Monday, September 30, 2013

Balance

I am a workaholic.  I know, I know-- We all are.

BUT REALLY.  I won't bore you with numbers because I don't want to be proud of them.  Because the amount of time I spend at work shouldn't be something to complain/brag about.  Work should be roughly 1/3 of my life, and man it has been hard getting it there.

But today, I feel like I finally had some success in this whole balance thing.  I woke up, went to work (10 minutes later...shhhh), and then got to it.  At 11:30, I took a half hour lunch.  As if that wasn't a miracle enough, I branched out from my usual lunch of apples, carrots, grapes, and string cheese and actually ate some solid PROTEIN.  I drank water.  I treated myself to a handful of dark-chocolate acai berries.  After lunch I got back to work, focusing really hard on meeting the needs of clients, and even passed off my training qualification.  I finished the day at 4:20 (20 minutes after I'm supposed to get off) with a record 68 points.  When I got home, I had so much energy that I couldn't help clean up, cook a bit, and take a run.

Right now, I just want to revel in the fact that-so far-today has been a whopping success!

p.s. let's all ignore the fact that i now post every few months instead of days, and instead revel in the fact that this means i'm taking the time to talk to friends, family, and God

Friday, August 23, 2013

Wisdom and Knowledge

I'd like to say something.

This isn't about my daily life, except that it is.  It's about the paradigm in which I live, and the life I am trying to build.

For the past 4 years, I have been on a constant search to define truth for myself.  To know, for myself, where the truth really lies.  To be able to see things as they really are.

This sounds simple- but it's not.

Truth is something that comes in shades.  Or at least it seems to.  In fact, truth is straightforward- it's our understanding of truth that comes in layers, making the truth feel like a spectrum of gray.  In reality, it's our journey from black to white that blurs the colors.

This isn't necessarily bad- as humans we are always learning.  But we have to remember that.  Even when we learn something new, it is essential that we recognize that our knowledge only represents a step in the right direction- not the whole picture.

There are many things that we understand certain aspects of, while tending to neglect the whole.  Social and political issues represent the most poignant examples.  Everyone understands some piece correctly- but no one has the whole truth.  Some are closer than others.  Some seek for truth in the bigger picture, placing their trust in a higher power while sorting through the details.

I believe that this is true wisdom: A constant search for greater truth that is grounded in the faith of a paradigm in which one already believes.

Having spent a great deal of time running frantically from one side to the other, unsure who to believe and ever-worried that new information would rip the fragile foundation from beneath my feet, I know the dangers of fanatical knowledge-seeking.  Knowledge is not something to be consumed voraciously.  It is something to be pursued with diligence and passion, tempered and grounded in the constancy of certain Truth.

Monday, June 24, 2013

inspiration from Celeste's thesis

I had a long, grueling day at work today- 11 straight hours without a lunch break.
My head hurts like nobody's business, and I can't seem to find enough protein in this place to quiet my rumbling stomach.
I'm fighting the despair that it's only Monday, and I'm already loathing the idea of waking up and doing this all over again tomorrow.

And yet, I realize that I can "choose to persuade myself otherwise".  I can find the joy in my work- I can realize that I am in fact quite excited about passing off my Phase III qualification, taking a stab at beating the phone record, and laughing with some of our more congenial clients.  I can rejoice in my ability to discover and solve problems, eat delicious free food, and then come home to an apartment of kind friends.  I can look forward to Hannah's visit next week, real time with friends, and quiet time to ponder.

Thanks, Aristotle.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

22

Still a morning person
Still a journal writer
Still a reader
Still curly haired
Still finding my way, searching for truth, and loving to learn.
And Jacob 3 is still my favorite.

But for the first year I can remember, today I know that the best way to be happy is to find ways to love.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

For moments I forget

There is hope, peace, and joy in this world. Enough and more to overcome fear, pain, and sorrow. Enough to make every moment worth living to the fullest. And enough to remind us in each of those moments that we have an ever-loving Father who knows and ministers to our specific needs and concerns.

My Heavenly Father's plan is the reason for my hope and peace. I am forever grateful for this knowledge, and for the strength it provides each day.

Monday, May 27, 2013

One Day at a Time

As it turns out, one day at a time is totally doable. Especially when your day includes so many wonderful people and opportunities to love them.

God is good. He knows what we need. He knows that in order to have a real place in life we need opportunities to love and be loved. Today, I'm so grateful for both of those- and for the way they meld together into a solid foundation of peace and joy.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Thursday Thankfuls

Today I want to reflect on how much I have to be grateful for.

In today's economy, and as a psychology graduate, I have a job.  That is a blessing all by itself.  But to have a job that is challenging, a job I truly enjoy, and to be working for a great company with fantastic people and excellent benefits (not to mention all the food one can imagine)- that is a downright miracle.

I live in a pleasant apartment with women who both love me and give me the opportunity to love them.  My friends, family, and other acquaintances routinely provide me with opportunities to practice giving and receiving love.

I am healthy.  I have time, means, and willpower to eat well and exercise in ways that I find enjoyable!  Tonight I get to head to Peaks Ice Arena to try out my graduation present: brand new figure skates. (I might be a tad excited...)

And more than anything, I am happy.  For the past 4 months, I have figured out how to feel what I need to feel in order to regulate my emotions.  I often have days where I come home and hum and whistle as I clean the kitchen before heading onto my nightly activities.  It really doesn't matter all that much what I'm doing- because I've figured out how to choose peace and happiness.

I'm grateful to be alive, and I'm eternally grateful for knowledge of an Eternal Plan that brings me purpose, peace, and joy.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Mondays with...Lewis


Last night was crazy and I did what was needful- and it hurt, which is good, because it shows me I can still feel.  Today I started my new job and I LOVE IT.  Our boss reminded us that he didn't hire us to do a job, he hired us to think.  I feel challenged and excited and enthusiastic all at once. :-)

And because I'm going through Mere Christianity to find quotes for Jacquelyn, I'll share one that I strive to live by:
A real desire to believe all the good you can of others and to make others as comfortable as you can will solve most problems.

~ C. S. Lewis

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Follow-up Post: Bonds that Make us Free

Some of my personal thoughts, stream of consciousness style, on forgiveness, spurred by C. Terry Warner's book, Bonds that Make us Free.

Just because I know I should forgive doesn't make it easy.  There is a stark difference between a change of mind and a change of heart.  In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ declared:
Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:
But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.
And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.
Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.
Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.
  Matthew 5:38-44
I realized recently that I believe these words- with all that I am.  They resonate deeply within me.  And I think now I am beginning to understand why.  So long as my concern is in protecting myself, I cannot freely love.  This does not mean allowing myself to be abused, because that would be collusion.  What it does mean is that when I have the Spirit, and when I love others deeply, I will not act wrongly toward them.  I will desire their eternal joy, which will in turn be my greatest protection and facilitate their greatest opportunity to be kind and truthful- because kindness cleaveth unto kindness, and light unto light.

Truly loving others doesn't mean being a martyr, it means seeing and treating others as the children of God that they are.  It means frankly forgiving, and following the guidance of the Spirit to help set them up for eternal success.  When we live in constant fear that others will hurt us, we are almost asking them to.  But when we expect others to live up to their divine potential, they may actually do so- and because we are following the Savior, we will be placing ourselves in the best possible position to be warned of and protected from evil.

