Sunday, December 3, 2017

My Journey

Motherhood. It's what I've looked forward to my whole life. I excelled in school and have been told and felt that I could really go places in my life. But the only place I've ever had a desire to go is motherhood. My mother has always been a stay at home mom. One who did a fantastic job of bearing 10 and raising 9 children. And she always stressed the importance of family - not just through her words, but especially through her actions. I always felt motherhood as the purpose of my life, just as it was for her.

I always knew it would be the purpose of my life. But occasionally there was that nagging thought - what if children never came? When I was 14 I received my patriarchal blessing (A recorded blessing in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints "which provides inspired direction from the Lord," and which is given by one who is called, set apart, and given authority to pronounce such sacred blessings upon those who are prepared and worthy to receive them. You can learn more about them here, and I'm always happy to answer questions as well!) A part of that blessing talked about my children and grandchildren. A sigh of relief. Now I could put that occasional nagging thought away for good.

In high school, especially my senior year, I would have lengthy conversations with my close friend Miranda about how ready and excited we were for motherhood. We were so done with high school and ready for "real life." And a huge part of "real life" for us meant being mothers and raising a family.

My older sisters were having children, and even as a teenager, I would find myself yearning to someday hold my own children as I held their precious babies in my arms.

I started college. I chose my major, pre-accounting, based on the fact that I enjoyed math and that I could easily work from home and still take care of my children full time as a CPA. But I hoped I wouldn't ever actually need to, because I wanted to be a full-time mom, without any other responsibilities vying for my time and attention. And then I hated my pre-accounting classes. Now what? Nothing else peaked my interest as I reviewed and considered the other majors. Then my brother Keith asked if I had considered doing a Family Studies Major. "I know it's cliche`, [especially at BYU] but maybe you would enjoy it." So I thought about it. And then I read this quote from Elder Henry B. Erying in my Eternal Marriage Student Manual:

There are important ways in which planning for failure can make failure more likely and the ideal less so. Consider these twin commandments as an example: "Fathers are to...provide the necessities of life...for their families" and "mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children." Knowing how hard that might be, a young man might choose a career on the basis of how much money he could make, even if it meant he couldn't be home enough to be an equal partner. By doing that, he has already decided he cannot hope to do what would be best. A young woman might prepare for a career incompatible with being primarily responsible for the nurture of her children because of the possibilities of not marrying, of not having children, or of being left alone to provide for them herself. Or, she might fail to focus her education on the gospel and the knowledge of the world that nurturing a family would require, not realizing that the highest and best use she could make of her talents and her education would be in her home. Because a young man and woman had planned to take care of the worst, they might make the best less likely.

That was my answer. Family was my passion. Family was my life. It only made sense that family would be my major - even if it was cliche`. So over the next few semesters I began my Family Studies classes - Strengthening Marriage and Family, Home and Family Living, Introduction to Family Processes, Human Development, Preparation for Marriage - and I absolutely loved them. I couldn't imagine studying anything else.

Schooling went on a hiatus as I moved back home to Missouri and felt impressed to stay. The yearning for marriage and children grew to an almost constant ache. After a year and a half at home - the blink of an eye in retrospect, but an eternity at the time - I began dating and married my husband, Gabe.

We weren't sure we wanted children immediately, but neither were we completely opposed to it. So we left it up to what some would call chance and what we felt was the will of the Lord. The first few months felt like a fun guessing game: was it pregnancy, or just PMS?

7 months. "Why isn't it happening yet?" I knew it would be okay, but each month was starting to hurt more and more.

1 year. Infertility. What a horrible, frightening word. We now fell within the general definition - not being able to conceive after a year of trying.

I reached out to my sister in law, Jenessa, who was struggling with her own fertility journey. She recommended a book, Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler. I soaked it up and began tracking my cycles. But our sleeping habits were inconsistent, and so my temperatures were as well. After a few months we moved to St. Louis and Gabe began his Doctor of Chiropractic degree at Logan University. Our schedule became more consistent and I continued my tracking with a renewed hope.

