Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Blood, Guts, and Bridges

Writing about myself is generally easy; a 200 word limit changes that. But I hope these few words will convey my self and experiences well.

Inner Struggle

Succeeded by pajamas, the others take their nocturnal stations: blouse in hamper, skirt on hanger, name tag on desk. I crumple into my plastic chair; it sighs with me. 

The page I open to is cleaved up the middle by white stitches. Tonight I enlist my red pen in addition to the black. Red goes first.

I want to do what He wants me to do, but I don’t know what that is.

The black pen responds: God gives us autonomy when He trusts us.

But He shouldn’t trust me.

Remember—President said “Willing and worthy.”

He had. With perpetually carefree smile wilted, eyes darkened behind his glasses, he’d actually told me twice in our latest interview.

But I’m not as willing to do hard things as I should be. And when I don’t do them, that decreases my worthiness.

Black references my morning’s scripture study: “Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak.”

Yes, but I haven’t helped bring about enough miracles in the land like Ammon did.

“Have we not great reason to rejoice?”

Not if I haven’t done enough. The ink is blood on my hands.

The day’s events and words waft behind my eyes. One Elder’s mantra surfaces, dragging indecisive hope along: “Let the Lord form you His way.”

I’ll try.


I smile when the oldest five file in. They join our oldest three, filling the bench everyone recognizes as ours. Jake—four months my junior and ten years my friend—sits next to me. His hand is stained with the guts of my ’94 Escort. I remember with a wince what Jake doesn’t know: that he may never get to finish my car. We might be moving.

The opening prayer lets my eyelids hide my tears. I silently say my own. “How can we leave them?” I ask God—again. “They’re practically family.”

I’ve given up on an answer when a local missionary recounts her recent transfer. I’m only half-listening until she says: “It was hard to leave the people I’d grown to love.” My chin pops up. “Then in my scripture studies, I read this verse.” I lean far enough forward to almost hit the next bench.

“‘I know thy heart, and have heard thy prayers concerning thy brethren.’” The words strum my innards. “‘Be not partial towards them in love above many others, but let thy love be for them as for thyself; and let thy love abound unto all men, and unto all who love my name.’”

It’s a combination of comfort and command, and it rinses my soul. Today this verse is mine.

Wilderness Quest

I trudge up the dirt ramp and pause at the top of the berm. The bristly tamarisks and pubescent cottonwoods have overrun the flood plain below, and the river-side of the ramp must’ve been washed out in my two-year absence. I climb down anyway. 

I have to part and lunge between branches, but I make it. The river is colorless as usual and gunky at the bends, but the tonal flow is loud enough to mask my voice.

I glance upwards for tradition’s sake. “What am I supposed to be doing?” I ask Him. Unstifled sobs bob atop my mind’s flood of questions. “I don’t even know which career I’d want, let alone what I’m meant to choose.”

An attentive silence is in order, and I reach out for any hint of a response. There are no words this time. Nor pictures. But the feeling of being heard smooths my tear stream into a flood plain.

“I know,” I say. “I don’t always get to have a plan. This is teaching me to move forward with faith.” It’s nothing new, and I don’t like it. But it’s true.

As I start back, my ranging gaze lingers on the bridge—the bridge between the islanded neighborhood of my youth to the rest of the world. How long it looks from here.



  1. I love how evocative these sketches are; they really suggest more than you explicitly say. My favorite is the first one. It's sort of the quintessential missionary's dilemma, and I thought you handled it in a really refreshing, unique way. I'm excited to read your final essay!

  2. I love the overall theme you keep of faith, as they crop up in each of your essays. I think that really shows who you are as a person, the priorities you have, and the way you think about your experiences. I really admire that.

  3. Awesome! I thought you had great descriptions and diction. I think that the 200 word limit really helped create the stories- it kept them short and to the point, yet you were still descriptive and I still connected to the stories.

  4. Loved your style. The first one takes an idea that might seem simple, but the form makes it's complex and thought-provoking.