HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY

THIS IS A DAY FOR REMEMBERING . . . CERTAINLY WE REMEMBER THOSE WHO HAVE SACRIFICED SO MUCH TO PROTECT OUR LIBERTY, OUR FREEDOM. WE ALSO REMEMBER OUR LOVED ONES WHO ARE NOT WITH US AS THEY ONCE WERE, BUT LIKELY ARE WITH US MORE THAN WE REALIZE. THIS IS A DAY FOR HONORING THEM, REMEMBERING THEM, AND BEING THANKFUL FOR THE SWEET TRUTH THAT WE WILL BE TOGETHER AGAIN. HAVE A BEAUTIFUL DAY!

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MATTIE STEPANEK

THIS IS A TRIBUTE TO AN EXTRAORDINARY PEACEMAKER.  Today I’m giving a huge, joyous SHOUT-OUT to MATTIE STEPANEK.

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Many of you will remember who he is, and, if so, you’ll probably agree 100% with this shout-out. Mattie’s full name is: Matthew Joseph Thaddeus Stepanek, but he went by Mattie (whew). He was born on 17 July, 1990. His parents divorced when he was a child. He wanted to be remembered as “a POET, a PEACEMAKER, and a PHILOSOPHER WHO PLAYED.” Mattie suffered from a rare form of muscular dystrophy. His three older sibilings died from the same thing. His mother Jeni was diagnosed with the same disease in 1992, after all four children had been born.

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Before his death (at the age of 13), he had become known as someone who loved and encouraged PEACE, and as a motivational speaker.  President Jimmy Carter said of Mattie: “he was the most extraordinary person whom I have ever known.” Oprah Winfrey met him in 2001 when he was just 11 years old, and he became one of her favorite guests. He was wise beyond his years, and she always introduced him as an extraordinary little boy.

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He began writing poetry at the age of three. In his book Heartsongs, Mattie shares wonderful thoughts – his “heartsongs” – which are truly beautiful (incredible!). Some of his artwork is also included.

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Mattie died in Washington D.C. on 22 June, 2004. He is buried at the Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Silver Spring, Maryland. Shortly after his death, the non-profit “Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation” was established by a group of citizens in Rockville, Maryland, where he lived. On 21 October, 2008, the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Park was dedicated in Rockville. Oprah Winfrey and others were there.

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Central to the park is the “Peace Garden,” based on the peace imagery Mattie used in his book Just Peace: A Message of Hope.  In the Peace Garden there is a life-size bronze statue of Mattie and his service dog Micah, surrounded by chess tables.  Throughout the park there are quotes and “soundbites” from Mattie.

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Pepper Choplin set words from Mattie’s final peace speech to music, and a 100-voice choir performed “Look Up Way Down.”

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On 06 June 2010, a performance of “Heartsongs” took place at Carnegie Hall in New York City, featuring Mattie’s poetry set to music by Joseph Martin, performed by a 200-voice combined children’s choir and others.

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In 2011, Oprah Winfrey named Mattie as one of her all time most memorable guests in the 25-year history of her show. During the final taping, Mattie’s Mother Jeni and Oprah shared memories of Mattie. Oprah called him “a messenger for our times.”

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On 21 September, 2012, the Mattie T.M. Stepanek Guild was initiated with the purpose of gathering information and investigating Mattie’s life for the possible Caus of Canonization in the Catholic Church. On 22 June 2014, a memorial mass at the Franciscan Monastery in Washington DC commemorated Mattie’s 10-year death anniversary.

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Many other honors and celebrations have been held in honor of the short life of this amazing, wonderful messenger of peace.

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There is a FACEBOOK PAGE in his honor and memory.

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MATTIE WITH OPRAH WINFREY IN 2001  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B2Rg9TTuoDE

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QUOTES BY MATTIE   http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/m/mattie_stepanek.html

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SAGE ADVICE for Thursday

I know we live in a world where everyone has advice for us (wanted or not… “obeyed” or not). I thought it would be a nice thing to share some “SAGE ADVICE.” I think it’s called that because it was created out in the SAGE BRUSH. What??  Yep… that’s what I think, and I’m sticking to it.  See what you think….

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*Your fences need to be horse‑high, pig‑tight and bull‑strong.

* Keep skunks and bankers and lawyers at a distance.

* Life is simpler when you plow around the stump.

* A bumble bee is considerably faster than a John Deere tractor.

* Words that soak into your ears are whispered…not yelled.

* Meanness don’t just happen overnight.

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* Forgive your enemies. It messes up their heads.

* Do not corner something that you know is meaner than you.

* It don’t take a very big person to carry a grudge around.

* You cannot unsay a cruel word.

* Every path has a few puddles.

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* When you wallow with pigs, expect to get dirty.

* The best sermons are lived, not preached.

* Most of the stuff people worry about ain’t never gonna happen.

* Don’t judge folks by their relatives.

* Don’t judge a book by the movie.

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* Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.

* Live a good, honorable life. Then when you get older and think back, you’ll enjoy it a second time.

* Don’t interfere with somethin’ that ain’t botherin’ you none.

* Timing has a lot to do with the outcome of a rain dance or a snipe hunt.

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* If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop diggin’.

* Sometimes you get, and sometimes you get got.

* The biggest troublemaker you’ll probably ever have to deal with watches you from the mirror every mornin’.

* Always drink upstream from the herd.

* Good judgment comes from experience, and a lotta that comes from bad judgment.

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* Lettin’ the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier than puttin’ it back in.

* If you get to thinkin’ you’re a person of some influence, try orderin’ somebody else’s dog around.

* Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly. And try a little harder to be a little better!

