Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Like a Box of Chocolates

Who doesn't like chocolates? I certainly do - especially the ones with different centers. Growing up, I remember my father bringing home boxes of Sees candy on special occasions - like Mothers Day or Christmas or Valentines - and letting each of us kids select one to try. Every now and then the box would come with one of those handy little charts that show which one is filled with what, but most of the time we were left to guess and be surprised. I learned in a hurry to avoid those with sprinkles (they were usually coffee-flavored) and the flat, cookie-like ones as well (toffee, which gets stuck in my teeth something fierce). My personal favorites were maple, strawberry, and marzipan.

I'm not trying to make you hungry (though I may have succeeded anyway, yes?). There is a point. Because this month has been so crazy, my blog posts this month and last have been few and far between. I have still been looking for magic and miracles, though, and there are so many I want to share. Therefore, this blog post is going to be the Everyday Magic Sees Candy Box of Chocolates, in which I will describe a varied and unorganized assortment of the little bits of magic that have come my way this semester. Some may be sweeter than others. Some look better than they are and some are better than they look. Some are Haiku, some are poetry, some are not. Each is different, and each is good in its own way.  So without further ado, here you are - enjoy!

I walk down the sidewalk, gray sky above and gray pavement beneath, braced against a chilling autumn wind. The wind is not beating upon me alone, however - a large, thick-branched tree across the street also feels the brunt of it's passing. As it's boughs shake and tremble against their assailaint, I look up to find myself assailed as well - not by wind, but by an army of golden-brown leaves, deserters from their mother tree. In seconds I was in their midst, watching them skirt about my feet and over the sidewalk, dancing around my head and shoulders on the wings of the next breeze. Watching them go, I can see why they chose to forsake their first home. I would have, too - faced, as a leaf, with a choice between falling and flight.

I pace about the living room
My heart alive with dread
To see encased in long-grain rice
A laptop nearly dead.

I thought it was man's only,
But now in retrospect
I see that Vaio laptops
Can also ressurect.

There are few sensations in this world more beautiful than the presence of a friend in times of distress to mend the heart and dry the tears. Fewer still are more beautiful than seeing the loving hand of the Lord reaching into your heart, healing and shaping in His own infinitely precious way.

Warm as summer's day
Chocolate nectar down my throat
Cocoa paradise

Empty silent home
Then a knock upon the door
Happiness returns

Over darkened hills
A golden summit appears
God's holy Mountain

Formula for a pleasant afternoon: Warm sun + Fresh Bread + River parkway + Pooh Sticks + Best Friend + Laughter = Blissful, Carefree two hours.

Formula for Effective Orage Rolls: Everything Grandma Pullan says + yeast that is younger than I am = a warm, sticky delight that does not resemble a pancake.

Formula for a Blessed Life: Family, Temple, Church, Jesus Christ, His infinite atonement, and enduring to the end. Combine all in full measure both in this life and the next. Result = Pure Joy and Eternal Life.

The sun sets over the Provo Valley, causing the night sky to bleed crimson and gold. Shadows lengthen, and the day comes to a triumphant close. I walk towards the blood red sun, feeling the last shreds of its warmth brush my face and hands. The day is done, and I am going home. All is well.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Songs of Thanksgiving

I don't know how many of you have noticed, but at this festive season of the year (November, in other words), the whole of the continental United States appears to be divided into two camps - those who approve of the singing of Christmas carols pre-December, and those who do not. I, for one, am a member of the former camp (I have, in fact, been listening to Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas songs since September). The reason, however, is simpler than just Christmas season mania - the trouble is that there simply aren't very many songs to sing for Thanksgiving.

It's a shame, really. It seems that if we are going to sing songs, what songs could possibly be better than those that express our thanks for what we've been given? The fact, however, is that while many hymns express gratitude, few are meant for Thanksgiving - only three or four. Perhaps one day I will write another. For the times being, however, with my lacking talent in partwriting and severely limited time (as this blog attests), I must look to other means to sing the God's praise and give him thanks. Today my song will be to do what I have been trying to do with this blog for over a year now - to look up, and see the hand of God in my every day.

I have a loving and devoted family, and better yet I know that I will be with them beyond this existence and for time and all eternity. As I walked though the airport the other day I saw a family embracing a member who had just arrived from a plane. Their joy made me realize anew just how important it is for us as human beings to be with one another, to have each other close. If I didn't know about the blessing of eternal families, I don't know how I could ever stand to be away from those I love. My family and friends mean more to me than anything in this world. It is a great blessing to know that when I am apart from them, they are watched over and cared for by someone who loves them more than I know - our Father in Heaven. I truly don't know wha tI would do without these loved ones, family and friends alike. They have shaped me into something better than I ever could have made of myself, and have made my days sweeter and more meaningful than anything else could have done. For that I owe them an unending debt of gratitude.

