Thursday, December 10, 2015

Christmas Words

I love words. I am inspired and changed by them. They have power. Meaning. Influence. Beautifully written words often bring me to tears. Whether in poetry, story, or music, I am often transformed because of a gracefully written text. Take, for example, the words from the song Bring Him Home, from the Broadway musical, Les Miserables. Sung with tender conviction, and with the depth of a passionate fatherly love, Jean Valjean sings his prayer to God to protect his daughter's lover, Marius. He offers to give his own life if necessary and later saves Marius' life in a heroic gesture. Those words have moved me to compassion and courage many times. Click here to enjoy: Bring Him Home

Photo Credit: Alan Lawrence, Paradise,  Utah
Words also impact me through writing.  When I am sad, overwhelmed, or discouraged, I write in my journal  - knowing it is just for an audience of one. This writing is therapeutic, and brings solace and clarity to my soul. I can often navigate the complicated world of emotions by exploring my feelings on paper or computer. This process brings life to hidden feelings. Sometimes when I start, things tumble out in a jumbled, disorganized way (life, after all, is messy at times). But if I keep downloading my thoughts, without any judgment from the internal critic, things eventually start taking shape. And before long, the intricacies of life - including the complexities of human relationships - begin to sort themselves out into some sort of meaningful pattern. I can then return to life's battle, renewed and refreshed.

Our Missionaries Study The Word of God
Speaking of the power of words, I noticed that the phrase "the word"  occurs some 2,050 times in holy scripture. Now that is something to notice! Hosea suggested to "take with you words and turn to the Lord" (Hosea 14:2). Another author says to take with you strong words - words with life and energy in them - moving, growing, rich words of change and encouragement (anonymous). The Prophet Alma in the Book of Mormon actually gave up an influential position in government to preach the gospel to a struggling people because he knew that "the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just".  In fact, he said, "it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of people than the sword, or anything else which had happened unto them - therefore Alma thought it was expedient that they should try the virtue of the word of God" (Alma 31:5). The Greek root of the word virtue is "moral excellence." In other words, when we want to help others, we can offer the moral excellence that the word of God provides, because it is founded in truth.

Since the Christmas season is upon us, I've been pondering on how the Savior of the world was called The Word.  By the "power of his word" the world was created. Sometimes his Word healed people; at other times, it calmed them. On occasion, it corrected them. Always, it was motivated by love. He shared His Words even when life pressed so hard upon him. He spoke words to the lonely, the broken, the sinful, and the frightened. Sometimes He withheld His words from those who would not understand. As our missionaries open their mouths to share God's words, they are likewise met with a variety of responses...

Elder Jason R Dymock, our son,
serving in the Argentina, Neuquen Missio
Sometimes they are received - sometimes rejected.
Sometimes welcomed - sometimes shunned.
Sometimes listened to - sometimes ignored.
Sometimes loved - sometimes hated.
Yet they continue to offer the Words of Life.

Morning by morning, our missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints worldwide wake at 6:30, pray, exercise, prepare, and study; and then they go to work. They walk streets, knock doors, hold meetings, encourage, listen, and teach. They eat a little, then work again. They follow up on referrals, call back, revisit, and invite people to hear the teachings of Christ. Regardless of the outcome, they continue to offer the "virtue of the word of God." All of this is to let the world know we all can come to know the Savior. He paid the price to conquer death and sin. His great and infinite Atonement also covers our weakness, our fears, and our sorrows.

This month, I have watched our young Elders and Sisters in the Washington, Spokane (USA) Mission work diligently to teach people that the Messiah is the reason for the Christmas season. Their eyes light up with
Elders Monson & Ipson,
Two Great Spokane Missionaries
enthusiasm when someone understands that, because Christ paid the ultimate price with His life, we too can be redeemed from all that is difficult and sorrowful. They bear witness of Jesus' mission: "And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind...and he will take upon him their infirmities..that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according according to their infirmities" (Alma 7:11-12).

