Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Christmas Spirit

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Since being home, things have been wonderful.  I've had some good conversations with my Dad and Rae Lyn, gotten to watch and play basketball with Ben, relax a bit, shop a big, learn a bit, work a bit, and sleep.

And yet, things have also been hard.  Until I come home, I forget how deeply some of the things and people here tear into my soul and grieve my heart.  I can usually keep a handle on these things when I'm far away at school, but actually being here is different.  Simply the proximity to problems puts me in a whirlwind of emotion and anxiety.  The constant discussions of people we don't understand, the worries of trying to help someone gone astray.  It may be partially a result of all the dental work I got done last week, but I've had the most painful headaches this week that I've ever experienced.

Which has helped me realize how hard I've fought to create a life different that this one.  There are things I love about home, don't get me wrong.  But in Utah, my home, I've tried to create an atmosphere of love- where even if you don't agree with someone, everyone is treated with love.  No constant backbiting and bad-mouthing, just discussions of how to treat others in a more Christlike way.  Now I know it's far from perfect, but it's something I cherish.  And something I miss.  The quiet nights of smiles and laughter.  The sappy animal/baby videos on youtube.  The opportunity to help my students every day.  An apartment where things are shared and service is rendered daily.

Now that I'm home, I'm realizing how vital it is to make my influence felt here.  I don't always succeed in doing right- in fact I had to face the hard truth yesterday that I need to stop treating Ben like a little child.  And yet I know that I'm here for a reason, and that I've had some advantages that others haven't.  

And so...I'm trying to share the Christmas Spirit.  

When I was 15, I was asked to give a talk on Christmas.  Not a normal youth talk, a full 20 minute adult talk.  I was petrified.  But it was also one of the most wonderful experiences of my life.  And my favorite part was a poem I discovered from one of President Thomas S. Monson's old talks.  

This December, the Christmas Message by President Monson included that same poem from so long ago.  As I read the words to myself, I remember that the spirit of Christmas, indeed the spirit of Christ, means simple, quiet service wherever we stand.

I am the Christmas Spirit—
I enter the home of poverty, causing palefaced children to open their eyes wide, in pleased wonder.
I cause the miser’s clutched hand to relax and thus paint a bright spot on his soul.
I cause the aged to renew their youth and to laugh in the old glad way.
I keep romance alive in the heart of childhood, and brighten sleep with dreams woven of magic.
I cause eager feet to climb dark stairways with filled baskets, leaving behind hearts amazed at the goodness of the world.
I cause the prodigal to pause a moment on his wild, wasteful way and send to anxious love some little token that releases glad tears—tears which wash away the hard lines of sorrow.
I enter dark prison cells, reminding scarred manhood of what might have been and pointing forward to good days yet to be.
I come softly into the still, white home of pain, and lips that are too weak to speak just tremble in silent, eloquent gratitude.
In a thousand ways, I cause the weary world to look up into the face of God, and for a little moment forget the things that are small and wretched.
I am the Christmas Spirit.1
Merry Christmas. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Laughter

This post should be scientific, but it won't be.  It's just my observations.



I realized last night that there's been something missing in my life for a long time: laughter.  For much of the last five years, I haven't had many reasons to laugh.  Or, if I have, I haven't taken them.  Recently, I've started watching how often and completely people laugh.  I am amazed at how often I see a friend throw their head back in reckless laughter about the smallest thing.  And I just...don't.  For some reason, the craziness of the past few years hasn't left me jaded, exactly, but determined to always focus on the serious.  I'm so obsessed with figuring everything out and doing everything right that funny things almost annoy me.

Which, especially given my line of study, I know is a problem.  Those who laugh are happier, healthier, and just all around better people.  Laughter is an essential part of human life.  It makes up for a whole slew of terrible things.  Laughter is one of the greatest stress relievers.  In short, it's really good for you!

So, as much as I love and need serious conversations and deep thoughts, I have now realized just how much I need laughter.  (Which is actually terribly ironic, because after dental work today it hurts like the Dickens to laugh.)  One of the things I especially appreciate about Sadek is that he makes me laugh.  Every day.  It's really not that hard, but I find myself sometimes fighting it.  What is so scary about laughing?  I'm not sure, but I'm determined to let it go.

Laughing is the least threatening activity ever.  And while I may not really want it yet, I know that I NEED it. So for all of you that help me laugh (even if I don't always look like I appreciate it), thank you!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

I made a website!

Yes I did!  It's part of my final project for my American Novel class, the first (and last) English class of my undergraduate career!

Want to see? http://4emilyannwarren.wix.com/monomania

I did my project on Monomania, and the obsessiveness evident in our modern society.  I've come to realize in the past few months that a desire to be busy for the sake of busyness is unhealthy.  Too often we throw ourselves into work and study, neglecting all of the other things that we work and study for.

A lot of my writing was about literature, but I want to share a few of the more poignant concluding thoughts of my essay.  Thanks for indulging me- there are few things I love more than sharing ideas!


While dedication, hard work, and passion are important aspects of life in moderation, overemphasizing these qualities can lead to the creation of dangerous cultural norms.  The examples of monomania reflected in literature help create and propagate these ideas, both bringing awareness to the danger and furthering the expectation of obsession.  As argued by Davis, the result of this has become manifest in the way our society has come to view “mental illness as a way of life” (84).  Paul Lafargue, in his fairly obscure work The Right to Be Lazy, denounces compulsive workers as dangerous monomaniacs, victims of a pathology embraced all too quickly by workers (Lafargue).  We have become so obsessed with busyness and progress that we don’t value balance. 
Obsession in the modern world has become a sort of coping mechanism, a way to avoid the “oppressive insignificance of the everyday” (van Zuylen 14).   An idée fixe endows an individual with purpose, infusing life with meaning.  This meaning provides us with emotional coherence and a sense of control (Freud).  In this sense, obsessions give us an illusion of agency while actually ripping it from us.  As Pierre Janet observed, we trade the possibility of domestic, uneventful harmony for hope of a far-reaching and immaterial purpose (Janet). Ultimately, our excess of activity conceals our fear that there is not enough life worth living for.  And so we create causes, things into which we can channel our passion in order to block out the daunting demands of freedom and everyday living. 
Conclusion
Through the creation of a website, Monomania, I have attempted to provoke others to consider this issue.  I hope to help others see that our literature, and thus our culture, is embedded with the underlying assumption that fixation and single-minded dedication are the bedrock of progress.  And, in identifying this assumption, realize that it comes with a cost.  My goal is that we can come to understand that our idolatry of busyness and our “anxious relationship with laziness” are often the result of a “fear of living a life devoid of a grand plan or an organizing principle” (Davis 194).   Perhaps if we stopped measuring our worth by our futile productivity, we can come to believe, as LDS prophet Gordon B. Hinckley taught, “The major work of the world is not done by geniuses. It is done by ordinary people, with balance in their lives, who have learned to work in an extraordinary manner” (Hinckley). Perhaps we can come to revere not those who pursue unnatural specialization, but balance.  We can teach moderation, and assure others that their worth is a reflection of who they are, not what they've done.  And, eventually, seek that elusive balance for ourselves.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Day 22: final

You know what I've loved about doing this string of Thankfuls? I've realized that I have so much to be grateful for, so many times on a daily basis that I see the hand of God in my life.

