Monday, April 17, 2017

Most Recent Trial

How do you give up something good now for something better or best in the future? How do you exercise that faith to let one thing go when the next thing hasn't come along yet?

That's where I'm at. I have mostly given up someone, trying to move on, and yet I am reminded of the good parts. I believe there is someone better or best for me, but I must be willing to let go of the good before that person comes into my life.


It's been difficult. However, I have been inspired to do some things that help me to overcome these longing feelings of the past. One was to write one letter every day for five days (about 30 minutes each time) about everything I was feeling. I wasn't planning on giving the letters to the person I'm trying to move on from, but after a few days, the impression came very clearly. I sent them in the mail.


Another thing that has helped me to move on was to make a list of the things I really appreciated about our relationship and then things I really didn't like or didn't want to repeat in my next relationship. These items were less about him and more about me, at least the negative ones were.


It has been confirmed to me recently by other women that we might feel a certain way. and then the guy feels a different way. What's important is to stay true to what you feel, even if you don't have anyone else who agrees with you. A standard for one might not be the same standard for another. One of the things I want to do better in my next relationship is to hold myself more accountable and be more faithful to my inner compass, to stop doing things I know are wrong (even if the impression is subtle) and to be more valiant in the things I know are right and good and safe.


I guess they say the best way to mourn/get over the loss of a faithful old dog is to get a puppy. While I'm sure the distraction is great, I don't have too many puppies available, and I'm not sure throwing all my previous baggage into a new relationship is a good idea, but I can at least focus my energy in other pursuits, like starting up my business.


And can I just say that working through this relationship has been really helpful for me learning to love myself? I have learned recently that there is a natural me: the selfish, childish, slothful, frustrated, depressed, forgetful and underdeveloped me. There is also a spiritual me: refined, merciful, benevolent, loving, patient, caring, and longsuffering. I have been prompted lately to allow the spiritual me to minster to the natural me. I permit her to come, and she comes down to my level, shows compassion, and encourages me to try again, or to keep crying as long as I need to, but that it is better to not get so hung up on these bumps in the road.


In reality, my spiritual self is only made possible by Jesus Christ. I can't ever hope to be benevolent and longsuffering if it wasn't for His example. I am thankful that He loves me, even in this very imperfect state. He loves me until I'm perfect, like Him.


Though at times I would like to be rid of this trial I can't seem to shake, I really have come a long way, and I would be ungrateful not to notice the progress or divine assistance that has been given to me.


Now that I see the blessings of being ministered to in my affliction, I might actually get to the point where I ask for hard things. I'm still trepidatious about asking for trials, but I do see the necessity--and the great benefit--that come from experiencing hardships in order to come to know Christ and to be refined in the process.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Faith for a Moment

While travelling north, I stopped at Cove Fort. This is a roadside historical attraction in Utah on the way to Salt Lake City. The fort was used as a safe haven for travelers, post office workers, and telegram operators during the Black Hawk War from 1867 to 1897. Brigham Young, the prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the time, asked Ira Hinckley and a few other men to build the fort as part of a church service mission. Within an hour of receiving the letter from the prophet, Ira and his family were packed and ready to go south.

But Mr. Hinckley would not have been able to leave in such a hurry if he had not spent countless hours tuning his will to the Lord's, studying His word, and following and trusting the counsel of His prophet. All the preparation beforehand was needed for this quick but powerful act of faith.

I have come to Utah for a new chapter in my life. I have come from California. I have felt like this is a good time to leave and dedicate myself to living in another place. I was singing this morning:
It may not be on the mountain height or over the stormy sea,
it may not be at the battle's front my Lord will have need of me.
But if, by a still, small voice He calls to paths that I do not know,
I'll answer, dear Lord, with my hand in thine: I'll go where you want me to go.
No, my impression to come to another state did not come in a letter or as directly to Ira Hinckley. They were small impressions. I did get one clear impression when I came to visit in September that I should be here, but I haven't received much instruction since then. I don't know where to live or what type of job to get. And  maybe that's what needs to happen; maybe I need to choose for myself, and the Lord will make adjustments. But after singing this song this morning, I am prompted to ask myself, "Where does the Lord need me?" not "Where do I need to go?"

