Friday, June 3, 2016

The Friend Who Became Something More ...

Three years ago, my friend Rachel dragged me to a mid-singles fireside. Rather, she dragged me to an entire weekend of classes, dancing, and uplifting activities geared toward helping single people find each other (read "get married.") I went under extreme duress. Rachel had helped plan the conference, and I was trying to be a good friend and support her. I almost ditched out of the fireside Sunday night. After all, I'd gone to everything else for three days. That had to qualify as doing my part, right? In spite of my protests, Rachel wasn't buying into it. In fact, she decided to make certain I'd be there by recruiting me to sing in the choir. (*sigh! ... *)

However, as I was standing near the door in the room where the choir was rehearsing, joking (read flirting) with a friend, and wishing I was anywhere but there, I happened to glance up and see a familiar face. There are very few people in this world that I would have shouted out to in a crowd and a church. It just so happens that this man was on that short list, and, before I realized what I was doing, and who he was with, I shouted his name across the hall. Somehow, he managed to spot my vertically-challenged self through the crowd, down that same hall, and across the room. He waved cheerfully before the crowd carried him (and his adorable date) down the opposite hall. As I mentally berated myself for the rest of practice and tried to avoid eye contact throughout the fireside, I planned how to sneak out the door without further embarrassing myself. (The fact that the friends we were sitting with happened to sit just in front of my old friend and his date was icing on the cake of my awkward outburst.) While I was plotting my escape and regretting my momentary lapse of judgment, it soon appeared that Matt felt no such compunction.

As the fireside ended, Matt took the time to chat for a few minutes. It really was good to see him. We've been friends since I was in high school, though we didn't see one another often. After a few moments of chatting, we went our separate ways, and I went back to avoiding him. Later though, we ended up talking with a mutual friend at the same time, or rather, she listened to us exchange snarky comments (think Benedick and Beatrice from Much Ado About Nothing ... tempered a smidgen with our genuine friendship and cheer at seeing one another again.) Until that night, I didn't think people's heads actually swiveled in an attempt to follow a conversation. I was wrong. Her reaction, as much as the fun of my conversation with Matt, made me smile for the rest of the evening. As we ended our conversation, Matt mentioned that we should get together. It seemed like a good idea. That being said, I figured it would be exactly what it always was -- a date three weeks later where we chatted and laughed and lost touch again until the next time we ran into one another.

That night, however, I had a difficult time falling asleep. I kept replaying the evening and thinking how blessed I'd been over the years to have a friend so fun as Matt. I've had several amazing friends over the years, but what Matt and I had was unique in its own way. While I was thinking about the impact he's had on my life, a poem began writing itself in my head. This is that poem.

My Friend

My friend,
you, who knows me better than
anyone else
not because we speak often ...

Perhaps, it's because
we laugh well
and thoroughly

You are not
the love of my life
or the day my heart stopped

No, you are
and safety.

You know me
and I know you; and it's
happy and
stable in it's instability.

There is no awkward lull,
no worries about
whether our friendship has been
and still is.
It just is.

In a way,
you are my missing piece.

When you're gone
when I'm not around,
I feel your absence
like an ache,
a burden ...
that's not really a burden,

Just a missing piece.

You are a sort of
phantom limb.
Though you're not there,
I feel
an aching

Echoes of laughter --
both nonsense and wisdom --
remind me that
Over the years, I've had such a friend.

You draw out a part of me,
A piece of my soul that is
and witty
and full of life.

In your presence,
I sparkle, and that sparkle

Long after we've parted,
that sparkle
dances in my soul.
It lights my heart,
but ...

it lights the whole room too.

People dance in that sparkle
and wonder at its light.
They remark on what it does,
and they're drawn to it.

They don't know
and they can't see
that really,

it's just a reflection of you,
your own way of dancing
through life,
the way things shimmer with
laughter as they are touched

by your humor.

When life
boxes up that carefree piece of my soul,

Those are the times
you, somehow,
reappear, reminding me
of who I am and
how I shine.

Without knowing it,
you give me --


And it's enough.
Enough to last,
enough to be,
enough for a friend.

You, my friend, are a piece of eternity
God has woven into my

-- Jaymie Reynolds (May 5th, 2013)

Matt is still sunlight and safety, but he has grown into the love of my life as well -- both this life and the life to come. He became the day my heart stopped searching. Life had lessons we both needed to learn, and until three years ago, the timing wasn't right for us. Even then, it took time for us to grow into this relationship. Two months ago, Matt and I were married in the Salt Lake Temple. It was a perfect start to the rest of our lives and something I hardly expected when I sat down to write that poem late one very trying and beautiful night.

