Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Faith Factor!

Did you ever watch Fear Factor? I remember watching it with my dad when I was quite a bit younger. I remember being completely grossed out when contestants had to complete challenges such as eating worms or sitting in a barrel full of cockroaches for as long as they possibly could. Ick!

What is fear? Fear is an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.

Fear is an emotion that Satan wants us to have because he knows it will hold us back from reaching our full potential. About a month ago, we had a meeting with some of the other missionaries that serve in the area near where I'm currently serving. We talked about our fears and what keeps us back from sharing the gospel or from being the missionaries that God wants us to be. We each took a small pumpkin and wrote our fears on it.

Sister Williams and I holding our fears in our hands!

We talked about having the faith to SMASH our fears. Yes, we literally smashed our fears on our pumpkins with a baseball bat. It was awesome. Honestly, I felt like I put my baseball family to shame because of my inability to use a baseball bat...but that's beside the point. I hit my pumpkin on the first swing! Woo! haha.

By smashing my pumpkin, I committed to exercise faith in Christ to help me overcome my fears.

Some of my fears that keep me from sharing the gospel included:
  • being judged
  • my own pride
  • not knowing how to answer really hard questions
  • tick bites (yes, I actually put that on my pumpkin... I'm afraid I'll be walking up to someone's door and have to walk through tall grass where there are tons of ticks!)
Honestly, I don't have a ton of fears that are keeping me back from fulfilling my purpose as a missionary, but those are the biggies. When I smashed my pumpkin, I committed to living my own Faith Factor reality show! 

What is faith? 

And now as I said concerning faith—faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true. Alma 32:21

Faith is a principle of action and power! It's believing in something that you can't see, and then doing something about it and trusting that God will take over the part that we have no control over. That's when miracles happen! :) 

My little Faith Factor reality show is simply explained in what is called the Faith Cycle. 

27. But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.

 28. Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief...

The left side of the cycle in green is what we can control. This is how we show our faith to God. Once we do what we can, we put it all into God's hands and trust that He will take care of the rest. Our mission was visited by one of our world wide leaders, Elder Kopischke. He taught us about this faith cycle and said, "Faith is really the attitude that I have about the things that I can control." I'd never thought about it in that way before! Just because I don't see the miracle that I want right away doesn't mean that I have a lack of faith! It's all about the commitment I have to walk my side of the cycle. The rest of the verse talks about how God will take over the rest of the faith cycle.

 ...that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.

 29. Now behold, would not this increase your faith? I say unto you, Yea Alma 32:27-29

What fears do you have that are keeping you from fulfilling your purpose in life? How are you going to walk the faith cycle and play your own reality game show of Faith Factor? I challenge you to exercise your faith by walking the faith cycle. Pick a fear that you have, and then take it to God. Ask Him how you can improve and then do all you can. I promise that even if you don't see immediate results from the "power" side of the cycle, they WILL come in God's time.

I know faith works! I love the confidence it gives me knowing that so long as I'm doing what I can, I can give it all to God and trust in His outcome. Faith truly does precede the miracle! :) 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


I just saw my friend's blog post about #thankfultuesday found here, and I wanted to participate! After all, gratitude is the catalyst for all Christlike attributes! :)

My missionary companion, Sister Williams, has a catch phrase that she made up:

No complaints, just thanks!

Whenever she is starting to complain about anything, she says something that she's grateful for. I need to follow her example by being more grateful for what I do have rather than focusing on the negatives. 

Thou shalt thank the Lord thy God in all things. Doctrine and Covenants 59:7

I am going to live in gratitude daily! Here I go:

1. I am grateful to be the Lord's missionary. There is nothing like helping others come closer to Christ and seeing the positive changes the gospel brings into their lives.

2. I am grateful for a car! Not every missionary has the privilege of driving around in a car. I'm sure you've seen some Elders riding around on their bikes... Not that I have anything against bikes, but I know for a fact that I would be way uncomfortable riding a bike in a skirt every day!

3. I am grateful for the scriptures- especially the Book of Mormon. It's so wonderful that our Heavenly Father loves us so much that he's prepared a record of His dealings with the human race just for ME! (Okay, okay, the scriptures are for everyone, but when I study, what I'm reading applies to me and my life and what I'm dealing with in the moment!)

4. I am grateful for my wonderful companion, Sister Williams. She helps me to be patient with myself and to see myself the way that the Savior does. She's a great friend! :)

5. I am grateful for the Holy Spirit. God gives me promptings, usually through my own thoughts, that when I act on them, lead me to where I need to be in that moment. It's amazing to see the miracles that follow when I act on the promptings I'm given!

6. I'm grateful for the simplicity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ! It really all comes down to faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end. And the way we come to know of God's truth is by sincerely studying with real intent, pondering about it and then asking God if it's true! That's really how simple it is! "And by the power of the Holy Ghost, ye may know the truth of all things." -Moroni 10:5

7. I'm grateful for the technology we have so that I can share my testimony with a more broad audience of people! Until recently, missionaries weren't allowed to use facebook or blogs to share our wonderful message.

8. I'm grateful for food! Today I almost had to skip lunch because we had an appointment right after a meeting, and I knew it would throw my entire day off. But luckily, we had a member who felt like she needed to feed us! What a miracle!

