Thursday, July 28, 2011

Sacrifice and Compensation

I don't really think Adam looked at God after his first sacrifice and said, "So, uh, can I eat that lamb tenderloin, because it looks ooooohhhh soooo good."

So keep that in mind as you think about the content of this post, its not really about what one gets as a result of sacrifice, but the joy of realizing what comes because of sacrifice.

On Tuesday, August 28, 2005 I was sitting in a small, dusty, garage-type room packed with five computers in Porto Alegre, Brazil. I was planning to attend the Porto Alegre Temple later that afternoon with my friend, Sister Alaina Jordan, but had stopped quickly at an internet cafe to read my weekly family email. As I clicked open the email from my dad, I read these life changing words:
Tamra, Rugrat got out of his pasture on Saturday and was hit by a van. Luckily the people driving were not severely injured, but Rugrat had to be put down. I heard a neigh that night, and I figured it was him thanking me for all the hay I had given him all these years. I'm sure you'll miss him.
Niagara Falls gushed from my tear duct. My horse, my only horse, was dead. I had been the proud owner of horses for more than 12 years. My mind flashed back to the day I had said goodbye to Rugrat. I took him for a long ride around town, galloped him on my favorite trail, and then fed him some carrots while I stroked his neck. As mom and I drove away, he ran the fence line and whinnied as if to say, "I'll miss you."

It's been almost seven years since that gloomy news day in Brazil. Yet as I glance back with my 20/20 vision of perfect understanding, I realize how much the Lord has compensated me in "horses" because I left mine to do His work.

I spent more than two years riding a beautiful mare named Pacer in Hyrum, Utah. Debbie, Pacer's real owner always claimed her horse was more mine than hers. We formed a fabulous relationship, and although Pacer has been sold, I still visit Debbie often.

When I graduated from Utah State, I feared I would never ride again. Yet, I was delighted when I was introduced to four fabulous horses: Lucy, Lizzie, Paint and Angelina, in Stillwater, Oklahoma. I spent hours on their backs, relaxing my brain from the stringent demands of academic philosophy, research and writing. For the year and a half I spent in that wondrous state, those four ponies became a lifeline.

Now, as an independent woman, living in downtown metropolis, I often wonder how a cowgirl ended up swapping lives with a city girl. As I spent a holiday weekend in my hometown I found myself longing to take a pony on my favorite trails. So I called up a mom of an old pony-club pal and within 30 minutes, Tikki and I were enjoying ourselves on the dusty trail.

Since my last ride, I have realized, God truly recognizes and rewards us for our small sacrifices. I never expected to meet and ride so many wonderful horses during the past seven years, but I have, and its made my life more pleasant and joyful.

So, maybe Adam did eat a nice lamb tenderloin after he sacrificed his best lamb; and although the superb taste of the meat left him drooling, the greater sweetness probably dawned on him as it did me: God is the source of all blessings, even those that follow heart-wrenching sacrifices.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Bug Signs...Coincidence or Tender Mercy?

I was never one to believe is crazy signs. Yet I had a dear friend teach me last year that nature can teach us many things if we're willing to pay attention.

My first introduction to this concept was the "Watson Penny" theory. My mother is known for her delight in finding random pennies. To her, its a simple symbol that someone else is looking out for her. I've followed my mom's example in this simple act of faith. I've found pennies before my thesis defense, my Utah job interview, and also on many horrible-no-good-days. These small tokens are tender mercies from above.

Still, another pattern of nature has me baffled: Bugs.

The first bug I noticed starting investing my Oklahoma apartment: Jumping Crickets. The showed up in my room and the bathroom. My roommate and I found it quite ironic, due to the fact we'd never seen these bugs before. After some silly conversations, we determined these bugs were trying to tell me to "jump into my future" with spunk and happiness. After that, we never saw another cricket. The message had been delivered.

The second bug that became my friend was the lady bug. About three weeks before I was suppose to move back to Utah, I found multiple lady bugs on my shoulder, or knee. They paused long enough for me to notice them, and then fluttered away. As I pondered my lady bug encounters, I thought of that child nursery rhyme: Lady Bug, Lady Bug, Fly Away Home. That was all I needed. A simple answer from heaven, that truly answered my countless prayers inquiring whether I was making the right choice to graduate and move home a semester early. After I came to this realization, I didn't see another lady bug until the day I left for home. It was a sweet reminder of heaven's approval of my choice.

Recently, obviously with the long winter, I haven't seen lots of bugs; until a few weeks ago. My new bug friend is SPIDERS. (I'm sure Ronald Weasley would not approve). I find them on my patio, in my sandwich during a picnic date, and I even found one on my arm, when I was sitting on the grass after a softball game! So naturally, do to my past experiences with the lady bug and the jumping cricket, I thought I would amuse myself this evening by googling: "symbolic meaning of spiders." I was baffled by some of information I read. Here's some of my favorites:

The Spider serves as a reminder that our choices construct our lives. When the spider appears to us, its a message to be mindful of the choices we are making -- and ask ourselves: How are my choices affecting my life? How can my choices improve my life? How are my choices affecting others in my life?

The appearance of a spider says the decision can be any direction, but just remember whatever you end up with is what you yourself have weaved.
As I've been presented with many choices these past few weeks, its no wonder the spider has been stalking me. I don't really believe in destiny, nor fate -- but I do believe that God uses small and simple things, like nature, to teach us.

Yet, I do agree with Ronald Weasley who proclaimed in the second movie: "Follow the spiders? Follow the spiders?! Why couldn't it be "follow the butterflies?"