Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Tribute to My Family

I know everybody says this about their own family but I really do have the best family in the world.

Dad: One of the greatest memories I have with my Dad was when I was five or six. Since Dad had to work a lot during my childhood years, each of us kids had our own night of the week where we got to hang out with Dad one on one. When it was my day, Dad and I usually chose to take walks around the neighborhood or walk down to Party Time to get some cute stickers. But I remember one nightly stroll particularly well. We were walking down the street next to ours when we spotted a large insect among the leaves of our neighbor's rose bush. I had a slight fascination with bugs at the time (a fascination that did not continue for long, I might add) so Dad proceeded to tell me all he knew about this cool-looking insect (which turned out to be a praying mantis). I think we spent a good ten minutes peering at that bug until my curiosity was satisfied. It was a small thing but for some reason that's a memory I've always kept with me. No matter how busy or tired he was, he always took the time to be My Dad. If I ever had a question about anything, Dad would pull a file out of his brain, which held a seemingly unlimited amount of knowledge, and tell me how things worked (except for when he didn't know the answer, in which case he would have me go research the topic and get back to him when I found out). He always helped me with my homework, forcing himself to stay awake into the wee hours of the night to help me finish a project or to edit one of my many papers. If I ever had a health problem or just needed comfort, he would give me a priesthood blessing. I'm grateful for his example, for his commitment to the gospel, and for the love and support he continues to give to each of us. I love you, Dad!

Mom: I do not think there is a more hard-working mother out there than my mom, a trait she tried on numerous occasions to pass on to her children. For as long as I can remember, my mom had us kids out in the yard every Saturday pulling weeds and picking up the apples that had fallen from our apple tree. We each had a part of the house to vacuum and dust. Mom also passed on her love of music to each of us, signing us up for musical numbers in church and attending all of our band/orchestra concerts growing up. Mom showed us she loved us in various ways. She was stubborn and unyielding when she had to be but she was also very kind and compassionate. I remember one particular occasion when I was in sixth grade. I went to Foothill Middle School rather than El Dorado Middle School where all my elementary school friends had gone. I had a hard time with it for a while and my mom would sit on my bed and stroke my hair while I cried and tell me things were going to get better. That's one of the many lessons I've learned from my Mom, to stay optimistic even through hard times. My patriarchal blessing tells me to pattern my home after that of my parents' and I think that counsel is due in large part to my Mom's commitment to the gospel, her willingness to serve, and her knowledge of the eternal importance of family. I love you, Mom!

Lisa: I can't even count the number of people who have said "I LOVE LISA!" to me in my lifetime. And really...what's not to love? She's the biggest BYU sports fan of all time. Like me, her antics during games are often more interesting to watch than the actual sports programs. She's the maker of many tasty goodies and delectable dishes and finds enjoyment in making them for others. She runs in races, plays sports like volleyball, basketball, and powder-puff football, and is not afraid to get in the thick of things while playing them. She can basically quote all of the dialogue from the movie The Emperor's New Groove. She's a fellow History major and can tell you just about anything about the Civil War as well as many other topics. She's very hardworking and has stretched herself and expanded her abilities through education and career choices. As my oldest sibling, I often call her for advice on different things and she's always more than willing to help me out. She is incredibly generous with her time, means, and talents. Most importantly, Lisa is what I would call a spiritual giant. She's devoted to serving those around her and accepts and fulfills difficult, draining, and time-consuming church callings. She's a great example to me. I love you, Lisa!

Shelley: I don't think many people can say that they have an older sibling who pretty much documented their childhood for them but I can. I got a journal for my sixth birthday and, for whatever reason, Shelley took it upon herself to make sure that the events of my six-year-old day-to-day life were recorded. I would talk about all the seemingly important events that occurred throughout the day and she would write them down in the journal. How many fourteen-year-old girls do that for their little sisters? Shelley is also the reason why I have so many pictures from my childhood to put in my scrapbook. Besides my parents, Shelley is probably my most attentive family member. If she doesn't know how I'm doing or she feels like we haven't talked in a while, she will call me up and we'll chat on a variety of topics for thirty minutes to an hour. Having earned a degree in Geography from BYU, she is a fantastic resource for directions if you are lost on the road somewhere. She is married to my hard-working, service-oriented brother-in-law, Steve, and is a great mother to her two (soon to be three) adorable children. Caring, strong, and faithful, she is a great example of one who lives what she believes. I love you, Shelley!

Kiel: I grew up thinking my brother was just about the coolest person in the world. Maybe it's because he saved me from drowning in our neighbor's pool when I was little. Perhaps it's because he is hilariously sarcastic. Maybe it's because he always seemed to have a lot of friends both inside and outside the Church. Maybe it's just because he is my one and only brother but, whatever the reason, being with Kiel is always a fun experience. He's always up for a good laugh and his sarcasm and movie-quoting abilities bring smiles to our faces. Even though he's a tough California Highway Patrolman, he has a big heart. He's always been a good example to his friends who, perhaps, weren't as strong. He's always the first one to say "I love you" at the end of a phone call. He cries during tender moments in movies and always sheds a few tears while bearing his testimony in Sacrament Meeting :) He's a great father to his two incredibly cute kids, Bruce and Rhyan, and he loves his beautiful and witty wife, Melissa. I have always looked up to him for his strength and courage in living life and the gospel. I love you, Kiel!

