To See Through A Glass Darkly

tumblr_lxckxdgzrs1qac6sjo1_400_large“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” ~1 Corinthians 12:12~

Some people have their lives laid out. They are excellent at making goals and sticking to them.  They know where they will be one year from now, five years from now and twenty years from now.  I have never been one of those people.

Yes, it is true that I have made long-term goals and stuck to them and seen them fulfilled, but how I was to get there was rarely clear.

In the past seven years or so, my path has been obscured by a continual fog.  I would try going one direction only to find that way was blocked.  Then I would try another direction and that would end up in a muddy mess.  I would backtrack and try another route, only to find that it also did not work. At times, a ray of light would shine through the fog and I would think “Oh yes, now I know what to do!”  And then, as in the past, that endeavor would also fail.

Though I do not often talk about it, discouragement, failure, sadness and depression have been my companions often on a daily basis.  I’ve watered my pillow with more tears that I want to remember.

Yet through all of this, I have learned one lesson: the turtle won the race through constancy, not speed.  So though I continue to struggle through the fog, I know I will ultimately reach the goals I have set for myself.  I still don’t know how I will get there, but I trust that I will.  I now see through a glass darkly, but one day I hope to be on the other side of that glass.  And one day…I will see those dreams come true.

 

The Power of a Song

Have you ever listened to a piece of music that was so perfect that it gave you chills every time you heard it?  The song “Bring Him Home” by The Piano Guys is one of those pieces of music. (Link below.) I could listen to it a thousand times over and never fail to hear the yearning and passion in every note.

Did you also know that this kind of music has the power to change even the most stressful moments into an atmosphere of peace?  Let me share an example.

The other day, I was taking the bus to run an errand.  As I got on, there was a mother and her teenage daughter just in front of me.  One of the passes didn’t work and an argument started up between the driver and the mother.  I could hear them talking loudly, tempers rising, as I climbed up the stairs to sit on the upper floor of the bus.  At that moment, another man was fighting with someone on his mobile phone and the entire atmosphere of the bus was tense and filled with negativity.  Taking the bus on the best of days can be challenging, but today it seemed downright difficult.

I looked down at my phone.  I had just been listening to that very song at home and wondered what the reaction would be if I turned it on.  I had heard someone the other day play a classical piece of music on the bus and not a word of complaint was said.  “Why not?” I thought.  I found the piece of music and turned it up and played it on my phone.

As the first notes of the song begin to play, I felt a little embarrassed, wondering if I should turn it off.  But no one said a word.  Instead, the passengers grew quiet.  The anger and negative atmosphere that had been there moments before seemed to slowly disappear with every beautiful note.  There was almost a sigh of relief and then as the song continued…reflection.

By the time the last haunting note faded out, there was a feeling of peace.  The anger was gone and with it, I do believe more than one heart was changed, even if only for a brief few minutes.  It seemed to be almost a miracle, but no, it was just a simple lesson.  Through the virtue of one song, I was reminded that love has a greater power than every other emotion.  And that is what is felt in every tender note of this song…pure and unconditional love.

Stille Nacht – A Small Miracle

From the very first time I heard this version of Silent Night, it has affected me as very few other songs have done.  There is something so pure, so holy, so other-worldly about it, that every time I listen to it, it seems to fill me with a desire that I can not explain in words.  Many times in my life, this song has reached out to me in varying places and experiences.

One of my most poignant moments was the year I was a sophomore at college.  My family had moved far away from me: from Utah to the Seattle, Washington area.  It was the first time I had ever lived away from them and homesickness hit me hard. I had moved into student apartments and had five female roommates.  Three of them seemed to dislike me from the moment I walked through the door and the bullying, snide comments and criticisms started just a few days later.  I did my best to just stay away from the house as much as possible and frequently only went home to sleep, shower and change clothes.

 

Because of this treatment, few students looked forward to their Christmas break as much as I did at that time.  When finals were over, I gleefully found a ride up to Seattle and anticipated a Christmas with my family, especially my parents and my sisters.  I daydreamed about the shopping, baking, wrapping and get-togethers we were about to have. All of my family would be there, along with in-laws and baby nieces and nephews. I relished the idea of love and kindness and fun to be shared.

But all family holidays have their difficulties and in the midst of so many people, children, illness and other unexpected challenges, I felt rather forgotten, lost and yes, alone. Though it was good to be with family, I still felt something missing. That joy I always felt at Christmas seemed to escape me.

