Jaren's Blog

May 30, 2010

A Family is Only as Well as the Mama – Part 1

Filed under: "The Gonzo Mama" — TheGonzoMama @ 5:19 pm

Monday night I woke with an excruciating pain in my left side, my pillow drenched in sweat. Even trying to breathe was an exercise in torture. It felt as if a belt were wrapped around my chest and tightening, squeezing every time I moved or took a breath — but only on my left side.

I knew enough to know it wasn’t a heart attack, and my husband, a former EMT, confirmed my initial diagnosis. He was also able to confirm for me, by visual examination, an elephant was not, in fact, standing on the left side of my rib cage.

With great difficulty, I swallowed some ibuprofen for the pain and fever, and tried to fall back asleep. Unable to sleep on my preferred left side, I rolled gingerly onto my right. Mr. Wright put his arm around me and I howled in pain. I eased onto my back; Mr. Wright draped his arm over me — I howled in pain.

Finally giving up, Mr. Wright rolled over, falling promptly asleep and leaving me alone, curled into a fetal position, teeth chattering with fever and howling. (Watch for my doll this Christmas season, Baby Chatter Wolf. I’ve developed an entire line of accessories, including a bed with multiple layers of blankets, an ice pack, and a snazzy vomit bucket! Meh… Maybe my best ideas aren’t induced by fevered hallucinations.)

When morning rolled around, my fever was back up — way up. It hit 103 and kept on going. I began alternating acetaminophen with ibuprofen to reduce the risk of overdose, but I also tend to trust my body to figure things out. If I have a fever, there’s a darned good chance that my body is trying to burn something out that doesn’t belong there. My ribs still hurt tremendously, and I couldn’t move my right arm without reprising my howling wolf role. “Maybe I pulled a muscle. In my sleep. At coincidentally the same moment I broke out in high fever,” I reasoned.

I spent the entire day in bed, feeling alternately like the lone survivor of a plane wreck in the Mojave Desert and a trout someone threw into the Sub-Zero.

The kids texted me at 3:30, asking why I hadn’t picked them up from the bus stop yet. I texted back — relying on memory for key placement on my Blackberry because I couldn’t actually see the buttons or the screen — telling them that I was really, really sick with a really, really high fever, and asking them to just please walk home.

You’d think I asked them to swab the decks of the Titanic — with Q-tips. “It’s like THREE miles! You expect us to walk? Not gonna happen. Besides, it’s about to rain.”

I didn’t even answer. I didn’t have the strength. I assure you, though, if I had, my response would have been decidedly more than 160 characters.

These children are 16, 15, 13 and 12. We live in one of the least populated counties in our state. We live on a dirt road. They could walk. And, I assume that’s what they did, because the next time I woke up to vomit, I heard their voices downstairs.

When Mr. Wright arrived home, he immediately began grousing about dinner not being prepared, the house not being clean, and the laundry not being done. You know — his daily speech. (Have I mentioned I’m the world’s worst housekeeper? Well, I am.) Then he climbed the stairs to our loft bedroom and, seeing me still in bed, impatiently asked, “Aren’t you better yet?”

To be continued…

_____________________________

Hi. I thought I’d take a moment to introduce myself. My name is Christina-Marie Wright, but most people know me as “The Gonzo Mama.” That’s the name of my newspaper column and my blog. It’s also my Twitter handle.

I’m mom to seven kids, including one bio child, four full-time step-children, and two toddlers who joined our family by adoption. I like to say my family isn’t blended; it’s pureed.

My first book is due to be out in the next couple of weeks. It’s called, “Everything I Need to Know About Motherhood I Learned from Animal House,” and it’s a collection of essays, anecdotes and musings on marriage, womanhood and parenting.

As you can imagine, I’m really excited about that. I’m also really excited to be contributing to Jaren’s blog, and honored that he asked me to do so. I’ll be telling the rest of the story of my near-brush with death (not quite a “real” brush with death, depending on whether you ask me or my husband) over the coming week.

I hope to get to know some of the readers here, and hear about other parents’ experiences, as well.

