“What did you say about applesauce?”

AppleMy mother has lived in our home for the past seventeen years, and she recently turned 97. Up until about eighteen months ago she was our chief gardener, impressing everyone with her amazing stamina and her beautiful produce. At the age of 95 she would occasionally announce that she had pulled out her “skip rope” that day and had “skipped” 25 times just to make sure she could still do it.

Since that time she has become dependent on a walker, and her days are mostly spent resting on her bed rather than working in the garden. Her desire for social interaction is seriously hampered by her hearing loss, and her emotionally strong, no-nonsense approach to life has been reduced to frequent bouts of tears, mourning the productive life she used to know.

As her primary care giver, I am often left searching for ways to brighten her day. We have had long conversations about the power of our thoughts, and have regularly chased depression away by recalling happy moments from her past and reliving the joy those moments brought her.

This morning after we had been in the bathroom getting her ready for the day, she slumped onto her bed, exhausted. My heart reached out to her as I noticed the tears in her eyes, and I said, “Mom, if you don’t want to cry, ya gotta think happy thoughts.”

The tears stopped, and she stared at me with a puzzled look. Finally she asked, “What did you say about applesauce?”

I couldn’t help smiling, but I stifled my urge to laugh because I know her struggle to hear can be very upsetting to her. However, when I repeated my words, her face broke into a wide smile. Her sense of humor kicked in, and together we burst into gales of laughter. The misunderstanding had opened the door to a precious moment that included merriment, long hugs, and tender expressions of deep gratitude.

Happy thoughts . . . applesauce! I love them both, and I hope I’ll have lots more of each of them in my life. In fact, I think I’ll serve applesauce for lunch today.

Our Unique Gifts to Give

Several years ago when I was ward choir director I was walking around my house, singing as I practiced conducting the songs for our next Christmas program. It was only October but I wanted to be well-prepared when I introduced the musical numbers to the choir the following week. One of the numbers I had selected for the program was, “Were You There?” It’s a touching song, full of questions which inspire reflection on the Savior’s birth and His mission of love.

As I began practicing this song I wandered into my office waving my arms to the music. Just as I sang the words, “Were you there to behold when the wonder foretold came to earth,” I happened to glance up at a picture on my wall which depicts Christ’s suffering in Gethsemane. At that moment the Spirit clearly whispered, “This is the wonder foretold—Christ fulfilling His divine mission of the atonement!” Tears sprang to my eyes and a feeling of overwhelming gratitude swelled within me.

I gazed at the picture, immersed in His love, awed by His ability to perform the requirements of His atoning sacrifice. “But how could He ever do it?” I queried softly, my mind struggling to comprehend the incomprehensible.

Suddenly my thoughts ran to another question—a question surely born of my tendency toward perfectionism. “And why am I so pathetically weak?”

The sense of awe instantly vanished and I sank to my knees feeling hopelessly inadequate. A longing to be like Christ surged within me, but I was keenly aware of my desire to avoid any serious pain. How could I ever match His amazing example?

Despair and self-doubt beckoned, but before they had a chance to carry my thoughts down their dark path the Spirit invited me to consider a truer perspective. “You don’t have to fulfill Christ’s mission. You have your own mission to fulfill. Be patient with yourself and focus on the divine mission God has designed for you.”

My heart again swelled with love and gratitude as I pondered this new insight. Remaining on my knees, I offered a joyous prayer, expressing my thanks to God for this beautiful early Christmas present. I knew it would serve me well.

Many Christmases have come and gone since that day, and many Christmas gifts have long been forgotten, but this precious gift remains in my heart. Though it didn’t come wrapped in festive paper, it continues to remind me that each of us has our own unique gifts to offer, and that we can follow Christ’s example by freely sharing our gifts with each other just as He shares His atoning gift with all mankind.

The Gift of Indian Summers

Yesterday was the eleventh of November, and what a gorgeous Indian Summer day it was! After that first killing frost hits my garden, every sunny day is like a treasured bonus. Clearly the harsh winter cold is just around the corner, so I joyfully welcome the gift of a pleasant day to roll up the hoses, put away the garden tools, take care of other unfinished yard work, or just savor one last fall walk without a jacket.

Perhaps it was the penetrating warmth of the sun yesterday that caused me to pause and reflect on the Indian Summer God has granted me in this season of my life. About two years ago I went through a series of tests to determine why I was experiencing so much back pain. After careful study of my MRIs and CT scans, my doctor said he had seen similar images before, and he was certain I had cancer in my spine. He immediately scheduled a bone biopsy to confirm his diagnosis.

