College – 4 Years in Review

Four years ago, when I first came out to BYU, I C1remember being a wide-eyed freshman that struggled finding my way around campus, I didn’t know which way was north, I was afraid of getting anything less than an A, and although I’ve got four younger sisters, moving in with five other girls would be an adventure.

FRESHMAN YEAR: As I got settled in, many adventures came that I hadn’t expected. One of the first was that I accepted a job doing early morning custodial. For a year, I would get up at 3:30 in the morning to make it to work by C24. I would go straight to work from classes. However, my co-workers knew how to have fun. Seldom did a morning pass without snowball fights, Joey or Seth jumping out from around corners to scare you or throw water balloons into the bathrooms. They hid in trash bins and behind boxes of toilet paper, in the playgrounds and in the elevators. And, Holly and Olivia always kept me company. Often times we scheduled times to hang out and bake, play games, or simply talk when we were more awake. It was a hard job, but alwaC4ys entertaining. 🙂

Along with work and classes, I had some wonderful roommates and crazy FHE brothers to help keep me smiling. Whether we took goofy family pictures together, played cards, created masterpieces out of newspaper, scripted our own videos, messed with Jamon’s food, played frisbee in the basement (Bad idea, don’t do it) there are always fond memories to look back on. Having roommates was different than I thought it would be, but I enjoyed it.

SOPHOMORE YEAR: Working early mornings for one year was plenty, so when I went back to school I decided I’d earned enough during the summer, and I would focus on school C5instead. Moving out of freshman housing and into a new apartment, however, I never expected what I got: One freshman roommate, and three that were fresh off the mission and still speaking the language regularly… Russian! However, in spite of the language barrier ;), they were all amazing and we made fast friends. It didn’t take long for us to C6show our true colors and be weird together. We had many late nights discussing the meaning of life, wondering why boys caused so many problems, and writing random quotes on our quote board. Becoming one of the youngest in my apartment, and feeling like I knew nothing in comparison to my genius roommates, I loved sitting and listening to them discuss various topics, and I always came away learning something new. Whether it was making Russian food together, interpretive dancing in the living room (I filmed instead of C7participating), or using the snow from our balcony for a snowball fight, we had many late nights filled with laughter and tears.

Since I started taking Italian classes my freshman year, I figured I’d enhance my learning by learning to sing in Italian… So I joined the Italian choir. It was a beautiful beginning to my love of Italian music, even though it didn’t really help my grammar that C8much. The conductor was amazing, and I loved going to choir simply because it made me happy.

Just to change things up, I stayed for a spring term, and once again got some new roommates. With the winter semester one of my roommates had left for Washington DC, and two more Russian speakers took the openings. They stuck around with me for spring, and one other girl from our ward moved C9into our apartment. Another Sarah joined us, and together we probably blew Provo’s snark levels out of the water (Just kidding, but seriously). Some days, though, you simply don’t want to be around others, and when those days happened we partied it up on our own and created even more lasting friendships in #apartment210.

JUNIOR YEAR: I didn’t feel like changing things up much, so I moved back in to the same apartment, along with 4 of my previous roommates. Our Ukranian flag stayed pinned to the balcony for yet another year as Russian continued to be taken and discussed on a daily basis. On occasion, we even found C10creepy pictures of Russian men hiding in our bathroom, fridge, and other places. Without IMG_3376our white board, however, we improvised and moved our quote wall to the bathroom mirrors. They filled up on an almost weekly basis. Laughter has always been a mandatory part of #apartment210. The adventures continued, and we had an a(null)mazing time together, whether wrapped up in Christmas lights, singing (I listened) to (null) (4)Russian hymns, and of course, eating Russian food together. And pizza. Always pizza. Since four of them were finishing up their senior years and preparing to take on the world, I got to learn a lot of important things, such as “planning is overrated,” “boys cause problems,” blasphemy doesn’t always get you struck by lightning, and “pizza is always C12the answer.”

Along with my amazing roommates and my English and Italian classes, I decided I was going to throw in a Business minor. Simply because I could, so those classes started to show up in my schedule.

As if I wasn’t having enough adventures enough, my sister Katie provided me with another one… She left on a mission. Since she was coming here to C11Provo to enter the MTC, I got to visit with her for a couple days when my dad dropped her off. So, I went with him and we sent her off to serve the people of Kentucky for 18 months. Crazy. And I miss her so much. But I’ll get back to that in a minute.

