Category: mission

My Weird Self Image and Other Updates

So I haven’t posted for a bit.  To begin with I had a lot of make up work to do in both my jobs after being sick so long.  The next reason is I have been exercising like a maniac at my new GYM!!!  Yes, I finally decided to step my exercise to the next level and join a gym.  It was a hard decision because the only gym nearby that had a pool  (an absolute requirement) is at the top of my price range ($69 a month).  The gym is called the Treehouse Athletic Club and is about 5 minutes from my apartment.  Treehouse is actually a great deal for families but they sock it to the singles (I’m sorry but you think it would be the other way around.  I’m only one person!).  Weeks ago I asked my facebook friends whether I should join a gym and one of them said “make sure it is somewhere you want to be”.  This sounds obvious but is not the case with most gyms.  They are usually “too body builder, show-off my weights, I’m a total tool”,  for my taste.  On the other end of the spectrum I have done Curves once before but its expensive for what you get and doesn’t provide classes, a pool or any real cardio.

With these expectations I went in to Treehouse last Monday for a trial day and it was like they knew I was coming.  There even happened to be a swim instructor there who gives tips on your stroke twice a week.  Need I mention that the pool blew me a way and the spa was even better.  There are 2 hot tubs, 2 pools (one for laps, one for child play), tons of equipment and weight machines and classes galore.  Plus, the whole environment felt so relaxing.  They have fluffy bathrobes, shampoo, conditioner and body wash in the showers, deodorant spray and lotion in the changing rooms, a swimsuit dryer, and nice hair dryers.  In the words of my friend “this is a place I want to be”.  After weighing the options, on Thursday I went in and paid the year-long membership (got a 10% discount for paying upfront) and have been using it like crazy since.  Anyone in the Draper area who would like to check it out let me know.  I have a few guest day passes. There have been times when I’ve joined gyms before but this time feels different.  This whole fitness quest has felt different.  I’m now at 285 (that’s 28 lbs lost since March) and working to get down to 250 asap.

Speaking of 250…the other day I was watching TLC when a weight loss program came on.  The idea was to profile people who are trying to lose 100 lbs.  One of the men on the show was nearly 500 lbs- clearly a huge problem.  However, the girl they profiled was 258 lbs, and they were acting like the two amounts were identical in scale.  I will be thrilled when I get to 250 lbs but that’s not really what bothered me.  I genuinely see myself and certainly myself at 258 lbs as beautiful not some grotesque human being as this show was portraying.  The woman wouldn’t look at her wedding pictures because she was so horrified at her weight.  They even interviewed her parents who said how disappointed they were in their obese daughter (Isn’t that awful! I wish I was making this up).  I’m not trying to defend being 250 lbs.  I know it is unhealthy in many ways but isn’t it strange that I have such a different viewpoint than the producers of this show or the woman involved? When I look in the mirror (even at 285 lbs) I see a beautiful plus size girl.

This is not the first time that I have noticed my unusual degree of self-acceptance.  When other people are apologizing and criticizing themselves I often feel great.  Of course, I have moments of self-doubt and discouragement but usually not because of my behavior, performance or body.  In fact, Megan is always laughing at how freely I compliment myself.  I simply respond,  “I live alone. If I don’t say it no one will!”.   For example, when I cook a new recipe or try a different technique I will tell everyone at the table if the food is delicious (my former roommates can attest to that!)!

Several years ago another example hit me.  I was an obedient, hard-working missionary-not perfect, but I can honestly say I tried my hardest each day.  When I got on the plane leaving Indiana I knew in my heart I had found everyone I needed to find, and worked as hard as I could.  I left with NO REGRETS.

I naively thought all good missionaries felt this way and had this same reassurance from the Lord.  A couple  years after the mission Julia Graves came to visit me, and we met up with several sisters from our mission to see both our mission presidents.  When chatting with President Simmons I said

“the great thing about a mission is it is the one thing in life you can do with no regrets.  You can know you served the Lord 100%”.

I was not saying this to boast or brag about my great mission.  I really did think everyone felt this way; however, when we got in the car one of the sisters said

“Wow, sister Wagner. I wish I felt that way about my mission.”.  Then all of the others agreed with her.

I can’t overstate how surprised I was by their reaction. It made me step back and realize my many blessings.  I knew then Heavenly Father had given me my sense of peace and closure to a very physically, spiritually and mentally draining mission.  I didn’t specifically pray for this reassurance but the Lord knew I needed it.