5 more months. Toni said it should only take 4-6 months to conceive if you are tracking and timing things accordingly. What now? Everything seemed normal, but nothing was happening. We began to consider alternatives. Perhaps Gabe should be tested. We looked up our options in the area and began to call around for prices. Money was tight, but this would be worth it. Right? It made the most logical sense as our next step, and yet for whatever reason we were not actively pursuing it. Maybe this wasn't the right direction.

Christmas break - time to visit home. We approached my dad and asked for priesthood blessings of healing for each of us. A sacred experience. Peace. Our time would come, and we felt it was near.

A few more months passed - over 2 years now. Still nothing. The frustration returned. "I thought the time was near?" I didn't get it. "The Lord is in control. It will happen in His time - whatever that means." Slowly I began again to accept His plan. I trusted it would happen eventually, but had no sense of what "eventually" meant.

Since moving to St. Louis I had been serving as a temple worker - an opportunity only available to women without children currently in their care at home. Perhaps this was a part of why the Lord had waited to bless me with children. It was an opportunity I was beyond grateful for. But it had been nearly a year now. Surely that was long enough? Then they asked me to serve as a coordinator. Another new experience. Did this mean the Lord had another year of work for me before children?

I started babysitting 2 girls once a week. It was refreshing to be with little children. Then I realized if things had happened as I expected as a teenager, these children at these ages could already be mine.

Nearly 3 years. I was experiencing regular nausea and lowering energy levels. Perhaps there were health problems beyond infertility. I began going to a chiropractor who had worked with infertility and had success. I felt hopeful. But it was expensive for us students, and we quickly felt like he wasn't helping. So we worked instead with the school to order a blood panel. Everything came back normal, except for extremely low blood sugar levels. We adjusted our diet and I could feel my blood sugar normalizing. Gabe began applying what he was learning in school and in his seminars and we focused on improving our health in manageable ways - diet, exercise, occasional herbal supplements.

Waiting was growing difficult again. I thought of the parable of the unjust judge and the importuning widow (Luke 18: 1-8). Perhaps, like this widow, I just needed to ask more often. My prayers became a daily pleading that I could have children now. But that didn't last long. Quickly I felt the impropriety of demanding the Lord to do things my way. So I began instead to pray daily for the help to wholly accept His will, to be able to accept it unquestioningly. And I learned firsthand that "prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other" (LDS Bible Dictionary - Prayer). I began to feel in my heart what I already knew in my mind. That God knew my longing and my desires, but that for reasons I didn't yet understand, His timing was more perfect than mine. And finally, my heart was satisfied with that answer, even if it meant years more of waiting.

I continued serving in the temple and began to realize how greatly it was strengthening me during this time of waiting. Sacred experiences there, both great and small, reminded me that the Lord knew my heart and was watching over me. Conversations and relationships with others about their experiences helped me know I wasn't alone and continuously renewed my hope. I began to recognize that serving in the temple was giving me a new spirit, the spirit of the temple. The overwhelming feelings of peace and love that I felt in the temple were making their way into every other part of my life as well.

3 years come and gone. And yet somehow 3 years felt easier than 1 as I was learning to truly give my burdens to the Lord. That summer I was asked to speak in Sacrament meeting about temples. I briefly shared that serving there had reminded me of my covenants and increased my patience in waiting for children. Almost immediately I regretted opening up - sharing something so personal with so many people isn't an easy thing for me to do. But before church was over, the kind words of others changed my mind. I already knew that "a joy shared is a joy doubled," but over the next few weeks I also learned for myself that "a burden shared is a burden halved" as friends and others from church reached out to me in love.

Then later that month one of my closest friends told me she was pregnant with her first. Of course a part of me wished I was, too, but I truly was happy for her. A couple weeks later we visited family and one of my closest cousins told me she was pregnant with her second. My own wanting grew even more poignant, but still I was happy for her as well. We returned home and I saw my sister in law Jenessa's blog post that she, too, was pregnant. She had been waiting longer than myself, and struggled harder and dealt with miscarriages, clearly she deserved this blessing. But having three such close friends tell me within such a short time was painfully difficult. I went to bed that night with more longing than I had felt in a long time. But the Lord was merciful, and all the learning and growing I had done over the past three years returned. I awoke the next morning accepting again my own situation and circumstances, able to be happy for my friends and family while being content with my own life.

