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The Mansion

I’ve had this image of rolling around in my head for awhile now. It’s an image that attempts to explain a frustration. Were I a painter, I would paint it. But I think it makes a better story. 

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THE MANSION

A group of people seeking knowledge came upon a mansion bigger and grander than all other mansions. They made attempts to venture inside, but after multiple tries they found that every door was locked.  Still determined, the group tried to peek inside instead. They could not. Every single window on the mansion was blacked out.

After some time, the frustrated group noticed a small keyhole on the front door through which they could spy the inside of the mansion. At last peering in, they saw a great many wonders: a wide, ornate staircase leading up to the second story; a mantle over which hung a stunning landscape painting; shiny wood flooring; red velvet furnishings; and much more.

The curious group made an extended study of the mansion. Observing only what could be spied through the keyhole, they drew all sorts of conclusions as to its purpose and construction. They could not help but note both the mansion’s beauty and that it seemed to be entirely without occupants. Conjectures were made as to what additional wonders might lay within. Complex theories were crafted to explain the mansion’s very existence.

While this was happening, another group came upon the large mansion. As they approached those gathered at the front door, one man in this new group heard a small, quiet voice coming from one of the nearby, blacked out windows.

He listened closely. The voice was friendly and told him all about the mansion, including much about what could not be seen from the keyhole. For hours, the man sat enraptured as the voice told him about indoor swimming pools, cavernous ballrooms, luxurious baths, a library full of every kind of book, and dining halls with the most savory and delicious food.

The man expressed his desire to enter the mansion and meet the person behind the voice. The voice responded that the man would be welcome to come in along with his friends, and gave the man instructions on how to do so.

Excited, the man told those that were with him of the voice behind the blacked out window and all about what he had learned about the mansion. His friends, for the most part, shared in his excitement, but some were skeptical. They wanted to know what the group looking through the keyhole made of all this.

The man went over to the group looking through the keyhole and told them all about the voice and everything it had told him about the mansion. They laughed at him.

“A voice,” they scoffed. “A voice in your head, perhaps!”

“Not just a voice,” the man said. “There is a person inside the mansion. He wants us to come in.”

“There is no one in the mansion,” they said. “If there were, we’d have seen him.”

Frustrated, the man told the group at the keyhole about the indoor swimming pool and the library and the ballroom. He would have told them more, but they cut him off.

“And what of the staircase?” they said.

“The voice didn’t mention a staircase,” the man admitted.

“No? What about the painting over the mantle? The furnishings?”

“I know nothing of those things.”

“You don’t seem to know very much at all.”

Embarrassed at the man’s ignorance, his skeptical friends departed from him to join the group at the keyhole, doubting fully his stories and ashamed that they’d entertained them in the first place.

The man stood fast with those who still believed his words. “I know what the voice told me. I trust it. Listen, and I will tell you how to enter the mansion.”

The group at the keyhole refused to listen and laughed at the man all the more.

“We have done a thorough examination of the mansion,” they said. “The spaces you describe do not exist and there is no way in. To enter is a fantasy.”

“Let us try to enter the mansion together and see,” the man offered.

“We will not waste our time on something so absurd,” they said.

“I believe what the voice told me.”

“Then you are a fool.”

The man and those who believed on his words went away saddened as the large group at the keyhole continued to laugh and mock. When they were far off, they followed the voice’s instructions, passed through a narrow gate the group at the keyhole missed even for all their searching, and entered the mansion together.

Inside, the man behind the voice greeted the believing group with open arms. To their great pleasure and astonishment, all the wonders the voice described were there, and more besides.

* * *

The world will always mock those who refuse to be limited by what can be seen through the keyhole and choose instead to listen to the small, quiet voice coming from inside the mansion.

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Day 60 – The Two Most Important Things We Can Do in Times of Trial

On August 28th, my wife lost her job. 24 hours later, I lost mine. This blog is a continuation of the day-by-day chronicling of our emotional journey back to employment. This is bound to be upsetting, hilarious and hopeful.

Tuesday – October 28, 2014

Our biggest trial. And yet, I look at this picture and I wonder how that's possible.

Our biggest trial. And yet, I look at this picture and I wonder how that’s possible.

I needed today in a big way. Without fail, it is those days I get out of the house to visit and serve others that I am most the most calm and optimistic about my own situation.

Case in point: I went three hours without fidgeting. I am a big time fidgeter. In the fidgeter olympics, I medal every time. I think it’s just because my mind is always working, usually in overdrive. Fidgeting, changing my position in my seat, biting my nails–all of it helps me to focus on the task at hand. Or at least it seems to.

