27 November 2013

Día de Gracias

Thanksgiving... one of the few days of the year when I actually miss not just "Home," which no longer exists for me, but physically being in the USA. Of course the British all know about Thanksgiving, but the typical reaction is probably most accurately described as, "Oh that's nice." There's just no way to transfer the historical, social, and cultural knowledge, understanding, and implications associated with this uniquely American holiday. (I obviously don't really consider Canadian Thanksgiving the same thing bc it came about in a different way.) But I really appreciate that they try.

So tonight for dinner my housemates and I went to the pub down the road from our house, which none of us had ever been to before.
We were entertained by the musical stylings of some cliché American music during dinner, namely the Backstreet Boys and Hilary Duff. Classic.

I got the closest thing to a Thanksgiving meal as I could: Sausage and Mash with Red Onion and Gravy. Yeah I know... not at all like Thanksgiving. haha
The "Let's pretend otherwise" face

 I was so hungry after spending all day on campus sans comida that I really didn't care what I ate, as long as it tasted good. Check.

Sarah and Chloe both opted for burgers, which of course as a Blackburn I found a perfectly appropriate Thanksgiving meal.

Chloe was in some serious pain after dominating her double decker...
...which obviously is all par for the course on Thanksgiving. As a neophyte to the holiday, she's now experienced the consequences endured by millions of Americans today. haha pobrecita

Sarah, however, was still going strong. She decided to celebrate Movember AND Thanksgiving all rolled into one. Victory.

Of course no Thanksgiving would be complete without dessert, no matter what form it comes in.
 After a slight mishap from the kitchen, we ended up with this delicious dark chocolate hot fudge cake with vanilla cream. Bliss.
Total Domination.

Of course before we ate I made us all go around and say something specific and recent that we are grateful for, since that IS the whole point of the holiday... I shared a few more specific ones with them, but the overall theme is that:

This year I'm grateful for living the dream. MY DREAM, in fact. I really can't imagine how my life could be any better or how I could be any happier right now. But God keeps surprising me, and my life continues to become more incredible. Thanks to all who have helped me make the UK my new home. And thanks to all who have supported and encouraged me to help me get here. My life is so much richer because of the wonderful people in it. So Thank You!

And Happy Thanksgiving! Feliz Día de Gracias!

22 November 2013

Newsflash: Gnomes.

In trying to decide what to do for Christmas I've been looking up some family history sites. On one of the village's websites, this is the top news story:

Kirk Ireton - Now with added Gnomes! 
It has recently been brought to our attention that the village is being invaded by gnomes!
While a recent Gnome Patrol has reported an upsetting scene of a gnome massacre on the entry to the village from Hob Lane, the other colonies living on Bottom Lons, Moor Lane and Wirksworth Road all appear to be thriving.
If anybody has any further information, or more if any more are spotted please let us know!
This silly little newsflash makes me think that this village is probably just as quirky and charming now as it was when my ancestors lived there 350 years ago. Even if I don't end up going there for Christmas, I'll definitely be going there!

20 November 2013


*Sorry to those that don't speak Spanish, but I needed to write this post in Spanish. It's the only language that allows me to adequately express these thoughts, however poor my grammar has become.* 

Hace dos años, un investigador David fue bautizado. Fue un día tan especial. El tenía tanta fe y fue bien preparado. Él había orado para saber por si mismo que la Iglesia de Jesu Christi de los Santos de los Últimos Días es la iglesia de Dios sobre la tierra. David había recibido su respuesta por medio del Espíritu Santo. Esto le ayudo a cambiar mucho de su vida antes de ser bautizada. Todo el día David fue bien feliz, y durante toda la semana también. El proximo Domingo él recibí el Don del Espíritu Santo. Y estaba yo TAN emocionada y orgullosa de él--por su fe y ejemplo para mi y toda su familia, por las oportunidades que ahora él tendría, y porque le ví yo a David con toda su potencial eterno y pude sentir el amor de nuestro Padre Celestial por él.

Después de recibir el Don del Espíritu Santo, David nunca regresó a la iglesia.

¡Qué tristeza! ¡Qué tragedia! Todavía my corazón se rompe cuando pienso de David. Pienso que tal vez debía hacer más o algo diferente. Pero en estos momentos, el Espíritu me recuerda que él sabía y entendía el Evangelio y sus convenios muy bien. Él eligió dejar el camino correcto y no es mi culpa que él escojó así. Tenemos nuestro albedrío, él lo usó. Pero también tenemos la oportunidad de arrepentirnos y empezar de nuevo en el camino verdadero. Entonces, siempre hay esperanza por David, por mis otros conversos como él, por mis hermanos y sus familias, y por todos que han dejado el camino seguro. Gracias a Dios por el don de Su Hijo Amado y por la Expiación que todos nosotros necesitamos.