Don't count the cost of kindness- just do it.  In the long run it does make sense, and of course it does- it's a divine commandment, but don't wait for an apology or complete understanding of all the reasons.  Just Forgive.

Book Review: Bonds that Make us Free

Before I say anything else, I want to say this: 
Read this book.  
I won't be able to convey the full meaning of the book in this brief synopsis, and reading is really more of an experience than an accumulation of facts and quotes.  It may not touch you in the same way it touched me.  But in the off chance that it does, it's worth it.  It was a game changer.  And so I start this review with the same invitation as the preface:
Test everything...against your own thoughtfully considered experience.  If you are honest about that experience, what is true will ring true- you will not have to rely on my say-so or anybody else's.  No self-proclaimed human authority will serve you better than your own straightforward sense of what is right." (xiv) 
Bonds that Make us Free: Healing our Relationships, Coming to Ourselves, written by C. Terry Warner, focuses on the notion of a concept called self-betrayal.  Essentialy, self-betrayal occurs when we feel that we ought to act or feel in a certain way, and we don't.  This could mean a kind thought or deed we don't express or an unkind one we do.  Ultimately, each time we fail to heed these promptings, or invitations, to act in the truthfulness of who we really are, we engage in self-betrayal.  

Each time we betray ourselves, we then feel a need to justify ourselves.  We do this by coming up with excuses for our thoughts or behavior, often very externally valid ones, or by incriminating others.  Doing so leads to a process of collusion, in which we betray ourselves and practically plead with others to act wrongly toward us.  Warner argues that the basis of our pain, suffering, and unhappiness in life is self-betrayal.  According to him:
Happiness is more like a decision than a condition.  It is a decision anyone can make, anywhere, and at any time.  For it is not the enjoyableness of objects or activities or opportunities that makes us happy or unhappy; rather, our happiness, rooted in our relationships, makes objects and activities enjoyable.  Things, events, and opportunities have no value in and of themselves; they get their value from the significant part they play in our key relationships with others. Thus life's being hard does not force us to adopt a resentful attitude.  Life becomes hard to bear only when we, as self-betrayers, cast ourselves in a victim's role by regarding others as our victimizers and nurse our misfortunes as if they were badges of honor. (54)
This is especially important in our relationships with others.  "The kind of people we are cannot be separated from how we interpret the world around us...We are who we are in relation to others." (41)

So how do we attain a state of peace and joy, without betrayal?  We position ourselves with a "receptive posture toward the truth" (162), sincerely asking in each situation of tension, "Might I be in the wrong?" (197).  And one surefire way to know if we are acting truthfully is indicated in our orientation toward others.  For, as Warner states, "The emotion we experience in the presence of truth is love."  And, "The more actively we engage ourselves in bonds of love, the less susceptible we will be to getting ourselves stuck in anguished bonds of collusion."

I believe this indicates that our role as a human being is to be loving toward others- to feel and act in sincerity, love, and kindness to all those around us.  As Kierkegaard says, "Love is the expression of the one who loves, not of the one who is loved."  When we act truthfully toward others, with sincere love, we invite them to act that way toward us.  "Great is the influence of those souls who are sensitive to how they affect others (which does not mean seeking to please others but doing what will actually help them), and who govern themselves according to that sense." (pg. 320).

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Book Review: The Millionaire Next Door

So it turns out that one of the things I really care about in life is finances.  Not because I'm in debt, or because I want to be really rich someday.  Rather, I've witnessed firsthand the debilitating life situation of those who don't understand how to be responsible with money.  It leads to heartbreak and sorrow, and drives away peace.  Because of what I've seen, I am meticulous with my money.  I have kept a budget of every dollar I've spent since I was 17 years old, and I price watch like nobody's business.  I have never been in debt or borrowed money, and I never plan to.  In many regards this is because I have been incredibly blessed- I attended University largely on scholarships, and I have been blessed with good employment.  But this is also largely due to how I live- below my means.  I recognize the important difference between wants and needs, and I treat them as such.

But I also realized that I wanted to learn more.  I've never taken a finance class, and when it comes to the research, I really knew very little.  So, after a financial seminar with some women in my ward, I headed over to the Provo Library and checked out The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America's Wealthy, written by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko.  It was an excellent read.

The book is based on a boatload of legitimate research done by these two fine scholars (and the help of many others), so if you're interested I suggest reading the whole book.  There are ample graphs, charts, and stats to ensure any skeptical statistician of their sound methods.  But for my purposes, I just want to discuss the main point of the book:

Most of the truly wealthy people in America live well below their means.

Truly wealthy people become that way because of hard work.  They scrimp and save.  They are meticulously frugal.  They budget.  They live in middle-class neighborhoods in houses much cheaper than we would expect.  They dress like middle-class, blue-collar workers.  They rarely buy new vehicles, and they almost never lease.  They teach their children the value of hard work.  They invest.  Often, no one but themselves knows that they are actually wealthy.  They are frugal in most things, with the notable exceptions of education and financial planning advice.  

And you know what I love about that?  We can do all of those things.  We can be frugal.  We can set aside money for a rainy day instead of inflating our standard of living to our increasing paycheck.  We can resist the urge to keep up with the Jones' and only purchase what we really need- and only when we really need it.

Basically, I really enjoyed the message of this book.  I think it's one we can all take to heart, and something we've been counseled to do by prophets and apostles for decades.  Now that the research is in, maybe our country can learn, from the bottom up, how to live within our means and find financial peace.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Patience

I wish I understood my life a moment at a time,
so each unfolding happening creates a fluid line.
And yet I know the masterpiece designed is so much more,
And thus content I'll be to learn and hope for what's in store.

Sometimes I have to remind myself to be grateful for the little things I learn each day, and not to get impatient for the whole picture.

Reevaluating Proximity

A gentle surprise of abiding joy
overwhelms into brimming tears
Encapsulating bonds of love
and enduring miles and years.

We know not when we yet will meet
again in truth and light;
But in my soul a peace there rests
that Father holds you tight.

I know my place is distant still,
yet it's where I'm needed.
And so I leave you in His care
until back home I'm heeded.

Yesterday with the help of two cars, two planes, and BART, I made the trip back to Provo, Utah.  Walking the streets in the evening, I couldn't help but realize that this really does feel like home.  I will miss my family, but I rest assured knowing that while I am doing my best our here, they will be watched over by one who is more wise than I.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Doctrine and Covenants 50:24

Sources of Light

Nigh upon the rocky coast, there lives a stalwart soul
beloved by so many for his quintessential role.

Few have ever seen his face, and yet they all still know:
If direction they are seeking, toward his residence to row.

Lustrous light he beams; for all to see in every hour.
To warn approaching seamen of the rocks that would devour.

Though ever bright and constant the keeper's flame doth shine
other lights, he knows, have fought to keep the boats in line.
Those lights he won't extinguish, as he beckons through the foam;
for he honors each and every source that helps to bring men home.

Note: text written at 6am...infer what you will. :-)

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Trusting the Boss

I trust God.

I don't say this because I want to trust him, or because others have told me that I should.  I say this because I know that he is my father, that he has a direct and very specific plan for my life, and that his hands intervene in the precise way I need whenever I am humble enough to allow it.

