Saturday, December 8, 2012

"The Atonement, and what it means in my life..."

A month ago I had the opportunity to speak in sacrament. As talks usually go, it was more of a reminder and learning experience for me than anything else. I figure now is a good time to post it and add to my blog. As this year comes to a rapidly approaching end, it is difficult not to reflect on the past - and more specifically this past year. There will most definitely be more posts to come, but for now, let this suffice.

Sunday, November 11, 2012 - "The Atonement, and what it means in my life..."

" "We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel."

Earlier this week I received a phone call from Brother Cox asking if I would be willing to speak in sacrament meeting. I was told that the bishop "special requested" that I speak on the topic of "The Atonement, and what it means in my life". He kindly assured me that it only needed to be 7 minutes, give or take, but shortly after hanging up the phone my two thoughts were: 1) How do you speak on a topic as important as the Atonement in only 7 minutes and 2) The Atonement is such a personal and important part of my life, how do I even begin to explain to a congregation the meaning and impact it has had and continues to have on my life?

First of all, I do want to thank the bishop for the the opportunity to share my thoughts today and it is my prayer, although I'm sharing with you the influence the Atonement has had in my life, that I may be an instrument in the Lord's hands and deliver the message and say the words He would want me to.

I've thought all week about what I could say, or how to even begin to start to explain the meaning of the Atonement in my life. I searched general conference talks, personal letters that I've written, journal entries, scriptures, anything to help me summarize such a powerful part of my life. And through all of that research, there are a few thoughts and experiences that I'd like to share with you.

The first experience I would like to share is when I first realized how much I was in need of the Atonement. It was a probably a little over one year ago. My mom and I had spent the night out at a sporting event and she was taking me back to my house. We were headed south on the I-15 freeway, a drive I had made plenty of times. As you're driving, it is usually quite easy to look south east toward Draper and see my favorite temple standing on the hill - at night it is brightly shining and one of the most beautiful sites of the valley. Well, the two of us had been in conversation about how life was and I was thinking about my summer and things I had done while almost completely inactive from the church. Anyways, as we drove I looked toward the hill and couldn't see the temple. I looked and looked and there was a void on the hill - it was completely dark. I had made that drive too many times to just not know where to look, the temple was missing, at least from my site, and the only thought that came to mind was a simple quote, "You are never lost when you can see the temple." And it was at that moment that I realized just how lost I had become. This past conference Elder Boyd K Packer gave an incredible talk titled, "The Atonement", he said, "If you have made no mistakes, then you do not need the Atonement. if you have made mistakes, and all of us have, whether minor or serious, then you have an enormous need to find out how they can be erased so that you are no longer in darkness. Jesus Christ is the light and the life of the world. As we fix our gaze on His teachings, we will be guided to the harbor of spiritual safety."

It was around this time that I met with our then, newly called, bishop. And boy did he have a project to start after, I think, one week of being called. I met with him week after week and was reminded each time that repentance is a process. (Which I didn't always like to hear). Elder Packer also included in his talk a quote by Joseph F Smith, "Men cannot forgive their own sins; they cannot cleanse themselves from the consequences of their sins. Men can stop sinning and can do right in the future, and so far as their acts are acceptable before the Lord become worthy of consideration. But who shall repair the wrongs they have done to themselves and to others, which it seems impossible for them to repair themselves? By the atonement of Jesus Christ the sins of the repentant shall be washed away; though they be crimson they shall be made white as wool. This is the promise given to you." Enos wrote of "[his] wrestle" with God "before [he] received a remission of [his] sins. (Enos 1:2-6) "And my soul hungered; and I kneeled down before my Maker, and I cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul; and all the day long did I cry unto him; yea, and when the night came I did still raise my voice high that it reached the heavens. And there came a voice unto me, saying: Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed. And I, [Enos], knew that God could not lie; wherefore, my guilt was swept away." It was through this wrestle, through this process, and through the Atonement, that I was able to eventually and at last become "at one" and find solace with my Savior.

In an email I had written to a dear friend of mine earlier this year, I titled the subject as, "The power of the atonement is real." I was able to share very personal experiences of just how I had instituted the Atonement in my life and the changes I had made. Part of my letter read, "Sometimes I wonder if people know the whole story, or if they can even begin to understand the changes I have gone through (both good and bad) and then I realize that it doesn't matter any more. What matters is what my Savior knows. It is a beautiful thing to me that the Atonement can cleanse someone so completely and that Christ will never hold those past things against you. We are "at one" with Him. I think sometimes we forget how merciful of a Father in Heaven and Brother that we have. He is our Father, and just like any earthly Father - desires only for us to be happy and will support us in worthy desires."

So, the Atonement and what it means in my life...to me the Atonement is not just a one time sacrifice and reparation that Jesus Christ made for me. It is something I am constantly in need of. It is an ongoing process of repentance and promises to do better and devote myself to becoming a disciple of Christ. The Atonement, to me, is a second chance to correct and better myself.

