Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Drive You Over The Edge


I was talking to my neighbor this week about substituting for him on his job. He is a bus driver.
 
Okay, so a bad career choice for both he and I, perhaps?
The worst part of it is...I'm just stubborn enough to do it if I am challenged. Some of you have read the story of the last time I drove my husband's car. It was the last time I ever drove. But, Maybe, you'd like to hear about the first time I drove after I'd lost a good portion of my sight. That little fact did not disuade me, because I wanted to have a serious conversation with the guy I was dating and he knew he could avoid it by not being alone with me. Hence the BIG PLAN for driving in spite of my teeny tiny issue...oh yeah, I was blind.
Technically and in my defense, I wasn't completely blind. I had lost my right eye and my acuity was reduced to 120 degrees instead of the normal 240 most people have. I was night blind because I only picked up light and movement, but I was not totally blind.
Maybe we should ask those little kids from the picture if that makes a difference. HMMM?
Anyway...There is a look out above the town where I lived. It was a half circle of lava cliffs that lined the mountain for about a thousand feet across and 500  feet down. When we were little kids we went up there to fly kites, explore, and look for fossils.
This particular night I just needed to get my 'friend in a place where he couldn't walk off, or drive off when he didn't like what I had to say.
To be honest I'm not sure how I convinced him to get in the car with me in the first place. The sun was still up when I started our little joy ride so that may have influenced his initial decision. By the time I had wound up the 70 degree slope with the switch back curves, parked near the edge of the sheer drop off, and locked him in the car, he was probably terrified. Maybe the reason we weren't able to work things out during our midnight ride had more to do with the fact that he was trapped in an aluminum can, being driven at night, on a dangerous road, by a blind person than anything else. It is a good thing for me he was my friend and still to this day loves me, otherwise he probably could have gotten me committed or arrested for reckless endangerment.
I know that according to my eyes I couldn't see. But, according to my heart and mind, I was the same as i'd always been. It was only many years later when he told me about it, I realized how dangerous it had been.
He told me that I stayed on the road pretty good, but not in my lane. Sometimes I was halfway in the middle of a road that had double yellow lines to keep people from passing. Sometimes I was so far on the shoulder of the road he thought for sure we were going over the edge. He offered to drive multiple times, but he never accused me of sheer mania and homicidal tendancies. It was by white knuckles and fervent prayers we arrived home that night.
I would like to tell you that I learned my lesson, but I didn't. I drove my husband's car down the freeway, my friends car to get pizza, and my boyfriend's car through The Virgin River Gorge at 4 a.m. because he was soooo drunk, the blind woman was the safe driver.
I have learned two important facts from driving like a crazy woman.
#1. Your body doesn't change your mind about how happy you are. Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional. It is your mind that will decide which you choose to experience.
#2. No matter how invincible you think you are, natural consequences  will get their due rewards. I may not have wanted to accept that I was too blind to drive, but if I'd killed my friend that night I would never have had the opportunity to learn without unbearable pain. Believing the worst case scenario won't come get you may be true, but what if you're wrong? Can you afford to take the chance?
So for my neighbor and friend-
While I believe if you challenged me to drive your bus, I would be able to do it. I don't think I should.
Often we choose what to do with our lives based on whether or not we can or can't.
The question we should be asking is; Should I?
A parable is told of a man looking to hire a truck driver. The first applicant reassures the man of his professional credentials before driving the truck in which he must demonstrate his skills. To prove his ability, he comes   as close to the edge of the road as he can.
The next applicant watched the first and drove the truck even closer in an effort to demonstrate his knowledge and skill. The third applicant watched the other two try-outs and simply shook his head. When it became his turn to demonstrate, he drove slowly, deliberately and as far from the edge as he could get. As he parked the vehicle precisely beside the protective barrier as was possible. the other two applicant's snickered and counted the too cautious man out.
When the man who owned the truck hired the third applicant, the other two were enraged.
"He could barely handle that truck," they complained. "He didn't even try to do the difficult tasks ."
The truck's owner just smiled. "My truck will be safer with a man who isn't trying to endanger it and tempt fate. He will avoid the edge of the road where a fall is a millimeter away."
I don't drive anymore because God will not protect me from my own stupidity, and I want to avoid the
edge.
Mostly I don't want to be the example of why some one else should drive over it. I can take that chance, I can hope to avoid the consequences, but honestly...If your kids were on that bus-Should I?

