Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Life is what you want it to be... DREAM BIG!

Last night I watched "The Secret." For anyone that has not seen the movie or read the book, I HIGHLY recommend it. It has changed my life. I could sit and recount story after story of how I have seen the secret work in my life and the lives of others. So often we function from a place of scarcity (there isn't enough to go around). When you change your way of thinking and start functioning from a place of abundance (there is plenty to go around) your world changes. What you focus on gets bigger. I believe this!  As I was watching the movie with my parents I started to re-evaluate what I want in my life. What are my dreams? Where do I see myself ten years from now? What is my plan for my future? 


So I have decided to give you a brief glimpse of where I would like to be in ten years. I will have graduated with my Masters degree in Community Leadership (non-profit). I would like to start a home for abused children in Montana. I knew abuse was a problem several years ago when I decided this was the path I wanted to take. However, since serving my mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I became so much more aware of the problem abuse has become in our society. I would venture to say that about one in every three people had a history of being abused or knew someone that did. They told me of the challenges they faced as they tried to forgive their abusers for the trauma they had caused. The abuse caused life time effects. It affected the way they functioned; the way their brain worked. Getting over abuse was not a one time ordeal, but rather a lifetime of processing what happened. As I worked with these people who had been to hell and back, it reaffirmed my decision to dedicate my life trying to change this problem. 



In ten years I would like to open a home for abused children. I see this home as a place where abused children can come and live. I would like to get them counseling, introduce them to religion. There is hope that only comes through our Savior. He is the only one that can heal these deep penetrating wounds. Through His grace, they can rid themselves of the burden that has been placed on them. They can feel pure and clean again. I saw it over and over again. I know the Atonement of Jesus Christ is real. He can heal what others would say is beyond repair. He went through all so that He could understand us. He knows exactly what they are going through, because He went there himself. I want to introduce these children to the Gospel of Jesus Christ because it is the only thing that can help them. I would like to get them into school and when they are old enough to go to college, I would like to help them get scholarships. In a very real way I plan to make them my family. They deserve better than the cards they were dealt. I want them to realize they can rise above their current circumstances and they can be whatever they want to be. There are no limitations to their potential!

I plan to be married sometime in the next ten years in the temple to the man of my dreams. We will be madly in love and he will be my other half. If I learned anything on my mission, it would be that I will NOT settle when it comes to finding the man I want to marry. I know where I want my life to go. I plan to dedicate my life to the Lord and I need a man who plans to do the same. My husband will be a self-motivated man. He will be funny and full of charity. He will put the Lord first always and he will be full of integrity. I think trust in HUGE in a marriage. If you don't have trust you don't have anything. That trust doesn't come over night. It comes from a lifetime of living what you believe. It comes from having integrity. Somewhere along the line the virtue of integrity dropped to the bottom of peoples priority list. I will not settle down until I have met a man I KNOW I can trust no matter what. Life is hard enough as it is, we don't need to make it more complicated than needs be. 

I plan to help start charities all around the world. I want to travel and visit all of them. I want to take my family with me. I will teach my children the importance of service and the joy that comes when you focus on helping other people. My mum always taught me "you were born to privilege and with that comes specific obligations." I was blessed with an incredible family who loves the Savior more than anything else. I never went without anything growing up. My Heavenly Father blessed me with more than I can describe. I was raised in a home where love was at the center. We were taught about Christ and we knew what was expected from us. We knew the Gospel and we were taught to make the right choices. I would not be where I am today without my parents and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We studied the scriptures, especially The Book of Mormon, on a daily basis. We prayed together as a family often. We ate dinner together. We spent time as a family. When one person was hurting the whole family felt it. We are close! I will raise my own family the same way. 

I would love to spend some time in England. I wanted to do a study abroad in Europe, however I think I will wait until I graduate from college to do that. I can do more good when I have my degree and I start working. I want to live in a place where the Church is not huge. That way I can continue to do missionary work. However, most importantly, I want to do what the Lord wants me to do. I will let him guide me and my decisions. He always has a better plan than I have for myself. I KNOW that without a doubt. 

So that is a very brief overview of where I would like to be in ten years. Here are a few things I learned from watching "The Secret":

-"What you think about, you bring about."
-"We sculpt our lives with our thoughts."
-"An affirmative thought is 100 times more powerful than a negative one."
-"All that we are is the result of what we have thought."
-"Always and ONLY dwell upon the end result."
-"Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life's coming attractions."
-"When you have an inspired thought you have to trust it and you have to act on it."
-"Do you treat yourself the way you want others to treat you?"
-"We need to love ourselves! There is something magnificent about YOU!"
-"We create our own happiness. Don't give others the opportunity to create your happiness. No one has           control to create our own happiness except for us."
-"A man becomes what he thinks about."
-"What you resist persists."
-"Energy flows where attention goes."
-"All power is from within and is therefore under our control."
-"When you focus on what you want, what you don't want falls away."
-"Whether you think you can or think you can't you are right!"

