“Love, from Your Daughter Barbara”

Even as a child I loved to sing. I would go into my room after church on Sunday and draw pictures and sing and sing, until my mother came to the door to say, “Mary, please don’t sing so loud in there. It’s not that we don’t like to know you are happy, honey, but you know you just can’t carry a tune.”

Singing was in my heart, though, and I would go up into the woods behind our house and run through the woods singing all the songs I wanted to: Sad songs that broke my heart and I’d cry, and happy songs that made me feel so good I’d laugh out loud.

When I married and had my first child, I would sit and sing the loveliest songs to him. Songs I made up from my heart to tell him how much I loved him—how special he was to me. And he would smile and cuddle closer to me and fall asleep in my arms as I sang my songs of joy.

Each child, then, received his or her own special song, made up just for that child, telling of my feelings and love for him. I sang only when there was no one around, for my husband agreed with my mother, “I’m sorry, honey, but you sound just awful when you sing.”

The children didn’t seem to mind my off-tune voice at all. In fact, we sang wonderful play songs together, laughing and playing and enjoying the sound of our voices. Many happy hours were spent sitting, marching, walking, and playing games with singsong instructions.

After having four wonderful children, I received my greatest joy—twin boys! What a blessing. How wonderful it was to sit and hold them in my arms for hours, singing of my love for them while they cuddled close to me and then fell asleep.

Because everyone had always told me that my singing voice left much to be desired, I hesitated to sing for anyone except the babies. In church, even though I knew the Lord loved to hear us sing, my “noise unto the Lord” was a very soft noise. And at home I always made sure the house was empty before I picked up my hymnbook to sing my favorites.

One evening after the children had all gone to bed and my husband had duty at the Navy base, I picked up my hymnbook and began to sing “How Gentle God’s Commands.” I sang and felt the great love of our Heavenly Father who loves us so much even though we disregard his gentle commands.

“O My Father,” I sang, aching to go back to his home where I could be with him again.

“The Lord Is My Light”—my favorite—I sang with all the love I felt in my heart for the guidance he had given me in my life.

Finishing my singing, I put my head in my arms and poured out my heart to my Heavenly Father, thanking him for the love he had for us, and for the great feeling of peace that came to me when I could sit and sing to him and talk to him, escaping from this mortal world for even a few minutes.

Then I turned out the lights and went upstairs to my room. I noticed a sheet of paper on the dresser that hadn’t been there before. I picked it up, and tears came to my eyes as I read:


I don’t care what any one says about your singing voice. But I think it was so butiful the way you sang them songs. I was crying in my bed wile I was lisenning to you sing, and I love you very much.

love from your

daughter Barbara.

I found her with tears in her eyes in her bed. “Oh, Barbie,” I said, “you are the only person who has ever told me he likes my singing. Thank you, honey.” She hugged me back and sobbed, “Mommie, I just couldn’t let it go. I had to get out of bed and write that note to you. I was crying listening to your beautiful singing.”

I thought later that if our Heavenly Father loves my voice so much he inspires my daughter to write me a lovely note and share her feelings with me, he must love to hear us sing more than I realize.

The next Sunday when we sang the opening song, I sang out just as loud as the rest of the people did. My Heavenly Father liked my voice, and that was all that mattered to me!

Mary Johansen, homemaker and mother of six, serves as a teacher in Relief Society and Sunday School in the Groton Ward, Hartford Connecticut Stake.

A Sailor Began to Sing

My mother and father, my two little brothers, and I were on a bus during the Christmas of 1944. We had just arrived in the United States and were making our way to Oklahoma.

The bus was crowded, smoky, and hot. I felt sorry for the extra passengers, mostly servicemen, who had to stand in the aisle. My mother and father struggled with the two children on their laps. Even though night had fallen hours ago, they seemed unable to settle down.

I looked gloomily out the window at the flatness of the countryside. I longed for home with all the fervor an eight-year-old could muster. At the same time I wondered how I would be accepted at my new school. Worst of all, it did not seem like Christmas, not one bit. The bus lurched slightly, people murmured and stirred, then went back to a stoic endurance. Mother sighed wearily.

Then a sailor standing in the aisle (and I never did know his name) asked Mother if she thought the baby would come to him. She looked up at him questioningly, made a sudden decision, and gratefully handed the child over. It was obvious that he had held a baby before as he expertly soothed and crooned to him. Around me I saw some of the first smiles of the day as people looked approvingly at the sailor.

