Friday
Jun092017

High Five

Building a house won't make you happy.

You will start out all giddy because the graphic designer in you is screaming THIS IS MY GREATEST PROJECT EVER! You'll dance about your big pantry and the prospect of soft-close cabinetry that assures you will never, ever hear another slam in your lifetime,  

but building a house won't make you happy.

You will agonize over the slightest curves of hardware and the profiles of routed wood, neither of which anyone but you will ever notice. You will ask your aunt with magic eyes to fly out from California just to pick your paint colors. You will Google, Houzz, and Pinterest until your brain blows up.

Building a house won't make you happy.

You will spend $1K (not really, but maybe) eating out over the course of a year because you squandered your dinner prep time after time, be it driving to Spanish Fork to look at stucco samples in the sunlight, meeting Rulon the Stain Guru at Sherwin-Williams in Provo because he's the Dalai Lama of undertones, or unloading your 17' faux wood beams from a semi. Oh, and have a baby during the experience just for funsies, because the only thing better than weighing fireplace insert options by yourself in a showroom is weighing your options while you nurse under a blanket as your toddler runs around with a stanky, ripe diaper.

Building a house won't make you happy.

Snow might warp all your doors as your house sits half-built and totally exposed month after month during the worst winter in years. Your primer might be bad so all the paint peels off over the course of three months. Your carpet manufacturer might go out of business the week before you order your carpet.

Building a house won't make you happy.

You'll spend all your energies focused on a THING, and seldom does a thing make one happy. Plus, you'll spend money like a drunk sailor on that thing and then get so cheap you return a $3 Cover Girl lip balm to Walmart because you didn't need it and force your family to eat soggy celery because the budget demands it.

Building a house won't make you happy.

You'll hate your new house at times and curse the dumb diggers for ever carving the mountain open. You'll cry so much, partly from being tired and partly because you're scared you're leaving everything/everyone that ever mattered to you. Because you're so tired, you'll forget to groom your dog for six months and then PetSmart will shave her until she looks like an inside out cat because you initialed the "shave authorization for matting" clause without reading the fine print.

Building a house won't make you happy.

But holding your little boy's gumball-shaped head in your hands while your cut his hair will. And crying behind the organ while your friend assures you life goes on will. So will Utah summer nights, when the temps drop and the grasses cool and neighbors who love each other flock together and chirp till dark. Making a new friend will; new friends are like Pandora's boxes of unlimited interesting goodness. Late night phone calls with old friends will, too. Helping Archer spell words with IKEA alphabet cookies will. Hearing RE tell Archer that he is her greatest treasure will. Kissing your baby two thousand times a day will, as will his baby's breath. A unified family chorus of hoorahs for Everett as he conquers the top stair with a 6-toothed smile will. Stress-eating treats with Greg, giggling siblings in the double hammock, and circus scripture reading on Archer's mattress will. Finishing strong in this sphere will make me happy later, when I'm double checking for regrets.

However...

Waiting 4 1/2 hours outside with no chairs, no snacks, no water bottles, no sunscreen, and no toys (other than gutter remnants, road base, and sharp objects) for cement to be poured and cured enough for handprints made me happy. No one lost their cool and during the wait we met two of our future friendly neighbors. Making our mark as a family, pressing twenty five fingers into a cold slab, promising THIS IS WHERE WE WILL CONTINUE BEING HAPPY...that made me happy.

Building a house can make you happy.

 

 

Seriously, my hand is fading like Michael J. Fox's when he's playing the guitar at the Fish Under the Sea dance. But could Everett's hand be any cuter? The sweet concrete workers let us do his five times because he kept fisting it up. After the 5th impression he clearly communicated to us there would be no more tries. I think I'm obsessed with "making our mark" because of Archer's current favorite movie: The Good Dinosaur. Such a good movie, and I hate kids' movies! Arlo, the knobby-kneed baby dinosaur, wants to make his mark on the family's silo but his dad tells him, "You gotta earn your mark by doing something BIG for something bigger than yourself." Five handprints are my mark.

