Faithful Friend

Last night I cleaned out my purse.

It was time to retire a faithful friend. It’s getting ragged and I knew I needed to replace it. It won’t be going to Peru with me. I sure did some remembering….going through that thing….removing every trace of me.

This purse is something that brought me some happiness when I needed to look outside of myself for that happiness. It’s not the kind of purse I would usually choose, but I loved it’s colors and bright, bold flowers. It was perfect for me then. It clashed with lots of things I wore. I didn’t care. It made me happy to use it. It’s been my faithful friend for 2 years.

We are weeding out our stuff, getting ready to leave on our mission in 2 weeks. We are throwing away, giving away and putting away much.

I thought of throwing that purse away, but I can’t do that yet. I thought of giving it away, but I know it will not be a appreciated. The handles are ragged. Someone might throw it away if I give it to Goodwill. Not yet. I’m not ready for that yet. I think that I will put it away. I want it around still…..for just a little while longer….. to remind me. Someday it won’t be mine anymore, but right now….. I still need it.

Unlike my purse, we will be taking Ashton on our mission with us. He is the one child that can go.

He will be there, cheering on every struggling missionary we encounter.

He will be in the beautiful Peruvian coast, mountains, ruins and landscape we will get to experience.

He will share his strength when a struggle comes along and I will hear the familiar voice in my mind, “Mom, your going to be OK.”

He will be in the joy we hope to find as we experience a new culture and its beautiful people.

He will be our comfort….. when we will need a time out….. for his yearly birthday and angel day.

He can still be with us, no matter where we are and what we are doing. Still my son, but now my faithful friend and quiet, calming companion.

By the way ….. My foot is healing. I am walking with the boot now. I have no pain. Thanks loads for your prayers and helping our little miracle to progress. I get another x-ray on April 4th. Our God is so, so good! He is my supreme faithful friend.

Written by Faye

Learning Humility by Following the Example of Little Children

Faye and I gave talks in our church meetings yesterday. We have been asked to share the text of our talks. Faye shared hers on the blog yesterday.  Today’s post are my remarks.

I chose to give mine on “Humility.” I started by singing a song (with hand motions in parentheses) to my grandchildren:

Thanks to our Father

We will bring

For He gives us (put hands out in front of me, elbows bent at my side, palms up)

Everything. (rotate upper body from side to side, keeping hands in front of me)

Eyes (point to eyes) and ears (point to ears) and

Hands (wiggle fingers) and feet (point to feet)

Clothes to wear (touch clothing) and

Food to eat. (pretend to eat food)

I sang that song to capture the attention of my grandchildren…but also to introduce my topic for today: humility. Gratitude is an essential characteristic of humility.

When I was in high school, my Grandma Amy Mayberry would have the five or six boy cousins around my age stand up at family reunions and sing, “It’s Hard to Be Humble…when you’re perfect in every way…” Grandma had a great sense of humor and it was all done in fun…but I wonder if, at some level, she was trying to teach us something about humility.

I read a cartoon that said, “For me, humility is a matter of great pride.” “Consciously trying to acquire humility can be problematic. One person insightfully said, ‘If you think you have it, you don’t. We should try to develop humility and be sure we didn’t know when we’ve got it, and then we would have it. But if we ever thought we had it, we wouldn’t.’”[i] Yes, humility has been a difficult attribute for me to understand and to live.

One of our Articles of Faith states, “We believe in the same organization that existed in Christ’s primitive church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.” In Christ’s church today — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — the office of “evangelist” is now called a “patriarch.” He serves about 3,000 church members in his geographical area. Under inspiration from God, he pronounces a “patriarchal blessing” upon members who are striving to live God’s commandments and who desire to know God’s specific blessings and cautions in their individual lives.

I received my patriarchal blessing when I was 17 years old, a senior in high school, and at the same time I sang in fun that “It’s hard to be humble.” One of the phrases in my patriarchal blessing says, “…even though reverses and obstacles and heartaches come to you, you should learn to accept them with all humility and acknowledge that the hand of the Lord is in all things.” I have read my patriarchal blessing many times in my life. I have sometimes wondered what the Lord meant when He told me of forthcoming “reverses and obstacles and heartaches.” What would some of those be? I’m certain that He knew that one of those would be Ashton’s death, which has been an indescribable reverse and obstacle and heartache for me.