The school year passed by quickly. I continued to take Italian classes, even though I’d finished the classes required for major (English). But, I wanted to keep studying it… because I was going to Italy! Spring term, I left for six weeks and toured Italy, taking classes in Italian and humanities, and I saw so many sights. But, if you want to hear more about those, look back at my blog posts from a year ago. There are lots of stories and pictures. And, I decided that I was close enough already… so I added an Italian minor, along with my business minor. It was fun! And it meant I had another semester before graduation, for me to figure out my life. 🙂

SENIOR YEAR: It’s amazing how things keep changing just enough that you’re never really used to it. Well, I stayed in #apartment210 for my third year, but this time around Fall 2015 026I’ve had completely different roommates, including my cousin, Nicki. Fall 2015 022Now I’m one of the oldest in my apartment, and I’m the only one close to graduation. Still, we’ve had lots of fun snuggling and with our Saturday night sleepovers. Our quote “board” was updated to a wall of pinterest, where all our quotes fit into different categories, such as “Things boys say” “Blasphemy,” “Boys, C13men, and other such things,” and “Ouch!” I’ve been told just how complicated fangirling is, learned that books can actually be read during a school semester (if you’ve got a job as an intern for Mar '16 042Future House Publishing and they ask you to read fun
books for your job), and joined dinner group to avoid the complicated mess of cooking for myself. Now that I’m not spending all that time cooking, I’ve been able to make time to do things I don’t normally have time for, like throw a surprise party for a dear friend (and may I just say, I rocked it!).

C14Even though I’ve enjoyed my classes, finishing up my major, getting a job as the BYU Italian choir director, working my internship with a publishing company, and finishing up both my minors, after C15spending so long in Provo, I desperately needed some
breaks this semester, and luckily I got them. Over President’s day we went to Goblin valley, did a couple hikes, and learned of the joys of playing hide and seek (sardines) in the rocks.

C16By April, however, I needed one more break to give me the strength to take finals. So, we left only a week and a half before finals to go camping C17in Calf Creek Falls (southern UT). Well, things didn’t quite go as planned. First off, the camp site was full when we finally got there,
late at night, after driving through the rain and snow. We drove for about an hour until we found another site, and camped there. The following C20morning we drove back to Calf Creek Falls and went on a beautiful hike. It rained for most of our trip, but only when we were in our tents or the cars, C19and when we were walking around it was beautiful.

Now, I’ve hopefully got the energy I need to finish up finals. Oh wait, I don’t need to worry about that any more. Why? Because I’ve taken my last one. My parents will come out for graduation in a couple days. I’m done.

It’s really weird to look back on 4 years of college here at BYU. In some ways I feel completely different, and in other ways like I haven’t changed a bit. I’ve learned a lot, and I’ve had some amazing adventures with wonderful friends that I’ve made here over the years. I’m excited to see what the future brings.

Now, just to recap: 6 years, 18 semesters/terms, 68 classes, 185.5 credits, and thousands of sleepless nights after starting my college career, I’m officially done!!

Meeting Pollyanna: Finding reasons to be glad

I remember reaching my wit’s end my freshman year. I couldn’t handle any more than what was already on my plate. Every year since, especially during midterms, I feel the same way, but that the challenges and trials of life only get harder. That said, it’s easy to get frustrated with myself, with others, and with life. Luckily, this last Friday, I got to talk with Pollyanna.

For those of you who don’t know, Pollyanna is a film and a book in which a young girl (named Pollyanna) goes to live with her aunt after the death of her parents. She has every right to feel sad and discouraged and even mad at the world, but instead she plays “the glad game” with every cross, stubborn person she meets in her new town. Over the course of time, she manages to win over the town. Curious, the town preacher pays her a visit and asks her how she does it. She pulls out her locket, a gift from her dearly-departed father, and asks him to read it. “If you look for the bad in mankind, you’re sure to find it,” he reads. She then goes on to explain that you find what you’re looking for, that she wanted to look for the good, and that she found it.

A couple weeks ago, I was complaining to my mom about how hard life is, with midterms, work issues, church, issues friends were going through, and many other things. Sure enough, she started telling me that happiness was a choice, and that I needed to choose to be happy. Well, I rolled my eyes. I didn’t want to be happy. I didn’t have any reasons to be happy…

And then I looked up at my wall.

