Category: Pondering (page 1 of 3)

Seeking Blessings

Sometime during my time in London, Tokyo or Japan I started writing “Messages from Mom.” There weren’t many and it didn’t last long. Here is one I found today.

Hi Everyone,

I am starting up my “Message from Mom” again. I can’t guarantee it will be monthly, I am not sure I will have that many “profound” things to say. As always, those related to me by blood don’t have an unsubscribe option. Those who have married my children can always opt out.

The last time our home teacher visited, before returning to the USA in June, his message made a strong impression on me. His message was from a talk given at the June 1971 MIA conference by Boyd K. Packer. First you can read it and then I will share my thoughts.

“A few years ago Donna and I attended a holiday dinner at the home of one of our beloved friends. It was a New Years Eve party. Our host had an activity for the evening. He read a few verses of scripture and then quoted at length from a quotation from Heber C. Kimball, a member of the First Presidency during his life. I’ll just quote one sentence from his quotation from President Kimball.

“I have often said,” President Kimball says, “you may write blessings for yourselves and insert every good thing you can think of and it will come to pass on your heads if you do right.”

Our host gave us a sheet of paper and an envelope and suggested we write upon the paper the things we hoped to achieve during the new year. And then he repeated again the quotation from Brother Kimball, “…you may write blessings for yourselves. Insert every good thing you can think of and it will come to pass on your heads if you do right.”

After we had written our goals on the paper we were asked to seal the envelope and put our name on it. “I will take these to the bank and put them in the vault,” he said. “And a year from now we’ll meet again and have a dinner and I’ll deliver them to you. And we will tell, if we wish, how nearly we have achieved our goals.”

We thoughtfully set our goals that night and sealed them up and they were delivered to the vault to lay silent for one full year. Six things were on my list, each relating to the blessing for someone dear. Each seemed near impossible. One for instance related to a sister and temple marriage. Worthiness was not a problem, it was her body so crippled with disease that a temple session was just out of the question. Or was it? A year went by the envelopes were delivered to us again. During the year with those goals in mind we had prayed now and then and little opportunities or advantages came by, things that would have gone unnoticed without our having set the goal. We were able to move forward first with one goal and then another. There came that endowment session in the temple, there came that sealing ordinance. Four other things happened, but the sixth wouldn’t come to pass. It was on New Year’s Eve that I received a call from across the country. The sixth thing I had written related to the problem of a friend. It just seemed to defy solution. On New Year’s Eve that telephone call came. Excitedly he told me that his problem had been solved. He knew nothing of this list of goals. Our goals had been written, we had set our aim and they had come to pass. Let me repeat again. “…you may write blessings for yourselves and insert every good thing you can think of and it will come to pass on your heads if you do right.”

So now for my thoughts… In the Bible dictionary under prayer it says, “The object of prayer is not to change the will of God, but to secure for ourselves and others blessings that God is already willing to grant, but that are made conditional on our asking for them. Blessings require some work or effort on our part before we can obtain them. Prayer is a form of work, and is the approved means for obtaining the highest of all blessings.”

I think all of you are familiar with the experience I had in 2009 regarding this very subject. I can testify to you that it works. It is my belief that if we ponder and pray about  the blessings that we want to write for ourselves and others, the Spirit will bless to know which blessings to write. Then as we pray, fast and focus on realizing those blessings they will come to pass. I think the key to this is in the final words of President Kimball’s quote, “if you do right.”I have been thinking about what that means. Doing right in my mind is simply being obedient. I try to do right all the time, but there are still little things that I do that I shouldn’t. For example, I never think I obey the Word of Wisdom they way it should be obeyed. I live the letter of it, yet in my mind I don’t live the spirit of it. The spirit is moderation. Another example is the Article of Faith that tells us that we believe in obeying the laws of whatever land we live in. I still jay walk to often, it’s not only dangerous, but breaks the law. I am now waiting for the “green man” on a regular basis.

After hearing this home teaching message, I wrote several blessings down for 2010. All were realized, but two. One of those is in progress and the other one was a blessing I sought for myself. I have come to understand through prayer and fasting that receiving this blessing is based entirely on my obedience. In Doctrine and Covenants 130:20 it says:

“There is a law irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—and when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.”

