Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Learning to hit the brakes

Here's a picture to make my blog seem more interesting.
Not the same day, but the same kids. On a side note,
this was the day I worked hard with L to learn to pump her legs
so I wouldn't have to push her on the swing anymore. My
kindness knows no bounds.
On a normal day in a normal neighborhood, a normal situation occurred.

Kids were playing. And someone got hurt.

I had been watching my nieces and nephew for the evening. The rain had been on and off so we were in and out of the house, heading out as often as the rain stopped so we could enjoy the cool summer evening.

The kids were running and playing and having a great time. And L was riding her new bike she'd just gotten for her birthday. But L doesn't know how to brake very well. Of course, I didn't know that beforehand. All I knew is that G was walking down the sidewalk. As L headed toward him, there was no attempt to stop and before I could do anything, L had hit G with the bike and still couldn't stop, so it knocked him over and hit him again. Three-year-old G immediately started screaming. And 5-year-old L started crying.

I couldn't help both, so I ran and grabbed the child on the ground to inspect for bleeding and other owies. I picked him up in my arms and held him while asking L why she didn't brake. L's crying got louder and stronger, "I didn't know how to brake!" "Why are you riding the bike if you don't know how to brake?" I scolded. G was still crying loudly in my ear. Again, I inspected to make sure he was ok and held him closer. I then told L to go put her bike in the garage and that we were done riding bikes until she learned how to brake.

I was, well, upset.

Within seconds, G was just fine again and pointed out a bird on the ground and laughed and smiled. No harm done. L was still quite upset and couldn't stop crying.

So I calmed down. We went inside. And we talked.

"L, do you know why I was upset?"

Through her tears, "I don't know how to brake!" and more tears.

"L, I was upset because I was scared. I was scared that G had gotten really hurt. I was scared that you got hurt because you were crying. I was just scared. And I'm sorry that I got upset because I was scared. I just love both of you and didn't want either of you to be hurt."

I was surprised. She understood. The tears stopped and we talked about it. We talked about how if she practices more on her bike, she'll learn how to brake. But maybe in the meantime, she'll have to make sure that no one is in the driveway or on the sidewalk so that she can learn. She apologized to G about her innocent mistake and both parties were happy with each other.

She understood because she understands being scared. She was scared, too. She was scared that she had hurt G when she didn't mean to.

So L and I sat down together while the rain started up again outside. We pulled out books and read with G. And L practiced her reading. She and I read a book together 5 times until she had all the words down. She was so excited and so happy to be spending time with me. And so proud of herself for reading a book on her own. She isn't even in kindergarten yet, so I was very impressed and gave her a great deal of praise. And it seemed like it had all been forgotten.

But as soon as her parents got home, she told them first thing that she'd run G over, maybe expecting a reprimand or thinking that I would tell them and she wanted her story told first. But of course we explained that it was a mistake and that we had resolved it and we were going to practice more. And L seemed content and maybe even surprised with the outcome.

A 5-year-old understands fear. And she understands when someone gets hurt. She knows what it's like to be scared. Her compassionate heart knew that I was scared, not mad. And by being honest with the root cause of my reaction, she could understand it. And she could forgive, because she had felt scared too.

I have fears about many things and I get scared. Sometimes I try to mask it behind yelling or behind anger or behind being upset or even behind silence. Those feelings hurt--they hurt others and they hurt me. But truthfully explaining my fear...that is something we can all relate to. And something that opens up conversation.

Sometimes I just need to learn how to hit the brakes, too.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Online Dating Round 2

I put this as one of my Tinder profile pictures.
I think it helped people see the real me.
Yep, you read me right. I tried it again.

Tinder
eHarmony
LDS Planet

Ok, so let's be honest here. I only briefly looked at LDS Planet, and eHarmony was a three day free trial thing and I got freaked out by both and gave up.

But Tinder...it's so shallow you just wade right in.

Tinder for dummies: Download the app on your mobile device. Log in through your Facebook account. Post a picture or two or three. Set a geographic area and an age range you want to search. The app searches for those who match these two requirements and pulls up their picture. You look at it. If you think they look nice/handsome/smart/wildly rich, swipe to the right. If not, swipe to the left. Pretty simple. They do the same for your pic/profile.

You can wade in about 2 inches deeper and see if you have any common friends or interests (based off Facebook). And if they write anything witty in their short profile, you can read it. And you can view a few more pictures.