Times like yesterday, when I wasn't feeling well but friend was so kind and gentle. Or last night, when I was able to have a really good discussion with his mom about all sorts of important things. Or a few weeks ago, when my good friend called just when I needed it. And every quiet moment when I actually learn to breathe and relax.

Some of the times I am most grateful for are moments of inspiration. I've been feeling those a lot lately. Recently, I've been increasingly blessed to start developing a good understanding of what I want my marriage and future family to look like. I'm so grateful that I'm learning now that I want a partner who loves and respects all that I am- but who doesn't need to be just like me. In fact, because I am so passionate about so many things, in order to be my best self I need someone who helps me feel grounded in reality at times.

As quirky and strange as they are (myself included), I'm grateful for my family. We each have our challenges, but I wouldn't be who I am today without each one of them. I want to be with them forever, and I love them deeply- which is why they cause me such joy and such pain. We are placed in our families for a specific reason- and I learn so much from mine.

I am just so very grateful to be alive. It is truly a great gift we have been given that we get to experience life every day. To wake and breathe and walk and communicate and work and laugh and love. To struggle. To soar. To be challenged, and to fail. And finally to succeed. To feel both pain and the tenderness of touch.

It is all to easy to take life for granted, and I hope I never truly do.

Oh yeah- I'm also exceptionally grateful for turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and PIE!!!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Day 21

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recently announced a new curriculum for teaching the youth, and I am so excited about it!  It's called "Come, Follow Me".  I am grateful for inspired leaders who are in touch with the needs of each generation.

One lesson I found particularly astute for this time is called "How do the roles of men and women complement each other in families?"  Part of this lesson includes this video:

video

I hope we can all find partners in our lives who give us wings to fly and opportunities to act on our divine impulses to do good.

Catchup- through Day 20

I slack, this I know.  So here's some (very grateful) catchup:

17: Health
On Saturday, I ran my first ever race.  It was only a 5K, but after injuring my knees while prepping for a half marathon earlier this year, I was so grateful to have healthy, strong legs that allowed me to finish.

18: Friends
I seriously have some of the most incredible friends.  I love talking to them and I am so grateful for all they do for me.  I just love being able to call up/come home to so many lovely, authentic people.

19: Dentists
I write this one a bit begrudgingly, but it's true.  I was cursed with awful genes for teeth, and if it weren't for modern technology most of  my mouth probably would have fallen out by now.  I may have a nervous breakdown every time I go to the dentist, but at least I have a mouthful of teeth!

20: Road Trips!
Sadek, Laura and I are driving down to Arizona today, and I'm excited! It may be a grueling 11 hour drive, but at least I get to make it with people I love, music I enjoy, and snacks!  Let the Thanksgiving-ness begin!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Day 16: Education

Sometimes in the midst of stress and school, I have to remind myself to sit back and remember how blessed I am to have the opportunity to be here at all.

I'm finishing up my 4th year at Brigham University, and it's been an incredible journey.  Yesterday in the car I all of the sudden realized that this is my last real semester.  This is the end of a huge experience- one that will never happen again in quite the same way.

I'm grateful for all that I've learned, the opportunities I've had for research, networking, mind-blowing ideas, and preparation for my future.  That I have the capacity and resources to come here, do well, and be prepared enough that I know I can succeed in the future.  And, because of generous offerings from members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and BYU alumni, I've had most of my education paid for.

After this year, I plan to save money like crazy for graduate school.  Then, if Heavenly Father's plans align with mine (yeah, I know, probably not likely), I'll be off to a master's program in 2014.

Life is all about opportunities: those you are blessed to have, and those you work hard to create for yourself.  I'm grateful for both.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

15

Sillyness.

Tickling. Wrestle fights. Being a grumpy little kid. Quiet time. Raspberries. Butterfly kisses. Pure, innocent ways to laugh, giggle, and find joy.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Day 14: Pie and Potential

FREE PIE! at Village Inn.  Hot chocolate and pie. :-)

Also, I'm grateful for the opportunity to see glimpses of people's incredible potential.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Day 12: slacking

I'm a slacker and I didn't get this up yesterday.

So I'm going to discuss how grateful I am to have a busy life.  I'm so blessed to have the opportunity to attend a great school, have a fun and rewarding job, great roommates, a car to take me to places where I can buy shoes (yes, I know, finally!), a loving boyfriend, delicious food....and just all around wonderful ways to spend my time.  I'm glad that I have reasons to slack, and things to do that are better than spending all day online.  :-)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Day 11

As cliche as this sounds, I'm grateful for Thanksgiving. It's so awesome that we have a time of year dedicated to giving thanks. Whatever else our nation can or can't agree on, we can agree that we have a lot to be grateful for.

Day 10

Saturday was one of the most wonderful days I've had in a long time.  I woke up from a dream that brought some closure, got some things done for work and school, bonded with my roommates, watched a movie with my boyfriend and another couple (yay for socializing!), made an awesome snowman named Clyde (with lots of help), gallivanted in the snow and made snow angels, and finished off the evening with lost, tea, cuddling, and some more roommate bonding.

Today had wonderful parts as well- a good haircut, tromping through snow, realizing how great it is that I have the means to buy the clothing I need (if not the decision-making power), and quiet time with my man.

The gratitude I feel today is for the whole circle of feelings- ups and downs and "meh" points in-between.  For the understanding I have that even when my headaches don't go away, every night is plagued with nightmares, and I'm just plain exhausted...life is still worth living.  Sometimes it can be one look, one kiss, or just the quiet determination I feel at the end of the day.  But it's there.  And it's real.

I'm grateful for a knowledge that, even while I'm still figuring it out, I have a place in this world.  One that only I can fill perfectly, and only I will truly appreciate.  And I'm grateful that that's enough.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Day 9


I'm so grateful that regardless of what goes on in the world in general, I can build a fortress of goodness, fun, love, discipline, values and compassion in my own home.  The more I think about it, the more I realize that the majority of social organizations in this world were created to deal with the effects of broken and dysfunctional homes.  It would seem, then, that the greatest good we can do for society is to create and maintain a solid home foundation.

It's taken me a long time for my social activist mind to figure this out, but I'm glad I'm finally starting to get it.

