Saturday, December 31, 2011

best of 2011 excerpts

Here's a sampling of my "Best of 2011" list.

  • Getting taken care of by a group of the nicest women you will ever meet. Who knew you could be so blessed working at a medical supply store? 
  • The Durham YSA ward. Healing up from a broken heart, meeting Danielle, Rachel, and Tom, getting to be pals with Sariah again. Learning about what it means to have a Spirit-filled home.
  • Developing a closer relationship with my mom.
  • Singing along to American Pie with Chris on the way to go see fireworks; spending the next three hours getting to know him.
  • Slow dancing in the kitchen with Chris to Breathing, by Lifehouse during that first week we started dating.
  • That first kiss after 5 weeks of long-distance dating.
  • Many long talks with Rachel and Cindy.
  • Getting a bed for Christmas from an anonymous donor. 

And, it's funny...I made a Worst Of list too, but the longer I look at it, the more I realize that each one could be on my Best Of list, too. It's true, I did not enjoy the first four months of the year, between heartbreak and the feeling that I was just spinning my wheels, but so much good has come because of it. I know so much more about myself and I have such a healthier concept of relationships. I better know what mistakes I am prone to, and I ALSO know that the Lord and I are capable of getting around them. That is so exciting to me.

I know that sometimes my family situation really makes me nervous about the kind of family I will have in the future. However, I've learned this year that man, my family is pretty great. We're all largely functional people, and those of us who aren't functional still do our best to be charming people. I like my family. And I like that I like my family. All things considered, it's not that hard to do. They're good people.

The challenge I am currently facing -- being poor and more dependent on the kindness of others than I ever thought I would have to be -- isn't much fun either. But I know the Lord wouldn't ask me to do it unless it was for the powerful and lasting development of my character. Because of this time in my life, I have a better understanding and appreciation of the Atonement. I'm pretty sure I'm going to be a better wife and mother as a result of it, too. I'll be better able to be a stay-at-home mom, and accept the generosity of my husband which that inherently requires, and I'll be better able to manage the finances of my future home because I have to be so conscious about it now.

Honestly, that's a lot of blessings, even if they have come from really hard things. I can't say I'd like to do it over again, but I'm sure grateful for the good things I've gotten out of it.

And, of course, I'm getting rich blessings out of hard situations currently, and I am tremendously grateful for those lessons. I'm also grateful that life isn't any harder than it currently is.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

merry christmas to all, and to all a good night

I had a lovely, wonderful Christmas with my dear friend Sam. We talked like only girls who have known each other for years can, and listened to music, and ate tuscan pasta. She spent the night on my air mattress, and I slept on my new bed!
It's so pink, and happy, and, and, and, FREE!
In the morning, we had eggs and hashbrowns and bacon, and we made cinnamon rolls. They almost turned out tragically awful, though. You see, I buy as much of my food as I can from the bulk section, because it's cheaper, and that includes my spices. Cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves are very easy to confuse in the bag, however. Therefore, if "clove rolls" sound good to you, I have some filling that I would be HAPPY to let you use.
Can you tell which is which?
...Don't worry too much though. We had a good laugh and mixed up a new batch of filling, and they turned out gooooooood.
Not to mention they were awfully pretty, too.
While the cinnamon rolls were baking, I opened presents. My family got me a cute Pandora-esque bracelet, and NEW SCRIPTURES!!!! And Sam, the wonderful, sweet, thoughtful person that she is, bought me matchy flannel PJs, plus shampoo, conditioner, face wash, and hot chocolate. Not to mention that she insisted I keep all of groceries she contributed to our little fiesta. I am grateful for that girl.
The cute little tree one of my roommates put in the living room. I couldn't resist putting my presents underneath!
We went to my ward for sacrament meeting after we sampled our cinnamon rolls. My bishopric + the executive secretary sang a gorgeous quartet, and the congregation sang "I Believe in Christ," which especially touched me today...
Today's journal entry.
I came away from sacrament meeting with a new commitment to love the Lord and live according to His will. I know that Jesus Christ is my Savior, and every good thing in my life I owe to Him. He plants me firmly in the gospel; He is the source of joy, even in our fallen world; He is my Redeemer and Friend.

When we got home, Sam and I ate more cinnamon rolls and read Luke 2 and talked a little about Mary. Her testimony in the Plan of Salvation must have been so strong in order to joyfully accept that kind of responsibility. I also noticed today that Mary "pondered these things in her heart," instead of blabbing them to anyone and everyone. Personally, I'm much more of the blabbing type, but I'm learning greater respect for holy things in preparation for the responsibilities the Lord is putting in my life. We are called to a holy work, brothers and sisters. I testify of that.

After scripture reading, we took a little nap, partly because Sam has been hiccuping for a DAY STRAIGHT, and it had given her a headache! While she rested, I cleaned the kitchen and started dinner. Sam came to help later, and let me tell you, it is so much more fun cooking a holiday meal when you have someone around who will just jump in and take initiative. I'm learning to delegate, but cooking can be hard enough without adding the task of managing other people, too. Cooking with Sam was fun though - I'm grateful for her willingness to help without being asked.

Sam was amazed how well our first Christmas away from our families went. I admit, we're pretty fantastic.
I highly recommend putting green beans, bacon, and pepper together, by the way. It was probably my favorite part of the meal. Except, perhaps, the scrumptious green salad that Sam made. There's a ton of leftovers of that, and let me tell you, friends, my vitamin-deprived little body is sooo excited. Say no to scurvy, kids.

Following dinner, we of course cleaned up, and then talked some more while I made bread and Sam played Sudoku on her new iPad. I admire that she finds ways to make herself busy and content while still being available at a moment's notice to the people around her. I want to be a little more like that. 

At about 9 o'clock, it was time for Sam to go home. We put her stuff in her truck, and she drove away.

It was so satisfying, spending time with an old friend, after a month of spending time either by myself or with people I haven't known for very long. Don't get me wrong, I love the people who are new to my life too, but I think I will be able to interact with greater peace of mind now that I've been reminded that there are people who are very different from me, but still really value my blunt yet affectionate ways.

Basically, this is who God created me to be, and this is the life that He and I have created together.

And, you know, it's pretty amazing.

Merry Christmas, y'all.

Friday, December 23, 2011

just how incredibly blessed I really am

My room is a great place to be.

The closet is the perfect size for me, especially since there's a built-in chest of drawers and a bookshelf. The sliding door was falling off, but since it's a mirror, that was fine; I just moved it to a corner of the room and put my makeup/hair box next to it. 

And then there's the bed. Cue story time...

My house is fully furnished aside from the bedrooms, which meant that when I moved in, I didn't have a bed. I slept on the couch for about a week while I tried to figure out the best solution. In the end, I purchased an air mattress, despite wishing I could be a little more "settled," and feeling like a real bed would certainly help with that feeling.

I discovered, however, that air mattresses don't hold heat the same way a regular mattress does, so I kept getting cold at night. I mentioned it in passing to my roommate Natalie (not to be confused with one of my bffs Natalie, who was my roommate the latter half of college.) She offered to let me borrow the extra blankets that she keeps in her room. This was a blessing all on its own; I slept much better after that.

Last night, though, things got even better.

Natalie's family doesn't live very far away at all, so she's been sleeping at her parents' house this week as part of their Christmas festivities. She dropped in for a few minutes and found me in the kitchen, perched on a barstool and blogging about how I think the Lord needs me to keep accepting charity from other people during this season of my life.

"Sara," she said, "the Lord works in mysterious ways."

"Yes, yes He does! Tell me what happened." We like to tell each other these kinds of stories.

But Natalie slowly shook her head. "Somebody is giving you a bed, Sara. It's in the back of the truck right now. We just need your help bringing it in."

I confess, I stared. Then I slapped my hands to my face. "Wait, WHAT? Tell me the story!"

But there wasn't really a story to tell. Someone was anonymously donating a mattress, box spring, sheet set, and comforter set to me. ME. As in, this is my real life, where people are that generous and God loves me that much.

