Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Power of Positive Expectation

Early in our marriage, Brian and I established a precedent.  We realized the power that lies in the simple concept of Postive Expectation.  As a result, we have tried to always have something fun to look forward to.  It needn't be extravagant, expensive, or over the top.  It simply needs to be out of the ordinary; something that can fill our minds with hope, that the mundane and everyday stuff will eventually be broken up with a diversion.

Last month on my birthday, knowing that I was right in the middle of the wedding hullabaloo, Brian had the wisdom to look down the road a little bit.  He knew that eventually life would return to normal, our pace would slow down, and we might need a little something to jumpstart things.  So he gave me the best possible gift:  tickets to a concert deep in the month of September.
At the time, how could he possibly have known that I would be teaching Seminary again?  That more than ever, I would need a bright spot at the end of my day?  Well, he must be even more wise than I have given him credit for.  Thank you, my dear, for the diversion.  I am needing it desperately.

And I love that the tickets were accompanied by a handwritten note from Harry.... Not sure how you managed that....;-)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Happy Birthday, Mother

When I was a kid I loved having my mother come to school for various volunteer activities.  She had a fun personality, and I thought she was so beautiful.  I was very proud of my mother.

I am still very proud of my mother.  She is one of those people who becomes the life of the party wherever she is.  She has the ability to draw others toward her with her contagious smile and genuine caring spirit.

My mother taught me to cook, to sew, to play the piano, to garden, to clean.  She taught me how to love, how to serve, and how to be faithful.  She has always set an example of kindness, respect, and consideration for others' feelings.

I wish I was athletic like my mother.  I wish I was more at ease with people I don't know, like my mother.  I wish I had been a rodeo queen like my mother....

Have a great day, Mom!  I wish I was there to bake you a cake.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Broad Roads versus Narrow Ways

'Find your path.'  'Choose your own direction.'  'Follow your heart.'

We hear these directives all our lives.  How much freedom do we really have in choosing our own pathway?  Or rather, how successful are we when the choice really does lie solely with us, especially when we come to the proverbial fork in the road?

                                                                Photo found here.

I have had a conversation with an old friend recently.  She got me thinking about some important concepts.

Quoting her:  "You spend your young days having parents and teachers direct your life, then you move to where either a job or kids direct your life. It becomes a habit, but I think idleness has been given an unfair reputation. When your mind is always busy with outer things, how do you know what it does when it has nothing to do?....  So, tell me, why is outer direction to fill your days always thought to be more acceptable than self-direction?"--Sara Hansen

Interesting, don't you think?  Few of us may admit to having completely carefree lives, where the direction we take is truly ours to decide.  But even during our "busiest" times in life, there are choices to be made with whatever remains as "free time."  How are we filling the down time in our days?  And can we proudly profess to making good use of it?  What IS good use?  Is quiet, thoughtful, meditation a waste?  Is reading a book a waste?  Is writing a blog a waste?  Is sitting in the sunshine a waste?

Do you feel like your life's path has been straight?  Clearly defined?  Easily identifiable?   What about narrow?  Have you had a full range of choices?  Or not?

I believe the best road markers are set by the commandments of a loving Heavenly Father.  They give us  direction for setting our path, while at the same time giving us the freedom to live our lives with happiness and joy, not being bound down by poor life choices and addictions.  But as narrow as that path may seem to some, there is plenty of room to explore our own dreams.  Our moves are not scripted; the choices are ours alone.

My challenge now as an empty-nester, with enough free time to have a little elbow room in my schedule, is in how I choose to use that time.  I hope that I will take advantage of this great gift of time.  I hope that I will hold myself accountable for how I use it.  I hope that I will give myself license to make a few of these decisions, recognizing that my choices have merit.  I may live to serve my family, and my God, but just as essential, and often forgotten, is the importance in addressing my own dreams and realizing their validity.  Thankfully, I have a very supportive husband....

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

My Buddy, The Bard

Perhaps it is a normal thing for a 9-year-old to develop an affinity for William Shakespeare.  I don't know.  I think it may be somewhat unusual, too.

And yet, I did.  I feel it a unique blessing to have lived in Cedar City, Utah and to have had access to the Utah Shakespearean Festival early in my life.  A Comedy of Errors, A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Tempest; these were the plays that introduced me to the Bard, to his intricate language, irreverent humor, and magical settings.  I was hooked.  There was something so compelling about the open-air theatre, the elaborate costumes, and the beauty of language, most of which I probably didn't understand. 

I was even in my elementary school's production of The Tempest, which proved to have had a lasting impact, when I named my youngest daughter, Miranda, after the young heroine of that play.

