Tag: LDS

Small Things

For my non-religious readers this is one more faith-based post. I promise I will give it a break for the next few. Thanks for bearing with me. I posted some great things to my movie blog if you want to check that out including a review of George Lucas’ new animated movie Strange Magic. http://54disneyreviews.wordpress.com/

mother_teresa1

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the small things in life.  God really does ask us to do a lot of small things.  Let’s think of the 10 Commandments.  I would say there are 3  to some non-believers seem kind of small. 1. Shall Not Take Lord’s  Name n Vain. 2. Must Keep the Sabbath Day Holy, 3. Honor thy Father and Mother.

I mean there are despots and dictators all over the place, would God really care whether I say Oh my G…. as you so often hear on the shows?  What about going for groceries on Sunday?  Surely with human trafficking and child rape God would not care about such a small thing? What if my parents are jerks why does he care if I honor or dishonor them?

All fair questions and I’m not sure I know.  I have thought about this a lot and wondered why I obey these small things (or try too at least)?  I am almost hesitant to talk about this because it might give the impression that I am perfectly obedient.  Of course I am not.  I know particularly with entertainment I am perhaps too lenient.  I own that. But it is in my heart to be obedient and to feel God’s spirit as an active force in my life.  I know when I am obedient I feel it stronger.  I cannot deny it.

I wonder if the real reason he asks us to do all these small things is because most of the great joys of life are found in the quiet small moments? Sure we all have the big moments of weddings, graduations, births but I find those times are often a blur of stress and busyness.

When I think about the happiest times it is a conversation with a friend, a moment of clarity in prayer or a swim in the ocean.  Perhaps the more we learn to trust God in all these little rules the more we grow to understand his little blessings?

I also think God’s goal is to ‘bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man’.  His goal is to create Saints where the world would tell us it is good enough to just avoid doing ‘bad things’.   That’s why He asks us to wear one set of earrings or not date till we are 16 or not drink coffee.  He wants us to follow Him as best as we can because that will make us happy.  It’s just an eternal law that certain actions create happiness and others create sadness.

A lot of us need the examples of small and simple things to give us confidence for the gut wrenching times when maybe He feels a little bit further away. I know for me if I had not developed a pattern of obedience I wouldn’t have made it through some of the tough moments of my life.  So, in the end I’m grateful for the rules even if others may see them as limiting.

I think a lot of it has to do with faith.  Do we have faith to live a law that we may not completely understand?  Do we have faith to do something when there seems to be no reward?  Do we have faith when it may even seem we are punished for following God’s law? If we can say yes even occasionally for small things that is powerful and it builds until it is a ‘sure foundation…whereon if men build they cannot fall”.

I believe faith also allows us to create an individual relationship with God.  When the laws of God allow for multiple interpretations and lifestyles that frees us to go to Him and find out for ourselves how He wants us to live.  The big things there is less movement on but the small things give us the chance for a personal connection with deity which perhaps makes them the most important rules of all?  I could have a definition of the Sabbath, which I have prayed about and feel good about but it will be different than my neighbors.  That’s a good and powerful thing. It makes a strong relationship with Our Heavenly Father when forgiveness and comfort is required. We’ve been to Him on the small things so we know how to do it for the big.

What do you guys think? Why does God ask us to do these small things like keep a clean mouth, pay a full tithe, keep the Sabbath day, fast once a month etc?  I think there is just something about it that makes us strong.

One of my favorite stories from Jesus’ ministry is Mary breaking open the oil and washing the feet of Jesus. It was a small act of love but she was truly anointing a King. That’s pretty big in reality.  Would love your thoughts.

Mary-Washes-Jesus-s-Feet-jesus-11078625-635-450

Kind of a rambling post but would love to hear your thoughts.

Faith and Loneliness

I have lots of different readers who enjoy my posts for different reasons. I love every last one of you! This is a religious post probably best suited for my Mormon readers but hopefully encouraging to anyone of faith. If religion isn’t your thing don’t worry will be posting about your favorite topic soon. It’s a huge part of my life so it will come up on the blog from time to time. Love you!

missionLately I’ve found myself thinking a lot about my mission.  This year marks 10 years since I came home which has given me pause to think about the decade which has come and gone. Plus, I recently played host to my favorite companion Julia Graves and spent time with a sister who also served around my time Lisa Luddington.  We’ve shared stories and looked back on all we learned during those very intense 20 months (I extended).

Today I went to a homecoming for a friend and it touched my heart to see how strong she has become. I hope she can keep that strength and faith for a decade as I have striven to do however imperfectly.

Called to Serve Him.  No greater work.  No greater chance to become more Christlike
Called to Serve Him. No greater work. No greater chance to become more Christlike

As I’ve been thinking about my mission I realized something special it taught me I hadn’t put my finger on before.  It taught me how to deal with the loneliness of faith.

Let me explain.  There was a time on the mission I was given a companion who was bi-polar and thought that a mission would cure her mental illness. When it obviously didn’t she took her anger out on me and was emotionally and verbally abusive. I was berated as the worst missionary, ugly, stupid, inept, you name it.  Then she would go days with the silent treatment which was better but hard when you have to spend 24 hours a day with a person.

It was an especially hard time because I was trying so hard to be a good trainer and obedient.  We were opening a new area to sisters so I didn’t know anybody and we were far away from the mission home.  On LDS missions you are not allowed to call home, just weekly letters (although my parents did send me flowers. Love them!).

