We stood at the top of the tower, overlooking the magnificent field that was once a battleground. There was a peaceful and even spiritual feeling for me as we pointed out different locations that momentous occasions happened in the history of America. The last time we were in Gettysburg, we were both fourteen years old.
My mind pondered a lot about the history facts that we had relearned, thinking about the young men, both the Confederates as well as the Unions, who sacrificed their lives for what they all believed was right for America. (I realized that it would be like my husband, my brother, my cousin who is now serving a mission, his younger brother, and my cousin’s fiance all going out to war, against our own states! They were ridiculously young!)
A few minutes passed, and we decided it was time to head off and see what else Gettysburg had in store for us. As I was about to turn around and go down the stairs, I saw a hawk fly by. Then, another. I allowed myself to watch them. I watched their wings, noting how wide they spread as they flew across the sky.
I’ve always wished that I could fly. Maybe that’s a “lame power,” but that’s all I’ve ever wanted; to be able to defy the law of gravity, be able to lift myself off the ground and explore the world, see what it has in store for me. I want to be above the world. For a moment, I was slightly jealous of those hawks.
Then I realized something about the birds. They weren’t flapping their wings. Their wings were spread wide, allowing the breeze to move them along. Every once in a while, they would flap to stay on their course, but for the most part, the wind was moving them. They weren’t just flying; they were soaring.
For some reason, it intrigued me. All growing up, I’ve heard things about how the wind could be a symbol of hardships and trials, and how if we are a rock, we can stand up against the trials, and fight against it.
But at this moment, my mind saw the wind from a different perspective.
Perhaps, trials can get us to a destination. Instead of always pushing against it, and hiding from it, and staying mobile… they allow us to push forward.
And by so doing, we don’t just get through it. We soar.
Two weeks before…
The air was humid, the sky was cloudy, but I felt free as we whizzed past cars, buses, buildings and people. My smile was so big and so bright. It was the first time that I felt so alive in… months really. I looked to my side and saw my husband on his bike. He smiled at me, and I knew that he was feeling the same way. We both served our missions in cities, but it’s a completely different feeling when you’re not a missionary.
Besides, I never rode a bike during the mission.
At one point, we parked the bikes at the designated station. (Pittsburgh has just started a new biking system the week before. It is called NextBike. You rent a bike for the day for as long as you want, and there are stations throughout the city.) Across the street was an art walk. We walked, hand in hand, admiring the talent of various people. Some worked with wood. Others worked with pottery. One artist had pet frogs that he would photograph doing various poses, and then repaint them.
The inner imaginations of the mind is an enigma.
At one point, it began to rain. Scratch that. It began to pour! People began to leave, but we didn’t. The rain made me think of Oregon, and I became even happier. This smile was genuine. He smiled back. We continued down the way, stopping and admiring the art. My husband made a point to talk to the artists, and ask them how they create their work. They all appeared to appreciate that. My heart was full of love.
Eventually, the rain stopped, and we continued with our bike ride. We rode for hours. There were no plans, only life. We went where we felt, and we admired it all. It was beautiful.
No one would have guessed that just that morning, I was in tears. No one would have guessed that morning, my heart was seared open. No one would have guessed that for some odd reason, it was as if my mind was reliving everything: from the moment I was told about my family’s passing all the way in Oregon to the moment I heard the gunshot of the military gun as they began to lay them in the ground, and everything in between. It was unplanned, it was uncalled, and it was tearing me inside and out.
Flashback of memories filled my head. Usually, I can shake them out, make myself busy, and put the memories aside. But for some reason, this day was not like that. Both my mind and my body were too tired to fight back, or even move the memories aside. Instead, they allowed the memories to play on the stage that is my mind, and it was like I watched everything from start to finish. The memories became tears, and the tears slid down my face. I let them. I let the memories cover me. It has been the lowest that I felt in such a long time.
There were dishes in the sink. I didn’t want to wash them. The floor needed to be swept. I couldn’t bring myself to get up from bed. Laying around seemed so much nicer and so much easier.
Through my tears, there was a prayer in my heart. I knew that these circumstances couldn’t be fixed the way that I wanted it, so it would be ridiculous for me to pray for that. I wasn’t sure what I needed to ask, but I felt desperate for something, anything.
I found myself asking, “I just need to know that you are aware of me. I know you’re there. But I need to know that you know that I am here, feeling this way. I don’t care how it is. I’m not asking for angels. Just a miracle.”
Seconds later, my phone rang. It was my husband. I answered. He asked how I was doing, and I couldn’t hold it in. I couldn’t help it. I was honest about it. This day was a hard one, for no apparent reason. I wasn’t trying to be sad, going out of my way to gather all the feelings and memories. It just happened.
But, I’ll be fine. I know I will be. I just need a moment.
We said our goodbyes. I took that as an answer.
I stayed in bed, feeling pathetic, but also slightly justified. Could I help it? I’ve been doing good for a long time! I haven’t had a day like this in months! Before, they were much more frequent. But having that attitude made me feel awful. Thoughts of “Wow, Jens, your life is not hard. Toughen up!” and “The world is full of people that have it far worse than you! Count your blessings!” made it even harder to find the will power to stop feeling so depressed. I laid there longer, facing the wall.
Then, to my surprise, I heard the door open. I knew that I had locked it, which meant that it could only be one person.
My husband came up to me, and hugged me so tight. I cried some more. (Seriously, where were all these tears coming from? Darn memories!) He looked at me, and simply said, “I think we need to go out.”
After I had calmed down, we left home. We decided to go to downtown Pittsburgh and see the city. As we were driving, curiosity got the better of me. I asked, “What made you come home?”
He answered, “Well, first of all, I was worried. You didn’t seem ok when I left, which is why I called. After we got off the phone, I put in my route for work, but for some reason, it took us the long way, which passed by home. I felt that I should just see how you were doing.”
Some days are hard.
Some days are beautiful.
Even after months and months, the days still happen. The thoughts still come. No, not as often. But they still come.
Perhaps, it’s just me. Perhaps, it’s how I handle things.
But every time, the moment lives, and then it passes. Sometimes, they are fleeting, like a bird soaring. Sometimes, they drag me down, like a rock.
Sometimes, a day is just a day. No abnormal happiness or abnormal sadness. Just a normal day.
A New Normal Day.
The Lord answers prayers, sometimes by sending miracles. But sometimes, He answers simply by listening. Sometimes, I just need a listener. Sometimes, I need an answer. He sends them when he knows that I really need it.
Sometimes, he answers by giving me little thoughts of soaring birds and working through trials.
Sometimes, he answers by sending my best friend and confidant to wrap his arms around me.
Sometimes, he lets me live a little. I enjoy the new friendships that I have gained on the other side of the country. We are all in the same boat, and we talk and laugh together, and the moment is beautiful.
Sometimes, it’s through feelings.
Sometimes, it’s through the realization of the many blessings that I have.
Regardless of how he answers, I come to learn a little bit more each day how personally he knows me, and how personally he answers me.
He doesn’t answer everyone the same way. Because we aren’t the same. We are unique and different and struggle differently. Therefore, he answers differently.
He knows me because he personally loves me.
Questions to Ponder:
- What are some ways that you get answers? How can you better look for these answers?
- How can your trials be wind beneath your wings? How can they propel you forward?
- What tender mercies have you experienced that help you know you are not alone?