4 years.

The next May we move back to Springfield. A friend who has also struggled with infertility invited me over for an evening of sharing with other women. Everyone's experiences were so different, and yet we had so much to gain from listening each other. The longer I to wait, the more I see others who have dealt or are dealing with similar things. The pain is real. But so is the healing - no matter the answer you receive. Adoption, foster care, fertility treatments, miracle babies, accepting things as they are and living your life childless. Each experience unique. Each experience an opportunity for growth, an opportunity to open yourself up to possibilities you never would have imagined otherwise.

5 years last month. I never imaged it could take this long to start my family. But my husband and I have grown accustomed to life as a family of 2. We still have no greater desire than to raise children of our own. And yet now we can be grateful for the opportunities inherent to life without children. We can look to the future with hope, while experiencing joy now. My life is not what I expected, nothing like I planned, and definitely not what I would have asked for. But I see now that it's exactly what it should be. I see now that the Lord undoubtedly knows what I need.

"If thou art called to pass through tribulation...know thou, my [child], that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good." (Doctrine and Covenants 122:5,7)

I don't know when we will have children to call our own. But I do know that when it happens, it will be right. I may not always understand His ways, but I can know with a surety that with His help, whatever I have to face can change me for the better. Because it has. I am not who I was 5 years ago. And I am not who I would be if everything had happened my way. But I am who He wants and needs me to be. "[He] is the gardener here. He knows what he wants [me] to be." So, "thank you, Mr. Gardener, for cutting me down, for loving me enough to hurt me." (Elder Hugh B. Brown)

"When you are filled with the Spirit of God that spirit satisfies and fills up every longing of the human heart... When I am filled with that Spirit, my soul is satisfied." - Eliza R. Snow.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

It's Good to be Home

This week has been great! Gabe took his final Boards exam back in St. Louis last weekend, so it finally feels like we are here and settled in. Saturday night and Sunday were Stake Conference, and we saw so many friends and family members there. Then we spent Sunday evening out at James and Kelli's and I got my hair cut again (yay!). Monday and Tuesday we babysat for James and Kelli while they were out of town. Taking care of 7 little kids really is a lot of work! It always makes me feel good about myself that I can handle all of them without a problem...and then somewhat overwhelms me when I think of having to do that EVERY day, not just for a few, haha. Being a mom to a bunch of young children is a lot of work! And very mentally exhausting, haha. It is truly a self-sacrificing labor of love. You moms are awesome. Also, I can tell how good of friends we are with them that Gabe was so willing to do it, when just 2 or 3 months ago he commented on not wanting to do anymore overnight babysitting for a long time after a 6 day stint for a family in our previous ward (the one with 4 kids that pretty much all took care of themselves, lol).

So I thought I might take today to sleep in, relax, and get caught up on my housework after being gone for 2 days, but I woke up to a phone call from Mom, saying that they were ready to start painting the new house today. That phone call was also basically as Gabe was getting ready to walk out the door for work (which is a whole other tangent on how awesome, laid-back, and generous Sam Sanders is and has been as Gabe interns with him). So I quickly got dressed and grabbed my stuff and headed out to Mom and Dad's. I ate breakfast with them at their house, and Mom and I got to the new house around 10-10:30. We had to start with scraping the walls to smooth out the texturing, and then when Hyrum and Baylie (I was just getting used to spelling Bailee...I wonder how long it will take me to get Baylie right :P ) showed up, we painted the two bedrooms and the bathroom downstairs with primer. After cleaning up, Mom and I left right around 4. It was a pretty good day of work!

