Reflections...Mostly Ramblings!

It's New Years Eve; the end of 2015, the beginning of 2016. I've spent many hours reflecting on what I've accomplished and what more I could have done. The truth is, I will never leave this life thinking I've done everything I could have...but I will always know I NEVER GAVE UP!
I've spent the last five years (with the exception of three months) serving a mission for the Church of Jesus of Latter-day Saints (Mormon). It began in September 2010 in Jacksonville, NC (North Carolina Raleigh Mission) and ends January 2016, here at home in the Utah Salt Lake City West Mission. I've enjoyed almost every minute of it...except for those nagging moments thinking I could have done more. Then, just that quickly, I understand what I've been preaching...my efforts are acceptable to Him!
The other thing I've discovered is; I no longer desire to get sucked into the commercial side of Christmas. Does that mean I don't want to see my children and grandchildren with happy faces as they open presents? No! I just can't stop thinking of thousands of people, many children, who just want what I have; a warm bed at night and food in their bellies. The only thing I know I can do is donate in significant ways...and so that's what I did. A drop in the bucket  but lots of drops turn into a river. So I'll continue to add to the river.
Now, for the heart of my message...my Christmas tree. Sara and Matt take the boys into the hills and cut them down. This years tree received the Charlie Brown award. I love my CB tree because there's room for all the ornaments to hang down without hitting a branch. Several weeks ago, it had lots and lots of ornaments on it. After just a couple of days I found more and more ornaments being tossed around by a rambunctious 2 1/2 year old. I was not going to win that battle. In fact, if I think about it, I'll include a picture of our one year old tv. Great story!
Anyway, I'm always looking for ways to teach about our Saviors birth and this year it was all about the tree. Using the scriptures I came across the following two; the first describes Him and the other His purpose. I know many, including my family, didn't understand what the intent was...but it didn't matter to me. I GOT IT! And it brought me peace in the middle of a lot of chaos!
I asked Sara a question the other day and I'll ask it here. Is it possible to have a "Little House On The Prairie" kind of Christmas? You know, the kind where Laura and Mary got a penny in a tin up which they shared...and were happy! Have we crossed the line so badly that we can NEVER go back? Have we become so entrenched in the stuff we have to have that our entire economy would collapse if we gave it up? I don't have an answer...neither did Sara.
This is WHAT IS possible! We get to choose how we want the coming year to be. For me? I choose happiness! Happy New Year! With love, Sister Z (aka, Mrs Z, Vicki, Grandma Vicki)


Just Make it to Lunch!

I'm sure you'll think this is about food. It's not! It's about trying to reach your goals.
The New Year always brings with it baggage! "This is the year I'm going to lose weight!" "This year I'm going to get out of debt!" "This year I'm going to read the scriptures (pray every day, go to church, go to the temple etc.)
Most of our goals should be achievable without much trouble, like reading the scriptures and praying. How hard is that? You get out of bed, get on your knees, pray, get back in bed and read the scriptures. Easy! NOT!!! You get out of bed, you go to the bathroom, then you see the laundry on the floor and take it to the laundry, throw a load into the washer, take out the load from the dryer, fold it, put it away, then you notice the rugs need vacuuming. You vacuum and while vacuuming the bedroom you make the bed and straighten the books on the nightstand and go about your day! By the way, one of the books on the nightstand is your Book of Mormon! At the end of the day you didn't do the two things you wanted to do.
Goals are sometimes hard to reach because we set ourselves up to fail. We let time get away from us because we think too big! We keep looking at the year in advance and it becomes a daunting task. I, personally, can't stand the thought of trying to lose weight if I have to think about it in terms of doing it for a whole year...but I can achieve it if I just think about doing it in smaller increments of time. Most of the things I want to achieve will be like that. As it says in Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 16:29 "...and thus we see that by small means the Lord can bring about great things."
Today, my goal was to post something on this blog. I did it! And I did it before lunch...
Tomorrow, I'm going to start conquering the world...one lunchtime at a time!


