I’ve never had more to be thankful for than I do this year. I am so thankful for the opportunity I had to serve a full-time mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the greatest mission in the world. I’ve decided to include a picture of Elvis and Cynthia and their family, because they are just some of the most special people I met on my mission. I’m thankful for them and the experiences we shared. I’m thankful for the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ, and for the huge blessing I had to dedicate 18 months of my life to its proclamation. It is true. I know it with all my heart. God’s plan for His children has been revealed! We have a prophet on the earth! I am so thankful for that knowledge.
I’m in a really cool religion and culture class this semester. Its full title is Christianity in Film, Art, Music, Literature, and Theology, and I just love it. One of the required texts is Mere Christianity, by my beloved C.S. Lewis, and I have marked an average of one paragraph per page. Gold. I’m not going to do a book review right now, but I just wanted to recommend this book. The man was inspired.
As evidenced by my increasing number of blogs about the way I eat, my diet is of high concern to me right now. I don’t make time to eat. I rarely to never go grocery shopping. When I do eat, it’s often junk. Sooooo the quest for a dietary reformation continues to be under way.
I just wanted to fill you in on the latest from my current weapon of choice: the banana.
Many of you are aware that I hate bananas. Blairs aren’t picky eaters, and only crazy people hate, so there are very few foods in this world that I literally refuse to eat. Actually I don’t think there really are any. But as for foods that I would rather have shards of glass in my eyes than eat, I would list bananas, green peppers, and mushrooms. Punto.
Where am I going with this? It has come to my awareness that I need potassium. As a runner (currently a wannabe runner), I am well aware that bananas contain high levels of potassium. As a resident of Hawaii, I know that bananas are basically the only reasonably-priced produce item besides pineapples. Therefore I have decided to commence what I’d like to call PROJECT BANANA.
As painful as it is, I have decided to start buying bananas, and eating one every day. So far it’s completely disgusting, but I’m doing it. I’ll let you know if my wildest dreams start coming true soon, because then we can for sure blame it on the banana that was missing all my life.
Aloha! I’m currently sitting on the beach, watching the sun come up and glisten upon the calm waves of the North Shore of O’ahu. The Steven Sharp Nelson pandora station is playing (#SundayMusic), and I’m still enjoying the benefits of my one-month Pandora One free trial, so my listening has been entirely ad-free. I read my scriptures for about 30 minutes and now I’m content to just watch the waves and write this blog. Life is pleasant. Life is good. I live in Hawaii, so I don’t have a care in the world.
That whole paragraph was a lie. I am definitely not on the beach this morning. I’m hastily trying to write this to make sure Lucy and Aileen aren’t mad at me for missing another week. I went to bed late last night, trying to finish some assignments and study for an upcoming exam. This morning I need to finish preparing a Relief Society lesson and then get to Ward Council as fast as I can. Then there’s a stake leadership training after church. November visiting teaching still needs to happen, so we’ll see if we can make time for that today or later this week. Then I’m going to meet with a member of the stake presidency to talk about my new stake calling, and then we have a fireside. #DayofRest I’ll probably start studying again at midnight.
Sound familiar? Just writing that stressed me out. Relaxing on the beach would be ideal, and I do indeed live about 800 yards from Temple Beach, but I just don’t have time for such activities.
False. Elder Bednar: “We all have the same amount of time. It just depends on how we choose to use it.”
My point in all this is to argue that the way we spend each hour of each day is completely up to us. It was my choice to take 21 credits this semester, and my choice to have two jobs. It was my choice to procrastinate the RS lesson and those assignments and not prioritize yesterday.
Given, some have heavier workloads than others. Some have more “stuff” to do. But we are all in charge of our lives, and we control our daily reactions. I have decided that whether or not we are stressed is our choice. Stress is a choice. Stress is a lifestyle. I learned on the mission that we need to have certain amounts of stress in order to be effective. There’s good stress and bad stress. It comes down to whether or not we have enough resources to combat the stress.
