Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Christmas: What are you getting?

It is often said at this time of the year to focus on giving. It's the season of giving.

I want to ask you, what are you getting?

The gift of the Atonement has already been given. Will you be receiving service from those around you?

But what will you get?

A warm feeling when you look at lights.
A lighter heart from laughing with loved ones.

Will you be getting a stronger testimony? A better relationship with someone? With the Savior?

Are you getting what is being given?

What will you get from this season?

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Eternal Life: Eternal?

Recently I listened to a guy talk about how we are never truly gone.
We are eternal! We will not last!
But there is more to you than matter. When you die, you will not disappear until everyone who remembers you, and whose actions are affected – however slightly – by your memory, until all of those people die, and you are completely forgotten.
We are eternal! We will not last!
But even then, you are not gone. Not until all the people who remember and are affected by those people who remembered, and were affected by you, are gone.
We will not last!
But even then, you are not gone. Not until all the people who remember and are affected by those people who remembered, and were affected by those people who…and so on, and so on, and on.
We are eternal!
You will persist, ever so faintly, ever so slightly, on into perpetuity. Long after everything about you no longer matters. Your life is so small. But, in the setting sun of this universe, its shadow is cast down through generation after generation, until it gets blurry and hard to see…but still there. A breath of a wisp of a thread stretching out before you.
We are eternal! But we will not last!
That's what he said. (It's from a wonderfully quirky Ray Bradbury/Sci-Fi-esque broadcast called Welcome to Night Vale. You can listen to it here. Give it a couple episodes. It can be weird.)

To summarize: When you die, you live on in the lives of those whom you touched. When they die, you continue to live in the people they touched by having touched them. Does that make sense? If it doesn't read the transcript from above. I put it there because he says it better than I do. Or you can listen to it. (It was the "traffic report" from "The List ep 57")

For some odd reason, almost all the the funerals I have ever been have taken place the weekend of Thanksgiving. I've been to maybe one funeral that didn't take place between Oct 1 and Nov 30, the majority on the weekend I spoke about.

One of those funerals was my best friend. Another of a boy I mentored. The list just goes and goes. So it shouldn't be surprising that Thanksgiving is a bit different for me than it is for your average joe. I don't even have to actively recognize that it's that time of the year, my subconscious does it for me.

Some years are better than others, but I'm not going to go into detail. I would like to point out that that excerpt is from the most recent episode and therefore had incredible timing.

My best friend was also my art mentor. When she died, I stopped doing art. I tried it maybe once since then. That was about... 6 years ago. So it's been about 5 years since I tried putting brush to canvas.
This year, I couldn't get the idea out of my head that I should draw. There was a lot going on in my head, and I haven't seriously drawn in years. But the idea kept coming.

So late one night, a pulled out the colored pencils (oddly, the medium I spent the most time with) and some printer paper. It was amazing! The drawings are certainly no Monet, but they weren't awful either. I went from whatever it was I was feeling to feeling lighter and happier.
It was a spiritual experience!
It was a healing experience!
The two go hand in hand.

I'm convinced that God knows use better than we do and He knows EXACTLY what it is we need. Obviously, He doesn't want use to be sad. He truly wants us to be happy.

I share this to share a point. I don't know what you got from it (but I would like to), but what Cecil Palmer (Night Vale) and my art experience are meant to share is that eternal life doesn't always wait until after judgment day. My friend still lives in this life, in a way. By touching the lies of others, she will continue to "live" through me.
The Savior set an example of how to best do this. Through service, love, and all those things that come as a result of follow what we know to be right and good.

Now that the heavy stuff is out of the way, here's this.

I finally saw the new Christmas video. This one.

At the end it says the greatest gift is the gift of eternal life.
"But who wants to live forever?" I thought.
Life is hard. Aging is difficult. In many stories, immortality is looked at as a curse or punishment.

But what if that's not the life that is meant? Yes, yes. There's the eternal perspective. What about life? As in the spark within the world that makes us move? You know- the "get a life" or "living life" meaning. Everlasting... also known as abundant.

What if it isn't years, but life in those years? Eternal life?

Life of joy, excitement, happiness, creativity, love, and adventure.

That, to me, sounds like the ultimate gift.

What do you think? How would you describe the ultimate gift?

While finishing this up, it has occurred to me that He has already started giving that life. I gave the example of happiness through creating. Although I never left my bed, I felt as though I had really "lived".

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Of Puzzles: and Prayers

Part 2! ... again.

Remember way back when I posted about

Take Care of Spiritual Things First
I have found that before things can get better, before your life pulls it self together or "heals, there is a spiritual healing. Before this happens, things generally get pretty bad.

To start at the beginning, do you remember when I posted about starting to read However Long and Hard the Road by Elder Jeffery R Holland? Well, it turns out that whenever there was something I needed to hear, it was Elder Holland who said it. Even if it was a quote on Pinterest or in a class. There was just something about his words that was so spot on, it became a rather profound phenomenon.
I kept getting the idea to write to him. However, that's just weird. I had nothing special to say. And it's weird.
I put this off for a long time (months and months), and it kept coming. Another big way of holland helps came. It got to the point where I felt like he was a good friend of mine; telling me what I need to hear in a way that I will hear it. I decided to at least write the letter, expressing the sentiment. (Even though it's weird) I still wasn't sure if I was going to send the letter when I looked for the mailing address. I found it only because of some bitter angry person. It was at this point I knew I was going to send it come hell or high water. That's my friend! And if he's getting hate mail, he could use some kindness.
I sent it before General Conference and forgot about it.

A couple weeks later, I started having questions. Ridiculous questions. My testimony was beginning to waiver for no apparent reason. I was studying and praying everyday. I wasn't doing anything bad. This only add to the frustration. The sight of the temple still brought this bright home-like feeling. I knew that was true. But I was questioning pretty much everything else. (This became evident when someone started questioning me on the truthfulness of temples. I was able to honestly I had doubts but I was firmly certain of temples.) things get worse before they get better. Probably because of opposition.

I wanted to know. I needed to know. I fasted. Nothing happened that entire day. That night, I asked again. While praying I got a song stuck in my head, so I listened to it while washing my face. I happened to turn the water off at the exact moment a line was said. It impacted me so deeply, it had to have been just the song saying those things.
My first thought the next day was "So... is God real?" I shuffled my music while getting ready. You know when you're not paying attention to a sung and you suddenly tune it? Well I was thinking about how if there is God, then I have no hope. Then what would be the point of everything? My brain suddenly, almost violently, went to the music.
"So when you're heart's on fire/ But you know your desire/ Don't hold a glass over the flame/ Don't let your heart grow cold/ I will call you by name/ I will share your road" (Mumford & Sons "Hopeless Wanderer")
I guess my name is music. Someone was obviously trying to reach me. (Funny enough, this isn't the first time music has played an instrumental part in my personal conversion.) I wish I could explain the feeling. It happens way down where you can't reach it and surrounds you as if you could breath it and wear it.
My faith wasn't perfected in that moment, but there was a spark, and I wasn't going to hold a glass over it. There was still confusion, frustration, and so much noise.
Slowly, ever so slowly, it continues to grow.
(Watch the movie only if you are daring. 4 comics spoofing on genre music videos)

A couple days later I got a letter. A letter form The Church of Jesus Christ of Letter-Day Saints: The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Was I in trouble?
I had almost forgotten about having written to Elder Holland. He wrote back! I was not expecting that! It was short. It was simple. It was powerful.
Wow! It packed the spirit! I never get tired of reading it and I feel the spirit just as strong every time. In it he promises that things will get better. Oh, have they ever!

When an apostles makes you a promise, you can count on it.

I also want to share that I know God is generous in his love and forgiveness. If you know me or have read this blog, you know He and I are no strangers to each other.
Imagine it like this. You slave to make the perfect feast for someone. All their favorites with some new and utterly delicious dishes! Can you imagine it? Then when the table has been finished and you asked how it was they say "What dinner? I don't remember any food." I know some people would never invite that guest ever again. However, the Lord is not some people. If you do so much as realize there is a table in front of you, He will bring you desserts.
I am completely shocked, awed, and surprised by Him.

