The Big 3-0

Tomorrow I turn 30 and I'm still ambivalent about it. I'm ambivalent for a few reasons - first, because physically I don't really feel 30 as in I don't feel that much different from when I was 21 or so. 30 is also an interesting age given the cultural context that I live in - meaning that as a single adult who is Mormon, 30 is the "grandma" of young single adulthood. And living in a ward where the average age is probably 24, does make me feel a little old :P

The biggest reason though that I feel ambivalent is because where I'm at in my life right now is not at all what I envisioned when I thought ahead to 30. Things a like marriage and a family seemed for sure when I was in my early 20's. And to now hit 30 without that having happened is sometimes a little difficult to accept AND be happy/fine with. In conjunction, I thought where I would be with a career and what area I would be working in would be much different.than it is currently. When I started working at my job it was simply a job to work at that was flexible and allowed me to go to school with some ease. It has never been what I've wanted to do long-term and there have been times I haven't even enjoyed my job. When I started my masters degree I thought I had found my "dream career." But the Lord had other plans and after completing a year of my masters degree it was made clear I wasn't supposed to continue. That of course took some time to accept and even today I sometimes wonder why.

So I've spent the last several weeks pondering my life and how I feel about it. And after a bit of pondering I came to some conclusions and decisions. And I wanted to share them with you!

#1 - Life never turns out how we expect and often plan. And I've found this to be the case even more when I strive to follow the Lord's will. I most often think I know what is best for me and definitely have set in my mind the things I want. But ultimately I always return to the truth that the Lord knows me better than I even know myself and He also sees the entire picture. And because of this I want to do His will even though it isn't what I had planned and even at the time think I want. But I appreciate that the Lord, in time, if we seek will reveal to us the reason for things. Sometimes that does take alot of patience though. An example of both situations -

First, when it comes to not completing my masters degree and staying at my current job, even now I can see some efficacy in doing that. With the economy as it is, I was not guaranteed of being able to find a good job as a therapist that would allow me to pay back my school debt and support myself. However, my current job is extremely secure and allows me to easily support myself. This is a blessing in economic uncertainty and in addition my job is not stressful, which can be a great thing for me because I stress myself out enough as it is :) Thus, by striving to follow the Lord's plan, though it isn't always easy I have been blessed and will continue to be blessed in the future.

On the other hand - not being married yet has not revealed itself so clearly or at all :P I don't know why exactly I haven't had the opportunity yet especially because for most of my 20's it was one of the highest things on my list of things I did want. I only say that because I know sometimes people don't want to get married or want to get married later - that has never been me :) So I continue to wait to see why it is that it hasn't happened yet and I must continue to trust that the Lord has a plan and knows best.

#2 - You will miss out on happiness and joy if you are always waiting for certain things to happen that you want. Like with marriage - sometimes it is hard not to fall into the thinking error - "Well when I finally meet someone and get married, then I will feel ______ or be happy." This thinking error causes great discouragement and dissatisfaction with your life. For the grass will ALWAYS appear greener somewhere else if we wear those glasses. And we can also be unhappy if we aren't really willing to let go of what we want and put it fully into the Lord's hands. It makes me think of the Brother of Jared after they had prepared the barges with everything, got on them and they "commended themselves unto the Lord." They did everything they could to prepare, stepped in and then trusted the Lord would take care of them from there. The Lord does have our best interest at heart - His whole work and glory is to bring to pass our immortality and eternal life. It isn't just a side job or hobby.

#3 - Striving to do the right things and live with Christ as the center of your life does not in anyway guarantee an easiness of the way or even a life without difficulty. In fact, it often appears to be the opposite - the harder you try to live the right way the more opposition you will face from both the adversary but also just because we live in a fallen world. The combination of these things makes it so our journey will NEVER be easy - but it can be worth it especially if we look at the battle, put on the armor, but then wade into the battle knowing we will make it through but will receive many wounds, dents and dings in our armor, and may even sometimes be so overcome we fall for a time. But like the stripling warriors we can all make it through - even if we do fall from loss of blood.

