It was an interesting birthday this year. Some years are better than others I guess. My birthday last year was so amazing thanks to my great roommates and friends at the time and thanks to all of you who sent me those birthday letters.
This year, most of my family and friends were gone. :( My brother did fly back into town that day so I was glad at least he came home on my birthday. We had some brother-sister time before I had to get back to do clinic and other school stuff. That evening a couple of my friends who were still around came with me to hike the Y. It was a small group and a little awkward at times, but it ended up okay. The weather was perfect and Heavenly Father gave me a beautiful sunset to end the day!
I contemplated the past year or so; the things I've accomplished and the kind of person I have become. I'm almost finished with graduate school and in another time of transition. I'm in a place in life I never thought I would be: a single woman and working professional (which is that LAST thing I ever wanted). But I have been given this time to serve my family and friends and all of Heavenly Father's children.
I think this next year will be a time to rediscover myself. I want to work on:
being more supportive and loving to my friends and family by being there for them and finding ways to show them I care
being more willing to sacrifice and take more time for people, because people and relationships are the most important things in life
not letting fear get in the way of faith and progress
be more diligent in my gospel study and fully trusting Heavenly Father to make my life what He wants
developing talents (piano, dance, photography, guitar, and I'm working on getting the courage to start learning the cello!)
I met Stephanie Nielson and her husband, Christian! As I waited in line to get her new book signed, I took a moment to look at her. I noticed her arms and hands, so badly scared from the burns she sustained in a plane crash a few years ago. I watched her fingers as she struggled to hold a pen to write. And here she was, signing hundreds of books for people she doesn't even know. Her husband was right there by her side supporting her, loving her, and radiating happiness (he too was burned in the crash). My heart was immediately filled with love. I felt Christ's love coming through her and into my heart. Here she was, nine months preganant, about to pop, not to mention the pain and challenges of being burned over 80% or her body, hardly able to hold a pen, and yet she was happily signing books and talking with each person individually. She was so gracious, so loving, so real, so happy. That is what life is all about. That is was love is all about. That is what Christ's gospel is all about.
When my turn came, I introduced myself. Stephanie said, "I hope you like the book." While she was signing I turned to her husband and said "I'm so glad you are here too." He replied that he always goes with her. Stephanie piped in an said "I don't go anywhere without him" and he replied that he didn't go anywhere without her either. They have such a beautiful relationship. I have been touched by their love and devotion for each other as I have seen and read about their relationship.
I got a quick photo with both of them. Stephanie said, "It is so nice to meet you." I thanked them, though a thank you seemed hardly enough for what I had just experienced and felt.
It was 30 seconds of "heaven." (Her new book is called "Heaven is Here." I'm so excited to read it!) My heart was full. And when I feel full of love, I just want to share it. I even hugged my new friend I had talked to while waiting in line (who was a total stranger just 30 min. before). The Spirit of Love was so strong as I pondered on my drive home. Life is hard. We all have trials and struggles, some are more visible than others. But we can find joy and happiness as we live the gospel of Jesus Christ and as we take the time to love, serve, and reach out to the people around us: our families, our friends, and even people we have never met. Life can be heavenly.
God is good. Life is good.
-March 31, 2012
P.S. I'm even in a picture on Stephanie's blog! Check it out!
I was reminded recently of the saying, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade." My response was, "Well, where am I going to get the sugar!" Life has given me plenty of lemons in the last little while, leaving my hopes and visions tainted with sourness. But I started thinking about the "sugar" in my life realized I have plenty of sugar to make some delicious lemonade!
my faithful and loving parents
my sweet and amazing brother
friends who support me and love me
a knowledge of my Heavenly Father who loves me and want me to be happy
a Savior Jesus Christ who made it possible for me to overcome my weaknesses
a place to live, food to eat, clothes to wear, blankets to keep me warm
a healthy body that allows me to learn, think, communicate, and experience joy
good music, photography, books, movies, and dancing
reading in my hammock, bike rides, frisbee, and hiking
beautiful nature, warm sunshine, and refreshing rain
Since Sis. Julie B. Beck was released as the General Relief Society President, I have been contemplating how much I have learned from her and how much I have loved her. I will never forget the talk "Mother's Who Knew" that she gave in conference shortly after she was called to be the president. That talk spoke of the kind of woman that I am working to become.
