Monday, September 15, 2014

Dreams Come True

It all began....well....this all began back in January, but that's a story for another time. We'll start this story about 3 weeks ago, when I knew that Carson had talked to my parents while we were in Arizona, and the coast was clear for him to propose. 
It didn't happen at the Grand Canyon. It didn't happen on the romantic hike up Mount Timpanogos. My poor impatient heart had to ask him: "Um.....what are we waiting for?" 

He said he had to do some things first. He asked me to be patient and give him a few weeks (this was the Thursday before he did propose). He said we should go ring shopping next Thursday--a whole week away. So I assumed he hadn't bought a ring. I resigned myself to learn patience. 
In actuality, he had already bought it. He did a great job of throwing my expectations off. 

So on Labor Day, the last thing I was thinking was that I would get engaged that day. He had lots of work to do to catch up from past two weeks of fun we'd had. But, he said we should go on a bike ride as an end-of-summer date, since classes at BYU started the next day. We'd fit it in before he had to go to work at the MTC at 5:30--his normal Monday-night schedule. 

I spent the day working from home and helping a friend move. I wasn't very surprised when Carson showed up for this bike ride in his dress clothes. He had to go straight to work, and, let's be honest, it would be more unusual to see him NOT in his white shirt. But I had no reason not to be in bike-riding attire. 

I was a little suspicious as to why he was so determined to go on a bike ride, even when we didn't have a lot of time, my bike tire was flat, etc. Anyway, against all odds we got out there.  I said we should for a quick route so he could get to work. He said we should take a scenic, longer route up Provo Canyon. Little did I know he was trying to kill time. Then he said he actually got work off that night, so we had time to go for a longer bike ride. Great! I thought that was the surprise. I had Carson all evening instead of just a couple hours. I was happy. 

We went about 10 miles up the Canyon, and got back to campus after a good 20+ mile bike ride. Then Carson led us towards the Hinckley Center, and I knew. This is where Carson and I went on our first date.  I got butterflies in my stomach. I thought about how underdressed I was for the occasion. I wished I had actually gotten ready for the day. Everything started to click.  

We pulled around to the back of the Hinckley Center to see this beautiful gazebo. He turned on some Michael Buble and danced with me, just like we did on that blissful first date on March 7th that had set us up for destiny. 

 Then he showed me a priceless video. Pictures of us. Sweet, sweet commentary. Scenes of places of significance to our relationship that brought tears to eyes, and sporadic shots of him holding up posters that said words such as, "Will" and "you" and "marry" and "me" and "?"

THEN, this inspiring, handsome, hard-working, faithful, diligent, selfless, charitable, ambitious, athletic, sacrificing, thoughtful, handsome, fun, wise, humble, and loving man of my dreams..... the one who has completely stolen my best friend...the guy who makes me a better person....the one who makes my heart beat faster just thinking about him....the boy I had prayed and prayed would ask me out...he knelt down and asked me, Faith Goimarac, to marry him.
How do you say "I wouldn't rather have it any other way?" or "It would be the deepest honor and privilege of my life," in one word? So I just said yes.

(You know it's unconditional love right there when he asks a sweaty, gross girl like that to spend forever with him.)
Photo credit to Tarah Westover, who hid behind the bushes and got some great shots! Thank you to her and all my friends who hid out to be part of the experience! It was so fun to have you there! (Those are non-alcoholic drinks if that's not clear.)
I can't even say how happy I am. Not only because Carson is everything I ever wanted, but because few things have ever felt so right. I know that God is smiling right along with us, and that is a great feeling.  It all seems too good to be true. The whole process has me even more convinced of the goodness of God. I thank God for Carson every day. I love him, and I will love him forever.

Here's to eternity, starting December 30, 2014, in the Mesa Arizona Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Summer Gratitude List

This blog has been a little neglected during the summer. Here's a little of what I've done and what I'm grateful for since my last post in June. We'll do this picture-book style.

 I've loved living with these girls--Nicolle, Brooke, and Ashling. They are always a happy sight to come home to and are truly uplifting.
 I ran a half marathon with Carson and we beat our goal time! It was a beautiful race and an amazing experience. I am so, so, so thankful for my health, for Carson, for running, for good causes like races for cancer.

My friend Jessica Jackson was visiting from Indiana and we organized a little Jerusalem reunion. Jerusalem is still blessing my life--three years later.

And these friends of mine from freshmen year are also continuing to bless my life--5 years later. Wow, I've been at BYU a long time. All six of us freshmen roommates went on missions, and the last two came home this summer! Our missions from left to right were Paris, Spain, Florida, Phillippines, Paraguay, and Idaho.
 This is a great action shot I got of Carson when we went to the Mona rope swings. Now we're eligible to graduate, having checked that off the BYU bucket list.

 A highlight of my summer was teaching 13 highschool-age youth at a mission prep camp at BYU for a week. The world is in good hands with youth like these in it. I was so touched by their desires to serve God, to prepare themselves to serve better, to learn the gospel, and to share the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ no matter the obstacles. I'm so thankful for the examples they are to me.