Got to love Indiana corn!
Got to love Indiana corn!

I’m not saying I was perfect because I wasn’t but I was trying to be obedient and I seemed to be punished for that where other people had great training experiences. Plus, how many times can you be told your a terrible missionary before you begin to believe it.

It was one of the loneliest time of my life. That may be surprising because I was with someone all the time but it just goes to show a person can be lonely who is surrounded by people.

pres quist
President Quist helped me so much through that lonely time

Anyway, I thought about coming home but I didn’t want to let my family down especially my younger siblings who needed an example missionary in their lives. I had to call the mission president every night and he helped me to get through every day.  I had a sister swap with my MTC comp Sister Noyes and that also helped.

But in the end I had to turn to my Heavenly Father in a way I hadn’t done to that point. He was all I had to really lean on. I read my scriptures and I prayed so hard my knees hurt. And you know what? He filled me up.  He let me know I wasn’t a bad missionary.  He helped me to forgive her, which was incredibly hard to do.  He loved me and I was not the same after that.  I was in 100% to the mission and while again I was far from perfect I know I was the missionary He needed me to be.

purdue
Purdue campus was the new area with tough companion but it was the site of many sacred experiences too

As hard as that experience was, and it was brutal, it gave me a gift.  In the 10 years since I came home there have been lonely times.  I don’t need to go into all of them but just trust me there have been lonely times. I’ve felt attacked, disappointed in the choices of others, angry, frustrated, confused and alone, as all humans do from time to time.

But I’ve always had that time on the mission in my pocket to carry me through.

I had discovered God’s ability to strengthen me during the lonely times and have never forgotten it and never will.

If you are feeling lonely or life is giving you a shellacking (we’ve all been there!) maybe it’s a moment God is trying to turn you into something better, like He made me the best missionary I could be?  Maybe he is trying to make you strong?

I absolutely believe moments of loneliness are essential to understanding the atonement of Jesus Christ and really applying it to your heart. We need it so bad in those moments and only then are we teachable and humble enough to make the tough choices and rely on His mercy completely.
me-in-snow-on-missionNever forget the scripture says

“I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.”

Mission Companion New Years Reunion

Normally New Years is one of my least favorite holidays. For a long time it was fun but I’ve found it frustrating because it is a very couply holiday and one where I increasingly seemed to get left out. See post New Years Eve Sucks)

Not this year!

This year my friend and former mission companion Julia Graves came for a visit and it was such a treat.  I rarely have visitors that are here just to see me.  My family comes a lot but they have their own house and sometimes I hardly see them because of their work responsibilities and other family things.

Regardless, they aren’t here just to see me and for me to be host and show them around.That hardly ever happens despite my very comfortable guest room! (It’s ready for anyone to come on over!).  So it was so great to have Julia here for a visit and to have fun and reminisce.

She arrived on the 30th and we went to lunch and then got settled in and she was kind enough to join me for our SLOW (Salt Lake Open Water) end of year banquet.  We spent a fair amount of time in the car and had a lot of fun talking with each other.

Then the 31st we went to Blue Plate Diner in SLC and had a yummy breakfast.

diner

And then I had gotten a room for New Years at my favorite hotel- the City Center Marriott in Salt Lake.  It is the place I went when I quit my job in 2007 and so it has always had a special significance (one of the best days of my life!). I also went there for my Eat Pray Love weekend in 2012.

hotel1It’s a lovely hotel with great linens and fluffy robes for all the guests.  They have yummy room service and an amazing pool!  It is one of my favorite places in the world.

I also successfully parallel parked twice! Pretty impressive right?

parallel

Then we went to Copper Common- the sister restaurant of my favorite place Copper Onion and it was very yummy!

copper commonAfter that we spent a bit of time at Temple Square and listening to music and enjoying the lights of the city (there was a lot going on this year with eveslc.com).  It was the most walking I’ve done since the knee injury which was good.  I felt it the next few days but it was a start. good menThere was a faux light fireworks display but we were so cold we decided to head home and watch the New York ball drop (what a letdown that was.  They didn’t even show the countdown!). But we had a great time with the hot tub and pool and just enjoying the hotel.

hotelWe rang in the New Year with gusto a little early and then crashed! It was great.

happy new year happy new year2New Years Day we went to breakfast at the hotel and then went to the new Living Aquarium in Draper.  I’ve been wanting to go and it was really fun! My knee was hurting from pushing it the previous day so I used my cane and it helped a lot.

The aquarium was easy to work around with lots of animals and fun exhibits.  My favorite was the penguins.

aquarium penguins turtles julia turtlesWe spent about 3 hours at the aquarium, and I have a membership now so if you want to go call me up and let’s go!  Your kids will LOVE it!

After the aquarium my parents and grandma came over and we had fajitas and Mexican food together.  They got to hear all about our memories from the mission.  It is so strange to think it will be 10 years in March since I came home from my mission.  Being with Julia made it feel like yesterday.

Today was the final day of the trip and we went to Bake 360 for breakfast (their new cafe is so delish!).  Then we did some shopping and tried to go to 2 different art museums but they were both closed! (Art was not on our side!).

