Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Peering into the future--my own experience

I can't remember how old I was when I received my own patriarchal blessing, probably 15-16.  When I was interested in having it, my dad suggested that I wait until we were going to be in South Carolina so that his great uncle, a patriarch in the Florence stake, could give it to me.

I didn't remember having met Uncle RB before, so the family connection didn't make much difference to me.  But my blessing did, because both in that moment and in the future decade it showed me with perfect clarity that even though Uncle RB didn't know me, my Heavenly Father did.

In many ways I wasn't a particularly happy teenager.  As I prayed throughout my early teenage years, I almost always asked for help in knowing something using specific words that were a line in a song that I loved.  As Uncle RB was giving the blessing, he said something, stopped, and then said something like "Know This: ______" and then proceeded to say the exact words from that song.  That was amazing.

Before my blessing Uncle RB and I had chatted.  I was in the process of applying to colleges and it was exciting.  In the blessing he said several things about this.  He said that I would receive a scholarship to the college of my choice, and that happened within the next year.  But he said something else that eventually proved to be even more interesting, that I would graduate from this college with honors.

In the summer before I started going to BYU when it was time to register I had to make a choice--to enter the honors program or not.  I think my academic record made me a good candidate for the honors program, but I decided (and this is the honest and slightly embarrassing truth) that I didn't want to have to hang out all of the time with nerds, and so I didn't register for honors classes.  At the time I thought to myself, "well I know that my patriarchal blessing said that I will graduate with honors, but how could Heavenly Father know that I would choose not to go into the honors program?"

Then my freshman year I "fell in love" with a guy who was getting ready to go on a mission.  We decided that I would go back to BYU for my sophomore year, and then work for a year to earn money so that we could get married just as soon as he got home.  Again I thought about that line in my patriarchal blessing about graduating with honors and thought, "Well how could Heavenly Father have known that I would fall in love and get married and not graduate from college?"

It's really embarrassing to remember that time period of my life and I'm so so so so very glad that after the guy went into the MTC I started to come to my senses and realize he wasn't what I wanted for my life.  I went back to BYU for my sophomore year and met and started dating Russ in January.  By April or May we had decided we were getting married and after an interminable engagement were married, right after my junior year at BYU.  I graduated from BYU the week before Cindy Lynn was born.

Some time in the month after graduation the diploma arrived in the mail.  I opened it and looked at it, just curious to see what it looked like.  And this is what it said--that Cynthia Watson Ray had been awarded a Bachelor of Arts degree...cum laude.

I looked at that and slowly realized what it meant.  Cum Laude.  With Honors.  And then I thought.  He knew.  All along.  When I was 16 and hadn't even been accepted to any college.  When I was registering for college and decided not to enter the honors program.  When I was in love and deciding to drop out of college to work.  He knew that actually, the thing that was going to happen was that I would graduate from college with honors.