So we brought it in, and I'm pretty sure I stammered a lot and made a lot of weird I'm-not-gonna-cry faces. I gave Natalie and her mom a hug, and watched them leave.

And then I burst into tears.

I'm not gonna lie, people, parts of my life are really hard right now. I've never been in a financial situation like this. I'm doing my best to be independent and take care of myself, but having to buy only bare essentials can be pretty scary for someone who has always lived in so much comfort. And as mentioned yesterday, the worst part about it is that it really limits how much giving I can do.

But this experience yesterday...it was like my sacrifice had been found acceptable by the Lord. The susurration and crinkle of brand new sheets, the distantly familiar creak of a real mattress...it was a message from the Lord. Although it's a simple fact that these difficulties are not going to go away for a while, Heavenly Father knows how hard I am trying. Both to make this situation work in a temporal, logistical sense, and also to become a better person via this experience. He sees the sacrifice, and to Him, that is enough.

Whoever it was that was an instrument in His hands yesterday (including Natalie and her mom!) ... I don't know what else to say but thank you. I so appreciate that you would listen to the Spirit and reallocate some of your resources in order to help me when I have little. I pray, so fervently, that you will be blessed for your generosity. Thank you for your part in giving me Christmas. 

Thank you for, in part, giving me Christ.

my new house

Welcome to my house! First stop, living room...
The couches are super comfortable. I would know; I was sleeping on them for about a week because my air mattress doesn't hold heat like a normal mattress does, and I didn't have enough blankets to make up for it. But then my roommate Natalie offered to let me borrow the 2 blankets she wasn't using, and now I happily sleep on my bed and no one feels guilty for walking through the living room in the morning while I'm asleep.


Past the living room we have the kitchen...
The first thing I did when I moved in was clean it. There were piles of dishes even though everyone was gone for Thanksgiving, including a pot on the stove, happily growing MOLD. Since then I've tried to keep it nice for everyone -- I think I have a thing for nice kitchens now -- and my roommates are all tremendously grateful. I like that I get the opportunity to do service.


Down the hall we have the bathroom...
Yes, that's a pair of giant lips on the floor! The decor in there is awful, since it's a mix of pinks with this brownish-yellowish vanity and shower. We're trying to remedy the aesthetics as soon as possible, but in the meantime I'm just grateful it's clean. Jennifer, the roommate who is newer than I am, cleaned it as soon as she moved in, much like I did with the kitchen. I had cleaned half of it, and thought another roommate was going to do the other half, but she has been sick and busy, so I was grateful that Jennifer took the initiative. Especially because I'm not a huge fan of cleaning the bathroom myself!

At the end of the hall is my room...which, as of last night, warrants a post of its very own.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

a different kind of service

Blame it on the time of year, but I've been thinking a lot about 2011 this week.

I was pulled so taut the first couple of months, clinging to something I thought was right. I was determined to stick with it no matter how hard or ridiculous it was. It may be the closest I've ever come to a nervous breakdown, or for that matter, to taking myself to a psychiatrist. In that time, I allowed myself to focus so tightly on the situation at hand that I nearly lost sight of...everything else.

The second quarter was almost a relief after that. I finally snapped; the something I was clinging onto officially failed. The only thing left to do was pick up the pieces, which in retrospect was surprisingly easy given the vast number of blessings in my life. I re-collected my resources, all the things I'd lost sight of while I was focusing so much. I called old friends and begged for reassurance and talked my way through some of the issues I was facing. I made new friends who let me cry on their shoulders and sleep on their couches and absorb their love and spirit. I tried to acclimate to a quiet life after the intensity of college, where I worked at a job without prestige and questioned my contributions to the world in general.

Just as I was getting good at life again, just as I re-learned to love myself despite anyone else, and to rely on the Lord for my wellbeing, I met Chris. It blows my mind how much anxiety I've had through adulthood about dating. I wish I could have sat myself down and told myself about Chris. "It will be worth the wait," I would have said. "You'll have an experience that will show you how good it can be. In the meantime, just love being with your friends and learn about God. That's all you need to do."

The last quarter began with a move across the country. This was definitely the right thing to do, and I have been surrounded by God's love and that of my friends, but I'm still not sure I totally have my feet underneath me again after that. Maybe that's because I'm living paycheck to paycheck now, and I've never done that before. Maybe it's because I haven't really made friends here yet -- my roommates are seldom home, and most of my ward's activities are when I'm still at work. Maybe it's the combination of the two making me feel like I don't have a lot to offer.

That said, I told Chris (in the first real conversation we ever had!) that I have reached a point in my life where I HAVE to learn to accept help from other people, because I am no longer in a position to give very much of it.

I took this to the Lord today, and got an answer. (Thank you Brother Kern, and BYU-Idaho podcast. And thank you, Heavenly Father, for frequently giving me such prompt answers! I think it's because He knows I'd freak out and do something crazy otherwise.)

One of God's most precious promises is that nothing ever stays the same. Eventually, even if it's 80 years from now, that I will have the opportunities to serve in all of the ways that are dearest to my heart. My task right now is not to throw dinner parties or go visit friends. I simply do not have the resources to do so, and that makes me sad:

"O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart! ...but behold, I do sin in my wish."

I sin in my wish because I lose sight of the resources I do have to serve Heavenly Father. I have a lot of time on my hands, which I can use to keep my house clean for my roommates. I also use my free time to do my part to be financially independent, whether it's through doing a little extra freelance work or figuring out how to live even more cheaply.

As part of who I am and what I love, I have a plenitude of words. So, I can make phone calls; I can leave notes. I can (gradually) make friends and thereby uplift them using my willingness to talk to new people. "Ye are the light of the world..."

And, perhaps most importantly, I have the Lord. I know Heavenly Father is proud of how hard I'm trying, and honors my willingness to serve even as He is patient with me while I figure out how He wants me to do that these days. Because I have the gospel, I can fulfill my calling as a Sunday School teacher, indexer, and visiting teacher in the way that He wants me to. Because I have the gospel, and try to live my life in a way that invites the Spirit, I hope that when people come in contact with me, they will be a little more conscious of God and how precious they are to Him. Because I have the gospel, I can continue to grow more like Christ. I can learn charity without neediness, hard work without resentment, and good cheer without ideal situations.

I can do my best.

Perhaps that's what this year has taught me the most. My best really is good enough. God really does love me, even with all of my imperfections. He also has a great purpose for me, and although I am not able to see the end now, I can have perfect knowledge that this moment, this one right here, is just one necessary step along the way.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

eating cheaply: tamale casserole

GUYS! GUESS WHAT! I made up a recipe, AND IT WAS SO YUMMY!!!!

Winnnnnnnnnn.

Sara's Tamale Casserole
makes 4 servings

1 T vegetable oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
1 medium tomato, diced
1 t salt
1 t pepper
1 can black beans, rinsed
1 tsp lemon juice
1 cup masa harina
1 3/4 cup water
1 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup salsa

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat medium-sized glass casserole dish (a 9x9 is a little big -- a pie pan or loaf pan would probably work great.)
Heat oil, then add onion, garlic, tomato, 1/2 t of salt and pepper. Saute until onions are tender, stirring frequently.
Add beans and lemon juice to onion mixture.
In a separate bowl, mix masa, water 1/2 t salt, and 3/4 cup of cheddar cheese.
Pour 1/2 of the bean mixture into the glass dish, then spread 1/2 of the masa dough over top. Repeat.
Top with the rest of the cheese and the salsa.
Bake for 45 minutes, then take it out and let it sit for 5 minutes. Serve with a pretty green salad and you've got yourself a meal! A tasty, relatively cheap one, at that.

Notes:
-You could probably substitute the masa and water for corn muffin batter, which would give this dish a sweeter flavor.
-Much of the flavor comes from the salsa you pour over top at the end, so next time I make it, I'd like to mix in some peppers and canned corn with the onion. That and I'm kind of a vegetable junkie. Also, cilantro and chili powder would have probably provided more flavor and required less salt, but alas, I did not have them.

Edit: It's just as good as leftovers. If not better. Yessssssssssssssssss....
Second edit: It also freezes well.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

bucket list, revisited

"We can focus on the fun things we could have done but didn’t, or we can do something fun right now.

