14 December, 2015

An Awesome Weekend

I usually work Saturdays, but I had this last Saturday off so when a friend asked if I wanted to go caroling, I jumped at the chance. The fact it was in the afternoon should have seemed a little strange... if I had thought about it. I mean, couples and groups go caroling at night… don't they? But it's been so long since I've sung for anyone, something I love to do, that I was too excited to notice. 

Then we got to one of the nursing homes. Yep, I spent the entire afternoon and part of the evening singing door to door and up front in a dining all at cozy nursing homes. It was wonderful!

It reminded me of the important things, especially this time of year. I could have been doing a bunch of other things, mostly focused on my own entertainment, but this was so more fulfilling than anything else I could have been doing. 

Music is so powerful. The residents just gravitated to it. Some of the people there couldn't remember their own names, but then they would start singing along to these traditional songs, recalling every familiar word. It amazed me. 

We walked past this one room and the woman inside yelled out, "Someone help me. I need help." and as my friend turned back I heard one of the attendants at the desk say to another, "I just looked in on her, she's fine." My friend asked how we could help, while I walked the few steps back to the room with everyone else, and she said to him, "Just don't leave me alone. I want help just having some company."

My heart broke. We went in and sang a couple songs, ending with Jingle Bells, and the little kids that came with us were shaking these little bell bracelets to the beat.  It was so cute. She thanked us for coming. She didn't want anything else. That was enough. And for us it was such a small, easy thing to do.

04 August, 2015

The Brokenness is Beautiful

So if you know me at all, you know I'm obsessed with music and have been since I was a little girl. Today I discovered my latest personal anthem. In other words, a song I can't get enough of and will probably play constantly over a few weeks at least.

It's called "Broken (Beautiful)" and as far as I can tell from looking into it, it was released in 2012 with the movie October Baby, and it's soundtrack.

Music just amazes me; how one song can somehow put everything I feel but can't seem to say into three to five minutes. The last four months have been a huge growing experience. I had to stop long enough to see my own "brokenness."  And realized the harmful impact of certain relationships in my life, which I had to finally let go of, and the incredible strength and learning experiences I have found in other relationships, which I noticed needed more effort and care to either continue forward or reconnect.

I think sometimes we stick around after a relationship has completely drained us because we can't imagine putting all that time into something and then in the end have it turn out to be, well, nothing. We stay because we hope that if we can stick it out just a little bit longer we can make a difference to that person, whether it be with family, friends, or romantic relationships. But I realized, there comes a point where you can't do that anymore.

I finally had the courage to let go of just such a relationship. At first I felt like a weight had been lifted away. A few close friends even commented on occasion how different I was and how different it felt around me; That I wasn't scared anymore. But I also felt a huge loss, like part of me had been broken away. I wondered if I could ever feel whole enough, with all of that being part of my story, to accept the love everyone searches and hopes for.

Part of the lyrics of the song asked basically the same question:

"Oh can we move on, can we move on from the love we've left behind? Oh can we move on, can we move on from the love we'll never find?"

And in another part of the song the answer,

"The world is broken into many pieces, but the brokenness is beautiful, it's beautiful. My heart is broken by beauty's mysteries, but the brokenness is beautiful, it's beautiful."

Each of us has been broken, but it's those experiences that make us who we are, that make us beautiful. It's my experiences that make me beautiful, in the deepest way, to those who know all of me.

05 June, 2015

To Know HIM Better

The last week or so I've been well, I guess you could call it meditating, and now today my thoughts have suddenly accumulated and I feel like I know my Savior so much more intimately than I did before.
The Joy of The Lord by Greg Olsen
I have been very blessed in my life. I have seen many miracles, things that nobody thought could happen, that really shouldn't have happened, but were able to. 

Those miracles started even before our mom died, because no matter how sick she would get she would never gave up. She gave absolutely everything to make sure my sisters and I first, had faith in our Heavenly Father's love and second, had every opportunity she could possibly provide to not only succeed, but to never give up no matter the obstacle and to be grateful to the Lord for every success we experienced. It's why when she was gone, and then soon after when we even lost our dad, we miraculously were able to continue forward, no matter how tough it was… together.  