Tonight, while out visiting with families to assess their needs with the Bishop, I just never felt the need to fidget. I sat and listened carefully to the conversation with nary a switch to my crossed legs or a tap of my finger. I was in no hurry to leave at any point and I enjoyed the visits immensely. It was glorious.

Just before our last visit was over, I got a call from Erin in a panic. Two of our friends had just been in a serious car accident. Their truck rolled three times but, miraculously, they were just fine with only a couple of scratches and a completely totaled truck to show for it. Understandably, they were, sure, grateful to be alive, but also freaking out. Their truck was gone.

It was more than fortuitous that the Bishop and I were together. We headed their way quickly to find them frazzled and angry and upset and lost, as any of us would be. They wanted a blessing, which we were pleased to give, but also just to talk. They couldn’t see how their lives could accommodate this disaster. It wasn’t just a truck. It was a vital part of how they conducted their day-to-day lives and a financial obligation they had to meet despite the fact that the actual truck no longer existed. They were facing complication upon complication upon complication.

One of the things I said that either helped or didn’t was that I felt a lot of the same things right after I lost my job. Even as I was being let go, I couldn’t help but have grand, terrible visions of losing our house and not being able to feed the kids and panhandling on the side of road and splitting a chicken nugget between the five of us with a now-useless credit card. I thought of every awful thing the future held for us, and more besides. And the more I thought about it all, the more anxiety I had. All was darkness. I couldn’t see a any way out of our previously unfathomable situation.

I told my friends I did two things to help myself make it through:

1. I stopped projecting past the present.

This is a trick we learned with Cami, our middle daughter with special needs. After six years of testing and worrying and struggling and no more answers about who Cami is and what is wrong with her little body and mind than when she was first born, Erin and I finally just decided to stop thinking about the future and to let go of the past. We couldn’t reverse all the hundreds of hours spent with doctors and the expensive tests and the heartache of coming to terms with having a daughter with special needs, and we couldn’t contemplate what her future would look like–whether it be in a home with other people like her or at our side as we cared for her for the rest of our lives, or even if she would ever be able to talk to us or have a relationship with a man or live into adulthood or any of that–so we decided to ignore all of that in favor of the present. The present, which is far more singular in nature, can be dealt with much more easily than the disappointments of the past or the endless, difficult-to-comprehend possibilities of the future. In the present we found so much joy that we hadn’t known was there all along. As it turned out, Cami was a deliriously happy kid, and we had been missing that. And the things we had to do to help her through her life? They didn’t seem so bad when we just took them one at a time and ignored the rest. We found Cami, the real one, by doing this, and we actually got to know her. Likewise, when I lost my job, the magnitude of the responsibilities that now lay ahead for me seemed too impossible to handle. But when I broke it down into “today, I will apply for unemployment, follow up on some job leads, and spend some extra time with my kids,” the task of finding a new way to support my family and surviving the time it took to do so didn’t seem so bad at all. It actually seemed quite nice.

The present is always a more pleasant place than we give it credit for. The problem is we weigh the present down so much with the future and the past. It’s not built to really bear those burdens. When you don’t let it, the present starts working for you, not against you.

2. I reminded myself of all the times I was down so low I  thought I might never get up again and yet I did anyway.

Experience doesn’t do us any good if we don’t learn from it. How many times in our lives have things seemed hopeless only to turn out quite differently from the negative outcomes we imagined and believe in wholeheartedly? Obviously, not every bad thing turns out well in the end, but enough do–I would argue the majority do–that we should give positive outcomes more of the benefit of the doubt. All those impossible ordeals I’ve been through? They’re just a memory now, something for me to reflect on and grow from. I never thought I would, for instance, find someone to marry. I was terrible at dating and insecure and had never even kissed a girl for a long, long time. I thought I was hopeless. I truly, genuinely did. I thought relationships with the fairer sex was one of those things that I just didn’t–and would never–get. And yet here I am, all of that past me. It’s just gone. It’s better than gone, it’s actually reversed. I didn’t just find a girl, I found the most beautiful girl in the world and trick her into marrying me and having kids. The proof is in my wedding ring: we make it out of bad situations all the time.

I encouraged my friends to believe on their past and look forward to that future where all these matters were settled and they were taken care of. That’s a difficult perspective to have especially in the middle of a trial, but it’s important to have it.

