Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Need to Speak

I had a thought today as I was walking home from my ASL class. I had just spent about an hour talking and asking questions using my hands and face, and I was in the process of texting my younger brother. There are SO MANY ways that it's possible for us to communicate! Some stuff, like texting, videochats, email, movies, and facebook have only been available in the past 100 years of human history. Some things seem like more eternal ways of communicating: speaking, writing, singing, creating pictures, dancing, etc. It's astounding to think about the human need for expression. Granted, I haven't met everyone, but it seems like every person has some way that they use to express themselves. That common urge to share, to express, to ask, and to react is amazing. There's a lot more to learn about communication (purposes, means, etc), and in my major I'll be learning as much as I can. Today, I was deeply impressed by thinking about communication as a basic human need and deed, and that seems like a good starting point.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Confessions of a Prude

I was reminded this weekend of something I've been trying to reject and repress. When describing our differences to a friend of her's, my sister referred to the two of us as "a prude and a rebel". Guess which one I was? It's not the first time I've heard that.

My schema of a "prude" is someone who is intolerant, uptight, judgmental and self-righteous. I have matched that description somewhat before... But whatever happened to growth, progress, and the Atonement? Even if I have trace characteristics of that remaining, that is hardly how I define myself. I seldom even think about prudishness anymore, except when other people bring it up... And then I feel lame and defensive: not pleasant feelings.

It's true that I hold high standards for myself. However, I don't judge people based on whether they meet my personal standards or not... That's not fair to them, and it's just wrong. What I've tried to focus on (because I've had problems historically with being judgmental) is loving people. You can love someone even if you don't agree with them - family relationships can be a good example of that, where a sibling drives you up a wall most of the time, but the instant they're threatened, you're on the move defending your brother or sister. Getting better at loving people has been a great blessing in my life. You make a lot more friends that way, and social interactions are significantly more pleasant. There's so much more to a person than what you perceive (sometimes erroneously) on the surface. And even if people have messed up, that's not your place to decide - your job is to love them and be supportive of (and believe in) their best self. We all make mistakes all the time; none of us have an accurate-enough perspective, even of ourselves, to judge fairly and mercifully. That's why I'm so glad that Christ is our Judge.

It's good to have high standards that you live up to, but another facet of prudishness is that those standards are often hyperbolic. One example could be the opinion that "body contact in dancing is sinful." Now, I agree that some types of body contact while dancing are bad and to be avoided; it's not hard to see dancing like that in music videos or at high school dances. But other kinds of body connection could involve just as much per-square-inch of physical contact and yet be perfectly fine, in my book. I've found, in salsa and standard ballroom dance, that having a solid body connection with your partner makes you move better - individually and as a partnership - and I don't think that's sinful. The difference for me comes from motivation: whereas the inappropriately-close dancing I saw in high school was based on gratifying selfish desires, the close dancing I participate in now is a functional proximity to facilitate an art. I do check my thoughts while I am dancing to make sure I'm not straying in my motivation, because that's my choice. I don't think that anyone is going to hell for what I perceive as "dirty dancing", and that's not my call to make, so I make standards for my own behavior and worry about holding myself to them. That said, I do believe in universal morals, and I think that those have been pretty well defined by the proper authorities. It basically comes down to the fact that I am not responsible for judging anyone besides myself. It can be a tricky line to walk and balance sometimes (because some degree of judgment is required to stay away from bad situations), but for now, I just need to worry about keeping myself in line with what I know.

So, my reaction when people label me as a prude is to think "I'm not that bad! Stop assuming things about me! Do you really know who I am? Do you know how hard I've tried to combat that and how much progress I've made?" Hanging onto and reminding people of their weaknesses isn't very nice or charitable. If you believe in the Atonement of Jesus Christ, you believe in the power to change. People have called me a prude for years... In fact, written in (I believe) my high school sophomore yearbook is the inscription "You're a prude... but in a good way." But over the years, I've been working on it! I really think I am a loving and accepting person now. I'm not perfect yet by any means, but love is my focus, and it's becoming a marked factor of who I am. It's how I want to define myself. "Becoming" is a process, and the improvements I've had haven't come overnight. So I'm going to keep working at it.

Making generalizations and issuing stereotypes isn't very healthy, and again - it isn't very accurate. Because you know what? Even if I come across as a prude... the truth is that when I think about some of the people I care the most about, I don't feel good enough for them. Prudes should never have cause to think that way of themselves, right? Because they're self-assured moral overachievers. Got it...

Just don't stereotype people. Please. We're all three-dimensional people trying to get along in life, cope, and be happy. Let's try to support each other.

