My Life is a Gift; My Life has a Plan
By Carolyn Allen


Author’s note: If you are new to this column, please know that it is written from the health perspective of “eat less and move more with a spirit of respect, gratitude and joy for weight loss success.” If your health and/or medical condition prohibit weight loss, progress please go back and read a previous article “But if Not“, and, as our President Hinckley always said, “Just do the best you can.” It is enough!

This is an exciting time for the Church: How perfect that President Monson’s first general conference as prophet, seer and revelator should occur in the April springtime when the world, even as Presidnet Monson’s service as our 16 th President, is fresh and new, untouched and unfolding.

Individually as members and collectively as a church we rejoice and greatly anticipate sustaining him this weekend, hearing his counsel and looking forward, as always, to the uplifting unique stories he shares about people, principles, and events that inspire us to live more righteously.

Between the sessions our family has a springtime tradition of driving to a remarkable neighborhood 30 minutes from our home. With the words of our leaders in our hearts and ears, it’s the perfect place to reflect and talk about what we’ve heard with our kids and to feel our Father’s love as we slowly drive through the streets of this enchanted place. It almost feels like a sneak peek into the celestial neighborhoods we each yearn to reside in as we return to Him someday.


Q:  When’s the best time to plant a tree?
A:  20 years ago. 
Q:  When’s the next best time?
A.  Today.


The Washington, D.C. Cherry Blossom Festival in the spring is an annual event that draws tourists from around the world.
Although the Yoshino cherry trees that bloom around our historic national monuments are incredible and a treat worth traveling across the globe to see, there’s an equally impressive display in an extraordinary residential neighborhood in nearby Maryland. 

springPhoto of a street in the neighborhood of Kenwood, Maryland. Photo courtesy of Bryan Murahashi.

In the early 1930’s, excited new homeowners in this new development (about 20 minutes away from the Washington D.C. Temple) decided that they also wanted the exact same Yoshino cherry trees to line their streets and bloom each spring. They bought and planted thousands of the baby trees while their homes, the neighborhood and their own families were very young.

Fast forward to the present of 2008: In late March and early April, blocks after block of this Maryland neighborhood (called “Kenwood”) are lined with the now mature cherry trees in full bloom. It feels like walking through a winter, snowy fairyland of pale, pink blossoms, blossoms and more blossoms everywhere.

The treer branches create an archway where thousands of visitors slowly drive through or walk the streets and take photos. A charming stream gurgles throughout, neighborhood children sell lemonade on the corners, and it is easy to imagine the angels themselves having a healthy picnic on the porch of one of the elegant homes, where homeowners outdo themselves with flowering bulbs and lush landscaping..

Needless to say, something like this doesn’t happen without a detailed plan created many years ago – nor is it maintained without a long-term schedule that is reviewed and acted upon regularly. Residents who buy into the community know what they’re getting into and sign a contract. Old or sick trees are removed and new ones are planted regularly to prepare for the future.  Is the plan and continual effort worth it? Oh, yes. Oh, yes!

Back to us:  Creating a healthy lifestyle and fit body is not so different ! Although we may wish that we had started long ago and were enjoying the shade and spectacular blooms, nature is kind. Things will start to grow today too, which makes right now the perfect time to get going and get planting the seeds and deeds that bring energy and health.

Not only is nature kind, so is our Heavenly Father, who devised a perfect for our mortal lives and bodies. These mortal bodies are a gift that we eagerly anticipated, and though now the veil has been drawn, I’m sure we were educated on the challenges ahead.

Not too long ago, I recently re-read Elaine Durham’s book, I Stand All Amazed: Love and Healing From Higher Realms . As a nonmember in her 30’s, she experienced a brain aneurysm and suddenly died. With hospital records, the Catholic priest who had come to administer last rites, and a little nurse who prepared her body for the morgue to prove that she was indeed dead, she went to the other side long enough to experience many things and to have a great deal of her pre-earth life memory restored.

When asked if she would like to see her life before she was born, she enthusiastically agreed. She could see herself attending the Great Counsel in Heaven where God’s plan was presented, and rejoicing in the principle of receiving an earthly body.