Days 57 and 58 – I Can Talk Words

On August 28th, my wife lost her job. 24 hours later, I lost mine. This blog is a continuation of the day-by-day chronicling of our emotional journey back to employment. This is bound to be upsetting, hilarious and hopeful.

Saturday & Sunday – October 25-26, 2014

Saturday

10703573_10204792240863398_6428795307795303273_nToday was all about other people looking out for us. Our friend Kathryn makes shadow boxes for sale, and she had her husband come by to just straight up drop off a Star Wars box for me since they know I’m a fan. How generous is that? It’s a pretty fantastic little thing, and oddly perfect (to me, anyway) for Halloween. You can see more of Kathryn’s shadow boxes at her online store.

In the evening we went to a Halloween Party with several friends and several people we didn’t know at all. Made some new friends, which was nice. We’re in an area of town where people are just incredible nice and friendly and share a lot of common interests. We really don’t want to leave her. We will if we have to, but nights like this I’m more reluctant. That, however, doesn’t stop me from being excited about this:

Very, very late at night I got an email from my (step)sister, Kris, who is a famous crafter with her twin, Kim. Kris knew of a couple of leads on jobs that seem perfect me for me in Colorado. Really, really perfect.

Sunday

When I told Erin and Elora about the jobs and location, Elora asked where Denver is. I told her it was in Colorado, in the middle of the country, where they have all the school shootings. Elora just stared at me, horrified. I got the sense this was not the right thing to say.

Erin challenged me to put this anecdote in my blog, so there you go.

Since the whole stake blew up in the wake of the big ward boundary changes, it’s taken a little while for everyone to settle into their new roles properly. Case in point: today I was finally set apart as the Elders Quorum President of the McKinley Ward. A “setting apart” is a blessing given by the laying of hands on the person’s head by one who has authority, and in that blessing keys and rights are given to the person to be able to perform their new duty. I haven’t been able to do some basic things like calling other people to positions within the Quorum because I didn’t have those rights and keys yet.

Because of the nature of my calling, the Stake President himself had to do my setting apart. Unfortunately, the entire event turned into a comedy of errors.

I was late to the meeting in the first place because I got caught up talking to someone else in another part of the building. When I did finally make it to our Elders Quorum makeshift classroom on the stage, President Nef and one of his counselors were already waiting for me. So was Cami’s Sunday School teacher, who kindly informed me Cami needed a change. We’re going on ten years of diapers here so normally this wouldn’t be a big deal, but in this case I had to ask President Nef and President Biberston to wait some more while I went to change Cami in the men’s bathroom (on the floor, sadly, as there was no change table I could find). This was an event grosser, longer and more toxic than usual due to circumstances best left to the imagination.

I eventually returned and the setting apart actually happened. After the Stake President and his counselor left, I proceeded to take care of overdue business. Or tried to. There was some confusion with the teacher of the lesson and for about a minute we awkwardly played out our version of Who’s On First? in front of the class while I tried to communicate that I wanted to take care of some additional callings before he resumed.

Lead with confidence and clarity, that’s my motto.

When I finally persuaded the teacher, my friend Mike, to sit down, I then presented his name for a sustaining vote by the Quorum as our Secretary. And I presented another name as our Instructor. We do everything by common consent in the church, and if anyone has a problem with a particular person to whom a calling is issued, we are free to speak up and make our objection known for consideration.

This is all usually done very quickly with the request that everyone raise their right arm to signify their vote at the appropriate time. And then objectors are likewise asked to raise their arms as a sign they’re not cool with it.

It’s extremely rare anyone objects. It’s even rarer for the person who leads everyone in casting their votes to completely forget what to say and how to use words generally. I still can’t even tell you what I was supposed to say, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t “Raise your hands if you, uh, agree and then if you don’t you can raise your hands, too. Or whatever.”

I would make for a terrible actor. I have no memorization skills whatsoever. I’m not usually such a tongue tied or off-my-balance leader, but I paraphrase and reword everything and that’s my problem. This is great for avoiding cliches, but terrible for exquisitely crafted monologues. So, you’re welcome world, I decided not be an actor.

I’ll get better at all this, I know that, but it was highly embarrassing for me personally that any of this even happened. Presentation is, I think, pretty important. I blame the diaper. Pretty sure I’d register on a Geiger counter right now.

Day 56 – What It Takes to Write a Book (or The Benefit of Failure)

On August 28th, my wife lost her job. 24 hours later, I lost mine. This blog is a continuation of the day-by-day chronicling of our emotional journey back to employment. This is bound to be upsetting, hilarious and hopeful.

