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Bloom Where You are Planted Theme: 

by Debra Oaks Coe (c)

With this theme flowers make good decorations and could be used generously; they can be real flowers or made from paper.  Later the flowers can be used for an object lesson; four ideas I've used are:

       1. Sisters are in different blooming stages:  When using this object lesson I brought several roses of different varieties, colors, and stages of blooming.  I talked about the fact that as RS sisters we have many similarities and are like roses, but even roses are very different from each other.  All the roses are beautiful in their own way and each is unique -- all need to be loved appreciated for their beauty.  Then I spoke of the different stages of  blooming:

               A. There are roses that are just buds at this moment:  It doesn't mean that they cannot bloom into beautiful roses in the future, but it does mean that there is more potential for beauty in the future.  For the "budding" sisters we need to have patience and give much encouragement; we must also help them see that they are of great value and that with time, water, and preventive measures to stop infestations and disease, they too can come to full bloom. Life long learning, working toward self-improvement, and repentance are important elements that bring a "rose bud" to into full bloom.  Without these the flower could die without ever realizing its full potential.

               B.   Sisters in full bloom:  While these are certainly the most beautiful at the moment, sisters tend to forget that each of these was once a rose bud.  The truth is that as with roses we all have our different stages of blooming.  The sisters in full bloom perform much service for families, neighbors, and community as well as at church.   These sisters need to be appreciated as they make great contributions to the beauty of the world over a number of years.  These are ones to be learned from; they know the importance of life long learning and preventive measures.

                C.   The last stage is where the flower begins to wilt and eventually the petals fall off and it is no longer the wonderful flower it once was.  When I think of this stage, I am reminded of my grandmother who has now passed on from this life.  She is not forgotten by those who remember the great works she performed while in the many years of full bloom as she served in this life. It is this final stage that we remember the importance of Family History.  We must recognize the contributions and acknowledge the beauty of those who have gone before us.

       2.  As with flowers we are all different, yet all beautiful -- there is a great Mormon ad that would go with this (it has all roses with one daisy).

       3.  You can also use the idea of fertile soil and water are needed and bring in the parable Christ told about the seeds falling on rocks vs. fertile soil, etc.  Of course it is our attitudes and determination that make the difference as to whether we are fertile soil or rocks.  (See story below of Heroines for Today)

        4.  There can also be a class teaching about different kinds of flowers and using them for different landscaping ideas -- of course also mentioning that different plants grow better in different conditions.  This makes a good object lesson that goes with the theme such as we have different talents and uses  ---- also we all have different needs in order to thrive.

Three Stories that Could be Used with this Theme:

Bloom Where You Are Planted

Debra Coe Copyright 1998 all rights reserved.

One person can have a lot of influence no matter  who or what they are.  One of best examples of this is a story that was told to me by Sister Bradley, who was then the Matron of the Washington D.C. Temple. Two years ago I was fortunate enough to be able to attend a special meeting with the temple matrons for the wives of our Stake Priesthood leadership. I understand that it was the only meeting they have had of its kind.

One story that was shared was about a sister who worked at the temple as "just part of the cleaning crew." Everyone knew and loved this sister because when she was cleaning up at night after everyone else had gone home, she would leave notes of love and encouragement on the desks of workers. When she saw people she was warm and friendly, saying "Hello" and giving words of encouragement to all. In the warmer weather she brought flowers from her garden and gave them to workers there.

I don't remember the exact details, but one day one the staff, or perhaps one of the temple matrons, was speaking with this woman and asked about her background. She was now a widow, but she had had a wonderful marriage and in fact her husband had been a mission president. This sister who had once been the center of attention and treated with great importance did not let her circumstances stop her from continuing to act like a "Princess" and be a great influence. She understood that influence for good was not dependant on status, but on how you treat others and live the gospel.

Sister Bradley said that this woman was the greatest example of blooming where you are planted that she had ever seen.  We should all follow her example.

Heroines For Today

Debra Coe (c) all rights reserved

A heroine is a woman of great courage and noble qualities; she is a role model or ideal for others to look to and emulate. Heroines can be good women of all circumstances -- older, younger, married or single. Some may play seemingly minor rolls, yet women who help preserve Godly values and virtues, protect the home, and take the noble calling of motherhood seriously are heroines. It is important to remember that motherhood is a calling, rather than just a head count of children. It is a responsibility of loving, caring, nurturing, and teaching those around you. While there are many
heroines, including several women from our own ward, I thought I would share a
little of Corrie ten Boom's life as it recounted in The Hiding Place.

