Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Dream

So there have been two "themes" (for lack of a better word.. ideas? principles?) that have been running through my mind that I've wanted to blog about for sometime. But I don't know if I have the words to say what I want to say. So while attempting to talk about one, I'm secretly hoping that deep down inside I'll be able to tie the two together. We'll see. And if not, then I'll blog about the other one later. I will. I promise.

One "theme" that this post is starting out about, is on a dream that I had about a year ago. It was special----sacred, even. But as this semester has rolled along, not only have I been finding that my thoughts continually wander back to it, but more than ever my desire to share this dream, has become ever-stronger. I've shared it with a few very close friends, but now I feel like the time has come for me to share it publicly. Maybe this will be the fulfilling purpose of my dream.

I write this hoping that all who read it will take it as it is, but also realize how the symbolism of the dream is very much reality. This dream changed a perspective on life for me. Like I'm not even kidding---it has opened me eyes to the reality of different situations that I otherwise would never have seen as they truly are. I hope that those reading this can take the message of this dream and also see the truth of what is surrounding us: we are at war.

So last October-ish, I had this dream where it started out that I was with my sister Aline. We were running all over the place (literally, all over the world, in old abandoned houses, up castle roofs, through every nook and cranny). We were looking for something, and we were absolutely determined to find it. At this point in my dream, I didn’t consciously realize what exactly we were looking for, but our determination and conviction outweighed that. We were dead set on finding it. (Typical determination of a Longstaff, no? haha)

The scene now changes abruptly, where me and Aline and my good friend Abu (from Brighton camp) are sitting together on this comfy chair in the middle of the day, outside in a nice green beautiful park. The weather was perfect. We were sitting in front of a camera man and a news reporter, and there was a crowd of people gathered around waiting intently for what we had to say. We told everyone what we had been searching for, and what we had found: Satan.

I know that sounds kind of weird. But it wasn’t in a bad or negative or dark way. We had found him in the sense that we had exposed him. We looked into that camera and we were telling the WHOLE world who he was and his crimes against Humanity.  My heart was so full of conviction. I wanted everyone to know who he was and what he had done to hurt everyone, so they could know of his heinous crimes for themselves, and be warned; be protected.

As we continued to be reported on, I notice someone in the back of the crowd. It was that evil man, himself. I could see him. He stood there, tall dark and handsome, wearing a fedora (haha basically meaning that he was suave and extremely good-looking). But he was staring at me. He had a look on his face that I will never forget. He was smiling a charming, smooth-like smile, like he had complete control. But when you looked into those cloudy grey eyes of his, you could tell that he was stark. raving. mad. He was screaming inside. He was viciously angry.. the kind of anger that you know revenge will follow after. 

Anyway, when our time was up for the news broadcast, the thought hit me: Something bad was going to happen to me. Satan was upset and was going to take his revenge out on me... because I EXPOSED him. I wanted the whole world to know who he was. I wanted them to be warned, I wanted them to know so they could protect themselves, so they could fight him the way I was fighting him. They needed to know! So I knew that only one thing was true: He was going to get me back. Ironically, the thing about me knowing this... was that I didn't care. There wasn't a single atom in my body that cared. I wanted everyone to know that he was real. I wanted the world to know (all of God's children) who he was, and I was completely willing to accept the consequences. My love for mankind far outweighed the knowledge, that I would be hurt. I just didn't care. I wanted them to save themselves.

The rest of my dream was spent going around telling people I loved how much I cared for them and how grateful I was for them in my life. I told them I probably would never see them again because I knew Satan was coming after me, but in my heart I didn’t care what he was going to do. So I expressed my love. 

I often look back on that dream and think about how real it is. It wasn’t just a dream. We really are in this battle against him. We are fighting against him, and he hates us because of it.. because we are trying to be good, because we are trying to help others. And because of all this, there is one more thing that you need to know: you’ve already won. He can’t beat you, because you’ve already won. You kept your first estate (your body).. the one thing that he so desperately wanted/still wants. And because of that, you’ve already won!! He won’t ever get a body, he won’t ever get a family. You are going to resurrect, and by keeping your baptismal covenant you already qualify for (the lowest level) of the celestial kingdom. He hates you, and he hates me, and he hates everyone who is trying to do good.. He is trying to make you feel bad, he is trying to bring you down with your trials. He only tries because he wants to make us as miserable as we can be along the way. What--a psycho! Haha. The only thing he can do is discourage you. That's it! So laugh in his face! (If you couldn't tell before, then you probably can tell now... but I desperately hate him. He's so mean.)