9. I'm grateful for my family. I really appreciate them for all their love and support as I'm serving my mission. Even though I haven't seen them in a while, I still feel close to them. I know it is because the gospel connects families together for eternity. :)

10. Last but not least, I'm grateful for the sacrifice of the savior, Jesus Christ. I don't have enough to say about how grateful I am for what He did for me. He is the reason why I am where I'm at today. He suffered all things so that we could repent of our sins and return to live with our Heavenly Father again someday with our families. He is my best friend and I rely on Him every day!! He helps me change to be the person God intends me to be. He is the perfect example for all of us. His love and His sacrifice are eternal, and I am so grateful that He cares for me enough to die for me!

This #thankfultuesday is fun! You should try it! Gratitude will change your attitude if you need a little sunshine in your day. :)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The things I treasure

I've been a missionary for a year!!! This year has flown by like you wouldn't believe! I almost can't believe it! As of late, I've reflected on how much I've changed. Looking back on the person I was before my mission, the things that I treasured, or the things that I thought were most important in my life, were good things, but I didn't have my eyes set on what was best. After a year of being a representative of Jesus Christ, God has taught me to change my priorities a bit. 

In Christ's Sermon on the Mount, the savior says, "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." Matt 6:21

I just want to share my heart with you by writing about what I've learned to treasure most!

1. God

I treasure my relationship with my Heavenly Father so much. I've learned that part of truly relying on Him comes through studying the scriptures, prayer and going to church, where I can feel His peace that I can't find anywhere else in this world. 

I LOVE this book. I feel closest to God when I read it.
I've learned that my relationship to God truly is a daughter/father relationship. Though I'm not the perfect daughter, He is the perfect Father who wants me to succeed and be happy. When I was younger I remember my dad teaching me about how there is a consequence for every choice I make-whether it's good or bad. With bad choices come bad consequences, and likewise with good choices come good consequences. Heavenly Father's the same way with the commandments that He's given us. With both the good and bad choices I've made in my life, He's taught me perfectly how to become the person He knows I can become with His help. 

I know that He loves me so much. He loves all of us so much.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16

He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, so die for the sins of the world so that we can all have a chance to return to live with Him again some day. I definitely treasure and hold close to my heart the fact that God's love is infinite, but it's designed for each of us personally!

2. Family

The next thing I treasure the most is my family. In the April 2014 General Conference where we heard our prophet and apostles speak, Elder Neil L. Andersen said that families are the treasure of heaven. (To read his talk called Spiritual Whirlwinds click here)

Left to right- Belana, Dad, Brendan, Mom, Dayle and me!

I love my family so much. They have seen me at my best and my worst, and they still love me through it all! I know that they will always be there for me. It's so great to know that because the Restored gospel of Jesus Christ is on the earth today I can be with my family for all time and eternity.

One of the most fundamental doctrines of what I teach every single day is how the gospel of Jesus Christ blesses our families. Even though no family is perfect and family relationships can be challenging at times (understatement!), God designed families to help us learn and grow in a loving environment. 

3. Country

I am blessed to serve as a missionary in my country's capital! Woo! I grew up in Washington state away from all these historical sites that are significant to our growth as a nation. I remember learning about American History in high school, but it didn't become real to me until I came out to the east coast. 

Sister Hansen and me at Mt. Vernon

Arlington Cemetery

My brothers at scout camp during a flag ceremony

I am so grateful for the men and women who sacrificed so much so that I can have the freedoms that I enjoy today. I treasure them, their stories and what they stood for. I've realized that I owe so much to them for who I am able to be today. Especially since as a missionary, I spend so much time opening my mouth to share my own freedom of religion with everyone I come into contact with.

4. Church

I treasure the church that I am a part of. I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints!! A lot of people that I've met claim to have problems with organized religion and say that they are more "spiritual than religious". I so happen to be spiritual AND religious! I love my church! I love walking into an environment where the spirit of God is so strong, where I can feel peace, and where I can be surrounded and supported by others who are also trying to live their lives as followers of Jesus Christ. 

I'm not sure where this church building is located...but it's a picture of one of our meeting houses that I found here!

You'll see a similar sign on every church building! Visitors are more than welcome! :)

My heart is so full! There is a quote from Elder David A. Bednar about the definition of heart about how the heart is the sum total of our inner most desires, affections, motives, and attitudes. (I'll find the exact quote another day!) Everything that I am is because I treasure God, my family, my country and my church. :)

Thursday, August 28, 2014

I AM beautiful!!

Since I've been on my mission, I've learned the power of "I AM" statements. Even in joking, it's amazing how two simple words followed by an explanation of how you see yourself truly defines who you are. They also define who you want to be. For example the words, "I am not pretty" or "I am dumb" tear you down compared to, "I am beautiful" or "I am smart!".

"I AM" is a name that Jesus Christ gave himself. Exodus 3:14 says, " I AM THAT I AM". In Doctrine and Covenants 29:1 it says, "Listen to the voice of Jesus Christ, your Redeemer, the great I AM, whose mercy hath atoned for your sins." Christ performed the atonement for us, which includes his suffering in the garden of Gethsemane, his death on the cross and his resurrection! His atonement has the power to heal and also to change us. When we choose to use negative I AM statements, we are not letting the power of Christ change us.

