Sunday, November 19, 2017

One Plus One Equals Both

“Hi Amy! You have a really nice smile. :)

I received that message from a guy with gorgeous blue eyes late in the evening on July 5th. He asked for my number on July 9th, took me on a date July 10th, on a second date July 11th, and the rest, as it turns out, is history.

Three weeks before that, I wrote a blog post about turning 31, how hard it was, how difficult it was to hold onto hope, and that it was exhausting to continue watching the people around me land their “25 inch trout” while my constant reeling wasn’t yielding results.

Spencer Hunter is the youngest of 2, with a married sister. We share a deep love of books, movies and music – he has a voice that makes me weak at the knees. He’s very intelligent, a hard worker, and ambitious. He brings out my silly side, but we have equally as many intellectual conversations as ridiculous. He’s patient and isn’t afraid of facing hard things in life. He has a spectacular family, who have accepted me without question. More than anything, he’s the kindest human being I’ve ever known. He makes me happy, calms me down, and lifts me up.

Our initial messaging conversation was full of movie quotes, debates about our favorite books, excitement over upcoming movies, and a healthy dose of hope. The weeks after we started dating felt happy and overwhelming to me.  My long, painful dating history made me wary and nervous about any guy who showed enthusiasm for me, and I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, while at the same time enjoying every second of getting to know this incredible man. The night he told me he loved me for the first time, I simply responded with, “I know.” He has been so patient, so loving, so encouraging as he waited for my insecurities to fall away. Our relationship has been shockingly easy, but real. We are different in ways that compliment each other and similar in ways that make it simple. 
 
Two weeks ago, he told me that if I “wanted to dress nice on Wednesday, that would fun.” As in so many things, he knew me well enough to know that I’d want a heads up that something special was going down. When he picked me up, he handed me a flower and told me that the theme of the evening was “Just go with me.” On my seat in the car was another flower, a jewelry box, and a card.  Spencer is incredibly gifted with his words, and he had written me a beautiful poem – at the end of each stanza was a question. The first question he asked me was, “Beloved, will you go with me?” and inside the jewelry box was a luggage lock.

We drove to downtown Salt Lake and walked around temple square. As we got to the reflecting pool, there was another card, another jewelry box, and more flowers. The second stanza ended with the question, “Beloved, will you build with me?” Inside the box was a house key. (Apparently his dad was standing guard nearby, but I was a little distracted and didn’t notice.)

From there we went to the Roof Restaurant, where the last stanza of the poem, jewelry box and roses were waiting. The final question he wrote was, “Beloved, will you create with me?” and inside the box was a pacifier. (And yes, I was sobbing by this point.) Dinner was spectacular – we sampled every single dessert they had. When it was over, he grabbed my hand, said again, “Just go with me.” And we walked back to the car.

He told me to put on some music, as we had a bit of a drive ahead of us. I threw on the playlist of my favorite love songs, and we listened, sang and mostly just grinned at each other. As we were pulling off the freeway, our love song came on (totally not planned). It’s a country song that I first heard a few weeks after we started dating, and the first time I heard it, I started crying because it so perfectly captured what I was feeling, fearing, and hoping.

You say what if I hurt you, what if I leave you?
What if I find somebody else and I don't need you?
What if this goes south, what if I mess you up?
You say what if I break your heart in two then what.

Well I hear you girl, I feel you girl but not so fast,
Before you make your mind up I gotta ask:

What if I was made for you and you were made for me?
What if this is it, what if it's meant to be?
What if I ain't one of them fools just playin' some game?
What if I just pulled you close, what if I leaned in,
And the stars line up and it's our last first kiss?
What if one of these days baby I'd go and change your name?
What if I loved all these what ifs away?

After the song finished, he switched the music over to his phone to play me a song. He’s mentioned several times that he had a favorite love song, but has never told me what it is, nor let me listen to it. Don McLean came over the radio, singing, “And I love you so / The people ask me how / How I’ve lived till now / I say that I don’t know.” Just as the Timpanogos temple pulled into sight, the strains of “Peace Like a River” flowed through the car, and we both started crying. He walked me to the front of the temple, asked if I would go with him, if I would build with him, if I would create with him, if I would marry him.

Yes. Every day, yes. 