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

What I learned From My 9 yr. Old Son

If you've got a million years or so, I can tell you what I've learned from my kids. However, I know it's Christmas eve so I'll tell you about what my youngest taught me this week.
My husband Erik, came home from work a few days ago having heard about a little boy who wasn't going to get a lot for christmas.
His Dad was working full time to provide for the family, but he didn't get a large enough Christmas bonus to cover more than some stocking stuffers and items the boy needed.
More than a few of the people Erik works with got together to donate some items toward helping this dad, but they all have families to take care of, and are trying to support their own Christmas lists.
When Erik told me about this kid's plight he asked me if I thought one of our kids would donate something toward this boy's Christmas.
Honestly,I hoped so, but I  also wondered if I'd done a good enough job teaching my children the true gifts of Christmas are the love we show each other. Materialism is so rampant in the world right now, I hope they were getting it, but I sincerely didn't know what their reaction might be.
I sat down with my youngest first because he is the closest to this other little boy's age, and Erik and I had a particular item in mind.
Last year for Christmas my youngest recieved a little hand held computer system to play educational games. We're kind of technologically defunct at our house, so the computer wasn't much. We had already gotten him a better system for Christmas this year, but without his knowing about it I was sure I was going to have to give him the lecture.
"Now you know Christmas is about giving presents not receiving them. I know it will be hard, but I think the happiness you'll get from making this little boy happy will be worth it."
My son would then follow up with tears, and a pouty lip before crossing his arms, glaring at me and stating in his most defiant voice. "Fine."
When Erik told my son there was a boy who wasn't getting much for Christmas. His immediate reaction was to say.
"We can give him our stuff, Dad."
A little teary at this point, my husband explained what he wanted to do. I still thought the transition from 'our stuff' to 'your game system' would bring about my original worry.
It didn't. He didn't even hesitate. He went and got the game, found all the parts and even went into the profiles to clean out his name and put the other boy's name in. He even had Erik text the boy's father to find out how to spell the boy's name correctly.
He didn't ask if we would get him another one. He didn't worry about what he would play with once his game was gone. He only focused on what he could do to bring another boy joy on Christmas.
With all the focus on Santa Clause, presents, and holiday hub-bub, I worry that the true meaning of Christmas is getting lost. As parents I think we handle much more of the non-Christ-like behavior surrounding Christmas than our kids do.
We stand in long lines, add up the receipts for expenses, and get stressed out trying to 'afford' Christmas.
My Son taught me this year that it is our attitudes about the Holiday season that take Christ out of it. It's our focus that drifts away from the reason we have Christmas in the first place.
God gave us his most precious possession, knowing we would be ungrateful, knowing we would struggle to understand how much it was costing him, knowing it would be the most difficult thing he would have to do. Instead of turning his focus on the trials and burdens involved with giving the gift, he focused on the joy it would bring us all.
Yes its a lot of work, expense, and sacrifice, but so what?
"The Son of Man hath descended below them all, art thou greater than He?"
So have a Merry Christmas, make it a Happy Holiday and enjoy the gifts of the season.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Reflections





