Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Witness

Fasting brings a sense of clarity to life and I am grateful for the opportunity to do it each month or as often as I feel it would be good.  Usually, I fast with other members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on the first of the month, but this November there have been several conferences and such that made this past Sunday our designated time to fast.  As part of our weekly worship service, rather than have prepared speakers share their thoughts, the pulpit is open to anyone and everyone who would like to share their testimony of Jesus Christ.  I generally go kind of pale and shaky and quiver voiced when I share my thoughts, but despite all those reservations, I felt that I wanted to declare publicly my experiences and gratitude for my Savior, Jesus Christ.  

I used to think that if you kept God's commandments and tried to be like Jesus that life would be a piece of cake, a series of blissful stages with everything going the way that you liked.  Ha.  That is NOT what happens.  And its not even what God promises us as we do keep His commandments, so I don't know where my conclusion came from.  Life is hard and trying, no matter who you are.  Yet, rather than balk at that and refuse to accept it, I am learning that hard is good.  It really is.  And because it is hard and because Jesus has personally experienced how hard it is for each individual one of us, God promises His Spirit to be with us to grant us peace, hope, and blessings as we strive to follow Him, remember Him, and keep His commandments.  These following thoughts are what I know and feel to be true.  

God is good. We can trust Him. This is truth I have really wrestled with the past several months, but something of which I am sure. He is real. He knows us perfectly and loves us perfectly. He gets it. He sees the big picture and I am so grateful for that. Because I don’t and get impatient and frustrated and irritated, etc., as He tries and proves my heart. He is willing to listen to anything and everything, no matter how many times we say it. He has high expectations, and helps us rise and become what He sees in us, especially when we don’t see it ourselves.  

I know that Jesus Christ loves. He lives and loves as His Father does and shares His expectation of us, to become perfect. He has perfect empathy and leads us to every good thing. He is incredible. I can hardly imagine what He was feeling before He went to the Garden of Gethsemane as he shared these words (John 16:33): “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” His encouragement, confidence, and trust in His Father and His own role in His Father’s plan for the salvation and exaltation of His children awes me. He invited His disciples then to have peace in Him and be of good cheer. He invites us as His disciples now to do the same. 

I know that because of Jesus Christ, we can change. With him, we can have light, hope, patience, faith, love, and every good thing, no matter what our circumstance might be. I am so grateful that what He requires is a willing heart, because sometimes even that sometimes deceptively simple state is a battle for me to get to. I am grateful for His unwavering love, His grace, and His goodness. His grace is real and I have experienced it in my life.  

This is His true and living church, I love and am grateful for how Joseph Smith worked with our Heavenly Father to restore it to the earth. I am so grateful for prophets. I love them and know that they are holy men. I am so grateful for God’s sometimes overwhelming call to be like Him—to be holy and whole—and His support and comfort and strength and goodness as we strive to accept His call. He is unfailingly good, endlessly kind, and unfathomably beautiful. 

Reflecting on some experiences in my life and the lives of others, I cried out silently in prayer, “I don’t see how will this EVER turn into something beautiful and for my good.” God’s gentle response was: “Linds, you don’t need to see it. Trust me, it will be for your experience, and, yes, your good.” That simple answer has helped me immensely, and gives me strength to try to be like Him, my Savior, my Redeemer, my most compassionate and understanding friend, one whom I am trying to accept as my master. He has been here and He is coming again. That is so exciting. He is always here, and we can find Him as we turn toward Him. I love this quote by Charles Spurgeon: “Do not despair, dear heart, but come to the Lord with all your jagged wounds, black bruises, and running sores. He alone can heal, and He delights to do it. It is our Lord’s office to bind up the brokenhearted, and He is gloriously at home at it.” 

That is true. No matter who deep, incurable, severe, painful, or unending our hurt or challenges or tribulation are, Christ can and will heal us. And we become the better for it. I know this is true and I am grateful for it. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen. 

As I was writing this, a lot of what I feel can be summed up in the words of a hymn that I love called ‘Come Ye Disconsolate’. Here are the words: 

Come, ye disconsolate, where'er ye languish;
Come to the mercy seat, fervently kneel.
Here bring your wounded hearts; here tell your anguish.
Earth has no sorrow that heav'n cannot heal.

Joy of the desolate, Light of the straying,
Hope of the penitent, fadeless and pure!
Here speaks the Comforter, tenderly saying,
"Earth has no sorrow that heav'n cannot cure."

Here see the Bread of Life; see waters flowing 
Forth from the throne of God, pure from above.
Come to the feast of love; come, ever knowing
Earth has no sorrow but heav'n can remove.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Unseen vs Invisible

Dear reader, how are you?  We are in the midst of fall, a glorious season with crisp apples, crisp autumn air, crisply pressed sweaters, and crisp colors.  I hope this finds you well.

