Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Abundant Life

Did you know there is a section in the Topical Guide called "Abundant Life"?

Most of the scriptures referenced there are about temporal prosperity - riches in the house, barns filled with plenty, fullness of the Earth. But one of these verses caught my eye.

The reference here for Matthew 16:25 reads, "lose his life for my sake shall find it," indicating the abundant life is the life that is lost.

Most of the time, I think of gaining more abundance. It's not often that I think about giving up some of the abundance I already have.

But right now, that is what has been asked of me.

I came home from Utah on Thursday, and it has been lovely. My family has hiked and enjoyed beautiful flowers and played checkers and had lots of fun together, but I haven't been completely at peace. I love my family, and I love spending time with them. But I've felt stuck. There just aren't many opportunities here for me to progress. I've felt unsettled and not at peace, and then felt guilty for not being happy. My family (and especially my younger siblings) have been so excited for me to come home, and I put a lot of pressure on myself to meet the expectations. I forgot that it is impossible for me, a 20 year-old college student, to meet the social needs of a 9 year-old.

So I've decided to go back to BYU for summer term.

There are a few factors involved. I have a scholarship for summer term and rent is cheaper, which will save me money. My friend has been anxious to sell her contract, so that helped both of us out. The shortness of my visit will help the whole family to appreciate it, instead of taking it for granted as we did last time. I will be able to knock out my last two GE requirements and get closer to that elusive graduation date. I can get more working hours in. Most of all, I will find that progression I crave so much.

Oh, but EFY.

I have dreamed of being an EFY counselor since I was 14 years old. I had my interview for the job almost 4 months ago, and have been daydreaming about the experience ever since. I have planned what I wanted to teach my youth, how I could serve them, and how I could best testify of Christ. I have been so excited for this. But if I go back to school for summer term, I can't be an EFY counselor.

That broke my heart.

I started brainstorming ways that I might be able to do both EFY and summer term, but that didn't feel right either. And then the Spirit hit me.

I know without a doubt that God wants me to go back for summer term. I know that for this summer, He does not want me to be an EFY counselor. It might work out next year, but it may not. And I've realized that while EFY had been my dream for 6 years, I never asked God if it was His dream too. Now it is clear that that is not His plan for me.

While part of my heart still aches for EFY, I can feel the Lord healing my wounds with His sweet, sustaining peace.

Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. -John 16:20

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. -Matthew 16:25

OK, Heavenly Father. I'm ready to give up my "abundant life" for a life abounding with the things of eternity.

Bring it on.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Some Things Are Meant to Be

This is my favorite thinking place. It's a little ledge by the stairs where I have come many times in the past 8 months to vent my frustrations to my parents on the phone, to ponder, pray, cry, or just watch at the world passing by and figure out my small place in it. Today I was doing the latter.

I am amazed at the incredible growth I have experienced these past two semesters. I have gone though disappointment, stress, pain, confusion, frustration, loneliness, and despair. There have been times when I felt completely empty and I wanted to run home to my mother's embrace and the assurance that everything would be all right.

But with the Lord's help, I was able to endure. He helped me through every painful moment and taught me that trials are the means by which He softens us, refines us, and brings us closer to Him. Trials are exquisitely difficult, but they are the only way we can experience the fullness of God's exquisite joy.

And that's another thing I have experienced in the last 8 months - exquisite joy. Not just fun times or temporal success, but pure, eternal, everlasting joy. I have formed friendships that will last forever and have learned so much from those friends of mine. They are truly heroes whose examples I look up to. And I have grown closer to my family too, mending some old hurts that have been ignored far too long. I can now testify that charity and keeping our covenants is the source of true, lasting, Godly joy.

I have been feeling sad about leaving BYU for the summer, but reflecting on all of these things made me realize that it is time for me to move on.

I know that I was meant to be here for this school year with this specific ward and apartment complex, these roommates and this circle of friends. God placed me in situations where I have been able to grow and progress.

But now I have grown, and it is time for me to do new things.

There is so much work to be done at home. I need to spend time with my family and improve my relationship with my little sister. I need to encourage and uplift my friends back there. I need to go to my brother's school play and my sister's high school graduation. I need to work at the fair and return to the Singles Ward. I need to serve the youth at Girls' Camp and hopefully as an EFY counselor (I'm still waiting to hear back). I need to sing in ward choir. I need to put my brother to bed and drive my sister to seminary. I need to sleep in late and scrapbook and go swimming in the ocean. I need to sit under a shady tree with a popsicle and a pile of good books. I need to enjoy my time with older people and young children, savoring the experiences before another long drought from August to next April.