"Our heavenly Father is more liberal in His views, and boundless in his mercies and blessings, than we are ready to believe or receive." (Joseph Smith Jr)
It was a week after this musical epiphany and letter that my grandmas suggested the doctor. They have told me they weren't so sure, but both had the same thought at the same time and went ahead with it.

Remember how the doctor asked me what I love and I said "Music?"

After just the first session, I got a text from a friend to have lunch with her. I have seen scarcely anyone outside my family for the past year. No friends, because I'm too sick for them, and they have busy lives. After just two sessions with the doctor, I was able to laugh with her harder than I have in a long long long long long long long time. I was able to laugh without repercussions.

Also after the first session, my mom walked into my room. She had an envelope in one hand and was obviously trying to suppress excitement. In the envelope were too tickets to my second favorite band!
(Okay, for me to have a favorite anything is a big deal. They are a very very close second. I hold to number one for loyalty reasons) She had briefly mentioned to her friend I loved them, but that I was probably too sick to go. Her friend surprised both of us with free tickets.
This for me was a big big deal. It took about 20 minutes for it to actually sink in. I kept thinking "But this is real life! This only happens in movies! My life isn't a movie!" I might have cried.

This post has no pictures because I'm writing before heading to the concert. Who knows what will happen there!

Healing, true healing, comes from the inside out. I promise you, everyone who is struggling, or even if life is good, it will get better.
You can bank on it.

Shocked, grateful, and awed,

I encourage you to listen and enjoy all of the Bastille acoustic songs. You have my permission to cry.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Ether 12:4- Anchors Part 2

Sorry! Sorry! I know, it's another two parter. (Especially since it's another to do with the last part one. You'll just have to wait.) I just really feel like this needs to be revisited.

Anchors of Testimony
By James C Christensen

After the last post about anchors, I gained a new addition to my personal library. I highly recommend "Passage By Faith" By James C Christensen for everyone. It's been a game changer for me. It's an art-book that changes every time you go through it. Well, it doesn't change, but your perspective does.
Why I love this book is how it articulates thoughts, feeling, concepts, and experiences so well. Its all communicated through art and words. There have been few times I've read through one of his experiences and thought "You too! That perfectly describes what happens to me!" I understand myself a little better for the time spent with Bro. Christensen.

I bring this book up because of a thought he shares in relation to the art piece, "Epiphany".If you happen to see this book at a friends house, pick it up and find the story (page 9). He explains an experience in which he felt a revelation while taking out the trash. It was a Wednesday night and he was suddenly filled with love and light and warmth. (You've felt this too, no? I can remember when I've felt this very clearly.)

I heard these moments referred to once as anchors (perhaps general conference or elsewhere in Passage of Faith). They are anchors we experience every now and then, perhaps for no reason at all, that serve as spiritually, emotionally, and quite literally. They are reminders of God's love and personal awareness. I have felt them with revelation, as well as for no reason at all. I really wish I could find where I found it!

What I find most fascinating about this anecdote is that the paint has multiple layers of gold leaf and gold paint that cannot be captured by camera. They must be experienced in person. The moments are the same. We can listen and share and watch and read, but the true aesthetic comes when living in it.

You may take a pause here. Stretch your legs. Get some water. Take a bathroom break. Or perhaps just sit for a while and ponder anchors you have felt.

Because her comes two more examples of how hope and the gospel of Jesus Christ are anchors, respectively.
"Sometimes The Spirit Touches Us Through
Our Weaknesses"
James C Christensen

"It's the storm that will pass, not you." (A musical I can't remember)
Once upon a time, I went on a mission. Surprise! On the way to the MTC, my brother asked me if I had any questions. I didn't know where to begin! The only problem was that I didn't know what it was that I did not know. (Mull it over a bit, you'll understand.) So I shrugged, and he laughed. Just before the door opened he told me that teachers wouldn't speak English for the first three days. That was the last word of advice I got before embarking on my mission.
He was right! The teachers spoke only Croatian. Some missionaries really struggled with this to the point of almost giving up. I was lucky and was totally unhindered. I knew it would happen and not to worry about it.

Dr Ashleigh (my new doctor) told me that as I was recovering I would have good days and bad days. The good days meant my body was healing and the bad days are when my body can't quite pull it together. I didn't have a bad day until this week, and it was bad. However frustrating and awful it was, I was somehow okay.

With both of these examples, there isn't really a way to prepare. I knew it was going to happen but not how. Similarly, life with the gospel is the same way. We are told trails and challenges will come. We don't know when, how, or what they will be, but we know they will come. Just as my brother promised, as the doctor promised, and as Christ promises, these trails end.
"After Clouds, Sun"
James C Christensen

Knowing this does not make the storm any less wet, but when we think the storm will never end or that we will be washed away we have our anchors. Faith is believing the sun shines behind the clouds. Hope is believing we will see it again and feel it's warmth. Faith includes hoping in the flora that will come from the rain.

When we begin to think there is no end to life's storms, we can trust and believe in Christ. He will anchor us against the winds and bring to pass our eternal springs and summers.

If you ever need to feel that anchor, I encourage you to get on your knees and ask. I know now that the Lord is generous in showering His love and answers. I promise you He will answer.
I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Stay tune for...
Part 2 Of Puzzles and Prayers
What I believe is the last installment of this Ether 12:4 series (I still want to hear your insights on this verse)

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Of Puzzles: a Health Update

This will be in two parts. Even though the first part came chronologically second, I'm still debating on if I want share the second part. Sorry!
Credit: National Geographics
After trying to put puzzle pieces together for a long time with nothing coming together, you flip the table over in frustration only to find the pieces fall perfectly in place.

If you're like me, you stand there staring at the puzzle while the occurrence sinks in. "But this is real life. That doesn't happen in real life." My life isn't a movie. My life is real, and movies are not. This is why it's important to have your own experiences.

By the by, we're 80% sure what's wrong with me.

My grandmas (close family friends, but we claim them and they claim us) suggested a doctor to me. After ending it with the last doctor, we've been getting a few suggestions. If you ever find yourself in the land of medical-ness, I wish you the best of luck. We tried getting into these doctors but couldn't get an appointment. (There's either a flaw in phones or receptionists. Let's blame phones.) Which my regular medical doctors, it could be 3 months before there's an opening. We had an appointment with the doctor my grandmas suggested in less than a week. (Props to her phone!) I was super skeptical though.

A chiropractor? Really? The last thing I wanted was someone sitting on my back. What on earth could she do for me? The only comment that came with the suggestion is "She's gentle". Still didn't mean anything to me.
One of my major concerns is that I wanted to treat the cause, not the symptoms. I want to get to the bottom of this! I can't live like this- a life like this is not living.

I went to the appointment SUPER skeptical. I have respect for my grandmas though, so I went to humor them and my mom. The first thing I'm told is to take everything I know about chiropractics and put it in a box. This doctor was only interested in treated the cause. Cool! Me too!

We talk about my novel of a health record, what we've found out so far, and all that jazz. I've never been in an accident or broken a bone. We decide to find a cause starting from birth. I guess it wasn't anything too eventful or exciting since I can't remember it. She asked my mom and got pretty much the same answer. No problems. "Where there forceps?" "Yeah, there would have been forceps." (That's something I didn't know.) "That's the problem!"
She explained all her young patients who come in had a c-section or forceps at birth. This causes strain on the neck as it's pulled and shreds up fragile fibers within the body. From the get-go, your body is already trying to compensate.
She did a simple exam. Turns out there is a whole inch of difference between my legs! Most people at that point are given inserts. My case, of course, would be different. My weight is mostly on my left size.
Credit: Sebastian Eriksson Self Portrait

Next up, x-rays. This revealed how truly contorted my body is. Terribly! It also reveals an extremely important factor. The atlas, the very first vertebra within the skull, is so far off in the wrong spot that it's crushing my brain stem. My neck curves the wrong way. My spine is a mess!
Why is that important? It's cutting of my nerves, one of the major ones being the vegas nerve. The vegas nerve is in charge of the heart, lungs, and stomach. It would be why I respiratory issues, and why my heart freaks out.

