, these desires roar to life.

Why do we so often let inspiration to change and grow, die?

Why aren’t we moved to action and then achieve results? I can only speak from my own experience, but it has been extensive on both sides of this coin.

There are so many things that I am inspired to do or change that I burn out.
I hurry home and begin tearing my life’s fabric apart to insert this system or that program or a new way of managing. Then what happens? In a couple of weeks or a month, maybe two, I’ve quit. I’m back to being and doing what I did before. I’m burnt out.

• I feel that I must do some BIG thing to have any real impact.

• I am inconsistent, and when I don’t see the results I want as quickly as I want, it is easy to quit.

• I let myself get distracted by the many other pressing issues of my daily life. I get up every day determined to put my one step into action, but there are kids to chauffeur, food to cook, dishes to do, and I have a job. It sucks up the time until there is nothing left, and the one-step is on hold.

Those are not all the reasons inspiration dies, but they are right up there at the top of the list. Here is what I have learned to do when I am inspired and want to see results.

Nine Ways to Achieve Results

1. PICK ONE thing that you will work on out of all that has inspired you, just one thing.
The workbook that accompanies Becoming a Present Parent helps readers distill the entire book down to one thing. That is key—only ONE thing. Ask, “What’s the one best thing I should work on first”—what is the one thing you feel you need to do?

2. BREAK what you want into smaller steps.
We need to isolate one small thing that we can implement to move us in the direction we want to go. When we multiply small amounts of time consistently, we can accomplish magnificent things. We can change our part of the world.

Whenever you hear that a person has achieved an extraordinary goal, rarely, if ever, are you told the process they used—that is, the everyday actions they took consistently. You only hear about the outcome. So, begin with one small step.

3. COMMIT to being consistent for as long as it takes.
Some of our family goals will take many years to come to fruition, as will many of our personal goals. “There’s a difference between interest and commitment. When you’re interested in doing something, you do it only when it’s convenient. When you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses – only results.”—Kenneth H. Blanchard

4. REMEMBER being consistent is not the same as being perfect.
James Clear reported in the magazine Entrepreneur that research shows, regardless of the habit you’re working to build or change, the character trait you want to develop, or the family culture you’re working on, missing a single day has no measurable impact on your long-term success. He wrote, “Daily failures are like red lights during a road trip. When you’re driving a car, you’ll come to a red light every now and then. But if you maintain a good average speed, you’ll always make it to your destination despite the stops and delays along the way.” Change takes time. Growth takes time. Perfect is not the goal; progress is!

5. Make space.
Create a system for getting your small step done each day. For example, every day, I make my bed immediately upon arising. Sometimes I can only make my half. But I do it every day. It isn’t about the bed. It is one of the steps I take daily to practice consistency and make space. Then while in the bathroom first thing in the morning, I pray. If I leave the bathroom, I may not get to it because life has a way of interfering. Determine how you can fit your one step into your life every day and then keep that commitment. When I was working on controlling my temper many years ago, I had to create space for reflection, make time to get help from others who had accomplished what I wanted to accomplish, and find ways to nurture myself as I did the work. Whatever your one-step, make space to do it every day.

6. KEEP your word.
Do what you’ve decided to do. Be as consistent as possible. No matter how long it takes, don’t quit. Keep your word to yourself!

Keeping your word is essential. The more you do it, the more you learn to trust yourself, others begin to trust you, and it builds trust with your children. When your kids see you being consistent for as long as it takes, it tells them, “You can trust me!”

8. FOCUS on today—it’s all you have to work with.
As you focus on one day at a time, you will be able to persevere. Do your best today. If
you don’t do well today, then when tomorrow is today, begin again. Once today is yesterday, let it go! Don’t quit!

9. BELIEVE the result will be exponential growth.
When you make a change, create something new, or adjust your way of being, it has a domino effect in your life and other things that matter to you, that you aren’t focusing on, begin to change. Even though you are only working on one thing at a time, taking one small step at a time, hold in your mind that more than one item will set itself right in your life. I know this is true because I have experienced it.

As you work on the one best thing, as you move forward one small step at a time, and as you commit to making space for this step in your life and then remain consistent, you will be amazed at the marvelous things you can accomplish.

Let those who matter to you know that you can move from inspiration, to commitment, to results.

Gratitude – Part 2, Ten Tools to Greater Gratitude

Gratitude begins with attitude.

Gratitude is a choice not based on what is happening to us, what we have or don’t have, but on how we choose to see what is happening to us. Regardless of our circumstances, we all have much to be grateful for if we pause and contemplate our blessings.

We can lift ourselves and others, as well, when we refuse to remain in the realm of negative thought and cultivate within our hearts an attitude of gratitude. If ingratitude is one of the grave sins, then gratitude takes its place among the noblest virtues. The Roman philosopher, Cicero, said, “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues but the parent of all others.”

