Apr 28, 2014

Where's Heresy Hank when you need him?

***Don't forget that I posted twice today! I have another post if you scroll down! Long Live the King! It's the far more entertaining of the two blogs!***
I also have a tl;dr summary for this one: read the bold.

The other week during Sunday school, our teacher Nate pulled this action figure out of his suit pocket and called him Heresy Hank and started saying something things that he (Nate) believes but that might not be strictly doctrine. Almost every week since, Nate will pull Heresy Hank out at some point to share with us some theoretical or philosophical thing about whatever we're studying, which is the old testament this year. Is that supposed to be capitalized? Old Testament? Ha, idk. I'm keeping it. This week, Nate didn't wear a suit (he wore a sweater with a tiny penguin on it because it was a rainy day) and so we didn't have Heresy Hank.

But here's the thing. I don't really think I like studying the Bible. I think I kinda hate it.

I did seminary all 4 years, and I actually thought it was just the New Testament I didn't like. That was the year I ditched seminary the most (junior year, when I first got my car). I actually had to do a ton of makeup work so I could still pass seminary, but I did all the makeup work the next year on the BOM. But I really didn't like studying the New Testament. I didn't like the way Christ was portrayed. We're taught that he's all loving and everything, but it seems like he says some really harsh and not at all loving things. And I wasn't the only one with this concern in my class, but the teacher just kinda had no idea what we were talking about. It was weird. I actually struggled with that for a good 2-3 years until I talked to the missionaries in the branch about it. But even still, I try to not read too much out of the New Testament.

However, I loved studying the Old Testament in seminary. It was awesome. I loved my teacher. But when I really think about it, I remember that we didn't quite study the Old Testament specifically. We studied the nice uplifting ideas in the Old Testament, but we didn't dig into the stories themselves too much. And I thought that was just because my teacher liked to think deeply and wanted us to have an easier time applying the lessons from the stories to our lives. But I really hate Sunday school this year. This is the first time I've studied the Old Testament since sophomore year of high school, and it makes me wonder if maybe our seminary teacher didn't teach us the stories (but the lessons) because the stories are terrible.

I just don't understand. I'm having a hard time with this one. Right now we're in Exodus and Leviticus and Numbers talking about the children of Israel being lost in the wilderness and all that. Today we specifically talked about that time when they had been eating manna forever and they were getting sick of it, so they asked Moses and God if they could perhaps have a different miracle and have some meat, maybe? So God-- to quote Nate-- gets pissed off and gives them more meat than they could want until they're sick and they want to die. The actual passage I read was in Numbers, and it was also talking about how Moses is like, "Look God, I can't do this alone. I can't bear this and lead these people by myself. I need help," and God replies with, "Fine. Fine. Go get some people together, and I'll give them the same priesthood you have, and then you're all going to sit here and eat meat-- not for one day, not two, not five, but a whole month until you're so sick of it that's it's coming out of your nose. That's what you get for not appreciating the manna you've been blessed with already."

Am I making this up? No. This is literally what the bible says (I might have made it a little more modern, but seriously. God says they will eat meat until it's coming out of their nostrils.)

As we finish this, Nate asks us what our thoughts are. A couple people shared about something or other and somehow made this story uplifting, but that's just not how I see it. This story is vindictive. It's bitter. This is a terrible god. And so I rose my hand and asked about this. Because this is not a god I want to worship or study; this is something I want to be corrected about. I want someone to tell me that I'm forgetting something or interpreting it wrong or something, because this is just not sitting with me.

What Nate tells us is that we should remember that in this story, we're supposed to be identifying with the children of Israel. It's good to look to Moses for guidance and whatever, but we need to remember that we're imperfect beings and we should be taking lessons from the ones who are struggling this whole time. I can totally do that. Let's take a scenario.

I've been enslaved in Egypt my whole life. I was just freed by Moses, and I'm grateful to him and God for that, but now we're wondering in the wilderness. And to make it so we won't die of starvation, we've got this heaven bread raining down on us all the time to keep us alive. Which is awesome. But after a while, I could totally see being sick of the manna and just wanting something else. I can imagine praying and being all, "Hey God, listen. Thanks for the manna that keeps me alive. But the thing is, it's getting old. Could I possibly have a different miracle for a little while?" I cannot imagine why that should offend God to the point that he's now going to punish us with more meat than is healthy.

And that's about where Nate cuts me off to remind me that the reason they're wondering in the wilderness and suffering at all is because they were offered the promise land and exaltation and great things, and they rejected it. (So, obviously, they must eat meat until they die.) And this is something else that the class can't understand. Why would they reject exaltation? Well. I don't know. But I know I've done it before. Sorta. To quote a blog I wrote like two weeks ago, "when my testimony was at its strongest, I saw that and recognized it, and rejected it and not two months later my testimony was at its lowest. At the time, it didn't feel right." So. Ok. I still don't know why I was all spiritual and happy and suddenly I didn't want that. But I didn't want it. So I don't blame or fault the Children of Israel for backing out, themselves.

