Sunday, May 26, 2013

Ground Between the Millstones

I debated for a long time before I actually decided to write this post. It isn't incredibly insightful, uplifting, or thoughtful and I wanted people to be inspired, uplifted, or leave my blog with a thoughtful message when they visited. I think it's important to be honest and real with myself and others though. Life isn't always perfect and happy, and nothing drives me crazier than when people act like it is. There are always things I am grateful for, but that doesn't mean struggles and trials don't abound. I decided to pen this post because I wanted to come across as human. A lot of what I'll be writing will be inspired moments I experienced, but that doesn't mean I live a carefree life. I experience heartache, sorrow, sadness, and confusion intermixed with gratitude, happiness, excitement, peace, and confidence. Life is like trail mix--a lot of deliciousness with a few stupid raisins.

Sometimes I feel forgotten. Sometimes I feel alone. And sometimes I feel like my mediocrity lowers my value. Truly, how much can one average 22 year old girl do? I may influence a few people's lives for the better, but it's unlikely that I'll ever be an Anne Frank, Eleanor Roosevelt, or Susan B. Anthony. I find myself getting frustrated because so many girls my age in my culture are married and starting families. They're making a valuable contribution to society while I'm just hanging out, doing nothing meaningful with my life--if I'm not meant to be married right now I should at least be saving the world or something. Sometimes I think I could go on a mission, but then I remember I wouldn't be a great missionary and ultimately I probably wouldn't contribute a net gain of goodness to the world compared to if I just continued doing what I'm already doing.

Sometimes I just feel stuck. Like I'm in a basketball game and I just keep pivoting, hoping to find someone to pass the ball to. But there isn't anyone on my team around to help me. Everyone is in the locker room and the other team has crowded me and I can't shoot and have no one to pass to and am just stuck. Moving in a circle with one foot planted in the same spot. Not helping myself or anybody else. Futilely wasting energy trying to solve the problem and score a few points while I wait for the clock to run out of time. It's maddening! Who wants to just waste time waiting for the clock to run out? That's why I'm frustrated. I'm not someone who is content just waiting for the game to end. I want to contribute to the game. I want to contribute to the win. I want to win. I want to be Anne Frank, Eleanor Roosevelt, or Susan B. Anthony, but I don't know how.

I don't have any answers or insights. Tonight I just have frustrations. I just think it's important to know that you can have faith and still have days when you're not happy. Being faithful and striving to be a better disciple of Christ doesn't mean you'll pass each day in complete bliss. A quote from David A. Bednar comes to mind though,

"I do not know why some people learn the lessons of eternity through trial and suffering—while others learn similar lessons through rescue and healing."

He doesn't know, and I don't know. But I am learning something. Hopefully someday I can understand why I learn the lessons of eternity through trial and suffering instead of through rescue and healing. Elder Bednar quoted Elder Orson F. Whitney in the same talk that the previous quote came from,

“No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God … and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire” (quoted in Spencer W. Kimball, Faith Precedes the Miracle [1972], 98).

At least I know that crying on my bedroom floor (because crying on your bedroom floor is more fulfilling than crying on your bed) is contributing to my education. Life is hard and far too often I think people try and tell you that as long as you pray, go to church, read your scriptures, etc. that it won't be hard and that you'll always be happy. I'm here to tell you that I do all of those things (heck, I did all of them TODAY) and I'm not happy at the moment. I think what people mean to say is that if you pray, go to church, read your scriptures, etc. then you'll at least know your trials and suffering are happening for a reason. That you're being ground between the millstones for a purpose; to become stronger. To be educated. Earth is just a school. We're all learning how to be eternal beings and that requires more than we imagine.

Monday, May 20, 2013

7 Years

Sometimes I forget that Joseph Smith knew about the plates hidden in the Hill Cumorah for 7 years before he was instructed to obtain and translate them.

Sometimes I forget that Joseph was sold into slavery at the age of 17 and didn't translate Pharaoh's dream until he was 30.

Sometimes I forget that the Israelites were held in bondage at the hands of the Egyptians for hundreds of years before the Lord liberated them through Moses.

Sometimes I forget that I am not in charge of my life's timetable, but that doesn't mean there isn't a timetable.

Let's rewind to my high school graduation: circa 2009.  I had just finished a school year in which I served as the co-editor of our high school year book, drum major for marching and pep band, choir president, National Honor Society president, one of six senior class student council representatives, and senior class president.  On top of my leadership roles I had performed in a musical, play, and on a one act competition team, was a member of our school's jazz choir and flute choir, was working a part time job at the pharmacy in town, worked hard to get top ratings on both my vocal and clarinet solos at our annual competition, was taking two AP classes, sat first chair at the all-conference honor band concert that year, and was on the first ever CFHS Minnesota state champion We the People team.  I was graduating a four year letter winner in academics, band, and choir among other letters that I had accomplished only two or three of my high school years, and had been voted most musical and best female singer by my classmates.  2008-2009 was a great school year for me and I believed my last year as a child was going to propel me into an adulthood of prosperous circumstances.  Now before you're overly impressed with me, I should mention that I was in a class of 106 graduates--it's not like I held all these titles and had beat out 1200 other students for them.  Nevertheless I was full of confidence and ready to enter Brigham Young University and make a name for myself.

