Wednesday, November 30, 2011

There's a party in Agrabah!

Disclaimer: I drew this heart in the sand, since I'm sentimental.
Just last week, my best friend, MaBeth posted these simple lines on her blog: "Want some happy news? Well, here you go. . . . We're engaged! And he's the best." (Some standardization of punctuation has occurred. I'm an editor, you know.)

I am still in awe about how much life stands behind those fourteen words. And I mean "life" rather literally. Why? Well, in one form or another, they have been dating for eight years! A really long time by almost anyone's standard. I've been around for at least seven of those years, and it even feels like a long time to me! (You know how time in your own life passes so quickly? Well, this did, but it still feels long.) I offer these pictures as proof of how we've aged.

I'm tempted to want a hard rule about how long people should or shouldn't date, but I realize that there is no easy rule. Everyone is so different, and everyone needs something slightly different.

More generally though, there is one rule: Love needs time. I've heard this idea expressed in many ways, but I've never encountered an explanation as beautiful, bright, and straight-forward as this one by Marvin J. Ashton. Some of my favorite parts follow, but you can also read the entire thing here.

"Love demands action if it is to be continuing. Love is a process. Love is not a declaration. Love is not an announcement. Love is not a passing fancy. Love is not an expediency. Love is not a convenience. 'If ye love me, keep my commandments' and 'If ye love me feed my sheep' are God-given proclamations that should remind us we can often best show our love through the processes of feeding and keeping. . . ."

Can you handle the meta?
"Feeding is more than providing food. No man can effectively live by bread alone. Feeding is the providing by love adequate nourishment for the entire man, physically, mentally, morally, and spiritually. Keeping is a process of care, consideration, and kindness appropriately blended with discipline, example, and concern. . . ."

"When were you last fed by a family member or friend? When were you last given nourishment for growth and ideas, plans, sorting of the day, sharing of fun, recreation, sorrow, anxiety, concern, and meditation? These ingredients can only be shared by someone who loves and cares. Have you ever gone to extend sympathy and comfort in moments of death and trial, only to come away fed by the faith and trust of the loving bereaved? Certainly the best way for us to show our love in keeping and feeding is by taking the time to prove it hour by hour and day by day. Our expressions of love and comfort are empty if our actions don’t match. God loves us to continue. Our neighbors and families love us if we will but follow through with sustaining support and self-sharing. True love is as eternal as life itself. Who is to say the joys of eternity are not wrapped up in continuous feeding, keeping, and caring? We need not weary in well-doing when we understand God’s purposes and his children.

"Undoubtedly our Heavenly Father tires of expressions of love in words only. He has made it clear through his prophets and his word that his ways are ways of commitment, and not conversation. He prefers performance over lip service. We show our true love for him in proportion to our keeping his words and the processes of feeding."
Continuing, keeping, and feeding. These words are more beautiful than any "I love you."

Didn't catch the cultural reference in my title? Oh, fine. You can start your repentance at 1:13, but the whole thing is still worth your time.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The very first snow

I have never written a blog post about snow before now. If I had written one last year, this is probably what it would say: Today it snowed. I walked out the door—late per usual—and wondered what was so wrong with the world that it would decide to pour down cold, dangerous, icy, gross snow. Ugh.

(And that's the nicer version of the anger that would have been going on in my head over snow.)

A switch has flipped since then though. Last Friday, I donned Super's red snow hat and walked out the door. The sky was light in that pre-snow shade of grey, and it was warm outside. I knew this would mean the first snow was about to show itself in some format. And snow it did. Nothing major—just a white dust for the cars and roofs tops that left the grass still yellowed green. At some point, it turned more to rain than anything fluffy or white.

The concept of snow hasn't changed; it still makes me cold, still makes the roads icy, still turns the sidewalks into freezing rivers, still makes my socks wet, still makes my world look different. But it no longer makes me sad.

This year it's beautiful, and I'm going to welcome it—and try not to let my welcome wear out by January.