I became over time, ten times the person I was, but I think maybe exactly the person my mom knew I could be, with all my many imperfections… which I still have. haha. Over the years I've been able to multi-task and juggle all of our lives simultaneously, leading my sisters, while depending on their own strengths to make it through. I've seen them graduate from high school, college, when no one thought that they would, or I would for that matter without our mom there, and see them both marry two truly dedicated and faithful men in the temple of God. And together we had the strength to rise above it all. After such experiences, you feel like you can conquer anything.

Then came the last month or so after my littlest sister's wedding. I no longer felt the weight and responsibility of their lives along with mine anymore. I suddenly felt excited and geared up to make some major changes in my own life. All with that feeling of empowerment like I could do anything and do it as fast and efficiently as I have been able to in the past. Well, guess what. I can't.

And it's been confusing and frustrating. 

I realized reflecting on it today, and I hope by the end of this post this will make sense, that this must have been similar to how the Savior felt in those last moments on the cross as he called out to The Lord The Father, "My God, my God, why hast though forsaken me?"  He had accomplished so many miracles, He had done so many great things, overcome so many incredible challenges, including the atoning experience of Gethsemane, with the help of The Father and suddenly this moment he had to face on His own… as a human being… normal. 

Personally, I have had nothing but support from the Lord since I was 17, being strengthened with His presence in my life, but at this moment I feel… normal. 

Absolutely normal… with no grand task to accomplish and no need for angelic support to help me through it. Because right now, I don't need it. Right now here is no great insurmountable challenge for me to face. 

What amazes me is how this realization of what the Savior felt at that moment, completely human… normal,  makes me feel like I know a part of His life so much more personally than I before. And I'm grateful. So grateful to have been supported and strengthened to do my part of what had to be done for my sisters and I to make it BUT ALSO to have this opportunity now to, to feel this normal, and to see how much of all that we were able to do wasn't me; how much of that strength wasn't mine at all. 

I'm sure the Savior never had to be reminded as I have today, because He constantly testified that He was about His Father's work. Unlike me, He was and is perfect. But what a great experience to personally see the insight of that moment when "None Were with Him" and He felt, well, alone. What an incredible experience to personally feel that contrast in my own life and know without a doubt the true Power of God, which the Savior got to see every day of His great call, is just well, awesome. 

I know that sometimes we feel alone, but I know that the Lord never forsakes us, just as He never forsook our Savior, even in that moment on the cross. We feel normal, weak, alone, or lost because in these life moments we are strong enough to face them alone and keep finding our way.  

10 April, 2015

Wedding Planning Gratitude Post

I was so grateful when my sister just younger than me got married in January that I didn't have to do a thing. For years I worried about how I would be able to step up and fill in during both my sister's weddings with our mom gone. But thanks to her incredible now mother-in-law, a.ka. the fairy godmother, all I had to do was buy the bridesmaid dress and show up. It was wonderful!

Now with my youngest sister getting married, in about a week and a half actually, I'm grateful for the talents I've been prepared with to help make this one happen just as beautiful. Side note, if you're reading this and your mom helped make your wedding dreams come true… the woman deserves a medal, or at least a long really sweet hug.

So anyway, my youngest sister wanted to do this whole wedding planning thing on her own and I was totally okay with that, but I knew she was going to get to a point where she would need and ask for help. She, and her LDS wedding planning app, got all the way to the ordering of the announcements before I got called in. I was super impressed and very proud of her. She had the temple booked, the reception center scheduled, the decorations all planned and reserved, and the whole concept (or feel she was going) for in mind, but at the announcements she was stuck.

My youngest sister wanted a Beauty and the Beast feel to her wedding. She didn't want it exactly like it or to come off cheesy, but she did want it to feel inspired by Disney's Beauty and the Beast. Now is where my task began. She wanted a wedding announcement that captured that feeling by utilizing the enchanted rose. Not to mention, she wanted her colors blue and silver to be a part of it too. I have never designed a wedding announcement in my life. But I wasn't going to let her down if I could help it.

When I showed her the finished product, to the left, she actually started crying and I knew it was what she had wanted. Not only did we make her deadline on her LDS wedding planning app, but with the help of BYU Print Services we were able to print the announcements, insert cards, and envelopes with the to and return addresses printed on each one for under $300.