This man has blessed our lives in so many ways. He was the missing piece of our family, and his presence has made our family feel whole. He is a man I respect deeply and who has earned the right to be the patriarch of our home. He treats the girls and me with deep respect, and he honors his priesthood. I'm grateful that God knows the end from the beginning, that He opens doors in the right ways and at the right times. I'm grateful that a loving Heavenly Father gives us opportunities to grow and asks us to hang on in faith as He unfolds miracles in our lives. I'm so thankful for the miracles He's blessed us with. Life hasn't turned out to be what I expected. In its own way, it has turned out much better. 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

An Early Morning Conversation -- written October 2014

Heavenly Father?

Hi, it's me ... Jaymie.

Yeah, I've hit a bit of a rough patch. 

What do I mean? 
Well, my job is really hard. Don't get me wrong! It's totally worth it. I like teaching, I like keeping a roof over our heads with food on the table, and I seem to be allright at it, but most days it seems like I work from the minute I wake up, until well into the night. Even when I'm not grading papers, I'm mentally problem-solving how to better help my 100 plus kids. It's kind of exhausting. Sometimes, I'm so mentally and physically and emotionally exhausted that I could curl up in a melancholy ball and cry. Then, the mom-guilt takes over ...

Being a mom isn't what I thought it would be. Somehow, when I signed up for this, I thought it would be different. I didn't imagine juggling this on my own. I never thought I'd have to ship my kids off to live with someone else on the weekends. 
I don't mean to complain, really, I don't. I love my girls. They're amazing ... And a half. I can't begin to imagine my life without them. Well, thanks to custody arrangements, I guess I can. I just try hard not to. I may be one of the most consistent things in their lives, but they're that for me as well. It's just that being so busy during the week, keeping a consistent bedtime for those girls, and letting them go each weekend seems to eat up much of my time with them. And, they're growing SO fast ...
Occasionally, the pressures of running this little family on my own are so intense that the challenges feel like they're  swallowing me whole. It's an overwhelming strain - physically, mentally, and emotionally. There are nights when I cry with fear at the thought of how much has to be done and how little there is to do it with. But, I guess you know that ... Most of the time, you're the only one who hears it.

Dating? Hmm ... Well, my sweetheart is rather wonderful too. When my tire blew out on the freeway yesterday and took the front passenger side of my car with it,  he (and his wonderful dad) didn't hesitate to come rescue the girls and I. In fact, my love's dad hauled the girls back SO that my love's mother could watch them. What could have been terrifying for my children was a time of fun with one of their favorite shows and popcorn. That man of mine waited with me while I made arrangements to get my poor car towed. He takes awfully good care of me. In spite of that, dating comes with its own bag of vulnerability and uncertainty. Juggling that on top of everything else? A sweet relief and a bundle of nerves combined.

I know, it doesn't sound like I should let things get to me. But, sometimes, they just do. I know the blessings are there; it's just hard to feel them when they're all tangled up in heavy ...

Anyway, thanks for listening ... and thanks for the blessings.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

So, I Realized ...

The last few years have thrown some challenges my way. Some fairly substantial challenges ... Sometimes, I let those challenges back me into a corner with my own personal, pity party. Most of the time, I can still see the world outside of the corner where I am holed up. Occasionally though, the challenges amplify my pity party to the extent that they eclipse the larger picture -- including all the good that exists right outside my preoccupation with the stress that momentarily seems like my whole world.

I was born a free spirit. Planning and organization were not really my thing. Flying by the seat of my pants was a chronic condition, and I found a lot of joy in that lifestyle ... even if that too can breed stress. The last several years have uncovered and overdeveloped dormant organizational skills. It's a wonderful thing! Without said skills, I'd never have been able to juggle being a mom (parenting with a partner has challenges enough, being a single mom is a whole new ballgame ... at least it has been for me,) going to school full-time, working part-time, holding down callings (positions I've been asked to fill in my church -- we believe that those positions are tasks the Lord Himself has inspired leaders to ask us to fill,) date, graduate, work full-time as a teacher, and all the other little ins and outs of being a normal, living, breathing human being. The ability to look at future choices, map out all the options, and visualize the consequences or rewards of each possibility has become invaluable. And, it's allowed me to retain a small bit of sanity in the chaos of everyday life ...

That being said, when you add in the agency of other individuals, the big picture (and all those possibilities -- both good and bad) can get a bit overwhelming. Choices are so much easier when you're the only one determining which direction they should go. It's easy to let the stress bog you down a bit when the options move out of your control.

