Prayerful watching

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Friday Morning Session from the April 1974 Conference.
I loved Howard W. Hunter's talk from this session, titled "His Final Hours." You might think a talk like this one, basically just summarizing and adding comment to lengthy passages of scripture, wouldn't have many new insights. But I found the opposite to be true: Elder Hunter's tender retelling of the Savior's final hours felt deeply meditative and personal, almost like another witness being added to stand alongside Matthew's, Mark's, Luke's, and John's. Which I suppose is exactly what it was. Hearing the familiar events summarized in new words made some new things stick out to me, such as when Elder Hunter observed:
As [the Pharisees] turned away [Jesus] added a plea: “… and [render] unto God the things that are God’s.” As the coin bore the image of Caesar, so these and all men bore the image of God, their Heavenly Father. They had been created by him in the likeness of his image, and Jesus was to provide a way for them to return to him. Yet, “When they heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way.”
I had never before made the connection between the coin which bore Caesar's image, and ourselves being in the image of God. I hadn't thought about how "rendering to God the things that are God's" means giving OURSELVES back to Him.

Maybe my favorite part of this talk, though, came as part of a story I know so well and have had so many lessons about, I wouldn't have thought I could get any new insights about it! And Elder Hunter just mentions it almost in passing:
[Christ] spoke of virgins attending a wedding, some of whom had sufficient oil for trimming their lamps while others saw their meager supply depleted because the bridegroom tarried longer than they supposed. Thus Jesus taught his disciples to watch and pray; however, he taught them that prayerful watching does not require sleepless anxiety and preoccupation with the future, but rather the quiet, steady attention to present duties.
I've been thinking a lot lately about learning to WAIT. The scriptures so often advocate waiting, watching, "holding our peace." I know that such patience is more than passively sitting around, but…it can involve some passive sitting around, it seems! I have been wondering how to navigate the path between "reaching and trying and stretching for what could be" and "being at peace and content with what is." How do we know when revelation is slow in coming because we aren't doing enough—or when it's God's will that we…just wait?

So I love this doctrine Elder Hunter picks out of the parable of the ten virgins. I assume he got it from the part that says:
They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps.
And of course! I had never noticed this! But there it is! ALL the virgins fell asleep. Perhaps the foolish ones were falling too much on the side of not worrying; perhaps they ought to have been staying up all night trying to do something about their low oil, I don't know. But Elder Hunter seems to imply that that was not the right way for any of those waiting for Christ: "Prayerful watching does NOT require sleepless anxiety and preoccupation with the future." Certainly the wise virgins weren't just frittering away all their time till the bridegroom came. But they also weren't unduly fearful about what was to come. They weren't lying awake at night imagining all the bad things that might happen to their children someday, or thinking about how many things they were failing at, or fretting about all the things that were getting neglected in their busy lives. They gathered their oil. They slept. Then they arose and "trimmed their lamps."

I'm sure Elder Hunter wasn't saying that urgency is never necessary, but I love his reminder that "more anxiety" does NOT necessarily equal "better results." It just struck me how peaceful it all sounds. And it seems like such a great pattern to follow when we are attempting "prayerful watching"! Like the wise virgins, we can prepare and do our best, paying "quiet, steady attention to [our] present duties," as Elder Hunter says. But after that (or even amid that)—we can wait calmly, content and at peace. Sleep. And then when the call comes, we can "arise" with enthusiasm and do what is necessary to get even more light from our lamps.

Other posts in this series:

Labor Day in the Canyon

There may be traditions we let fizzle out from time to time, but by golly we don't ever miss our Labor Day Campfire! If you don't like seeing dirty children you should perhaps click away now.

I brought the camera hoping to see some pretty leaves or trees or rivers, but it turned out all I wanted to take pictures of was the aforementioned dirty children. They just fascinate and delight me! I was comparing the pictures of Abe last year and this year and marveling at how much he has grown. He's a man now! And this might just be my favorite picture of him ever:
I spent most of the evening just sitting quietly by the fire and watching everyone play, and taking pictures, which is what I love to do. I kept saying, "Don't look at me! I just want to observe you in your natural states!"—after which, of course, Abe vowed to turn and look directly at me and smile grinningly in every picture. He was pretty good at it, but I did manage to catch him unaware a few times.