So we went to the Leonardo.  They have one of those plastic body exhibits and those creepy me out so we just went to the regular exhibits and it was fun.  I thought it was an art museum but it’s actually science and math based.

leonardoJulia wanted to go to Chick-fila since they don’t have them in Nevada so we finished off the day eating some chicken and ended up visiting my Grandma in some extra time.

chickfilaIt was just a great trip and time with a friend.  I am so lucky to have wonderful friends in my life and playing host was a blast.  I loved reminiscing about our mission and all the years since. Julia is also single and we have very similar personalities and are both still active in the church. Our faith is very important to us and sharing it with the Hoosiers has given us a bond that will last forever. I just had the most lovely time.

Definitely my best New Years Eve ever!  A great way to start 2015!

Meet the Mormons: A Member’s Review

Meet-the-MormonsSo I just got back from the theater viewing a movie about my faith, Meet the Mormons.  This film tells the story of 6 ordinary members from all around the world.  This is not a piece on the Osmonds or the Romneys.  Just 6 families.

Currently Rotten Tomatoes has the movie at 0% with nearly every critic calling it a ‘PR stunt’.  I’d be lying if I didn’t say they were partly right but all documentaries are in a way.  Almost all I have seen have a strong conviction one way or another, especially movies about current times.

For example, last year’s Blackfish has a 98% on rotten tomatoes and that movie makes almost no attempt to be fair.  It tells its perspective and it tells it very well.  I found it gripping.  The same could be said for Michael Moore documentaries and even the recent Ken Burns miniseries on the Roosevelt’s was very slow to criticize and quick to praise the former presidents

Not every movie has to be everything to everyone.  There is a place for movies that share a certain type of story, a certain type of message and if you don’t like said message then the movie isn’t for you. Take a look at my post called ‘Consider the Audience’ that talks about this issue.

As I was watching, I kept thinking ‘what if this was a series and we had Meet the Catholics, or Meet the Muslims, or Meet the Jehovah’s Witnesses’, would I enjoy it as much?  Maybe not as much as my own faith finally getting some love (been a rough couple of years) but I’d still enjoy it.  I’d love to hear about the lives of 6 honest, hard working Catholics, Muslims or Methodists.

I think most people are smart enough, even most children, to know when something is giving one side of an argument.  My favorite bit was about the Candy Bombers in WWII and all they did for post-war Germany.  I’d heard his story before but it is a great example of living close to the spirit so you can get those moments of clarity when you need them.

Plus, something tells me these critics would have no problem praising a movie with 6 ex-mormons sharing their heroic stories of leaving the cult of Mormonism…Groan.

People may also say it is ‘unrealistic’ that there aren’t really people this good and wholesome.  ‘Nobody’s perfect’.  Yes, nobody’s perfect but there are a lot of people actively striving to be good people.

If you went to any ward in the church you could find 6 men and women like the one’s shown in the movie.  My ward there is an amazing woman who is a full time ER doctor, has 7 kids and sings in the tabernacle choir.  Another woman is a domestic abuse survivor turned attorney.  There are so many examples everywhere in the church and I enjoyed seeing 6 new one’s in the movies.

That said, it does feel like a visitor centers piece because it was.  Still, a well done piece and I enjoyed learning about these 6 people.  It’s comforting to know there are people who are striving to do the right thing and lead good lives.

I’m so grateful for my Membership in the Mormon church and to be surrounded by good people.

Here is the trailer.  If this looks like something you’d hate than I can pretty much guarantee you will hate it but if it looks at all appealing check it out.  I’m glad I saw it.

Here is the trailer

This perhaps belongs better on BYUTV but if it reaches more people than go for it!

Content Grade A+ Overall Grade B

The Most Memorable Year of My Life 2001

I was watching dancing with the stars and the theme for tonight was ‘the most memorable year of your life’.  It made me think about my life.  What is the most memorable year in my life?  It’s very tough to answer, but 2 years came to mind first: 2001 and 2007.

Now this isn’t the best years that would be different because both 2001 and 2007 were rough.  I’ve talked a lot about 2007 on this blog so let me tell you a little bit about 2001. It was quite the ride.

2001-

When 2001 started I was flying high.

new york

I had just finished a dream trip with my Grandma and my dear cousin Lisa to New York City.  We had enjoyed the Rockettes, museums and lots of Broadway shows.  We were scolded by my Grandma for ordering too much pizza and we told her we’d eat it later but it smelled so we put it outside and the maids took it.  Knowing she would ask about it we spent the night coming up with outlandish stories about what happened to the pizza and laughing.  I saw my first New York at Christmas and saw the Rockefeller tree and the lights.  It was magic.

I would never have been prepared for what would happen.

Here I am in 2001 with my roommate:

2001

I made sure I signed up for 30 course hours a year while going to school, usually more and I had taken a lighter load in the fall so winter term I was taking 18 credits! They were also junior level rigorous courses. It was challenging but I pushed on through until the end of March.

Then I got the call and found out my beloved Grandpa had passed away.  It still makes me cry to write it.  In many ways it was a good thing but I still miss him so much.  He’s my hero and I would visit him every Sunday and he would tell me how beautiful I looked.  It meant a lot to me. And then he was gone and there isn’t a day 13 years later that I don’t wish I could talk to him and wonder what he’s thinking about my life. I hope he’s happy with me.

Nevin 1992Then just 2 weeks later, my Dad gave me a call and he was crying.  “Rachel” he said haltingly into the phone “Lisa passed away”.  I was stunned.  The bright spirit I’d been joking with over pizza months before and wizzing around New York was gone.

lisaI can’t remember when it occurred during the week but I had a few days before the flight to California for the funeral. I was devastated and felt guilty spending any time on my 18 credits of classes but finals were coming up and I knew Lisa and Grandpa would want me to study. But my head was hanging low, just getting through the day.

