Tuesday, January 24, 2012

good morning beautiful

One of the best feelings in the world is that moment when you first wake up in the morning and you realize that you're inside you're own head...and you're okay with that.

That was my first feeling this morning, a patient sort of contentment. "Oh, hello again, consciousness. What are we going to do today?"

This sort of equanimity is hard-earned and hard to keep, so I spent the morning listening to Christian music and making wheat tortillas (because, alas, I am out of yeast.) I also went to the store to pick up oranges and juice, because I think I am getting a cold -- a result of my recent neglect.

I had a lovely morning, and it is such a blessing, having moments like this.

Monday, January 23, 2012

survival mode

As I told Cindy this morning, I'm in survival mode. I never actually made bread the other day. And I need to do laundry. And (perhaps worst of all) I'm running on 6 hours of sleep. I've just been so...distracted. Just doing other things.

Don't get me wrong: it is a good thing to be distracted sometimes and let a few things slide. I am a believer in appropriate escapism. And right this moment, life is not particularly easy: I miss Chris. We are still doing our best to be (and become) the Christlike people we are meant to be, and trying to appropriately encourage each other in this effort. In my best moments, I feel really good about this. In other moments, I just worry. Not knowing for sure how things are going to go can really burden your heart, especially when the outcome matters so much to you.

With all that going on, I think it's good to spend some time just sort of...resting. I skype with Rachel, and play board games with my roommate, things I enjoy. What I do NOT enjoy, however, is staying awake until 3am and forgetting to eat and neglecting to write in my journal and letting my room get messy. These are the things that are the hardest to manage when I am struggling, and yet carefully managing these things makes the struggle so much more bearable.

I'm trying to find a balance between being gentle on myself and tightening my belt to handle the onslaught of temptation I'm facing. Because it is a temptation: to give up, to despair, to just throw my hands in the air and quit. Whenever we are at the verge of something amazing, Satan goes into overdrive and we're left asking, "What did I do??" (The answer to that is, ironically, "everything you should have." That's just how it works.)

Taking that into account, my main focus right now is just maintaining my spirituality. I go to church on Sunday, and to the temple on Wednesday. I study Conference talks and the scriptures. I pray, often. (Oh, and I helped Cindy unpack today. That was fun!)

I guess the take-home message of this is when life is hard, be as good to yourself as you can. Our dearest friends are the ones who give us hugs, dry our tears, and tell us it is going to be okay, yes. But they are also the ones who tell us to go to bed, bring us real food, and remind us to pray.

We have to be good friends to ourselves, too. We're never going to exist outside of our own heads, so we might as well learn to like it in there. So try something new -- try to forgive yourself for not being such a great friend.

Then, do better.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

the care and keeping of sara

I've kind of slacked off in the last couple of weeks. When people ask what I'm up to, I say, "Oh, just working, taking really good care of myself..." But to tell you the truth, I really ought to be treating myself better than I have been in recent days. I caught myself casually thinking rather dismal thoughts today, and that is just not who I am meant to be.

So after work today, I am going to make bread.

That might seem pretty silly to you, but for me, it's not. The quiet, methodical nature of it, as well as the high nutritional value, makes it the perfect gesture of love for myself. I'm so excited at the idea of eating homemade wheat bread and fresh spinach. Mmmmm...

I think it's important to be excited to come home from work and hang out with...me. As an adult, I have much greater responsibilities -- and joys -- than I did in the previous twenty years of my life, and I have to be at my best in order to accomplish them. It sounds weird to say that consistantly showing myself love is an essential part of functioning at my best, but it is.

So, I make bread. I journal. I read Conference talks. I breathe deeply. I attend the temple. I stand up straight. I listen to KLOVE. I go to bed early. I do stretches.

And I tell the nagging little voice in my head that says "you're not pretty" and "you'll never change" and "you are not worth the effort" to just STUFF IT. Because I am a daughter of God.

I "no longer have the luxury of spending [my] energy on anything that does not lead [me and my family] to Christ," to borrow a line from Sherri Dew.  And you know what, it feels really good to expend my energy in that way. If I make a point of being good to myself, I get double benefits: I take care of myself, and I get to be proud of myself for doing so. I am happy, which means that I have happiness to share with others.

Loving myself makes me able to build the kingdom, rather than assuming that I can't possibly have anything to share and therefore not bothering to share it.

If this is something you would like to learn more about, try any of the following resources:

What do you do to show yourself love?

Thursday, January 19, 2012


So, in popular psychology, there's a theory that there are stages to grieving: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

I hit stage two yesterday.

