Happy New Year

December 31, 2007

By Janet Walgren
In less than three hours a new year will be here. I have never been one to greet a new year with a wild celebration; I like gentle beginnings. And, if I fall asleep waiting for the new year, it always greets me in the morning. Life is good and I am grateful. So now I will wish the old year farewell and say good night. Tomorrow is a new beginning. Happy New Year.


The Christmas Angel

December 24, 2007

This is one of my favorite Christmas stories. It was taken out of Bess’s journal by her great-granddaughter, Tamra K. Stitt. Many years ago Tamra gave me permission to share this story as she felt that it belonged to a greater audience than her family. I hope that you enjoy it as much as I have.

~Janet Walgren

Christmas Angel

In the early 1900’s my great grandfather homesteaded what is called Burns Creek, Idaho which is located about fifteen miles above Heise Hot Springs. My Great Grandfather was a rough, tough old trapper who built the first road along the Snake River to Tablerock and then on to Burns Creek by hand. He had lived in the wilds all his life. He trapped for a living and sent his furs to a fur trader who arranged to send his daughter out to Idaho for Carl to marry. My great grandmother was seventeen years old when they were married. She kept a detailed journal of her experiences in her new home. She hated Burns Creek, Idaho. She wrote how isolated and alone she felt. She wrote the following story in her journal.

Bess was now twenty-four years old and pregnant with her fourth child. She had asked Carl if he would take some of his furs to the valley and trade them for supplies and the things she had asked for on her Christmas list. She was embarrassed at how much she was asking for. Her list consisted of peppermint, chocolate and a little piece of yard goods to make her only little girl a new dress. Carl agreed to make the trip to the valley and also to bring her home a Christmas tree. He left her in fine shape. He had chopped lots of wood and all she had to do for the three days he would be gone was go to the barn and milk the old cow.

She wrote that the first day he was gone that she and the children made cookies for Christmas and a thick pudding. They made paper chains for the tree their father would bring back to them. The second day a tremendous blizzard hit the mountin. It snowed and the wind howled for the next two days. When the storm finally subsided, she wrote how she tried to get out of the cabin to milk the bellering old cow, but that an ice drift had formed over the front of the cabin. She had to take an ax and chop through the ice to get outside. She could see how deep the snow was, so she tied a rope around her waste and one to the door stop and started out through the drifts towards the barn. She could see that the snow was much too deep and the ice too slick, so “being with child” she didn’t dare go any farther than a few yards. She turned around and went back to the cabin. She felt bad for the cow and said a silent prayer that Carl would hurry home this Christmas Eve Day.

 The day came and the day went. It grew late into the night of Christmas Eve. Bess wrote that of all Carl’s bad habits… promptness was his very best trait. She knew in her heart that something dreadful must have happened or he would have returned home by now. The children grew cranky and could not understand why their father and their tree had not arrived. She wrote she was just about to put them to bed when a knock at the door sent her heart flying. She knew it must be Carl. Her oldest little boy flung the door open…and Bess wrote her heart sunk. For there on the other side of the cabin door stood the stragliest old trapper she had ever seen. But to three little children on Christmas Eve, an old man with a white beard, a pack on his back and a tree in his hand was certainly welcome. The started to shout, “It’s Santa… It’s Santa.”

 The trapper must have sensed the fear in Bess, for he looked her directly in the eye and said “Bess, Don’t be afraid. Carl is at Tablerock in Spaulding’s trapper’s cabin with a lame horse. He couldn’t make it any farther tonight and I was out on snowshoes checking my traps and agreed that as long as I was coming this way, I would bring you this pack and this tree and he would be along in the morning.” Bess invited him in and fed him hot stew. He put the tree up and helped the children hang their ornaments. Bess judged him to be a good man. As he could recite the story of the nativity by heart. She put the children to bed. The old trapper brought wood in and milked the cow. She asked him if he would like to spend the night in the barn. He said that would be good. He told her he didn’t have any family and he had very much enjoyed spending this Christmas Eve with her children. She thanked him fo his trouble an invited him to join them in the morning for Christmas breakfast. He seemed very happy.

 The trapper retired to the barn and this was the first time Bess had been able to look inside Carl’s pack. Her heart soared. In the pack were: peppermint, chocolate and a beautiful piece of yard goods. Her Christmas would be perfect. She put the pack under the tree with the hand-carved horses and sleighs for the boys and the dollhouse for her little girl that Carl had so carefully carved himself. She then went to bed herself, feeling content knowing Carl was safe and her Christmas was perfect.

 The morning came and Bess was caught up in the children’s excitement. It was late into the morning when she realized the old trapper had not joined them for Christmas breakfast. By this time her little boy was shouting that he could see his father coming over the hill. They all met him at the door. The children were so excited to tell their father they had their “very own Santa Claus locked in the barn!” Carl looked perplexed and sent the children into the house. He looked at Bess and asked her who was in the barn. She quickly explained that it was just the old trapper he had sent with the tree and pack. That she had let him spend the night in the barn to repay him for his kindness.