 A major part of my summer and the upcoming semester is my internship with the Utah State University Extension office. I am a nutrition educator with a program called Food $ense that teaches nutritious eating on a budget. I've loved interacting with the community in Provo, using my Spanish, and promoting fruits and vegetables via samples at Farmer's Markets, classes, and demonstrations. Eating healthy is so much more fun than most people tend to think. I love my major and my job.
 As a final hurrah, Carson and I just went to my home in Sedona for a week. We surprised my parents with a big 60th birthday party. Seeing their faces as they walked into our backyard full of friends, family, food, and was priceless. I was so thankful to be able to see all of my family (minus Hope who gets home from her mission in THREE months!) and nieces and nephews.
After Arizona, we went to Idaho for a wedding. It was great to be with Carson's family and friends. 

In all my activities and endeavors and footsteps this summer, I've been thankful for how much good there is to be found in this beautiful life we all get to live. There are people we can influence, there is love to be given and felt, there are friendships to kindle and people to re-connect with...there is really more to do than can ever be done. And it's great.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Despise Not the Chastening of the Almighty

I bought a car about a month ago that ended up having some trouble. I have been going in and out of the car dealership getting it fixed, and while I wait, the super-friendly used car salesman, George, and I have been becoming friends. He invites me into his air-conditioned office and gives me a cold water bottle and shares his Triscuits with me. And then we somehow go into a gospel conversation. This last week when I was back again, I could tell he'd been doing some thinking. Our conversation led to him saying, "Why do you Mormons and Catholics believe that God punishes His people? To me, God is love. He accepts us for who we are and loves us without judging us."

Then, the other night I was watching an excellent movie called "God's Not Dead" (I highly recommend it). In it, the atheist professor admits that he actually hates God (implying he deep down believes He exists) because God had taken everything away from Him. He, along with other non-believers in the movie, indicate that if there was a God, He wouldn't do any harm to His people. He wouldn't let them suffer.

And THEN, I was watching a news cast about some controversy in the Church about how Kate Kelly and John Dehlin have been summoned to participate in a church disciplinary council. And the comments arise, "Who Would Jesus Excommunicate?" implying that He wouldn't excommunicate anyone.

All these people are saying, "A loving God will accept us for who we are, and won't discipline us, judge us, challenge us, or let us suffer."

I could now turn to the Bible and other scripture and spout off verses about how God is a God of chastisement, a God of discipline, and a God who indeed judges us (with so much mercy at the same time). More so than punishment, I view God’s acts of justice as discipline to bring us closer to Him--not punishment to drive us away from Him.  But more than that, it's important to understand WHY God disciplines us and even lets us experience some suffering. The answer is exactly what George said. He IS a God of love. Love so deep we sometimes don't comprehend it.

Something I've come to truly love about God is that He has a growth mindset as opposed to a fixed mindset. Here's a little table that compares the two:

Growth mindset

·        Believes intelligence and talent can be developed
·        Embrace challenges
·        Persists in the face of challenges
·        Learns from criticism
·   Tries new things, even if they fail at first.
Fixed mindset

·        Believes intelligence and talent are fixed traits
·        Avoids challenges
·        Gives up easily
·        Ignores useful negative feedback
·   Will only do things if they are naturally good at it.

If God were to accept us for who we are, coddle us, put us into a little glass case and just admire us for who we are and be happy with whatever we do, He would be keeping us from our greatest potential and essentially our greatest happiness. If He were to have no standards, no commandments, no judging criteria, no consequences for failing to keep his commandments--we would similarly be limited because we're not being stretched to something beyond our natural abilities and comfort zone.  Yes, it’s hard to not be selfish sometimes. Yes, it's hard to be completely honest sometimes. Yes, it's hard to do things that God commands, especially if we don't understand why He commands them. But if He weren't to give us hard commandments, He would essentially be saying, "I don't love you enough to help you become your best self."

Fixed mindset people look for friends and a spouse who will put them on a pedestal and admire them for who they are. Growth mindset people seek to be with people who will give them a little prodding, encouragement to go outside their comfort zones, criticism, and sometimes hearing some painful honesty—because that is what leads to progression.  A growth mindset God, like ours, knows that chastisement, discipline, and maybe even some pain are what will allow us to truly grow.

For instance, a good husband will love his wife for who she is. He will appreciate her and be content for her to always be the same so she will always love him back with the same surface-level love. A great husband, with deeper love, will encourage his wife to try new, challenging things and develop herself, and will be lovingly honest about her weaknesses so she can improve them. He will be more concerned with her long-term success, happiness, and well-being than he is concerned about her opinion of him. God similarly asks us to keep challenging commandments and follow Him in faith sometimes without us understanding, in order to let us grow, and not stay fixed in our same natural, finite state.