In closing, I share a similar testimony of the Atonement as President Uchtdorf. As he shared in this past conference, "It is my testimony that many of the deepest regrets of tomorrow can be prevented by following the Savior today. If we have sinned or made mistakes - if we have made choices that we now regret - there is the precious gift of Christ's Atonement, through which we can be forgiven. We cannot go back in time and change the past, but we can repent. The Savior can wipe away our tears of regret and remove the burden of our sins. His Atonement allows us to leave the past behind and move forward with clean hands, a pure heart, and a determination to do better and especially to become better." Brothers and sisters, I do have a testimony, as well, that although we may make mistakes, find ourselves in the deepest depths of darkness, and find ourselves lost and in grief - there is hope. There has been an Atonement made for us and, most importantly, for our use. It is a gift and a blessing. A way that we can take an eraser to our past and find our way back to Him. I stand here today as a living breathing example of a change of heart. Not only a witness, but a personal testament to the reality of the Atonement. I can't thank my Heavenly Father enough for the daily strength to continue to press forward. Jesus Christ is my brother, my Savior, my Redeemer, and my rock. Of all the changes we make and go through, the Lord is constant -even if we are not. We are never alone, He is always there to lift us, guide us, strengthen us - and welcome us back into his loving arms and this gospel. I am so grateful for the Book of Mormon, the truth it contains. For this restored gospel and for the knowledge we have of such an amazing gift of the Atonement. I'm grateful for a loving family that has continually supported and encouraged me through my personal conversion."

I leave this talk to all those that may read it as my testimony - sealed in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Party Time! Excellent! (21st)

Let me first just express the IRONY of the title of this post..."So what are you doing for your birthday??" Response: "Uhh..what every mormon does for their 21st birthday...nothing." Haha Ok, I know that there are plenty of members and non-members alike that party it up and equally as many that do nothing for the "Big 2-1". I'll be honest though, I had a fantastic 21st birthday and I'm perfectly content with how I spent it! Pictured...is an actual photo of the evening of my 21st birthday circa 10:00pm. That's right, I sat at home with my baby giraffe and read my scriptures. Haha Alright, really, who would have ever thought that is how THIS girl would spend her 21st birthday?? I realized something though, I have a loving Heavenly Father that blessed me with a life and the opportunity to come to this earth - what better way to spend this anniversary of 21 years on this planet than to show Him my gratitude by immersing myself in the scriptures? Annndd...I'll admit that I just straight up didn't make any other plans. Haha I really did love my night though and my "birthday weekend" which really started earlier in the week with a very special gift. (To be written another time).

Anyways, I also must add that I am very proud of myself for how close together this post is to my last one - definitely improvement! The main reason I'm blogging tonight though is to bear testimony of something and share a very recent experience. 

Over the last [week - give or take a week] I have felt overwhelmed, anxieties, stressed, and there is really only one phrase to explain it, "I just don't know." I was so excited for conference this year - my bishop even called and surprised me with tickets to the Saturday morning session. I was convinced that it was going to be the answer to my prayers and all the questions I've been hanging onto for so long. Saturday rolled around and after the morning session I, admittedly, felt more lost than ever. I prayed so hard for answers or even for comfort and failed to receive what I had wanted. The other sessions followed and the things I so desperately wanted answered seemed to be looming even more than before and left me feeling spiritually fed - but lacking. Something like when you're a child and you want a cookie...but your mother says "no dessert until after dinner". Dinner is delicious, fills you up, but you're still wanting that cookie! You go to the cookie jar - and someone ate the last cookie. Haha Silly analogy, but that's the best way I can describe the situation. So...my anxiety continued and the feeling of being lost and confused did not better the situation in any way. HOWEVER, the Lord ALWAYS has us in mind. I have no doubt about that. Unfortunately for us (or fortunately, as we usually recognize later) it is all in the Lord's timing. I didn't receive the answers I wanted - mostly because that's the relationship I've almost always had with my Heavenly Father - something like - Ashley, you figure it out for yourself and then I'll let you know if you've made the right choice. So, I didn't have answers. UNTIL TONIGHT. 

Earlier today I decided something for myself but still couldn't shake the feeling of anxiety wondering if I'm headed in the right direction. That feeling of uncertainty that, although you trust that God will always take care of you as long as you are following the right path, you just feel unsure about yourself. Well, tonight I got home and immediately changed clothes to go to the temple. I needed the temple. Tonight was different. I listened to music on my way there that helped put me in the right mindset after a long day. I pulled up, sat in the parking lot, and prayed. I poured my heart out to my Heavenly Father. Desperate, no longer for answers, but for comfort and peace for my aching soul. As I went through the temple, an overwhelming amount of joy came over me - I could not walk through the temple without smiling. I finally received, not only the peace I had just prayed for, but the answers I needed. Granted, they are not definitive answers - they're not even particularly answers to the questions I asked. However, they are answers and inspiration as to what Heavenly Father knows that I need right now. Brandon's favorite quote was, "No God, No Peace. Know God, Know Peace." I felt like tonight I was able to draw closer to my Heavenly Father. I realize that He has a plan for me and He wants me to be happy - sometimes I just need to TRUST and be PATIENT. Two things I obviously struggle with! 

I want the record to show (for whatever record this counts) here and now, that I KNOW with every fiber of my being that I have a loving Father in Heaven, who has an amazing plan for each of us - so long as we keep His commandments and dedicate our lives to drawing nearer to Him. In Life, in Love, in Work - in ALL that we do - if I commit myself to loving Him and showing my faith and trust - He will continue to bless me. I love this gospel - the "good word". I have found that the best way to draw closer to those we love, and to myself - is to draw closer to the Lord. As I strive to be closer to God and keep His commandments - I find myself more blessed. Good things happen, my heart and spirit are strengthened, and I find a deeper desire to be around others that also love their Savior. The harder I try, the more a natural desire to "do good" develops. It is hard to explain the outpour of love that I feel and sheer JOY - and NEED to share this with others. I believe your heart is converted when you feel it is bursting to want everyone to feel the way you do about "the good word". I know I have a mission to serve - although it may not be one that comes in an envelope, I know that I have work to do by precept and example. 