I was thinking about this experience and the 258 program when I realized perhaps my acceptance of my body has also been a blessing.  Maybe the Lord needed me to be happy with myself until I was ready to change.  He needs me to be actively serving, loving and trying my best no matter what my weight is. He also loves me regardless of my appearance.  Last year I read a book called the Amazing Adventures of Diet Girl, and I hated it with a passion.  The thing that made me mad is the author portrays her heavy self as practically worthless- like a big blob incapable of interacting with friends, family, or participating in activities such as travel or other recreation.  I promise that when I lose weight I will never look down on the old me.  I have value and am beautiful even at 285lbs, and I don’t care if  some stupid TLC program or book says otherwise!

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True to the Faith…Legacy of Pioneers

Today is a holiday in Utah. We celebrate the arrival of the Mormon pioneers to the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847.   This first party led by Brigham Young was called to leave their homes for the third or fourth time- most of them in a matter of hours.  Gathering their few meager possessions and loved ones, they willingly left all for a better, more free life.  This exodus on the heels of the murder of the prophet Joseph Smith and the  extermination order by the governor of Missouri Lilburn W. Boggs calling for the “the Mormons must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated or driven from the State”.  In the country founded by religious pilgrims and Christian ideals they were literally kicked out because of their faith.  Making things harder  is that the initial party only knew they were heading west – no more.  Brigham Young didn’t even have an exact idea of the final destination. While on the way Brigham Young happened upon famed tracker Jim Bridger who discouraged the Great Basin as an eventual landing place for the Saints.  Bridger claimed the soil was too salty for crops and the winter’s too frigid.  He recommend they move on to California’s more furtile lands.  However, Brigham Young knew the Saints needed a place that other’s found undesirable, so the Saints could have the peace and space to prosper.   Eventually arriving in the Salt Lake Valley, Brigham and his counselors climbed Emigration canyon and exclaimed by revelation “this is the place”.

The Mormon pioneers continued the exodus until the arrival of the railroad in 1869.  While still difficult, most groups traveled without serious problems.  This all changed in 1856 when two handcart companies, leaving late, found themselves in the middle of a brutal Wyoming winter.  Hundreds died of exposure, fatigue and even despair.  Finally, word came to Brigham Young of the suffering and he sent relief parties out immediately- halting all further addresses at the General Conference, which was occurring when he found out.   To rally the people Brigham Young said:

“The afternoon meeting will be omitted, for I wish the sisters to go home and prepare to give those who have just arrived a mouthful of something to eat, and to wash them and nurse them up. You know that I would give more for a dish of pudding and milk, or a baked potato and salt, were I in the situation of those who have just come in, than I would for your prayers, though you were to stay here all the afternoon and pray. Prayer is good, but when baked potatoes and pudding and milk are needed, prayer will not supply their place on this occasion; give every duty its proper time and place.”

Even with relief, hundreds died in the Martin and Willie handcart companies.  The suffering and sacrifice was great.   Here is an emotional video with President Gordon B. Hinckley describing the price that was paid for religious freedom by the pioneers:

I often think- “Could I have done it?  Could I have been a pioneer?”.  I know that I am a pioneer in some aspects of my life, but I do not physically suffer for my beliefs.  Could I do it?  The simple answer is- “I don’t know”.  I suppose many of the pioneers didn’t know if they could do it before they were forced on the path.

The closest I can come to estimating my physical stamina for my faith is my mission.  Compared to the thousands of miles walked by the pioneers, it is nothing, but to me it was a grueling experience.  With my foot condition I was in serious pain everyday.  Sometimes I handled it well and at other moments I wept in pain.  This was one of the many difficulties of a my mission.  Why did I keep going? The simple answer is I knew it was true.  I wanted to tell the people of Indiana that  God does speak to a prophet today,  He does love us, the Book of Mormon is true, and His gospel has been restored.  This was worth any sacrifice .  The few people I was able to teach made all the achy feet seem like a small price to pay (or at least medium price!).  I am grateful to my companions for walking slow with me and putting up with my bad days! I wonder if the pioneers had bad days where they complained about their aching feet and muscles?  They probably did!

Still, as a group they were amazingly optimistic- even taking time for joyous events while on the trail.  When I think of my mission I had tough days when I wanted to give up, and I was certainly not pushed as hard as the pioneers in any way.  How did they do it?  How did they hold on to their faith so hard that they not only kept walking but danced at night and held concerts to sing the hymns? They even had a band, which preformed along the way.  It’s an inspiration!

I hope  I can face my small challenges with the same courage, happiness and religious devotion as the pioneers.  I challenge all of you to look at their example and with me, try a little harder to serve the Lord each day. This way their legacy will not be wasted or counted for naught.

The pioneer anthem was Come, Come, Ye Saints .  Please listen to it and remember the sacrifices they made on this pioneer day!