Be blessed,

Christina-Marie

Wait, I did feel that

Filed under: Jaren's Writings — Jaren @ 4:42 pm

Tomorrow is memorial day, there are many loved ones on my mind; my father, my sister-in-law and most recently my uncle; to name a few.  I believe our loved ones, who pass on before us, can help us here in our mortal life.  They are angels watching over us!!!

Here is my story, one I hope helps us realize they are here; when we need them or others need us.

When I was young, I had an uncle who enjoyed golfing with his wife, my aunt.  They on occasion would ask my brother and I to join them.  I remember wanting to drive the golf cart on these outings more than anything.  When any of us would hit a stray ball, I would jump in, willing to go in search of our lost treasure.  It was a chance to venture off the trail in the cart.

My uncle had a neat storage device that contained cold drinks.  After a few holes, he would break it out and we would sit for a minute talking about life.  These adventures were always fun and now that I reflect back; I realize for me it was the start witnessing two people madly in love.

My aunt sang in a very popular choir and had a very welcoming spirit about her.  She and my Uncle were truly soul mates; both thought similar thoughts and mirrored each other’s actions.  In everything we did as a family, these two (my aunt and uncle) would be together, often holding hands.

My aunt passed away at an early age; this devastated my uncle.  When anyone loses a spouse or significant other, it always seems to me as though the pain is nearly insurmountable yet through miracles they survive.  It was a little different for my uncle; he lost his will to live through his loss.

He was always so inviting when we would visit him after her death.  I loved taking my family to see him or to see him alone when I was in his neighborhood.  I would talk with him about the old times; every conversation defaulted to family and my aunt.  He loved those of us here in mortality but couldn’t wait to pass and be with his wife again.

Later, my father passed away; my uncle knew how difficult this was for me.  He would tell me about times when he and my dad were young in our visits.  We ended every meeting with my uncle telling me that when he got to the other side he would tell my father what I was up to.

I believe in Guardian Angels and would respond by telling him, my dad knows; he is watching out for me.  I then suggested if he passed that he too would be responsible to look out for me.

One day my brother was in town and we were headed together to a resort community.  I had a feeling that we should stop to see our uncle on our way out-of-town.  As in our normal life, times are moving quickly and we seem to be running here and there.  My uncle’s home was out-of-the-way so we both thought it would be easier to visit him on the way home in a couple of days.

I distinctly recall the thought, as we were approaching the turn off that would take us to my uncle’s, “Turn, it won’t take long.”  I didn’t, I felt as we drove by; the visit would be so long we would miss our obligation.  As we drove up the mountain my thought was, “We really must see him; we will in a few days on our return.”

That next morning I received a call from my cousin telling me his father had passed away.  My heart sank, I then knew the impression to go see my Uncle the day before was more than a simple thought.

I will never know what if anything could have come from our seeing my uncle that day.  I do know what my heart was telling me and I let time get in the way.  I believe there was someone prompting me to be at my uncle’s side, if for nothing more than perhaps one more visit together.

I will see him again; he is now an angel watching over me as he committed to do.  I don’t want to miss out on simple courses in life directed by love.  I may not always sense when the feelings I have are important.  I do know, when I am sensitive to these thoughts and follow my inner compass, things go better.

What is important here, is to know no matter what we call our guidance system; when we learn to follow it, we will be there when needed.  We are not perfect; I am far from it.  These moments of greater understanding do in fact aid me in my shortfalls.  My hope is that when I am touched by impressions I will be in a state of mind to follow.

Times when I have needed the love of another, they too perhaps were in tune to my need through following their compass.  Were their thoughts aided by my guardian angels?  I hope so.

Jaren

May 29, 2010

Who’s the Man?

Filed under: Nick Galieti — Nick Galieti @ 7:00 am
Tags: , ,

During a recent phone conversation with a good friend of mine, my friend expressed his excitement over being able to watch the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) this weekend. Instantly, IUFC Jeff Monson expressed my displeasure for the sport. Suprised at my response, my friend shot back that I needed to get more in touch with my masculine side. After much debate the argument became more a discussion about manliness, and what it means to be a man because somewhere, somehow UFC and manliness are connected.