I'm continuing to pray that whatever happens, wherever life takes me, whatever opportunities present themselves, and whoever finds themselves intertwined with my life - that I might be a source of strength and an example. One that causes others to want to be better because they know me. I will be among those who state, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." Husband, whoever you turn out to be, I pray that you are preparing worthily to kneel across the alter from me. That you will love me, cherish me, and want to take on eternity at my side. I do not know what the Lord has in store, but I know that He has a plan for me. "Learn of me, and listen to my words; walk in the meekness of my Spirit, and you shall have peace in me."

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Moving Forward, My Own Book of Mormon Challenge, & "Eat, Pray, Love"

Alright, I'm getting a little better at keeping up with my blog - it's only been a month! That's progress - at least for me. Claire Facebook yelled at me on Sunday for not blogging enough, ergo, I better buckle down and do it! So here it goes - "Moving Forward & My Own Book of Mormon Challenge"...

For too long I have tried to read the Book of Mormon to no avail*. However, in light of my 21st birthday coming up and the many opportunities that have been presented to me - I figured there was no better time than in the last couple of months. I started about 5 months ago. Plenty of time to complete such a small yet significant book. However, after getting into 2 Nephi, I found myself distracted. I stopped reading as much until I had almost stopped reading entirely. In the last week though, I have found myself back on track and am still determined to finish with only 2 weeks to go. With 5 months, perhaps there were certain lessons I could have learned or things I could have taken from the book, and while I do not still have that timeline - I have just as much faith that I will acquire whatever lessons are needed in my life at this time - taking extra care that I FEAST upon the words as they "will tell you all things what ye should do". (2 Nephi 32:3)
*Footnote: I have "read" the Book of Mormon but it was always out of order and for seminary or the like
(Saved from 09/20/2012)

PROGRESS! I am in Alma! Woohoo! Only a week to go and it is VERY much doable - I'm absolutely determined! So what have I learned?? OH MY GOSH! What an amazing book! I'm happier, more relaxed, and constantly craving more! (My scriptures now go EVERYWHERE with me!) It is truly a blessing in my life - and what a way to begin "moving forward". So before I get into much more let me just summarize how amazing my week has been since re-starting my Book of Mormon challenge. My amazing friend Mindy Shaw is back in my life! Oh how I have missed this girl and her amazing spirit! She kept me on the straight and narrow through high school simply by her example. Back in touch now, she slept over the other night and I seriously LOVED being able to laugh with her again! How I have deeply missed that and needed that in my life! I love having friends that I can laugh with, be myself with, but at the end of the night flop on my bed and read our scriptures together! Along with delving back into the Book of Mormon, I also determined to get back to temple attendance. I have a firm testimony in the pertinence of temples in my life. There have been countless times that I have received personal revelation and answers to prayers on temple grounds. Even at times when I couldn't enter the temple, I would sit for hours in the parking lot pondering on whatever brought me there. So, Saturday morning my dear friend Crease Toe Furr accompanied me to the temple for baptisms! And when I say Saturday morning - I mean 6:45am on the weekend (a sacrifice for both of us "workaholics"). What a great way to start the day though! You can't help but smile as you leave the temple and, really, for the rest of the day. Sunday I was also able to attend the "temple" again - or rather, the dedication of the Brigham City Temple. What a beautiful ceremony and such powerful speakers - again reigniting the remembrance of how important temples are and more importantly attending. Monday I had girls night with Mindy and my sisters (minus my partner in crime, Claire!) and Tuesday a Boss BBQ at the house. The best part of the last couple of weeks? I've been spending a lot more time with family and taking care of myself at home. Something I also became distracted from doing. So, guess what I'm doing tonight? I have a temple date to do baptisms! Yay!! I love that the temple is now something that I can look forward to doing after work - it makes me want to try harder and be better!
 (Saved from 9/26/2012)

I'm promising myself that eventually this post will actually get posted!
.
Last night I went to the Oquirrh Mountain temple - by Saturday I will have "visited" 3 temples in a week! (That's including the Brigham City dedication). What a difference it makes! I love that somehow it just makes you crave more - truly a spiritual high! What I'm realizing/remembering from it though is that I NEED this in my life - and I need to be with someone who can and wants to share that with me! There's something about being dressed in all white with smiling faces all around you that immediately betters one's countenance.

Alright...so what else has been going on the last month?! Trust me, I'm still trying to figure that out! This month has been filled with laughter, tears, pain, sorrow, longing, happiness, joy, and every emotion in between - and THEN some. What I have learned from all of it though is most important, and that is: 1) Sometimes the hardest things in life are the best things for us and 2) TRUST IN THE LORD. I will be the first to admit that both things are "easier said than done". HOWEVER, from both of these things, I have a firm testimony that the Lord blesses us for the sacrifices we make - no sacrifice goes unnoticed and he will make the blessings worth it. I've also come to be a strong believer in everything happening for a reason and people coming into our lives at certain times for specific purposes. We may not always understand "why" in the moment - but our Heavenly Father has placed us on the earth to fulfill a plan of happiness. Shouldn't that be enough to suffice our "whys" and worries? He is our Father and ultimately wants what is going to bring us to happiness, even if it means through trials of faith.

