New year! New You!!

New Year’s. Its a time for change. Or at least promising ourselves that we will make a change. I mean, let’s be honest. We’ve all been there. We make #allofthegoals. We make #alloftheplans to accomplish said goals. And then February 1st rolls around. We’re tired of hearing #allofourgoals and #allofourplans mock us, so we hide them away till next year. When we don’t remember just how badly that first (or second, or third, or fourth … ) attempt actually went. After all of that Christmas magic has set in and we’re feeling a little more optimistic.

There’s a reason New Year’s and all of those resolutions come after Christmas.

It’s the Savior. His atonement. We’ve just spent a month or more thinking about Him. And all of the things He did. And all of the things He made possible. How could we not feel a little more empowered?

He’s what enables us to even want to try to change. But more than that, He makes the change itself possible. He descended below all things, and then rose above.

So this year, when you make your resolutions, remember that. Remember Him.

Maybe you can’t do it on your own. But who said you have to?


Being good with what you’ve got

Its that time of year again. The one where we gather round a big long table, link hands and pause for a moment over the mountain of food we’re about to inhale. We take a few minutes to talk about what each of us is most thankful for. Family. Friends. Good health. And then, of course, the food.

This is America after all.

But sometimes, even in this feel-good season, with the food and the family and the friends, we don’t feel good. Sometimes we feel forgotten and forsaken. We can feel as though our entire world is tumbling to the ground and God’s can’t be bothered to do a thing about it. Not a dang thing! When we get down in the dumps, buried beneath our individual trials, troubles and circumstances, what do we do?

Alright. #storytime.

It all began when I was a not-so-young and still incredibly inexperienced missionary. Everything was going wrong. I felt like we were doing everything we could. Talking to all of the people. Knocking all of the doors. Asking for all of the referrals. And still we didn’t seem to be getting anywhere. I was exhausted. I was impatient. And the one good thing that happened all day was when we got the mail. One handwritten letter for each of us. Success! My companion picked up a letter from her mother. And handed me a bill.


To be honest, we’d been having quite a bit of those. Everyday seemed like another opportunity to be sideswiped by tragedy.

And then at night I’d get on my knees to pray. And my mind would race and I would think over all of the things that I’d done that day and all of the things I could have done better. And all of the things that were going wrong. And all of the things I couldn’t seem to settle in my mind. And I’d ask God to please just give me something. And for all of my efforts, I felt like I was getting a busy signal.

So, one morning, I decided enough was enough. I wasn’t going to keep on like this anymore. I asked God and went to the words of our living prophets. And there I stumbled across President Uchtdorf’s talk, “Grateful in Any Circumstances“. I inhaled it. I needed more. Next “The Divine Gift of Gratitude“. Then “Forget Me Not“. And as I was studying, my mind caught hold on an experience that I’d had a few months earlier.

<< Flashback. It was Valentine’s Day. And I was feeling pretty sorry for myself. I was creeping up on 24. By my age my mother was married with a kid. Now I know what you’re thinking. “That was a different time. They did things different back then.” Not so. I have loads of friends working on kid number two and three by now. And there I was. Barely six months into a mission. With no end in sight. Single as I’d ever been. And single as I’ll ever be … Hopefully.

And to make it worse, I wasn’t even supposed to be thinking about it. I was a missionary for crying out loud! We’re supposed to always be happy, and focused, and not the least bit concerned about dating. Even on Valentine’s Day.

So I did the only thing I could. I knelt down and said a prayer. I said, “I know this is stupid. I know I’m not supposed to care. But I do.” And I asked him to give me something. Anything to make me feel just the teeniest bit better about my current circumstance. Then I opened to Mormon 9. A couple columns in, I read this:

“And then cometh the time that he that is filthy shall be filthy still; and he that is righteous shall be righteous still; he that is happy shall be happy still; and he that is unhappy shall be unhappy still” (Mormon 9:14).

