Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Week 79 - Stained Glass Windows (May 23, 2017)

Dearest Brothers and Sisters! (Please read in a deep preacher voice),

Quick taste of humour before the usual and potentially annoying Hacker
verse: two kids ran by playing tag the other day and as is the problem
with two-person tag, player 1 declared, "Mom and Dad are base
forever!" thusly ruining the game. I died with laughter as I
remembered doing similar things as a child.

One of these weeks I'm not going to talk about childhood stories nor
share réflexions nor ramble about something but I'll actually just
summarize the week. This is not that week.

There is a little quoted verse in the Book of Mormon where somebody is
complaining about their bad writing skills. "...I said unto him: Lord,
the Gentiles will mock at these things, because of our weakness in
writing..." and then there are a few other descriptions of how bad
this guy feels he is at writing. And until late this Monday evening I
never understood what that was supposed to mean and why some of the
precious real estate in the book was eaten up by some guy's insecurity
about writing. This week I really emphasize with him. I feel weak in
writing! And it's got nothing to do with grammar or punctuation or
whatever else... but everything to do with having lived and felt such
unique and special experiences that cannot be translated into text.
And it is legitimately frustrating to the point that I'm doing the
exact same thing that Book of Mormon prophet did: complaining about my
failure to express myself. And it only matters because I so dearly
want that these things be expressed! I feel so very realized and
satisfied and in peace and this is the only medium I have for sharing
that with most of you guys!

I almost just didn't write this week. Despite being a week full of
emotional, spiritual, and social highs there were also certain
sadnesses associated in the mix and I figured nothing would make sense
and if I didn't even have a good understanding of what this week was
than why would trying to paint a picture for others be useful. So
everything was fuddled and jumbled like unto the crumbs left in the
bottom of a box of lucky charms-- some unwanted brown bits, a few
partial marsh mellows, and that fine rainbow powder that cushions
everything. I think that sums up pretty well actually! This week was
mostly a fine powder of rainbow with some larger marsh mallow-esque
burst-of-sugar events tossed in there... though the unfortunate brown
bits had to be eaten this week as well. Namely saying goodbye to a few
loved ones.

So the actual thing that made everything click this week and
engendered this email was the visit of a certain Tom Holden, a well
known and absurdly talented stained glass artist, and his wife, to
talk a little bit about stained glass. Tom Holden is the guy who
realized all the stained glass in the temple that I've been able to
visit so much this month as well as many other fantastic works around
the world. Late Monday evening, in all my tired weakness, I'm sitting
listening to Tom take forever on a long rambling introduction (forgive
my impatience Tom, I was in the wrong) all the while trying to digest
my thoughts and figure out what I really thought of this week... when
suddenly the response comes! Tom is explaining the beautiful story
behind the decorative border on one of his windows and I really felt
very strongly that I was a lot like that window. And that this week
was a bit of the assembly of that window. And the week suddenly made
sense. And I would even say people are a lot like stained glass

This week on paper consisted of a few super cool teaching
appointments, a large missionary activity on Friday, an interview and
sleepover on Saturday, a temple-related dedication/consecration
broadcast which ate up all of Sunday, and than a mission wide
conference Monday afternoon. This week in glass consisted of all kinds
of shards and bits and fittings and colors and pieces being put
together into what feels like a more finished product than ever
before. I think the individual pieces that shape us, sometimes all
funky and irregular and ugly colored by themselves-- like a glaring
weakness, or some tragic event, or some fear-- when contrasted next to
all the other glass shards make the image all the more defined and
beautiful. Events that make no sense in our lives or the lives of
others have a much greater beauty once they are nestled into this
larger window with a light radiating behind. The friendships and
feelings from others become permanent, lasting of parts of our
characters as scenes of this glassed mosaic are added day by day and
interaction by interaction.

There was a lot of light in my life this
week. Light reflected in my smile, light from others around me,
literal sunlight, spiritual heart-filling light; ex. I was strolling
this week in the streets of Versailles with a friend and I could not
stop dumbly smiling. And this light allowed me to see what sort of
stained glass window I was! What quality work of the Most Masterful
Craftsman was coming out! A few years ago I think the stained glass
portrait of myself would have been pretty eye-offending: lots of
darker and turbulent shades, really inconsistent and unsure lines,
lots of pieces missing. Like really amateur modern art! Though this
time, I saw a lot more bright colors. I saw the darker shards serving
as accents to the most beautiful and hard-earned sections. I saw the
influence of others who had intervened and added bits of their own
glorious mosaics-- even some as freshly added as this week: Georgette,
Sarah, Caroline, Celestine, Tom. I saw the touch of a master's hand
who really had been organizing and designing ever since the beginning
despite moves I found questionable.

And this time, looking at myself
as illuminated by all these sources of light surrounding me, was
something oh so very beautiful and happy and fun. A year-ago it was
frustrating to look. Two years ago it was kinda painful. Three years
ago it was downright demoralizing. Four years ago I didn't even think
to look. Etc. I felt so very special and important. I felt as special
and important as all the other stained glass masterpieces surrounding
me! I felt like there really was a plan for me and with a sudden
clarity the people who played a part, the things I needed to do, and
who I am didn't seem like scattered disconnected bits of glass but
rather a pretty cool looking window glowing softly. I guess that is
mostly supposed to be a description of how much I've changed and how
everything has come together for good. I feel so disappointed and
mostly just sad that so many of you haven't really gotten to know and
see what a repentant, changed, loving Alex ever looked like. I wasted
a lot of time when I should have been loving and serving others. And
I'm so sorry. And nobody should have to be sorry for that. So don't do
the same thing! Realize way before I did (I've never given thought to
stained glass before I got here in France and started running into it
in ominous cathedrals and the temple and everywhere else.) that you
are the greatest and most stunning stained glass art in progress.

Realize, I beg you, how great and luminous you can be. Realize that
all the little things that happen-- good and bad-- and all the choices
you make-- good and bad-- shape what that window will look like.
Realize how many other people surround you to toss you a few of their
colored shards. Realize someone a lot bigger who knows a few more
things about glass art is eager to participate if you will but let
him. Realize no one will change your colors or shape against your will
but that you have the ultimate control of that final product. Realize
how impressive and intricate and just plain cool each and every one of
you already are. Realize that stained glass is meant to be seen and be
an integral part of the surrounding architecture, and so are you.
Realize lastly that I love you guys. I had to leave most of you for 18
months to learn what it means to love you guys, though I dare say I'm
a lot closer to understanding it nowadays! There is only one other
thought more inspiring and motivating than* thinking about you guys
when I'm tired, when I'm at my limits, when I'm stressed when I can't
go any further. That's how important you guys are! And I promise that
during this year and a half I have at one point needed to think about
each and every one of you; I have needed to borrow a bit of your
light, example, and friendship to keep going. So thank you for being

I think this turned into a reasonably fitting 3/4 mark email! I hadn't
thought to write anything atypical but it turned out that way. Go

Have a great week! I'll see you in 6 months!

-Elder Alex Hacker

*Great gratitude to you Rebecca for finally teaching me the difference
between 'then' and 'than' 3 years ago*

All of the MTC sisters were able to make it there for our zone finding day.

A 400 euro  Dyson hairdryer that was super hardcore and frankly dangerous considering the volume of molten air it could shoot out.

The Cathedral in Chartres

An investigator I taught in Vannes being baptized in the ocean there.

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