Sunday, June 25, 2017

My 25 Inch Trout

I've driven from Phoenix to Pleasant Grove twice recently. 10 days ago in a moving truck with all of my worldly possessions, and yesterday in my 215,000 mileage car. In preparation for the second trip, I took my car to my mechanic and told him to fix anything he thought might break on it. $1300 later, he and I both felt good about making the journey. After the events of last summer, I have been extremely paranoid about getting stranded with my car broken down, especially since there are stretches during the drive when I don't have cell service. So when my check engine light came on during one of those stretches, I took a few minutes to rail at God. Because that's always productive. Frequently, in spite of doing all that I am capable of, life doesn't go like I plan.

Today I was in a lesson at church led by my parent's stake president. He started by telling a story from his past week - he had just returned from his dream vacation of fly fishing in Alaska. He has been fly fishing for years, and his one dream from this trip was to catch a 25 inch trout. The day arrived that they were going to the location where he was mostly likely to catch one of these huge fish - the Gibraltar River. All day the people around him caught fish after fish, and eventually each member of their group had one of the coveted 25+ inch trout, including an 11 year old boy who had never been fishing before. Everyone it is, except him. He, the most experienced fisher in the group, barely caught anything at all, and certainly nothing near the size he had hoped for. He was frustrated and disappointed and decided he would rather have not gone on that trip. He too expressed that life frequently doesn't go like he plans, and that it can be hard to deal with the consequences that arise. He then asked if anyone had any Gibraltar River experiences. I raised my hand.

I turn 31 in a week. Kind of an unremarkable birthday to most of the world, but in my world it means that I'm too old to attend the Young Single Adult congregation at church. The YSA program has been the source of most of my social life for the past 12 years, providing friends, entertainment, opportunity, spiritual growth and protection. Oh yeah - and pretty much every boyfriend I've ever had. It won't be a surprise to anyone reading this but just for the record: I want to be married. And not just married for the sake of it, but married to someone where there is mutual respect, someone who is kind and intelligent, someone who is willing to face uncertainty and work everyday to make a happy life together. I'm not overly dramatic about it - I know that I'm young and have so much life ahead of me. But I also do analytics for a living. And I know that the older I get, the worse my odds get. So while there is a whole new life awaiting me on the other side of 31, this birthday has felt like the end of hope in some respects.
So I raised my hand, said that I was unmarried and turning 31 on Saturday. That people were landing "fish" all around me and had been for years. That in spite of my having, what I consider, fantastic technique and great experience, the fish keep swimming past my bait. (Ok, you can definitely push this analogy to an uncomfortable level.) And that yesterday while I was crying and yelling at my windshield, the words that came into my head were, "Don't you quit. You keep walking. You keep trying. There is help and happiness ahead."

President Osguthorpe came in the middle of the class, sat next to me, pulled out his phone, and showed me a picture of himself holding a 27 inch trout. He caught it the next day. "Everything will be all right in the end. If it's not all right, then it is not yet the end." And I believe that.

Friday, April 14, 2017

He Lives

I attended an Easter fireside this morning. One of the speakers spoke of losing his daughter several years ago. They were on a walk with his other children, and she darted in front of a car. He talked about doing CPR on her tiny 4 year old body, and praying with all his might that she would be saved. Later that day, his wife gave birth to their fourth child. In his own words, "I have never been closer to both heaven and hell."

He also spoke of Christ, more specifically, Christ's triumphant entry into Jerusalem. A huge number of people gathered to see him through the streets. They laid their clothes in front of his path, they sang Hosannas, they waved palm fronds. However, many in the crowd were not cheering him on because they thought he was the Savior of the world. They thought he was the one who would save them from Roman rule. The expectation was that he would go through the streets straight to the seat of government and overthrow it. Instead, he turned left and went to the temple. Among this congregation, those who joyously sang his praises, would days later demand his death.

Many times, we face unmet expectations. We see clearly the path that we want the Lord to take on our behalf, but he instead turns left. We stand there, hearts broken, disappointed and unsure, begging the Lord to please explain what just happened. Why did you turn left?? I have been standing here, waving my palm frond for a long time, waiting for you to come. Turning right would have saved me from my pain, from my discomfort, from my uncertainty. Turning right would have given me what I want most. At that point, we have the choice. Will we continue to sing his praise, or will we walk away?

This Easter season, I simply want to say that I believe. I believe in him. I believe in his ways. I believe in his power in our lives through the Atonement. I believe that his way is higher than mine, and that eventually, as we allow him into our lives, all of the "lefts" will be made right.