To preface, at the beginning of the semester, my apartment talked about having a “Thankful” wall, where we would each put up one sticky-note every night saying something we were thankful for. Well, it lasted one day, and the wall died. We never did it. At least, not as an apartment. But starting with the first day of school, I’d decided to write down three things every day that I was thankful for. And I wasn’t allowed to skip a day. I could put more than 3 things if I wanted, but it had to be at least three.

And so, I looked up at my wall. I’d kept true to my promise. I hadn’t skipped a day. It was mid-October. Red and orange sticky-notes covered my half of the room. Sure, some days I hadn’t found much to be thankful for, and I’d written things like “running water”, “three hours of sleep” or “I never have to live today twice.” But even though life was horrible, I could pick out over 100 things I was thankful for. So I decided, before getting off the phone with my Mom, that I was really going to give it a chance. I was going to look for the good.

Well, October continued to be hard, but manageable. At least, my trials were manageable. But on Friday I hung out with a dear friend, who explained that she’s experienced some unexpected trials in her life that have really beaten her down and caused her a lot of pain. Hearing her talk about what she was going through, I began to cry. I considered how mad I might be in her situation: mad at myself, mad at others, and mad at God. I’ve seen it many times before. And then she spoke. She said her trial was really a blessing, because now things can get better. She said she knows she is not alone and that there are people that care about her. And she said the whole experience had only brought her closer to our Heavenly Father and our Savior. I cried again, this time tears of joy and amazement, because of her faith and her strength, her willingness to look for the good even when the bad was so clearly in front of her. She truly embodied the personality of Pollyanna.

I talked with another friend later on Friday who explained that there are some things we can’t control. She’d made a conscious decision to take charge of the things within her control and to do her best, but that the rest of it would be left up to God. Once again, I was amazed with her faith and her decision to be happy in spite of not having the answers she was looking for.

Now, my wall is covered with just under 200 sticky-notes, and it will only continue to grow. I plan to put them up every day for the rest of the school-year, even if that means running out of space on my wall… I’ve always got a ceiling. 🙂 There will always be things to be thankful for.

Near the end of Pollyanna, she has an accident in which she loses the use of her legs, and finally decides her “glad game” was stupid. Even Pollyanna, who always found a reason to be glad, lost hope, as I’m sure each of us will. But in her moment of sorrow and stubbornness, when she was ready to give up on looking for the good, a miracle happened. Against her will, the doctor carried her out of her room, because she had a visitor. The whole town, everyone whose lives she’d touched, had come to help her through her trial. They helped her find a reason to be glad.

Whether you think of it as Pollyanna looking for the good or Peter Pan finding his happy thoughts, it’s important to remember that happiness is something we have to choose hundreds of times every day. Some days it’s harder to find it than others. But happiness is a commandment, the one most frequently broken. You have agency. The decision is yours. But whether you look for the good in mandkind or the bad, just remember, you’ll find what you’re looking for.

Lighting your flame – My thoughts from Conference

“I met a stranger in the night whose light had ceased to shine; I paused and let him light his lamp from mine. A tempest sprung up later on and shook the world about, and when the wind was gone my lamp was out. But back he came to me the stronger; his lamp was glowing fine. He held the precious flame, and lighted mine.” Lon Woodrum

Christ 3Do you ever have moments in your life where you help others? Are there moments when others help you? I would hope you can answer yes to both questions. But, are you equally open to both opportunities? Sadly, I’m not, though I’m trying to be better. While this may seem a little backwards, I’m perfectly fine with helping others. I love it. I live for it. But I don’t like getting help. Ask if I need a favor, a meal, a break, give me a compliment or try to make my life easier, especially when I really need it, and I cringe uncomfortably and try to insist I’m fine. I know, it’s pathetic. It’s a pride issue, and it’s taking a lot longer than I thought it would to go away. Still, while I am working on it, it’s hard. Really hard.

I HATE double standards. I think the reason I hate them so much is because I set them for myself all the time. When I think of a way to help someone else, I never assume they’re stupid for not having figured everything out already. I don’t mock them for struggling with life. Instead I simply remind them that it’s a fact of life that we aren’t supposed to be perfect yet, that we won’t be perfect for a long time, and that we need to take things one day at a time. They’ll figure it out. They’re doing better than they think they are.