I need to grow in new ways.

And so, with a heart full of gratitude and peace, I bid farewell to Provo and especially my little thinking spot.

Thank you for bearing with me through joy and pain, snow and sunshine, happiness and heartbreak. I have learned a lot while leaning against your wall and battling the natural woman inside me, knowing all the while that just as the cars on the street before us, those struggles, too, would pass.

Now they have. And it's time for me to move forward in this grand adventure called life.

The tide turning endlessly,
The way it takes hold of me
No matter what I do.
Some things will never die -
The promise of who you are
The memories when I am far
From you.
All my life, I've lived for loving you.
Let me go now.

Whenever I Need a Lift

...I read Segullah.

Segullah is an LDS Women's Literary Journal that focuses on "the peculiar and treasured." The women who write here courageously share their faults and shortcomings, their hopes and disappointments, their pains and sorrows - and how all those things bring them closer to Christ.

I have learned so much from them.

By reading the posts at Segullah, I have learned to recognize and cherish the little wonders God puts in my life each day. I have learned to rejoice in my trials and the growth they bring. I have learned not to be so hard on myself. I have learned to put more trust in God because He will NEVER let me down. I have learned to be a little kinder, a little more patient, a little more forgiving because life is so incredibly short. In short, Segullah has brought out the best in me.

There are so many gems there. I love this post about the true nature of success, this one about letting the Atonement into our lives, this one describing how the consequence of sin can remind us of God's love, this one about talents, this one about how trials can bring out the best parts of us.

And I could go on.

But I'll let you find your own treasures.

Friday, April 16, 2010


I always get sentimental at this time of year. Today I am here...

Photo by Dan Ransom

...and in a week I will be here.
Photo by me :]

I love California, I really do. And I absolutely love being home with my family. But for some reason change is rather difficult for me. (Remember the transition from Christmas break?) I think it's because there are so many beautiful things in my life that I don't want to end. There are certainly more beauties ahead, but it's hard to look forward to them because I'm not exactly sure what they are.

But I read this excerpt by Emily Halverson from The Mother in Me, and her words helped me to find hope in the change, to have faith that God's plan for my life is a happy one.

Perhaps watching can be painful at times, because I must acknowledge that time is passing - but not because, once passed, it's forever gone. Just like the sand that slips from the top of the globe to the glass floor below, it is not spilled or lost. It is stored.

My dad has always said that his favorite age for his children is the one they are at. I like that thought. To me, that is watching with hope.

Watching the change, and seeing what's not changing.

Watching it pass, and knowing it's not leaving.

Tasting every bite, but believing in God's everlasting covenant that the meal never ends. The food is perishable, yes, but there is more to come. And all of it, ingested, becomes a part of me.

I love that thought. I love that every moment of this school year has passed but has not left; it has become a part of me forever.

Labor Day Picnic...

Visiting the Spiral Jetty with the Art History Association...
October 2009 General Conference...


The mystery of Mitch tucking in his pajama pants...

A very Muggle Christmas...

Growing closer to my siblings...
Baking cookies and dancing to "Hey, Soul Sister"...

Ward Nerd Night and the epic Twinkie-eating contest...

Discovering my own soul sisters...

The great spoon incident...

The "Mom" tattoos...
And becoming friends with some of the most wonderful people in the world.
I feel like a small sapling. Each year brings new joys and hardships, but the rings that grow become part of the eternal being that is me. And that's pretty neat.

I guess change isn't so bad after all.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Oh Say, What is Truth?

Images found here and here.

Recently I found out that someone dear to me has rejected the Church. I thought they were a strong, believing member, but I discovered that this is not so. I am not completely surprised because they have a rough home life and many family members who have rejected the Gospel as well. But somehow I thought that this person was different. I thought that they knew the eternal significance of staying close to God. But they have forgotten.

I was heartbroken.

I know that Jesus Christ can help us through all of the struggles and pains in our lives - but only if we let Him. This person has so many hardships and has turned away from the only source of true peace. I pray that soeday when they hit rock bottom, they will remember that Jesus is always there.


I had mostly forgotten about this heartache with the adventures of the weekend and the stress of finals, but today it came rushing back to me.

We were singing "Oh Say, What is Truth" in my choir class in preparation for our performance tomorrow. I love this piece and especially the poignancy of John Jacques' lyrics. We were in the last verse of the hymn -

Then say, what is truth?
'Tis the last and the first,
For the limits of time it steps o'er.
Though the heavens depart
And the earth's fountains burst,

- when this line hit me right in the face.