But really, it's still shallow. I am not a very good swimmer though, and slightly afraid of the deep end, so I (*hang my head in shame*) liked it. It's a great time-killer and a fun game to play. It's useful when you're waiting somewhere like at the doctor's office, or in the grocery store line or while you're waiting for your date to pick you up. You see how fast you can swipe left to 100 people. Or some nights when you're home all alone, you see how long it takes you to actually swipe right to someone.

Well, if you swipe right and the person swipes right, "It's a match!" and suddenly you can chat with each other and say witty things like, "Hi" and "How is your day going?"

The great thing about it is that the only people who can contact you are those you also wanted to contact. Two-way agreement. Nice. Screens out the 50-year-olds who dedicate their profile to you (see My Foray Into Online Dating).

On Tinder, it's super easy to screen out the crazies...LDS style.

Swipe left for:

  • gym selfies (yes, I realize the app is based on superficial things like looks, but I'm looking on the heart, buddy)
  • shirtless selfies (see: gym selfies)
  • shirtless anything (unless it's some sort of swimming party, but really?)
  • selfie anything (jk, I can bend on this one)
  • untrimmed beards (or any really. I'm not much of a beard fan, but I realize there have been good people in the past who have had beards...like Moses... and Wilford Woodruff...and my dad in his early 20s until he married my mom, so maybe I could bend here too)
  • bro-tanks (I didn't realize they were such a thing)
  • pictures of tattoos (why?)
  • drinking and smoking pictures (ain't nobody got time for that)
  • pictures of a guy with a mystery face girl next to him with a caption that says "This could be you". (seriously, it's a real profile)
  • pictures of a guy with his arm around a hot girl (what the heck is he on Tinder for if he has a girlfriend?)
  • pictures of a guy's wedding (um....?)

Swipe right for:

  • LDS
  • Clean cut
  • pictures with his mom (awwww)
  • pictures in a suit (seriously, guys just don't know how good they look in a nice suit)
  • pictures being moderately outdoorsy but not crazy outdoorsy
  • pictures in a BYU shirt/hat/anything (Go cougs!)
  • pictures rescuing baby ducks
  • pictures of him playing the piano in Carnegie Hall
  • pictures where he looks like Mr. Darcy
  • ok, ok seriously,
  • pictures where he just looks like a genuine good-guy
You get the gist.

I downloaded Tinder on a day of weakness. I was peer pressured into it. Several people had told me that I ought to give it a shot (since, really, nothing else was working). So on a lunch break, my friend sat by my side and helped me create my account. Tender Tinder moments. #tinderiffic

And I began to swipe.

I began to match with people.

And shockingly, I began to chat with people.

My first Tinder date was a lunch date. I hastily told my roommate a bit before that I was going on a Tinder date and that if I didn't come back or contact her in an hour and a half that I was probably dead and she should call the police.

The dude and I had chatted for just a few days on the Tinder app. He seemed to be a normal-type person, but you just never know.

We met up at the restaurant and I congratulated myself on a job well done when he indeed looked like his profile picture. Within 10 minutes of meeting up with each other, we established about 10 different connections. I had gone on a date with one of his old roommates. I had worked with his old branch president. My friend was dating his roommate. And two friends had tried to set me up with his other roommate, who I had messaged to get to know and who had (rudely, in my opinion) never messaged me back (I'm not a creeper even if my actions seem like I am, ok?). By that time, I knew the guy was a legit "good guy", but I was freaked out enough about our connections that although our date was good, I was convinced he would never ask me out again.

But he did. And we actually dated for a while until everything crashed and burned and ended in a pile of hopeless rubble, which is really the only exciting way to end a relationship. All jokes aside, he was a good, upstanding guy. Who I hope doesn't read my blog anymore.

Before and after we dated, I went out with a few other Tinder guys as well. Again, good, upstanding guys. Really great guys in fact. So great that I wondered why they were on Tinder, but then I remembered that I was also on Tinder, and I'm pretty cool, right? So cool people are on Tinder, right?

Anyway, all the roommates and half my friends at some point have played the game. Some have gone out with some real doozies and some have gone out with some winners. Some have married or are getting married to their Tinder dates. #tinderella #tindermagic

A bit ago, I matched with a seemingly normal guy. He messaged me and said, "Let's get the most important thing out of the way, what is your favorite sushi?"