 However, in trying to keep those commandments, we often fail. We come short. Every single time we repent, He forgives us. Is it ok to make mistakes? Is it ok to have doubts? Is it ok to have moments of weak faith? Of course. That is what the Church exists for. That is why Christ suffered for us.  However, when we deliberately go against God’s commandments in open rebellion, when we give up trying to have faith, or when we try to change His doctrine or lead others to believe something God hasn’t taught Himself, God often disciplines us—in hopes that we will return unto Him, the source of lasting happiness and life. Believing that God should not discipline is likened unto an immature child who balks at his mom or dad when they demand that he obey the rule to wear sunscreen to go swimming or he will be put in time out.  Maybe the child doesn’t understand why it’s so important to wear sunscreen. Maybe he doesn’t see any immediate consequences when he doesn’t wear it. Maybe none of his friends’ parents make THEM wear sunscreen. Maybe he feels like he knows lots better than his old-fashioned mom and dad. Maybe he thinks he has the right to do whatever he wants and still reap the same benefits as the obedient children. And so he openly refuses to wear it.  And then when he gets put into time out as warned, he thinks his parents do not love him. On the contrary, their love for him is truer than the love that would allow him to do whatever he wants and face the miserable consequences, whether they be sun burns, skin cancer, or living with the belief that it’s not necessary to honor your parents.

I know with all my heart that God loves us. I know that in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints we have His true gospel, order, commandments, priesthood, and church organization. I know that, as President Kimball said, “Since He is our Father, He naturally desires to raise us up, not to push us down, to help us live, not to bring about our potential spiritual death.”  I know that His chastisement is not to punish us, but to bring us closer to Him. I believe that we are, for now, utterly incapable of understanding the depth of His love. However, that misunderstanding doesn’t have to cause us to reject His love, even when receiving His justice.

In his excellent book, Return unto Me, Kerry Muhlestein (the remarkable professor I had in Jerusalem) explains that what we view as God’s acts of “wrath” are truly acts of great love. For example, the flood in the time of Noah “can be seen as an act of wrath, a heavy-handed sword of justice falling upon a wicked world. Indeed, God Himself said, “My fierce anger is kindled against them,” (Moses 7:34). But when Enoch saw the story of the flood in vision, he also saw God weeping. Enoch asked God how He, an all-powerful being, could weep.” God replied in Moses 7:37, “Should not the heavens weep, seeing these shall suffer?”

When members go against foundational doctrine or lead others astray, God feels it is just to discipline them. Maybe we don’t understand why. Maybe we disagree that we or someone else should be disciplined. Thankfully, we don’t have to understand everything to have faith in God and follow Him. And we can be sure that our suffering causes God himself to weep. I know with all my heart that God loves us, and all He does is done to show that love. 

I believe that God is more merciful than He is just—although He must be just. As J. Reuben Clark says, “I believe that in His justice and mercy He will give us the maximum reward for our acts, give us all that he can give, and in the reverse, I believe that he will impose upon us that minimum penalty which it is possible for him to impose.” - J. Reuben Clark

“My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord, neither be weary of his correction.” Proverbs 3:11

“Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth; therefore despise not the chastening of the Almighty.” Job 5:17

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Because of Him

Several weeks ago I went to Salt Lake City to interview with a potential internship. I had to walk a few blocks alone in downtown. Little did I know that not all of downtown Salt Lake is like Temple Square. Even though it was 3 p.m. and broad daylight, I uncomfortably walked by dozens of homeless people, a crowd of young teenagers with extreme hair, piercings and tattoos; two men fighting about a beer, and I saw several individuals doing one type of drug or another.  They asked me for money, they asked me where I was going, they gave me creepy compliments. I hadn't been in a situation like this since Paraguay. The tension, the sadness, the desperation, the was noticeable.

I have thought about these people many times since. This is the sobering truth: these people and I are not so different. I'm sure that before they got into the lives they're in now, we could have found common interests, laughed over the same things, had the same goals, wanted the same happy life. But somewhere, for some reason, on some particular day, each of them decided to do something that took them down a path of darkness. Or maybe they didn't conscientiously decide. Maybe it was something that happened to them. I can't help but think much of it has to do with poverty. While perhaps they are responsible for their actions to a degree, and while poverty is no excuse for doing crime or resorting to drugs and alcohol-- it is one of the lowest points someone can go. As Bill Stickland says in his book, Make the Impossible Possible: poverty distorts your vision, and vacuums all the hope from your soul. It hardens your heart, it can cheapen your life, warp those warm human emotions, and make you trade in your dignity out of desperation.  "Hope is the one thing, the only thing that inoculates you from the madness, wherever you live. But where on those mean streets does a person find hope?"

"That's the real evil of poverty: it diminishes you, it starves you of hope and vision, it forces you to define yourself in terms of what you cannot do or cannot have or cannot be."

