Monday, November 2, 2009

As Long as My Heart Beats ... by Cindy Beck

A Tribute to Freedom

© 2009 Cindy Beck

My dad served in the Air Force as a career military man, and he’s now retired. I have been, and always will be, proud of him and the way in which he served his country, and his willingness to go to war to defend our liberties.

It’s to him, and to all valiant veterans, that I dedicate the following thoughts on freedom.

As Long as My Heart Beats

What can be written about freedom that hasn’t already been penned? The words of our American forefathers—far more articulate and expressive than anything I could ever compose—declare our right to freedom. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”1

All I can give then, are my simple thoughts ….

Freedom is what gives me the right to walk the hills at daybreak, watching the pink and gold clouds caress the mountaintops, with no worry that someone will demand a passport, papers, or even ask me why I choose wandering instead of working at a government stipulated job.

The meadowlark’s tune in the canyon sings to me of those who came before—men and women of bravery and courage, who loved liberty more than life and willingly gave their all, making the supreme sacrifice so that I might listen, in peace and free from bondage, to that lark’s lilting song.

A stone’s throw away lies a brook that ripples and laughs on its way to the mighty sea. It speaks to me of freedom to worship a Heavenly Father, to gather with other believers on a bright Sabbath morn and express our love of God in songs, that like the babblings of the brook, rise to the heavens—a right granted with no restrictions by a government that would curtail beliefs in the Holy One of Israel.

And yet, that brook also gurgles of the rights of others to not worship any supreme being at all. Freedom has not always been, but ever should be, universal. All mankind, not just Americans, have been “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.” And I, like the stream, must be willing to allow—no, not just to allow but to encourage—freedom to flow to others, even when their beliefs are different than mine.

The dark-eyed doe that browses on the tender grass reminds me of the right to bear arms, not only as a means to obtain food, but as a protection against an unrighteous government—perhaps foreign, perhaps not—that would choose to rob me of the precious freedoms that I hold dear.

The fawn that suckles near her side causes my heart to swell with gratitude for the liberty to not only choose to procreate but also to decide the number of little feet that might pitter-patter through my life. Freedom insures that the dark-haired, Down syndrome daughter holds as much worth as the blond-haired, highly intelligent son, and that no parent has to choose the life of one over the other.

It is freedom that allows me to attempt to convey in my own simple words the eloquent truths that Thomas Jefferson expressed so well. And as long as my heart beats and forever after, it is my hope that freedom will reign in this great country.

1. United States of America’s Declaration of Independence


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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Changing a Worry Wart to a Freckle ... by Cindy Beck

© Cindy Beck, 2009

(Photo by Gnome Icon Artists)

I’ll admit it; I’m a worry wart who frets over everything. There’s so much to be troubled about that it puts me in a tizzy. Will I catch the swine flu this fall? What would I do if my husband became involved in an accident while driving to a meeting? Will that mole on my neck grow to the size of a mango? If I spray for bugs, might I accidentally poison half the world’s water supply?

I find myself wondering what ever happened to the calm person I used to be.

As a kid I didn’t have much to agonize over—mostly just getting good grades in school and remembering to dive under my desk in a hug-the-knees position during a possible nuclear attack. Nowadays, I’m no longer anxious about grades, but the threat of global war is just one item on a long list that includes flu pandemics, the failing economy, disappearing retirement funds, health care, crime, my children/grandchildren’s safety, and last but not least, hair that’s turning gray. Should I color it? What if it turns out looking like a strawberry popsicle instead of the rich auburn I envision? Or what if the chemicals do something wacky and all my hair falls out instead?

Mental health professionals have a term for that feeling of constant anxiety: generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). The National Institute of Mental Health states that GAD in its extreme is characterized by, “Chronic anxiety, exaggerated worry and tension, even when there is little or nothing to provoke it.” The symptoms include an inability to shake off concerns, including worries that are accompanied by physical symptoms, especially, “ … fatigue, headaches, muscle tension, muscle aches, difficulty swallowing, trembling, twitching, irritability, sweating, and hot flashes.”