In our church meeting last week, one of the speakers asked why life seems so hard, why our trials seem to outnumber our blessings. Then he answered his own question, "Because we have ungrateful hearts." Could it in fact be true that by being grateful life could be easier, richer, happier?

The snow proves it true for me. It drifts in and recolors my world, bringing its warm front before the downpour, but this time, it's calm and bright.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Again with the Tuesdays, lady . . .

Today's early morning hours brought cloudscapes that looked like streaks of paint across the sky with the same varying thicknesses a brush would leave. My shift at work was made complete by my winning a victory over a tricky Excel sheet. I had an hour to spare before class. This afternoon, Super and I will raid the 99 cent sock bin at the sock store down the street. Then, I'll have dinner with my best friend.

Once again, Tuesday is full of a wonder and beauty that betray the boxes on the calender.

And tonight, my friends and I will hold our annual viewing of a movie called, The Mouse and the Mayflower. We've been doing this now for over five years; despite going off to college and being really busy, we still watch it every year.

This is one of the few traditions in my life that I hold dear to an extreme level. There was a time when I hated the movie, but now, I can hardly wait till seven tonight.

While we're talking traditions, I am well aware that this season is traditionally a time of gratitude. Typically I take this time to think about the many things I should be grateful for; sometimes I make a list—if not on paper, in my head. What a great thing this is to do, but I'll admit that often it is more of a surface-level form of gratitude for me.

This year, I feel something different. Regardless of the time of year, I feel more grateful than I normally do. When I really put my mind to work on the list, my heart jumps right in with it and feels to sing the joys of people and things. Perhaps it's more circumstantial than seasonal. Nearly losing the best things in my life this year has shown me all I have and all I stand to gain. Though, I wish it didn't take loss to teach me.

I find it interesting that we always celebrate Thanksgiving on Thursday. We don't let it shift around and catch us off guard. We feel it coming weekly, rather than numerically. Would it be lovely if every Thursday was full of good food and good people and greater understanding of what it means to have those two things?

My Tuesdays are starting to feel like that. I am more than okay with that.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Raising tabernacles

 Last December, a cultural landmark from my town caught fire and burned down. The Provo Tabernacle was built by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It functioned as an assembly hall for performances of many types and at types as a hall of religious worship. I have only one memory of being it in as a little girl and looking up at the high ceilings that stretched on forever.

And then one day, it was burning down before I had ever really known much about it. I thought about this as I stood next to its remains earlier this week. As part of my job, I cover the news in the geology department of my university. In conjunction with the Church, professors and students were there using ground penetrating radar to find the foundations of the first tabernacle built there.

So, there I was, closer to the burnt brick and shattered glass that I ever imagined I would be. A woman from the Church History Department stood next to me ready to answer my questions, but I had none—only overwhelmed feelings of glory and awe and sorrow.

That happens when we look at ruins that didn't come about as we expected—suddenly, rather than the wear and tear of time, as if something was stolen from us. I wish I'd seen it in all its glory more often, that I had more than one memory there I can barely place.

Sometimes in the scriptures, God refers to our bodies as our tabernacles. These bodies house spirits that move and drive us to living, to loving. Some religions see the body as something to be discarded, as something driven by evil urges, or as something that holds us back from being closer to God. In my church, we believe that having a body is essential to progressing and growing in the way God would have us grow. And that after we die, our spirits will be reunited with our bodies in a perfect form, much like the Savior who took His body up after three days in the grave.

Sometimes, friends die unexpectedly. They are gone quickly, as if they had gone up in flames before we had the chance to stop it. And here I am, looking up at the holes that were once windows to the heavens filled with magnificent light and life. Instead of a ceiling catching the earthly music that sings heavenly tones, there is a blue sky above me catching the music of angels who sound close enough to me that they are almost earthly.

The Provo Tabernacle still stands, which is marvelous to me. I can see the nails that held it together and the framework that made it rise upward. It is empty now, but not gone. Not any less wonderful because it burnt down. How beautiful its body still is.

Now, the Church will build a temple there—a celestial, perfect House of God that will teach about light, life, and love that lasts forever beyond the time of an earthly tabernacle.

