Friday, July 30, 2010

Visiting Teaching Under the Stars.

"Let's sit outside," she said.
(There was too much going on in her apartment anyway.)
So we squished ourselves on a bench,
All three of us
and one teachee.

We talked for a while
about our lives,
our backgrounds,
our classes,
our plans,
our hopes,
our dreams.
And then we prayed.
It felt a little strange,
to be praying outside
where the evening swimmers could hear us,
but she said we should go for it.
It's just like her, 
to jump in head-first,

We talked about the blessing of eternal families,
how to protect them,
how to strengthen them.
We shared stories of our own families.
We bore our souls,
sharing joys and losses
and gratitude 
for the Gospel of Jesus Christ
which teaches that death is not the end. 

We had come to teach her,
 but in reality,
she was teaching us.
She is naturally strong in the areas where I am weak,
and her simple observations taught me
how I can be better.
I hope she knows
the gift she has given me.

We were strangers a month ago,
but that night,
we became friends.
as three different hearts
were knit together 
by the love of Christ.

We may only be together for a short time,
but our friendship will last much longer
and we will never forget that night
when we sat together on a little bench,
bare arms tickled by the warm summer breeze,
and enjoyed our view of the star-filled sky. 

For it was then
that we caught a glimpse
of God's plan for us
and the joys of eternity.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

If you thought Justin Bieber was good...

...(or even if you think he's lame)

Check out what my little brother came up with!

Yep, I'm convinced he's the coolest kid ever.

Monday, July 26, 2010

An apple tree for an elm tree.

Image found here.
"Betsy didn't answer. It was strange, she thought, how things worked out. Something was given to you but something was taken away. An apple tree for an elm tree. A raise, but you lost the chance to do what you really wanted to do." 
-Maud Hart Lovelace, "Betsy's Wedding"


I've been working at Jamba Juice for almost two years now, and I absolutely love it. Everyone who works there is amazing. I have met my best friends there and even my roommate for the fall. Every time I go to work it's a party, plus I feel loved and appreciated and uplifted. The people I work with are true disciples who help me come closer to Christ.

On Thursday, my manager pulled me aside and told me they wanted to promote me. He said they are grateful for all that I do and that they think I would do a great job as a trainer and a team lead. For now I'd just get more hours, but soon I would get a raise as well. Naturally, I was thrilled! I had been hoping for this but had no idea that it would come so soon.

Friday afternoon, not even 24 hours later, I got an email from the art history department. They offered me a position as a teaching assistant in the fall. Logically, it made more sense to take the TA position, which pays better and will give me more experience in my field and with the professors in department - but it just didn't feel right. When I was offered the promotion at Jamba, my heart was full of joy and excitement for this opportunity. Now I only felt doubt, anxiety and fear. 

I had no idea what I should do - so I cast my burden upon the Lord.

I told the Lord that I trusted Him, that I would be willing to walk into the darkness if that was His will. I've done it before, and was blessed so much for it. I know that as I follow God's will now, I will be blessed again. He can see so much better than I can. 

Heavenly Father has promised that whoever asks of Him shall receive an answer. And I certainly did.

I realized that my initial reactions were an evidence in and of themselves. The fruit of the Spirit is the giddy joy and sense of accomplishment I felt when offered the promotion at my current job. Doubt and fear only come from the adversary, and those are the only feelings I felt when I was offered the TA position came up. I’m not sure why the Lord wants me to stay at Jamba, but I know without a doubt that that is His plan for me. And I know that I must follow. 

My mom says this must be a fulfillment of the promise in Malachi 3:10, that if we pay our tithing, “I will open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” And I would have to agree. I do not have room to receive all that the Lord is offering me!

I love my job and the people there, and I can't wait for this new adventure. Now the challenge is to have faith in God and the answer He has given me. 

"Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward.
For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.
. . .
. . . If any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. . . .
. . . We are not of them who draw back unto perdition. [Hebrews 10:35–36, 38–39; emphasis added]

"In LDS talk that is to say, 'Sure it is tough--before you join the Church, while you are trying to join, and after you have joined.' That is the way it has always been, Paul said, but don't 'draw back,' he warned. Don't panic and retreat. Don't lose your confidence. Don't forget how you once felt. Don't distrust the experience you had. That tenacity is what saved Moses when the adversary confronted him, and it is what will save you." 
-Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, "Cast Not Away Therefore Your Confidence"


Elm trees are good, but I believe that my apple tree will be even sweeter.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

2 am

Image found here.
It's 2 am. 