I was not obedient to the laws necessary for me to receive that blessing. I’m still working on it and know if I am obedient I will receive that blessing. I have a promise from the Lord.

Now, it’s a new year and I have already written the blessings I desire for others and one for myself. I have such a testimony that this works. I love each of you and pray for you daily. I hope you will consider writing some blessings for this year, then be obedient and see those blessings come.

Love always,

Mom/Vanalee

Thoughts on compliments…

Friday when I was walking into the grocery store a woman stopped me and complimented me on my haircut. I smiled and thanked her. It made me smile since it is not really a haircut, although I did get it trimmed around the edges last month. It’s just me recovering from my baldness. Her compliment made me feel good. I mentioned this to Rick and he suggested that I should give out compliments as part of The Birthday Project. This is such a great idea.

I have never been very good at accepting compliments. I will not be doing that any more and plan to give out compliments on a daily basis.

Day 32- Stress and caring

Sometimes when I am folding laundry or ironing I like to watch television or a movie. Today I was disappointed that PBS didn’t have the last night’s episode of Downton Abbey up yet. Then I noticed the TED channel on Roku and decided to look for Kelly McGonigal talk to watch. She was recommended to me last month. I just watched her talk about rethinking the effect of stress on our bodies. She said that we have commonly believed that stress can shorten our life. She suggested that is the belief that stress can shorten our life is  what will shorten it. If we look at stress as our body’s efforts to prepare us to face a challenge it will strengthen us.

Near the end of her talk she said that caring for others can delete the negative affects of stress on our health. Caring creates resilience. How we think and choose to act can transform the effects of stress. Our actions determine what stress does to us. By looking at stress in a positive way it allows us to say, “I can trust myself to face life’s challenges.”

This was a very interesting idea. I especially like the idea that, “Caring creates Resilience.” This goes well with The Birthday Project. Doing things for others takes the focus off of me and the challenges in my life.

We have a new YW president in our ward and today I am going to take her a note of encouragement and one of my personal progress holders.

Day 6-Thoughts on Serving

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A few days ago I received an email explaining that a family at my church needed dinner brought in for awhile. The father recently had surgery to have a kidney removed. A friend had set up an online calendar, but she recently had surgery and now my friend Emily is going to coordinate the meals. Then on Sunday an announcement was made requesting help for them.

Here is my thought process…I am tired…Time is running out and I have so much to get done…I don’t know them…Maybe I can sign up in January when things settle down…Someone else will do it. I am not proud of that thought process. I am always willing to serve when it’s convenient. However, the nature of my life is such that it’s not usually convenient. People usually don’t need help when I have free time.

Rick forward me the email this morning with his comment, “Something we can do!” I opened the online meal calendar and noticed that no one was taking a meal tonight. Someone else was not doing it! I quickly repented and signed up. I just dropped off the meal to their very pleasant and grateful teenaged son. I smiled all the way home.

This birthday project is doing my soul good!

One year

Today was the one year anniversary of the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake. We watched some videos and read some information that reminded us of that time a year ago. My heart is filled with sadness and my eyes are still full of tears as I watch the devastation of that day. I was here. I experienced the earthquake, but my life was just inconvenienced for a short time. I still had everything on March 12 that I had before the earthquake. There are too many that lost too much. Although I have worked on projects over the past year and went up to Tohoku twice, my efforts are just a single drop in in a huge bucket.

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Earthquakes

Japan has more earthquakes per year than any other place in the world, anyway that’s what I have heard. They have long been my most feared natural disaster. We lived on the gulf coast for many years and I became a tropical storm, tornado and hurricane watcher. The thing that is different about earthquakes is the inability to predict them in enough time to give warning.

This week I have been pondering why I should be grateful for them. Right after the Great Tohoku earthquake (that is how it is referred to here in Japan) on March 11, 2011, my friend Toshi expressed his gratitude for the earthquake. His home suffered considerable damage and they were without water, gas and electricity for a long time. Toshi said he was glad for the trial run so that he can be better prepared for when the “Big One” hits Tokyo.

I am grateful that I was here on March 11, 2011. I learned where I am weak and where I am strong. I am grateful I got to experience my reaction and also how others react. It became a fight or flight situation when we found out about Fukushima. I learned to rely on on the Spirit and learned that he doesn’t always tell everyone the same thing. What was right for us was not right for everyone.