Then her view was shifted to see herself just before she was to leave for her mortal experience. She was sitting on a bench as an adult. Her guides asked her if she understood how hard her life would be to achieve the level of soul-growth required for a place in the highest kingdoms in the eternities after earth life.

She was kindly warned once more of the severe problems she would experience within her family and asked if she had any last questions. When she eagerly responded that she was ready and had no questions, the guides who were with her marveled and said to each other. “She is so willing! She does not understand.”

Her childhood was filled with heartache. Her mother was a young woman who had never received love, so could not give love. Her father, though appropriately affectionate with her as a young girl, molested her throughout her adolescent and early teenage years. When at age 15 she found the courage to speak up, there was an immediate divorce that both parents blamed her for. Problems continued with an abusive first marriage for Elaine, and a difficult second marriage.

Within her time on the other side, she found the love of our Heavenly Father for herself personally and His perspective to love and forgive those who had caused such pain, and to see her part as a piece of a puzzle where we are each dependent on each other for growth. She also learned much about the God’s perfect plan and returned with an unquenchable desire to find the organization that would embody what she had learned.

Ten years later, when a mentally and physically handicapped man in her neighborhood invited her to church and to meet the missionaries, the doors of eternity flung open and she was baptized.

With this remarkable story, it is much easier to view our bodies and earth life as gifts worthy of time and daily respect.

I well remember as a child a very special Christmas gift. It was a little blue suitcase filled with doll clothes my mother had made for my new Christmas baby doll. How well I remember my mother’s face when she found the little suitcase one morning in the yard after a rainstorm. It was ruined because I had not spent a bit of time to bring it in after playing.

How well I equally remember as an adult parent the Christmas bike we gave to a precious 7-year-old son.When it was stolen later that year from the community swimming pool, there was much sadness as we all recalled how easily he had learned how to use a combination lock and chain to secure it when it was parked. How little was the time it would have taken to use the lock compared to the time it would take to earn the money to replace the bike.

With the return of spring, the gift of General Conference, and the gift of our bodies, here are three easy springtime ways to treat our bodies as gifts and spring into fitness:

  1. The WATER: Enjoy the springtime blooms, see how fresh and lovely they are after a rainstorm, visualize how dependent they are upon moisture. As you drink enough water throughout the day, visualize your body refreshing itself even as flowers do. No need to drown however; 6-8 glasses is enough!
  2. The gift of COLOR: It surrounds us during the spring! When we focus on consuming mostly things with natural COLOR, we are automatically eating things of nature – fruits and vegetables, not carbs and processed snack foods. As a word of caution, for most of us two fruits is enough . The sugars and carbohydrates in consuming too much fruit may limit weight loss. The actual fruit with its fiber is much more effective for satisfying both hunger and the need to “be eating something” than high-calorie fruit juice.
  3. The gift of MOVEMENT: All around us things are growing, emerging, opening, and reaching upwards. Take a lesson from the flowers, leaves, butterflies, birds that are reaching their potential through demanding MOVEMENT. Get out side and WALK. Take some time and STRETCH. Apply to a video workout and PUSH yourself to a new limit.

Today’s Empowerment: Although I cannot re-do yesterday, I can create tomorrow’s health and weight loss success with my actions today.

Today’s Journal Prompts and Discussion Starter:

  1. What tangible gifts have you received that you neglected?
  2. How will you incorporate the Springtime gifts of water, color and movement into your schedule?

Today’s Recipe: Cherry Bloxom Pie

This is so pretty and delicious.  You can vary the flavors of the yogurt and Jell-O to make Lime Pie, Peach Fluff pie, and so on.  This is best served in small slices with fresh fruit on the top!


1 reduced fat graham cracker crust
1 package sugar-free  strawberry or cherry Jell-O
1 8 oz. container low-fat cherry yogurt
1 8 oz. container fat-free Cool Whip
1/4 cup boiling water


Mix Jell-O with boiling water.  I find it works best to sprinkle the Jell-O with one hand into the boiling water and stir like mad with a fork in the other hand to not get any lumps. Blend Jell-O with yogurt and Cool Whip.  Pour into crust, and let set for two hours or so.

(0 g Dietary Fiber; 140 calories; 5 g fat)


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