Truth, the sum of existence,
Will weather the worst,
Eternal, unchanged, evermore.

And I sobbed.

This person's face flashed in my mind. And all my other loved ones who have tasted the sweetness of the Gospel and forgotten it. No matter what storms these people will face, no matter how far they stray, no matter what decisions and false accusations they make, Truth will not be altered. The Gospel will still be true. Jesus Christ will still live and will still be their Savior. And if they decide to return to Him, He will always be there with open arms to heal them, forgive them, accept them.

No one's decisions can alter these truths or my testimony of them. As Joseph Smith wrote, "I know it, and I cannot deny it."

Eternal. Unchanged. Evermore!

What a beautiful Monday!

Taken on my trip to the Provo temple Friday the 9th

Since finals are coming up, I haven't had much time to write a real post. I hope you enjoy these Monday links and a little tidbit of what is going on in my mind. I promise there is more meaty stuff coming soon :]

*10 days from now, I will be flying home. I'm not sure how I am going to get everything done in that short amount of time, but it will work out somehow!
*I watched this movie a couple weeks ago. It is intense, but so good. And in German :]
*This is my new favorite music video. So ridiculous!
*I absolutely love this building.
*I think I need to make this. I love barrettes and my collections needs an update.
*This made me cry. In the computer lab. It's beautiful.
*This is my favorite song at the moment.
*Love this post.
*Tomorrow evening is my choir concert in the beautiful Provo Tabernacle! I love singing praises to God in that beautiful building!
*Love this post from Brother Bott!
*This made me think.
*This weekend my friend went hiking and found a mini hot air balloon. We had a lot of fun playing with it, and fortunately did not burn down any buildings. Hooray!
*This dance is incredibly beautiful, and their comments afterwords made me teary-eyed.
*As mentioned before I went to the temple with my best friend. As always, it was a beautiful experience. I get to be roommates with that beautiful girl come fall, and it is going to be so great. She brings out the best in me and "because I knew her, I have been changed for good." I love you Courts!

Have a wonderful Monday everyone, and enjoy the wonders of spring!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

All is well! All is well!

With the end of the semester fast approaching, everyone seems to be talking about their summer plans - staying in school, going home, internships, field studies and study abroad programs. There are signs from the Kennedy Center posted all over campus with sayings such as "Enter to learn go forth to serve - but where?" and "Let's get you out of Provo."

Those signs really annoy me. To me, they imply that my BYU education isn't complete, isn't good enough without studying abroad. And frankly, this is not so.

Last year, 10,409 students applied to BYU. 68% were accepted. This means that 3,331 applicants were denied a BYU education. And some of us treat our BYU education so flippantly, even murmuring about it at times. To my fellow BYU students, please do not complain about your blessings.

When I was in high school, I was one of those 10,409 applicants who longed to go to BYU. I dreamed of the day when I could go to a school where 98% of the students believed the same things I did, where 97% of my male classmates would be returned missionaries.
In a high school with drug busts, rampant cheating, and no dress code whatsoever, I could not wait to go to a university where the Honor Code was enforced and even revered. I longed to attend religion classes and devotionals, to live in an enviornment where we would learn "even by study and also by faith" (D&C 88:118). Most of all, I hungered for eternal relationships, for friends who would truly understand appreciate the person I am, friends who would help me become more like Jesus Christ.

In those days of waiting and wishing, my soul found comfort in the LDS hymn "Come, Come ye Saints." It was the anthem of my pioneer forebears as they pulled handcarts to Utah. I was making my own trek to Utah with more modern conveniences, but with my own struggles. I too was a pioneer. I too could be strengthened by God. And even today when I sing these words, He truly strengthens me.

Come, come, ye saints, no toil nor labor fear;
But with joy wend your way.
Though hard to you this journey may appear,
Grace shall be as your day.

Tis better far for us to strive our useless cares from us to drive;
Do this, and joy your hearts will swell -
All is well! All is well!

Why should we mourn or think our lot is hard?
'Tis not so; all is right.
Why should we think to earn a great reward if we now shun the fight?
Gird up your loins; fresh courage take.
Our God will never us forsake;
And soon we'll have this tale to tell-
All is well! All is well!

We'll find the place which God for us prepared,
Far away, in the West,
Where none shall come to hurt or make afraid;
There the saints, will be blessed.
We'll make the air, with music ring, Shout praises to our God and King;
Above the rest these words we'll tell -
All is well! All is well!