I'm writing a paper
and eating potato chips. 
(Ruffles cheddar and sour cream - way good.)
And now, 
3 years into it,
I finally feel like I'm a college student. 

And boy oh boy, 
Am I enjoying the ride!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Runner's High

Image found here.

Yep, I've started running again (very slowly). I decided to take a jogging class to get some exercise and overcome my fear of running. We run half an hour three times a week.

Today, I the fruits of this month-long labor have paid off. As I finished my first mile, I found that I had improved my time and my legs did not feel like Jello. And I actually felt good!!! Who would've thought? 

I am not exactly sure why a smile lit up my face as I rounded the corner of the indoor track, or why my strides grew longer and my heart swelled with happiness. I don't know why I suddenly found so much joy in that simple moment that, logically, doesn't seem like it should be pleasurable in the least. But I'm glad I did. 

Horace Everett once wrote, "The promise of living with hope and thanksgiving is born of our loving our friends and our labor." When I work hard and push myself, when I associate with people who bring out the best in me, when I produce or accomplish something great, I find that my life is full of promise and I have faith in the future. 

Orson F. Whitney said, "No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God . . . and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire and which will make us more like our Father and Mother in heaven."

I certainly have "many, many long months of struggle" ahead of me. My life is not perfect by any means. But I have so much to be grateful for, including the aid of a Heavenly Father who loves me. I could not make it through a single day without Him. He is so merciful and patient and simply astounding. Words cannot describe how grateful I am for my Heavenly Father.  

And I have discovered that as I keep running the race, it truly does get easier - and if we do it correctly, it becomes a journey full of joy. 

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

However Long and Hard the Road.

A bomb was dropped on me yesterday. A bomb that shattered my idyllic perception of the world and my trust in so many things that had once seemed certain. It left me feeling frightened, disoriented, doubtful, and so very, very alone.

I do know that one thing in this world is "eternal, unchanged evermore," and that is the reality that Heavenly Father lives and loves me, and that His Gospel is true.

I know now better than ever that is absolutely vital to cling to the iron rod. There are more pitfalls and distractions in this world than ever before, and if we are not fully focused and exactly obedient, the adversary will take us down. We cannot afford to fall. There is too much at stake.

And while I am grateful for that lesson, my head has been spinning with all kinds of doubts and fears. Will I be able to make it? Am I strong enough to resist the temptations of the adversary? What about the ones I love? What about my future family? Do I have what it takes to effectively teach my children to keep the commandments? Is there any way for me to be safe?

Last night, my visiting teachers came over. (They are so wonderful!) While we were chatting before the lesson, a guy from our ward came by talked with us through the window. "How are you doing?" asked McKenzie, one of my visiting teachers. "We haven't seen you since they changed the FHE groups."

"Oh yeah," he replied. "Since they changed them I don't really go any more." 

"Why not?" 

"I'm just so busy right now. When I'm older and it's more important, I'll do it then." 

"You are always going to be busy, and isn't FHE important now as much as ever?" she asked with love and concern in her voice. 

"Yeah, I guess you're right," he said, and the conversation moved forward. I don't know if that young man thought more about it, but I sure did, and we returned to that concept in the visiting teaching lesson.

"It's just like I was saying earlier," McKenzie continued, "this is such a critical time in our lives. This is the time when we are making habits that we will have throughout our lives." And then it hit me. If I work right now to establish good habits of daily prayer and scripture study, they will become a part of who I am. 

In a world so filled with dangers and distractions, it is more important than ever to stay focused on living the Gospel. If we don't put all of our effort into maintaining our relationship with the Lord and being worthy for the companionship of His Spirit, we will fall. We cannot succeed without God. We have to be doing the simple things each day, or our adversary will succeed. 

But if we are constantly striving to have the guidance of the Lord, if we decide to never give up and never give in, if we remain comitted to doing the small and simple things, we will have the protection of the Lord. And we will succeed. 

