Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Europe Trip, Part 1: Hungary

Unless all of you are lying (which I highly suspect right now), you are all dying to hear about my European Adventure.

I have never done a travel blog, but I have traveled and I have blogged, so there's that. And now here's this.

First, let's start off with the most Frequently Asked Questions.

Inside the Hungarian Parliament Building
Who did you go with? My dearest and best friend: my mom
Which countries did you visit? Hungary, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Italy, France
Wait, how long were you gone? 12 days
That many countries? Yes, but Croatia was only for 25 minutes, Italy for a few hours, France for a 20 hour layover, and Austria for a day. We mostly went to Hungary and Slovenia.
So...why? To visit family
You have family in Europe? Yes! My aunt (mom's sister) and uncle are serving as LDS Church mission presidents in Budapest, Hungary. Also, I have third and fourth cousins in Austria and Slovenia, since my great-great grandparents immigrated from Metlika, Slovenia (which was at one time Austria, and also part of the former Yugoslavia)
Slovenia? Don't you mean Slovakia? I meant what I said, and I said what I meant...Slovenia's a country in Eastern Europe 100%
Wait, hold on a second, you stay in contact with third and fourth cousins? Yeah, because then you can travel to cool places, duh!
But you really do? Yes, my mom and I really do. And so do many of our other family members. Slovenia is a part of me. It is a part of my heritage and a part of my life. I'll get to that part of the story, ok?
How did you...? They all speak English.

So on a cold day in December, my mom and I packed our bags, went to work (separately, of course), found out my flight had randomly (and no fault of my own) been rescheduled and I was headed to Michigan instead of Paris, and I about died. Luckily, the nicest customer service agent in the world fixed my flight, and when my mom and I left work and headed to the airport, we were back on the same flight. Thankfully the airport dude-man got us back in seats next to each other, which made it more convenient to pretend to uncomfortably sleep.

But you wanted to know about Hungary.

We took a direct flight to Paris and then on to Budapest, Hungary. My aunt and uncle were eagerly awaiting our arrival at the airport and I felt a complete surge of emotions and nostalgia as they stood there with their mission name tags on. It was just like coming off the plane when I arrived in my mission and it felt like a piece of heaven. But I digress. We were so excited to see them! After hugs and warm feelings all around, we headed off into a cold and foggy December day in Budapest, where it proceeded to rain for the near duration of our stay. But it couldn't have been any lovelier.

Highlights of Budapest
Sister Smith, me, mom, President Smith
Budapest Hungary Mission Office

1) My aunt and uncle. The wonderful thing about reunions is that somehow it's as if no time has passed at all and that all is right with the world and that there is just a burst of love escaping from you. They've been out two and a half years, which has seemed a very long time. We talked, we laughed, we played games, we fed the missionaries, we went to Church, we met wonderful members, we talked to more missionaries. Also, they shared their stock of Milka caramel candy bars. That is love. Family, guys. It's where it's at.

2. Christmas Markets and Christmas. These are really a big deal in this part of Europe. They sell all sorts of handmade crafts, dolls, linens, and nearly everything you can think of. And while there were lots of people buying and drinking mulled wine, we just enjoyed just smelling the Christmas in the air. Everything else was lit up around the city and it felt magical.

St. Stephen's Basilica lit up for Christmas

3. Hungarian Parliament Building. I could not get enough of this building. As one of Europe's oldest legislative buildings, it just looks like awesomeness decorated and lit up in more awesomeness. Inside and out was beautifully designed, built, and decorated. It was inaugurated on the country's 1000th birthday in 1896 (it's a pretty important year for Hungary) and completed in 1904. 
Inside the Hungarian Parliament Building
Hungarian Parliament Building, as seen from Fisherman's Bastion
on the Buda side of the Danube.

Stained glass in the Hungarian Parliament Building

4.These ladies. I know I already mentioned my mom and my aunt, but seriously, isn't this the best picture ever? My Aunt Lynne helped us find our way around the city and took us out to a beautiful village named Szentendre where we got to see a taste of traditional Europe, shop in some great artisan handmade shops, and eat some cold blueberry soup and fried cheese! Goodness all around. Oh yeah, and we met Saint Nicholas!

Shoes on the Danube
5. Memorials to the Jews. This was such a sobering and thoughtful opportunity to really think on the implications of all that transpired in World War II. The "Shoes on the Danube" Memorial is for those Jews who were lined up and chained together along the Danube. They were ordered to take off their shoes and stand near the edge. The first person was shot, and the others, chained to the first, would be pulled into the river. I've heard a lot about the Hungarian Jews in history, but this was sobering and real to me. I love that people put flowers in the remember.

