Tuesday, February 28, 2012

What Is In A Name?

    Imagine my surprise when my son texted me with the name of his new daughter.; Anna Gabriele.

That looks lovely and sounds nice, and it happens to be my name. It is reversed from my name, actually, mine being Gabriele Johanna. I have a lovely granddaughter, Amazing Grace, who carries my name as her middle name, as well, and we laugh together about how fun it is to share a name.
   Has it been an easy name to carry? Not always because my mother's pronunciation of it was German and it had so many vowel sounds in it that it was hard to say in English: Gaw-bree-ay-le was correct. At the time I was a teenager, a famous football player, Roman Gabriel, was getting news coverage and so I stopped correcting people. I explained that I had the feminine version of that name and that I was really named after an angel.
   My daughter-in-law, the one with the new baby who shares my name, was visiting some Christmases ago and made me a lovely sign for my refrigerator. I see it every day and hope that I can live up to the kind sentiments. Now she can hope that her daughter becomes all those things, as well.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Book of Mormon Sunday II- Alma 8-14

        I am not a seeker of signs but I have been seeing some. The number two is frequently presented to me in different venues. 

    One re-current theme in the Book of Mormon is the "two ways".  Nephi describes these two paths as "choosing liberty, or eternal life" or "choosing captivity and spiritual death through the power of the devil". Given this argument, who wouldn't choose liberty? But this liberty is not freedom to do as we please. This freedom is gained by walking in the ways of God and keeping his commandments. 
   Is it possible there is a third way; my way? I found a lesson in a reality show, of all things. The Biggest Loser teaches the concept that to be successful at losing weight and restoring your life you must "walk the walk " according to the trainers and planners of the show or you will find yourself kicked off the ranch. The "walk" is hard and the contestants are tested each day as to whether they will work as hard as possible. I totally understand why some of them try to approach it through the "third way". They are thinking, "I am trying as hard as possible, I deserve to rest or just give up" 
  "I can slack off a little and no one will know." 
  " If I get kicked off the ranch, I can still do my own thing and get the desired outcome."
   But, the winners of this game choose the "way of liberty" because they can not regain their physical health without intervention. They see "the way" as their only hope. It takes a while to see the lie in the "third way" because we want very much to create our own reality. 

   So, in the continuing story of the teaching of Alma more evidence is given of the enabling power offered by the Savior, through the atonement. These chapters show the sweetness of relationships forged through "walking in the ways of God". Take for example the relationship between the Almas; father and son. Both men have walked the path of "captivity and death". In repenting from these errors in judgement they both have similar "enabling power" granted to them from angels who desire to strengthen them.
   Mosiah 26:14 "And it came to pass that after he had poured out his whole soul to God, the voice of the Lord came to him, saying:Blessed art thou, Alma, and blessed are they who were baptized in the waters of Mormon. Thou art blessed because of thy exceeding faith in the words alone of my servant Abinadi."

Alma 8:10 "Nevertheless Alma labored much in the spirit, wrestling with God in mighty prayer, that he would pour out his Spirit upon the people who were in the city; that he would also grant that he might baptize them unto repentance....15   Blessed art thou, Alma; therefore, lift up thy head and rejoice, for thou hast great cause to rejoice; for thou hast been faithful in keeping the commandments of God from the time which thou receivedst thy first message from him. Behold, I am he that delivered it unto you."

    The foremost relationship is that between Alma and the Lord,  but the relationship between Alma and Amulek is also very sweet. Alma stayed many days with Amulek before they started preaching to the people of Ammonihah. I would love to know what they talked about.
   Alma 8:30 "And Alma went forth, and also Amulek, among the people, to declare the words of God unto them; and they were filled with the Holy Ghost. And they had power given unto them, insomuch that they could not be confined in dungeons; neither was it possible that any man could slay them; nevertheless they did not exercise their power until they were bound in bands and cast into prison. Now, this was done that the Lord might show forth his power in them."

   Alma and Amulek, bound together in a relationship with God, teach the "way". The people in Ammonihah hear this compelling explanation of the two ways.