Gabe was done by the time we got back, so we headed back into Springfield to go home. After cleaning up from my day of painting, we decided to go out for Gabe's birthday. We tried a new Indian restaurant downtown, Zayka's, and it was delicious! It was fun to go out with my sweetheart. :) Then of course we had to have some Andy's for desert. ;)

It has just been so nice to be back home again, nearby and available to help family and just spend time with them and be a part of their everyday (or at least weekly) lives. We're getting settled in nicely, too. All of our regular-use things are unpacked downstairs - we just need to organize our books and storage things in the upstairs bedrooms. I love having a house to live in. And James and Kelli are giving us a fridge this week to replace the old, small one here. They also have a dishwasher we can install and a board to use as a counter top for our "bathroom vanity turned kitchen cabinet". Again, it's so nice to be around family, so that they can help us out, too! :) Gabe's parents are also coming down to replace the old window ac unit in the living room with a new one that works better so that the house stays cool this summer. It's just so nice to be home!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

My St. Louis Testimony

I'm sitting here this Sunday in an almost completely empty home. Our stuff is all packed up and moved to Springfield (thanks everyone for your help!), minus a small carload of stuff that we are taking with us when we leave tomorrow morning. As our time here in St. Louis quickly comes to an end, I can't help but think about all the ways we have grown and changed since being here; all that we have learned and become. For the most part, those changes have come slowly over time, the kind that you don't really notice while you're in the midst of it. But when I look back at who I as 3 years ago when we first moved here, who WE were as a couple, we really have changed. A lot. And being fast Sunday today, I thought more specifically about how my testimony has grown and changed during my time here in St. Louis.

First and foremost, I have gained a testimony of the temple, stronger than I previously knew was possible. Words cannot express the peace that regularly and consistently being in the temple brings into your life. They cannot express the strength and fortitude that I have been blessed with through my service there as an ordinance worker each week. They cannot express the paramount importance of the work and ordinances performed there and their role in our salvation. They cannot express how completely being in the temple changes you, and fills you with the Spirit, with love, with His love.

Now that is not to say that every single time you attend the temple will be a profound, ground-breaking, life-changing experience that you will remember the rest of your life. To be certain, I WAS blessed with a precious few of those experiences through my service there, but they definitely did not happen every week. There were plenty of days that I went to bed the night before, dreading the time I had to wake up the next morning for my shift. Plenty of days that I wished I could just fall back asleep rather than get up and get ready for the temple. But even though I didn't always feel like going, and even though I didn't always have a miraculous experience while in the temple, I DID always feel the Spirit. I DID always feel His peace. I DID always have opportunities to serve. I DID always have opportunities to be blessed by the service of others. And that is how my testimony grew into what it is now. Just as the scriptures said, through small and simple things (Alma 37:6) and by doing his will (John 7:17). It was in the doing that I learned for myself, the going and being in the temple each week. And it was the everyday, nondescript, small and simple things that took place there each week that drew my heart to Him, that changed me and brought to my heart a new spirit, the Spirit of the Temple.

I have such a love for the temple now; I wish that everyone could have that some love for and testimony of the temple. The beautiful thing is that everyone can. Everyone can become worthy of a temple recommend, and choose to make temple attendance a priority in their life. Everyone can determine to act. Everyone can feel the sense of belonging, the feeling of coming home when they walk through the temple doors and participate in the ordinances therein. But for you, just as it was for me, that love will not come right away; that change will not come immediately. It will come slowly, many times almost imperceptibly. It will come piece by piece. It will come here a little, and there a little (Isaiah 28:10). It will come line upon line, precept upon precept as you are faithful and diligent in your efforts (D&C 98:12). For that is how the Lord works. That is how He shapes and molds His people. That is how you draw near unto Him.

And that is the testimony that I have gained as we have been in St. Louis these past 3 years. That is the change that has begun in me. And that is the change and testimony that I hope to keep alive and burning within me throughout my life, that I hope to be able to look back on and still be able to say in the years to come that I still "feel so now" (Alma 5:26).

Sunday, April 9, 2017

General Conference

Hooray for General Conference! It always makes for such a wonderful weekend. This Conference I took a page out of our Mia Maid leader's book and asked the Beehives to listen to General Conference looking for a favorite talk that they could share with each other this Sunday, and us leaders were to do the same. But as I listened, there wasn't any one talk that really just stood out as my "favorite." (In retrospect, I don't really think that I usually do have 1 single favorite just after listening, except for last October Conference. I absolutely LOVED President Nelson's talk on joy, and I have loved rereading and reviewing it over the last six months.)

