Monday, April 30, 2012

Faith, Works, the Atonement

Joseph Smith, the first modern prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, went through the Bible and through the power of the Holy Spirit and the authority of his assignment, retranslated parts of the Bible that had been inconsistent or confusing. Here is one example:

Yea, a man may say, I will show thee I have faith without works; but I say, Show me thy faith without works, and I will show thee my faith by my works.
My bishop (equivalent to minister or pastor) shared the story of a lesson he taught a children's Sunday School class to illustrate this principle, that we need faith and works together.

With the class full of children, he turned off the light and said, "Ok guys, I need you to use your faith to turn the light back on." Many of the kids bowed their heads and concentrated, but the room stayed dark. He repeated, "You must not be using enough faith. Try harder!", and more of the kids concentrated and he could tell they were praying hard. When that didn't work, he asked one child, "Can you walk over and flip the light switch?" He explained that even though we can't see electricity, we know it works. We have faith that the light will turn on, but we need to act - to flip the switch - to make our faith effective.

For me, it also helped to refer back to the proverbial image of faith as "taking a step in the dark." If someone is standing at the edge of what they know, they may have faith that Christ will be there to take care of them when they don't know what's next. However, unless they take a step forward - an act of faith - they don't make any progress, and their faith isn't taking them anywhere. Thus, for our faith to be useful, we have to act on that trust we have and move forward.

That's one way that I can try to use the Atonement more in my life. Often there isn't tangible proof that "now I've used the Atonement and I'm forgiven," so I need to use faith. For me that means that when I've done what Christ has said is necessary for repentance, that I really am forgiven - I'm clean again. If I keep beating myself up over a mistake I've made, then I'm not showing faith in Christ's ability to redeem me. If I have faith in what Christ says, then I'll trust that doing what he says is sufficient, and I'll be willing to move on.

Just some cool thoughts from the weekend; I hope they're useful.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Best. Prank. Ever.

So, my fiance and I are friends with the people who did this video (Z more than me), and it is AMAZING!!! Everyone should watch it and have the best day ever afterwards. The video's called "Girls Get Easter Pranked With Live Animals."

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Ballroom Dance: Worth It?

Saturday afternoon, my fiance and I went to the annual ballroom dance concert. It was a good show, but as we drove away in the heavy traffic, I silently cried on Z's shoulder. Why? Emotional tiredness was partly responsible, but mostly I had a tangle of thoughts that culminated in the heart-wrenching question: Has it been worth it to be involved in ballroom dance?

I took my first ever dance class in my second semester of freshman year because I felt socially inept and thought that social dance would be a good class for me. I enjoyed the class even though I didn't think I was very good at dancing, and for whatever reason, I signed up for the next level in social dance. It was in that class that I was really inspired by the advanced dancers and first thought, "I really like this, and more than that, I think it's possible for me to become a competent dancer, and I want to work for it." That was life-changing, and I started identifying myself as a ballroom dancer from then onward.

So I signed up for technique classes and started training myself. I practiced pressure steps at home, I sought dance experiences outside of class, and I slowly built a network of dance friends who I could work with during class, hang out with at socials, and just be good, supportive friends with. At my teacher's urging, I started auditioning for the teams after only two semesters of dance experience.

10 classes and 7-9 auditions later, here I am: engaged (to a non-dancer), never had a successful audition, feeling like I'm losing my friends, unable to advance into more challenging classes, and without hope that I'll ever be part of the Ballroom Dance Concert.

I think that's what made the concert painful this year - the magic was gone. Last year, I was thrilled to watch my friends and teachers perform and I hoped that next year would be the year I would make it onto a team and be able to perform in just one number. But while I could still appreciate the beauty and dynamics of the dancing, I felt somewhat detached, like "I'm not part of that world anymore." Dancing is a magical thing, especially when you're single and looking for someone to connect to, but I'm not single anymore (I have my man, and who wants to dance with a girl who's taken?). I'm in one dance class now instead of three, and I don't see most of my dance friends anymore. I've tried out for the dance team so many times and never gotten so much as a callback, and that's heartbreaking! I've put a lot of heart, soul, tears, work, hopes and dreams into ballroom dance, and it all seems to be for nothing.

The thought process seems to come with every ending of a chapter: was it worth it? If the answer is no, then it's accompanied by despair for lost time and rejected love, and a desire to never invest again. If the answer is yes, then it takes more active soul-searching and optimism to remember why. I have to answer "Yes, putting so much of myself into dance was worth it," because I know that with Christ leading me, all my experiences have a purpose in improving myself and perhaps in influencing other people. So what has ballroom dance done for me, if I haven't achieved the defined level of "success"?