I read some papers she sent home with me, one of which is a chart with symptoms and the related section of the spine. So many things are explained, dating back to preschool and elementary school! She wasn't kidding when she said it was something from birth.

It was such a simple thing, yet it took us so long to find it. The treatment is adjustment of the atlas, which means a gentle message behind my ears. I've had 3 session and feel SO much better!

Why now? Why did it not become so severe until Serbia? It's something that builds up until your body says "Dosta mi je!" and gives in on itself. It could have been my extremely heavy and unbalanced bag, the stresses of missionary life, or it was just time.

As exciting as all of this is, it's only the picture of the puzzle. The circumstances surrounding it, the tipping of the table and the falling together, is what makes me sit down and really look and rejoice in it.
But that is part 2.

Part 2 is possibly still in process. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Oh Hello Metaphor: Glaciers

We take you from your prescheduled program of Ether 12:4.

I just like to start out by saying that I know God's hand is in all things. From our prayers, right down to the documentaries we watch.

I'm going to break this up into 3 parts. Part 1) Glaciers. Part 2) Metaphor 1. Part 3) Metaphor 2. Then  you may return to your day.

I've found a new love in documentaries. I have been enjoying the NOVA variety. Fractals! Midget submarines! Evolution of dogs! I love it! Every now and then, one comes up that I think will not be so excited, and then I'm proven wrong. I love it! One of these was Glaciers.

The part I want to focus on is this phenomenon of vanishing lakes. Glaciers are spotted with lakes varying in size. In the summertime, these lakes vanish overnight. It was assumed that the water was simply absorbed into the surrounding ice. However, it was discovered the lakes where going down a hole to the bedrock. The water then acted as a lubricant, moving the glacier to the water where it would break apart.

Doubt and Questions
A day or two later, I was thinking about these lakes for no real reason and it suddenly occurred to me! This is why it's so important to address questions and doubts!

The brethren have always been clear in their encouragement to ask questions. If you have doubts, don't let them get under your skin and dislodge your testimony. (See what I did there?) These water parts can be used to strengthen and grow like the mass of a glacier or lead us to a watery demise. Don't ignore!

Now we will liken the glacier to an icy disposition. Often, our kind acts or encouraging words, even words of testimony, will seem to have no effect. Even to the glacier, they will just come and pass. But theses things gather and work upon the icy surface until it is moved. They work from the inside out.

And this is when I was knocked off my feet in realization of how the Lord's hand is really in everything. It's wonderful.

You may be asking, how can one metaphor represent both good and bad? Simply this: opposition in all things. Another way to put this is that there are types and shadows in all things. Or as Sir Newton put "Each action has an opposite and equal reaction." Take your pick!

This is what I came up with. What parallels come to your mind? I want to know what metaphors you have come across recently. I really do! I'm kind of a nerd about these things.

I want to end with my testimony that I know God is reaching out for us always. He speaks in ways we understand. Are you listening?

I re-found this talk a week after posting this. Elder Larry S Kacher, "Trifle Not With Sacred Things"

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Ether 12:4 - Anchor to the Souls

 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.
This may be my favorite part of this verse. Yes, there have been many talks and what-not, but this is what the phrase means to me.

Hope is often viewed as a characteristic of the "flighty". These dreamers and believers are often referred as having their "head in the clouds."

But they don't! Hope makes an anchor. Those who hope are grounded and "down to earth". They have a solid grasp.

Think of the function of an anchor. The ship at sea with it's anchor weighed. The waves come and it sways and it moves, but it remains rooted. The other ships may laugh at this proportionally small chain and object. But this ship doesn't get lost. It may move, but never is lost.

This movement, although anchored, is fantastic. It means we can still move around and explore without getting lost or off course.

How does hope make an anchor? It's a hard concept to get your hands around, and, to be honest, it requires experimentation and application to truly understand. It's an experience. It's felt but not seen. Like an anchor in the water!

Let's take the boat and replace it with a person. This person hopes for an ideal. Maybe it's a career, a relationship, or a state of being. They're trucking along towards their goal, but lo! What's this? A metaphorical wave! It's a setback! It's lack of progress! It's neigh-sayers and doubts! Will this person be whisked out to the Dark Sea of So Called Realists?
To be continued...

Just kidding. It depends on whether or not the person has hope. Do you remember sometime when you felt down and out and a memory or person gives you just a bit of hope? Remember how that hope sparked and sputtered but gave off light anyways? Maybe they reminded you of your dream. Maybe they shared their anchor with you, which I have experienced many times. *coughcough* Mom *coughcough* (Also looking at you, friends, family, and teachers.) If this person has hope, then they can exercise faith by continuing to sail through without top-sizing, not matter how much they may waver. If there is no hope, they drift off and become lost in the storm we call life. They might burnout or just not try for any improvement.
This can result in a lost hope becoming a cringing pain instead of a beacon. "That'll never happen to me."

Hope is an anchor to the soul.
The deepest part of you. If your soul doesn't drift, you won't drift. Your mind may reel and your heart may doubt, but in your soul, your heart of hearts, you are anchored.

Remember our friend John Adams? You know, they driving bullheaded force behind independence? What would have happened if he had no hope? What if he was cynic who tossed between the waves of life? Life would be very different nowadays. He used his anchor to help others remain anchored.

Have you felt that anchor in your life? Is it time for you to weigh the anchor? Have you even used the anchor of another or used your anchor to help someone else?

One last thought on this line: There are many other boats there. If we drift off course, we may become caught between them. Have you ever watched objects floating in waves? They tend to congregate. If you get stuck amongst other boats, you may become subject to their direction. You just kind of float where they float. If you become anchored to them, you can become very lost. If you anchor in the ground (as anchors are suppose to), the other boats may float around and away, but you are still secured.

My advise is this, secure yourself in a firm foundation. Hope in Christ. Firm, unmoving, and equally (if not more) invested in you. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Ether 12:4 - Hope Cometh of Faith

 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.

One of the most common comments I hear from others after reading this verse is "Oh, I always thought of it the other way round."

This could be answered simply by saying "Well the gospel is just funny like that." But lets be honest. That doesn't answer anything. As was touched up (okay... borderline ranted. I don't want to beat the figurative dead horse) faith is pretty much trust.
There are SO many scriptures that explain faith and hope. My suggestion would be to start with Preach My Gospel, Chapter 6, sections Faith and Hope. I could tell you all that I have learned through my study, but what I learned most is that it was all stuff that I might have heard or read before, it's something that I needed to be taught, in my own language (learning language, that is), in order to really understand. It has opened up not only new doors, but a new world to me. I urge you to take the time to study these two topics.

It's hard to imagine hope without faith, and faith without hope.

I believe hope without faith is called "wishing". I've seen this phenomenon in other people as well as myself. In Alma 32, Alma is teaching a group of really poor people. He is explaining faith to them, and how it differs from knowledge. (It really is an incredible chapter! I learn new things every time I read it, and I have read it MANY times.) He explains that if you have a complete knowledge of a thing, you no longer need to believe it so your faith is then dormant.
Sometimes, we let our faith go dormant a little too soon. We say "Oh yeah, I hope the world becomes better." "I hope little Jimbo figures out his life." but we may not have faith in those things.

What about faith without hope? Moroni says you can't have such a thing. If there was, what would it look like? Hard to think of, eh? How about when we have faith in God, but not ourselves? When a missionary has faith in the power of the spirit, but no hope in their own proficiency? The have faith faith that so-and-so will come to church, but that the result may vary?

"Hope cometh of faith." In modern language, "Hope comes from faith." This is true. In my first example (two paragraphs up), I referred to it as "wishing". It's something that happens in word, but not in the mind or heart. That hope is merely figurative.

When we have faith in Christ and his Atonement, we cannot help but hope for a better world and a better life. When we faith in God's love, we have hope in ourselves and those around us.

It's a simple phrase, a small part of the verse, but it means a lot. Hope can carry us through the darkest of times and roughest of roads. What good is walking through the desert if the desert never ends? Hope is the oasis's that lead to Disneyand, or Hawaii, or whatever you see as a never ending paradise.