Dr. Robert Emmons, a professor at the University of California, Davis, and one of the leading scholars in the scientific study of gratitude, said the following: “It is possible that psychology has ignored gratitude because it appears, on the surface, to be a very obvious emotion, lacking in interesting complications: we receive a gift—from friends, from family, from God—and then we feel pleasurably grateful. But while the emotion seemed simplistic even to me as I began my research, I soon discovered that gratitude is a deeper, more complex phenomenon that plays a critical role in human happiness. Gratitude is literally one of the few things that can measurably change people’s lives.”

The other day after a church meeting, someone said to me, “I am so inspired.” In my heart, I responded, “Inspired to what end.” It isn’t enough to be inspired. We must be moved to action. I want to help you decide to move to a more significant place of gratitude. I recognize that we are all in different places in our lives, and so I have created a varied list of ten possible action steps that you can use to cultivate more gratitude and, as a result, greater happiness.

Your job is to be open to the action step that will work best for you right now. Don’t pick the one that you think sounds the most righteous or what you think other people will decide. Listen to your inner voice, which one will make the most difference right now, for you.

Ten Gratitude Exercises

1. Come up with some Happiness commandments – After I read Gretchen Rubin’s, The Happiness Project – I asked myself what makes me the most unhappy, and then I came up with three commandments for myself. I post them where I can see them and am reminded of what kind of thinking leads me to happiness.
• Be a Pollyanna
• Clean the ditch (remove garbage thinking)
• Let go of suffering (yes, suffering is a choice)

2. A Gratitude Journal – Dr. Emmons and his colleagues found scientific proof that people who practice gratitude through activities such as keeping a gratitude journal are more loving, forgiving, and optimistic about the future.

They exercise more frequently, report fewer illnesses, and generally feel better about their lives. In subsequent studies, Dr. Emmons also noted that people who regularly kept a gratitude journal and were in the habit of recognizing and expressing gratitude for their blessings reported feeling closer and more connected to people, had better relationships, were more likely to help others, felt less lonely, felt less depressed, slept better, and were more pleasant to be around.

In her book, The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want, Sonja Lyubomirsky wrote, “The practice of gratitude is incompatible with negative emotions and may actually diminish or deter such feelings as anger, bitterness, and greed.”

3. Journaling – This is like the gratitude journal, but in this case, detail in writing, one positive experience each day. Journaling will help you find meaning in the activities of the day, rather than just noticing the task itself.

4. Dedicate a few prayers a week to only Gratitude – Ask for nothing; be grateful for what you already have.
• If you can’t walk – do you have a wheelchair
• If you can’t see – can you hear
• If you feel you are too old – you are yet alive and can serve
• If you don’t feel accepted – you have the opportunity to reach out to others
• If you are single and alone, thank God for the family and friends you have
• If you’re having trouble with your spouse, thank God for the opportunity to develop more Christ-like       traits through forgiveness and taking personal responsibility
• Thank God for His goodness to you
• Express thanks for Jesus’s example, for His teachings, for His outreaching hand to lift and help, for His
infinite Atonement.
• Thank God for leaders and teachers
• Thank God for your family and children

5. Control negative thinking – Ray L. Huntington, a professor at BYU, said, “Studies have shown that focusing on the negative in times of adversity—using derogatory or critical words as we talk to ourselves or others—can darken our mood and, much like a virus, infect the moods of those we interact with. Consciously choosing to fill our minds with thoughts of our blessings and feeling appreciation for those blessings can change the way we feel and brighten our spirits during difficult times.”

6. Add More Thank-Yous to Your Vocabulary – Saying “thank you” to someone brightens your day by affirming your positive feelings. It also lifts the spirits of those who are deserving of your thankfulness. Use people’s names who check you out at the grocery store, people who help you on the phone, and anywhere else you happen to be and see a name tag. Tell them, ‘thank you.’ Thank your spouse and children for what they do, no matter how small.

7. Take Time to Write Thank-You Notes and Letters of Appreciation – John Kralik, an attorney with a struggling law practice and personal family problems, determined to reverse the cycle of negative thinking through writing and sending one thank-you note each day of the year—365 thank-you notes in total. His note-writing endeavor taught him a valuable lesson: blessings can be easily overlooked unless we are consciously thinking about them each day. To that end, note writing helps us identify, remember, and express our blessings.

8. Live in the Present Moment and Give Thanks for Small Blessings – I call it Being Present – It is easy to get caught up in tomorrow: what needs to be cleaned, shopping to do, the upcoming holidays. And while it’s healthy to plan and prepare for future events, if you are too consumed with tomorrow, there is a chance that you will miss something small and wonderful that is happening to you in the present moment.

9. Random Acts of Kindness – Return the shopping cart to the stall, smile at people, pick up something someone has dropped, tell someone how nice they look, even perfect strangers, move over, and let someone sit down by you.