The righteous will suffer in this life, but it will be more than worth it in the end. The prize will be so good we cannot even fathom how glorious it will be. (Romans 8:18- “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us”)

So that's all friends. I will write more later. I need to post about 1 Cor 13:1-3.. cause its been on my mind for months. But I just haven't found the right words to say about it yet. So until then, read it. Savor it. Oh, its so good!

I hope that you always remember where you stand, and that in the end, you can't be beat. You can do all things through Christ (Phil 4:13), so laugh in the adversary's face. He's a fool. He only wants to hurt your feelings, and hurt everyone you love. As you struggle, and as your faith is tried, just remember one thing: you've already won. 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Fear and Love.

I feel like my blog has been calling my name.. for me to update it. There have been so many different ideas and things running through my mind lately though, that I hardly know what to do because I want to post about all of them. Maybe this just means multiple posts in shorter amounts of time. That always needs improvement anyway.

The number one thing that has been on my mind for quite some time now actually, is fear. What is it? In 1 John 4:18 the Apostle John describes it as, "Fear hath torment" and to me.. that's exactly what it is. It has its own cunning way of taking control when you don't even realize it, and it cuts you where it hurts the most. It keeps you from moving forward, becoming better... and that's why it feels like it has control. The last few days for me have been an especially fearful event. Although I was scared because I was looking for work, I think it really did cut me and leave me hanging in all other aspects of my life.. causing me to doubt myself. But I've started remembering some things that have helped.

About a week ago, I came across something that stuck out to me; something that I have continuously thought about since, because of how beautiful it was. In the bible dictionary (of the LDS King James Version) it says

"Fear is spoken of as something unworthy of a child of God..."

In other words, fear doesn't deserve you. You're way too good for it. 

When I see this, I think of what it means to be a child of God.You are a child of God. God is all loving, and He loves you. You can be an agent of His love in this life, and give that love to others. That same verse (1 John 4:18) also says that There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear." When we love, we evaporate our fear, which is the exact thing a child of God IS worth of: Love.

Now, I am going to be completely open. The truth is, I can be a very anxious person. I go through phases where the things that scare me the most make me extremely anxious, and then heighten my fear even more. The thing that sickens me the most about this downward spiral, is that I know that that is not who I am. I am outgoing and friendly, but not when I'm anxious and afraid, I'm totally different. Oh, I hate it more than anything else. But I am grateful; because it has taught me the importance of so many things. Here are some of the things I have learned to help me understand how to kill fear, and cherish love:

 1. Remember who you are--everything good that you've done in your life, and for other people... be it getting through hard classes, or living through a terrible experience, or even teaching someone something new; think of what you've done for others. Whether it has been comforting a friend in a hard time, helping with a difficult situation, or even doing little things to help them get bigger things done. Are you kind? Are you a good friend? The list could go on of all of the possible positive character traits that you possess. There are so many things that we don't give ourselves credit for. Take a moment, and write some of these down. Put this list in a place you will see it, when the going gets tough.

2. Gratitude. Noticing all of the little things around you. Oh, this one makes me especially happy. A roommate who is conscious of your worries and tries to help, getting to an intersection just as the light turns green, (or even on foot, if the crosswalk puts the white walking man allowing you to cross), rainy weather, birds outside your window chirping. Its the little things that matter most.

3. Love. Just like John says, it is love that casts out all fear. How can I apply a loving attitude to this fearful situation? I think I have to put msyelf in a situation wehre I will feel loved first, and then think how I can outwardly give my love.

4. Faith. Sometimes I think its good for us (at least for me) to do something daring. Not just because I like feeling thrilled.. but because I'm going to do something daring that in the end I know will be good for me. Exercising courage and faith always adds to my list of "who I am" because it is an accomplishment. When you do something scary because you know it will be good for you (moving somewhere new, standing up for what you believe in, going on a date, etc..) I've also found that the scarier something is for me, the better I feel about myself when I've done something about it. I beat the monster. I stabbed fear in the heart, and oh.. it felt absolutely glorious.

In conclusion I just wanted to reverberate what was so gracefully said in the bible dictionary on fear, "It is something spoken of as unworthy of a child of God." Just remember that. It doesn't deserve you, because you are of far greater worth... you are worth the Love that comes from God instead.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Love is for the Bold

I have a story to tell. One that I only today realized has slowly been forming over the last few months. But now  that it has truly developed, along with it my debt of gratitude to thank all those who were involved comes too--and to forego this powerful gratitude that I have, would go against my very grain. I have to share this. I'm not sure where to begin, or even how to begin. But I hope I can hold your attention long enough to express this burning gratitude. This is important to me.