Seb, on the other hand, vowed to make a different silly face each time I turned to him. We never should have let him read all those Calvin and Hobbes books.
There were just a few small patches of leaves starting to turn red and orange, among all the decadant end-of-summery greens.

Birthdays and Tram

The August birthdays came and went. They felt a bit anticlimactic this year because I had been anticipating Daisy and Sebby's ages early for some reason. It seemed like they were already seven and eleven, so the birthdays just seemed to echo an already-existing reality. I really almost felt they should be turning eight and twelve, in fact, so I didn't feel any extra nostalgia about the occasions. :)

Daisy has always been fun to watch when she's opening presents. This year she got several homemade things from brothers and sisters, plus a present from my mom, plus a present from us. And every single time she made some variation on this face:
This is the face she makes for cute, tiny things. And ALL of her presents were cute tiny things.

To see God

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Sunday Afternoon Session from the October 1973 Conference.
My son and I were going into Target the other day. It was a SuperTarget, in fact, and Abe was grumbling about the fact that it was called that. He said disapprovingly, as we were walking in, "I don't see what entitles them to make that claim. There's nothing particularly 'super' about it." 

We were laughing about it as I kept trying to come up with adequate justification for the title.
"Well…look, they've got so many shoes! Rows and rows of them! Just think how many people could be shoed here!" 
"Hah, any store might have those. Doesn't seem 'super' to me."
"Look though, they have groceries. A whole store's worth of groceries! Not just any Target has groceries."
"Adequate, maybe. But I would hardly call that 'super.'"
"But don't you think all these TVs and phones are super? Modern wonders, these are!"
"ANY store might have those. I'm not impressed. I'd expect more of something 'super.'"

We got sillier and sillier as I started waxing eloquent about how amazed the pioneers would have been to enter a store like this (Abe loves it when people point out to him, "You know, in pioneer days, they didn't have televisions, they didn't have computers or washing machines like we do today." Ha ha), and about how much human effort went into making even a simple piece of clothing. I may have even started quoting "I, Pencil." Abe, for his part, became more and more extravagant in his disdain. "Thousands of man-hours? Insignificant," he'd say, waving his hand dismissively. "Hardly 'super.' Show me something impressive for once."

I thought of our "SuperTarget" exchange as I read President Harold B. Lee's closing remarks to the Oct. 1973 Conference. He quotes this scripture I've always loved, from the Doctrine and Covenants:
The earth rolls upon her wings, and the sun giveth his light by day, and the moon giveth her light by night, and the stars also give their light, as they roll upon their wings in their glory, in the midst of the power of God… Behold, all these are kingdoms, and any man who hath seen any or the least of these hath seen God moving in his majesty and power (D&C 88:45-47, emphasis added).
The scripture continues, though President Lee didn't quote this part:
I say unto you, he hath seen him; nevertheless, he who came unto his own was not comprehendedThe light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not; nevertheless, the day shall come when you shall comprehend even God, being quickened in him and by him.
It struck me, not for the first time, how vast the differences can be in what we see. Like Abe in SuperTarget, we can be witness to the most amazing miracles and still, through our prejudices or our blind spots, stubbornly refuse to see them or admit that they are anything special! No one can MAKE you believe that SuperTarget is "super." You have to decide that for yourself.

I was thinking along similar lines while driving up in the canyon looking at the Fall leaves this week. I thought, "Here are all these people enjoying and marveling at the beauty of God's creations. And yet probably half of them don't even know that is what they're seeing! They may even really love and appreciate nature, but they have no idea that God is the author of it all." I suppose, even if someone lacks the specific knowledge of who He is, an appreciation of nature is akin to a sort of appreciation for God. I would guess that when those people finally meet God, they will have some recognition of Him, because they have seen and loved what He made. That's probably one of the reasons He DID make this beautiful earth for us!