All Worn Out

Do you ever have one of those days when you could fit the descriptions in a Zoloft ad? I had such a day today.  Now don’t get worked up- I am fine.  It is all because I worked hard Saturday and Sunday, so Monday I feel exhausted and a little irritable. It is days like these that I am glad I live alone- although my poor sister Anna had to listen to me vent for about 10 minutes this evening. (Thanks Anna).  There were little things that irked me today but really I don’t even have a good reason for feeling irritable. I just do.   As my family knows there are three things that make me cranky- hunger, fatigue, and pushy/bossy people.

I hate it when people try to tell me what to do- especially when my idea is perfectly valid.   It was one of the greatest challenges of my mission to be told what to do all the time.  On a mission you are told when to eat, what to eat, how to dress, what to say, everything…Plus, you are told most of this by 19 year old boys and I was a college graduate on the mission.  I have always had a prideful streak in me and although I have tempered it a lot in the last few years every once in a while it flares up.  I like to try things out for myself.  I hate being told how to live my life, plan an activity, lead a group or pretty much anything else.  Does that drive any of you crazy?  Probably not!

I did get to have some fun today.  First of all I  enjoyed the hot tub at one of the houses. That helped me relax a lot. In fact, I may have relaxed too much! I reread one of my favorite books Mama’s Bank Account by Kathryn Forbes. I read all 147 pages in one hot tub sitting. After I got out I realized I had been in there for 2 hours! This was probably a stupid thing for me to do but it did relax me after a very stressful weekend. I needed lots of water and lotion after that!

There is something about working Saturday and Sunday that is grueling. On Saturday I cleaned one of the houses, purchased food for an event, cooked the food so I wouldn’t have to cook much on Sunday, and then went home and crashed. Then Sunday I went to church and up to the event where I did more cooking, serving, and cleaning. Again, it was all great- just exhausting. So, as a result today I felt tired and a crabby. I found myself getting annoyed by people I should have ignored, situations I would usually ignore, and other silly things like how messy my apartment is.  I even felt frustrated at 24 and the Tony Almaeda plot (how can they make him undead, evil, good and then evil again in one season! It’s too much!).  I had to stop watching Glenn Beck because I was getting too fired up.  Oh well, don’t we all have those days…. Please tell me we all have those days!

Well, excuse the above rant.  I suppose we are all entitled to one every now and then.  Don’t get me wrong- I love my life.  I love my job.  It’s just one of those days.  So, I am off to bed and hopefully tomorrow will be a better day.

24715_annoyed-face

Affluenza

logobig

So, I heard a term today that just made me laugh out loud.  It is called affluenza.  This is not a joke.  It is an actual psychological diagnosable condition and to me it says a lot about how out of wack our society has gotten.  How can something so obvious be a cause for debate and study? It’s another one of those scientific endeavors that can be summed up in old colloquial sayings such as “Money doesn’t buy happiness”.  Listen to the wikipedia definition of affluenza and tell me if you don’t think it is crazy:

affluenza, n. a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more. (de Graaf [1])
affluenza, n. 1. The bloated, sluggish and unfulfilled feeling that results from efforts to keep up with the Joneses. 2. An epidemic of stress, overwork, waste and indebtedness caused by the pursuit of the American Dream. 3. An unsustainable addiction to economic growth. (PBS [1])

This isn’t just overspending.  No it is a contagious socially transmitted condition of overload and debt! So now if we are in debt it isn’t our fault, merely the cause of a contagious condition we inherited- like strepp or AIDS. Watch out my friends!  Watch out for your children!  Affluenza may spread!

I certainly hope that Congress doesn’t hear about this condition or they might start claiming bouts of affluenza caused them to vote for the spending bill!

I hate to sound preachy on this blog but to me it is things like this that show how far off track our country has gotten from the religious foundations it was started with.  Affluenza wouldn’t happen if you had a society based on brotherhood (and sisterhood), charity, freedom, independence and faith.  It’s no accident that Jesus said ” It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:24).

Now, I came from a family with a middle to high class lifestyle.  I certainly got everything I needed and most of the things I wanted. However, we never suffered from affluenza because my parents had us grounded in Christian values- focusing on service to others, the importance of family and the value of hard work. I could list lots of examples of how my parents demonstrated to me that money was not the purpose of life.  One example is how my father has always been an avid home teacher.  Home teaching is a program in our church of visiting fellow members and helping them in anyway possible.  Many good home teachers still do it out of obligations or duty- not my dad.  He loves it!  He loves getting to know and serving people and most of them become his life-long friends.  He’s even spoken at some of their funerals. For the record, my mother is also a diligent visiting teacher.

