19 December 2014

Dreams DO come true!

Today is the day that Erika and I have been dreaming about since I was about 5 years old.
We're going to France! TOGETHER! (with John, too, of course... he wasn't a part of our original dream, but he's definitely a huge bonus to have along--especially since he pretty much planned the whole thing! :)

04 November 2014

'Of Regrets and Resolutions'

I've been studying this gem this morning from the October 2012 General Conference. It is packed with eternal truths and pearls of wisdom. Seriously. I've been having some powerful moments with the Spirit, and there are definitely some things I need to work on.

And yet there is so much HOPE. And so much JOY. Available to me NOW.

25 October 2014


So, this is the end of the first full week of my Sabbatical Year, and it has been a doozy, in every sense.

I won't go into detail now, but if this week was any indication,  I'm going to be pushed to my limits in every direction this year. I'm realizing I need to be strong and immovable enough to withstand the trials and temptations that come my way, while still being flexible enough to learn and grow. After all, if you want different results, you have to be willing to do things differently. I hope and pray that with the Lord's help, I'll be up to the challenge.

What I really wanted to say though has to do with 'Consecration'. That's what I've been studying and pondering about this week as a way to kick off my year.

Consecrate, verb
1. to make or declare sacred; set apart, or dedicate to the service of God
2. to devote or dedicate to some purpose.

I found it particularly thought-provoking to consider what my real purpose is behind this year of consecration to the Lord, as well as how my extra service and study will help me more fully achieve my purpose on earth. The concept of 'The Sacred' is usually thought of as something demanded by God as an expression of our devotion to Him, but I think that like all of God's commandments, it is really a way that He tries to help us recognize our own devotion to Him--something which He's known all along.

Like with Abraham and Isaac, as a random example. At the end of the day, the Lord KNEW Abraham, and He knew that Abraham would obey in faith. But perhaps Abraham DIDN'T KNOW that he would obey no matter what, so the Lord provided (yes of course a test of his faith, but also) an opportunity for Abraham to learn a bit about just how much faith Abraham could have. I hope that makes sense.

Anyway, the point is that sacredness is kind of like Heavenly Father's way of helping us prioritize those things which are of most value to us both now and in eternity.

Elder Paul B. Pieper of the Seventy spoke in the April 2012 General Conference about this very topic. It's an incredible explanation of so many things that I've learned, so I strongly encourage you all to read it here or re-watch it here:

Elder Pieper explains:
"Sacred means worthy of veneration and respect. By designating something as sacred, the Lord signals that it is of higher value and priority than other things. Sacred things are to be treated with more care, given greater deference, and regarded with deeper reverence. Sacred ranks high in the hierarchy of heavenly values. 
"That which is sacred to God becomes sacred to us only through the exercise of agency; each must choose to accept and hold sacred that which God has defined as sacred. He sends light and knowledge from heaven. He invites us to receive and treat it as sacred."
 He ends by expounding on the blessings and consequences of those who choose to hold the right things sacred. His description rings so true for me, on both accounts:
"The sacred cannot be selectively surrendered. Those who choose to abandon even one sacred thing will have their minds darkened (see D&C 84:54), and unless they repent, the light they have shall be taken from them (see D&C 1:33). Unanchored by the sacred, they will find themselves morally adrift on a secular sea. In contrast, those who hold sacred things sacred receive promises: “That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day” (D&C 50:24)."
I definitely need to be more mindful of what exactly I'm holding sacred, and if my thoughts and actions are accurately reflecting my feelings and testimony of those things which I know to be true. I think this will be a talk that I return to every now and then as a way to prompt some self-evaluation throughout this next year.

23 October 2014

It Is Better to Look Up

Have you ever noticed that when we are going through hard things we tend to look down and look in, as if we can hide ourselves from any more hard things being thrown our way. I know I'm guilty of this, and it's something I need to work on. 