<< Flashback within a flashback. It was high school. Sophomore year. I was visiting the Randall home, like I often did in those days. And I found myself alone in the living room with Brother Randall. He was asking me about my plans for the future. What I wanted to do with my life. I told him everything. All my hopes. All my dreams. All of the things. And then, in conclusion, I said, “I’ll be happy when I get to college.”

Up until that point, he’d been pretty silent, nodding appropriately here and there. But when I said that, his face fell, “You’re wishing your life away.”

I looked at him. Speechless. (Which, if you know me at all, is pretty rare.)

He clarified, “If you can’t be happy now, what in the world makes you think you’ll be happy in college?”

That’s always stuck with me.

>> >> Back to the problem at hand.

I realized that I’d been focusing entirely too much on what I felt I lacked. Like Christ’s apostles, when he fed the four thousand (Matthew 15:33), I questioned, how can we fill so much need? And like those disciples, I too was gently rebuked, as He prayed, giving thanks for the loaves and fishes they did have. He showed us that what you focus on grows (Matthew 15:36-37).

When you focus on wants.

They grow.

When you focus on disparities.

They grow.

When you focus on challenges or trials or inequalities. They go from bumps in the road to insurmountable mountains.


Need I say more?

People assume that happiness is an absence of trial. That once your problems go away, you can really get a hold on it. That it comes from having what you want. That if you’ve got all of the things you can finally be happy. But in reality, happiness is a whole lot simpler. And a whole lot easier to get your hands on. Happiness isn’t a matter of circumstance. It’s a matter of choice. It’s a matter of choosing not to look at a perceived lack, but rather to see the abundant blessings God has already given you.

President Uchtdorf taught,

“The happiest people I know are not those who find their golden ticket; they are those who, while in pursuit of worthy goals, discover and treasure the beauty and sweetness of the everyday moments.”

And isn’t that what this blog is all about? Opening your eyes and looking for the good all around you. Taking in the good each day and letting yourself be happy. Because, really, why limit yourself? There is so much in this world to be thankful for. Family. Friends. That Thanksgiving feast waiting to be devoured. So this year, before you dig in, remember to pause and see the good. Remember that you’ve got a loving Heavenly Father who’s got your back. He’s got a plan for your life. And He’s put a world full of tender mercies at your feet if only you’ll open up your eyes and look at them.

#LDSconf: Top 12

General Conference

So conference is just around the corner. You know what that means. Answers to the questions of your soul! The heavens are no longer sealed. God speaks to his children. And He wants to speak to you! So study up. Pray and prepare. And then tune in Saturday and Sunday, October 4-5.

These are my favorites from April’s conference.

1. Grateful in any Circumstance: Dieter f. Uchtdorf
“There seems to be something inside of us that resists endings. . . . Why is this? Because we are made of the stuff of eternity. We are eternal beings, children of the Almighty God, whose name is Endless and who promises eternal blessings without number. Endings are not our destiny.”

2. Love-the Essence of the Gospel: Thomas S. Monson
“Actually, love is the very essence of the gospel, and Jesus Christ is our Exemplar. His life was a legacy of love. The sick He healed; the downtrodden He lifted; the sinner He saved.”

“Perhaps you will forget tomorrow the kind words you say today, but the recipient may cherish them over a lifetime.”
Dale Carnegie

3. Bear Up Their Burdens with Ease: David A. Bednar
“There is no physical pain, no spiritual wound, no anguish of soul or heartache, no infirmity or weakness you or I ever confront in mortality that the Savior did not experience first. In a moment of weakness we may cry out, “No one knows what it is like. No one understands.” But the Son of God perfectly knows and understands, for He has felt and borne our individual burdens. And because of His infinite and eternal sacrifice (see Alma 34:14), He has perfect empathy and can extend to us His arm of mercy. He can reach out, touch, succor, heal, and strengthen us to be more than we could ever be and help us to do that which we could never do relying only upon our own power. Indeed, His yoke is easy and His burden is light.”

