Wow. This mission has great benefits! Along with the joyfully fulfilling work in which we are engaged, the endlessly fascinating place in which we live, the intricately complex culture in which we walk, and the continually admirable personalities with which and for which we labor, we occasionally get to share it all with family!!!
It's fabulous. In the past few weeks, we've enjoyed the company of four children, their spouses, and four of our grandchildren. It has truly enhanced, in very meaningful ways, what we're doing here.
We had the rare opportunity to leave our mission boundaries with a trip to Barcelona last week, for Ian's baptism. Tamra was already there with Amy, Lawton and the family; and Jesse and Rachel were with us, following on the heels of a sweet visit from Ben and Bonnie.
For Ian, this is a new beginning, a gateway covenant with the Lord that will form a firm foundation for his life. All of this one week after Easter.
On one occasion as Ian, Aidan and I were "hanging out" up in their room, Ian asked me, "What was Mom [Amy] like as a kid?" I rattled off a couple of things - bright, happy, loved to take care of others - and he interrupted with, "Did she like ruins?"
Best ever question from a kid living in Europe! It really is a unique experience to wander through ruins; you feel as if they enclose, in some way, the spirits of those who inhabited them; your spiritual self keeps looking for a real being of a bygone era to walk around the next corner or emerge from behind the next crumbled pillar.
In case you don't know - and I think pretty much everyone does - The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is ALL ABOUT families. Our family is a miracle; but it is still very much a work in progress (in the thick of it, it's hard to think that this is probably true for every family). We've been preaching so much about family, and about what keeping our covenants with God, and His grace through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, has done for us, that you'd think we must somehow have arrived at some kind of familial nirvana by now.
This is not so. We.are.still.so.distressingly.dysfunctional. There are ruins populating our psyches, parts of each of us around some corner or behind some pillar, attracting our notice and calling for resolution; for deeper, probably more painful, consideration. However -- just as the excavators of Herculaneum or the astonished discoverers of the Greek theater in Naples' historic center must have felt upon first recognition, a coming-to-the-light of an old hidden ruin is a marvelous thing. After the pain. After dragging it out and putting it into words. After the gut-wrenching sobs -- suddenly you see the beauty, the pattern, the colors; the puzzle pieces come together. The "ruins" are still there, but they speak in ways that heal.
I love this crazy family.
I do not use the word "crazy" lightly, by the way. I have discovered by experience that to the degree in which dysfunction exists, so does crazy. To the degree that we can feel, talk and cry in meaningful ways, we are functional and sane. Happily, I believe we keep getting functional-er and saner. We are still in dire need of the blessings of the Atonement. On our part, we cannot afford to slack off honoring our covenants, doing our little mortal best. Repenting. Forgiving.
But "the glory that was Rome", and the ruins in our individual lives, have a gift for us. We like ruins. And we love new beginnings. In the end, it's all about Easter.
# Prince of Peace
Bonnie and Ben, in front of my favorite Roman edifice, the Pantheon.
I liked this statue, one of innumerable in the Vatican Museums, for the marbled pattern in the armor. Lots and lots of these pieces are "pieced together" from more than one old "piece" of statuary.
Talk about conquering your demons...
My family will no doubt recognize this movie quote: "I have always preferred wildflowers." I exclaim endlessly over the beauty of the poppies along the wayside; one day Blaine stopped and we picked all of these "from an obliging field". It was a delight every day to my eyes and my heart.
A very common "ruin" in our house these days: the remains of artichokes and lemons.
Glories to behold wherever one looks
We work in missionary apartments on a regular basis, fixing things, inspecting for cleanliness. I got a kick out of this arrangement. One more missionary tool: the tablet.
There is a tiny canary in this nest. What a wonder!