I responded, "Haha, I've only ever had sushi twice, so I couldn't really tell you."

"Ok, what other food do you like?"

"Pretty much anything...although seafood is my least favorite, so that might explain the lack of sushi knowledge."

The next day, he blocked me from his account.

Geez, sorry about the sushi, man.

After a series of those kind of conversations, I gradually played the swipe game less and less until one day at lunch, I sat with my friends, and ceremoniously deleted the app.

Online dating: 2
Liz: 0

I've heard third time's the charm. Stay tuned.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

How to Be a Good Goalie: A Soccer Analogy

I know. I'm precious.
As an elementary school-age child, I played soccer for several years.* It was kind of the sport to do among my friends and I had fun teams and great coaches.

But I quit when I was about 12 years old. I wanted to start running track and having every Saturday taken up was annoying, but there were deeper reasons as well.

In soccer, I played two positions most of the time. I either played sweeper or goalie.

The sweeper, as we used it, was basically a position where I watched the field and played where I needed to play based on the position of the ball. I helped where extra help was needed and moved quickly up and down the field to wherever I needed to be. I loved playing sweeper because I love running and I loved the strategy of watching to know where I was needed.

And I also played goalie. Goalie was not as fun for me. Because sometimes the other team scored against me. It's inevitable, really. But I hated it. As goalie, I felt like I had failed the team when the ball got past me; I thought I was a terrible goalie. It was pretty stressful for a kid! I would get upset because not only had I failed the team but I had failed myself. I then felt upset with my own team for not helping me when I needed help. I didn't like being upset about something so insignificant--upset at myself, or at my team--so I decided to pursue other opportunities. Wow. You had no idea I was like that, did you? Actually, I bet you did because I haven't changed too much.

I'm no expert at analogies because analogies always break down at some point. But these past few weeks I started to realize something about two of the many ways I approach life--as a sweeper and as a goalie. While not perfect in the similarities, I realized where I need to improve. 

I do really well as a "sweeper" when working with other people. I love to look at what's going on in the world, among my friends, in my ward, and everywhere really, and see where I'm needed. I love to be there when someone needs help. I am anxious to run here and there, to and fro, to be there for others.

But then I am often in a one-on-one defensive position in how I work with others. And sometimes a ball gets past me. There is no possible way to be perfect (on our own) and so things are going to happen that aren't what we want to have happen. I make mistakes. Sometimes it's because I am not paying attention or I don't watch things carefully enough and sometimes I make mistakes simply because I can't physically, emotionally, or mentally figure out how to avoid that particular ball. And that's where the goalie in me comes out. I get upset with myself for not being able to handle the situation. I get upset with my friends for not helping me out. And even if, in the end, the situation is resolved, I still feel the pain of not performing how I wanted to.

So recently, I sought some advice on the subject of failure. I spoke with a life coach about the fears I have that hold me back in my life. One of her first pieces of advice to me was that I needed to understand I am a loving person. And that because I am so loving and because I love others so deeply and want to help them so much, the adversary/voice of fear/opposition/whatever you want to call it, speaks loudly to try and stop me from loving. Because there must be opposition in all things. The key, of course, is to not listen. 

Realizing that we are all loving people, but that sometimes we make mistakes--which does NOT equal failure, it's just a mistake--is one of those things that I know, but that I don't really know, because I sometimes don't yet believe what I know.

Well, the opposition that told me I was bad at being a goalie also tells me that I'm bad at relationships (of any kind) and bad at a heck-a lot of things.

But, I finally realized why I was asked to be goalie so often. Because I was actually good at it. It's kind of an important position and it's hard. But I was relatively good at it and worked hard to keep the ball out of the goal. I worked hard to let my team know when I needed help. I was good at being a goalie. Why else would they have kept putting me in?

I was actually good at something I thought for so long that I was bad at.

Cue the lightbulb.

I am actually good at being a sweeper and a goalie. I'm good at helping people, and I'm good at hard things. I'm good at being on the defense and trying to block the hard shots. And contrary to popular opinion (my own, of course) I'm good at relationships and making things work out. 

What do I struggle with? Mistakes. I struggle with dealing with failure and I struggle when I let others down. I struggle when others let me down. But that is something I can change. And what a blessing that is. Because God is kind and allows us the opportunity to change. We can all learn to deal with mistakes, let-downs, and failures.

