Sabbath Revival: “Of Flesh and Blood, of Faith”

This Memorial Day weekend (in the USA) seemed like the perfect moment to revisit this poignant, tender post by Brooke, and also the stunningly beautiful essay she references by Brittney. It was originally published in June 2007. 

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Will we ever completely fathom the miracle that is the body? Do we comprehend the extent of wonders that happen just beneath our skin by systems we cannot see but trust are there? Unless we go underwater, we breathe with little notice; unless we put two fingers to our neck to catch a quickening pulse, we rarely sense our heart beating. We don’t will our body to live– it just does.

And yet.

The mortal body is a blessed concoction: heaps of bones, clusters of cells, lengths of muscles, rivers of blood. And while amazing in it’s capacity, still a physical limitation. We will not take it with us. We don’t get to keep it. Though divinely conceived, the body is just flesh and eventually it will betray each of us, and we will die.

In Brittney’s beautiful essay, Barcelona, Venezuela: 1998, she tells a tale few have experienced up close. If you haven’t read it, you should; if you have, read it again. I can’t stop reading it, for it’s heartbreaking and breathtaking and visceral, filled with so much truth, so much pain, so much color. And so much life.

Even as we rejoice in the physicality of the body, we accept that mortality is wrought with pain. To produce life, we bleed and ache and suffer, to die (in some instances) is perhaps the same. When loved ones lay across the thinly veiled chasm between two worlds and we witness the process of dying, the natural tendency is to want to “beg with all the faith we have” for life. And we want to bless with the continued marriage of mortal body and spirit even when we “know… there is nothing left.” I’ve been told that sometimes people don’t die until the living give them permission to. We want to have faith in a possibility– a hope for restored health– but we do have faith in the certainty of eternal life as well, and by so doing accept the fact that the mortal body must die to live eternally. As such, even if hesitantly at first, we need to learn faith in our ability to be brave, our ability to let things go.

Brittney attempted faith in the flesh even as she knew the flesh had been defeated and the dear boy lay on the mortal cusp, just moments from his own sort of “living, breathable air” of heaven. She let go of her companion’s hand and gifted her the air outside, that was easy. What courage was required to offer the same for the dying?

How To: Get a Degree Online

Five years ago I had no plans to go to college ever again, and I thought I would just work part-time until my children were mostly grown. Those plans changed when I got divorced and needed a full-time job. Thankfully I was blessed with some great opportunities and found a career path that I love—working in libraries. The only problem? If I want to move forward in my career, I need a master’s degree in library science. I love school but my life is much more complex than it used to be—I own a home, I have a full-time job, and my kids are well established in their neighborhood school (plus being divorced complicates moving anywhere else). Enter an online degree program to save me! I am about halfway through earning a master’s degree online, and while the work has been hard, it has also been extremely fulfilling. Every year, online education becomes more readily available, and it can be a great option for you if you want to go back to school and can’t physically move to a new location. I would like to share some things I have learned about getting a degree online, both from my own experiences and those of family and friends. Obviously I don’t know everything about continuing education and I urge you to do even more research—I also highly recommend perusing Aspiring Mormon Women for some excellent advice about education and careers. Continue reading

How To: teach your kids (and yourself) to be happy for others

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If you are happy for other people, you simply get to be happy more often.

We are all in each others faces these days. Whether it be Instagram or blogs or Facebook, I’m aware of awards, scholarships, book contracts, mission calls, engagements and prizes. I love hearing about the successes of my friends and neighbors.

Whenever I hear of someone going on a trip, earning a promotion, fulfilling a dream, I’m giddy for them. And I honestly, truly believe when I rejoice for others, more joy comes my way.

Now, I’m not perfect at this. Sometimes I catch myself feeling jealous and petty and scarcely able to congratulate a friend. When those feelings emerge, I know it’s a warning sign about my spiritual health. For me, envy means I haven’t been praying enough, or reading scriptures or expressing gratitude. Continue reading

How To . . . Get Lost

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When my dad turned 75, he went skydiving. He loved it so much that he decided to celebrate his 80th birthday the same way, deliberately jumping from a small plane 12,000 feet in the air. But this time, his preferred tandem partner, Peter, was in Puerto Rico that month. So dad went to Puerto Rico on his birthday to skydive with Peter. Dad doesn’t speak a lick of Spanish. He had reserved a motel room — the cheapest one he could find — on the internet. When he arrived in San Juan, he discovered that the motel was an hour’s drive outside of town. So he set off in his rental car through the mad, rush hour traffic of the city, lost much of the time, arriving well past dark.

The jump was scheduled for the next day at 10:00 in the morning. Dad left the motel early, sketchy directions in hand, and set out to find Peter and the plane.  After a very long drive down a lonely road, he began to believe he was lost, so he stopped at a rundown gas station and, using sign language and good humor, managed to learn where the road to the airport was. It turned out to be a dirt road, which stretched on for miles and miles into the wilderness of the island. He saw no sign of civilized life, just vast expanses of brown. It was 10:00. Then, just ahead on the right, he spied a small metal hangar and a short, packed-dirt runway. And Peter, waving a welcoming bandana. Dad loved his second jump even more than the first, perhaps because he willingly surrendered to the adventure of it all. He consented to get lost. Continue reading

Counseling for Beginners

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“You’re doing what?” Chad asked.

“Counseling,” I repeated. “I’ve always wanted to go.”

Plus, at the price of “free,” why not? In the month between the first year of grad school and the start of my internship in Omaha, I had some flexibility in my schedule, and I decided to finally take the plunge and sign up for the university’s free counseling sessions. Growing up, I had seen first-hand how much counseling had helped one of my sisters and wanted to have a sounding board for my fears and frustrations. I felt a bit guilty taking up a spot that could go to someone in desperate need, but with it being spring term and fewer students on-campus requesting the service, I figured it was as good a time as any to start. Continue reading