Tuesday, February 25, 2014

we will be as one people [Scripture Mastery Times: Moses 7:18]

18 And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.
I am almost positive that when Elder Bednar visited Logan and had a Q&A with the YSA there he said something like "Unity is the key to revelation."

But I apparently did not bring down the journal in which I wrote that insight, so it's not verified.

If you think about it, though, it makes sense. Unity is a big deal in the progress of the church.

Our department goal last year, or maybe the year before, was to be united as divisions and as a department. In our division, we promoted unity by going to the taco stand for lunch.

It was pretty great.

Monday, February 24, 2014

followers of my faith [Mormon Monday 30]

I just found another old sacrament meeting talk I gave. You might find some excerpts of that talk the next few weeks. Because why mess with the current trend?

At the end of the talk I pulled out this quote from Elder Maxwell:

“Photosynthesis, the most important single chemical reaction, brings together water, light, chlorophyll, and carbon dioxide, processing annually the hundreds of trillions of tons of carbon dioxide, converting them to oxygen as part of the process of making food and fuel. The marvelous process of photosynthesis is crucial to life on this planet, and it is a very constant and patient process. So, too, is an individual’s spiritual growth. Neither patience nor photosynthesis are conspicuous processes. 
Patience is always involved in the spiritual chemistry of life—not only when it helps us turn trials and tribulations, the carbon dioxide, as it were, into joy and growth, but also when it builds upon the seemingly ordinary experiences to bring about happy, spiritual outcomes. 
Patience is, therefore, clearly not fatalistic, shoulder-shrugging resignation; it is accepting a divine rhythm to life; it is obedience prolonged. Patience stoutly resists pulling up the daisies to see how the roots are doing!” (source)
Here's the best part of this quotation: for many years it was my default "Busy" status on Google Talk. I loved that it was a religious quote using my area of expertise at the time. Also it's a really great message about what patience really means.

A message that I constantly find I need to hear again.

Monday, February 17, 2014

followers of my faith [Mormon Monday 29]

Hi guys.

Here's the other half of the talk I gave for Valentine's Day four years ago.

To love our neighbor is the second great commandment.  Elder Wirthlin told a story of Joseph Smith, who "possess[ed] the principle of love." 
The story is told of a 14-year-old boy who had come to Nauvoo in search of his brother who lived near there. The young boy had arrived in winter with no money and no friends. When he inquired about his brother, the boy was taken to a large house that looked like a hotel. There he met a man who said, “Come in, son, we’ll take care of you.”
The boy accepted and was brought into the house, where he was fed, warmed, and was given a bed to sleep in.
The next day it was bitter cold, but in spite of that, the boy prepared himself to walk the eight miles to where his brother was staying.
When the man of the house saw this, he told the young boy to stay for a while. He said there would be a team coming soon and that he could ride back with them.
When the boy protested, saying that he had no money, the man told him not to worry about that, that they would take care of him.
Later the boy learned that the man of the house was none other than Joseph Smith, the Mormon prophet. This boy remembered this act of charity for the rest of his life.

President Monson often tells a story of President George Albert Smith.  Says he: "following the carnage of World War II, Elder Ezra Taft Benson led Church response in providing food, medicine, and clothing—totaling two million in 1940s dollars and requiring 133 boxcars to transport it—to the cold and starving members in Europe. This desperately needed aid saved lives, rescued the dispirited, and brought a newness of hope and quickened prayers of thanksgiving and expressions of profound gratitude from one and all. “Charity never faileth.” 5
During a drive to amass warm clothing to ship to suffering Saints, Elder Harold B. Lee and Elder Marion G. Romney took President George Albert Smith to Welfare Square in Salt Lake City. They were impressed by the generous response of the membership of the Church to the clothing drive and the preparations for sending the goods overseas. They watched President Smith observing the workers as they packaged this great volume of donated clothing and shoes. They saw tears running down his face. After a few moments, President Smith removed a new overcoat that he had on and said, “Please ship this also.”
The Brethren said to him, “No, President, no; don’t send that; it’s cold and you need your coat.”
But President Smith would not take it back."

President Monson himself is an incredible example of love and charity for us today.  We have heard how he cared for the widows in his ward when he was a bishop.  He once gave his friend his pet rabbits because the friend had no Christmas dinner.  I heard a story of when he was in East Germany many years ago.  He saw a man had shabby clothes and was similar to his size, so he gave him his suit and shoes and flew back to America in his house slippers.  He sent the man clothes until he died in the late 1990's.  In the most recent General Conference, President Monson urged us to do a good turn for someone each day.  Is it any wonder that under this prophet we are adding to our threefold mission the emphasis on "caring for the poor and needy"?  He is a great example of loving our neighbors.