Instead, I spent my first year of college struggling with self worth and believing I wasn't destined for anything above mediocrity; how can you excel when 35,000 other BYU students graduated from high school with all the accomplishments I listed above and then some?  I drowned my sorrows and fear in far more Nutella than any person should eat in 9 months and stupidly chopped off my hair.  It took a study abroad to London in 2010 for me to re-find myself and re-dedicate myself to finding my path in life.  With a more humble outlook on my future I finished my second year of college and began to tell myself again that there was a plan for me--it just may involve less grandiose accomplishments than I previously anticipated.  Two years later I've just finished my senior year of college and have another year left before BYU will give me a diploma.  I'm as lost as I was my freshman year of college and still wonder what magnificent things await for me.  When I try and imagine my future I just get lost and don't know what to do.  Unfortunately, the dewey-eyed 18 year old who strode across the graduation stage four years ago with confidence in her own plan was wrong about many of the expectations she set for herself.  I didn't end up majoring in music, I didn't finish college in four years, I didn't have a crazy awesome dating life, and I am no closer to knowing what I want to do for a career than I was the day I was born.

I lost confidence in my plan a few years ago, but eventually gained confidence in the Lord's plan.  I feel like I talk and write about my uncertainty in life a lot.  I think it's because it's something that I've finally learned to embrace in the last 6 months or so and I hope others don't take as long as I did to revel in life's uncertainty.  I didn't come into college with an open heart. I set goals, I made plans, and I didn't confer with the Lord at all.  SURPRISE!  I'm not really the one in charge, but it's better that way.  If I was in charge I would have missed out on so much.  I've been thinking about the Lord's plan for me a lot lately.  Almost incessantly.  Today while I was studying though I was reminded that:

Joseph Smith knew about the plates hidden in the Hill Cumorah for 7 years before he was instructed to obtain and translate them.

Joseph was sold into slavery at the age of 17 and didn't translate Pharaoh's dream until he was 30.

The Israelites were held in bondage at the hands of the Egyptians for hundreds of years before the Lord liberated them through Moses.

I am not in charge of my life's timetable, but that doesn't mean there isn't a timetable.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Faith: It's a Process

" 41 And what is it that ye shall ahope for? Behold I say unto you that ye shall have bhope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurrection, to be raised unto life ceternal, and this because of your faith in him according to the promise.

42 Wherefore, if a man have afaith he bmust needs have hope; for without faith there cannot be any hope.
43 And again, behold I say unto you that he cannot have faith and hope, save he shall be ameek, and lowly of heart.
44 If so, his afaith and hope is vain, for none is bacceptable before God, save the cmeek and lowly in heart; and if a man be meek and lowly in heart, and dconfesses by the power of the Holy Ghost that Jesus is the Christ, he must needs have charity; for if he have not charity he is nothing; wherefore he must needs have charity.
45 And acharity suffereth long, and is bkind, and cenvieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily dprovoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

46 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail—

47 But acharity is the pure blove of Christ, and it endurethcforever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.

48 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, apray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true bfollowers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall cbe like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be dpurified even as he is pure. Amen."

I recognize that that passage of scripture was a little bit lengthy. It was taken from Moroni Ch. 7. I was reading the section of Preach My Gospel that teaches how to effectively study (which was good for me, because I am potentially the least effective studier on the planet). One of the exercises involved reading this passage and then finding a few points that I can work on or apply to my life. I found that everything in this segment is something I need to work on. Faith is such a nebulous idea. It's something that I've been raised to believe I have grasped, when in actuality I exercise a surface level strength of faith. I've read the Book of Mormon multiple times, but these verses have never stuck out to me before. I realized faith is a lot like a modified "If you give a mouse a cookie" scenario. Instead of if you give a mouse a cookie he will then want a, b, and c it is if you don't have a, b, c...x, y, and z, faith won't be the same. This is what I gathered: the love of Christ is charity and without charity you're nothing; you need charity to be meek and lowly of heart which are both prerequisites to acquiring hope; and without hope, you can't have faith. Essentially I need to start at the bottom and work my way up. You don't take calculus without taking algebra, and you can't have real faith if you're not living a Christlike life. I was also impressed to remember that faith doesn't automatically mean you have a perfect knowledge of something. Today was a meaningful day of study for me. I've been a little off the last few weeks and have been desperately wanting to return to my normal demeanor. I've been quiet lately, to the point that people have noticed and asked if I'm alright. I set out today's study session with the hope of learning something that would help me to put life back into perspective and as a result make me a little more carefree again. This was definitely what I needed to hear. I needed to remember that even though I have no clue where my life is headed I can still have faith in the Lord's plan. Faith doesn't mean the clouds have lifted, it just means I know that I can journey through the clouds and make it to the other side. I can start at the grassroots now and work to build my faith by being Christlike, charitable, meek, lowly of heart, and hopeful.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013


"You should not, however, become discouraged; discouragement wil weaken your faith."(Preach My Gospel, 10).