4. “I Have Given You an Example”: Richard G. Scott
“Both Grandmother Whittle and Jeanene loved me enough to share their conviction that the ordinances of the gospel and serving Father in Heaven would bless my life. Neither of them coerced me or made me feel bad about the person I was. They simply loved me and loved Father in Heaven. Both knew He could do more with my life than I could on my own. Each courageously helped me in loving ways to find the path of greatest happiness.”

5. The Cost—and Blessings—of Discipleship: Jeffrey R. Holland
“Christlike love is the greatest need we have on this planet in part because righteousness was always supposed to accompany it. So if love is to be our watchword, as it must be, then by the word of Him who is love personified, we must forsake transgression and any hint of advocacy for it in others. Jesus clearly understood what many in our modern culture seem to forget: that there is a crucial difference between the commandment to forgive sin (which He had an infinite capacity to do) and the warning against condoning it (which He never ever did even once).”

6.The Prophet Joseph Smith: Lawrence E. Corbridge
“Look for the biggest dust cloud billowing above the most dirt that is kicked at One who was most opposed, challenged, and rejected, beaten, abandoned, and crucified, One who descended below all things, and there you will find the truth, the Son of God, the Savior of all mankind.”

7. The Keys and Authority of the Priesthood: Dallin H. Oaks
“Whoever exercises priesthood authority should forget about their rights and concentrate on their responsibilities. “

“It is time … to defend not so much human rights as human obligations.” Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

8. What Are You Thinking?: W. Craig Zwick
“The willingness to see through each other’s eyes will transform “corrupt communication” into “minister[ing] grace.” The Apostle Paul understood this, and on some level each of us can experience it too. It may not change or solve the problem, but the more important possibility may be whether ministering grace could change us.”

9. What Manner of Men?: Donald all. Hallstrom
“Who we are is not who we can become.”

10. The Choice Generation: Randall L. Ridd
“My young brothers, if you are not proactive in educating your desires, the world will do it for you.”

“Agency is your power to become. Each choice takes you closer to or further from what you are meant to become; … Always ask yourself, “Where will this choice lead?” Develop the ability to see beyond the moment.”

“What we insistently desire, over time, is what we will eventually become and what we will receive in eternity … Only by educating and training our desires can they become our allies instead of our enemies!” Neal A. Maxwell

11. “If Ye Love Me, Keep My Commandments”: Robert D. Hales
“To rationalize disobedience does not change spiritual law or its consequences.”

“Spiritually mature obedience is “the Savior’s obedience.” It is motivated by true love for Heavenly Father and His Son.”

12. Following Up: M. Russell Ballard
“No matter how good your message is, you may not get a chance to deliver it without consistent, persistent follow-up.”


I put a ring on it.

It’s official.

I’m no longer a visa waiter.

“Choose your love. Love your choice.” Thomas S. Monson

A year and a half ago I put my papers in and received a call to serve in the Brazil Ribierão Preto Mission. And honestly it scared me to death. I’m a little white girl from Oklahoma and after 5 years of Spanish–I could BARELY get by. How was I supposed to learn a whole other language? In six weeks!

But after some very long prayers and with a lot of encouragement, I decided to do it. I got my wisdom teeth pulled, got about 15 shots, and I put in for my visa.

Not surprisingly, five months later, I ended up in the Provo MTC. My visa hadn’t come through yet. But I wasn’t worried.  Most people didn’t get their visas–at least for the first few months. And that felt right to me. I’d always thought that I would serve a stateside mission. And I wasn’t too bothered about getting my feet under me before trying to immerse in a whole new culture.

My six weeks came and went and I received my temporary reassignment to serve in the Oregon Portland Mission. I was actually really thrilled. Oregon seemed exactly right. And it has been. It’s really been good to me in the last year.

And that brings me to the #visadecision.

A month and a half ago, President came to me and asked me to make a decision on whether or not I would stay in the mission. He gave me a week. That week was one of the hardest weeks of my life.

I felt like Adam and Eve in the garden. Given the option to “choose for [themselves]” what they would. I felt like there must be a clearly wrong decision. One that would completely change life as I knew it. But, hard as I prayed, I could not seem to come to an answer.

