Peach Offering

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

About a week after my husband and I arrived home from our honeymoon, we decided to take a road trip to my parent's home in Las Vegas. It was a six hour drive from Vegas to Salt Lake City, Utah, so we had plenty of time to chat. This was still in that illusionary stage of  marriage when we didn't believe in audio books because talking to each other was entertaining enough.

Three hours into our drive back home, we started arguing. Soon, the argument turned into a giant fight. Each of us thought we were right, and there was no way we were giving in to the other. Both of us had hurt feelings and we ended up sitting in self-induced silence, staring at the barren land around us in the longest, most boring stretch of the drive.
An hour later we stopped for gas. My husband went in for snacks while I stayed in the car, still fuming over our argument. I was determined to ignore him for as long as possible in order to teach him how much he had hurt me. When he climbed back in the driver's seat and closed the door, he surprised me. In his hands were a bag of gummy Peach-Os. I looked at him from the passenger's seat , still silent, and waited for an explanation. He said, " I am tired of fighting. I miss you. I miss your smile and your laugh. This is my peach offering. Can we be friends again?" How can I refuse that? The forgiveness was instantaneous.
Looking back five years ago, I don't remember what we fought about but I will always remember the way I felt when my husband extended that gummy olive branch. There are many things I love about the man I married, but the First Peach Offering will always be one of my favorites. His simple and heartfelt gesture taught me that humility and love are always the right answers for hurt.
In the years since the First Peach Offering, many more have been given. Most of the time, the offerings are a funny bandaid for smaller hurts to be smoothed over. Sometimes, they are the ultimate show of love and forgiveness in times when the pain of misunderstandings, betrayals, and trials are too big for simple "sorrys" . That is the beautiful thing about Peach Offerings. They've worked for the small and the big hurts in my life.
I have come to believe that sometimes Peach Offerings are absolutely necessary. I have wished that I could use them in other situations outside of my marriage, but haven't out of the fear that they would not be accepted with the reverence and a smile I am accustomed to with my husband. But the more I learn and grown, I see the need for forgiveness everywhere.
How many of the problems in the world can be fixed by Peach Offerings? How many years-long arguments and fights can be buried by the courage of just one person's willingness to say "I'm sorry"? How many open wounds can close and heal? How many families and marriages saved, or the joy of lost friendships found again? How many aching, lonely, angry hearts able to find peace?
I believe in saving the world one Peach Offering at a time.
So, if you want to build a bridge and feel the peace that comes with forgiveness, go to the store and get a bag of those dumb Peach-Os. I even used the apple flavor once in an emergency when I couldn't find peach, though it may not be as perfectly phrased. It is the perfect way to break the ice and begin the conversation that can sometimes feel impossible to start.
All it takes is a little bit of courage, humility, and a $1 bag of Peach Os.

Laying Down My Stories

Thursday, February 25, 2016

I am a writer. Its natural for me to love stories. Nothing is more attractive to me than well-told and well-written stories. Its why I read so many books, why I follow so many blogs, and why I love deep conversations with friends. Nothing beats a good book like a heartfelt conversation with another human being. People are the stories they do and don't tell.
I was reading this month's issue of the Ensign the other day and came across a quote that made me think. Elder D. Todd Christofferson quotes a professor saying,
"As the heavens are higher than the earth, God's work in your life is bigger than the story you'd like that life to tell. His life is bigger than your plans, goals, or fears. To save your life, you'll have to lay down your stories and, minute by minute, day by day, give your life back to him."
It caught my eye because stories are what I'm all about. I love my story. I love sharing my hardships and my successes. I love sharing what I've learned just by being alive. Its why I talk so much. I write because I run out of people to talk to.
The idea of laying down my story causes something of a rebellion in me. No way, not in a million years of living, not in all eternity will I forget my story. I will not stop telling it. That is my story. That is me. I rant. I rave. I wave my favorite writing pencil all over the place and I promise to never forget.
After sitting with that feeling for a while, of refusing to give up and be quiet, I made some room for new ideas.
The quote never said to forget my story, or to never tell it. It said to give my life to God. I think that means a couple of things.
I think it means letting go of false beliefs. It means letting go of my long-held idea that I would make a really bad mom, and having the faith to have one, and then two kids. It means letting go of that "bad mom" belief every day so that eventually I can start to see that I am in fact a very good mom.
I think giving my life to God also means believing Christ when he says he can heal my wounds. I've held on to hurts and scars in my story for much longer than I needed to. Laying down my story in that case means letting His light into my dark places to shine on the stories that I don't tell. If I refuse to accept any other version of my story than my own, I close myself off to perspective, experience, and ultimately, healing.
Laying down stories for me also means letting go of the stories I've made up about pretty much everything. It relaxing the fears my anxiety stirs up at night when I finally cuddle up with my white fleece blanket in bed. Its being brave to push through the "what ifs" of every aspect of my life and have the faith to simply live. Living without fear is, for me, definitely laying down my stories and giving it to God.
I imagine laying down my story is like collecting the pieces of my life in a  gallon Ziploc bag, then having the courage to sit with God and pull out every piece. When I'm all done, when the tears are cried, the anger has surged, and the hurts acknowledged, I am ready to ask "What will you have me do now, Lord?". I imagine Him touching each piece, adding more to the empty spaces, and building a person more beautiful and divine than my mortal eyes can see, my mortal mind can comprehend, and my mortal heart accept.
But the work of laying down stories does not have to wait for those special moments in some far off day in eternity. Those moments can start now. Start in sharing the parts of your story you can. Listen to the stories of others. There is a softening that occurs when we open ourselves to others. It creates a wonderful vulnerability that is fertile ground for healing and growth. The patience and understanding will come naturally. Forgiveness will too.
We think God begins to work in our stories when we finally decide to let Him in. But I have discovered that it only requires open eyes and open hearts to see that He is already there, His presence the single constant thread intricately and lovingly woven through the experiences of our lives.
© Channing B. Parker. Design by FCD.