I did, however, have a few favorite challenges that were given this Conference, and I am striving to be better at them in my day to day life. First was President Monson's challenge to read the Book of Mormon every day. He said, "If you are not reading the Book of Mormon each day, please do so," and "I implore each of us to prayerfully study and ponder the Book of Mormon each day." You can't get much clearer and direct then that. And especially with it coming from the prophet himself, and being one of the only things he stood and said this Conference, I felt I had better listen and obey. I do read from the scriptures every day, but lately I have been working my way through the Old Testament (and by lately I mean off and on for the past 2 or 3 years....), and sometimes I use the scriptures and material from an upcoming lesson I am teaching for my personal study. But for the past week I have made sure to also read at least 1 chapter from the Book of Mormon. Nothing overly profound has happened, but I have been very grateful for the counsel and the challenge. I just love the spirit of the Book of Mormon; it is just so familiar to me and so easy to understand. It has really helped, too, for the days when I don't really feel like studying. Instead of continuing to put off my scripture reading, I start with my one chapter from the Book of Mormon, and then even if I am just casually reading it, it more fully invites the Spirit, and puts me in a better place to really study other scriptures or prepare my lesson.

Which brings me to the second challenge that I heard and loved. Elder Rasband spoke about always having the Spirit to be with us and how we can make that a reality. It was his fourth suggestion that I took as a challenge, to act and be confident in the first promptings that I receive from the Holy Ghost. I think that probably everyone can relate with his comments that, "sometimes we rationalize; we wonder if we are feeling a spiritual impression or if it is just our own thoughts." But what followed played a large part in my determination to act. He said, "When we begin to second-guess, even third-guess, our feelings - and we all have - we are dismissing the Spirit; we are questioning divine counsel." Again, can you be any more clear or direct? I loved everything Elder Rasband said in that section of his talk: to act, and 9 times out of 10 we will get it right, that first promptings are pure inspiration from Heaven, and especially his caution to not expect "fireworks" because "you are about the work of the still, small voice." As with following the challenge to read the Book of Mormon each day, nothing overly profound has happened this week as I have tried to act on my first promptings, but I have felt more confident about my choices, and more satisfied at the end of each day that I have done what the Lord wants me to. Like I was saying about my scripture reading, instead of setting aside and dismissing the promptings I may receive during the day to stop what I am doing and read my scriptures because I don't really feel like it at the moment, I am now doing better at acting the first time, pulling out the Book of Mormon, and reading, which prepares my heart and mind for further study when I take the time to do so. And if I don't do any further studying, I have still at least read my scriptures for the day and followed that first prompting.

Truly, what a blessing it is to live in a day where we are guided by living prophets and apostles with modern revelation. And how remarkable that within a week of first hearing their words, we have access to read, listen to, or watch their talks again as often and wherever we want. I have been studying the Restoration lately in preparation for the combined young women lesson I am teaching next week and those blessings have been brought to the forefront of my mind. That we have again a living prophet, and that we have access to his words, and the words of those before him, that we are able to read them in our own language, and we can carry them with us everywhere we go by downloading them to our phones. These are all such commonplace things to us now, but what miracles and gifts they truly are.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Oops, I Did it Again...

I know you have Brittany Spears stuck in your head now, but that's actually NOT what I'm talking about. Nope, I'm talking about locking myself out of the house again. *eye roll* And only like two or three weeks after the last time - you'd think I'd have learned... Only this time Gabe was with me, and neither of us had keys.

It was Sunday over spring break. Gabe had a seminar that morning, and I had to go let a friend's dog out before going to Stake Conference. Thankfully Gabe always likes to leave early. We were talking to each other, and then I was also distracted with making sure I had the dinner stuff that I was going to put in the crockpot at the friend's house after letting the dog out. I think I was also carrying out all of my scripture study and lesson stuff to work on at their house. Usually when we go somewhere together, Gabe drives, so with my hands full with books and food, I forgot to grab the keys. We step outside together, and as he shuts the door, I stop what I'm saying in relation to the conversation and blurt out "I don't have the keys!" Too late. It was like 7:30 in the morning, so we're thinking, well at least we know the park manager will be home this time! But the door to his porch was locked and he didn't answer his phone, because I'm sure he was still sleeping...So Gabe tries opening the door with an old card (which he told me the last time wouldn't work on our door...just saying). No luck.