So I asked for a priesthood blessing. Because that’s the closest thing I can think of to having a sit down with God. In the blessing I was told that it was my choice. That neither choice would dramatically alter the course of my life. And that if I chose Brazil, that I would see its people and teach them. That should have been comforting. Knowing that I couldn’t choose wrong. But I still struggled. I felt that somehow choosing one would mean that the other was less important to me. That if I chose to stick it out for Brazil I’d be choosing against Portland and all of the people I’ve grown to love here.

Stupid. I know.

But that’s what was in my head.

So I deliberated.

I started out with going. Fully committed myself to that. And then, the next hour, fully committed myself to staying. Asked myself what would be different? What would be the same? What were the benefits? What were the drawbacks? How each option would help to prepare me for future service to God’s children?

By the evening. I had almost decided to go.

But I wanted to be sure.

So I asked for another blessing.

This time the focus was different. This time I was assured that I’d made relationships here that would last forever. That what The Lord wanted to happen would happen and that the decision I was considering was a good one. And feeling confident in that, I made the decision to go. I only had a month left before I was reassigned anyway. So why not??

And if there were any doubts, they were completely removed the next day when I received a very timely fortune cookie.

But as the weeks went on, I began to doubt. How could The Lord be sure that I would choose what He wanted for me? Unless my choice didn’t matter?

And then I heard that the powers that be in Salt Lake had adopted a new policy of NOT reassigning missionaries.

And then I called into the travel office.

And then I found out that once again my paperwork had to be redone.

So I decided to reevaluate the #visadecision.

Because with six months left to go. I’m not so sure anymore that I even want to.

First off. I love here. I love everything about here. I love seeing Mount Hood looming in the distance. I love the rolling hills of Damascus. I love going to Portland on P-days and finding any and every excuse to drive up the hill to the temple in Lake Oswego. But more than that I love the people. I’ve found a family out here in Portland. And it would break my heart to leave.

And then there’s the social media revolution. Here in the Oregon Portland Mission we’ve been given pretty much every opportunity to share the gospel. Every tool. Every advantage. And, being a
communications grad, I know a thing or two about social media. So there are things that I can do here to progress the work that I can’t do anywhere else.

So I took it to The Lord. Finally satisfied that He wasn’t going to settle this one for me. No matter how long I chose to put off the decision.

So I looked back over the past month. On how things had changed since I realized that no one was going to make my decision for me. And you know what. I discovered something very interesting. I’d altogether stopped. I’d stopped studying. I’d stopped checking my visa. I’d stopped even thinking about going. And it occurred to me that I’d made the decision a long time ago to stay.

So I got down on my knees. And I said a very different sort of prayer. This time I wasn’t asking what The Lord wanted me to do. I wasn’t asking what was right. I’d studied it out. I’d come to a conclusion. But I wanted to know that my decision was one that he would support.

And with that confirmation I called President and told him to let them know they could finally quit trying to push my papers.

They made a good effort. But I’m choosing to stay!

Lessons in Hiking

“Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”
John 8:12


Every summer my family goes on vacation.

Usually we go to Bear Lake.

To be with the fam.

Because we like them.

And because it’s tradition.

But this particular year, funds were a little tighter than normal. So we decided to stick close to home.

Roman Nose National Park fit the bill.

So we cleaned the house (who wants to come back to a dirty one?), packed our bags and loaded the camper. And a couple of hours later we pulled into the park. We drove around for a bit and scoped out the park, looking for the perfect spot, and then circled back around to the little store we’d seen on our way in. My mom headed in to grab some bread and other essentials.

Us girls wandered in after her–my father rolling his eyes–we never miss a chance to shop.

7 minutes later, we’re all out again.

My mom, disgusted.

She couldn’t believe they’d charge “Five thousand dollars” for that tiny little jar of peanut butter.

So back to the site to set up camp.

And our customary, first-night-of-camping dinner, Frito chili pie.


We clear the table and play a few games.

And then my mom wants to go for a hike. She noticed a trail leading to a lookout point and she thinks it would be really fun to go watch the sun set from there. And the trail’s not long and I’m always up for an after dinner walk, so I agree to go. We grab a flashlight–because it might get dark on our way back–and head out.

