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.

#antimiracle

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.

Pimples.

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.

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#premissionslump

I never wanted to go on a mission.

It was about the furthest thing from my mind. I had other plans. I was going places. And an eighteen month break from reality–to serve the Lord–not one of them. I mean, I loved God. But I had things to do … important ones. And I felt like those things were more than enough to be worried about.

But the Lord’s plans often do not look a whole lot like ours … Happily, they’re better than ours. And even happier, He’s provided several ways for us to know what he would have us do.

One of them is through the words of a living prophet. This one’s pretty near and dear to my heart. I mean, I love that man! Because he was person God used to answer my prayers. The clearest answer I have ever received to a prayer came by way of that man, our prophet. Thomas S. Monson is an inspired man. The apostles are inspired men. The words they speak in general conference are absolutely the words that God would have us hear. He wants to direct our lives. And He will, IF we will allow it.


#storytime

This story begins back in 2009. I was a sophomore at BYU. And I’d successfully (?) maneuvered my way through freshman year without going on a single date. So, I did the only reasonable thing and decided to start off my #foreveralone life early by taking mission prep.

I loved that class. Everything about it. Brother Livingston. Genius! Street contacting on campus. No problem. Reciting section 4. Like a boss. Singing “Called to Serve”. Brought tears to my eyes. I had mission fever. Bad. And there was no cure!

(Okay, so maybe there WAS a time when I wanted to serve.)

But I was 19. And 21 was a long way away.

(Remember when 2 years was a long time. Yeah, me neither.)

So I did the only natural thing.

I decided to forget about it.

I refocused on other priorities and moved on. I put in a few more years of school. Learned how to bake bread. Joined my first sports team. Hosted a weekly game night. Took up Spanish. Dabbled in animation. Published a newsletter. Started a blog. And headed my first project in the Adlab.

And before long, the #missiondecision crept back into the conversation–Or, to be more correct–crept into EVERY conversation. Like, no joke. I could not avoid it to save my life. Even if a mission wasn’t on MY mind. It WAS on the minds of everyone around me. I’m talking roommates, coworkers, home teachers, visiting teachers, my bishop, and every boy I tried to work it with.

There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to make things happen with a cute boy when all he wants to do is talk about his mission. Or worse, when he wants to try and convince YOU to go on a mission.

Talk about a blow to your self esteem.

I could not escape it.

Which made me less and less interested in going.

So, I don’t like to be told what to do.

I decided to finish up school. Do an internship and then figure things out from there.

First the internship. Okay. Let me level with you here. I applied to over 30 locations. Everything from prominent and prestigious ad agencies to no-name non-profits that could really use some help in their communications departments. I applied in state. Out of state. Over seas. Nothing. Not a dang thing!

Finally, in March I got a call back. It was from this little agency in Boston. I’d seen their work. I’d seen their space. I’d done my research. And I just knew they were the one. I needed to work there. So I busted my butt writing the perfect cover letter. I milked my portfolio for all it was worth, and probably, actually, a little more than it was worth, and sent in an application. Two days later I got a call. They’d liked what they’d seen so far and wanted to do an interview. They told me they’d be in touch via email to set something up.

That email never came.

So I contacted them. I mean, I’m not about to let something that good just slip away!

Nothing.

I tried again.

Still nothing.

For whatever reason I never was able to get back in contact with them.

So I did the only thing I could do. I called my mom, frustrated and upset. She gently reminded me that I could try for something back home. She’d been suggesting it from the start. But I didn’t want to go back home. I felt like that would be career suicide–I mean, when you think advertising, you don’t think Oklahoma–but I was getting desperate. So that night I put in three applications.

The next day I got a call.

A couple of weeks later I had my interview. And that afternoon, I had an internship. Nine hours a day, two days a week, May through August.

Well, that still left me with three days a week where I wasn’t doing much of anything. And midway through June all of that free time didn’t seem quite as appealing any more. So I sent out another round of applications.

