Stepping into the Darkness

"You must learn to walk to the edge of the light, and then a few steps into the darkness, then the light will appear and show you the way before you."

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Sunday before Christmas 2014, my wife and I sat in Sunday school in the Rexburg 17th ward. Laurie had been feeling ill and asked that we go home after Sunday school. I felt I need to stay to priesthood meeting. In High Priest group, the group leader mentioned to the brethren that if anyone knew of someone who needed a cane, Brother Christensen made canes and would be happy to get a cane to anyone who needed one. The brother next to me leaned over and whispered that he would like to talk to me after the meeting.

He introduced himself and said he had a son who might benefit from a cane. The problem was, that he was 6’9” and weighed 290 pounds at 15 years of age. Finding a cane for anyone that size was impossible. He asked if I might be able to make a cane for him. He said it would be nice if he could get it for Christmas. I always love a challenge, so I said it could be done. Monday morning I took stock of what I had in the garage, and what was in storage. I had several shafts, but nothing suitable to make the handle, so Monday we were off to the hardwood store in Idaho Falls to see what they had.

 The hardwood store had just got in a shipment of 6/4 walnut. Not a size they usually carried. As I was the first to see the bundle, when they broke it open, I noticed a small plank just a couple of boards down. It was just what I needed, so we purchased it and took it home. When I got home and had a chance to really look at it, I noticed that one end was a full crotch, full of beautiful figure. I cut two handles large enough for someone this size and was excited to have such beautiful wood to work with. Laurie suggested that often with individuals who have a bilateral challenge, two canes worked better than one, so I cut two shafts to go with the handles. When they came to pick them up on Christmas eve, I showed them the small brass plaque on my cane, and asked if they would like one on these canes, so a plaque went on each cane.

The Sunday after Christmas, the Bishop asked anyone who had a good Christmas story they would like to share, to come the pulpit. To the surprise of his mother, this otherwise shy young man got up and proclaimed canes were cool. He proudly showed the canes and said they were the best Christmas ever. He then read the small plaque and said that “I’ll go where you want me to go, Dear Lord” as his favorite hymn, so the congregation sang the first verse.

I am so happy that I paid attention to the prompting that Sunday. As I reflect on the miracle that has occurred, I see the Lord’s hand as I mentioned to the High Priest Group Leader back in November, that I made canes and would be glad to share them. I find it interesting that on that Sunday before Christmas, he mentioned it, that the brother who had the need was sitting next to me, that a size of board perfect for the task arrived at the lumber yard the day before I needed it, That on one end, it had beautifully figured wood to craft the handles from, that two made sense instead of one, that I had two plaques and it all came together to bless the life of a young prospective missionary.

I have since learned that the next week, the Bishop asked this young man to speak in church about preparing for a mission. He said yes, and talked with excitement about the possibility of serving a mission. 

While we were at the MTC, we keep seeing a couple of missionaries, one in a wheel chair and the other walking the two arm braced canes. We came to sit by them one day and visited with them. It seems they are serving full time missions at the MTC. The use the internet to find and teach. They were teaching a man in New York who was being baptized that week, and they were excited. I relayed this information to the father of the young man I had made the canes for. There is a place and a way for anyone to serve who wants to.
In late October we finally got an offer on the house. They were offering full asking price. We started the process, and they had the home inspection done. The inspector noted some mold in the basement and problems with the added garage. The people withdrew their offer, and knowing that the mention of mold would be a problem for people, I decided I needed to fly back to Alaska to see for myself what the issues were and get them addressed. We had withdrew funds from our retirement fund to take care of any costs. I started looking at what was needed and lining up the qualified people to deal with it.

One of the issues was with a change in the code required several new circuit breakers. I called an electrical company and scheduled the work while I was there. The electrician showed up and went to work. As he was completing the work and testing the circuits. He found one that would always trip so he went to work trying to figure out what the problem was. After about an hour and a half and with every outlet and light switch in the kitchen and dining room dismantled, he concluded that we had a bad wire and he would need to cut an opening in the drywall, up the wall, across the kitchen ceiling and down the wall on the other side. This would give access for the new wire and should solve the problem.

