Wednesday
Mar132019

Icebreaker

Right after we moved, our old neighbor Mitch sealed Chateau's new concrete for the price of a homemade chicken pot pie. He's a bit of a concrete expert and advised us to not salt our driveway for three years while it was "green" (curing) or salt would tear it up. We promised we wouldn't use a grain of evil salt and waved him goodbye.

Two winters later (well, almost two if this one would ever end) I'm rolling my eyes at Mitch. Suncrest's 6,140-foot face-off with the north wind + an inclined driveway + my gutless, snow tire-less van = a recipe that demands salt. In fact, our concrete baby better hurry it up and mature into a tough concrete toddler by October 2020 because I'm ready to sprinkle salt like there's no tomorrow.

Keeping our salt-free promise to Mitch has been possible only if one is inclined to shovel till one's rotator cuff falls apart. Hence, we were forced to "invest" (another eye roll, but to be fair, it was Greg's rotator cuff on the line, not mine) in an Arctic-approved snow blower just smaller than a Smart car after the three of us shoveled the remains of the last storm for five hours and still couldn't clear the driveway. We named her Bigger Bertha and for what she cost we will have to decide which child we love the most and bequeath it to them in our will.

Now that Greg has a balaclava and ski goggles for snow removal and I have operated Bertha twice by myself we feel confident here in No Sodium Narniaunless we have to step foot on our front porch. It is a wind-whipped ice block of a death trap. It is always screaming for salt, and from its cries I discovered a hidden treasure in this oft-quoted New Testament scripture:

Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. -Matthew 5:13

In the margins of my Bible I have written PRESERVATIVE, FLAVORER, ANTISEPTIC (PURIFY) and the name CARLOS ASAY, which is a nod to the famous "salt talk" given by Elder Carlos Asay in 1980. A few excerpts:

This white substance occupies an important place in our lives. It is essential to health; body cells must have salt in order to live and work. It has antiseptic, or germ-killing, properties. It is a preservative. It is an ingredient in many foods and products. And it is estimated that there are more than fourteen thousand uses for salt.

According to the historians, “Salt at one time had religious significance, and was a symbol of purity. … Among many peoples, salt is still used as a sign of honor, friendship and hospitality. The Arabs say ‘there is salt between us,’ meaning ‘we have eaten together, and are friends’” (The World Book Encyclopedia, 1978, 17:69).

Let me stop here and say how awesome it is to find a solid encyclopedia reference in this 80s time capsule. Takes me back to my Dewey Decimal card catalog days in the school library, where I'm wearing Velcro sneakers (with the zipper pocket on the side for my milk money) and carrying my rainbow Trapper Keeper. *happy sigh* Let me also add that as a hostess who has her special guests sign a tablecloth after eating in her dining room I love "having salt between" my friends and loved ones.

I think it's generally understood if the Savior compared his disciples (us) to salt then our remaining unspotted from the world affords us power to preserve, enhance, and purify important things in this life. The way we sprinkle our salt can make things in this world last for worlds without end. Salt's power seems to focus on outward purposes, for the betterment of mankind. But what about mankind who could do so much better?

Today, in the aftermath of the season's 398th blizzard, I realized I've been overlooking one of salt's fourteen thousand secret powers. Salt melts ice! That has to mean something, right?

Does salt help icy people? Does it warm those with cold shoulders? Free those who are frozen in fear? Heat those who are numb? Is there anyone that authentically shared and lovingly applied salt can't help?

What of my own shivering? I really, truly want to be good but sometimes ice runs through these veins and I come off as the understudy for the White Witch. When I'm frosty toward my fellow men and sliding down my own slippery slope can I salt myself? Is that even possible? I don't think so, not when being unsavory is so clearly defined as "good for nothing". If hell is literally freezing over my only hope is rock salt; my only help is Christ. Salt isn't just for me to toss on everyone else; it's what I need to kill my natural man.