Photos by my amazing friend, Marshall Comstock.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Remembering: Part two

Last night, Super brought me a piece of pumpkin pie that was thoroughly covered in whipping cream on ALL THREE SIDES! I love whipping cream, practically as much as I love him for bringing me pie. Sometimes, I forget how wonderful he is.

I tend to forget a lot of important things. Lately, I've been working on remembering what divine potential I have because I am a daughter of God. It's easy to forget that I can do hard things and I can do them well. It's easy to forget that I know what is right and I can do it. It's easy to forget that I am capable, lovely, and bright.

In addition to remembering these things, I love to remember that even when I forget these truths they are still true. My heart may freeze over and my potential may go dormant for a season, but the is still a seed of light in me. If I choose to stay like that for too long, I won't be the wonderful person I am, but if I do remember and start living these truths, God is more than willing to pick up where we left off and continue making me even more wonderful and divine. He never forgets what I can do.

He also sent me a man named Super who remembers that I am beautiful and wonderful and who helps me to remember that by treating me with respect and patience.

I still forget things sometimes. (I forgot how long my pigtails were and accidentally got part of that whipping cream in my hair. My friend Sarah tells me there's a place for me in the retirement home she works at.) But there are deep truths that will always be true. My potential is one of God's great truths. I am never forgotten.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Remembering: Part one

The other night, I was cold, so Super, my boyfriend, gave me his sweater to wear. It's big on him, so it was enormous on me. If I had had the right belt, I could have pulled it off and still looked trendy. Without a belt though, I just looked cozy in a wash of grey knit that hides every curve of my body.

I am not uneducated in the debates over gender that are raging throughout the world. I understand that there are a lot of questions and none of them quite have easy answers. Is there such a thing as gender? Are we simply socialized to behave in these ways?

When it comes to answering these questions in direct words, I believe that "gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose." I have always been female, and I will always be female. Here's the source for that quote, and let me say that I believe every word in this document on the family.

 When people want an answer about gender, I turn to that document and that quote. But today, I'd like to write about the part I don't usually bring up in debates.

I feel like a woman in this sublime way that I cannot describe. Standing in front of the mirror the other day, I knew that there is something deep within me—beyond physical attributes, beyond what toys I played with as a kid, beyond what colors I like to wear—that is truly feminine. It transcends the mortal explanations and categories that so many scholars and interest groups throw at it. I just am beautiful and divine. Nothing outside of me can diminish my worth or my purpose. I am made to do all things: work, raise children, get an education, serve others. And I do all of these in a way no one but me can do, a way that is rooted in my identify as a woman.

It frustrates me that this isn't a valid argument in the voting polls or the scholarly discourse. It frustrates me even more that I cannot put it into words even for myself sometimes.

My hope is that other women will be more in tune to those moments where something in their spirit communicates that they are women. Often times there are a lot of things in the way, like our own ideas of beauty. I think that is in itself a sign that we are missing part of the picture.

I don't think it's just standing in front of a mirror. It's a moment that happens when we're least expecting it. This kind of knowledge happens though when you start thinking beyond what you see to what you feel. Keep thinking until nothing you come up with has anything to do with the world's view of these things. Think until it's only something you understand. I think then you'll understand what I mean.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The French may disagree, but I believe in capitalizing Tuesday

Today is Tuesday. Let's think about that, since I keep thinking about what it means to be in a Tuesday.

Even the word itself sounds curious, like the possessive form of the infinitive verb, "To's day." Who would a Tuesday belong to?

Or a better question: who wants to own a Tuesday? Does anyone ever rejoice in the promise Tuesday holds? Could Tuesday ever approximate the way we wake up on a Saturday and relish the possibility of free time? Can we jump out of bed on a Tuesday as if it were a Monday and we are well prepared for the week? Is there a sense of relief to be found in Tuesday like the relief that comes with the dawning of Friday?

I think the answer to these questions is no. Tuesdays simply aren't like other days.