Christmas Eve came and all the adults were hurriedly finishing the wrapping and cooking for the next day.  Everyone was tired and began to snap at each other.  Having just lived through months of bullying, I couldn’t handle it and I put on my coat and slipped out unnoticed for a walk. It was about 10 pm and not a soul was outside.  I walked slowly down the main street to the dock overlooking the harbor. It was so still that it seemed almost unreal…like a painting.

And then it came from a nearby house…the quiet notes of Silent Night.  Almost like the distant chimes of bells playing softly over the water, they were the only sound that could be heard.  It was then that I realized the song was for me…a gentle reminder that I was known and loved by the Savior of the world.  I was not forgotten, I was not lost, I was not alone.  By the time the song was finished, I couldn’t hold back the tears.  The thick snowflakes landed on my cheeks as I looked up at the sky.  I whispered “Thank you” and felt such love embrace me.  The sacred peacefulness of it seemed to fill and heal every part of my aching soul.  The miracle of Christmas had arrived.

The knowledge of His love gave me strength to view things in a different way.  Instead of it being all about me, it became about the Savior and His example of selflessness.  Did it mean that everything changed and the rest of that year was perfect?  No. But it gave me valuable insight into how much I was loved by the King of all Kings helping me to see others in that same light.

Dear friends, it is my wish this Christmas that the spirit of this season will come quietly into your lives and heal your aching hearts and lift your burdens…just as it did for me on that night so many years ago.  Merry Christmas to you all!

Random Acts of Kindness

I was in the vitamin aisle wondering if I had enough money to buy my vitamins or if I should wait until I had a secure income.  I knew I was going to have to borrow money to make rent and wondered if the vitamins went on the necessity list or the “want” list. Then I glanced over my shoulder and saw her.  She was sitting on the metal bench at the pharmacy.  She was in her pajamas, talking on her cell phone and trying her best to wipe the tears away so others would not notice.

It was the day after Thanksgiving and shoppers were rushing by trying to get the best Christmas sales.  There was a general air of jolliness as the people passed, scurrying to get their errands done.  But there was no happiness in her face.  Our eyes met and for that brief moment, I saw the pain, the sadness, that desperate air of wanting to do…something and not knowing what to do.  It tugged at my heart.  I recognized that pain and that look in her eyes.  I have known it all too well.

Feeling shy and indecisive, I turned away.  Wasn’t that the polite thing to do when someone was hurting?  I mean, you don’t just walk up and hug a stranger.  I turned and looked at her again and then made up my mind.  There are times when you need to reach beyond your comfort zone.

Walking over to the flowers, I purchased a bouquet and then quickly made my way back hoping she was still there.  She was pacing in front of the pharmacy waiting for her prescription to be filled.  Nervously, I walked up to her and handed her the flowers and said “Whatever it is, I hope it gets better soon.  Merry Christmas.”  And then suddenly feeling a great deal of love, I reached out and hugged her and she hugged me back.  “Thank you,” she said quietly.  I looked in her eyes and though there were tears, I also saw surprise and something else…hope.  I turned and walked away and as I did so, she called out “Merry Christmas!”  I smiled and disappeared. For the rest of the day, the memory of her brave smile and sudden “Merry Christmas” stayed in my mind and I felt as if my own worries and burdens had somehow been lifted.

I do not tell you this story to make myself look like something I am not.  I tell you this story as a reminder that the best thing we can do to feel better about our own situations in life is to reach out and offer love, compassion and service to others.  If random acts of kindness were the hallmark of our society, there would not be so much sadness, so much anger and so much hatred.

So when you feel as if despair has taken hold and you can’t see outside of yourself, do me one favor…look around, find someone who needs a hand of compassion and reach out with love.  I promise you that your own burdens will seem lifted in return. Love sent to you all…

Angels Attend Us

s13181p1__19517-1415300260-300-300I firmly believe in angels as I’ve had several experiences over my life that have reaffirmed my faith in them. Some of these experiences are too sacred to speak of, but this is one that I wanted to share as sometimes angels are there to protect us from ourselves.

It was a Saturday night in Cartagena, Colombia.  I had been practicing songs at church with the choir preparing for the following day. We walked out of the building and began our walk home, laughing and talking, arms around each other and singing just for the pure joy of it.

Normally, as we all walked home, several of my friends would accompany me until they felt I was safe.  This night, however, we all went out separate ways after a few blocks. I reached the place in my walk where I usually cut across a mechanic’s yard and hopped a wall to go home.  It cut off a good 5 blocks and I had done it a hundred times, though usually it was during the day.