What my home will look like:

A refuge of comfort and security, where you know you are loved and accepted.
An environment where hard work is taught and expected, with the understanding that anything can be accomplished if one is willing to work for it.
Pictures and decorations of things that are the most important adorning the walls.
Cozy nooks for cuddling and couches for lounging, because relaxing is an important part of a balanced life.
A collection of books and movies that teach good principles and values.
Ways to have good, clean fun: a basketball hoop, board games, classic non-violent video games, bookshelves, Foosball, baseball gloves,  music, coloring books, chalk, bubbles, crafts supplies, etc.
An attitude of gratitude that is communicated through constant service both in and outside of the home.
TONS of delicious (and yet secretly fairly healthy) food!
A place where expectations are clear, communication is two-way, and everyone feels just challenged enough that it helps them work hard to become better.
A stark absence of anger, contention, and harsh words.
Tickle fights and wrestling
Honesty
Abundant words of authentic praise
Gentle guidance
Honest discussions about serious things 
A rhetoric of value-laden words with which to talk about life's experiences
A place where truth is taught and lived
Teaching by example.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Day 8: Nicole

After almost 2 hours on the phone with her today, I remembered that there are some things only sisters can share and understand. I love her dearly, and I am so grateful that we have one another.

Day 7: Temples


I am so grateful that we have a place on this earth to block out the unimportant things and remember who we are in the divine scheme of things.

Mesa, Arizona temple.
Where my parents were married, and Sadek and I visited this spring.

The temple I grew up attending, literally set on a hill.
Oakland, California

When driving in Washington D.C. as a little girl, we turned a corner and I saw this temple...
and if I had my choice, I would get married here.


The breathtaking Celestial room in the Brigham City, Utah temple.
I had the very special opportunity to go to the open house earlier this semester.
Provo, Utah.
Maybe not the most magnificent temple, but the one I've attended almost every week for the past  3 1/2 years.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Day 5 & 6

Democracy and Agency.

There is a very good reason God let 1/3 of his children choose a different plan- it's because of how incredibly much He values agency. We may not always make the best choices, but our ability to choose in the first place is the most important part of, I would argue, our existence. Without choices there would be no true feeling, no learning, no accountability, no progression, no goodness. If we didn't have the ability to choose wrong, there would be no virtue in choosing right.

I am grateful for a government system that, despite its flaws, seeks to honor individual agency. The democratic system often makes life more difficult and messy, but it does so in preservation of our precious gift of agency. And so, as a country, we are able to make choices and be collectively accountable for the consequences. It is in this way that we learn, grow, and mature. Our system isn't perfect, but it does pretty well for the mass of imperfect beings who participate in it. I am grateful that I have the right and privilege of voting.

I am grateful that I have the agency to make mistakes, and agency to choose to follow principles of I can personally develop testimony.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Day 4: Fruit Snacks

Yes, I have a whole day dedicated to fruit snacks. Not the healthiest snack, but not the worst either. Fruit snacks have brought me so much joy at many needed moments. I've shared them with others (including unwittingly to a random testing center stranger), and I fully plan to share them with my children. I love fruit snacks!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Day 3

I'm grateful for divine agency that allows me to choose how I want to respond to circumstances. It is a wonderful blessing to know that I can choose to be happy in any situation- and that happiness need not be contingent on knowing that I'm in the best of all possible circumstances. To the extent possible, I should shape my choices in a way that creates good circumstances- but these will never be perfect. And yet, they can seem so, because I have the capacity to choose joy, charity, and love- which fill any situation with a degree of lasting happiness.

Gratitude experiment: Day 2

Today's note will be brief, bit no less important for brevity.

I am grateful for the ways in which I've been able to experience love. For the strong feelings of protective love I've had for my little brother, the deep bond of companionate love I've developed with good friends and family, the passionate love that has taught me much and occasionally gotten me into trouble, and for the true love that has taught me the joy of sacrifice and service for those you hold dear.

Love can be painful, because you extend your heart to someone who you know doesn't know exactly how to hold it. But you do it anyway, because love isn't about how well someone else holds your heart, but about how carefully you hold theirs.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

A Gratitude Experiment

I've learned a lot about gratitude lately,  most notably how to recognize and be grateful for the things that are really important.  Often, that comes in the form of recognizing the hand of God in my life.  True gratitude is born in the moments when I realize that those I surround myself with are really excellent people who love me deeply- whether that be friends, family, strangers, or deity.  It's never really things that provide the joy that leads to gratitude (or vice versa), but what those things mean or symbolize because of their connection with people.

So, for the next twenty-two days, I'm going to pay more attention to these meaningful experiences in my life, articulating and documenting how they have touched and changed my life.

Day 1:
Today I want to express my gratitude for scriptures that contain the Word of God.  I am so grateful for the Old and New Testaments, Book of Mormon, Pearl of Great Price, and Doctrine and Covenants.  I've struggled with consistent scripture study off and on in my life, but I've noticed that I feel the most grounded, blessed, and loving when I make daily study in the holy scriptures a priority.  I know that in these sacred texts I can and do find eternal truths that help guide and direct me in my life.  Through the scriptures, I am reminded that I am eternally loved by my Heavenly Father (see John 15: 9-15).  I learn that service is the greatest sign of love, and that the best leaders teach through example (see Mosiah 2:12-18).  When I am out of sorts, I can remember through the scriptures that love, kindness, meekness, forgiveness, and childlike qualities are the basis of goodness- not anger, resentment, bitterness or harsh words (see Luke 6:31-35 and Mosiah 3:19).  The scriptures provide stories of great women and men whose examples I can emulate (Abish, Moroni, Jacob, Mary, Emma, Moses).  And most importantly, they teach of the merciful, just, and infinite Atonement of our Savior, through which we are forgiven, healed, and perfected (see Atonement).

Glimpses into the scriptures remind me that life is about more than our school, job, athletic achievements, and even intelligence.  Life is about learning, growing, and enduring challenges well.  Some of the most stalwart disciples and incredible people in this life have not accomplished much by the world's standards, but they have grown into the type of person a Heavenly Father can be proud of.  The scriptures tell the stories of these people.

I am grateful for the hundreds of generations of work and sacrifice that have gone into the writing, preservation, and translation of the scriptures I can now access through tangible books, on my computer and phone, and through various languages and printings (like the Arabic and 1860 versions on my bookshelf at home).  It is such a blessing that I can study these pages at will, and that I can be blessed by their divine spirit and content daily.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Wisdom I learn from my students:

"Prepare and prevent is better than repair and repent."

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Today's smiles

I'm grateful for many things today.  Here's just a few:

-Running. Yesterday at physical therapy I was able to run a mile (PAIN FREE!) for the first time in over 4 months.
-Music.  Pandora has made the world of paper-grading so much more enjoyable.
-Students who care.  In grading papers, I can tell how much effort some of these students put into the paper, and I'm learning so much from them!  Also, I got the mid-semester evaluations back, and got to read some really nice comments. :-)  Nothing like some good positive feedback.
-Physical health.  Sometimes I forget how lucky I am to be healthy, and to know enough about health to take care of others.
-Skills. No, but really.  I'm grateful I've had the opportunity in my life to learn basic skills like reading, writing, cooking, cleaning, etc. that allow me to be a competent individual in this world.  I love being able to contribute to the Kingdom.
-Snow.  Yes, it's freezing.  But there's something beautiful about getting to get all snuggly in sweaters, scarves, and boots.  Plus, now I have a legitimate excuse to go get caramel apple cider!
-People.  When I take a few moments to look at the people around me, really look, I can see their goodness, and how they try to share it with the world.  I love being surrounded, as C. S. Lewis puts it, by potential gods and goddesses. It truly is no small thing.

