Thursday, October 29, 2015

Maybe it was Utah

I turned 40 in April and my wife turned 40 a couple of weeks ago.  I guess it's a milestone we're supposed to feel ambivalent about.  And I guess we do.

We should probably just settle comfortably into the sweet spot of life where we don't have to clean up anybody's poop anymore (except the damn dog), and nobody has to clean up ours yet either.  It should be the salad days.

But to tell the truth, I'm not too happy to do that.  We've been trying and failing, again and again, to have another baby for the last 9 years.  Doctors have tested everything.  Everything works.  But we just can't have more kids.

Several weeks ago, after what I felt was surely sufficient arm-wrestling with the Lord, I awoke to a text from an acquaintance.  Her niece was pregnant and giving the baby up for adoption.  She gave me the contact info.  The timing was fortuitous.  It felt like an answer to prayer.  And for a few hours I had visions of welcoming a new baby to our home.  It seemed so easy.  It felt like God was on our side.

A few days later we met the girl and her parents.  I didn't ask, but I'm pretty sure we are older than her parents.  And then there's the way I look and the fact that we already have three kids.  It was a hard sell.  She chose to place with another family.


. . .


Recently we watched the movie "Raising Arizona."  It's hilarious, and I've watched it many times. What never struck me before, is that it's a movie about infertility.

There's a scene where H.I. and Edwina (played by Nicholas Cage and Holly Hunter) are at an adoption agency trying to adopt.  The agency worker is looking through H.I.'s arrest record, obviously concerned that with such a past, adoption is not going to be an option.  Edwina who goes by Ed says, "It's true that Hi has had a checkered past. . ." and H.I. follows with, "But Ed here is an officer of the law twice decorated, so we figure it kinda evens out."



And the movie is a great comedy, but for the first time I related to it as a tragedy.  After all, it was the very public airing of my own checkered past that had convinced me that I had twisted the Lord's arm enough.  It was the morning that video went public and I became the star of the first mormon film with an adult content advisory that I received the text about the adoptable baby.

I think in that context, my sudden optimism was understandable. However short lived it was before reality gently tapped me on the shoulder, it was sweet.

I believe I've done time in the belly of a fish.  I've been dressed down by a multitude of asses.  Bitterness has turned to sweetness in my mouth and I've sung the sounds for which there aren't words.  But I don't know if I'm supposed to dislocate an angels hip or build a ship and sail onward here.  And if a divine finger is supposed to touch a stone to light my way then let it be my stony heart, again and again, because it is fertile ground for stones.


. . .


I love the ending of Raising Arizona.  H.I. has a dream, far into his future.  It's a future where his children and grandchildren come for a holiday meal.  And he doesn't know if it's real but it seems so. And I can see that sometimes hope is all there is to hang onto.  But it's worth it.  Why not keep hoping?



So I gave my wife a map of Utah for her birthday.  I hung it on our bedroom wall.





Wednesday, October 22, 2014

On Miracles

Five years ago, on this day, I had a terrible accident.  But this isn't about something terrible.  It's about something breathtakingly sacred to me-- something that was a tremendous blessing of the disguised variety.  It was a pivotal experience in my life.

Before work that morning, I got out the ladder and climbed on the roof of our single-story home to make a few repairs before snow fell.  I had made some progress when I realized I needed to get down and get a few more tools.  As I was about to climb back up, my wife and daughter came out and needed to take the car somewhere.  The ladder was blocking the driveway, so I moved it out of the way.  Then, since it takes forever to do anything simple like get in the car when you have small children, I became impatient and set up the ladder in a different position, one where it wasn't supported as well.  With both hands full of tools I climbed the ladder and attempted to get back on the roof.

When I stepped on the step that's clearly labeled "not a step," I found out the hard way why you aren't supposed to do that.  The ladder shimmied violently, I lost my balance, and the next thing I knew I was on my back in our driveway.

This was 2009.  At that point, the Great Recession had been murdering our business for a full year.  Our sales had dropped by over 70 percent.  Financially I was already wrecked, so when I lay there in my driveway, behind the car my wife was about to back out, I thought it might be better for all parties if she finished me off.  I knew my arm was broken.  I knew that I was already broke.  And I knew that due to my pre-existing condition of snoring, I had been unable to purchase health insurance coverage.

I went to the emergency room knowing that I would be unable to pay for it.  Just going there felt like stealing.