The salty life is a cycle of being qualified and clarified. Honestly, it involves a lot of thawing. In other words: Behind every savory salt seeker is a lot of repenting.

If a disciple of Christ is salt, and disciples aspire to become like Him, then He must be a perfect form of salt. Maybe The Rock is salt, not stone. How else could such mighty change be wrought in the souls of men?

 

Photo from ChurchofJesusChrist.org

Sunday
Mar102019

Issue

WOMAN WITH AN ISSUE OF BLOOD 

[Mark 5 account]

And Jesus went with him; and much people followed him, and thronged him.

And a certain woman, which had an issue of blood twelve years, and had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse, when she had heard of Jesus, came in the press behind, and touched his garment. For she said, If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole. And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague.

And Jesus, immediately knowing in himself that virtue had gone out of him, turned him about in the press, and said, Who touched my clothes? And his disciples said unto him, Thou seest the multitude thronging thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me? And he looked round about to see her that had done this thing. But the woman fearing and trembling, knowing what was done in her, came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth. And he said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.

For obvious personal reasons I love this story. I, who cycled through 12 years before getting pregnant, can relate to this poor woman who spent all she had with doctors and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse. Her predicament brings back every receipt, single stripe, wasted month, and raw emotion that brought me to my knees but I, too, reached in faith from the dust.

This woman touched the hem of Christ’s robe and was instantly healed from the inside out. She stretched and caught a miracle. I, too, was eventually healed from the inside out by an ultrasound print I stuck on the fridge like an Olympic gold medal but only after years of clutching the Savior’s robe as I bled. Those years of constancy, of being faithful and true every 28 days, were full of issues.

WOMAN WITH AN ISSUE OF BLOOD. Sometimes I like to omit the “of blood” and simply read it as WOMAN WITH AN ISSUE. Who among us doesn’t have issues? Ugly, lasting, deep issues? Pains so private they can only be fixed from the inside out because we’d never let them surface anyway? I have those issues.

So many of us are desperate. For those of us who have the faith to be healed, who sprint to town and lurch through the crowd, who shadow the Man in the Robe and summon everything we’ve got and reach—but remain the same—I feel you. Yet I am here to testify there are still miracles when nothing changes. Sometimes the miracle isn’t that your issue dries up; the miracle is that you’re holding the Savior’s robe. There is peace in that kind of proximity. Be still, and know that I am God.

I think it’s possible, while casting a burden at His feet, to accidentally brush His hem after the release. Perhaps letting go of an issue is another way to reach in faith. Letting go frees up a hand that can now seize solace, right?

Is it a coincidence that after she tells the Savior all the truth she is whole of her plague? I’ve certainly felt better after unbottling and admitting all my issues to the Wonderful Counsellor. Is an honest, heartfelt prayer all it takes at times?

Is it the hem or the reach that makes the difference? Which is greater: being healed and changed in an instant, or being healed when nothing changes? Either way, the Savior possesses the power to do both and reaches our reaching.

I remain confused at the grace that so fully he proffers me.

 

Photo quote from Emma Lou Thayne's "Where Can I Turn For Peace"

Cindy Bean's link; this print is on her Etsy site (It's a long smiracle story how I got this print but Bonnie Mortensen is to blame. Cindy roamed the halls of the Brimhall the same time I did. She has evolved into quite the artist. I think this print is perfection. The way she portrayed the issue of blood, the negative space, the direction of the composition. So good. So, so good.)

Other "Issues" art: Kate Lee, James C. Christensen (I'm gaga for any depiction of this story.)

Wednesday
Feb132019

70 x 7

Today my father-in-law turned 70. He was in gloomy, gross Vegas for a work convention so his wife and seven kids all flew out and surprised the heck out of him in the hotel lobby. All together with extra spouses and a grandbaby we were 14 people. We classed Vegas right up and ordered 14 lemonades at the nearest buffet.