I was a good goalie, I just needed more practice to block the hard shots and more emotional confidence to react better when the inevitable ball got past me.

Likewise, I am good at relationships and other hard things, but I could do better at dealing with mistakes--on my part or on the part of others. Perhaps I just need a little more practice and some increased emotional confidence. And maybe a half-ton of patience. Plus some oranges and a Capri Sun at half-time.

I think soccer would have been a different experience for me had I known that.

But I'm grateful I can make my life a different experience now that I do.

*I think the Brazilian in me is thinking a little too much about soccer due to the World Cup in my pátria amada this week. Goooooooooollllll!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Martha and choosing "that good part"

[Note: Last week, I was asked to speak in our YSA Stake Relief Society meeting as part of stake conference. The talk was sort of like this, or at least this is the best written version of what I said, with a few additions. I haven't ever posted a talk before, so here's to something new.]

In the New Testament, we hear of Martha and Mary, women who sat at Jesus’s feet and listened to His word. We hear of Mary listening to the Savior and Martha serving and asking the Lord to make her sister help too. Noting Martha's concern, the Savior answers Martha kindly and tenderly. “Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part…” (Luke 10:42).

We know very little beyond these few verses of the story, but it is tempting to draw a harsh conclusion against Martha when reading this. And often, our study of this particular story brings up the question, "Are you a Mary or a Martha?" implying that one is spiritual and one is not. But, I see Martha a little differently.

In Luke 10:38 we read that Christ “entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house…and she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.”

Martha and Mary lived in Bethany with their brother Lazarus. They were disciples of Jesus Christ. When Jesus went to Bethany, he went to Martha’s own home. She received him. She served him.  She also listened to His words. And the scriptures even say, “Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus...”  (John 11:5).

As disciples, Martha and Mary both listened to His words. Both loved him. In Daughters in My Kingdom, we read, “in an age where women were generally expected to provide only temporal service, the Savior taught Martha and Mary that women could also participate spiritually in His work. He invited them to become His disciples and partake of salvation ‘that good part’”. 

But we read that Martha had a moment of rebuke, a moment where she thought what she was doing was the right thing, but she wasn't. And the Savior gently taught her how to seek Him.

Like Martha, have you ever had a day or a week or a month or maybe always where you feel rebuked or chastened? Or like you can’t do anything right? Where you try and you try but you still keep coming short?

Return to the story. The Lord tells Martha that she is careful and troubled about many things, and sees those as virtuous traits, but that she needed to seek Him.

What was she careful and troubled about?

The scriptures do not tell us her exact life circumstances. However, she was living with her brother and sister in her home. We read no words of a husband. We read no words of children.

It is possible that Martha was just like us. She had a home to take care of. She was concerned because she desired to follow Christ’s teachings but there was just so much to do. She, like we are, was perhaps concerned about if she would find someone to marry. She, like we are, was perhaps concerned about her livelihood. She, like we, may have often felt the pangs of having a mother heart, one that calls out to us to nurture when we have no children of our own.

So what are you careful and troubled with? Are you concerned about what to study, where to work, what kind of work you should do, or where your priorities should lie? Are you concerned because a loved one is suffering from an illness or because a family member has recently passed away? Are you concerned because you have a friend or a family member, or maybe even you, yourself, struggle with same-sex attraction? Or maybe you are concerned because your boyfriend just told you that he has a problem with pornography. Or maybe you have suffered because of the addictions or actions of another. Or with unemployment. Or with financial issues. Or maybe you are troubled because you struggle with loving yourself. Or you have depression or anxiety. Or maybe you don’t know if the Savior can forgive you. To all of these, I first say, the Savior wants to help you with these concerns. And not only does He want to, He can and He will.

How? Well, what did Martha do with her concerns? We know that she chose that good part. The continuing story of Martha and Mary comes when Lazarus is sick. Both sisters sent for Jesus, but Lazarus died before He came. When Martha heard the Savior was near, she went to find him, to tell him Lazarus had died.

Martha said to Jesus, “But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.”

I love her faith and testimony. She chose the good part.

The Savior then speaks to this extremely faithful woman of God and says some of the most comforting words in all scripture, “I am the resurrection, and the life, he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?”

“She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world” (John 11:25-27).

This is one of the very few instances of a woman’s recorded testimony in the scriptures. And what a testimony it is. “I believe that thou art the Christ.”

