What is a promise worth?

Several years ago, I was a young teenager in New York City. I was standing in the streets beside Ground Zero. The clean-up had ended years before, but the blocks and buildings within my sight all bore the scars of 9/11.

I gripped the fence and closed my eyes to the tears on my face, the reality that I would inherit a wounded world from the generations that came before me. Gazing at the hole left behind, I asked myself, "What will I do now that I've seen this absence? How will I make things better?" And I made a promise that I would always remember what I saw that day, and do everything in my power to honor it. Whether by becoming a soldier or supporting those around me, I gave my word to fight the battle.

I took this picture that day. It reminds me of the promise my Savior made to me. He promised he would always watch out for me, my citizen soldier. And even though he is misunderstood in our time, much like our soldiers all over the globe, the Savior is keeping his promise to all of his brothers and sisters. His promise means everything to him.

I love Christmas because of all it has to teach about promises. Heavenly Father promised the world a Messiah, and we celebrate the birth that fulfilled that promise. We read of Christ's life and ministry, and we learn of the ways we must keep our promises to our Father in Heaven and the rest of mankind; a tradition preserved to this day. All around us, even in the hearts of non-believers, is a peace that doesn't come at other times in the year. I've seen the miracle of that Christmas peace many times throughout my life. Even my father and mother tried harder at Christmas to protect the spirit of this special time despite their misgivings with each other. And my friends, although they are not Christians, have also put forth that same effort this year. One of my friends actually thanked me in her Christmas card for bringing that tranquility and sharing it with our circle of friends. She sees the power a simple promise of love can have--the ability to be carried over distance and time in the hearts of those who will keep it.

My heart goes out to all of the US military men and women who sacrifice so much for this country, especially today of all days. I promised I would honor the memory 9/11, and keeping that promise starts with remembering them today. May the peace of the Savior's promise be with them in all that they do, whether at home or abroad. May they be blessed with safety, comfort, and the knowledge of all the support they still have from everyone at home.

To any others, I leave my love and prayers with you. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.


The missionaries in the West Indies that went missing have been located.

I imagine they'll be embarrassed when they find out that their absense was revealed to the furthest reaches of the Bloggernacle. Probably the evening news in Utah too.

I'm just glad they're both OK.


Dear Heavenly Father

I'm so grateful that my application got to BYU, even though I put the wrong address on the envelope. Thank you for keeping my hysterics from becoming too dangerous to myself and others. Please do what you can to convince my mother that I didn't mean those nasty things I said at the post office when we were trying to send the transcripts. I know she didn't call me stupid, but that's what I was hearing. You know how bad I get when I go into emotional vertigo. Please help me to do better so I don't hurt the people I love.

Please be with that guy I saw on Mr. Bob's old patio today. I can't imagine that Mr. Bob's apartment already has another tenant in it, nor do I know why the guy was just sitting in the snow. Watch over him. I imagine he must need you.

I thought about a mission today. I'm still not sure what to do about my desires to serve. I know I would be good at it, but I can't afford it. If it's what you want me to do, I will go. I would ask that you will bless the missionaries out in the field, especially those two in the West Indies that just disappeared. Their families must be worried and in low spirits. Please be with them too.

My teachers need to feel your love Heavenly Father. I know I will eventually escape this place, but they can't. At least not easily. I try to respect their trials, and to help in any ways that I can. But I know that every time they whirl on their classes of belligerent students and yell, "SHUT UP! I'M TIRED OF YOU GUYS!" they lose something precious that cannot be returned. Please help me to know what I can do and say to make our thankless high school a little better each day.

But our problems are not so large. We have been reading about Africa the past few weeks in school, and my heart aches for your children there. Rape in Sierra Leone. Genocide in Rwanda. AIDS in Burundi. I feel so selfish worrying about the AP Calculus test I missed today when there are so many people living in poverty. Why am I so blessed? What did I do to deserve such prosperity? Instead, please remember the children. Comfort them. Bless them, not me. I do not think I have done much lately to deserve many blessings. Give them to someone who could really use them.

I am grateful for the time you have given me today with my friends and family, and to share the love I have for them. May they always know how much I care for them. Please, if nothing else, give them all peace. Even if it means taking peace from me. I will try to learn to take comfort in the peace of others instead of always wishing it for myself. I will need your guidance, but I've learned that you're a really good teacher. I'm sure you know exactly what I need to hear.

I pray for these things humbly in the sacred name of your son Jesus Christ. AMEN.

I spoke to a friend of mine today. She moved to Georgia some years ago, and I have missed her. Her family situation would make a great soap opera, I must admit. To make a long story short, she is dealing with issues of her own with her father. She has decided, after re-entering his life, that she would prefer not to have a relationship with him anymore. She has been talking to me about her situation because I have so much experience with less-than-perfect parents. I try to help her in any way I can.

In her most recent e-mail, she told me that she still struggles with the pain left over from severing all ties with her father, and yet she refuses to endure him any longer. Her resolve is so familiar, and the true miracle of her situation is a great relief. Few women ever get the courage to rise above a man like that. Look at the domestic violence statistics some time if you don't believe me. What she has to do is not easy, and her courage will give her strength. But finding strength, although the most important part, is not the hardest part of the situation she faces. I have learned the hard way that recovering from familial abuse is 10% situation control, and 90% healing/recovery. Fixing the inner scarring left behind by an abusive family member, in my opinion, is the hardest part of having an abusive family member.

I told her to "find something to give yourself. Give yourself something to love, because that's what the emptiness is. Something that no one can take from you would be best." I went on to tell her that prayer works when all else fails. If I've learned nothing else, it's that keeping a prayer in your heart gives you something that no one can take from you. My friend isn't Mormon, but because we're both Christians, we can talk about prayer and faith with each other when we need to most; a facet of our friendship that I treasure.

And so I think I need to add a line to mine.

Heavenly Father. Thank you for the friendship I have found in Katie. I pray that she will feel that she always has a father in you. Please stay with her. Please help her to cope with the hatred she feels so it doesn't ruin her beautiful spirit. Please help me to know if there is anything I can ever do for her.
I ask for this in the name of my beloved brother, Jesus Christ. AMEN.
May your prayers lift burdens (yours and those of others) this holiday season; the best gift never wrapped in paper.

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