After listening to him tell me what we needed to do, and that I would have to take care of the drywall repairs, I had a scripture come to mind, that talked about the spirit giving us what to ask for in our prayers, and I felt a need to pray then. I went in the other room, offered up a pray, and then returned. A couple of minutes later, the electrician came up from the basement, and said that as he was starting to work, he felt he should go check the wiring of the new breakers before he started to cut the dry wall.

When he inspected the panel, he noticed one of the wires connected to that breaker was the wrong one. He tracked down the right one, changed that out, and everything worked fine. The problem was solved, and I didn’t have to repair any dry wall.

I can’t fault the electrician, as I know I have made mistakes when dealing with complex problems like the one presented by the vast array of wires in the electrical panel, but I am so grateful for a Father in Heaven, who is willing to look out after me, even for something this small when compared to the grand scheme of things. I am thankful for parents and teachers who taught me to listen to the spirit and follow those promptings, and for the electrician who followed them as well.

Before arriving in Alaska, we had received another offer on the house. When we started this process back in April, I had the impression that there was a family coming who needed this house. Throughout the process, it seemed that the house was invisible, lots of people looked and were not seeing what was there. We had also been pretty adamant that we were not interested in early occupancy. When this offer came in, we felt strongly that this was the family. The offer came with a picture of the family and a request to be able to occupy the home about 10 days later. The spirit whispered strongly that this was what needed to happen, so 10 days later, they moved in, grateful for an answer to their prayers. They are not LDS, but it was such a great experience watching the Lord answer their prayers, and being able to be a part of that. 

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Light Bulb Moment:

Last month I had one of those "light bulb" experiences.  You know the ones - when all of a sudden you get it - that little bit of understanding that lights up a corner of the dark.  Once of our grandsons was baptized.  It was wonderful and we were grateful to be present.  The week-end also included a lot of extended family activities.  One of them was visiting a local straw maze. after all we are in Idaho!  The kids had a ball - we all did.  But as we were leaving my leg was bothering me - hurting and cramping.  I figured it was because I had been climbing around on the straw bales acting like I was younger than I am.  By the time we were at our next destination of the day - dinner out with about 25 or so of the family, I could barely  walk and couldn't bend my leg at all and it HURT. After getting home and settled, I asked my son and son-in-law to give me a blessing. I was really concerned that maybe I had done some damage to be leg/knee.  My son gave me a comforting blessing regarding my leg and the pain and then paused.  (those pauses always get your attention).  He then said that I needed to remember that our Father in Heaven is in charge.  I woke the next morning with less pain and by the next morning I was walking normally with no pain.

Now the rest of the story.  Our house still had not sold - no offers - I was worried, concerned and beginning to wonder how and when this particular darkness was going to resolve into light.  We received an offer a day or two later. It was a good one.  But then after a home inspection, they pulled their offer.  I was reminded again of that blessing - Heavenly Father is in charge!  He knows our needs, our abilities and sees "the big picture."  I wondered about the pain in my leg and that blessing . . . did that happen so I could be reminded who was in charge?   I think maybe "yes".  I needed that reminder, and it helped my not worry and fret so much about the house, after all my Father was in charge and knew what was best.

We have the sold the house and are just waiting to close - but that is another story for another day.
                                                                                                              - Laurie

Monday, July 28, 2014

I will go where you want me to go, dear Lord...

After my surgery last year, I found I needed a cane for stability as I walked. Year’s ago in Belize, we visited an archeology site and walked among the ancient temples. Surrounding the parking lot were a great number of small 8’ x 8’ shacks where handcrafted  items were for sale. I made the rounds stopping at several of them looking for a cane that I liked and that was tall enough for me. I found one. It had a carved toucan with the beak and head being the handle. It also was carved from a piece of Ziricote, one of my favorite exotic woods. For a year after the surgery, I enjoyed using that cane. Then one day, I tried to use it as a pry bar. That didn't work out so well. It broke in half and I was left to find another. Not a big deal I thought, get on the internet and there should be plenty to choose from. Turns out that isn't exactly true. I did finally find a cane made long enough and strong enough for me. I had a small brass plaque put on the cane that said, “I’ll go where you want me to go dear Lord…”

Each time someone would ask us where we wanted to go on our mission, I would point to that small plaque. That small piece of brass has often come to mind when I’ve been asked to help in one capacity or another. It’s hard to read that reminder and then turn down an opportunity to serve. It has helped keep me pointed in the right direction and has often brought the spirit to teach.