Now this dream has been realized. I am finishing up my second year at the amazing institution that is Brigham Young University. And as excited as I am to return home to my family in 2 weeks, I am going to miss this beautiful place.

A place where we are encircled by the beautiful Wasatch mountains.

A place where temples abound.

A place where I never have to worry about people swearing, drinking or smoking.

A place where students respect the campus, creating a beautiful environment where the Spirit can dwell.

A place where it's normal for students to bring their infants to class and talk to their grandparents on the phone.

A place where people treat each other with love, respect, and kindness.

A place where I can leave my belongings unattended in the cafeteria and know that they will not be stolen.

A place with beautiful, uplifting art.

A place where buses display pictures of families instead of ads for sleazy TV shows.

A place where we sing and pray before our classes.

A place with amazing choral, dance, athletic and academic programs.

A place where I get to study, work, worship and play with incredible people.

A place where we play Quidditch on Friday nights.

A place where I have found friends who let me be my true self.
A place where I have grown tremendously.

I am so grateful that I, like my pioneer ancestors, made it to Utah. I love it here. And I raise my voice with theirs, testifying that "All is well! All is well!"

Monday, April 5, 2010

His Wholeness

"Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands." -Isaiah 49:16
Image found here.

I received an email from a missionary friend today that broke my heart. Here is what he wrote:

Conference weekend was way way hard for me. Most of the instruction that I received from General Conference was how to be a good husband, a good father, some great dating tips, and a whole lot about how to be a good father. However, none of those things actually apply to me, and won't for quite some time....Now, I know I'm not married, but just because I'm not doesn't mean that I can't live for my future wife. I can still try to live as worthy as I can to prepare myself for whoever she is. I can still live for my wife. So that has been one hard part of conference for me. I wish that the counsel was at least something that I could apply right now, but I really can't. At least I don't see how I can. The second insanely hard part was the choirs from the second Saturday session...I have so many friends in that choir. It's ridiculous. There wasn't a single camera shot that I didn't recognize a person. That was so hard. All of those friends are in the conference center, singing in General Conference, which is only one of my biggest dreams....It was so, so hard....I had such a stark feeling. I had felt that my heart had been ripped out and a shapeless darkness had replaced it. I wanted so badly to be happy and joyful to see all of my friends there and to receive guidance from the Prophet and the General Authorities, but the darkness was so overpowering.

I hope I can, with the help of my Savior, recover quickly from the dark void. I guess I just haven't received that witness of what the Lord has planned for me and why I'm here. I know that I'm supposed to be here and I'm definitely not going anywhere. I refuse to offend my God by leaving or not doing my best. I just don't feel like I have been growing at all, no matter how hard I'm trying....I know I've only been out a transfer and that I'm not going to be a drastically different person in so short a time, but I can't recognize any progression on my part. I just need to have a lot more faith and reliance on my Savior for strength, comfort, and direction. Good thing I know why I need to do that and know that I can have more faith, otherwise, I'd be in quite a bit of trouble.

After reading all of that, I just wanted to weep. He is such a good young man and can just feel that he needs love. I wish I could be there to give him a hug and let him know that everything is going to be ok - but that is not God's will right now. However, I do have the ability to email him, which is exactly what I did. I felt the inspiration of the Lord guide me to know what to write. What I wrote to him is a story of how Christ has transformed me - a story I want to share with you.

I read a book a couple months back called "The Hiding Place" by Corrie Ten Boom. Her family hid people in their home during World War II and most of the family was killed because of it. Corrie's book talks about her experiences and is absolutely amazing. It teaches a lot of eternal truths and illustrates examples of how to be like Christ. But the most powerful truth I learned was about the power of Christ. Corrie tells about reading the Bible in the prison camp. She and her sister would read aloud from the Bible every night, with the prisoners listening intently. At first it was joyous and uplifting for her to share her testimony, but after a while it grew monotonous and she felt empty. She would still read the Bible, but her heart was not in it. Then one day she realized where her emptiness and selfishness was coming from. "The real sin lay in thinking that any power to help and transform came from me," Corrie wrote. "Of course it was not my wholeness, but Christ's that made the difference." She realized that she had been reading out of the Bible because she thought she could help these prisoners - but the help was not from her! All along, it was from Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice. She was merely the instrument by which the prisoners received the message of Christ. And once she forgot about herself and put her whole heart into testifying of Christ, her heart was changed again. She was able to love and have joy again. She remembered that the prison camp was the place where God had called her to teach about Jesus, the only way by which hearts can be made "all whole."