A good friend told me the other day that I borrow trouble. What she was saying is that I get so caught up sometimes in trying to plan for every possibility and every eventuality that I overwhelm myself. She then proceeded to tell me that I need to scale it back a bit, that it's all well and good to plan for the future, but that a lot of those possibilities are things that I can't do anything about and that I need to focus more on the smaller, more immediate choices, make them, and then be happy in the moment. In other words, I need to let the future take care of itself.

It's not a new concept really. The Savior said something similar in the book of Matthew.
Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. (St Matthew 6:34, Holy Bible, KJV)
The same thing is repeated in modern scripture. In the Doctrine and Covenants, it says:
Therefore, take ye no thought for the morrow, for what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, or wherewithal ye shall be clothed. For, consider the lilies of the field, how they grow, they toil not, neither do they spin; and the kingdoms of the world, in all their glory, are not arrayed like one of these. For your Father, who is in heaven, knoweth that you have need of all these things. Therefore, let the morrow take thought for the things of itself. (Doctrine and Covenants 84:81-84)
So, maybe the point to this is that I've developed a bad habit of planning so much for the morrow, that I forget to enjoy the amazing things about today. Don't get me wrong! Planning, and even the occasional bout of worrying, is not in itself a bad thing. It's when such mental mapping traps me in my own woes or when it blinds me to the beauty of today that it becomes a weakness. When it feeds my fears, and not my faith, then it's time for the perspective to change. Life is a puzzle, and, like a jigsaw puzzle, we're not meant to keep all the individual pieces in mind all the time. Should we know what the big picture is and keep it as our goal? You bet. But, often, life -- like that jigsaw puzzle -- is about choosing a step and seeking out like pieces that will match and build the big picture that we're going for. Today is a puzzle piece, and tomorrow, all I have to do is find the next piece that matches it.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Giver of Good Gifts

I've learned a lot these last several years. I think, though, that I have learned even more from the last few months ... My biggest takeaway lesson from this latest round of opportunities for growth?

God doesn't often give perfect gifts.

Perfect gifts are kind of like a falling star, something one dreams of, something that strikes one deep within the soul, and something one hopes to see again. One could kill an entire lifetime chasing falling stars. Perhaps we needed daylight to keep us from wasting life away living in the rarities. That being said, I believe that there is a reason that perfect gifts are so rare.

I'm not saying Heavenly Father can't give us perfect gifts. In the life, atonement, death, and resurrection of His son, we see that He is perfectly capable of giving perfection. But, He loves us too much to give us only gifts that are complete upon receipt. He commands us to walk toward perfection, but He allows us to be handicapped in myriad ways in the midst of that walk. He knows that if He wants us to grow to be like Him, then we need -- not a perfect gift -- but a good gift.

In Matthew, it says:

If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? (St. Matthew 7:11, Holy Bible, KJV)
I believe that God gives us good gifts. He often gives us amazing gifts. But, those same gifts almost invariably come with flaws and imperfections. Flaws and imperfections that are tailored specifically to our needs and weaknesses ...

In my experience, it seems that the most incredible of God's gifts usually come with at least one imperfection that is meant to sit on our last nerve or our greatest fear and bounce. That flaw will twist and pull and tug our own weaknesses with all the will of a toddler throwing a fit in the grocery store. Its purpose is about the same. No, that flaw and that toddler aren't both trying to get a treat (okay, your toddler is almost definitely aiming for a treat, but ... ) Their real goal is to distract us, to drag our focus from the true purpose at hand, and to cause us to turn our back on what we are in that place to do.

I believe that God gives us good gifts with flaws and imperfections to see if we will accept those gifts with an eternal perspective. I believe that He gives us these gifts to see if we will see His goodness in their beauty, to see if we can sort out the fluff -- you know, the things that only matter in this life -- from the things that will follow us through eternity. I believe that He offers us gifts with elements that -- when dusted off and polished over and over through the refining moments of life -- will grow to shine more brightly in the eternities than the perfect elements of the original gift do now. 

I believe that such gifts are given to test our worthiness. Will we have the humility to see them for what they are and where they come from? Will we be meek enough to thank God for both the goodness of the gifts and the flaws that are woven through them? I believe God gives good and imperfect gifts because He expects us to learn to see the flaws for the beauty that is in a picture we didn't imagine, the art in a gift painted by the Master Creator from His perspective.

I believe that such gifts are given to stretch us, to teach us to love and learn in a way that would otherwise be beyond our current capacity. I believe that such gifts are given to teach us to emulate the Savior and His love more deeply. Such gifts, when cherished and accepted for the divine bestowal that they are, will move our love from the conditional to the unconditional.

