Monday, March 27, 2017

Finding Peace

Every six months, members from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints around the globe gather for 12 hours of our general conference, listening to inspired (and inspiring) speakers who give guidance for those trying to follow Jesus Christ in a confusing, overwhelming world.

It might seem like a mush of do-gooder touchy-feelies. Growing up, it mostly seemed long. However, over the last few weeks, I have taken on the challenge of reviewing all of the talks from last October's conference in preparation for listening to the conference next weekend. In doing so, I have increased the faith, hope, and peace I feel in my life. And I have had reaffirmed to me over and over again that the men and women speaking to the church and the world are called of God. They are guided in the words they speak. I believe that we have prophets of God on the earth today, and God uses them to guide his people. Their messages may be simple, but they speak the words of Jesus Christ. Reviewing them has brought me the most profound sense of love and confidence in the future. I know that feeling is God teaching me truth and directing my life.

Today, I loved this nugget of pure truth from President Russell M. Nelson:
"If we look to the world and follow its formulas for happiness, we will never know joy. The unrighteous may experience any number of emotions and sensations, but they will never experience joy! Joy is a gift for the faithful. It is the gift that comes from intentionally trying to live a righteous life, as taught by Jesus Christ."
If you're looking for peace, here's one opportunity to find it. By all means, join us for this weekend's General Conference. Come and see what it can do for you.

Monday, March 21, 2016

My Hallelujah

Sometimes, when I'm in a bad mood, I have this awful desire to tell someone all of my deepest darkest secrets- my flaws, my weakness. When I'm feeling alone, I want to be pitied. I feel as if I want someone to see me- scarred, pitiful, and broken as I am- and love me anyway.

But then, when I'm feeling happy, I look at myself and realize that that's nonsense.

I'm not scarred, pitiful, or broken. I am beautiful, glorious, and healed.

I was, once, broken. And sometimes (read: daily), still, I fall, and scrape my knees a little bit. I've got a lot of cleaning up to do. However, I also have a Savior, who suffered far too much for me to reasonably decide I need to mope about being imperfect. Because of what Jesus Christ did for me- suffered, bled, died, and rose again- there is no reason to pretend that I'm still broken. I am healed, and I am happy, and I will, someday, be totally whole.

There is some part of my innate human nature that desires to dig up the past. To pour acid on old scars. To unnecessarily inflict great emotional self-harm. But I don't need to. I can tell those cynical voices in the back of my mind to shut up. Hallelujah.


Sunday, November 22, 2015

Fallen World

The world is a mess. No need to deny it or beat about the bush. There are plenty of things out there that terrify me, things that I don't understand, things that seem infinitely more powerful than I am.
What is one to do in a world like ours? Run away? Give up hope? I'm close to that at times. I doubt whether things will ever feel totally safe, whether ideals and morals and laws will ever return to what I believe to be right. Whether politics will ever have more meaning than bickering ever again.

But, it doesn't much matter what I think. Whether the world changes or not, whether I can control the planet or not, the things in my tiny sphere of influence can be changed. It's my responsibility to change them.

When terrorists attack, it's easy to be terrified, to look for someone to blame, to put up walls and hide ourselves away.

Is that the right thing, though?

It's likely that no matter what we do- build walls, pass laws, perform security checks, declare war- there will still be evil out there. There will be bombings and shootings and bad guys looking for power and leaving destruction in their wake. I can't control that, not on a global scale.

I can, however, control myself- my small bubble. I can learn from the evil acts of others more fully what it means to love. I can learn to see the flashes of color and joy in the middle of bleak horizons. I can turn the other cheek, and sacrifice in the name of helping others.

In times like this, it is more important than ever that we are not afraid- because if we choose fear we will be running for the rest of our lives. Instead, we can choose to live quiet lives of compassion and gratitude. We can be the ones to lift up the hands that hang down. We can be the good in the world. 
"A fallen world
Striving without understanding
Walking without purpose
Lost from what is good.

Darkness means
Light is visible
But few are looking
Eyes gone blind.

But I love this
Fallen world.
Colors are bright.
I’m learning."

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Blessings of the Temple

I love going to the temple.

If you've never seen an LDS temple, let me give you some basics. The temple is a sanctuary. A place where we pray, and ponder, and learn, and draw closer to God. It's a place where we make personal commitments to follow Him. It's awesome.

After a busy day at work, a busy week, a busy life, the temple is a place of peace. An escape. A place where I can remember what really matters.