"It requires a conscious effort to diminish distractions, but having the Spirit of revelation makes it possible to prevail over opposition and persist in faith through difficult days and essential routine tasks," Sister Julie B. Beck promises. "Personal revelation gives us the understanding of what to do every day to increase faith and personal righteousness, strengthen families and homes, and seek those who need our help. Because personal revelation is a constantly renewable source of strength, it is possible to feel bathed in help even during turbulent times." Yes, it is possible to stay strong and be safe, even in this wicked, wicked world.

I find comfort in the words of Winston Churchill to the British Parliament in May of 1940, another time when there was much fear for the future and very little to have faith in. Somehow in the midst of such darkness, Churchill found hope and extended it to his fellow men, not just in his time but for decades to come.

We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I will say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark and lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: victory; victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival....But I take up my task with buoyancy and hope. I feel sure that our cause will not be suffered to fail among men. At this time I feel entitled to claim the aid of all, and I say, "Come then, let us go forward together with our united strength."
I too, "take up my task with buoyancy and hope." I know that the Lord is with me, with all of us in our fight to do what is right. I know that He lives and loves us. I know that He will never forsake us. I know that He has provided a way to have peace and happiness in every season of our lives, and that is in the teachings of His Gospel. And I know through the sweet reassurance of the Spirit that in time, everything will be OK.

Shall we not go on in so great a cause?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Monday Links

Hello all,

I hope these make your Monday a little less grey and a little more colorful!

*This made me laugh so hard! Especially the operatic rapping...
*I just read this book and loved it! There is so much wisdom in there. And you can get yourself a copy for 1 cent on Amazon. 
*This is my new favorite blog.
*I just bought this and love it.
*This poem is breathtaking.
*And so is this one
*I want this really badly.
*We saw them in the park on July 3rd, and they were fabulous!
*Thanks to this, my voicemail message has taken a Swan Dive for the better. 
*If I didn't already love the BYU Men's Chorus, this would win me over in no time.
*This essay is beautifully thought-provoking.
*This is my favorite song at the moment.
*And this one too.
*And this as well.
*Check this out. I think it's pretty great :]
*I love the summer.

Have a wonderful, beautiful, fabulous week!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

This blog post is now diamonds!

I thought I loved Old Spice commercials already, but after watching this today...

...but now I love them more than ever. 

And since my homework for my German class tonight was to write about what I'd do with a million dollars, I couldn't help putting "der Old Spice Mann" in it. (If you want to put it through Google translate, click here. If anyone from my class is reading this, you better not steal it.)

Meine Reise nach Europa mit dem Old Spice Mann
Wenn ich eine Million Dollar, würde ich nach Europa fliegen. Erste würde ich zu Paris gehen. Ich würde den Louvre und den Eiffelturm sehen. Dann würde ich zu London fliegen. Ich würde die Houses of Parliament, Tate Modern und Nick Jonas auf „Les Miserables“ sehen. Dann würde ich der Old Spice Mann in Rom treffen. Nachdem sie das Kolosseum und das Essen lecker italienisches Essen, würden wir einkaufen und in die Oper gehen. Wir würden durch Venedig, Milan, die Schweiz und Wien fahren. unsere Reise würde in Berlin mit die Berliner Mauer, Kaiser-Friedrich-Straße, das Pergamonmuseum, und ein Justin Bieber Konzert enden. Dann der Old Spice mann würde seine Liebe für mich zu verkünden mit einer Arie auf einem Dach, und wir würden fliegen nach Las Vegas heiraten. Wir würden natürlich glücklich miteinander bis ans Ende ihrer Tage leben.  Alles kann passieren, wenn man wie ein Mann und keine Frau riecht. Ich bin auf einem Pferd.

PS - If you go here you can customize a voicemail message in the Old Spice style! If I was a guy I'd totally do it. 

Monday, July 12, 2010

"Graven upon the palms of my hands."

"Prince of Peace" by Liz Lemon Swindle

I wonder if Jesus Christ ever questioned His worth, His mission, His importance. Did He ever have days of drudgery when nothing seemed to go right? I think He must have, for the scriptures say that He suffered "the pains of every living creature (see 2 Nephi 9:21).

