A New Pair of Glasses

New Eyes

Recently I saw a video clip of a man receiving a new pair of sunglasses. He was a 66-year-old body builder, the epitome of a real tough guy. The glasses were a birthday gift from his family. As he was opening the packaging I thought to myself, “What is so great about this guy getting a pair of sunglasses?” I was about to turn the video off, when his reaction took me by surprise. After putting the glasses on he became very emotional and began to cry. Then this big, burly man began to giggle, while shaking his clenched hands in child-like joy. He went back and forth between tears and laughter for several minutes. His wife said, “Now you can see with our eyes!” What I had not understood was these glasses were Enchroma glasses, designed for people who are colorblind. This man was seeing the world in complete and true color for the very first time. The video had captured this profound and personal moment; before I knew it . . . I was crying too. I found myself caught up in this man’s elation, as he experienced, what so many of us take for granted. And then it hit me. The Spirit whispered to my heart and confirmed that this moment was just a tiny glimpse of what it will be like for us, when the veil is lifted, and we are finally able to look through “eternal glasses” and see the vibrant, rich, radiant, perfect plan of our Heavenly Father. I’m grateful for this insight especially now, as we approach another anniversary of our son, Dallin’s passing. It seems each fall brings with it, a barrage of emotions, most of which are painful ones. Many of the parents we have met who, like us, have lost a child describe the world we now live in as bleak and colorless. The once bright and happy landscape of our lives has become dull and uninviting, overshadowed by an unexpected foreground of loss and grief. There are patches of color that pop up from time to time, warm happy memories of days gone by, brilliant bits of peace felt in a sunset, a sunrise, a song, a scent, hues of healing in everyday acts of service, bursts of joy felt in the laughter or embrace of a child and even subtle splashes of hope, as we try to adjust to “our new normal.” But eventually a grey wash always seems to overpower these fleeting bright spots. Sadly our life, with our finite perspective has been darkened by our unimaginable loss. In a very real sense we have become colorblind.

I am so grateful this is a temporary mortal condition. I am grateful a loving, merciful Heavenly Father allowed His perfect Son to go below all things and in ways I cannot comprehend, He suffered EVERY PAIN known to mankind, even the death of a child. He willingly did this so He could succor, lift and carry us through our trials. Though my vision is limited and my current world is often without color and though I cannot see or understand the reasons behind our loss with my earthly eyes . . . I know with all of my heart, someday I will. This faith, along with the love of my Savior, will sustain me until my Heavenly Father gives me the gift of eternal sight and lovingly says; “Now you can see with our eyes.” I look forward to that day when I will finally be able to see this new world, a bright, new, wonderful place, full of my loved ones, vivid forever-colors and redeeming truth. And like the 66-year-old body builder, I am sure I will cry joyful tears of gratitude.

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My Mother’s Eyes

My Mother

This time each year I face the same dilemma . . . what can I give to my mother for Mother’s Day? The struggle begins weeks before the second Sunday of May, and continues until in exasperation, I come to the sad realization there is nothing grand enough, beautiful enough, or perfect enough to express my feelings for her. After all how does one show adequate gratitude for the person who gave them life? And not just life, as in a physical body, but life as in the living part of life, the nurturing, lifting, believing, experiencing part of life. All that I am is due, in the most significant ways, to the love and example of my mother. One of my mother’s most striking features has always been her eyes, not just because of their beauty but because they truly are windows into an extraordinary soul. I can remember from my earliest memories the gentleness of my mother’s eyes. It was within the safety of her devoted gaze, I flourished. She taught me to explore my world by patiently celebrating my inquisitiveness, even when my “whys” exceeded the hours in a day. I learned to appreciate the beauty of nature and the sacredness of life, in all of its forms, through her eyes. The colors of a spectacular sunset, the delicate petals of a tiny flower, the scent of fresh rain, the autumn breeze against my cheek, the soft mew of a newborn kitten, these were her teaching tools in an amazing classroom of infinite possibilities. Her eyes shone with contented happiness as she sang comforting lullabies and would dance in delight as she harmonized with my father. I loved hearing them sing together! Her eyes held in them my first experiences with God. My mother’s love for the Lord radiates from her eyes. Her quiet, unwavering testimony, expressed in hushed and reverent tones, encouraged me to search out and find my place in His universe. Her eyes reveal the truth of a loving Father in Heaven, who knows who I am and loves me beyond what I am capable of understanding. Growing up, it was her eyes I looked up to for approval and where I found the courage and confidence to try and try again when I failed. Her eyes believed in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself. Her eyes have always reflected unconditional love; she taught me love is not reserved for only those who are easy to love, but especially for those who are most difficult to love. Her eyes taught me about pain and grief as she mourned with those who mourned, when she watched helplessly as children stumbled, lost their way and struggled back to their feet. I have watched her eyes carry profound sadness when cherished loved ones passed away, yet found the strength to look up and always trust in God’s plan. I have felt deep sorrow and exquisite joy through her eyes. Her eyes inspired me to become a mother. I knew being a mother was something special, something to look forward to, something to embrace and celebrate. As I have experienced motherhood in all of its euphoric gloriousness and unexpected messiness, I have come to realize that sometimes my mother’s eyes bore the faint, almost unrecognizable traces of personal hopes and dreams swallowed up in the hopes and dreams of her family. Yet she will be the first to tell you, these were willing sacrifices and she’d gladly make them again. Her eyes have no “greater joy than to ‘see’ her children walk in truth.” – 3 John 1:4. My mother’s eyes may have dimmed with age, but I still look to them for guidance, reassurance, and most of all love. Even if I could master a musical instrument, or sing with the voice of an angel, or write a touching sonnet, or create a lasting piece of art, it would all fall short of the desire of my heart. I long to express to her beyond words, or feelings or sight, that I am, and forever will be, grateful to be HER daughter. I am grateful to have had the chance to see myself in and through her eyes. And I want, with all of my heart, each of my children to see in my eyes, what I have always seen in my mother’s eyes . . . love in its truest most beautiful, eternal form.