But in spite of the partial reverence nature inspires, without true knowledge of and gratitude for the Creator, we are missing so much! It's such an amazing statement in that scripture quoted above: those who have seen the sun and moon in their glory have seen God! Practically anyone on earth would give anything for the chance to "see God!" They'd imagine that experience as being amazing, miraculous, earth-shattering, life-changing. And yet they have seen Him. In this sense, we all have! But…to see God without knowing it is practically the same as not seeing Him! If we don't comprehend the light, it can't lead us, it can't comfort us, it can't show us the way—to us, it's as if it weren't there at all.

President Lee then extends the scripture even further:
In the Church, we have been witnessing some of the most dramatic things, and I can testify that you are seeing what the Lord is revealing for the needs of this people today. May I paraphrase what the Lord has said in this great revelation from which I have quoted: any man who has seen any of the least of these happenings among us today, has seen God today moving in his majesty and in his power. Let us make no mistake about that.
I know we all go through periods of blindness, to some extent. And probably no one fully "comprehends" the light of God. But I can't help thinking how much we miss when we make up our minds to see the church or its leaders as flawed, imperfect, bureaucratic. Or when we decide our fellow church members are ignorant and prejudiced and petty. Certainly we are those things, sometimes. But as we follow our leaders and do our small parts as best we can in the church, we become the instrument of "God moving in his majesty and in his power." Sure, we can decide not to think of it that way. The decision not to see God in His church is aptly self-fulfilling: when we won't see Him, it's as if He isn't there.

But President Lee saw the truth. God is there, at the very center of it all. Even "the least of" the efforts toward salvation and perfection we engage in can unveil his presence. And the more we look for it, the more we will have the promise fulfilled: to see God!

I've experienced it myself every once in a while, when I remember to listen and watch and be grateful. It's one of those gifts I wish I could keep with me all the time: when I begin to see God everywhere—in His prophets. In His instructions. In His creations. And most amazing of all, in those around me.

Other posts in this series:


I used to try to only write amusing things on this blog (one very amusing thing, two somewhat amusing, or three not very amusing at all), thinking I would save the most mundane and indulgent posts—the posts only a doting auntie could love—for the other blog. But I seem to have mostly failed in that attempt, since I'm basically writing everything here these days, and everything seems to have gotten all mixed. Anyone who has made it through those multi-part Rome posts practically IS a doting auntie (honorary) by now anyway. So, I may give up the struggle.

And to prove it, here is cute Junieberry on her first day of kindergarten. She doesn't go AWAY to kindergarten, mind you, but I have a dear little collection of these first-day pictures, and it seems a shame to put a stop to them just because school happens at home these days!
Piggy backpack
On her second day of school, she trotted out to the front door, saying, "Now take my SECOND day of kindergarten pictures!" How could I refuse?
So bright and sweet, this little Juniper! She's pure joy and it feels right to have her officially joining our school!


In spite of everything, this little Teddy-bear keeps getting bigger. I feel like it's been a lifetime since he was born. I feel like that tiny, sweet, goo-ing and coo-ing baby was a whole different person than this…well, this whatever-he-is. Because I'm sorry to say I don't understand him, not one bit. He jabbers SO much, in a very pontificating and know-it-all-ish sort of way, setting forth opinions and interrupting conversations with a slight touch of condescension in his voice. It's a bit alarming since he ISN'T SAYING REAL WORDS. But he's so sure of himself you start to question your own sanity, especially when you let yourself relax and be carried along on the wave of his discourse, because suddenly you start hearing phrases like "It isn't your job to be so loud right now, Ky," and "Daisy's putting a tennis racket back there in the carseat" and "One, two, three, away we go! Whee!" Things he couldn't POSSIBLY be truly saying…could he??

Oh, but he was the very sweetest of babies—did I mention that? And then about nine months ago imagine our confusion when he became a straining, screaming, slavering gremlin—"Surely our baby has been replaced by a little changeling imp!" we thought. "Maybe when he learns to walk and talk he will feel more himself again."

