Thursday, January 26, 2012

Hope as an Anchor

Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God.

It's interesting how the (rather cynical) world informs you that to be hopeful is to be carried away by a flimsy wish or fantasy. Someone who is hopeful for something they can't see is naive, childish, and misguided. I think that opinion is inaccurate. This scripture from the Book of Mormon teaches just the opposite: that hope (based on faith) acts as an anchor, rooting a person in solid ground. Though it might sound counterintuitive, I've seen its truth in my own life.

I've experienced distinct periods in my life flavored by either hope or despair, hope's opposite. Despair for me often comes when I've failed myself when I know I'm capable of better. When it's particularly bad or generalizes to more parts of my life, I feel restless, doubtful, unsettled, withdrawn, and dissatisfied, and I go to bed late because I feel unfulfilled, and I tend to ignore regular mealtimes or revert to anxiously nibbling on comfort food. I feel like I've failed, and no matter how much I try, I can't do better - my situation won't change. That's what a lack of hope feels like to me. I'm dragged down by my past, and feel adrift, unstable, and fearful about the future.

The times when I feel like I am truly hopeful are completely different. I feel at peace with myself, that even if things aren't great now, that they'll get better. I feel more confident and trusting now and for the future. I feel more capable and optimistic. I feel stable, or anchored. Those feelings enable me to move forward and live more daringly and securely (odd combination, huh?). Thus, having faith in the present helps me have hope for the future, because I trust that it'll work out, and I'll be ok. It's like a self-fulfilling prophecy - by choosing faith, you choose to be hopeful and be happy (and even occasionally excited!), and make it happen.

Most of the time, I feel pretty middle-of-the-road. I have some doubts that come when I make mistakes or face decisions, but I know how to judge between which doubts are important and which are irrelevant. If I have to pick, my heart and spirit want to err on the side of hope, because hope gives me a chance to live, while despair kills the chance before I can take it. Living that way - choosing hope (and love, and faith, its companions) - makes happiness possible and invites it into my life.

Hurray for Hope! Hurray for Love! Hurray for Faith! And Glory to God in the highest! All things are possible through Him.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Shopping Around: How to Choose?

With the way that the world has grown, nationally and globally, our options for many things have dramatically increased, and we have more opportunity to make choices.

In education: In the US, there is mandatory public K-12 education, and many opportunities for schooling beyond that. We have community colleges, universities, trade schools, home schools, private schools, public schools, etc. Even within a specific university, you can have hundreds of combinations of majors, minors, and emphases.

In retail/shopping: It's nice to have options! If you want to spend money on higher quality (or just trendy) stuff, you can. You can also find good quality things for competitively low pricing. I like going grocery shopping and being able to survey the variety of brands and products and choose which is best for me (it reminds me of the description of a virtuous woman purchasing a field in Proverbs 31).

In my social life: When I came to college, I discovered some life-changing facts that have taken years to sink in. 1) That I'm awesome, worth a lot, and can be valued as a person, quirks included, and 2) that intelligent, attractive, chivalrous men do exist and can actually be interested in me sometimes. With a wide variety of friend- and dating-candidates, I could be more selective and develop some great relationships.

However, there are some sneaky, unforeseen issues that can arise with having so many options. How on earth does one make an exclusive choice? It took me 3 years to finally declare a major. I guess commitment isn't too much of an issue in grocery shopping... but in dating? Yeah, that's important.

The past year has been an interesting one for me. I started realizing some things about myself - goals I wanted and challenges I had - that I wasn't sure how to reconcile. Getting married and having a family has always been really important to me, and I felt I was reaching the age/maturity where I wanted to date for keeps instead of just to have fun. But at the same time, I was scared. That's a big life choice, a big change, and one of the most important commitments to make in a lifetime. How much love for one person will I need in order to feel comfortable closing myself off to other potential options? With so many available and attractive options, it can be frightening or disconcerting to make my choice. A permanent choice that I don't want to second-guess or mess up on.

My great-grandma collaborated with my mother to write her biography, and when she died, a copy of the book was given to each of her descendants. It was cool to read through it and learn the history and personality of a woman, my progenitor, with whom I wasn't very familiar while she was here. She and my great-grandpa had been neighbors growing up, and while she dated a few other men in college, she ended up marrying her neighbor boy, and it seemed to be a very natural choice for her. She wrote,
I was outside weeding Mother's flowers and he asked me for a date for Saturday night. I thought he was just kidding so I said, 'Oh sure!' We'd grown up together and were more like brother and sister... A few days later he called me on the phone to check and see if we really had a date, and I told him I thought he'd been kidding me. He said, 'Well, I'm not!' We went together for six weeks before we were engaged and we were married in three months. It wasn't as if we'd needed to get acquainted, we'd known everything about each other all our lives...
My great-grandma could have married one of the guys she met at the small college she attended (saying that she wasn't completely limited to her hometown), but she still married someone she knew from her small hometown. Almost 80 years later, I'm pretty far from my hometown, and I'm in a much larger university than the one she attended. I don't think I'd be very happy marrying anyone I knew from back home, so I'm definitely glad for the wider array of options here, but it makes me wonder... Is choosing a spouse, someone to love forever, any harder now than it was back then? In some ways I think it's definitely more challenging, with the need to narrow down from so many more options. But the core issue - making a decision for life (for eternity, really) - maybe hasn't changed as much as I thought. I'm going to be digesting this idea for a while.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Growth and Relationships

Yikes, I hardly have time or things to post about on here anymore. (That said, I have 5 drafts still pending that require more research before posting).

About a year ago, I made a lot of personal decisions about my romantic relationships. No more sharing the personal happy moments on my public blog. Related to that, I also want to remember that my relationships are about me and the other person - the details are on a need-to-know basis, and we can label and specify our relationship as we see it. I wanted to slowly ease into relationships naturally, instead of a stop-and-go "official this and official that" approach, and to build a strong friendship base before seriously dating. Some of these resolutions and ideals have been more effective than others. All of them were well-intentioned, but many of them contributed to a bigger problem that I didn't fully see at first or understand - these became part of a protective wall that I built around myself against forming vulnerable (romantic, in particular) relationships with another person.

I have been very aware of how the relationships I have - romantic or not, official or not - have affected me and influenced my growth as a person. With every acquaintance I become close to, I learn ways to improve myself and see the world through yet another lens. I have been very blessed and lucky to have known, loved, and become intimately acquainted with some fantastic people over the years and in varying circumstances; it's impossible to name or number all the ways I have grown because of them.

I'm just feeling really grateful. I am such a people person, and I love the infinite variation between people's choices, personality, circumstances, and the way that they all interact together. I love coming to know individuals for their unique individuality, and I often come to love each of them in different ways and degrees. I often think about how I couldn't have become the person I am today if I didn't move where I did after high school, but now more importantly, I think that I couldn't have become who I am without the people I met in the time that I met them. Even if I've grown distant from these people with the passage of time, there are still multihued threads of memory and affection that connect them to my heartstrings in some way or another. My hope, prayer and faith is that someday in heaven I'll have the chance to reel all these threads back in, and relive the joy of association with all these wonderful people.

I guess this is all another testament of God's love for me. He knows my heart, my needs, my preferences, and my fears. He is a Grand Architect in coordinating billions of lives together in ways to maximize their growth and opportunities for happiness. I see the ways that I have been blessed through the people in my life, and I thank God for His mercy, benevolence, love and wisdom. I should take time more often for reflection, because looking back leads me to gratitude for all I've been given (and gives me a point to move forward from). Praise the Lord, amen :)