(Note: This is not at all a rant against my sister - she just happened to be the most recent person to open a can of worms that has been stewing in my head for a long time. Yum.)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Both "anxious-nervous" and "anxious-excited" for this week (and grateful for the past weekend)

It's only a little after 11pm as I'm writing this, and I'm pretty tired already. I think the fact that it's dark so much earlier in the day affects when I get tired, but for whatever reason, I'm tired now.

So, I have 4 tests to take this week... Three of which I'll take in a period of two days... And I'd like to take the fourth in those days too, so I don't have to worry about it while my mom and sister are visiting (they'll be here in TWO DAYS!!!!). I'm probably about as ready for the 2 ASL tests tomorrow as I'm going to be (which doesn't feel very ready), and I have a boatload of reading to do for the other 2 tests. All I can really do is pray as hard as I can and work as hard as I can to stay focused and study.

On Katie's suggestion (she commented on a previous post), I'm going to give my boyfriend a code name for this blog so I feel less repetitive and silly from writing "my boyfriend/my BF". I'll refer to him as Ron, though he bears little resemblance to the Harry Potter character.

Well, Friday night was a terrific date night with Ron (day 29 of seeing him every day). We went out to a Thai restaurant for dinner, and it was sooo good! It's the best Thai food I've had besides the stuff back home: we had fried rice with pineapple and pork, a curry, and sweet sticky rice with mango for dessert. I could have cried it was so yummy. After that, we went to a free music recital on campus, which was fun. I didn't know how much you could do with a bassoon until then, I suppose, haha; that said, one segment of a song sounded vaguely like a contest of flatulence between the bassoonist and the recording he played along with. Anyway, it was some great time to spend with Ron. We went for a walk after the concert and had a good, long talk. As Ron said, if we're going to be "dating" each other, we probably need to go on more dates and hang out less (Read the talk on "dating vs. hanging out" from Elder Dallin H. Oaks, from May 2005). We already have a really good friendship established, but we recommitted ourselves to focusing on building our relationship with each other - not just the romantic "relationship", but getting to know, appreciate, and support each other better. Ron is really good at that :) Part of taking it slower and making our time together more meaningful will probably involve not seeing each other every day like we have been, but I can already feel a difference because we're focusing on making quality time together.

We did get together on Saturday night (day 30), and had a great time reading from the scriptures together, and asking questions and teaching each other. Though it wasn't exactly your usual date, it was definitely good time to spend together that helped us individually and as a couple. Sunday I had kind of a rough morning (not enough sleep + worries about school + malfunctioning copy machines + a comment someone made about me indirectly that I tried not to take personally), so after Ron came over that night to go to tunnel singing (a bunch of college kids singing hymns together Sunday nights on campus), we went for a long drive and talked about what was bothering me and how we could fix it. I generally try to keep it to myself when I'm upset, but I'm also very honest... So when Ron inquired, I told him about it. The problems (basically it comes down to sleep and school) didn't go away after talking to him, but talking through it and identifying ways to change were helpful. I'm really grateful and appreciative that he took the time to do that for me, with me. Knowing that he is there for me, is willing to help me, and wants me to succeed make a difference. Sunday marked Day 31, and I believe, one month to the date from when we started seeing each other daily. This past weekend also marked 3 weeks of dating each other, so it's going pretty great, and I'm really happy to have a close (and close-ening) relationship with such a wonderful guy. We're growing together and supporting each other. Neither of us know exactly where our relationship is headed, but I'm certain my life will be made richer by virtue of his acquaintance - it's been made so already.

This is actually getting posted after midnight, so technically today is Tuesday... My mom and sister will be here tomorrow night!!!!! And they'll be here for 5 days (though they arrive late on the first day and leave early the last). Now for sleep, then class, work, and finally my ASL tests in about 15 hours... Wish me luck!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Growing Up

Orange Peach SunnyD is delicious.

I just got back from some quick grocery shopping, and I love feeling like a responsible, independent adult (even if it's only when I'm grocery shopping, haha) - I bought a lot of fresh fruit that was on sale, and that made me feel responsible, at least. Another responsibility that descended on my shoulders very heavily was when I realized that I need to officially change my major very quickly. I saw this from my university when I checked my email yesterday:
Students must select and declare a major by the time they have 75 earned credit hours (excluding language exam credits). Once a student has 90 earned credit hours (excluding language exam credits), they will not be allowed to change their major, unless special permission is granted.