Another memorial to the Jews is at the Dohany Street Synagogue (also known as The Great Synagogue). It is the largest synagogue in Europe, built in the 1850s. It was badly damaged by air raids during the Nazi Occupation, but was restored due to some great donors. The restoration was completed in 1998. It's very unusual to have a cemetery this close to a synagogue, but in 1944, around 70,000 Jews were relocated to the ghetto area of Pest and in the following year 8-10,000 of them died. A makeshift cemetery was created for around 2000 of these Jews in the Synagogue courtyard. In the Raul Wallenberg Memorial Park, the weeping willow tree--Emanuel Tree--memorializes the names and tattoo numbers of those Hungarian Jews killed in the Holocaust. There is also a memorial here to those who helped rescue Jews.
Jewish Cemetery at the Synagogue
The Emanuel Tree Memorial
Weeping willow memorial
 in Raul Wallenberg park

Dohany Street Synagogue

6. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Hungary. I love going to Church wherever I go. It's always so wonderful to meet the members and understand more about their lives. We attended the Buda Ward, which is in the same building as the mission home and the mission office. It still felt much like home to me. The Church always feel like home. We had translators help us out through all three meetings. My aunt bore her testimony in Hungarian, which was so awesome that I nearly cried. Several members of the ward got up and shared how much they love Sister Smith and her testimony. In Relief Society, we listened as the sisters announced the Christmas project to serve the poor and the needy. I knew that many of those sisters were certainly not all that well off themselves, yet they are committed to serving those even a little less fortunate. The Relief Society provides relief wherever they go.

This was one of the things that most touched my heart was learning about how the Church is growing in Hungary. What a stellar experience to spend a few days with a mission president and his wife and learn of the work. They have a stake and are continuing to grow. In the Buda Ward, a convert had just been baptized the day before and she was confirmed during Church--a beautiful confirmation. There was a baby blessing in the ward that day, too. We met a senior couple there helping with family history work and with the young single adults. Some members were in town for Church as they were from outlying cities and had come in to receive their Patriarchal Blessings. Several times as we were in the city, we ran into missionaries (granted many of them were on their way to the mission home).  We got to meet a handful of elders who came in for paperwork. They were all full of fire and energy and a love of the mission. Hurrah for Israel! The work goes on. I love the work that my aunt and uncle get to do.

Speaking of which, on the train ride out of Budapest and on our way to Graz, Austria, my mom sat next to a young woman, and I next to an older lady. The girl, Rebeka, speaks English. We chatted with her a lot. She translated for the lady next to me. To both of them, we shared a bit of our testimonies and left a Book of Mormon.
My mom and our new friend Rebeka.

I loved it, rainy days and cold weather and all.

Köszönöm, Hungary. Thank you.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Ten Things Mommy Blogs Taught Me to Worry About: Newborn Edition

So I'm pretty well aware that I'm not a mom yet. But I am very aware I'm addicted to mommy blogs.

Let's not say addicted; that sounds bad. Let's say, "I am a hugely ridiculous fan of reading [mommy blogs]."

They can be written by mothers I know and mothers I don't know. For me, I call this Parenting Prep 6000. For others, they call it...well...I don't know what they call it. Mommy Wars?

The point is that because I read mommy blogs all the time, I have become overly concerned about way too many things. And let's just mention here that it's not like I haven't been around babies. I started babysitting when I was nine! And I still watch my nieces and nephews all the time. But when it's your own I'm already stressing about things that I really don't need to stress about. At least not quite yet. So now I'm here to stress you out as well.

Ten Things Mommy Blogs Taught Me to Worry About: Newborn Edition

10) Co-sleeping, bassinet, or crib? I don't really recall how I slept as a baby because I was quite young when I was born. Also, from what I have observed, babies don't sleep much anyway, nor do the parents. So I don't think this one really matters. Never mind on that concern. Next.

9) Strollers. Apparently this is a big decision. What kind of a stroller leads to higher baby intelligence? Is a jogging stroller best because of the health benefits? A cheap hand-me-down since mama saves money? A deluxe, climate-controlled, RockShox get up? Will they really appreciate the $4000 Silver Cross Balmoral Pram? Also, that's a real thing? I just googled expensive baby stroller and that's what came up. I bought my car for about that amount! And my car can fit THREE babies in it, thank you very much. And I also enjoy a smooth ride and have relatively puncture-resistant wheels, too. 