It comes from trusting that voice inside. The one that says God knows what He's doing. That there is good in everyone, including you. That there is help ahead. That there is happiness, and it is obtainable to you in this life. When trails come, it says "You can do it!" and you will survive for the better.

If you have nothing else to hope for, you can always hope in Christ, in a loving Heavenly Father, and in eternal peace with them. If you need help, pray for it. I promise you God will answer. He always does, and He always will.

To share a personal experience with this, I may need you to humor me. I use to have a rather grim look on relationships, at least the ones available to me. Wether it be friends, teachers, or whatever. I never thought I could obtain one of those really good ones. I even did the ultimate sin of buying into stereotypes and my own presumptions. I know! How un-21st century of me. I did think the relations might exist, just not for me. Not in the brooding shadow in the corner kind of way, it just never occurred to me. I'm awkward, goofy, loud, and have spent a really good portion of my life alone. My school friends rarely last longer than a semester, and the few friends I had in grade school were not very good to me (although I didn't mind at the time). That isn't to say there haven't been good loving people in my life. There have been! I am indeed blessed with the love of family and good neighbors. I can even name them off!
Artist Credit: David B
So I'm sitting in an empty classroom with my companion. My world is already being rocked in the best of ways. I love everyone around me, and they love me! I feel so comfortable in my own skin and I belong. I have an unbelievably perfect partner-in-MTC (no crimes on the mission) who is also studying in the same room. In order to be the best companion in return and be a better missionary, I decide to study Chapter 6 of Preach My Gospel, Christlike Attributes.
So the room is quiet. The spirit is there. I'm writing notes down and studying like mad. Then I noticed a common theme. "Faith is hope in things which are not seen which are true."
It hit me all at once like a pillow in the face. Things which are not seen which are true. Like other the kindness and love in others. This became a prevailing motto for me. Whenever I start getting down on myself or doubtful or wishful, I would remember to hope in that unseen thing.
You would think I would be prepared for miracles, right? I'm hoping and expecting what are miracles to me. Nope. I was still surprised daily by the love shown to me by others. Someone brought me strawberries, because they remembered I once said I like them. Someone else wrote me a kind note with a friendship rope-bracelet thing. A teacher said something nice. Someone tackled me with a hug while I was in bed. This may seem like really small things to you, and they didn't think twice about it, but it meant the world to me. There are a few that I still never got to know or talk to, but it's okay. It did not hold matter to me. I now knew what life could hold and became excited by the future. I was so excited to love everyone I came in contact with.

On this same note, I think it was Elder Scott who said, "The children of Father in Heaven can do amazing things when they feel trusted." You you believe in the unseen potential in others, you are opening your life to surprises.

Faith and hope. Study the word. Share the word. Spread the word. Be the word.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Quick One: Apostles at my Baptism

I take this week as a break from Ether 12:4. I don't want you to get sick of it yet. Also I've had a cold. So please enjoy this quick story that I just remembered just now.

Once upon a time... I turned 8. Plot twist! I know!
In my church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints, ili Crkva Isusa Krista Svetaca Posljednjih Dana, turning 8 means you get to choose if you want to be baptized. We call it the age of accountability.

My mom would occasionally ask me questions about the program, such as what my favorite primary songs were, who should do the baptizing, and who I wanted there. Naturally, I wanted the Prophet and apostles there. Bless my mom's heart, she said "We'll see. They're busy, but we'll see."

I even wrote a letter to them, telling them about the plans and inviting them to come. I never sent it, but I wrote it. I also told some people that we were going to see if they could come.

I turned 8 on the 5th and had the baptism on the 7th. The big day came. I woke, washed up, and donned my brand new pioneer-esque with dress, complete with apron, that my mom's friend had made for me. I went to my best friend's house so her mom could do my hair. It was my first time ever having french braids! She even weaved a special fabric flower into my hair that had on my wrist at my baby blessing.

I can remember being in the font and seeing the faces above me. I can remember the sound of rushing water as I dipped back and the bubbles that seemed to come around my head. Then I got out of my wet jumpsuit and into my dress. Some people spoke, although I can't remember what was said. I think Gordon Lasson was there and made a comment on how I was dressed and ready long before my dad and how it was because he probably had to dry his hair. My dad was and still is bald. I still don't know what took him so long.

My grandma then got up to speak. She's not "really my grandma" but my "adopted grandma". She's my grandma. She was one of the people whom I had told my prestigious invitation list to.

Before speaking, she went over to the black board and put up pictures of the prophet and all the apostles. She explained she did this so they could be there for my baptism.
But was that good enough for 8 yr old me?
You bet it was!

And that's how I had apostles and the prophet at my baptism. The end.

(Check back here for en exclusive picture from my baptism)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Ether 12:4 - With Surety

 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.
With surety. I'm not sure about much these days, to be honest. I don't know what my favorite band is, what I feel like eating, what I feel at all, what the weather will be tomorrow, when I will see my friends again... I'm not sure if the list ever ends.
Especially now. I'm not sure I'll make it through family dinners, not sure I'll be able to go to that one thing, not sure I'll be able to make it to my bed afterwards. I'm not sure when I will be able to do all these things people normally do on a daily basis. I'm not sure what's wrong with me and what I can do in the meantime.

We're not sure of the future of the world. We're not sure who will still be our friends in a year or so. We're not sure what will happen next month. We not sure of so many things.

To clarify for those unfamiliar with Book of Mormon lingo, "might" in this case doesn't mean "maybe" but "will" or "in consequence of doing so". So in our conversations "I'm not going to on a road trip so I might be able to make it." means "maybe, but I'm not 100% sure." but in this context it means "Because of this I can do that." Make sense?

Now let's look at that pairing. "Surety" and "hope". Isn't that a contradiction? No.
Hope: (n.)
1. a feeling of trust (dictionary/archiac)
2. a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen

Faith, although intertwined, is different. But that's a different post.

Preach My Gospel says,
"[Hope] is manifest in confidence, optimism, enthusiasm, and patient perseverance." (pg.117 Christlike Attributes: Hope) 
It makes sense that if you believe in Christ, and if you have a personal relationship with God, you have trust. Not iffy trust, but sure trust. You can "with surety hope". You can be confident and patient, because you trust God.

The best example I think of, not from the scriptures but from history, are the founding fathers. Let's focus on John Adams.

I love 1776! It's my new favorite musical. My mom doesn't watch many movies, but she actually excited to watch this one with me. By the end, I was in my futball watching stance. Edge of seat, elbows on knees, leaning forward. I knew how it was going to end, I was watching in the United States of America after all! But sweet mercy!
John Adams (Mr. Feeny), Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson
1776 Movie via Pinterest

The vote for independence had to be unanimous. Yet, just barely half were willing to even talk about it! Delaware was split in half and the southern colonies would go with the majority as long as they were able to keep their trade (slavery). Politics wasn't the only problem either. The war front was coming to them, there was home sickness, there was a large group of men stuck together in an unconditioned room (o, the heat), supply shortage, and other issues at hand. Not to mention, dear Mr John was "obnoxious and disliked, did you know that?" ("I hadn't heard")
Even after opening the possibility for debate, the odds were really against him. (His cousin was there too, but he's not in the musical. Sorry, Sam!) It came down to the very last second. THE. VERY. LAST. SECOND! If he didn't have trust, if he didn't surely hope, he would have given up long before. He would have given up when they were obviously sunk, like when the south was adamant that slavery stay legal, like when it took him over a year simply to get people thinking about it, like when he lost faith in himself, like when he got into arguments with is friends, and so forth. But he had that hope! He had that feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen!

It's truly inspiring to watch the events unfold and come together. It wasn't for him, it wasn't for Benjamin Franklin, it wasn't for Thomas Jefferson. It was for posterity. Posterity they would never meet, but would live in a better future.
Watch the movie. You'll get it.