So what else am I learning? To move forward. Just move forward and GROW from my experiences. Remembering who I AM and what I WANT. And here's what I believe: a lot of people think I want a husband. People think I want to have a perfect life. People think I want to live a certain way. Well, here's the truth: Yes, of course I want a husband. Pretty sure most girls do, eventually at least. But I don't need a husband and guess what? I don't even want one right now! However, if I'm going to be with someone - I want it to be someone that shares the same desires and future wants. Someone that wants to draw closer to the Lord for themselves. Someone that, even if they have walked two lines before, no longer has the desire to. Someone that can turn from those things without a second thought. Someone that has come as far as I have just to serve the Lord the best they can. Where we can support each other because they, too, have become strong enough. Truth: Everyone wants a perfect life, but I don't expect it. Perfection is boring anyways! Truth: I want to live a certain way, so I am. I don't expect any one else to live the same way as me. However, if I'm going to be with someone - I want them to have the same values, the same standards, and the same goal in mind.
(Saved from 9/27/2012)

Alright! It's Sunday morning and I AM posting this today! Regardless! I have until Thursday to finish the Book of Mormon. Is it going to happen? YOU BET!

So I must mention something that has truly made an impact on my week - I received one of the biggest compliments: "I've noticed you've given your heart to someone else, you've given your heart to the Lord!...You have a new light about you". Truly, I can't imagine too many words better than those; and at this time in my life, it is breathtaking and humbling beyond words to describe how grateful I am to hear that. Albeit, I know there is always more we can do to dedicate our lives to the Lord, but to have a "new light" and change in countenance - I believe directly reflects a change of heart.

Looking back over the past year, I am taken aback by all that has changed, transformed, remained, grown, and happened. When I started this blog it was about ME (I) and creating a journey of "Eat, Pray, Love". At this time, I know that journey isn't over - and I believe never entirely will be; but I have found that, just like the book I took the idea from, your journey is not always that "cut and dry". There are set backs. There are times that those set backs come from ourselves. We lose sight of the goal. We become distracted. We try to do things in our own order rather than the order and time that God intends. This [year] I made some of the biggest mistakes, felt the deepest heartache, traveled through hell and back - but I would never trade nor give up the lessons I learned from those experiences. Why? Because I lived my "eat, pray, love" story - sometimes without realizing it until now, in hindsight. When [she] traveled to Italy - she ate - she learned to quit bothering with what people thought. She lived in humbling circumstances. She ate what she wanted. She experienced being uncomfortable and out of place. But she learned to ENJOY the simple things in life. The "pleasure of nourishment". A bowl of pasta. A bread stick. Developing friendships. Making the best from nothing. This [year], did I eat? Oh I ate. When [she] traveled to India - she prayed - she removed herself from the world, again rendering herself friendless in a new place. She began with little faith, broken. She lived in a jungle, displaced from (big city) "civilization". She experienced a "breaking point" - with much pain and many tears shed. But she learned to TRUST in GOD. To turn to a greater power and let [Him] take her burdens. To relax. To PRAY with a whole heart - nothing wavering. Is there a power in prayer? Oh I've prayed. And, finally, when [she] traveled to Indonesia - she embarked on one of the most difficult verbs: love; but she had a good foundation. She finally discovered that in order to love others, she must love herself - and that a perfect balance can be found. From that, the "inner peace...of true love". Have I loved? I believe this is where the journey has yet to come full circle - I'm loving myself. I'm learning to love myself (and the Lord) in order to better love others. The less she focuses on finding love - love seems to find her. Law of attraction? Perhaps. Become what you want - the kind of person you would want to be around.
Overall - I've found that no part of our journey is ever over. As many know, my favorite quote says it best, "People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; Never throw out anyone." Life is a continual journey. A "test" of renewal and remembrance. Just like those in the Book of Mormon, we must continually be "brought to a remembrance" of God and the covenants we make with Him. Confession: originally this post was solely titled, "Moving Forward & My Own Book of Mormon Challenge"; but upon reflection, I remembered the original purpose of this blog and realized I am living it. For a time, I lost sight of that goal. Became distracted by my world seemingly spinning out of control around me. Yet, now - clarity. Losing myself to the Lord - turning my heart over to Him. From that, suddenly that journey is back on track.

If anyone is still reading at this point, I commend you! I can't say my ramblings are meant to reach anyone - more for me to organize my thoughts and "deep notions" on life. In summary, I'm happy. I'm finding joy in the person that I have become and am becoming. I feel like a living breathing example of a change of heart. Not only a witness, but a testament to the reality of the Atonement. I can't thank my Heavenly Father enough for the daily strength to continue to press forward. Jesus Christ is my brother, my Savior, my Redeemer, and my rock. Of all the changes, the gospel - the Lord - is constant. Even if we are not! We are never alone, He is always there to lift us, guide us, strengthen us - If we turn to Him and TRUST in the Lord.

