Sunday, September 11, 2016

What the 15th anniversary of the September 11th attack meant to me.

                It was in many ways, just like any normal Sunday.  I had gone to BYC at 11, come home and made the announcement sheet for the Young Women, packed my Sunday bag and was back at the church 10 minutes to 1:00 in order to sit for a few minutes and prepare to take the Sacrament.  The problem was, I was very far from feeling normal.  I hope you will forgive me if I am being too personal. I have some very difficult issues with anxiety and depression, specifically I am one of the many women who experience Pre-menstrual Syndrome.  There are moments when I can feel the anxiety in my chest, as though I were on top of a roller coaster ready to plunge straight down.  There are moments when I am very sad and I cannot pinpoint a reason as to why.  One thing that happens to me frequently during the cycle is that I feel as though I am failing in every aspect of my life and have disappointed everyone in my life and feel a desperate need to apologize.  Anyway, I was feeling all those things as I sat down at church.  Just five minutes before I had been pleading with the Lord to help me.  There was a part of me that didn’t want to go to church today.  I just wanted to stay home.  But you know one of the main reasons why I go to church? Because it works.  It’s as simple as that.  Even in the midst of my anxiety and depression, I knew that I could go to church and hear some message that would help me.  Even as I felt the anxiety get so bad just before the meeting started that I wanted to bolt, I stayed.  As the meeting continued, I continued to pray for help, for something to happen that would restore my inner center, my sense of balance, and about half-way through the meeting, something did.
               In all my inner struggles, I had almost forgotten what day it was.  When the intermediate hymn was announced as “My Country Tis of Thee” I was a tad confused but then I remembered and as we stood to sing, something extraordinary happened to me.  I thought about where I was on that day 15 years ago.  I thought about the instant kinship I felt with the victims and their families as I watched TV, horrified.  We were all brothers and sisters that day.  “Let music swell the breeze, and ring from all the trees, sweet freedom’s song. Let mortal tongues awake; Let all that breathe partake.  Let rocks their silence break. The sound prolong!” As I sang, I felt a new strength steadying me.  I thought of the strength that shone through that darkest of days. I thought of the last words of love expressed to family members, of the policemen, firemen and other heroes whose heroism will never be forgotten, of the people on the other plane who decided that they would take a stand against evil and lose their own lives in the process.  That strength is part of our heritage as Americans and members of the human race.  It binds us together, and helps us find courage in our own inner battles.  That is what this day means to me.  That is what we can never forget.  I never knew any of the people who died that day.   But I love them and one day I hope to thank them for their legacy of faith and strength. 
               “Our fathers’ God to thee, Author of liberty, to thee we sing; Long may our land be bright.  With freedom’s holy light. Protect us by thy might, Great God our king.” I close the hymn book and sit back down. There are tears in my eyes…but I can breathe now. 


Picture from

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Home Part 1

Friday night I drove out to Catherine Creek state park to see my aunt and her friends who were camping there.  It is a lovely drive, one I know well as it was the road I drove many times on my way to Girl’s Camp.  I spent some time with my sweet BFF auntie and her cute friends and as I was leaving, one of her friends suggested that they say a prayer for my safe return back to La Grande tonight and back to Smithfield in a few days.  Her prayer in and of itself was worth the entire drive.  She prayed for my safety and I could feel the love in her voice. She gave thanks that God had brought me safely home to La Grande again.  She gave thanks He had given me the gift of keeping La Grande as home and prayed that I might know that wherever I go, I can always keep La Grande in my heart as home. 

As I drove back in the dusky twilight and saw the lights flickering across the valley, I thought about when we first came to La Grande, 22 years ago.  I was heartbroken to leave Utah at 15 and move here.  I prayed and prayed for months that we wouldn’t have to go. As I told my ladies in Relief Society this past week, thank goodness God didn’t answer that prayer the way I wanted.  Looking back I don’t know exactly when I came to define this place as home, more so than any other place I had ever lived.  I only know that somehow along the way I grew roots so deep here that they still thrive, even though I haven’t lived here in 12 years.  Sometimes I wonder what it is about this place that has such a hold on me.  Is it simple nostalgia? Am I living in the past? I have had several people who love me and know me well wonder that over the years.  I definitely am one for looking back instead of forward.  I do enjoy driving past my old house, the high school and the seminary building.  But while I do see in my mind’s eye ghosts of myself and my siblings all around; that is all they are…friendly ghosts who bring with them happy memories but no other connection.  My life here was wonderful but that chapter in my family’s history is done. 

So what is it? Is it the sheer beauty of the town? I look out the window and see Mt. Emily standing tall and beautiful and looking as though she is there to protect the valley below her, the endless sea of green pine trees, the red and yellow trains weaving around the landscape and filling the air with soothing train whistles. Is it the beauty? Yes, I think that is part of it.  Is it the familiarity and sameness of La Grande that I love so much? I know this place so well.  I know that when I drive down Island Avenue, I am going to roll down the window (yes, even in the winter) because I will smell the woodsy scent of the mill.  I know that when I go to “Celebrate La Grande” Al Macloed’s jazz band will play music that will set my toes tapping.  Dad calls La Grande Brigadoon.  I love that about it.  Yes, things change as they always do. Favorite teachers retire. Special little shops go out of business.  Dear friends move or pass away but La Grande is as rich in treasured traditions as it is in pine trees.  Is it the people here that bind me to this place? My aunt who makes every day a holiday, my sweet cousin, the best friends who know me so well they finish my sentences, the ward members who fasted and prayed for me while I was on my mission, people who have believed in me and loved me for over half my life. Yes, the people…my people…are a big part of it. 
  But there is still something more that makes my eyes light up when I talk about La Grande, something deeper that happens to me every time I drive around the corner of Ladd Canyon and see my beautiful valley.  My aunt was right to thank God for the gift of being able to keep La Grande in my heart as home.  From the first day, even though I didn’t know it at the time, La Grande has been a wonderful gift, all of it.  It was a gift to that a little too tall and a little too dramatic 15 year old who had struggled most of her school life to fit in.  It has been a gift to the woman who has dealt with anxiety of losing what she loves since she was six years old.  I know there is such a thing as constants in my life.  I know there is such a thing as safe harbors.  And just like Frodo Baggins and his beloved shire, if there ever came a day when I couldn’t ever come back, I “shall know that there is a firm foothold even if my feet cannot stand there again.”

People ask me some times why I don’t just move back.  Someday I might.  But the truth is, it doesn’t really matter because no matter what happens, I do get to keep La Grande in my heart as home for as long as I need/want to.  Today, I will probably shed a few tears as I drive back into Ladd Canyon and leave.  But I know my other home, my other safe dock, waits on the other side for me, with my wonderful parents, friends, team BSA, and the best calling ever. 

As I drive today I think I will listen to Phillip Phillip’s “Home” song.  I think maybe this was what God was trying to tell me all those years ago.

Settle down, it will all be clear.
Don’t pay no mind to the demons. They fill you with fear.
Though trouble it might drag you down, if you get lost you can always be found.
Just know you’re not alone…

Cause I’m gonna make this place your home.