Friday
May192017

Buried Treasure

I have Post-it notes lining my bookcases, desk surface, and fridge. Scribbles on the back of receipts, in the margins of church programs, and on junk mail envelopes. Digital reminders and lists on my iPhone. Three book journals (mine, Everett's, Archer's) I simultaneously enlarge each night. The wall calendar and the purse-sized ATA Glance. Two Trapper Keepers in my desk drawer. (Yes, they still make them, but magnetic closure replaced noisy irritant Velcro.) Dated index cards on the fridge for each child's funny sayings and milestones. Dog-eared magazine pages. Screenshots of written passages that moved me. An assortment of mini journals and bound pads, because who doesn't want to get organized with an InkJoy or a Le Pen or a Pilot Precise V5 on page one of a virgin notebook?

Every day I think through the same cycle of

1. I need to remember this, so

2. Where should I put it?

Any slip of paper is in danger these days. We're moving; the contents of my entire house are either getting taped within cardboard or dumped in the trash. I shudder saying it, but I think the only thing I can trust is The Cloud.

I'm on emotional overload right now; there is an imminent changing of the guards coming to my little house and it has my brain spinning, mostly when I should be sleeping. Scraps of beauty, words, and feelings are flying around my hurricane's eye and I'm worried sick I'll lose one. Where do I put these things?

My blog has become my ultimate record; the proven winner in a race between office supplies, lined pages (college rule, never normal), florescent sticky backs, and memory. It's the only place I can quickly find what I once vowed to never forget. It is my safest safe place. It is the hallowed ground I bury my paper clippings, sentiments, skeletons, and petals in so they will fossilize. How can I know what will go extinct? There will be layers of life after this, but for now I am pressing and preserving everything I have left into the stratum of 680 West.

 

Drawing detailing the best sample I've ever eaten at a grocery store, and that is saying a lot since 1) Meiers regularly samples their red velvet cookies and lemon bars, and 2) I once went to Costco the day before the Super Bowl and ate 38 different appetizers. Thank you, lady at Smith's, for pushing the $10 jar of garlic pickles. Loving the layers and strata on this toothpick! And the pita wasn't a pita chip...you couldn't poke a toothpick through Stacy's Pita Chips if you tried. It was a lightly toasted fresh pita. Details matter.

One other thing I don't want to forget but don't know where to put it: The "Y" on Y Mountain in Provo is 380 feet tall, so since 1 inch = 72 points the Y is a 328,320-point letter. (BYU Magazine)

Sunday
May142017

Stand in Holy Places

As New House inches towards completion, I have begun snapping photos of the things I'll miss in dear old American Fork. The temple, the amphitheater, the rose stencil on the electrical box across from the cemetery, the stained glass in the library's atrium, the pioneer cabin. The Presbyterian "Footloose Church" built in 1877 and its bells that ring on the hour (I went in and they let me manually ring the bell). The art deco clock at Sweet Pea Floral's old Main Street location, the AFFC's pool and red slide; RE was the first person to slide down it after "bubble removal" in 2011. The train tracks RE and I walked on so many times to catch the bus and have adventures (the same tracks I made her walk on to buy me gas station Cheetos when I was pregnant).

The crabapple on 500 North that has taken shape over half a century; the prettiest tree in the city. The robot mailbox on Ticket Hill (Junior High hill). The black and white Boley Building that reminds me of the Toot Sweets scene in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I went to photograph the fake deer at the post office but apparently they just cracked and got thrown away (after all those years! Max used to sniff them like crazy). I did, however, film the spider that drops from the ceiling every time you push the door open in October. That thing is a legend I copied in my own home. FYI, Draper Post Office has a thousand furious reviews and no decorated workspaces with pictures of grandchildren, Easter grass, or kitschy mementos. Sadness.