In the too often forgotten background of many great people are found great mothers and Corrie's mother was no exception. Prayer, scripture study and service were a regular and major part of their home. Her mother took baskets of food to others, made things for others, took in and cared for extended family, etc. Corrie described her as a woman who loved everyone and showed her love in everything she did. She brought peace to all who knew her. Even after she was paralyzed and no longer able to even speak, she still enlisted her daughters' help so that she could continue to bring cheer to the neighborhood.

Corrie and her sister Betsie continued their mother's service in the community, including taking in foster children and working with the mentally handicapped. This love and concern for others eventually caused them to willing risk their own lives to help save Jews during the Nazi occupation of Holland.

They did save many, but they were also captured and ended up in a concentration camp. After months of incarceration, they arrived at their final barracks. Here is Corrie's description: "Betsie and I followed a prisoner-guide through the door at the right. Because of the broken windows the vast room was in semi-twilight. Our noses told us, first, that the place was filthy: somewhere plumbing had backed up, the bedding was soiled and rancid. Then as our eyes adjusted to the gloom we saw that there were no individual beds at all, but great square piers stacked three high, and
wedged side by side and end to end with only an  occasional narrow aisle slicing through.

"We followed our guide single file--the aisle was not wide enough for two--fighting back the claustrophobia of these platforms rising everywhere above us. The tremendous room was nearly empty of people; they must have been out on various work crews. At last she pointed to a second tier in the center  of a large block. To reach it we had to stand on the bottom level, haul ourselves up, and then crawl across three other straw-covered platforms to reach the one that we would share with--how many? The deck above us was too close to let us sit up. We lay back, struggling against the nausea that swept over us from the reeking straw. [Within a few minutes they discovered that the straw was swarming with fleas.]

"Barracks 28 was designed to hold four hundred, but now fourteen hundred were quartered here with more arriving each week. Eight acrid and overflowing toilets served the entire room; to reach them we had to crawl not only over our own bedmates but over those on the other platforms between us and the closest aisle, always at the risk of adding too much weight to he already sagging slats and crashing down on the people beneath. It happened several times, that first night.... Even when the slats held, the least movement on the upper platforms sent a shower of dust and straw over the sleepers below--followed by a volley of curses.... Here there was not
even a common language and among exhausted, ill-fed people quarrels erupted
constantly.... Brawls were starting all up and down... we heard scuffling, slaps, sobs." Anger penetrated the air; Corrie wondered how they could even survive in such a place. Together Betsie and Corrie prayed for help. (Ten Boom, The Hiding Place, New York: Bantam Books 1974 p. 197- 199)

By nothing short of several miracles on their behalf, they had been able to keep a Bible. With scriptures and prayer as their strength and guide, they found help not only for themselves, but help for those around them. The teachings of their youth played an important role. They had seen peace and love in their home, they had witnessed their own mother continue in a life of love and giving even in a body with great physical pain and handicaps. Like their mother, they could not change many of their physical
circumstances, but they could control their own emotions and how they influenced others. They chose to lift rather than be contributors of more hate and anger. They were led by their faith, not pulled by their emotions.

It is natural to react to cruelty with anger and hate. Hunger, physical exhaustion and great physical discomfort have natural negative emotions that accompany them. These two women did not let these natural feelings take over. Instead they chose to have feelings of love and compassion. They allowed the spirit of God to be with them and leaned on His spirit and their faith in His teachings. By using these, they found that Jesus Christ is truly the Prince of Peace. They looked for ways to bring others to Christ so that as many as possible would have peace in midst of such abomination.
Although the world in the concentration camp was a literal hell on earth that continued to worsen by becoming increasingly cruel and cold, and their physical conditions got worse -- the atmosphere inside Barracks 28 slowly changed to a heaven on earth. Each night they held worship "services" with hymns, Bible reading and prayer. Soon so many wanted to join them that they held a second service after evening roll call. During the services, the Bible was read in Dutch, but translations were passed on in German, French, Polish, Russian, Czech, etc. After a while, the yelling, slapping, crying, and words of anger changed to "Sorry!", "Excuse me," and "No harm done."

They changed the atmosphere by inviting others to join them in scripture reading and prayer, then they set the example of peace and love. Others saw the great positive difference Christ made in the lives of these two women and desired to join them. Eventually all the women living in this crowded room were feasting on the word of God together and entering His presence through prayer.

