Monday, November 26, 2007

The Prince of Peace

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”
( Isaiah 9:6)

This is probably one of the most recognizable verses in the scriptures; thanks to George Frederic Handel it is sung the world round during the Christmas season. While the words come from scriptures, the music itself is surely inspired from on high. In fact Handel himself tell us where the music came from. Just after he finished writing the Hallelujah Chorus his servant swung open the door, The startled composer, tears streaming down his face, turns to his servant and cries out, "I did think I did see all Heaven before me, and the great God Himself.”" (Quote taken from Spiritual Lives of the Great Composers.)

Chapter 9 of Isaiah yielded a very powerful experience for me and so ranks as one of my favorites. It’s also a perfect one to contemplate as we head into the season where our thoughts and activities are centered on the birth of our Savior.

After reading the above verse I looked up in the dictionary (Webster 1828) all the words associated with the names of our Savior. Here’s what I came up with:

Wonderful: adapted to excite wonder or admiration; exciting surprise; strange; astonishing.

Counsellor: Any person who gives advice; but properly one who is authorized by natural relationship, or by birth, office or profession, to advise another in regard to his future conduct and measures.

The Mighty God:

Mighty: very strong, valiant, bold, very powerful; having great command. Very great; vast. Very forcible; efficacious (productive of effects; having power adequate to the purpose intended; powerful). Very great or eminent in intellect or acquirements. Great; wonderful; performed with great power. Important; momentous.

The Everlasting Father:

eternity; eternal duration; lasting or enduring forever; existing or continuing without end; perpetual.

Father: He who begets a child. The appellation of an old man, and a term of respect. One who feeds and supports, or exercises paternal care over another. God is called the father of the fatherless. He who creates, invents, makes or composes anything; the author, former or contriver; a founder, director or instructor.

The Prince of Peace:

a sovereign; the chief and independent ruler of a nation or state; the son of a king or emperor, or the issue of a royal family; the chief of any body of men.

Peace: a state of quiet or tranquility;

  • Freedom from war
  • Freedom from internal commotion or civil war.
  • Freedom from private quarrels, suits or disturbances.
  • Freedom from agitation or disturbance by the passions (fear, terror, anger, anxiety); quietness of mind; tranquility; calmness; quiet of conscience.
  • Heavenly rest; the happiness of heaven.
  • Harmony; concord; a state of reconciliation between parties at variance.
  • Public tranquility; that quiet order and security which is guaranteed by the laws.
  • Used in commanding silence or quiet.

What’s in a name, truly? Do not these definitions open your mind as to the personality, character and eminence of our Savior? Each definition is worthy of more contemplation, but that would make for a really long post, so I will focus on the last name, The Prince of Peace.

When I first read the definition for “peace”, just the act of writing down the words brought a sense of peace to my heart. This last year having been a turbulent one for me, I had often prayed for peace, but after reading these definitions, I realized that I need to be more specific in my prayers as to what kind of peace my heart needed. A couple of days after having done this chapter I had the opportunity of application to my life. I had been feeling very frustrated at my husband for something and also, my husband, my son and I had been at variance with one another. After a round of words I found myself in my closet in tears. As I knelt there asking for peace I reflected on the definitions I had learned and I contemplated what kind of peace I was seeking. I prayed for freedom from the internal commotion I felt because of the discord with my husband; I wanted it taken from my heart. I prayed for freedom from the private quarrel and disturbance that was between the three of us. I asked for harmony and a state of reconciliation so that we would not be at variance with each other and that tranquility would be restored to our home. Just the act of praying in such a specific way brought about a sense of peace, and then as I went about my day I began to see the Lord answering my prayer. At one time I spoke to my son with sharpness and as I did so a thought popped into my mind, “Is this how to establish peace?” It made me stop quickly and change my tone of voice and my attitude toward him and the situation. Later that evening my husband asked my son to go see a movie with him, thus helping to restore goodwill between the two of them. As for the internal commotion I felt toward my husband, I decided to try a different approach to this frustrating situation, one that I was not particularly comfortable with but one that I knew would make him happier. As the day progressed I noticed the internal commotion in my heart becoming less and less and by the end of the day I didn’t feel it at all.