For the past 3 months, I have been studying, pondering and praying to better understand this counsel from the Lord, which He gave me when I was 17. What does “in all humility” mean? The other word that stands out for me is “learn.” I have concluded that I CAN increase and improve my humility. I’m sure I still don’t understand humility completely, but I think I understand better now than I did 3 months ago.

One of Christ’s modern-day apostles, Boyd K. Packer, taught, “True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior. The study of doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior.”[ii] As I’ve studied humility, that has been one of my goals: to have these studies of humility help improve my behavior. Yes, it IS hard for me to be humble…and no, I’m certainly NOT perfect!

A good friend taught me a way to look at life that has helped me: “Everything is an opportunity. Find the opportunity.” I watched a segment of a documentary about buffaloes: their instinct is to turn INTO and walk INTO a storm as it comes.[iii] This allows them to get through the storm more quickly than cows, who tend to move AWAY from the storm, causing them to experience the storm longer. I wonder if there is something for me to learn here: turn and face my challenges with submissiveness to God and His will in my life.

“Fortunately, the Savior has given me a model for developing humility. When His disciples asked Him, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ He responded by placing a little child in their midst and stating, ‘Whosoever…shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’

“In this passage the Savior teaches me that to become humble is to become as a child. How do I become as a child, and what are the childlike qualities I should strive to develop? King Benjamin, in his profound Book of Mormon sermon, provides guidance:

“’For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.’”

“King Benjamin seems to teach that becoming like a child is a gradual process of spiritual development in which I am aided by the Holy Ghost and my reliance on Christ’s Atonement. Through this process, I will eventually acquire the childlike attributes of meekness, humility, patience, love, and spiritual submissiveness. True humility will inevitably lead me to say to God, ‘Thy will be done.’ And because what I AM does affect what I DO, my submissiveness will be reflected in my reverence, my gratitude, and my willingness to accept callings, counsel, and correction.”[iv]

This is one of the many counter-intuitive paradoxes of our mortal existence. The scriptures teach that God’s ways are higher than man’s ways; His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. One of these paradoxes is that, for me to move forward, I must look back…at children…and learn from them.

The song that I sang at the beginning of my talk is one that Faye found several weeks ago when we were having Family Home Evening with our granddaughter, Jordanna Faye (“Faye Faye”), who is two. She and her mother, Rubi, are living with us while our son, Jordan, is in Air Force Basic Training in San Antonio, Texas. We have been singing that song almost every night for the past several weeks. It is something that Faye Faye has very much enjoyed. It has had a profound impact upon me, as well, as I think of my Heavenly Father and all that He has blessed me with…even the very air that I breathe! Reminding myself of my dependence upon God and my gratitude for His innumerable blessings has helped me improve my humility.

It has been insightful for me to watch Faye Faye as she loves her mother and gets concerned if Rubi is out of her sight. Most of the time, she is very obedient to Rubi. She does not hold grudges. She is quick to show her love. Could I follow her example as I love and want to be close to my Heavenly Father? Could I be more obedient to God and to the leaders He has placed on the earth? Could I be quicker to forgive? Could I do better at showing my love to my fellowman…especially Faye and the rest of my family?

After prayers in the evening, Faye Faye often will give everyone a hug and say their name: “Gampa, Mima, Mommy”…and then she wraps her arms around herself and gives herself a hug and says “And Faye!” That is a girl who has a proper perspective of her own importance in God’s eyes. What a blessing! What an example!

I learned from our five-year-old granddaughter, Clara, to be teachable. We spent a Saturday morning together. She was eager to learn how to pump herself on the swing, to read the word “and” in The Book of Mormon and how to fly a kite. What an example to me of seeing the world for the first time and being willing to learn and grow!

