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With General Conference approaching this next weekend, we are ready and excited to hear from our Prophet, Apostles and leaders like never before.  What will they ask of us? What will they remind us of?  Our lives have been upended since the October General Conference of 2019.  While we knew it would be unforgettable and special, we were not expecting this.

To me, the COVID-19 pandemic feels like a bad dream that you can’t force yourself awake from.  It’s a gripping, best-selling novel or movie where the chapters and scenes quickly alternate between grim news reports and the stories of common individuals trapped in events beyond their control. It’s a mass-escape or hospital room life and-death drama juxtaposed against vast cities with millions of ordinary citizens quietly, quietly sitting at home waiting for it to somehow, please just end.

Both Maurine Proctor and Andy Proctor’s stories from the first Monday of the pandemic are exceptionally enlightening for me. If you haven’t read them yet, I hope you will. If you have, they are worth reading again two weeks later.

Now I add my own “two-weeks later” observations:

It’s a choice to “shake off the shell-shock” and find the sunshine that is ever-present, even in the darkest (or weirdest) of times.  It’s a choice to seek, find and radiate a sense of peace, faith and confidence in the Lord that will provide personal comfort and bless our families and those around us.  

That, of course, is the choice our Heavenly Father would have us make and one I will not be surprised to hear about next weekend at General Conference.

For fun, and perhaps as a family or group discussion to find some sunshine in current affairs, you might enjoy creating a list of ten blessings that come from the current situation. Creating my own list has been most enlightening.  Here they are!

1.  Our Prophet’s Vision, Inspiration, Example and Leadership
The mind-boggling blessing of being carefully tutored and prepared for home church over the past two years fills me with awe and gratitude for our Prophet and his vision!  I’ve had such wonderful conversations with those I visit with who are finding great inspiration and peace in their home church meetings.  There is strength and joy in singing the hymns, learning and partaking of the Sacrament at home together.  Families with children are being inspired and directed for teaching their children.  As a result, they are feeling a great increase of the Spirit in their homes.

Like old stories from World War II, Church leaders and members on every level are being challenged and finding fresh ways to serve.  These stories and experiences are building my testimony!

These are exciting times that will never be forgotten! In the eternities to come, we get to say we were part of it and were led by Russell M. Nelson, who is a medical doctor and world-renowned surgeon.  I have made it a point to go back on both and to listen to President Nelson’s past talks.  It has been incredibly enlightening to hear his comforting, guiding voice from several years ago and to watch what is currently happening.  He is our Prophet and we can trust him with our very lives.

2.  Our Beautiful Meeting Houses and Temples
Never again will I take our meeting houses and being able to attend them for granted.  Whoever could have imagined weeks of those doors being closed for regular meetings and activities?  Whatever feelings of appreciation we might have had for our buildings, if that was even on our radar of blessings, have been magnified ten-fold or more as we realize how precious it is to attend meetings and gather with the Saints.

We don’t know when our Temples and meetinghouses will be available for us again.  When they do, I will never, ever again be casual about the privilege it is to both have them available and to attend regularly.

3.  Time To Enjoy Our Homes and Families
Oh, what a precious commodity this is! It seems that we make such a priority of furnishing our homes so that they will be comfortable and attractive, yet often don’t leave enough time at the end of the day to really sit and enjoy them!

That goes for our media equipment too.  There’s much more time to sit and enjoy uplifting programs, movies and educational material  at home by ourselves or with our families.  I’ve read that bingeing quietly at home on TV rather than being out and about is “just what the doctor ordered” to keep us healthy and safe.  No guilt!

Our days, no matter our ages,  are often  filled with so many responsibilities that it  takes a major event for us to just slow down and enjoy each other in our homes!

A friend of mine wrote to me, “The Lord just knew it was time for us to SLOW DOWN our busy lives to once more look UP to Him and INTO the faces of our precious families!”

I think she’s right.  I love an excuse to stay home as long as possible.  It’s a snowstorm … with no snow!

4.  Time to Study The Gospel
Between our home libraries and material online, who of us has ever had enough time to read and read and read.  Now we do!  I believe our Heavenly Father expects us to use this unexpected gift of more time wisely. 

Hello, gospel Library app!

Hello, BYU Education week on Youtube!  These priceless treasures and resources go deeper than any of us will ever have time to uncover.

5.  Time to Develop A Hobby
Several months ago, I paid for an online course to take better pictures with my iPhone. The course is excellent, but I haven’t had the time to devote to it that I would like. Now there’s time for both the tutorials and the assignments!

This is an excellent opportunity to bring scrapbooks up to date or to finish projects that have been lain aside for ‘when I have time.’

6.  Finding A Bend In The River
More than one family I know has made an astonishing discovery: Their children’s needs are better met with home-schooling! What a surprise! They all love it! Moms and Dads are enjoying it and taking it on when they never would have otherwise.  Family pressure and stress over a multitude of issues small and large has evaporated as they have taken on the curriculum and special needs of each child.

It’s a very strong possibility that some of my close family and friends will continue home-schooling after the crisis is over.  Whether they do or not, as a family they have been strengthened and have new bonds to cherish for this special chapter of their family. 

It will be the same for other family circumstances and needs where the immediacy of this  situation will dictate responses that become a wonderful, unexpected and new path.  Good times, indeed!