In order to encourage timely progress toward graduation, advisement centers may require mandatory advisement before students with greater than 90 hours are allowed to register for classes. Deans, in consultation with advisement centers, may also place registration holds and mandate specific course completion in order to facilitate timely graduation.
So, I might possibly be in trouble. I have 91 credit hours (55 of which, I think, were not from AP credit) and I'm officially declared as a Family History major... That desire only lasted for 2 weeks, and I declared it a year ago, so... I'm really hoping that I can change it to Communication Disorders, the major that I would much prefer to Family History. Part of my problem is that I've been taking so many interesting or for-fun classes, and taken prereqs for a couple different majors, and they've all added up. Luckily, my Ballroom Dance minor should be made official after this semester (I'm taking the last prereq now), so if a dean tries to tell me I can't take more dance classes, I'll tell him I need it for the minor. That, or I can hope to slide under the radar if it's something like Modern Dance that I want to try out but it's not required for my major or minor... We'll see! I've still got a list of interesting classes I'd (*crossing fingers*) like to take, if I can, before I graduate.

Real Power

When I went to check my email the other day, a headline "Top 10 Most Powerful Women" popped out at me from the main news banner on the page. Hmm, sounds like news alright... The list includes First Ladies, politicians, CEO's, entertainers, self-made career women, and others who "break traditional gender lines". This is the blurb on the first page of the slideshow:
Forbes power lists are synonymous with moguls and movie stars, heads of state and captains of business. One look at the 2010 World's 100 Most Powerful Women list and it is clear that we've come up with a new ranking of the female power elite that reflects the New Order of now.

When Forbes set out to identify this year's list, they decided it was time to look up and out into the broader culture. Ther assessment is based less on traditional titles and roles and more on creative influence and entrepreneurship. These women have built distinctive companies and brands and championed weighty causes, sometimes through unconventional means; in other cases they have broken through gender barriers.   (
It's interesting how the world looks at things. How do they define power? (And, identify who controls it?). In the profile for each woman, they include information such as age, job title, country of citizenship, marital status, and education.  In many of the biographies, they include how much money the women make, why they are an icon, and what business ventures they've entrepreneured or invested in. Are these really the questions that determine who is considered powerful?

Yes, I know this isn't the first time, nor will it be the last time someone comes out with an opinion on this topic that is contrary to public (or at least, media) opinion, which appears to put more value on women with money and titles. Here's some things I would encourage you to consider.

Let's define "powerful." If someone has power over you, they can fairly easily persuade you and possibly alter your current line of thought or action. A powerful person carries a lot of influence. Thus, a powerful person in my life will have a much greater influence on me than a less powerful person. Do Michelle Obama (listed as #1 most powerful in the world), Oprah Winfrey or Lady Gaga influence my life and change what I do? Not at all. I don't listen to Lady Gaga's music if I can help it (some of what I've heard has just struck me as weird); I don't think I've ever taken the time to watch Oprah's tv show; and I've rarely ever clicked on news headlines to see what the First Lady is up to; it just doesn't matter to me what celebrities choose to do with their lives!

So, who have been some of the most influential women in your life, the "most powerful"? The top of my list is, unsurprisingly, my mother. She and my dad raised me in a good family; they taught me how to live by modeling the values they taught; and the genetic similarities between us are rather striking, and definitely affect my life. My attitudes have been undeniably shaped by my mom's attitudes and teachings. If I want a sympathetic listener, I go to my dad; if I want a practical answer, I call my mom, just because their personalities are different. I try to be a good and sympathetic listener like my dad, but I am also very logical in how I approach things. Could anyone deny that my parents have been the most influential people in shaping my life?

Isn't it kind of strange how the roles of parents, both mothers and fathers, have become diminished and minimized in our time? Look at our American society: many parents (some out of real necessity, others out of perceived necessity to "get ahead") work long hours away from home and leave the rearing of their children to schoolteachers, after-school programs, babysitters, and a host of extracurricular activities; in popular media, parents are made to look utterly ridiculous (just watch the Disney Channel!). Like many people can probably recall in their own lives, a lot of the lessons my parents taught that have stuck with me have been inadvertent ones... Little things I picked up on while doing things together, and by observation of how they do things. Quietly wandering into my parents' room, unnoticed, before they went to sleep and seeing my dad kneeling by the bed praying has made an indelible impression on me, especially because it was something I saw consistently over the years. Because of that and many other examples, I know that following Jesus Christ is important to both my parents, and that in order to obtain the same blessings for myself, I need to do the same thing.

