Sunday, February 23, 2014

Families are Forever

This week was so wonderful! My good friend, Amanda, was married this week! And what's even better is that she and her sweetie, Jordan, were married for time and all eternity in the Denver Colorado Temple!

Aren't they adorable?! They're both such fantastic people and so good for each other and gaaahh! They're just so stinkin' cute and them being together makes me so happy!

Anywho, I'll stop squealing and get back to the blog.

One of the many wonderful things about the LDS church is that when a couple is married in an LDS temple, they aren't married for life, they are married for forever. Forever. Not "til death do them part," but for eternity. Until the end of time. For-ev-er. That means that when Jordan and Amanda said "I do," they knew that no matter what happened, they would be together, that even death couldn't separate them.

It's kind of a big deal.

And it's really fantastic. 

One of the most important things I will be teaching on my mission is The Plan of Salvation. I won't get into it in detail here, but let me tell you that the more I study it the more I love it. The Plan of Salvation is also called the Plan of Happiness. Why? Because a) living it will bring true and lasting happiness in this life and b) it teaches us that we can have true and lasting happiness in the life after this one. 

The LDS church is a family church, always has been and always will be. Now, family doesn't just mean your spouse and children, but also your parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, great-grandparents, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc., etc. 

I wanna talk about my family. For the sake of simplicity, I'll talk more specifically about my immediate family, but know that I love my extended family just as much.

So here's my family: 

In case you're new to my life and don't feel like counting all the children in the photo above, I'm the oldest of seven, yes, seven children. My parents have been married for 22 years and counting and our house is a great big ball of noise, fun, and all things crazy.  Oh, and all things ridiculous. And sassy. 

Lots of people say "that's a lot of kids," and yes, it is. Other people say "that's too many kids," and no, it is not. Our family isn't complete without each and everyone child, and we all have things to learn from and to teach to each other. We all play important roles and we wouldn't be who we are without each member of our family. 

Now, calm down, I don't think that every family should be as big as mine. I know every family shouldn't be. Just like every man, woman, and child is different, every family is different. Some people become who they are supposed to be by having one sibling, others become who they need to be by having twelve. Life is meant to be varied and that is beautiful.

I do, however, think that every family should be centered on God. When I say this, I don't mean going to church once a week as a family, have a few religious pictures in the house, and calling it good and then doing whatever you want. 

No, no. 

I mean that EVERY member of the family should work to treat others with respect, to be kind, to serve one another, to control your temper, to apologize when you don't, to make an effort to build a relationship with each member of your family, not just the member's that it's easy to connect with, to teach and be examples of happy, healthy living, and to forgive each other, even when it isn't easy. 

Especially when it isn't easy. 

Some people call this just a loving, happy family. I agree that's what it is, but I also call it a God centered home.

While every family and person is meant to be different, those things should be the same. The family is so important. Former prophet, President Joseph Fielding Smith said that "the family is the most important organization in time or in eternity..." (He actually had a lot of wonderful things to say about the family and family relationships. If you have a free 20 minutes this week you should read all about it.) 

Why is family so important? Because your family helps shape who you are. Without three brothers I wouldn't have such high standards for the men I date. Without three sisters I would be terribly impatient. Without my mother I wouldn't know how to advocate for myself. Without my father I would doubt there is really such a thing as quiet strength.  Family is learning and growing and supporting and loving.

I'm going to Mexico so that I can help others can know how to live with their own family forever, so that they can be with their families for time and all eternity, and so that they too can have the level of happiness and joy that can only be found within the Plan of Happiness.

It's gonna be great :)

Only 66 days!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentines Day and the MG Life

Valentine's Day. I have such mixed feelings about this day.

As a kid, it was a day to reaffirm that we all liked each other and to give each other the drug store Valentines that proved it. It was also a mini Halloween, with all the candy, cookies,  cupcakes, and sugar-loaded punch that came with the annual class party, and what child doesn't love that?

