Archive for December, 2010

22
Dec

Congratulations!

   Posted by: GG Vandagriff    in contest

To Sue, Meredith, Benita, Cindi and Robin for winning copies of the Last Waltz in the Mid-Winter Hop giveaway!  Stay tuned to this blog, as I do frequent giveaways!

Right now I am giving a sterling silver charm of the Eiffel Tower to anyone who buys Pieces of Paris, my new women’s fiction, on Amazon before Christmas.  Supplies limited, so move fast!

To read a little more about my book, go to the home page of my new website: http://ptsdweb.com.

Happy holidays to you all and may your shadow never grow bulkier!

GG

20
Dec

Mid-Winter Hop Giveaway

   Posted by: GG Vandagriff    in Uncategorized

 

Celebrating the shortest day of the year, I will be giving away a copy of The Last Waltz: A Novel of Love and War, my Whitney Winner for historical fiction.  In order to qualify for the drawing, all you have to do is subscribe to my blog after midnight on the 21st of December.  The winner will be announced on the 22nd!

Good Luck!

GG

18
Dec

How Much "Soul Space" Do You Have for Christ?

   Posted by: GG Vandagriff    in Essays, Spiritual Musings

Today my husband, David, and I viewed the Carl Bloch exhibit at the BYU museum of art.  It included several altarpieces ensconced behind “faux altars” constructed especially for the exhibit.  There were chairs placed in rows in front of these “altars” so we could sit and meditate upon the major paintings:  Christ in Gethsemane being comforted by an angel, the resurrected Christ holding a child to his side, and the resurrected Christ with arms outstretched, surrounded by people who were hurting either physically or emotionally, as though begging them to come to Him and find that His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

We were tremendously moved by the exhibit.  As I commented to David, after our recent European travels, it was like a drink of living water to see paintings of Christ triumphant instead of all the variations on the crucifixion that we saw.  The painting of Christ praying in Gethsemane was the most personal to me and seemed to possess a genuine power about it that radiated the message “He is suffering for me, because of the things I did wrong, but also so He can understand my pains and sufferings as a mortal.” (Alma 7:11-12).  I felt as though the Savior himself endowed those tragic, painted eyes with life and a sense of benevolence.  “I am bearing this only because of how much I love you.  No one else can do this for you but me.”

As we left the exhibit,  we encountered a group of adults that appeared to be on an excursion from a group home for the mentally handicapped.  I immediately thought of how happy the Savior must be that someone had made the arrangements for them to take this outing.  I thought how happy it would make them to see the images of Christ.  Then a startling thought entered my head, “They know Him better than you do.”

A metaphor came into my mind.  I saw myself as a measuring cup, standing next to one of those mentally challenged adults.  I was filled, probably up to the two thirds mark with the blessings of an active intellect that understood many things of temporal importance, a husband who loves me, three healthy, happy adult children who are faithful, and two grandchildren who bring joy and happiness into my life.  I am average-looking, with no outward problems that might make people aware of my inward struggles.  I have enough to eat (too much!), nice clothes to wear, and a lovely home.  The reason I was only filled to the two thirds line and not all the way full is because I am mentally ill and always will be in this life.  I depend on the Lord daily that my medicines will continue to work, that we will be able to afford them, and that my skewed body chemistry will continue the same, so that we won’t have to start experimenting with medicines again as my life hangs in the balance.  I also depend on Him daily to make me a better writer than I am, to reach whatever level of talent He desires of me to celebrate Him unto this secular world.  Thirdly, and most importantly, I depend on Him for His atonement, which is the only thing standing between me and a life with Satan in the Telestial Kingdom for eternity.  Christ enables me by filling my cup to the full line, making up for me what I have no control over and can’t do myself.

The measuring cup of the mentally-challenged individual appears to me to be at the one quarter line.  He can see, hear, and feel, but cannot really make sense of the world as an ordinary adult.  He is living apart from family and will never have one of his own.  He appears different than other people.  He probably has no artistic talent that will contribute to the world in a recognized way.  Because of these shortcomings, three quarters of his soul can be filled with love for and dependence upon Jesus Christ.  If Christ were here this moment, one of these handicapped adults of His would go to him, would recognize Him, and He them.  These seemingly lacking individuals know in a practical, not theoretical, way all about the enabling power of the atonement.  This little group of people are alive and able to get from day to day through the grace of God. I suspect they know the giver of that grace in a way we don’t understand.