These precious but sad souls probably feel like a better life is impossible. That's why I wish I could teach them of Jesus. To them who define themselves in terms of what they do not have or cannot do, I want to teach them how possible everything really is because of the power of the Atonement.  Because of Him, the impossible is made possible. Because of Him, they still have endless second chances, their past can be completely redeemed. I don't understand why they have been deprived of so much. I don't think it's fair what they've had to go through. But I do believe that all things that are unfair in life will be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. And the more faith we have in Him, and the more we follow His gospel, the more access to that Atonement we have.

I got out of my interview with some time to spare. I walked three blocks up to the beautiful Salt Lake Temple. Merely setting foot on temple square caused a wave of the Spirit to flood over me. The feeling was the opposite of the oppressive, uncomfortable feeling on those sidewalks just a few blocks away. It's a spirit that whispers hope into your heart and focuses on a glorious future, while the feeling on those dark sidewalks is one that dwells on what has been lost and what has happened in the past. I pulled out my recommend and went inside the temple to do some temple work. The temple truly is heaven on earth. My heart ached with the desire that everyone could enter the temple and feel the serenity that is always present there. The faces of the people on those sidewalks came back to mind. I pictured the tears that would surely run down their cheeks if they were to enter those temple doors. Thankfully, Christ's church is the most inclusive one there is. Everyone, literally everyone who has ever been born, is invited to follow Him and become ready enter His House and eventually enter into His kingdom for eternity. (What other church sends missionaries into all the earth to invite literally everyone into His fold? Talk about being inclusive!) Because of Him, there is really no uncrossable barrier preventing anyone from the joy of the gospel and the peaceful life that comes with living it. Because of Him, that palpable despair I felt and saw in the eyes of those on the sidewalks of downtown Salt Lake City.....that despair can become hope. Share the message of Jesus Christ so that Only Hope can be found.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

On Relays and Covenants

This past weekend I got to run in a Ragnar trail relay in Zions in southern Utah with my cousins Elise, Kimberly, and Karen and a few of their friends. Over the course of about 24 hours, the idea is that each team member runs a leg of 3.1 miles, 4.6 miles, and 8.2 miles--each running a total of 15.9 miles.

I was taking finals and then moving into a new apartment up until the moment I left for the relay, so I hadn't thought through it much or taken anything to do or read in between running. That left a lot of time for just thinking. Running has always been a time of pondering for me, but this weekend I found myself thinking even more than normal. In fact, the hardest part of the experience for me wasn't even the running, but the three hours of volunteering I decided to do. From 7-10 p.m. I sat out by a water station at the 5-mile mark of the 8-mile leg. My phone was dying. There was no one around but an occasional runner. The sun was setting. It was just me, sitting in a folding chair in the middle of a national forest for three hours, trying my hardest to keep my mind off of how cold I was. So many thoughts came. I thought about every era of my past. I thought about my future. I thought about how to make more money and came up with nothing. I thought about how amazing the human body is. I thought about the kind of person I want to be. I thought about goals I want to set for the summer. I thought about memories that I hadn't thought of for ages---like of my dad when he'd sing "Testify to Love" with head phones in while doing the dishes, which made me and Hope just crack up.

But what I found myself thinking about most of those long three hours was how life is just like a run. It's a cliche analogy, I suppose. But as I watched these runners pass by me in the cold and dark, I thought of how God is similarly watching us complete the run of life. For us, it seems like it will never end. For Him, He knows it is just a run and it will all be over sooner than we realize. For us, it seems like the goal should be to get through it as comfortably as possible and just avoid the pain. For Him, He knows we will be happiest if we overcome the hills, the cold, the sand, the dust, the wind...and victoriously finish stronger than we began. As I watched these runners, I just wanted them so badly to be successful, to be happy with their performance, to do well. I cheered on every one.  I realized God feels the same way. He cheers us on, too. Oh how He cheers us on!  What I wanted every runner to know is what God tells us, through people like Elder Uchtdorf who said,
"You are stronger than you realize. You are more capable than you can imagine. You can do it now!" 
God cheers us on all the time through comforting words in the scriptures, words from prophets, people He places in our lives, feelings from the Spirit. He's the best cheerleader any of us can have.

But I realized that there is a source of even greater strength and power available to us if we just tap into it. Just like runners that train are stronger, the way to strength in life is through covenant-keeping. During the weekend I was reading an excellent conference talk on my phone, The Power of Covenants. Elder Christofferson says, "What is the source of moral and spiritual power, and how do we obtain it? The source is God. Our access to that power is through our covenants with Him."

I can see that God is able to bless us more when we do our part. It is just a law of heaven that those who do their part are rewarded. Runners who train win. People who put God first win, too, because that's the promise to covenant-keepers. Man! God is so good to give us promises like that!

At mile 6 of my 8-mile run, icy drops of rain began to fall, and a strong wind confirmed their presence on my face. The trail began to get more hilly, yet out of nowhere I was granted a second wind. I felt amazing. It was one of the most enjoyable runs I've completed. I know what it feels like to find strength in yourself you didn't know you had. In life, we all need a second wind. We need power to do things we can't on our own. Those icy, rainy, hilly parts of life will come and I will want that power to carry on. I know that that power comes from God, and the way to obtain it is through covenant-keeping.

