Saturday, January 26, 2008

President Hinckley, beloved prophet

I had the lights off and was comfortably in bed at about 10:40 tonight. My brain had thoroughly shut down by 11:30 until my dad knocked on the door--


I flipped around, "Yeah?" Even I was surprised how alert I sounded.

"President Hinckley passed away; I just thought you would want to know."

"Okay," I replied, subdued. "Thanks for letting me know."

So here I am, at almost 1am, wide awake since I had what amounted to a power nap, with a whole lot to think about.

I'm glad President Hinckley gets to hug his wife again. I could tell how much he missed her. I'm grateful for his courageous and wise leadership -- he's the only prophet I remember well enough to love. I remember finding out that President Hunter had died and being sure that it would be okay, because there was a new, special man who would be prophet. And that was President Hinckley. He helped me to know that I had a testimony of the sacredness of the priesthood, and the importance of the office of prophet, from a very early age.

It's the closing of an era.

I love -- yes, present tense -- President Hinckley so much. His optimism, love, and devotion to the forwarding of God's work on the earth will continue to be wonderful assets to the kingdom. But I'll miss him here.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Can I just get this figured out already, please?

So here's the deal.

I go to a wonderfully cheap private school -- most of my school expenses are paid by donations before they even send me the bill. (Awesome, no?) Therefore, my tuition for next semester -- 12+ credits -- is $1530.

My beloved apartment is cheaper over the summer, so housing is about $700.

Because I am a single college co-ed, I can afford to eat for about $25 a week, and with, what, 14 weeks in each semester, that comes to $350.

Books are variable, but a safe average is $500. Thank goodness I can sell them back.

For the first time, I will be buying a one-way ticket. Basically, I don't know for sure when I'm coming back, and it's less to pay up-front. Judging by the price I can get right now, and adding the shuttle from the airport, that's about $200. I have about $225 right now, so I could pay for this right this second if I needed to. (Gas money would be nice though.)

So my expenses for next semester come to a total of $3280. Subtract from that my federal student loan for the semester and that goes to $1968. I figured out that if I make about $5.50 an hour, work 20 hours a week, and work for 10 weeks, I can pay tithing and make $1000 by the time I go back to school. That leaves another $1000 to figure out so that I can pay for next semester.

My options: two jobs this winter, and a job during the semester, and an additional student loan.

I can do this. I can do this. I can do this.

Wait a sec ---

God loves me.

We can do this.

Edit: Dad loves me, too. Apparently, we three can do this. I get the feeling that things will be okay.

Picture Walk

The weather today is beautiful: clear skies and temperatures in the mid-60s. This, my friend, is a North Carolina winter. It hovers between autumn and spring, with the dry leaves that linger on the trees, and the ferns that always stay green. (In my humble opinion, the quality of the air, the quiet breathing of the woods, was more like early spring than late autumn today.)

The last swelling of sunlight coming in my window is all winter, however. The glare would be a burden in any other kind of sky; here and now, however, it is a brave kind of glow, a last shine before it leaves the world cold again until morning. The sky in the west is white with it.

I don't know how, on days like this, I can spend so much of it feeling not-quite-right. But, of course, I continue to try to live fully, to love my life and my circumstances, the plot and setting of the story I'm writing with the help of the author and finisher of faith. I'm trying to be humble, to remember where my true strength lies and not be overly disappointed in myself when I realize (over and over) that my own contributions to my joy are not enough, not without my Savior.

So in an effort to do that, today, I am deeply grateful for my backyard, for North Carolina winters, for my Heavenly Father who provides so much joy, if only I will look to Him.

"Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us." Hebrews 12:1

Monday, January 21, 2008

Physical Pain

I am so grateful for the practically pain-free life that I lead.

The most I ever have is a little headache, solved by a night's rest and/or a tall glass of water, or sore shoulders from too much slumping that day. My physical body is such a blessing to me. I am so very amazed at how healthy I am, and that I don't really have to do anything extra in order to be enjoy such excellent health. My body-health to-do list is short: get enough sleep, keep my eating balanced, don't sit around all day, stay clean.

And yet I tend to be a big whiner about it when something slips -- most often my sleep, at school anyway -- and I spend a few days feeling gross. I should appreciate this gift I have been given more than I do; I have witnessed in several people that I love the stress and heartache (and tough learning) that can come of physical pain.

So here's to you, body: I love you, and thank you for being as good to me as you are, even when I don't appreciate it. And here's to you, Dad: I hope you'll be okay.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

What's up...Doc?

