Snapshots of Life

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Mi Esposa y mi hija

It is only appropriate and fitting, following expressions to my family of origin, to express my praise to my own little family. This month Tania and I have been married for 3 years! We have known each other much longer than that. I met Tania in a student ward in Salt Lake. The first time I saw her I was sitting on the stand at church and she walked into the chapel to take a seat. I experienced a subtle impression that she would play an important role in my life. I cannot claim a blatant revelation of future marriage, but the quiet prompting proved true. Soon after, we actually met for the first time at a group camping trip in Moab. Despite her brushing me off initially (she will tell you a different version) we became fast friends. The details of that evolving friendship over the following years are many and I will spare you them here. Suffice it to say that, notwithstanding some minor tumult, she was my best friend, and a better friend no one could ask for. In the midst of trial she was a rock of strength and a boon of comfort. The many fun, exciting, emotional, and sacred moments we shared during this period of our relationship are cherished in the history of my life.

Tania's first and foremost desire is to do the will of the Lord. That inner inclination leads her to work hard to both do good and be good. She will be embarrassed to have me post this, but it does demonstrate her character. At one point in our friendship she was concerned that she had hurt me. She was in Boston at the time and flew across the country to make sure everything was okay. I had told her it was okay, and she knew that I would never let her spend all that money to fly to Salt Lake, so she just left a voicemail on my phone and came anyway. She loves people and works very hard to create good relationships, and that often means selfless sacrifice on her part. Later, despite my protests she took another expensive plane trip to Guatemala to be a friend to me in lonely and somewhat scary circumstances.

As many of you know, Tania is very intelligent. She attended Harvard Divinity School to receive a master's degree in theological studies. Modern academic studies of religion in most non-religious institutions are hardly places that promote real faith. In fact, in many respects they do the opposite. More than one scholar has lost their faith to intellectualism in the classrooms of theological schools. In that pressured social and academic environment, Tania did not falter in her faith. She clung to it and it grew. I don't think even I fully recognize the extraordinary faithfulness that she demonstrated during that period! Later, she was accepted to complete a PhD with full financial aide to one of the leading schools in religious studies in the country. Though I offered my full support, she chose to decline the offer for another invitation - to be a wife and mother. She has truly mingled with some of the brightest and high-status minds in the field, yet she is unconcerned with that kind of thing. She went from Harvard University to Richmond, Utah, and as far as I know never looked back. She cares nothing about wealth, status, or prestige; instead focusing on striving to be a good human being in the sphere she is in.

Tania is a great wife and mother. She is selfless, compassionate, and forgiving. She is constantly asking me what she can do for me, constantly thinking about our needs, constantly voicing love and support, and constantly serving cheerfully in the sometimes monotony of home life and childcare. I cannot adequately express what strength and confidence I receive from her seemingly unconditional love. She is nothing short of a miracle in my life. I consider her to be one of the evidences of God's goodness and grace toward me.

Clara is now 15 months old! I posted about her when she turned 1 year, so I will not write at length. I will simply say that she is teaching me so much even in her infancy. She is so innocent and pure, so genuine and joyful, so trusting and determined. We are seeing more of her personality all the time. She is smart, playful, tender, and dang cute!

I offer my loving praise to my best friend and to my little girl.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

La Famiglia

No group of people has had as profound and lasting an impact on me than my family. It seems only right to first attempt to offer a garment of praise to the major participants of that formative unit. Lest this be construed as a blogging brag session, allow me to preface. Home was not a perfect place. Like most families we fought, we made messes and mistakes, we complained, we ruined, we teased, and we even hurt each other at times. However, overall it was a place of love and acceptance. No matter what happened outside of home, I always knew that I was unconditionally loved and accepted by my family. I, in turn, love and accept each of them without condition or reservation. To each member of my family I offer praise. There are many traits and gifts that I recognize in each of them, but today I will focus on just one or two that are particularly meaningful to me, and perhaps also, less obvious to people outside the family.

My dad is a unique man in the world. This becomes more and more clear as I get older. In all my 30 years I have never once heard him raise his voice in anger or say an unkind word toward my mom. Not once. I think my siblings would say the same. This is remarkable to me as I observe other relationships and navigate the dynamics of marriage myself. His calm patience is unparalleled anywhere I've observed. He is also a genuinely meek and humble person. These terms are so misunderstood, I think, in our culture. The person truly possessed of humility does not know that they are humble. It is a trait that is unaware of itself. I've never seen my dad seek for status, position, wealth, or recognition - not even subtly or covertly. He is quietly confident and secure with himself but also knows on Whom he relies. Because there is no need to protect or defend an underlying fragile ego I've never discerned in him even a hint of jealousy, criticism, posturing, or comparison of others.