I believe that imperfect but deeply good gifts are given to see if we will allow God to bless us to His fullest desires. Will we take what is given and use it for His good and ours? I believe that when we accept these gifts, when we learn to love and employ them to their deepest potential, we open doors for God to bless us more fully than we ever thought possible. But, I also believe that those further blessings often come in the form of more flawed presents.

I know God loves us. I know that His imperfect gifts are often those with the greatest potential to bless and even change our lives. I know that He allows flaws to come with His presents in order to draw us nearer to Him. I know that He wants to bless us. However, He is the perfect parent, and He knows that challenges and learning experiences are needed to help us become all that He has created us to be. And, that perfect parenting colors His blessings to us ... 

God gives good gifts, but ...

He gave one completely perfect gift. He sent His son to redeem us from sin, to heal our hurts, and to make it possible for us to live and live with them again.

I know God lives. I'm thankful for the perfect gift of the Savior. I'm thankful too for all the good gifts that He so often gives me.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Praying a Bit More Deliberately

Family Home Evening tonight was perhaps not my most organized or well thought out effort. In fact, we just watched a movie (Alpha and Omega -- kids' choice) and then I talked with the girls for a few minutes about a topic I've felt we needed to discuss. The topic? Using deliberate language in our prayers. 'Cause I'm that kind of mom ... (word nerd meets the need for divine communication, that's me.)

In an attempt at full disclosure, I should tell you that I felt slightly guilty for not putting more preparation into the evening. At the same time, I've found that when I've been thoughtful about what topics we need to learn about, sometimes waiting until the moment approaches works. Often, the thoughts and ideas that most need to be said come in the very moment that they're sought after. That, and the migraine that set in shortly before our Family Home Evening ... well, ya know.

As we talked about using deliberate language in our prayers, what that means, and why it's important, two little girls had the giggles. It might have had something to do with some of the real life examples I gave them. True, the examples were a bit exaggerated, but they were real enough and provided a stark enough contrast that I thought maybe the kids would be able to see how they tied into prayer.  We talked about asking that we "will" as opposed to "will be able to," etc. I tried to help them understand how the power of a word or group of words changes with how we use them. (Again, meet my inner word nerd.) We talked about how we still need to be humble and to be able to recognize the need for the Lord's will to be done. I explained that using deliberate language should not be telling Heavenly Father what we think He should do, but rather be used as a sign of faith and a request for action.

All told, it was a fairly short conversation. I did most of the talking. The kids did all the fidgeting. Honestly, I wasn't really certain they got anything from the "discussion." But, I tried.

I was surprised later to hear them applying what we'd talked about in their own prayers. I was more surprised when my oldest, before and between each prayer, kept saying "WILL!" in her muscle man voice. It was interesting to see what they chose to apply that language to. I was flabbergasted to hear my oldest explaining to her dad what it means to use deliberate language in our prayers when she was called him to say goodnight.

They might not remember it come tomorrow, but for now, we're going to call it a win ...

Friday, August 2, 2013

Deep Thoughts and a Dearth of Paper (aka Drawing on my Temple)

I'm thirty-seven. Over the years, I've learned a lot about myself. One of the things I've learned is that I have a compulsive need to take notes. As I've improved at note-taking, I've seen a side benefit. I've found that -- for me, at least -- as I take notes and seek truth under varying circumstances, those notes are often accompanied by promptings from the Holy Ghost. Still more that I've learned? When I write those promptings down (and better yet, actually review and act on them) then inspiration comes more frequently.

Unfortunately, there are some things that I just haven't learned yet. Like what, you ask? Well ... let's just say, carrying paper is a good thing. I don't always subscribe to good things. Tonight was an example ...

Palms are the most obvious use of space ...
Wrists are surprisingly flat and easy to write on in the dark.

Fingers are actually quite functional.

I am not left-handed. Apparently darkness aggravates that failing.

Now, before you point it out ... Let me assure you, I know that the body is a Temple and should be treated as such. As a general rule, I try to put my thoughts down on paper. Sometimes though, that simply isn't possible. And sometimes, those thoughts are important enough that my soul needs time to remember and digest those nuggets of inspiration. Tonight was one of those times ...

Some of you have read the post, "I Am Ready Now." This evening, a friend and I went to see the film that post referenced: "Ephraim's Rescue." Just like the devotional I attended last week, this film had a profound impact on me. For whatever reason, this story has made me view my life with a different lens. It has stirred my soul and made me evaluate my own priorities and life footprint.

As I watched the film, I was struck by certain lines. Often those lines were followed by snippets of my own life and how it echoed the themes being played out on the screen. I felt driven to record those thoughts so that I could take them out and dust them off and mull them over later at home during quiet times of reflection.

