Sunday, November 30, 2014

Snapshot Sunday: Pathways

Choices - James E. Faust

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Blessin's of Illin'

Alma 9:22 - "... by the hand of the Lord; having been saved from famine, and from sickness, and all manner of diseases of every kind ..."

I am illin' like a villain ... who is extremely, remarkably ill.

My head is stuffed, my nose is runny, my fever is high, I occasionally hallucinate, it's hard to think straight ...

Of course, I've met a lot of people who, when put into this kind of situation, would be at the end of things. No work, no play, no productivity, no laughter, no thanks, no joy.

I actually see a lot of good things about me being sick on this vacation of mine. At least I'm not falling behind in classes because of it. At least I'm living with loving family members who have my back. If I had to get sick, this may have been the best time to get sick, you know?

Of course, because of my illness, I've gotten behind. I only have one more day to slam out 3,209 words in my November novel or risk failing my goal. But I'm going in. Let''s do this.

Sorry for any potential lack of coherency here!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Thanksgiving Report

Jonah 2:9 - "But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord."

I am grateful for friends.

I am grateful for family.

I am grateful for the talents and gifts, both temporal and spiritual, that God has given me and allowed me to improve.

I am grateful for what I have.

I am grateful for what I don't have, as that lack gives me the greatest perspective.

I am grateful for you.

I am grateful for the Restored Gospel in my life.

I am grateful for Jesus Christ and His willingness to atone for my sins and continually give me second chances.

I am grateful for the yesterday and the tomorrow.

I am grateful I have another day to smile.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Throwback Thursday #2

This week's Throwback Thursday post is from July 12 of this year. I talked all about my blog's original format in last week's post, but this post from the past was one of the first examples where I began to break that trend. Some of the aspects of my life that I wanted to Change were becoming too personal for me to feel comfortable exposing to the world, and I began to feel as though the things I Cherished were too repetitive to share day-to-day. The latter was especially true since I was stuck in limbo, fresh off the mission and therefore stuck inside the house every day. As it was, I took this day to reflect and ponder on how life was going, and tried to use my blogging as a way to organize my thoughts. I hoped the result proved both visually and poetically appealing, a series of thoughts contrasted with a series of landscape photography. But don't take my word for it; check it out!

Click here to visit Sunset!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Needed Message (with Added Commentary)

Judges 3:20 - "... I have a message from God unto thee ..."

I had a rough day yesterday. A number of various incidents conspired against me to bring me down a little bit, and so I found myself desiring some much-needed encouragement. Unfortunately, different incidents also conspired against me to keep me from my usual support groups, which only helped me feel more desperate and alone.

As I was walking home, moping a little bit, I was walking past one of the buildings on campus and saw this in the windows:

Sorry, I still struggle with quality photography.
I don't know who made those signs. I don't know what impressions they had before putting them up. I do know that those signs were exactly what I needed, right then. Not only was it a reminder that there's always someone looking out for me, it was a reminder that God is looking out for me, too.

And after that, I found someone to talk to about life. I read a general conference talk that helped put my own problems into perspective. I had the chance to just relax. And things were brighter. Much, much brighter.

What small and simple ways will you uplift your fellow siblings of God over these Holidays?

I wrote a commentary about this post on December 17, 2015. Click here to read!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Trust: Plasma Donations (VIDEO)

Doctrine and Covenants 122:7 - "... know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good."

So, as most of you know, I frequently sell my life blood for some extra cash. Yesterday, when I went in, I came out looking like this:

This particular time, everything was going really smooth, but after the second or third return, I stopped flowing. The phlebotomists came over, checked me out, determined that my vein had been punctured and lost all pressure, moved the needle to my right arm, and promptly popped the other vein.

It is true, of the four to five people part of our plama-selling crew, that I have the worst luck and the most jokes made about me. Recently, my machine got clogged and stopped working completely. On another trip, they had to puncture me twice again for a different popped vein. On yet another trip, everything was going smoothly, but I had to pee so bad the entire hour or so, I couldn't even run to the restroom following everything. Nope. None of that for me. Trying to quit. Only a frankenstein shamble, please. So, for this trip, it really wasn't any surprise that anything else happened.

However, this draw proved troubling. Because of the time they chose to move arms, my red blood cells were unable to be returned to me as they usually are. The kind phlebotomist told me, after wrapping the vein she'd popped with ice, that, while I could continue to come back, if I had another bad draw like that again, then I would be FIRED.

Well, in all seriousness, I wouldn't be fired, just deferred for eight weeks, but it still came as a blow to me.

As I was walking back to eat a meal at the Cannon Center, I was pondering the ramifications of another bad draw. My ability to go on dates would be severely lessened, I mused. It would be a lot more difficult to go out, I'd have to be a little more hard-nosed about my money ... It was just rough all around.

Of course, then, I remembered that, whatever happened, the Lord knew what would be best for me in the long run. I can still sell my plasma right now! I haven't been deferred yet! And if the Lord wants to put me on the sidelines for a couple of months, well, I have to trust him. I know all things will work out in the end, and I'm grateful that He reminded me of that as I ate my lunch. Who knows what marvelous things He might want me to accomplish in the hours I would have spent selling if I actually am deferred.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Determination: Turkey Bowl: NaNoMo Day 24

Don't forget to visit yesterday's Snapshot Sunday!

Matthew 11:28-30 - "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest ..."

This past Saturday, one of my fellow RAs and I hosted a Turkey Bowl of sorts featuring both Frisbee and football as the primary sports of choice.

Tossing around the ol' pigskin, good chap.

