Sunday, June 20, 2010

...because of the color of the wheat fields

It was probably around January 1968, in a little house up on the Avenues of Provo, Utah. My roommate had been a stranger to me before she moved in the previous fall.

We had gotten along pretty well. I did get annoyed once in a while that she seemed to have a habit of leaving the lidless mayonnaise jar on the counter.

Then she met her eternal companion and abandoned me for him. In the sad silence of that little house, realizing I was all alone in the world again, the mayonnaise issue didn’t seem like such a big deal.

This morning, we watched our second oldest daughter drive away with her two little daughters. They have been with us for over a month while her husband was out in Arizona job hunting.

We’ve all been dreading this event. If she weren’t coming back in a couple of weeks to attend her brother’s wedding, it might have been just about as unbearable as that moment when they used to have the missionaries walk out of one door and the parents out of another.

At that time, my husband had said I was the only one hardhearted enough to accompany our son through that process. I’m sure he didn’t mean I was really hardhearted...probably just a degree or two tougher than his tender heart.

The missionary send-off was accomplished, despite the banked tears that threatened to overflow. However, my husband's figuring I could be voice for family prayer this morning might have been a slight over-estimation. The tears flowed, but we made it through that, too.

The dialogue of the prince and the fox in St. ExupĂ©ry’s The Little Prince comes to mind:

So the little prince tamed the fox. And when the hour of his departure drew near—

“Ah,” said the fox. “I shall cry.”

“It is your own fault,’ said the little prince. “I never wished you any sort of harm; but you wanted me to tame you . . .”

“Yes, that is so,” said the fox.

“Then it has done you no good at all!”

“It has done me good,” said the fox, “because of the color of the wheat fields.” [which reminded him of the color of the little prince’s hair]


I made the mistake of allowing my granddaughter to tame me. I had foolishly encouraged her to help me feed the cat. We started with the night feeding, but within the past few days I included her in the morning feeding also.

So this morning, as I performed the morning ritual by myself, I realized that I would forever hear “Feed Toby. Dry food. Wet food” in my memory ear as I fulfilled both chores. After a while, it won’t be painful. For now, the wound is yet raw.

And if the pain is this searing at a mere departure, I can only imagine what it would be like if the separation were to be longer. So, once again, I thank my Father in Heaven for the potential of eternal families through the blessings of priesthood ordinances in holy temples.

I’m grateful for the love whose ties can cover the thousands of miles that will exist between us (in addition to electronic impulses that travel very quickly across those same expanses). Most of all, I rely on the unfailing comfort of an invisible but very present Companion who can ease the hurt.

In Missouri, another family faces the same prospect of letting go. A beloved daughter will soon come to be part of our family, while her family will miss her immediate presence. The cycle repeats over and over, with varying degrees of finality.

Love you always, Kaylyn, Derek, Rinny, and DeeDoo. Safe journey! Happy new beginnings.

And who knows. Maybe at some point, mayonnaise will stop playing a part in these proceedings! (Inside joke!!!)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

An hundredth part . . .

[This is a duplicate post to the one entered at PastProtectors.blogspot.com. Hope you enjoy it.]

I’m nearing the end of this reading of the Old Testament. Arrived in Zechariah this morning and was interested to see that (though not uncommon) it included a genealogy for Zechariah.

But what really caught my attention was that his grandfather, Iddo, was a prophet. I guess I had missed his name in previous readings, because upon looking him up just now I found several references. And some of them give more insight into things he did (if there was indeed only one prophet named Iddo...and somehow I can’t imagine too many parents bestowing that name on their sons).

He apparently lived at the time of Rehoboam. Because his writings are lost, we know virtually nothing of his life. Given that the lives of prophets, especially Old Testament ones, are not generally pleasant, we can make some assumptions along that line. But we know very little about his experiences, his relationships with God and his fellow men.

Is it that way for us? As we associate with friends and acquaintances, how much do we really know about them—about the internal struggles they’ve had, the triumphs they’ve achieved, the lessons they’ve learned? Are their books “missing” for us as well?

How about our own stories? Will there be anything available when our children really want to know more about us? If the past is any indication, that condition won’t arise until we’re gone and unable to make a record. So wouldn’t it be wise if we left them a little something...just in case?

My own personal history basically stalled at the point where I got married. My excuse is that things got too hectic after that. However, I know it’s important that I finish it. So I will add the recording of that forward record to the goal of organizing all my notes about already-dead people.

I would encourage anyone who may stumble across this writing to do the same. It doesn’t have to be long. Each of my grandmothers wrote about three pages. And one of my fondest dreams is to find a letter, no matter how long, written by my third great-grandfather just so I could see a snapshot of his mind on that one day.

Please let those who follow you know what your life was like. Let them see and understand your dreams and your devastations, your difficulties and your delights. It really will matter...someday.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

He, watching over Israel...

Probably my favorite piece of music is Mendelssohn’s “Elijah.” Of course, Elijah’s being my favorite Biblical character doesn’t hurt that rating. But the music itself is so rich that my spirit feasts every time I hear it.

One of the pieces has the line “He, watching over Israel, slumbers not, nor sleeps. Shouldst thou, walking in grief, languish, He will quicken thee.” The magic of Mendelssohn’s genius is such that as I read those words, I hear the melody clearly in my mind.

However, the inspiration for this sharing is not related to my love for the oratorio. It does have everything to do with the text.

