Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Practicing What We Preach

One day about 15 years ago when my number two son was eight, he and his older brother were out playing with some friends in the apartment complex we lived in at the time. It was a chilly day in early October. Back then, money was very, very tight and we had four kids at the time, so we had to make do with very little. Even still, we were blessed with everything we needed.

That afternoon when the boys came in for dinner, I noticed that T.J., my number two son didn't have his jacket on. We had only bought the jackets a few weeks before, so I was pretty concerned. I asked him where his jacket was. He told me he gave it to one of his friends. Both my husband and I immediately got upset because we had so little as it was, and for him to simply give his jacket away was too much.

"Why in the world did you give your jacket away?" I asked him, trying not to raise my voice.
T.J. looked at me and answered simply, "Because he was cold and he didn't have one."

His simple and humble answer stopped us both cold and we were instantly chastened and humbled ourselves. How many times had we said to our children that we need to help others in need? And there we were, getting upset over a mere jacket.

From that moment on, we vowed to practice what we preach to our children, and we have tried to set those Christlike examples whenever possible. And even though we are still far from perfect, the lessons learned from our children bring us a little closer. We will never forget that they are always watching and we are their example.

Monday, August 25, 2008

What do you want to leave behind?

This past month has been an interesting one as we’ve parched through my parents’ possessions.

It’s been a lot of tears as we’ve remembered the good times, and laughter as we relived the adventures, There was stuff to throw away and stuff that we took into our homes cherishing it for the next generations. But mostly for me, it was a time of learning and understanding.

One neighbor kiddingly came over to ask if we’d found anything shocking or of noted interest as we went through their things.

“No”, we responded, “They were pretty much who we had always believed them to be.”

We found love letters to each other and journals that expressed their thoughts and feelings. We found boxes and boxes of pictures that captured every worthwhile memory and some that we wish hadn’t been captured. We found temple clothes and patriarchal blessings, notes and letters from each of us and pictures we’d drawn – all stuff that would have been boring to the outside world (no novels to write here) but all things that gave us comfort nonetheless knowing that our parents had loved and cherished us and given us a good life based on eternal principles.

It wasn’t until I got home, though, along with all of my mothers papers that I did find something shocking – something that I’d never known about her. As I opened one of her boxes, I found her most cherished collection – one none of us had ever known she’d even had.

We’d known about her Santa collection and about dad’s book collection but this was something that was near and dear to her heart that in the quiet of her room dictated her loves and desires.

For years in her nightstand I’d seen a highlighter and a small pair of scissors and had wondered why she kept them there because I’d never seen her use them. Of no great consequence,….until I had opened this box.

Inside, placed lovingly were hundreds of clippings out of the Church News of a feature called ‘Applying the Scriptures’.

For the better part of 20 years, my mother had carefully cut these little features out, highlighted the things that stood out to her and had then gone to the scripture referenced and used that as a study guide as she studied. More notes had been made in the margins of her scriptures as she gained further insight.

Suddenly this box full of what at first appeared to be nothing more than a collection of recyclable goods, took on whole new meaning and gave me insight into a part of my mother’s life that I had not know before.

She had not made it a public practice of showing that she had done the right things but had simply and quietly just done them. And I, nor any of my siblings, had ever known the deep commitment and faithfulness with which she had lived her everyday life in this one area until after her death when I so fortuitously had stumbled upon her most prized collection.

The whole experience made me really think about what I want to leave behind. What do I want those who come after me to find that will dictate my life, passions and desires? And furthermore, what do I want to collect for my own personal enjoyment rather than for the sake of the world?

I also have to admit though, that I can’t wait to see my mom’s neighbor again so that I can tell him that I did find something shocking that gave me new insight into who my mother really was.

I will also gladly share with him that her heart, passions and desires were more than I ever could’ve dreamed of and that I can only hope to follow in her footsteps one day.

Friday, August 15, 2008

We Came to this World to Sing

Senor Morales, my most-wonderful high school Spanish teacher, made his classes memorize one stanza from the Argentinian epic poem Martin Fierro. If I remember right, it went like this:

Cantando me ha de morir
Cantando me ha de enterar
Y cantando me ha de llegar
Al pie del Eterno Padre.
Desde el vientre de mi madre,
Vine a este mundo a cantar.

Roughly translated, it reads:

I will die singing
I will be buried singing
And I will arrive singing
At the foot of the Eternal Father.
From my mother’s womb,
I came to this world to sing.