The event was a success. The eleven dozen donuts were devoured, the hot chocolate sipped, the football caught, the flags torn ... Even though it started raining, even though it was freezing outside, even though the donuts were soaked, everyone had a blast.

I suspect we could have ended the event an hour early and no one would have really minded or cared. The tensions were fairly high in the last few minutes of the last game, and I wasn't really sure how much fun some of the others were actually having considering their verbalized frustrations. However, as is true of men, we toughed it out because none of us wanted to be the first one inside, or even miss out on a single second of the action.

Watching these guys from the sidelines, acting as the referee, I thought about their resolve to push through no matter how miserable the conditions may or may not have been making them. Regardless of numb fingers and stinging palms and soggy underwear, my friends pushed through and squeezed every drop of the experience they could.

Sometimes. no matter how much we want something, we just give up. Adversity here, a stumbling block there, or a rock and a hard place right in front of us, it is easy to convince ourselves it's not worth it and walk away. And yet, we hear stories of intrepid explorers conquering wastelands, women without arms crafting bracelets with her feet, zeroes who become heroes, nobodies who make it big in politics, film, business, or anything else you can think of. Each and every time, it is resolve that enables them to find what they are looking for.

So, whether it is the raw manliness to keep playing games in less than optimal weather, or whether it is the determination to achieve a lifelong dream no matter the cost, I know you can and will succeed. The Lord is on your side, and He will help.

Incidentally, today is the last week of November, and therefore is the last chance I have to be working on my novel. I have six days of writing left before the end, and so it's time to strengthen my resolve as well.

Let's do this.

I haven't started today. Saturday will be my last.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Gratitude: Your Voice is Power

Job 37:4 - "After it a voice roareth: he thundereth with the voice of his excellency; and he will not stay them when his voice is heard."

I rode a bicycle shark yesterday.

You know, people find a lot to criticize about modern technology. I certainly did when I first arrived home from Jamaica. I absolutely hated being connected to the rest of the world 24/7, and actively sought ways to keep myself off the grid as much as I could.

Well, to be fair, I still don't really enjoy being very connected, though I'm not as determined to distance myself from the teeming html scripts of the ebays and internets. Regardless, even though it is easy to condemn modern technology for being debilitating and detrimental to personal relationships and the like, I find it important, on occasion, to remind myself that this marvelous tool is a grand gift from God.

I mean, if I think about it, I may struggle to connect with many of my friends and acquaintances via social media, but at least I can connect by dropping them a line here or there and scrolling through their posts. If I ever lived in even the 1980s, the best replication of what I can do now would be to make a phone call or write a letter. Of course, I'm sure I would have been just as busy then as I am now.

This sharing, this constant sharing of texts and tweets and emails and posts and comments, has granted each of us greater power to touch a heart, change a life, raise a soul. Sure, many people use comments to criticize and malign their fellow commentators, but even they have a greater potential.

And, of course, who can forget how amazing it is that most of us have phones we can use to take pictures wherever and whenever we want, capturing memories that will serve us a lifetime?

So, I rode a bicycle shark yesterday. This picture will forever be a memory of a silly thing I once did at an outdoor shopping mall. It will also remind me of the experience I shared with my good friend there in that same mall, where we ate pizza, talked about life, and laughed frequently. And, in the end, it will also remind me of the reminder I had about how God has given us the potential to do so much more good than ever before.

Get your voice out for good today. I dare you.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Morning Prayer (POEM) [with Added Commentary]

Psalms 102:17 - "He will regard the prayer of the destitute, and not despise their prayer."

The morning breaks with naught to fix
My sleep weighs on my brain like bricks

Roll out of bed, and on my knees
Just praying for a good day, please

Breakfast small and nearly tasteless
Clothes are clean is my best guess

Homework lost or now forgotten
Cross the board my grades prove rotten

Thoughtless statement, angry fight
My apology weighs as but a mite

Schedule trashed, cut out the fun
Work is long, want to be done

My bed to covet, end of road
Six hours more is yet my load

Unfinished tasks are now my bane
Too burned to slog, I lay as slain

Yet even though it stretched for miles
I look back on the day and smile

Own my mistakes, and now they're mine
Humor seen, laughter consign

Evening spent with awesome friends
Helping hand I find to lend

Late night trip out for some food
Ponder life as stars are viewed

I may have much left to complete
But given time, I'll have it beat

And so, with one last weary sigh
back on my knees, up to the sky

Thank You for answering my prayer
The day was good, I know You care

I wrote a commentary about this post on December 10, 2015. Click here to read!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

TT #1 & Future of the Blog

Today's Throwback Thursday post is actually from July 11 of this year. When I first started the blog, I wanted each post to be split into two parts, with a picture dividing them in between. I usually talked about one of my recent mistakes in the first half, and then talked about one of my recent triumphs or spiritual experiences in the second half. This format is actually what gave this blog its title. What I wrote in the first half was what I wanted to Change; the second half was what I wanted to Cherish. I've abandoned that format, but I still think the title fits, especially because it's a little punny.

Click here to visit Temples and Temping!

* * *

Important Announcement

Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed it!

You may have noticed, in the past couple of days, that advertisements have started appearing alongside my posts. I struggled with the decision to monetize Change and Cherish for some time, but eventually decided to give it a shot. I certainly don't have enough readers at this point to make a living from this, but I hope that, one day, my internet shenanigans will enable me to work full time on projects like these. This will, of course, enable me to shine my light even more brightly.