ETTE
 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Catching Up

To say I have been awful at keeping up with my blog would be an understatement. HOWEVER, looking back through my posts and drafts - I'm realizing how much I need it. Maybe there's only one or two people that actually keep up with this - but for those one or two people and myself, this post is going to be important. So first off, I have some catching up to do and then some keeping up to continue. I'm going to do my best to condense 9 months of life into a relatively short blog post. Please note, I said relatively. Noticing I had some drafts saved, I think the easiest way to "catch up" is to start with posting those. Mind you, there is a lot to discuss and if most (or all of you) stop reading at any point, know that I'm not offended and I don't blame you - I think this post is more for me to decompress and whatnot - then again I think that's what all of my posts are.

(Original Date: January 27, 2012 w/ added commentary June 2012) >>


2012 is many different things to many different people. For some, it is the year of the Dragon - a year of power. For others, it is apocalyptic - the end of the world. It seems that through these views it is either a year of faith or fear. My dad has always brought up the scripture that talks about how faith cannot reside alongside fear in a man's mind, one must leave. For me, I'm choosing to make it a year of faith - Dragon if you will. It's hardly three weeks into the year and I feel like my world has been completely turned over yet again. It's amazing how quickly your life can change, and what seems even more amazing to me is how you handle those changes.

The biggest change happened on the 1st day of the year. I lost my brother. The one brother I ever had. I used to tease him that he was my baby brother - as much as he hated it, I meant it out of affection. It was amazing to me how much you could grow to love and care about someone so immensely - and worry about them. Brandon and I were able to spend quite a lot of time together this fall and became, what I would call, very close. He would turn to me and we would talk about mistakes we've made and wanting to better ourselves.

Granted, I only knew him for a year and lived with him for even less. However, as we all were heavenly brothers and sisters - I believe that this life on earth allows us to rediscover those relationships and we are perfectly capable of feeling that brotherly-sisterly love, even if not by blood. Brandon and I had a different relationship from the rest of our sisters. Obviously I hadn't grown up with him, but I could liken our relationship to a great friendship blessed enough to also be family.  Looking back I'm glad about the time(s) I've had with him. Some of my favorite memories involved the fact that he was usually my date to things. Haha Even when our parents got married, all of my sisters had their husbands/boyfriend and Brandon and I had each other - best date I could have asked for! THE BEST memory though, is one night last summer when our parents went out on a date and so did Claire. Brandon and I didn't want to sit around at home so we went on a bro/sis date to Mulligans and played mini golf and then went to Red Mango for frozen yogurt. We talked a ton and it was so FUN! I felt like I actually had a brother. Brandon has this amazing ability to love and accept everyone, and I was no exception. I think the reason we got along so well is that we never judged each other. We only supported and encouraged each other and THAT is why I love him and why I know that the day will come when we will see each other again and welcome each other with the best hugs we always had.

To lose him, it was a wake up call, and the hardest part of it all - is the missing him. I still expect him to walk through the door at some point or hear him playing music in his room - it has, however, made me extremely grateful for the time that I did have with him. I wish the whole world had had a chance to experience just a moment of his personality. The world would forever be a different place if that were so.

What I learned from his death is actuallly what I observed. I couldn't believe the hundreds of people that were at his funeral and the hundreds of lives he had touched. Not just for a moment, but had truly touched. People sincerely cared for and loved Brandon because he sincerely cared for and loved each of them - as individuals. It definitely has made me reevaluate my life and think of the legacy I would be leaving behind. The truth is that, even though I've come close before, I would never want to leave voluntarily from this world. I've seen and experienced the hurt that it leaves behind for everyone else. I do, though, hope that when my time does come, that others will be able to speak about me with love and pride. I want to die being proud of the way I've lived my life. And for that, I am continuing to try my best.<<

 ~ ~ ~

Moving onto the rest of what has been going on in the last 8 months.... Like I said, there's a lot. As boring as I may believe my life is at times, in hindsight it is anything but.


I believe congratulations may be in order because as of today... I am 11 months, 1 week, and 5 days SOBER! Let me tell you, I never had a drinking problem, but I would be lying if I said I didn't enjoy it. For me, 11 months of sobriety is a big deal and everyday is an accomplishment. Not particularly because it is difficult to not drink, it's actually not too bad, but if I were to have even one drop - I would have to start all over again with "Day 1 of sobriety" and lose all the progress that I've made physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Granted, a drink now and then does sound good, but do the consequences sound worth it? If I've stayed away for this long, what would be the point in drinking now? Why live that lifestyle for the last 11 months if I'm just going to go back to it? Truth is, I'm not going back to it. The choices I am making in my life are exactly that, CHOICES. It's not that I CAN'T drink. It's not that I CAN'T have sex. It's not that I HAVE to go to church. I CHOOSE to do or do not. So, congratulations to me - I'm 11 months sober and not even 21 yet. Oh the irony... and fret not, I will definitely be celebrating the big 21st with drinks - they'll just be virgin and I'll be drunk on loving life! :)

MORE...

So this year has definitely been another year of learning and growing. Honestly, it's hard to believe we're already 2/3 of the way through the year. Incredible how quickly this year has gone by - and that has been quite a blessing in itself. As big of changes that have been happening this year, home isn't the only thing changing. Even work has been an all new level of crazy. Something as simple as an employee leaving the business has made me second guess everything. It has become so sad to me that so many people lack good character nowadays and can be so deceitful to the few people that do have genuinely good hearts. So, I'm using my experiences as tools in becoming the person I want to be and filling my mind with the best things.
 (Get ready for book reviews)
This year I read a book titled, As a Man Thinketh. It is a short, easy read that has an incredible ability to cause one to re-evaluate men and our perception of self and others. It's amazing how our thoughts shape our circumstances, health, body, mind, spirit, achievements, visions, ideals, and ultimately our serenity. What surprised me the most was that at the time that it was suggested to me, it ended up defining an end to a toxic relationship, realizing that our thoughts were not in alignment to allow us both serenity and security. (Like I said, a learning year.)