That night as I began my trek across the dirt yard to the dark wall at the back, I saw a young girl on a bike riding off to my left in the light from an open door.  I then noticed a group of men sitting off to my right.  They were all drinking and laughing and joking.  As I got halfway through the yard and they noticed me, they all suddenly stood up. It was as if I had hit a wall and I immediately stopped.  My stomach clenched and I sensed danger.

My first instinct was to turn around and walk back the way I had come.  But then I thought “No, if I turn around, the men will know it was because of them and I don’t want to offend them.”  Though my heart was in the right place, it was definitely not the wisest of ideas I’ve ever had.

As I took a few more steps, I noticed how dark the back of the lot was.  It seemed almost pitch black with several large trucks parked.  At this point, a little voice in the back of my head was telling me to turn around and I began to hesitate.  I glanced again at the men out of the corner of my eye.  They were still all standing and I could feel their eyes on me.  My steps slowed, but I again shrugged off the feeling telling myself I was being silly.  I had passed these same men a hundred times without a single problem.

Just then, the little girl on the bike rode right in front of me and stopped me in my tracks. She looked at me and said in Spanish “You can’t go that way.  The wall is blocked.”  I wasn’t sure if I understood her correctly as my Spanish was still pretty bad at the time.  I asked, in my broken Spanish, if the wall had been repaired.  She just simply looked at me and said again “You can’t go that way.” I understood that and I also understood her firm body language and bike standing resolutely in my path.  I looked at her and said thank you and relieved that I now had an excuse, I quickly turned around and walked away very quickly.

The next day, I passed the wall on the opposite side.  I was curious to see if the wall had indeed been fixed.  As I came near to it, I stood in surprise that it was in exactly the same state it had always been.  It most definitely had not been repaired.  It was then that what had happened slowly dawned on me.  I stood there in the field staring at the broken wall and realized that I had been protected by an angel.  A small, innocent and very determined angel had stood between me and what could have been a very bad outcome.  I silently said a heartfelt thank you to my Heavenly Father who loved me enough to protect me from my own naivete.

Angels come in all shapes and sizes and often they are there as an unseen hand helping us out when we need it the most.  But sometimes they are also there to protect us, even if they are protecting us from ourselves.

colombian-girl-on-bike
Very similar to my little angel

 

 

Trusting the Bigger Picture

young-women-in-the-window-of-the-bus-at-night-black-and-white-photoOver the course of the past few weeks, I have learned a very important lesson about trusting God and His knowledge of the bigger picture.

In April of this year, I left for England with cautious hopes.  Since it had been my dream to live and work there, I decided after several months of pros and cons lists (and what felt like a lot of prompting from the universe) that I would give it another try.  I had found a free room in exchange for some voluntary care and with few bills to pay for and freelance writing gigs popping up, I felt that I could survive quite nicely.  I also was investigating the possibility of acquiring a volunteer visa which would allow me to stay up to 2 years in England.

For approximately 3 weeks, all seemed to go along perfectly: my new flatmate and I were getting along well, my friends and I were reuniting with plans for a fun and exciting summer, and England seemed to be welcoming me with open arms.

Then everything changed dramatically. Due to having a tourist visa, I found out that I couldn’t legally live with the woman I was caring for and was told that I had 4 days to move out and find a new situation.  (I still don’t completely understand what happened there.) I sat there staring at the letter I’d received and felt the tears pouring down my face.  I laid my head on my arms and silently cried.  I had little money and I was about to become homeless.  I had a return plane ticket to Utah, but I hadn’t come to England to return so quickly!  What happened over the course of the next two weeks was a desperate journey to find a new situation with almost alarming results.

After spending almost a week with a kind church member, I found what I thought would be the ideal situation.  I would be managing a house that was rented out on a daily/weekly basis in exchange for a free room.  This house was attached to a business that was also owned by the landlord.  After he met me, this man (whom we shall call Ahmed), seemed impressed enough that he wanted to offer me some work with his company.  And that’s when the problems began.

Ahmed and I met to discuss what kind of duties my job would have.  All was going well until he asked me to join him in the conference room for a private discussion.  I figured he wanted to discuss salary, but after briefly discussing it, he launched into an hour long discussion of how his marriage was falling apart.  At first, I thought he was asking for relationship advice (which I thought was a little strange) and then he told me he was separating and would be staying in one of the rooms in the house.  It then began to dawn on me that he was making a pass.  I mentally rolled my eyes and told him I would think about the situation.