Smile a little today.  We live in a beautiful world with fantastic challenges and opportunities.

Monday, October 22, 2012

crazy whirlwind weekend

one hour drive - flight - three hour drive - high school football game - meeting little brother's friends - phone call - sleep - wedding wedding wedding - laughter - hugs - hiding - i love you - one hour drive - delicious soup - conversations with parents - basket weaving - phone call - sleep - church - deep thoughts - nap - drive two hours - family - giants game - nephew - sister - emotionally draining - laughter - competition - hugs - spaghetti - drive two hours - phone call - brother's bed - sleep - fire - serious talk - three hour drive - flight - short deep conversation - one hour drive - new taylor swift album - hugs - kisses - real relaxation - playing - grocery shopping - sweet note -  made bed - roommate moments - sleeping stationary spiders - teasing - tired - roommate bonding - realization - sleep

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Master Healer

Note: This post is highly personal. All are welcome to read it, I would just add a respectful reminder that I do not talk about my beliefs to preach or indoctrinate others, but rather to share some of what is most sacred to my heart.

"Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also more hard to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say “My tooth is aching” than to say “My heart is broken.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

In Sunday School today we were discussing Christ's visit to the Americas in 3 Nephi. The teacher invited us to ponder on what we would do in that situation. It's a soul searching question.

In chapter 17, He heals all of the people, those that were afflicted in any manner. I know many that are hurting, that are wounded. Some of the pain is physical, but the more pervasive wounds that I know of are the emotional, mental, and spiritual ones. This is that pain that aches deep inside, the kind that we don't know a way out of.

There are a number of people in my life right now who are experiencing all sorts of pain. My heart aches for them. Possibly because I understand to some degree what it means to hurt. Or in part because I see a small part of their suffering, and know that there is so much more I can't see. I want to heal their wounds, to make them whole...but I can't. Not truly.

Which is how I know that, were the Savior to come to my home, my greatest desire would be to take him to those that are hurting, to have him administer to their needs in ways that I never could. I would want him to make them whole.

The Savior isn't physically here today, but that doesn't mean he isn't with us. Over the past year I have learned firsthand how deeply He cares for me, and how many of my wounds he can heal through faith and prayer. It isn't the same as having him physically with me, but it's also not as if he has abandoned me. It takes more faith, more patience, and more trust- but all of that is part of the experience of mortality. We are here to learn, but we are not here because we are intended to hurt forever. There is a way for us to have healing. There is a way to experience joy, love, and continual hope. He is the way.

And I am so, so grateful for it.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Missing

There is a wonderful sense of wholeness in missing.

A bittersweet moment when you realize that you can't go a day without the sound of someone's voice- and the truth you knew all along: their voice will only make you miss being in their presence.

Missing is beautiful, because missing holds within it the promise of being whole again.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

mid-week mind-shift

I have to admit, this week it's been hard to focus on the positive.  After a weekend of over a dozen hours of listening to Moby Dick, I faced a week of 3 papers to write, 2 midterms to take, and an entire class of papers to grade.  That, coupled with the fact that I'm flying home on Friday to spend the weekend in a whirlwind of wedding and family events- and thus no weekend time to catch up on school and work.

And when I get overwhelmed, the most important things drop out and I can't seem to do anything but find (and create) negative thoughts.  It's a terrible cycle.

So this morning, in the midst of a head full of negative thoughts and attitudes, I decided I'd better at least make an effort to "act, and not be acted upon" [See 2 Nephi 2:26].  On my way to class, I pulled out my phone and started reading where I'd left off in the Gospel of Mark.  I wasn't reading with the best intent, but I was at least making an effort.  

When I arrived at class, I soon found out that class was cancelled.  Initially, I was upset at my professor for not informing us ahead of time, but then checked myself and realized I was very grateful for the opportunity to spend that extra hour writing my paper.  So I packed up my bag and headed home.

On the walk home, I passed a lot of people.  One young man had a wonderful, sincere smile on his face.  I gave him a funny sort of look, to which he continued to return a smile.  Finally I smiled in return, and his face softened a bit, as if to say, "I know you're feeling down, so I want to show you some kindness".  It was such a little thing, but it softened my heart.

A few minutes later, my dear friend Hannah called me to say hi for just a few minutes.  She reminded me that I am loved, cared for, and thought about.  It was a lovely surprise and blessing.

And so, with all of these reminders and blessings, I want to conclude with a greater determination to notice the small and simple goodness in our lives every day.  Because, as Elder Carl B. Cook reminded us last October, "It's better to look up".

Today, I am grateful for:
-Brisk fall weather that leaves the trees an array of brilliant colors and the sky full of clouds
-Cancelled class that gives me more time to count my blessings and finish my homework
-Sweet roommates with cool ideas and gentle, kind words
-A call from Hannah to remind me that I am remembered
-The opportunity to go home and share important events with friends and family
-The technology that allows me to do research, both secular and spiritual, from virtually anywhere
-Music to calm my spirit and my nerves
-A gospel perspective that provides hope, truth, and light even (and especially) in the darkest of times

Friday, October 12, 2012

Afternoon self-talk

With other people, it's imperative to focus on the positive.  Nothing inhibits growth like someone who does nothing but nag, complain, and demean.  And yet, we all have the urge to tell others what to be doing better. In some respects, it's part of good communication.  But I came across a quote today that reminded me that we don't have to do it alone:
"Tell others the positive, and tell God the negative"
Praise others, point out their positive aspects, and love them.  And then take your concerns to God.  If they are truly important, He will help those you love improve themselves.  Don't stress about fixing people, and if you do have concerns that shouldn't be immediately discussed, save them for prayer.  Then you'll have so much more time and energy to better love others.

*sigh* I love how complicated I can make life, when the answers are really so very simple.

The metaphor seems clear to me.  What about you?


Friday, October 5, 2012

Thursday, September 27, 2012

a little more on love

My mom sent me a link to this blog today that shared some lovely thoughts on loving others.  I could repeat the words, but I think I'll just send you to the original, because it's beautiful.

Love is the grand motive.  I hope I can come closer every day to making it my motive.
"Love is what inspired our Heavenly Father to create our spirits; it is what led our Savior to the Garden of Gethsemane to make Himself a ransom for our sins. Love is the grand motive of the plan of salvation; it is the source of happiness, the ever-renewing spring of healing, the precious fountain of hope.” 
-President Dieter F. Uchtdorft, April 2010 "You are My Hands" 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Optimism & Ethical Phenomenology

Recently I've been thinking a lot about what it means to have charity, what it means to be happy.  Two things I learned today have helped with that.

Optimism
Today a devotional was given in which the speaker outlined five ways to be positive in a negative world.  I was a little skeptical at first, but I loved his approach on what is most important.