This season finds me well enough.  About a month ago though, a parasite decided to make my intestinal tract its new home and I now have a new appreciation for the power of invisible forces.  I felt like my wish for washboard abs got confused and instead I was granted the sensation of having my intestines wrung on a washboard by a burly washerwoman.  Let me tell you, that washboard can do a number on your gut.  The experience got me thinking about the words unseen and invisible.  Invisible means "unable to be seen; not visible to the eye" while unseen means "not seen or noticed."  These words are remarkably similar--one could even argue they are synonyms--but I feel that they have important enough differences to be careful with how we use them.

I attach invisible to words that we experience but cannot really see: love, pain, fear, peace, faith, grief, joy, doubt, basically any feelings.  While the invisible is not in itself visible to the eye, we do manifest these feelings, and generally choose how to do so.  Smiles indicate happiness or pleasure, grimaces reveal pain, and so on.  This is where unseen comes in.  Unseen refers to that which is there, but not revealed or shared or noticed.  It is more linked to choice than invisible.  The invisible cannot really help being invisible, but the unseen hinges on a individual's willingness to reveal or observe what is really there.  This interaction between Batman and Alfred illustrates this reticence to share and thus remain unseen wonderfully.



Sometimes I feel that if I decide to let something I feel go unseen, that feeling doesn't exist.  Unfortunately, this usually backfires.  BAD.  Really, awfully, terribly, cringeworthy bad.  Bringing the unseen to light is excruciatingly uncomfortable for me, but each time I have done it, others met it with compassion, appreciation, and concern.  Why?  Because people generally get it.  They have their own battles and tendencies to let the invisible go unseen as well.  H. Jackson Brown Jr. urges us to "remember that everyone you meet is afraid of something, loves something, and has lost something."  I think he is on to something.  When we do remember these, our interactions change.  Listening and sincerity and kindness take the place of jabbering and comparison and selfishness.  We may not change overnight, and misunderstandings still happen, but the world shifts from lonely and irritated isolation to healing and invigorating community.
My siblings, some of my favorite people...and the photographer's logo 
One of my favorite thinkers, Wendell Berry, writes that "healing is impossible in loneliness; it is the opposite of loneliness. Conviviality is healing. To be healed we must come with all the other creatures to the feast of Creation."  I'm inclined to agree.  While I don't think that healing requires us to be with others all day, every day (my introverted self would crumble at such a requirement...or just be content with being unhealed), I do think God in his mercy and wisdom, generously provides family and friendships and community to help us be whole.  It takes a lot of work and an unfathomable amount of patience, but it is beautiful.  

A Favorite


Every year we have been
witness to it: how the
world descends

into a rich mash, in order that
it may resume.
And therefore
who would cry out

to the petals on the ground
to stay,
knowing as we must,
how the vivacity of what was is married

to the vitality of what will be?
I don't say
it's easy, but
what else will do

if the love one claims to have for the world
be true?

So let us go on, cheerfully enough,
this and every crisping day,

though the sun be swinging east,
and the ponds be cold and black,
and the sweets of the year be doomed.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Norway

May I share with you some thoughts about my visit to this country?  It is MAGNIFICENT.  It awed me and then effortlessly outdid itself and awed me again at least a dozen times.  I loved being there and especially being there with ones that were dear to me.  

Fam + flag= fabulous
VIKINGS, or as the natives sometimes said WIKINGS


Love is light


Hahaha, we kind of continue the red and blue pattern.  Folk life then and now. 

Mum.  What an incredible woman. 
The first week I spent with my mom and sister in Oslo, a bustling but friendly metropolitan area with plenty to do, and Kristiansand, a delightful smaller town happily established with mountains on one side and the sea on the other.  The sites were lovely and the company even more so, and the generosity of those who hosted us surprised me again and again.  After much laughter, exploration, and rejoicing, my mom headed up north to meet her parents who are serving as missionaries in Trondheim while my sister and I met up with a close friend of mine to hike Priekestolen.  


Iconic Norwegian Waffles

This hike included traipsing along stone-slab built staircases, a meadow of spiderweb strewn grass shimmering with dew, lake pocketed expanses of rock to get to the destination: a 604 meter (1,982 foot) cliff overlooking the Lysefjorden.  I loved the hike, though I must admit, as one who is extremely wary of heights due to an inexplicably deep fear of falling from them, the idea of coming to the edge generously gave me some apprehension.  When we arrived, mist and clouds swirled over the fjord and just beyond the cliff and this obscurity somehow provided me the gumption to approach the edge. 

a
Surreal Meadows

And you know what, dear reader?  I did it.  I came to the edge.  And I kind of loved it.  I sat there, feeling fear and yet not being overwhelmed with it like I had before.  Swinging my legs over the edge and experiencing the view from that edge was remarkable.  Exhilarating.  Serene.  I became audacious enough to go back when the skies had cleared spend some more time at the edge, this time seeing exactly what was there.  Still the same incredible feeling, yet perhaps with a greater dose of the precariousness of my perch.  I love the clarity and courage I felt there.  I felt deeply grateful such a place existed and that I experienced being there.  


