Sunday, May 19, 2013

Create yourself

As a follow up to this post, this is just some of what I am creating.

1) In my quest for a more creative life, I decided I'm going to do something I am familiar with but haven't done in a while: Audition. Yikes! I've done this a lot, but it's been a solid three years since I've auditioned for a show. Wish me luck! No wait, don't wish me luck. Wish me a broken leg.

2) My husband and I painted our faux oak vanity in our bathroom. After a color failure, I think we ended up getting it right. Never underestimate the power of a fresh coat of paint and new hardware, my friend.

3) We planted a garden to get ready for Jeff's graduation party.

4) I spray painted a large clock my favorite color. Spray paint might just be the most accessible creative tool.

5) I'm something of a playwright, I guess. And I started working on my newest play again.

6) I planned out Jeff's graduation party invitation. Jeff is the one who got it to work on the computer, but I had the idea. Creativity is best with a little collaboration.

The funny thing about weaving creativity into my daily life was that I started to hunt for it. One creative project led me to create more. It kept me busy, happy and inspired.

And the focus on creativity got me thinking about one of my all time favorite quotes. 

Life isn't about finding yourself.
Life is about creating yourself.
-George Bernard Shaw

That's not scripture, obviously. But I do find the essence of the quote scriptural, sort of.

One of the greatest gifts that our Heavenly Father provided us is our agency - our ability to choose. We can choose good or evil. And, of course, these choices aren't devoid of consequences. They have an affect on who we become. So, through choosing, we are becoming -- or creating ourselves.

As I was thinking about this post, I was inspired by this and this.

That first link is to a really great artist's blog. I enjoy following the blogs of people who are really creative. This was about some of the lessons she's learned so far in her early years of motherhood. To summarize, she was nervous to have children - worried that she would lose herself in the process (I relate to this worry). Her conclusion:

"I did lose myself (or maybe I should say found myself), especially in those early days but strangely I loved the feeling. Motherhood seemed to be the missing piece of the puzzle in my life. Now, a year and a half later, much of the old Alisa is LONG gone. My priorities, my interests, my goals and my perspective have changed in the most beautiful of ways. The truth is- I have completely lost myself to being a wife and a mom and I am loving every moment of it!"

I would suggest that she didn't just find herself. It was more powerful than that. She created a new self -- complete with new priorities, interests, goals, perspectives. The person she was before is gone. And the person she's become is all the richer for it. Read through her blog even more if you want a great example of a mother weaving creativity into her new life.

That second link is to a blog written by one of my oldest friends. Rachel has posted on the 20-something test before. I can't tell you how much I respect and admire this lady.

Rachel talks about who she was before a single moment changed her. I won't give it all away. It's an inspiring read. But this is how she concludes, "And even though I do not always see, I know the Lord will guide me to become everything I can."

I. love. that.

"And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men" (Matthew 4:19, emphasis and strikethrough added).*

If we let Christ into our lives and choose his atonement, He will create in us a new self and help us become everything God wants us to be. I believe that maybe, just maybe, the reason we feel as if we've found ourselves after these moments (and phases) of real becoming is because we are getting a glimpse of our true and unique potential as children of God.  We are seeing creation in action. And what's more inspiring than real creativity? After all, we are here to change our very natures. With Him, we are just that powerful.

So, let's create -- with a little collaboration.

* I can't rightfully take the credit for this. My dad used it in a Sunday school lesson today. It just fit so perfectly with what I've been thinking about. 

A new way to keep in touch...

Sorry, friends. Just performing a little bit of housekeeping right now while I finish up my next post.

Have you heard of Bloglovin'? It's awesome and you can follow The 20-Something Testament there. You don't even need to have your own blog :).

Just click this link here.


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Let's start from the very beginning...

A very good place to start.

"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth"(Genesis 1:1).

God created all this. Why? Why on earth (no pun intended) did somebody so powerful (and He is powerful) make all of this for us? When he could have made everything look like Nevada*, why did he add variety to the face of it and call it good?

My guess is this: He loves us.

I am grateful for the beauty of this planet. For those sunsets that seem like they were meant just for me. I'm grateful for the beaches, the mountains and the trees. Especially those evergreen trees - that help me to look up and remind me to aspire to be higher and remember Him.

"The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, and all things that are on the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator" (Alma 30:44).

I am so grateful that He loves us enough to trust this place to us.

In my study of the creation, I am pondering the depth of this action. Maybe there is more to it than this. Maybe Christ, through the direction of our loving Heavenly Father (Moses 1:33), did not create this planet and all that is in and around it merely for our enjoyment and our occasional marveling. Though His creations certainly merit our joy, wonder and awe.

