Monday, April 3, 2017

My foot in the door story

Yesterday, Elder Rasband shared a marvelous story of when he felt prompted to put his foot in the door while tracting on his mission. As a result, he was able to find and teach Marti, who ended up joining the church and now 136 people are members because of that ‘foot’.

His experience reminded me of something similar that happened on my mission. We were tracting and at one of the doors, a woman answered the door. My companion gave our door introduction and said that we had a message about God that we wanted to share with her. Before she could finish, a man, whom I assume was this woman’s husband, came up to the door. He was well over six feet tall, burly, beer-gutted, and bald. He had on a dirty white tank top. He scoffed and derision soaked his loud, angry words as they echoed in the concrete hallway of the building.
“God? God! There is no such thing as God and nothing you can say or do can make me feel otherwise. Go take your lies somewhere else.” He started to slam the door in our face.

And it stopped.

On my foot.

Like Elder Rasband, I had not done this before on my mission, nor did I do it after that, but before I could reason with myself, my foot had stuck out and stopped the door from shutting. The big man looked down, saw my shoe and paused, irritated.

“Sir,” I answered with a strength that could only come from the Spirit, “I know that God exists. I know that He is real and nothing you can say or do can make me feel otherwise.”


In that moment, I am not sure what I thought would happen. Would he be angry that my foot was impeding his ability to get on with his life? Would he open the door and want to hear more, having been touched by my testimony? Would 136 people join the church as a result of my foot?

He just stood there for a few brief seconds while the spirit dissipated the derision that had hung so heavily in the halls just moments before.

“Well, good for you,” he said, his voice down to a more decent conversational level. “But I’m still not interested.”

I removed my stubborn foot, nodded curtly, and the door closed between us. As far as I know, he never listened to the missionaries or joined the church. Not one, two, or anywhere close to 136 people joined the church because of what I had done.

But I was changed. I knew God knew what I had done. I knew with a power that does not stem from this earth that God lives. Again - the results were not something that might be shared as a ‘faith-promoting’ story over any pulpit - yet my faith was promoted. My faith in God was strengthened.

Now, no disrespect to Elder Rasband and Marti. I wish my beer-gutted man had asked us to come in and that his whole family had joined the church. But that was not how it happened, and there is a lesson in that. May we not be focused so much on the physical and temporal results of our obedience and faith and hold those ‘results’ as the standard to which we determine if our actions and obedience were acceptable or not. May we recognize that the blessings we receive for heeding a prompting are still real and tangible and faith-promoting. Then, perhaps, we can share these differing types of faith-promoting stories where the focus is on the faith, the obedience and the diligence, regardless of the results.

Monday, January 16, 2017

The parable of Josh's eyes

This oft quoted scripture has been on my mind over the last few days:

And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them” (Ether 12:27).

Over the course of my life, when I’ve read and pondered this verse, I’ve reflected on my many weaknesses. This verse tends to humble the reader and prompts one to realize we all have our weaknesses. We often think that the purpose of our weaknesses is to humble ourselves. That, is, of course, a necessary first step. But, we often forget about the next steps - and perhaps the unwritten steps implied before those weaknesses can become strengths. After humbling ourselves and recognizing our weaknesses, we then need to have faith in the Lord - actually believe that our weaknesses can change - AND BE WILLING TO PUT FORTH THE NECESSARY EFFORT REQUIRED TO DO SO. I know I often stop at the attempts to be humble and am okay with accepting my weaknesses and almost wearing them as badges of my humble humanity.

Then, my son had an accident and now I think about this verse differently.

The Parable of Josh’s eyes.

Josh was born with weak vision. We didn’t realize the extent of it until he was almost four years old and trying desperately to read. When he failed his pediatric eye test, we took him to a specialist who put him in very strong glasses. We still remember him pointing out the window on the car ride home with his new glasses on: “Tree!” “Light!” “Bush!” “Car!” He could finally see the things all around him clear enough to give them their appropriate names. From the beginning, his left eye was vastly weaker than his right. At its worst, it was 20/400 - or legally blind. His right eye, quite a bit stronger, compensated for his left and with his glasses, he flourished in school. 

During one of his appointments a few years later, however, his eye doctor realized that his right eye was so much stronger than his left eye that the left eye was simply fading away from disuse. His brain was going about the path of least resistance, and was allowing him to get his vision almost entirely from the right eye. If he continued down this path, his left eye would stop functioning completely. In order to combat this, Josh had to start wearing eye patches. Every day we had to patch up his right eye with a large bandage, forcing him to use his left eye. Josh hated his patches. He hated them so much he would take brand new boxes of them and hide them, thinking that if we couldn’t find them, he wouldn’t have to wear them. Much to his dismay, I would simply drive to the store and buy more (and they weren’t cheap). For years he had to wear the dreaded patches - even to school. I went in and met with his school teachers to explain to them about his patches. They were all so understanding. One of his teachers had had to wear patches as a child, so she just hugged Josh and was so sweet to him. The teachers would talk to the class and as a result, very little, if any, bullying or teasing took place. Josh still had his thick glasses - and his patches. He hated having such a weak left eye.