"We can dwell on the mistakes we made in past relationships, or we can focus on enjoying the relationships we’re in right now.

"We can think about all the opportunities we missed out on, or we can focus on embracing possibilities right now.

"There will always be something we didn’t do yesterday, but we get to choose right now how yesterday looks when we get to tomorrow. Right now, whatever age we are, this is our chance to live.


In March of 2008, I wrote a bucket list.

1. Fall in love.
2. Travel.
3. Learn.
4. Write.
5. Be beautiful.

And...to varying degrees...I've done them all.

Falling in love wasn't all it's cracked up to be, but it taught me a lot and I know better what to do in order to be a happy and fulfilled person. Namely, that you always have to love God more than anyone else, including yourself. 

I traveled to the UK and Paris last year, and it was the experience of a lifetime. If I never travel again, I will still say that I adore traveling and that if you want to go, just GO. I hope to travel more -- back to Paris, of course, but also to so many more places. Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Australia, and somewhere in Africa would be incredible, for instance.

Learning is so much a part of my life. I've finished my degree now, and eventually I will go on to higher education. I'm learning to be patient about that, though, and learning the difference between "no" and "not now." I'm learning to play sports, to cook, to communicate honestly. I think a love of learning implies a divine discontent with who and where we are today, which is a pretty accurate description of how I try to live my life.

Once, I thought being a writer meant that you had to spout fiction out of your fingertips every day for an hour at a time. That's certainly one kind of writing, but very rarely the kind I do. Instead, I journal, I blog for myself, and I professionally freelance write. There are still stories swimming around in my head, but most days I am just focused on other things. 

For this last one, I'm going to directly quote what I said about this the last time:

"I want to be satisfied with who I am as God created me, with the humility to change and the courage to stand firm. I want to be happy with how my life has turned out, where I'm heading, and what I'm doing in the meantime to prepare for that. I want a beautiful life, full of love and adventure (even on just a small scale) and learning and God, and I want that beauty to come out in who I am."

Amen, me of almost 3 years ago. Amen.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

eating cheaply: pot pies

So, I made pot pies tonight.

They're quite edible, but...but....they're just a little bit...well...odd. I was expecting that, though, seeing as I just threw together things that I had in the house already. The sweet potato has just too much flavor, so it doesn't combine well with the broccoli and canned chicken. (Heh heh. "Does not play well with others.")

So the next time I try this, I'll use regular potatoes for sure. Which kind of makes me feel like I just reinvented the wheel, but hey, I learned a couple of things in the process:

1. I KNOW HOW TO MAKE GRAVY. Well, mostly. See, my dad could make perfect gravy with his eyes shut, but me? every time I've tried it, I've concocted a culinary travesty. However, I've finally figured out a way to make the consistency work, and I think I can figure out the flavor with a few more trial runs. HOORAY!

2. As weird as it sounds at first, broccoli is AMAZING with a little onion, a pinch of nutmeg, a splash of vinegar and a generous squirt of honey. It's tangy and sweet and fun, especially if you don't overcook the broccoli. Which I didn't. Go me.

3. Pies made in muffin tins are a fabulous idea. Fabulous! I'm such a fan of serving sizes built into the presentation.

4. Even when you don't think you need to have milk and butter on hand...you do. Just buy it.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go rescue my kitchen from the hostile alien invasion clean up the mess I made.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

ten things that make me happy today

  1. The right sleeve of "my" jacket smells like Chris from holding his hand this morning when I drove him to the airport.
  2. "My" is in quotes because technically, the jacket belongs to Chris.
  3. During my 15 minute break at work, I run up and down the stairs and then do stretches in my cubicle.
  4. I get to eavesdrop on people's conversations for a living. (You'd have to be a writer to understand the joy of this one, I think.)
  5. I get to knit while I'm on calls and in between calls, I can write for my freelance job(s).
  6. One of my roommates called me a "clean freak" the other day.
  7. I'm starting to be just a little less needy. 
  8. Sam is coming to see me for Christmas, so I won't be all by myself.
  9. I'm teaching Sunday School tomorrow.
  10. I finally have an income again, so I can finally pay tithing. YAY.

eating cheaply: grocery shopping

I finally (FINALLYYYY) went grocery shopping today.

$4.52 on health and beauty.

$4.74 on produce.

$4.91 on protein.

$5.26 on spices/condiments.

$10.03 on kitchen supplies. (Trash bags and a rolling pin, in this case.)

I feel really good about this. I also think it will be a little less expensive when I have a good stash of spices and condiments built up.

Two biggest things I'm excited about? Fresh produce (YAY!) and the dinners I'll be making.

  • Pot pies -- homemade pie crust, canned chicken, sweet potato, cali mix vegetables.
  • Lemon pasta -- homemade pasta, lemon juice, parmesan cheese, olive oil, basil, evaporated milk
  • Stir fry -- raman, cali mix frozen vegetables, soy sauce, eggs.
  • Tamale casserole (of sorts) -- masa, cheddar cheese, turkey stock, onion, chicken, beans, tomato, salsa
Yes, the pot pies and casserole are experimental, but they use primarily things I already have on hand. And "already on hand" means cheap! Hard to argue with that.

Monday, December 12, 2011

eating cheaply: introduction

So, I don't know if you know this, but I'm poor.

It could be worse, of course. I am not living out of a cardboard box or eating Raman three meals a day. I am, however, learning to budget very carefully and eat very cheaply.

I think a big part of eating cheaply is to make the most of what you already have in your cupboard. Here's my list, a lot of which is left over from things I bought to make Thanksgiving dinner:

1/2 pound cheddar cheese
1 cup pecans
1/2 loaf homemade wheat bread (yum)
1 yam
2/3 pound masa
2.5 sleeves saltines
2/3 bag frozen California blend vegetables
1 bag frozen brussel sprouts
honey
olive oil
garlic
2.5 cups homemade turkey stock

From this list, I will eat for 14 meals. To supplement this list (and therefore eat 3 meals a day for a week), I'm going to purchase the following:

brown rice
dried beans
eggs
tomato (probably canned, but it depends on how cheap the fresh ones are)
lime juice
chili powder

This week is going to be kind of a Mexican-themed week, what with the masa, rice, and beans. It's also going to be a "do creative things with frozen vegetables" week. The plan is to post the best stuff I come up with. This should be exciting...

Monday, November 14, 2011

life update!

"It's all so interesting. Which maybe you're thinking is an anticlimax, but in that case I feel sorry for you because that just means you don't really know about interesting. Interesting is as good as it gets." --Robin McKinley

I've received an official request to update everyone on my beautifully chaotic life...so here it goes!

I'm in Provo right now, sitting in my boyfriend's FHE sisters apartment. For the record, I. Love. These. Girls! They are so sweet and I really appreciate their generosity. I'll be sleeping on their couch for a while, and as soon as I can afford it, I'm getting my very own apartment.! I've been staying with Cindy in Rexburg for the last several weeks, and that has been so fun and so very helpful. There's a reason I've been friends with this girl for 10 years...she's wise and funny and giving and I just love her. I've also loved seeing Natalie and Allison and as soon as I get a couple of paychecks under my belt, I'm sure I'll be back up there to visit.

Things are still great with Chris and I. I've missed seeing him every day, so it's been really, really nice to be in Provo so much. Sometimes I'm struck by how lucky I am to be dating him. He actively seeks out my opinions and humors my craziness and tries to be a little better every day. He is working so hard in his classes, not to mention figuring out grad school. And, of course, he's also busy spending time with me! We had fun weekend, shopping for clothes (and board games!) and attending stake conference and hanging out with his roommates. I'm sure grateful for that man.

As of this week I have not one but two jobs. I'm working freelance as a blogger, which in my case means I get to write just about anything having to do with cars. My posts will be here, but before I'm officially hired and can start uploading articles, I need to get some paperwork filled out  That is harder than it sounds as I need a printer or scanner and have neither one. (Angst!) However, as soon as I get that done, I'll be paid by the word and can write a 700 word article every day, if I want. Yay, income!

