Sunday, March 4, 2012

Wonder of Wonders! Miracle of Miracles!

"Out of a worthless lump of clay, God has made a man today." --Fiddler on the Roof

When I finally rolled out of bed yesterday, I wasn't exactly optimistic about my day. I knew that most of it would be spent alone, and alone is one of my least favorite ways to spend a Saturday. So, I put my face on and got my things together, went back and forth from the door to my room picking up my forgotten keys, then my phone, then my gloves. I called my mom on my way out--she was just getting lunch, so I let her go and deposited a check. Then I headed to JiffyLube to get the oil changed in my car. I called my sister-in-law on the way and chatted with the kids because she was taking a nap. I got my car checked in and called my sister while I waited. She was just getting lunch, so I let her go and watched "Sons of Guns" on the discovery channel for a very long fifteen minutes while the experts saw to my car.

By the time I left JiffyLube, it was 3:00, and I was starving. So I took a break from running errands to get lunch. I pulled out of Arby's wondering where I should go to eat--I didn't feel like going home just yet, but where can a person eat lunch alone without looking like a creeper? A park, of course! So I drove to a little park a couple blocks away from my apartment, ate my lunch, and then headed for the swing-set. There's something truly magical about swinging--the wind blowing softly against your skin, the sky coming up to greet you and then falling away gently, the creek of the chain as you go back and forth. It was just lovely!

Of course, after all of that, who would want to go run more errands? No, I decided to have myself an adventure. I drove up to campus and headed for the Museum of Art. I spent the rest of the afternoon just wandering aimlessly through the museum and soaking in the beauty of the art. It's truly amazing what people can create by scratching on a copper plate, stroking canvas with a brush, shaping and molding clay, or carving into stone. I was particularly impressed with the display on the main floor, entitled, "Beauty and Belief". It was a massive collection of Islamic art in all different mediums, and it was beautiful to see the marriage of faith and talent in each piece. It is truly beautiful, the way passion--whether yours be art, music, sports, or science--can inspire faith and remind us of the things that matter most, encourage us to open our eyes, ears, minds, and hearts to the beauty that surrounds us and to the hand of the Lord in our lives.

I stayed there in the museum until the speakerphone announced that the museum was closing, and then slowly made my way out the door, holding onto that thought. It was quite fitting, really, that I would leave all of that beautiful and inspiring art only to be greeted by a breathtaking sunset. And since I was already in such a romantic (or should I say, 'Romantic') state of mind, what else was I to do but chase it? I got in my car and started driving. A few minutes later, I ended up sitting on a rock at the lake, watching the colors play across the water and listening to the ducks, and the geese flying overhead, and the lapping of the lake. And what had started out as a lonely, boring Saturday, miraculously became a pilgrimage to that place, where I saw one of God's masterpieces displayed before me.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Love Unconquerable, Unlimited, Unconditional

This Christmas season, I have decided to start a new tradition for myself: I've been getting reacquainted with Christ by studying the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. My dear friends, Jesus Christ lives! He is our Savior, our older brother, and our perfect exemplar. I can't tell you what an amazing experience I have had spending time with Him in my study--hearing His words, and seeing His example, and feeling His love.

I always liked to compare Christ's role in our lives to my brother's playing basketball in the driveway with his friends. I would sit on the step and watch them, wanting to be able to play and knowing that I was just too little to do it on my own. But eventually, Mark would come over and lift me up on his shoulders and walk over to the hoop, and one of his friends would hand me the ball, and they would all cheer when I tossed the ball into the hoop. That image has become so much more real since I lost Mark, and even though this isn't exactly what the Atonement of Christ does (it's only a small part), I know that Christ is my older brother--that I can be as close to Him as I am to Mark. I can grieve for Him, and miss Him, and want to be with Him, just like I do Mark.

And I do. The other night, I was reading in Mark 14, when Christ takes Peter, James, and John to Gethsemane. Most often, I skim over this part in these first gospels, until I get to Luke, because Luke uses such beautiful and powerful language. But as I studied these verses, my heart broke for my Savior:

"And he taketh with him Peter and James and John, and began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy;

And saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch.

And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him.

And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.

