Amundsen House of Chaos

Let's face it, when you have a kid who survived a stroke, life is always going to be a little chaotic.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

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My talk on Gratitude

Since I use this blog as a form of a journal I wanted to record the talk that I just gave in church today. I was a wreck but I knew I was going to be before hand. You know your going to cry when you cry just writing it.

Brother Hansen called earlier this week and asked us to speak on Docterine and Covenants 59:21. He told us that it was basically about gratitude. He also said that the he and the bishop thought it would be interesting to hear from us on this topic. I’d like to be able to say that I am grateful for the opportunity but I think my gratitude might come after I get through speaking and shaking. Personally I think the bishop is tired of us telling him we are going to be moving soon and so this is payback for the last 6 months of not leaving.

Doctrine and Covenants 59:21 says And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments.

At first I had a hard time understanding how I could turn this into a talk on gratitude. I kept thinking that maybe I had kindled his wrath against me and this was my punishment to speak on it! But then I started to think about aknowledging the lords hand in all things. I also had to read several of the talks from the ensign. Through all of my searching I came to realize that it was me who needed this talk more than any of you will need to listen to it.

President James E Faust said in the Dec 1996 Ensign
I desire to discuss gratitude as an expression of faith and as a saving principle. The Lord has said, “And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments” (D&C 59:21). It is clear to me from this scripture that to “thank the Lord thy God in all things” (D&C 59:7) is more than a social courtesy; it is a binding commandment.

He goes on to say
One of the evils of our time is taking for granted so many of the things we enjoy. This was spoken of by the Lord: “For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift?” (D&C 88:33). The Apostle Paul described our day to Timothy when he wrote that in the last days “men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy” (2 Tim. 3:2). These sins are fellow travelers, and ingratitude makes one susceptible to all of them

It seems as though there is a tug-of-war between opposing character traits that leaves no voids in our souls. As gratitude is absent or disappears, rebellion often enters and fills the vacuum. I do not speak of rebellion against civil oppression. I refer to rebellion against moral cleanliness, beauty, decency, honesty, reverence, and respect for parental authority. A grateful heart is a beginning of greatness. It is an expression of humility. It is a foundation for the development of such virtues as prayer, faith, courage, contentment, happiness, love, and well-being.
But there is a truism associated with all types of human strength: “Use it or lose it.” When not used, muscles weaken, skills deteriorate, and faith disappears. President Thomas S. Monson, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles at the time, stated: “Think to thank. In these three words is the finest capsule course for a happy marriage, a formula for enduring friendship, and a pattern for personal happiness” (Pathways to Perfection [1973], 254). Said the Lord, “And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more” (D&C 78:19).
President J. Reuben Clark, formerly a First Counselor in the First Presidency, said: “Hold fast to the blessings which God has provided for you. Yours is not the task to gain them, they are here; yours is the part of cherishing them”

After reading through his talk I realized that I have been neglegtful in offering thanks to my father in heaven for the things he has blessed me with. I then read the article by President Henry B Eyring titled Remembrance and Gratitude. He says
You and I would like to know how to control our wants and increase our gratitude and generosity. We are going to need that change. Someday, in our families and as a people, we will live as one, seeking each other’s good.

God has used one method over and over to help with that problem of remembering. A group of people in the Book of Mormon record lost their flocks, their herds, and their fields of grain. Some lost their lives. And then the survivors remembered. In Alma 4:3 it says: “And so great were their afflictions that every soul had cause to mourn; and they believed that it was the judgments of God sent upon them because of their wickedness and their abominations; therefore they were awakened to a remembrance of their duty.”

Confronting death and difficulty does return memory and therefore gratitude to righteous people as well as the wicked. But there must be another way to remember, one we can choose.

There is. A servant of God named King Benjamin taught it to his people and to us.
He taught them that none of us is above another because we are all dust, to which God has given life and then sustained it. He described a fact which is true for every human being: unforgiven sin will bring us unending torment. And he described the gift we all have been offered: those whose faith in Jesus Christ leads them to repentance and forgiveness will live in never-ending happiness.
King Benjamin’s teaching had a miraculous effect. Gratitude for what they had led to faith unto repentance. That led to forgiveness. That produced new gratitude. And then King Benjamin taught that, if we can remember and so remain grateful, we will retain a remission of our sins through all the losses and the gains of life. He taught it this way:

“And again I say unto you as I have said before, that as ye have come to the knowledge of the glory of God, or if ye have known of his goodness and have tasted of his love, and have received a remission of your sins, which causeth such exceedingly great joy in your souls, even so I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith of that which is to come, which was spoken by the mouth of the angel.

“And behold, I say unto you that if ye do this ye shall always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God, and always retain a remission of your sins; and ye shall grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created you, or in the knowledge of that which is just and true.” (Mosiah 4:11–12.)
How can you and I remember, always, the goodness of God, that we can retain a remission of our sins? The Apostle John recorded what the Savior taught us of a gift of remembrance which comes through the gift of the Holy Ghost: “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” (John 14:26.)