Whether we realize it or not, we use one of Christ's many names every single day! We all use it! And sadly, I fall into the trap of using it negatively. Too often do I compare myself to others and tell myself that I AM not good enough, pretty enough, funny enough, ect. That's not fair to me and it's not fair to the Savior!

I've been thinking about this for the past couple of months. There are plenty of women around me, and even some men, who are floating along in the same boat. I've prayed a lot about what to do to help myself so that I can overcome this weakness and then turn around to help others.

And then it hit me! I need to do a natural beauty week!!!

I know that BYU does some sort of beauty week, but I never participated while I was there before I left on my mission. I fully intend to once I get back! But anyways. I don't know what sort of activities are involved in the BYU beauty week, so I made up my own.

There are only three rules.
  1. No make up. None. (Sorry to the guys out there! You can adapt as necessary by sacrificing something that will help you center your focus on others rather than yourself.)
  2. Take a picture a day, caption it with a positive I AM statement and write a brief explanation.
  3. Invite others to join!
Join the event on Facebook here. Let's make this event BIG starting on September 7th!

The reason I decided to not wear any make up is because it's easy to get caught up in appearances. Whenever I "actually" do my make up in the morning, meaning that I put effort into it, I have to continually look at myself throughout the day to make sure that it's not smeared and that I still look acceptable. And then I notice other women and their makeup more rather than focusing on them. And then I assume that they're doing the same and judging me. And then I get insecure and start talking myself down with negative I AM statements. And then!'s a downward spiral. No good. Welcome to the mind of Sister Anderson.

Here's how my week went! :)

Day 1- I AM a life long learner!
I went with Sister Smith to do service at a monastery! On our way out, they offered to give us a private tour. I met a real live nun! Her name is Sister Andrea. She's amazing. Since she has lived in the monastery since she was 15 and is now 85, she was able to tell us so much about the monastery's history. She gave us a tour of the little chapel that she worships in and it was beautiful. I'm grateful we had a few minutes to learn more about how these Catholic nuns worship Jesus Christ. :) I love learning about other religions!

Day 2- I AM charitable!
Sister Lamborn and I could have taken the few minutes we have before bed to write in our journals and unwind for the day, but instead we chose to heart attack our neighboring sister missionaries when they were stressed out! "But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him." Moroni 7:47 

Day 3- I AM a disciple of Christ!
I am a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints! "Behold, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I have been called of him to declare his word among his people, that they might have everlasting life." 3 Nephi 5:13 I can't believe I've been doing this for about a year now! Nothing brings me greater joy than being able to serve the Lord Jesus Christ and all my brothers and sisters. :) This is who I am and I am proud of it!

Day 4- I AM not ashamed of eating!
It may not look very convincing because I'm only eating yogurt, but I love love love food! And I'm not ashamed of it! I'm not one of those girls who'd ever pick a salad over a piece of stake... I think it's especially easy for women to get down on themselves when it comes to eating because we all want to be thin. Yes, too much food isn't a good thing. All things in moderation with a bit of exercise thrown in there goes a long way. So long as I'm feeling healthy, I'm doing great! 

Day 5- I AM frugal!
We only get to go shopping once a week on Mondays. I am learning how to be frugal with my money by only spending it on things that I need during the week. Previously I wasn't very good at budgeting my money but I'm getting better at it! This I AM statement is something that I want to become. 

Day 6- I AM myself! :)
I love to have fun! I have a boisterous personality and it's easy for me to feel a bit obnoxious or overbearing at times. I love the quote, "The people who mind don't matter and the people who matter don't mind!" I don't know who said it, but it's something I try to live by. Don't get me wrong, I DO believe that everyone matters, but if they're just going to think I'm insane, they can go ahead and think that! I am insane! And I love it! :)

Day 7- I AM brave!
This may seem silly to all you dog lovers out there, but on my mission I have developed a slight fear of dogs. It seems like everyone has one, so it's not a rational fear in the slightest. However, since my hand was almost bitten off about six months ago, I've never been able to pet a dog that was taller than my knees. This dog was HUGE. And I pet it. Therefore, I am brave!

I AM beautiful!

This week I sacrificed a few things and stepped out of my comfort zone to help me look outward to serve, love and understand others better. I also learned how to appreciate ME for who I AM. :) I learned a lot about myself that will help me be a better servant, friend, sister, daughter, and neighbor in the future. God knows who we are. He also knows perfectly who we are going to become. I'm so grateful for the knowledge that I have that I am His daughter and He loves me more than I will ever understand. That love is there for all of us as His children. Because we are His children, it's important to realize that we have infinite worth!! If we trust in His plan for us, He will help us on our path to become.

Okay, now it's your turn! I invite all of you to join with me in doing your very own natural beauty week! Give up something that blocks you from focusing on what is really important or keeping you from seeing your individual worth. Take a picture every day and post it with an I AM statement of talents or qualities God has blessed you with. Hashtag it with #iambeautiful. As you do this for a week, don't forget to pray for God to help you feel of His love. The purpose of this is to let your inner beauty shine and to help you realize what God has given you so that you can love and serve others more effectively!