Brittany: I have probably laughed my head off more with Brittany than with anybody else in the family, which is saying something since we all laugh ALL THE TIME! From the time she called me a "snarfblat" to the time we had a back-and-forth Facebook conversation using only Mr. Palmer's lines from the movie Sense and Sensibility, we have shared countless moments of fun and laughter. Brittany is an amazing artist, creating great works of art ranging from beautiful landscapes on canvas to intricately painted wood figurines. She would often share her expertise with me while I was working on my own craft projects until I (somewhat) got the hang of doing things myself. Brittany is also very gifted in the kitchen, tweaking recipes to make them both healthy and delicious. She has a beautiful soprano voice and I have enjoyed adding my alto voice to hers for the innumerable amount of musical numbers we have participated in throughout the years. She is married to my well-read, articulate, peacemaking brother-in-law Gabe, and is a great mother to her darling daughter Sydney (and I am sure she will be just as capable with Sophie who is due in December!). She is very strong in her convictions and never shirks away from defending her beliefs and the gospel. I am very grateful for the friendship she has given me throughout my life despite my annoying little-sister antics. I love you, Brittany!

Brigitte: One of the things I love about the times I spend with Brigitte is the ridiculous amount of giggling that tends to occur. It doesn't take much more than a weird noise or a well-placed movie line in the middle of a conversation to set us off on a laughing rampage. The greatest thing about mine and Brigitte's relationship is that it hasn't changed much since we were kids. From the times Brittany, Brigitte, and I would play with dolls in our room to more recent times when Brigitte comes out to Provo to visit me, there has always been something to laugh at. But besides her amazing ability to look like Madame Mim from The Sword and the Stone when she flares her nose and her excellent imitation of an old lady's singing voice, I also consider her to be a very deep thinker. I've had some of the most thought-provoking conversations of my life with Brigitte. Cranking out Halloween costumes and home decor without any specific pattern to follow, her creativity with a sewing machine and a paintbrush never ceases to amaze me. She is raising her two very sweet and beautiful children, Logan and Erica, with her astute and accommodating husband, Tyler. Brigitte always seeks to make those around her as happy and as comfortable as possible. She focuses on the fundamentals of life, finding comfort and peace in doing what is right, and never forgets the things that are truly important. I love you, Brigitte!

Each individual member of my family is awesome but, as the lyrics of a Jack Johnson song say, "it's always better when we're together." We laugh together, we sing together, we play instruments together, we cry together, we quote movies together. But, most of all, we help and support each other. I am grateful for parents who made our home a safe-haven in the middle of a troubled world and for my siblings who are my best friends. No, not everything is perfect and I would be lying if I said we did not have our share of disagreements. But I can say that Heavenly Father knew what he was doing when He sent us down here to be members of families. I love mine and I could not have asked for a better one!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

When Life Hands You Lemons

Sometimes life hands you lemons and when that happens you're supposed to make lemonade, so they say. In other words, you're supposed to take a bad situation and turn it into a good one by either learning to overcome it or changing your attitude about it. Well, I'm here to say that making lemonade can be hard. Sometimes you get a lemon that is so sour that no matter how much sugar you add to the mix, the lemonade still leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

This past month has been a difficult one. I've become painfully acquainted with my inadequacies and shortcomings more than ever before. I've realized that I am afraid of growing up and entering the real world. I feel like I am just wandering around aimlessly, unsure of myself and those around me.

But times of trial can often be great times of learning and growth and this particular time of trial has been no exception.
  • For one thing, I have learned that no matter how much I am going through, there is someone out there who is going through something worse. Rather than wallowing in self-pity, I've learned that the advice Gordon B. Hinckley received from his father while he was discouraged on his mission, "Forget yourself and go to work," is a much better and more rewarding option. I've been called as the Humanitarian Service Chair in my ward and I'm beginning to realize what a blessing that has been recently. As I've tried to help those around me who are struggling much more than I am, my own problems seem to dissipate and I am much happier. The problems haven't gone away but I see them in a different light and with new perspective.
  • I've also learned that even when you don't see immediate results stem from a choice you have made that that doesn't mean that the decision was wrong. For example, I bought a contract at an apartment complex across campus a few months back. I never really felt good about the decision; in fact, I had a hard time falling asleep each night because I was so worried about it. It wasn't until I decided to buy a contract within the ward I was already in and sell the contract across campus that the worrying finally stopped. It felt like a huge burden had been lifted from my shoulders and I knew I had made the right decision. But over the past few weeks, the reasons why that decision to stay in the ward (and in Provo, for that matter) was the right one, have not been made apparent. I haven't found a job yet to help pay the bills. The man of my dreams hasn't come along to get down on one knee and pop the question. Despite that, I still feel like I made the right choice to stay here, no matter how illogical or imprudent it may seem to others.
  • I've also learned the value of friendship. I've come to know who my true friends are in the last few weeks and I've also learned who is not. I'm grateful for all those who have tried to help me overcome my fears and my feelings of inadequacy, who have pointed out my good qualities when I could only see the bad. Because of them, I have learned that I can do great things despite my flaws, that I do have great potential even though I make mistakes sometimes.
  • The most important thing I have learned in the last few weeks is that I don't have to bear this alone. Even when it feels like the whole world is ignoring me and nobody cares, I know that there are always people out there I can go to for help and support. My family is always there for me but, most importantly, my Savior is there for me. He knows exactly how I feel because He's gone through it all before and has experienced and overcome trials that are far greater than my own. He comprehends and can offer comfort and encouragement and can lift me from my pains and sorrows if I let Him. I'm grateful that even when I can't turn my sour lemons into delicious and refreshing lemonade, He can. Just remember that life is good and there is always hope.