Conference

For those of you that are LDS we have all enjoyed our semi-annual general conference, the final session ending this afternoon.  Despite being sick I took notes and learned much.  Each general authority that spoke did so with authority and comfort.  It’s like hearing advice from an old friend that loves you.  At least that’s how I felt.  A couple of talks that particularly stuck out to me were Elder’s Holland, Hales, Wirthlin, and Uchtdorf and of course President Monson.  It is Elder Hales’ message that I would like to mention in this blog. He spoke about defending criticisms of our faith both as a church and as individual followers.  Instead of responding to criticism in defensive ways, he taught us to follow Christ’s example and love those that hate us:

“When we respond to our accusers as the Savior did, we not only become more Christ-like, we invite others to feel his love and follow him as well,” Elder Hales said.

Elder Hales even said that sometimes these criticisms can be helpful by their attracting attention to the church, which then often leads to teaching moments.

I thought this was a beautiful message, and one that I want to exemplify more fully.  I have always been very independent and don’t like to be criticized or told what I should be doing in my life.  While I don’t think we should be doormats for people, there is a way to be bold without being defensive.  Elder Hales said that the spirit would dictate which response is appropriate.  Just as the savior responded in a different way to Nicodemus than he did to the moneychangers in the temple, we will know what is the best response for the different people in our lives.

I actually don’t have many in my life who directly criticize my church membership but often I hear hurtful things through the media and my initial response is to be defensive.  This is something I would like to work on.

I believe Elder Hales’ message also applies to criticism and feedback in general.  Even in my work, I have always had a hard time with criticism and although I think I have grown over the years, it still is something I can improve upon.

One cool thing I noticed in Elder Hales’ talk is that he mentioned using blogs to spread the gospel!  That made me feel good!  In that vein, let me state to all of you that I do have a testimony of the Mormon church and its current prophet President Thomas Monson.  I feel such a tremendous spirit when I hear him speak.  I also have a testimony of the Book of Mormon and know that it is a true book.  I know this because I have prayed about it and the spirit has confirmed to me that it is true.  I love reading that book. It is my sincerest desire to serve my Savior and Lord Jesus Christ in any way I can including trying my best each day to be obedient to His teachings.  I also have a strong testimony in eternal temple ordinances and am grateful that the pain of grief can be assuaged by the knowledge of eternal covenants and families. I thank each of you for your love and support and know that much of this testimony can be attributed to the righteous influences each of you have showered in my life and heart.  God bless. In the name of Jesus Christ Amen.

The Theater, The Theater

“All the world ‘s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts” William Shakespeare in As You Like It

In this blog I have written about music, film, and books but have yet to add my thoughts on my favorite medium- live theater.  I have loved attending shows my whole life.  I am not sure how it got started but the earliest memory of the theater that  I have is when my dad took me to the Utah Shakespeare festival.  I believe I was 9 because it was before Anna was born (that’s brave to take a 9 year old to Shakespeare).  We saw Taming of the Shrew and a couple other plays and I enjoyed it so much that I saved the programs.  The first musical I recall going to was when my dance teacher in 5th grade played Anybody’s in a local production of West Side Story.  We went to see it and I remember crying along with Maria and loving the experience.  I also remember going to see Phantom of the Opera with my grandmother around the same time and that was like nothing I had ever experienced.  Amazing!

When I got to high school I embraced more theater by appearing in 5 school productions (A christmas medley, The Wiz, Up the Down Staircase, Bye Bye Birdie, Scenes from Shakespeare plays).  Each production boosted my confidence and made me feel alive.  I have often said that they should have recovering addicts participate in the theater. That may sound strange but it is so rewarding working together and then when the final applause comes it is one of the best highs I have ever known.  Of all of the productions I was in my favorite was The Wiz.  It’s fun music, lively sets and great cast made it memorable.

My favorite show that I have participated in- The Wiz
My favorite show that I have participated in- The Wiz

In addition to appearing in live plays I also took a huge step in high school.  In 9th grade I made my first trip to New York City, and I’ve been hooked ever since.  There are so many things I love about New York that I will have to do an entry solely devoted to the city.  However, the most incredible part of the Big Apple is Broadway! The first show I saw there was Les Miserables and it was beyond words.  I saw it again a couple of years ago and was reminded of how moving the story is and how beautiful the music.  When I went to see Les Mis I had seen the PBS concert many times and knew the soundtrack almost by heart and yet it did not disappoint. If anything it exceeded my expectations. In fact, it got me hooked on Broadway.  Since that first visit I have been 5 more times seeing the King and I, Music Man, Beauty and the Beast, the Rockettes, Light in the Piazza, Drowsy Chaperon, Lion King, Hairspray, 25th Annual Putnam Spelling Bee, Les Mis (again) and Wicked.  There is no doubt but that I have been abundantly blessed.