At this same time there was a girl named Emily who was in my ward that I had met, and had met my sister in Nauvoo study abroad.  She was an acquaintance but I knew she had been missing from church for a month or so.

2001-5
Emily, my sister Megan and me 2001

As I walked up to campus the weight of my problems heavy on my shoulders Emily saw me and she stopped and said ‘are you ok?’. I’ll never forget that.

It will doubt be no surprise if you are a frequent blog reader to hear I immediately burst into tears and told her my sad story (I’m a bit of an open book…).  I would learn she was grieving from her own deep loss of her father which is why she had been gone for so many weeks. (what a great example of looking to help others when you are the one hurting the most).

We talked and she helped me pack for the funeral.  I quickly learned she was not living with kind people and so out of the blue I said

“I know.  Why don’t you come live with Megan and me?”

I called Megan and she was like “Ok.  Why not” probably a little caught off guard but she then added “Why don’t we ask Julia?”  Julia is our cousin and Lisa’s sister who had come home from her mission to the funeral.  Julia agreed and after the funeral I found an apartment for the 4 of us and it was all settled.

2001-3
Julia, me, Megan, Emily

When I got home from the funeral I prayed Heavenly Father would help me with finals.  That I would find a way to not suffer from the weeks of absences both emotional and physical. I tried my best and you know what I got my best grades of all of college.  All As and Bs despite all that happened and taking the most credits.  Miracles do happen.

2001-4That year Julia met her Matthew and I would start my senior year.I remember staying inside a lot and just spending time the 4 of us.  It was a time of healing and love.

In June 2001 I retook Poli Sci 201 because I had gotten a lazy C as a sophmore because the teacher bored me but for some reason I knew I needed to be a TA for that class.  I was lucky to have Dr.  Matthew Holland as my teacher in his first class of students as a BYU Professor.

20141016_230644

20090306__holland_0306p1_200At the end of the course I called him for about 2 weeks leaving messages, begging to be his TA.  Finally he answered and said “so I hear you want to be one of my TA’s”.  My best buddy Raelene was also a TA and we had such a wonderful experience . He had such faith in me and never changed a grade I gave.  That did so much for my confidence.

This is Raelene and I in 2009 but we basically look the same…

113_0608In September my family received another shock with the passing of my cousin Riley.  He had made mistakes and had challenges with addiction so we weren’t super close but it was still very tragic.

rileyAnd then the whole world had tragedy with 9-11.  I’ll never forget driving up to campus and seeing everyone on their phones (which at the time seemed strange).  The whole aura was nervous, sad and unsure.

9-11I’ll never forget later that day President Bateman gave a speech and said:

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).

Brothers and sisters, that is our message this morning. Fortunately this is only the second act of a three-act play. Even when death comes to those we love, we know what lies ahead. We know they are fine. It is those of us who are left behind who are sad. We know we will see them again, and we know we will be with them. When death comes to someone who has the peace of the Holy Ghost inside, it can be sweet, not bitter.

Do you understand why you young people hold the power of peace for the world in your hands? The world depends on you.

Many of you have just returned from missions; many of you will go next year. The world’s peace is on your shoulders because you have the only message that gives hope for eternal peace

Here’s the whole talk if you want to listen to it:

I took his admonition seriously.  I was finishing up school and after the year I had it was all to clear ‘this is the second act in a three-act play’.  I knew I would be responsible for making the world better.  For bringing peace in my own little circle, and I’ve striven to do that.  Even with anxiety, depression, frustration and disappointment I have tried my best to never forget the Lord and His goodness, to share His peace.

Because it is on our shoulders in 2001 and 2014.  I’m certainly glad not all my years are 2001’s (my family couldn’t take it!) but it made me the person I am today.  It was a refining time and a time for decisions on the type of person I was going to be.

And it certainly was memorable…

2001-2
Here I am with my friend Joni as she sets off for her mission.

 

An Original Expression of Faith

Back when the movement of feminists within the Mormon church started (ala pants protest) I had a bad feeling about it. I chose to show my support for people, not protests in my own way. My opinion on today’s events is basically what it was when I wrote this post.
I have not commented on the recent hoopla because I felt like I couldn’t add anything new to the discussion. I’ve written a number of posts on the blog about being a Mormon woman and I’d love for any of you to read them. However, I felt reposting this said everything I wanted to say.
There is nothing more important to me than my faith. It is the anchor of my life and I know it is where I am supposed to spend my life engaged in it’s service.   Every time I read it, I feel anew that the  Book of Mormon is true. I am a daughter of God with a unique mission and gifts. It is not my place to judge anyone else for their choices and I wish all peace and comfort.  God bless you all.

Smilingldsgirl's Weblog

“The number of people who subscribe to these beliefs and values is dwindling, but you and I remain true. We have covenanted with the Savior to represent Him...

We must be bold in our declarations and testimony of the divinity of Jesus Christ. We want others to know that we believe He is the central figure in all human history. His life and teachings are the heart of the Bible and the other books we consider to be holy scriptures. The Old Testament sets the stage for Christ’s mortal ministry. The New Testament describes His mortal ministry.