Years ago, when my children were growing up, we knew a Down’s Syndrome girl named Lori.  Like other Down’s children that I had known, some even in my extended family, Lori’s life and personality were a delight.  Her cup of joy was filled to overflowing.  She especially loved our oldest son, and embraced him heartily whenever he came to visit.  Lori eventually became Homecoming Queen of her high school.  As she walked across the stage during graduation, she held both thumbs up as the whole school cheered.  She recently friended me on Facebook.  She was so full of the Light of Christ that she made everyone around her happy.  Contrast Lori with another teenager, not so challenged, that you may know.  Likely, they are very self-conscious, full of undisclosed angst, worried about themselves and the state of the world they are inheriting.  Unless taught by parents or missionaries, they have no knowledge of Christ, and their self-absorption leaves no room for Him.

I have always secretly pitied really beautiful people, famous people, and fearfully intelligent people.  So many of life’s paths are smoothed for them that they have no outward need for a Savior.  They think their world is complete, that they are entitled to everything they have, just because of who they are.  Their characters can become hopelessly warped and narcissistic.  Ultimately, many of them make a horrible mess of their lives, for they are only intent on themselves.  They miss key signposts that point down the roads of self-sacrifice, a solid work ethic, hardship, and the limitations that would cause them to live their lives in such a way that would bring blessings to others.

During college, my husband was well acquainted with a very beautiful woman who was a gifted actress and went on to have a splendid career in television.  She was continually featured on the covers of all the women’s magazines, very vocal about the fact that her career came first, even after her daughter was born.  She left her TV sitcom, convinced that her star was brighter, that she was made for better things.  After starring in several box-office disasters, her career tanked.  I recently googled her and found a pitiful website bemoaning her failed suicide attempt, complete with photos of herself “in her prime.”

Contrast this with the tales we always hear from the missionaries about the people in underdeveloped countries who have almost no material possessions, but are cheerful, selfless, and quick to embrace the truths of the Gospel.  Among the early converts to the church, it was difficult to find anyone who was very prosperous in a material sense.

Because of their needs, they all had room in their hearts for the Savior.

As I have said many times in this forum of ideas, I count my trial with mental health as the greatest blessing in my life.  Were it not for that, I would doubtless never have learned to rely on the Lord to literally keep me alive from breath to breath as I battled PTSD and severe depression.  I wouldn’t have survived in a handcart company, but my testimony is similar to those who endured those trials.  I have come to know the Lord through my extremities. I am deeply grateful that my cup is only three fourths full of  "myself."  As I age and become subject to things such as hip transplants, sagging eyelids, and short term memory loss, I realize that I am actually pouring out some of "myself" with each new day.  Now I know why my old and bent sister/friends that I served with in the temple were so happy despite their widowhood, their poverty, and their poor health.  They had lost nearly everything they had and filled the void completely with the love of Christ.

I can only pray that I will live long enough to be so humbled.  In the meantime, I am going to try very hard to humble myself so that the Lord will be welcome in my soul, especially during times of happiness and prosperity!

11
Dec

Recognizing the Light in Our Lives

   Posted by: GG Vandagriff    in Uncategorized

Recently, at a stake conference, Elder Russell M. Nelson quoted the prophet as saying, "The future is as bright as our faith." This is a theme worth examining at this time of the year and at this time in the Earth’s history. All but the most pure-hearted among us are a little stressed at this season, trying to live up to expectations. And the news seems daily more calamitous. However, always on a search for hope, I have been studying various addresses by the brethren in great detail. A theme emerges in nearly every one. It has to do with remembrance and faith.

What is the greatest light?

Not only should we remember the good times, but we should analyze how they came to be. For example, look at the greatest gift we have—the miracle of the atonement and the resurrection of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer. We tend to use those words almost casually, as part of a formula when referring to our Elder Brother. However, to be rescued from evil, to have our sins wiped clean, and to be redeemed so that we can once again embrace our Heavenly Father with pure hearts, is the greatest hope of mankind. It is indeed the "perfect brightness of hope" that Nephi talks about in the Book of Mormon.

