Thursday, September 6, 2018

three months a bostonian

It's about time I brought a few updates over here.

The quick version: I graduated from BYU in April and moved to Boston in June to work for SHIFT Communications as a post-graduate intern. I serve as the Relief Society pianist

You can follow my daily updates on Instagram @ThePRGrad.

Now for the longer version.

This move across the country has been exactly what I had hoped and expected and secretly didn't want to bring upon myself. I love being entirely on my own and discovering my own resourcefulness. Work challenges me to keep up my skills from college while also building an entirely new knowledge base. The strength of the members of the Church out here has been the biggest blessing. Living in the middle of so much American history is a dream come true.

Then we have the hard times. I'm currently in between housing, living off the hospitality of others. The decisions of grad school and working full-time and career paths are all staring me straight in the face. New friends are wonderful but still not at the point of my core Utah group. Vulnerability has never been my strong suit; I'm a much better listener than sharer. Uncomfortable questions, waiting in coffee shops, relying entirely on other people is becoming my norm.

Work is fulfilling, yet also tedious. It sometimes feels like I will never get out of this cycle of never-ending internships. I have to constantly remind myself to think a little more different and find innovative ways to approach the same old scans, emails, social posts and tracking that I do every single day.

I have felt the pangs of homesickness and loneliness more than I ever imagined I would. My weaknesses are revealing themselves more prominently, making me forget my strengths every now and again. Personal confidence has been shattered and glued back together and then broken all over again. I've never felt so fragile or uncertain outside of my physical health problems.

In the midst of all of these realities, I'm finding little pieces of joy. Boston is absolutely beautiful when it's not a million degrees outside. Everything is so green. I can dedicate more time and mental energy to studying the scriptures and words of living prophets. New friends are able to connect on a deeper level because school and boy drama are no longer the norm of conversation. I'm finally working through my booklist during the commute to and from work. I've enjoyed a few thunderstorms and beautiful evenings on the porch. The hints of fall are in the air, and I cannot wait for the colors to hit New England.

Every member of my ward tells me, "Boston will break you and then build you up again."

As I'm in the middle of the breaking portion of my Boston experience, I have been touched by the goodness of people and of our Heavenly Father. I have been reminded of my divine identity and purpose. I have felt encircled in the arms of His love. I have learned the importance of acting in faith, especially when it means taking some terrifying steps into the dark. I have witnessed angels sent in answers to tearful prayers. I have felt my Savior's hand take mine to lead me along. I am slowly learning how to recognize my Heavenly Father's will for me.

That's more than anyone ever wanted to know.

In short, I simply want to testify that God is in the details of the details of the details. When we choose to see Christ in every aspect of our daily lives, He is there. We are never alone, though sometimes Heavenly Father withholds answers to allow us to own our decisions. How He loves us.

"I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours." -Henry David Thoreau, a fellow Bostonian

I look forward to those coming hours.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

the edge of the mississippi

I've been pondering on what it means to move forward in faith.

My family decided to visit Nauvoo over the Christmas break. Our visit at the end of December was an entirely different experience from our usual summer vacations. The town was freezing and nearly deserted except for the faithful senior missionaries. We visited our favorite sites and reflected on our previous experiences in the beautiful city.

One morning, we drove down Parley Street to the edge of the Mississippi River. This is the road the saints walked down as they left their homes and followed the prophet's call to head west. Plaques containing quotes and journal entries from these early church members line the street. 

I've walked down Parley Street numerous times. I've read the plaques and heard the same stories every summer.
But this visit was different.

As I stood at the edge of the ice-covered river, the stories of these people leaving behind their homes, livelihoods and beautiful temple suddenly took on new meaning. I looked at the ice-covered river wondering how those pioneers managed to physically and mentally cross into the unknown west. I thought of the families huddled together, trying to stay warm but unable to escape the wind. I felt the almost-immediate urge to run back to the warm homes just up the street.

The wind from the river combined with the bitter cold pushed me back to the warmth of the car after only a minute or two. But those few moments at the edge of the Mississippi River have made me think.

It's easy to imagine ourselves doing hard things when life is in the "summer mode."
It's easy to not work during a semester and tell yourself you could handle a job along with classes
It's easy to say you're happy to help anyone with anything when your own life is running smoothly. 
It's easy to imagine following the call to go west when the river is full and the green hills on the other side carry the promise of a hope-filled future.

Thankfully, God knows what will actually help us grow. 
He asks us to do hard things right when it seems we can't do anything else.
He asks us to take on an extra calling while juggling three jobs and school already.
He asks us to serve more when we already have family members and roommates to take care of.
He asks us to give a little more to Him when we are financially, physically and emotionally spent.