When my own human limitations kick in, when the darkness of depression raises its ugly head, or when I am just tired from a demanding day, I remember that Christ purposely submitted himself to the temptations and limitations of mortality so He would know how to meet our needs. I find the following words of Isaiah especially inspiring to me in moments of difficulty:
"He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrow: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our trans-gressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:3-6).
At this warm and wonderful Christmas season, I add my own witness to the mighty prophet Isaiah:

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given:
and the government shall be upon his shoulder:
and his name shall be called
The mighty God
The everlasting Father,
The Prince of Peace.
(Isaiah 9:6)

Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus

George Frideric Handel set Isaiah's prophetic words to music in The Messiah. I pray that you may be touched by this inspired music, as sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. (Click):  For Unto Us A Child is Born 
And now as I wrap up, I finish with a two minute video. It shows children throughout the world as they share their thoughts about Christmas. Children have a succinct way to communicate powerfully through their simplicity. I invite you to enjoy these beautiful words shared by children from as they testify of Jesus Christ. (Click): A Savior is Born

Merry Christmas!

White Christmas - Dec 2010 
our Paradise, Utah Home
Consider the power
your words
might have on the world...

“A drop of ink
may make a million think.” 

I recently added a link on the right side of the blog called "Christmas Links." Warm a cup of hot chocolate, cozy up on a cold evening, and enjoy some holiday highlights of  song and inspirational video.  


Hosea 14:2 (Old Testament)
Alma 7:12 (Book of Mormon)
Virtue defined Gree:
Isaiah 9:6; 53:3-6

Photo Credits: 
Alan Lawrence, Facebook
#SharetheGift (LDS Church)
LDS Media Library

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Unstring the Bow

Colville, Washington, Oct 2015
Missionary life is intense! In a typical week, President Dymock and I teach, train, interview, bear testimony, host dinners, counsel, comfort, love, and feed our young servants of God. We travel throughout the mission - from Montana, British Columbia (Canada), and Washington to the panhandle of Idaho. Right now, we're gearing up for transfers - where new missionaries arrive, others finish and return home, and lots of them move to new areas. With this constantly fluctuating schedule, I'll be honest...I get tired! But it's a good tired! It is a most rewarding work which motivates and inspires me. I fall into bed at night so grateful that I am serving a mission for my Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. This is a marvelous work, and that makes being tired all worth it!
our neighborhood in autumn
A few days ago, I did an early-morning hike with a friend, and we reveled in the stunning beauty of autumn in the northwest. As we headed up a steep incline, my heart rate soared, and my lungs screamed for the fresh morning air. Our typically animated conversation slowed down as the demands of the mountain required our focus. But when we finally reached a small plateau, l looked back to see how far we had just come. Believe me...I was invigorated!

Our Elders keep us entertained!
In that moment, I realized how important it is to occasionally take a step back from the intensity of life to gain perspective. The Prophet Joseph Smith had his share of demands and pressures leading a very young church. In the midst of tremendous persecution and opposition, he had a great way to deal with the stress. He would "unstring the bow." He had a jovial, pleasant personality and loved having a good time. He liked to wrestle, pull sticks, swim, hunt and play baseball. Some asked if that was beneath the dignity of a Prophet. He wisely responded that a bow, if left strung tightly for too long, would lose its elasticity and eventually its effectiveness.(1) Much like the bow, taking a break on occasion can help us rejuvenate, refuel and refresh for life's battle.
Our young missionaries literally fill me with renewed energy and enthusiasm for the work ahead. When
Our Sister Training Leaders!
they appear on our doorstep, or I see them at a church or leadership training meeting, I am literally invigorated and refreshed. Their youthful zest for life helps me "unstring the bow" just by being around them. 

Sometimes unstringing the bow happens serendipitously, and in tiny moments. Take, for instance, a few nights ago. As President Dymock and I pulled onto our quiet street after a long, busy day with the missionaries, our forested neighborhood looked almost enchanted. Tall evergreens towered heavenward, punctuated by the brilliant reds and electric yellows of the autumn trees. Early dusk was upon us, so I

quickly captured a few pictures before dark set in. My mother had taught me in early years to always keep an open eye for nature's simple beauties. She still has a great appreciation for the spray of a waterfall, the crash of ocean waves against a jagged shoreline, and the stunning kaleidoscope of autumn's colors. So in this three year date with my sweetheart with all these young (and a few not-so-young)* missionaries on board, I snatch a break on occasion to appreciate life for all its wonder and joy.

