March book: Princess Academy

Okay, I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to read this book! It was first published in 2005, and I feel like I’ve been hearing about it every since. But for some reason I never got around to reading it… Until now!

Brief background: Miri is a young girl living with her father and sister on Mount Eskel. The king’s priests divine that someone from their small village will be the prince’s bride, so all the eligible young maidens are sent to an academy to learn how to be a princess.

What I loved: A ROCKSTAR FEMALE PROTAGONIST. Miri is everything I could hope for in a heroine. She’s flawed but still lovable, she’s got a boy but he’s not a big part of the story, she’s strong-willed and kind. Big fan.

February book: Rising Strong

Brene Brown is quite literally changing my life.

This month’s book was her most recent gift to the world– Rising Strong. It’s a book about getting back up after falling down, which inevitably happens when we’re being brave and vulnerable.

Some highlights:
“The only decision we get to make is what role we’ll play in our lives.”

“To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.”

“The irony is that we attempt to disown our difficult stories to appear more whole more more acceptable, but our wholeness– even our wholeheartedness– actually depends on the integration of all of our experiences, including the falls.”

“Regret is a tough but fair teacher. To live without regret is to believe you have nothing to learn, no amends to make, and no opportunity to be braver with your life.’

“Connection doesn’t exist without giving and receiving. We need to give and we need to need.”

“Integrity is choosing courage over comfort; choosing what is right over what is fun, fast or easy; and choosing to practice our values rather than simply professing them.”

“The most dangerous stories we make up are the narratives that diminish our worthiness. We must reclaim the truth about our lovability, divinity, and creativity.”

“The middle is messy, but it’s also where the magic happens.”

And then this BEAUTY:

So the essence of the book is to be mindful about your emotions, and really think about WHY you’re feeling/ reacting a certain way, rather than letter an experience or reaction define you. She talking about “rumbling with our stories” and getting curious about emotion. I love it.

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:

Moana and Me

It feels like just yesterday that I was watching “Frozen” for the first time, long after everyone else was over it. I had just returned from my mission, and I had to be obsessed with “Frozen” all by myself. I wrote a post about Gospel parallels in “Frozen” to process all my feelings.

Today I’d like to do the same thing with “Moana”. Although I’m not longer recently returned from my mission, I still love nothing more than a good Gospel analogy. And this time it’s not months after the fact.

The Gospel parallel I want to discuss is Moana discovering who she is. There’s a time when Moana is all by herself on the ocean, and she comes to the realization that she is a chief’s daughter, and a descendent of sea voyagers. With this new understanding, she is given the strength to steer herself through the storm.

The first thing missionaries teach is that God is our loving Heavenly Father, and we are His children. I grew up singing “I Am a Child of God” from like the day I was born, and reciting “We are daughters of our Heavenly Father who loves us, and we love Him” every week from age 12-18. What a gift.

As I watched Moana realize who she is, I was reminded of the Truth I’ve known all my life about who I am– a daughter of God. The tears flew freely as I thought, “I am Amber Blair. I am a daughter of my Heavenly Father who loves me, and I love Him.” He created me to succeed, and He gave me special gifts and unique talents to help me.

Understanding who we are is a superpower I think can really be channelled to help us be successful. What immense confidence can come from focusing completely on Father’s opinion of us and His great love.

January Book: The Gifts of Imperfection, by Brene Brown

Just finished this AMAZING book by Brene Brown, which explores the keys to Wholehearted living. As you know, I struggle with perfectionism. This book opened my eyes to where perfectionism may have its roots (shame) and how I can overcome it and live more authentically.

Here are some highlights:
*”Every time we choose courage, we make everyone around us a little better and the world a little braver. And the world could stand to be a little kinder and braver.”

*”Until we can receive with an open heart, we are never really giving with an open heart. When we attach judgment or receiving help, we knowingly or unknowingly attach judgment to giving help.”

*”Practicing self love means learning how to trust ourselves, to treat ourselves with respect, and to be kind and affectionate toward ourselves.”

*”The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.”

*”Our imperfections are not inadequacies; they are reminders that we’re all in this together. Imperfectly, but together.”

*”Hope is a combination of setting goals, having the tenacity and perseverance to pursue them, and believing in our own abilities.”

*”Tolerance for disappointment, determination, and a belief in self are the heart of hope.”

*”Overcoming self doubt is all about believing we’re enough and letting go of what the world says we’re supposed to be and supposed to call ourselves.”

*”Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

Here’s to cultivating hope!

The Anatomy of a “Menace to Society”

All my life I’ve heard snide references to the concept of a “menace to society”, as Brigham Young allegedly referred to unmarried people over the age of 25.

According to Brigham Young, yesterday I became a menace to society.

Although I’m aware that Brigham Young’s time was different than ours, and he was actually talking about men, and he may not have even said it, I want to make one thing abundantly clear:

I am not a menace to society.

I spend 9 hours, 5 days a week, with 20 children who are the leaders of tomorrow. I’m teaching them how to think critically. I’m teaching them how to clearly articulate their opinions in writing, and how to determine accurate and inaccurate sources of information. I’m teaching them about current events, and we’re discussing what kinds of things we can and can’t control. I’m teaching them to be thoughtful readers. I’m teaching them about the world around them and the vastness of the universe. I’m teaching them how to persevere through problem solving as they learn to solve algebraic expressions. I’m teaching them to be kind, respectful, and responsible. I’m teaching them to express gratitude and think about the needs of others before their own. I’m teaching them to fight back to bullies and stand up for people who are getting bullied. I’m teaching them that they are special, and they can can accomplish whatever they put their minds to if they’re willing to work hard.

I don’t really know what a menace to society is, but I think society would be full of a lot more menaces if we didn’t have teachers.

That’s all.

There’s a Crack in Everything

My thoughts today center on being okay with not being perfect. Unfortunately, that’s something I can’t say I’ve achieved. However, I’m working on it.

I was studying 1 Nephi 10 the other day, and a few verses really stuck out to me.

First was verse 6.

My favorite part of that verse is the last line– “UNLESS they should rely on this Redeemer.” (That’s the direct Spanish translation.) We’re not fallen if we rely on the Lord!

Then verse 10.
It’s just talking about what Jesus will do when He’s on Earth, and the last line brings me peace. It says Jesus will “take away the sins of the world.”

Duh. I already knew that. I’ve read this verse a million times.

But He will TAKE AWAY our shortcomings! They will be gone! We will one day be perfect!

I can’t really explain why I care so much about being perfect. I know we aren’t expected to be perfect now, and I know we just need to do our best. But the idea that Jesus will take away our sins and make us perfect brings me more comfort that I can convey through words. What a relief.

Then on top of that, He gives us weaknesses to bring us closer to Him. This song speaks deeply to me. I hate that I have weaknesses, or cracks. But that’s how the Light gets in.