Happy Easter, dear ones.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

You Can Have Something Better

Ever get an ominous feeling about the future?

Breakdown of my current situation. I could give you a very monotonous rundown of everything I have to accomplish in the next 7 days, but suffice it to say my goals at this point are all around surviving. I graduate in 7 weeks. My lease is up in 2 months. I turn 31 in 3 months, which isn’t significant in any other culture, but in Mormon culture means that I’m too old to attend the singles program at church. (I’m single by choice . . . just not my choice.) I don’t have a job yet, nor do I even know which state I will end up in. I feel like I’m out to sea in uncertainty desperately paddling in a circle, creating a whirlpool that’s sucking the boat out from underneath me.

I recently had two amazing opportunities present themselves to me. Sometimes it feels like God or the universe (depending on what you believe) is pointing you in a specific direction and telling you to believe in a specific opportunity. That’s how I felt! I was certain they were two distinct answers to my prayers – that I had been led to this point because this was what was meant to happen. Yesterday I discovered that wasn’t the case – that both of these “miracles” in my life were actually dead ends. And instead of finding the direction I’ve been desperately seeking, I found myself feeling foolish. Foolish for believing. For hoping. For trying.

Ultimately, yet again life is turning to a different course than I wanted. There is a lesson that I am learning the hard way, but it’s important: as long as I continue to do my best, God will lead me to where I’m supposed to be. It sometimes requires doors slamming shut, false starts and heading down the wrong road. Sometimes you have to head down a path simply because it’s the fastest way to discover that’s not the right path for you to take. But these false starts and dead ends can bring new strengths, new lessons, and new opportunities. “A new calling beckons us away from comfortable routines wherein the needed competencies have already been developed.”

Have faith in the process. It will all work out. Doesn’t mean that I’ll get the killer job. Doesn’t mean I’ll meet the Mormon version of Matt Damon. Doesn’t mean that I won’t get cancer or that my hair will always look great or that people will always be nice. It means just that – it will all work out.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Daring Greatly

I’ve been trying to go to sleep for the past two hours, but this demands to be written, so I’m relenting in the hopes that my brain will shut off.

Miranda Hart wrote an inspiringly hilarious book called “Is It Just Me” where she chronicles years of awkward moments, bad jobs and sticking her foot in her mouth on her journey to achieving something she didn’t quite dare even dream: becoming a comedian. She gives amazing perspective on things like manicures (“basically just holding hands with a stranger for forty-five minutes whilst listening to Enya”), Christmas (“Each year, from at least November, well, September, well, if I'm honest, May, I look forward to it hugely”) and the pressures of being a woman (“You may look at me and see a slightly frayed, wool-clad woman with an inexplicably hefty rucksack, but I look in the mirror and simply give thanks for all I've opted out of”). She also talks about the importance of remembering to dream. To dream big. To reach for the stars, take risks, and keep believing in yourself. In her words, “…holding onto the bonkers dream might just turn out to be the most marvelous thing you ever did.”

As most of you readers know, I recently went through another heartbreak. While that might seem unremarkable in the larger scale of things, to me heartbreak tends to feel like an atomic bomb in my life. My initial reaction was simply that this isn’t worth it. It hurts too badly, and I don’t want to feel it anymore. Inevitably of course, I start to come around because in the end I really do WANT to find someone. I’m a hopeless romantic. And I need someone to call my cell phone when I can’t find it.

I recently spent some time with a good friend. He and I tried dating, and it didn’t work, but we are the best of friends now. He gets me. He knows me. He thinks that I’m fantastic. He is one of my greatest cheerleaders. As I left dinner with him a few weeks back, I had the thought, “If I can end up with someone who views me and treats me the way he does, all of this pain will have been worth it.”

And that’s the beauty of risk, isn’t it? That risk, in the end, can pay off! We start businesses, we quit our jobs, we move to New York for the stage, we participate in clinical trials, we start a new diet, we love again and again because the potential payoff is worth the potential setback. But . . . what if there is no payoff? Businesses fail. We end up in dead-end jobs. People take medication, do therapy, change their diet and don't feel better. Is beauty only found in success?

