Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Ring out the Old...

Yes, Christmas is past. I am aware of the fact. But these Christmas colors are staying up until January has fully begun, and even then.... well, we'll see how that goes. Welcome to any family, friends, kin, or acquaintances who are visiting based on my mom's little link at the bottom of our Christmas letter. Thank you for taking a few minutes out of your day to listen to the hopeful ramblings of an often misplace muse. Under the circumstances, you must either be very curious, very crazy, or really love me. Whatever your reason for being here, I thank you again for your time.

The year is almost out. I don't know about anyone else, but for me it has flown on wings of lightening. I have experienced a lot of changes, especially in heading off to college. Many thanks to those of you who have helped me through those difficult days. I can't possibly find adequate words to express the joy and blessing of the support of a friend or dear one when the road grows rough and the feet grow weary.

It has been quite a year... a year of long-anticipated endings and fresh new beginnings. A year of friends, of family, of near kindred. A year of song and dance and music. A year of herbal tea and wool socks. A year of lost keys, found keys, and borrowed keys. A year of hardship, work, and pain. A year of late nights and early mornings. A year of partings and a year of greetings. A year of temple trips, hot chocolate, and late-night conversation. A year of new friends and old friends. A year of sorrow. A year of rejoicing. A year of thanksgiving. A year of magic.

Isn't that amazing? Before we know it, a whole year gone. So here's the moral of the story - for a moral there must be. Three hundred and sixty five days have passed us by. Did we use them wisely? Now that the holidays are over, we are looking over our accounts to see how our funds have been spent. I think that ought to be the way we treat the new year, as well. Last January we were given three hundred and sixty five days to spend as we chose. Did we spend frivolously, or did we use them for the improvement of others as well as our own? The answer is yours. Just something to think about...

Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and never brought to mind
should auld acquaintance be forgot
for auld lang syne,

For auld lang syne, my dears
for auld lang syne
we'll drink a cup of kindness yet
for auld lang syne.

Robert Burns. Probably a familiar tune, isn't it? Auld lang syne, loosely translated, means "for the sake of old times" or "days gone by." I agree with Burns here. Though mountains, oceans, and passing years divide, let us never forget the bygone days, for they can be a great help and comfort to us in the future. Yet let us also raise a cup to days to come... and may they be as beautiful, as sweet, as prolonged, and as magical as auld lang syne.

Happy new year, my friends. Here's to auld lang syne, and to many days to come! May you be blessed and happy this new year and always. 'Til next we meet...  

Monday, December 20, 2010

Three Gifts

There is a book of religious doctrine out there - the Korahn, I think - which has a very interesting idea to go along with its reading. It is said that every doctrine written therein has seven meanings. The first is the most literal - for example, "And the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights" (Jonah 1:17). So Jonah was swallowed by a fish and waited around inside for three days. Literal, face value interpretation. The second level is slightly more symbolic - say, the Lord prepared a trial for Jonah to endure. The third level more so - the Lord prepares trials for his children, which they must endure to become more like Him. And so on and so forth, until the seventh level, which, according to tradition, is known only to God.

One of my religion professors brought up an idea rather like this about Christmas. This season, too, has different levels. Three, as it happens - a number closely associated with this holiday, especially in the three gifts of the Magi. So, in honor of the season, consider these three kinds of gifts, of three levels, of Christmas.

The first kind of gifts are the secular ones. There's nothing wrong with that, by the way. Secularism, while often overplayed in the modern world, isn't always a bad thing. What I mean in this case is the gift that you go to a store, website, or retailers to purchase for someone near and dear to you for a holiday or special occasion. It could be anything - clothing, toys, books, electronics, home appliances, beauty supplies, you name it. Secular simply means it goes into wrapping paper and under the tree. Secular gifts are a great thing. I have gotten one for each person in my immediate family. My mom has been frantic trying to hunt them all down for the kids and my father. We have received countless tokens and treats of the season from neighbors and friends in the past weeks. These gifts are our ways of showing others that we love them and are grateful for their influence in our lives. It's how we give aid to those who we don't know, but who happen to need a guardian angel or Christmas elf - which, in turn, happens to be us. It's our way of participating in the season of giving.

