The Race

One of my favorite analogies for life is a race. That poem by my uncle Dee that used to get quoted all the time in Sacrament Meeting has always given me strength– in order to be successful, we just have to get up each time we fall. Racing as a metaphor for life makes sense to me because I have about 20 years of personal experience with racing. Each time I race, I feel like the Lord teaches me something important.

This is me yesterday. I’m finishing the Ogden Half Marathon. (I know, it’s lame. I’ll run a full marathon asap.) My parents and my recently-returned missionary sister Lauren all drove up to Ogden with me on Friday afternoon, and we went to a nice Thai restaurant for dinner.

As we were eating, the topic of her new boyfriend came up. I expressed how frustrated I was that both she and our cousin Haley, who went on their missions at 19 and both got boyfriends almost immediately after returning, seemed to be getting all the blessings I wanted, way faster than me. I couldn’t go on my mission until I was 21, I’ve been home for 3 years, and I don’t have a boyfriend.

During my race the next morning, these words from Elder Holland came clearly into my head: the race is against sin, not against each other.

It’s not a race to get married first, or make the most money, or have the most degrees, or travel to the most places, or have the most kids. It’s a race against sin. We’re all running it together, and our Coach has asked us to help each other get home.

When A+B= a different C than you expected

I learned an important lesson on my mission: exact obedience brings blessings. This mantra is echoed throughout every book of Scripture, and is an integral component of God’s plan. If we are obedient to the commandments, we will be blessed. On my mission, as my companions and I were exactly obedient, we were blessed. In our case, that meant baptisms. In other words, when we were obedient, we had lots of baptisms. It was almost like magic.

After the mission, I continued to be exactly obedient. I followed the command of my stake president to attend the temple every day for 30 days. I followed the counsel of my mission president to continue to study the Book of Mormon every day and to worship all day on the Sabbath. I tried to have 10 meaningful Gospel conversations every day. I did my Visiting Teaching every month. I looked for service and missionary opportunities. I studied my mission language. I did family history. I did my very best to be as righteous and obedient as I could possibly be, and yet I graduated from college without getting married.

Let me be clear: I know I was blessed immensely throughout college and every day after. I even kept a gratitude journal and recorded the hand of the Lord in my life every day. I’m not suggesting that the Lord left me high and dry, nor am I saying that I was being obedient for the single purpose of getting blessed. I’m saying that I kind of thought if I did the right stuff, I’d be married by now.

So I’m still single. (Side note: It’s cool. I am quite content.) I sang “I Hope They Call Me On a Mission” and “I Love to See the Temple” all growing up. They called me on a mission, and that was awesome. I went to the temple, which was also awesome. But there are no Primary songs about being a single adult. I never had a Young Women lesson about preparing for the life I’m living now; it was all about strengthening home and family. I know I can strengthen home and family by being a positive role model for my students, but it’s just not what I envisioned.

So my life isn’t what I expected. Lol life is rarely what we expect. That’s life.

When A+B= a different C than we planned, then it’s time to walk by faith, knowing that Father definitely has a better plan. If I’d gotten married right after the mission, I would’ve missed out on a lot of important lessons and experiences. So it’s all good.

I know this to be true from personal experience:

Feeling Worthwhile

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Last week, one of our vocab words was worthwhile. We were reading a story that featured all the vocab words, and when we came upon worthwhile, I said, “Raise your hand if you’re worthwhile” expecting every kid to immediately wave his or her hand in the air.

I was wrong.

Only about 5 kids raised their hands!

So then I was like, “Wait a second! You don’t think you’re worthwhile? What??” I stopped the lesson to talk about how special each of them is, and I read “You Are Special” out loud. This got me thinking about the huge blessing I had to grow up singing “I Am a Child of God” from like age zero. Then in Young Womens, I stood every week and declared “We are daughters of our Heavenly Father who loves us and we love Him.” This is a precious truth I’ve known my entire life, and I guess I’ve kind of taken it for granted.

My kids don’t know who they are!