I captured The Glass Slipper's manicured English garden, the marquee at The Sticky (our two-show movie theater named for the feel of the floor), and the giant rooster guarding American Fork Pawn. Perfectly parallel rows of Mitchell's pink peach blossoms. The trickling brook behind our fence where RE and Archer have been Boxcar children. American Fork Hospital, where all three of my babies gave their first fisted wails and home to some of the greatest cuisine around (no joke). The compass pressed into Launa's concrete that Archer knows so well.

And this porch:

It was on this porch at dusk I told Blue-eyed Becca I was expecting Everett. She screamed and heaven's ceiling cracked. Then she began weeping and we embraced each other. We hugged at length while she repeated my name over and over. In that moment, I thought This is how Mary and Elizabeth must have hugged after their babies leaped. I still refer to it as my "Bible hug." Becca had screamed loud enough that little fingers and eyes began to pull and peek through the slats of the blinds. Matt came out to make sure things were okay. Then Matt got a hug and a piece of the crying action. I stood on these steps with two of my pillars and gushed about healing and miracles. It was a circle of safety, of heavenly love, and of mega cheerleading.

I know that once upon a time Becca wanted to re-pour these steps. Maybe she thought they needed a sprucing but I love them just as they are. I look at them as a historic landmark, for it was here I realized I was standing on my promises* with two people who never gave up on them being fulfilled.

Happy Birthday (and Mother's Day) to the one and the only Blue-eyed Becca! The woman who utters only kindness, the chorister with fitness instructor arms, and the person who is petite, polite, and perfectly postured. I love her granola, her Hyde Park honey cookies, her vibrato, her soul, and yes, her steps.

 

 

"Standing on the Promises"

Russell K. Carter, published 1886

 

Standing on the promises of Christ my King,

Through eternal ages let His praises ring,

Glory in the highest, I will shout and sing,

Standing on the promises of God.

 

Refrain:

Standing, standing,

Standing on the promises of God my Savior;

Standing, standing,

I’m standing on the promises of God.

 

Standing on the promises that cannot fail,

When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,

By the living Word of God I shall prevail,

Standing on the promises of God.

 

Standing on the promises I now can see

Perfect, present cleansing in the blood for me;

Standing in the liberty where Christ makes free,

Standing on the promises of God.

 

Standing on the promises of Christ the Lord,

Bound to Him eternally by love’s strong cord,

Overcoming daily with the Spirit’s sword,

Standing on the promises of God.

 

Standing on the promises I cannot fall,

List’ning every moment to the Spirit’s call,

Resting in my Savior as my all in all,

Standing on the promises of God.

 

I just discovered this song thanks to an old replay of Music and the Spoken Word. Last night's double date in the freezer aisle at forty minutes to midnight confirmed Matt and Becca already knew it. Of course the conductor and the song bird knew this song. Well, it's our song now!

  

Sunday
Apr162017

Bethesda

A month ago I thought I had a 2” tumor between my ribs. There was a four-hour interim between my discovery and my doctor’s visit. In those four hours I had two thoughts (keep in mind that people with anxiety go from 0 to 60 in half a second):

  1. THIS is why our house is so far behind schedule! I have cancer and I am going to need to live in my ward-o-comfort while I go through chemo and radiation.
  2. If this is aggressive and I only have a few months left to live, what do I still need to tell my children?

Well, there are three things I still need to record for my kids and this is one of them.

Oh, and I don’t have a tumor. I have a protruding xiphoid process, which I’ve most likely had my whole life but never noticed. (Or else my last pregnancy rearranged my sternum. I was too focused on my swollen feet and ankles to register any other anomalies in my physique.) I’m pretty sure the doctor laughed behind my back when I left his office.

With that introduction, here is my “dying wish” for my three Easter eggs, RE, Archer, and Everett, given by a mother in perfect health. Also, the final installment on my "Puzzle" series.