One standout image of the whole experience came in the form of my daughter, who was five at the time and had been making clothes for her dolls out of colorful rags we used as shop towels at work.  With concern and gentleness beyond her years, she removed her dolls dress and helped me to sling my arm so I could get in the car.


The doctor recommended surgery.  He said that casting was impossible, and that the splint and sling method didn't have a good track record with humerus fractures like mine.  Nevertheless I took the less costly option and came home with my arm in a sling.  Just the thought of moving my arm produced excruciating pain, and laying on my back proved impossible, so I took up residence in the recliner in our living room, with pillows and blankets, my CPAP machine, and a laptop computer.

A few days later, I became sick.  I lost my appetite completely, and began throwing up.  I couldn't even keep water down and I felt full and bloated.  Since I had been taking prescription pain pills, we entertained the idea that my digestive system was just suppressed.  At my wife's urging I took a walk.

It was a foggy, frosty evening and the air was chilled.  I could see the clouds of condensation in my breath as I walked slowly around my neighborhood, hoping the movement would help get things moving.  I found myself near our church, in a very dark place.  Tears and vomit and prayers ran down my chin.  Something was seriously wrong and I didn't know what to do.

The next morning, after fervent prayer, I asked my wife to drive me to the hospital.  At the ER, they decided to do a CT scan.  The doctor told me it was probably just constipation due to the narcotics, but the test would show if there was anything wrong.

I wouldn't fit in the machine with my sling on.  I found out the hard way, when my elbow bumped into the side and I nearly screamed in pain.  I had to take off the sling and stabilize my bad arm with my good one.  I just fit.  It felt like a high-tech tomb, my arms folded across my chest like a pharaoh.  I bit my lip and held my breath.

Later as we waited for the doctor for an hour or so, I told my wife that there had better be something seriously wrong with me, because if I had undergone that painful, expensive experience over constipation it would be too humiliating to bear.

I got my wish.

That thing on the left, that thing that looks a little like Squidward's profile, was my kidney.  The thing on top of it is my squished liver.  The doctor called it "impressive."  He said he had never seen anything like it, that it was the size of a football and should have been the size of my fist.  He said I was probably just constipated, but that I should probably see a urologist about my kidney problem.  "There's no way this happened over the last few days, it must be congenital."

He was partly right.  The nearest the urologist could figure, a congenital defect had caused a slow, lifelong dilation of my kidney, but the accident had made the condition acute.  

What followed was a series of tests and procedures to drain my kidney and determine if it could be saved.  About 6 weeks later my kidney was removed altogether.

I've told this story to set the stage.  I want it to be clear that I was at the end of my rope, hanging on by my teeth.  This is not to garner sympathy, but to help explain the state I was in and give context to the things that followed.  

There's something else.  Though I have elaborated on the wreck of my physical body, my spirit was in worse shape.  I'm going to keep those details to myself here.  But the broken arm, the enormous kidney, all of that-- those are just tangible corollaries of spiritual disease and injury that was more severe, and self-inflicted.

The part of the story I've just told is the easy part.  It's much more difficult to articulate the ways that God and Grace and Angels intervened in my life.  I'm not even sure that I can, or should.

During the weeks that passed between the accident and the operation to remove my kidney, life was a blur of medical appointments and procedures.  I had a nephrostomy placed, which meant that I had tube sticking out of my back, connected to a bag of pee pinned inside my pantleg.

It was hard to work, but I had to.  Our only revenue at the shop at that time came from repair business.  It's very hard to turn wrenches and repair machines with one arm.  A clear image in my mind is when a customer needed a new rear tire.  The customer actually helped steady the scooter as I braced it with my shoulder and neck, fighting the wrench with my right arm, while simultaneously trying to relax my left arm.  Beads of sweat ran down my forehead and my broken bones ached.  I fought back tears of gratitude and despair knowing how badly we needed the money, glad to have it, but hating the need.

The nights were the worst.  Where once I had stayed up late, sitting in the recliner with my laptop, rejecting my wife, now I was unable to lay beside her though I wanted to.  Pain kept me awake.  I had been trying to change, to break old habits, and for months I had been doing well.  But now I was stuck in the same situation, forced to sit in the very same place, sleepless.  I began listening to LDS conference talks in podcast form, and I prayed constantly for help, because I have never felt so totally helpless and unutterably alone as I did then.