This disciple of Christ, this faithful Martha, knew Christ as the Savior. And we read that He wept with Martha and Mary and then, the Son of God raised Lazarus from the dead. Both Martha and Mary partook of the good part and witnessed miracles.

In February, it was the one year anniversary of the passing of my grandmother. I was very careful and troubled about many things, including thoughts of my grandma, and my heart was tender that day. I had training in Lehi during the day and I had planned to stop off at the Jordan River temple on my way home from the training. As I drove, I felt prompted to go to the Draper Temple instead of Jordan River. As I drove toward the temple, I felt prompted to call my grandma’s brother—my great-uncle who lives by the Draper Temple—and see if I could drop by. And then I felt prompted to contact my mission companion—who also lives in Draper—and who has 5-month-old triplets, to see if she needed help that night.

I did sealings at the temple, I visited with my great-aunt and great-uncle. I went and helped get the triplets to sleep. My heart was so full that night as I had been mourning my grandma. I had been troubled, but I had followed the prompting to sit at the feet of Christ and partake in His light that night. And little did I know that three weeks later my great-uncle would join my grandma on the other side. Little did I know that I would be asked to help at the funeral. Little did I know that because of what I did that night when I was troubled, many promptings would follow that have led me to some extremely personal, miraculous, and spiritual experiences in the past two months. Because I chose to sit at His feet.

There are times when we are like Mary and are immediately at the Savior's feet. But there are many more times in my life when I am chastened by the Lord and I feel Him begging with me to sit at His feet. Even this week, I was told several times that I needed to be a kinder person and not get so frustrated about things in my life. It is easy for me to chalk those experiences up to failures and to beat up on myself. But that is not what Martha did, as far as we know. And even if she did, she came out of it. She rededicated herself. And to her was given one of the most glorious truths of the gospel “I am the resurrection and the life.” And from her mouth came a powerful witness of the Savior, “I believe that thou art the Christ.”

My prayer is that when the Lord reminds us to come and sit at His feet, that we will be as Martha, and we will do so. I know that as we do, we will be strengthened and He will reveal marvelous truths to us. And He will heal us.

I believe that Jesus is the Christ, the very son of God. He is our Savior. And I know He lives.

***Below is a shortened rendition of "Make Me Whole" from Rob Gardner's Lamb of God. This song is a musical representation of Martha's pleading to Christ after Lazarus has died. It is so touching to me. I wish they had recorded the whole song, but since they didn't, I recommend buying this song.

In this, the character of Martha sings:

Yea, Lord: I believe that Thou art the Christ, which should come,
The Son of God,
But I do not understand…
Touch my eyes and bid them see
That my gaze might pierce the veil,
And behold the wondrous scene
That, in dreams, I’ve long beheld.
Oh, touch my heart and bid it know
That ev’ry sorrow here
Is but a moment’s tear,
And Thou wilt make me whole again.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Knowing What is Right

Back in my teenage years, I was a nerd. Ok, I take it back, I still am.

I remember a particular day sitting on the school bus and debating with fellow friends about whether or not hot water could freeze faster than cold water. (I KNOW! I told you I was a nerd).

I held vehemently to my position that hot water freezes faster than cold water while others insisted that was impossible because cold water was closer to freezing and thus would freeze faster.

Well, guess what...it depends. Go and read Scientific American or numerous blogs and experiments about it. It is a striking phenomenon known as the Mpemba effect and something that doesn't completely make sense, but in some cases and under certain circumstances, and based on how "hot" you are talking about as hot water and how "cold" you are talking about as cold water and what kind of container you have the water in and so on and so forth, there is a possibility that hot water freezes faster than cold water.

It could possibly happen under certain conditions, but it usually does not happen, and it's not entirely certain the exact circumstances in which this is the case because there are too many variables involved. The point here is, I was right and wrong at the same time.

It hurts to be wrong, especially when you're sort of right. But that was just a silly school bus debate.

Closer to my heart, and closer to my adulthood, is another experience.

Some years ago, I asked a question. In the context of this story, I won't describe all the circumstances behind the question, but in essence, I was asking God why I wasn't married and what needed to happen before I could be married. It was a sincere question. And I thought I received an answer. In fact, my pride convinced me thoroughly that I had an answer from God that a specific event needed to happen in my life before I would get married. (and no, the event was not "date and get engaged" although that seems to be helpful, from my observation). So until that event happened, I did not need to worry about why I wasn't married. I held to this belief for several years. I still sought for opportunities to date because the event could happen at any time, right? Yet, it didn't seem to be happening nor was there any indication that it would happen.