Well, now he is walking, at last. And…I suppose one might label some of his imperious pronouncements "talking." But he's still a mystery, as most babies end up being, after all. Desperately hopeful, whenever Sam's around, that he might be afforded a prime seat in Sam's arms to be carried about the house in. Shy and boisterous and serious and silly. Mad and demanding and sensitive and sweet. Bossy and offended and monkeyish and adoring. I don't know how we ever got along without him!

Wild and flowery

After seeing such great wildflowers in Yellowstone earlier this summer, I felt kind of sheepish bringing up the possibility of our traditional hike in the Albion Basin at the end of July. "I know we already saw so many beautiful flowers, and it's not that I don't appreciate them…," I began. Sam just laughed and said it wasn't like I had some sort of limit of flowers to see per year! (And a good thing too!)

But after doing so much traveling, Sam had a ton of work to do, so I decided to leave Teddy home with him and just take some of the kids with me on the hike. Then, bright and early in the morning when it was time to leave, none of the boys wanted to be roused, making the hike a girls-only affair: my little flower-girls and me. We missed our boys, but we had such a fun time (and it was so wonderfully EASY without a baby on my back)!
It always feels so good up in the mountains: cool and breezy, with the morning light on the trees. We loved being out in the air, and Goldie kept exclaiming, "LOOK at the BYEWtiful VIEW!" in awed tones. (Some ladies, as we were hiking down, asked Goldie if she'd seen the lake, and she said, "Yes, and we also saw the BYEWtiful VIEW!")

Without actual knowledge

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Sunday Morning Session from the October 1973 Conference.
My favorite talk from this session was Elder Hartman Rector's called "You Shall Receive the Spirit." I really liked his description of faith:
Of course, there are many definitions of faith, but one definition is “a strong belief plus action.” It is not perfect knowledge (as Alma explains in Alma 32), but real faith lets a man act as if he knows it is true when he really doesn’t. 
Therefore, faith in a real sense is power—power to act and perform without actual knowledge.
That sounds a little odd at first—like he is advocating fakery or hypocrisy. "Faith lets you act like you know what you're doing when you don't!"  But it's not that at all. It's a simple acknowledgement that none of us really know what we're doing in mortality. We are all blind, or as Isaiah put it, "All we like sheep have gone astray." Only God truly knows why things work the way they do, which laws must be followed, how to achieve the greatest happiness.

But we as mortals don't have to stumble along blindly. We can step with confidence along certain paths because God has assured us those paths lead to happiness! Thus we can make decisions and move ahead courageously, even though our knowledge is lacking. Following someone with ultimate knowledge is, for now, almost as good as having that knowledge ourselves. (It goes without saying, I think, that God does want us to eventually gain the knowledge He has. He doesn't want us just following forever. But this knowledge will ONLY come after the "non-knowledgeable following" has already commenced. The veil, along with the 'natural man' within each of us, ensures that we at least begin mortality as "sheep." No one skips that step.)

Elder Rector continues:
The Lord’s formula for receiving the Spirit, then, is to get on our knees and communicate with him. Tell him what we are going to do—make commitments with him—outline our program—and then get up off our knees and go and do precisely what we have told him we would do. In the doing, the Spirit comes.
From the record, it is obvious that most home teachers do not really enjoy home teaching. I have been a home teacher for 21 years. I don’t think I have missed a half dozen visits over the whole period. I cannot say that I love to home teach until I get to the first home, and then I do love it because I then get the spirit of a home teacher because I am acting like a home teacher—doing what a home teacher does.
Even beyond the obvious charm of a general authority talking about how he's reluctant to get to his home teaching, I just love this. It's the concept of "It shall be given you in the very moment what ye shall say…" taken even further: you will know be given in the very moment what ye shall DO—in other words, you will know what to do as you start trying to do it. And even more, you will feel like doing it as you start to do it. 