Another example is how both of my parents were always opening their home to friends.  For instance, we had a number of foreign exchange students and visitors while I grew up.  This enriched all of our lives and created great relationships all over the globe.  Another memory I have is of our friends always being welcome to eat with our family.  We had family meal every night.  Even when I was in high school and my parents had two little ones and I was busy with activities, I still remember eating together most nights.  Often one of my friends, or my brother’s friends would join us for dinner.  They were always welcomed as one of our family.  My parents weren’t perfect but in simple ways they taught me how to serve others and keep a heart free from greed.

As my sister and brother have gotten married they have also been good examples of reaching out to others and cultivating a non-materialistic home.  My brother is passionate about many causes and has allowed friends to stay at their home, sharing meals together.  My sister is great about giving of her time to other young mothers around her.  She was just telling me yesterday about a small act of service she had planned for two of her acquaintances.  She found out they were traveling with kids and decided to make them little kits to help the kids with the journey.  It is such little acts of service that keep each of us grounded in what matters.  Our country needs the same grounding.  We certainly don’t need an excuse for our excesses like an affluenza epidemic.

I served my mission in Indiana and while there I met one of the richest ladies I have ever known.  Her name is Sister Mary Turner.  She lived in a tough part of Indianapolis and had very little material possessions.  She actually lived off of social security and some welfare assistance from the church.  Because she loved the missionaries she had a strong desire to feed all of us every week (4 elders, 2 sisters) but she refused to use any assistance or welfare money to do this.  So to make a few extra dollars she started gathering soda pop cans and then turning them for cash. Eventually her neighborhood and our ward (congregation) joined in and everyone had a stash of cans to help Mary Turner feed the missionaries.  With the few dollars she got every week she would then go to Aldee’s (a discount store in the midwest) and buy whatever was on sale.  This usually led to some odd meal combinations including spaghetti and mashed potatoes or french fries and egg rolls.  After the meal she would usually have some type of food gift for us such as a gallon of milk or a half gallon of ice cream.

I will never forget this sacrifice made in my behalf.  She did not have to feed us.  There were others who would have gladly done so, but she wanted to give to a cause she loved.  The entire cycle of her money from creation, to spending, to giving was based on Christian values. It is a great example of charity and a wonderful way to live our lives- full of worry about how you can afford to help people, not how you can compete with the neighbors.  Mary Turner suffered from the opposite of affluenza- giveluenza! Something our country could use a lot more of and that our leaders could work to develop.

In my life I try to do at least one day of community service a month.  This has just started but already I have had some neat experiences including delivering cookies to the lonely and working at Festival of Trees for Primary Children Medical Center. Such endeavors have not only brought me happiness but hopefully helped others in my small way.  They also keep me grounded in what matters and in the community I love. I think we need to write a similar prescription for anyone suffering from affluenza- find someone to serve, look at a neigbor as a friend not an enemy, and help someone accomplish their dreams.   This is what makes life great not money!

59

Patriotism and honor

The enemy is anybody who’s going to get you killed, no matter which side he’s on.

Joseph Heller- Catch 22

Our obligations to our country never cease but with our lives.

John Adams

I concluded an interesting experience this evening.  It is always intriguing when I am presented with two contrasting views and then forced to reconcile my own feelings.  This has happened to me regarding the subjects of patriotism, honor and courage.  To begin with, I just finished reading the “classic” novel Catch-22 by Joseph Heller.  At the same time I have been watching the new miniseries on John Adams based on the popular biography by  David McCullough.

On first glance the two may seem completely different and to a certain extent they are ( Catch 22 being a dark comedy and John Adams a dramatic real life biography).  Still, I could not ignore the contrast in philosophies the two stories bring up.  In Catch 22 the main character Yossarian’s objective in life is to not fly missions, to not serve.  His rational for this decision makes sense- the less he goes into battle, the greater his chances for survival.  The now famous “catch 22” by which the title gets its name (and the phrase was invented) refers to the idea that if a man wanted to fly more missions he’d be crazy; however, if he didn’t than he was sane and would have to fly the missions.  It’s a circular argument that is interesting and certainly one I hope to never face.

Here is my problem with Heller’s book and the argument- how come honor, patriotism, the good of mankind, never even comes into play?  There is not a single character in the novel with honor or courage.  They are all simply trying to live.  Surely in a battalion of men there would be a few soldiers who believed in the nobility of their task, who believed that freedom is worth paying the ultimate sacrifice for if needs be? In addition, what about those people that are not required to literally die but are asked to sacrifice their life in the form of their time, talents, energies and passions? What if all of these people took a Yossarian philosophy and did only the bare minimum- just enough to get by but not enough to make a real difference? Would this not have a terrible effect on our country?