And he cometh, and findeth them sleeping, and saith unto Peter, Simon, sleepest thou? couldest not thou watch one hour?" (Mark 14:33-37).

Three times, The Savior of the world knelt in agony, alone, and each time He came to His friends, whom He had brought with Him for support, He found them sleeping. Even after all they had experience with Him, they did not understand; they couldn't even stay awake as He suffered for the sins of the world. And at last, when the time came to fulfill the rest of the Atonement, He said, "Sleep on now, and take your rest" (Mark 14:41).

What great love! To suffer so much, alone, knowing that so many would not understand, that so many would reject and dismiss the priceless gift that He gave.

And so, this Christmas, I make a commitment to you and to my Savior, Jesus Christ:

I will strive to love as He did--withholding nothing, and asking for nothing in return.

I will strive to live my life as He did--in the service of my fellow man.

I will strive to forgive as He did--frankly and without condition.

But most of all, I will remember always what He gave for me, and stand as His witness in all things, in all times, and in all places.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

23 Life Lessons Learned at the Cinema! Because I spend way too much time watching these movies ... But they're just so good!

1. "It's like in the great stories, .... The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it's only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think ... I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn't. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something[:] ... [t]hat there's some good left in this world, ... and it's worth fighting for!"

2. "All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us."

3. "[He] can't carry it for you; but [He] can carry you!"

4. "Keep breathing. That's the key. Breathe."

5. "You pile up enough tomorrows and you'll be left with nothing but a bunch of empty yesterdays."

6. "You're life is an occasion. Rise to it!"

7. "We must face tomorrow, whatever it may hold, with determination, joy and bravery."

8. "We Breathe. We Pulse. We Regenerate. Our hearts beat. Our minds create. Our souls ingest. Thirty-seven seconds, well used, is a lifetime."

9. "When you read a book as a child, it becomes a part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does."

10. "[D]aisies are the friendliest flower[.]"

11. "Life doesn't always turn out the way you plan."

12. "A person's a person, no matter how small."

13. "There may be something there that wasn't there before."

14. "[A]ny fool can have courage. But honor, that's the real reason for you either do something or you don't. It's who you are and maybe who you want to be. If you die trying for something important, then you have both honor and courage, and that's pretty good."

15. "Love is not a feeling. It's an ability. "

16. "Instead of telling our young people to plan ahead, we should tell them to plan to be surprised."

17. "I thank whatever gods may be / For my unconquerable soul. / I am the master of my fate / I am the captain of my soul."

18. "Forgiveness liberates the soul."

19. "How do we inspire ourselves to greatness when nothing less will do? How do we inspire everyone around us? I sometimes think it is by using the work of others."

20. "Tomorrow's taken care of, one way or another."

21. "Fifty thousand men died right here on this field, fighting the same fight that we are still fighting among ourselves today. This green field right here, painted red, bubblin' with the blood of young boys. Smoke and hot lead pouring right through their bodies. Listen to their souls, men. I killed my brother with malice in my heart. Hatred destroyed my family. You listen, and you take a lesson from the dead. If we don't come together right now on this hallowed ground, we too will be destroyed, just like they were. I don't care if you like each other of not, but you will respect each other."

22. "[I]n such cases as these a good memory is unpardonable."

23. "What are men compared to rocks and mountains?"

Monday, July 4, 2011

"Lightbulbs die, My Sweet. I will depart."

"When King Lear dies in Act V, do you know what Shakespeare has written? He's written 'He dies.' That's all, nothing more. No fanfare, no metaphor, no brilliant final words. The culmination of the most influential work of dramatic literature is, 'He dies.' It takes Shakespeare, a genius, to come up with 'He dies.' And yet every time I read those two words, I find myself overwhelmed with dysphoria. And I know it's only natural to be sad, but not because of the words 'He dies,' but because of the life we saw prior to the words.
. . .
"I am not asking you to be happy that I must go. I'm only asking that you turn the page, continue reading... and let the next story begin. And if anyone asks what became of me, you relate my life in all its wonder, and end it with a simple and modest 'He died.'" -- Mr. Magorium

I lost my brother about four days ago. He died in his sleep at the age of 34. His wife, Brooke, and their five beautiful children were in Utah visiting Brooke's family. I keep thinking that he's going to walk into the room and tell us all to quit the waterworks and go do something fun. I remember when I left to come down to BYU for the first time and I was making the rounds, getting teary-eyed. When I got to Mark, he laughed at me and said, "Are you done with your girl moment? Can I hug you now?"