#4 - And now last but not least - gratitude makes a world of difference and we can always feel fulfilled when we are truly grateful. Fulfillment doesn't come from having everything you want but being grateful for what you do have.

Those are a few things I've been reminded of or taught the last few weeks. So here's to a great year of being 30!!
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Lost Art of Friendship

Its no secret - I'm a people person. I like people and I like interacting and being around people. So given the importance I place on people, relationships of all kind are very important to me. And since I'm not married, friendships have the most focus and analysis. Over the last several months, after much pondering I've come to the conclusion that true friendship is fast vanishing. Let me share my thoughts :)

My first thought is that building strong close relationships is great practice for marriage. Obviously, there are certain things reserved only for marriage and that you can only experience within marriage. However, forming close emotional ties and being able to focus on the welfare, struggles and concerns of someone else need not only happen in marriage. And in fact, I think one of the largest contributing factors to the high divorce rate is that so many couples go into marriage having no idea how to focus on someone other than themselves. And as President Hinckley said -"True love is not so much a matter of romance as it is a matter of anxious concern for the well being of ones companion." And that is what I think it comes down to - anxious concern for another person.

So since I'm an English major lets break this down: the definitions that apply for anxious are #1 - earnestly desirous; eager #2 - attended with or showing solicitude. The definition for concern is #1 - to relate to; be connected with; be of interest or importance to; affect. Basically then, you are you want or desire earnestly to relate to, connect with, and show your interest in the other person. Should this anxious concern only be reserved for marriage?

After much pondering and deliberation the personal answer I've come to is no. I think encompassed in this concept President Hinckley is talking about is charity - the pure love of Christ. I think you could say charity = the anxious concern for another. In looking at the definition that is what Christ does/has done for each of us. He is earnestly desirous that we succeed in this life and through other people and His many tender mercies he shows that He relates to us, is connected with us, and that we are of interest and importance to Him. And last time I checked, the scriptures and the principles of the gospel don't reserve charity only for marriage.

Charity is about three things though - saying, doing, and being. Just as with the gospel - we don't believe by just saying we accept Christ that we are saved - there is action required. We say we love the Lord, but then we must go and do, which helps us to become. The same applies to any type of relationship - saying "I love you or I care about you" only means so much. As the famous saying goes, "Actions speak louder than words." I show the Lord I love Him by following what His commandments, striving to become like Him, serving others, etc. I show people that I love or care for them by and anxious concern for them - what is going on in their lives, anything I can do to share a little cheer on a bad day, or something I can do that makes life easier for them. This helps me become a better person, and also enables me to truly love them - because as the scripture says -"How can a man know (love) a master whom he has not served."

Thus, this doesn't come down to personality differences. That is the things I've probably heard the most - "Oh that is just your personality." I suppose it can be a personality thing - but it should be a personality trait we are all striving for them since we are all trying to become like the Savior. We may not exhibit it in EXACTLY the same way, but "anxious concern" is simply looking out for someone else - how they are feeling, what is going on with them, what they might need help with, then DOING something about it. Not fixing things for them but showing your concern and support when there isn't anything else you could really do. But sometimes there are things you can do to make a difference - are you looking for those opportunities?

So the question becomes - why is friendship in this form vanishing so fast? The main reason I see is selfishness, which is the care and concern mainly or primarily for or about oneself. I think this goes on very subtly that often we don't even recognize it. But think of a relationship that is important to you - when was the last time you were anxiously concerned about this person - and what did you do about it? This anxious concern for other people requires a bit of effort. It requires us to look outside ourselves and make someone else's needs as important (notice I didn't say more important)as our own. It also makes us more vulnerable - a state or feeling most of us despise. Because the more deeply you love or care about someone the more power they have to hurt you. And that can be a very scary thought.

