Saturday, December 31, 2011

Sunrise, Sunset

 I'm pretty sure this year has been the best year of my life. I've met a few hundred new people, been to seven other countries, made memories that will last a lifetime, accomplished a good handful of lifelong dreams, and had countless of those moments when I was so happy I thought I would burst. (Actually, that's a very vague summary.) On the other hand I've also had many discouraging moments when I didn't know what I should do or how I could ever accomplish something that I wanted or had to do.  But it's the good and the hard coupled together that has made for the best year of my life. I don't know anything that could top this year besides maybe serving a mission or getting 2012 and 2013, I can't wait for you!!!

Fiddler on the Roof is one of my all-time favorite movies. In it there's a song about how time is made up of sunrises and sunsets. Here are some of the sunrises and sunsets that have made up my past 365 days. They have been some of the most signifcant moments of the year.

January 26th:  Camel ride along the Nile at sunset.

 January 30th: Sunrise from the top of Mount Sinai. #1 most powerful sunrise experience of my life. Actually, one of the most spiritually powerful moments of my life, period.

 February 17th: Sunset from the balcony of the Hurva Synagogue.

 March 14th: Sunset on the Sea of Galilee.

 May 6th: My first view of Africa was this sunrise from the window of the Kenya Nairobi airport. The exhileration of finally being in Africa put my jet lag to shame.

 May 27th: Sunrise on the Serengeti during a game drive at 5 a.m. on a safari.

July 7th: Sunset on the Indian Ocean in Tanga, Tanzania.

September 3rd: Sunrise from the top of Mt. Timpanogous in Utah after hiking since 1 a.m.

I don't think I'll ever have a year of such diverse and exotic sunrises and sunsets again in my life. However, I'm completely ok with that because it matters more what we do with the time between those sunrises and sunsets than where we are. Sunrises and sunsets are repetitious and days can seem humdrum and routine. However, small daily decisions are what destiny is made of just like centuries are composed of ordinary sunrises and sunsets.

"In reality, there aren't many things in a day that are totally without signficance. Even the mundane and repetitious can be tiny but significant building blocks that in time establish the discipline and character and order needed to realize our plans and dreams."
~D. Todd Christofferson

Here's to the 732 sunrises and sunsets you'll encounter in 2012 (leap year!) and making the most of them! May all the sunsets in your life be turned into sunrises because of the hope we have.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Thoughts on Christmas

I spent the day before Christmas Eve in bed. All day. I was sick with a wracking cough, pink eye, sore throat and what seemed like three other diseases. But honestly, lying in bed all day instead of baking and playing with neices and nephews like I would have done made me think.  I thought how Jesus Christ has felt everything I've ever felt. I thought how if I died in bed right then it would be ok, because I will live again because Jesus Christ conquered death. And, because of Him and His priesthood my family can be together forever. Because of him there is hope in life.

"In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."
John 16:33

I also thought about how 263 days ago I was in Bethlehem where the greatest gift mankind could ever receive was given to us. What greater gift could we ever ask for than the gift of that precious baby who would choose to suffer so we can live? Think of the opportunities and potential that opens up for each of us because of our Savior! Do we realize how hopeless and in-vain life would be without Him? There would be no repentance, no second chances, no greater plan or purpose.

Soemthing about lying in bed makes me analyze life, the true meat of it. This time I realized how life is simple. We get caught up in choosing gifts, spending and earning money, relationships, jobs, grades, making choices.  I get blinded by decisions that seem to consume my life while it would be so liberating to look at the grand scheme of things. If we are living the gospel and doing our best, what else can we do? When I think "life is hard," I try to remember that really, it's simple: you either do what the Lord wants you to or you don't.  When this life is over, that's the thing that will matter most anyway.

On Christmas I especially want to bear my testimony of our Savior. This year I have grown so much closer to him as I studied His life in Jerusalem and saw the places where he performed his great mission and exemplified the perfect example to us of love and service to others. Because of Him we can change. Our very natures can change, no matter what we've done before or how many times we've said we won't do it again, yet do. He lives! And He wants nothing more than our eternal happiness.