Well, I’m a balcony dweller. Why? Because when life gets hard, when my lamp is running low, I don’t look around to see if anyone I know can help me re-light my lamp. I don’t want to be a burden to them. So, after living in my apartment for 3 years, I’ve developed a habit of going out on the balcony to try and sort out my problems on my own. On multiple occasions, I have cried buckets and tears, pouring my heart out to God and asking why I’m not perfect yet. On one occasion about two years ago, I remember a roommate asking if I needed help. I told her I needed to figure it out on my own. And then I cried to the Lord and told him repeatedly, “I can’t do this alone.”

Suddenly I realized how stupid I’d been. I didn’t have to do it alone. My roommate had just offered to help! Even more importantly, however, I kept telling God that I was alone, and ignoring the fact that I was talking to him. He never once left me, and he never will. I simply needed to accept that he was there.

Works are great. Faith without works is dead, after all (James 2:17). But I was relying too much on my own works, when I should have remembered that life isn’t meant to be endured alone. That is why we have families. Friends, leaders, roommates, and many others can influence us as well. We can all help each other’s lights stay bright and shine in the darkness that surrounds the world today.

“Why do we listen to those that tear us down, but not those that lift us up?” I heard this question yesterday afternoon in Elder Vern P. Stanfill’s General Conference address, “Choose the Light.” It hit me hard, not because I am surrounded by terrible people that tear me down and try to change my beliefs, but because I was the one tearing myself down, telling myself I wasn’t good enough, and that I never would be. It’s hard to fight against other people. It’s even harder to fight against yourself.

I talked with my best friend this last week and wrote her a letter, telling her to stop being so hard on herself, that she was doing better than she thought. When giving it to her, however, I asked her to let me make a copy of the letter. Why? Because I knew the words I had felt inspired to say were words I needed to hear just as much as she did.

Christ2Obviously, my letter to my friend (and to myself) wasn’t enough, because God asked his Prophet, Thomas S. Monson, to talk about it again. Maybe he knew I’d forget the validity of my own remarks, or maybe he knew I wouldn’t fight it if it came from his servant. Quite possibly, he did it simply because he could, and he loves me. President Monson talked about letting our light shine (Matthew 5:16) and being an example to all those around us. This is something I can do, I thought. Once again, I was forgetting that we’re not supposed to do it alone. But I can’t be an example to others. Not until I believe in myself, my thoughts continued. But how do I do that? Well, by remembering that God believes in me. As I worried about this during his talk, he quoted this scripture: “be believing, and all things shall work together for your good” (Doctrine and Covenants 90:24). As one of my Italian professors shows us how to break down sentences, she always says we need to begin by reading and understanding. Well, I did that with this scripture. Then we look for a verb. Believe. Got it. Next we need to find a subject. Me. Implied. I need to believe. What’s so hard about that? I need to imply one more thing to this scripture, what I believe in. I believe in my Heavenly Father. I believe in Jesus Christ. I know he is my Savior, that he suffered for me, that he loves me with an incomprehensible love, and that he will always be there for me. What lack I yet? A consistently strong understanding that I need to believe in myself – believe that I have a light to shine and that I am worth the Savior’s suffering. He thought so. So what am I waiting for?

I love President Monson, and I loved his talk today. The poem I began with was shared at the end of his talk. We aren’t supposed to make it through life alone. We need to help each other. All of us will run low every now and then and need help from others. Whether it’s through a priesthood blessing, a hug, a meal, or just being willing to listen, everyone needs help, even if (like me), they have a hard time admitting it. And, it isn’t usually because they don’t think you’re capable of helping them. Rather, it’s that they don’t think they’re deserving of that help. Prove them wrong.

While talking about lights and the gospel and being an example, one of my favorite hymns came to mind. It’s usually sung by the men, but I love it anyway.

Brightly beams our Father’s mercy from his lighthouse evermore,

But to us he gives the keeping of the lights along the shore.

Let the lower lights be burning; send a gleam across the wave.

Some poor fainting, struggling seaman you may rescue, you may save.

Don’t get discouraged when you see others around you and you can see their light, but not your own. They see yours. And it isn’t a competition. You’re both there to help others find the way to Christ. And you’re both there to help each other. Let your light burn and help those around you. And always remember that you’re never alone and that even when tempests come and shake the world about, that Christ will come, his lamp ablaze, to chase away your doubts. Let your light shine!