Carl looked so puzzled and then he explained. He had never made it to the valley. He had made it as far as Tablerock when the storm hit. He went to the trappers cabin to wait the storm out. When he was tying his horse by the river, he saw an old trapper fall through the mush ice. It took three of them to get him pulled out from under the ice. When they took him into the cabin, they knew would never make it. So they wrapped him in a blanket and laid him by the fire. The storm had subsided some and they decided to go ahead and try to make it to the valley. The three saddled their horses and started back down the road. Carl said he had only only went a few hundred yards, when a strange feeling came over him. He could not just go leave that old man to die alone at Christmas.

He sent the “two young bucks” onto the valley and he returned to the trappers cabin and to the old man. He told Bess he just kept the fire going and the old man would drift in and out of consciousness. Carl said he told the old trapper about his wife and family and how disappointed they would be that he never made it to the valley to pick up the perppermint, chocolate and little piece of yard goods for Christmas. He told him how much he loved his family and how he looked forward to just being back home with them. But for right now they were alone and without a Christmas tree on Christmas eve. The old man died in Carl’s arms.

Bess started to cry. The pages in her journal are tear stained as she wrote how she knew that she would find no trapper in the barn. There were no snowshoe tracks in the snow. She told Carl that she thought she had had the greatest blessing on earth… She had been allowed to entertain and  angel on Christmas Eve because Carl had shown such unconditional love of Christ through caring for a dying old trapper on Christmas Eve. There was no trapper in the barn… but, she told Carl she had proof he had been there… for in the cabin underneath the Christmas tree was the pack with peppermint, chocolate and a little piece of yard goods.

 She wrapped up the yard goods in white paper and left them to me with a letter telling me never to use the fabric, for it was from heaven. She told this story countless times to our family and it has become part of our Christmas tradition.

 My Great Grandmother died when I was six years old… on Christmas day!

~ Tamra K. Stitt

 

 


We all have so many differences in common

December 15, 2007

By Janet Walgren
Upon returning home after a visit to her friend’s house, my daughter Helen was ecstatic. She loved cats and Sabrina’s cats were the best. Helen was trying to tell me about the cats and just how wonderful they were, but for an eight year old, the joy and wonderment of it all was just too overwhelming. When words failed to relate her feelings she simply clasp her hands together as she gleefully exclaimed, “Oh mom, they have so many differences in common!”

Profound truths come from the mouths of children and I will never forget that moment when my daughter uttered that profound truth. We all have so many differences in common.

I love my job. I am the Student Success Manager for the Enlightened Wealth Institute. I get paid to listen to people and collect their business success stories on a company website.  Occasionally I have the privilege of collecting them in person. Last week was such an occasion when I traveled to Los Angeles to interview students who were attending an entrepreneurial workshop. The students were high achievers in the world of business and delightful to associate with. I enjoyed my time with them and was a little sad when the week was over.

On my flight home, I was assigned a window seat (my favorite) and was just settling in when a young man, 23 years of age came and sat beside me. I am sixty years old and pretty conservative. The young man had multiple piercings on his face and ears and was covered with tattoos. He smelled of cigarette smoke and looked thin and frail. Most people my age would have been inclined to fain sleep or stare out of the window, but not me. I introduced myself and had a delightful conversation for the duration of the flight.

It turned out that he was returning from a three year adventure teaching English in China. I love all things Asian and delighted in my captive tutor as I inquired about a number of topics pertaining to China. I was feeling a little sad as our plane landed in Salt Lake City, but then he asked if he could use my cell phone to call his momma. I gladly dialed the number and handed him the phone. Then, I heard squeals of delight as he announced his surprise return to his mother. She was ecstatic and he could hardly contain his emotions. It brought so much joy to me as I remembered so many like occasions in my own life’s journey. It was such a fitting end to a wonderful trip and I revelled in the warmth of the truth that we all have so many differences in common. Love is the best part of our human condition.


America’s path to captivity

December 12, 2007

By Janet Walgren
I received an email a couple weeks ago about an exchange student from a third world country who asked his college professor, “Do you know how to catch a wild boar?”

Now that is a question that conjures up all sorts of interesting images in ones mind. First, you have a large hairy animal with hoofs and tusks… the student went on to answer his own question…

“It’s really very simple. All you have to do is find where the boars are and put out some food. Once the boars are used to eating the food instead of foraging, you simply put up one side of a fence near the food. After the boars are used to the fence they will go back to eating the food. Next, you put up another side of the fence and repeat the process until you have built a coral with a gate. Then, all you have to do is close the gate and you will have captured an entire herd of wild boar simply by closing the gate.”

 Imagine that a herd of wild boar could be captured by simply closing a gate while they were enjoying a free lunch. Is that what you imagined? Think about the next generation that is born in captivity. They wouldn’t even know how to forage. And, the next generation wouldn’t even know that there was food on the other side of the fence.