It worked for me! Now it's your turn! Give it a try! :)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Pretender or Prophet?

A lot of people that I have met on my mission have asked me why Mormons worship Joseph Smith. Because I've grown up believing that he is a prophet called of God, it's almost a funny question to me. But then I remember that from the outside looking in, it might seem that way.

Let me just clear it all up right here and now. As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we only worship Jesus Christ. He is the Only Begotten of the Father, our Savior and Redeemer and He was the only one who could have taken the pains and the sins of the world upon himself.

So why is Joseph Smith so important?

Well, this question takes us back to biblical times. Throughout the Bible we read of prophets who have been called of God to be His spokesman, to oversee the household of God here on the earth. Examples of prophets are Adam, Noah, Moses, and Abraham. All these men taught the gospel of Jesus Christ and foretold of the coming of a Messiah who would come to suffer for the sins of everyone who would live on earth. It's important to understand that these prophets each held the priesthood, or the power and authority of God given to man for the salvation of His children.

There's a children's song that I love called, "Follow the Prophet". The chorus goes:

Follow the prophet,
Follow the prophet,
Follow the prophet,
Don't go astray!

But of course, even the people in the Bible didn't always listen to the prophets that were sent to teach them the gospel of Jesus Christ. Periods of time when the gospel is changed, rejected, or ignored as taught by Heavenly Father's prophets is called apostasy. There can be personal apostasy, where individuals decide that they don't want to live the gospel the way Christ intended, or there can be general apostasy, where big groups of people reject the gospel. During the periods of general apostasy is when people kill the prophets or God takes them away, also taking away His priesthood authority from off the earth.

When the people are ready again to accept the gospel, God brings them out of apostasy and calls another prophet to lead the people and oversee Christ's church on the earth. It's a big pattern!!!

In the New Testament, we read of Christ's birth, life, death and resurrection. While he was on the earth, he established his church by calling 12 apostles, giving them priesthood authority to act in His name. Though He was the Son of God, people even rejected Jesus Christ and His teachings and fell into a state of apostasy. After His crucifixion and resurrection, the apostles kept the church up and running the best that they could by sending epistles to people like the Corinthians, telling them that they needed to stop making changes and stick to what Christ taught. Eventually, people rejected the apostles as well. (See Mark 12:1-9) After they were all killed, there was no one on the earth that held the priesthood authority to help lead Christ's original church. Without the direction of the apostles, unauthorized changes were made in Church organization and ordinances like baptism.

We call this period of time the Great Apostasy. It was a world wide apostasy that lasted for generations upon generations! There was corruption and confusion among people who did what they thought they needed to do to follow God without His direct guidance. They had to rely on human wisdom to figure out what scripture meant!

There were lots of churches that were established during this time. Later on, reformers like Martin Luther or John Calvin saw corruption in churches and changed things in search of greater spiritual light and truth. Fun fact: not a single reformer ever claimed that they were called of God to be a prophet.

Christ's church didn't need to be reformed, but restored to its original state. 

The Restoration of the gospel didn't happen until the 1820 when a 14 year old boy named Joseph Smith asked a simple question. Like many around him, he was confused by so many different doctrines and practices in all the different religions. He lived in Palmyra, New York and grew up in a religious family that constantly sought after truth. Joseph went to lots of different churches but still was confused.

He later wrote about his experience, "So great were the confusions and strife among the different denominations, that it was impossible for a person young as I come to any certain conclusion who was right and who was wrong... In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it?" Joseph Smith --History 1:8,10

He found a verse of scripture in the Bible that hit his heart: If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, which giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. James 1:5

He took James' advice and went to a grove of trees to ask God what to do. His experience is amazing.

I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me... when the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other- This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him! Joseph Smith- History 1:16-17

It is my testimony that God the Father and Jesus Christ came to Joseph Smith that day in that grove of trees. I know with all my heart that it really did happen! God is a personal god, who called Joseph by name and answered the question of his heart.

Joseph was instructed not to join any of the churches because they "were all wrong" and "they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof" Joseph Smith History 1:19. There were lots of good people who believed in Christ and tried to understand and teach His gospel, but they didn't have the fullness of truth or the priesthood authority to baptize or perform other saving ordinances.

Joseph Smith was called to restore Christ's original church in its fullness!! And that he did! He was given the priesthood authority, the same power that was given to prophets of old, to reestablish the church again on the earth. It was officially reorganized on April 6, 1830 with only six members in attendance. Since then, the church has grown by the millions and continues to grow today!

He was lead to an ancient record of scripture known as the Book of Mormon. (Since this post is getting long I'll direct you to my very first blog post called, The Keystone)

God is the same yesterday, today and forever. We know that God has always worked through prophets. He continues to speak through his prophet today, President Thomas S. Monson.

All of this may be new to you, and I invite you to pray about it. Follow what it says in James and ask God for yourself if there is a possibility that this is true. That's what I did! And now I'm serving as a full time missionary to help others come to know of the truth too. I know that Joseph Smith was called to be the prophet to end the Great Apostasy and bring the fullness of the gospel to the earth in these last days! That's why Joseph Smith is talked about so much by members of this church! Because without Joseph Smith, Christ's church wouldn't have been restored to the earth in its fullness!

