Sunday, January 30, 2011

Becoming a Young Woman

     Last week, Bishop Erickson asked me to give a talk on how Young Women’s has influenced me as a person. The young women’s program is specially designed to help teach girls going through the tough teenage years that they are divine spirit daughters of a loving Heavenly Father.
As I’ve worked on Personal Progress, I’ve learned to apply the eight Young Women values in my life.
       The first lesson I learned was to always have Faith. “In Alma 32: 21 it states: “Faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith, ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true.” Having faith is to have a belief or trust in something, especially when there is no visual evidence that it is true. Faith also includes having a positive outlook and hope for the future, no matter what trials may cross our paths. Despite my few personal trials, I’ve been able to gain more faith in the young women’s program through prayer and scripture reading. Even though I haven’t seen a heavenly being with my own eyes, I have faith that there is a Father in Heaven that loves us and looks out for us. I know for myself that every trial we successfully face will be replaced in the next life with blessings that are totally worth it.
  The second lesson I learned was to recognize the divine qualities that I’ve inherited from my Father and Mother in Heaven. It’s much easier to become a better person when you grasp the fact that a royal system is still in force, even though we currently live in a free country. I’ve come to learn that everybody has divine and royal qualities passed down to them by our Heavenly Father, because he is our father and our king. How much better would we treat people if we always remembered that all women are literally princesses and all men princes? That is a question that I now aim to remind myself on a regular basis.

     The third lesson, closely linked to Divine Nature, was to realize my own individual worth. D&C 18: 10 reads, “Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.” That scripture isn’t just to remind us of everyone else’s worth; it’s also meant to remind us of our own. By building up each other’s sense of worth, we learn to increase our own, to the point where we can understand that we each have different gifts and divine missions to work on and fulfill.
 The fourth lesson I learned was to continually acquire knowledge. Knowledge is information, facts, ideas, truths, and principles. As I’ve increased my learning over the years, the way that I see things has changed. When we do our best to gain knowledge, we learn to see problems creatively and understand other people’s points of view. A large part of what we learn is through observation and experience, and it is up to us to utilize our past experiences to better understand each other and the world. Knowledge gives us open minds, and the young women’s program has taught me a lot and helped changed my life for the better.
     The fifth lesson I learned was to try to make the best choices and be accountable for my decisions. The opportunity to choose for ourselves and have agency was the whole purpose of Heavenly Father’s plan. The Strength of Youth pamphlet teaches everything that we need to know about choosing the right: “Wrong choices delay your progression and lead to heartache and misery. Right choices lead to happiness and eternal life. That is why it is so important for you to choose what is right throughout your life… You should not blame your circumstances, your family, or your friends if you choose to disobey God’s commandments. You are a child of God with great strength. You have the ability to choose righteousness and happiness no matter what your circumstances.” I am by no means perfect, and I don’t pretend to be. However, I’ve learned through experience that making bad decisions makes me feel horrible and guilty. I’ve gained a testimony in young women’s that the best way to live life is by doing our best to be good to others.
     The sixth lesson I learned was to help others through good works. Jesus Christ’s whole life was devoted to selfless service. We had a lot of service projects over the six years that I was in young women’s; we caroled to the elderly, delivered treats to families in need, distributed food to the homeless at a soup kitchen, gathered and sorted canned food on multiple occasions, held a few carnivals for the Christmas Box Children, and didn’t even scratch the surface on all the service that Jesus Christ did. Young women’s taught me how important it is to follow Christ’s example. Little acts of service go a long way, and as you donate your time to serving those around you, you’ll become more like Him.
   The seventh lesson I learned was to have integrity. From a good teacher of mine, I learned the difference between honesty and integrity: “Honesty is saying what you’ll do; integrity is doing what you say.” Integrity in the dictionary is defined as ‘the quality of possessing and steadfastly adhering to high moral principles or standards.’ By trying my best to be honest, I’ve not only become a better person, I’ve gained the trust of friends and family.

   The final lesson was to become virtuous. When you are patient, pure, and virtuous, you invite the spirit into your life. Virtue permits us to appreciate and understand the value of the lives that we can create, and it also helps us to prepare ourselves to be worthy to take the sacrament and enter the temple. Through virtue, I have learned how important it is to be sealed to my future family in the temple.
    The young women values have and will help me to improve myself, and I am so grateful for the opportunities that the program has given me. My leaders were incredible, and I can’t thank them enough for helping me gain a strong testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Goodbye 2010

     In the cheerfully said words of Albus Dumbledore, I can honestly quote:
"Another year... Gone!"
This past year has had many, many twists and turns. All these years I've scoffed when people have told me that life is a rollercoaster. It’s just never really seemed like that to me. It’s been a calm rowboat ride across a peaceful river up until this year. However, that was then; this is now.
I've been mercilessly shoved into the world's craziest roller coaster ride. There are no stops and there is no turning back. The ride started in January. The coaster started ominously slow. As the ride began, all I could see was a dark tunnel up ahead. Yet somehow, my mind reassured itself.
Don't all roller coasters always start the same way? They clank loudly as they are cranked to the top, just before the first plunge.