The Book of Mormon gives us a second witness of His mortal ministry. He came to earth to declare His gospel as a foundation for all mankind so that all of God’s children could learn about Him and His teachings. He then gave His life in order to be our Savior and…

View original post 814 more words

A Self Reliant LDS Single Woman

1975215_10152157772992239_1521231251_n

This is one of my religious Mormon-centric posts so feel free to skip if not interested in that topic.

I’ve been mulling over in my brain a gospel topic the last few days .  Mothers Day (or what I call Female Guilt Day) always makes me feel a little sad.  People can give me all kinds of reasons why that shouldn’t be but all that does is make me keep my sadness to myself.  It doesn’t make it go away.

I know all the easy answers, the promises of a family for the righteous.  I get all of that but it doesn’t mean a day celebrating the big part of being a woman I don’t have doesn’t sting a little bit.

I was particularly thinking about my new job and how grateful I am for the chance to do something I really love.  There are no words for how much that means to me. A smile worthy of smilingldsgirl covers my face whenever I think about it.  I am so excited!

It also occurred to me this week that taking such a position would probably be difficult if I had a family or was married.  The position pays less than I was making and is at least for now part-time. However, it is an opening to start a new life, a new career! That’s the exciting part!

Plus, I still get to work from home and my finances are such that I can afford to take a pay cut.  I also might not get insurance through my employer.  We are still researching that. I feel so fortunate that I am at a spot in my life to take such a job.  🙂

Here’s the thing I could use some guidance on-

I try to be positive and not be a negative Nelly when it comes to my single status in a family church.  It comes and goes but in general I think I am happier than most other singles I know.  Nevertheless, for some reason it feels more justified in talking about the downsides of being single rather than the upsides.  I can’t completely put it into words but I feel like I am not supposed to be ‘so’ happy in the single life, only moderately happy.

Let me try to explain-

It’s quotes like these that confuse me.

“And I would also caution you single sisters not to become so independent and self-reliant that you decide marriage isn’t worth it and you can do just as well on your own…”

President Benson

So, we are supposed to be independent and self-reliant but not ‘so’ independent and self reliant.  We have to live a good life but not to the point where we feel we can ‘do just as well on your own’.  What does that mean?  Should I feel continually like I am not quite doing ‘just as well’ on my own? Just as well as who? Married people?  Just as well at what? Living?

He goes on:

“Certainly we want our single sisters to maximize their individual potential, to be well educated, and to do well at their present employment. You have much to contribute to society, to your community, and to your neighborhood.”

“But…”

“We earnestly pray that our single sisters will desire honorable marriage in the temple to a worthy man and rear a righteous family, even though this may mean the sacrificing of degrees and careers. Our priorities are right when we realize there is no higher calling than to be an honorable wife and mother”

So if I read him right we can do many great things and that is encouraged, but at the same time we must  be always hoping and waiting to give all those things up for marriage and family. It seems to me that somebody isn’t going to ‘maximize their full potential’ if they are constantly keeping an escape hatch available for their ‘true and higher calling’?

I know so many single Mormon women who feel unfulfilled because of that escape hatch.   It’s like you end up doing a lot of mediocre things because the big thing you really want or feel a need to do you can’t.  The thing that will make you the happiest you can’t do so you settle for medium-level happiness.

That doesn’t seem right.  God wants us to be happy no strings attached. It doesn’t say ‘the plan of happiness except for single people who are merely content’

What is so wrong with devoting yourself completely to the role that God has given you to play at the moment you are playing it?  In my experience it is only in such obedient moments that  I am open to the promptings to change and grow, maybe even meet someone.  Is that too independent, or too self reliant?  I don’t think so.

It seems to me I am always happiest in life when I dive right into an experience with no back up plan or escape hatch.  In fact, enjoying my single lifestyle can feel unfeminine and the opposite of the ooey goey woman I hear about on Mothers Day.

It can also seem like I am saying the single life is better than being married but I’m not.  It’s just different. (And I do not think the single life is inherently selfish either.  I hate when people say things like that)

I know such feelings are ridiculous.  I should be happy when happy things happen but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t at times conflicted with how happy I should feel.

What worries me is I don’t want to live a life in second place.  The silver medalist, to my married friends who get the gold, and that’s kind of what the quote says.  After all, we as singles can contribute to our employment, community, society and neighborhoods but… the higher calling is motherhood. That’s what we believe. And I think that is why Mother’s Day can be a little sad for me. It’s the day of the year where that Gold medal is thrown in our faces and we realize we have the silver.

But, I just can’t live my life that way.  I believe that God has a plan for all of us and while we may not be fated to be with a particular person, I believe He does know when that event will happen.  He needs me right now to work in his single vineyard and that is not a second place position.

Does that mean I am not open to a different vineyard?  Of course not.  Nothing would thrill me more than to find that Great Love but I am not going to settle for sloppy seconds waiting for it.

So, instead I will be happy for the good things in my life and not worry whether I am ‘too independent’ or ‘too self-reliant’ any more.  God knows my heart and He has told me many times before when I need to straighten up and refocus my priorities.

I was a good missionary because I gave it all to that calling.  I was able to get on that plane and have no regrets, and I don’t see why this phase of my life with my new job is any different?  I’m going to give it my all and have a blast along the way.  I am so excited!

I’m going to allow myself to feel 100% happiness while doing it.   The truth is I am self-reliant and independent but I am also obedient and have a missionary heart.  The Lord knows me, and He is guiding my path. He certainly helped me get this job so I might as well have a ball while doing it.