Beauty of the Scriptures

I've gained a real appreciation for the scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon. I've read it several times (or more if you count the piecemeal reading), but never really studied them until our mission. The reason for this new found joy in reading them is the study we do with our young Marines on Tuesday nights. The doors of understanding open wide and my testimony grows with each chapter and verse. I love the concept of likening the scriptures and I now use this to understand the trials of my own and my family's trials. The following are just a couple examples of stories from the Bible and the Book of Mormon, the ones that really touched my heart and soul.

Mary at the feet of the Savior at His crucifixion:
How blessed was she, the mother of the Savior of the world and oh, how she agonized at His death. As I've read the account of Mary and listened to Rob Gardner's Lamb of God (which if you haven't heard, you must do immediately), I'm filled to the brim with emotion, that any mother had to endure (or will have endure) what Mary did. What I've learned, though, is that Mary was always in the Father's hands and comforted with the knowledge that her Son was part of the grand Plan of Salvation.
As a mother, I've cried many, many tears for my children and grandchildren who've suffered pain and agony with the trials of this life. What I've learned from Mary is that all of us, regardless of standing, still remain in the encircling arms of our loving Father in Heaven and He is aware of our pain. If we can remember that this life is about learning, then each pain or trial can be met with joy; joy in the knowledge that we don't stand alone. HE is always with us!

Adam, Lehi, Mosiah and Alma:
These men were Prophets of God! How is it that they failed so miserably with their children? If they, as Prophets, couldn't control their children, what hope is there for us mear mortals? It's called free agency, one of God's eternal principles. We can't beat ourselves up for the things our children do (assuming we have done all we can to raise them with correct principles). They get to choose whether or not they want to partake of the fruit of the Gospel or not. One of the biggest things we learn from two of those men (Mosiah and Alma) is that petitioning the Lord in behalf of your children can be instrumental in the outcome; people can and do change! We can't EVER give up on our children, because the Holy Spirit has the power to heal and change lives. I've been witness to it here in the mission field. Someday, I'll tell of Ryan Hyde, our own Alma the Younger of sorts. It happened in my own life, again, another story for another time.
We've had the opportunity to watch many miracles unfold in the course of the last twelve months of our mission, here in North Carolina and at home. We will continue to see others unfold in the next six months.
I love the scriptures!


Praying For Daniel...

Daniel Allen "A Very Brave Soul"

Not too long ago in Heaven, there was a little soul who took wonder in observing the world. He especially enjoyed the love he saw there and often expressed this joy with God. One day, however, the little soul was sad, for on this day he saw suffering in the world. He approached God and sadly asked, "Why do bad things happen? Why is there suffering in the world?"

God paused for a moment and replied, "Little soul, do not be sad, for the suffering you see unlocks the love in people's hearts."

The little soul was confused. "What do you mean?" he asked.

God replied, "Have you noticed the goodness and love that is the offspring of that suffering? Look at how people come together, drop their differences and show their love and compassion for those who suffer. All their other motivations disappear and they become motivated by love alone." The little soul began to understand and listened attentively as God continued, "The suffering soul unlocks the love in people's hearts much like the sun and the rain unlock the flower within the seed. I created everyone with endless love in their heart, but unfortunately most people keep it locked up and hardly share it with anyone. They are afraid to let their love shine freely because they are afraid of being hurt. But a suffering soul unlocks that love. I tell you this −it is the greatest miracle of all. Many souls have bravely chosen to go into the world and suffer−to unlock this love−to create this miracle−for the good of all humanity."

Just then the little soul got a wonderful idea and could hardly contain himself. With its wings fluttering, bouncing up and down, the little soul excitedly replied, "I am brave; let me go! I would like to go into the world and suffer so that I can unlock the goodness and love in people's hearts! I want to create that miracle!"

God smiled and said, "You are a brave soul, I know, and thus I will grant your request. But even though you are very brave, you will not be able to do this alone. I have known since the beginning of time that you would ask for this and so I have carefully selected many souls to care for you on your journey. Those souls will help you create your miracle; however, they will also share in your suffering. Two of these souls are most special and will care for you, help you and suffer along with you, far beyond the others. These people are your parents" God and the brave little soul shared a smile and then embraced.