When I was in my mid-twenties, I went on two horseback rides where I used poor judgment and tried to go too far with too little daylight; the end of the ride was in the dark. In each case, I had a different nephew with me; one nephew was 9 and the other was 13. I was becoming agitated and frustrated with how much farther we had to go to get back to our camp. I was not showing patience with my circumstances. Each time, the nephew set an example for me by asking if we should pray. I was embarrassed and humbled that I had not thought of that and that I had not set the example by being more patient…so I asked them if they would say the prayer. In each situation, our conditions immediately improved and we made it back to our camp safely. I’m grateful for those nephews’ examples and for their parents, who taught them to pray.

“Our Father in Heaven, in His great wisdom and love, sends His spirit sons and daughters to this earth as children. They come to families as precious gifts with a divine nature and destiny. Our Heavenly Father knows children are a key to helping me become like Him. There is so much I can learn from children.

“Children provide examples of some of the childlike qualities I need to develop or rediscover in myself to enter into the kingdom of heaven. They are bright spirits who are untarnished by the world — teachable and full of faith. It is no wonder the Savior has a special love and appreciation for little children.

“Among the transcendent events of the Savior’s visit to the Americas, His tender ministry to the children stands apart. In a poignant way, He reached out to each child.

“’And he took their little children, one by one, and blessed them, and prayed unto the Father for them. And when he had done this he wept…And he spake unto the multitude and said unto them: Behold your little ones.’

“Notice that He didn’t say ‘glance at them’ or ‘casually observe them’ or ‘occasionally take a look in their general direction.’ He said to BEHOLD them. To me that means that I should embrace them with my eyes and with my heart; I should see and appreciate them for who they really are: spirit children of our Heavenly Father with divine attributes.”[v]

Finally, I’m grateful for the only perfectly humble Child, Jesus Christ, who expressed perfect gratitude to His Father and who submitted Himself perfectly to His Father’s will when He took upon Himself my sins, my mistakes and my sorrows. I pray that I will do better at utilizing his atonement and the Holy Ghost to become as a little child and thus follow His perfect example of humility.

Written by Carter

 

[i] https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2001/04/to-walk-humbly-with-thy-god?lang=eng

[ii] https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1986/10/little-children?lang=eng

[iii] http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/films/facing-the-storm/

[iv] https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2001/04/to-walk-humbly-with-thy-god?lang=eng

[v] https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2011/04/become-as-a-little-child?lang=eng

O How Great the Goodness of Our God

We have been asked to post the talks we gave in our meetings today. Here is mine and Carter’s will post tomorrow.
It was a good, good day!
My parents are going on a mission too! We gave our farewell talks on the same day. They are going to San Diego!!
 