Each time I see a live show I feel excited.  It’s hard to explain but even the comedies move me.  I love everything about a Broadway musical.  I love the songs, the voices, the melodies, the stories, the acting.  It’s magic!

One of the things I actually like about living in Utah is the great local live theater.  In Maryland there was one local theater in our town.  Aside from that you had to go to DC or Baltimore and there was no guarantee that it would be family friendly and it was expensive.  In Utah you get all 3- family friendly, inexpensive and high quality.  There have been productions I have seen at Hale Center Theater (Orem and West Valley) that are Broadway level quality.  I saw the Secret Garden there last year and it was fabulous.  The little girl playing Mary was outstanding.

It’s interesting because I know people that feel the theater is a rare luxury.  For me, I would give up a lot before giving up my chance to see great productions (or even mediocre ones.  I love it all!).  I used to have a little theater group that got season tickets to the shows at Hale and it was always fun.  Unfortunately, the other members of my group decided to give it up for financial reasons 😦  Hopefully I can form a new group and if any of you are interested call me. It adds so much to my life that I try to go as often as possible.

I suppose I must close this entry by saying my favorites.  It’s hard to say but when push comes to shove my favorite musical is probably still Les Mis.  It’s the only one I’ve seen on Broadway twice and still loved.  It’s just so moving.  I also loved Wicked and the Drowsy Chaperon is my favorite comedy.  Other favorites are My Fair Lady, Hairspray, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Fiddler on the Roof, Little Woman, and West Side Story.  I love Sound of Music but actually more as a film than play (its a rare exception and Julie Andrews! Amazing).  As far as plays go my favorite is Death of a  Salesman for its penetrating character development.  I also love the Christmas Carol every holiday season and any Shakespeare.

My love for musical theater has also introduced me to great talent on the stage.  Some of the many voices that amaze me even on the soundtracks are Julie Andrews, Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand, Sherie Renee Scott, Pattie Lupone, Bernadette Peters, Laura Benanti, Sutton Foster (who I saw in Chaperon- amazing), Beth Leavel (who I also saw in Chaperon), Brian Stokes Mitchell, Adam Pascal, Raul Esparza, Kristen Chenoweth, Marissa Jaret Winokur, Idina Menzel, Laura Bell Bundy, Heather Headley, Kellie O’hara (who I saw in Light in the Piazza- amazing), Victoria Clark (who I saw in Light in the Piazza) , Audra McDowell, Anna Gasteyer (who I saw in Wicked- incredible) and more.  They are such talent.  I highly recommend checking out their CDs at the library or on ITunes and enriching your life by their truly marvelous music.

If you get a chance go see live theater.  It may be expensive but look at it as a chance to support the arts in your community and it may teach you something, make you laugh or cause you to ponder.

And remember when it comes to the theater…

“Why then, can one desire too much of a good thing?”

William Shakespeare As You Like It.

The best show ever
The best show ever

A little sick

So friends, I realized today one of the downsides to living by yourself.  Dash it all there is nobody there to get you medicine when your tummy aches.  It’s odd that something like that would make me feel lonely but I can’t pretend that it didn’t.  Now I wasn’t seriously ill or anything just a bit of a sour stomach and yet I had to drag myself out of bed (and to be quite honest away from the TV- lots of premieres tonight) and go to Harmons to buy stomach meds (a little embarrassing- the kind of shopping where you have to add a few items that you don’t really need just so it isn’t clear to everyone in line what ails you.  At least my cashier didn’t have to check prices on anything.  That is the worst! Then it is like sharing with the whole store.  Hey, Rachel’s buying….You can’t be too careful.  After all it’s a small neighborhood.  I might see these people again!).

So, I am sure you did not start reading my blog to hear about my exciting trip to the store.  I mention it only to say that with all my tough single talk there are moments when I wish I had someone there to, in this case, by me meds and tell me that everything is going to be fine in the morning.  When I was visiting my sister last week my niece asked me “Rachel, why don’t you have a husband?”.  I told her simply that “I haven’t fallen in love yet and you can’t have a husband until you fall in love.”.  (Unless you marry for money but why scar the child with that notion!).  Anyway, I really believe what I told Isabel and until I feel that way I guess I will just have to live with buying my own medicine and using my prayers to tell me that everything will be Okay in the morning- and thank goodness it usually is.