"Love is for the Bold"--a statement my old roommates and I (and even my entire Relief Society in my old ward) would say to each other to give us courage with boys. But today as I was sitting in Relief Society, I realized how that statement does not only apply to romantic relationships... but of every sort of human relationship one desires some kind of love in.. as CS Lewis puts it, there are in fact 3 other types of love besides romantic: Affection, Friendship, and Charity (read his book The Four Loves). So how would one go on to attain any of these? By being bold. 

This is where my story comes in.

Today as I sat in church I felt a sort of peace that I can honestly say I haven't felt in months. Not just because I was in church, but because I recognized that I was no longer broken. It was a wholeness of peace. That because of a decision I had made halfway through the summer, there was nothing to be afraid of.

Fear--- the one thing that incites absolute misery. We've all experienced the torture it can bring. At the beginning of the summer the only thing I felt was fear. Fear of the unknown future, fear that my weaknesses would overcome my strengths, fear that I just wasn't good enough, or the fear that I would never live happily ever after. But today that changed.. not because it all changed today, but because I realized how slowly it has dissolved.

I did everything I wanted to this summer. Everything. They weren't huge things the world would deem "amazing" but it was what I wanted. It was enough. I went to wedding receptions, I visited Brighton Camp, I went boating, I ran a marathon. But what else? What was the big decision that I made that has filled me with so much love today? I moved.

I'd been living in the same ward for 3 years. When I started my summer, I was not happy. I felt broken inside from months of exerted effort in school, hopes of relationships I knew would die now that summer had started, and on top of it.. I felt very alone. All of the people I had started school with 5 years previous, were gone. I felt stupid that I was the only one among them who had not graduated, gone on a mission, or gotten married. It was also the very first summer since I had graduated from high school, that I would not be working at Brighton Camp. Brighton Camp--the one place on earth I feel truly is like heaven. It is Zion in every sense of the word. Where everyone is of one heart and one mind; the place where every person's sincere effort is to help each other grow closer to God. How was I going to get through the summer, and the following year without that sort of rejuvenation, that touch to heaven? But the main person who was left that I sincerely trusted whole-heartedly hadn't gone too far.. a roommate I had met at Brighton.. and she moved to an apartment complex down the street where I would visit her often.

In fact, my visits became my hope. When summer began I moved into an apartment (still in that same ward) where I had my own room, and my roommates were never home. The loneliness only intensified into misery and so my visits to Michelle not only left me with good company.. but I soon learned why she had chosen to live in this complex. I liked the people there. They were kind, and genuine. I felt at peace and in a whole different world away from my fears where I could laugh, get to know new faces, and rejoice in the mere goodness of human relations.

So that's when I did it. For weeks I had been praying my little heart out, and the thought finally came to buy a contract for summer. I knew Michelle was going back to camp, so I wouldn't have her shoulder to lean on when I moved in.. but I desperately needed a change. I needed to start out new, start out fresh.

When I helped Michelle move out, I voiced my fears to her.. that I was afraid moving wasn't going to be everything I'd want it to be.. not because of the place or the people there, but because of my own weaknesses and fears. What if I didn't get over the shyness that had developed in me during the summer? What if I wasn't able to help or support those in need the best way that I could? The night I moved in, I was terrified. The first new place in 3 years. I was shy, and I knew that if I didn't make some sort of effort to connect, my summer would remain miserable.

But like I said earlier, as I sat in church today.. peace flooded over me. Why? Because it WAS everything I had hoped for. I made new friends, and learned about what made them tick (oh my favorite thing of all!) I listened to their sorrows and joys, we laughed, we went camping, ate (too much) pizza and just had a blast. What I really need from my life, was a break. And I got it. I know this is probably sounding super cheesy now to everyone reading.. but it was exactly what I needed. I needed these people, and I think the Lord knew that too. He knew they could remedy me. Take me away from my fears.. and in turn, I learned to overcome them.

So if you're still reading this, I first congratulate you. But second, I want to express my sincere gratitude. To those people living in Campus Plaza.. thank you. The fears that suffocated me and gave me nightmares for weeks (literally), have vanished. Not because you gave me magic healing balm (haha), but because of your friendship. Your goodness. Your sincerity. In your own small little ways, whether it was hanging out, or even just a hello (yes those were a huge deal to me) it was everything I needed.

Something that I learned while working at camp, is that if it matters to you, then it matters to God. It doesn't matter how great or small your trial is.. if you're struggling with something, then it is important. And although my struggles may not seem huge to most people, they were were still hard for me.

Remember.. Love is for the Bold. I realize now that when I bought that contract I had no idea what was ahead.. but the fruit that I have now from exercising even a tiny bit of faith.. has become far more succulent and delicious than I could have hoped for. When you exercise faith, you will receive an increase of Love. It is inevitable.