Despite the fact I'll probably be earning pennies an hour (and I only usually work on this blog for half an hour every day, anyway), I have decided that it would be best to refrain from blogging on Sunday to show proper respect for the Sabbath. As it is, my usual Sunday posts will be replaced with a feature called 'Snapshot Sundays.' During the week, I will prepare a scheduled post that will automatically upload itself to the site on the Sabbath, giving you readers another boost, but helping me refrain from working on the Lord's Day.

In addition to this, most of you come from Facebook. I will not be posting Snapshot Sunday posts on Facebook. So you don't miss them, I highly recommend you follow the blog with one of the many options found on the left hand side. Subscribe! Follow by email! Join the site! There are even options to share the posts via social media. Using these tools will help you make sure you don't miss a single update.

Finally, I just wanted to remind everyone that I am always looking for ways to improve. If there is anything you would like me to change, let me know in the comments below.

I love you guys! Have a wonderful day!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Make Something Happen (with Added Commentary)

Deuteronomy 17:20 - "... to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom ..."

So, after the events of this post, I went online and found this offer. As I write this post, it says they cost $6.37, though I only paid $2.99. Who knows what the price will be when you click on it again, or even if the link doesn't break down the line. It probably doesn't matter; I don't think too many people binge read blogs like I do webcomics, so I don't have too much to worry about there.

Anyway, so, yesterday, I got the chopsticks in the mail. I had to go pick them up from the dorm administration building, which, incidentally, is where I attend my RA class, and, incidentally, holds the giant cafeteria all we RAs eat at following class.

So, straight from class, I ripped open the package and took the chopsticks with me, eagerly digging in. Sure, I struggled with the beans, but all in all, it was another fun experience that made the art of eating all that more interesting.

Straight from Hong Kong, $2.99, free shipping! Someone also pointed out there is both Chinese and Korean writing on the packaging as well. Cheap foreign products FTW!

As I sat there, however, I was pondering (among a whole bunch of other things) how my possession of the chopsticks came to be. I had an experience, an idea, I decided to make it happen, and then I made it happen. There are so many times in my life, however, when I've had an idea, and I let it lie on the side of the road. Ideas for books and videos and songs and illustrations come to and go from me all the time, it's difficult to keep track of them all. Unfortunately, sometimes, I choose not to.

I'm sure many of you have had similar experiences, where you think to yourself, Man, what a great idea. I should patent that. Lo and behold, you don't, and then, like, four months later, some guy is getting rich off the idea you had.

As it is, I invite you all today to make sure an idea you have comes to fruition, even if it's something stupid like deciding to eat most of your meals with chopsticks. Make it happen! I know you'll be surprised by the results. And, if you don't like surprises, then I know you'll really enjoy the results. Yeah!

Have a great day, guys! The week is almost over!

I wrote a commentary about this post on December 3, 2015. Click here to read!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Effective Lighting: Flute Solo (VIDEOS)


My dorm building is built a little oddly. The first floor opens up into a lobby past the office, and the second floor contains a mezzanine. The mezzanine has windows that actually look out over the lobby, allowing anyone who doesn't want to join the party downstairs to at least watch it.

So, last night, my Family Home Evening group and I were minding our own business, doing how we do, when all of a sudden, a window opened up on the mezzanine, and out popped one of my residents.

Ironically, even though I named my post 'Effective Lighting' (referring to the spiritual side of things), I continued to demonstrate my horrible photography skills through this ineffective lighting. Yay!

He retrieved his guitar and proceeded to sing a hilarious, ad-libbed song, interestingly about me, right in front of a good-sized crowd. It is not my first instinct to pull out my phone to capture whatever moment is happening, but I had the foresight in the last couple of seconds, thankfully.

My resident's enthusiastic determination to shine his light, to display the talent the Lord had given him,  got me thinking about my own light. I've had several opportunities to share my talents and abilities recently, chiefly through my blog, occasionally with my own musical talent, even rarely through my novel(s), and therefore received several compliments.

As I've thought about it, though, I realize I don't do a great job, even in my own mind, in giving praise to God when I am complimented. Someone tells me I'm a good writer, and I say, "Thanks!" and think, I'm doing a good job! Rarely do I say, "Thanks to God I am!" and think, Thanks, Heavenly Father!

Now obviously, the reason why any of us have any talent at all is usually because we exercise our agency to work on our talents. I'm not saying the talent I or anyone else demonstrates is only due to God controlling those gifts like a puppeteer. However, I am saying that I know He helps us when we do attempt to develop or gain a new skill. He does that not only because He loves us, but also because He wants us to use our talents to bring more people unto Him.

So, my challenge today, mostly for myself, is to do a better job speaking of God when my light is shining, in attributing the small success I have to Him. I think, when I'm able to do that without thinking, my ability to be a force for good will grow even more. 

And with that, take us away with a flute solo!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Shrug Your Shoulders: Newspaper Fall (with Added Commentary)

3 Nephi 19:30 - "And when Jesus had spoken these words he came again unto his disciples; and behold they did pray steadfastly, without ceasing, unto him; and he did smile upon them again ..."

So mi amigo and I were out roving like we RAs do on a Sunday night, walking through every hallway and peering into every nook and cranny, talking all about life, the universe, and everything, when we stepped into a particular hallway.

At some point since the last time we'd visited this hallway, a group of intrepid individuals had brought in several large stacks of newspapers, crumpled the lot up, and then strewn them all over the hallway. I'm talking about a snow of papers, from one end to the other, creating an ankle-deep obstacle you either had to wade or high-step through.

Of course, my first reactions, internalized and considered, were pretty lame, in my opinion. Should we clean this up? I wondered. Should we fill out a report? Should we do some investigative work to figure out what happened?