A quick example - yesterday at Church I had to leave Relief Society early because I had a Stake meeting to go to. I didn't tell anyone why I was leaving early because the lesson had started. So I just got up quietly and left as silently as possible. My friend Megan sent me a text later that afternoon, joking that hopefully I had gone to get doughnuts or something equally fabulous. Of course, given it was the Sabbath I had not gone to get doughnuts or anything but I appreciated her #1 - Noticing I had left and #2 - Showing that anxious concern as to why I left because I don't usually leave any Church meeting and I do enjoy RS. Then later in the day because we had not had any time to chat and I had hoped to talk to her at Ward Prayer to see what had been going on with her the last week, she knew that Ward Prayer is often a time we chat so she kindly sent me a text telling me she wasn't going to be there. Did she have to do either of these things? Of course not. I wouldn't have been severely scarred or anything but it shows that anxious concern for someone else and it is one of the things I most appreciate about her. She lets me know she cares by those little things - she doesn't just say she is my friend she SHOWS it.

Ultimately, I feel to truly become like the Savior requires that we work to establish this type of anxious concern across all our relationships - familial, romantic, and friendship. I think as we don't just give lip service to the doctrine of charity, our relationships will begin to be transformed - we will not only feel better about ourselves (remember as is said - when you serve others it almost always helps you to feel better about yourself) but we will also have stronger relationships. Charity has a way of expanding our souls and making everything seem a little better - isn't this what we all want?
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So last Thursday, we had a ward Lagoon day. After much pondering I decided I really did want to go even if I had to take time off work (and use my precious PTO). I've always loved Lagoon and have enjoyed going to few times I have. I will be honest I think I can count on one hand the number of times I've gone. Given my age now, I've come to know what kinds of rides I really do enjoy and those I don't particularly.

Thankfully I've never gone on a ride where I feel like this -
afterwards. So it isn't a matter of getting sick. This time around I realized what it really is is that I hate the rides where there is the feeling of anticipation of a fall. I HATE that feeling. For example then I HATE the Rocket and refuse to go on it anymore. I've been on it before and I just don't enjoy it. Last year I refused to go on Wicked because it has a huge straight down drop after a big upward climb

and I figured that was similar.

This year I let myself be talked into riding on Wicked. Lets just say that rarely can I be talked int something. That says alot for the people I was with :P However, I was "pleasantly" surprised when the ride started that it wasn't a slow climb and a sudden drop as I had thought but rather you speed up the incline and then down as well. Thus, no feeling of anticipation because it all happens so fast. So it was favorite ride but I did agree to go on it again.

It also makes me laugh when they change a ride because I like to know what to expect. The Cliffhanger has always been one of my favorite rides. And last time I rode it, if you picked a dry seat your chances of getting wet were pretty minimal. I even told this to the lady in line in front of use who asked....LOL....needless to say this is what we looked like after this ride -
We basically looked like we had gone SWIMMING! They had totally changed the ride so if you sat on the front row you got soaked regardless. It was quite funny. I was glad we had just ridden Rattlesnake Rapids so I was already wet so to get a little wetter wasn't a huge deal.

Overall it was a great trip - sadly I did take my camera but didn't take any pictures because I didn't want to be carrying it around on rides. But I had a great group to hang with and we had alot of fun!
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Strengths and Weaknesses*

So lets see if I can actually keep up two blogs - LOL...I've struggled doing even one but I had a little boost when a couple of people told me within the last week that they read my blog. It is amazing the difference it makes in knowing someone actually reads your blog. It is great incentive! So after almost a year hiatus from this blog I'm going to try and write fairly regularly along with my dream blog. If you haven't checked out my dream blog you should - Land of Dreams.

So today's topic is brought to you by an overactive mind - sometimes a blessing but also a curse! Hence the topic choice :P

One thing I've pondered on a semi-regular basis is my strengths and weaknesses. Thus, I would like to share some insights/thoughts I've had in my pondering on this topic.