It was, overall, a wonderful day. It was my day off, so I went to the temple, then grocery shopping where I bought myself roses. Then I made dinner for my roommate and I -- tacos with homemade corn tortillas. (Yum.) Over dinner, I turned to Natalie. "I think I want to go on a date tonight. I just don't want to be by myself this evening; I want a change of scene. But I don't know who to ask."

Natalie, being the socially resourceful person that she is, suggested one of the five or so guys in the ward who have shown some tentative interest in me since I moved here. "I have his number! You can text him!" I've talked to him a few times now, and I was pretty sure he'd say yes to a game night, so I went for it.

It went off without a hitch. My date volunteered to bring some games and Natalie got ice cream and root beer on her way back from picking up her boyfriend. We had a really fun time, just playing and chatting. There was discussion of another game night, maybe a movie.

But as soon as everyone left, I sat on the couch and (finally) sobbed.

It was just so hard, watching the look on Natalie's new boyfriend's face when he put his arms around her. He's awestruck, and just trying to soak it in, that his life is this good. Chris wore that look once upon a time, but no more. Today, I am positively ferocious about that.

I really did everything I possibly could with the resources I had at my disposal. I'm sick of not being enough for people. I'm sick of not being appreciated. I'm sick of working ridiculously hard and then having so little to show for it.

It just makes me so spitting mad.

However, I am learning Christ's role in the pain. He doesn't provide the other side, the joy to counteract the hurt. Jesus Christ transcends both the joy and the hurt. His divinity remains, outside of that equation. He makes it so I can be both true to my feelings and a steadily better person. He is the place I go when I am ready to step outside of my pain and learn about much larger concerns.

I myself am nothing: I am furious and lonely and fed up. Yet, because I am a daughter of God, the worth of my soul is great: I must also be serene and faithful and stalwart. Heavenly Father expects that of me, yes, but He will be patient with me as Christ works in my life to bring me to that point again. The point where I can take a deep breath and say that I am okay, that my character has grown, that I am grateful for this hardship.

For now, however, I am angry. And, darn it, that will just have to be good enough today.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Do you know the difference between giving your pain to God, and hiding from your pain in Him?

I'm not sure that I do.

Another friend voiced a concern today. She believes I'm only telling myself that I cheerfully accept all of this. "It's okay to be angry, Sara," she insisted. "It's okay to feel it's all unfair and that you should win once in a while."

But...I don't find being angry terribly useful. I simply have too much to do for that. I mean that in a "my schedule is full" kind of way, yes, but also in an "I am a daughter of God with purpose and responsibility" way, too. With all we have been given, and all we are expected to accomplish, who has time to be upset?

And yet, my grief is very real. It sits in the back of my chest, sticky and suffocating, and it waits. I don't know how to handle it without it adhering to everything I have worked so hard to acquire, without it smothering the joy that is the foundation of everything I know my life to be.

But shouldn't our foundation be Christ? Not the joy that He brings?

It's a close enough fit that we can go most of our lives worshiping the joy of the gospel without much trouble. After all, it's Christ that provides the joy. But what if He stopped? What if, one day, just when we thought we were doing everything right, the joy stopped coming? Wouldn't Jesus still be the Christ?

That is what I'm struggling with today. I absolutely know that Jesus Christ is my Savior; He died for my sins and makes the impossible possible. He is the Source of all of my dearest joy.

I'm just trying to figure out His role in the pain.

Monday, January 16, 2012


A dear friend of mine pointed out to me today that perhaps my previous blog post was a little misleading.

Chris and I didn't break up because he's not meeting my needs in some way. I don't think I could have asked to be treated any better than how he treated me. He's wonderful, that Chris.

It's just that...we said all along that we would do the right thing, and if the right thing for each of us overlapped, then so much the better. We just...hit a cross-roads and stopped overlapping. Honestly, I'm so proud of Chris for making this decision. I actually love and respect him more as a result of this. Which, yes, is a little hard.

Well. It's a lot hard.

But doing the right thing is often hard. That doesn't make it any less the right thing. We have to keep progressing, keep moving onward in our lives and adapting to our circumstances. We have to keep acquiring the attributes of Christ, through a combination of study and practice. That practice often comes through situations that challenge us, circumstances that are uncomfortable, heartbreak that is just a part of life.

But sometimes "blessings come through raindrops." So I will choose to be grateful to Heavenly Father for the good things -- like having dated someone who is just a solidly good person -- and to turn to Him with the things I don't like and don't understand.

