Tuesday, October 3, 2017

    Barter



   What would you give?

 How much would you spend?

Words to a poem I had memorized long ago kept running through my mind, over and over.  I couldn't get them out of my mind. The poem is "Barter" by Sara Teasdale. More in a moment.


video

 Just weeks ago, I watched Lukas open his little birthday present I had rushed to him in the mail for  his second birthday. The gift was wrapped in an Amazon package. He screamed, danced, and jumped up and over and around the little remote controlled car as it moved back and forth across the room. 

His mom and dad had enough foresight to record the whole thing and I watched it over and over again on a text message. I smiled from ear to ear with tears in my eyes each time I watched it as he squealed with joy.

`
I said to myself, "that was worth everything, just to see that reaction!"

Then the words to that poem came to mind: "spend all you have for loveliness. Buy it, and never count the cost."

My ninth grade English teacher was a gift I didn't realize until years later. He spoke philosophically and I loved it. He made us memorize poems and recite them aloud to the class. It was easy for me then.  I even mixed up the lyrics on purpose sometimes just to make the class laugh. I never stopped to think what the poem was really all about on too deep of a level. But I do remember thinking I would tuck these poems back in the recesses of my mind because some meaning was hidden somewhere, and there would be a day I would want to remember it. Mr. Cook told us so.


BARTER
BY SARA TEASDALE

Life has loveliness to sell,
All beautiful and splendid things,
Blue waves whitened on a cliff,
Soaring fire that sways and sings,
And children's faces looking up
Holding wonder like a cup.

Life has loveliness to sell,
Music like a curve of gold,
Scent of pine trees in the rain,
Eyes that love you, arms that hold,
And for your spirit's still delight,
Holy thoughts that star the night.

Spend all you have for loveliness,
Buy it and never count the cost;
For one white singing hour of peace
Count many a year of strife well lost,
And for a breath of ecstasy
Give all you have been, or could be.


Now Lukas opening his present isn't the complete meaning of the poem for me. Just the impetus that started those lyrics running through my mind.

I've been thinking of these lines for weeks now and how they apply to my life.

Sara Teasdale tells me that Life is asking something of me. Of us.
Are we willing to give all that we have?
Are we willing to give all that we have been, or could be?
For what?  For loveliness?
For one white singing hour of peace.
For a breath of ecstasy?

I have been fortunate to experience so many of the things she refers to: from oceans, to pines, to music, children and love. Details of each would take blogs.

Have you experienced any of those?

I have.


I have seen bright blue eyes, and a white curly-topped head spot me clear across campus and sprint
with his little six-year old legs as fast as they would carry him to jump into my arms and hold me.







I'm sure there was a "breath of ecstasy" from Kenzie's family, when the surgeon finally walked in to the room where her family had been anxiously waiting for eight long hours as the fifth open-heart surgery was meticulously performed on their young daughter, my niece, as he declared with both hands in the air victoriously, "Yahoo!"















I would spend all that I have to see those brand new big brown eyes below those markedly defined eyebrows stare up at me day after day from his small crib in the NICU as I prayed the bags of steroid and glucose and PIC lines would keep his little system balanced.















"One white singing hour of peace," was most certainly experienced by family members standing on the edge of the ocean watching "blue waves whitened on a cliff". We said good-bye our aunt, sister, mother and friend there, knowing she had given many a year of strife. She gave "all she had, or could be" to the one she loved, her daughter.



When I listen with my heart, I faintly make out the spaces between the notes. It's "music like a curve of gold" finally rising from the void of silence that has hung heavy in dark spaces of familiar places, far too long.
 I understand now why Teasdale chose a phrase that refers to touch, that lends itself to feeling.
Music to me is so much more than hearing. It must be so for her if you think of a curve of gold.



I could almost smell the "scent of pine trees in the rain," as a phone call on FaceTime took me up into my hometown canyon just this weekend! My daughter took me for a ride with her to see the turning leaves and falling rain.
As the camera turned onto the face of my granddaughter in the backseat of the car, she looked up at me, her smiling blue eyes; priceless.



--"children's faces looking up, holding wonder like a cup"








                                                                               I think what we are Bartering for here is Life.
Buy it and never count the cost.

I heard something of this in General Conference this past weekend. Finding joy in the service of others. I see it around me all the time.
 