On a scale of 1-10, 1 being you're Ryan Gosling and have nothing to discourage you in life ever and 10 being you're Lindsey Lohan and literally have nothing in your life to not be discouraged about ever (unless you're reminiscing about the Parent Trap glory days), I would say that I have a constant level of discouragement that varies from 3-7 on any given day.  I am always waiting for the other shoe to drop and have a hard time believing that things can really go well for me all the time.  If I do well on a test then I'm bound to not do well on a paper or if I have a fun time on a date the guy I'm with definitely thinks I'm an ogre.  I had a conversation with a friend about this a month ago and she pointed out that I need to be better at positively affirming myself--especially because I'm pretty good at positively affirming others and believing that other people aren't nearly as flawed as I am.  I kind of brushed her off and didn't think much about the way I was living life until I read this passage.  Discouragement will weaken my faith.  No wonder I have a constant stream of doubts about my future running through my mind!  Discouragement is a vicious cycle that leads to less faith and even more discouragement.  After 22 years of putting myself down and focusing on my faults instead of my talents I realize this is more than damaging me emotionally--it's damaging me spiritually.  It all makes sense.  While I tell myself I will never be good enough to get married, I'm simultaneously saying I don't have faith that God will bless me with a spouse someday.   Further my doubt doesn't allow for the Lord's plan for me.  My discouragement makes everything about me and not about me submitting to the Lord's will.  My first goal inside of my study Preach My Gospel goal is to replace thoughts of discouragement with thoughts of affirmation and submission to the Lord's will and plan for me.  Clearly I'm not going to be delusional and switch "I will never get married" with "Ryan Gosling will take me out tomorrow and we'll be married and have a baby in 11 months."  Instead I will evaluate my talents and positive attributes and realize I have a lot to offer, even though I have faults.  I can still work on my less than appealing characteristics, but I also need to recognize that my negatives don't overshadow my positives and that Heavenly Father has a plan that factors in all of my great and horrible talents and personality traits.  This won't be easy, but it will provide me with an opportunity to pray for help and to rely on Christ to assist and guide me.  I will also need to remember that I am a daughter of God, and as such I am loved by God and Jesus Christ despite everything.

A Worthy Goal

I had a moment last week when I realized I am not the woman that my Heavenly Father believes I can be.  I have talents and blessings that I am not utilizing.  I have been progressing academically since I began college, as well as professionally.  I do not doubt that I have paved a path that will lead to a successful career and future if I wish it to.  By the standards of the world I am doing life the right way.  That being said, I have spent the last school year being spiritually stagnant.  I haven’t pushed myself to grow further in the light of Christ and I became content with my humble testimony.  It’s time that changes.  While reading my patriarchal blessing last week I realized I need to start actively working toward becoming the valiant woman of Christ I am ordained to be.  I have been blessed with the ability to be a light to those who wander in darkness—something I don’t do often enough.  Boats are crashing on the shore because my lighthouse bulb hasn’t been shinning very brightly lately.  I set a goal to spend half an hour a day studying Preach My Gospel because I want to be prepared to be a missionary, whether that be for 18 months out in the field, or just in every day settings where people may ask me questions about my faith.  I also think there are things I can learn from this text that will help me grow as a person.  As I study Preach My Gospel and my scriptures I will be posting insights on this blog for surfers of the World Wide Web (or, let's be real...just my mom) to read.  I’m doing this for multiple reasons.  First, I’m trying to get more comfortable with the idea of sharing my faith.  I group faith in the broader category of emotions, and I am awful at sharing my emotions—I would rather pull my arm hairs out individually with tweezers than tell someone I love them, cry in front of another human, or admit openly that I care about someone and miss them.  It’s not that I don’t have faith or that I don’t love people (trust me, I love a lot of people—some who don’t even know that I do), I have just always struggled with communicating deeper emotions (and not because I was abused as a child—I come from a loving family, it really just stems from my larger fear of rejection and my fear of depending upon other, talk about a therapeutic tangent).  Second, I’m trying to keep myself accountable to my goal.  If I say I’ll blog about something then I’m more likely to actually do it.  Third, I hope that people who are struggling with their faith (of any religion, whether they be Mormon or not) stumble upon this and recognize that no one is perfect and we all have to take a step back sometimes and evaluate where we are spiritually.  I really enjoy blogging, but have been struggling with finding a meaningful topic to write about lately.  I will continue to rant when I want to about every topic under the sun on my personal blog and updating individuals on my life, but this blog will be dedicated to my deeper thoughts and spiritual insights and progression.