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. 

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