Friday, July 1, 2016
One of the many things I've always adored about the gospel of Jesus Christ is change. Thankfully, through the Atonement, we can repent when we make mistakes. We can follow Christ's example and seek to become more like Him. He is the perfect example. When I fall, I know I can get back up.
Here are a few things I've come to know through my own journey:
1) God is the author of our story. Sometimes I have to remind myself of this. He has a plan for each and every one of us. Dreams we can't even fathom! He knows what will happen throughout our life, and He knows how to prepare us for those things. His timing IS perfect. Put God first, and everything will fall into place. When things don't work out the way we want them to, just know that Heavenly Father has something better in mind and the results are wonderful. When I forget this, reading my patriarchal blessing helps sooo much.
2) Laugh. A lot. Those who know me know I love to laugh and smile. I've even come to appreciate the smile lines on my face because they remind me of where my expression has settled most often in my life. I can't express this enough, but enjoy this life. Find and do the things that make you happy. Be around people that make you happy, and don't settle for anything else.
3) You are beautiful. God made you who you are. The fact that you're alive and breathing is a beautiful, incredible thing. If there is anything I've learned the past few years, it's that Satan is jealous of our bodies and as a result, he wants us to feel bad about them ALL. THE. TIME. Don't let him make you think that. We're made in God's image, and I think it is so amazing when I see someone whose countenance shines with that light.
4) Life is like a roller coaster: you can't avoid the ups and downs. If you haven't heard the story about the bishop who explains that "this too shall pass," I highly encourage you to read it. Bad things will happen to good people, and good things will happen to bad people. But savor those sweet moments that come your way and stay true when those bitter moments come along. Jesus is always there for us and knows how we feel always.
5) Have courage and be kind. Can I just say that I love this so much? One of my favorite mantras from a Disney movie, and I find it so encouraging. Stand up for what you believe in. The world's standards are getting low, and temptation is around every corner it seems like. Pray for help to withstand those temptations. Also, be kind. Every single one of us has the power to change someone's life for the better. To put a smile on their face and bring light into their life. I started praying a while back for help in seeing others the way Heavenly Father sees them, and it has helped me in knowing what to say or do for people to help them know they're loved. It makes me so happy to see someone smile. Send someone a sweet text to let them know you're thinking about them! Wave at someone or open a door. Little things can make a hugeeee difference.
To the younger me, keep pushing forward. Things get better. And to the older me, go back and read these when life gets confusing, hard, or difficult. You can do it.
"Only by aligning our wills with God's is full happiness to be found... As one's will is increasingly submissive to the will of God, he can receive inspiration and revelation so much needed to help meet the trials of life. The submission of one's will is really the only unique thing we have to place on God's altar. The many other things we "give" are actually the things he has already given or loaned to us." -Neal A. Maxwell
Monday, March 28, 2016
And I have no regrets. In fact, it was quite possibly one of the best weekends of my life. I'm eternally grateful for all the time, consideration, and effort that went into making my trek experience an amazing one for not only me, but everyone else who participated in it.
Trek is a youth-centered activity in my church where youth dress up as the Mormon pioneer converts who came across the plains all those years ago in search of a place to settle and build the church, as well as to escape persecution. They experienced many trials consisting of sickness, starvation, tragedy, and more. But they also experienced miracles. During this trek reenactment, we pulled handcarts across tough terrain for many, many miles (in our case, 22). We set up camp, cooked food, learned how to square dance, and played pioneer games. But somewhere among all those fun moments, spiritual conversion had begun to take place in my heart.
Upon arriving at the drop-off location in the beautiful Sam Houston National Forest, I was beyond nervous to find out who would be in my "family" for the 2.5 days I would be here. Despite multiple people reassuring me that my placement in my family had been pondered and prayed over, I was still somewhat fearful of not being accepted. I would soon find out, however, that I should not have feared. I was blessed to be placed in the McQuay family, where I met my Ma and Pa, as well as the rest of my family. One kid, a boy named Paul, had just turned 14 that day, meaning he barely made the age requirement for trek. I'll never forget his face during our hike one day, when he lost control of the cart and it toppled backwards, and in an attempt to save it, he jumped up a little too far, only to push it over even more. My family looked back to see him dangling from the cart's handles, with eyes widened in shock. We had a VERY good laugh after that.
Once again, I found myself so happy to meet all of them. Bright smiles met my gaze and enveloped me in a welcoming warmth. I quickly found myself asking what the reason had been for my fear, and I continued to ask myself that the rest of my time there, because honestly, I would not have been able to make it without my family to help push me along. This trek marked my third time ever to camp. I was definitely not one of those kids raised in the outdoors: who knew how to set up a tent with their eyes closed, or tell what plant was poison ivy just by looking at it.
Hiking all those miles was painful, and it stretched me to my limits, but every time I felt like quitting or giving up, I closed my eyes, said a quick prayer, and remembered the pioneers who had trekked before me. They had faith in me and my generation. They risked everything they had, and put all their faith in God. Didn't that mean I could, too?