My friends and I have most of those symptoms, but we’ve been blaming our twitches and hot flashes on menopause. Face it, however; even though more women than men admit feeling anxious, we all worry about life events, even if we don’t take it to the point where we’re trembling and sweating.

What can we do about it? Should we resign ourselves to a fate of being—as my friend, Melanie Adams, jokes—“Thumb-sucking-fetal-positioned-eye-twitching-nervous-nellies”—or is it possible to remain tranquil during the turbulent times in which we live?

The first step to tranquility is to remember that not all worry is bad. Good worry warns us to avoid that swarthy stranger lurking down the alley, reminds us to lock our doors, or to go to the doctor and get that flu shot. It sets off the little mental voice that says, “Don’t buy that mink coat/mansion/4x4 truck with the Hemi engine, that only gets four miles to the gallon. It’ll just put you deeper in debt!” That type of worry is often inspired by the Spirit and provides guidance for daily living.

The second step requires recognizing that anxiety is a part of mortal existence, a side effect of the trials that we go through on earth. The trick is to control it, rather than letting it control us. To that end, here are a few tried and true techniques to help:

Pray. Yes, we’ve all heard that before, but life really does go smoother and we worry less when we do all we can and then leave our troubles in the hands of the Lord.
Read the scriptures. Although this is another standby, we’ll be blessed, and there’s nothing like reading about others’ problems to help put our own in perspective.
Keep a worry journal. When we write down worries and the outcome of them, we often discover that many of those concerns never came to pass. Studies show that eighty-five to ninety-five percent of the time, our worst fears are never confirmed. In addition, the act of writing down what’s bugging us often frees our minds for other, happier pursuits.
Share the apprehension. By talking out our anxieties, we’re able to confront them and many times find effective solutions. Just be sure to share them with someone who doesn’t over-react and isn’t an even bigger worrier.
Research the facts. Health issues, in particular, often generate inordinate amounts of concern. Knowledge of the facts gives the power needed to control our worries, and prevents enlarging them to the size of a hippopotamus.
Establish a time to worry. Pick a particular time of day, and a set amount of time, and worry away. After it’s over, if anxiety pops in again, push it to the back of the mind and say, “I won’t stew about that now. I’ll save it for worry time.” A word of caution: It’s easy to put worry time off until we’re lying in bed, and then we start in on that long list of concerns. In order to sleep well at night, make worry time earlier in the day.
Have fun. Once a day, take a moment or two to do something enjoyable. Take a deep breath, push all thoughts far away and watch the sunset, join the kids at play, pet the dog, or walk the beach with a friend or a spouse. The rejuvenation which happiness brings will help counteract the fears that the world is falling apart.
Take time to laugh. Remember that old adage … laugh, and the world laughs with you. Cry, and they’ll put you on Prozac. (Okay, I’ll admit that I did put a slight spin on that saying.)
Look backward. When a worry does come to pass, looking back on times when we’ve lived through a problem gives instant recognition that we’re strong and can do it again. We’re survivors.
Keep in mind Luke 12: 25-26: “And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit? If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take ye thought for the rest?” So, if worrying isn’t going to help us grow taller or keep our hair from falling out (or in my case, going gray) why spend so much time on it?

Give it a try. Just follow the steps above, and see if it doesn’t change that worry wart to a freckle.

Anxiety Disorders Association of America:
Ensign Magazine: Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “The Infinite Power of Hope,” Ensign, Nov 2008, 21–24.
National Institute of Mental Health:


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Monday, August 3, 2009

Review of "Martha's Freedom Train"

Posted by Cindy Beck

Today, it’s my privilege to review a charming book of historical fiction, written for children by my good friend, C. LaRene Hall.