Hoy estoy especialmente agradecida por esta milagro en mi vida, y en las vidas de todos que escogen seguir el ejemplo de Jesu Christi y vivir el evangelio restaurado.

18 November 2013

Break time

After feverishly working on my two papers the past few weeks, I decided to take a weekend off of school work. Here's what I did instead:

Housemate bonding.

On Friday night we decorated for Christmas. Our house is so cold that the mirrors are all fogged over and you can see your breath. So after a few hours of decorating, we needed to unthaw our hands and toes. So we made hot chocolate and watched The Sound of Music in my bed, underneath my electric blanket. Almost 50 years later and it's still such a delightful movie!

Saturday we went to the Birmingham German Christmas Market for a bit before I had to go meet my friend Erin. We went to see the opera, Tosca, at the Birmingham Hippodrome. It was absolutely BEAUTIFUL! I loved it!

Well, when I got home from the opera, the house was dark so I thought my housemates had decided to go to a YSA get-together across town... well then I walked in my room, turned on my lights, and found this:

Snuggling in my bed watching Downton Abbey. 

Yep. It was a great weekend! :)

And now it's time to get back to work!

17 November 2013

"Suffer the children to come to me"

There are only 3 active children in my Primary class, out of 11 children on the roster. So today I felt prompted to have my girls write notes to all those who don't come, just to say that we miss them and love them, and to invite them to come join us.

One of the girls decided to write her testimony in one of these letters:

"We would like to invite you to church to join us. We have been learning about the pioneers and we have started singing some Christmas songs.
I'd like to bear my testimony to say I know that this church is the true church and I know that Heavenly Father lives and I know Jesus Christ lives and I know that the Bible has the true stories and I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen."

My heart was just so touched by 1) her initiative, 2) her faith and courage, and 3) her pure, sweet testimony which she was happy to share when she saw the opportunity. I hope I can follow her example this week.

13 November 2013

Helping Hands

I'm so grateful to be a member of a church that is able to mobilize so much aid and volunteers in such a short amount of time. Not only do we learn about emergency preparedness, food and water storage, and financial savings on an individual/family level, but we are also able to be anxiously engaged in helping disaster survivors on the other side of the world.


As a side note, I don't know who the LDS Disaster Response team members are, but this isn't the first time I've wanted to become one. Lucky for me, with my degree it just might be possible...

12 November 2013

Every week in my Social Analysis class a group of students gives a presentation on the particular topic of that session, and afterward the class can ask questions/give feedback, etc. which the students then use to write their individual assignments reflecting on how they did. 

Well today in class, I had a question for them so I raised my hand. After class, one of the girls came over and told me that she was terrified when she saw my hand go up because I always ask really hard/intimidating questions about things she's never thought of...

I couldn't help but laugh because my questions always feel really basic, naïve, ignorant, etc. in my head. But as I walked home after that experience I was reminded of the Priesthood Blessing I received from my Uncle Tim before I moved to the UK. Among the many things mentioned was that  I would be an asset to my classmates, that they would come to value my contributions in classes and coursework and hold me in high esteem as a good example among them. This particular aspect of the blessing has not been one I've thought of much until today, but I'm grateful that the Spirit brought it to my remembrance. 

I had such a joyful, peaceful feeling of absolute contentment all the way home. What a wonderful blessing to know that I'm doing what the Lord would have me do, where He would have me do it. There is nothing like feeling absolutely confident in my abilities because I know that God is confident in my abilities!

09 November 2013

My Holistic Education

As a brief reprieve from my studies I decided to watch an episode of Doctor Who, which just happened to have this gem of a conversation that fits perfectly with the paper I'm writing. Unfortunately, I don't think my professors would find it nearly as amusing as I do, so I decided to include it here rather than in my paper. haha

The Doctor: Call me old fashioned, but if you really wanted peace couldn't you just stop fighting?
Lieutenent Cobb: Only when we have the Source. It will give us the power to erase every stinking Hath off the face of this planet.
The Doctor: Hang on, a second ago it was peace in our time and now you're talking about genocide!
Lieutenent Cobb: For us, that means the same thing!
The Doctor: Then you need to get yourself a better dictionary. When you do, look up genocide. You'll see a little picture of me there and the caption'll read 'over my dead body!'