The other job is for Sorenson Communications, located in Taylorsville. They specialize in technology and services for the hearing impaired. For example, you can call someone who is hard of hearing, and they have a special phone with a screen that will show the words you're saying. I'll be trained to very clearly repeat what you say as you say it, so that the voice recognition software picks up the words correctly and can display them on the screen. The simple version is that I caption phone calls for hard-of-hearing people. I start the Monday after Thanksgiving, assuming I pass my drug test and background check. Pretty fair assumption if you ask me! I train for a couple of weeks on the software and then will be working 30 hours a week. Yes, it's part time, but supplemented by the freelance thing, I should be okay.

That said, I interviewed with another job on Friday, and I should hear back from them by Wednesday. This one is full time and directly related to my degree, yet it's in Ogden and probably requires more commitment. So if I get it, awesome, but if not, that's OK too. We will just have to see.

You know... we all know by this point that our lives are never going to be easy. However, they can certainly be challenging and rewarding and just so good. Yes, I do have a lot of things to figure out, and yes, I do have a lot of sacrifices to make. But the Lord is teaching me to build His kingdom, and be what He is.

What more can I ask for than that? :)

Monday, October 17, 2011

tender mercies

It has been a rather frustrating day, but I think in general conference someone said something to the effect of "face each day with enthusiasm, no matter how it looks" and I'm trying to apply that principle.

The optimistic version of my day is that I spent the first part of the morning reading this lovely pre-World War II book that is very sweet and inspiring. Then I ran an errand, had hot chocolate and pumpkin bread with Cindy, looked for jobs, did laundry. Pretty basic stuff, and good in its own way, but really not at all what I had planned. 

What I'd planned is to donate plasma. I haven't found a job yet, and it just seemed like a reasonable way to make a little extra money in the interim. It seemed like the responsible thing to do, frankly. But through a silly little chain of events, it didn't happen today. 

As I drove away from the plasma center, sans needle prick, I wanted to cry. I don't understand, I thought. I'm trying to take good care of myself, to put forth the work that I need to in order to care for my temporal well-being. But I can't even donate plasma. Why is this happening?

It didn't get better after I went home and found that I still couldn't get the application to work (for a job I'd really really like!) And then I had an epic battle of wits with an inanimate object, for a frustrating hour and a half. 

But the Lord still finds ways to add sunshine to our lives. Cindy came home from the library and made hot chocolate, which was happy-in-a-mug. Later, Allison picked me up and we had our own little FHE, and it was wonderful.

I'm grateful for tender mercies.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

mexican cooking, lesson one: tortillas

When Cindy and I finally decided that I would be staying with her for a little while, I asked her to teach me how to make Mexican food. Her dad spent two years doing service and proselyting in Mexico, and he brought back lots of new skills with him -- the least of which is not cooking fairly authentic Mexican deliciousness...

So, Cindy taught me how to make tortillas!

First, get some masa:

(What we call masa in the States is actually a certain kind of corn flour, rather than the paste called "masa" you'd buy in a Latin American country.)

Then, add some water:

(This one won't be very helpful to you, considering Cindy didn't measure and let me poke at the dough a bit to see what the consistency was like. Watch out on her blog...she'll be posting specifics there soon, I'm sure.)

We used a tortilla press (!!) and a griddle, but in the future I think I'll just be using a regular ol' rolling pin and non-stick skillet. The non-stick part is important since apparently frying them in oil would make them tostadas, not tortillas.

They don't have to be browned or anything, just warmed and flipped and warmed a little more. And by the way, they are delicious.

I may never eat store-bought tortillas ever again.

love, tolerance, and understanding

I've discovered a new mantra for relationships:

I love you! I just don't understand...


Sometimes the people I care about are too busy to pay attention to me. Sometimes they make the same mistakes over and over and over. Sometimes they address situations in completely different ways than I would. However, this doesn't excuse me from forgiveness, tolerance, or charity.

The thing is, it also doesn't excuse me from being human and finding other people difficult to comprehend. I can choose how I respond to difficulties though, and when I'm fighting with someone, it's okay to call a time-out and give them a hug.

Because it's not about changing them. It's about understanding them a little better, and about me making changes in order to become more Christlike. Maybe that's becoming more temperate, more confident, or a better listener.

That's why these people are in our lives, guys. Their presence is an invitation to charity -- to not just understand them better, but to understand the Lord better. We can always find strength and solace in Him, even if we aren't getting it from the sources we expect.

Other people may not always be reliable, but in Christ, we can become reliably like Him.

Monday, October 10, 2011

unabashed devotion

Sometimes I wish I could be the girl I was at 17. I can still see my bedroom, definitively mine as the walls were papered with favorite scriptures, quotes, and pictures -- anything I found soothing, really. I was sheltered there, from everyone, from a future that was much more like straw to be turned to gold than anything. There, I found fearlessness. Not that I lived a life without fear, but just that there were much more important things to think about, and with the importance came the joy.

Now and then I still have that; I remember that those days were the beginning of my testimony, not the extent of it. Those days were good not because they were easy, but because I unabashedly fled to the Lord for solace. I didn't expect Him to fix things, just to help me be okay, and to respond to my life as He would.

I think it's time I devoted my life to that again -- to taking every inquietude to the Lord, without shame. He can do so much more with them than I can. When my heart cries out, "Wait, what? Is that really what you have in mind for me? Are you sure You want to make my life that hard??" my Heavenly Father can say, "well, yes, but remember the blessings you have in store, my child, and remember what the pain has turned you into." It's turned me into someone who can know peace, despite anyone else's choices. (I just wish I remembered that more often.)

The joy of earthly relationships is undeniable, but neither is the heartbreak. So, they function as a means to an end as they turn us to Christ. As a teenager, Christ and I became acquainted because there were people in my life that I had to be okay with. In more recent years, I clung to Christ despite the dead-end relationships in which I insisted on entangling myself. Now, I'd like to know Him better and love Him more as I try to be more me -- more the girl He's counting on to do His work. Whatever that work may be.

As previously mentioned, I think that work right now may in part be giving up my "Isaac"...to just enjoy serving in small ways, to take copious mental notes (and some literal ones) on how to create a Christ-centered home. Maybe that's enough for now, even if it's not flashy. Maybe I just need to be okay with that. After all, is there any grander purpose than motherhood? Is there any nobler goal than a temple-like home? Grad school, an active career, anything, ought to pale in comparison to that. Not that they're mutually exclusive, either -- just that they certainly fit on a hierarchy, and "homemaker" is at the top.

Homemaking, though, is a task of steadiness and moderation -- of constancy. I can't work myself dry every day and then go home and crash for the evening, nor can I give a half-hearted effort. No, I want to be a homemaker who works hard, with her whole heart in it, and one who finds the work a joyful and rewarding thing. And maybe, just maybe, Heavenly Father would like me to learn that sooner rather than later. I'm just glad He's in charge of the timing and not me. Timing has a delicate balance; it's easy to do things too soon or too late. ...Far too much for my puny mortal self to handle.

What I can handle is repenting, turning to my Savior with every moment of fear and heartbreak or grumpiness and apathy. And, for that matter, every dream I have for myself that is nothing compared to His for me. Therefore, I hope to seek employment with greater humility. I hope to find something that does not preclude, but rather enables the work that Heavenly Father has for me these days: learning how to make my own temple-like home, and Christ-centered life, regardless of when or with whom that comes about.

I find the task a bit daunting, I'll be honest. The heart-happy girl I was at 17 didn't have the grown up problems of a 24 year old. But Heavenly Father is still perfectly wise, powerful, and loving, even if I'm a confused twenty-something and not an indignant teenager. He can handle my grown up problems.

And, somehow, I can let Him.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

worth a thousand words

Tonight we played the picture game...

(You know, the one where you have a phrase, and you draw a picture based on that phrase, and the next person writes a phrase based on that picture without looking at the original phrase, and so on.)

I like to think I made the most memorable contribution, when "bad breath" turned into "breathing fire", and I turned the associated picture into "fire-breathing Jew."