10. Philanthropy – Learn to give no matter how much you have. Give a dollar or two. If you have more, give more. Do it outside of your tithing and church contributions. The act of being able to give helps you feel well off and increases feelings of gratitude.

For a time, I felt that I should have cards with a small amount of money in my car. I was impressed to write, “No matter what has brought you to where you are, I care about you, and so does God.” When I saw someone on the street and felt that I should, I would give them a card. I put $50 in a savings account every month so that I could provide these cards. Remember that these were directions to me, and if you ask, you will receive your own guidance on how to serve financially, and it will probably be different from mine.

Take a few minutes right now and think about these ten tools to increase gratitude. Which one speaks to your heart? Choose one.

Now that you have chosen something that you will do this coming year to increase your gratitude, and ultimately your happiness, let me share two quotes.

First, from Melody Beattie, author of The Language of Letting Go: Daily Meditations on Codependency, ” 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.”

And from David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk who penned these beautiful words: “The root of joy is gratefulness. It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.

If these words have inspired you, I would ask, “To what end have you been inspired?” Commit to yourself that you will practice Gratitude and make it your way of being.

Gratitude – Part 1, Joy & Happiness Are Born of Gratitude

Some years ago, I decided to find out what I could do to improve my life the most.

I wasn’t happy with what I discovered – stop complaining. I am still working on this one thing! It has been a challenge.

Then, after a few years, I looked to see if I could find a way to make more progress. I wasn’t sure how I felt about what I found – gratitude. I began a gratitude journal. When I wrote a few things each day, I felt better, happier, more charitable to others. But I wasn’t consistent.

In the spring of 2019, I got serious. I bought a notebook and hastily wrote Gratitude Journal and the date I began on the front. I was consistent until the fall holiday season. Then it dropped off. Despite this lapse, I had that notebook with me in Seattle at the beginning of 2020, just before Covid closed the airports. It helped me remain optimistic, and I made it home.

I began writing my gratitude statements in earnest, and as the year progressed, I felt the need to express my gratitude increase. Focusing on what I was grateful for made a big difference in my ability to stay mentally on top of an extraordinarily negative and sometimes frightening year. For Christmas this year, a friend of mine sent me an actual Gratitude Journal. A pretty one. I have enjoyed writing in it. It is keeping my spirits up.

Did you know that joy and happiness are born of gratitude? This is a lesson I have had to learn the hard way, over time, because raising a home full of children can be challenging!! Over the years, I said, “How can I be so grateful and ungrateful at the same time?” I said it so often that I was afraid my children would have it carved on my headstone. I was grateful for my home but….it needed a new carpet. I was thankful for my kids, but…I wished they wouldn’t fight. I loved my husband dearly, but …. why couldn’t he pick up his socks.

Does any of this sound familiar? Do you find yourself terribly grateful and ungrateful at the same time? This habit, and it is a habit, diminishes our joy and happiness. The truth is you cannot be grateful and ungrateful at the same time. If you are complaining, you are not grateful. I know, it hurts to hear!

Sarah Ban Breathnach, author of The Simple Abundance Journal of Gratitude, said, “Both abundance and lack exist simultaneously in our lives, as parallel realities. It is always our conscious choice which secret garden we will tend . . . when we choose not to focus on what is missing from our lives but are grateful for the abundance that’s present—love, health, family, friends, work, the joys of nature, and personal pursuits that bring us —the wasteland of illusion falls away, and we experience heaven on earth.”

How are gratitude and happiness connected? Why does it matter whether we see the glass half-full or half-empty?

Let me refer to two stories found in the Christian Bible that are beautiful examples of a broader view of gratitude than just having a good feeling when things are going our way.

In the book of Luke, chapter 17, we read the story of Christ passing through Samaria and Galilee. In a village, he met ten lepers who cried out to him, “Master, have mercy on us.” Jesus sent them to the priest, and as they went, they were healed. One turned back and, with a loud voice, thanked Jesus. Jesus asked, “Were there not ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?”

Jesus didn’t need their thanks, but he knew that gratitude is an uplifting and exulting attitude. We cannot be bitter, resentful, or mean-spirited when we are grateful. We choose to serve when we are grateful. Being grateful would help those nine healed men to live more joyously and generously. He wanted them to have that experience, and they, through their lack of gratitude, missed out.

In the book of Matthew, we have another account of gratitude, this time as an expression from Jesus. Jesus had traveled in the wilderness for three days, and more than 4,000 people followed Him. He took compassion on them and wanted to feed them. His disciples, however, questioned, “Whence, should we have so much bread in the wilderness, as to fill so great a multitude?” Like many of us, the disciples saw only what was lacking.

“And Jesus saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? And said, Seven, and a few little fishes.

“And commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground.

“And he took the seven loaves and the fishes, and gave thanks, and brake them, and gave to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.”

