Sunday, May 29

Some Thoughts

I felt jealous this week.

It was actually last week, but this blog post has sat on my phone, languishing, along with countless others of its (unfinished) kind.

Or at least a twinge of something somewhat like jealousy. Or longing. Or desire. Or whatever.

It was Friday night, and my shop was packed with people. Earlier in the day had been utterly quiet, with only a handful of people walking in. By 8pm, though, almost ten different groups were scattered throughout the process that is Soap Factory.

Usually watching people is just a cognitive process for me: This group seems to be having a good time, that group probably needs some help because their conversation skills seem lacking. This person may be going through a difficult life experience - they'd probably benefit from some extra attention. I'm a host, and my job is to make sure that people have a great, hopefully transformative experience within the process of making soap... and while my emotions are there, I'm a host first and foremost.

But something inside me broke open on Friday, and a flood of emotions burst out.

It's ironic.

I run one of the coolest date spots in Provo.

We were just recognized as a top location on TripAdvisor with their "Certificate of Excellence" award.

But I can't remember the last time *I* went on a date.

And the last time I had plans other than work on a Friday night sounds just as long ago.

But, I choose to work on Friday nights. I could have someone else work just as easily... and part of the reason I work on Fridays is so that I'm distracted.

The problem is that I don't know what I want.

Maybe that's not completely true. Part of me never gave up on the want for my life to be normal, to fall in love with a nice girl, to have a family of my own, to have my share like Job of intense but perishable life trials, and to do all the things that everyone else seems to take for granted.

But most of me knows that stubbornly wanting something doesn't mean it will just come true... no matter how faithful I am or how much I want it.

And isn't my life already incredibly valuable? I mean, if 100 people came to my shop out of all the other things they could do, doesn't that mean that I'm providing a valuable resource to the community and the world? Yes, they go home with memories, better relationships, and their own creations... but I go home knowing that I was instrumental in helping it happen. I watch people who've been hurt find healing, other open their hearts that have been closed, and many laugh when laughter has been gone for far too long. In my shop, parents raise their children and others find a sense of wonder long since lost.

It sounds beautiful.

And it really is.

Which ironically, makes the feeling of, "Is it worth it?" that much more poignant when it comes.

I really, really, really want a family of my own.

To the point that I read the entire Utah statute on foster parenting in the past few weeks... and everything the Church has ever written on the marginal subject of being a single foster parent.

I believe that someday I'll get married and have a family.

I've been reading the Old Testament over the last few weeks, and the story of Abraham spoke to me. My patriarchal blessing talks about Abraham... and how if I'm patient like he was, I'll receive the same blessings he did. He didn't get married young, or have children young. His son Isaac didn't, either. And yet God helped them find happiness... and He also helped them make an impact in their worlds.

So the thought about fostering is there, but it's not a "I'll never get married, so this is the next best." It's more like, "There are kids out there that need someone they can rely on... and while all of them deserve a family with a mom and a dad, some of them are kids that those parents won't or can't currently take. I don't have a family of my own, so I have the ability now to maybe help in my own way."

I don't know how my family would react to that. Or my best friend. Or the people around me. And I'd need not only emotional but real support from them to make it work.

But if I get caught up in too much introspection, this post will die again... but something brought me back to it today. So I want it to survive.

There it is.

I feel like I just found an answer to a question I've had. Last week in Church God told me I needed to move. Where and when and why and how to make that choice have been stirring in my head and heart... and while fostering may not actually be the end destination God has for me in mind, thinking about that direction offers me plenty of guidance in moving.

It doesn't fix the longing, or even address it. God does that to me often - instead of telling me what I want to hear, He tells me what I need to hear... and eventually I find the answers along the way.

And perhaps there's nothing wrong with feeling a deep and powerful longing. When people come into my shop, my need to help others manifests itself there. If I had a family of my own, it's unlikely that I'd spend so much time away from home. Perhaps God simply needs me where I am... or I need to learn something from the people I meet each day.

Either way, He knows what He is doing. And while the longing is still there, so is a deep and abiding happiness. Life is good. God is in control.