I told my husband that if I could substitute “writing” for “singing,” the poem would describe me to a T. Basketball would suit him, he answered. In a sense, writing is my song, basketball his.

All of us come to this life with some passion, some drive, something that brings us joy or satisfaction in the doing. Something that we came to this world to do. Most of us get swamped with daily tasks and burdens and struggle to find space for the passion we arrive with.

Of course it’s impossible to ignore obligations. But what did you come here to do?

Saturday, August 9, 2008

A Wish for One Thousand Children

I’m no decorator, but Spanish colonial style speaks to me and I’ve tried imitating it in my home. A pair of Ecuadoran rustic figures carved from dark wood sits on my living room mantle near an imitation piece of Talavera pottery I picked up in Nogales. Two large scenes of Mexico painted by my deceased dad flank the room’s single long window. The room makes me happy.

Last Christmas we took our family to Hong Kong. One day, my friend there took my teenage daughter and me into a porcelain shop on a narrow, crowded street, and from the cheapest machine-stamped pottery at the front to the finest, glass-encased porcelain in the back, I was enchanted. A smiling woman with a large gap between her front teeth and a fuschia blouse directed me to possible items to purchase. “This-a-one,” she said, removing a wide, flat bowl from a case in the back, “flower mean long life, okay?” It was beautiful. How to decide between it and all the other enticements? I took mental note and kept looking.

Finally, the attendant brought a smaller bowl shaped like a three-dimensional “U,” the letter’s serif becoming a lip around the top edge. She held it up for the light to pass through, demonstrating the higher quality of the piece, but what captivated me was the artwork. In full color, little Chinese boys swarmed across the surface playing mah-jong, swimming, climbing trees, pulling sticks. As far from Spanish colonial style as it could be, the bowl also spoke to me and I knew over all the selection in the store, I had to have this one.

That evening, in our friends’ apartment twenty-four floors above the city, I showed the bowl to our host. He turned it in his hands. “It means, ‘Wish for One Thousand Children,’” he said, pointing to Chinese characters at the top. “It says right here.” The wish captivated me as much as the piece itself. Children can come closer to the core of one’s heart than anyone or anything but deity.

When we returned home, I placed the bowl on its rosewood stand on the other side of the mantle from the rustic Peruvian figures, not sure if it really belonged in the room at all, but I needed it to be where I could see it.

I walked past the bowl several times a day. As months passed, it reminded me of our trip, but it also kept me mulling over the wish for one thousand children. What exactly did that mean? No one can expect to have one thousand children or even an extended posterity that large in this lifetime. A wish for one thousand children must have meant a wish for posterity enduring over the years, I thought.

Finally, at the end of May, as I walked through the living room and looked at the bowl as usual, I realized what my subconscious had known all along. The palette of colors used in the bowl was the same as the color palette my dad used in the paintings of Mexico on the wall. Unconsciously, I must have selected the bowl as much for its colors as I consciously did for its subject. Of course the bowl belonged in that room.

Somehow, I was sure, my realization had something to do with the wish for one thousand children, because it had to do with family. My dad has been gone for eleven years, but just as the bowl reminds me of family and children, his paintings surround me and remind me of him--and the colors in both sing together.

Could the wish for one thousand children somehow work both ways? Could it simply be a wish for a family tied together, past and future?

I wasn’t sure if that’s what the Chinese meant, but it worked for me.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

What Inspires You?

Valerie J. Steimle

The writer's group I belong to have been discussing an interesting topic: What inspires you to write? I took on a different outlook and thought: What inspires you at all in your life?
What inspires you to do better at your job every day? What inspires you to care for your family, friends or neighbors? What inspires you to save a person in harms way or send a note to a grieving friend? It is food for thought and I think what we experience in life might also inspire us to do better.

The entertainment world has a great influence over us because we like to be entertained. We like to watch movies and TV and what we watch in the entertainment world could inspire us to be better. I think that is why the media is so important to us. It has the influence to sway us in one way or another.

Those who have been following the presidential race is inspired to make a decision on which person would best fill the job. Watching those two men find that lion after it lived in the wilderness for so long fascinated everyone. It was inspiring for me and very heartwarming that two humans could be recognized by an animal after living in the wild for that long of time.