In parting God said, "Do not forget, little soul that I will be with you always. Although you have agreed to bear the pain, you will do so through my strength. And if the time should come when you feel that you have suffered enough, just say the word, think the thought, and you will be healed." Thus at that moment the brave little soul was born into the world, and through his love and suffering and God's strength, he unlocked the goodness and love in people's hearts. For so many people dropped their differences and came together to show their love. Priorities became properly aligned. People gave from their hearts. Those that were always too busy found time. Many began new spiritual journeys−some regained lost faith−many came back to God. Parents hugged their children tighter. Friends and family grew closer. Old friends got together and new friendships were made. Distant family reunited, and every family spent more time together. Everyone prayed. Peace and love reigned. Lives changed forever. It was good. The world was a better place. The miracle had happened and God was pleased.



Best. Friend. Irita.

Eighth grade must have been a tough year for me. It certainly seems to have been my naughtiest! There was a set of Hawaiian twins, Irita and Lovita. Irita was one of my best friends. She and her sister couldn't have been more different from each other. Lovita was tall, slim and quiet. Irita was more of a tomboy and she was a large person. She wore muu muu's a lot. She was also really good at lots of sports that required strength. One of our favorite past time was having her pick us up by one arm and one leg and twirling us around. There wasn't anyone she couldn't lift!
In those days we got weighed and measured in class. They called your name and you went to the front where the teacher weighed and measured you in front of everyone. She recorded your information in a book and it wasn't public knowledge...unless you happen to see it while she was writing. Well...I did, see it! I have no idea what in the world I was thinking but as I walked back to my desk I whispered to a friend, "Wow, Irita weighs two hundred pounds!" Again, I don't know what I was thinking because, stupid me! Irita's desk was two desks behind mine and after I finished whispering I looked up to see her staring at me with the most sad look I'd ever seen...on anyone! She never said anything about it to me. She could have pummeled me but she NEVER said a word. In fact, she continued to be my friend.
It was another one of those moments from my past that cause me pain. Pain that I could have ever been so cruel to another human being. I often wonder and hope that Irita has had a good life because she certainly deserved it. She was kind, soft spoken, humble and forgiving; just the kind of qualities you would want in a mother.
I've spent my life sufficiently punished. For as long as I can remember I've battled the bulge and on many occasions been over the number that the teacher recorded for Irita in the book. Yup, life has a way of evening things up!

Mr. Applin. Letter.

I'm trying to keep going with my Three Word Journal so, with that in mind I decided to write about something I did in the eighth grade. It was really naughty and I've repented of it over and over all these years!
Mr. Applin was probably my favorite teacher, EVER! He and his little family moved into a small rental home down the street from ours in La Verne. Funny! Looking back, they probably weren't even out of their twenties. His wife, Marian, and their son, Kenny, were so cute. My parents took them under their wing (good grief, THEY probably weren't even out of their thirties!) and helped them any way they could to feel part of the community. They were from Michigan, I think and after a couple of years here, they went back.
Mrs. Michael was one of the other eighth grade teachers and she was a sour puss! I can't remember ANY time that she smiled! I wonder if I would have liked her now, knowing how hard it is to teach...especially unruly students.
We had a lesson on Benjamin Franklin and I remember vividly a quote from him that Mrs. Michael gave us. "It is impossible for an empty bag to stand alone!" I'm sure I thought what followed was a great idea at the time, not thinking that so much now. I wrote a note with the quote followed by, "How does Mrs. Michael do it?" I attempted to pass it to a friend at the same moment that Mrs. Michael turned around and I got caught! She told me to give her the note. I'm sure I was thinking something like, "No way Jose!" So, I did the only thing I could think of...I quickly put the note in my mouth and tried to chew it! She was quicker and made me spit it out into her hand. Gross! She read it and didn't say anything about it. Later that day, Mr. Applin called me into the classroom and told me Mrs. Michael had come to him really upset by the note. I was pretty sure that my parents would be receiving a call telling them to come and pick me up because I'd been suspended. My punishment was worse than that. Mr. Applin told me that he was so disappointed that I would hurt anyone like that and he didn't know if I could ever be his babysitter again. I WAS CRUSHED! I would rather have been suspended! Spanked, even! I was in tears, "Mr. Applin, what can I do?" He then told me it would be a good start if I apologized to Mrs. Michael. I would have done anything to make amends...but THAT was going to be tough! I dragged my feet, literally, to her room. It must have taken five minutes to go from his classroom to hers next door. It took less than five seconds to spit out my apology, "I'msorryIwrotethenoteaboutyoubeinganemptybagIwon'tdoitagainIpromise!" Out the door I flew! Truly, I would have rather been suspended!