I swear, I'm not racist. It just looked more like a yarmulke than hair.

Friday, October 7, 2011

a day at a time

I've come to an unfortunate conclusion.

I don't write enough.

Sure, I journal. It's primarily a scripture journal at the moment, because I'm a little overwhelmed by the idea of anything beyond that. If I write about the events of my day-to-day life, I might actually have to think about it. I might think about the fact that I am living with my best friend and her husband at the moment, instead of my own place. I might think about the fact that I am once again unemployed, this time of my own volition. I might think about my sadly limited resources and all of the things in my life that I wish were different.

Maintaining a scripture journal, on the other hand, helps me to keep thinks in perspective. I get to think more about the problems of Moroni and Pahoran, of the wicked children of Israel, of Emma Smith. Whether these people were full of faith or fear, the scriptures teach me the truth, as I combat the influences of Satan that are so ready to seep into my life.

In reality, my life is moving along beautifully. I am where the Lord wants me to be. He is carefully tutoring me. Everything will fall into place exactly as it needs to. But that sense of well-being is rather precarious at the moment, and I worry that if the reality of my current situation sinks in, my natural tendency to overthink will lead me not toward God, but away from Him.

It seems I've gotten the same message since mind-June: don't plan. And all things considered, I haven't. Sure, I planned a blood drive, a book drive, and a drive across the country. But considering the amount of things I would ordinarily be trying to contrive and control, that's nothing. I don't have a 5 year plan anymore, let alone a 5 month plan. I don't know where grad school will fit into my life. I don't know where marriage will fit into my life.

All I know is that the Lord is trying to teach me to take things one day at a time. Therefore, I am beginning a new initiative on my blog. I may not be writing about Big Things That Have To Do With My Life As A Whole, but I can write about the small day-to-day things that catch my interest. That may be a song I heard today, a new website I found, or just the way that the rain blips against the leaves. In any case, my happiness is my choice, and I choose to wait, and watch, and obey.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

sacrificing isaac

I'm fascinated by the story of Abraham and Isaac. Abraham waited for years and years and years before God filled the promise that Abraham was most enthusiastic about getting. It was a righteous desire, and finally getting it taught him about patience, and miracles, and the value of an eternal family.

And yet, even after all that time, and all those rich lessons, God wasn't done with him yet. The one blessing in life that Abraham most cherished...a righteous desire...a gift that God had already given him, perhaps even a gift that Abraham had already earned. And God wanted him to give it back.

I've pondered the questions that Abraham might have asked at the time. Can't You take something else, Lord? Didn't You love me enough to give me Isaac to begin with? Didn't You want me to have posterity? What more can I possibly learn? What more could I possibly have to prove to You? How could this possibly be the best thing for us?

I prayerfully discovered what my "Isaac" is a few years ago. It's the person I'd become: independent, accomplished, tough. I turned to the Lord and told Him: if this is what You want, I will put myself on the altar. I will give away my strength, my competence, my autonomy. If it is Your will, I will let You take them away.

But Lord, can't You take something else? Didn't You love me enough to give me these survival skills to begin with? Didn't You want me to be courageous? What more can I possibly learn? What more could I possibly have to prove to You? How could this possibly be the best thing?

It has been the best thing, but oh, it's been a long road. I fell in unrequited love with someone who valued softness, gentleness, and vulnerability. I lost my positions of prestige, and lost the honors and financial stability that comes with them. I moved away from all the people I'd come to think of as my family, off in that little college town.

Yet, I never had to give up me. Who I am is defined by my clearest moments -- not my easiest or hardest ones. It's the moments that I best know God that I best know who I am. I am His.

I still don't find it easy to ask for help. I still wish I had a job that used my talents and compensated me accordingly. I still fight to maintain control.

But God is teaching me to be better, and is preparing me for the great work He has in store for me. He's been guiding me all along -- first to be tough, now to be tender. And like Abraham, I can have all the birthright blessings, as joint-heir with Christ.

And it's going to be wonderful.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

allowing others to serve

I am soaking in the goodness of this moment.

I am physically and mentally worn out, but my heart is at peace with the world.

I sit on my unmade bed, surrounded by a life slowly draining into cardboard boxes, and somehow, I know this is right. I know that God is present in my life.

About 2 months ago, the stake Relief Society presidency asked me to head the service project for Women's Day. Since then, we've been collecting children's and young adult books with the goal of sorting, stickering, and shuttling them to Book Harvest, which is a local organization that gives books to kids who wouldn't have access to them otherwise.

The task was so daunting...something I never in a million years could do by myself. But, as I'm realizing more and more lately, the Lord needs me to ask for help. Not just His help, but the help of others.

And this time, though it was a struggle, I did. And we collected 1573 books. And it was inspiring watching the sisters take the initiative and fill needs. I can provide those opportunities for people.

How amazing.

Monday, September 5, 2011

laying the foundation of a great work


I'm facing a big life change shortly. It's not that I'm making a decision, but rather that I've made a decision already, and the time to act on that decision is getting really close.
And I don't know how all this is going to turn out. Worst case scenario is that I will be completely broke, unemployed, and 2000 miles away from home.


I am so scared.
I just keep reminding myself that if that's how it turned out, I would still have my God. He won't tell me to do something and then walk away and make me clean up the mess. He doesn't work like that.


Knowing that, I would still feel like I had done the right thing and still know that eventually, everything will turn out fine. It would try me in ways I can't fathom, and require some serious character building, but then again...isn't that just life?
I will have everything I require, and it will arrive at the Lord's hands. It might not happen quickly, but it will happen exactly on time. Until then, it is my business, my privilege, to do small things that will lay the foundation of a great work. If I am both willing and obedient, I will "eat the good of the land of Zion." 
So here's me, loosening the petrified grip I have on my heart, bending my mind into willingness, and trusting (hoping!) that no, the Lord's ways are not my ways...
But His ways are certainly better.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

anxiety and self-worth

I've been struggling with anxiety again. Like how an OCD sufferer might literally pick at a scab until it bleeds, I do so mentally. I create problems when I have none to solve, simply because my brain is so compulsively inclined toward problem-solving.

This most frequently manifests in my close relationships and in my self-esteem. I apply false and worldly rules to genuinely positive situations, mistaking "evil for good and good for evil" and as a result, I become hyper-critical and panic-stricken. It usually doesn't occur to me until after I've driven myself frantic that maybe I'm the one with the problem: I'm rely on philosophies and creeds not centered on Christ. I have chosen mammon over God.

While submerged in these suffocating ideas, I compare myself to others and conclude that 1) I am am a monster -- unworthy of love due to all the ridiculous mistakes I make, or 2) that I am a saint and a martyr, and aren't you puny mortals so lucky I deign to associate with you at all?

It's the two manifestations of the same universal sin: pride.

C. S. Lewis (to paraphrase) says that true humility is when we can appreciate our own excellence the same way we do another's. As Paul puts it, we must "approve things that are excellent". And that's what I'm working on right now.

As I seek genuine excellence -- which is the work of the Lord brought about by each unique individual -- I will be less prideful. I will be able to appreciate myself as simply one of God's creations, with all the subordination and divinity implied therein. Being both subordinate and divine at once helps me to also be consistent; instead of overburdening one idea over the other, I can be both at the same time.

We are all subordinately divine. Whether I am an instrument in the Lord's hands, or someone else is, we are still just that: instruments, and hence, subordinate. However, we are the Lord's instruments, Heavenly Father's children, and therefore inherently divine. As we recognize these traits in each other, we both forgive and honor one another more naturally. We recognize Christ in our fellow Christians, not just for their resemblance to Him, but also in our need for Him.

And if I do not disguise my resemblance with false guilt, or my need for Him with hypocrisy, He can shine out of me.

That idea allows for a peace that transcends scab-picking and allows the Lord to use my special talent for problem-solving for His ends. Without pride I can return to my work.

Without pride, I realize I am truly worthwhile, because without pride, I am truly His.

Friday, August 5, 2011

quiet but happy

It's surprising to me how little I have to say - in writing at least - when things are good.

Life is moving toward stability in regards to my living arrangements.