On the mission, it was my job to teach that God is our loving Heavenly Father and we are His children. One of my favorite street contact questions was, “Who is God to you?” and they would respond, “He’s everything!” or “He’s in my heart.” and then we’d talk. But now that my job is different, I forget that my kiddos are essentially in the same shoes as my street contacts.

Because of church and state, I can’t tell my students who they are. However, I can help them feel God’s love by teaching them that they are in fact special, and treating them in a special way. CS Lewis’s oft-quoted passage about everyone being potential gods and goddesses who we would be strongly tempted to worship applies to EVERYONE, including my students.

#beautyforashes

Did you watch the Provo City Center Temple cultural celebration yesterday? I hope you did. I got to go to the Marriott Center to watch it live, and it was fantastic. Then today I had the glorious opportunity to watch the dedication of the Provo City Center Temple, formerly the Provo Tabernacle. I want to take this time to write a little memoir of this beloved building.

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To begin with, I have several special memories going to stake conference in the tabernacle. It was the only time we ever drove to church, and the benches were the most uncomfortable benches I’ve ever sat on for two hours straight. I also sang the Mozart Requiem there with my high school choir and other chamber choirs from Utah, under the direction of Mack Wilberg. Pretty awesome experience. I always thought it was the prettiest building in Provo.

Then on December 17, 2010, the gem of Provo caught fire, and the entire interior was demolished to ashes.

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It went from this
inside

to this.
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We all mourned its loss, and wondered how Heavenly Father could possibly allow this to happen to one of His sacred buildings. The following Conference, President Monson gave one of the greatest announcements we’ve ever heard:

I was living in Hawaii at the time of this announcement, so I was watching Conference by myself on my bed at 6:00 in the morning. Let’s just say tears were shed. Loudly. For a good 20 minutes. #joy #tendermercy #beautyforahses #Hisplan #grateful

Then the tabernacle went from this
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to this.
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Stunning. When we all asked why, we didn’t know He had a bigger, better plan for our tabernacle. I know it is the same with our lives– when tragedy strikes, and we figuratively catch fire, it’s because Heavenly Father has a bigger, better plan for us. I know that to be true. He makes beauty from ashes.

Joy

I’ve recently been thinking about what joy is. I listened to a pod cast the other day about what kinds of things make us happy, and it’s been on my mind since. I asked a friend who has left the Church what brings him joy, and he told me he didn’t believe in joy. I honestly had no response for that. A life without joy?! So I’ve decided to bring you a collection of what brings me joy.

1. Really good, long, meaningful conversations.
2. High quality food.
3. Being in the depths of nature, specifically Rock Canyon or Hukilau Beach.
4. Doing a puzzle while listening to HP.
5. Playing duets with Lug.
6. When people agree with me. #Leen
7. Beautiful music.
8. Helping people understand stuff I’m passionate about. (i.e. the Gospel, grammar, etc.)
9. Effective scripture study. (This is a continual struggle for me.)
10. Puns.

I for one believe in joy. I believe our purpose here is to have joy, and I also believe joy is impossible without deep sorrow and suffering. The most joyful experiences of my mission came out of the most difficult trials. The deepest joy I had with my students last semester came from struggles they had. Joy is possible for all of us because of the Savior.

Therefore, I’d like to conclude by saying He was born so I can have joy. Not all the time, but on occasion.

Elder Scott Memorial

In the spirit of #ldsconf (#best4daysoftheyear #theChurchistrue #IloveConference) I’d like to take a moment to commemorate my late favorite Apostle, Elder Richard G. Scott.
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As many of you know, the MTC can be a discouraging place on occasion. I absolutely loved most of my time in that sacred building, but Hna. Warner and I were pretty discouraged on our last day there, after being deserted by all the other members of our district. They’d left for Mexico City and Washington, DC, and we were ALL BY OURSELVES. #lonely Tears were shed at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as we imagined Elder Erikson pouring copious amounts of tabasco sauce on his biscuits and gravy, remembered Elder Dommer trying to make Spanish jokes, and recalled how Sisters would always congregate around Elder Needham for no apparent reason…

It had been our longest day yet (which is saying something), but the weekly Tuesday devotional was a highlight we always anxiously anticipated, and this night was no different. I confess we’d prayed several times that day for an Apostle to come that night. Hna. Warner and I walked a little quicker to the huge room where devotionals are held than we’d walked all day, and easily found two empty seats together.

