Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Staying Connected With More Than .COM

A while ago I was talking to my kids about...I don't even remember what. Sometimes we just talk,laugh, argue, and disagree. Sometimes they ask me the wildest questions.
"Mom, What will I be next year besides older?"
"How do they get the corn off the cob without smashing it?"
"How far away is the closest star?"
It never ceases to amaze me what they wonder about. When I was there age I wondered if my brother would have the remote when I got home from school, and if I'd have to watch something stupid if he did.
Perhaps because the internet wasn't around, or because I had to look things up in books all the way at the Library, my mind didn't function on the same level that my children's' do. Perhaps because the biggest problems I had back then had more to do with my homework and chores than they did about Who I was going to be in a year.
The more I thirst for knowledge, learning and experience; the more I understand that I know nothing.
The less I see with my eyes the more I see with my heart. A great blessing my Father-In-Heaven has given me.
A few years ago I worked for a telemarketing company named Western Watts. It was located on Center Street in Provo, Utah. I don't know if they are still there, but at the time, it was a job I could do with magnifiers and my limited sight. I'd moved to Provo after losing my eyesight because I decided it was time to make a life for myself, by myself, not living off of my mom.
I moved in with some friends, found this job and arranged for a monthly bus pass to get around. I was on top of the world.
Unfortunately my expectations did not include the winter weather in Provo.
Living in Southern Utah, on the edge of The Mojave, my experience with snow and ice was limited. I lived in Mew York for a while and was familiar with winter, but this was my first blind foray into a world of white.
One morning in early February I had to start work at 7 in the morning. This meant I had to catch the 6 o'clock bus downtown.
I trudged through ankle deep snow in the middle of a storm that had been blowing since 5 that morning to get on the bus only to discover my bus pass expired at the end of January. The bus driver told me he'd let me ride that morning, but he confiscated my pass and said I needed to pay on the way home. I wasn't too worried about it. I could go to the ATM outside my work and get cash for the return trip.
It was still dark this early in the morning so when the bus driver dropped me off at the stop 2 blocks from work, I wasn't surprised that I didn't recognize anything. It was either pitch black or hazy, blurry shapes coated in white. With my cane in one hand, I set out down the sidewalk, counting on my familiarity with the sidewalk between the bus stop and work to help me navigate the shapeless white blobs all around.
After walking in the "blizzard" for the requisite two blocks, I discovered I was not in front of my building. I backtracked to the bus stop, concentrated and made the trip again. Now keep in mind, it is like 22 degrees, a snow storm howling all around me, and the entire city was blanketed in snow. I of course assumed I had gotten lost.
I needed to figure out how lost I was.
Now, you would pull out your phone and call someone, but then I didn't have a cell phone. People with cell phones also had backpacks to haul them around. If I'd had my bus pass, I could have gone back to the bus stop and gotten another bus to help me. I probably should have done that anyway, but I didn't go back and re-connect with the bus driver because he'd chastised me for not renewing my bus pass and I didn't want to beg him to let me back on the bus. There's a huge lesson to be learned here about swallowing your pride, but that's another day.
Instead of trying to find anyone I could ask, or could guide me, I huddled in a storefront and tried to figure out what had gone wrong.
Now to my credit, It was before dawn, all the stores were closed, and the traffic in the snowstorm was nil. It wasn't like I had a lot of options. By the time I figured out where I was it was beginning to get light out, the sunrise reflecting off the snow and making my limited sight worse. I did manage to find some numbers engraved on a doorway telling me the address where I was. With my frozen fingers I learned-Instead of letting me off at 400 west, the bus driver had let me off at 400 east. Over 8 blocks from where I needed to be.
A sighted person could have jogged that 8 blocks in about 5 minutes, but for me in the snow and unfamiliar territory it took me almost 3 hours to figure it all out, go in the right direction, and stay on track until I got to somewhere familiar.
When I showed up my feet were coated in snow because I was a desert girl, I didn't own boots, my whole body was one giant block of ice, and my boss was ready to fire me.