It came back to me as my husband commented on my recitation of the blog I just shared with you about tithing. He reflected back to the time when, as a single parent, he faced the daunting prospect of supporting his son on his mission. Having the responsibility to support two other teenage children still at home, the finances just weren’t there. And so, although I wasn’t privy to private details of his life at that time, I’m sure he made that a matter of fervent prayer.

In accordance with the principle that faith precedes the miracle, the missionary was launched. A month or two afterward, out of the blue, the manager of a local department store contacted Johnie’s good friend and cousin to ask if he knew anyone who washed windows. Bobby referred him to Johnie. Never having washed a single commercial window in his life, he researched the service and made an offer. The offer was accepted and for the next two years, in most frigid cold or sultry heat, the windows were washed once a month, inside and out.

Robin returned home. By that time, Johnie and I were married and almost ready to deliver our first child. Still the window washing job continued. But a few months before Robin came home, Johnie had received the impression that the job would not last much longer. Sure enough, before summer arrived again, the kind manager informed him that the store staff was taking over that task.

There, in the middle of Central Virginia in the year 1978, a faithful father struggled to support his family. Someone watching over Israel saw the struggle and provided a blessing. According to subsequent calculations, the window-washing proceeds covered Robin's mission expenses almost to the penny.

As with all things spiritual, that is not an isolated incident.

“Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.” – Psalm 121:4

Prove me now herewith...

Yesterday, I ran a marathon. No, not a “real” one (though I admire those of you who are dedicated runners), but a day-long production effort.

This year has been a year of blessings, and it has brought a lot of earning opportunities. And this is important to me. I have long hoped that my home business could be substantial enough to provide sufficient income to allow my husband to retire completely if he so desired, or so that he needn’t worry if he could no longer work for some reason.

When I first began Specialty Arts, my desire was that it serve the family history community by helping people preserve and publish their research. Over the years, I have been privileged to assist several authors with their publications, in addition to preparing five books of my own. That is a tremendous satisfaction.

And although there is currently some family history-related work waiting for free time, demands from another source are keeping me fully occupied at the present. So I get up every day knowing that I have work to do. In these lean times, isn’t that a tremendous blessing?

I have also been very diligent (and honest) in paying our tithing. I have no hesitation about attributing the bulk of these blessings to that single practice.

Back when I first plunged into that scary realm of self-employment, the middle of the month would roll around and I would begin reminding Heavenly Father that next month’s rent was going to be due, along with the payment on the loan I took out to buy the typewriter. (No, you read that right...typewriter. That was 1977; the computer arrived in 1986.) I promised that I would work hard if only He would bless me with opportunities.

I made that same petition just a few months ago when expenses had wiped out a good deal of our reserves. And now this overflowing. Ah yes, the windows of heaven truly do open!

May I do a little tithing promotional here? Heavenly Father is the best business associate you could have. His contract is pretty simple. He only asks that we do the things that will naturally bless our lives anyway. Plus that tithing clause, which is the only return He requires from us.

Believe me, I gained a new perspective on tithing several years ago. I had just spent untold hours preparing my first book for publication. The contract with the publishing company provided me a royalty of 10%. Interesting how minimal that appears from the receiver’s side of the deal!

If there is one principal that I would encourage everyone to follow, it would be the payment of a full and honest (and regular) tithe. Through the mouth of the prophet Malachi, our Father in Heaven promised us a flood of blessings so great that we couldn’t contain them. My current workload is ample witness that He will keep His end of the bargain.

Could this be a blip on the screen? Of course. Will I continue to pay tithing even if the reversals come? Of course. Why would I risk losing the “Partner” whose main concern is my welfare? Even in stringent times, what a comfort it is to know that we have been obedient and thereby qualified ourselves for His assistance...in all things.

“Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” -- Malachi 3:10

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Attack!

There they stood, tall and defiant. Probably the most successful crop of skunk cabbage I’d seen in years. You may have a different name for them where you live. Actually I think they may even be called something different here. But in Colorado, we called them skunk cabbage, a tall, leafy plant with horrendous stickers all up their stems and on the backs of their leaves.

They had chosen a less monitored spot of ground—the “berry patch” (a rather elegant name for the row of blackberry bushes a friend had gifted me with several years ago)—as their growing place. And they had apparently taken full advantage of the layer of goat leavings which lay composting there along the side of the house.

My husband had decreed that they were my problem. I needed to get out and take care of them. (In fairness, he’d never wanted the berry patch in the first place. Neither does he particularly care for the flower beds in front of the house, also not as manicured as he would like. And he does take immaculate care of the lawn and as much of the other outside work as he can manage on his schedule.) For several weeks following the commission, I had walked past them with my head hung in silent shame. No time, no time, not enough time to do that.

So this morning, after grubbing out some squirrel-donated trees from the flower beds, I decided to tackle the skunk cabbages. I tried to grab them as low as I could on the stalk in order to avoid the more mature, more threatening stickers. Their shallow root system made pulling them a breeze, and they were soon dispatched to the “compost pile” (another misnomer for a heap of dirt beside our metal storage building which I have tried in years past to tend with mixed success).

My gardening gloves having disappeared long ago, it was with bare hands that I attacked my enemies. The tallying of injuries stands at one verified sticker in the heel of my hand and a suspected one on one of my fingertips. Not bad considering the weeds’ intimidating appearance.

So in the future, perhaps I will remember the lesson of the skunk cabbages. No matter how lousy and uncomfortable the job, there will come a day when it has to be done. And perhaps most jobs are similar in that the major obstacle is the getting started. Isn’t there a saying, “Once begun, the job’s half done,” or something of that nature?

Lorraine - 1, skunk cabbages - 0. I like that score!