Those who know me, know I love wood. I can't stand to see it covered up with paint, especially highly figured woods. You know the ones, those pieces that are knotty and twisted, and despised by wood cutters. They can’t be split and make life difficult when firewood or nice straight boards are wanted. On the other hand, these remnants of a tough life, of stresses and conquest give us such amazing beauty. I at one time had collected over two hundred kinds of wood, most of it beautifully figured. I have enjoyed over the years, using that wood for pens, lamps, bowls, tables, and other useful items.

After the surgery I knew that I wasn't going to be able to do the wood working I once had. The lathe and saws were too big and heavy, and the big boards and sheets were beyond my abilities now. With some reluctance, I sold all my woodworking tools, and most of the wood I had collected over the years. They went to people I know are getting good use out of them and enjoying them as much as I did, but…

With my love and passion for wood, when the new cane arrived, I was disappointed. It was supposed to be Zebrawood, but it wasn't recognizable as such. It was a nice cane, but not what I really wanted. I now had a dilemma. The answer had always been, make it yourself, and make it from a beautiful, one of a kind, piece of wood. I spent hours looking at that cane and trying to figure out how, without all the big wood working tools, I could accomplish it.

A plan began to take shape. I could do it with hand tools, to cut a board, I had friends with table saws and many offers of help, so I began to acquire the few hand tools I needed and discovered I still had some of my more prized pieces of wood, including two large slabs of walnut burl and several boards of curly maple that was logged from the bottom of the great lakes and was from old growth timber from another century. As I progressed in this endeavor, I kept getting to a point and then I am stuck. I spent more time thinking and planning. It soon became apparent, (to me anyway), with what I wanted to do, and knowing  I didn't want to be constantly bother friends for a few cuts to move me to the next sticking point. I needed some power tools.

Over the next several weeks, to the dismay and amusement of my wife, I assembled a shop in miniature. None of my power tools weigh over 40 pounds. They were small, and could be moved taking minimal space. As the first crude cane shafts began to emerge, I started to work on handles, and yes, the miniature shop continued to expand. Now I began to acquire different woods. I have friends who need canes, there are also the Pioneer homes filled with folks who use canes, and others. Who knows, I might even sell a few. I’m sure on our mission, I will have opportunities to help someone out with a nice handmade custom cane. I need one for the temple, one that is white, or nearly so. I have more than one favorite wood, so I am sure I will need multiple canes. As I identify each cane I will use, I place a small brass tag on it that says, “I'll go where you want me to go, dear Lord…”

As I reflected back at the time I have spent over the past two months, I came to realize two tender mercies. First, the house hasn't sold, but because it hasn't sold, I have had the garage to work in. Second, with a place, to work, and the ability to create, I have stepped back into the shop. I have found I am standing longer, walking more and getting up and down easier. It has been the best physical therapy I could find.

As my wife knows, I can't do anything small. I now have beautiful cane shafts of maple, walnut, Brazilian cherry, Ebony, Bocote, Cocobolo, Rosewood, and Ziricote (enough for about 140 canes), handles of wood, brass, plastic, and buffalo horn, and lengths of brass pipe to fashion collars, and finally rubber tips to finish them off. I am ready to go, where ever it may be. I marvel at the small blessings we receive. I often think things aren't going well, like the house hasn't sold yet, and we still don't have a mission call. The clock is ticking and that retirement date is getting closer every day. I know though, that the Lord is guiding all that happens, for our benefit and to accomplish His work. So, "I'll go where you want me to go, dear Lord."