But even if they are to blame for that, does that in any way justify the terrible things that God makes them go through? I really don't think it does. It's not fair. I know that God lets us go through trials because it'll make us stronger, but that's not what's happening here. God is pissed off at them for not wanting to eat manna exclusively. He's vindictive. It would have been fair to say, "You don't want this exaltation? Fine. You can't have it, you have to wonder until you're prepared for it." But anything beyond that isn't right.

This doesn't make sense to me. The only thing they're really guilty of that I can find is being really whiny, but this seems like overkill for that... And that's all I got for an answer in Sunday school-- which made me feel really fantastic, btw.

I mean, I've done similar thing to God right now while babysitting. The kids won't eat dinner, so I get mad at them and tell them no they can't watch TV, no they can't play outside, no they can't do anything but go to bed (I don't think I've ever done this specifically, but that's not super important). What I"m doing at that point is punishing the child. And that is so wrong. If the kids won't eat dinner, then they go without food until they change their mind. But that's the consequence, not the punishment. They don't need to be punished. They just need the consequences of their actions. And usually I'll realize I'm out of line and then I let the kids watch their movie or whatever. So if I can realize that, why wouldn't God? We have the whole story in the Bible. This isn't something where "we don't know why, but it's helpful." We have the entire picture here, and it's not a hopeful picture. It's a God of War picture.

But here's more to why this all bothers me so much. Not only are we learning that God is like this, but we're also simultaneously being taught that he's a loving God and that he the same now as he was then. So, not even a full hour later, during relief society, I'm being taught that God loves us all and is so good and just wants us to be happy-- this coming from the same mouths of people who were defending his actions in the Sunday school story. It just doesn't match up. God cannot be loving to everyone, spiteful to the Children of Israel, and the same today as he was yesterday. Those three things are not working out logically (or spiritually, intuitively, anything) in my head. And despite my rejection of my testimony a couple years ago, I don't think God loves me any less. You know? He still wants me to be happy, he's not forcing me to eat meat until I want to die. That's what I've seen personally in my life. Just, wtf am I learning right now? I might stop going to Sunday school until we're done with the Bible. I can go back to Gospel Principles.

tl;dr? Basically, what this all comes down to is this: the God in the Bible is not the God I'm familiar with and know. And it's not someone I want to--or will--worship. I don't believe they're the same deity. But if I'm being told that they're the same at church, how do I make peace with that conflict?

Apr 27, 2014

Long Live the King

Today when I woke up, it was raining and beautiful. I love the rain a lot. I like thunderstorms and I like when it's all gray and cool outside. I like the patter of rain on the roof and windows. I like watching the rain and playing in the rain. It's just always been fun. So with all the hot sunny days we've been having, I was really excited to wake up to a rainy day. I didn't just want to stay inside all day; I wanted to actually go out and enjoy it!

So I took the dogs to the park. I put a harness and leash on Bandit, a leash on Axle, put them both in the car, and drove down to EB Rains. This was the first time I had ever taken Bandit anywhere. I'm still not sure how I feel about the experience. Bandit is a huge dog, so I expected him to be difficult to keep on a leash. And he was. It wasn't really surprising, but it was still difficult. He just gets so excited at people or animals, and he'll make a break for them. So I have to hold his leash pretty good. It's tough, but he's really a good dog, just big and excitable.

Anyway, we're walking around the lake, and I've got about 45 minutes, maybe an hour, to kill before church starts, so I thought we'd go to the far end of the lake and sit at the bench for a while, just looking out over the park. It would have been peaceful, but as we got to the edge, Bandit saw some ducks out on the lake. Haha. I had to hold him back, telling him that those ducks aren't for him, leave them alone, don't even think about it... you know, all those good things you say to a dog when they want something they shouldn't.

He was doing good, though. He's actually really well behaved, imo. I had him sitting next to me while Axle's running around sniffing everything. Literally everything. I've never seen a dog more curious than this one. This was the walk where I decided that Axle might be the calmer dog of the two, but Bandit is definitely the better behaved.

I'm a little fuzzy about what actually happened next... Something flustered me, and I dropped one of the dogs leashes. I really really hoped it was Axle's, but that would've been convenient. He wouldn't have gone anywhere, really. So, of course, it was Bandit's leash I dropped... He immediately makes a break for it to go get those ducks.