But that's not the end.
"Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world"

Sept 11, Patriots' Day, was last week. As I looked through all the memories of that day in world history, (and I discovered it was, indeed, world history) I saw this theme repeated over and over again. "It was the end of the world as we knew it."
This happened when I was in second grade. I can remember standing in the doorway of my room, watching the TV in my parents room. We had visited those sites just a couple years earlier, when I was in kindergarten. I have been told stories and seen pictures of times when you could go to the airport terminal with someone, either to say goodbye or to pick them up. I've heard stories of times when we weren't so ridiculously cautious. In my experience, travel has been pretty lone. I grew up in this "new world". For me, this paranoia that's in the world is pretty normal.
But according to this scripture, which I know for myself to be true, we can still home for a better world.

Not just that the sun will rise the next day, although we do hope that is the case. This can be taken literally, like in John Adam's case, or figuratively.
It's no secret we all live in our own worlds. I've used this scripture to inspire myself in "down times". When I feel stuck, depressed, discouraged, or what have you. In those times, you can hope with surety that your world will get better. I have seen it for myself. Although you may see no way out of it (as in John Adams case), as if it's the way it will always be, it isn't. I promise you! And you don't have to wait until it happens. You can get to know Christ now and with surety hope for a better world. Hope manifests in wonderful ways! It sets the stone rolling, however slow yet still moving.

Medically, I can hope for a cure or a solution. Physically and emotionally, I surely hope that there will always be someone around to take care of me and support me (something I have experienced many times in the past month alone). Spiritually and mentally, I hope that I will endure, that I won't lose hope or lose sight of what is really important.

The best week of study and growth is when I studied hope. I can't wait to continue discussing it as we continue to explore this verse. I'm so excited! I hope you will get something from it, too!

S ljubavlju!

I just want to publicly thank everyone who I have bumped into or who dropped a line in my direction. You have no idea how much it meant to me to receive these hugs physically and verbally. Perhaps one of these days I will get to share the whole story. For now, with all my heart I thank you very much!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Ether 12:4 - Meet The Author

I write this post while listening to the sound of thunder and christmas carols, and by the glow of lightening and my humidifier.

I revisited my "all-purpose" verse from my mission. For some reason, I haven't read it since getting back. At least I can now confidently say it is my favorite.

Ether 12:4.

It's chalk full of goodness. (So much so, I am breaking it up into a series of posts.) It's been like a best friend to me. It always knows just what to say. It's always there when I need it. It's always supportive. It's never mean. It's always uplifting. It's Moroni. It's inspiring. It's intellectually stimulating. It's elegant.

Like I said. It's my best friend. If I could live in a verse, this would be it.

Moroni has always amazed me. For some reason, I feel a certain closeness with him, as if he were one of my dear friends. I'm always sad when the book is over and I have to goodbye.
What I find the most amazing about him, is who he is. He's not perfect. Mormon lets us know that. That gives me hope.

For those of you who do not know Moroni, let me give you a quick background. His dad, Mormon, was an incredible general. Both Mormon and Moroni almost their entire lives at war. This isn't your normal feud of the tribes. This isn't even French Revolution. It's horrific. It's terrifying. It's hopeless.
These two people have been at war, almost constantly, since setting foot on the land. Their families are being violated and tortured in grotesque ways. It's not just their families, but their friends, too. no one safe. Mayan like sacrifices are being made. The air stinks with the odor of death.

I distinctly remember putting my book and having to take a moment or two. For some reason, I missed those part the first three times I read the book.

You may have seen one of
these giant statues of Moroni
No one side is good either. The Nephites, Moroni and Mormon's people, have more than their fair share of savageness. Mormon tried to walk away from it all, but his people needed him. As much as he pleaded and taught them, they wouldn't change their ways. So, knowing they would be destroyed, Mormon helps them anyways. Eventually, Mormon dies.

So here's Moroni. He watched his father die. His wife and children have died after experiencing the unimaginable. The surviving of his friends have been scattered. The Nephite army is no more. It's every man for him self. So he goes from hiding spot to hiding spot, finishing a project his father started. He's hunted like a fox. No friends. No family. Alone.
I may be alone, but I will never be Moroni alone.

He even finishes one of his chapters by saying it would probably be the last, and that it's likely he won't live much longer.

Well guess what, he still lives. If you think about it, that's not necessarily a good thing, at least for him. He opens then next chapter like "Well, I'm not dead yet. So... Let's talk about hope!" And I'm sitting in my chair like "Are you kidding me?" What on earth could he hope for?

Not to be confused with this guy. This is a different, but
also awesome, Captain Moroni.
Here, he has EVERY right to feel jaded and depressed. His life is a literal nightmare. But no, he's going to give us some of the most powerful chapters in the entire book. He's going to teach us about faith, hope, and charity. Oh! And look at this other piece of book he found that relates a people that ended up like his. He's the last of his kind? Hunted down by the blood thirsty and terrible? Let's talk about the greatest love that exist. Are you kidding me? Is this guy for real? Yes.

I love Moroni with a deep love.

Ether was a prophet of a people that was also destroyed in a horrific manner, similar to Moroni's. Only one man that just couldn't die, no matter how much he wanted to. But that is an interesting story for another time.

Here's the verse I will be discussing. What are your insights? I just might add your comment in one of my posts, but I will definitely take note of it.
 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.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Another Year Mark: Coming Home Aug 29

This would be the part where I list what I've learned in the past year, right?

Definitely in the top 3 hardest weeks of my life. I was told I was going home.

I didn't want to go. I had given my all. Literally everything, holding nothing back. I had given my whole heart and soul. I was fully ready to die in service to the people I cared everything for. "We don't do that anymore." My president laughed. 
My family calls me in the early hours. They're supportive. They're excited. They're funny. They think it's best. They're helpful.

[Imagine being a pumpkin around Halloween time. You're sawed into, your insides get scrapped out to thin your walls and be sure that nothing is left. All those good seeds... Gutted. Then you get stabbed some more into some design you can't see. But wait! There's a light inside that could not have existed before! And it's warm!
It's a lot like that.]

Last interview. Last night. Last good-byes. 

4:15 am- time to leave Zagreb. 9:45 pm- touchdown in Utah.

I chow on food on the way home. My brother is there, happy to see me. My bed is made for me, complete with a humidifier. It's been a long day of travel and it's late. Time for bed.

I celebrated this mark by making pizza with my brother. What could have been a potentially rough day, turned out to be very nice. Low key, peaceful, and free of emotional pains. What more could you ask for? Oh yes! Let's not forget the pizza! Mmmm-mmmmmmm.

I go to sleep in the same bed, in the same spot, in the same home, with the same pains and problems. And oh! Even the same pajamas!