In contrast I looked at the amazing life of John and Abigail Adams (as well as so many others featured in the film). They spent their entire life serving their fellow citizens.  These missions put them in great physical harm and required personal hardships including separation from their children for years.  Adams, Jefferson, Washington all were reluctant servants and yet they did it because they knew it was right.  As much as I admire many politicians (and anyone who has talked to me knows I love politics!) I don’t think I know of one that could be called a reluctant servant.

Maybe I am too idealistic in my views but I feel this country was founded on the idea that individual citizens, individual voters would not only make wise decisions but would hold democracy and freedom above all else. I hope we are not as the characters in Catch 22- merely watching our own backs, making sure we come out ahead of everyone else.  Look at the legacy of the early heroes, look what principles they taught generations through their sacrifice.  It is difficult to deny that their courageous choices were nothing but of the highest importance.  For example, if Washington had been selfish he could have become a King and been called “Your Highness” (Adams even put such a measure before congress).  He refused, and we are all the better for it.

I am sure that if I was ever called into battle such choices would not be made lightly (as they are in Catch-22) but I hope I would have the courage needed to protect liberty.  The only thing in my life that has been even a tiny bit similar  to battle was my mission where everyday we were required to sacrifice time, family and home for a higher principle- for something I believe in strongly.  During my mission I received great inspiration from the stories of the Mormon pioneers who sacrificed everything for religious freedom.  I have always wondered if I could do what they did.  I sincerely hope so.  Just as I have a religious passion I also have a deep patriotic vein within me, and I hope like the many soldiers who have died to protect my country and freedoms I would be brave and do all that is required of me.  Either way, I would like to think that the honorable route would be the most common- not the exception to the rule as in Catch 22.

I highly recommend watching the miniseries John Adams.  It is remarkable on every level.  The acting is superb- even in the small parts.  The make up and costumes is some of the best I have ever seen.  Before seeing the film I knew a bit about Washington, Hamilton, and particularly Jefferson; however, not much about Adams.  I found it moving, personable, and non-vitriolic.  In fact, all of the founding fathers except maybe Hamilton and Franklin, are portrayed in the film as simple men who served their country as best they could.  This is what I expect out of myself and those around me each day.  It is my greatest goal in life to live in a way that matters- that makes a difference for good. I am not perfect, and I certainly lead a small life; however, on occasion I have moments of decision,  of integrity and faith.  It is at these moments I pray that I think of future generations, of my loved ones, and of my country and hope I make the correct, if difficult choice.

One slight caution on the film- there is some adult content and I would recommend adults see it before children.  I would actually feel comfortable showing most of it to older children and teenagers but it depends on the child.  A few of the scenes including a surgery in the last film are tough to watch.

2008 in Review

2008 has been a great year.  I have learned so much and had so many amazing experiences.  It has been a year of healing and growth, and I am imeasurably stronger as a result.  It all started last December with my taking the big leap of faith and quiting my job at JWA.  I knew I needed  a change and that the Lord wanted me to be doing something else, so I left everything in His hands.  Not knowing where life was taking me I entered the job hunt- interviewing for nearly 40 companies over 6 months.   There were so many jobs that I thought for sure I would get and then I wouldn’t.  The Lord definitely made me wait and show my faith before helping everything to work out.

To celebrate the end of 2007 Camille, Sarah, Aly and I got a room in the SLC Marriott.  It was so fun!
To celebrate the end of 2007 Camille, Sarah, Aly and I got a room in the SLC Marriott. It was so fun!

In the meantime, I had some great experiences such as hanging out with Julia Graves for a week in January (it was so fun, we visited almost all of our comps and mission presidents.  A blast). I wish I could find a picture of our time together but I can’t.  Maybe Julia has some that I can get.   At the end of January I visited my sister Megan for a week at Stanford.  It was a lot of fun to be a part of their amazing family for a week. Their girls are the cutest things in the world.

I also had tons of fun with my roommates Megan and Camille.  In addition, I was a full time student until the end of March taking 2 classes for most of that time period so I could finish quickly.  In May I gratefully graduated! I am now a masters of business- yeah!

Jodi and I at graduation
Jodi and I at graduation

Before graduating I experienced another highlight of the year.  In April Megan, Sarah, Hiedi, Camille and myself all went to Hawaii again.  It was a magical trip.  I was there for 2 solid weeks and was the best. I could be there forever.  I love it so much.  I love everything about it except the plane flight over!  This time we did everything- of course the beach everyday, went to the PCC twice, Pearl Harbor, and even saw the lei’s being made in Chinatown. I am planning a return trip in 2009.  I just love it so much!