There is a work of music written by Rob Gardner titled Joseph Smith the Prophet. If you were to listen to one of the songs in this work, you would hear a beautiful alto voice sing these words:
“O how great the goodness of our God. O how great his wisdom and his mercy. O how great his works, his wondrous plan. O how great the love of God.”
Ashton’s death, 3 years ago, has brought the greatest heartache I have ever known. But with that heartache, I have also been FLOODED  with that “great, goodness of our God”, as the song says. I interpret that to be evidence of God’s LOVE for me.
That LOVE has come in many different forms. It has come through my family members, ward members and other good people on this earth, in church meetings, from the scriptures, through music, in the mountains, in the temple and through the whisperings of the Holy Spirit.
At Christmas time my granddaughter, Hannah, gave me a Christmas card and she wrote, ” Hope you feel the LOVE this year!” Well, Hannah, I’m glad to report to you that I have!! More than just this year.
I felt God’s LOVE one morning in 2014 when Heavenly Father wanted to teach me. Carter was listening to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir app on his phone. I remember thinking, “There’s one song I don’t want to hear, “Bring Him Home” from Le Miserable. It’s too much. I can’t listen to that one.” Well, what song came on next? “Bring Him Home”.  Not a coincidence. But this is what I heard….”God on high, hear my prayer, in my need, you have always been there.” I didn’t hear the rest of the song. I only heard those words that morning… and a light went on for me. He HAS always been there. When ever I desperately needed him, he has helped me. From then on, I could listen to that song, and remember that great blessing.
I felt the Love of God through a High Priest group leader who came to our home to check on Carter. He said to him, “You take care of so many people…. Who takes care of you.” He shed tears with us, gave Carter a blessing and left a calming spirit in our home. I had been wondering  at that time how I could help Carter with his grief when I was so deep in my own. Heavenly Father sent that good, faithful man.
Quote by Charles Spurgeon – I don’t know who he is but I love what he said:
“Thank God then if you have been led by a rough road. It is this which has given you  your experience of God’s greatness and loving kindness.”
 I felt His LOVE as we camped or hiked in the mountains. I felt it when we visited a lake or the ocean.
There’s a hymn in our hymn book titled” God is LOVE”. It used to be called, “Earth with Her Ten Thousand Flowers” in the older hymn book . This hymn has never been one of my favorites, but now I understand it. I now, really see and understand the beautiful words in that hymn.
Earth, with her ten thousand flow’rs
Air with all its beams and showers
Heaven’s infinite expanse
Sea’s resplendent countenance
All around and all above
Bear this record: God is LOVE.
I now feel His LOVE whenever it rains or there’s a beautiful sky or sunset.
I felt the LOVE of God in a park in Sierra Vista. I was there with my grandchildren that day. A normal looking older man walked up to us at our picnic table as we were eating our lunch. He said that he comes to this park to bring God to people who need it. He asked me if anything had happened in my life and if I needed prayer.  I was trying to gauge how I felt with him there and it felt peaceful so I told him about Ashton. He prayed for us right there and said some very comforting things. He was a good man doing God’s work. My grandchildren felt his good spirit. They sat still and listened too. When he left, I remember thinking… “God knows and loves me.”
Quote by Deiter F. Uchtdorf:

God does not look on the outward appearance.  I believe thaHe doesn’t care one bit if wlive in castle or cottage, if we are handsome or homely, if we are famous or forgotten. Though we are incomplete, God loves us completely. Thougwe are imperfect, He loves uperfectly. Though we may feelost and without compass, God’s love encompasses us completely.

He loves us because He is filled with an infinite measure of holy, pure, and indescribable love. We are important to God not because of our résumé but because we are His children. He loves every one of us, even those who are flawed, rejected, awkward, sorrowful, or broken. God’s love is so great thaHe loves even the proud, the selfish, the arrogant, and thwicked.

I felt God’s LOVE as Carter and I were able to sing in the Community Christmas Celebration this year. We like to do that, but haven’t been able to the past few years.  One song we sang was Beautiful Savior. There’s a part in the song that says:  “He makes the sorrowing spirit sing.” I can testify that He does.
 Looking back on our 2 years in the Winchester Branch, I can see how God was showing his LOVE to me by planting us there. It didn’t feel like it at first. It was a struggle and  I learned to say, “Estoy Aprendiendo” (I am learning) whenever someone asked, “How is your Spanish?” I am still “Estoy Aprendiendoing!!!! But I can see now how this calling has been preparing me for this mission.  For one thing, the Spanish in Peru will not be such a shock.  When we first started attending that branch 2 years ago, we were weary. It has been a healing 2 years. The sweet people there have been part of that “great goodness of our God” that we needed so badly and I love them  all dearly. I miss them. One significant thing happened December of 2015. Our branch president, Pres. Whetten challenged each of us to choose something we would do to help us better keep the Sabbath Day holy. I decided to start doing family history and I started that January. Much of the main lines had been done on both sides of my family but I felt like there had to be something I could do. I found out about descendency and I now have more names and more work to do than I can keep up with. Looking back at that time when I started doing Family History, I can see that’s when the weight of constant grief started lifting.
I recently listened to part of the Roots Tech conference which is the Family History Conference the church puts on every year. Elder and Sister Nelson were speaking. I heard this and quickly wrote it down:
Sister Nelson –
“It is my testimony that however fabulous your life is right now or however discouraging and heartbreaking it may be, your involvement in family history and temple work will make it better. It is my testimony that when we show the Lord we are serious about helping our ancestors, the heavens will open and we will receive all that we need.”
That happened to me! I started doing Family History and the heavens WERE open for me! God poured out his LOVE and healing began.
Oh How Great the Goodness of our God!
I have felt God’s LOVE for me as I have been made aware of those who have offered to help our children while we are away. Just recently, another family member offered their help to Candace. Thank you so very much! I love you all for that!
I have also felt the LOVE of God as I have been able to venture out and help other people. One big, glaring void in my life these past few years is that I have not felt very useful. When I was able to go out and bring some light to others who needed it… Looking back on that…. I see how that feeling in my heart was God’s LOVE.
Song: I Feel My Savior’s LOVE
verse 4
I’ll share my Savior’s LOVE
By serving other freely
In serving I am blessed
In giving I receive
One of Ashton’s missionary companions told us of one of Ashton’s favorite scriptures:
1 Nephi 11: 17  “…..I know that he loveth his children, nevertheless,  I do not know the meaning of all things.”
Well, Ashton, I too do not know the meaning of all things, but I do know that God knows and loves me. I trust him and his plan for our family, and I am so grateful for his “great goodness”, the LOVE, he shows to me as I continue to live on His beautiful earth.
Written by Faye