One night, after exhausting all the talks from the regular sessions of conference, I listened to the General Young Womens Meeting.  I don't remember any of the talks, but a choir of young women sang, "How Firm a Foundation" with a beautiful descant at the end.  It was the first time I can remember hearing the seventh verse and the words hit me with amazing force.  "The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose I will not, I cannot, desert to his foes; That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake, I will never, no never, I'll never, no never, I'll never, no never, no never forsake!"

Though it felt as though all hell had gathered her storms against me, the promise of those words filled my heart and what had been a flicker of light at the end of a long, dark tunnel became a bright beacon to me.

Five years later what bills the hospital didn't write off are finally paid off.  Business is much better.  My arm is stronger than before, but I know better than to lean on it now.  I've learned whose arm to lean on for support.

Miracles happen every day.  Some take the form of divine intervention.  Some are heavenly messengers or kind strangers.  Sometimes God speaks, and sometimes He whispers.  Bones break.  Hearts break.  Blind eyes see.  And His hand that touched the forsaken lepers diseased skin makes whole souls from gaping wounds.  On this day, five years ago, I began to see miracles in my life.

Monday, April 01, 2013

It's all my fault

It's all my fault because I was going to name him Ebenezer, so you said you wanted a girl, to which I replied, "then her name shall be Ebeneezra."

It's all my fault because I play around with gas and oil and solvent all day and I don't wear gloves and don't you know that that garbage absorbs through my skin and makes my sperm swim in circles?

It's all my fault because for years I had my head firmly planted in my cornhole and I secretly didn't want this and I was afraid of it and even prayed against it sometimes.

It's all my fault because I'm not even that good at providing for the kids we already have, and if you aren't at the shop to help I don't know how we'll manage.

It's all my fault because I am neither patient enough, loving enough, or kind enough.

It's all my fault because maybe it's like when I brought home the stray kitten and had such good intentions but as she grew into adulthood my affection quickly subsided into indifference.

It's all my fault because I wanted it to happen so much my teeth ached and I felt as though this blessing would mean I had truly come full-circle.

It's all my fault because I can't go back in time and punch myself in the face and get myself together before the window of opportunity snapped shut.


But I wanted so much to sing, as a lullaby, "Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing," especially the part that says:
Here I raise my Ebenezer, hither by thy help I'm come
And I hope by thy good pleasure safely to arrive at home



I don't know if that will ever happen.  I don't know.  I don't know.




Please don't comment on this post.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Guns

Lately my facebook feed is alive with links from friends regarding guns and gun-related legislation. Most are articles from various media outlets (some mainstream, others of the tinfoil hat persuasion).  Some are just pictures with clever captions.  It's interesting to see how my different friends and acquaintances vary in their opinions about guns.

I myself am on the fence about it.  I don't own a gun, but I've thought about it.  I've never really fired a gun, other than one experience with BB guns in cub scouts, and one experience with .22's in boy scouts.

To be honest, guns make me nervous.  I get really uncomfortable and clumsy around them.  But I also have a morbid curiosity about them.  This is hard to explain.  Let me tell a story instead:

I served an LDS mission in Dallas.  The thing about Texas is that lots of people have guns in their cars. On one occasion I was riding in a truck with a few other missionaries and a man who owned a well-drilling business.  He was Texan with a capital T.  He was a living, breathing stereotype and we got a kick out of hearing him talk about digging wells and describing in colorful language the kinds of things his competitors wells were contaminated with.

Then I noticed a great big revolver in his center console.  I don't know much about guns so I'll just call it a John Wayne caliber handgun.  It was big and shiny.  I picked it up and hefted it in my shaking hand.  I examined it carefully, hoping to figure things out. I looked down the barrel (stupid, I know) and saw the domed shape of a bullet pointed at my eye.  Tex Texerton said, "be careful, ain't got no safety."

I put the gun down slowly and said, "I've never fired a gun.  If I had one, I'm afraid I'd use it on myself."

He responded, "Son, when it's your time to go, the good Lord's gonna kiss your ass goodbye."

True story.

I think I understand the appeal of guns.  For me, there's something exciting about holding a powerful weapon.  I like fire, and explosions.  I like loud noises and destructive forces.  I like standing on the edge of cliff, or close to a passing train.  I like the trembling in my knees and hollow in my chest.  I like it for a little while, then I back away, or ease off the gas, or let the fire die down.

But I know that if I had access to a gun, as a teen, I would have used it on myself.  I would have shot myself in the head instead of cutting my arms, or bashing the side of my head against a tree, or sitting in the car with a garden hose in my trunk, calling my friends to say goodbye before connecting the hose to my tailpipe and running it in the window.  A gun would have made it easier.