I'm still dating Chris, and supremely enjoying it.

I could give more details, but mostly there aren't a lot more details to give. That's either because things aren't decided yet, or because they're just that simple.

I like simple. Simple is good.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

needing each other

I'm not sure how coherant this post is going to be, considering I slept from 4am to 8:30am. Really, it's the embarrassing lack of sleep in my life that induced me to write this post, so just consider yourself warned, I suppose.

As I told Chris the other day, I regularly value people over sleep. If there is strength to be acquired - or offered - through the company and conversation of another person, I want it. Even if it's one or two (or four!) in the morning. Looking after other people is just what I do. Because when I reach a point where I actually ask someone else to take care of me, it's usually because I'm dyin'.

But mostly, it's because the Holy Spirit prompts me to reach for another person, for my sake or theirs. Or both.

We are all imperfect, broken, shortsighted, and...lost. But we are also improving, healing, seeking, and inspiring, and more often than not, it takes another person to bring that out of us. There's no fear or shame in that. I can't expect someone else to succeed completely on their own, because I sure don't do that! That's why families are the central unit of society, of the gospel: they work. They are not just useful; they are necessary for our perfection.

Isn't it amazing how smart God is?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

the spoons

A long time ago, Cindy taught me the metaphor of the spoons. It's a pretty neat concept, and pretty handy for Cindy to explain her energy level to people. I use it as a tool in considering my emotional energy. So, I'll explain it to you, too...

Let's say that on a typical morning, you wake up with 10 spoons. The fact that you got up late, and then the traffic that made you even later, takes away 2 spoons. You realize you have waaaay more to do today than you thought and spend your whole morning feeling a little frantic-- that takes away 3. Fortunately, you have a fantastic lunch, and that gives you back 1. The rest of your workday is much better, so it only takes one spoon. So, you go home with 5 spoons to spend on your family for the evening.

Lately, I have woken up with fewer and fewer spoons, largely because I have allowed myself so little sleep. Today I think I woke up with about 4 spoons, compared to my usual 10. This makes me funny and uninhibited, but (as I discovered while on the phone with an uninformed-yet-stubborn customer) leaves me with a short temper and a shorter attention span. By the end of the phone conversation I was ready to throttle the poor lady, and had to work pretty hard not to use my snappy "I refuse to speak to idiots" tone of voice.

I'm not that person, I swear! I am a sweet, composed, funny, generous person...who has been making poor choices with her sleep. Poor choices with my nutrition quickly follow, as do poor choices with my words. Then with my attitude. It's bad news, yo.

Yesterday I went over to Chris's to de-stress a bit, and it was wonderful. At the same time, I recognize today that it doesn't fix the problem; I still need sleep. Furthermore, as one half of a committed relationship, I have a responsibility to take good care of myself so that I have enough spoons to take care of Chris, too, if he needs it.

Or, better yet, if we both have plenty of spoons, we can be joyful and tranquil together. I like the sound of that.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

new ingredient; renewed hope

I've found a new ingredient in my recipe for happy. His name is Chris. And he's my boyfriend.

I realize that in this post, I risk sounding overly sappy - and like I'm getting ahead of myself. But hopefully I can invite you, readers, to come a little closer to Heavenly Father as a result of experiences that have brought me closer to Him as well.

I met Chris after a knock-down, drag-out couple of months. One by one, every piece of my life had came undone. In the midst of these experiences, the Lord would often remind me that all I really needed to do was stay connected with Him and take care of myself -- in that order. Throughout 2011 I had concentrated on doing what makes me genuinely happy, regardless of who I left behind in the process. I told myself every day I need to to trust myself as much as Heavenly Father does. I worked hard to be at peace with a quiet life, sans academia or fulfilling employment or dramatic dating experiences.

Enter Chris. He's pretty much everything I've ever wanted, in addition to a few things I didn't know I need. He's smarter than I am, which reminds me to stay humble. And yet he's got a speech impediment, which prevents his awesomeness from intimidating me entirely. He's so funny - simultaneously goofy and snarky, much like yours truly. He also has this secret emotionally intuitive side that loves poetry and art. And me.

That, perhaps, is the strangest thing of all. I told him today that I'm just not used to being on a pedestal. He gave me a classically Chris "you gotta be kidding me" look and said, "Just because some guy isn't trying to climb it doesn't mean you aren't on one, Sara."

I've always known that, in one way or another. Some days it's been harder to believe than others. Some days people have tried to pull me down. But in the end the fact still stands: I am a chainbreaker. And as such, I am a future mother in Zion, and a teacher, and a disciple. As such, I am pretty great. It's just strange that now, I'm not the only one who gets how great I amStrange and wonderful. I am so, so blessed.

So, readers. Don't give up. There will be days when it is just. so. hard. Days when your purpose seems impossibly distant, or worse, days when you question whether you have a purpose is at all. But don't lose hope. I testify that Heavenly Father knows us individually - not just who we are now, but what we need now in order to become the people He wants us to be.

Even if that means going through really hard things, to prepare us for our birthrights of joy.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Speak project, pt. 1

"Acquainted with Grief"


"Acquainted with Grief" detail sketch

"Looking Up"

"Voices from Beneath"

Friday, July 1, 2011

living in the hard moments

This year has proved to be singularly hard in -- well, not in unexpected ways. I guess I've always known that these issues have been ticking time bombs. Now they've finally exploded, and here I am, cleaning up the mess. It's one of those stories I would hear and say "Oh my word, she is just so amazing. I don't know how she does it."

Except that it's me. This is not a book, not someone else's life. It's my life, and somehow, I have to figure out the nitty-gritty, day-to-day details of it, and somehow remain cheerful and energetic enough to see outside of myself, too. So lately, I soak in Sundays like plants do sunshine. I wrestle with my heart until I can seek nourishment from the scriptures, rather than the band-aid answers I crave. I pray, often in spirals until I finally manage to say what I really mean.

And I look my anxiety in the eye and tell it to shut up. 

The right thing is still the right thing no matter how I feel about it. Sometimes the right thing seems really selfish. Or ridiculous-- illogical-- fatalistic. But it gnaws and scrapes and pulls at me. The right thing refuses to be ignored. I can convince myself it's not the right thing, but really that just means I'm putting it off. I think that's how the Spirit works when you live righteously. It won't leave you alone until you give in.

Monday, June 27, 2011

today

Today is a "I only slept for six hours" day.

Today is a "I feel like I did the right thing, so there" day.

Today is a "is this ever going to get better?" day.

Today is a "my brain keeps going in circles..." day.


But...


Today is also a "thou art careful and troubled about many things" day.

Today is a "be not afraid; neither be thou dismayed" day.

Today is a "be still and know that I am God" day.


So, today, I might just be okay.

Friday, June 24, 2011

dear future self,

I think about you a lot. I think about where you are going to work, who you are going to love, what you are going to look like, who is going to love you. In short, what your day-to-day life will be.

Mostly, though I think about who, exactly, you are going to be. Someone strong, yet deeply sensitive? Someone who does not compromise the right, yet forgives and empowers? Someone who is true to herself, yet makes sacrifices to bless others?

I demand a lot of you, Future Self. I see you as a person of deep strength and profound calm, unruffled by the obstacles and pains life throws at you. I know that you hold people to your heart, absorbing their hurts and loving them tremendously despite their weaknesses. I know that you are fearless, in a quiet way; infallibly serene in your knowledge that your God is firmly at your side, and therefore you can do anything.

Oh, but dear Future Self, I just don't know how to be you yet. I am so far away from fitting your description, and so I question, all the time, whether or not you and I are actually the same person. Whether or not I am capable of being you. I hold my now-self to your standard and I just fall so short of it. Yes, in my best moments I resemble you, and that briefly gives me hope. Mostly though, I am overwhelmed by the knowledge that you are so far away still, and I don't really know how to get there.