My mom is a sensitive soul. We most often think of parents watching kids grow and develop. We don't talk as much about kids watching parents grow, which of course they all obviously do through the process of raising a family and having other life experiences. It has been an inspiring thing to watch my mom reverse the effects of defeating early life experiences. That is not an easy journey to take but I know she has put all her heart and faith into it. Her sensitivity lends itself to service and to loyalty. She is absolutely committed to the gospel and has been a wonderful example of consecrating herself for the Lord's work. My mom always takes her callings seriously and works hard to give her best to God. She is another link in a chain of faithful saints who have given their all for the cause of the kingdom!

Lisel is my only older sibling and my only sister. I have always looked up to her. She always prepared the way for me in church and school, which made me - a relatively shy person - much more comfortable. I think it also facilitated life-long friendships, especially in high school. It has been pretty amazing to see her grow and develop as a person, particularly in her role as wife and mother. She is an incredible mom. Everyone always tells her that, and it's true! Somehow she has just the right combination of gifts and characteristics to focus on the meaningful priorities and enjoy the journey at the same time. One of the traits I most admire about Lisel is her ability to connect with others. She is very easy to get along with and has always made lots of friends wherever she has gone. If charity is kind, and envies not, and is not puffed up, and seeks not her own, and is not easily provoked, then I'd say she has charity.

Mike and I are only 16 months apart. We were frequently mistaken as twins growing up, though now we look quite different from each other (my 40 lbs in the past few years solved that problem!). We shared a lot together and Mike always helped to make things fun. Mike is known by many for his generous heart. Sometimes he acts tuff, but when it comes right down to it he is as giving as Santa Clause. Of the many traits that are praiseworthy within him, the one I would like to highlight is his determination. Some might say he is stubborn, but I think a more accurate description would be tenacious. A great example is Mike's decision last year to run a marathon. He started training and never missed a day. As far as I recall he never walked a single time in all of his training runs! Keep in mind that this was in the middle of winter in Vernal. I started to train several weeks after him and ended up giving up because of tendonitis after only getting up to 10 miles or so. But even before that, I definitely walked at times. When he puts his mind to something, he does it.

Tyler was named after my paternal grandfather and inherited his gifts for being a people person. He has a cheerful disposition just like the prophet Joseph, I imagine. He is also definitely the most outwardly touchy-feely among the bunch of us. He has a way of cheering people up along with him, which is a remarkable strength. Tyler should be recognized for his influence for good on people in his life. In high school he was the quarterback on a team where the great majority of the players did not share his values. Despite that pressure he stayed true to himself and influenced many of them in a positive direction. I have watched him do the same thing many times since then with other friends and people he has responsibility over. He has a capacity to reach out in non-judgmental ways to show genuine friendship and urge people to greater happiness by his example.

Shayne is the youngest and the smartest of all of us (Don't argue, Ty!). He is my superior in height, intellect, and dance skills, among other things! I could say a lot about his lack of self-consciousness and his courage to eat various assortments of nastiness, but that would possibly reinforce his daredevil ways and, more importantly, not give credit to his spiritual gifts. Shayne is wise beyond his years and is able to impart that wisdom in a very unassuming and even humorous way. His testimony of Jesus Christ has been forged through adversity. I've not met very many people with as pure a desire to do good before the Lord as Shayne. He has gone to great lengths to do that which is righteous and honorable, and he has succeeded. He is about to get married and I am confident that he will continue to be a great instrument in the hands of the Lord as he begins his family.

Several years ago under circumstances in which I realized I may be at death's door I experienced an unusual peace about that prospect. I was scared, but I was not scared of death. Strangely, I was comforted about that possibility and knew that I would be okay if it were to happen. The most difficult thought on that doorstep was that I would be leaving my family behind (I was not married at the time so Tania and Clara had not yet become my own family). It was the feeling that flowed from an image of being separated from people that I love so much that had me terrified. I am so grateful that never came to pass. I cannot begin to express how much they have inspired me, strengthened me, and taught me. I offer to each of them my most heartfelt praise.