Like President Dieter F. Uchtdorf counseled in the most recent General Conference (and as many others have said previously), it's important for us to have a balanced life and simplify our increasingly tight schedules. Spending quality time together is immeasurably important to raising children and fostering their development. Give kids a chance to come up with their own ways to pass the time; let them use their imagination with toilet-paper tubes, blankets, and string to make their own toys; include the kids in what you're doing, and be involved in things they want to do. Granted, I am not a mother. I am merely a 20-something year-old, qualified only by extensive babysitting experience and several younger siblings I've observed and interacted with on a daily basis over the years. Kids don't need the latest and greatest technology toys, the fanciest or most diverse dress-up closet, music or sports lessons every day after school, or a lot of the things parents are overdosing on; it's natural to want the best for your kids, and to give it to them if you can find a way to make it work. But really, they need YOU more than they need new toys. You are going to teach them what kind of person to be; Barbie and Leapfrog can't do that, and Cub/Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts can only make a pathetic attempt. Everything has its place, and Scouting and other activities can be a great support in giving a child the social and learning experiences they need, but those have the best results when they support what you do at home.

Perhaps I'm speaking to an audience that's going to sigh and roll their eyes, and move on to the next thing in their lives. Or I could be preaching to the choir. Like I said - this probably isn't headline news to anyone. Maybe I got a little overexcited and zealous when I read the article. But maybe there's just a grain of truth to what I said that could apply to you in your life. What are some major influences in your life? How do they change you? How do you influence others? Are you happy with the way things are, or do you wish they were different? If you aren't happy with it, go ahead and change! It's pretty hard to change what other people do, but you can change what you do and you can change your attitude. Take one factor in a situation and work on that for a while. How can I be better tomorrow or next week than I was today or over the past month?

I guess from all this, I want to affirm that real power and influence in society doesn't come with a paycheck; it comes from reaching out to others and working so that their lives are better for having known you. The most powerful way to do this is as a parent, and until then, there's lots of other ways to influence people's lives. I just try to be a nice person and give everyone the love they deserve. Jesus Christ is definitely one of the "most influential people" to have ever lived. He set the perfect Example for us to follow, and He went around serving others and changing lives. His love not only extends to those He touched during His mortal mission, but it extends retroactively and proactively in the lives of each and every person who has or will ever live. Jesus Christ loves each of us, and we can come unto Him today and immediately receive of His Spirit. It is real, and we can feel it. May we ever strive to follow Him and emulate Him in all we do, especially in how we treat each other. May we always be a force for good.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Refocusing my life, and dedicating to change

There's some habits I've struggled with for years that are still giving me grief. I'm in my third year as a college student and I still have the worst time trying to make myself do the homework for my classes, for example. The 180th Semiannual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (hereafter referred to as "Conference" or "General Conference") took place a week and a half ago, and the speeches given really inspired me. I've been inspired many times before by different things, but this past time has been a little different. I've increased in knowledge, I've been inspired with a greater desire to change, and I've also felt empowered by receiving the very tools I need to make that change. Two talks in particular have stuck with me, and have only become more powerful reading them a week later (compared to when I first heard them in person): they are Elder D. Todd Christofferson's and President Dieter F. Uchtdorf's talks. Because I heard and read them in that order, I felt like Elder Christofferson's talk told me that I need to change, and President Uchtdorf's talk told me how. They have become very personally applicable and very meaningful. Here's how:

Read Elder Christofferson's talk, "Reflections on a Consecrated Life"
Elder Christofferson explained that we are responsible for how we choose to spend our time and resources. How we choose to spend those says a great deal about what kind of people we are. In application, I know, on one level, what my priorities are; on another level, there's a quote (I can't remember it exactly) that says our true priorities are revealed by what we spend our time doing. Cognitively, I know that my relationship with Heavenly Father is really important to me and should be my first priority; practically, is it really my first priority if it's the very last thing I squeeze into my day before crawling under the sheets? I need to make my actions consistent with my known priorities. And the idea of being accountable before my Maker for the time I've spent on facebook or engaging in other less-worthy pursuits makes me cringe just a bit. He's given me this whole earth! this life! and so many other wonderful blessings; there's nothing better I can find to do with my time than to idle it away, hitting "refresh" on facebook? I'm not as bad with facebook as I used to be, but I can fill in "facebook" with a myriad of other fluffy things I do that aren't great uses of my time. Rather than idle my time away in vain pursuits, I can get the most lasting, enduring peace and happiness from consecrating (dedicating) my life to serving the Lord. Elder Christofferson shared and explained five characteristics of a consecrated life: "purity, work, respect for one's physical body, service, and integrity." He expounded on those topics and included sanctification through the Atonement, time for healthy leisure, and increasing awareness of our accountability during our stewardship here on earth. I can't encapsulate everything he said, so my best advice would be to read the talk yourself, and read it with purpose. I got a lot out of it; especially the idea that I do need to reform my life. I'm a good person, but I can be (and ought to be) better.