Life hasn't changed much, except that know we know what I don't have. It got me thinking, what has changed in the past year? What has happened? So what has a year done?
  • I've learned how easy it is to forget important lessons, even without distractions. "Oh yeah." is probably the most common statement following received revelation.
  • NEVER say you can't. "I can't take it anymore" is a lie. You can. You will. You don't have a choice.
  • To that same line, just because you can push yourself further doesn't mean you should. Be smart.
  • Medical trails: Physically hard for us, emotionally hard for those around us. Sometimes I wonder if my family is more upset than I am.
  • The world isn't against you. It's you and God against your challenges. There is no task too big to take on, and no problem is too complicated for you two. 
  • The Infinite Atonement is a book that I wish I read earlier in life. If nothing else, coming to better understand Christ, Heavenly Father, and the Atonement is all worth it. I have learned so much from reading this book.
  • Things are planned before you're born. Like when this happened.
  • You're not alone. I'm not alone. 
  • Prayers are answered. I thought I already knew this, but now I know it.
  • It doesn't matter what others think. "I know it and God knows it..." and THAT is what matters. 
  • Reflection is underrated.
  • Gratitude helps you more than anyone else. This goes for prayers, too!
  • God has an amazing sense of humor.
  • I read in a couple of my classes that a human will die without social interaction. This isn't true, although it's a nice notion.
  • Christ, Heavenly Father, the Holy Ghost, and you make the best team. 
  • Heavenly Father is the father of our spirits. He knows us and loves us more than we are prepared to accept. He will put an arm around you when you ask for it, simply because He loves you. Not because it's His duty or anything like that.
  • You don't have to know the "why"s.
  • Your relationship with God is the only thing that cannot be taken away from you. When you are stripped of everything in your life, it's the one thing that will remain. Even if you don't notice it, it's there. He's there.
  • Mormon Tabernacle Choir never gets old.
  • God talks to you in a way you will hear. (Music, books, Pinterest, Twitter, old talks, scriptures, and more)
  • Open your scriptures. Get dressed for church. Get on your knees. The rest will follow.
  • One on one with your Father in Heaven cannot be substituted or compensated by anything else. It's the best way to spend the evening. Don't believe me? Try for yourself.
  • At least you can go to school and work and play and laugh and have friends and be accountable and carry heavy things and be given chores! Some of us can't get off the floor without repercussions 
  • There's always a reason for gratitude. Always. 
  • "How are you doing" is a hard question. Do they mean how am I doing generally? Or do they mean physically?  When they ask how I'm feeling do they mean emotionally? How do I answer? Do I tell the truth? I can't lie. Do I tell them everything I'm feeling? I don't want to be one of those people. How am I feeling? I don't even think I know? This always ends with Well, I'm alive. That's good. So I smile and say "well." Communication is hard.
  • There's always something to do. 
  • If you can't even move, you can still pray. Prayers are not diminished by brain fog, thank goodness.
  • You are more than your mannerisms, your smile your laugh, your habits, and so on. 
  • The way I act with certain people is a habit. Weird, eh?
  • I'm a chronic dancer. It's been the hardest habit to break.
  • A kind line from a friend is grossly underestimated. Thank you to all who randomly think of me! 
  • Not being able to play with family will be more difficult to deal with than not being able to do the activities you love.
  • We all have troubles and problems. It's best that we face them together.
  • It's not always your fault.
  • You will learn. 
  • Problems are "real". It's not all in your mind. A lot more of it is real than you might think. Trust yourself. Trust what you are feeling. You're not as crazy as you think. 
  • It's okay to recognize your needs. Just be sure you pray about it.
  • Assumptions are the worse.
  • You will survive. If you follow Christ, you will come out conquerer. Even if you feel like you've been left in the tumbler, you can conquer! (Huzzah!)
I've noticed how long this list has become and have decided to stop here. I learned more than I thought! I guess the biggest lesson I can take as I wrap up this first year back is that you never know the whole story. There is always more. God is in control, which means these challenges and trails are part of a masterpiece. 

Thank you for learning with me! I actually really do want to know what you have learned year. 

S Ljubavlju,

Monday, August 11, 2014

Testimony: You Don't Have To Be Special

"In ev'ry condition--in sickness, in health,
In poverty's vale or abounding in wealth,
At home or abroad, on the land or the sea--"

Robert Keen (How Firm a Foundation)

This post is dedicated to everyone who are not in he midst of trial and surgery, who may be on the upward cline of a hill from a dale, who may be sitting pretty on the top of a hill, or who may believe trails are all there is to life.

Well keep sitting pretty.
Have you ever studied hope? It's not just for the hard times.

A few years ago, my roommate just "had" to go to a lecture for her class. Upon meeting me, most people think I strive for lively fun and could never pay attention to a lecture. Sit down for 2 hours after a full day school and homework? Are you kidding? I'd love to! This roommate knows a lot about me, including the secret that I love attending lectures. Add that to the fact we attend different schools, I love hanging out with my roommate, and my could've-been date who said he'd give me the details hadn't talked to me since then and still hadn't made any contact (so I assumed he forgot), I was more than rearing to go!

The lecture: Literature of the Antebellum Period (my roommate was a nursing major at the time, and we still don't understand the connection). The presenter: Dr. Holland.
His dad was there. It wasn't until I was reflecting on this experience I realized how cool it was that his dad goes to his things as possible. This man has a doctorate and is a mature human being. But his dad came anyways.

Did I mention his dad is Elder Holland? He sat six seats directly in front of me with his family.

During that period of my life, I attended a stake institute class, taught by a couple. The favored story of that time was when Bro Institute had his hand shaken by the prophet in some profound way at some critical point in his life. We had even spent an entire class sharing and talking about such experiences.

And here was Elder Holland! His talks had always spoke to me. He was "my" apostle. You know? The one who always says what you need to hear. The one you just feel a profound connection to. Yeah, that one. He was a paper airplane toss away.
Maybe I'd have one of those experiences.
Maybe I would be noticed out of a crowd.
Maybe something something life changing would happen.
Maybe he would give my roommate and I advice.

Or maybe not.
There were plenty of buzzing students in the amphitheater style classroom. We came for the professor anyways.

It occurred to me that my story was missing something all the other stories had. I was quite happy and content with my life. I loved my roommates, school was school, I had no major questions, and my testimony was alive and well. I had no problem. Which is a perfectly fine problem to have. Both of us were in happy places in our lives.

We made it through the long lecture (luckily, he had pictures!), and it was time to pack up and go. The inevitable long line formed to shake the hand of the apostle and to thank the presenter.

My roommate and I talked a little bit as we gathered our stuff. This conversation brought forth the still funny "But you live in you Utah. Don't you see General Authority everywhere?" No. She had met 2 apostles, and I had never met one.

I don't know how it happened, but we ended up being among the last to leave the room. There was one young man talking to Elder Holland and another talk to Dr Holland. The left just as we reach the bottom of the amphitheater.

And that's how we met our friend Elder Holland. He greeted us warmly with hand-shakes. When I told him we shared mutual friends (the grandmas) he got so excited our handshake could have knocked out any hug! We chatted in a familiar fashion and shared many laughs.

My roommate and I flew all the way home. I called my mom as soon as I could to tell her what happened. Turns out she knows him too. Whenever Elder Holland would come up in conversation or was quoted, my roommate and I would look at each other and say "our friend Elder Holland."

So when does the testimony part come in?
It didn't come from Elder Holland (Sorry, friend), it came from the delivery.

I didn't need to meet "my apostle". I didn't need anything really. I was just there to get out of the apartment and spend time with my roommate, and perhaps learn a thing or two.

I didn't need a friend. I had Alison.

I didn't need a warm handshake. I got plenty of affection from friends and relations.

I didn't need to meet a messenger of God.

But I got it anyways.

You don't have to be special to have something special happen to you. I think that is when God's love is really shown. He doesn't love us because we need it. He showers us with love and blessing simply because He loves us.
He is always aware of us. Not just when we cry for Him. He is our father and friend, not just a doctor or master carpenter. He wants to see our happiness increase.
If you don't know it, ask Him. He'll answer you.

The church is true, even when you don't need it to be.

And besides, you're special anyways. If you don't believe me, ask the one who created you. He's listening.

I know for myself that God loves loves you for you. He loves unconditionally. He loves you for your weaknesses and He loves you regardless your strengths. He is our Heavenly Father. His love cannot be comprehended. His hand is in all things. He's in the ups as much as He is in the downs. We are never alone.

Just as a funny side note, my brother was on his mission at the time. He emailed me saying he was happy about my experience. He had never met an apostle either. A year or so later, I was in the MTC and he got to really know 6 of them. No apostles came to the MTC for the whole two months I was there. Go figure.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Testimony: God Speaks To Everyone

I'm excited to show this video.

For one, it speaks to me, but not personally. Let me explain. If what happened to him happened to me I would still be like "Ummm... Okay."

I love how this video shows that God speaks to each of us in our own time and in a way that we will understand.

You know those "YOU, TOO?!" moments you share that immediately set things in motions, whether it's a realization or a new friendship? This video gave me a couple of those.

Here's the kicker. There must be a lesson I need to learn, because not long after viewing the video and starting this post, I received a message from a friend I hadn't heard from in a while. Isn't that the way these stories always start?!

First, a little background. One of my brothers, the one I wanted to call, served his mission in England. London England South Mission, to be exact. Some of the people he met over there became Facebook friends with us, his family, here in America. It was fun! There were even a few my age, which is always exciting. One of which, I became really good friends with. We messaged each other a lot. He read the Book of Mormon and prayed to know if it was true. Consequently, he was baptized. That's always great! However, he eventually fell away. Our conversations became more and more sparse.