In that same first chapter of the Bible, we learn that we were made in God's image:

"And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness" (Genesis 1:26).

God, the creator of all things, not only created us to appreciate what he has created, but to (like him) create. And maybe that's part of why we're here. To learn how to create.

I'm not just talking about having children here, though that is certainly part of it. But God did not create just us - his children. He created light, mountains, deserts, fish, bugs, sunsets, planets. Just look around you. He created it all.

I believe we have a divine potential to create. We are meant to make this place more beautiful, interesting, varied. We are meant to call into existence something that wasn't there before.

We all have some creativity in us. We got it from our Father in Heaven.

I haven't been feeling especially creative lately. I spend most of my days sitting at a desk editing inspection reports. I'm certainly not calling into existence anything that wasn't there before. This is tough for me. As a theatre graduate, I was pretty lucky to have the opportunity to create on a daily basis - without having to step outside my normal routine. But I know I can find a new way to weave creativity into my life. I'm determined to explore my divine potential as a creative being. So, I hope to share with you, in the coming weeks, the beginnings of my creative quest.

What are you creating? How has exploring your creative side affected your relationship with The Creator?

* I apologize to Nevada. I've driven through Nevada enough times to truly believe it is the armpit of the world. But, I'm sure there is beauty there. In fact I honeymooned in Stateline, Nevada. But that's pretty much California. I am happy for you if you find Nevada beautiful. Somebody ought to.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Fearing and Faith

Jeff and I spoke in Church a couple weeks ago. There's sort of this unwritten rule that a new couple in a ward has to speak in sacrament meeting. Jeff and I had escaped this in our two previous wards. Somehow, we always moved to a ward just after they recently changed their boundaries (combined wards, split wards). So, we were never new compared to everybody else.

We recently moved back in with my parents. So, we're now back in the ward in which we both grew up. If you think that would deter us from having to speak, think again. There was no way we could slip under the radar again.

We had a hard time writing our talks. Both of us are so used to teaching Sunday School now. Teaching is way different than speaking. Luckily, I got a topic I had written about before on The 20-Something Test. Since I got the bulk of my talk from previous posts, I thought it might be nice to post the whole thing on here.

It's also an easy way to get back into the swing of things.

I'm back, internet!

One of my favorite accounts in all of scripture is the description of Peter walking on the water found in Matthew 14.

22 ¶And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away.
23 And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone.
24 But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary.
25 And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea.
26 And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear.
27 But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.
28 And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.
29 And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.
30 But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.
31 And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?
32 And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased.
33 Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God.

I know that was a lot of scripture to quote right at the beginning of a talk, so let’s recap. The apostles are on a ship in the middle of a raging storm. Christ sees them and takes the fastest way to reach them -- it just happens to be by walking on water. Upon seeing this, the apostles are scared. They think it’s some sort of ghost, or something. Christ tells them, as he often does, to fear not. Peter, desiring with all his heart to be with Christ, asks if he, too, can walk on water. Christ bids him to come unto him. Peter boldly steps out of the boat -- taking his first steps to Christ. But then he falters. He takes his gaze off Christ and looks about at the raging sea. He fears and starts to sink. Crying out to the only one who can save him, he reaches for Christ. Christ, being the savior of all mankind (and the savior of the one), full of grace, reaches back, grabs Peter, and saves him, saying, “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?”

Peter, with an amount of little faith I would be lucky to have, had just walked on water. That’s some pretty powerful little faith, by the way (-- a point I’ll delve into deeper in just a moment). But even just after experiencing the weightlessness of walking on water, Peter (being human) was prone to doubt and fear. And why not, right? After all, they were in the middle of a storm, and I’m sure he’d never walked on water before.

I think we see this pattern in our own lives, don’t we? In a time of great faith, and directed by the Holy Spirit, we take a leap toward something new and good, even if only a mental leap, (maybe it’s to start a new job, go back to school, go on a mission, or start a family), only to then look back or look around, see the turmoil around us, waver, fear and start to sink. And there is a lot of turmoil around us. There’s a lot to fear. Some of that is caused by the real evil of Satan. And some of it happens just because we’re alive. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, in a 1999 BYU Devotional, said this of our tendency to fear and to waver and to sink:

“Yes, there are cautions and considerations to make, but once there has been genuine illumination, beware the temptation to retreat from a good thing. If it was right when you prayed about it and trusted it and lived for it, it is right now... Don't give up when the pressure mounts. Don’t give in. Certainly don’t give in to that being who is bent on the destruction of your happiness. He wants everyone to be miserable like unto himself. Face your doubts. Master your fears. “Cast not away therefore your confidence.” Stay the course and see the beauty of life unfold for you.”

