Thursday, June 1, 2017

If you want to be happy, you must forgive

This morning, I arose late, and as I walked into the kitchen, there was my husband having breakfast.  He greeted me, and told me he had made me breakfast too, and then said that he had a story to read to me.  I had a feeling I knew what kind of a story he wanted me to hear, because I had been going through a lot recently with family issues, and I had felt torn apart, and very sad by what was happening.  This story was perfect for me, and reminded me of things I already knew, but I needed to be reminded once again. I also knew that this story would help give peace to a family member of mine, who is suffering, broken and in great pain.  

I share this story with you too, because if you want to be happy in your own life, then you too must forgive.  Parts of this story was taken from a talk by James E. Faust and the whole talk can be found at this link:

Story of the Amish Tragedy

"In the beautiful hills of Pennsylvania, a devout group of people, live a simple life without automobiles, electricity, or modern machinery. They work hard and live quiet, peaceful lives separate from the world. Most of their food comes from their own farms. The women sew and knit and weave their clothing, which is modest and plain. They are known as the Amish people.

A 32-year-old milk truck driver lived with his family in their Nickel Mines community. He was not Amish, but his pickup route took him to many Amish dairy farms, where he became known as the quiet milkman. Last October he suddenly lost all reason and control. In his tormented mind he blamed God for the death of his first child and some unsubstantiated memories. He stormed into the Amish school without any provocation, released the boys and adults, and tied up 10 girls. He shot the girls, killing five and wounding five. Then he took his own life.

This shocking violence caused great anguish among the Amish but no anger. There was hurt but no hate. Their forgiveness was immediate. Collectively they began to reach out to the milkman’s suffering family. As the milkman’s family gathered in his home the day after the shootings, an Amish neighbor came over, wrapped his arms around the father of the dead gunman, and said, “We will forgive you.”  Amish leaders visited the milkman’s wife and children to extend their sympathy, their forgiveness, their help, and their love. About half of the mourners at the milkman’s funeral were Amish. In turn, the Amish invited the milkman’s family to attend the funeral services of the girls who had been killed. A remarkable peace settled on the Amish as their faith sustained them during this crisis.

One local resident very eloquently summed up the aftermath of this tragedy when he said, “We were all speaking the same language, and not just English, but a language of caring, a language of community, [and] a language of service, And, a language of forgiveness.”  It was an amazing outpouring of their belief in the Saviors teachings in the Sermon on the Mount: “Do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.”

 The family of the milkman who killed the five girls released the following statement to the public:

“To our Amish friends, neighbors, and local community:

“Our family wants each of you to know that we are overwhelmed by the forgiveness, grace, and mercy that you’ve extended to us. Your love for our family has helped to provide the healing we so desperately need. The prayers, flowers, cards, and gifts you’ve given have touched our hearts in a way no words can describe. Your compassion has reached beyond our family, beyond our community, and is changing our world, and for this we sincerely thank you.

“Please know that our hearts have been broken by all that has happened. We are filled with sorrow for all of our Amish neighbors whom we have loved and continue to love. We know that there are many hard days ahead for all the families who lost loved ones, and so we will continue to put our hope and trust in the God of all comfort, as we all seek to rebuild our lives.”

How could the whole Amish group show such an expression of forgiveness? Hearing of this tragedy, many people sent money to the Amish to pay for the health care of the five surviving girls and for the burial expenses of the five who were killed. As a further demonstration of their discipleship, the Amish decided to share some of the money with the widow of the milkman and her three children because they too were victims of this terrible tragedy.

Forgiveness is not always instantaneous as it was with the Amish. When innocent children have been molested or killed, most of us do not think first about forgiveness. Our natural response is anger. We may even feel justified in wanting to “get even” with anyone who inflicts injury on us or our family.