Anyway, forgive these ramblings.  It was just something I needed to work out and I think I did as I typed.  Hopefully my musings are helpful to someone out there.

Happy Mothers Day to all you amazing moms and to my own Mother.

Clean Reviews

Hi guys!

I’m really excited about a new feature I am adding to my youtube channel.  It kind of goes with the personal standard I mentioned in my recent post  How to be Mormon and Like Movies.

My goal is to share with all of you not only movies I like but also what type of content a movie has.  That way you can easily know if something is worth your time or not.

This is the rating system I came up with for offensive content

content

The rating will not be a quality of movie grade, just the amount of adult content in the movie.  Some of my favorite movies may get a D on content, but hopefully I will explain what type it is and what you should consider before viewing. This will make your movie going experience more pleasant and even inspiring.

What do you think of the idea? What movies would you like me to review?  Anything you’ve been wondering about and would like more detail?  As long it is possible I will give it a watch through and review. Here is a video of me explaining more about the feature.

How to be Mormon and like Movies

top15movies

So clearly you are all aware that I love movies. I know a lot of you could live without them and prefer reading but I like both and I’ll tell you why.

Reading is like the cross country race of storytelling.  You really dive into the characters and setting for weeks, sometimes months.  There’s a real dedication to a book; whereas, a movie is 2 hours with people and their stories.  There are a lot of people I don’t mind spending 2 hours with that I wouldn’t want to have hanging around me for 2 weeks.  It’s a different standard.

Also, a book you have an experience colored from 2 perspectives- your own and the author (or protagonist).  A movie has so many different voices all involved in making the story happen.  You have a director, cinematographer, actor, writer etc- all bringing something different to create the story and art.

Television is like an in-between of movies and books because you live with the characters but are still getting the varied perspective.

So, if you want to understand our culture and people I think it is important to be well-versed in all 3 storytelling mediums (and music as well but that is less primarily a storytelling device) .

However, this desire can create a problem for some that are like me and want to watch compelling stories, but do not want to sully our standards and faith.  We want to see better than the made-for-Christian variety of entertainment, but don’t want to verge too close to the morality cliff.

It invites the question- how can you be a Christian (or Mormon in my case) and like movies?

First, there is a great article in the Ensign (church magazine) by Academy Award winning director Keith Merrill where he gives a much more thorough answer to this question than I could give.  I recommend reading it. https://www.lds.org/ensign/1981/04/i-have-a-question

He starts off by talking about the rating  system.  How it is decided, what content makes an R, PG, G, X (this was before PG-13).  He says:

“How then, does one select appropriate film entertainment? A more efficient rating system would help, but it would still fail.. Ultimately, there is no rating system that will satisfy every person’s individual standards.

Your personal individual standards.

In another section of the church website we are told:

“Like other forms of media, movies and television can offer much that is informative, uplifting, and appropriately entertaining. However, many movies and television programs can be spiritually damaging as inappropriate behaviors and viewpoints are depicted as normal”

So, the brethren tell us that movies can be entertaining and informative and uplifting (doesn’t have to be all 3).  It is up to us to decide what is spiritually damaging.

Keith Merrill tells us how to make these choices:

“It remains for each of us to sort through word-of-mouth reports, media reviews, publicity, and then compare what we find with our own conscience. The only reliable standards are the ones we set for ourselves, guided by our quest for perfection and inspired by the principles of the gospel”

Setting a standard for ourselves and sticking to it can be difficult but I’ve learned that it is worth the effort.  If I want to be confident in making wise media choices, I must analyze all the factors, and not rely on any one vetting option.  For example, some people say absolutely No R rated movies and that is fine for them, but I think it could give a false confidence in the non-R movies making their research less diligent.

My personal standards for entertainment have been developed since I was in high school, and I did make some mistakes along the way. However, as a whole I have been able to enjoy movies and being a movie fan, without endangering my worthiness.

Here’s what I’ve learned

Rachel’s Personal Standard-

1. Screen-it.-

I believe in using the resources we have available and for only $25 a year a membership at http://www.screenit.com will tell you briefly or an insane amount of detail anything in the movie you might find offensive or disturbing.  They put stuff on there that I don’t know if anyone finds offensive like if a baby spits up.  If you don’t want to be spoiled but want a basic idea they have a content summary and a suggested audience for all new movies and many older films.  Screen-it is my first step in deciding to see a movie.

2. Reviews-

Watch a few critics.  Find someone you trust and get a feel for the type of content they recommend.  This will give you a general idea if they love edgy movies those probably are one’s to stay away from.  If they say something is violent than I would avoid it.  Most critics are not Christian based but they still give clues to the values in a movie and if there is anything particularly disturbing.

Check out friend of the blog Forest Hartman’s great DVD blog. http://foresthartman.com/

If you follow a critic on twitter or other social media ask them about the movie and they may respond.  Couldn’t hurt.  I actually did that with 12 Years a Slave.  I asked several critics if I should see it including Forest. .

There are also lots of parents review sites like the Popcorn Parents http://www.chesapeakefamily.com/blog/movies-a-dvds

3. Ask Friends and Family-

Gather some word of mouth about the movie.  Ask people you trust to spill the beans on content.  This can help you understand context and tone, which plays a lot into the offensiveness of an item.  If someone is about to get shot in a WWII movie perhaps language isn’t as shocking as someone who stubs their toe.