In hindsight I can see every moment I came to a decision and made the wrong one. Looking back I can tell I wasn't connected to anything real. Blinding snow flurries, Camouflaged buildings, and unfamiliar streets, but nothing that held real answers. Oh the answers were all around me, I just wasn't asking the right questions. Or, asking the right person.
When I finally prayed with every breath I took, I was led to my destination. Maybe if I'd of had access to google instead of God I could have found answers. The truth though is:
Even with modern technology, satellites, and the internet, I would still have had to trust my connection with The One who could see everything to get me down the road.
My son likes to tell me I ask too many questions now. Where are you going, How long will you be gone, Who are you going to be with? I learned though, if you aren't connected with the people who love you and want your success, you might as well wander alone in a snowstorm.
I'm not great with the computer, but I enjoy being able to connect with people via, facebook, twitter, and my blogs. When it all comes down to it though, I never feel better than when I turn the computer off and find solace to connect with God. Plus its mush simpler, I don't have to remember to include .com.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Deciphering What Is Real

One of the biggest mistakes I made when I originally lost my eye sight was to rely too heavily on my failing vision to connect me with what I could see. A broken piece of you is not your best resource for survival.
If you broke your right leg, would you take all the weight off of your left and lean on the broken bone? Of course not, but that's what I did.
I didn't get the training I needed to get around correctly as a blind person until I was thirty. Before that, I was a little reckless and just felt my way around relying on that broken part to make up the difference. When my husband Erik was around, I held onto him and used him as my recognizable land mark to keep me oriented. A great system...unless we got separated. I know it sounds all sweet and romantic, us going everywhere together hand-in-hand, but the realities were it couldn't work in the real world. I couldn't spend my life following him around, hoping where he went was all I wanted. Anymore than he could give up everything to be my seeing-eye husband. This fact was made apparent to me one Saturday in Home Depot after we'd been married about six months.
He was looking for screws, or nails, or bolts, or some other totally uninteresting lumber yard thing. I was bored out of my mind, following him around while he stroked the power tools and inspected the threads of every steel fastener in the store. He was wearing a t-shirt, a pair of jean shorts, and a baseball hat. When Erik and I were first married, I had some vision. In my limited sight his hat was dark blue, or black. His t-shirt was white. His shorts were a faded blue. As was my habit, I held the bottom hem of his t-shirt as we strolled up and down the aisles of the hardware store. When we stopped so he could handle some nails or something, I let go of his shirt and turned a little bit away from him to run my fingers over the items on the aisle. I'm a tactile person. It only took a second or two until I rotated back to take the hem of his shirt once again.
I didn't think twice about the man beside me, dark blue cap, white t-shirt, faded jean shorts, until an unfamiliar voice cleared with a cough. "Um...I don't think I am who you think I am."
I almost jumped clear out of my skin. The man beside me chuckled under his breath as Erik walked back over to me and took my hand.
I'm sure I mumbled a lame apology, and hid my mortified, blushing face all the way out of the store while Erik laughed. I still think about how much worse it would have been if I'd slid my hand into his back pocket the way I do with Erik sometimes. I have done much more embarrassing things since then. I've even learned to laugh when I accidentally grope some unsuspecting person. However, the moral here is...relying on our own flawed perceptions will always end up with your hand clinging to the wrong guide.
The world is full of social causes, fashion fads, cool trends, and well meaning people who rely on their own flawed perceptions and then want you on board to prove they are right. Anytime our idea of what's right comes in conflict with God's idea's about what's right, we automatically assume that it is His thinking that is flawed.
When ever I turn off my brain and focus on the clues around me I figure out the truth. However I have to collect the ideas,perceptions, and emotions of those around me. If i feel confused, angry, afraid, or mean I know I'm holding onto the wrong guide. If my influences compell me to love, encourage, forgive, and believe in goodness, then I am hand-in-hand with my Savior.
