Saturday, December 19, 2015

Pray Always

It's the weekend before Christmas; I finished my class, my baking business has been closed, work is going great and I'm staring down a four day weekend coming up. I've found a great group of friends and we spend quite a bit of time together building positive relationships and having fun, which we all need to do, right? Really, things couldn't be going better. Yet in the midst of it all I'm struggling. I've been sharp this week, to my family especially. I'm trying to make the best decisions I can but feel like I keep hitting a brick wall. Logically I understand I shouldn't feel this way but it is hanging with me.

Today it finally reached a breaking point, and in the grocery store no less. Yes, I started crying for no apparent physical reason, but inside my heart hurt so badly. But really, how embarrassing! I should have at least pretended to have tripped and fallen so as to warrant such behavior. But no, I just stood there crying (though they did open a lane especially for me...or because it's the Saturday before Christmas and it was busy...who knows). I escaped as quickly as I could and got home, feeling relieved to have gotten the groceries into the kitchen. Having locked the door behind me, I went to the couch and gave myself permission to cry it out for five minutes before getting up and working on the to-do list (have I mentioned it's the weekend before Christmas??).

At the appointed time I got up, put the groceries away and realized I had one package that HAD to be mailed today so off to the post office I went, assuming the waterworks were over. BIG MISTAKE! Standing in line at the post office I could feel this wave of tears coming back toward shore and ready to break. PLEASE, give me a break!! I finally get to the counter and can feel my eyes burning and that horrid lump in my throat. You know the one; the one that will stay put as long as you don't open your mouth to speak, but once you do it's game over. My sweet cashier noticed my red eyes and heard the sniffles as I tried to choke it all back and asked if I was struggling with allergies. Why can't I be coy and play off an answer like that?? I tried to say it had just been a rough morning and well, you guessed it, the lump in my throat escaped and so did the tears. Bless her heart, she was so patient and kind and simply said she'd say a prayer for me. She told me it was all going to be okay and that I was doing fine, words I desperately needed to hear (apparently). Now there's no stopping the tears at this point so I try to quickly gather my things and make it back to my car. The next thing I know she grabs my hand and asks if she can say a prayer with me right there. This is something that has never happened to me before, at least not in this way, but there in the post office this sweet woman took a moment and prayed for me.

She doesn't know my name or the things troubling me. She doesn't know my background, religious affiliation, or anything else. But this wonderful woman, from one Christian woman to another, saw a sister in need and stepped in at the VERY moment it was needed, and boy did I need it!

As I've pondered the events of this day I kept coming back to the scripture in Doctrine and Covenants 10:5 which says:

"Pray always, that you may come off conqueror; yea, that you may conquer Satan, and that you may escape the hands of the servants of Satan that do uphold his work."

My heart still feels troubled, especially when I stop working and sit idly. But in the midst of it I feel this peace. I know that this trouble comes from many sources, one being exhaustion which always gets me, and the other Satan. While I don't want to offer him any more credit than he's already due, I know that my spiritual defenses are down when I'm tired and I can't turn off the negative thoughts and feelings quite as easily. That is one reason why I believe we are commanded to bear one anothers burdens. Today my burdens were too much for me to carry alone and it took the hands of a caring stranger but fellow sister in Christ to help me remove some of the load and readjust the rest.

We must pray always to not only keep our own lamps burning brightly, but we need to be ready to aid a fellow traveler on our journey Home.

Merry Christmas everyone! I'm so grateful for this time each year to celebrate and remember the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. He is the gift I need each and every day and I hope I strive to come to discover Him a bit more each and every day.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

One Voice

It appears I'm now a once a semester blogger. Good grief! So much has been happening. It's been an amazing semester and I've learned so much. I'm LOVING school again and have been given an opportunity to open a bakery even. Granted it's running from my home and only in operation for about six weeks, but I'm learning. I attended Time Out for Women and Whitney Johnson talked about dating our dreams. She shared about her dreams of becoming a singer. Instead of dropping everything else in her life to go to music school she took a few voice lessons. She said that she wanted to date singing, but singing didn't want to date her. So, I feel like I'm dating "professional" baking (nothing is swaying my feeling of personal baking). It seems to like me but I'm not sure I'm ready to pursue a long term relationship with "professional" baking. It's a truly great experience and I'm grateful to be having it.

But really, that's not what is on my mind tonight (though it is what is in my business project I'm taking up dog walking). Recently The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) updated a policy on membership eligibility for children of parents in same gender relationships. I'm not here to open any can of worms, or to debate, or anything like that. I will say that I choose to follow the prophet, end of story. He is in direct communication with a loving Heavenly Father who is aware of each and every one of us. I don't understand all of the reasons, and it isn't something I have to confront personally day in and day out, but some of that is why it's called faith. The thought I continue to have is that there IS a loving Heavenly Father who knows EVERYTHING. While it may be "just" an update to policy, what's to say there aren't changes coming elsewhere in this messed up world that this type of policy may protect. That's just food for thought, something I'm mulling over as the days pass and I continue to see the many outbursts of friends on social media who feel hurt, betrayed, or rejected. It reminds me of Elder M. Russell Ballard's talk "Stay In the Boat and Hold On". The Church is the boat and Christ is our captain. We don't have to understand everything that happens, but we can pray for peace, we can pray for strength in the knowledge and testimony that we DO currently have. That testimony will be strengthened as we continue to exercise faith where we stand.