One of the hardest movies for me to gauge recently was 12 Years a Slave.  The critics actually freaked me out because they talked about how violent it was.  Screen-it didn’t really help me because a lack of context to the list of events.  I kept hoping that one of my friends would see it and let me know but none of them did.  I finally decided I needed to take the bullet and see it and I’m glad I did.

4. Learn Your Movie Weaknesses-

I’ve made 4 bad movie decisions in my life that taught me a lot.  The first was in 2001.  Everyone was talking about Moulin Rouge and being a musical lover I was very tempted.  I still love the music, but I knew the story was explicit.  It was back at a time when I believed in the rating system so I rationalized watching it was ok because it was PG-13.  (stupid).

The first time I saw it I was kind of bowled over.  It was unlike any film I had ever seen, and I was very excited.  So much so that I ignored all of the offensive content and just focused on the bright colors and music.  A friend of mine had been debating about going and I sold her on it (ie why word of mouth can be wrong!).  We went, and with her as my guest, I noticed every offense.

I was so embarrassed I had brought my friend to this movie with horrible content.  She was upset with me and rightly so.  Lesson learned. I know my weakness is music.  I will put up with a lot for great music so I am exceptionally careful when it comes to the modern musical and honestly most have failed my test.  I enjoyed Hairspray but most I chose to not see.

5. Trust Your Gut-

My second bad movie decision was in 2008.  I knew I would regret seeing the Dark Knight.  I knew it was violent and dark and that the Joker was an all too convincing villain.  My gut told me to avoid the movie as violence sticks in my head for weeks.  Other people it doesn’t seem to bother them but  I can see a preview for a Lifetime movie on a killer and it give me the creeps for weeks.

But everyone I knew LOVED the Dark Knight.  Even my father had seen it, and he never goes to the movies.  My younger siblings saw it, and they liked it.  All of my friends prodded and pushed me to see it.   They didn’t mean to challenge my beliefs, but they had enjoyed it, and wanted me to have the same exciting experience.  I totally get that.

Finally after about 6 months I gave in and watched it.  I regretted it then and still do now.  It was too violent.  The imagery was too ghastly and evil.  I didn’t have a good spirit while watching it and I didn’t feel right. You can say it is a ridiculous and pathetic reaction but that was how I felt (again personal standards here).  It was just an incredibly unpleasant experience, and I wish I could remove those images from my mind. I shouldn’t have finished it but at the point where the Joker puts the pencil through the guys face I needed some kind of redemption or it would haunt me even worse.

It was a huge mistake, and I will never make it again.

6. Walk Out-

I’ve only walked out of 2 movies in my life.  The first was Drop Dead Gorgeous, which you guys know is my most hated movie ever.  It is cold, disgusting and repulsive.  It actually made me cry I was so disturbed by it.  You can read more details about it’s depravity here (don’t watch it) https://smilingldsgirl.com/2014/01/31/best-and-worst/

It’s just so sick in its view of human nature and femininity and everything else.  I was on a date when I went, and I left my date and friends in the theater and went into the lobby and cried.  It wasn’t even worth staying around for a cute boy! That’s saying something! 🙂

The other movie I walked out on is called Superstar, and I only lasted about 10 minutes.  There was a scene where an actor was clearly trying to portray a Jesus character and it was so offensive I couldn’t tolerate it.

That’s another piece of advice- have your line in the sand and then stick with it.  My line is I will not watch anything that openly mocks Jesus.  That is too far.

So, that’s the movies I have walked out. of.  Both were stupid to even start watching but it was at the $1 theater before I had my system in place.  These days most bad movies I am kept away from by the critics (reason I could never actually be a critic).

7. Offensive or Mature-

Slumdog Millionaire was a real game-changer for me  It was a mature movie with some graphic things happening to children and characters but none of it was offensive or gratuitous .  It all felt like part of the story.  There are lots of things that I don’t want anyone under 17 to see without another adult present.  It’s mature content but I don’t think it is offensive.

Schindler’s List was a mature film and the behaviors depicted were at times offensive, but I was not offended by the movie.  That’s the blurry line best determined by word of mouth.  If you are lucky enough to have friends who have seen a movie pick their brain to see if it is mature or offensive.  Most of the time this applies to dramas as most offensive comedy is just offensive but still worth determining.

8. It is Worth It-

Some might say ‘why bother’?  It’s too much risk for entertainment.  Others simply don’t care about movies and that’s fine.  For those of us that like the medium of story telling through movies I say it is worth it. I can honestly say that my life would be less colorful and beautiful if I did not have movies in it.

If I said ‘that’s it I’m never seeing another movie again’ than I would miss going to space with Gravity, or recovering from a Tsunami in The Impossible, or see an amazing love story in Silver Linings Playbook.  I wouldn’t have reminisced about my high school years with Perks of Being a Wallflower or basically had my life narrated by endless Nora Ephron quotes.  All of that would be gone and I would be sad.

That doesn’t even count the artistry and beauty I’ve seen like in The Artist or 500 Days of Summer.  The lives I’ve gotten to dive into like The Descendants or Friends with Kids. Not too mention the total fantasy words you can enter that are much more vividly portrayed than anything I could conjure up (not the greatest imagination for worlds).

My life would be less vibrant without movies so I have my personal standards and they allow me to enjoy responsibly.

