Monday, October 31, 2011

Pointless holiday?

Halloween really is a pointless holiday. Maybe that's why people have grown to love it so much. You can have as much or as little expectation of the holiday as you chose to have. There's no worry about what gift will make someone smile, or if the food will turn out and be hot in time for guest, or worry about which family should be visited this year, or having to remember what year someone was born in, (you don't want to give a person a birthday card with "Happy 40th" when it's only their 37th). You can dress up as much or as little as you want, go to all the parties or none of the parties. No one really cares (I don't anyway). I enjoy Halloween. I like to go to a good party or two, I like to listen to music too loudly and dance the craziness out of the night. I like to put on scary makeup, but not too much because then it doesn't look real. I like to carve pumpkins, dress up my kids, and watch funny scary movies. I am always really glad when Halloween is over though. I have found that the week after Halloween is usually pretty uneventful as far as expectations of other people go. It's the calm before the storm I guess. This year is an exception to that. I am so over scheduled the first week of November it is nuts. Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Thoughts about prayer, it's a gift.

My story with Mike started out in Cedar City. After some serious contemplation and thought, I had decided against going to Western Washington University. It was a late decision so I didn’t know what I would do for the next several months. I was graduated from high school, had just quit my summer job, and had decided against going to a school I had been looking forward to going to for a couple of years. A dear friend called to tell me she had a vacancy in the apartment she was staying in, and why don’t I come to SUU. I felt like I was crazy for just nodding my head and saying, ya ok, that sounds good; but it felt right to say, “yes, I’m coming to Cedar City”. My mom always prayed that her kids would be in the right place at the right time. Moving to Cedar City was the right thing for me to do.
I was able to get a scholarship for Harp Performance even though I was registering late for the semester. I was so grateful to receive the scholarship. After many thousands of hours of practice, many thousands of miles traveled to and from lessons, and many thousands of dollars spent, it was an answer to prayer to receive a scholarship. It was a confirmation from the Lord that all the time and energy spent was good and right.
Not long after moving to Cedar City my roommate and I were on our way to help her cousin move some things. We stopped in a parking lot where we met with her cousin. This is where I met Mike . . . in a parking lot. It wasn’t just any parking lot, it was a holy place! The clouds parted in the sky, rays of sunshine shone down upon him, and the angels started singing heralds from heaven. I sat there and stared. My thoughts were, “What? Are you kidding me? Is this really happening? I don’t believe in this!” I was mad! I was not ready to be in love. But, there was something about him that was so familiar. It was as if we were the best of friends, but hadn’t seen each other for a long, long time.
A few years went by. We both took our time getting through semesters of school. I traveled, had some fun jobs, he joined the National Guard, and then it happened, he asked me to marry him- with a ring. Being in Cedar City led me to my best friend and spouse. I am so grateful I was in the right place at the right time. My mother’s prayers were not unheard.
After Mike and I got married, we transferred to the University of Utah. As a Harp Performance major, at the end of each semester I was required to perform two pieces for a panel of music professors. One performance is how my grade was decided. There were five professors who would critique my performance, then tally up the score from each critique. That is how my grade was determined, and if I could remain in the major. It was nerve wracking! I had a toddler and a studio with 25 students, full time school schedule and a husband. It was so hard to find the time to spend in the practice room that my peers were spending. I practiced and I prepared as much as I could. At the end of a particularly difficult semester, I remember sitting in the parking lot next to the music building just before my performance evaluation. After as much preparation and practice as I could get in throughout the semester, I felt like it wasn’t enough. I was terrified I was going to let myself down, as well as my family, and not receive the grade I desired. In a song of fervent prayer I cried out to the Lord. I asked for His help. I needed for my hands and heart and mind to be blessed that I could have a performance that was worthy of the effort and hours I had spent preparing. I felt an incredible spiritual strength I felt as I played for those professors. The spirit that was in the concert hall when I finished playing was substantial and strong. The Lord had most sincerely heard my pleading, and answered my prayer.