Could Tuesday really be the plainest day of the week? If nothing exciting were allowed to happen on a Tuesday, that would amount to one-seventh of our lives being spent in more nothingness that we previously imagined we were spending. 

But, I doubt Tuesday is a day for nothing. Rather, Tuesday is a day for the unexpected, a day to be filled, a day to change everything, and a day to become something different. Extraordinary events need ordinary days to come up during. What a great space Tuesday is for that kind of thing.

Surely God did not make the days to be just arbitrary divisions. He purposed them for wise things. I like to think that Elder Wirthlin would agree that our days mean something, and Tuesdays come in all degrees.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Chomping at the past

Today, I am wearing the most awesome shirt from my entire wardrobe. I use the word awesome very intentionally. There are shirts that I like better than this one in terms of fit, style, and comfort, but truly, no other shirt could exude awesomeness as this one does. 

Why? Well, because there are dinosaurs on it.

Yes, folks. It's covered in little doodles of dinosaurs, clouds, unidentified femur bones, and those little stars we draw without picking our pens up off of the paper. It's also yellow, which I like.

Sometimes I wear it just because of the reactions I get. People—friends and strangers—tend to appreciate a little bit of dinosaur in their day. One time, my coworker said, "I like your shirt." Then, she whipped back around from her computer and exclaimed, "There are dinosaurs on it! I love your shirt!" I was surprised to hear someone say that they liked it for any other reason beyond the dinosaurs. Really, what else is there to love about it? 

Sadly, it's been a while since the dinosaur shirt has seen the light outside of my closet.

Maybe it's just a girl thing, but for many of us, there are moments of life that we cannot stop associating with particular clothing. This can be a beautiful thing. For example, I love knowing that on an April day that felt like the first day of my life—in the sense that Bright Eyes sings about it—I was wearing my Irish ferry sweater, my Pocahontas shoes, and the only floral print shirt I own.

When I think about the dinosaur shirt, it's still connected to this one day when the world turned upside down on me and left me looking at my feet, when words I didn't really understand entered into my vocab, when every muscle in my body went stiff and refused to bend.

When I sit anxiously in class, I'm pretty sure the dinosaur doodles are feeling just as restless as I am. I feel as if every time I look down, one of them sounds the warning call of "Freeze!" And they would all stand still again, pretending to have gotten away with their changes.

This makes me love them and the shirt again. Besides, everything seems to be changing. I believe that God rewrites things for us. It is so necessary to seek constant revelation and to be acting on what He tells us to do now. For me, this includes God giving me new perspectives on and new feelings about what has already happened.

The days in my dinosaur shirt appear bright to me, like the yellow stars scribbled on my shirt. They mean new things: love, forgiveness, trust, faith, and a perfect brightness of hope.

And I'm pretty sure I caught Mr. T-Rex nibbling on a cloud while the triceratops and the stegosaurus played ring-around-the-rosy and all fell down.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Daylight lost

While changing times usually affects me a lot, this week it's only had one negative effect on me: I forget that it will be dark when I walk home. When I leave campus, there are these very steep stairs surrounded by dense bushes. I'm often certain that they will both be the end of me. Or at least, the stairs will be the end of my ankles, and that the bushes will be the beginning of a delicious meal for whatever monster is going to pop out of them and eat me.

One of those may be more logical than the other. Maybe.

I tried to be more positive than normal when I walked down them last night, feeling in the darkness for the edge of each stair, being brave enough to not cling to the rail next to the bushes, and not thinking about anything that might be in the bushes.

Its helps to remember that with each toe, God knows exactly where I'm at. He knows when I step down in the darkness.

Down. Level. Down again. Level. Home. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Good gifts

Sunday night, I got sick from not eating. My roommate lovingly made me mashed potatoes, which I promptly threw up.

However unavoidable, this was very impolite.

Why trouble you with the former contents of my stomach, though? Well, because it reminds me of a larger story about a similar, but less grotesque, story.

When I was working as a mentor to freshman students, I took one of my students to an exhibit in the campus art museum. The exhibit, titled "Types and Shadows: Imitations of Divinity," showcased images that spoke of Christ and the Atonement using symbols and visual parables.