Martha and her parents escape slavery with the help of many conductors for the Underground Railroad—an escape route set up by people of all colors. They finally have a safe place to stay, but Mama has caught pneumonia and is too ill to travel farther. Papa learns about a wagon train of Mormons traveling west, and he takes Martha to meet them. Her heart almost breaks when he sends her west with these strangers. Martha encounters many exciting adventures along the way. They cross rivers, see Indians and buffalo. She helps put out a fire, and after falling asleep beside the trail, they accidentally leave her behind. Once they reach the Salt Lake valley, she still has choices to make, and Martha wonders how her papa will find her.


This is a delightful story that’s quick reading, and yet contains enough excitement that it’s hard to put down. It’s well written and the characters capture the imagination. Although it’s intended for those ten and older, I found it fun, even as an adult. I liked the moral of the story, that God loves all children regardless of color, and mentally cheered in the section that disclosed Martha had a burning desire to learn to read.

In addition, children and adults alike will enjoy the cute penciled illustrations that depict slices of Martha’s journey. And I loved the pioneer recipes for journey cakes and prickly pear jelly at the back of the book.

Now, if I could just manage to pick a few prickly pears without getting poked …


I thought you might like to know a little about LaRene, so here are a few of her responses to Crazy Eights, a game of tag she participated in earlier this year. If you’d like to read all her answers, click here.

Eight Things C. LaRene Hall Wishes She Could Do:
1. Go along ways away
2. Have more writing time
3. Have more time everyday to do what I want
4. Find someone to publish my next book
5. Travel to new places all the time
6. Have no bills
7. Have enough money to travel
8. Have no weeds in the yard

Eight Shows She Watches:
1. News
2. Perry Mason
3. Murder She Wrote
4. My Three Sons
5. I don’t know what else is on. I don’t start watching anything until after 9 pm
6. This is a hard question and I have no answers.
7. A good movie if there is any on.
8. I don’t watch much TV because I’d rather write or read.


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

To Know Dad is to Love Him ... by Cindy Beck

(A fun, family night concept)

Cindy Beck © 2009
(Keywords: Cindy Beck, fathers, Father's Day, family home evening, family night, Dad's Old Fashioned Root Beer, family history, Latter-day Saints, LDS, Mormon,

Dads. Most of us—if we’re lucky—grow up with them, and we think we know them pretty well. However, do we really?

Since June is the month to remember fathers, it’s also a great time to have a family home evening centered on discovering Dad—or Granddad’s—secrets. You know, the little things we never think to ask him about, but that he’d love to share.

First, bring Dad his slippers and make him comfy in his favorite chair. He may go through withdrawal with the TV turned off, but you can always let him hold the remote for comfort, as long as he promises not to actually use it.

If there are talented singers in the family, they might like to join in singing, “Fathers” (Children’s Songbook, pg. 209). If the singers aren’t so talented … well, invite them to lift their voices anyway, and if Dad isn’t wearing the slippers, he can use them to cover his ears.

Next, ask the following questions. (Make sure someone has been assigned to write down the answers or even to videotape the evening.)

Dad, what’s your favorite …

Who was …
Your favorite relative outside your immediate family?
Your best friend in high school?
Your favorite teacher?
The nicest person you ever met?
Your favorite president?

How did you …
Learn to drive a car?
Get to school?
Learn to shave?
Propose to Mom?
Learn to swim?

Where did you …
Hide your treasures when you were little?
Go to high school?
Go for summer vacations?
Take girls on dates?
Live when you were thirteen?

When did you …
Compete in your first sporting event?
Realize the church was true?
Decide to get married?
First understand the power of prayer?
Cook your first meal?

If you had life to do all over again, would you …
Live some place else, and where?
Try a different career, and what?
Get more schooling?
Take an exotic vacation, and where?
Buy a sports car, and what kind?

Top the evening off with Dad’s favorite cookies. Or better yet, with root beer floats made with Dad’s Old Fashioned Root Beer. And don’t forget to give Dad a hug.

Someday, as memories fade, you’ll be so glad you took the opportunity—either for yourself, or for your children—to learn more about one of the most important men in your life.

(Note: This family home evening could easily be adapted for children by dividing the questions and letting the children read them to their father or grandfather. Older siblings could be assigned to help non-readers.)