There are some that I don't really understand in my patriarchal blessing.  There's something promised in there that doesn't seem to be working out very well right now.  There's something that I'm told I will do that I just don't seem to have time for in my life so far.  But I trust it, I trust it all.  Because it is (and has been from the moment it was given) very clear to me that Heavenly Father loves me and does in fact know both me and my life.

~~~~~~~~~~

PS--My patriarchal blessing also blesses me that I will have many, many children.  There was a lot of time as I was dealing with secondary infertility that that phrase was a bit painful.  Between the fact that we were playing genetic roulette even trying to have more children and the fact that it took so long for me to get pregnant, I thought that that phrase had probably been a mistake.  Except, you know, it turned out that I had many, many children.  It was actually a pretty accurate description.
;)

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Peering into the future

Four weeks ago Jenna received her patriarchal blessing and tonight we took Rachel to receive hers.  Both times it was a striking experience--different than I remember from going with Jason and Josh when they received theirs.  With both girls I felt like I went with my "little girls" to the patriarch's house.  We sat and chatted with the patriarch and his wife for a little while.  (After 3 blessings in 12 months we have gotten to know a bit about them!)  Then we went back into their office where the blessing was given.

In both cases I sat and listened as the blessing began, interested and curious.  And in both cases after a few minutes I listened differently.  I still listened with curiosity, but also with amazement.  And I can say tonight that it is clear that Rachel and Jenna are not "just" my little girls.  They are women of astonishing spirit and potential and I feel a little dazed by the experience.  Wow.


Sunday, July 3, 2016

Rainbow Thoughts & Tales

It's been a rainbow year for me.  Everywhere I go I'm seeing them and I love it.  A couple of weeks ago Russ and I went to the grocery store.  It was a dark and gloomy day with a sunbreak in the west,  and on the way home, there it was--an enormous intensely colored rainbow.  In an unusual twist of fate I didn't have *any* camera with me.  Not my purse with the purse cam, and not my phone with it's camera.  So I just looked at it.  Zoomed my eyes out to take in the whole picture, then focused in on the brightest parts.  When we got home I grabbed a camera and drove quickly over to the church where I thought I might still be able to see it, but of course the light had shifted and the brilliance had faded.  I still sat and watched for a few minutes until the sun had set and the rainbow faded away completely.  As I watched though I had a couple of interesting thoughts about rainbows, and once again I thought how true for me the scripture verse is that says that all things bear record of Christ.  


The first thought was about how truly big rainbows are.  I've had a number of cameras, but I've never had one that can take a picture of a whole rainbow.  I always have to take 2 pictures and sometimes even three.  That day in the car with Russ it seemed like the rainbow was over all of Hillsboro.  I thought how appropriate that was--the rainbow signifies God's promise to the world, and it is so large that it is over the world rather than contained in a small place.


[One day a couple of years ago I had to make an emergency trip to the dentist because of a cracked tooth.  The day was so gray--an unusual kind of flat gray.  I stopped at costco, all numbed and disgruntled about having to had to go out on this nasty afternoon, and as I pulled into parking lot I saw the beginning of a rainbow.  As it formed it was so bright that people just got out of their cars and stood and looked at it.  I took 3 pictures and stitched them together to get the picture above. Not sure why my old camera phone made them look more blue than gray though.]





The other thought I had was the realization that almost always, the rainbows come when it is dark.  Every now and then you see a bit of a sunny rainbow, but it's usually grey and cloudy and gloomy.  

Isn't that just like life?  When things are good and sunny we usually don't need more beauty or help.  We might not even see or notice it.  It takes darkness to be able to see and appreciate the luminescent beauty of the rainbow.  And isn't it that way with God's promises and help?  When things are good we might not notice or need God's help.  But when things are dark, oh how we see then.  Just like the rainbows, God's help and gifts stand out to us and we see their true beauty.

[One evening this spring we went to Jared's lacrosse game.  It was gloomy and rainy and I was so grateful that the bleachers were covered!  The bleachers were facing east and the almost setting sun was behind us.  Off and on throughout the game rainbows formed and dissolved as the sun came out from behind the clouds.  It was truly amazing.]


[When we were in Hawaii in February we saw some awesome rainbows.  This one was unusual because we were on the road to Hana, with the ocean down the mountain.  Instead of being like a half circle, this rainbow was closer to a 3/4 circle.  It went from the side of the mountain above us, all the way down to the water down the mountain.]

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Oh the Places You Can Rule!

Now that the school year is over there are a couple of school assignments that I loved that I want to save.  This one is Jenna's end of year World Studies assignment to do a brochure about being a dictator based on the things she learned throughout the school year.  I think it's pretty remarkable!






Monday, June 13, 2016

Don't forget to look down, too.

Last week I spent some time talking with a friend.  I knew that she'd just had a long layover in a tropical location after a business trip.  When I asked if she had other travel plans, she said that she and her husband were taking a trip to South America in a couple of weeks, and then a Carribean trip later in the summer.  I love my friend and am totally happy for her happiness, but I must admit that the little green monster reared it's ugly head a little.  (After all, I've never even been out of the United States, other than a little hop across the border at Niagara Falls.)