Honestly I know that is true! Thoughts become our reality. Everything starts with a thought. Change the way you think and you will change you life!! Try it! I wish you all a Merry Christmas. I hope we can take time this season to stop and reflect on ALL that our Savior did for us. Try to find something you can give to him. He gave us LIFE and the opportunity to return to live with Him again. The least we can do is try to share that hope with those around us. Look around, I guarantee we will find an opportunity to serve those in need. Christmas is a time of hope. A time to reflect on who we are and who we can be. It is never too late to change. We can feel of the Savior's love for us and for all mankind as we take time to ponder on all that he did for us. Don't let the hustle and bustle of the season detract from the true meaning of Christmas. May God bless you and your family throughout this upcoming year! 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

First Transfer Home


  
 I have been home now for almost six weeks. I thought time on my mission flew by, but that is nothing compared to how fast the past month has gone by. I knew there would need to be adjustments made when I came back to my life in Utah. I had suspected that listening to music or watching tv might be hard for me. However, I was surprised to find that the things I thought would be hard were not. Yet, the things I did not think would be a challenge have proven to be just that. I had a hard time wanting to be social. I think I was with someone for 24 hours a day that when I was finally released and able to be alone, that is all I wanted to do. I remember going to my little brothers football game at Orem High and my mum would say "oooo Madelaine look its 'so and so' go say hello!!" I felt myself sinking a little deeper into the cold hard bleacher beneath me. I wished I was invisible. I didn't want to talk about my mission. I didn't want to explain to everyone what my plans were now that I was home. I just wanted to be alone and give myself a minute to breathe. The idea of speaking in church and then having everyone come to my house afterwards was terrifying for me. That meant they were coming to watch me and they were going to be talking to me. It would inevitably mean answering those two questions over and over and over again.

"Madelaine how was your mission?" which in turn would merit the response 
"It was great! Best thing I have ever done." End of that conversation. Next question:
"What are your plans now that you are home?" I would say
"I will start school in January and until then I plan to give myself some time to adjust."

The last comment "well you look great!" 

After responding to the same words for hours on end, I became exhausted mentally and physically. People would ask me to talk about my mission and as soon as I did most people would tune out. They would smile and nod and they were walking away before I even got to the middle of the story. (Now those of you who know me, know that my stories are not long! I don't give much detail. I tend to tell stories like a boy. Short simple and straight to the point. Any details people want, they will ask me for them. So if someone walked away before the middle of my stories that meant it was maybe after 15 seconds.) The first couple of times this happened I was patient. I tried to understand. After about the tenth time I became frustrated. After several days of people asking me and giving me the same response, I became upset and I vowed I would not talk to anyone about my mission. I broke down one night and I talked to my mum about it. I wanted her to know why I felt the way I did. It always helps me to clear my head when I am able to express myself. I told her that my mission MEANS EVERYTHING to me. I cannot stand the idea of sharing such personal and sacred experiences with people that do not value them the same way I do. It hurt too much to watch people show little to no interest in what actually happened on my mission. I decided that some of my experiences will stay between my mission companions and myself. There is a missionary bond between missionaries. I can't explain it. Most seem to understand exactly what I was going through. It was nice to have them to talk to. 

I wasn't expecting the awkwardness I felt around boys. I was in a mission where I was around elders ALL the time. I never felt awkward around them. So I thought that adjusting to men when I came home would be no problem. Boy... was I wrong. haha I felt very uncomfortable if a boy stood too close to me. I didn't know how to text boys. Amanda told me I needed to be more flirty. I have never had anyone tell me I need to flirt more. haha probably the opposite. I felt out of my element. She would tell me what to write to boys and I could not do it. Putting a smiley face on a message was already borderline too forward. I felt weird giving boys hugs. I would try to pull back before the hug even started. haha when they didn't let go I felt claustrophobic. I tried to avoid all hugs. 