I like that phrase: “Cast not away therefore your confidence.” It’s found in the book of Hebrews. But I realized something while writing this talk that I hadn’t realized before. The Bible Dictionary says this on Faith: “To have faith is to have confidence in something or someone.” So, when we are directed to “Cast not away our confidence,” we are being asked to cast not away our faith. More importantly, we are being asked to cast not away our faith in Jesus Christ.

Perhaps when our Savior says to Peter, “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” He is not just rebuking Peter for being afraid of the stormy sea. Maybe he’s reminding Peter saying, “Peter, you knew I was right there. I will always be there for you. Why did you get scared? You knew I would help you. You knew I would catch you.”

The Bible Dictionary continues on faith, “The Lord has revealed himself and his perfect character, possessing in their fulness all the attributes of love, knowledge, justice, mercy, unchangeableness, power and every other needful thing, so as to enable the mind of man to place confidence in him without reservation.”

Jesus Christ, in his perfection, is worth taking that little leap of faith for. And His plan for us is worth stepping out of the boat for. He will be right there with us. And he will always catch us. We just need to have a little faith. Faith to step out of our comfort zone, faith to take a few unsure steps toward Him, and faith to call out for Him when we (inevitably) start to fear. Just a little faith. Remember, Peter was “of little faith.”

We know from the book of Alma, chapter 32:26-27, how strong a little faith can be: ““Now, as I said concerning faith – that it was not a perfect knowledge – even so it is with my words. Ye cannot know of their surety at first, unto perfection, any more than faith is a perfect knowledge.

“But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.”

That tiny particle of faith is then compared to a seed. If the seed is good and is nourished, and is not cast out by unbelief, that seed will grow. It will grow and grow until you no longer have the need for faith - because your seed of faith has turned into a tree of knowledge.

I’ve seen this in my life, more than once. Just after I had graduated, and after my summer stint in Lexington, KY, I was due to move back home. And I was dreading moving back into the Singles Ward. For some reason, I associated this singles ward with giving up hope. My family and I not-so-affectionately called this tiny branch-turned-ward “The Twig” because it seemed even smaller than a branch. The slimmer pickings didn’t inspire much hope. But, after returning home and ward hopping for a month, my conscience caught up with me, I decided to give “The Twig” another go.

Here’s the thing: Despite the cynicism (and maybe a little fear of ending up a lonely cat lady), I really wanted it to work.

So, I changed my attitude. I went in thinking that I would give it my all. And I did. I participated in all the activities. I raised my hand in class. I even got a little calling. And guess what: this “dreaded” ward ended up being the best thing that ever happened to me. My testimony grew like no other. I truly felt connected to the people around me. I was happy. Oh, and I fell in love with Jeff. What a perk!

See that? I could no more than “desire to believe.” But that desire turned into faith. And that tiny particle of faith got me everything.

Even this faith was tested and tried. Just like Peter, I had a faith-building experience. But just like Peter, and just like everybody, storms arise (and sometimes they’re hard not to notice).

When I was engaged to my wonderful husband, I was diagnosed with major depression. Things got pretty rough pretty quickly. Not only could I not feel happy, but I couldn’t feel the spirit anymore and I felt alone.

I was scared and I wanted to feel happy again. So, I decided to get some help.

One day, after starting a brand new medication, I fainted while I was in the shower. If you’ve passed out before, you know how scary this is. I literally felt like I was going to die. I remember thinking, “This has to end.” I got out of the shower. Nobody was home. And I sobbed. What was happening? When did my life get so dark? Why did God abandon me now?

That day was pretty rough, but by the end of it, I’d realized something: I was not abandoned. I was never alone. If I had fallen the other way while in the shower, I could have been seriously injured. Instead, there was just a bunch of shampoo on the shower floor. Somebody was watching out for me. I had a fiancĂ© and a family who cared for me and got me well again. Somebody was looking out for me. I had received a letter in the mail with some encouraging words a couple days before this incident. These words helped me gain insight only after my trial. I tell you again, somebody was looking out for me.

And, even though I had a hard time feeling the spirit, I had a particle of faith – Somebody made that work for me.

“O ye of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt.”

I’m not sure how Christ does it, but He can make the best out of any situation. I came out of that seemingly over dramatic, but real, incident better. From a fear, my faith grew. Because of a frightening storm, a tiny particle of faith grew enough to over power my fear.

A little bit of faith goes a long way.