The second kind of gift one from our Heavenly Father - that is, the Christ child. There are all kinds of gifts that go with this one - gold, frankinsense, and myrrh, to name a few, as well as bright stars, angel carols, and visits from neighboring shepherds. It's the perfect nativity - shepherds, wisemen, Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus in the manger. This is the second level of the Christmas season. Perhaps less noticible than the secular side sometimes, its spirit still penetrates our holiday celebrations with the sweetness of new birth.

It goes deeper still, however. There is a third level, a third gift. This level is the most important, but often the most overlooked of the three. It does not celebrate holiday sales and brightly colored presents. It does not celebrate a baby in a manger, or even a redeemer on a cross. Not a child Christ, or a dead Christ - but a living one. This level is one of remembering that at this time over two thousand years ago, our loving Heavenly Father gave to us the greatest gift the world has ever known. It is bearing in mind the great suffering that Jesus Christ took upon himself for our own sinful sakes, and bearing in our hearts the joy of knowing that we can be healed at his hand. It is celebrating that a baby was born - a baby that would make it possible for all of us to return to our Heavenly Father. It is a time of feeling of our Heavenly Father's incomprehensible love for us, and refining our desires to match his. And even though Eastertide is yet to come, this is a season to rejoice in the knowledge that our savior lives. Those are, in my opinion, the sweetest words human tongue can utter. Our savior lives!

I now most humbly descend from my little soapbox. You can come to your own conclusions about Christ and about faith. But I hope that my words have at least brought to your remembrance the true origins of this season. An unfriendly town, a shabby stable, a less than adequate manger, and a baby - a baby who would someday be the greatest gift the world has every received. May we give thanks for that gift this day and always.

Happy Holidays, my friends! 'Til next we meet...   

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Silver and Gold

Three words: FINALS. ARE. OVER!!! Suffice it to say that I have been in a jubilant mood since I escaped my last exam yesterday - Astronomy. I no longer have to study for days at a time. I have two weeks to simply repose at home - no deadlines, no pressure, no textbooks. It will be a glorious experience. Anyway - to the point. I do have a tendency to get around that, don't I? We'll, we're here now - so let's begin.

"Make new friends but keep the old - one is silver and the other's gold." I imagine that you all have heard this so many times it hardly requires repetition. Yes, it's commonplace. Yes, it's been overplayed. I'm here to tell you that it's also true - but not in the way you might suppose.

Indeed, old friends are as good as gold and better. I have many companions that have been Daemon to my Pythias since before I can remember (and by the way, if you don't get the greek reference, look it up - Daemon and Pythias. It's a story worth the reading). I have many friends with whom I have formed sweet alliance as the years passed, throughout my school days and on. They have been dearer to me than any material possession I could ever own or desire. They have made life bearable for me when it could hardly be shouldered. They have supported me in my high ascensions, even when they themselves had already reached the summit. I couldn't have asked for anything or anyone better than they. Next to such unfailing friendship, where does gold stand a chance?

But here's a rather interesting spin on the old phrase. Did you know that silver is acutally more valuable than gold? It's true. Gold often sells for more on the market, but silver - in its broad usefulness and comparative scarcity - is actually higher in value. Now what does that say to us? Allow me to give example - and again remember, as I relate my own experience, that I do so only for a lack of anyone else's. If you can make relation with the topic at hand, please bear yourself in mind as you read.

I came to college lonely and afraid. All of my old companions had gone to other schools, and I was very much alone. The size of the school overwhelmed me, compared to the little high school I had just left. My apartment was altogether too quiet after the hustle and bustle of a household of seven. I found myself crying often, and sighing almost every two or three breaths. It was a difficult first few weeks, without question.