We focus so much on the big things that the Savior did, and rightfully so, but I think one of His most remarkable attributes is His diligence and perseverance. As men and women, we are weak when our patience is tested. We are so quick to forget the long term rewards when our work starts to get difficult. But Christ? He was perfect. He was divine. He never gave up hope, never gave up faith, and never stopped working.  

What kept Him going at those times when it was hardest? When He was scourged and spit upon, when He was unfairly tried and betrayed by His friends, when He was hanging on the cross and not even His Father would answer Him, what kept Him from giving up on that terrible, painful journey?

And then the words of Isaiah pop into my mind. "Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands." He did it for you and me. 

I like to imagine that in the darkest hours of His life, when Jesus may have wanted to put an end to it all, He pictured all of us who would need His Atonement so desperately. Perhaps He thought about all of our pains that He had just experienced, and decided that He didn't want anyone else to have to endure it alone. 

How glad I am that He did not give up. For when my journey grows tiresome and my cross is hard to bear and I feel alone and worthless, I remember Him who has graven me upon the palms of His hands. If He did not give up on me then, surely He will not give up on me now. 

And I must not give up on myself, however long and hard the road may be. 

"It is ordained that we come to know our worth as children of God without something as dramatic as a leap from the pinnacle of the temple. All but a prophetic few must go about God's work in very quiet, very unspectacular ways. And as you labor to know him, and to know that he knows you; as you invest your time--and your convenience--in quiet, unassuming service, you will indeed find that "he shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up" (Matthew 4:6). It may not come quickly. It probably won't come quickly, but there is purpose in the time it takes. Cherish your spiritual burdens because God will converse with you through them and will use you to do his work if you carry them well." -Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, "The Inconvenient Messiah"

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Let's enjoy the view, and never land.

Don't you love those moments when you know you're exactly where you're supposed to be? 

Leaving my famliy to return to school for the summer was a leap of faith. They are amazing, and truly are my best friends. I was looking forward to spending a full 4 months with them, but Heavenly Father had different plans. He recognizes the sacrifice it was to change my summer plans and compensates me with those special little moments when I close my eyes, sigh with contentment, and the Spirit whispers, "You did the right thing. This is where God wants you to be."

I have those moments when I walk to school in the cool morning and marvel at the beauty of the mountains, 

When I spend an entire two-hour class period chatting with my neighbor instead of listening to the lecture,

When I lay under a tree after class to soak up some sunshine and the words of living prophets,

When I go to my campus job and get paid to laugh with people I love,

When I'm at the hardest part of a run in my jogging class and "The Climb" or "Baby" comes on my iPod, 

When I come home at night to cheers and hugs from my sweet roommates,  

When my little brother calls me on the phone to vent about the struggles of his 9-year-old life,

When I sing praises to the Lord with my German class or the ward choir, 

When I take the sacrament with people who were strangers three weeks ago, but who have loved me openly and are now dear friends, 

When I finish my homework and realize that I really am learning something from these classes,

When I get a sweet email from my little sister or my best friend, 

When I commune with the Lord and He teaches me more about who I am and the plans He has for my life,

When I lie in bed at night tired but happy, knowing that God is pleased with me, and that somehow all the little things I do are part of a great work. 

Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing,  for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great. -D&C 64:33

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Wie groß bist du!

Photo found here.

One of the things I love most about BYU is the opportunity to join with my classmates in singing the hymns of Zion. In the Mormon culture we are taught to sing at a very young age, and no matter what hymn the teacher chooses that day, there are always a few people who add gorgeous harmonies. It feels like a symphony - each student coming together, uniting hearts and voices to praise the God who has guided our steps to this splendid university. 

I thought singing the hymns in a religion class of 200 was incredible, but yesterday I discovered that a tiny German class of 6 can be even more powerful.  

The hymn for the day was Wie groß bist du!” known in English as "How Great Thou Art." This has always been one of my favorite hymns, and I have fond memories of my mother singing it as she washed the dishes and cooked dinner. When I visit home, we sing it together as I help her with the household chores. 

As my class sang the song, I was surprised to see that the Germans have added another verse between our second and third verses. (I was even more surprised that I understood it!) Here are the lyrics and my translation:

Wenn ich bedenk, was du für mich gegeben
die Schmerzen all, die du gelitten hast
Du starbst on Kreuz damit wir können leben
und nahmst auf dich all unserer Sünden Last.