We walk for about half a mile and come to what I think must be the look out.

It’s not very impressive.

So I suggest that we head back.

But my mother, convinced that this is not the real look out, wants to keep going.

So we do.

And we keep going. And going. And going. And going.

And still. No lookout.

In fact, we’re headed for this forest of trees.

Which seems counter intuitive.

But we keep going, my mother, undeterred.

We cross through one section, without too much difficulty. But by the time we hit the second section, the sun has already set.

Add the trees are getting bigger.

Scary big.

We’re talking Forbidden Forest caliber.

Any second I expect to see one of those gigantor spiders crawl across the trail.

My mom, who had taken the lead, pulls out her flashlight.

From behind her I can hardly see anything. So she has to tell me when to step up, to avoid a root, or when the trail drops down.

After about ten minutes, sensing my impatience, she lets me take the lead. I do a much worse job of letting her know about rocks and roots. Knowing I’ve frustrated her, and fearing that she’ll twist an ankle, I give the flashlight back to her.

A few minutes later we’re out of the forest and back in the open.

I let out an audible sigh of relief.

But too soon.

In the distance I hear one long low howl.

And then another.

We’re going to die here.

On this stupid trail.

In the middle of nowhere.

They’ll probably find our bodies tomorrow when they send out a helicopter.

Or maybe those ravenous wolves will eat us.

The trail curves upward in a spiral.

But we need to be heading downward.

And to make things worse, the flashlight has started to sputter.

Feeling hopeless, I look out over the expanse of trees and notice, for the first time, lights in the distance. My mother mentions that they belong to the lodge. It takes everything in me to not run wildly in its direction.

But I know we can’t leave the path.

If we do, we’ll be goners.

So we keep moving forward. There’s gotta be a trail marker soon.

And there is.

Attached to a fork in the road.

It was the worst thing that could have happened.

So we deliberate for a minute.

We’ve been on this trail for a hundred years. It’s gotta be coming to a close.


But then again, neither of us are too keen on taking another jaunt through the forbidden forest.

Especially now. In the dead of night.

So we opt to put it in the Lord’s hands and say a prayer.

We’re not really sure what we ought to do.

There’s no clear answer.

So we guess.

We decide to leave our current trail in hopes that the other will be shorter.

And thank heaven, it is.

Within ten minutes we’re back on the main road and headed back to our campsite.

On our way there, we meet my dad.

Bless him.

He’s been driving around for a half hour looking for us.

Okay, so besides being one of the scarier things that has ever happened to me. There are actually a ton of lessons that I’ve learned from that experience.


Here are a few:

1. Be prepared.

Because there’s going to come a day when a hastily grabbed flashlight isn’t enough.

It was only by the grace of God that we didn’t end up stuck on a mountain at night without a light. It makes me think of the ten virgins. Five of which (and in this situation, I would have been one of them) had empty, or seriously depleted oil lamps.

Seriously depleted is not enough!

Half full is not enough!

You’d never leave home without a full charge on your cell phone.

And in the same way we must work every day to keep ourselves spiritually charged by continually plugging into the scriptures and praying daily.

Getting recharged takes time.

Building a relationship with the Lord takes time.

In the Book of Mormon, Amulek, says: “This life is the time for men to prepare to meet God” (Alma 34:32).

This life. Right here. Right now.

This is when we make the efforts and spend the time to know God. So that when we see His face, He will be familiar to us.

That is life eternal, knowing God.

2. Those who have additional light have a responsibility to share.

In the Book of Matthew, Christ said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

Each of us have a solemn duty to share what we know.

My mother held the light. She knew I could not see. And so she took the steps to help me know where to go until I held a light of my own.

There are loads of people who would come to the truth if they knew where to “find it“. If someone would “guide them“.

But sometimes it’s not easy to share.

Sometimes we’re not very good at it.

I’m a missionary.

I’ve been there.

Most days I AM there.

I’m not all that good at telling people about the gospel.