I love what Elder Lawrence E Corbridge said about Joseph Smith:

"There is no dispute about what Joseph Smith accomplished, only how he did what he did and why. And there are not many options. He was either pretender or prophet. Either he did what he did alone, or he had the help of heaven. Look at the evidence, but look at all of the evidence, the entire mosaic of his life, not any single piece. Most importantly, do as young Joseph and “ask … God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given [you].” This is not only how you may learn the truth about the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith; it is also the pattern to know the truth of all things." The Prophet Joseph Smith

Now it's up to you. What do you think? Was Joseph Smith a pretender?
Or was he a prophet?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

All the time

God is so good. It makes me sad how easy it is to forget that fact in times that are harder than others. I spend every waking moment of my day trying to help others realize that God is so good to each of us, and sometimes forget to realize how He has been good to me in my own life. I was a bit discouraged just last night on the way home at the end of the night. I wasn't saying anything because I was afraid that if I did, I'd burst out in tears. My companion, Sister Lamborn, did her very best dealing with the situation. She asked me if there was anything she could do to help, and I said that I would let her know. After a few minutes of driving in silence, she turned on the music. The song that came on was the song that God really wanted me to hear in that moment. It's called, "Count Your Many Blessings". 

1. When upon life's billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings; name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

Count your blessings;
Name them one by one.
Count your blessings;
See what God hath done.
Count your blessings;
Name them one by one.
Count your many blessings;
See what God hath done.

2. Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings; ev'ry doubt will fly,
And you will be singing as the days go by.

I knew in that moment that I needed to think of all the things that I was grateful for, especially all the things that God had blessed me with! Once I started listing off the things that were going well in my life, I was reminded of how good God really is. 

Last Saturday I went to the Nationals baseball game in DC with all the missionaries in my mission! It was SO much fun!! We sat in the nosebleed section, of course, but we finally got to our section at the tippy top of the stadium. There was a lady at the top of the stairs of our section to help us find our seats. While I was waiting at the top of the stairs during a play, so that I wouldn't be a distraction from the game to those who were intently watching, I decided to talk to her. She's worked every game for the past two years and has loved it. She told me about how there were season ticket holders that sat close to where she stood and they always bought her Nationals gear as gifts for doing such a great job. She showed me her baseball earrings that they had just given her.

I heard myself say, "Oh God is good!" 
She replied, "Oh honey, ALL the time!!!" She went on to tell me about how that is an old fashioned phrase because she hasn't heard very many people say it any more. She told me, "It doesn't matter who says 'God is good', I will stop whatever I am doing to reply, 'ALL the time!'. He isn't just good SOME of the time, or MOST of the time, but ALL the time."

I told her that I would bring it back! Every time I saw her after that, I called out, "God is good!" and she would call back, "All the time!" with a big two thumbs up in response. 

So whenever you're feeling down, rather than thinking about all the things that aren't going right in life, think outward and look up! All you have to do is count your many blessings, and before you know it, you'll see that God has been good to you. Not some of the time, not most of the time, but all the time.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Every Day is Game Day

Something that's been on my mind is how good of a procrastinator I used to be. (Or how bad...depends on how you want to look at it.) Before my mission, I put literally everything off until the last minute. Including preparing for my mission. I used to think it was okay to not read my scriptures every day and if I forgot a prayer every now and then, I didn't feel like it was the end of the world. Honestly, it wasn't the end of the world, as I am still alive, but I really should have been doing those things to help me come closer to God. I didn't see the relevance of how every day is game day. 

For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors. Alma 34:32

The time to read your scriptures is NOW. The time to pray is NOW. That doesn't mean we have to be doing nothing else, but those are the things we need to be doing to understand who God and Jesus Christ are. 

In a talk called Your Four Minutes by Bishop Gary E. Stevenson, he related life to a four minute bobsled race in the Olympics. We spend endless hours preparing and then before you know it, it's over. Gone. He said, "This is your four minutes. While you are here, your actions will determine whether you win the prize of eternal life." We must run the race that we may win the prize. (1 Corinthians 9 :24) It's time to get your GAME FACE on and just do it! (Thank you Nike)

The prophet Joseph Fielding Smith said, "Procrastination, as it may be applied to gospel principles, is the thief of eternal life, which is life in the presence of the Father and the Son."

Just think about that. Procrastination is the thief of eternal life....ouch. I don't know about you, but eternal life is definitely something that I want! That statement is motivation enough for me! 

In the Book of Mormon, Amulek, who is a great missionary, said it clear as day: And now, as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many witnesses, therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed. Alma 34:33

So, we need to be keeping the commandments, going to church, reading our scriptures, praying, and everything else God expects of us while we can before it's too late. Looking back on my life, I don't understand how it flew by so quickly. Thank goodness I'm only 20 years old and I have years ahead of me to continually improve myself, but I don't want to waste another moment! President Thomas S. Monson said, "When the time for performance arrives, the time for preparation is past." 