My friend felt that, as a man, it is one’s responsibility to be able to defend one’s self, one’s possessions, one’s family. In that respect, I don’t disagree. He then felt that UFC is a celebration of skill, technique, achievement, and is taking mans ability to defend one’s self to the highest levels. I felt that the sport was barbaric, was violence porn, and might actually diminish masculinity because a real man does not have to prove himself in combat or through acts of violent aggression. In my opinion masculinity, true masculinity, is not judged in this manner.

After the course of the conversation had run and neither had changed the other’s opinion, I decided to pull the God card out. W.W.J.D. (What Would Jesus Do)? I hardly believe that Jesus would be the type of man that would chose to embrace such a sport in light of much greater needs in the world. But I also believe that God does believe in developing talents – so long as those talents do good in the world.

Because there was much debate on both sides, I now ask you, the readers of the Jaren Davis Blog, “Who’s the Man?” And what discipline of masculinity is defined through their actions?

Nick

May 28, 2010

I don’t have the time, sorry.

Filed under: Jaren's Writings — Jaren @ 11:11 pm

My wife suggested one night that I take time to call an old friend who I hadn’t seen for many years.  She had heard this friend had fallen on hard times and would benefit from seeing me.  Life is busy and while I wanted to follow this advice I was concerned about my schedule.

This friend had been alone for many years. The demands of work and family made it nearly impossible for me to see him.  Knowing time was only an excuse; I picked up the phone to call, inviting him to dinner and a game.

His response in hearing it was me calling, was “What is wrong, are you okay?  Why are you calling me?”  My guess is that this friend had learned over the years people only called when there was bad news to be shared.

No news, nothing really to share, just thought it would be fun to get together I responded.  Who is going?  Well, I had thought just you and I.  He thought for a few seconds then said, “I would really enjoy that, thank you.”

When the day came we were to get together; my mind was racing and I got a little nervous about our meeting.  It wasn’t necessarily because either of us would be uncomfortable together; it was just so much time had passed.  As I walked up to the door, it opened and there he stood.  His hair was combed neatly and he was wearing what I swear was an outfit from high school.  It was well-preserved and ironed perfectly.

The smile on his face was that of an angel.  He had told those he lived with, “I am going to dinner and a game with my friend.”  They were impressed and couldn’t wait to hear about our adventure on our return.

We went to dinner; it wasn’t elegant but the atmosphere allowed for great conversation.  My friend was acting as though he was with the President of the United States.  Life hadn’t been real good for this friend; I had to read the menu for him as his eyesight was failing.  He, being a little older than me, suggested life had a way of turning around; he remembered how he used to read for me— this was before I could read.

As the night went on, we were so engaged in conversation we missed our game.  We didn’t talk about anything out of the ordinary, mostly small talk; catching up on each others lives.

I took him back home and as we walked up to the door he said, “You will never know how much this evening meant to me, next time let me pay.”  Certainly I suggested, hoping neither of us would wait long before we got together again.

While I was driving home, I reflected on how fast life moves and that the two of us had shared some very tender moments together in life.  I felt bad we didn’t have more nights like this together.  I wondered how different life might have been for him if he had more time together.

“Tell me about your evening?” was my greeting from my wife as I walked in the door.  We had a lot of fun and it was good for both of us to share memories.  It was nicer than I had anticipated and I wonder now why I was so nervous.

Not more than a few days went by when we heard that this friend died unexpectedly.  This was a shock to all who knew this man.  No one had a chance to do anything for him.  We attended his service and I remember thinking how grateful I was that I had spent that evening with him.

It wasn’t two weeks later I received a letter from this friend with a certificate in it to a local restaurant.  It was to the restaurant where this friend and I had dined.  Attached was a note that read: I paid for our meal in advance, not sure I would be there.  I have paid for two dinners.  Please take a loved one, someone who needs you as much as I did that night.  You will never know how much our evening together meant.  Love your friend.

I would suggest I knew before reading this note that I felt how much friendships mean to each of us.  Yet, no words can explain the feeling I had, knowing how important giving our time to loved ones really means and that they deserve it.

I responded to my wife’s original request with, “Do I have the time.”  The question now is, “Who needs me?”  Nothing is more important than our loved ones.  Give of your time freely, they have earned it; some things can’t be put off for “another time.”

While this is only a story, please remember how much your time will mean to someone in need.  Far more people than you can ever imagine.  Take the time, I did; it is worth it!