And yet, it's your faith, Future Self, your gospel-attained brilliance, that reminds me to love my now-self too. I don't know much about the long road between me and you, but I do know that it requires steady, simple choices in favor of the Lord over everything else. If I am ever going to meet you -- the giver of hugs to small children, the cooker of nutritious meals, the tranquil and delighted lover of a good man; in short, the heart of her home -- then I need to be okay with meeting me every day as I look in the mirror. And as mixed up as my now-self is, the only way to do that is via the Savior.

And you know that, too. You know that the only way you became who you are is to take it one day at a time.  I know all too well that there are a million things that could go wrong before I get to you, but focusing on that doesn't increase the likelihood of getting there - just my anxiety about it. And, wouldn't you know, Future Self, that anxiety just distracts me from the real work of living up to the potential that is you.

Future Self, I'm so excited to meet you one day. I'm sure you'll arrive in my life quietly, gradually. By that time I'll probably have another Future Self to look forward to. Regardless, you know yourself well enough to know that you can give yourself a big, grateful hug on my behalf. You are the goal, even while you are the one who reached for the goal.

Because I know that, I'm going to try to think about you a little bit less. I know you're there waiting for me, even if I don't know how long the road is between us or how many times I'll get lost along the way. I do know that Jesus Christ is as excited about you as I am, and He's my unfailing guide, shining a light and teaching me about Him along the way. I know you wouldn't want me to be afraid, and I'm not when I'm really listening to Him. And I know you forgive me for being distracted sometimes. That helps me to keep coming back.

Thank you, Future Self, for knowing Him and knowing me...for finding joy in my weakness because it demonstrates His strength.

"Hold on thy way. ...Fear not...for God shall be with you forever and ever." 

I'm taking a deep breath and hoping to be a little more like you - today.

Love,

Me

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

redefining beautiful chaos

The subtitle of my blog, "living a life of beautiful chaos" used to be very meaningful for me. My life was chaotic, but it was delicious. I was busy taking a million opportunities that I'd never had before. I attended class full time, worked part time, volunteered on campus, nurtured my roommates, flirted to my heart's content, magnified my calling, maintained a positive relationship with my family, and made new friends on an almost daily basis.

Can I just say - WOW. I am so impressed with myself. I had no idea I was capable of so much, or could have so much fun and fulfillment doing it. It was, indeed, a life of beautiful chaos.

After a while, though, the bustle began to wear me down. And down. And down. Before long, I was operating at a high level on the outside, and a very low level inside. I was, in so many ways, exhausted. My beautiful-chaos-life turned into metaphorically snarfing donuts 3 meals a day. I had scurvy of the soul, and a spiritual sugar-coma to match.

Dark days indeed.

It took months to really "detox". I spent a lot of time belaboring the point that I am a worthwhile person regardless of how much I get done in a given day, or how many prestigious positions I hold. I insisted I wasn't just a "professional;" I am also an artist, a learner, a lover. Yes, putting forth a lot of effort comes pretty naturally to me. However, some of the wisest advice I was ever given in college was "You can do anything you want to do. You just can't do everything you want to do."

It's high time I stopped trying to do everything - and I am trying, though it feels a little like rehab. I just know that there's a limited number of things that will fit into my life, so I am working on fitting in only the very best.

However, I think it was my experience with "a life of beautiful chaos" that taught me what the very best is. I found out that I have a talent for sharing truths and insights, whether in class or (you may have guessed) in writing. I love service and learning. I am fun-loving, a little dramatic, and driven. And I love - LOVE - the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Knowing these things, I more easily pick and choose the activities and people that fill my life. I am a teacher - I will go to grad school and someday (hopefully) teach at a university. I am a chainbreaker - I will do everything I can to make my home an ideal place to be, so that my children have the best start in life possible. Even if that means I wait for marriage for a long time.

With that in mind, "beautiful chaos" means something different these days. My days are simple: I work, I come home, I go to a church function or find a way to pass the evening at home. The chaos is on the inside, as I cope with the frustration of unrealized potential and unfulfilled dreams.

Nonetheless, it is beautiful. Even these times of burden have meaning. Heavenly Father is perfecting me, one difficult day at a time, and somehow, I choose to be grateful for that. Or, at least, I will try.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

labor and wait

I've had a series of profound, uplifting thoughts today that I'd love to share one by one. However, I don't want to overwhelm or bore anyone...so I'll just share one that, in my opinion, sums up all the rest:

Let us, then, be up and doing
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing, 
Learn to labor and to wait.


(Thank you, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.)

As you might have guessed, I have been struggling lately to do the right thing even though it's not what I want. I am so grateful for those moments, though, when it becomes obvious that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Someday, I WILL be good at this. Maybe in like a thousand years...but still.

This is life, and no matter how it turns out, I still have to be "up and doing" in one way or another. That's just how life works - even inaction counts as use of my agency, and I say that from experience. So really, what counts is that I have "a heart for any fate." My heart can handle any fate, because whatever fate comes to me, it is the one that Heavenly Father and I have worked out together. It's just...believing that is really hard sometimes. I forget that I'm an eternal being and these are temporary, mortal problems.

That's why I like the last line: learn to labor AND to wait. I can be really good at the laboring part - too good, sometimes, which gets me into trouble now and then. But I am learning to not just labor, which comes naturally, but to also wait. Wait on others and their agency, wait on my life to have circumstances favorable to what I want, wait on myself to grow and develop enough to handle it, wait on Heavenly Father to give me the go-ahead.

And someday He will. I doubt that sometimes, but I do not doubt today. Today I understand that yes, He could tell me yes or no, and He could tell me when and how. He could, but He won't, because I am too important to Him for that.  I am here to become like Him, not to get what I want when I want it. He has not removed the burden of my unrealized hopes, but He has lightened the load and strengthened my shoulders to bear it. That's the most beautiful part about it, I think: I still get to keep my dreams.

Friday, June 17, 2011

better with Him

Today, I woke up with a thick husk of anxiety around my heart. I tried prayer; I tried positive self-talk; I tried deep, relaxing breaths. It wouldn't budge. Life and I were simply not friends.

And not only did life bother me today, but it bothered me that life was bothering me, if that makes sense. Previously this week, I had been gloriously content with my theoretically crummy life. Not today though. By early afternoon I was ready to just to go home and detox, away from outside demands, and figure out what on earth was wrong with me.

I thought about it all day. Now it's bedtime, and I can only think of one potential cause for today's funk.

Last night, Danielle and I watched The Producers. I laugh so hard at some parts of that movie, but the essential message of the movie is that it's OK to be a schmuck. It makes poor moral choices look fun, dramatic, and generally preferable to more correct behavior. According to Article of Faith #13, it just plain falls short. And knowing that, I watched it anyway.

But, come on, isn't it a little melodramatic to blame today's funk on that? Could a choice that simple really make such an impact on my day? Could choosing 2 hours of semi-crass entertainment actually affect my attitude toward every other aspect of my life?

It doesn't seem to make a lot of sense...but I think the answer is yes.

Gut reaction? "But it shouldn't work like that! It shouldn't be that big of a deal! Ugh, how ridiculous." Ordinarily I'd explain away that reaction, thinking it's only a big deal for me, that somehow I'm the exception. That I need a thicker skin so I can decide to watch a movie like that AND still keep the Spirit. But I don't think that's right either. There's a universal truth in play here, I think:

Yes, the Spirit is sensitive. But we are so much better with Him than without.

Because frankly, it's not even about the movie. It's about the choice, and I need to choose to make the gospel the dominant influence in my life. The Spirit pushes out discouragement and distress, but when I push out the Spirit, for whatever reason, those negative, distracting feelings are sure to follow. So I will try to believe that the renewed influence of the Spirit follows repentance just as surely...I will try not to get too discouraged. I will try to remember that the Atonement makes everything, including me, turn out OK in the end.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

obedience

This week, getting ready for the day has been a slow process. I have uncoiled myself from the semi-grotesque position I sleep in lately, have gingerly placed my feet in front of the other until I arrive at the closet. There, I ponder what shirt will be the easiest to put on, what jeans will rub least. This is what happens when you bring a sunburn home from the beach.

So from the outside, this morning started out like any other day lately. Yet, it was very, very different.