Here we are enjoying snorkeling at Hanama Bay.  Amazing.(L to R) Megan, Camille, Hiedi, Me, and Sarah
Here we are enjoying snorkeling at Hanama Bay. Amazing.(L to R) Megan, Camille, Hiedi, Me, and Sarah

Once we got home from Hawaii and graduation came things jumped into high gear.  In May my dad approached me with an idea to start a vacation rental business with these rentals that he had in the Suncrest community of Draper.  I didn’t know if it was for me but I wasn’t getting anything else, so I figured- why not?  In the end, I decided to start my own business Catalyst Events and Marketing with the crux of the business being the marketing and upkeep of the vacation rentals.  For all intensive purposes I am a property manager where I handle the online marketing, the reservations process, maintenance, check in’s and check out’s etc.  I didnt’ know what to expect going into it but have enjoyed it.  Sometimes it can be stressful when we are getting a home ready for occupancy but every job has moments like that.  On a whole I love it and I have especially enjoyed working with my Dad and Uncle Jim.  I think we have all grown closer from the experience.  I think most of all I enjoy the autonomy of the job. I have a lot of control over my schedule and I do a variety of things.  It’s a job that uses all of my skillsets- my website design, marketing, salesmanship, organization and even my manual labor skills on occasion.

In addition to the vacation rentals I have also been working for GPG (Grabber Performance Group) as the leader of the West Warm Team.  We go to events around Utah and give out free hand warmers and promote the product.  I hope to be doing more of these types of events as the Winter months come up.

Finally, I am trying to add some events to my job but this takes time.  It may be several years before I get that part of my business up and running.  In the meantime, I am doing what I can every couple of months to build up my portfolio.  If anyone is willing to take a chance on me, I will work for cheap!

Most of the summer I was involved with getting this company up and running (and getting all of the houses ready!).   We didn’t know what to expect with the rentals but we have been almost fully booked since we opened in June.  We have had over 50 groups with amazing variety and sizes!  Check out our website for photos of al of the homes including our new house- The Sammy.www.jbjane.com.

The view from my apartment
The view from my apartment

During the summer I also made the change of moving into my new apartment.  It was a hard step for me because I loved my roommates, Megan and Camille, and I was nervous about living alone for the first time.  My apartment has only one bedroom but it is perfect for me.  It has been a lot of fun putting up  my artwork and photos.  I really have made it my home and hope that I don’t have to move for some time.  I just love it.  I have missed living with someone in certain ways but on other ways I have loved living alone.  I am lucky that I have a great and loyal group of girlfriends that never allow me to feel that lonely.  It was just the right time for me to get my own place.

Another experience in the summer was the family reunion in July.  The Wagner family does a family reunion every other year and this year we did a short cruise to Ensenada and Catalina Island. It was my first cruise and it was a lot of fun. We also got to go Disneyland with Isabel and Lucy.  Plus, I got to see my bestest friend Raelene Bradley in Southern California.   I always love spending time with family and long-time friends.

Here I am at Ensenada
Here I am at Ensenada
Isabel and Tigger
Isabel and Tigger
Raelene and I at Newport Beach with her little boy (and her husband Jordan taking the photo)
Raelene and I at Newport Beach with her little boy (and her husband Jordan taking the photo)

In September I started at a new ward in Draper and that was an interesting experience.  It is harder to make friends without roommates but I am doing the best I can and trying to be friendly.  Luckily it is  nice ward and I have high hopes for the upcoming year.   I have been out of town a lot so it has been hard to make friends there yet.  It always takes time. In September I also took a trip to Cali and “babysat” my siblings while my parents went to Utah.  It was a lot of fun.

In October I was asked to come to Michigan for training on the warm team at GPG.  This gave me the amazing opportunity to visit my mission again for the first time in 3 years.  It was awesome, if a bit surreal. My mission always feels like a dream- like another lifetime- so going back felt a bit like going back into a dream.  Everything was the same but different at the same time.  It warmed my heart to see old friends and to know that I did make a difference with the hard work I put into the great Hoosier state

The finish line at the brickyard. My old stomping grounds!
The finish line at the brickyard. My old stomping grounds!

After Indiana I threw myself into work and loved it more than I can say. With my job and my apartment it seems that I have come full circle in my life.  I still have room to grow but I feel I am the person I want to be, that I am living the life I am meant to live- that Heavenly Father is happy with my choices.  I am making a difference in the world in my own little way.  It feels good.

With October came Halloween and our traditional party.  This year I dressed up as a geisha- wig and all. We had a good time and it was nice to see Camille for the holiday.

My Halloween costume
My Halloween costume

With all of the travel and work November came quickly and I got to see Megan, Seth and my adorable nieces for Thanksgiving.  Even though we had a lot of illness it was still great to see them and spend time together.  I am so excited for Anna to come out here to school next year. I miss having my sisters nearby.