Jaren

Nature has a way of teaching

Filed under: Jaren's Writings — Jaren @ 11:37 am

Just the other day I was sitting in a class where we were being instructed on using anchors in our lives.  The teacher, used as an example, an illustration of propping up newly planted trees with guidelines and stakes.  This instructor suggested we need these supports in life too.  He went on to say, without them we can be blown over or fall at the slightest test of resolve.

Just as the teacher began identifying what the stakes may represent, I felt a tap on my shoulder.  The person sitting behind me whispered, “Actually, once you prop up a tree, it needs the support from then on.  If you want a strong tree, well rooted and able to defend itself against nature, you need to let it stand-alone.”

This was very interesting to me; unfortunately for the teacher, I sat there thinking of other examples in nature which give us life lessons during the remainder of the class.

Here are some I thought of:

When we plant a new crop; we must be patient.  New plants don’t grow over night.  Plants to be strong need rich soil, water, sunlight, removal of weeds and added nutrients.  Often in life, when we want things now, when we can’t wait; it doesn’t work.  Nature isn’t like that; anything worthwhile takes time and proper attention to details.  For us to be strong, our growth comes over time.

The greatest forests are created by trees growing near each other; close enough to provide assistance to the neighboring trees.  No redwood would have ever gained its stature growing alone.  We need others around us; encouraging us through tough times.  Then, when we are needed by others; we are there for them.  Together we are all better.

Plants are germinated by surrounding vegetation.  To have the best of any plant/produce, neighboring plants must be healthy/strong as well.  It is imperative that when a crop is pollinated it is done by neighboring top quality vegetation.  A farmer, too have valued crop, needs successful neighbors and will help them.  We too, will do better in life by making those around us better.

I guess my classmate who suggested trees are better off without props is right.  Learning some of life’s lessons without being sustained by those who think they are protecting us, is necessary.  Our children need to learn to stand on their own.  They, like a tree growing without guidelines, will become self-sufficient as a result.  We may think we are helping; when in fact we may be taking away their ability to survive.

Jaren

May 26, 2010

Who Are Our Heroes?

Filed under: Nick Galieti — Nick Galieti @ 10:24 pm

In a most powerful book, “That Ye Might Have Life”, by Sterling W. Sill, comes this profound and enabling precept:

“As we honor our heroes, we tend to build their great qualities into ourselves.”

Back in 2004 when I first moved to Utah from San Diego, CA, I found myself in a new house, a new area, and with a new career. I found myself at Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage as a new real estate agent with Jaren Davis as my broker. Like many in the office I quickly came to appreciate the experience and trust that Jaren offered to those whom he worked with. His example of success and his desire to see that success repeated in others added him to my short list of heroes. From this time forward I realized that the reasons that people held him such high esteem is that Jaren exemplified characteristics that we all wanted to embrace in ourselves.

Sterling Sill continued, “We are also the beneficiaries of everyone else who has ever lived, for the world would be incomplete without them. Each of us is an unknown soldier, and one of our most exciting truths is the fact that we were created to be the benefactors of the rest of mankind.”

After considering these two quotes I came to the conclusion that while I may have those whom I admire and seek to emulate, we must not forget that others will follow us in this world. Who will their heroes be? If we are the beneficiaries of the lives that proceed us, what legacy will we leave for those that follow? Who will see us as their heroes? In this way, the greatest gift we can give to the human race is to be the best heroes we can be.

Nick

Sabotaging Our Own Peace

Filed under: Micah McAllister — mikeutah @ 4:30 pm

Peace dwells where power exists. For most of us, that is exclusively within ourselves. As much as we may think we have influence or control over others, that is mostly illusory.  Even within ourselves, depending on how conscious we are of our thoughts and actions, power may be limited and we instead respond out of pre-programmed conditioning and habbit, a state of mostly unconscious existence. In this state, we give power over our peace away to others.  Peace returns when we take our power back.