I was in class the other day and my teacher had a really great insight about God's Law of Love that I'd like to share with you.  It ties in pretty well.  The most base form of love, the world's form, is pretty selfish, with people only doing nice things insofar as it benefits them, and so on.  In the Law of Moses, we learn that we must "love thy neighbor as thyself" -- you know, the second great commandment.  This means that we wouldn't do anything to others we wouldn't want ourselves.  (He also mentioned that since we don't love ourselves perfectly, we can't love others perfectly but we all give each other the benefit of the doubt.)  When Christ gave the parable of the Good Samaritan, we learned that we should love everyone.  And finally, when He was near death, Christ exhorted his disciples to love one another "As I have loved you."  As we grow in our love for our neighbors and everyone, we can progress and become more like Christ to the point where we actually love others as He does.

Elder Wirthlin said, "The gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of transformation. It takes us as men and women of the earth and refines us into men and women for the eternities.
The means of this refinement is our Christlike love. There is no pain it cannot soften, no bitterness it cannot remove, no hatred it cannot alter."  Love is the means through which we become more like Christ and worthy for eternal glory.  Love is the reason that Christ suffered the Atonement for us.

I read in a book a letter by a Brother Howard, who wrote his old missionary companion the following: "I have been spending most of my time now caring for Sister Howard.  Since her stroke nearly three years ago she is like a rag doll.  She can barely see.  I am her 24-hour-a-day nurse.  Because I love her it has been no great sacrifice.  I often think love is what made the Lord's sacrifice somehow bearable for Him."  Although Brother Howard could not work in a career, or play golf with his buddies, he realized what Elder Wirthlin meant when he stated that the development of soul-enriching, joy-bringing love is the measure of true success in this life.

In conclusion, I'd like to read one more quote from Elder Wirthlin's great talk.  "Love is the beginning, the middle, and the end of the pathway of discipleship. It comforts, counsels, cures, and consoles. It leads us through valleys of darkness and through the veil of death. In the end love leads us to the glory and grandeur of eternal life."  I know that what he said is true, and that Christ's statement of the two great commandments is true, and if we can keep them and grow more Christlike in our love, we will be happy!

Friday, February 14, 2014

followers of my faith [Mormon Monday 28]

I know it's Friday. It's also Valentine's Day. As I thought today about how I just didn't feel like posting a MM this week I realized that I do have something I could post. Last time Valentine's Day was on a Sunday I had a great one, and I happen to have the text of my talk on a Google doc so it is always with me.

I will share some of it with you now. I may share more of it with you later.

Today, as I'm sure you all could guess, we're discussing Love.  I'm going to base my thoughts off of Elder Wirthlin's talk in General Conference in 2007, titled "The Great Commandment."  He begins his talk by asking what quality defines us as Latter-Day Saints today.  At the end of the talk (yes, I'm spoiling the ending) he answered: we are a people who love the Lord with all our hearts, souls, and minds, and we love our neighbors as ourselves.  We know from Matthew 22:35-40 that on those commandments hang the whole law and the prophets.  I'll talk a bit about each of those commandments, and also about the nature of love.
Elder Wirthlin said, "True love lasts forever. It is eternally patient and forgiving. It believes, hopes, and endures all things. That is the love our Heavenly Father bears for us.We all yearn to experience love like this. Even when we make mistakes, we hope others will love us in spite of our shortcomings—even if we don’t deserve it.Oh, it is wonderful to know that our Heavenly Father loves us—even with all our flaws! His love is such that even should we give up on ourselves, He never will."
Brad Wilcox, a BYU professor, said, "God is bound to love us.  It is his nature to love perfectly and infinitely.  He is bound to love us -- not because we are good, but because He is good.  Love is so central to His character that the scriptures actually say, "God is love"."
In return we are commanded to love Him.  Elder Wirthlin said, "Spend time with Him. Meditate on His words. Take His yoke upon you. Seek to understand and obey, because “this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.” When we love the Lord, obedience ceases to be a burden. Obedience becomes a delight. When we love the Lord, we seek less for things that benefit us and turn our hearts toward things that will bless and uplift others."
1 Corinthians 8:3 states "If any man love God, the same is known of Him."  As we begin to know and love God, He recognizes our efforts and we can see more clearly the love He has for us.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

I am a different man with different eyes

3rd grade school picture

Me + glasses have been a thing for almost my whole life. I am very certain that the fact that I had glasses shaped my personality into who I am today (not that I was ever teased, but there is something about being the girl with glasses).
By my 6th birthday I was already wearing them

Even when I graduated to wearing contacts (which took a few tries before I really got into it) I still wore glasses every night. Reaching for my glasses first thing when I wake up has been the habit of decades.

But not anymore.

It turns out that my glasses are actually really heavy when I'm wearing them all day every day (with my high prescription comes thick lenses of great mass), and when in late December I discovered that wearing contacts was no longer a non-irritating option for my eyes I resigned myself to being the girl with glasses for the foreseeable future...

...until I remembered that they have surgeries for people like me. Not LASIK or PRK, no, that would be too easy (too cheap). No, the only non-glasses option for me is something called an ICL. It's an implanted contact lens.

Last fall (when I was in the midst of a temporary contact lens fast) my parents sent me a link to a live recording of an ICL surgery. It didn't look too bad, except for the patient had to stare at a bright light without moving. At that point contact-wearing was only days away, and I'd just had a couple of really traumatic eye appointments (all of them are) and I knew that staring at a bright light was not something I wanted in my immediate future. So that idea was tabled.
It was around this time. This picture is also (irrelevantly) the last known picture of the chip in my front tooth.

