LOIS’ POST: These last 18 months posting on our blog have brought many surprising blessings. Initially it took courage to open up our most sacred, personal feelings for public viewing. We appreciate your respectful feedback and encouraging comments. We are pleased to note that our modest posts have been read in 78 countries throughout the world. THANK YOU. As we complete our 18-month blogging goal, we hand the baton to our 21-year-old granddaughter, Madeline Dunn. We invite you to continue to visit the website, Reasons to Rejoice, as she expresses uplifting insights from her youthful perspective. As my final post, I want to share a simple statement of truth: Jesus Christ’s Plan of Salvation answers these deep questions of the soul: (1) Who am I? (2) Where did I come from? (3) What is my purpose on earth? (4) Where will I go after death? http://www.mormon.org/ This plan explains how we can be happy in this life and return to God’s presence, and how to grow up to become like Him. The Lord forgives my sins, recreates my nature, promises resurrection after death, and qualifies me for glory hereafter. He assures that all things wrong in the world will one day be made right. He promises His faithful followers a fullness of joy. That is the capstone of my REASONS TO REJOICE. “Rejoice, O my heart…I will praise thee forever; yea, my soul will rejoice in thee, my God, and the rock of my salvation” (2 Nephi 4:30).
ALAN’S POST: As I look back over the past 18 months that my wife and I have posted on our website, “Reasons to Rejoice,” I have experienced great joy in exploring and sharing my deepest convictions. I have rediscovered and reinforced countless reasons to rejoice in my life. I am grateful for you, our readers, who have perused these posts three times per week. We now find it timely to shift our attention to specific genealogy and family history goals. As a parting offering, I want to share my testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I testify of God’s marvelous Plan of Salvation for His beloved children. We left our heavenly home in order to come to earth and learn by experience. Heavenly Father knew that we would inevitably make mistakes, so He provided a Savior for us, who would atone for these errors. Because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we can repent and be sanctified. We are enabled through His power to progress eternally, to eventually become as He is. The scriptures and words of living prophets provide a roadmap to keep our feet on the right path. Through covenant making and covenant keeping, we are assured of joy in this life and forever. My hope is that you have been edified by reading our posts and will find future installments equally uplifting. I pray that the Lord’s choice blessings will be with you and your families. Until we meet again, we bid you ado.
Life is all about families! As I have been writing histories of parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents, I’m drawn to them with increased tenderness and honor, even greater than when they were alive. Some of them I never knew. I am also thinking about precious one-on-one moments with my children and grandchildren in soul-connecting activities and discussions. I am happiest in the presence of my family. My thoughts wrap around them; every prayer centers on them; my heart is linked inseparably by eternal bonds. Family is everything to me—husband, children, grandchildren, siblings, parents, grandparents—backwards and forwards up and down the generations. It’s like an intricate web that cannot be touched without setting the whole matrix in motion. I think of my posterity yet to be born, and already love them with inexpressible intensity. I yearn to leave behind a legacy of faith to help them remain constant as they traverse their mortal journey. I hope to assist them—by example and precept—to have a strong personal faith in Jesus Christ which will prepare them for the challenges they will most surely face. I know this love and concern will increase, in this lifetime and beyond the veil, as I continue to labor and pray in their behalf. Family is my work, my joy, my life—now and forever. Family gives me abundant Reasons to Rejoice!
During a road trip, my husband and I took turns discussing these 3 questions: (1) What lessons have we have learned from the past? (2) How we can prepare for the future? (3) How can we enjoy living today? It was a fascinating and unifying activity. Of course the lessons learned from the past were usually gleaned from trial experiences. Though everyone’s list will be different, I’ll share just a few ideas we came up with from each category.
- Learn from the past: In the strength of the Lord, we can do hard things; Joy is in God, not in circumstance; recognition of countless divine rescues and tender mercies; the need of a Savior in the eternal plan of happiness; learning what is really important.
- Prepare for the future: Seek learning, both sacred and secular; continue to budget and save; practice prudence and generosity; maintain habits of healthy eating and exercise; establish emergency plans and supplies; maintain and repair property and possessions; nourish strong family relationships; view life with optimism and cheer; have a positive attitude about aging.
