My six-year-old Daysie wanted to read Ruth as part of her nightly tuck-in. So we have been. Then, Samuel was next. Each time, we read a little before she asks me, "So mommy, tell me what that means?" She has this love and trust in the words and messages of scripture and a desire to read them that is breathtaking and beautiful.
Last night, we read 1 Samuel 2 and I couldn't help but read the first ten verses twice. It had been too long since I had read 1 Samuel outside of Sunday School and I had forgotten Hannah's rejoicing was even there. Perhaps it stood out to me because of what I have been reading: Joan of Arc's trial and Julian of Norwich. But there are other reasons, too. In any case, I add Hannah to my list of women of old whose words I am grateful to have access to; words that inspire me and resonate with similar feelings that grow within me.
And it seems fitting for the coming holiday. For as I watered the flowers tonight and saw the fireworks on the next street over that my neighbors launched in early celebration of Independence Day, I couldn't help but feel they symbolized something new I can't quite explain that connects to Hannah and Julian, and past generations. It has to do in part with a concept my mother often speaks of: the football field of life. I've described it elsewhere in these words:
Forest Gump's mother might have said “Life is like a box of chocolates," but my mother is more apt to compare life to an elaborate multi-generational game of football. She sees each individual carrying inherited physical and spiritual characteristics onto the field of life, passed to them by previous generations. While they have the ball, their work is to move it down the field. Some generations face heavy interference and lose ground, some drop the ball, others make touchdowns—and there are many to be made. As Joseph Smith explained, “We without them cannot be made perfect; neither can they without us be made perfect.” (D&C 128:18) This resonates with many who, as they struggle to progress in this life, come to recognize the help of those unseen. They believe we have not come to the place we are at without the work of those before us. Our triumphs are their triumphs; their work is our work. At times, we may even imagine that those from a previous time rejoice with us when burdens we have received from them finally make it to the “end zone.”
Tonight, I feel like celebrating not freedom as much as the "players" with me on the field in this game of life. I am full of gratitude for all those God has grafted into my tree; those who have influenced me and shaped my world, past and present. Their love reaches out and surrounds me tonight. They are all around me.
We have watered, pruned, and fertilized the maple tree growing in my front yard since my grandmother's passing out of gratitude for how our lives were pruned and shaped and nourished by her. I gaze at its beauty tonight and think of her. I step into my home, still filled with much of my great-grandfather's furniture, my great-great aunt's old stoves and their phonograph; memories of their love gently nudges my mind. I think of Martin. Of Sadie. Of Clair. Beautiful souls that are woven with mine. Joan. Julian. My family and friends here and now.
And tonight I add Hannah.
And Hannah prayed, and said, My heart rejoiceth in the , mine horn is exalted in the none holy as the : for none beside thee: neither any rock like our God. Talk no more so exceeding proudly; let arrogancy come out of your mouth: for the a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed. The bows of the mighty men broken, and they that stumbled are girded with strength. full have hired out themselves for bread; and hungry ceased: so that the barren hath born seven; and she that hath many children is waxed feeble... And the visited Hannah, so that she conceived, and bare three sons and two daughters. And the child Samuel grew before the .