In frustration, I asked many times why it wasn't happening and what I needed to do to make it happen, as it felt mostly out of my control (and because I wanted to get married and felt stopped because this event hadn't happened). I felt impressed to make it a sincere matter of prayer and fasting. And I went to the temple. I asked if that belief I had was true. The answer? A stupor of thought. A complete stupor of thought. I was shocked. I had never experienced that kind of answer in that manner before. In my heart, not only did I know that I had been asking the question in the wrong way (really, there wasn't a "why" to why I wasn't married, beyond it just being God's timing), but also that I was wrong in my self-supposed answer. For years. Even though I had been faithful. Even though I had read my scriptures and prayed daily and attended the temple weekly, and in general I was doing just fine. I had just simply held a belief that was wrong. And I knew it. The answer came that the event could happen before I was married, or it might not ever happen at all, and it didn't matter because it was in no way correlated to whether or not I got married.

What. the. What.

You may be tempted to think here that perhaps I was fooling myself the second time around. But I can assure you that was not the case. I was wrong. And I knew it. I did not necessarily feel the wrath or disapproval of the Lord. But I did feel that He had probably been trying to tell me that answer for a long time. But in that case, my pride wouldn't let me listen, even though I listened to SO many other things He told me, even constant promptings day in and day out from the Spirit. But to that particular thing I did not listen.

It is always hard for me to admit that I am wrong, but I was. I know I am not a bad person and this does not negate any of the good things I have done. And really that untrue belief did not affect my life very much. But I was still wrong.

I have thought of this recently in light of many issues of discussion arising among Church members. Many ask questions. And many ask good questions. In general, I would say we ask the right questions and we receive the right answers, even if the answers take years. But sometimes I feel we are receiving answers that are right in some contexts, but also wrong in some circumstances. And sometimes the answers are self-answered instead of inspired, and wrong altogether, even when the questioners, personally, are doing things that are right. I don't know entirely how all this can happen, but I do know that our Father has a way for us to know Truth. God has called a prophet and the Savior Jesus Christ leads and guides the Church of Jesus Christ on the earth today. It is definitely ok to ask questions. And I firmly believe that all followers of Christ ask questions. We all have to ask ourselves who we truly believe, what we truly believe and why. There is no certain group who asks better questions or more important questions.

However, I do believe that many times we are asking the wrong questions--perhaps a topic for another blogpost. And I also believe that sometimes our pride won't let us listen when the Lord tells us that we are wrong, or the prophet tells us we are wrong, or our Church leaders tell us we are wrong, or even Church statements tell us we are wrong. But just because we don't want to listen doesn't mean we are right.

Before the last general conference, I felt heavy in my heart by the confusing claims of many on issues concerning the family, concerning equality, concerning faith and belief and testimony and so much more. I wondered whether I was listening to the right voice and if I was asking the right questions and receiving the right answers. But as I prayerfully listened to conference, I spent two days wrapped in the Spirit, as the Lord gently reminded me that His servants are the ones who are called of God. They provided answers to the questions. And I listened. And the false claims of others simply melted away.

The Lord wants us to ask, but He also wants us to listen to Him.

"Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets" (Amos 3:7).

"What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same" (Doctrine and Covenants 1:38).

"Learn of me, and listen to my words; walk in the meekness of my Spirit, and you shall have peace in me" (Doctrine and Covenants 19:23).

This I know.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

How do you get on the 100 coolest women list?

How do people get to be so awesome?

Recently I read an article about the 100 coolest Mormon women alive today. As I read through the list of their accomplishments, I was struck with the thought, "How on earth do I become like one of those women?" And I started thinking of more and more awesome women and what they do. Women who write books that sell like hotcakes. Women who write blogs that have a million page views (I mean, mine is nearing 10,000 and that's a pretty big deal for me). Women who start their own businesses or teach at important universities or play an instrument like a boss or don't just know politics but articulate their thoughts without sounding like a goon (why do I get so tongue-tied?). Or, you know, are skeleton racers in the Olympics. Cool, right?

