Sunday, January 31, 2010

Give it Away

For years I have prayed for the gift of charity, the pure love of Christ, with what has felt like little success. In my simplistic way of thinking, charity means being able to love others in an open-hearted way, even if that love is not likely to be returned. It's a gift I think I desperately need, yet can't learn or practice my way into having. I truly think it has to come as a gift from God, simply because it requires an unselfishness that is beyond my own capacity. Don't get me wrong, I have a loving heart and try to share it, but mostly with lovable people! Lovable people are so easy to love, while thorny people often sting you when you try, which makes it quite easy to quit trying.

Today a conversation with a friend sparked a thought in me that has hung on all day. We were talking about how the things we try to accumulate in order to prepare for the future are often not meant for us, but end up being needed by someone else. We began by talking about things like money or food, but soon began to see that emotional qualities, like love, work the same way. I thought about how I often sit in meetings at church and look around at all the wonderful ladies surrounding me, and suddenly feel a deep love for them as individuals. In my mind I get really sappy sometimes, wanting to stand up and list these fabulous qualities people have that are flooding through my mind. Or, I make plans to find someone after the meeting's over to tell them how great they really are. The problem is, I never do. I wrote about this phenomenon in my journal over two years ago, ending with, "Maybe what I am feeling is an expression of the charity I've been seeking, and that gives me hope that I am progressing and can obtain a greater portion of it in the future."

Ah, but what happens if you receive a gift and then reject it? Can you really expect to get even more of that same gift later? I've rarely ever expressed out loud what has been in my heart all those times, which now seems painfully like a rejection of the very gift I've been seeking. Over the last couple of weeks I've been blessed to receive far more than my fair share of verbal and written expressions of love from others. What a healing balm has been poured over my heart because I've felt loved! And suddenly, I see that I've missed countless opportunities to give that same feeling to others. I've felt charity for them in my own heart, but I've tried to just store it up, when instead I should have been giving it away. 

I'm not saying I'm going to be standing up in a crowd any time soon to wax poetic about someone, but maybe if I catch you alone, I just might tell you what you mean to me for a change.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Grapefruit on My Mind

I found a random grapefruit in my backyard when I was doing my yardwork last week. I guess it wouldn't be random at all if I had a grapefruit tree, or if any of my neighbors had a grapefruit tree, but we don't. I believe it must have dropped from the sky, or, from the talons of a very large hawk. I don't like grapefruit much, since it's nothing at all like grapes, but it was nice to get a present from the sky anyway.

Lucky for you, I refuse to create an inspiring analogy from this event. It's just a grapefruit, of unknown origin.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


I lived in Michigan when I was little. I was shy, and I loved my mom. Which basically means, I hated to go to school. The summer before my 2nd grade year, the school boundaries were changed, and I had to go to a different elementary school. I had a large group of friends in 1st grade, and not one of them transferred with me. It was tough, but after a couple months I started to make new friends. That's about when my 2nd grade teacher decided that I was bored, so she moved me up into a 3rd grade classroom that she thought would be more my speed. It wasn't, it was weird. I was still officially a 2nd grader, and so that made me the baby of the group, plus the following year when I actually was a 3rd grader, man, was I bored! I pretty much had 3rd grade twice in a row. Well, things eventually got more comfortable for me, until two months into my 5th grade year, when I was again moved up, this time officially and into 6th grade. In my school district, that didn't just mean changing teachers and grades, it meant moving from elementary school to junior high school.

It was around October. Everyone had already found their "groups". Lunch tables were spoken for, lockers were being shared, and the seating heirarchy on the bus was already firmly established. If you had a boyfriend, you were cool and got to sit in the back. If you didn't, you sat up front with the rest of the nerds. Guess where I sat? My shyness became more pronounced as I tried to figure out how to fit into this alien new world. Everything was drama. Mean girls put a can of dog food in my only friend's locker. Luckily, I got it out before she saw it, but I cried in my mom's arms for a long time that day.

Soon after the beginning of my 7th grade year, my parents decided to move to Arizona, and they put our house up for sale. I was soooo happy! I couldn't wait to get out of that school. The school year dragged on day by agonizing day as our house languished on the market. I distinctly remember one bad day when I asked my teacher for a bathroom pass, just so I could go out in the hallway and cry and pray that our house would sell so I could get out of there. I cried a lot at that school, in case you can't tell!

My prayers were finally answered in April, when we moved. During the four days it took us to drive from Michigan to Arizona, I started thinking about what lay ahead of me. It was hard enough to start at a new school in October, what would it be like in April? How would I make new friends, I was so shy? This school might actually be worse than the one I was coming from. Riding down the highway with my worried face pressed against the window and my little sister's head in my lap, I had a sudden surge of insight. The kids in Arizona didn't know I was shy! Maybe I didn't have to be the shy kid anymore. But how do you put aside a part of yourself that has been with you since you can remember? I knew I couldn't just make myself outgoing, at least not fast enough to make a difference at school. First impressions and all that, you know. But there was one thing I could do - I could pretend. I could act like I wasn't shy until I actually got over being shy for real.

That is what I did. I didn't change into an outgoing person overnight, but I did make a couple of friends right away, and that gave me the surge of confidence I needed to keep at it. I'll never forget the best moment of my junior high career, when I brought home an 8th grade progress report that said "Talks too much in class". I don't think my parents were too thrilled with that, but that progress report was a real symbol of victory for me, and today, as an adult, I don't think "shy" is how people would normally describe me.