I see it in the catastrophes happening everyday, in every part of the world. Ordinary people are spending what they have, and what they are. They don't look back.
As these seemingly everyday people spend all they have,  this loveliness just radiates from their being.
It can't help but.










When you see the hope, the wonder, and the light, in the face of another, it just might be worth "all you have been,  or could be."




--Linnea Belnap



 

Friday, September 22, 2017

Friday, September 15, 2017


"Grandma, look! Do you see those ghost clouds in the sky?" My four-year old grandson excitedly pointed out the white puffy clouds lying over the mountains as we drove towards our home in Provo. "They are talking to me!"
"Really Will? What are they saying?"
"They are saying, 'Don't go to Will's house, go to grandma's house.'"
I suppose in one way that's a clever way of saying I'd rather go to your house right now Grandma. However, I've had an extra measure of time to ponder on clouds this past fortnight (that's how they say it in England). I've flown under them, over them, all around and through them. I've watched clouds hang dark and low over the London skies and then I tried to hide under an umbrella as heavy clouds literally dumped two years worth of rain on us in two short days!

There is a familiar feeling I get each time I fly across the ocean. The very first time I snuggled my four month old son next to my chest as we headed out on a brand new, year-long adventure to the Middle East. Perhaps the white puffy clouds blanketing the sky then were trying to tell me something, but I was slow to hear.

I don't remember seeing the sky or the clouds as we left our homeland just a few short years later. This time with three more children on board.  No clouds, no sky, no time to ponder, just a bumpy, busy, chaotic plane ride, and that same gnawing feeling.

Two months later though, I saw it. This time I heard it, loud and clear. Like Will, those ghost clouds talked to me all the way back home as I flew over the ocean to see my dad one last time.


These are photos from a blog post that I just happened upon two days ago, one that I had begun four years ago and never finished.

Ironic, I think, that as I stare at these photos and remember that long flight on the way home to see my dad for the last time. He died nearly 28 years ago. Tonight, I looked up in the corner of the computer and see that his birthday is in just five days.

September 20th, my dad would turn 83 years old. My mom is 81. She has lived a long time without him. He died when he was only 55 years old.


September 20th is also the day my daughter Gretchen will be flying over the Atlantic on her way to study at Cambridge. She and I are alike in so many ways. I wonder if it's the same for her when she climbs up into that bit of heaven in the sky, where space and time become soundless out there in the vast nowhere. I wonder if she really listen then, if the clouds won't talk to her, too.

Maybe if you're a child like Will, you hear them right where you are.





Up above those clouds I've watched the sun rise somehow through the small oval window of the 747.  Suddenly it's there, making it's way through those clouds, and what seemed like night, turns to day.


There's no escape when you're up that high.

There's no turning back.

Funny, because that's what I tell my children. Well I tried to, when they were children.

They are now adults, and so together we all move forward.

I grew up somewhere out there. In that timeless, clouded space where what we see is light. We see light for living. We see it differently than any other person can or will ever see it.

When I really take the time to listen to  my grandson, Will, as he tells me what he sees, or what he hears, or what he thinks, I am amazed at the light that illuminates his thoughts.

When we see what no one else sees, I think that is bioluminescence.


...this was where the blog just dropped off 4 years ago. However:

The one thing I've learned in these past four years, and now 8 grandchildren later, is this:

If bioluminescence is defined as an organism's ability to produce light, then children are some of the brightest organisms I know.

They not only bring light to my life, they enlighten my mind, lighten my sometimes heavy heart--and emanate warmth to every space they fill.

Just today, there was a post on Instagram. Anderson, one of my 4 year-old grandsons, wondered aloud to his uncle Evan, "How do I make her laugh?"And then pointed to his new little cousin, Olivia. "Maybe tell her a joke?" was the advice his uncle gave him. His whole countenance beamed as he lowered his gruff little voice, leaned down next to her ear, and with his deep dimples shining, told her one of his favorite jokes, one of the many he just comes up with on the fly.


Anderson and Olivia

Imagination is "Bioluminescence," is it not?