It was the residents, and even their RA when he revealed he'd been in the hallway the entire time by bursting out of a pile of papers like they were a pile of leaves, that taught me the important lesson for the day. They'd been pranked. There was a huge mess. There were a lot of unanswered questions, including, Who should we seek revenge on? But not a one of them cared. Not a one saw the prank as a problem, or even bothered considering the next proper step to take. Rather, they took the spontaneity at face value and proceeded to enjoy themselves, playing and throwing and kicking and laughing as part of the grand experience they might not ever have again.

I think it relates to that old saying, "When life give you lemons, make lemonade." I think, sometimes, life throws people like me an orange, and we mistake it for a lemon. I was ready to see the newspapers as a lemon, a mess someone would have to later clean up, but everyone around me was just grateful for the orange.

So, I, too, along with my roving amigo, played in the 'snow' for a bit before we continued on our way. I took with me the decision to enjoy every spontaneous moment that arises, no matter what I may have to do later to rectify whatever problems the spontaneity may have caused. And with that, I'm convinced that life will be just a little more enjoyable.

I wrote a commentary about this post on November 19, 2015. Click here to read!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

God's Creations: An Elephant

Ephesians 3:9 - "And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ."

I went with a group of friends out to the nearby museum of life and sciences. As I wandered around, checking out all the dead, now-stuffed animals and reading about their amazing exploits while alive, I got to thinking.

The elephant was a really nice guy. He was willing to pose with us, and even signed a few autographs before we headed out.
So, once upon a time, a space rock was flying through space somehow, pretty amazingly quickly, and it was flying at an angle just right to enter into a trajectory orbit around some hot sun. Thankfully for this rock, it managed to begin its orbit a distance just far enough away from the sun to keep it from turning into a blistering inferno, while remaining just close enough to the sun that it wasn't a hellishly cold wasteland, either.

This remarkably coincidental set of circumstances, an extreme rarity out there in the unforgiving wasteland of space, allowed the space rock to sprout trees and stuff. Then, if that wasn't enough, the space rock produced a wide variety of creatures, all of which shared entirely different body masses and structures, and even provided evolutionary disadvantaged bipedals to become the dominate species through sheer mind power alone. Amazingly, not a single other species ever gained the spark the bidepals did.

Thankfully, these coincidences have enabled someone like me, an mere animal, to be able to reason and think and form moralities and opinions beyond mere instinctual motivation. Now that I have gained this power and ability through sheer luck alone, I find it necessary to explain my findings in this post, of which is found in my blog.

... Yeah, I don't buy that theory.

Seeing all those creatures yesterday, witnessing such a large portion of God's creations all bundled up in one little area, helped me to again recognize the eternal creativity and wisdom of our Lord. I don't believe our births, our puny little machinations on this earth, are a coincidence. I know they aren't. And I'm so grateful for that.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Optimism: No Straps, Four Arms (with Added Commentary)

Alma 27:18 - "Now was not this exceeding joy? Behold, this is joy which none receiveth save it be the truly penitent and humble seeker of happiness."

So yesterday, the crew went to go sell our plasma. After we were wrapped up and finished, one of my fellows requested that we go to Home Depot so we could procure him a giant white board alternative. It was agreed upon, and so off we went.

Now, my friend wanted the biggest, baddest white board around. My car is one of the dinkiest around. So, despite our suggestions that he, perhaps, buy a more modestly-sized board, he stuck to his guns and went for it all. We, his fellows, shrugged our shoulders, figuring we'd make it work either way.

Well, despite any optimism, the board was far bigger than the inside of the car. We debated, for a while, what we should do.

After we had it, we snapped the first of many pictures.

Then, piling into the car, we all positioned ourselves with our non-punctured arms next to the windows. Reaching out, we each grabbed one of the corners, keeping our precious limbs exposed to the blistering cold. Then, with a gung-ho attitude, we were off.

I tried to take a selfie of what we looked like as we drove, but after I dropped my phone about nine times and ran into three mailboxes, I gave up, so you'll have to imagine it. Regardless, it's pretty simple. One tiny grey intrepid, a white board precariously perched on top. Four rapidly-bluing arms, hanging on for dear life. Though we lost all function in our exposed arms for several hours, it was a trip totally worth it, for our laughs and pain prompted much fodder for fond memories later.

It was true that three of us had not signed the whole 'voluntary misery' contract before we jumped in the car that fateful morning, and any of us could have harbored grudges or frustration either over the possibly construed conscription or the annoyance prompted by the weather itself. But we didn't. Rather than dwell on the trial itself, we dwelt on the future and what we would learn and/or appreciate.

Life is sometimes bleak. Life is sometimes grand. I firmly believe it can be more of the latter rather than the former when we remember that everything is for but a moment. Sadness always falls to happiness. This, I know.

Love you guys! See you again tomorrow!

I wrote a commentary about this post on November 12, 2015. Click here to read!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Ten Virgins: First Snow (with Added Commentary)

Matthew 25:1-13 - "Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins ..."

See, here on campus, whenever the temperature gets colder, some wise chap up in central heating gets the bright idea that the temperature within the buildings should rise inversely. Therefore, after you've bundled up like a Christmas present, escaped into the cold, and arrive in class, you find yourself sweating much like an overweight boar. The classrooms here, in essence, become gigantic coat closets as everyone strips down and deposits their articles of clothing anywhere they can find, which, unfortunately, means the floor. You know, walkin' space.