Friday – October 24, 2014

What is kid smiling about?

What is kid smiling about?

I’m kind of over the moon excited that I finished the penultimate chapter in my memoir, Worlds Aparttoday. The chapter, currently titled Family Junk*, deals with the limbo/hell that is engagement, and focuses particularly on all the religious and cultural strife we managed to layer on top of an already tense situation. I’ve posted a short excerpt from this chapter before. Anyone who’s been through an engagement can, I’m sure, relate.

*I hate chapters that are numbered. They tell you nothing and make it much more difficult to go back into the book and find particular passages. That said, especially during the first draft, chapter titles are always an in flux thing.

The chapter ends with the line “Somehow, this was all ending with a wedding.” Which is apt. The first half of the book makes that a more than improbable proposition.

The next–and last–chapter is entitled, naturally, The Wedding. Once it and a short epilogue are done, I will actually have a completed first draft. It’s taken three long years to get here but the point is it’s done. Er, almost done.

I’m close, is my point.

My literary agent has been incredibly patient with me through all of this. For me, there’s no shortcutting the process. Some can burn through a first draft no problem and that’s their favorite part, but the first draft is just pure torture for me. I edit as I go–a cardinal sin of writing–but I can’t generate ideas unless I’m feeling the language. And I can’t feel the language unless I make it “sound” at least somewhat decent. The upshot is this makes for quick subsequent drafts as the individual pieces of writing are more or less in good shape. It’s a very different kind of writing than the quick jots I do here in this blog.

Writing a book takes a scary amount of discipline, but thankfully there are some big deal things I’ve done in my life that required quite a bit of discipline. I spent a good chunk of my childhood and teen years teaching myself how to draw. Hours and hours over years and years of tracing and copying led to creations of my own and experimentations with different styles and mediums until, finally, I was able to make a living doing illustration and design. The hard work paid off.

At 19-years-old I volunteered to serve a two-year mission for my Church. I was assigned to teach the Hispanic peoples of Arizona, in their native language. I averaged a C- minus in Spanish in high school. I hated Spanish. I didn’t want to learn another language, but I did it anyway and it was the hardest thing I’d ever done in my life–harder, for me at that late age, than learning to draw. The fluency I achieved during my time in Arizona is one of the great (admittedly God-assisted) accomplishments of my life.

At 28-years-old, I decided to be a writer. Have you ever just thought you could do something–I mean really do it, successfully–without any real evidence to support your self-belief? It’s a feeling that comes out of nowhere and I didn’t feel terribly responsible for it. Writing is more like something that happened to me and not something I necessarily chose.

After writing blogs and short stories for a while, I figured, in all my hubris, that I’d try my hand at writing a book. Worse, a non-celebrity memoir (which may be the most ill-advised kind of memoir because: who cares?).

Again I had to call upon a kind of discipline I didn’t even know I had. Books don’t get written only when you feel like writing. They get written every day, little-by-little, until they’re done. If you’re like me and you’ve got family and work and church commitments, you write it really-little-by-really-little. My first book took me about two years. It was a strong enough piece of writing that it got me a literary agent and got read by some fairly important people. But it didn’t sell.

If my first book required discipline, approaching the second one after the failure of the first required ten times more and about a month of crying in my proverbial beer. However–and I’ve only recently become grateful for this–my life is riddled with failures that came only after getting as close to success as a person possibly can without actually achieving it. My failures are bitter affairs, the perpetual football taken away at the last second.

Not that I wouldn’t choose to reverse a failure or two if I could (selling an idea to DC Comics, signing a contract to produce the comic for a year, and then having the entire line cancelled before my team could even get started on our entry ranks up there), but holy crud has all this failure honed my discipline and made me more grateful for good fortune and blessings than I ever thought possible. I take nothing for granted. Not one thing.

I’ve gone far off point here, if I ever had one. What I’m trying to say is, if there’s two things I’ve learned in my life–and this is certainly true of my current unemployment situation as well–it’s that 1) nothing is achieved without hard work, and 2) sometimes you don’t get it even with hard work, and that doesn’t, in the grand scheme of things, matter.

I’m a better person because of my disappointments. I know 100% I’m a better, more empathetic person for going through this unemployment mess. In the end, the lessons or self-improvement or self-understanding or whatever you want to call it, are the only thing of real value in this world, period. Those are the things we take with us into the next. When I’m clear and thinking and seeing things as they really are, I understand all this perfectly.