 

We Three

Feeling renewed, we headed back down the trail and took time to admire tiny frogs and tadpoles surrounding the lakes we'd passed earlier...and then diving into the lake to join them.  Wonderfully cold.  So wonderfully cold.   


Delight 
That appreciation continued as my sister headed to Bergen and my friend and I ventured through ferries, tunnels, mountain roads, switchbacks, and some of the narrowest roads ever to the the Valley of Waterfalls, Odda, and Trolltunga.  The beauty of the roads, green deep woods surrounding lakes and waterfalls, some sheep and few houses stunned me.  And then we arrived to L├ątefossen.  The power of water as it surged over two wide twin falls was majestic.  A smaller waterfall mimicked the greater waterfall with its white plunging flow at the base of our camp that night, though thankfully it growled rather than roared.  


One side of L├ątefossen
We arose early to start our ascent to Trolltunga and the day greeted us with us mist, which stayed with us until we reached the summit.  My friend captured it perfectly in saying that it muffled the trail and I couldn't agree more.  While several hikers joined us on the trail, the mist blurred them into vague outlines and kept the surroundings well hidden.  Droplets of water clung to our hair and skin, not quite drenching us the way a sudden dousing in a stream or lake did, but deliberately settling on us for a while.  It was ethereal and as we came to a meadow, we could see that here too the mist here had gifted drops of water, though this time to the foliage.  The light on them created something storybook like, and it seemed that we were bound to encounter a troll or fairy or some sort of fantasy creature on our way.  And while we did not see one, we did a little harmless trolling of our own by wading in a stream under a bridge after finishing the hike.  


Before
  
After
Once we had come to the impressive (yet a slightly overrated) protrusion that is Trolltunga's boast, the sun shooed the mist away and we could see all that we had passed through--huge fields of boulders and vast expanses of stone.  My friend and I marveled at the difference between the two hikes and that we had crossed all of this without even knowing it because of the mist.  Mist, man.  It is wispy, but by no means wimpy.  It is a powerful force that shapes your perception.  




Trolltunga
The intrepid, generous, remarkable Kassia
We then made our way to Bergen, a completely different feel than quiet and quaint Odda.  Bergen is a little more ostentatious than the other sites we visited, and it has every reason to be with Grieg's home and composition in its vicinity, a bustling seaside market with buildings several hundreds of years old, vantage points with sweeping views of the harbor, and an impressive collection of trolls kept within a forest.  It is also home to a nocturnal bird with one of the eeriest calls I have ever heard.  It added to the mystery of the place, upping the suspense by several points.  (I feel that I must add at least one piece by Grieg to complete this post.  He deeply appreciated music, and composed some incredible pieces, and they may deserve their own post soon.  Until then, this piano piece will suffice.)


Grieg's Workspace
Grieg's Backyard

Bergen Harbors Stellar Nightlights
Fjord Morning

The Land of Hobbits, Trolls, Fairies, and possibly Robin Hood

As our time in Norway tapered off, we spent a day on the water in a guided kayaking tour.  That perspective and the rhythm of paddling in the water and feeling so small shouldered by huge cliffs on either side and a broad stretch of water between them brought back more exhilaration and serenity.  The water was so cold and clear, the green of the trees so bright and vivacious, and the sky wonderfully blue.  It was glorious.   


Kayaking Stop
Another Waterfall; Just Norway Being Cool Again
Dear reader, the landscape in Norway is venerable, severe but not unkind. It is fierce and unpretentious in its beauty.  Water spills from massive heights, seeps through rocks and soil, whisperingly gathers in mist, surges in beautiful rivers, lies in repose in lakes and fjords while glistening meekly with light.  Water feels so abundant here, and perhaps that is one reason it felt so clarifying.  Cliffs are quietly vibrant with moss and boulders and trees and lichen and flowers and brambles and grass.  The pristine and powerful wilderness proudly waits there to be faced and admired by venturers.  There is a sort of weariness to it, as moss covered rocks and forests imply several years of growth and experience.  Yet with that weariness, there is also an incredibly deep peace there; acceptance of what has happened and an ability to yield.  Norway is rich, and an abundantly willing giver of good gifts if you are brave enough to ask for them with some effort. Bracingly cold swims in some of the clearest water, sweet berries for spotting and picking and savoring, cheery trolls to discover, beautiful climbs that result in stunning vistas. It is something else. Being there was invigorating.  