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THE INJURED SWAN

The reason this caught my attention was that one of my sisters and her husband have a home with a few ponds, and there are swans in the ponds [no, I’m not trying to create a tongue-twister here….]. One day, one of the swans seemed aggressive towards a neighbor, and her husband ended the swan’s earthly existence…. (I tried to put that in words a little “softer”)….  So when I saw an article about an injured swan, I read it, and loved it.

An injured swan that was nursed back to health is returning to her home in England. Despite the reputation of being “mean” or “aggressive” this swan seemed to know that she was in caring arms.
“I pulled it to my chest and somehow it felt comfortable or safe,” Richard Wiese said. “I could feel its heart beating and it just relaxed its neck and wrapped it around mine.”

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“It’s a really terrific feeling when you feel that bond and mutual trust with this non-verbally communicating animal…”
“…when the animal realizes you intend it no harm.”
Who needs a bear hug when you can have a swan hug?

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I wonder if it’s the same way with people … if there is a bond and trust when others know that you intend them no harm. Maybe we can work at making it more evident – our pure love for all of Heavenly Father’s children who share the earth with us.

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The Sweetness of SILENCE

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I used to think that the phrase “Be still and know that I am God” was shared with a rather cross voice.  Something like “Hush!”  Or “Be quiet!”  Or even “Stop it!”  As time and experience have added up, I’ve come to love that phrase and feel much better about it as an invitation rather than a reprimand.  Stillness has a lot to do with silence, even when it’s only on the inside that we manage the silence.  I’ve been thinking on this beautiful Sabbath morning (it’s a green day!… Clean air! I don’t have to wear a mask!) that the Sabbath is a day for some silence. I’ve always been grateful to my friends Mary and Jim Kirk, who grew up as Quakers, to remind me of the holiness and beauty of silence. Purposeful silence.

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I love Chapter 58 of Isaiah, and one verse has caused me to ponder about “noise” and the Sabbath: 58:13 – If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, [from] doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking [thine own] words…. That’s worth really thinking about, isn’t it. Not doing “my own ways,” (my “usual stuff,” maybe) or finding “my own pleasure,” and not even “speaking my own words….”  Some SILENCE from the noise and activity of the other days of the week.  Hmmm….

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William Penn said that “true silence is to the spirit what sleep is to the body: nourishment and refreshment.”  Isn’t that good!!  I’m convinced I’m unaware of how many times my soul, my spirit, YEARNS for the nourishment and refreshment of silence.  There’s an Arab Proverb which says that “Silence is medication for sorrow.”  I think it’s medication for other emotions and feelings as well.

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What is it that is so sweet and so sacred about silence?  One thing that came to my mind is: Because it’s so increasingly RARE.  We live in a world filled with noise and busyness.  And maybe it’s habitual.  Have you ever watched yourself become restless or uncomfortable with quiet, with stillness, or a lull in a conversation?  We seem to have reached a point where we’re more at ease with being busy – with doing and accomplishing and checking things off our list – than we are with solitude, contemplation, meditation – with silence.  We may come to realize that we have wandered too far from God and from ourselves.  Mother Teresa said that “we need to find God, and He cannot be found in noise and restlessness.  God is the friend of silence….   We need silence to be able to touch souls.”

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With the way things are in most lives these days, we have to find or make silence.  It’s not just the absence of noise, is it.  It’s a kind of peace, a kind of stillness, which invites our hungry soul to drink deeply of refreshment and renewal.  So how do we find silence in our full and overflowing days, in all our responsibilities and chores [I love that word].  Would it be possible to have a room we designated as a “quiet room?”  Or could there be certain times on certain days that we have a quiet room, or space, or even a quiet time?  After you’ve dropped the kids off, can you find silence by driving the long way back home?  Can you find it in an early-morning walk (or a walk at any time)?  CAN IT HAPPEN ON THE SABBATH? Is this an important part of what makes it a DELIGHT? (Back to Isaiah 58:13).

Likely there are seasons when it will be easier to find and savor silence, and this may not be your season.  Yet.  But if we think carefully we may find that there are distractions in our days, in our lives, which can be minimized (or “dismissed”).  Seek Heavenly Help in finding time and place for prayer, for thought, for stillness.  Even the Savior sought solitude – time for sweet communication with His Father.  And because we have so little of all that He taught and experienced, He likely did something like that often.  Find a way to withdraw, even if only briefly, to refocus.  What a relief to occasionally turn off the “multi-tasking” button.  It is important occasionally NOT to try to do several things at once, but just to stop and focus on BEING STILL, on welcoming silence, on listening.  It’s like a SPIRITUAL RETREAT, and sometimes it’s brief – even just a few minutes.  Other times you may be able to allow it last much longer.  There are some things we can only know through silence, through stillness, through careful listening.  We need to be still in order to hear the still, small voice.  Start where you are.  Maybe all you can do right now is find five minutes each morning (and maybe each evening, too) for sacred silence.

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One person suggested sitting and looking at the ceiling for a few minutes, stating that it was the only place in the home which was free of reminders of unfinished chores. Try a closet, a storage room, the garage, or any other place where you can find peace.  Many (including mee) find that being in the Temple can promote a time of quiet learning and listening and peace.  Inspiration seems to come more easily in peaceful settings.  Elder Russell M. Nelson has reminded us that “listening is an essential part of prayer. Answers from the Lord come ever so quietly. Hence He has counseled us to “be still and know that I am God.”  (D&C 101:16, Ps 46:10) (Perfection Pending, and Other Favorite Discourses , p.48)

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A man named Walter Bagehot said that “An inability to stay quiet is one of the most conspicuous failings of mankind.”  And Henry David Thoreau described silence this way: “Silence is the universal refuge, the sequel to all dull discourses and all foolish acts, a balm to our every chagrin, as welcome after satiety as after disappointment.”