Then we remember that our kitchen windows don't actually lock, so if we can remove the screen, we could get in that way. Gabe finally bends the screen out of shape so that he can get it out of the way, and realizes he picked the window that actually halfway does lock he can't get it open. He moves over to the other window, has to break that screen as well, and then we get that window open. But trailers are raised, so the window is actually kind of high when you're standing on the ground. So we prop the window open (with the wooden spoon we keep next to it for that purpose) and I half stand on the trailer jack, half stand on Gabe's hands as he hoists me into the window. Of course it was the one cold day during the past month, so I have my winter coat and layers on as I pull myself through. This time, it totally looked like a break-in, lol, so I guess it's a good thing pretty much everyone was still asleep and didn't see us, haha. I got in, opened the front door and grabbed the car keys, and we continued on with our day, not really late for anything because, like I said, Gabe had us leave (or attempt to leave) early.

And this time, he made sure I learned from my mistakes. He gave me the spare key that he usually keeps in his backpack, and now it stays in my purse 100% of the time, haha. And if he needs a spare key, he takes the one with the mail key on it. (Except for that day, when I dropped him off at the seminar and then realized that he forgot a key, so I had to go back to the house, pick up another set of keys, and take that to him before heading to our friend's house to let the dog out, lol). What can I say...apparently I'm not always on top of everything. :P

Just Some Rambling

While I've definitely been writing on my blog more consistently than I probably ever have in the past, I still have not been writing even close to my goal for this year...which I'm pretty sure was like once a week. But hey, at least I'm improving! Anyway, point being, I'm writing now because I need to do it more. Not because I have anything specific to say or talk about. So this post may end up a little less than coherent. You have been warned, so here are my thoughts. :)

Moving: Holy smokes! We're down to a month left in St. Louis! :O I seriously almost can't believe it. And while I am still very much going to miss our awesome ward and serving in the temple, I no longer have the mixed emotions that I did at the beginning of the year. After our short trip home a week and a half ago - Ok, insert side-note here. Gabe's spring break was TWO and a half weeks ago, but Marshall's was ONE and half. We weren't sure if we'd be able to make it to baby Adelai's blessing in April, so we decided to try and visit Springfield the same time as Marshall and Jenessa to meet her there. So Gabe took a vacation day from clinic that Wednesday, and totally just skipped class on Tuesday and Wednesday (like he would have gone if we had stayed home...) and we had a super quick trip home from Tuesday morning to Wednesday evening. It was great. So, as short as that trip was, it was SO GOOD. We spent time with both of our parents, Marshall and Jenessa (and their adorable baby!), Marisa, Sarah, Glenda, and James and Kelli. And it just made me so ready to be living back home again. No more mixed feelings. As much as I will always remember our time here and the people we've associated with here with love and fondness, I am so excited to get back home. Because Springfield IS home to us, and St. Louis, as much as I've loved our time here, is not.

Trailer: Unfortunately with moving comes the necessity of selling our trailer...and we just heard that the trailer park may be bought we're not expecting to get as much for our trailer now as we were hoping to before, because there's a chance whoever buys it will have to move it soon. Which could possibly make this place fall apart. Just saying. We're not super worried about it, like I said, just not expecting to get as much money out of it. But like we've told everyone since buying the trailer, ANY money we get back out of it is money saved compared to what we would have spent if we had been renting an apartment the whole time - because rent here is nuts. So we're just starting to post our extra furniture and stuff that we want to get rid of, and we'll post the trailer for sale sometime this week, and hopefully we can get rid of it all before too long. :)

James and Kelli: They came to visit again last week! Some people would say we are crazy for having them stay the night in our two bedroom trailer with their 7 kids, but we always have a blast. :) This was probably the 4th or 5th time they've come up to stay the night with us, and then go to the temple while we watch their kids. We just throw all the kids in the spare bedroom, and then James and Kelli sleep on the couch, haha. This time though, we also went on a date together! I texted one of the young women in our ward and she and a friend babysat all the kids Friday night while we went to dinner and a movie together. We watched Beauty and the Beast, and I loved it! James fell asleep, lol. But the rest of us thought it was great, haha. I was pretty impressed. Gaston did an especially good job of being pompous and self-centered, lol. So ya, that visit was fun. Also, James helped Gabe fix more of our crappy plumbing, so now our kitchen sink always drains properly - yay!