Sverd i fjell
Sometimes I saw Norway as a weathered soldier, elegant stately trees decorating the shoulders of battle torn valleys, fjords left by relentless, powerful, irrepressible, inescapable glaciers. Are they retreating? Or simply moving on to carve and leave scars on other lands?  It is painful, but beautiful, yielding deep, gently salty fjords in its wake, or boulders of all sizes scattered in fields.  My brother brought up a good point that the landscape and the people there mirror one another.  The Vikings who lived there were a fierce people, undaunted in the face of anything and experience plenty of setbacks.  Yet their artifacts demonstrate such artistry, such craftsmanship, that words such as brutish or boorish that people often label Vikings with don't seem to stick anymore.  

Go North, young man.  Norway harbors adventure, clarity, beauty, and much more for you.  

Thursday, August 31, 2017

In the Meantime

I promise I will write all about Norway soon.  There is so much I am excited to share with you, dear reader!  Norway is truly a wonder.  Until I gather my thoughts together, here is a video my close friend shared with me while I was there to tide you over.


Sunday, August 13, 2017

A Word Defined, and Lived | Stumble

Usually to stumble is not that pleasant.  It can be embarrassing, painful, surprising.  Yet I am convinced that there can be a certain sort of delight in stumbling, almost a magic in it.  As a departure from the ordinary, it reminds us of the grace that encompasses this world.  I do a fair amount of moving clumsily in my life (as anyone listening to me play the organ can attest).  I love the way words shift their meaning depending on the context in which you use it, blending with other words to create an idea.  With that in mind, I would like to share with you the various definitions of "stumble" as well as some ways I stumble and what they teach me.   

Stumble.

1.  trip or momentarily lose one's balance; almost fall.
"her foot caught a shoe and she stumbled"
synonyms: trip (over/up), lose one's balance, lose/miss one's footing, slip
"she stumbled and fell heavily"

2.  trip repeatedly as one walks.
"his legs still weak, he stumbled after them"
synonyms: stagger, totter, teeter, dodder, blunder, hobble, move clumsily
"he stumbled back home"

3.  make a mistake or repeated mistakes in speaking.
"she stumbled over the words"
synonyms: stammer, stutter, hesitate, falter, speak haltingly;

4.  find or encounter by chance.
"they stumbled across a farmer selling 25 acres"
synonyms: come across/upon, chance on, happen on, bump into, light on

Sometimes our stumbling leaves us scraped, as my recent impulse to climb up a down escalator generously confirmed to me.  Dear reader, I don't know exactly why, but the opportunity to go up the down escalator after exiting the subway at a Metro stop without the usual hordes of people pressing in from all sides was just too good to pass up.  Starting was a titch difficult and the ascent easy enough, but the dismount from that escalator was quite clumsy.  I lunged, lurched, stumbled, and biffed it, though thankfully off the the ever-moving track.  It was painful and I for the next week or so the band-aid on my knee seemed like such a childish accessory, bringing with it a wave of self-consciousness every time someone mentioned it.  But the experience also very much helped me laugh.  


Allow me to share with you another stumble, this one in the realm of speech.  As I was talking with a friend about her recent trip to the Big Apple, "Yew Nork" slipped out of my mouth.  That slick spoonerism caught me off guard and gave me such delight.  Dear reader, as though to compensate for the embarrassment they could cause, stumbles are often accompanied by laughter.  Or tears.  Or both.  Which I think is just right. 

Here is my favorite kind of stumbling, the kind I feel is magical, when we can be surprised by how circumstances align and present themselves for us.  Months ago, as I was driving late at night one weekend, I stumbled upon this song by Chris Thile and Edgar Myer after feeling like I ought to turn on the radio.  The beauty of this impressed me deeply.  It was such a gift, unexpectedly given and joyfully received, and that experience reminds me of the healing power of music.




This is one last stumbled upon.  Its a poem by one of my favorite poets, which I feel speaks eloquently about the art of stumbling while adjusting to a load.  Here's to practicing, and embracing the stumbles as we carry our weight.  

"Heavy" | Mary Oliver

That time
I thought I could not
go any closer to grief
without dying

I went closer,
and I did not die.
Surely God
had His hands in this,

as well as friends.
Still, I was bent
and my laughter,
as the poet said, 

was nowhere to be found.
Then said my friend Daniel
(brave even among lions),
“It’s not the weight you carry

but how you carry it -
books, bricks, grief -
it’s all in the way
you embrace it, balance it, carry it

when you cannot and would not,
put it down.”
So I went practicing.
Have you noticed?

Have you heard
the laughter
that comes, now and again,
out of my startled mouth?

How I linger
to admire, admire, admire
the things of this world
that are kind, and maybe

also troubled -
roses in the wind,
the sea geese on the steep waves,
a love
to which there is no reply? 

Friday, August 4, 2017

Another One

This music.  Its astounding, expressing gentleness, sensitivity, and at the same time such resolute strength.  The whole trio is something to rejoice in, but this particular movement moves me every time.  I love it.