1) Remember that righteousness does not mean perfection.  
He told a story of how once his daughter heard him say a "bad word".  She ran to mom and said, "I thought dad was perfect!".  The mother, in her wisdom, said, "Dad isn't perfect, but he is righteous."  And that is enough.
2) Life is really hard, but keep trying anyway.
Sometimes all we can do is get back up-even though we know how easily everything can be pulled out from under our feet again.  He quoted one of my favorite verses of scripture as well, Doctrine and Covenants 123:17 Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed.
3) Keep your eyes on Heavenly Father.
He told a beautiful story about his daughter being put out for surgery, and how she looked into his eyes and listened to his calming voice as the anesthesiologist administered the drug and she eventually faded away.  This reminds us that our Heavenly Father is always nearby- we need only look into his eyes and hear his voice.
4) Heavenly Father's approval is the only approval that matters.
When others' thoughts are what matter to us, often we don't live up to our potential.  We forget that our eternal Father is our loudest and most enthusiastic cheerleader- and it is only His approval that will matter in the eternities.  Those who truly love you will seek to help you gain His approval by aligning their ideals with His, not by forcing their own upon you.
5) Look for and remember the true joy in our lives.
This was perhaps the most poignant point for me.  He talked about keeping a daily journal, and how daunting that can seem.  But then he noted that President Henry B. Eyring once talked about how he wrote just a few lines in his journal every night by answering this one question: “Have I seen the hand of God reaching out to touch us or our children or our family today?”  It is in those moments- the moments when we recognize divine inspiration in the form of tender mercies, humor, or promptings to help others- that we experience true joy.  And looking back at those moments will help us to remember that we aren't left alone- there is always something in our lives that reminds us of our loving Father who watches over and cares for us.  It is so easy to forget, and so difficult to remember.

Ethical Phenomenology
A few hours later, in class, we discussed Ethical Phenomenology, a perspective championed by Emmanuel Levinas that holds that our values and ethics are the most important part of our existence.  From this perspective:

1) It is our nature to care for and be responsible for one another.
2) It is our infinite responsibility to care for one another, and we are reminded of this by the distinct and unique faces of those with whom we interact.
3) We can betray our inherent goodness, but it will always be a betrayal.

I love this idea, because I believe it is very true and fundamental.  We are responsible for how we interact with others, and when we follow the divine example of our Savior, we learn the importance of caring for each person around us, because they are our spirit brothers and sisters.  This is no small calling.  And I would propose that, through our world of distant relationships that occur over telephone, texting, and the internet, we so easily lose sight of the true humanity of those around us.  It is so much harder to deny the needs of a person when you are sitting face to face with them than over the phone or email.  It is so much easier to be self-centered, self-focused, and egoistic when real human interactions with others are rare.  I would purport that social interaction isn't just a fun part of the way we are wired as humans, but the way in which we connect with and meet the needs of others- for whom we have a fundamental responsibility.

Now, I don't mean to say that we should sacrifice our own health and sanity to do this.  In fact, as my sweet boyfriend reminded me this weekend, doing so is actually just as selfish as not helping in the first place, because we must be able to take care of ourselves to the extent that we aren't depending on someone else to come pick our neglected pieces and put us back together.  We all do the best we can with ourselves, while remembering that we are a universal human family with responsibilities to love and care for one another.  We do this first and foremost within our families, and then, as time and means permit, we reach out to those in our communities and around the world.  But we are deceiving ourselves if we think our sole responsibility is to ourselves.  We are here to love and serve one another, just as we have seen exemplified in the loving sacrifice and service of our Heavenly Father and our Elder Brother.

So those are my thoughts for today.  It's been a good day for pulling together ideas that have been in my head for ages, and it feels relieving to write them down.  I love learning things that help me develop my worldview in ways that are more and more consistent with the way things really are, and in ways that will help me to be a better sister, friend, girlfriend, daughter, and child of God.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

meaningful moments

Recently I've been a little prone to complain about the daily grind of life.  About the dullness of waking up early every morning to go to the gym, attending a long day of classes, and then spending the evening after dinner with more homework.  Sleep, wake up, and do it all again.

But every once in a while, there are moments that shake things up.  And to be honest, they happen more often than I acknowledge, and they are what make life worth living.  They give life meaning.

Moments
...like seeing my boyfriend smile constantly while eating food, watching roadrunner cartoons, and chatting with friends.
...when I get to help a struggling student understand material and prepare for a test.
...when I accidentally step in a puddle, almost get upset, and then jump in on purpose!
...after class with my English professor when I come to understand that the "cowboy" ideal of men in our society is attractive, but true manhood is so different than John Grady Cole.
...when I lay in bed for ten minutes before getting up, contemplating the beauty of the world and the blessing of being alive.

It's easy to get hung up on the little things of everyday.  But life is so much better when I focus on making meaning in all of those moments.

Also, it's about time.  I'm going to read this book.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

A great day...and baseball

Today was a great day- went to the farmer's market (tomatoes!), drove to Lindon for car errands, made loads of delicious food (including my first successful batch of guacamole), watched BYU football cream Weber State, finished up some homework, laughed a lot, and had a lovely evening tonight watching "A League of Their Own".  I'm glad we both love baseball movies!

One quote from the movie I loved:

"If it was easy, everyone would do it.  The hard is what makes it great."  

It's true- it is the hard parts that make life great.  And the hard parts that make the good parts so much better.  Like how my sweet boyfriend told me over and over again today how much he liked the guacamole I made.  Or when he saved me the last bit of the lemon bar.  Or when my roommate made my bed and straightened up a little in my terribly messy room.  Life is hard, but the hard is what makes it great.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

thank you, Yellowcard, for saying the words my heart couldn't find

You never know how much you want something until you have to fight for it.

I loved you first.
I love you still.
I always will.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

um...

Last night I dreamed about using the word "askance" wrong dozens of times.  Is this because I woke up at 3am and checked my GRE scores?  Probably.

I'm going to shower today.  And then MAYBE make peach cobbler.  Maybe.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Feedback confessional

One of the things that is really important to me is feedback- and I'd argue that it's important to all of us.  Whether it's feedback from things, ourselves, deity, or those around us, it's important.  In fact, in some aspects of the military, they break soldiers by just not giving them ANY feedback for a number of weeks.  No feedback ends up breaking people faster than even only negative feedback.

While negative feedback is important too, I strongly believe that reinforcement is much more effective than punishment.  And because giving negative feedback isn't usually what we struggle with, lately I've been working on the positive.  Silly things, it seems.  Calling a department store manager to let them know about a particularly helpful employee.  Filling out an online survey to point out someone who was doing a good job under pressure.  Letting those around me know I appreciate all the little things they do every day.  


It might seems silly- people tell me all the time that we shouldn't recognize people for normal things.  But I disagree.  If people are doing something good, even if it's normal for them, shouldn't it be recognized?  That's like saying we're only going to award good grades for students who were previously getting bad grades.  Improvement IS good, but it's not the only thing that deserves to be appreciated.  Those who have been working hard the whole time deserve recognition too.  
Yesterday, I was in Jamba Juice running an errand for my roommate.  It was CRAZY busy.  There was one girl who you could tell was new, and she was trying hard, but the pressure was getting to her.  She had a few minor slip-ups, and her boss was pretty condescending.  But she was working HARD and, despite the busyness, she delivered my order with a genuine smile.  And I really appreciated it.    
I strongly believe in feedback.  And I also believe in aiming to make our ratio of positive to negative feedback 5:1- in all aspects of life.  I don't want to be the person who only reports complaints.  I will report them when I have them, but until I do I'll focus on all of the good experiences.  I'm not saying we should make stuff up- I'm saying I want to notice the good more.  It's not that it's not there- I think I just take it for granted.  And happiness doesn't come from things getting better- it comes from realizing how great things really are.