Notice that the Savior gave thanks for what they had—and a miracle followed: “And they did all eat and were filled: and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets full.”

We have all experienced times when our focus is on what we lack rather than on our blessings. These are the times when we find ourselves complaining either by word, action, inaction or in our hearts.

It isn’t always easy to be grateful. But if we commit to being grateful more often, seek the help we need to make it a practice, and then persevere for as long as it takes, it can become our way of being, not just a feeling. That path is what Jesus wanted for the nine healed men. He knew that if they practiced gratitude, they would be happier down the road when things got tough again. He also knew that the grateful energy we send out can create miracles in our lives.

Ten Gratitude Tools

If you feel overwhelmed, resentful of your spouse or children, blame others regularly, feel like a victim, or feel you are missing essential blessings, I encourage you to consider working seriously on your state of gratitude. Next week I will share ten GRATITUDE tools that can help anyone become more grateful. Choose just one and start.

If you feel that you are already grateful, I hope you will accept the challenge to practice one of the ten tools anyway. You may be as surprised as I was when I took the challenge to stop complaining and become more grateful. I wasn’t as appreciative as I thought, and I complained far more than I knew. See you next week.

Share your gratitude with someone this week. 

Blessed are Your Eyes for they See – My Brothers Death

Today I want to tell you about my brother Boe Dean, his life, struggles, and the hard lesson I learned on the day he died, January 22, 2021.

My brother was an alcoholic. He was able to hold it together for a long time. He was a master finish carpenter. He was fabulous with people and ran teams of workers. They liked him.

He and I shared a love of words. He read the dictionary and encyclopedia. He wasn’t into tech. I shared books with him, and he shared them with me. We both loved the book A Man Called Ove. We joked about our ‘Ove moments.’ I will miss that terribly!

Boe Dean was genuinely grateful for anything you did for him. My sister, Evette, lived in Logan and helped him get around town for food and other needs the last three years of his life. She checked on him weekly and always wondered how she would manage when she found him dead. We thought we knew how it would end.

Recently, as Evette was leaving, he said, “Thank you.” Evette replied, “You’re welcome.” Then Boe said, “No, really. Thank you for everything you do.” The last few years of his life were hard, lonely, filled with illness, and I think, sorrow. But there was no bitterness in him, no rancor towards anyone. He remained cheerful and serving.

He had taught himself how to carve, and I have a beautiful face of an old man on my wall. He knew how to work wood and made beautiful chess sets. He was excellent at chess. One day he described an invention to me. It was extraordinary. He was brilliant in the way his mind worked. He and I shared a love of painting. We weren’t gifted in any way, but we talked about our paintings. I have one he made for me.

Boe Dean was generous and had no greed in his soul. One day, someone taking him for a homeless man, which was understandable, gave him ten dollars. He told them he didn’t need it, but they wouldn’t take it back. He walked down the street until he found someone who did need it and gave it to them.

But despite all his gifts and talents, because of alcohol, he lost his family and his dreams.

Over the years, I have prayed a lot about my brother. I have received many impressions on ways to support him. For many years I have mailed him a letter every Sunday. I have driven to Logan with gifts that I felt I should take – an old red blanket that he loved, a homemade coloring book he cherished and mentioned repeatedly, things that spoke of family traditions on special holidays.

After mom came to live with us and Boe was alone, I would take her back to see him. It was tricky because we had to find a time when he was himself and could talk to her. Covid brought a halt to some of these efforts. But mom and I saw him in December. There was no way to know it would be the last time.

Here is my message for you today.

On our Zoom call, one of my sisters said, “I just saw Boe as a drunk and wanted him to change.” I must admit that it was hard for me to see anything else at times. I had had the thought to put his photo on my bedroom wall and envision him healthy, well, and giving back to the world. I hung the photo and thought I knew what that meant. It meant to pray that he would change. It meant to encourage him to give up drinking and get it together. It meant to remind him of all he could bring to the world.

It’s interesting to me that the night before my brother’s passing, I read an article to my husband and mom that contained this story – “A few years ago my older sister passed away. She had a challenging life. She Her husband abandoned their marriage and left her with four young children to raise. On the evening of her passing…I gave her a blessing to peacefully return home.

‘At that moment, I realized I had too often defined my sister’s life in terms of her trials and As I , I received a severe rebuke from the Spirit. I was made acutely aware of her goodness and allowed to see her as God saw her—not as someone who struggled with and life but as someone who had to deal with difficult issues I did not have.

‘During that final evening with my sister, I believe God was asking me, “Can’t you see that everyone around you is a sacred being?”

As I read those words, Boe came clearly into my mind. When I went into my room that night, I looked at his picture with different eyes. But complete understanding didn’t come until the morning after his death.

As much as I loved my brother, I thought of him as an alcoholic. God wasn’t as blind as I. He had spoken to my mind and was saying, “See him as I see him. He is more than you can see with your eyes.’