I just wanted to end with a favorite quote of mine.. "Treat a man as he is, and he'll stay as he is. Treat a man as he could be, and he'll become what he should be."-Ralph Waldo Emerson. Thanks for doing that for me. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Their Quiet Examples

One afternoon early last week, I got a phone call just as I was leaving work. It was an old roommate of mine  (Jessica) telling me she was in town. Despite the last minute phone call, she asked if we could meet up to get some frozen yogurt and without hesitating, I agreed and we met up at the decided location with another friend of ours.

Since then, I've been thinking a lot about this particular roommate, and also about all the other roommates I've had over the years. I was more than willing to put down everything I had planned, to see her; not only because of how much I dearly loved her, but because of my admiration for her--for the things that she had taught me in my life.

When we were living together three years ago, I remember walking into our room on a nice summer afternoon and seeing Jessica on her bed surrounded in a circle of scripture and church material. When she saw me, her face lit up as she said, "Muriel!!! You won't believe it.. but I've been reading my scriptures for an hour and I can't put them down!!" She told me what she had read that day, and what she had gotten out of it. But the fact that she told me it was for an hour.. that was actually all she had to say to me. At that moment, I realized that yes, there might be some people out there who would judge her for saying what she did in one way or another, but my heart was full of love for her.. that she cherished the holy writ to a point where her knowledge for them was unquenchable. She could not put them down, and in her joy had to express that, maybe so I too could have my own joy from reading them.

It's a small and simple example, but one that has always stuck with me. I will never forget that moment. I had pure Charitable love for her. A love that I wanted to shout for joy because of her goodness, a love that I wanted to take for her example and adopt it into my own life (this love for reading the scriptures) and also, the love that drives wanting to be an example for those who would cross my path in the future.

But this blog isn't about this short tiny moment of my life.. as I met up with Jessica and remembered all that she had taught me, and all the crazy fun things we had done together as roommates, I began to remember other moments of teaching from other roommates in my life. From my first fall semester at college until the current semester I am in now.. (not including the Brighton roommates from camp) I've had a total of 29 different roommates. If I were to count my four summers of Brighton roommates, the number would increase to 39 (with 2 new ones in the fall!)....... I guess it would be obvious for me to say that I've lived with a lot of different people in the last 5 years.

But their examples, their silent moments of goodness when they thought no one was watching.. hadn't gone unnoticed. From their praise of other people, from the things they took joy in, from their undying love to serve those in need. Be it how they visit taught, or cried in defense for the things they thought was right. How they shared their talents--musical, artistic, writing skills, health tips, baking, teaching in church, their undying testimonies and sooooo many more-- every moment of their shared love has blessed my life in ways that I still have not realized to full capacity.

I had roommates who took me under their wing after my own world had crumbled on multiple spontaneous occasions; roommates where we would stay up late bouncing theories off of each other about science or the universe, or religion. Sometimes, you just need someone who will talk to you. Sometimes you just need someone who will listen to you; or who will bake with you, or sit you down to watch a movie, or play hangman with you, or scream at spiders, or hide in closets with, or DANCE with. We went everywhere together, we learned from each other.. each in their own quiet individual way taught me more than I even now fully realize. These women have blessed my life in ways they were not aware of.. in ways that have helped form the person I am today. I just needed to express my love in this blog.. for all of the beautiful women that I've live with in the past few years.

Lastly I want to add that, it is the people that we choose to surround ourselves with that make the biggest differences. Not because of big examples, but through their quiet daily tendencies, and the little things they do in their lives. Thank you all for being you, and thank you for being there for me.

If we don't meet again in this life, then more than anything I hope we sing praises together in the next. I would like that very much.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

That We May Glory in Tribulation!

This blog post may be a little longer than usual, because in order to share my thoughts/what I've learned recently, I would have to give a few background stories. 
But to preface all of my stories (to hopefully give you incentive to read the whole thing..) what I learned in short is this: Let us Glory in Tribulation... .. because truth be told, it is what qualifies you to accomplish ANYTHING.

Story #1-A short history of my life in the last year, and how I've viewed myself because of it

I don't like publicly talking about things that I struggle with, just because I personally am  secretly morally opposed to it. I love the idea of having a modest personality, and so I avoid talking about my struggles when I know others struggle too. Anyway, so this is a rare occasion, but yes.. I admit it. The last 12-13 months of my life have been a struggle. Why? To be honest, I think it all boiled down to my attitude. But it also didn't help that things that I had strived for didn't necessarily work out how I planned them to (silly of me, right? The truth is, life never turns out how you plan it to.. but that's where the adventure comes in!) Anyway.. if it was friendships or relationships or not getting into the teaching program, or a plethora of other small complaints I just felt like adding to my list.. what it came down to, was that I felt like a failure. 