Perspective and Choice

We often think that we have little to no control over how other people make us feel or in how we respond, especially if they purposefully did something to hurt or upset us. Though at first this may appear to be true, changing your perspective reveals that you do have the power to choose both how you feel and how you respond. The words or actions of others carry the potential to hurt in a couple of ways. 1. When someone’s actions or words indirectly upset us, meaning, they didn’t knowingly or purposefully do or say anything to upset us. 2. Someone purposefully and/or knowingly does or says something to upset you. In the case of the former, this is generally due to the action or words bringing a past unresolved hurt or flaw in ourselves to the surface and is actually a great opportunity to discover and heal an unresolved issue. The “offender” was merely the messenger. In the latter, the act of someone purposefully trying to hurt or upset you is likely a subconscious projection in themselves where they may have and/or feel a range of unresolved hurts, poor self esteem, complexes or other issues. Compassion for their unconscious suffering can help whatever they did or said to roll off your back realizing their action was more about them than it was about you.

Beyond this perspective, you still have the choice to take it personally and induce suffering, beginning a potential downward spiral, or recognize the situation for what it is, learn something about yourself, or others, and continue on your merry way. The following story illustrates this approach:

A monk and his student were walking down the road. Suddenly someone ran up behind the monk and forcefully pushed him down before running off. The monk rose to his feet and continued on his way without even turning to look at whoever had pushed him. The student was very surprised by this and asked the monk why he didn’t turn to face his attacker. The monk simply replied, “they are not my problem”.

Anytime you allow the actions or words of others to upset you, you have consciously or unconsciously given your power away. In this state, your instinctive reaction will most likely serve to perpetuate or worsen an already undesirable situation. Not taking it personally and recognizing you have a choice to continue on your merry way is very empowering to maintaining your peace. You cannot be bothered by others, unless you choose to give them that power. Knowing a choice is involved, why would you choose go down that road?

Disclaimer

None of this should be interpreted to say you shouldn’t protect yourself or those in your care. If real danger is sensed or innocent victims at risk, actions to move to safety or to protect yourself and others should be taken.

Micah

May 25, 2010

Yes, I am an addict!

Filed under: Jaren's Writings — Jaren @ 10:57 am
Tags: , ,

It is my understanding one of the first steps to recovery is admitting addiction.  Well, I am an addict and I have been for about eight years now.  I can’t say the end of my addiction was brought on by anything I have done; Fox ended my vice last night, 24 is over!

Yes I have rearranged meetings, put off doing chores and even calculated how I could be near a television on Monday nights.  Is it true, it’s over?  Wow, now what… Well, my wife certainly is out high fiving all those she meets today.  She could never understand how it captivated me as it did.  I guess I don’t know either haha

Here is a, “shout out” for the Fox channel and all who had a part in the final night.  Why, you may ask?  The ending proved a valuable moral point; what is right is right.  If you hold to your principles, persevere to the end, eventually truth will prevail.

My daughter was writing an essay on hypocrisy the other day.  While she was accumulating ideas, she asked me a couple of things to help clarify her thoughts.  In her innocence, she could not find in her mind why someone would act, do or say anything contrary to their feelings, beliefs or morals.

I shared with her some recent facts I learned in my current leadership role.  An individual admitted they are a chameleon.  While I knew this, it amazed me they both admitted it and felt it is okay.  I told her this individual acts one way in certain groups and entirely different around others.  They have one goal or wish; to be popular, have power or be persuasive.  For this person, these desires come at the expense of having character; they peruse tirelessly the thought of, “Winning friends and influencing people.”

My daughter was amazed; she commented, “Are you serious?  Daddy, that is so sad, how would they keep up with their lies and deception?”  My response was they can’t and eventually the light shines bright on who they are and why they act as they do.

Not wanting to stand on my high horse but wanting to share personal experiences; I shared with her the following.  In my life, when I made what I felt was the right (sometimes unpopular) decision; it was the appropriate thing to do.  Some of these choices have come at high cost in popularity or personal gain; at the time. I assured her, there will be times the path chosen will quickly resolve itself and others which will occur over years but in every circumstance the decision will prove to be invaluable.

As a father I know she will live a life full of self-satisfaction by following this simple truth.  Oddly enough, as a default/unsolicited she will be wildly popular, more successful and reach the highest heights by these simple yet profound actions.

