Monday, November 15, 2010

Shouldering the Weight of Love

When I was a year and a half old, my parents found themselves in financial straits. It wasn't hard to do, with three children under the age of three and living in Sacramento. As Christmas approached, my mom began to put together what Christmas she could for us, which for me meant... homemade Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls. But these weren't just any Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls, for they sported a yarn-do unlike any other. Green. 1970's green. If I remember right, it was leftover yarn from a green sweater mom had knit for my brother. Aren't they awesome?!

As you may suppose, our being needy didn't escape the attention of the neighbors and the good folks at church so these dollies were not the only present I had to open that year. In fact, my mother says that in addition to Ann and Andy...I scored eight other baby dolls that Christmas morning, thanks to the generousity of those we knew! That's a lot of loot for one little girl, and apparently, too much of a good thing, for as I surveyed the room after all the presents were opened and did whatever reckoning toddlers all added up to one thing for me....WAAAHAAAHAA!!! Too many babies! How was I going to take care of all of them?

My mother has always been extremely intuitive (she could seriously have her own call-in radio show). She recognized why I was crying and started to put the babies back in their boxes and into the attic. They were brought down through out the year and used as birthday presents for myself and my friends but Ann and Andy, to this day, have always been here where I (and now my own children) need them, warding off bad dreams and lonely nights in a way only green-haired rag dolls can.

I've found myself in overwhelming life situations recently that, although I have no memory of my breakdown that Christmas morning 39 years ago, must have been what it felt like to feel responsible for all those babies. More than once I've felt hopelessly inadequate to minister to all the sisters in our HUGE Relief Society. For whatever reason the Lord prolongs the split of this ward...may His grace temper the resulting side-effects of all the members in it now who find themselves feeling lost in a crowd and neglected by their Relief Society President. I hope they know she's really only two years old and partial to rag dolls.

But perhaps the most poignant and sacred experience akin to my infant overload drama, had more to do with receiving love as opposed to giving it. It happened as I sat on the end of my bed one evening in 2009, awaiting a PET/CT scan the next day that would reveal whether or not my cancer had spread to my lungs like my doctor suspected.

I sat there on my bed sobbing, inconsolable. Not because of the test or the fear of it's results, but because I knew my ward and my family would be holding a special fast for me the following day. I felt the gravity of being the object of someone else's sacrifice. Someone else's willingness to be uncomfortable. It was more than I could handle. I did not know how to accept all that love. It was in some ways, simply too much. Too heavy.

Can you are we going to handle feeling all of God's love when we are finally in His presence? I think of the people in the scriptures that fall down as if they were dead. That are "exceedingly astonished" when they feel His love. I'm convinced that we have only sampled His love for us in minute, managable proportions. Someday it's going to go right through us down to the marrow of our bones and change every ounce of every cell in our body. It will be glorious and we will never be the same. Will our old selves even be recognizable? Questions.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Where Will I Be in 20 - One - Three?

In 1995 we purchased our first home. A charming brick bungalo that definitely fell under the "they don't make 'em like they used to" category. As excited as you think I would have been to finally stop renting and move into my own cute little home, I was actually surprised to discover I had an allergy that I didn't even know existed. I discovered that I was allergic... to debt. Everyone would ask me how excited I was about buying a house and I would look at them like they were crazy. How could I be excited when I owed someone so much money?! So much money that it was going to take me 30 years to pay them back?

So naturally, when I later heard someone on the radio claim that anyone, ANYONE, could be totally debt free in 15 years, I was interested. Not interested enough to buy their product or their program, but interested enough to delve into the world of finance deep enought to figure out how to do it myself. We had three children at the time, three years old and younger, and only one car. I knew that car number two (and hence even MORE debt) was imminent. But I still full heartedly believed that anyone, ANYONE, could be totally debt free in 15 years. Once I was pretty sure I had figured out how to do it, because I'm me, I had to have a catchy slogan to go with it. "Debt Free in 20 -one -zero" didn't do anything for me, but "Debt Free in 20 -one - three" rhymed and kind of got me excited. (It also gave me an additional three year cushion, which sounded less strident to less-strident little me.)

Since then, my husband has been laid-off three times, we've moved clear across the country and back, bought and sold three houses, all of my kids have needed braces and I've had cancer. More than once that slogan, although never forgotten, was given the ol' que sara sara. Nice idea...but not gonna happen. So I thought...

Much to my surprise, even through all of those major detours, the debt free dream is not lost. We now find ourselves in the position to actually fulfill that goal and be totally and completely debt free in 20-1-3. No doubt, it is going to make for a tight three years, but do-able ones nonetheless.

Interestingly, I still remember where I was when I heard that radio broadcast. I was driving southbound on I-15, I had just passed through Bluffdale and was about to crest the point of the mountain. I find it fitting that I was going up hill, especially now as I recognize that not only has it been an uphill battle at times, but that these last three years will be the uphill-iest.

I'm not sure anything worthwhile is easy. The short quote says: "If you avoid difficult things, great things will avoid you." The long quote says: "Truth and untruth travel together, side by side. Light and darkness both offer themselves to the seeker after truth, one to bless, the other to destroy mankind. Whenever a man sets out to seek truth, he will for a time be overtaken by evil. No seeker after truth is, therefore, ever free from temptation, from evil power. This is an eternal law."

Believe me, ever since I became aware of how close we were to reaching our goal, my shopping lust, I mean list, has sky rocketed! I have the galloping green gimmies like no body's business! If only I were as allergic to debt now as I was then. Unfortunately, I have developed quite a tolerance. That mean old devil. He sure knows how to rope (or flaxen cord) us in. But I'm so close to the crest of that hill, I have to, ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO make it over...if for anything else than to prove to myself that I'm not a complete nincompoop.