There was one point during our trek that still makes me hold back tears. It was on that Friday, our first full day of hiking, and my family had just barely set out on the trail. It was then that we reached it. A gigantic stretch of murky mud. There was no telling how deep it was.
We decided to take an approach from the left, unlike the others who had gone before us. Big mistake. As we pushed through, our cart got stuck in the mud as the water level rose above our ankles. It toppled to one side as the relentless mud sucked the wheel down under. My back ached as I struggled to keep the handle above the water without getting my skirt stuck in the wheel. I thought it was all over, until suddenly, I heard cheering. A huge push came from the back and our cart quickly made it out of the water. Honestly, my first thought was, "Oh my gosh, angels just saved us." Looking back to see where the cheering had originated from, I saw a cart had stopped on the other side, and some of the members had rushed over to assist us. It was a beautiful sight.
And the great thing is, only more experiences like this accompanied my trek experience as I witnessed others around me push through physical hardships and help others around them. On the last hill, the home stretch before reaching "Zion", I came across a smaller cart being pulled by two young men. They were at the very back of the long line of carts, because they had insisted on staying behind in case anyone needed to be carried up the hill. It was selfless acts like this that touched me so deeply.
The thing is, we might not live in the same time the pioneers lived in all those years ago. We might not have their same hardships or trials, either. But we all have to press forward and have faith during our hard times. In the youth of today, those trials may consist of struggling with all of the temptations of today's world.
I walked down the outside overhang of my school this morning with a feeling of dread. The atmosphere around me was not like trek at all. I was feeling down, alone, and heavy. But that was when I remembered what I had learned at trek; to press forward with a steadfastness in Christ. Immediately, I lifted my head and put a new stride in my step. I smiled at a friend and held the door open for someone.
Life is always going to have its ups and downs, but when I put my faith in God, I'm filled with confidence and happiness. This gospel makes me so unbelievably happy. I've had trials in my life that sometimes I wish hadn't happened due to the heartbreak that followed, like when my mother passed away, but I know it is trials like this that tests our faith and helps us become the amazing people that God sees us becoming.
Trek has given me such a new outlook on life, and a better understanding of who I am and what my purpose here is. One day, when I return to be with my Father in Heaven, I hope He is there waiting for me, arms outstretched, ready to give me a big hug and whisper, "you made it" and "I'm so proud."
"I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." Philippians 4:13
Monday, March 21, 2016
I hope this helps any of you that are preparing now or in the future to go on trek! And if you've already been, maybe this will provide some nostalgia :)
Try checking out relativefinder.org to see handcart pioneers you may be related to! This site is incredible, and I loved scrolling through and finding out my relations to some of these people.
Read some pioneer stories, watch 17 Miracles, or watch Ephraim's Miracle. Those two movies are AMAZING and really recreate history in a realistic and touching way.
Study and maybe even memorize the 2016 Youth theme from 2 Nephi 31:20! I love this theme so much, and after reading it in the New Era, I memorized it. It comes in handy so much!
Break whatever shoes you're wearing in. Three days left till my trek and I haven't walked in my hiking boots yet. I should probably go do that...
Make a mental list of hobbies, talents, or things about you. No doubt, when you meet your family and start playing games together, you'll most likely have to introduce yourself and three things about you. And if you're like me, YOUR MIND GOES BLANK. "What do you do in your free time? Who are you? What makes you, well, you?" I don't know, I wish I could remember!!!
Learn some square dancing moves! I've heard that on some treks, there will be a dance instructor to teach some pioneer dances to the youth. If you have prior knowledge, even better! I read somewhere that after long days on the trails, square dancing helped rejuvenate the pioneers!
Bring a padded lid for your 5-gallon bucket! You sit on that most of the time when you get a break, so better to be comfy.
I found this quote from an article on LDS Living found here that I think sums up one of my points perfectly: “Go into it knowing that it’s going to be hard, but go into it knowing that it’s not about you. It’s about the kids who are on the trek. It's about how big of a difference you can make for them, and how real of an experience they can have—and most importantly, how much their testimony can grow in the time that you’re with them.”
Attitude is a big thing. I know a lot of people who are not looking forward to trek. Leaving social media, video games, etc., well, it isn't their cup of tea. I'm blessed to be looking forward to it so much, though! So give it a chance, because you get out of it what you put in.
BRING CHAPSTICK. And maybe some wrapped candy like Smarties. Because what better conversation starter than handing out candy and receiving a "thanks!" And people will be grateful for the extra quick burst of energy while walking.
Don't be afraid of the mud. Have a good attitude towards the walking! Also, remember that maybe you are being put in the family you're placed in because God knows you can help someone in that family have amazing experiences, thanks to your help :)
Pray and read your scriptures a lot leading up to trek! You want to be able to recognize and be open to the Spirit during this awesome opprotunity, and reading your scriptures and studying them helps me feel closer to the Savior. Also, pray about what you want to get out of trek. Be honest. Express your concerns. Excitement. Anxiety. Hopes. Feelings. Heavenly Father is there for you! You can do this :)
I hope this helped! I'm glad I finally put all of my thoughts and ideas in one spot. If I think of anymore, I will edit this post, so make sure to check back periodically!