Read President Uchtdorf's talk, "Of Things That Matter Most"
To be completely honest, I did cry some when I read this in my room this afternoon. President Uchtdorf's main message is to simplify and, particularly when faced with adversity, to focus on the essentials. What really helped me in conjunction with Elder Christofferson's talk was his list of important relationships. First, President Uchtdorf said, is our relationship with Heavenly Father; second, is the relationship we have with our family (as President David O. McKay said, "No other success can compensate for failure in the home"); third and fourth (one wasn't mentioned as being more important than the other) are our relationships with our fellowmen and ourselves. After Elder Christofferson's talk, this one felt like "Now that you know what you need to do, this is the directions for how to do it." I learned that I need to reorganize my life, and now I got instruction on knowing what to put first. Instead of leaving my scripture study for the last thing in my day, today it was the first thing I did after waking up. It was a lot more meaningful when I wasn't trying to rush through it before my head hit the pillow to sleep. I also need to find ways to make my family a higher priority in my life by finding ways I can strengthen my relationships with them while I live so far away. My heart aches when I think of how precious they are to me, and how important it is that they know that. The family I was born into and the family I will mother someday are THE biggest investments of my life, next to my devotion to Jesus Christ (but the two really go together). That needs to be reflected in my time and thoughts. I highly recommend reading this talk as well and applying it to your own life.

So, with the motivating and enabling influence of these talks, impressions I've had through personal revelation, my desires and willpower, and the power of God, I'm going to take the things I've learned and use them to make my life better. As I do that, my life will be more enjoyable, I will do more to serve God's children, and God will be glorified in the doing. He's the only thing that makes it all possible. And, His Atonement is the only reason we have hope for changing ourselves and obtaining joy in this life and in eternity.

Changes I'm working on applying:
- getting to bed every night by 12 or 12:15 (Friday nights are my exception)
- making my relationship with Heavenly Father my first priority by doing the things first that will strengthen that relationship
- doing more to show my family that I love them
- actively looking for ways I can serve others right now, every day
- sitting down and actually doing my homework (it makes a difference as to whether I'm doing it for myself or if I'm consecrating my labor to the Lord)

I'm not expecting instantaneous improvement, but already I'm getting better. I went to sleep at 12:30 last night and woke up at 8:45 this morning, and read my scriptures and worked on homework before going to class. I even went to the library last night to work on homework! Slowly (and with heaven's help), I'm getting where I want to be.

Monday, October 11, 2010


I should be in bed now, but I wanted to write briefly about my weekend - a little about Friday, but mostly about Saturday. Plus, I haven't posted in almost a week :P

Friday was a feel-good day: I had a couple dance tests, so after I showered that morning I took a little extra time to get ready. I gelled my wavy hair into more-defined curls and actually put on mascara. I wore a nice shirt, and looked forward to my tests (tango is a lot of fun, and I already got a lot of practice with my testing partner). My roommate volunteered to make me breakfast/lunch, and it was delicious! (A breakfast burrito with egg, cheese, black beans, and spices). When the evening came around, I had a big group dinner with my roommates and friends (corn chowder and egg salad sandwiches) before we went to a comedy show together. It's great - they really put on a show, with glowstick cannons, raining candy, and dance music between skits. Afterwards, my BF and I sat outside on the old couch sitting on my balcony, and we cuddled under a warm blanket and looked up at the stars. I really need to catch up in my journal on what we've done every day for the last week (man, I got behind!); Friday was the 22nd consecutive day we've seen each other (and it marked 2 weeks of us dating). Friday night was good, but Saturday was even better.

I woke up around 9am Saturday morning when my roommate reminded me we had cleaning checks for our apartment (I meant to get up at 9:30, but 9 was better anyway). I sorted through the laundry that had accumulated on my chair and bed for the last week and tidied up my room, blasting the Owl City Ocean Eyes cd. Our apartment would be checked sometime after 10am, and that's also when the Homecoming Parade would start, which passed right by our apartment. My boyfriend (it's really tempting to type his name instead, but that would violate my policy of maintaining anonymity) came over for breakfast and took over making pancakes for me, my roommate, and himself. We watched for the marching band from our balcony (some of our roommates are in it) and checked out the other floats, cars, dance groups and student associations going by. I was just in a tshirt and jeans, with my still-gelled hair tied back in a hasty ponytail, but my BF didn't mind at all. We hung out at my apartment for a while before deciding to head over to a nearby park. It was great. We played on the swings for a while, played with a couple other toys, and then tried out the teeter-totter. A little boy, maybe 4 years old, came over and said he wanted a turn, so we helped him out. Shortly after, his mom and sister and a couple other friends came and the bunch of us started playing together. It was so much fun to play with those kids for about an hour (I think they were all between 18 months and 4 years old, and we chatted with their mothers for a little bit): it was a chance for me to enjoy helping and playing with the little ones, and a good chance to see how my BF played with kids. He definitely passed, haha ;) After the kids left, we played around ourselves for a bit longer and talked some. We started heading home when my BF had to get ready for the football game and I had to get ready for work. Next I saw him was Sunday night, after I got back from work, and we hung out for a few hours with friends. Now, a couple hours after he went home, I'm sitting here writing this about him and our weekend together.