After her future in laws saw it, her soon to be father-in-law gave me the task to color edit their engagement photos he took as well. And then I used that same photo as the cover of the guest book they will have at the reception. It continues with the Beauty and the Beast idea by incorporating the rose into their own kind of logo I also designed and then each page has a line to the first verse of "Tale As Old As Time"as part of it. It's all come together so perfectly.

But even I can't do everything and I am even more grateful for my sister just younger than me, several aunts and cousins, and friends who have rallied to help where their gifts and talents excel… and mine do not. Like the bridal showers. I don't do bridal showers. I don't even like to attend them honestly. So I was beyond thrilled when two of our cousins and aunt volunteered to host and plan it. Not to mention all the amazing food they and my sister just younger than me made for both the showers. It was like they were heaven sent.

For my youngest sister's bridals I did her makeup, nails and even her hair in a Belle-esque fashion, but it was my friend Courtney Ball whose magic photography skills captured her vision during her bridals. As Courtney snapped photo after photo I just looked at my sister in awe really. Was this really the little girl who followed me around school, copying my every move… all grown up now?! It is, but I still kinda can't believe it.

I'm so excited for both my sisters, starting these new chapters in life with honest, hardworking, faithful, diligent men to journey with, hand in hand.  

And there's one more major surprise in store for my youngest sister during her wedding celebration, again with the help of many family and friends, It's so perfect, and ties everything in, not to mention is totally something our mom would have done for her if she could be here. I'm so excited for her to see it I can hardly hold it in. But that will have to wait for a later post.

Never give up on your dreams. And do everything you can to help those you love achieve theirs.

11 March, 2015

Learning How To Slow Down and Listen

I've realized recently what it actually means to "slow down." This concept has completely escaped my understanding throughout my life, as many of my close friends and family can fervently attest to I'm sure. But the last few months I've come to experience just how much there is to learn from your own "intuition" as some would say, or as I would call it... The Spirit, when you let go of the distractions that hold you and begin to really listen.

In the process, things that have frustrated my understanding for ages have become clear, like road blocks suddenly cleared away. What is so ironic I guess, is that I haven't actually "slowed down" at all in the sense of having fewer things to do. In fact, I may be busier than I ever have been, but it's the direction of my focus that is different. As I have let go of the things I don't understand and weaknesses I felt I couldn't overcome no matter how hard I tried, I found a new sense of trust and peace and my focus naturally turned towards truly important things I couldn't have seen otherwise.

I also found I had more energy to draw upon to accomplish what I could clearly see I needed to do. Most often it had to do with either helping someone else dear to me or helping myself so that I could better help someone else in due course. And many times, I found that also my approach to how I would handle the challenges I was facing completely changed for the better.  It's been the most fascinating growing experience.  

09 February, 2015

You Can Learn Something New Everyday

I believe life lessons, new perspectives and self growth can be found everyday and today I learned something from a job interview that will continue forward with me. Here I am, sitting in the "hot seat" in this beautiful conference room across from some of the four most accomplished individuals I have probably ever met. To say I was nervous would be a bit of an understatement. I'm sure the applicant pool for any position at BYU is vast and greatly experienced, but this one to facilitate networking and community building opportunities for students and alumni around the country has to have a huge draw. I feel honored to even be considered.

One of them asked if I would be happy and fulfilled outside the music scene where I have so much experience. Of course I answered with the best of my abilities during the interview. I thought as I left that I have never really asked myself that question. I realized walking out of the beautiful Hinckley Center that out of all the areas I have worked, education and service is truly the only area that could really compete. That's the only other field where I would feel more fulfilled. 

I'm not sure what that means in regards to my future, but no matter the outcome and employment decision, that experience has given me a lot to think about this evening. 

01 February, 2015

Want to Make a Difference? It's Easy... Show Up.

I should start this post out, so it actually makes sense, sharing a conversation I had today with a friend I met this last semester while living at my apartment complex. This girl is beyond bright, strong, forthright, wise, and extremely capable; I can't think of another girl I've ever met who could feel safer getting trapped with in a natural disaster, or any disaster for that matter. And she said something that struck me. She said she didn't feel like anything she did really made a difference. She felt that if she really made a major difference to people then she would see it.