In order to combat this, I wear nothing but light hoodies for as long as I possibly can and merely run to class. My heart rate keeps me warm, and then I don't have to strip upon my arrival in class. Perfect! Of course, by the time the snow hits, you want nothing but to wear heavier clothing, and so you do despite the madcap stripping that follows.

So I left the house yesterday wearing nothing but a light hoodie, running through campus like a fire was lit under my butt. As I sat outside my New Testament class, waiting for it to begin, I glanced outside the window and realized something horrible.

It was snowing.

And that's where the title/selected scripture comes in. My experience, which concluded with me sprinting back home for my heavier coat, reminded me of the unpreparedness of the ten virgins in Christ's parable, which, in turn, reminded me of the preparation we need to undergo for the advent of Christ's second coming. But go on, then! Click the link! Read the parable! It's snowtastically awesome.

I wrote a commentary about this post on November 5, 2015. Click here to read!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Open Your Mouth: The Dentist (with Added Commentary)

Doctrine and Covenants 30:5 - "... for the time has come that it is expedient in me that you shall open your mouth to declare my gospel ..."

True, I'm in Utah. Practically everyone here is Mormon. However, as I drove to the dentist's office yesterday, I saw a bunch of people who, though possibly Mormons no longer practicing, certainly didn't look like they were a member of my church. Some were smoking, some were drinking, some were hanging outside what looked liked clubs; one dude was walking down the street completely shirtless, with his nipple rings exposed to the world.

Let's be honest here, it was still super cold yesterday, possibly worse than the night I complained about yesterday. Shirtless guy is a super manly dude. Mad respect for him.

Anyway, so I was at the dentist's, and I was asked some questions about my dental history and all that jazz. I hesitated to go into specifics about my time in Jamaica and the fact that I'd served a mission there, simply because I figured it was a similar story these dentists had heard a hundred times from numerous patients. It's not like they're going to benefit from my testimony, I thought.

But then, I went ahead anyway. Why not?

Again, I have no idea if none or all of these dentists were Mormon. But I didn't hesitate to openly talk about my mission and talk about a few of my experiences there. It later turned out the head dentist actually did a humanitarian trip in the Ocho Rios area, and my hygienist was in Haiti getting hit by Hurricane Sandy at the same time I was getting hit in Montego Bay.

If you consider the fact that the dentist's last name is White, you'll realize this post is FULL of puns ...

I think the main point is, in an unfamiliar environment, to people who are probably already familiar with my type of mission experience, I spoke up to share the Gospel message, to open a dialogue about my service for Jesus Christ. Yes, I was hesitant, but I gained a personal witness that, no matter who you open your mouth to, you will feel the Spirit work through you. I know that is true. So get out there and share today! You never know who might be struggling enough to need it.

I wrote a commentary about this post on October 29, 2015. Click here to read it!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Raw Power: Flippin' Freezin' (with Added Commentary)

Job 38:22 - "Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow? or hast thou seen the treasures of the hail?"

Holy moly, Jamaica weather destroyed my ability to withstand cold. I have my heater cranked on in my room all day every day, I generally walk around campus hunched over with teeth chattering, and people keep stopping me to ask if I'm feeling all right.

Yes. Yes I am. Can you just figure out how to turn the sun back on, please?

Despite everything, I really am excited for the snows. The mountains during this time of year are beautiful, the mood becomes almost serene, and even cuddling will become more prevalent. The beginning of the winter season, right when everything is bright and fresh, before I get tired of black snow lining the roads and dark clouds killing our flowers, is when, I think, I literally ... well, chill out. I've found this season to be quite soothing, as many of the concerns I once felt so important seem to fade.

I suspect that change of mood also has to do with the subconscious reminders of divinity new weather offers. We marvel and wonder at construction projects that transform the landscape in a matter of months, but even something as simple as a snowfall does so much more than anything we, as mortals, can do. With such raw examples of God's power, it's easy to stop and ponder Him, all He does for us individually, and even all He doesn't do.

Christ suffered all things for me, the bad, the worst. He has the power to freeze my bones and the atmosphere, among everything else, and yet, still, even though He experiences everything I don't want to, He refrains from using His power to keep me from trial. So, if I trust Him, I can be assured that everything will be for my good.

What do you think of when you see a snowfall or otherwise large weather change? Tell me about it!

I wrote a commentary about this post on October 22, 2015. Click here to read!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Spiritual Precision: Featuring Mr. T

D&C 20:11 - "Proving to the world that the holy scriptures are true, and that God does inspire men and call them to his holy work in this age and generation, as well as in generations of old."

After selling my life blood yesterday, I went to dinner with one of my fellow sellers and RAs, and there found an opportunity to give a hapless gentleman some hardcore dating advice. Of course, I'm not sure if he took me seriously, considering how I was basically performing an awful Mr. T impersonation to drive the point home, but I was being serious, so if he reads this post, know that not only was I serious, my advice was quite sound!

And oh, goodness, was I not done with that Mr. T impersonation, oh no. After Family Home Evening, I decided to loudly announce to the entire lobby my intentions to go write in my NaNoMo Novel. One of the kids there said he wished he was creative enough to do something like that.

BANG! Mr. T back atcha! I slammed down some hardcore doctrine about how he's a son of the most creative being in the universe, and that he can do something like write a novel! After we shared a few laughs, he said he'd participate next year.

Then we posed a a team, because things just got real.
I have no idea if the dating advice I afforded my friend will ever be used, nor do I know if my other friend will actually take the NaNoMo challenge next year.  I don't know that my one-liners contained a quote worthy enough to be remembered, pondered, and acted upon in years to come. I don't know that I said anything that could be placed in a fancy font in front of a serene nature picture. However, the main point I wanted to draw from the whole experience was, simply, that I allowed myself to be put in a position to potentially help someone else, to lift a burden, to cheer a stranger. If the Lord needed those two men to be inspired in the way I felt prompted, then, perhaps, they were.