He has not left me alone, but I must seek His counsel. I will be told in small pieces, one at a time, where I need to be and what I need to be doing, but that will probably come as I make plans, present them to the Lord, and then execute them. He will not do all the work for me, I must build on the work that has been done in the past. This might be my leap of faith, but it is preceded by acts of faith, and it will be followed by acts of faith.

Well, time to get to work.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

A Dream I Had

There was a main house. It was pretty big. It was an orphanage or shelter or humanitarian organization's headquarters. We were looking out the window onto the garden/back yard. There was a crazy guy (but not manic) that we knew was a murderer who was in a mini van in the yard. He was kind of being held up in the van by guys that were friends or workers of the organization. They had surrounded the van, but there were only about four of them.

I think we had loaded another van of people who needed attention (almost all children) to go to some hospital or specialty care facility. There was a woman in there with her child. She was black, and she looked to be suffering from AIDS or malnutrition. The sliding door to the van was open. Somehow, I was inside. 

Then, all of a sudden, our murderer in the other van decided to make his move: he quickly shifted from his van to the one I was in. I couldn't believe it, that he was so bold as to come out. He didn't look at us as he came into the van; he was just preoccupied with accomplishing his task. He opened the door and got in the driver's seat (which was on the U.S. passenger side of the car). Once I saw that, I jumped out of the sliding door as soon as possible and frantically tried to get out as many kids as I could. Some got out on their own. I think it was a combination of me knowing how severe the situation was--and they didn't move fast enough out of that van, motivated by fear--and I don't think I could speak their language. They weren't all black; some were brown. I saw one final child, a boy, that was within reach of getting out. I raised my eyebrows and made my eyes big, telling him, "You have to get out, now!" He held out his hands, and I grabbed him under his armpits and hoisted him out of the van, over that mother with her child. I looked at her. There was no time. The murderer drove off in a hurry, taking with him some few children and that mother in his escape. 

Hours later (or maybe days), I saw that mother and her child on a hospital/mortician's table. That was the photo that would tell the story.

***

I think the fuel for this dream was partly this book that I read a couple of weeks ago, What Matters. It's photojournalism and articles about the top distressing world issues--poverty, AIDS, water--all told through captivating pictures. As I read that book, I also thought, "Where is my place in all this? What can I do? What do I do?"

In my dream, I happened to be able to help tremendously those children, but some got away. I couldn't do it all, and we had some real losses.

Not all of the impact I make in my life will be as clear-cut as my dream. But I would like to figure out my purpose in serving others--what is my niche? Where is my small spot?

Sunday, June 14, 2015

The Dilemma of Choice

What if you could reduce an object to the status of being just an object?

Too often, we think of possessions as more than what they are. How many people are addicted to their phones or think that they would be helpless without them? The phone can take on the role of lifeline, connection, informant, or devoted record keeper. The phone becomes more than just a phone.

When you pick a mobile phone, there are many hidden options that pop up: What is your wallpaper going to be? How much time will you spend looking for just the right photo, and then cropping it? How long will it last as your wallpaper before you look for another one? On that note, what about the phone itself? How often do you think about upgrading and switching to another phone? How much would the new phone cost? How much would the plan be? What accessories would you need to buy? What will your ringtone be? Where will you buy it from? Will it be what you want? Will you ever be satisfied?

Taking all these options into account, I realized that I was spending about as much time thinking about the maintenance of my phone as actually using it. I also became aware of the thin line I was walking by constantly handling my smartphone while driving (such as changing my music preference every 2.5 minutes). It seemed fulfilling my right to choice was the way I wasted time.

I switched to a "clam shell" dumb phone a year and a half ago. I appreciate the limited connection I have with it. I notice that I see it just as a phone now. I picked one wallpaper, and it has stayed there the whole time. I don't have phone envy. This phone is just right for me.