--Linnea Belnap





















4 comments:


  1. Replies


    1. Thanks Hannah B. Only wish the little video would playπŸ™‰
      Delete
  2. love it! (and I have a passion for clouds!!) So...whats the update now? Where are you? What's happening?! Update Update!
    ReplyDelete

    Replies


    1. In Amman! Hoping you will come!πŸ’˜πŸ’˜πŸ’˜
      Here through Nov.December heading to Jerusalem.
      We would have so much fun!
      Delete

Thursday, September 21, 2017

I Can See Clearly Now

 I CAN SEE CLEARLY NOW

This is a photo taken at 6:00am from my bed in Amman Jordan. I sit up, lean back, look out the window, and watch the sun rise. 

We are going on our fourth week here now. I love so much about being here. An all time favorite love of all has got to be the sun shining on me first thing in the morning. 

So why was the window the very last thing I decided to clean in our apartment? The only plausible answer I can come up with is the fact that I am afraid of heights, deathly. Cleaning the window would require me to go out on the balcony of our top story apartment. 

Did I say balcony? It's more like a window ledge with wrought iron around it. Seriously. 

Yesterday, upon awakening, I realized my cloudy view wasn't my lack of glasses, nor was it my misty morning vision, it was a really dirty window that needed attention if I was going to get the full benefit of the sunrise. 

As Kirk ran out the door, I announced with victorious but premature satisfaction that I was going to clean those windows before lunchtime. His suggestion that I wait for him to come home and help was met with a shrug of the shoulders, like "well see." He left with a word of caution not to work too hard, "this was a big job!" (famous last words)

Long story short, I locked myself out on that window ledge/balcony! In my pajamas. With nothing but a bucket of hot soapy water, and a sponge. Well, there was the blazing hot sun beating straight down on me, reflecting off my shiny clean window! There was that.

Photo re-enactment:




                                            
                                            Eight stories up.  Lonely, empty street below. 



                                          
                                           Balcony; half an arm span wide! 




I hadn't panicked yet, although I probably should have. I tried to push and pull the door open. I tried the "bump and slide" method. I leaned and lurched. Then,  I noticed on the metal casing of the sliding glass door an engraved marking which read, “Made in Italy.” My heart sank. That said to me, “Lady, you are not breaking into this door! It’s a European import!

The street is never this quiet! I’ve never seen it this bare. Where was everyone? My friends and neighbors live in the building across the street. I thought about shouting for them. I tried it. “Jessica! Eliza!” No way. They couldn't hear or they were just plain gone.




Nobody's home! No one's around! No one is gonna miss me all day long! I just talked to Kirk 45 minutes ago. I am in a tight spot here. Literally.

So, there’s another balcony, same size, attached to the bedroom just next to ours. Probably three, maybe four feet away. I’m way too afraid though, now that I’ve looked down, to attempt anything like jumping from one to the other. We are 8 stories high. (The elevator says we are on the fourth floor. But they have it messed up! There are two flights of stairs for every floor here. I’m onto them. And I am on the eighth floor!

Oh yeah, did I mention I’m in a foreign country, a very conservative country, in my pajamas?  I can’t speak the language well enough to get help even if I found someone anyway.

I do have some mad nonverbal skills however. And, as luck would have it, after what seemed like forever but was maybe 30 minutes, a boy
rounded the corner. Maybe seven years old, pushing a stroller with his baby brother inside.

Wahoo, I'm thinking! I watched, hoping they would come closer. He stopped though, on this lonely street about 4 parked cars away, let his 18 month old brother out, and started playing hide and seek in, out and between the parked cars.

When he got near enough, I hollered down. “Hey!” His brother was crying because he hated the game they were playing, so this kid thought I was reprimanding him. He quickly looked away. I hollered again and in my best pantomime, acted out my predicament. I did use a little Arabic and tried to yell "Please!"
as I pointed to the little security shack that the guard sits in near our apartment building. I'm hoping against hope that the guard was inside. 

This new little life-long friend of mine, Abdullah, did get him, brought him out and pointed up at me. The guard instantly recognized the trouble and in his limited English yelled up to me, “one minute please.”
 

A long few minutes later, our 'Haaris,' the "super" for our apartments, jumped into action and had me rescued.

There’s a small miracle here.

Our doors are such that when you are home you have to use the key to lock the door. You typically leave key in the lock and then no one, not even someone with a key can get in. So if I lock it, not even Kirk can get in unless I unlock it. I always leave the key in the door, because it would be terrifying to be locked in.