Jack Bauer, for me held to what was right; his honor.  He, as a result nearly lost his life through the efforts of “friends.”  He held to what they too knew was right at nearly all costs.  In the end, his courage allowed for many to sense the inner satisfaction gained when truth prevails.  Those around him who were out for personal gain, popularity or power lost everything.  He, on the other hand gained the greatest gift; authenticity.  His only requirement was to remain true to his convictions.

Hold onto what you sense is right, regardless of the outcome.  Thank you Fox for giving my addiction a positive ending.  Thanks to my daughter for letting the teacher to be taught.

Jaren

May 24, 2010

I saw an angel today!

Filed under: Jaren's Writings — Jaren @ 5:25 pm

Do you find yourself in need of angelic intervention?  Did you know belief in angels is on the increase in the United States?

Gallup polling suggests Americans who profess to believe in angels rose by almost 9%.  We (America) as a citizenry have a higher percentage belief in angels than do our friends in other English-speaking nations. Angelic belief is common to Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

The general understanding of angels is that they are God’s messengers bringing us mortal’s assistance in time of need.  There are examples of angelic intervention in Christianity found throughout the testaments.  The greatest prevalence I feel is in the book of revelations.  Joseph was visited by an angel in a dream bringing him comfort in taking Mary as his wife.  Christ was ministered to by angels as He began His ministry.  Peter was freed from prison by an angel.  Each of these are just simple examples found in the New Testament.

There are many accounts of angels we hear of in our visiting with others.  Today there are many stories, movies and television shows which address the topic of angles.  Each of these carries significance and is wildly popular in our society.

The other day my view of angels took on new meaning and it is what I want to share with you today.  Often when we think of angels, we resort to thinking of immortality or spiritual beings.  What is to say an angel among us has to be a heavenly messenger, a spiritual being or an immortal?

While talking with an individual yesterday (who I think is a wonderful soul, living a good life), he shared with me, “In our society when we think of angels, we think of beings from a different dimension.”  Who says that God sending us angels has to mean those coming from another existence?  Well, I thought; good point, so what are you saying, I asked.

He suggested there are angels among us; we see and interact with everyday.  They are our family members, friends and even strangers who are sent; perhaps by our Creator, to buoy us up in time of need.  I felt the sincerity of his conviction and have thought about his words ever since.

Yes, indeed; he is right.  We are surrounded by angels, everyday; everywhere.  Many of you are or will be the angel in many people’s lives.  Yes angels exist in a heavenly realm but in addition they are here in each of you.  Thank you for being there when needed and for allowing your desires; those of willingness to help be moved into action.

You are angels in the lives of all those who you wish to help.  Our Creator doesn’t always need to send the heavenly type when we are willing to participate.

Jaren

First look @ book

Filed under: My Book — Jaren @ 2:09 pm

This short narrative is taken from a chapter in my book.  It is about one-third of the way into the story.

I have placed it here on the blog for one reason, “I need your feedback.”

While short and in draft form; I feel it gives a sense of what you will see if this writing ever makes it to print.  Please take time to comment.  Sharing your feelings will aid me in knowing whether or not this is a worthwhile venture.  Thank you in advance!

4:32 p.m. That’s when I first noticed that Alice was missing.

We had been touring the grounds of the temple at Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia, for most of the day. The largest temple in the world, during its prime Angkor had been home to an estimated one million people. The fact that it still stands as one of the seven ancient wonders of the world is physical evidence of Cambodia’s regional power from the ninth to the thirteenth centuries. Today, the jungle dominates Angkor Wat, not only its exterior grounds but also encroaches on to the structure itself. The tour had been one of the most incredible experiences we had ever had as a family, but right now it was the furthest thing from my mind. My little girl was not to be seen, and we were in a very foreign land with a sometimes dubious reputation.

“Karen!” I whispered nervously. “Where’s Alice?”

“She was over by that piece of statuary just a minute ago, Jim. She was with Lucy and Rick. I’m sure she’s close,” she assured. “Ah, see, here come Lucy and Rick now,” Karen continued as their 17-year-old son came around a corner, his vivacious 14-year-old sister in tow.

“Rick, where’s Alice? Mom said she was with you,” I blurted.

“Nope–must be with Johanna. We just stopped to look at the elephant painting again. Lucy just can’t get over how cute it looks!” he mocked as he smiled at his younger sister.