“Forgiveness is freeing up and putting to better use the energy once consumed by holding grudges, harboring resentments, and nursing unhealed wounds. It is rediscovering the strengths we always had and relocating our limitless capacity to understand and accept other people and ourselves.”    - Dr. Sidney Simon-

Most of us need time to work through pain and loss.  We can find all kinds of reasons to postpone forgiveness, waiting for the wrongdoer to repent before we forgive them, but delaying causes us to forgo the happiness and peace that could be ours, because we waited.

Some people hold grudges for a lifetime, not realizing that forgiving others who have wronged us is therapeutic and liberating.  Forgiveness enables people to look beyond themselves, and withstand the worst and ugliest of humanity.

If we can find forgiveness in our hearts for those who have caused us hurt or injury, we will rise to a higher level of self-esteem and well-being.  Studies show that people who forgive, are “less angry, more hopeful, less depressed, less anxious and less stressed, and understand that forgiveness is a liberating gift that people can give themselves.”

A woman who was going through a painful divorce received some really good advice.  It was to “Keep a place in your heart for forgiveness, and when it comes, welcome it.”

We all need to acknowledge our angry feelings, and realize it will take a great deal of humility to ask God to help us be able to forgive.  It takes even more humility to ask God to forgive ourselves of all those things we did to deserve what we are feeling, as a result of our own past bad behavior or bad choices. Since the Lord requires us to forgive everyone, He knows that this will rid our own lives of the hatred and bitterness that comes through harboring anger.  We cannot be responsible however, if others do not forgive, and sadly their lives will be consumed with anger, guile and bitterness, which certainly takes more effort to keep those feelings going, than to just forgive, move on, and find peace once again. Some people may never forgive, but those who do, will be able to find once again, the happiness that was missing from harboring all those negative feelings.

We all need to remember that if we want to be forgiven, we first must forgive, and let the healing power that comes through forgiveness, set our hearts free.

If you are reading this, I want you to know that as a mother, I have had to forgive like the Amish, my own family members whose choices have hurt me in the past.  Strong words, bad behavior and deeds, could have made my heart hardened and destroyed important relationships with my family.  An old friend once said something that has stayed with me for years.  She said, “God made our shoulders round, so things could roll off them.” The longer we let the boulders of hurt stack up, the more weighted down we become, until ultimately we are so bogged down, we cannot even walk.  As we let them go, and “roll off” one by one, that weight and burden becomes lighter and turns into a liberating force for us, and once again, we can feel peace.  This is the peace that comes from asking for forgiveness for our own mistakes in life we had made, as well as asking for the Lords help to enable us to forgive others. 

If you want to be happy, no let me rephrase that, 'If you want to be truly happy, then you must forgive.  First, Forgive others, and second, ask for forgiveness from God for your own issues.  If you will do this, then you can find peace in your soul, your hardened heart will soften, and you will truly be a happier person.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

If you want to be happy you can, even when the lights go out!

Recently, I was in my office at home, and without any notice, wind or weather elements going on outside, the power went out.  The first thought in my mind was... so now what do I do?  My mind instantly began churning, and I remembered all the fun that my kids and I had during cold winter evenings when the power would go out because of the snow or outside elements.  I looked forward to the lights going out, so we could enjoy family time together.

One of the first things that we do when the lights go out is to run to find a flashlight, candles or some other way to bring light into the room.  I knew where the candles and candle holders were, so I was usually the one to get them out, light them, and place them in strategic areas of the house, to help my family see.

A strange phenomenon happened when we were sleeping or almost there, when the lights went out.  Everyone would wake up and say, "What do we do with the lights out?"  If my reply of, "Go back to sleep", didn't excite them, because they were in the dark before the lights went out, it seemed like everyone would instantly go to the light.  So why is it that we have to have light, when the lights are out?  Well I can't answer that for you but I know why my family has always flocked to the light during a power outage..... because it means fun.  I love it in the dark of night, and have made a list of 10 things we have done to be happy during a power outage, or a self imposed power failure.

1.  Light candles!  Who doesn't have fun striking a match and lighting a candle?  For kids, it is one of the few times that a parent will let them light a match so what fun it is to see who gets to strike the match to light the candles.

