Monday, December 14, 2009

The Image

In my home I feel safe and sound. Especially at Christmas, I can create the illusion that all of my world is exactly as it should be, exactly as it is in my dreams. Sometimes, before the Christmas season I think about the loads of life, the work on my mind, the stresses that weigh me down, and I think about all the STUFF to do to get ready for Christmas. Occasionally, I will admit, I am tempted to just not bother with the tree, the lights, the cards, the cookies. It's just one more thing on my already full plate. But I always do it anyway, and when I sit alone in my livingroom and look at that tree, bursting with ornaments--ornaments that are bursting with memories--I'm always glad that I do it. Because the way that I feel inside at Christmas, the feeling that is embellished by all the cozy things around me that create an atmosphere of peace and happy childhood memories and even happier dreams for the future, that feeling just can't be beat.

But sometimes, out of my home, I feel scared and vulnerable. I feel wounded and scarred. Branded. I took the kids to the Christmas party at church on Saturday, without Adam. I swear, the whole night was one huge slow motion montage of couples in love and happy families. Like the camera of my mind's eye just kept focusing on close-ups of couples embracing, hand holding, gazing, laughing. And I worked up all my courage to just eat my roast beef and keep from exploding into tears. Conor wouldn't sit at the table. He, as usual, wanted to take a bite and then run through the gym with the other kids. Dylan made it his mission to hunt down Santa and discover his true identity, upsetting mothers whose young children were following him around wide-eyed. Lyndsay was absorbed with boys, at a different table. And Aiden? Well, he did what he could to tag team Conor with me. My world seemed upside down and completely unmanageable.

After Santa had made his grand entrance, and Conor had spent sufficient obligatory time on his lap, I grabbed him up and made for my escape. The pressure on my heart was just too much. Rounding up the other kids, pulling Lyndsay away from her googly-eyed boys, I headed for the door, when a mom of one of the young women I teach approached me and asked if she could talk to me in private.

"Oh, dear," I thought, "if she tells me some complaint about Dylan, I won't be able to take it tonight."

"Or what if I've done or said something offensive? I can't face it tonight, I just can't."

I sent the kids off to the car, and we ducked into an empty hallway and sat down. "Wait," I said, "is this about my kid or yours?" "Oh, it's nothing bad," she said, sensing my worry. "I just, I just. . ." and then she started to tear up. "I just needed to thank you because you have been the parent that I haven't been to my daughter over the last while."

She proceeded to tell me how much my testimony last week meant to her and to her daughter, and how she, the mother, has been struggling so much over the last while, and hasn't been able to be a spiritual strength to her daughter, who has instead gleaned from me. Now, the mother is making her slow and steady comeback, and she wanted to tell me that she appreciated my example in her daughter's life. I didn't even know.

I started to cry, for reasons other than why I thought I'd be crying when the whole conversation began. "You mean, I've done something right?" I said. "Thank you for telling me, because it seems like I'm just screwing things up everywhere I go." We hugged, we chatted for a minute, and then I scooted out the door, only to be stopped by someone else who wanted to give me a pie to take home. Again, some tears. Good ones. Grateful ones.

I stumbled into the house, tripping over hyper kids, where I could decompress. The cycles of emotion are hard to handle at times. But here, at home, I feel peace.

Studying the anatomy and physiology of the human eye this morning, I was reminded that images focused on the retina are inverted, or upside-down. They also undergo right-to-left reversal. The only reason that the world does not look upside-down to us is that the brain "learns" early in life to coordinate visual images with the orientation of objects. We literally see the world upside-down, but interpret it as being right-side up.

I realize that I have some more "learning" to do, so that everything around me doesn't feel inverted and upside-down around me. I see one thing, but need to interpret it differently so that I don't feel so out of balance. Not everything in my life is aligned right now. But some things are, and those that are, are wonderful. Those that aren't, have the potential to become wonderful.

No matter what I see around me, inverted, reversed, whatever, what I should continue to interpret is that I am a daughter of God. I have unlimited, unmeasurable potential--thank goodness. I am valuable, even only as His child. All of me, all of my life, is in His hands, and He has never left me alone. Though I cannot see the right side of the tapestry He is weaving with my life, I can see enough threads dangling below to know that something is happening, and the colors are brilliant. I should know enough by now to know that in His hands, it will all make sense someday, and the finished product will be more exquisite than I can even imagine. Just as our brains choose to see the world correctly oriented though the image presented to them is the polar opposite, so must I choose to see myself correctly aligned and oriented in my little sphere of progression.

What looks like dangling threads, is really the making of a masterpiece.


Kimberly Vanderhorst said...

I wish I could give you a hug right now. What sweet, sincere, and stirring words. I'm so glad you were given that gift, that acknowledging of what it is that you are doing right. And perhaps, just maybe, in that moment you were given a glimpse of the you that we all see, and love.

Annette Lyon said...

This is absolutely beautiful. I'm so glad you had that moment of seeing the good you're doing--and your value--in the middle of what feels like chaos.

I'll keep the parable of the tapestry in mind often, I'm sure.

Teresa said...

Your words inspire me. I am so glad that I found your blog. Since starting to read it, I have found myself thinking of you often. Your strength amidst adversity encourages me to try a little harder, and to be more grateful for the blessings in my life. Thank you.

Piper of Love said...

*standing ovation*

You wrote this so beautifully. And reading it made me feel like I was listening to you say it.

You are amazing!!

I couldn't love you more <3

Anonymous said...

I'm glad I know you!

Saint Holiday said...

I am celebrating your victories. What a totally amazing lady you are! The fire only refines you, while it would destroy others. I am observing the evolution of your life with absolute awe. How can I help but love you forever?


Anonymous said...


Luisa Perkins said...

This is one of your best posts ever. (I realize that I write that about every five posts or so, but it's true.)

I haven't forgotten your email.

I love you.

Jenn -- said...

Beautiful message. I've been to that Christmas party as well. Thank you for sharing.

I heard a thought the other day you might like. I emailed it to you.

Have a wonderful day.

dcr said...

your posts are always inspiring! i really admire your ability to correlate all your learning! while i know that the eye actually sees things upside down,as you describe, i'd never make the connection that you so brilliantly describe!

enjoy the christmas season; take some of your eternal optimism outside your comfort zone and see the beauty everywhere!! and don't care what people think (that's my no-so-secret secret!).

you are absolutely the very BEST you possible. and you're an even better mother. oh how i wish to be half the mother you are! have a merry christmas and look FORWARD to what comes next. it's gonna come anyway so you might as well enjoy it.

Keeler Klan said...

So utterly profound, Jenna. I have no words... I LOVE YOU!

Cynthia said...

This is such a beautiful post! You described so well how I felt at last year's Christmas party for our ward. A year has passed and things have changed so much for the better. I pray that next Christmas finds you strengthened and more confident as you forge ahead with hope.

Really, a very touching post! Thank you!

Misty said...

this is so beautiful... I adore you Jenna... even when everything else is topsy turvy, this is solid... And God has plans for you, girl, to influence so many more people. Even at life's messiest, you are a genuine example... hold tight, my friend.

Anonymous said...

Your writing is just incredible. I have known you were a great writer, but this is just beautiful. I agree with Luisa, this is the best post I have ever read from you. I am again so sorry you are facing this pain.