Snow, Cookies, and Valentine’s

The snow came in the middle of the night, and by morning drifts had created weird shapes between the house and barn and across the front yard. There was a white blanket of snow everywhere. Schools, businesses, even the air force base and the university were closed. People had been warned not to drive unless absolutely necessary, and for three days I tried to keep busy sewing, crocheting, and writing letters.

But when Valentine’s Day arrived, I decided enough was enough. I wanted to do something special. I remembered the cookie bags my friend Vi had given me—still empty because we hadn’t been able to do our visiting teaching yet. Why not bake some cookies? I thought. I could also make some pumpkin bread from the last pumpkin that hadn’t ended up a jack-o’-lantern.

I went down to our basement storeroom to gather the ingredients. As I looked at the shelves of bottled fruit, vegetables, and other groceries, I felt thankful for the prophet’s counsel to be prepared for emergencies. Even though the roads were closed, we didn’t have to worry about where our next meal would come from. We had enough and to spare—enough to share with our neighbors.

Soon the kitchen smelled of spices and chocolate cookies. My husband, Clem, came in from the barn, sniffed, and asked: “Are you making me a valentine?”

“Yes,” I answered, “but not only for you—for our neighbors, too.” Just then we heard someone come into the garage. It turned out to be our neighbor from down the road and her two small sons. They had stopped by to ask if we had any stored water because their pipes were frozen. Again I thought of our blessings, and of how grateful I was that we had water to share with them.

We invited them in for a warm meal, and they soon left with several gallons of water in jugs—and their valentines. The boys were thrilled with their bag of cookies and a loaf of pumpkin bread. After cleaning up the kitchen and wrapping the loaves in foil, I filled the rest of the cookie bags, and Clem went out to deliver them to some of our other neighbors. A warm feeling came over me as I realized the blessings that come from following the counsel of our prophet. I was so thankful to be able to share with others.

Betty Hively Xenia, Ohio

Prayer of Thankfulness

One night my seven-year-old crawled into bed without saying her prayers. “I don’t want to say them tonight,” she said. “I don’t have anything to say.” Discouraged and wanting to motivate her, I quickly said a silent prayer myself. Immediately the story of the ten lepers came to mind.

I reminded her of the story and how only one came hurrying back to thank the Savior for healing him. “But where are the other nine?” he asked with sadness. “I think there must be many people who will climb into bed tonight,” I suggested, “without remembering to thank Heavenly Father for giving them this day.”

I saw her attitude change. The story helped her move her focus from mere words to her Heavenly Father. With her thoughts on him, words came with real feeling.

Christy Williams Bellevue, Washington

Freedom beyond Circumstance

The Savior’s atonement reminds us that real freedom is freedom of attitude. One may be bound in chains, whipped, enslaved, or mocked. He may lose freedom of movement, expression, and religion. But there is one freedom that no man on earth has power to control or to confiscate—each person’s freedom to determine his reaction or response to a given circumstance.

The Savior was arrested, whipped, and beaten. He was taunted, teased, mocked, and ridiculed. His pain was ignored, laughed at, and unappreciated. And yet, in the midst of such degradation, he still claimed and utilized that basic freedom to determine his response to the situation. At the height of his pain, he chose to view his tormentors, his accusers, and his doubters with tenderness and to forgive them.

So also we, in our own problems, retain at least this one undeniable right—to choose our responses to them. And in lifting our responses to mirror his great example of other-centeredness, we can utilize our attitudes (as well as our actions) to grow daily more like Him.

Carolyn G. Depp Keaau, Hawaii

A Widow’s Cruse

Shortly after my daughter’s wedding, I experienced a feeling of loneliness and dejection. I realized how totally I had been wrapped up in her life since my husband’s death. Her dating, education, and special activities had been my life. “What do I do now?” I thought to myself.

One day I decided to put an end to the feeling. I sat down at my kitchen table and made a list of all the things I wanted to do. The more I wrote, the more excited I got about life and the more good ideas flowed into my mind. I decided I wanted to attend the temple more often and pray more deeply. I wanted to get involved in the Special Interest program and make new friends, visit some of my older friends, babysit for mothers who needed a break (including my own relatives). There were books I could read and classes I could attend.

Since the day I made my list, I haven’t had a chance to be lonely or bored. My life is rich and fulfilling. Surprisingly, my list never gets any shorter. I have felt my supply of interests expand just as the widow’s cruse of oil did after the prophet Elijah blessed it.

Toni Cooper Salt Lake City, Utah

“And a Little Child Shall Lead Them”

One sunny Arizona afternoon, my two-year-old son and I drove to the visitors’ center at the Arizona Temple. I took Josh’s hand as we approached the large double doors, hoping that even though he was so young, I would be able to teach him something about our Savior.

As I opened the door, the statue of Christ stood before us—with arms outstretched as if to beckon us. “Jesus!” Josh exclaimed, as if he were greeting a long-lost friend. Before I could stop him, Josh broke away from me and ran with open arms toward the statue. Darting under the rope barrier that surrounded the figure, he embraced the Savior’s leg.

The guide, smiling, kindly asked Josh to step outside the rope barrier. He spoke with Josh briefly about our visit there, and then went on to welcome others who had come through the door.

I took Josh’s hand, knelt beside him, and talked with him about Christ. Pointing out the nail wounds in the hands and feet of the statue, I told my son about the crucifixion.

Josh’s little chin began to quiver as tears puddled in his eyes. “Who would do that to Jesus?” he whispered, not wanting to believe that anyone would do something so dreadful to someone he loved so much.

Our visit was short, yet Josh talked about it for many days afterward. He could not understand why anyone would want to hurt Jesus, his friend. And I learned from that visit, too. I found out that while I may know about Jesus, it was my sweet two-year-old son who knew the Savior.

Sandi Leavitt The Dalles, Oregon

[photo] Photography by Wes Taylor