Cousins pic!

Our team: Chicks with Kicks

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

General Gratitude

General Conference is always a very reflective time, but even more so since every April and October mark the beginning or end of my mission. In fact, on Friday, April 4, I re-united with three of my friends who also left on missions around the time I did. We took pictures at the exact same place, at the exact time of day as we did exactly two years earlier before going into the MTC. Two years ago we had no idea what Russia, Oakland, Paraguay, and the Philippines would teach us. 
I was thinking back to last April's General Conference, when I was serving in Isla Bogado, Paraguay. I wrote a list of what I got out of that conference which you can read by clicking here. 

My how things have changed since last General Conference! I had been looking forward to this weekend all semester since my parents and nieces and nephew were coming to visit. It was like a little slice of heaven during a busy time. These pictures should explain why. 

 This mom. Amazing.

You gotta love 8-year-old cursive, especially when its used to write love notes. 

 We miss Hope. 
As if going to conference in person with my family didn't make me lucky enough...

My dad and I listened to almost every session in the Legacy Theater on Temple Square. Biggest screen ever with the best man I know, listening to words of comfort and wisdom. 

In addition to feeling so blessed because of my awesome family, I feel so blessed because of the words of guidance and reassurance from the leaders of the church. Here are just a few nuggets I got out of conference this year, to get you going on your own list of Conference-gleaned inspiration:

1. Discipleship is a responsibility and a burden, but a JOYFUL one. 
2. The commandments of daily scripture study, prayer, Family Home Evening, etc. are not to be stressful add-ons to a to-do list, but stress relievers.
3. The Book of Mormon is SO TRUE! This is SO Jesus Christ's church! I can't say it enough. 
4. I need to make my home a family history center.
5. We are infinitely more precious than a tree, thus God will strengthen us with winds of adversity just like He does to trees. 
6. You hold the happiness of many people in your hands.
7. If blessings were immediate, we would not build faith.
8. If you let God be the leader of your family, things will always work out. 
9. ALL truth, no matter what its source, is part of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
10. "Let us have the courage to defy the consensus." Wrong is wrong no matter how many people think its right.
11.God can do so much more with my life than I can on my own. He already has.
12. Our love for the Savior is key to Savior-like obedience.
13. "Gratitude is a catalyst to all Christlike attributes."
14. I need to be studying Preach My Gospel again.
15. The gospel is not weight, it's wings!
16. Never suppress a generous thought. Life is just about 4 minutes long, after all. 
17. Heavy loads create spiritual traction and move us forward.
18. I need to express more love to as many people as possible, with no motive more than love itself. Love is a means unto itself. 
19. If you're keeping your covenants, there is nothing necessary for Salvation that will not in due time rest upon you. Whew. What a promise! Thanks Elder Packer!
20. The truth will always be opposed. Look for truth and you will always find dirt flying. Bring it on!
21. I need to serve lots more. 
22. May I realize how close He is willing to come. 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

We are Different in Happy Ways

Sometimes my heart just gets so full that I have to write a blog post. Now is one of those times. I would say sorry to post twice in a row about women, but I'm not sorry. 'Tis important stuff.

Can I just say how happy the gospel makes me? How true it is that there is joy in obedience?

Last night I got to listen to the first-ever general women's meeting of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I was filled to the brim with the Spirit, with gratitude, with happiness, with motivation and with love.

What we have as women in the Church is so unique! We have this giant network of sisters, who know who they are, who know how to find true joy, who understand the importance of service and who love Jesus Christ. I feel like if I was not a member of the Church, and I watched that amazing conference, I would do anything to be part of such an amazing sisterhood.

As President Spencer W. Kimball said clear back in 1979, "Much of the major growth that is coming to the Church in the last days will come because many of the good women of the world (in whom there is often such an inner sense of spirituality) will be drawn to the Church in large numbers. This will happen to the degree that the women of the Church reflect righteousness and articulateness in their lives and to the degree that the women of the Church are seen as distinct and different—in happy ways—from the women of the world."

We are different. We are distinct. We are peculiar. Some might see our modest clothes and alcohol-free weekends and chaste lifestyle and say we are weird. And if we women of the Church live those standards feeling that we are restricted and missing out on something, we are missing the point. We must live the gospel so that other see us as distinct and different in happy ways, because if we're living the gospel right, happy is what we will be.

Sheri Dew talks about a time when a reporter interviewed her and said, "You can't be ordained to the priesthood, so I assume you feel oppressed about that, so how do you deal with that?"

To sit and think that women of the church are suppressed and unhappy is simply a skewed perspective. To quote president Kimball again, "Great women and men are always more anxious to serve than to have dominion." We, as women, have so much to give, so much to teach, so much happiness to exude and so many reasons to do so. And God is calling us to step up like never before. Last year, in his excellent talk "Let us Think Straight," Elder Ballard said, "Sisters, your sphere of influence is a unique sphere—one that cannot be duplicated by men. No one can defend our Savior with any more persuasion or power than you, the daughters of God, can—you who have such inner strength and conviction. The power of a converted woman’s voice is immeasurable, and the Church needs your voices now more than ever."