Songs of Deliverance

Merciful Lord

There is no such thing as a free pass or get-out-of-jail card after the death of a child or any loved one for that matter. As much as I want to believe that somehow I have “earned” a reprieve from life’s challenges because of Dallin’s death, it just isn’t so. Sometimes . . . LIFE IS HARD. Trials, challenges and heartaches surround us and often feel relentless. Sometimes our tribulations come by our own hand, as we lose sight of who we are and are drawn to the “carnal, sensual, devilish” things of this world “KNOWING evil from good, (yet still) subjecting ourselves to the devil.” – Mosiah 16:3. We also experience sorrow when we stubbornly and pridefully try to make it through this life, on our own, without God’s hand. Other times some of our greatest heartaches come from the hands of others when they exercise their agency and make choices that hurt, not only themselves but also those who love them. Sometimes our trials come to us unexpectedly, in personalized packages, by the hand of God, to strengthen, humble and refine us. ” I give unto men weakness (limitations) that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” – Ether 12:27. Regardless of where our troubles come from, they are *sigh* an essential part of our lives and more importantly part of Heavenly Father’s plan. A plan designed to help us become more like Him and someday return to live with Him and our loved ones. In the Lord’s time these adversities and afflictions “are but a small moment” and we are promised “if we endure them well, He will exalt us on high and we shall triumph over all our foes.” –D&C 121: 7-8. We are told to “Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and He shall strengthen (our) hearts.” – Psalms 27:14. He tenderly encourages us, “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. – Isaiah 41:10.

BUT . . . sometimes in the middle of all these challenges, especially when they feel like they are piling up, it is easy to forget the Lord is with us. We feel alone, forgotten and full of uncertainty. This is how I was feeling the other night on my way home. After a long emotional day, the weight of worry, disappointment and sorrow shackled my heart, and the tears flowed freely. Being in the car alone I began, as I often do when driving by myself, to talk to the Lord. This time my talking soon turned into anguished sobs, as I pleaded with the Lord, to release me from the prison of despair I found myself in. I wanted and needed big answers to the huge problems that weighed heavy on my mind and heart but truthfully I was willing to settle for a tiny glimmer of reassurance. Sometimes we just need to know everything will work out ok.

Heavenly Father speaks specifically to each of us in a language we can understand. Some hear a still small voice. For some, answers come through tangible feelings; to others a quiet understanding, still others experience dreams or visions. For me the Lord has often used music, both in uplifting lyrics and beautiful melodies to speak peace to my soul. As I continued driving I tried to listen to one of my favorite “go-to” instrumental CDs but it didn’t work; I was still inconsolable. I resigned myself to a long, hard drive home. Then I remembered a year ago my oldest son, knowing my love for music, gave me a thoughtful gift – a subscription to an app you can use to download music, create playlists and listen to personalized radio stations of your favorite artists and genres. I pulled the car over and opened the app, to the Hillary Weeks Radio Station, I had created a few of days earlier. Easing back onto the road, I waited for the music to start. The first song to surround me was “Greater Miracles” by Hillary Weeks. I wish I could describe in adequate words what happened next. It was as if this song, through the Holy Spirit, held within its lyrics, the very key to release my imprisoned heart. Its message wasn’t new. (See scripture references above.) I have known, many times over, that He can lift me up and make me whole, but this message was . . . So. Much. More. It’s one thing to read . . . His words and want to believe, with all your heart . . . His words, but it is quite another thing when you feel . . . His words, all the way down to your bones, all the way through your being. The message of this particular song, and more specifically, the fact it was the first song to come on, after I had been begging the Lord for direction and relief, bore a powerful and penetrating witness to me that He was listening! He heard my prayer and He was answering me, telling me, in a language I understood, to trust in Him, to put my faith in Him and . . . EVERYTHING will work out ok. Tears of sorrow were transformed into tears of joy. I felt so grateful! I was thinking about what a blessing it is to truly recognize and FEEL the Lord’s genuine concern for the details of my life and His healing love, when the second song began to play, “I Feel My Savior’s Love.” It was a soul-burning second witness! Mercifully . . . I had been delivered.