How do I know this?  Because when I look back on my life with faith and with a sincere desire to understand, I can see very clearly how each and every event that didn't make sense at the time now fits perfectly into molding process designed by my Heavenly Father.  I can see how moving to a new town in high school helped me develop the true friends I needed to uncover the pain I had buried, how the school I've attended has given me the strength to build my own example and testimony despite other issues, how roommates I struggled with taught me about collusion and led me to meet someone very important, and even how people I've dated and loved have helped me learn about forgiveness, safety, and healing.  I have seen how challenges have helped me open my heart to see the pain of others, and to find the joy and opportunity in serving and loving another one of his precious children. Every pain, heartache, and trial has ministered to my understanding and has helped create who I am today.  I am still far from perfect, but I have only been able to come this far because my Heavenly Father has sent me people, experiences, and opportunities I needed, trusting that I would do my very best with them.  And through this process, I have been healed, strengthened, and refined.

I am so grateful that he knows that he is doing.  I know him, I love him, and I trust him- because I know that his ultimate goal is the eternal joy of his children.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

I love my students



I'm really looking forward to my new job, but it's moments like this morning that make me realize how much I'll miss being a TA.  One of the students from last semester sent me an email thanking us for a great semester, and attached his picture. I love my students, and I'm so grateful for all that I've been able to learn from them.

Conditioned reflex

Thursday, May 2, 2013

My Mountains: A lesson in patience and peace

I love California, I really do.  I love the pine trees, the gorgeous lanes, and rolling hills, and the Sierra Nevada mountains.  I love the weather, the sunshine, the flowers, and the gentle breezes.  And, especially now, I love time to spend with my family and friends- especially those with whom I get very little time.

And yet, I feel that a part of myself has been left in Provo.  I find myself searching the eastern horizon for the magnificent mountains that set my soul on fire and fill me with a sense of warmth and protection.  After years of secretly harboring a grudge against Utah, I've realized that I've come to love my mountains.

A few weeks ago I went for a jaunt up Rock Canyon, just past the temple.  I needed a bit of a climb on my own, and a challenging one at that.  I wasn't quite prepared for the adventures that awaited me, but it was a magnificent climb.  I managed to scale a ravine that shot up between two peaks, probably the result of a rockslide.  As took on the mountain, a tad voraciously, I started to notice that the way I had chosen was a bit precarious.  It was raining, so the rocks were slippery, and with every two steps I took forward, I slid one step backward.  I soon realized that in order to reach the top, I couldn't stop every few steps to rest or look back- I had to keep moving forward.  A few hundred feet from the top, my legs started to become fatigued.  A short rest on a solid piece of rock and a silent prayer later, I finished my ascent.

Once on the top of the mountain, I didn't have much time for reflection.  A bitter cold wind cut along the plateau, and it had begun to hail.  I took a few moments to assess my surroundings, and finally came to terms with the fact that I wouldn't be able to descend the way I had come.  Ultimately I found another trail down, and I half ran, half slid along the side of the mountain.  I got quite dirty, and my ipod graciously supplied me with enough EFY music to calm my increasingly panicking nerves- but I finally reached level ground.  I have experienced few more relieving moments.

Reflecting on the experience later, I realized what a good metaphor that hike is for my life.  I tend to want to look back every few steps and assess my progress, instead of pushing forward in faith for a time.  Then, when trials arise, often panic is my gut reaction instead of peace.  Both of these are aspects of my life I've been working on of late, and I very much appreciated the blessing of connecting the physical and spiritual through a very real example.

In the weeks since that adventure, I've learned the value of patience and peace.  Introspection and quiet moments are important- vital even, but are best when scattered throughout the practice of life.  An appropriate balance of careful self-analysis and faithful action- built upon a foundation of peace and hope based on truth- have lead me to a life of purposeful action and increased meaning.

I love living.  In part because this world is glorious, but in greater part because life provides me with the opportunities to grow and learn and change and become.  There is really nothing I hate more than the feeling of stagnation- so developing a greater understanding of the specific balance I need in order to maintain optimal progression is really quite a wonderful feeling.  Somewhat like the way I feel when I see the various stages of blooms on a growing vine of Joseph's coat roses.

Joseph's Coat  Roses: a bud and a bloom

My Mountains

The "rockslide" Trail



Yes, sometimes they look like Mordor.  Or Ireland.
I got dirty...

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Moving Forward and Finding Closure: Graduation and Weddings

This past week has been very full- but wonderfully so.  Thursday and Friday I hit a major milestone: I graduated from Brigham Young University with my Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology.  I wasn't really planning to walk, but my family came out and in the end I'm really glad I did.  It provided me some closure I didn't realize I wanted, and it was honestly just plain fun!

Elder L. Tom Perry spoke at the Commencement ceremonies on Thursday afternoon, and it was excellent.  I enjoyed the emphasis he placed on finding balance in life between physical and emotional health, developing personal worth, establishing financial security, and building spiritual strength.  Balance is important! (Read more about his address here.)

After Commencement on Thursday mine and Michael's families met up at a small park up Provo Canyon for food (5.27 lbs of tortellini, to be exact) and such.  We ended up playing Frisbee and chatting for a while, and it was really just a lot of fun!

Friday morning was my convocation ceremony, and while it was long and warm, I was significantly more excited than I thought I would be!  My favorite thoughts came from two of the speakers:
Success is in large measure determined by how we react to our failures- our failures are the building blocks of success. ~Geography Valedictorian  
Many of the most important things cannot be counted, ranked or quantified.  The things that matter most cannot be reduced to a number, rank, or quantity, but they will determine who you are. ~Main speaker...who I can't remember right now but will look up when I'm in Utah! 
The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good. ~Samuel Johnson (quoted by main speaker)
Shortly after convocation on Friday (but not shortly enough that we couldn't eat some tortellini and finish packing) my Dad, Rae Lyn, Ben and I headed back to California.  We made it to Lovelock, Nevada (where ironically, five years ago I got in my first bad car accident) and spent the night in a quaint little hotel where the owner told me (with a straight face) that they didn't have bathrooms, and I believed him.  

After a good night's rest (and a long morning run), we drove the rest of the way to Nevada City, where I spent a few hours at my Mom's wedding reception.  It was harder than I'd like to admit, but I feel very blessed with strength to have been able to handle the occasion with grace and class.  My mom seemed happy, and I'm very grateful for the opportunity we all have to move forward in faith.  It was also really nice to see some old friends from Nevada City and Dixon and hear about their successes and lives.

By the time we made it back to Paradise on Saturday evening, I was exhausted.  I'm recovering now, and appreciating the time to relax, enjoy family, and delve into my library books.  I start work in 19 days- so I'm going to take full advantage of my remaining vacation!

Oh, and guess what?  I'm a college graduate!

Ben and I while waiting for Processional

I love my family- I'm so happy they came. 

Yeah, there were lots of us.  FHSS for the win!

I started to get really excited for my diploma case...

I made a new friend!  She is fantastic.

Enter to Learn, Go Forth to Serve
I really hope I can live up to this.

Obligatory Sibling Picture

Real life Sibling Picture


Michael and I after Commencement
(Shortly after Dad said, "Here, let me take one to send to the family" and I sort of flipped out envisioning a picture of myself and a boy being sent to 50+ relatives...)