In very much the same way, not everyone the Lord sends the Gospel to accepts it, but that doesn't mean He doesn't want us to try and share it. So go for it!

What ways will you inspire someone tomorrow?

Monday, November 10, 2014

Agency: Whichever Door (with Added Commentary)

D&C 93:31 - "Behold, here is the agency of man ..."

Some of my residents are planning on moving out this next semester. Some of them are leaving on missions. Some of them just want a change of venue.

I'm definitely going to be sad to see them go, especially the monk of the group, but I totally admire them for the decisions they're making. Each are making choices that will affect them, for good or bad, for the rest of their lives, choices I have also made, choices I'm glad I did.

I think, in the world we now live in, it is getting more frightening to make choices. I don't know what kind of risks existed back in the old days, but now, we consider risk in everything, from buying a new cell phone to ordering the seafood surprise at Subway. The bigger the decision, it seems, the more trepidation we put into making them. From career to marriage to children to buying that big screen TV (from least to greatest importance, obviously), we wonder, What are the risks? Will I get to where I need to be by making this specific decision?

And so it goes, the beauty of the thing. I can't imagine a world where I wasn't able to choose my own brand of toothpaste, or the activities I pursue on the weekends, or even what I write about in these posts. The fact that we have our agency, our freedom to choose, is a glorious thing, a gift granted to us by God himself. Yes, these decisions we make are difficult at times, but they are why and how we grow. And that is enough.

I thought of all this yesterday as I stood in my hallway at some time past midnight, alone, pondering the day, already missing some of the friends I've made before they've even left. Each door was literally filled with possibilities, as our future leaders planned and worked and prayed.

Which door will you take?

I wrote a commentary about this post on October 15, 2015. Click here to read!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Setting Goals: NaNoMo Day 9

D&C 1:12 - "Prepare ye, prepare ye for that which is to come, for the Lord is nigh."

NaNoMo or NaNoWriMo or whatever you call it is still underway. I'm taking the challenge to write a novel in a month seriously, and as you can see by the graph the official website kindly made for me, I'm doing an all right job staying on par.

Yesterday, though, was a bit of a setback, at least in my mind. I ended up getting pretty caught up in a lot of other things, including an unexpected nap, a dinner out, a very long D&D session, and even work. As it was, it was the first day I failed to reach my daily goal of 2000 words a day.

Oh, sure, I've consistently outpaced myself each and every day, giving myself a nice little buffer to work with (since I don't write on Sundays, that means I've only actually worked on the novel seven days this month, meaning my personal par should be about 14,000 right now), but if I slip every day, if I fail to make each step ... well, let's consider the below analogy.

In achieving a goal, you must consider it like a flight of stairs. Yes, you may want to reach the top, but if you try to leap up there in a single bound, you will probably crack your shins on a stair and fall all the way back down. Of course, no one except for Superman tries to ascend the stairs that way. Rather, we pick up one foot, put it down, pick up the next, put it slightly higher up, slowly ascending, watching each step, until you finally make it to the top. It is the careful consideration and execution of each step that enables us to reach our goal.

Now, a lot of people tell me they're impressed with the dedication I'm demonstrating in sticking to it. One person told me, "I meet so many people who want to be novelists, and they never do anything about it." I firmly believe most people fail to reach their goals because they see the top of the stairs for the top of the stairs alone. They don't plan each step; they just try to tackle everything at once.

In the case of my novel, I sat down and did the math. I calculated the bare minimum of how much I would need to write each day to succeed. I keep myself to that schedule, and I am finding success. Time will tell if I possess the determination and drive to actually succeed (I just finalized my schedule for the upcoming week, and HOLY COW am I busy with a lot of distractions). 

I can promise all of you that, if there is something you want to achieve, something you have on a bucket list, something you know you can do but haven't started yet, today is the day! Make the plans! Promise yourself you'll follow the steps you set for yourself, and push out. There is nothing more fulfilling in life than achieving those goals you set, and as you practice in simple things like novel-writing, you will only become better prepared for the steps you will take toward the Celestial Kingdom.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Gratitude: An Old Friend

Alma 17:32 - "... and what added more to his joy, they were still his brethren in the Lord ..."

So I was preparing for a date yesterday by stashing my car at the primary checkpoint, to which we planned to initially walk. As it was, I had to trace the steps I was going to take to actually get the date there in the first place, so I found myself on campus in the early evening, moseying on back to Helaman Halls.

I vastly overestimated how long it would take me to a.) drive the car to the checkpoint, and b.) walk back to pick up my date, so I still had a good forty-five minutes when I was only halfway across campus. We had plans to eat crepes at a cute little restaurant later in the evening, but I decided I was going to catch a quick dinner beforehand from the campus food court to tide me over until then.

So I was sitting there, minding my own business, eating a chicken sandwich while reading a book on my phone, when my neck started to prickle. I looked up and saw someone, way across the court, staring at me with a huge grin on their face.

The smile was incredibly familiar.

I blinked and stared back.

It came to me in a matter of seconds.

Grinning, I stood up and crossed the room.

Before I ever made it to Jamaica, I visa-waited in Arizona for three months. During both transfers, I had awesome district leaders, and, sure enough, there sat the first, surprised and excited to see me.