The other book I dove into, Choosing Glory. Alright, my dear father had me read a chapter of it once upon a time, and I FINALLY got around to reading the entire thing - all by myself! I'm SO glad that I did, it opened my eyes to the kind of person I want to be, as well as the kind of person I want to be with (more on this later).

Latest read I'm cracking open? The Book of Mormon! I'm actually reading it cover to cover - and just about finished with 2 Nephi. Alright, doesn't so sound too impressive - but for me it's a huge accomplishment! Reading it in the past it was always this feat of trying to read this great spiritual doctrine. This time around, I'm reading it like a book - and the stories are amazing! It's awesome to me how you can grow to love the people and stories and how much more you gain from it. This is probably the best part of my life right now. I'm loving the gospel. I'm loving reading the scriptures and growing closer to my Heavenly Father. 

~ ~ ~

Well, there's a lot more I need to add, but rather than getting it all out here in one svelte swoop - I'm just going to be updating and blogging more regularly. I think the most important thing that needs to be said of me right now is that, I'm ready for more. I'm ready for the next phase of my life to start. I'm not sure what that is yet or in what form it will come - but I'm continuing to live my life to be worthy of whatever blessings are in store. 
All I know is someday is on its way, and I'm going to "see things through".

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Everything

Testimony. Probably the strongest part of me right now, and forever more. Today I was able to take the sacrament again for the first time in quite awhile. It felt amazing to FEEL and KNOW I'm on the right track. Because of this knowledge though, it's been evident that the adversary works even harder to detract you from what you want. What I want is the gospel, the temple, and the true plan of happiness in my life. I finished my classes last Thursday for my citation. The course title was "Prime for Life". I spent plenty of time making fun of the program and cracking jokes about the people that were attending the class with me. The truth is though, that I actually learned a lot. Not so much about making "low-risk choices" to improve your life (although I did learn a lot about that) but I learned about myself. One of the first activities was looking at a list of 10 words. Those words were: having a job and money, loving and being loved, making my own decisions, self-respect, freedom no legal problems, good health, religion spirituality, family, good friends, and partying. Of those 10, we had to cross of three that we could live without. Then, we had to cross off three more. And then three more. Essentially, we were left with one word. Taking three more off of the last four was extremely difficult and rather than just crossing a few off and getting the activity over with, I actually thought about it. My last two were family and religion/spirituality. It came as a surprise to me...I picked religion/spirituality. The soul reason I chose this, is because I put all my faith believing that the gospel can restore all of those other things back to me. I guess the best comparison would be Abraham being asked to sacrifice Isaac. He placed so much faith in the Lord, that he was willing to sacrifice his son, knowing only by faith that the Lord would deliver him. My life is NOT A MATTER OF PUTTING THE CHURCH OR THE LORD FIRST - IT IS A MATTER OF CENTERING MY LIFE AROUND CHRIST. The difference between those two statements are worlds apart. It would be impossible to put one thing in front of another as far as values are concerned - family, good friends, religion, self-respect, loving ... but I know that if I place "religion" or really, the Lord, as my center - then all other things will follow. Some of my closest friends are members, non-members, inactive, active, whatever else you want to call them - but we love each other for WHO we are and the values we hold to. I guess the point I'm trying to make, is that bringing myself back to the gospel after being and feeling so lost - has been an amazing experience and I feel incredible knowing I'm on the track of where I want to be in my life. That means in work, spirituality, love, friendship, and really everything else. I know what I want in all aspects and I'm living as such to achieve all of those. Procrastination for what I WANT is no longer an option. My life is in a good position because of what I'm choosing now, the best part is that I'm confident in what I'm choosing and who I am. Those that love me are standing by me, and those that don't understand - I expect nothing from.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Balls to the Wall Honesty - (Not the most lady like of titles) A.K.A. My TRUTH!!

Hey all! Ok, let's be real - the three people that follow my blog. Heck, I don't even follow it most of the time. Well, it's the Saturday before Halloween and I am literally laying in bed doing nothing tonight. I am that cool. I am so cool that I can just stay home on the weekend of my favorite holiday. I know, you're jealous. But let's be honest, it's probably the best place I could be tonight. It's not that I didn't have offers. I had a few choices - ex boyfriends, good friends, new friends, old friends. However, lack of transportation combined with my growing effort of trying to stay out of trouble has landed me at home tonight. I promise I'm not on here for a pitty party though! This is why I'm really on here: to lay down my standards so that whoever does happen to read this, can know what I stand for. Yep, I'm actually putting it out here.

DISCLAIMER: Alright, this is all honesty so I apologize ahead of time for anyone I may offend or hurt through this. It's not meant to show that I think badly or less of anyone - it's just me trying to hold to my standards. If yours are different, congratulations, I've been there and done that and chosen a different way. As long as you are being true to who you are and what you want, make it work for you. But this is the way it works with me.