May you all get sick around Christmastime and lie in bed for hours so you, too, can remember what life, and Christmas, is really about.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Little Mexico

My dad and Hope and I took a little trip to Rocky Point, Mexico and stayed in our extended family's beach villa. We got there just in time for low tide  and saw this guy who showed us what he had in his mesh bag--three octopus he had found under the ledges of the tide pools. It's not a very good picture, but there is a pulpo (octopus, en espanol) on the end of that wire.
It was a little too cold for swimming, but other than that the weather was almost perfect and a huge improvement from freezing Utah!

 We rode ATV's the next day which was an absolute blast!

 And...we found the best tacos in Rocky Point. Seriously the best 14 pesos you could probably spend in Mexico.

Traveling with my dad is so fun. Whatever we want, he wants. We watched movies, played cards, saw Santa dance, visited friends, lit fireworks on the beach, saw a man breathe fire, got lost, went for a long run on the beach, ate awesome chicken fajitas, and chilled on la Choya Bay.  Do I not have a wonderful family? It's so nice to be home with them! Feliz Navidad, mi amigos!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Happiness Defined (finals week version)

  • Happiness is finally leaving the library after being there 10 hours that day.
  • Happiness is selling your book back and being told they were only buying two more of that book. 
  • Happiness is knowing you'll never have to take an epidemiology test again.
  • Happiness is when the boy taking his test next to you in the testing center offers you a slice of his chocolate orange.
  • Happiness is a candlelight dinner when and where you least expect it. 
  • Happiness is feeling your ears thaw after four miles in 23 degrees. 
  • Happiness is knowing you'll be in Mexico in three days where it's 63 and sunny. 
  • Happiness is having roommates that are so awesome that you don't even mind cleaning checks, just because you get to clean with them
  • Happiness is eating at the Cannon Center with Hope and her meal plan when the only food you have is frozen spinach and a box of Chex. 
  • Happiness is making new friends.
  • Happiness is that temporary feeling of being rich when you have a wad of cash from selling your text books back.
  • Happiness is your boss giving you a whole plate of fudge and a pecan log.
  • Happiness is your freshman roommate Emily Armstrong coming to visit you from California!
  • Happiness is when none of your pumpkin bread loaves in your second batch stick to the bottom of the pan.
  • Happiness is staying up late and then actually sleeping in (don't be too jealous mom and Carrie).
  • Happiness is having the sweetest visiting teachers in the ward. 
  • Happiness is reading stories like this (click here) and feeling the true spirit of Christmas. 
  • Happiness is not having to say goodbye to BYU and your ward because you're coming back next semester.
  • Happiness is knowing tomorrow you'll walk in the door and be pummeled by anxious nieces and nephews and hug your wonderful parents. 

As my roommate Brooke says,

Isn't it nice to know that the lining is silver? 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Why Do Girls Serve Missions?

Since you asked, 

Girls do not go because they have nothing else to do. They do not go because they are commanded to. They do not go because they feel obligated or pressured to. They do not go to learn lessons for themselves, because even though they hope they will change and learn much, they could definitely learn those same lessons through doing equally good things at home. They do not go to have fun. They do not go because they are part of the lonely hearts club. They do not go to tour other parts of the world. They do not go because they think it's better than getting married and raising a family, because it is definitely not. They don't go to become more marketable in the dating world, either. They don't go because it's an easy little break, they actually make a lot of sacrifices to be able to go. They don't go because all their friends are doing it.  

So, why do thousands of girls go on missions every year, when no one expects them to? Why do they agree to go anywhere in the world, possibly learn a foreign language, go out of their comfort zones, leave their families and friends and their personal lives behind, and obey rules for a year and a half?

They go to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. They go because they want to and they feel it's right for them.  They go because knowing the truth is so incredible they can't keep it to themselves. They go because they love the church.   They want others to feel what they feel and to know the precious truth they know. It doesn't matter that it may be hard for them, because it's not about them.