What’s in a name? Trying to live up to mine and make it worth living up to

What’s in a name? Trying to live up to mine and make it worth living up to

My name is Sara. Sara Hilary Herald. But, what does that mean? Sara is a form of Sarah, which means “princess” or “noblewoman.” Hilary is a form of Hilarius, which means “cheerful.” And Herald means “messenger.” So, put it together, and essentially my name means “Cheerful princess messenger.” Hence the title of my blog. But, do I live up to my name? There’s a lot more to it than that.

My mom is number six of eight girls. I am the oldest of five girls in my own family, and each of us, almost without exception, is named after someone in her family. My youngest two aunts are named Hilary and Saralyn. These are the two I was named after. Why? Because my mom wanted me to be like them.

Campbell ClanFor a little over a week now, I’ve been in Colorado, visiting my aunt Saralyn, my uncle Spencer, and their four young children. Since some people have been confused as to whether we are aunt and niece or sisters (We’re only 15 years apart) , I explain that I’m named after her. So, I’ve had a lot of time to think about my first name and my aunt’s example to me.

Being a parent is hard work. You cook, you clean, you play with the kids, read with/to them, help them Summer 2015 064change clothes, take baths/showers, and you love them. With four young kids ranging from 1-9 years old, it takes a lot of energy. Trust me, I helped out while Saralyn ran a race for three days. It was wonderful, but exhausting. But, on top of all those things, add chores for your children to do, teaching them to be responsible and help around the house. By this point most families would call it quits. And yet, we’ll add another thing: Daily prayer and scripture study. Trying it with a 1-year-old that keeps stepping on the scriptures or running away and occasionally older kids that can’t find their books or don’t want to sit quietly, it can be hard to do it day after day. But it still happens, because Saralyn and Spencer want the spirit in their home.

Today during scripture study I’ll admit things were a little rough. The kids didn’t want to pay attention and the youngest was trying to wriggle away the whole time. And yet, I felt the spirit. A quote came to my mind as clear as day: “Sometimes Sister Bednar and I wondered if our efforts to do these spiritually essential things were worthwhile. Now and then verses of scripture were read amid outbursts such as “He’s touching me!” “Make him stop looking at me!” “Mom, he’s breathing my air!” Sincere prayers occasionally were interrupted with giggling and poking. And with active, rambunctious boys, family home evening lessons did not always produce high levels of edification. At times Sister Bednar and I were exasperated because the righteous habits we worked so hard to foster did not seem to yield immediately the spiritual results we wanted and expected.

“Today if you could ask our adult sons what they remember about family prayer, scripture study, and family home evening, I believe I know how they would answer. They likely would not identify a particular prayer or a specific instance of scripture study or an especially meaningful family home evening lesson as the defining moment in their spiritual development. What they would say they remember is that as a family we were consistent” (Elder Bednar, More Diligent and Concerned at Home, Oct. 2009 General Conference).

Summer 2015 044My aunt and uncle’s example of consistency, especially with young children that can at times strain patience, amazes me. As bad as it may sound, I loved seeing some difficult times, because I saw that even when things are difficult, they won’t give up doing what’s right.

What does Sara mean? Princess. Well, we don’t exactly have a lot of real-life princesses left in the world right now. But, what is a princess? Rare. Exquisite. Priceless. And in my mind, that’s what my aunt Saralyn is to me. She genuinely wants to know about you and to make you feel like you matter. That makes her rare. She is the mother of four and works with 160 kids each week at church, and still looks drop-dead gorgeous on a regular basis. She is exquisite. And, she has a heart of gold and wants you to feel her love in whatever way possible, whether it’s a Summer 2015 046phone call, a text, a package, a hug, or a million other ways. She is priceless. And what does “lyn” mean? The translation I got was lake. A lake provides water that sustains people. When you try to upset the water by throwing something in it, the ripples fade quickly. And generally, a lake is calm. I think her name fits her.

Now, I know my aunt isn’t perfect. But, I hope that someday I can be like her; that I can have her patience, her love, and follow her patterns of righteousness. Consider, if you haven’t who (or what) you’re named after. How do you live up to your name? But don’t just focus on those that you were named after. Maybe they aren’t the examples you want to follow. But you can still be that example to others. You can be the type of person others want to name their children after. You’re given the name, that’s true. And, you should try to live up to it. But you can also make your name one others will want to live up to, because of the example you provide. What’s in your name? In the end, it’s really up to you.