Part III of III

One of my favorite daytrips is to drive solo to Provo, get a SLAB of Thai pizza south of campus, park at the BYU Museum of Art, eat my pizza by the statues, and then go inside to sit at The Bloch. When I’m done sitting, I head to Sundance for a slight detour and come home via the Alpine Loop. It’s perfection in a 2-hour nutshell.

The Bloch is Christ Healing the Sick at Bethesda by Danish painter Carl Bloch. BYU acquired the painting September 10, 2001, the same day Greg and I were at the Denver Broncos’ inaugural game at Invesco Field. I only remember that because the next morning was September 11 and we were stranded with a cancelled flight. RE was four months old. I stared at her sleeping face in the back seat of a rental car as we serpentined through Glenwood Canyon. “It’s the end of the world," I thought. "My poor baby.”

I discovered the painting several years after it was acquired. I noticed it because I needed it. I needed it because I was broken. I was approaching the 7-years-of-bad-luck mark of trying to have another baby. Infertility had changed from a nagging shadow to a constant companion. Month after month my cycle would ebb and flow; each flow caused a surge of strangulating pain. I’d flee to Provo, inhale my pizza, wipe my nose as it started to run (from the Thai sauce, not from crying), and make my way to The Bloch. Centered on the bench that was centered on the painting I’d look up, exhale, and lock my gaze on the Savior’s face. Preoccupied with his compassion I pleaded so many times, “Fix me. Fix this. I know you can do it. You’re doing it in this painting.”

I have since read the eight-verse account in the New Testament over and over with a magnifying glass. There was a pool named Bethesda with five porches near the sheep market. It was believed when the water “troubled” an angel had descended, making the water teem with healing power. Whomever stepped in first after the “trouble” (which I imagine was really just bubbles coming up from a spring or some type of Jerusalem Old Faithful) was healed from whatever disease he had. A great multitude of impotent, blind, halt, and withered therefore gathered at Bethesda to try their luck at being first in the water. It seems cruel; a race for people who couldn’t run. A gamble of bad odds for people with no luck.

Now for my favorite part.

The Savior is in town. He heads to Bethesda on the Sabbath, which shows so much of his character. Bethesda had to have been pretty vile. I think of that scene in Gone With the Wind when all the soldiers are strewn across the railyard moaning with their bandaged limbs and Scarlett is scrunching her nose and looking for a hanky. So The Great Physician heads to epicenter of Unfortunate and Forgotten (beside a sheep market…double stinky) and befriends a man who has had his infirmity 38 years. He simply asks Wilt thou be made whole? And this man, this poor man, says (and I’m paraphrasing), “Of course I want to be made whole! But I’m not made of money and I wasn’t born a king and I don’t have a servant to help me get to the water first. Every time I descend close enough to snatch the angel’s magic someone faster edges me out and steals my healing.” Jesus replies, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.

And then my super favorite part.

And IMMEDIATELY the man was made whole. He took up his bed and walked. I like to imagine him rolling up his filthy bedroll with gusto as he realized he was now going to do all those things he dreamed of doing for 38 years. I wonder if he left Bethesda walking. Maybe he ran.

Now, kids. Why would I want you to know this story?

Because you are growing up in a crazy world of counterfeit and commotion. You will have immense trials; that is the purpose of life. Some of them may last years. Perhaps they will cripple your hope and shrink your horizons. When this happens, do not let the world trick you into believing its bubbly water has the cure-all for your pains. It does not. The world will advertise endless pools of Bethesda and charge you expensive rent for a deck chair with no intention of ever granting you a pool pass. It will sell you its philosophies mingled with truth for the bargain price of confusion. It will seduce your senses with fragrant salves of revenge and justification. In short, it will barter its praise for His peace. Do not be deceived and do not sell out.