Dann preis ich dich, mein Heiland und mein Gott.
Wie groß bist du! Wie groß bist du!
Dann preis ich dich, mein Heiland und mein Gott.
Wie groß bist du! Wie groß bist du!


When I think what you have given for me
All the pain you have suffered 
You died on the cross so we could have life
And you took the load of all our sins

Then sings my soul, my Savior and my God -
How great thou art! How great thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Savior and my God -
How great thou art! How great thou art! 

I was surprised once more as tears filled my eyes and my voice started to falter. 

Truly Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. I am amazed and humbled by all that He offers me. It is a honor and a privilege to attend Brigham Young University and have the chance to associate with such wonderful people whose examples bring me closer to Christ. I am awed by the power and potential of my fellow classmates, whether it be in a class of 200 or a class of 6. I can sense that Heavenly Father has important assignments for us after we leave this university, but our works will continue to harmonize with each other across time and space, creating rich music of praise to the Lord. Just like our singing, each of us has something unique to offer that makes a powerful collaboration. I believe that our individual lives of discipleship, like our voices, will come together to create a gift to the Lord that is even more beautiful and more lasting. And that, my friends, is true joy. 

When Christ shall come,
With shouts of acclamation,
And take me home,
What joy shall fill my heart!
Then I shall bow
In humble adoration
And there proclaim,
"My God, how great Thou art!" 

Truly, Lord, how great thou art. 

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Doctrine of the Family

The family is not an accident of mortality. It existed as an organizational unit in the heavens before the world was formed; historically, it started on earth with Adam and Eve, as recorded in Genesis. Adam and Eve were married and sealed for time and all eternity by
the Lord, and as a result their family will exist eternally. 
-Elder Robert D. Hales

God put us in families for a reason. 

As a member of a family, one learns how to serve one another and thus become like God. We learn how to love fully and selflessly, how to seek pardon when we are wrong, how to forgive others who have wronged us, how to look past faults and love unconditionally. Our family members can be pillars of strength, filling our gaps with their gifts and encouraging us to be better with their good examples. They are minister to us day in and day out. They shape the people we are the the people we hope to become. 

The family is essential the Heavenly Father's Plan of Happiness. Parents have the opportunity to teach their families to love and serve one another. And when our family relationships are founded on these teachings of Jesus Christ, the family is the source of a fullness of joy. 

Many things in this world bring pleasure, but only a precious few bring deep, lasting joy. (Elder Neal A. Maxwell discusses this difference in detail in his talk, "Brim With Joy."I have a wonderful, happy, fulfilling life - but I don't feel complete until I am with the people that I love most in this world. My heart is whole and my joy is full when I am basking in the love of my family. 

Heavenly Father feels the same way. He has told us that His work and His glory is to bring His children home to Him. (See Moses 1:39.) Why would the most powerful, omniscient being in the universe choose to focus all of His efforts on guiding His children to eternal life? Because God too feels a fullness of joy when He is surrounded by the love and righteousness of His children.  

These are my thoughts on the family; Sister Julie B. Beck outlines everything much more clearly in her talk "Teaching the Doctrine of the Family." Please take the time to read it, for it will change your perspective on family forever. 

This generation will be called upon to defend the doctrine of the family as never before in the history of the world. If they don’t know it, they can’t defend it. They need to understand
temples and priesthood. If you don’t know that they are meant to be fathers and mothers, then they won’t know that they are meant to be fathers and mothers. Your effort will be wasted.  -Sister Julie B. Beck

I have seen divinity in my family. They are constantly teaching me how to become more like Christ, and forgiving me when I fall short. They are full of love and laughter, sunshine and selflessness, teaching and testimony. They give me hope when everything else seems to fail. And when you look at this -

- can you see why they bring me a fullness of joy?

The beauty of Heavenly Father's plan is that each of us has an opportunity to have an eternal family. If we rely on the Lord, He will teach us how to create loving relationships with the families we already have and the families we may have in the future. God is just and will not deny any worthy person of their righteous dreams. 

And my dream is to continue growing with this amazing group of people for time and all eternity.