NOTE FROM CAROLYN: For those of you who love the detox drink we share here at Meridian, click HERE to check out our Holiday Weekend freebie drawing. No purchase required.
On this President’s Day, the history textbook picture of Washington crossing the Delaware easily comes to mind. David McCullough, the great American historian and author, visited BYU in 2005 and in his address “The Glorious Cause of America” summarized the desperate situation depicted in the painting:
It was Christmas Night, 1776. The great Revolutionary War was considered to be nearly to an end and all but lost. The British Redcoats, trained, warmly clothed and large in number, had been deemed undefeatable. The American Patriots, on the other hand, were a sad lot of untrained farm boys and young men in rags led by military leaders, many not much older or more experienced than the soldiers they led. (Often forgotten is the fact that George Washington himself was only 43 and though he’d served as a noted soldier, was not a man trained in military warfare.) Though all were passionate about their infant nation and their cause, they were sick, freezing, under-clothed and demoralized. Historically speaking, The Battle of Trenton that turned the war was a last-ditch, fool-hardy effort to save face and win the glorious cause of freedom. The dangerous crossing of the river on a late December night in freezing, stormy conditions was followed by a march of nine miles through the night. Says McCullough:
“A northeaster was blowing, but was beneficial to our cause because it muffled the noise of the crossing and the noise of the march south. But it also increased by geometric proportions the misery of the troops. It was very cold. What the wind chill factor must have been can only be imagined. It was so cold that two men froze to death on the march because they had no winter clothing.”
All odds were entirely against them in the battle that took place the next morning, but they won. It brought renewed confidence and determination, and they went on to win another battle in the next few days, and soon the war itself.
David McCullough eloquently states: “Character counts over and over. Personality is often the determining factor in why things turn out the way they do.” How easy it is to forget these many years later, that it was faith in God, gut-wrenching determination and sheer white-knuckled grit dredged from the bottom of their exhausted souls when things were at their worst that won the war!
With equal drama, high stakes and considered by many to also be doomed to failure, was Abraham Lincoln’s great battle in convincing Congress that the soon to be freed slaves should have full rights as citizens. His personal commitment that this be a Constitutional right (as the 13th Amendment to the Constitution) before the Civil War ended was a battle that was also nearly lost, and won only at the very end through his personal, relentless perseverance and dependence on God. The award winning movie that tells the story leaves one in awe of his power and vision.
How grand are the pages of ultimate victory! How desperate are the days and years of tears, sacrifice, humiliation, heartbreaking failure and crippling hardship that precede them.
It’s strange, isn’t it, how the Lord’s greatest blessings for individuals, families, communities and nations come only as a result of conquering and persevering through the longest of nights and darkest of days. It was true for Washington and Lincoln. It was true for Moses and Paul. It was true for Nephi and Alma. It was true for Joseph Smith and the pioneers.
Will it be true of us? What, indeed, will be said of us when we, the Lord, our families and history look back upon our own lives and how we’ve fought our own life-altering battles?
I’ve recently become acquainted with LDS best-selling author/illustrator/teacher Fay Klingler of Draper, Utah. Only a little self-published author like me, who manages her own website and work from home, knows what goes into Fay’s impressive professional accomplishments and many awards for creative writing, professional editing and art.
A visit to her warm and engaging website (I’ve provided her link at the bottom) presents page after page detailing her award-winning work from greeting cards and children’s magazine illustrations, to technical and scientific editing for government regulations involving scientists and doctors, to teaching commercial art to troubled teens at an alternative high school, to her books and speaking opportunities. Delightful pictures of this elegant woman with a charming straw hat and a warm glow that bubbled from deep inside me kept me there. It’s very clear that the content here is not meant to boast and impress, but to simply present her work through the years for business and professional purposes.
Was it an overdose of talent and drive that could create such a resume? With such a light and friendly touch that I felt as if I were having lunch with a favorite friend as I browsed?