Quick list of resources:
2. Healthy food
3. Friends/ family
4. Positive self-talk
5. Goal-setting and planning
There it is. Stress will be there, but our reaction is the choice. I am trying to choose to be positively motivated by the stressors in my life, which are actually incredibly minor, and just keep swimming. Eustress is good stress, by the way.
Here’s something I’ve discovered since coming home: for missionaries, regular time stops the day they go into the MTC. I still expect girls that were pregnant when I left to be pregnant. “New movies” are any movie that came out after I left. Everyone is the age and stage they were when I left. So then I see them and I’m shocked.
Along the vein of movies, “Frozen” is still a new movie in my mind. It was the first movie I saw after being released, and I was asking people if they’d seen it for like two weeks after that. Their responses were usually something like “Uhhh yes….” with inexplicable perplexity in their faces. #RMProbs
Anyway, that was a pre-set for a Frozen post, because I fully recognize that the internet is over Frozen and everyone has already said everything there is to say about it. But I haven’t! It’s still a new movie for me! So here are some of my thoughts, and you can yawn and pass on if you’re sick of Frozen blogs.
I have to admit that the first time I watched it, the homosexuality political commentary was screaming at me the whole time. No one had told me about it, but I’d just spent a year and a half in LA, home of the Rainbow Crosswalk on Santa Monica Boulevard, so it was kind of fresh on my mind.
I was quick to come up with other readings for the film, because I would prefer to not love a movie that promotes disobedience. My current reading of choice centers around the concept of isolation. Individuals who struggle with same-gender attraction absolutely experience isolation, and I cannot begin to comprehend how difficult that trial would be, but I think that all challenges, trials, and weaknesses have the potential for placing us in isolation. Any challenge. Any trial. Any weakness. If we “conceal, don’t feel, don’t let it show”, we continue in isolation. Therefore, “letting it go” shouldn’t mean breaking serious commandments. “Letting it go” should mean being open with our struggles and seeking support. We are not intended to do anything in this life by ourselves. That’s why we have families, that’s why we have wards and home- and visiting-teaching, and that’s why we have the Atonement. Because of the Atonement, we never need to be isolated. He has literally experienced every trail and challenge and weakness we will ever have, and He knows exactly how to help us. (See Alma 7:11-13.)
In conclusion, I think Disney’s “Frozen” is a commentary on the necessity of relying on the Atonement and living the Gospel of Jesus Christ. People do in fact “make bad choices if they’re mad or scared or stressed”, and it is our responsibility to “throw a little love their way”! The Act of true love that was performed by the Lord Jesus Christ is the only way frozen hearts can be thawed, and the only way any trial or challenge or weakness can be overcome. We “let it go” by relying on Him.
Those are my thoughts on Frozen. I loved it. I cried the first time I heard “Let it Go”.
One change many missionaries are able to experience during their missions is overcoming social fears or barriers they may have had before. We have the opportunity to talk to dozens of people every day, and are completely forced out of our comfort zones in a million ways. I can say from experience that the process is HARD. It’s scary. It’s uncomfortable.
I had to remind myself often that I represented Jesus Christ, and not myself. I had to pray for strength to talk to everyone, and I had to completely forget myself and my fears. At the beginning of my mission, I had to stop worrying about my super broken Spanish and focus on loving everyone and quaking and trembling for them.
Why was this so hard? We were making ourselves completely vulnerable. As missionaries, we put everything on the altar of sacrifice and focus entirely on our purpose. That is not natural for anyone, and as I said, it’s really scary. However, eventually missionaries get to a point where we really can talk to everyone without fear. It’s cool.
Why am I writing about this? I’m doing my best to retain the skills I developed on my mission, one of which is embracing vulnerability. It was easier as a missionary, because I really didn’t represent myself. Now I’m Amber Blair again, and it’s just not the same as it was with the badge and the power and authority. Being vulnerable is scary again.
I wanted to share this TED talk about vulnerability, because it put it all into a new light for me. I invite you to watch it and think about what you can do to allow yourself to be vulnerable. I know it will be hard. I’m working on it.