The next day. Another call. Everything went really well until they asked about availability. I felt wrong about leaving my other internship for this one.

Even though this one paid.

Really well.

So I expressed that to them. I told them about the other internship and how I felt that I needed to see that through–that was the beginning of the end.

And because I didn’t get that job or any of the other ten I applied to, I quit applying. I told myself I’d try again at the end of the summer when I had depleted all of my savings (?) and finally had a degree …

So I spent time in the interim cleaning house, going through the attic and organizing the pantry for my parents–anything I could do to pick up an extra buck here or there. Anything I could do to feel a little less like a free loader and a little more like an actual person. And when I wasn’t doing that, I spent all of my free time with my new best friend, Netflix.

I led an admittedly pathetic existence.

I felt like a nothing. Like a nobody. I felt like a waste of space. And a waste of time. I felt entirely too dependent on everyone around me. And, unwilling to be an emotional burden as well, I kept to myself.

Unemployment does not look good on me.

I spent hours in prayer looking for answers and begging God to help me. I felt so lost. I needed a shove in the right direction. Something. Anything, to let me know that I wasn’t going it alone.

And then on a fateful day in October. President Thomas S. Monson got up to speak in General Conference, and changed my life. By direction from our Heavenly Father, he lowered the age requirements from missionary service.

I was 23. So this didn’t really affect me. I could have served. If I’d wanted to. At any time. But I didn’t want to. I didn’t need to until He made the change. I just sat there thinking to myself about all of those young ladies who’d be going out. Ready and willing to serve God. Unlike me. And something inside me changed. For the first time in a long time I felt a sense of purpose. I felt like there was something that I needed to do. I felt like those young girls needed me. So I made up my mind to go. Right then and there.

Immediately I rushed to my room, grabbed a notebook, and started crunching numbers. I could have enough saved by the following August to pay for my mission in full. But I knew I couldn’t wait that long. I needed to be out in the field by August. I knew that with every piece of my soul. I concluded that if I had at least 4 months at a decent job, I’d have done as much as I could to make things happen on my own, while still respecting the Lord’s wishes. And I knew if I did my best, the Lord would help me.

And He has. It’s been here on my mission that I’ve come to understand that God is right there with us. He knows the twists and turns down the road. He knows what lies ahead. He knows where we’ve been and where we are going to end up. And He is very willing to guide us if we will let him. He won’t force it. He never does. But he will shine a light for us to follow.

That light can take many forms.

If you can’t tell, I’m pretty partial to the words of the prophets. They are called and inspired of God to tell us what He would have us hear. But if we don’t listen. If we are unwilling to receive that counsel and make it part of our lives, then what does it profit us?

It doesn’t.

God gently suggested a mission to me loads of times. But I wouldn’t listen. He pretty overtly advised it on at least three separate occasions. But because I was unwilling to hear and even more unwilling to change, all of that counsel fell on deaf ears. God had to move heaven and earth to get me an answer to my prayers. So I KNOW that He can direct some one of the speakers in General Conference to get you the answers you need. And He will.

So watch General Conference. Just do it! And listen. Really listen. God’s got a talk with your name on it. He’s got an answer to your prayers. And if you’re willing to let Him, He will change your life.

The Lord Answers Prayers

Whether we really need those answers. And whether or not we deserve them. He responds. He doesn’t leave us alone to wonder. And struggle. And anguish. He comes to our rescue.

I’ve had that a few times this week.

And in varying degrees.

But here’s one of the ones that really stuck out to me:

Monday night.

Family night.

We had an appointment. That we didn’t adequately prepare for. We needed a member to go to this appointment with us. Because if we didn’t get a member, then we weren’t going in. And it was particularly cold on this evening. So we NEEDED to go in.

If for nothing more than the fact that it would be extremely rude to make someone stand out on the porch to receive a lesson that we had set up a week ago.

So we did what all missionaries, running low on luck do, we prayed.