This chip on my shoulder
Makes me smarter and bolder
No more whining or blaming
I am reclaiming my pride!

When I first heard that Legally Blonde was becoming a musical, I positively groaned. It was a fun but silly movie, and putting the whole thing to music would only make it worse.

Or so I thought. My sister has this wonderful habit of introducing me to really wonderful music and Legally Blonde: The Musical was no exception. The above stanza is part of this fabulous song where the main character, finally realizes that her plan to get back the man of her dreams has completely failed. Her new friend basically says it's about time she figured out how ridiculous she was being, and to get. to. WORK! So Elle, formerly the clueless Malibu Barbie she looks, takes his challenge to become more and to earn something really amazing, just to prove she can, and she's doing it for her.

Now I know I'm not blonde or a future lawyer, but I just can't stop listening to this song. Given the situation I am in right now, I could really use a reason to be "driven as ----!", because I'm not sure how I'm going to manage all of this.

But honestly, is that really the point?

I think I've been telling myself that this me that I see right now is the only one I'll ever get. I need to look at the bigger picture, and remember the future rewards of my hard work. I can be smart and bold, without whining or blaming, because of something I should already have and know. I can trust both God and what I've been given, and not be afraid.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Take it a moment at a time.

Breathe in, breathe out. Concentrate on your breathing.


Exist, in this moment, with purpose. Feel. Use your whole body.

Keep breathing, and feel yourself get lighter.

Relax. Everything is slowing down.

Just breathe. Enjoy the sensation of your muscles stretching to make room for the air.

All things are possible with God. So put him first, and everything else will fall into place.

For now, just be. Believe. Everything will be okay.


I tell so many dumb puns on a regular basis that today, my sister mis-heard me and thought I was making an ABYSMALLY stupid pun instead of the average comment I had actually said.

That makes me giggle.

I enjoy the ridiculous, and noticing every tiny funny thing and pointing it out. I like to keep an ear out for things that certain people find funny and spout them back at just the perfect moment. It's so satisfying!

I particularly enjoy making my family laugh. My little brother and I have a rather similar sense of humor...random, and more funny to us than to anyone else! My sister is a bit on the cynical side and therefore a real, round laugh is a beautiful thing coming from her, and reminds me how much I really, truly like her. My favorite favorite person to make laugh, though, is my dad. Anyone who knows my dad can see why this would be so delightful. He's a gruff, stoic kind of person and I think his main priority in life is teaching his children that life is serious business, and it won't be his fault if we don't do it well. I love him for that, because like everything else he does, he does it well. But I don't think he laughs quite enough. So if we can sit around the table because Dad is bored and figures he'll keep Joe and I company while we play board games, I'll take the opportunity -- somewhat unconsciously -- to be frank and funny and hopefully, a rewarding person to be around.

It just feels good to both elicit and enjoy wholesome, honest laughter. I almost wonder if it qualifies as a spiritual gift, because done right, it really does bring groups of people closer together, and make you grateful for the love present there.

And that makes me joyful.

Monday, January 14, 2008


I, unlike the two friends I once talked to every day, have not gone "radio silent."

I don't watch Alias, but I would guess that I know a little what SD-6 feels like when Sydney is gone. It gets really quiet around here, and I can't even stay busy by trying to sabotage the CIA.

That's not to say I haven't been doing anything. I am, as Alma says, trying the virtue of the word of God, except that the only person I'm trying to convert is myself. I tend to forget how wonderful "boring" can much I enjoy having as much time as I want to think about God and my relationship with Him, and what we, together, can do to help me be more like Him.

In my prayers I've been asking to know what to pray for -- I highly recommend it. It's brought me people's stories (one friend's husband has cancer, another feels swamped with her tiny kids and school and work -- now, I pray for them and others) and a greater sense of gratitude (have you been outside lately? have you laughed out loud with your brother for an hour straight recently? why not? isn't that what life is all about?) and immense amounts of guidance.

The guidance part takes a little explaining. I will be like most college students next semester -- no more handouts for Sara. I, the girl who finds anything more than the minimum full-time class load rather suicidal, will be juggling 14 credits and all of the homework that involves, a job without a car to get there, a church calling, sleep, meals, my sweet friends, and whatever smidgen of downtime I can steal in order not to go completely, desperately, tearily psycho. And heaven forbid I meet a boy, too. Ugh.

I'm trying to use this semester to one, enjoy just being me, in whatever setting I am in, and two, prepare for the intensity that April could bring. Both of these goals have brought me to where I am now. Listening to talks. Reading my scriptures in abundance. Writing pages in my journal instead of paragraphs. I've focused on learning about patience, humility, and work so far, and am looking forward to where the Lord takes me.