Monday, July 21, 2014

I'll admit it - I'm afraid of the dark.  I always have been.  I was in college before I slept without a night light and my bedroom door open. I still sleep with our bedroom door open and a night light in the bathroom.  So here we are, standing at the edge of the light waiting to see what direction to go. We don't know where we are going or what we will be doing.  Our house still hasn't sold.  Lot's of unknowns - we are in the dark.   It's hard for me.  I'm a little scared. Where do I turn when I'm afraid?  The scriptures.  There is always light there.  One of the first verses is in Genesis 1:3 - "And God said, let there be light".  Light, Brightness, Discernment, Spiritual, enlighten, Example, God, Jesus Christ, Lamp, Shine, Truth - these are words listed under "light" in the topical guide of my scriptures.  So I go through them, reading about "light".  Psalm 27:1 "The Lord is my light and my salvation ; whom shall I fear?  the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?"  Psalm 119:105 "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path."  Isaiah is full of verses about light - 60:1 "Arise, shine; for thy light is come. . . "  I could spend the day reading about light, but these verses are enough for today.  "Let there be light" - God gave us light, He did not want us to dwell in darkness on this earth, so the sun shines and I am warmed by it.  "The Lord is my light, . . . whom shall I fear?"  He is my light and I don't have a reason to fear.  Do I really believe that?  YES!!  I feel the fear leaving, replaced with comfort, love, and reassurance.  He is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. And now, I know what to do.  "Arise, shine, for thy light is come!"  How grateful I am for light!  I feel it warming my soul, replacing the fear.  Do I know what is ahead, No.  But I am reminded that I am at the edge of the light, one step at a time into that light.  I can do that.  And so can you.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Laurie pointed out a talk by President Packer where he talked about the edge of the light. He spoke of a time shortly after being called when he sought counsel from then Elder Harold B Lee. Elder Lee quoted 18 words from the Book of Mormon, “Dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.” It struck me that this trial of faith is an everyday thing. We walk to the edge of the light, and then a step or two into the darkness, or as Nephi said, “…not knowing beforehand the things which I should do…” If we desire and strive for the spirit to lead us, it will often be so. We take a step or two where we feel we should, not having a clue why or where, and when we have shown sufficient faith, the Lord will shine a little more light, or rather we gain a little more knowledge and understanding. Enough so we can take another step or two. In time, by our experiences, we gain a peace that this pattern will always be so. Along the way, we will stumble, hit walls and get discouraged, but if we will stop, remember the pattern, listen and take a step or two, we often find ourselves back on the road… where ever it may lead.
The world of hindsight can be such a useful thing. I sit and think about things that have happened in the past, challenges we have faced and began to note when I followed that spirit, amazing things happened and I was taught. On the other hand, when I just had a good idea of where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do, it didn’t always go so good. I can tell you from experience that the number of times I ran into problems were almost always when I had an idea…ouch. When I followed the spirit, I see now the blessings that have come. The things I learned and the faith that came from those experiences.
So as Laurie has said, we begin. I am retiring and we are moving. We feel we need to serve a mission, sooner than later. But as we begin the preparations, the roadblocks come and the challenges mount. We felt a need to get the house on the market, NOW. We went to work, or at least Laurie went to work and I help fund the things I can’t do. We have most of it done, just some small stuff to finish, yet after a month, no one has call or come to look…curious. Next we felt we needed to get our missionary paperwork in. NOW. Again the roadblocks started. Bishop was out of town, then in trying to get all the medical stuff done for me, Doctors change dates once, twice, now three times…curious. Experience has taught that I do what I can, I follow the promptings and if I leave the working out of the details to the Lord, I end up where He wants me to be.
So we walk to the edge of the light, and then a step or two into the darkness

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

And so we begin this journey walking to the edge of the light as we enter into a new chapter of our lives. What will retirement look like? Where will we live? What about a mission? - Yes!, but where, when and for how long? When will our house sell? What will leaving Alaska after 22 years be like? Too many questions, no real answers. We are taking steps into the darkness, but we know that the light will appear and the way will be shown to us. And so we go forward. . . .