Saturday felt wonderful. Friday was fun too, but spending the morning and early afternoon together was great. Having a clean apartment, enjoying a relaxed morning with pancakes and watching the parade, having some time with just the two of us in my apartment for a while, and then going to the park for a couple hours and playing with children (that's one thing I miss about college - not being able to play with kids much), and doing it all with my man. It was beautiful; my time with him is filled with effortlessly perfect moments that are made special because I spend it with him, and that's all it takes (no pre-planning of magical moments, just us being together). We have goofy poking contests; we laugh at puns and corny jokes (especially the cheesy romantic ones); our high-fives frequently turn into interdigitation; we talk openly and honestly about how our relationship is going; we talk about classes and weather and missionary stories and our families. He and I have fun together being ourselves and getting to know each other better, and he's someone special. He makes me feel like someone special for appreciating me the way I am, for encouraging me to keep trying to be better a day at a time, and for treating me like a daughter of God. I am impressed by his ability to care for me the way he does. He is amazing, and I love coming to know him better. It's a great journey, and I get the feeling that we're both in it for the long run; our relationship is being built to last. Like I said, it's a beautiful thing, being with him.

Songs I'm beginning to associate with my boyfriend: "Just The Way You Are" (he gave me a "significant look" when it came on the radio in the car) and "She Is Love" (a sweet song; what "she" is to the artist, "he" is to me) are two so far.

Other good news: my mom and my sister are coming in 10 days (since it's now Monday, technically 9 days) to visit!!! I am super excited to see them :)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Taking Strength in Trial - (It comes from Christ)

This was my journal entry from yesterday, when I was feeling pretty stressed out in the afternoon:
I've been stressed out today and feeling the weight of sin, weakness and trial. But I decided to open my scriptures and I turned to 2 Nephi 10. At first I had trouble focusing because of the gentle tumult around me, and voices from the classroom behind me. Then in verse 20, I started applying the scriptures to myself. I need to "remember [God], and lay aside [my] sins, and not hang down [my] head, for [I am] not cast off." Just because I'm going through a trial doesn't mean by any means that God has forsaken or forgotten me. He is leading me to "a better land", but I must cross the sea and go through the wilderness to get there. "The Lord remembereth all them who have been broken off, wherefore he remembereth us also." Verses 23-24 remind me to cheer up, that I still have my agency to choose happiness or misery; happiness comes from following Christ and misery follows from choosing Satan. Verse 25 reminds me that my salvation is dependent on Christ, through the Atonement. It's hard, but I can do it when I rely on Christ to be my strength.
The scriptures I ended up reading were from the perspective of Jacob, a prophet who was born in the Middle East but never saw Jerusalem or knew that civilization, because he was born in the desert as his family was fleeing persecution. God led away his family because they were righteous, and his father, Lehi, was also a prophet in 600 AD who prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem, and because of his prophecies the people tried to kill him. Their family made it through the wilderness and crossed the ocean by ship to the Americas, where they were on "an isle of the sea", and felt pretty dang separated from the rest of humanity.

I hadn't thought about those scriptures in that particular way before, but it made sense. When we're going through hard times, we can wonder "Why have you forsaken me, God?". It can feel like the party's going on somewhere else, and in spite of our best efforts and desires, we feel separated from the happiness everyone else has. Whether that's actual happiness or just passing pleasure that others seem to have doesn't really matter. We feel left out, and left alone! "Why have you forsaken me?" It's important then to remember that we are never, ever forsaken. Read from 3 Nephi 22 (also Isaiah 22) and 1 Nephi 21 (also Isaiah 49).
1 Nephi 21:14-16 But, behold, Zion hath said: The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me--but he will show that he hath not. For can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet I will not forget thee, O house of Israel. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; they walls are continually before me.
The Lord loves us so much. We are His children, and He our Father. He will never, ever leave us alone. We can turn our faces from Him, but He will never turn away from us. This post is very related to the post just previous and may sound a little redundant, but I think that it addresses some of the biggest crises of faith in our lives, and the things we should remember when they arise. When all else goes wrong, and beloved friends or family betray you, or all hell seems to break loose and be bent on dragging you down, remember this: God's power is stronger than Satan. God is in control; He loves you and is watching out for you; He will take care of you, and you will be okay. We just need to have faith enough to trust Him, and faith enough to do what He asks. He'll help us. We will get through it when we rely on Him; there is no other way (we aren't strong enough on our own).