Psalms 32:7 “Thou are my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance.”

Do As I Have Done To You

christ-washes-peters-feet-medium

It never ceases to amaze me how seemingly insignificant moments turn into profound moments of insight and inspiration. One such moment happened last week when I was visiting my parents. Prior to my visit I had been thinking about ways I could serve them that would express how much they mean to me. They are both nearing their 80th year and I realize each remaining day I have with them here on earth is a gift. We have always been a close family but since moving away, I have felt an unfamiliar and unwelcome distance. Our relationship has been reduced to phone calls, Facebook posts and the brief visits I can squeeze into my busy life, when I am in town. It’s true you don’t fully understand or appreciate what you have, until you no longer have it. I genuinely miss spending time with my children, grandchildren, my sisters and brothers, my nieces and nephews and especially . . . my mom and dad. As I pondered over my silent list of service ideas, a simple thought came to me, “Tammy, you should could give them a foot massage.” At first I giggled and dismissed it. I even wondered where such a silly thought would come from. Then I remembered when I was a child, both of them loved having their feet rubbed. So I grabbed my foot lotion and headed over to their house. On the way there my idea took on a life of its own and I decided I would give them the “full treatment” soaking, washing, drying AND a deep foot massage. After visiting with them for a while, I waited for the right moment and boldly announced, “I’m here to give you both a foot massage!” The look on their faces made it clear, my words took them by surprise. They both immediately declined my offer but I ignored them and told them, “This is going to happen! I’m doing mom’s feet first and then yours dad!” I still smile to myself picturing my mother’s continued vocal objections, while she “willingly” helped me find a basin, soap and dry towels. I filled the basin with warm water and then positioned myself at my mother’s feet. As I eased her feet into the basin of water and slowly took one foot at a time and gently washed it with soap, it was as if I was being transported back through time and space. Here cradled in my hands were the feet of the woman who gave me life. These feet had paced countless nights, rocking back and forth to the rhythm of soothing lullabies. These feet had walked tireless miles while steadying the feet of her children, as we took our first steps and learned to walk in the truthfulness of her heart. Her feet had carried her through endless trials and unconditional love. These feet had trod hallowed ground when they brought her all puffy and broken, after suffering an unknown heart attack, to the bedside of my dying son, because without any words spoken between us, she somehow knew, I needed my mother, to comfort and shelter me in my darkest hour of need. As I dried her feet and began to rub lotion on them, I noticed how tired and worn they looked. These aged feet bore the marks of years and immeasurable miles of service and love. I realized I had just washed the feet of an angel. Humbly I began the process again, now with my father. Again I thought back on all of the years of selfless labor his feet had endured to provide for his family. His feet were also worn with the cares of life yet I do not ever remember him complaining about his responsibilities of being a husband and father. He woke up each day and his feet carried him to his first job, then his second and sometimes even his third and then carried him home to do the same thing again, over and over and over again. His feet worked to the point of exhaustion so my feet could run, jump and climb to the top of physical and metaphorical mountains! His feet have always been hard working and dedicated feet but also happy feet! As I worked the lotion in I remembered all of the times my father’s feet have danced enthusiastically while marching to the beat of his own personal and unique drummer. I felt honored to hold and care for these feet. After hugging and kissing my mom and dad goodbye, another thought crossed my mind. If something happened to either them or me I would want the last memory we have between us, to be that of a grateful and devoted daughter, who used a basin of water, a bar of soap, a dry towel and some lotion to express her love for them, because sometimes words are not enough. I believe in some small way, this was what it might have been like when the Savior, in His final hours here on earth, took the time to gently, lovingly, symbolically wash the feet of His disciples. I believe this was one of the ways He expressed His love for them. I also believe He wanted to set an example for each of us to follow. I invite you to do just that. Think of someone who has made a difference in your life. It could be a parent, a grandparent, a spouse, a child, a grandchild, a sibling, a relative, a neighbor, a friend, a teacher; it could be someone who you haven’t been in contact with for a while, someone who may be hurting, grieving or even dying, maybe even a stranger. Go to them. Spend time with them. Love them. Serve them and then . . . wash their feet. I promise it will change your life.

“So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, the servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.” – John 13: 12-17