Fast forward to this past week! I get a message from him asking if I was done with my mission and asking how I am. Needless to say, I was excited. Very excited. When I answered, I was surprised to see my excitement reciprocated! To summarize, he finally found the courage to take a step towards his goal of coming to Utah. YEEESSSSSS! More than that! He wanted to be here for the influence. He described his environment to be corrupt. Life had been rough on him, poor kid.
But here's the point of all this. He told me he knew God knew he could be better and wanted him to become the person He knows he could be. He told me God hadn't given up on him.


It happens to me (almost daily), it happened to my friend, it happened to Todd Sylvester, it's happening to you too.
How much our Father in Heaven must love us to constantly and consistently care for us, especially when we choose to ignore Him. I would be so frustrated. He is always reaching out with merciful arms.  I know He lives and that He will always love us, no matter what. He knows you and I better than we know ourselves. I know this by experience. If He can love someone as frustrating as myself, He can and does love you. No buts! If you don't know it, or if you are unsure, ask Him for yourself. He's listening.

S ljubavlju (With Love)

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Aug 29: From Utah to Croatia

This is another one year anniversary post. It's longer than the last, and for that I apologize. It's much. much longer. If you just want a super quick spiritual thought, I suggest you skip to the end.


The day started early. So. Early.
Still, we had friends leave at 5.
Check in at the travel office was something like 7am. We took shifts of sitting with luggage and eating breakfast. Who was in the check-in line behind me, but Sis M! A friend of mine from my Lindon homeward. Her travels would be taking her to the Philippines over a period of 2 or 3 days. Joj!

Some of the younger missionaries woke up early just to say good-bye to us. My, how they have grown! It was sweet, it was heartfelt. Some of us will never see each other ever again. We definitely will never have everyone in the same group. It's a sad thought, but we are itching to serve. Missing friends will have to wait.

Finally, we leave. Who else boards our bus but Sis M!
The bus ride was surreal. I have spent my entire life among the streets of Utah. We drove past my schools, work places, and former neighborhoods. I haven't seen any of this for 2 long months, and I was a very different person then. It was as if we were watching my life past by through our windows. I had traveled that path a hundred times. I had taken the trip to the airport to drop off or pick up other missionaries. And now it was my turn. Finally, my turn.
We talked about our missions, how we felt and which countries or towns we wanted to serve in, taking our last guesses.
My district was a little... crazy. Loud, to say the least. And so it wasn't too much of a surprise that a sister in the front of the bus got really excited.
Are you the Adriatic North mission?
Da. Mismo.
I've been looking for you for 2 months!
She found us at the last possible moment. Her brother was serving in our mission and she wanted us to forward a message of a sister's love to him. Funny how that happens.

We got to the airport with out incident and pour out of the bus.
Our luggage!
Where was our luggage?
15 minutes later, the trailer with out luggage showed up. Sis H and I were among first with all our stuff, so as soon as our district had their things, we led the pack! We were anxious to go! I had rehearsed and imagined what I would say to my brother when I called him. Already, he had done a lot to help me and to this day he still doesn't know. But first things first, I would need to call my mom. She would be waiting. A man hailed us inside.
Sisters! Elders! Come this way elders and sister!
He welcomed us warmly. If you're going to be a missionary in an airport, may I suggest the Salt Lake airport? Even the patrons were excited to see us, always asking questions and giving us good wishes.
We got our tickets, checked our luggage, and wrote the Zagreb address, our new address on our luggage tags.

Through security we went, mingled with the Philippine bound missionaries and more excited patrons. It was here that the well traveled become obvious from the not so well-traveled. Sis O and Elder W seemed to sip through at illogical speeds.
As soon as we got past, we went in search of pay phones to call our families. Well, most of us. Some of us (Sis O and myself) hunted down the airport Cafe Rio. We had planned this for at least a couple weeks. I will justify this action by explaining that is was Cafe Rio, and that I was asked to use my card at every airport so my bank could track me.

Again we took shifts, watching the luggage and using the phones. There really are not that many pay phones in airports anymore. I was able to snag one. My mom had indeed been waiting, not sure when I would be calling. My dad wasn't able to get his conference call thing to work on his phone so it was just my mom and I. The conversation was relatively normal. Do you need more underwear? (Mine had turned pink.) How do you feel? How did you sleep? Don't forget this and that. It was as if I hadn't been gone for 2 months at all, but merely two days.
Someone tapped me on the shoulder and explained that we would be boarding soon and that I needed to eat my Cafe Rio. So the phone call was short and hurried.
25 minutes later I was still waiting to board, having only eaten half my salad in my haste. Ugh. Little did I know I would be talking to my mom again, very soon. But I didn't know that then, and I wouldn't have believed it if someone told me. Haters.

We were on our way! There was no turning back now! The flight to Detroit was short and fun. Everyone kept teasing me about how I saw Detroit. I still have no idea what the difference is between the way I say Detroit and the way it's "suppose to be said." Detroit..... Detroit. Detroit. Detroit. Lucky me, I got a window seat. I say I, but really Elder B wanted an aisle seat so we switch. Elder E was in our row with us, too.

It's fitting my mission travels took me to Detroit. I have family that served their missions there. Soon I would fly over the Isle of Wight. The Detroit airport is BIG! So big, there's a monorail inside it. We ran to our next gate, not sure how far away it was. We had just enough time for those who were hungry to go grab a shake. Sis F's family had sent her a cell phone. Bless the family who does so! She was nice enough to share her blessed gift with the rest of us. That is how I finally called my dad. My brother never got his call, sadly.

I hope that whenever I must travel, I travel with a group of friends. Inevitably, games come up. Like who would get to sit next to the nice French priest. (Alas, he was in first class.) Stories from the previous flight, and predictions for upcoming flights. You just can't do that with strangers.
We made friends with the flight attended. A Korean whom learned her english from the Mormon missionaries. Not a member herself, she still refers to all who carry the tag as "her elders". She was funny and very nice.
I was next to Elder B and Elder E again. Ish. We were separated by an aisle. I can't remember who sat on the other side of me, but it wasn't my companion! Luckily, it was still a missionary.

My first international flight.
My first overnight flight.
My first experience with airplane food.
I get the joke now. We were all hungry until we smelled the food. I was curled around the lap desk, trying to ignore the beginnings of jet lag. I think they assumed I was asleep, for they never asked me what I wanted when they came through, but skipped over me. It was best for both of us, since I didn't feel like eating.
Sis H, however, wouldn't have any of that. From her seat, she threw her dinner roll at me, demanding I eat it. She's always looking after me. Haha
I didn't sleep at all. I remember looking up at the flight information and wondering if it would ever end. It said 9 hours left 2 hours ago. Also,I was paranoid from a new game of taking pictures of people while they sleep. They may have a picture of me resting, but not sleeping!

Sis P asked if she could switch seats with me, so she could socialize with those who were still awake. Sure.
That poor lady who woke up next to me! She had started the flight with a brunette, fell asleep next to a blonde, and woke up next to a red head! Needless to say, she was confused. Thankfully, she has a nice sense of humor.
Then! Light!
I've seen this sunrise over a hundred times, she said. Let's switch seats. I prefer the aisle anyways.

I've never seen anything like it.
The French Sunrise.
My first sight of real foreign skies. (Sorry Canada. You don't count.)
To be IN the light.
To be IN sunrise.

Not long after, I had my first glimpse of foreign land.
Red roofs.
Abundant countryside.
Little churches.
Small hamlets.
So quaint.
So... European!

My new travel buddy gave me a crash course on all things French. She's a dual citizen French-American. Her children are American and her husband French. I found out one of her daughters was serving a different kind of mission in Africa. The lady explained she travels between her two homes frequently. She run a foreign exchange program, and depends heavily on Mormon families to take her students in, even though the French families are often trepidatious at the thought. As we all know, Mormons have horns. (<- joke!) She thanked me for watching the sunrise with her. Thank you, nice lady!
Borrowed from AP Mecham: Our first morning in Croatia. Jet lagged and rearing to go!