They go because the truth they have is a pearl of great price. It changes their daily life, and they can't imagine making sense of this world without it. They go because the gospel makes them so happy that they want to share it with everyone they know, even those they don't. For instance, they're grateful to know that their family can be together forever, and they want all families to know that. They are grateful to know God lives and answers prayers, and that is a truth that everyone deserves to know.

They go because the worth of souls is great. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Study Break

I had to take a blogging break from studying about the endocrine system just to ensure my adrenal cortex doesn't go ker-plunk.. Ask me to explain what panhypopituitarism is one more time and I'll probably develop it. Make me read about the hormones secreted by the anterior lobe of the pituitary gland, or the difference between toxic and nontoxic goiter and I might cry.

Sometimes it seems no matter how much you study, it's never enough.  However, this
talk by Sister Dalton (love her!) gives me hope.  

She urges us to dare great things, which require us to
1) dream big
2) move out of our comfort zones
3) go forward with full confidence relying on the strength of the Lord.

Although cliche at first, she says, 

"Believe in yourself! Don’t give up. Endure! You have the power to achieve anything you set your mind to. Now you may not be contemplating a marathon or an ultra-marathon, but you may be in the middle of a challenge that looks like one. You may feel opposed on every side. You may wonder if you really can continue to push forward with a perfect brightness of hope. So as Paul taught the Hebrews, today I repeat the same words to each of you—“Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward.” Go forward with faith knowing if you do your part, the Lord will always do His."

On a different note, my mom sent me this picture which I've been thinking about. It reminds me there is so much more to the world than my pitiful stress about finals.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

To be Back in Jerusalem

What I would give to just spend one day in Jerusalem right now. I've been thinking about it all day. I think it's because it's beginning to feel like Christmas, and Christmas is so much more meaningful to me after Jerusalem. As President Uchtdorf said tonight at the devotional, when you understand that Christmas is all about Christ, it's ok if your Christmas is "imperfect." If the turkey burns and the toys don't have batteries, or you don't get what you want or things don't seem the way they should be; it's ok if you understand the real reason for the season.

Going to Bethlehem last March was perhaps the most Christmas-y I will feel all year, and I wasn't even surrounded by lights or family or gifts. It felt like Christmas because we were focused on the birth of Christ. I will never forget having a testimony meeting and singing Christmas carols in a "shepherd's field" just outside the little city. It was cold and rocky, just like I imagined it for the shepherds.  The Spirit was so strong.

Sara and I just outside Bethlehem
All day I've been thinking about how life would be if Christ wasn't born, if He didn't do what He did. All those reassuring truths we hold dear wouldn't be so. We wouldn't be able to repent, we would never be able to return to live with our Father in Heaven, families couldn't be together forever, we wouldn't have His Church or Priesthood, we would have no perfect example to follow. We would walk in darkness. We would have no prophets or apostles today. We could not have eternal life. Death would be permanent. Life would be hopeless.
I can't believe it has taken me 20 Christmases and nearly 21 years to realize just how incredible the gift of the Savior really is. At a time when there are so many uncertainties in the future, I'm so thankful that Christ stands immoveable for us. I encourage everyone to read and perhaps memorize the Living Christ this month. It's an incredible document that teaches some of the most important truths we can know.

As if watching the Christmas devotional in my cozy apartment with my dear roommates and a pan of chocolate chip cookie dough brownies surrounded by our decorated apartment and my banana-leaf nativity from Tanzania wasn't heaven enough....having the true happiness that comes from knowing what Chrismas is all about makes everything seem possible and world look so bright.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

My Day Brought to You by Metaphor

In an effort to make a rather low-key weekend blog-worthy and engaging...

My phone got left in Arizona about 15 minutes before we got to the airport. But, my mom who is as sweet as a Christmas sugar plum sent it right away and I got it three days later.  We were reunited like lovers separated by cruel fate who eventually raced across the grassy field toward each other like two freight trains, one having left Cleveland at 6:36 p.m. traveling at 55 mph, the other from Topeka at 4:19 p.m. at a speed of 35 mph. Actually, I had only missed one call and two texts, so getting it was as anticlimatic as when you learn it's only Thursday when you thought it was Friday.