I also had a recent experience with Sis Beck (on February 3, 2012). I was with my family at the Mt. Timpanogos Temple doing baptisms for some of my ancestors. A temple worker came into the room and said we had a "special visitor" and in walked Sis. Julie B. Beck. Wow! She came around and shook each of our hands. When she came to me she looked right into my eyes. I could feel her looking into my soul. It was so powerful. She was asked to share something with us on the spot (what an example she is of being in tune with the Spirit to be able to share messages without any notice or preparation). She talked about how the power of God is manifest in the ordinances and quoted D&C 84:19-21. The Spirit of God was so powerful as she testified.
I am grateful for Sis. Beck's example, service, and love. I look forward to continually learning from her legacy, as well as learning from the new Relief Society Presidency.
I have proof that the scriptures were written for our day! ;) I was reading in John 2 about Christ's first miracle of turning the water to wine. What a interesting moment when the servants, who had filled the pots with water, drew wine from the pots, which the governor said was the best yet! It made me smile in verse 9 when it said ". . . the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew ;)" It winked! I'm serious, go look it up. John 2:9. In my mind, I could just see Jesus Christ giving the servants a wink as they obediently took what they thought was water to the governor, and to their surprise, found that it was wine. It's silly, I know. But I find joy in little things like that. Has God winked at you lately?
Have you ever noticed that people generally don't talk on elevators? It is the funniest thing. Even a group of people will be talking and then when they walk into the elevator and the doors close . . . dead silence. Also everyone turns around to face the door. I think it is hilarious.
I work on the 12th floor of a hospital so I'm on the elevator several times a day. I have been trying to talk with someone on the elevator and brighten there day. Most of them are stressed because they have a family member in the hospital, or they are a clueless student like me. It is amazing what you can get out of a person in just the 30 seconds you are with them on an elevator. I try to get them to smile before they get off onto their floor. And it makes me happier too. Try it next time you are on an elevator. You'll be amazed at what happens!
Elevators also remind me of Carl B. Cook's story of a day he felt overwhelmed with his head hung low, staring at the elevator floor. He heard a voice ask him "What are you looking at down there?" It was President Thomas S. Monson who then said, "It is better to look up!" I hope we can look up to God, trust Him, and help those around us "look up" and feel of His love.
It has been five years since I returned home from my mission
to Chile. I served an 18-month mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints and was assigned to Antofagasta, Chile. When I arrived in the
driest desert in the world (the Atacama Desert), I felt like I had landed on
the moon. Everything was foreign to me and my comfort zone was long gone. But I
learned so much from my time in Chile. It was difficult, but I wouldn't trade
those months for anything.
Then - Iquique Chile, 2005
(this wasn't my desk, I was never that messy!)
Now - Graduate School, 2011
(this also wasn't my desk, and I'm not this organized anymore)
have never felt so much joy in my life as I did while serving the Lord Jesus
Christ every minute of every day during my mission. Since I have come home, my
life has not gone the way I thought it would (surprise, surprise). Life never
does. I never thought I would get a Master's degree, and here I am in my second
year. Heavenly Father is stretching me and helping me to become better and
stronger than I could ever imagine.
Then - the mission made me fat
Now - Graduate school made me a little too skinny
I reflected on the goals that I set upon leaving the mission. It was humbling to see some of the goals that I had accomplished and a lot that I haven't. I'm so grateful for repentance and the chance to change and become better. There are so many things to work on. I'm grateful for anniversaries, birthday, and holidays that make us look back and reflect on our lives, see how far we have come, and determine what we want to accomplish next.