Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The (Imperfect) Christmas Lights

Yesterday, we did the majority of our Christmas decorating. As a retired couple with no young resident children to regale, our decorations are sparse. The four-foot tree came back up from the basement and was installed on top of the Barbie piano so it would make its appearance to the outside world. A few more ornaments were added so that it wasn’t a totally Charlie Brown tree. And two three-light candelabra were added on either side. A rather festive appearance after all.

Alas, there was a problem. When we plugged in the tree lights, only about a third of them were burning. I suspect I know exactly where the problem is as I immediately spotted a socket without a full bulb inserted. And the light in the middle of one of the candelabra is also missing. So now the challenge is to find where I stored the extra bulbs.

However, this experience made me stop and think about our families. The comparisons were both encouraging and troubling.

So many of our families have portions of the string that aren’t presently lit. They are still beloved. They are still connected to the rest of us, hopefully through eternal covenants. But for some reason, their lights just aren’t currently burning.

Discouraging, right? Still, are we mourning so much over those sections that we fail to see and fully appreciate those which are burning brightly? I’ve heard it’s not unusual for the children whose sibling is struggling to resent all the attention the parents give that child in the effort to regain and maintain equilibrium. While we all recognize that the child in danger is naturally the focus of attention, we should not forget to nourish those who are presently a little safer, still a little further from the precipice.

Of course, all analogies break down at some point. While I can go look for the necessary bulbs and replace them at my volition, it’s not so easy with eternal beings whose agency must be respected.

Until that agency—that precious, essential, terrifying prerogative—leads our children back through their own choices, all we can do is see to it that the current of love and support continues to flow to them. However, at the same time, we should do all we can to ensure that all the lights are receiving that current of love and support.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll go look for the replacement bulbs. Passersby may not fully appreciate the lesson of the imperfect Christmas lights.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

A Note; a Request

By the way, while searching for my blog after a considerable time away from it, I saw that another Lorraine had used "unleashed" in association with her name. It was a bit unsettling to realize that her lifestyle was vastly (and I do mean vastly) different from mine. So those of you who might be looking for my simple little blog, please, please be careful not to confuse the two of us.

And please don't go look out of curiosity...you know what happened to the cat. Sadly, in our society today, there are dead cats all over the place. And I would be loathe to think that I had contributed to the slaughter.

Thank you.

The Commode: The Wednesday After Thanksgiving

WARNING: Some shocking statements follow which will seem almost unbelievable for those of you who know me well!

As I was vacuuming the floor [amazing statement #1] in preparation for mopping [amazing statement #2], I had an epiphany. [Let it here be said that it is true that mopping the floor twice in as many weeks really is uncharacteristic for this housekeeper. It’s just that we had an incident with a Corelle dish’s having a close encounter with the ceramic tile floor, and all of you who have had that experience know the horrendous results that ensued. Enough said.]

Back to the epiphany: As I was vacuuming, I happened to glance at the commode in the half bath off the kitchen. Our house is a fairly large structure. My husband was the main contractor and constructor. He basically built the house off of a sheet of tracing paper where we had modified a commercial floor plan to our preferences.

We did have a plumber run the lines for us. But when he did, I’m pretty sure that the house had just been framed. How did the plumber get that drain pipe in exactly the right location, basically (although not precisely) in the center of the available space for it?

Well, for one thing, he knew what he was doing. He had had previous experience. And we were able to trust him to complete the job.

The reason that this impacted me is that our lives currently seem to be akin to a marble cake. There are multiple colors swirling through our experiences—some light and some dark. It is difficult to see how all of it will come together to form a sweet confection (which, of course, is the hope we have for the ultimate outcome).

Nevertheless...........and that is the key word...........nevertheless, it is my firm conviction that there is a Master Contractor who is watching over our eternal construction project. He has been through this process before. His previous experience informs His counsel to us. He knows loss; He knows exultation through exaltation. He is worthy of our total trust.

I am grateful for that assurance. I can move forward with confidence and comfort because of Him and the others who serve with Him.

Giving thanks continues.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Two Hours and Elizabeth Allan

Am I the only person who always has at least one pile of little pieces of paper? I sometimes think a good portion of my life’s mission is somehow wrapped up in managing piles of paper.