Update on Faye’s Foot

Faye had her 2-week follow-up xray on her right foot today. It is healing! The orthopedist recommends 2 more weeks of non-weight-bearing, followed by weight-bearing in the boot. He will xray at that time, which will be April 5. We are planning on flying to Utah for training on April 8…that is cutting it VERY close!
So…please continue to keep Faye in your thoughts and prayers; thanks for doing so until now, also. It’s helping!
Written by Carter

Mission Farewell

For those who are interested, Faye and I will be speaking in our congregation’s meeting on Sunday, March 12 at 1 pm. The building is at 640 W. Patton St. in St. David. The meeting will be over at 2:10. “Sunday best” is appropriate attire.

Also: for those who might not know, Faye broke a bone in her right foot in a “fluke” accident where she turned her ankle walking on an even surface. She has been on crutches and a knee scooter for the past two weeks. She will have an xray this week to see if it’s healed enough. If not, she may need to have a screw placed to help the healing. We would appreciate your faith and prayers in her behalf…that she will be healed in time for us to leave for our mission on April 8. Thanks so much!

Written by Carter

The Chastening of the Lord

     Written by Carter
     I read this scripture recently and it really struck a chord for me:
     Proverbs 3:11-12 “My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord; neither be weary of his correction: For whom the Lord loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.”
     As I thought about that, I asked myself: “Do I ‘despise’ the chastening of the Lord?” “Despise” seems like too strong of a word for my circumstances…so I decided to look in Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible to see if there are other words that could have been used there. The Concordance takes each word in the Bible and gives the original word in Hebrew (Old Testament) or Greek (New Testament), and also gives some alternative translations.
     “Am I ‘weary’ of God’s correction?” Frankly, sometimes, grief can be exhausting, and, yes, sometimes I AM “weary” of this correction.
     Some alternative words for “despise”: spurn, disdain, loath, refuse, reject. Do I sometimes reject or bristle at God’s correction? Yes.
     Some alternative words for “chastening”: halter, check, correction, discipline, doctrine, instruction, teach. In my limited experience working with horses, a halter is something that is put on their head to help restrain or direct them for the master’s purposes. If I am going in a direction different that where God wants me to go, He may need to correct that direction to His purposes. He may need to instruct or teach me.
     Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary describes “chasten” thus: “to correct; discipline; purify; prune (as a work or style of art) of excess, pretense or falsity; refine.” Wow! That is helpful to think of: God sometimes prunes from me my excess and pretense. He purifies and refines me.
     From the Concordance, some alternative words for “weary”: “severing oneself from (as a fruit or vegetable that is harvested); to be disgusted or anxious; abhor; be distressed; be grieved; load; vex.” The one that most moves me is “severing oneself”: if I am “weary” of God’s correction, I am severing myself from the life-giving sustenance that He is willing to provide me.
     Some alternative words for “correcteth”: “to be right, convince, judge, plead, reason together.” For me, God is pleading with me, trying to convince me, reasoning with me to grow in a different direction. I feel His love as I think of this.
     Some alternative words for “delighteth”: “to be pleased with, be acceptable, approve, enjoy, have favor, like, take pleasure.” Again, I think of God’s favor and acceptance and love as He corrects me BECAUSE He loves me!
     Another scripture on this topic is Hebrews 5:8 “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered.”
     An alternative word for “learned” is “understand.”
     Some alternative words for “obedience”: “attentive hearkening, compliance, be subordinate to, submission, listen attentively, conform to a command or authority, heed, hearken, be under or inferior to.” As I follow Christ’s example, I will remember that God knows best; He knows more than I do. His ways are higher than my ways.
     Some alternative words for “suffered”: “to experience a sensation or impression (usually painful): feel, passion, vex.” There are some things that can only be learned through pain and suffering. I am here to learn and to grow; I am trying to grow in the ways that God wants me to grow. Sometimes that will be excruciatingly painful.