In my case, I looked to many waters to fix my baby hurt. After 12 years at Bethesda I became beyond desperate. I tried anger, blame, shutting fertile people out, retail therapy, weekly massages, lunch dates, endless projects. Heck, I even went to Paris. I'm not saying these are bad things (well, hating people with babies is bad). I am saying they were temporary fixes that dulled and distracted from the pain. Only one thing can and will ever heal you and that is the Atonement of your Savior, Jesus Christ.

As I frequented The Bloch, the subject I became most sympathetic towards was the man in the red headscarf. He was weary from worry. His eyes were bloodshot from suffering. He was desperate for healing, and in my experience when you are desperate for one thing you will do almost anything to get it, even things that don’t make sense like watching still water all day because a friend of a friend knew a guy who touched the water and was healed. It seemed he was close enough to overhear the Savior’s miracle but not quite willing to leave his spot next to the pool. He had doubts as to which method, bubbles or the words of a carpenter’s son, would serve him best.

When you find yourself literally wedged between The Rock and a hard place, choose the rock of your Redeemer! Turn your backs to the world and search for Him behind pillars, in crowds, at the temple, and on lonely, dusty roads. Scour over His life and words. Jesus Christ is unequivocally and undeniably the answer to every question.

I needed answers for my struggles with infertility, but once infertility was solved a new trial du jour popped up in its place. I'm constantly tackling revolving issues with my body, raising children, my marriage, endless physical pain, time management, failure, regret, perspective, education, times and seasons, my worth, and more. When you find parts of you that don’t match Him, fix them! Change. This “inner work” is grueling but it will alter your life more than a change of external circumstances will. It will change your yearnings on a museum bench.

Now, precious babies of mine, mommy has one more thing to say.

When Jesus approached the man who had been suffering for 38 years he didn’t actually ask him, “What is wrong and how long have you been suffering?” He already knew and he knew exactly. You don’t have to sit by a painting or a pool year in and year out begging to be fixed. Jesus already knows you exactly and he will know with what and for how long you have been hurting when you come to Him. You don’t have to say anything. You just have to proverbially look up, trust what you hear, and do exactly what he says in faith. You, too, will be made whole. WHOLE means healed, not filled, so don’t expect an extreme metamorphosis. Many who are healed exit Bethesda with a limp and a smile; the Savior’s ways are often incongruent with our personal plans.

You don’t need to worry about your odds with running into an angel. Joseph Smith said, "If you live up to your privileges, the angels cannot be restrained from being your associates." Kids, do your part and Christ will send you angels. I am a witness that pools runneth over with angels galore.

Archer, you were born when I was 38 (which is why I always remember the man had his infirmity for 38 years) but I left Bethesda at age 37. I left Bethesda in a prayer offered one hour before the doctors revealed whether or not I was pregnant with you. I was kneeling on my rose step stool, beside my king bed, with the morning sun shining on my back. In that prayer, I realized inside of myself that no matter the outcome I was whole because I had found the Savior and healing came from being close to Him. I knew I had done all I could do and whatever He wanted for me was what I also wanted.

BETHESDA means House of Mercy. Hank Smith said, "Mercy, by definition, is something you don't deserve. The moment you earn mercy, it is on longer mercy, it is justice. One of the great freeing moments in life is when you allow God to give you blessings and forgiveness you don't deserve." A man was healed despite his looking for relief in the wrong place. The Savior will give you mercy, and answers, and healing, even if you have been looking in the wrong places or to the wrong sources for them. It is never too late to fix things, but there is only one lasting way to fix things. 

 

Photo quote by Rabbi Ronnie Cahana. The eight verses are found in St John 5:2-9. Photo of a lithograph by August Gaber (1823-1894) from an old French Bible. Frenchie bought the Bible next to the Seine but ripped this page out for my birthday present a few years back. It's of Christ healing the paralytic in Luke 5. She loved how women were present. View Bloch's work here. And that was my fortune from some dinner. I save my fortunes in the coin purse of my wallet.