Post Script: I know that a lot of people will disagree with me on this.  The more I think about it, though, the more the I realize that I want this to be one of the overriding philosophies of my life.  I want to show people that I appreciate them for all of the good things, and then deal with the bad when they come up- with kindness and a greater outpouring of love. [see Doctrine and Covenants 121: 41-45]

Top Ten

...in no particular order.

1. Running through the sprinklers.
2. Ordering books for my last semester
3. Helping a lost shopping cart find its way home.
4. Cookiedough and Simply juice
5. Feeling the burden of anger be replaced by the peace of tangible forgiveness.
6. Spontaneous Moosebutter songs
7. Roommate prayer
8. Helping calm down a little girl who had locked herself out of her house.
9. A boyfriend who knows me well enough to know that an orange tea set will make me smile for weeks!
10. Conversations about ideas that feed my soul and make me feel alive.

Peace.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Honesty

One of the hardest things for me is deciding that the truth is more important than someone getting upset about it.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

perfect word vomit

Disclaimer: this is honestly word vomit.  I didn't even try and proofread.

Today I realized just how much I have to be grateful for.  And I'm going to be incredibly honest about it.

Today I took the GRE, and it was honestly the scariest test of my life.  But I did GREAT.  I didn't do perfect, or even as well as I probably thought I was capable of, but I did really well, and I did well for the schools I'm wanting to apply to.  And all the while I got to learn an awesome lesson about humility: I don't have to be the best, I just need to do well enough to get me to the next step in my life.  So I can stop fussing about how I could have been better, and just focus on being good enough to learn what it is I need to learn.

In the temple today I met a girl who is pretty much me two years ago.  She's considering changing her major to psychology, and she has so many questions and so much confusion.  I chatted with her a little, but then had to leave.  It seemed silly and presumptuous, but I gave her a note with my email so that she could let me know if she had any more questions.  I honestly didn't think she'd email me, but tonight when I got home she had- almost immediately.  Turns out I was acting on inspiration as an answer to prayer.  Acting on faith does indeed lead to power.

I also realized today that I don't have to make big decisions yet.  I'm happy with what I'm learning, how I'm helping others, and the moments that I feel happy.  Tonight was one of those moments.  I got pretty, went to Five Guys with my awesome boyfriend, and laughed and danced and sang all the way to Smiths for delicious drinks (I'm officially a fan of IZZES- try the delicious drink without added sugar and with two whole servings of fruit!) and then back home.  I made a skirt from the dress I wore to my dad's wedding that was too short- and that was a lovely sort of catharsis in and of itself.  We watched LOST and had a real discussion about the ins and outs of torture and the idealist versus practical views of when the end justifies the means.  Fascinating- and I really love being able to expand my point of view with new ideas.

I'm at an awesome point in life.  I'm moving this week to a brand new apartment, where I get to live with people I love and make new friends while still keeping in touch with a ward I have great friends in.  I'm graduating from college here pretty soon, and I have a great resume, gpa, and test scores that will help me get into a top tier conflict resolution program.  I'm TAing for a class that I love, all while getting to totally revamp the curriculum.  Next week I get a chance to have an authentic interaction with my mother.  Tomorrow I get to play volleyball and start packing.  And I have beautiful opportunities to help build my future family in the distance.

There may be tons of things I don't know, questions I don't have answered, and concerns that haven't gone away...but I also have so many things I DO know, questions I DO know the answers to, and concerns that HAVE gone away.  I've learned so much recently, and I'll only learn more.  I am so blessed.  I can literally feel the power of heaven behind me.

And that, more than anything, is what I've been noticing:  when we act on faith, Heavenly Father gives us power.

http://vimeo.com/3508632  One day.  But until then, I thank you all so much for believing in me.  I believe in you.  (But I don't believe in Harvey Dent.)

Monday, August 13, 2012

clarity

I had a long, cryptic, and emotional blog post written this morning....but it just feels like adding to the mess.  So all I'll say is this:

I need to be done with confusion.  
The little girl trapped inside my head is ready to stop spinning in circles, but there has to be way out.  
I need clarity and simplicity.



And that is what I'm out to find.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Laughter

When I get really tired, I laugh a lot and I'm REALLY silly! Tonight, I discovered that my laugh ranges from gigglebox to Ganandorf, bottomed out by snorts that can be induced by mere suggestion. I'm crazy!

I haven't laughed this hard in a long time. Laughter is so healing. It has a way of letting out fear, anxiety, and past pent up stuff. Laughter is the ultimate way to be in the now-to live and breathe and enjoy the beauty of the moment. And laughing makes you tired, that perfect balance of physical exhaustion and mental resignation. Laughter heals the soul. And souls have needed so much healing lately.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

a note from John Gottman

I'm taking the quickest of breaks from outlining the new textbook my professor is using for psych 111 this fall, because I want to share this section of text with you.  This particular passage is about research done by John Gottman, a psychologist who specializes in marriage relationships.

"One of Gottman's key observations is the ratio of positive to negative comments in a couple's discussion of a problem.  Happy couples make 5 times more positive comments about each other and their relationship during these discussions (e.g., we laugh a lot versus we never have any fun).

In several places in this textbook, we have emphasized how the human mind is skewed toward the negative, like noticing bitter tastes over sweet.  This slant suggests that it is all too easy to focus on your partner's negative qualities, which will lead to negative emotions and conflict.  If we put our relationships on evolutionary cruise control, the ratio of positive to negative comments might drop to a point where the relationship is in danger.  Maintaining a more positive outlook on your partner requires attention and work."

Point made?  The way we talk to another person in a relationship isn't just "natural".  It takes work, dedication, and a whole lot of effort to make sure that we notice, point out, and dwell on the positive aspects of the relationship instead of the negative.  We are WIRED to do the opposite.  We aren't wired to talk about the positive things, and yet that's what relationships require to survive.  It's hard, but I it's also worth it.  Not just that, it's essential!

ok, ok, ranting done.  happy picture of a happy couple, just to leave things on a happy note...

Thursday, August 9, 2012

On Being a Girl

Recently I've realized something: there is a difference in the way I view myself and the way I think others view me. I KNOW that I am spiritual, kind, intelligent, beautiful, powerful, and amazing.  I know that I have endured well, learned a lot, and have a vivaciousness for life that I cherish.  I have come a long way, and I am proud of the person I am becoming.  But sometimes when I'm around others, especially men, I let that slip away.  For some reason, I focus on physicality, "sexiness" (whatever that means), and those things for attention.  Because here's the thing: it's easier.  It's faster.  Physicality can garner attention in an instant, but it leaves just as quickly.  Respect, on the other hand, comes when others see your true self.  It takes time to build, and it takes a lot to destroy.  So why not just focus on what really matters?