He jumps down from the rocks and I don't really think he knew he was jumping into a lake. Haha. He was surprised to land in water, but it was still pretty shallow, so it just made him more excited and he bounded off for the ducks some more, but there's a point in the lake where the floor drops from like 2 or 3 feet to 60 or something really deep, and when Bandit hit that point, haha... I couldn't stop laughing. He gets all freaked out, "I'm swimming!!" and turns around immediately. Hahaha. It was hilarious. But I'm glad the dog can swim. Because I can't, so this story could have had a much different ending.

But it's not actually over yet. He turns around and keeps swimming back to the rocks, and when he gets to the edge of the lake, he tries to jump out, but he couldn't quite get a good foot placement to jump high enough, so he's just sitting there, claws digging into the rock, all like, "Brother! Help me!"

It was so entertaining. In between laughing, I went over to help him out. Thankfully he had his harness (and leash) on, so I could just kinda pick him up by that and help him out. He was happy to be out of the lake, and no longer even a little interested in the ducks. There were some geese later he wanted to run after, but I held him back from them. Which is probably good. Geese are mean.

We finished our walk around EB Rains, and then we went to church. I left them in the car since it was a nice cool day, and it had stopped raining, so they had the windows down. I did go out to check on them during church, and they were just sleeping. It was adorable, actually. I laid down the driver's seat, which is where Bandit had stretched out, and then Axle was curled up on the passenger seat. After church was over, I let them out to burn off some energy before the 30+ min drive home, so they got to meet everyone in the branch and get a ton of attention. It was a happy day for them.

But I totally lost Bandit's collar! I have no idea where. I didn't even notice until we were walking back to the car from the park, so it could be anywhere.

Overall, it was really fun. I would actually not be too afraid of letting them off their leashes, as long as there aren't a lot of people around. I think Axle would just smell everything everywhere, but he'd be fine. And Bandit would be excited and run after a lot of things, but he would chill out after probably an hour or two. Definitely gotta get those two out camping somewhere secluded this summer.

Apr 25, 2014

9 Months!

Upon writing the title of the blog, I would just like to emphasize that I am not having a baby. Nope, that's not me.

The most surreal experience of my life so far was seeing Ender's Game at the theater. I love that book, read it more times than I can count, dreamed about how it would look if it were being acted out, pictured everyone's facial expressions and every minute detail... The rumor of Ender's Game as a movie had been around for long enough that it seemed like a fantasy or an idea. But here it is, my favorite movie of all time being made into a movie.

A close contender for this title though was Casey (from ILP; not my friend Casey) on the other end of the phone telling me he'd like to accept my application to go back to China in the spring of next year. I still, to this day, dream about China, dream about my kids and roommates, sometimes I dream about head teaching with my roommates, I fantasize about going back and what I would bring with me, what I would do different or the same, where I'd want to visit, where I would choose to live if I could. Hours after the call, I'm sitting here updating my post because it still feels so surreal.

I'm going back to China!! Is this real? haha. :D :D :D I am so excited. I don't know where or specific dates or who I'm going with. All I know is that I've been accepted back into the program. I'll be leaving in about 9 months, a little more, sometime in early Feb, and then I come back mid/late June. :)


Apr 7, 2014

These whereabouts unknown. Please know you can come home.

Uhhh... tl;dr warning... haha.

This, friends, is all my introspective thoughts condensed into one glorious post haha. Just a heads up.

You know that moment where you're pretty sure your mom has read your blog and is worried, because she didn't post on the blog you wrote? Just me? This is just me trying to reiterate what I said in my last blog I wrote, but perhaps in a different way.

Some quick context for why I'm posting this-- I know my mom misses all the kids (for one because she tells us, but also because of all the random texts she sends that never were there before) and I know that she's worried about me specifically. This is something I have to deal with a lot being the youngest. Which is fine, that's the way life goes haha. But it's also been hard on her having so many of the kids leave the church, and I know she's worried I will too. As a mom, she's going to worry about us because she wants what's best for us and for us to be happy, and to the best of her knowledge, that's for us to be good strong members. She worries about everyone like this, but even more so for me. In part, it's just because I'm the youngest. But I think I've also been a bit of a wild card. We've actually talked about it a lot, and I wasn't the easiest child in the family. I specifically did what I was told I couldn't or shouldn't, I kept a lot of secrets from the family, all my best friends were not members, my favorite activities were not ever "typical Mormon" activities. I mean, I was a good kid. I did listen to my parents (even though I tried my hardest to make it look like I wasn't listening to them), and my friends are all good people, and it's not like was doing drugs or having sex with everything, but I'm just trying to explain that I was one of the most stressful children in the family.

My mom is also worried because there's a trend that all the kids in CO have stopped going to church, and the kids in UT have not. And I'm one of the kids in CO. And out of everyone in the family, I've been closest to Chaelomen for the longest. I mean, when I was younger, I worshiped him. I would have done anything for him, and I emulated his thoughts and interests. He was my hero and I liked what he liked and disliked what he disliked. We're still very close, but I'm proud to say that I'm my own person, and though we have similar interests, it is not my purpose in life to please him (haha, sorry, Maku). My thoughts are no more influenced by him than they would be by anyone else.