This is one of my favorite Mormon Messages. I associate it with Bethesda. Seeking the pool over The Source is living beneath our privileges.

 

Update 5/27/17

I published "Bethesda" and downloaded a free app called Virtual New Testament the following day. A team of genius people at BYU recreated ancient Jerusalem and guess what? The Pool of Bethesda made the cut! This is a screenshot from the app:

This is what the app says about it:

This pool was built directly adjacent to a Greco-Roman "hospital" of that day (called an Asclepion). This likelihood might explain the presence of so many sick, blind, and lame. There are actually two pools here with five porches (four porches around the sides of the pool with one going down the middle). The northern pool contained the fresh water. The southern pool may have been a large mikvah. At certain times, a gate was opened between the two pools and fresh water would rush into the lower pool, thus creating a frenzy among those seeking healing to be the first to get into the water. It was here, on a Sabbath, that Jesus healed a man who had been lame for 38 years.

The other thing I loved learning from this app is that the Garden of Gethsemane is the lowest white circle to the left of the pool. It is so close! Off to the right of the pool is Calvary and the Garden Tomb. The Pool of Bethesda is literally between the garden and the cross. I love the symbolism; everything He did encompassed those who suffered. Anyone who ails fits between his brackets of sacrifice.

Friday
Apr142017

A Good Seed

There is a story of an old emperor who was trying to select a replacement by giving the youth in his village each a seed. They were to grow the seed as best they could and report back in a year. A young boy named Ling received a seed, which he took home and planted. Each day he would water the seed and watch for growth but nothing happened. The other youth in the village soon bragged about how well their seeds were growing but Ling still saw no growth.

After a year, the youth of the village brought their plants to the emperor. Ling had nothing, but the other youth had wonderful trees and bushes of various sizes and shapes. The emperor explained he gave each of them a boiled seed, which would not grow, but all of them except Ling had replaced it with a different seed. Apparently only one young person among the group had the integrity to abide by the rules even though it made them look like a failure. Ling was chosen as the new emperor.

I know a Ling and her name is Aurora Jayne Lawson. She won’t log on with your username, she won’t take more than one free sample, she waited to get a Gmail until she was 13, and she made Online P.E. (a cake class) an AP-caliber credit by repeatedly redoing 40-minute fitness assignments because her heart rate dipped to 168 instead of the required 170. She found a $5 bill on the floor of the bus and turned it in to the driver (who gave it to her two weeks later because no one claimed it…and then she donated it to a kid doing a humanitarian project).

My favorite honesty story is when she stayed after school to talk to a 10th grade teacher she had “lied” to. She had asked to be excused to use the restroom but didn’t technically use the restroom, she only blew her nose. She blew her nose in the restroom because she was recovering from a turbinoplasty and had huge scabby chunks coming out of her sinuses and was embarrassed to blow them out in class. So she confessed to her teacher. The teacher hardly knew what to say.

I’m thankful for my Ling Lawson who only sees in black and white. She loves the Lord too much to cheat Him in any shape or form. I trust her implicitly. If she says she’s doing it, she will do it. She’s one in a million and I needed the reminder because I want to scream at her seven nights a week when she stalls at going to bed. I should be more thankful she wants to watch TV with us, play a board game with us, or brush her wet hair while she talks to us. Greg and I may never have couple time again because our trio was her norm for so long.

RE has always been my peer, not my daughter. My equal, not my assignment. My boys will probably require intentional parenting but RE came out like a wise old soul with a brass compass hard-wired to her OCD heart.  

It’s been a hard year, a year her seed was definitely boiled. I know she doesn’t think she has much to show in the ways of exotic trees and bushes but as her mother I’m so proud of her nothing. Her nothing is the result of many behind-the-scenes somethings. She is becoming an empress. She is one good seed.

 

Story recited by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in a message titled "Integrity" at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, on May 7, 2010.