Short entry today friends.  Afterall, I’m not feeling well! By the way, any of you Indiana folks I am coming for a visit!  I am working in Grand Rapids for Oct 6+7 and will be in Indiana 8-10th. I will try to contact everyone I can to get together but I’ve lost a lot of phone numbers.  Rachel.

At least I don't look like a smurf
At least I dont feel like a smurf

Images

Yesterday I had an interesting experience.   I must preface the story by saying that I have been very busy this week with work and have entertained several times at my apartment. As is fairly normal I got to Saturday and felt tired (particularly because I had to work all day Saturday). As I was getting ready in the morning I got a call from my good friend Melany.  She was kindly inviting me to come to a play with her in Provo that night.  Normally I would jump at the chance to go to a play, and I certainly appreciated the offer; However, there was a side of me that knew how tired I was going to be after working all day and wondered how enjoyable an outing at night would be.  I thanked her for the offer and told her that I would have to check with my other friend Melissa as we had talked about doing something that night earlier in the week (we really had).

Later on in the afternoon I got a hold of Melissa and we decided to hang out on Wednesday (yeah!) but then I was faced with a dilemma.  I was tired and just wanted to do something relaxing at home, but I appreciated the invite and wanted to spend time with Melany.  What to do?  I certainly did not want to hurt Melany’s feelings or discourage any future invites.  In addition, I added a silly dimension to the decision.  Living by myself I know that I must be careful to stay socially active.  If I don’t, I  have this image of becoming some strange single woman who never comes out of her house but to cackle at the neighbor kids!  (I would add has 10 cats except I am allergic but you get the idea).  It’s so weird that I add such an image to my decision making but I can’t lie and say that I don’t.  I just do not want to get lulled into a lifestyle that I don’t care for, and I know sometimes that means getting pretty and going out with friends when I don’t necessary feel like it.

So, here’s what I did.  I called Melany and said:

“Melany, I feel guilty”

she said:

“Why?”

I said:

“Well, I really appreciate your offer and your thinking of me and in a certain way I feel like I should go out and be social but I’ve just had a really long week and don’t know if I feel up to getting pretty and going out.  If it was just a casual movie, dinner or games I might be up for it. I’m sorry”

She laughed and said that she not only understood but was feeling the same way herself.  We agreed to do something next week, which I look forward to.

The whole incident has gotten me thinking- do we ever do things not because we want to or care about the activity but to satisfy an image (or to avoid an image).  By going out that night its like I could say to the world: “See I’m social.  I’m not some weird hermit lady”.  This strikes me as a very odd thing to do and to think.  Why not participate in activities that you actually enjoy (particularly things in your free time) and not to satisfy some image.  Once again I am forced to ask the question- Why do I care what others think? At least I am aware of my tendency and trying every day to lessen the world’s influence over my mind and choices.

I know I am not alone in these feelings.  Almost everyone has some image in their heads of what type of person they want to be and do not want to become.  I can think of many examples of this like the teenager who pretends to like music and dancing when she actually doesn’t, or the housewife who woefully tries to make bread because she see’s that as fitting the domestic image, the working woman who wears certain make up she wouldn’t normally wear because she thinks it fits the image of a corporate woman, the academic who wears glasses for show because he wants to feel smarter.  Why do we do this? I would wager to say that everyone exhibits some behavior like this.  If they were truly authentically themselves they would not participate in the activity, but they do it to satisfy an image of some kind.

A part of me wonders if satisfying images is a carry-over from adolescence.   There is no time in life when images are more important or more carefully defined than in the high school years.  Leading up to high school I went through many friends finally solidifying myself as a drama nerd freshman year.  After having been through friends I was not going to let go of the one’s I had gained- and if that meant wearing a shirt a certain way or participating in activities I didn’t care for, than so be it.  I remember one time I went bowling with some friends and my brother and sister were surprised.  They said “You don’t like bowling?”.  I said “I don’t care.  My friends will be there so it will be fun”.  So, I went and had a good time bowling.

To a certain extent this type of attitude is healthy.  If I only did what interested me than I would never experience new things.  Many of my favorite activities I enjoy because a friend took the time to introduce me.  In some ways it seems to be a tug of war within me- how much do I give of myself to new experiences and how much do I stay true to what I am all about and what I find fulfilling?  Also, if I am doing or not doing something to meet some artificial image of what I want or don’t want to be, should I be doing it at all?  I don’t know but it seems to be shaky grounds for human behavior. Images are hard to live up to.