In the temple, we wear white. It's a symbol of purity, and free of class distinction. Everyone is of equal status in the temple. When I put on my white temple dress, I feel like the most beautiful girl in the world. I look in the mirror, and- though it sounds maybe shallow and silly- I can remember so much more clearly who I am, and what I'm worth. While the world is screaming at me that I can't succeed, that I'm not enough, that the things I care about don't matter, I can go to God's house and remember that I matter to Him. 

The temple is like that. Everything is symbolic- designed to teach us. To point us back to God, who is, most importantly, our Father. Who loves us and desires all of our happiness.

It is so important to remember that. The temple is a wonderful, peaceful place of remembering.

I feel so blessed.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Lead Me By the Hand

So many returned missionaries leave their missions and feel a mantle gone from their shoulders. In some ways, that is a burden lifted. In others, it's a hole that needs filling- a void that used to be much more abundantly filled with the Spirit. I've heard many an individual state that they "wish they could feel like they did on their mission." Can't we, though?

When I came home from Japan, there was a week-long period of transition, where I felt the Spirit very strongly, almost overwhelmingly. While I hadn't been easily moved to tears throughout my mission, upon returning home, there were so many tender feelings, and so much goodness associated with friends, family, and confidence that the Lord loved me. I would sob at the drop of a hat.

And then, that went away. Sure, I was still doing the right things. I felt the Spirit, I read my scriptures, I prayed. But it wasn't the same, just as so many missionaries before me had described.

This week, though, I got something back. With classes back in full swing at BYU, an overwhelming course load of 17 credits, a twenty-hours-a-week job, and an utterly new social environment, I felt humbled. I feel humbled. There is so much that will probably drive me into the ground this semester. But, as I have turned to the Lord, gone to the temple, and metaphorically thrown myself at his feet, I have felt closer than ever to the Spirit, and particularly to the knowledge that I am a daughter of God. I have felt deeply that he is aware of, and even proud of me. He knows my struggles, and will send solutions. I have felt His hand stretching me as I do hard things and prepare to face a future full of even harder ones.

When we draw near unto him, even in the midst of trials and difficulties, God is with us. He can strengthen us, and bless us, and grant unto us so much happiness that we didn't know existed.

I love Him.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Challenges of the Creative Process

This is the one where I make a special announcement:

I'm writing a musical!

There. I've said it to the big bad world. That takes some degree of commitment, and I hope that commitment will push my half-finished work into something that I can tag "La Fin" onto. The finishing of any project is the hardest part. The beginning is a rush of sweet excitement. The middle drags. Pushing through that to find the climax and then the resolution of a story, plot-hole-free, is a challenge.

In retrospect, though, even if I find myself disgusted by the words that make their way down onto the paper, I always love my original ideas at the end as much as I did at the beginning. There's something about them that's shiny and sparkles. An ember, and it never quite stops glowing.

My musical is, of all things, about a novelist. You could call it semi-autobiographical if you wanted to. I'd like to think I'm not quite as much of a mess as my leading lady, but her struggles throughout the play center around figuring out what matters and how to find balance between the things that she loves and the things that come along with just being alive. The dialogue is brilliant. The music is still in need of a little work. But I'm hoping the finished product, like the original ember, will be dazzlingly honest, and funny, and sincere.

I hope it can tell my story, at least a little.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

On Being Tired

Missionary life is easily the most exhausting thing I have ever experienced. I was drained all the time. Even with a really consistent eight hours of sleep a night, the go, go, go feeling of every single day- packed with appointments, street contacting, and hours of bike riding- was too much.

Two facts are important to understand to make my point clear. First, missionaries usually pray together with their companions last thing of the night, before going to bed. And second, I've always been a sleep talker.

During one stretch of time while I was serving in a small Japanese town called Niihama, on the island of Shikoku, I was far enough into my mission that the exhaustion was really beginning to set in, but not far enough that I was totally used to it yet. It wasn't an uncommon thing for me to fall asleep in the middle of my own personal evening prayers. But for a few evenings in a row, in a turn of events quite frustrating to me light-sleeper companion, I would finish my evening prayers, go to bed, and then, in a half-awake sleep walking state, somewhere in the middle of the night I would find myself on my knees, praying aloud in Japanese because I thought somewhere in the back of my frazzled mind that I had fallen asleep in the middle of our companionship prayers and she was still there, waiting for me to finish up. I would usually end this routine somewhere in the middle of the prayer where I would speak loudly enough to wake my own conscious mind up and quickly utter "amen" before slipping back to sleep, content to pretend like it never happened. I was very, very tired.

On that note, I have a poem. I'm pretty sure I have more poems like this, too. Exhaustion was a plague.

Was it really this bad to be tired before?
Does it ever end?
When does resting start?
Can we sacrifice the things that go with resting?
Sleep is still a long way off.