I love so many things about my father-in-law, even if he did scare me a little when I first played cards with him. My father-in-law treats me like one of his own, which is a real gift since he has plenty of authentic Lawson kids to love. He has a big, disruptive laugh that breaks tension and puts others at ease. He's a super good driver and can back a 15-passenger van into a compact parking spot at dusk at a MNF Broncos game.

He's a self-made man who came from nothing but will give away anything. He has a special gift for befriending those who have been down on their luck. He used to volunteer at the prison, treats blue collar workers like royalty, and always has cash in his pocket to help those less fortunate. His truck is always spotless but he'll let you eat in it. If you like, he'll blast REO Speedwagon and sing it loud and proud with you, too.

He gives all the grandkids "The Claw" and gets down on his hands and knees to wrestle with them. I'm certain he has more energy to play with my kids than I do. He used to own a café and would play fusbol with customers. Good luck trying to beat him at any game where a score is kept.

He loves meat, supplements, Tai-chi, and fishing. One of the only times I've seen him cry was at our cabin when we had the roundtable discussion about selling it. He said that several of his grandbabies got to catch their first fish at the cabin so it was good for something. I never realized how special that was to him until I learned that his first memory is catching a fish. Don't we all want to give our kids the same things that made us happy?

When he helped Greg unload an upright grand piano from the back of our truck I was impressed with his brute strength; Greg inherited his Popeye forearms from his dad. He reminds me of Dog the Bounty Hunter (minus the sleeveless shirts and hair feathers) because they both hail from Colorado Springs, are tougher than nails, and say phrases like "meaner than a junkyard dog" and "as fast as all get out". 

A lot of people say their greatest treasures are their kids and grandkids but my father-in-law really means it. It doesn't matter where we go; all he wants to do is play cards or visit late into the night with his posterity. How many guys have a commercial-grade deep fryer plugged in a custom 220 outlet in their garage to fry their grandkids a corndog or some fresh chips for salsa? He does, that's who.

The best thing he's ever taught me by example is to quickly forgive. He's not invincible. He can be crossed, but he'll move on in about five minutes and never speak of it again. He chooses to not be poisoned.

I will never forget the night a few years ago when I was really struggling to forgive someone. I was desperate for sound advice and my inability to forgive was wrecking me from the inside out. I called him pretty late in the evening; he answered.

Me: Are you busy?

Him: I'm never too busy for my favorite daughter-in-law.

Me: I have a serious question for you and I need a serious answer. I'm not joking so don't joke back to me. If you're watching wrestling I need you to pause it and really help me.

Him: Okay, I'm here. Shoot.

Me: I need to know how you're so good at forgiving people. I'm ruining myself over something I can't let go of. It's eating me alive. I can't get away from it. 

Him: (slight pause) What is the purpose of being here?

Me: To be tested, to choose good over evil, to become like God.

Him: Right. So who is winning right now?

Me: Satan.

Him: That's right. So just let it go. Be merciful. Trust me, I've lived the hard way and the easy way and this way is so much better. It's not even a question. Just forgive and be the winner here. 

I can't say how many times I've heard his voice in my head. Who is the winner here?

My father-in-law a simple guy who keeps it simple. It's a winning combination. And so how fitting is it that the man who excels at forgiving others "even seventy times seven" (Bible lingo for "infinity") got to turn 70 with all 7 of kids today?

This is my favorite picture of Herb. RE was six weeks old and camouflaged on him. I also love this pic because Herb always wears supportive shoes. Ain't nobody got time for absent arch support!

Sunday
Feb102019

Wishlist

I carried a student-sized leather Franklin day planner as a high school sophomore (the full size would have generated more mocking). It had everything: lined daily sheets, U.S. and world maps, time zone chart, anniversary gift and birthstone-of-the-month legends, and a built-in ruler with magnifer on the clear bookmark. You name it, it had it. Hidden between two lesser-used tabs was a unique sheet of paper that became the depository for MY SECRET LIFE LIST. In the worst-case scenario of my planner being lost and found by the biggest loudmouth in school that secret list was the hardest page to find. It felt safe. (Still, a Franklin that locked like the diaries at Hallmark would have been *ding* golden.)