Again from the article – “…John 4:4 reads, ‘And he must needs go through Samaria.’

…Jesus did not need to go to Samaria. The Jews of His day despised the Samaritans and traveled a road around Samaria. But Jesus chose to go there to declare before all the world for the first time that He was the promised Messiah. For this message, He chose not only an outcast group but also a woman—and not just any woman but a woman living in sin—someone considered at that time to be the least of the least. I believe Jesus did this so that each of us may always understand that His love is greater than our fears, our wounds, our addictions, our doubts, our temptations, our sins, our broken families, our depression and anxieties, our chronic illness, our poverty, our abuse, our despair, and our loneliness. He wants all to know there is nothing and no one He is unable to heal and deliver to enduring joy.

His grace is sufficient. He alone descended below all things. The message of the woman at the well is that He knows our life situations.”

I was supposed to look on my brother’s face every day and ‘see him’, not his alcoholism but him, my brother, a man who was good.

Since his passing, it has amazed me how many people knew Boe Dean and liked him and have come forward to tell us. His neighbors commented on how nice he was and what a wonderful smile he had and his long white beard. : ) Although he kept to himself, they said he was always ready to lend a helping hand if anyone needed it.

The gas man who checked the lines after the fire said that he and everyone in the small town of Benson, where Boe lived with our parents as a boy, were grieved because they loved our family.

We have received calls from his school friends and others who would meet him on the street. They cared about him. They loved his stories and great jokes. They remembered all how he had reached out over the years just as his neighbors had experienced.

No one knew about his struggles or the demons in his soul. They only knew his smile and generous Spirit.

I have spent the last ten years talking to parents about the gift of being able to ‘see’ their children and not just their mistakes, messes, and misbehaviors. It was time for me to have a new level of understanding of this critical principle.

Matthew 13:16: “But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.”

May we all hear and see those around us with greater charity, less judgment, and deeper love.

The article sited – Taking upon Ourselves the Name of Jesus Christ By Elder Robert C. Gay October 2018

Keep Your Hand on the Helm of Thought

You Have Control Over How Your Life Feels!

I’ve written many articles on the power of accepting that you have control over how your life feels. This control comes from learning to manage your thoughts. I write about it because, for three decades, as a mom, I didn’t believe this was true. I felt hammered and blown about by life. Then one day, I came face to face with the truth – I had control of my life through how I thought about my life.

I didn’t want to accept this truth. It was a heavy burden, too much responsibility. I fought against believing this truth for over a decade. Then one day, I came to know it was true. When I accepted that I was 100% responsible for how my life felt, I discovered that it wasn’t a heavy burden at all but one of the most freeing truths I had every embraced.

Planting Seeds

One of the earliest books I read that talked about the power of controlling our thoughts was As a Man Thinketh by James Allen.

“Yes, humanity surges with uncontrolled passion, is tumultuous with ungoverned grief, is blown about by anxiety and doubt. Only the wise man, only he whose thoughts are controlled and purified, makes the winds and the storms of the soul obey him.

“The tempest-tossed souls, wherever ye may be, under whatsoever conditions ye may live, know this-in the ocean of life the isles of Blessedness are smiling, and the sunny shore of your ideal awaits your coming. Keep your hand firmly upon the helm of thought. In the bark of your soul reclines the commanding Master; He does but sleep; wake Him. Self-control is strength; Right thought is mastery; Calmness is power. Say unto your heart, “Peace, be still!”

Pretty deep. I was in high school and borrowed the book from my dad, who had gone back to college when I was in 10th grade. I didn’t understand it fully then, but a seed was planted.

One of my favorite quotes is from Viktor E. Frankl, a Holocaust survivor. He said, “When we’re no longer able to change a situation—we’re challenged to change ourselves.” He reminds us in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, the one thing that can never be taken from a person is their ability to choose how to respond (Frankl). I would add their ability to control their thoughts, which leads to the best response. Isn’t it interesting that I read this book back in those high school days also?

Negative Thought Narrows, Positive Thought Expands

A couple of years ago, I read an article by James Clear in the Huffington Post – “Research has shown … negative emotions narrow your mind and focus your thoughts.”

Your brain shuts everything else off and focuses on the negative emotions of fear, anger, frustration, or stress. You can’t see other options or choices. On the other hand, positive emotions do the opposite.

From a research study by Barbara Fredrickson, a positive psychology researcher at the University of North Carolina, “When you’re experiencing positive emotions like joy, contentment, and love, you’ll see more possibilities in your life. Positive emotions broaden an individual’s momentary thought-action repertoire: joy sparks the urge to play, interest sparks the urge to explore, contentment sparks the urge to savor and integrate, and love sparks a recurring cycle of each of these urges within safe, close relationships. The broadened mindsets arising from these positive emotions are contrasted to the narrowed mindsets sparked by many negative emotions.”