Well, this morning I picked up the tiny piece of paper which has been floating around on the dressing room counter top. On it were written these words:      
         16 Aug 1752
         Allan, Elizabeth
        18 Mar 1975

This was one of many slips filled out during the years when I was able to attend the temple regularly. They represent multiple blessing opportunities.

So this morning the paper finally got connected with the computer. There she was, the oldest daughter of Malcolm ALLAN and Elizabeth ANDERSON. And there was the confirmation that I had attended the Provo Temple on 18 March 1975.

Have to confess that several subsequent questions swirled through my head. What was going on in my life at that point? A quick reference to my journal for that year brought back the memories. A brief entry—

18 Mar, Tue (Elizabeth Allan)* - Up last night with some aches. . . . Good trip to the temple with Marlene Peterson.

But surrounding that were some household challenges, the weight of a hefty calling in the branch, the pending relocation to the East Coast in less than two months, and the heartaches associated with being a single sister whose Prince Charming identification kept getting delayed.

I hope those two hours of time will have made an eternal contribution to Elizabeth’s progression as an individual and as a member of her family. I hope we have an opportunity at some point to pause and give each other a hug.

Suspect there may be a few tears shed at that point, at least by me. So I also hope there are tissues available in the spirit world!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Black holes

Earlier this week, my husband was watching a show about black holes. I was listening from the other room, so I didn't see many of the images. However, it made me remember my own personal encounter with a black hole.

I was probably a pre-teen when I asked my father one day what happens to you when you die. Looking back, it is tempting to wonder why an 11- or 12-year-old girl would be asking such a question. But for those of you who know only the adult me, it might not be such a terrific mystery.

Anyway, my father—the product of a very intellectual, humanistic home—answered the only thing he felt he knew for sure. “You just cease to exist.”

That might have been satisfying to those who dabble in esoteric philosophical pursuits. However, it wasn’t very comforting to a young girl who had had no exposure to religious concepts. In the middle of some very dark Colorado nights, I laid awake thinking about the inevitability of my ceasing to exist. And perhaps because I tend to be visual, what I saw in my head was a consuming black cloud which would eventually swallow all that was ever me. There were accompanying tears.

In the more comforting light of day, I pondered this situation a little more logically. As I viewed the complexity of my surroundings, from the majestic mountains shouldering my hometown to the family in which I was planted, it didn’t make sense. It seemed like something of a farce authored by a capricious malevolence.

So I approached my father with the question. “If what you said is true, that we just cease to be, then what is the purpose of all this? Why do we even live at all?”

His answer was not a bad one—“To leave the world a better place than when we came.” You can live a very moral life on that basis.

But for me it did not extinguish either the black-hole nights or the questioning.

In December 2001, my father was hospitalized following a stroke. According to a second-hand report, a nurse was explaining to him why a procedure was necessary. “Because if we don’t, you could die.” Inexplicably, she purportedly continued, “Are you afraid to die?”

The report I received was that he nodded his head in the affirmative. His response haunts me to this day and makes me wonder if he’d had a few encounters with his own black hole of doubt and fear.

A few years after my initial query, my black hole was transformed into a glorious avenue of golden promise because of the principles I was taught.

Hopefully, Daddy has learned some exciting new things by now as well.

Monday, December 5, 2011

"Let not sorrow overwhelm us..."

You’d think the departures would become easier the more of them one goes through. And, no, this morning wasn’t as traumatic as that awful day a year and a half ago when the caravan left the driveway the first time, carrying away a daughter and her family. No, this time I made it through all the prayers without breaking down, waved them goodbye into the early-morning dark without tears, and only had to stay up an extra hour after they left so I could get good and tired. I thought I’d succeeded.

However, when I finally did wend my way upstairs, I decided to peek into that now-empty bedroom, possibly to convince myself of the transition. At the moment that thought entered my mind, a shock went through my core that felt just like someone punched me in the chest. The same panicky sensation that had so suddenly ambushed me that first time returned again. And I turned back down the hallway so I could catch my breath and wait for my heart to start beating normally again.