The Holy Ghost brings back memories of what God has taught us. And one of the ways God teaches us is with his blessings; and so, if we choose to exercise faith, the Holy Ghost will bring God’s kindnesses to our remembrance.
You could test that in prayer today. You could follow the command, “Thou shalt thank the Lord thy God in all things.” (D&C 59:7.) President Benson suggested prayer as a time to do that. He said:

“The Prophet Joseph said at one time that one of the greatest sins of which the Latter-day Saints would be guilty is the sin of ingratitude. I presume most of us have not thought of that as a great sin. There is a great tendency for us in our prayers and in our pleadings with the Lord to ask for additional blessings. But sometimes I feel we need to devote more of our prayers to expressions of gratitude and thanksgiving for blessings already received. We enjoy so much.” (God, Family, Country, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1974, p. 199.)

You could have an experience with the gift of the Holy Ghost today. You could begin a private prayer with thanks. You could start to count your blessings, and then pause for a moment. If you exercise faith, and with the gift of the Holy Ghost, you will find that memories of other blessings will flood into your mind. If you begin to express gratitude for each of them, your prayer may take a little longer than usual. Remembrance will come. And so will gratitude.

Most of you know the story of what has happened to our son Colby. It seems like yesterday that we were moving into this ward with two healthy happy children and another on the way. And yet at the same time it seems a lifetime ago. I never anticipated any of our children struggling with major disabilities and I certainly never imagined my two year would have a stroke so early in his life. Through the last year and a half I have come to a greater understanding of the role gratitude plays in my life. I never thought I would be grateful to hear my son say yes clearly. I took it for granted that he would be able to speak. I took it for granted that my children had all been healthy. As a mother I think you are always touched by the milestones in your childrens lives but you can kind of come to a place where you just expect them to happen. Even now after everything we have been through there are days when I take where we are at for granted and then I have to be humbled and remember to thank my Heavenly Father for all that he has blessed us with. It is easy to become complacent when you get to a place where it’s not quit as hard of a struggle to get through the day as it was the week or the month before. I have been reminded that I need to do better at not forgetting my blessings.

There was a point just after we came home from the hospital and I was struggling. Colby was screaming 18 hours a day and there was no reason for it. They call it nuero storms and it’s just the brain trying to rewire itself and figure out new pathways to travel. It causes personality changes and mood swings as well as physical pain through out the body. No one knows how to treat it. It just has to happen. Needless to say, as a mother I was feeling pretty helpless. No one could tell me how to help him or if or when it would stop. We still didn’t have a nurse and we wouldn’t have one for another month. Colby was only sleeping 2 hours out of every 3 at night. I was exhausted mentally as well as physically because I had managed to get mono while we were at the hospital. I don’t know who it was but someone sent me a story that I’d like to share with you.

Sandra felt as low as the heels of her shoes as she pushed against a November gust and the florist shop door. Her life had been easy, like a spring breeze. Then in the fourth month of her second pregnancy, a minor automobile accident stole that from her. During this Thanksgiving week she would have delivered a son. She grieved over her loss. As if that weren't enough, her husband's company threatened a transfer. Then her sister, whose holiday visit she coveted, called saying she could not come for the holiday.

Then Sandra's friend infuriated her by suggesting her grief was a God-given path to maturity that would allow her to empathize with others who suffer. She has no idea what I'm feeling, thought Sandra with a shudder. Thanksgiving? Thankful for what? She wondered. For a careless driver whose truck was hardly scratched when he rear-ended her? For an airbag that saved her life but took that of her child?

"Good afternoon, can I help you?" The shop clerk's approach startled her. "I....I need an arrangement," stammered Sandra. "For Thanksgiving? Do you want beautiful but ordinary, or would you like to challenge the day with a customer favorite I call the Thanksgiving "Special?" asked the shop clerk. "I'm convinced that flowers tell stories," she continued. "Are you looking for something that conveys 'gratitude' this thanksgiving?" "Not exactly!" Sandra blurted out. "In the last five months, everything that could go wrong has gone wrong." Sandra regretted her outburst, and was surprised when the shop clerk said, "I have the perfect arrangement for you."
Just then the shop door's small bell rang, and the shop clerk said, "Hi, Barbara...let me get your order." She politely excused herself and walked toward a small workroom, then quickly reappeared, carrying an arrangement of greenery, bows, and long-stemmed thorny roses. Except the ends of the rose stems were neatly snipped: there were no flowers. "Want this in a box?" asked the clerk. Sandra watched for the customer's response. Was this a joke? Who would want rose stems with no flowers! She waited for laughter, but neither woman laughed. "Yes, please," Barbara, replied with an appreciative smile. "You'd think after three years of getting the special, I wouldn't be so moved by its significance, but I can feel it right here, all over again," she said as she gently tapped her chest. And she left with her order.