But college didn't bring hardship only. When I came here I discovered something else - pure silver. My wonderful roommate was my best helpmeet during those difficult times - always smiling, always free and easy, and a cock-eyed optomist to the core. She cared about what classes I was taking, how my day had gone, who I had met, or what I had done, and earnestly listened to the telling. My other apartment-mate soon made herself known as a veritable rainbow, bringing life and color into any room she entered. And then, not long after, we met the girls next door. Addy, a constant ray of sunshine who hails from rainy Washington. I suppose that when natural sunlight is scarce, you learn to make your own - Addy simply radiates it everywhere she goes. And then her roommate - if you read my sunday scribblings entry a week or so ago - "What a Difference a Day Makes" - then you know how I met Katie. She came over one night, without pretense, and asked if I was doing anything. We ended up making a movie night of it, and we both had a wonderful time. What she could not have known was that I had been having a horribly homesick day, and had despaired at sitting in the apartment alone all evening. I had no sooner completed the thought when her knock came at the door - a little miracle in its way. We have been fast friends ever since. We plan to room together next year, and to go to Jerusalem together come next winter.

I could tell you endless stories of a similar nature. It's incredible how many memories can be made in three and a half months! There have been so many evenings, so many days, so many hours that I have held on to afterwards, and which I have later fled to and cherished on difficult days.

But the point, once again - gold and silver. I love my old friends. I do. I've missed them, and I've tried to take every opportunity to correspond with them. I've missed high school and Heber City. And even in their absence, I prize them as gold. And yet... here in Provo, I've found something equal to gold and better. Even in the midst of difficult change, even in a new, unfamiliar place, I have been blessed with silver everywhere I turned. I haved thanked my lucky stars and my Heavenly Father every day for such friends and such blessings as I have been given - even during the difficult days. And those dear friends have been more valuable to me than the old, simply because they are not a letter or a message, but a warm, living, breathing human being standing in person before me. Someone I can physically turn to when I need encouragement, or comfort, or a sweet embrace. And I can say with all honesty that none of my shining silver friends have ever let me down.

This time of year, both Thanksgiving and Christmas, is a good time of year to take stock of your personal coffers, both in a physical and spiritual sense. As you do, I encourage you to take particular notice of your gold and silver, and express your gratitude to both for their friendship and service. I also encourage you to look around and notice those who count you as gold or silver in their own treasuries. I know that every time my friends have given me comfort, my only desire was to return it in their hour of need. So take notice, be aware, keep and open mind - you never know what you might discover by the simple act of keeping your eyes open.

I know I have well expended my time on this page - yet one thing more. Never forget who sent you among these loved ones - our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. They are our finest friends, now and forever. When all other metals have rusted and tarnished, when "from love's shining circle the gems drop away," they will always remain. May we remember to turn to them in all our doings, during this sacred Christmas season and always.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and safe journeys to all. 'Til next we meet...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sunday Scribblings #245 - Limits

Can't is a horrible word. For one, it's a conjunction - and in my book it's just as easy to say "cannot," as it was said in proper English for centuries before Americans hit the scene. And crazy though it may seem, even in this conjunction-heavy modern day I am a great supporter of proper English.

That's not the real reason I hate it, though - "can't." I hate it because everyone says it about me. Almost every day. They've been saying it for sixteen years, and I for one am at a loss for anything that might make them stop.

I "can't" use the stairs, so I have to have an elevator pass, or take classes on the ground floor. I "can't" be in the school play because it requires dancing - no voice-only parts available. I "can't" do any school sports, even though I'm sure I could dominate at track and field if I wanted to - or basketball, or even rodeo. I "can't" drive myself anywhere (even with my liscence) because I "can't" get in and out of the car by myself. And I "can't" get any job that's worth getting. Believe me - I've tried. All because of this stupid wheelchair.

I shouldn't say that, really - my wheelchair allows me to do a lot of things I wouldn't be able to do otherwise. It takes away a whole world of "can'ts" from the picture. The proper thing to say is that I hate the fact that I will probably never be able walk. It's the only "can't" I've learned to accept. I can't stand for more then a few seconds on my own - I never could. I suppose that after so many years of living with a "can't," you start to get used to it.