However, what was the price of that gift? Christ’s undeserved, terrible, and unimaginable suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane. Elder Merrill J. Bateman explained to us in a stake conference that the Savior didn’t just suffer for generic sin of mankind as a lump, but that each of us actually passed before Him, scarred with pain and muddied by sin. In some kind of sacred, metaphysical way that we cannot comprehend, He took the suffering and sin away from each of us and placed it on His back, because He knew we couldn’t go forward thus crippled. Being more concerned with us than with himself, He knew that He could bear it, if He just kept true and drew strength to the God who had sired him. He was tried to the greatest extent of his nature and ability. He cried out for relief, at least once that we know of, but then regrouped and bowed once more in submission. Ultimately, after inexplicable agony, He was crucified, and rent the veil between Earth and Heaven in this great atoning act. Surely, nothing was ever more bright and miraculous than His resurrection! It wasn’t just that He conquered death, it was a sign that sin no longer needed to be spiritually deadly for us. Sin was literally killed and went down into the grave with the Savior. But He was resurrected clean and pure! By doing so, He gave us the chance to have the same experience.

What if we don’t understand?

Another example, also quite illustrative for us as mortals, is Abraham. All his hope, promise, and love was in his son Isaac. The entire Abrahamic covenant of celestial marriage and eternal increase for all of his posterity was contained in Isaac, the miracle child of his old age. And yet, he was commanded to place that miracle child of destiny on the altar and slay him! How could he understand this? What part did this sacrifice play in Jehovah’s great plan? It seemed to Abraham that such an act would destroy it! Not only that, but Abraham himself had been placed on the altar, threatened with death by his own idol-worshipping earthly father in a ceremony that was abominable to this same God. But, because Abraham, like Jesus Christ, was entirely submissive, he endured that unspeakable pain and bewilderment and prepared to follow this commandment. Can you imagine his joy when the Lord stayed his hand at the last moment?

King Benjamin tells us that the only way we can "become a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord" is to "become as a little child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon [us] …"

(Mosiah 3:19)

This is a telling scripture. Chapter 26 in the Gospel Principles manual states " through sacrifice can we become worthy to live in the presence of God. Only through sacrifice can we enjoy eternal life. Many who have lived before us have sacrificed all they had. We must be willing to do the same if we would earn the rich reward they enjoy.

We may not be asked to sacrifice all things. But like Abraham, we should be willing to sacrifice everything to become worthy to live in the presence of the Lord." (Emphasis added)

How do we develop the faith to be tried as Abraham?

According to the brethren’s addresses that I have researched, the key to this kind of faith is that we are tried line upon line and learn precept upon precept. This is where our remembrance becomes key. Look back at your life.

· Do you see a life of trial or a life of miracles?

· Did the trials come first or the miracles?

· When was your learning curve the most steep?

· Why does the Lord say that "faith precedes the miracle?"

Many people looking at the vast amount of trials visited upon them have felt misunderstood, picked on, abandoned by God, and harshly dealt with. If they stayed true, however, as Abraham did, as Christ did, they were finally able to see that the trials, though completely bewildering at the time, were actually the stairs to miracles.

We don’t develop Abrahamic faith in an instant. That was why the five wise virgins could not impart of their oil to the five foolish virgins. It was impossible to give a lifetime of learning by faith to another person.

For many years I suffered bi-polar depression and PTSD. There seemed to be no reason for it at all. It was a dysfunctional element in our family and in my marriage. At times, I held on to the decision to live only by the tips of my fingers. It was a trial I passed through alone, misunderstood, and without hope. However, after some quiet rebellion against the Lord, I finally followed Elder Holland’s advice ("Broken Things to Mend", Ensign, May, 2006) and put my whole life on the altar, covenanting to the Lord that I would be submissive in all things. I gave up my fears. Then after this twenty-five year trial, the miracle came. Advanced medicines were developed and put into my hands. I woke up one morning and with a deep feeling of well-being I had never known, realized that I lived in a beautiful world. The miracle had occurred, just as my strength was finally failing me.

As I looked back on my life, I could see that it had always been this way. The big things in my life: my conversion, my marriage, the births of my children, and now my healing had all come about after an intense trial of my faith, and then by way of miracles.