I kept MY SECRET LIFE LIST long after I got rid of the planner. I reread it when we moved, when I single-handedly decided the life or death of every piece of paper under my roof. It made me chuckle to remember what young Melissa Durkovich was dreaming about on a bench in "The Commons" at Rock Bridge High. It is a long list, but here are some of the bullets an older, more secure me can reveal:

MY SECRET LIFE LIST

  •  GO TO BYU
  •  GET MARRIED IN THE LDS SAN DIEGO TEMPLE
  •  VISIT ALL 50 STATES
  •  VISIT ALL 7 CONTINENTS
  •  ALSO VISIT THE CARIBBEAN
  •  GROW MY HAIR TO MY BRA STRAP
  •  GET A SIX-PACK (abs, not cans)
  •  WATCH WATERFALLS WITH MY TRUE LOVE
  •  AUTHOR AND ILLUSTRATE MY OWN LINE OF CHILDREN'S BOOKS
  •  BORROW A BOY'S SWEATSHIRT AND SLEEP WITH IT
  •  BE AS HAPPY FOR OTHER PEOPLE'S SUCCESS AS I AM FOR MY OWN
  •  BE LIKE CINDY LONG
  •  BE FAMOUS

As luck would have it, a boy named Mike Jones left his sweatshirt at my BYU apartment the night I helped wrote an essay for him. He used a lot of grooming products and his sweatshirt smelled divine. I wadded it into a ball and snuggled it like a teddy bear for over a week before he came knocking for its whereabouts. When I gave it back to him I played it cool; I even took my time hunting for it since I clearly had no idea it was in my apartment.

Also lucky was marrying Greg, my one true love who won us a Caribbean cruise months after we were hitched. Before we'd even celebrated a first anniversary we were watching waterfalls in Dominica. Any list maker loves a triple check. โœ”โœ”โœ”

Sadly, hair growth cycle is a real thing and my scalp is preprogrammed to only grow hair to my collarbone. That's it. I will never have long hair. And lots of other things on my list. The stinger is I can't locate Cindy Long, my favorite church leader of all time, who made me grilled cheese sandwiches at 2 a.m. when I had sleepovers at her house. She also introduced me to the teddy bear hamster, of which I later owned two. She got remarried, I tossed her announcement, I can't recall her new last name, I have nothing to Google. I last saw her in 1999. So sad.

I'm glad I had secret dreams and I'm even happier some of them came true, but the greatest thing I ever did wasn't even on my list. The most important thing I've done in my life has been staying close to the Lord.

My daughter is just like me in the list-making department. She has her own SECRET LIFE LIST but it's a color-coded note in an app written in all lowercase with no punctuation. She's about to graduate and spread her wings. For years now I've been telling her if she only remembers two things from me to remember these:

1. Don't underestimate the power of the turkey carcass! Eat bone broth! It heals you!

2. I don't care what you do or where you go in life as long as you stay close to the Lord.

I mean it. I don't care about her ACT score, choice of college, or declared major. I don't care what hobbies she pursues, who she marries, or where she ends up on the globe. From my own experience I know no matter how well-equipped you are, how smart, how loved and supported, or how carefully you plan YOU WILL GET THINGS YOU DIDN'T PLAN ON.

Those unplannables, which never belonged on your dream list, will have the nerve to show up front and center in your life. Knowing what to do with them will require a closeness to God and understanding of His plan, plus gobs of patience and trust. If God's love feels familiar to you then all things really are possible...or at least endurable, survivable, forgettable, understandable. Those are a lot of made-up words for something I'm serious about but the nutshell, the essence of it all, is that I don't care what RE does, I only care about who RE becomes while she does it.