He asks us to start a journey of unknown length to an unknown destination in the middle of the winter. 

One of my favorite lines from Nauvoo says, "West is just a direction, not a destination." 
Looking at the example of these early pioneers, I'm blown away by the sheer amount of faith they had to step on to the frozen Mississippi River and move forward. 
They had no idea where they were going.
They had no clue how long they would be walking.
They only knew that they were supposed to go west.

God often asks us to move and to change. That call usually comes at the seemingly most inconvenient times. We want to put off the prompting or ignore it entirely. We can't imagine why a loving Heavenly Father would put one more thing on our shoulders. To top it all off, we have no idea where He's trying to take us. Usually, His path makes little sense to our short-term minds.

This is the power of moving forward in faith.
We don't know the specifics of God's plan for each of us. There are hints in the scriptures and personal revelation, but we can't see everything laid out in plain detail. That's a frustrating concept for a planner, like myself.

But step by step, as we follow God's directions, we find ourselves coming closer to Him.
We discover what He needs us to accomplish.
We discover who we truly are as His children.
We align our will with our Heavenly Father's.
We become who He needs us to become.
And, step by step, we make it across the Mississippi River.

This is a time where I feel that I am one of the pioneers standing at the edge of the river, shaking my head and wondering why God is asking me to take those first steps. I wonder how I could possibly make it across. And yet, as I have acted and moved forward, I have felt Him guiding me every single day. 

I  know Heavenly Father loves me. I know He loves you. I know we are His children. He will not lead us astray.

So move forward. Act.
We won't go anywhere just standing at the edge of the Mississippi.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

five barley loaves and two fishes

I have felt the need to share this for a while now.
This is the story of someone who has become very important in my life.
I hope he changes your life, too.
Please note: holes were filled in this account with creative license. Not all details may be accurate, but ultimately help to get the point of the story across.

Taken from John 6:5-14

A great multitude had followed Jesus after seeing the miracles He had performed. After going up into the mountain with his disciples, Jesus looked down upon the crowd.
"Jesus...was moved with compassion toward them... and he began to teach them many things." Mark 6:34

The day had grown late, and the disciples recommended sending the people to their homes to eat. 
But Jesus had another plan.
"...he saith unto Philip, [from where] shall we buy bread, that these may eat? And this he said to prove [Philip]: for he himself knew what he would do."

Philip, a bit taken aback by the request, examined the size of the multitude - five thousand people. It was late in the day. These people were hungry. Jesus and the disciples still need to eat. As the keeper of the money bag, Philip knew exactly how much money Jesus had to use, and there wouldn't be enough.
"Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little."

Jesus knew this of course. He nodded at Philip, acknowledged that this would not work and so there must be another option. Whether by Jesus' suggestion or their own idea, the disciples begin to go out among the people to see what food is available to be shared among the group.

Their work yielded little. The crowd had come suddenly and without preparation. Perhaps sending the people back home would be the best option.
"But Jesus said unto them, They need not depart; give ye them to eat." Matthew 14:16
Jesus wasn't done teaching.

Andrew, one of the disciples, came across a young man with some food. Five barely loaves and two small fish to be exact. Andrew asked the young man if he would be willing to share his food, to which the young man responds affirmatively. Andrew leads him back to Jesus with the food.

"There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many?"
There are a hundred emotions that hit the lad at this point.
First, it's worth noting that barley was the coarse flour of those with little money. These five barley loaves may have been all the food he had for the week. Perhaps he was off to give the food to other family members. Regardless, the barley loaves indicated his poor economic status.
The lad realizes that the disciples mean to share his food with the five thousand, not just among each other. This would mean no leftover food for his own use.

The questioning in the voice of well-meaning disciple places doubt in the heart of the young man. Andrew had done all he could to find food to give the multitude, yet he doubted that it could ever be enough. And that's enough for the young man to wonder if his little bit of food is even worth offering.

Jesus sees Andrew bring the lad forward.
He listens to his disciple list the food offered.
He hears the question everyone wants to ask: how do you intend to feed five thousand?
And then Jesus turns to the young lad and asks, "May I share your food?"
The love of the Savior burns brightly as the lad looks Jesus in the eyes and responds, "Yes."

We know the rest of the story. Jesus takes the offered food, gives thanks, blesses the food, and breaks the food for the disciples to distribute among the people.
It's the miracle of how five thousand people were fed from five loaves and two small fishes.