Taken together, the two concepts give a pretty good definition of faithful discipleship. Be willing do what God tells us to, even if we're not sure why. And then start doing it even if we're not sure how. Both of those things seem sort of crazy from a mortal perspective, and indeed, they only make sense when an all-knowing God is in the picture. Luckily, we know He is. And He will send his spirit to smooth the way at every turn: in the knowing what to do next, in the power to do it well, and in the changing of our natures so we begin to love the doing.

Other posts in this series:

Rome: That Light

Sam and I had both heard from artists that the light in Italy was just "different." It had a different quality to it. We were skeptical but thought it could be true…something about the atmosphere at sea level or the humidity…? And when we got to Rome, we didn't notice anything immediately different—but at certain times of day, or on certain streets, we would suddenly turn to each other and say, "Look at that! There's that light again." Maybe it is from the color of the buildings, those warm surfaces for the light to bounce around on? Or maybe it is from the angle of the sun when it's low in the sky. But it was there, and it made everything feel just a bit foreign, so you couldn't ever forget: this is ROME!

By the way, this is my last set of pictures, the ones that didn't fit anywhere else, and I'm sure we can all breathe a sigh of relief now! I feel like a wild-eyed fanatic that has cornered you and forced you to sit through interminable slides of my travels. But you can leave anytime, you know!

Anyway. Some of my favorite moments in Rome, as in London, were those quiet times I had by myself, with nowhere specific to go and no one depending on me. I took naps at the hotel in the hot part of the day, and then walked for miles and miles, wandering into stores or stopping for awhile to sit on a bench and finally finish this book. (That was a strange thing: I would be transported back to Germany as I read, and then emerge to find myself…in Italy? Blinking in that Italian light. Very disorienting.)
You can kind of see the light here. That glow along the houses, coming down and warming up even the edges of the blue shadows. You could walk in downtown Salt Lake at the same time of day, and it  would just feel…different.

Rome: the Hills

It seemed like all the tourists I talked to in Rome were doing a "three days in Rome" sort of itinerary. They were going to take in the highlights and then hit Venice and Florence and the Amalfi Coast. And I suppose, if we'd been planning an Italian vacation, maybe that's what we would have done too—how cool to see the countryside and the canals and all those other great things! But with Sam's classes and meetings in Rome itself, it just made more sense for us to stay there and not waste our precious time getting from place to place. So we spent all our eight days in the same city. And actually, I was really glad we did, because it felt like we got to see so MANY more things than just the usual! It felt like we actually got to know Rome—a little. (I know. Eight days isn't that much, obviously—but we really did feel almost at home, by the end!)

But. I read about a town in the hills near Rome, just an hour train ride away, and we figured it would be fun to ride the train anyway—so we spent one of our days visiting the medieval hill town of Orvieto. 

And it was maybe our favorite day of all! I don't know, I can't really choose. But the thing I loved so much about Orvieto was that it was PACKED with those sort of hidden places I love so much. A whole town full of them, really. Every street felt like a story waiting to happen, the beginning of an acquaintance, a glimpse into another world. My mind was going nonstop, imagining the lives of the people that make their homes along these winding, sun-warmed, impossibly darling little cobblestone streets.
I am always happy to ride a train so I can report back to the train-lovers in the family. I have always [or, since I had little boys, anyway] dreamed of riding a Maglev or a Bullet Train with them. Or the TGV. But, this was just a regular old train. Still fun though, to be at the train station and see all the comings and goings.
The countryside was beautiful. So many interesting little jumbles of towns, clinging to hillsides or tossed carelessly along green valleys.

Some great thing

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Priesthood Session from the October 1973 Conference.
I remember when I was young, seeing my mom work in the kitchen after the rest of us had finished a meal. There was a family rule that we should all stay and help clean up, and we did, but after the dishes were washed and the table wiped and the floor swept, we would drift off, and my mom would remain, always doing more: wiping the cupboards, scrubbing the stove, sponging out the oven. I felt, as I watched her, a little bit of guilt that she was still working alone, but I always consoled myself with the fact that she liked doing it. At least, I assumed she liked it. Why else would she be doing it?