After years of going to doctor appointments and being told, “Let’s keep up with the patching. It is working. It is improving. We just aren’t there yet…” We finally went to an appointment and got some good news. He could stop wearing the patches in public if he promised to wear them as soon as he got home until he went to bed. 

This continued for another year or two. Finally, after over four years of wearing patches regularly and strengthening that weak left eye little by little through tough, undesirable means, he was done with patching. All his hard work and effort had paid off. His left eye was now strong enough that it could withstand a surgery designed to tighten his eye muscles to keep his eyeball from shifting undesirably. If we had done this surgery two years earlier, or before his left eye was strong enough, the surgery would not have held. The surgeon could have stitched the muscle tighter, but it would not have been strong enough to last. 

So, three years ago Josh had surgery on his left eye. The pain afterwards was almost unbearable - as nothing - no Tylenol or other narcotic could ease the pain from the incision on the nerves and muscles inside the eye. But, once he had recovered from the surgery, his left eye, strong from years of patching and hard work, took the new tightening of his muscles like a champ. His left eye, with the use of corrective lenses, could now see 20/30.

His left eye, previously so weak that it was dying, was now functional. Still, his right eye was stronger and dominant, but at least his left eye could pull its own weight, so to speak.

Then, last Friday (the 13th- by the way), he was playing frisbee with some friends and didn’t see a step and tripped and hit his head on a large cement planter. He fractured his skull and sustained damage to the optic nerve for his right eye - the strong eye. 

It’s been a few days now. The swelling has all but disappeared, leaving just a very colorful black eye and some bruises and scrapes. The skull fracture was clean and will heal with time, rest, and no big movements. His eye, however, is still unknown. The ophthalmologist, unfortunately, feels the damage might be of a permanent nature (though we still have not ruled out any miracles). He cannot see out of his right eye, save a few shades of black and gray and some rough shapes. 

This might be his new normal. 

Josh, before he had even heard the eye doctor’s prognosis, said, “So, I wonder if I’ll become left-eye dominant now.” Yes, Josh, you probably will. 

For years, he had to humble himself. He had to face the reality that his left eye was weak. He had to confront the possibility of humiliation at wearing ugly brown patches on his eye at school among peers who could be mean. He had to put forth daily effort to work at strengthening his weak eye. He worked, he was humbled, he had faith, he put in the time. And his left- eye became strong. 

Now, with a non-functioning right-eye, his left eye will soon become not only stronger, but his only source of vision. How grateful we are that he took all that time and all those years of effort and trust in the Lord to make a weak thing become strong. 

What can we learn from this? What if, in 3 months, or 4 years, or a decade, we had to rely on only the weakest parts of us to make it? Would we look at working at making them strengths with renewed vigor? But, the Lord does know. He is willing and able to help us. With humility, faith, and a willingness to put forth effort on our part, we can, and should, with the Lord’s involvement, make that which is weak become strong.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

The "R's of the Atonement

I like to create word tricks to help me learn and remember things.

I'm the Beehive Counselor in my ward, and at one point I had 21 Beehives. So, I created an anagram of all their names so I could remember them in my prayers or on email lists. 

Beachcommber Bliss Kave  {Bree, Eden, Aydia, Cassidy, Hannah, Courtney, Olivia, Maya, Maddie, Brooke, Eden (yes, I had two Edens), Rachel, Brynlee, Laine, Isabella, Sheridan, Sydney, Kaidyn, Anika, Victoria, Elizabeth} 

But, onto the real point of this post...

Studying, learning, and applying the Atonement of Jesus Christ is a life-long eternal pursuit. Over the last several years, I've decided to come up with my own word tricks to better understand the Atonement. 

For me, there are three major aspects of the Atonement:

1) Resurrection -- the 'free' {because we kept our first estate} gift of immortality and a body that will be perfect. Often, we focus on this aspect when we lose someone, or have health issues. Since both have happened to me too often for someone my age, this aspect of the Atonement is very real and something I am grateful for and hope for and look forward to and RELY on every day. 