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Healing joy

Lesson learned:

True joy in healing comes not through careful inspection of our wounds, but in finding something beautiful enough to distract us while the new skin forms.

Late night childish words:

I measure my happiness by dropper-fulls
And how well I use my thumbs;
By ease of sharing deepest thoughts
Without ever feeling dumb.

The joy of playing childhood games
Replaces clutched anxiety
As confidence is shown and felt
In place of notoriety.

I may not analyze each moment
Or always show my wit
But there's peace in never questioning
If there's room for two to fit.

A grateful independence
Shines in her gleaming eyes
As encouragement and praise
Still take her by surprise.

The unexpected chivalry
The candor in your smile
The silly grin that draws her in
And makes her feel worthwhile.

Distraction draws out venom
And facilitates forgiveness
As patience plays of petrichor
And marvels in its stillness.

You may not ever truly know
The pain behind those eyes
For she's learning now of blessed peace
That in fulfillment lies.

There's always been a measure
Of clinging to the past
But now that faith means hoping on
Her heart can heal at last.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Bridges

Life is full of resting points
to sit, and laugh, and play
where hearts and lives come to a halt
and focus on today.

But rest, by definition
is a time between transition
where moving, growing, stretching
find a refuge from revision.

The rest of life we find ourselves
traveling on bridges
running, walking, crawling by
on alveolar ridges.

And yet too oft we find ourselves
content with our stagnation,
instead of pushing onward
finding growth in agitation.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Faith in Practical Empathy

Liminal space expands
Between compassion and despair
Engulfing all who venture close:
The hopeful, who will dare
To bring their joy to those who mourn;
Yet, finding grief a sin
They languish over ignorance
And irony sets in.

For peace can often masquerade
As unconcerned assurance;
A gentle balm that soothes the soul
And strengthens ones endurance.
Contrasting those perceived assumptions
A calm there is to find
In knowing what will lie ahead
And leaving past behind.

For though the mandate rests here still
To mourn with those who weep
The faithful know: while weeping lasts
There are yet those who sleep
Soundly still in tidy cots
Amidst the raging tempest
Who understand, as in times past
That clothes aren't always rent, lest
The promises of deity be trampled underfoot-
For the peace commanded from the decks must in our souls take root.

On finding hope in dark times


I believe that there is so much in this world worth living for.  There is so much beauty, love, and hope.  So many reasons to laugh and smile.  We cannot deny that we live in a world that is sometimes unsafe.  It is a sad truth that people at times use their agency to hurt others.  But there are always people- in fact, there are always MORE people- who are using their agency to create beauty.  The more we look for, observe, and become like those people, the helpers, the more beautiful our world will become.  Let us acknowledge the evil, but promote the light.

As President Uchtdorf says:
"Understand and accept that darkness exists, but choose not to dwell there."

Sunday, April 14, 2013

April 2013 General Conference

Last weekend was the 183rd Annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.    It was a remarkable event historically as well as personally.  Having made some huge life-shifts in the past month, I came into conference with some very specific questions for which I was seeking answers.  The following are some of the talks, quotes, and ideas that most deeply touched my soul.

Elder Boyd K. Packer on protecting the family:
Tolerance is a virtue, but like all virtues, when exaggerated, it transforms itself into a vice.

Sister Elaine S. Dalton, a recently released Young Women's General President, bore this powerful testimony:
Today as a daughter of God, I stand as a witness that He lives. Jesus is the Christ. He is our Redeemer. It is through His infinite atoning sacrifice that I will one day return to live with Him—proven, pure, and sealed in an eternal family. I shall ever praise Him for the privilege of being a woman, a wife, and a mother. I testify that we are led by a prophet of God, President Thomas S. Monson, and I am grateful for righteous men, whose priesthood power blesses my life. And I shall ever be grateful for the strength I receive through the enabling power of the Savior’s infinite Atonement as I continue to strive to “act well [my] part.”

Elder Craig A. Cardon of the Seventy delivered a beautiful talk on forgiveness- and one I desperately needed to hear.  I was struck by the truth that the Savior is not only willing to forgive us, but he wants to.  He is pleading with us to be repentant and to seek his forgiveness so that he can welcome us back with open arms.  Similarly, if we are to help others reach their true potential, indeed if we are to truly love them, we must desire to forgive those who have wronged us.  Our desire for their well-being and eternal progression must be greater than the urge to harbor hurt.

Elder M. Russell Ballard eloquently stated the gospel's stance on men and women's roles, particularly in relation to the Priesthood.  I stand behind Elder Ballard 100% :

In our Heavenly Father’s great priesthood-endowed plan, men have the unique responsibility to administer the priesthood, but they are not the priesthood. Men and women have different but equally valued roles. Just as a woman cannot conceive a child without a man, so a man cannot fully exercise the power of the priesthood to establish an eternal family without a woman. In other words, in the eternal perspective, both the procreative power and the priesthood power are shared by husband and wife. And as husband and wife, a man and a woman should strive to follow our Heavenly Father. The Christian virtues of love, humility, and patience should be their focus as they seek the blessings of the priesthood in their lives and for their family.

Elder Quentin L. Cook's talk was on the power of personal peace, and I loved this quote he shared by Ugo Betti:
To believe in God is to know that all the rules will be fair, and that there will be wonderful surprises.

In a discourse on the importance of doing things in the Lord's way, Elder Stanley G. Ellis of the Seventy told this wonderful story:
For 16 years I served in the presidency of the Houston Texas North Stake. Many moved to our area during those years. We would often receive a phone call announcing someone moving in and asking which was the best ward. Only once in 16 years did I receive a call asking, “Which ward needs a good family? Where can we help?”  I sincerely hope that I can learn to ask where Father needs me.

On Sunday morning, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf gave my favorite talk from all of conference.  I have been struggling a lot recently with my obsession with pain, and learning how to live and be happy and joyful amid a world of struggles and heartache.  The main message I took from Uchrdorf's talk was this:
Understand and accept that darkness exists, but choose not to dwell there.


Elder L. Whitney Clayton gave some prophetic advice about good marriages, and I particularly appreciated these thoughts:

I have observed that in wonderful, happy marriages, husbands and wives treat each other as equal partners. Practices from any place or any time in which husbands have dominated wives or treated them in any way as second-class partners in marriage are not in keeping with divine law and should be replaced by correct principles and patterns of behavior.
Husbands and wives in great marriages make decisions unanimously, with each of them acting as a full participant and entitled to an equal voice and vote. They focus first on the home and on helping each other with their shared responsibilities. Their marriages are based on cooperation, not negotiation. Their dinner hour and the family time that follows become the center of their day and the object of their best efforts. They turn off electronics and forgo personal entertainment in order to help with household duties. To the extent possible, they read with their children every night and both participate in putting the little ones to bed. They retire to their bed together. As their duties and circumstances permit, husbands and wives work side by side in doing the most important work there is—the work we do in our own homes.


And from our beloved prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, the importance of strict obedience:
My brothers and sisters, the great test of this life is obedience. “We will prove them herewith,” said the Lord, “to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them."

One of the most bold and profound talks was given by Elder Jefferey R. Holland on the importance of Faith. It was Powerful.
What was once a tiny seed of belief for me has grown into the tree of life, so if your faith is a little tested in this or any season, I invite you to lean on mine. I know this work is God’s very truth, and I know that only at our peril would we allow doubt or devils to sway us from its path. Hope on. Journey on. Honestly acknowledge your questions and your concerns, but first and forever fan the flame of your faith, because all things are possible to them that believe. 