I think I'm also learning the eternal importance of being able to adapt. Life never stays the same, that's for certain, but I've found that with some work, my relationship with the Lord can be a bright and solid beacon through any kind of change, even sin. Sin to me is an action that actually pulls us away from God, instead of bringing us closer to Him...but it doesn't matter, because we can bounce back. We can put forth that work, and recommit ourselves, and be headed back up the mountain of the Lord, toward His presence, once again.

So, with all of that in mind, I'm off to bed, peaceful, grateful, and basking in the hope of a brighter day. And I wish you the same.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

A Letter to Me for Darker Days

Dear Sara,

Did you know that when you got up this morning, you looked in the mirror and smiled? I know, I know, your disheveled hair was pretty funny. But do you remember the actual reason? It's because you looked in the mirror and thought, "I am beautiful." Do you think that maybe, possibly, you could do that today? Yeah, today your hair is probably just as disheveled (or maybe not) and your skin is driving you to the mad house (or it isn't) and you've never felt fatter (or perhaps that's not the case at all.) Whatever the case, I want you to remember that the person who smiled at you this morning is still you...she can still have the same light in her green eyes if you let her. Be close to the Lord, and love life and yourself not necessarily for what they give you, but what for what you can give back to them -- even if it is nothing more than your love. It's even allowed to be reluctantly-given now and then. But don't give up; keep smiling.



P.S. One of your friends thinks that the following should be added:

"You are an awesome person with a great talent to make other people smile. This talent would be wasted if you didn't smile yourself. You are a great friend to those who need you and you are very thoughtful. The people who don't know you are missing out on knowing a wonderful person.

"Remember too, that the Lord loves you, even when you don't. He is always there for you and wants to bless you beyond measure. Remember Him and He will never forget you! You are a blessed daughter of God, talented in many ways. And remember, those with whom you share friendship are grateful for that appellation."

So remember that too, and that you have really fabulous friends who see the best in you, even if you don't think you've done anything to deserve such great people, and such a beautiful life.


Friday, January 4, 2008

Little Wonders

When I'm trying really hard to be happy, and it's really mostly working, I remember something.

Being happy is a whole lot of WORK.


Let it go, let it roll right off your shoulder.

I remember that it doesn't come naturally to allow things I can't control to be in God's hands, and that finding something good to think about (instead of overthinking something else that's less-than-good) requires so much forethought and persistence.

Don't you know the hardest part is over?

I have to remind myself that if I am taking the time to be happy, it is because I have the capacity -- emotionally, mentally, spiritually -- not to mention the time to focus to being close to the Lord, and that's not often the case. Putting in this much effort into something this important is worth it.

Let it in, let your clarity define you.

These are the times when I know myself best, after all, and that's because I know the Lord better than I do at more cluttered seasons of my life. I realized the other day that I have a response, founded on gospel principles and personal revelation, to every major issue I have with myself (that I can think of off the top, anyway -- let's be realistic here!) If that's not God-given clarity, I don't know what is. Now of course I may have a response to my "Big Issues," but what makes being happy so much work is applying them, over and over again, and not deciding that it's easier to be miserable.

In the end, we will only just remember how it feels.

With progress and time, however, all of this work to be connected to the Lord, with His grace, will change me as a person into what I want to be. I'll always be me, I know that. Some things will never change because they're simply a part of who I am. But if I let Him, God can and will make me what I have always been: His.

Our lives are made in these small hours, these little wonders, these twists and turns of fate.

Doing small things all the time is the only way I know of to make that happen, and He absolutely blesses me for that.

Time falls away, but these small hours still remain.

Because, as difficult as it is, I AM happy. I DO find joy day to day. I see the hand of the Lord in my life and although life isn't always fun, it IS worthwhile and a beautiful, blessed thing, and I live in awe of His love.


Let it slide, let your troubles fall behind you.
Let it shine,
until you feel it all around you.
And I don't mind if it's me you need to turn to; we'll get by.
It's the heart that really matters in the end.
All of my regret will wash away somehow, but I cannot forget the way I feel right now, in these small hours, these little wonders, these twists and turns of fate.
Time falls away, but these small hours, these little wonders, still remain.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Certainly not the beginnings of a career in modeling.

Just call me Madam Emo Hair.

Or that's what my best friend would like to think.

I can't say I blame her though!

My younger sister loves to do photo manipulation, and her work tends toward the dark and the abstract.