Boys told me I was not awkward and they tried to ask me out. I told them I am not ready for that. Some would keep trying and some would say they will give me the time I need. I was talking to a boy one day. He was asking how my mission was and how it was being home. I told him my mission was great! I said that I am definitely adjusting and I am NOT READY to date. He nodded his head and said he totally understood. The next sentence he said was "Hey do you think I can get your number so that I can take you on a date?" I just looked at him for half a second wondering if he had listened to a single word I just said... I was thinking "Umm... clueless! I just told you I am NOT READY to date." I told myself to be nice while keeping my New York way of communicating which is to always be blunt and say exactly what you are thinking. So I responded and said "No. I don't think so. I just told you Im not ready to date. Thanks though." Everyone has been predicting I would get married soon. I think it may be a long time. My faith in the opposite sex is very small at the moment. I need someone who listens to me and I mean really listens. I didn't think it would be that hard to find. haha 

A couple weeks after being home I got a weird blister on my eye lid. Mum and dad were in Hawaii doing business so I couldn't really show her. I thought it would go away. After a day or two it started to hurt really really badly. I took advil and it barely touched it. Then little blisters started to appear all around it. I felt soo ugly and I had no idea what was going on. I finally told my mum and asked her what to do. She told me to go see the dermatologist. I went in and had my beautiful eyelid full of blisters examined. The doctor told me that I had shingles. He gave me a prescription and his cell phone number to text him if I had any questions. He also told me to go see the eye doctor right away to make sure it did not get into my eye. He said that if it spread to my eye it could make me blind. I asked him out of curiosity what caused shingles. He told me it usually comes out when you are beyond exhausted or extremely stressed. He asked what I was doing in my life. I told him I just came home from a mission. He laughed and said "well that will definitely do it!" I went to the eye doctor and lucky for me it had not spread into my eye. Phew... prayer answered! It is starting to go away. Super ugly. However, I have never been more grateful for make up. I think my mission ran my body to the ground. haha It was well worth it don't get me wrong. I think I must just be a stress head. I don't know when that happened. I was always a "go with the flow" type of person. "Nothing is worth rushing for" kind of girl. I must just hold all the stress inside. Note to self... figure that out soon! 

After six weeks, or the equivalent of one transfer, of being home I am starting to feel more comfortable in my own skin. I am just going to embrace any awkwardness that I may experience. My mission was the best thing I have ever done. It has blessed my life and my future family's. I have learned things I never thought I would learn. I have become completely converted to the Gospel. I get it now! I have made friends that I will have forever. I have seen the Atonement work in my life and in the lives of countless people. I am a living witness that the Atonement of Jesus Christ is real! People can change. The Gospel can touch people that you would never think possible. I have seen strong, tough, prideful men melt when they learn about their Savior. I have seen years of pain being lifted from individuals who had lost hope and faith. I have seen eyes light up as they learn that they can live with their family forever. I have seen gratitude as people have had their prayers answered through something we said while guided by the spirit. I have felt overwhelming love for others as they whisper reverently and quietly thank the Lord for sending them angels to give them exactly what they've been searching for. I sat next to a recent convert as she told the whole Relief Society that she knows I was sent from God and that I am part of her family now. I watched as her eyes welled up as she explained the joy the Gospel brought to her and her family. My own eyes became full of tears as I shook her husbands hand and he thanked me from the bottom of his heart. His voice lowered and bordered on shakiness as he very seriously told me that they will NEVER forget me. I have stood in awe as I felt the Spirit testify to me that I have done what the Lord sent me on my mission to do. I feel a sense of accomplishment and extreme gratitude for the Lord and for Him giving me the opportunity to represent Him. I have never felt closer to my Savior and my Heavenly Father then I did on my mission. It has changed me. It changed my very soul. 

I have loved seeing the Lord guide me to where I am today. I am excited to see where he will guide me in the future. I have learned that life is so much better when I stop trying to control everything and I simply put my trust in Him. I honestly believe that EVERYTHING HAPPENS FOR A REASON! we will be so much happier as we learn to accept his will and stop trying to force our will upon Him. He knows all. He knows us. He knows what needs to happen to get us to where He needs us to be. Embrace His will and we will find joy beyond description. We will feel his love and approval. What could be better than that?! 


