Monday, August 22, 2011

A Jar of Big Stones

Because of the generosity of family members, from my parents to my great aunt, I had the opportunity to go to Iceland (where my grandpa's heritage comes from) for 6 weeks.I kept a daily blog while I was there for my family which I called Elska means love and alltaf means always.

I spent the frist two weeks with a group of 11 others about my age who also had Icelandic heritage. We studied Icelandic at the University and had a great time walking the streets of Reykjavik. The next 3 weeks I spent on Brekkur farm near Vik, Iceland with my distant relatives Atli and Katrin and their family. The last week I spent back with the group, touring the west coast of Iceland.
I wouldn't change any of it for the world.
Don't tell the other group members, but I think my favorite part was living with my distant relatives. I truely grew up on that little dairy farm. It is the most beautiful place I've ever been. Where else can you stand on the top of a field full of cows and see a volcano to your left, a glacier in front, a valley full of sheep to your right, and the ocean with magnificent cliffs and rock formations behind you? It was incredible.
The first week while I was there, Katrin's friend's daughter JanaLind was also staying on the farm. She was about 10 years old and was truely an angel- an answer to my prayers. She didn't speak english so we couldn't communicate perfectly, but we became great friends despite the language barrier.
Her mother, Maria, also came to stay for a weekend. Maria is a wonderful, friendly, loving person. She taught me a great lesson which I will quote directly from my blog:
"On the wall in the living room here [in Atli and Katrin's house] is a story in Icelandic that Jana´s mom Maria translated for me today. It is a great lesson, so I found it in English for you:
One day, an old professor was invited to lecture on the topic of “Efficient Time Management” in front of a group of 15 executive managers representing the largest, most successful companies in America.
From under the table that stood between the professor and the listeners, the professor pulled out a big glass jar and gently placed it in front of him. Next, he pulled out from under the table a bag of stones, each the size of a tennis ball, and placed the stones one by one in the jar. He did so until there was no room to add another stone in the jar...
Lifting his gaze to the managers, the professor asked, “Is the jar full?” The managers replied, “Yes”. The professor paused for a moment, and replied, “Really?” Once again, he reached under the table and pulled out a bag full of pebbles.
Carefully, the professor poured the pebbles in and slightly rattled the jar, allowing the pebbles to slip through the larger stones, until they settled at the bottom. Again, the professor lifted his gaze to his audience and asked, “Is the jar full?” At this point, the managers began to understand his intentions...
One replied, “apparently not!” “Correct”, replied the old professor, now pulling out a bag of sand from under the table. Cautiously, the professor poured the sand into the jar. The sand filled up the spaces between the stones and the pebbles. Yet again, the professor asked, “Is the jar full?” Without hesitation, the entire group of students replied in unison, “NO!” “Correct”, replied the professor...
And as was expected by the students, the professor reached for the pitcher of water that was on the table, and poured water in the jar until it was absolutely full. The professor now lifted his gaze once again and asked, “What great truth can we surmise from this experiment?” With his thoughts on the lecture topic, one manager quickly replied, “We learn that as full as our schedules may appear, if we only increase our effort, it is always possible to add more meetings and tasks.” “No”, replied the professor.
“The great truth that we can conclude from this experiment is: If we don’t put all the larger stones in the jar first, we will never be able to fit all of them later.” The auditorium fell silent, as every manager processed the significance of the professor’s words in their entirety.
The old professor continued, “What are the large stones in your life? Health? Family? Friends? Your goals? Doing what you love? Fighting for a Cause? Taking time for yourself?”
“What we must remember is that it is most important to include the larger stones in our lives, because if we don’t do so, we are likely to miss out on life altogether. If we give priority to the smaller things in life (pebbles & sand), our lives will be filled up with less important things, leaving little or no time for the things in our lives that are most important to us. Because of this, never forget to ask yourself, ‘What are the Large Stones in your Life?’ And once you identify them, be sure to put them first in your ‘Jar of Life’”.
With a warm wave of his hand, the professor bid farewell to the managers, and slowly walked out of the room.
Today we filled our jar with many large stones. After milking the cows, we made rubarb pie and jam. It was delicious and it was fun to work together and get to know Maria a little better. She's a wonderful person.
We also sat and talked for a while. Maria was very curious about me being a Mormon (LDS) so we talked a little bit about it. Then later in the day when we sat down for a traditional Icelandic dinner (lamb soup), Maria asked me if I normally say grace before eating. I explained that we do pray before each meal and she asked me if I wanted to. I told her I could if she wanted me to and she said 'I would like that'. So I did. I said a prayer, just like I would at home.
Afterwards, Katrin and Maria had to fight back tears. They called my simple prayer "beautiful". It´s amazing how the simple things in life, especially those that I´m so used to, can really make a difference.
It was still crazy windy and rainy, but after dinner we decided to go for a walk. I felt like the kid from the Christmas Story putting on a million layers of clothes to not get wet. But I still got wet. We walked up around the fields and back again and though puddles and deep mud holes. It was so much fun! Then Egill (Atli and Katrin's 5 year old son) and I climbed to the top of a hill and the wind was so strong it could almost hold us up.

I felt like the bears in Brother Bear (at about 1:36 in this clip)
We got back to the house and changed into less drenched clothes. Then we got out my laptop again and connected it to the TV and sang along to songs like Let it Be and Hallelujah and some Icelandic songs while Atli played the guitar. That led us to putting in a CD with music by Atli´s father. Most of it sounded either swing or polka...ish- so, naturally, we got up and danced. Jana and I waltzed to a polka song and we laughed and laughed. Then we put in a home video from some festival that Atli and Katrin played in and laughed some more. It was a fantastic night just getting to know the family better and enjoying life. I think these were big stones.
Maria showed me a song from a movie and told me a quote from the movie that went something like 'Happiness is not happiness if not shared'. I think that describes our night. 
What are your big stones?
Maybe it´s time to remember God. Maybe it´s time to take a walk in a storm. Maybe it´s time to pull the coffee table from the middle of the room and dance.
Just remember to put the big stones in first"