2) Repentance -- the gift of hope -- knowing that the first tiny mistake we made after baptism didn't doom us to eternal misery and woe. We can repent. We can progress and become clean through the blood of our Savior. I lasted about three hours after my baptism at age 8 before I messed up. That's it. Three hours. But.... I had also received the gift of the Holy Ghost that morning... and the Holy Ghost prompted my doomed eight-year old self to repent. Because of the repentance aspect of the Atonement... all was not lost! I went in my closet (lest my siblings or parents walk in on me and see me praying in the middle of the day) and said a prayer where I sincerely repented. Immediately I felt clean and pure! Since that day... let's just say sometimes I don't even make it three hours between needing to apply the repentance aspect of the Atonement in my life. 

3) Real Power -- Elder Bednar labeled this the 'enabling power of the Atonement'. The scriptures refer to it as Grace. If Grace started with an R, then that's what I would have called it. But, I like my word tricks... This is the aspect of the Atonement that Alma referred to in Alma 7:12 

“And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.” (Boldness added for emphasis)

The Savior's Atonement included Him going through every know trial and affliction ACCORDING TO THE FLESH (not according to His Divine half) SO that He would know ACCORDING TO THE FLESH how to succor (HELP, give us REAL power) to get us through our trial and infirmities. There is REAL power in the Atonement in knowing that we are not alone -- that He has been through what we are going through and has suffered as a mortal has. He can then bestow upon us the power, the courage, the hope, the faith to take the next step -- whatever it may be. 

I have too many examples of this aspect of the Atonement in my life to list any. Just know that applying this aspect of the Atonement has made me who I am today. 

As I pondered these "R" words of the Atonement, other R words came to mind:

Remember - {remember the Atonement as we partake of the sacrament. Remember His sacrifice and love for us}

Rely - Turn to Him in all things. He knows. We can trust Him. We can Rely on Him.

Relief - There is tremendous relief in the Atonement. We can feel the relief the saints of Alma the Elder's day felt -- our burdens can be lightened because our backs can be strengthened.

Revelation - We can receive personal revelation as to what we are to do by turning to the Savior.

Resilience - One of the definitions of this word is "the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties" -- if that is not one of the benefits of applying the Atonement -- I don't know what is.

Rescue -- The Savior's Atonement literally rescues us for an otherwise certain endless torment as captives to the Devil

Reflect -- The Atonement allows us to reflect on all the blessings of our lives and all the blessings in store for us.

Realize -- How wonderful is the day when we realize the Atonement was for each one of us.

Receive -- We need to receive His saving grace into our lives.

Reason -- You are the reason the Savior performed His Atonement -- every single aspect of it. Reverence -- In understanding the Atonement, we should view it with the reverence it deserves.

Reconcile - A definition of this is "to bring back in harmony one with another". Again -- the point of the Atonement was to reconcile us to our Heavenly Father. I have to thank my Gospel Doctrine teacher for sharing this definition. I loved it.

Finally, as I was teaching my Beehives about the Atonement today, the spirit whispered one final "R" word -- and perhaps it is the most important of all of them. As we learn about the Atonement, as we apply each aspect to our lives as needed and as often as needed, we develop a RELATIONSHIP with our Savior -- which I believe is what it is all about. 

I'm so blessed to have a relationship with my Savior Jesus Christ. It is a relationship I treasure and one I plan on improving every day.  

On this Easter Sunday, may your RELATIONSHIP to the Savior grow as you apply each aspect of His greatest of all gifts -- the Atonement.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Writing prompt #23: "She studied her face in the mirror"...

I, Jennie Blaser, promise to post exactly what I wrote during my 10 minutes of writing, and not to edit it (except to correct a typo) whilst typing it on this blog.

Writing prompt #23: Start with "She studied her face in the mirror"

She studied her face in the mirror. Her eyes stared back at her, the same ombre of blue to green emanating from the jet black pupil to the furry outer fringes. 

I guess they didn't think he'd notice my eyes, she thought to herself, seeing the tiny freckle that nestled on her left tear duct. A brown spot friends and strangers alike had kindly whispered to her must have been some leftover mascara puddled into a pinpoint. 

"It's a freckle," she'd say. And they'd correct her, until she wiped at it for their sakes and they saw it wouldn't dislodge.

"I didn't think freckles could grow there," they'd say.

"Freckles can grow anywhere," She'd say, repeating the words her opthamologist had told her years ago.

Would her unusual freckle give her away? Suddenly, that was all she could see in the strange reflection mirroring her every expression. Her nose was slimmer, though still sporting blacks and blues from the reconstructive surgery. Her cheek bones more defined. Her double chin gone.

The wrinkles that had been her constant companion as of late still wrote her worries across her forehead and around her eyes. But they had to make her seem at least close to her real age. But would it be enough? Would her secret stay safe now, after so many doctors and staff and worked on her? Supposedly they'd never been told her identity, her reason for the face reorganization.