Silence – sacred, sweet silence – is a source of strength, a way to nourish our souls, to seek renewal and healing, comfort and guidance, and so much more.

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I’ll close with this wonderful thought I found from Dr. SunWolf:

unplug iPod

music stops abruptly

cricket song instead

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WONDERFUL KINDNESS

This is an experience shared by Chelsee Worsley Hunt in April. I love it and hope you’ll enjoy it too.

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You know that moment after a long, stressful grocery trip when you get to the car with a loaded cart, kids and diaper bag? And you are alone to put it all in the car? So you find a level spot in the parking lot, perch the cart against your car and you load the most valuable to the least valuable? Kids get buckled first. Then purse (wallet, phone, keys) and then lastly the groceries. As I did this process today, I had buckled my kids in and turned around to find my cart (groceries and purse) had disappeared. This store is on top of a hill and today is particularly windy, so a cart attendant and I searched, to no avail. The cart was gone. Just then two women came walking up the hill shouting, “are you missing a cart?!” Relieved I started walking towards them as they began to tell me it had ROLLED DOWN THE ENTIRE HILL, INTO THE ROAD, HIT THE MEDIAN AND TOPPLED OVER! I was shocked! These two women started to interrogate me. One woman saying as she walked away, “It’s a good thing your kids weren’t in the cart!” I was humiliated and preparing to somehow go pick it all up at the bottom of the hill (whatever was left) when I saw an older man following behind them about 15 feet pushing a cart full of disheveled food. He looked rough. I immediately I saw his sign stuffed between the exploded Diet Pepsi…”Homeless. Anything helps.”

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This homeless man picked up my food off the street, collected the belongings of my purse, salvaged whatever he could, then walked it up the hill to return to me. He then proceeded to help me load them into my car! I offered him money and food. He wouldn’t accept it. He simply took his sign and bag of belongings and left. I ugly cried while I drove away.

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The stark contrast was overwhelming. You have the self-righteous judgement which was used to belittle an overwhelmed mom with too few hands, followed up with no help or kindness. And then the worn, dirty, selfless hands that passed no judgement, only mercy with no expectation of compensation. Along with the return of my valuables untouched. Wallet, phone, and broken light bulbs included.

I hope I never forget today and who I want to be out of the three people I encountered. Thank you, Chelsee. I want to be the same “one of the three.” The Good Samaritan. I’m thinking Heavenly Father has some good blessings lined up for him….

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Thursday 02 May 1996

Vicki Reynolds wrote on this blog that they’re showing “Mothers and Daughters” for a Relief Society activity. I’m not sure which one she means. It sounds like the one with the wives of the First Presidency where each had one daughter with her. Sister Hinckley had her eldest daughter, Kathleen (Kathy).

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This one is on YouTube (1999). It’s great! My favorite was the one where it was Sister Hinckley with her 3 daughters (Kathy, Virginia, and Jane) on a Thursday evening (02 May, 1996) at the BYU Women’s Conference. 20 years ago this month. It was like a FAMILY HOME EVENING. Thousands were there, but it felt like we were all right in the “living room,” getting a very honest, “real” look at one of the incredible women on earth.

President Hinckley was there, along with his two counselors (on either side of him), and I happened to end up sitting almost directly behind (was on the women’s conference committee that year). I laughed as much at HIM laughing as I did at the hilarious things which happened with Sister Hinckley and her daughters. It was like Sister Hinckley kept going “off script,” and it was SO delightful. Sister Hinckley at one point was fumbling with her note cards – they seemed to be mixed up – and she put her head on her hand and said something like “This is how it is with us… nothing ever works out!” There were times when President Hinckley pretty much “doubled over” he was laughing so hard, and his counselors were helping him survive the evening (HA).

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OK… I’ve decided to quote from my journal. This might be long. Go get a snack and glass of water to “tide you over,” OK?  And remember: This is NOT “required reading!” There will be NO QUIZ on this! Just skip it if you’re busy or if there are too many details. I’m a compulsive note-taker, and I admit I’m so HAPPY I took notes on this particular evening!

There were security people all over.  President Hinckley was sitting on the stand and then was joined by S. Hinckley.  I loved seeing them sitting there together.  One security man sat right behind the Prophet, continually surveying things.  Very alert most of the time.  We stayed close to our seats, anticipating what was to come.  They had us stay seated while all those on the stand went to the hospitality room.  A woman came up to me after Elder Hales finished.  She had been talking to E. Holland and said he told her to come and talk to me.  She was very concerned about one of the presentations she had attended.  She said the woman told only of tragedies – terrible tragedies – and that it was shocking and depressing and even frightening to her.  Her son had been killed or had taken his life, and she even showed pictures of him in his casket.  The woman said she just was not prepared for all of that – that it happened just a few months ago, and she thinks the woman was still grieving and was not ready to share. 

Pretty soon it was time for the BIG EVENT – the one we had been looking forward to for such a long time.  And oh was it worth every minute of waiting!  How am I going to be able to record this in my journal??….  I’ll do the best I can.  They asked us to sit down, and they made a row right in front of us.  I wondered what was happening but soon realized it was for the Brethren.  Wow.  We were right behind them!  S. Hinckley went up to the table and sat down between Virginia (closest to the podium) and Kathy, and then Jane was next to Kathy.  Each had their own microphone.  And they each had a wonderful spray of flowers.  It was fun watching P&S Hinckley smiling and communicating without words.  Sometimes they’d laugh.  Oh I loved watching that happy, eternal connection between the two of them. 

