Thursday, May 31, 2012

Miracle of friendship

Sometimes the definitions of words escape me, or vice versa. Recently though, it came to my attention that what I've been seeking and asking for is a "miracle."

A miracle in the sense that I'm asking for a change of heart—in myself and others. I'm asking for a deep outpouring of love and forgiveness and wholeness. In someways, it is both daunting and comforting to be asking for a miracle. Daunting because it's a big change and miracles don't happen every day. Comforting because I know miracles are exactly what God deals in.

On Friday, a miracle happened, not the one I'd been requesting but one in the same vein. An old friend from study abroad Kris sent me an email with some writing she'd done recently. Her piece was prompted by another friend in our group Christine who'd just happened to send her something she'd been writing.

When I call these people "friends" I mean it of course, but it is fair to say that we are not all very close these days. Our lives have gone off in different directions, and even to begin with, we weren't all evenly close to one another. There were gaps, not subgroups, just gaps—people you knew but had yet to really connect with. We did pretty well overall though.

 But when I read Kris's essay, I knew something wonderful had taken place in my heart. So I wrote back. Not a reply but a response from my heart about all her concerns and thoughts that in the writing exposed my own concerns and thoughts. The words made us friends in a deeper way.

Now, we're playing a sort of written Telephone game with everyone in our group. We are each writing a piece prompted by the one we received from a friend. The idea is making me so happy. I love seeing connections happen between two people, however unlikely they may be.

Those are my kinds of miracles, and really, they're the kinds I've always been seeking and treasuring in my life. I believe they are possible between any two people, born at that moment when someone finally says, "Me too."

It's a moment I live for, and one that I'm willing to keep living for always. My God is a God who brings people together and heals all the differences between them. 

In other good news, my oatmeal today tasted awesome. It's good to taste awesomeness.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

When depression hides your smile

You can read about my favorite movie moment, depression, and anxiety in my latest post for BYU Women's Services.

Here's the link.

And the corresponding background video. You should watch this, but don't forget to read my post afterwards.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Feeling feelings

 It usually happens around 3 and again at 10. That's when my faith wears out a bit, and I start doubting myself and everything else in existence. I get worried about what is up and what is down and who is who in my life.

These feelings are a part of who I am, and sometimes I have to acknowledge them a bit to understand why they are there, why they've always been there. They are very real to me. Despite that, they are not the controlling factor of everything. My friend gave me this great quote a while ago from an article by Terry Warner called "What We Are."

"One of our most dominant almost unexamined fictions is that we are not responsible for our emotions."

It is good to remember that the Spirit is not the same as emotion. Often extreme emotions can mask the Spirit. This is certainly the case with fear, anxiety, panic, and even excitement.

I'd like to share this great TED talk with you, in which Brene Brown talks about vulnerability as the heart of the connections we enjoy in life and shame as that which destroys those connections. She also gives a great definition of courage that I like very much. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

On missing the BYU devotional

Tuesday, I did not watch the devotional. In my time at BYU, I have missed very, very few devotionals, because I believe they are a great place for feeling the Spirit, for being changed by their content, or showing appreciation of what BYU is and does for us.

But I realized that my religion is not going to devotionals. My religion is worshiping God, loving Him, and seeking His Spirit. While going to devotional can be a part of achieving those ends, it is not the only way. Today, I had to accept that while I believe in going to devotional, it's okay to not go when the Spirit and my spirit calls for something else.

I'm way too good at moralizing the amoral: making my salvation dependent on what grade I got, how many books I read, or how few church meetings I missed. I think God is teaching me to be more flexible. He's okay with a lot more than I'm okay with. But I'd like to follow His ways, not mine.

"It is good to belong to our Father in Heaven’s true Church and to keep all of His commandments and fulfill all of our duties. But if this is to qualify as 'best,' it should be done with love and without arrogance. We should, as we sing in a great hymn, 'crown [our] good with brotherhood,'  showing love and concern for all whom our lives affect."

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Friday, May 18, 2012

Blurring the lines: an essay on art and science

I once worked on the BYU Honors Program magazine, Insight. This last semester, I wrote for it instead of editing. Here's my reflection essay from the most recent issue. Use the reader below to open it. Use the slider to zoom in and drag the image around to read it.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Ellis in more spaces

Great news! This summer I'll be writing for the BYU Women's Services blog as an internship. You can look forward to my posts every Tuesday—which is the best day of the week already practically. Who knew Tuesdays could get even better?

Here's the link to my first post!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Two recipes I want to eat all the time

First, make the gnocchi from this, (not the sauce part).

And then make this pesto.

I crave this combination all the time. The gnocchi is even better if you fry it in just a bit of butter after boiling, but it's actually not necessary. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

My own case of perfectionism

President Samuelson, the president of BYU, stood up and said these words:
"I am grateful to add my welcome and greeting to you at the beginning of an exciting fall semester. This is a wonderful time of year. We hope you have had a productive, if not restful, summer and a welcome change of pace to help prepare for the challenging and exciting work of the weeks ahead. You are not yet too far behind in your course work, and the prospects for this fall are bright. This has the promise of a terrific year. It will be an even better year for each of us personally if we can avoid making unnecessary or foolish personal mistakes. You may believe I am talking only about slothfulness or Honor Code violations. Equally concerning to me is the rather common problem of perfectionism."