Some might say that this type of behavior isn’t a carry-over from adolescence but a result of media.  There is some truth to that.  There are whole scores of people whose job it is to sculpt images of men and woman of all types in this country.  I’ve always been fascinated by how the music industry molds the tastes of American music.  One year Latino music is the big rage, another year it is Indie Girl Bands.  Through the style of music, fashions worn by the singers, marketing campaigns and concerts given, the music industry not only produces music but says- this is the type of person that should enjoy this type of music.  This is what you should be wearing, eating, drinking, doing with your time ect.  Why do you think so many singers have fashion lines- Gwen Stafani, Celine Dion and J Lo all come to mind as singers that have done a good job of creating an image for their fans to follow.

Perhaps following images is part of human nature and the media simply feeds into that need to be included and defined.  That’s why we are always creating lists for everything.  We want to have everything objectified and categorized.  I don’t know why? Do any of you?

I am glad that I was taught from an early age that the most important image I can live up to in my life is that of a daughter of God who serves him.  In the end, this is the only category or type of person that really matters.  In fact, such a knowledge has been the thread that has kept me from diving to strongly into the world and its images.  Even though I may worry about becoming the cackling woman who lives alone, I know that this will never happen as long as I serve God and am active in my church.  It’s actually quite comforting to know that His is the only image I must strive for and that everything else in life has a way of working itself out. I am grateful for that knowledge and grateful for friends  like Melany (and of course my family) that understands me and loves me for me and not for any image I may or may not embody.

Back Home

Friends I am exhausted.  Still after a day of mostly rest, I am just plain tired.  Why you ask?  It’s the events of the last week.  I spent a week living my mother and father’s life and boy did it tucker me out.  You see last Sunday I flew to California to sibling-sit Anna, Sam and Madi.  I did this so my dad and mom could fly to Utah and work on the rental property.  In a way we switched places- like freaky friday without being in my mom’s body (that was a weird sentence).

Just to give each of you a taste of my day’s last week.  This is how it went

5:30 wake up, pull on whatever clothes handy

5:40 take Anna to seminary

7:00 make lunches for all

7:20 Wake up Same and Madi so they can be ready when I leave

7:30 pick up Anna from seminary

8:30 take Sam and Madi to school

10:30 take Anna to high school

12:30 pick up Anna from high school

1or 2 take Anna to independent study or music lessons

3:00 pick up Anna from above activity

3:30 pick up Sam and Madi from school

4:30 take either Sam or Madi to PGY (a performing group) practice

5:00 start making dinner

5:30 take Anna to dance

6:30 pick up Anna from dance and Sam/Madi from PGY

7:00 have dinner

8:00 clean up

Rest of the night- try to squeeze something fun in and must help Madi with homework taking 1 hour.

So, that was my day sibling-sitting!  To top all that off I had to squeeze in my own workload and make sure I didn’t get behind with any of that.

With all this running around you would think I must have had a miserable time.  Actually I had a good time.  It was nice chatting with each of my siblings and getting to know them better.  I feel that they also gained more respect and understanding of me and my life and all of the work that mom and dad do for each of them.  Anna said she was surprised by how much driving I had to do and that it had never occurred to her how much my mother was driving everyone around until she saw me doing it.

The whole experience made me realize how many moments my mother and father spent caring for each of us.  It’s so easy to take stuff like that for granted when you are young but now I understand more of their sacrifice.  I also have relearned how careful my parents had to be to use teaching moments when they got them.  I don’t know if I taught my siblings anything but there were a couple of moments thrown in here or there that I hope got absorbed.  The thing is they were always while I was doing dishes, giving a ride, checking my email etc.  Clearly being a parent requires a special focus on all of life to be effective.

This week also helped me realize that I have much to learn about being a parent.  Luckily if I do have kids I won’t have to start with a 17, 12 and 9 year old- I can work myself up to those blessings :).  Still, there is no doubt that a single gal like myself has a great deal I can do to improve my parenting skills.

Changing gears a bit…I also got the opportunity to visit my sister and her family while I was in California.  I love visiting them.  There is such an atmosphere of love, patience and kindness in their home.  It always makes me want to improve in each of these 3 attributes.  My nieces are so cute but they are also fiesty and independent.  Megan and Seth do a great job of nurturing their daughters- making them feel loved while still instilling correct principles and behaviors.

Megan is also a great example to me of living life to its fullest.  I haven’t mentioned it on this blog but the two of us have been doing a diet and fitness challenge since the beginning of August.  Each month we set new goals for each category and try to continue with the one’s already set.  For example, we are now on month 2 of restricting sweets- no candy, cookies, deserts, sugary drinks ect.  It has been fun to work on it together.  One of our goals for September was entering a charity race- Megan running while I walked.  So, on Friday we ran/walked in the Moonlight Run in Palo Alto.  It was (clearly from the name) at night and was harder than I thought it would be.  Even though I just did the walk (don’t worry I walked my hardest!) I felt sore the next day- next 2 days actually.  It was satisfying, however, to finish and to know I had done my best.  Megan also ran hard and did her best.  Isn’t it impressive that she ran a 5k just 2 months after having a baby!  Awesome!