Probably the best thing I did when I impulsively decided to look into getting an ICL done was not to watch any videos of the procedure. I think that probably would've frightened me again. (I was already pretty frightened. After the surgeon finished my consultation I burst into tears as I scheduled the surgery.)

Of course, after I scheduled the surgery I started getting a lot of compliments on my glasses. I have always taken those really personally (to the point that in September when I was first thinking that an ICL could be fun, I nixed the idea when a young man said "You look so fantastic in glasses. Wear them more often.") and the idea that I may no longer be a girl with glasses started to wear on me. Would my identity be compromised?

(Ha. That's kind of funny now that I think of it. Just imagine if Clark Kent had ever taken off his glasses. Now that's a compromised identity.)

The funniest thing about it is I don't even really like the way I look in glasses. I got used to it in the month or so I had to wear them, but they make my eyes really small, and the lenses refract light weirdly in photos. So how much of my identity was at stake here?
This is not quite the last picture I took with my glasses, but the last one is too hard to find and also a really bad angle.

I was also really worried about the level of responsibility I had in this surgery. It wouldn't be like all the others, where they would safely put me to sleep and work there. I had to be awake so I could look in the light. What if I shied away? What if he chopped open my eye because I couldn't keep still?

The only answer was to get a blessing. So I did. That was pretty neat.

There's not too much to say about the day of my surgery. They gave me Valium but I remained disappointingly lucid (and tense!), which is pretty reminiscent of my lucidity after I come out from general anesthesia. My mom watched the procedure and wouldn't have said anything but when I asked her if I bled a lot, she said yes. (I couldn't tell! All I could see was that dang bright light!)

I did do some crying. That's pretty typical even if I'm not coming out from anesthesia. When I called the hotline to make sure the extra weird pain I was feeling in my right eye was normal I started crying when she said "Well they didn't say anything about it at your post-op so I don't think it's an issue" (I mean, she was right. It wasn't an issue. But, you know). I took a nap. I ate some food. It ended up being a pretty normal day. I could see just about as well as usual, even.

There have been two kind of odd things I've had to get used to. One is not taking my glasses off when I go to bed, and putting them on when I wake up. The other is the way my eyes look in my face without contacts in. I had not seen myself without either contacts or glasses for like 20 years. (I could see my eye without either, as long as I zoomed in so much that my eye was all I could see.) It's kind of different.

This morning I had my one-week follow-up. My vision is at 20/15 in both eyes. On the way out I dropped off my glasses at the donation box. I won't need those anymore.

Monday, February 3, 2014

followers of my faith [Mormon Monday 27]

Last week at dinner group it turned out that we girls were very interested in the Iron Man puzzle ball at our host's apartment. None of us had ever solved a puzzle ball before and the temptation was too great to pass up.

As we worked diligently, things kept coming up that related our puzzle to the gospel. "The next person to give a talk in sacrament should use this as an example," one said.

"I'll just put it on my blog," I replied. Then blushed. "It's a secret blog."

(It's so secret you guys. Also I am not socially awkward at all.)

Here's what we discovered in our struggles with the puzzle ball:
1. If a piece isn't fitting, maybe the foundation is wrong. You have to make sure your foundation is right before you can build on the best way.
2. Check the instructions/blueprint. You'll never know which Iron Hand goes where if you don't have an idea of the big picture.
3. If you overstay your welcome long enough, your host will wash your dishes for you. (That one's not gospel-related, except it kind of is.)
4. We all have different talents. I made two matches and felt like a major contributor. Don't disparage others' efforts just because they're not on the same level as your own. (My friends are such a good example of this.)

Yeah, I'm not very good at puzzles.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

gotta move, gotta choose

I realized that I was perhaps a bit disingenuous when I deleted my drafts for Epiphany. See, while I deleted 18 drafts and that was great, I still have 100 left. My wording in that post was unclear on that point. I keep a lot of drafts.

But the other day I was voting for Teen Choice awards for YA books in 2013, and in order to narrow it down to 5 I had to go through the list and write down every book I read that I would be willing to see on a top choices list, even if I might not necessarily vote for them. To keep track, I created another draft.

And it's bugging me to have 101 drafts. So here's the 18 or so books I narrowed the list down to before I picked the 5 to vote for (indicated by a hyphen). It was pretty tough; try not to judge me for not voting for a book you loved, because chances are I loved it too.

-All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill
All the Truth That's In Me by Julie Berry
The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson
The Chaos of Stars by Kiersten White
The Clockwork Scarab by
-A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty
Curtsies & Conspiracies by Gail Carriger
The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
Earthbound by Aprilynne Pike
Golden by Jessi Kirby
Goodbye, Rebel Blue by Shelly Coriell
-Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay
Red by Allison Cherry
-The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson
Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein
The Runaway King by Jennifer Nielsen
Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo
-Shadows by Robin McKinley
This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer Smith

There, now I can delete that draft.