7.  Healthy Living and Cooking
Now that restaurants are closed, we’re all cooking a lot more! Viewings of cooking shows and searches for recipes have skyrocketed! I believe that many people will find that the joy of preparing and serving healthier, low-cost meals will find a much bigger place in the lives of many individuals and families.

As the weather warms, there’s more time to exercise. Far more than during ordinary times, it’s refreshing to see people getting outside in their yards, playing with kids, gardening, going for bike rides and walks.  We were delighted to see a tent put up in our neighbor’s yard with kids having a ball playing in it.  There’s just not enough of that kind of fun and outdoor play these days!

A healthy lifestyle with cooking at home and getting outside to pla  is not difficult or time-consuming. Rather, it’s fun and rewarding! Having ample time to experience this fact and make it a joyful habit will be a game-changer for many people, I believe.

8.  Humor and Laughter
Even in the darkest days of scary World Wars, there’s a brilliant stream of humor to relieve the tension and brighten the days.  That is happening now! It seems there’s an endless stream of truly funny stuff out there about COVID-19 and living life at home with lockdowns.

My favorites? Here are three:

First is a meme saying: “REMINDER! Set your alarm for 9 PM to change from daytime jammies to nighttime jammies.”

Then there’s a hilarious cartoon of the Michealangelo painting in the Sistine Chapel of the creation of Adam.  God’s hand is reaching out to Adam …. with a bottle of hand-spray sanitizer!

The viral Youtube classic of the young father doing a news broadcast on the BBC from his home office, and being interrupted by his 4-year and baby makes me laugh out loud every time I see it!

Another fun bonus these days is Jimmy Fallon’s home editions of The Tonight Show. They are often hilarious and an eye-opener into the fact that not one of us, even celebrities, are exempt from the situation at hand.

9.  Enterprising and Uplifting Businesses
As businesses large and small face the stark reality of withering sales and the economy, our prayers are with them!  There’s no denying that ups and downs are a huge part of every business story and their ultimate, eventual success or failure. 

One of the most amazing and inspiring business books on my list is “Failing Forward – Turning Mistakes Into Stepping Stones for Success” by John C. Maxwell.  In it he shares the true stories of many of today’s corporate giants and how they have survived, thrived and dominated because of unexpected trials and downturns.  Like the example of the home-school parents above, these challenges brought out the best and true purposes of their businesses.

This book is a fantastic read for anyone facing life challenges and needing some fresh views on how to manage the fear and how to take wise action, both personally and in business.I’m thankful, inspired and delighted by the businesses around us who have creatively reached out in really fun and positive ways!  While there are lots of good examples out there, one of my favorite little businesses to watch these days is  Founded by Latter-day Saints in Provo, Utah, this very cool dog-pack becomes more popular by the day, it seems. 

When college basketball “March Madness” got cancelled,  the K9 Sport Sack people came up with their own version, called “Bark Madness.”  Fans were invited to send in short, funny videos of their dogs that followers vote on.  Now it’s down to the “Final Four!” It has been a really entertaining, laugh-out-loud bright spot for many.  This savvy business is finding devoted customers and raving fans in a whole new way that might never have come without COVID-19.  What a win-win!

10.  Confidence and Gratitude for the Scriptures

How often have we been told (and then told again) that difficult times and unusual experiences are to be a part and parcel, daily fact of life in the last days? The days to which we were born have been prophesied since the beginning of time!

Now that they’re here in a startling and very real way, it is comforting to look to the past for guidance and reassurance.

Fact:  Throughout the ancient scriptures, the people (including vast generations with young families and many children) were often at war and experienced devastating living conditions and frightening circumstances.  These stories would absolutely be rated R if they were to be made into movies today with the primitive warfare, fear and horrendous violence. Thankfully, that is not our lot.

Truth be told,  it’s the stuff of life, and we now have this experience to place us firmly in the reality that the  calamities that have long been foretold are here.

Again and again in the scriptures, those that stay close to the Lord and his leaders thrive and are strengthened! That will be our story and our song too.  The Lord will make sure of it as we follow the Prophet! Truly, he knows the way!

In conclusion, would we wish the circumstances we are all living with upon anyone? No. But are we strengthened and blessed! “Absolutely!” Are we having some fun along the way? “Yes!” Are we going to have some amazing stories to tell for the rest of our lives? “You bet!”

Will we be ready and prepared for General Conference? I hope we can all say “Yes!”  And isn’t it amazing that it comes during this most unusual, critical time? It’s no coincidence that we will hear directly from our Prophet and leaders RIGHT NOW.

Most importantly, will Jesus show His smiling face? A resounding “yes, Yes,  YES!” He is and He will. Before, during and after, there can be sunshine in our souls … if we choose to see it and seek it.

Here’s to discovering the life-giving, peace-filled blessed sunshine in our souls during these unforgettable days leading up to General Conference.

Carolyn Allen is the Author of 60 Seconds To Weight Loss Success.  She has been providing mental and spiritual approaches for weight loss success both online and in the Washington, D.C. community since 1999.  She and her husband Bob are happy parents and grandparents, now living as empty-nesters in Jackson, Tennessee where they center their online business for their amazing herbal detox. They love serving the Lord and attending in a tiny Tennessee branch of the Church where Carolyn is the Gospel Doctrine teacher.  They have been sharing their amazing herbal detox with Meridian readers since 2008!