   Alma 12:33 "But God did call on men, in the name of his Son, (this being the plan of redemption which was laid) saying: If ye will repent, and harden not your hearts, then will I have mercy upon you, through mine Only Begotten Son;
34 Therefore, whosoever repenteth, and hardeneth not his heart, he shall have claim on mercy through mine Only Begotten Son, unto a remission of his sins; and these shall enter into my rest."

    The first way is the way of repentance and the pathway is the soft heart towards the Savior who can then offer his mercy.

      Alma 12:35 "And whosoever will harden his heart and will do iniquity, behold, I swear in my wrath that he shall not enter into my rest.  Now, my brethren, behold I say unto you, that if ye will harden your hearts ye shall not enter into the rest of the Lord; therefore your iniquity provoketh him that he sendeth down his wrath upon you as in the first provocation, yea, according to his word in the last provocation as well as the first, to the everlasting destruction of your souls; therefore, according to his word, unto the last death, as well as the first."

   The second way is the way of iniquity and the pathway is a hardening of the heart towards the Savior which stops our progression and results in the second death, the death of the spirit.
     Alma 12:37 "And now, my brethren, seeing we know these things, and they are true, let us repent, and harden not our hearts, that we provoke not the Lord our God to pull down his wrath upon us in these his second commandments which he has given unto us; but let us enter into the rest of God, which is prepared according to his word."

   That makes sense, doesn't it? I can see the only possible "way" is the way of life eternal. Everlasting destruction is not so good and the third way does not exist.  

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Two New Things

     I love receiving gifts which I don't know I want and today I want to celebrate two new things, the first being ever so much more important than the second, but fun nevertheless.
   Number 1; the little girl I waited for in Phoenix has arrived on her birthday.

 I am so pleased to know she is here and well. Anna Gabriele is 9 lbs. 5 ounces and has joined the Teacher Son Family with little Emmaline as her big sister.

     Number 2; while I was away I received a new door. I didn't know I needed one but I really like it.

     I think a new door opens on the day of your birth which brings you into a mortal world unlike you have experienced before. It is a wonderful and awesome existence. When I see this new door I will think to be grateful for my time on earth, whether it makes me sad, frustrated, or unbelievably joyous. When one door closes another opens up. That is sappy, isn't it?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

No Labor is Ever in Vain

   Today is my last day in sun city. I feel great and Emmaline's mother still feels pretty good, too. My granddaughter will wait for the next shift Grandma, to arrive. To bring on labor yesterday, we climbed a mountain.

    No, we did not make it to the top, but we went high enough to see the vista of desert and city.

    A pregnant mom, a tired toddler, a knee challenged Oma, who would believe we were climbing Camelback Mountain? It is lucky we had The Knitting Queen to carry us through.

Coming down from Camelback it is quite important to stop at La Grande Orange Grocery. It is an event and it does not disappoint. Mouth watering sandwiches, beautific bakery, and eye catching gifts to remember your experience.

    The only thing missing from this visit was the sweet, warm smell of a brand new baby. I will have to use my imagination, and I do have memories of that experience, believe you me.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

At Home With Children

   My grandchildren are very lucky to have parents who value learning. Some of them quote C.S. Lewis, know the alphabet as toddlers, and they all read with enthusiasm. Emmaline has a fun place to learn right in the living, kitchen area.

   She can play store right there and have tea parties, and, not to be left out she can read to the fish there as well.

    Books everywhere are always a challenge but what an opportunity for diving into other worlds.

    If reading and books showed a families wealth we would be the richest family anywhere.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Ein Spaziergang

    Family walks are a staple in my past family and current family. "Ein Spaziergang" is a leisurely walk of discovery. I love to go walking with my children and their children. They have picked up on the idea that their neighborhood is full of recurring beauty and new sights to please the eye.

     In the warm climate of the southwest a daily walk is just so vital to being a good "mensch".

    My Teacher Son has a habitual route with predictable stops, including important wild flowers,
cats who live at certain houses, and of course the park, where you can swing and slide.