It is a Daily Practice

I have to work on controlling my thoughts every day. It’s easy to fall back into old patterns of blame and complaint. But I do work on it every day.

The result – I stay in blame and complaint for less time than in the past. Days have become hours, and often hours have become minutes.

If you’re feeling some push back to this idea, I understand. I’ve been there. But if you’re struggling to feel joy in your life, give it a try. Please take responsibility for your thoughts and your responses. Stop blaming. Take responsibility for your words, which are your thoughts in concrete form. You’re in control. Knowing this gives you all the power.

Help Other’s Know that there is a Way to Take Back Their Power. : ) 

Do You Grant Others Space to Breathe and Regroup?

Everyone can become overwhelmed.

At some time in our life, we will do less than our best. The ability to love and serve without judgment or recrimination is one thing that stands out to me about the ministry of Jesus Christ. He spent time with those who were overwhelmed, who were managing less than their best.

One of the things that I have been privileged to do over a thirty-year span is to help older people and families with their homes. Sometimes I clean inside, sometimes outside. I have tiled and painted. It is just one way that I have been able to serve.

As I have offered this service to people, I have noticed something interesting. After I have been helping for a few weeks, they might rearrange a closet or a cupboard. There might be a pile ready for Goodwill. Maybe a packet of seeds shows up that they plan to plant. A family member will rearrange the living room.

After a few years of noticing this phenomenon, I wondered what it was all about. Then I was reminded of an experience that I had a few decades earlier. It has been over 45 years now, and it is something I keep in my mind because it helps me to serve the way the Savior did – no judgment, no recrimination, just love, and care.

A Life-Changing Experience

My husband decided he needed to go back to school and finish his degree. We had two children, one a newborn. We moved to Greely, CO., where I had spent the last year of high school and where my parents lived for a few years longer. It was far away from family and friends.

Don went to school full time and worked full time. He went to school all day, came home late afternoon, ate, and then slept until he had to go to work at 11 pm. In the morning, he would get home at about 7 am and sleep until he had to be in class at 9 am. It was grueling. He studied between classes and on Saturday.

I watched other people’s children, as well as my own. I kept them quiet in the morning when Don needed to sleep, and I kept them calmed in the late afternoon when he needed to sleep. I made meals, kept the house, did the laundry, took care of the yard, and taught a Sunday school class for 5-year olds. I rarely got away from home. I rarely saw other adults because we had just moved, knew no one, and on Sunday, I taught a children’s class.

I began to yell a lot. I felt angry at Don. I frequently found myself at church without a prepared lesson. My house was suffering, and the laundry was piling up. I was suffering from post-partum depression. I was overwhelmed.

One day I was done. I sat on a chair, and I knew that I could not do anything for anyone. I was a failure as a wife, mother, as a person. Tears coursed down my face. Then the doorbell rang. Sister George, a woman from my church, was standing on the porch.

She had been a friend of my mother’s when my family lived here. She had loved my mother, and, as I was to learn by her behavior, she loved me. She said, “Hi, Mary Ann. I’m here to borrow the kids. I want to take them home for the afternoon. Would that be OK?” No judgment. No recriminations about the poor job I was doing in my life.

I was stunned. I had two of my own, one an infant, and I was caring for three others. As they drove off in Sister George’s van, I felt relief. I sat on the porch and stared at the sky. I breathed the air. This one day was a turning point in my life. Sister George had saved my life by giving me space to breathe and regroup.

Space to Breathe and Regroup

That was the answer to what I saw happen to the people I helped; I gave them space to breathe and regroup.

When I visit my daughter’s homes, I clean something, the kitchen fan, the toilet, empty overflowing garbage cans, or wash a pile of laundry. I don’t do it because they are incompetent but to give them space to breathe and regroup.

In my core cannon, there is this question, “Are we not all beggars?” I ask myself, “Do we not all beg for relief somewhere in our lives – self-doubt, children who stray, spouses who leave, school left unfinished, too little income, the trauma of abuse or neglect, old and hidden emotional wounds, fears, failure. The list is long and as varied as the people who live on the earth.

Occasionally we all need space to breathe and regroup. When I am mentoring, I am ministering as Jesus did. No judgment. No recriminations. I allow room to breathe and regroup.

When we suspend judgment, override our desire to recriminate because someone should be doing better; when we extend service because we genuinely love and care about others, we serve as Jesus Christ served. He never judged those who were overwhelmed or failing in some way. He just reached out a hand to help.

It reminds me of the second verse of a song that I sing to remind myself to serve and love the way Jesus and other great teachers of truth have loved and served.

I Have Work Enough to Do

I must speak the loving word,
Ere the sun goes down.
I must let my voice be heard,
Ere the sun goes down:
Ev’ry cry of pity heeding,
For the injured interceding,
To the light, the lost ones leading,
Ere the sun goes down.