I just wanted to share this background to show that I understand why my mom would be concerned about me. Being so close to Chaelomen, it seems pretty fitting that I would just follow suit along with him. Especially living with him, it would be an extra concern. I imagine, looking at me, she (my mom) sees a lot of different paths that I could take, and shes worried that I'll take one that leads away from the church, because it's kinda always been the path I was heading down. I would guess she can also imagine me staying strong in the church, but probably part of her worries that the reason I stayed in the church ever was because I was at home, and that's what you do when you're at home.

I think I've explained this enough. I'm going to continue on with the story now haha.

I'm gonna be honest here, and this might be a story that I conveniently never mentioned to my parents. Aside from the times where I was working on Sundays, there was about a 2 and a half or 3 month period in my life where I didn't go to church. It was about 2 and half years ago, now. I was leaving for China, and I had a calling at church as the FHE committee chair, so I planned a weekly activity for the entire branch, and I worked really hard to make sure it was fun and the lesson was uplifting and unique. I loved that calling, by far my favorite so far. The last FHE I did before I left, I specifically asked everyone to come and say bye to me. That was the week I had the lowest turnout ever. Maybe 8 people came? But I tried to write it off. Maybe everyone would come see me at my going away party that I was having that Saturday. And then they didn't. A lot of people came and supported me and said bye, which was awesome. I had a lot of my friends and family and neighbors all come and wish me well. I loved it. But I had a lot of friends in the branch, and maybe 4 of them came to say bye. I was heartbroken by this and really bitter (probably a bit more bitter than I had right to be). Regardless, the first 2.5 to 3 months I was in China, I refused to go to church. I was angry that all these people I thought cared about me just ignored my big adventure, so I stayed home while my roommates all went to church, despite them begging me to join. I eventually came to the realization that I was being unfair and uh prideful maybe? That seems like the wrong word. Meh, the point is, I got over myself and remembered that I was going to church to please God, not because it convenienced me. It was a way to show respect, and I was being petty.

So that was my big physical inactive experience in my life. I lasted a whole 2 and half months. I've had other moments where I was going to church but my testimony was pretty nonexistent, and I've had moments where I wasn't going to church, but thriving. But the one time my testimony was struggling and I was choosing to not go to church because of it, I only made it 2.5 months before I felt genuinely bad that I was being so petty toward God.

Regarding the blog I posted the other day. I get the impression that it concerned my mom, like she thinks I might be slipping away from the gospel. Let me point out now that I'm not, at least I don't believe I am. I think my view of the gospel is/ was shifting and has been for a while. I can actually pinpoint when this started.

Time for another story that I don't think I've ever shared with my parents. I haven't shared it with many people. Almost 2 years ago I started working at the rec center. And there was a boy. I liked him a lot. He isn't Mormon, and in November he got a tattoo. Let me pause this story for a second to say that, despite me not having a lot of Mormon friends for most of my life, I owned being Mormon 100%. It was my entire identity. If there was nothing else I knew about myself, I at least knew I was LDS and proud of it, and as far as I knew, everyone knew it about me and it was how they defined me. That's Bridget, she's Mormon. The end, right? What else do you need to know? Alright, so this guy at work got a tattoo, and he showed me, then making some conversation, asked if I had any. I said no. He said, "Figures." So I followed with a vaguely sassy, "Do I look like I'd have tattoos?" and he responded with a shrug and a, "Yeah, kinda."

I really had no idea what to do with that. Took me completely aback. Up until that point in my life, whenever I'd had a conversation along those line, "Do I look like I'd [have this] [have that] [do that] [drink this] [go there]?" the reply was always, "No, you're right. You look Mormon." But here was someone who thought I looked like I could have tattoos. To him, I wasn't inherently Mormon. I was just Bridget. I realized at that moment that no one who I worked with knew I was Mormon. The only thing I knew about myself, no one there knew. And I work a lot, they all had plenty of time to get to know me, I consider myself close to a lot of them. I enjoyed their company and they enjoyed mine. They knew me, and liked who I was, without me being Mormon. The one thing that I knew defined me, the one thing that made my personality, they weren't even aware of, and yet they still liked me. And that's when I started to wonder, if I'm not Mormon, who am I?

