The sermon today came in loud and clear. In stop and go traffic lightings. In lights and sirens down the Vegas Strip. So often I arrive at church to sometimes softer pews, and sometimes harder news. In trying to focus, to tune into listening to softer whisperings that fall on harder folding gym floor seats. I arrive from sin city…..hoping for my soul’s sake that I can change…that I can be forgiven through his GRACE. That in the turning, my heart will start, will take, ignite like glowing kerosene lit lantern elements, or char cloth. Will heal in the refining camp fire. In singing hymns and Bible belting, “Shall we gather round…”
“I am on the pursuit of happiness” just as my young Phillipino and Italiano sons are. To turning broken hearts. My own included. To start, maintain a change. To strip my stained and spotted sackcloth to strips under Aslan’s claw. To wash my dirty face with tears to beautiful. Redeemable within the framing up of closing remarks, and prayers, and shaking hands, and sometimes hugs, and walks to cars. Not so easy as this formula for writing screenplays. Nope. But sometimes a start, or continuation.
Okay maybe this is not Vegas, and most certainly it is not Hollywood. I live in rural Utah. My life is not a sitcom series resolvable in under thirty minutes or an hour. It is a creation I am making better or worse in every minute, in every breath, or small adjustment, or rectification. And church is not the quick fix, any more than high stakes testing is the answer to the education problem. But nothing is perfect. We opperate within and without imperfect models in search of a Vision. Christ is the answer. The most perfect plan there is under God. Sometimes we are blessed to know, and to be visited by angels. There is one at my school. In spite of trying to heal myself…..there is only so much I can really do. But I will try.
The sermon was on “Turning.” So many metaphores of turning fill my mind. Somehow my MGM Grand Pa Jensen & Grandma With the Jealous Farting Leg occupy my thoughts. They were the Get Away vacation. They were the happy first world, theme park, GNP grossing nation, unlike the third world repressive realities of conrol freak conservative home life deep in the heart of Texas. Woah! That felt good.
One noteable saving grace in my mom and dad’s defense: We spent our summer’s tripping home to the mountains of Utah and Wyoming. When I was very small all the family gathered round the camp fire. Three generations. Under the stars of Star Valley, Wyoming. Abreast the rushing Willow Creek and lowered beckoning pine boughs. Well before my brother’s grown procreation of minions, and John Boy Walton occupation and Chickenville reunions. My childhood vacation of cook-out weinie roasts, and No limit catching trout boasts, and spooky camp fire stories, and songs and dances. We were roaring like a fire. Before the turning, loss of childhood inocense, summer vacation ruled and I was princess of the thing…..AND the oldest grandchild. I was beautiful and the smoke tried to follow me.
The days, and months and summers turned, just as we turned from children into teens, and men and women. Back then, in former times, for many summer nights we could be found outside like this turning marshmellows on sticks. The gooey, sticky ick we loved in spite of getting sick on them. This was okay back then. And Grand Pa Jensen dancing, chanting, turning out a rain dance like a Native, or some look alike John Wayne type. My grandpa big and tall with curly Danish head of hair and comic aire about him….though he mostly didn’t say much, just smiled.
These were the happy days of summer. Some were full of water snakes and stinging nettle. Of summer birthday cakes, and moose restraints and hiking to the lily pond and cliffs. Each day was filled with dreams and happy scenes and peace of mind. Adventures and new friends to find. And life was kind. And I could count on Grandparents to love me. Unconditionally.
Across the balancing act footbridge to a welcoming fifth-wheel trailor. And rainbow mini-marshmellows stashed inside the oven door. To Grand Pa Jensen, and Grandma with the Jealous Farting leg. They could be found playing cards. But don’t get on the bed. Off limits.
My Mother’s parents. They were often the best and truest friends and answers to my prayers and problems. Void of judgement. Only love. This came in handy when I got the news that I was having twins at twenty. And when I swelled with children, a single pregnant mother lacking wisdom, but needing teeth out. They put me up. Accomodated. Never once intruded, or confiscated rights of imposed decisions. They took me to the surgery. They nursed me through it. They loved me anyway in spite of my stupidity.
Then on that day some eight or nine months later everything went right and everything went wrong. That day of joy and solemn tears and fears…that day of delivery and regrets, and swollen eyes, and hearts, goodbyes and not just yets and holding ons, and letting go to new lives, in moving on and forward for me. Not for them. I didn’t know til later that my dear Grandparents were on their way to see me and the Adoption babies, when they were nearly taken from this world. A horrible accident. Not too unlike my own in straying from a safe lane toward destruction. A one night stand collision. Head on. There was a wayward garbage truck. Struck. In broken pieces on the highway. In time they healed as I did. Lived maybe ten years longer.
Then in my twenty second year, I had good news. I took my groom with me to meet my Grandparents in Magna. They loved him instantly. In spite of being, yes, my senior by ten years or more. Did not turn him away as did my parents. Instead asked him to stay with smiles. I think my Mark reminded me of Grandpa in many ways. He felt so right and safe. I told my parents in not so many words “We’re getting married whether you like it or not.”
Now all of that is gone. Behind me. Only memories. No regrets. I wondered if I’d ever lose the sting of those poor choices and others. Time heals most hurts I think. In time we see we can forgive ourselves as well. And stories of this rough stuff covered up, or stashed for later show and tell for future grand kids I suppose.
Now am middle aging, rearranging. Still making mistakes. For Heaven’s sakes….just trying to breath, to live, to love and raise my teenage children. I hope they have and keep much kinder memories than the ones I hold of my own parents. In turning hearts, I see I have a lot to do. A lot of me work left to do. A lot of children work to do in growing happier relationships. A lot of good to do in doing more….much more….and in mending what is wrong. I am so grateful there is time and space to do these hard things. Seems I have done hard things before. I know from this sure knowledge, and sometimes wisdom, that I can do this again, and again…in turning, turning, turning.
I am reminded in proofreading my daughter’s research paper of this turning, or this enduring on. I hear a universal language in the writing and remembering of WWII. That aweful history recounted leaves us lessons. I feel I’ve recently been in the throng of mourners grieving Gettysburg. A student of mine is rehearsing for a recital this week. I’m grieving loses of my own making. What can I take forward to my own rebuilding if not from these rueful words…
“We are all alive. We are human, with good and bad in us. That’s all we know for sure. We can’t create a new species or a new world. That’s been done. Now we have to live within those boundaries. What are our choices? We can despair and curse, and change nothing. We can choose evil like our enemies have done and create a world based on hate. Or we can try to make things better.” Carolyn Matas, author of Daniel’s Story.
I want to make things better in the world that I create. It’s never too late, unless you refuse to try.