This is easier said than done, obviously.  But I think what makes it hardest is when others are pulled into the same trap we are.  I've been listening to Pandora quite a bit lately, and for some reason the ONLY advertisement that my station plays is for breast enhancement surgery.  I'm someone that has always been 100% against physical alterations for the sake of being pretty- I don't like wearing much makeup, I think working out and diets for the sake of weight and not health are absolute lunacy, and expensive and invasive procedures for the sole sake of altering natural appearances usually make me gag.  But after a few hours of hearing this commercial over and over, I started to wonder.  Will my husband expect that?  Am I not the right size? etc.  So what did I do?  Being the slightly strange person I am, I wrote Pandora an email, kindly letting them know my concern about the type of advertisements on their stations and the message it was sending to women and girls.  Because here's the thing:  most of the physical things we worry about and want to change about ourselves wouldn't even cross our minds unless someone else was doing them.  And it has to start somewhere.

A friend recommended this blog post to me today, and I agree with every single world.  Take a read, it really does define what is most important for our children to know.

I echo her sentiment: 
I hope enough brave girls band together, support one another and reject the world's counterfeit definition of beauty.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Life is Scary

I'm officially taking the GRE in two weeks.

After hours of research, my list of possible graduate schools has been narrowed to less than 10.

Life is scary.  It's exciting that I have so many wonderful opportunities, but it's also scary.  Because opportunities means choices, and not always choices between good and bad.  All choices have consequences, and some choices just come down to a personal preference of which choices you would rather have. 

 i strongly dislike making decisions.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Role Models

We have a lot of unrealistic role models in our world.  Ads, movies, even the people around us can lead us to set unrealistic expectations and focus on the things that don't really matter that much.  I'm sick of bad role models, ones who teach us to be materialistic and picture perfect at all costs.  So instead, I'd like to share a video about a girl who I think could be a better role model.

Most of my close friends/family have heard me rant about how sad I am that Nellie got kicked off of The Glee Project (go ahead, laugh at my obsession), but I think this video can give you a pretty good idea why.  She wasn't all about looks, she wasn't fake, and I believe she had the potentially to be a really good example for girls about forming your own definitions of attraction, etc. based on things that are more important.

when it's too much...push back

but NEVER give in.

If my life has taught me anything, it's that I can push through anything.  When no one else can be strong, I can.  I may not be able to make decisions, but I can climb over any wall, solve any problem, remedy any situation, and tackle any problem.  There's nothing that can't be solved with blood, sweat, tears, and prayer.  I may come out the other side bruised, broken, and torn- But I always come out.

Monday, July 30, 2012

selective underloading

I'm a fan of education.  Really.  I'm a university student, and hopefully someday soon I'll be enrolled in a graduate program.  But in some areas, our world has progressed from education and begun to border on overload.

Information is available so easily and anyone can upload anything, that it's to the point where discernment is the most important skill of the age.  It's not whether the right information is out there, but whether we can find it, recognize it, and not get distracted by all the other clutter.

Additionally, because it seems all the information already exists, it's easy to use media as a cop out for thinking for ourselves.  Media seems to be say, "Don't develop your own opinion, just find someone else's you mostly agree with.  Who cares what it is you want your life to be?  Everyone else has it figured out, so just follow them."

I'm not just talking about academics and work here.  There's more at stake than that.  The proliferation of insane amounts of information in various forms of media makes it almost impossible for us to decide for ourselves what is real.  How often do we assume that the pictures we see on Facebook, the scenes from movies, or the headlines in newspapers is how life really ought to be?  It's insanely easy to feel like we're missing out or just plain doing life wrong.

I'm feeling inclined to purge myself from all these ideas and instead have some of my own.  I'm not saying NO to all media, but I think I'm going to take some time to be more selective about the kind I consume.  There's enough chaos going on in my head without hundreds of other opinions about how life and love ought to be to confuse me.

And yes, I recognize the irony of posting this on my blog.

Friday, July 6, 2012

A better perspective

I am not the most beautiful girl in the world, but I am pretty.

I am not the best athlete, but I enjoy sports and have a natural competitive drive.

I am not the smartest person at this University, but I have good writing and problem solving skills.

I am not the hardest worker, but I do work hard and try to find time to relax.

I am not the best cook, but I make food for those I love.

I am not always the most careful with finances, but I'm learning how to budget and be frugal.

I will not be the best mother, but I will do the best with what I know.

I am not the best at everything, but I am the best at being me.

And I am enough.  

Busyness

Disclaimer: Many of these thoughts come from an amazing article in the New York Times my roommate referred me to about self-imposed business.  I loved it.

For the past week, and for the next 8, I will be unabashedly NOT busy.  I am not taking classes or working, and it's a nice break after doing both since August.  I'm just studying for the GRE, figuring out stuff for grad school, and taking care of some small practical things like laundry and scholarships.  Other than that, I'm having adventures, creating culinary masterpieces (kinda...), taking long afternoon naps, and making spontaneous trips.  I'm enjoying a BREAK.  

But here's the thing: I feel intense nagging guilt.  Not because there are specific things I ought to be doing.  No, I do those.  I get my to-do list done every day, and then some.  Guilt because I have free time.  Guilt because I'm not overly booked and busy.  

And yet I'm learning something very important: when I'm busy, I lean toward narcissistic.  I think we all do.  It makes us feel important.  But when I'm not busy, I have time to take care of myself and others.  I have time to make those I love feel important.  And I have time to feel loved.

I also have time to feel other things though.  Things that the busyness blocks out.  And I'm realizing that being busy is really just a coping mechanism against the emptyness and scary feelings I'd have to face if it was gone. 

Being busy doesn't make you better- it doesn't even make you good.  The most important thing we can do or build while on this earth is real, lasting relationships.  And those relationships are best when we are calm, have time to relax, and are able to focus all of our attention on one person at a time.  Busyness isn't necessarily productivity- and productivity isn't the end goal.  Who cares how much you can produce if you don't have anyone to love?

What I know

Relaxing is vital to survival, sanity, and kindness.

Sulfur in the air causes rain- so apparently fireworks are good for forest fires.

Being happy isn't wrong, it's beautiful.  Enjoy it.

Sillyness is the butter of relationships.  Cuddling and conversation is the bread.

When the situation arises, the right words will come.

Everyone is doing the best with what they know.

Remember compassion and understanding, then add practicality and advice.

God doesn't make mistakes, but he does make miracles.

Sometimes living in the now is okay, it's even good.  
Because it's only when we truly appreciate the moment that we are able to use it to understand the past and learn for the future.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

One step

There comes a moment in every decision where I suddenly realize what I have to do.  I realize that the black and white way of looking at things, the assumption that it's all or nothing, is WRONG.  It's this moment that I never anticipate, and that I never think I'll find- but I always do.  There is a way, and there is a plan.  And most of the time, we don't figure it out on our own.  But when we learn how to ask the right questions, as the right time, for the right reasons, the answers come.  Step by step, piece by blessed piece.