Our Heavenly Father asks us to do certain things. He wants us to keep His commandments, to serve His children, to go to the temple, to give thanks, and so on.
Sometimes I wonder how I can ever do it all.
After all, we are imperfect mortals. I have weaknesses. A lot of them. I feel like I falter more than I move forward. I have so little I can give to Him.

But that's the point, isn't it?

Just like this young lad, we often approach the Lord with our meager offerings wondering,
What am I among so many?
Do you really expect my five loaves and two fishes to make a difference?
We doubt ourselves.
We doubt our faith.

And then Christ looks into our souls
“If you give me everything you have, I promise that miracles will happen.”

There are so many people at this crucial moment of life.
Will you give Christ your five loaves and two fishes in faith?
I have felt that this semester. I have felt my offerings seem to grow smaller and smaller to the point where I feel like all I can give is half a barley loaf.

And then Christ steps in.
That’s the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
He changes us.
He makes us whole.
He makes us instruments.
And He feeds five thousand with our seemingly insignificant offering.

This boy changed my life because he had the faith to give all he had to the Savior.
I’m still trying to grow that kind of faith.
But in the moments where I have given everything to Christ, miracles have happened.

I testify that as we bring ourselves to Christ, He will magnify our influence, our talents, and our sacrifices beyond compare.
I know God lives. I know Jesus is our Savior.
I know He loves us.
I know He heals us.
I know He makes us into more than we could ever be on our own.

And that is the story of a boy who changed my life.

summer reflections

This summer strengthened my testimony that God is in the details of our lives.
He placed people in my path who I needed to meet.
He reminded me of who I wanted to become.
He counseled me on who I did not want to become.
He made the mountains more beautiful every day.
He cooled the mornings to reduce my summer heat exhaustion.
He gave a job to someone else so I could have my dream campus job.
He gave me tender mercies, like thunderstorms, parking spots, and sleeping in.

I learned a lot about myself these past three months.
Mostly, I was reminded about the incredible people the Lord put into my life.

Coming home from a mission was hard.
Daily scripture study was hard.
Being alone was hard.
Talking to boys was really hard.

But the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ remain true, no matter where you are in life.
I know He gives us strength to do everything He asks of us. And more.
It took a while to figure it out, but I know how to better rely on Him and put my life in His hands.
I love this gospel.
And I might even be starting to love summer.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

communications 101

Second assignment for my communications class this summer: create a blog post analyzing some aspect of mass media using the theories discussed in class.
Here's what I came up with. More meaningful posts to come later on in life.
You can see the posts of other class members at our class blog.
Each of us has a passion. My friends all proudly declare their loves for all aspects of life: marching band, stress-relieving runs, puppet-building, food, and medical technology. Our passions tend to be those things in which we are active participants. We find a place of belonging with other people who share those same interests. We then tend to create a community with these people where that interest can be discussed, experienced, and analyzed without judgement. Today, there is a new kind of community rising based upon media interests: the internet fandom.
The Urban Dictionary defines a fandom as, “The community that surrounds a TV show, movie, book, etc.” The most common fandoms I have noticed include: Sherlock, Doctor Who, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Supernatural, Hunger Games, My Little Pony, Star Wars, Merlin, Avengers, Mean Girls, just about anything Disney, Twilight, the list goes on.Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 9.27.39 PM
The difference, however, between the casual fan and the member of a fandom of any of these groups comes down to the application of what mass communication researchers define as the uses-and-gratifications media theory. This research examines why audiences use media and what they do with it, rather than what the media does to them.
The active fandom member will seek out and create new media to describe their feelings, or “feels” in the fandom world, for their particular book, movie, TV show, and so on. The passive fandom member, such as myself, will quietly stalk, like, and share this audience-created media for hours to validate his or her own belonging to the community.
Most people are not excluded to just a single fandom. For example, one may love Harry Potter, Sherlock and Star Wars and still be actively involved in media surrounding both groups. In fact, some people have created their own kind of “media convergence” by bringing multiple fandoms together through what they create, share, and repost.
Screen Shot 2015-06-29 at 9.57.02 PM
These media artifacts can be memes, cosplay (elaborate costumes of beloved characters), gifs, merchandise, YouTube videos, fan fiction, and many, many Tumblr posts. Outlets for sharing these kinds of media include Pinterest, Tumblr (it’s always Tumblr’s fault), Buzzfeed, Comic Con, blogs, and just about any other kind of social media available.
Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 11.32.23 PM
This brings up the question: what do these media artifacts reflect about our society?
Reading through the list of fandoms above, chances are you recognized several of the books, movies, and TV shows listed. You also most likely want to go look up the ones you don’t know as much about to see why you be sucked into yet another fandom. I grew up without reading or watching “Harry Potter”, and in my little world, that was perfectly acceptable. However, once I arrived at BYU campus, I quickly discovered that little knowledge of such an important topic was just an inadmissible error in my life that needed to be remedied as quickly as possible. Today, I find myself a part of the “Harry Potter” fandom, with all the “feels” that a member of this community experiences from the original books and movies.
Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 11.41.45 PM
One could argue that as a “produser,” or someone who both uses and produces media, audience members create these new pieces of media based on the original piece to help with the emotional highs and lows of being a dedicated member of a fandom. This could be an effect of the messages encoded by the original media creators: the author, script-writer, director, or actor. The creators want to elicit emotional appeals in whatever messages the media sends to the audience. However, within a fandom, the audience often will decode these emotional appeals to a more extreme level than the original creator may have intended.
Screen Shot 2015-06-29 at 10.01.35 PM
This could work both ways. Seeing the gifs, memes, posts, and merchandise fandom members create, the original authors of the media message may revisit plot lines, dialogue, and other aspects to continue to provide the content that the audience continually uses. For example, members of Tumblr regularly complain of the television writer and producer, Steven Moffat, for continually placing characters in stressful, deadly, emotional situations. However, these situations are also the focus of most of fandom media. Steven Moffat may choose to decode the messages from fandoms as an indication to continue creating these highly-irritating cliff hanger moments.
Ultimately, the rise of the internet fandom leads us to question what kinds of media are most important in our daily lives. Becoming more actively involved in a fandom requires us to analyze where we spend our time. Some will argue that even though none of this is real, it doesn’t matter if these shows and movies become a focal point of mental and physical energy. The decision comes to each of us to decide if we will let this become a lifestyle or stay a merely entertaining piece of media.
The choice is yours. Welcome to the fandom world.
fandom gif
All images courtesy of Pinterest.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

