Wednesday, December 28, 2016

On Tithing

I've always paid tithing. Ever since I was a child, I've diligently sealed up an envelope of money and passed it to the bishop every time I gained income. It was always easy for me. I declared on my mission that I had a testimony of tithing. I taught about it and people believed my testimony.

But I've learned something recently about myself. My previous "testimony" of tithing wasn't a testimony at all. I had never had that trial of faith that made it a testimony. It was just something I had been trained to do.You see, money has never been an issue in my life. My needs were always met by my parents, so any and all income was just bonus.

And then I got married and suddenly finances were a real pain in the butt. We started budgeting and skimping and barely being able to pay our bills. And here enters that trial of faith.

I have been tempted so often to skip paying tithing. Often, I would skip it upon receiving a paycheck, rationalizing it by saying, "I'll pay it with the next check."

Every time I did that though, I noticed something:

The bills would suddenly get harder to pay.

Weeks later, I'd remember that I hadn't paid tithing in a while and send in a big check to catch up, usually using the last of the money in the bank account.

And all of a sudden, we had enough money to pay the bills again!

After one of those big checks, Del suggested that we make a habit of paying tithing immediately, right after we receive money, so we stop missing it. So I did. As soon as new money entered the account, I would immediately pay tithing through the online system.

As if a switch was flipped, suddenly paying the bills wasn't so hard anymore. Del got a good paying job that will support us, and my income can go almost solely into savings now.

And all we did was make sure to actually pay tithing regularly.

Now if you ask about my testimony of tithing, I can firmly say I believe in paying tithing and I definitely believe the blessings that go along with it. That trial of faith strengthened my testimony now, and I don't ever plan to stop giving 10% to God.

I wouldn't be able to afford it.

Monday, December 19, 2016

How to Love Writing Again

I've been struggling to write as of late. I call it writer's block when people ask why I've slowed down. Honestly, though, it's because my passion for writing has fizzled out of existence and I don't really like it anymore.

Don't get me wrong, when people ask my hobbies, I still say, "I'm a writer." But I just don't write so much anymore because I don't have that passion anymore. It's so low on my priority list for life that everything else gets in the way and I never get to it.

Then the other day I had a breakthrough. I had been having a really bad day - one of those days where everything goes wrong and you end up sobbing yourself to sleep. Except, after sobbing, I couldn't sleep. So I climbed out of my bed, went to the laptop, and started to write. The words came easily and smoothly and I wrote several thousand words without even thinking about it. By the end of it, I was feeling much better and went back to bed where I fell asleep peacefully.

Thinking on that, I realized something:

I'm not writing for myself anymore.

When I first started writing, it was because I was in a dark place in life and writing is what kept me sane and moving forward. Eventually, others found out that I wrote and discovered I had some skill, and suddenly I was writing novels for NaNoWriMo and working towards publication. My writing had to be perfect, because I knew someday, others would read it. But that was the problem.

I was writing for others, not for myself. My passion for writing died because it became stressful for me. It became work instead of pleasure.

So when I went in and just wrote again to find inner peace, with no goal in mind, the answer of how to start writing again came back.

Write like no one is going to read it. Create characters that are totally unrealistic. Make aliens attack and zombies fight them off, if you feel so inclined. Write to write, not to please others.

Not that I won't ever get a novel published or let others read my work. But I'll write first for my own enjoyment, then go back and edit and clean it up, and get it publishable later.

And then I'll love writing again.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

On Marriage

Funny how life can change and progress in such a short time. Since I've last posted here a lot has happened.

And by a lot I mean:

I got married.

Yeah. So that's a thing. Since then, life has been a lot different than before, and also a lot different than I expected marriage to be.

For example, we've never fought. Granted, we've only been married for all of two months by this point, and dating for another eight months, but we've never had one argument. About anything. And it's not even hard to do. So I guess I don't understand why every other relationship I've witnessed involves couples fighting with one another. Maybe we'll get there, though, but hopefully not.

Probably the biggest change is the sudden step upward of responsibility I've experienced. Suddenly I'm in charge of keeping an apartment clean. And doing dishes. And paying bills. And cooking dinner. And grocery shopping. And packing Del's breakfast and lunch for the day.

Del works 10 hours a day most days, but his work site is far enough away that he's gone for 13 hours a day. Subtracting the 8 hours of sleep we aim to get every night, that leaves 3 hours a day we actually spend together. Which may be another reason that we never fight - we don't have the time to do so!