I had the role of Trinculo, who in league with Stephano and Caliban, foolishly sought to outwit Prospero. 

Throughout my life, I have retained a fondness for the works of Shakespeare, though my opportunities to see them performed have diminished.

Last month, as kind of a post-wedding treat, my Miranda and I planned an outing to Ashland for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.  We purchased tickets for two productions, made reservations at a charming downtown hotel, and then began counting the days until our trip.

What fun!  It was like stepping out of present day and into a literary world, a world untouched by the cares of everyday survival, where we were joined by other literature and drama geeks, for a celebration of the mastery of language, of costume, of theatre.

There were a number of highlights to our trip.  The first being a brilliant production of Hamlet.  We were blown away by the mastery of staging, acting, and language that is Hamlet.  What a way to get our feet wet.

"What a piece of work is man!"--Hamlet

We enjoyed two days filled with great entertainment, great food, and browsing in used book stores; all in a beautiful setting with a beautiful daughter.  I feel so blessed that my love of Shakespeare has been passed to the next generation; that my children also recognize the brilliance of The Bard.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Deja Vu!

I turned off of Rural Ave. into the alley way behind Church Street.  I pulled my car into the little car port.  I walked up the back steps of the little house, key in hand.  Upon unlocking the door I hesitantly stepped inside.

It was as though nothing had changed.  Could ten years really have lapsed between today and the last time I opened that door?

The little house is a special place.  It really is a single-family dwelling that was converted years ago into a Seminary building for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, located across the street from the front entrance to the high school.  For years, faithful students have daily crossed the divide from the worldliness of high school hallways to the sanctuary of that little house.  They have braved the suspicion and mockery from those in the large and spacious building, being desirous to fill their day with the peace that comes from the word of God.

My new class meets three times a week, and my responsibility will be to fill those three meetings with an entire week's worth of lessons.  My new class is made up largely of freshmen and sophomores.  My new class was very welcoming (for high school students), very attentive (for high school students), and very respectful.  I may even have the courage to return tomorrow....

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Which drummer do you hear?

"If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.
 Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away."
-- Henry David Thoreau

Individuality.  There has never been a greater need for it.  Why do we wrestle to keep step with the common cadence, when our souls long to be free?

I have come to understand more and more as I increase in age and wisdom (well, at least in age....), that our missions here on earth are varied and unique.  What a blessing.  I was sent here to accomplish my own set of achievements, and so were you!  And in the grand scheme of things, it then becomes necessary for us to have our own unique set of abilities, passions, and talents. WE ARE MEANT TO BE DIFFERENT.  Let us then rejoice in that.  Let us then not squelch who we really are. 

Let us then accomplish our special purposes and not try to hide them.  What does the Lord need from you to help build up His Kingdom here on earth?  Are you filling the measure of your own personal, matchless creation?

Elder John A. Widtsoe spoke of the importance of our divine callings:  "We need...a group of men and women in their individual lives who shall be as a light to the nations, and standards for the world to follow.  Such a people must be different from the world as it now is....We are here to build Zion to Almighty God, for the blessing of all the world.  In that aim we are unique and different ....  We must respect that obligation, and not be afraid of it.  We cannot walk as other men, or talk as other men, or do as other men, for we have a different destiny, obligation, and responsibility placed upon us, and we must fit ourselves for that great destiny and obligation."  (Conference Report, April 1940)

I am trying to evaluate my skill sets; trying to understand why I am different from you; trying to fulfill my unique purpose.  It is humbling.  It is enlightening.  It is liberating. 

I am trying to drown out the deafening beat of this worldly world, trying to align my step with my own drummer.  So if I seem to be losing pace with what is popular or trendy or current, well, it is because maybe that just isn't the beat I am stepping to, nor the music I am hearing.  I always knew I was a little odd.

Friday, September 17, 2010

What a difference a day makes...

(she hums to herself).  But really she is thinking 'What a difference a year makes.'

Please celebrate with me today the one-year anniversary of Ardith's Quest.  I am trying to analyze how I feel with over 250 blogposts to my credit.  Within those 250 "insights into my soul", have you learned anything?  Have I learned anything?  Are you any better off for having read my humble efforts?  Am I a better person for having examined my soul and given it a voice? 

I cannot speak for anyone else, but I have learned that I can speak for myself.  And oh! what freedom there is in that.  To have somewhere to express the ideas circling in my psyche; to have a forum to divulge my insecurities; to simply be able to share my joy with someone that may or may not be interested.  These have been invaluable to me.