I sat down to write this with no solid direction to take than simply to say: the gospel brings me so much JOY. Thanks to the gospel of Jesus Christ,  I can have the worst luck and no success in the academic and social scene, yet still find joy.  I've been able to work as a volunteer helping in the temple each Saturday morning. My heart was just bursting with happiness yesterday as I was there. I think of all the sister missionaries in the world, the temple workers, the primary teachers, the visiting teachers, the young women leaders, the moms, the grandmas. Their work makes them happy. My work makes me happy. Last night in the broadcast, Elder Eyring talked about the joy of making covenants and helping others make them, and I wanted to stand up and shout, "Amen!" The best decision I ever made was to be baptized as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The second best decision I made was to serve a mission and help others make that same covenant. It's because only through covenants can we have full access to the atonement of Jesus Christ, which is the source of all happiness. Covenant keeping increases our access to the Source of all true happiness.

And here's just a shout-out to my dear sister Hope, who is happily serving a mission in Brazil, helping others make covenants that will bring them more joy than anything else. This is a picture from exactly two years ago, at the General Conference right before I entered the MTC.

The mission in Brazil hasn't been a cake walk for her, but after a rough week this is what she said: "I love being a missionary, though, and if I can say that after 3 paragraphs of sad stories, then you better believe it's true." 

Making covenants and helping others make covenants makes us different from the world in very happy ways. 

"Women of God can never be like women of the world. The world has enough women who are tough; we need women who are tender. There are enough women who are coarse; we need women who are kind. There are enough women who are rude; we need women who are refined. We have enough women of fame and fortune; we need more women of faith. We have enough greed; we need more goodness. We have enough vanity; we need more virtue. We have enough popularity; we need more purity." Margaret D. Nadauld

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Success as a Woman

I've recently been inundated with articles and comments as I scroll through my newsfeed that have opened my eyes to the way we're viewing the role of women. The topic has been consuming my thoughts. You should see the comments of horror when Susan Paton's article about marrying young (i.e. before 30) is posted. Or the feisty comments from both extremes on an article in which one writer criticized the fact we celebrate things like weddings and births, saying, "If women can do anything, why are we still content with applauding them for doing nothing? I want to have a shower for a woman when she backpacks on her own through Asia, gets a promotion, or lands a dream job--not when she stays inside the box and does the house and kids thing which is the path of least resistance." Because producing and sustaining life is less miraculous than backpacking Asia...and is doing "nothing?" (As Matt Walsh says, "Whatever moms are doing, they ARE doing something, and our civilization DEPENDS on them doing it well. Who else can say such a thing? What other job carries with it such consequences?")

I haven't backpacked through Asia or attained my dream job yet, but I've studied in Israel, done orphanage projects in Guatemala, escaped an Egyptian riot, scaled Macchu Picchu, survived a near-shipwreck in the Indian Ocean, taught health classes in Africa, run many a long-distance race, defended my beliefs at a UN Conference in New York, become fluent in a foreign language and testified of what I know to be true on many a hot day in Paraguay. I've had a top-notch education, held leadership positions, and seen some of the most beautiful sites life has to offer.  Granted, none of that would have been as possible if I had married young and was "stuck" at home raising kids. Maybe, when I'm a stay-at-home mom in the future with more than a few rambunctious children testing my patience, I'll sigh and I'll look back at this time and miss the calmness, the occasional solitude, the ability to do what I want without having to organize babysitters or pack a diaper bag. 

But I'm actually pretty sure that I will never look back on this period of being single and think....."Wow, those were the days." I'm pretty sure I'll never think that. In fact, I think the best moments are yet to come, when I'm devoted to my own little home. Yes, I'm sure I won't be as appreciated as I wish, it won't be as "fun" as the humanitarian projects and tours, but it will be the best of all. Call it being naive, but I call it having your priorities straight. These years of opportunity and adventure have been important, life-changing, educational, perspective-broadening, testimony-building---yes. But I was created to serve. And the ultimate service is in a family. I didn't come to earth to just build a resume, check off a bucket list, and have adventure. I came here to find true happiness, which is found in the family. I didn't come to earth to see how far I could climb up the corporate ladder, but to see how close I could get to becoming like my Ultimate Example, and I can't imagine a better way to become like the Best Parent than being a parent myself. I didn't come to earth to prepare for an amazing career. I came here to prepare for eternal life, and family life prepares us for eternal life. 

Of course, while I hope to have a family and make them my first priority, I don't think a woman's influence is limited to her household. Oh no. Before and during and after the child-raising years, there is much more to be done than sit and wait and assume our only chance to do good is in the home. Yes, it's the most influential and most important place to do good, but it is not the only place. I still plan to be involved in my community, in politics, in public health, in development work of impoverished areas, in local events wherever I may live, and much more. And I believe that if I put my family first, God will bless me with opportunities to serve in many capacities and even develop myself. Marathons, learning to ballroom dance, having my own catering business. There is a time for everything. But if not, there is time for the most important things, which is why I'll put them first.