Quietly, I pulled a pen out of my purse. Sadly, I was not prepared enough to have a notebook on hand. (This is an oversight that I need to remedy sooner than later it seems ... ) Over time, I've learned to make do with what I have available to me. This time, it appears it was simply ink and hand space.

Those thoughts?

* (A near quote ... if not exact) "I believe we are each given certain gifts. I was coming to realize one of mine."

* Ask ... (This was enough to jog my memory as I wrote my words again here at home. It's a bit personal so I'll keep the follow-up thoughts to myself.)

* (Another near quote) "In a way, I believe my entire life had been a plan for what would become my greatest adventure."

* "I am ready now."

* "The Lord prepares each of us ... "

* Do I sufficiently recognize and testify of the miracles in my life?

* What would I give to see my children grow into their best spiritual selves?

* "I'll find them or I'll give my life trying."

* (Yet another near quote) "Another name for the Gospel of Jesus Christ is opportunity."

* Serving the Lord gives us the opportunity for the Lord to help us become more than we already were.

It was a profound film. I wrote my notes. I'm still mulling them over. My friend insisted that I preserve my writings in picture form. Now, if you'll excuse me ... I need to go ponder deep and abiding thoughts while I scrub my Temple clean. (As a side note, an ongoing theme carried visually throughout the film was hand-washing. Just sayin' ... )

Sunday, July 28, 2013

"I Am Ready Now."

I went to a devotional tonight. The speaker was a man named T.C. Christensen. He's a filmmaker who has produced the shows: 17 Miracles and Ephraim's Rescue, among others. His presentation was fantastic, funny and spiritually uplifting.

Brother Christensen said over and over again that, though Ephraim Hanks was not a perfect man, Brother Hanks was a man who had been prepared through life and tried to do what the Lord asked of him and that made all the difference. T.C. Christensen also said repeatedly (though not redundantly) that when we are prepared and if we're willing to try, the Lord will use each one of us to do great things.

As Brother Christensen spoke about some pioneers, and about Ephraim Hanks in particular, I found myself drawing some parallels between those stories and my own life. I wondered how the choices I make each day will impact generations to come. I wondered if I use my time as effectively as I am capable of. I thought about those who have gone before me and the legacies that they've built. Brother Christensen's presentation made me wonder how my own everyday, mundane moments will impact countless others -- or if they will.

Hanks experienced many things in his own life which prepared him for the time that he would be sent to the rescue. His willingness and readiness to answer the call to help the handcart pioneers has impacted generation after generation like the ripples in a pond. I began thinking about the times in my life when I've seen miracles, the times when I've seen God's hand opening doors, guiding me through challenging lessons, and pointing out opportunities for growth. I thought about the times that the Lord has allowed me to walk through difficulties and unexpected situations so that I could develop talents and abilities I didn't know I possessed, even in embryonic form.

These thoughts led to more questions. Have those times been in preparation for my own opportunities to answer the Lord's call to His service? How will that preparation impact my future? I found myself wondering if my own stories are of any significance and how they will possibly mean something to those who may hear them someday in years to come. I'm a pretty average sort of person, and it's hard to picture the things I say or do or write leaving a mark that will ripple through generations.

Brother Hanks made choices that became the hinging points that allowed families to survive and grow. Those hinging points opened the doors for the people he actually helped, but even now, several generations later, those families are still feeling the impact of his willingness to answer when the Lord called for Hanks to ride to the rescue. I don't know that I see my own life as one that will have such dramatic results. Then again, Ephraim Hanks likely didn't see his own life as one that would carry the weight of generations to come.

I questioned, if and when the time came that the Lord asked for my help, would I be willing and able to step forward and say, "I am ready now" as Brother Hanks did? Would I recognize the urgency of the Lord's request?

I'm not sure that I have an answer to these questions. I'm not sure that an answer exists. At least not in the now ... However, it has made me think a bit more deeply about some of the things I've always taken for granted. I've thought about my time, and I think there are ways that I could use it more wisely. I don't think I'm likely to be called to an urgent rescue mission as Ephraim Hanks was, but I've seen times when the Lord has opened doors for me to serve His children. Perhaps, my experiences have been preparing me to better meet those needs. Maybe, in the future, I'll better recognize the urgency of those requests, and that will be enough.

I don't know what the future holds for me ... or my children ... or those who will follow. I don't know what kind of ripples will fall forward from the choices that I make. Like Brother Hanks, I'm not a perfect person. I fall short of my own aims often enough and then some, but like Brother Hanks, I hope that I will be prepared, that I will try, and that -- with feet already set in motion -- I will answer clearly and with confidence, "I am ready now."