Sure, I can try and blame my normalcy on my "youth". Not so fast. Annie Henrie, a wonderful artist (one of my most favorite paintings is hers)--she's my age. We were in the Sterling Scholar program together (not the same category of course, just on the same printed program, but still). Lindsey Stirling. I helped mentor her during her freshman year at BYU. Kelsey Nixon? We were friends in high school. Ok, I'll have to stop name-dropping here because I actually know A LOT of really cool people and I don't want to leave anyone out. (oh, and Annie wasn't actually on the "list" but even so, I think she should have been and examples in threes work better, so...there).

So I may be wrong but I don't think it's necessarily a feeling of jealousy or envy. Rather a (hopefully) righteous feeling of wanting to be influential.

Don't we all feel that way at times? And I'm not just talking about popular. I'm talking about people who are actually doing things that make the world a better place. There are a lot of women who are popular but who aren't really out there to build people up or lead people to Christ. So, yeah, popular is not the key performance indicator here. Nor is making a point or having followers a key performance indicator.

But making a difference for good? In the important things of life? Yeah, that's what I like. Don't you ever feel that you just want to "bless the whole human race"? Sometimes I just think, "Today I may have helped one person with something I did or said. What if I could help 100 people? Or 1000? What if I could let God's love be felt for more than just one person but many people at the same time!?"

It makes you wonder, right? Like, where do you get on the train that leads to awesomeness? How do you get to be one of those people? It makes it even harder when we've been counseled to seek for opportunities to share our talents and our light. I don't think it's a vain ambition. But how do you do it?

Well, it starts with one. And you know what? Really, one is all that may ever matter.

A few weeks ago, I decided to pay attention to this and started writing it down. Because there were a lot of "ones" who needed help. A gal who broke up with her boyfriend and needed to talk. And then later needed resume help for a job application. Actually, several gals who broke up with boyfriends (I swear, late January to February is break-up central time. Even I was on that bandwagon!) Oh yeah, and several friends who needed job search coaching. A friend who got appendicitis and needed a visit while in the ER. A friend who I go to the gym with regularly so she can get in better shape to go on a mission.

A friend whose boyfriend didn't plan anything or even acknowledge Valentine's Day and she needed some understanding. A friend whose aunt passed away somewhat unexpectedly. A friend who felt like she was drowning in her troubles and needed some serious help...and a 7-11 Slurpee. A new friend--a teenage girl--who is now under my care as a mentor. A friend who got into a bad car accident the same week she was set apart as Relief Society president. A friend who is serving for the third time as a Relief Society president (at my same age!) and needed some encouragement. There were just a lot of friends to comfort and help and console and cheer up and love. And these were only a small portion of the needs in a one to two week time span! And these completely exclude the needs of family and even strangers. The needs continue and, in fact, never stop.

Now I don't mean to suggest that those 100 coolest women don't attend to those kind of needs. I know they do.

What I mean to suggest is that for that one person, that one act of kindness or compassion or support or the listening ear, might just bump us to the top of someone's coolest women list. Why? Because we helped her feel God's love. We reminded her He cares. And that He is there. When she most needed that reminder.

Now I know we are not striving for personal honor and glory, but instead for God's glory. Remember "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 5:16, emphasis added). So when I start to feel like I'm just never going to be as cool as someone on that list, I need to remember that doesn't matter. God never asked for us to be on the 100 coolest women list. He never asked for us to win accolades. Does he want us to do our best? Yes. And be our best? Yes. Does He love it when our influence is widespread and our light shines to more people? Surely. Does he think those 100 women are pretty cool? Of course He does. Does He think we are just as wonderful? Without a doubt.

But what if our contribution seems small as a struggling college student or as a young mother or as one who has deep emotional or physical burdens to bear in this life? It just doesn't matter as long as we reach out to the one. One child. One neighbor. One friend.

I still want to be an influence for good on a much broader level. And I still plan to continue to reach for and accomplish my goals in that regard.

But the most influential person to ever walk the face of this earth, the Savior Jesus Christ, showed by example that "one by one" is what matters (3 Nephi 17:21). He left the ninety and nine to go after the one (Luke 15:4). One by one, He blessed the children. One by one, He healed and forgave and loved and ministered.

"This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you" (John 15: 12, emphasis added).

He taught, "Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God" (Doctrine and Covenants 18:10).

The worth of every soul.

The worth of just one soul.

So how do we become awesome?