I'm grateful for the guidance of prophets, both modern and ancient, who speak the words of God. I'm grateful that they just want us, all of God's children, to realize their true potential in life and to prepare to meet God someday. It's up to us to realize that every day is game day rather than dealing with it later. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

I am a child of God!

I am a child of God. How many times did I sing that children's song when I was younger and actually paid attention to what the song is saying? We are literally children of our Heavenly Father who loves us more than we can comprehend. He is the perfect parent who sees us for who we really are. We have divine nature and infinite worth.

It's sad how much I have to remind myself of that fact. It's so easy to get down on myself, especially in a world that wants me to think so low of myself. I recently read a blog post from one of my best friends. She wrote about how we need to stop comparing our lives to the lives of others and just love ourselves for who we are. It's a great post- click here to read it. It made me think about my own life. I had a little self evaluation of what I do to try to impress others and what I haven't been doing because I'm afraid of being judged or made fun of. 

I came to the realization that it doesn't matter what anyone thinks. The only people I should be trying so hard to impress every day are my Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. And they already love me more than I’ll ever understand! My mission president said something to us in a conference for all the sister missionaries in northern Virginia that touched my heart. "Please realize that He loves you. He loves you right now. He will love you- always." 

Okay, so if God loves me unconditionally no matter what I do, and if He's the only one whose thoughts I need to really care about, then why do I judge myself so harshly? I think that's one of the joys of being a woman. Generally speaking, women tend to be perfectionists. At least, I know I do. I didn't think I was a perfectionist until I came out on a mission and was shown all of my weaknesses. 

In the Book of Mormon, it reads, "And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them." (Ether 12:27)

As a missionary I've spent a lot of time studying the scriptures and trying my best to come unto Christ. So because I'm coming unto Him, naturally he's going to show me my weaknesses that I need to work on. Yeah, thanks. Having quite a few of my weaknesses shown to me is a bit overwhelming at times. Especially since one of those weaknesses is perfectionism. I just want those weaknesses to be turned to strengths all at once! Right now! (Not to mention I'm working on patience too...) 

However, I am always gently reminded that if all my weaknesses were turned to strengths right now in this moment, then I wouldn’t be humble!! And I wouldn’t be as able to see Christ’s grace working in my life. I don’t know about you, but I seem to pray a lot more when I’m struggling with something compared to those times in my life that are going great and everything is all butterflies and rainbows. After I make it through my trials and overcome my weaknesses, I look back on my life full of gratitude every time. I’ve learned that Christ’s grace is sufficient for each and every one of us, and I’m always going to be learning how to apply it more in my life.

In overcoming my weakness of perfectionism, I’m learning how to love who I am the way I am- while still doing what I can to constantly improve. I know that I won’t be as smart, as thin, as witty, as creative, as others out there, but hey. There are always going to be people better than you! And that’s okay! When we see the good qualities of others, we can let it either discourage or inspire us! I hope you choose to be inspired. So long as you are constantly improving yourself, you can find satisfaction. “No matter how many mistakes you make, or how slow your progress, you’re still way ahead of everyone else who isn’t trying.” (I can’t remember who said that…)

What really helps is remembering that you are a child of God who loves you. “He does not give you challenges that you cannot surmount. He will not ask more than you can do, he may ask right up to your limits so you can prove yourselves. The Lord will never forsake you.” (Joseph B. Wirthlin 1989 Ensign)

My missionary companion, Sister Lamborn, shared this quote with me that she heard someone say at church, “Don’t compare your behind the scenes with others’ highlight reels.” Just remember that no one’s perfect. The only One who is already suffered and died to help you overcome your weaknesses. I read a talk called, “Becoming Perfect in Christ” from the July 2014 Ensign that really helped me. It changed my perspective a lot. Click here to read.

Our living prophet, Thomas S. Monson, said to the women of our church, “My dear sisters, your Heavenly Father loves you—each of you. That love never changes.

In my last area my companion, Sister Udall, showed me a passage from the book, You Are Special, that her mom included in one of her letters. It's about toys that were made by the toy maker, Eli. Every time the toys had a positive thought toward another toy, a star shaped sticker would stick to that toy, while every time they thought negatively, a dot would stick. (At least that's how it was explained to me...haha. I've never actually read the book before. I really want to though!)

There's one toy named Punchinello who had lots of stickers on him. He went to Eli for help.

"Everyday I've been hoping you'd come," Eli explained.
"I came because I met someone who had no marks," said Punchinello.
"I know. She told me about you."
"Why don't the stickers stay on her?"
The maker spoke softly, "Because she has decided that what I think is more important than what they think. The stickers only stick if you let them."
"The stickers only stick if they matter to you. The more you trust my love, the less you care about their stickers."
"I'm not sure I understand."
Eli smiled. "You will, but it will take time. You've got a lot of marks. For now, just come to see me every day and let me remind you how much I care."
Eli lifted Punchinello off the bench and set him on the ground.
"Remember," Eli said as the Wemmick walked out the door, "you are special because I made you. And I don't make mistakes."
Punchinello didn't stop, but in his heart he thought, I think he really means it. And when he did, a dot fell to the ground.