One of my favorite authors, Dorothy Keddington, said that the way to begin a story is like picking up a puppy. You must grasp it firmly around its middle.
The middle of my story happened in Bedford Hills, New York, when I was twenty-one years old.
New York, or Manhattan more specifically is the city that never sleeps. Between the shopping on fifth avenue, concerts in central park, The museums, Little Italy and The Feast of The San genero I never ran out of things to distract my mind. New York was supposed to leave behind the world of darkness I’d lived in since my father’s death. The broken pieces of who I was were buried beside him. The anger, loss, loneliness, and pain were supposed to be left behind as well.
Imagine my surprise when after nine months in The Big Apple I was only different; not better.
I had friends I went clubbing with, we dated the cadets from West Point, we shopped, saw Reba Macintyre in Time Square, watched The rockettes dance, and saw “Les Miserables” on Broadway. The twin towers still stood. The park was a crime scene waiting to happen after the sun went down, and Arsenio Hall was rich and famous.
I,  on the other hand, remained  lost in the darkness. I was illuminated by nothing but neon lights. I was lonely in a city of millions. I hated God, I hated myself for hating God, and I couldn’t figure out why life after death didn’t feel like living. It felt like dying by inches.
About two weeks before I came home to visit my family, I talked to my boss, Olivia. She told me I was tired all the time, I wasn’t as dedicated to the kids and she was worried about me.
“Go home for a week or so and recharge,” she told me. “Come back with your love of life.”
That evening after I fed, bathed , and put the kids in bed. I went to my room in the basement to watch television. I was restless that night, not hungry but feeling like I should eat. Bored, but too tired to care about fixing it. I was depressed with nothing to blame for being the culprit. I took a shower and dried my hair before I went to the mirror over my dresser to put my make-up on.
As I stared into the image in the mirror’s eyes, I took a step back. I was staring at a stranger. The eyes weren’t the hazel brown I’d seen other days. The hint of green that usually made them pretty was just a muddy pool. The skin of my face usually smooth with a slight olive tint was only a porcelain mask, the fine cracks of despair distorting the features. I was gone.
You’ve been gone for years. A quiet voice prodded in my head.
I wish it had been my father’s voice, but it wasn’t. My father wouldn’t know this reflected stranger any more than I did. He would not have smiled at me, before wrapping one arm around my shoulders. He would not have said he loved this waxen mold. As tears streamed down my ashen cheeks, I realized I had lost the part of him that lived inside of me. I abandoned his love, his patient perspective, his powerful faith when I died alongside of him all those years before.
I hadn’t buried the broken pieces of me with him. Those shards and splinters were inside of me, filetting my soul.
My father loved me more than anyone in my life ever had. More than I deserved, more than I comprehended, and more than I loved myself. How could I go on when that was gone.
I wish this story had a miraculous moment where I wiped my cheeks clean, straightened my shoulders and decided to be the daughter I was supposed to be. Wouldn’t that be a fairy tale ending?
For another two years I took moments of realization and bound them together with the faith that I would see the girl i'd been before my father died. The stronger my pearls of hope became, the more I wanted to be the girl my father knew I was, even when I was' nt her yet.
Maybe that means I don’t believe in fairy tales. I believe that we are more than we think we are. I believe that the portion of love I drank from my father like a parched plant, is just a tear drop compared to the love God has for me.
After that day with my false fa├žade shattering my heart, I understood one thing. Before you can love anyone with all your heart, mind, might, and strength, you must first practice.
You must first practice loving the most imperfect, flawed, broken, and needy person you know. Its you, by the way.
I don’t know all your secrets, all your sins, all your weaknesses, or all your gifts.
I don’t need to,  I know mine. If I can love the tattered piece of mortal that I am,loving you is easy.
Even now, when I look in the mirror. I don’t see anything, at least not in the glass. I still see that girl though. I remember what if felt like to not recognize the hull of that woman. My eyes are not as pretty as they once were, One is made of glass, and one is clouded by cataracts and glaucoma.
My smooth porcelain skin, is scarred, wrinkled, and colored by kidney failure.
I’m not sure the reflection I would see would be recognizable after all these years anyway. Without being able to see the changes happening in my reflection I really don’t know what I look like anymore. However, I don’t worry about it.
In my head I see the night of Jr. Prom the month before my father passed away. He chaperoned the dance as he was a member of Hurricane High’s faculty, and I danced with him.
He’s been gone for almost 25 years now, but just like I still see that reflection from New York. I hold the picture in my heart of my father’s face as he kissed my cheek when are dance was over and told me I was beautiful.
I believed him, and  I still believe him.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Faith To Be Faith

One of my favorite quotes is by Boyd K. Packer-
"Faith to be Faith must go beyond that for which there is confirming evidence, must go into the unknown, must walk to the edge of the light and then a few steps into the darkness."
In the past twenty five years or so my very existence has been reliant on my faith to walk forward a few steps into the darkness. Whether it was my father's death when I was seventeen. My blindness, or my transplants. I have groped my way through life, like most people, with the hope that it will all work out in the end. The farther I have walked without relying on my eyes to see or my understanding to lean on, the more I have realized that it is only faith that gets any of us out of bed every morning.
Faith that there is a purpose for being. A reason to find joy. A hand to hold and a friend to love.
On days when the darkness is deep and unpierced by the light I don't try to see, I simply believe that this, too, will pass.
A few steps into the darkness will be my story, my life the way I have lived it. The good, the bad, the ugly, and the light I keep my focus on. A friend pointed out to me that as normal as I consider my life to be...Its really not.
Most people don't find their father dead one day after school. Most people don't go blind at the age of 23. Most people don't go through multiple transplants, kidney dialysis, surgery, heart disease, premature childbirth, broken limbs and hearts and emerge still believing life is fantastic.
For every step I take into the darkness, God sheds a ray of sun across my view. This blog is meant to share some of the emotions, fears, triumphs and experiences I have had. Mostly its meant to highlight what the love of God and Good people can do to lift the heart of one another. I like to tell people that I am the poster child for 'If I can do it-You can'. If you need to believe that life could be worse-I might be able to help. If you want to believe there is nothing you can't do-I will believe with you. If you need to laugh at someone so you don't cry-I can take it. Some of my life is worth laughing at. Some of it has to be laughed through to survive. All of it is thanks to a loving Father in Heaven who has never left me alone in the darkness. So I keep walking.
Come along...Just a few steps into the darkness.