A gun made it easier for my brother-in-law, who after chastising himself for the inability to throw his own body from a cliff, rejoiced at finding his grandfathers handgun. His badly decomposed body was found a month after the fact.  I was on my mission when my wife-to-be called me, crying, and said "They found Trevor.  He shot himself."  I dry heaved and wept and thought, "There but for the grace of God go I."

My mom had an older brother she was very proud of. By all accounts he was a great man. He was the Seymour Glass of the Johnson family. He was literate, wise, and studious. He was a hard worker, a veteran of the navy, an avid sportsman. One day while hunting his friend accidentally shot him through the neck. He passed away hours later at the hospital, leaving a wife and two little children to mourn. Nobody blames guns for what happened, and I'd bet good money that his children, themselves now grandparents, are dead set against gun control. But they've never stopped mourning.

So as i said before, guns make me nervous.  And that feeling is wrong.  When things make me feel that way I know that they are things I need to face.  I've learned that it's important for me to face things like that and rise above them, because when I do I feel less like a scared kid cutting his arms, and more like an adult.  This is why I'll someday have to learn to dance, and it's also why I have to figure out guns.

Yesterday at work I got a fundraising call from the NRA.  They claimed it was a survey, but they said before I could answer the questions I had to listen to a recorded message from Wayne LaPierre.  It was about how Obama was trying to rip the second amendment out of the bill of rights.  After the message a guy came on the line and asked what I thought.  I said that if he was conducting a real survey and wanted to ask me real questions to get real data, I would oblige, but if he was going to ask for money he was barking up the wrong tree.  There was an awkward silence.  Then he began some questions.  He asked things like, "Did you know that before Obama was President, he signed a bill to ban assault weapons?" and "Did you know that Obama wants to ban all double-barrel shotguns?"

I responded to those questions with things like, "Fantastic!" and "That sounds like a great idea!"  My responses were less about my opinion on gun control (which isn't that strong either way) and more about my hatred for telemarketers and their bogus "surveys."  He hung up on me.  I guess my opinion wasn't the kind of opinion they were looking for.

All of this has had me thinking about guns.  I've been wondering why I feel personally unsettled around guns, and why some of my friends are so strongly in favor of guns, while some are so strongly opposed.  I've wondered if there's a common denominator that sorts people one way or the other.

Maybe that denominator is the way people perceive guns.  It seems that some people can look at a gun and see a tool as innocuous as a hammer or screwdriver, while others, myself included, associate violence with it.  Maybe if I became comfortable shooting guns I would be able to see them as simple tools.  I don't know.  What I do know is I can look at a knife and see a tool for cutting, that incidentally could be used to injure.  Crowbars are for prying, but incidentally could be used to injure.  The same is true for hammers, ropes, axes, etc.  All have primary uses that they are very good for, but could be used in secondary ways to injure.  Guns on the other hand are tools for making holes in things from a distance, and there's seldom a call for such a tool that doesn't involve inflicting injury or threat of injury.  It is very hard to construe of a primary use of a firearm that doesn't involve violence.  People use guns for all sorts of secondary things, like putting holes in beer cans or stop signs, or for breaking bottles, etc.  But the primary use is to put holes in the bodies of animals and humans, or to threaten to do so.  That's neither good nor bad, it's just a fact.

Maybe for some, a gun presents to the mind images of barbecues and camaraderie, the great outdoors and freedom. But for others a gun presents blood, rage, violence and insecurity. And maybe both are right. Maybe a gun is metaphor for life, and people either have a finger on the trigger or the barrel to their temple.

Where my own opinion is only half formed, it seems most have very strong convictions.  I've seen some comments and posts that had almost a religious fervor.  But I know that most people in favor of gun control still want to be protected by effective deterrents, and I doubt anybody against it wants to see more tragedies like Newtown.  Shouldn't there be some common ground?

This all-or-nothing mentality conjured an image in my mind of an alternate reality in which Christ had been executed by firing squad instead of crucified.  I thought of how different Christian iconography would be if that were the case.  I was amused to think of how much more difficult it would make the practice of Christianity for some, and how much easier it would be for others, if churches had firearms behind their altars instead of crosses.