But (besides a whole slieu of lessons this semester and people who have really helped me, and truly have been there for me this last semester) when the week of May 28 rolled around, I told myself I was going to do something about it instead of waiting for something to happen to me; instead of waiting for my situation to change, I was going to change it. So I bought a contract in an apartment complex down the street. A place where I had just barely met a few people, but in reality, didn't know a soul (except for my roommate from last year who would be moving out as I was moving in, anyway.) Also.. let me add.. I consider myself a shy person. People who don't really know me could say that they see how that could be.. people who know me better say that that is absolutely impossible, and people who know me really well say that I'm not shy, I just get into these pockets of shyness sometimes. But truth be told, I feel terrified inside sometimes when I talk to people, even though I don't come off as it, and even though I fight it.. the fear still exists. So this was my big exercise of faith. To buy a contract, and then as a moved in (and am currently working on) to exercise faith to get out of my comfort zone and TALK to people! Make friends! 

Anyway, that's irrelevant. Week of May 28, I was studying Faith, and I decided everyday that week that I was going to exercise a little bit of faith.. just to say I did. It was step one, for healing. 

Story #2- I ran a Marathon.

Yep, I ran a Marathon. The Utah Valley Marathon in fact. Their slogan is, "26.2 miles of the Pain You Enjoy". I ran a Marathon. I RAN A MARATHON! AND I LOVED IT!!!! It was one of the BEST experiences of my life. 
For anyone who is contemplating doing any sort of long distance running, I will say it right now: Just do it. You have no idea how incredibly blessed you will be for doing it. When you train and do something so ridiculously hard like running a long distance race, you realize that there is only one thing that matters about how successful you are about your life: YOU CAN DO ANYTHING!!!!!!!!!! 

Let me explain my experience, and hopefully rub off on the Truth that you truly are capable of accomplishing anything

You train for months. And to be honest, this was something I had been looking forward to for a very long time. I told myself, that if I could run a marathon, then that would show me and prove to me that I was self-confident. It would prove to me that I wasn't failure. But needless to say, that was not the only lesson I was supposed to learn (keep reading and you'll hear more about it in my 'lesson' section!) Ohh... God had something much better in store for me, in terms of what knowledge I was going to walk away from that finish line with. 

I ran the race with a friend in my ward named Mackenzie. We both found out around March-ish that we were training for the same marathon. So as the time got closer we talked and encouraged each other. The night before we carb-loaded with a pasta party, and then were driven over to the buses at 3:45am the day of the race by Mackenzie's roommate, Krista. p.s. Krista and another girl Kim in our ward were suuuuper encouraging and excited for both of us. (It was both our first marathon, and Kim and Krista had run marathon's before) 

Anyway... we drove up to a small town called Wallsburg near Heber, and the race went past Deer Creek Resevoir, and the Alpine loop down Provo Canyon, to Center Street in Provo. 

Me, Krista, Kim, and Mackenzie
Blessing #1-Mackenzie's goals
Around mile 2 or 3ish Mackenzie and I were running together and talking about how we were going to conquer this beast. This was one of the biggest blessings for me, because she was just coming up with ideas all over the place.. things I hadn't or wouldn't have even ever thought of! She would say, "OK.. if we get this thought, or this thought or this thought, what are we going to tell ourselves?" Like if our feet start to hurt, we'd tell ourselves that as we ran, we were stretching them out. If we got a side-cramp, then breathe. All of these things.. she was just popping out ideas right and left, and it REALLY helped. 

The other thing we did, was name the hills. At Mile 8, and Mile 17 there were long hills. (We also named small hills along the way). The first big one we called Edgar Allan Poe (because he was such a depressing writer, and so we were getting over the negativity and kicking it in the butt) The second hill, I named Romans. My initial thought was because the Romans were so mean. But this later became blessing #4. 

Mackenzie and I had also divided our miles into sections. Like the 1st mile was warm up. Then 2 miles of more intense warm-up. Then a 5k (3 miles) of a light jog. Then a 10k (6 miles) of hearty jog. Then the last mile was the wind-down mile. That adds up to 13 miles. Which is a half marathon. So then, you do the whole thing again. The last mile (only mile 25) we would tell ourselves, "Anyone can run a mile." Cause its true.. anyone CAN run a mile. 

The #1 goal however that I should mention, was that both of us, didn't want to walk. That was The #1 goal. 