As P. Hinckley came in and sat down, the huge crowd began to sing “We Thank Thee O God for a Prophet.”  It was beautiful.  Seated right on front of me, starting at my left: Brad Farnsworth and his wife, the Batemans, Chieko, Elaine, P. Faust, P. Hinckley, P&S Monson, S&E Maxwell, E&S Hales, S&E Holland. Aileen (Clyde) conducted this session.  I was sitting there thinking how marvelous it was to have been a small part of the planning for all of this that was happening.  There was a musical number by a Mother and daughter – Allison and Yoshie Akimoto Eldredge.  Allison plays the cello and Yoshie the piano.  Magnificent.  They’ve played in Carnegie Hall and many other places.  She played 3 numbers.  Really exquisite.  Ave Maria, then a long very classical one, and then “The Swan.” 

I was thinking so many things.  Like I wondered if all three in the First Presidency have the same barber.  I was thinking how different it was to have them all sitting in the audience.  I wondered if there will ever again be a women’s conference where the First Presidency and three members of the Twelve will be in attendance.  I felt sad that P. Faust’s head shakes as it does.  I was thinking how much P&S Hinckley have come to look alike through the years. 

And then the magic began.  Aileen introduced those who would be participating.  She spoke of having talked to some family members (probably mostly Virginia) and of learning of things which have happened in their lives “because of, and sometimes in spite of” everything.  President Hinckley laughed at that.  She said they were married on the 29th of April, 1937.  (Just 1 months before Mom and Dad).  She said there are some things they (the girls, at least) don’t like – they don’t like to be quoted, for example. 

Virginia got up and began what happened next.  She looked down at P. Hinckley and said he could always jump up and bring the whole evening to a close if he didn’t like what was about to happen.  There was such good humor.  She expressed gratitude to the men who serve “with our Father.”  But said tonight was for their Mother.  “Thanks for coming anyway, Dad.”  It was so sweet to hear her call him “Dad.”  That’s exactly who and what he is…besides all else he is. 

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Virginia said they wanted to help people get to know their Mother better – “we didn’t just want her to give a long speech on something else” (some topic other than herself).  Virginia mentioned “60 Minutes” and there was a lot of clapping.  They had several video clips throughout, and all of that was narrated by P. Hinckley.  So tender and wonderful.  I’m not even beginning to capture what happened… I guess it’s impossible.  But I’ll keep trying.  It was too magical – you’d have to have been there.  I already knew that.  But I want to put as much as I can in my journal. 

The girls began asking their Mother questions.  She was asked about what her home was like – how she got to have such faith and all.  She said they prayed a lot and prayed about everything.  “We prayed we wouldn’t burn the soup.”  She said “My Mother was so cheerful.”  Father was the youngest of 13 children.  “They tried desperately to make something of me.”  She spoke of piano lessons.  I loved watching P. Hinckley laughing with delight and love.  I wrote in my notes that “Oh she’s so precious I can hardly stand it!!”  People kept laughing and clapping.  She was real.  She was so easy to love.  They asked about her ring.  “This ring is 18-carat gold.”  She said it’s 100 years old.  Once it was lost in the straw, and her Grandmother (I think) knelt and prayed and then found it.  She spoke of “the old First Ward” in Salt Lake where both she and P. Hinckley attended.  They had the same Bishop for 25 years.  She said that was remarkable but then “I don’t know how remarkable it was for him.”  Oh she was so wonderful! 

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She said (about the Bishop) that having him released would have been “like trading our Father in for a new one.”  She’d get off the script and have to ask “Where are we?”  Virginia kept saying to Kathy things like “Mother’s a page ahead – she’s trying to hurry us along.”  Oh it was one of the most wonderful things I’ve ever witnessed and been part of.  She said “We’ll skip a few years.”  Ha.  She talked about when Gordon Hinckley moved across the street (we always think of them with their middle initial, but you don’t call them that when they’re little).  “I knew there were 2 sexes and I noticed him.”  That about brought the house down!  “It was the bottom of the Depression.”  And then she looked down at P. Hinckley and said “My husband likes me to say it was the bottom of the Depression.”  MUCH laughter and happy feelings.  Every so often P. Faust or P. Monson or both would laugh and kind of pat P. Hinckley on the back. 

“It seemed that everything wonderful happened in the bottom of the Depression.”  In one of the clips right after that P. Hinckley in his narration had said something about “it was the bottom of the Depression,” and we all about lost it.  Way, way funny and good.  Just a good feeling all over.  In the whole place.  Such a feeling of love and unity!  She said “I desperately wanted him to go on a mission,” and expressed how lonely she felt when his train pulled out of the station.  “I wanted to go to the university… but, like I said, it was the bottom of the Depression.”  Oh she was so sweet – so real – so spontaneous and quick.  The girls were too.  There was no way I could write fast enough or capture things good enough to make this even a small part of what happened in the Marriott Center for an hour plus a few minutes.  I feel helpless but am still trying. 

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“He wrote wonderful letters.  I’ve saved them all.  I keep them in a very secure place, lest he should find them and think them not worth saving.”  There was just so much she shared which made it possible for virtually everyone there to identify with her.  She said the letters were – are – masterpieces.  Little masterpieces of literature.  She said he came home and they talked of getting married, but he explained to her that he only had $165 in the bank and didn’t know if he wanted to start out a marriage with only that much.  She said “We’re rich!”  They were married in the Salt Lake Temple by Stephen L. Richards.  They started out on a honeymoon.  They got “all the way to Fillmore” and turned around and went home.  “We were so anxious to set up housekeeping.”  They lived in a small place in East Millcreek.  P. Hinckley put in a new furnace.  One day she brought home a beautiful bouquet of flowers.  It turned out to be poison ivy!  Then she added: “Some mistakes you make only once….” 