Monday, December 24, 2012

2012 Christmas Letter- Final Draft




Dear Friends and Family,
           
We've never been very competitive people.  When it comes to races, although Kaerlig likes to run, if there's someone coming up on her Heels, she'll step aside and let them run on by.  When it comes to soccer, Little D and Lou would rather hang from the goal posts like monkeys and raycito would prefer that he didn’t get signed up in the first place.  The boys, both of whom are bright, waste their respective powers of logic and rage to argue on why cursive is outdated, doing homework is a waste of time, how two commands such as put on your socks and go get your coat should never be given at once, and how they should be driven anywhere further away than our yard.  As for me, at 13 I left my gear on the ground and walked off the field in the middle of football practice, and I've never looked back.
However, 2012 has been a year full of quiet achievements and personal milestones for us.  Lou turned eight over the summer and was baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  It was a great day for all of us.  She enjoys dance class, piano lessons, and is a wonderful artist.  She won the Reflections art contest again this year.  If you're keeping track, that's a three-peat.  Lou is also very generous.  It's not uncommon for her to save her pennies in order to buy a toy for a friend or cousin.  She loves to share.
Little D (10) also entered a really nice piece in Reflections and received an honorable mention.  Little D continues with piano lessons and has also begun to learn the trumpet.  He's a good friend and a very sweet boy and he gets along well with almost everyone.  Because of his kind heart, even when he’s been difficult it's impossible to stay mad at him for very long.    
Raycito will be twelve years old by the time you read this.  We've been amazed at the ways he has become more responsible and committed.  Though he didn't initially want to take piano lessons, he has made good progress; this in spite of his earlier assertion that music was a fad destined to go out of style.  He's also learning a little computer programming.  He’s been Patrol Leader of his scout group for a couple of months and has done a fine job.  He looks forward to being ordained a deacon and doing baptisms for the dead with us.  One thing about Rainer is that even though he appears to have thick skin, he has a very tender heart.  This is a boy who weeps when the Christmas tree is taken to the curb at the end of the season.  He has a strong sense of justice and loves to do what’s right.  Raycito even enjoyed a few hikes this year.  On one particular hike he did exceptionally well and led the way happily until he accidentally sat in a large pile of guano.  
One big surprise this year is that all three of our kids tried out for and got roles in their school's Christmas production of "Yes, Virginia."  Raycito has one of the leads.  And did I mention it's a musical?  Minds=blown.
Kaerlig has now been working as a pediatric nurse for 10 years.  Even though she spends most of her days working at The Scooter Lounge with me, the hospital is glad to have as much of her help as they can get because she's an excellent nurse.  Kaerlig was released from the Young Women's Presidency recently and made our ward's Primary President.  Her administrative skills are an asset to our home, business and church.
We celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary this year.  For some that would seem unlucky but for us, the 13th year was one of our best.  I know most of you reading this are still reeling with the shock that our marriage has lasted this long.  You better sit down.  Our business celebrated its 10th anniversary in October.  Who knew that one man's strange obsession with quirky two-wheeled vehicles would grow into something useful?  I'm as shocked as you are.  One of the highlights of the year for me was leading a group of scooterists, Kaerlig included, on a tour through Bryce, Escalante, Boulder and Torrey.  It was an epic adventure with amazing scenery and good company. 
One more thing:  Early this year we signed the boys up for ski school.  For six consecutive Thursdays they spent afternoons up at Sundance.  They both learned a lot and had fun.  Kaerlig went along each time as a parent supervisor and she convinced me to go a couple of times.  Having only skied once in my life, I was nervous.  By the time I made it halfway down my first run, I was ready to quit.  It was brutal.  The harder I tried to slow down, the less control I had.  I fell down many times.  But I could see other people enjoying themselves and knew there was a way for me to do the same, so I kept going.  Then something amazing happened.  Something just clicked and I stopped fighting the mountain.  I leaned forward in my boots, faced my fears and let go.  Suddenly I could cut and carve and relax a little bit. 
I didn't expect to get a life lesson while skiing.  And I don't want to be too heavy-handed with the symbolism here, but I will say this:  God is the mountain and he directs our paths.  I pray that we can continue to have faith as a family- to lean forward in our boots, face our fears, and let go. 
We love each of you and thank you for your friendship and support.  Merry Christmas.

The Hurtado Family 2012

Friday, December 07, 2012

2012 Christmas Letter-- first draft


Hey Fellas,

I've been trying like crazy to think of a really great Christmas letter idea, but with one noted exception I've come up empty handed.  The only really good idea I had was baseball themed and made little sense due to the fact that nobody in our family has ever (or likely will ever) play baseball.

