Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Close to the Cliff

This post is for Amber--she voted!  

Visiting home this week, Amber arrived in time to celebrate the birthday of a turning four year old Savanna
and commemorate Sunday the dedication of the 150th operating temple in Provo,
remodeled from a charred, crumbling shell -- from ashes to beauty.   

This week brought the words  like Genesis--Am I my sister's keeper?

Yes!  Something wonderful comes in caring about our sisters and brothers, their families, their challenges, their victories--this coming month we celebrate the return of a brother's daughter from a South Central USA mission-- good work, to Sister Emily Gee!  
I also learned this week my sister

was in the hospital in need of prayers, and I asked Heavenly Father for comfort.
            "I will not leave you comfortless (orphans)

I will come to you. "

If I could not go to her, I could pray.  

"In times of need..."  Waves of a lilting melody washed into my mind.  Voices of little ones singing from tiny chairs in Coban Barrio 1 and San Jeronimo echoed an ocean breath of hope:
"I feel the Holy Spirit as He teaches truth and right.
He comforts me in times of need; 
He testifies of Christ.
He speaks to me in quiet ways that fill my soul with peace,
And if I listen with my heart I hear the Savior’s voice."

Downstairs (for tax season) sat my computer, home from the office.  Because dishes are better with music, I  hunted...could I hear my song online?  Yes!  With hands busy in kitchen chores a YouTube music train led from one song to another, each tune presenting  memories and hope...including a favorite of the morning--David Archuleta's "Glorious" that he recorded with Meet the Mormons sung by One Voice Children's Choir.  As I watched light from stain glass stream up to minute "2:10" for about 5 seconds,  I could see the face of a child who might pass as twin to our little Emily 10 years ago!    
This week, Emily's sister--Sarah--
From yesteryear!
traipsed over Sardine canyon to cash in on a cousin-connect with Amber. Sarah is preparing a senior music recital, just days after her sister returns, and a week before another cousin, Anna 

graduates, too (waiting for news as she contemplates graduate school and heads to one of President Henry B. Eyring's alma maters--Harvard or Stanford, which would you choose?)  Anna's brother Eli, packs his missionary bag to zip to the land of Columbus (Ohio) perhaps to peek in on the family of his eldest cousin David, also graduating again.  As we pray for our siblings in their need, we see the Lord's hands in the lives their children.

Ebbs and flows--here also, we celebrate again a week of comings, goings.   


Two missionaries welcomed in, ten more headed home, 

  just like Val's nephew David, who returns with Spanish and sunlight in tow from Atlanta to Phoenix, taller in spirit than his at least 6'6."
Elder Starkey and I wept openly together, as we read a synopsis of his last two years in his final letter home.  

Missionaries here share the Easter initiative "Hallelujah" , which a few of our sisters have decided is simply a message from the Christmas "A Savior is Born" grown up!  And speaking of growing up, this week we delight to see a Bridger (and yes, a bridge between Mom's grandchildren and great grandchildren) invite his cousin Maria to "look for rainbows" in playing for his baptism. 

     Left, this young man is little brother to my piano friend Marcos--his pants were originally much larger,        
  but Grandma Gee's mending tricks made  them just the right size!  Right is daughter to a sweet young woman who carries my name...when she told me she does not have a mother--I said I'd step in for a minute!                   

In the winds of change, we have prayed for a couple or two to have courage to leave home and hearth and add a senior spirit to our Cobán mission.  We are still praying.

So, back to the topic of the day--It is Easter! 
Most of our piano students emerged from midterms and left with their families and most of Cobán to travel about
and are just returning . Elder Starkey tells our piano families that family time is sacred time.  His times fishing, camping,    
and singing around the campfire are something we are working to replicate.

 It is the traveling part that has struck us.  

Meandering back from Baja Verapaz on a Sunday afternoon, we have been reading and pondering what President and Sister Curtiss teach the missionaries one by one, as they study a topic for a 6 week "change" or two.  

The topic for the last change has been "the Atonement of Christ and the Value of one Soul".  So "why not speak of the atonement of Christ?"

In one of the last conversations I remember with my Dad,  I was dealing with an unruly husband.  Nightly he would bring a stapled thirty-page printed packet to bed and peruse before sleep--just a future "retiree," hunting vacation plans, only this was not a cruise.  It was to contemplate costs and weather conditions of a senior mission.  With our parents aging, his father confined to wheelchair mobility 
 and mine returning from a New Zealand mission, sporting a cane and battling Multiple Systems Atrophy, a Parkinson's like condition, my answer was--"Very nice, Val...but this is NOT THE TIME!"  Ultimately, I mustered courage to bring up the topic to my Dad as he sat in his wood computer chair with sun shining in from the south.  "Well, if Val needs to jump off a cliff, you had better do it as soon as possible."  

What I did not know, was what would unfold within a breath or two, not so very long after the conversation.    Offering us a nearby temple assignment, our new Bountiful temple president pointed us to D&C 109:15, where we were invited to be organized and prepared  to obtain every needful thing

 We began working and before a month slipped away, it happened, just like that.   My father quietly slipped away.  