Blessing #2 - Optimism
If you run a race, there is one thing that is absolutely necessary-- Optimism. The moment you have a negative thought, you're done for. I cannot express the the particularity of the detail and devotion you must have to being optimistic. So Mackenzie's goals, really helped in the beginning. This was especially helpful, because all the way down Provo canyon.. the wind was blowing in our faces. A lot of runners complained, and I could see why a lot of people would complain because you were running into the wind. But its all about your attitude-- just like life is all about your attitude. To be honest, it would have been stinkin hot without the wind.. and to add more to the optimism, we told ourselves it was an endless supply of oxygen right into our mouths, haha. But seriously.. you have to be optimistic. There's SO much you COULD complain about it.. so why not avoid it if it will just make you miserable? You're running 26.2 miles. You might as well enjoy it and be grateful and rejoice that your body can do such wonderful, amazing things!  

And just like there's so much that COULD go wrong with your life, there's also SOOOOO much you could be grateful for. So just be grateful. If reality is no fun, then I rather be Naive and happy, then live in reality and be unhappy. The best part though, is that reality can be joyous. You just have to find it. 

Mackenzie-- smiles and an optimistic thumbs up.

Blessing #4- The Hill Named Romans.
Like I said, I originally chose this name because honestly, the first thing that popped into my head, was that the Romans were so mean. 

But when I got to the hill, it shed a whole new light for me. Truth be told, my favorite book in the New Testament is Romans. Why? Because it is SOOO BEAUTIFUL. Oh I cannot express the beauty and validation that comes, that YOU are such a precious child of God, and that you can do anything you want with your life. I freaking love that book. Anyways.. so as I was running up 'Romans' all of my favorite scriptures started coming to mind. Romans 8: 31, "What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?" Or Romans 5:3-5.. Hope maketh not ashamed. 

But the #1 Scripture that kept replaying in my mind, was Romans 4:18. Its the story of Abraham and how he was promised great nations.. but Sara's womb was dead.... but verse 18 states that Abraham, "who against hope believed in hope" and that is the phrase that got me up that 2 mile long hill. 

Blessing #5-The Gift of Your Body

Your body is a beautiful thing. I took a physiology class recently, and literally ran the marathon a few days before the final. So the entire time, I would think about how my body was working. Truth be told, let us rejoice in the gift of our bodies, because they are AMAZING. The way it works is absolutely incredible! My feet carried me so far. By the time I reached mile 20, I was so happy that my body had sustained me that far. 

Hitting the Wall

So I just recently learned this about 2 weeks before the race.. but apparently when you run a marathon, there is this term people use that says you've, "Hit the Wall." Doesn't sound very pleasant. A quote I ran across said this about running a marathon/hitting the wall: 

“Marathoning is like cutting yourself unexpectedly. You dip into the pain so gradually that the damage is done before you are aware of it. Unfortunately, when awareness comes, it is excruciating.” ~ John Farrington, Australian marathoner 

Anyway.. I hit the wall at mile 22. I was done. I didn't want to move a single inch forward. I didn't even want to walk.. I just wanted to sit. But we kept going. I stopped encouraging Mackenzie. I didn't have any breathe left in me. I actually got really grumpy. By mile 22, we were in the city. We had reached the Riverwoods, and wind had stopped blowing and it was hot. The last 4 miles felt like eternity. Each felt so much longer than the mile before it. I think the best part though, was getting an otter pop at 23 :) 

Lesson #1

There was a lot I learned that day. A lot that I didn't think I was going to learn. In fact, it was like eating a huge fat slice of humble pie.. and it was hard to swallow. 

We got to mile 25. We told ourselves, "Anyone can run a mile", and then something happened.. the very last thing I would've possibly imagined: I had to go to the bathroom. 

Because we were only a mile away, and because we were in the city.. there were no more port-a-potties. But I had to go. And I knew that if I didn't do something about it, I was going to go in my pants. Oh, it was a terrifying feeling. Inside I was actually horrified as I thought about all of my options. Do I stop? No. We made the goal to not stop. Do I run into someone's house and ask if I could use their restroom? The Provo Library was coming up and I had stopped so many times in my training to go to the bathroom there.. but that would mean leaving the course. 

My thoughts didn't take me too far until I realized I HAD to slow down. So I did. I slowed down. Mackenzie kept her pace and when she realized I wasn't with her, she looked back at me, and then kept going. I was so glad she did, because I was ashamed at what I did next: I stopped. 