Elder Dallin H. Oaks shared a story that struck me very deeply:
As part of loving one another, Jesus taught that when we are wronged by persons, we should forgive them (see Matthew 18:21–35; Mark 11:25–26; Luke 6:37). While many struggle with this difficult commandment, we all know of inspiring examples of Latter-day Saints who have given loving forgiveness, even for the most serious wrongs. For example, Chris Williams drew upon his faith in Jesus Christ to forgive the drunken driver who caused the death of his wife and two of their children. Only two days after the tragedy and still deeply distraught, this forgiving man, then serving as one of our bishops, said, “As a disciple of Christ, I had no other choice.

This sage wisdom about peace in the home from Elder Enrique R. Fallabella:
“In order to contend, you need two people, and I will never be one of them.”

Elder D. Todd Christofferson offered a powerful sermon on redemption, in which he shared this thought that touched me:

While the most important aspects of redemption have to do with repentance and forgiveness, there is a very significant temporal aspect as well. Jesus is said to have gone about doing good (see Acts 10:38), which included healing the sick and infirm, supplying food to hungry multitudes, and teaching a more excellent way. “The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). So may we, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, go about doing good in the redemptive pattern of the Master.
This kind of redemptive work means helping people with their problems. It means befriending the poor and the weak, alleviating suffering, righting wrongs, defending truth, strengthening the rising generation, and achieving security and happiness at home. Much of our redemptive work on earth is to help others grow and achieve their just hopes and aspirations.

I thoroughly enjoyed conference, and I'm so excited for the learning and growing I have to do over the next 6 months. :-)

Friday, April 5, 2013

A few thoughts on Love (on any other topic this would be called a rant)

There is a pervasive and fallacious belief in society that love is fleeting, that love is merely a desire or emotion felt at one period of time, subject to change and alteration.  This is a viewpoint I have seen expressed by many people, some very close to me, and I believe it is destructive to the true and beautiful nature of love.

Love is not merely an emotion.  Rather, it is a choice- a conscious commitment to look deeply enough into the soul of another human being, to try and understand their most raw selves, that you begin to see their true nature.  As sung in Les Miserables "To love another person is to see the face of God".  It truly is.  The ability to love is a divine gift bestowed upon feeble, imperfect people in order that we may, through unified efforts, come to know God.

One does not simply stop loving.  If you truly love someone- a sister or brother, a parent, a child, a friend, or a lover- you can't just stop.  Love, while the most fundamental force of mortality, is not the only one.  And love often causes people to do things that seem contrary to modern society's idea of passionate, romanticized love.  An unwed mother who gives up her child for adoption is typically viewed as caring deeply for the infant, so deeply, in fact, that she is willing to make great sacrifices to do what is best for the child.  And the brother who seemingly humiliates his sister to save her from a precarious circumstance is clearly seen to be exercising his brotherly love by protecting her best interests.  And yet, the lover who lets go, for one of the hundreds of good reasons one may have, is villainized.

You never stop loving someone.  The heart isn't a finite amount of space that is taken up by each person for whom we care.  Instead, [insert Michael's logical fallacy here] the more we love, the greater our capacity to love.  The ability to love is less like a substance and more like a muscle- the more it is exercised, the stronger it becomes.  The more people we learn to care for, and the more deeply we learn to care, the more we are blessed with the ability to understand the children of God and to have compassion, empathy, and charity.

Loving is never wrong.  Even when in loving we are hurt, abused, or used, the exercise of our God-given ability to love will never count against us in eternity.  We can do things in the name of love, things that violate commandments and wound the tender souls of those who have so trustingly allowed us access to their hearts, but these are merely attempts to justify inappropriate behavior in the name of virtue.  True love never compromises the virtue, safety, or spiritual well-being of another person.  And true love never ceases, but always grows.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

television shift

I was reading an article on how to decrease the amount of TV in your life today, and I had a shocking realization: In the past month, I've watched almost no television.

And guess what?  I don't miss it.  I feel stronger and healthier, have less headaches, sleep better, spend more quality time with people I love, and get more done.

Why? Because when my life is full of good things, I don't turn to television as a way to dull out the meaninglessness.  When I have meaningful experiences awaiting me, sitting in front of a screen doesn't hold the same enticement.

And look at all the new things I've had time for in the past month!
-pi parties
-country Dancing
-opera
-MOA visits
-reading
-long strolls
-hikes
-running
-BYU Easter conference
-figure Skating
-consistent scripture study
-institute
-discussions about ideas
-classical music
-international cinema
-Shakespeare
-waterfall-climbing
-magic shows
-weekly temple visits
-card and board games
-journal writing
-service opportunities

There is so much more to life than watching other people live it.  And I'm so grateful I'm remembering that.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Sometimes I sit on my bed and look up, fully aware that God is looking down in pleasant amusement at my confusion and admitted insanity due to this thing I call my life.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Happy

Dancing, figure skating, roller skating, friends, sunshine, hope, waltz jumps, peace, long talks and gloriously sore muscles.

I didn't know it was possible to be this happy.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Ether 12:27

Minutes pass by, unencumbered
wishing, wasting, waiting.
certain that no deed of now
could be worth work of baiting

a humble jolt of realization
deadens all my senses;
understanding apathy
was under good pretenses

yet pretense doesn't mitigate
erosion of the soul
and realization can't reform
and make what's empty full

diligence and patience
contradict, yet must be married
silence isn't peace
for those who long have tarried

weakness; clarity of fault
can languish into shame
or, humbly, bow and be raised up
with joy in each refrain

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Grateful

I've been struggling with complaining and feeling a bit grumpy lately- and our router breaking last night didn't help.  But when it comes down to it, I have so much more to be grateful for than not in my life right now (and always).  So here's a bit of gratitude word-vomit.

new routers * working cars * temple visits with old roommates * moments of enveloping peace * epic ice skating fails * delicious food * winning random contests * feeling strong and healthy * rocking pruebas * Pinterest with all the roommates * beautiful, inspiring, though-provoking words * hope for climbing mountains * reminders of funny stories * international cinema * hilarious engineer jokes * warm blankets * chocolate * fresh spinach * wool socks * learning to be honest about my family * Russian figure skating hair * important conversations * reminders that you are loved * awe-inspiring stars * a bed so warm I don't want to get up * Orson Scott Card and my revival of fantasy * opera * women I love and respect * skyping with my nephew * hope for things to come * magic * honesty about everything * peace * learning to love strangers * sock buns * purple nail polish * C.S. Lewis * scriptures * ample time to journal *

I have so much to be grateful for.  

Today, I am most grateful that I finally feel like I'm LIVING.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Music for my Soul

Today my ward had our Easter program early because our ward choir director is getting married! There was a tremendous amount of beautiful music, and I was reminded again of how close to heaven I feel when I can let go and allow myself to be encompassed by words and notes. One song in particular really touched me. As I sat listening, I closed my eyes and leaned my head back, reminded of the great peace I feel in my Heavenly Father's care, as well as my gratitude for the grace and enabling power of the Atonement.