08 November 2013

A piece of peace?

"It is as if somewhere there was once a rich, holistic peace concept which was then split into several components, one component being given to each part of humankind! And thus it comes about that not only is there plenty of unpeace in a fragmented humanity; the concept of peace is itself fragmented." -Johan Galtung, 1985 

I came across this little gem in my research today and couldn't help but smile. I'd never thought of it in this way before, but as I pondered on it I realized the truth in it... Peace is a gospel principle in its purest form. So just as the fulness of gospel has fragmented during the many apostasies which have occurred in between the gospel dispensations, it would follow that any other true principles suffered a similar fate, including the concept of peace.

07 November 2013

The wisdom of the learned shall perish.

In my studies over the last couple weeks, I've come across many theories of peace and conflict, cultural and social frameworks, etc. that try to summarize and generalize the human experience by reducing it to power, social structure, various networks of kinship relations, or other seemingly trite differences. On Tuesday I had a reading about the Patriarchal Bargaining framework, which is a theory that describes how women basically have to bargain, manipulate, and strategize to survive within the patriarchal social and household structures in which they live. As I discussed these ideas with my group, I realized that something about this rigid interpretation of the world bothered me, but I couldn't quite pinpoint what about it seemed weak to me. All of the examples the author used (and more given by my classmates) made sense, and yet I still couldn't bring myself to embrace it as truth.

It's been bothering me ever since, so I've pondered on it an awful lot. This morning I think I finally realized why:

In relying only upon the ideas of power, status, agency, etc. to describe how (and why) a woman interacts within her marriage, household, kinship, and community, the concepts of love, kindness, sacrifice, trust, empathy, open communication, etc. are all cast by the wayside. I know in countless examples around the world, there is much truth in the reality that a woman only thrives if she learns the culturally appropriate strategies to gain and maintain access to socio-economic power (i.e. controlling the family finances, getting a say as to her children's educational and medical care opportunities, etc). But even so, I hate the idea that womanhood has even theoretically, and especially in reality, been reduced to such terms and has lost all that is "lovely, of good report, and praiseworthy."

This idea also assumes that every husband and father is a selfish, domineering social climber who only marries because of the increased social status and other benefits that he can gain from having a wife (read servant) to control. As cynical and degrading as I see the above view of womanhood, I equally reject this pessimistic view of men and manhood. In general, people are good, no matter where they come from!

No matter what culture a man or woman adheres to, I discount any idea that suggests social structure leaves little to no agency for an individual (and therefore a married couple) to express and experience kindness, respect, equality, communication, shared responsibilities, sacrifice, forgiveness, and love. There might be precious few examples of these kinds of relationships in certain cultures or regions of the world, but they do exist everywhere, and therefore they can exist even more abundantly if we choose to foster these types of relationships--no matter where we live. Of course, when it comes to marriage, it takes two people to work in tandem to create such a home, but I've seen examples of this everywhere I've been. And more importantly, the Spirit has confirmed in my soul that THIS is universal truth.

I really do LOVE what I'm studying, and I see many opportunities to apply these new principles I learn as I try to go about doing good to all men and women. But today, I'm especially grateful for the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost and his role to help me know truth wherever I find it.

03 November 2013

The Song of the Righteous

There really are no words to adequately portray the sheer magnitude of my feelings during and after our first Lamb of God rehearsal yesterday. Singing my testimony of the Savior with all the intensity of my heart and voice, surrounded by a glorious choir and a full orchestra... It's such a different experience from just having the volume on a stereo up all the way. It's like the music became a part of my soul, piercing me to the core and filling up my very being with truth, joy, and love--aka The Spirit of God (Galatians 5:22-23). Except it is more than just being full of the Spirit, because I've experienced that on many other occasions. How to describe it?!

Have you ever thought of what it would be like to step into your favorite painting and LIVE it? To be a part of it and experience it in an entirely new and tangible way, more magnificent than just merely seeing it and admiring it?

Well it was like that, but with the musical score rather than a painting... I stepped into the music and LIVED it... was a part of it and experienced it more intensely than just hearing it or being moved by it.

If that doesn't make sense at all, then I suppose I just have to stick with my first clichéd admission that verbal language is entirely inadequate to describe the transcendental experience that the Lamb of God is proving to be for me.

On a slightly different note, I had the distinct thought yesterday that if this is what it feels like to be an angel singing praises to God all day long, then that gig no longer seems quite so tedious a future as it used to. ;)