This was a tender time for Monte and me. As we reviewed our forty years of marriage, we gratefully acknowledged that we had been richly blessed during our journey together. We had already been given fifteen years beyond what his parents had been allowed, and thirty years had passed since my first brush with cancer. Even more priceless were the gifts of increased love and understanding we had received. Armed with these reminders, we hoped to be able to accept with grace and gratitude whatever God had in store for us.

After waiting several days for test results, the doctor called us in. He told us that in spite of his earlier prediction, he had been unable to find any cancer cells. When I asked if he thought he could have missed something, he assured me that he had been more than thorough, and that if cancer cells had been there, he would have found them.

The pain in my back still hangs around, but I am deeply grateful that God is granting my life a beautiful Indian Summer. It has given me time to publish the book I worked on for so long, and it has given me time to enjoy many precious moments with family and friends that I would have otherwise missed.

But just as Indian Summers must eventually give way to winter, I know our mortal days are also numbered. This reminder strengthens my resolve to let go of unimportant concerns and live my life more intentionally. Today I arranged to take my 94 year old mother to visit my aunt in Arizona, I’m having lunch at a rehab center with my friend who had a hip replacement, and I scheduled a time for my grandchildren to come over and make the butternut squash pilgrims I have planned for our Thanksgiving table decorations. There is always so much to be thankful for, and today is the perfect day to rejoice in the gifts of Indian Summers!

(The expression “Indian Summer” has always been one of joy and delight to me as you can probably tell by this post. I apologize if anyone finds it offensive. After someone called this concern to my attention I tried to consider other words, but they came out cumbersome and didn’t seem to express what I was trying to say. I sincerely ask your forgiveness if it feels inappropriate to you.)

Precious Sabbath Moment

Sundays are a gift like no other for me! Because I can be such a spastic brained person, my life is hugely blessed by the weekly occurrence of the Sabbath. It sets aside a time and space to refocus and recommit to the things I value most. (One of the chapters in my Confessions book addresses my feelings—past and present—about Sundays.)

A few weeks ago I was sitting in church with an adorable little granddaughter crawling up and over and around me. Her contagious giggle and bursts of speed crawling always delight me, but they can be rather distracting in church. I sang the sacrament hymn while doing what I could to help contain and quiet this busy child, so the first half of the sacrament came and went in a blur. But then she wandered down the row to her mother and I automatically bowed my head in anticipation when it was time for the prayer over the water. As the words, “Oh God, the Eternal Father,” were spoken, time suddenly seemed to stand still. A flood of gratitude pulsed through me. “Oh, God, Our Eternal Father! What a blessing that we can connect with You in this symbolic way!” Christ gave us the pattern and invites us to come to His table each week to demonstrate our desire to have our lives filled with His spirit. It’s easy to partake, but not so easy to internalize the profound significance of this weekly ritual.

Those closest to me know that I love rousing, joyful church music, and that I think we miss something wonderful if we don’t frequently rejoice—with some serious enthusiasm J—in God’s amazing goodness. However, this quiet Sabbath moment was not a moment for that kind of rejoicing. It was a precious moment of pure worship. It called for me to “fall on my knees” rather than “shout the glad rejoicings.” I thought about the scripture that says there is time and a season for every purpose under heaven. This was indeed a sacred time, a quickly passing moment of tender devotion. I’m grateful for this simple reminder of the things I value most! Nothing is sweeter than clearly sensing God’s presence.

Can you believe it? Elona Shelley has a blog!

I never thought I would find myself blogging! Change doesn’t often come easily for me, and as recently as a few months ago I declined the services a professional blogger offered to help me get started. The first time I was exposed to the word “blog” I commented that just saying it made me feel like something was stuck in my throat. Perhaps that was an omen!  I now see blogging as a means of sharing ideas, thoughts and feelings that would otherwise remain stuck in my throat, or rather in my mind and heart.

Publishing my book, Confessions of a Molly Mormon: Trading Perfectionism for Peace, Fear for Faith,  Judging for Joy, opened amazing new vistas and thrust me into a world which I didn’t anticipate entering. Though I must admit I entered this new world kicking and screaming, I am aware that the Spirit often encourages us to take a leap of faith into a disquieting courage zone. In spite of my earlier resistance, I think I’m finally ready to take the leap into blogging as part of embracing my new world.  Many thanks go to those who are supporting my efforts and cheering me on.

The topics I blog about will be a refelection of my thoughts and experiences along life’s path as a confirmed Molly Mortal. They will most likely make frequent reference to the enticing call of the Molly Mormon trap which once robbed my life of many God-intended joys. Being a recovering perfectionist is fabulous! Not only does it remind me to keep life in perspective, it provides me with countless opportunities to savor the wondrous richness of this mortal life. Thank you for sharing in this ongoing adventure.