An event that I look forward to every four years besides the presidential election is the summer Olympics. This year the Olympics are in Beijing, China and the opening ceremonies are on Friday night. You have to wonder what inspires a person to compete in sports so much that they are able to travel to a place on their own expense and push themselves to win competition after competition until they achieve the top of their event. It is amazing to me all the hours these athletes spend practicing to become perfect. It is truly inspiring and causes me to think about how I can improve myself in my own life. The discipline it takes to follow through on such a great goal makes us all seem insignificant but we should remember that we could do the same in our lives.

The day to day routine we have compares with the daily schedule of an athlete. What inspires us to keep going and do better in our life could be the same drive or determination in what these athletes have to get to the Olympics. Whatever it is that inspires us we need to keep doing it.
So the next time you feel mediocre and not willing to try, find someone or something to inspire you to do better. It will make all the difference in the world.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

We Are All of Infinite Worth

In a world where there is so much heartache and a life that presents so many trials, there is still an abundance of joy. Sometimes it's hard to find the joy, but it is there, just waiting to be had. It is there for the taking, but in order to truly appreciate this life and all that comes with it, we need to know-without a doubt that we, each and every one of us, has a purpose for being here.

This past Father's Day was a hard one for my husband. Because of the trials we are facing with one of our eight children, as well as the day to day struggles with the ones that are still at home, he sometimes wonders if he is a good enough father. He wonders if he is a good enough husband. He wonders if he is truly measuring up. He wonders if he is making a difference. He wonders if he is worthy. On that particular day, all these worries were weighing him down.

I pondered about what I could say to help lighten his heart. I know his worth and I know that I could not make it without him. I thought about writing him a letter for Father's Day to let him know how much I loved him and God loved him. I prayed for a moment, then it came to me. I should write him a little story. Once I began, the words just came. Today I would like to share this story/parable with you in the hopes that if you or someone you love is struggling, that it might help to lighten your heart and help you to more fully understand that we all have a purpose here, that God loves and knows us, and wants us to have joy. It is personalized, so just mentally change the name.

The Love Of A Father

Once upon a time, in a world far away, there lived a man who loved his family very much. He was a good man who always tried to do what was right. He and his family lived in a beautiful palace surrounded by lush green trees, spacious grounds, and immaculate courtyards. Their children were different in temperament and personalities, but they were completely obedient.

One day the man and his wife were summoned to appear before their father for their final interview before leaving for the new world..

Son,” their father asked, “what is it that your heart desires most? Tell me and I will grant your wish.”

Well,” the man answered, “I wish to have this woman as my wife forever. I want my family forever.”

The father quietly pondered on his son's wish.

I will grant you your wish, son, but first you both need to know some things. The perfection you have here will not always be so. Your wife must face some personal trials that will lead her on a different path from yours for a while. She must suffer some things that will affect her emotionally and spiritually, thereby weakening her ability to feel the pull of your love.

She will marry another and make poor choices again and again. She will be swallowed up in the depths of despair and sink further than even she can imagine.

Then, one day, her inner light will fight to reach the surface once again. When that happens, her heart will hear yours. You will find her again and she will be yours. But with the joy of loving her will also come pain, for her own pain will forever run deep, and though your love will soothe the ache, it may never completely heal the hurts. Nevertheless, her heart will be completely and irrevocably yours.”

Their father paused, letting his words sink in. He looked at his son and noted that his expression had not changed.

All of your children are completely obedient now, but that will change as well. Some will remain obedient, a few will even radiate with it, while others will bring you trials so sore that your heart will literally feel like it is being broken in two. You will experience unspeakable joy on some days, yet you will also have countless sleepless nights. Your heart will be filled with gratitude for the children who choose wisely, and unceasing prayers for the ones who stray away.”

He paused and placed a hand on his son's shoulder and looked into his eyes intently. “It will not be easy, son. Now that you know this, is this still your wish?”

The man pulled his eyes away from his father's and gazed into those of his wife's, seeing the tears in them and reading in them what she did not say. He put an arm around her waist and pulled her close to his side. Then he turned back to his father.

I know it will be hard, Father,” he finally said, emotion in his voice. “But she is worth it, Father. She is worth everything. My family is worth everything.” He paused and smiled as a tear trailed down his cheek. “My wish has not changed.”

The father smiled and tears rose in his eyes. He held out his arms and embraced them both tightly, whispering, “Sean, my valiant son, I will see you and my precious daughter Jewel when you return.”

J. Adams

Copyright 2008