Open Letter to my Grandson, Alex

I remember, with fondness, the day you were born. Your grandparents, all four of them, were there. Your great-grandparents were there. Only a handful of our grandchildren can make that claim. Grandpa Morales died in 1996 and Grandma Alice in 1999. Needless to say, we were all beaming upon your entrance into our family.
Oh, how the years have flown by and we've watched as you've gone from boy to young man with style and pazazz. Do you know how blessed you've been? How many can claim trips to Australia, Costa Rica or a drive across the country to see such sites as Nauvoo, Yellowstone and Mount Rushmore? Not many! You have your parents to thank for so much of that; their sacrifices were great.
You have a gift for making people feel special. That's why you have so many friends. You also have a wonderful talent for performing. I wish to let you know that you can thank me for that!
Now...you've graduated and entered the world of "adult" living. That's the longest stage of life just before "senior" living. Are you ready to live in an adult world? The joys are many but as with all things in this life, where much is given, much is expected.
Before we came to this life, we made promises that we would do all we could to return to our Father. We knew it would be a tough road. We knew we would be challenged every minute of everyday to make choices between "good, better or best". The question now is, have you paid attention to the lessons you were taught these past eighteen years? Are you ready to hold fast to those principles which bring true happiness?
Here is what you have going for you:
1) You were born to goodly parents! You notice I didn't say "perfect" parents because we still get to make our own choices. We do the best we can with our limited knowledge of how to raise children. After all, you don't come with instruction manuals! YOU, won the lottery, Alex. Your mother is a "one-in-a-million" mom. She has sacrificed countless hours to help you have such wonderful opportunities to learn and to grow; to see our big wide world. She's patient, kind and thoughtful. Have you ever noticed how much joy she brings to others through her service? She asks nothing in return.
2)You came to this earth with wonderful talents and you've used them to enrich the lives of others. You are funny, you can sing (again, you can thank me for that), you are smart! The question is, do YOU remember where those talents came from? You were given your talents by Father so you could bless the lives of others in the Gospel. Your talent is necessary to reach certain people at a point in their lives where they are looking for true happiness. How many lives do you have the potential to change because they came into contact with Alex Mortensen?
3) All through your life you've been given the tools you will need for success. You've been taught how to read the scriptures and how to pray. Were you listening? Were you paying attention to how much better things go when you do those two things?
So now, you're leaving the safe surrounding of a home filled with people who love you and entering a world where you will have, for the most part, charge of what you put into your life. Will you fill it with good things or worthless things, things that bring temporary happiness or eternal joy? That's the beauty of being an adult, it's now yours to choose.
Choose wisely, Alex, but if you make mistakes, learn from them and go on. THAT is the beauty of the Atonement of Jesus Christ! No mistake is too big or too bad to recover from. However, use the power wisely. Don't go into anything thinking, "Oh well, I'll do this or that because I can always repent tomorrow!" It's the adversary's biggest weapon and he will use it when you least expect it. As I've heard your mom say often, "Make good choices!" I echo that!
As you more seriously enter the dating world, I encourage you to treat ALL young ladies with the reverence you will treat the mother of your children. They are, each and every one, eternal daughters of God. Never take that which does not belong to you or let them give that which you have no rights to. The cost of things cheaply given or too loosely spoken is too high!
We love you more than words can describe. There is always and forever only one "first" grandchild. We are pleased with the young man you've become and can't wait to see where you are in the future.
I offer one last bit of counsel. Our mission has been such a blessing in our lives. I would not want you to feel like you are getting pushed to go on one. I can only testify that there is so much joy in being an instrument in the Lord's hands and helping people change their lives. YOU would be such a great missionary! Keep the dream alive...
Much love,
Sister Zollinger
(Grandma Vicki)