First of all, I've dated a..potpouri, if you will, of different guys. All very nice and wonderful men in their own way, but there's always been something that hasn't made it work out. And I'll be the first to admit that it's usually my fault and religion plays a large part in it. Yeah, we've all heard it, "Religion shouldn't matter if you're in love" or "Why does it matter if someone believes something different?" blah blah blah - I believe in that, I do. But here's the thing - I WANT TO GET MARRIED IN THE TEMPLE. Guys; laugh, judge, think less of me if you will - but it IS NOT because "the church says so". Nope, it's not even primarily because I have the faith that my family can be together for eternity through a temple marriage. Many would argue that God loves us enough that any faithful family (no matter where married or what faith) will be able to stay together in the afterlife (if you so choose to believe in it). While I agree that he loves us enough to keep us together - here's the MAIN REASON I WANT A TEMPLE MARRIAGE:

I believe that any man truly worthy to marry me in the temple is going to be good to me. That means a worthy priesthood holder that can bless our children down the line. That means someone that treats me like a queen. (I don't mean endlessly serving me or buying me things - I'm talking respect and honor). A man with the faith and heart of Moroni. A man that desires a worthy life and expects the same from me. A man that sets his standards high but forgives when forgiveness is needed. A man that is steadfast, immovable, and unquestionable. A man that knows the Lord and leads a life of faith - knowing that if he lives worthily - we will be blessed with infinite happiness.

So, moving on, I know I have made mistakes. I know that many people don't believe that I deserve a good man because I haven't been the best woman. The difference is, though, that I am a living witness and example of the changing of a heart. Desiring a worthy life and living as such is possible even after the most awful and painful of mistakes have been made. What I have learned through this change of heart, is that if it is possible for me - it doesn't matter what any one else's past holds. "Dan In Real Life" quotes, "if I forgive [him] of [his] past, he will forgive me of mine." That is what I believe. That is what I deserve. That is what I desire.

Furthermore - there are men I care for immensely. I wish everyday that we held the same standards that would bring us together. But I know that I cannot change (not to be confused with "lower") my standards nor expect him to change for me. If the change of heart is to happen for us to be together - it needs first to be for himself. I always fall for the ones I can't have. I know, it's my own fault that I "can't" have them because I choose not to, but it does NOT mean that I care less for them or think they are not worth it. I just feel that I am also worth the effort.

I don't want to come off as one of those "princess" types that expects the world from some perfect man. Truth is, I'm not looking for perfect. I'm not looking for a "Return Missionary". I'm not looking for any of that. I am looking for a man that has made mistakes and can understand that I have made my own as well. BUT, that has learned from that and realizes how wonderful a life guided by the Lord can be.

I would also like to emphasize that "THE CHURCH IS TRUE, THE PEOPLE ARE NOT." Blasphemous as that may sound, I know that it is true. I KNOW that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is the only fully restored gospel on this earth today. Some may disagree, but to me it is irrevocable fact. HOWEVER, I also know that it is oft misrepresented and people may become offended by those representing the church. I have first hand of this from leaders, parents, bishops, and even friends. The atonement is true. It is there to be used. It does not matter what others say or believe based on your past so long as you know you have settled things with your Heavenly Father and feel the Lord's presence.

Now, specifics. I will be honest in saying that I have, in the past, dated those who have smoked, drank, and the like and NEVER had an issue with it. I can admit that I have drank and had physical relationships with those I've dated. I will also say, however, that I have changed. I stopped drinking because I knew it wasn't something I wanted in my life and that, when I have children, do not want to have around them. I have been on both sides and finally realized that the Word of Wisdom is there for a good purpose. Witness, I don't have a license - not my best move. I have realized the importance of morality and know how incredibly tempting it can be to say no. I know I have not always been the best with morality - but it is a daily challenge and work for me. I strive each day to remember how badly I want the temple in my life and a husband that only loves and lusts after me. I want to belong to someone - and I don't feel that I should have to share my body anymore with anyone except for my husband. Worthy of my body and, I worthy of his. As for the use of drugs, I have never used but I have a younger brother that struggled with drug abuse. His change of heart has shown me that it is not worth it. I want to be an example to him that the most desireable of girls want to be with desireable men and drugs are not part of that. I cannot be a hypocrite and say that girls want someone clean when I turn around and date someone choosing that lifestlye - even if it is simply turning a blind eye, I cannot be that sort of example for him. I believe that the person worthy of taking me to the temple, would never try to add that to my life and would be understanding of why I hold the standards I do.

In the last few days, I have realized just how hard holding to those standards can be and how it can be heartbreaking to have to stand by what you believe. I have also realized, though, that it is SO WORTH IT! As much as I want to be with someone, I cannot be the only one changing my standards. It requires the same amount of effort from both sides.

If anyone is still reading this, again, I apologize. I would like to end on this note though: I am not "Molly Mormon". I never will be. I'm fun, outgoing, and find myself pretty hilarious. I have my flaws. I swear. I think sex is an important part of a relationship (Marriage only now of course!). I see nothing wrong with making out. I still struggle with wanting to drink but I manage to stay away as much as I enjoyed it at one point. I am sometimes too much of a work-a-holic. I don't think that "Keeping the Sabath" means not taking your grandma out to lunch for her birthday. I don't have anything against non-members. I think they're pretty aweome and more honest than most members. I hate Utah Mormons. I don't like to be preached at. I have my own opinions on the church and pretty much everything else. As "churchy" as all of this sounds - I'm really not "churchy". I know it's true, I'll live by it. But I'm not going to shove it on anyone and I'm certainly going to live my life based on what I believe is right - not what other people tell me is right. I live the way I interpret church standards. I live to the best of my ability and sometimes that isn't perfect - alright, it's never perfect. But hell, that's what this life is for. Enjoy it, I'm finding someone that can handle my attitude and knows and loves me for me.