Something Missing: A Blessing

Something Missing: A Blessing

Katie_45Nine months. It’s crazy how much can happen in nine months.

Nine months ago I anxiously paced in my apartment, peering out the window every few minutes. They were coming. They would be here soon. Katie (and my Dad) finally arrived. I tackled both of them with hugs. Katie’s lasted a little longer than usual. Neither one of us minded.

Over the next few days, I pushed my regular studying aside to make sure I had time with Katie. We went to a couple different temples together. All of us went out to eat. I walked her to classes she wanted to attend with my cousin and tried to be okay with the fact that I couldn’t have her to myself all the time. She and I made cookies together and sneakily delivered them to people in my ward, laughing and making jokes the whole way. She spent the night, and we talked for hours, just as we had so many times before. And, after five short days with her, she was gone.

Sometimes you don’t realize what you have until you don’t have it. Looking back, I didn’t fully understand what I had last October. Not with Katie. Not until I couldn’t call her whenever I was having a rough day. Not until I couldn’t sing with her all the time. Not until we couldn’t hug all our stresses out on each other. Not until I could only call her twice a year. In short, not until she left on her mission.

I remember crying several times during fall semester, and up through the present time, wanting to call Katie and have her reassure me in a way nobody else knows how. Life was hard before she left. It only got harder. A week after she left, I started to get so stressed I had major issues eating and sleeping. Nine months have passed, and those struggles still haven’t gone away. My classes continued to get harder. Balancing everything I had to do was a couple hundred miles beyond impossible. And yet, I felt like a failure if I couldn’t make everything work just right. Why? Why would God allow me to go through so many trials, and kick-start the whole thing by separating me from my best friend? Despairing, I curled up on my third floor balcony on several occasions, asking God this very question. Sure, I’d dealt with trials and hardships all my life. But not without Katie. I looked out at the mountains and cried. I couldn’t do it without her. I wasn’t whole without her. Something was missing.Katie and Sara 1

For nine months I haven’t seen my sister. For nine months I’ve had health issues. I’ve felt inadequate compared to my missionary sister. Being compared to her wasn’t easy, but I heard it all the time, especially from my younger siblings. I wasn’t as patient, or as good a listener, or as firm, or as funny… The list went on. I was okay with not being Katie. I didn’t have to do everything the same way she did. But what bothered me was that I wasn’t her. I wasn’t a missionary with a badge on my chest and a full-time call to serve. That was another part of me that was missing. I wanted to go, but I knew I couldn’t go for the wrong reasons. I experienced heartbreak by wanting something so good so badly, and knowing that it wasn’t my time to serve. So, I watched my younger sister do something I’d waited years to do. I watched her be an example to me in a way I’d always wanted to be an example for her.

It took me a long time to learn to be okay with what God’s given me. That sounds selfish to say, because God’s given me everything, so I should always be grateful. But, being human, I compared what I had with what others had, be it health, grades, a mission, or marriage. I wanted all of those things. I still do. Slowly, I’ve begun to understand an important lesson God has been trying to teach me: That the absence of something, even something good, can in fact be a blessing.

Health wise, I haven’t been at my peak. But, I’ve become more aware of the blessings I have through this trial. I’m grateful for the food I have to eat. I’m grateful for a bed to sleep in. I’m grateful that I have limbs that work and a brain that functions reasonably well. I’m grateful for clothes that can be adjusted, for roommates that randomly bring me pizza and force me to eat as much as I can, and for a blessing that allowed me to not have any health issues while I was in Italy. Instead of focusing on the times when I wasn’t healthy, I learned to be grateful for the times when I am.

Wanting whatever I want, be it a husband, a job, or a million dollars, I’m beginning to see that through not having what I want, I learn to be more appreciative of what I do have. I may not have a job that I can live off of after graduation, but I have a job, and a good one at that. I certainly don’t have a husband, and I may be a little awkward around boys, but I’m learning to put myself out there more and make friends with everyone I meet. I’m grateful for that. And, as far as money is concerned, I know how to save a lot more than I know how to spend, but a million dollars isn’t a personal goal for me. I can always count on my bank account to be small enough to keep me humble. In all of these cases, something is missing. But, in each of these “trials,” I have managed to find so many blessings.