Getting older, Valentines became much more exclusive. The sweetest of friends still bought the box of Valentines, themed with whatever was "hip and happening" at the time, and gave those out. But other than that, it was all boyfriend-girlfriend giving. For a girl that didn't have a boyfriend until after she turned 17, you can imagine that for years I was less than thrilled with all the mylar balloons, over sized stuffed animals, flowers, gift bags, chocolates, and other red, pink, and white paraphernalia that clogged the hallways every February 14th. When I was a sophomore, my mom found a riddle in a book that described my feelings on Valentine's Day perfectly:

What's a word for Valentine's Day that rhymes with Cupid?

True story.

Maybe I was a little bitter and disappointed and feeling left out. Maybe I was irked that it all felt so nonsensical to go all out on your affection just because someone made that day a holiday. Maybe it was because love looked commercialized, like you could put a price on how much you care about the person you're with by the number of gifts they had to carry with then throughout the day. Maybe I'll stop ranting now.

Onto the other half of my mixed feelings:

Let's talk about that boyfriend. His name is Ben. Ben was, and still is, my favorite. For one thing, he didn't feel the need to wait until Valentine's day to show me he loved me; he did that all the time, in big and small ways. Sure we still did the traditional gift giving and fancy dinners, but mostly, Valentine's Day was just an extra excuse to spend more time with each other. And for me to buy him pink things and him genuinely appreciate it. It was the one day a year I could get away with it, so I took full advantage of that ;)

Our very first date/Valentine's Day, waaay back in the day

Valentine's Days with Ben weren't ever a big affair, but that was OK with the the both of us. Spending that time with him, on the "day of love" definitely improved my opinion of it. Consistent gifts of chocolate can do that to a girl.

Now, how is this mission related? Well, it's only semi-related to my mission. It really has more to do with his mission.

April 3, 2013, at roughly eleven-thirty in the morning, I talked to Ben for the last time in two and a half years, because that was when he went into the MTC and officially began his mission where he would serve the people in the Texas Houston East Mission. This was also the moment I feel I officially became a Missionary Girlfriend (MG), because that's when he was really gone.

The thing is, I have mixed feelings about his mission too. I hate only seeing him in pictures. I hate not hearing his voice. I hate only being able to talk to him once a week, via email, when I'm lucky. I hate the lonely nights. I hate going through hard times without him. I hate going through happy times without him. I hate that celebrating holidays and anniversaries and birthdays means putting things in a box and sending them to him. I hate that I have to live without my best friend ever in the history of all my friends, because it really, really sucks.

But there are also things I love about his mission. I love that he is out there. I love that he his serving his fellow men, day after day, with no reservations. I love the pictures and videos he sends. I love thinking about him opening the packages and reading the letters and laughing over my quirks and stubborn sassy-ness and all my sticky notes that explain why I put each thing in there.  I love that he is learning the gospel. I love that he loves the gospel like never before. I love that he is closer to our Father in Heaven and our Savior, and that he sees their love in his life everyday. He is becoming, without a doubt, the best kind of man, and I love that. And, most of all, I love that he still loves me, and that is really, really amazing.

Many times when I mention to people that I am waiting for a missionary, they're surprised, because it's not something I talk about a lot. Well, for one thing, talking about how much I miss him doesn't make it easier that he's gone, and it certainly won't bring him back any sooner. Another reason it that it still hurts. He's been gone for nearly a year, and I miss him like he left last week. I've gotten better with it, time's good at giving you experience to deal with trials, and most of the time I'm at peace with his absence and I'm content knowing that he's out serving, learning, and becoming a more Godly man, that's he's safe and happy and healthy. 

But sometimes things get hard and I get selfish and I wish he was here instead of there. 

More than anything.

That is the  paradox of the MG life. Living day to day with missing and longing for your man, but at the same time being so terribly proud of him and not wanting him to be anywhere else.

I've learned many things in my time so far as an MG. I've learned that I am stronger than I seem and braver than I believe. I can do hard things. I am likable. I am loved by so many people. Being close to Heavenly Father really does make life happier and burdens lighter. Sometimes romance movies are the worst and sometimes action movies are the best.  Between chocolate, Pilates, and the scriptures I can cope with pretty much anything. There is magic in a handwritten letter. I like teaching. Being generous is fun. Small details lead to big love. And absence really does make the heart grow fonder.

