Monday, December 9, 2013

"That Book Had Other Plans"

Dear Uncle George:

We take a break (hello, Val, it has been almost a month from your last entry, how much break do you need?) from our time in Nauvoo to catch up my real life.

Bountiful Temple

I went to Salt Lake City to meet my all-powerful photography "bosses."  I took some pictures. I saw old friends who I LOVE and ADORE. And paid for my lunch....so consequently I ate entirely way too much.  One lunch involved a sports bar in a basement of some seedy building.  With my missionary tag on.

And the employees didn't even notice.  Welcome to Utah.

We have been besties for decades

I loved being at the Church Office Building with the media department and doing things that make a stay-at-home feel like she actually has a "real" job.  Commuting.  Dressing up.  My own cubical space I shared with a Argentinian who had yet to pump his own gas for his new car he had owned for five weeks.

Herman is an easy name to remember

Big Cottonwood Canyon

Thanksgiving was uneventful which in itself is an event.  No guests.  No going somewhere.  If you really knew me, you would know us doing nothing on Thanksgiving (yes, I did make the traditional meal which in itself is something I pretty much despise doing) is so out of the norm.  Everyone who usually would seem they have no where to go had somewhere to go, so we stayed in.

And as my bishop would say, "Can I be candid?"

I didn't shower.  For two days.

I edited photographs.  For two days.

I ate too much frozen fruit salad. For three days.

And I counted so many blessings that I can not wrap my head around it all.  What a strange year it has been for me.

A training I was at with a guy who is actually from Nebraska (you don't meet one of those folks everyday--I mean Nebraska is God's country as I have been informed....although Alaska does seem to be His country too so maybe God's countries are lands that have names that end in "aska"--just an observation) asked the kids what their highlight of their 2013 would be.  My head instantly went to India.

Did going to India for a few weeks change my life?  No. I already considered myself a global resident.

Did I think "How did I get here?"  Yes.  And I don't mean the 39 hour travel.  One way.

Did it make step back and think "Wow, who knew people lived like that?"  No.  I already knew.

Did it make me what to come home and throw everything I own away?  Yes. We ARE mired down with too much stuff.

I was profoundly moved by India, not because of what I took away from there, but what I left.

Which was part of my heart.

I left part of my heart with some nuns who chant at 4 am each day, with a woman named Madu who is all-powerful, and a man-servant who doesn't know how to eat with utensils named Raju.

All power--roar

I left part of my heart with people who "live on the pavement" for generations (do you hear what I am saying?  150 years of generations...imagine moving your family to the streets right now and they still live there in 150 years.  Makes you kind of want to throw up in your mouth doesn't it?)
I left part of my heart with the little girl who had never seen a white person in her life who just so happened to be wearing a pink "Facebook" shirt.


And I left part of my heart with the young women who can be found prostituting.  Easily located on a bridge.  Modestly dressed.

Emotionally, 2013 brought some things I did not see on my radar coming.  Profound things.

We put our beloved Coho dog down.  My wailing carried through the vet office to the point it was just embarrassing for everyone in the building.

The Boy became an Eagle Scout.  Praise God.


I retired from the directorship of RYLA.  10 years.  Almost 1,000 kids came through.  Each returning 7 forms to me.  Do the math.  In love with the staff. Still am.

I was called on the photography mission.  The best calling ever.

I traveled.  A lot.  Mainly alone, which gave me a lot of alone time.  Profound eh?  With all that alone time, a chick gets to think. I decided the following, in no particular order:

West Virginia postcards are cheesy.
I like frozen macaroni and cheese.
I do have too many cats.
I rarely miss Tom.  And when I have something to say to him, I go to his grave.
You should not eat Wal-Mart cookies.
I love hip hop music.  The Girl says I am in my 20 year old black man musical phase.  Truth.
I  do like going for walks.
I love the smell of coffee. Still.
I appreciate people who are strong.

And I still love serving the poor.

Which brings me to this past weekend.

When you arrived in Kansas City to begin your photography mission, you wrote about how you gave a poor black man a nickle because he needed it.  I feel connected to you because I have given the poor some nickles too.

And some Christmas candy, holiday cards to fill out, and a photograph.

Years ago, when I was exploring how to serve at the local homeless shelter, I asked them what they would like if they could have any service.  They instantly said two things:  photographs of the clients and a birthday party for their long-term residents.

Done.

Four the last four years, we have offered candy, cards and photographs for any of the 70+ clients at the men's shelter on the first Saturday night in December.  It has been amazing.  Beyond the Facebook kind of a.maz.ing--my kid just got on first base kind of amazing.  But truly amazing.

And this year, the women's homeless shelter opened. A project we "Church Ladies" started investing in two years ago.  Seeing it finished brings a tear to the old brown eye.

Tons of clothes we collected for the women

I do not have any images to share with you except for one.  With permission.

When I was hobnobbing at the Church Office Building, I was introduced to the paid, professional photography staff.  The best piece of advice I got from one of them was that I should always take a shot for myself.  Whatever it is.  Whoever it is.

So at the shelter on Saturday night, I did just that.  I took one for me.

There was a man who came in for his treats, carrying the perhaps most used, tattered book I have ever seen.  It was kind of big, not usually the kind of book someone hauls around in every day life.

Come to find out it is his Bible.  It was blue, with a flying white dove on the cover. I would not have thought that.  Too Mormon now a days I guess.

He was cheery. Sincere.  Passionate.  And he feels he has been called to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

He used to work in the entertainment industry as a Prince (yeah, the singer) impersonator. He was married to the Madonna impersonator and they would travel around the country doing gigs.  They had a son and daughter, and if you have ever wondered what the love child of Madonna and Prince would look like...she looks like Alicia Keys.  Truth.  I have seen the pictures.

His book was so glorious.  Loved.  Studied.  Loved.  If only my Bible looked so "good."

After he hit his hard times, he said he was thinking of going back in to the entertainment business.  Then, as he told us, he looked at his Bible on the table and said "That book had other plans."


Loved it.

On this stroll through the 2013 memory lane, I believe the homeless preacher hit it on the head for me.

As we go through life, often the "books" in our life have plans for us that we don't know will be part of our life or story.  We don't even know they exist.  We don't know where they lead.  Or how far.

How just a comment, a touch, or even a smile can change the course of your life. Often, immeasurable joy.

I know it has mine.

So as you wrap up this year, perhaps you too will want to take a look at what you will remember about 2013.  What your books have brought you.

Have a great holiday season.  And to quote my bishop "Merry Christmas."  :)

Love
Valsy