"Uh," stammered Sandra, "that lady just left with, uh....she just left with no flowers! Right, said the clerk, "I cut off the flowers. That's the Special. I call it the Thanksgiving Thorns Bouquet." "Oh, come on, you can't tell me someone is willing to pay for that!" exclaimed Sandra. "Barbara came into the shop three years ago feeling much like you feel today," explained the clerk. "She thought she had very little to be thankful for. She had lost her father to cancer, the family business was failing, her son was into drugs, and she was facing major surgery." "That same year I had lost my husband," continued the clerk, "and for the first time in my life, had just spent the holidays alone. I had no children, no husband, no family nearby, and too great a debt to allow any travel."

"So what did you do?" asked Sandra. "I learned to be thankful for thorns," answered the clerk quietly. "I've always thanked God for the good things in my life and never questioned the good things that happened to me, but when bad stuff hit, did I ever ask questions! It took time for me to learn that dark times are important. I have always enjoyed the 'flowers' of life, but it took thorns to show me the beauty of God's comfort. You know, the Bible says that God comforts us when we're afflicted, and from His consolation we learn to comfort others”

Sandra sucked in her breath as she thought about the very thing her friend had tried to tell her. "I guess the truth is I don't want comfort. I've lost a baby and I'm angry with God." Just then someone else walked in the shop. "Hey, Phil!" shouted the clerk to the balding, rotund man. "My wife sent me in to get our usual Thanksgiving Special....12 thorny, long-stemmed stems!" laughed Phil as the clerk handed him a tissue-wrapped arrangement from the refrigerator. "Those are for your wife?" asked Sandra incredulously. "Do you mind me asking why she wants something that looks like that?" "No...I'm glad you asked," Phil replied.

"Four years ago my wife and I nearly divorced. After forty years, we were in a real mess, but with the Lord's grace and guidance, we slogged through problem after problem. He rescued our marriage. Jenny here (the clerk) told me she kept a vase of rose stems to remind her of what she learned from "thorny" times, and that was good enough for me. I took home some of those stems. My wife and I decided to label each one for a specific "problem" and give thanks for what that problem taught us."
As Phil paid the clerk, he said to Sandra, "I highly recommend the Special!" "I don't know if I can be thankful for the thorns in my life." Sandra said. "It's all too...fresh." "Well," the clerk replied carefully, "my experience has shown me that thorns make roses more precious. We treasure God's providential care more during trouble than at any other time.

Remember, it was a crown of thorns that Jesus wore so we might know His love. Don't resent the thorns." Tears rolled down Sandra's cheeks. For the first time since the accident, she loosened her grip on resentment. "I'll take those twelve long-stemmed thorns, please," she managed to choke out.

"I hoped you would," said the clerk gently. "I'll have them ready in a minute." "Thank you. What do I owe you?" "Nothing. Nothing but a promise to allow God to heal your heart. The first year's arrangement is always on me." The clerk smiled and handed a card to Sandra. "I'll attach this card to your arrangement, but maybe you would like to read it first."

It read:
"My God, I have never thanked You for my thorns. I have thanked You a thousand times for my roses, but never once for my thorns. Teach me the glory of the cross I bear; teach me the value of my thorns. Show me that I have climbed closer to You along the path of pain. Show me that, through my tears, the colors of Your rainbow look much more brilliant."
Praise Him for your roses; thank him for your thorns!
Author Unknown

I am grateful for this opportunity to speak to you today. It has given me a chance to remember that I am grateful for the thorns in my life. I am grateful for my husband and children, for the lessons that they teach me. I am grateful for my mother and father in law and for all the help and support that they provide to us. I am grateful that we decided on a whim to look at the house we live in and that it provided us with the opportunity to be in this wonderful ward. I would like to tell each of you Thank you for all you have done for us over the two years we have lived here. I have never felt so loved and accepted in another ward. I know that we aren’t able to be here as often as we like and hopefully that will change soon now that Colby has had his surgery. I am so grateful to my Heavenly Father for the challenges and blessings he has provided me with. I know that he has a plan for each of us and that while it might not be an easy plan it is worth it. I know with out a doubt that he watches over each one of us and that he knows each of us personally. He does hear our prayers and he has provided us with his gospel which will lead to eternal life if we follow it. I am grateful for the gospel and for my Savior Jesus Christ and I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ Amen.


At March 22, 2009 at 9:03 PM , Blogger Sara (Ferreira) Haslam said...

What a beautiful talk Erin. :)

At March 24, 2009 at 10:25 PM , Blogger The Panero Family said...

Thanks for typing all that out. You have always been so strong. I am amazed at the woman you are. I admire you tremendously and am happy that I have this blog to keep track of you.-N


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