Now, some of these things I most certainly can and will use on my mission. Others not so much.  But I think the truly important part is that I'm still learning, that I will keep on learning, and that God will never let me face anything alone.

And come the end of 2015, I'll get to see Ben again.

That's another thing I've learned.

Good things come to those who wait.


This Valentines Day there will be no gifts of flowers or chocolates, and that's OK. I might sit myself down and drink a bottle of Martinelli's sparkling cider by myself or eat a carton of ice cream, using Chips Ahoy instead of a spoon. I might watch my favorite romance. I might watch my favorite action movie. Maybe I'll do a mind numbing workout, eat a ton of broccoli, and then sleep for 12 hours. Maybe I'll grab a sibling or two and spend the night quietly reading with them. Maybe I'll spend the night doing scripture study on the Atonement, the greatest act of love there ever has been and ever will be. 

Whatever I do, I'll do it knowing that I am loved, by so many; by people near to me, by Ben, a thousand or so miles away, and by my Father in Heaven, who is always closer than I realize. 

Happy Valentine's Day everyone!

Only 75 days left!!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

For Good

I want to brag a little bit about one of my very best friends. Her name is BreeAnna and last week she hit her one year mark for her mission! Yay!!!

Bree and I have been besties since we were about seven years old. For nearly our entire childhoods we were the only two girls in a class that ranged in size from five-ten children. Talk about a bonding experience. Those boys were totally 'loco.'

But in all seriousness, this girl has been one of the most important people in my life and had been crazy influential on me and who I am today. Since I moved five and a half years ago, Bree and I have spent more time apart than together, but one of the best parts about best friends is that no matter how long you've been apart, you connect like you've never been away, and that's exactly how BreeAnna and I are.

Summer 2012, on our fabulous Orlando trip

Even though she is thousands of miles away, she still inspires and teaches me how to be more dedicated, how to be more teachable, how to show more kindness to others, and to be an all around more Christlike person.

Being together is a smile fest.

Since her one year anniversary hit, I decided to highlight this terrific gal, but truth is that I've been incredibly blessed to have so many wonderful people in my life that have influenced me for the better.

In the "For Strength of Youth" pamphlet, which details gospel guidelines for our church, especially for those in their teenage years, there is a section on friends. It says that "everyone needs good and true friends. They will be a great strength and blessing to you. They will influence how you think and act, and even determine the person that you will become."

How true that is.

As a card carrying introvert, I've spent a lot of my life feeling like I don't need that many friends. It's not that I didn't like people (most of the time), it's just that I have a hard time getting to know people, and since I like conversations that are on a deeper level, I dread small talk. It's pretty much the worst.

But in the past few years, through attending college and the singles ward, I've become more comfortable with talking to a wider range of people. And I've learned something.

There are a lot of really awesome people out there.

In my teenage years, I pretty much thought that all the people I knew were all the people that I would like and could learn from, some a lot, and some a little, but I didn't need to meet lots of people, LDS or otherwise, in order for me to be happy or become a better person.

How very wrong I was.

While I will always love my long-time and life-time friends, I can't say how much my "more recent" friends mean to me. Some of them have taught me how to better talk with people one on one, to make people feel important and loved on an individual level, or, on the flip side, have taught me how to better interact with a large group, something I am terrible at. Other friends have shown me what a bright smile and sincere interest can do to improve a persons day. Through different perspectives, beliefs and opinions, my view of the world has grown and my mind has become more open to other ideas. While many people would still call my point of view as very closed and limited, because people I love have such varied viewpoints, I have learned to love different views, even if I they don't match mine.

On my mission, this is only going to grow. I was once told that the three best ways to get closer to a person is to:
  1. Eat together.
  2. Laugh together.
  3. Feel the Spirit together.
I will be doing a lot of each of these, especially the last one. 

It sounds cliche, but people are placed in your life for a reason. Throughout my life I've met people that have helped me who I need to become to be able to be the best person, and, soon to be, missionary I can be. And once I get out there, I will meet members, investigators, and companions that will help me change for the better, and for good.

And it's going to be awesome. 