I'm so grateful that Christ performed the Atonement for us. I can't understand it all just yet, and probably won't until after I've moved past the mortal part of my life. But I understand enough. I know that Christ loves me enough to have suffered the punishment for all the things I've done wrong, and that all He wants for me is to confide in Him, to come unto Him and be His friend, and to take advantage of the marvelous gift He has given me, offering me a new life, free from pain. I can experience moments and times of that peace while I am in this life, and I can more fully enjoy it after I've died and gone on to heaven. I know the way to that peace and happiness because Christ has gone before me and showed me the way. I owe my everything to Him. And He did it all for me.

So, what's the point?

My train of thought this afternoon started with a rueful commitment to stop avoiding the warm-ups in my self-defense class. I'd figured, I'm perfectly capable of the light jogging, and the shrimping exercises are just awkward and time-consuming; I'd usually sweat more during the warm up than during class! But on Monday of this week, I figured there was a reason behind what my teacher asked us to do.

Today is Tuesday; and I am majorly sore. Not the sorest nor in the most pain I've ever been, but sore enough to get a reminder every time I move. Monday we did some on-the-ground exercises - the most intense so far in the class. Bear-hugging each other, our all-girl class wrestled for about 40 nearly-solid minutes. I hadn't gotten enough sleep before (my good intentions fell flat when a friend came over for a surprise visit, and my roommate got a boyfriend), and after that workout, I was exhausted. I didn't feel the full impact right away Monday afternoon, but I sure felt it today. I resolved to not miss the warm-ups that might have loosened and stretched my muscles, minimizing the pain that I would have felt the day after. My teacher had a point to our "silly" or "tedious" warm-up routine.

That realization reminded me of a passage of scripture in 2 Nephi chapter 2 (in the Book of Mormon):
Verse 11 For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my first-born in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.
Verse 12 Wherefore, it must needs have been created for a thing of naught; wherefore there would have been no purpose in the end of its creation. Wherefore, this thing must needs destroy the wisdom of God and his eternal purposes, and also the power, and the mercy, and the justice of God.
Verse 13 And if ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin. If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness. And if there be no righteousness there be no happiness. And if there be no righteousness nor happiness there be no punishment nor misery. And if these things are not there is no God. And if there is no God we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon; wherefore, all things must have vanished away.
This all said, the next 2 verses in the chapter state the affirmative conclusion of the argument:
Verse 14 And now, my sons, I speak unto you these things for your profit and learning; for there is a God, and he hath created all things, both the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are, both things to act and things to be acted upon.
Verse 15 And to bring about his eternal purposes in the end of man, after he had created our first parents, and the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and in fine, all things which are created, it must needs be that there was an opposition; even the forbidden fruit in opposition to the tree of life; the one being sweet and the other bitter.
This section (the whole chapter, really) is often used to teach why there is "opposition in all things". That is probably one of the primary lessons in this chapter, but there's something else I pulled from it. Verses 12 and 15 show us that God does all He does for a purpose (read Moses 1:39, in the Pearl of Great Price, for a description of what His purpose is). We are given commandments to guide the way we live for a purpose. We go through the trials and experiences we have for a purpose. If God were to do something without a purpose, it would "destroy the wisdom of God and his eternal purposes, and also the power, and the mercy, and the justice of God." That's a lot to destroy... So I think it's safe to assume that since none of those have been destroyed (and God is "the same yesterday, to-day, and forever" [1 Nephi 10:18]), God isn't ever going to do something without a purpose. From personal experience, observing the examples of others, and reading the scriptures (such as Alma 5:40), I know that all good things come from Christ. I know that He loves me, and that His purposes are to maximize my opportunity for happiness to the fullest extent possible (and He's God, so all things are possible). God's purposes are for our individual happiness, in both the short- and long-term.

That raises a couple questions. When we're going through a trial, life just doesn't seem fair, and we can't understand, we can ask, "Why is God asking me to do this? What is the point? What am I to learn or gain from the experience?" It is contrary to the nature of God for Him to ask us to do something we can't do (1 Corinthians 10:13, in the New Testament), or something that will make us miserable. As we come to know and love Christ, we learn that we can trust Him, wholly and completely. It becomes easier for me to have patience and let stress melt away when I realize that I don't need to always be in control, and when I know that Christ is. Another series of questions that I considered was this: What are my purposes? If my goal in life is to become more like God, then what does that mean if I am idling away my time? Are my purposes in the things I do Godlike? How can I improve them?