Which is exactly what Heavenly Father must be thinking as he watches me write my list every morning.

 

 

Photo of my gilded to-do list notepad. What, you don't have a gilded to-do list? You must not love lists as much as I do.

Photo quote from "Divine Discontent" by Michelle Craig:

Sisters, you and I can plead for the Holy Ghost to show us “all things what [we] should do,” even when our to-do list already looks full. When prompted, we can leave dishes in the sink or an in-box full of challenges demanding attention in order to read to a child, visit with a friend, babysit a neighbor’s children, or serve in the temple. Don’t get me wrong—I am a list maker; I love checking things off. But peace comes in knowing that being more does not necessarily equate to doing more. Responding to discontent by resolving to follow promptings changes the way I think about “my time,” and I see people not as interruptions but as the purpose of my life.

The other thing I associate with to-do lists is something Meckenzie Dietz said in Sunday School at least three years ago. She taught on the three degrees of glory, a lesson she was dreading due to her father's suicide when she was a child. There was a truly beautiful discussion of hope (and really great quotes and insights from Matt McBride) and at the end she said something to this effect:

As Church members we often look at the degrees of glory like checklists. If I don't want to be Telestial I shouldn't murder (check), lie (check), commit adultery (check), etc. If I want to be Celestial I need to fill in all the perfect-and-holy checkmarks. We read the descriptions and make our checks and estimate where we think we belong. But the thing she said that still has me thinking is, "God doesn't need checklists to know who we are." I've thought about this so much. I'm still thinking about it. Obviously it's not doctrinal or anything, but I do think it's true and tied to perfect love negating loads of peripheral gray matter.

Monday
Feb042019

Pro Tempore

I've been reading We're Going on a Bear Hunt to my little boys a lot. I read it like a chant with my leg keeping the rhythm. Whichever boy gets the bouncy leg enjoys it all the more.

We're going on a bear hunt, we're gonna catch a big one. What a beautiful day! We're not scared! They're not scared until they hit the roadblocks:  oozy mud, deep rivers, whirly swirly snowstorms, dark caves. We can't go over it, we can't go under it. Oh no, we've got to go THROUGH it. Every time I read it I hear the African American spiritual "My God is so High" in my head:

My God is so high you can't get over Him

He's so low you can't get under Him

He's so wide you can't get around Him

You must come in, by and THROUGH the Lamb*

This last go-round of speed reading the Book of Mormon made one thing very obvious to me: it's all about Jesus. Everything points to Him and all roads lead to Him no matter what road you started on. However, I also noticed that while Jesus is the endpoint, if you will, he's also the middle, the here and now, the pro tempore. I can explain with mazes.

This is the maze I imagined as a child, when I was taught truths with flannel boards and filmstrips: 

I thought if I worked really hard at being really good then I'd meet Jesus after I died, and if I was good enough I'd get to live with him forever. This maze isn't inaccurate but it sure is lonely.

This is the maze I see now:

Yes, Jesus is at the end, but he's also here today, for the bear hunt, for the THROUGH. (Careful, I'm mixing my metaphors. RE always rolls her eyes and says, "Mom! Too many metaphors! Just say it!") He is the Good Shepherd who will picnic and roam with me through waving grass. He is the Redeemer who will clean up my mud stains. And he is the Light that banishes all shadows and makes caves bearable, if not pretty. Ooh, sparkly stalactites.

This is all I'm trying to teach my kids, my young women, and anyone else who cares to hear. Jesus Christ is the world's individual and collective panacea. Whatever you need, Jesus is it. He will meet you now, as you are, and help you get somewhere better. He'll get you through so that when you finally meet him on the other side it won't be a formal meet and greet, it will be the reunion of best friends who are finally face to face. I love how President Russell M. Nelson said it:

In a coming day, you will present yourself before the Savior. You will be overwhelmed to the point of tears to be in His holy presence. You will struggle to find words to thank Him for paying for your sins, for forgiving you of any unkindness toward others, for healing you from the injuries and injustices of this life.