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27)

The Lord’s gospel is the “gospel of peace” which the Lord sent by angels to the world. (D&C 27:16) His gospel has everything required to bring about peace in this world, peace that begins within each one of us as we truly seek it. He is the Prince of Peace, and we can find that peace as we look to the “author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrew 12:2).

Saturday, November 24, 2007

In which all my sappiness comes out…

I’ve been lacking lately in motivation to write on my blog. I think I have lost my focus. Actually when I started my blog I wasn’t sure what my focus was, only that I felt compelled to start one so that I could have some sort of communication with my family who live in other areas of the U.S, far away from me. I wasn’t sure what to really write about and consequently I can’t say that my first posts were the most illustrious of posts, nor any since then except a couple that came from I don’t know where, because I’m certainly not a writer. I am, however, very philosophical by nature. I’m a dreamy truth-seeker who loves nothing better than to have an in-depth discussion about the meaning of life, but I tend to get somewhat sappy and sentimental, which when I’m having a face to face, heart to heart, isn’t so bad. But when I try to write about it, it just comes out all wrong. Most of my posts take forever to write because I have to revise them or even completely rewrite them after reviewing them the next day when my mood has changed enough to see the sappiness that I didn’t see the day before.

(In fact I almost got scared away from blogging altogether when I ventured out into the blogosphere and saw the many talented writers out there. I’d be better off at a quilting guild than the company I am endeavoring to keep here in blogland.) (And when I read what writers say about others grammatical errors, I cringe to even comment on their blog because I’m too embarrassed for them to come to my spot for fear they will be turned off by my poor use of the apostrophe and other punctuational (not a word, I know) errors.)

Well, I’m not sure where this post is going, except that I seem to have lost my focus again…which brings me back to the beginning…what was I going to tell you about?…oh yes…actually I did finally find something to focus on, and that is my Isaiah studies. I realized that blogging about the insights I have gained through my studies would perfect for my philosophical dreamy side. But in case you hadn’t noticed, I kind of stalled after chapter 2. Not that my studies have stalled, I am actually on chapter 30! It’s just the posting has stalled. I actually have 3 posts written for chapter 2, all from different angles, but none quite right! Meanwhile, I’ve been dying to tell you some of the things I’ve learned from other chapters, but have felt like I needed to stick to a chronological order and consequently, nothing has been posted!

So I’ve been rethinking things a bit. No, I’m not going to give up on writing about Isaiah, I’ve grown too fond of him to quit. But I think that I won’t try to go in chronological order anymore. Well, I say, if Isaiah can skip all over the place, so can I! I mean, for heaven’s sake he changes centuries in the middle of a verse! So I’m packin’ up and movin’ on…to another chapter that is. Hmmm, now to decide where to start.

I’ll get back to you!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Days Are Just Packed...

Really, that's just an excuse for not posting the last few days. My plan was to post how I have seen the hand of the Lord in my family's life each day until Thanksgiving. I almost made it...posting that is. Well, six out of ten days isn't too bad! At any rate, just because I didn't post doesn't mean that I didn't recognize the Lord's hand in our lives. In fact the process of writing and thinking about it caused me to look for it each day and by so doing I was able to see just how often His hand was there. The sad thing is that because I didn't write the events down, they are lost forever in the recessess of my mind. I have a bad habit of pushing memories away, good and bad. It stems from the dysfunction of my growing up years, but that's another story. For this post I will attempt to probe my mind so that I can give a small accounting of the last few days.

Sunday was Stake Conference. At the beginning we sustain all the church officers from the General Authorities to the stake offices. As I was raising my hand I felt a deep gratitude for the leaders of our church and the ability to give them my sustaining vote.