Thanksgiving

     I grew up on a small family farm. We raised a few cows. When the calves were old enough to be weaned from their mother, we would separate them into separate pastures. The cow and calf would moo to each other for several days. It seems like that would stop within a week or so. We are approaching three years since Ashton died. I don’t think a day passes without my thinking of and missing him. Tears still come easily. My uncle had his right (dominant) hand amputated from a roping accident when he was 19 years old. He’s now 77. I asked him…somewhat in jest…”How long it takes a person to get used to losing his right hand?” He replied, “You’ll have to ask someone older than me; I’m still not used to it.” My uncle has learned to do many things without his right hand: he wears a prosthesis on that arm that he uses to hold electric clippers or a comb when working as a barber…which he has done since his 20’s. He learned to rope again. He has learned to function without his right hand…but he still misses it. No analogy is perfect, but I see some similarities with my missing Ashton: I am learning to adapt and accept…but I still miss him beyond my ability to express.
     This Thursday is Thanksgiving. The last two Thanksgivings have been difficult for me. Someone asked if it was hard for me to feel grateful; that’s not it; I am grateful to God for His mercy and His perfect plan…but Thanksgiving is a family day…and my entire family is not here on earth with me. Another friend asked me how my Thanksgiving was. I said it was kind of rough. He said, “OK. Let me rephrase the question: ‘How was your food on Thanksgiving?'” I think he was trying to be upbeat and cheerful…which I appreciate and probably needed. However, I’ve also learned that there are some people who are not ready to hear the answer to, “How are you doing?” And that’s OK. I don’t resent that or them. I just have to give the obligatory “Fine” response in those situations.
     My goal for this Thanksgiving is to be prepared to have as much fun and to be as playful as I can at a family member’s home as we enjoy the day together. I certainly don’t want to be a “downer” for anyone else who is trying to enjoy the holiday. Please pray for me in this endeavor.
     Faye and I were asked to speak on Gratitude in our congregation today. However, it turned out that someone else was already scheduled to speak…so we have been postponed to next week. I confess that I dreaded speaking today. Again, I’m very grateful to God and His Son, Jesus Christ. However, whenever I talk about what I am grateful for: to know that “Families can be together forever” and that Ashton is my son through the eternities, my emotions overcome me, I cry and I have a hard time speaking. Sometimes it gets worrisome crying in front of others. I think it’s probably awkward for them.
     One of my favorite authors is Ashleigh Brilliant, who writes epigrams (a pithy saying or remark expressing an idea in a clever and amusing way). I have adapted one of them for my circumstances: “Please put your [grief] away; it’s making me too sad.” I think it’s probably tiresome for some to hear of my grief…and that’s OK. As a physician, I try to walk the balance between (metaphorically) tearing the bandage off every 5 minutes to see how the wound is doing versus covering it up and pretending it’s not there.
     Thanks for listening to my ramblings; writing this has been therapeutic for me. God bless you and I hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving!
     Written by Carter