And the Lord made it all work out.

He found someone to go to our appointment with us.

And then when that appointment fell through.

He provided someone else for us to meet.

It totally amazes me how the Lord works. How he can–by closing windows–open doors for us that we never realized were there.

It is my hope that we can all have eyes to see those unexpected doors. That we can look for unplanned opportunities to serve and share. Especially now, during the Christmas season when so many more hearts are opened to the Savior.

Sometimes a Prompting is Just a Good Idea

Once upon a time.

When my companion wasn’t my companion, she met a lady in a dog park. And like all good missionaries, she struck up a conversation. In which she invited this sweet lady to come to the Portland Temple Visitors Center.

Which is a great place to visit by the way.

I, myself, am quite partial to it.

Anyways, she was super stoked to come visit.

With her daughter.

However, she is a very busy woman.

And her daughter is even busier.

So we haven’t as of yet been able to schedule a time when both of them are available to come visit. >
But the other day we called.

Because it’s transfers.

And transfers are a great excuse to see people.

Because you may never see them again.

And that touches people.

And guess what.

The timing just happened to be perfect.

I say that because she wasn’t particularly busy.

But also because she needed the call.

Almost as soon as she answered I could tell.

She was upset about something.

It had been weighing on her mind for quite some time.

And right then I knew.

I just KNEW we needed to pray with her.

I had no idea why.

But the Lord knew.

He knew that it would mean something special to her.

He knew that she used to have a friend that she would pray with when things got hard.

So He made it happen.

The Gift of Tongues, Graham Canyon, and other Blessings

I arrived here at the MTC almost one week ago, but it feels like I’ve been here forever.

Every day is sooooooo long.

Ive never been this productive.

Like ever.

I got here Wednesday at 1:15. And the traffic was crazy. So many missionaries all anxious to serve the Lord. Its great!! I got signed in and got my badge, dropped my stuff off and by 2.00 was in class.

Learning Portuguese.

Talk about NO down time.

But Its really cool, because in 3 days I could already hold my own in a conversation with a fluent speaker for 35 minutes. And understand most of what was said.

Something that took me most of 3 years to be able to do in Spanish.

But the cool thing is that I can actually feel the prayers said in my behalf. I can feel that extra strength getting me there.

I mean, there’s no way that I’m doing this on my own.

It’s just not possible.

But this is the Lord’s work. And He will make us equal to the task if we put everything we’ve got into it.

And you best believe we are.

We wake up every morning at 6 am, head to breakfast, and then straight to class, then personal study, lunch, additional study, more class, dinner, more study, and teaching time.

We study for like 15 hours a day.

Okay like 11.

But its soooooo worth it. Because were learning so much. Not just the language. But how to be a good companion. And how to be totally obedient in everything we do. Because both of those things will help further the work. And that’s our goal. To spread the good news of the Jesus Christs atonement and the Restoration of the Gospel.

So, my prophesy came true. My first senior companion is like 4 years younger than me. But its crazy, because were exactly alike. We both go nuts for the BYU Creamery Ice cream on Sundays (they have Graham Canyon–can you believe it?!).

We both like singing.

All the time.

And if I’m being completely honest, she had me at alonsey.

I’m so excited to get out there and do the work of the Lord and help others come unto Christ.

Till next time,
Sister Lewis

Overheard at the MTC:
“The sisters are so lucky. They get to wear necklaces. I wanna wear a necklace . . . Like Kanye.” Elder Epley

“I can do a bridge.”
” . . . I can do a Rubix Cube.” Elder Epley

“I heard Elder Holland is one of the three Nephites.” -Random Elder at Devotional

“Have you ever noticed how much flirting goes on in our district?” Elder Peterson

“White people are some of the most discriminated against.” Elder Dilts
“Well my whole race was killed.” Elder Oxendine

Word of the Week:
Repetir: to repeat
Pronounced: hepe cheer.

Or as I like to say: Happy Cheer.