Running is just one of the ways Megan lives a full life.  She is a diligent mother but also takes time for reading, writing (she’s in a children’s writing group), cooking, sewing and other crafts.  She is always thinking of clever activities she can do with her girls to keep her mind active and enlighten them as well.

Such a full life is a goal of mine.  It is the reason why I insist on sticking with my voice lessons every week even though I rarely preform.  Building my skills makes me a more interesting person and helps me to feel complete.  I hope that in the next few months I can add to the voice lessons by taking a cake decorating or perhaps a drawing class.  Both are subjects I have always wanted to learn.

Like Megan I am also a great reader and get a lot of joy out of writing both in this blog and in my own writing.  In addition, my Sunday school, church activities, time with friends and work all contribute to my overall happiness and well-being.  I don’t know how I would have made it through 2007 without such a full life and I hope to only improve upon it.

Perhaps Megan and I picked up this desire for a full life from my mom.  She was always multi-tasking but in a non-panicky way.  There was cooking, cleaning, gardening, reading, knitting, sewing ect.  All of which she did with the utmost taste and skill.  I hope I can follow the examples set by my mother and sister in living my life to its fullest.  Do you all have any hobbies or daily activities that give your life more meaning?  Make it more full?

So, that was the last week.  I am tired and at the moment glad to be living the life I have in front of me.  At least I get to spend less time in the car as a singlite!

New Apartment

This will be a quick update my friends. I just wanted everyone to know that I am now officially moved into my apartment!  Yes, that’s right I have my own apartment.  I am just renting but have made it my own with all of my artwork and photography.  It’s interesting because this is the first time in my life that I have been able to make a space my own.  Any of you that are driving through Draper- come check it out (the tour after all will only take a minute or two!  It’s just a one bedroom apartment).  As you can see from the pictures it  has a large bedroom (especially compared to my old room.  It’s hard to imagine how I fit all of my stuff in that tiny space).  Then it has- oh the luxury- a walk-in closet!!!  For the first time in a long while I am actually organized.  I have gone bin crazy and have everything filed, stored and stashed in its correct bin or folder.  In my old room everything was so packed in that it took two seconds to dirty it up, which left me feeling cluttered all the time.  It was hard to motivate myself to do better when there just didn’t seem to be enough space.

One thing that has been interesting about designing my own space is that a number of things that I have been dragging around for years I am actually able to use.  For example, when I was 17 I went to Italy.  While I was there I purchased an art print of Florence.  I have had that art print in storage for 10 years and I finally this week got it framed and displayed.  It felt like a little gift from my past. It’s like finding a $20 bill in an old coat. You always owned the $20 (or the art in this case) but somehow it seems like a prize!

Anyway back to my apartment, there is a nice bathroom with a deep tub and again lots of storage.  I actually have my hair supplies organized! Yeah!  Oh speaking of hair… I got my hair cut last week.  My friend and Diva hair designer Grace was in town for Labor Day and I took the opportunity to have her use her considerable skills to find an easy business-like haircut.  The kind of haircut I could style in the morning, clean and work hard all day and have it still look decent.  So, she cut my hair way off- chin length with lots of layers.  It was a hard step for me (I love my hair…) but I know it is the right thing for my lifestyle and I think it looks good.  I’ve gotten lots of compliments on it.  I will post a picture as soon as I can take a decent self portrait!

So moving on to the apartment.  It has lots of additional storage.  A kitchen with tons of cabinets, a dishwasher (yeah!) and a washer and dryer (double yeah!).  Then there is what they call the Great Room where I have a sofa and my cuddlebag (plus all of my books- triple yeah!!!).  I just wish all of you could see it!  I am soooo excited about it.  I am almost sad to be leaving it next week to sibling sit in California next week.  The following week I am planning on having some type of party.  I have missed throwing my parties and games nights. Living in my dad’s house in Suncrest was great for finances but lame for my social life.

In a way I feel that this apartment is bringing all the change of the last year full circle.  I went from an unhappy confused spot, to a busy, bold confident woman with direction and independence.  As I was talking to Camille today I mentioned that “it just feels good to be where you are supposed to be.  Doing what you are supposed to be doing”.  That’s how I really feel.  I feel blessed to be happy, and to have my life the way I want it to be- even in little ways like my organized apartment! It’s just so wonderful!

So that is the big news.  I will update more soon.  Life is great!  Hope it is the same for all of you!

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