I have a new goal. To be grateful for the moments when I feel like I failed. Because it means that I tried. To stop feeling like every dead end means that I screwed something up, that I missed the road to fantastic glory. I want to be happy for the experiences that I’ve had, not because they are preparing me to be successful in the future, but because I had the experience. Because the experience of fighting for it, of risking for it, will be what defines me rather than the end result.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” Theodore Roosevelt

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Lean Forward to the Next Crazy Venture Beneath the Skies

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t relieved and happy to be leaving 2016 behind me. Like so many other people, there were just hard things going down all year for me. However, I keep a small leather journal in my purse to write down my thoughts and impressions and things that people say, and as I reviewed everything I wrote this year, I realized that it has also been a year of incredible growth. So, here is my list of 17 things I’ve learned that I want to carry forward into 2017.

      1. Top Golf in Houston in July is too hot.
      2. Top Golf in Salt Lake City in December is too cold.
      3. Choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong.
      4. When in doubt, hope. Against hope, believe in hope.
      5. Love everyone. Choose God.
      6. Don’t be fearful of the divine experience. Don’t be afraid to suffer. To weep. To run the risk that some days will be painful and long. While you are in the struggle, remember the importance of the suffering. This gospel is a gospel of happy endings.
      7. The sun will rise. It always rises.
      8. “I tremble to think what we would have lost if we had taken counsel from our fears.”
      9. There is something divine in the process of working hard to master something.
      10. Who I have become is not an accident.
      11. Keep staring at the marshmallow – it is worth it! (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanford_marshmallow_experiment)
      12. Start with the desire to have the desire to do it.
      13. Being sincerely kind is more important than being authentic.
      14. The Atonement gives my faith validity.
      15. “This isn’t it. You can’t stay here.” The Lord will get me where I’m meant to be, even if I’m afraid to let go of my current circumstances because I might not have better.
      16. “Embrace the suck. Stick it out. There’s too much riding on it.”
      17. There is no situation where there is no solution for God. At the Red Sea, there appeared to be no solution.

“God, there’s a sea in front of me.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“But God, there’s an army behind me.”
“Yeah, I know.”

Happy 2017, dear reader! Remember that “to reach a goal you have never before attained, you must do things you have never before done.” Can’t wait to see what the new year will hold.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Bah, Humbug

Christmas is my favorite time of year. The lights, the music, the family, the food - it has never lost its magic. The one thing that's hard about Christmas for me is being alone. And with the end of the latest in what feels like a never-ending string of failed relationships, I find myself newly single for the holidays. So tonight while my family walked through an elaborate display of lights, music and smells, I'm somewhat embarrassed to confess that I found myself distracted with the all-too familiar feeling of heartache and loneliness and longing. And let's be honest - an unhealthy dose of feeling sorry for myself.  

Eventually we turned from the brightly colored lights into a display full of soft, glowing luminaries. They called the area "Light of the World" and there were a dozen statues portraying events in Christ's life. Giving sight to the blind, teaching, showing forgiveness and kindness to all. As I wandered through the path depicting beautiful moments of clarity and love from our Savior, I was overwhelmed with a different feeling. Peace. Howard W. Hunter said, "The real Christmas comes to him who has taken Christ into his life as a moving, dynamic, vitalizing force."

Like Ebeneezer Scrooge, the Grinch and so many who have come before me, I have been considering Christmas in the wrong way. It's not about holding hands while you walk through lights. It's not about having the coolest picture to post on social media. It's not about having someone to make elaborate holidays plans with. Christmas is about Christ. It's about love and peace, generosity and kindness. It's about looking outside of my own selfish world and seeing how I can lift the load of those around me. 

The final sculpture in the garden is a depiction of Christ walking on the water. Back then, he said, "Peace, be still." He still says that today, as we experience our own storms and trials in life. He is always reaching out. And the true spirit of Christmas is for us to reach out too. "Pure Christ-like love flowing from true righteousness can change the world." "This Christmas mend a quarrel. Seek out a forgotten friend. Dismiss suspicion and replace it with trust. Write a letter. Give a soft answer. Encourage youth. Manifest your loyalty in word and in deed. Keep a promise. Forgo a grudge. Forgive an enemy. Apologize. Try to understand. Examine your demands on others. Think first of someone else. Be kind. Be gentle. Laugh a little more. Express your gratitude. Welcome a stranger. Gladden the heart of a child. Take pleasure in the beauty and wonder of the earth. Speak your love and then speak it again."

My dear, lovely reader - may you have all the celebrations you hope for. May you get all the cheeseball and fudge you can eat. May you feel the love of the people around you, and especially the love of the Savior. And may your days be merry and bright. Merry Christmas.