There were so many little “one-liners” like that.  I was laughing and clapping and enjoying it so much that it was hard to take notes.  And I was watching P. Hinckley all the time – he was in front of me and just a few to the right.  He’d laugh so hard sometimes that he’d be leaning forward with tears coming out his eyes.  It was so marvelous to see his love for her and his delight in not just what she was sharing but the wonderful way in which she was sharing it.  It was as if I had to pinch myself and ask “Is this really happening??”  It was that good.  YES.  She said it was a hard adjustment for her.  She was used to her family, and now “we were down to just 2.”  That “summer house” in East Millcreek.  It belonged to P. Hinckley’s parents, I think.  She said they were kind to her.  She knew she was “in” when her Father-in-law asked her to go to some lecture at the UofU with him. 

I loved each of the short video clips in between the questions and answers.  I loved hearing the Prophet’s voice talking about his sweetheart, his wife.  Between the video clips the daughters would take turn asking questions, bring out what they had felt would help us get to know their Mother best.  They got her talking about raising the children (3 girls, 2 boys).  She said she tried to keep the summers from being too structured.  She wanted them to have a childhood and she wanted them to learn.  She talked about working in YW and Primary, Relief Society, and being a visiting teacher.  She said “I always had callings.  Always and forever!”  She said “I felt so fulfilled!”  I think you have to trust children.  I tried to say yes as much as I could.  That was impressive to me – that with her children she tried as much as possible to say yes.  And she said one thing which came out over and over: “We tried not to take ourselves too seriously.” 

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At one point in talking about good humor she said she had baked a wonderful casserole, and as she was taking it out of the oven one of the boys asked “Mom, how come you baked garbage?”  I watched Pres Hinckley laugh so hard on that one.  We all did too.  It was such a happy feeling in that huge Marriott Center – it is one of the most intimate feelings I’ve ever had in there.  We were all together, invited to be very close to the Prophet and his wife and daughters for a little while – a precious, unforgettable, magical little while.  She told of a time when one of her sons (I think she said Dickie?) had been kept after school.  She was not pleased about this and went right over there to get him.  She announced to the teacher that “He’s yours ‘til 3:30 (and you can do whatever you think is best during those hours), but then he’s mine!”  And home they went.  Oh she is so wonderful – so practical and real and unpretentious. 

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They were asking her about how she managed to put up with and keep up with P. Hinckley’s amazingly unpredictable schedule, like the times when he’d travel and be gone so much.  “How did you manage?”  “I dunno.”  So precious!  She talked about one of her first long trips with him to Switzerland, I think for the dedication of the Temple but can’t remember for sure.  She said she sobbed to be so far away from her children.  She really missed them.  Sometimes she would share things and I could tell P. Hinckley was touched – that it was a very tender thing.  Other times he would laugh right out loud and just shake hard.  I loved it!  I loved being close enough to watch and feel and hear and enjoy.  Once she was talking about the traveling and said she knew he had to go to South America the next morning.  And she looked down at him and said “This is typical” in a somewhat pointed way, and they were both laughing at each other and we knew something very funny and “usual” was about to be shared.  She said as they were going to bed she quite casually but with great interest asked him if she was to travel to South America with him the next morning.  “Are you planning for me to go with you?”  “Well, we don’t need to decide that until morning.”  And they both laughed hard, and the daughters laughed hard, and we all laughed and clapped so hard.  The laughter and clapping went on all through the presentation.  It was completely spontaneous and very joyful.  And the women weren’t laughing so much because things were funny (but many things were) as they were just captivated and delighted that S. Hinckley (and P. Hinckley and the whole family) could be – that they were – so real and so wonderful.  It was as if E. Hales had talked for one hour about family and the Proclamation, and then here was a “visual aid.”  A demonstration.  An example. 

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She spoke about a trip to Hong Kong many years ago and about tracting with the lady miss’s.  She spoke of working in the “walk-ups” and of one restroom for 75 people.  I could guess that it might have happened when I was in the Philippines on my first mission – that’s a time when she came with P. Hinckley sometimes.  She spoke of being in one of the tiny little dwellings on one of those floors amongst thousands of others, and up on some shelf was a little glass vase with a plastic flower in it.  This seemed to have touched her deeply, and she spoke of how women will work to make their surroundings beautiful and give a “feminine touch” no matter what or where those surroundings might be.  No matter how humble or simple.  She remembered being in a Sunday School class where the teacher was talking about the Pioneers and said that people don’t make sacrifices anymore.  “I could hardly keep still!” 

And she spoke of the wives of mission presidents as an example of sacrifice.  She spoke of someone she knew who went with her husband to a place where she could neither understand nor speak the language (“and she was a talker” – and P. Hinckley laughed so hard on that one, as did all of us).  She mentioned talking to missionaries.  “I didn’t interview them! – I just talked to them while they were waiting to be interviewed, and I found out a lot.” 

One of the daughters asked her about how it felt to have met some of the most important people in the world – she’d met some of the most humble, but she’d also met some of the most powerful and famous.  With a very comfortable tone she said something like “Oh, I learned a long time ago that everybody puts their shoes on one at a time.”  Everyone was so delighted with that response. 

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On the video clip at about that time P. Hinckley’s voice was very tender and sweet as he spoke of a time recently when he was sitting with S. Hinckley in their living room watching the sunset.  He said he looked over at her hands, and they were wrinkled, and he could see the veins.  He said he realized that “we’re getting older.  We don’t move as quickly or as easily as we once did.”  He said they’re “settling” a bit, and are not as tall as they once were.  Oh it was so tender and beautiful and such a priceless thing to be able to hear and feel.  And see.  S. Hinckley then told us (in response to a question by one of the daughters) that she’d accompanied him to 40 dedications of temples, all over the world.  She chose to talk about the one in Peru where she watched the natives coming down the hills with a white hankie in one hand and a recommend in the other.  I was so touched by this, and by what she shared next.  “When I can’t sleep I don’t count sheep – I think of beautiful experiences like this and I count people coming out of the hills with white hankies.”  Something like that.  I can’t remember exactly. 