The cute nieces.  I love them!
The cute nieces. I love them! My brother's little girl is also super cute!

December came quickly and I enjoyed setting up my tree and making my apartment festive.  Thanks to all who came to my party.  It was a lot of fun.  We were busy working getting our 4th house opened for tenants on December 23rd.   The work was exacerbated by all of the snow.  There were moments when I didn’t think I would be able to finish it all but somehow we did! Now we have 4 beautiful homes to rent out and make people’s stay unforgetable.  We help people make memories.

As I mentioned a couple of posts ago I ended 2008 with some travel.  December 14-18th I visited Julia Graves in Vegas.  We had a fun trip even with the snow! Yes, snow in Vegas.  They haven’t had snow there in like 30 years!  Go figure that it would come for my stay. It was great spending time with Julia, with the highlight going to see Mamma Mia at the Mandalay Bay casino.  So great!

Mamma Mia was amazing!
Mamma Mia was amazing!

Finally, I am sitting at my parent’s home in California. It is always nice to take a break from the world and enjoy  my family.  They are such a support to me, and I am grateful for all they do for me.  I am truly blessed.

When I think back on 2008, I see a year of growth and strength.  I started it unsure and confused about my role in the world.  For a while I had no job, no apartment, and no relationship (still working on that last one!).   Thanks to the support of family and friends I have gained a career that I love, finished my education and found an apartment that feels like home.  It was been quite the journey!  Along the way, my testimony has grown and become much stronger.  I know that Heavenly Father has an active role in my life (at least he does if I let him).  My existence is important and while He might test my faith from time-to-time He never forgets about me.  My life matters and if I have faith in Him, I can do amazing things.

I know that the Lord loves me.  I know that He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for me.  He is there for me in my lonely, confused hours.  He never forgets, never abandones, never leaves without answers.  His plan is real, His church is true and I know that while my life may not be perfect, it is guided by His light each day.  I am so grateful for that knowledge and for  a year where that testimony has become solid as it never was before.  It was a year never to be forgotten.  Thank you all for being a part of it.  God bless and have a great 2009!

Thoughts on a mission part II

So tonight I went and saw the new movie Errand of Angels with a bunch of my girlfriends from my mission.  It was a fun night full of reminiscing.  To my surprise I actually enjoyed the movie a lot.  I think it was pretty accurate of what a sister missionary goes through.  It’s not quite as intense and the companionship problems get bundled up too neatly but overall I liked it.

As I drove home I started thinking about people I met in Indiana- particularly my companions who taught me so much (and were infinity patient with me).  People like Sister Servito from the Philippines who worked me so hard one day my feet almost got frostbite.  (I’m not exaggerating.  I had to soak my feat in warm water for an hour after one long day of tracting in the snow in below O weather!) I can remember walking behind her in the bitter lake effect cold and thinking- maybe if I beg someone will take mercy on me and let me in to get warm! I remember thinking that they don’t show this in the MTC!  After I left Sister Servito I gained a heightened appreciation for the lessons in hard work she had taught me and what real commitment means.  She expanded my vision for what I could accomplish both spiritually and physically and that is a tremendous gift, which I will always be grateful for.

Another person I thought of was Sister Walker.  I had just had a companion who I call my “purifying companion”.  Let me just say that when I got Sister Walker I was in need of love and comfort.  I felt like a failure and my energy to serve was drained.  Despite my weakness we pushed on and contacted a lot of people.  By the end of our first transfer we had a number of investigators, which began to energize me for the work.  Then just as we were getting excited in one week all of them dropped us.  One of them was particularly sad for Sister Walker as she had seen more potential in her than I had.  It’s a long story but she was living with a man that used to be her boyfriend (who she was still intimate with on occasion) and was unwilling to change because she didn’t want to hurt his feelings.  We felt we were making progress with her and then boom she told us that she couldn’t ask him to leave, it was just too hard.  We told her that we could not teach her any more without this change.  I remember going home and seeing Sister Walker feeling less cheery than usual (I am sure I could have been more comforting to her.  It was a bit of selfish time for me- a time I have since apologized for).  Anyway, over the next few weeks we continued to work and the bad luck started to change.  To begin with we started teaching a golden contact- the niece of a recently reactivated member named Amanda.  Then two days before I left we got a call from the woman we had dropped weeks earlier.  It was a message saying “Sisters, he’s gone.  I’m ready to get baptized.”  Sadly, I had to leave the area before she or Amanda got baptized but the experience taught me a great lesson- or should I say I relearned a great lesson.  For all intensive purposes I had been at my weakest.  I was tired, frustrated, even depressed but still I took what steps I could and the Lord used me.  He allowed me to be part of changing others lives and He did it when I was doubting His love and when I felt totally alone.  He gave me Sister Walker and reminded me that my sacrifice mattered because of the way that He would use it for building His kingdom.  After this realization I knew that the Lord loved me in a way I hadn’t known before.  I had understood before that my Heavenly Father loved me when I was righteous but after this experience I knew that He loved me when I was weak too and that He would still use me in profound ways.  It was one of the profound lessons of my life.