Here's a version I love (and not just because it has Spanish subtitles):



Friday, March 15, 2013

Peace and Joy

There have been hard times in my life where I've learned that even when I can't turn to anyone else, my Heavenly Father loves me unconditionally and perfectly.

But in the past week, I've had the blessing of feeling the love of God through others.  I am so grateful and almost overwhelmed by the many people and opportunities He has sent my way to remind me that I am loved, and that He wants me to be happy.

I've also learned that two of the greatest joys in this life are knowing that you are right before God, and having the opportunity to share His love with others. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

My heart has a yearning that only a summer thunderstorm can remedy...

Monday, March 11, 2013

Unleashing the Dormant Spirit

A few years ago, I was introduced to this clip, Advice from Elder Busche.  It's been a constant favorite of mine, and something that brings me great strength and peace.


Until a few days ago, I had never actually looked up the talk that this came from.  Turns out it was from a BYU Devotional in 1996, Unleashing the Dormant Spirit.  I've been studying it over the past week, and wanted to share some of the thoughts I've learned.

First, "nothing really matters unless we take the Holy Spirit as our guide and avoid being deceived. "  This is, or ought to be, a guiding principle in our lives: unless we can discern between the Holy Ghost and Satan (Good and Evil), we really have no solid foundation for our actions.

So how do we make this judgement?  Elder Busche recommends that we apply Luke 14:33. (Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.)  In his own words, Elder Busche suggests that if we can reply according to the following, we know we are following the Holy Spirit: "Yes.  I am a disciple of Christ.  I'm willing to sacrifice my own will, my habits, attitudes, and selfish desires, and endure the hurt and pain that such reflections cause, and bring to him as a sacrifice a broken heart and meek spirit."

Once we have figured out how to discern the Spirit, Elder Busche reminds us of the importance of being under its influence.  "None of us has enough wisdom, enough intelligence, enough knowledge, enough skills, or enough courage, by ourselves, to master our lives and even to succeed in life unless we learn what it means to surrender ourselves into the arms of the Lord and be filled with the Spirit.  He wants to empower us with the gifts that he has promised to give to each of his disciples who has made sacred covenants with him."

One of the beautiful aspects of the Spirit is that is changes not only what we do, but how we do it.  "...under the influence of the Spirit we act in wisdom.  We see the complexity of a problem in its simple parts, and we see the possible solutions unfolding in front of our eyes- to our own surprise. ...Our creativity is developed and multiplied.  That which is a burden without it becomes a privilege when we are under the influence of the Holy Ghost."

A bit later on in the devotional, Elder Busche makes a connection between the Holy Spirit and humility that was especially striking to me.  He explains that, essentially, sin is any time that we are not acting under the complete influence of the Spirit- which is something that happens every day!  So, when we recognize our potential, our responsibility, as disciples of Christ to be under the constant guidance of the Spirit, and then recognize that we cannot possibly attain that on our own, we are able to cultivate humility: a recognition of our weaknesses and a beautiful and bright hope in the redeeming power of grace. As he says, "Seeing ourselves in our full responsibility means also seeing ourselves in our weakness, in our lost opportunities, in our failures- which makes us humble and meek.  We see the necessity to enter into a covenant with the author of life, to activate the atoning blood of Christ to wash us clean, and to embrace, gratefully, the gracious gifts of the Holy Ghost for our essential empowerment."

After we recognize the deep need we have for the influence of the Spirit in our lives, Elder Busche discusses why we don't always have it's companionship.  Ultimately, it comes down to one thing: desire.  "All of our life's actions are the result of our desires."  We must desire- more than anything, more than life itself -to be under the complete influence of the Spirit.  Elder Busche counsels that we must organize and categorize our desires in our prayers in order for the Spirit to take us seriously.  

I love his words near the end: "When the Light of Christ is able to penetrate our hearts, prompted by the enlightened testimony of truth by a focused teacher, it will cause in us an awakening, an awakening of the real me, the child of God, so that we can learn to channel our desires to focus on our true needs."

Our true needs.  Our innermost desires to return to and become like our Heavenly Father, and to feel of his constant peace and love.  When I am closest to my Heavenly Father, this is what I desire more than anything.  I don't always feel it as strongly as I would like, but I relish in the moments that I do.

It reminds me of when the Savior came to visit the Nephites.  The account tells that the people prayed for what they "most desired"- that the Holy Ghost should be given to them.  

Our physical wants and needs often get in the way of this- as does our laziness, apathy, and pride.  But when it comes down to it, I sincerely hope that I can be humble enough, aware enough of who I truly am, to counsel with my Heavenly Father, heed his Holy Spirit, and rejoice in the glory of the Atonement that allows me to become so much more perfect than I could ever be on my own.  

Sunday, March 10, 2013

This is that part

Where I remember I am an introvert- which means that while I may love and enjoy my interactions with others, I need quiet time to process, feel, and maintain peace.

On another note- Heavenly Father loves us. He is so aware of our needs, and sends us people and opportunities that will show us his love, if we choose to let them.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

John 14:27

Before Christ left his disciples, he promised them the Gift of the Holy Ghost, a spirit that would reside with them to teach, comfort, and communicate in behalf of Jesus Christ.

After speaking of this gift, Christ tells them: Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you.  Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

Today we are blessed with this same gift.  All of us are able to feel the promptings of the Spirit, and those who have been baptized and received the gift of the Holy Ghost are promised constant companionship (so long as our side of the bargain is upheld).  We can feel the peace left to us by the Savior.  Our hearts need not be troubled or afraid, because we place our trust in the one who knows us better than any other- because he has felt our sorrows and borne the burden of our sins.  And he, who knows better than anyone the weight of the world, promises us that it's going to be okay- we can be at peace.

I choose to believe that.



The secret to healing, to peace, is to calm your mind so that you can listen to the things that matter most.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

What I wish I could ask

How?

How did you do it?  How did you move on?  How did you love so deeply, be hurt so drastically, and then love again even more fully?  How did you convince yourself that life is better now?  How did you let yourself dream again- real dreams, not the ones from the storybooks?  How did you learn to laugh again?  How did you erase the bitterness and the hurt?  How did you convince someone else that you were worth it?  How did you believe that yourself?

How can I?

Sunday, March 3, 2013

New rule: 24 hour, 1 week



When life seems dark and dreary, don't forget to pray.  And also...

WAIT A DAY.  Seriously.  If things don't get better (or at least there aren't some better moments) within the next 24 hours, give it another day.  And if at the end of a week you looking back wondering what the heck was wrong with you, then maybe it's time to start worrying.  

But if there are even a few small moments of goodness- cling to that.  Focus on that.  And remember that those are the moments that make life worth living.  

I have such a tendency to freak out too easily, too quickly, and to not let all the pieces fall into place.  Some days are just rotten.  Sometimes people bug you.  Sometimes there's too/not enough much to do.  Sometimes you wake up on the wrong side of the bed, and just can't ever escape the funk.  The point is to not make any drastic decisions or let any potentially life-altering thought processes run too far until you've had at least one good night's rest, three good meals, one good workout, and some prayer and scripture study.  It's amazing how much one good, well-balanced day can change everything.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Blue Like That

This has been my favorite song for as long as I can remember.  I don't know where I heard it first, but since I was a little girl I've pulled it out every few months to calm my soul and rekindle my dreams.