It seemed a good time to pray, so I did. “Please, Father, help me deal with this.” Then came the words through my mind, an extension to the prayer: “Let not sorrow overwhelm us...” But it came without music, as a simple fragment. It wasn’t until much later that my brain finally retrieved the melody, which then—after humming through the cycle—revealed the title line.

“Precious Savior, Dear Redeemer”—how grateful for the assurance that there is Someone infinite who cares that I am hurting and will send peace if requested and waited upon. It came, the pain lifted, and calm overrode the emotional chaos. But it took some self-reminders that there were still reasons to want to stay around, work to do, people to serve, things I needed to accomplish.

So tomorrow will begin again the more normal routine. I will be able to work all morning without a daughter/granddaughter break. The dishwasher will resume its twice-a-week (maybe even less frequent) running schedule. We might even lower the thermostat a degree or two since we won’t have any more “nakey babies” in the house. But even with all these changes, it will be a while before I stop wishing we had reasons not to make them.

“We are weak, but Thou art strong...” Nevertheless, sitting here waiting for the meeting to start and hearing the children’s voices as they enter the chapel, the sorrow has been put in its place one more time. We’re moving forward again.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Corn on the cob

So the woman who watched tearlessly as her mother’s body was placed in the mortuary’s somber bag wept as she threw away a bag of freezer-burned corn on the cob. Perhaps it will make more sense when I explain that the bag of corn might have been one that the same deceased woman labored late into the night one year to prepare for the freezer. And that made me think of all the sacrificing she had done over the years to provide for her family.

The other connection was that both items being disposed of were kind of worn out and no longer needed. I have every confidence that Mother’s spirit had departed her body by the time she was enshrouded by the mortuary worker. And the corn might have been as much as 29 years old and would probably not have been any good even if we had used it. But still, it might have been some that Mother froze for us that summer, and so I had postponed throwing it away.

That and about two thirds of the things that were in the freezer. A few bags of shredded zucchini from 1993 (my youngest daughter who is now possibly dating her eternal companion was almost four years old at the time I stored those). Several packages of chicken that we had gotten when we thought it was time for a batch of fried chicken (a batch that somehow never got fried). A $15 package of “fixings” for paella which I remembered so fondly from my missionary days (but which turned out to be far more complicated to prepare than I imagined at the time of purchase). Ice cream container after ice cream container of stored juices—peach, apple, and even green tomato!—from canning days many, many years ago. The plan had been to can them during the winter season. But multitudes of winter seasons have come and gone and still they sat in the freezer. This afternoon they are sitting on the trailer ready to go to the dump.

This seems to be a time of kneading emotions. There was the clean-out of Mother’s home, where she would have lived for 50 years had she been able to stay until the first of November. Tons and tons of things stored against potential need, a trait that all her offspring share but one that has been carried out to the heights of accomplishment by a sister who has storage units in three different cities spanning the whole country (plus, I would feel confident, two very full apartments). I have to admit to some tears as I left the house for what I knew would be the last time, a house where I had lived as a teenager and returned to many times as an adult, a house that was somehow always just about the same but would no longer be.

Our daughter and her two daughters have been here almost a month. We have spent enough time with the two grandchildren that they know us and are comfortable around us. It will be sad to see them leave, knowing that it will be several more months before we get to see them again. Will they remember this time the next time we meet?

One of our friends has had to sell a beautiful Greene County farm due to a serious illness. His mourning over the loss brings back many of the other losses both past and pending. You don’t want to color it all brown so that the hurt is less, but remembering what was once better and now is not is so terribly hard.

I guess the secret to all of it is that we should never let anything mortal become too important to us. And sentimentality, although an evidence of a sensitive spirit, shouldn’t hold us hostage.

So now I think I’m going to go eat one of the Dove ice cream bars which were uncovered in the clean-out. We had apparently hidden them from easy view so that the kids wouldn’t consume them locust-like which would have prevented us from enjoying them for a special late-night treat. No, it’s not late night, but I did scrub out the big and little freezers, so I deserve one!

Here’s to mortality lived in the here and now. And here's to managed freezers!