Something was different. There were big signs that said “No Photography Permitted” and an uncharacteristic teleprompter was positioned at the front. “Someone importante?” we speculated. We tried to obediently sit in silence, but it proved difficult as we prepared our precious notebooks for our final MTC devotional.

Finally the moment arrived. Following the example of our MTC president, the entire audience of missionaries rose and stood on tip toe to catch a first glimpse of our special visitor. I’m happy to report that our prayers were answered; Elder Scott was escorted it, and an audible gasp welcomed him.

I don’t remember everything he said, but I do remember weeping with Hna. Warner when he gave an Apostolic blessing of the gift of tongues to those missionaries learning a language. He also counseled us to pray vocally, which counsel I took and saw huge blessings on my mission because of it.

I love Elder Scott, and I know he represented the Savior as he spoke to us that night. I miss him, but I know he’s with his dear wife Jeneane now. #bestlovestoryever #lifegoals

Comp Inventory

Everyone knows that a secret to relationship success is effective and regular communication.

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Missionaries learn to have good communication in companionships, and they practice by having a weekly companionship inventory. It’s their opportunity to share goals, ask for help with the goals, talk about each other’s strengths, and then address anything that could be keeping the companionship from working in unity or being obedient, and resolve conflicts. Brilliant, inspired invention.

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In my current companion-less state, it’s been nearly a year (#hijole) since my last comp inventory, and I have to admit that I miss it! So I was pondering on that, and I realized that my companion right now is Heavenly Father. So… I decided to have a comp inventory with Him. It was awesome. So much so that I want to share the process and invite you to try it!

Here’s how to conduct a comp inventory with the Lord:
1. Share with Him your goals, and ask for His help to accomplish them.
2. Discuss the strength of your relationship.
3. Discuss any challenges that may be keeping you from being obedient.
4. Share what you think your strengths are.
5. Ask for suggestions on how you can improve.
6. Set goals that will improve your relationship.

Will you do it? I know that if you do, your loving Heavenly Father will bless you with personal revelation and help you come closer to Him.

July books: A Wrinkle in Time and A Wind in the Door

So, I kind of already spilled the beans about my July books in my last post about Fiction.
WHICH, to be clear: I have not become an introvert. As much as I love and respect my dear introverted friends, I have never scored less than 85% extroverted on any personality test, and I definitely don’t get energy from being by myself. #PersonalHell. Just clarifying.

As I mentioned, my July books changed my life! They were the first two books in Madeline L’Engle’s Time quintet: A Wrinkle in Time and A Wind in the Door. Most people read these books in about 5th grade, but for some reason I never got around to it when I was that age.

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You may have noticed the shout-out to Madeline L’Engle in “Interstellar” (You know the part with the bookshelf, when they show a few books up close? One of them is A Wrinkle in Time.) and I think that’s because Christopher Nolan must have been influenced by her books when creating the story for his movie. I have to say Hans Zimmer added a lot to the story, but it’s just fine without him.

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These two books are adventures of three children named Meg, Calvin, and Charles Wallace. They have to conquer evil, use their strengths, show love, and essentially hasten the Work. I said these books changed my life, and I think it’s mainly because they’re such a fantastic illustration of the importance of serving and sharing our Message.

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I once heard a person say that his religious philosophy was “find a spiritual path that works for you, and keep it to yourself.” I thought about that a lot on my mission, especially when people said things like “God is the same everywhere.” or “We’re all His church, we just worship differently.” Those arguments are enticing, but I have learned that our message is so vital that we MUST share it.

A Wrinkle in Time and A Wind in the Door illustrate that very idea. Elder Oaks said in a talked called “The Purpose of Missionary Work” that, “We invite all to come unto Christ by repentance and baptism and confirmation in order to open the doors of the celestial kingdom to the sons and daughters of God. No one else can do this.” Bam. Read these books to learn more about hastening the work of salvation.