Embarking on this quest, I have discovered some things.  Venturing into the unknown, I have reclaimed the bolder side of myself.  I have rekindled my love of writing and at the encouragement of my readers I have begun the venture of writing a book of my own.  I was even able to find a connection with Kermit the Frog in It's Not Easy Being Green.  I have learned that it doesn't matter who, or who is not reading my blog, nor does it matter if I know.  I became Blissfully Unaware and that has made a huge difference in the things I have written.  I write Ardith's Quest mostly for me now.  And isn't that really how it should be?

I have been surprised to discover what a great tool a blog can be.  My mother originally expressed her concern that having a blog may eliminate other forms of communication among the family.  To me, it has only added to the communication.  It has allowed me to share my day-to-day activities with faraway family members, including things that probably would have been overlooked in a phonecall.  Truly a blog expands and enlarges the exchange of news to include not only the facts, but the photos, and the feelings as well.  Indeed, my college students have shared with me that my blog was a nice way for them to "hear mother's voice" on a particularly difficult day; and that I usually had some words of wisdom for them to think about.  For someone dedicated to the idea of preserving family history, I believe I have found a most effective device.

But the true purpose of my blog is not to share the family news.  It isn't to be a travelogue or merely a forum for sharing pictures of the most beautiful granddaughter in the world.  I read somewhere once that the real worthwhile blogposts are those which cause the writer to hover over the "publish post" button; should I, or should I not, share this?  I have found that occasionally I have written posts that show a little too much of my insides, too much of what really makes me tick, and I have hesitated to disperse those parts of me out into the blogosphere for scrutiny and ridicule.  Therein lies the beauty of a blog; it is the freeing of oneself, the liberating of one's 'neurotic' tendencies.  Very therapeutic.

I have found a way to distinguish those posts that expose the most of me, being more than just newsy or informational.  I have labeled them "Me."  Relative to the other posts over the year, the Me posts represent about one-third .  Isn't that how it should be?  I would hope the most effective posts will be those that share who I really am.  Perhaps 100 percent of my posts should uncover the real me......Nah, give a girl a break. ;-)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

I Sensed a Change Coming

but I had no idea what it would be.  In retrospect I believe the Lord has been preparing me for this next phase.  There is no place I would rather be than in the scriptures lately.  My eyes and my mind and my heart have been especially receptive and I have felt a deeper understanding which has been coming more easily.

But wait!  What about all my luxurious free time?  What about setting my own schedule, and my own hours, and wearing my pajamas until noon if I choose?

I have been asked to teach Released-Time Seminary at South Salem High School.  Again.  I think it has been about ten years ago that I did this before.  Then, I had four children at home, in elementary school, Middle school, and High school.  I taught all day, every day.  I taught Old Testament and New Testament.  When I wasn't at the school, or taking care of my patient family, I was studying and preparing for the upcoming day.  Exhausting to even think about it.  BUT what an experience!  Where I lacked, the Lord certainly made up the difference.  It may have been one of the most selfless times of my life.  And I definitely was blessed for it.

But wait!  I am an empty-nester.  My husband is about to be released from his bishop calling.  I have already been making plans to visit my children in college.  I have already been researching new parts of the world that I want to visit. 

Teaching Seminary was a rich experience.  I was impacted by an amazing group of young people, many of whom still desire to call me their facebook friend.  I receive wedding invitations from all over the country from these wonderful friends.  I learned how to rely on the Lord.  I learned how to teach with minimal preparation, putting my trust in God, having faith that he would help me know what to say and how to say it.

Okay.  "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."  (2 Timothy 1:7)  My buddy Paul gets it.  I need to replace the fear with faith, and the Lord will bless me with the power to organize my time and my life; he will bless me with love for a whole new group of young people (please let them like me, please let them like me),  AND he will bless me with a sound mind to know how to relate spiritual things to youth that live in a scary world.

We are never asked to run faster than we have strength.  My energy may need a boost, but my testimony is sound, my faith is strong, and my love of the scriptures is overflowing.

And I'm pretty sure the Lord will help me find time to finish my book....

Sunday, September 12, 2010

So Today was MY turn!

Yesterday I was feeling left out.  My husband attended a 4 hour meeting, being taught with other bishops in the area, at the feet of a modern-day Apostle.  That is a Capital "A" Apostle.  One of the men I admire most.  Elder David A. Bednar

Then later that evening my daughter Miranda was able to attend a special conference given by Elder Bednar for the Young Single Adults in the Region.  Lucky girl!