But in those three hours of time we spend together, I'm definitely far happier than I was before all of this. It's good to have someone who knows me better than anyone ever has before and supports me in every goal and dream and stupid whim that seems to make no sense to anyone else.

I've also learned quite a bit from it. Such that I'm not actually that good of a cook. Luckily Del is gracious about it and eats whatever I serve him without complaint. Also, dishes are a million times more annoying to do when they have to be done every day, and sometimes two or three times a day. And missing a day or two causes you to lose all your counter space because there isn't that much to begin with in a small little starter apartment.

But life is still fun. It's an adventure, meant to be difficult and give you trials to learn from. The only real difference is that now I've found a companion that I'll get to live this adventure with. And it's an incredible thing.

Monday, October 19, 2015

A Thought On Learning

In my college classes, I almost always become known as the "smart one" who finishes tests way earlier than anyone else and then passes them with flying colors. And I call them easy. People start coming to me with questions and for help. I don't mind helping them in the least.

But I've started questioning why this happens. I don't feel like I'm particularly smart or anything, at least not smarter than an average person. Maybe my work ethic is better, but I doubt it. Most times I don't even review for tests, I just rely on the memory of what I learned. I don't have a super good memory, either.

Then I recalled back to my childhood. I used to read encyclopedias for fun [I realize now that's a bit strange...........:/]. And then I wrote summaries of the entries that interested me. I just loved learning things.

And I still do, but only when something interests me. When something interests me, I absorb information about it like a sponge. I think most people are like that, honestly. Then I remembered that the only class I didn't excel at was one I never really could find any interest in.

And it clicked. I'm not really smart. I'm not that hard of a worker. I don't have an amazing memory. I'm just super good at finding things interesting.

My Business Law class was really dull. I couldn't get into it at all. Then, I visited the courthouse and saw a hearing in action. Suddenly, the topic excites me. I actually considered reading the chapters of the textbook that we won't actually be covering in class, so just I could know more about it. I'm only not doing that because I simply don't have time right now. It's a pity the textbook is only a rental, or I'd do it later.

But when other students are gazing up at the professor with glazed over eyes, half taking notes, half sleeping, I'm wide awake and absorbing everything, but I've already read the chapter in the textbook, so I already know everything he's going to say.

So that's the point of all of this, I guess. Learning is easy, when you love what you're learning.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Dream

I had a dream last night that I'm still trying to decipher.

It started out normal enough - or rather, like any of my other dreams which are usually anything but normal, and include random characters from various books popping in and out of them. Last night, Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy made an appearance. :)

Anyway, after a bit, the dream changed from my normal abnormal. I was standing on a beach with three other people, I don't recall who they were. I spoke to them, "Let me show you something." We were then in a horse drawn wagon, riding through the woods. As we rode down the path, we witnessed various scenes.

It was these scenes that startle me. They were scenes from the scriptures - the life of Christ, Nephi, Abinadi, Daniel, Noah, and on and on. Even more marvelous were that the scenes were performed by beings dressed in all white; and they were glowing. I knew instinctively that they were resurrected beings. We rode passed so many of these scenes, witnessing so many events.

Then we were back on the beach. I asked my companions, "Having seen so much, how then can you doubt?"

The dream ended there, caused by my alarm clock.

I don't know if the dream is a remnant of my missionary days, teaching others of these marvelous things, or if it was speaking to me, reminding me to keep my faith firm.

It's a pity that the dream has faded from my mind. If only I could recall those scenes more clearly and actually remember witnessing some of the events the resurrected beings depicted......

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

A Tribute to Carol

Late in June of 2014 I met this woman while proselyting as a missionary in Ohio. Her name was Carol. She was one of the sweetest, most amazing people I had ever met. Over the next three months, myself and my companion visited her almost every other day and taught her the Gospel, as well as doing service for her. 

She became almost like family. We told her that we'd tell our children stories of our "Grandma Carol" one day, and even bring them to visit her. She loved the idea, having no children of her own. I like to think that maybe she considered us as daughters or granddaughters too.

Eventually, she was baptized and I had to leave her behind to serve in a new area. Then, I left Ohio entirely to return home. I tried to keep in contact, but I never really heard from her again, only hearing of her through other people.

Though time passed, she never really left my mind. She had left a lasting impression on me, watching her change and grow as she had. I looked forward to the time I would see her again.

In June of 2015, I received news that she had passed away. It seemed surreal to me. Carol was still alive to me, just far away, in Ohio.