Thank you to Melanie Adams, editor, for her excellent advice on this article.

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Thursday, April 2, 2009

Easter Lost, Easter Found ... by Cindy Beck

© Cindy Beck, 2009
(Keywords: Cindy Beck, celebrations, Easter, Easter bunny, holiday, Jesus Christ, LDS, resurrection, Latter-day Saints, LDS, Mormon,

Easter had vanished. Oh, it still existed on the calendar, but with our family grown and gone, it only left my husband and me for celebrations. The joy and anticipation of Easter faded to almost nothing. Some years, it was by sheer luck that I remembered to defrost a ham in time for the holiday dinner, or to color eggs.

We watched our friends hold their “Easter Bunny” celebrations on Saturday and their family dinners on Sunday, and we wondered what would work for us. With no children around, egg hunts and colorful baskets lacked excitement. Dinner with our extended family was normally out of the question because, at the time, our loved ones lived far away.

Then one day, it hit me—we’d been looking at Easter as a time for children’s activities and family get-togethers, rather than emphasizing the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Searching the scriptures and pondering the true significance of the holiday, my husband and I brainstormed for ways to make Easter more meaningful. Together we came up with a plan for a week’s worth of simple activities that emphasize the Savior, His sacrifice, and the symbols of resurrection and rebirth.

• Monday before Easter: For family home evening, plant spring bulbs such as jonquils, narcissus, or tulips into pots. Place in a sunny window, keep moist, and watch for their splendor—children and adults alike will enjoy monitoring their growth. Although the flowers won’t bloom in time for Easter Sunday, their blossoms will be a reminder of the resurrection and of new life in the weeks to come.

• Tuesday: Visit the cemetery and place spring flowers on the graves of departed friends and loved ones. Discuss the glory of one day being reunited with them because of the Savior’s atoning sacrifice.

• Wednesday: Do good works that require sacrificing for another. This could include writing notes to servicemen or missionaries, humanitarian projects, donating time at hospitals, or helping the elderly with spring yard work.

• Thursday: Write a note to someone in your family, thanking them for their sacrifices.

• Friday: Read and discuss the story of the crucifixion in Matthew 27:27-54.

• Saturday: Read and discuss D&C 138: 11-24, which details the Savior’s visit to the spirit world prior to his resurrection. Afterwards, color eggs, bake bread or do other Easter traditions that inspire contemplation of the symbolism of rebirth.

• Easter Sunday: In the morning, sing an Easter hymn. Before partaking of the sacrament, read and contemplate the story of the resurrection from Luke 24:1-9. At dinner, set a symbolic place at the table for the Savior.

• Monday: For family home evening, enjoy colored eggs, candy in baskets, or other secular traditions with family or friends. One benefit to celebrating the non-religious traditions on the Monday after is that holiday candy is at half-price.

Try putting the plan into action in your own life. Whether you’re a family of one or ten, you’ll find Easter has a more spiritual tone. Even when you’re only able to implement a few of the ideas, you’ll focus on the atoning sacrifice of the Savior and will feel more fully the joy of the resurrection.


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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Pursuing Promptings ... by Cindy Beck

© Cindy Beck, 2009
(Keywords: Cindy Beck, promptings, Spirit, Holy Ghost, heed promptings, pursuing promptings, Latter-day Saints, LDS, Mormon,

Most of us, at one time or another, have trouble heeding the promptings of the Spirit. It’s not usually a case of rebelliousness, but more a product of not understanding what we’re being told.

In the fall of 2007, an unwise decision to ignore the Spirit resulted in an accident on my bike. The broken elbow that followed gave me pause and since then, I’ve come up with a few thoughts on following the dictates of the Spirit.

Pray daily to be guided by the Spirit, and to have an increased sensitivity to His promptings. Ask for help in understanding what the Spirit is telling you. This is vitally important. So often we pray for help, but don’t pray for understanding concerning the how and why of the directives we’re given.