Sunday, May 8

Becoming a Parent Someday

My mother is a hero.

She studied rocket science at MIT. Between winning regional diving championships and cooking mass meals for the Institute, she met my dad, who was studying business. He had a year left, and she had two... so she did what her advisers thought impossible and completed her junior and senior years together, taking classes that overlapped and somehow being in two places at the same time.

Her colleagues became astronauts and scientists.

Her rivals won Olympic gold medals.

She became my mom.

Some parents aren't fully present in their children's lives. Many work, spend time with adult friends and family, and spend time in church callings away from home. Somehow, I don't remember that happening with my mom. When my dad lost his job, I always asked to go on excursions to find the sales to restock the food storage we lived on. When I had crazy ideas, she helped me make them work. We built a 12-foot tower from a piece of paper and a foot of tape one night for school, folding and creasing tiny strips into telescoping triangles. I followed her to stake choir practice, to Homemaking, everywhere.

She, like me, has always had trouble making close friends, and we lived hundreds of miles from her family... so she was always there for me. Not overbearing or hovering - I spent plenty of hours hidden in corners reading books and didn't often talk to her about school - but always available when I wanted or needed her help.

Watching my parents has fanned a flame in my own heart - a desire deep inside me that defines me more than anything else in my life - the desire to be a father. To have my own children, to be there in their lives, and to live adventures with them. To teach someone else to build intricate towers late into the night from K'NEX or look through telescopes on the roof at Orion or split hostas and irises until there's nowhere else to put them.

It colors everything I do, everything I plan, everything I want.

I've only ever wanted one thing more:

To be good... and to do the right thing.

In the beginning, I thought I'd get married young, have lots of kids, and live happily ever after with my family. I dated a ton, even though it didn't really work out and caused chaos for everyone involved. I even avoided study abroads and international trips because I thought that I'd have a better chance finding a spouse at home... and wanted to save money for when I did.

As time went on, my concern grew and eventually became enormous. I was getting older, everyone around me was getting married, and I wasn't anywhere close. I realized I had problems that I faced - specifically being attracted to men instead of women - and I hit a wall when I realized that I needed to trust God and let Him worry about the timing of my life. My zealous passion for dating subsided, and I focused, instead of on finding someone, on becoming a better man so that someday I could be a good husband and dad.

I feel like I've made progress.

I've gone to school and learned about myself and others, and found ways to make a difference in the world. I've beaten bipolar and gained enough coping skills that most people can't tell that I have autism. I don't have a lot in financial savings, but I've learned the importance of giving freely and often.

I'm a better man than I was a few years ago. As I've grown older, my dream to be a dad doesn't change, but the possibility of it being realized seems to get smaller and smaller.

Last week I was down on myself as I thought about my life... comparing what I want with what others have... and in my conversation with God He reminded me of the story of Abraham. Abraham was like me. Our childhoods were different, but he wanted to be a dad just like I do. So he did the right things, trusted God, and waited. A few pages later, when Abraham was 100 years old, his son Isaac was born.

The story gave me hope. If God could do miracles for Abraham, He can do miracles for me.

It also opened up my eyes to something that could have saved me a lot of grief. In my patriarchal blessing, it promises that if I "endure to the end," someday I'll be a father. That phrase has always made me wonder. Usually I think of "endure to the end" as something that comes after. I make covenants, see blessings from God, and then endure to the end through the ensuing trials of life. Endure to the end, from that perspective, is a pithy statement that means "stay faithful until I die." How am I supposed to endure to the end before I get married and have kids in this life?

The answer was right there. I was given the same promise that was given to Abraham. And while God always keeps His promises, I have to do my part as well. Abraham waited 100 years for Isaac... which is definitely long enough to count as "enduring to the end" in my book. Maybe that's why waiting is a difficult part of my life, too.

I'm grateful for a mom that has been there for me. For parents who helped me want to be a parent myself. But, most especially, for their focus on doing the right thing. Yes, I may have to wait... but God always keeps His promises, in His time and in His way, yes, but a promise is a promise. If I'm faithful, keep my covenants, and endure to the end, I'll be a dad someday.