She told a story of her Grandmother who was at the dedication of the Manti Temple and heard angels singing.  “I’ve heard angels sing too.”  And she said it’s been 59 years of heaven on earth to be married to P. Hinckley.  And then she was finished and Kathy stood up to bring it to a close.  She said something like “We’re not a perfect family, but we’re a happy family.”  She thanked all those of the GA’s and wives who had surrounded their Mother and their Father and helped them in such significant ways.  P. Hinckley left and went around and up behind the table where they were sitting and hugged and kissed S. Hinckley and then each of his girls.  And we all stood and wept and clapped and tried to let every single word we’d heard and every single feeling we’d felt sink deep into our souls, never to be lost or forgotten.  Oh what a glorious, heavenly, happy, sweet, precious, indescribably evening and experience…. 

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After the closing prayer we all sat while P&S Hinckley and the other GA’s and wives left.  No one seemed in a hurry to leave even after that.  Women came up and “mobbed” the daughters to thank them and say what was in their hearts.  Many women said to me that it was worth the whole trip and all the sacrifice and effort just to have been present at what happened on this magical, incredible evening.  Eventually I went down the hall and stood in line to take the elevator up.  Talking to everyone.  There was a real traffic jam in trying to get out of the parking lot.  Still, it took me only about half an hour to get home.  I was thinking deeply, praying and expressing thanks to Heavenly Father. I wanted it very, very peaceful….

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SISTER HINCKLEY

I’ve been fascinated by the amount of response to a quote I posted on Facebook on “Friday the 13th” (of May). It’s a picture of Sister Marjorie Pay Hinckley with her quote about preferring to laugh instead of cry (she said crying gives her a headache). There have been almost 30,000 views! I’m so excited about that!!  I’m giving her a SHOUT-OUT today!

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I love this incredibly bright, wonderful soul. I remember right where I was when I heard that she had passed away.  I was in the Jordan River Temple with a group of missionaries who had served in Indonesia along with some Indonesian Saints. We were waiting in a hallway to go into a room where, for the first time anywhere in any Temple, we would have everything in Bahasa Indonesia – the Indonesian language (using headsets). It was Tuesday, 06 April, 2004 (has it really been 12 years?). Someone had heard of Sister Hinckley’s passing and shared the news with the rest of us….  Memories flooded back into my mind and heart.

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I was sent to the Southern Far East Mission in 1962. Our mission had 3 zones at the time, and I had the blessing of serving in all 3 during my 2 years. I spent my first 4 months in Taiwan, then 5 months in Hong Kong, and my last 17 months as one of the first sister missionaries in the Philippine Islands.  Not long after my companion and I arrived in the Philippines, we received word that our mission president, Jay A. Quealy, had been critically injured in an accident in Hong Kong.  In all three zones we fasted and prayed for him. At first it was determined that he would be released – he was going to be hospitalized for a long time.  Elder Gordon B. Hinckley, who had been an Apostle just since October of 1961 (he’d been an assistant to the Twelve for 3 years), was supervising the Asia area at the time. President Quealy pleaded to remain as mission president. In my journal I wrote “in my opinion President Quealy can do more lying down than ten presidents could do on their feet.”  A decision was made to honor that request. This meant that Elder Hinckley would come to visit us several times.

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What a blessing for us missionaries and the members!  I really enjoyed him, including his wonderful sense of humor. Sometimes he brought Sister Hinckley with him, and oh what a treasure she was! I was young and pretty naïve, so with no thought that it might be inappropriate to write to a General Authority, I wrote some letters to him and his family. One time I had what I thought was a very clever idea.  We had an abundance of tiny little bugs and critters in the Philippines (ants, fleas, bed bugs, termites, mosquitoes, flies, baby cockroaches…).  I got an idea to make my own “letter-head stationery, using a collection of these “critters!”  I got some clear tape, and I’d put a variety of critters on the tape and make what I thought was a very unusual, attractive stationery. I began sending these letters to “everyone,” knowing they’d be impressed, and that the little critters would be cheered and cherished. One of these letter-head pieces of home-made stationery was sent to Elder and Sister Hinckley far away in Utah. Yes – I really did do this.

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The next time Sister Hinckley came (with Elder Hinckley and their youngest daughter, Jane) was in October of 1963. Sister Hinckley told me that she had a surprise for me! Wow! I was SO surprised and excited!!  In Hong Kong we often had a treat called “Smarties,” kind of like “M and M’s,” which came in long cardboard tubes, similar to something which would hold pens and pencils.  She gave me one of these “Smartie tubes” with a very happy smile.

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Oh! I loved Smarties! I opened the tube … and out came a lively little GEKKO!! That was more of a surprise than I’d anticipated!!  She let me know – with kindness and good humor – that the gecko would help cut down on the critter population in our little home in the Philippines . . . in other words, her message was that by the time my letter crossed oceans and mountains, taking MANY days, the “letter-head” did NOT have a pleasant smell….  She let me know that ONE of those letters was even more than enough!

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Oh, we laughed and laughed. She had the best laugh!!  Infectious!  I loved her SO much! I’m glad our paths crossed several more times before she was called Home.   She was REAL! And to her, WE were real too!!

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So I’m more than thrilled at the response to her quote which I posted on Facebook on “Friday the 13th.”  I want to share a few more of her quotes and hope you’ll enjoy them!