It was just as the verse above reads. Though I'd only known him for a matter of weeks, this old district leader of mine had proved keenly instrumental in my development and growth as a person and as a Son of God, and seeing him again reminded me how great his influence truly had been. We didn't have long to catch up--I still had my date, and I'm fairly certain he was already on one--but I was overjoyed. So overjoyed, in fact, I almost forgot to snap a picture of us together, something that hasn't been done in over two years.

Even something as simple as meeting up with an old friend filled me with gratitude, and I know my simple craving for a chicken sandwich was much more than what it appeared on the surface. It was another reminder that God is always looking out for me, and, by extension, each of us individually. And, really, I know that to be true, every day, for each of us. I do.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Passing Glory (with Added Commentary)

Ezekiel 3:23 - "Then I arose, and went forth into the plain: and, behold, the glory of the Lord stood there ..."

So, I was out heading to the testing center today, thinking about it, mulling it over, convinced I was going to do poorly, determined to not let it stress me out, and I nearly missed an awesome sight. Thankfully, some wise peer, alone among many, stopped to take a picture in front of me, so in the sight's dying moments, I, too, was able to capture a picture, however crude it may have been.

It was interesting to see how very few people even glanced over at what me and my anonymous friend were admiring. Shoot, were it not for her, I would have missed it too. 

How often does that happen to us? God gives me so many little gifts every day, but I often have my head ducked and eyes down, focused more on my own insignificant thoughts and concerns than anything else. I asked how often that sort of thing happens, but I don't know that I would know, because I'm missing them all the time!

So, my challenge today is for you to keep your head up! Watch the world around you instead of passing it by. Live in the individual steps rather than in your present concerns. Smile! And I promise you you'll see something as beautiful as a mountain sunset.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Spontaneous Charity (with Added Commentary)

Proverbs 25:21 - "If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink."

So I was walking into the food court at my University when I saw this sign posted on the outside door:

I laughed a little bit. Yeah, right, I thought. Sure, I don't have ten inches of hair, and therefore was beyond the targeted marketing demographic, but I hadn't heard a single peep about the event from any source whatsoever. I had seen no posters, heard no rumors, nor listened to someone agonizing over the decision. There is no way on earth anyone is just going to spontaneously volunteer for something like that, I thought, continuing walking into the building. Most girls I've met have had to really ponder about such a decision before going in on it.

So, into the food court I walked, almost immediately forgetting I'd seen the poster at all.

Then, I saw it.

I blinked.

I stared.

I climbed the stairs for a better view.

There, down below, were the aforementioned hair stylists, working on quite a large number of haircuts even as a line formed by the tables.

I was stunned.

I was impressed.

I can't say I know much about hair donations, as I've never donated, I doubt I'll ever be able to donate, and I don't think I'll ever really benefit from receiving a donation myself. However, I understand that hair donations mean a lot to people. I understand that giving hair is a sacrifice. And I saw a group of wonderful people just, out of the blue, giving of themselves for people they don't even know during a fit of spontaneous charity. That is power. That is Christlike giving. And though those donors will likely receive little recognition, recognition they probably never expected, anyway, I wanted to recognize them here. Good work, you guys!

How are you going to be spontaneously charitable today?

I wrote a commentary about this post on October 1, 2015. Click here to read!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Sharpened Thoughts: Nighttime Walk (with Added Commentary)

Isaiah 55:9 - "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."

Yesterday was an awesome day! I accomplished a lot, including diffusing an emergency at two o'clock in the morning, heading to my various classes, adding a respectable amount of words to my count for NaNoMo, and heading to staff meeting and all that rot.

It was also a very vanilla day. Very few things happened that broke the norm or stuck out in any way that doesn't already stick out to me from day to day.

Thus, as it was, 11:45pm rolled around, I'd just finished updating my word count on the NaNoMo website, and I had no material for this particular post. So, seeing as how my day had no documented adventures, I decided to make one happen.

I'm still totally acclimatized to Jamaica weather, and so, with the gradual onset of winter, I've been finding the weather increasingly unbearably cold. As it was, I bundled up in all my clothes, including a heavy jacket, hoodie, and brimmed beanie. It probably looked a little overkill, but I felt nice and toasty as I stepped into the frigidity of the night.

As I walked, I tried taking pictures of my surroundings, including a lonely sidewalk lined with nigh-identical trees and of an empty parking lot, both of which gave rise to some introspective thoughts. Alas, the only quality picture I was able to take was of the moon, which, admittedly, isn't all that great, in and of itself. However, the point is, as I walked around, virtually alone in the night, I remembered why I love these sort of walks. Away from the computer, the writing slab, away from homework and concerns and people, I had the opportunity to find and be myself again.

The rush of the world and my life, while simply lovely, certainly fills and bogs my mind down. Stepping out into the cold became quite therapeutic, as I was able to clear my mind and reorganize my priorities again, putting best before better, recognizing the stored thoughts without merit and disposing of them. I even sat down, pulled out my scriptures, and read a few chapters out of the standard works, shivering and smiling all the while.

I have found the simplest experiences are the most spiritual. Last night revitalized and re-energized me, and I felt more capable in facing the week ahead with a grin I can only imagine as rakish.

When's the last time you cleared your mind? Come for a walk with me sometime!

I wrote a commentary about this post on September 24, 2015. Click here to read!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Two Mites: Surprise Party (with Added Commentary)

1 John 4:18 - "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out all fear ..."

The thoughtfulness of the people around me brings warmth to my heart.

Consider this simple story, unheralded, soon forgotten by the world. One member of a family home evening group had a birthday. Unbeknownst to her, the members of her 'family,' along with a few of her other friends, most individuals who'd barely known her for a few months, all of whom were starving college students, scraped their funds together to buy pizza and pastries and drink and put on a surprise party.