Now, it's possible my mom is a special case because I think she really DOES like to clean, or at least dislikes being in places that aren't clean, enough to drive herself to always be working at it more than most people. But those scenes of her working at a task alone, of continuing long beyond everyone else's self-satisfied feelings of "I've done enough!"—have come back to me many times as I've spent my own lonely hours cleaning under stove burners or mending clothes or wiping out drawers. (Or, as I've sat on the couch thinking about how I SHOULD be cleaning under stove burners and wiping out drawers.) I think, "Why should I have to do this? I don't want to do it anymore than anyone else does! But if I don't do it, it won't get done." It can feel like a heavy burden. (I'm not advocating that mothers do, or should do, all the work, of course. The load is lightened considerably when everyone helps—though as every parent knows, getting everyone to help with the work is, itself, lots of work! But here I'm mostly talking about the inevitable times when, for whatever reason, the work isn't shared and I feel the entire responsibility for it.) And I have come to the realization many times over that my parents worked—not because they wouldn't prefer to do something else— but because they just knew what had to be done, and that someone had to do it.

I was telling my friend about this the other day and she said her kids were the same. Her husband always stays in the kitchen doing dishes after dinner, and my friend will say, "Aren't you going to help Dad?" 

"But he likes doing dishes!" the children will protest. "He WANTS to do it! That's why he does it!" It's like they have no inkling that there might be another reason.

I was thinking about all this as I read this week's Conference session, which was all about the church Welfare program, and therefore all about work. And I thought about it even more as I helped clean the temple late one night last week. It was strange to be in the temple, not praying and pondering, but dusting and scrubbing, wearing white. Though I know doing ordinances for our ancestors pleases God, for some reason—maybe just because it was different—cleaning the Lord's house felt like an even more personal way to show my love for Him. I felt actually—holy—there, doing these menial, mundane tasks for God.

What is it that is so sanctifying about work—actual, physical work? Elder Featherstone quotes President J. Reuben Clark saying "We must purge our hearts of the love of ease; we must put from our lives the curse of idleness." Hmmm. We aren't supposed to love "ease"—even a little bit? Does that mean my secret desire to just sleep for the first 200 years of eternity won't come to pass? :) Elder Featherstone goes so far as to say,
There is no substitute for work. You cannot be lazy. Businesses who say, “Come with us and work for us; the wages are high and the labor is easy; the work week has been reduced considerably,”—
And here I thought he was going to say "Such businesses are lying. It's impossible to get something for nothing." But actually, he continues: 
have only shame to offer. You are destroying your soul and character when you accept such an offer. The Lord expects us to be industrious; he expects us to be mentally and physically ambitious with all our hearts and souls. And I promise you this—that this compromise work attitude never was what the Lord intended.
Elder Featherstone seems to be implying that even if we COULD get something for nothing—we shouldn't take it. We shouldn't WANT it. We should want to work hard because that's what God intended for us!

I'm not sure exactly how to apply this counsel. Obviously work is not the only purpose of life. And obviously the labor-saving devices of our age are wonderful blessings, allowing us more time to think and develop talents, to ponder and serve. But I think of my mom and dad working in our home. Getting up early to make breakfast. Staying up late helping with homework. Putting in the work to help their kids learn work, even when it meant redoing that work later because it was badly done. And I think in all my self-centeredness and cluelessness about what my parents were thinking, maybe I actually did have it right after all.

They were doing it because they wanted to.

But they didn't want to because it was "fun." Not because they were bored and had nothing else to fill their time. Not because they enjoyed the act of scrubbing pots. Not because they were parents and parents somehow aren't "real people." Not because they didn't, on some level, also NOT want to do that work.

But—they had covenanted with God that they would serve Him. And that meant serving His children: serving us. That meant doing the little things someone has to do, if a home is to run smoothly. And in that way, in God's service, they DID want to work. And they did even love the work.