Well, Mark, you're going to have to let me go through a few more girl moments, because I'm just not ready to say goodbye yet.

Remember that rocking horse you and Dad made for me when I was born? It's in the garage in Vernonia now. I remember writing a couple stories and essays about that horse. I always bragged to my friends that my big brother made it for me. You spoiled me, you know, you and Dad. You're both so good at everything, it makes it hard for a girl to find someone to fit the bill.

You were always looking out for me, you and your friends. I was the annoying little girl that wouldn't leave you alone. I remember sitting out on the steps when you were playing basketball and watching you. And then, eventually, you'd come over and put me on your shoulders and walk over the the hoop, and one of the guys would hand me the ball. Hehe,I remember when Big Brian let me steer your truck to David's while I was sitting on his knee.

I would get so mad at you back then! You were always holding my head with one hand and telling me to hit you, or pretending I was a typewriter, or flat-out wrestling me to the ground. And then there was the never-ending knuckle-popping! I wanted to scream! (I often did). You always had the same excuse: "It's for her own good; she's got to learn to defend herself. She's got to fight off all those boys." (Still waiting for that to happen, Mark).

But as much as I protested against you for that, I was always bragging about you to my friends. You were my hero. You were so strong and confident in everything you did. Whenever I pictured Nephi, this teenage prophet who was "large in stature" and completely stalwart in his faith, I pictured you.

Mom likes to tell the story of when you got your appendix removed. There was a game the next weekend and a bunch of your football friends showed up at the hospital with balloons and things. You convinced the doctor to let you play. Mom was so mad! She went out and got depends and made you wear them as extra padding on your side while you played. But you still went. You played, and you won the game.

And then you went on your mission. I still tell people that my claim to fame is the tape you sent from the MTC to play at my baptism. You gave a talk, remember, and a bunch of your buddies joined you in singing a song. And one of those buddies later became part of Jericho Road. I was always knew that my big brother would be there for me, even if he couldn't be physically present. I still know that you'll be there for me now.

I remember the night before we met you to say goodbye at the airport (back when you could do that), when it finally registered in my mind that I wasn't going to be able to see or talk to you for two whole years. I don't know if I ever told you, but I cried myself to sleep that night.

And I was so mad when you got home and ran off to get married right away, because I had finally started to like you. And then you were gone again.

But over the years, as I grew up, I talked to you more and more. And you went from being my bully big brother and my hero to being one of my best friends. And I would still get frustrated with you sometimes, because you always had to be right. I called it your "lawyer voice," that tone that you put on when you expected me to disagree with you and you were determined to show me that you were right. The most frustrating part about it was that you were right a lot of the time -- not all of the time, mind you, but a lot of the time.

You were always looking out for me, pushing me to be better without letting me think less of myself. And you always had good advice. I keep wanting to pick up the phone and talk to you, because I know you'd be able to tell me what to do.

I'm so glad that you called me on Wednesday, before you left us. I'm sure you had no idea how important that phone call would be, but I'm also sure that you were led by the Spirit to know what to say. I remember being concerned because you sounded so tired, but I didn't say anything because you had already started threatening boys again, and delivering the lecture that you meant for them. But then it changed. You started talking about trusting in the Lord and what it means to love someone. You said part of trusting the Lord is being willing to do the work, and make difficult decisions by yourself, and take a step into the dark. You said that marriage is part of that same trust -- that loving someone is as simple as wanting to make them happy, but that you have to be willing to do whatever it takes to make that happen.

You told me about your relationship with Brooke, and how you learned that this was true. You talked about how much she hates it when you leave your socks on the floor, and about how you had an epiphone about six months ago that you could make your wife happier each day by picking up your socks. So, you made an effort to start picking up your socks every day. At this point, you apologized for rambling and called this a stupid example, and then said something about how it's the little things like that that make the difference.

And then you said that you were proud of me, and that I would find somebody that would do whatever it took to make me happy, someone I would do whatever it took to make happy, as well.