But I know a thing or two about sharing.

And if you start with a good, easy to swallow, comfortable invitation. You’re halfway there.

3. Prayers are rarely answered on your knees.

One of my good friends pointed out this scripture.

“And the Lord said: Go to work . . .” (Ether 2:16).

Go to work.

I like that.

It says get up off your duff and make it happen.

The Lord didn’t answer my prayer as I stood, arms folded, at the crossroads.

He didn’t answer until we had fully committed ourselves to a course of action and had started walking.

Most of the time our prayers aren’t answered while we’re on our knees.

More often than not, it’s when we make an educated guess and then go to work.

He wants us to learn.

And the best way for us to learn is by doing.

Concerning Portland, Brazil, and Trusting in the Lord

You’ve been asking, so here’s the answer.

“Why aren’t you in Brazil?”

For those of you who don’t know, in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, mission calls are assigned by a member of the 12 Apostles–men called as special witnesses of Christ.

These men look over EVERY application for missionary service.

And there are a lot.

And they pray over each one. They ask for the Lord’s assistance to determine where each missionary ought to go. Then they make the assignment and the applicant decides whether or not they would like to fulfill that call.

My call hasn’t exactly worked out the way that they normally do.


So I’m here in Portland. Tracting, teaching, serving, and doing all of the stuff that missionaries normally do.

And I absolutely love it.

I couldn’t be happier.

“But I bet you’re anxious to get to your real mission.”

My call letter didn’t specify that I’d be here in Portland. And it certainly didn’t specify that I’d be in a temple visitors center, but I like to think that this is what The Lord had planned.

I like to think that the apostle who assigned me paused over my call–not really sure where to put me–that there was some hesitation.


Or Brazil?

Visitors center.

Or full pros?

I needed to be in the MTC, when I was there. I needed to meet and teach and learn from the people I met there.

But I need to be here too.

I’ve learned so many lessons that I, personally, need. And I’ve met so many people who have changed me forever.

That could only happen here in the Oregon Portland Mission.

People always ask me if I’m anxious to get to my REAL mission.

I’m here.

The Oregon Portland Mission IS my mission.

And maybe Brazil is too.

Only time will tell.

If I never make it to Brazil, I’ll be satisfied. Because I know that this is where The Lord wants me to be. Right now. Consulates and red tape don’t stop Him.

Nothing can stop the Lord.

He’s got me right where He wants me.

And that’s right where I want to be.

I feel so very grateful to be here: hastening the work of salvation in the Oregon Portland Mission, in the Lake Oswego ward. I feel so strongly that this is where The Lord needs me right now. And whenever and wherever He needs me to go, I’ll be happy to do that too. Because I trust Him.

Keep Moving Forward

2013 is gone.

It’s never coming back.

The new year is a time to reflect. What have I done this year? How am I going to change? Am I willing to do what is required in order to get where I want to be?

Whatever happened last year, whatever we did, whatever we were: we can start over. Try a little harder to be a little better.

And that’s what this life is all about: learning, and growing, and moving forward. Mistakes are part of that process. But, we don’t have to be defined by them. We don’t have to dwell in our misfortunes. We can “look ahead and believe“.

In the Disney film, Meet the Robinsons, a young inventor struggles to perfect many of his inventions. As he does so, he is often disappointed when they don’t work quite as he had planned.

One scene in particular stands out to me. At the dinner table, the family encourages Lewis to use his peanut butter and jelly gun to make a sandwich. The gun, much like his other inventions, fails to perform. It sputters, pops, and shoots food matter all over the room.

Lewis is mortified.

To his surprise, the family celebrates.

Big banners and fanfare encourage him to “keep moving forward!”

And with the understanding that mistakes aren’t something to be ashamed of–that they’re simply part of the process–he is much more capable. He works harder. He goes further.

The Lord understands our difficulties. He understands that we’re human. He knows that failure is just part of the process. And that’s why He sent His son. So that when we struggle, we can receive help. When we aren’t enough, we can be. When we fall, we can rise again and keep moving forward.