Elder Robert L. Simpson said of keeping our covenants,
I testify with all the sobriety of my heart and soul that we are committed, that we are depended upon. All things are possible in the Lord…As we unite in our faith and determination, His work will be accomplished. May this obligation burn within us. May it never be dimmed. May we be excited about the opportunity that is ours as we move forward deliberately, in humility, and with constant preparation, and do what we have to do.
I do feel this obligation and determination, though it wavers from time to time. But deep down, I truly do want to work in God's service, to assist Him in His work. What I need more practice with is remembering that the ordinary work in my home or ward is, or can be, that work. The constant cooking and cleaning and washing and scheduling are an "opportunity," if I "move forward deliberately," for ME to be someone the Lord can depend on to carry out His work.

So I'm trying, if I'm the one left doing a task, and I'm feeling resentful because my kids are probably assuming I just WANT to do it, or because no one else ever thinks of doing it, or because I'd rather be doing something else—I'm trying to say to myself, "But I DO want to do this. Not ALL of me does. But the part that is learning to work does. And the only way I'm going to become like God is by letting that part of me have lots of practice!"

Elder Featherstone told a story which I won't retell here (you can read it in his talk), and even though it was from Reader's Digest and felt very…Reader's Digest-y, I liked it. The culmination of the story—about a boy who rises to do better, more complete work than he thought possible—has his mentor saying this: 
"I know how you felt, because the same thing happens to almost everyone. They feel this sudden burst in them of wanting to do some great thing. They feel a wonderful happiness, but then it passes because they have said, 'No, I can’t do that. It’s impossible.' Whenever something in you says, 'It’s impossible,' remember to take a careful look and see if it isn’t really God asking you to grow an inch, or a foot, or a mile, that you may come to a fuller life."
Since that time, some 25 years ago, [the boy concludes] when I have felt myself at an end with nothing before me, suddenly, with the appearance of that word, ‘impossible,’ I have experienced the unexpected lift, the leap inside me, and known that the only possible way lay through the very middle of impossible.
And as oversentimentalized as it may sound, I have felt that burst of wanting some great thing. I felt it when I was in grade school wanting to be a famous writer, or when I was in high school wanting to win races and piano competitions, or when I was in college wanting to be a Rhodes Scholar. I still feel it, secretly, sometimes. But soon afterwards, inevitably, I look at my actual abilities and feel embarrassed for that burst of desire to do great things. And as I've been living through the joys and challenges of family life for the past fifteen years, I've reminded myself that even the simple, unnoticed sacrifices and victories are acceptable to God.  

But as I read this, I realized the urge for doing "some great thing" isn't wrong—just misplaced. The daily work IS the great thing. The keeping of covenants IS the great thing. The taking of one more step, and then another, IS the path to the "fuller life." And I should feel a leap inside myself as I think of doing this "impossible" thing: of working because I want to. Of having such fierce love of God and family in my heart that the most mundane of tasks, the most tiring of labors, the most menial and exhausting work, becomes a joy because of my love.

Other posts in this series:

Rome: Old Friends

One of my friends asked me if it felt like seeing a celebrity, seeing the Colosseum, and…yes, kind of, but it was even more than that. I think that's maybe because we learned about it during our Architecture Unit a few years ago, and during that time we also got a set of tiny plastic architectural landmarks which the kids would play with like they were people. Especially Seb, as I recall: "Colosseum is riding on the train with Arc de Triomphe!" he'd say, for example. So it almost felt more like meeting an old friend.
My mom was worried about it being disappointing to see all these famous monuments just sitting there in the middle of a modern city. "Was there a shopping mall across the street?" she asked us somewhat worriedly. Well, there were gelaterias and apartments and so forth, of course. But the Colosseum is such an imposing structure, it can hold its own. And you get to walk past the ancient Fora of Julius and Augustus Caesar on the way, to get you in the proper mindset. It was dusk as we walked down the street for our tour, and I found it quite satisfyingly awe-inspiring to approach the Colosseum on foot and then gradually see it looming over us until it filled the whole sky:
Our tour was at night, which was very nice, temperature-wise, since the days were soul-sappingly hot. I was surprised to see all the excavation of the tunnels and rooms under the arena floor, since in pictures I think I'd always seen just a grassy field in the middle.
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