This life is scary. There will be fear in this journey. We will have to face tough times. But, as Nephi, “I know in whom I have trusted.” And as Peter, I know who I will call out for when I falter and fear -- In the name of Him. My Lord, my Savior; my confidence; my faith; Jesus Christ, Amen.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Because He Would Never Leave Me

I could never leave because, through the Holy Ghost, I have a testimony that God lives and that His Son, Jesus Christ, is my Savior and Redeemer. I am blessed that my Heavenly Father gave me a guide.  Because of this guide, I can overcome the confusion of this life and find happiness in the simple truths that let me know He has a plan for me. I know that the scriptures are true; They teach me who my Savior is and how I can be more like Him. I know that God has blessed us from the very beginning with prophets to guide us back to Him. That is no different now; He loves us enough to continue guiding us in the same way He always has.

I know that God knows and loves me enough to give me the guidance I need in this unsettling world. I know that He loves me because I have felt His love and reassuring guidance as I have tried to live the way He would have me live.
I could never leave because I have a testimony of the eternal nature of families. The most wonderful thing we can experience in life is to share it with the ones we love -- the ones we would do anything for. I know that our families are a gift from our Heavenly Father -- and a gift that we need not lose when this life is over. My Heavenly Father made it possible for every one of His children to be bound eternally to the ones they love most. Because He wants us to be happy, He makes that which brings us the most joy last forever.

I know that God lives. Everything He does is for my benefit and that of the ones I love. I know that He continues to guide me. I know that Jesus Christ took upon Himself every sin and heartache I could ever suffer in this mortal life. This is God’s plan; and I am blessed to know it. 

I could never leave because I know He would never leave me. And someday I will return to Him to live in eternal happiness with those who make life worth living.

Jeff is my husband. I love him.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

What I Want and Need

Simply put: I want it; I need it; and I've worked too hard for what I've got that I'm not about to lose it now.

Now, let's expand, yes? OK. 

I want it.

I grew up with an enormous feeling of responsibility. I always wanted to be the best that I could; I don't like disappointing anyone in authority; I always want to impress; and I always wanted to be a "good girl." I grew up in the church, and I remember after I got baptized thinking, "Man! I am baptized! I am eight years old! It's about time I start acting like it and pay attention in sacrament meeting." I remember changing my motivations simply because Jesus said they were wrong. Also, I like the way I feel when I do good things, I feel good about myself, and I want to feel good about myself. Now, this in no way constitutes a good testimony by itself, but...

I need it.

I need it, because I am a dramatic person. I've always struggled with depression and low self esteem (part of the reason why I always want to please people). It's so easy to get down on yourself in today's world. I don't fit the images of successful, cool, pretty, or popular. And therefore (by today's standards) I'm not marketable as worthwhile.

Now, while I truly believe that I don't fit the world's definitions of any of those things, I know and testify that I fit the exact mold of a LOVED DAUGHTER OF GOD. I know that Christ died for my sins by choice. He didn't include me because He had to. I believe that He suffered for me because He wanted to. He wanted me to know how loved I am. And the sad - and wonderful - thing is: In this life, I don't think I'll ever really understand how much. I know that I am important to Him; I am beautiful to Him; I am needed by Him. I am loved by my Father in Heaven and by my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This love is what ignited my self esteem. It is what motivated me to act better. This love is what I need to pick myself up from the dirt every time I fall -- which is a lot. This didn't happen over night. Quite, quite, quite the contrary...

I've worked too hard for what I've got that I'm not about to lose it now.

Now, when I say this, I don't mean it out of determination. I mean that I think I've put in too much effort for me to just fall out of it now. Here's the thing: I'm struggling right now. I am being stubborn, disobedient and angry. I'm throwing fits. I haven't been faithful in my everyday actions, and (frankly) I ran out of energy to keep up with it all. I have fallen down, and I don't want to pick myself up. 

But I just can't seem to keep away from the Gospel. I am staying afloat out of what I'm calling "spiritual momentum." This momentum comes through my friends' supportive spirits and by the testimonies they live. (Thanks Megan! And everyone contributing!) I've been reminded of what I need to do by the testimonies I've written down. I've found hope, love (so much love), support, encouragement, forgiveness, charity, inspiration and so many other things. These things keeps me going. They are things left behind from the people I chose to associate with. And they are teachings left behind after committing to, and abiding by, principles I questioned and tested with real intent. These things don't simply leave you because you are going through a rough spot. They stay with you through them. So, that being said, when I'm able to stand again, and when I'm ready to fight for what I've always believed in (sometimes only deep, deep down), I don't have to start over. Because I never left, and I can never leave.