This talk came to mind this morning when a friend told me that he was just trying to 'keep his head down'. Since I do the same thing sometimes, I'm in no way judging his reaction to his trials. But this talk was a great reminder to me that I have to Look Up

'Look to God and live,' the prophets plead. 

'Come unto me all ye who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give ye rest,' the Saviour calls to us. 

We can't be healed and live, and we can't rest from our labours if we don't look to the Source of all Healing and Comfort. 

'Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend.'
-Mosiah 4:9

15 October 2014

Please excuse me while I lose it a moment.

This week has been a *bit discouraging*. I was finally starting to feel like things were going to get back to 'normal', only to then be told that they definitely are not and probably won't be for some time.

On Monday I had a doctor appointment, which I was expecting to be the celebratory "You might not be completely better, but you're all healed, so no need to come back!" appointment....
It wasn't.

Turns out my pain and difficulty walking isn't in my head, and things haven't completely healed as they should. For some reason, my tendons and calf muscle have tightened and shortened as they've healed, to the point where they are now restricting my mobility. I'm missing the last 15 or so degrees of motion in my foot and ankle, which is causing me to still walk with a limp and putting more and more pressure on my left knee and right hip--at least that explains the random pain in those spots.

So I'm starting intense physio therapy, which I'll do for the next 3 months to see if I can lengthen and loosen those tendons and muscle naturally... there's about a 50/50 chance of that working. If not, it means more surgery, and everything else that comes with it. Possibly just in time for me to have to leave the country and come back on a different visa. On crutches. I think this whole experience might cure me of saying 'Go big or go home!'... 

I knew I was having trouble walking, but I just assumed that it was normal. To be told it isn't and that it might require more surgery... well I'm incredibly frustrated.

Yesterday I worked for a few hours, which required me to walk about 3 times further and longer than I normally do. I was in tears by the time I walked home, which was just further evidence that my leg really isn't back to normal. I had to use my crutch again for the first time all month in order to go to Faith in God last night, and I had to take a vicodin for the pain so I could fall asleep. As a side note: God bless the makers of Vicodin. 

The digression over the last week has been discouraging to say the least.
I'm SO. OVER. THIS. ...Only I'm not.

Of course, this morning I woke to a message from my dear friend, Leah, asking me how she could make my life easier this week. Her kindness was just the tender mercy
I needed to remind me that no matter what the next few months hold, I'm blessed to have incredible friends who will be here to help me. And it was the motivation I needed to get out of bed and do something kind for my housemates today. I'm grateful for Heavenly Father reminding me of His mercy through someone else's kindness today. It was exactly what I needed.

So, think of someone you can be kind to today, and then do it. It might just be exactly what s/he needs.

04 October 2014

Wrong Roads

Yesterday I finally found a professor in my department to talk to about my dissertation and all the issues I'm having moving it forward. He was familiar with the topic, so he could easily understand why I kept hitting brick walls. He confirmed my suspicions that though it is an interesting and under-researched topic, it is too far outside my available resources to pursue for a project like this. Then he begged me in the strongest possible way to choose a different topic. It was a great blessing to receive some validation over why I haven't been able to progress at all, as well as encouragement to choose something I really am interested in.

And then we discussed what it is I really want to do, which is studying empathy dynamics in peace building. It may have taken me a ridiculously long time to come to that realization, but even in our brief conversation I was getting excited about it. So even though it's taken me at least 3 previous topics not working out, I finally feel confident in moving ahead on this idea.

This is a humbling teaching tool that Heavenly Father uses with me a lot. He knows that I have a need to know, so I'm often put in situations where I am so confused that the only way I can know is if I pick a path, try it out, and realize it's a dead end. I'm learning that this pattern has actually blessed my life immensely over the years as I don't spend time wondering 'what if?', which is a question designed to rob one of all peace and confidence. Sometimes trying multiple paths means that my journey takes a little longer, but as long as I am keeping my covenants I'll get there in the end.

This Mormon Message by Elder Holland articulates beautifully what I'm trying to convey. Enjoy!