PS I know I sound like a b*tch, but those of you that really know me - know exactly how I feel about all this and know that I'm not by any means higher than thou or think I deserve Prince Charming. I'm looking for my equal, someone that knows what mistakes are.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A New Beginning - Lesson Learned?

For those of you who know me well, know that I am stubborn and took the path in life where I make my own mistakes before I learn any lessons. Well...I think I'm finally learning. My 20th birthday is coming up in just over a week...and I think I'm finally figuring out what it is that I need in my life. At the moment it is 11:50 pm and my best friend Becca and I are in my basement just finished watching the "mormon" Pride and Prejudice movie. I pulled out my laptop immediately to write before I forget the feeling I have right now. The main character is 26 - and unmarried. Heaven forbid in mormon culture, right? Well, I've decided that if this becomes the position I fall in, then I'm ok with it! The last couple of weeks have been somewhat life altering - the last week specifically. A man that I thought I could give my heart to betrayed me and left me hurt and bitter. Fortunately, the bitter has left relatively quickly and I wish him only the best and hope that he has found what he wants for his life - realizing that he is not what I want in MY life. Thank goodness I found this out before I gave my heart away. Yes, the hurt and betrayal is still there, but thanks to wonderful friends and "pie night wednesday" I'm remembering how to survive and pull through. My mom and I are going out of town this weekend to St. George for my birthday to see the play "Grease" at the Tuacahn. I'm glad I'm getting the chance to get away for a bit to focus on my relationship with my mom. I think we both need a reminder of what it is like to be with only each other and NOT rely on men to validate us, or the opposite, making us feel inferior. Even the strongest women need reminders sometimes of their inner strength. I'm finding the most important thing that resurfaces again and again in my life is the gospel. We all know I am not the most continually active member, but I am one that has never lacked the faith and knowledge that it is true - sometimes I just choose not to live what I know to be true. In which case, I lose myself again and realize that I am not being true to myself. Having just moved to Alpine, UT my records of the church have just been transferred and the bishop has already approached Mindy inquiring about my father and I and the on goings of our lives. As members - we all know what this means. Callings. For the first time, I'm actually excited. I considered starting to go to the singles ward, but I know I would instinctively and likely subconsciously still be searching for a husband. I figure if I'm given a calling in my home ward, it will give me something to focus on and keep me on my toes throughout the week. I'm hoping for primary. I really went or understood as a child and I think it could be the best position for me in order to continue learning and focus on MYSELF as a member and a woman. Throughout the week I would be more concerned about my lesson for that Sunday rather than what I'm doing without a man at the "ripe old age of 20" (thank you Utah Mormons for this irritating stigma). So, in other words. Lesson learned. I can't fix men and expect them to become Mr. Wonderful. I want to meet Mr. Wonderful as he is and be confident in the man that he truly is. That he is all that I want to begin and not something I feel I have to change in order to "fit the bill". It's not fair to him or me to expect one or the other to change. I'm not looking for Mr. Right anymore, I'm going back to looking for myself and waiting for Mr. Right to come looking for me. Who knows, maybe I already know him, or maybe I won't know him for another 5, 10, 15 years. I'm turning it over to Heavenly Father now. It's in His hands for when He knows I'm ready. Who would have thought I would have a rush of confidence at 12 am to realize what I want for my entire life ahead of me. I still will never be Molly Mormon or the perfect member - but I am going to be the best example of a PERSON that I can be and live the standards to the best of my ability. I have an amazing friend Becca who is an incredible example to me - we're focusing on ourselves and it helps that she is practically my other half - with her I know I can stick to the woman I want to be. I have other incredible examples in my life as well. Chantel is with the love of her life and has shown me that although life doesn't always turn out the way you had planned, in God's hands everything can work out and happiness can still be found in another plan. Emily has shown me what true friendship is, staying one of my very best friends even from thousands of miles away. Em, if you're reading this, please know I love you and I am so grateful for the example you have ALWAYS been to me!! And to my little sister, Claire, you are such an awesome example to me! I hope that you can look up to me in someways and, if nothing else, learn from the mistakes I have made. You are an amazing woman and deserve a wonderful man that will come in time. I'm so glad you are in no rush to get married, never feel pressured to get married until you know you've found the ONE! I know I'm preaching to the choir on this, and really, not many people read my blog. But this is more of a reminder to myself. Of what I want. Maybe someday my future husband will read this and can recognize that although I am preparing myself for him, I'm also just wanting to better myself. Mom, if you read this, please know that I want to be the best example I can be to you! I'm not talking about the church (although I think you know what you believe ;)) but also I want to be an example of STRENGTH to you. You were always that strength to me, and now it's my turn to return the favor and remind YOU of what a strong woman YOU ARE, ALWAYS have been, and ALWAYS will be. You are stronger than you think. If I'm reading this a day from now, a month, or even years - I just want to remind myself to watch Pride and Prejudice again if I've forgotten who I am. Focus on myself and knowing who I AM before I can love some one else and welcome them into my life. KISS. Keep It Sacred Sister. This is hopefully (another) new beginning - but one that I will remember. Lesson...being learned. :)