     But not my roller coaster. January was a crazy blur, as a new semester rolled around the bend. My family faced unbelievable stress as my grandparents lost their house and moved in with us. They weren't happy to lose their house, and we weren't happy that they bickered about it. Lessons learned: don't buy more than you can afford, treat everyone lovingly no matter how upset you are, marry the man (or woman) of your dreams, and prepare for the future while you're young!

     February was one of the months where I did some upward corkscrews that gave me butterflies. I gritted my teeth and focused on school rather than on family problems. My dad could see that the super glue holding me together was wearing off. So, he did something that I didn't expect. He decided to take me on a dad and daughter vacation. His work paid for free Nascar tickets, and so we traveled to Las Vegas. There, we cheered in unison for Dale Earnheart Jr. and Danika Patrick. It was hard to believe how fast their cars zoomed by on the track. Sure, there were lots of hicks there doing really weird things (like setting up their living room couches and TV’s in parking spaces,) but hey, there was no denying how cool the races themselves were. Lesson learned: take a vacation if you're overworked and overly-stressed, and too much stress is never healthy.

     Near the end of that month, I swallowed my doubts and asked a boy that I had liked for six years to go to the girls' choice Sadie's dance with me. It made me so nervous that I was shaking when my brother doorbell ditched the clever contraption for asking him. Lessons learned: do what you're afraid to do; many times the rewards are greater than the risks, respect guys, because surprisingly, there are few gentlemen out there that are worth my time.

     March was kind of a plunge in the love department. There was a lot of pressure from everyone to break things off with a guy that I had really liked for a long time. It was really difficult, because he was my best friend at the time. Not only that, but I knew that once I had made the decision that there would be no turning back. So I made the decision for him and drove on. Lessons learned: your friends will rarely appreciate you when you take it upon yourself to do what’s best for them, making the right decision is often the hardest decision that you’ll make, and sometimes doing the right thing pays off much later.

     Isn’t that how life is? Sometimes we have to feel sad and alone, otherwise we'd never appreciate the friends who truly love us and stick by us. Happiness could never be happiness if it was how we felt all the time. Life is a roller-coaster, there are ups and downs. When we're at the top, we see the whole world laid out before us, and we know that it is the most beautiful place ever created. The blue sky stretches on forever and the sun gleams like the outline of heaven, enlightening us and helping us to see things for how they are. And when we're plummeting down the roller coaster, we become afraid and wonder if we'll be able to pull ourselves up before the crash. When we're down, we learn from our mistakes and we do our best to find more ways to pull ourselves out again.

     Honestly, there were a lot more interesting stories and mistakes that I made this year. With the recurring question- should I follow, my mind, or my heart? I've come to find that there's no good answer for that

For now, I’m not going to talk about the negative things that have happened. That’s not the point of blogging. It’s been my goal to maintain a positive tone and voice as I journalize my life’s story. Squeezing out a few smiles and laughs has been my main goal along the way... And that's why I haven't written anything for two months. There hasn’t been much good to report. Despite how quiet things have been around here, I have a feeling that there will be more to talk about in months to come.

     As for the more positive side of 2010, my family has had many adventures. Over the course of this year, we’ve been to Oahu, Florida, Yellowstone, Portland, and Las Vegas. In less than twelve months, we’ve been able to see more things than most people are able to see in a lifetime.

     Personally, I’ve had the fortune of being able to snorkel with adorable sea turtles, had great luck in making new groups of friends out of people that I never would have seen coming, and best of all, I was able to be there for my sister when she had her baby.

     All around me this roller coaster is changing, and many times it’s changed for the worse… Yet I can’t help but see these miracles happening every day. Miracles that would challenge even the most negative things those news men have the audacity to condemn our futures with on TV.

     Though it's true that life’s roller coaster is a trial and a test, it is also a gift and a miracle. Have faith, have hope, and have charity, but most of all, cherish life as it is. Don’t let it slip away from you, and don't ever ever weigh yourself down with regret. We have one chance at life, live it to the fullest. Be different, make a difference, and let this New Year be better than the last.