For some reason, I left the key in the door but didn’t lock it. If I had, I don’t know how even the Haaris would have been able to get in to help me, without breaking the door down.

He explained to me in Arabic that it’s not a good idea to wash the windows with the hot sun shining on them. It makes it much more difficult. Wash the windows when it’s shady! 


Who knew?

After quite a break and a cool drink, I attacked those windows again. This time, I stuck a shoe in the sliding door track. I wasn’t taking any chances.




You can see now why I had to wash the windows though. 





The call to prayer wakes me up at 4:00 every single morning.

And then the sun comes shining in my room. Right onto my pillow, at 6:00am. I was missing half of it for the dirt on my windows.

I can see clearly now. 



However, what I see is not as bright as I was hoping. 


I talked to our students for a few minutes today about pride, and about willfulness. 


Sometimes I set my jaw, roll up my sleeves and push ahead into the fog without stopping to really look or listen, thinking I've got this. Pretty sure I can do this on my own. Then get more and more angry when it doesn't work out. Yet I continue to do the same thing over and over again.


Gratefully, there was a small miracle and I was rescued. Much like I am rescued over and over again every day, when I get into trouble because of my stubborn pride. 

Kirk suggested I wait for him to come home and he would help with the window project. For several reasons he wanted to help. But I had something I needed to prove, I could do it on my own!


I shared this analogy that I love from CS Lewis with the students today:
Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that  hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of...throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, and making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage, but He is building a palace.
We don't usually see clearly why things are so difficult at times. And when they are, at these times, many of us either get angry or feel like things are unfair. "This is not what I signed up for." We are pretty sure we are in this battle alone. Or else, we choose to go it alone. Oftentimes it's out of fear or anger, or perhaps, just that we are certain we know the best path to take.

And then we end up trapped on the ledge.


 





















Really at the mercy of One who will help. 








Linnea Belnap











Friday, September 8, 2017

For the First Time


FOR THE FIRST TIME 
I'm learning a little Arabic. At least I'm hoping to while I'm here this time.

I met with a young Jordanian woman yesterday for a few minutes and was assigned to tell her a very short story about a family member in Arabic.

I know how to say "My daughter has 3 boys, and now, one girl. A little, baby girl. A new, little baby girl." I then showed her pictures of Will and Anderson walking through the hospital door and seeing Maggie for the first time.


I pointed to William's face and said, "His name is Will. He is happy." I pointed to Anderson's face, and said, "This is Anderson. He is, uhhmm _____?" And my cute teacher filled in the blank with an English word, "Shock!"  "Yes," she said, "he is shock." I nodded my head in agreement, although in my mind I'm wanting to explain that this tender-hearted little boy is more amazed and awed at the sight he is seeing. But at the moment, shock would suffice.
   


My Arabic presentation was to be three minutes long. I slid my iphone to the next picture. 

Ellie was explaining to the boys just how amazingly beautiful Maggie's hands were, and how long her fingers were. I tried to say some of this in Arabic, but didn't even remember the word for "hand". I did know "tall", so that was the word I used to describe Maggie's long fingers, and we both agreed that the boys were anxious to touch and to see up close every part of this little tiny sister of theirs.


Lukas joined the pictures. I told her his name, and I had no words to explain what the picture of him valiantly holding Maggie's little pink ribbon up in the air meant.
The ribbon he had just snatched from atop her newborn head. Even if I was fluent in Arabic, I'm not sure words of any language could explain this.  He speaks novels for a little guy that doesn't say much of anything at all...with words, that is. (It's mostly nonverbal so far!)

Seems to me he just announced, "I have taken the thing that has disrupted my place in this whole family. I am victorious, and can now relax. I'm gonna be okay with just us brothers in the clan. A little sister?  I just don't know about all this newness!"


Yeah, I think Lukas thought all of that, until the touch of his mother's hand on his cheek, and the look in her eyes, reassuring  him that his place could never be taken!
You can see the joy of contentment replace any concern he previously had on his face.



So my teacher taught me three words/phrases yesterday:

-- First Time


 --Touch
 
--Hands



 Together we witnessed the beauty of all three of those words come to life as these little guys saw their baby sister for the first time. We saw in images what it what it feels like to touch the perfect velvet skin of a newborn, and to examine with wonder and awe the miracle unfold before them in that bundled up blanket laying there before them.