I know many individuals who would have hesitated to be so giving, so free with their love. I might have been one, myself. However, as I watched this outpouring of charity and love, I couldn't help but smile. I hear on the news of hatred, malice, fighting, contentions, and other great and terrible things, but, last night, I saw Humanity at its finest. I saw the teachings of Jesus Christ perfectly exemplified by a small group of college freshmen, untrained and untested in the world, doing what they knew was the better part. And that gave me hope.

How have you seen someone demonstrate Christlike charity in the past week? Comment below!

I wrote a commentary about this post on September 17, 2015. Click here to read!

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Sum of the Load (Poem)

Isaiah 53:4 - "Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted."

Upon my back, every day
I carry a certain load
Each step I take me down the way
Kicking dust upon the road

Others are around me
Some in front, some in back
But more than just are walking
We're all under attack

The load is not enough, it seems
Fate and circumstance combine
Cringing tears and cries mean
Prompts our hope to dull, not shine

Rocks obscure our way
Crows swoop and peck and caw
Rain soaks until we feel fey
Pain and sorrow gaps its maw

But lest we all forget
Before we give up and fall
The reason why this path is lit
Someone walked before us all

Every burden He did carry
Every wobble He corrected
Every tear He did make merry
And now He gives perspective

Look around and acknowledge
That when everyone you see
Their burdens all a challenge
Were combined and placed on He

Yours, but a fraction
of what was placed upon that Man
Honor His compassion
And rise and smile again

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Good, Better, and Best: NaNoMo Day 1

Mosiah 4:20 - "And behold, even at this time, ye have been calling on his name, and begging for a remission of your sins. And has he suffered that ye have begged in vain? Nay; he has poured out his Spirit upon you, and has caused that your hearts should be filled with joy, and has caused that your mouths should be stopped that ye could not find utterance, so exceedingly great was your joy."

National Novel Writing Month kicked off yesterday, and I did a really good job on sheer content, though I'm always faced with a little frustration when I try to write humor. I just have a hard time laughing at my own jokes, I guess. Either way, though my goal was 2000 words for the day, I struck over 3000 by the end. It was great!

Seeing as how I want to make creative writing a large part of my career, I try to avoid writing on the Sabbath, both as a way to sanctify the work before I get it published and to prepare myself for when I'm actually bringing in moolah. Of course, come 11:59 last night, I was frantically slamming my keyboard into oblivion, trying to keep ahead of the time so I could reach the part of my novel that I'd outlined in my mind as I wrote the opening scene.

Well, I didn't quite reach where I wanted to, so I may lose my best vision for the scene as today goes on and the memory gets buried under others. It's not a total loss, but nonetheless a little disappointing. However, in looking at my activities for the day, I recognized I probably had the time; I'd just managed poorly.

I was productive even beyond the novel yesterday, too, of course. I played D&D with the crew, I finished the weekend's worth of homework in just about all five of my classes, I went to work, I even connected with some good friends. However, I also sat around for a couple of hours watching YouTube videos and TV. Honestly, I feel like I deserved that little indulgence, but had I focused on where I wanted to reach in my novel first, then I would have accomplished the greater thing, and wouldn't feel as frustrated with myself.

And so it goes. It's the principle so lovingly declared in the title of this post, and since I don't believe in unironic title drops, I won't drop this one. However, yesterday was a good reminder for me that if I want to accomplish the best of things, then I need to sometimes forego the lesser things, even if it is only shortly. And when the very best of the best is reaching the Celestial Kingdom, well, even the mundane is thrown into a new perspective. CK or bust!

What is your very best? Be sure to comment below!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Should vs. Want (with Added Commentary)

Alma 41:5 - "The one raised to happiness according to his desires of happiness, or good according to his desires of good ..."

So, BYU was having a depression test screening a few weeks ago, and, for kicks and giggles, I took the screening. It was determined I have anxieties and mood something or others, and so it was recommended I see a psychologist. Sure sure, I thought.

So, yesterday, I had my meeting. It started off cliche, with seemingly random questions getting thrown at me by the good doctor and my just talking my head off about whatever struck my fancy. I have to say, though, psychiatry trips as illustrated in fiction are apparently generally accurate, so props to writers everywhere for not fearing to deviate from the 'cliche,' as it were.

Anyway, the crux of the matter boiled down to the good doctor suggesting I do a lot of things out of mere obligation, rather than following an actual want. For example, he said that, when I wake up and have no desire to go to a class, I go anyway because I feel like I should. "That gives you stress and agitation," he said. "It puts you in a position where you feel like you don't have control, and therefore lessens the calm in your life.

"On the flip side, what if you wanted to go to class?" I'm here because I want an education. Why? I want to be able to provide for my family. Why? I want to be able to provide for them in the future. Why? And on and on and on. The good doctor pointed out that by focusing on what I want, and how what I'm trying to accomplish helps me reach what I want, then I no longer feel pressured, and therefore feel less stressed, into doing something I'm not too keen on. Of course, he's a psychologist at BYU, so we talked about how the Savior, too, suffered the Atonement not out of obligation alone, because if he had, he likely would have failed. No, the Savior suffered the Atonement because he wanted to.

So, it was an interesting perspective. I decided I wanted to try changing that part of my own over the next few weeks and see how things turn out. As it is, I challenge you guys to try it! What do you feel obligated to do that you don't really want to? Do you view some things as obligations when they are really wants? Think about it!

I wrote a commentary about this post on September 10, 2015. Click here to read!