Sunday, June 15, 2014

The heart of life is good.

~because sometimes we all need reminders that things are going to be okay.~

Spring term at BYU means a lot of things. It means condensed class schedules, blossoming, fragrant trees, and a lot of reading.

It also means youth camps at BYU. Scores of them, from 5 different sessions of EFY, volleyball camps, and list of others I didn't even know existed (like French Camp? Who knew).

It's interesting to walk past a group of these youth camp kids. They're anywhere from 12 to 18. Oh, how they're young. And so, so insecure. It's written on their faces, and you just want to reach out and hug them and say, "I know it absolutely stinks to be 13. Don't worry. Things will get better."

Because they will. That guy who didn't ask you to dance? In a week it won't even matter. The money that got stuck in the vending machine? You didn't really need the Snickers bar anyway.

But at 13, it matters. It matters a great deal and I don't say that sarcastically. It matters. And I understand that.

But you won't always be 13. And there's a great deal of comfort in that, I think.

One day this week after I went to the gym (sometimes I am good and work out), I heard crying in the locker row next to me. I listened for a little while, trying to assess the situation and see if I should go over and help--I didn't want to make the situation more awkward for this girl if I could help it.

I walked down the hall and past the lockers where a young girl, probably around 12-years-old, was sobbing on the phone to her mother. I couldn't make out exactly what she was saying, but she did blurt out, "I just want to come home. Take me home."

I don't know what her mom said, but I could imagine how the conversation might have gone. And if her mother was wise, she would have calmly told her over the phone, "You can do it. Stay. It will get better."

I can imagine, because I've had conversations like that with my mother. Times when I didn't think I could go any further; times when the journey seemed so long and the path so foggy that I desperately wanted a "get out of jail free" card, just something--someway--to escape.

I remember a time before my mission when I felt lost, confused, and hurt. I think it was over a boy (as sometimes happens), and I was feeling the loneliness and emptiness of an ending relationship.

It was Christmas time, and my family was visiting my grandma for Christmas--my family along with what seemed to be half-a-dozen of my mom's siblings with their families. Needless to say, it was packed with Christmas cheer, and there was no room to breathe, let alone have a quiet, contemplative moment to clear your head and figure out the mysteries of life.

But I had to talk it out. And I had to talk it out with my mom.

I remember coming to her side, right when she was in the middle of doing something--wrapping presents, making cookies, playing cards . . . I don't remember--and telling her that I needed to talk with her. We went to the only place in the house where we could be alone: the cold garage. We stood among boxes, food storage, and garbage cans, and I sobbed out my worries to her, my broken heart throbbing with each breath.

My mom didn't say much. She just held me for a moment and brushed my hair out of my face. Then she said very simply, yet powerfully:

"You just don't know how wonderful life is going to be for you."

Her loving statement has stayed with me. And I have found it to be true, even in the short 3 years after that experience. I never could have imagined the joy, experiences, and friendships that have blessed my life in these years. That doesn't mean it's been easy, for there is sorrow and heartache which has affected me as well. But the fact is, my life is so much more full than I could have ever imagined. The dark and golden threads are what make the tapestry of my life all the more beautiful. Wonderful, even.

And I know it's only the beginning.

I think that there are days when we feel like that lonely 12-year-old at the BYU swim camp--heartbroken, scared, and unsure of the future. We call home to our Heavenly Father, asking for relief--asking for escape. I have found that God rarely, if ever, takes us out of hard situations.

But He does take us into His arms, brushes our hair out of our faces, wipes our tears away and softly, tenderly says,

"You don't know how good your life is going to be."

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, ye are little children, and ye have not as yet understood how great blessings the Father hath in his own hands and prepared for you;
And ye cannot bear all things now; nevertheless, be of good cheer, for I will lead you along. The kingdom is yours, and the blessings of eternity are yours, and the riches of eternity are yours." (Doctrine and Covenants 78:17-18).

We are all little children, far from home. But not alone. Never alone. Our hopes and fears matter to Him. Stay the course and see the beauty of your life unfold.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Words of Wisdom

Sometimes you're doing research for a professor and you stumble upon gems.

Like this one, from a young man's manual in the 1830s:

"It seems to be forgotten by many men, that sensible female love is founded in respect. A cultivated lady must always respect a man, or she cannot love him. Ladies usually think more of talent and good sense than men do; men are wont to be more attracted by beauty and by grace of manner. Hence ladies always despise a simpering, pretty man who treats them like dolls. They wish to see a man know something, and they wish to have him treat them as though they knew something too.” -- The Young Man's Aid to Knowledge, Virtue, and Happiness, page 368

Amen, brother.