I wasn't really looking forward to the weekend because weekends are just like weekdays--full of homework. You see, a girl with a mission call is about as dateless as a cell phone is reception-less in the middle of the Sahara desert.

You know how in “Rocky” he prepares for the fight by punching sides of raw beef? Well, lately it has been as cold as that meat locker he was in. According to it was going to snow a lot last night, so I woke up on Saturday anticipating to look out the window and see the world blanketed in snow like a lasagna is blanketed in melted mozzarella. But instead, it looked like a lasagna made by a cheapskate cook on a diet who skimps on the cheese and only sprinkles some Parmesan a little on top. I think I'll trust like I do the boy who cried wolf.

Nevertheless, since the night before I had (unintentionally) practically carbo-loaded on pizza like Lance Armstrong does before the Tour de France, I wanted to go for a run. I stepped out from my 70-degree apartment into the 28-degree outdoors and it took my breath away as if an attractive man with a bouquet of flowers had unexpectedly knocked on my door.

Later I hit the library like a bird hits a glass window when it doesn't see it. I hit it like the gas pedal hits the floor of the car in a chase scene, but with the goal of staying there 5 hours instead of trying to get away like in a chase scene. I went to the Periodicals section because it's so quiet there and I like that. But, it's so quiet that if you just clear your throat or tear a page out of your notebook you feel like you stick out like a sore thumb among a bunch of normal thumbs and you wish you could just go unnoticed like the period after Dr. on a Dr. Pepper can.

When I cracked open my Human Disease text book I began reading this sentence; "Because the intrapleural pressure is subatmosphereic...." and the thought of my chronic disease final in one week made my brain hurt as much as your tongue hurts when you staple it to the wall.  The sheer volume of how much homework I had made my heart sink like when you find out that that attractive man at your door with the flowers is there for your roommate. But, the homework grew on me like E. Coli on a slice of Canadian beef at room temperature. I began to enjoy it and I sailed along in my studies gracefully like a boat on a smooth lake, exactly like a bowling ball wouldn't.

Three hours into studying, a nice boy sat at my table and after asking me about my intimidating chronic disease book asked for my number, like a boy in the Periodicles section at BYU would. We had never met, just like a pair of hummingbirds who had also never met.  I was expecting that about as much as you expect a surcharge at a surcharge-free ATM. Maybe there is a bar of reception in the Saraha desert now and then. Can you hear me now?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Gossip Girls

They usually start with someone's dilemma and they usually end with someone saying, "Guys I was going to get to bed early tonight!" Roommate chats. We all end up in Brooke and Nicolle's room and eventually cover topics of every sort. We talk about marriage, soul mates, boys, dating, and how long eternity is. However, while the subject of matrimony sometimes does dominate, there's also politics, missions, choosing a major, weird dreams, foreordination, Jerusalem, how precious the gospel is to us, motherhood, life dreams, and school.  I seriously lucked out to have such great roommates and I love our chats, no matter how late it gets (which is saying a lot for someone who's an early-to-bed early-to-riser). One thing I love about them is they don't talk about people unless they're talking about how amazing they are. We talk about ideas and solutions, so we're not gossip girls at all.  It seems like if we put our heads together as roommates we could solve (or at least sympathize with) any problem.  My roommates Emily, Ashling, Jamie, Brooke and Nicolle have been a great strength to me this semester and my best friends.

Our omniscient dialogues usually produce some great quotes for the quote wall. One of my favorites, "Women are great, it's just all the other people." Our quotes are pretty funny out of context.

It's nice to know that even if we neglect doing the dishes and slack off on our chore chart, we don't neglect each other. This was left near our piled-high sink the other day and cracked me up:

The days of final projects, presentations and tests are nigh. Pretty sure I'll need to recuperate with my girls of apartment 119.

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