Tonight (or this morning), I'm grateful for one more piece.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Blessed

Lately I've had a boatload of opportunities to show the people around me that I love them, and to know that they need me.  Sometimes I complain about it, because sometimes it's hard to be everyone's rock.  But when it really comes down to it, I'm grateful for opportunities to know that I matter to others.  Because this is what love is about--this is what LIFE is about!  This is family.  And family is joy.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

An interesting view on same-sex marriage

Came across this article from my dear friend Jessie recently, and I agree with a lot of it.  It's an interesting use of ethos- the author used to be on one side of the issue, and is now arguing against her own arguments.  The main point of the article that I agree with is captured in this paragraph:
I initially approached the marriage question from a fundamentally incorrect starting position — implicitly adopting the argument that marriage exists for the benefit of adults, for their fulfillment and enjoyment.  This is a fundamentally selfish view of marriage (I’m getting married to fulfill me).  Instead, marriage is the fundamental building block of the family, the cultural cornerstone of a society, and it exists primarily for the benefit not of adults but of children.
And I believe she's right.  Marriage isn't for the parents, it's for the children.  Selfishness has no place in marriage, and we as a society have done seemingly everything possible in the past few decades to counteract that.  


This isn't just about same-sex marriage, it's about all marriages.  It's about the problems that have arisen from no-fault divorce laws and similar functions that, while originally designed to protect abused parties, have descended into a downward spiral of selfishness that we not only practice but teach through word and example to the rising generation.


Read the whole article here: http://blog.speakupmovement.org/university/uncategorized/i-was-wrong-about-marriage/

Monday, June 18, 2012

Vulnerability

Now that I'm out of school for the first time since August, I've been doing some cleaning out and catching up.  One of the things I came across that I wanted to document was my notes from Brene Brown's talk on The Power of Vulnerability.  Here are some of my favorite quotes and concepts:


First off, connection is why we're here-it gives purpose and meaning to our lives.

And it follows: it takes courage to be imperfect.

We must have have the courage to have compassion with ourselves first, and then with others, because as it turns out we can't practice compassion with other people unless we can treat ourselves kindly.

Here's a huge, mind-blowing, and completely true asserting: Connection is the result of authenticity.

If we fully embrace vulnerability, what makes us vulnerable makes us beautiful.

How to be vulnerable:
Have the willingness to say I love you first, do something when there are no assurances, and invest in a relationship that may or may not work out.

You cannot selectively numb! [...but really]

Love with our whole hearts, even though there's no guarantee.

We need to practice gratitude and joy, especially in those moments of terror when we're wondering 'can I love you this much?', 'can I believe in this this passionately?', 'can I be this fierce about this?', to just stop and instead of catastrophizing what might happen say: I'm just so grateful, because to feel this vulnerable means I'm alive.

Believe that we're enough. When we stop screaming and we start listening, we are able to be kinder and gentler to ourselves and others.

Ideas

In cleaning out my email today I found this quote, and it explains well why I believe ideas are so powerful:


“Ideas, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed, the world is ruled by little else .... I am sure that the power of vested interests is vastly exaggerated compared with the gradual encroachment of ideas."
John Maynard Keynes

Monday, June 11, 2012

james joyce-ing it up

I've tried not to do this recently, but I'm on my computer and I can type a gabagillion times faster than I could ever write.

Everything is going to explode.  There's nothing new, nothing that's hard again--in fact things are just starting to get easier in a lot of ways.  But all the hard that has been happening lately, all the stuff that I've said is just fine and that I'm strong enough to handle...well, I'm NOT.  And shoving it down into the bottom of the ice cream cone doesn't help anyone, it just makes it harder to get to the chocolate candy at the bottom.  [stupid metaphor, I know.  it doesn't even make sense].  It's just...well, I don't know how to be anyone except the girl that gets things done.  I don't know how to believe that God could love me even if all I did was sit around all day.  But even more importantly, I don't know how to believe that balance is possible.  I feel like a break means I spend the rest of the day being worthless, or that productivity means that I can't take even one break.  It's all or nothing.  Either I stay and be perfect or I run far, far away.  All the studies say you're more productive when you take breaks, but I'm not.  I get distracted and then feel worthless and then can't do what it was I was supposed to be doing in the first place.  So I don't take breaks, I push through until I can't take it anymore and then I break.  I fall apart.  I get so strung up that all I can do is sob.  And then I'm at square one again, rejuvenated enough to move on and get some more stuff done, but never really learning how to be happy and rested.

I know I'll figure this out eventually.  It's just hard to believe when I'm still caught in the cycle.  HOPE.

too much

Happy Eyes

In the past month or so I've been frustrated by the idea of beauty and physical attraction.  I'm commandeering a blog post from a friend here, but it sort of changed by life today.  So here's her answer:
"Sometimes, when I look at my accomplishments, like a skinned elbow from a mountain trail, I feel pretty pathetic compared to beauty like [the Beauty and Belief] exhibits.  But when I think about it, the most beautiful thing about people, is when they are happy.  And whether that legacy is a bloody elbow or a beautiful stitching, people were happy--and happy eyes are the most beautiful thing. Happy eyes are the reason we make beautiful things- and as long as we are making eyes happy (ours or someone else's), we are making beauty."
Happy eyes ARE the reason we make beautiful things.  And the glorious part of this is that beauty is subjective- gloriously so.  Because of this, everything is beautiful to someone.  Everyone and everything has a place, and the diversity of expression and desire is what makes our world so rich with beautiful difference.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Love with Abandon

Someday I want to love someone so much that when they come home, I won't care who sees me run to him and jump in his arms.
Life is too short to be so guarded.  

'of one accord'

This may be my new favorite scripture on things related to romantic and marital relationships.  Enjoy.
Philippians 2:2-3
"Fulfill ye my joy, that ye be like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.
Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem the other better than themselves. "
If a real, loving relationship is ever going to be possible, you can't live in the 50/50 mindset.  Each person has to give their full 100%, and trust each other enough to believe that the other is doing the same.  As long as you're looking at the relationship in terms of  what you can get out of it, you're never putting enough in.  When your primary concern isn't your partner's needs, but your own, neither of you will ever have those needs fulfilled.  It's a type of the Prisoner's Dilemma, really: the only way for both parties to have the best possible outcome is if they put the other person first.

It's hard and scary, putting your heart in someone else's hands.  You can be brutally hurt, abused, neglected, and mistreated in many ways- and people very often are.  It's the sad truth of the world that we live in.  But when you engage in a relationship where you and your partner love God enough to put the needs of the other first, service becomes cyclical and happiness runs rampant.  It really is the only way.  Build trust, yes.  Be discerning.  Be careful whose hands you place your precious heart in.  But once you know they can be trusted, once you seem the glimmer of goodness that makes you believe in them- go all in.  It is the route that has the greatest cost, but also the only one that will reap the full possibility of benefits.