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


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...)