When a particular thought enters your mind repeatedly, don’t say, “Hmm, that’s interesting,” and then go about life as normal. Write the thoughts down, look at them throughout the day, and use your intuitive powers to figure out what you think the Spirit is saying. Once you think you understand, ask for confirmation.

Never ignore a prompting, no matter whether it seems trivial, silly or embarrassing. Recently, I had a nonsensical dream about a friend that had long ago broken off a relationship with me. The dream about her stayed with me during the day, and in keeping with my newfound resolution to heed the Spirit, I decided to visit her. However, deciding to visit and actually doing it was another thing. That friendship had ended on an angry tone. Anxiety and nervousness over how my visit would be received had me pacing the floor. It took half the day to work up the courage to call and arrange it. At my friend’s house, I looked at the carpet, cleared my throat and finally told her about the dream. To my surprise, she seemed to understand what it meant, and although she never gave me an interpretation of it, the incident resulted in reconciliation between us. I’m so grateful I did as the Spirit directed.

When you receive promptings for mundane tasks like, “I’d better pick up that toy lying on the stairs,” you might not see any direct result. Don’t assume that means it wasn’t a whisper from the Holy Ghost. So often we are guided in areas that we deem unimportant, but who can judge the value of a decision that prevents an unseen accident or tragedy?

An author friend of mine, Rachelle Christensen, admits she once received such a prompting but because it came as a quiet whisper and she was busy at the time, she didn’t follow through. While walking through the living room, she saw one of her children’s toys lying on the floor—a small plastic pony. “I noticed it and that should have been enough to pick it up but my hands were full. Later, I was in a hurry and came up with a bottle of applesauce from downstairs and stepped on it just right so that my foot turned over and I fell forward, out of control.” Rachelle not only sprained her ankle, but suffered bruises from the fall.

Remember that all good things come from the Lord. If a thought pops into your mind directing you to do a good deed, don’t waste your time trying to figure out if it was a kindly thought or direction from the Spirit. Instead, just go do it. More often than not, it is guidance you’re receiving.

Another author friend, Nichole Giles, felt a prompting to go outside one hot July afternoon and check on her family’s litter of puppies and their mama. “It was around a hundred degrees outside and I wanted to make sure they had enough shade and water to drink. When I got outside, all the water was gone—the bowls even overturned—and the puppies were lying in every patch of shade they could find and whining because they were so hot. Feeling terrible about their discomfort, I set up a second umbrella (they already had one) and filled their water containers with cool water to drink. As soon as I set them down, those pups and their mother lapped that water up until it was gone, so I refilled it again. While I was out there, I soaked the grass and filled up a low-sided Rubbermaid container so they wouldn't run out again, and so they could jump in it to cool off. Every one of those dogs jumped and played in the water. They'd been cooking in that sunshine. If I hadn't gone out there, the poor dogs might have died from heatstroke.”

From my own experience, I know that following through on the Spirit’s guidance to do a kind deed can often result in being in the right place when another person needs help. One afternoon, while cooking a pot of soup, I received an impression to take some to a friend. You have to understand that in the instant I announce my intention to take someone a meal, the main course will burn, and the dessert will fall flat. I hesitated. Is this really the Holy Ghost speaking to me, or do I have these feelings because I happened to think of Elaine?

I pondered the impression for a few minutes and finally said, “There’s probably nothing wrong with her, but it’s always fun to have someone bring a meal, especially when you’ve had a busy day at work.”

For once, the food turned out right … that in itself should have told me it was a prompting! I drove to Elaine’s house with it and rang the doorbell. Her husband answered the door and ushered me in. There on the couch sat Elaine, pale and weary. Unbeknownst to me, she’d had gall bladder surgery and had just come home from the hospital. The meal was well received and appreciated. Gratitude filled my heart for the whisperings of the Holy Ghost.

If you follow the steps above, I can’t promise that you will always know the right action to take in life. But I can guarantee that you’ll feel an increase in knowledge about the workings of the Spirit, and will become better able to feel and understand His presence.

And isn’t that what we all want?

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