I started questioning everything I knew, and unfortunately, I didn't even hint to my parents that I was wondering about everything I had been told for my whole life. When I was a kid, I didn't act like myself at home. I was reserved and quiet. But at school and among my friends, I was loud and wild and excitable. And for years and years, anything I did I would keep to myself. The good and the bad. I don't know why, it's just what I did. Because I could, I guess? That way, I could guarantee I wouldn't get in trouble for something. Not that I would have, I was a good kid, but I could guarantee it this way. And this is something that none of my siblings could have pulled off to the same degree I could. All of you had to deal with each other. You all went to school together, roughly the same age. If you did something at school, the siblings already knew and had the ability to tell mom and dad, so it was better for you to just be honest and tell them yourself, which gave you an opportunity to be honest and open with them. I don't really know that's how the boys grew up, but I watched Carolyn and Audrey live that way.

Anything I did was kept between me and my friends. My friends are on my side and they aren't going to rat me out to my family. So I was a very secretive child (which is probably why it's so easy for all y'all to ignore me when we get the family together now ;) it's how it was growing up, so despite how things have changed now, it's easy to go back to that if we get everyone together). And it was a scary and hard thing to open up to anyone in the family. But I did-- not entirely on my own, mom being the young women's president was pretty important to me ever opening up to her later in high school.

So. Since I was already in the habit of not telling the family things about me, despite trying to break through and be more open, I didn't tell my parents about anything that I was questioning. So I went on my own private adventure, thinking about who I am outside of being Mormon, and then consequently looking at the church and thinking about what I believe and do I believe that because I was told to or because I actually do. It was a big existentialist adventure. Why am I here, who am I, blaaah. Haha. And this is all something, I have complete faith, that I would have gone through eventually in my life. The signs have always kinda been there (when my testimony was at its strongest, I saw that and recognized it, and rejected it and not 2 months later my testimony was at its lowest. At the time, it didn't feel right), but that one little conversation with my coworker that he probably doesn't even remember was a catalyst for the experience. And I'm grateful that I was able to go through it and end up where I am now.

The problem now though is that I've had this major growth in my life, and I'm so happy with where I am, and I feel so at peace, but I haven't felt like I could tell anyone besides my friends because it didn't seem natural or like it fit in, since I had kept the confusion/trials that got me where I was to myself. 

But that's why I'm writing this blog now. I blogged a little bit about something that had been kinda tickling at my brain, almost hoping it would allow for the conversation to flow about this and I could share what I've learned finally. But that didn't pan out. Most of my "regular readers" are not commenting. I'm living with a couple of the regulars, a bunch of the regulars are busy with life, and the one that I think I wrote it for most (my mom) didn't reply, and honestly I think she didn't say anything because she was scared while looking at it. So the first part of this blog was describing briefly (yes, haha, that was a brief description) why I've gotten where I am, but I'm now going to go on and iterate what I actually do believe. Bear with me, I'm still figuring it all out. But, aren't we all?

I think the place I've gotten to most is looking at intent. Why did you do this or that? Why do we keep the sabbath day holy? Why do we follow the word of wisdom and the law of chastity? Why did my one friend make decisions that allowed her to get pregnant? All the commandments that we're given in the church can be simmered down to two real commandments-- Love thy God with all your heart might mind and strength, and love thy neighbor as thyself. So if we have those, why do we need the law of chastity? Why do we need to not kill?

Once, I was taught that when Moses was up on his mount talking to God, he came down with those two commandments for all this people to follow. And they couldn't handle it. They just weren't in a place where they could handle Loving God and Loving their Neighbors, and actually abide by it. My little interpretation there is that they didn't have the integrity or understanding of what that would actually mean. So Moses smashes the two commandments in frustration and goes back up to his mount and talks with God some more, and then comes back down with the ten commandments. And the people are handling those better. But eventually, they start putting weird restraints on the commandments. Like number 4, thou shalt keep the Sabbath Day holy, was interpreted as a restraint on how many steps you can take, going to church, not laboring in any way... To the point that when Christ comes and heals someone on the Sabbath, everyone's freaking out like, "Whoa there, Jesus. You can't do that, it's breaking the Sabbath." And then he has to be all, "What? No, hang on. Just, that's not what it means. Look guys, there's a higher law than 'don't labor,'" and that's when Jesus explains the higher law which everyone tried to do and abide by (except for the whole rejecting-the-Christ thing and all that) eventually.

So connecting that back to today-- or or or. should I say likening, eh eh? 1 Nephi scripture mastery? yeah haha-- Christ wasn't concerned so much with their strict rules of how to keep the Sabbath holy, but with the spirit of it. And that's where I'm standing right now. There's a lot of commandments that we have today in the church, and I've been concerning myself with why we have them and how I can have high integrity with living the real spirit of the law. The word of wisdom is about being healthy. Keeping the Sabbath day is about respect. I could continue, but I don't think I need all the specific examples. If you have any questions on my stances on anything, I'd be happy to expound.