People keep saying how much you loved me, and how proud you were of me. And I knew it; I always heard it in your voice. I still feel it. When my home teachers came to give me a blessing after I heard the news, they said that Heavenly Father wanted me to know that you love me and that you're okay. I do know it. I hope you know that I love and miss you so much, and that I will always be proud that you are my big brother. I thank my Heavenly Father that I was blessed to have you in my life; I thank my Savior, Jesus Christ for making it possible for me to be your baby sister for Eternity. I hope and pray that I can live up to it.

All my love,


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Feverish Thoughts Brought on by Sickness, Medication, and a Chick-Flick: Nothing to do with Kubla Khan

Sometimes I wonder what I'm doing with my life. There are times when I want nothing more than to drop everything and leave to visit some far-away, romantic place where I can find myself. Which is a ridiculous notion, altogether, come to think of it. I'm right here. No need to go gallumphing half-way around the world looking for myself. Although, the trip would be nice.

Other times, I think of finding a job at a bookstore or something, an average job with an average wage and an average work load, saving my money for the wild adventures conjured up in my free time, which free time I would spend reading and writing and drawing and doing all of those things that I'm always wanting to do and never having the time for.

And then, still, there is the idea of graduate school, doing research and defending theses and busting my rear end just so that I can turn around and start again from the other side of the room, standing by the whiteboard. It doesn't sound so glamorous that way, does it? Sometimes I feel like grad school is the real cop-out, like I'm so afraid of facing the real world that I've constructed this idea in my head that I need to stay in school forever, like I belong here. But what if I don't? What if closeting myself in a study to do research and grade papers is all it amounts to? I know this is all quite melodramatic, and I know that teaching is more than what I've painted it to be here, but that nagging question continues to echo in my head: What if?

What if my life doesn't end up like Meg Ryan's character in "You've Got Mail," or any number of female leads in any number of chick-flicks? Yes, I know it's sentimental and ridiculous. Yes, I know that it's girlish and pathetic to want someone like a young Tom Hanks to show up at my door with a hand-full of daisies, tucking me in and wanting to be my friend. But I still want it.

Anyway, you've had enough of my rambling, I'm sure. So, good night! And perhaps next time I write, I will be a bit more lucid and a bit less dramatic.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Dancing Queen, Young and Sweet, Just Turned Seventeen!

In a not-so-different time, in a not-so-distant land, there lives a beautiful young girl named Malia. Malia is the sweetest, brightest, and most precious Daughter of God I know -- and believe me, I do know. She's my sister's oldest, and she just celebrated her seventeenth birthday (... Seventeen! I feel absolutely decrepit!) here in Utah on Sunday. When she first arrived on Friday, I met her and Nicola (my sister) in the Bookstore on campus and introduced them to the cuisine of Provo: a little whole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant that will forever be known to me as "The Carrot Place." (Another story, another time).

Afterward, we snuck into a physical science class full of Freshman (not too much older than Malia) and witnessed a humorous lecture on the different states of matter (most of which Malia was already familiar with - she's a science whiz) before going to my Literary Theory and Criticism class (not quite as much fun for Malia, but she survived it without the tiniest scratch. She didn't even doze off at all!).

Sadly, I wasn't able to spend much more time with her or Nicola. I didn't even get to introduce them to my roommates, who were very excited to meet Malia (and who wouldn't be?). But! I did get to meet them in Salt Lake on Malia's birthday to watch the Sunday afternoon session of General Conference with them and my brother-in-law (Erick) and nephew (Bryce), which was AMAZING! It was so hard to say goodbye that afternoon! I grew up with Malia and Bryce, babysitting them, teasing them, playing with them, loving them. They are both so smart and talented, and they both have amazing personalities and strengths. Malia is truly the sweetest and best seventeen-year-old I know! I love her so much! It's so hard and yet so amazing to watch her grow up and become the young woman that she is. I hope she knows how truly wonderful she is and how much she can do. She is a force for good, a quiet and beautiful strength to everyone she meets. I hope she knows how much she is loved and admired by her family and friends.