The physical conditions did not change: the guards were still cruel, the fleas still bit, the straw was still rancid, and the hunger pains and exhaustion continued; yet peace and harmony prevailed and the very crowded conditions were now seen as a blessing because so many were able to join them in coming unto Christ.

In praying to our Heavenly Father, Jesus said, "I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. . . .Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me."
(John 17:15-17, 20-21)

To bring such peace and harmony to our homes, to have such a positive influence on those around us, to be able to be in the worst of circumstances and still choose to have joy and peace is the result of putting God above all else. This is what makes the greatest of all heroines. This is what saves souls, the most precious of all God's possessions. No matter what our circumstances, we can all serve others in a similar fashion. This is especially important for those of us with children still at home. If these
children are to weather their future storms of life, they must see our examples of turning to God for strength and putting His word first in our lives.

May we all be women of great faith. Although we live in this world, I hope we will all keep ourselves from the evils of our day and partake instead of the wonderful fruit God so willingly offers us.

Give Thanks in ALL Circumstances

Debra Coe (c) all rights reserved

When my husband and I had been married only two years, our home teacher brought a Thanksgiving message that gave me a new perspective on giving thanks.  He had been reading The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten  Boom.  This is a outstanding book about two sisters, who were true Christians, and how hey really learned to rely on their Heavenly Father.  It was their Bible and doing their best to live the teachings contained in it that helped them through some of the worst of human conditions.

Corrie and her sister were prisoners in a concentration camp with wrenched conditions.  They had already survived so much, but the conditions of the final barracks were well beyond what they thought they could bare -- including a thick infestation of fleas in the straw they were to sleep on. Corrie turned to her sister and cried, "Betsie, how can we live in such a place!"  Immediately Betsie began to pray and soon the answer came to her.

They had read it in the Bible just that morning "Give thanks in all circumstances."  Betsie was sure this was the answer.  Corrie recounted the scene as follows:

"Betsie Said, "We can start right now to thank God for every single thing about his new barracks"

I stared at her, then around me at the dark, foul aired room.   "Such as?" I said.

"Such as being assigned her together."

I bit my lip, "Oh Yes, Lord Jesus!"

"Such as what you're holding in your hands."

I looked down at the Bible.  "Yes!  Thank You, dear Lord, that there was no inspection when we entered here! Thank You for all the women here in this room who will meet You in these pages."

"Yes," said Betsie.  "Thank You for the very crowding here.   Since we're packed so close, that many more will hear.

She looked at me expectantly, "Corrie!" she prodded.

"Oh, all right.  Thank You for the jammed, crammed, stuffed, packed suffocating crowds."

"Thank you," Betsie went on serenely, "for the fleas and for--"The FLEAS!!

This was too much.  Betsie, there's no way even God can make me grateful for a flea."

"'Give thanks in All circumstances,'" she quoted.   "It doesn't say in pleasant circumstances.  Fleas are part of this place where God has put us."

And so we stood between piers to bunks and gave thanks for fleas.   But this time I was sure Betsie was wrong.

Because they began from that moment on the to thank instead complain, they had positive attitudes and became a very positive influence on the others in their barracks.  As their world grew blacker with evil outside the barracks, their world inside (even with the fleas) became brighter until it became as a literal Heaven on earth despite the conditions.   What made the difference?   They read the Bible, no just to themselves, but to those around them; soon all gathered at the end of everyday to hear the word of
God.  Even more important they all tried to apply the teachings as they looked for light in a black world.  Many came unto Christ as a result.  The women in the barracks quit being rude and mean to each other and replaced it with love and kindness.

Normally these barracks had surprise inspections where their precious Bible that brought so much light and strength would normally have been seized. Miraculously, they never had such inspections.   Much later they found out it was because their barracks were so flea infested that the guards dared not enter.  The fleas allowed them to have God's Word for their strength and their hope.  Upon learning this, Corrie very humbly knelt and truly thanked God for the fleas!

We should also give thanks in all circumstances!  As with Corrie's, we may learn that the very "fleas" that we saw as only a plague to our lives are the very things that allow God to bless us with the things we need most. Gratitude is more than just being grateful for the good things in life. It is an attitude of happiness and making the best of all circumstances. Life will always be a series of adventures in applying gospel principles, especially that of loving and forgiving all.

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