I was shocked really. I knew first hand that comments she shared in our ward and the friendship she extends so genuinely has impacted not only myself and my roommate, but also others in our ward. She's not only noticed, but listened to and appreciated. I shared with her specific moments I knew she made a difference even when she didn't realize it. Most often because she showed up and was herself.

I began to wonder if other people feel the same way this girl has. If there are those out there who have no idea just the positive influence they are by being there, having the courage to encourage others, or just lifted someone up by giving a smile.

Then I went about my day honestly, and didn't really think about it again. That is until I was reading a talk tonight by President Gordon B. Hinckley, which I guess it's actually early morning now isn't it? And it's funny how that exact thing stood out; like a recurring theme for the day. I highlighted my favorite part in the screenshot on the right. It says:

"The major work of the world is done by ordinary people who have learned to work in an extraordinary way. This is what makes the difference."

Likewise, I think, some acts that seem ordinary, small and even maybe inconsequential make a difference in the grand scheme of things. Texting someone just to ask how they are, listening to a friend, or just saying hello with a smile. But these seemingly inconsequential acts can't make a difference if we don't show up to do them.

"... by small and simple things are great things brought to pass..." Alma 37:6.

31 January, 2015

This Week's Gratitude Post

It's funny how certain music from certain eras of your life will take you back, making you remember and feel things you haven't in years. I started listening to my really old albums tonight while I was studying, once again, for the GMAT and Falling Into You, an album by Celine Dion came on my iTunes. I haven't listened to these songs in FOREVER. And suddenly I remembered how I felt, as a little girl getting this album for my birthday.

I was obsessed with music as a girl, still am, and this was only my second album. When I opened it I think I screamed cause I was so excited. And so many good memories along with that one came flooding back: belting out "It's All Coming Back To Me Now" in the car with my mom, listening to the entire album and dancing with my sisters for hours pretending to film music videos, and teaching myself the beginnings of songwriting by picking apart the chord and lyric structure.

Then I remembered sitting on the floor, the boom box my dad gave me playing the album for the thousandth time probably, and the second song, "Because You Loved Me," started playing. My mom came around the corner of the hallway and through the door of my room and said that if there was a song ever written that described how she felt about my dad, it was that one. She began to tell me how everything good in her life came from the love she shared with my dad. That no matter how imperfect they both were, and all the mistakes they made and would surely make in the future, that she was the wife, mother, and person she was because of the appreciation, confidence, support and safety she found in being loved by my dad and loving him in return.

I realized tonight thinking of these memories just how much these little things impacted the way I viewed life, not only at the time, but also strengthened me and determined how I would face the challenges I experienced later. A dear friend, who I actually ended up dating, once said one of the things he loved most about me was the fact that I didn't give up on anyone. And I don't because I come from two parents that never gave up on each other, no matter what challenges they faced. I'm so grateful for that.

21 January, 2015

A Day I’ll Remember Never To Forget

I’ve been preparing to take the GMAT so it’s taken a couple days to find the time to sit down and write, but I want to remember how incredibly wonderful it was to see the first of my sisters get married to a wonderful man and companion in the temple this past weekend.

We’re super close, my sisters and I. As kids we used to say we were the three musketeers. We even later added to our group our own “d'Artagnan,” our younger (and only female) cousin on my dad’s side. We were always close, but became even closer after losing our mom as teenagers.

The last ten years we banded together, looking after each other, supporting each other, through everything. And I mean, everything. My sister just younger than me was my rock of support when I thought I would break, my youngest sister was my home base where I could run to for safety to regroup, and I was their guardian and protector jumping in to save the day when anything went wrong. We each filled for the others the place, the gaps, where our mom once stood in our individual lives. We were each other’s teachers, examples, best friends and even at times, each other’s perceived worst enemies. But that’s what it truly means to be sisters, right?