Happy Birthday, Malia!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Introducing ... My brother's kids

Kaleb McKay

He's the oldest - 10 years old already, and still growing. He reminds me a lot of myself growing up: quiet and sensitive with a wild imagination that takes him anywhere and everywhere. He's a big fan of Percy Jackson and loves to learn about Greek mythology. He already knows a whole lot more than I do about it - it's all Greek to me! (I do apologize, but I simply couldn't resist - it's just so punny!). Kaleb also loves computer games, comics, legos, bologna, and, of course, his Auntie Debra, among other things. Recently, he's taken up karate, drawing, writing, photography, and directing, and aspires to be a stand-up comedian. When he's not distracted by his many ambitions, hobbies, and creations, he's also extremely helpful - the perfect little gentleman. I had a friend come in to introduce himself to the family before taking me to dinner a few weeks ago (No, I will not be blogging about it, and yes, you can safely assume that it was an awkward experience.). My brother, of course, stood up to shake my friend's hand. Kaleb was only two seconds behind him, holding his own hand and introducing himself. I wanted to scream with laughter and give him a big hug, but I figured it would probably be inappropriate, so I restrained myself. Bless his little heart, I love him!

Colin Joshua

The second in line. 8 years old. Colin is just about the opposite of Kaleb in so many ways. Fearless and extremely outgoing, Colin has friends wherever he goes. He loves all animals, but especially horses, and is determined to be a veterinarian when he grows up. Of course, it almost goes without saying that he loves to be outside. He's quite the dare-devil with a bicycle, and a gymnast to boot. It's incredible to watch him. But Colin has a softer side, as well. I remember a few years back, going through K-mart with Colin when he was just three or four; he found a pink stroller with hearts printed all over it and liked it so well, he held on to it, strolling around the store until my sister decided to buy it for him ... that didn't go over so well with my brother. Of course, he probably wouldn't make the same selection now. But he does do a wonderful job playing with his little sister, Abbey.

Chase Albert

Triple threat. 6 years old. Another boy, another completely unique personality. Chase is the athlete of the family. That's not to say the others aren't athletic; they're all smart, talented, and active kids. But Chase is the competitor. He does not like to lose, at all. He likes to be in control, and have everything in order, his way. True to form, he also loves cars, action heroes, spies, and anything "cool". I don't actually know what he wants to be when he grows up. That's something I'll have to ask him. Perhaps a fireman, or a superhero. It's so fun to watch his reactions to everything - he's just so animated. His little eyes light up and his eyebrows climb up - it's just adorable! Tonight, we watched The Spy Next Door, and throughout the entire movie, there was Chase sitting on his basketball bean-bag and just laughing away. I loved it! Definitely better than the movie!

Abigail Katherine

Affectionately called, Abbey Kate. Also known as Abbey, Abba-Dab, Sister, and of course, Princess. 4 years old, and going on 30. Someone asked me the other day whether I thought Abbey would turn out to be more of a princess or a tom-boy, being the only girl in a house full of boys. The truth is, she's already a little of both. To paraphrase my friend, she's the princess who can and will beat you up if you step out of line. She is definitely the boss, no question about it. Abbey loves dolls, dress-up, polly-pockets, tickle-tag, painted nails, pickles, and anything purple, pink, or shiny. Her collection of household toys includes a kitchen, complete with plastic food items, silverware, and dishes; a shopping cart; a high-chair; a vacuum; and of course, an ironing board (donated by her aunt for her 4th birthday). I nearly died of pure joy when she set her ironing board up next to mine the other week to iron with me. While she can be quite the little Madame at times (She could give a thirteen-year-old on her period a run for her money!), she's also incredibly sweet. Tonight, as we were watching the movie, she quietly went up to her mother and asked if it was time to turn the movie off and read scriptures. And when the movie was over she announced that she was ready for bed and reminded the boys that they needed to brush their teeth. What can I say? I love being an aunt!

To Be Announced

Yes. There is a fifth little Cox soon to be running around, but unfortunately we don't have a name for him yet. Yup. Another boy. Abbey was a little disappointed at first, but she's very excited for her baby to come. The official due date is the 21st of this month, the inducement is scheduled for the 19th, and we're all expecting a trip to the hospital any day now. It's very exciting. I can't wait to see what his personality will be like. It's just fascinating to watch them grow into themselves.