On Monday I took my daughter for her orientation and counseling session at the junior college. She is a junior in high school and will be taking a couple of classes there next semester for college credit. The counselor we met with told her that she was very impressed with her Language Arts score as it was very unusual for students her age to obtain that. Since she has felt that she is behind in so many things, this was a real boost to her and she came away feeling very happy. I also came away with gratitude for the Lord in guiding us down this path as it has proven to be the best thing for her.

Tuesday night I had a very strange dream, nightmare actually. I have learned from the past that this is one very effective way the Lord has of communicating with me, and that if I read my scriptures immediately following a particularly strange dream that I will be given insight for myself or my family. In this case the dream was about one of my children. I didn't understand the dream nor what I was being told when I read my scriptures but on Wednesday I felt prompted to ask this child a question. When I did so this child told me that s/he had been wanting some help but didn't know how to ask me. After our conversation I completely understood why I had the dream and what the scriptures meant and also how I was to proceed to help this child. While I don't relish having these dreams, I am grateful to the core of my being that the Lord loves my children so much that he will do whatever need be to get these messages across to me.

Today is Thanksgiving. My husband got up early to make our traditional Thanksgiving breakfast of bacon, sausage, fried eggs, toast, fresh squeezed orange juice, and cinnamon twists. The cinnamon twists are tradition going back at least 20 years. My MIL found this lady who made these delectable delights for the holidays and started ordering them. We have been ordering from her ever since and I think she only does it for a few valued customers now, we being among the lucky ones!

While I am thankful for our breakfast tradition, I am more thankful for the man who keeps it going. I know that the Lord's hand was the guiding force in my life in leading me to my husband. We are one of those couples who complement each other well. My weaknesses are his strengths and his weaknesses are my strengths. Now that isn't always pleasant as we get do tend to get irritated and impatient with each other at times, but we both recognize this and we work hard and trying to help each other.

He is one of the hardest workers I have ever met (with the exception of his father). He goes to work somewhere between 4:30 and 6:00 AM and comes home around 5:30 PM. He runs a business with a partner that he started from the ground and now has upwards of 30-40 employees. After dealing with the stress and frustration of work, he comes home and helps to get the house in order (that should have been in order before he got there--my weakness!) He loves to cook and is always making some savory steak sauce or delectable culinary delight. He's a great dad, husband, worthy priesthood holder and provider of our family. I just have to look around the house and see all the comforts we have and I know that it is because of his hard work and love for us that we have all that we do.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you and may you recognize the hand of the Lord in your lives this Holiday season.

Count your many blessings; Name them one by one.
Count your many blessings; See what God hath done.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

An Afternoon To Remember...

That's the name of the tea room my MIL took my daughters and I to today, and it was a very memorable day. We had Apricot Cinnamon herbal tea and scones, little sandwiches, and cookies and cakes. We talked and laughed and enjoyed ourselves immensly. The only thing missing were our Victorian dresses. We loved it so much that we decided that we need to have a tea every week!

Three beautiful daughters...three beautiful blessings.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Still counting...

Today my daughter took her college assessments and was very nervous about them. I said a little prayer for her and was reminded that "the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost...shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance." She did very well on them, much better than she thought she would.

And that's all I can think of today.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

I Want to Live!

I have seen the hand of God reaching out to touch me, my children and our family today.

As I was considering what to post for today my thoughts turned to my scriptures. Over the past four months I have studied my scriptures more consistently than I ever have in my entire life. As a result I have been blessed with more answers, or rather I have been able to recognize more answers given to me than ever before. They come now almost on a daily basis, usually through my scriptures, but also through other writings and as thoughts or impressions. My testimony of the power of the scriptures has grown immensely because of this. President Boyd K. Packer touched on this theme in his Conference address when he speaks of an occurrence with President Marion G. Romney, “He told those mission presidents that he did not know any more surely then as a member of the First Presidency that God the Father lives; that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the Only Begotten of the Father; and that the fullness of the gospel had been restored than he did as a missionary boy 50 years before in Australia. He said that his testimony had changed in that it was much easier to get an answer from the Lord. The Lord’s presence was nearer and he knew the Lord much better than he had 50 years before.”