Adjustment. I’ve pondered on doing an entire post on “adjusting” and sharing my thoughts on the rocky road a recently returned missionary must tread, but I’ve decided to focus on just one adjustment for now.
That is the concept of “free time”, “down time”, or a “break”. Those are words that weren’t even part of my vocabulary for the last 18 months. Missionaries do NOT takes breaks. Not even on P-day. Missionaries NEVER have “free time” or anything like unto it, because they are on the Lord’s precious time, not a millisecond of which can be wasted. Some missionaries were a little bit more relaxed than me, as far as taking breaks and using time goes, but Hna. Blair never paused for a descanso. Some missionaries took naps during lunch, but I worked on the area book, read Jesus the Christ, made phone calls, or continued studying. I am by no means saying that is the only right way to do it. Some missionaries legitimately need those 60 minutes to rest, but I felt unconsecrated if I even paused.
So the point is, for the last year and a half, I never rested. Then here I am back in the world of regular people, faced with a regular schedule, regular expectations, and regular rules. There is nothing regular about never taking a break. When I first got back, I actually felt disobedient if I wasn’t in class or at the library (not kidding), and then I remembered that I wasn’t a missionary anymore a few days into the semester.
The adjustment I decided to make is what I like to call Lunch Break. Put simply, it means taking an entire hour (theoretically. This has yet to occur.) for a meal, not studying or working or anything. Taking an actual break. It’s a totally foreign concept for me, but I feel like the Lord inspired me to start this program for myself.
So here’s to lunch breaks!
So back in the day, I used to have a book review section of my blog. So it’s back! And the book is “The Power of Everyday Missionaries” by Clayton M. Christensen. It was the first book I read after my mission, and it totally changed my life.
Do you want to be a member missionary? Do you want to live your baptismal covenant? If the answer is yes to either of those questions, then this is the book for you. I invite you to read it asap. I know that if you do, you will have the tools to more comfortably and naturally be obedient by sharing our message of the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I’m back! I just had the most thrilling, joyful, stressful, difficult, amazing, emotional, educational, spiritual, exhausting, incredible 18 months of my life. I LOVE the Lord. I love LA.
For my first post since my return, I’m just going to enclose a few pictures of some really special people. I have plans for future blog posts, some of which I might even do this week.
There are way more people I want to pay tribute to, but I haven’t sorted through all my pictures. I really might blog later this week if possible.
Have a great week!
Well folks, I gave my missionary farewell talk today! I’ve only been waiting for this day my entire life. I remember so many farewells of the young men in our ward, and thinking they were so old and mature, and feeling like my farewell Sunday would never come. And it did! I felt so much love and support today, and I know with all my heart that the gospel I’m about to share is true.If you’re interested, I decided to post my talk. It’s kind of long, but you may read if you so desire.
Brothers and Sisters, Aloha!
The topic I’ve been assigned to speak on today is the power of faith, hope, and love through Christ. I’ve really loved studying it, and I’m excited to speak about it today, because the development of those attributes is what builds Christ-centered lives, making us true Disciples of Christ. When we become true disciples, we naturally share the gospel with others because it is such a part of our core, and that’s what I’ve been preparing to do my entire life.
The first principle of the gospel is faith, and it is the first and most fundamental step in becoming a true disciple of Christ. Moroni tells us in Moroni 7:33 that, “Christ hath said: If ye will have faith in me ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me.” Isn’t that amazing?
Faith can also lead us to do good works, obey the commandments, and repent of our sins. We can overcome temptation, experience miracles and spiritual and physical healing through the atonement, and have strength and courage to endure trials.
Peter is one of my favorite scriptural examples, and I think the story of him walking on water teaches important lessons about faith. Although he became afraid after he got a little way out on the water, and the Savior had to reprimand him because of his little faith, he had just had the faith to walk on water! He was the only one of the apostles that even got as far as the edge of the ship, not to mention actually walking on water. Peter showed great faith just through his desire to follow the Savior, and we can do that too. We just need to take that first step into the water.