That was the very moment all of the lessons and realizations and everything hit me. I stopped. I didn't reach my goal to not walk. I stopped. But as I thought about it (and as I controlled my bowels), as I thought about everything that I had supposedly 'failed' at in the last year.. was I a failure for stopping? Was I failure that things hadn't worked out? The answer was an overwhelming NO. I wasn't a failure. I tried my very hardest. The lesson that day was not self-confidence. In that moment I realized I didn't need it, because I already knew it. I already knew I was a confident person. I already knew I could do hard things. I already knew that in order to live your dreams you have to put everything you've got into it. No, the lesson that day was not to be a lesson of repeated past lessons. Why would the Lord waste both His and my time teaching me things I already knew deep down inside? 

The lesson was simple: Put your whole heart into everything, and let Him take care of the rest. I couldn't do it by myself. How stupid and foolish I felt for thinking that I could! You give 110% of yourself.. which will take you only so far... and then you rely on Him. I used to hear the word grace, or think of the concept of grace as just something that I heard about. But now, I have much greater faith on what it is (even though I recognize I am only barely scratching the surface on understanding it). This what it comes down to. You CANNOT do it by yourself. You need grace. But you also have to put in everything you’ve got, and then rely on it. It's not one or the other. Its both. You need both the wholeness and devotion of your heart, as well as grace. You cannot rely on grace alone, and you cannot do it by yourself. You need both. 

After I ate my humble pie, I started running again. The whole "aha" moment probably lasted about 2 minutes (but felt like eternity because of all of the realizations). The last mile didn't even phase me. Although I knew He loved me, I felt foolish. When I got to the finish line, I started to cry. Not because I was tired. Not because every inch of me hurt, but because I had been so naive in thinking I could do it by myself. It was a great lesson. 

The Big Lesson: Let us Glory in Tribulation

 I don't even know how to explain this one. It is just one of those beautiful feelings. I am not at all saying that I do glory in my tribulation.. I think that will take a lifetime to get to. But I'm starting to understand why it is so important, and how infinitely beautiful it is. 2 blog posts ago, (the one entitled "The Joy of Emotion") I talked about opposition in all things, and how it brings you joy. As I've continued to think about this concept over the last few months, as I've thought about the things in my life that didn't work out how I planned them to, and with the aftermath of running a marathon, there has been a few things that have fallen into place for me.

A few weeks ago when I was teaching Relief Society, a scripture came up as we talked about trials in our lesson. The scripture is Romans 8:18 which states, 
"For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us"
That means that everything you're going through.. (especially the things in your life that are the absolute hardest thing you've ever experienced..) that pain, no matter how excruciating it may be.. cannot even be compared with the GLORY that will be shown in who you will become. Beautiful yes? Let's throw something else into the mix:

In 2 Corinthians 15:10 Paul says, 
"Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong."
So putting these together, what does this mean? It is tribulation we should glory in.. because it is tribulation that makes us strong. It is tribulation that shall reveal the glory in us. That we are literally capable of doing ANYTHING. Your body is amazing. God loves you. I realize now that running a marathon is 90% in your head (will power, faith, etc), and 10% training. Maybe I shouldn't even give that much credit to training. Truth be told too.. I think I hurt myself. I'm going to a doctor tmrw, and he's probably going to tell me I have  stress fracture, but what does that tell me? It tells me that your will is stronger than your body. I wanted to run 26.2 miles. So I did. You can do anything you want too.. you just have to believe in yourself. And if you need help with that, come talk to me personally. I will sit and tell you how very capable you are of achieving anything. 

 So why not take those moments of pure courage to achieve? It may not work out how you plan it to, but that doesn't mean its not going to be freaking awesome. You can't possibly comprehend all of the wonderful possibilities that await you.. so give it a try, and see how it all unfolds. What have you got to loose? You have everything to gain. 

Monday, May 7, 2012

O Death, Where Is Thy Sting?

I had an interesting experience on Friday that I wanted to share

My oldest sister was graduating from the University of Utah with her Masters in Education, and my parents flew in this week to attend the ceremony. On Friday afternoon, after eating out in celebration for the graduation, my parents and I went to visit my mom's aunt: Melenaite.

Melenaite is one of those old Tongan ladies that is funny in their own subtle quiet way. From what I remember of my grandma (her sister, who died when I was 8) they look exactly alike.

Anyways, as we all sat around her kitchen table, my mom and her started speaking to each other in Tongan. I don't know the language very well, so I stopped paying attention, and just sat lost in my own thoughts. My dad picked up the Tongan bible on her table, and started reading from it. I slowly starting picking up some Tongan words I did recognize though. Words like 'Otua' (God), 'Ngaue' (work) or 'Mooni' (truth). And my curiousity peaked.