I have done the same with earrings. When I noticed I was becoming a woman on my mission in Argentina, I got my ears hand-pierced by a woman with an ice block and specially-pointed first-timer earrings. I thought,  "This opens up a whole new world! Now I can wear all those earrings I've been wanting to wear!" I would always look at the shiny stuff in stores (and I still do), comparing earrings, buying many, trying them out, getting rid of them for perceived obsolescence, and trying to find my favorites. But maybe I created a market for options when I didn't have to. In Peru, because of a lack of ideal sanitation conditions, my ears would hurt when I would wear the earrings I brought with me. To eliminate the issue, I bought gold studs, and I have switched them out only a handful of times since then. They are an adequate choice to wear every day, and even though I originally though choice was better, I have since all but eradicated it to give my brain a rest.

I would like to extend this limitation of choice to other areas in my life. Take clothing for example. My clothing choices reflect my concern to be what others want me to be. I have said various times that if I could wear anything I want, it would be full floor-length skirts and Victorian tops. But I feel my clothing plays a role in my relationship with society. It helps me be seen as not an outcast, as a regular upstanding citizen. I feel like I have to conform, to a certain extent, to what the general public desires of me in order to be "successful." And if I don't feel it from society at large (or rather, from advertising agencies), my clothes-savvy sister will interject with mild comments that I need to update my wardrobe.

When I was in Peru, I only had four tops and three bottoms with one dress. I didn't have to worry about what I was going to wear that day because, one, there weren't many options, and two, I had already trusted those articles of clothing to make me look decent.

When I do end up being critical of how flattering a dress or shirt makes me look, I am almost always disappointed, and label it a reject item. I know I will soon be at the stores again, searching for the perfect item, which always seems to elude my grasp. Recently, however, I have been choosing those decent clothes again, the clothing that is acceptable, but not radical. The clothing that I don't have to spend extra time thinking about. Shouldn't the critical thinking only be confined to the time before making the purchase? Obviously, there are people who see clothing as an expression of opinion, almost an art form for creating. I am not one of those people. I would rather remove the option.

And that's not such a bad idea. After being in other countries, I am astounded at how much choice we have here in America. Just go to any regular store (which is usually a large store), and you'll see an endless assortment of toothpaste options. How is anyone supposed to make a choice with so many available? Many times, we don't choose. It becomes too overwhelming. If there happened to be a smaller number of options, we could spend a proper amount of time researching and comparing the available products to see which one best suited our needs, but that's nearly impossible now. An abundance of choice sometimes makes things harder than they have to be.

And so here is the goal I have set for myself: when I can see a phone as just a means of communication, earrings as just a small embellishment, or clothing just as a means to cover the body from the elements, things become a whole lot simple and clearer. Options just for options sake are not helpful or beneficial. When I reduce something to its basic function, I can see it for what it really is: a tool.


Sunday, May 24, 2015

Unseen Accomplishments

I don't want to be prideful, but I have to acknowledge something I don't usually acknowledge.

I went to Argentina to return to my mission. It was a very short trip, in relation to the amount of time I originally spent there 7 years ago.

While I was travelling there, I reviewed some of the papers I had kept from my mission. A few of them were from my mission president, encouraging me to maintain good habits when I got back home. As I read through the lists, and even one that I had made of goals I wanted to accomplish when I got home to 'normal life,' I realized that I had maintained and kept almost all of those aspirations. Things like consistently studying my scriptures, talking with my Heavenly Father in prayer, and going to church faithfully, I was accomplishing.

Just recently my focus has started to shift from accomplishments to strengthening good habits. The later is more sustainable, and can be applied to all future environments, no matter the accomplishments or lack of them. While it seemed as I was visiting my mission again that I didn't have visible accomplishments of my years at home (a boyfriend, a husband, or children, for example), I had maintained my standards. Though members were quick to ask about those outward successes, I didn't receive hardly any questions about my fidelity in the Church or how I had grown and matured at home.

Now that I realize how successful I've been at maintaining my testimony, I feel grateful and blessed. A thought came into my head today: these little efforts are like rowing a boat. Though rowing might seem repetitive, at times boring, or at least not as interesting as doing something else, how would you expect to get somewhere if you stopped rowing?

It's the little actions that make the difference and compound to eventually make up a life of service and sacrifice, a life worthy of marvelous blessings. 

Monday, May 4, 2015

Lost Regularity

Sometimes I forget that people are gone.