Today, I understand perfectly. I am saddled with difficulty and burdened by bills I don’t know how I’ll soon pay, but I can see it all as part of the larger tapestry that is a life I don’t think I’ve been completely unsuccessful at and hope to live out well.

For now, soon I queue up another football. We’ll see if I kick it this time.

* * *

As for the actual day today…

We came back reluctantly–and too early in the morning–from Uncle John’s Cabin in Bass Lake. I guess it was good to see the kids again. I mean, I guess they’re pretty cool and they put smiles on our faces and their hugs are kinda great. But they do ask for food. Constantly. No one needs as many snacks as they ask for.

They stayed the night at their grandparents’ house and my mom dropped them off at school, so I didn’t see Cami until I picked her up later in the afternoon. She spotted me from far away, but her teacher didn’t. Cami pulled and pulled on her, but her teacher wouldn’t let her go because she was busy with her conversation. Cami started shrieking and did everything she could to get away as I came closer, but still her teacher wouldn’t turn around to see what Cami was reaching for.

Finally, Cami broke free and covered the now short distance between us to fall into my arms and bury her face in my shoulder with even more shrieks of joy. We’d only been apart for a day or so, but you’d have thought it was a month.

Day 47 – How to Be Unemployed and Happy

On August 28th, my wife lost her job. 24 hours later, I lost mine. This blog is a continuation of the day-by-day chronicling of our emotional journey back to employment. This is bound to be upsetting, hilarious and hopeful.

Tuesday – October 15, 2014

smiling-faceAfter the whiplash day yesterday, Erin and I were determined to get to the local Temple. This is our most sacred building, where we serve those who have gone on before us and where we are most likely to receive answers to the questions that trouble us. I’ve made more than one life-altering decision while attending the Temple because the spirit that exists there opens the way for such revelation.

After dropping the kids off at school, we sped across town dressed in our Sunday Best and spent the next 3 1/2 hours serving and praying. The serving part was great. The praying part proved to be fruitless. We gained no clarity on our situations and remain as confused about next steps as ever. This is not discouraging, but it is frustrating. We long for answers, but do not doubt they will come. I’m grateful to be as old as I am and have so much benefit from past experiences. I might have freaked way out a decade or two ago, wondering if I’d ever get an answer at all. Now I know to just be patient. We have plans to go back to the Temple at our earliest convenience.

* * *

Today, we got an email we’d been waiting a while for. The organization Erin auditioned for in San Francisco finally got back to her… only to say she did not get the job. Erin spent the rest of the day severely bummed out. Not because she thought she really had a shot*, but because this was her dream job. However ill a fit she was on paper, this was the job so much a dream she didn’t even imagine it could actually exist.

*She felt like she gave a good audition and had exactly the skills they were looking for, but she wouldn’t have hired her either if she were them. Who would hire someone who lives three hours away and may or may not be available depending on where her husband ended up? It was only a part-time position to start and she would have needed them to make some accommodations for her to make it all work. They knew all of this.

I told her to post the rejection on Facebook to get some immediate affirmations (mine weren’t cutting it). Say what you will about fights and drama and the misuse of Facebook*, when it comes to supporting a person when they’re down, there’s no better or quicker place to turn. People dutifully told her how great she is, which was both true and what she needed. Cody and Kristen (she of the dropping of the R Bombs) even came over with sorrow-drowning ice cream.

*Please, spare me the details of how hard it was for you to get the lid off the peanut butter jar. You didn’t conquer Everest and I refuse to congratulate you like you did. Also: I don’t care.

* * *

I capped off the day in much the same way it started–by serving others. In this case, I helped my friend Donna start her own blog so she can chronicle her upcoming adventures fighting Ebola in Africa.

Holy crud, right?

Despite evidence to the contrary, I’m generally reluctant to say “Hey, today I helped this person! Today I served this group!” I mean, besides the fact that it’s not like I’m FIGHTING EBOLA IN AFRICA (I mean, I’m not crazy), I believe boasting about such things is detrimental to the doing of them. There’s only one decent reason to even mention it to you here, in this blog. And that’s to illustrate this point:

I find that the only true way to ward off self-pity and despondence is in the giving of a helping hand here and there. I love writing and I like drawing and I appreciate the freelance work that’s increasingly being thrown my way, but the most satisfying work I do these days comes when I am allowed the privilege of helping someone out. I feel like I have purpose beyond my troubles and whatever results from them, and I like seeing people smile. That’s stupidly cliche, I know, but I’m telling you when the job is taken away–the thing you spend most of your waking hours doing–it’s a bit like dying. You see more clearly what’s of the most worth. Smiles are worth a lot. They won’t pay the mortgage, but they’re still better than cash.