Then he began to sing. Even I recognized “Silent Night.” Someone joined in, then another and another. As the chorus swelled, contentment rolled like a tangible thing down the aisle and out among the passengers. Everyone felt it. They could not stop with one song.

I wondered later what had happened. Was it the baby reminding us of that other Babe? Was it the young man—a reaffirmation of the goodness of life in a weary war? Whatever it was, it was the spirit of Christmas to me.

Sherry Downing, mother of seven, serves as a Sunday School teacher in the Pitman Ward, and as a board member of Wilmington Delaware Stake Relief Society.

“¡Feliz Navidad!”

That Christmas Eve was like so many others I could remember. A soft, powdery snow decorated our small Cache Valley town, making it look like a giant frosted gingerbread village. In the middle of town by the church, the school, and the store, strings of red and blue lights greeted late Christmas Eve travelers as they hurried on to warm reunions with loved ones. Every house on our street—where my husband and baby and I were vacationing with my folks—was glowing with an aura of happiness, the kind that love at Christmastime brings. That is, every house glowed except one.

My little sister Mollie had just finished setting up the nativity scene she had gotten from Primary. With this tradition completed and the story of Christmas read from the Bible, our family was settling down in front of a cheery fire. Then Mom, always the one to think of others, kind of sighed and said, “It sure looks sad and lonely next door. I wonder what kind of Christmas that poor man must be having?”

Our new neighbor was a Mexican national, working for some Californians who owned a dairy farm in our little town of Weston, Idaho. He had arrived there to begin work early in November. With him had come his beautiful dark-eyed family. None of them could speak English. His lonely little wife had lasted in this cold foreign place slightly more than a month, and then she had gathered her little ones and fled back to a warmer climate and to her family.

The poor husband was left alone. He seemed like a very ambitious man, working from early morning to late at night. But he also seemed very gruff. Any attempts at communication had proved futile, even unwelcome. So here it was Christmas Eve, and there was our neighbor all alone in his quiet house, without a sign of Christmas anywhere.

“I don’t suppose he even has anything good to eat tonight,” Mom commented. We looked at each other, then the idea began to snowball. Here we were in the midst of plenty. We could share. We would share. My sisters, Jill and Meridee, became exuberant. They were giggling and planning when someone (perhaps pessimistic me) almost burst their balloon. Would our offering be wanted or even accepted? From past experience this possibility seemed unlikely.

Then Daddy counseled wisely, “Why wouldn’t it be wanted and appreciated? This neighbor, even though a gruff stranger, is a brother—another child of God. And tonight he is a very lonely child of God.”

So we went on with our planning and preparations. Soon we had plates heaping with scrumptious holiday food, covered with napkins to keep it warm. As we girls grabbed our coats, another question was posed. How could we make the man understand our mission? Since he didn’t speak English, would he know what we were saying when we chorused “Merry Christmas”?

Bravely I countered, “Don’t worry. After all, I have studied Spanish for two whole quarters at the university. I am practically an expert!”

So off we went—a parade of nervous, giggling females bearing gifts, stumbling and slipping in the snow, but determined to let our lonesome neighbor know that someone was thinking of him this Christmas Eve.

Suddenly I found myself shoved to the front of the pack at his door. I knocked, and after what seemed forever we heard a shuffling, and then the door opened a suspicious crack. We shrank back momentarily, but then our courage soared and we started to say, “Merry Christmas.” He looked puzzled, but he opened the door wide. The light from his lamp illuminated us, and shyly we held out the plates we had brought. He looked at us. We looked at him. Nobody moved. What were we to do?

Then it hit me. “Feliz Navidad”—the Spanish Christmas greeting we had learned in class! I choked out something that sounded like “Feliz Navidad,” and he began to smile, a big, beautiful Christmas Eve smile.

“Feliz Navidad,” he sort of whispered. Then everyone started saying “Feliz Navidad.” We were smiling, we were laughing, we were almost crying as we shared the spirit of the occasion.

Then he looked at the plates and motioned for us to come in. So in we went. After depositing the food on a nearby table, we turned to leave, and he followed us out saying over and over, “Muchas gracias, muchas gracias.” Then the door closed.

We looked at one another and began to laugh, and we hugged each other. It had been so much fun—the best time ever. The very best of many wonderful, happy Christmases.

[illustrations] Illustrations by Glen Edwards

Tedra Merrill Balls, a homemaker, serves as Relief Society pianist in the Pocatello Eighth Ward, Pocatello Idaho North Stake.