Ezekiel quotes the Lord God: "And I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh." That is exactly what the Lord has done for Brandon. I am sure there have been times when a stone has found place in his heart, but basically Brandon's heart has been open and absorbing. The experiences of his childhood (previous blog post) are perfect examples of this spiritual gift.
Brandon associated with a unique group of boys while growing up. Looking back on it, I sense that he was the hub of the group, giving some stability to their somewhat troubled lives. Tyler Knotek; only active member in his family. Beau Biscamp; raised by a single mom. Thomas Loderstat; father jailed for growing marijuana in his back yard. These are only the three that come to mind, but there were others with similar trials. These boys loved Brandon and I know it was because he gave them his heart. There were many times when they would all join us for family scripture study and prayers. We had a tradition of hugging each family member and saying :"I Love You", after we got up from family prayer. It was so sweet embracing them and hearing them repeat "I love you too." Brandon was never embarrassed by this, in fact he welcomed it. He was so open and I think he just felt everyone else should be too.
That fleshy heart of Brandon makes him very conscientious of other people's feelings. He thinks about the affect his words or actions will have on people. I remember when he was 17 and we were having FHE. The phone rang and it was his newly baptized friend Tanner. The conversation continued for a few minutes and then Brandon hung up the phone. Someone asked Brandon why he didn't just tell him it was Family Night and that he had to go. Brandon's response made me realize that people are more important than programs. Brandon explained that Tanner was very new in the gospel and didn't have a clue about FHE, and he felt it was more important to talk with him for a few minutes to strengthen that friendship than to teach him a lesson about calling on Monday night.
Because Brandon's heart is open, it is susceptible to hurt and pain. That just comes with the territory I guess. As sad and devastating as it is to experience a true heart ache, I am so grateful that he can. A stony heart is void of feeling. But Brandon's fleshy heart feels....loves....and deeply cares.
While growing up, Brandon would freely talk about his life to me. Even today I am so grateful for his phone calls. He spends time with me and is not hurried with our conversations. He opens up and shares his life, wisdom, frustrations, and even trials. His ability to share his heart has given me sacred, cherished opportunities to not just bear his burdens and mourn with him, but to rejoice with him as well. Those experiences have drawn me closer to him and I am so grateful for that.
Brandon, I have learned how to give more of my heart to others because of your example. So many of your other spiritual gifts are tied to your open, loving heart. Your heart is filled with empathy; the ability to feel what others are feeling; truly a Christ-like quality. I hope you will always be thankful for that gift and never view it as a weakness. It is what draws people to you. Happy Birthday son. I love you. Mommy