So here we are.  Like two awkward teens on a first date.  Nothing to talk about.  

The last thing I want to do is resort to a formulaic, paragraph-by-paragraph breakdown of each family member.  You don't want to read that.  You want the juicy details of our exciting lives.  You've been waiting on pins and needles all year to see what amazing things we've been doing, while your own monotonous lives have droned on.  You've dreamed of the accomplishments of our fascinating children, yet your own kids have been mind-numbingly mediocre.

Well I got bad news for you.  We are just as lame as you are.

Here's what we did this year:  The same stuff we did last year, but with more gray hair.  

Truthfully though, there were a few standout moments:

Exxxx is our little angel.  She won the Reflections art contest.  This years theme was, "The Magic of a Moment."  She drew a bunch of fairies.  Somehow we missed the awards ceremony.  So much for that magical moment.  

Dxxxxx picked up the trumpet.  He put it down shortly thereafter.  Also he got a retainer to straighten his teeth and now his mouth smells like a cat farm.

Rxxxxx began demanding we drive him everywhere, even to his friends house three doors down the street.  So that's new.  Of course we refuse to do so because we don't want Maury Povich to have to rescue him with a bulldozer and a personal trainer someday.  

Kaerlig was released from the Young Women's Presidency and called to be the Primary President.  She promptly made me a primary teacher.  So now she's my boss at home, at work AND at church.

Merry Christmas
The Hurtados

Friday, October 26, 2012

Opportunity Cost

A few years back I had an employee who was an Iraq war veteran.  During his tour of duty his marriage had disintegrated and his life had fallen apart.  One day I noticed that there was faint writing on his toolbox.  Upon closer inspection I found the following quotes:

"There is no such thing as what might have been."
"It's never to late to be the man you've always wanted to be."  

I liked both quotes instantly.  As one who desperately wanted to be someone else, someone better than what I had become, I felt hopeful to think that it wasn't too late for me.  At the same time, giving up on the idea of what might have been was liberating.  After all, like pain, regret is only useful until your mind or soul gets the message.  After that, it's just redundant.

But I have since realized that there is also a contradiction in these two quotes.  If the man I've always wanted to be is also the man I might have been, then the quotes are incompatible.

This brings me to the concept of opportunity cost.  For every choice there is a cost.  We often forget this because so often we think of cost in terms of dollars, which like gold, have an arbitrary value and little intrinsic utility.  (Gold is a good conductor, dollars are good kindling.  Sometimes those functions are very useful, sometimes not so much.)

So if you buy something that costs one dollar, the price paid is not one dollar.  The price is the value of the best foregone alternative.  That alternative might have been anything else you could have purchased with that dollar, or the value of burning that dollar to kindle a fire.  In post WWI Germany, their currency was devalued so much due to hyperinflation, they did exactly that.  A bundle of Marks was cheaper than a bundle of wood, and some people literally heated their homes with money.



Purchase decisions are only a small fraction of our choices however, and as I said before, for every choice there is a cost.  The cost of everything then, isn't to be expressed with dollar signs.  The cost of everything is "what might have been".

When I think of all the choices each person makes every day, every choice a branch in space-time leading to infinite possible universes, infinite "might have beens," and I contemplate the magnitude of history, I wonder how it's possible for anyone to experience the best combination of circumstances or to be the best they could have been.

Maybe that's why I like the song The Late Greats by Wilco so much.  The line, "The best songs never get sung, the best life never leaves your lungs, so good you won't ever know, you can't hear it on the radio. . ." pretty-much sums it up.

Most of my life I believed in a God whose atonement made it possible to be forgiven and to make a fresh start.  I believed in a Savior who paid the price of my sins, but I quantified that price the way we quantify the price of material goods.  Dollars or drops of blood, it was one good in exchange for another.

Recently it became necessary to believe in an atonement infinitely more expansive, and a God infinitely more merciful.  I don't want to just be forgiven, I want to be plucked out of this universe, and inserted into the one where I made the right choices.

That's the thing about Grace-- it isn't just reformative, it is also regenerative.  The atonement doesn't just pay the price of our sins.  It pays the opportunity cost.  In spite of all the opportunities, blessings, and richness foregone, the atonement enables us to become the men and women God has always wanted us to be, and to be the people we might have been.

Sometimes when I pay close attention, I catch myself enjoying a golden moment, when I feel the overwhelming warmth of "all is as it should be".  For a moment I find myself standing in the other myself's shoes, the ones that walked the right path.