The second thing I've observed and that has rubbed me the wrong way is another blog I've read. This post isn't meant to attack anyone so there will be no names used, it's strictly my observation and opinion. This LDS (Mormon) blogger shared their very strong feelings on this same issue and received a lot of backlash from the rest of the blogging world. This person made a great point...this was their opinion on their site. The feedback was brutal and unkind. It hurt me that people feel that the anonymity of the internet somehow removes the need for kindness, love, and understanding. We obviously don't all have to agree, that's the beauty of it, but there should always be respect. I expect people to respect my position in support President Thomas S. Monson as the Lord's prophet on the earth today and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints as a whole, just as much as I expect to respect their decisions and beliefs. In this particular instance I do have a differing opinion of the post I read, but I respect this person's right to their stance and appreciate the open honesty they feel to share.

In the meantime, I will continue to follow the prophet, love and respect all of my friends, and strive to be a disciple of Christ. I have much work to do on the latter but I will do my best every day. I'm one voice, one simple voice, but I will be heard even in my small corner of the internet.

Monday, August 3, 2015

What I Learned Through Education

Another semester has come and, thankfully, gone. This course above all others required so much more of me than I was prepared to give. I chalk it up to inspiration that I dropped my second course the week before school began. Before I proceed and it sounds like I'm just whiny about hard work and deadlines let me just say that is not the case. I am not afraid to roll up my sleeves and dig in. I may not enjoy it but I will stay up late, change plans, and work ahead to make sure I meet my deadlines.I'm generally known to be quite the procrastinator but I find I can't even consider it in my schoolwork (perhaps I should be in school full time).

With that out of the way the deadlines were RIDICULOUS!! Being two time zones away doesn't help anything. I understand pushing us to succeed but the class allowed us two days for some of these projects - it was INSANE!!  And sometimes it felt like less because we weren't given video instruction until Tuesday night for an assignment due for critique on Wednesday (which I always wanted to receive) for final submission on Thursday. There was even an assignment that took over 15 hours...for ONE assignment. But we made it. :)

Admittedly I push myself way too hard. My first college experience left MUCH to be desired and I earned grades then I am not proud of. I'm working twice as hard, it seems, to make up for it. There were nights this semester, weekly and sometimes more, where I would be so tired and stressed that I would collapse on the floor in tears, literally, crying out in prayer for strength just to make it through one more night (it sounds so embarrassing now but I believe in laying out the facts). I would call my mom and ask her just to tell me it was going to be okay. She would faithfully answer and then pray with me, sometimes over the phone, sometimes she'd come to my house. Always prayer brought the peace and strength to move forward.

I learned so much this semester. I learned about image design, Photoshop, Lightroom, and InDesign. I learned about photography, color schemes, and typography. And I LOVED it!! I'd take it again in a heartbeat (if the deadlines were adjusted just slightly, of course). But what I learned above everything else was the love my Heavenly Father has for me. I learned in ways I can't explain that He truly is interested in the very minute details of our lives. He is the ultimate Creator and I firmly believe that as we strive to create He will work with us if we turn to Him. I learned SO QUICKLY that I couldn't do this on my own. Some of it was deadline worry, and some was outright fear of the assignments. It didn't matter what I was doing, when I prayed and sought Heaven's help I received it.

It wasn't always the help I expected either. Sometimes I would remember a piece of instruction I had received from the instructor. Other times it was a thought of where to look for help. Sometimes it came in the form of words from a classmate. And other times it was a remembrance of something I had "seen" previously. Those were the most special ones to me. In one particular assignment I had to create a movie poster. Several months ago as I fought through a hard time I was wishing I could draw this design around me that was dark below and bright above. I don't see trying times as a left shoulder/right shoulder type image (think of the little shoulder angel/devil cartoons we always see). When I have hard times I physically feel brought down, and I'm sure I'm not alone in that. Fast forward months later to this assignment and as I was sketching out any idea I could think of (and there weren't many) a thought came to mind of this poster I had imagined. Some may call it coincidence, but it wasn't. I was prompted and inspired to remember that image in a moment of need.

It really was an amazing experience this semester. I wish we had longer to really practice our skills with the tools we had in this course. While I may not have the design tools available, the spiritual tools and experiences I had throughout the semester are a part of me now and forever.