Young Women: Man, being a Young Women leader takes so much more time and work than I ever realized, and can be way harder than I ever thought, but I love it SO MUCH. I think one of the things I love most is how much it has made me grow. I think it's kind of like the growing that parenthood causes. Learning to understand each individual girl, how to relate to them, how to love them and get along with them has been much more of a stretching experience for me than I would have expected. Also, I LOVE teaching. Sometimes I procrastinate too much, and totally fail, and those lessons aren't so great, but more often I spend the week thinking about it and am really able to feel the Spirit guiding my preparations and then guiding me during the lesson itself. And that is so neat. Teaching the Beehive class has been fun - a totally new and different experience from teaching the Laurels! I feel like I get more basic questions from the Beehives, and it's just kind of neat because that's a new thing for me. Especially feeling the Spirit bring scriptures and teachings to my remembrance to help me answer their questions that weren't necessarily a part of my preparations. THAT is a neat experience.

That one girl: But of course, stretching and growing comes from challenges...and since I had overcome most of my personal challenges with the Laurels in our ward, of course I was moved to the Beehives. And had to start all over. As always, there are a couple girls that I just absolutely love - they are super sweet, always have comments and questions to contribute to the lesson, they're always positive, engaged, and happy. But there's also in my current class the girl who thinks she's too cool for school. *eye roll* She only wants to participate if it's going her way. Her attention span is worse than a 3 year old's. And her "loving" jokes can actually be super jerk-ish and cutting. And somehow, she is the leader of the pack and the one in control anytime she is around. It's kind of super frustrating. Especially because she actually is a really good girl, and she comes from a really good family. But man does she rub me the wrong way - especially when the girls I super love get snubbed or made to feel less than others because of her. So that's my current stretching experience...that I've been trying to figure out since I moved to Beehives last October... And sometimes it's tempting to think, "Who cares, I'm leaving in a month anyway," and then I listen to conference this weekend and hear Elder Palmer talk about serving as a mission president and learning to stop asking how to correct these missionaries making such ridiculous mistakes or saying such surprising things, and change it to start asking how to be filled with Christlike love for them instead. And that's totally what I had to learn with the girls I struggled with in the Laurels class. And that's kind of hard to do when all you see of them is the things that drive you crazy about them. But I'm trying. Maybe not always trying my best - like when she keeps derailing the class presidency meeting and makes it last an hour instead of 30 minutes because she will NOT keep on topic - but I am trying. So I should probably stop complaining about her, because that definitely doesn't make me feel any Christlike love toward her...

New Ward: But as frustrating as that can all be, and as annoying as driving 20 minutes each way to get to mutual on Wednesday is, I seriously love serving in Young Womens. And so I really wonder what my new calling will be when we move. And if I am lucky enough to be with the youth again...I have a totally new group of kids that I would have to get to know. And getting to know new people is NOT one of my fortes. But whatever happens I'm sure it will be good. Or at least it will be what the Lord wants for me. I do believe that (of course that's easier to believe before receiving a calling that you really don't want :P ). Plus I just found out today that Sarah team teaches Gospel Doctrine in the ward we will be in! That will be fun. :) Unless I get a calling that takes place during 2nd hour and I never actually go to her class...but for now I'll just pretend like that won't be the case. ;)

Health: Holy smokes...I am SO grateful for my husband! I don't know how I would survive if I didn't have him to work on me. It's been a couple months now since he last really worked on me, and I am so feeling it. He was super busy in January and February so it didn't really happen, and then in March I was taking saliva samples during my cycle for a hormone panel, so he didn't work on me, because we didn't want any supplements to come up that might affect my results. And now we're waiting for the results before he starts working on me again. I'm hoping to get them sometime this week, and I'm really anxious to see them. We're both really hoping it will help him find some answers for what the heck is going on with my body. After going so long without him seriously working on me, I've gotten so much more tired again, needing way more sleep and being super groggy in the mornings again, more headaches and muscle aches, and being more moody and irritable, also having less of an appetite again. Mostly it's all just really annoying.