Now lest you think I just walk around looking at nature all day... here's what these moments do for me. They connect me with God and help me see life's challenges from His perspective. I came back from my recent hike remembering that God is at the helm. Everything WILL work out. In the midst of opposition and challenges, this is a time for all of us to increase our TRUST in our Heavenly Father. The book of Psalms reminds us to "be still and know that I am God." (Psalms 46:10, Bible). We do not know the meaning of all things; nor are we meant to see how every little piece fits into His design for us. In moments when I "unstring the bow", it reminds me to "Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in
I snapped this photo Oct 2015 on
Lake Couer D'Alene, Idaho
 heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend" (Mosiah 4:9, Book of Mormon).  
Let us be patient with ourselves and others, and TRUST that His plan is so much more sweeping and grand than we can even begin to imagine. It will all work out. ‪#‎Iknowitwithallmyheart‬

Now, go unstring your bow for a moment.You'll be glad you did!

*We are fortunate to have "senior" missionary couples, church service missionaries, and employment center missionaries  who serve in many areas of our mission.



Photo Credits: 

Thanks to for helping me match some favorite quotes with  nature shots.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Adventure of a Life Time

I have always loved adventures. It began as a child when I discovered the Nancy Drew detective books. I imagined myself chasing villains, solving mysteries, and restoring justice to the planet - right along with Nancy Drew.  My 30 year "adventure" in the trenches of full-time motherhood also filled my adventure cup. One by one, however, our children left home, and with each departure, I had a bit more time on my hands to explore new horizons.  Although these "launching" years presented mixed emotions for our entire family 
Hiking Logan Peak (Utah)  2011 (LtoR):
 Julie, sons Jason & David, husband Wayne, daughter Ashley
(sadness when a child left home, but joy for their next phase of life), it also signaled that my life was changing. Therefore, I picked up some new hobbies to fill my time: running (yes, very slowly), and back packing (with no babies at home, I could hike with our teen-agers!).
USU's Old Main Hill in Spring
(photo credit:Nancy Potter)
The next adventure came when I returned to college. With only one child left in the family nest, I was practically smothering him with the attention I had previously divided among five children! So I enrolled part-time at Utah State University and began plugging away on the degree that I had started long ago in my "life before children." I loved learning so much that I continued on with graduate studies and recently finished a masters degree in Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT).

Little did I know at the time, how God was orchestrating the  various adventures that had been accumulating over the years into a much bigger plan than I had imagined. 

But I was soon to find out.... 

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
Elder David A. Bednar
About a year ago, and after a long day of conferences, my phone rang as I was relaxing in a restaurant in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with my professors and classmates. I heard my husband's voice calmly say he had received a call that day from church headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah. For the last month, I'd been feeling that something was about to change in our life; but little did I know that the phone call would forever change the course of  lives! He said  Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) wanted to meet with us the following Tuesday. That was certainly an experience I had never imagined would happen to us!

President Henry B. Eyring
Well, Elder Bednar  put as right at ease in our interview; but we received another call a couple weeks later to meet with President Henry B. Eyring, of the First Presidency of the Church. Even as I write this, it sometimes feels like a dream. What an honor it was to meet with a Prophet of God! Equally humbling, however, was the calling he extended to us to serve as a mission president and wife for our church. We still had to wait - just like the young missionaries do - for the specific location to be announced via the mail. When the white packet finally arrived in December, we were thrilled to read that Wayne would preside over the Washington, Spokane Mission, beginning July 1, 2015.
Opening the "Call"

Over the next six months, our lives were filled with a myriad of major decisions: arranging for our home, pets, personal belongings, and ALL that food storage! In addition, I finished my last semester of graduate school and two new grand babies joined our family (and yes, they are both adorable!). The biggest challenge of all was saying goodbye to our children and their families. However, we were promised by President Eyring that God knows our children much better than we do, and that He would care for them much better than we could have had we stayed home. And when a prophet speaks, I believe him! 

I will fast forward my story a bit. We arrived on July 1 to the beautiful Spokane area, and we have now had nearly four months of the adventure of a lifetime!  I never imagined that I could love 200 young people so instantly. They are energetic, devoted servants of God who have set aside their plans for education, sports, scholarships, cars and romances for up to two years, in order to teach people about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In my next blog, I'll tell you more about our adventure; but for now I'll close with this: In much of our preparation, we know not what it is that we are preparing for. So just be ready - for God will use you for something good. Every bit of learning and experience will come to bless someone else, so dare to dream. Then work to make that dream come true.  I challenge you to begin by having an adventure today!

Photo Credit & Permission Granted by

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
--H. Jackson Brown Jr