Ballroom dance gave me friends. Most of my friends aren't dancers, but having friends in my classes makes a world of difference in how committed I am to the class and in how much I enjoy it and learn from it. Ballroom dance gave me a goal: I have seldom found things that inspire such passion in me as dance has, and that's been hugely motivating (especially for someone who often struggles with finding motivation). Ballroom dance gave me an opportunity to develop talents. Dancing gave me opportunities to build social skills (especially when I became able to help others) and to become good at something; even if I don't know all the steps that some of my more talented friends do, I've learned so much, and I'm not a bad dancer (even though there's clearly room for improvement). Ballroom dance gave me a new appreciation for what the human body - and my body - can do. I'm inspired by the athleticism of really good dancers, and I love getting a workout from something so demanding, so beautiful, and so much fun.

Ballroom really has given me a chance to grow and push myself, and I've learned so much from teachers and friends who I wouldn't have known if not for ballroom dance. Dance has been close to my heart for the last few years, and it really, really hurts to think that I'm losing it. But to know that all this effort and love hasn't been in vain makes it much easier. There have been many times when I've wanted to give up on ballroom, because I felt like ballroom was giving up on me. Whether or not that's the course I'm now taking, I feel much more peaceful with the perspective that it's been worth it. I still have faith that Jesus Christ is involved in my life, and I can trust Him that everything will be ok, with or without dance. We'll see what happens this next year, and I'll just keep chugging along.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Surgery Blessings

Some cool and wonderful things associated with my ankle surgery, just in the first few days:

- I had an annoying cold last week after I accidentally mixed some bad chemicals during cleaning checks, and it completely went away the night before surgery! No gross runny nose!

- God is perfectly capable of instantaneous healings, as we see recorded in scripture and have occasionally heard miraculous stories of. In the hospital I had the thought that if God were my physician and we were sitting down to discuss treatment, I would object to such an instantaneous healing. If I were given the opportunity to choose, I really think I'd prefer to tough it out, undergo the surgery, and have the full recovery experience so that I could learn. That was a cool thought process that made me appreciate the way that God is custom-shaping my life to my needs and desires.

- I was able to get the IV without crying, jerking, or doing anything wrong! I've always had a really hard struggle with doctors' needles that has frustrated me, my mom, and many nurses and doctors over the years. My breathing shifted, I got the familiar panicky tingles, I tried not to bolt, and the nurse got it in without a problem!

- I requested a priesthood blessing from my home teachers a couple days before going into surgery. I was worried that I wouldn't be able to have surgery because of my cold, and I was anxious about the IV, and just not knowing what was ahead (plus school and work and wedding stuff that still needs to get done). It was a really tender experience that reminded me that God loves me and has a personal relationship with me, and the promises I received were an anchor I could base my faith on and move forward calmly.

- The right leg of my favorite pajama pants had slowly been growing an obnoxiously long rip for a few weeks, and it turns out that the rip is perfect for accommodating my cast! Now I have 1 pair of pajama pants, 1 pair of jeans, a few different shorts and many skirts or dresses that I can wear for the next month while my usual pants won't fit.

- The color of my cast (blue) is perfect. I wear blue a lot, and it complemented the iodine orange on my toes right after surgery quite well.

- I've had really good experiences with this doctor, the imaging center (for the MRI), and the surgical center, so I'm picking my other doctors from the same medical system for the other checkups I need in the next few months. Super friendly, super nice, and super professional.

- This didn't happen because of my ankle, but the LDS General Conference was this weekend! (click here for summaries of the various talks). Normally I have to miss at least part of General Conference for work, but because of surgery and convenient scheduling, I was able to spend the whole time watching! That said, Saturday wasn't as enlightening because the pain meds made me barely conscious, but I learned a lot from what I heard and I'm excited to reread the talks when they come out.

- I got started on my pain drugs before the initial anesthesia wore off and took them on schedule for the following day and a half, which I think made it really easy for me to get off of them quickly without a problem! I had been worried about getting addicted to medications, and I've been lucky to not have any issues with them. Since then, I've hardly even been uncomfortable.

- I have an AMAZING fiance who is here supporting me at every turn. Seriously. He is one of the busiest people I know with so much on his plate, and he always takes time for service. (It's probably true what he says, that he wouldn't be able to do so much if he didn't take time out to serve people). It's probably quickest to just write that I love, admire, and appreciate him a lot. <3 <3

I've got a big, fat, hard, blue thing on my ankle that can't get wet, that makes it hard to get dressed and go down stairs, and makes it so I can't get around on my own much, but life is AWESOME! There's so much to be thankful for (cue Josh Groban lyrics).