2.  Roast Marshmallows.  Those lit candles do more than just light the room with a flickering glow.  Those candles, put together in a little cluster make a great option for roasting marshmallows.  Just grab some long bamboo skewers  or even forks work well, and get out the marshmallows.  I remember one time only having mini marshmallows available, so we put 4-5 on the stick and proceeded to roast.  There is just something about roasting marshmallows on a stick that makes them taste like the best treat you have had in a very long time!

3.  Heat up some soup or food for dinner.  Yes you can even do this, though it does require a little more to be creative about the heating process.  Make a buddy burner using a can. Open the can top and set the can up on something that will elevate the can from the flame, and not on top of it so it will go out.  If you empty a can, rince and dry it out, and open the bottom end of a can, you can set it on top of a lit candle to hold your can of soup yet to be heated up from the flame.  If the flame goes out, using a pop top can opening to punch a few holes in the sides of the can, to let some air in.  If you have a contest with the kids as to how to cook over a flame, they can become pretty creative in coming up with a set up to make this possible.  Some kind of a tripod, that will hold the soup can over the flame.  Have some fun and by the time the soup has been heated enough to eat, the lights will probably go back on, but who says they have to stay on?  Turn them back off, and Finnish your fun dinner!    You can even have a side of toast by toasting your bread over a flame. (I should mention that if you have a propane BBQ that has a side cooking unit, you can cook your dinner on that much easier, but probably it won't be as much fun!)

4.  Tell stories!  Cozy up on the sofa with just enough candles on the coffee table to light the room, and tell stories.  Spooky stories seem to lend themselves well to when the lights are out, but with little kids, having the lights out is spooky enough.

5.  Sing songs!  Yes, I did say sing songs!  There is nothing like singing around a campfire at a camp out to make that good feeling come into your heart. So why not sing around the candles, songs of comfort for the little ones, or silly songs for the older ones.  Songs like, My gals a corker, she's a New Yorker...., The ants go marching two by two, hurrah, hurrah and I am pretty sure you can come up with the Jello song, and others to make the lights out time together fun.

7.  Plan a family vacation.  Kids for some reason will talk around a fire easier than they do around the table or anything else, so as a family, plan your next family vacation.  Talk, talk, talk, and talk some more about what fun times you can have, things you can do, foods you can eat and bring with
you, whether you drive, take the train or a bus, but let everyone in on the action of planning.

8.  Snack time! Don't you know that snacks taste better in the dark, and what a better time to pull out the snacks you have in your cupboards than when you only have candle light.  Pull out your bingo game, and M & M's or other small candies, and play bingo.  With each bingo, they earn the right to eat their M & M's. Packaged popcorn... yum, yum, pull out your iPad, and find a family movie, and munch on popcorn while you are watching an iPad movie on that tiny little screen.  This means you will all have to cozy up, sitting close, and piling on the blankets to be able to watch it, but close family fun is to be had when the lights are out.

9.  If you happen to be alone, without family or friends around you, you can always make a phone call on your cell phones.  Have a nice chat until your batter runs out.  Don't forget also that your cell phone can turn into a really great flashlight, and that is probably the easiest thing to find to light your way first, until you can find your candles or flashlights.  It sure runs the battery down fast, but when the power is restored, you can always plug it in to charge up again.  (OR - do you have one of those already charged power packs, you can use and have been saving for this very kind of a situation?  Get it out and finally use it!)

10.  Now for my last idea, I have picked something that everyone doesn't get enough of, that would be a wonderful activity to do when the lights go out.  Pretend it is bedtime and go to sleep if it is close to bedtime.  Get some extra Z's and wake refreshed in the morning.  But... if you do want to take advantage of the dark in this way, be sure to turn off the light switches that you had on before the power went out, or you will wake up when the power goes on, to a fully lighted house.  Then try getting back to sleep aftet that!  JK, actually not!

If you want to be happy even during circumstances that are not always perfect, then make them fun by the things you choose to do.  Enjoy life and be happy, no-matter the condition.