Being the upperclassman that I was, I felt comfortable admitting to my freshman companion that I just didn't get this one painting. This painting, "Cat Gift," shows a man trying to offer a bit of something to a cat which has turned its back.

My student understood it immediately though. "It's like the Savior, who tries to offer us such great gifts," she told me, "but we are like cats who stubbornly refuse."

I don't know how I missed the meaning before. Maybe because I am cat-like—stubborn, headstrong, and a little unaware. My sense of smell is a bit off these days, unable to draw unto the feast the Savior often places at my feet. I think often of this scripture I know to be true.
 Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?
 Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?
If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?
Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.
Matthew 7:9-12
God gives us good gifts; we must take them.

You can see two versions of the "Cat Gift" painting by Brain Kershisnik here and here.

Monday, November 7, 2011


Picture this for a moment: You’re walking down a city sidewalk in October. Traffic is busy, but at the crosswalk approaches a girl. She gets there, and the approaching cars suddenly all come to a stand still to let her pass. Now tell me: what did she look like? Short black skirt, tightly fitted. Ruffled silk blouse, cream-colored, low-cut. Tan-leather purse. Red high heels. Long blond hair in large curls that blow back slightly as she walks. Nice high cheek bones. Just enough make-up. Tall and skinny, but not too skinny. In short—traffic-stopping looks.

This is not what I look like, but this is what happened a few weeks ago: I only got four hours of sleep. I didn’t have enough time to wash my hair that morning, so I put it in a bun, which then fell out in stages, none of which could be considered to be a “messy bun.” I last plucked my eyebrows a week before, but I figured it was okay since I was going to wear my glasses anyways. No make-up either, and there are still red spots under my nose from my month-long spree of nose blowing. My jeans were one size too large. My sweater fit like it was made for a man, and I paid four dollars for it at the thrift store. No "shabby chic" here. Just shabby.

But traffic stopped when I stepped out. Two men waited at either ends of the crosswalk, hanging back by the sidewalk, hoping for a break in the cars. I knew I needed to get home and take a nap, so I stepped out to the edge of the bicycle lane and looked at the driver coming towards me, who stopped.

This seems to be one of those moments girls dream about, but we tend to dream about it in weird terms: terms of sexuality, material wealth, and unattainable dress sizes. I had none of those things going for me. Simply stepping to the threshold and asserting my presence worked. The two men who had gingerly waited for the cars to pass hurried past me, seemingly grateful for my having stopped the cars, but I really didn’t do anything. I only put my foot down and moved confidently.

I have never felt quite as inferior as I did while trying to cross a street in Oxford once. I was a twenty-year old traveler trying not to be a tourist. Normally, I did a very good job of that until I got trapped in a crowd of real-life tourists—guidebooks, cameras, and all. The walking signal turned green, but the stagnant crowd around continued conversing loudly.

Behind me, a woman began to yell. Her thin arms brought her hands around her mouth as she leaned back and called out mockingly, “The Green Man says go!” Annoyed and self-assured, she returned back to her table outside of the cafĂ© there, laughing with her friends about the herd of cattle polluting their college town.

That moment still bothers me, mostly because I hate how I let it bother me then.

I once had the privilege of observing the local university theatre ballet during their class.

The instructor of the course was graceful and aged, a woman who obviously loves dance deeply even when it has passed beyond the abilities of her body.

“Arrive in your space,” she said with each exercise.

The company was about to put on Cinderella a few weeks later. Even though I have only a small amount of experience with ballet, it was clear to me—and the others observing with me—which ballerina was Cinderella. It was clear when this dancer arrived in her space.

God puts us in beautiful places: a busy classroom of attentive children, our own messy kitchen table, the worn-out and torn-up couch of a beloved friend. These are spaces in which to arrive. We can follow our feet faithfully, dig in with our toes, land squarely, and be who we are: graceful, strong, beautiful, and capable.

The inferiority we might feel in spaces can come from many things, but these are all conquerable things. We are more than we think we are. We are closer to heaven than we think we are.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...