01 October 2014

The Best Birthday Week Yet!

I can't say enough how wonderful my birthday week was this year! I have some incredible people in my life, and a Heavenly Father who consistently reminds me of how blessed I really am.

The highlights:

  • The first Poole House Dinner of the new year with my housemates and Jonathan... and I didn't even have to cook this one! 
  • A wonderful FHE with lots of new faces, a fantastic lesson, and winning a hilarious game of Uno that turned more into a free-for-all. Seriously, it was ridiculous.
  • A return to Lichfield and the Maces, with the delightful addition of a charming toddler and her parents.
  • My first trip to Stratford-upon-Avon to experience the Royal Shakespeare Company... It definitely didn't disappoint! We saw Love's Labour's Lost, which is like the prequel to the play most people know as Much Ado About Nothing (which was originally called Love's Labour's Won). It was delightful, with a few laugh-out-loud bits interspersed with some quite insightful and sometimes even poignant moments. Overall, I found the play to be a remarkably accurate and witty portrayal of how ridiculous, uncertain, and uncomfortable the process of coming to love someone else can be, made all the more unnecessarily difficult by our own foolish walls and limitations. Basically, the Story Of My Life by William Shakespeare. Here are a few of my favourite lines:
Study is like the heaven's glorious sun,That will not be deep-searched with saucy looks;Small have continual plodders ever won,Save base authority from others' books.These earthly godfathers of Heaven's lightsThat give a name to every fixed star,Have no more profit of their shining nightsThan those that walk and wot not what they are. (1.1.84)
Your wit's too hot, it speeds too fast, 'twill tire. (2.1.119) 
Did not the heavenly rhetoric of thine eye,'Gainst whom the world cannot hold argument,Persuade my heart to this false perjury?Vows for thee broke deserve not punishment. (4.3.60) 
But love, first learned in a lady's eyes,
Lives not alone immured in the brain,
But, with the motion of all elements,
Courses as swift as thought in every power,
And gives to every power a double power,
Above their functions and their offices. (4.3.327)
They have been at a great feast of languages, and stolen the scraps. (5.1.39) 

  • On my birthday I went back to Stratford (it took me more than a year to go the first time, but at this rate I'll make up for it in no time! haha) with my housemates and we had such a fun day walking around the town, taking a boat ride down the river Avon, walking along the river and exploring the gorgeous church. This time I managed to take a *few* pictures. 
The RSC Theatre (front and back)
This man serenaded us while we ate lunch in the park. Can't remember his name, but he has a gorgeous voice. 
Stoked for our boat ride

Whenever I see a tree like this I just want to nestle in between its roots and read a book. 

I love these girls so much! They are beautiful, inside and out!
On our boat ride, I saw this stump and had an overwhelming desire to sit on it. We found it while walking to the church... 
It was just as lovely as I thought it'd be. Simple pleasures.

Holy Trinity Church, where Shakespeare is buried 
The girls played dress up while I rested my leg and stared at the gorgeous stained glass windows.
  • After an amazing day, we went to institute for a BBQ and registration. There were so many new faces, it was wonderful to talk to some of them. I also had a blast catching up with those who've been gone during the summer. So much laughing. It's going to be a fabulous year at institute!
  • Before we went home, Jon and I had a brief jam session at the piano with the Children's Songbook. It's been a long time since we've done that, and it was a fabulous way to end a really great day. 
  • Thursday morning I went teaching with the Sister Missionaries to a YSA named Harry. He has SO much faith, and his enthusiasm is contagious. He was baptized this weekend, and we're excited to have him join our Harborne YSA.
  • Thursday night I Skyped with Skylar and spent about 2 hours just laughing. It was SO fun. I'm not sure if I was really on a roll, or if he was in a particularly giggly mood, but either way it was good to just be ridiculous together for a bit. 
  • For the weekend the three of us went to Wolverhampton to stay with Chloe's grandparents. SO MUCH GOOD FOOD in so little time. Pretty sure I ate as much during those two days as I did the rest of the week combined. While we were there we visited a few places: Wightwick Manor, Moseley Old Hall, and Ironbridge.