I learned a lot about that in the last week. The comfort and peace of the Spirit fills up every emptiness we have, as we seek out the Spirit and make choices as guided by His influence. He "satisfies our souls in drought." We are never alone in our loneliness.

We have our God.

Saturday, January 14, 2012


It's ironic: the best word to describe my state of being, now that noise is allowed back in my life, is "quiet." It's a deep contentment, a peaceful watchfulness. I'm loving it.

My scope for radio silence was so small at the outset, compared to where it ended up. "Father in Heaven, will Chris and I just be wasting our time if we keep dating?" I really grappled with that question. Each day, I had new tears and a different opinion, and each day, I deeply questioned any peace I thought I'd found. There just seemed to be so much static, so much information to try to work with and reconcile. Then, on Wednesday, I had a new thought.

And it changed everything.

The fact of the matter is, no matter what situation I am in, I have a responsibility to be as Christlike as possible. I realized that the troubling situation Chris and I were in, the one that lead me to this week's question, was partially my fault.

For years, I've had an underlying belief that is so completely false. Regardless, I've believed it, and lived by it, and I think it's undermined every dating experience I've ever had. The gist? That I have to give love unconditionally in order to receive any love at all.

The biggest repercussion of this idea, for me at least, is that I've accepted worse treatment than I deserve (to varying degrees.) I've loved with an element of desperation. I've lived beneath my privileges. I've been insecure. In short, I have not been as Christlike as I ought to be.

But no more. I get to be a different person now, even though all I asked for was help in figuring out my relationship status. God is so good. This new insight has taken so much of the urgency out of my approach to dating, and replaced it with a sense of peace. I wasn't sure that would ever happen...but I have finally made significant progress.

When I talked to Chris today, I offered to keep trying, because maybe this realization was what needed to change for us. In the end, he declined, citing that he felt he needed to make his own changes, too, and do some experimenting of his own -- and that couldn't happen while he was in a relationship.

That's okay. Chris and I might not be dating anymore, but I am better for this experience, and I think that's the best we can ask from our relationships anyway. I've gained so much knowledge in the last week -- the last 6 months -- and I'm excited to use it.

Grateful to use it, in fact.

Life is good.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

radio silence

It seems a little counter-intuitive, taking my already socially-deprived life and making it a little more so.

Yet, here I am, announcing to you that I will be taking a week of what is fondly known, in my head at least, as "radio silence."

This initially started as a television reference, but given the soothing, if not holy nature the term has taken on thanks to my dear friend Cindy, it now has little to do with Sydney Bristow or the CIA.

I'm incredibly blessed with the people in my life. Cindy is only the beginning; I've had a long, nearly unbroken series of wonderful roommates. I have numerous dear friends. My family adores me. To tell you the truth, I don't know of anyone who flat out doesn't like me.

And yet, this isn't enough. I need to sit down and have a long talk. Not with my best girl friends, not with my parents, but rather my Heavenly Father. I need to go to Him and be ready to listen, closely, for the specifics I need. I need to quiet the din of my emotions and philosophies so I can know what He would have me to do. I need to know that His plan for me is the only one that will make my life as truly happy as it can be.

So in order to acquire that, I will be tuning out of electronics for the week. No facebook, no blogging, no e-mail, no phone. Nada. It's just me and God this week. I'm a little nervous, I'm not gonna lie. But I need this.

And whatever you are going through right now, I promise you that you, too, can have the same clarity I am currently seeking. Ask for it, believing you will get it, and the answers will come.

I promise you that.

Friday, January 6, 2012

eating cheaply: sample grocery list

I spent $19.32 at the store yesterday, and man do I feel cool. This will actually feed me for some time.

Brown rice -- This was partially to help out my waterlogged phone, but mostly because I realized I had NO rice on hand, and that just felt a little strange to me.

Powdered milk -- I mostly just use milk in cooking, rather than for drinking, so I realized it doesn't much matter how it tastes! It's cheaper than buying the real stuff.

Canned tuna -- I didn't buy chicken this week like I'd planned. I just couldn't justify spending the money on a pricey protein source when I have a whole bag of dried beans sitting in my pantry. This was my compromise. Expect forthcoming posts on how I use the beans!

Medium cheddar -- This is mostly to go along with all of the Mexican food I will be eating this week, since I've been looking up what to do with my dried black beans, not to mention the plethora of salsa I inherited. (Thank you, Sam!) EDIT: Except how I've brought cheese and crackers to work two days in a row. I think it's time to do some real cooking.