Seventeen days later, Val's father died.  
Computers were opened, missionary applications were completed, and we jumped!

 During our Tegucigalpa temple time, I remember sitting toward the front of a tiled chapel listening to the Sunday music.  I began to wonder how we must have felt before we "jumped off" another cliff and came to earth  
(to our workshop or testing ground) 
We had had another council, where another Father had encouraged each of us to move forward.   A calm conviction testifies to me that yes, the gathering was real, and I was there! 

As Elder Starkey, listened to our graceful and talented temple co-worker  play complicated sensitive tones, he was struck with another thought--we were never sure what we would hear from the "learning" piano students, but we always could count on Beverly. 
Her accompaniment was masterful and those who played with her sounded better than they really were!  

At this moment, remembering Jesus
--the reason we could choose 
to come to earth 
and not be in a big pickle

--Elder Starkey realized that we mustered confidence to try our hand, not due to our own talent, but because we could trust that He would never miss a note!  

Now that we are here, inviting heavenly accompaniment adds richness and depth to the song we came to sing. And it can be in the eyes or smile of a child,

(a young one, or one with more years)
a bird's song,
 the burst of a bloom,
the view of a misty mountain from afar,
 peering at a full moon while dancing on the roof 
(Sister Curtiss claims we will need to get a new house upon arriving home, as we need to look for a suitable roof to dance on!)
or the tug of a melody that moves our hearts and reminds us of our "longing for home." 

But earth life is NOT a cakewalk.  

Traveling our course can be "peligroso" 

I had to get this picture of the soldier guarding the watermelons--never know who might want them!

or dangerous at best. 

Traveling home from Baja Verapaz each time, since our near-tragic accident, I have been noticing the curve of the road and the drop-offs.   

 Val agrees that crossing a center line and ending up on a flat embankment is not very likely on such a twisty, winding trail.

Our eyes have been opened to how precarious our path really can be. 
So, now we know what it means to be "saved."   I think it was Emily who wrote about missions--that every missionary comes on their mission highly indebted to God, but goes home more indebted than ever.  I love talks by the apostles that say everything good that defines who he was or wanted to be, came because of his mission.  A variation of this thought: I think I can say that everything good in our lives (before and after our missions) is because of His mission. 

 It is through His mission that my prideful, vain, or meaningless choices can be corrected, stayed, kept, and cured.  In making and keeping promises, covenants, like our little friend Bridger, I am able to avoid unnecessary cliff diving--because of the empty tomb, I am saved from having an empty life!  
Every disappointment, trial, or challenge I have ever faced or that is ahead of me is given meaning in the events
of the Savior's betrayal, heaviness, and wishing to avoid a suffering so sore "that ye know not."  Because He was left alone, 

I am left without excuse.  
I have angels on my right and on my left.  

As the Savior gave up His life, the veil of the temple was rent in twain.  I am learning that the veil that keeps us from remembering happiness, goals and previous promises in the "once upon a time" does not have to be a forever thing.

And bonds in family 
which may have been breached or broken can be repaired in a permanent way.

Like President Eyring's father, I get to repent as I go along.  And as our way leads onto way, it is Christ who has made and continues to make all the difference.  

As we are preparing our tents to look toward another temple (not Tegucigalpa this time) to hear loving words of living prophets,  part of me wonders when He comes again.  

 And I read King Benjamin's words suggesting, today--what if we rejoice as if He had already come?!  

Here are our friends who this month traveled with their families to Guatemala City 
and Quetzaltenango
to "feel the Holy Spirit, to listen and to pray." 
On the way to a family history fair Saturday, 

I checked the mirror to see if I had removed Val's special remedy for nerves--parsley--from being my permanent smile
and I looked into some profundo deep blue eyes...
reminding me of a dear, dear, Dad, who makes my testimony of the resurrection a must. 

In a conversation with Elder Brown who sat in our office one day recovering from dengue, chickengunya, typhoid, and one more malady, he had determined that he was NOT going home early.  "Why, Sister Starkey do you think this picture of Christ emerging from the tomb shows the marks in his hands?  
Why did he keep them?"  (I did not write Gospel Doctrine  and I will not presume to understand everything.)  But I believe that we suffer so we can understand and remember, as He did, how to help others going through hard things

And we will remember that He was there when we suffered.

The fellowship of His sufferings.
On Friday our neighbors invited us to witness a processional where one large wooden box
was carried by men, another by women, to symbolize the weight of His suffering

 Sister Curtiss's powerful encouragement to Salamá this month, echoed the words of Christ to his disciples, 
Truth gives us strength to dare, to brave our mountainous paths,  
(Mountains watercolored by Grandma Pearl hanging on the walls of a Paris pioneer house painted after or before she was a missionary!)

and work diligently today with hope 
to eventually be embraced
in a reposo glorioso--glorious rest,
even if rest is defined as perpetual motion. 

Rest is peace.
And each week in Spanish, our Primary children rise and repeat, "And all of the children shall be taught of the LordAnd great shall be the peace of thy children.  

and in seeing afar off.
Love to you. 
Sister and Elder Starkey