An example of faith from my personal life is my first Relief Society president my freshman year. Her name was Gana, she was from Mongolia, she was a returned missionary, and she was engaged. Things don’t get much cooler in a freshman’s eyes. What was more, she knew my name, and she would call me by name when she saw me on campus, as well as in church on Sundays. Because of how kind she was to me, I committed to be the kind of girl she was—friendly to everyone, including and especially those who are new or seem to need a friend, and aware of the individual. I also decided that if I were going to be like Gana, I would need to serve a mission. That was already long in the plan, but this added to the commitment. Towards the end of the semester, we found out Gana was very sick. Or bishop organized a ward fast, and the next day she passed away. At the funeral, mission companions and friends spoke of the example of a faithful, loving person she’d been, and I decided to try to carry on her legacy as best I could. I will never forget Gana, because she is an example to me of the missionary and example I hope to be. Through the love she showed to be, I have a greater ability to show that love to others.
There is a crucial addition to faith in the Savior and His Plan. It says in 2 Nephi 31:20 that “we must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope.” It goes beyond faith. It’s possible to be faithful all your life, enduring every trial, plugging along faithfully, and really being miserable. Hope is the gift of the spirit. It is applied faith, not just enduring, but anticipating the joy and rewards at the end. Hope is what lets us feel not only will things are going to work out, but that things will work out great. In Ether 12:4, it says, “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 sols of men, which would make the sure and steadfast, always abound in good works, being led to glorify God.
One experience I had that taught me the power of hope happened during one especially stressful finals week. I had a huge credit load that semester, and I had a bunch of intense finals and performances. Monday morning I decided to go running on the beach, which is one of my all-time favorite activities. The whole run down to the beach I was thinking about all I had to do that week, and worrying about all sorts of things that in hindsight really weren’t that important. When I got to the beach and started running again, I prayed for the strength and courage to make it through the week without dying.
Shortly thereafter, I noticed the beautiful sunrise, and the way it reflected on the sparkling water, brightening the beautiful section of paradise I had the great blessing to live in. I stopped worrying about all that was going to happen that week, and thoughts of my many blessings came to my memory.
I realized that if I didn’t get a 4.0 that semester, or play as well as I’d like to, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. Everything would be fine, because no matter what, I had a family back at home that loved me, a Heavenly Father who loved me, and a testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel.
That blessing of peace, hope, gratitude, and assurance got me through that week with minimal scars. It also strengthened my testimony of the love my Heavenly Father had for me, and gave me a better perspective for the future. I am so excited to share that message of hope with those I teach!
The last step in becoming true Disciples of Christ comes from the combination of faith and hope. As we develop those attributes, we will feel the love of our Heavenly Father, and naturally want to share that love with others. This is the power of faith, hope, and love through Christ.
When Lehi partook of the fruit of the tree, which was the love of God, his first instinct was to look for his family, because he wanted them to share that experience. We know that we are true followers of Christ if that is the way we feel. Because of the wonderful people I’ve been surrounded by my entire life—my family, my teachers, my friends, this ward—I’ve been able to feel that love many times.
One powerful experience I had where I felt the love of God very strongly was in the hospital a few years ago, after a surgery. Once I had recovered enough to be aware of the other children in the neural trauma unit around me, I became completely overwhelmed with the trials they had, and how they would affect their entire lives in very significant ways. One night I was so distressed that I was just sobbing in my hospital bed, and praying to Heavenly Father for them. In answer to my prayer, He told me that although they couldn’t necessarily pray vocally, or do the kinds of things I could do, like go on a mission, or go to school, they could still communicate with Him and feel His love. At that moment, I committed to try to show that same love to as many as I could, because I had felt its great power and intensity, and I couldn’t keep it to myself. That is why I want to go on a mission.
Therefore, let us aglory, yea, we will bglory in the Lord; yea, we will rejoice, for our joy is full; yea, we will praise our God forever. Behold, who can glory too much in the Lord? Yea, who can say too much of his great power, and of his cmercy, and of his long-suffering towards the children of men? Behold, I say unto you, I cannot say the smallest part which I feel.