Let someone else know that they deserve space to breathe and regroup.

I Needed Closure

I had a remarkable thing happen this summer.

Two years ago was my 50th high school reunion. I didn’t go. Our family was moving into a new home. The reunion was in Greeley, Colorado, a whole different state. I only went to Greeley West High School for my senior year, and I never really connected. I had friends and was involved on the school radio, worked on the yearbook, did a couple of plays, etc. I was involved but hovered in the background. Just my face in the yearbook.

I was voted “most typical girl”. I was anything but typical. I was religious, which most of my friends admired but weren’t. I was not fond of dating, and the girls in my group were homecoming queens and cheerleaders. I didn’t drink or smoke or cruse. I read a lot. My friends thought I was a bit of a geek. I didn’t feel popular in the typical sense of the word, but I was popular. I knew everyone, and they knew me. I was well-liked.

Nevertheless, I didn’t feel connected to the school or the people. That Fall, I went off to college, and true to my family’s style, they moved to Wyoming a year later. I never saw any of those school friends again. It was before computers and social media, so the tie was severed.

This summer, I received an email with the link to a video made to celebrate our 50th reunion, two years late. They had some technical difficulties during the class reunion and had to begin again from scratch. I was interested in watching to remind myself what it was like fifty years ago and to see how my friends had aged. Most of the video was of newspaper clippings, music, and events that defined 1968. There were no clips from the actual reunion. Then, close to the end, I began to see photographs of the young people I went to school with. I recognized them all: the cheerleaders, the prom queen, football players, my friends. The photos came from the newspaper and yearbook. But I hadn’t been featured in photographs of groups or activities in the school newspaper and had very few pictures in the yearbook.

As I watched, a feeling of nostalgia come over me. Not for the time itself. I wasn’t fond of the ’60s. Not for the people because we hadn’t been lasting friends. Just school mates. But I felt a desperate need to see myself as part of that time and those people. I needed a closure I hadn’t even been aware of. I knew the chance was next to nothing, but I needed to see myself there, to feel a connection to my youth and my Senior year.

I said a prayer in my heart. “Please, Heavenly Father, I need to see myself. Let me be in a picture in this video.” I knew it was silly. This video had been made over a two-year period. How could saying a prayer now make a bit of difference?

Then it happened. Probably the only other photo of me besides my yearbook photo flashed on the screen. I had forgotten this photo even existed. It was on my graduation day. There I was in the center of a picture of the graduating class. I had to replay it a few times to convince myself that it was me. I hadn’t seen that photo in over fifty years.

How does something like this happen? How does God know in advance what we are going to desperately need in the future? I don’t know, but I know he does. I know he loves me, and he knew I needed closure to that time in my life.

Writing these months later still brings tears to my eyes. I know that no matter our difficulty or genuine need, the resources, people, and help will show up if we ask for it. I have experienced this over and over in my life. I was a mom making lots of mistakes. I faced hardships and trials I was ill-prepared to handle. But, over time, as I asked and searched, and stayed the course, what I needed came. I learned, changed, and grew. You can too.

Miracles are wonderful! God is good!!

I’d love to hear your miracles. 

The HARDEST thing to choose!

A 92-year-old, petite, well-poised and proud man, who is fully dressed each morning by eight o’clock, with his hair fashionably combed and shaved perfectly, even though he is legally blind, moved to a nursing home today. His wife of 70 years recently passed away, making the move necessary. After many hours of waiting patiently in the lobby of the nursing home, he smiled sweetly when told his room was ready.

“As he maneuvered his walker to the elevator, I provided a visual description of his tiny room, including the eyelet sheets that had been hung on his window. ‘I love it,’ he stated with the enthusiasm of an eight-year-old having just been presented with a new puppy. Mr. Jones, you haven’t seen the room; just wait.’

That doesn’t have anything to do with it,’ he replied. Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time. Whether I like my room or not doesn’t depend on how the furniture is arranged…it’s how I arrange my mind. I already decided to love it. It’s a decision I make every morning when I wake up. I have a choice; I can spend the day in bed recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no longer work or get out of bed and be thankful for the ones that do.

“Each day is a gift, and as long as my eyes open, I’ll focus on the new day and all the happy memories I’ve stored away… Just for this time in my life.” – Well Built: Inspiring Stories from the Boardroom to the Frontline By Bob Buck

I enjoyed reading this short story because it highlights an important law of success –

it happens in our minds first.

The other day Don did something that ruffled my feathers! I felt the anger well up and the inner pout come out. As I stood at the sink fuming, I realized that I had a choice to make. I could be angry and let Don know it or I could flush what was bothering me and just be happy. I decided to let it go and just be happy.