"The adversary has long cultivated this overemphasis on personal autonomy, and now he feverishly exploits it. Our deepest God-given instinct is to run to the arms of those who need us and sustain us. But he drives us away from each other today with wedges of distrust and suspicion. He exaggerates the need for having space, getting out, and being left alone. Some people believe him—and then they wonder why they feel left alone. "

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Agency and Happiness

2 Nephi 10: 23

"Therefore, cheer up your hearts, and remember that ye are free to act for yourselves-to choose the way of everlasting death or the way of eternal life."

I had an interesting realization this morning: Agency is often the greatest source of happiness in this life.  Why?  Because we can choose.  We can choose what lifestyle we want, and the blessings associated with living a healthy, active, and restful life.  We can choose how to react to the circumstances around us- we can choose to be cheerful.

Too often we consign ourselves to our bad circumstances, explaining that we had a bad day because we didn't do so well on a test, got in a fight with our roommate, or whatever.  What we're really saying, though, is that our reactions to those events made us unhappy.  It is important to allow ourselves to feel- even when that's sad, hurt, or angry.  Those feelings tell us that something is up- that we didn't like the way we were treated (and thus shouldn't treat others that way), that we are disappointed about an outcome (and might need to study harder or alter our expectations in the future), or something else.  But it's what we do next that matters.  If we allow ourselves to see the incident through the lens of the eternal plan of happiness, we can learn to approach our lives a little differently.  We can use experiences of hurt to learn, and thus to become more completely the divine sons and daughters that our Heavenly Father knows we can be.

Even though it is often the agency of others that hurts us deeply, it is that same agency that enables us to be wonderful, blessed people anyway.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

:-)

"You've been calm since I picked you up."

Best compliment of the day.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

tuesday: some joy

Still not really getting into the big posts I have planned...but in the meantime, I have some happiness to share.

First of all, I got my first job offer!  Big whoop.  And free cereal!

Second, I'm learning and growing so much.  I mess up occasionally  and I am becoming so grateful for the promise that if we ask Father to show us our weaknesses, he will show them to us and help turn them into strengths.  I never realized how awesome that promise was until now.  If there's an area that's not going right, I can ask Him to help me identify what it is, and also how to fix it.  Like how I've realized lately that I'm not that great of a listener- at least not as good as I'd like to be.  And, after praying for help, I've quickly been given more opportunities to practice and improve.  Steady progress upward is difficult, but it's also possible. AND it's important to remember that we don't need to be perfect now, and we don't have to (and can't) do it alone.  All we need to do is take one step forward every day.

I've said this before, and I'll say it again: I love where I live.  I love living with people who help me be better, give me opportunities to serve, and who shower me with love.  There is so much peace in coming home to a safe place.

I'm improving in my Spanish class!  Woo Hoo!

Epiphany: Living after the manner of happiness doesn't mean that you'll always be happy.  It just means you're giving happiness the best shot.

Massive wonderful realization from Celeste's blog: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints isn't perfect, but the gospel is.  There are many problems with specific people and the way mortals carry out their responsibilities.  But you know what? That's sort of the way it's supposed to be.  The Church isn't run by perfect people who do everything perfectly- as Celeste put it, that would be Satan's plan.  The idea on earth is to all muddle together and try to do the best we can living the gospel.  Our testimony should be based off the gospel and the living reality of Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father, not how we were treated by people who are on their own spiritual journey just as we are.

I had an incredibly emotional moment today when I stumbled across the Voices of Hope project.  The website isn't officially launched yet, but their first video is.  It's an incredible project, and one of my friends was the first to share his story.  His name is Blake, and I really respect him for his courage and kindness.  See him share part of his story here.

And finally- sometimes it's okay just to be.  It's okay to not to freak out about moving forward and over-analyzing everything.  Sometimes you just have to live for a while.  It's important to have days where you're not thinking about what everything means, and afterward you can look back and think, "Wow, today was nice.  Yeah, there are things that didn't go perfectly.  Yeah, I made mistakes.  But overall I did my best, worked hard, loved those around me, and laughed."  Sometimes I think we look for too much in life- for dramatic romantic-comedy moments, action-filled car chases, and grand intellectual epiphanies.  But really, life is meant for us to work hard, love others, laugh some, cry some, and make the world a little better for our being in it.  Little steps every day.  That's manageable, right?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

So Blessed

So many wonderful, hopeful things in my life right now.  I'm actually sitting on a fairly lengthy post, but in the meantime I'd just like to share some of that happy things that are making it easy to be grateful!

  • Successfully navigated my first career fair last week!  I almost peed my pants with fear beforehand, but with some wise words of comfort and counsel I was just fine.
  • I love gospel discussions, and this morning I had a great one with my roommate Jameyson.  Seriously, though.  Few things are more incredible than being able to be open and honest (and learn!) about important things with those closest to you.
  • Had my first job interview today, and it went really well!  It's just one step along the way, but it feels good to be taking steps forward.
  • Went to Winco (in professional attire) and shopped like a boss!  Sometimes pretending to be an adult is really fun. :-)
  • Came home to find another interview opp. waiting for me on my email!
  • I had an epiphany driving home (driving my wonderful boyfriend's car, I might add, because he's the best and doesn't always let me get away with being stubborn).  PROVO IS BEAUTIFUL.  We live in a gorgeous place.  The mountains are incredible.  We are so lucky.  I never thought I'd really say this, but I love it here.
  • Delicious guacamole and peach mango salsa. I might die.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Thursday, January 31, 2013

True Doctrine, Understood

There is an often quoted statement by Elder Boyd K. Packer that, particularly in my field of study, has provoked conversation. 
"True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior.  The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior."
Studying in the behavioral sciences, this is often a source of contention and debate.  If studying behavior doesn't help, then why do we do it?  Should all psychologists and sociologists and anthropologists just quite and teach the gospel instead?  It's a little bit demoralizing sometimes.

Or at least it was, until one of my blessed 111 students today shared the rest of the quote with me.  (It's from Elder Packer's October 1986 General Conference talk, entitled "Little Children"
"True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior.
The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior. Preoccupation with unworthy behavior can lead to unworthy behavior. That is why we stress so forcefully the study of the doctrines of the gospel."
When I read this, it was as though dozens of the feelings I've been having and things I've come to understand all of the sudden clicked together.  Studying behavior is good, it is helpful, and it is necessary.  But we need to be wary of preoccupation with problematic behaviors without constantly remembering the solutions to the problems- which are always eternal solutions.

Let me give an example.  For a long time, my favorite show was Criminal Minds.  It's a very, very dark show.  Nevertheless, often I would get off of work at 1am and then eagerly watch as twisted criminals were understood and investigated.  I dreamed of understanding the way their minds worked, and then of finding ways to "fix" them.  But the problem was this: I was only focusing on the problem, not the solution.  The only way to truly help men and women this scarred would be to treat them as the divine sons and daughters of God that they are- to teach them true principles and expect them to live up to them.

And so it is with many social ills- abortion, poverty, violence, etc.  As we become preoccupied talking about school shootings and horrific abuse and gang violence and homelessness, we unwittingly support its increase.  Alternatively, as we teach true doctrine, help others understand true principles, and become examples of truth and light in our own lives, these ills will slowly fade.