Mowing, Jobs, Cowboys, General Sherman

Here are some random thoughts I’ve been having lately.
MOWING
     Ashton died January 28, 2014. That summer, I did not have the energy or motivation to plant our garden or mow our yard. In the fall, our pigweeds were about 18 inches tall and grew thick in our backyard. A well-meaning acquaintance…who didn’t know about Ashton’s death…offered to mow them for us. In the conversation, he said, “There’s no excuse for letting your weeds get that high!” I didn’t feel like then was the time to say, “Well, let me tell you what’s going on in my life right now.” I didn’t even have the energy to do that. I didn’t have the energy to even care that our yard was crowded with weeds. We hired him to mow our yard that year. I very much appreciate his help in keeping our grass (and weeds) mowed down.
     Last year, I was able to plant a small garden. It was healing for me to participate with God in helping some of His creations grow. I still didn’t feel like mowing, though. The same acquaintance mowed last year.
     This year, we hired a young man to mow in the spring. We finally repaired our DR Trimmer and I was amazed that I had the energy and motivation to mow our yard several times this summer and fall! It DOES make our yard look better! It was healing to get out and physically exert myself!
THAT’S MY JOB!
     One of my patients has been on dialysis for the past several years. I was impressed with how optimistic he is, despite having the spend most of three days per week at the dialysis center…and the rest of those days, he is quite exhausted. He is a man who is accustomed to working physically hard during his lifetime. It was difficult for him to not be able to do that anymore. I asked him how he kept his positive outlook. His response touched me deeply. He said, “As a younger, healthier man, I would go to work every day to earn a living for my family. Now I look at dialysis as my ‘job.’ That’s just what I do on those three days every week.” That has helped him keep a positive attitude during this difficult time. He tries to be cheerful with the staff and other dialysis patients when he has dialysis. That was a lesson for me. For now, one of my main jobs is to grieve and to heal…and that is HARD and exhausting work!
COWBOYS
     I have a couple of patients that are “cowboys.” They are quite independent and self sufficient. They are both very large and powerful older men.
     One of these “cowboys” said that going to psychiatrists was “dumb.” “All you have to do is look at your life like a tree. Mentally go down to the ‘trunk’ of your life and see what ‘branches’ you have taken and where those decisions have led you.” He said that was very healing as he dealt with trials in his life. That sounds like a great idea and is something I plan to do.
     The other one came by the office when he heard that Ashton had died. He asked my receptionist if he could speak to me about a non-medical matter for just a minute. When I came to the waiting room, he had tears in his eyes and gave me a huge bear hug and pat on the back and told me how sorry he was for my loss. At a later visit, however, he advised me to not be “too sensitive” about what happens to me in my life.
     I’ve been thinking about these two men: are “cowboys” part of the solution? or are they part of the problem (by insisting on fixing all their own problems)? or both? or neither? I don’t have an answer to that, but it was an interesting thought experiment for me.
GENERAL SHERMAN
     I spoke recently to a friend about the effects of mental illness on those around them. About 30 years ago, his brother developed mental illness and started hearing voices that told him to kill his parents…which, tragically, he did. His brother has been institutionalized since then. This friend commented, “Mental illness is devastating…to the person afflicted by it and by those who love them!”
     For some reason, I thought of Major General William Tecumseh Sherman’s “March to the Sea” during the American Civil War. As he marched, he and his men conducted a “scorched earth” approach to break the military, economic and psychological will of the Confederate people. They lived off the land by taking from its inhabitants their crops and animals, often burning what was left behind. Of course, this is not a “perfect” analogy, but I am amazed that yes, mental illness is devastating to all involved…sometimes for several generations.
     My maternal grandfather suffered from bipolar disorder. He and my grandmother had eight children together. He had several “psychotic breaks,” where he lost touch with reality. The culminating “break” was when he tried to drown my grandmother in the bathtub. I don’t know what delusional thoughts he was having as he carried out this attempt. Fortunately, Grandmother escaped. She filed for divorce and raised her children on her own for a time, then married a widow who also had children. The resultant “blended family” was fraught with many challenges. Many scars were left on the survivors of Grandpa’s mental illness. I think I only saw Grandpa three times before he died; I didn’t get to know him very well at all. Mental illness often has a strong genetic component, and several of Grandpa’s descendants (including Ashton) have suffered from mental illness.
Written by Carter

Healing Loaves of Love 

November 5, 2016

I have a good friend who is a bread maker extraordinaire. Her mother was a bread maker. Susan used to make bread every Monday for her family when she had children at home. Her oldest daughter got emotional once when she talked about ‘bread day’ in their home. She loved her family by making bread for them.  She told me once:

“We’re not making bread, we’re making memories.” I’ve never forgotten that.