God loves us. If you EVER doubt it, take it up with Him. Seriously. The next time you are mean to yourself or start comparing yourself to others, find a quiet spot away from distractions and simply ask God if He cares. As Him if He loves you. You may be thinking, “Well, I already know God loves me so why would I need to ask Him again?” Because it’s far easier and spiritually healthier to maintain that knowledge of His love than it is to forget and have to retain it.

Strive to always remember the words of one of my favorite childhood songs, I am a child of God. And never forget it. :)

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Happy Father's Day Dad!!

I love my dad. He does so much for me and my family. I know I gave him a lot of grief growing up and I tested his patience almost daily, but I wouldn't be the person I am today without him and his support. 

He taught me to...

love unconditionally
leave no job undone
focus on the task at hand
have fun
be responsible
ride a road bike with clip in shoes
never give up- especially when I want to
set up and take down a tent
work hard
obey God's commandments
put family first
treat myself and others with respect
organize my life
not care what others think
be independent
drive a stick shift
appreciate good singers like Andrea Bocelli and Josh Groban
love baseball
act my age
put my heart into my hopes and dreams
set and achieve goals
serve selflessly
put others above myself
follow Jesus Christ

...and so much more.

I have a great dad and I know he loves me. And just as I know my dad loves me so much, I know that my Heavenly Father loves me even more than I'll ever be able to comprehend.

Happy Father's Day, Dad.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Are you ready for the ride?

Almost every July for the past 8 or so years, my dad has enjoyed the Seattle to Portland, or STP, bike ride. It is 202 miles from start to finish and there are over 10,000 bikers.

Every year my dad did a good job of prior proper planning so he could finish the ride as comfortable as possible. He saved up for a nice road bike, and bought everything that he would need- biker spandex, clip in shoes, water bottle holders, water bottles, a nice helmet, and the list goes on. On top of buying the right kind of gear, he biked everywhere. He biked to work during the week and went on longer training rides on Saturdays. He started training in January so that he would be physically prepared for the big ride in July.

My family always made a big event out of the STP. My dad would ride for two days straight and we would drive ahead of him to meet him at certain rest stops to cheer him on and give him water, Gatorade, cliff bars and GU packets. It became a family tradition to take my dad to the starting line at the University of Washington in Seattle, drive over to Chehalis after a few hours, which is a stopping point about 60 miles into the ride, meet him there, and then drive the rest of the way to Portland where we stayed the night in a hotel and spent our time swimming in the hotel pool or shopping. (My mom, my sister and I loved shopping in Oregon where there is no sales tax... the boys, not so much!) We always looked forward to the STP over summer vacation.

Dad after riding 200 miles

At about two or three o’clock on the second day of the bike ride, we usually met my dad at the finish line where he would jokingly say to me, "Hey Julie! I saw some girls riding who were about your age! You should ride with me next year!" I rolled my eyes and would respond, "Yeah right Daaaad!" This went on for a few years until I was 14. My dad had just come in across the finish line and gave me his invitation to ride with him the next year. To his surprise I said, "Sure! I'll do it!" And from that moment on, I was committed.

The summer after my sophomore year of high school, I completed the physically hardest thing I have ever done in my entire life! I wouldn't say that I totally conquered it, but I finished strong, riding in right behind my dad!

Dad usually took the lead... I love drafting off of him!

I wasn't able to finish the ride without the proper training first. My dad helped me prepare by helping me sign up, buy the right kind of gear and train whenever I had time. It took a lot of effort to get ready for the STP.

I didn't ride the Seattle to Portland again until after my freshman year of college at Brigham Young University. My dad bribed me into doing it with him by saying that he would pay for my registration.

This time around, I didn't train at all. I didn't have a bike with me while I was at school, so I didn't get in any long rides over the weekend. After school got out for the summer, I came home and chose to work and play almost every day. I didn't set aside any time to train on my bike. My dad frequently told me that I needed to train if I was going to finish the STP, and that if I didn't finish it, I'd have to pay him back for the registration. I didn't have money to spare, so I set my mind to riding it, regardless of how much time I'd spent preparing.  

Me and Dad at a gas station about 100 miles into the ride... it wasn't exactly the best time of my life...

 By the time I finished the STP this time around, I died. I literally felt like I was going to fall over and never get up again. My lungs felt like they were ripped raw inside-out and I couldn't walk right because I was so sore from riding on a teeny tiny bike seat for so long. I had no one to blame but myself. My dad warned me multiple times, but I didn't listen. I did not have the prior proper planning that was needed to finish strong.

We made it to the end! And somehow I found the energy to smile!

My experience riding the Seattle to Portland has taught me a very valuable lesson. Obviously, I felt the contrast from when I rode the first time to the second. Both times that I signed up for the STP, my dad was right there with me, helping me when I needed it and warning me against what would happen if I failed to train properly. What made the difference was my own personal commitment. The first time around, I sacrificed time and money in order to prepare for the huge task ahead of me. The second time, my actions (or lack of action really) showed that I didn't care and when it was time to ride the 200 miles, I was hatin’ it.