Even when Christ disagreed with the pharisees he never tore them down. When The Romans mocked and crucified him, he never fought against them. When his own Jewish brothers and sisters betrayed him, he only asked His Father to forgive them.
Don't be afraid to reach out to the person beside you, even if you don't agree with them. Love, forgive, and encourage them. If you find out you're holding onto the wrond person you might end up making a friend. You will definitely end up with a good laugh.
What could be wrong with that? 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Lost? or Off Track?

One of the things I both enjoy, and gather my courage to accomplish, is to walk.
My blind friends insist no one should think being able to walk is amazing. Of course blind people can walk, it's our eyes that don't work, not our legs. Being skilled, trained, and equipped to walk though, is one of the things that makes getting around alone in the dark a challenge. We can't get offended when people admire the skill if we had to be specially trained to do it. Once again walking isn't amazing, learning how to get around in what is a frightening environment is pretty cool.
Which is the point I wanted to make. Being born, growing up, making a good life, becoming a good person,  and leaving behind a legacy are not in and of themselves amazing accomplishments. Doing it in a world where men, religions, books, the internet, and the rampant presence of evil tries to stop you is pretty cool.
All of us live in the darkness to some extent. We all start down a familiar path for the first few steps. However the farther we get from home the more treacherous, dark, and confusing the surroundings get. Some thing small distracts us. A pretty scene. A beautiful song, A flash of sparkling enticement off in the distance. By the time we put our attention back on the path the recognizable may be gone. The sun has shifted from your face to your back. Did you turn around, or is it later in the day than you thought?  Did you point your feet off into the wooded hills, or did your paved path turn treacherous?
For me, not knowing if I'm lost or just off track can make the difference between back-tracking a dozen blocks to the last point where I knew I was in the right place, or simply turning a corner and walking further than I thought I needed to go.
I have done both. I headed East into a snowstorm for eight blocks because I got off the bus at 400 West, instead of 400 east. I was lost. Luckily for me, I knew the direction I needed to go, I only needed the courage to fight the storm while I went there. Yesterday I came back from having my blood drawn and found myself on an unfamiliar street. The dogs that always barked when I passed by were silent. The fumes and sounds of the auto body shop next to my house were missing.
That cold sense of dread with which I faced that snow storm filled my heart. The last place I knew I was on the right road was four blocks backward and consisted of a round-a-bout. Orienting myself from there would be a challenge.
My thoughts first went to the long walk back to the round-a-bout, and then to how I would find the right direction when the whole point is to go around and around in circles like a hamster.
I paced up and down the street for a moment, cursing the street planners, the British for coming up with the stupid system, and myself for getting distracted by a phone call. I know I can't talk on the phone and walk at the same time. What was I thinking?
Once I'd beat myself up for being so stupid, I listened a little harder. There was a person working in someone's yard.
Feeling like an idiot is one thing, proving it to an innocent by-stander is another. I was lost though. He could at least tell me how far back I had to go. Swallowing my pride, a basketball sized tidbit by the way, I asked for directions.
It turned out I wasn't lost, I was simply one block east of where I thought I was. With the by-standing gentleman's simple course correction, I knew exactly where I was within a few steps.
My goal in life is similar to this experience.
Stay on track the best I can. Recognize when I've lost focus. Learn from my mistakes. Make course corrections.
Life will present side-roads, round-a-bouts, and detours that you don't want to deal with. You can sit down on the side of the road, cry, freeze, die, or find help.
Search for light, wisdom and knowledge from your fellow travelers just make sure their heart's are set on going to your destination. Trust that lost or off-track, there is a way out. Most importantly, don't be afrain that unfamiliar territory means your off-track. Trust the God that sent you here to guide you back. He knows where, why, and how close you are to home. He will never leave you to wander in the darkness unless you refuse to take his hand.
It doesn't matter if you're lost. It doesn't matter if you're off-track. It doesn't even matter if you're just afraid of unfamiliar territory. God is beside you, and what On EARTH could ever matter more.