Wightwick Manor
The stained glass windows are in the banquet hall, where I got to play an
antique Steinway piano that has been kept in impeccable condition.
The sound was gorgeous! Definitely a highlight.

Moseley Old Hall--an original mid-17th C. tudor-style house on the inside,
but the outside was bricked up in the 19th C to stabilize and protect the wood. 
17th C. Knot Garden
Ironbridge, erected 1779 and kind of a big deal
One of the best notices I've ever seen posted.
Thank you, Restaurant Severn, for the many laughs this provided.
  • When we got home on Saturday night, I Skyped with one of my mission companions in El Salvador. I haven't spoken to Hermana Garcia for about 3 years, and she recently asked me if I'd be her English-speaking partner for BYU-I's pathway program that she just started. It was SO great to talk with her! I'm looking forward to working with her every week.
  • And to just top it all off, the weather was amazing all week long. Maybe it's because I'm an autumn baby, but there's something about walking in warm sunshine on a crisp, clear day with leaves crunching under your feet. And when you can walk without crutches, even better! :)  
Lots of great highlights from a really incredible week full of lots of love and LOTS of LAUGHING. Seriously. I feel like I laughed almost continuously. This can only mean one thing: 27 is going to be the best year yet!

19 September 2014


Yesterday I went on my first solo adventure post-breakage, and it was glorious! Exhausting, but exhilarating to finally be exploring new places again without needing others to push or drive me around. I'm sure all those who've drawn the short straws over the last 5 months will be just as excited about this as I am. Seriously, this was a BIG DEAL for me.

One of my dearest friends here, who also just happens to be a sister missionary, is in Leicester (pronounced "Lester") which is about an hour east of Brum. For those of you who know this sister, you wouldn't be surprised to hear that she injured her back in a series of ridiculous accidents and currently can't walk very well. So she called me up on Tuesday and asked if I'd be able to come spend the day with her while her companion went on splits with another member. Of course I was all too happy to oblige.

After so many months of needing, it's really nice to be in a position to be needed again. And yet, as it normally goes, I found myself more uplifted, encouraged and loved by this sister than I probably offered to her in the first place. Serving others really is the key to happiness for me, and I've spent far too many months selfishly fretting over my own unknown future and difficult circumstances that I think I've gotten out of the habit of serving others. I realized that needs to change, along with so many other bad habits and weaknesses. But I digress.

I went over to Leicester a couple hours early so I could walk around the city before the sisters picked me up. I went to the city market, St. Martin's Cathedral, the Guildhall, St. Nicholas' Church and the Jewry Wall Museum.
St. Martin's is where the remains of King Richard III will be interred next spring. Because of this, they're making a big faff out of renovating the inside, so there isn't too much to see right now. But the Cathedral Gardens were lovely. :)

The Guildhall

St. Nicholas' Church 
Foundational remains of the Roman Bathhouse in Leicester, which was actually a thriving Roman city during their occupation of Britannia. 
Look at this gorgeous Roman construction. Ok, none of you probably care. But this was my first exploration of any kind of archaeology since I've been here, and I did a lot of research on Roman bathhouses back in the day... so I loved this! 
The 'Jewry Wall', which is believed to be the entrance into the bathhouse from the Roman Forum, which would've been where St. Nicholas' church is now standing in the background. The is one of the largest examples of Roman construction still standing here in the UK, so it's kind of a big deal.

This really happened! So much love for this woman and the sacrifices she continues to make to finish out her mission. Good thing she only has 7 weeks left, because I don't think her body can handle much more! (Remind you of anyone? haha Perhaps that's why we're such good friends. #kindredspirits) 
While my actual explorations were only a couple hours of my afternoon, that was about as much as I could handle, so it was a perfect trial run.