But as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I don't measure my success by how impressive my life looks from a resume stand-point (click here for a great Ted Talk about how to really measure your life). I measure the importance of my priorities by the words of one of our prophets, David O. McKay, who said, "No success can compensate for failure in the home." 

Without the gospel of Jesus Christ in my life, I wouldn't understand this whole perspective of "the greatest good a woman can do is in the walls of her own home." Without the gospel, I'd probably be planning my next adventure and applying to grad schools--the idea of settling down to get married and have kids would not even be in my peripheral vision. But I have felt and truly believe in the importance of the family. I believe what the prophet has said that, "the family is central to the Creator's plan for the eternal destiny of His children." God has so wisely mapped out the best plan for our happiness, and if the family is central to it, who am I to disagree? Who am I to say, "Well, God, I think I'll be happiest if I put my first priority on my personal promotions and plaudits and popularity. Maybe the family thing makes some people feel fulfilled, but it's not for me."  

Which is why it makes me so sad to hear Latter-Day Saint young women my age say just that. To hear them want to be like men and focus their priorities on their careers, to hear them look down on stay-at-home moms and consider that old-fashioned.  Where is their faith? 

I feel like I perfectly understand their point of view. When opportunities for foreign internships or exciting, but long-term-commitment, jobs come along, it's hard to not embark on them. It might not seem that rocking the cradle is the best way to rock the world when exciting new ideas on poverty termination come knocking on your door, pry into your humanitarian heart and tempt your sense of altruism and adventure.  At times, being a world-traveling National Geographic photographer seems a lot more impressive and influential than sitting down with the kids to look at the pictures when the National Geographic comes in the mail. But if I took advantage of every golden opportunity that came my way, I'd never be in the same place long enough to be in a relationship and eventually have a family.

If it weren't for the gospel in my life, I could go on for years on my own and think I was taking the "path of resistance" and doing the noblest and most meaningful thing. But if I were to live my life like that, and never put my efforts into building a happy family, I'm afraid I would die with an impressive photo album and many material comforts, but no posterity of my own, and no one to be with in heaven. With the gospel in my life, I feel like I haven't had to learn the lesson that so many learn the hard way, when they get old and think, "I should have spent more time with my family." 

It's the eternal perspective that keeps me focused on the truly important things that will bring the truest joys in life. As Alma 39:17 so wisely says in the Book of Mormon, "Seek not after riches nor the vain things of this world; for behold, you cannot carry them with you." 

The most important things in life are the spiritual things. The most meaningful things in life really aren't things. They're people. Living life according to that knowledge is success. 

"Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
 This is the first and great commandment.
 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." Matthew 22:36-39

Thursday, February 13, 2014

What is love? Well, it is created, not found, for one thing.

I don't know how I find the time to write blog posts. I really should be sleeping right now.  But sometimes the call to share your thoughts with the world comes at inconvenient times.  #bloggerprobs

(By the way, what says Valentines Day more than a crocodile-eats-man sugar cookie? That's the bottom left.)

But tonight as I baked and half-chocolate-dipped heart-shaped cookies to give away to my roommates and girl friends, I was so full of the Valentines Day spirit.  Since I live in the dating capitol of the world, Valentines Day can be big. Well, actually, with so much dating going on and people getting married, every day is kind of like Valentines Day.  And those who aren't dating someone can get pretty bitter and call it "Singles Awareness Day" and get internally fed up when they see happy couples or the cliche engagement.  But I say, "Wait, isn't Valentines Day about celebrating love?" As my friend Charlotte and I discussed this, she said, "You don't have to have a boyfriend to know what love is." So why are my fellow single ladies so bitter? We know what love is, girls!

I thought about all that I have learned lately about acting versus being acted upon.

 We are to be creators of our circumstances, not creatures of our circumstances.

That attitude has everything to do with having the most love-filled Valentines day and love-filled life.
I recently wrote this paragraph to my sister Hope on her mission, and my mom said to put it on my blog. "When you think about it, we must act in order to become. If we just sit around and are a result of whatever happens, we will just morph into our environment and let it shape us. But if we act we can choose who we want to become. And also, if we are just acted upon, we are not serving anyone. We are thinking about ourselves and wondering what thing will effect us next and how we will respond. I'm really trying to take on this attitude--go after what I want and not just wait for good things to come my way. Such as service. I need to actively seek ways to serve and not just do the good deeds that land in my lap."

I think the problem is we think we have to "find" love instead of create it. Valentines Day isn't celebrating love that has been found, but love that is created. And that big difference makes it a beautiful day for everyone, not just the lovesick and twitterpated, because everyone can choose to love and serve. As Martin Luther King said, "Everyone can be great, because anyone can serve."