Grapes -- Last grocery trip I bought apples, bananas, and oranges. I try to have variety in my produce to maximize the range of nutrition, plus grapes just sounded good. This is my treat this week.

Grapefruit -- Again, this provides a little variety in my produce. Two interesting tidbits though...apparently when you buy citrus fruits, you want to pick the ones that feel a little heavy for their size. This usually means that they are juicier and sweeter, I think.

(Also, for a super yummy breakfast or snack, slice grapefruit into circles and sprinkle brown sugar on each one. Put them on a cookie sheet and stick them under the broiler until the peel starts to darken. Eat. Wish you could justify eating another one. Eat another one anyway, justification be darned.)

Acorn squash -- I also try to buy my produce in season. Winter obviously is a little tricky, but winter squashes (you know, with a big, thick rind) fit the bill. I've never had acorn squash before, but I like the other kinds I've tried. So I'm excited to see what kind of distinction there is, aside from the obvious difference in shape.

Cabbage -- Okay, I confess, I have never bought a cabbage before in my life. I have no idea what to do with it, but it's super cheap and it's a vegetable, so I'm excited to find out.

Eggs -- Well...anyone who has seen my Facebook already knows how I feel about these, but there it is again for good measure.
They may want to refigerate their spelling, because I figer that ain't  right.
. My snark springs eternal, apparently.

yeah, that really just happened

I dropped my cell phone in a glass of water yesterday.

Go ahead and laugh -- I sure did. 

I mean, I cried too, but laughter was my immediate reaction. 

The scene of the crime
This picture is quite typical of the space next to my bed. I don't have a nightstand, so things tend to end up in this spot, especially my cell phone. It's my alarm clock, after all, as well as my connection to the outside world.

Wednesdays are my day off, so I'm not sucking down water at my desk all day. Hence, a cup ends up taking up residence there about once a week. (It might be more often if my tap water wasn't so icky.)

These two factors combined for disaster. My cup sat, forgotten, on the floor -- forgotten because it's not ordinarily there. My cell phone and I had a falling out (mostly because it wasn't ringing) and so in a fit of independence, I dropped it on the floor.

Or so I thought. It makes quite a different sound when you drop it directly into a cup of water.

So, alas, I am without a phone for a little while. Sure makes a funny story though...

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

it was the best of times; it was the worst of times

I've been thinking a lot about paradoxes lately, statements that are contradictory, but true.

I attribute it in part to President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, from this talk in General Conference. In it, he points out two scriptures, namely "man is nothing" and "the worth of souls is great in the sight of God." He testifies the truth of both, despite their contradiction. President Uchtdorf states, "The great deceiver knows that one of his most effective tools in leading the children of God astray is to appeal to the extremes of the paradox of man."

This stuck in my mind. I am so wary of complacency because (to use a metaphor) as soon as you forget how indebted you are, you stop being concerned with paying off the debt. I am constantly trying to be a better person, and I think that's a good thing.

President Uchtdorf's statement, however, helped me to see that I was going too far. Satan loves to target my feelings of inadequacy so that I don't recognize the opposing truth...that I am an eternal daughter of Heavenly Father. I am a princess, with all of the prestige and responsibility that comes with that appellation. I have a work to do, and a great one at that.

Since that realization, I have been alert to other paradoxes in my life. And today, I hit on one in particular.

I can be both gentle AND passionate.

It is my birthright and responsibility as a daughter of God to be gentle. (Plus, I'm pretty sure it makes me a more enjoyable girlfriend.) Christ was meek, mild, temperate. And I want to be like Him. I can be like Him. In my best moments, I am like Him.

On the other hand, I am a passionate, enthusiastic person by nature. I care about things, and I care a lot! I get emotionally involved very quickly, and my fervor can certainly be a major contribution to my peer groups and communities.

These traits, in my mind at least, are contradictory. How can I be purposeful, yet peaceful? Daring, but dignified? Sparkling, but soothing?

To be perfectly honest, I'm not sure. I do know, however, that by resting too heavily on either extreme, Satan catches me up in a riptide of good intentions. When I try too hard to be gentle, it manifests itself in fear and hesitation. When I recklessly manifest passion, I find no rest, no peace. And fear or exhaustion will do equally well for Satan.

On the other hand, if I acknowledge the necessity of both and steer clear of the extremes, I can be fearless and peaceful-- faithful. I can provide refuge and inspiration-- encouragement. I will be neither frenetic nor benign-- I will be warm.

That's who I really am, you know.

The past few months have been the best of times and the worst of times, but if Heavenly Father is teaching me lessons like that...is it really so bad at all?