Earthquakes show me my vulnerability and reinforce the fact that we cannot control everything. They also teach me to have faith and move forward without fear. So I am grateful for what they teach me.

 

Change

I am grateful for change. It keeps me on my toes and recently it has helped me get ready to move on. Many things changed in Tokyo after the earthquake on March 11. The changes were not something that can be seen as much as felt. There are a couple that I can see.

From the first night we moved into our apartment I loved being able to look out the window and see the Angel Moroni on the temple just down the street. Then after the earthquake when electricity needed to conserved the Angel was dark each night. Not long ago the lights began staying on at night. Then just last week I noticed that the entire steeple and Angel are surrounded by scaffolding. I assume that work is being done to stabilize Moroni. He changed directions during the quake. I assumed I had more time to take photos of the temple and Moroni. I may have missed my opportunity because it appears that the work is going to take awhile.

The grocery store that I have shopped at during the last 5 1/2+ years closed at the end of October.  I’ve decided that throughout my life I have always been grocery store loyal. Wherever I live I choose a store and always shop there…Randall’s, Sainsbury’s at the O2 Center, Jelita Cold Storage, National Azabu. It was in an older building and needs to be rebuilt to current standards. I’ll be long gone before it re-opens. My life has changed because the store I go to now is in the opposite direction.

These are minor changes that help me prepare for bigger ones.

Genki desu ka?

I think that I take my good health for granted. I have my minor aches and pains and get a cold once in awhile, but I am healthy. I realized today that I need to be grateful for that everyday because it can be gone in an instant. Today I went to the hospital to visit a friend. She was diagnosed with pneumonia three weeks ago and has been in the hospital. It looks like she will be there at least another week. This experience has caused her to think about her mortality and what she is going to do different when she is well.

When my Japanese friends ask, “Genki desu ka?” (Are you healthy?) I always want to be able to answer yes!

9.0

It has taken me a week to get around to being able to write this. I want to write about the experience and my blog has become my journal since my project of posting everyday last year. I have taken a break from the daily posts for awhile. I am ready to be back, but maybe not daily.

Just over a week ago I hopped in the car with Sagawa-san at 2:36pm to go to the airport to meet Brian and Kristina.  We were on the elevated expressway just before getting on to the Rainbow Bridge, it crosses Tokyo Bay, when we felt the earthquake. I remember being tossed back and forth in the back seat and the reading light in the back window was beating me in the head. I saw stuff crumbling out of the spaces in the concrete barrier on the side of the road. Sagawa-san drove to a place that was back at ground level and waited for the movement to stop. Then he drove across the bridge, it was still swaying. Of all the places I feared being in an earthquake, a bridge would have been at the top of my list. The next would be the subway. Today Rick reminded me that the Rainbow Bridge performed exactly as it had been designed to perform in an earthquake. He walked across it later that evening as part of his 1.5 hour journey home from the office.

The Rainbow Bridge

We continued our journey towards the airport, but the freeway was closed at the first toll plaza. We sat there for over an hour and the car rocked with the frequent aftershocks. Over the last week there have been over 260 aftershocks. The last one, just this evening, was 5.9 and just 90km from Tokyo. Finally, we turned around and went back to the exit and got on the feeder/frontage road. Both Sagawa-san and I kept trying to call and text the office. Finally, in Chiba City 3.5 hours after we left and less than halfway to the airport Sagawa-san got through. We found out from Rick that the airport had closed immediately and that their flight had not landed. Sagawa-san turned around and we began our drive back into Tokyo. Rick left the office and began walking home, hoping to be there when Brian and Kristina called to let him know where they had landed. They landed at Yokota Air Base for refueling and then the plane flew to the Nagoya airport.

Sagawa-san and I eventually made our way over back roads and into the city only to find a huge traffic jam. At 11:10pm I asked him where his office was, I thought we were near it. This office is where he parks the car and takes the train home. He gestured to the right and said, “Just over there.” I told him I was getting out and walking. He objected and told me I needed to stay in the car. There were still many people out walking home. I assured him that I knew right where we were and explained that if I walked then we could both get home sooner. I had my coat on, unlocked the door and was on my way. Later, I was happy to hear that he got home about the same time I did. After a quick stop in a big hotel, I started home arriving at midnight just 50 minutes after I got out of the car.