So since I'm a missionary and I think about the gospel of Jesus Christ literally all the time, this story has great applications. We know that life throws hard situations at us that might feel like we're riding 200 miles on a bike until we get to the end. But! If we have the proper prior planning as taught in the scriptures, "if ye are prepared ye shall not fear" (D&C 38:30). We have to do our part. Just like my dad tried to help me and warn me of what would happen if I failed to prepare, we have a Father in Heaven who helps us along. He's given us a "training schedule", or commandments, to help us through life. We "train" every day by reading the scriptures and praying. We go to church every Sunday. We sustain, or support, church leaders. We live the gospel of Jesus Christ!! We can't afford to skip out on training, or we won't be prepared when it's time for our big ride of eternal life.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

He knows my name

I know that God, as busy as He may seem with everything going on in the universe, knows my name. He knows me personally in a way that no one else ever can or will. He knows what I need and what I want. He knows better than I do that I'm not perfect, and yet He still blesses me because He loves me. I'm His daughter. If there's anything in the world that I know, it's that God knows my name. He's shown me how well He knows me through experiences that He's given me.

Especially since I've been on my mission, Heavenly Father has shown me daily how well He knows me. But there is one particular story that will always stay with me to the day I die. You see, God has His ways of showing me His love and concern, and He usually works through other people.

I was a freshman at Brigham Young University and was living in an apartment with three other roommates. This was the very first time I was living on my own away from home, and up until my birthday, I was loving it. I enjoyed freedom from nagging parents that wanted me to do my homework or clean my room, no real was great! But I missed my family. My birthday's on December 7th and it was on a Friday that year. My roommates had a study group for a final that night, so we couldn't celebrate together. We made plans to go into Salt Lake City the next night when they were all free. I was totally fine with that. I mean, just because it's my birthday doesn't mean that I'm the center of the universe! At least, I really don't think that way. And I knew how important it was for my roommates to go to this study group.

Don't get me wrong- I was NOT alone on my birthday. My mom's family all live pretty close to Provo, Utah and my aunt came and picked me up for lunch on Friday, my grandparents picked me up for lunch on Saturday and another aunt and uncle came with my cousins came and took me to dinner the next week. I felt really spoiled! It was so much fun! I'm pretty sure that was the most partying I had ever done for my birthday in one year! So I really couldn't complain.

Saturday night came, and my roommates and I carpooled into Salt Lake City to see the lights at Temple Square.
We had a great time! We went to Olive Garden for dinner and walked around laughing and talking together all night. It was a lot of fun. Again, I had no reason to complain. I had roommates who loved me and cared enough about me to take me out for my birthday. But walking around Temple Square made me really miss my family. We didn't have a ton of time because we had to get back to our apartment before the snow started really sticking to the roads. Before then, I had only been to Temple Square with my family and I didn't want to leave. I realized that I was homesick!

I pretended to be asleep while I cried silently to myself on the drive back to our apartment. Even though I had people around me who loved me, I felt alone. This was my first birthday away from home and all of a sudden, I just wanted a mom hug. I wanted to be with my family.

When we got home, my roommates all piled out of the car and started getting ready for bed. I took my time and dragged my feet in getting to bed. I didn't feel like doing anything. Then, I felt my phone vibrate. I looked at the small screen to see my brother, Dayle, calling me.

This is Dayle. Dayle is one of my best friends. I never know when to take him seriously and he loves to be adventurous. He's so much fun to be around! It wasn't always like that with us though. Growing up, we always clashed. I'm pretty sure it's because both of us have really strong personalities and we don't really see eye to eye. When I went off to college, I was under the impression that he was glad that I wasn't going to be around any more because all we did was argue. I knew he loved me, and I did what I knew how to make him aware that I loved him, but we weren't always the best of friends.

I picked up that phone and heard, "Hi Julie." That's all I needed to hear. Immediately I ran outside the apartment so my roommates wouldn't see or hear my embarrassing sobs as I tried to communicate with my brother how much he meant to me. We had a simple conversation. He asked me how my day was and if I had a good birthday. I asked him about school and what classes were giving him a hard time. I had never before felt so much love from my younger brother than in that moment. He handed the phone off to my mom, and I broke down even more. I asked her how Dayle knew he should call me in that moment and she replied, "Well honestly, I think he was just trying to get out of going to bed on time." I thought that was hilarious! I realized that he might have been using me as an excuse to get out of the bedtime routine, but his phone call could not have had better timing. However the thought came into his mind to call me, I know it came from God. There was no way that Dayle could have known how homesick and upset I was. My roommates didn't even know. But Heavenly Father knows the inner desires of my heart, and He used my brother, who I had before struggled to get along with, to tell me that I was loved and that I wasn't alone.

I went back home after a few weeks for Christmas break, and I had so much fun spending time with my siblings. We stayed together as we served with the community boy scouts with a program called Toys for Tots. 

This was taken in the Toys for Tots parking lot. Dayle's goofy guy, and I love him so much. God knew that Dayle wanted to get out of going to bed, or maybe he really just felt like he needed to call me, and He also knew that I needed to hear from my family at the exact same time. Heavenly Father brought me and my brother closer together. This experience might seem silly, but it really means a lot to me.

Because God knows me, I know that He knows you too! He is in the very details of our lives. We are His children, and He is our Father who loves us all more than we can comprehend.