My role as I said was to guard and protect. I got used to defending and preserving their freedom and opportunities. Making sure our circumstances or challenges in no way hindered our potential to reach goals we had always had: to get an education, to do something we love, to be financially independent, secure and happy. And one day, as Latter-day Saint women, to marry in the temple and have a family too, if that was the Lord’s plan. This was a role and responsibility I took very seriously.  

Then this last year, after we’ve all graduated, gotten jobs, etc. my sisters have gradually and quietly come into their own. It wasn’t until a bridal shower as I sat back watching my sister interact for the first time in this new world and adventure she was embarking on that I suddenly thought, “Wow, who is this incredibly strong, capable and confident woman sitting next to me?” It wasn’t the girl I shielded in my shadow anymore. Without even realizing it, she had grown up right before my eyes. And into the kind of woman my mom had hoped we would each be.

When her wedding day came I couldn’t help but tear up sitting there in this absolutely heaven like room we call the sealing room, a room found in LDS temples, watching her hand in hand with her now husband making promises of real love and commitment for time and all eternity. She was absolutely radiant. The joy in her eyes struck me as I watched her step through and close this difficult chapter of loss, despair and discouragement; having never given up, having held on to us as we held onto her to make it, and now she was moving on. I realized watching her that suddenly now, we did it. We’ve made it. And now she is my example of hope, strength and courage the way I have always tried to be hers.

08 January, 2015

A Star To Follow

Stake Conference Talk 12/28/2014

The first part of what I have been asked to speak about today is what has influenced my testimony over the last year, when I thought about it it's even been the last two years. I can tell you the strength I have quite recently realized I have, and have been leaning on a lot lately, has been built on small and simple moments of obedience to what we tend to call in our meetings, the basics. It always seems to be the answer doesn't it? Pray, read the scriptures and go to church. You would think that after serving a mission those basics would come naturally… and not feel, well, boring or repetitive... but sometimes it can be like a checklist we've already marked off but still feel incomplete or failing in. What I want to share with you all today, is that is in our power to change. And the restored gospel provides all the tools, for each of us individually, to do so. All you need to do is pick your star to follow.

When the wise men, or great men of the East, sought to find Jesus Christ they followed a star. They didn't know exactly how it would lead them or exactly where it would lead them to, but they knew it to be a sign of God and they faithfully followed it. Now when they got to Jerusalem, as can be seen in Matthew chapter 2, they stopped in to see Herod and asked for directions. Note, even in biblical times wise men stop for directions. Herod didn't know, but his chief priests and scribes consulted the words of the prophets, the scriptures, and told them to continue on to Bethlehem, the City of David. We don't know from where the wise men came, but we can gather if they needed to follow a star to get from where they were coming from, it wasn't close. Whether it took them days, weeks, or more likely months to get to Bethlehem, they didn't give up. They found Him. 

When you stop and really think about this story, that we have heard repeated, much like the basics I referred to earlier really… you realize all the work it must have taken to prepare for this one moment in their lives to happen. As we know from D&C 88 :13 all things in life, even nature and the power of God, are governed by the laws. Things don't just suddenly appear; that star didn't suddenly appear in the sky. It was prepared and it's appearance prophesied all done knowing that these wise men were the kind of men that would specifically be looking for it. Now God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, so what preparations has he laid specifically for you to see the light and hope of the gospel in these latter-days? What "star" has He specifically prepared for you to follow?           

I love this quote by President James E. Faust, "A patriarchal blessing from an ordained patriarch can give us a star to follow, which is a personal revelation from God to each individual. If we follow this star, we are less likely to stumble and be misled. Our patriarchal blessing will be an anchor to our souls, and if we are worthy, neither death nor the devil can deprive us of the blessings pronounced. They are blessing we can enjoy now and forever." And I can tell you, this year my patriarchal blessing has been a guiding star for me. A patriarchal blessing as President Ezra Taft Benson said, is "personal scripture to you." Did you catch that word, scripture… it's one of those basics we keep hearing about. But not always the one we first think of.