But another important key that I've found for myself is the spirit with which you do something. For example, when I worked at Target, I worked Sundays, but I told them I was only available after 5 (a half hour after church ended). And the time frame that I worked at Target was right after I was at my spiritual high and then rejected it. Working at Target, I didn't do anything to try to make my life better or spiritually uplifting. I just continued on rejecting my high spiritual level, but going to church. I might have been physically at church, but I was so mentally not in the gospel it's almost unbelievable. Working at the rec center, I regularly work Sundays all day, unable to go to church. I don't really have to necessarily. My boss is cool and would probably accept it just fine if I told her I couldn't work Sundays. But I don't want to tell her that. I love my job and I'm grateful for any time they'll have me work there. Conversely, I was in a happier place in general and wasn't going to work on Sunday to spite anyone, but just because that's what the job asked me to do. And I don't think my faith has wavered at all because of it. It was all about why I was working on a Sunday and how I was choosing to feel.

And the last thing I've learned for myself-- which started very much in China-- was learning to love other people. Love them for their similarities, love them for their differences. Love them and serve them. It's by far the most important thing to me. Which is a large part of why I want to return to China, to serve the people again. Not just the locals-- though that was a great part of it previously-- but also to serve the teachers I'm overseeing. To help them and love them and become better. It's why I love my job so much, because it is constantly about serving people and helping them to better themselves and giving them skills they can use their whole life. And I think service comes in all sorts of different ways. Whether it's listening to someone who needs an ear, or watching someone's kids for a while, giving someone a ride somewhere, doing yard work for people, smiling at a stranger... whatever it is. Anything to make someone feel better. Even if that was only by acknowledging them and making them feel like they were noticed for a couple moments, it was a good piece of service.

Actually, one more thing that I think goes along with my last point. Is to not judge others. That one is one I've thought forever. I've written papers on it, given lessons on it, talked in church about it. It seems serving others and not judging them are pretty intricately tied together. But how someone decides to live their life is not something I'm going to concern myself on. They are living the way they see fit, and I don't think I'm in a position to look down on them. I don't know their life and they have reasons for doing what they're doing, and I'm not God. I don't know if it actually is wrong. So I'm not going to pretend. I'm going to let them do whatever they are going to do. And take the opportunity to do the same for myself. Live how I see fit, inviting others to not tell me I'm wrong. But for myself, I know I want to improve and help others and change the world.

In the end, I think that's what the gospel is about. I love it, and I feel so happy and peaceful being here. I like my Heavenly Father supports me being here. This is what's good. And I love the church because it reminds me that's what the gospel is about. I don't think the church is perfect. I think it has flaws, I've been told many stories about the goodness it was founded on and I've been told stories about it being sketchy. It's run by humans, which is going to make it inherently flawed, but I don't even care. The church isn't important to me because it was restored in the 1800's. It isn't important to me because it unifies the members and proselytes to new people. It's important to me solely because it reminds me to be a better person, taking control of my life and trying to move forward.

You're welcome to disagree with me. I know people who don't think religion does a lot for the world. And we're still friends. What I believe is not their business and what they believe is not mine. But I did want to share what I believe to calm any concerns that seemed to possibly be budding. :) Love you, Mom.

Apr 4, 2014

A high school teacher's list of 100 wisest words

I have no idea where this came from originally, but I like it.