Now, to be clear, I'm not saying that we should ignore wrongdoings that occur in our world.  Absolutely not.  They should be taken care of by the proper authority.  Children should be warned, cautiously, about the dangers of the world they live in.  We have to be practical.  But we don't have to live in fear.  Doing so only results in more reasons to fear.

I'm coming to understand that the answers to most soul-wrenching questions aren't as difficult as they seem- although they can be difficult to implement.  The solutions aren't fiscally expensive, nor do they require many social groups to set in motion.  They are in fact, very simple, and all contained within one simple doctrine: Love one another.  The difficulty here lies not in the finding of the answer, but in the constant and steady changes made in the hearts of individual people.

Toward the end of his address, Elder Packer shared this truth:
"Secular doctrines have the advantage of convincing, tangible evidence. We seem to do better in gathering data on things that can be counted and measured.
Doctrines which originate in the light, on the other hand, are more often supported by intangible impressions upon the spirit. We are left for the most part to rely on faith."
 Which, I guess, brings me back to the theme of the year: Faith.  I've known for a while that focusing on the negative doesn't bring good.  Even in personal mistakes, the hurt caused by others, and everyday problems- the answer rarely, if ever, lies in focusing on the wrong.  Instead, peace and joy comes in recognizing the power of the Atonement to forgive, heal, and help us move on.  When I make a mistake, I feel bad, but only long enough to remember the beautiful gift of the Christ's sacrifice.  From that point on, I must put all my efforts into becoming better, aided by the grace granted to those who repent.  When I am hurt by others, at some point focusing on the pain only blocks my ability to be healed.  Much like the ancient Israelites, we are often too preoccupied by our pain to look to the source of healing- when the dramatic irony is that if we would but look, we would be healed.

This post has been a bit of a word vomit, and I apologize.  But it's also a synthesis of so many things I'm coming to learn.

When we sin, mess up, get hurt, or do or feel any of the silly human things that we do- Remember:
  Preoccupation with unworthy behavior can lead to unworthy behavior. That is why we stress so forcefully the study of the doctrines of the gospel.
Focus on the good- the hope, the truth, and the light.  When we do, it will come.

...if you build it, they will come. :-)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

confession

sometimes i complain about school.  but it's not real, because school has never really scared me.

but getting a real job?  going to a career fair?  handing people my resume? TALKING to recruiters?

THAT scares me.

Yep.

Today I:

Woke up at 6am.
Studied.
Went to Dance Aerobics.
Took a quiz in Spanish class.
Walked through (and slipped on) all the snow.
Worked for an 2 hours.
Finished my homework.

And it's only NOON.

I think that an episode of The Office and a nap are in order..

Monday, January 28, 2013

On hoping for a Liahona

This morning in studying the Book of Mormon I came across a passage of scripture I've read dozens of times:
And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord spake unto my father by night, and commanded him that on the morrow he should take his journey into the wilderness.
And it came to pass that as my father arose in the morning, and went forth to the tent door, to his great astonishment he beheld upon the ground a round ball of curious workmanship; and it was of fine brass.  And within the ball were two spindles; and the one pointed the way whither we should go into the wilderness. 1 Nephi 16: 9-10 
For all the times I've read this, I never before made the connection between these two verses.  I recognize that this is my own interpretation, but here's what I realized:

The Liahona, the "ball of curious workmanship" that became so essential in leading Lehi's family to "the more fertile parts of the wilderness", only became available to Lehi after he had followed the divine counsel to begin their journey into the wilderness.

I'm fictionalizing a bit here, but this is sort of what I imagine it was like...

One night, as Lehi is preparing for bed, he receives a strong prompting that tomorrow the family needs to begin their journey.  As the night wears on, Lehi speaks with Sariah about it, and they make plans to prepare the family for the next day's journey.  They were likely uncertain where exactly they were going, but nonetheless knew that they needed to go.

The next morning, after Lehi and Sariah likely had to fight off many doubts and fears, they are blessed with a divine instrument that shows them each day where to go.  It is so clearly a direct reward for their faith and immediate action.  But even the Liahona works "after the manner of their faith".  The scriptures imply that they would wake up in the morning and look to see which way the arrow was pointing- never really knowing from one day to the next where they were to go.

Bottom line: We are blessed for acting on faith.  When Lehi chose to follow the Lord's counsel to journey into the wilderness, he had no idea that he would be blessed with the Liahona.  Often, we want to know everything about a decision before making it- we strive to be logical, rational creates.  But the truth is, often Father has incredible blessings in store that we can't even imagine, and we won't ever know about until we act and move forward in faith.  Think about how much easier it would have been for Lehi if he had known about the Liahona- "Oh, I'm going to have a magic compass to tell us where we should travel?  That sounds great!  Lets go!".  Or, more practically in modern times...imagine how much more willing we would be to act on faith if we knew the blessings associated with it... "Oh, going to this grad school will enable me to provide for my family and have more missionary opportunities?  Of course I'll go!" or "Picking up and moving in the middle of high school will enable me to meet my best friend?  That sounds great!"  or  "If I make time to have that hard discussion with _____, it will help them get back on the right path?  Perfect!"

Moving forward in faith is hard.  It just is.  But sometimes we have to remember that it's not that specific choice we need to have faith in- it's our Heavenly Father.  We need to trust that He does in fact know what is best for us, and He he loves us perfectly.  And, because of both His perfect love and perfect knowledge, He knows the best blessings to give us.  But we have to want them enough to trust Him, listen, and act.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

the little things

Sometimes the simplest things make me happy.  Actually, it's almost always the simplest things.  And that's just the way it was intended.
"Behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise.  And the Lord God doth work by means to bring about his great and eternal purposes; and by very small means the Lord doth confound the wise bringeth about the salvation of many souls." Alma 37:6-7
And today, it was those simple things.

inspired church meetings of teaching and peace
those few warm hours before the snow hit
a beautiful world covered in white
grateful words
fun and successful cooking endeavors
roommates I love and feel comfortable around
crater cupcakes
visiting teachers that I actually like!
the vicarious joy of a distant friend who found love
learning to dream
hope for the future

Tomorrow, I hope I can remember to appreciate the little things.
Because even though I didn't get to stay up all night and watch movies, I'm grateful that I can laugh about it with those I love.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

2013: Moving Forward in Faith

For much of my life, I've been focused on just getting through.  I've faced a handful of trials, and I've made an incredible journey in the past few years toward an understand of the healing power of the Atonement.  And now, I think the lesson I need to learn is how to move forward in faith.  I've had enough experiences with my Heavenly Father to trust that He knows what I need, and that if I keep my hands in His hands and keep moving forward, He will guide me and endow me with strength.

2013 is my year of Moving Forward in Faith  

As such, I've made some goals.  Usually during January I focus on the progress I've made during the past year.  This year, however, I want to focus on the things I'm looking forward to.

Goals for 2013:
1) Read in the scriptures and pray daily
2) Make two (2) big, important decisions with confidence
3) Graduate with my Bachelor's
4) Apply to graduate school
5) Get a real-person job!
6) Shift my exercise and eating habits to a focus on health, not appearance
7) Merge my ideas and actions so that I can be an example in word and deed of what I believe
8) Develop a working knowledge of Spanish- be able to hold my own in a conversation!

I'm excited for this year.  I've never been so uncertain and yet so full of hope and faith at the same time.  I am ready to move forward and to face the challenges and joys to come.