Only 80 days left!!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Keeping Pace

In high school I ran cross-country. I was never the fastest by any stretch of the imagination, in fact, the only time I was on JV was when the JV level runners were combined to run with the 'C team' runners. Never the less I loved running, the people I ran with, and the many things I learned about running. Maybe someday I'll blog about that, but today I'll be using running as an analogy. Sure it's not original,  my favorite running buddy, Crissy (or rather, сестра Хансен, or Sister Hansen, since she's serving her mission in Russia right now), and I have talked about running relating to to gospel countless times, but it's an ever effective analogy, so here we go.

Running is not easy. It's hard work, it requires time, dedication, and sometimes hanging-on-by-your-fingertips perseverance. And you have to deal with people thinking you're crazy. Like, all the time. Even when you just go on a short 3 or 4 miler.

Life is not easy. It's hard work, it requires time, dedication, and sometimes hanging-on-by-your-fingertips perseverance. And, if you're anything like me, people will spend a lot of time thinking your crazy. My siblings tell me almost daily.

To run successfully and become better as a runner, you can't always do the same route, the same workout, the same distance every day and expect to do better. Tempo runs, hills, sprints, long runs, fartleck workouts, intervals, and slow recovery runs are all important elements of getting better. Sometimes we need to run quickly,and other times we need to run slowly. But ALL of it is important for getting better at running.

Life is the same way. There are sometimes where it feels like everything is happening at once, every school assignment, every work project, every calling responsibility, or every possible trial you can imagine. Other, much more rarely, life calms down, and things are at peace. Sometimes we have control over the pace of our life by cutting things out or adding things in, sometimes we don't.

Right now I am in an odd state of life, since I don't have school for the first year of my life since I was five, in some ways it feel slow, but in most other ways it's practically running me over. No pun intended.

Mission prep is not so easy. Well, let me rephrase. If you're like me and want to be the uber-prepared hermana that is basically a spiritual Hermione Granger, and you have this natural desire to learn and know everything you can about things you care about then mission prep is not easy.

Pretty much I want to be as ready as I can be. Which, at least in my head, includes;

  • Read and study all the standard works, (especially The Book of Mormon).
  • Read every mission prep book I can get my hands on.
  • Be physically ready, so workout at least half an hour a day but I love strength training, running, yoga, and Pilates, so how can I choose what to do for only half an hour? 
  • Be mentally ready by preparing myself to leave my family and all that is familiar for a year and a half for a new culture, climate and people. How do I even try to do that? 
  • Be proficient in Spanish, since I'm going to be with native speakers and don't want to feel totally lost while I'm there, and I want to learn spiritually as well as linguistically.
  • Read Preach my Gospel so that I am familiar with it and I can have maximum effectiveness in my mission study time.
  • Go to the temple. Often.

I also need to go to work for 40-45 hours a week, do work for my two different church callings, purge the sentimental paraphernalia I have cluttering my room, pack up, donate, or trash things that I won't need on my mission, purchase and organize the clothing and other items I'll need for my mission, spend meaningful time with my family and other important people in my life, take and print pictures of said meaningful time to bring with me, and probably a lot more things I haven't even thought of.

Life's kind of a sprint right now.

But, fortunately, I don't have to do it all.

That's right. I said it.

I don't have to do it all.

There are a million and one good things that a person can do, but there are only 24 hours in a day, so having priorities are important, essential even, for not going totally bonkers.

One of my favorite scriptures is Mosiah 4:27, which says:

"And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; 
for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. 
And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, 
that thereby he might win the prize' 
therefore, all things must be done in order."

I've read this scripture time and time again at so many stressful point of my life. I have to learn over and over that, as much as I'd like to, I can't do it all, and I'm learning that's OK.

There's only so fast or so long that I can run on any given workout, and only so many things that I can do, and even though I want to go into the MTC perfectly prepared, I won't be; there will still be discomfort, growing pains, wonderful things to learn, and so many occasions to feel the Spirit, whether I understand the Spanish perfectly or sometimes even at all.

So, here's to doing my best, trying my hardest, and doing everything I can and then knowing that that will be enough.

Only 87 days left!