Sometimes I think that I can go back and all the places and things will be the same. 

I can go back to the street that I grew up on and see Grandma Monson. She can welcome me and we'll talk on her front porch.


I can visit Aunt Pat in Yuma or Grandpa Lindsay in San Luis Obispo at his retirement home. 

These people aren't there anymore, and I feel a sense of loss that I can't easily go back there again. 

But I know they continue on, and when I get to where they are, we'll sit on the front porch and tell stories and reconnect as if we hadn't been separated by death.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

On Love

A couple of days ago, I helped walk a dog with a lady  who's very much an activist. We had never met, and so she asked me questions about my life. I got to learn about her life, too. She asked me about future plans, and I said I would like my next endeavor to really open up my heart.

It would be blind and ungrateful of me to not recognize and give thanks for the love I feel for others now and have felt in the past. There are certain people I am just endeared to, and I want to support them with energy and love. But I guess that old vice named Comparison has crept into my brain again. (By the way, "Comparison is the death of joy.") When I look at the awe-inspiring examples of Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King, Jr., I feel like I should love more than I do. I even regularly wear a necklace inspired by the words of Mother Teresa: "Do small things with great love."

I admit that I am a naturally selfish person. I think most of us are. And if not selfish, then ego-centric. We worry about what we will do next, what will happen to us, and what to plan for in our lives. But how often do I plan to serve others? That might be the first step for me--consciously making an effort to search outside of myself for someone to show love to. With the aforementioned Greats, love was part of their being, and I eventually want to reach that level, where love inspires everything I do.

What I think makes me a little unique is that I feel I have a lack of universal compassion. It is hard for me to put myself in other people's shoes. I have a hard time connecting with people. When I see a commercial for international children's help, I don't immediately have the compassion that my mother or sister have, for example, of feeling pain for them.

As I am reading a book about Mother Teresa, some questions come into my mind, questions that I'm afraid to ask to other people, lest I should be looked down upon for feeling this way.


  • What is poverty, really? Consider this for a moment.
  • Is poverty not living like the middle class of the United States?
  • Is it only not being able to provide for the necessities?
  • What is our role in alleviating poverty?
  • Can it be eradicated?
  • What about poverty that's not monetary? Many poor people are actually rich in spirit.
  • Am I supposed to feel a desire to alleviate all suffering?
  • Isn't suffering necessary to teach us valuable lessons, lessons that we otherwise could not learn with all our needs taken care of?
  • Is it because I have had every need satisfied in my upbringing that I feel that some suffering could actually do me good?
  • And what of the work of the sister missionaries of Calcutta? What if the recipients of their service are not worthy of it? What if they abuse the gifts given to them?
  • How can I tell when someone is suffering?
  • Really, what can I do?



I learned in Church recently that when trying to comfort someone, you should express sadness that the person is going through what they are, but then bear testimony that it is only Christ that can really help them. (I think this is more for loss than temporal grief. I.E. I'm not going to say to someone with a bleeding leg, "I'm sorry, but there isn't anything I can do for your leg except tell you to lean on Christ." Obviously, there are practical things I could do to relieve that person's suffering.) I was in Argentina once and could see the problems of everyone around me, and it was made clear to me in that moment that I really couldn't do anything to solve their problems, but I could invite them to go to Christ and experience the aid that He freely gives.

So what is my role? Should all suffering be eradicated? Does that change my responsibility?

I was in Cuba recently, and I was painting a door of a church for a service project. I realized there were two ways to paint this door: one could be to look at it as a task to be done, and the other was to put my love into it. My ordinary actions can become more than what I do if I do them with love.

As it says in the book I'm reading, "The [Calcutta] missionaries' absolute conviction that they are serving Christ 'in the distressing guise of the poor' makes their arduous and repetitive labor sacred." Maybe a first step to having more love for my fellow beings is to think of them as Christ. Would I really turn down the opportunity to serve Him if He was standing right in front of me, begging for money? Though I may not outright feel love for that person specifically, I can show my love to my God and do it "unto the least of these."



What about you? Do you have a natural ability to love or has it been cultivated over time? What do you do to serve others? How do you maintain proper perspective when doing seemingly boring or insignificant work?