Prayer can be offered earnestly, and prayer can be less intense; depending on our circumstances.
Getting out the door with children is not always simple, especially when you’re trying to get out the door for a vacation. You have to make sure everything is in order, the car is packed perfectly, the trash is taken out of the house, the pets have enough food and water, the doors are locked, the lights are off, and on and on. You have to make sure you have the right blankie, and the right toy. If the correct toy is not in the car when you pull away from the house it could cause some serious problems. This summer we had put our vacation off several times, for several different reasons. August was rolling along and we still hadn’t taken our trip. Finally, we were on our way out the door, the car was packed, Emily and Andrew had their seatbelts on, but Samantha was in the house crying. She would not move, she couldn’t find her stuffed animal squirrel. The squirrel’s name is Aurora. It was nowhere to be found. We had spent an hour looking through her room, the backyard, the playroom, backpacks, we felt like we had looked everywhere. Not having her toy seemed so trivial to me. I had lost my patience. She was to be in the car in ten seconds or she would not be going with us. I didn’t want to have to stick to a punishment that entailed leaving my child with someone else while I went on vacation with the rest of my kids. Samantha let out a very specific prayer and asked the Lord to help us find her squirrel in the next 10 seconds. I was immediately prompted to look in her school backpack. There it was, in the bottom of her backpack. Not only did we learn how effective prayer can be, our faith was also strengthened, and Samantha witnessed the power of prayer, which has been a comfort to her since. It isn’t always the life altering miracles that remind us how amazing the gift of prayers is, it is most often the small day to day things that strengthen our knowledge that the Lord loves us and wants us to be happy. Because he loves us and desires us to be happy, he has given us the gift of prayer. In Psalms is says “The Lord hath heard my supplication; the Lord will receive my prayer”. The Lord definitely received Samantha’s prayer that day.
When Mike deployed the first time to Iraq his re enlistment date came up while he was gone. We knew this would happen and had decided that he wasn’t going to re-enlist. When it came right down to it, our prayers for confirmation on that decision were met with fogginess and confusion. When we prayed about re enlisting, it was a clear answer. We felt the Lord’s confirmation that the right thing to do was to re enlist. I really had to have faith that the Lord knew what was best for us. It was a very difficult decision, but we were comforted by the fact that our decision was backed by an answered prayer. We knew Mike would eventually deploy again. And here we are. We don’t know the reasons for the answer to that prayer, but have faith that the Lord is aware of us and those around us. To us is seems like the harder path, but have faith in the answer that was given.
Mike says, “Prayer gives me focus and strength to overcome negative feelings and thoughts. After a good heartfelt prayer my fear subsides and I know I will survive.” I am given comfort and peace knowing that like me, Mike can pray to the Lord and receive answers.
Andrew had surgery this summer. It was a planned procedure that has required a lot of follow up and recovery. When I had to watch Andrew be rolled in to the O.R. and walk down the long lonely hallway to the waiting room I thought I would pass out. My heart ached and hurt so badly. I couldn’t keep the tears from rolling down my face; they just rolled down my cheeks. There was nothing I could do. I had no control. I had just given my sweet little boy over to the hands of strangers. Although there was loneliness in that waiting room and fear of the unknown, I could literally feel the power of other people’s prayers that were being offered in Andrew’s behalf. I am so grateful for the prayers of others. Prayer is definitely a gift. Prayer can offer comfort.
We can receive guidance and wisdom from Heavenly Father through prayer. We can better understand our children and their needs. We can receive insight that will guide us in helping them. Prayer can be a source of comfort. Prayer strengthens families. Earnest, humble, continual prayer generates immeasurable amounts of blessings. It doesn’t matter where we are. It doesn’t matter if we are poor or rich, humble or arrogant, loved or forsaken, we can address our Heavenly Father in prayer. Prayer is an amazing gift from the Lord.