I looked at the book and could make out the word 'Kolonito' and asked if it was 'Corinthians.' After my great aunt nodded and smiled, I turned on my iPod and found the reference in my English scriptures. My dad was reading the end of 1 Cor 15: the joy of death being swallowed up on victory.

My eyes watered a little and my throat went dry. My father was reading probably the most beautiful piece of verse to an old lady who would soon approach death; reading to her about how her body would be raised to immortality because of the sacrifice of Christ. What joy! "Oh death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" and what made the whole situation even more touching to me was the mere fact that he was reading to her in her native tongue.

I could see the flame of testimony in her eyes. When my dad was done, I took the scriptures and read my own favorite new testament verses which i had just skimmed that morning: Romans 8:31;35-39. ('If God be for us, who can be against us?' and 'Nothing can separate you from the Love of God who is in Christ Jesus, our Lord')

As I read I felt a little foolish because my Tongan was slow and I knew I did not understand every word.. and was probably not pronouncing some of them right, either. But I read for HER; and I read because I knew what I was reading was a powerful testimony of God's love and I wanted her to feel of it just as I had that morning.

When I was done, we all talked about what words meant what in English, and I again saw the testimony in her eyes light up. I even noticed that some of my own favorite verses were underlined in her scriptures.. and then it hit me. It doesn't matter who you are, what culture you come from, or EVEN what time period your life has seemed to have taken place: the gospel of Jesus Christ is for everyone. The love of God is the same for everyone, and most importantly it is meant for everyone. He is no respecter of persons. It doesn't matter who you are. It's for every single one of God's children and all are invited to partake of it freely. It really was a remarkable experience. 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Joy of Emotion

Friday morning, I woke up with a heavy heart. A heaviness that now I realize I've been carrying around for some time, and since Friday, it has just gotten heavier. As everyone knows, the mere living of life means that sooner or later you're going to have to say good-bye to someone. Be it a close friend, family member, or even just an acquaintance or study buddy you've enjoyed  talking to or spending time with.. to the old and young, wherever you are, whoever you are.. it is inevitable.

For me, it was my roommate of three years whose graduation commencement I was going to attend that morning. We had experienced most of college together. It even seemed like we had been through the wash together. We laughed, sang and danced (literally.. party hopped on a few occasions). We shared laundry coins, and even switched off buying and sharing milk every other week. We lost count of how many friends we had said good-bye to to marriages, missions, and new jobs. And through all of the seasons, romantic flings, breakups, bad dates, academic failures and pure heartache that life always brings, we stuck through it. Waking up that morning, my heart was heavy.. because I knew that the mere occurance of that ceremony, was about to mark the change of everything in my beloved friendship of three years. 

But I welcomed it, as I welcome the aftermath of the hardship even now as I sit and type out this blog post. Yes, we said our good-byes this morning and weeped a little bit, but I still embrace it. Why? Because it was emotion. 

The last few months I've been thinking a lot about emotion. The world calls women crazy when they are emotional, but are they really? No. In fact, to anyone who shuts off their emotion, I personally would turn around and literally run in the opposite direction. Its always easier to tell yourself not to care. Its always easier, when someone says something or does something hurtful, to walk away and stop yourself from feeling hurt.. but  since when does 'easier' necessarily mean 'good' or 'healthy' or even 'virtuous'? The one does not denote meaning of the other, they are not necessarily tied. 

The only reason I say this, was because a few months ago, I did just that. I turned off my emotion because I didn't want to feel the pain that life often carries with it. I didn't want to be hurt by things that were and weren't happening in my life, or by not being the most successful student, or by failing to meet the world's expectations.. so very slowly, and unconsciously.. I began to turn it off. When I realized I didn't care about the things that initially hurt me, I also realized that I had stopped caring about everything altogether. I felt nothing. And realizing how just very damaging this was.. (because without hurt, I stopped feeling happiness), I decided that I would do whatever it takes to just feel. Im not gonna lie, it was super hard.. and for a longtime thereafter the only thing I could feel was the weight of my weaknesses.. but this time, there was one difference: I felt some-thing. 

So as I end, I just want to express my gratitude for emotion--not just the positive but all the negative. Because without one, we cannot feel the other. As much as we want to sometimes cut out the painful things that we experience, or choose to not care---if we were to do that, then all happiness would diminish. As much as the world preaches that life should just be one big ball of fun and happiness, and to do everything you can to avoid negative emotions--You absolutely cannot be happy without them. Apathy is not happiness. In fact, it stinks! 

May we all rejoice in both the happy moments in our lives, and thank God for allowing us to feel pain.. because in the end, that it was makes joy so delicious--pure emotion. 

"For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my first-born in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility." -2 Nephi 2:11