Sunday, January 1, 2012

Embracing the blessings of clarity


When I was in the MTC I had a day that was extremely hard for me. I wanted to be a different person; a better person. All I saw were my faults and the improvements I needed to make. I was frustrated that I couldn't be the perfect person I had hopes of being. I was talking to one of my really good friends in my district. He asked what was wrong and I started to cry. I told him how I was feeling and that I was a failure. I was facing the reality that I wasn't perfect and I hated it. I wanted to change, but the idea of changing everything about myself was too overwhelming to comprehend. He told me that big changes like that do not happen overnight. Those come slowly, day by day. It was something that would happen over time as I continued to try to live Christ's teachings. He told me that one day I would wake up and see that those changes had happened on their own. His words were very reassuring. It was still hard to swallow that I couldn't change into someone else overnight. I put my faith in the Lord and I pushed on. I would wake up and try everyday to become more like my Savior. I wanted my mission to change me. It was something that I was going to try hard to let it happen. Instead of focusing on myself I tried to focus on studying the life of Christ. I wanted to learn as much about Him as I could. I figured that the more I learned about Christ the more I would realize all He did for me and the more I would want to be like Him. I studied and studied and studied. There is still so much I do not know or understand, but my appreciation for my Savior has grown so much stronger. The atonement has come to be more clear to me in the sense that it covers SOOO much more than we normally think about. Without our Savior there would be NO hope. None. We would be destined to live in complete darkness because there would be no redemption. There would be no point. We wouldn't be able to communicate with Heavenly Father because we would not be worthy to talk to Him. We would be lost and completely alone. We needed the atonement. We needed our Savior. He was the only one who could sacrifice himself. He was the only one worthy to do it. He came to Earth and He showed us how to live. He showed us through example. He taught us all we needed to know to return to live with our Heavenly Father again. He provided the way. He was persecuted, mocked, and ultimately killed for us. He condescended below all so that through Him we could be lifted up again. He suffered all. He knows all pain and frustration; all sickness and despair. He knows the feelings we have of inadequacy and humiliation. He went through all so that He could know how to help us. One of my favorite scriptures explains this:

Alma 7:12 " And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities."

A man we were teaching decided he wanted to be baptized. We finished teaching him all the lessons and when the day came that he was baptized, he couldn't stop smiling. We asked him what he felt he said clarity. He said that since he started learning about our church he had a new found clarity. He said that things were all starting to make sense and he felt like he had direction. That wasn't the answer I had expected to hear, but as I thought about his words I realized that clarity is exactly what the Gospel gives us. I looked up the definition of clarity to get a better understanding of what the word means. It said:

clar·i·ty

[klar-i-tee]
noun
1.
clearness or lucidity as to perception or understanding;freedom from indistinctness or ambiguity.
2.
the state or quality of being clear or transparent to the eye; pellucidity: the clarity of pure water.
Synonyms:
1. intelligibility, exactness, simplicity.

I liked the definition of clearness and the example of pure water. When this man was baptized he became completely clean and pure. He was focused on the Savior and through that he developed a new clarity. He was focused on what is truly important and all the other little things in life lost their significance. No longer does the frustrating boss at work seem like such a trial. You start to see things with an eternal perspective. You see what really matters and what doesn't. The Gospel of Jesus Christ brings to us the clarity we need to get through all of our challenges and hard times. It brings us joy even when we feel like there is no hope. We find that with our Savior there is ALWAYS HOPE!!!

As I have come home for a transfer to get rid of my kidney stones I have realized that perhaps I have changed more than I had originally thought. Jokes I once thought were funny are not. Priorities I used to have, have weeded themselves off of my list. Topics of conversation I once thought were tolerable I have found are completely inappropriate and I refuse to engage in them. As my friend told me 9 months ago, the day would come and I would realize I had changed without even realizing it. I have a more clear understanding of what is important. I know who I am and I am not willing to jeopardize that to make others feel more comfortable around me. I have much higher standards and I will not lower them for anything. My thoughts are focused on my Savior. That is where they need to be. That is the only safety we have in this world. I have seen too many good people fall away slowly. I have seen people shrivel in adversity because they cared too much about what others thought about them. What they don't realize is that anyone who is a friend at all would NEVER put you in a situation where you felt like you had to lower your standards to fit in. You need to RUN as fast and as far way from them as you can. They will bring you down. We all need to come to the point where we realize what is most important. We need to surround ourselves with people who will encourage us to be the absolute best person we can be. Life is far too short to think we can meddle in mediocrity. We need to hold ourselves to a much higher standard!! We need to rise above that. I have seen since my mission that the line between black and white is becoming much thinner. We all have to choose which side we want to be on. There is no fence sitting. We have to choose to follow the Gospel and our Savior 100% or not to. We can't pick and choose what teachings we want to live. There is no middle ground. If we keep an eternal perspective of why we are here and where we want to go, then the choice is not hard. We know that this life is short. We agreed to follow the Lord and we promised him we would. Now is the time for us to prove true to our word. He will be there with us every step of the way. If life was easy we wouldn't learn the things necessary to return to live with God and become more like him. There are things we have to learn on earth that are going to be hard. We learn through our trials. That is when we learn to rely on our Savior to get us through. That is when we realize how powerful the atonement is. Always.... ALWAYS look to the Lord for comfort and reassurance.I promise you that as you seek Him you WILL find Him. It is never too late to turn to Christ!!