9. You Won’t See Everything-

I always have to remind myself there are some films I’m not going to be able to see.  The personal standards I’ve developed won’t allow it.  It can be tempting when everyone is raving and the performances look good but don’t give in.  In that case, it isn’t worth it.  Your standards are more important than entertainment.  When you get to the judgement day you aren’t going to be able to say ‘well, it was nominated for an Oscar’…

A great example of this for me is Martin Scorsese.  I have only seen one of his movies, Hugo.  All of his other movies are loaded with profanity, so much so, I can’t justify a viewing.  Others can, that’s fine. No judgement from me. Like I said earlier it’s a personal decision.  (You might recall his recent Wolf of Wall Street had 508 f words.  )

I have the same problem with Tarantino.  I’ve never seen his movies because the language and violence is too much.  They look intriguing and sometimes I am tempted, but no I can’t do it.

Like I said, everyone has to decide what they feel comfortable with and then stick to it.

What are your feelings on content and the movies?  What strategies do you use?  What personal standard have you developed?  What’s the worst movie you’ve ever seen?  The best?  Do you think movies are important to see?

 

 

LDS Storymakers 2014 Day 2

So day 2 has come and gone at the LDS Storymakers conference and it perhaps wasn’t as memorable as yesterday but still great.

Started the day tired but with a lot of enthusiasium.
Started the day tired but with a lot of enthusiasm.

The first class was on Prepping for Nanowrimo- by John Waverly and Danyelle Ferguson.

They had some cute ideas and were an adorable couple.  A lot of it the advice was more tailored to a family but I just liked seeing them interact.

They went over the different styles- planning vs pantsers and how to deal with Thanksgiving which is helpful.  I’m really excited about my idea for this next Nanowrimo.  It’s going to be called:

How to be Alone- isn’t that a good title?  At least I’d be intrigued.

I liked that he said ‘give yourself permission to stink. Point of Nanowrimo is not to publish but to write.  Get it on the page’.  Love that.

Writing Great Short Stories-  by Angie Lofthouse

To be honest the class I wanted to go to was full so I went to this and it wasn’t bad.  A little dry but  fine.  She talked abotu what a short stories was and how the action had to start right away.

  1. Never begin your short story with backstory (begin with the action)
  2. Don’t start before the beginning of the story. Start with inciting incidents.
  3. Don’t use someone else’s world and characters
  4. Don’t worry about length of story when writing first draft

A lot of the classes I took today were more technical in nature and I think I enjoy the lighter one’s like the class on Jane Austen.  Next year I’m going to take more of those kind of classes.

Gesture Crutches- by Jordan McCollum

Jordan seems super cute and information was helpful but honestly I struggled to stay awake and my computer died half way through so I don’t have a ton of notes.

Basically if we use too many of the same adjectives and verbs to describe our characters it gets old quick.

Words to use when needed but not in excess

Nod, head shake, smile, eyebrows, shrug, eyes narrow, widen, light up and gaze

Basically avoid cliches and using the same words too much.

Next was lunch and it was blah, very disorganized by the hotel staff.  The food was not great at this event.

The rest of the conference was a lecture by

Crafting Character Arcs- Brandon Sanderson

storymaker9

It was probably the best lecture of the conference and it lasted 2 hours but the time flew by.

It’s kind of funny because way back in 2005 I knew Brandon.  He was roommates with a bunch of my friends and we would go over there to watch Lost every week.

At the time he was getting ready to release his first book Elantris and he asked me to read it, so I did.  I’m normally not much into fantasy but I enjoyed.  If only I’d known I’d have gotten it autographed. 🙂

Anyway, Lost connection aside his lecture was great.  I think he did what everyone was hoping OSC would do yesterday.  He talked about characters needing:

1. Proactive- character makes choices

2. Competent- character is good at something

3. Sympathetic- has flaws and consequences we feel some sympathy for

Sometimes it is very little of one trait or the other but almost always some of each.

He also said “you want someone to be able to pick up your book, read a page, and be able to tell something about your character”

The last half of the lecture he did a Q and A and a lot of great advice about when to move on from a project, when to kill of a darling passage or scene, outlining vs starting raw, and how many projects to start at once.

He said “My biggest weakness was my unwillingness to revise. Had to learn in order to make characters alive give characters veto power over the outline”

I really liked how he talked about the promises you make your reader:

“Ask yourself how do I remain consistent to the promises I’ve made my readers so that my ending is fulfilling not out of nowhere?”  (Couldn’t help but think of How I Met Your Mother on that one…sigh)

Key to keeping promises is defining what they are along the way.

There was a lot more information but that was some of the highlights.  He is very engaging and funny so if you ever get a chance to hear him speak or lecture I’d recommend it.

Then we finished up with closing remarks and I had tickets to the banquet tonight but my back was hurting and as I hadn’t read any of the nominees this year I didn’t think the awards would be very much fun.  Instead I went to my hotel room, ordered room service and relaxed.  Tomorrow I think I will go for a swim and then head out.

storymaker8
My friend Emilee is in my writing group and we had a good time hanging out and getting to know each other better. It was nice to know someone at the conference.
storymaker6
Relaxed and absorbing all I learned!
storymaker7
Got to live it up every now and then!

Perfect weekend! It inspired me to take a look at my nanowrimo projects and try to make them better and to work harder on this blog. I focused a lot on storytelling and hopefully you will see that in this blog.  Hopefully you will see some improvement in my writing.  That’s the goal at least.

Thanks for reading and thank you to all who worked hard to make the conference a success.  I look forward to next year!