The first is that we can only understand strengths and weaknesses because of each other - meaning opposition in all things. To me this means that there must be opposition even with those things we considered strengths. In my experience, this has led me to believe that this opposition doesn't come when something happens that allows us to illustrate that strength because if it is a strength in that way then how can it really be tested?

Thus, strengths are weaknesses and weaknesses strengths. I promise I'm not just trying to sound like I really do have a minor in philosophy but simply that a characteristic or attribute that is a strength to us is often the contributing factor to something we consider a weakness. To make this hopefully a little clearer, let me give an example. Something that I consider a strength and have been told many times is a benefit to me is how much I analyze things. This comes very naturally to me and I feel like especially in my school work and study of the gospel it has been a HUGE blessing. It is something that has increased my knowledge and helped me to be more dedicated to the gospel. But in other areas it is a weakness - a very frustrating weakness - though I suppose all weaknesses can be frustrating. Sometimes though I cannot seem to shut off my mind - it is constantly going. This can become tiring at times when I WANT to have a little bit of quiet time. When it comes to relationships of any kind, my analytic mind is not an asset :P Analyzing relationships in extreme detail is rarely if ever helpful. Thus, something I consider a strength is also a weakness.
This idea is how I see there being opposition in all things in regards to strengths and weaknesses. Having a characteristic or attribute that is a strength but within that strength is encompassed a weakness allows for true opposition. I have also come to believe that weaknesses and strengths being encompassed together is what allows for real growth. Part of this is because we are not completely removing a characteristic or attribute I think we gained or developed before we came here or during our life here but rather tweaking it. Sometimes when I'm struggling with a relationship I want to just "get rid" of my analytic mind - to do away with that attribute. But I don't because I appreciate the benefit it has been and continues to be in other areas of my life. So I continue to work on the area where it is a weakness.

Something else I've found interesting and am still pondering is a couple of scriptures from the Book of Mormon. Ether 12:28 reads: "And if men come unto me I will show unto them their aweakness. I bgive unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my cgrace is sufficient for all men that dhumble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make eweak things become strong unto them." I've noticed this is one of the most misread scriptures in all of scripturedom - except for hard to pronounce names like Achaemenid or something. Too often the scripture is read "...I will show unto them their weaknessES." However, that is not how the text reads - it is weakness. This seems to imply that the Lord didn't give each of us a list of weaknesses to overcome - we are to overcome one thing, which the scriptures collaborate - the natural man. That is our weakness. These mortal bodies no matter how wonderful, were created in a fallen state. Now the natural man of course exhibits a variety of weaknesses that differ from person to person, but the over concept is that we have ONE weakness - the natural man or our fallen state.

Perhaps this isn't helpful to anyone else, but it makes a difference to me when I can recognize that my strengths are also my weaknesses because of the natural man. One of the main reasons were came to this earth was to learn but why couldn't we have just learned what we needed to in heaven? Because a mortal body allows us to experience things not possible with just our spirit. We experience life and relationships differently because our physical bodies allows us to feel things physically and mentally in a way our spirit cannot. We also can feel physical pain or suffering which is obviously not something we can experience as a spiritual body. Because of this we are tested in more ways - something we may have gained as an attribute or characteristic in the pre-mortal life and was a strength suddenly has additional sides or avenues that will be tested. These then are weaknesses because how could we have gained experience dealing with it before our mortal bodies?

Ultimately, this pondering has led me to one thought - patience. I sometimes get frustrated with myself when something that is a strength is also a weakness when I have to remember:

A: That is the purpose of this life
B: How can I expect to be good at something that I have not experienced or practiced previously
C: I appreciate my strengths more because they encompass a weakness or weaknesses.
D: This ultimately should lead me to rely more on the Savior - for He is the promised way of how to overcome my weakness - through Christ I can overcome the natural man, which means I can overcome ALL my weaknesses. And that is a pretty cool thought.

*Obviously some if not most of this is my interpretation of gospel principles - which means YOURS could be totally different. Hopefully it will bring about some pondering of your own*
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