When I feel lost and confused, I don't think of the stories of how this person or that person suddenly opened the scriptures and the first verse they read on the page they opened to had their answer. Sure it can happen, but the Lord knows me personally and knows I don't work that way. I need to work things out, find my answers, even talk it out. So instead I have a list of favorite scriptures, that I consistently add to, to go to when I feel like I need the Spirit's help, direction or even just comfort, and at the top of that list is my patriarchal blessing. For me, that blessing is my catalyst. Every time I read it I am reminded that The Lord knows me personally, has prepared this journey for me and is there walking it with me. Every time I read it, I am compelled to pray (there's another one of those basics again,) to pray to the Lord personally, with all I'm feeling at that moment which usually includes a lot of love, frustration and impatience, but that's what He's there for. To listen, to comfort, and through the Spirit to guide, sooth, and encourage. For me, that encouragement usually includes patience.  

But what if you've read your blessing and just don't get it. It seems vague or confusing? Now if you have a pen and something to write on I want you to pull them out. While studying and preparing this talk I found something really cool that when I applied it to my own blessing made it come to life for me and certain things I still needed right now stood out that haven't before. I want you to write this down and apply it to your own blessing when you get back home. You're going to get out a few sheets of paper. At the top of the first page you are going to write "Blessings", then half way down that same page you're going to write "Counsel", then at the top of the next page you're going to write "Warnings" and half way down write "Covenants and Promises." Now you're going to go through your blessing line by line and pick out the things that fit into these different categories.

Blessings: These are identified as gifts from Heavenly Father. They are not subject to any future performance in that they are given to you as a child of God. As long as your life is in harmony with the principles of the gospel, these blessings will be given to you at the time the Lord dictates. They will read similar to: "Friends and associates will be raised up unto thee in time of need." or "You are blessed with the gift of discernment."

Counsel: Instance where counsel is being given will read: "Be faithful…" "Be diligent…" "Continue…" "Thou shalt…" "Endeavor to…" or "Use this ability to…"

Warnings: There will generally be only a few or none in this category. The wording of these lines should make them clear. The important thing is that when warnings are given, they must be carefully noted and impress them upon your own mind. Examples may be, "Sister, never…" or "Do not…"

Covenants/Promises: These statements can be identified as statements where a blessing is mentioned which is connected with certain things you must do to receive the blessing; some examples would be: "They friends shall be a special blessing unto thee… inasmuch as thou shalt select for thine close associates those who are righteous" or "if thou wilt give of they time and talents unto the building up the Kingdom of God… thou shalt gain a certain testimony that Jesus is the Christ."

When I mapped out my own patriarchal blessing this way the night before last I didn't just remember how personally the Lord knows me but how personally he prepared this blessing for me to help me in my specific journey. When thinking of the challenges I'm even now facing, I felt motivated, strengthened, like I had a direction to go in again. And I felt how personally my Heavenly Father and Savior love me.

Mapping out my blessing like this led to the second part of what I was asked to speak on, how I'm going to use these experiences to strengthen me going forward into a new year. I began to use what was there in front of me, this map, to set goals. After praying for guidance, I reread and pondered the counsels and warning. Then read the page of covenants/promises. Then I started to write down the areas I feel I can work on at this time in my life and the things I can do to keep moving forward in my life. Then started to set time bound goals to make these things happen. 

President Kimball has given this advice: "It is true of all of us that as we progress spiritually, our sense of belonging, identity, and self-worth increases. Let us create a climate in which we encourage [members] of the Church to have a program of self- improvement. It ought to be a practical and realistic, one that is determined personally and not imposed upon them. Yet it ought to cause them to reach for new levels of achievement. We are not asking for something spectacular, but rather... to find real self-fulfillment through wise self-development in the pursuit of righteous worthy endeavors."   

One thing I know from everything I've learned is that we all have individual paths and destinies prepared for us by The Lord. We can't compare where we are to where we think others are. Especially as single adults. Instead, as we accept who we are, knowing the Lord loves us and more than that, he knows our potential. Just like David, a shepherd boy with very little experience. Or Saul, of one of the "least" of all families of the tribe of Benjamin, the smallest tribe of Israel, who wondered and even asked the prophet in 1 Sam 9:21 when he sought him out, "wherefore then speakest thou so to me?" They weren't chosen because of the great men they were, but for their potential to listen to The Lord, to obey and serve Him, to be magnified. You are no different. I say these things in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, who knows us and loves us and is there to guide us, amen.