Susan has a bread recipe that is, what I consider, the perfect bread recipe. A few years ago, she shared it with me and it is our family’s favorite.

I, too, am a  bread maker. My mother was a bread maker. I also used to make bread for my family. Making bread was something I loved doing. It was also a stress reliever for me. Making bread took me into another world for a few hours. My family loved it, Ashton loved it, and I loved making it for them. The smell of bread baking in our home is a sweet, comforting memory I have of my childhood. I have a sign above my stove that says, “Cooking is Love Made Visible”. Carter bought that sign for me. He knew that’s how I loved my family.

Recently, my friends, Susan and Shevonne, opened up a little country store in St. David called, The Country Coop. A few weeks ago Susan asked if I would like to make bread for them to sell there on the weekends. I told her I would do it. But, inwardly, I was reluctant. I hadn’t made bread for a long time. I didn’t have the energy. My heart wasn’t in it. It wasn’t fun anymore. But I love their little store and I felt honored to be asked by the best bread maker around to make bread for her store. There was no question what recipe I would use. I would make that amazing potato bread of hers. I love the name of her bread recipe.

She calls it, “Love Loaves”.

I told her about a problem I’ve had getting my loaves of bread to brown evenly so she brought over her mother’s loaf pans for me to try. She said, “These pans brown perfectly, every time.” When I first saw them, I was repulsed by them. They were black and scary looking. They weren’t ‘pretty’. I was reluctant to use them. And I didn’t the first weekend I made the bread. I used my pans and I had that same problem of the loaves not browning as well as I would like them to. This weekend I decided to try her mother’s pans. I made 20 loaves of bread in those pans and they turned out beautifully browned! I should have taken a picture. THEY WERE BEAUTIFUL!!

I studied those pans that I called ‘scary’. They were actually beautifully seasoned works of art! There was a story of love baked into each pan, passed down from mother to daughter.  How is it that something so beautiful could come from a pan that worn and old? Why wouldn’t my shiny, pretty pans produce a beautiful loaf of bread?

It’s the seasoning.

It has to be. The years of grease and heat and use. The layers of it all….over and over again….that don’t wash off. It is the seasoning.

Am I being seasoned? Does God have a beautiful outcome in store for me someday?

How does it happen that little white loaves of potato bread, sitting on my counter, wrapped and ready to sell can help to heal me? How does that happen? Well, it happened.

Healing comes in ways I would never expect.

I loved the making of it all. I remembered the happiness I used to find in the making. I was reminded that the perfectionist in me comes out when I make bread. Having that one perfect loaf sitting on my cooling rack thrills me. And the fact that I used those precious pans….all those years of love already baked in.

I plan to keep making that bread for The Country Coop if at all possible. If you happen to go there and if you happen to buy one of those “Love Loaves”,  remember how healing they have been for me, the love that goes into the making, and Grandma Preston’s sweetly seasoned pans. There’s a love story, and some sweet memories in every beautiful loaf.

By the way…. My word for this holiday season is LOVE. For many, many reasons. It just fits.

Thank you Susan and Shevonne. I like to believe you opened up The Coop just for me.

The Country Coop is open every Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 9:00 am. – 561 Lee Street on Highway 80 in St David.

Written by Faye

Some Measure of Closure

Glennon Doyle Melton said, “Writing about dark and scary things makes them less dark and scary.”
I wrote today about the day Ashton died, January 28, 2014: the events, thoughts, feelings and physical senses I experienced on that “watershed” day. These are very tender and personal feelings and thoughts…so I won’t be sharing them on my blog. I just wanted to mention in my blog what I wrote about today.
Please pray for us as we are striving to bring some measure of closure to this indescribably painful and difficult day in our lives.
Written by Carter