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AUSSIE HUMOR

These questions were posted on an Australian Tourism Website. Have fun with the answers!

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Q: Does it ever get windy in Australia ? I have never seen it rain on TV, how do the plants grow? (UK) A: We import all plants fully grown and then just sit around watching them die.
Q: Will I be able to see kangaroos in the street? (USA) A: Depends how much you’ve been drinking.

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Q: I want to walk from Perth to Sydney – can I follow the railroad tracks? (Sweden) A: Sure, it’s only three thousand miles, take lots of water.
Q: Are there any ATMs (cash machines) in Australia ? Can you send me a list of them in Brisbane, Cairns, Townsville and Hervey Bay ? (UK) A: What did your last slave die of?
Q: Can you give me some information about hippo racing in Australia ? (USA) A: A-Fri-ca is the big triangle shaped continent south of Europe … Aus-tra-lia is that big island in the middle of the Pacific which does not     … Oh forget it. Sure, the hippo racing is every Tuesday night in Kings Cross. Come naked.
Q: Which direction is North in Australia ? (USA) A: Face south and then turn 180 degrees. Contact us when you get here and we’ll send the rest of the directions.
Q: Can I bring cutlery into Australia? (UK) A: Why? Just use your fingers like we do…

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Q: I have a question about a famous animal in Australia, but I forget its name. It’s a kind of bear and lives in trees. (USA) A: It’s called a Drop Bear. They are so called because they drop out of Gum trees and eat the brains of anyone walking underneath them. You can scare them off by spraying yourself with human urine before you go out walking.
Q: Can you send me the Vienna Boys’ Choir schedule? (USA) A: Aus-tri-a is that quaint little country bordering Ger-man-y, which is  … Oh forget it. Sure, the Vienna Boys Choir plays every Tuesday night in Kings Cross, straight after the hippo races. Come naked.
Q: Can I wear high heels in Australia? (UK) A: You are a British politician, right?
Q: Are there supermarkets in Sydney and is milk available all year round? (Germany) A: No, we are a peaceful civilization of vegan hunter/gatherers. Milk is illegal.

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Q: Please send a list of all doctors in Australia who can dispense rattlesnake serum. (USA) A: Rattlesnakes live in A-meri-ca which is where YOU come from.  All Australian snakes are perfectly harmless, can be safely handled and make good pets.
Q: I have developed a new product that is the fountain of youth. Can you tell me where I can sell it in Australia? (USA) A: Anywhere significant numbers of Americans gather.
Q: Do you celebrate Christmas in Australia? (France) A: Only at Christmas.
Q: Will I be able to speak English most places I go? (USA) A: Yes, but you’ll have to learn it first.

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TO BE OR NOT TO BE

Some of you will remember this message from Elder Lynn G. Robbins from General Conference in April of 2011. It is in the Ensign for May 2011. I LOVE THIS MESSAGE! There is SO MUCH to really think about, to ponder.  The summary: May your efforts to develop Christlike attributes be successful so that His image may be engraven in your countenance and His attributes manifest in your behavior.

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I’ve had things like this on my mind for a long, long time. I weigh the difference between “seeming” and BEING. I want to BE, not just to SEEM. I think it’s part of becoming as a child. Recently I gave a talk about charity, and I gave it this title: BEING leads to DOING. If we are filled with charity, we can’t help but DO – do kind, beautiful things with and for others. BEING is about a might change of heart, about CONVERSION. And the DOING is a result.  We can serve people without loving them, but I believe we cannot LOVE them (be filled with charity) without wanting to serve… it’s as if we can’t help it!  There are SO many good ideas for parents to ponder and BE, and DO. Because I’m OCD, I wanted to go through and capitalize and highlight every single “do” and every single “be.” I know you’re thankful I didn’t do that….  But Elder Robbins did some “emphasizing,” which, unfortunately, doesn’t show up in this copy. Oh well.  I think you’ll find it worthwhile to read and study this particular message again (it may already be a favorite of yours, as it is with me). Thanks for visiting the Blog! And now Elder Robbins’ message:

“To be, or not to be” is actually a very good question.1 The Savior posed the question in a far more profound way, making it a vital doctrinal question for each of us: “What manner of men [and women] ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am” (3 Nephi 27:27; emphasis added). The first-person present tense of the verb be is I Am. He invites us to take upon us His name and His nature. To become as He is, we must also do the things He did: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel; and ye know the things that ye must do in my church; for the works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also do” (3 Nephi 27:21; emphasis added). To be and to do are inseparable. As interdependent doctrines they reinforce and promote each other. Faith inspires one to pray, for example, and prayer in turn strengthens one’s faith.

The Savior often denounced those who did without being—calling them hypocrites: “This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me” (Mark 7:6). To do without to be is hypocrisy, or feigning to be what one is not—a pretender. Conversely, to be without to do is void, as in “faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone” (James 2:17; emphasis added). Be without do really isn’t being—it is self-deception, believing oneself to be good merely because one’s intentions are good.

Do without be—hypocrisy—portrays a false image to others, while be without do portrays a false imagine of oneself. The Savior chastised the scribes and Pharisees for their hypocrisy: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe”—something they did—“of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith” (Matthew 23:23). Or in other words, they failed to be what they should have been.

While He recognized the importance of do, the Savior identified be as a “weightier matter.” The greater importance of being is illustrated in the following examples: Entering the waters of baptism is something we do. The be that must precede it is faith in Jesus Christ and a mighty change of heart. Partaking of the sacrament is something we do. Being worthy to partake of the sacrament is a weightier and much more important matter. Ordination to the priesthood is an act, or do. The weightier matter, however, is power in the priesthood, which is based “upon the principles of righteousness” (D&C 121:36), or be.