Or was there more? As I clicked through the pages there was a presence, a depth and a sweetness that went far beyond a pretty website and engaging writing. One little sentence gave a clue: “When I found myself in a position to have to support myself and my family alone, my abilities and experience as an editor and writer provided more income, so I devoted most of my time to the “writer/editor me” instead of the “artist me.”
Her range of books gave another clue: Among the pretty books for mothers and daughters and idea books for grandparents, was a book entitled “Shattered: Six Steps from Betrayal to Recovery” … and another entitled “My Magnificent Mountain, The Journey of Healing.”
In the words of Rogers and Hammerstein and the Sound of Music, “Nothing comes from nothing, nothing ever could…”
And so it is with Fay.
In a phone interview, she briefly shared a remarkable series of personal stories that began in the latter half of her life. (She is now in her 70’s). The conversation looped back continually to her mantras of “personal choice”, “integrity,” “covenants” and “Faith in the Savior.” These experiences, many of which required courage to match the pioneers, have become the bedrock for her work and her writings that touch, heal and strengthen children, youth, adults and seniors.
She left college to marry in the temple at 20 and start a family that grew to six children. She finished her degree as an illustrator through a correspondence school during her mothering years, then freelanced as an artist, creating greeting cards and art for children’s magazines while her own children were young. Passionate about mothers, children, home, family and the life that she herself was living, this is what she painted. Her art spoke to her and created words that eventually became books with both her writing and her illustrations.
With the oldest three of her children off on their own to college, marriage and a mission, she struggled with a feeling that things that were not right in her marriage. Her husband, then serving as a Bishop, denied that there were any problems. Her feelings were confirmed, however, when she learned that he had been involved in many illegal activities which forced both his excommunication and a traumatic divorce.
Single, with three children ages 11, 13 and 16, and no real income from her estranged husband, she was about to discover her true self and what Heavenly Father truly wanted her to know: she was strong and she was smart! The details of her story rival anything on a bizarre day-time reality TV show. Nevertheless, this was now her life, and she needed energy and faith along with an income to be able to feed, clothe and house herself and her children.
“I was an artist! A writer! I wrote and I painted about the joys of home and hearth from my own house!” She says now. “But I needed a real job and did not have any kind of training or experience for that My own father, who had also served as a Bishop, could have come financially to my rescue, but was inspired to tell me ‘With the Lord’s help, you can do it!” Her family helped in countless practical ways, but not financially.
“In looking back, I’m so grateful he did NOT step in with monetary support for me. That was a truly inspired decision. It would have been easier, but not better. I surely would not have experienced the miracles, lessons, faith to progress to the beautiful life I now enjoy if he had done this for me.”
She moved her family from their home in Illinois to Arizona to be closer to family. The move was very difficult and during those months she came to have a great understanding of the early pioneers …. and why the Lord tested them.
“I had no money, but I had children to feed! Should I pay my tithing on the little cash that had come my way? I studied the scriptures and prayed for answers fervently! I read that the Lord is bound when we follow his commandments.” ( D&C 82:10)
“After reading and intellectually knowing His will, I knelt down and in sobbing tears told Him that I would pay my tithing, but I was holding Him to this promise!”
Within a very short time and seemingly out of nowhere, a contact was made and an alternative high school immediately hired her, (deeming her professional experience as a free-lance artist sufficient for credentials) to teach commercial art to juveniles, many with police records.
“There was no curriculum! There was not even a classroom or a budget! But I made it in the classroom, and I made it at home. I didn’t serve banquet meals to my children or live in a mansion during those years, but we didn’t starve and ultimately, even as my earthly father had predicted and my Heavenly Father ensured, we made it! Though I was the teacher, I learned from the Lord and from the students, some of whom went on to become award winning artists in state competitions. Heavenly Father and heaven itself were never closer than during the tremendously difficult years during and after my divorce and the betrayal of my first husband.”