It wasn’t easy. That negative emotion wanted to run around and around in my brain replaying whatever it was that was upsetting me. I had to find a way to shove it out for good. I choose to be grateful. I began thinking up a list in my mind of all the things that I like about Don, all the fun and pleasant memories that I have of the two of us. Guess what, the negative feeling dissipated and I felt happy.

As we parent our families there is plenty to stress us especially during these trying days of Covid-19 and social distancing. Children aren’t perfect, we aren’t perfect, systems and tools don’t always work the way we want them to, sad things happen, bad things happen, relationships can turn bumpy, our family culture is often a poignant mirror of all the work we need to do. Despite all this we can choose to be happy. The truth is that happiness is an attitude. It’s not something created by outside circumstances, but instead is completely within our control.

Here are a few techniques

to help you choose happy when you’re tempted to choose something else.

1. Be grateful – This tops my list. It works every time. When I am feeling really put out or downtrodden, if I begin thinking about all the wonderful parts of my life, I just can’t help but perk right up. If you need to, write a list. Seeing it in black and white helps.
2. Take care of yourself – What are some of the small things in life that make you feel good? Do one daily. Take a short walk, write for a few minutes in your journal, have a short meditation, watch the sunset, hug a child. For me, it is a hot shower just before bed every day. I love it! Whatever reminds you that you are a human being and not a human doing will improve your outlook on life.
3. Be creative – Creativity and self-expression generate happiness. Schedule some creative time each day, even if it’s just a few minutes of writing, painting, baking, or sewing.
4. Move – Move a little every day to stay happy. It releases endorphins, the feel-good hormone.
5. Read and listen to inspirational material – It helps to be reminded of positive thoughts and positive attitudes. Read in your spiritual cannon or get a small book of positive, inspirational thoughts and keep it by your desk. Read one or two thoughts each day. Every morning I have a private devotional. I have a short list of songs that move my heart. I choose one to listen to every morning, then I pray. I read a few verses in my spiritual cannon. It makes a difference!
7. Contribute – Serve others. Think about the needs of others. Make a difference. It boosts your self-esteem, your gratitude, and feeling of well-being.
8. Be in nature – Nature rejuvenates and restores the human spirit. Give yourself the gift of visiting it frequently. Take a walk or just sit in the sun in your back yard and rest for a few minutes! : )

No matter how many wonderful things you do to create a positive, happy, satisfied life, you could still end up in unhappy stressed situations. Ultimately, happiness, gratitude, and a feeling of satisfaction is a choice.

Know someone who needs some

‘happy’? Please share.

The 100% Devil is a Liar!

When my grandson, Jack, was three, Mary was just one and Maggie was five, I taught them about germs and hygiene. It was chaotic. Mary was on the table and into everything. Jack wanted his way. Maggie, of course, needs LOTS of help. Whew. Did they get any of that? Despite all my preparation and planning, I was sure that the whole thing had been a big fat flop!

A full three days later, a miracle happened at dinner in the Palmer home. Out of the blue, Jack said, “When you sneeze water comes out of your mouth.” He then proceeded to tell his mom and dad how to blow your nose the right way, how to throw the tissue away so others don’t get sick, and all about germs. AMAZING.

The 1% Principle

This brings me to what I want to remind you about today, the 1% principle.  I have written about it before, but it can’t be repeated too often. It’s a principle, which if understood and believed, can free moms and dads from the quilt they feel when they think they’re not doing enough; things aren’t going right, or their expectations are not being met. It can free them from perfectionism and allow them to enjoy being with their children.

Real learning, growth, and change come from building on a solid, consistent 1% improvement over time. However, we tend to live with and accept the 100% devil who says that if we aren’t doing it all now, in just the right way, then we aren’t going to get a good result. Don’t believe the 100% devil. Remember great things are accomplished 1% at a time.

Back to the germ example. It was chaotic. We moved through the items quickly because of short attention spans. There were lots of interruptions while I was telling them something. How in the world could this turn out good?

Even I, with all my experience, can still have some silly expectations sometimes. Kids are going to sit quietly and hang on your every word. They are going to put their hands on the paper correctly and put the stickers where they go and want to play all the games and sing all the songs. Please, let’s get real. That isn’t how it usually goes.

However, if you’re clear about the 1% principle, that great things are accomplished with small and consistent efforts, then it will be acceptable; you will know in your heart that they are getting it; just like Jack. Three days later is a long time for a three-year-old.

Another example of the 1% principle in action.

My daughter’s family has a family mission statement. When their kids were little, they said it every morning. One morning I got to lead the reciting of the family mission statement. The first line goes like this – “The Joyful Palmer’s are a team. Yeaaah.” As we began to recite that line the 16-month-old raise her little fist into the air and yelled “Yeaaah”. She is 16 months old and the 1% principle is already at work in her life. She is getting it through consistency and repetition. You can bet this one line, understood at 16 months, will make a difference in her life.

I appreciate it when you share. Thank you!