I have a means of being educated. I  have discovered that there are few experiences more exhilarating nad delightful than learning. My world expands more and more every day, and I become capable of doing more with every class I take and every book I read. I have heard so many stories about children in other countries crowding into their school rooms, keeping their pencils like they were made of gold and erasing their work from their papers so they can use the same sheets again. Hearing things like that makes me not only want to donate to the church humanitarian fund (which I try to do), but also makes me so very grateful for the schooling and knowledge that are at my fingertips.

I live in a country where I am free to vote, to own property, to worsip how and where I may, and to say if I chose that I think President Obama is a complete idiot (not that I would say that at all) in a public without fearing arrest or chastisement. This is a country sealed with the blood of sacrifice. There is no place on earth that affords greater opportunity to mankind.

I have my church and my God, and the knowledge of their truthfulness and reality. I know that I am a child of a Heavenly Father, who loves me more than words can possibly express, even though I am so often unworthy of that love. I have the chance to return to His presence through the atonement of our Savior Jesus Christ, as do all men who repent and let him into their hearts. I have the scriptures, the restored gospel, modern revelation, living prophets... In a world that cries out for answers, I have found them for myself. They give me hope for a future untainted by war and violence, but encompassed in the love of a just and merciful God. I have no greater blessings than these, and it is one of my greatest desires that I might share them with all the world.

This is my song of Thanksgiving, though it contains not a single note. I would like to add to it the words of the Psalmist, who says it better than I could possibly write:

 "Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness: come before His presence with singing. Know ye that the Lord, He is God: it is He that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His courts with Thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise: be thankful unto Him and bless His name. For the Lord is good, His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endureth to all generations."

I add my amen to those words. The Lord is good. I have been the recipient of his goodness since the day I was born. I could spend every moment of the rest of my life giving my thanks, and every breath that remains in me to sing his praise, and it would be insufficient.

My great great great aunt Louisa Mellor crossed the plains with the handcart pioneers. She and the rest of the Martin  handcart company were trapped in the winter snows in Wyoming. She endured great hardship on that journey and through all her days as she helped to settle Utah. Yet despite all her trials, there were two words engraved on her headstone that I echo in my own life every moment of every day:

"Blessed Indeed."

Praise God and his grace this Thanksgiving Day - we have so much to be thankful for. We are each of us "blessed indeed." Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

'Til next time...

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Flock

Sorry this has taken so darn long. My teachers all decided to conspire against me the past couple weeks, all assigning me tests and deadlines at the same time. Consequently, many of my other commitments - my journal, my piano practicing, this blog, and occasionally food and sleep - got pushed to the back burner. But now here we are, and I promise at least one post a week this month, and more if I can manage it.

Getting up for an 8am class has its downsides. It involves me waking up when it is still dark outside, usually feeling groggy and sleep deprived. It often means eating breakfast on the go, making do with the "I don't know what else to do, so we're going with a pony tail" look, and potentially forgetting things that may or may not be important because I'm either too tired or too rushed to remember. However, it also has distictive advantages. I get to walk to and attend class with my best friend, for one, but not only that - the early hour has a sort of magic in itself. The day is cool and bright, only just on the verge of begining, ad things are able to happen that remain hidden once the rest of the world comes out to chase them away.

I got to see one such just a few days ago. We had just left the apartment when I looked heavenward and saw, hovering over the field behind our building, an enormous flock of seagulls. All were different shades of white and gray, sometimes fading out of sight against the bright, dawn-touched sky. They all moved with a grace and weightlessess that comes from being borne up bythe wind - wings outstretched, hovering efforlessly in space. There must have been smaller flocks making up the whole, because every now and then a group of five or ten or sixteen would break away from the whole and move in another direction, no one lagging behind or breaking off, but all of one mind and one movement. They all wheeled and pitched annd dove and soared over the grass, sometimes together and sometimes alone, the whole of them floating there like another cloud in the firmament.

By the time we had walked halfway down the block, the flock had begun to disperse. When we reached the stoplight at the end of the sidewalk I looked back, and saw only two or three birds remaining, flying in their own graceful way. Before another minute had passed, they too had gone. The sky was empty again.

Imagine what that would feel like... that kind of freedom. The cold autumn wind carrying you upward, breathing into your face and rushing beneath your wings, bearing your weight... watching the Utah valley grow smaller and smaller, the majestic cliffs and crags of the mountains looming into view overhead... seeing the sun break free from the peaks to illumiate the world... the sky above and the earth beneath, and all the world spread out before you to be seen and known and kept...

Humans have always had a fasciation with flight because it's one of the few things we don't do naturally. Watching the gulls awakes that same sense of wonder that mankind felt for so long - the wonder of seeing magic, and asking, "How do they do that? Can I?"With the invention of the airplane, the rocket ship, the helicopter, annd other such contraptions, we humans have come to believe that we can fly. I submit that in truth, we cannot - not really. The best we can do is bend metal and glass into what we like to call wings, point them skyward, and hope for the best.

In the words of another seagull I had the honor to meet in my readings, we simply "begin with level flight" - and that is probably as close as we can get.

'Til next time...