Sara and Katie 2I don’t want to say it’s a blessing to have Katie gone. But, it is. Why? Because she is sharing the gospel with people in Kentucky. Because she is learning and growing and becoming more of who she wants to be. Because my family is blessed by her service to others. And, personally, because I’ve had to do some growing up with her gone. I’m finally starting (9 months in) to be consistent at my letter writing to her. I’m learning that even though we may be separated, they can only do so much to keep us apart. She may be physically “missing” from my life, but as hard as that is for me, I know she is blessing the lives of those around her, and I love her too much to ask her to take herself away from them.

Nine months. Nine have passed, and she has nine left on her mission. I look back at the nine that have already come, and I never could have expected that so much would happen, good and bad. In the nine that still remain, I know I’ll have another birthday and I’ll hopefully graduate. Beyond that, though, I don’t know what the Lord has in store for me. I don’t know what blessings I’ll be granted or what ones will be held back until the time is right, but I hope that even as blessings are withheld, I’ll learn to see and appreciate the blessings that come from waiting.

Thoughts on the Palio and Life

Thoughts on the Palio and Life

I’ve been back from Italy for a little over a month now, and I miss it every day. More than any other city in Italy, I miss Siena.

IMG_9864For all those of you who don’t know, Siena is a small town near the middle of Italy, and it is famous for its horse races, called the Palio. These races have happened for the past 700 years, and everyone in Siena takes part. Siena is split into 17 different neighborhoods, and each neighborhood makes up its own team, or in Italian, contrada. Twice a year, on July 2 and August 16, ten of the 17 contrade get to race. Each contrada trains their jockeys, but the horses are picked at random four days before the races.

All the contrade are very competitive, not only with their enemies, but with their allies as well. The winning contrade party for 3 months, all day and all night, because they don’t want to let their neighbors sleep. Every contrada has a flag, a song, a patron saint, a church, a museum, and an extensive history.

I lived in Siena for five weeks. We witnessed preparations for the Palio. We watched drummers march through the streets, clad in the colors of their contrade. Every vendor and store owner had flags and bandanas for the contrade for sale. All around us, a phrase hung in the air: “Il Palio e’ vita.” The Palio is life.IMG_9859

My first Sunday back in the United States, I sat down for church. It was weird to hear people speaking in English. We had a lesson during which we read from St. John 14:6: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” The teacher asked us to explain how Christ is “the way.” Well, someone said, Only through keeping his commandments can we make it back to God. So I guess he’s the only path.” Next she asked how Christ is “the truth.” All truth comes from him, someone else explained. I’d been partially listening, but mainly I was focused on the last one. I waited with anticipation for her to ask how Christ is “the life.”

My heart sank into my shoes as the lesson took a turn and she didn’t ask about “the life.” In fact, she hardly talked about it at all. My thoughts rattled around inside of me, wanting to get out. “Please let her bring it up,” I pleaded silently. But it didn’t come. I glanced at my phone anxiously as the minutes ticked by. There wasn’t a good connecting point. Ten minutes were left. Five. Two.

“Any last comments?” The teacher asked. I looked up. There was no way my comment fit in with what they had just talked about, but I knew I needed to speak up. I raised my hand.

So, I briefly explained about Siena. The Palio, this race, is life to all those that live there. They eat, breathe, sleep, and do everything for the Palio. It is life for them.

“What is life for you?” I asked the class. “Is it school? Dating? a job? Video games? Books? Christ 3What do you spend all your time doing? What do you think about?” And I explained my interpretation of that line. Christ. He should be alive to us. We should think of him in the morning and at night when we pray. Is that enough, though? No, not if we want his spirit to always be with us. No, we need to remember him in our studies, while we work, and when we play. We should include him in everything. In short, it isn’t enough to say that he lives. We need to strengthen our relationships with Christ to the point where he isn’t just a part of our lives, but where we realize that he is life, that he is everything, to us.

Don’t simply recognize that he lives; Make him life. Consciously decide every day that you aren’t going to live for books, for fame, or for worldly possessions, but instead that you are going to live for Him.

What is Love?

What is Love?