I want to end this with a quote from A Wind in The Door:
“If someone knows who he is, really knows, then he doesn’t need to hate.” #lesson1 #GodIsOurLovingHeavenlyFather #charity

I miss constantly telling people that that God is their loving Heavenly Father and they are His children, but I loved reading about it in these books. I know it’s true.

Six Months Later…

hollywood sign
One of the greatest joys of missionary life is getting mail. In my mission, all mail was sent to the mission office, and then given to the zone leaders, who passed it out in exchange for a completed car report after District Meeting every Friday. Needless to say, we all looked forward to District Meeting for that single reason.

I want to pause right here for a second, and give a big shout out and thank you to those who sent me mail on my mission. My mom definitely wins for most letters and packages. GRACIAS.

I had a throwback Friday moment yesterday, when I GOT A LETTER IN THE MAIL, addressed in my own handwriting, with a return address from the California Los Angeles Mission. #bestdadysofar #literaldejavu

It was the post-mission plan I created in the last week of my full-time service, outlining what I wanted to be able to say I’d done as a returned missionary, what I wanted to have become, and what differences I wanted others to notice in me six months after returning home.

I’m not writing this to brag, but I just wanted to say that I’m really happy to announce that I met my goals! I continued to have really good scripture study every day, I went to the temple every week, I did well in all my classes, and I strengthened my ward. And yesterday, I WENT OUT WITH THE MISSIONARIES!!!!!! #MemberPresent I hope I’ve become more loving, thoughtful, and aware of others, more sensitive to the Spirit, healthier, and more clam/ relaxed. And I hope others notice that I’m better at accepting other ideas and opinions.

In summary, coming home from the mission is really hard. The mission is the Garden of Eden, and going back to the lone and dreary world is rough. But by continuing to set goals and make plans that bring us closer to the Savior, we can still be in His presence. I know that to be true, because I’ve seen it over these last six months. Not a day has gone by that I haven’t thought about my amazing time in LA or the incredible people I met, but I know the Lord needs me where I am now. He loves all of us beyond belief, and only desires our happiness. I know that.

The Cunning Plan

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Okay, I need to preface this by saying that I DETEST that expression. For one thing, it sounds totally tacky. Also, we know that it’s completely untrue, and is in fact a considerably irresponsible mindset. You do not only live once. Also, I hope this doesn’t sound preachy or self-righteous. It’s just some thoughts I’ve concocted over the last few days.

Anyway… In Sunday School last week, my teacher mentioned that some people are upset that others who party and mess around and do whatever they want may ultimately achieve the same reward as those who live righteously. She said they “kind of get the best of both worlds” because they “get to do both”.

That really puzzled me, because I can’t think of a single sin that I’d be happy I “got to” commit. The truth is, there is no such thing as a worthwhile sin, there is no such thing as an action without a consequence, and there is no such thing as forgiveness without repentance. No matter what we do, or how small the sin is, we still have to repent, which is indeed a process and must be completed by everyone, no matter who they are or under what circumstances the sin was committed. Alma has plenty to say on this.

The response of one member of our class was that when we get to the other side and are able to see our lives, we will see both the good and bad, and only wish we’d been able to do better. In short, we will never at any time be glad we were able to sin. That’s that. If YOLO, then this would all be different, and nothing would actually matter.

I just want to say that I’m very grateful that we know that YDOLO, and we have the opportunity to repent and be forgiven. 22 days until I take off to share that message!!

7 Yea, and there shall be many which shall say: Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die; and it shall be well with us.

8 And there shall also be many which shall say: Eat, drink, and be bmerry; nevertheless, fear God—he will justify in committing a little sin; yea, lie a little, take the advantage of one because of his words, dig a pit for thy neighbor; there is no harm in this; and do all these things, for tomorrow we die; and if it so be that we are guilty, God will beat us with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God.

9 Yea, and there shall be many which shall teach after this manner, false and vain and foolish doctrines, and shall be puffed up in their hearts, and shall seek deep to hide their counsels from the Lord; and their works shall be in the dark.

2 Nephi 28:7-9