During this purifying time I also learned a great lesson from my mission president.  After the purifying companion I felt confused and even a little angry.  I felt she had ruined my mission and made my life miserable for no reason.  My intentions were right or so I believed at the time.  After she left I hung on to this feeling of resentment and anger.  One evening I had called the mission president for something and somehow we got on the topic of my feelings.  He told me an amazing story.  He said one time he had been in a stake presidency and had offended a librarian over something that had not been his fault.  For a while he justified his feelings and she was increasingly annoyed with him.  Finally one day he spoke with the stake president about the situation and to his surprise the stake president said “You need to go down there and ask her for forgiveness”.  “But I haven’t done anything wrong” He said in response.  “Does she think you have done something wrong?  Go to her, ask forgiveness, and then you will have done all you can do- any further offense will be on her shoulders then”.  President Quist told me this story and I knew right away what he was saying to me.  I may have believed I had been injured but the truth is I wasn’t perfect either.  I could walk away from this situation saying ” I did everything I could have done to remedy the situation”.  So, I wrote a letter asking my purifying companion to forgive me and that I hope she had every success as a missionary.  I don’t know what she thought of the letter or if she cared but it was a powerful moment in my life.  I balled like a baby writing that letter.  It was maybe the most humbling experience of my life and it helped me to understand the atonement’s ability to heal wounds and repair broken hearts in a new way.

Lastly, I will never forget Sister Graves one of my longest companions.  After the purifying time I needed some joy and that’s why the Lord gave me Sister Graves.  We were in threesomes the entire time we were together but we worked hard, had fun and experienced harvest.  I am not saying that every minute went great or that we never squabbled- you spend 24 hours a day with a doormat and I think you would squabble. However, Sister Graves and I shared a special bond.  You see, throughout my mission I struggled to walk with my companions.  I have a foot condition that causes deep muscular pain.  Some days I wanted to saw off my feet they hurt so bad and for almost my whole mission I walked behind my companions (despite many of their attempts to slow down).  With Sister Graves things were different.  She is a little person, which makes her feet small; therefore, making her steps also smaller than average.  We were the dynamic duo of slow walking and I loved it!  We had many great memories together including teaching Kim- a golden daughter of a less active member, Kim’s brother, a high school girl named Ashley,  and a wonderful woman named Kris.  Sister Graves reminded me that there will be people in my life who will always be there for me- walking beside me.  She made me feel loveable again and we laughed a lot together.  When I look for a spouse I hope that he and I share a similar feeling.  That we can walk together and enjoy life while working hard.  Yes we will have differences but the love, respect and comradary is never in doubt. I thank Sister Graves for teaching me that.

So, I am sure such reminiscences are far more interesting to me than for you my friends; however, a blog is meant for sharing such thoughts so take what you will from them.  As many of my companions will read this blog let me add that each of them taught me great lessons and I could add paragraphs from each but here’s some lessons I learned from each of the one’s I didn’t mention above-

Sister Noyes- to never take pity on ourselves and listen to people

Sister Hamill- to find the common interests with others, even are enemies.  She also has a gift for nurturing and loving others.

Sister Chatterton- to not care what others think.  She famously said “Your Mission is between you and the Lord and nobody else.

Sister Millett- That missions could be fun. That telling as many jokes as possible was a good thing.

Sister Livingston- That sometimes the greatest thing we can do is serve the people under our nose.

Sister Hathaway- That knowledge is a gift from the Lord, which He will give if we are humble. She was one of the most teachable human beings I have ever met.

So, that’s my mission.  It taught me so much but most importantly it helped me understand the depths of Christ’s love and the meaning of His sacrifice. It helped me understand my purpose and made me a little bit more like Him- a tiny bit more pure.  It is a holy time of my life- a pilgrimage of understanding and growth.

My favorite mission picture
My favorite mission picture
Sister Walker went through a real tornado with me! Spiritually and literally!
Sister Walker went through a real tornado with me! Spiritually and literally!
Me with Sister Servito in the blue and another favorite Sister Meyer in the red
Me with Sister Servito in the blue and another favorite Sister Meyer in the red
This is me in the first snow working with Sister Servito
This is me in the first snow working with Sister Servito
This is me and my special Sister Graves
This is me and my special Sister Graves