Like President Romney, I’ve always known the gospel was true; however I never believed before that I could get answers without a lot of hard prayer and concentration. I never felt like I was worthy enough to receive answers and help. I still had a testimony, but it’s only been through my recent studies that I am learning how the Lord speaks to me and that I am feeling his presence near me.

President Packer wrote a book of short essays, Memorable Stories with a Message that I have been reading to my children. On more than one occasion it has been the medium for some of my answers. Just yesterday we read a story about a man who was known as a “perennial student”. He had been granted an inheritance that was to last as long as he was engaged in collegiate studies. After graduation it was to go to charity. The man remained a student until the day he died. He probably had every degree offered at the university and had taken nearly every course. However President Packer said that “he could not be described as educated. He fit the description of those spoken of in the scripture who are ‘ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.’ (2 Timothy 3:7)” He learned but he didn't truly live.

At first I didn’t think of this story as an answer, but last night I was given a thought that I have been ruminating on ever since. Over the last few months I have been very blessed with insight and understanding in the trial that I have been going through. I have been given many thoughts and impressions on how to proceed through this time in my life. I have loved all these answers and have written them down in various locations of my writings as they have come. But my thought last night in reference to this story was that I have been a “perennial student”. I have taken the knowledge and thanked the Lord for his goodness in answering my various pleas, but I have not done a lot about it. I’m one of those planner type of people who loves forms and spends inordinate amounts of time creating schedules, charts and other various and sundry items, but then never following completely through.

In Isaiah 27 & 28 there are references to flowers: Israel shall blossom and bud; Ephraim’s glorious beauty is a fading flower. Israel blossoms because of the living water. Ephraim fades as a result of lack of living water. Living water are the words of Christ, and as we study and ponder the scriptures we receive nourishment and strength. But “living” water also denotes action; it is “living” our day based on the guidance given to us through the Holy Spirit. It is taking what we are given and following through with faith.

So the way I have seen the Lords hand in my life today is by him giving me an understanding of where I need to go from here and what I need to do with the knowledge he has given me.

Often times I have felt like an observer of my life. Watching it from above or afar, but never fully living it. I’m kind of tired of that. In the words of George Bailey,

“Help me, Clarence, please. Please! I want to live again!”

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

More Blessed to Give than to Receive

I have seen the hand of God reaching out to touch me, my children and our family today.

My mother-in-law is still being gracious in lending me her car while mine is STILL in the shop. In her CD player she has all Christmas CD’s, so today, while running my errands I flipped on the music and the car was filled with beautiful carols. The second song to play was the Hallelujah Chorus by Handel. When I was in the 7th grade I took Concert Choir. My teacher was fabulous. Most of my understanding of music theory came from her. For Christmas we learned the Hallelujah Chorus and performed it for our school concert (imagine that being done today…). It was one of the most profound musical experiences of my life. I still remember every note all these years later, so when the song came on, I turned up the volume and sang along at the top of my lungs with my mediocre-choir-voice! When the song finished I started it over and sang along again. When I got near the end to the passage where the refrain “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” is repeated several times, I suddenly found that I couldn’t sing…and I had a hard time seeing the road too. I whispered the words in a choked voice until the song was over. It’s hard to put into words, but what I felt was the hand of the Lord in my life, accepting my mediocre-choir-voice tribute and blessing me with a testimony of my Savior.

Tonight my daughter told me that for Mutual on Wednesday they will be going to a homeless shelter to serve dinner. She commented that when you give service, you feel so good, that you actually feel like you are doing it for yourself. What a blessing to learn something so profound at an early age.