A friend told me yesterday, as we chatted on the phone, that she thought the most wonderful feeling in the world was to stop hurting. We can easily overlook the absence of pain, she said, but the transition from pain to not-pain is an exquisite joy. That stuck with me. Every word for the absence of pain -- comfort, consolation, relief -- indicates a bubbling up of happiness from a deep place. A place as deep as our hurt, I daresay.

I submit that fear is its own kind of pain. And I feel like I have so much to be afraid of...the things I want are so far away, by distance and time, by life stage, by personal development. How am I ever going to get there? How am I ever going to deserve it? How am I ever going to figure this out? How is it ever going to be OK for me to want it now if right now, it's still so impossible?

I don't have answers to any those questions, and that scares me. But today, for the first time in a long time, it was okay. This morning, sunburn notwithstanding, was different. In a merciful reprieve from my fear, the Spirit bore witness:

I may not understand the methods. I may not like the consequences. But the right thing is still the right thing, and as His daughter, it is my responsibility, duty, and joy to do it anyway.

It doesn't really change the situation, but lately I stopped praying for the problem to be fixed anyway. I've just been asking for the burden to be lightened or for my spiritual shoulders to be strengthened enough to bear it. Heavenly Father has been infusing my life with that, and today it coalesced. It startled me, this cup-runneth-over, renewed faith that seemed to bubble up from nowhere.

No, I still don't have the one thing I most want, and I don't know how to get it, or if I'll ever get it at all. But I know - I testify - that obedience brings goodness to our lives, and as a result, there is no need for fear. It doesn't always make sense, and it doesn't guarantee immediate sunshiny consequences. But it is the only thing that brings peace instead of regret, love instead of resentment, faith instead of fear.

Through the Atonement, Jesus Christ is rooting out the regret and resentment and fear that I have internalized. There may still be consequences. I may never fully understand. But I know that I will be blessed if I obey.

So I pray. I wait. And I obey.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

2011 of doom...well, sorta

It's been a hard year so far.

I fell in love, and it hasn't worked out like I'd hoped.
I graduated from BYU-Idaho, and I miss my life there more than anything.
I found a job, but it is far from what I believe my "calling" to be.

At the end of last year, I told everyone that I felt like I was watching my house burn down. Everything about my life was going to change, in my opinion for the worse, and there was nothing I could do but stand there and watch it happen.

In some aspects, the ashes are still smoldering. I am still mourning the loss of that life I'd made. I'm not fully convinced that I can't have it back, and I keep trying to find a way to go back in time and make things right -- to make my house fireproof.

About now I'm supposed to say, "but I know it doesn't work like that." I can't quite bring myself to say it. I WANT it to work like that. Lately I am learning, over and over and over again, that I am really fond of my own set of values. I've got this life philosophy, this set of values that I'm terribly fond of. According to it, there are things in my life that should work. They should make me happy. But they don't.

That's because my values and philosophies have very little to do with the Lord's. It doesn't take much...just buy into a few of Satan's lies, and there you have it. You start to believe things that simply aren't true, that have nothing to do with reality. Then you start to question reality because it doesn't match your ideas of what it ought to be. It's exhausting. And sinful.

On the other hand, my patriarchal blessing directs me to make the gospel the dominant influence in my life. Doing  so allows me to be sensitive and obedient to the Spirit -- even when I don't personally agree.

I may not agree with, or understand, the turn that my life has taken this year. However, I know that my Father in heaven loves me. I know that I am important to Him. He is much more concerned about my character than my temporary comfort, and He is determined to purify me.

Despite my protests, He knows that deep down, I still want to be purified. I still want to be worthy of a Godly throne one day. I still want to claim my rightful place as His daughter, one who serves with her whole heart and every ounce of talent she possesses. Heavenly Father is going to get me there...I just know it!

It's just that sometimes, His ways are not my ways. His methods are so over my head that they seem inside out, backwards, and just plain wrong. But they're not, and through the Atonement, Jesus Christ softens my heart so I can obey anyway.

Yes. I can obey anyway.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

a walk before the thunder

This is who I am--
t-shirt, jeans, ponytail
sandals I slip off as soon as I can.
Conscious of my casual divinity.

This is who I am--
eyes welling with the rare and sweeping joy
that only the wind of a coming storm can bring.
Eager for danger and electricity.

This is who I am--
bleeding words, leaking more with every pulse,
a constant purging, a gentle dying.
The only way I know to live.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

poem for a spring walk, in three movements

The warm road beneath my bare
And too-long-still feet,
The sunshine on my back so fresh
I can feel the freckles forming,
The way the trees and sky
Create each other bluer, greener--
And the budding,
Steady like a beating heart--
Tells me
Spring is here to stay.

This is my jungle,
This tangle of trees:
Bare trunks reaching up and up,
Then a billion needles arch their backs in the sun.
This, my jungle, is populated by squirrels who cross the road
To dash into shrubs that bloom the color of lemons.
This jungle, mine to wander and be lost in,
Punctuated with mailboxes, cars, and humanity,
Is mine, and mine, alone.

The only way to find the sky here,
Where houses fend for themselves
In acres of piney wilderness, is to stand,
In the middle
Of the road.
Isn't that about right, though?
We must all face our fear of being hit
To look into the face of God.

rise like bread

Find joy in their joy,
Their marital bliss.
It is not an accusation.

Live for now, not then,
Or them--
Those make-believe children
You'd love if you could.

Let the ache for that life just sit,
Not to harden you like concrete
But to rise like bread
Into soft, domestic reality
You'll love, and nurture, and share.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

favorite place to eat

I'm with Natalie on missing the little kitchen at 205...but that felt unoriginal, so I opted for my other favorite place: Cafe Rio. For me, that'll be a pork enchilada style burrito with sweet rice, black beans, mild sauce, cheese, lettuce, and pico de gallo, please! I don't know how I'd handle a choice between heaven and Cafe Rio - so I keep hoping they're one and the same.

My heart aches, sitting here, remembering all of the times I've hopped into Tim's car and driven to IF to the sound of Our Lady Peace and the latest thoughts on his mind. Glen and Natalie were usually there too and oh, how I love these people. Sometimes I hate my life for taking me so far away, but I guess it was never really meant to last anyway.

last purchase

No, the last thing I purchased was not me. But, the last thing I purchased WAS a lot of assorted hair goo, which worked way better than expected and made my hair a little crazy! Hence the picture. Fortunately I've accepted that I will just have to practice and experiment in order to achieve casually gorgeous waves in 10 minutes. (This took way longer than 10 minutes, by the way. Maybe that's part of the problem.)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Day 8 a song to match your mood

This is tricky right now because I have to decide what my mood is. I have a habit of not owning up to the blues when I have them. The mundane kind of blues is so transient that it seems silly to give it credence by acknowledging it.

At any rate, "Belle of the Boulevard" by Dashboard Confessional keeps coming to mind, which I find interesting and unexpected. This song mourns the loss of innocence, but it also refuses to acknowledge the pain in that loss.


I'll be pondering this for a while.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Day 7 your dream wedding

Paper lanterns in lots of sizes. Strings of white Christmas lights. Some cool theme/motif that is both whimsical and edgy.



Navy blue and lime green. (I thought green bouquets were stupid until today -- but they're SO PRETTY with the navy dresses!!) Cindy as matron of honor, Deborah as bridesmaid. Tulle.


Really fun shoes -- haven't yet decided on Converses or really hot, classy heels.

Something more interesting than cake. Early spring. A FUN reception, not a dumb, boring one -- and probably outside.

Temple.

Oh, and the love of my life. Of course.

Day 6 a photo of an animal you'd love to keep as a pet



Secretly, I have a thing for out-of-the-ordinary pets. Not TOO out of the ordinary -- I don't want a monkey or anything! -- but reptiles are pretty dang cool.  Iguanas in particular look like you have a dinosaur as a pet.

Unfortunately, they're about as cuddly as dinosaurs, too. And unlike the dinos, they live for stinkin' EVER. So, I'll probably stick with my second choice:


Quiet, practical size for an apartment, cute, lives for a couple of years, and WAY more interesting than a fish. Sold.