Many of us create to do lists to remind us of things we want to accomplish. But people rarely have to be lists. Why? To do’s are activities or events that can be checked off the list when done. To be, however, is never done. You can’t earn checkmarks with to be’s. I can take my wife out for a lovely evening this Friday, which is a to do. But being a good husband is not an event; it needs to be part of my nature—my character, or who I am. Or as a parent, when can I check a child off my list as done? We are never done being good parents. And to be good parents, one of the most important things we can teach our children is how to be more like the Savior.

Christ-like to be’s cannot be seen, but they are the motivating force behind what we do, which can be seen. When parents help a child learn to walk, for example, we see parents doing things like steadying and praising their child. These do’s reveal the unseen love in their hearts and the unseen faith and hope in their child’s potential. Day after day their efforts continue—evidence of the unseen-be’s of patience and diligence.  Because be begets do and is the motive behind do, teaching be will improve behavior more effectively than focusing on do will improve behavior.

When children misbehave, let’s say when they quarrel with each other, we often misdirect our discipline on what they did, or the quarreling we observed. But thedo—their behavior—is only a symptom of the unseen motive in their hearts. We might ask ourselves, “What attributes, if understood by the child, would correct this behavior in the future? Being patient and forgiving when annoyed? Loving and being a peacemaker? Taking personal responsibility for one’s actions and not blaming?”  How do parents teach these attributes to their children? We will never have a greater opportunity to teach and show Christ-like attributes to our children than in the way we discipline them. Discipline comes from the same root word as disciple and implies patience and teaching on our part. It should not be done in anger. We can and should discipline the way that Doctrine and Covenants 121teaches us: “by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; by kindness and pure knowledge” (verses 41–42). These are all Christ-like be’s that should be a part of who we, as parents and disciples of Christ, are.

Through discipline the child learns of consequences. In such moments it is helpful to turn negatives into positives. If the child confesses to a wrong, praise the courage it took to confess. Ask the child what he or she learned from the mistake or misdeed, which gives you, and more important, the Spirit an opportunity to touch and teach the child. When we teach children doctrine by the Spirit, that doctrine has the power to change their very nature—be—over time.  Alma discovered this same principle, that “the preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just—yea, it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword” (Alma 31:5; emphasis added). Why? Because the sword focused only on punishing behavior—or do—while preaching the word changed people’s very nature—who they were or could become.

A sweet and obedient child will enroll a father or mother only in Parenting 101. If you are blessed with a child who tests your patience to the nth degree, you will be enrolled in Parenting 505. Rather than wonder what you might have done wrong in the premortal life to be so deserving, you might consider the more challenging child a blessing and opportunity to become more godlike yourself. With which child will your patience, long-suffering, and other Christlike virtues most likely be tested, developed, and refined? Could it be possible that you need this child as much as this child needs you?  We have all heard the advice to condemn the sin and not the sinner. Likewise, when our children misbehave, we must be careful not to say things that would cause them to believe that what they did wrong is who they are. “Never let failure progress from an action to an identity,” with its attendant labels like “stupid,” “slow,” “lazy,” or “clumsy.”2 Our children are God’s children. That is their true identity and potential. His very plan is to help His children overcome mistakes and misdeeds and to progress to become as He is. Disappointing behavior, therefore, should be considered as something temporary, not permanent—an act, not an identity.  We need to be careful, therefore, about using permanent phrases such as “You always …” or “You never …” when disciplining. Take care with phrases such as “You never consider my feelings” or “Why do you always make us wait?” Phrases like these make actions appear as an identity and can adversely influence the child’s self-perception and self-worth.

Identity confusion can also occur when we ask children what they want to be when they grow up, as if what a person does for a living is who he or she is. Neither professions nor possessions should define identity or self-worth. The Savior, for example, was a humble carpenter, but that hardly defined His life.  In helping children discover who they are and helping strengthen their self-worth, we can appropriately compliment their achievement or behavior—the do. But it would be even wiser to focus our primary praise on their character and beliefs—who they are.  In a game of sports, a wise way to compliment our children’s performance—do—would be through the point of view of be — like their energy, perseverance, poise in the face of adversity, etc.— thus complimenting both be and do.  When we ask children to do chores, we can also look for ways to compliment them on being, such as, “It makes me so happy when you do your chores with a willing heart.”  When children receive a report card from school, we can praise them for their good grades, but it may be of greater lasting benefit to praise them for their diligence: “You turned in every assignment. You are one who knows how to tackle and finish difficult things. I am proud of you.”

During family scripture time, look for and discuss examples of attributes discovered in your reading that day. Because Christ-like attributes are gifts from God and cannot be developed without His help,3 in family and personal prayers, pray for those gifts. At the dinner table, occasionally talk about attributes, especially those you discovered in the scriptures earlier that morning. “In what way were you a good friend today? In what way did you show compassion? How did faith help you face today’s challenges? In what way were you dependable? honest? generous? humble?” There are scores of attributes in the scriptures that need to be taught and learned.

The most important way to teach to be is to be the kind of parents to our children that our Father in Heaven is to us. He is the one perfect parent, and He has shared with us His parenting manual—the scriptures.

My remarks today have been addressed primarily to parents, but the principles apply to everyone. May your efforts to develop Christ-like attributes be successful so that His image may be engraven in your countenance and His attributes manifest in your behavior. Then, when your children or others feel of your love and see your behavior, it will remind them of the Savior and draw them to Him is my prayer and testimony in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

NOTES: William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, act 3, scene 1, line 56.  Carol Dweck, quoted in Joe Kita, “Bounce Back Chronicles,” Reader’s Digest, May 2009, 95.  See Preach My Gospel: A Guide to Missionary Service (2004), 115.

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