Tonight was also Enrichment Night. I have a hard time going because ever since I moved into this ward I have been in Primary, so even though we have been here nearly 2 ½ year I still don’t know anybody. I ventured out anyway since they were serving dinner and dessert and found a table with a fellow Primary worker. A few other people moseyed over to our table and soon we had a great discussion going about the difficulties of raising children, and how each child is different and unique, and how they each require a different approach when disciplining and loving them. All the ladies at the table were in different stages of motherhood, but the overall theme we all agreed on was that we need to love more and criticize less. I came away with a resolve to be more loving and patient. We also got to do some humanitarian work and you know what? My daughter is right; service does more for the giver than the receiver.

Count your many blessings; every doubt will fly,
And you will be singing as the days go by...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Today's Blessings...

Have I seen the hand of God reaching out to touch us or our children or our family today?

Yesterday I did not read my scriptures and it was not a happy day. Today I started my day out by reading them and felt a sense of well being within my core that supported me throughout my day. I also noticed that there was more harmony within our family today.

Tonight my oldest daughter's Young Women president expressed to me how impressed she was with my daughter on a recent assignment that she had been given. She said my daughter had been very well prepared and had studied very hard for a particular activity. I was able to tell my daughter that she had been complimented and was able to see her sense of self-worth raise a notch.

I’ve been blessed with a wonderful mother-in-law who gives unselfishly of her time and means to do what she can to help us. Our car needed to be taken in for repair a few days ago, and she cancelled an appointment so that she could follow me over to the shop and then let me use her car for the day. That was last week. She did the same thing today.

Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done...

Monday, November 12, 2007

Name them one by one...

Wow, has it been that long since I posted? I had been doing so well, 17 posts in one month--my all time high. Woohoo for me!

My brain went all bloggy though and it was starting to get annoying! Everything I did was a potential post and I just had to take a break for awhile to detox. Besides I've been on a rollercoaster ride and if I had posted everything I thought of you would have gone on it with me and I'm not sure you would have liked it! I know I didn't. I'm still on it and it's starting to make me feel sick! I'm in a low spot right now which is bad and good, there's only one way to go, but how long the low spot will last is anyone's guess! I'm hoping for an upward climb soon and then to find a nice level place for awhile!

When life gets this way I forget that I have any blessings and I tend not to look for them as my mind is all pessimistic in it's outlook. I'm reminded of President Eyering's conference talk where he encouraged us to write down experiences each day based on this question, "Have I seen the hand of God reaching out to touch us or our children or our family today?" He says that as he would cast his mind over the day, he would see evidence of what God had done for certain members of his family that he had not recognized in the busy moments of the day. He says as it happened he realized that trying to remember had allowed God to show him what He had done.

After I heard this talk, I decided that I was going to start this habit. Since I've never been good at keeping a journal this was going to be a challenge for me. I decided that the best way to approach it is to find a really pretty journal just for this purpose. So I set off in search of just the right one. Well, I'm pretty picky so it was a hard thing to find. I wanted one with pretty vintage roses on it, something that I would enjoy seeing on my bedside table. I guess vintage roses aren't in since I still haven't found it, so consequently I still haven't written anything and it's been over a month since I heard that talk!


I'm turning over a new leaf.

Here's my beautiful vintage rose...
...and today I'm going to start writing about my blessings. And I'm going to post them here every day until Thanksgiving. Maybe by that time I will have found my beautiful book, and if not, I'll pick up the next best one and make do. No more procrastinating for me...

As I sit here trying to think of where I have seen God's hand in my life today, my eye is drawn toward the piano. And the blessing I am thankful for is the gift of music, and the finding of a wonderful piano teacher who has inspired my girls and me with a desire to practice. Some people might get tired of hearing "The First Noel" or "When the Saints Go Marching In" or "Fur Elise" played 30-40 times in one day, but to me it's a heavenly concert because it's the sound of my girls well on their way to becoming accomplished pianists.

1 down, 10 to go!