8) Cloth diapers or disposable? My mom raised most of us in cloth diapers. Because my parents were poor. And they had a passel of kids. And because disposable diapers were barely even invented in my day and probably cost $3 a diaper. So I'm pretty sure the cloth diaper thing was a sacrifice, not a nod to the environment. Yet, somehow, my mommy blog reading makes me feel a tiny twinge of guilt about disposing of so many diaper bombs into the landfills. But on the other hand, dirty diapers twelve to eighteen times a day. So... disposable it is. Good thing I finally got a Costco membership to prepare.

7) Natural, Epidural, or C-section? For now, let's just leave this one at epidural based on the birth stories I have read and the *cough* wonderful stories I hear at baby showers. There is one thing for certain, though. I ain't nevuh gonna post my baby's birth story online. 

6) Blogging about the birth story. Did you even read number 7? No. (watch me eat my words).

5) Nursing or bottle-feeding? So far I've decided that feeding the baby is a good idea. And the baby should be fed on a regular basis. So I'm just gonna make sure that happens. 

4) Newborn pictures. Do I pay for the photographer who comes to the hospital when my baby still looks slightly like an alien? Do I go to a studio? Do I count on my future visiting teacher to be a professional photographer who I can count on when she asks, "What do you need?" Do I just buy a camera now and take classes? And do I make the lace tutu that my little girl will wear? Or do I use iron-on "one month, two month" patches on new Dillard's white onesies? What if I can't crochet? How am I ever going to make the baby hat? Oh, the humanity!

3) Gender reveal party. SO MUCH PRESSURE! First of all, do I find out the gender? Or do I wait because that's what the cool kids do? Or do I not wait, because that's what the other cool kids do? And if I DO want to find out, do I have someone else bake a cake with blue or pink inside? Or do we pop a balloon? Or do we put together a puzzle? Or do I hire an ultrasound technician to come to my living room so everyone can witness the reveal live? (This was a REAL idea on a blog, guys. Why do you think I'm so stressed?)

2) Pick names before the baby is born, right after, or three years later? And how much of a vote does the husband get? (So far, he gets none since he hasn't even told me his own name yet). And when do we tell people? Rumor has it my grandma didn't have a real name for quite a while after she was born, so she went by "Babe", which stuck for most of her life and people still call her Babe. Which I think is actually kind of cute. But... I still want to name my babies pretty soon. However, as soon as I think of a baby name, one of my cousins steals it! How rude! So in an effort to get my cousins to name their children OTHER names, so I can still have mine, I offer them the following really good, solid names: Linus, Georgina, Hilda, and Frank.

And the number one thing I worry about...

1) Everything else. Gracious, it's like bringing a human child into the world is a hugely big deal. It's a good thing my mommy blogs have prepared me years in advance for the horrors, the laughs, the blow-outs, the giggling, the spit up, the babbling, the tears, the fears, the stress, the smiles, and most importantly, the love.

Do I worry about being a good mom already? Way before I even need to? Sure. But I bet this mama did, too, and I think she is perfect. Even without the mommy blogs as her guide.


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

You Cannot Fail

I found something out recently. I found out that I can't fail.

For a recovering perfectionist (seriously, but really, seriously), this is a hard thing to initially swallow. 

Several months ago I got another calling in the ward. I'm still going 4 1/2 years strong with my service calling (which I love), but apparently I had a little more learning and refining in store. I was called to be the Family History co-chair in the ward. Really, I'm just a family history consultant. But we do everything in co-chairs in singles wards, so there you go.

Now you may think that I was a little bit intimidated and you would be right. It's intimidating to be in a calling where you're trying to help people do research when you don't know everything yourself. But it is a calling I love. My mom has taught me to do family history since I was little. It has always been a part of my life. And the past several years, I've spent nearly every Sunday in the Family History Center in our ward helping people anyway. So it just made official something I already loved to do. But then actually gave me responsibility and stewardship over it. So it was no longer just a help here and help there kind of thing, but the real McCoy. Now, I had to wait two months between the time I was called and the time I was sustained. Not sure why, but that's what happened. So I hemmed and hawed and stewed over what I needed to do and how I was going to do it.

When I was finally sustained and set apart by Brother White, he said something surprising in the blessing. He told me twice that I cannot fail. Because this is the the Lord's work.

Turns out it was a good thing he said that. The good news is that family history in our ward has actually been taking off. There is a lot of interest and the Spirit of Elijah has touched many hearts.