I can never leave because I want the goodness that I find. I haven't been able to get it any way than by abiding by the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. (And believe me I've been on both sides.) I want the good feelings and the warmth I get. I want the love. I want it because I need it. 

I'm unable to face this life by myself. I expect too much from myself. The world doesn't value the good I have in me, and I need to be reassured that I'm loved. I need to be reminded that I always have help -- even through the blackest of turmoil and sin. Like a true friend, only true principals stay with you when you are at your lowest. (And, people, this one sticks!) I always have someone rooting for me. Through the work I'm putting in, and the love (have I mentioned the love?) people show for me, I can never leave.

Andi writes a blog in which she tries 
to bear her testimony every day. Check it out at:

Sunday, April 1, 2012

On Things Broken and Built

I wish I could say that I never thought about leaving the church, but I did.

I was madly in love with a young man when I found myself starting to seriously consider my departure. It seemed, at that point in our relationship, that any potential future with him would be at the cost of my religion. I was incredibly torn; the two things that I loved most were engaged in a gruesome battle, using my soul as a stomping ground. No matter the victor, I felt like I would be the ultimate victim -- left bruised and battered beyond repair. I was in a silent desperation. I felt like I had no one to turn to. It would be the hardest decision that I have yet to make in my life.

It wasn’t that my relationship with him was anti-religious. Up until that point, things had actually been incredibly religious. I had never discussed religion and God so much. I found myself growing in ways that I loved. I felt like I was more caring, loving, and thoughtful. I considered the meaning of religious practices more deeply and prayed more sincerely. I began seeing life through a different framework, a better framework. I cared more about my motivations than my actions. I learned to accept that I was not perfect, that I made mistakes but, because of Christ, I could be forgiven. Even though I was flawed, I was still loved. God started really coming alive to me, or more precisely, I allowed God to be more a part of my life. I was beginning to truly love Him.

When the conflict arose, and the need to choose began to manifest more clearly in my life, I was frightened. I felt like I had been doing all the right things. Why were things suddenly coming into conflict? What possible course of action could I choose? I began to think that maybe I had simply outgrown established religion. I believed that God had used my religion as a tool to draw me into Him. I felt perhaps that while some things were full of truth, other parts of the religion were flawed and merely the invention of culture and man-kind. But I was afraid of the loss of my religion and the impacts that would have on my life. I delayed the decision as long as I could, but I finally crumbled under the pressure and turned to God. Surely he would lead me in the direction that was right. I felt that if he told me I needed to leave my religion, I would be okay. I could make it through. As I knelt in prayer, asking whether I needed to abandon my current beliefs, I received a definitive answer: No.

I was shocked. I was angry. I was sad. I was hurt. I was ready to give up my religion as long as I could have both God and my love. But I was not prepared to give up love. I was upset and felt betrayed. I had had so much faith that my boyfriend would be touched and turn to God, but he hadn’t. Things hadn’t gone as planned. I had lost faith in religion. I felt like God hadn’t come through. Why could he demand such a sacrifice of me?

But how can you argue with God? The answer was clearer than any I had ever received and I knew I could not turn my back on it.

So I complied. I did not abandon my beliefs. For a while, I struggled with my loss, but slowly things got better. I started reading my scriptures and regularly attending church again. I did not know for sure that the LDS church was true, but I knew it was where God wanted me. I tried my best to live the commandments and be obedient, and step by step my life started changing. Piece by piece things became clearer, my testimony grew stronger, and my soul expanded. I am still not entirely sure of everything, but I can say that I know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is God’s church. That he restored the priesthood through the prophet Joseph Smith. The priesthood allows us to make scared covenants and ordinances that help secure our happiness and bring us closer to God.

I could never leave this church because of the rich blessings that are secured through the priesthood. I could never leave this church because it strengthens me to live the way God would have me live. I could never leave this church because it holds within it the fullness of the gospel of Christ. I could never leave this church because it brings me closer to God.

It is not easy. The gospel does not allow you to live at your own abandon. It requires sacrifice and trials. Sometimes it requires you to give up things you love and desire. Ultimately, it requires you to give up your will and agency -- the one thing that truly belongs to you. But you do so with faith that God loves you and is looking after you. You have to have faith that God is preparing for you a better path, a brighter future, a place of peace. God requires sacrifice and faith, but he comes with healing in his wings. Whatever He requires you to give, He has the power to restore tenfold. And what’s more is that He wants to restore it to you. He wants you to be happy, and He is simply trying to teach you how. Come unto Him. Reach up and He will guide you home. I know these things to be true, and I could never leave this truth.