So ya, that's the stuff that's been on my mind lately. As usual this ended up super lengthy cause I'm long-winded and wordy. But hey, it's my blog, so I can make my posts as long and rambling as I want, right? ;)

Monday, March 6, 2017

Getting Back into Books

Since graduating with my Associate's Degree I've decided I need to start reading more on my own, especially books that I could really learn from, not just modern quick-read fiction. Last year I made a goal to read one biography or classic novel each trimester. I ended up reading more than just 3 books, and was so glad for the goal to jump-start me.

I began with Charles Dickens' "Great Expectations." Just adjusting to the different (and I would assert more intelligent as well) way of speaking from that time period made me feel like I was furthering my own education. I really enjoyed the whit and humor in the writing as well as the plot twists and connections, though the ending fell a little flat for me. Overall I enjoyed the read, and felt like truly classic stories and authors (like Dickens) really do have a lot to offer. Plus I didn't have to worry about coming across anything inappropriate in my reading - a HUGE plus for me.

I think the next book I read was "Uncle Tom's Cabin" by Harriet Beecher Stowe. We had gone to see Operation Underground Railroad at the theater, and Timothy Ballard talked about this being his favorite book and very influential in his beginning the operation. I also remembered hearing about it in The King and I while growing up, so I decided to get it from the library. It was such a fantastic book. The only thing that could have made it better was having my own copy so that I could mark the many passages that struck me. Seriously, SUCH a good book. She does a fantastic job showing the variety of views on slavery and blacks during that time period through words, thoughts, and actions of all the different characters. There were so many poignant passages about human nature, how we treat others, and trust in God all throughout the book.

After seeing Jenessa's recommendation on Facebook, I read "The Girl from the Train" by Irma Joubert. It's a foreign novel, following a young man and a little girl - from Poland near the end of World War II, down to South Africa amidst the prejudices there. It was really neat to experience so many different cultures through the characters in this book.

I'm pretty sure Jane Austen's "Persuasion" was my next book - which I absolutely loved. This was only the second Jane Austen book I had ever read. The first was "Emma" in high school, and at the time, I kept losing interest because of the long descriptions, archaic language, and huge age gap in the romance. It took me way too long to finish back then, and I think it kind of kept me from reading more of Jane Austen's work. This time around, I really enjoyed her writing style and the challenge of our language differences from then to now. Also, "Persuasion" has a great love story, and again, it was so nice to enjoy the book without worrying about content.

I checked out "The Screwtape Letters" by C. S. Lewis from the library, but never finished it. There are a lot of profound passages in it, but I had a hard time delving into the book. I think it would have helped if it was my own copy that I could write and mark in, so that I could interact with it more, since there's not much of a story-line to follow. I really liked what I did read of it - C. S. Lewis was a brilliant man with such a wonderful understanding of morals and moral truths - and I definitely want to finish reading it at some point, because I feel like there is a lot to learn from it. At the time, I just wasn't connecting with it for some reason.

After that I ended up rereading the Harry Potter series, minus the last book. These were definitely just for fun (although I would say these books have become modern classics), but I was ok with that since I had already reached my goal of 3 classics for the year. I think that was actually my first time to reread them, which also meant it was my first time to read them one right after another, without having to wait for the next book to come out. They are such fun books! And there is just so much you miss out on in the movies. I loved the added depth and humor that I had forgotten about. Sometime during my reading the series I got "The Cursed Child" from the library and read that as well. It was a super quick read with a very different style (obviously), but I enjoyed it for what it was. The only reason I didn't end up rereading the last book of the series was because I got busy with other things and waited too long to start it, so by the time it was due back at the library I was separated from the story enough that I didn't bother checking it out again.

I've set my goal for 2017 at 1 book per month (again, going for more classic/educational books and biographies). I'm already a little behind, and there's still a LOT of time that I spend watching tv that I should spend reading instead, but I'm making progress!