Later in the week I saw on Facebook that someone I know is spending the summer (the whole summer) in Europe with her family. (Her whole family.) There was the green eyed monster again, a little more insistent this time.  (After all, I've never even been out of the United States, other than a little hop across the border at Niagara Falls.)

I chewed on this occasionally over the next few days, disgruntled at the disparity of my life compared to theirs.

Then I had the little thought.  The reminder of the niggle of guilt I felt when we spent two weeks (not one, but TWO!!) in Hawaii this winter!  Sure, we haven't been for a couple of years, but we have been lucky enough to have a week long beach vacation almost every year.   And then Hawaii!

As I started thinking about all of the ways that I have been blessed more than many people, my list grew.  Lovely children.  Loving husband.  Family support.  Personal time.  Lovely home.  Beautiful yard and ability to buy many flowers.  Regular beach vacation.  Occasional Hawaiian vacation. And on, and on, and on.  And on.

There are two truths at play here.  It is true that I don't have as much money or the same opportunities as some people that I know.  But it is even more true that compared to other people that I know, and compared to most of the people in the world, I have more.  I was comparing "up," but not remembering to compare "down."

So today I'm saying thank you to all of those who haven't yet had the chance to go to Hawaii but who were excited for me when I went.  Thank you for rejoicing with me, for adding to the joy of my trip.  Let me know when you're ready to go and I'll help you plan your trip.  And I'm also saying that I'm going to do a better job at remembering just how blessed I am so that I'm able to celebrate other people's opportunities, even when (especially when?) they're opportunities that I may never have.

[disclaimer: I have used the terms "up" and "down" only to mean having more money and the opportunities money can provide.  These terms are not meant in any other way.]

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Through a glass, darkly

My phone is a hand-me-down, it came from my nephew Jake who's on a mission now.  I've added a few apps to the phone in the year I've had it, but never done anything physically to the phone.  Which means that for a year it's had the case it came in, and the screen protector that came on it.

Lately it's been looking pretty scratched.  Let's be real.  For a long time it's been looking pretty scratched, and lately it's been looking terrible.  I *knew* that, but it was the kind of thing I never noticed in a moment where I could do anything about it and that never stayed in my memory for very long.

Finally there was the perfect conjunction; the stars aligned and I ordered a new screen protector.  I begged Jared (one of my tech guys) to put it on for me and I walked away.  Some time later he told me it was done and I came and got it.

All I can say is

WOW!!!!

I mean

WOW!!!!!!

It was so CLEAR!  It was so BRIGHT!  It was amazing and for the rest of the night and most of the next day I just stared at it in amazement every time I looked at it.



I can see clearly, now, I thought.  And I had no idea how un-clearly I *had* been seeing.

Then I started thinking...

---

For so many years in my life I was confused by part of a verse in the New Testament,

"For now we see through a glass, darkly..."

What on earth did it mean to see through a glass darkly?  It was really annoying to me, especially as the rest of the verse made a lot of sense to me and I really liked it.  The first time I heard an explanation for this idea was such a relief to me--that it might have to do with seeing something, (or through something), but not very well.

As I looked at my phone with it's spiffy and shiny new screen protector I understood on a new level.  Now that I was seeing my phone so well, I could see that for so long I hadn't been seeing it well at all.  I could see that then I saw through a screen protector, scratched up.  Which might be a lot like seeing through a glass darkly.

The most interesting thing to me, though, was the realization that while I knew I probably needed a new screen protector,  I had no idea how bad the situation really was *until* I had the new screen protector.

Which made my brain that loves analogies wonder--where in my life am I seeing through a glass darkly without knowing it?  Where do I think I have a little problem when there's actually a much bigger problem?  Where will be the biggest surprise when I no longer see through a glass darkly??


Monday, May 30, 2016

The tree and me

4 years and 2 days ago, in the evening, the triplets and I drove into Hillsboro.  How it went, how I felt, how I handled it--all that is well recorded history.  Tonight I am celebrating being on this side, having made it through some really difficult times to get to this place.

------

On the main street outside our neighborhood there is a big beautiful tree.  (Not being good at identifying trees I'm not sure what kind it is, maybe some kind of oak.) This tree has had the misfortune in it's life of growing straight up into the power lines, and over the years the tree has been pruned to accommodate the lines.  

The first winter we were here was long, dreary, and difficult.  The summer had not been so bad--there was lovely weather, fruit to pick, a family reunion, and a long trip back to the beach.  There was a house to buy and moving to do, all of which kept us busy.  But the winter, that was hard.

One day I noticed the tree.

And I thought, that tree has had it's heart ripped out, just like I have.

For a long, long time, every time I drove by the tree I silently commiserated with it.  I know how that feels, I thought.  I feel that pain.  

-----

It took a long time; several years, really, before I was able to move beyond those thoughts.  But eventually I was able to celebrate that even with it's middle all chopped out, the tree kept on.  Every spring it leafed out again into a beautiful stately tree.

It kept on living.  Thriving, even.


One day I had the thought that my heart was just like this tree--that if you could see it, there is a chunk out of my heart that is just the shape of the state of North Carolina.  

Thankfully I am leafing out and thriving again.  Thankfully (oh so thankfully!) we're still connected to our dear friends from North Carolina; some that are still there and some now in other places.  Thankfully I feel like I have real friends here in Oregon, now, as well.

But this tree will always speak to a part of me, a reminder of pain and time and healing.