Isn’t that what has happened to Americans today? Our ancestors who built America were farmers and entrepreneurs. They worked hard for a living as did their children. It was a family venture to survive. The next generation worked for the entrepreneurs. It involved less hard work and personal risk than entrepreneuring. Their children grew up to work for large corporations and retired with gold watches.

Today with outsourcing, downsizing, big box retailers and fast food giants providing the jobs there is little left for the worker to feast on in the corals of mega-business. Americans are working less than 40 hours a week for $6.00 to $8.00 dollars per hour and feel lucky to have their jobs. Others are being shot at in Iraq because they they had no other job options and couldn’t afford an education. They didn’t know how to find food in the coral much less on the other side of the fence. Few Americans know how to forage and the numbers who do are dwindling. We are loosing our ability to survive.

We are a nation that is deeply in debt and fast loosing our freedom. We have sold ourselves into slavery because of our debt, our greed, our laziness and our poverty of mind and spirit. All that is left to gain our captivity is to shut the gate of the coral. If this doesn’t scare you, it ought to.


Hallelujah! A Beautiful Mind

December 1, 2007

By Janet Walgren
The scriptures tell us that children are an heritage from the Lord. They are one of the greatest gifts God bestows on us during our journey through mortality. I believe that they are second only to the gift of the atonement and life itself. My youngest daughter has proved to be a wonderful gift. She has a loving heart and a beautiful mind. 

Recently I went through a very stressful situation. I had no control over it and had no choice but to endure it. The day after it was over, I awoke with the song Hallelujah, sung by the English group, Blake, playing in my mind. I had never really paid attention to the words before, so I asked my daughter, Heather, what the words to the song were. The song is one of her recent favorites, and I know that when she plays a song over and over, she has a movie going on in her head with her own beautiful interpretation of it. When she told me her thoughts, I asked her to write them down for me. Below are the words to the song and her interpretation:

Hallelujah

Well, I’ve heard there was a secret chord,
That David played, and it pleased the Lord,
But you don’t really care for music, do you?
Well, it goes like this, the fourth, the fifth,
The minor fall, and the major lift,
The baffled king composing Hallelujah.

Chorus:

Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah.

Baby, I’ve been here before.
I’ve seen this room and I’ve walked this floor.
I used to live alone before I knew you.
But I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch,
Our love is not a victory march,
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah.

Chorus:

Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah.

There was a time you let me know,
What’s really going on below,
But now you never show it to me, do you?
But remember when I moved in you,
The holy dove was moving too.
And every breath we drew was Hallelujah.

Chorus:

Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Maybe there’s a God above,
But all I ever learned from love,
Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew you.
And it’s not a cry you can hear at night,
It’s not somebody who’s seen the light,
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah.

Chorus:

Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Heather’s interpretation:

To me, this song is a series of conversations with different people who gained broken hearts throughout their life’s journey. It starts with King David playing his harp to Saul, a man broken and troubled because of his own choices, yet the simple strains of David’s songs soothed his heart. Later in his life, David would also suffer a broken heart due to his decisions.

The next conversation is from the perspective of someone who, like David and Saul, carried the weight of their broken soul, but was lucky enough to have a friend there to help him find the way back. Unfortunately, the friend has lost their way, in turn and needs help. The voice of experience comes to the rescue of his friend, reminding him of his potential; telling him the path towards healing is not an easy jaunt through the park; it’s cold. It requires a broken heart and contrite spirit, but the healing that takes place is like a quiet Hallelujah; a song the sooths the heart.

A mother has closed herself off from God. Life has worn her out and she wonders why she bothers and is anything worth caring about. God reminds her that she used to let Him know what she thought and felt, but she has shut him out and has lost her direction and purpose. In response, God reminds her of the birth of her child. The life that was growing in her was a gift from God. Every breath she took was the breath of life for her child. Every breath was part of a gentle song. The memory brings back the song; a calm and gentle Hallelujah that restores her peace of mind.

A soldier returns from war. After seeing countless atrocities committed, the senseless, meaningless waste of it all causes him to forget the beauty life can contain. His life is dominated by the violence he witnessed, and he asks himself how a loving God could let it happen. But like the others in this story, the soldier is reminded that he important moments in life are not the things that break you, or make you cry at night. These moments are not made up of congregations shouting Hallelujah at a Sunday meeting; the most important moments in anyone’s life are the moments when you face God with a broken heart, asking him to heal it; The still moment when you go from cold, lonely, and dark and let Him heal you with his love; when you let go of the weight of sin, tragedy, depression, or whatever the ailment might be and realize that God can mend you soul.

With each healing comes a gentle Hallelujah that represents a minor fall followed by a major lift in life. The process of healing represented by Hallelujah pleases the Lord regardless of the harp player. But as more and more people experience the healing Hallelujah the quiet and broken strains of Hallelujah come to form a joyous chord, an army of individuals who found their way back, armed with the quiet assurance that the Lord knows and loves each of us.

I hope that as you read this you will remember the atonement and say your own private hallelujah.