“Not with me!” Johanna piped up as she stepped out from behind her mother.

“Jim?” Karen said quickly as her mother’s instincts kicked in. Then turning to the children she demanded, “When was the last time any of you saw Alice?”

And that’s when I first felt the magic that was to enter our lives, for although I could hear our three older children stammer in self-defense, a calm unlike anything I had ever felt before enveloped me, not unlike the robes worn by the monks that still inhabited Angkor Wat–comfortable, warm, and just a little mysterious.

Without saying a word, I reached over and took my wife’s hand, motioning with a nod of my head to follow. Though I had no idea where I was going, I knew exactly where we were headed. We were going to find Alice.

We retraced our steps about 30 feet back down the hall whence we had come and turned right, even though we had come from the left. There, chatting with an older man as comfortably as Jesus must have been with the learned men when Joseph and Mary returned to find him at the steps of the Jerusalem Temple was little blonde 7-year-old Alice. Though we had never seen this man before, we both felt immediately that she was in no danger, so we stood back in silence and watched the scene before us.

The older man was not sitting in a lotus position but rather kneeled, which put him eye to eye with our daughter. He extracted something from a hidden pocket in his robes and pressed it into her hands, whispering comfortably as he did so. I could not resist and raised my camera to capture the moment. An unusual feeling of gratitude washed over me as I pressed the button– warm light from the late afternoon sun flooded my subjects through a lower window as my viewfinder revealed an image normally reserved for the front cover of National Geographic. With or without the picture, I will never forget that moment.

The flash alerted the old man that he had visitors. He looked over at Karen and me–and our children, who had caught up to us and had been equally captivated by the scene–and seemed to recognize immediately the situation. A concerned family had come looking for their precious missing one. He smiled warmly at us, and we knew that Alice had been in no danger. Then turning back to Alice, he clasped her little hands in his own, tapped at whatever he had given her, and whispered gently. At that, he rose and shuffled off down the hall.

“Alice, who was that?” Johanna blurted out, now that the magic of the moment had gone with the disappearance of the old man. “What did he give you?”

“And why didn’t you tell us where you were?” chastised the ever-protective Rick.

Alice just gave us that look that all 7-year-old girls seem to know instinctively, the one that says, I knew exactly where I was this whole time! Don’t get all huffy! There was nothing to worry about! Walking up to her mother, she opened up her hand and said, “He gave me this bracelet. Isn’t it pretty?” “Oh my,” Karen commented softly as she reached out to touch it, feeling a deep sense of love overcoming her. “That is beautiful, it is elegant and very remarkable.” The sophistication of the workmanship was rare to anything Karen had ever seen.

I heard a step behind us and turned to see that our tour guide had joined us. “Did you see this older man, Tree? Do you know him?”

“I am sorry, Mr. Callister. I have never seen him before, although he walks as if he is comfortable with these surroundings. If that is the case, it is strange, for I give tours here every day, and yet I have not seen him.”

“His robes–they did not seem to be the same as the robes of other monks we have seen today. Do they mean anything to you?”

“Again I am sorry, Mr. Callister. They were unlike anything worn by our local monks, and yet I must admit that there was something hauntingly familiar about them, as if I should know them by sight and know of their considerable meaning. Very strange, I must say.

“One more thing that you should know, Mr. Callister. I overheard just a bit of what he was whispering to your little one. He was speaking a blessing, the words of which are very ancient and very sacred. Few outside this temple know this blessing. I only came across it last fall as I studied ancient literature at the university. While browsing the archives looking for descriptions of how the temple was built, I found an old but very well preserved text that spoke of an unusual spirit that attended this most famous of all temples, a spirit that connected this world with the world of those who had passed on before. The bracelet that he gave your daughter contains very old symbols that remind one of this blessing and its meaning.”

Though the intellectual gist of what our guide had said went right over Alice’s little blonde head, she understood enough to know that this was a very unusual gift. But then, that was something that she already grasped as soon as the old man had wrapped his worn fingers around her young ones and pressed the bracelet tight against the palm of her right hand. As she looked up into her mother’s deep blue eyes, she smiled, then radiated the afternoon light in her smile. Somehow they both knew, as did I, that she would never be the same after this day.

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