This is what really struck me as I was pondering this morning, ruing the loss of my comfort because I didn't listen to someone who had a purpose that I tried to ignore (going back to the sore muscles and warm-ups). God has a purpose to everything He does; there is a purpose to everything in my life; if I want to become more Godlike, I need to have a good purpose for everything I do. Improvement really is a process, so I'm not expecting any big change overnight. But I want to start living my life that way, with less wasted time, and more of my time spent deliberately serving others, taking care of myself, or otherwise furthering the work of the Lord. I'm working on becoming like God, because that's His purpose in sending me here to earth, in this life He's blessed me with :)

Sunday, October 3, 2010

I'm slowly learning ;)

I was going to write a post tonight about General Conference weekend and how awesome it was. Then I decided it would be wiser to follow both my boyfriend's example, my parents' counsel, and the proverb cited today in Conference, "Early to bed and early to rise", so instead, I'm going to go get ready for bed :)

I'm getting there! Working on forming good habits one day (or night) at a time!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Getting past the Past (and looking forward)

I think I've finally reached some sense of resolution with my ex-boyfriend. Story is, he broke up with me after we had dated for just over a month earlier this year, and I felt perfectly fine with it; we both thought it was the right thing to do. When we broke up, he said he still wanted to be friends and I thought "That's great! Friends are awesome, and I don't need to worry about negative repercussions since we're parting as friends".... Unfortunately, I was wrong. Apparently, "circumstances changed", and he kept saying things like "I think we need time apart" and "I need time away from you in order to heal"... (How do you re-establish a friendship with someone if you refuse to ever see or talk to them??). What hurt me the worst was when he blocked me on facebook. I cried more over that than when we broke up, because, what can you do about it? I still had his phone number and email, but didn't use them. The only person I have blocked on facebook is a guy I knew in middle school who sent me an incredibly vulgar message soon after I got an fb account. So, I tried to forget and ignore the pain and bitterness bottled up inside. This is how it went for about 5 months. 

About a week or so ago, my ex sent me an email, out of the blue. He said he was sorry that things turned out how they did, and hoped we could still be friends. I called him back, explained some of my perspective and why I felt so hurt, and after a short but fairly comfortable conversation, he said he would remove the facebook block and that we could chat again sometime. It was so relieving, to feel like I could let go of the deeply bitter emotions and look forward to a mature friendship with him! Once again though, now a week later, I found out I was wrong. 
He finally lifted the block yesterday, so I sent him a friend request. Can you imagine my born-anew frustration when, several hours later, I got this facebook message?
I was in a lose-lose situation. If I deny your friend request, you're disappointed, if I accept because of circumstances it is not fair to my girlfriend. In the end I have to choose the to decline. I honestly hardly use facebook anyway. I don't believe that facebook would be the most appropriate form of communication. If you can't understand why then I'm sorry but I hope you can see where I'm coming from. This shouldn't be taken the wrong way. Feelings of friendship towards another should not be determined by their friend list on a online social network.
Again, he was pushing away my attempts at normal reconciliation with immature logic and excuses. I was pretty ticked, and wrote a pretty blistering reply. Yes, it's true that "feelings of friendship towards another should not be determined by their friend list on [an] online social network," but if he doesn't use facebook much, should it matter if we're friends on there? I don't write to specific people very often either, but it's an unobtrusive and effective way to see how people are doing. In my response, I said that (what I just said), I told him the things I would have shared with him if he hadn't been giving me the silent treatment all summer (my brother getting a missionary call to Indonesia, when I had an accident at work and went to the ER, and a couple other things), I told him a little about my new boyfriend, and that I was tired of trying to be his friend when this is all he does back. *Exhale* I'm not a venomous or vengeful person (I could be, but I choose to avoid it, because those are just satanic tendencies), and I did have scruples about sending him something like that, but really? I've given him so many chances. Maybe it's time that he hear this. Who knows? 

Anyway, it's been a roller-coaster of emotions (not just ups and downs, but back-and-forth, sideways, and all over) trying to sort it out. I guess it comes to this: I really am done worrying about the status of my friendship with this guy. I've given him chance after chance and extended invitation after invitation, and now I've said all there is to be said. Trying to block out the memory won't do me any good, because it is part of my past experience; nor do I need to constantly worry about it or rehash the issue. I've done what I could, and now I wash my hands of the matter: there's nothing I more I need to do about it, and those chains need no longer drag me down. I'm letting it go, and looking forward to the future. The pains and the joys of the future will be far greater than whatever I've gone through already, but that makes life all the richer. It will be worth it. 

***And seriously? I'm dating one of the MOST AMAZING guys I've ever known right now. We feel so comfortable with each other and are already good friends (and that friendship forms the base of our relationship). All we're missing is the duration of time in order to sink down deeper roots. He is just what I need; I'm so grateful we met, and that things have come together the way they have. It's beautiful and perfect; I couldn't have dreamed it any better than it is now :) It's just right.