If you're interested I've included my portfolio of designs for the semester.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie Layer Cake

I love to bake (surprise, surprise)!! I'm always looking for either a reason to bake or the next big thing to experiment with. Last Friday night was the annual youth cake auction to raise funds to send the young men and young women to their respective summer camps. I had my reason and I found what I deemed my next big thing! I was SO excited I couldn't hardly wait. I also found out that you can make the layers of this AMAZING "cake" ahead of time and freeze them until ready to assemble. I can only attest to this for up to a week, so tread carefully on your own after that. :)

Let me introduce you to the Ultimate Layered Chocolate Chip Cookie Layer Cake.

Photo Cred: Life, Love & Sugar
My version!
Okay, so I thought my version was very similar to the original, but for a first attempt and my own perceived lack of cake decorating skill I thought it turned out pretty good! I already know I'll do better next time (and I'm working on make this on a smaller scale...stay tuned). Regardless, I'm so proud of this cake and loved the adventure trying something new. If/When I open my bakery/restaurant, this is SOOOOOO going on the menu. :)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Creating Experiences

A follow up to the post regarding the YSA conference I attended focuses on the lessons I learned from listening to Abe Mills speak. Like his wife he shared many thoughts that touched my heart and really spoke to me. At this time though (and I'd like to point out that it is 3:30 IN THE MORNING and I'm at work) I only have the mental capacity to share this one thought. Let me explain.

Abe talked about how we have goals, dreams, and plans for our lives. We focus on what we want to accomplish but we don't always focus on creating the experiences that we need in order to reach these ambitions. I've realized over the last several weeks that I've become a bit complacent in my commitment to how I live the gospel and I'm trying to break myself and regain the ground that I've willingly given back or simply neglected and lost my footing on. I needed to create an experience in which I could get back on track.

On Saturday I thought about the Time Out for Women event I attended several years ago and longed to have that type of experience again. It had to have been inspiration that I thought instantly to search YouTube for TOFW videos. Do you know what I found? TONS of them!!!

When I have a few minutes I select another video to watch and love what these 1-5 minute clips teach me and allow me to feel. Tonight I got to come to work the night shift and have been here since 11 p.m. As you may imagine it is pretty quiet in the office. Last year when I covered a later shift I put movies on in the background. In all honesty, that was what I planned to do tonight. Instead I thought of these videos again and have now spent the last several hours being spiritually fed in ways that I hadn't planned.

I know when we allow even a few minutes to have experiences that draw us closer to God, He reaches out to us and magnifies that time. He truly wants us to come to Him and honors whatever time we allow Him. I'm going to include a few of my favorite clips.


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Everyday Miracles

I'm back and I have this burning desire to write. I've been struggling with things for so long and not feeling inspired, or inspiring for that matter, that I didn't feel that I could write ANYTHING! 

This weekend I attended a Young Single Adult Conference for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints ages 18-30 in Orlando. What an AMAZING weekend! I met so many wonderful new friends, caught up with other friends, enjoyed some beautiful (although chilly) weather, but most importantly learned and heard exactly what I needed.

The theme of this conference was based on a talk by President Thomas S. Monson entitled "We Never Walk Alone". There were many highlights for me that drove this thought home, but two in particular. Today I want to share the first. We were honored to have Abe and Rachel Mills and their adorable children as the guest speakers. Their thoughts were pertinent to me and so frequently during their devotional I was overwhelmed with a variety of feelings. In particular Rachel shared how she had been struggling over months and shared many of the lessons she learned. She talked about feeling isolated and alone during trials, of the need to build others up, of realizing that God never leaves us alone AND has also provided us with all of the tools we need to succeed in this life. The culmination of these thoughts came to me in a way that I'd not experienced before. I've considered my struggles to be just that, struggles, something to test and try me, to push me further than I've been before. What I hadn't considered was that these struggles are an educational experience, an opportunity for me to utilize the tools that I've been given, to fully rely on the Lord and His word, and to indeed become stronger because I've passed through these experiences.

I also realized as I sat there and had the feelings of the past rush through my mind and heart that I hadn't realized that I really have been feeling better in recent days. That was also eye opening. I realized that even though I may not still be feeling the exact same way I was a few months ago I was harboring the memories of those times (I'm still not sure why I was doing that, maybe fear of relapse??). I feel it a blessing to realize that things are going much better and that it is okay to let it all go.

Another thing Rachel shared was that she had made an effort to stop picking, on herself and on others; to be kind and build up rather than to tear down. Yet another lesson that sank deep into my heart and realized that while I do need to be better to others, I'm still much better to others than I ever am to myself. I have work to do, but that's not a negative thing. This is my opportunity to step up and acknowledge that while I'm not perfect I'm also not required to punish myself.

I regretted deeply that I forgot my notebook on this trip as I wanted to record much of what was said. While I'm trying to reflect and record what I can remember, I also found Rachel's blog. Thankfully she has written much of what she shared with us and this is helping me tremendously. Do yourself a favor and take a few minutes to read her reflections on the daily miracles in her life and see if they don't open  your eyes to miracles you've experienced.

I count the experiences of the last several days as a miracle in my life and hopefully the start of CREATING brighter days ahead. More one the idea of creating experiences next time (courtesy of thoughts shared by Abe).