 You don't have to go out and find someone to love you to know what love is. You find it in the giving of it.

Apparently the phrase "What is love?" is the most-searched phrase on Google with 226 million searches a month. I could write a whole 'nother post about what love is, but when I think about we really have to understand what love is to use it? Do we have to use Google to define something in order to enjoy it, to pursue it, to give it? I, for one, love Valentines Day because I love that love exists in the world. I love that I can do something for someone else and feel that happiness from it. I love that when I'm with my family and I look around at their faces, I feel that concern and compassion towards them.  I feel like it's kind of like a computer. I don't understand how computers work, but I still use them. And I love them. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Symbol of the High Life: The PBJ

This post is written while fueled by:

This is my typical lunch (or breakfast, or dinner) Monday-Friday. A PBJ pulled out of my backpack and eaten while walking across campus between class and work. Sometimes my PBJ is replaced with a PBBH (peanut butter banana honey) or a SAT (spinach, avocado, tomato).

While eating it and rushing around--sometimes even answering an email on my phone to add to my multi-tasking of eating and walking--it often hits me of just what those circumstances mean. Holy cow, think about it!
-I am enrolled in a great university, and so busy with learning and making money and meeting amazing people that I don't have time to be at home and cook (nor time in the morning to prepare a lunch of more variety because the good life starts early and I get to go running and read my scriptures before I walk to campus at 7:30).
-I have enough money for whole wheat bread, peanut butter, honey, and even a zip lock bag. And we even have zip loc bags in this country.
-I have friends who take me with them to go grocery shopping. So I am able to get that grocery store goodness into my very own apartment without having to carry it by hand. 
-I am healthy enough to walk around campus and go, go, go.

Peanut butter sandwiches have always been a symbol of prosperity for me. I wrote about it four years ago on my first little blog,

 "As I sit in a comfortable office chair in air conditioned comfort surrounded by kind people and a tree covered in blossoms outside the window, I can't help but be overwhelmed with gratitude and think about the billions of people who are uncomfortable right now, those without chairs and computers and good views and peanut butter sandwiches for lunch."

If you ever want to have a deep conversation with me, bring up peanut butter sandwiches. I've personally amazed myself with how much I have to say about them.  It goes so much further than just the crunchy vs creamy debate (which in and of itself can be deep). 

Never, ever, complain when eating your 7th PBJ in a week. You're living the high life. 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Friends don't let Friends Just Be

I read an article this week about the growth mindset versus the fixed mindset. The learners versus the non-learners.

 A learner, someone with a growth mindset, is not ashamed to make a mistake. They are not ashamed to raise their hand in class and ask a question, even if the question may be silly. They are not ashamed to be vulnerable. They are not ashamed to work hard. They are not ashamed to learn from people who are better at something than they are. They love with their whole heart, even when there's no guarantee. They view failure as an opportunity, not a condemnation. When they don't do well in something naturally, they think, "I could sit here in my misery or do something about it." And their disappointment or failure is motivating to them to try harder.

A non-learner, someone with a fixed-mindset, thinks that "smart" people don't make mistakes, that hard work is for dummies, that effort is for those who can't make it on talent. Success to them isn't about being your best self, it's about being better than others. And when they're not better than others in it, they quit and go back to doing something that comes easily to them.

As a society, we sometimes value natural, effortless accomplishment over achievement through hard work. At least Calvin does:

Fixed mindset people seek friends and a spouse who will put them on a pedestal, worship them, and make them feel perfect. 

Growth mindset people seek friends and a spouse who will see their faults, challenge them to become better, and encourage them to try new things. All very lovingly, of course. 

Reflecting on this, I made the resolve to seek after people who will stretch me, and to be that kind of friend myself. I became very thankful for the the people I have in my life who have helped me grow. Every morning this week I went running at 6:30 a.m. with Chris, my new running inspiration I met at a fireside last week. Talk about not letting your new-found friend stay in her comfort zone. Chris has pushed me. 
And this morning, after much persuasion on his part, I went way out of my comfort zone and swam laps at 6 with my friend Jonathan. 
And last week Trent convinced me to go salsa dancing even though I'm terrible at it and I said no at first. And of course, it was a blast.
And last night Emily got me to go ice skating. And my mom got me to read "Super Immunity" which has made me more super health-conscious. And OH there are more--friends who have invited me to be a better member missionary or act in faith, etc.
All of these people could have just let me be who I was naturally, let me do what my first inclination was. It would have been easier. But there is a better way.  Becoming is better than being, even if we feel vulnerable in the process of becoming and feel like retreating.  

The world needs more people who care. And I want to be one. I want to be one who cares enough to help those around me discover the liberation of leaving behind all meandering in the pool of mediocrity and staying in the stagnant waters of the status quo.  Of course our goal is not to change people--we must love them for who they are. But true friendship will always entail bringing out the best and encouraging the full potential of our friends--even if they balk at first. Becoming is better than being. Friends don't let friends just be. 

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