She thought back to the night only one month ago when she had returned to the office to grab a file, and she thought no one was there. But, boy, had she been wrong.

How would you continue this????

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Writing prompt #22: It was a dark and stormy night

I, Jennie Blaser, promise to post exactly what I wrote during my 10 minutes of writing, and not to edit it (except to correct a typo) whilst typing it on this blog.

Writing prompt #22: It was a dark and stormy night...

It was a dark and stormy night. The thunder reached in the window and shook my out of bed, the lightning illuminated the destruction outside from the wind and the rain. I reached for my bunny and ran to the door. I was almost nine years old. Too old to be scared of a stupid storm. I turned around, determined to be strong, when the sky lit up like the devil's clawed fingers grasping for me. I opened the door and started to turn towards my parent's room when I hard the voice.

A man yelled at someone -- angry, uneven words stabbing in the dark.

"Calm down!" Another male voice spit back. My dad. Who was he talking to? I crept down the hallway to the section just before the turn and carefully peered around the corner. The front door creaked open, shining with the rhythm of the wild wind, letting in whistles and moans and raindrops the size of nickels. And neither of them even noticed me, or cared.

"Tell my exactly what happened."

"She's dead! She's dead -- he killer her!" The man paced around, blood splotched all over his shirt.

"Who is dead?" My dad asked.

"My wife."

"How? What? No!" My dad shouted. "What have you done?"

(side note -- this scene ended up making its way (with some changes) into a pivotal point in my first book "Clicked")

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Writing prompt #21: Phone call in the middle of the night...

I, Jennie Blaser, promise to post exactly what I wrote during my 10 minutes of writing, and not to edit it (except to correct a typo) whilst typing it on this blog.

Writing prompt #21: You receive a phone call in the middle of the night...

"Everything okay?" he murmurs, a hand reaching over to find me in the darkness. Nothing good comes from a phone call in the middle of the night. He knows that. I know that. Correction. I knew that. This could be it -- the answers I've been asking for. Praying for. Paying for.

"Wrong number," I whisper, turning away slightly so his hand retraces its step to his side. I lay there, counting in my head. Listening until his breathing lengthens and deepens. Until I know he won't notice my absence.

I count to ten -- slowly -- for good measure and deftly slip out of the sheets, padding over to my closet where I slip on some clothes by moonlight. Tiptoeing down the hall and to the side door, the one I know won't beep its opening.

And there it is. A black limo, windows tinted, though it is hardly necessary on a cloudy night like this. I steel myself, square my shoulders, and walk straight towards it. Just before I can open the door, it opens from the inside. A beefy man steps out and asks me to splay myself against the car. I hesitate for a second before I see her legs -- in the car. I can't believe she's here. I can't believe she came. Yes, of course I'll splay.

My heart rate picks up as he frisks me thoroughly before giving me a nod. I step inside and see the most influential woman in the world sitting across from me: The President of the United States, and, as I just discovered, my birth mother.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Writing prompt #20: They say everyone always has a dream...

I, Jennie Blaser, promise to post exactly what I wrote during my 10 minutes of writing, and not to edit it (except to correct a typo) whilst typing it on this blog.

Writing prompt #20: They say everyone always has a dream....

"You might have heard this poem before," she said, un-creasing a paper and brushing back a stray strand of hair behind her ear. She adjusted her glasses, bringing the page in and out of focus until it was just right.

I looked down at the remnants of my potluck dinner, several pieces of print mix doused in a delicious dressing, but something -- some part had been extremely bitter - -almost causing me to gag and I couldn't tell what kind of lettuce was guilty. So, I gave it up entirely I eyed my neighbor's half-eaten cheesecake. I should have gotten that instead of what was obviously a store-bought cookie. Oh well, I can't get up now.

The lady continued her poem - one I had heard before. "Oh when I can drive -- then I'll be happy.... Oh when I can get out of my parent's house, then I'll be happy. Then college exams, then graduation, then marriage, longing for kids, all things always blocked the voice's path to happiness. "When my kids aren't so young -- when they go to school -- I'll finally have time to be happy --When they graduate, when they get married, when I can retire, when I ....

Misery. The poem defined pure, unadulterated misery.

My first child was at home, sleeping in all her four-month glory and my husband just starting a new job. I was happy. Right then. Right there. I would not depend on dreams, on tomorrows, on next steps even, to deliver delight.

I would choose happiness now. I said it over and over to myself. No stage of life is without its own joys. No tomorrow can possibly be better than the today, because tomorrows are shadows -- ungraspable and fleeting.

I have not been perfect in my 27-year-old self declaration, but for the most part, I can say that that poem did its job. And today, I am happy in today.

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