- Enjoy today: Appreciate each moment as a gift from God; increase gratitude; perform acts of service each day; prioritize best options for use of time; cherish each other and strengthen our marriage; be actively engaged in good causes; smile more; be other-centered; learn balance and pacing of all good things.
Plan to have this discussion with your spouse. It will give you many Reasons to Rejoice!
“Own the morning; own the day.” To me this means personal prayer and scripture study before anything else happens. If I discipline myself to carve out time from sleep to do these two things first thing in the morning, the rest of the day goes much better. Interactions with family members are improved. My attitude is brighter. I have more energy, more smiles. In fact, I discovered that prayer and scripture study refresh my body and soul far beyond the equivalent minutes of sleep that I missed. During a particularly busy time in my life when hours of sleep were already insufficient, I decided to try an experiment. My alarm was set 30 minutes earlier than usual. On that first morning I groaned with fatigue and padded softly to a favorite chair in the living room. The house was dark and quiet. No one else was awake. I knelt to pray, pouring out my heart’s desires, yearnings and goals. Words of gratitude tumbled out. I felt wrapped in God’s love and approval. Something unique was happening in these quiet moments spent alone with God. Opening my scriptures, I began to study. Surprisingly, the verses applied directly to my present need. I had read those verses previously, but now I saw new truths—relevant and timely. God was speaking to me intimately through these verses. Before long, the 30 minutes stretched to 45. I looked forward to this early morning feast. It filled my soul. My mind was sharper, my heart softer, my step lighter. I was more focused and efficient during the day. What a miracle—on less sleep! Try this experiment and see for yourself. Even 15 minutes carved out of sleep will make a difference. Own the morning; own the day!—a great Reason to Rejoice!
May I describe what joy feels like to me? It’s deep and untouchable by external influences—such as disappointments, trials, and pain. I’ve had all of those. But even in the midst of difficulties, I feel a brightness of hope that lets in light. This hope is leads to faith, because I trust God’s purpose in allowing trials—His beautiful plan to tutor and improve me. I pledge to follow Him. This faith increases gratitude for my Savior who makes it possible to have eternal life. This gratitude heightens inner peace, which is a soothing feeling of equanimity that allows me to fall gently to sleep at night and to wake smiling in the morning. I might describe joy as an inward “smile.” Peace, gratitude, faith, and hope—gradually increase my ability to “grow in love” as Leo Tolstoy put it. These are all elements of happiness. They are subtle feelings and are easily overlooked, especially during an uphill climb. So I’m trying every day to recognize, acknowledge, and then record these tender mercies from above. They are Reasons to Rejoice!
It’s possible to turn work into play. I’m trying to learn how to enjoy each task I’m presently doing, no matter how tedious. The difference between work and play may be hard to define. For me, making a quilt is play; arranging a bulletin board for a classroom is work. Yet, on close scrutiny, these two tasks have similar elements. Both require mathematical calculations and measuring, cutting, fitting, creating, and cleaning up a mess. What makes one work and the other play is my ATTITUDE about it. Drudgery can turn into pleasure if infused with happy thoughts. I can smile while I work. I can create a pleasing ambience for my tasks. I can listen to music or uplifting media while I work. I can look for the positive aspects of my chore. “You must love your work, and not be always looking over the edge of it, wanting your play to begin” (George Eliot). Since work absorbs the majority of hours in each day, I want to learn how to more fully enjoy it. With a twist of attitude I can turn my work into play, making it one more Reason to Rejoice!
At the close of our yearly Christmas Eve festivities, we PASS THE CANDLE. This activity can work with large family groups or small gatherings of friends. The tradition is to darken the room (except the Christmas tree) and light a candle set in a brass holder with sturdy handle. As each person holds the candle, he/she shares something meaningful—something personal from the heart. A 3-year old might simply say, “I love Jesus.” An adult might share a new truth learned and applied during the year. Someone else might express gratitude for someone dearly loved. Another might describe a kindly service rendered. Someone might express personal feelings about the Savior or a tender mercy recently experienced. Another might share a trial and what was learned from it. A wide variety of expressions unfold in this setting with ages ranging from the very young to the very old. A sweet, sacred spirit surrounds us and unites us. The last person blows out the candle and we kneel in family prayer. “Happy homes come in a variety of appearances. There are, however, identifying features: a pattern of prayer; a library of learning; a legacy of love” (Thomas S. Monson).