This morning I was busily working with my siblings, making breakfast for my dad for Father’s day, when someone got on my nerves. While trying to keep calm, a thought popped into my head. “What is love?” Love is doing something for someone else, even when you don’t want to! I thought.

The van was quiet as we drove to church this morning. I guess I could have tried to start a conversation, but instead I was thinking about church. Over the years, the bishops in my ward have had a tradition of calling up college kids to share their thoughts about their dads during the meeting. Not sure if I would get called up, I was trying to pull together my thoughts about my father.

What have I inherited from my dad? I asked myself. Answer: his bad knees, bad back, allergies, and oily hair. Okay, so look beyond the physical. Well, how are we similar? He likes sports. I don’t. He is an extrovert. I’m an extroverted introvert. He doesn’t care what others think. I worry way too much about what others think. I cry all the time. He hardly ever cries.

You’re doing this wrong! I tell myself. You’re supposed to come up with similarities! I take a deep breath. My dad and I are very different… But that’s not a bad thing. Or is it?

Sitting down a couple of minutes before the meeting began, I thought back to my early-morning thoughts on love. Love is doing something for someone else, even when you don’t want to. Well, I thought about it some more, and I’d like to amend that statement a little bit. Love is Sacrifice.

So maybe I don’t have everything in common with my dad. I don’t have to. But, in spite of our differences, he taught me the importance of sacrifice. He showed that even when there are things we don’t want to do, sometimes we should push aside our pride and our desires in order to show our love to others.

*     *     *

It was the Saturday after my seventeenth birthday. I was at the stake dance. By sixteen, most youth were done with dances, they were “too cool” to go. I was still going, but it was hard because there were fewer guys to dance with. At this particular dance, one guy had already turned me down and another had walked away in the middle of a song when he saw some friends. Fed up with my friends ditching and my dancing partners walking off, I was planning on waiting in one of the side rooms, playing the piano until the dance was over and my sister was ready to leave. “Stay for one last song,” Katie pleaded. “Please?” I did. And, in the middle of Party in the USA, someone tapped me on the shoulder. I ignored it, thinking it was Katie. But no, she was at the other side of the circle. The tap came again, and I turned around. It was my dad. As the song ended and a slow song began, he offered me his hand and asked me to dance. So I did.

*     *     *

My dad and his best friend drove a red 1966 Mustang around when he was in high school. About 10 years ago, the friend’s parents were moving, and my dad was selling their house. He saw the mustang up on blocks in their driveway, and asked about it. They told him he could have it if he could get it home. So, it got moved to blocks in our driveway. The car needed a lot of work, and he knew it. But, he insisted he would save up and restore it. It was his dream. People asked about it all the time, and he was always willing to talk to others about it. For years, I watched people come up and offer to buy the car, but he wouldn’t sell it. It was worth too much to him. Then, one day, I pulled into the driveway, and it was gone. I hurried into the house and asked my dad what had happened to it. He’d sold it. That was all he said. Over the next few days I asked other questions, and eventually managed to piece things together. My brother was leaving on a mission. He gave up one dream for something he wanted even more.

*     *     *

My dad isn’t perfect. On one occasion, he turned to me and said “You know sometimes I can be pretty stupid, right?” He is right. But then I guess all of us are at times. However, in times where it really matters, at least with my friends and family and especially my dad, I’ve found that love transcends stupidity.

John 15:13 states that “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” I’d like to replace “Lay down his life” with the word Sacrifice. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man sacrifice for his friends. My dad has taught me that sometimes all of us need to swallow our own desires and serve those around us.

If love transcends stupidity, and love equals sacrifice, then sacrifice transcends stupidity. But whose stupidity? His, mine, and everyone else’s. There have been plenty of times where I was stupid and my dad sacrificed for me anyway. Our Heavenly Father does the same thing, for all of us. He helps us through our trials even when we’ve been the source of our own problems. He is patient with us, even when we don’t want to see or do what he knows is best for us. He comforts us when we feel pain, even though he’d told us how to avoid it in the first place. And, even when we give up on ourselves, he refuses to give up on us. Why? Why would a perfect being take the time to help us? Why would my earthly father have the patience to help me through all of my frustrating times? Why would they both search for the good in me, even when at times I struggle to believe it’s there? Why?

The answer is simple. My fathers, earthly and Heavenly, sacrifice for me because they love me, and love transcends stupidity.

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