Friday, July 5

"What a wonderful world"

I've been thinking a lot about my world view as an American and a Mormon this 4th of July, 2013. My country and my faith are both so relatively young on the world stage, it is quite amazing to me where I landed!

I was born in 1976, the Cold War was well established. My country's enemies were known, my faith was coming out of obscurity. I absorbed those world views and remember times I felt proud to be an American and Mormon, but other times I was uncomfortable by things said or done by my countrymen or by those of my faith. I've seen much more of the world now, but not nearly all of it. My first time abroad as a student in Jerusalem, I remember sitting in the humble home of a Muslim Palestinian family for dinner and realizing that people all over the world are all the same at heart but circumstances around them differ. Their region of the world may have a different political system, different religious and cultural history, different this or that -- but people are people. And people want to be happy and secure. They pursue it in all sorts of ways - sometimes to the betterment or destruction of others. All encounter suffering to some degree or another and must figure out it's purpose and how they will face it.

We stood watching 4th of July fireworks among patriot families last night. As the speaker system blared, "God Bless America" I was so moved by the lyrics that I leaned over and erroneously told Easton it was our national anthem. Ugh. The second I said it I felt completely foolish! It sure is a wonderful hymn! I am so proud of our country, our country's soldiers and their loved ones who sacrifice more than we ever know. I love being among them, often reminded of all they do for us! And I know the founding of the United States was part of God's plan for His children too. It does not make American's better than others, but there are some wonderful key principles of freedom it was founded upon.

I'm in the middle of two books right now about the past 100 years in China. It is in my dreams every night - all the injustices, the beauty of the people and culture, the strife. It's reminded me how thankful I am to be an American. There's nothing like reading about China's civil war, occupation by the Japanese, more civil war, and upheaval under Mao through the lens of a few families to put some things in perspective! Holy cow it's tough stuff! America's history is not pristine by any measure, but there is much we surely take for granted often! I was so surprised to read one of the Chinese author's say how she'd grown up [1950s] being told to eat her food because there were "starving kids in America!" Just fascinating to hear another's world view that is the same but directly opposite of your own! Amazing!

We got home from Garmisch late this afternoon and the kids demanded ice cream. They tried to tell us we'd promised them yesterday and today and not delivered. However, we were greeted in our homecoming by a few chores they had left undone with very bad attitudes before we'd left. As they were clamoring for ice cream and how many scoops they'd get, I went a little crazy on them about chores and them feeling entitled without earning it. Didn't they know there were hardworking, starving children in . . . ?! I had to apologize to them that I was a bit affected by the past few hours reading about people destroyed by Chairman Mao's campaigns and Cultural Revolution. It was not a good time to be making demands on me when they hadn't earned anything of the sort. I've had to keep reminding myself that me and the kids are essentially still in the first week of summer vacation and everyone's figuring out the ropes and how far they stretch.

On another note, I am also so very grateful for my knowledge of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the blessing of living and traveling abroad to open my understanding of God's children and His work among us all. As I see the flood of younger missionaries heading out into the world, I am just so thrilled for them and all of us. We all have so much to learn about each other, so much to be gained! I have a neighbor friend who has been investigating my faith since Christmas. After each meeting with the missionaries, we've both wished we could take a hiatus from our lives to study the gospel for a few hours each day and then go out and talk about it with others!

I have recently been reminded that my favorite conversations are when I get to talk heart to heart with someone about how they know God works in their lives. I got to do that with the gal who cuts my hair this week. I shared some stories of our recent family history searches and then she opened up and shared how she was led to find her father who'd left when she was 2 years old. Her story of finding him in Australia within two weeks of moving there on her own at age 24 was nothing less than miraculous! We both agreed nothing happens by chance and that the "veil" is thin between heaven and earth. Connections with loved ones last beyond this life. And it wasn't even a happy reunion with her father, but she knew she needed it and that her mother who had passed knew that. She kept apologizing for her silly stories, but I loved being able to look her in the eyes and tell her it wasn't silly at all - but the greatest, truest thing we can know! And then a couple of my kids were screaming over something that actually was silly so it was time to go.

Our family recently discovered the young Indiana Jones series on Netflix and we've watched an episode almost every night. The episode we watched tonight was set in India where young Jr. learned about the world's largest religious traditions through the eyes of a young Indian boy. Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam - all so fascinatingly related! I love this program's ability to let Ryan and I share our world views with the kids and to get them interested in the history of places, many of which they've seen or know of. Tonight's episode also reminded me of a favorite historical map of world religions a friend shared with me a few years ago. My neighbor likes to share how she visualizes the world's religions as a pyramid with all the world's religions down here pointing us up to God one way or another.

So here's me - a Mormon American living in Germany in 2013. Why me, here and now? I feel like I know and hope I can live up to it.