    My Emmaline thrives on her anticipated walk, which brings a new experience with children and nature everyday.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

There is Love in the Sun

                                            I'm going where the sun is warm, just for a while.

Lapping up a few rays of warmth may bring me back to an even keel. I am hoping our sixteenth grandchild will come while I am here. Emmaline and I are getting re-aquainted.

Friday, February 17, 2012

A Yoga Evening

   My sister friends made me so happy by receiving kindly my desire to share my love of yoga. I am not a certified teacher, I'm not pretending to be one, but, I love teaching people about what yoga has to offer our bodies and minds. I hope I communicated that every body can do yoga, no matter how small or large. I am a curvy yogini and sometimes I wish I could do a pose better but I have come such a long way.

    There was a special moment last night when, with our eyes closed, we finished the breathing portion of the class and I asked everyone to open their eyes. There before me were these wonderful women with
kindness and generosity shining from their eyes.

  Thanks for sharing yourself. I wish I had snapped more pictures but I  felt intrusive with my camera in people's faces. I am looking forward to more yoga experiences in the future.

Monday, February 13, 2012

A Memorial

      It is a custom in our society to hold a memorial for a loved one who has passed away. A memorial service is a ritual where we can bring our deepest feelings and  place them there for safe-keeping. Bringing to the surface all the memories we have of this cherished person, we share how they interlaced with our lives. My nephew, Braden, left us too early. Just twenty-two when he exited this life, he left family and friends reeling in disbelief. We made the eight hour trek to visit his home just a few days after his passing. We arrived hesitantly, not knowing how open the wounds of loss would be for his mother, father, and three sisters. The kitchen was a hub-bub with computers, stacks of pictures, and papers revealing an excavation into this  young man's life.
  Over the short few days before the memorial each facet of his life was recorded and artistically displayed so everyone could know him a little better.

  There was Braden the musician, a cello player, who loved music for the refinement of the soul. 

            The outdoorsman was documented who hiked, snowboarded, and loved nature. 

            Soccer cleats revealed his competitive sports pursuits. 

Friends talked about his salsa dancing and about his LDS church mission to Brazil. I came away overwhelmed by all the living he had done. 

  His memorial was very moving for me. I felt so very alive in this moment recognizing Braden's death. The music was especially evocative of his life. A tenor, accompanied by violin and piano, sang "Be Still My Soul". Each verse grew in intensity in contrast to the words which pled for stillness and peace. The intensity of the music brought me life affirming joy. A second musical number featured a piece from the Bach Cello Suite, played by Braden's cello teacher. The single instrument echoed the "strum und drang of life". Lastly, the high school string ensemble, of which Braden had been a member, played the Sentimental Sarabande by Benjamin Britton. These students captured the soulful melancholy and simple melody of this piece. 

As I let the music surround my thoughts I thought even the flowers strained to be full of life. They were cut in their prime and had just moments to be admired before they would fade. In that moment I marveled at all life and the blessing to be fully present.

   The chapel was filled with people and the group spilled over into the gym. Everyone offered support and did all they could to honor Brad's family.

   It is often the case that a death will bring family members together who have not been together often enough. Time and distance keep us from knowing how life unfurls.

   I witnessed Braden's father, so strong, let the impact of closing the casket overcome him as he grasped his brother-in-law's hand. In that moment Braden's mother would kneel before her husband and hold both of them together. Holding others together had been her gift of grace as she thanked person after person for the work they did to make the memorial happen. Several sisters came to our table to declare their love and devotion to Braden's mother. "We will look after her," they promise,"she is a jewel." 
   "I, the Lord, have suffered the affliction to come upon them, wherewith they have been afflicted, ...Yet I will own them, and they shall be mine in that day when I shall come to make up my jewels."
   As the memorial ended and we waved Braden off,  a sunset stretched over the valley. There in the distance was Mt. Shasta which was a favorite hiking destination. The sun goes down for him here but a sunrise looms on the other side.

  "If you really think about it, life exists only in relation to death, as light exists only in relation to dark, and sound in relation to silence. Death gives shape and meaning to our lives."