This week, my family traveled back to Ohio to visit. Today we stopped by Carol's grave site. It was just an empty dirt patch, with no gravestone in sight. We only knew it was her burial place because it was right next to her parents' graves.

We quickly went and bought some flowers and laid them on her grave, to give her something.

As I stared there, looking at the flowers and the lonely grave, it suddenly hit me and I realized that Carol was gone.

I wept.

But then I thought of the physical ailments she had experienced all throughout the time I knew her; she had been through so much pain and her body reflected it. Those pains were gone now, and she had accepted the Gospel and Christ as her Savior. 

I know she is happier there than here. And I also know that one day, when I pass out of this life, she will be waiting there on the other side to greet me. What a joyful day that will be!

Until then, I'll just have to be content with knowing that I have yet another angel watching over me from above.

"When you remember me
Please do not weep
My body may not be there
It has chosen to sleep
I'm not that far away
My soul lives on
Looking down, watching over
You and everyone
And when you feel sad
And life seems so blue
Just remember
That my spirit has its arms around you
And on those special days,
Times that you wish I could see,
That cool breeze flowing past you...
Well, that will be me
So don't be sad
Have no fear
God has taken me under his wing
But I'll always be near
I still watch you
Every minute, every day
My love and soul are with you
And that's where they will stay."


Thanks for the memories, Carol.

Friday, January 16, 2015

5 Things I Learned About Myself From Serving A Mission

1. I actually do have the ability to endure to the end and finish something.

Eighteen months in Ohio - check.

Serving a mission was, in fact, the hardest thing I've ever done. It had it's ups and downs, but I can honestly say, it was definitely a positive in my life. But there were days I wanted to quit, give up, and fly home. Fortunately, I held out strong and finished.

Knowing this, that I am a finisher of one of the hardest things to do, gives me the motivation and encouragement to be a finisher of other things. Worker harder at school, for one. I'm finding myself completing homework the day it is assigned rather than the night before it is due.

Writing, also. Looking at my 100+ half-finished writing projects gives me a headache, but now I can say, hey, writing a novel is easy. I've done it in just two weeks before. That's nothing compared to a mission. And so soon, I'll have some finished stories to show for all my effort.

2. I have some talents that I'm just barely starting to uncover. 

I had to do a lot of new things over the course of my eighteen months. I found that some of those things came easily to me, and others did not. Organization was one that did. Public speaking was one that did. Gardening was one that did. Crocheting was one that did. I would've never even considered some of these things could be talents had I not been forced to leave my comfort zone and try them out. It has made me wonder what else I might be good at.

3. I am very good at adapting to change.

I think I was just starting to see this when I left on my mission, what with my life being abruptly ripped apart as it was. As a missionary, however, change is a very constant thing. Every six weeks you have the risk of leaving your area or switching companions. You're constantly setting goals to change yourself. You are constantly changing up your methods of teaching and finding as new training comes from the leadership. You are constantly meeting new people and breaking off relationships with other people.

And you know, through it all, the change never really seemed all that hard. Yes, it brought some stress, but I had one of my companions tell me that I treated it all like an adventure, not reality. And maybe that's why I'm good at adapting to change. Everything's a new experience. I'm willing to try almost anything once, just for the experience.

So bring on the change. What doesn't kill me will make me stronger, right?

4. I can survive eighteen months without writing.

Okay, I'll admit it. I did have story ideas while I was out there. I don't think I would be a writer if I didn't, honestly. But I tried to keep it under control and simply wrote the idea down and tucked it away for later.

But before my mission, writing was my go-to medicine. If I was upset, I'd write. If I was stressed, I'd write. If I was bored, I'd write.

So on my mission, when I was upset, stressed, or bored, and I couldn't write, I was forced to find other ways to satisfy those needs and emotions. A lot of it came through learning how to really communicate with my companions.

And you know what? When I got home, I looked at my writing and shrugged and said that I'd pick it up again when I had the time. I feel like before, my writing almost controlled my life. Now, it can be a hobby again. And maybe that'll make all the difference.

5. I am a daughter of God.

I don't think I fully comprehended this before. I am of divine birth. I have a Father above who loves me, and I've come to love Him. It is through Christ that I have new found confidence and strength. When I am weak, it is to my God that I turn.

I am so grateful to know that with any righteous act I attempt, I'll have the strength of God behind me. I'll have a personal guide through hard times. I can do anything through Christ, my Savior and King.