Obviously this wasn’t going to work for me, as I was not going to share living quarters with a man who was supposed to be my boss. I told him shortly thereafter that I would find my own place.  I was still without an income and little money, but thought I could afford a place for a week and then use what he paid me to find something better.  I made arrangements for a hostel that looked decent in the photos.  When I arrived with all my luggage in tow, I found something completely different.  After ascending 4 floors, I realized I was in nothing more than a drug/prostitute house.  I stood in the room with my two suitcases and knew I quickly had to find somewhere else to go.  I texted my boss and asked if I could lock my luggage in the office while I figured out what else to do.  He agreed.

After 3 bus rides, I finally dragged all my luggage into the office and collapsed on the nearest office chair.  Knowing that I was exhausted, Ahmed offered me the couch in his rental house for that night.  Grateful that I was in a “safe” place, I slept on the couch the next two nights.  By this point, I was so tired that I no longer cared about anything and told Ahmed I would take the situation of managing his house.

Ahmed then approached me and told me he didn’t feel I should stay on the couch as it was supposed to be for the use of the other guests.  So he offered me the room that he had been sleeping in and said he would go back to his other home for the time being until my new room would open up.  I agreed, but felt distinctly uncomfortable.  He said he would remove his things when he had a chance.

That night, as I lay in his bed surrounded by his things, the discomfort turned to fear.  A man who had already made a pass at me once, not only had keys to the house, but also to this bedroom.  I tried to reason with myself and shoo the feeling away, but it persisted. Then the thought popped into my head “How long before things turned worse?”

The next day at church, I suddenly felt tired and overwhelmed and couldn’t stop the tears. For the next three hours, they came off and on in a torrent.  After church, I spoke with the bishop of this new branch and told him my story.  He kindly listened, but I could see the expression on his face turn to one of concern.  He then said he felt that he needed to warn me to leave the house that day.  He spoke of another woman he had known in the same situation and she had not left when she had been warned.  It had gone badly wrong for her.

I knew he was right and sighed, knowing I would have to find another place to stay before nightfall.  As I returned home, Ahmed was waiting for me and seemed upset that I had not returned earlier (even though he wasn’t supposed to be there as it was Sunday).  He took a picture of my passport on his cell phone giving me a strange excuse for the reason and then quickly left. My mind began to jump around to different stories I’d heard and I knew the bishop was right in telling me to leave.

Unfortunately, most of my belongings were still locked in his office, but trusting my instincts and knowing I needed to leave that day, I left with little but a carry-on suitcase and a few clothes.  As I sat on the train taking me to my friend’s house, I thought about all those over the years who had to flee different situations for their safety.  I still didn’t see myself in that same category as I had nothing but a spiritual warning and gut instinct to go on, but for me that was enough.

I wrote a polite letter telling him that the living and working situation wouldn’t work for me and wished his company the best.  His response were several very angry and unreasonable texts which confirmed my suspicions that all wasn’t right with him.  I spent the next few nights with another friend and finally decided to go home.  I didn’t understand why everything had come crashing down the way it had, but I was exhausted mentally, emotionally and physically.  I no longer cared why and just wanted to be safe and still.

I did question many things on the return plane flight, such as why did I feel I should go in the first place?  Was I over-reacting and being too dramatic?  But since my return home, I have come to discover that I was justified in my feelings. Through conversations with other people and answers to prayer, I believe I was spared from more than just one frightening  and dangerous situation.

Sometimes, even though it seems as if our dreams are falling to pieces, we just have to let go and trust that God knows better than we do. He sees the bigger picture and understands the end from the beginning.  Though it is still a struggle for me to trust Him sometimes, I am repeatedly shown that He does indeed know best.

 

 

 

 

The Shell

Rough bark hewn from the tree

seashell_alone_on_beach_doormat-r77201b4f8030415e989e8e9a36f7affe_jftbl_1024

Is not unlike your surface

Making you appear unwanted

Old, alone on the expanse of sand.

Darkly-colored lines and peach furrows

Scar your surface.

Nothing to attract you to me…

Nothing to make me turn you over…

To see the metallic luster of pearls

Shining like the copper pot on my kitchen shelf

To see the seam smooth as glass

Showing us you were torn from your better half.

Nothing to make me pick you up…

And hold you tightly in the palm of my hand.