Tuesday, March 8, 2016
I've found myself worrying about this question a lot lately.
Like when I saw that one test grade in Algebra 2.
Or when I saw the way that one person in the hallway looked at me as if I was the literal scum of the Earth.
When I wonder what people think of me.
When I compare class ranks and GPAs.
Or when I wonder how I'm going to survive until Spring Break.
And then there is this other part of me that keeps urging myself to relax. To enjoy this life I've been given.
Like when I walk outside and the sky is so blue that I could just swim away into the infinity, and the sun is so warm that my skin just yearns to stop and let it all soak in. Or when I'm around my friends, and nothing can be heard except the painful exclamations that our stomachs hurt after laughing so hard, and for so long.
Sometimes, it's just hard to remember why we're here. Who we are. What is truly worth obsessing over.
But in those moments of forgetfulness ... in those moments where it seems like all we are doing is drowning in stress and homework and problems and feelings of inadequacy ... there is Someone who can help us get our head back above the water. There is Someone there to help us walk on water. To conquer the trials and difficulties life throws at us.
And that is the Savior.
In Matthew 14:27-31, it says:
27 But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.
28 And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.
29 And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.
30 But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.
31 And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?
I love this. As soon as Peter began to sink, Jesus immediately caught him. He did not let Peter drown. And He will not let us drown either. God gave us His Son, so that we may return to live with them once more. He WANTS us to return. Impossible hardships will come, but with our Savior's help and Heavenly Father's direction, we can overcome those trials. Sometimes, it just takes putting all of our faith in Him. He wants us to be happy and become more like Him.
His plan for us is oh so beautiful and simple.
So, with that, I'm still trying to find my niche. Sometimes, it feels like I'm not good at much of anything. I like playing instruments, but I'm not in band or orchestra. I love to sing, but I'm not in choir. I definitely love to draw, but I'm not in art club. Maybe I just need to go out and try new things. Pick up a Rubik's Cube and learn some algorithms. Go rock-climbing.
I just feel like little ol' me, though. But then I remind myself that some talents don't always seem huge, but they are just as important. They make me, me.
I'm a big empathizer. I understand people well, and I'm very good at being there for someone and just, well, listening. I love to express myself through writing, and I love expanding my knowledge through learning. One might even describe it as a thirst for knowledge. I love making friends and being social. I love making people smile. And I care, a lot.
They don't seem big, or impressive, but they are some of the things that make me who I am. Heck, I'm awkward. I'm a nerd. But I'm awesome. And so are you. You are an incredible human being, with worth beyond your comprehension. You might not know your full mission yet, but you will. Everything will happen in God's own timing. Be confident in knowing He is the one looking out for you :)
I love this exercise, and I found it on this blog here. I definitely encourage ya'll to try it, too.
Isn't that amazing? Now go try it!
Thursday, February 25, 2016
|Youth in Mongolia reenact trek (Image Source here)|
This year for the annual youth conference my church has, we are (all 285+ of us in this area) going on the pioneer handcart trek reenactment. Keeping in mind the 2016 Youth theme from 2 Nephi 31:20, we will be PRESSING FORWARD with a steadfast faith in Christ.
Pressing forward all 22 miles. In pioneer clothing. Pulling/pushing heavy handcarts. Maybe with a few Port-A-Potties scattered here and there.
Think we're crazy? Okay, maybe just a little ;)
I am beyond excited for this opportunity, though. I've only camped twice prior to this, the first time being two years ago for my first youth conference, so it'll be a lot different than what I'm used to. However, I can't wait! I love the atmosphere of church activities and having a great time with friends, but also being able to strengthen my faith and testimony of Jesus Christ at the same time! It will also give me a chance to better undestand what my ancestors went through.
In preparation for this event, all of the youth were encouraged to find an ancestor's name to be baptized for, and in a sense, "take them" on trek. Last night was the designated time to go to the temple, so I went with the rest of my church.
It's been a while since I've been to the temple. I'd say three or four months, maybe. But oh, how I've missed it. The Houston Texas temple is my refuge. It is so beautiful, so peaceful, and so wonderful. I loved seeing all my friends going inside, because I knew we were all there for the same reason; to do the work of the Lord.
I was able to find my third great-grandmother (direct ancestor which is a miracle because it seemed like I couldn't find anyone) and be baptized for her. I really felt like I was being guided to find her while doing family history. It was such a great experience, and as we left the temple last night, I couldn't help but take a picture of it. It was so beautiful the way it was illuminated against the dark of the night.
I always want to keep it in my sights.
"The temple is a point of intersection between heaven and earth. In this sacred place, holy work will be performed through selfless service and love. The temple reminds me of all that is good and beautiful in the world."