Today, in one of those unexpected turns of blessings from heaven, I also had the overwhelming opportunity to be in the presence of one of the Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Just before we were to begin preparing for the Sacrament by singing a hymn, there was some type of rustle in the hallway, to which the bishop (Brian) was called out for.  He came back in with a look that only a wife can recognize as "Something BIG is up!"  It was then announced that instead of having the Sacrament, we would just remain quietly in our seats for a few moments.

Being seated up front by the organ, I looked out at the congregation and saw the bewilderment to match my own on everyone's faces.  I worried that something was seriously wrong.  I wondered if we were in some type of lock-down.  What could possibly be happening?

About five very long minutes later, the side door of the chapel opened.  Our bishop and our Stake President, who just happened to be visiting our ward today, both stood and looked toward the doorway.  In walked Elder Bednar, followed by our Area Seventy Elder Brinkerhoff. 

Imagine the hush that came over the members of the Pringle Ward today.  It was a most extraordinary event.  The feelings are indescribable. The special spirit was palpable.  Elder Bednar then spoke to us, bearing testimony of the reality of God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ.  He gave his special witness as one of the Lord's Anointed, that the Savior truly lives and loves us.  He pronounced an apostolic blessing upon all the children and youth in attendance that they would always remember the special feelings they were experiencing today and that a seed of faith was being planted in their hearts.

I recognize that this is probably a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  I will never forget this beautiful September day when our Sacrament Meeting was blessed with a very special surprise guest.

Coming to the Feast

I love the stories of the Book of Mormon.  I love the dramatic parts, I love the heroic parts, I love the tender parts.  Maybe I have finally grown up beyond the tales of "long ago (when) their fathers came from far across the sea, given this land if they lived righteously."

Now I love the doctrines found in this beautiful book.  I love the lessons and the messages and the teachings that "speak of Christ, that rejoice in Christ...."  They are the real reason to study the scriptures every day.  This book possesses the power of God's word to touch us, lift us, teach us, inspire us.  We can be better people by opening its pages and letting the light of the Gospel soak into our pores.  It is no coincidence that our bodies crave the light that comes from the sun; our homesick spirits crave the Light that radiates from the Son of God, as we wander so far from our heavenly home.  He hasn't left us in darkness, devoid of the warmth of his spirit and the light of his love.  They are available to us everyday.  It is as simple as turning on a light switch.  The switch lies in opening the holy scriptures and coming to the Feast.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Where has she been?

Have any of you wondered?  I can't say that life has been uneventful with no raw material for new stories.  Hardly.  The passing of summer has brought the end of a very exciting era.   So then I've been too busy to write?  No. 

So, what's the deal Haws?  Anytime I have found a spare moment of quiet, introspective time, amid all the weddings and reunions and parties, I have used that time to work on another writing project.  I am roughly halfway through my first attempt at writing a book.

Yep, it's true.  And it has been an incredible experience.  I am very encouraged, have found it to be stimulating and challenging and rewarding. 

Thanks for noticing me....

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Sand, Sun, Sculpture?

What do you get when you have eight energetic young adults, a beautiful day, a shore full of open sand, and you throw in the incentive of a few prizes?  A really fun sand sculpture contest!  I was thrilled to see the effort and energy and teamwork as four teams tried to outdo each other in creating their ephemeral masterpieces.

The fun began as the teams began collaborating on ideas, tools, and strategies.  Working tirelessly, they began digging and hauling water and packing and carving and smoothing and finessing.

Then came the most difficult task:  judging and proclaiming the winners.

Erica and Derek's sandy iPod was a favorite all day long as beachcombers came exploring.  We noticed several people carefully changing the playlist to their own favorite.

Elders Curtis and Bruton dreamed of home and one of their favorite places to be, replicating the Cougar Stadium at BYU where Elder Curtis played before his mission.  I don't think there were many cougar fans at the beach yesterday.  As some passersby had changed the iPod song, others changed the university.  Sorry, guys.

Carefully laying a firm foundation, it took awhile for Robert and Josalyn's masterpiece to emerge.
A big "thumbs up" for their final creation!  We noticed many photos being taken by others during the day of this fun sculpture, all striking the same pose.

Giving a nod to that timeless classic, Miranda and Alexis carved out the Sphinx.  Their careful attention to detail attracted a lot of attention, as well as being a magnet for many photos.  Many people straddled the familiar lion's body to capture the memory.

Little remains after the inevitable ebb and flow of nature's tides.  From my perch atop the nearby cliff, all that can be seen is a modified thumbs up; it too is slowly melting into certain oblivion.  Not to be forgotten though are the fun and laughter of a beautiful Labor Day at the beach, shared with family and friends.  Thank heaven for cameras.