I witnessed those things all over again with my friend  and teacher, Ayat.

What I wasn't expecting was the connection that crosses the boundary of culture and language. It has happened to me over and over again, but each time I am surprised.
When spirit communicates with spirit, it's an amazing thing.



I thought I would stumble through a couple of words that I knew, like "family, daughter, baby, and boys. Happy, love, and very new." I wondered how on earth that would take three long minutes.




But sometimes there are a thousand words in one image, and there is no language to those words.

Except maybe,



"Shock!"


                                                                                                                                         --Linnea Belnap


Sunday, September 3, 2017

WHAT DO EWE SEE?

September 3, 2017
 EID MUBARAK

I knew the "Eid" was coming. I knew it was a big deal. Huge, in fact. So big, that I got my cracked tub replaced and re-tiled, screens put in my windows, two couches delivered, and my stove repaired. All of this in two days. These amazing five exhausted men worked day and night both days, because they were in great anticipation for the upcoming holiday.

Eid al-Adha, the Feast of Sacrifice, lasts five days.  Al-Waqfa is the day preceding, it's the day of preparation.

This is the day I'm talking about. This is the day I found myself right in the middle of! The day I was fortunate enough to witness firsthand! And because I was in desperate need of my broken glasses, I not only observed this important day of preparation, I became a part of it...all day long!

I wasn't in the best of moods, headache, hot, frustrated and tired. I may have even been hungry. And what were all these crowds about anyway?

What I had hoped would be a quick trip to my favorite "glasses man", turned into a day of anything but. With a two-day old son, and a large family waiting to break the fast for the traditional afternoon meal before the Eid, he really didn't need to add one more project to his workload. Yet he willingly and happily seemed to want to help me out before the holiday.

Seeing anything a little clearer these days I considered a bonus! I found myself feeling more and more grateful for my glasses man as the day wore on.  His commitments made him unavailable the first two times we visited, but the third time we went in, he told us he would return after lunch with his family.

This time, Kirk and I decided to stay on that busy street and eat lunch out ourselves as well. Excellent choice!

I was able to relax, sit back and finally take in what was happening. It was like Christmas all around me. Families scurrying everywhere. Joy filled the air as arms filled with packages. Enormous, bright colorful cakes balanced precariously atop shoulders and heads. There is a skill here that I no longer posses. I see this balancing act as old and young maneuver the constant dips and cracks, and steps and stones that make up these sidewalks. I am constantly weaving and wandering, trying to look down, and look up. I need my glasses!

The fourth time back to the optical shop and we came up empty-handed again! We spent some time shopping,  bought groceries, visited the fruit stand, and shopped some more. We must have looked like two fish out of water, these foreigners beating the same path up and down the street. That is, until Kirk would greet the local shop owners with "Eid Mubarak!"

People instantly grinned, and responded in like. They wanted more. Instant friendships were formed. We were welcomed into several shops. Even offered tea. By then the sun was starting to set and we needed to get my glasses.

I got them, and things were looking up!  We rounded the corner and found what was usually empty field,   filled with flocks of sheep. 

I think Kirk and I realized at the same moment that the makeshift pen where the sheep were nearly spilling over would be empty the next morning.

Once again we were welcomed with open arms by the local keeper.  The shepherd bid us take as many photos as we wanted and explained what would happen the next day.



The moment was sacred to me. The light caught their coats just right and I noticed the markings in red on most all of them. But different in some way as though each one had been chosen.

Eid al-Adha is celebrated the day after the Muslim pilgrims make the journey, or Hajj, to Mecca. Muslims also believe that just as Abraham was about to sacrifice his son, Angel Gabriel provided him a ram for the sacrifice.

The morning of the Eid, the father of the home traditionally sacrifices the sheep that was carefully chosen. It is divided into thirds. One third for his immediate family, one third for his extended family and a third for the poor. This meat is consumed during the holidays in remembrance of the sacrifice made by Abraham.

Kirk and I traveling the streets that day was a blessing to me also.  After he said those two words to many, many people, I said them too. "Eid Mubarak!" But it wasn't until we were on our way home that evening I asked Kirk what they meant: "Blessed Feast!"


 Eid Mubarak

                                                          Linnea Belnap