One by one.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Awkward First Dates: A Generational Experience

It was my first date in college. I had just turned 19. He was a returned missionary, 4 years old than I was.

I had been on dates before. Ok, so only three. And two of those dates were with guys who were kind of dating other girls (they were those high school Mormon dating situations where you're not supposed to date exclusively so people went on dates with others while dating one person more frequently. I fit in the "others" category).

Back to college. As noted, I wasn't super experienced with dates and I was extremely nervous. But the guy was nice enough. In fact, I'm still friends with him (at least Facebook says we are) so I don't tell this story to incriminate in any way (and trust me, this is the toned-down version of my seven-page memoir version).

It was a nice fall day and it was Homecoming time around the BYU campus. Several people were going to homecoming activities. My date told me a group of friends was kind of doing their own thing for homecoming and invited me to come along. It was just a game night,  maybe a movie, something fun. I asked what to wear. "Casual" was the reply. "Jeans or khaki casual?" I inquired. "Um...khaki probably."

So after agonizing about what to wear all week, I dressed up in my early 2000s best--khakis and a jean jacket (listen, I've never been a fashion guru. It was "nice" for a date, in my mind). When he came to pick me up, he brought me flowers (first mistake for a then-non-flower-loving girl, but we can forgive). And he was wearing khakis and a blue button-down.

And so we went. Walking, of course, because date-man didn't have a car. This was, after all, BYU campus, where people could live their whole college existences without a car (I was spoiled and could not. Thank you old "Silver Shift" my '88 Subaru).

Anyway, we headed to his complex and to the common room. No one was there. He assumed we were too early. So we went to his apartment and ate dinner. We went back about 20 minutes later. I can still remember descending the stairs into the common room and rounding the corner. The room was no longer empty. Nay, there were about 20-30 people in the room--all dressed in Tuxes and formal dresses. My heart panicked. My date just walked right in and started greeting people. And introducing me. We sat down as I tried not to notice the other gals in their peach and purple and pink flowing and beautiful dresses stealing glances at my now not-so-nice khakis and jean jacket. I pretended nothing was out of the ordinary. But it clearly was. Some whispered and asked me why I didn't have a dress and if I needed to borrow one from them for the activity. Thus ensued some painful hours of feeling completely and utterly out-of-the-loop, foolish, and very unfashionable and uninformed.

What I surmised from others is this was called "Plan C". They didn't really want to go to the expensive activities on campus, but they did want to have a homecoming party. So they planned this. Now, obviously my date didn't know it was a formal event. He was only in a button-down. And clearly it was only in an apartment complex common room, so perhaps it wasn't as bad as if we had gone to an actual dance.

But I was still mortified and, true to Liz fashion, I probably cried about it later that night and added the story to my newly-started "awkward date" file.

I could just end the story there. It's funny/sad enough. But that would leave out the best part, which includes my grandma.

My Grandma Helen passed away a year ago this week, and I still miss her dearly. My grandma and I were great friends and I knew a lot about her life. I had interviewed her for a journalism class and wrote a 20-page history on her. I scoured records and other memorabilia from her life and wrote a 40-page biography of her life for a history class. And I used one of my favorite stories to write an article about her for The Friend magazine.

Yet in the past year, I stumbled across a stack of some of her stories hand-written on yellow legal pad paper that I had never read before. As I was transcribing those papers one day, I found this gem written by her:
Helen in her teenage years,
 at the lake
"My first date was at 14. I was too young, but my parents knew the fellow who was in our ward and neighborhood. It was a stake dance and formal. My date forgot to tell me it was formal. I wore my best brown dress, which I never liked. I’ve never worn brown since. After that evening, mother made me a red taffeta formal which I never wore again. Not until high school did I make some formals for myself."
Those simple eight sentences left me chuckling and yearning for more at the same time. In all my grandma's stories, I'd never heard of an awkward date. I mean, look at the gal--she's too beautiful for that kind of thing, right? I wondered how she felt. What was her initial reaction? Did she play it off well? Did her date apologize? Did she cry when she got home?

I can't ask her that now, of course, but 10 years after my own casual vs. formal dress mix-up, I discovered that perhaps I am not the first.

Although I may have worn that jean jacket a few more times, and although my mom didn't make me a formal to make up for it (does she even know this story? she does now!), whenever I think of my awkward date, I now think of my grandma, too. And I would take any awkward date for those kind of memories.