As he said them, I was believing I was in for just that: a talk about how I should do more and be better. And I couldn't listen to that because I was already sick in bed, laid up because my worry and stress had ground down my spirit so much that my body caved to the perfectionist in me.

My heart rejoiced though as he said what he was really going to talk about was the very ill that was making me throw up: perfectionism.

It's such an attractive trap to think you need to be everything, all of the time. It's understandable that we think that way, but we mustn't.

"We may not be happy with our deficiencies, but we also should not be incapacitated by them," President Samuelson says. I know what that feels like, and I'm learning what it feels like to overcome it.

"We teach the importance of self-reliance and self-sufficiency. I believe if you look carefully at what, for example, I myself and others have said and written, you can find ample evidence that we endorse these notions. There are times, however, when these cardinal strengths can become handicapping sins. Just as a young mother or father reaches out a hand of encouragement and support for a young baby who is beginning to think about walking, so our Savior and His Father do the same for us as we begin to think about risking a quest to get on the road to eventual perfection. Remember, while we mortals may tease each other on occasion, it is not in the personality or approach of our Redeemer. That is, He never pulls back his hand when it is extended. True, you and I, like Peter walking on the Sea of Galilee, might lose faith and withdraw ourselves, but God never does and never will withdraw the hand and support offered. But, and this is really a significant qualification, because of the necessity of agency and choice, we must be the one to grasp, figuratively or literally, the extended hand."
My dear friend Kent says that we have to ask God what areas we should be improving in, rather than beating ourselves up about the millions of good things we should be doing. He always promises that when we ask that, God will tell us.

Though I've believed that for a long time, I've struggled to make that transition from trying to do everything to really listening for what Heavenly Father would have me do. For me, it comes when I stop and ponder on the lessons He's been slipping in here and there. Now that I know what He'd have me work on, everything else becomes more manageable as it falls in its proper place.

There was this one time when I had a job making survey phone calls

I promise you this will be much less painful.

You'll see to your right that I've put in a little poll for you lovely readers you. I'm curious about what kinds of posts you enjoy the most on here.

You see, my head is full of so much but so is my planner, meaning I don't get to write as much as I'd like to. Sometimes in the time constraints, the things I'd like to write about the most get lost for the time I spend writing about shorter things.

I'm getting a feel for what I like, but what kinds of posts do you like the most? You can vote up there, but I'd also like to know more specifically what posts you've loved and what ones you've hated. You can tell me about those kinds of things in the comments section of this post.


Thursday, May 3, 2012

On a love of pop culture

There are things I love that I'm tired of trying to justify my love for—namely, Boy Meets World, Stargate, and the Backstreet Boys.

Ironically, I'm usually the first to hate something simply because it's popular and everyone else likes it. Deep down though, I believe that there are great pieces of art buried in the mainstream flow that surface occasionally. Good art need not be mysterious. It need only be genuine and purposeful. As the great Dean Duncan says: You can't judge something for not being something it's not trying to be.

In a more verbose, yet elegant way, this scholar says:

"The analysis of Sunday newspapers and crime stories and romances is . . . familiar, but, when you have come yourself from their apparent public, when you recognise in yourself the ties that still bind, you cannot be satisfied with the older formula: enlightened minority, degraded mass. You know how bad most 'popular culture' is, but you know also that the irruption of the 'swinish multitude', which Burke had prophesied would trample down light and learning, is the coming to relative power and relative justice of your own people, whom you could not if you tried desert."

-Raymond Williams

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

How to clear a bar with Brandon Flowers

It was recently brought to my attention that my great-grandfather once cleared a bar.

Cleared a bar. That's the common way of saying he knocked out everyone (which means at least more than three men to upwards of thirty) in a room by himself with his brute strength.

I didn't get any more details on it from his son, my grandfather. I just know that it happened.

Sometimes that seems like a completely foreign world. In my world right now, there are no bars, and even if I went into one, I wouldn't want to set down my root beer long enough to punch anyone. And even if I did set it down, I wouldn't know who to punch. And even if I did know who to punch, I wouldn't know how to punch them. And furthermore, if I did punch them, they wouldn't know what hit them because my fist would have no impact.

Sad story for my strength.

Still, somewhere in my blood courses the potential to clear a bar. I may not know how to swing, but I am the type that would go down swinging if the cause was right.

Somewhere in me is the strength to wipe out a small army for a good cause. Somewhere in me lies the power to bring down a house of villains and ruffians if needs be.

This also means that somewhere in me sleeps the strength to raise a house, to bless nations, to uphold those who hang down, and generally move mountains.

I've been thinking about this in conjunction with this great video from Brandon Flowers. What hit me are these words, "Tell the devil he can go back where he came from. His fiery arrows drew their beat in vain. And when the hardest part is over, we'll be here. Our dreams will break the boundaries of our fears." Check it out. To learn more about Brandon Flowers, I suggest you watch the second video at the bottom.

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