the first seven weeks of reality

The past seven weeks have been full of family, cleaning, finding out about weddings and engagements, band concerts, friends visiting, road trips, food, birthdays, and awkward adjustment.
Nothing out of the ordinary.

Coming home from a mission is so much harder than I ever anticipated. Finding that balance between being in the world but not of the world becomes the challenge of every single day.
Seven weeks later, I think I'm finally figuring it out.

Pray daily. Multiple times a day.
Read your scriptures. Nothing happens until that happens.
Those are the daily non-negotiable priorities.
It's just living the basics.
And everything else works out from there.

I came across this article that had this powerful statement:

"Frequent the scriptures often enough that your brain craves that kind of input - that your day feels incomplete without it."

Scripture study has been the struggle of struggles since I came home. My desire to really feast on the words of Christ grew weak. I missed the power of morning study on my mission. Prayer, time, and, of course, studying helped strengthen that desire, and now I can feel the Lord's direction for this next phase of my life.

One of my friends suggested a study of the topic "balance."That led to several powerful studies in the scriptures, but especially with the words of modern-day prophets. Elder Ballard, one of the apostles, stated in his talk from April 1987,

"Just do the very best you can each day. Do the basic things and, before you realize it, your life will be full of spiritual understanding that will confirm to you that your Heavenly Father loves you. When a person knows this, then life will be full of purpose and meaning, making balance easier to maintain."

That's a powerful promise.
I know I am a daughter of God. I know He lives and He loves me.
I know the same to be true for you.
There is power in that truth.

This past weekend in Nauvoo, one of the characters made a simple observation: "When the pioneers left, they didn't know where they would end up. West wasn't a destination, it was just a direction."

That hit me. Hard.
I have no idea where Heavenly Father needs me to end up. But I'm starting to get a sense of where He needs me to start moving. And for now, that's enough.

So that's life on the home front. Different from being out on the mission, but still where Heavenly Father needs His work done. He continues to build me in His own ways each and every day. The gospel is true, no matter what part of life we find ourselves in. How grateful I am for that simple fact! This is His work, His plan. He will always be with us.

First Sunday home with the family!
Classiest high school band concert ever.
Treasured time at the temple with mom.
Sister Bill/Kathy came to visit and so we did awesome things. Like go to Nauvoo.
Seminary graduation with these cuties.
Hanging out with Ashley/Sister Fluegel from the mission.
He turned 15. We're all getting way too old.
The Coombs surprised Megan for graduation!
I love this city.
Prom hair was an adventure.
Family adventures downtown.
She survived high school! Only one more to go.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

on a mission

In exactly one hour, I will be set apart as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

You can follow all of my wonderful missionary adventures over at my missionary blog, which is linked up at the top, or right here below.

Love you all. Keep smiling, and I'll see you in 2015!