And this, that I might know thee, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.

I have come to the conclusion that the steps to Abrahamic faith are a series of seemingly unsolvable and bewildering trials followed by miracles that only God could have performed. This that we may know that only God could have blessed us in this way. Each time our faith is rewarded our faith is strengthened. Remembrance of this deliverance is what buttresses our faith. The more miraculous deliverances from trial that we experience, the stronger our faith becomes, until we literally live by faith.

Is there anything more important in this life than learning to know Elohim and Jehovah? That is the whole reason we came to the earth.

When I was writing The Last Waltz, I had great trouble understanding the horrible tragedy of World War I. I didn’t know how I, a housewife in the 21st century, could possibly understand what a hideous experience the Europeans had passed through. Then the Lord taught me an important truth which I phrased in my book as an exchange between my heroine Amalia and her faithful friend, Louisa. Amalia is reeling from the senseless death of her soldier husband the consequent suicide of her mother-in-law.

"Part of faith is not giving up hope for a better world," [Louisa] said finally.

"But life is such a bitter gift!" [Amalia]

"At the moment, it seems like it. This is a very dark passage you are in. But it would be a mistake to see that passage as your whole life. There is nothing in this world more deceptive than darkness. You think you live in a void, but actually there are colors and textures and beauty all around you."

"I don’t want to see them . . ."

"Because you thing that it will hurt."

"Yes!"

"That is the lie of the darkness." She smiled and took Amalia’s hand. "The price we pay for immortality is to know both this darkness and the light and to choose between them."

When I remember and relive the miracles in my life, I see that they could never have occurred except by the hand of God. And I also see that until I had learned the lesson from the trial that preceded each miracle, I never would have learned to know the Lord in my extremities. The purpose of life if not to find perfection or to live free of pain. The purpose of life is to choose Light and follow it, embracing it so that the darkness cannot have any hold on us in the eternities.

6
Dec

Winners Announced!

   Posted by: GG Vandagriff    in contest, Future Plans, recipe, travel

Thank you to all you new subscribers!  I hope my blog is fun, uplifting and useful to you! 

I just drew three names from my mixing bowl !

The big winner is Tressa!  She wins the $20 gift certificate to DB.

The two copies of Hidden Branch go to Lisa Faber and Linda Garner

Winners, please send me your snail mail address at ggvan2@gmail.com so I can mail your prizes.

As a consolation prize, I have some beautiful bookmarks for Pieces of Paris as well as a bookmark with all the Alex and Briggie book covers on it.  If you are interested in receiving one or more bookmarks, just send me your snail mail at the above address!

Friends, please visit my new website at http://ptsdweb.com.  If you know anyone with this disorder, this could be the best Christmas present you could give them.

All the Christmas Shopping is done (thank Heavens for Amazon), however the house in in turmoil because I haven’t finished decorating.  Our whole family (including our grandsons!) will be here for Christmas!  We are so excited to have a Christmas Eve pageant again for the first time since the kids have grown up.  We have a baby Jesus (Micah) and Joseph (Jack), but either my daughter or me will have to be Mary!  We need a granddaughter!  We will then have an Italian spread of meats, cheeses, fig jam, and flatbread or bread along with my special Christmas trifle (recipe below) and a dessert as yet to be determined.  After the little ones are in bed, we will put together a very challenging puzzle of the ceiling of the Sistene Chapel that I bought in Rome at the Vatican last May.

David and I will not be going abroad this year, because I have plenty of material for three books already!  We have decided to give each other a trip to Jackson Hole in the spring for our Christmas gift.

 

G. G.’s Christmas Trifle

  • 1/2 Angel Food Cake broken into chunks
  • 2 large cans of pears
  • 2 large pkgs vanilla pudding (cooked)
  • 2 cans cherry pie filling
  • 2 pts. whipping cream (whipped)
  • 1 small pkg slivered almonds

Using a glass punch bowl, crumple angel food cake into the bottom.  Pour about 1/2 the pear juice over cake.  Arrange pear halves so they show on the outside of the bowl. Pour hot cooked pudding over all.  Top with canned cherry pie filling, making sure that plenty of it shows on the outside of bowl.  Put whipping cream over all and sprinkle with almonds.  Enjoy!!!!