If one of the big questions we were asked at the end of our lives to give an accounting of what we were up to on this Earth was something simple like “On the whole, did you make people’s days better or worse?” I think that would be fair. I would expect a question like that. No one is going to ask me about how successful my marketing plan was or whether that logo was really the best choice. They’re going to want to know if I contributed to the world’s darkness or fought against it.

Jobs aren’t bad things–they’re very good things–but anything we do mostly out of a need for survival can distract us from the stuff that matters a great deal more. Survival-based activities can start to seem like the only important activities. When that happens then we’re no better than every dad in the 1st act of every 80’s kids movie ever–overworked, neglectful of the truly most needful things, and unhappy.

All of which is to say: I’m unemployed and I’m yet I am happy.

Day 46 – Is It Time to Move Away?

On August 28th, my wife lost her job. 24 hours later, I lost mine. This blog is a continuation of the day-by-day chronicling of our emotional journey back to employment. This is bound to be upsetting, hilarious and hopeful.

Monday – October 13, 2014

After receiving my call to the Elders Quorum Presidency last night, I did a bit of work for the calling this morning, to prepare, then immediately headed out to our local Social Services office to take care of some stuff there. Part of my responsibilities as the new President is to assess needs for poor or needy families, particularly welfare needs. It’s more than a bit odd to be one of those needy people at the same time I’m supposed to be helping them.

Odd, but not a bad thing. My empathy level is certainly through the roof right now.

All of this contributed to some severe whiplash today. In the afternoon, I had an interview with a company in Salt Lake City. This is a new, fairly big company that has a real need for additional personnel, particularly a creative type who can lead a team. Seems like a terrific job I could be very, very good at.

But living in Utah? Is that really something we’re prepared to do?

Utah, aka Mars

Utah, aka Mars

Yeah, sure, I always said I’d never do it. “Too many dang Mormons,” I’d say. I mean, when the religion becomes the culture, how can that not be a potentially toxic combination? One of the reasons I love California is that we Mormons stick out a bit. I think that makes is easier, not harder, to stay true to our beliefs.

We’re different, and that difference gets highlighted in the oddest of situations. When I was in high school, for example, everyone knew what I believed. One time–only once–I left the F Word slip from my mouth and you’d have thought the Apocalypse had arrived. I mean, I felt terrible about it, but those who heard me say it were beside themselves. It was like they’d seen a unicorn fart in the wild. They held me to a certain standard, and that made it easier for me to hold myself to that same standard.

I want that for my kids, but I know–when I’m honest–that that kind of fidelity to my religion doesn’t just happen in California, or even come from living here. It comes from how I was raised and my own personal testimony. Unless I’m doing a poor job as a parent, my kids should be able to benefit from similar checks and balances, but within themselves.

The reality is, moving to Utah? It’s not impossible. We could do that, and we could be happy doing it. That’s a change I and my family would be willing to make.

And that’s terribly hard to take in and process.

Since I basically knew the changes in the Stake were coming and that we’d be shifted over to a new Ward, I’d been anticipating what my new role in that Ward would be. I thought knowing what calling I would have might be some indication of whether we needed to stay in town or move on to something else. I thought some clarity would come from having somebody, somewhere say, “We want you here.”

This is exceedingly stupid.

I knew it was stupid, and I still thought it. Callings are temporary and I could do this job for just a few weeks and be done with it. That might just be the entire plan. I don’t know. I don’t know what the Lord is thinking and how this is all supposed to play out.

What I do know is this: I’m more conflicted now than I was 48 hours ago. I want to be part of the all the exciting changes and stay here and serve. I want to move away. I want to stay here and serve. I want to do something new somewhere else.

If anything, I have less clarity than ever.

But no matter what–no matter what–moving away will/would be incredibly difficult. Moving away is to leave behind not only family and friends and stores you like and restaurants you frequent and side roads you know to take and that park nearby your daughters love and the house you’ve imprinted yourselves on, but also all the things you were going to do. All the things you could have done had you stayed. All the friends you would have made and all the ways you could have contributed and helped someone.

Those are the things that are hard to think about. Usually, I don’t. But today, it’s like the universe is throwing it all in my face.