You'd never tell that by looking at her though.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Keeping it Real

On days like today I find it extremely important to step back and try to see God in all things. He is so unreservedly good to me, and if I can remember that, then loving Him and being like Him is so much easier. He provides so much cause for joy; why not take Him up on His offer? If I can do that, I can remain connected to Him, and to this mortal state He has allowed me to experience in order to grow. So here's a list of things that I find joy in today, in no particular order.

that affects me in a positive, soothing way. My soul-weather this morning was broody and depressing, so even my favorite songs were getting me down. Having one, gotten into a better place, and two, switched to instrumental music, I can happily say that my heart is much more sunny than it was.

Getting up early. I despise getting up late. I don't like how I feel when I I miss out on so much, including and especially daylight. However this morning I was up and alert by 8:30 and feel like the day has been productive so far.

Knitting! I keep looking at this neat scarf I started the other day and thinking, "Wow, I really made that, didn't I?" I've been doing it too tight, so my hands are a little sore from 21 rows at a time, but still, I think creation of any kind is one of the ways that we can be nearest to God. And for another thing, every time I knit I think a little about three key things: the wonderful friend who helped me learn to knit, the work I had to put forth to figure it out, and the person for whom I'm knitting the scarf. There are a lot worse ways to spend your time than thinking about people in your life that you love a little more each day!

My sister's smile. She and I have a playdate this afternoon, I assume after the movie she's watching with Mom finishes. Unlike me, Deborah is a fan of sleeping in late (that or she just does it a lot -- that I can understand too!) so Mom had me wake her up a few hours ago. She wasn't too pleased about it, but after showering and getting dressed she came in my room just to say hi. I'm not sure she realizes what a blessing she is to me!

My favorite shirt. I know, I know, it seems silly. But it's the perfect shade of pink, and flattering. I try to save it for days when I need an extra couple of smiles on my face, and today it seemed appropriate.

Aspirations. I'm having a hard time knowing what to do with myself during the day...too much time on my computer and I start to go bonkers, too much cleaning and Dad feels like I'm being critical, too much time outside and I freeze, too much time reading and I get sleepy. But I keep remembering that this is still a place on the road to higher things, and I may be moving a lot faster toward them right now than I think. Everyone needs a break, some vacation, a time to rest. But if I can use my time -- even down time! -- in a way that brings me closer to God, then I can have peace at all times, through Him.

The words of the prophets. In order to improve my soul-weather, I spent the morning reading talks from general authorities of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, particularly on patience. This is a virtue that I am trying to balance my apparent need for it with sincerely seeking more knowledge of it. I know that if I am diligent, and open to God, that I can and will be blessed in His due time. Without having the opportunity to read guidance and direction from wise, spiritual leaders, I don't know what my day would have been like.

My friends. I could list them all off one by one...the ones I would die for, the ones I don't always understand but who I deeply respect, the ones that make me laugh, the ones that make me think, the ones that I don't know as well as I could but know I will only like better once I do, the ones that teach me things I never would have thought of on my own. Mostly I'm just glad for the wonderful mix of them; they all contribute so much to who I am and the presence of God in my life.

Grapefruit-scented lotion. Believe it or not, I think my dad even likes the smell of it! My hands have been brutally dry, and while this is a pain, I can't mind it too much since every time I put on this lotion, I can't help but be a little more cheerful. It's such a sunny smell.

A made bed. I got new bedding for Christmas and I LOVE it. I'm pretty sure I've raved about it before, but it's just a little more true every day! That and I love the look of a made bed...not rumpled, all clean lines and smooth surfaces. It's what I like my soul-weather to be like.

Vacuums. I'm laying on my floor with the keyboard as I write all of this, and from this perspective I can't help but notice all the little bits of paper and yarn and dirt. Sure, it adds character to the room, but, eh, I think I'm going to ditch the character in favor of a little more cleanliness.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008


Well, I'm beat.

It's definitely in a good way though...I spent the afternoon under the hood of my car (again) so I feel like I'm done something productive today, and as I realized this morning, I've had almost an excess of brain-food lately. (I LOVE having intelligent friends to talk to all the time!)

I'm glad I spent some time earlier sorting out this brain-food, because right now I'm ready to eat dinner and chill for the rest of the evening.

Yesterday, though, was interesting -- not the whole day, just when Dad and I had a misunderstanding. It helped me to see something that I didn't really realize I even had a problem with before then. I need to be able to let people choose their own methods; just because I really like the way I do things, and I do them that way because I know they work well, it isn't often my place to change how other people do things. They probably like their way best too.

As for the other brain-food, well, hopefully I'll get there when I'm not too tired to handle it.