1. There are plenty of ways to enter a pool. The stairs is not one of them.

2. Never cancel dinner plans by text message.

3. Don’t knock it ‘til you try it.

4. If a street performer makes you stop walking, you owe him a buck.

5. Always use ‘we’ when referring to your home team or your government.

6. When entrusted with a secret, keep it.

7. Don’t underestimate free throws in a game of ‘horse’.

8. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

9. Don’t dumb it down.

10. You only get one chance to notice a new haircut.

11. If you’re staying more than one night, unpack.

12. Never park in front of a bar.

13. Expect the seat in front of you to recline. Prepare accordingly.

14. Keep a picture of your first fish, first car, and first boy/girlfriend.

15. Hold your heroes to a high standard.

16. A suntan is earned, not bought.

17. Never lie to your doctor.

18. All guns are loaded.

19. Don’t mention sunburns. Believe me, they know.

20. The best way to show thanks is to wear it. Even if it’s only once.

21. Take a vacation of your cell phone, internet, and TV once a year.

22. Don’t fill up on bread, no matter how good.

23. A handshake beats an autograph.

24. Don’t linger in the doorway. In or out.

25. If you choose to go in drag, don’t sell yourself short.

26. If you want to know what makes you unique, sit for a caricature.

27. Never get your hair cut the day of a special event.

28. Be mindful of what comes between you and the Earth. Always buy good shoes, tires, and sheets.

29. Never eat lunch at your desk if you can avoid it.

30. When you’re with new friends, don’t just talk about old friends.

31. Eat lunch with the new kids.

32. When traveling, keep your wits about you.

33. It’s never too late for an apology.

34. Don’t pose with booze.

35. If you have the right of way, take it.

36. You don’t get to choose your own nickname.

37. When you marry someone, remember you marry their entire family.

38. Never push someone off a dock.

39. Under no circumstances should you ask a woman if she’s pregnant.

40. It’s not enough to be proud of your ancestry; live up to it.

41. Don’t make a scene.

42. When giving a thank you speech, short and sweet is best.

43. Know when to ignore the camera.

44. Never gloat.

45. Invest in good luggage.

46. Make time for your mom on your birthday. It’s her special day, too.

47. When opening presents, no one likes a good guesser.

48. Sympathy is a crutch, never fake a limp.

49. Give credit. Take blame.

50. Suck it up every now and again.

51. Never be the last one in the pool.

52. Don’t stare.

53. Address everyone that carries a firearm professionally.

54. Stand up to bullies. You’ll only have to do it once.

55. If you’ve made your point, stop talking.

56. Admit it when you’re wrong.

57. If you offer to help don’t quit until the job is done.

58. Look people in the eye when you thank them.

59. Thank the bus driver.

60. Never answer the phone at the dinner table.

61. Forgive yourself for your mistakes.

62. Know at least one good joke.

63. Don’t boo. Even the ref is somebody’s son.

64. Know how to cook one good meal.

65. Learn to drive a stick shift.

66. Be cool to younger kids. Reputations are built over a lifetime.

67. It’s okay to go to the movies by yourself.

68. Dance with your mother/father.

69. Don’t lose your cool. Especially at work.

70. Always thank the host.

71. If you don’t understand, ask before it’s too late.

72. Know the size of your boy/girlfriend’s clothes.

73. There is nothing wrong with a plain t-shirt.

74. Be a good listener. Don’t just wait for your turn to talk.

75. Keep your word.

76. In college, always sit in the front. You’ll stand out immediately.

77. Carry your mother’s bags. She carried you for nine months.

78. Be patient with airport security. They’re just doing their jobs.

79. Don’t be the talker in a movie.

80. The opposite sex likes people who shower.

81. You are what you do, not what you say.

82. Learn to change a tire.

83. Be kind. Everyone has a hard fight ahead of them.

84. An hour with grandparents is time well spent. Ask for advice when you need it.

85. Don’t litter.

86. If you have a sister, get to know her boyfriend. Your opinion is important.

87. You won’t always be the strongest or the fastest. But you can be the toughest.

88. Never call someone before 9am or after 9pm.

89. Buy the orange properties in Monopoly.

90. Make the little things count.

91. Always wear a bra at work.

92. There is a fine line between looking sultry and slutty. Find it.

93. You’re never too old to need your mom.

94. Ladies, if you make the decision to wear heels on the first date, commit to keeping them on and keeping your trap shut about how much your feet kill.

95. Know the words to your national anthem.

96. Your dance moves might not be the best, but I promise making a fool of yourself is more fun than sitting on the bench alone.

97. Smile at strangers.

98. Make goals.

99. Being old is not dictated by your bedtime.

100. If you have to fight, punch first and punch hard.

Apr 3, 2014

The Earth Says "Hello!"

Alrighty. Hello!

Haha. It's late, I'm getting tired, and everything is starting to be incredibly hilarious. So let's get to this.

I just wanted to update everyone one my life and adventures. I've got school things, dog things, work things, and possssibly China things. Oh, and introspective things.

School things are exciting! Classes are going pretty well this semester. I'm really enjoying everything I'm doing, and I don't feel behind in any of my classes. I need to stop slacking on my reading for CJC and my homework for chem, but aside from that everything is going really smoothly. I'm still 100% on track to finish classes and graduate in 2 years! Yaaaay :) May 16, 2016. Save the date.

I'm actually registering for fall classes this Saturday. I'm hoping to get all the classes I need (which I don't think I'll have problems with... we'll see for sure soon enough). KLDjaoihe. It's exciting. Yes. I'm going for survey of physical chemistry (and lab), intro to criminalistics (and lab), history and survey of psychology or something (for my senior experience that I need) and ASL 2... again. What what? Yeah. I might not have actually got a passing grade in that class because I was slacking too much. Oops. But that's why it's such a great thing that I can replace the grade! And I'll do much better this time. Yeeaaahh. It's gonna be a good semester. I'm excited.

Dog things!! I have a dog, his name is Axle. One of Melissa's friends had to give him up, so we took him in under the pretense that he's my dog and when I move out, I'm taking him with. That said, I'm not moving out until I graduate (May 16, 2016-- save the date), but he's still mine. The possibility exists that I'll take Bandit, too, but I'm not quite sure I believe Michael that he wants me to take him. Haha.