And Corrie also helped me to learn about Christ and be transformed by Him. When I first read those words the natural woman in me piped up. "I'm OK," I thought. "I'm doing a good job. I'm not selfish." But then I realized that I was. Many of the good things I was doing were done out of obligation or habit or selfishness. I wanted to help people because it made me happy; it made me feel important. I decided to change my attitude. I realized that, like Corrie, I have been placed in this apartment, this ward, this University, this job, these classes, this social network because it is the place where God wants me to testify of His Son, Jesus Christ. God has placed certain people in my life because I have certain gifts and experiences that can help them. I do not know exactly what these gifts are or why it is my gifts that are meant to help them, but I know that this is what I have been assigned to do. And I also know that these gifts are not mine - they are God's. He has given them to me in order that I may do His work and testify of His Gospel. I decided that I would try to testify of Christ in all that I did, because "it was not my wholeness, but Christ's that made the difference." I have no power to heal or forgive people - but I have the power to testify of the One who does.
That decision has changed my life. I have found that it really is possible to testify of Christ in all that I do. I've found that as I focus on testifying of Christ, everything else falls into place. I am more focused on my schoolwork, more loving, more productive, have more friends, find more opportunities to serve, I am closer to God, and I am just happier. I can now see the hand of God in all aspects of my life. I can see my many reasons to rejoice.

I am grateful for your faith and commitment to do what is right even though it is so painfully difficult. I know that God is pleased with that as well. He loves you perfectly and would not make you endure any pain that was not absolutely necessary for your growth. I don't know exactly what His plan for your life is, but I do know that you are where you are for a reason. Right now He wants you to testify of Christ. There are people around who need the healing that the Atonement can bring, and God has chosen you to bring it to them. I know that this experience will prepare you to be a better husband and father someday.
God wants you to progress. He wants you to be happy. But sometimes we have to endure dark times because, as Corrie Ten Boom wrote, it is "in darkness [that] God's truth shines most clear." I know that the Atonement is real. I know that it has the power to forgive, to heal broken hearts, and to make us whole again. I know that God loves you and will help you through these trials, and that through them you will be able to help others later, to lead them to Christ.

I testify that Jesus Christ lives and that His Atoning sacrifice truly has the power to change attitudes, heal broken hearts, and change lives. He has done it for me, now let Him do it for you.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

General Conference

Photo by Doug Merrill.

Today I've been watching General Conference. And it has been beautiful.

We went up to beautiful Temple Square and watched the morning session in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, the afternoon session in the Conference Center.

The addresses were uplifting, inspirational, hopeful, and timely. But the Spirit they brought was even better. I was overwhelmed with hope, joy, peace, trust in the Lord, and most of all, a reassurance of God's love for me.

I wept when I saw the statue of John Rowe Moyle and another statue of Joseph Smith, Prophet of the Restoration. I wept as I listened to Sister Beck's talk on the nature and responsibilities of womanhood. I wept as Elder Wilford W. Andersen addressed depression and reminded us that "hope, happiness and joy are not products of circumstance but of faith in the Savior." I wept as I realized how much my Redeemer has changed me over the last 6 months. And I wept again when the Spirit revealed changes I needed to make, complemented with the assurance that, as Elder Richard G. Scott said, "when the call comes, the ability follows."

I wept a lot.

I am continually amazed at how the Lord stretches me, shapes me and refines me. I am in awe at how He has been able to transform my soul. I still have so much I can improve on, but I know that my God will help me with that. He has helped me through everything else, and I know that He will not abandon me now.

I am also amazed to learn about God's plans for my life. In these last few months, He has taught me so much about the work He specifically wants me to do. He has helped me to see my role in His plan, to cherish it and to better appreciate the role that others play in the plan. Roles that I could not play, but that I rely on all the same.

I am amazed at the power of the Atonement. Because Jesus Christ lived, paid the great Atoning sacrifice, died, and was resurrected, we each have the opportunity to receive a fullness of joy. We will live again in perfected bodies. We can be forgiven for our sins. We can receive divine help and guidance. We can learn to love and forgive as Christ did. Our pain can be healed. We can have a personal relationship with Heavenly Father and learn His plan of each of us individually. We can have joy and peace in this life, no matter what the circumstances. We can return to live with God again. We can have families that will last forever. We can grow and progress through all eternity.

I know that Jesus Christ lives. He is the reason why I rejoice.