Brian and Kristina had tickets on the bullet train back to Tokyo at 6:20am the next morning. Early Saturday Rick ran to Shinagawa station to meet them and in the absence of local trains and taxis they made the 1 hour walk home. It was good to be together we had fun time sightseeing and took a trip to Kyoto. They decided on Friday morning to leave a few days early. Some of the European airlines had pulled their flights and Continental was trying to determine how long they would be sending all their flights in, not many passengers on inbound flights. They were able to get on a flight Friday afternoon.

Most of the expats have left Japan, only a few from our branch are left here.  I think most, if not all, are gone because of the problems with the nuclear reactors.

So why am I still here? All the voices of experts in the field have said that even in a worst case scenario the amount of radiation reaching Tokyo would be less than the level that would cause health risks. None of the experts disagree on this. The Lord has told us that things are going to get more and more challenging. And while we don’t seek the challenges and difficulties in life as we face them, we learn and grow from them. Each one we face prepares for the next. We need to seek the truth and to follow the example of the Savior. I hope that as I observe the people around me I can become more resilient, more concerned about the welfare of others, better at listening to the promptings of the Spirit and seeking to know the will of the Lord for me.

I spent time today trying to determine where all the sisters in my Relief Society are. They are spread across the world. Now, I need to focus on making sure that the sisters still here have what they need. Today was a beautiful day in Tokyo. The signs of spring are everywhere. Here are some pictures I took today so that you can see that Tokyo does not look like Sendai.

Hiroo Shopping Street

Facing south???? Whoa!!!!!!

Tokyo Temple - Open

Our Building

No our building isn’t leaning! It is standing upright. I was just trying to fit as much as I could into the photo from a close angle. I guess I could have walked across the street.

Cupcakes for Sister Holland

Today was a busy day. I leave for the airport tomorrow morning at 6:30am. I decided to attend the temple this morning for the first session at 10am. Then I spent the afternoon cleaning and packing.

I left home at 5:30pm hoping to make it to the Mushashino Stake Center in Kichijoji before 6:30. I wanted to arrive in time to find seats in the cultural hall for the devotional featuring Elder and Sister Holland and Elder and Sister Rasband. The express train was much slower than usual. It kept stopping to wait for the train ahead of us to leave the station so we could pull in. I didn’t arrive at the church until 6:45. There were no seats left. I heard someone say there was space for English speakers upstairs so Rick and I went up there only to find that everything there was full, too. Then a Japanese man looked at us and asked, “Eigo?” (English) and motioned for us to follow him. He walked very fast and took us back downstairs and into the rear door of the cultural hall leading us along the side and up the chapel aisle to the second row on the chapel’s left side. As we sat down I couldn’t help feeling a bit embarrassed by our good fortune. We hadn’t arrived late for the meeting, but we had arrived too late to deserve a second row seat. We were grateful.

We enjoyed the blessing of listening to Elder and Sister Holland and Elder and Sister Rasband. During his talk Elder Holland mentioned that the next day was Sister Holland’s birthday. At the conclusion of the meeting the congregation was asked to stay at their seats until those on the stand had departed. We were right at the door where they exited. As we stood to watch them leave, our Area President’s wife (a member of my Relief Society) stopped to give me a hug as she left and whispered in my ear, “Will you make cupcakes for Sister Holland’s birthday tomorrow?” Of course, I said yes. (The answer is always yes!) Lesa called after I arrived home and I made arrangements to leave the cupcakes in her apartment building lobby before I left for the airport. She told me that they had been in meetings all day and she kept trying to think of how she could do something for Sister Holland’s birthday. She received the prompting that someone would be sent to help her and she stopped worrying. The reason for our seats on the second row by the door became clear. Lesa knew I was the answer as soon as she saw me. We were seated in the only place where she could have seen me and reached me. I am grateful that I was able to be an answer to the prayer of Lesa’s heart. It was such a simple thing…cupcakes for Sister Holland’s birthday. The amazing thing was our opportunity to see the Lord’s hand in a series of events led us to be in the place we needed to be at the right time.

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