So, of course this story has a moral. Everything is changing right now, for almost everyone. Jobs, school systems, ward boundaries. What opportunities lie ahead for each of us to ditch those habits or quirks that we really don't like in ourselves, and start fresh? For me, I'm going to work on being a better listener. In a book my mom loaned me, I was reminded that good listeners don't let their eyes wander off the person speaking to them, as if they are looking for something more interesting. Good listeners don't interrupt or finish people's sentences for them (my particular weakness). Good listeners don't try to one-up other people's stories. Good listeners realize that the questions people are asking them are often the questions they would like to be asked themselves. So next time someone comes up to me and says, "How are you doing with all of this?", I'm going to make sure I know how they are doing before the conversation is over.

This post is dedicated to my husband, who needs and deserves a fresh start. I'm rooting for you, hon.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Split Endings

Well, my ward was split yesterday (meaning, the boundaries that divide LDS congregations and determine who you will attend church meetings with were changed). Actually, split is probably too enthusiastic a term. More like shaved. One little edge of our boundary was shaved off, and I happen to live in that little shaving. It's too soon to say whether that is good or bad, although right now it feels decidedly bad! It's not in me to be too melodramatic about these commonplace kinds of things, but I do have a few things to say about it.

Regrets? Sure, I have them. First, I always wanted to spend more time with the young women in our ward. I've watched them from afar and they are just one huge ray of awesomeness. I feel like I missed out, not getting to know them better. Also, my kids were sick yesterday and by staying home with them I inadvertently missed out on my last day of...everything. Blah. Plus, my 8-year-old was beyond thrilled with the new teacher she just got two weeks ago, and out of everything that comes with moving to a new ward, that is what she cried about. (Luckily, her teacher got "shaved off" with us, so there's still hope!) My oldest son also just recently got the man he admires most as one of his quorum advisors, so that's a relationship I'm sad to let go.

Anyway, all wards are good and all wards have the same gospel of Jesus Christ. But not all the time do you move into a ward that just completely wraps their arms around you and teaches you by example the definition of service. Here are some of my best memories and a few long overdue thank yous:

TL, at my house, goodies in hand, within a couple hours of the U-Haul pulling up almost six years ago. When she left I looked at J and said, "My goodness, who was that woman?!" I'm glad I know, now.

PJ, who came over and taught us how to take care of our pool, we were completely helpless.

Pretty much every single woman in the ward who babysat my two girls when J was going through some rough medical stuff.

CP, who's had the misfortune of having to listen to my deepest fears and regrets, but has always listened with love.

TJ, who brought me O magazine so I wouldn't be tempted to steal it from the doctor's office

LJ, whose calm demeanor is like a lullaby to me. NC is the same way.

SSt, for remembering about the wreath for a whole year, and then bringing me one!

KK, my number one painting cheerleader, who drove by my house and honked and hollered encouraging words every day while I was painting my house. She almost made me fall off the ladder once, but I'm not holding a grudge.

The PP Ladies, who encouraged me to write.

DW, TR  & KR for being on Christmas light duty

JG & KG, who loaned me everything under the sun from their wonderfully equipped garage, and I'm sure will continue to do so ;)

The high school seniors I taught, or, who taught me. Treat buckets rule!

My never-ending stream of completely wonderful visiting teachers, who fed me spiritually, and sometimes physically too.

SN, who taught me the importance of being consistent with my own visiting teaching.

TF, who came and picked up baby AJ at least once a week just to give J a break

Pres J, who took the time to answer a young boy's prayer.

JF and SF, for walking into Sunday School with J one day and taking me completely by surprise

My three Primary amigos, spending the last year with them has given me so many tender and wonderful memories that I can't name them all, but certainly our meeting right after J came to Sunday School was one of the best

Our primary kids for bringing me laughter and tears, but mostly for the hugs

MG, for the cake, but mostly for the note

BN, who acts like I'm the bees knees, when really the opposite is true

LT and OS, the only two ladies who came to my book exchange, and were so nice about it that I almost didn't feel like a total geek

SSc, for letting me write about her Grand Canyon adventure, that was really fun for me

CT, who called one time just because she felt like she should.

LS, for being thoughtful enough to introduce me to someone from my new ward right away yesterday

Have fun figuring out all the initials here! We've received so much service from this ward that I know I'm forgetting lots and lots, sorry about that. You've all touched my life and my kids have been so lucky to be taught by many of you. I'm going to stop now before I lose it...  Love you all!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

How It Is

Today I had a dead battery that made me late for church. I also had a nice neighbor who gave my car a jumpstart both before church and again after church so I could get back home again. That's just how it is around here.

My sister loaned me her quiet house while she was at work one day last week, and I got a lot of writing done. Unfortunately, I was actually supposed to be working that day too, but if you see my boss, tell him that's just how it is sometimes.

I got my #1 best gift for my birthday, Gerald Lund's new book The Undaunted, but I couldn't allow myself to read it for over two weeks. Before I was allowed to read it, I had to finish all my 2010 budgets for work, get all my Christmas shopping, wrapping, baking, and meltdowns over with, AND have a clean house. See, once I start reading a good book, I can't stop. I KNOW you know how that is! (p.s. Do you admire my self-control? Two and a half weeks, come on!)

I had $8 in Register Rewards from Walgreens, and when I went to use them this week I found out that they had expired the day before, and the mean lady at the checkout wouldn't take them. If you know me, you know that almost brought me to tears, but that's just how it is sometimes.

I was sitting behind a class of 7-year-olds at church today while they listened to a lesson about how we are all God's children. One little girl became very agitated, then turned to the girl next to her and said, "Sick! That means my mom is married to her brother!" When you get to watch over the little ones every Sunday, that's usually how it is!