Axle's cute, though. He's sweet, reminds me a lot of Maggie, actually. He's probably part German shepherd, possibly part beagle? We'll never know. Adorable none the less.

Work is going quite well! I'm excited. I'm teaching a ton, helping train our new employees, and working a lot covering some shifts that my bosses need help with by closing down one of the buildings we run. It's kinda fun. The best part, though, is that I have nothing to do there besides wander around the building from time to time and then lock up and turn off all the lights at night, but I'm there for like 4-6 hours usually. So what do I do? Homework, facebook, warlight, reading, games on my phone or online, surf the web, etc etc. It seems weird, but it's what my bosses (the big bosses, even) tell me to do. So it's fantastic. I'm being paid to do my homework. Haha. Love it.

China things :) Mm. Yesss. I was looking at my schedule for the next few semesters and seeing what all I still need to take and when and blah blah blah. And I noticed a while ago that there are classes I need to take this coming fall, and classes I need to take the fall after that, and then the spring after that. But next spring? Like in a year? There aren't any classes I need that semester and that semester only. I was still planning on going that semester, and just having 12-13 credits each semester until I graduate, but I was talking to Michael about a month ago and he was asking if I would ever go back to China, and I really would in a heartbeat. One of the biggest reasons I wasn't sure I wanted to go back last time was because I was worried that Jack would forget who I was if I left. Well, lot of good that did me. He forgot me when I was right there! Haha. Anyway, he's in Boston now.

The other thing that would hold me back is my job. I love my job, so much. I don't want to leave it. But I've been talking to my boss, and he's going to help me figure out if there's anything I can do. We've already got a couple different plans in place for me being able to leave and still have a job when I get back. He said he would talk to the big bosses and ask for sure, though, but this seems like a very real possibility that I can go back to China next spring. I filled out my application again (like twenty minutes ago) and they'll contact me soon to talk about it.

I feel good about it this time. I'll miss the dog terribly, but he'll live without me and Michael sure isn't going to keep him, so he'll still be mine. And the big problem that Casey was worried about last time, which I suspect is the reason they just sorta never got back to me, I think I'll be able to convince him about. I think I can show him that I've grown a lot over the last two years since I applied last and that I'd be a great head teacher. Wish me luck :)

And then the last thing I wanted to talk about is something that I've just been thinking about for quite a long time, actually. Probably a good two years. You know, just an idea that's been floating in my head and I'm looking for some feedback on it.

I was on facebook once, and I was looking through a bunch of my old friends' profiles. Just people that I used to be really close to in middle school or elementary school. Some of them in high school. People who I haven't really talked to so much recently, but I'm facebook friends with them and curious about their lives and where they've gone and what they're doing.

There's this one girl in particular (though I do actually have several friends who are in the same kind of situation, just this girl is the one who comes to mind most) and she has a baby. She got pregnant right after high school? Right before graduation? Something like that. Anyway, it was with her boss at work, and they had only been dating a few months, but her son is the love and complete joy of her life. She loves him, she's a great mom, and she's so happy. She ended up staying with her boyfriend, they got married, and they just had another baby girl. They have the happiest little family and they're really fantastic parents, and I love looking at her profile and seeing how well things turned out for her.

She actually had a post at one point talking about all these plans she had for her life and how everything turned out 100% differently from how she imagined it would, but it was all really just a great journey leading her to where she is now, and she wouldn't change any of it for anything.

I thought that was so interesting. There's so much in my life even that hasn't turned out how I thought it would, and yet I'm very happy here where I am. There's an entire world of possibilities, and anything could happen to me, and all of the thing that could happen would just take me to different places, and then wherever I ended up, I'd be loving my life and saying, "It didn't turn out how I thought it would, but I can't imagine my life any different." No matter what, there would be growth and happiness in my life, as long as that was the attitude I chose to take it with.

Are you all still with me? That was a kinda complicated thought, but bare with me, because I'm getting to my point.

This mostly made me start thinking... In the church, we're taught that premarital sex is a sin. And this friend of mine clearly had premarital sex. She wound up pregnant when she didn't expect to be, and I'm sure for moment or two, it seemed like all her "bad decisions" were catching up to her. But then she had this little boy and she grew up and matured and is now living a great life. She was living a great life the entire time. It's just confusing me.

I was in an ATV accident almost 7 years ago, now. It changed my life and affected the decision I made and it was something I had to learn to deal with. I chose to ride that ATV, just as my friend chose to have sex. I didn't choose to crash, and my friend didn't choose to get pregnant. So I'm just getting a little lost in thought... What makes what happened to her a sin and what happened to me a challenge to overcome? How can I look at her and where she is and where she was and say she's a sinner? I don't think she is. I wouldn't tell her she is. She's just living her life, just like I am, right?

I don't know. Bounce ideas back at me. Gracias.