But I have a secrect. In the evenings, after the dinner dishes are cleared away and my siblings are off to their respective activities, I disappear to my bedroom. I have it to myself - the only one on the ground floor. I lock the door, turn on the desk lamp, and pull the shades. I get out of my wheelchair and onto my bed. I even collapse it and push it beneath the desk, so I don't have to see it. I kick off my shoes and pull off my braces. Then I slip a hand under my pillow and draw out what's hidden there - a novel, whatever I was able to get my hands on in the library that week. I reverently pull back the cover, find my last stopping place, and read.

And suddenly I am in another world. It doesn't matter which one - the effect is the same. I am taking the stairs of Hogwarts two at a time, trying to be on time for Transfiguration with Professor McGonagall. I am dancing in the moonlight with the Scottish selkies, their seal skins abandoned on the beach. I am playing discus or racing chariots with Perseus and Jason and Heracles himself. I am travelling the world - by ship, by train, by horse, by hot air balloon. I am working alongside both the great and the humble - sluething alongside Sherlock Holmes, weaving with Silas Marner, striking the hour in Notre Dame with Quasimodo, or farming beside Alexandra on the Divide. I fly over Alegaesia on Saphira's back, ride through the woods with the Elves of Rivendell, wield a sword in defense of Narnia against the evil White Witch, or join the crew of brave Odysseus in his journey home to Ithaca. I can be anyone, go anywere, or do anything between those blessed pages...

And when the novel is over, or life comes once again creeping beneath the door and through the blinds to steal me back from the realm of fastasy, I turn to other means. When my mother or teachers think I'm doing homework, I open a fresh notebook and write. And then the world is my own, and I am once again free of the contraints of reality and flying on the back of my own imagination.

The world may say that I "can't." I say "you can't stop me."

Friday, December 10, 2010

As I Am

I wanted to share another piece of prose that is not my own. This one's poetry, actually - but that's not really important. Here it is:

I am the place where God shines through
for He and I are one, not two.
I need not want, nor will, nor plan -
my place is where and as I am.
And if I be relaxed and free,
He shall carry out His plan through me.

It's that fourth line that I wanted to show you particularly - "My place is where and as I am." That is temperence at its best. I think that not all of us feel that way. It is easy to wish that we were somewhere else, some other time; or that we were like someone, or had what someone else has, or could be in someone else's place. Sound familiar? It sure does to me. More than once have I been touched with envy for another, for for longing for another time and place, away from the care and responsibility of now.

Perhaps, though, we ought to think more along the lines this poem suggests. I am not, in fact, in a more stress free environment than the one which I occupy. I am not the girl with the angel voice in the Fine Arts Center, nor the skilled actress in the main stage production, nor J.K. Rowling (or anyone like her). I am in finals week. At BYU. I am an actress, a singer, and writer, even if not perfect or highly trained. I am student, a sister, a daughter, and a friend. My place is where and as I am. I use myself as an example simply because I haven't the words to relate it to every one of you. Imagine the words as they would sound with your name in their stead, and your place and talents, and you'll have a better picture.

And then there's the next part: "And if I be relaxed and free, He shall carry out His plan through me." Relaxed and free. How often are we so set on our own plans that we forget our Heavenly Father's? I know I have become so misguided at times. Again, it's easy to forget. It is an inherent part of our nature to let even the sweetest memories slip away from us. Because we can't see Him, we sometimes forget that He is there. But even on our brightest days,and especially in our darkest hours, He never forgets us. All it takes is for us to turn to him, to "Humble [ourselves]... before the mighty hand of God, that He may exhault you in do time... Casting all you care upon Him, for He careth for you."

And that he does - more than our lesser minds and hearts can ever comprehend. He knows us, and loves us, and has a plan for each of us. If we will only be relaxed and free, seperating ourselves from the hasteneing and rush of our everyday lives, and let Him work through us. May we all remember His everlasting love this sacred time of year.

Onward, ever onward! Until next time, dear readers...