Charles De Gaulle would have been very confusing if it were not for Sis H and Sis O. Both are fluent in french and one use to live there. Not in the airport, but France. However, according to the not very nice airport lady, Sis H speaks neither French or English. This depressed my dear companion greatly, which I do not take lightly. On the contrary, my security team was very friendly and we even shared some laughs (whoo-hoo for passing college beginning french!). I had forgotten about some bobby pins I stuck on my dress, which they all laugh about. If you asked me, I think we both started the process equally nervous.

We had some time to kill, so we bought pastries and swatch watches, so we could say we bought them in Paris. I bought a quiche which cost my first born child. It wasn't even worth it. We took pictures by billboards, stared at the actual Eiffel Tower, and laughed about the seeing people walk cats on leashes.

We're not even sure what day it is anymore. After taking our first real rest in what seemed like a day, we crammed into a little bus-like thing. It only had about 8 chairs. Some got dressed and cleaned up while waiting.
Our plane was a tiny thing. It had just over a dozen seats, and my entire group was dispersed. I got lucky again. Another window seat in the back, in a row with only two seats. Sis H got seated between two couples, one which spoke French and another that spoke either English, or Croatian, or both. I can't remember. She spent the whole trip translating for the two, which boosted her spirits after the mean ol' airport lady.
I was seated next to a 20 yr old girl from New York. I knew all the missionaries on the plane and she knew everyone else from her father's clubs, bars, and restaurants. We had a wonderful conversation about school and family and what we were doing on the plane. She was visiting her grandmother in a small Croatian village. She gave me a lot of advice on how to make friends and not offend the locals. Number 1: You're an American. People will love you and hate you for this. I found this to be true over and over again.

With her the flight seemed to go by all too quickly. It was time to get off the plane. My groups first time being outdoors in a day. The Zagreb air!
And smell I will never forget.

We get our passports stamped and go to claim our luggage. Mine is easy to spot as well as Sis P's hot pink luggage. We decide to all leave together. No one is waiting for us in the lounge. Did they know we'd here?

Someone waves! It's not our President or his wife, but they have a name tag! The Westergaurds, from Beaver and somewhere in Arizona! And why are those little girls waving at us?

A tap on my shoulder. I turn around. It's the girl from the plane. She gives me a hug and hurry's off with a good bye before I could say anything. I turn back to my group, many of which have looks of severe empathy. "That was so sweet!" "What did you do Sis Farnsworth!" I'm taken a bit off guard.
*The people of the former Yugoslavia have a reputation for being stubborn, rough things. Stubborn they may be, but never did I go a day without them showing some kind of love to me.

There are no customs to go through, as we expected. We leave the baggage claim and are greeted with hugs. We're helped with out things and take them to various cars. President is there with his family, (it was his daughters who we had seen), the APs (assistant to the president), the first counselor and his wife, are all there to take us to the mission home to shower and change. Sis H and I made friends with our taxi driver, getting grammar lessons. She asks President about him, if he's ever shown interest in learning about what the missionaries teach. He says yes. Has he ever been given a Book of Mormon? He says h doesn't think so. When do we start the lessons? she asks. Impressed with her (who wouldn't be, that girl is amazing) he tells her to go grab a Mormonova Knjiga and together they give it to him. Not even half an hour in the city, and Sis H had already placed her book MK. She is a natural missionary.
Proof of Life! President Rowe, Sestra Farnsworth, Sis Rowe

It's all a little fuzzy after that. I went contacting with a random sister in Zagreb for a while, fell asleep during some kind of orientation in the mission office, emailed my family that I made it (You can actually see that email on this blog, under a similar title to this post), and met some other missionaries. We go back to the mission to be greeted by the best meal any of us have had in ages! Sis Rowe's cooking brought us all back to life. One by one, we go into President's office to meet with him.
I can't remember my meeting that well. I believe he asked about me and my goals, what kind of missionary I wanted to be, why I decided to serve a mission and so forth. I remember he said some things which I had been thinking about.

If you get called to Adriatic North Mission, the downstair room is a place of magic. The shower head changes colors, and the mattresses are made of dreams. I've never slept on anything softer and more comfortable. We all slept like logs.

In the morning, we go one by one back into the office. One by one, we are told our first area, our trainer, and some last words of advice. Mine was a sweet and personal moment.
Novi Sad, Serbia.
Out of my entire district, I had spent the most time studying in Serbian. Everyone else concentrated on Croatian. To be honest, I had no particular reason. I just wanted to.
Novi Sad. The "New Now".
My new home.

Sis H is assigned to Sarajevo. She really really really really wanted to go to Sarajevo! We're both so happy for each other and how we ended up in these places! We try not to think of this as our last good bye. It's likely that we would serve together again. We revel in our last moments as companions, laughing about the American music being played in the taxi and soaking in Zagreb.

We meet our new companions in the Zagreb chapel. We've been told stories about this place. That's were the one picture was taken! Remember the story about such and such! Look over there!

There's a small conference held with trainings and plannings. Then it's see you later, take care, and don't make TOO much trouble as we all head our different directions.

Novi Sad.
New Now.

We arrived late. The country is beautiful. So green! So cute and quaint! I didn't believe places like this  really existed.

And that's how that adventure started.


The day started early. 8am. Later than the day before but still early. Especially since I didn't go to bed until early in the morning.

The long awaited doctor's appointment. I have a feeling nothing too special will happen.
"What day is it?" I ask.
Aug 29.
"Travel day." I respond mindlessly.
"That's right! I was waiting for a call at this time. It's been a year. Just one week until you've had these symptoms for a whole year."
The things we celebrate these days.

The pituitary gland is still big. The spinal chord is fine. No causes discovered. Good news, I don't have MS. Bad news, we're about stumped again.

She has me do tests, such as touching my nose (easy, you find your mouth and you nose comes after), pushing against her, walking heel to toe, and so on. I'm sober!
Plans are made for the future. Perhaps 6 months in the future. I don't want to be sick for that long! But then again, I don't have too much of a choice.

When we get home, I am exhausted. I stay up a little longer. Oh happy day! My brother brought me a salad! Now that's love. I slept until almost 4 o'clock. Wowza!

Soon after, I get asked to babysit. Sure. I just took a nap. I'm still exhausted but it could be worse.
When the kiddos come, we make silky soft play dough. We. Made. Play dough. Can you believe it? We are so industrious! And if that isn't the sprinkles to your doughnut, we added food coloring.
That's how we roll.
In messes and dough.

To finish off the fun, I introduce them to Fern Gully. What can I say? It's a classic! And they love fairies.

Here's an excerpt from the evening.
"If you make a mess, I'll skin you alive."
"What did you say?.... Did you say you'll skin me?"
"What does skin mean?"
"What do you think it might mean?"
"That you'll make it so I don't skin?"
"You got it right."
"But that'll hurt."
"Then don't make a mess."
"You wouldn't do that, because... because... because you are our most very very bestest friend."
"You're just saying that so I don't skin you."
*laughter from the kitchen* [Dang it, someone heard me.]
"No! You're our most very very favorite cousin, and you love us."
I'm their aunt, but I don't correct him. His sister is giggling almost as hard as my mom.
Granny: "Is Aubrey your favorite aunt?"
And that is what popcorn and play dough will get you. the love of children you want to keep their skin on their persons.

While they're distracted, I clean up the mess I helped to make. Good thing it's only cornstarch and conditioner.
After they leave, it's time to wind down.

Late at night, in my bedroom, I watch the new mormon messages video, listen to Abraham 4 (because my eyes were killing me), listen to opera (my current exploration), and finally end with a heartfelt prayer of gratitude.

True, not much happened. Nothing exciting or ground breaking shook my world. But I felt a lot of love and hope. And that's enough to make any day feel special.
That feeling still continues today, as I pray and reflect on scriptures and on my personal experiences. I've even had a friend wish me a happy anniversary of the day we met. I did not expect myself to be in a bed, but I didn't expect myself to be headed to Croatia, to live Serbia, 2 years ago.

Every year sees me in a different place than expected, and always for the better. I have no doubt that the pattern still continues, even if I can't see it.

I would like to close this post with the wise words from one of the best movies ever made. Hopefully you can see the connection.
Wherever there is love, it feels like Christmas.