As the years ensued, there was one miracle after another that opened the doors for jobs that could provide the income she needed for her family and build faith and a reservoir of experiences that would provide something else: a passion to help others find their own personal strength through Christ-centered living.
It takes no David McCullough to see the remarkable and surprising history of her life: The years she had spent as an artist and writer before her divorce, while seeming to be an end in themselves at the time, were merely the preliminary tools that in God’s advance planning she would need to carry forth His message for each of us: “I am Strong! I am Smart!”
As her desire to share this God-given knowledge grew, she was able to put her talent and now well-honed skills to work. Her creative writing, editing and art blended seamlessly together as she was able to publish books, articles and begin public speaking in schools, churches and conferences.
The results of this passion are in print at her website, and in her life as she continues to write, speak and teach with joy. Now remarried, her blended family includes 12 children, 35 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren.
Her book “Shattered: Six Steps From Betrayal To Recovery” is filled with both spiritual solace and practical tools to recovery from betrayal. It was highlighted a number of years ago in a series here at Meridian. The first of those articles and the book are available at her website.
Her book, “We are Strong! Mothers and Daughters Stand Together,” was written for mothers of Young Women and carries a very special place in her heart: “Every girl needs a mentor, someone she can trust to show her the way home to Heavenly Father. The stakes are high—as women of influence, how we live and how we teach Heavenly Father’s daughters will change the course of their lives forever. Using real-life stories from women of all ages, I love sharing why we must continue to live and teach the Young Women values.” This book was written to be easily incorporated into the Young Women program on a Ward basis for strengthening home and family.
A spin-off from the “We are Strong! Mothers and Daughters Stand Together” is the beautifully illustrated picture book, “I am Strong, I am Smart,” the story of a young girl and her grandmother who has a stroke. The lush illustrations and a powerful story line convey the heart and soul of Fay’s own life: we’re all a lot stronger than we think! It is an Award-Winning Finalist in the Children’s Religious category of the 2014 USA Best Book Awards.
Her articles and bestselling book “The LDS Grandparents Idea Book” are also a joy to her that tells of her love for 35 grandchildren and 5 great-grands! They are delightful and written, once again, with an underlying message of “I am strong! I am smart,” for building both relationships and character. Her articled entitled “Apron Strings –Three Loving Ties that Bind: Replacing Dependence with Interdependence” will be welcomed by both new and experienced grandparents. (The link is provided below.)
After our interview, I marveled over how differently than expected her life has evolved and wondered if Nephi had had any idea, as a boy and a teenager under constant abuse from his brothers would be commanded to commit murder for a righteous cause? Or to build a ship without any skills or training that would carry his family across the ocean? If George Washington had grown up knowing he’d be asked to win a war for the cause of America’s freedom? Or if Abraham Lincoln knew in his lifetime of so many personal defeats that he would be eventually be revered as one of history’s most cherished saints?
Can the greatest or the smallest fathom what God has in store when life is at its lowest?
Ask Fay Klingler that question and she’ll answer: “Whether it feels like it today or not, you are strong and you are smart! And if you don’t think so, just ask Heavenly Father. I can promise that He’ll tell you the same and add ‘This is an adventure! You can do it, no matter the odds, no matter the battle!’ …and He is always right!“
Happy Presidents Day!
David McCullough: The Great Cause of Freedom, Address to BYU in September of 2005
http://magazine.byu.edu/?act=view&a=1746 and more.byu.edu/mccullough.
(Note from Carolyn: This is an exceptional article and well worth printing out and reading with your family! Serve with a cherry dessert and a few birthday candles. Sing “Happy Birthday Dear George and Abe” and you’ve got a terrific Family Home Evening!)
Meet Fay and order her books at www.FayKlingler.com
Six Steps From Recovering From Betrayal article by Fay Klingler published previously in
Apron Strings – Three Loving Ties that Bind: Replacing Dependence with Interdependence.