Photographic evidence of people not indexing. The bishop
tried to stage it to look like we actually had a
successful activity. Also, it's a good thing I went looking
for this picture, which was inadvertently deleted, along with 200
other photos from my ward picture album on Dropbox.
But you're wondering about the "cannot fail" part ... Around mid-July, the Church announced a cool initiative. They were going to get 50,000 indexers to index a batch of records in one day. Just one day! "How cool is that?" said family history Liz. And she set about to invite the whole ward to come up to the Church on that Sunday evening and index. Exciting, right? (#whyimsingle. Also, side note: lots of people told me they love my "dating blog". Dating blog? This isn't a dating blog? I never mention it in my serious posts! Right....) So we got the Family History Center set up, we pumped up the ward and blasted out invites on social media. And the people came. Nearly 35 cycled through that night. And guess how many batches we got done? NONE! Zero! ZIPPO! None, I say.

Turns out if 50,000 people all try to log on at the same time, then the Indexing servers crash and burn and die. And thus it was, that of the 35 people, not a single one was able to successfully complete a batch and send it in. We did have two who after 2 hours of watching the spinning wheel of death on their computers, finally got logged in. One actually was able to get a batch done, but the submission wouldn't work. Can you index in a day? No you can't, you can't, I say!

So I may have died a little that night.

Enter recovery phase.

Then enter family history Liz again. We were assigned to do a Family History activity for FHE. By this time I had a little group of consultants together and a co-chair, and if I do say so myself, we planned a killer activity. We decorated...for FHE. You know, we don't mess around. I should have taken a picture for Pinterest of everyone's family history books, pictures, and memorabilia. It was cool. We had people bring family recipes for dessert.

We showed this video, which makes me cry because:
1) I truly believe that our ancestors watch out for us at all times, but especially in those hard times.
2) The day I found a copy of one of my ancestors' entries in a Family Bible, I cried.

So we were all set up for an awesome experience. And we had like 40+ people show up at FHE...for family history!

You cannot fail, he said.

But the Wi-Fi can. I came early to set up and my computer wouldn't connect. Tried my other laptop. No luck. Another person came. No connection. Connection failed. And it repeated every time another person came in the door. Finally a few came in who were able to connect (what??) and we got a Hotspot going for a few. My 15 minute prepared lesson turned into 30 minutes of frustration trying to at least say something inspirational and not feel upset that I couldn't demo the awesomeness of FamilySearch, Puzzilla, Ancestry and so on very well. I fumbled through some sort of mix of telling people that we'd have to go back to pen and paper like our ancestors and then I just finished up in a puddle of embarrassment. We had the family history center open. A gal asked for help. I went with her and helped her the rest of the evening. I abandoned those wi-fi broken computers and those interested seekers and basically hid in a corner. When it finally sounded like everyone was leaving, I went and cleaned up my things. My committee said that it was all fine and that it was all ok. The bishop tried to reassure me. First a failed indexing event. Then this. I got in my car and cried (come on, I know you're not surprised at that).

You cannot fail, he said.

After a lot of thinking and pondering and chatting with the Lord, I started to feel it. I hadn't failed because I really can't. The Wi-Fi wasn't working, yes. But 40+ people came to learn about family history. Several told me they learned something new. One sister found 10 family names. Another learned how to to descendancy research. Another fixed an endless loop on FamilySearch that we'd been trying to fix the entire previous Sunday. What seemed a failure was not a failure at all. Instead, it was just a little blip in time when things didn't go quite right.

And you know, my ancestors have still got my back. My great-grandma Eva Rosina Klingler Stitt wrote a beautiful poem that I have long loved and that came to mind because of this event.

Success may be made by the goals we have gained, 
Regardless of hardship and cares. 
Success may mean sometimes the wheat we have gleaned 
In spite of the weeds and the tares. 

Success may mean reaching the goal we have made — 
When easy paths beckoned, we tenaciously stayed. 
But he, too, succeeds, who is doing his best -
Who would do a hundred, regardless the test. 

If we will remember as we journey through life, 
True success comes from loving - not hatred and strife. 
Success is not counted by the trophies we have won. 
Nor the races we have beaten at the start of the gun. 

But, by rendering service as we go along, 
By doing for others to the tune of a song. 
By helping our fellow man to lighten his load. 
To help with his burden, though rough be his road. 
When the last curtain falls, we will be ready to go, 
If we can truthfully say we served here below. 
-Eva Rosina Klingler Stitt

Truly, you cannot fail, He said.

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.

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'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 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.