You will thank Him for strengthening you to do the impossible, for turning your weaknesses into strengths, and for making it possible for you to live with Him and your family forever. His identity, His Atonement, and His attributes will become personal and real for you.

Mazes certainly have times and seasons; I've run self-esteem mazes, scholastic mazes, dysfunctional family mazes, physical health mazes. Perhaps the most exhausting race I've run was the race of waiting, which mostly involved lengths of standing still. Stillness killed confusion; stillness let me hear something on the other side of the wall and believe it was real.

President Nelson also talked about tough mazes:

We live in a most difficult dispensation. Challenges, controversies, and complexities swirl around us. These turbulent times were foreseen by the Savior. He warned us in our day the adversary would stir up anger in the hearts of men and lead them astray. Yet our Heavenly Father never intended that we would deal with the maze of personal problems and social issues on our own. God so loved the world that He sent His Only Begotten Son to help us. And His Son, Jesus Christ, gave His life for us. All so that we could have access to godly powerpower sufficient to deal with the burdens, obstacles, and temptations of our day.

I don't think there's a human on earth not befuddled with the perplexities of a maze. All of our mazes are different and not everyone has a puzzle-loving mindset, so worry about your own maze and don't say things like, "No fair! Your maze is easier than mine!", because we're all bumping into walls and sharp corners and doing our best.

Isn't is telling that Jesus Christ, who is the expert of my life and the one who can see my progress stretched out for miles**, simply wants to walk beside me while I figure it all out.

 

 

 

Turtle comic featuring the word of the day: THROUGH.

Alternate line of the song sometimes reads "by and through the Door" (referencing John 10:9 "When Jesus said he was the door to the sheepfold, he meant that there is only one door or way by which one can return to God the Eternal Father. That door must be through Jesus himself and is a very narrow door which is designed and constructed to conform not only to his teachings but also to his works. If we enter in through that door, it must be in the Father’s way as Jesus demonstrated through his own life of instruction and service and not by some other way prescribed by man." -Theodore Burton) No matter, Christ is the Lamb and the Door so it doesn't really matter which way you sing it!

Photo of me and Greg in our leased green Honda Civic as we set out for life in 1997.

pro tempore < Latin "for the time being" (which I learned from the Pro Tempore art exhibit featuring the works of Ryan Moffett, Jason Lanegan, and Justin Wheatley that focused on enduring mortal trials)

**Matchbox Twenty "Could I Be You" lyric which pairs nicely with this line from the Draper Utah Temple Dedicatory Prayer on March 20, 2009:

In a time of departure from safe moorings, may youth of the noble birthright carry on in the traditions of their parents and grandparents. They are subjected to the sophistries of Satan. Help such youth to stand firm for truth and righteousness. Open wide to their view the gates of learning, of understanding, of service in Thy kingdom. Bless them with a lengthened view of their eternal possibilities.

Free image of Jesus from lds.org

Russell M. Nelson first quote here and second quote here

Last thing, but RE came home from school and we were standing by my window looking down at the grassy terraces in our back yard. The half-melted snow revealed grassless zig zag paths (WHY did voles get on the ark?) and RE said that our yard looked like pangea. Then she said, "Mom, did you know there's a word like pangea but with a c?" I vaguely recalled the word panacea but didn't know its meaning. After googling its definition (Greg was right, nobody uses dictionaries anymore) I realized it's the exact word I've been waiting for to finish this piece. I was just really thankful for RE, who is so often just what I need even though she doesn't know it. I counted the Saturdays until she goes to college as she was driving us home from the spin class she forced me to take with her and totally cried. I will miss her so much. I'll miss her playlists amplifying from the cup holder in the Honda, her health food, her sisterly kindness to the boys, and her light. Oh man, I'm not even kidding that Life Without Ari at Home is a maze I don't even want to step foot in.